The Guardian of God's Acre, by Samuel Hopkins Adams

From A Bench in Our Square

As far as the eye could apprehend him, he was palpably an outlander. No such pink of perfection ever sprung from the simple soil of Our Square. A hard pink it was, suggestive less of the flower than of enameled metal. He was freshly shaved, freshly pressed, freshly anointed, and, as he paced gallantly across my vision, I perceived him to be slightly grizzled at the temples, but nevertheless of a vigorous and grim youthfulness that was almost daunting. Not until he returned and stood before me with his feet planted a little apart, giving an impression of purposeful immovability to his wiry figure, did I note that his eyes belied the general jauntiness of his personality. They were cold, direct eyes, with a filmy appearance, rather like those of a morose and self-centered turtle which had lived in our fountain until the day the Rosser twins fell in, when it crawled out and emigrated.

"Nice day," said the stranger, shifting a patent-leathered foot out of a puddle.

"Very," I agreed. Finical over-accuracy about the weather is likely to discourage a budding acquaintanceship.

"Have one?" He extended a gemmed cigarette-case, and when, removing my pipe, I had declined in suitable terms, lighted up, himself. He then sat down upon the dryest portion of the bench not occupied by my person.

"Whiplash win in the fi'th," he volunteered presently.

"Yes?" said I with a polite but spurious show of interest.

"Under a pull. Spread-eagled his field."

"Who is Whiplash, may I ask?"

"Oh, Gaw!" said the pink man, appalled. He searched my face suspiciously. "A hoss," he stated at length, satisfied of my ignorance.

After several reflective puffs, the smoke of which insufficiently veiled his furtive appraisal of myself, he tried again:

"They give O'Dowd a shade, last night."

"Indeed? Who did?"

"The sporting writers."

"As a testimonial?" I inquired, adding that a shade, whether of the lamp or sun species seemed an unusual sort of gift.

My interlocutor groaned. He drew from the pocket of his gray-check cutaway, purple and fine linen, the purple being an ornate and indecipherable monogram, wherewith to wipe his troubled brow. Susan Gluck's Orphan, who was playing down-wind, paused to inhale deeply and with a beatific expression. Restoring the fragrant square to its repository, the pink one essayed another conversational skirmish.

"The Reds copped again yesterday."

"If you are referring to the raid on Anarchist Headquarters in Avenue C,
I should have inferred that the Reds were copped, to use your term."

Curt and contemptuous laughter was his response. "Don't you ever read the papers, down here?"

"Certainly," I retorted with some spirit, for the implied slur upon Our Square stung me. "In fact, I was reading one of our local publications when you inter—when you arrived. It contains some very interesting poetry."

"Yeh?" said the hard, pink man politely.

"For example, in this issue I find the following apostrophe." I proceeded to read aloud:

  "Farewell, our dear one, we must part,
  For thou hast gone to heavenly home,
  While we below with aching heart
  Must long for thee and ever moan."

"Swell stuff," commented the sharer of my bench, with determined interest. "Poetry's a little out of my line, but I'm for it. Who wrote that?"

"It is signed 'Loving Father and 3 Sisters.' But the actual authorship rests with the long gentleman in black whom you see leaning on the park fence yonder. His name is Bartholomew Storrs and he is the elegiac or mortuary or memorial laureate of Our Square."

This was said with intent to mortify the soul of my new acquaintance in revenge for his previous display of erudition. The bewilderment in his face told me that I had scored heavily. But he quickly rallied.

"Do I get you right?" he queried. "Does he write those hymns for other folks to sign?"

"He does."

"What does he do that for?"

"Money. He gets as high as five dollars per stanza."

"Some salesman!" My hard-faced companion regarded the lank figure overhanging the fence with new respect. "Looks to me like the original Gloom," he observed. "What's his grouch?"

"Conscience."

"He must have a bum one!"

"He has a busy one. He expends a great amount of time and sorrow repenting of our sins."

"Whose sins?" asked the other, opening wider his dull and weary eyes.

"Ours. His neighbors. Everybody in Our Square."

My interlocutor promptly and fitly put into words the feeling which had long lurked within my consciousness, ashamed to express itself against a monument of dismal pity such as Bartholomew Storrs. "He's got a nerve!" he asserted.

