Barbran, by Samuel Hopkins Adams

From A Bench in Our Square

Immediately upon hearing of my fell design MacLachan, the tailor, paid a visit of protest to my bench.

"Is it true fact that I hear, Dominie?"

"What do you hear, MacLachan?"

"That ye're to make one of yer silly histories about Barbran?"

"Perfectly true," said I, passing over the uncomplimentary adjective.

"'Tis a feckless waste of time."

"Very likely."

"'Twill encourage the pair, when a man of yer age and influence in Our
Square should be dissuadin' them."

"Perhaps they need a friendly word."

MacLachan frowned. "Ye're determined?"

"Oh, quite!"

"Then I'll give ye a title for yer romance."

"That's very kind of you. Give it."

"The Story of Two Young Fools. By an Old One," said MacLachan witheringly, and turned to depart.

"Mac!"

"What?"

"Wait a moment."

I held him with my glittering eye. Also, in case that should be inadequate, with the crook of my cane firmly fixed upon his ankle.

"I'll waste na time from the tailorin'," began the Scot disdainfully, but paused as I pointed a loaded finger at his head. "Well?" he said, showing a guilty inclination to flinch.

"Mac, was I an original accomplice in this affair?"

"Will ye purtend to deny—"

"Did I scheme and plot with Cyrus the Gaunt and young Stacey?"

MacLachan mumbled something about undue influence.

"Did I get arrested?"

MacLachan grunted.

"In a cellar?"

MacLachan snorted.

"With my nose painted green?"

MacLachan groaned. "There was others," he pleaded.

"A man of your age and influence in Our Square," I interrupted sternly, "should have been dissuading them."

"Arr ye designin' to put all that in yer sil—in yer interestin' account?"

"Every detail."

MacLachan dislodged my crook from his leg, gave me such a look as mid-Victorian painters strove for in pictures of the Dying Stag, and retired to his Home of Fashion.

* * * * *

That men of the sobriety and standing of Cyrus the Gaunt, MacLachan, Leon Coventry, the Little Red Doctor, and Boggs (I do not count young Phil Stacey, for he was insane at the time, and has been so, with modifications and glorifications, ever since) should paint their noses green and frequent dubious cellars, calls for explanation. The explanation is Barbran.

Barbran came to us from the immeasurable distances; to wit, Washington
Square.

Let me confess at once that we are a bit supercilious in our attitude toward the sister Square far to our West, across the Alps of Broadway. Our Square was an established center of the social respectabilities when the foot of Fifth Avenue was still frequented by the occasional cow whose wanderings are responsible for the street-plan of Greenwich Village. Our Square remains true to the ancient and simple traditions, whereas Washington Square has grown long hair, smeared its fingers with paint and its lips with free verse, and gone into debt for its inconsiderable laundry bills. Washington Square we suspect of playing at life; Our Square has a sufficiently hard time living it. We have little in common.

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that there are veritable humans, not wholly submerged in the crowd of self-conscious mummers who crowd the Occidental park-space, and it was at the house of one of these, a woman architect with a golden dream of rebuilding Greenwich Village, street by street, into something simple and beautiful and, in the larger sense urban, that the Bonnie Lassie, whose artistic deviations often take her far afield, met Barbran.

They went for coffee to a queer little burrow decorated with improving sentiments from the immortal Lewis Carroll which, Barbran told the Bonnie Lassie, was making its blue-smocked, bobbed-haired, attractive and shrewd little proprietress quite rich. Barbran hinted that she was thinking of improving on the Mole's Hole idea if she could find a suitable location, not so much for the money, of course—her tone implied a lordly indifference to such considerations—as for the fun of the thing.

The Bonnie Lassie was amused but not impressed. What did impress her about Barbran was a certain gay yet restful charm; the sort of difficult thing that our indomitable sculptress loves to catch and fix in her wonderful little bronzes. She set about catching Barbran.

Now the way of a snake with a bird is as nothing for fascination compared to the way of the Bonnie Lassie with the doomed person whom she has marked down as a subject. Barbran hesitated, capitulated, came to the Bonnie Lassie's house, moused about Our Square in a rapt manner and stayed. She rented a room from the Angel of Death ("Boggs Kills Bugs" is the remainder of his sign, which is considered to lend tone and local interest to his whole side of the Square), just over Madame Tallafferr's apartments, and, in the course of time, stopped at my bench and looked at me contemplatively. She was a small person with shy, soft eyes.

"The Bonnie Lassie sent you," said I.

