The Book of the Funny Smells—and Everything
by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott
It was Carol who invented the Book. He didn't mean any harm.
I helped him.
We called it "The Book of the Funny Smells—and Everything."
It was one Tuesday noon coming home from school that we stopped the Lady
on the street.
She was a very interesting looking lady. She looked like all sorts of
different-colored silk roses. And a diamond brooch.
"Excuse us, Madam," I said. "But we are making a book! And we have
decided to begin it with you! If you were a Beautiful Smell instead of a
Beautiful Lady,—what Beautiful Smell in the Whole Wide World would you
choose to be?"
The lady reeled back against the wall of the Post Office. And put on a
gold eyeglass to support her.
"Merciful Impudences!" she said. "What new kind of census is this?"
We knew what a "census" was.
"No! It isn't that at all!" I explained. "This is something important."
Carol showed her the book. He showed her the pencil he was going to
write the book with.
"When it's all done," I explained, "everybody will want to read it!"
"I can well believe it," said the Lady. She looked at Carol. Everybody
looks at Carol.
"Who are you children, anyway?" she said.
"My name is Ruthy," I explained. "And this is my brother Carol."
She began to look at Carol all over again. She reached out and shook him
by the shoulder.
"Dumbness!" she said. "Why let Sister do all the talking?"
My stomach felt pretty queer.
"My brother Carol can't talk," I explained. "He is dumb!"
The Lady turned very red.
"Oh dear—Oh dear—Oh dear," she said. She opened her purse. She took
out a dollar bill. "Surely something could be done about it!" she said.
"We are not looking for money," I explained. "We are perfectly rich. We
have warm underalls. And two parents. And an older sister. We have a
tame coon. And a tame crow. Our Father could paint the house any Autumn
he wanted to if he'd rather do it than plant Tulips."
The Lady looked at her watch. It was a bright blue watch no bigger than
a violet is.
"This is all very interesting," she said. "But at the obnoxious hotel
which you run in this village dinner is at twelve o'clock and if I'm
not there at exactly that moment there will not be another dinner, I
suppose, until twelve o'clock the next day. So——"
"Probably not," I said. "So if you don't feel timid at all about walking
out with strangers, my brother Carol and I will walk home to the Hotel
with you and write our book as we go."
The Lady bit herself. She bit herself in the lip. She began to walk very
Carol walked very fast on one side of her. I walked very fast on the
other. Carol carried the book. He carried it wide open so as to be all
ready any moment. I carried the pencil.
"Can you tell me," said the Lady, "just why you and your brother have
picked upon me as the first victim of your most astonishing
"Because you are the only Lady we ever saw in our lives that we didn't
know who she was!" I explained. "And that makes it more interesting!"
"O—h," said the Lady. She gave a queer little gasp. It was the Hotel
happening! She ran up the hotel steps. There was a Gentleman waiting for
her at the top of the steps. He was a tall Gentleman with a very cross
mustache. The Lady whispered something to him. He shook his mustache at
"Get out of here, you Young Scamps!" he cried. "Get out of here, I say!
No one had ever shaken his mustache at us before. We sat down on the
step to think about it.
The Gentleman ran off to call the Hotel Proprietor.
The Lady looked a little sorry. She came running back. She stooped down.
She took the book from Carol. And the pencil from me. She laughed a
"You funny—funny children," she said. "What is it you want to know?
The Most Beautiful Smell in the whole wide world,—is that it?—The Most
Beautiful Smell in the whole wide world?" She looked back over her
shoulder. She wrote very fast. Her cheeks looked pink. She banged the
book together just the first second she had finished. She pulled my ear.
"I'm—I'm sorry," she said.
"Oh, that's all right," I assured her. "We'll be round and write the
rest of the book some other day!"
The Man with the Cross Mustache kept right on hunting all around.
When the Hotel Proprietor came running and saw who we were he gave us
two oranges instead, and a left-over roll of wall-paper with parrots on
it, and all the old calendars that were in his desk.
We had to race home across the railroad trestle to get there in time. It
wasn't till we reached the Blacksmith Shop that we had a chance to stop
and see what the Lady had written in our book. There was a Smoke Tree
just outside the Blacksmith Shop. It was all in smoke. We sat down under
it and opened our book.
This is what the Lady had written in our book.
The most beautiful smell in the world is the smell of an old
tattered baseball glove—that's been lying in the damp
grass—by the side of a brook—in June Time.
I looked at Carol. Carol looked at me. We felt surprised. It wasn't
exactly what you would have expected. Carol rolled over on his stomach.
