The American Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill,
1871-1947

First electronic edition 2003
86,470 words, 603 Kb
 

Text scanned, edited, and encoded
by William C. Chase,
with an introduction

Sources:
 
CONISTON
Winston Churchill
New York
The Macmillan Company
1906
 
THE CROSSING
Winston Churchill
New York
The Macmillan Company
1904
 
A MODERN CHRONICLE
Winston Churchill
New York
The Macmillan Company
1910
 
THE DWELLING-PLACE OF LIGHT
Winston Churchill
New York
The Macmillan Company
1917

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THE AMERICAN WINSTON CHURCHILL
Selections from:

CONISTON
THE BORDERLAND
A MODERN CHRONICLE
THE DWELLING-PLACE OF LIGHT

BY

WINSTON CHURCHILL

Edited by
William C. Chase

First Electronic Edition
2003


 

 

CONTENTS

 


 

 

ABOUT THE AMERICAN WINSTON CHURCHILL

Once highly regarded as a novelist and historian, Winston Churchill (1871-1947) was for many years better known in America than his English namesake. In addition to being one of the most widely read authors of his era, Churchill was also actively involved with its politics and social issues. But at the height of his prominence, about 1918, he withdrew from the public eye, with the result that by the time of his death most Americans knew of only one Churchill, the British war leader.

The first selection from Churchill’s works presented here — “The Woodchuck Session” — is drawn from the first third of the 1906 bestseller, Coniston. Churchill’s Coniston was actually two books in one: a tale of New England and New England politics in the Railroad Age, and a sentimental moral drama cum juvenile romance. This latter element, typical of most of Churchill’s novels, helped him achieve “best seller” status in the early twentieth century, and accounts for the collapse of his reputation after 1920. Fortunately, the first part of Coniston can stand by itself as a political and local color novella of ability, and I have done little more than to strike several passages which lay the foundation for a romantic subplot (involving Cynthia Wetherell and Bob Worthington) that occupies much of the rest of the novel.

The next selection, “Sketches from The Borderland,” is drawn from Churchill’s 1904 bestseller, The Crossing, the last of three historical romances he authored starting with Richard Carvel in 1899 (and followed by The Crisis in 1901). What appears here is an account of a young boy’s life in the shadow of the Blue Ridge in the 1770s, and his journey across the mountains to Kentucky — whereas the complete novel traces its hero’s development to adulthood, and in venues beyond the eastern mountains. Unlike Churchill’s later work, The Crossing makes no attempt at political or contemporary comment, and in its later pages represents some of Churchill’s most forgettable, and forgotten, work.

The third selection, “The New Doctrine,” is drawn from Churchill’s 1910 novel, A Modern Chronicle, the author’s first attempt at a contemporary problem novel, a form that would define his work until the end of his career as a novelist. A story of moral development and of marriage and divorce in 1910 America, it is, as always with Churchill, a mixture: of prose that almost a century later still seems sharp and insightful about Americans and American society, and prose that seems capable of eliciting a sympathetic response only from readers long dead.

The final selection, “A New England Recessional,” is drawn from Churchill’s final novel, The Dwelling-Place of Light (1917). The most realistic of Churchill’s novels, it is a tale of life, and life frustrated, in a “modern” New England mill town. The passages presented here reflect a world and world view substantially different from that of Coniston or even A Modern Chronicle.

A CHURCHILL CHRONOLOGY

1871:  Winston Churchill is born, November 10, in St. Louis.

1888:  Graduates from Smith Academy, St. Louis.

1894:  Graduates from the United States Naval Academy in June. Resigns from the Navy at the end of the summer and becomes an editor of the Army and Navy Journal.

1895:  Joins Cosmopolitan and marries Mabel Harlakenden Hall.

1899:  Richard Carvel appears, the first of many best sellers. A historical romance, it will be followed by similar efforts in The Crisis (1901) and The Crossing (1904). The popularity of Richard Carvel in Britain causes the English Churchill to sign his works “Winston Spencer Churchill” for a time in order to distinguish them.

1899:  The Churchills move into newly constructed Harlakenden Hall overlooking the Connecticut River in Cornish, New Hampshire. For several summers prior to World War I, Harlakenden Hall will be leased to Woodrow Wilson as the summer White House.

1902:  Churchill is elected as the representative from Cornish to the New Hampshire legislature, then under the sway of the Boston and Maine Railroad. Once in Concord, as he later tells the Boston Herald, Churchill discovers that most of the politicians “thought that I had come down there to get material. . . . If I tried to talk politics I was told a funny story. I was not trusted.” In particular, the stories are of Ruel Durkee, a legendary political boss who had died in 1885. Durkee will live again as Jethro Bass.

1906:  Coniston appears in June. Later in the year Churchill makes a serious bid for the Republican nomination for governor. Relationships with Roosevelt and Taft will spread his influence in Republican circles beyond New Hampshire in the coming years.

1908:  Mr. Crewe’s Career appears. A tepid sequel to Coniston, it is nevertheless a best seller.

1910:  A Modern Chronicle appears. A study of modern marriage and divorce, it heralds an increasing concern with social issues and problems in Churchill’s novels. The Inside of the Cup (1913) treats modern Christian faith, The Far Country (1915) the quest for business success, and The Dwelling-Place of Light (1917) modern industrial society.

1912:  Churchill runs for governor in New Hampshire on the Progressive ticket. Thereafter he forswears elective politics, but becomes an increasing influence nationally on the basis of lectures and articles about the issues raised in his “problem novels.”

1919:  A crisis of faith and values causes Churchill to abandon his pursuit of popular success and influence and devote himself to self-understanding. One result will ultimately be the appearance two decades later of The Uncharted Way, a meditation on religion.

1923:  Harlakenden Hall is destroyed by fire.

1940:  The Uncharted Way appears. Churchill desires no popular acclaim, and receives none.

1947:  Churchill dies at Winter Park, Florida. Shortly before his death, he has told an interviewer that “it is very difficult now for me to think of myself as a writer of novels, as all that seems to belong to another life.” Upon his passing, the New York Times observes that “in 1900, even after the British Churchill had been taken prisoner by the Boers and dramatically escaped, there was no question in this country as to which Churchill was the Winston Churchill.”

CHURCHILL BIBLIOGRAPHY

The last quarter century has seen little interest in Churchill, either as an American life or as a writer. The one exception is a splendid and thoroughly researched biography by a historian of popular culture: Robert W. Schneider, Novelist to a Generation: The Life and Thought of Winston Churchill (1976). A useful bibliography is Eric Steinbaugh, Winston Churchill: A Reference Guide (1985). Two noteworthy studies from the preceding quarter century are: Richard and Beatrice Hofstadter, “Winston Churchill: A Study in the Popular Novel,” American Quarterly (Spring, 1950), 12-18, and Warren I. Titus, Winston Churchill (1963), a very serviceable literary biography.

 


 

 

THE WOODCHUCK SESSION

 
 

 

I

ON THE DANGERS OF CURIOSITY

FIRST I am to write a love-story of long ago, of a time some little while after General Jackson had got into the White House and had shown the world what a real democracy was. The Era of the first six presidents had closed, and a new Era had begun. I am speaking of political Eras. Certain gentlemen, with a pious belief in democracy, but with a firmer determination to get on top, arose, — and got on top. So many of these gentlemen arose in the different states, and they were so clever, and they found so many chinks in the Constitution to crawl through and steal the people’s chestnuts, that the Era may be called the Boss-Era. After the Boss came along certain Things without souls, but of many minds, and found more chinks in the Constitution: bigger chinks, for the Things were bigger, and they stole more chestnuts. But I am getting far ahead of my love-story — and of my book.

The reader is warned that this first love-story will, in a few chapters, come to an end: and not to a happy end — otherwise there would be no book. Lest he should throw the book away when he arrives at this page, it is only fair to tell him that there is another and a much longer love-story later on, if he will only continue to read, in which, it is hoped, he may not be disappointed.

The hills seem to leap up against the sky as I describe that region were Cynthia Ware was born, and the very old country names help to summon up the picture. Coniston Mountain, called by some the Blue Mountain, clad in Hercynian forests, ten good miles in length, north and south, with its notch road that winds over the saddle behind the withers of it. Coniston Water, that oozes out from under the loam in a hundred places on the eastern slope, gathers into a rushing stream to cleave the very granite, flows southward around the south end of Coniston Mountain, and having turned the mills at Brampton, idles through meadows westward in its own green valley until it comes to Harwich, where it works again and tumbles into a river. Brampton and Harwich are rivals, but Coniston Water gives of its power impartially to each. From the little farm clearings on the western slope of Coniston Mountain you can sweep the broad valley of a certain broad river where grew (and grow still) the giant pines that gave many a mast to King George’s navy as tribute for the land. And beyond that river rises beautiful Farewell Mountain of many colors, now sapphire, now amethyst, its crest rimmed about at evening with saffron flame; and, beyond Farewell, the emerald billows of the western peaks catching the level light. A dozen little brooks are born high among the western spruces on Coniston to score deep, cool valleys in their way through Clovelly township to the broad river — valleys full of the music of the water and fresh with the odor of the ferns.

To this day the railroad has not reached Coniston Village — nay, nor Coniston Flat, four miles nearer Brampton. The village lies on its own little shelf under the forest-clad slope of the mountain, and in the midst of its dozen houses is the green triangle where the militia used to drill on June days. At one end of the triangle is the great pine mast that graced no frigate of George’s, but flew the stars and stripes on many a liberty day. Across the road is Jonah Winch’s store, with a platform so high that a man may step off his horse directly on to it; with its checker-paned windows, with its dark interior smelling of coffee and apples and molasses, yes, and of Endea rum — for this was before the days of the revivals.

How those checker-paned windows bring back the picture of that village green! The meeting-house has them, lantern-like, wide and high, in three sashes — white meeting-house, seat alike of government and religion, with its terraced steeple, with its classic porches north and south. Behind it is the long shed, and in front, rising out of the milkweed and the flowering thistle, the horse block of the first meeting-house, where many a pillion has left its burden in times agone. Honest Jock Hallowell built that second meeting-house — was, indeed, still building it at time of which we write. He had hewn every beam and king post in it, and set every plate and slip. And Jock Hallowell is the man who, unwittingly, starts this chronicle.

At noon, on one of those madcap April days of that Coniston country, Jock descended from his work on the steeple to perceive the ungainly figure of Jethro Bass coming toward him across the green. Jethro was about thirty years of age, and he wore a coonskin cap even in those days, and trousers tucked into his boots. He carried his big head bent forward, a little to one side, and was not, at first sight, a prepossessing-looking person. As our story largely concerns him, and we must get started somehow, it may be well to fix a little attention on him.

“Heigho!” said Jock, rubbing his hands on his leather apron.

“H-how be you, Jock?” said Jethro, stopping.

“Heigho!” cried Jock, “what’s this game of fox and geese you’re a-playin’ among the farmers?”

“C-callate to git the steeple done before frost?” inquired Jethro, without so much as a smile. “B-build it tight, Jock — b-build it tight.”

“Guess he’ll build his’n tight, whatever it is,” said Jock, looking after him as Jethro made his way to the little tannery near by.

Let it be known that there was such a thing as social rank in Coniston; and something which, for the sake of an advantageous parallel, we may call an Established Church. Coniston was a Congregational town still, and the deacons and dignitaries of that church were likewise the pillars of the state. Not many years before the time of which we write actual disestablishment had occurred, when the town ceased — as a town — to pay the salary of Priest Ware, as the minister was called. The father of Jethro Bass, Nathan the currier, had once, in a youthful lapse, permitted a Baptist preacher to immerse him in Coniston Water. This had been the extent of Nathan’s religion; Jethro had none at all, and was, for this and other reasons, somewhere near the bottom of the social scale.

“Fox and geese!” repeated Jock, with his eyes still on Jethro’s retreating back. The builder of the meeting-house rubbed a great, brown arm, scratched his head, and turned and came face to face with Cynthia Ware, in a poke bonnet.

Contrast is a favorite trick of authors, and no greater contrast is to be had in Coniston than that between Cynthia Ware and Jethro Bass. In the first place, Cynthia was the minister’s daughter, and twenty-one. I can summon her now under the great maples of the village street, a virginal figure, gray eyes that kindled the face shaded by the poke bonnet, and up you went above the clouds.

“What about fox and geese, Jock?” said Cynthia.

“Jethro Bass,” said Jock, who, by reason of his capability, was a privileged character. “Mark my words, Cynthy, Jethro Bass is an all-fired sight smarter than folks in this town think he be. They don’t take notice of him, because he don’t say much, and stutters. He hain’t be’n eddicated a great deal, but I wouldn’t be afeard to warrant he’d make a racket in the world some of these days.”

“Jock Hallowell!” cried Cynthia, the gray eyes beginning to dance, “I suppose you think Jethro’s going to be President.”

“All right,” said Jock, “you can laugh. Ever talked with Jethro?”

“I’ve hardly spoken two words to him in my life,” she replied. And it was true, although the little white parsonage was scarce two hundred yards from the tannery house.

“Jethro’s never ailed much,” Jock remarked, having reference to Cynthia’s proclivities for visiting the sick. “I’ve seed a good many different men in my time, and I tell you, Cynthy Ware, that Jethro’s got a kind of power you don’t often come acrost. Folks don’t suspicion it.”

In spite of herself, Cynthia was impressed by the ring of sincerity in the builder’s voice. Now that she thought of it, there was rugged power in Jethro’s face, especially when he took off the coonskin cap. She always nodded a greeting when she saw him in the tannery yard or on the road, and sometimes he nodded back, but oftener he had not appeared to see her. She had thought this failure to nod stupidity, but it might after all be abstraction.

“What makes you think he has ability?” she asked, picking flowers from a bunch of arbutus she held.

“He’s rich, for one thing,” said Jock. He had not intended a dissertation on Jethro Bass, but he felt bound to defend his statements.

“Rich!”

“Wal, he hain’t poor. He’s got as many as thirty mortgages round among the farmers — some on land, and some on cattle.”

“How did he make the money?” demanded Cynthia, in surprise.

“Hides an’ wool an’ bark — turned ’em over an’ swep’ in. Gits a load, and Lyman Hull drives him down to Boston with that six-hoss team. Lyman gits drunk, Jethro keeps sober and saves.”

Jock began to fashion some wooden pegs with his adze, for nails were scarce in those days. Still Cynthia lingered, picking flowers from the bunch.

“What did you mean by ‘fox and geese,’ Jock?” she said presently.

Jock laughed. He did not belong to the Establishment, but was a Universalist; politically he admired General Jackson. “What’d you say if Jethro was Chairman of the next Board of Selectmen?” he demanded.

No wonder Cynthia gasped. Jethro Bass, Chairman of the Board, in the honored seat of Deacon Moses Hatch, the perquisite of the church in Coniston! The idea was heresy. As a matter of fact, Jock himself uttered it as a playful exaggeration. Certain nonconformist farmers, of whom there were not a few in the town, had come into Jonah Winch’s store that morning; and Jabez Miller, who lived on the north slope, had taken away the breath of the orthodox by suggesting that Jethro Bass be nominated for town office. Jock Hallowell had paused once or twice on his work on the steeple to look across the tree-tops at Coniston shouldering the sky. He had been putting two and two together, and now he was merely making five out of it, instead of four. He remembered that Jethro Bass had for some years been journeying through the town, buying his hides and wool, and collecting the interest on his mortgages.

Cynthia would have liked to reprove Jock Hallowell, and tell him there were some subjects which should not be joked about. Jethro Bass, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen!

“Well, here comes young Moses, I do believe,” said Jock, gathering his pegs into his apron and preparing to ascend once more. “Callated he’d spring up pretty soon.”

“Jock, you do talk foolishly for a man who is able to build a church,” said Cynthia, as she walked away. The young Moses referred to was Moses Hatch, Junior, son of the pillar of the Church and State, and it was an open secret that he was madly in love with Cynthia. Let it be said of him that he was a steady-going young man, and that he sighed for the moon.

“Moses,” said the girl, when they came in sight of the elms that shaded the gable of the parsonage, “what do you think of Jethro Bass?”

“Jethro Bass!” exclaimed honest Moses, “whatever put him into your head, Cynthy?” Had she mentioned, perhaps, any other young man in Coniston, Moses would have been eaten with jealousy.

“Oh, Jock was joking about him. What do you think of him?”

“Never thought one way or t’other,” he answered. “Jethro never had much to do with the boys. He’s always in that tannery, or out buyin’ of hides. He does make a sharp bargain when he buys a hide. We always goes shares on our’n.”

Cynthia was not only the minister’s daughter, — distinction enough, — her reputation for learning was spread through the country roundabout, and at the age of twenty she had had an offer to teach school in Harwich. Once a week in summer she went to Brampton, to the Social Library there, and sat at the feet of that Lucretia Penniman of whom Brampton has ever been so proud — Lucretia Penniman, one of the first to sound the clarion note for the intellectual independence of American women; who wrote the “Hymn to Coniston”; who, to the awe of her townspeople, went out into the great world and became editress of a famous woman’s journal, and knew Longfellow and Hawthorne and Bryant. Miss Lucretia it was who started the Brampton Social Library, and filled it with such books as both sexes might read with profit. Never was there a stricter index than hers. Cynthia, Miss Lucretia loved, and the training of that mind was the pleasantest task of her life.

Curiosity as a factor has never, perhaps, been given its proper weight by philosophers. Besides being fatal to a certain domestic animal, as an instigating force it has brought joy and sorrow into the lives of men and women, and made and marred careers. And curiosity now laid hold of Cynthia Ware. Why in the world she should ever have been curious about Jethro Bass is a mystery to many, for the two of them were as far apart as the poles. Cynthia, of all people, took to watching the tanner’s son, and listening to the brief colloquies he had with other men at Jonah Winch’s store, when she went there to buy things for the parsonage; and it seemed to her that Jock had not been altogether wrong, and that there was in the man an indefinable but very compelling force. And when a woman begins to admit that a man has force, her curiosity usually increases. On one or two of these occasions Cynthia had been startled to find his eyes fixed upon her, and though the feeling she had was closely akin to fear, she found something distinctly pleasurable in it.

May came, and the pools dried up, the orchards were pink and white, the birches and the maples were all yellow-green on the mountain side against the dark pines, and Cynthia was driving the minister’s gig to Brampton. Ahead of her, in the cañon made by the road between the great woods, strode an uncouth but powerful figure — coonskin cap, homespun breeches tucked into boots, and all. The gig slowed down, and Cynthia began to tremble with that same delightful fear. She knew it must be wicked, because she liked it so much. Unaccountable thing! She felt all akin to the nature about her, and her blood was coursing as the sap rushes through a tree. She would not speak to him; of that she was sure, and equally sure that he would not speak to her. The horse was walking now, and suddenly Jethro Bass faced around, and her heart stood still.

“H-how be you, Cynthy?” he said.

“How do you do, Jethro?”

A thrush in the woods began to sing a hymn, and they listened. After that a silence, save for the notes of answering birds quickened by the song, the minister’s horse nibbling at the bushes. Cynthia herself could not have explained why she lingered. Suddenly he shot a question at her.

“Where be you goin’?”

“To Brampton, to get Miss Lucretia to change this book,” and she held it up from her lap. It was a very large book.

“Wh-what’s it about?” he demanded.

“Napoleon Bonaparte.”

“Who was he?”

“He was a very strong man. He began life poor and unknown, and fought his way upward until he conquered the world.”

“C-conquered the world, did you say? Conquered the world?”

“Yes.”

Jethro pondered.

“Guess there’s somethin’ wrong about that book — somethin’ wrong. Conquer the United States?”

Cynthia smiled. She herself did not realize that we were not a part of the world, then.

“He conquered Europe, where all the kings and queens are, and became a king himself — an emperor.”

“I want to know!” said Jethro. “You said he was a poor boy?”

“Why don’t you read the book, Jethro?” Cynthia answered. “I am sure I can get Miss Lucretia to let you have it.”

“Don’t know as I’d understand it,” he demurred.

“I’ll try to explain what you don’t understand,” said Cynthia, and her heart gave a bound at the very idea.

“Will you?” he said, looking at her eagerly. “Will you? You mean it?”

“Certainly,” she answered, and blushed, not knowing why. “I — I must be going,” and she gathered up the reins.

“When will you give it to me?”

“I’ll stop at the tannery when I come back from Brampton,” she said, and drove on. Once she gave a fleeting glance over her shoulder, and he was still standing where she had left him.

When she returned, in the yellow afternoon light that flowed over wood and pasture, he came out of the tannery door. Jake Wheeler or Speedy Bates, the journeyman tailoress, from whom little escaped, could not have said it was by design — thought nothing, indeed, of that part of it.

“As I live!” cried Speedy from the window to Aunt Lucy Prescott in the bed, “if Cynthy ain’t givin’ him a book as big as the Bible!”

Aunt Lucy hoped, first, that it was the Bible, and second, that Jethro would read it. Aunt Lucy, and Established Church Coniston in general, believed in snatching brands from the burning, and who so deft as Cynthia at this kind of snatching! So Cynthia herself was a hypocrite for once, and did not know it. At that time Jethro’s sins were mostly of omission. As far as rum was concerned, he was a creature after Aunt Lucy’s own heart, for he never touched it: true, gaunt Deacon Ira Perkins, tithing-man, had once chided him for breaking the Sabbath — shooting at a fox.

To return to the book. As long as he lived, Jethro looked back to the joy of the monumental task of mastering its contents. In his mind, Napoleon became a rough Yankee general; of the cities, villages, and fortress he formed as accurate a picture as a resident of Venice from Marco Polo’s account of Tartary. Jethro had learned to read, after a fashion, to write, add, multiply, and divide. He knew that George Washington and certain barefooted companions had forced a proud Britain to her knees, and much of the warring in the book took color from Captain Timothy Prescott’s stories of General Stark and his campaigns, heard at Jonah Winch’s store. What Paris looked like, or Berlin, or the Hospice of St. Bernard — though imagined by a winter Coniston — troubled Jethro not at all; the thing that stuck in his mind was that Napoleon — for a considerable time, at least — compelled men to do his bidding. Constitutions crumble before the Strong. Not that Jethro philosophized about constitutions. Existing conditions present themselves, and it occurred to him that there were crevices in the town system, and ways into power through the crevices for men clever enough to find them.

A week later, and in these same great woods on the way to Brampton, Cynthia overtook him once more. It was characteristic of him that he plunged at once into the subject uppermost in his mind.

“Not a very big place, this Corsica — not a very big place.”

“A little island in the Mediterranean,” said Cynthia.

“Hum. Country folks, the Bonapartes — country folks?”

Cynthia laughed.

“I suppose you might call them so,” she said. “They were poor, and lived out of the world.”

“He was a smart man. But he found things goin’ his way. Didn’t have to move ’em.”

“Not at first,” she admitted; “but he had to move mountains later. How far have you read?”

“One thing that helped him,” said Jethro, in indirect answer to this question, “he got a smart woman for his wife — a smart woman.”

Cynthia looked down at the reins in her lap, and she felt again that wicked stirring within her, — incredible stirring of minister’s daughter for tanner’s son. Coniston believes, and always will believe, that the social bars are strong enough. So Cynthia looked down at the reins.

“Poor Josephine!” she said, “I always wish he had not cast her off.”

“C-cast her off?” said Jethro. “Cast her off! Why did he do that?”

“After a while, when he got to be Emperor, he needed a wife who would be more useful to him. Josephine had become a drag. He cared more about getting on in the world than he did about his wife.”

Jethro looked away contemplatively.

“Wa-wahn’t the woman to blame any?” he said.

“Read the book, and you’ll see,” retorted Cynthia, flicking her horse, which started at all gaits down the road. Jethro stood in his tracks, staring, but this time he did not see her face above the hood of the gig. Presently he trudged on, head downward, pondering upon another problem than Napoleon’s. Cynthia, at length, arrived in Brampton Street, in a humor that puzzled the good Miss Lucretia sorely.


 

II

ON THE WISDOM OF CHARITY

THE sun had dropped behind the mountain, leaving Coniston in amethystine shadow, and the last bee had flown homeward from the apple blossoms in front of Aunt Lucy Prescott’s window, before Cynthia returned. Aunt Lucy was Cynthia’s grandmother, and eighty-nine years of age. Still she sat in her window beside the lilac bush, lost in memories of a stout, rosy lass who had followed a stalwart husband up a broad river into the wilderness some seventy years agone in Indian days — Weathersfield Massacre days. That lass was Aunt Lucy herself, and in just such a May had Timothy’s axe rung through the Coniston forest and reared the log cabin, where six of her children were born. Likewise in review passed the lonely months when Timothy was fighting behind his rugged General Stark for that privilege more desirable to his kind than life — self-government. Timothy Prescott would pull the forelock to no man, would have such God-fearing persons as he chose make his laws for him.

Honest Captain Timothy and his Stark heroes, Aunt Lucy and her memories, have long gone to rest. Little did they dream of the nation we have lived to see, straining at her constitution like a great ship at anchor in a gale, with funnels belching forth smoke, and a new race of men thronging her decks for the mastery. Coniston is there still behind its mountain, with its rusty firelocks and its hillside graves.

Cynthia, driving back from Brampton in the gig, smiled at Aunt Lucy in the window, but she did not so much as glance at the tannery house farther on. The tannery house, be it known, was the cottage where Jethro dwelt, and which had belonged to Nathan, his father; and the tannery sheds were at some distance behind it, nearer Coniston Water. Cynthia did not glance at the tannery house, for a wave of orthodox indignation had swept over her: at any rate, we may call it so. In other words, she was angry with herself: pitied and scorned herself, if the truth be told, for her actions — an inevitable mood.

In front of the minister’s barn under the elms on the hill Cynthia pulled the harness from the tired horse with an energy that betokened activity of mind. She was not one who shrank from self-knowledge, and the question put itself to her, “Whither was this matter tending?” The fire that is in strong men has ever been a lure to women; and many, meaning to play with it, have been burnt thereby since the world began. But to turn the fire to some use, to make the world better for it or stronger for it, that were an achievement indeed! The horse munching his hay, Cynthia lingered as the light fainted above the ridge, with the thought that this might be woman’s province, and Miss Lucretia Penniman might go on leading her women regiments to no avail. Nevertheless she was angry with Jethro, not because of what he had said, but because of what he was.

The next day is Sunday, and there is mild excitement in Coniston. For Jethro Bass, still with the coonskin cap, but in a brass-buttoned coat secretly purchased in Brampton, appeared at meeting! It made no difference that he entered quietly, and sat in the rear slip, orthodox Coniston knew that he was behind them: good Mr. Ware knew it, and changed a little his prayers and sermon: Cynthia knew it, and grew hot and cold by turns under her poke bonnet. Was he not her brand, and would she not get the credit of snatching him? How willingly, then, would she have given up that credit to the many who coveted it — if it were a credit. Was Jethro at meeting for any religious purpose?

Jethro’s importance to Coniston lay in his soul, and that soul was numbered at present ninety and ninth. When the meeting was over, Aunt Lucy Prescott hobbled out at an amazing pace to advise him to read chapter seven of Matthew, but he had vanished: via the horse sheds, if she had known it, and along Coniston Water to the house by the tannery, where he drew breath in a state of mind not to be depicted. He had gazed at the back of Cynthia’s poke bonnet for two hours, but he had an uneasy feeling that he would have to pay a price.

The price was paid, in part, during the next six days. To do Jethro’s importance absolute justice, he did inspire fear among his contemporaries, and young men and women did not say much to his face; what they did say gave them little satisfaction. Grim Deacon Ira Perkins stopped him as he was going to buy hides, and would have prayed over him if Jethro had waited; dear Aunt Lucy did pray, but in private. In six days orthodox Coniston came to the conclusion that this ninety and ninth soul were better left to her who had snatched it, Cynthia Ware.

As for Cynthia, nothing was farther from her mind. Unchristian as was the thought, if this thing she had awakened could only have been put back to sleep again, she would have thought herself happy. But would she have been happy? When Moses Hatch congratulated her, with more humor than sincerity, he received the greatest scare of his life. Yet in those days she welcomed Moses’s society as she never had before; and Coniston, including Moses himself, began thinking of a wedding.

Another Saturday came, and no Cynthia went to Brampton. Jethro may or may not have been on the road. Sunday, and there was Jethro on the back seat in the meeting-house: Sunday noon, over his frugal dinner, the minister mildly remonstrates with Cynthia for neglecting one who has shown signs of grace, citing certain failures of others of his congregation: Cynthia turns scarlet, leaving the minister puzzled and a little uneasy: Monday, Miss Lucretia Penniman, alarmed, comes to Coniston to inquire after Cynthia’s health: Cynthia drives back with her as far as Four Corners, talking literature and the advancement of woman; returns on foot, thinking of something else, when she discerns a figure seated on a log by the roadside, bent as in meditation. There was no going back: the thing to do was to come on, as unconcernedly as possible, not noticing anything, — which Cynthia did, — not without a little inward palpitating and curiosity, for which she hated herself and looked the sterner. The figure unfolded itself, like a Jack from a box.

“You say the woman wahn’t any to blame — wahn’t any to blame?”

The poke bonnet turned away. The shoulders under it began to shake, and presently the astonished Jethro heard what seemed to be faint peals of laughter. Suddenly she turned around to him, all trace of laughter gone.

“Why don’t you read the book?”

“So I am,” said Jethro, “so I am. Hain’t come to this casting-off yet.”

“And you didn’t look ahead to find out?” This with scorn.

“Never heard of readin’ a book in that fashion. I’ll come to it in time — g-guess it won’t run away.”

Cynthia stared at him, perhaps with a new interest at this plodding determination. She was not quite sure that she ought to stand talking to him a third time in these woods, especially if the subject of conversation were not, as Coniston thought, the salvation of his soul. But she stayed. Here was a man who could be dealt with by no known rules, who did not even deign to notice a week of marked coldness.

“Jethro,” she said, with a terrifying sternness, “I am going to ask you a question, and you must answer me truthfully.”

“G-guess I won’t find any trouble about that,” said Jethro, apparently not in the least terrified.

“I want you to tell me why you are going to meeting.”

“To see you,” said Jethro, promptly, “to see you.”

“Don’t you know that that is wrong?”

“H-hadn’t thought much about it,” answered Jethro.

“Well, you should think about it. People don’t go to meeting to — to look at other people.”

“Thought they did,” said Jethro. “W-why do they wear their best clothes — why do they wear their best clothes?”

“To honor God,” said Cynthia, with a shade lacking in the conviction, for she added hurriedly: “It isn’t right for you to go to church to see — anybody. You go there to hear the Scriptures expounded, and to have your sins forgiven. Because I lent you that book, and you come to meeting, people think I’m converting you.”

“So you be,” replied Jethro, and this time it was he who smiled, “so you be.”

Cynthia turned away, her lips pressed together. How to deal with such a man! Wondrous notes broke on the stillness, the thrush was singing his hymn again, only now it seemed a pæan. High in the azure a hawk wheeled, and floated.

“Couldn’t you see I was very angry with you?”

“S-saw you was goin’ with Moses Hatch more than common.”

Cynthia drew breath sharply. This was audacity — and yet she liked it.

“I am very fond of Moses,” she said quickly.

“You always was charitable, Cynthy,” said he.

“Haven’t I been charitable to you?” she retorted.

“G-guess it has be’n charity,” said Jethro. He looked down at her solemnly, thoughtfully, no trace of anger in his face, turned, and without another word strode off in the direction of Coniston Flat.

He left a tumultuous Cynthia, amazement and repentance struggling with anger, which forbade her calling him back: pride in her answering to pride in him, and she rejoicing fiercely that he had pride. Had he but known it, every step he took away from her that evening was a step in advance, and she gloried in the fact that he did not once look back. As she walked toward Coniston, the thought came to her that she was rid of the thing she had stirred up, perhaps forever, and the thrush burst into his song once more.

 

That night, after Cynthia’s candle had gone out, when the minister sat on his doorsteps looking at the glory of the moon on the mountain forest, he was startled by the sight of a figure slowly climbing toward him up the slope. A second glance told him that it was Jethro’s. Vaguely troubled, he watched his approach: for good Priest Ware, while able to obey one half the spriptural injunction, had not the wisdom of the serpent, and women, as typified by Cynthia, were a continual puzzle to him. That very evening, Moses Hatch had called, had been received with more favor than usual, and suddenly packed off about his business. Seated in the moonlight, the minister wondered vaguely whether Jethro Bass were troubling the girl. And now Jethro stood before him, holding out a book. Rising, Mr. Ware bade him good evening, mildly and cordially.

“C-come to leave this book for Cynthy,” said Jethro.

Mr. Ware took it mechanically.

“Have you finished it?” he asked kindly.

“All I want,” replied Jethro, “all I want.”

He turned, and went down the slope. Twice the words rose to the minister’s lips to call him back, and were suppressed. Yet what to say to him if he came? Mr. Ware sat down again, sadly, wondering why Jethro Bass should be so difficult to talk to.

The parsonage was of only one story, with a steep, sloping roof. On the left of the doorway was Cynthia’s room, and the minister imagined he heard a faint, rustling noise at her window. Presently he arose, barred the door; could be heard moving around in his room for a while, and after that all was silence save for the mournful crying of a whippoorwill in the woods. Then a door opened softly, a white vision stole into the little entry lighted by the fan-window above, seized the book and stole back. Had the minister been a prying man about his household, he would have noticed next day that Cynthia’s candle was burned down to the socket. He saw nothing of the kind: he saw, in fact, that his daughter flitted about the house singing, and he went out into the sun to drop potatoes. No sooner had he reached the barn than this singing ceased. But how was Mr. Ware to know that?

Twice Cynthia, during the week that followed, got half-way down the slope of the parsonage hill, the book under her arm, on her way to the tannery; twice went back, tears of humiliation and self-pity in her eyes at the thought that she should make advances to a man, and that man the tanner’s son. Her household work done, a longing for further motion seized her, and she walked out under the maples of the village street. Let it be understood that Coniston was a village, by courtesy, and its shaded road a street. Suddenly, there was the tannery, Jethro standing in front of it, contemplative. Did he see her? Would he come to her? Cynthia, seized by a panic of shame, flew into Aunt Lucy Prescott’s, sat through half an hour of torture while Aunt Lucy talked of redemption of sinners, during ten minutes of which Jethro stood, still contemplative. What tumult was in his breast, or whether there was any tumult, Cynthia knew not. He went into the tannery again, and though she saw him twice later in the week, he gave no sign of seeing her.

On Saturday Cynthia bought a new bonnet in Brampton; Sunday morning put it on, suddenly remembered that one went to church to honor God, and wore her old one; walked to meeting in a flutter of expectancy not to be denied, and would have looked around had that not been a cardinal sin in Coniston. No Jethro! General opinion (had she waited to hear it among the horse sheds or on the green), that Jethro’s soul had slid back into the murky regions, from which it were folly for even Cynthia to try to drag it.


 

III

THE CLERK AND THE LOCKET

TO prove that Jethro’s soul had not slid back into the murky regions, and that it was still indulging in flights, it is necessary to follow him (for a very short space) to Boston. Jethro himself went in Lyman Hull’s six-horse team with a load of his own merchandise — hides that he had tanned, and other country produce. And they did not go by the way of Truro Pass to the Capital, but took the state turnpike over the ranges, where you can see for miles and miles and miles on a clear summer day across the trembling floors of the forest tops to lonely sentinel mountains fourscore miles away.

