The "Daily Morning Chronicle"
by Annie Eliot Trumbull
THE village lay still and silent under
the observant sun. The village
street stretched in one direction down the
hill to the two-miles-off railway station,
and in the other to the large white house
with pillared portico, from which there was
a fine view of the sunset, and beyond which
it still continued, purposeful but lonely,
until it came suddenly upon half a dozen
houses which turned out to be another
Not a man, woman, or child crossed
from one house to another; not a dog or
a cat wandered about in the sunshine.
The white houses looked as if no one
lived in them; the white church, with its
sloping approach, looked as if no one ever
preached in it and no one ever came to
it to listen. It seemed to Lucyet Stevens,
as she sat at the little window of the post-office,
behind which her official face
looked so much more important than it
ever did anywhere else, as if the village
street itself were listening for the arrival of
the noon mail. For it was nearly time for
the daily period of almost feverish activity.
By and by from the station would come
Truman Hanks with the leather bag which,
in village and city alike, is the outward and
visible sign of the fidelity of the government.
It is probable that he will bring it
up in a single carriage, for though sometimes
he takes the two-seated one, in
case there should be a human arrival who
would like to be driven up, this possibility
was so slight a one at this time of year
that it was hardly worth considering.
Then the village will awake; the two
little girls who live down below the saw-mill
will come up together, confiding
on the way a secret or two, for which the
past twenty-four hours would seem to have
afforded slender material. Then old John
Thomas will come limping across from his
small house back of the church, to see if
there is a letter for "her,"—she being
his wife, and in occasional communication
with their daughter in the city. Then
the good-looking, roughly clad young
farmer who takes care of the fine place
with the pillared portico on the hill will
saunter down to see if "the folks have
sent any word about coming up for the
summer." Then Miss Granger, who
lives almost next door, will throw a shawl
over her head and run in to see who has
letters and, incidentally, if she has any
herself; and then one or two wagons will
draw up in front of the little store, and
the men will come in for their daily
As Lucyet came around to the daily
papers she flushed and looked impatiently
out of the door down the street. Not
that the thought of the daily paper had not
been all the time in the background of her
mind, but having allowed her fancy to
wander towards the attitude of the village
and its prospective disturbance, she returned
to the imminence of the daily paper
again with a thrill of emotion. It was
not one of the metropolitan journals which,
as a body, the village subscribed for, nor
was it one of the more widely known of
those issued in smaller cities; it was an
unpretentious sheet, neither very ably
edited nor extensively circulated,—the
chief spokesman of the nearest county
town. But with all its limitations, its
readers represented to Lucyet the great
harsh, unknowing, and yet irresistibly
It was not the first time that she had
thus watched for it with mute excitement.
Such episodes, though infrequent, had
marked her otherwise uneventful existence
at irregular intervals for more than a year.
It would be more correct to say that they
had altered its entire course; that such
episodes had given to her life a double
character,—one side of calmness, secrecy,
indifference, and the other of delight,
absorption, thrilled with a breathless excitement
and uncertainty. But this time there
was a greater than ordinary interest. The
verses that she had sent last were more
ambitious in conception; they had description
in them, and mental analysis, and
several other things which very likely she
would not have called by their right names,
though she felt their presence: her other
contributions had belonged rather to the
poetry of comment. She was sure, almost
sure, that they had accepted these.
Unsophisticated Lucyet never dreamed
of enclosing postage for return, so she
could only breathlessly search the printed
page to discover whether her lines were
there or in the waste-basket. Friday's
edition of the "Daily Morning Chronicle"
was more or less given over to the feeble
claims of general literature. To-day was
Friday. Lucyet glanced through her little
window—the tastefully disposed corner
of which was dedicated to the postal service—at
the tin of animal crackers, the
jar of prunes, the suspended bacon, and
the box of Spanish licorice, and pondered,
half contemptuously, half pitifully, on what
had been her life before she had written
poems and sent them to the "Daily Morning
Chronicle." Then her outlook had
seemed scarcely wider than that of the
animal crackers with their counterfeit vitality;
now it seemed extended to the
horizon of all humanity.