She nodded.

"You've come here to live—Heaven only knows why—but we're glad to see you. And you want to know about the people; so the Bonnie Lassie said, 'Ask the Dominie; he landed here from the ark.' Didn't she?"

Barbran sat down and smiled at me.

"Having sought information," I pursued, "on my own account, I learn that you are the only daughter of a Western millionaire ranch-owner. How does it feel to revel in millions?"

"Romantic," said she.

"Of course you have designs upon us."

"Yes."

"Humanitarian, artistic, or sociological?"

"Oh, nothing long and clever like that."

"You grow more interesting. Having designs upon us, you doubtless wish my advice."

"No," she answered softly: "I've done it already."

"Rash and precipitate adventuress! What have you done already?"

"Started my designs. I've rented the basement of Number 26."

"Are you a rag-picker in disguise?"

"I'm going to start a coffee cellar. I was thinking of calling it 'The
Coffee Pot.' What do you think?"

"So you do wish my advice. I will give it to you. Do you see that plumber's shop next to the corner saloon?" I pointed to the Avenue whose ceaseless stream of humanity flows past Our Square without ever sweeping us into its current. "That was once a tea-shop. It was started by a dear little, prim little old maiden lady. The saloon was run by Tough Bill Manigan. The little old lady had a dainty sign painted and hung it up outside her place, 'The Teacup.' Tough Bill took a board and painted a sign and hung it up outside his place; 'The Hiccup.' The dear little, prim little old maiden lady took down her sign and went away. Yet there are those who say that competition is the life of trade."

"Is there a moral to your story, Mr. Dominie?"

"Take it or leave it," said I amiably.

"I will not call my cellar 'The Coffee Pot' lest a worse thing befall it."

"You are a sensible young woman, Miss Barbara Ann Waterbury."

"It is true that my parents named me that," said she, "but my friends call me 'Barbran' because I always used to call myself that when I was little, and I want to be called Barbran here."

"That's very friendly of you," I observed.

She gave me a swift, suspicious look. "You think I'm a fool," she observed calmly. "But I'm not. I'm going to become a local institution. A local institution can't be called Barbara Ann Waterbury, unless it's a crêche or a drinking-fountain or something like that, can it?"

"It cannot, Barbran."

"Thank you, Mr. Dominie," said Barbran gratefully. She then proceeded to sketch out for me her plans for making her Coffee Cellar and herself a Local Institution, which should lure hopeful seekers for Bohemia from the far parts of Harlem and Jersey City, and even such outer realms of darkness as New Haven and Cohoes.

"That's what I intend to do," said Barbran, "as soon as I get my Great
Idea worked out."

What the Great Idea was, I was to learn later and from other lips. In fact, from the lips of young Phil Stacey, who appeared, rather elaborately loitering out from behind the fountain, shortly after my new friend had departed, a peculiar look upon his extremely plain and friendly face. Young Mr. Stacey is notable, if for no other reason than that he represents a flat artistic failure on the part of the Bonnie Lassie, who has tried him in bronze, in plaster, and in clay with equal lack of success. There is something untransferable in the boy's face; perhaps its outshining character. I know that I never yet have said to any woman who knew him, no matter what her age, condition, or sentimental predilections, "Isn't he a homely cub!" that she didn't reply indignantly: "He's sweet!" Now when women—wonderful women like the Bonnie Lassie and stupid women like Mrs. Rosser, the twins' aunt, and fastidious women like Madame Tallafferr—unite in terming a smiling human freckle "sweet," there is nothing more to be said. Adonis may as well take a back seat and the Apollo Belvedere seek the helpful resources of a beauty parlor. Said young Phil carelessly:

"Dominie, who's the newcomer?"

"That," said I, "is Barbran."

"Barbran," he repeated with a rising inflection. "It sounds like a breakfast food."

"As she pronounces it, it sounds like a strain of music," said I.

"What's the rest of her name?"

"I am not officially authorized to communicate that."

"Are you officially authorized to present your friends to her?"

"On what do you base your claim to acquaintanceship, my boy?" I asked austerely.

"Oh, claim! Well, you see, a couple of days ago, she was on the cross-town car; and I—well, I just happened to notice her, you know. That's all."

"Yet I am informed on good and sufficient authority that her appearance is not such as to commend her, visually, if I may so express myself, to the discriminating eye."

"Who's the fool—" began Mr. Stacey hotly.