No one takes the state turnpike nowadays except crazy tourists who are willing to risk their necks and their horses’ legs for the sake of scenery. The tough little Morgans of that time, which kept their feet like cats, have all but disappeared, but there were places on that road where Lyman Hull put the shoes under his wheels for four miles at a stretch. He was not a companion many people would have chosen with whom to enjoy the beauties of such a trip, and nearly everybody in Coniston was afraid of him. Jethro Bass would sit silent on the seat for hours and it is a fact to be noted that when he told Lyman to do a thing, Lyman did it; not, perhaps, without cursing and grumbling. Lyman was a profane and wicked man — drover, farmer, trader, anything. He had a cider mill on his farm on the south slopes of Coniston which Mr. Ware had mentioned in his sermons, and which was the resort of the ungodly. The cider was not so good as Squire Northcutt’s, but cheaper. Jethro was not afraid of Lyman, and he had a mortgage on the six-horse team, and on the farm and the cider mill.

After six days, Jethro and Lyman drove over Charlestown bridge and into the crooked streets of Boston, and at length arrived at a drover’s hotel, or lodging-house that did not, we may be sure, front on Mount Vernon Street or face the Mall. Lyman proceeded to get drunk, and Jethro to sell the hides and other merchandise which Lyman had hauled for him.

There was a young man in Boston, when Jethro arrived in Lyman Hull’s team, named William Wetherell. By extraordinary circumstances he and another connected with him are to take no small part in this story, which is a sufficient excuse for his introduction. His father had been a prosperous Portsmouth merchant in the West India trade, a man of many attainments, who had failed and died of a broken heart; and William, at two and twenty, was a clerk in the little jewellery shop of Mr. Judson in Cornhill.

William Wetherell had literary aspirations, and sat from morning till night behind the counter, reading and dreaming: dreaming that he was to be an Irving or a Walter Scott, and yet the sum total of his works in after years consisted of some letters to the Newcastle Guardian, and a beginning of the Town History of Coniston!

William had a contempt for the awkward young countryman who suddenly loomed up before him that summer’s morning across the counter. But a moment before the clerk had been in a place where he would fain have lingered — a city where blue waters flow swiftly between white palaces toward the sunrise.

“And I have fitted up some chambers there
Looking toward the golden Eastern air,
And level with the living winds, which flow
Like waves above the living waves below.”

Little did William Wetherell guess, when he glanced up at the intruder, that he was looking upon one of the forces of his own life! The countryman wore a blue swallow-tail coat (fashioned by the hand of Speedy Bates), a neck-cloth, a coonskin cap, and his trousers were tucked into rawhide boots. He did not seem a promising customer for expensive jewellery, and the literary clerk did not rise, but merely closed his book with his thumb in it.

“S-sell things here,” asked the countryman, “s-sell things here?”

“Occasionally, when folks have money to buy them.”

“My name’s Jethro Bass,” said the countryman, “Jethro Bass from Coniston. Ever hear of Coniston?”

Young Mr. Wetherell never had, but many years afterward he remembered his name, heaven knows why. Jethro Bass! Perhaps it had a strange ring to it.

“F-folks told me to be careful,” was Jethro’s next remark. He did not look at the clerk, but kept his eyes fixed on the things within the counter.

“Somebody ought to have come with you,” said the clerk, with a smile of superiority.

“D-don’t know much about city ways.”

“Well,” said the clerk, beginning to be amused, “a man has to keep his wits about him.”

Even then Jethro spared him a look, but continued to study the contents of the case.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Bass? We have some really good things here. For example, this Swiss watch, which I will sell you cheap, for one hundred and fifty dollars.”

“One hundred and fifty dollars — er — one hundred and fifty?”

Wetherell nodded. Still the countryman did not look up.

“F-folks told me to be careful,” he repeated without a smile. He was looking at the lockets, and finally pointed a large finger at one of them — the most expensive, by the way. “W-what d’ye get for that?” he asked.

“Twenty dollars,” the clerk promptly replied. Thirty was nearer the price, but what did it matter.

“H-how much for that?” he said, pointing to another. The clerk told him. He inquired about them all, deliberately repeating the sums, considering with so well-feigned an air of a purchaser that Mr. Wetherell began to take a real joy in the situation. For trade was slack in August, and diversion scarce. Finally he commanded that the case be put on the top of the counter, and Wetherell humored him. Whereupon he picked up the locket he had first chosen. It looked very delicate in his huge, rough hand, and Wetherell was surprised that the eyes of Mr. Bass had been caught by the most expensive, for it was far from being the showiest.

“T-twenty dollars?” he asked.

“We may as well call it that,” laughed Wetherell.

“It’s not too good for Cynthy,” he said.

“Nothing’s too good for Cynthy,” answered Mr. Wetherell, mockingly, little knowing how he might come to mean it.

Jethro Bass paid no attention to this speech. Pulling a great cowhide wallet from his pocket, still holding the locket in his hand, to the amazement of the clerk he counted out twenty dollars and laid them down.

“G-guess I’ll take that one, g-guess I’ll take that one,” he said.

Then he looked at Mr. Wetherell for the first time.

“Hold!” cried the clerk, more alarmed than he cared to show, “that’s not the price. Did you think I could sell it for that price?”

“W-wahn’t that the price you fixed?”

“You simpleton!” retorted Wetherell, with a conviction now that he was calling him the wrong name. “Give me back the locket, and you shall have your money again.”

“W-wahn’t that the price you fixed?”

“Yes, but —”

“G-guess I’ll keep the locket — g-guess I’ll keep the locket.”

Wetherell looked at him aghast, and there was no doubt about his determination. With a sinking heart the clerk realized that he should have to make good to Mr. Judson the seven odd dollars of difference, and then he lost his head. Slipping round the counter to the door of the shop, he turned the key, thrust it in his pocket, and faced Mr. Bass again — from behind the counter.

“You don’t leave this shop,” cried the clerk, “until you give me back that locket.”

Jethro Bass turned. A bench ran along the farther wall, and there he planted himself without a word, while the clerk stared at him, — with what feelings of uneasiness I shall not attempt to describe, — for the customer was plainly determined to wait until hunger should drive one of them forth. The minutes passed, and Wetherell began to hate him. Then some one tried the door, peered in through the glass, perceived Jethro, shook the knob, knocked violently, all to no purpose. Jethro seemed lost in a revery.

“This has gone far enough,” said the clerk, trying to keep his voice from shaking; “it is beyond a joke. Give me back the locket.” And he tendered Jethro the money again.

“W-wahn’t that the price you fixed?” asked Jethro, innocently.

Wetherell choked. The man outside shook the door again, and people on the sidewalk stopped, and presently against the window-panes a sea of curious faces gazed in upon them. Mr. Bass’s thoughts apparently were fixed on Eternity — he looked neither at the people nor at Wetherell. And then, the crowd parting as for one in authority, as in a bad dream the clerk saw his employer, Mr. Judson, courteously pushing away the customer at the door who would not be denied. Another moment, and Mr. Judson had gained admittance with his private key, and stood on the threshold staring at clerk and customer. Jethro gave no sign that the situation had changed.

“William,” said Mr. Judson, in a dangerously quiet voice, “perhaps you can explain this extraordinary state of affairs.”

“I can, sir,” William cried. “This gentleman” (the word stuck in his throat), “this gentleman came in here to examine lockets which I had no reason to believe he would buy. I admit my fault, sir. He asked the price of the most expensive, and I told him twenty dollars, merely for a jest, sir.” William hesitated.

“Well?” said Mr. Judson.

“After pricing every locket in the case, he seized the first one, handed me twenty dollars, and now refuses to give it up, although he knows the price is twenty-seven.”

“Then?”

“Then I locked the door, sir. He sat down there, and hasn’t moved since.”

Mr. Judson looked again at Mr. Bass, this time with unmistakable interest. The other customer began to laugh, and the crowd was pressing in, and Mr. Judson turned and shut the door in their faces. All this time Mr. Bass had not moved, not so much as to lift his head or shift one of his great cowhide boots.

“Well, sir,” demanded Mr. Judson, “what have you to say?”

“N-nothin’. G-guess I’ll keep the locket. I’ve paid for it — I’ve paid for it.”

“And you are aware, my friend,” said Mr. Judson, “that my clerk has given you the wrong price?”

“Guess that’s his l-lookout.” He sat there, doggedly unconcerned.

A bull would have seemed more at home in a china-shop than Jethro Bass in a jewellery store. But Mr. Judson himself was a man out the ordinary, and instead of getting angry he began to be more interested.

“Took you for a greenhorn, did he?” he remarked.

“F-folks told me to be careful — to be careful,” said Mr. Bass.

Then Mr. Judson laughed. It was all the more disconcerting to William Wetherell, because his employer laughed rarely. He laid his hand on Jethro’s shoulder.

“He might have spared himself the trouble, my young friend,” he said. “You didn’t expect to find a greenhorn behind a jewellery counter, did you?”

“S-surprised me some,” said Jethro.

Mr. Judson laughed again, all the while staring at him.

“I am going to let you keep the locket,” he said, “because it will teach my greenhorn a lesson. William, do you hear that?”

“Yes, sir,” William said, and his face was very red.

Mr. Bass rose solemnly, apparently unmoved by his triumph in a somewhat remarkable transaction, and William long remembered how he towered over all of them. He held the locket out to Mr. Judson, who stared at it, astonished.

“What’s this?” said that gentleman; “you don’t want it?”

“Guess I’ll have it marked,” said Jethro, “ef it don’t cost extry.”

“Marked!” gasped Mr. Judson, “marked!”

“Ef it don’t cost extry,” Jethro repeated.

“Well, I’ll —” exclaimed Mr. Judson, and suddenly recalled that he was a church member. “What description do you wish put into it?” he asked, recovering himself with an effort.

Jethro thrust his hand into his pocket, and again the cowhide wallet came out. He tendered Mr. Judson a somewhat soiled piece of paper, and Mr. Judson read: —

Cynthy, from Jethro

Cynthy,” Mr. Judson repeated, in a tremulous voice, “Cynthy, not Cynthia.”

“H-how is it written,” said Jethro, leaning over it, “h-how is it written?”

Cynthy,” answered Mr. Judson, involuntarily.

“Then make it Cynthy — make it Cynthy.”

Cynthy it shall be,” said Mr. Judson, with conviction.

“When’ll you have it done?”

“To-night,” replied Mr. Judson, with a twinkle in his eye, “to-night, as a special favor.”

“What time — w-what time?”

“Seven o’clock, sir. May I send it to your hotel? The Tremont House, I suppose?”

“I — I’ll call,” said Jethro, so solemnly that Mr. Judson kept his laughter until he was gone.

From the door they watched him silently as he strode across the street and turned the corner. Then Mr. Judson turned. “That man will make his mark, William,” he said; and added thoughtfully, “but whether for good or evil, I know not.”


 

IV

ENTER A GREAT MAN, INCOGNITO

WHAT Cynthia may have thought or felt during Jethro’s absence in Boston, and for some months thereafter, she kept to herself. Honest Moses Hatch pursued his courting untroubled, and never knew that he had a rival. Moses would as soon have questioned the seasons or the weather as Cynthia’s changes of moods, — which were indeed the weather for him, and when storms came he sat with his back to them, waiting for the sunshine. He had long ceased proposing marriage, in the firm belief that Cynthia would set the day in her own good time. Thereby he was saved much suffering.

The summer flew on apace, for Coniston. Fragrant hay was cut on hillsides won from rock and forest, and Coniston Water sang a gentler melody — save when the clouds floated among the spruces on the mountain and the rain beat on the shingles. During the still days before the turn of the year, — days of bending fruit boughs, crab-apples glistening red in the soft sunlight, — rumor came from Brampton to wrinkle the forehead of Moses Hatch as he worked among his father’s orchards.

The rumor was of a Mr. Isaac Dudley Worthington, a name destined to make much rumor before it was to be carved on the marble. Isaac D. Worthington, indeed, might by a stretch of the imagination be called the pioneer of all the genus to be known in the future as City Folks, who were, two generations later, to invade the country like a devouring army of locusts.

At that time a stranger in Brampton was enough to set the town agog. But a young man of three and twenty, with an independent income of four hundred dollars a year! — or any income at all not derived from his own labor — was unheard of. It is said that when the stage from over Truro Gap arrived in Brampton Street a hundred eyes gazed at him unseen, from various ambushes, and followed him up the walk to Silas Wheelock’s, where he was to board. In half an hour Brampton knew the essentials of Isaac Worthington’s story, and Sam Price was on his way with it to Coniston for distribution at Jonah Winch’s store.

Young Mr. Worthington was from Boston — no less; slim, pale, medium height, but with an alert look, and a high-bridged nose. But his clothes! Sam Price’s vocabulary was insufficient here, they were cut in such a way, and Mr. Worthington was downright distinguished-looking under his gray beaver. Why had he come to Brampton? demanded Deacon Ira Perkins. Sam had saved this for the last. Young Mr. Worthington was threatened with consumption, and had been sent to live with his distant relative, Silas Wheelock.

The presence of a gentleman of leisure — although threatened with consumption — became an all-absorbing topic in two villages and three hamlets, and more than one swain, hitherto successful, felt the wind blow colder. But in a fortnight it was known that a petticoat did not make Isaac Worthington even turn his head. Curiosity centered on Silas Wheelock’s barn, where Mr. Worthington had fitted up a shop, and presently various strange models of contrivances began to take shape there. What these were, Silas himself knew not; and the gentleman of leisure was, alas! close-mouthed. When he was not sawing and hammering and planing, he took long walks up and down Coniston Water, and was surprised deep in thought at several places.

Nathan Bass’s story-and-a-half house, devoid of paint, faced the road, and behind it was the shed, or barn, that served as the tannery, and between the tannery and Coniston Water were the vats. The rain flew in silvery spray, and the drops shone like jewels on the coat of a young man who stood looking in at the tannery door. Young Jake Wheeler, son of the village spendthrift, was driving a lean white horse round in a ring: to the horse was attached a beam, and on the beam a huge round stone rolled on a circular oak platform. Jethro Bass, who was engaged in pushing hemlock bark under the stone to be crushed, straightened. Of the three, the horse had seen the visitor first, and stopped in his tracks.

“Jethro!” whispered Jake, tingling with an excitement that was but natural. Jethro had begun to sweep the finer pieces of bark toward the centre. “It’s the city man, walked up here from Brampton.”

It was indeed Mr. Worthington, slightly more sun-burned and less citified-looking than on his arrival, and he wore a woollen cap of Brampton make. Even then, despite his wavy hair and delicate appearance, Isaac Worthington had the hawklike look which became famous in later years, and at length he approached Jethro and fixed his eye upon him.

“Kind of slow work, isn’t it?” remarked Mr. Worthington.

The white horse was the only one to break the silence that followed, by sneezing with all his might.

“How is the tannery business in these parts?” essayed Mr. Worthington again.

“Thinkin’ of it?” said Jethro. “T-thinkin’ of it, be you?”

“No,” answered Mr. Worthington, hastily. “If I were,” he added, “I’d put in new machinery. That horse and stone is primitive.”

“What kind of machinery would you put in?” asked Jethro.

“Ah,” answered Mr. Worthington, “that will interest you. All New Englanders are naturally progressive, I take it.”

“W-what was it you took?”

“I was merely remarking on the enterprise of New Englanders,” said Worthington, flushing. “On my journey up here, beside the Merrimac, I had the opportunity to inspect the new steam-boiler, the fulling-mill, the splitting-machine, and other remarkable improvements. In fact, these suggested one or two little things to me, which might be of interest to you.”

“Well,” said Jethro, “they might, and then again they mightn’t. Guess it depends.”

“Depends!” exclaimed the man of leisure, “depends on what?”

“H-how much you know about it.”

Young Mr. Worthington, instead of being justly indignant, laughed and settled himself comfortably on a pile of bark. He thought Jethro a character, and he was not mistaken. On the other hand, Mr. Worthington displayed a knowledge of the fulling-mill and splitting-machine and the process of tanneries in general that was surprising. Jethro, had Mr. Worthington but known it, was more interested in animate machines: more interested in Mr. Worthington than the fulling-mill or, indeed, the tannery business.

At length the visitor fell silent, his sense of superiority suddenly gone. Others had had this same feeling with Jethro, even the minister; but the man of leisure (who was nothing of the sort) merely felt a kind of bewilderment.

“Callatin’ to live in Brampton — be you?” asked Jethro.

“I am living there now.”

“C-callatin’ to set up a mill some day?”

Mr. Worthington fairly leaped off the bark pile.

“What makes you say that?” he demanded.

“G-guesswork,” said Jethro, starting to shovel again, “g-guesswork.”

To take a walk in the wild, to come upon a bumpkin in cowhide boots crushing bark, to have him read within twenty minutes a cherished and well-hidden ambition which Brampton had not discovered in a month (and did not discover for many years) was sufficiently startling. Well might Mr. Worthington tremble for his other ambitions, and they were many.

Jethro stepped out, passing Mr. Worthington as though he had already forgotten the gentleman’s existence, and seized an armful of bark that lay under cover of a lean-to. Just then, heralded by a brightening of the western sky, a girl appeared down the road, her head bent a little as in thought, and if she saw the group by the tannery house she gave no sign. Two of them stared at her — Jake Wheeler and Mr. Worthington. Suddenly Jake, implike, turned and stared at Worthington.

“Cynthy Ware, the minister’s daughter,” he said.

“Haven’t I seen her in Brampton?” inquired Mr. Worthington, little thinking of the consequences of the question.

“Guess you have,” answered Jake. “Cynthy goes to the Social Library, to git books. She knows more’n the minister himself, a sight more.”

“Where does the minister live?” asked Mr. Worthington.

Jake pulled him by the sleeve toward the road, and pointed to the low gable of the little parsonage under the elms on the hill beyond the meeting-house. The visitor gave a short glance at it, swung around and gave a longer glance at the figure disappearing in the other direction. He did not suspect that Jake was what is now called a news agency. Then Mr. Worthington turned to Jethro, who was stooping over the bark.

“If you come to Brampton, call and see me,” he said. “You’ll find me at Silas Wheelock’s.”

He got no answer, but apparently expected none, and he started off down the Brampton road in the direction Cynthia had taken.

“That makes another,” said Jake, significantly, “and Speedy Bates says he never looks at wimmen. Godfrey, I wish I could see Moses now.”

Mr. Worthington had not been quite ingenuous with Jake. To tell the truth, he had made the acquaintance of the Social Library and Miss Lucretia, and that lady had sung the praises of her favorite. Once out of sight of Jethro, Mr. Worthington quickened his steps, passed the store, where he was remarked by two of Jonah’s customers, and his blood leaped when he saw the girl in front of him, walking faster now. Yes it is a fact that Isaac Worthington’s blood once leaped. He kept on, but when near her had a spasm of fright to make his teeth fairly chatter, and then another spasm followed, for Cynthia had turned around.

“How do you do, Mr. Worthington?” she said, dropping him a little courtesy. Mr. Worthington stopped in his tracks, and it was some time before he remembered to take off his woollen cap and sweep the mud with it.

“You know my name!” he exclaimed.

“It is known from Tarleton Four Corners to Harwich,” said Cynthia, “all that distance. To tell the truth,” she added, “those are the boundaries of my world.” And Mr. Worthington being still silent, “How do you like being a big frog in a little pond?”

“If it were your pond, Miss Cynthia,” he responded gallantly, “I should be content to be a little frog.”

“Would you?” she said; “I don’t believe you.”

This was not subtle flattery, but the truth — Mr. Worthington would never be content to be a little anything. So he had been judged twice in an afternoon, once by Jethro and again by Cynthia.

“Why don’t you believe me?” he asked ecstatically.

“A woman’s instinct, Mr. Worthington, has very little reason in it.”

“I hear, Miss Cynthia,” he said gallantly, “that your instinct is fortified by learning, since Miss Penniman tells me that you are quite capable of taking a school in Boston.”

“Then I should be doubly sure of your character,” she retorted with a twinkle.

“Will you tell my fortune?” he said gayly.

“Not on such a slight acquaintance,” she replied. “Good-by Mr. Worthington.”

“I shall see you in Brampton,” he cried, “I — I have seen you in Brampton.”

She did not answer this confession, but left him, and presently disappeared beyond the triangle of the green, while Mr. Worthington pursued his way to Brampton by the road, — his thoughts that evening not on waterfalls, or machinery. As for Cynthia’s conduct, I do not defend or explain it, for I have found out that the best and wisest of women can at times be coquettish.

It was that meeting which shook the serenity of poor Moses, and he learned of it when he went to Jonah Winch’s store an hour later. An hour later, indeed, Coniston was discussing the man of leisure in a new light. It was possible that Cynthia might take him, and Deacon Ira Perkins made a note the next time he went to Brampton to question Silas Wheelock on Mr. Worthington’s origin, habits, and orthodoxy.

Cynthia troubled herself very little about any of these. Scarcely any purpose in the world is single, but she had a purpose in talking to Mr. Worthington, besides the pleasure it gave her. And the next Saturday, when she rode off to Brampton, some one looked through the cracks in the tannery shed and saw that she wore her new bonnet.

There is scarcely a pleasanter place in the world than Brampton Street on a summer’s day. Down the length of it runs a wide green, shaded by spreading trees, and on either side, tree-shaded, too, and each in its own little plot, gabled houses of that simple, graceful architecture of our forefathers. Some of these had fluted pilasters and cornices, the envy of many a modern architect, and fan-shaped windows in dormer and doorway. And there was the church, then new, that still stands to the glory of its builders; with terraced steeple and pillared porch and the widest of checker-paned sashes to let in the light on high-backed pews and gallery.

The celebrated Social Library, halfway up the street, occupied part of Miss Lucretia’s little house; or, it might better be said, Miss Lucretia boarded with the Social Library. There Cynthia hitched her horse, gave greeting to Mr. Ezra Graves and others who paused, and, before she was fairly in the door, was clasped in Miss Lucretia’s arms. There were new books to be discussed, arrived by the stage the day before; but scarce half an hour had passed before Cynthia started guiltily at a timid knock, and Miss Lucretia rose briskly.

“It must be Ezra Graves come for the Gibbon,” she said. “He’s early.” And she went to the door. Cynthia thought it was not Ezra. Then came Miss Lucretia’s voice from the entry: —

“Why, Mr. Worthington! Have you read the ‘Last of the Mohicans’ already?”

There he stood, indeed, the man of leisure, and to-day he wore his beaver hat. No, he had not yet read the ‘Last of the Mohicans.’ There were things in it that Mr. Worthington would like to discuss with Miss Penniman. Was it not a social library? At this juncture there came a giggle from within that made him turn scarlet, and he scarcely heard Miss Lucretia offering to discuss the whole range of letters. Enter Mr. Worthington, bows profoundly to Miss Lucretia’s guest, his beaver in his hand, and the discussion begins, Cynthia taking no part in it. Strangely enough, Mr. Worthington’s remarks on American Indians are not only intelligent, but interesting. The clock strikes four, Miss Lucretia starts up, suddenly remembering that she has promised to read to an invalid, and with many regrets from Mr. Worthington, she departs. Then he sits down again, twirling his beaver, while Cynthia looks at him in quiet amusement.

“I shall walk to Coniston again, next week,” he announced.

“What an energetic man!” said Cynthia.

“I want to have my fortune told.”

“I hear that you walk a great deal,” she remarked, “up and down Coniston Water. I shall begin to think you romantic, Mr. Worthington — perhaps a poet.”

“I don’t walk up and down Coniston Water for that reason,” he answered earnestly.

“Might I be so bold as to ask the reason?” she ventured.

Great men have their weaknesses. And many, close-mouthed with their own sex, will tell their cherished hopes to a woman, if their interests are engaged. With a bas-relief of Isaac Worthington in the town library to-day (his own library), and a full-length portrait of him in the capitol of the state, who shall deny this title to greatness?

He leaned a little toward her, his face illuminated by his subject, which was himself.

“I will confide in you,” he said, “that some day I shall build here in Brampton a woollen mill which will be the best of its kind. If I gain money, it will not be to hoard it or to waste it. I shall try to make the town better for it, and the state, and I shall try to elevate my neighbors.”

Cynthia could not deny that these were laudable ambitions.

“Something tells me,” he continued, “that I shall succeed. And that is why I walk on Coniston Water — to choose the best site for a dam.”

“I am honored by your secret, but I feel that the responsibility you repose in me is too great,” she said.

“I can think of none in whom I would rather confide,” said he.

“And am I the only one in all Brampton, Harwich, and Coniston who knows this?” she asked.

Mr. Worthington laughed.

“The only one of importance,” he answered. “This week, when I went to Coniston, I had a strange experience. I left the brook at a tannery, and a most singular fellow was in the shed shovelling bark. I tried to get him to talk, and told him about some new tanning machinery I had seen. Suddenly he turned on me and asked me if I was ‘callatin’ to set up a mill.’ He gave me a queer feeling. Do you have many such odd characters in Coniston, Miss Cynthia? You’re not going?”

Cynthia had risen, and all of the laughter was gone from her eyes. What had happened to make her grow suddenly grave, Isaac Worthington never knew.

“I have to get my father’s supper,” she said.

He, too, rose, puzzled and disconcerted at this change in her.

“And may I not come to Coniston?” he asked.

“My father and I should be glad to see you, Mr. Worthington,” she answered.

He untied her horse and essayed one more topic.

“You are taking a very big book,” he said. “May I look at the title?”

She showed it to him in silence. It was the “Life of Napoleon Bonaparte.”


 

CHAPTER V

THE KING IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE KING!

ISAAC Worthington came to Coniston not once, but many times, before the snow fell; and afterward, too, in Silas Wheelock’s yellow sleigh through the great drifts under the pines, the chestnut Morgan trotting to one side in the tracks. On one of these excursions he fell in with that singular character of a bumpkin who had interested him on his first visit, in coonskin cap and overcoat and mittens. Jethro Bass was plodding in the same direction, and Isaac Worthington, out of the goodness of his heart, invited him into the sleigh. He was scarcely prepared for the bumpkin’s curt refusal, but put it down to native boorishness, and thought no more about it — then.

What troubled Mr. Worthington infinitely more was the progress of his suit; for it had become a suit, though progress is a wrong word to use in connection with it. So far had he got, — not a great distance, — and then came to what he at length discovered was a wall, and apparently impenetrable. He was not even allowed to look over it. Cynthia was kind, engaging, even mirthful, at times, save when he approached it; and he became convinced that a certain sorrow lay in the forbidden ground. The nearest he had come to it was when he mentioned again, by accident, that life of Napoleon.

That Cynthia would accept him, nobody doubted for an instant. It would be madness not to. He was orthodox, so Deacon Ira had discovered, of good habits, and there was the princely four hundred a year — almost a minister’s salary! Little people guessed that there was no love-making — only endless discussions of books beside the great centre chimney, and discussions of Isaac Worthington’s career.

It is a fact — for future consideration — that Isaac Worthington proposed to Cynthia Ware, although neither Speedy Bates nor Deacon Ira Perkins heard him do so. It had been very carefully prepared, that speech, and was a model of proposals for the rising young men of all time. Mr. Worthington preferred to offer himself for what he was going to be — not for what he was. He tendered to Cynthia a note for a large amount, payable in some twenty years, with interest. The astonishing thing to record is that in twenty years he could have more than paid the note, although he could not have foreseen at the time the Worthington Free Library and the Truro Railroad, and the stained-glass window in the church and the great marble monument on the hill — to another woman. All of these things, and more, Cynthia might have had if she had only accepted that promise to pay! But she did not accept it. He was a trifle more robust than when he came to Brampton in the summer, but perhaps she doubted his promise to pay.

It may have been guessed, although the language we have used has been purposely delicate, that Cynthia was already in love with — somebody else. Shame of shames and horror of horrors — with Jethro Bass! With Strength, in the crudest form in which it is created, perhaps, but yet with Strength. The strength might gradually and eventually be refined. Such was her hope, when she had any. It is hard, looking back upon that virginal and cultured Cynthia, to be convinced that she could have loved passionately, and such a man! But love she did, and passionately, too, and hated herself for it, and prayed and struggled to cast out what she believed, at times, to be a devil.

The ancient allegory of Cupid and the arrows has never been improved upon: of Cupid, who should never in the world have been trusted with a weapon, who defies all game laws, who shoots people in the bushes and innocent bystanders generally, the weak and the helpless and the strong and self-confident! There is no more reason in it than that. He shot Cynthia Ware, and what she suffered in secret Coniston never guessed. What parallels in history shall I quote to bring home the enormity of such a mésalliance? Orthodox Coniston would have gone into sackcloth and ashes, — and was soon to go into these, anyway.

I am not trying to keep the lovers apart for any mere purposes of fiction, — this is a true chronicle, and they stayed apart most of that winter. Jethro went about his daily tasks, which were now become manifold, and he wore the locket on its little chain himself. He did not think that Cynthia loved him — yet, but he had the effrontery to believe that she might, some day; and he was content to wait. He saw that she avoided him, and he was too proud to go to the parsonage and so incur ridicule and contempt.

Jethro was content to wait. That is a clew to his character throughout his life. He would wait for his love, he would wait for his hate: he had waited ten years before putting into practice the first step of a little scheme which he had been gradually developing during that time, for which he had been amassing money, and the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, by the way, had given him some valuable ideas. Jethro, as well as Isaac D. Worthington, had ambitions, although no one in Coniston had hitherto guessed them except Jock Hallowell — and Cynthia Ware, after her curiosity had been aroused.

Even as Isaac D. Worthington did not dream of the Truro Railroad and of an era in the haze of futurity, it did not occur to Jethro Bass that his ambitions tended to the making of another era that was at hand. Makers of eras are too busy thinking about themselves and like immediate matters to worry about history. Jethro never heard the expression about “cracks in the Constitution,” and would not have known what it meant, — he merely had the desire to get on top. But with Established Church Coniston tight in the saddle (in the person of Moses Hatch, Senior), how was he to do it?

As the winter wore on, and March town meeting approached, strange rumors of a Democratic ticket began to drift into Jonah Winch’s store, — a Democratic ticket headed by Fletcher Bartlett, of all men, as chairman of the board. Moses laughed when he first heard of it, for Fletcher was an easy-going farmer of the Methodist persuasion who was always in debt, and the other members of the ticket, so far as Moses could learn of it — were remarkable neither for orthodoxy or solidity. The rumors persisted, and still Moses laughed, for the senior selectman was a big man with flesh on him, who could laugh with dignity.

“Moses,” said Deacon Lysander Richardson as they stood on the platform of the store one sunny Saturday in February, “somebody’s put Fletcher up to this. He hain’t got sense enough to act that independent all by himself.”

“You be always croakin’, Lysander,” answered Moses.

Cynthia Ware, who had come to the store for buttons for Speedy Bates, who was making a new coat for the minister, heard these remarks, and stood thoughtfully staring at the blue coat tails of the elders. A brass button was gone from Deacon Lysander’s, and she wanted to sew it on. Suddenly she looked up, and saw Jock Hallowell standing beside her. Jock winked — and Cynthia blushed and hurried homeward without a word. She remembered, vividly enough, what Jock had told her the spring before, and several times during the week that followed she thought of waylaying him and asking what he knew. But she could not summon the courage. As a matter of fact, Jock knew nothing, but he had a theory. He was a strange man, Jock, who whistled all day on roof and steeple and meddled with nobody’s business, as a rule. What had impelled him to talk to Cynthia in the way he had must remain a mystery.

Meanwhile the disquieting rumors continued to come in. Jabez Miller, on the north slope, had told Samuel Todd, who told Ephraim Williams, that he was going to vote for Fletcher. Moses Hatch hitched up his team and went out to see Jabez, spent an hour in general conversation, and then plumped the question, taking, as he said, that means of finding out. Jabez hemmed and hawed, said his farm was mortgaged; spoke at some length about the American citizen, however humble, having a right to vote as he chose. A most unusual line for Jabez, and the whole matter very mysterious and not a little ominous. Moses drove homeward that sparkling day, shutting his eyes to the glare of the ice crystals on the pines, and thinking profoundly. He made other excursions, enough to satisfy himself that this disease, so new and unheard of (the right of the unfit to hold office), actually existed. Where the germ began that caused it, Moses knew no better than the deacon, since those who were suspected of leanings toward Fletcher Bartlett were strangely secretive. The practical result of Moses’ profound thought was a meeting, in his own house, without respect to party; Democrats and Whigs alike, opened by a prayer from the minister himself. The meeting, after a futile session, broke up dismally. Sedition and conspiracy existed; a chief offender and master mind there was, somewhere. But who was he?

Good Mr. Ware went home, troubled in spirit, shaking his head. He had a cold, and was not so strong as he used to be, and should not have gone to the meeting at all. At supper, Cynthia listened with her eyes on her plate while he told her of the affair.

“Somebody’s behind this, Cynthia,” he said. “It’s the most astonishing thing in my experience that we cannot discover who has incited them. All the unattached people in the town seem to have been organized.” Mr. Ware was wont to speak with moderation even at his own table. He said unattached — not ungodly.

Cynthia kept her eyes on her plate, but she felt as though her body were afire. Little did the minister imagine, as he went off to write his sermon, that his daughter might have given him the clew to the mystery. Yes, Cynthia guessed; and she could not read that evening because of the tumult of her thoughts. What was her duty in the matter? To tell her father her suspicions? They were only suspicions, after all, and she could make no accusations. And Jethro! Although she condemned him, there was something in the situation that appealed to a most reprehensible sense of humor. Cynthia caught herself smiling once or twice, and knew that it was wicked. She excused Jethro, and told herself that, with his lack of training, he could know no better. Then an idea came to her, and the very boldness of it made her grow hot again. She would appeal to him: tell him that that power he had over other men could be put to better and finer uses. She would appeal to him, and he would abandon the matter. That the man loved her with the whole of his rude strength she was sure, and that knowledge had been the only salve to her shame.

So far we have only suspicions ourselves; and, strange to relate, if we go around Coniston with Jethro behind his little red Morgan, we shall come back with nothing but — suspicions. They will amount to convictions, yet we cannot prove them. The reader very naturally demands some specific information — how did Jethro do it? I confess that I can only indicate in a very general way: I can prove nothing. Nobody ever could prove anything against Jethro Bass. Bring the following evidence before any grand jury in the country, and see if they don’t throw it out of court.

Jethro, in the course of his weekly round of strictly business visits throughout the town, drives into Samuel Todd’s farmyard, and hitches on the sunny side of the red barns. The town of Coniston, it must be explained for the benefit of those who do not understand the word “town” in the New England sense, was a tract of country about ten miles by ten, the most thickly settled portion of which was the village of Coniston, consisting of twelve houses. Jethro drives into the barnyard, and Samuel Todd comes out. He is a little man, and has a habit of rubbing the sharp ridge of his nose.

“Haow be you, Jethro?” says Samuel. “Killed the brindle Thursday. Finest hide you ever seed.”

“G-goin’ to town meetin’ Tuesday — g-goin’ to town meetin’ Tuesday — Sam’l?” says Jethro.

“I was callatin’ to, Jethro.”

“Democrat — hain’t ye — Democrat?”

“Callate to be.”

“How much store do ye set by that hide?”

Samuel rubs his nose. Then he names a price that the hide might fetch, under favorable circumstances, in Boston. Jethro does not wince.

