Miss Mink's Soldier And Other Stories
Alice Hegan Rice
The Century Co.
Then Miss Mink received a shock
THE LADY OF THE DECORATION
A Memento Of Many Happy Days
Spent Together "East Of Suez"
Miss Mink's Soldier
A Darling Of Misfortune
A Matter Of Friendship
The Wild Oats Of A Spinster
Cupid Goes Slumming
The Soul Of O Sana San
Miss Mink's Soldier
Miss Mink sat in church with lips compressed and hands
tightly clasped in her black alpaca lap, and stubbornly
refused to comply with the request that was being made
from the pulpit. She was a small desiccated person, with
a sharp chin and a sharper nose, and narrow faded eyes
that through the making of innumerable buttonholes had
come to resemble them.
For over forty years she had sat in that same pew facing
that same minister, regarding him second only to his
Maker, and striving in thought and deed to follow his
precepts. But the time had come when Miss Mink's blind
Ever since the establishment of the big Cantonment near
the city, Dr. Morris, in order to encourage church
attendance, had been insistent in his request that every
member of his congregation should take a soldier home to
Now it was no lack of patriotism that made Miss Mink
refuse to do her part. Every ripple in the small flag
that fluttered over her humble dwelling sent a
corresponding ripple along her spinal column. When she
essayed to sing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," in her high,
quavering soprano, she invariably broke down from sheer
excess of emotion. But the American army fighting for
right and freedom in France, and the Army individually
tracking mud into her spotless cottage, were two very
different things. Miss Mink had always regarded a man in
her house much as she regarded a gnat in her eye. There
was but one course to pursue in either case—elimination!
But her firm stand in the matter had not been maintained
without much misgiving. Every Sunday when Dr. Morris
made his earnest appeal, something within urged her to
comply. She was like an automobile that gets cranked up
and then refuses to go. Church-going instead of being
her greatest joy came to be a nightmare. She no longer
lingered in the vestibule, for those highly cherished
exchanges of inoffensive gossip that constituted her
social life. Nobody seemed to have time for her. Every
one was busy with a soldier. Within the sanctuary it was
no better. Each khaki-clad figure that dotted the
congregation claimed her attention as a possible
candidate for hospitality. And each one that presented
himself to her vision was indignantly repudiated. One
was too old, another too young, one too stylish, another
had forgotten to wash his ears. She found a dozen
excuses for withholding her invitation.
But this morning as she sat upright and uncompromising
in her short pew, she was suddenly thrown into a state
of agitation by the appearance in the aisle of an
un-ushered soldier who, after hesitating beside one or
two pews, slipped into the seat beside her. It seemed
almost as if Providence had taken a hand and since she
had refused to select a soldier, had prompted a soldier
to select her.
During the service she sat gazing straight at the
minister without comprehending a word that he said.
Never once did her glance stray to that khaki-clad
figure beside her, but her thoughts played around him
like lightning. What if she should get up her courage
and ask him to dinner, how would she ever be able to
walk out the street with him! And once she had got him
to her cottage, what on earth would she talk to him
about? Her hands grew cold as she thought about it. Yet
something warned her it was now or never, and that it
was only by taking the hated step and getting it over
with, that she could regain the peace of mind that had
of late deserted her.
The Doxology found her weakening, but the Benediction
stiffened her resolve, and when the final Amen sounded,
she turned blindly to the man beside her, and said,
hardly above her breath:
"If you ain't got any place to go to dinner, you can
come home with me."
The tall figure turned toward her, and a pair of
melancholy brown eyes looked down into hers:
"You will excuse if I do not quite comprehend your
meaning," he said politely, with a strong foreign
Miss Mink was plunged into instant panic; suppose he was
a German? Suppose she should be convicted for
entertaining a spy! Then she remembered his uniform and
was slightly reassured.
"I said would you come home to dinner with me?" she
repeated weakly, with a fervent prayer that he would
But the soldier had no such intention. He bowed gravely,
and picked up his hat and overcoat.
Miss Mink, looking like a small tug towing a big
steamer, shamefacedly made her way to the nearest exit,
and got him out through the Sunday-school room. She
would take him home through a side street, feed him and
send him away as soon as possible. It was a horrible
ordeal, but Miss Mink was not one to turn back once she
had faced a difficult situation. As they passed down the
broad steps into the brilliant October sunshine, she
noticed with relief that his shoes were not muddy. Then,
before she could make other observations, her mind was
entirely preoccupied with a large, firm hand that
grasped her elbow, and seemed to half lift her slight
weight from step to step. Miss Mink's elbow was not used
to such treatment and it indignantly freed itself before
the pavement was reached. The first square was traveled
in embarrassed silence, then Miss Mink made a heroic
effort to break the ice:
"My name is Mink," she said, "Miss Libby Mink. I do
dress-making over on Sixth Street."
"I am Bowinski," volunteered her tall companion, "first
name Alexis. I am a machinist before I enlist in the
"I knew you were some sort of a Dago," said Miss Mink.
"But no, Madame, I am Russian. My home is in Kiev in
"Why on earth didn't you stay there?" Miss Mink asked
from the depths of her heart.
The soldier looked at her earnestly. "Because of the
persecution," he said. "My father he was in exile. His
family was suspect. I come alone to America when I am
"Well I guess you're sorry enough now that you came,"
Miss Mink said, "Now that you've got drafted."
They had reached her gate by this time, but Bowinski
paused before entering: "Madame mistakes!" he said with
dignity. "I was not drafted. The day America
enter the war, that day I give up my job I have held for
five years, and enlist. America is my country, she take
me in when I have nowhere to go. It is my proud moment
when I fight for her!"
Then it was that Miss Mink took her first real look at
him, and if it was a longer look than she had ever
before bestowed upon man, we must put it down to the
fact that he was well worth looking at, with his tall
square figure, and his serious dark face lit up at the
present with a somewhat indignant enthusiasm.
Miss Mink pushed open the gate and led the way into her
narrow yard. She usually entered the house by way of the
side door which opened into the dining room, which was
also her bedroom by night, and her sewing room by day.
But this morning, after a moment's hesitation, she
turned a key in the rusty lock of the front door, and
let a flood of sunshine dispel the gloom of the room.
The parlor had been furnished by Miss Mink's parents
some sixty years ago, and nothing had been changed. A
customer had once suggested that if the sofa was taken
away from the window, and the table put in its place,
the room would be lighter. Miss Mink had regarded the
proposition as preposterous. One might as well have
asked her to move her nose around to the back of her
head, or to exchange the positions of her eyes and ears!
You have seen a drop of water caught in a crystal? Well,
that was what Miss Mink was like. She moved in the
tiniest possible groove with her home at one end and her
church at the other. Is it any wonder that when she
beheld a strange young foreigner sitting stiffly on her
parlor sofa, and realized that she must entertain him
for at least an hour, that panic seized her?
"I better be seeing to dinner," she said hastily. "You
can look at the album till I get things dished up."
Private Bowinski, surnamed Alexis, sat with knees
awkwardly hunched and obediently turned the leaves of
the large album, politely scanning the placid
countenances of departed Minks for several generations.
Miss Mink, moving about in the inner room, glanced in at
him from time to time. After the first glance she went
to the small store room and got out a jar of sweet
pickle, and after the second she produced a glass of
crab apple jelly. Serving a soldier guest who had
voluntarily adopted her country, was after all not so
distasteful, if only she did not have to talk to him.
But already the coming ordeal was casting its baleful
When they were seated opposite one another at the small
table, her worst fears were realized. They could neither
of them think of anything to say. If she made a move to
pass the bread to him he insisted upon passing it to
her. When she rose to serve him, he rose to serve her.
She had never realized before how oppressive excessive
politeness could be.
The one point of consolation for her lay in the fact
that he was enjoying his dinner. He ate with a relish
that would have flattered any hostess. Sometimes when he
put his knife in his mouth she winced with apprehension,
but aside from a few such lapses in etiquette he
conducted himself with solemn and punctilious propriety.
When he had finished his second slice of pie, and pushed
back his chair, Miss Mink waited hopefully for him to
say good-bye. He was evidently getting out his car fare
now, searching with thumb and forefinger in his vest
"If it is not to trouble you more, may I ask a match?"
"A match? What on earth do you want with a match?"
demanded Miss Mink. Then a look of apprehension swept
over her face. Was this young man actually proposing to
profane the virgin air of her domicile with the fumes of
"Perhaps you do not like that I should smoke?" Bowinski
said instantly. "I beg you excuse, I—"
"Oh! that's all right," said Miss Mink in a tone that
she did not recognize as her own, "the matches are in
that little bisque figure on the parlor mantel. I'll get
you to leave the front door open, if you don't mind.
It's kinder hot in here."
Five o'clock that afternoon found Miss Mink and Alexis
Bowinski still sitting facing each other in the front
parlor. They were mutually exhausted, and conversation
after having suffered innumerable relapses, seemed about
"If there's any place else you want to go, you mustn't
feel that you've got to stay here," Miss Mink had urged
some time after dinner. But Alexis had answered:
"I know only two place. The Camp and the railway depot.
I go on last Sunday to the railway depot. The Chaplain
at the Camp advise me I go to church this morning.
Perhaps I make a friend."
"But what do the other soldiers do on Sunday?" Miss Mink
"They promenade. Always promenade. Except they go to
photo-plays, and dance hall. It is the hard part of war,
the waiting part."
Miss Mink agreed with him perfectly as she helped him
wait. She had never spent such a long day in her life.
At a quarter past five he rose to go. A skillful word on
her part would have expedited matters, but Miss Mink was
not versed in the social trick of speeding a departing
guest. Fifteen minutes dragged their weary length even
after he was on his feet. Then Miss Mink received a
shock from which it took her an even longer time to
recover. Alexis Bowinski, having at last arrived at the
moment of departure, took her hand in his and, bowing
awkwardly, raised it to his lips and kissed it! Then he
backed out of the cottage, stalked into the twilight and
was soon lost to sight beyond the hedge.
Miss Mink sank limply on the sofa by the window, and
regarded her small wrinkled hand with stern surprise. It
was a hand that had never been kissed before and it was
tingling in the strangest and most unaccountable manner.
The following week was lived in the afterglow of that
eventful Sunday. She described the soldier's visit in
detail to the few customers who came in. She went early
to prayer-meeting in order to tell about it. And in the
telling she subordinated everything to the dramatic
"I never was so took back in my life!" she said. "After
setting there for four mortal hours with nothing to say,
just boring each other to death, for him to get up like
that and make a regular play-actor bow, and kiss my
hand! Well, I never was so took back!"
And judging from the number of times Miss Mink told the
story, and the conscious smile with which she concluded
it, it was evident that she was not averse to being
By the time Sunday arrived she had worked herself up to
quite a state of excitement. Would Bowinski he at
church? Would he sit on her side of the congregation?
Would he wait after the service to speak to her? She put
on her best bonnet, which was usually reserved for
funerals, and pinned a bit of thread lace over the
shabby collar of her coat.
The moment she entered church all doubts were dispelled.
There in her pew, quite as if he belonged there, sat the
tall young Russian. He even stepped into the aisle for
her to pass in, helped her off with her coat, and found
the place for her in the hymn-book. Miss Mink realized
with a glow of satisfaction, that many curious heads
were craning in her direction. For the first time since
she had gone forward forty years ago to confess her
faith, she was an object of interest to the
When the benediction was pronounced several women came
forward ostensibly to speak to her, but in reality to
ask Bowinski to go home to dinner with them. She waived
them all aside.
"No, he's going with me!" she announced firmly, and
Bowinski obediently picked up his hat and accompanied
For the following month this scene was enacted each
Sunday, with little change to outward appearances but
with great change to Miss Mink herself. In the mothering
of Bowinski she had found the great adventure of her
life. She mended his clothes, and made fancy dishes for
him, she knit him everything that could be knitted,
including an aviator's helmet for which he had no
possible use. She talked about "my soldier" to any one
who would listen.
Bowinski accepted her attention with grave politeness.
He wore the things she made for him, he ate the things
she cooked for him, he answered all her questions and
kissed her hand at parting. Miss Mink considered his
One snowy Sunday in late November Miss Mink was thrown
into a panic by his failure to appear on Sunday morning.
She confided to Sister Bacon in the adjoining pew that
she was afraid he had been sent to France. Sister Bacon
promptly whispered to her husband that he had
been sent to France, and the rumor spread until after
church quite a little group gathered around Miss Mink to
hear about it.
"What was his company?" some one asked.
"Company C, 47th Infantry," Miss Mink repeated
"Why, that's my boy's company," said Mrs. Bacon. "They
haven't gone to France."
The thought of her soldier being in the trenches even,
was more tolerable to Miss Mink than the thought of his
being in town and failing to come to her for Sunday
"I bet he's sick," she announced. "I wish I could find
Mrs. Bacon volunteered to ask her Jim about him, and
three days later stopped by Miss Mink's cottage to tell
her that Bowinski had broken his leg over a week before
and was in the Base Hospital.
"Can anybody go out there that wants to?" demanded Miss
"Yes, on Sundays and Wednesdays. But you can't count on
the cars running to-day. Jim says everything's snowed
under two feet deep."
Miss Mink held her own counsel but she knew what she was
going to do. Her soldier was in trouble, he had no
family or friends. She was going to him.
With trembling fingers she packed a small basket with
some apples, a jar of jelly and a slice of cake. There
was no time for her own lunch, so she hurriedly put on
her coat and twisting a faded scarf about her neck
trudged out into the blustery afternoon.
The blizzard of the day before had almost suspended
traffic, and when she finally succeeded in getting a
car, it was only to find that it ran no farther than the
"How much farther is it to the Camp?" Miss Mink asked
"About a mile," said the conductor. "I wouldn't try it
if I was you, the walking's fierce."
But Miss Mink was not to be turned back. Gathering her
skirts as high as her sense of propriety would permit,
and grasping her basket she set bravely forth. The trip
alone to the Camp, under the most auspicious
circumstances, would have been a trying ordeal for her,
but under the existing conditions it required nothing
less than heroism. The snow had drifted in places as
high as her knees, and again and again she stumbled and
almost lost her footing as she staggered forward against
the force of the icy wind.
Before she had gone half a mile she was ready to
collapse with nervousness and exhaustion.
"Looks like I just can't make it," she whimpered, "and
yet I'm going to!"
The honk of an automobile sent her shying into a
snowdrift, and when she caught her breath and turned
around she saw that the machine had stopped and a hand
was beckoning to her from the window.
"May I give you a lift?" asked a girl's high sweet voice
and, looking up, she saw a sparkling face smiling down
at her over an upturned fur collar.
Without waiting to be urged she climbed into the
machine, stumbled over the rug, and sank exhausted on
"Give me your basket," commanded the young lady. "Now
put your feet on the heater. Sure you have room?"
Miss Mink, still breathless, nodded emphatically.
"It's a shame to ask anyone to ride when I'm so
cluttered up," continued the girl gaily. "I'm taking
these things out to my sick soldier boys."
Miss Mink, looking down, saw that the floor of the
machine was covered with boxes and baskets.
"I'm going to the Hospital, too," she said.
"That's good!" exclaimed the girl. "I can take you all
the way. Perhaps you have a son or a grandson out
Miss Mink winced. "No, he ain't any kin to me," she
said, "but I been sort of looking after him."
"How sweet of you!" said the pouting red lips with
embarrassing ardor. "Just think of your walking out here
this awful day at your age. Quite sure you are getting
Yes, Miss Mink was warm, but she felt suddenly old, old
and shrivelled beside this radiant young thing.
"I perfectly adore going to the hospital," said the
girl, her blue eyes dancing. "Father's one of the
medical directors, Major Chalmers, I expect you've heard
of him. I'm Lois Chalmers."
But Miss Mink was scarcely listening. She was comparing
the big luscious looking oranges in the crate, with the
hard little apples in her own basket.
"Here we are!" cried Lois, as the car plowed through the
snow and mud and stopped in front of a long shed-like
building. Two orderlies sprang forward with smiling
alacrity and began unloading the boxes.
"Aren't you the nicest ever?" cried Lois with a skillful
smile that embraced them both. "Those to the medical,
those to the surgical, and these to my little fat-faced
Miss Mink got herself and her basket out unassisted,
then stood in doubt as to what she should do next. She
wanted to thank Miss Chalmers for her courtesy, but two
dapper young officers had joined the group around her
making a circle of masculine admirers.
Miss Mink slipped away unnoticed and presented herself
at the door marked "Administration Building."
"Can you tell me where the broken-legged soldiers are?"
she asked timidly of a man at a desk.
"Who do you want to see?"
"Alexis Bowinski. He come from Russia. He's got curly
hair and big sort of sad eyes, and—"
"Bowinski," the man repeated, running his finger down a
ledger, "A. Bowinski, Surgical Ward 5-C. Through that
door, two corridors to the right midway down the second
Miss Mink started boldly forth to follow directions, but
it was not until she had been ejected from the X-ray
Room, the Mess Hall, and the Officers' Quarters, that
she succeeded in reaching her destination. By that time
her courage was at its lowest ebb. On either side of the
long wards were cots, on which lay men in various stages
of undress. Now Miss Mink had seen pajamas in shop
windows, she had even made a pair once of silk for an
ambitious groom, but this was the first time she had
ever seen them, as it were, occupied.
So acute was her embarrassment that she might have
turned back at the last moment, had her eyes not fallen
on the cot nearest the door. There, lying asleep, with
his injured leg suspended from a pulley from which
depended two heavy weights, lay Bowinski.
Miss Mink slipped into the chair between his cot and the
wall. After the first glance at his pale unshaven face
and the pain-lined brow, she forgot all about herself.
She felt only overwhelming pity for him, and indignation
at the treatment to which he was being subjected.
By and by he stirred and opened his eyes.
"Oh you came!" he said, "I mean you not to know I be in
hospital. You must have the kindness not to trouble
"Trouble nothing," said Miss Mink, husky with emotion,
"I never knew a thing about it until to-day. What have
they got you harnessed up like this for?"
Then Alexis with difficulty found the English words to
tell her how his leg had not set straight, had been
re-broken and was now being forced into proper position.
"It is like hell, Madame," he concluded with a trembling
lip, then he drew a sharp breath, "But no, I forget, I
am in the army. I beg you excuse my complain."
Miss Mink laid herself out to entertain him. She
unpacked her basket, and spread her meagre offerings
before him. She described in detail all the surgical
operations she had ever had any experience with,
following some to their direst consequences. Alexis
listened apathetically. Now and then a spasm of pain
contracted his face, but he uttered no word of
Only once during the afternoon did his eyes brighten.
Miss Mink caught the sudden change in his expression
and, following his glance, saw Lois Chalmers coming
through the ward. She had thrown aside her heavy fur
coat, and her slim graceful little figure as alert as a
bird's darted from cart to cot as she tossed packages of
cigarettes to right and left.
"Here you are, Mr. Whiskers!" she was calling out gaily
to one. "This is for you, Colonel Collar Bone. Where's
Cadet Limpy? Discharged? Good for him! Hello, Mr. Strong
Man!" For a moment she poised at the foot of Bowinski's
cot, then recognizing Miss Mink she nodded:
"So you found your soldier? I'm going back to town in
ten minutes, I'll take you along if you like."
She flitted out of the ward as quickly as she had come,
leaving two long rows of smiling faces in her wake. She
had brought no pity, nor tenderness, nor understanding,
but she had brought her fresh young beauty, and her
little gift of gayety, and made men forget, at least for
a moment, their pain-racked bodies and their weary
Miss Mink reached her cottage that night weary and
depressed. She had had nothing to eat since breakfast,
and yet was too tired to prepare supper. She made her a
cup of tea which she drank standing, and then crept into
bed only to lie staring into the darkness tortured by
the thought of those heavy weights on Bowinski's injured
The result of her weariness and exposure was a sharp
attack of tonsilitis that kept her in bed several weeks.
The first time she was able to be up, she began to count
the hours until the next visiting day at the Camp. Her
basket was packed the evening before, and placed beside
the box of carnations in which she had extravagantly
indulged. It is doubtful whether Miss Mink was ever so
happy in her life as during that hour of pleased
As she moved feebly about putting the house in order, so
that she could make an early start in the morning, she
discovered a letter that the Postman had thrust under
the side door earlier in the day. Across the left hand
corner was pictured an American flag, and across the
right was a red triangle in a circle. She hastily tore
off the envelop and read:
Dear Miss Mink:
I am out the Hospital, getting along fine. Hope you are
in the same circumstances. I am sending you a book which
I got from a Dear Young Lady, in the Hospital. I really
do not know what to call her because I do not know her
name, but I know she deserve a nice, nice name for all
good She dose to all soldiers. I think she deserve more
especially from me than to call her a Sweet Dear Lady,
because that I have the discouragement, and she make me
to laugh and take heart. I would ask your kind favor to
please pass the book back to the Young Lady, and pleas
pass my thankful word to her, and if you might be able
to send me her name before that I go to France, which I
learn is very soon. Excuse all errors if you pleas will.