He clapped his heels in the air. He pounded his fists in the grass.
We forgot all about going home. We went into the Blacksmith's Shop
instead. It was a very earthy place. But nothing grew there. Not grass.
Not flowers. Not even vines. Just Junk!
The Blacksmith's name was Jason. He looked something like a Stove that
could be doubled up in its stomach and carried round to all four corners
of a horse for the horse to put his foot on. He was making shoes for a
very stout black horse. The horse's name was Ezra. There were a great
many sparks around! And iron noises! And flames! And smouches! Ezra's
hoofs seemed to be burning! It smelt so funny we didn't think it would
be polite to ask Jason what he'd rather smell like instead! So we
decided to begin the other way about. But whatever way you decided you
had to scream it.
"Jason," I screamed. "If you were a Beautiful Sound instead of a
Beautiful Blacksmith, what Beautiful Sound in the whole wide world would
you choose to be?"
"Eh?" screamed Jason. He stopped hammering. He stopped thumping. He
stopped boiling poor Ezra's hoof with a red hot poker. "Eh?" he said
all over again. "Well, that's a new one on me! What's the Big Idea?"
"Well—I want to know," said Jason. He sat down on a great block of
wood. He wiped his sleeve on his face. It made his sleeve all black. "If
I was a Sound—?" he said. "Instead of a Man?—Instead of a man?" It
seemed to puzzle him a good deal. "Not to be a man—any more you mean?
No arms? Legs? Stomach? Eyes?—To get all worn out and busted stayin' on
forever in one place? And then thrung away?—But to be just a—just a
Sound?—Just a Sound? Well, of all the comical ideas! Of all the——"
Then quite suddenly he whacked his hand down in a great black smouch on
his knee and clanged his feet like dungeon chains across a clutter of
horseshoes. "I've got it!" he cried. "I've got it!—If I was a Sound
instead of a man I'd choose to be a Song!—Not great loud band-tunes, I
mean, that nobody could play unless he was hired! And charged tickets!
But some nice—pretty little Song—floatin' round all soft and easy on
ladies' lips and in men's hearts. Or tinklin' out as pleasant as you
please on moonlight nights from mandolin strings and young folks
sparkin'. Or turnin' up just as likely as not in some old guy's whistle
on the top of one of these 'ere omnibuses in London Town. Or travellin'
even in a phonograph through the wonders of the great Sahara Desert.
Something all simple—I mean that you could hum without even botherin'
with the words. Something people would know who you was even if there
wasn't any words!—Something all sweet and low——'Sweet and Low,'
that's it! My Mother used to sing it! I hain't thought of it for forty
years! That's the one I mean!"
"Sweet and Low"—he began to sing.
Sweet and low—Sweet and low—
Wind of the Western Sea——
His voice was all deep and full of sand like the way a bass drum makes
you feel in your stomach. I looked at Carol. Carol looked at me. We felt
pretty surprised. Jason the Blacksmith looked more surprised than
anyone! But he kept right on singing!
Over the rolling waters go—
Come from the—the something—moon and blow—
While my little one—while my pretty one—sleeps.
Father will come to his babe in the nest—
S-silvery—something—all out of the West—
When we got to the Smoke Tree and looked back there was no sound at all
in the Blacksmith Shop except the sound of Ezra thumping his hoofs. And
Jason being a Song instead of a man!
The faster we ran the more surprised we felt.
When you read a book, of course, you expect to be surprised. If you
didn't think the person who made the book was going to tell you
something that you didn't know before you wouldn't bother to read it.
But when you're writing a book it doesn't seem exactly as though so
many unexpected things ought to happen to you!
We were pretty glad when we ran right into the Old Minister who preaches
sometimes when all the young ministers can't think of anything more to
The Old Minister was leaning against the Bridge. The Old Lawyer was
leaning against the Bridge with him. They were waving their canes. And
their long white beards. And arguing about the "Thirty-Nine
Articles."—Carol thinks it was the "Fifty-Seven Varieties" they were
arguing about. But the "Fifty-Seven Varieties" I'm almost sure is
Pickles. It's the "Thirty-Nine Articles" that is Arguments!
The Old Minister laughed when he saw us coming. "Well—Well—Well!" he
cried. "See who's here! And carrying such a big book too! And all out
of breath!" He put his arm round Carol. I thought he was going to ask us
our Catechisms. And there wasn't any breath left in our catechisms.
"Oh, if you were a Beautiful Sound," I gasped, "instead of a Beautiful
Preacher—what Beautiful Sound in the whole wide world—would you—would
you choose to be?"