“Who d’ye callate to vote for, Sam’l?”

Samuel rubs his nose.

“Heerd they was a-goin’ to put up Fletcher and Amos Cuthbert, an’ Sam Price for Moderator.” (What a convenient word is they when used politically!) “Hain’t made up my mind, clear,” says Samuel.

“C-comin’ by the tannery after town meetin’?” inquired Jethro, casually.

“Don’t know but what I kin.”

“F-fetch the hide — f-fetch the hide.”

And Jethro drives off, with Samuel looking after him, rubbing his nose. “No bill,” says the jury — if you can get Samuel into court. But you can’t. Even Moses Hatch can get nothing out of Samuel, who then talks Jacksonian principles and the rights of an American citizen.

Let us pursue this matter a little farther, and form a committee of investigation. Where did Mr. Todd learn anything about Jacksonian principles? From Mr. Samuel Price, whom they have spoken of for Moderator. And where did Mr. Price learn of these principles? Any one in Coniston will tell you that Mr. Price makes a specialty of orators and oratory, and will hold forth at the drop of a hat in Jonah Winch’s store or anywhere else. Who is Mr. Price? He is a tall, sallow young man of eight and twenty, with a wedge-shaped face, a bachelor and a Methodist, who farms in a small way on the southern slope, and saves his money. He has become almost insupportable since they have named him for Moderator.

Get Mr. Price into court. Here is a man who assuredly knows who they are: if we are not much mistaken, he is their mouthpiece. Get an eel into court. There is only one man in town who can hold an eel, and he isn’t on the jury. Mr. Price will talk plentifully, in his nasal way; but he won’t tell you anything.

Mr. Price has been nominated to fill Deacon Lysander Richardson’s shoes in the following manner: One day in the late autumn a man in a coonskin cap stops beside Mr. Price’s woodpile, where Mr. Price has been chopping wood, pausing occasionally to stare off through the purple haze at the south shoulder of Coniston Mountain.

“Haow be you, Jethro?” says Mr. Price, nasally.

“D-Democrats are talkin’ some of namin’ you Moderator next meetin’,” says the man in the coonskin cap.

“Want to know!” ejaculates Mr. Price, dropping the axe and straightening up in amazement. For Mr. Price’s ambition soared no higher, and he had made no secret of it. “Wal! Whar’d you hear that, Jethro?”

“H-heerd it round — some. D-Democrat — hain’t you — Democrat?”

“Always callate to be.”

“J-Jacksonian Democrat?”

“Guess I be.”

Silence for a while, that Mr. Price may feel the gavel in his hand, which he does.

“Know somewhat about Jacksonian principles, don’t ye — know somewhat?”

“Callate to,” says Mr. Price, proudly.

“T-talk ’em up, Sam — t-talk ’em up. C-canvass, Sam.”

With these words of neighborly advice, Mr. Bass went off down the road, and Mr. Price chopped no more wood that night; but repeated to himself many times in his nasal voice, “I want to know!” In the course of the next few weeks various gentlemen mentioned to Mr. Price that he had been spoken of for Moderator, and he became acquainted with the names of the other candidates on the same mysterious ticket who were mentioned. Whereupon he girded up his loins and went forth and preached the word of Jacksonian Democracy in all the farmhouses roundabout, with such effect that Samuel Todd and others were able to talk with some fluency about the rights of American citizens.

Question before the Committee, undisposed of: Who nominated Samuel Price for Moderator? Samuel Price gives the evidence, tells the court he does not know, and is duly cautioned and excused.

Let us call, next, Mr. Eben Williams, if we can. Moses Hatch, Senior, has already interrogated him with all the authority of the law and the church, for Mr. Williams is orthodox, though the deacons have to remind him of his duty once in a while. Eben is timid, and replies to us, as to Moses, that he has heard of the Democratic ticket, and callates that Fletcher Bartlett, who has always been the leader of the Democratic party, has named the ticket. He did not mention Jethro Bass to Deacon Hatch. Why should he? What has Jethro Bass got to do with politics?

Eben lives on a southern spur, next to Amos Cuthbert, where you can look off for forty miles across the billowy mountains of the west. From no spot in Coniston town is the sunset so fine on distant Farewell Mountain, and Eben’s sheep feed on pastures where only mountain-bred sheep can cling and thrive. Coniston, be it known, at this time is one of the famous wool towns of New England: before the industry went West, with other industries. But Eben William’s sheep do not wholly belong to him — they are mortgaged — and Eben’s farm is mortgaged.

Jethro Bass — Eben testifies to us — is in the habit of visiting him once a month, perhaps, when he goes to Amos Cuthbert’s. Just friendly calls. Is it not a fact that Jethro Bass holds his mortgage? Yes, for eight hundred dollars. How long has he held that mortgage? About a year and a half. Has the interest been paid promptly? Well, the fact is that Eben hasn’t paid any interest yet.

Now let us take the concrete incident. Before that hypocritical thaw early in February, Jethro called upon Amos Cuthbert — not so surly then as he has since become — and talked about buying his wool when it should be duly cut, and permitted Amos to talk about the position of second selectman, for which some person or persons unknown to the jury had nominated him. On his way down to the Four Corners, Jethro had merely pulled up his sleigh before Eben William’s house, which stood behind a huge snow bank and practically on the road. Eben appeared at the door, a little disheveled in hair and beard, for he had been sleeping.

“Haow be you, Jethro?” he said nervously. Jethro nodded.

“Weather looks a mite soft.”

No answer.

“About that interest,” said Eben, plunging into the dread subject, “don’t know as I’m ready this month after all.”

“G-goin’ to town meetin’, Eben?”

“Wahn’t callatin’ to,” answered Eben.

“G-goin’ to town meetin’, Eben?”

Eben, puzzled and dismayed, ran his hand through his hair.

“Wahn’t callatin’ to — but I kin — I kin.”

“D-Democrat — hain’t ye — D-Democrat?”

“I kin be,” said Eben. Then he looked at Jethro and added in a startled voice, “Don’t know but what I be — Yes, I guess I be.”

“H-heerd the ticket?”

Yes, Eben had heard the ticket. What man had not. Some one has been most industrious, and most disinterested, in distributing that ticket.

“Hain’t a mite of hurry about the interest right now — right now,” said Jethro. “M-may be along the third week in March — may be — c-can’t tell.”

And Jethro clucked to his horse, and drove away. Eben Williams went back into his house and sat down with his head in his hands. In about two hours, when his wife called him to fetch water, he set down the pail on the snow and stared across the next ridge at the eastern horizon, whitening after the sunset.

The third week in March was the week after town meeting!

“M-may be — c-can’t tell,” repeated Eben to himself, unconsciously imitating Jethro’s stutter. “Godfrey, I’ll hev to git that ticket straight from Amos.”

Yes, we may have our suspicions. But how can we get a bill on this evidence? There are some thirty other individuals in Coniston whose mortgages Jethro holds, from a horse to a house and farm. It is not likely that they will tell Deacon Hatch, or us, that they are going to town meeting and vote for that fatherless ticket because Jethro Bass wishes them to do so. And Jethro has never said that he wishes them to. If so, where are your witnesses? Have we not come back to our starting-point, even as Moses Hatch drove around in a circle. And we have the advantage over Moses, for we suspect somebody, and he did not know whom to suspect. Certainly not Jethro Bass, the man that lived under his nose and never said anything — and had no right to. Jethro Bass had never taken any active part in politics, though some folks had heard, in his rounds on business, that he had discussed them, and had spread the news of the infamous ticket without a parent. So much was spoken of at the meeting over which Priest Ware prayed. It was even declared that, being a Democrat, Jethro might have influenced some of those under obligations to him. Sam Price was at last fixed upon as the malefactor, though people agreed that they had not given him credit for so much sense, and Jacksonian principles became as much abhorred by the orthodox as the spotted fever.

We can call a host of other witnesses if we like, among them cranky, happy-go-lucky Fletcher Bartlett, who has led forlorn hopes in former years. Court proceedings make tiresome reading, and if those who have been over ours have not arrived at some notion of the simple and innocent method of the new Era of politics now dawning — they never will. Nothing proved. But here is part of the ticket which nobody started: —

For

SENIOR SELECTMAN, FLETCHER BARTLETT.
(Farm and buildings on Thousand Acre Hill mortgaged to Jethro Bass.)
SECOND SELECTMAN, AMOS CUTHBERT.
(Farm and buildings on Town’s End Ridge mortgaged to Jethro Bass.)
THIRD SELECTMAN, CHESTER PERKINS.
(Sop of some kind to the Established Church party. Horse and cow mortgaged to Jethro Bass, though his father, the tithing man, doesn’t know it.)
MODERATOR, SAMUEL PRICE.
(Natural ambition — love of oratory and Jacksonian principles.)

etc. etc.      

The notes are mine, not Moses’s. Strange that they didn’t occur to Moses. What a wealthy man has our hero become at thirty-one! Jethro Bass was rich beyond the dreams of avarice — for Coniston. Truth compels me to admit that the sum total of all his mortgages did not amount to nine thousand dollars; but that was a large sum of money for Coniston in those days, and even now. Nathan Bass had been a saving man, and had left to his son one-half of this fortune. If thrift and the ability to gain wealth be qualities for a hero, Jethro had them — in those days.

The Sunday before March meeting, it blew bitter cold, and Priest Ware, preaching in mittens, denounced sedition in general. Underneath him, on the first landing of the high pulpit, the deacons sat with knitted brows, and the key-note from Isaiah Prescott’s pitch pipe sounded like a mournful echo of the mournful wind without.

Monday was ushered in with that sleet storm to which the almanacs still refer, and another scarcely less important event occurred that day which we shall have to pass by for the present; on Tuesday, the sleet still raging, came the historic town meeting. Deacon Moses Hatch, his chores done and his breakfast and prayers completed, fought his way with his head down through a white waste to the meeting-house door, and unlocked it, and shivered as he made the fire. It was certainly not good election weather, thought Moses, and others of the orthodox persuasion, high in office, were of the same opinion as they stood with parted coat tails before the stove. Whoever had stirred up and organized the hordes, whoever was the author of that ticket of the discontented, had not counted upon the sleet. Heaven-sent sleet, said Deacon Ira Perkins, and would not speak to his son Chester, who sat down just then in one of the rear slips. Chester had become an agitator, a Jacksonian Democrat, and an outcast, to be prayed for but not spoken to.

We shall leave them their peace of mind for half an hour more, those stanch old deacons and selectmen, who did their duty by their fellow citizens as they saw it and took no man’s bidding. They could not see the trackless roads over the hills, now becoming tracked, and the bent figures driving doggedly against the storm, each impelled by a motive: each motive strengthened by a master mind until it had become imperative. Some, like Eben Williams behind his rickety horse, came through fear; others through ambition; others were actuated by both; and still others were stung by the pain of the sleet to a still greater jealousy and envy, and the remembrance of those who had been in power. I must not omit the conscientious Jacksonians who were misguided enough to believe in such a ticket.

The sheds were not large enough to hold the teams that day. Jethro’s barn and tannery were full, and many other barns in the village. And now the peace of mind of the orthodox is a thing of the past. Deacon Lysander Richardson, the moderator, sits aghast in his high place as they come trooping in, men who have not been to town meeting for ten years. Deacon Lysander, with his white band of whiskers that goes around his neck like a sixteenth-century ruff under his chin, will soon be a memory. Now enters one, if Deacon Lysander had known it — symbolic of the new Era. One who, though his large head is bent, towers over most of the men who make way for him in the aisle, nodding but not speaking, and takes his place in the chair under the platform on the right of the meeting-house under one of the high, three-part windows. That chair was always his in future years, and there he sat afterward silent, apparently taking no part. But not a man dropped a ballot into the box whom Jethro Bass did not see and mark.

And now, when the meeting-house is crowded as it has never been before, when Jonah Winch has arranged his dinner booth in the corner, Deacon Lysander raps for order and the minister prays. They proceed, first, to elect a representative to the General Court. The Jacksonians do not contest that seat, — this year, — and Isaiah Prescott, fourteenth child of Timothy, the Stark hero, father of a young Ephraim whom we shall hear from later, is elected. And now! Now for a sensation, now for disorder and misrule!

“Gentlemen,” says Deacon Lysander, “you will prepare your ballots for the choice of the first Selectman.”

The Whigs have theirs written out, — Deacon Moses Hatch. But who has written out these others that are being so assiduously passed around? Sam Price, perhaps, for he is passing them most assiduously. And what name is written on them? Fletcher Bartlett, of course; that was on the ticket. Somebody is tricked again. That is not the name on the ticket. Look over Sam Price’s shoulder and you will see the name — Jethro Bass.

It burst from the lips of Fletcher Bartlett himself — of Fletcher, inflammable as gunpowder.

“Gentlemen, I withdraw as your candidate, and nominate a better and an abler man, — Jethro Bass.”

“Jethro Bass for Chairman of the Selectmen!”

The cry is taken up all over the meeting-house, and rises high above the hiss of the sleet on the great windows. Somebody’s got on the stove, to add to the confusion and horror. The only man in the whole place who is not excited is Jethro Bass himself, who sits in his chair regardless of those pressing around him. Many years afterward he confessed to some one that he was surprised — and this is true. Fletcher Bartlett had surprised and tricked him, but was forgiven. Forty men are howling at the moderator, who is pounding on the table with a blacksmith’s blows. Squire Asa Northcutt, with his arms fanning like a windmill from the edge of the platform, at length shouts down everybody else — down to a hum. Some listen to him: hear the words “infamous outrage” — “if Jethro Bass is elected Selectman, Coniston will never be able to hold up her head among her sister towns for very shame.“ (Momentary blank, for somebody has got on the stove again, a scuffle going on there.) “I see it all now,” says the Squire — (marvel of perspicacity!) “Jethro Bass has debased and debauched this town —” (blank again, and the squire points a finger of rage and scorn at the unmoved offender in the chair) “he has bought and intimidated men to do his bidding. He has sinned against heaven, and against the spirit of that most immortal of documents —” (Blank again. Most unfortunate blank, for this is becoming oratory, but somebody from below has seized the squire by the leg.) Squire Northcutt is too dignified and elderly a person to descend to rough and tumble, but he did get his leg liberated and kicked Fletcher Bartlett in the face. Oh, Coniston, that such scenes should take place in your town meeting! By this time another is orating, Mr. Sam Price, Jackson Democrat. There was no shorthand reporter in Coniston in those days, and it is just as well, perhaps, that the accusations and recriminations should sink into oblivion.

At last, by mighty efforts of the peace loving in both parties, something like order is restored, the ballots are in the box, and Deacon Lysander is counting them: not like another moderator I have heard of, who spilled the votes on the floor until his own man was elected. No. Had they registered his own death sentence, the deacon would have counted them straight, and needed no town clerk to verify his figures. But when he came to pronounce the vote, shame and sorrow and mortification overcame him. Coniston, his native town, which he had served and revered, was dishonored, and it was for him, Lysander Richardson, to proclaim her disgrace. The deacon choked, and tears of bitterness stood in his eyes, and there came a silence only broken by the surging of the sleet as he rapped on the table.

“Seventy-five votes have been cast for Jethro Bass — sixty-three for Moses Hatch. Necessary for a choice, seventy — and Jethro Bass is elected senior Selectman.“

The deacon sat down, and men say that a great sob shook him, while Jacksonian Democracy went wild — not looking into future years to see what they were going wild about. Jethro Bass, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, in the honored place of Deacon Moses Hatch! Bourbon royalists never looked with greater abhorrence on the Corsican adventurer and usurper of the throne than did the orthodox in Coniston on this tanner, who had earned no right to aspire to any distinction, and who by his wiles had acquired the highest office in the town government. Fletcher Bartlett in, as a leader of the irresponsible opposition, would have been calamity enough. But Jethro Bass!

This man whom they had despised was the master mind who had organized and marshalled the loose vote, was the author of that ticket, who sat in his corner unmoved alike by the congratulations of his friends and the maledictions of his enemies; who rose to take his oath of office as unconcerned as though the house were empty, albeit Deacon Lysander could scarcely get the words out. And then Jethro sat down again in his chair — not to leave it for six and thirty years. From this time forth that chair became a seat of power, and of dominion over a state.

Thus it was that Jock Hallowell’s prophecy, so lightly uttered, came to pass.

How the remainder of that Jacksonian ticket was elected, down to the very hog-reeves, and amid what turmoil of the Democracy and bitterness of spirit of the orthodox, I need not recount. There is no moral to the story, alas — it was one of those things which inscrutable heaven permitted to be done. After that dark town-meeting day some of those stern old fathers became broken men, and it is said in Coniston that this calamity to righteous government, and not the storm, gave to Priest Ware his death-stroke.


 

CHAPTER VI

“DEEP AS FIRST LOVE, AND WILD WITH ALL REGRET”

AND now we must go back for a chapter — a very short chapter — to the day before that town meeting which had so momentous an influence upon the history of Coniston and of the state. That Monday, too, it will be remembered, dawned in storm, the sleet hissing in the wide throats of the centre-chimneys, and bearing down great boughs of trees until they broke in agony. Dusk came early, and howling darkness that hid a muffled figure on the ice-bound road staring at the yellow cracks in the tannery door. Presently the figure crossed the yard; the door, flying open, released a shaft of light that shot across the white ground, revealed a face beneath a hood to him who stood within.

“Jethro!”

She darted swiftly past him, seizing the door and drawing it closed after her. A lantern hung on the central post and flung its rays upon his face. Her own, mercifully, was in the shadow, and burning now with a shame that was insupportable. Now that she was there, beside him, her strength failed her, and her courage — courage that she had been storing for this dread undertaking throughout the whole of that dreadful day. Now that she was there, she would have given her life to have been able to retrace her steps, to lose herself in the wild, dark places of the mountain.

“Cynthy!” His voice betrayed the passion which her presence had quickened.

The words she would have spoken would not come. She could think of nothing but that she was alone with him, and in bodily terror of him. She turned to the door again, to grasp the wooden latch; but he barred the way, and she fell back.

“Let me go,” she cried. “I did not mean to come. Do you hear? — let me go!”

To her amazement he stepped aside — a most unaccountable action for him. More unaccountable still, she did not move, now that she was free, but stood poised for flight, held by she knew not what.

“G-go if you’ve a mind to, Cynthy — if you’ve a mind to.”

“I-I’ve come to say something to you,” she faltered. It was not at all the way she had pictured herself as saying it.

“H-haven’t took Moses — have you?”

“Oh,” she cried, “do you think I came here to speak of such a thing as that?”

“H-haven’t took — Moses, have you?”

She was trembling, and yet she could almost have smiled at this well remembered trick of pertinacity.

“No,” she said, and immediately hated herself for answering him.

“H-haven’t took that Worthington cuss?”

He was jealous!

“I didn’t come to discuss Mr. Worthington,” she replied.

“Folks say it’s only a matter of time,” said he. “Made up your mind to take him, Cynthy? M-made up your mind?”

“You’ve no right to talk to me in this way,” she said, and added, the words seeming to slip of themselves from her lips, “Why do you do it?”

“Because I’m — interested,” he said.

“You haven’t shown it,” she flashed back, forgetting the place, and the storm, and her errand even, forgetting that Jake Wheeler, or anyone in Coniston, might come and surprise her there.

He took a step toward her, and she retreated. The light struck her face, and he bent over her as though searching it for a sign. The cape on her shoulders rose and fell as she breathed.

“’Twahn’t charity, Cynthy — was it? ’Twahn’t charity?”

“It was you who called it such,” she answered, in a low voice.

A sleet-charged gust hurled itself against the door, and the lantern flickered.

“Wahn’t it charity?”

“It was friendship, Jethro. You ought to have known that, and you should not have brought back the book.”

“Friendship,” he repeated, “y-you said friendship?

“Yes.”

“M-meant friendship?”

“Yes,” said Cynthia, but more faintly, and yet with a certain delicious fright as she glanced at him shyly. Surely there had never been a stranger man! Now he was apparently in a revery.

“G-guess it’s because I’m not good enough to be anything more,” he remarked suddenly. “Is that it?”

“You have not tried even to be a friend,” she said.

“H-how about Worthington?” he persisted. “Just friends with him?”

“I won’t talk about Mr. Worthington,” cried Cynthia, desperately, and retreated toward the lantern again.

“J-just friends with Worthington?”

“Why?” she asked, her words barely heard above the gust, “why do you want to know?”

He came after her. It was as if she had summoned some unseen, uncontrollable power, only to be appalled by it, and the mountain-storm without seemed the symbol of it. His very voice seemed to partake of its strength.

“Cynthy,” he said, “if you took him, I’d have killed him. Cynthy, I love you — I want you to be my woman —”

“Your woman!”

He caught her, struggling wildly, terror-stricken, in his arms, beat down her hands, flung back her hood, and kissed her forehead — her hair, blown by the wind — her lips. In that moment she felt the mystery of heaven and hell, of all kinds of power. In that moment she was like a seed flying in the storm above the mountain spruces — whither, she knew not, cared not. There was one thought that drifted across the chaos like a blue light of the spirit: Could she control the storm? Could she say whither the winds might blow, where the seed might be planted? Then she found herself listening, struggling no longer, for he held her powerless. Strangest of all, most hopeful of all, his own mind was working, though his soul rocked with passion.

“Cynthy — ever sence we stopped that day on the road in Northcutt’s woods, I’ve thought of nothin’ but to marry you — m-marry you. Then you gave me that book — I hain’t had much education, but it come across me if you was to help me that way — And when I seed you with Worthington, I could have killed him easy as breakin’ bark.“

“Hush, Jethro.”

She struggled free and leaped away from him, panting, while he tore open his coat and drew forth something which gleamed in the lantern’s rays — a silver locket. Cynthia scarcely saw it. Her blood was throbbing in her temples, she could not reason, but she knew that the appeal for the sake of which she had stooped must be delivered now.

“Jethro,” she said, “do you know why I came here — why I came to you?”

“No,” he said. “No. W-wanted me, didn’t you? Wanted me — I wanted you, Cynthy.”

“I would never have come to you for that,” she cried, “never.”

“L-love me, Cynthy — love me, don’t you?”

How could he ask, seeing that she had been in his arms, and had not fled? And yet she must go through with what she had come to do, at any cost.

“Jethro, I have come to speak to you about the town meeting to-morrow.”

He halted as though he had been struck, his hand tightening over the locket.

“T-town meetin’?”

“Yes. All this new organization is your doing,” she cried. “Do you think that I am foolish enough to believe that Fletcher Bartlett or Sam Price planned this thing? No, Jethro. I know who has done it, and I could have told them if they had asked me.”

He looked at her, and the light of a new admiration was in his eye.

“Knowed it — did you?”

“Yes,” she answered, a little defiantly, “I did.”

“H-how’d you know it — how’d you know it, Cynthy?” How did she know it, indeed?

“I guessed it,” said Cynthia, desperately, “knowing you, I guessed it.”

“A-always thought you was smart, Cynthy.”

“Tell me, did you do this thing?”

“Th-thought you knowed it — th-thought you knowed it.”

“I believe that these men are doing your bidding.”

“Haint you guessin’ a little mite too much, Cynthy?”

“Jethro,” she said, “you told me just now that — that you loved me. Don’t touch me!” she cried, when he would have taken her in his arms again. “If you love me, you will tell me why you have done such a thing.”

What instinct there was in the man which forbade him speaking out to her, I know not. I do not believe that he would have confessed, if he could. Isaac Worthington had been impelled to reveal his plans and aspirations, but Jethro Bass was as powerless in this supreme moment of his life as was Coniston Mountain to move the granite on which it stood. Cynthia’s heart sank, and a note of passionate appeal came into her voice.

“Oh, Jethro!” she cried, “this is not the way to use your power, to compel men like Eben Williams and Samuel Todd and — Lyman Hull, who is a drunkard and a vagabond, to come in and vote for those who are not fit to hold office.” She was using the minister’s own arguments. “We have always had clean men, and honorable and good men.”

He did not speak, but dropped his hands to his sides. His thoughts were not to be fathomed, yet Cynthia took the movement for silent confession, — which it was not, — and stood appalled at the very magnitude of his accomplishment, astonished at the secrecy he had maintained. She had heard that his name had been mentioned in the meeting at the house of Moses Hatch as having taken part in the matter, and she guessed something of certain of his methods. But she had felt his force, and knew that this was not the only secret of his power.

What might he not aspire to, if properly guided? No, she did not believe him to be unscrupulous — but merely ignorant: a man who was capable of such love as she felt was in him, a man whom she could love, could not mean to be unscrupulous. Defence of him leaped to her own lips.

“You did not know what you were doing,” she said. “I was sure of it, or I would not have come to you. Oh, Jethro! you must stop it — you must prevent this election.”

Her eyes met his, her own pleading, and the very wind without seemed to pause for his answer. But what she asked was impossible. That wind which he himself had loosed, which was to topple over institutions, was rising, and he could no more have stopped it then than he could have hushed the storm.

“You will not do what I ask — now?” she said, very slowly. Then her voice failed her, she drew her hands together, and it was as if her heart had ceased to beat. Sorrow and anger and fierce shame overwhelmed her, and she turned from him in silence and went to the door.

“Cynthy,” he cried hoarsely, “Cynthy!”

“You must never speak to me again,” she said, and was gone into the storm.

Yes, she had failed. But she did not know that she had left something behind which he treasured as long as he lived.

 
 

In the spring, when the new leaves were green on the slopes of Coniston, Priest Ware ended a life of faithful service. The high pulpit, taken from the old meeting house, and the cricket on which he used to stand and the Bible from which he used to preach have remained objects of veneration in Coniston to this day. A fortnight later many tearful faces gazed after the Truro coach as it galloped out of Brampton in a cloud of dust, and one there was, watching unseen from the spruces on the hill, who saw within it a girl dressed in black, dry-eyed, staring from the window.


 

CHAPTER VII

“AND STILL THE AGES ROLL, UNMOVED”

OUT of the stump of a blasted tree in the Coniston woods a flower will sometimes grow, and even so the story which I have now to tell springs from the love of Cynthia Ware and Jethro Bass. The flower, when it came to bloom, was fair in life, and I hope that in these pages it will not lose too much of its beauty and sweetness.

For a little while we are going to gallop through the years as before we have ambled through the days, although the reader’s breath may be taken away in the process. How Cynthia Ware went over the Truro Pass to Boston, and how she became a teacher in a high school there, — largely through the kindness of that Miss Lucretia Penniman of whom we have spoken, who wrote in Cynthia’s behalf to certain friends she had in that city; how she met one William Wetherell, no longer a clerk in Mr. Judson’s jewellery shop, but a newspaper man with I know not what ambitions — and limitations in strength of body and will; how, many, many years afterward, she nursed him tenderly through a sickness and — married him, is all told in a paragraph. Marry him she did, to take care of him, and told him so. She made no secret of the maternal in this love.

One evening, the summer after their marriage, they were walking in the Mall under the great elms that border the Common on the Tremont Street side. They often used to wander there, talking of the books he was to write when strength should come and a little leisure, and sometimes their glances would linger longingly on Colonnade Row that Bulfinch built across the way, where dwelt the rich and powerful of the city — and yet he would not have exchanged their lot for his. Could he have earned with his own hands such a house, and set Cynthia there in glory, what happiness! But, I stray.

They were walking in the twilight, for the sun had sunk all red in the marshes of the Charles, when there chanced along a certain Mr. Judson, a jeweller, taking the air likewise. So there came into Wetherell’s mind that amusing adventure with the country lad and the locket. His name, by reason of some strange quality in it, he had never forgotten, and suddenly he recalled that the place the countryman had come from was Coniston.

“Cynthia,” said her husband, when Mr. Judson was gone, “did you know any one in Coniston named Jethro Bass?”

She did not answer him. And, thinking she had not heard, he spoke again.

“Why do you ask?” she said, in a low tone, without looking at him.

He told her the story. Not until the end of it did the significance of the name engraved come to him — Cynthy. “Cynthy, from Jethro.”

“Why, it might have been you!” he said jestingly. “Was he an admirer of yours, Cynthia, that strange, uncouth countryman? Did he give you the locket?”

“No,” she answered, “he never did.”

Wetherell glanced at her in surprise, and saw that her lip was quivering, that tears were on her lashes. She laid her hand on his arm.

“William,” she said, drawing him to a bench, “come, let us sit down, and I will tell you the story of Jethro Bass. We have been happy together, you and I, for I have found peace with you. I have tried to be honest with you, William, and I will always be so. I told you before we were married that I loved another man. I have tried to forget him, but as God is my judge, I cannot. I believe I shall love him until I die.”

They sat in the summer twilight, until darkness fell, and the lights gleamed through the leaves, and a deep, cool breath coming up from the sea stirred the leaves above their heads. That she should have loved Jethro seemed as strange to her as to him, and yet Wetherell was to feel the irresistible force of him. Hers was not a love that she chose, or would have chosen, but something elemental that cried out from the man to her, and drew her. Something that had in it now, as of yore, much of pain and even terror, but drew her. Strangest of all was that William Wetherell understood and was not jealous of this thing: which leads us to believe that some essence of virility was lacking in him, some substance that makes the fighters and conquerors in this world. In such a mood he listened to the story of Jethro Bass.

“My dear husband,” said Cynthia, when she had finished, her hand tightening over his, “I have never told you this for fear that it might trouble you as it has troubled me. I have found in your love sanctuary, and all that remains of myself I have given to you.”

“You have found a weakling to protect, and an invalid to nurse,” he answered. “To have your compassion, Cynthia, is all I crave.”

 
 

So they lived through the happiest and swiftest years of his life, working side by side, sharing this strange secret between them. And after that night Cynthia talked to him often of Coniston, until he came to know the mountain that lay along the western sky, and the sweet hillsides by Coniston Water under the blue haze of autumn, aye, and clothed in the colors of spring, the bright blossoms of thorn and apple against the tender green of the woods and fields. So he grew to love the simple people there, but little did he foresee that he was to end his life among them!

But so it came to pass. She was taken from him, who had been the one joy and inspiration of his weary days, and he was driven, wandering, into unfrequented streets that he might not recall the places where she had once trod, and through the wakeful nights her voice haunted him, — its laughter, its sweet notes of seriousness; little ways and manners of her look came to twist his heart, and he prayed God to take him, too, until it seemed that Cynthia frowned upon him for his weakness. One mild Sunday, he took little Cynthia by the hand and led her, toddling, out into the sunny Common, where he used to walk with her mother, and the infant prattle seemed to bring at last a strange peace to his storm-tossed soul.

For many years these Sunday walks in the Common were Wetherell’s greatest pleasure and solace, and it seemed as though little Cynthia had come into the world with an instinct, as it were, of her mission that lent to her infant words a sweet gravity and weight. Many people used to stop and speak to the child, among them a great physician, whom they grew to know. He was there every Sunday, and at length it came to be a habit with him to sit down on the bench and take Cynthia on his knee, and his stern face would soften as he talked to her.

One Sunday when Cynthia was eight years old he missed them, and the next, and at dusk he strode into their little lodging behind the hill and up to the bedside. He glanced at Wetherell, patting Cynthia on the head the while, and bade her cheerily to go out of the room. But she held tight hold of her father’s hand and looked up at the doctor bravely.

“I am taking care of my father,” she said.

“So you shall, little woman,” he answered. “I would that we had such nurses as you at the hospital. Why didn’t you send for me at once?”

“I wanted to,” said Cynthia.

“Bless her good sense,” said the doctor; “she has more than you, Wetherell. Why didn’t you take her advice? If your father does not do as I tell him, he will be a very sick man indeed. He must go into the country and stay there.”

“But I must live, Doctor,” said William Wetherell.

The doctor looked at Cynthia.

“You will not live long if you stay here,” he replied.

“Then he will go,” said Cynthia, so quietly that he gave her another look, strange and tender and comprehending. He sat and talked of many things: of the great war that was agonizing the nation; of the strong man who, harassed and suffering himself, was striving to guide it, likening Lincoln unto a physician. So the doctor was wont to take the minds of patients from themselves. And before he left he gave poor Wetherell a fortnight to decide.

As he lay on his back in that room among the chimney tops trying vainly to solve the problem of how he was to earn his salt in the country, a visitor was climbing the last steep flight of stairs. That visitor was none other than Sergeant Ephraim Prescott, son of Isaiah of the pitch-pipe, and own cousin of Cynthia Ware’s. Sergeant Ephraim was just home from the war and still clad in blue, and he walked with a slight limp by reason of a bullet he had got in the Wilderness, and he had such an honest, genial face that little Cynthia was on his knee in a moment.

“How be you, Will? Kind of poorly, I callate. So Cynthy’s b’en took,” he said sadly. “Always thought a sight of Cynthy. Little Cynthy favors her some. Yes, thought I’d drop in and see how you be on my way home.”

Sergeant Ephraim had much to say about the great war, and about Coniston. True to the instincts of the blood of the Stark hero, he had left the plough and the furrow at the first call, forty years of age though he was. But it had been otherwise with many in Coniston and Brampton and Harwich. Some of these, when the drafting came, had fled in bands to the mountain and defied capture. Mr. Dudley Worthington, now a mill owner, had found a substitute; Heth Sutton of Clovelly had been drafted and had driven over the mountain to implore Jethro Bass abjectly to get him out of it. In short, many funny things had happened — funny things to Sergeant Ephraim, but not at all to William Wetherell, who sympathized with Heth in his panic.

“So Jethro Bass has become a great man?” said Wetherell.

“Great!” Ephraim ejaculated. “Guess he’s the biggest man in the state to-day. Queer how he got his power — began twenty-four years ago when I wahn’t but twenty. I call that town meetin’ to mind as if ’twas yesterday — never was such an upset. Jethro’s be’n first Selectman ever sence, though he turned Republican in ’60. Old folks don’t fancy Jethro’s kind of politics much, but times change. Jethro saved my life, I guess.”

“Saved your life!” exclaimed Wetherell.

“Got me a furlough,” said Ephraim. “Guess I would have died in the hospital if he hadn’t got it so all-fired quick, and he druv down to Brampton to fetch me back. You’d have thought I was General Grant the way folks treated me.”

“You went back to the war after your leg healed?” Wetherell asked, in wondering admiration of the man’s courage.

“Well,” said Ephraim, simply, “the other boys was gettin’ full of bullets and dysentery, and it didn’t seem just right. The leg troubles me some on wet days, but not to amount to much. You hain’t thinkin’ of dyin’ yourself, be ye, William?”

William was thinking very seriously of it, but it was Cynthia who spoke, and startled them both.

“The doctor says he will die if he doesn’t go to the country.”

“Somethin’ like consumption, William?” asked Ephraim.

“So the doctor said.”

“So I callated,” said Ephraim. “Come back to Coniston with me; there hain’t a healthier place in New England.”

“How could I support myself in Coniston?” Wetherell asked.

Ephraim ruminated. Suddenly he stuck his hand into the bosom of his blue coat, and his face lighted and even flushed as he drew out a crumpled letter.

“It don’t take much gumption to run a store, does it, William? Guess you could run a store, couldn’t you?”

“I would try anything,” said Wetherell.

“Well,” said Ephraim, “there’s the store at Coniston. With folks goin’ West, and all that, nobody seems to want it much.” He looked at the letter. “Lem Hallowell says there hain’t nobody to take it.”

“Jonah Winch’s!” exclaimed Wetherell.