This is goodby from
Your soldier friend,
Miss Mink read the letter through, then she sat down
limply in a kitchen chair and stared at the stove. Twice
she half rose to get the pen and ink on the shelf above
the coal box, but each time she changed her mind, folded
her arms indignantly, and went back to her stern
contemplation of the stove. Presently a tear rolled down
her cheek, then another, and another until she dropped
her tired old face in her tired old hands, and gave a
long silent sob that shook her slight body from head to
foot. Then she rose resolutely and sweeping the back of
her hand across her eyes, took down her writing
materials. On one side of a post card she wrote the
address of Alexis Bowinski, and on the other she penned
in her cramped neat writing, one line:
"Her name is Lois Chalmers. Hotel LeRoy."
This done she unpacked her basket, put her half dozen
carnations in a tumbler of water and carried them into
the dark parlor, pulled her chair up to the kitchen
table, drew the lamp closer and patiently went back to
A Darling Of Misfortune
A shabby but joyous citizen of the world at large was
Mr. Phelan Harrihan, as, with a soul wholly in tune with
the finite, he half sat and half reclined on a
baggage-truck at Lebanon Junction. He wag relieving the
tedium of his waiting moments by entertaining a critical
if not fastidious audience of three.
Beside him, with head thrust under his ragged sleeve,
sat a small and unlovely bull-terrier, who, at each
fresh burst of laughter, lifted a pair of languishing
eyes to the face of his master, and then manifested his
surplus affection by ardently licking the buttons on the
sleeve of the arm that encircled him.
It was a moot question whether Mr. Harrihan resembled
his dog, or whether his dog resembled him. That there
was a marked similarity admitted of no discussion. If
Corp's nose had been encouraged and his lower jaw
suppressed, if his intensely emotional nature had been
under better control, and his sentimentality tempered
with humor, the analogy would have been more complete.
In taste, they were one. By birth, predilection, and
instinct both were philosophers of the open, preferring
an untrammeled life in Vagabondia to the collars and
conventions of society. Both delighted in exquisite
leisure, and spent it in pleased acquiescence with
things as they are.
Some twenty-five years before, Phelan had opened his
eyes upon a half-circle of blue sky, seen through the
end of a canvas-covered wagon on a Western prairie, and
having first conceived life to be a free-and-easy affair
on a long, open road, he thereafter declined to consider
it in any other light.
The only break in his nomadic existence was when a
benevolent old gentleman found him, a friendless lad in
a Nashville hospital, cursed him through a fever, and
elected to educate him. Those were years of black
captivity for Phelan, and after being crammed and
coached for what seemed an interminable time, he was
proudly entered at the University, where he promptly
failed in every subject and was dropped at the mid-year
The old gentleman, fortunately, was spared all
disappointment in regard to his irresponsible protégé,
for he died before the catastrophe, leaving Phelan
Harrihan a legacy of fifteen dollars a month and the
memory of a kind, but misguided, old man who was not
quite right in his head.
Being thus provided with a sum more than adequate to
meet all his earthly needs, Phelan joyously abandoned
the straight and narrow path of learning, and once more
betook himself to the open road.
The call of blue skies and green fields, the excitement
of each day's encounter, the dramatic possibilities of
every passing incident, the opportunity for quick and
intimate fellowship, and above all an inherited and
chronic disinclination for work, made Phelan an easy
victim to that malady called by the casual tourist
"wanderlust," but known in Hoboland as "railroad fever."
Only once a year did he return to civilization, don a
stiff collar, and recognize an institution. During his
meteoric career at the University he had been made a
member of the Alpha Delta fraternity, in recognition of
his varied accomplishments. Not only could he sing and
dance and tell a tale with the best, but he was also a
mimic and a ventriloquist, gifts which had proven
invaluable in crucial conflicts with the faculty, and
had constituted him a hero in several escapades. Of such
material is college history made, and the Alpha Delta,
recognizing the distinction of possessing this unique
member, refused to accept his resignation, but
unanimously demanded his presence at each annual
On June second, for five consecutive years, the ends of
the earth had yielded up Phelan Harrihan; by a miracle
of grace he had arrived in Nashville, decently
appareled, ready to respond to his toast, to bask for
his brief hour in the full glare of the calcium, then to
depart again into oblivion.
It was now the first day of June and as Phelan concluded
his tale, which was in fact an undress rehearsal of what
he intended to tell on the morrow, he looked forward
with modest satisfaction to the triumph that was sure to
be his. For the hundredth time he made certain that the
small brown purse, so unused to its present obesity, was
safe and sound in his inside pocket.
During the pause that followed his recital, his audience
"Go on, do it again," urged the ragged boy who sold the
sandwiches, "show us how Forty Fathom Dan looked when he
thought he was sinking.
"I don't dare trifle with me features," said Phelan
solemnly. "How much are those sandwiches. One for five,
is it? Two for fifteen, I suppose. Well, here's one for
me, and one for Corp, and keep the change, kid. Ain't
that the train coming?"
"It's the up train," said the station-master, rising
reluctantly; "it meets yours here. I've got to be
Phelan, left without an audience, strolled up and down
the platform, closely followed by Corporal Harrihan.
As the train slowed up at the little Junction, there was
manifestly some commotion on board. Standing in the
doorway of the rear car a small, white-faced woman
argued excitedly with the conductor.
"I didn't have no ticket, I tell you!" she was saying as
the train came to a stop. "I 'lowed I'd pay my way, but
I lost my pocket-book. I lost it somewheres on the train
here, I don't know where it is!"
"I've seen your kind before," said the conductor
wearily; "what did you get on for when you didn't have
anything to pay your fare with?"
"I tell you I lost my pocket-book after I got on!" she
said doggedly; "I ain't going to get off, you daren't
put me off!"
Phelan, who had sauntered up, grew sympathetic. He, too,
had experienced the annoyance of being pressed for his
fare when it was inconvenient to produce it.
"Go ahead," demanded the conductor firmly, "I don't want
to push you off, but if you don't step down and out
right away, I'll have it to do."
The woman's expression changed from defiance to terror.
She clung to the brake with both hands and looked at him
"No, no, don't touch me!" she cried. "Don't make me get
off! I've got to get to Cincinnati. My man's there. He's
been hurt in the foundry. He's—maybe he's dying now."
"I can't help that, maybe it's so and maybe it ain't.
You never had any money when you got on this train and
you know it. Go on, step off!"
"But I did!" she cried wildly; "I did. Oh, God! don't
put me off."
The train began to move, and the conductor seized the
woman's arms from behind and forced her forward. A
moment more and she would be pushed off the lowest step.
She turned beseeching eyes on the little group of
spectators, and as she did so Phelan Harrihan sprang
forward and with his hand on the railing, ran along with
the slow-moving train.
With a deft movement he bent forward and apparently
snatched something from the folds of her skirt.
"Get on to your luck now," he said with an encouraging
smile that played havoc with the position of his
features; "if here ain't your pocket-book all the time!"
The hysterical woman looked from the unfamiliar little
brown purse in her hand, to the snub-nosed, grimy face
of the young man running along the track, then she
caught her breath.
"Why,—" she cried unsteadily, "yes—yes, it's my purse."
Phelan loosened his hold on the railing and had only
time to scramble breathlessly up the bank before the
down train, the train for Nashville which was to have
been his, whizzed past.
He watched it regretfully as it slowed up at the
station, then almost immediately pulled out again for
the south, carrying his hopes with it.
"Corporal," said Phelan, to the dog, who had looked upon
the whole episode as a physical-culture exercise
indulged in for his special benefit, "a noble act of
charity is never to be regretted, but wasn't I the
original gun, not to wait for the change?"
His lack of business method seemed to weigh upon him,
and he continued to apologize to Corporal:
"It was so sudden, you know, Corp. Couldn't see a lady
ditched, when I had a bit of stuffed leather in my
pocket. And two hundred miles to Nashville! Well
He searched in his trousers pockets and found a dime in
one and a hole in the other. It was an old trick of his
to hide a piece of money in time of prosperity, and then
discover it in the blackness of adversity.
He held the dime out ruefully: "That's punk and plaster
for supper, but we'll have to depend on a hand-out for
breakfast. And, Corp," he added apologetically, "you
know I told you we was going to ride regular like
gentlemen? Well, I've been compelled to change my plans.
We are going to turf it twelve miles down to the
watering tank, and sit out a couple of dances till the
midnight freight comes along. If a side door Pullman
ain't convenient, I'll have to go on the bumpers, then
what'll become of you, Mr. Corporal Harrihan?"
The coming ordeal cast no shadow over Corporal. He was
declaring his passionate devotion, by wild tense springs
at Phelan's face, seeking in vain to overcome the cruel
limitation of a physiognomy that made kissing well-nigh
Phelan picked up his small bundle and started down the
track with the easy, regular swing of one who has long
since gaged the distance of railroad ties. But his step
lacked its usual buoyancy, and he forgot to whistle, Mr.
Harrihan was undergoing the novel experience of being
worried. Of course he would get to Nashville,—if the
train went, he could go,—but the prospect of
arriving without decent clothes and with no money to pay
for a lodging, did not in the least appeal to him. He
thought with regret of his well-laid plans: an early
arrival, a Turkish bath, the purchase of a new outfit,
instalment at a good hotel, then—presentation at the
fraternity headquarters of Mr. Phelan Harrihan,
Gentleman for a Night. He could picture it all, the
dramatic effect of his entrance, the yell of welcome,
the buzz of questions, and the evasive,
curiosity-enkindling answers which he meant to give.
Then the banquet, with its innumerable courses of
well-served food, the speeches and toasts, and the
personal ovation that always followed Mr. Harrihan's
Oh! he couldn't miss it! Providence would interfere in
his behalf, he knew it would, it always did. "Give me my
luck, and keep your lucre!" was a saying of Phelan's,
quoted by brother hoboes from Maine to the Gulf.
All the long afternoon he tramped the ties, with
Corporal at his heels. As dusk came on the clouds that
had been doing picket duty, joined the regiment on the
horizon which slowly wheeled and charged across the sky.
Phelan scanned the heavens with an experienced weather
eye, then began to look for a possible shelter from the
coming shower. On either side, the fields stretched away
in undulating lines, with no sign of a habitation in
sight. A dejected old scarecrow, and a tumble-down shed
in the distance were the only objects that presented
Turning up his coat-collar Phelan made a dash for the
shed, but the shower overtook him half-way. It was not
one of your gentle little summer showers, that patter on
the shingles waking echoes underneath; it was a large
and instantaneous breakage in the celestial plumbing
that let gallons of water down Phelan's back, filling
his pockets, hat brim, and shoes and sending a dashing
cascade down Corporal's oblique profile.
"Float on your back, Corp, and pull for the shore!"
laughed Phelan as he landed with a spring under the
dilapidated shed. "Cheer up, old pard; you look as if
all your past misdeeds had come before you in your
Corporal, shivering and unhappy, crept under cover, and
dumbly demanded of Phelan what he intended to do about
"Light a blaze, sure," said Phelan, "and linger here in
the air of the tropics till the midnight freight comes
Scraping together the old wood and débris in the rear of
the shed, and extricating with some difficulty a small
tin match-box from his saturated clothes, he knelt
before the pile and used all of his persuasive powers to
induce it to ignite.
At the first feeble blaze Corporal's spirits rose so
promptly that he had to be restrained.
"Easy there! Corp," cautioned Phelan. "A fire's like a
woman, you can't be sure of it too soon. And, dog alive,
stop wagging your tail, don't you see it makes a draft?"
The fire capriciously would, then it wouldn't. A tiny
flame played tantalizingly along the top of a stick only
to go sullenly out when it reached the end. Match after
match was sacrificed to the cause, but at last, down
deep under the surface, there was a steady, reassuring,
cheerful crackle that made Phelan sit back on his heels,
and remark complacently:
"They most generally come around, in the end!"
In five minutes the fire was burning bright, Corporal
was dreaming of meaty bones in far fence corners, and
Phelan, less free from the incumbrances of civilization,
was divesting himself of his rain-soaked garments.
From one of the innumerable pockets of his old cutaway
coat he took a comb and brush and clothes-brush, and
carefully deposited them before the fire. Then from
around his neck he removed a small leather case, hung by
a string and holding a razor. His treasured toilet
articles thus being cared for, he turned his attention
to the contents of his dripping bundle. A suit of
underwear and a battered old copy of Eli Perkins were
ruefully examined, and spread out to dry.
The fire, while it lasted, was doing admirable service,
but the wood supply was limited, and Phelan saw that he
must take immediate advantage of the heat. How to dry
the underwear which he wore was the question which
puzzled him, and he wrestled with it for several moments
before an inspiration came.
"I'll borrow some duds from the scarecrow!" he said half
aloud, and went forth immediately to execute his idea.
The rain had ceased, but the fields were still afloat,
and Phelan waded ankle deep through the slush grass, to
where the scarecrow raised his threatening arms against
the twilight sky.
"Beggars and borrowers shouldn't be choosers," said
Phelan, as he divested the figure of its ragged trousers
and coat, "but I have a strong feeling in my mind that
these habiliments ain't going to become me. Who's your
The scarecrow, reduced now to an old straw hat and a
necktie, maintained a dignified and oppressive silence.
"Well, he ain't on to the latest cut," continued Phelan,
wringing the water out of the coat. "But maybe these
here is your pajamas? Don't tell me I disturbed you
after you'd retired for the night? Very well then,
With the clothes under his arm he made his way back to
the shed, and divesting himself of his own raiment he
got into his borrowed property.
By this time the fire had died down, and the place was
in semi-darkness. Phelan threw on a handful of sticks
and, as the blaze flared up, he caught his first clear
sight of his newly acquired clothes. They were ragged
and weather-stained, and circled about with broad,
"Well, I'll be spiked!" said Phelan, vastly amused. "I
wouldn't 'a' thought it of a nice, friendly scarecrow
like that! Buncoed me, didn't he? Well, feathers don't
always make the jail-bird. Wonder what poor devil wore
'em last? Peeled out of 'em in this very shed, like as
not. Well, they'll serve my purpose all right, all
He took off his shoes, placed them under his head for a
pillow, lit a short cob pipe, threw on fresh wood, and
prepared to wait for his clothes to dry.
Meanwhile the question of the banquet revolved itself
continually in his mind. This time to-morrow night, the
preparations would be in full swing. Instead of being
hungry, half naked, and chilled, he might be in a
luxurious club-house dallying with caviar, stuffed
olives, and Benedictine. All that lay between him and
bliss were two hundred miles of railroad ties and a
decent suit of clothes!
"Wake up, Corp; for the love of Mike be sociable!" cried
Phelan when the situation became too gloomy to
contemplate. "Ain't that like a dog now? Hold your
tongue when I'm longing for a word of kindly sympathy
an' encouragement, and barking your fool head off once
we get on the freight. Much good it'll be doing us to
get to Nashville in this fix, but we'll take our
blessings as they come, Corp, and just trust to luck
that somebody will forget to turn 'em off. I know when I
get to the banquet there'll be one other man absent.
That's Bell of Terre Haute. Him and me is always in the
same boat, he gets ten thousand a year and ain't got the
nerve to spend it, and I get fifteen a month, and ain't
got the nerve to keep it! Poor old Bell."
Corporal, roused from his slumbers, sniffed inquiringly
at the many garments spread about the fire, yawned,
turned around several times in dog fashion, then curled
up beside Phelan, signifying by his bored expression
that he hadn't the slightest interest in the matter
Gradually the darkness closed in, and the fire died to
embers. It would be four hours before the night freight
slowed up at the water tank, and Phelan, tired from his
long tramp, and drowsy from the heat and the vapor
rising from the drying clothes, shifted the shoe-buttons
from under his left ear, and drifted into dreamland.
How long he slept undisturbed, only the scarecrow
outside knew. He was dimly aware, in his dreams, of
subdued sounds and, by and by, the sounds formed
themselves into whispered words and, still half asleep,
"I thought we'd find him along here. This is the road
they always take," a low voice was saying; "you and Sam
stand here, John and me'll tackle him from this side.
He'll put up a stiff fight, you bet."
Phelan opened his eyes, and tried to remember where he
"Gosh! look at that bulldog!" came another whisper, and
at the same moment Corporal jumped to his feet, growling
As he did so, four men sprang through the opening of the
shed, and seized Phelan by the arms and legs.
"Look out there," cried one excitedly; "don't let him
escape; here's the handcuffs."
"But here," cried Phelan, "what's up; what you doing to
By this time Corporal, thoroughly roused, made a vicious
lunge at the nearest man. The next minute there was a
sharp report of a pistol, and the bull-terrier went
yelping and limping out into the night.
"You coward!" cried Phelan, struggling to rise, "if you
killed that dog—"
"Get those shackles on his legs," shouted one of the
men. "Is the wagon ready, Sam? Take his legs there, I've
got his head. Leave the truck here, we've got to drive
like sand to catch that train!"
After being dragged to the road and thrown into a spring
wagon, Phelan found himself lying on his back, jolting
over a rough country road, his three vigilant captors
sitting beside him with pistols in hand.
Any effort on his part to explain or seek information
was promptly and emphatically discouraged. But in time
he gathered, from the bits let fall by his captors, that
he was an escaped convict, of a most desperate
character, for whom a reward was offered, and that he
had been at large twenty-four hours.
In vain did he struggle for a hearing. Only once did he
get a response to his oft-repeated plea of innocence. It
was when he told how he had come by the clothes he had
on. For once Phelan got a laugh when he did not relish
"Got 'em off a scarecrow, did you?" said the man at his
head, when the fun had subsided; "say, I want to be
'round when you tell that to the Superintendent of the
Penitentiary—I ain't heard him laugh in ten years!"
So, in the face of such unbelief, Phelan lapsed into
silence and gloom. What became of him concerned him
less, at the moment, than the fate of Corporal, and the
thought of the faithful little beast wounded and perhaps
dying out there in the fields, made him sick at heart.
Just as they came in sight of the lights of the station,
the whistle of the freight was heard down the track and
the horses were beaten to a gallop.
Phelan was hurried from the wagon into an empty box car,
with his full guard in attendance. As the train pulled
out he heard a little whimper beside him and there,
panting for breath after his long run, and with one ear
hanging limp and bloody, cowered Corporal. Phelan's
hands were not at his disposal, but even if they had
been it is doubtful if he would have denied Corp the joy
for once of kissing him.
Through the rest of the night the heavy cars rumbled
over the rails, and the men took turn about sleeping and
guarding the prisoner. Only once did Phelan venture
"Say, you sports, you don't mind telling me where you
are taking me, do you?"
"Listen at his gaff!" said one. "He'll know all right
when he gets to Nashville."
Phelan sent such a radiant smile into the darkness that
it threatened to reveal itself. Then he slipped his
encircled wrists about Corporal's body and giving him a
"It's better'n the bumpers, Corp."
At the Penitentiary next day there was consternation and
dismay when instead of the desperate criminal, who two
days before had scaled the walls and dropped to freedom,
an innocent little Irishman was presented, whose only
offense apparently was in having donned, temporarily,
the garb of crime.
As the investigation proceeded, Phelan found it
expedient, to become excessively indignant. That an
American citizen, strolling harmlessly through the
fields of a summer evening, and being caught in a
shower, should attempt to dry his clothes in an unused
shed, and find himself attacked and bound, and hurried
away without his belongings to a distant city, was an
inconceivable outrage. If a shadow of doubt remained as
to his identity, a score of prominent gentlemen in the
city would be able to identify him. He named them, and
added that he was totally unable to hazard a guess as to
what form their resentment of his treatment would
The authorities looked grave. Could Mr. Harrihan
remember just what articles he had left behind? Mr.
Harrihan could. A suit of clothes, a pair of shoes, a
hat, a toilet set, and a small sum of money; "the loss
of which," added Phelan with a fine air of indifference,
"are as nothing compared to the indignity offered to my
Would the gentleman be satisfied if the cost of these
articles, together with the railroad fare back to
Lebanon Junction be paid him? The gentleman, after an
injured pause, announced that he would.
And thus it was that Mr. Phelan Harrihan, in immaculate
raiment, presented himself at the Sixth Annual Reunion
of the Alpha Delta fraternity and, with a complacent
smile encircling a ten-cent cigar, won fresh laurels by
recounting, with many adornments, the adventures of the
The gloomy corridor in the big Baltimore hospital was
still and deserted save for a nurse who sat at a
flat-topped desk under a green lamp mechanically
transferring figures from one chart to another. It was
the period of quiet that usually precedes the first
restless stirring of the sick at the breaking of dawn.
The silence was intense as only a silence can be that
waits momentarily for an interrupting sound.
Suddenly it came in a prolonged, imperative ring of the
telephone bell. So insistent was the call that the
nurse's hand closed over the transmitter long before the
burr ceased. The office was notifying Ward B that an
emergency case had been brought in and an immediate
operation was necessary.