"Eh?" said the Old Minister. "Eh?—What's—that? A—A—Sound instead of
a Preacher? Well, upon my word!—This minute, you mean? Or any minute?
If I was a Beautiful Sound instead of——?" He mopped his forehead. He
looked pretty hot. He twinkled his eyes at the Old Lawyer. "Well—just
this minute," he said, "I'd rather be the Sound of Foaming Beer than
anything else in the world that I can think of!" He thumped his cane on
the ground. The Old Lawyer thumped his cane on the ground. They both
started off down the road thumping as they walked. We heard them
chuckling as they thumped. They weren't arguing any more about the
"Thirty-Nine Articles." They were arguing about Cheese.
And that was surprising too!
There wasn't any dinner left when we got home except just knives and
forks and spoons. My Mother found us two bowls to go with the spoons.
And some milk to go with the bowls. And some crackers to go with the
milk. Everything went very well.
We told my Mother we were sorry to be late but that we were writing a
book and it was very important.
My Mother said yes,—she knew that writing books was very important and
had always noticed that people who wrote 'em were very apt to be late to
things. Her only regret, she said, was that Carol and I hadn't had a
little more time in which to form habits of promptness before we began
on such a chronic career as Literature.
My Father said "Stuff and Nonsense!" My Father said that if we'd kindly
condescend to tear ourselves away from the Charms of Literature for one
brief afternoon he'd like to have us weed the Tulip Bed.
We said we would.
We forgot all about our book. It isn't that pulling up weeds is any
special fun. It's the putting flowers back that you've pulled up by
mistake that is such a Game in itself. You have to make little splints
for them out of Forsythia twigs. You have to build little collars of
pebble-stone all around them to keep marauding beetles from eating up
their wiltedness. You have to bring them medicine-water from the brook
instead of from the kitchen—so that nobody will scream and say, "Oh,
what have you done now?—Oh, what have you done now?"
It was Supper Time before we knew it. There was creamed chicken for
supper. And wild strawberry preserve. And a letter from our sister
Rosalee. Our sister Rosalee is in Cuba visiting her Betrother. She wrote
seven pages about it. She seemed to like her Betrother very much.
My Mother cried a little. My Father said "Oh, Pshaw! Oh, Pshaw! You
can't keep 'em babies forever!" My Mother tried not to look at my
Father's eyes. She looked at his feet instead. When she looked at his
feet instead she saw that there were holes in his slippers. She seemed
very glad. She ran and got a big needle. And a big thread. My Father had
to sit very still.
It seemed a very good time to remember about the Book.
Carol went and got the Book. He put it down on the Dining Room table. It
was a gray book with a red back to it. It said "Lanos Bryant" across the
back of it. It was Lanos Bryant who had given us the book. Lanos Bryant
was the Butcher. It was an old Account Book. The front of it was all
mixed up with figurings. It was in the back of it that we were making
My Mother looked up. She smiled at us.
"Why, bless my heart," she said, "we mustn't forget about the children's
"No such luck," said my Father.
Everybody smiled a little.
"What's the Book about?" said my Mother.
I looked at Carol. Carol looked at me. He nudged me to go on.
"It's about You!" I said. "And about Father! And about Jason the
Blacksmith! And about the Old Preacher. And about most anybody I guess
that would like to be About-ed!"
"Well—Well—Well," said my Mother. "And what is it for?"
"Oh, it's just for fun," I said. "But it's very important.—Just the
first instant anybody reads it he'll know all there is to know about
everybody without ever having to go and make calls on them! Everything
interesting about them I mean! Everything that really matters! Lots of
things that nobody would have guessed!"
"Mercy!" said my Mother. She stopped mending my Father and jumped right
My Father jumped right up too!
"Oh, it isn't written yet!" I said. "It's only just begun!"
"O—h," said my Mother. And sat down again.
"We though maybe you and Father would help us," I said.
"O—h," said my Father. And sat down again too.
Carol began to laugh. I don't know why he laughed.
"It's—it's just a set of questions," I explained.
Carol opened the Book and found the questions.
"Just five or six questions," I explained. "All you have to do is to
answer the questions—and tell us how to spell it perhaps.—And then
that makes the Book!"
"It certainly sounds simple," said my Mother. She began mending my
Father very hard. "And what are some of the questions?" she asked.
"Well—the first question," I explained, "is 'What is your name?'"
My Mother gave a little giggle. She hushed my Father with her hand.
"Oh surely," she said, "there couldn't be any objection to telling these
pleasant children our names?"
"No—o," admitted my Father.