There was the sound of horses' feet
coming over the hill. Was it the mail
wagon? No, it was a heavier vehicle;
and the voice of the farmer, slow and
lumbering as the animals it encouraged,
sounded down the village street. Over
the crest of the hill appeared the summit
of a load of hay going to the scales in
front of the tavern to be weighed. So
silent were the place and the hour, that
it was like a commotion when the cart
drew up, and the horses were unhitched
and weighed, and then the load driven
on, and the owner and the hotel-keeper
exchanged observations of a genial nature.
Finally the horses and the wagon
creaked along the hot street down the road
which led by the pillared white house, and
again the village was at peace. Lucyet
glanced at the clock. Was the mail going
to be late this morning? No. The creaking
of the hay wagon had but just lost
itself in the silence, when her quick ear
caught the rattle of the lighter carriage.
Her first impulse was to step to the door
and wait for it there, but she did not yield
to it; she would do just as usual, neither
more nor less. She would not for worlds
have Truman Hanks suspect any special
interest on her part. He might try to
find out its cause; and a hot blush enveloped
Lucyet as she contemplated the
possibility of his assigning it to the true
one. Only one person in all the village
knew that Lucyet Stevens wrote poetry.
"Most time for the mail to be gittin'
heavy," said Truman, as he handed over
the limp receptacle; "the summer boarders
'll be along now, before long."
"Yes, I s'pose they will," answered
Lucyet, her fingers trembling as they unlocked
"It's a backward season, though," he
went on, watching her.
"Yes, it is uncommon backward; the
apple blossoms aren't but just beginning
to come out."
It seemed to her that there was suspicion
in his observation. He leaned
lazily over the counter, while she took out
the mail within the little office with its
front of letter-boxes.
"This hot spell 'll bring 'em out. It's
the first hot spell we've had."
"Yes," she assented, blushing again,
She had spoken of the tardy apple
blossoms in her poem,—it was entitled
"Spring." Two or three people, having
seen the mail go by, dropped in and disposed
themselves in various attitudes to
wait for it to be distributed. She hurried
through the work, her fingers tingling to
open each copy of the newspaper as she
laid it in its place. At last it was done;
the little window which had been shut to
produce official seclusion was reopened;
and the people came up, one by one, without
much haste, and received the papers
and now and then a letter. It did not
take long; and afterward they stood about
and talked and traded a little, their papers
unopened in their hands. It was not
likely that the news from outside was
going to affect any one of them very
much; they could wait for it; and reading
matter was for careful attention at home,
not for skimming over in public places.
Lucyet found their indifference phenomenal;
they did not know what might be
waiting for them in the first column of
the third page. Was it waiting for them?
The suspense was almost overwhelming;
and yet she did not like to open the copy
which lay at her disposal until the store
was empty; she had a nervous feeling that
they would all know what she was looking
for. Slowly the group melted away, till
there was no one left except the proprietor,
who had gone into the back room to look
after some seed corn, and Silas, the young
farmer, who had thrown himself down into
a chair to read his paper at his leisure, and
was not noticing Lucyet. Eagerly she
opened the printed sheet. She caught her
breath in the joy of assurance. There it
was—"Spring." It stood out as if it
were printed all in capitals. After a furtive
look out at the quiet street, where, in
a rusty wagon, an old man was just picking
up his reins and preparing to jog away
from the post-office door, and a side glance
at Silas's broad back over by the farther
window, Lucyet read over her own lines.
How different they looked from the copy
in her own distinct, formal little handwriting!
They had gained something,—but
they had lost something too. They
seemed unabashed, almost declamatory, in
their sentiment. They had
and positive importance; it was as if the
assertions they made had all at once become
truths, had ceased to be tentative.
She read them over again. No, they did
not tell it all, all that she meant to say;
but they brought back the day, and she was
glad she had written them,—glad with an
agitated, inexpressible gladness. She would
like to know what people said of them; for
a moment it seemed to her that she would
not mind if they knew that she wrote them.
"Well," said Silas, laying down his
paper and standing up, "there isn't a
blamed thing in that paper!"
Lucyet looked up at him startled. Had
she heard aright? Then the color slowly
receded from her face and left it pale.
Silas was quite unconscious of having
made an unusual statement.