With prompt efficiency the well-ordered machinery for
saving human life was put in motion. Soft-footed nurses
emerged from the shadows and moved quickly about, making
necessary arrangements. A trim, comely woman, straight
of feature and clear of eye, gave directions in low
decisive tones. When the telephone rang the second time
she answered it.
"Yes, Office," she said, "this is Miss Fletcher. They
are not going to operate? Too late? I see. Very well.
Send the patient up to No. 16. Everything is ready."
Even as she spoke the complaining creak of the elevator
could he heard, and presently two orderlies appeared at
the end of the corridor bearing a stretcher.
Beside it, with head erect and jaw set, strode a
strangely commanding figure. Six feet two he loomed in
the shadows, a gaunt, raw-boned old mountaineer. On his
head was a tall, wide-brimmed hat and in his right hand
he carried a bulky carpet sack. The left sleeve of his
long-tailed coat hung empty to the elbow. The massive
head with its white flowing beard and hawklike face, the
beaked nose and fierce, deep-set eyes, might have served
as a model for Michael Angelo when he modeled his
As the orderlies passed through the door of No. 16 and
lowered the stretcher, the old man put down his carpet
sack and grimly watched the nurse uncover the patient.
Under the worn homespun coverlet, stained with the dull
dyes of barks and berries, lay an emaciated figure, just
as it had been brought into the hospital. One long
coarse garment covered it, and the bare feet with their
prominent ankle bones and the large work-hardened hands
might have belonged to either a boy or a girl.
"Take that thar head wrappin' off!" ordered the old man
A nurse carefully unwound the rough woolen scarf and as
she did so a mass of red hair fell across the pillow,
hair that in spite of its matted disorder showed flashes
of gleaming gold.
"We'll get her on the bed," a night nurse said to an
assistant. "Put your arm under her knees. Don't jar the
Before the novice could obey another and a stronger arm
was thrust forward.
"Stand back thar, some of you-uns," commanded a loud
voice, "I'll holp move Sal myself."
In vain were protests from nurses and orderlies alike,
the old mountaineer seemed bent on making good use of
his one arm and with quick dexterity he helped to lift
her on the bed.
"Now, whar's the doctor?" he demanded, standing with
feet far apart and head thrown back.
The doctor was at the desk in the corridor, speaking to
Miss Fletcher in an undertone:
"We only made a superficial examination down-stairs," he
was saying, "but it is evidently a ruptured appendix. If
she's living in a couple of hours I may be able to
operate. But it's ten to one she dies on the table."
"Who are they, and where did they come from?" Miss
Fletcher asked curiously.
"Their name is Hawkins, and they are from somewhere in
the Kentucky mountains. Think of his starting with her
in that condition! He can't read or write; it's the
first time he has ever been in a city. I am afraid he's
going to prove troublesome. You'd better get him out of
there as soon as possible."
But anyone, however mighty in authority, who proposed to
move Jeb Hawkins when he did not choose to be moved
reckoned unknowingly. All tactics were exhausted from
suggestion to positive command, and the rules of the
hospital were quoted in vain.
In the remote regions where Jeb lived there were no laws
to break. Every man's home was his stronghold, to be
protected at the point of a pistol. He was one of the
three million people of good Anglo-Saxon stock who had
been stranded in the highlands when the Cumberland
Mountains dammed the stream of humanity that swept
westward through the level wilderness. Development had
been arrested so long in Jeb and his ancestors that the
outside world, its interests and its mode of living, was
a matter of supreme and profound indifference. A sudden
and unprecedented emergency had driven him to the
"Settlements." His girl had developed an ailment that
baffled the skill of the herb doctors; so, following one
bit of advice after another, he had finally landed in
Baltimore. And now that the terrible journey was ended
and Sal was in the hands of the doctor who was to work
the cure, the wholly preposterous request was made of
him that he abandon her to her fate!
With dogged determination he sat beside the bed, and
chewed silently and stolidly through the argument.
"You gals mought ez well save yer wind," he announced at
last. "Ef Sal stays, I stay. Ef I go, Sal goes. We ain't
axin' favors of nobody."
He was so much in the way during the necessary
preparations for the possible operation that finally
Miss Fletcher was appealed to. She was a woman
accustomed to giving orders and to having them obeyed;
but she was also a woman of tact. Ten minutes of
valuable time were spent in propitiating the old man
before she suggested that he come with her into the
corridor while the nurses straightened the room. A few
minutes later she returned, smiling:
"I've corralled him in the linen closet," she whispered;
"he is unpacking his carpet sack as if he meant to take
up his abode with us."
"I am afraid," said the special nurse, glancing toward
the bed, "he won't have long to stay. How do you suppose
he ever got her here?"
"I asked him. He said he drove her for three days in an
ox-cart along the creek bottom until they got to
Jackson. Then he told the ticket agent to send them to
the best hospital the train ran to. Neither of them had
ever seen a train before. It's a miracle she's lived
"Does he realize her condition?"
"I don't know. I suppose I ought to tell him that the
end may come at any time."
But telling him was not an easy matter as Miss Fletcher
found when she joined him later in the linen closet. He
was busy spreading his varied possessions along the
shelves on top of the piles of immaculate linen,
stopping now and then to refresh himself with a bite of
salt pork and some corn pone that had been packed for
days along with Sally's shoes and sunbonnet and his own
"I suppose you know," Miss Fletcher began gently, trying
not to show her chagrin at the state of the room, "that
your daughter is in a very serious condition."
He looked at her sharply. "Shucks! Sal'll pull through,"
he said with mingled defiance and alarm. "You ain't saw
her afore in one of them spells. Besides, hit meks a
difference when a gal's paw and grandpaw and
great-grandpaw was feud-followers. A feud-follower teks
more killin' then ordinary folks. Her maw was subjec' to
cramp colic afore her."
"But this isn't cramp colic," Miss Fletcher urged, "it's
her appendix, and it wasn't taken in time."
"Well, ain't they goin' to draw it?" he asked irritably.
"Ain't that whut we're here fer?"
"Yes; but you don't understand. The doctor may decide
not, to operate."
The old man's face wore a puzzled look, then his lips
"Mebbe hit's the money thet's a-woriyin' him. You go
toll him that Jeb Hawkins pays ez he goes! I got pension
money sewed in my coat frum the hem clean up to the
collar. I hain't askin' none of you to cure my gal fer
Miss Fletcher laid her hand on his arm. It was a shapely
hand as well as a kindly one.
"It isn't a question of money," she said quietly, "it's
a question of life or death. There is only a slight
chance that your daughter will live through the day."
Someone tapped at the door and Miss Fletcher, after a
whispered consultation, turned again to the old man:
"They have decided to take the chance," she said
hurriedly. "They are carrying her up now. You stay here,
and I will let you know as soon as it is over."
"Whar they fetching her to?" he demanded savagely.
"To the operating-room."
"You take me thar!"
"But you can't go, Mr. Hawkins. No one but the surgeons
and nurses can be with her. Besides, the nurse who was
just here said she had regained consciousness, and it
might excite her to see you."
She might as well have tried to stop a mountain torrent.
He brushed past her and was making his way to the
elevator before she had ceased speaking. At the open
door of the operating-room on the fourth floor he
paused. On a long white table lay the patient, a
white-clad doctor on either side of her, and a nurse in
the background sorting a handful of gleaming
instruments. With two strides the old man reached the
"Sal!" he said fiercely, bending over her, "air ye
Her dazed eyes cleared slightly.
"I dunno, Pop," she murmured feebly.
"Ye ain't fixin' to die, air ye?" he persisted.
"I dunno, Pop."
"Don't you let 'em skeer you," he commanded sternly.
"You keep on a-fightin'. Don't you dare give up. Sal, do
you hear me?"
The girl's wavering consciousness steadied, and for a
moment the challenge that the old man flung at death was
valiantly answered in her pain-racked eyes.
For an hour and a half the surgeons worked. The case,
critical enough at best, was greatly complicated by the
long delay. Twice further effort seemed useless, and it
was only by the prompt administration of oxygen that the
end was averted. During the nerve-racking suspense Pop
not only refused to leave the room, he even refused to
stand back from the table. With keen, suspicious eyes he
followed every movement of the surgeons' hands. Only
once did he speak out, and that was in the beginning, to
an interne who was administering the anæsthetic:
"Lift that funnel, you squash-headed fool!" he
thundered; "don't you see hit's marking of her cheek?"
When the work was finished and the unconscious patient
had been taken down to her ward, Pop still kept his
place beside her. With his hand on her pulse he watched
her breathing, watched the first faint quivering of her
lids, the restlessness that grew into pain and later
into agony. Hour after hour he sat there and passed with
her through that crucifixion that follows some capital
On his refusal at luncheon time to leave the bedside
Miss Fletcher ignored the rules and sent him a tray; but
when night came and he still refused to go, she became
"You can't stay in here to-night, Mr. Hawkins," she said
firmly. "I have asked one of the orderlies, who lives
nearby, to take you home with him. We can send for you
if there is any change. I must insist that you go now."
"Ain't I made it cl'ar from the start," cried Pop
angrily, "thet I ain't a-goin' to be druv out? You-uns
kin call me muley-headed or whatever you've a mind to.
Sal's always stood by me, and by golly, I'm a-goin' to
stand by Sal!"
His raised voice roused the patient, and a feeble
summons brought Miss Fletcher to the bedside.
"Say," plead the girl faintly, "don't rile Pop. He's
the—fightenest man—in—Breathitt—when his blood's—up."
"All right, dear," said Miss Fletcher, with a soothing
hand on the hot brow; "he shall do as he likes."
During that long night the girl passed from one paroxysm
of pain to another with brief intervals of drug-induced
sleep. During the quiet moments the nurse snatched what
rest she could; but old Jeb Hawkins stuck to his post in
the straight-backed chair, never nodding, never relaxing
the vigilance of his watch. For Pop was doing sentry
duty, much as he had done it in the old days of the
Civil War, when he had answered Lincoln's first call for
volunteers and given his left arm for his country.
But the enemy to-night was mysterious, crafty, one that
might come in the twinkling of an eye, and a sentry at
seventy is not what he was at twenty-two. When the
doctor arrived in the morning he found the old man
haggard with fatigue.
"This won't do, Mr. Hawkins," he said kindly; "you must
get some rest."
"Be she goin' to die?" Pop demanded, steadying himself
by a chair.
"It is too soon to tell," the doctor said evasively;
"but I'll say this much, her pulse is better than I
expected. Now, go get some sleep."
Half an hour later a strange rumbling sound puzzled the
nurses in Ward B. It came at regular intervals, rising
from a monotonous growl to a staccato, then dying away
in a plaintive diminuendo. It was not until one of the
nurses needed clean sheets that the mystery was
explained. On the floor of the linen closet, stretched
on his back with his carpet sack under his head and his
empty sleeve across his chest, lay Pop!
From that time on the old mountaineer became a daily
problem to Ward B. It is true, he agreed in time to go
home at night with the orderly; but by six in the
morning he was sitting on the hospital steps,
impatiently awaiting admission. The linen closet was
still regarded by him as his private apartment, to which
he repaired at such times as he could not stay in
Sally's room, and refreshed himself with the luncheon he
brought with him each day.
During the first week, when the girl's life hung in the
balance, he was granted privileges which he afterward
refused to relinquish. The hospital confines, after the
freedom of the hills, chafed him sorely. As the days
grew warmer he discarded his coat, collar, and at times
"I 'low I'm goin' to tek Sal home next week!" became his
But the days and weeks slipped by, and still the girl
lay with a low, consuming fever, and still Pop watched
by her side, showing her no affection by word or gesture
but serving her and anticipating her every want with a
thoroughness that left little for the nurses to do.
In some way Miss Fletcher had gained his confidence. To
her he intrusted the bills which he ripped from his coat
at the end of each week with the instruction that she
"pay off them boys down in the office fa'r an' squar',
but not to 'low 'em to cheat her." It may have been her
growing interest in the invalid that won his favor, for
she came in often to chat awhile with Sally and
sometimes brought up a handful of flowers to brighten
the sick room.
"She's getting better," she said one morning as she held
the girl's big bony hand and looked down at the thin
bright face in its frame of shining hair. "We'll have
her sitting up now before long."
Pop's whole aspect brightened.
"Ef Sal onct begins to git well, can't none of 'em beat
her," he said proudly.
"Have you any other children?" Miss Fletcher asked.
"Lord, yes," said Pop, "heaps of 'em. Thar's Ted an'
Larkin, an' Gus,—they wuz all kilt in feud fights. An'
Burt an' Jim,—they're in jail in Jackson fer
moonshinin'. Four more died when they wuz babies. An'
they ain't nary a one at home now but jes' Sal."
"How old is she?"
"Seventeen or eighteen, mebbe."
"And she tells me she has never been to school."
"Thar warn't no needcessity," said Pop complacently,
taking a long twist of tobacco from his pocket. "Sal
don't need no larnin'. She's pearter then most gals
thet's got book sense. You show me ary one of these gals
round here thet kin spin an' weave the cloth to mek ther
own dresses, thet kin mold candles, an' mek soap, an'
hoe terbaccy, an' handle a rifle good ez a man."
"But, Mr. Hawkins," insisted Miss Fletcher, "there are
better things than those for us to learn. Haven't you
ever felt the need of an education yourself?"
Pop looked at her suspiciously: "Look a-here, young
woman. I'm nigh on to seventy. I never hed a doctor but
onct in my life, an' then he chopped my arm off when it
might hev got well whar it wuz. I kin plow, an' fell
trees, an' haul wood. Thar ain't a log-rollin' ner a
house-raisin' in our neck of the woods thet Jeb Hawkins
ain't sent fer. I kin h'ist a barrel with the best of
'em, and shake up Ole Dan Tucker ez peart ez the next
one. Now how about yer scholards? This here horspittle
is full of 'em. Pale-faced, spindly-legged,
nerve-jerking young fellows thet has spent ther fust
twenty years gittin' larnin', an' ther next twenty
gittin' over hit. Me an' Sal will keep to the open!"
But Sally was not so confident. As her strength began to
return she took a growing interest in all that went on
around her, asking eager, intelligent questions and
noting with wistful curiosity the speech and manners of
the nurses who served her. She was a raw recruit from
Nature, unsophisticated, illiterate. Under a bondage of
poverty and drudgery she had led her starved life in the
mountain fastnesses; but now she had opened her eyes on
a new and unexpected world.
"How do you go about gittin' a larnin'?" she ventured at
last to ask one of the friendly nurses. "Can't you fetch
me up some of them thar picter books?"
For hours after this she pored over her new treasures,
until one day Miss Fletcher brought her a primer, and
the seventeen-year-old girl grappled for the first time
with the alphabet. After that she was loath to have the
book out of her hand, going painfully and slowly over
the lessons, mastering each in turn with patient
Pop viewed this proceeding with disfavor. He seemed to
sense the entering wedge that was to separate her from
him. His pride in her accomplishment was overshadowed by
his jealousy, and when she was able to read a whole page
and attempted to explain the intricate process to him,
he was distinctly cast down. He left the hospital that
afternoon for the first time, and was gone until dusk.
When he returned he carried a bunch of faded wild
flowers that he had tramped two miles in the country to
get for his girl.
May dragged into June, and still they were kept at the
hospital. The old man became as restless as a caged
animal; he paced the corridors for hours at a time and
his eyes grew furtive and defiant. He, who had lived out
of sight of the smoke from his nearest neighbor's
chimneys, who had spent his life in the vast, still
solitudes of the hills, was incredibly lonely here among
his fellow men.
"If Pop has to stay here much longer, I'm afraid he'll
smash the furniture," said the night nurse who, like
everybody else in the ward, had grown interested in the
old man. "He packs his things every morning before the
doctor comes, only to unpack them after he leaves."
"The confinement is telling on him," said Miss Fletcher.
"I wish for his sake they could start home to-day. But I
do hate to see Sally go! The girl is getting her first
taste of civilization, and I've never seen anyone so
eager to learn. We have to take the books away from her
every day, and when she can't study she begs to be
allowed to roll bandages. The third day she sat up she
wanted to help nurse the other patients.
"I am afraid we have spoiled her for hoeing tobacco, and
planting corn," said the night nurse.
"I hope so," Miss Fletcher answered fervently.
It was nearly the last of June when the doctor dismissed
his patient. "This doesn't mean that she is well," he
warned Pop. "You will have to be careful of her for a
long time. She has worked too hard for a growing girl,
and she's not as strong now as she was."
"She will be!" Pop responded confidently. "That thar gal
is made outen iron! Her maw was afore her. Liza wuz my
third wife, an' she'd borned six or seven children, when
she died at thirty-five, an', by Joshuy, she'd never
once hed a doctor in all her life!"
Pop's joy over their dismissal was slightly dimmed by
Sally's reception of the news. He saw her draw a long
breath and bite her lips; then he saw what he had never
seen since she was a baby, two large tears gather slowly
in her eyes and roll down on the pillow. He watched them
"Sal, whut ails ye?" he asked anxiously, after the
doctor was gone.
"I want to git a larnin'!" she broke out. "I don't want
to go back to the hills."
Instantly the old man's face, which had been tender,
hardened to a mask of fury.
"That passel of fool women's been workin' on ye," he
cried hoarsely, "larnin', larnin', thet's all they know.
Ain't the Fork good enough fer ye? Ain't the cabin whar
yer paw, an' yer grandpaw, an' yer great-grandpaw was
borned good enough for ye?"
"Yes, Pop, yes!" she gasped, terrified at the storm she
had raised. "I'm a-goin' back with you. Don't tek on so,
Pop, I'm a-goin'!"
But the tempest was raging, and the old man got up and
strode angrily up and down the small room, filling the
air with his indignation.
"I should say you wuz goin' back! I'd like to see
any of 'em try to keep you. They'd like to make one o'
them dressed-up doll women outen you! You're goin' back
with me to the Fork, an' ef thar's ever any more nussin'
er doctorin' to do, I'm a-goin' to do hit. I've nussed
three women on their deathbeds, an' when your time comes
I 'low I kin handle you too."
Then his mood changed suddenly, and he sat down by the
"Sal," he said almost persuasively, "you'll git over
this here foolishness. Ag'in' fall you'll be a-cappin
corn, an' a-roastin' sweet pertatoes, an' singin' them
ole ballarts along with the Hicks gals, an' Cy West, an'
Bub Holly. An' I'll tote you behind me on the beast over
the Ridge to the Baptist Meetin' House the very next
feet-washin' they hev. Jes' think how good hit's goin'
to be to see the sun a-risin' over Ole Baldy, an' to hev
room to stretch an' breathe in. Seems ez if I hain't
been able to git my lungs full of wind sense I left
"I know it, Pop," Sally said miserably. "You growed old
in the hills afore you ever seen the Settlements. But
sence I got a sight of whut folks is a-doin' down here,
'pears like I can't be reconciled to goin' back. 'Tain't
the work back home, nor the lonesomeness, tho' the Lord
knows the only folks thet ever does pass is when they're
totin' deads down the creek bottom. Hit's the feelin' of
bein' shet off from my chanct. Ef I could git a larnin'
I wouldn't ask nothin' better then to go back an' pass
it along. When I see these here gals a-larnin' how to
holp the sick, an' keer fer babies, an' doctor folks, I
lay here an' steddy 'bout all the good I could do back
home ef I only knowed how."
"You do know how," Pop declared vociferously; "ain't you
bin a-lookin' after folks thet's ailin' around the Fork
fer a couple of years or more? Ez fer these new-fangled
doctorin's, they won't nary one ov 'em do the good yarbs
will. I'd ruther trust bitter-goldenseal root to cure a
ailment than all the durn physic in this here
horspittle. I ben a-studyin' these here doctors, an' I
don't take much stock in 'em; instid of workin' on a
organ thet gets twisted, they ups and draws hit. Now the
Lord A'mighty put thet air pertickler thing in you fer
some good reason, an' ther's bound to be a hitch in the
machinery when hit's took out. Hit's a marvel to me some
of these here patients ain't a amblin' round on all
fours from what's been did to their insides!"
"But think whut the doctor did fer me," urged Sally.
"I ain't fergittin'," Pop said suddenly, "an' I've paid
'em fer hit. But ef they calkerlate on yer takin' root
here, they're treein' the wrong possum. You're a-goin'
home along o' me to-morrow."
That afternoon he left the hospital, and several hours
later was seen walking up Monument Street with his arm
full of bundles.
"I believe he's been buying clothes to take Sally home
in!" said one of the nurses, who was watching him from
an upper window. "He asked me this morning if I knew a
place where he could buy women's togs."
"It's a shame he won't let the girl stay," said Miss
Fletcher. "I have been talking to the superintendent,
and she is quite willing to let her do light work around
the hospital and pick up what training she can. I should
be glad enough to look after her, and there's a good
night school two blocks over."
"Why don't you talk to the old man?" urged the nurse.