Warming to him for his pithy analysis of character, I enlarged upon my theme. "He rebukes MacLachan for past drunkenness. He mourns for Schepstein, who occasionally helps out a friend at ten per cent, as a usurer. He once accused old Madame Tallafferr of pride, but he'll never do that again. He calls the Little Red Doctor, our local physician, to account for profanity, and gets a fresh sample every time. Even against the Bonnie Lassie, whose sculptures you can just see in that little house near the corner"—I waved an illustrative hand—"he can quote Scripture, as to graven images. We all revere and respect and hate him. He's coming this way now."

"Good day, Dominie," said Bartholomew Storrs, as he passed, in such a tone as a very superior angel might employ toward a particularly damned soul.

"That frown," I explained to my companion, after returning the salutation, "means that I failed to attend church yesterday."

But the hard, pink man had lost interest in Bartholomew. "Called you 'Dominie,' didn't he?" he remarked. "I thought I had you right. Heard of you from a little red-headed ginger-box named Smith."

"You know the Little Red Doctor?"

"I met him," he replied evasively. "He told me to look you up. 'You talk to the Dominie,' he says."

"About what?"

"I'm coming to that." He leaned forward to place a muscular and confidential hand on my knee. "First, I'd like to do you a little favor," he continued in his husky and intimate voice. "If you're looking for some quick and easy money, I got a little tip that I'd like to pass on to you."

"Evidently the Little Red Doctor told you that my mind was a tottering ruin, which may be quite true; but if it's a matter of investing in the Peruvian Gold, Rubber Tree, and Perpetual Motion Concession, I'm reluctantly compelled—"

"Forget it!" adjured the hard, pink man in a tone which secured my silence and almost my confidence. "This is a hoss. Seven to one, and a sure cop. I know hosses. I've owned 'em."

"Thank you, but I can't afford such luxuries as betting."

"You can't afford not to have something down on this if it's only a shoestring. No? Oh—well!"

Again drawing the art-square from his pocket he lifted his pearl-gray derby and dabbed despairingly at his brow. Catching the scent hot and fresh, Susan Gluck's Orphan came dashing up-wind giving tongue, or rather, nose, voluptuously.

"Mm-m-m! Snmmff!" inhaled the Orphan, wrinkling ecstatic nostrils.
"Mister, lemme smell it some more!"

Graciously the dispenser of fragrance waved his balm-laden handkerchief.
"Like it, kiddie?" he said.

"Oh, it's grand!" She stretched out her little grimy paws. "Please,
Mister," she entreated, "would you flop it over 'em, just once?"

The pink man tossed it to her. "Take it along and, when you get it all snuffed up, give it back to the Dominie here for me."

"Oh, gracious!" said the Orphan, incredulous at this bounty. "Can I have it till to-morrah?"

"Sure! What's the big idea for to-morrow?"

"I'm goin' to a funeral. I want it to cry in," said the Orphan importantly.

"A funeral?" I asked. "In Our Square? Whose?"

"My cousin Minnie. She's goin' to be buried in God's Acre, an' I'm invited 'cause I'm a r'lation. She married a sporting gentleman named Hines an' she died yesterday," said the precocious Orphan.

So Minnie Munn, pretty, blithe, life-loving Minnie, whose going had hurt us so, had come back to Our Square, with all her love of life quenched. She had promised that she would come back, in the little, hysterical, defiant note she left under the door. Her father and mother must wait and not worry. There are thousands of homes, I suppose, in which are buried just such letters as Minnie's farewell to her parents; rebellious, passionate, yearning, pitiful. Ah, well! The moth must break its chrysalis. The flower must rend its bonds toward the light. Little Minnie was "going on the stage." A garish and perilous stage it was, whereon Innocence plays a part as sorry as it is brief. And now she was making her exit, without applause. Memory brought back a picture of Minnie as I had first seen her, a wee thing, blinking and smiling in the arms of her Madonna-faced mother, on a bench in Our Square, and the mother (who could not wait for the promised return—she has lain in God's Acre these three years) crooning to her an unforgettable song, mournfully prophetic:

  "Why did I bring thee, Sweet
  Into a world of sin?—
  Into a world of wonder and doubt
  With sorrows and snares for the little white feet—
  Into a world whence the going out
  Is as dark as the coming in!"

