The Goddess of Truth by Charles Weathers Bump
Not everybody was pleased among the many thousands who on September 12,
1906, saw the industrial parade with which Baltimore celebrated its
wonderful recovery from the blow given by the great fire of 1904. Tobias
Greenfield, head of a Lexington-street department store, was one who was
not. He was angry, violently so. He had been in a chipper mood all
morning and had enjoyed watching the long line from the windows of a
bedecorated wholesale house on Baltimore street. But when his eyes
alighted on the float of his own firm, the anger came. And the longer it
stayed with him, the worse it grew, especially as he could not escape
the prodding of the friends who had invited him to their warehouse.
When he could decently slip away from them he went to his office and
peremptorily called for his advertising manager.
"What the devil do you mean, Melvale," he shouted, "by putting such a
scrawny little girl on our float as the Goddess? She looked a fright in
the clothes made for Miss Preston, and everyone is laughing at us. Why
was not Miss Preston there? How came you to make such a mess?"
The advertising man was nervous under the volley of questions, but he
explained at length. Boiled down, it was plain he could give only one
reason why the float had been such a mess.
And that reason was William Henry Montgomery.
Miss Preston had been willing to be the Goddess, as planned, but William
Henry Montgomery said no. And that settled it.
And who was William Henry Montgomery? Why, Miss Preston loved William
You see, down on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where Maude Preston and
William Henry Montgomery were to the manor born, they had sought each
other's company so assiduously and for so long that in the length and
breadth of Accomac—from Chincoteague to Great Machipongo—every man and
woman regarded it as a sure thing that Maude and William Henry would hit
it off for a marriage. And they had talked, as people will, about their
being an ideal couple, so well suited—William Henry broad-shouldered
and solidly knit and Maude molded on classic Diana's lines, erect and
queenly, but sweet to look upon. The women thought William Henry a
fine-looking lad, while men and women alike regarded Maude as the
handsomest creature on the Peninsula below the Maryland line.
And then one day there had been a quarrel. Maude thought a bit of
William Henry's advice too assertive, too near to an injunction to obey,
and had flared up. And William Henry had flared up likewise. And when
the two came to count the cost, William Henry was moodily filling a job
in a cousin's lumber-yard in Philadelphia, while Maude, unknown to
William Henry, had come to Baltimore to remove herself and her
heart-wound from the well-meant, but too gossipy, neighbors in Accomac.
It was a matter of only a few months before she was the best-liked
saleswoman in Greenfield & Jacobs' big store. From Mr. Greenfield down
to the rawest cash girl all were glad to exchange a word with her,
because there was something delightful in Maude's way of expressing even
trivialities, and an especial joy in hearing her talk about "you all"
and call a car "kyar," a girl "giurl" and other idioms peculiar to
Tidewater Virginians. Besides that, she was too good-looking altogether
to be passed without notice. The elevator boys were both in love with
her, and their seniors—whether clerks, floor-walkers, salesmen or
owners—would walk two aisles out of the way any time to pass by Miss
Preston at the counter where she disposed of bolts of ribbon. But best
of all was the regard which her scores of girl associates had for her.
They liked her because they saw she made no effort to seek or to foster
the attentions which the masculines of the store thrust upon her. They
liked her, too, for the individuality and perfect neatness she showed in
her dress, from the bows of ribbon on her short sleeves to the set of
her skirts or the way her waists were arranged at the belt. As for her
hair, eight-ninths of the store, being the feminine portion, envied its
beautiful wave, and two-ninths mustered up courage to ask Maude how she
managed to keep it so splendidly. And the two-ninths, being told, let
the other six-ninths into the secret. Thus it was, in Greenfield &
Jacobs', that the Maude wave became more popular than the one named
And all the while Maude quietly went on thinking of William Henry. She
heard about him sometimes in letters from Accomac, and knew that he was
still in Philadelphia. And there were hours when she fought the
temptation to write to him there, and humbly tell him that she had been
wrong to grow angry with him. Perhaps he had forgotten her and was
having a good time—she recoiled from the thought, and yet it would come
now and then. And when it came, Maude had spells of the "blues" that she
found hard to conceal from her new-made friends at the department store
and in her boarding-house on Arlington avenue.
Greenfield & Jacobs was one of the first retail firms to take up the
notion of having a float in the Jubilee parade. And, having once decided
to exhibit, they went at the preparations with characteristic
thoroughness. "Let us do it right," said Jacobs to Greenfield. "Let us
spare no expense to have a car so beautiful that all Baltimore will
remember it as one of the hits of the parade. Let it be chaste and
symbolic, and not overloaded with bunting and people."
The head of the firm had the same thought. "We have always tried to tell
the truth to our customers," he rejoined. "Why not try to bring that
fact home to thousands by a float on which a handsome Goddess of Truth
will be giving a laurel crown to our firm?"