“Jonah made it go, but that was before all this hullabaloo about Temperance Cadets and what not. Jonah sold good rum, but now you can’t get nothin’ in Coniston but hard cider and potato whiskey. Still, it’s the place for somebody without much get-up,” and he eyed his cousin by marriage. “Better come and try it, William.”

 
 

So much for dreams! Instead of a successor to Irving and Emerson, William Wetherell became a successor to Jonah Winch.

That journey to Coniston was full of wonder to Cynthia, and of wonder and sadness to Wetherell, for it was the way his other Cynthia had come to Boston. From the state capital the railroad followed the same deep valley as the old coach road, but ended at Truro, and then they took stage over Truro Pass for Brampton, where honest Ephraim awaited them and their slender luggage with a team. Brampton, with its wide-shadowed green and terrace-steepled church; home once of the Social Library and Lucretia Penniman, now famous; home now of Isaac Dudley Worthington, whose great mills the stage driver had pointed out to them on Coniston Water as they entered the town.

Then came a drive through the cool evening to Coniston, Ephraim showing them landmarks. There was Deacon Lysander’s house, where little Rias Richardson lived now; and on that slope and hidden in its forest nook, among the birches and briers, the little schoolhouse where Cynthia had learned to spell; here, where the road made an aisle in the woods, she had met Jethro. The choir of the birds was singing an evening anthem now as then, to the lower notes of Coniston Water, and the moist, hothouse fragrance of the ferns rose from the deep places.

At last they came suddenly upon the little hamlet of Coniston itself. There was the flagpole and the triangular green, scene of many a muster; Jonah Winch’s store, with its horse block and checker-paned windows, just as Jonah had left it; Nathan Bass’s tannery shed, now weather-stained and neglected, for Jethro lived on Thousand Acre Hill now; the Prescott house, home of the Stark hero, where Ephraim lived, “innocent of paint” (as one of Coniston’s sons has put it), “innocent of paint as a Coniston maiden’s face”; the white meeting-house, where Priest Ware had preached — and the parsonage. Cynthia and Wetherell loitered in front of it, while the blue shadow of the mountain deepened into night, and until Mr. Satterlee, the minister, found them there, and they went in and stood reverently in the little chamber on the right of the door, which had been Cynthia’s.

Long Wetherell lay awake that night, in his room at the gable-end over the store, listening to the rustling of the great oak beside the windows, to the whippoorwills calling across Coniston Water. But at last a peace descended upon him, and he slept: yes, and awoke with the same sense of peace at little Cynthia’s touch, to go out into the cool morning, when the mountain side was in myriad sheens of green under the rising sun. Behind the store was an old-fashioned garden, set about by a neat stone wall, hidden here and there by the masses of lilac and currant bushes, and at the south of it was a great rose-covered boulder of granite. And beyond, through the foliage of the willows and the low apple trees which Jonah Winch had set out, Coniston Water gleamed and tumbled. Under an arching elm near the house was the well, stone-rimmed, with its long pole and crotch, and bucket all green with the damp moss which clung to it.

Ephraim Prescott had been right when he had declared that it did not take much gumption to keep store in Coniston. William Wetherell merely assumed certain obligations at the Brampton bank, and Lem Hallowell, Jock’s son, who now drove the Brampton stage, brought the goods to the door. Little Rias Richardson was willing to come in and help move the barrels, and on such occasions wore carpet slippers to save his shoes. William still had time for his books; in that Coniston air he began to feel stronger, and to wonder whether he might not be a Washington Irving yet. And yet he had one worry and one fear, and both of these concerned one man, — Jethro Bass. Him, by her own confession, Cynthia Ware had loved to her dying day, hating herself for it: and he, William Wetherell, had married this woman whom Jethro had loved so violently, and must always love — so Wetherell thought: that was the worry. How would Jethro treat him? that was the fear. William Wetherell was not the most courageous man in the world.

Jethro Bass had not been in Coniston since William’s arrival. No need to ask where he was. Jake Wheeler, Jethro’s lieutenant in Coniston, gave William a glowing account of that Throne Room in the Pelican Hotel at the capital, from whence Jethro ruled the state during the sessions of the General Court. This legislature sat to him as a sort of advisory committee of three hundred and fifty: an expensive advisory committee to the people, relic of an obsolete form of government. Many stories of the now all-powerful Jethro William heard from the little coterie which made their headquarters in his store — stories of how those methods of which we have read were gradually spread over other towns and other counties. Not that Jethro held mortgages in these towns and counties, but the local lieutenants did, and bowed to him as an overlord. There were funny stories, and grim stories of vengeance which William Wetherell heard and trembled at. Might not Jethro wish to take vengeance upon him?

One story he did not hear, because no one in Coniston knew it. No one knew that Cynthia Ware and Jethro Bass had ever loved each other.

At last, toward the end of June, it was noised about that the great man was coming home for a few days. One beautiful afternoon William Wetherell stood on the platform of the store, looking off at Coniston, talking to Moses Hatch — young Moses, who is father of six children now and has forgotten Cynthia Ware. Old Moses sleeps on the hillside, let us hope in the peace of the orthodox and the righteous. A cloud of dust arose above the road to the southward, and out of it came a country wagon drawn by a fat horse, and in the wagon the strangest couple Wetherell had ever seen. The little woman who sat retiringly at one end of the seat was all in brilliant colors from bonnet to flounce, like a paroquet, red and green predominating. The man, big in build, large-headed, wore an old-fashioned blue swallow-tailed coat with brass buttons, a stock, and coonskin hat, though it was summer, and the thumping of William Wetherell’s heart told him that this was Jethro Bass. He nodded briefly at Moses Hatch, who greeted him with genial obsequiousness.

“Legislatur’ through?” shouted Moses.

The great man shook his head, and drove on.

“Has Jethro Bass ever been a member of the Legislature?” asked the storekeeper, for the sake of something to say.

“Never would take any office but Chairman of the Selectmen,” answered Moses, who apparently bore no ill will for his father’s sake. “Jethro kind of fathers the Legislatur’, I guess, though I don’t take much stock in politics. Goes down sessions to see that they don’t get too gumptious and kick off the swaddlin’ clothes.”

“And — was that his wife?” Wetherell asked, hesitatingly.

“Aunt Listy, they call her. Nobody ever knew how he come to marry her. Jethro went up to Wisdom once, in the centre of the state, and come back with her. Funny place to bring a wife from — Wisdom! Funnier place to bring Listy from. He loads her down with them ribbons and gewgaws — all the shades of the rainbow! Says he wants her to be the best-dressed woman in the state. Callate she is,” added Moses, with conviction. “Listy’s a fine woman, but all she knows is enough to say, ‘Yes, Jethro,’ and ‘No, Jethro.’ Guess that’s all Jethro wants in a wife; but he certainly is good to her.”

“And why has he come back before the Legislature’s over?” said Wetherell.

“Cuttin’ of his farms. Always comes back hayin’ time. That’s the way Jethro spends the money he makes in politics, and he hain’t no more of a farmer than —” Moses looked at Wetherell.

“Than I’m a storekeeper,” said the latter, smiling.

“Than I’m a lawyer,” said Moses, politely.

They were interrupted at this moment by the appearance of Jake Wheeler and Sam Price, who came gaping out of the darkness of the store.

“Was that Jethro, Mose?” demanded Jake. “Guess we’ll go along up and see if there’s any orders.”

“I suppose the humblest of God’s critturs has their uses,” Moses remarked contemplatively, as he watched the retreating figure of Sam and Jake. “Leastwise that’s Jethro’s philosophy. When you come to know him, you’ll notice how much those fellers walk like him. Never seed a man who had so many imitators. Some of ’em’s took to talkin’ like him, even to stutterin’. Bijah Bixby, over to Clovelly, comes pretty nigh it, too.”

Moses loaded his sugar and beans into his wagon, and drove off.

An air of suppressed excitement seemed to pervade those who came that afternoon to the store to trade and talk — mostly to talk. After such purchases as they could remember were made, they lingered on the barrels and on the stoop, in the hope of seeing Jethro, whose habit it was, apparently, to come down and dispense such news as he thought fit for circulation. That Wetherell also shared this excitement, too, he could not deny, but for a different cause. At last, when the shadows of the big trees had crept across the green, he came, the customers flocking to the porch to greet him, Wetherell standing curiously behind them in the door. Heedless of the dust, he strode down the road with the awkward gait that was all his own, kicking up his heels behind. And behind him, heels kicking up likewise, followed Jake and Sam, Jethro apparently oblivious of their presence. A modest silence was maintained from the stoop, broken at length by Lem Hallowell, who (men said) was an exact reproduction of Jock, the meeting-house builder. Lem alone was not abashed in the presence of greatness.

“How be you, Jethro?” he said heartily. “Air the Legislatur’ behavin’ themselves?”

“B-bout as common,” said Jethro.

Surely nothing very profound in this remark, but received as though it were Solomon’s.

Be prepared for a change in Jethro, after the galloping years. He is now fifty-seven, but he might be any age. He is still smooth-shaven, his skin is clear, and his eye is bright, for he lives largely on bread and milk, and eschews stimulants. But the lines in his face have deepened and his big features seem to have grown bigger.

“Who be you thinkin’ of for next governor, Jethro?” queries Rias Richardson, timidly.

“They say Alvy Hopkins of Gosport is willin’ to pay for it,” said Chester Perkins, sarcastically. Chester, we fear, is a born agitator, fated to remain always in opposition. He is still a Democrat, and Jethro, as is well known, has extended the mortgage so as to include Chester’s farm.

“Wouldn’t give a Red Brook Seedling for Alvy,” ejaculated the nasal Mr. Price.

“D-don’t like Red Brook Seedlings, Sam? D-don’t like ’em?” said Jethro. He had parted his blue coat tails and seated himself on the stoop, his long legs hanging over it.

“Never seed a man who had a good word to say for ’em,” said Mr. Price, with less conviction.

“Done well on mine,” said Jethro, “d-done well. I was satisfied with my Red Brook Seedlings.”

Mr. Price’s sallow face looked as if he would have contradicted another man.

“Haow was that, Jethro?” piped up Jake Wheeler, voicing the general desire.

Jethro looked off into the blue space beyond the mountain line.

“G-got mine when they first come round — seed cost me considerable. Raised more than a hundred bushels — L-Listy put some of ’em on the table — t-then gave some to my old hoss Tom. Tom said: ‘Hain’t I always been a good beast, Jethro? Hain’t I carried you faithful, summer and winter, for a good many years? And now you give me Red Brook Seedlings?’”

Here everybody laughed, and stopped abruptly, for Jethro still looked contemplative.

“Give some of ’em to the hogs. W-wouldn’t touch ’em. H-had over a hundred bushels on hand — n-new variety. W-what’s that feller’s name down to Ayer, Massachusetts, deals in all kinds of seeds? Ellett — that’s it. Wrote to Ellett, said I had a hundred bushels of Red Brooks to sell, as fine a lookin’ potato as I had in my cellar. Made up my mind to take what he offered, if it was only five cents. He wrote back a dollar a bushel. I-I was always satisfied with my Red Brook Seedlings, Sam. But I never raised any more — n-never raised any more.”

Uproarious laughter greeted the end of the story, and continued in fits as some humorous point recurred to one or the other of the listeners. William Wetherell perceived that the conversation, for the moment at least, was safely away from politics, and in that dubious state where it was difficult to reopen. This was perhaps what Jethro wanted. Even Jake Wheeler was tongue-tied, and Jethro appeared to be lost in reflection.

At this instant a diversion occurred — a trifling diversion, so it seemed at the time. Around the corner of the store, her cheeks flushed and her dark hair flying, ran little Cynthia, her hands, browned already by the Coniston sun, filled with wild strawberries.

“See what I’ve found, Daddy!” she cried, “see what I’ve found!”

Jethro Bass started, and flung back his head like a man who has heard a voice from another world, and then he looked at the child with a kind of stupefaction. The cry died on Cynthia’s lips, and she stopped, gazing at him with wonder in her eyes.

“F-found strawberries?” said Jethro, at last.

“Yes,” she answered. She was very grave and serious now, as was her manner in dealing with people.

“S-show ’em to me,” said Jethro.

Cynthia went to him, without embarrassment, and put her hand on his knee. Not once had he taken his eyes from her face. He put out his own hand with an awkward, shy movement, picked a strawberry from her fingers, and thrust it in his mouth.

“Mm,” said Jethro, gravely. “Er — what’s your name, little gal — what’s your name?”

“Cynthia.”

There was a long pause.

“Er-er — Cynthia?” he said at length, “Cynthia?”

“Cynthia.”

“Er-er, Cynthia — not Cynthy?”

“Cynthia,” she said again.

He bent over her and lowered his voice.

“M-may I call you Cynthy — Cynthy?” he asked.

“Y-yes,” answered Cynthia, looking up to her father and then glancing shyly at Jethro.

His eyes were on the mountain, and he seemed to have forgotten her until she reached out to him, timidly, another strawberry. He seized her little hand instead and held it between his own — much to the astonishment of his friends.

“Whose little gal be you?” he asked.

“Dad’s.”

“She’s Will Wetherell’s daughter,” said Lem Hallowell. “He’s took on the store. Will,” he added, turning to Wetherell, “let me make you acquainted with Jethro Bass.”

Jethro rose slowly, and towered above Wetherell on the stoop. There was an inscrutable look in his black eyes, as of one who sees without being seen. Did he know who William Wetherell was? If so, he gave no sign, and took Wetherell’s hand limply.

“Will’s kinder hipped on book-l’arnin’,” Lemuel continued kindly. “Come here to keep store for his health. Guess you may have heerd, Jethro, that Will married Cynthy Ware. You call Cynthy to mind, don’t ye?”

Jethro Bass dropped Wetherell’s hand, but answered nothing.


 

CHAPTER VIII

IT IS SOMETHING TO HAVE DREAMED

A WEEK passed, and Jethro did not appear in the village, report having it that he was cutting his farms on Thousand Acre Hill. When Jethro was farming, — so it was said, — he would not stop to talk politics even with the President of the United States were that dignitary to lean over the pasture fence and beckon to him. On a sultry Friday morning, when William Wetherell was seated at Jonah Winch’s desk in the cool recesses of the store slowly and painfully going over certain troublesome accounts which seemed hopeless, he was thrown into a panic by the sight of one staring at him from the far side of a counter. History sometimes reverses itself.

“What can I do for you — Mr. Bass,” asked the storekeeper, rather weakly.

“Just stepped in — stepped in,” he answered. “W-where’s Cynthy?”

“She was in the garden — shall I get her?”

“No,” he said, parting his coat tails and seating himself on the counter. “Go on figurin’, don’t mind me.”

The thing was manifestly impossible. Perhaps Wetherell indicated as much by his answer.

“Like storekeepin’?” Jethro asked presently, perceiving that Wetherell did not continue his work.

“A man must live, Mr. Bass,” said Wetherell; “I had to leave the city for my health. I began life keeping store,” he added, “but I little thought I should end it so.”

“Given to book-l’arnin’ then, wahn’t you?” Jethro remarked. He did not smile, but stared at the square of light that was the doorway, “Judson’s jewelry store, wahn’t it? Judson’s?”

“Yes, Judson’s,” Wetherell answered, as soon as he recovered from his amazement. There was no telling from Jethro’s manner whether he were enemy or friend; whether he bore the storekeeper a grudge for having attained to a happiness that had not been his.

“Hain’t made a great deal out of life, hev you? N-not a great deal?” Jethro observed at last.

Wetherell flushed, although Jethro had merely stated a truth which had often occurred to the storekeeper himself.

“It isn’t given to all of us to find Rome in brick and leave it in marble,” he replied a little sadly.

Jethro Bass looked at him quickly.

“Er — what’s that?” he demanded. “F-found Rome in brick, left it in marble. Fine thought.” He ruminated a little. “Never writ anything — did you — never writ anything?”

“Nothing worth publishing,” said poor William Wetherell.

“J-just dreamed — dreamed and kept store. S-something to have dreamed — eh — something to have dreamed?”

Wetherell forgot his uneasiness in the unexpected turn the conversation had taken. It seemed very strange to him that he was at last face to face again with the man whom Cynthia Ware had never been able to drive from her heart. Would he mention her? Had he continued to love her, in spite of the woman he had married and adorned? Wetherell asked himself these questions before he spoke.

“It is more to have accomplished,” he said.

“S-something to have dreamed,” repeated Jethro, rising slowly from the counter. He went toward the doorway that led to the garden, and there he halted and stood listening.

“C-Cynthy!” he said, “C-Cynthy!”

Wetherell dropped his pen at the sound of the name on Jethro’s lips. But it was little Cynthia he was calling — little Cynthia in the garden. The child came at his voice, and stood looking up at him silently.

“H-how old be you, Cynthy?”

“Nine,” answered Cynthia, promptly.

“L-like the country, Cynthy — like the country better than the city?”

“Oh, yes,” said Cynthia.

“And country folks? L-like country folks better than city folks?”

“I didn’t know many city folks,” said Cynthia. “I liked the old doctor who sent Daddy up here ever so much, and I liked Mrs. Darwin.”

“Mis’ Darwin?”

“She kept the house we lived in. She used to give me cookies,” said Cynthia, “and bread to feed the pigeons.”

“Pigeons? F-folks keep pigeons in the city?”

“Oh, no,” said Cynthia, laughing at such an idea; “the pigeons came on the roof under our window, and they used to fly right up on the window-sill and feed out of my hand. They kept me company while Daddy was away, working. And on Sundays we used to go into the Common and feed them, before Daddy got sick. The Common was something like the country, only not half as nice.”

“C-couldn’t pick flowers in the Common and go barefoot — c-couldn’t go barefoot, Cynthy?”

“Oh, no,” said Cynthia, laughing again at his sober face.

“C-couldn’t dig up the Common and plant flowers — could you?”

“Of course you couldn’t.”

“P-plant ’em out there?” asked Jethro.

“Oh, yes,” cried Cynthia; “I’ll show you.” She hesitated a moment, and then thrust her hand into his. “Do you want to see?”

“Guess I do,” said he, energetically, and she led him into the garden, pointing out with pride the rows of sweet peas and pansies, which she had made herself. Impelled by a strange curiosity, William Wetherell went to the door and watched them. There was a look on the face of Jethro Bass that was new to it as he listened to the child talk of the wondrous things around them that summer’s day, — the flowers and the bees and the brook (they must go down and stand on the brink of it), and the songs of the vireo and the hermit thrush.

“H-hain’t lonely here, Cynthy — hain’t lonely here?” he said.

“Not in the country,” said Cynthia. Suddenly she lifted her eyes to his with a questioning look. “Are you lonely, sometimes?”

He did not answer at once.

“Not with you, Cynthy — not with you.”

By all of which it will be seen that the acquaintance was progressing. They sat down for a while on the old millstone that formed the step, and there discussed Cynthia’s tastes. She was too old for dolls, Jethro supposed. Yes, Cynthia was too old for dolls. She did not say so, but the only doll she had ever owned had become insipid when the delight of such a reality as taking care of a helpless father had been thrust upon her. Books, suggested Jethro. Books she had known from her earliest infancy: they had been piled around that bedroom over the roof. Books and book lore and the command of the English tongue were William Wetherell’s only legacies to his daughter, and many an evening that spring she had read him to sleep from classic volumes of prose and poetry I hesitate to name, for fear you will think her precocious. They went across the green to Cousin Ephraim Prescott’s harness shop, where Jethro had tied his horse, and it was settled that Cynthia liked books.

On the morning following this extraordinary conversation, Jethro Bass and his wife departed for the state capital. Listy was bedecked in amazing greens and yellows, and Jethro drove, looking neither to the right nor left, his coat tails hanging down behind the seat, the reins lying slack across the plump quarters of his horse — the same fat Tom who, by the way, had so indignantly spurned the Red Brook Seedlings. And Jake Wheeler went along to bring back the team from Brampton. To such base uses are political lieutenants sometimes put, although Jake would have told you it was an honor, and he came back to the store that evening fairly bristling with political secrets which he could not be induced to impart.

One evening a fortnight later, while the lieutenant was holding forth in commendably general terms on the politics of the state to a speechless if not wholly admiring audience, a bomb burst in their midst. William Wetherell did not know that it was a periodical bomb, like those flung at regular intervals from the Union mortars into Vicksburg. These bombs, at any rate, never failed to cause consternation and fright in Coniston, although they never did any harm. One thing noticeable, they were always fired in Jethro’s absence. And the bombardier was always Chester Perkins, son of the most unbending and rigorous of tithing-men, but Chester resembled his father in no particular save that he, too, was a deacon and a pillar of the church. Deacon Ira had been tall and gaunt and sunken and uncommunicative. Chester was stout, and said to perspire even in winter, apoplectic, irascible, talkative, and still, as has been said, a Democrat. He drove up to the store this evening to the not inappropriate rumble of distant thunder, and he stood up in his wagon in front of the gathering and shook his fist in Jake Wheeler’s face.

“This town’s tired of puttin’ up with a King,” he cried. “Yes, King — I said it, and I don’t care who hears me. It’s time to stop this one-man rule. You kin go and tell him I said it, Jake Wheeler, if you’ve a mind to. I guess there’s plenty who’ll do that.”

An uneasy silence followed — the silence which cries treason louder than any voice. Some shifted uneasily, and spat, and Jake Wheeler thrust his hands in his pockets and walked away, as much as to say that it was treason even to listen to such talk. Lem Hallowell seemed unperturbed.

“On the rampage again, Chet?” he remarked.

“You’d ought to know better, Lem,” cried the enraged Chester; “hain’t the hull road by the Four Corners ready to drop into the brook? What be you a-goin’ to do about it?”

“I’ll show you when I git to it,” answered Lem, quietly. And show them he did.

“Git to it!” shouted Chester, scornfully, “I’ll git to it. I’ll tell you right now I’m a candidate for the Chairman of the Selectmen, even if town meetin’ is eight months away. An’, Sam Price, I’ll expect the Democrats to git into line.”

With this ultimatum Chester drove away as rapidly as he had come.

“I want to know!” said Sam Price, an exclamation peculiarly suited to his voice. But nevertheless Sam might be counted on in each of these little rebellions. He, too, had remained steadfast to Jacksonian principles, and he had never forgiven Jethro about a little matter of a state office which he (Sam) had failed to obtain.

Before he went to bed Jake Wheeler had written a letter which he sent off to the state capital by the stage the next morning. In it he indicted no less than twenty of his fellow-townsmen for treason; and he also thought it wise to send over to Clovelly for Bijah Bixby, a lieutenant in that section, to come and look over the ground and ascertain by his well-known methods how far the treason had eaten into the body politic. Such was Jake’s ordinary procedure when the bombs were fired, for Mr. Wheeler was nothing if not cautious.

Three mornings later, a little after seven o’clock, when the storekeeper and his small daughter were preparing to go to Brampton upon a very troublesome errand, Chester Perkins appeared again. It is always easy to stir up dissatisfaction among the ne’er-do-wells (Jethro had once done it himself), and during the three days which had elapsed since Chester had flung down the gauntlet there had been more or less of downright treason heard in the store. William Wetherell, who had perplexities of his own, had done his best to keep out of the discussions that had raged on his cracker boxes and barrels, for his head was a jumble of figures which would not come right. And now as he stood in the freshness of the early summer morning, waiting for Lem Hallowell’s stage, poor Wetherell’s heart was very heavy.

“Will Wetherell,” said Chester, “you be a gentleman and a student, hain’t you? Read history, hain’t you?”

“I have read some,” said William Wetherell.

“I callate that a man of parts,” said Chester, “such as you be, will help us agin corruption and a dic'tator. I’m a-countin’ on you, Will Wetherell. You’ve got the store, and you kin tell the boys the difference between right and wrong. They’ll listen to you, because you’re eddicated.”

“I don’t know anything about politics,” answered Wetherell, with an appealing glance at the silent group, — group that was always there. Rias Richardson, who had donned the carpet slippers preparatory to tending store for the day, shuffled inside. Deacon Lysander, his father, would not have done so.

“You know somethin’ about history and the Constitootion, don’t ye?” demanded Chester, truculently. “Jethro Bass don’t hold your mortgage, does he? Bank in Brampton holds it — hain’t that so? You hain’t afeard of Jethro like the rest on ’em, be you?”

“I don’t know what right you have to talk to me that way, Mr. Perkins,” said Wetherell.

“What right? Jethro holds my mortgage — the hull town knows it — and he kin close me out tomorrow if he’s a mind to —”

“See here, Chester Perkins,” Lem Hallowell interposed, as he drove up with the stage, “what kind of free principles be you preachin’? You’d ought to know better’n coerce.”

“What be you a-goin’ to do about that Four Corners road?” Chester cried to the stage driver.

“I give ’em till to-morrow night to fix it,” said Lem. “Git in, Will. Cynthy’s over to the harness shop with Eph. We’ll stop as we go ’long.”

“Give ’em till to-morrow night!” Chester shouted after them. “What you goin’ to do then?”

But Lem did not answer this inquiry. He stopped at the harness shop, where Ephraim came limping out and lifted Cynthia to the seat beside her father, and they joggled off to Brampton. The dew still lay in myriad drops on the red herd’s-grass, turning it to lavender in the morning sun, and the heavy scent of the wet ferns hung in the forest. Lem whistled, and joked with little Cynthia, and gave her the reins to drive, and at last they came in sight of Brampton Street, with its terrace-steepled church and line of wagons hitched to the common rail, for it was market day. Father and daughter walked up and down, hand in hand, under the great trees, and then they went to the bank.

It was a brick building on a corner opposite the common, imposing for Brampton, and very imposing to Wetherell. It seemed like a tomb as he entered its door, Cynthia clutching his fingers, and never but once in his life had he been so near to leaving all hope behind. He waited patiently by the barred windows until the clerk, who was counting bills, chose to look up at him.

“Want to draw money?” he demanded.

The words seemed charged with irony. William Wetherell told him, falteringly, his name and business, and he thought the man looked at him compassionately.

“You’ll have to see Mr. Worthington,” he said; “he hasn’t gone to the mills yet.”

“Dudley Worthington?” exclaimed Wetherell.

The teller smiled.

“Yes. He’s the president of this bank.”

He opened a door in the partition, and leaving Cynthia dangling her feet from a chair, Wetherell was ushered, not without trepidation, into the great man’s office, and found himself at last in the presence of Mr. Isaac D. Worthington, who used to wander up and down Coniston Water searching for a mill site.

He sat behind a table covered with green leather, on which papers were laid with elaborate neatness, and he wore a double-breasted skirted coat of black, with braided lapels, a dark purple blanket-cravat with a large red cameo pin. And Mr. Worthington’s features harmonized perfectly with this costume — those of a successful, ambitious man who followed custom and convention blindly; clean-shaven, save for reddish chops, blue eyes of extreme keenness, and thin-lipped mouth which had been tightening year by year as the output of the Worthington Mills increased.

“Well, sir,” he said sharply, “what can I do for you?”

“I am William Wetherell, the storekeeper at Coniston.”

“Not the Wetherell who married Cynthia Ware!”

No, Mr. Worthington did not say that. He did not know that Cynthia Ware was married, or alive or dead, and — let it be confessed at once — he did not care.

This is what he did say: —

“Wetherell — Wetherell. Oh, yes, you’ve come about that note — the mortgage on the store at Coniston.” He stared at William Wetherell, drummed with his fingers on the table, and smiled slightly. “I am happy to say that the Brampton Bank does not own this note any longer. If we did, — merely as a matter of business, you understand” (he coughed), — “we should have had to foreclose.”

“Don’t own the note!” exclaimed Wetherell. “Who does own it?”

“We sold it a little while ago — since you asked for the extension — to Jethro Bass.”

“Jethro Bass!” Wetherell’s feet seemed to give way under him, and he sat down.

“Mr. Bass is a little quixotic — that is a charitable way to put it — quixotic. He does — strange things like this once in a while.”

The storekeeper found no words to answer, but sat mutely staring at him. Mr. Worthington coughed again.

“You appear to be an educated man. Haven’t I heard some story of your giving up other pursuits in Boston to come up here for your health? Certainly I place you now. I confess to a little interest in literature myself — in libraries.”

In spite of his stupefaction at the news he had just received, Wetherell thought of Mr. Worthington’s beaver hat, and of that gentleman’s first interest in libraries, for Cynthia had told the story to her husband.

“It is perhaps an open secret,” continued Mr. Worthington, “that in the near future I intend to establish a free library in Brampton. I feel it my duty to do all I can for the town where I have made my success, and there is nothing which induces more to the popular welfare than a good library.” Whereupon he shot at Wetherell another of his keen looks. “I do not talk this way ordinarily to my customers, Mr. Wetherell,” he began; “but you interest me, and I am going to tell you something in confidence. I am sure it will not be betrayed.”

“Oh, no,” said the bewildered storekeeper, who was in no condition to listen to confidences.

He went quietly to the door, opened it, looked out, and closed it softly. Then he looked out of the window.

“Have a care of this man Bass,” he said, in a lower voice. “He began many years ago by debauching the liberties of that little town of Coniston, and since then he has gradually debauched the whole state, judges and all. If I have a case to try” (he spoke now with more intensity and bitterness), “concerning my mills, or my bank, before I get through I find that rascal mixed up in it somewhere, and unless I arrange matters with him, I —”

He paused abruptly, his eyes going out the window, pointing with a long finger at a grizzled man crossing the street with a yellow and red horse blanket thrown over his shoulders.

“That man, Judge Baker, holding court in this town now, Bass owns him body and soul.”

“And the horse blanket?” Wetherell queried, irresistibly.

Dudley Worthington did not smile.

“Take my advice, Mr. Wetherell, and pay off that note somehow.” An odor of the stable pervaded the room, and a great unkempt grizzled head and shoulders, horse blanket and all, were stuck into it.

“Mornin’, Dudley,” said the head, “busy?”

“Come right in, Judge,” answered Mr. Worthington. “Never too busy to see you.” The head disappeared.

“Take my advice, Mr. Wetherell.”

And then the storekeeper went into the bank.

For some moments he stood dazed by what he had heard, the query ringing in his head: Why had Jethro Bass bought that note? Did he think that the storekeeper at Coniston would be of use to him, politically? The words Chester Perkins had spoken that morning came back to Wetherell as he stood in the door. And how was he to meet Jethro Bass again with no money to pay even the interest on the note? Then suddenly he missed Cynthia, hurried out, and spied her under the trees on the common.

“Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Does your trouble feel any better?”

“Some, Cynthia. But you mustn’t think about it.”

“Daddy, why don’t you ask Uncle Jethro to help you?”

At the name Wetherell started as if he had had a shock.

“What put him into your head, Cynthia?” he asked sharply. “Why do you call him ‘Uncle Jethro’?”

“Because he asked me to. Because he likes me, and I like him.”

The whole thing was a riddle he could not solve — one that was best left alone. They agreed to walk back the ten miles to Coniston, to save the money that dinner at the hotel would cost. And so they started, Cynthia flitting hither and thither along the roadside, picking the stately purple iris flowers in the marshy places, while Wetherell pondered.


 

CHAPTER IX

SHAKE HANDS WITH MR. BIJAH BIXBY

WHEN William Wetherell and Cynthia had reached the last turn in the road in Northcutt’s woods, quarter of a mile from Coniston, they met the nasal Mr. Samuel Price driving silently in the other direction. The word “silently” is used deliberately, because to Mr. Price appertained a certain ghostlike quality of flitting, and to Mr. Price’s horse and wagon likewise. He drew up for a brief moment when he saw Wetherell.

“Wouldn’t hurry back if I was you, Will.”

“Why not?”

Mr. Price leaned out of the wagon.

“Bije has come over from Clovelly to spy araound a little mite.”

It was evident from Mr. Price’s manner that he regarded the storekeeper as a member of the reform party.

“What did he say, Daddy?” asked Cynthia, as Wetherell stood staring after the flitting buggy in bewilderment.

“I haven’t the faintest idea, Cynthia,” answered her father, and they walked on.

“Don’t you know who ‘Bije’ is?”

“No,” said her father, “and I don’t care.”

It was almost criminal ignorance for a man who lived in that part of the country not to know Bijah Bixby of Clovelly, who was paying a little social visit to Coniston that day on his way home from the state capital, — tending, as it were, Jethro’s flock. Still, Wetherell must be excused because he was an impractical literary man with troubles of his own. But how shall we chronicle Bijah’s rank and precedence in the Jethro army, in which there are neither shoulder-straps nor annual registers? To designate him as the Chamberlain of that hill Rajah, the Honorable Heth Sutton, would not be far out of the way. The Honorable Heth, whom we all know and whom we shall see presently, is the man of substance and of broad acres in Clovelly: Bijah merely owns certain mortgages in that town, but he has created the Honorable Heth (politically) as surely as certain prime ministers we could name have created their sovereigns. The Honorable Heth was Bijah’s creation, and a grand creation he was, as no one will doubt when they see him.

Bijah — as he will not hesitate to tell you — took Heth down in his pocket to the Legislature, and has more than once delivered him, in certain blocks of five and ten, and four and twenty, for certain considerations. The ancient Song of Sixpence applies to Bijah, but his pocket was generally full of proxies instead of rye, and the Honorable Heth was frequently one of the four and twenty blackbirds. In short, Bijah was the working bee, and the Honorable Heth the ornamental drone.

I do not know why I have dwelt so long on such a minor character as Bijah, except that the man fascinates me. Of all the lieutenants in the state, his manners bore the closest resemblance to those of Jethro Bass. When he walked behind Jethro in the corridors of the Pelican, kicking up his heels behind, he might have been taken for Jethro’s shadow. He was of a good height and size, smooth-shaven, with little eyes that kindled, and his mouth moved not at all when he spoke: unlike Jethro, he “used” tobacco.

When Bijah had driven into Coniston village and hitched his wagon to the rail, he went direct to the store. Chester Perkins and others were watching him with various emotions from the stoop, and Bijah took a seat in the midst of them, characteristically engaging in conversation without the usual conventional forms of greeting, as if he had been there all day.

“H-how much did you git for your wool, Chester — h-how much?”

“Guess you hain’t here to talk about wool, Bije,” said Chester, red with anger.

“Kind of neglectin’ the farm lately, I hear,” observed Bijah.

“Jethro Bass sent you up to find out how much I was neglectin’ it,” retorted Chester, throwing all caution to the winds.

“Thinkin’ of upsettin’ Jethro, be you? Thinkin’ of upsettin’ Jethro?” remarked Bije, in a genial tone.

“Folks in Clovelly hain’t got nothin’ to do with it, if I am,” said Chester.

“Leetle early for campaignin’, Chester, leetle early.”

“We do our campaignin’ when we’ve a mind to.”

Bijah looked around.

“Well, that’s funny. I could have took oath I seed Rias Richardson here.”

There was a deep silence.

“And Sam Price,” continued Bijah, in pretended astonishment, “wahn’t he settin’ on the edge of the stoop when I drove up?”

Another silence, broken only by the enraged breathing of Chester, who was unable to retort. Moses Hatch laughed. The discreet departure of these gentlemen certainly had its comical side.

“Rias as indoostrious as ever, Mose?” inquired Bijah.

“He has his busy times,” said Mose, grinning broadly.

“See you’ve got the boys with their backs up, Chester,” said Bijah.

“Some of us are sick of tyranny,” cried Chester; “you kin tell that to Jethro Bass when you go back, if he’s got time to listen to you buyin’ and sellin’ out of railroads.”