Old lips readily lend themselves to memory; I suppose I must have repeated the final lines aloud, for the pink man said, wearily but politely:

"Very pretty. Something more in the local line?"

"Hardly." I smiled. Between Bartholomew Storr's elegies and William
Young's "Wish-makers' Town" stretches an infinite chasm.

"What's this—now—God's Acre the kid was talking about?" was his next question.

"An old local graveyard."

"Anything interesting?" he asked carelessly.

"If you're interested in that sort of thing. Are you an antiquary?"

"Sure!" he replied with such offhand promptitude that I was certain the answer would have been the same had I asked him if he was a dromedary.

"Come along, then. I'll take you there."

To reach that little green space of peace amidst our turmoil of the crowded, encroaching slums, we must pass the Bonnie Lassie's house, where her tiny figurines, touched with the fire of her love and her genius, which are perhaps one and the same, stand ever on guard, looking out over Our Square from her windows. Judging by his appearance and conversation, I should have supposed my companion to be as little concerned with art as with, let us say, poetry or local antiquities. But he stopped dead in his tracks, before the first window. Fingers that were like steel claws buried themselves in my arm. The other hand pointed.

"What's that?" he muttered fiercely.

"That," to which he was pointing, was a pictorial bronze, the figure of a girl, upright in a cockleshell boat, made of a rose-petal, her arms outspread to the breeze that was bearing her out across sunlit ripples. Beneath was the legend: "Far Ports." The face, eager, laughing, passionate, adventurous, was the face of Minnie Munn. Therein the Bonnie Lassie had been prophetess as well as poet and sculptress, for she had finished the bronze before Minnie left us.

"That," I answered the strong, pink man, trying to shake loose his grip, "is a sculpture by Cecily Willard, otherwise Mrs. Cyrus Staten."

"What'll she take for it?"

"It can't be bought." I spoke with authority, for the figurines that the
Bonnie Lassie sets in her window are not for sale, but for us of Our
Square, who love them.

"Anything can be bought," he retorted, with his quiet, hoarse persuasiveness, "at a price. I've got the price, no matter what it is."

Suddenly I understood my pink and hard acquaintance. I understood that stale look in his eyes. Tears do not bring that. Nothing brings it but sleepless thoughts beyond the assuagement of tears. Behind such eyes the heart is aching cold and the brain searing hot. Who should know better than I, though the kindly years have brought their healing! But here was a wound, raw and fresh and savage. I put my hand on his shoulder.

"What was little Minnie to you?" I asked, and answered myself. "You're
Hines. You're the man she married."

"Yes. I'm Chris Hines."

"You've brought her back to us," I said stupidly.

"She made me promise."

Strange how Our Square binds the heartstrings of those who have once lived in it! To find it unendurable in life, to yearn back to it in the hour of death! Many have known the experience. So our tiny God's Acre, shrunk to a small fraction of human acreage through pressure of the encroaching tenements, has filled up until now it has space but for few more of the returning. Laws have been invoked and high and learned courts appealed to for the jealously guarded right to sleep there, as Minnie Munn was so soon to sleep beside her mother.

I told Hines that I would see the Bonnie Lassie about the statuette, and led him on, through the nagged and echoing passage and the iron gate, to the white-studded space of graves. The new excavation showed, brown against the bright verdure. Above it stood the headstone of the Munns, solemn and proud, the cost of a quarter-year's salary, at the pitiful wage which little, broken Mr. Munn drew from his municipal clerkship. Hines's elegant coat rippled on his chest, above what may have been a shudder, as he looked about him.

"It's crowded," he muttered.

"We lie close, as we lived close, in Our Square. I am glad for her father's sake that Minnie wished to come back."

"She said she couldn't rest peaceful anywhere else. She said she had some sort of right to be here."

"The Munns belong to what we call the Inalienables in Our Square," said I, and told him of the high court decision which secured to the descendants of the original "churchyard membership," and to them alone, the inalienable right to lie in God's Acre, provided, as in the ancient charter, they had "died in honorable estate." I added: "Bartholomew Storrs, as sexton, has constituted himself watchdog of our graves and censor of our dead. He carried one case to the Supreme Court in an attempt to keep an unhappy woman from sleeping in that pious company."