"Capital!" exclaimed Jacobs. "And Miss Preston can be the Goddess."
"I had her in mind when I proposed it," remarked Greenfield.
And both men laughed.
Neither partner was up on mythology, so they turned over to Melvale, the
advertising man, the duty of working out the details of the float. Now,
Melvale wasn't literary, either; but he knew an obliging young woman at
the Pratt Library, and he hied himself to her to ask who under Heaven
was the Goddess of Truth and how was she dressed. And the obliging young
woman looked up encyclopedias and finally handed Melvale an illustrated
copy of Spenser's "Faerie Queene." Melvale had never heard of Spenser,
and he had an idea that Spenser spelled his title badly, not even
according to the simplified method of Roosevelt and Carnegie. But he
took the book and read of the beautiful, pure and trustful Una, the
personification of Truth, the beloved of the Red Cross Knight. And when
he looked at the pictures he began to grow enthusiastic over the float.
"By George!" he exclaimed. "Miss Preston will look great in that Greek
And Melvale sketched the float as it afterward grew into being at the
hands of carpenters, painters and decorators at the old car shed on
Pennsylvania avenue. There was, first of all, a beautiful little model
of Greenfield & Jacobs' new store, about three feet high, over the
corner dome of which the charming Goddess, bending forward, was about
to place the laurel crown suggested by Greenfield. Behind her were
finely modeled figures of the lion and the lamb which are devoted
followers of Una. It was artistic; it was symbolic; it was chaste. There
was no word of advertising save the neatly lettered inscription:
The Truth stands by us.
We stand by the Truth.
It was a harder task than either partner imagined to win the consent of
Miss Preston to be a goddess for a few brief hours. She was not the sort
of girl to like conspicuousness or notoriety, and she flatly refused
when the float was first brought to her attention. Then they pleaded
with her. Jacobs told her how much she would be helping the firm if she
would only agree to oblige them. Greenfield promised to have the finest
of Greek gowns made in the store's dressmaking department. And Melvale,
clever man, deftly told her how beautiful and good Una was supposed to
be, and mildly intimated that there was no other young woman in
Baltimore who could possibly fill the bill on that float. Ultimately
Miss Preston's scruples were overcome.
And into the preparations she entered with pleasing enthusiasm. Melvale
took her several times to the shed to see the float materialize, and
stopped each morning at the ribbon counter to tell her about details.
The whole store told her a thousand times how glad each was that she was
to be the Goddess. Greenfield did as he promised about the costume—and
never was Greek gown made of more beautiful white goods, or more
exquisitely and perfectly fitted. Maude read Spenser's poem, more
understandingly than had Melvale, and the Goddess of Truth so completely
filled her mind during those summer weeks that William Henry Montgomery
was almost obscured except when she dreamed how she would like him to
see her triumph.
At last came the day of the parade. Melvale, always fertile with
expedients, had arranged with Townsend, floor-walker on the fourth
floor, who lived on Fulton avenue just where the big parade was to form,
that the Goddess Maude might array herself in her finery at his home.
Bright and early that morning he sent a carriage for Miss Preston, and
ordered the float to be at Townsend's curb by 9 o'clock. The beautiful
gown and its accessories, laid away in soft tissue paper, were brought
from the Lexington-street store, and a couple of the girls from the
dressmaking department were on hand to aid the final making of a
Maude would not have been a woman had she not taken her time to get into
such finery, and Melvale began to grow nervous as the parade hour grew
near. The street was in confusion with the gathering of floats and men
and curious crowds of onlookers. The chief marshal of the procession,
Col. William A. Boykin, had warned him that the line was to move on
time, and already there were signs of a start. Five times he dived into
the hallway of Townsend's home and called agonizingly upstairs to know
if Miss Preston was ready.
Finally she came. And Melvale held his breath as the beauty of the girl
burst upon him, even in the half-light of the hall. While it concealed
some of the lines of her figure, the gown accentuated her erect, queenly
carriage. Her exquisitely molded arms and her full, round throat had
been powdered, a bit or two of rouge had heightened the charm of her
face and a touch of black had increased the brilliancy of her eyes,
already flashing with the excitement of the moment. There was a
tremulous curve to her lips as she glanced at Melvale to note whether he
was pleased with her appearance.
"The goddess of men, as well as of truth," he murmured as he bent over
and gallantly kissed her hand. Una's flush heightened, but she was
pleased with the compliment.
Melvale opened the door and the goddess in white passed out into the
morning sunlight on Fulton avenue.
And as she did so she gave a faint scream of surprise.