My Mother looked up. She twinkled her eyes a little as well as her
"Our names are 'Father' and 'Mother'," she said.
Carol wrote the names in the Book. He wrote them very black and literary
looking. "Father" at the top of one page. And "Mother" at the top of
the other. They looked nice.
"All right then," said my Father. "Fire away!"
I looked at my Father. I looked at my Mother. I didn't know just which
one to begin with. Carol kicked me in the shins for encouragement. I
decided to begin with my Mother.
"Oh Mother," I said. "If you were a Beautiful Smell instead of a
Beautiful Mother,—what Beautiful Smell in the whole wide world—would
you choose to be?"
"Eh? What's that? What?" said my Father. "Well, of all the idiotic
foolishness! Of all the—"
"Why no—not at all," said my Mother. "Why—Why I think it's rather
interesting! Why—Why—Though I must admit," she laughed out suddenly,
"that I never quite thought of things in just that way before!" She
looked out the window. She looked in the fire-place. She looked at my
Father. She looked at Carol. She looked at me. She began to clap her
hands. "I've got it!" she said. "I know what I'd choose! A White Iris!
In all the world there's no perfume that can compare with the perfume of
a White Iris!—Orris root they call it. Orris—"
"Humph! What's the matter with Tulips?" said my Father.
"Oh but Tulips don't have any smell at all," said my Mother. "Except
just the nice earthy smell of Spring winds and Spring rains and Spring
sunbeams!—Oh of course they look as though they were going to smell
tremendously sweet!" she acknowledged very politely. "But they're just
so busy being gay I suppose that—"
"The Tulip Goldfinch," said my Father coldly, "is noted for its
"Oh dear—Oh dear—Oh dear," said my Mother. She seemed very
sorry. She folded her hands. "Oh very well," she said.
"Mondays,—Wednesdays,—Fridays,—and Sundays,—I will be the fragrance
of the Tulip Goldfinch. But Tuesdays,—Thursdays and Saturdays I really
must insist on being the fragrance of a White Iris!"
"Humph!" said my Father. "There aren't any of them that are worth the
nice inky lithograph smell of the first Garden Catalogues that come off
the presses 'long about February!"
My Mother clapped her hands again.
"Oh Goodie!" she said. "Write Father down as choosing to smell like 'the
nice inky lithograph smell of the first Garden Catalogues that come off
the presses 'long about February'!"
My Father had to tell us how to spell "Lithograph." Carol wrote it very
carefully. My Mother laughed.
"Well really," said my Mother, "I'm beginning to have a very good
time.—What is Question No. 2?"
"Question No. 2," I said, "is:—If you were a Beautiful Sound instead of
a Beautiful Father and Mother,—what Beautiful Sound in the whole wide
world would you choose to be?"
My Father felt better almost at once.
"Oh Pshaw!" he said. "That's easy. I'd be the Sound of Gold Pieces
jingling in the pocket of a man—of a man—" He looked at my Mother.
"—Of a man who had a Brown-Eyed Wife who looked something like my
Brown-Eyed Wife—and three children whose names—when you spoke 'em
quickly sounded very similar—yes, very similar indeed to 'Ruthy' and
'Carol' and 'Rosalee'!"
"Oh what nonsense!" said my Mother.
"What does the jingle of Gold Pieces amount to?—Now if I could be any
Sound I wanted to—I'd choose to be the sweet—soft—breathy little
stir that a nice little family makes when it wakes up in the
morning—so that no matter how much you've worried during the long black
night you can feel at once that everything's all right! And that
everybody's all there!—In all the world," cried my Mother, "I know of
no sweeter sound than the sound of a nice little family—waking up in
I turned to Carol's page. I laughed and laughed. "Bubbling Fat is what
Carol would like to sound like!" I cried. "The noise that Bubbling Fat
makes when you drop doughnuts into it!—But I?—If I could be any lovely
Sound I wanted to,—I'd like to be the Sound of Rain on a Tin Roof—at
night! All over the world people would be lying awake listening to you!
And even if they didn't want to listen they'd have to! Till you were
good and ready to stop!"
It took Carol a good while to write down everything about "Gold Pieces"
and a "Nice Little Family waking up in the Morning" and "Rain on a Tin
"The next question is pretty hard," I explained. "Maybe you'd like to be
thinking about it.—If you were a Beautiful Sight—that people came
miles to see,—what Beautiful Sight in the whole wide world would you
choose to be?"
My Father didn't wait a minute. "A Field of Tulips!" he said.
Carol pounded the table with his fists. His face was like an explosion
of smiles. He pointed to my Father's page in the Book.