"That sour-faced prohibitionist?" growled Mr. Hines, employing what I suspect to be the blackest anathema in his lexicon. "Is he the sexton?"

"The same. Our mortuary genius," I confirmed.

"She was a good girl, Min was," said Mr. Hines firmly, though, it might appear, a trifle inconsequentially: "I don't care what they say. Anyway, after I met up with her"; in which qualifying afterthought lay a whole sorrowful and veiled history.

I waited.

"What did they say about her, down here?" he asked jealously.

"Oh, there were rumors. They didn't reach her father."

"No: tell me," he persisted. "I gotta know."

Because Mr. Hines had already impressed himself upon me as one with whom straight talk would serve best, I acceded.

"Bartholomew Storrs said that her feet took hold on hell."

Mr. Hines's face remained impassive. Only his hands worked slightly, perhaps kneading an imaginary throat. I perceived him to be a person of considerable and perhaps formidable self-control.

"Not that she hadn't her friends. The Bonnie Lassie would have stood by her if she had come back, and little Mrs. Morse, and our Dr. Smith, and MacLachan, who thought he had lost his own girl the same way, and—and others, plenty."

"And you, Dominie," said the hard, pink Mr. Hines.

"My dear sir, old men cannot afford harsh judgments. They are too near their own time."

"Yeh?" said Mr. Hines absently. "I guess that's right." But his mind was plainly elsewhere. "When would you say would be the best time to do business with old Funeral-Clothes?" he asked after a thoughtful pause.

"You want to see Bartholomew Storrs?" I interpreted.

"Sure. I gotta deliver the death certificate to him if he runs the graveyard, haven't I?"

"Such is the procedure, I believe."

"Besides," he added with a leer, "I want to get some of that weepy poetry of his."

"Well; he'll sell it to you readily."

"I'll say he'll sell it to me," returned Mr. Hines with a grimness which
I failed to comprehend.

"Now is as good a time as any to catch him in his office." I pointed to a sign at the farther end of the yard.

Mr. Hines seemed in no hurry to go. With his elegantly lacquered cane, he picked at the sod, undecidedly. His chill, veiled eyes roved about the open space. He lifted his pearl-gray derby, and, for lack of a handkerchief, wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. Although the May day was cool and brisk with wind, his knuckles glistened when they descended. I began to suspect that, despite his stony self-command, Mr. Hines's nerves were not all that they should be.

"Perhaps you'd like me to introduce you to Mr. Storrs," I hazarded.

The cold and filmy eyes gleamed with an instant's dim warmth. "Dominie, you're a good guy," responded Mr. Hines. "If a dead cinch at ten to one, all fruited up for next week, the kind of thing you don't hand on to your own brother, would be any use to you—No? I'm off again," he apologized. "Well—let's go."

We went. At the doorstep of Bartholomew Storrs's office he paused.

"This sexton-guy," he said anxiously, "he don't play the ponies, ever, I wouldn't suppose?"

"No more often than he commits murder or goes to sleep in church," I smiled.

"Yeh?" he answered, disheartened. "I gotta get to him some other way. On the poetry—and that's out of my line."

"I don't quite see what your difficulty is."

"By what you tell me, it's easier to break into a swell Fifth Avenue
Club than into this place."

"Except for those having the vested right, as your wife has."

"And this sexton-guy handles the concession for—he's got the say-so," he corrected himself hastily—"on who goes in and who stays out. Is that right?"

"Substantially."

"And he'd rather keep 'em out than let 'em in?"

"Bartholomew," I explained, "considers that the honor of God's Acre is in his keeping. He has a fierce sort of jealousy about it, as if he had a proprietary interest in the place."

"I get you!" Mr. Hines's corded throat worked painfully. "You don't suppose the old goat would slip Min a blackball?" he gulped.

"How can he? As an 'Inalienable'—"

"Yeh; I know. But wasn't there something about a clean record? I'll tell you, Dominie"—Mr. Hines's husky but assured voice trailed away into a miserable, thick whisper—"as to what he said—about her feet taking hold on hell—I guess there was a time—I guess about one more slip—I guess I didn't run across her any too quick. But there never was a straighter, truer girl than Min was with me. I gotta get her planted right, Dominie. I gotta do it," he concluded with pathetic earnestness.