For there, on the sidewalk, was William Henry Montgomery, her Red Cross
William Henry was as much surprised as the damsel Una. He had no idea
that Maude was nearer to him than Accomac, and he was in Baltimore for
the day merely to mingle with the holiday crowds and perhaps encounter
some Eastern Shore friend from whom he might learn news of her. His
presence on Fulton avenue was due to the identical reason as that which
inspired thousands of others curious to see the start of a big parade.
When he saw Maude come out of the doorway, a vision in white, he thought
for a moment he had gone insane and was having a hallucination. Then he
reflected that it could not possibly be Maude Preston in Baltimore and
wearing such theatrical clothes on the street in broad daylight. Then he
looked again and was certain it was Maude. Besides, hadn't she
recognized him and put out her arm to steady herself against the arch of
"Maude!" he exclaimed, simply, as he hurried up the marble steps.
"Bill Henry!" she cried, faintly.
She held out her hands and he took them.
"I've been sorry a long time, Bill Henry," she said.
"And I, too, sweetheart."
He would have kissed her in complete reconciliation, but Maude was
conscious of the crowd on the street. "Don't, Bill Henry," she whispered
as she laughed, flushed and tenderly pushed him away. He held on to both
Melvale, in the vestibule behind, had stood petrified as the incident
developed. He was wise enough to understand that a reconciliation of
lovers was in progress. Their words, and, above all, the ardency of
their glances betrayed that.
From down Fulton avenue came the sound of a great bell. The parade had
started. "Hurry," said Melvale, "you must take your position, Miss
"Take your position, Maude?" asked William Henry calmly, ignoring
"Yes, Bill Henry," said his sweetheart, hurriedly; "I'm to be the
Goddess of Truth on that float there."
William Henry turned and looked at the float. Then he stood off a step
or two and studied Maude's make up. "I've never seen you look
handsomer," he said, slowly, "but somehow you don't seem natural. I'd
rather have met you again when you were not so full of paint and powder.
I loved you always just as you were, without fancy fixings."
The bell was getting farther away.
"Come, Miss Preston," urged Melvale. "We will have to hurry."
For the first time William Henry recognized the presence of Melvale.
"She ain't going, Mister," declared William Henry, ungrammatically, but
"Not going!" screamed Melvale.
"Oh! Bill," stammered Maude, "they've gone to such a lot of expense and
trouble! And they've been so kind to me!"
"I don't care," returned William Henry. "Down in Accomac we don't like
this theatre business for girls we love, and I tell you I am not going
to see you in that parade, showing yourself off to all Baltimore and
thousands more, too. Who knows how many people are here from down home?
If you want this notoriety and fuss, Maude," he went on sternly, "I can
A tear made its way out of Maude's eyes and threatened the rouge on her
"Come, Miss Preston," said Melvale.
"No, no; I can't go against what Bill wants," she said, feebly; "not
Melvale saw that he faced a serious business dilemma. Cupid had butt in
at the wrong moment. It was necessary for Greenfield & Jacobs to be in
that parade, and he had about six minutes to get the float in line. As
he put it in his report to Mr. Greenfield, "There wasn't any use wasting
time trying to persuade Miss Preston with that hulking big Eastern
Shoreman menacing me. I had to let her do as William Henry wanted,
without bandying words. At the same time I had to find another Goddess
in a hurry. That's how I came to make use of Townsend's daughter."
"Was that thin girl Townsend's daughter?" asked Greenfield.
"There isn't any cause to be hard on the girl, Mr. Greenfield. She's not
so thin, and she is good looking and with a sweet expression. You put
any girl in clothes not made for her—just jump her into 'em without any
time for those little tricks that women know so well how to do—and
she's sure to feel a guy. And if she feels a guy, she's going to look
it. Why, it took those two girls just six minutes to transfer that
goddess rig from Miss Preston to Miss Townsend. She didn't have time to
powder, and she didn't have time to dab on paint, and, besides, she had
had no rehearsals. That's why she was so pale."
"And where did you leave Miss Preston and her mentor?"
"Sitting on the sofa in Townsend's parlor, wondering if they could get a
license to be married today, it being a holiday."
"Mr. Melvale," directed Mr. Greenfield, "I want you to find them again,
just as quick as you can, and if they are not already tied up I want you
to help them do it in the most handsome style possible in a hurry.
Reward Miss Townsend nicely, but get that gown from her and make a
present of it to the girl it was made for. She might like to have it for
a wedding gown. And as you go out, tell Mr. Stricker to send the bride
the handsomest thing he can find in the glass and china department."
"Miss Preston'll appreciate all that. I think she's sorry she couldn't
help you out. She has certainly missed a fine chance of being a
"You're wrong, Melvale; you're wrong! That girl doesn't need a Greek
gown and a float and a parade to make her a goddess."
"William Henry don't think so, sir."