“Hear Jethro’s got the Grand Gulf Road in his pocket to do as he’s a mind to with,” said Moses, with a view to drawing Bijah out. But the remark had exactly the opposite effect, Bijah screwing up his face into an expression of extraordinary secrecy and cunning.

“How much did you git out of it, Bije?” demanded Chester.

“Hain’t looked through my clothes yet,” said Bijah, his face screwed up tighter than ever. “N-never look through my clothes till I git home, Chester, it hain’t safe.”

It has become painfully evident that Mr. Bixby is that rare type of man who can sit down under the enemy’s ramparts and smoke him out. It was a rule of Jethro’s code either to make an effective departure or else to remain and compel the other man to make an ineffective departure. Lem Hallowell might have coped with him; but the stage was late, and after some scratching of heads and delving for effectual banter (through which Mr. Bixby sat genial and unconcerned), Chester’s followers took their leave, each choosing his own pretext.

In the meantime William Wetherell had entered the store by the back door — unperceived, as he hoped. He had a vehement desire to be left in peace, and to avoid politics and political discussions forever — vain desire for the storekeeper of Coniston. Mr. Wetherell entered the store, and to take his mind from his troubles, he picked up a copy of Byron: gradually the conversation on the stoop died away, and just as he was beginning to congratulate himself and enjoy the book, he had an unpleasant sensation of some one approaching him measuredly. Wetherell did not move; indeed, he felt that he could not — he was as though charmed to the spot. He could have cried aloud, but the store was empty, and there was no one to hear him. Mr. Bixby did not speak until he was within a foot of his victim’s ear. His voice was very nasal, too.

“Wetherell, hain’t it?”

The victim nodded helplessly.

“Want to see you a minute.”

“What is it?”

“Where can we talk private?” asked Mr. Bixby, looking around.

“There’s no one here,” Wetherell answered. “What do you wish to say?”

“If the boys was to see me speakin’ to you, they might git suspicious — you understand,” he confided, his manner conveying a hint that they shared some common policy.

“I don’t meddle with politics,” said Wetherell, desperately.

“Ex'actly!” answered Bijah, coming even closer. “I knowed you was a level-headed man, moment I set eyes on you. Made up my mind I’d have a little talk in private with you — you understand. The boys hain’t got no reason to suspicion you care anything about politics, have they?”

“None whatever.”

“You don’t pay no attention to what they say?”

“None.”

“You hear it?”

“Sometimes I can’t help it.”

“Ex'actly! You hear it.”

“I told you I couldn’t help it.”

“Want you should vote right when the time comes,” said Bijah. “D-don’t want to see such an intelligent man go wrong an’ be sorry for it — you understand. Chester Perkins is hare-brained. Jethro Bass runs things in this state.”

“Mr. Bixby —”

“You understand,” said Bijah, screwing up his face. “Guess your pocket watch is a-comin’ out.” He tucked it back caressingly, and started for the door — the back door. Involuntarily Wetherell put his hand to his pocket, felt something crackle under it, and drew the something out. To his amazement it was a ten-dollar bill.

“Here!” he cried so sharply in his fright that Mr. Bixby turned around. Wetherell ran after him. “Take this back!”

“Guess you got me,” said Bijah. “W-what is it?”

“This money is yours,” cried Wetherell, so loudly that Bijah started and glanced at the front of the store.

“Guess you made some mistake,” he said, staring at the storekeeper with such amazing innocence that he began to doubt his senses, and clutched the bill to see if it was real.

“But I had no money in my pocket,” said Wetherell, perplexedly. And then, gaining indignation, “Take this to the man who sent you, and give it back to him.”

But Bijah merely whispered caressingly in his ear, “Nobody sent me, — you understand, — nobody sent me,” and was gone. Wetherell stood for a moment, dazed by the man’s audacity, and then, hurrying to the front stoop, the money still in his hand, he perceived Mr. Bixby in the sunlit road walking, Jethro-fashion, toward Ephraim Prescott’s harness shop.

“Why, Daddy,” said Cynthia, coming in from the garden, “where did you get all that money? Your troubles must feel better.”

“It is not mine,” said Wetherell, starting. And then, quivering with anger and mortification, he sank down on the stoop to debate what he should do.

“Is it somebody else’s?” asked the child, presently.

“Yes.”

“Then why don’t you give it back to them, Daddy?”

How was Wetherell to know, in his fright, that Mr. Bixby had for once indulged in an overabundance of zeal in Jethro’s behalf? He went to the door, laughter came to him across the green from the harness shop, and his eye following the sound, fastened on Bijah seated comfortably in the midst of the group there. Bitterly the storekeeper comprehended that, had he possessed courage, he would have marched straight after Mr. Bixby and confronted him before them all with the charge of bribery. The blood throbbed in his temples, and yet he sat there, trembling, despising himself, repeating that he might have had the courage if Jethro Bass had not bought the mortgage. The fear of the man had entered the storekeeper’s soul.

“Does it belong to that man over there?” asked Cynthia.

“Yes.”

“I’ll take it to him, Daddy,” and she held out her hand.

“Not now,” Wetherell answered nervously, glancing at the group. He went into the store, addressed an envelope to “Mr. Bijah Bixby of Clovelly,” and gave it to Cynthia. “When he comes back for his wagon, hand it to him,” he said, feeling that he would rather, at that moment, face the devil himself than Mr. Bixby.

Half an hour later, Cynthia gave Mr. Bixby the envelope as he unhitched his horse; and so deftly did Bijah slip it into his pocket, that he must certainly have misjudged its contents. None of the loungers at Ephraim’s remarked the transaction.

If Jethro had indeed instructed Bijah to look after his flock at Coniston, it was an ill-conditioned move, and some of the flock resented it when they were quite sure that Bijah was climbing the notch road toward Clovelly. The discussion (from which the storekeeper was providentially omitted) was in full swing when the stage arrived, and Lem Hallowell’s voice silenced the uproar. It was Lem’s boast that he never had been and never would be a politician.

“Why don’t you folks quit railin’ against Jethro and do somethin’?” he said. “Bije turns up here, and you all scatter like a flock of crows. I’m tired of makin’ complaints about that Brampton road, and to-day the hull side of it give way, and put me in the ditch. Sure as the sun rises to-morrow, I’m goin’ to make trouble for Jethro.”

“What be you a-goin’ to do, Lem?”

“Indict the town,” replied Lem, vigorously. “Who is the town? Jethro, hain’t he? Who has charge of the highways? Jethro Bass, Chairman of the Selectmen. I’ve spoke to him, time and agin, about that piece, and he hain’t done nothin’. To-night I go to Harwich and git the court to app’int an agent to repair that road, and the town’ll hev to pay the bill.”

The boldness of Lem’s intention for the moment took away their breaths, and then the awe-stricken hush which followed his declaration was broken by the sound of Chester’s fist hammering on the counter.

“That’s the sperrit,” he cried; “I’ll go along with you, Lem.”

“No, you won’t,” said Lem, “you’ll stay right whar you be.”

“Chester wants to git credit for the move,” suggested Sam Price, slyly.

“It’s a lie, Sam Price,” shouted Chester. “What made you sneak off when Bije Bixby come?”

“Didn’t sneak off,” retorted Sam, indignantly, through his nose; “forgot them eggs I left to home.”

“Sam,” said Lem, with a wink at Moses Hatch, “you hitch up your hoss and fetch me over to Harwich to git that indictment. Might git a chance to see that lady.”

“Wal, now, I wish I could, Lem, but my hoss is stun lame.”

There was a roar of laughter, during which Sam tried to look unconcerned.

“Mebbe Rias’ll take me over,” said Lem, soberly. “You hitch up, Rias?”

“He’s gone,” said Joe Northcutt, “slid out the door when you was speakin’ to Sam.”

“Hain’t none of you folks got spunk enough to carry me over to see the jedge?” demanded Lem; “my hosses ain’t fit to travel to-night.” Another silence followed, and Lem laughed contemptuously but good-naturedly, and turned on his heel. “Guess I’ll walk, then,” he said.

“You kin have my white hoss, Lem,” said Moses Hatch.

“All right,” said Lem; “I’ll come round and hitch up soon’s I git my supper.”

An hour later, when Cynthia and her father and Millicent Skinner — who condescended to assist in the work and cooking of Mr. Wetherell’s household — were seated at supper in the little kitchen behind the store, the head and shoulders of the stage-driver were thrust in at the window, his face shining from its evening application of soap and water. He was making eyes at Cynthia.

“Want to go to Harwich, Will?” he asked.

William set his cup down quickly.

“You hain’t afeard, be you?” he continued. “Most folks that hasn’t went West or died is afeard of Jethro Bass.”

“Daddy isn’t afraid of him, and I’m not,” said Cynthia.

“That’s right, Cynthy,” said Lem, leaning over and giving a tug to the pigtail that hung down her back; “there hain’t nothin’ to be afeard of.”

“I like him,” said Cynthia; “he’s very good to me.”

“You stick to him, Cynthy,” said the stage driver. “Ready, Will?”

It may readily be surmised that Mr. Wetherell did not particularly wish to make this excursion, the avowed object of which was to get Mr. Bass into trouble. But he went, and presently found himself jogging along on the mountain road to Harwich. From the crest of Town’s End ridge they looked upon the western peaks tossing beneath a golden sky. The spell of the evening’s beauty seemed to have fallen on them both, and for a long time Lem spoke not a word, and nodded smilingly but absently to the greetings that came from the farm doorways.

“Will,” he said at last, “you acted sensible. There’s no mite of use of your gettin’ mixed up in politics. You’re too good for ’em.”

“Too good!” exclaimed the storekeeper.

“You’re eddicated, Lem replied, with a tactful attempt to cover up a deficiency; “you’re a gentleman, ef you do keep store.”

Lemuel apparently thought that gentlemen and politics were contradictions. He began to whistle, while Wetherell sat and wondered that any one could be so care-free on such a mission. The day faded, and went out, and the lights of Harwich twinkled in the valley. Wetherell was almost tempted to mention his trouble to this man, as he had been to Ephraim: the fear that each might think he wished to borrow money held him back.

“Jethro’s all right,” Lem remarked, “but if he neglects the road, he’s got to stand for it, same’s any other. I writ him twice to the capital, and give him fair warning afore he went. He knows I hain’t doin’ of it for politics. I’ve often thought,” Lem continued, “that ef some smart, good woman could have got hold of him when he was young, it would have made a big difference. What’s the matter?”

“Have you room enough?”

“I guess I’ve got the hull seat,” said Lem. “As I was sayin’, if some able woman had married Jethro and made him look at things a little mite different, he would have b’en a big man. He has all the earmarks. Why, when he comes back to Coniston, them fellers’ll hunt their holes like rabbits, mark my words.”

“You don’t think —”

“Don’t think what?”

“I understand he holds the mortgages of some of them,” said Wetherell.

“Shouldn’t blame him a great deal ef he did git tired and sell Chester out soon. This thing happens regular as leap year.”

“Jethro Bass doesn’t seem to frighten you,” said the storekeeper.

“Well,” said Lem, “I hain’t afeard of him, that’s so. For the life of me, I can’t help likin’ him, though he does things that I wouldn’t do for all the power in Christendom. Here’s Jedge Parkinson’s house.”

Wetherell remained in the wagon while Lemuel went in to transact his business. The Judge’s house, outlined in the starlight, was a modest dwelling with a little porch and clambering vines, set back in its own garden behind a picket fence. Presently, from the direction of the lines of light in the shutters, came the sound of voices, Lem’s deep and insistent, and another, pitched in a high nasal key, deprecatory and protesting. There was still another, a harsh one that growled something unintelligible, and Wetherell guessed, from the fragments which he heard, that the judge before sitting down to his duty was trying to dissuade the stage driver from a step that was foolhardy. He guessed likewise that Lem was not to be dissuaded. At length a silence followed, then the door swung open, and three figures came down the illuminated path.

“Like to make you acquainted with Jedge Abner Parkinson, Mr. Wetherell, and Jim Irving. Jim’s the sheriff of Truro County, and I guess the jedge don’t need any recommendation as a lawyer from me. You won’t mind stayin’ awhile with the jedge while Jim and I go down town with the team? You’re both literary folks.”

Wetherell followed the judge into the house. He was sallow, tall and spare and stooping, clean-shaven, with a hooked nose and bright eyes — the face of an able and adroit man, and he wore the long black coat of the politician-lawyer. The room was filled with books, and from these Judge Parkinson immediately took his cue, probably through a fear that Wetherell might begin on the subject of Lemuel’s errand. However, it instantly became plain that the judge was a true book lover, and despite the fact that Lem’s visit had disturbed him not a little, he soon grew animated in a discussion on the merits of Sir Walter Scott, paced the room, pitched his nasal voice higher and higher, covered his table with volumes of that author to illustrate his meaning. Neither of them heard a knock, and they both stared dumfounded at the man who filled the doorway.

It was Jethro Bass!

He entered the room with characteristic unconcern, as if he had just left it on a trivial errand, and without a “How do you do?” or a “Good evening,” parted his coat tails, and sat down in the judge’s armchair. The judge dropped the volume of Scott on the desk, and as for Wetherell, he realized for once the full meaning of the biblical expression of a man’s tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth; the gleam of one of Jethro’s brass buttons caught his eye and held it fascinated.

“Literary talk, Judge?” said Jethro. “D-don’t mind me — go on.”

“Thought you were at the capital,” said the judge, reclaiming some of his self-possession.

“Good many folks thought so,” answered Jethro, “g-good many folks.”

There was no conceivable answer to this, so the judge sat down with an affectation of ease. He was a man on whom dignity lay heavily, and was not a little ruffled because Wetherell had been a witness of his discomfiture. He leaned back in his chair, then leaned forward, stretching his neck and clearing his throat, a position in which he bore a ludicrous resemblance to a turkey gobbler.

“Most through the Legislature?” inquired the judge.

“’Bout as common,” said Jethro.

There was a long silence, and, forgetful for the moment of his own predicament, Wetherell found a fearful fascination in watching the contortions of the victim whose punishment was to precede his. It had been one of the delights of Louis XI to contemplate the movements of a certain churchman whom he had put in a cage, and some inkling of the pleasure to be derived from this pastime of tyrants dawned on Wetherell. Perhaps the judge, too, thought of this as he looked at “Quentin Durward” on the table.

“I was just sayin’ to Lem Hallowell,” began the judge, at last, “that I thought he was a little mite hasty —”

“Er — indicted us, Judge?” said Jethro.

The judge and Wetherell heard the question with different emotions. Mr. Parkinson did not seem astonished at this miracle which had put Jethro in possession of this information, but heaved a long sigh of relief, as a man will when the worst has at length arrived.

“I had to, Jethro — couldn’t help it. I tried to get Hallowell to wait till you come back and talk it over friendly, but he wouldn’t listen; said the road was dangerous, and that he’d spoken about it too often. He said he hadn’t anything against you.”

“Didn’t come in to complain,” said Jethro, “didn’t come in to complain. Road is out of repair. W-what’s the next move?”

“I’m sorry, Jethro — I swan I’m sorry.” He cleared his throat. “Well,” he continued in his judicial manner, “the court has got to appoint an agent to repair that road, the agent will present the bill, and the town will have to pay the bill — whatever it is. It’s too bad, Jethro, that you have allowed this to be done.”

“You say you’ve got to app’int an agent?”

“Yes — I’m sorry —”

“Have you app’inted one?”

“No.”

“G-got any candidates?”

The judge scratched his head.

“Well, I don’t know as I have.”

“Well, have you?”

“No,” said the judge.

“A-any legal objection to my bein’ app’inted?” asked Jethro.

The judge looked at him and gasped. But the look was an involuntary tribute of admiration.

“Well,” he said hesitatingly, “I don’t know as there is, Jethro. No, there’s no legal objection to it.”

“A-any other kind of objection?” said Jethro.

The judge appeared to reflect.

“Well, no,” he said at last, “I don’t know as there is.”

“Well, is there?” said Jethro, again.

“No,” said the judge, with the finality of a decision. A smile seemed to be pulling at the corners of his mouth.

“Well, I’m a candidate,” said Jethro.

“Do you tell me, Jethro, that you want me to appoint you agent to fix that road?”

“I — I’m a candidate.”

“Well,” said the judge, rising, “I’ll do it.”

“When?” said Jethro, sitting still.

“I’ll send the papers over to you within two or three days.”

“O-ought to be done right away, Judge. Road’s in bad shape.”

“Well, I’ll send the papers over to you to-morrow.”

“How long would it take to make out that app’intment — how long?”

“It wouldn’t take but a little while.”

“I’ll wait,” said Jethro.

“Do you want to take the appointment along with you to-night?” asked the judge, in surprise.

“G-guess that’s about it.”

Without a word the judge went over to his table, and for a while the silence was broken only by the scratching of his pen.

“Er — interested in roads, — Will, — interested in roads?”

The judge stopped writing to listen, since it was now the turn of the other victim.

“Not particularly,” answered Mr. Wetherell, whose throat was dry.

“C-come over for the drive — c-come over for the drive?”

“Yes,” replied the storekeeper, rather faintly.

“H-how’s Cynthy?” said Jethro.

The storekeeper was too astonished to answer. At that moment there was a heavy step in the doorway, and Lem Hallowell entered the room. He took one long look at Jethro and bent over and slapped his hand on his knee, and burst out laughing.

“So here you be!” he cried. “By Godfrey! ef you don’t beat all outdoors, Jethro. Wal, I got ahead of ye for once, but you can’t say I didn’t warn ye. Come purty nigh bustin’ the stage on that road to-day, and now I’m a-goin’ to hev an agent app’inted.”

“W-who’s the agent?” said Jethro.

“We’ll git one. Might app’int Will, there, only he don’t seem to want to get mixed up in it.”

“There’s the agent,” cried the judge, holding out the appointment to Jethro.

“Wh-what!” ejaculated Lem.

Jethro took the appointment, and put it in his cowhide wallet.

“Be you the agent?” demanded the amazed stage driver.

“C-callate to be,” said Jethro, and without a smile or another word to any one he walked out into the night, and after various exclamations of astonishment and admiration, the stage driver followed.

No one, indeed, could have enjoyed this unexpected coup of Jethro’s more than Lem himself, and many times on their drive homeward he burst into loud and unexpected fits of laughter at the sublime conception of the Chairman of the Selectmen being himself appointed road agent.

“Will,” said he, “don’t you tell this to a soul. We’ll have some fun out of the boys to-morrow.”

The storekeeper promised, but he had an unpleasant presentment that he himself might be one of the boys in question.

“How do you suppose Jethro Bass knew you were going to indict the town?” he asked of the stage driver.

Lem burst into fresh peals of laughter, but this was something which he did not attempt to answer.


 

CHAPTER X

HOW THE REBELLION WAS QUENCHED

IT so happened that there was a certain spinster whom Sam Price had been trying to make up his mind to marry for ten years or more, and it was that gentleman’s habit to spend at least one day in the month in Harwich for the purpose of paying his respects. In spite of the fact that his horse had been “stun lame” the night before, Mr. Price was able to start for Harwich, via Brampton, very early the next morning. He was driving along through Northcutt’s woods with one leg hanging over the wheel, humming through his nose what we may suppose to have been a love-ditty, and letting his imagination run riot about the lady in question, when he nearly fell out of his wagon. The cause of this was the sight of fat Tom coming around a corner, with Jethro Bass behind him. Lem Hallowell and the storekeeper had kept their secret so well that Sam, if he was thinking about Jethro at all, believed him at that moment to be seated in the Throne Room at the Pelican House, in the capital.

Mr. Price, however, was one of an adaptable nature, and by the time he had pulled up beside Jethro he had recovered sufficiently to make a few remarks on farming subjects, and finally to express a polite surprise at Jethro’s return.

“But you come a little mite late, hain’t you, Jethro?” he said finally, with all of the indifference he could assume.

“H-how’s that, Sam — how’s that?”

“It’s too bad, — I swan it is, — but Lem Hallowell rode over to Harwich last night and indicted the town for that piece of road by the Four Corners. Took Will Wetherell along with him.”

“D-don’t say so!” said Jethro.

“I callate he done it,” responded Sam, pulling a long face. “The court’ll hev to send an agent to do the job, and I guess you’ll hev to foot the bill, Jethro.”

“C-court’ll hev to app’int an agent?”

“I callate.”

“Er — you a candidate — Sam — you a candidate?”

“Don’t know but what I be,” answered the usually wary Mr. Price.

“G-goin’ to Harwich — hain’t you?”

“Mebbe I be, and mebbe I hain’t,” said Sam, not able to repress a self-conscious smile.

“M-might as well be you as anybody, Sam,” said Jethro, as he drove on.

It was not strange that the idea, thus planted, should grow in Mr. Price’s favor as he proceeded. He had been surprised at Jethro’s complaisance, and he wondered whether, after all, he had done well to help Chester stir people up at this time. When he reached Harwich, instead of presenting himself promptly at the spinster’s house, he went first to the office of Judge Parkinson, as became a prudent man of affairs.

Perhaps there is no need to go into the details of Mr. Price’s discomfiture on the occasion of this interview. The judge was by nature of a sour disposition, but he haw-hawed so loudly as he explained to Mr. Price the identity of the road agent that the judge of probate in the next office thought his colleague had gone mad. Afterward Mr. Price stood for some time in the entry, where no one could see him, scratching his head and repeating his favorite exclamation, “I want to know!” It has been ascertained that he omitted to pay his respects to the spinster on that day.

Cyamon Johnson carried the story back to Coniston, where it had the effect of eliminating Mr. Price from local politics for some time to come.

That same morning Chester Perkins was seen by many driving wildly about from farm to farm, supposedly haranguing his supporters to make a final stand against the tyrant, but by noon it was observed by those naturalists who were watching him that his activity had ceased. Chester arrived at dinner time at Joe Northcutt’s, whose land bordered on the piece of road which had caused so much trouble, and Joe and half a dozen others had been at work there all morning under the road agent whom Judge Parkinson had appointed. Now Mrs. Northcutt was Chester’s sister, a woman who in addition to other qualities possessed the only sense of humor in the family. She ushered the unsuspecting Chester into the kitchen, and there, seated beside Joe and sipping a saucer of very hot coffee, was Jethro Bass himself. Chester halted in the doorway, his face brick-red, words utterly failing him, while Joe sat horror-stricken, holding aloft on his fork a smoking potato. Jethro continued to sip his coffee.

“B-busy times, Chester,” he said, “b-busy times.”

Chester choked. Where were the burning words of denunciation which came so easily to his tongue on other occasions? It is difficult to denounce a man who insists upon drinking coffee.

“Set right down, Chester,” said Mrs. Northcutt, behind him.

Chester sat down, and to this day he cannot account for that action. Once seated, habit asserted itself, and he attacked the boiled dinner with a ferocity which should have been exercised against Jethro.

“I suppose the stores down to the capital is finer than ever, Mr. Bass,” remarked Mrs. Northcutt.

“So-so, Mis’ Northcutt, so-so.”

“I was there ten years ago,” remarked Mrs. Northcutt, with a sigh of reminiscence, “and I never see such fine silks and bonnets in my life. Now I’ve often wanted to ask you, did you buy that bonnet with the trembly jet things for Mis’ Bass?”

“That bonnet come out full better’n I expected,” answered Jethro, modestly.

“You have got taste in wimmen’s fixin’s, Mr. Bass. Strange! Now I wouldn’t let Joe choose my things for worlds.”

So the dinner progressed, Joe with his eyes on his plate, Chester silent, but burning with anger and resentment, until at last Jethro pushed back his chair, and said good day to Mrs. Northcutt and walked out. Chester got up instantly and went after him, and Joe, full of forebodings, followed his brother-in-law! Jethro was standing calmly on the grass plot, whittling a toothpick. Chester stared at him a moment, and then strode off toward the barn, unhitched his horse and jumped in his wagon. Something prompted him to take another look at Jethro, who was still whittling.

“C-carry me down to the road, Chester — c-carry me down to the road?” said Jethro.

Joe Northcutt’s knees gave way under him, and he sat down on a sugar kettle. Chester tightened up his reins so suddenly that his horse reared, while Jethro calmly climbed into the seat beside him and they drove off. It was some time before Joe had recovered sufficiently to arise and repair to the scene of operations on the road.

It was Joe who brought the astounding news to the store that evening. Chester was Jethro’s own candidate for senior Selectman! Jethro himself had said so, that he would be happy to abdicate in Chester’s favor, and make it unanimous — Chester having been a candidate so many times, and disappointed.

“Whar’s Chester?” said Lem Hallowell.

Joe pulled a long face.

“Just come from his house, and he hain’t done a lick of work sence noon time. Jest sets in a corner — won’t talk, won’t eat — jest sets thar.”

Lem sat down on the counter and laughed until he was forced to brush the tears from his cheeks at the idea of Chester Perkins being Jethro’s candidate. Where was reform now? If Chester were elected, it would be in the eyes of the world as Jethro’s man. No wonder he sat in a corner and refused to eat.

“Guess you’ll ketch it next, Will, for goin’ over to Harwich with Lem,” Joe remarked playfully to the storekeeper, as he departed.

These various occurrences certainly did not tend to allay the uneasiness of Mr. Wetherell. The next afternoon, at a time when a slack trade was slackest, he had taken his chair out under the apple tree and was sitting with that same volume of Byron in his lap — but he was not reading. The humorous aspects of the doings of Mr. Bass did not particularly appeal to him now; and he was, in truth, beginning to hate this man whom the fates had so persistently intruded into his life. William Wetherell was not, it may have been gathered, what may be called vindictive. He was a sensitive, conscientious person whose life should have been in the vale; and yet at that moment he had a fierce desire to confront Jethro Bass and — and destroy him. Yes, he felt equal to that.

Shocks are not very beneficial to sensitive natures. William Wetherell looked up, and there was Jethro Bass on the doorstep.

“G-great resource — readin’ — great resource,” he remarked.

In this manner Jethro snuffed out utterly that passion to destroy, and another sensation took its place — a sensation which made it very difficult for William Wetherell to speak, but he managed to reply that reading had been a great resource to him. Jethro had a parcel in his hand, and he laid it down on the step beside him; and he seemed, for once in his life, to be in a mood for conversation.

“It’s hard for me to read a book,” he observed. “I own to it — it’s a little mite hard. H-hev to kind of spell it out in places. Hain’t had much time for readin’. But it’s kind of pleasant to l’arn what other folks has done in the world by pickin’ up a book. T-takes your mind off things — don’t it?”

Wetherell felt like saying that his reading had not been able to do that lately. Then he made the plunge, and shuddered as he made it.

“Mr. Bass — I — I have been waiting to speak to you about that mortgage.”

“Er — yes,” he answered, without moving his head, “er — about the mortgage.”

“Mr. Worthington told me that you had bought it.”

“Yes, I did — yes, I did.”

“I’m afraid you will have to foreclose,” said Wetherell; “I cannot reasonably ask you to defer the payments any longer.”

“If I foreclose it, what will you do?” he demanded abruptly.

There was but one answer — Wetherell would have to go back to the city and face the consequences. He had not the strength to earn his bread on a farm.

“If I’d a b’en in any hurry for the money — g-guess I’d a notified you,” said Jethro.

“I think you had better foreclose, Mr. Bass,” Wetherell answered; “I can’t hold out any hopes to you that it will ever be possible for me to pay it off. It’s only fair to tell you that.”

“Well,” he said, with what seemed a suspicion of a smile, “I don’t know but what that’s about as honest an answer as I ever got.”

“Why did you do it?” Wetherell cried, suddenly goaded by another fear; “why did you buy that mortgage?”

But this did not shake his composure.

“H-have a little habit of collectin’ ’em,” he answered, “same as you do books. G-guess some of ’em hain’t as valuable.”

William Wetherell was beginning to think that Jethro Bass knew something also of such refinements of cruelty as were practised by Caligula. He drew forth his cowhide wallet and produced from it a folded piece of newspaper which must, Wetherell felt sure, contain the mortgage in question.

“There’s one power I always wished I had,” he observed, “the power to make folks see some things as I see ’em. I was acrost the Water to-night, on my hill farm, when the sun set, and the sky up thar above the mountain was all golden bars, and the river all a-flamin’ purple, just as if it had been dyed by some of them Greek gods you’re readin’ about. Now if I could put them things on paper, I wouldn’t care a haycock to be President. No, sir.”

The storekeeper’s amazement as he listened to this speech may be imagined. Was this Jethro Bass? If so, here was a side of him the existence of which no one suspected. Wetherell forgot the matter in hand.

“Why don’t you put that on paper?” he exclaimed.

Jethro smiled, and made a deprecating motion with his thumb.

“Sometimes when I hain’t busy, I drop into the state library at the capital and enjoy myself. It’s like goin’ to another world without any folks to bother you. Er — er — there’s books I’d like to talk to you about — sometime.”

“But I thought you told me you didn’t read much, Mr. Bass?”

He made no direct reply, but unfolded the newspaper in his hand, and then Wetherell saw that it was only a clipping.

“H-happened to run across this in a newspaper — if this hain’t this county, I wahn’t born and raised here. If it hain’t Coniston Mountain about seven o’clock of a June evening, I never saw Coniston Mountain. Er — listen to this.”

Whereupon he read, with a feeling which Wetherell had not supposed he possessed, an extract: and as the storekeeper listened his blood began to run wildly. At length Jethro put down the paper without glancing at his companion.

“There’s somethin’ about that that fetches you spinnin’ through the air,” he said slowly. “Sh-showed it to Jim Willard, editor of the Newcastle Guardian. Er — what do you think he said?”

“I don’t know,” said Wetherell, in a low voice.

“Willard said, ‘Bass, w-wish you’d find me that man. I’ll give him five dollars every week for a letter like that — er — five dollars a week.’”

He paused, folded up the paper again and put it in his pocket, took out a card and handed it to Wetherell.

James G. Willard, Editor.
Newcastle Guardian.

“That’s his address,” said Jethro. “Er — guess you’ll know what to do with it. Er — five dollars a week — five dollars a week.”

“How did you know I wrote this article?” said Wetherell, as the card trembled between his fingers.

“K-knowed the place was Coniston seen from the east, knowed there wahn’t any one in Brampton or Harwich could have done it — g-guessed the rest — guessed the rest.”

Wetherell could only stare at him like a man who, with the halter about his neck, had been suddenly reprieved. But Jethro Bass did not appear to be waiting for thanks. He cleared his throat, and had Wetherell not been in such a condition himself, he would actually have suspected him of embarrassment.

“Er — Wetherell?”

“Yes?”

“W-won’t say nothin’ about the mortgage — p-pay it when you can.”

This roused the storekeeper to a burst of protest, but Jethro stemmed it.

“Hain’t got the money, have you?”

“No — but —”

“If I needed money, d’ye suppose I’d bought the mortgage?”

“No,” answered the still bewildered Wetherell, “of course not.” There he stuck, that other suspicion of political coercion suddenly rising uppermost. Could this be what the man meant? Wetherell put his hand to his head, but he did not dare to ask the question. Then Jethro Bass fixed his eyes upon him.

“Hain’t never mixed any in politics — hev you — n-never mixed any?”

Wetherell’s heart sank.

“No,” he answered.

“D-don’t — take my advice — d-don’t.”

“What!” cried the storekeeper, so loudly that he frightened himself.

“D-don’t,” repeated Jethro, imperturbably.

There was a short silence, the storekeeper being unable to speak. Coniston Water, at the foot of the garden, sang the same song, but it seemed to Wetherell to have changed its note from sorrow to joy.

“H-hear things, don’t you — hear things in the store?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t hear ’em. Keep out of politics, Will, s-stick to storekeepin’ and — and literature.”

Jethro got to his feet and turned his back on the storekeeper and picked up the parcel he had brought.

“C-Cynthy well?” he inquired.

“I — I’ll call her,” said Wetherell, huskily. “She — she was down by the brook when you came.”

But Jethro Bass did not wait. He took his parcel and strode down to Coniston Water, and there he found Cynthia seated on a rock with her toes in a pool.

“How be you, Cynthy?” said he, looking down at her.

“I’m well, Uncle Jethro,” said Cynthia.

“R-remembered what I told you to call me, hev you,” said Jethro, plainly pleased. “Th-that’s right. Cynthy?”

Cynthia looked up at him inquiringly.

“S-said you liked books — didn’t you? S-said you liked books?”

“Yes, I do,” she replied simply, “very much.”

He undid the wrapping of the parcel, and there lay disclosed a book with a very gorgeous cover. He thrust it into the child’s lap.

“It’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’!” she exclaimed, and gave a little shiver of delight that made ripples in the pool. Then she opened it — not without awe, for William Wetherell’s books were not clothed in this magnificent manner. “It’s full of pictures,” cried Cynthia. “See, there he is making a ship!”

“Y-you ever read it, Cynthy?” asked Jethro, a little anxiously.

No, Cynthia hadn’t.

“L-like it, Cynthy — l-like it?” said he, not quite so anxiously.

Cynthia looked up at him with a puzzled expression.

“F-fetched it up from the capital for you, Cynthy — for you.”

“For me!”

A strange thrill ran through Jethro Bass as he gazed upon the wonder and delight in the face of the child.

“F-fetched it for you, Cynthy.”

For a moment Cynthia sat very still, and then she slowly closed the book and stared at the cover again, Jethro looking down at her the while. To tell the truth, she found it difficult to express the emotions which the event had summoned up.

“Thank you — Uncle Jethro,” she said.

Jethro, however, understood. He had, indeed, never failed to understand her from the beginning. He parted his coat tails and sat down on the rock beside her, and very gently opened the book again, to the first chapter.

“G-goin’ to read it, Cynthy?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, and trembled again.

“Er — read it to me?”

So Cynthia read “Robinson Crusoe” to him while the summer afternoon wore away, and the shadows across the pool grew longer and longer.


 

CHAPTER XI

MR. WORTHINGTON BECOMES A REFORMER

THUS William Wetherell became established in Coniston, and was started at last — poor man — upon a life that was fairly tranquil. Lem Hallowell had once covered him with blushes by unfolding a newspaper in the store and reading an editorial beginning: “We publish today a new and attractive feature of the Guardian, a weekly contribution from a correspondent whose modesty is to be compared only with his genius as a writer. We are confident that the readers of our paper will appreciate the letter in another column signed ‘W.W.’” And from that day William was accorded much of the deference due to a litterateur which the fates had hitherto denied him. Indeed, during the six years which we are about to skip over so lightly, he became a marked man in Coniston, and it was voted in town meeting that he be intrusted with that most important of literary labors, the Town History of Coniston.

During this period, too, there sprang up the strangest of intimacies between him and Jethro Bass. Surely no more dissimilar men than these have ever been friends, and that the friendship was sometimes misjudged was one of the clouds on William Wetherell’s horizon. As the years went on he was still unable to pay off the mortgage; and sometimes, indeed, he could not even meet the interest, in spite of the princely sum he received from Mr. Willard of the Guardian. This was one of the clouds on Jethro’s horizon, too, if men had but known it, and he took such moneys as Wetherell insisted upon giving him grudgingly enough. It is needless to say that he refrained from making use of Mr. Wetherell politically, although no poorer vessel for political purposes was ever constructed. It is quite as needless to say, perhaps, that Chester Perkins never got to be Chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

After Aunt Listy died, Jethro was more than ever to be found, when in Coniston, in the garden or the kitchen behind the store. Yes, Aunt Listy is dead. She has flitted through these pages as she flitted through life itself, arrayed by Jethro like the rainbow, and quite as shadowy and unreal. There is no politician of a certain age in the state who does not remember her walking, clad in dragon-fly colors, through the streets of the capital on Jethro’s arm, or descending the stairs of the Pelican House to supper. None of Jethro’s detractors may say that he ever failed in kindness to her, and he loved her as much as was in his heart to love any woman after Cynthia Ware. As for Aunt Listy, she never seemed to feel any resentment against the child Jethro brought so frequently to Thousand Acre Hill. Poor Aunt Listy! some people used to wonder whether she ever felt any emotion at all. But I believe that she did, in her own way.