"I see no difficulty," I assured him. "The charter specifies 'died in honorable estate.' Matrimony is an honorable estate. How she lived before that is between her and a gentler Judge than Bartholomew Storrs."

"Give her a straight course and a fair judge and I'll back Min to the limit," said Mr. Hines so simply and loyally that no suggestion of irreverence could attach to him.

Nevertheless, doubt was mingled with determination in his florid face as he rang the bell. Bartholomew Storrs opened to us, himself. When he saw me, he hastily pocketed a Rhyming Dictionary. I introduced my companion, stating, by way of a favorable opening, that he was interested in memorial poetry.

"Very pleased," said Bartholomew Storrs in his deep, lugubrious tones.
"Bereaved husband?"

Mr. Hines nodded.

"Here's a tasty thing I just completed," continued the poet, and, extending a benignant hand toward the visitor he intoned nasally:

  "Together we have lived our life
  Till thou hast gone on high.
  But I will come to thee, dear Wife,
  In the sweet bye-and-bye."

"That style five dollars," he said.

"You're on," barked Mr. Hines. "I'll take it."

"To be published, I suppose, on the first anniversary of death. Shall I look after the insertion in the papers?" queried the obliging poet, who split an advertising agent's percentage on memorial notices placed by him.

"Sure. Got any more? I'd spend a hundred to do this right."

With a smile of astounded gratification, Bartholomew accepted the roll of bills, fresh and crisp as the visitor himself. To do him justice, I believe that his pleasure was due as much to the recognition of his genius as to the stipend it had earned.

"Perhaps you'd like a special elegy to be read at the grave," he rumbled eagerly. "When and where did the interment take place?"

The other glared at him in stony surprise. "It ain't taken place. It's to-morrow. Ain't you on? I'm Hines."

A frown darkened the sexton's heavy features. He shook a reprehensive head. "An unfortunate case," he boomed; "most unfortunate. I will not conceal from you, Mr. Hines, that I have consulted our attorneys upon this case, and unhappily—unhappily, I say—they hold that there is no basis for exclusion provided the certificate is in form. You have it with you?"

Impassive and inscrutable, Mr. Hines tapped his breast-pocket.

The conscience of a responsible sexton being assuaged, Bartholomew's expression mollified into that of the flattered poet.

"Such being the case," he pursued, "there can be no objection to the reading of an elegy as part of the service. Who is to officiate?"

"The Reverend Doctor Hackett."

"He has retired these two years," said the sexton doubtfully. "He is very old. His mind sometimes wanders."

"She wouldn't have any one else," asserted the hard, pink Mr. Hines. "She was as particular about that as about being buried yonder." He jerked his head toward the window.

"Very well. I will be at the grave. I always am. Trust me to guide the reverend gentleman over any breach in his memory. Excuse me for a moment while I look up my elegies."

"Say," said Mr. Hines in his hoarse, confidential croak, as the poet-sexton retired, "this is dead easy. Why, the guy's on the make. For sale. He'll stand for anything. Passing out this stuff for other folks to sign! He's a crook!"

"Make no such mistake," I advised. "Bartholomew is as honest a man as lives, in his own belief."

"Very likely. That's the worst kind," pronounced the expert Mr. Hines.

Further commentary was cut off by the return of the sexton-poet. "If you will kindly give me the death certificate of the late lamented," said he.

"What becomes of it after I deliver it?" asked Mr. Hines.

"Read, attested, and filed officially."

"Any one else but you see it?"

"Not necessarily."

"That's all right, then."

Hardly had Bartholomew Storrs glanced at the document received from Mr.
Hines than he lifted a stiffening face.

"What is this?" he challenged.

"What's what?"

The official tapped the paper with a gaunt finger. "'Minna Merivale, aged twenty-five,'" he read.

"That's the name she went by."

"Unmarried" read Bartholomew Storrs in a voice of doom.

"Well?"

In the sexton's eyes gleamed an unholy savagery of satisfaction. "Take her away."

"What?"

"Bury her somewhere else. Do not think that you can pollute the ground—"

"Bartholomew!" I broke in, stepping hastily in front of Mr. Hines, for I had seen all the pink ebb out of his face, leaving it a dreadful sort of gray; and I had no desire to be witness of a murder, however much I might deem it justified.