"It's already written!" I said. "We guessed it all the time!"
We turned to my Mother. We saw a little quiver go through my Mother's
"I'd choose to be a Storm at Sea!" said my Mother.
"What?" cried my Father.
"A Storm at Sea!" said my Mother.
My Father stopped saying "What?" And made a little gasping sound
instead. "You?—You?" he said. "The gentlest soul that ever
breathed?—Would like to be a 'Storm at Sea'?"
"It's only the 'mother' side of me that is gentle!" laughed my Mother.
She threw back her head suddenly. She thrust out her hands. It jerked
her soft, calm hair all fluffy and wild across her forehead. Her eyes
danced! Her cheeks turned all pink! "Oh wouldn't it be fun?" she
cried. "All the roaring! And the ranting! And the foaming! And the
Furying!—Racing up the beaches in great waves! And splashes!
Banging against the rocks! Scaring the fishes almost to pieces!
Rocking the boats till people fell Bump right out of their berths onto
the floor! Ruffling the gulls till——"
"You wouldn't actually—wreck a boat would you?" said my Father.
My Mother stopped tossing her head. And waving her hands. She gave a
little sigh. She began mending my Father again very hard.
"Just——pirates," she said.
"O—h," said my Father.
"We intended to make the next one about 'Motions,'" I explained. "But it
was too hard. Carol wanted to be an Elevator!—Carol says an Elevator is
like quick-silver in a giant thermometer that's gone mad!—He wanted to
be the motion it makes when the Elevator's going down and the floor's
coming up! But it made me feel queer in my stomach!"
"Merciful Heavens!" said my Father. "What kind of a family have I
drawn?—My Wife wants to be a 'Storm at Sea' and my Son aspires to feel
like an 'Elevator Gone Mad'!"
Carol looked at my Mother. My Mother looked at Carol. They laughed their
"So we made it 'Money' and 'Memory' instead," I explained.
"Made what 'Money' and 'Memory' instead?" said my Father.
"The next two questions," I explained.
"O—h," said my Mother.
"Fire away!" said my Father.
"Question No. 4," I said. "Which do you like best? Times? or
"Times or Things?" said my Father. "Whatever in the world do you mean?"
His eyebrows looked pretty puzzled.
"Why, we mean," I explained, "if somebody gave you five whole dollars
for your birthday—how would you rather spend it?—What would you get
most fun out of, we mean?—Times? Or Things?—Would you be most apt
to spend it for Rabbits, we mean? Or going to a Fair?"
"Oh," said my Father, "I see!—Times or Things?—Times—or things?—Why
Things!" he decided almost at once. "Things of course!—When you
buy a Thing you've got something really tangible for your money!
Something definite! Something really to show!—'Rabbits' I admit would
probably not be my choice.—But a book, now! A set of garden tools?—A
pair of rubber boots even?"
"N—o," said my Mother very softly, "I'm almost sure I'd rather 'go to
the Fair'!—'Times' or 'Things'?—Yes I'm perfectly positive," she
cried out, "that Times give me more pleasure than Things do!—Now
that I think of it I can see quite plainly that always—always I've
preferred to spend my money 'going to the Fair'!"
"Yes, but how foolish," said my Father. "When the Fair's over it's
over!—Nothing left to show for it but just a memory."
My Mother laughed right out loud. It was the prettiest laugh.
"Now that's where you're mistaken!" she laughed. "When the Fair's what
you call 'over,'—that's the time it's really just begun!—Books get
lost—or puppies chew them! Garden tools rust! Even the best rubber
boots in the world get the most awful holes poked through their
toes!—But a Happy Memory?—A Happy Memory—?" She jumped up suddenly
and crept into my Father's arms.
My Father stroked her hair. And stroked it.
Carol kicked me in the shins.
"There's only one more question!" I cried out pretty loud.
"What is it?" said my Mother. It sounded pretty mumbly through my
"Oh this one is very important," I said. "It's about colors."
"Colors?" said my Father. He didn't seem to care nearly as much as you'd
have thought he would.
"C—Colors," mumbled my Mother.
"Somewhere in a book," I explained, "we read about a man who wanted his
memory 'kept green?'—Why green? Why not pink?—Why not blue?—Or
even red with a cunning little white line in it?"
"Eh?" said my Father.
"If you were going away," I explained.
My Mother's hands clutched at his coat. She gave a queer little shiver.
"Oh not—'away'!" she protested.
"For ever and ever," I explained.
My Mother's face came peering out from the shadow of my Father's
shoulder. She started to laugh. And made a little sob instead. "Oh not
for——ever——and ever?" she said.