"Tut-tut, my young friend," said I. "Certain ladies whom we both esteem can and will prove, to the satisfaction of the fair-minded, that none of the young person's features is exactly what it should be or precisely where it ought to be. Nevertheless, the net result is surprising and even gratifying."

"She's a peach!" asseverated my companion.

"Substantially what I was remarking. As for your other hint, you need no introduction to Barbran. Nobody does."

"What?" Phil Stacey's plain face became ugly; a hostile light glittered in his eyes. "What do you mean by that?" he growled.

"Simply that she's about to become a local institution. She's plotting against the peace and security of Our Square, to the extent of starting a coffee-house at Number 26."

"No!" cried Phil joyously. "Good news!"

"As a fad. She's a budding millionairess from the West."

"No!" growled Phil, his face falling.

"Bad news; eh? It occurred to me that she might want some decorations, and that you might be the one to do them." In his leisure hours, my young friend, who is an expert accountant by trade (the term "expert" appears to be rather an empty compliment, since his stipend is only twenty-five dollars a week), perpetrates impressionistic decorations and scenery for such minor theaters as will endure them.

"You're a grand old man, Dominie!" said he. "Let's go."

We went. We found Barbran. We conversed. Half an hour later when I left them—without any strenuous protests on the part of either—they were deeply engrossed in a mutual discussion upon decorations, religion, the high cost of living, free verse, two-cent transfers, Charley Chaplin, aviation, ouija, and other equally safe topics. Did I say safe? Dangerous is what I mean. For when a youth who is as homely as young Phil Stacey and in that particular style of homeliness, and a girl who is as far from homely as Barbran begin, at first sight, to explore each other's opinions, they are venturing into a dim and haunted region, lighted by will-o'-the-wisps and beset with perils and pitfalls. Usually they smile as they go. Phil was smiling as I left them. So was Barbran. I may have smiled myself.

Anything but a smile was on Phil Stacey's normally cheerful face when, some three days thereafter, he came to my rooms.

"Dominie," said he, "I want to tap your library. Have you got any of the works of Harvey Wheelwright?"

"God forbid!" said I.

Phil looked surprised. "Is it as bad as that? I didn't suppose there was anything wrong with the stuff."

"Don't you imperil your decent young soul with it," I advised earnestly. "It reeks of poisonous piety. The world he paints is so full of nauseating virtues that any self-respecting man would rather live in hell. His characters all talk like a Sunday-school picnic out of the Rollo books. No such people ever lived or ever could live, because a righteously enraged populace would have killed 'em in early childhood. He's the smuggest fraud and best seller in the United States. Wheelwright? The crudest, shrewdest, most preposterous panderer to weak-minded—"

"Whew! Help! I didn't know what I was starting," protested my visitor. "As a literary critic you're some Big Bertha, Dominie. I begin to suspect that you don't care an awful lot about Mr. Wheelwright's style of composition. Just the same, I've got to read him. All of him. Do you think I'll find his stuff in the Penny Circulator?"

"My poor, lost boy! Probably not. It is doubtless all out in the hands of eager readers."

However, Phil contrived to round it up somewhere. The awful and unsuspected results I beheld on my first visit of patronage to Barbran's cellar, the occasion being the formal opening. A large and curious crowd of five persons, including myself and Phil Stacey, were there. Outside, an old English design of a signboard with a wheel on it creaked despairingly in the wind. Below was a legend: "At the Sign of the WheelThe Wrightery." The interior of the cellar was decorated with scenes from the novels of Harvey Wheelwright, triumphant virtue, discomfited villains, benignant blessings, chaste embraces, edifying death-beds, and orange-blossoms. They were unsigned; but well I knew whose was the shame. Over the fireplace hung a framed letter from the Great Soul. It began, "Dear Young Friend and Admirer," and ended, "Yours for the Light. Harvey Wheelwright."

The guests did as well as could be expected. They ate and drank everything in sight. They then left; that is to say, four of them did. Finally Phil departed, glowering at me. I am a patient soul. No sooner had the door slammed behind him than I turned to Barbran, who was looking discouraged.

"Well, what have you to say in your defense?"

The way Barbran's eyebrows went up constituted in itself a defense fit to move any jury to acquittal.

"For what?" she asked.

"For corrupting my young friend Stacey. You made him paint those pictures."

"They're very nice," returned Barbran demurely. "Quite true to the subject."

"They're awful. They're an offense to civilization. They're an insult to
Our Square. Of all subjects in the world, Harvey Wheelwright! Why,
Barbran? Why? Why? Why?"

"Business," said Barbran.