"I'll handle him," said Mr. Hines steadily. "Now; you! You got my hundred in your jeans, ain't you!"

"Bribery!" boomed the sexton. He drew out the roll of bills and let it fall from his contaminated fingers.

"Sure! Bribery," railed the other. "What'd you think? Ain't it enough for what I'm asking?" The two men glared at each other.

I broke the silence. "Exactly what are you asking, Mr. Hines?"

"File that"—he touched the document—"and forget it. Let Min rest out there as my wife, like she ought to have been."

"Why didn't you make her your wife?" thundered the accuser.

Some invisible thing gripped the corded throat of Mr. Hines. "Couldn't," he gulped. "There was—another. She wouldn't divorce me."

"Your sin has found you out," declared the self-constituted judge of the dead with a dismal sort of relish.

"Yeh? That's all right. I'll pay for it. But she's paid already."

"As she lived so she has died, in sin," the inexorable voice answered.
"Let her seek burial elsewhere."

Mr. Hines leaned forward. His expression and tone were passionless as those of a statistician proffering a tabulation: his words were fit to wring the heart of a stone.

"She's dead, ain't she?" he argued gently. "She can't hurt any one, can she? 'Specially if they don't know."

Bartholomew Storrs made a gesture of repulsion.

"Well, who'll she hurt?" pursued the other, in his form of pure and abstract reasoning. "Not her mother, I guess. Her mother's waiting for her; that's what Min said when she was—was going. And her father'll be on the other side of her. And that's all. Min never harmed anybody but herself when she was alive. How's she going to do 'em any damage now, just lying there, resting? Be reasonable, man!"

Be pitiful, oh, man! For there was a time not so long past when you, with all your stern probity and your unwinking conscience, needed pity; yes, and pleaded for it when the mind was out of control. Think back, Bartholomew Storrs, to the day when you stood by another grave, close to that which waits to-day for the weary sleeper—Bartholomew Storrs rested, opened the door and stood by it, grimly waiting. Mr. Hines turned to me.

"What is this thing, Dominie; a man or a snake? Will I kill it?"

"Bartholomew," I began. "When we—"

"Not a word from you, Dominie. My mind is made up."

"The girl is Isabel Munn's daughter."

I saw a tremor shake the gaunt frame.

"When we buried Isabel Munn, you came back in the night to weep at her grave."

He thrust out a warding hand toward me.

"Why did you weep over Isabel Munn's grave, Bartholomew?"

"Speak no evil of the dead," he cried wildly.

"It is not in my mind. She was a good and pure woman. What would she have been if she had listened to you?"

"What do you know? Who betrayed me?"

"You, yourself. When you came down with pneumonia after the burial, I sat with you through a night of delirium."

Bartholomew Storrs bowed his head.

"My sin hath found me out," he groaned. "God knows I loved her, and—and I hadn't the strength not to tell her. I'd have given up everything for her, my hope of heaven, my—my—I 'd have given up my office and gone away from God's Acre! And that was twenty years ago. I—I don't sleep o' nights yet, for thinking."

"Well, you ain't the only one," said the dull voice of Mr. Hines.

"You're tempting me!" Bartholomew Storrs snarled at him. "You're trying to make me false to my trust."

"Just to let her lie by her mother, like her mother would ask you if she could."

"Don't say it to me!" He beat his head with his clenched hand. Recovering command of himself, he straightened up, taking a deep breath: "I must be guided by my conscience and my God," he said professionally, and I noted a more reverent intonation given to the former than to the latter. A bad sign.

"Isabel Munn's daughter, Bartholomew," I reminded him.

Instead of replying he staggered out of the door. Through the window we saw him, a moment later, posting down the street, bareheaded and stony-eyed, like one spurred by tormenting thoughts.

"Will he do it, do you think?" queried the anxious-visaged Mr. Hines.

I shook my head in doubt. With a man like Bartholomew Storrs, one can never tell.

Old memories are restless companions for the old. So I found them that night. But there is balm for sleeplessness in the leafy quiet of Our Square. I went out to my bench, seeking it, and found an occupant already there.

"We ain't the only ones that need a jab of dope, Dominie," said Mr.
Hines, hard and pink and hoarsely confidential as when I first saw him.