"Well, Lucyet," he went on, "going
to the Christian Endeavor to-night?"
"I don't know," she stammered.
"No," she added suddenly, "I am not."
All endeavor was a mockery to her stunned
"I dunno as I will either," he observed
carelessly as he lounged out.
It was nothing to her whether he went
or not, though once it might have been.
She sat still for some minutes after he had
gone, looking blankly at the paper. The
page which a few minutes ago had seemed
fairly to glow with interest had become
mere columns of print concerning trivial
things; for an instant she saw it with
Silas's eyes. John Thomas came limping
for his mail. He had been detained on
the way, he explained, and was late. She
handed him his paper through the window,
dully, indifferently. She was suffering a
measure of that disappointment which
comes with what we have grown to believe
attainment, and is so much more bitter
than that of failure. But the revolt against
this unnatural state of mind came before
long. The elasticity of her own enthusiasm
reasserted itself. It could not be
that there was nothing in her poem. She
read the lines over again. Two or three
were not quite what they ought to be,
somehow; but the rest of them the world
would lay hold of,—that big sympathetic
world which knew so much more than
When the hour came to close the office
at noon, she locked the drawer and passed
out of the door to the footpath with a
sense of triumph under the habitual shyness
of her manner. She still shrank from
the publicity she had achieved, but she
was conscious of an undercurrent of desire
that her achievement, since it was real,
should be recognized.
When the old postmaster died, leaving
Lucyet, his only child, alone in the world,
and interest in official quarters had procured
for her the appointment in her
father's place, a home had also been offered
her at Miss Flood's; and it was thither
that Lucyet now went for her noonday
meal. Miss Delia Flood was of most
kindly disposition and literary tastes.
That these tastes were somewhat prescribed
in their manifestation was no
witness against their genuineness. It
must be confessed that Miss Delia's
preference was for the sentimental,—though
she would have modestly shrunk
from hearing it thus baldly stated,—and,
naturally, for poetry above prose. The
modern respect for "strength" in literature
would have impressed her most painfully
had she known of it. The mind turns
aside from the contemplation of the effect
that a story or two of Kipling's would
have produced upon her could she have
grasped their vocabulary; she would
probably have taken to her bed in sheer
fright, as she did in a thunderstorm.
Poetry of the heart and emotions, which
never verged, even most distantly, upon
what her traditions and her susceptibilities
told her was the indecorous, satisfied her
highest demands, and the less said about
nature, except by way of an occasional
willow, or the sad, sweet scent of a
jasmine flower, the better. Miss Delia
had fostered Lucyet's love for literature;
and it was to Miss Delia that Lucyet
hastened with the great news of the publication
of her poem. It was for this acute
pleasure that she had hitherto kept the
knowledge of her attempt from her,—and,
too, that her joy might be full, and that
she would not have to suffer the alternating
phases of hope and fear through which
Lucyet herself had passed.
As she entered the room where dinner
stood on the table and Miss Delia waited
to eat it with her, she suppressed the
trembling excitement which threatened to
make itself visible in her manner now
that the words were upon her very lips.
They seated themselves at the table.
Miss Delia was small and wiry and grave,
and never spilled anything on the tablecloth
"Miss Delia," said Lucyet, "I've
written a poem."
Her companion looked at her and
smiled a shrewd little smile. "I've
guessed as much before now," she said.
"But," said Lucyet, laying down her
knife and fork, "it has been printed."
"Printed, child!" exclaimed Miss
Delia, almost dropping hers. At last
the cup of satisfaction was at Lucyet's
lips; at least she had not overestimated
the purport of the event to one human
"Printed," repeated Lucyet, smiling
softly. "Here it is in the paper."
Miss Delia pushed aside her plate,
seized the paper, and, opening it, searched
its columns. She had not to look long;
there was but one poem. Lucyet watched
with shining eyes. This is what it meant;
this was the realization of her dreams—to
see the reader pass over the rest of the
page as trivial, to be arrested with spellbound
interest at the word "Spring," to
know that the words that held that absorbed
attention were her words—her own.
As Miss Delia read, gradually her expression
changed; from eagerness it faded
into perplexity. Lucyet watched her
breathlessly, her hands clasped, her thin
arms and somewhat angular elbows resting
on the coarse tablecloth. From perplexity
Miss Delia's look was chilled into
what the observant girl recognized, with
a dull pain at her heart, as disappointment.