We all sat and looked at each other. I felt awful queer in my stomach.
Carol kicked me in the shins. He wrote something quick on a piece of
paper and shoved it across the table at me.
"China was the place that Carol meant!" I explained. "Oh he didn't
mean—at all—what you thought he meant!—If you were going away to—to
China—for ever and ever—and ever—and gave your Best Friend a whole
lot of money like twenty-five dollars to remember you by—what color do
you hope he'd keep your memory?"
"Oh—yes—why of course!" said my Father quite quickly. "It's a jolly
one after all, isn't it!—Color—Color?—Let me see!—For twenty-five
dollars you say? Yes Yes!—The very thing! Yellow of course! I hope my
Best Friend would have wit enough to buy a Lamp!—Nothing fancy you
know but something absolutely reliable.—Daytimes to be sure your memory
wouldn't be much use to him. But nights—the time everybody needs
everybody the most,—Nights I say,—looking back from—from China, was
it that you designated?—Nights it would be rather pleasant I think to
feel that one lived on and on—as a yellow glow in his friend's life."
My Father reached out and pinched my ear.
"How about it, Ruthy?" he asked.
"Oh that's all right," I admitted. "But if I gave my Best Friend
twenty-five dollars to remember me by—I hope he'd buy a Blueberry
Bush!—Just think of all the colors it would keep your memory!—White
in blossom-time! And blue in fruit-season! And red as blood all the
Autumn! With brown rabbits hopping through you!—And speckled birds
laying—goodness knows what colored eggs! And—"
Somebody banged the front door. Somebody scuffled on the threshold.
Somebody shouted "Hello—Hello—Hello—!" It was the Old Doctor.
We ran to see if he had peppermints in his pocket.
After the Old Doctor had given us all the peppermints he thought we
ought to have—and seven more besides, he sat down in the big cretonne
chair by the window, and fanned his neck with a newspaper. He seemed to
be pretty mad at the people who had made his collars.
"W-hew!" he said. "The man who invented a 21-inch collar ought to be
forced to suck boiling starch through the neck of a Blueing Bottle!"
We didn't see just why.
The Old Doctor said he didn't care to discuss it.
"Any news to-day?" asked my Father.
"News enough!" said the Old Doctor. He seemed pretty mad about that too!
"Such as what?" asked my Father.
"There's a Prince and Princess in town!" said the Old Doctor. "Or a Duch
and Duchess!—Or a Fool and Fooless!—I don't care what you call
'em!—They've got some sort of a claim on the old Dun Voolees estate.
They've come way from Austria to prove it! Going to build a Tannery! Or
a Fertilizer Factory! Or some other equally odoriferous industry! Fill
the town with foreign laborers!—String a line of lowsy shacks clear
from the Blacksmith Shop to the river!—Hope they choke!"
"Oh my dear—my dear!" said my Mother.
The Old Doctor looked a little funny.
"Oh I admit it's worth something," he said, "to have you call me your
'dear.'—But I'm mad I tell you clear through. And when you've got as
much 'through' to you as I have, that's some mad!—W-hew!"
he said. "When I think of our village,—our precious, clean,
decent, simple little All-American village—turned into a
cheap—racketty—crowd-you-off-the-sidewalk Saturday Night Hell
"Oh—Oh—OH!" cried my Mother.
"Quick! Get him some raspberry shrub," cried my Father.
"Maybe he'd like to play the Children's new Game!" cried my Mother.
"It isn't a Game," I explained. "It's a Book!"
My Mother ran to get the Raspberry Shrub. She brought a whole pitcher.
It tinkled with ice. It sounded nice. When the Old Doctor had drunken it
he seemed cooled quite a little. He put the glass down on the table. He
saw the Book. He looked surprised.