"You are the only one who has ever been able to do
anything with him. Perhaps you could make him see what
an injustice he is doing the girl."
"I believe I'll try," said Miss Fletcher.
The next morning, when she came on duty, she found
Sally's bed the repository of a strange assortment of
wearing apparel. A calico dress of pronounced hue, a
large lace jabot, and a small pair of yellow kid gloves
were spread out for inspection.
"I knowed they wuz too leetle," Pop was saying, as he
carefully smoothed the kid fingers, "but I 'lowed you
could kerry 'em in yer hand."
There was an unusual eagerness in his hard face, an
evident desire to make up to Sally in one way for what
he was depriving her of in another. He was more
talkative than at any time since coming to the hospital,
and he dilated with satisfaction on the joys that
awaited their home-coming.
"May I have a little talk with you before you go?" asked
He flashed on her a quick look of suspicion, but her
calm, impassive face told him nothing. She was a pretty
woman, and Pop had evidently recognized the fact from
"Wal, I'll come now," he said, rising reluctantly; "but,
Sal, you git yer clothes on an' be ready to start time I
git back. I ain't anxious to stay round these here
diggin's no longer'n need be. Besides, that thar
railroad car mought take a earlier start. You be ready
ag'in I git back."
For an hour and a quarter Miss Fletcher was shut up in
the linen closet with the old man. What arguments and
persuasions she brought to bear are not known.
Occasionally his voice could be heard in loud and angry
dissent, but when at last they emerged he looked like
some old king of the jungle that has been captured and
tamed. His shoulders drooped, his one arm hung limply by
his side, and his usually restless eyes were bent upon
Without a word he strode back to the room where Sally in
her misfit clothes was waiting for him.
"Come along o' me, Sal," he commanded sternly as he
picked up his carpet sack. "Leave your things whar they
Silently they passed out of the ward, down the stairway,
through the long vaultlike corridor to the
superintendent's room. Once there he flung back his
rusty coat and ripped the last bill but one from its
"That thar is fer my gal," he said defiantly to the
superintendent. "She'll git one the fust day of every
month. Give her the larnin' she's so hell-bent on, stuff
her plumb full on it. An' ef you let ennything happen to
her"—his brows lowered threateningly—"I'll come back an'
blow yer whole blame' horspittle into eternity!"
"Pop!" Sally pleaded, "Pop!"
But his emotions were at high tide and he did not heed
her. Pushing her roughly aside, he strode back to the
entrance hall, and was about to pick up his carpet sack
when his gaze was suddenly arrested by the great marble
figure that bends its thorn-crowned head in pity over
the unhappy and the pain-racked mortals that pass
beneath its outstretched hands.
"You ain't goin' to leave me like this, Pop?" begged
Sally. "Ef you take it so hard, I'll go back, an' I'll
go willin'. Jus' say the word, Pop, an' I'll go!"
The old mountaineer's one hand closed on the girl's bony
arm in a tight clasp, his shoulders heaved, and his
massive features worked, but his gaze never left the
calm, pitying face of the Saviour overhead. He had
followed his child without a tremor into the Valley of
the Shadow of Death, but at the entrance of this new
life, where he must let her go alone, his courage failed
and his spirit faltered. His dominant will, hitherto the
only law he knew, was in mortal combat with a new and
unknown force that for the first time had entered his
For several minutes he stood thus, his conflicting
passions swaying him, as opposing gales shake a giant
forest tree. Then he resolutely loosened his grip on the
girl's arm and taking up his burden, without a word or a
backward glance, set his face toward the hills, leaving
an awkward, wistful girl watching him with her tears
only half obscuring the vision that was already dawning
Gordon Lee Surrender Jones lay upon what he confidently
claimed to be his death-bed. Now and again he glanced
furtively at the cabin door and listened. Being assured
that nobody was coming, he cautiously extricated a large
black foot from the bedclothes, and, holding it near the
candle, laboriously tied a red string about one of his
toes. He was a powerful negro, with a close-cropped
bullet-head, a massive bulldog jaw, and a pair of
incongruously gentle and credulous eyes.
According to his own diagnosis, he was suffering from
"asmy, bronketers, pneumony, grip, diabeters, and old
age." The last affliction was hardly possible, as Gordon
Lee was probably born during the last days of the Civil
War, though he might have been eighty, for all he knew
to the contrary. In addition to his acknowledged
ailments, there was one he cherished in secret. It was
by far the most mysterious and deadly of the lot, a
malady to be pondered on in the dark watches of the
night, to be treated with weird rites and ceremonies,
and to be cured only by some specialist versed in the
deepest lore of witchcraft; for Gordon Lee knew beyond
the faintest shadow of a doubt that a hoodoo had been
laid upon him.
Of course, like most of his race, he had had experiences
in this line before; but this was different. In fact, it
was no less a calamity than a cricket in his leg. Just
how the cricket got into his leg was a matter too deep
for human speculation; but the fact that it was there,
and that it hopped with ease from knee to ankle, and
made excruciating excursions into his five toes, was as
patent as the toes themselves.
What complicated the situation for Gordon Lee was that
he could not discuss this painful topic with his wife.
Amanda Jones had embarked on the higher education, and
had long ago thrown overboard her old superstitions. She
was not only Queen Mother of the Sisters of the Order of
the Star, and an officer in various church societies,
but she was also a cook in the house of Mrs. James
Bertram, President of the State Federation of Women's
Clubs. The crumbs of wisdom that fell from the lips of
the great Mrs. Bertram were carefully preserved by
Amanda, and warmed over, with sundry garnishings of her
own, for the various colored clubs to which she
Gordon Lee had succeeded in adorning only three toes
when he heard a quick step on the gravel outside and,
hastily getting his foot under cover, he settled back on
the pillow, closed his eyes, and began laboriously
inhaling with a wheeze and exhaling with a groan.
The candle sputtered as the door was flung open, and a
small, energetic mulatto woman, twenty years Gordon
Lee's junior, bustled into the room.
"Good lan'! but it's hot in heah!" she exclaimed,
flinging up a window. "I got a good mind to nail
this heah window down f'om the top."
"I done open' de door fer a spell dis mawnin'," said
Gordon Lee, sullenly, pulling the bedclothes tighter
about his neck. "Lettin' in all dis heah night air meks
my eyes sore."
The bedclothes, having thus been drawn up from the
bottom of the bed, left the patient's feet exposed, and
Amanda immediately spied the string-encircled toes.
"Gordon Lee Surrender Jones," she exclaimed indignantly,
"has that there meddlin' ol' Aunt Kizzy been here
Gordon Lee's eyes blinked, and his thick, sullen under
lip dropped half an inch lower.
"Ef you think," continued Amanda, furiously, "that I'm
a-goin' to keep on a-workin' my fingers to the bone, lak
I been doin' for the past year, a-payin' doctors' bills,
an' buyin' medicines fer you, while you lay up in this
here bed listenin' to the fool talk of a passel of
igneramuses, you's certainly mistaken. Hit's bad enough
to have you steddyin' up new ailments ever' day, without
folks a-puttin' 'em in yer head. Whut them strings tied
on yer toes fer?"
Gordon Lee's wheezing had ceased under his severe mental
strain, and now he lay blinking at the ceiling, utterly
unable to give a satisfactory answer.
"Aunt Kizzy jes happen' 'long," he muttered presently.
"Ain't no harm in a' ol' frien' passin' de time ob day."
"Whut them strings tied on yer toes fer?"
repeated Amanda with fearful insistence.
Gordon Lee, pushed to the extreme, and knowing by
experience that he was as powerless in the hands of his
diminutive wife as an elephant in those of his keeper,
"Aunt Kizzy 'low'—I ain't sayin' she's right; I's jes
tellin' you what she 'low'—Aunt Kizzy 'low' dat,
'cordin' to de symtems, she say',—an' I ain't sayin' I
b'lieve her,—but she say' hit looks to her lak I's
sufferin' f'om a hoodoo."
"A hoodoo!" Amanda's scorn was unbounded. "Ef it don't
beat my time how some of you niggers hang on to them ol'
notions. 'Tain't nothin' 't all but ignorant
superstition. Ain't I tol' you that a hunderd times?"
"Yes, you done tol' me," said Gordon Lee, putting up a
feeble defense. "You all time quoilin' an' runnin' down
conjurin' an' bad-luck signs an' all de nigger
superstitions; but you's quick 'nough to tek up all dese
heah white superstitions."
"How you mean?" demanded Amanda.
Gordon Lee, flattered at having any remark of his
noticed, proceeded to elaborate.
"I mean all dis heah talk 'bout hits bein' bad luck to
sleep wid de windows shet, an' bout flies carrying
disease, an' 'bout worms gittin' in de milk ef you leave
it settin' roun' unkivered."
"Not worms," corrected Amanda; "germs. That ain't
no superstition; that's a scientific fac'. They is so
little you don't see 'em; but they's there all right.
Mis' Bertram says they's ever'where—in the water, in the
air, crawlin' up the very walls."
Gordon Lee looked fearfully at the ceiling, as if he
expected an immediate attack from that direction.
"I ain't sayin' dey ain't, Amanda. Come to think of hit,
seems lak I 'member 'em scrunchin' 'g'inst my teeth when
I eats. I ain't sayin' nothin' 't all 'bout white folks
superstitions,—I 'spec' dey's true, ebery one ob
'em,—but hit look' lak you oughtn't to shet yer min'
ag'inst de colored signs dat done come down f'om yer maw
an' yer paw, an' yer gran'maw an' gran'paw fer back as
Adam. I 'spec' Adam hisself was conjured. Lak as not de
sarpint done tricked him into regalin' hisself wid dat
apple. But I s'pose you'd lay hit on de germs whut was
disportin' deyselves on de apple. But dey ain't no use
in 'sputin' dat p'int, 'ca'se de fac' remains dat de
apple's done et."
"I ain't astin' you to dispute nothin'," cried Amanda,
by this time in a high state of indignation. "I'm
a-talkin' scientific fac's, an' you're talkin' nigger
foolishness. The ignorance jes nachully oozes outen the
pores o' your skin."
Gordon Lee, thus arraigned, lay with contracted brows
and protruding lips, nursing his wrongs, while Amanda
disappeared into the adjoining room, there to vent her
wrath on the pots and pans about the stove.
Despite the fact that it was after eight o'clock and she
had been on her feet all day, she set about preparing
the evening meal for her husband with all the care she
had bestowed on the white folks' supper.
Soon the little cabin was filled with the savory odor of
bacon, and when the corn battercakes began to sizzle
promisingly, and she flipped them over dexterously with
a fork, Gordon Lee forgot his ill humor, and through the
door watched the performance with growing eagerness.
"Git yerself propped up," Amanda called when the cakes
were encircled with crisp, brown edges. "I'll git the
bread-board to put acrost yer knees. You be eatin' this
soup while I dishes up the bacon an' onions. How'd you
like to have a little jam along with yer
Gordon Lee, sitting up in bed with this liberal repast
spread on the bread-board across his knees, and his
large, bare feet, with their pink adornments, rising
like ebony tombstones at the foot of the bed, forgot his
"Jam!" he repeated. "Well, dat dere Sally Ann Slocum's
dumplin's may need jam, er Maria Johnsing's, but dis
heah dumplin' is complete in hitself. Ef dey ever was a
pusson dat could assemble a' apple-dumplin' so's you
swoller hit 'most afore hit gits to yer mouf, dat pusson
Harmony being thus restored, and the patient having
emptied all the dishes before him, Amanda proceeded to
clear up. Her small, energetic figure moved briskly from
one room to the other, and as she worked she sang in a
low, chanting tone:
"You got a shoe,
I got a shoe,
All God's children got shoes.
When I git to heaben, gwine try on my shoes,
Gwine walk all over God's heaben, heaben, heaben.
Ever'body's talkin' 'bout heaben ain't gwine to heaben—
Heaben, heaben, gwine walk all over God's heaben."
But the truce, thus declared, was only temporary. During
the long days that Amanda was away at her work, Gordon
Lee had nothing to do but lie on his back and think of
his ailments. For twenty years he had worked in an iron
foundry, where his muscles were as active as his brain
was passive. Now that the case was reversed, the result
was disastrous. From an attack of rheumatism a year ago
he had developed an amazing number of complaints, all of
which finally fell under the head of the dread hoodoo.
Aunt Kizzy, the object of Amanda's special scorn, he
held in great reverence. She had been a familiar figure
in his mother's chimney-corner when he was a boy, and to
doubt her knowledge of charms and conjuring was to him
nothing short of heresy. She knew the value of every
herb and simple that grew in Hurricane Hollow. She was
an adept in getting people into the world and getting
them out of it. She was constantly consulted about
weaning calves, and planting crops according to the
stage of the moon. And for everything in the heavens
above and the earth beneath and the waters under the
earth she "had a sign."
Since Gordon Lee's illness, she had fallen into the
habit of dropping in to sit with him at such hours as
Amanda would not be there. She would crouch over the
fire, elbows on knees and pipe in mouth, and regale him
with hair-raising tales of "hants" and "sperrits" and
the part she had played in exorcising them.
"Dis heah case ob yourn," she said one day, "ain't no
ordinary case. I done worked on lizards in de laigs, but
I nebber had no 'casion to treat a cricket in de
laig. Looks lak de cricket is a more persistent animal
dan de lizard. 'Sides, ez I signify afore, dis heah case
ob yourn ain't no ordinary case."
"Why—why ain't it?" Gordon Lee stammered apprehensively.
Aunt Kizzy lifted a bony black hand, and shook her
turbaned head ominously.
"Dey's two kinds ob hoodoos," she said, "de libin' an'
de daid. De daid ones is de easiest to lift, 'ca'se dey
answers to charms; but nobody can lift a libin' hoodoo
'ceptin' de one dat laid hit on. I been a-steddyin' an'
a-steddyin', an' de signs claim dat dis heah hoodoo ob
yourn ain't no daid hoodoo."
By this time the whites of Gordon Lee's eyes were
largely in evidence, and he raised himself fearfully on
"Aunt Kizzy," he whispered hoarsely, "how am I gwine to
fin' out who 't is done conjured me?"
"By de sign ob seben," she answered mysteriously. "I's
gwine home an' work hit out, den I come back an' tell
yer. Ef my 'spicions am true, dat dis heah is a
libin' hoodoo, de only power in de earth to tek it
off am ter git er bigger trick an' lay on de top ob hit.
I'm gwine home now, an' I'll be back inside de hour."
That night when Amanda returned home she found Gordon
Lee preoccupied and silent. He ate gingerly of the
tempting meal she prepared, and refused to have his bed
straightened before he went to sleep.
"Huccome you put yer pillow on the floor?" she asked.
"I ain't believin' in feathers," he answered sullenly;
"dey meks me heah things."
In vain Amanda tried to cheer him; she recounted the
affairs of the day; she gave him all the gossip of the
Order of the Sisters of the Star. He lay perfectly
stolid, his horizontal profile resembling a
mountain-range the highest peak of which was his under
Finally Amanda's patience wore thin.
"Whut's the matter with you, Gordon Lee Surrender
Jones?" she demanded. "Whut you mean by stickin' out yer
lip lak a circus camel?"
Now that the opportunity for action had come, he feared
to take advantage of it. Amanda, small as she was,
looked firm and determined, and he knew by experience
that he was no match for her.
"'Tain't fer you to be astin' me whut's de
matter," he began significantly. "De glove's on de other
"Whut you 'sinuatin', nigger?" cried Amanda, now
"I's tired layin' heah under dis heah spell," complained
Gordon Lee. "I knowed all 'long 'twas a hoodoo, but I
neber 'spicioned till to-day who was 'sponsible fer hit.
Aunt Kizzy tried de test, an', 'fore de Lawd, hit
p'inted powerful' near home."
Amanda sank into the one rocking-chair the cabin
boasted, and dropped her hands in her lap. Her anger had
given place for the moment to sheer amazement.
"Well, if this ain't the beatenest thing I ever heard
tell of in all my born days! Do you mean to say that
that honery old cross-eyed nigger Kizzy had the audacity
to set up before my fire, in my house, an' tell my
husband I'd laid a spell on him?"
"Dat's whut de signs p'int to," said Gordon Lee,
Amanda rose, and it seemed to him that she towered to
the ceiling. With hands on hips and head thrown back,
she delivered herself, and her voice rang with
"Yas, I laid a spell on yer! I laid a spell on yer when
I let you quit work, an' lay up in bed wid nothin' to do
but to circulate yer symtems. I put a spell on yer when
I nuss you an' feed you an' s'port you an' spile the
life plumb outen you. I ain't claimin' 't wasn't
rheumatism in the fust place, but it's a spell now, all
right—a spell I did lay on yer, a spell of laziness pure
After this outburst the relations were decidedly
strained in the little cabin at the far end of Hurricane
Hollow. Gordon Lee persistently refused to eat anything
his wife cooked for him, depending upon the food that
Aunt Kizzy or other neighbors brought in.
To Amanda the humiliation of this was acute. She used
every strategy to conciliate him, and at last succeeded
by bringing home some pig's feet. His appetite got the
better of his resentment, and he disposed of four with
With the approach of winter, however, other and graver
troubles developed. The rent of the cabin, which had
always been promptly paid out of Gordon Lee's wages, had
now to come out of Amanda's limited earnings. Two years'
joint savings had gone to pay the doctor and the
Amanda gave up the joys of club life, and began to take
in small washings, which she did at night. Gordon Lee,
surrounded by every luxury save that of approbation,
continued to lie on his back in the white bed and nurse
"'Mandy," he said one morning as she was going to work,
"wished you'd ast Marse Jim ef he got a' ol' pair of
pants he could spare me."
Her face brightened.
"You fixin' to git up, Honey?" she asked hopefully.
"No, I's jes collectin' ob my grave-clothes," said
Gordon Lee. "Dere's a pair ob purple socks in de bottom
drawer, an' a b'iled shirt in de wardrobe. But I been
layin' heah steddyin' 'bout dat shirt. Hit's got Marse
Jim's name on de tail of it, an' s'pose I git to heaben,
an' St. Peter he read de name an' look hit up in de
jedgment book. He's 'lowable to come to me an' say,
'Huccome you wearin' dat shirt? Dey ain't but one James
Bartrum writ down in de book, an' he ain't no colored
pusson.' 'Co'se I could explain, but I's got
'splainin' 'nough to do when I git to heaben widout
Amanda paused with her hand on the doorknob.
"Marse Jim'll beat you to heaben; that is, ef he don't
beat you to the bad place first. You git that idea of
dyin' outen yer mind, and you'll git well."
"I can't git well till de hoodoo's lifted. Aunt Kizzy
But the door was slammed before he could finish.
The limit of Amanda's endurance was reached about
Christmas-time. One gloomy Sunday afternoon when she had
finished the numerous chores that had accumulated during
the week, she started for the coal-shed to get an armful
Dusk was coming on, and Hurricane Hollow had never
seemed more lonesome and deserted. The corn-shocks
leaned toward one another as if they were afraid of a
common enemy. Somewhere down the road a dog howled
Amanda resolutely pushed open the door of the shed, and
felt her way toward the pile of chips. Suddenly she
found her progress blocked by a strange and colossal
object. It was an oblong affair, and it stood on one
end, which was larger than the other. With growing
curiosity she felt its back and sides, and then peered
around it to get a front view. What she saw sent her
flying back to the cabin with her mouth open and her
"Gordon Lee," she cried, "whose coffin is that settin'
in our coal-shed?"
The candidate for the next world looked very much
"Well, 'Mandy," he began lamely, "I can't say 'zactly ez
hit's any pusson's jes yit. But hit's gwine be mine when
de summons comes."
"Where'd you git it at?" demanded his Nemesis.
His eyes shifted guiltily.
"De foundry boss done been heah las' week, an' he gimme
some money. I 'lowed I was layin' hit up fer a rainy
"An' you mean to tell me," she cried, "that you took
that money an' spent it for a coffin, a white one with
shiny handles, an' a satin bolster that'll done be wore
out, an' et up by moths, 'fore you ever git a chancet to
"Couldn't you fix hit up in terbaccy er mothballs ag'in'
de time I need hit?" Gordon Lee asked helplessly.
But Amanda was too exasperated this time to argue the
matter. Fifty dollars' worth of coffin in the coal-shed
and fifty cents' worth of coal in the bin constituted a
situation that demanded her entire attention.
For six months now Gordon Lee had remained in bed, firm
in the belief that he could not walk on account of the
spell that had been laid upon him. During that time he
had come to take a luxurious satisfaction in the
interest his case was exciting in the neighborhood.
Being in excellent physical condition, he could afford
the melancholy joy of playing with the idea of death. He
spent hours discussing the details of his funeral, which
had assumed in his mind the proportions of a pageant.
Amanda, on the other hand, overworked and anxious, and
compelled to forego her lodges and societies, became
more and more irascible and depressed. In some subtle
way she was aware that the sympathy of the colored
community was solidly with Gordon Lee. Nobody now asked
her how he was. Nobody came to the cabin when she was
there, though it was apparent that visitors were
frequent during her absence. Aunt Kizzy had evidently
been busy in the neighborhood.