"Explain, please," said I.

"I got the idea from a friend of mine in Washington Square. She got up a little cellar café built around Alice. Alice in Wonderland, you know, and the Looking Glass. Though I don't suppose a learned and serious person like you would ever have read such nonsense."

"It happened to be Friday and there wasn't a hippopotamus in the house,"
I murmured.

"Oh," said Barbran, brightening. "Well, I thought if she could do it with Alice, I could do it with Harvey Wheelwright."

"In the name of Hatta and the March Hare, why?"

"Because, for every one person who reads Alice nowadays, ten read the author of 'Reborn Through Righteousness' and 'Called by the Cause.' Isn't it so?"

"Mathematically unimpeachable."

"Therefore I ought to get ten times as many people as the other place.
Don't you think so?" she inquired wistfully.

Who am I to withhold a comforting fallacy from a hopeful soul.
"Undoubtedly," I agreed. "But do you love him?"

"Who?" said Barbran, with a start. The faint pink color ran up her cheeks.

"Harvey Wheelwright, of course. Whom did you think I meant?"

"He is a very estimable writer," returned Barbran primly, quite ignoring my other query.

"Good-night, Barbran," said I sadly. "I'm going out to mourn your lost soul."

One might reasonably expect to find peace and quiet in the vicinity of one's own particular bench at 11.45 P.M. in Our Square. But not at all on this occasion. There sat Phil Stacey. I challenged him at once.

"What did you do it for?"

To do him justice he did not dodge or pretend to misunderstand. "Pay," said he.

"Phil! Did you take money for that stuff?"

"Not exactly. I'm taking it out in trade. I'm going to eat there."

"You'll starve to death."

"I haven't got much of an appetite."

"The inevitable effect of overfeeding on sweets. An uninterrupted diet of Harvey Wheelwright—"

"Don't speak the swine's name," implored Phil, "or I'll be sick."

"You've sold your artistic birthright for a mess of pottage, probably indigestible at that."

"I don't care," he averred stoutly. "I don't care for anything except—Dominie, who told you her father was a millionaire?"

"It's well known," I said vaguely. "He's a cattle king or an emperor of sheep or the sultan of the piggery or something. A good thing for Barbran, too, if she expects to keep her cellar going. The kind of people who read Har—our unmentionable author, don't frequent Bohemian coffee cellars. They would regard it as reckless and abandoned debauchery. Barbran has shot at the wrong mark."

"The place has got to be a success," declared Phil between his teeth, his plain face expressing a sort of desperate determination.

"Otherwise the butterfly will fly back West," I suggested. The boy winced.

What man could do to make it a success, Phil Stacey did and heroically. Not only did he eat all his meals there, but he went forth into the highways and byways and haled in other patrons (whom he privately paid for) to an extent which threatened to exhaust his means.

Our Square is conservative, not to say distrustful in its bearing toward innovations. Thornsen's Élite Restaurant has always sufficed for our inner cravings. We are, I suppose, too old to change. Nor does Harvey Wheelwright exercise an inspirational sway over us. We let the little millionairess and her Washington Square importation pretty well alone. She advertised feebly in the "Where to Eat" columns, catching a few stray outlanders, but for the most part people didn't come. Until the first of the month, that is. Then too many came. They brought their bills with them.

Evening after evening Barbran and Phil Stacey sat in the cellar almost or quite alone. So far as I could judge from my occasional visits of patronage (Barbran furnished excellent sweet cider and cakes for late comers), they endured the lack of custom with fortitude, not to say indifference. But in the mornings her soft eyes looked heavy, and once, as she was passing my bench deep in thought, I surprised a look of blank terror on her face. One can understand that even a millionaire's daughter might spend sleepless nights brooding over a failure. But that look of mortal dread! How well I know it! How often have I seen it, preceding some sordid or brave tragedy of want and wretchedness in Our Square! What should it mean, though, on Barbran's sunny face? Puzzling over the question I put it to the Bonnie Lassie.

"Read me a riddle, O Lady of the Wise Heart. Of what is a child of fortune, young, strong, and charming, afraid?"

At the time we were passing the house in which the insecticidal Angel of
Death takes carefully selected and certified lodgers.

"I know whom you mean," said the Bonnie Lassie, pointing up to the little dormer window which was Barbran's outlook on life. "Interpret me a signal. What do you see up there?"

"It appears to be a handkerchief pasted to the window," said I adjusting my glasses.

"Upside down," said the Bonnie Lassie.