Lucyet averted her gaze to a dish
of ill-shaped boiled potatoes; there was no
need of watching longer the face opposite.
Miss Delia read it all through again,
dwelling on certain lines, which she indicated
by her forefinger, with special attention;
then she looked up timidly.
She met Lucyet's unsmiling eyes for a
moment; then she, too, looked away,
hurriedly, helplessly, to the dish of boiled
"I'm sure it is very nice—very nice
indeed, Lucyet," she said.
"But you don't like it," said Lucyet.
"Oh, yes, I do," poor Miss Delia hastened
to say. "I do like it; the rhymes
are in the right places, and all, and it looks
so nice in the
she pulled her plate back again, and Lucyet
did the same. "I'm proud of you,
Lucyet," she went on with a forced little
smile, "that you can write real poetry like
"But what if it isn't real poetry?"
The doubt was wrung from her by the
overwhelming bitterness of her disappointment.
A rush of tears was smarting behind
her rather inexpressive eyes; but she
held them back. Miss Delia was thoroughly
distressed. She put aside her own
"But it must be," she argued eagerly,
"or they wouldn't have printed it."
Lucyet shook her head as she forced
herself to eat a morsel of bread. How
unconvincing sounded the argument from
another's lips! and yet she knew now that
secretly it had carried with it more weight
than she had realized. Miss Delia glanced
apprehensively at the folded paper as it lay
on the table. She herself was disappointed,
deeply disappointed; she had expected
much, and this,—why, this was,
most of it, just what any one could find
out for herself. But she must say something
more. Lucyet's patient silence as
she went on with her dinner, never raising
the eyes which had so shone when she first
spoke, demanded speech from her more
urgently than louder claims.
"I suppose I thought perhaps there
would be more about—about misfortune,
and scattered leaves, and dells,"—poor
Miss Delia smiled deprecatingly, while she
felt wildly about for more tangible reminiscences
of her favorite poets, that she
might respond to the unuttered questioning
of Lucyet,—"and"—she dropped her
"I don't know anything about dells
and lovers," said Lucyet, simply; "how
Miss Delia started a little. It had never
occurred to her that one must know about
things personally in order to write poetry
about them. If it had, she would never
have dreamed of mentioning lovers.
"No, of course not," she said hastily;
"but writing about a thing isn't like
knowing about it."
Lucyet was not experienced enough to
detect any fallacy in this, and she dumbly
"You have in all the grass and trees
and—and such things as you have in—very
nicely, I'm sure," went on Miss
Delia; "only next time"—and she
smiled brightly—"next time you must
put in what we don't see every day—like
islands and reefs and such things. I know
you could write a beautiful poem about a
reef—a coral reef."
Lucyet tried to smile hopefully in return,
but the attempt was a failure. She
had finished her dinner, and she longed to
get away; she was so hurt that she must
be alone to see how it was to be borne.
She helped Miss Delia clear the table and
wash the dishes, almost in silence. Two
or three times they exchanged words on
indifferent subjects; Miss Delia asked who
had had letters, and Lucyet told her, but
it was hard work for both. When it was
over, Lucyet paused in the doorway, putting
on her straw hat to go back to the
Miss Delia stood a moment irresolute,
and then stepped to her side. "Lucyet,"
she said, her voice trembling, "I don't
understand it exactly. It isn't like the
poetry I've been used to. There are
things in it that I don't know what they
mean. To be sure, that's so with all
poetry that we do like,"—the tears were
in her eyes; it is not an easy thing to disappoint
one's best friend and to be conscious
of it,—"but it isn't like what I
thought it was going to be, just about
what we see out of the window. But it's
my fault, just as likely as not,"—she laid
her hand on Lucyet's arm,—"that's what
I want to say; you mustn't take it to heart—just
's likely 's not, it's my fault."
Miss Delia did not believe a word of
what she was saying, which made it difficult
for her to articulate; but she was making
a brave effort in her sensitive loyalty.
"I know," said Lucyet, gently; "but I
guess it isn't your fault;" and she slipped
out to the road on her way to the post-office.