One night Amanda sat very long over the stove rolling
her hair into little wads about the length and thickness
of her finger, then tightly wrapping each with a stout
bit of cord to take out the kink. When Gordon Lee roused
himself now and then to inquire suspiciously what she
was doing, she answered with ominous calm.
"Jes steddyin', that's all."
Her meditations evidently resulted in a plan of action,
for the next night she came home from her work in a most
mysterious and unusual mood. Gordon Lee heard her moving
some heavy and cumbersome article across the kitchen
floor, then he saw her surreptitiously put something
into a tin can before she presented herself at the foot
of his bed.
"'Mandy," he said, anxious to break the silence, and
distrusting that subdued look of excitement in her eyes,
"did you bring me dat possum, lak you 'lowed you was
Her lips tightened.
"Yes, I got the possum, an' also some apples fer a
dumplin'; but before I lays a stick to the fire I'm
goin' to say my say."
Gordon Lee looked at her with consternation. She stood
at the foot of his bed as if it wore a rostrum, and with
an air of detached dignity addressed him as if he had
been the whole Order of the Sisters of the Star.
"I done arrive' at a decision," she declared. "I arrive'
at it in the watches of the night. I'm goin' to cure you
'cordin' to yer lights an' knowledge. I'm goin' to lif'
that spell ef I has to purge my immortal soul to do it."
"'Mandy," cried Gordon Lee, eagerly, "you mean to say
you gwine to remove the hoodoo?"
"I am," she said solemnly. "I'm goin' to draw out all
yer miseries fer the rest of yer life, includin' of
the cricket in yer leg."
"'Mandy," he cried again fearfully, "you ain't gwine ter
hurt me in no way, is you?"
"Not effen you do as I tell you. But fust of all you got
to take the pledge of silence. Whatsomever takes place
heah in this cabin to-night ain't never to be revealed
till the jedgment-day. Do you swear?"
The big negro, fascinated with the mystery, and deeply
impressed with his wife's manner, laid his hand on the
Bible and solemnly took the oath.
"Now," she continued impressively, "while I go in the
kitchen an' git the supper started, I want you to ease
yerse'f outen the bed on to the floor, an' lay with yer
head to the north an' your han's outspread, an' yer mind
on the heabenly kingdom."
"Air you shore hit ain't gwine hurt me?" again he
"Not if you do 'zactly like I say. Besides," she added
dryly, "if it comes to the worst, ain't you ready an'
waitin' to go!"
"Yas," agreed Gordon Lee; "but I ain't fixin' to go till
I's sent fer."
It took not only time, but courage, for him to follow
the prescribed directions. He had for a long time
cherished the belief that any exertion would prove
fatal; but the prospect of having the hoodoo removed,
together with a lively curiosity as to what means Amanda
would employ to remove it, spurred him to persist
despite groans, wheezes, and ejaculations.
Once stretched upon the floor, with his head to the
north and his arms extended, he encountered a new
difficulty: his mind refused to dwell upon the heavenly
kingdom. Anxiety as to the treatment he was about to be
subjected to alternated with satisfaction at the savory
odors that floated in from the kitchen. If the ordeal
was uncertain, the reward at least was sure.
After what seemed to him an endless vigil, Amanda
appeared in the doorway. With measured steps and great
solemnity of mien, she approached, holding in her right
hand a piece of white chalk.
"De hour has come," she chanted. "With this chalk, an'
around this man, I make the mark of his image."
Stooping, she began to trace his outline on the dull
rag-carpet, speaking monotonously as she worked: "Gordon
Lee Surrender Jones, I command all the aches an' the
pains, all the miseries an' fool notions, includin' the
cricket in yer leg, to pass outen yer real body into
this heah image on the floor. Keep yer head still,
nigger! I pass 'em through you into yer symbol, an' from
thence I draws 'em out to satisfy yer mind now and
forever more, amen. Now roll over to the right an' watch
what's about to happen."
The patient by this time was so interested that he
followed instructions mechanically. He saw Amanda dart
into the kitchen and emerge with an object totally
unfamiliar to him. It was a heavy, box-shaped object,
attached to a long handle. This she placed on the
chalked outline of his right leg. Then she stood with
her eyes fixed on the floor and solemnly chanted:
"Draw, draw, 'cordin' to the law,
Lif' the hoodoo, now I beg,
An' draw the cricket
F'om this heah leg!"
And Gordon Lee, raised on his elbow, watching with
protruding eyes, heard it draw! He heard the
heavy, panting breathing as Amanda ran the vacuum
cleaner over every inch of the chalked outline, and when
she stopped and, kneeling beside the box, removed a
small bag of dust and lint, he was not in the least
surprised to see a cricket jump from the débris.
"Praise be!" he cried in sudden ecstasy. "De pain's done
lef me, do spell's done lifted!"
"An' the cricket's done removed," urged Amanda,
skilfully getting the machine out of sight. "You seen it
removed with yer own eyes."
"Wid my own eyes," echoed Gordon Lee, still in a state
"An' now," she said, "I'm goin' to git that supper ready
jes as quick ez I kin."
"Ain't you gwine help me back in bed fust?" he asked
from where he still lay on the floor.
"What fer?" she exclaimed. "Ain't the spell lifted? I'm
goin' to set the table in the kitchen, an' ef you wants
any of that possum an' sweet pertater an' that
apple-dumplin' an' hard sass, you got to walk in there
to git em."
For ten minutes Gordon Lee Surrender Jones lay flat on
his back on the floor, trying to trace the course of
human events during the last half-hour. Against the dim
suspicion that Amanda had in some way outwitted him rose
the staggering evidence of that very live cricket that
still hopped about the room, chirping contentedly.
Twice Amanda spoke to him, but he refused to answer. His
silence did not seem to affect her good spirits, for she
continued her work, singing softly to herself.
Despite himself, he became aware of the refrain, and
before he knew it he was going over the familiar words
"Oh, chicken-pie an 'pepper, oh!
Chicken-pie is good, I know;
So is wattehmillion, too;
So is rabbit in a stew;
So is dumplin's, b'iled with squab;
So is cawn, b'iled on de cob;
So is chine an' turkey breast;
is aigs des f'om de nest."
Gordon Lee rose unsteadily. Holding to a chair, he
reached the table, then the door, through which he
shambled, and sheepishly took his old place at the foot
of the table. Amanda outdid herself in serving him,
emptying the larder in honor of the occasion; but
neither of them spoke until the apple-dumpling was
reached. Then Gordon Lee turned toward her and said
"I wished we knowed some corpse we could sell dat coffin
A Matter Of Friendship
When a jovial young person in irreproachable pongee, and
a wholly reproachable brown topi, scrambled up the
lifting gang-plank of the big Pacific liner, setting
sail from Yokohama, he was welcomed with acclaim. The
Captain stopped swearing long enough to megaphone a
greeting from the bridge, the First Officer slapped him
on the back, while the half dozen sailors, tugging at
the ropes, grinned as one man.
Three months before this good ship East India had
carried Frederick Reynolds out to the Orient and
deposited him on the alien soil, an untried youth of
unimpeachable morals with a fatal facility for making
The temporary transplanting had had a strange and exotic
effect. The East has a way of developing crops of wild
oats that have been neglected in the West, and by the
end of his sojourn Mr. Frederick Reynolds had seen more,
felt more, and lived more than in all of his previous
twenty-four years put together. He had learned the
difference between a "straight flush" and a "full house"
under the palms at Raffles Hotel in Singapore; he had
been instructed in the ways of the wise in Shanghai by a
sophisticated attaché of the French Legation, who
imparted his knowledge between sips of absinthe, as he
looked down on the passing show from a teahouse on the
Bubbling Well Road; he had rapturously listened to every
sweet secret that Japan had to tell, and had left a wake
of smiles from Nagasaki to Yokohama.
In fact, in three short months he was fully qualified to
pass a connoisseur's judgment on a high-ball, to hold
his own in a game of poker, and to carry on a fairly
coherent flirtation in four different languages.
With this newly acquired wisdom he was now setting sail
for home, having accomplished his downward career with
such alacrity that he did not at all realize what had
happened to him.
Nor did the return voyage promise much in the way of
silent meditation and timely repentance. The Captain
placed Reynolds next to him at table, declaring that he
was like an electric fan on a sultry day; the Purser,
with the elasticity of conscience peculiar to pursers,
moved him from the inexpensive inside room which he had
engaged, to a spacious state-room on the promenade deck,
where sufficient corks were drawn nightly to make a
small life preserver.
The one person who watched these proceedings with
disfavor was a short, attenuated, bow-legged Chinaman,
with a face like a grotesque brass knocker, and a
taciturnity that enveloped him like a fog.
On the voyage out, Tsang Foo, the assistant deck
steward, had gotten into a fight with a brother
Chinaman, and had been saved from dismissal by
Reynolds's timely intercession at headquarters. In dumb
gratitude for this service, he had laid his celestial
soul at the feet of the young American and sworn eternal
From the day Reynolds reëmbarked, Tsang's silken,
slippered feet silently followed him from smoking-room
to bar, from bar back to smoking-room. Whatever emotion
troubled the depths of his being, no sign of it rose to
his ageless, youthless face. But whether he was silently
performing his duties on deck, or sitting on the
hatchway smoking his opium, his vigilant eyes from their
long, narrow slits kept watch.
For thirteen days the sun sparkled on the blue waters of
the Pacific, and favoring breezes gave every promise of
landing the East India in port with the fastest
record of the season. Bets went higher and higher on
each day's running, and the excitement was intense each
evening in the smoking-room when the numbers most likely
to win the next day's pool were auctioned off to the
It was the afternoon of the fourteenth day, thirty-six
hours out from San Francisco, that Mr. Frederick
Reynolds, who had bet more, drunk more, talked more, and
laughed more than any man on board, suddenly came to his
full senses. Then it was that he went quietly to his
luxurious state-room with its brass bed and crimson
hangings, and took a forty-two caliber revolver from his
steamer trunk. Slipping a cartridge into the cylinder,
he sat breathing heavily and staring impatiently before
From outside above the roar of the ocean, came the tramp
of the passengers on deck, and the trivial scraps of
conversation that floated in kept side-tracking his
thoughts, preventing their reaching the desired
The world, which he had sternly resolved to leave,
seemed determined to stay with him as long as possible.
He heard Glass, the actor, inquiring for him, and in
spite of himself he felt flattered; he heard the pretty
girl whose steamer chair was next his, make a
conditional engagement with the high-voiced
army-officer, and he knew why she left the matter open;
even a plaintive old voice inquiring how long it would
be before tea, caused him to wait for the answer.
At last, as if to present his misery in embodied form,
he produced a note-book and tried to concentrate his
attention upon the items therein recorded. Line after
line of wavering figures danced in impish glee before
him, defying inspection. But at the foot of the column,
like soldiers waiting to shoot a prisoner, stood four
formidable units unquestionably pointing his way to
As be looked at them Reynolds's thoughts got back on the
main track and rushed to a conclusion. Tearing the leaf
from the book, and crushing it in his hand, he jumped to
his feet. Seized with a fury of self-disgust, he pulled
off his coat and collar, and with the reckless courage
of a boy put the mouth of the revolver to his temple.
As he did so the room darkened. He involuntarily looked
up. Framed in the circle of the port-hole were the head
and shoulders of Tsang Foo. Not a muscle of the yellow
face moved, not a tremor of the slanting eyelids showed
surprise. The right hand, holding a bit of tow,
mechanically continued polishing the brass around the
port-hole, but the left—long, thin, and with claw-like
nails, shot stealthily forward and snatched the pistol.
For a full minute the polishing continued, then face and
figure vanished, and Reynolds was left staring in
impotent rage at the empty port-hole.
When the room steward appeared in answer to an
imperative summons, he was directed to send Tsang Foo to
room No. 7 at once.
Tsang came almost immediately, bearing tea and anchovy
sandwiches, which he urbanely placed on a camp-stool.
"Where's my pistol?" demanded Reynolds hotly, holding to
the door to steady himself.
Tsang's eyes, earnest as a dog's, were lifted to his:
"He fall overboard," he explained suavely, "me velly
Reynolds impulsively lifted his arm to strike, but a
second impulse, engulfing the first, made him turn and
fling himself upon his berth, struggling to master the
heavy sobs that shook him from head to foot.
The Chinaman softly closed the door and slipped the
bolt, then he dropped to a sitting posture on the floor
When the squall had passed, Reynolds addressed his
companion from the depths of the pillows in language
suited to his comprehension.
"Me belong large fool, Tsang!" he said savagely. "Have
drink too much. No good. You go 'long, I'm all right
Tsang's eye swept the disordered room and returned to
the figure on the bed. "Suppose me go," he said, "you
makee one hole in head?"
"That's my business," said Reynolds, his wrath
rekindling. "You go 'long, and get my pistol; there's a
Tsang did not stir; he sat with his hands clasped about
his knees, and contemplated space with the abstract look
of a Buddha gazing into Nirvana.
Reynolds passed from persuasion to profanity with no
satisfactory result. His language, whether eloquent or
fiery, beat upon an unresponsive ear. But being in that
condition that demands sympathy, he found the mere
talking a relief, and presently drifted into a recital
of his woes.
"I'm up against it, in the hole, you know, much largee
trouble," he amplified with many gestures, sitting on
the side of his berth, and pounding out excited,
incoherent phrases to the impassive figure opposite.
"Company sent me out to collect money. My have spent
all. No can go back home. Suppose my lose face, more
Tsang shifted his position and nodded gravely. Out of
much that was unintelligible, the last statement loomed
clear and incontrovertible.
"I'm a thief!" burst out Reynolds passionately, not to
Tsang now, but to the world at large, "a plain, common
thief. And the worst of it is there isn't a man in that
San Francisco office that doesn't trust me down to the
ground. Then there's the Governor. O God! I can't face
Tsang sat immovable, lost in thought. Stray words and
phrases helped, but it was by some subtle working of his
own complex brain that he was arriving at the truth.
"Father, him no can lend money?" he suggested presently.
"The Governor? Good heavens, no. There's not enough
money in our whole family to wad a gun! They put up all
they had to give me a start, and look where I have
landed! Do you suppose I'd go back and ask them to put
up a thousand more for my rotten foolishness?" He
knotted his hands together until the nails grew white
then, seeing the unenlightened face below, he added
emphatically: "No, no, Tsang, no can askee!"
"How fashion you losee money!" asked Tsang.
"The money? Oh, belong gamble. Bet on ship's run. First
day—win. Second day—win. Then lose, lose, keep on
losing. Didn't know half the time what I was doing.
To-day my settle up; no can pay office. A thousand
dollars out! Lord! All same two thousand Mex', Tsang!"
An invisible calculation was made on the end of the
steamer trunk by a long, pointed, fingernail, but no
change of expression crossed the yellow face. For an
incalculable time Tsang sat, lost in thought. All his
conserved energy went to aid him in solving the problem.
At last he reached a decision: this was clearly a case
to be laid before the only god be knew, the god of
"Me gamble too," he said; "me no lose."
"But s'pose you had lost? S'pose you lose what no
belong you? What thing you do?"
"You do all same my talkee you?" asked Tsang, for the
first time lifting his eyes.
It was a slender straw, to be sure, but Reynolds grasped
"What thing you mean, Tsang? What can I do?"
"Two more night' to San Flancisco," said Tsang softly;
"one more bet, maybe!"
"Oh, I've thought of that. What's the good of throwing
good money after bad? No use, I no got chance."
"My have got chance," announced Tsang
emphatically, "you bet how fashion my talkee you, your
money come back."
Reynolds studied the brass knocker of a face, but found
no clue to the riddle. "What you mean, Tsang?" he asked.
"What do you know? For the Lord's sake don't fool with
me about it!"
"Me no fool," declared Tsang. "You le' me talkee number,
him win big heap money."
"But how do you know?"
"Me savey," said Tsang enigmatically.
Again Reynolds studied the impassive face. "It's on the
square, Tsang? You don't stand in with anybody below
decks? The thing is on the level?" Then finding further
elucidation necessary, he added, "No belong cheat!"
Tsang Foo shook his head positively. "No belong cheat,
all belong ploper. No man savey, only me savey, this
side," and he tapped his head significantly.
Reynolds gave a short, unpleasant laugh. "All right," he
said, thrusting his hand in his pocket. "I'll give
myself one more chance. There'll be time to-morrow to
finish my job. I'll make a bargain with you, Tsang! Bet
this, and this, and this, on the next run for me. You
win, I no makee shoot; you lose, you promise bring back
pistol, then go way. My can do what thing my wantchee,
Tsang Foo looked at him cunningly: "I win, you belong
good boy? Stop whisky-soda, maybe?"
Reynolds laughed in spite of himself: "Going to reform
me, oh? All right, it's a bargain."
Tsang allowed his hand to be shaken, then he carefully
counted over the express checks that had been given to
"My go now," he announced as eight bells sounded from
As the door closed Reynolds sighed, then his eyes
brightened as they fell upon the sandwiches. Even a
desperate young man on the verge of suicide if he is
hungry must needs cheer up temporarily at the sight of
food. Reynolds had taken an early breakfast after being
up all night, and had eaten nothing since. After
devouring the sandwiches and tea with relish, he ordered
a hot bath, and in less than an hour was wrapped in his
berth sleeping the sleep that is not confined to the
It was high noon the next day when he awoke. His first
feeling was one of exhilaration: the long sleep, the
fresh sea air pouring in at the port-hole, and a sense
of perfect physical well-being had made him forget, for
a moment, the serious business the day might have in
store for him.
As he lay, half dozing, he became dimly aware that
something was wrong. The throb of the engines had
ceased, and an ominous stillness prevailed. He sat up in
bed and listened, then he thrust his head out of the
port-hole, only to see a deserted deck. The passage was
likewise deserted save for a hurried stewardess, who
called back, over her shoulder, "It's a man overboard,
sir, on the starboard side—"
Reynolds flung on his clothes. The boy in him was keen
for excitement, and in five minutes he was on deck, and
had joined the crowd of passengers that thronged the
The life-boat was being lowered, groaning and protesting
as it cleared the davits and swung away from the ship's
side. Far behind, in the still shining wake of the
steamer, a small black object bobbed helplessly in the
gray expanse of waters.
"What's the matter?" "Did he fall overboard!" "Did he
jump in?" "Was it suicide?" The air buzzed with
questions. The sentimental contingent clung to the
theory that it was some poor stoker who could no longer
stand the heat, or a foreign refugee afraid to come into
port. The more practical argued that it was probably one
of the seamen who, while doing outside painting, had
lost his balance and fallen into the sea.
A smug, well-dressed man, with close-cropped gray beard,
and a detached gaze that seemed to go no further than
his rimless glasses, turned and spoke to Reynolds:
"It has gotten to be quite the fashion for somebody in
the steerage to create this sort of sensation. It
happened as I went over. If a man sees fit to jump
overboard, all well and good; in nine cases out of ten
it's a good riddance to the community. But why in
Heaven's name should the steamer put back? Why should
several hundred people be delayed an hour or so for the
sake of an inconsiderate, useless fool?"
Reynolds turned away sickened. From a point, apart from
the rest, he strained his eyes to keep in sight the
small black object now hidden, now revealed, by the
waves. A fierce sense of kinship for that man in the
water seized him. He, too, perhaps had grappled with
some unendurable situation and been overcome. What if he
was an utterly worthless asset on the great human
ledger? He was a fellow-being, suffering, tempted,
vanquished. Was it kind to bring him back, to go through
with it all again?
For answer Reynolds's muscles strained with those of the
sailors rowing below: all the life and youth in him rose
in rebellion against unnecessary death. He watched with
teeth hard set as the small boat climbed to the crest of
a wave, then plunged into the trough again, crawling by
imperceptible inches toward the bobbing spot in the
water. He longed to be in the boat, in the water even,
helping to save that human life that only on the verge
of extinction had gained significance. What if the man
wished to die? No matter, he must be saved, saved from
himself, given another chance, made to face it out,
whatever it was. Not until then did Reynolds remember
another life that be had dared to threaten, that even
now he meant to take if the wheel of chance swung
against him. Suddenly he faced the awful judgment of his
own act, and shuddered back as one who, standing upon a
precipice, trembles in terror before the mad desire to
"I'll stick it out!" he said half aloud as if in
promise. "Whatever comes, I'll take my medicine, I'll—"
An eager murmur swept through the crowd. A sailor with a
rope about him was being lowered from the life-boat.
For five tense minutes the two men rose and fell at the
mercy of the high waves, and the distance between them
did not lessen by an inch.
Then a passenger with a binocular announced that the
sailor was swimming around to the far side to get the
man between him and the boat.
With long, steady, overhand strokes, the sailor was
gaining his way, and when at last he reached the
apparently motionless object and got a rope under its
arms, and the two were hauled into the life-boat, a
rousing cheer went up from the big steamer above.