It is a well-known fact that Mr. Bijah Bixby came over from Clovelly, to request the place of superintendent of the funeral, a position which had already been filled. A special office, too, was created on this occasion for an old supporter of Jethro’s, Senator Peleg Hartington of Brampton. He was made chairman of the bearers, of whom Ephraim Prescott was one.

After this, as we have said, Jethro was more than ever at the store — or rather in that domestic domain behind it which Wetherell and Cynthia shared with Miss Millicent Skinner. Moses Hatch was wont to ask Cynthia how her daddies were. It was he who used to clear out the road to the little schoolhouse among the birches when the snow almost buried the little village, and on sparkling mornings after the storms his oxen would stop to breathe in front of the store, a cluster of laughing children clinging to the snow-plough and tumbling over good-natured Moses in their frolics. Cynthia became a country girl, and grew long and lithe of limb, and weather-burnt, and acquired an endurance that spoke wonders for the life-giving air of Coniston. But she was a serious child, and Wetherell and Jethro sometimes wondered whether she was ever a child at all. When Eben Hatch fell from the lumber pile on the ice, it was she who bound the cut in his head; and when Tom Richardson unexpectedly embraced the schoolhouse stove, Cynthia, not Miss Rebecca Northcutt, took charge of the situation.

It was perhaps inevitable, with such a helpless father, that the girl should grow up with a sense of responsibility, being what she was. Did William Wetherell go to Brampton, Cynthia examined his apparel, and he was marched shamefacedly back to his room to change; did he read too late at night, some unseen messenger summoned her out of her sleep, and he was packed off to bed. Miss Millicent Skinner, too, was in a like mysterious way compelled to abdicate her high place in favor of Cynthia, and Wetherell was utterly unable to explain how this miracle was accomplished. Not only did Millicent learn to cook, but Cynthia, at the age of fourteen, had taught her. Some wit once suggested that the national arms of the United States should contain the emblem of crossed frying-pans, and Millicent was in this respect a true American. When Wetherell began to suffer from her pies and doughnuts, the revolution took place — without stampeding, or recriminations, or trouble of any kind. One evening he discovered Cynthia, decked in an apron, bending over the stove, and Millicent looking on with an expression that was (for Millicent) benign.

This was to some extent explained, a few days later, when Wetherell found himself gazing across the counter at the motherly figure of Mrs. Moses Hatch, who held the well-deserved honor of being the best cook in Coniston.

“Hain’t had so much stomach trouble lately, Will?” she remarked.

“No,” he answered, surprised; “Cynthia is learning to cook.”

“Guess she is,” said Mrs. Moses. “That gal is worth any seven grown-up women in town. And she was four nights settin’ in my kitchen before I knowed what she was up to.”

“So you taught her, Amanda?”

“I taught her some. She callated that Milly was killin’ you, and I guess she was.”

During her school days, Jethro used frequently to find himself in front of the schoolhouse when the children came trooping out — quite by accident, of course. Winter or summer, when he went away on his periodical trips, he never came back without a little remembrance in his carpet bag, usually a book, on the subject of which he had spent hours in conference with the librarian at the state library at the capital. But in June of the year when Cynthia was fifteen, Jethro yielded to that passion which was one of the man’s strangest characteristics, and appeared one evening in the garden behind the store with a bundle which certainly did not contain a book. With all the gravity of a ceremony he took off the paper, and held up in relief against the astonished Cynthia a length of cardinal cloth. William Wetherell, who was looking out of the window, drew his breath, and even Jethro drew back with an exclamation at the change wrought in her. But Cynthia snatched the roll from his hand and wound it up with a feminine deftness.

“Wh-what’s the matter, Cynthy?”

“Oh, I can’t wear that, Uncle Jethro,” she said.

“C-can’t wear it! Why not?”

Cynthia sat down on the grassy mound under the apple tree and clasped her hands across her knees. She looked up at him and shook her head.

“Don’t you see that I couldn’t wear it, Uncle Jethro?”

“Why not?” he demanded. “Ch-change it if you’ve a mind to hev green.”

She shook her head, and smiled at him a little sadly.

“T-took me a full hour to choose that, Cynthy,” said he. “H-had to go to Boston, so I got it there.”

He was, indeed, grievously disappointed at this reception of his gift, and he stood eyeing the cardinal cloth very mournfully as it lay on the paper. Cynthia, remorseful, reached up and seized his hand.

“Sit down here, Uncle Jethro.” He sat down on the mound beside here, very much perplexed. She still held his hand in hers. “Uncle Jethro,” she said slowly, “you mustn’t think I’m not grateful.”

“N-no,” he answered; “I don’t think that, Cynthy. I know you be.”

“I am grateful — I’m very grateful for everything you give me, although I should love you just as much if you didn’t give me anything.”

She was striving very hard not to offend him, for in some ways he was as sensitive as Wetherell himself. Even Coniston folk had laughed at the idiosyncrasy which Jethro had of dressing his wife in brilliant colors, and the girl knew this.

“G-got it for you to wear to Brampton on the Fourth of July, Cynthy,” he said.

“Uncle Jethro, I couldn’t wear that to Brampton!”

“You’d look like a queen,” said he.

“But I’m not a queen,” objected Cynthia.

“Rather hev somethin’ else?”

“Yes,” she said, looking at him suddenly with the gleam of laughter in her eyes, although she was on the verge of tears.

“Wh-what?” Jethro demanded.

“Well,” said Cynthia, demurely gazing down at her ankles, “shoes and stockings.” The barefooted days had long gone by.

Jethro laughed. Perhaps some inkling of her reasons came to him, for he had a strange and intuitive understanding of her. At any rate, he accepted her decision with a meekness which would have astonished many people who knew only that side of him which he showed to the world. Gently she released her hand, and folded up the bundle again and gave it to him.

“B-better keep it — hadn’t you?”

“No, you keep it. And I will wear it for you when I am rich, Uncle Jethro.”

Jethro did keep it, and in due time the cardinal cloth had its uses. But Cynthia did not wear it on the Fourth of July.

That was a great day for Brampton, being not only the nation’s birthday, but the hundredth year since the adventurous little band of settlers from Connecticut had first gazed upon Coniston Water at that place. Early in the morning wagon loads began to pour into Brampton Street from Harwich, from Coniston, from Tarleton Four Corners, and even from distant Clovelly, and Brampton was banner-hung for the occasion — flags across the stores, across the dwellings, and draped along the whole breadth of the meeting-house; but for sheer splendor the newly built mansion of Isaac D. Worthington outshone them all. Although its owner was a professed believer in republican simplicity, no such edifice ornamented any town to the west of the state capital. Small wonder that the way in front of it was blocked by a crowd lost in admiration of its Gothic proportions! It stands to-day one of many monuments to its builder, with its windows of one pane (unheard-of magnificence), its tower of stone, its porch with pointed arches and scrollwork. No fence divides its grounds from the public walk, and on the smooth-shaven lawn between the ornamental flower beds and the walk stand two stern mastiffs of iron, emblematic of the solidity and power of their owner. It was as much to see this house as to hear the orators that the countryside flocked to Brampton that day.

All the day before Cynthia and Milly, and many another housewife, had been making wonderful things for the dinners they were to bring, and stowing them in the great basket ready for the early morning start. At six o’clock Jethro’s three-seated farm wagon was in front of the store. Cousin Ephraim Prescott, in a blue suit and an army felt hat with a cord, got up behind, a little stiffly by reason of that Wilderness bullet; and there were also William Wetherell and Lem Hallowell, his honest face shining, and Sue, his wife, and young Sue and Jock and Lilian, all a-quiver with excitement in their Sunday best. And as they drove away there trotted up behind them Moses and Amandy Hatch, with their farm team, and all the little Hatches, — Eben and George and Judy and Liza. As they jogged along they drank in the fragrance of the dew-washed meadows and the pines, and a great blue heron stood knee-deep on the far side of Deacon Lysander’s old mill-pond, watching them philosophically as they passed.

It was eight o’clock when they got into the press of Brampton Street, and there was a hush as they made their way slowly through the throng, and many a stare at the curious figure in the old-fashioned blue swallowtail and brass buttons and tall hat, driving the farm wagon. Husbands pointed him out to their wives, young men to sisters and sweethearts, some openly, some discreetly. “There goes Jethro Bass,” and some were bold enough to say, “Howdy, Jethro?” Jake Wheeler was to be observed in the crowd ahead of them, hurried for once out of his Jethro step, actually running toward the tavern, lest such a one arrive unheralded. Commotion is perceived on the tavern porch, — Mr. Sherman, the proprietor, bustling out, Jake Wheeler beside him; a chorus of “How be you, Jethros?” from the more courageous there, — but the farm team jogs on, leaving a discomfited gathering, into the side street, up an alley, and into the cool, ammonia-reeking sheds of lank Jim Sanborn’s livery stable. No obsequiousness from lank Jim, who has the traces slipped and the reins festooned from the bits almost before Jethro has lifted Cynthia to the floor. Jethro, walking between Cynthia and her father, led the way, with Ephraim, Lem, and Sue Hallowell following, the children, in unwonted shoes and stockings, bringing up the rear. The people parted, and presently they found themselves opposite the new-scrolled band stand among the trees, where the Harwich band in glittering gold and red had just been installed. The leader, catching sight of Jethro’s party, and of Ephraim’s corded army hat, made a bow, waved his baton, and they struck up “Marching through Georgia.” It was, of course, not dignified to cheer, but I think that the blood of every man and woman and child ran faster with the music, and so many of them looked at Cousin Ephraim that he slipped away behind the line of wagons. So the day began.

“Jest to think of bein’ that rich, Will!” exclaimed Amanda Hatch to the storekeeper, as they stood in the little group which had gathered in front of the first citizen’s new mansion. “I own it scares me. Think how much that house must hev cost, and even them dogs,” said Amanda, staring at the mastiffs with awe. “They tell me he has a grand piano from New York, and guests from Boston — railroad presidents. I call Isaac Worthington to mind when he wahn’t but a slip of a boy with a cough, runnin’ after Cynthy Ware.” She glanced down at Cynthia with something of compassion. “Just to think, child, he might have be’n your father!”

“I’m glad he isn’t,” said Cynthia, hotly.

“Of course, of course,” replied the good-natured and well-intentioned Amanda, “I’d sooner have your father than Isaac Worthington. But I was only thinkin’ how nice it would be to be rich!”

Just then one of the glass-panelled doors of this house opened, and a good-looking lad of seventeen came out.

“That’s Bob Worthington,” said Amanda, determined that they should miss nothing. “My! it wahn’t but the other day when he put on long pants. It won’t be a great while before he’ll go into the mills and git all that money. Guess he’ll marry some city person. He’d ought to take you, Cynthy.”

“I don’t want him,” said Cynthia, the color flaming into her cheeks. And she went off across the green in search of Jethro.

There was a laugh from the honest country folk who had listened. And then William Wetherell was startled by the sound of a voice in his ear — a nasal voice that awoke unpleasant recollections.

He turned to confront, within the distance of eight inches, the face of Mr. Bijah Bixby of Clovelly screwed up into a greeting. The storekeeper had met Mr. Bixby several times since that first memorable meeting, and on each occasion, as now, his hand had made an involuntary movement to his watch pocket.

“Hain’t seed you for some time, Will,” remarked Mr. Bixby; “goin’ over to the exercises? We’ll move along that way,” and he thrust his hand under Mr. Wetherell’s elbow. “Whar’s Jethro?”

“He’s here somewhere,” answered the storekeeper, helplessly, moving along in spite of himself.

“Keepin’ out of sight, you understand,” said Bijah, with a knowing wink, as much as to say that Mr. Wetherell was by this time a past master in Jethro tactics. Mr. Bixby could never disabuse his mind of a certain interpretation which he put on the storekeeper’s intimacy with Jethro. “You done well to git in with him, Will. Didn’t think you had it in you when I first looked you over.”

Mr. Wetherell wished to make an indignant denial, but he didn’t know exactly how to begin.

“Smartest man in the United States of America — guess you know that,” Mr. Bixby continued amiably. “They can’t git at him unless he wants ’em to. There’s a railroad president at Isaac Worthington’s who’d like to git at him to-day, — guess you know that, — Steve Merrill.”

Mr. Wetherell didn’t know, but he was given no time to say so.

“Steve Merrill, of the Grand Gulf and Northern. He hain’t here to see Worthington; he’s here to see Jethro, when Jethro’s a mind to. Guess you understand.”

“I know nothing about it,” answered Wetherell, shortly. Mr. Bixby gave him a look of infinite admiration, as though he could not have pursued any more admirable line.

“I know Steve Merrill better’n I know you,” said Mr. Bixby, “and he knows me. Whenever he sees me at the state capital he says, ‘How be you, Bije?’ just as natural as if I was a railroad president, and slaps me on the back. When be you goin’ to the capital, Will? You’d ought to come down and be thar with the boys on this Truro Bill. You could reach some on ’em the rest of us couldn’t git at.”

William Wetherell avoided a reply to this very pointed inquiry by escaping into the meeting-house, where he found Jethro and Cynthia and Ephraim already seated halfway up the aisle.

On the platform, behind a bank of flowers, are the velvet-covered chairs which contain the dignitaries of the occasion. The chief of these is, of course, Mr. Isaac Worthington, the one with the hawklike look, sitting next to the Rev. Mr. Sweet, who is rather pudgy by contrast. On the other side of Mr. Sweet, next to the parlor organ and the quartette, is the genial little railroad president, Mr. Merrill, batting the flies which assail the unprotected crown of his head, and smiling benignly on the audience. Suddenly his eye becomes fixed, and he waves a fat hand vigorously at Jethro, who answers the salute with a nod of unwonted cordiality for him. Then comes a hush, and the exercises begin.

There is a prayer, of course, by the Rev. Mr. Sweet, and a rendering of “My Country” and “I would not Change my Lot,” and other choice selections by the quartette; and an original poem recited with much feeling by a lady admirer of Miss Lucretia Penniman, and the “Hymn to Coniston” declaimed by Mr. Gamaliel Ives, president of the Brampton Literary Club. But the crowning event is, of course, the oration by Mr. Isaac D. Worthington, the first citizen, who is introduced under that title by the chairman of the day; and as the benefactor of Brampton, who has bestowed upon the town the magnificent gift which was dedicated such a short time ago, the Worthington Free Library.

Mr. Isaac D. Worthington stood erect beside the table, his hand thrust into the opening of his coat, and spoke at the rate of one hundred and eight words a minute, for exactly one hour. He sketched with much skill the creed of the men who had fought their way through the forests to build their homes by Coniston Water, who had left their clearings to risk their lives behind Stark and Ethan Allen for that creed; he paid a graceful tribute to the veterans of the Civil War, scattered among his hearers — a tribute, by the way, which for some reason made Ephraim very indignant. Mr. Worthington went on to outline the duty of citizens of the present day, as he conceived it, and in this connection referred, with becoming modesty, to the Worthington Free Library. He had made his money in Brampton, and it was but right that he should spend it for the benefit of the people of Brampton. The library, continued Mr. Worthington when the applause was over, had been the dream of a certain delicate youth who had come, many years ago, to Brampton for his health. (It is a curious fact, by the way, that Mr. Worthington seldom recalled the delicate youth now, except upon public occasions.)

Yes, the dream of that youth had been to benefit in some way that community in which circumstances had decreed that he should live, and in this connection it might not be out of place to mention a bill then before the Legislature of the state, now in session. If the bill became a law, the greatest modern factor of prosperity, the railroad, would come to Brampton. The speaker was interrupted here by more applause. Mr. Worthington did not deem it dignified or necessary to state that the railroad to which he referred was the Truro Railroad; and that he, as the largest stockholder, might indirectly share that prosperity with Brampton. That would be wandering too far from his subject, which, it will be recalled, was civic duties. He took a glass of water, and went on to declare that he feared — sadly feared — that the ballot was not held as sacred as it had once been. He asked the people of Brampton, and of the state, to stop and consider who in these days made the laws and granted the franchises. Whereupon he shook his head very slowly and sadly, as much as to imply that, if the Truro Bill did not pass, the corruption of the ballot was to blame. No, Mr. Worthington could think of no better subject on this Birthday of Independence than a recapitulation of the creed of our forefathers, from which we had so far wandered.

In short, the first citizen, as became him, had delivered the first reform speech ever heard in Brampton, and the sensation which it created was quite commensurate to the occasion. The presence in the audience of Jethro Bass, at whom many believed the remarks to have been aimed, added no little poignancy to that sensation, although Jethro gave no outward signs of the terror and remorse by which he must have been struck while listening to Mr. Worthington’s ruminations of the corruption of the ballot. Apparently unconscious of the eyes upon him, he walked out of the meeting-house with Cynthia by his side, and they stood waiting for Wetherell and Ephraim under the maple tree there.

The beribboned members of the Independence Day committee were now on the steps, and behind them came Isaac Worthington and Mr. Merrill. The people, scenting a dramatic situation, lingered. Would the mill owner speak to the boss? The mill owner, with a glance at the boss, did nothing of the kind, but immediately began to talk rapidly to Mr. Merrill. That gentleman, however, would not be talked to, but came running over to Jethro and seized his hand, leaving Mr. Worthington to walk on by himself.

“Jethro,” cried the little railroad president, “upon my word. And Miss Jethro,” he took off his hat to Cynthia, “well, well. Upon my word, Jethro, are you goin’ to reform? I’ll bet you’ve got an annual over my road in your pocket right now.”

“Enjoy the speech-makin’, Steve?” inquired Mr. Bass, solemnly.

Mr. Merrill winked and took Jethro by the arm and led him off a little distance, having a message of some importance to give him, the purport of which will appear later.


 

CHAPTER XII

“A TIME TO WEEP, AND A TIME TO LAUGH”

THAT evening, after Cynthia had gone to bed, William Wetherell sat down at Jonah Winch’s desk in the rear of the store to gaze at a blank sheet of paper until the Muses chose to send him subject-matter for his weekly letter to the Guardian. The window was open, and the cool airs from the mountain spruces mingled with the odors of corn meal and kerosene and calico paint. Jethro Bass, who had supped with the storekeeper, sat in the wooden armchair silent, with his head bent. Sometimes he would sit there by the hour while Wetherell wrote or read, and take his departure when he was so moved without saying good night. Presently Jethro lifted his chin, and dropped it again; there was a sound of wheels without, and after an interval, a knock at the door.

William Wetherell dropped his pen with a start of surprise, as it was late for a visitor in Coniston. He glanced at Jethro, who did not move, and then he went to the door and shot back the great forged bolt of it, and stared out. On the edge of the porch stood a tallish man in a double-breasted frock coat.

“Mr. Worthington!” exclaimed the storekeeper.

Mr. Worthington coughed and pulled at one of his mutton-chop whiskers, and seemed about to step off the porch again. It was, indeed, the first citizen and reformer of Brampton. No wonder William Wetherell was mystified.

“Can I do anything for you?” he asked. “Have you missed your way?”

Wetherell thought he heard him muttering, “No, no,” and then he was startled by another voice in his ear. It was Jethro who was standing beside him.

“G-guess he hain’t missed his way a great deal. Er — come in — come in.”

Mr. Worthington took a couple of steps forward.

“I understood that you were to be alone,” he remarked, addressing Jethro with an attempted severity of manner.

“Didn’t say so — d-didn’t say so, did I?” answered Jethro.

“Very well,” said Worthington, “any other time will do for this little matter.”

“Er — good night,” said Jethro, shortly, and there was the suspicion of a gleam in his eye as Mr. Worthington turned away. The mill owner, in fact, did not get any farther than the edge of the porch before he wheeled again.

“The affair which I have to discuss with you is of a private nature, Mr. Bass,” he said.

“So I callated,” said Jethro.

“You may have the place to yourselves, gentlemen,” Wetherell put in uneasily, and then Mr. Worthington came as far as the door, where he stood looking at the storekeeper with scant friendliness. Jethro turned to Wetherell.

“You a politician, Will?” he demanded.

“No,” said Wetherell.

“You a business man?”

“No,” he said again.

“You ever tell folks what you hear other people say?”

“Certainly not,” the storekeeper answered; “I’m not interested in other people’s business.”

“Ex'actly,” said Jethro. “Guess you’d better stay.”

“But I don’t care to stay,” Wetherell objected.

“S-stay to oblige me — stay to oblige me?” he asked.

“Well, yes, if you put it that way,” Wetherell said, beginning to get some amusement out of the situation.

He did not know what Jethro’s object was in this matter; perhaps others may guess.

Mr. Worthington, who had stood by with ill-disguised impatience during this colloquy, now broke in.

“It is most unusual, Mr. Bass, to have a third person present at a conference in which he has no manner of concern. I think on the whole, since you have insisted upon my coming to you —”

“H-hain’t insisted that I know of,” said Jethro.

“Well,” said Mr. Worthington, “never mind that. Perhaps it would be better for me to come to you some other time, when you are alone.”

In the meantime Wetherell had shut the door, and they had gradually walked to the rear of the store. Jethro parted his coat tails, and sat down again in the armchair. Wetherell, not wishing to be intrusive, went to his desk, leaving the first citizen standing among the barrels.

“W-what other time?” Jethro asked.

“Any other time,” said Mr. Worthington.

“What other time?”

“To-morrow night?” suggested said Mr. Worthington, striving to hide his annoyance.

“B-busy to-morrow night,” said Jethro.

“You know that what I have to talk to you about is of the utmost importance,” said Worthington. “Let us say Saturday night.”

“B-busy Saturday night,” said Jethro. Meet you to-morrow.”

“What time?”

“Noon,” said Jethro, “noon.”

“Where?” asked Mr. Worthington, dubiously.

“Band stand in Brampton Street” said Jethro, and the storekeeper was fain to bend over his desk to conceal his laughter, busying himself with his books. Mr. Worthington sat down with as much dignity as he could muster on one of Jonah’s old chairs, and Jonah Winch’s clock ticked and ticked, and Wetherell’s pen scratched and scratched on his weekly letter to Mr. Willard, although he knew that he was writing the sheerest nonsense. As a matter of fact, he tore up the sheets the next morning without reading them. Mr. Worthington unbuttoned his coat, fumbled in his pocket, and pulled out two cigars, one of which he pushed toward Jethro, who shook his head. Mr. Worthington lighted his cigar and cleared his throat.

“Perhaps you have observed, Mr. Bass,” he said, “that this is a rapidly growing section of the state — that the people hereabouts are every day demanding modern and efficient means of communication with the outside world.”

“Struck you as a mill owner, has it?” said Jethro.

“I do not care to emphasize my private interests,” answered Mr. Worthington, at last appearing to get into his stride. “I wish to put the matter on broader grounds. Men like you and me ought not to be so much concerned with our own affairs as with those of the population amongst whom we live. And I think I am justified in putting it to you on these grounds.”

“H-have to be justified, do you — have to be justified?” Jethro inquired. “Er — why?”

This was a poser, and for a moment he stared at Jethro, blankly, until he decided how to take it. Then he crossed his legs and blew smoke toward the ceiling.

“It is certainly fairer to everybody to take the broadest view of a situation,” he remarked; “I am trying to regard this from the aspect of a citizen, and I am quite sure that it will appeal to you in the same light. If the spirit which imbued the founders of this nation means anything, Mr. Bass, it means that the able men who are given a chance to rise by their own efforts must still retain the duties and responsibilities of the humblest citizens. That, I take it, is our position, Mr. Bass, — yours and mine.”

Mr. Worthington had uncrossed his legs, and was now by the inspiration of his words impelled to an upright position. Suddenly he glanced at Jethro and started — for Jethro had sunk down on the small of his back, his chin on his chest, in an attitude of lassitude if not of oblivion. There was a silence perhaps a little disconcerting for Mr. Worthington, who chose the opportunity to relight his cigar.

“G-got through?” said Jethro, without moving, “g-got through?”

“Through?” echoed Mr. Worthington, “through what?”

“T-through Sunday-school,” said Jethro.

Worthington dropped his match and stamped on it, and Wetherell began to wonder how much the man would stand. It suddenly came over the storekeeper that the predicament in which Mr. Worthington found himself — whatever it was — must be a very desperate one. He half rose in his chair, sat down again, and lighted another match.

“Er — director in the Truro Road, hain’t you, Mr. Worthington?” asked Jethro, without looking at him.

“Yes.”

“Er — principal stockholder — ain’t you?”

“Yes — but that is neither here nor there, sir.”

“Road don’t pay — r-road don’t pay, does it?”

“It certainly does not.”

“W-would pay if it went to Brampton and Harwich?”

“Mr. Bass, the company consider that they are pledged to the people of this section to get the road through. I am not prepared to say whether the road would pay, but it is quite likely that it would not.”

“Ch-charitable organization?” said Jethro, from the depths of his chair.

“The pioneers in such matters take enormous risks for the benefit of the community, sir. We believe that we are entitled to a franchise, and in my opinion the General Court are behaving disgracefully in refusing us one. I will not say all I think about that affair, Mr. Bass. I am convinced that influences are at work —” He broke off with a catch in his throat.

“T-tried to get a franchise, did you?”

“I am not here to quibble with you, Mr. Bass. We tried to get it by every legitimate means, and failed, and you know it as well as I do.”

“Er — Heth Sutton didn’t sign his receipt — er — did he?”

The storekeeper, not being a politician, was not aware that the somewhat obscure reference of Jethro’s to the Speaker of the House concerned an application which Mr. Worthington was supposed to have made to that gentleman, who had at length acknowledged his inability to oblige, and had advised Mr. Worthington to go to headquarters. And Mr. Stephen Merrill, who had come to Brampton out of the kindness of his heart, had only arranged this meeting in a conversation with Jethro that day, after the reform speech.

Mr. Worthington sprang to his feet, and flung out a hand toward Jethro.

“Prove your insinuations, sir,” he cried; “I defy you to prove your insinuations.”

But Jethro still sat unmoved.

“H-Heth in the charitable organization, too?” he asked.

“People told me I was a fool to believe in honesty, but I thought better of the lawmakers of my state. I’ll tell you plainly what they said to me, sir. They said, ‘Go to Jethro Bass.’”

“Well, so you have, hain’t you? So you have.”

“Yes, I have. I’ve come to appeal to you in behalf of the people of your section to allow that franchise to go through the present legislature.”

“Er — come to appeal, have you — come to appeal?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Worthington, sitting down again; “I have come to-night to appeal to you in the name of the farmers and merchants of this region — your neighbors, — to use your influence to get that franchise. I have come to you with the conviction that I shall not have appealed in vain.”

“Er — appealed to Heth in the name of the farmers and merchants?”

“Mr. Sutton is Speaker of the House.”

“F-farmers and merchants elected him,” remarked Jethro, as though stating a fact.

Worthington coughed.

“It is probable that I made a mistake in going to Sutton,” he admitted.

“If I w-wanted to catch a pike, w-wouldn’t use a pinhook.”

“I might have known,” remarked Worthington, after a pause, “that Sutton could not have been elected Speaker without your influence.”

Jethro did not answer that, but still remained sunk in his chair. To all appearances he might have been asleep.

“W-worth somethin’ to the farmers and merchants to get that road through — w-worth somethin’, ain’t it?”

Wetherell held his breath. For a moment Mr. Worthington sat very still, his face drawn, and then he wet his lips and rose slowly.

“We may as well end this conversation, Mr. Bass,” he said, and though he tried to speak firmly his voice shook; “it seems to be useless. Good night.”

He picked up his hat and walked slowly toward the door, but Jethro did not move or speak. Mr. Worthington reached the door, opened it, and the night breeze started the lamp to smoking. Wetherell got up and turned it down, and the first citizen was still standing in the doorway. His back was toward them, but the fingers of his left hand working convulsively caught Wetherell’s eye and held it; save for the ticking of the clock and the chirping of the crickets in the grass, there was silence. Then Mr. Worthington closed the door softly, hesitated, turned, and came back and stood before Jethro.

“Mr. Bass,” he said, “we’ve got to have that franchise.”

William Wetherell glanced at the countryman who, without moving in his chair, without raising his voice, had brought the first citizen of Brampton to his knees. The thing frightened the storekeeper, revolted him, and yet its drama held him fascinated. By some subtle process which he had actually beheld, but could not fathom, this cold Mr. Worthington, this bank president who had given him sage advice, this preacher of political purity, had been reduced to a frenzied supplicant. He stood bending over Jethro.

“What’s your price? Name it, for God’s sake.”

B-better wait till you get the bill — hadn’t you? — b-better wait till you get the bill.”

“Will you put the franchise through?”

“Goin’ down to the capital soon?” Jethro inquired.

“I’m going down on Thursday.”

“B-better come in and see me,” said Jethro.

“Very well,” answered Mr. Worthington; “I’ll be in at two o’clock on Thursday.” And then, without another word to either of them, he swung on his heel and strode quickly out of the store. Jethro did not move.

William Wetherell’s hand was trembling so that he could not write, and he could not trust his voice to speak. Although Jethro had never mentioned Isaac Worthington’s name to him, Wetherell knew that Jethro hated the first citizen of Brampton.

At length, when the sound of the wheels had died away, Jethro broke the silence.

“Er — didn’t laugh — did he, Will? Didn’t laugh once — did he?”

“Laugh!” echoed the storekeeper, who himself had never been further from laughter in his life.

“M-might have let him off easier if he’d laughed,” said Jethro, “if he’d laughed just once, m-might have let him off easier.”

And with this remark he went out of the store and left Wetherell alone.


 

CHAPTER XIII

MR. WETHERELL DESCENDS INTO THE ARENA

THE weekly letter to the Newcastle Guardian was not finished that night, but Coniston slept, peacefully, unaware of Mr. Worthington’s visit; and never, indeed, discovered it, since the historian for various reasons of his own did not see fit to insert the event in his plan of the Town History. Before another sun had set Jethro Bass had departed for the state capital, not choosing to remain to superintend the haying of the many farms which had fallen into his hand, — a most unusual omission for him.

Presently rumors of a mighty issue about the Truro Railroad began to be discussed by the politicians at the Coniston store, and Jake Wheeler held himself in instant readiness to answer a summons to the capital — which never came.

Delegations from Brampton and Harwich went to petition the Legislature for the franchise, and the Brampton Clarion and Harwich Sentinel declared that the people of Truro County recognized in Isaac Worthington a great and public-spirited man, who ought by all means to be the next governor — if the franchise went through.

One evening Lem Hallowell, after depositing a box of trimmings at Ephraim Prescott’s harness shop, drove up to the platform of the store with the remark that “things were gittin’ pretty hot down to the capital in that franchise fight.”

“Hain’t you b’en sent for yet, Jake?” he cried, throwing his reins over the backs of his sweating Morgans; “well, that’s strange. Guess the fight hain’t as hot as we hear about. Jethro hain’t had to call out his best men.”

“I’m a-goin’ down if there’s trouble,” declared Jake, who consistently ignored banter.

“Better git up and git,” said Lem; “there’s three out of the five railroads against Truro, and Steve Merrill layin’ low. Bije Bixby’s down there, and Heth Sutton, and Abner Parkinson, and all the big bugs. Better git aboard, Jake.”

At this moment the discussion was interrupted by the sight of Cynthia Wetherell coming across the green with an open letter in her hand.

“It’s a message from Uncle Jethro,” she said.

The announcement was sufficient to warrant the sensation it produced on all sides.

“’Tain’t a letter from Jethro, is it?” exclaimed Sam Price, overcome by a pardonable curiosity. For it was well known that one of Jethro’s fixed principles in life was embodied in his own motto, “Don’t write — send.”

“It’s very funny,” answered Cynthia, looking down at the paper with a puzzled expression. “‘Dear Cynthia: Judge Bass wished me to say to you that he would be pleased if you and Will would come to the capital and spend a week with him at the Pelican House, and see the sights. The judge says Rias Richardson will tend store. Yours truly, P. Hartington.’ That’s all,” said Cynthia, looking up.

For a moment you could have heard a pine needle drop on the stoop. Then Rias thrust his hands in his pockets and voiced the general sentiment.

“Well, I’ll be — goldurned!” said he.

“Didn’t say nothin’ about Jake?” queried Lem.

“No,” answered Cynthia, “that’s all — except two pieces of cardboard with something about the Truro Railroad and our names. I don’t know what they are.” And she took them from the envelope.

“Guess I could tell you if I was pressed,” said Lem, amid a shout of merriment from the group.

“Air you goin’, Will?” said Sam Price, pausing with his foot on the step of his buggy, that he might have the complete news before he left.

“Godfrey, Will,” exclaimed Rias, breathlessly, “you hain’t a-goin’ to throw up a chance to stay a hull week at the Pelican, be you?” The mere possibility of refusal overpowered Rias.

 
 

Those who are familiar with that delightful French song which treats of the leave-taking of one Monsieur Dumollet will appreciate, perhaps, the attentions which were showered upon William Wetherell and Cynthia upon their departure for the capital next morning. Although Mr. Wetherell had at one time been actually a resident of Boston, he received quite as many cautions from his neighbors as Monsieur Dumollet. Billets doux and pistols were, of course, not mentioned, but it certainly behooved him, when he should have arrived at that place of intrigues, to be on the lookout for cabals.

They took the stage-coach from Brampton over the pass: picturesque stage-coach with its apple-green body and leather springs, soon to be laid away forever if the coveted Truro Franchise Bill becomes a law; stage-coach which pulls up defiantly beside its own rival at Truro station, where our passengers take the train down the pleasant waterways and past the little white villages among the fruit trees to the capital. The thrill of anticipation was in Cynthia’s blood, and the flush of pleasure on her cheeks, when they stopped at last under the sheds. The conductor snapped his fingers and cried, “This way, Judge,” and there was Jethro in his swallow-tailed coat and stove-pipe hat awaiting them. He seized Wetherell’s carpet-bag with one hand and Cynthia’s arm with the other, and shouldered his way through the people, who parted when they saw who it was.

“Uncle Jethro,” cried Cynthia, breathlessly, “I didn’t know you were a judge. What are you judge of?”

“J-judge of clothes, Cynthy. D-don’t you wish you had the red cloth to wear here?”

“No, I don’t,” said Cynthia. “I’m glad enough to be here without it.”

“G-glad to hev you in any fixin’s, Cynthy,” he said, giving her arm a little squeeze, and by that time they were up the hill and William Wetherell quite winded. For Jethro was strong as an ox, and Cynthia’s muscles were like an Indian’s.

They were among the glories of Main Street now. The capital was then, and still remains, a typically beautiful New England city, with wide streets shaded by shapely maples and elms, with substantial homes set back amidst lawns and gardens. Here on Main Street were neat brick business buildings and banks and shops, with the parklike grounds of the Capitol farther on, and everywhere, from curb to doorway, were knots of men talking politics; broad-faced, sunburned farmers in store clothes, with beards that hid their shirt fronts; keen-featured, sallow, country lawyers in long black coats crumpled from much sitting on the small of the back; country storekeepers with shrewd eyes, and local proprietors and manufacturers.