"How can a handkerchief be upside down?" I inquired, in what was intended to be a tone of sweet reasonableness.

Contempt was all that it brought me. "Metaphorically, of course! It's a signal of distress."

"In what distress can Barbran be?"

"In what kind of distress are most people who live next under the roof in Our Square?"

"She's doing that just to get into our atmosphere. She told me so herself. A millionaire's daughter—"

"Do millionaires' daughters wash their own handkerchiefs and paste them on windows to dry? Does any woman in or out of Our Square ever soak her own handkerchiefs in her own washbowl except when she's desperately saving pennies? Did you ever wash one single handkerchief in your rooms, Dominie?"

"Certainly not. It isn't manly. Then you think she isn't a millionairess?"

"Look at her shoes when next you see her," answered the Bonnie Lassie conclusively. "I think the poor little thing has put her every cent in the world into her senseless cellar, and she's going under."

"But, good Heavens!" I exclaimed. "Something has got to be done."

"It's going to be."

"Who's going to do it?"

"Me," returned the Bonnie Lassie, who is least grammatical when most purposeful.

"Then," said I, "the Fates may as well shut up shop and Providence take a day off; the universe has temporarily changed its management. Can I help?"

The Bonnie Lassie focused her gaze in a peculiar manner upon the exact center of my countenance. A sort of fairy grin played about her lips. "I wonder if—No," she sighed. "No. I don't think it would do, Dominie. Anyway, I've got six without you."

"Including Phil Stacey?"

"Of course," retorted the Bonnie Lassie. "It was he who came to me for help. I'm really doing this for him."

"I thought you were doing it for Barbran."

"Oh; she's just a transposed Washington Squarer," answered the tyrant of
Our Square. "Though she's a dear kiddie, too, underneath the nonsense."

"Do I understand—"

"I don't see," interrupted the Bonnie Lassie sweetly, "how you could. I haven't told you. And the rest are bound to secrecy. But don't be unduly alarmed at anything queer you may see in Our Square within the next few days."

Only by virtue of that warning was I able to command the emotions aroused by an encounter with Cyrus the Gaunt some evenings later. He was hurrying across the park space in the furtive manner of one going to a shameful rendezvous, and upon my hailing him he at first essayed to sheer off. When he saw who it was he came up with a rather swaggering and nonchalant effect. I may observe here that nobody has a monopoly of nonchalance in this world.

"Good-evening, Cyrus," I said.

"Good-evening, Dominie."

"Beautiful weather we're having."

"Couldn't be finer."

"Do you think it will hold?"

"The paper says rain to-morrow."

"Why is the tip of your nose painted green?"

"Is it green?" inquired Cyrus, as if he hadn't given the matter any special consideration, but thought it quite possible.

"Emerald," said I. "It looks as if it were mortifying."

"It would be mortifying," admitted Cyrus the Gaunt, "if it weren't in a good cause."

"What cause?" I asked.

"Come out of there!" said Cyrus the Gaunt, not to me, but to a figure lurking in the shrubbery.

The Little Red Doctor emerged. I took one look at his most distinctive feature.

"You, too!" I said. "What do you mean by it?"

"Ask Cyrus," returned the Little Red Doctor glumly.

"It's a cult," said Cyrus. "The credit of the notion belongs not to me, but to my esteemed better half. A few chosen souls—"

"Here comes another of them," I conjectured, as a bowed form approached.
"Who is it? MacLachan!"

The old Scot appeared to be suffering from a severe cold. His handkerchief was pressed to his face.

"Take it down, Mac," I ordered. "It's useless." He did so, and my worst suspicions were confirmed.

"He bullied me into it," declared the tailor, glowering at Cyrus the
Gaunt.

"It'll do your nose good," declared Cyrus jauntily. "Give it a change.
Complementary colors, you know. What ho! Our leader."

Phil Stacey appeared. He appeared serious; that is, as serious as one can appear when his central feature glows like the starboard light of an incoming steamship. Following him were Leon Coventry, huge and shy, and the lethal Boggs looking unhappy.

"Where are you all going?" I demanded.

"To the Wrightery," said Phil.

"Is it a party?"

"It's a gathering."

"Am I included?"

"If you'll—"

"Not on any account," I declared firmly. It had just occurred to me why the Bonnie Lassie had centered her gaze upon my features. "Follow your indecent noses as far as you like. I stay."

Still lost in meditation, I may have dozed on my bench, when heavy, measured footsteps aroused me. I looked up to see Terry the Cop, guardian of our peace, arbiter of differences, conservator of our morals. I peered at him with anxiety.