Reynolds drew in his breath sharply and turned away from
the railing. As he did so he was hailed by a group of
friends who were returning to their cards, waiting face
downward on the small tables in the smoking-room.
"Behold His Nibs!" shouted Glass, the actor, "the
luckiest duffer that ever hit a high-ball!"
"How did you happen to do it?" cried another.
Reynolds lifted his hand to his bewildered head. "Do
what?" he asked dully. "I'm not on."
"Oh, come!" said Glass, shaking him by the shoulder;
"that bet you sent in last night! When the Chink said
you wanted to buy the low field for all six pools, and
to bet five hundred to boot that you'd win, I thought
you were either drunk or crazy. Yesterday's run was
four-fifty-one, a regular corker, and yet with even
better weather conditions, you took only the numbers
below four-thirty-one. I argued with the Chinaman 'til I
was blue in the face, but he stood pat, said, you were
all right, and had told him what to do. Nothing but an
accident could have saved you, and it arrived. You've
won the biggest pool of the crossing, don't you think
it's about time for you to set 'em up? Say Martini
cocktails for the crowd, eh?"
Reynolds was jostled about in congratulation and
good-humored banter. Everybody was glad of the boy's
success, he was an all round favorite, and some of the
men who had won his money felt relieved to return it.
"Here's your cocktail, Freddy," cried Glass, "and here's
Reynolds stood in the midst of the crowd, his face
flushed, his hair tumbled. With a quick movement he sent
the glass and its contents spinning out of a near-by
"Not for Frederick!" he said with emphasis, "I've been
that particular kind of a fool for the last time."
Some hours later when the crowd went below to dress for
dinner, Reynolds dropped behind to ask the Second
Officer about the man who had been rescued.
"He is still pretty full of salt water," said the
Officer, "but he is being bailed out."
"How did it happen?" asked Reynolds.
"Give it up. He hasn't spoken yet. It looks as if he
were getting ready to do some outside cleaning, for he
had on a life-preserver. Funny thing about it, though,
that's not his work. He's not even on duty during the
starboard watch. The man in the lookout saw him climb
out on the bow, shout something up to him, then fall
backward into the water. I'll be hanged if I can make it
out. Tsang Foo is one of the steadiest sailors on
"Tsang Foo!" shouted Reynolds. "You don't mean that man
With headlong haste he seized the bewildered officer and
made him pilot him below decks. Stumbling down the
ladders and through dark passages, he at last reached
the bunk where Tsang Foo lay with the ship's surgeon and
a steward in attendance.
The Chinaman's lips were drawn tightly back over his
prominent teeth, and his breath came in irregular gasps.
Across the pillow in a straight black line lay his
dripping queque. As his eyelids fluttered feebly, the
doctor straightened his own tired back.
"He'll come round now, all right," he said to the
steward. "Give him those drops and don't talk to him.
He's had a close call. I'll be back in ten minutes."
Reynolds crowded into the narrow apace the doctor had
left. The fact that he was saved from disgrace was
utterly blotted out by the bigger fact that this
ignorant, uncouth, foreign sailor had fearlessly risked
his life to save him from facing a merited punishment.
Reynolds's very soul seemed to grow bigger to
accommodate the thought.
"Tsang!" he whispered, seizing the yellow hand, "You are
a brick! Number one good man. But my no can take
The steward in attendance, who had stepped aside, made a
warning gesture and laid his finger on his lips.
For five minutes the man in the bunk and the one beside
it looked silently into each other's eyes, then the
drawn lips moved, and Reynolds, bending his head to
listen, heard the broken question:
Reynolds's mind dashed at two conclusions and recoiled
from each. Should be follow his impulse to explain the
whole affair, serious consequences would result for
Tsang, while the other alternative of accepting the
situation made him a party, albeit an innocent one, to a
most reprehensible proceeding. It was to his credit,
that of the two courses the latter was infinitely the
more intolerable. He got up nervously, then sat down
"No—blake—bargain!" repeated Tsang anxiously.
Still Reynolds waited for some prompting from a
conscience unaccustomed to being rusty. Any course that
would involve the loyal little Chinaman, who had played
the game according to the rules as he knew them, was out
of the question. The money must be paid back, of course,
but how, and when? If he cleared himself at the office
it might be years before he could settle this new debt,
but he could do it in time, he must do it. Then at last,
light came to him. He would accept Tsang's sacrifice but
it should stand for more than the mere material good it
had purchased. It should pledge him to a fresh start, a
clean life. He would justify the present by the future.
He drew a deep breath of relief and leaned forward:
"Tsang," he said, and his voice trembled with the
earnestness of his resolve, "I no break bargain. From
now on my behave all same proper. It wasn't right, old
fellow, you oughtn't—" then he gave it up and smiled
helplessly, "you belong my good friend Tsang, what thing
A slow smile broke the brass-like stillness of Tsang
"Pipe," he gasped softly, "opium velly good,—make land
and sea—all same—by an' by!"
The Wild Oats Of A Spinster
Judging from appearances Miss Lucinda Perkins was
justifying her reason for being by conforming absolutely
to her environment. She apparently fitted as perfectly
into her little niche in the Locustwood Seminary for
young ladies as Miss Joe Hill fitted into hers. The only
difference was that Miss Joe Hill did not confine
herself to a niche; she filled the seminary, as a plump
hand does a tight glove.
It was the year after Miss Lucinda had come to the
seminary to teach elocution that Miss Joe Hill
discovered in her an affinity. As principal, Miss Joe
Hill's word was never questioned, and Miss Lucinda, with
pleased obedience, accepted the honor that was thrust
upon her, and meekly moved her few belongings into Miss
Joe Hill's apartment.
For four years they had lived in the rarified atmosphere
of celestial friendship. They clothed their bodies in
the same raiment, and their minds in the same thoughts,
and when one was cold the other shivered.
If Miss Lucinda, in those early days found it difficult
to live up to Miss Joe Hill's transcendental code she
gave no sign of it. She laid aside her mildly adorned
garments and enveloped her small angular person in a
garb of sombre severity. Even the modest bird that
adorned her hat was replaced by an uncompromising band.
She foreswore meat and became a vegetarian. She stopped
reading novels and devoted her spare time to essays and
biography. In fact she and Miss Joe Hill became one and
that one was Miss Joe Hill.
It was not until Floss Speckert entered the senior class
at Locustwood Seminary that this sublimated friendship
suffered a jar.
Floss's father lived in Chicago, and it was due to his
unerring discernment in the buying and selling of live
stock that Floss was being "finished" in all branches
without regard to the cost.
"Learn her all you want to," he said magnanimously to
Miss Lucinda, who negotiated the arrangement. "I ain't
got but two children, her and Tom. He's just like
me—don't know a blame thing but business; but Floss—"
his bosom swelled under his checked vest—"she's on to it
all. I pay for everything you get into her head.
Dancin', singin', French—all them extries goes."
Miss Lucinda had consequently undertaken the management
of Floss Speckert, and the result had been far-reaching
in its consequences.
Floss was a person whose thoughts did not dwell upon the
highest development of the spiritual life. Her mind was
given over to the pursuit of worldly amusements, her
only serious thought being a burning ambition to win
histrionic honors. The road to this led naturally
through the elocution classes, and Floss accepted Miss
Lucinda as the only means toward the desired end.
A drop of water in a bottle of ink produces no visible
result, but a drop of ink in a glass of water
contaminates it at once. Miss Lucinda took increasing
interest in her frivolous young pupil; she listened with
half-suppressed eagerness to unlimited gossip about
stage-land, and even sank to the regular perusal of
certain bold theatrical papers. She was unmistakably
Meanwhile Miss Joe Hill, quite blind to the situation,
condoned the friendship. "You are developing your own
character," she told Miss Lucinda. "You are exercising
self-control and forbearance in dealing with that crude,
undisciplined girl. Florence is the natural outcome of
common stock and newly acquired riches. It is your noble
aspiration to take this vulgar clay and mold it into
something higher. Your motive is laudable, Lucinda; your
self-sacrifice in giving up our evening hour together is
heroic. I read you like an open book, dear."
And Miss Lucinda listened and trembled. They were
standing together before the window of their rigid
little sitting room, the chastened severity of which
banished all ideas of comfort. "What purpose do you
serve?" Miss Joe Hill demanded of every article that
went into her apartment, and many of the comforts of
life failed to pass the examination.
After Miss Joe Hill had gone out, Miss Lucinda remained
at the window and restlessly tapped her knuckles against
the sill. The insidious spring sunshine, the laughter of
the girls in the court below, the foolish happy birds
telling their secrets under the new, green leaves, all
worked together to disturb her peace of mind.
She resolutely turned her back to the window and took
breathing exercises. That was one of Miss Joe Hill's
sternest requirements—fifteen minutes three times a day
and two pints of water between meals. Then she sat down
in a straight-back chair and tried to read "The Power
Through Poise." Her body was doing its duty, but it did
not deceive her mind. She knew that she was living a
life of black deception; evidences of her guilt were on
every hand. Behind the books on her little shelf was a
paper of chocolate creams; in the music rack, back to
back with Grieg and Brahms, was an impertinent sheet of
ragtime which Floss had persuaded her to learn as an
accompaniment. And deeper and darker and falser than all
was a plan which had been fermenting in her mind for
In a fortnight the school term would be over. Following
the usual custom, Miss Lucinda was to go to her brother
in the country and Miss Joe Hill to her sister for a
week. This obligation to their respective families being
discharged, they would repair to the seclusion of a
Catskill farmhouse, there to hang upon each other's
souls for the rest of the summer.
Miss Lucinda's visits to her brother were reminiscent of
a multiplicity of children and a scarcity of room. To
her the Inferno presented no more disquieting prospect
than the necessity of sharing her bedroom. She always
returned from these sojourns in the country with
impaired digestion, and shattered nerves. She looked
forward to them with dread and looked back on them with
horror. Was it any wonder that when a brilliant
alternative presented itself she was eager to accept it?
Floss Speckert had gained her father's consent to spend
her first week out of school in New York provided she
could find a suitable chaperon. She had fallen upon the
first and most harmless person in sight and besieged her
Miss Lucinda would have flared to the project had not a
forbidding presence loomed between her and the alluring
invitation. She knew only too well that Miss Joe Hill
would never countenance the proposition.
As she sat trying vainly to concentrate on her "Power
Through Poise," she was startled by a noise at the
window, followed immediately by a dishevelled figure
that scrambled laughingly over the sill.
"I came down the fire escape!" whispered the invader
breathlessly, "Miss Joe Hill caught us making fudge in
the linen closet, and I gave her the slip."
"But Florence!" Miss Lucinda began reproachfully, but
Floss interrupted her:
"Don't 'Florence' me, Miss Lucy! You're just pretending
to be mad anyhow. You are a perfect darling and Miss Joe
Hill is an old bear!"
Miss Lucinda was aghast at this irreverence but her
halting protests had no effect on the torrent of Floss's
"I am going to take you to New York," the girl declared
"and I am going to give you the time of your life! Dad's
got to put us up in style—a room and a bath apiece and
maybe a sitting room. He likes me to splurge around a
bit, says he'd hate to have a daughter that acted like
she wasn't used to money."
Miss Lucinda glanced apprehensively at the door and then
back at the sparkling face before her.
"I can't go," she insisted miserably, trying to free her
hand from Floss's plump grasp. "My brother is expecting
me and Miss Hill—"
"Oh, bother Miss Joe Hill! You don't have to tell her
anything about it! You can pretend you are going to your
brother's and meet me some place on the road instead."
Miss Lucinda looked horrified, but she listened. A
material kept plastic by years of manipulation does not
harden to a new hand. Her objections to Floss's plan
grew fainter and fainter.
"Think of the theaters," went on the temptress, putting
an arm around her neck, and ignoring the fact that
caresses embarrassed Miss Lucinda almost to the point of
tears; "think of it! A new show every night, and operas
and pictures. There will be three Shakspere plays that
week, 'Merchant of Venice,' 'Twelfth Night,' and
Miss Lucinda's heart fluttered in her bosom. Although
she had spent a great part of her life interpreting the
Bard of Avon, she had never seen one of his plays
produced. In her secret soul she believed that her own
rendition of "The quality of mercy," was not to be
"I—I haven't any clothes," she urged feebly, putting up
her last defense.
"I have," declared Floss in triumph—"two trunks full,
and we are almost the same size. It's just for a week,
Miss Lucy; won't you come?"
Miss Lucinda, sitting rigid, felt a warm cheek pressed
against her own, and a stray curl touched her lips. She
sat for a moment with her eyes closed. It was more than
disconcerting to be so close to youth and joy and life;
it was infectious. The blood surged suddenly through her
veins, and an exultation seized her.
"I'm going to do it," she cried recklessly; "I never had
a real good time in my life."
Floss threw her arms about her and waltzed her across
the room, but a step in the hall brought them to a halt.
"It's Miss Joe Hill," whispered Floss, with trepidation;
"I am going out the way I came. Don't you forget; you
When Miss Joe Hill entered, she smiled complacently at
finding Miss Lucinda in the straight-back chair,
absorbed in the second volume of the "Power Through
At the Union Depot in Chicago, two weeks later, a small,
nervous lady fluttered uncertainly from one door to
another. She wore a short, brown coat suit of classic
severity, and a felt hat which was fastened under her
smoothly braided hair by a narrow elastic band.
On her fourth trip to the main entrance she stopped a
train-boy. "Can you tell me where I can get a drink?"
she asked, fanning her flushed face. He looked
surprised. "Third door to the left," he answered. Miss
Lucinda, carrying a hand-bag, a suit-case, and an
umbrella, followed directions. When she pushed open the
heavy door she was confronted by a long counter with
shining glasses and a smiling bartender. Beating a
confused retreat, she fled back to the main entrance,
and stood there trembling. For the hundredth time that
day she wished she had not come.
The arrangements, so glibly planned by Floss, had not
been adhered to in any particular. At the last moment
that mercurial young person had decided to go on two
days in advance and visit a friend in Philadelphia. She
wrote Miss Lucinda to come on to Chicago, where Tom
would meet her and give her her ticket, and that she
would meet her in New York.
With many misgivings and grievous twinges of conscience,
Miss Lucinda had bade Miss Joe Hill a guilty farewell,
and started ostensibly for her brother's home. At the
Junction she changed cars for Chicago, missed two
connections, and lost her lunch-box. Now that she had
arrived In Chicago, three hours late, nervous and
excited over her experiences, there was no one to meet
A sense of homesickness rushed over her, and she decided
to return to Locustwood. It was the same motive that
might prompt a newly hatched chicken, embarrassed by its
sudden liberty, to return to its shell. Just as she was
going in search of a time-table, a round-faced young man
"Miss Perkins?" he asked, and when she nodded, he went
on: "Been looking for you for half an hour. Sis told me
what you looked like, but I couldn't find you." He
failed to observe that Floss's comparison had been a
"Isn't it nearly time to start?" asked Miss Lucinda,
"Just five minutes; but I want to explain something to
you first." He looked through the papers in his pocket
and selected one. "This is a pass," he explained; "the
governor can get them over this road. I got there late,
so I could only get one that had been made out for
somebody else and not been used. It's all right, you
know; you won't have a bit of trouble."
Miss Lucinda took the bit of paper, put on her glasses,
and read, "Mrs. Lura Doring."
"Yes," said Tom; "that's the lady it was made out for.
Nine chances out of ten they won't mention it; but if
anything comes up, you just say yes, you are Mrs.
Doring, and it will be all right."
"But," protested Miss Lucinda, ready to weep, "I cannot
tell a falsehood."
"I don't think you'll have to," said Tom, somewhat
impatiently; "but if you deny it, you'll get us both
into no end of a scrape. Hello! there's the call for
your train. I'll bring your bag."
In the confusion of getting settled in her section, and
of expressing her gratitude to Tom, Miss Lucinda forgot
for the time the deadly weight of guilt that rested upon
her. It was not until the conductor called for her
ticket that her heart grew cold, and a look of
consternation swept over her face. It seemed to her that
he eyed the pass suspiciously and when he did not return
it a terror seized her. She knew he was coming back to
ask her name, and what was her name? Mrs. Dora Luring,
or Mrs. Dura Loring, or Mrs. Lura Doring?
In despair she fled to the dressing room and stood there
concealed by the curtains. In a few moments the
conductor passed, and she peeped at his retreating
figure. He stopped in the narrow passage by the window
and studied her pass, then he compared it with a
telegram which he held in his hand. Just then the porter
joined him, and she flattened herself against the wall
and held her breath.
"It's the same name," she heard the conductor say in an
undertone. "I'll wire back to headquarters at the next
If ever retribution followed an erring soul, it followed
Miss Lucinda on that trip. No one spoke to her, and
nothing happened, but she sat in terrified suspense,
looking neither to right nor left, her heart beating
frantically at every approach, and the whirring wheels
repeating the questioning refrain, "Dora Luring? Dura
Loring? Lura Doring?"
In New York, Floss met her as she stepped off the train,
fairly enveloping her in her enthusiasm.
"Here you are, you old darling! I have been having a fit
a minute for fear you wouldn't come. This is my Cousin
May. She is going to stay with us the whole week. New
York is simply heavenly, Miss Lucy. We have made four
engagements already. Matinée this afternoon, a dinner
to-night—What's the matter? Did you leave anything on
"No, no," stammered Miss Lucinda, still casting furtive
glances backward at the conductor. "Was he talking to a
policeman?" she asked suspiciously.
The girls laughed.
"I don't wonder you were scared," said Floss; "a
policeman always does remind me of Miss Joe Hill."
They called a cab and, to Miss Lucinda's vast relief,
were soon rolling away from the scene of danger.
It needed only one glance into a handsome suite of an
up-town hotel one week later to prove the rapid moral
deterioration of the prodigal.
Arrayed in a shell-pink kimono, she was having her nails
manicured. Her gaily figured garment was sufficient in
itself to give her an unusual appearance; but there was
a more startling reason.
Miss Lucinda's hair, hitherto a pale drab smoothly drawn
into a braided coil at the back, had undergone a
startling metamorphosis. It was Floss's suggestion that
Miss Lucinda wash it in "Golden Glow," a preparation
guaranteed to restore luster and beauty to faded locks.
Miss Lucinda had been over-zealous, and the result was
that of copper in sunshine.
These outward manifestations, however, were
insignificant compared with the evidences of Miss
Lucinda's inner guilt. She was taking the keenest
interest in the manicure's progress, only lifting her
eyes occasionally to survey herself with satisfaction in
the mirror opposite.
At first her sense of propriety had been deeply offended
by her changed appearance. She wept so bitterly that the
girls, seeking to console her, had overdone the matter.
"I never thought you could look so pretty," Floss
had declared; "you look ten years younger. It makes your
eyes brighter and your skin clearer. Of course this
awfully bright color will wear off, and then it will be
Miss Lucinda began to feel better; she even allowed May
to arrange her changed locks in a modest pompadour.
The week she had spent in New York was a riotous round
of dissipation. May's fiancé had prepared a whirlwind of
pleasures, and Miss Lucinda was caught up and revolved
at a pace that made her dizzy. Dances, dinners, plays,
roof-gardens, coaching parties, were all held together
by a line of candy, telegrams, and roses.
There was only one time in the day when Miss Lucinda
came down to earth. Every evening, no matter how
exhausted she might he from the frivolities of the day,
she conscientiously penned an affectionate letter to her
celestial affinity, expressing her undying devotion, and
incidentally mentioning the health and doings of her
brother's family. These she sent under separate cover to
her brother to be mailed.
Her conscience assured her that the reckoning would
come, that sooner or later she would face the bar of
justice and receive the verdict of guilty; but while one
day of grace remained, she would still "in the fire of
spring, her winter garments of repentance fling."
As the manicure put the finishing touch to her nails,
Floss came rushing in:
"Hurry up, Miss Lucy dear! Dick Benson has just 'phoned
that he is going to take us for a farewell frolic. We
leave here at five, have dinner somewhere, then do all
sorts of stunts. You are going to wear my tan coat-suit
and light blue waist. Yes, you are, too! That's all
foolishness; everybody wears elbow-sleeves. Blue's your
color, and I've got the hat to match. May says she'll
fix your hair, and you can wear her French-heel Oxfords
again. They pitch you over? Oh, nonsense! you just
tripped along the other day like a nice little jay-bird.
Even Miss Lucinda's week of strenuous living had not
prepared her for what followed. First, there was a short
trip on the train, during which she conscientiously
studied a map. Then followed a dinner at a large and
ostentatious hotel. The decorations were more brilliant,
the music louder, and the dresses gayer, than at any
place Miss Lucinda had yet been. She viewed the passing
show through her glasses, and experienced a pleasant
thrill of sophistication. This, she assured herself, was
society; henceforth she was in a position to rail at its
follies as one having authority.