Miss Delia went back, picked up
the paper, and, seating herself at the window,
she read "Spring" all through again,
word by word; then she laid it aside again,
shaking her head sadly.
Lucyet went quietly behind her little
window. Her disappointment amounted
to actual physical pain. She found no
comfort, as a wiser person might have
done, in certain of Miss Delia's expressions;
she only realized that her best
friend and her most generous critic could
find nothing good in what she had done.
Her duty this afternoon was only to make
up the mail for the down train; then her
time was her own till the next mail train
came up at half-past five. At two o'clock
she closed the office again and started on a
long walk. She longed for the comfort of
the solitary hillsides, where warm patches
of sunlight lay at the foot of ragged stone
walls, and there were long stretches of
plain and meadow to be looked over, and
rolling hills to comfort the soul. As she
climbed a hill just before the place where
a weedy untravelled road turned off from
the highway leading between closely
growing underbrush and stone walls,
where now and then a shy bird rustled
suddenly and invisibly among last year's
dried leaves, she saw three countrymen
standing by the wayside and talking
with as near an approach to earnestness
as ever visits the colloquies of
the ordinary unemotional New Englander.
One of them held a copy of the "Daily
Chronicle," gesturing with it somewhat
jerkily as he spoke.
For a moment the hope that it is hard
to make away with revived in Lucyet's
breast. Were they talking of the poem,
she wondered, with a certain weary interest.
She dreaded a fresh disappointment
so keenly that it pained her to speculate
much on the chance of it. It was not
impossible that they were saying such
meaningless stuff ought never to have
been printed. As the pale girl drew near
with the plodding, patient step which so
often proclaims that walking is not a
pleasure, but a necessity, of country life,
the men did not lower their voices, which
she heard distinctly as she passed.
"Wal, I tell you, 't was that," said one
of them. "He didn't live more'n a little
time after he took it."
"Mebbe he wouldn't have lived anyhow."
"Wal, mebbe he wouldn't. 'T ain't
for me to say," responded the first speaker,
evincing a certain piety, which, however,
was not to be construed as at variance with
his first statement.
"Wal, 't wa'n't this he took, was it?"
demanded the man with the "Chronicle,"
waving it wildly.
"Wal, no, 't wa'n't," responded the
other, reasonably. The third member of
the party maintained an air of not being in
a position to judge, and regarded Lucyet
stolidly as she approached.
"Do, Lucyet?" he observed, unnoticed
of the other two.
"I tell you this'll cure him. It'll cure
anybody. Just read them testimonies,"—and
he pressed the paper into the other's
meagre hand. "Read that one, 'Rheumatiz
of thirty years' standin',—it'll
Lucyet went on up the hill, and turned
into the weedy road. She had not a keen
sense of the ridiculous. It did not strike
her as funny that they should have been
discussing a patent medicine instead of the
verses on "Spring;" but her shrinking
sense of defeat was deepened, and she
felt, with an unconscious resentment, that
most people cared very little about poetry.
She wondered, without bitterness, and with
a saddened distrust of her own power, if
she could write an advertisement. Once
within the precincts of the tangled road,
her disquieted soul rejoiced in the freedom
from observation. She felt as bruised and
sore from the unsympathetic contact of her
world as if it had been a larger one; and
with the depression had come a startled
sense of the irrevocableness of what she
had done. Those printed words seemed
so swift, so tangible. They would go so
far, and afford such opportunity for the
grasp of indifference, of ridicule! If she
could only have them again, spoken, perhaps,
Yet here, at least, where the enterprising
grass grew in the rugged cart track,
and the branches drooped impertinently
before the face of the wayfarer, no one but
herself need know that she was very near to
tears. And as she came out of the shut-in
portion of the road to a stretch of open
country, where the warm light lay on the
hillsides, and the air was sweetened by the
breath of pines, her depression gave way to
a keen sense of elation. She turned aside
and, crossing a bit of elastic, dry grass,
climbed to the top of the stone wall and
looked about her. Her heart throbbed
with confidence, doubly grateful for the
previous distrust. Her own lines came
back to her; it was this that somehow,
imperfectly, but somehow, she had put into
words. It was still spring, a late New
England spring, though the unseasonable
warmth of the day made it seem summer.