“Uncle Jethro, I didn’t know you were such a great man,” she said.

“H-how did ye find out, Cynthy?”

“The way people treat you here. I knew you were great, of course,” she hastened to add.

“H-how do they treat me?” he asked, looking down at her.

“You know,” she answered. “They all stop talking when you come along and stare at you. But why don’t you speak to them?”

Jethro smiled and squeezed her arm again, and then they were in the corridor of the famous Pelican Hotel, hazy with cigar smoke and filled with politicians. Some were standing, hanging on to pillars, gesticulating, some were ranged in benches along the wall, and a chosen few were in chairs grouped around the spittoons. Upon the appearance of Jethro’s party, the talk was hushed, the groups gave way, and they accomplished a kind of triumphal march to the desk. The clerk, descrying them, desisted abruptly from a conversation across the cigar counter, and with all the form of a ceremony dipped the pen with a flourish into the ink and handed it to Jethro.

“Your rooms are ready, Judge,” he said.

As they started for the stairs, Jethro and Cynthia leading the way, Wetherell felt a touch on his elbow and turned to confront Mr. Bijah Bixby — at very close range, as usual.

“C-come down at last, Will?” he said. “Thought ye would. Need everybody this time — you understand.”

“I came on pleasure,” retorted Mr. Wetherell, somewhat angrily.

Mr. Bixby appeared hugely to enjoy the joke.

“So I callated,” he cried, still holding Wetherell’s hand in a mild, but persuasive grip. “So I callated. Guess I done you an injustice, Will.”

“How’s that?”

“You’re a leetle mite smarter than I thought you was. So long. Got a leetle business now — you understand — a leetle business.”

Was it possible, indeed, for the simple-minded to come to the capital and not become involved in cabals? With some misgivings William Wetherell watched Mr. Bixby disappear among the throng, kicking up his heels behind, and then went upstairs. On the first floor Cynthia was standing by an open door.

“Dad,” she cried, “come and see the rooms Uncle Jethro’s got for us!” She took her father’s hand and led him in. “See the lace curtains, and the chandelier, and the big bureau with the marble top.”

Jethro had parted his coat tails and seated himself enjoyably on the bed.

“D-don’t come often,” he said, “m-might as well have the best.”

“Jethro,” said Wetherell, coughing nervously and flumbling in the pocket of his coat, “you’ve been very kind to us, and we hardly know how to thank you. But I-I didn’t have any use for these.”

He held out the pieces of cardboard which had come in Cynthia’s letter. He dared not look at Jethro, and his eye was fixed instead upon the somewhat grandiose signature of Isaac D. Worthington, which they bore. Jethro took them and tore them up, and slowly tossed the pieces into a cuspidor conveniently situated near the foot of the bed. He rose and thrust his hands into his pockets.

“Er — when you get freshened up, come into Number 7,” he said.

Number 7! But we shall come to that later. Supper first, in a great pillared dining room filled with notables, if we only had the key. Jethro sits silent at the head of the table eating his crackers and milk, with Cynthia on his left and William Wetherell on his right. Poor William, greatly embarrassed by his sudden projection into the limelight, is helpless in the clutches of a lady-waitress who is demanding somewhat fiercely that he make an immediate choice from a list of dishes which she is shooting at him with astonishing rapidity. But who is this, sitting beside him, who comes to William’s rescue, and demands that the lady repeat the bill of fare? Surely a notable, for he has a generous presence, and jet-black whiskers which catch the light, which give the gentleman, as Mr. Bixby remarked, “quite a settin’.” Yes, we have met him at last. It is none other than the Honorable Heth Sutton, Rajah of Clovelly, Speaker of the House, who has condescended to help Mr. Wetherell.

His chamberlain, Mr. Bijah Bixby, sits on the other side of the Honorable Heth, and performs the presentation of Mr. Wetherell. But Mr. Sutton, as becomes a man of high position, says little after he has rebuked the waitress, and presently departs with a carefully chosen toothpick; whereupon Mr. Bixby moves into the vacant seat — not to Mr. Wetherell’s unqualified delight.

“I’ve knowed him ever sence we was boys,” said Mr. Bixby; “you saw how intimate we was. When he wants a thing done, he says, ‘Bije, you go out and git ’em.’ Never counts the cost. He was nice to you — wahn’t he, Will?” And then Mr. Bixby leaned over and whispered in Mr. Wetherell’s ear, “He knows — you understand — he knows.”

“Knows what?” demanded Mr. Wetherell.

Mr. Bixby gave him another admiring look.

“Knows you didn’t come down here with Jethro jest to see the sights.”

At this instant the talk in the dining room fell flat, and looking up William Wetherell perceived a portly, rubicund man of middle age being shown to his seat by the head waiter. The gentleman wore a great, glittering diamond in his shirt, and a watch chain that contained much fine gold. But the real cause of the silence was plainly in the young woman who walked beside him, and whose effective entrance argued no little practice and experience. She was of a type that catches the eye involuntarily and holds it, — tall, well-rounded, fresh-complexioned, with heavy coils of shimmering gold hair. Her gown, which was far from unbecoming, was in keeping with those gifts with which nature had endowed her. She carried her head high, and bestowed swift and evidently fatal glances to right and left during her progress through the room. Mr. Bixby’s voice roused the storekeeper from this contemplation of the beauty.

“That’s Alvy Hopkins of Gosport and his daughter. Fine gal, hain’t she? Ever sence she come down here t’other day she’s stirred up more turmoil than any railroad bill I ever seed. She was almost suffocated at the governor’s ball with fellers tryin’ to git dances — some of ’em old fellers, too. And you understand about Alvy?”

“What about him?”

“Alvy says he’s a-goin’ to be the next governor, or fail up.” Mr. Bixby’s voice sank to a whisper, and he spoke into Mr. Wetherell’s ear. “Alvy says he has twenty-five thousand dollars to put in if necessary. I’ll introduce you to him, Will,” he added meaningly. “Guess you can help him some — you understand?”

“Mr. Bixby!” cried Mr. Wetherell, putting down his knife and fork.

“There!” said Mr. Bixby, reassuringly, “’twon’t be no bother. I know him as well as I do you — call each other by our given names. Guess I was the first man he sent for last spring. He knows I go through all them river towns. He says, ‘Bije, you git ’em.’ I understood.”

William Wetherell began to realize the futility of trying to convince Mr. Bixby of his innocence in political matters, and glanced at Jethro.

“You wouldn’t think he was listenin’, would you, Will?” Mr. Bixby remarked.

“Listening?”

“Ears are sharp as a dog’s. Callate he kin hear as far as the governor’s table, and he don’t look as if he knows anything. One way he built up his power — listenin’ when they’re talkin’ sly out there in the rotunda. They’re almighty surprised when they l’arn he knows what they’re up to. Guess you understand how to go along by quiet and listen when they’re talkin’ sly.”

“I never did such a thing in my life,” cried William Wetherell, indignantly aghast.

But Mr. Bixby winked.

“So long, Will,” he said, “see you in Number 7.”

Never, since the days of Pompadour and Du Barry, until modern American politics were invented, has a state been ruled from such a place as Number 7 in the Pelican House — familiarly known as the Throne Room. In this historic cabinet there were five chairs, a marble-topped table, a pitcher of iced water, a bureau, a box of cigars and a Bible, a chandelier with all the gas jets burning, and a bed, whereon sat such dignitaries as obtained an audience, — railroad presidents, governors and ex-governors and prospective governors, the Speaker, the President of the Senate, Bijah Bixby, Peleg Hartington, mighty chiefs from the North Country, and lieutenants from other parts of the state. These sat on the bed by preference. Jethro sat in a chair by the window, and never took any part in the discussions that raged, but listened. Generally there was some one seated beside him who talked persistently in his ear; as at present, for instance, Mr. Chauncey Weed, Chairman of the Committee on Corporations of the House, who took the additional precaution of putting his hand to his mouth when he spoke.

Mr. Stephen Merrill was in the Throne Room that evening, and confidentially explained to the bewildered William Wetherell the exact situation in the Truro Franchise fight. Inasmuch as it has become our duty to describe this celebrated conflict, — in a popular and engaging manner, if possible, — we shall have to do so through Mr. Wetherell’s eyes, and on his responsibility. The biographies of some of the gentlemen concerned have since been published, and for some unaccountable reason contain no mention of the Truro franchise.

“All Gaul,” said Mr. Merrill — he was speaking to a literary man — “all Gaul is divided into five railroads. I am one, the Grand Gulf and Northern, the impecunious one. That is the reason I’m so nice to everybody, Mr. Wetherell. The other day a conductor on my road had a shock of paralysis when a man paid his fare. Then there’s Balch, president of the ‘Down East’ road, as we call it. Balch and I are out of this fight, — we don’t care whether Isaac D. Worthington gets his franchise or not, or I wouldn’t be telling you this. The two railroads which don’t want him to get it, because the Truro would eventually become a competitor with them, are the Central and the Northwestern. Alexander Duncan is president of the Central.”

“Alexander Duncan!” exclaimed Wetherell. “He’s the richest man in the state, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Merrill, “and he lives in a big square house right here in the capital. He ain’t a bad fellow, Duncan. You’d like him. He loves books. I wish you could see his library.”

“I’m afraid there’s not much chance of that,” answered Wetherell.

“Well, as I say, there’s Duncan, of the Central, and the other is Lovejoy, of the Northwestern. Lovejoy’s a bachelor and a skinflint. Those two, Duncan and Lovejoy, are using every means in their power to prevent Worthington from getting that franchise. Have I made myself clear?”

“Do you think Mr. Worthington will get it?” asked Wetherell, who had in mind a certain nocturnal visit at his store.

Mr. Merrill almost leaped out of his chair at the question. Then he mopped his face, and winked very deliberately at the storekeeper. Then Mr. Merrill laughed.

“Well, well,” he said, “for a man who comes down here to stay with Jethro Bass to ask me that!” Whereupon William Wetherell flushed, and began to perspire himself. “Didn’t you hear Isaac D. Worthington’s virtuous appeal to the people of Brampton?” said Mr. Merrill.

“Yes,” replied Wetherell, getting redder.

“I like you, Will,” said Mr. Merrill, unexpectedly, “darned if I don’t. I’ll tell you what I know about it, and you can have a little fun while you’re here, lookin’ on, only it won’t do to write about it to the Newcastle Guardian. Guess Willard wouldn’t publish it, anyhow. I suppose you know that Jethro pulls the strings, and we little railroad presidents dance. We’re the puppets now, but after a while, when I’m crowded out, all these little railroads will get together and there’ll be a row worth looking at, or I’m mistaken. But to go back to Worthington,” continued Mr. Merrill, “he made a little mistake with his bill in the beginning. Instead of going to Jethro, he went to Heth Sutton, and Heth got the bill as far as the Committee on Corporations, and there she’s been ever since, with our friend Chauncey Weed, who’s whispering over there.”

“Mr. Sutton couldn’t even get it out of the Committee!” exclaimed Wetherell.

“Not an inch. Jethro saw this thing coming about a year ago, and he took the precaution to have Chauncey Weed and the rest of the Committee in his pocket — and of course Heth Sutton’s always been there.”

William Wetherell thought of that imposing and manly personage, the Honorable Heth Sutton, being in Jethro’s pocket, and marvelled. Mr. Chauncey Weed seemed of a species better able to thrive in the atmosphere of pockets.

“Well, as I say, there was the Truro Franchise Bill sound asleep in the Committee, and when Isaac D. Worthington saw that his little arrangement with Heth Sutton wasn’t any good, and that the people of the state didn’t have anything more to say about it than the Crow Indians, and that the end of the session was getting nearer and nearer, he got desperate and went to Jethro, I suppose. You know as well as I do that Jethro has agreed to put the bill through.”

“Then why doesn’t he get the Committee to report it and put it through?” asked Wetherell.

“Bless your simple literary nature,” exclaimed Mr. Merrill, “Jethro’s got more power than any man in the state, but that isn’t saying that he doesn’t have to fight occasionally. He has to fight now. He has seven of the twelve senators hitched, and the governor. But Duncan and Lovejoy have bought up all the loose blocks of representatives, and it is supposed that the franchise forces only control a quorum. The end of the session is a week off, and never in all my experience have I seen a more praiseworthy attendance on the part of members.”

“Do you mean that they are being paid to remain in their seats?” cried the amazed Mr. Wetherell.

“Well,” answered Mr. Merrill, with a twinkle in his eye, “that is a little bald and — and unparliamentary, perhaps, but fairly accurate. Our friend Jethro is confronted with a problem to tax even his faculties, and to look at him, a man wouldn’t suspect he had a care in the world.”

Jethro was apparently quite as free from anxiety the next morning when he offered, after breakfast, to show Wetherell and Cynthia the sights of the town, though Wetherell could not but think that the Throne Room and the Truro Franchise Bill were left at a very crucial moment to take care of themselves. Jethro talked to Cynthia — or rather, Cynthia talked to Jethro upon innumerable subjects; they looked upon the statue of a great statesman in the park, and Cynthia read aloud the quotation graven on the rock of the pedestal, “The People’s Government, made for the People, made by the People, and answerable to the People.” After that they went into the state library, where Wetherell was introduced to the librarian, Mr. Storrow. They did not go into the State House because, as everybody knows, Jethro Bass never went there. Mr. Bijah Bixby and other lieutenants might be seen in the lobbies, and the governor might sign bills in his own apartment there, but the real seat of government was that Throne Room into which we have been permitted to enter.

They walked out beyond the outskirts of the town, where there was a grove or picnic ground which was also used as a park by some of the inhabitants. Jethro liked the spot, and was in the habit sometimes of taking refuge there when the atmosphere of the Pelican House became too thick. The three of them had sat down on one of the board benches to rest, when presently two people were seen at a little distance walking among the trees, and the sight of them, for some reason, seemed to give Jethro infinite pleasure.

“Why,” exclaimed Cynthia, “one of them is that horrid girl everybody was looking at in the dining room last night.”

“D-don’t like her, Cynthy?” said Jethro.

“No,” said Cynthia, “I don’t.”

“Pretty — hain’t she — pretty?”

“She’s brazen,” declared Cynthia.

It was, indeed, Miss Cassandra Hopkins, daughter of that Honorable Alva who — according to Mr. Bixby — was all ready with a certain sum of money to be the next governor. Miss Cassandra was arrayed fluffily in cool, pink lawn, and she carried a fringed parasol, and she was gazing upward with telling effect into the face of the gentleman by her side. This would have all been very romantic if the gentleman had been young and handsome, but he was certainly not a man to sweep a young girl off her feet. He was tall, angular, though broad-shouldered, with a long, scrawny neck that rose out of a very low collar, and a large head, scantily covered with hair — a head that gave a physical as well as a mental effect of hardness. His smooth-shaven face seemed to bear witness that its owner was one who had pushed frugality to the borders of a vice. It was not a pleasant face, but now it wore an almost benign expression under the influence of Miss Cassandra’s eyes. So intent, apparently, were both of them upon each other that they did not notice the group on the bench at the other side of the grove. William Wetherell ventured to ask Jethro who the man was.

“N-name’s Lovejoy,” said Jethro.

“Lovejoy!” ejaculated the storekeeper, thinking of what Mr. Merrill had told him of the opponents of the Truro Franchise Bill. “President of the Northwestern Railroad?”

Jethro gave his friend a shrewd look.

“G-gettin’ posted — hain’t you, Will?” he said.

“Is she going to marry that old man?” asked Cynthia.

Jethro smiled a little. “G-guess not,” said he, “guess not, if the old man can help it. Nobody’s married him yet, and hain’t likely to.”

Jethro was unusually silent on the way back to the hotel, but he did not seem to be worried or displeased. He only broke his silence once, in fact, when Cynthia called his attention to a large poster of some bloodhounds on a fence, announcing the fact in red letters that “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” would be given by a certain travelling company at the Opera House the next evening.

“L-like to go, Cynthy?”

“Oh, Uncle Jethro, do you think we can go?”

“Never b’en to a show — hev you — never b’en to a show?”

“Never in my life,” said Cynthia.

“We’ll all go,” said Jethro, and he repeated it once or twice as they came to Main Street, seemingly greatly tickled at the prospect. And there was the Truro Franchise Bill hanging over him, with only a week left of the session, and Lovejoy’s and Duncan’s men sitting so tight in their seats! William Wetherell could not understand it.


 

CHAPTER XIV

IN WHICH THE BACK SEATS ARE HEARD FROM

HALF an hour later, when Mr. Wetherell knocked timidly at Number 7, — drawn thither by an irresistible curiosity, — the door was opened by a portly person who wore a shining silk hat and ample gold watch chain. The gentleman had, in fact, just arrived; but he seemed perfectly at home as he laid down his hat on the marble-topped bureau, mopped his face, took a glass of iced water at a gulp, chose a cigar, and sank down gradually on the bed. Mr. Wetherell recognized him instantly as the father of the celebrated Cassandra.

“Well, Jethro,” said the gentleman, “I’ve got to come into the Throne Room once a day anyhow, just to make sure you don’t forget me — eh?”

“A-Alvy,” said Jethro, “I want you to shake hands with a particular friend of mine, Mr. Will Wetherell of Coniston. Er — Will, the Honorable Alvy Hopkins of Gosport.”

Mr. Hopkins rose from the bed as gradually as he had sunk down upon it, and seized Mr. Wetherell’s hand impressively. His own was very moist.

“Heard you was in town, Mr. Wetherell,” he said heartily. “If Jethro calls you a particular friend, it means something, I guess. It means something to me, anyhow.”

“Will hain’t a politician,” said Jethro. “Er — Alvy?”

“Hello!” said Mr. Hopkins.

“Er — Will don’t talk.”

“If Jethro had been real tactful,” said the Honorable Alva, sinking down again, “he’d have introduced me as the next governor of the state. Everybody knows I want to be governor, everybody knows I’ve got twenty thousand dollars in the bank to pay for that privilege. Everybody knows I’m going to be governor if Jethro says so.”

William Wetherell was a little taken aback at this ingenuous statement of the gentleman from Gosport. He looked out of the window through the foliage of the park, and his eye was caught by the monument there in front of the State House, and he thought of the inscription on the base of it, “The People’s Government.” The Honorable Alva had not mentioned the people — undoubtedly.

“Yes, Mr. Wetherell, twenty thousand dollars.” He sighed. “Time was when a man could be governor for ten. Those were the good old days — eh, Jethro?”

“A-Alvy, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ is comin’ to town to-morrow — to-morrow.”

“You don’t tell me,” said the Honorable Alva, acquiescing cheerfully in the change of subject. “We’ll go. Pleased to have you, too, Mr. Wetherell.”

“Alvy,” said Jethro, again, “‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ comes to town to-morrow.”

Mr. Hopkins stopped fanning himself, and glanced at Jethro questioningly.

“A-Alvy, that give you an idea?” said Jethro, mildly.

Mr. Wetherell looked blank: it gave him no idea whatsoever, except of little Eva and the bloodhounds. For a few moments the Honorable Alva appeared to be groping, too, and then his face began to crease into a smile of comprehension.

“My Godfrey, Jethro, but you are smart!” he exclaimed, with involuntary tribute; “you mean buy up the theatre?”

“C-callate you’ll find it’s bought up.”

“You mean pay for it?” said Mr. Hopkins.

“You’ve guessed it, Alvy, you’ve guessed it.”

Mr. Hopkins gazed at him in admiration, leaned out of the perpendicular, and promptly drew from his trousers’ pocket a roll of stupendous proportions. Wetting his thumb, he began to push aside the top bills.

“How much is it?” he demanded.

But Jethro put up his hand.

“No hurry, Alvy — n-no hurry. H-Honorable Alvy Hopkins of Gosport — p-patron of the theatre. Hain’t the first time you’ve b’en a patron, Alvy.”

“Jethro,” said Mr. Hopkins, solemnly, putting up his money, “I’m much obliged to you. I’m free to say I’d never have thought of it. If you ain’t the all-firedest smartest man in America to-day, — I don’t except any, even General Grant, — then I ain’t the next governor of this state.”

Whereupon he lapsed into an even more expressive silence, his face still glowing.

“Er — Alvy,” said Jethro presently, “what’s the name of your gal?”

“Well,” said Mr. Hopkins, “I guess you’ve got me. We did christen her Lily, but she didn’t turn out exactly Lily. She ain’t the type,” said Mr. Hopkins, slowly, not without a note of regret, and lapsed into silence.

“W-what did you say her name was, Alvy?”

“I guess her name’s Cassandra,” said the Honorable Alva.

“C-Cassandry?”

“Well, you see,” he explained a trifle apologetically, “she’s kind of taken some matters in her own hands, my gal. Didn’t like Lily, and it didn’t seem to fit her anyway, so she called herself Cassandra. Read it in a book. It means, ‘inspirer of love,’ or some such poetry, but I don’t deny that it goes with her better than Lily would.”

“Sh-she’s a good deal of a gal, Alvy — fine-appearin’ gal, Alvy.”

“Upon my word, Jethro I didn’t know you ever looked at a woman. But I suppose you couldn’t help lookin’ at my gal — she does seem to draw men’s eyes as if she was magnetized some way.” Mr. Hopkins did not speak as though this quality of his daughter gave him unmixed delight. “But she’s a good-hearted gal, Cassy is, high-spirited, and I won’t deny she’s handsome and smart. She’ll kind of grace my position when I’m governor. But to tell you the truth, Jethro, one old friend to another, durned if I don’t wish she was married. It’s a terrible thing for a father to say, I know, but I’d feel easier about her if she was married to some good man who could hold her. There was young Joe Turner in Gosport, he’d give his soul to have her, and he’d do. Cassy says she’s after bigger game than Joe. She’s young — that’s her only excuse. Funny thing happened night before last,” continued Mr. Hopkins, laughing. “Lovejoy saw her, and he’s b’en out of his head ever since. Al must be pretty near my age, ain’t he? Well, there’s no fool like an old fool.”

“A-Alvy — introduce me to Cassandry sometime — will you?”

“Why, certainly,” answered Mr. Hopkins, heartily, “I’ll bring her in here. And now how about gettin’ an adjournment to-morrow night for ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’? These night sessions kind of interfere.”

Half an hour later, when the representatives were pouring into the rotunda for dinner, a crowd was pressing thickly around the desk to read a placard pinned on the wall above it. The placard announced the coming of Mr. Glover’s Company for the following night, and that the Honorable Alva Hopkins of Gosport, ex-Speaker of the House, had bought three hundred and twelve seats for the benefit of the members. And the Honorable Alva himself, very red in the face and almost smothered, could be dimly discerned at the foot of the stairs trying to fight his way out of a group of over-enthusiastic friends and admirers. Alva — so it was said on all sides — was doing the right thing.

So it was that one sensation followed another at the capital, and the politicians for the moment stopped buzzing over the Truro Franchise Bill to discuss Mr. Hopkins and his master-stroke. The afternoon Chronicle waxed enthusiastic on the subject of Mr. Hopkins’s generosity, and predicted that, when Senator Hartington made the motion in the upper house and Mr. Jameson in the lower, the General Court would unanimously agree that there would be no evening session on the following day. The Honorable Alva was the hero of the hour.

That afternoon Cynthia and her father walked through the green park to make their first visit to the State House. They stood hand in hand on the cool, marble-paved floor of the corridor, gazing silently at the stained and battered battle-flags behind the glass, and Wetherell seemed to be listening again to the appeal of a great President to a great Country in the time of her dire need — the soul calling on the body to fight for itself. Wetherell seemed to feel again the thrill he felt when he saw the blue-clad men of this state crowded in the train at Boston: and to hear again the cheers, and the sobs, and the prayers as he looked upon the blood that stained stars and stripes alike with a holy stain. With that blood the country had been consecrated, and the state — yes, and the building where they stood. So they went on up the stairs, reverently, nor heeded the noise of those in groups about them, and through a door into the great hall of the representatives of the state.

Life is a mixture of emotions, a jumble of joy and sorrow and reverence and mirth and flippancy, of right feeling and heresy. In the morning William Wetherell had laughed at Mr. Hopkins and the twenty thousand dollars he had put in the bank to defraud the people; but now he could have wept over it, and as he looked down upon the three hundred members of that House, he wondered how many of them represented their neighbors who supposedly had sent them here — and how many Mr. Lovejoy’s railroad, Mr. Worthington’s railroad, or another man’s railroad.

But gradually he forgot the battle-flags, and his mood changed. Perhaps the sight of Mr. Speaker Sutton towering above the House, the very essence and bulk of authority, brought this about. He aroused in Wetherell unwilling admiration and envy when he arose to put a question in his deep voice, or rapped sternly with his gavel to silence the tumult of voices that arose from time to time, or while some member was speaking, or the clerk was reading a bill at breathless speed, he turned with wonderful nonchalance to listen to the conversation of the gentlemen on the bench beside him, smiled, nodded, pulled his whiskers, at once conscious and unconscious of his high position. And, most remarkable of all to the storekeeper, not a man of the three hundred, however obscure, could rise that the Speaker did not instantly call him by name.

William Wetherell was occupied by such reflections as these when suddenly there fell a hush through the House. The clerk had stopped reading, the Speaker had stopped conversing, and, seizing his gavel, looked expectantly over the heads of the members and nodded. A sleek, comfortably dressed man arose smilingly in the middle of the House, and subdued laughter rippled from seat to seat as he addressed the chair.

“Mr. Jameson of Wantage.”

Mr. Jameson cleared his throat impressively and looked smilingly about him.

“Mr. Speaker and gentlemen of the House,” he said, “if I desired to arouse the enthusiasm — the just enthusiasm — of any gathering in this House, or in this city, or in this state, I should mention the name of the Honorable Alva Hopkins of Gosport. I think I am right.”

Mr. Jameson was interrupted, as he no doubt expected, by applause from floor and gallery. He stood rubbing his hands together, and it seemed to William Wetherell that the Speaker did not rap as sharply with his gavel as he had upon other occasions.

“Gentlemen of the House,” continued Mr. Jameson, presently, “the Honorable Alva Hopkins, whom we all know and love, has with unparalleled generosity — unparalleled, I say — bought up three hundred and twelve seats in Foster’s Opera House for to-morrow night” (renewed applause), “in order that every member of this august body may have the opportunity to witness that most classic of histrionic productions, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’” (Loud applause, causing the Speaker to rap sharply.) “That we may show a proper appreciation of this compliment, I move you, Mr. Speaker, that the House adjourn not later than six o’clock to-morrow, Wednesday evening, not to meet again until Thursday morning.”

Mr. Jameson of Wantage handed the resolution to a page and sat down amid renewed applause. Mr. Wetherell noticed that many members turned in their seats as they clapped, and glancing along the gallery he caught a flash of red and perceived the radiant Miss Cassandra herself leaning over the rail, her hands clasped in ecstasy. Mr. Lovejoy was not with her — he evidently preferred to pay his attentions in private.

“There she is again,” whispered Cynthia, who had taken an instinctive and extraordinary dislike to Miss Cassandra. Then Mr. Sutton rose majestically to put the question.

“Gentlemen, are you ready for the question?” he cried. “All those in favor of the resolution of the gentleman from Wantage, Mr. Jameson —” the Speaker stopped abruptly. The legislators in the front seats swung around, and people in the gallery craned forward to see a member standing at his seat in the extreme rear of the hall. He was a little man in an ill-fitting coat, his wizened face clean-shaven save for the broom-shaped beard under his chin, which he now held in his hand. His thin, nasal voice was somehow absurdly penetrating as he addressed the chair. Mr. Sutton was apparently, for once, taken by surprise, and stared a moment, as though racking his brain for the name.

“The gentleman from Suffolk, Mr. Heath,” he said, and smiling a little, sat down.

The gentleman from Suffolk, still holding on to his beard, pitched in without preamble.

“We farmers on the back seats don’t often git a chance to be heard, Mr. Speaker,” said he, amidst a general tittering from the front seats. “We come down here without any l’arnin’ of parli’ment’ry law, and before we know what’s happened the session’s over, and we hain’t said nothin’.” (More laughter.) “There’s b’en a good many times when I wanted to say somethin’, and this time I made up my mind I was a-goin’ to — law or no law.” (Applause, and a general show of interest in the gentleman from Suffolk.) “Naow, Mr. Speaker, I hain’t ag’in’ ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ It’s a good play, and it’s done an almighty lot of good. And I hain’t sayin’ nothin’ ag’in’ Alvy Hopkins nor his munificence. But I do know there’s a sight of little bills on that desk that won’t be passed if we don’t set to-morrow night — little bills that are big bills for us farmers. That thar woodchuck bill, for one.” (Laughter.) “My constituents want I should have that bill passed. We don’t need a quorum for them bills, but we need time. Naow, Mr. Speaker, I say let all them that wants to go and see ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ go and see it, but let a few of us fellers that has woodchuck bills and other things that we’ve got to git through come down here and pass ’em. You kin put ’em on the docket, and I guess if anything comes along that hain’t jest right for everybody, somebody can challenge a quorum and bust up the session. That’s all.”

The gentleman from Suffolk sat down amidst thunderous applause, and before it died away Mr. Jameson was on his feet, smiling and rubbing his hands together, and was recognized.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, as soon as he could be heard, “if the gentleman from Suffolk desires to pass woodchuck bills” (renewed laughter), “he can do so as far as I’m concerned. I guess I know where most of the members of this House will be to-morrow night —” (Cries of ‘You’re right,’ and sharp rapping of the gavel.) “Mr. Speaker, I withdraw my resolution.”

“The gentleman from Wantage,” said the Speaker, smiling broadly now, “withdraws his resolution.”

As William Wetherell was returning to the Pelican House, pondering over this incident, he almost ran into a distinguished-looking man walking briskly across Main Street.

“It was Mr. Worthington!” said Cynthia, looking after him.

But Mr. Worthington had a worried look on his face, and was probably too much engrossed in his own thoughts to notice his acquaintances. He had, in fact, just come from the Throne Room, where he had been to remind Jethro that the session was almost over, and to ask him what he meant to do about the Truro Bill. Jethro had given him no satisfaction.

“Duncan and Lovejoy have their people paid to sit there night and day,” Mr. Worthington had said. “We’ve got a bare majority on a full House; but you don’t seem to dare to risk it. What are you going to do about it, Mr. Bass?”

“W-want the bill to pass — don’t you?”

“Certainly,” Mr. Worthington had cried, on the edge of losing his temper.

“L-left it to me — didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I’m entitled to know what’s being done. I’m paying for it.”

“H-hain’t paid for it yet — hev you?”

“No, I most assuredly haven’t.”

“B-better wait till you do.”

There was very little satisfaction in this, and Mr. Worthington had at length been compelled to depart, fuming, to the house of his friend the enemy, Mr. Duncan, there to attempt for the twentieth time to persuade Mr. Duncan to call off his dogs who were sitting with such praiseworthy pertinacity in their seats. As the two friends walked on the lawn, Mr. Worthington tried to explain, likewise for the twentieth time, that the extension of the Truro Railroad could in no way lessen the Canadian traffic of the Central, Mr. Duncan’s road. But Mr. Duncan could not see it that way, and stuck to his present ally, Mr. Lovejoy, and refused point blank to call off his dogs. Business was business.

It is an apparently inexplicable fact, however, that Mr. Worthington and his son Bob were guests at the Duncan mansion at the capital. Two countries may not be allies, but their sovereigns may be friends. In the present instance, Mr. Duncan’s and Mr. Worthington’s railroads were opposed, diplomatically, but another year might see the Truro Railroad and the Central acting as one. And Mr. Worthington had no intention whatever of sacrificing Mr. Duncan’s friendship. The first citizen of Brampton possessed one quality so essential to greatness — that of looking into the future, and he believed that the time would come when an event of some importance might create a perpetual alliance between himself and Mr. Duncan. In short, Mr. Duncan had a daughter, Janet, and Mr. Worthington, as we know, had a son. And Mr. Duncan, in addition to his own fortune, had married one of the richest heiresses in New England. Prudens futuri, that was Mr. Worthington’s motto.


 

CHAPTER XV

THE WOODCHUCK SESSION

MR. AMOS CUTHBERT named it so — our old friend Amos who lives high up in the ether of Town’s End ridge, and who now represents Coniston in the Legislature. He is the same silent, sallow person as when Jethro first took a mortgage on his farm, only his skin is beginning to resemble dried parchment, and he is a trifle more cantankerous. On the morning of that memorable day when “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” came to the capital, Amos had entered the Throne Room and given vent to his feelings in regard to the gentleman in the back seat who had demanded an evening sitting on behalf of the farmers.

“Don’t that beat all!” cried Amos. “Let them have their darned woodchuck session; there won’t nobody go to it. For cussed, crisscross contrariness, give me a moss-back Democrat from a one-hoss, one-man town like Suffolk. I’m a-goin’ to see the show.”

“G-goin’ to the show, be you, Amos?” said Jethro.

“Yes, I be,” answered Amos, bitterly. “I hain’t a-goin’ nigh the house to-night.” And with this declaration he departed.

“I wonder if he really is going?” queried Mr. Merrill, looking at the ceiling. And then he laughed.

“Why shouldn’t he go?” asked William Wetherell.

Mr. Merrill’s answer to this question was a wink, whereupon he, too, departed. And while Wetherell was pondering over the possible meaning of these words the Honorable Alva Hopkins entered, wreathed in smiles, and closed the door behind him.

“It’s all fixed,” he said, taking a seat near the window.

“S-seen your gal — Alvy — seen your gal?”

Mr. Hopkins gave a glance at Wetherell.

“Will don’t talk,” said Jethro, and resumed his inspection through the lace curtains of what was going on in the street.

“Cassandry’s got him to go,” said Mr. Hopkins. “It’s all fixed, as sure as Sunday. If it misses fire, then I’ll never mention the governorship again. But if it don’t miss fire,” and the Honorable Alva leaned over and put his hand on Jethro’s knee, “if it don’t miss fire, I get the nomination. Is that right?”

“Y-you’ve guessed it, Alvy.”

“That’s all I want to know,” declared the Honorable Alva; “when you say that much, you never go back on it. And you can go ahead and give the orders, Jethro. I have to see that the boys get the tickets. Cassandry’s got a head on her shoulders, and she kind of wants to be governor, too.” He got as far as the door, when he turned and bestowed upon Jethro a glance of undoubted tribute. “You’ve done a good many smart things,” said he, “but I guess you never beat this, and never will.”

“H-hain’t done it yet, Alvy,” answered Jethro, still looking out through the window curtains at the ever changing groups of gentlemen in the street. These groups had a never ceasing interest for Jethro Bass.

Mr. Wetherell didn’t talk, but had he been the most incurable of gossips he felt that he could have done no damage to this mysterious affair, whatever it was. In a certain event, Mr. Hopkins was promised the governorship: so much was plain. And it was also evident that Miss Cassandra Hopkins was in some way to be instrumental. William Wetherell did not like to ask Jethro, but he thought a little of sounding out Mr. Merrill, and then he came to the conclusion that it would be wiser for him not to know.

“Er — Will,” said Jethro, presently, “you know Heth Sutton — Speaker Heth Sutton?

“Yes.”

Er — wouldn’t mind askin’ him to step in and see me before the session — if he was comin’ by — would you?”