In the midst of these complacent reflections she choked
on a crumb, and, after groping with closed eyes for her
tumbler, gulped down the contents. A strange, delicious
tingle filled her mouth; she forgot she was choking, and
opened her eyes. To her horror, she found that she had
emptied her glass of champagne.
"Spirituous liquor!" she thought in dismay, as the shade
of Miss Joe Hill rose before her.
Total abstinence was such a firm plank in the platform
of the celestial affinity that, even in the
chafing-dish, alcohol had been tabooed. The utter
iniquity of having deliberately swallowed a glass of
champagne was appalling to Miss Lucinda. She sat silent
during the rest of the dinner, eating little, and
plucking nervously at the ruffles about her elbows. The
fear of rheumatism in her wrists which had assailed her
earlier in the evening gave way to a deeper and more
When the dinner was over, the party started forth on a
hilarious round of sight-seeing. Miss Lucinda limped
after them, vaguely aware that she was in a giant
electric cage filled with swarming humanity, that bands
were playing, drums beating, and that at every turn
disagreeable men with loud voices were imploring her to
"step this way."
"Come on!" cried Dick. "We are going on the scenic
But the worm turned. "I—I'm not going," she protested.
"I will wait here. All of you go; I will wait right
With a sigh of relief she slipped into a vacant corner,
and gave herself up to the luxury of being miserable.
She longed for solitude in which to face the full
enormity of her misdeed, and to plan an immediate
reformation. She would throw herself bodily upon the
mercy of Miss Joe Hill, she would spare herself nothing;
penance of any kind would be welcome, bodily pain even—
She shifted her weight to the slender support of one
high-heeled shoe while she rested the other foot. Her
hair, unused to its new arrangement, pulled cruelly upon
every restraining hair-pin, and her head was beginning
"I deny the slavery of sense. I repudiate the bondage of
matter. I affirm spirit and freedom," she quoted to
herself, but the thought failed to have any effect.
A two-ringed circus was in progress at her right while
at her left a procession of camels and Egyptians was
followed by a noisy crowd of urchins. People were
thronging in every direction, and she realized that she
was occasionally the recipient of a curious glance. She
began to watch rather anxiously for the return of her
party. Ten minutes passed, and still they did not come.
Suddenly the awful possibility presented itself that
they might have lost her. She had no money, and even
with it, she knew she could not find her way back to the
hotel alone. Anxiety gained upon her in leaps. In bitter
remorse she upbraided herself for ever having strayed
from the blessed protection of Miss Joe Hill's
authority. Gulfs of hideous possibility yawned at her
feet; imagination faltered at the things that might
befall a lone and unprotected lady in this bedlam of
Just as her fear was turning to terror the party
"Oh, here you are!" cried Floss. "We thought we had lost
you. It was just dandy, Miss Lucy; you ought to have
gone. It makes you feel like your feet are growing right
out of the top of your head. Come on; we are going to
have our tintypes taken."
Strengthened by the fear of being left alone again, Miss
Lucinda rallied her courage, and once more followed in
their wake. She was faint and exhausted, but the one
grain of comfort she extracted from the situation was
that through her present suffering she was atoning for
At midnight Dick said: "There's only one other thing to
do. It's more fun than all the rest put together. Come
Miss Lucinda followed blindly. She had ceased to think;
there were only two realities left in the world,
French-heels and hair-pins.
At the foot of a flight of steps the party paused to buy
"You can wait for us here, Miss Lucy," said Floss.
Miss Lucinda protested eagerly that she was not too
tired to go with them. The prospect of being left alone
again nerved her to climb to any height.
"But," cried Floss, "if you get up there, there's only
one way to come down. You have to—"
"Let her come!" interrupted the others in laughing
chorus, and, to Miss Lucinda's great relief, she was
allowed to pass through the little gate.
When she reached the top of the long stairs, she looked
about for the attraction. A wide inclined plane slanted
down to the ground floor, and on it were bumps of
various sizes and shapes, all of a shining smoothness.
She had a vague idea that it was a mammoth map for the
blind, until she saw Dick and Floss sit down at the top
and go sliding to the bottom.
"Come on, Miss Lucinda!" cried May. "You can't get down
any other way, you know. Look out! Here I go!"
One by one the others followed, and Miss Lucinda could
not distinguish them as they merged in the laughing
crowd at the base.
Delay was fatal; they would lose her again if she
hesitated. In desperation she gathered her skirts about
her, and let herself cautiously down on the floor. For
one awful moment terror paralyzed her, then, grasping
her skirts with one hand and her hat with the other and
closing her eyes, she slid.
Miss Lucinda did not "hump the bumps"; she slid
gracefully around them, describing fanciful curves and
loops in her airy flight. When she arrived in a confused
bunch on the cushioned platform below, she was greeted
with a burst of applause.
"Ain't it great?" cried Floss, straightening Miss
Lucinda's hat and trying to get her to open her eyes.
"Dick says you are the gamest chaperon he ever saw. Sit
up and let me pin your collar straight."
But Miss Lucinda's sense of direction had evidently been
disturbed, for she did not yet know which was up, and
which was down. She leaned limply against Floss and
tried to get her breath.
"Excuse me," said a man's voice above her, "but are
either of you ladies Mrs. Lura Doring?"
The effect was electrical. Miss Lucinda sat bolt upright
and stared madly about. Tom Speckert had told her to be
sure to answer to that name. It would get him into
trouble if she failed to do so.
"Yes, yes," she gasped; "I am Mrs. Lura Doring."
The members of her little party looked at her anxiously
and ceased to laugh. The slide had evidently unsettled
"Why, this is Miss Perkins—Miss Lucinda Perkins of
Locustwood, Ohio," explained Dick Benson to the officer,
"She's rather upset by her tobogganing, and didn't
"I did," declared Miss Lucinda, making mysterious signs
to Dick to be silent. "It's all right; I am Mrs.
The officer looked suspiciously from one to the other,
then consulted his memorandum: "Small, slender woman,
yellow hair, gray eyes, answers to name of Mrs. Lura
Doring. Left Chicago on June 10."
"When did she get to New York?" asked the officer.
"A week ago to-morrow, on the eleventh," said Floss.
"Then I guess I'll have to take her up," said the
officer; "she answers all the requirements. I've got a
warrant for her arrest."
"Arrest!" gasped Benson. "What for?"
"For forging her husband's name, and defrauding two
hotels in Chicago."
"My husband—" Miss Lucinda staggered to her feet, then,
catching sight of the crowd that had collected, she gave
a fluttering cry and fainted away in the arms of the
When Miss Joe Hill arrived in New York, in answer to an
urgent telegram, she went directly to work with her
usual executive ability to unravel the mystery. After
obtaining the full facts in the case, she was able to
make a satisfactory explanation to the officers at
headquarters. Then she sent the girls to their
respective homes, and turned her full attention upon
"The barber will be here in half an hour to cut your
hair," she announced on the eve of their departure for
"You ought not to be so good to me!" sobbed Miss
Lucinda, who was lying limply on a couch.
Miss Joe Hill took her hand firmly and said: "Lucinda,
error and illness and disorder are man-made perversions.
Let the past week be wiped from our memories. Once we
are in the mountains we will turn the formative power of
our thoughts upon things invisible, and yield ourselves
to the higher harmonies."
The next morning, Miss Lucinda, shorn and penitent, was
led forth from the scene of her recent profligacy. It
was her final exit from a world which for a little space
she had loved not wisely but too well.
Cupid Goes Slumming
It is a debatable question whether love is a cause or an
effect, whether Adam discovered a heart in the recesses
of his anatomy before or after the appearance of Eve. In
the case of Joe Ridder it was distinctly the former.
At nineteen his knowledge of the tender passion
consisted of dynamic impressions received across the
footlights at an angle of forty-five degrees. Love was
something that hovered with the calcium light about
beauty in distress, something that brought the hero from
the uttermost parts of the earth to hurl defiance at the
villain and clasp the swooning maiden in his arms; it
was something that sent a fellow down from his perch in
the peanut gallery with his head hot and his hands cold,
and a sort of blissful misery rioting in his soul.
Joe lived in what was known by courtesy as Rear Ninth
Street. "Rear Ninth Street" has a sound of exclusive
aristocracy, and the name was a matter of some pride to
the dwellers in the narrow, unpaved alley that writhed
its watery way between two rows of tumble-down cottages,
Joe's family consisted of his father, whose vocation was
plumbing, and whose avocation was driving either in the
ambulance or the patrol wagon; his mother, who had
discharged her entire debt to society when she bestowed
nine healthy young citizens upon it; eight young
Ridders, and Joe himself, who had stopped school at
twelve to assume the financial responsibilities of a
rapidly increasing family.
Lack of time and the limited opportunities of Rear Ninth
Street, together with an uncontrollable shyness, had
brought Joe to his nineteenth year of broad-shouldered,
muscular manhood, with no acquaintance whatever among
the girls. But where a shrine is built for Cupid and the
tapers are kept burning, the devotee is seldom
One morning in October, as Joe was guiding his rickety
wheel around the mud puddles on his way to the cooper
shops, he saw a new sign on the first cottage after he
left the alley—"Mrs. R. Beaver, Modiste & Dress Maker."
In the yard and on the steps were a confusion of
household effects, and in their midst a girl with a pink
shawl over her head.
So absorbed was Joe in open-mouthed wonder over the
"Modiste," that he failed to see the girl, until a
laughing exclamation made him look up.
"What's the matter?" asked Joe, coming to a halt.
"I thought maybe you didn't know your wheels was going
'round!" the girl said audaciously, then fled into the
house and slammed the door.
All day at the shops Joe worked as in a trance. Every
iron rivet that he drove into a wooden hoop was duly
informed of the romantic occurrence of the morning, and
as some four thousand rivets are fastened into four
thousand hoops in the course of one day, it will be seen
that the matter was duly considered. The stray spark
from a feminine eye had kindled such a fierce fire in
his heart that by the time the six o'clock whistle blew
the conflagration threw a rosy glow over the entire
As he rode home, the girl was sitting on the steps, but
she would not look at him. Joe had formulated a definite
course of action, and though the utter boldness of it
nearly cost him his balance, he adhered to it strictly.
When just opposite her gate, without turning his head or
his eyes, he lifted his hat, then rode at a furious pace
around the corner.
"What you tidying up so fer, Joe?" asked his mother that
night; "you goin' out?"
"No," said Joe evasively, as he endeavoured in vain to
coax back the shine to an old pair of shoes.
"Well, I'm right glad you ain't. Berney and Dick ain't
got up the coal, and there's all them dishes to wash,
and the baby she's got a misery in her year."
"Has paw turned up?" asked Joe.
"Yes," answered Mrs. Ridder indifferently. "He looked in
'bout three o'clock. He was tolerable full then, and I
'spec he's been took up by now. He said he was goin' to
buy me a bird-cage with a bird in it, but I surely hope
he won't. Them white mice he brought me on his last
spree chewed a hole in Berney's stocking; besides, I
never did care much for birds. Good lands! what are you
goin' to wash yer head for?"
Joe was substituting a basin of water for a small girl
in the nearest kitchen chair, and a howl ensued.
"Shut up, Lottie!" admonished Mrs. Ridder, "you ain't
any too good to set on the floor. It's a good thing this
is pay-day, Joe, for the rent's due and four of the
children's got their feet on the ground. You paid up the
grocery last week, didn't you!"
Joe nodded a dripping head.
"Well, I'll jes' git yer money out of yer coat while I
think about it," she went on as she rummaged in his
pocket and brought out nine dollars.
"Leave me a quarter," demanded Joe, gasping beneath his
"All right," said Mrs. Ridder accommodatingly; "now that
Bob and Ike are gitting fifty cents a day, it ain't so
hard to make out. I'll be gittin' a new dress first
thing, you know."
"I seen one up at the corner!" said Joe.
"A new dress?"
"Naw, a dressmaker. She's got out her sign."
"What's her name?" asked Mrs. Ridder, keen with
"Mrs. R. Beaver, Modiste," repeated Joe from the sign
that floated in letters of gold in his memory.
"I knowed a Mrs. Beaver wunst, up on Eleventh Street—a
big, fat woman that got in a fuss with the preacher and
smacked his jaws."
"Did she have any children?" asked Joe.
"Seems like there was one, a pretty little tow-headed
"That's her," announced Joe conclusively. "What was her
"Lawsee, I don't know. I never would 'a' ricollected
Mrs. Beaver 'cepten she was such a tarnashious woman,
always a-tearin' up stumps, and never happy unless she
was rippitin' 'bout somethin'. What you want? A
needle and thread to mend your coat? Why, what struck
you? You been wearin' it that a-way for a month. You
better leave it be 'til I git time to fix it."
But Joe had determined to work out the salvation of his
own wardrobe. Late in the evening after the family had
retired, he sat before the stove with back humped and
knees drawn up trying to coax a coarse thread through a
small needle. Surely no rich man need have any fear
about entering the kingdom of heaven since Joe Ridder
managed to get that particular thread through the eye of
that particular needle!
But when a boy is put at a work-bench at twelve years of
age and does the same thing day in and day out for seven
long years, he may have lost all of the things that
youth holds dear, but one thing he is apt to have
learned, a dogged, plodding, unquestioning patience that
shoves silently along at the appointed task until the
work is done.
By midnight all the rents were mended and a large new
patch adorned each elbow. The patches, to be sure, were
blue, and the coat was black, but the stitches were set
with mechanical regularity. Joe straightened his aching
shoulders and held the garment at arm's length with a
smile. It was his first votive offering at the shrine of
The effect of Joe's efforts were prompt and
satisfactory. The next day being Sunday, he spent the
major part of it in passing and repassing the house on
the corner, only going home between times to remove the
mud from his shoes and give an extra brush to his hair.
The girl, meanwhile, was devoting her day to sweeping
off the front pavement, a scant three feet of pathway
from her steps to the wooden gate. Every time Joe passed
she looked up and smiled, and every time she smiled Joe
suffered all the symptoms of locomotor ataxia!
By afternoon his emotional nature had reached the
saturation point. Without any conscious volition on his
part, his feet carried him to the gate and refused to
carry him farther. His voice then decided to speak for
itself, and in strange, hollow tones he heard himself
"Say, do you wanter go to the show with me?"
"Sure," said the pink fascinator. "When?"
"I don't care," said Joe, too much embarrassed to
remember the days of the week.
"To-morrer night?" prompted the girl.
"I don't care," said Joe, and the conversation seeming
to lauguish, he moved on.
After countless eons of time the next night arrived. It
found Joe and his girl cosily squeezed in between two
fat women in the gallery of the People's Theatre. Joe
had to sit sideways and double his feet up, but he would
willingly have endured a rack of torture for the
privilege of looking down on that fluffy, blond
pompadour under its large bow, and of receiving the
sparkling glances that were flashed up at him from time
"I ain't ever gone with a feller that I didn't know his
name before!" she confided before the curtain rose.
"It's Joe," he said, "Joe Ridder, What's your front
"Miss Beaver," she said mischievously. "What do you
think it is?"
Joe could not guess.
"Say," she went on, "I knew who you was all right even
if I didn't know yer name. I seen you over to the hall
when they had the boxin' match."
"The last one?"
"Yes, when you and Ben Schenk was fightin'. Say, you
didn't do a thing to him!"
The surest of all antidotes to masculine shyness was not
without its immediate effect. Joe straightened his
shoulders and smiled complacently.
"Didn't I massacre him?" he said. "That there was a
half-Nelson holt I give him. It put him out of business
all right, all right. Say, I never knowed you was
"You bet I was," said his companion in honest
admiration; "that was when I got stuck on you!"
Before he could fully comprehend the significance of
this confession, the curtain rose, and love itself had
to make way for the tragic and absorbing career of "The
Widowed Bride." By the end of the third act Joe's
emotions were so wrought upon by the unhappy fate of the
heroine, that he rose abruptly and, muttering something
about "gittin' some gum," fled to the rear. When he
returned and squeezed his way back to his seat he found
"Miss Beaver" with red eyes and a dejected mien.
"What's the matter with you?" he asked banteringly.
"My shoe hurts me," said Miss Beaver evasively.
"What you givin' me?" asked Joe, with fine superiority.
"These here kinds of play never hurts my feelin's none.
Catch me cryin' at a show!"
But Miss Beaver was too much moved to recover herself at
once. She sat in limp dejection and surreptitiously
dabbed her eyes with her moist ball of a handkerchief.
Joe was at a loss to know how to meet the situation
until his hand, quite by chance, touched hers as it lay
on the arm of her chair. He withdrew it as quickly as if
he had received an electric shock, but the next moment,
like a lodestone following a magnet, it traveled slowly
back to hers.
From that time on Joe sat staring straight ahead of him
in embarrassed ecstasy, while Miss Beaver, thus
comforted, was able to pass through the tragic finale of
the last act with remarkable composure.
When the time came to say "Good night" at the Beavers'
door, all Joe's reticence and awkwardness returned. He
watched her let herself in and waited until she lit a
candle. Then he found himself out on the pavement in the
dark feeling as if the curtain had gone down on the best
show be had ever seen. Suddenly a side window was raised
cautiously and he heard his name called softly. He had
turned the corner, but he went back to the fence.
"Say!" whispered the voice at the window, "I forgot to
tell you—It's Mittie."
The course of true love thus auspiciously started might
have flowed on to blissful fulfilment had it not
encountered the inevitable barrier in the formidable
person of Mrs. Beaver. Not that she disapproved of
Mittie receiving attention; on the contrary, it was her
oft-repeated boast that "Mittie had been keepin' company
with the boys ever since she was six, and she 'spected
she'd keep right on till she was sixty." It was not
attention in the abstract that she objected to, it was
rather the threatening of "a steady," and that steady,
the big, awkward, shy Joe Ridder. With serpentine wisdom
she instituted a counter-attraction.
Under her skilful manipulation, Ben Schenk, the son of
the saloon-keeper, soon developed into a rival suitor.
Ben was engaged at a down-town pool-room, and wore
collars on a weekday without any apparent discomfort.
The style of his garments, together with his easy air of
sophistication, entirely captivated Mrs. Beaver, while
Ben on his part found it increasingly pleasant to lounge
in the Beavers' best parlour chair and recount to a
credulous audience the prominent part which he was
taking in all the affairs of the day.
Matters reached a climax one night when, after some
close financing, Joe Ridder took Mittie to the Skating
Rink. An unexpected run on the tin savings bank at the
Ridders' had caused a temporary embarrassment, and by
the closest calculation Joe could do no better than pay
for two entrance-tickets and hire one pair of skates. He
therefore found it necessary to develop a sprained
ankle, which grew rapidly worse as they neared the rink.
"I don't think you orter skate on it, Joe!" said Mittie
"Oh, I reckon I kin manage it all O.K.," said Joe.
"But I ain't agoin' to let you!" she declared with
divine authority. "We can just set down and rubber at
the rest of them."
"Naw, you don't," said Joe; "you kin go on an' skate,
and I'll watch you."
The arrangement proved entirely satisfactory so long as
Mittie paused on every other round to rest or to get him
to adjust a strap, or to hold her hat, but when Ben
Schenk arrived on the scene, the situation was
It was sufficiently irritating to see Ben go through an
exhaustive exhibition of his accomplishments under the
admiring glances of Mittie, but when he condescended to
ask her to skate, and even offered to teach her some new
figures, Joe's irritation rose to ire. In vain he tried
to catch her eye; she was laughing and clinging to Ben
and giving all her attention to his instructions.
Joe sat sullen and indignant, savagely biting his nails.
He would have parted with everything he had in the world
at that moment for three paltry nickels!
On and on went the skaters, and on and on went the
music, and Joe turned his face to the wall and doggedly
waited. When at last Mittie came to him flushed and
radiant, he had no word of greeting for her.
"Did you see all the new steps Mr. Ben learnt me?" she
"Naw," said Joe.
"Does yer foot hurt you, Joe?"
"Naw," said Joe.
Mittie was too versed in masculine moods to press the
subject. She waited until they were out under the
starlight in the clear stretch of common near home. Then
she slipped her hand through his arm and said coaxingly—
"Say now, Joe, what you kickin' 'bout?"
"Him," said Joe comprehensively.
"Mr. Ben? Why, he's one of our best friends. Maw likes
him better'n anybody I ever kept company with. What have
all you fellers got against him?"
"He was black marveled at the hall all right," said Joe
"It ain't none of my business to tell what for," said
Joe, though his lips ached to tell what he knew.
"Maw says all you fellows are jealous 'cause he talks so
pretty and wears such stylish clothes."
"We might, too, if we got 'em like he done," Joe began,
then checked himself. "Say, Mittie, why don't yer maw
"She says you haven't got any school education and don't
talk good grammar."
"Don't I talk good grammar?" asked Joe anxiously.
"I don't know," said Mittie; "that's what she says. How
long did you go to school?"
"Me? Oh, off and on 'bout two year. The old man was
always poorly, and Maw, she had to work out, till me an'
the boys done got big enough to work. 'Fore that I had
to stay home and mind the kids. Don't I talk like other
"You talk better than some," said Mittie loyally.