The landscape bore the coloring of autumn
rather than that of the earlier year. The
trees were red and brown and yellow in
their incipient leafage. Now and then,
among the sere fields, there was a streak
of vivid green, or a mound of rich brown,
freshly turned earth; but for the most part
they were bare. Here and there was the
crimson of a new maple; in the distance
were the reds and brown of new, not old,
life. Only the birds sang as they never
sing in autumn, a burst of clear, joyous
anticipation—the trill of the meadowlark,
the "sweet, sweet, piercing sweet"
of the flashing oriole, the call of the catbird,
and the melody of the white-bosomed
thrush. And here and there a fountain of
white bloom showed itself amid the sombreness
of the fields, a pear or cherry tree
decked from head to foot in bridal white,
like a bit of fleecy cloud dropped from the
floating masses above to the discouraged
earth; along the wayside the white stars
of the anemone, the wasteful profusion of
the eyebright, and the sweet blue of the
violet; and in solemn little clusters, the
curled up fronds of the ferns, uttering a
protest against longer imprisonment—let
wind and sun look out! they would uncurl
to-morrow! All these things set
the barely blossomed branches, the barely
clothed hillsides, at defiance. It was the
beginning, not the end, the promise, not
the regret—it was life, not death. Summer
was afoot, not winter.
It was worth a longer walk, that half
hour on the hillside; for it restored, in a
measure, her sense of enjoyment, and substituted
for the burden of defeat the exultation
of expression, however faulty and
however limited. But like other moods,
this one was temporary; and as she retraced
her steps and turned into the village
street, she felt again the lassitude which
follows the extinction of hope and the
inexorable narrowing of the horizon which
she had fancied extended.
It was usual for her at this hour to stop
at the tavern for the mail which might be
ready there, and herself take it to the post-office.
In midsummer this mail was quite
an important item, but at this time of year
it amounted to little; nevertheless, she
followed what had become the custom.
She found one of the daughters of
the house in the throes of composition.
"Oh, Lucyet," she exclaimed, "you
don't say that's you! I want this to go
to-night the worst way. Ain't you early?"
"Yes, I guess I am," said Lucyet, rather
"If you'll set on the piazzer and wait,
I'll finish up in just a minute. You see
we had to get dinner for two gentlemen as
came down to go fishin' to-morrer, and it
sorter put me back. I wish you'd wait."
"Well, I guess I can wait a few minutes,"
said Lucyet, the line between her
personal and her official capacity being
sometimes a difficult one to maintain
rigidly. She seated herself on the piazza,
not observing that she was just outside of
the window of the room within which the
two fishermen were smoking and talking
in a desultory fashion. Later their voices
fell idly on her ear, speaking a language
she only half understood, blending with
the few lazy sounds of the afternoon.
The conversation was really extremely
desultory, being chiefly maintained by the
younger man of the two, who lounged on
the sofa of unoriental luxury with a thorough-going
perversion of the maker's plan,—his
head being where his feet ought to
have been and his feet hanging over the
portion originally intended for the back of
his head. The other man wore the frown
of absorption as, a pencil in his hand, he
worried through some pages of manuscript.
"Oh, I say," observed the idler, "ain't
you 'most through slaughtering the innocents?
I want to take that walk."
"I told you half an hour ago that if I
could have a few uninterrupted minutes
I'd be with you," answered the other
man, without looking up. "They haven't
fallen in my way yet."
"It's pity that moves me to speech,"
rejoined the first speaker, rising and sauntering
to the window,—not that one outside
of which Lucyet was sitting,—"pity
for those young souls throbbing with the
consciousness of power who may have
forgotten to enclose a stamp for return. I
feel when I interrupt you as if I were
holding back the remorseless wheel of
His companion allowed this speculative
remark to pass without reply. The idler
sauntered back to the table.
"What'll you bet, now, before you go
any further, that it'll go into the waste-basket?"
"Stamped and addressed envelope enclosed,"
observed the patient editor, absently.
"Well, what odds will you give me of
its being not necessarily devoid of literary
merit, but unfitted for the special uses of
The other was still silent as he laid
aside another page.