"Terry," I inquired, "how is your nose?"

"Keen, Dominie," said Terry. He sniffed the air. "Don't you detect the smell of illegal alcohol?"

"I can't say I do."

"It's very plain," declared the officer wriggling his nasal organ which, I was vastly relieved to observe, retained its original hue. "Wouldn't you say, Dominie, it comes from yonder cellar?"

"Barbran's cellar?

"I am informed that a circle of dangerous char-_ack_ters with green noses gather there and drink cider containing more than two-seventy-five per cent of apple juice. I'm about to pull the place."

"For Heaven's sake, Terry; don't do that! You'll scare—"

"Whisht, Dominie!" interrupted Terry with an elaborate wink. "There'll be no surprise, except maybe to the Judge in the morning. You better drop in at the court."

Of the round-up I have no details, except that it seemed to be quietly conducted. The case was called the next day, before Magistrate Wolf Tone Hanrahan, known as the "Human Judge." Besides being human, his Honor is, as may be inferred from his name, somewhat Irish. He heard the evidence, tested the sample, announced his intention of coming around that evening for some more, and honorably discharged Barbran.

"And what about these min?" he inquired, gazing upon the dauntless six.

"Dangerous suspects, Yeronner," said Terry the Cop.

"They look mild as goat's milk to me," returned the Magistrate, "though now I get me eye on the rid-hidded wan [with a friendly wink at the Little Red Doctor] I reckonize him as a desprit charackter that'd save your life as soon as look at ye. What way are they dang'rous?"

"When apprehended," replied Terry, looking covertly about to see that the reporters were within hearing distance, "their noses were painted green."

"Is this true?" asked the Magistrate of the six.

"It is, your Honor," they replied.

"An', why not!" demanded the Human Judge hotly. "'Tis a glorious color! Erin go bragh! Off'cer, ye've exceeded yer jooty. D' ye think this is downtrodden an' sufferin' Oireland an' yerself the tyrant Gineral French? Let 'em paint their noses anny color they loike; but green for preference. I'm tellin' ye, this is the land of freedom an' equality, an' ivery citizen thereof is entitled to life, liberty, and the purshoot of happiness, an' a man's nose is his castle, an' don't ye fergit it. Dis-charrrrged! Go an' sin no more. I mane, let the good worruk go awn!"

"Now watch for the evening papers," said young Phil Stacey exultantly. "The Wrightery will get some free advertising that'll crowd it for months."

Alas for youth's golden hopes! The evening papers ignored the carefully prepared event. One morning paper published a paragraph, attributing the green noses to a masquerade party. The conspirators, gathered at the cellar with their war-paints on (in case of reporters), discussed the fiasco in embittered tones. Young Stacey raged against a stupid and corrupt press. MacLachan expressed the acidulous hope that thereafter Cyrus the Gaunt would be content with making a fool of himself without implicating innocent and confiding friends. The Bonnie Lassie was not present, but sent word (characteristically) that they must have done it all wrong; men had no sense, anyway. The party then sent out for turpentine and broke up to reassemble no more. Only Phil Stacey, inventor of the great idea, was still faithful to and hopeful of it. Each evening he conscientiously greened himself and went to eat with Barbran.

Time justified his faith. One evening there dropped in a plump man who exhaled a mild and comforting benevolence, like a gentle country parson. He smiled sweetly at Phil, and introduced himself as a reporter for the "Sunday World Magazine"—and where was the rest of the circle? In a flurry of excitement, the pair sent for Cyrus the Gaunt to do the talking. Cyrus arrived, breathless and a trifle off color (the Bonnie Lassie had unfortunately got a touch of bronze scenic paint mixed with the green, so that he smelled like an over-ripe banana), and proceeded to exposition.

"This," he explained, "is a new cult. It is based on the back-to-the-spring idea. The well-spring of life, you know. The—er—spring of eternal youth, and—and so forth. You understand?"

"I hope to," said the reporter politely. "Why on the nose?"

"I will explain that," returned Cyrus, getting his second wind; "but first let me get the central idea in your mind. It's a nature movement; a readjustment of art to nature. All nature is green. Look about you." Here he paused for effect, which was unfortunate.

"Quite so," agreed the reporter. "The cable-car, for instance, and the dollar bill, not to mention the croton bug and the polar bear. But, pardon me, I interrupt the flow of your eloquence."