After he left her, Joe reviewed the matter carefully. He
thought of the few educated people he knew—the boss at
the shops, the preacher up on Twelfth Street, the doctor
who sewed up his head after he stopped a runaway team,
even Ben Schenk, who had gone through the eighth grade.
Yes, there was a difference. Being clean and wearing
good clothes were not the only things.
When he got home, he tiptoed into the front room, and
picking his way around the various beds and pallets,
took Berney's school satchel from the top of the
wardrobe. Retracing his steps, he returned to the
kitchen, and with his hat still on and his coat collar
turned up, he began to take an inventory of his mental
One after another of the dog-eared, grimy books he
pondered over, and one after another he laid aside, with
a puzzled, distressed look deepening in his face.
"Berney she ain't but fourteen an' she gits on to 'em,"
he said to himself; "looks like I orter."
Once more he seized the nearest book, and with the
courage of despair repeated the sentences again and
again to himself.
"That you, Joe?" asked Mrs. Ridder from the next room an
hour later. "I didn't know you'd come. Yer paw sent word
by old man Jackson that he was at Hank's Exchange way
down on Market Street, and fer you to come git him."
"It's twelve o'clock," remonstrated Joe.
"I know it," said Mrs. Ridder, yawning, "but I reckon
you better go. The old man always gits the rheumatiz
when he lays out all night, and that there rheumatiz
medicine cost sixty-five cents a bottle!"
"All right," said Joe with a resignation born of
experience, "but don't you go and put no more of the
kids in my bed. Jack and Gus kick the stuffin' out of me
And with this parting injunction he went wearily out
into the night, giving up his struggle with Minerva,
only to begin the next round with Bacchus.
The seeds of ambition, though sown late, grew steadily,
and Joe became so desirous of proving worthy of the
consideration of Mrs. Beaver that he took the boss of
the shops partially into his confidence.
"It's a first-rate idea, Joe," said the boss, a big,
capable fellow who had worked his way up from the
bottom. "I could move you right along the line if you
had a better education. I have a good offer up in
Chicago next year; if you can get more book sense in
your head, I will take you along."
"Where can I get it at?" asked Joe, somewhat dubious of
his own power of achievement.
"Night school," said the boss. "I know a man that
teaches in the Settlement over on Burk Street. I'll put
you in there if you like."
Now, the prospect of going to school to a man who had
been head of a family for seven years, who had been the
champion scrapper of the South End, who was in the midst
of a critical love affair, was trebly humiliating. But
Joe was game, and while he determined to keep the matter
as secret as possible, he agreed to the boss's
"You're mighty stingy with yourself these days!" said
Mittie Beaver one night a month later, when he stopped
on his way to school.
Joe grinned somewhat foolishly. "I come every evenin',"
"For 'bout ten minutes," said Mittie, with a toss of her
voluminous pompadour; "there's some wants more'n ten
"Ben Schenk?" asked Joe, alert with jealousy.
"I ain't sayin'," went on Mittie. "What do you do of
nights, hang around the hall?"
"Naw," said Joe indignantly. "There ain't nobody can say
they've sawn me around the hall sence I've went with
"Well, where do you go?"
"I'm trainin'," said Joe evasively.
"I don't believe you like me as much as you used to,"
said Mittie plaintively.
Joe looked at her dumbly. His one thought from the time
he cooked his own early breakfast, down to the moment
when he undressed in the cold and dropped into his place
in bed between Gussie and Dick, was of her. The love of
her made his back stop aching as he bent hour after hour
over the machine; it made all the problems and hard
words and new ideas at night school come straight at
last; it made the whole sordid, ugly day swing round the
glorious ten minutes that they spent together in the
"Yes, I like you all right," he said, twisting his big,
grease-stained hands in embarrassment. "You're the
onliest girl I ever could care about. Besides, I
couldn't go with no other girl if I wanted to, 'cause I
don't know none."
Is it small wonder that Ben Schenk's glib protestations,
reinforced by Mrs. Beaver's own zealous approval, should
have in time outclassed the humble Joe? The blow fell
just when the second term of night school was over, and
Joe was looking forward to long summer evenings of
He had bought two tickets for a river excursion, and was
hurrying into the Beavers' when he encountered a stolid
bulwark in the form of Mrs. Beaver, whose portly person
seemed permanently wedged into the narrow aperture of
the front door. She sat in silent majesty, her hands
just succeeding in clasping each other around her ample
waist. Had she closed her eyes, she might have passed
for a placid, amiable person, whose angles of
disposition had also become curves. But Mrs. Beaver did
not close her eyes. She opened them as widely as the
geography of her face would permit, and coldly surveyed
Mrs. Beaver was a born manager; she had managed her
husband into an untimely grave, she had managed her
daughter from the hour she was born, she had dismissed
three preachers, induced two women to leave their
husbands, and now dogmatically announced herself arbiter
of fashions and conduct in Rear Ninth Street.
"No, she can't see you," she said firmly in reply to
Joe's question. "She's going out to a dance party with
"Where at?" demanded Joe, who still trembled in her
"Somewheres down town," said Mrs. Beaver, "to a real
"He oughtn't to take her to no down-town dance," said
Joe, his indignation getting the better of his shyness.
"I don't want her to go, and I'm going to tell her so."
"In-deed!" said Mrs. Beaver in scorn. "And what have you
got to say about it? I guess Mr. Schenk's got the right
to take her anywhere he wants to!"
"What right?" demanded Joe, getting suddenly a bit
"'Cause he's got engaged to her. He's going to give her
a real handsome turquoise ring, fourteen-carat gold."
"Didn't Mittie send me no word?" faltered Joe.
"No," said Mrs. Beaver unhesitatingly, though she had in
her pocket a note for him from the unhappy Mittie.
Joe fumbled for his hat. "I guess I better be goin'," he
said, a lump rising ominously in his throat. He got the
gate open and made his way half dazed around the corner.
As he did so, he saw a procession of small Ridders
bearing joyously down upon him.
"Joe!" shrieked Lottie, arriving first, "Maw says hurry
on home; we got another new baby to our house."
During the weeks that followed, Rear Ninth Street was
greatly thrilled over the unusual event of a home
wedding. The reticence of the groom was more than made
up for by the bulletins of news issued daily by Mrs.
Beaver. To use that worthy lady's own words, "she was in
her elements!" She organised various committees—on
decoration, on refreshment, and even on the bride's
trousseau, tactfully permitting each assistant to
contribute in some way to the general grandeur of the
"I am going to have this a real showy wedding," she said
from her point of vantage by the parlour window, where
she sat like a field-marshal and issued her orders.
"Those paper fringes want to go clean across every one
of the shelves, and you all must make enough paper roses
to pin 'round the edges of all the curtains.
Ever'thing's got to look gay and festive."
"Mittie don't look very gay," ventured one of the
assistants. "I seen her in the kitchen cryin' a minute
"Mittie's a fool!" announced Mrs. Beaver calmly. "She
don't know a good thing when she sees it! Get them
draperies up a little higher in the middle; I'm going to
hang a silver horseshoe on to the loop."
The wedding night arrived, and the Beaver cottage was
filled to suffocation with the élite of Rear
Ninth Street. The guests found it difficult to circulate
freely in the room on account of the elaborate and
aggressive decorations, so they stood in silent rows
awaiting the approaching ceremony. As the appointed hour
drew near, and none of the groom's family arrived, a few
whispered comments were exchanged.
"It's 'most time to begin," whispered the preacher to
Mrs. Beaver, whose keen black eyes had been watching the
door with growing impatience.
"Well, we won't wait on nobody," she said positively, as
she rose and left the room to give the signal.
In the kitchen she found great consternation: the bride,
pale and dejected in all her finery, sat on the table,
all the chairs being in the parlour.
"What's the matter?" demanded Mrs. Beaver.
"He ain't come!" announced one of the women in tragic
"Ben Schenk ain't here?" asked Mrs. Beaver in accents so
awful that her listeners quaked. "Well, I'll see the
Out into the night she sallied, picking her way around
the puddles until she reached the saloon at the corner.
"Where's Ben Schenk?" she demanded sternly of the men
around the bar.
There was an ominous silence, broken only by the
embarrassed shuffling of feet.
Drawing herself up, Mrs. Beaver thumped the counter.
"Where's he at?" she repeated, glaring at the most
embarrassed of the lot.
"He don't know where he's at," said the man. "I rickon
he cilebrated a little too much fer the weddin'."
"Can he stand up?" demanded Mrs. Beaver.
"Not without starchin'," said the man, and amid the
titter that followed, Mrs. Beaver made her exit.
On the corner she paused to reconnoitre. Across the
street was her gaily lighted cottage, where all the
guests were waiting. She thought of the ignominy that
would follow their abrupt dismissal, she thought of the
refreshments that must be used to-night or never, she
thought of the little bride sitting disconsolate on the
With a sudden determination she decided to lead a
forlorn hope. Facing about, she marched weightily around
to the rear of the saloon and began laboriously to climb
the steps that lead to the hall. At the door she paused
and made a rapid survey of the room until she found what
she was looking for.
"Joe Ridder!" she called peremptorily.
Joe, haggard and listless, put down his billiard-cue and
came to the door.
Five minutes later a breathless figure presented himself
at the Beaver kitchen. He had on a clean shirt and his
Sunday clothes, and while he wore no collar, a clean
handkerchief was neatly pinned about his neck.
"Everybody but the bride and groom come into the
parlour," commanded Mrs. Beaver. "I'm a-going to make a
speech, and tell 'em that the bride has done changed her
Joe and Mittie, left alone, looked at each other in
dazed rapture. She was the first to recover.
"Joe!" she cried, moving timidly towards him, "ain't you
mad? Do you still want me?"
Joe, with both hands entangled in her veil and his feet
lost in her train, looked down at her through swimming
"Want yer?" he repeated, and his lips trembled, "gee
whiz! I feel like I done ribbeted a hoop round the hull
The signal was given for them to enter the parlour, and
without further interruption the ceremony proceeded, if
not in exact accordance with the plans of Mrs. Beaver,
at least in obedience to the mandate of a certain little
autocrat who sometimes takes a hand in the affairs of
man even in Rear Ninth Street.
The Soul Of O Sana San
O Sana San stood in the heart of a joyous world, as much
a part of the radiant, throbbing, irresponsible spring
as the golden butterfly which fluttered in her hand.
Through the close-stemmed bamboos she could see the
sparkling river racing away to the Inland Sea, while
slow-moving junks, with their sixfold sails, glided with
almost imperceptible motion toward a far-distant port.
From below, across the rice-fields, came the shouts and
laughter of naked bronze babies who played at the
water's edge, and from above, high up on the ferny
cliff, a mellow-throated temple bell answered the call
of each vagrant breeze. Far away, shutting out the
strange, big world, the luminous mountains hung in the
purple mists of May.
And every note of color in the varied landscape, from
the purple irises whose royal reflection stained the
water below, to the rosy-tipped clover at the foot of
the hill, was repeated in the kimono and obi of
the child who flitted about in the grasses, catching
butterflies in her long-handled net.
It was in the days of the Japanese-Russian War, but the
constant echo of the great conflict that sounded around
her disturbed her no more than it did the birds
overhead. All day long the bugles sounded from the
parade-grounds, and always and always the soldiers went
marching away to the front. Around the bend in the river
were miniature fortifications where recruits learned to
make forts and trenches, and to shoot through tiny holes
in a wall at imaginary Russian troopers. Down in the
town below were long white hospitals where twenty
thousand sick and wounded soldiers lay. No thought of
the horror of it came to trouble O Sana San. The
cherry-trees gladly and freely gave up their blossoms to
the wind, and so much the country give up its men for
the Emperor. Her father had marched away, then one
brother, then another, and she had held up her hands and
shouted, "Banzai!" and smiled because her mother smiled.
Everything was vague and uncertain, and no imagined
catastrophe troubled her serenity. It was all the will
of the Emperor, and it was well.
Life was a very simple matter to O Sana San. She rose
when the sun climbed over the mountain, bathed her face
and hands in the shallow copper basin in the garden, ate
her breakfast of bean-curd and pickled fish and warm
yellow tea. Then she hung the quilts over poles to sun,
dusted the screens, and placed an offering of rice on
the steps of the tiny shrine to Inari, where the little
foxes kept guard. These simple duties being
accomplished, she tied a bit of bean-cake in her gaily
colored handkerchief, and stepping into her geta,
went pattering off to school.
It was an English school, where she sat with hands
folded through the long mornings, passively permitting
the lessons to filter through her brain, and listening
in smiling patience while the kind foreign ladies spoke
incomprehensible things. Sometimes she helped pass the
hours by watching the shadows of the dancing leaves
outside; sometimes she told herself stories about "The
Old Man Who Made Withered Trees to Blossom," or about
"Momotaro, the Little Peach Boy." Again she would repeat
the strange English words and phrases that she heard,
and would puzzle out their meaning.
But the sum of her lore consisted in being happy; and
when the shadow of the mountains began to slip across
the valley, she would dance back along the homeward way,
singing with the birds, laughing with the rippling
water, and adding her share of brightness to the
sunshine of the world.
As she stood on this particular morning with her net
poised over a butterfly, she heard the tramping of many
feet. A slow cavalcade was coming around the road,—a
long line of coolies bearing bamboo stretchers,—and in
the rear, in a jinrikisha, was a foreign man with a red
cross on his sleeve.
O Sana San scrambled up the bank and watched with
smiling curiosity as the men halted to rest. On the
stretcher nearest her lay a young Russian prisoner with
the fair skin and blond hair that are so unfamiliar to
Japanese eyes. His blanket was drawn tight around his
shoulders, and he lay very still, with lips set, gazing
straight up through the bamboo leaves to the blue
Then it was that O Sana San, gazing in frank
inquisitiveness at the soldier, saw a strange thing
happen. A tear formed on his lashes and trickled slowly
across his temple; then another and another, until they
formed a tiny rivulet. More and more curious, she drew
yet nearer, and watched the tears creep unheeded down
the man's face. She was sure he was not crying, because
soldiers never cry; it could not be the pain, because
his face was very smooth and calm. What made the tears
drop, drop on the hard pillow, and why did he not brush
A vague trouble dawned in the breast of O Sana San.
Running back to the field, she gathered a handful of
wild flowers and returned to the soldier. The tears no
longer fell, but his lips quivered and his face was
distorted with pain. She looked about her in dismay. The
coolies were down by the river, drinking from their
hands and calling to one another; the only person to
whom she could appeal was the foreigner with the red
cross on his arm who was adjusting a bandage for a
patient at the end of the line.
With halting steps and many misgivings, she timidly made
her way to his side; then placing her hands on her
knees, she bowed low before him. The embarrassment of
speaking to a stranger and a foreigner almost
overwhelmed her, but she mustered her bravest array of
English, and pointing to the stretcher, faltered out her
"Soldier not happy very much is. I sink soldier heart
The Red Cross orderly looked up from his work, and his
eyes followed her gesture.
"He is hurt bad," he said shortly; "no legs, no arms."
"So—deska?" she said politely, then repeated his
words in puzzled incomprehension: "Nowarms? Nowarms?"
When she returned to the soldier she gathered up the
flowers which she had dropped by the wayside, and
timidly offered them to him. For a long moment she
waited, then her smile faded mid her hand dropped. With
a child's quick sensitiveness to rebuff, she was turning
away when an exclamation recalled her.
The prisoner was looking at her in a strange, distressed
way; his deep-set gray eyes glanced down first at one
bandaged shoulder, then at the other, then he shook his
As O Sana San followed his glance, a startled look of
comprehension sprang into her face. "Nowarms!" she
repeated softly as the meaning dawned upon her, then
with a little cry of sympathy she ran forward and gently
laid her flowers on his breast.
The cavalcade moved on, under the warm spring sun, over
the smooth white road, under the arching cryptomerias;
but little O Sana Sun stood with her butterfly net over
her shoulder and watched it with troubled eyes. A
dreadful something was stirring in her breast, something
clutched at her throat, and she no longer saw the
sunshine and the flowers. Kneeling by the roadside, she
loosened the little basket which was tied to her obi
and gently lifted the lid. Slowly at first, and then
with eager wings, a dozen captive butterflies fluttered
back to freedom.
Along the banks of the Upper Flowing River, in a rudely
improvised hospital, lay the wounded Russian prisoners.
To one of the small rooms at the end of the ward
reserved for fatally wounded patients a self-appointed
nurse came daily, and rendered her tiny service in the
only way she knew.
O Sana San's heart had been so wrought upon by the sad
plight of her soldier friend that she had begged to be
taken to see him and to be allowed to carry him flowers
with her own hand. Her mother, in whom smoldered the
fires of dead samurai, was quick to be gracious to a
fallen foe, and it was with her consent that O Sana San
went day after day to the hospital.
The nurses humored her childish whim, thinking each day
would be the last; but as the days grew into weeks and
the weeks into months, her visits became a matter of
And the young Russian, lying on his rack of pain,
learned to watch for her coming as the one hour of
brightness in an interminable night of gloom. He made a
sort of sun-dial of the cracks in the floor, and when
the shadows reached a certain spot his tired eyes grew
eager, and he turned his head to listen for the patter
of the little tabi that was sure to sound along
Sometimes she would bring her picture-books and read him
wonderful stories in words he did not understand, and
show him the pictures of Momotaro, who was born out of a
peach and who grew up to be so strong and brave that he
went to the Ogres' Island and carried off all their
treasures,—caps and coats that made their wearers
invisible, jewels which made the tide come or go, coral
and amber and tortoise-shell,—and all these things the
little Peach Boy took back to his kind old foster mother
and father, and they all lived happily forever after.
And in the telling O Sana Man's voice would thrill, and
her almond eyes grow bright, while her slender brown
finger pointed out the figures on the gaily colored
Sometimes she would sing to him, in soft minor strains,
of the beauty of the snow on the pine-trees, or the
wonders of Fuji-San.
And he would pucker his white lips and try to whistle
the accompaniment, to her great amusement and delight.
Many were the treasures she brought forth from the
depths of her long sleeves, and many were the devices
she contrived to amuse him. The most ambitious
achievement was a miniature garden in a wooden box—a
wonderful garden where grasses stood for tall bamboo,
and a saucer of water, surrounded by moss and pebbles,
made a shining lake across which a bridge led through a
torii to a diminutive shrine above.
He would watch her deft fingers fashioning the minute
objects, and listen to her endless prattle in her soft,
unknown tongue, and for a little space the pain-racked
body would relax and the cruel furrows vanish from
between his brows.
But there were days in which the story and the song and
the play had no part. At such times O Sana San slipped
in on tiptoe and took her place at the head of the cot
where he could not see her. Sitting on her heels, with
hand folded in hand, she watched patiently for hours,
alert to adjust the covers or smooth the pillow, but
turning her eyes away when the spasms of pain contorted
his face. All the latent maternity in the child rose to
succor his helplessness. The same instinct that had
prompted her to strap her doll upon her back when yet a
mere baby herself, made her accept the burden of his
suffering, and mother him with a very passion of
Longer and sultrier grew the days; the wistaria, hanging
in feathery festoons from many a trellis, gave way to
the flaming azalea, and the azalea in turn vanished with
the coming of the lotus that floated sleepily in the old
Still the soul of the young Russian was held a prisoner
in his shattered body, and the spirit in him grew
restive at the delay. Months passed before the doctor
told him his release was at hand. It was early in the
morning, and the sun fell in long, level rays across his
cot. He turned his head and looked wistfully at the
distance it would have to travel before it would be
The nurse brought the screen and placed it about the
bed—the last service she could render. For hours the end
was expected, but moment by moment he held death at bay,
refusing to accept the freedom that he so earnestly
longed for. At noon the sky became overcast and the slow
falling of rain was heard on the low wooden roof. But
still his fervent eyes watched the sun-dial.
At last the sound of geta was heard without, and
in a moment O Sana San slipped past the screen and
dropped on her knees beside him. Under one arm was
tightly held a small white kitten, her final offering at
the shrine of love.
When he saw her quaint little figure, a look of peace
came over his face and he closed his eyes. An
interpreter, knowing that a prisoner was about to die,
came to the bedside and asked if he wanted to leave any
message. He stirred slightly then, in a scarcely audible
voice, asked in Russian what the Japanese word was for
"good-by." A long pause followed, during which the
spirit seemed to hover irresolute upon the brink of
O Sana San sat motionless, her lips parted, her face
full of the awe and mystery of death. Presently he
stirred and turned his head slowly until his eyes were
on a level with her own.
"Sayonara," he whispered faintly, and tried to
smile; and O Sana San, summoning all her courage to
restrain the tears, smiled bravely back and whispered,
It was scarcely said before the spirit of the prisoner
started forth upon his final journey, but he went not
alone. The soul of a child went with him, leaving in its
place the tender, newborn soul of a woman.