"Lanos—Bryant? Accounts?" he read. He looked at the date. He looked at
my Father. "What you trying to do, Man?" he said. "Reconstruct a
financial picture of our village as it was a generation ago? Or trace
your son Carol's very palpable distaste for a brush, back to his
grandfather's somewhat avid devotion to pork chops?" He picked up the
book. He opened the first pages. He read the names written at the tops
of the pages. Some of the names were pretty faded.—"Alden, Hoppin,
Weymoth, Dun Vorlees," he read. He put on his glasses. He scrunched his
eyes. He grunted his throat. "W-hew!" he said. "A hundred pounds of
beans in one month?—Is it any wonder that young Alden ran away to
sea—and sunk clear to the bottom in his first shipwreck?—'Roast
Beef'?—'Roast Beef'?—'Malt and Hops'?—'Malt and Hops'?—'Roast
Beef'?—'Malt and Hops'?—Is that where Old Man Weymoth got his
rheumatism?—And Young Weymoth—his blood pressure?—Dun Vorlees?—Dun
Vorlees?—What? No meat at all from November to February?—No
fruit?—Only three pounds of sugar?—Great Gastronomics! Back of all
that arrogance,—that insulting aloofness,—was real Hunger gnawing at
the Dun Vorlees vitals?—Was that the reason why—?—Merciful
Heavens!" cried the Old Doctor. "This book is worth twenty dollars to
me—this very minute in my Practice! The light it sheds on the Village
Stomach,—the Village Nerves,—the—"
"Please, Sir," I said. "The Book is Carol's. Mr. Lanos Bryant gave it
to him.—And we're planning to get a great deal more than twenty dollars
for it when we sell it!"
"Eh?" said the Old Doctor. "What?"
He jerked round in his chair and glared at Carol.
"This I'll have you understand, my Young Man," he said, "is in the
cause of Science!"
Carol looked pretty nervous. He began to smooth his hair as well as he
could without bristles. It didn't smooth much.
"Oh please, Sir," I explained, "people who write books never have
"Who's talking about writing books?" roared the Old Doctor.
"Please, Sir, we're trying to talk about it," I said. My voice sounded
pretty little. "It's the back part of the book that's the important
part," I explained. "It's the back part of the book that we're writing!"
"Eh?" said the Old Doctor.
He slammed the book together. He stood up and began to look for his hat.
There didn't seem a moment to lose if we we're going to get him into our
book. I ran and caught him by the hand. Even if his face was busy his
hands always had time to be friends with Carol and me.
"Oh please—please—please," I besought him. "If you were a Beautiful
Smell instead of a Beautiful Doctor,—what Beautiful Smell in the whole
wide world would you choose to be?"
"What?" said the old Doctor. "What? W-h-a-t?" he kept saying over and
over. He looked at my Father. He looked at my Mother. My Mother told him
about our Book. He made a loud Guffaw. "Guffaw" I think is the noise
he made. Carol is sure that it is! He looked at Carol. He looked at
me. He began to Guffaw all over again.
"Well really, Young Authorettes," he said, "I hardly know how to answer
you or how to choose. Ether or Chloroform and general Disinfectants
being the most familiar savors of my daily life,—the only savors indeed
that I ever expect to suggest to anybody—" He looked out the window.
There was an apple-blossom tree. It made the window look very full of
June. His collar seemed to hurt him. It made him pretty serious. It made
his voice all solemn.
"But I'll tell you, Kiddies," he said quite suddenly. "I'll tell you the
Sweetest Thing that I ever smelled in my life!—It was the first Summer
I was back from College.—I was out on the Common playing ball. Somebody
brought me word that my Father was dead.—I didn't go home.—I slunk off
instead to my favorite trout-brook—and sat down under a big white birch
tree—and cursed!—I was very bitter. I needed my Father very much
that year. And my step-mother was a harsh woman.—Late that night when I
got home,—ugly with sorrow,—I found that I'd left my Catcher's glove.
It happened to be one that my Father had given me.—With matches and a
tin-can lantern I fumbled my way back to the brook. The old glove lay
palm-upward in the moss and leaves. Somebody had filled the palm with
wild violets.—I put my face down in it—like a kid—and bawled my heart
out.—It was little Annie Dun Vorlees it seemed who had put the violets
there. Trailed me clear from the Ball Field. Little kid too. Only
fourteen years to my twenty. Why her Mother wouldn't even let me come to
the house. Had made Annie promise even not to speak to me.—But when
Trouble hit me, little Annie—?" The Old Doctor frowned his eyebrows.
"Words!" he said. "It's words after all that have the real fragrance
to 'em!—Now take that word 'Loyalty' for instance. I can't even see it
in a Newspaper without—" He put back his head suddenly. He gave a queer
little chuckle. "Sounds funny, doesn't it, Kiddies," he laughed, "to
say that the sweetest thing you ever smelled in your life was an old
baseball glove thrown down on the mossy bank of a brook?"
I looked at Carol. Carol looked at me. His eyes were popping. We ran to
the Book. We snatched it open. It bumped our heads. We pointed to the
writing. I read it out loud.
The most beautiful smell in the world is the smell of an old
tattered baseball glove that's been lying in the damp
grass—by the side of a brook—in June Time.
My Mother looked funny.