"You do," said Cyrus severely. "Inanimate nature I speak of. All inanimate nature is green. But we poor fellow creatures have gotten away from the universal mother-color. We must get back to it. We must learn to think greenly. But first we must learn to see greenly. How shall we accomplish this? Put green in our eyes? Impossible, unfortunately. But, our noses—there is the solution. In direct proximity to the eye, the color, properly applied, tints one's vision of all things. Green shadows in a green world," mooned Cyrus the Gaunt poetically. "As the bard puts it:

  "'Annihilating all that's made
  To a green thought in a green shade.'"

"Wait a minute," said the visitor, and made a note on an envelope-back.

"Accordingly, Miss Barbran, the daughter and heiress of a millionaire cattle owner in Wyoming [here the reporter made his second note], has established this center where we meet to renew and refresh our souls."

"Good!" said the benevolent reporter. "Fine! Of course it's all bunk—"

"Bunk!" echoed Barbran and Phil, aghast, while Cyrus sat with his lank jaw drooping.

"You don't see any of your favorite color in my eye, do you?" inquired the visitor pleasantly. "Just what you're putting over I don't know. Some kind of new grease paint, perhaps. Don't tell me. It's good enough, anyway. I'll fall for it. It's worth a page story. Of course I'll want some photographs of the mural paintings. They're almost painfully beautiful…. What's wrong with our young friend; is he sick?" he added, looking with astonishment at Phil Stacey who was exhibiting sub-nauseous symptoms.

"He painted 'em," explained Cyrus, grinning.

"And he's sorry," supplemented Barbran.

"Yes; I wouldn't wonder. Well, I won't give him away," said the kindly journalist. "Now, as to the membership of your circle…."

The Sunday "story" covered a full page. The "millionairess" feature was played up conspicuously and repeatedly, and the illustrations did what little the text failed to do. It was a "josh-story" from beginning to end.

"I'll kill that pious fraud of a reporter," declared Phil.

"Now the place is ruined," mourned Barbran.

"Wait and see," advised the wiser Cyrus.

Great is the power of publicity. The Wrightery was swamped with custom on the Monday evening following publication, and for the rest of that week and the succeeding week.

"I never was good at figures," said the transported Barbran to Phil Stacey at the close of the month, "but as near as I can make out, I've a clear profit of eight dollars and seventy cents. My fortune is made. And it's all due to you."

Had the Bonnie Lassie been able to hold her painted retainers in line, the owner's golden prophecy might have been made good. But they had other matters on hand for their evenings than sitting about in a dim cellar gazing cross-eyed at their own scandalous noses. MacLachan was the first defection. He said that he thought he was going crazy and he knew he was going blind. The Little Red Doctor was unreliable owing to the pressure of professional calls. He complained with some justice that a green nose on a practicing physician tended to impair confidence. Then Leon Coventry went away, and Boggs discovered (or invented) an important engagement with a growing family of clothes-moths in a Connecticut country house. So there remained only the faithful Phil. One swallow does not make a summer; nor does one youth with a vernal proboscis convince a skeptical public that it is enjoying the fearful companionship of a subversive and revolutionary cult. Patronage ebbed out as fast as it had flooded in. Barbran's eyes were as soft and happy as ever in the evenings, when she and Phil sat in a less and less interrupted solitude. But in the mornings palpable fear stalked her. Phil never saw it. He was preoccupied with a dread of his own.

One evening of howling wind and hammering rain, when all was cosy and home-like for two in the little firelit Wrightery, she nerved herself up to facing the facts.

"It's going to be a failure," she said dismally.

"Then you're going away?" he asked, trying to keep his voice from quaking.

She set her little chin quite firmly. "Not while there's a chance left of pulling it out."

"Well; it doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned," he muttered. "I'm going away myself."

"You?" She sat up very straight and startled. "Where?"

"Kansas City."

"Oh! What for?"

"Do you remember a fat old grandpa who was here last month and came back to ask about the decorations?"

"Yes."

"He's built him a new house—he calls it a mansion—and he wants me to paint the music-room. He likes"—Phil gulped a little—"my style of art."

"Isn't that great!" said Barbran in the voice of one giving three cheers for a funeral. "How does he want his music-room decorated?"

Young Phil put his head in his hands. "Scenes from Moody and Sankey," he said in a muffled voice.

"Good gracious! You aren't going to do it?"

"I am," retorted the other gloomily. "It's good money." Almost immediately he added, "Damn the money!"

"No; no; you mustn't do that. You must go, of course. Would—will it take long?"

"I'm not coming back."