"No? Who else?" Though I suspected, of course.

"Old Gloom. He's over in the Acre."

"Did you meet him there? What did he say?"

"I ducked him. He never saw me. He was—well, I guess he was praying," said Mr. Hines shamefacedly.

"Praying? At the Munn grave?"

"That's it. Groaning and saying, 'A sign, O Lord! Vouchsafe thy servant a sign!' Kept saying it over and over."

"For guidance to-morrow," I murmured. "Mr. Hines, I'm not sure that I know Bartholomew Storrs's God. Nor can I tell what manner of sign he might give, or with what meaning. But if I know my God, whom I believe to be the true God, your Minnie is safe with him."

"Yeh? You're a good guy, Dominie," said Mr. Hines in his emotionless voice.

I took him home with me to sleep. But we did not sleep. We smoked.

Minnie Munn's funeral morning dawned clear and fresh. No word came from
Bartholomew Storrs. I tried to find him, but without avail.

"We'll go through with it," said Mr. Hines quietly.

How small and insignificant seemed our tiny God's Acre, as the few mourners crept into it behind Minnie Munn's body; the gravestones like petty dots upon the teeming earth, dwarfed by the overshadowing tenements, as if death were but an incident in the vast, unhasting, continuous sweep of life, as indeed perhaps it is. Then the grandeur of the funeral service, which links death to immortality, was bodied forth in the aged minister's trembling voice, and by it the things which are of life were dwarfed to nothingness. But my uneasy mind refused to be bound by the words; it was concerned with Bartholomew Storrs, standing grim, haggard, inscrutable, beside the grave, his eyes upturned and waiting. Too well I knew for what he was waiting; his sign. So, too, did Mr. Hines, still hard, still pink, still impeccably tailored, and still clinging to his elegant lacquered cane, as he supported little, broken Mr. Munn, very pathetic and decorous in full black, even to the gloves.

The sonorous beauty and simplicity of the rite suddenly checked, faltered. Bartholomew Storrs leaned over anxiously to the minister. The poor, gentle, worn-out old brain was groping now in semi-darkness, through which shot a cross-ray of memory. The tremulous voice took on new confidence, but the marrow of my spine turned icy as I heard the fatally misplaced and confused words that followed:

"If any man know—know just and good cause why this woman—why this woman—should not—"

Bartholomew Storrs's gaunt hand shot upward, high in air, outspread in the gesture of forbiddance. His deep voice rang, overbearing the stumbling accents of the clergyman.

"A sign! A sign from on High! O God, thou hast spoken through thy servant to forefend a sore offense. Listen, ye people. This woman—"

He stopped as there rose, on the opposite side of the open grave another figure, with hands and voice lifted to heaven in what must surely have been the most ingenuous supplication that ever ascended to the throne of Pity and Understanding. All the passion which, through the bitter hours, had been repressed in the self-commanding soul of the hard and pink Mr. Hines, swelled and cried aloud in his plea:

"O God! have a heart!"

Bartholomew Storrs's hand fell. His eyes faltered. His lips trembled. He stood once more, agonized with doubt. And in that moment the old minister came to his rightful senses.

"Peace, my friends," he commanded with authority. "Let no man disturb the peace of the dead."

And, unwaveringly, he went on to the end of the service.

So little Minnie Munn rests beside the mother who waited for her. No ghosts have risen to protest her presence there. The man who loved her comes back to Our Square from time to time, at which times there are fresh flowers on Minnie's mound, below the headstone reading: "Beloved Wife of Christopher Hines." But the elegiac verse has never appeared. I must record also the disappearance of that tiny bronze cockleshell, outward bound for "Far Ports," from the Bonnie Lassie's window, though Mr. Hines was wrong in his theory that it could be bought—like all else —"at a price." By the way, I believe that he has modified that theory.

As for Bartholomew Storrs, he is prone to take the other side of the Square when he sees me on my accustomed bench. In repose his face is as grim as ever, but I have seen him smile at a child. Probably the weight of our collective sins upon his conscience is less irksome, now that he has a crime of his own to balance them. For forgery and falsification of an official record is a real crime, which might send him to jail. But even that grim and judicial God of his worship ought to welcome him into heaven on the strength of it.

I believe that Bartholomew sleeps o' nights now.