"Good Gracious," she said. "Are my children developing 'Second
Sight'?—First it was the 'Field of Tulips' already written down as
their Father's choice before he could even get the words out of his
mouth!—And now, hours before the Old Doctor ever even dreamed of the
Book's existence they've got his distinctly unique taste in perfumes
"But this isn't the Old Doctor!" I cried out. "She wrote it herself.
It's the Lady down at the hotel. It's the—the Empress that the Old
Doctor was talking about!"
"The—Empress?" gasped the Old Doctor.
"Well maybe you said 'Princess,'" I admitted. "It was some one from
Austria anyway—come to fuss about the old Dun Vorlees place! You said
it was! You said that's who it was!—It's the only Strange Lady in the
"What?" gasped the Old Doctor. "What?" He looked at the book. He read
the Lady's writing. Anybody could have seen that it wasn't our writing.
It was too dressy. He put on his glasses. He read it again.
—the smell of an old tattered baseball glove—that's been
lying in the damp grass—side of a brook—June Time.
"Good Lord!" he cried out. "Good Lord!"—He couldn't seem to swallow
through his collar. "Not anyone else!" he gasped. "In all the
world!—There couldn't possibly be anyone else! It must—It must be
little Annie Dun Vorlees herself!"
He rushed to the window. There was a grocery boy driving by.
"Hi! Hi there!" he called out. "Don't mind anybody's orders just now!
Take me quick to the Hotel!—It's an Emergency I tell you! She may be
gone before I get there!"
We sat down on the sofa and curled up our legs. Our legs felt queer.
My Mother and Father sat down on the other sofa. They looked queer all
over. They began to talk about the Village. It wasn't exactly the
Village that we knew. It was as though they talked about the Village
when it was a child. They talked about when the Bridge was first
built. They talked about the Spring when the Big Freshet swept the
meadow. They talked about the funny color of Jason the Blacksmith's
first long trousers. They talked about a tiny mottled Fawn that they
had caught once with their own hands at a Sunday School picnic in the
Arbutus Woods. They talked about the choir rehearsals in the old white
church. They talked about my Father's Graduation Essay in the High
School. It was like History that was sweet instead of just true. It made
you feel a little lonely in your throat. Our Tame Coon came and curled
up on our legs. It made our legs feel better. The clock struck nine. Our
Father and Mother forgot all about us. Pretty soon we forgot all about
ourselves. When we woke up the Old Doctor had come back. He was standing
by the table in the lamplight talking to my Father and my Mother.
He looked just the same—only different—like a portrait in a newspaper
that somebody had tried to copy. All around the inner edges of his
bigness it was as though someone had sketched the outline of a slimmer
man.—It looked nice.
"Well it was little Annie Dun Vorlees!" he said.
"Was it indeed?" said my Father.
"Hasn't changed a mite!" said the Old Doctor. "Not a mite!—Oh of course
she's wearing silks now instead of gingham.—And her hair?—Well perhaps
it's just a little bit gray but——"
"Gray hair's very pretty," said my Mother.
"Humph!" said the Old Doctor. "I expected of course that she'd think me
changed a good deal. I've grown stout. 'Healthy' she called it.—She
thought I looked 'very healthy'!" The Old Doctor shifted his feet. He
twitched at a newspaper on the table. "That Austrian gentlemen with her
isn't her Husband," he said. "She's a—she's a widow now.—It's her
"Really?" said my Father.
"Oh Thunder!" said the Old Doctor. "I guess perhaps I spoke a little
bit hastily when I was here before—about their ruining the
Village!—I've been talking a bit with Annie and—" His face turned
quite red suddenly. He laughed a little. "There won't be any changes
made at present in the old Dun Vorlees place—I imagine.—Not at present
He looked over at us. We scrunched our eyes perfectly tight.
"Asleep," he said. He picked up our Book. He tucked it under his arm. He
looked at my Father and Mother. "It's quite time," he said, "that you
started a Bank Account for these children's college education.—It costs
a great deal to send children to college nowadays. Carol will surely
want a lot of baseball bats.—And girls I know are forever needing
bonnets!" He took two Big Gold Pieces from his pocket and put them down
on the table where our Book had been. They looked very shining.
My Father gave a little gasp. He jumped up! He started to argue!
My Mother hushed him with her hand. "S—sh——not to-night!" she
whispered. "Not to-night!"
She looked at the Old Doctor. She looked at our Book all hugged up tight
under his arm. Her eyes looked as though they were going to cry. But her
mouth looked as though it was going to laugh.
"Oh of course—if it's in the Cause of Science," she said. "If it's in
the Cause of Science."