"I don't want you not to come back," said Barbran, in a queer, frightened voice. She put out her hand to him and hastily withdrew it.

He said desperately: "What's the use? I can't sit here forever looking at you and—and dreaming of—of impossible things, and eating my heart out with my nose painted green."

"The poor nose!" murmured Barbran.

With one of her home-laundered handkerchiefs dipped in turpentine, she gently rubbed it clean. It then looked (as she said later in a feeble attempt to palliate her subsequent conduct) very pink and boyish and pathetic, but somehow faithful and reliable and altogether lovable.

So she kissed it. Then she tried to run away. The attempt failed.

It was not Barbran's nose that got kissed next. Nor, for that matter, was it young Phil's. Then he held her off and shut his eyes, for the untrammeled exercise of his reasoning powers, and again demanded of Barbran and the fates:

"What's the use?"

"What's the use of what?" returned Barbran tremulously.

"Of all this? Your father's a millionaire, and I won't—I can't—"

"He isn't!" cried Barbran. "And you can—you will."

"He isn't?" ejaculated Phil. "What is he?"

"He's a school-teacher, and I haven't got a thing but debts."

Phil received this untoward news as if a flock of angels, ringing joy bells, had just brought him the gladdest tidings in history. After an interlude he said:

"But, why—"

"Because," said Barbran, burrowing her nose in his coat: "I thought it would be an asset. I thought people would consider it romantic and it would help business. See how much that reporter made of it! Phil! Wh-wh-why are you treating me like a—a—a—dumbbell?"

For he had thrust her away from him at arm's-length again.

"There's one other thing between us, Barbran."

"If there is, it's your fault. What is it?"

"Harvey Wheelwright," he said solemnly. "Do you really like that sickening slush-slinger?"

She raised to him eyes in which a righteous hate quivered. "I loathe him. I've always loathed him. I despise the very ink he writes with and the paper it's printed on."

When I happened in a few minutes later, they were ritually burning the "Dear Friend and Admirer" letter in a slow candle-flame, and Harvey Wheelwright, as represented by his unctuously rolling signature, was writhing in merited torment. Between them they told me their little romance.

"And he's not going to Kansas City," said Barbran defiantly.

"I'm not going anywhere, ever, away from Barbran," said young Phil.

"And he's going to paint what he wants to."

"Pictures of Barbran," said young Phil.

"And we're going to burn the Wheel sign in effigy, and wipe off the walls and make the place a success," said Barbran.

"And we're going to be married right away," said Phil.

"Next week," said Barbran.

"What do you think?" said both.

Now I know what I ought to have said just as well as MacLachan himself. I should have pointed out the folly and recklessness of marrying on twenty-five dollars a week and a dowry of debts. I should have preached prudence and caution and delay, and have pointed out—The wind blew the door open: Young Spring was in the park, and the wet odor of little burgeoning leaves was borne in, wakening unwithered memories in my withered heart.

"Bless you, my children!" said I.

It was actually for this, as holding out encouragement to their reckless, feckless plans, that Wisdom, in the person of MacLachan, the tailor, reprehended me, rather than for my historical intentions regarding the pair.

"What'll they be marryin' on?" demanded Mac Wisdom—that is to say,
MacLachan.

"Spring and youth," I said. "The fragrance of lilac in the air, the glow of romance in their hearts. What better would you ask?"

"A bit of prudence," said MacLachan.

"Prudence!" I retorted scornfully. "The miser of the virtues. It may pay its own way through the world. But when did it ever take Happiness along for a jaunt?"

I was quite pleased with my little epigram until the Scot countered upon me with his observation about two young fools and an old one.

Oh, well! Likely enough. Most unwise, and rash and inexcusable, that headlong mating; and there will be a reckoning to pay. Babies, probably, and new needs and pressing anxieties, and Love will perhaps flutter at the window when Want shows his grim face at the door; and Wisdom will be justified of his forebodings, and yet—and yet—who am I, old and lonely and uncompanioned, yet once touched with the spheral music and the sacred fire, that I should subscribe to the dour orthodoxies of MacLachan and that ilk?

Years and years ago a bird flew in at my window, a bird of wonderful and flashing hues, and of lilting melodies. It came; it tarried—and I let the chill voice of Prudence overbear its music. It left me. But the song endures; the song endures, and all life has been the richer for its echoes. So let them hold and cherish their happiness, the two young fools.

As for the old one, would that some good fairy, possessed of the pigment and secret of perishable youth, might come down and paint his nose green!