"Half the time," continued the idler,
"to look at you, you wouldn't believe
that you speak the truth when you express
your thanks for the pleasure of reading
their manuscripts. It would seem that
that, too, was simulated."
The older man picked up a soft felt hat
and threw it across the room at his companion,
without taking his eyes from the
"Oh, well," went on the other, "I
can read the newspaper. I can read what
is printed, while you're reading what ought
to be. Of course you and I know the
things are never the same."
Picking up the paper, he resumed, approximately,
his former attitude, and applied
himself to its columns for a few moments
of silence. Outside Lucyet sat quietly,
her head resting against the white wooden
wall of the house; and the editor made a
mark or two.
"Now this is what the public want to
know," resumed the idler, with a gratuitous
air of having been pressed for his
opinion. "You editors have a ridiculous
way of talking about the public—"
"It strikes me that it is not I who have
been making myself ridiculous talking
"The public! You just tell the great
innocent public that you are giving them
the sort of thing they like, and half the
time they believe you, and half the time
they don't. Now this man"—and he
tapped the "Chronicle"—"knows an
"Which is more than you do," interpolated
the goaded man.
"'The frame for William Brown's
new house is up. William may be trusted
to finish as well as he has begun,'" read
the idler, imperturbably. "'Miss Sophie
Brown is visiting friends in Albany. The
boys will be glad to see her back.' 'Fruit
of all kinds will be scarce, though berries
will be abundant.'"
The older man stood up, his pencil in
his mouth. "Confound you, Richards!
Either you keep still or I go to my room
and lock the door."
"Oh, I'll keep still," said Richards, as
if it was the first time it had been suggested.
Again there was a silence.
The letter must be to Ada's young
man, who was doing a good business in
cash registers, it took so long to write it.
It was within five minutes of the time
Lucyet should be at the office. She
moved to leave the piazza, when a not
loud exclamation from Richards fell on
her ear with unusual distinctness.
"By Jove! I say, just listen to this."
The editor looked up threateningly, and
went back to his work again without a
"No, but really—it's quite in your
Lucyet had moved forward a step or
two, when she stood motionless. The
words that floated through the window
were her own. Richards had an unusually
sweet voice, and he was reading in a
way entirely different from that in which
he had rattled off the "personals."
There seemed a new sweetness in every
syllable; the warmth of the hillside,
the perfume of opening apple blossoms,
breathed between the lines. He read
slowly, and the words fell on the still air
that seemed waiting breathless to hear
them. When he finished, Lucyet was
leaning against the side of the house, her
hand on her heart, her eyes shining,—and
the editor was looking at the
"There," he concluded, "ain't there
something of the 'blackbird's tune and
the beanflower's boon' in that?"
"Copied, of course?" inquired the
"No. 'Written for the Daily Chronicle,'
and signed 'L.' Not bad, are they?
Of course I don't know," Richards
scoffed, "and the public wouldn't know
if it read them, but you know—"
"Read 'em again."
A second time, with increased expression,
half mischievous now in its fervor,
the lines on Spring fell in musical tones
from Richards's lips. Still Lucyet stood
breathless, her whole being thrilled with
an impulse of exultant, inexpressible delight,
listening as she had never listened
before. It was as if she stood in the
midst of a shining mist.
"She's got it in her, hasn't she?"
Richards added, after a pause.
"Yes," said his companion, slowly.
"She's got it in her fast enough;" and
he returned to his page of manuscript.
"Much good may it do her!" he added,
with weary cynicism.
Richards laughed, and pulled a pack of
cards out of his pocket. "I'll play solitaire,"
"Thank Heaven!" murmured the
Ada arrived breathless. "Here 'tis,"
said she. "Did you think I was never
comin'? You've got time enough; they
ain't very prompt. There ain't anythin'
the matter, is there?" she asked.
Lucyet took the letter mechanically.
"No," she said, "there isn't anything
As she went swiftly toward the little
post-office the rhythm of those lines was
in her ears; the assured, incisive tones of
that man's voice pulsed through her very
soul. She was conscious of no hope for
the future; she had no regret for the past;
the present was a glory. In that moment
Lucyet had taken a long, dizzying draught
from the cup of success.