“Certainly not.”

“Er — if he was comin’ by,” said Jethro.

Mr. Wetherell found Mr. Speaker Sutton glued to a pillar in the rotunda below. He had some difficulty in breaking through the throng that pressed around him, and still more in attracting his attention, as Mr. Sutton took no manner of notice of the customary form of placing one’s hand under his elbow and pressing gently up. Summoning up his courage, Mr. Wetherell tried the second method of seizing him by the buttonhole. He paused in his harangue, one hand uplifted, and turned and glanced at the storekeeper abstractedly.

“Mr. Bass asked me to tell you to drop into Number 7,” said Wetherell, and added, remembering express instructions, “if you were going by.”

Wetherell had not anticipated the magical effect this casual message would have on Mr. Sutton, nor had he thought that so large and dignified a body would move so rapidly. Before the astonished gentleman who had penned him in could draw a breath, Mr. Sutton had reached the stairway and was mounting it with an agility that did him credit. Five minutes later Wetherell saw the Speaker descending again, the usually impressive quality of his face slightly modified by the twitching of a smile.

Thus the day passed, and the gentlemen of the Lovejoy and Duncan factions sat as tight as ever in their seats, and the Truro Franchise bill still slumbered undisturbed in Mr. Chauncey Weed’s committee.

At supper there was a decided festal air about the dining room of the Pelican House, the little band of agricultural gentlemen who wished to have a session not being patrons of that exclusive hotel. Many of the Solons had sent home for their wives, that they might do the utmost justice to the Honorable Alva’s hospitality. Even Jethro, as he ate his crackers and milk, had a new coat with bright brass buttons, and Cynthia, who wore a fresh gingham which Miss Sukey Kittredge of Coniston had helped to design, so far relented in deference to Jethro’s taste as to tie a red bow at her throat.

The middle table under the chandelier was the immediate firmament of Miss Cassandra Hopkins. And there, beside the future governor, sat the president of the “Northwestern” Railroad, Mr. Lovejoy, as the chief of the revolving satellites. People began to say that Mr. Lovejoy was hooked at last, now that he had lost his head in such an unaccountable fashion as to pay his court in public; and it was very generally known that he was to make one of the Honorable Alva’s immediate party at the performance of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Mr. Speaker Sutton, of course, would have to forego the pleasure of the theatre as a penalty of his high position. Mr. Merrill, who sat at Jethro’s table next to Cynthia that evening, did a great deal of joking with the Honorable Heth about having to preside over a woodchuck session, which the Speaker, so Mr. Wetherell thought, took in astonishingly good part, and seemed very willing to make the great sacrifice which his duty required of him.

After supper Mr. Wetherell took a seat in the rotunda. As an observer of human nature, he had begun to find a fascination in watching the group of politicians there. First of all he encountered Mr. Amos Cuthbert, his little coal-black eyes burning brightly, and he was looking very irritable indeed.

“So you’re going to the show, Amos?” remarked the storekeeper, with an attempt at cordiality.

To his bewilderment, Amos turned upon him fiercely.

“Who said I was going to the show?” he snapped.

“You yourself told me.”

“You’d ought to know whether I’m a-goin’ or not,” said Amos, and walked away.

While Mr.Wetherell sat meditating upon this inexplicable retort, a retired, scholarly looking gentleman with a white beard, who wore spectacles, came out of the door leading from the barber shop and quietly took a seat beside him. The storekeeper’s attention was next distracted by the sight of one who wandered slowly but ceaselessly from group to group, kicking up his heels behind, and halting always in the rear of the speakers. Needless to say that this was our friend Mr. Bijah Bixby, who was following out his celebrated tactics of “going along by when they were talkin’ sly.” Suddenly Mr. Bixby’s eye alighted on Mr. Wetherell, who by a stretch of imagination conceived that it expressed both astonishment and approval, although he was wholly at a loss to understand these sentiments. Mr. Bixby winked — Mr. Wetherell was sure of that. But to his surprise, Bijah did not pause in his rounds to greet him.

Mr. Wetherell was beginning to be decidedly uneasy, and was about to go upstairs, when Mr. Merrill came down the rotunda whistling, with his hands in his pockets. He stopped whistling when he spied the storekeeper, and approached him in his usual hearty manner.

“Well, well, this is fortunate,” said Mr. Merrill; “how are you, Duncan? I want you to know Mr. Wetherell. Wetherell writes that weekly letter for the Guardian you were speaking to me about last year. Will, this is Mr. Alexander Duncan, president of the ‘Central.’”

“How do you do, Mr. Wetherell,” said the scholarly gentleman with the spectacles, putting out his hand. “I’m glad to meet you, very glad, indeed. I read your letters with the greatest pleasure.”

Mr. Wetherell, as he took Mr. Duncan’s hand, had a variety of emotions which may be imagined, and need not be set down in particular.

“Funny thing,” Mr. Merrill continued, “I was looking for you, Duncan. It occurred to me that you would like to meet Mr. Wetherell. I was afraid you were in Boston.”

“I have just got back,” said Mr. Duncan.

“I wanted Wetherell to see your library. I was telling him about it.”

“I should be delighted to show it to him,” answered Mr. Duncan. That library, as is well known, was a special weakness of Mr. Duncan’s.

Poor William Wetherell, who was quite overwhelmed by the fact that the great Mr. Duncan had actually read his letters and liked them, could scarcely utter a sensible word. Almost before he realized what had happened he was following Mr. Duncan out of the Pelican House, when the storekeeper was mystified once more by a nudge and another wink from Mr. Bixby, conveying unbounded admiration.

“Why don’t you write a book, Mr. Wetherell?” inquired the railroad president, when they were crossing the park.

“I don’t think I could do it,” said Mr. Wetherell, modestly. Such incense was overpowering, and he immediately forgot Mr. Bixby.

“Yes, you can,” said Mr. Duncan, “only you don’t know it. Take your letters for a beginning. You can draw people well enough, when you try. There was your description of the lonely hill-farm on the spur — I shall always remember that: the gaunt farmer, toiling every minute between sun and sun; the thin, patient woman bending to a task that never changed or lightened; the children growing up and leaving one by one, some to the cities, some to the West, until the old people are left alone in the evening of life — to the sunsets and the storms. Of course you must write a book.”

Mr. Duncan quoted other letters, and William Wetherell thrilled. Poor man! he had had little enough incense in his time, and none at all from the great. They came to the big square house with the cornice which Cynthia had seen the day before, and walked across the lawn and through the open door. William Wetherell had a glimpse of a great drawing-room with high windows, out of which was wafted the sound of a piano and of youthful voices and laughter, and then he was in the library. The thought of one man owning all those books overpowered him. There they were, in stately rows, from the floor to the high ceiling, and a portable ladder with which to reach them.

Mr. Duncan, understanding perhaps something of the storekeeper’s embarrassment, proceeded to take down his treasures: first editions from the shelves, and folios and missals from drawers in a great iron safe in one corner and he laid them on the mahogany desk. It was the railroad president’s hobby, and could he find an appreciative guest, he was happy. It need scarcely be said that he found William Wetherell appreciative, and possessed of a knowledge of Shakesperiana and other matters that astonished his host as well as pleased him. For Wetherell had found his tongue at last.

After a while Mr. Duncan drew out his watch and gave a start.

“By George!” he exclaimed, “it’s after eight o’clock. I’ll have to ask you to excuse me to-night, Mr. Wetherell. I’d like to show you the rest of them — can’t you come around to-morrow afternoon?”

Mr. Wetherell, who had forgotten his own engagement and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” said he would be happy to come. And they went out together and began to walk toward the State House.

“It isn’t often I find a man who knows anything at all about these things,” continued Mr. Duncan, whose heart was quite won. “Why do you bury yourself in Coniston?”

“I went there from Boston for my health,” said the storekeeper.

“Jethro Bass lives there, doesn’t he?” said Duncan, with a laugh. “I suppose you don’t know anything about politics?”

“I know nothing at all,” said Wetherell, which was quite true. He had been in dreamland, but now the fact struck him again, with something of a shock, that this mild-mannered gentleman was one of those who had been paying certain legislators to remain in their seats. Wetherell thought of speaking to Mr. Duncan of his friendship with Jethro Bass, but the occasion passed.

“I wish to heaven I didn’t have to know anything about politics,” Mr. Duncan was saying; “they disgust me. There’s a little matter on now, about an extension of the Truro Railroad to Harwich, which wouldn’t interest you, but you can’t conceive what a nuisance it has been to watch that House day and night, as I’ve had to. It’s no joke to have that townsman of yours, Jethro Bass, opposed to you. I won’t say anything against him, for he may be a friend of yours, and I have to use him sometimes myself.” Mr. Duncan sighed. “It’s all very sordid and annoying. Now this evening, for instance, when we might have enjoyed ourselves with those books, I’ve got to go to the House, just because some backwoods farmers want to talk about woodchucks. I suppose it’s foolish,” said Mr. Duncan; “but Bass has tricked us so often that I’ve got into the habit of being watchful. I should have been here twenty minutes ago.”

By this time they had come to the entrance of the State House, and Wetherell followed Duncan in, to have a look at the woodchuck session himself. Several members hurried by and up the stairs, some of them in their Sunday black; and the lobby above seemed, even to the storekeeper’s unpractised eye, a trifle active for a woodchuck session. Mr. Duncan muttered something, and quickened his gait a little on the steps that led to the gallery. This place was almost empty. They went down to the rail, and the railroad president cast his eye over the House.

“Good God!” he said sharply, “there’s almost a quorum here.” He ran his eye over the members. “There is a quorum here.”

Mr. Duncan stood drumming nervously with his fingers on the rail, scanning the heads below. The members were scattered far and wide through the seats, like an army in open order, listening in silence to the droning voice of the clerk. Moths burned in the gas flames, and June-bugs hummed in at the high windows and tilted against the walls. Then Mr. Duncan’s finger nails whitened as his thin hands clutched the rail, and a sense of a pending event was upon Wetherell. Slowly he realized that he was listening to the Speaker’s deep voice.

“‘The Committee on Corporations, to whom was referred House Bill Number 109, entitled, An Act to extend the Truro Railroad to Harwich, having considered the same, report the same with the following resolution: Resolved, that the bill ought to pass. Chauncey Weed, for the Committee.’”

The Truro Franchise! The lights danced, and even a sudden weakness came upon the storekeeper. Jethro’s trick! The Duncan and Lovejoy representatives in the theatre, the adherents of the bill here! Wetherell saw Mr. Duncan beside him, a tense figure leaning on the rail, calling to some one below. A man darted up the centre, another up the side aisle. Then Mr. Duncan flashed at William Wetherell from his blue eyes such a look of anger as the storekeeper never forgot, and he, too, was gone. Tingling and perspiring, Wetherell leaned out over the railing as the Speaker rapped calmly for order. Hysteric laughter, mingled with hoarse cries, ran over the House, but the Honorable Heth Sutton did not even smile.

A dozen members were on their feet shouting to the chair. One was recognized, and that man Wetherell perceived with amazement to be Mr. Jameson of Wantage, adherent of Jethro’s — he who had moved to adjourn for “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”! A score of members crowded into the aisles, but the Speaker’s voice again rose above the tumult.

“The doorkeepers will close the doors! Mr. Jameson of Wantage moves that the report of the Committee be accepted, and on this motion a roll-call is ordered.”

The doorkeepers, who must have been inspired, had already slammed the doors in the faces of those seeking wildly to escape. The clerk already had the little, short-legged desk before him and was calling the roll with incredible rapidity. Bewildered and excited as Wetherell was, and knowing as little of parliamentary law as the gentleman who had proposed the woodchuck session, he began to form some sort of a notion of Jethro’s generalship, and he saw that the innocent rural members who belonged to Duncan’s and Lovejoy’s faction had tried to get away before the roll-call, destroy the quorum, and so adjourn the House. These, needless to say, were not parliamentarians, either. They had lacked a leader, they were stunned by the suddenness of the onslaught, and had not moved quickly enough. Like trapped animals, they wandered blindly about for a few moments, and then sank down anywhere. Each answered the roll-call sullenly, out of necessity, for every one of them was a marked man. Then Wetherell remembered the two members who had escaped, and Mr. Duncan, and fell to calculating how long it would take these to reach Foster’s Opera House, break into the middle of an act, and get out enough partisans to come back and kill the bill. Mr. Wetherell began to wish he could witness the scene there, too, but something held him here, shaking with excitement, listening to each name that the clerk called.

Would the people at the theatre get back in time?

Despite William Wetherell’s principles, whatever these may have been, he was so carried away that he found himself with his watch in his hand, counting off the minutes as the roll-call went on. Foster’s Opera House was some six squares distant, and by a liberal estimate Mr. Duncan and his advance guard ought to get back within twenty minutes of the time he left. Wetherell was not aware that people were coming into the gallery behind him; he was not aware that one sat at his elbow until a familiar voice spoke directly into his ear.

“Er — Will — held Duncan pretty tight — didn’t you? He’s a hard one to fool, too. Never suspected a mite, did he? Look out for your watch!”

Mr. Bixby seized it or it would have fallen. If his life had depended on it, William Wetherell could not have spoken a word to Mr. Bixby then.

“You done well, Will, sure enough,” that gentleman continued to whisper. “And Alvy’s gal done well, too — you understand. I guess she’s the only one that ever snarled up Al Lovejoy so that he didn’t know where he was at. But it took a fine, delicate touch for her job and yours, Will. Godfrey, this is the quickest roll-call I ever seed! They’ve got halfway through Truro County. That fellow can talk faster than a side-show ticket-seller at a circus.”

The clerk was, indeed, performing prodigies of pronunciation. When he reached Wells County, the last, Mr. Bixby so far lost his habitual sang froid as to hammer on the rail with his fist.

“If there hain’t a quorum, we’re done for,” he said. “How much time has gone away? Twenty minutes! Godfrey, some of ’em may break loose and git here in five minutes!”

“Break loose?” Wetherell exclaimed involuntarily.

Mr. Bixby screwed up his face.

“You understand. Accidents is liable to happen.”

Mr. Wetherell didn’t understand in the least, but just then the clerk reached the last name on the roll; an instant of absolute silence, save for the June-bugs, followed, while the assistant clerk ran over the figures deftly and handed them to Mr. Sutton, who leaned forward to receive them.

“One hundred and twelve gentlemen have voted in the affirmative and forty-eight in the negative, and the report of the Committee is accepted.”

“Ten more’n a quorum!” ejaculated Mr. Bixby, in a voice of thanksgiving, as the turmoil below began again. It seemed as though every man in the opposition was on his feet and yelling at the chair: some to adjourn; some to indefinitely postpone; some demanding roll-calls; others swearing at these — for a division vote would have opened the doors. Others tried to get out, and then ran back down the aisles and called fiercely on the Speaker to open the doors, and threatened him. But the Honorable Heth Sutton did not lose his head, and it may be doubted whether he ever appeared to better advantage than at that moment. He had a voice like one of the Clovelly bulls that fed in his own pastures in the valley, and by sheer bellowing he got silence, or something approaching it, — the protests dying down to a hum; had recognized another friend of the bill, and was putting another question.

“Mr. Gibbs of Wareham moves that the rules of the House be so far suspended that this bill be read a second and third time by its title, and be put upon its final passage at this time. And on this motion,” thundered Mr. Sutton, above the tide of rising voices, “the yeas and nays are called for. The doorkeepers will keep the doors shut.”

“Abbey of Ashburton.”

The nimble clerk had begun on the roll almost before the Speaker was through, and checked off the name. Bijah Bixby mopped his brow with a blue pocket-handkerchief.

“My God,” he said, “what a risk Jethro’s took! they can’t git through another roll-call. Jest look at Heth! Ain’t he carryin’ it magnificent? Hain’t as ruffled as I be. I’ve knowed him ever sence he wahn’t no higher’n that desk. Never would have b’en in politics if it hadn’t b’en for me. Funny thing, Will — you and I was so excited we never thought to look at the clock. Put up your watch. Godfrey, what’s this?”

The noise of many feet was heard behind them. Men and women were crowding breathlessly into the gallery.

“Didn’t take it long to git noised araound,” said Mr. Bixby. “Say, Will, they’re bound to have got at ’em in the thea'tre. Don’t see how they held ’em off, c-cussed if I do.”

The seconds ticked into minutes, the air became stifling, for now the front of the gallery was packed. Now, if ever, the fate of the Truro Franchise hung in the balance, and, perhaps, the rule of Jethro Bass. And now, in the distance, came a faint, indefinable stir, not yet to be identified by Wetherell’s ears as a sound, but registered somewhere in his brain as a warning note. Bijah Bixby, as sensitive as he, straightened up to listen, and then the whispering was hushed. The members below raised their heads, and some clutched the seats in front of them and looked up at the high windows. Only the Speaker sat like a wax statue of himself, and glanced neither to the right nor to the left.

“Harkness of Truro,” said the clerk.

“He’s almost to Wells County again,” whispered Bijah, excitedly. “I didn’t callate he could do it. Will?”

“Yes?”

“Will — you hear somethin’?”

A distant shout floated with the night breeze in at the windows; a man on the floor got to his feet and stood straining: a commotion was going on at the back of the gallery, and a voice was heard crying out: —

“For the love of God, let me through!”

Then Wetherell turned to see the crowd at the back parting a little, to see a desperate man in a gorgeous white necktie fighting his way toward the rail. He wore no hat, his collar was wilted, and his normally ashen face had turned white. And, strangest of all, clutched tightly in his hand was a pink ribbon.

“It’s Al Lovejoy,” said Bijah, laconically.

Unmindful of the awe-stricken stares he got from those about him when his identity became known, Mr. Lovejoy gained the rail and shoved aside a man who was actually making way for him. Leaning far out, he scanned the House with inarticulate rage while the roll-call went monotonously on. Some of the members looked up at him and laughed; others began to make frantic signs, indicative of helplessness; still others telegraphed him obvious advice about reënforcements which, if anything, increased his fury. Mr. Bixby was now fanning himself with the blue handkerchief.

“I hear ’em!” he said, “I hear ’em, Will!”

And he did. The unmistakable hum of the voices of many men and the sound of feet on stone flagging shook the silent night without. The clerk read off the last name on the roll.

“Tompkins of Ulster.”

His assistant lost no time now. A mistake would have been fatal, but he was an old hand. Unmindful of the rumble on the wooden stairs below, Mr. Sutton took the list with an admirable deliberation.

“One hundred and twelve gentleman have voted in the affirmative, forty-eight in the negative, the rules of the House are suspended, and” (the clerk having twice mumbled the title of the bill) “the question is: Shall the bill pass? As many as are of opinion that the bill pass will say Aye, contrary minded No.”

Feet were in the House corridor now, and voices rising there, and noises that must have been scuffling — yes, and beating of door panels. Almost every member was standing, and it seemed as if they were all shouting, — “personal privilege,” “fraud,” “trickery,” “open the doors.” Bijah was slowly squeezing the blood out of William Wetherell’s arm.

“The doorkeepers has the keys in their pockets!” Mr. Bixby had to shout, for once.

Even then the Speaker did not flinch. By a seeming miracle he got a semblance of order, recognized his man, and his great voice rang through the hall and drowned all other sounds.

“And on this question a roll-call is ordered. The doorkeepers will close the doors!

Then, as in reaction, the gallery trembled with a roar of laughter. But Mr. Sutton did not smile. The clerk scratched off the names with lightning rapidity, scarce waiting for the answers. Every man’s color was known, and it was against the rules to be present and fail to vote. The noise in the corridors grew louder, some one dealt a smashing kick on a panel, and Wetherell ventured to ask Mr. Bixby if he thought the doors would hold.

“They can break in all they’ve a mind to now,” he chuckled; “the Truro Franchise is safe.”

“What do you mean?” Wetherell demanded excitedly.

“If a member hain’t present when a question is put, he can’t git into a roll-call,” said Bijah.

The fact that the day was lost was evidently brought home to those below, for the strife subsided gradually, and finally ceased altogether. The whispers in the gallery died down, the spectators relaxed a little. Lovejoy alone remained tense, though he seated himself on a bench, and the hot anger in which he had come was now cooled into a vindictiveness that set the hard lines of his face even harder. He still clutched the ribbon. The last part of that famous roll-call was conducted so quietly that a stranger entering the House would have suspected nothing unusual. It was finished in absolute silence.

“One hundred and twelve gentlemen have voted in the affirmative, forty-eight in the negative, and the bill passes. The House will attend to the title of the bill.”

“An act to extend the Truro Railroad to Harwich,” said the clerk, glibly.

“Such will be the title of the bill unless otherwise ordered by the House,” said Mr. Speaker Sutton. “The doorkeepers will open the doors.”

Somebody moved to adjourn, the motion was carried, and thus ended what has gone down in history as the Woodchuck Session. Pandemonium reigned. One hundred and forty belated members fought their way in at the four entrances, and mingled with them were lobbyists of all sorts and conditions, residents and visitors to the capital, men and women to whom the drama of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was as nothing to that of the Truro Franchise Bill. It was a sight to look down upon. Fierce wrangles began in a score of places, isolated personal remarks rose above the din, but your New Englander rarely comes to blows; in other spots men with broad smiles seized others by the hands and shook them violently, while Mr. Speaker Sutton seemed in danger of suffocation by his friends. His enemies, for the moment, could get nowhere near him. On this scene Mr. Bijah Bixby gazed with pardonable pleasure.

“Guess there wahn’t a mite of trouble about the river towns,” he said, “I had ’em in my pocket. Will, let’s amble round to the thea'tre. We ought to git in two acts.”

William Wetherell went. There is no need to go into the psychology of the matter. It may have been numbness; it may have been temporary insanity caused by the excitement of the battle he had witnessed, for his brain was in a whirl; or Mr. Bixby may have hypnotized him. As they walked through the silent streets toward the Opera House, he listened perforce to Mr. Bixby’s comments upon some of the innumerable details which Jethro had planned and quietly carried out while sitting in the window of the Throne Room. A great light dawned on William Wetherell, but too late.

Jethro’s trusted lieutenants (of whom, needless to say, Mr. Bixby was one) had been commanded to notify such of their supporters whose fidelity and secrecy could be absolutely depended upon to attend the Woodchuck Session; and, further to guard against surprise, this order had not gone out until the last minute (hence Mr. Amos Cuthbert’s conduct). The seats of these members at the theatre had been filled by accommodating townspeople and visitors. Forestalling a possible vote on the morrow to recall and reconsider, there remained some sixty members whose loyalty was unquestioned, but whose reputation for discretion was not of the best. So much for the parliamentary side of the affair, which was a revelation of generalship and organization to William Wetherell. By the time he had grasped it they were come in view of the lights of Foster’s Opera House, and they perceived, among a sprinkling of idlers, a conspicuous and meditative gentleman leaning against a pillar. He was ludicrously tall and ludicrously thin, his hands were in his trousers pockets, and the skirts of his Sunday broadcloth coat hung down behind him awry. One long foot was crossed over the other and rested on the point of the toe, and his head was tilted to one side. He had, on the whole, the appearance of a rather mournful stork. Mr. Bixby approached him gravely, seized him by the lower shoulder, and tilted him down until it was possible to speak into his ear. The gentleman apparently did not resent this, although he seemed in imminent danger of being upset.

“How be you, Peleg? Er — you know Will?”

“No,” said the gentleman.

Mr. Bixby seized Mr. Wetherell under the elbow, and addressed himself to the storekeeper’s ear.

“Will, I want you to shake hands with Senator Peleg Hartington, of Brampton. This is Will Wetherell, Peleg, — from Coniston — you understand.”

The senator took one hand from his pocket.

“How be you?” he said. Mr. Bixby was once more pulling down on his shoulder.

“H-haow was it here?” he demanded.

“Almighty funny,” answered Senator Hartington, sadly, and waved at the lobby. “There wahn’t standin’ room in the place.”

“Jethro Bass Republican Club come and packed the entrance,” explained Mr. Bixby with a wink. “You understand, Will? Go on, Peleg.”

“Sidewalk and street, too,” continued the Mr. Hartington, slowly. “First come along Ball of Towles, hollerin’ like blazes. They crumpled him all up and lost him. Next come old man Duncan himself.”

“Will kep’ Duncan,” Mr. Bixby interjected.

“That was wholly an accident,” exclaimed Mr. Wetherell, angrily.

“Will wahn’t born in the country,” said Mr. Bixby.

Mr. Hartington bestowed on the storekeeper a mournful look, and continued: —

“Never seed Duncan sweatin’ before. He didn’t seem to grasp why the boys was there.”

“Didn’t seem to understand,” put in Mr. Bixby, sympathetically.

“‘For God’s sake, gentlemen,’ says he, ‘let me in! The Truro Bill!’ ‘The Truro Bill hain’t in the thea'tre, Mr. Duncan,’ says Dan Everett. Cussed if I didn’t come near laughin’. ‘That’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Mr. Duncan,’ says Dan. ‘You’re a dam fool,’ says Duncan. I didn’t know he was profane. ‘Make room for Mr. Duncan,’ says Dan, ‘he wants to see the show.’ ‘I’m a-goin’ to see you in jail for this, Everett,’ says Duncan. They let him push in about half a rod, and they swallowed him. He was makin’ such a noise that they had to close the doors of the thea'tre — so’s not to disturb the play-actors.”

“You understand,” said Mr.Bixby to Wetherell. Whereupon he gave another shake to Mr. Hartington, who had relapsed into a sort of funereal meditation.

“Well,” resumed that personage, “there was some more come, hollerin’ about the Truro Bill. Not many. Guess they’ll all have to git their wimmen-folks to press their clothes to-morrow. Then Duncan wanted to git out again, but ’twan’t ex'actly convenient. Callated he was suffocatin’ — seemed to need air. Little mite limp when he broke loose, Duncan was.”

The Honorable Peleg stopped again, as if he were overcome by the recollection of Mr. Duncan’s plight.

“Er — er — Peleg!”

Mr. Hartington started.

“What’d they do? — what’d they do?”

“Do?”

“How’d they git notice to ’em?”

“Oh,” said Mr. Hartington, “cussed if that wahn’t funny. Let’s see, where was I? After a while they went over t’other side of the street, talkin’ sly, waitin’ for the act to end. But goldarned if it ever did end.”

For once Mr. Bixby didn’t seem to understand.

“D-didn’t end?”

“No,” explained Mr. Hartington; “seems they hitched a kind of nigger minstrel show right on to it — banjos and thingumajigs in front of the curtain while they was changin’ scenes, and they hitched the second act right on to that. Nobody come out of the thea'ter at all. Funny notion, wahn’t it?”

Mr. Bixby’s face took on a look of extreme cunning. He smiled broadly and poked Mr. Wetherell in an extremely sensitive portion of his ribs. On such occasions the nasal quality of Bijah’s voice seemed to grow.

“You see?” he said.

“Know that little man, Gibbs, don’t ye?” inquired Mr. Hartington.

“Airley Gibbs, hain’t it? Runs a livery business daown to Rutgers, on Lovejoy’s railroad,” replied Mr. Bixby, promptly. “I know him. Knew old man Gibbs well’s I do you. Mean cuss.”

“This Airley’s smart — wahn’t quite smart enough, though. His bright idea come a little mite late. Hunted up old Christy, got the key to his law office right here in the Duncan Block, went up through the skylight, clumb down to the roof of Randall’s store next door, shinned up the lightnin’ rod on t’other side, and stuck his head plumb into the Opery House window.”

“I want to know!” ejaculated Mr. Bixby.

“Somethin’ terrible pathetic was goin’ on on the stage,” resumed Mr. Hartington, “the folks didn’t see him at first, — they was all cryin’ and everythin’ was still, but Airley wahn’t affected. As quick as he got his breath he hollered right out loud’s he could: ‘The Truro Bill’s up in the House, boys. We’re skun if you don’t git thar quick.’ Then they tell me the lightnin’ rod give way; anyhow, he came down on Randall’s gravel roof considerable hard, I take it.”

Mr. Hartington, apparently, had an aggravating way of falling into mournful revery and of forgetting his subject. Mr. Bixby was forced to jog him again.

“Yes, they did,” he said, “they did. They come out like the thea'ter was afire. There was some delay in gettin’ to the street, but not much — not much. All the Republican Clubs in the state couldn’t have held ’em then, and the profanity they used wahn’t especially edifyin’.”

“Peleg’s a deacon — you understand,” said Mr. Bixby. “Say, Peleg, where was Al Lovejoy?”

“Lovejoy come along with the first of ’em. Must have hurried some — they tell me he was settin’ way down in front alongside of Alvy Hopkins’s gal, and when Airley hollered out she screeched and clutched on to Al, and Al said somethin’ he hadn’t ought to and tore off one of them pink gew-gaws she was covered with. He was the maddest man I ever see. Some of the club was crowded inside, behind the seats, standin’ up to see the show. Al was so anxious to git through he hit Si Dudley in the mouth — injured him some, I guess. Pity, wahn’t it?”

“Si hain’t in politics, you understand,” said Mr. Bixby. “Callate Si paid to git in there, didn’t he, Peleg?”

“Callate he did,” assented Senator Hartington.

A long and painful pause followed. There seemed, indeed, nothing more to be said. The sound of applause floated out of the Opera House doors, around which the remaining loiterers were clustered.

“Goin’ in, be you, Peleg?” inquired Mr. Bixby.

Mr. Hartington shook his head.

“Will and me had a notion to see somethin’ of the show,” said Mr. Bixby, almost apologetically. “I kep’ my ticket.”

“Well,” said Mr. Hartington, reflectively, “I guess you’ll find some of the show left. That hain’t b’en hurt much, so far as I can ascertain.”

 
 

The next afternoon, when Mr. Isaac D. Worthington happened to be sitting alone in the office of the Truro Railroad at the capital, there came a knock at the door, and Mr. Bijah Bixby entered. Now, incredible as it may seem, Mr. Worthington did not know Mr. Bixby — or rather, did not remember him. Mr. Worthington had not had at that time much of an experience in politics, and he did not possess a very good memory for faces.

Mr. Bixby, who had, as we know, a confidential and winning manner, seated himself in a chair very close to Mr. Worthington — somewhat to that gentleman’s alarm.

“How be you?” said Bijah, “I-I’ve got a little bill here — you understand.”

Mr. Worthington didn’t understand, and he drew his chair away from Mr. Bixby’s.

“I don’t know anything about it, sir,” answered the president of the Truro Railroad, indignantly; “this is neither the manner nor the place to present a bill. I don’t want to see it.”

Mr. Bixby moved his chair up again. “Callate you will want to see this bill, Mr. Worthington,” he insisted, not at all abashed. “Jethro Bass sent it — you understand — it’s engrossed.”

Whereupon Mr. Bixby drew from his capacious pocket a roll, tied with white ribbon, and pressed it into Mr. Worthington’s hands. It was the Truro Franchise Bill.

It is safe to say that Mr. Worthington understood.


 

 

SKETCHES FROM THE BORDERLAND

 
 

 

I

THE BLUE WALL

I WAS born under the Blue Ridge, and under that side which is blue in the evening light, in a wild land of game and forest and rushing waters. There, on the borders of a creek that runs into the Yadkin River, in a cabin that was chinked with red mud, I came into the world a subject of King George the Third, in that part of his realm known as the province of North Carolina.

The cabin reeked of corn-pone and bacon, and the odor of pelts. It had two shakedowns, on one of which I slept under a bearskin. A rough stone chimney was reared outside, and the fireplace was as long as my father was tall. There was a crane in it, and a bake kettle; and over it great buckhorns held my father’s rifle when it was not in use. On other horns hung jerked bear’s meat and venison hams, and gourds for drinking cups, and bags of seed, and my father’s best hunting shirt; also, in a neglected corner, several articles of woman’s attire from pegs. These once belonged to my mother. Among them was a gown of silk, of a fine, faded pattern, over which I was wont to speculate. The women at the Cross-Roads, twelve miles away, were dressed in coarse butternut wool and huge sunbonnets. But when I questioned my father on these matters he would give me no answers.

My father was — how shall I say what he was? To this day I can only surmise many things of him. He was a Scotchman born, and I know now that he had a slight Scotch accent. At the time of which I write, my early childhood, he was a frontiersman and hunter. I can see him now, with his hunting shirt and leggings and moccasins; his powder horn, engraved with wondrous scenes; his bullet pouch and tomahawk and hunting knife. He was a tall, lean man with a strange, sad face. And he talked little save when he drank too many “horns,” as they were called in that country. These lapses of my father’s were a perpetual source of wonder to me, — and, I must say, of delight. They occurred only when a passing traveller who hit his fancy chanced that way, or, what was almost as rare, a neighbor. Many a winter night I have lain awake under the skins, listening to a flow of language that held me spellbound, though I understood scarce a word of it.

“Virtuous and vicious every man must be,
Few in the extreme, but all in a degree.”

The chance neighbor or traveller was no less struck with wonder. And many the time have I heard the query, at the Cross-Roads and elsewhere, “Whar Alec Trimble got his larnin’?”

The truth is, my father was an object of suspicion to the frontiersmen. Even as a child I knew this, and resented it. He had brought me up in solitude, and I was old for my age, learned in some things far beyond my years, and ignorant of others I should have known. I loved the man passionately. In the long winter evenings, when the howl of wolves and “painters” rose as the wind lulled, he taught me to read from the Bible and the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” I can see his long, slim fingers on the page. They seemed but ill fitted for the life he led.

The love of rhythmic language was somehow born into me, and many’s the time I have held watch in the cabin day and night while my father was away on his hunts, spelling out the verses that have since become part of my life.

As I grew older I went with him into the mountains, often on his back; and spent the nights in open camp with my little moccasins drying at the blaze. So I learned to skin a bear, and fleece off the fat for oil with my hunting knife; and cure a deerskin and follow a trail. At seven I even shot the long rifle, with a rest. I learned to endure cold and hunger and fatigue and to walk in silence over the mountains, my father never saying a word for days at a spell. And often, when he opened his mouth, it would be to recite a verse of Pope’s in a way that moved me strangely.

In the hot days of summer, over against the dark forest, the bright green of our little patch of Indian corn rippled in the wind. And towards night I would often sit watching the deep blue of the mountain wall and dream of the mysteries of the land that lay beyond. And by chance, one evening as I sat thus, my father reading in the twilight, a man stood before us. So silently had he come up the path leading from the brook that we had not heard him. Presently my father looked up from his book, but did not rise. As for me, I had been staring for some time in astonishment, for he was a better-looking man than I had ever seen. He wore a deer-skin hunting shirt dyed black, but, in place of a coonskin cap with the tail hanging down, a hat. His long rifle rested on the ground, and he held a roan horse by the bridle.

“Howdy, neighbor?” said he.

I recall a fear that my father would not fancy him. In such cases he would give a stranger food, and leave him to himself. My father’s whims were past understanding. But he got up.

“Good evening,” said he.

The visitor looked a little surprised, as I had seen many do, at my father’s accent.

“Neighbor,” said he, “kin you keep me over night?”

“Come in,” said my father.

We sat down to our supper of corn and beans and venison, of all of which our guest ate sparingly. He, too, was a silent man, and scarcely a word was spoken during the meal. Several times he looked at me with such a kindly expression in his blue eyes, a trace of a smile around his broad mouth, that I wished he might stay with us always. But once, when my father said something about Indians, the eyes grew hard as flint.

After supper the two men sat on the log step, while I set about the task of skinning the deer my father had shot that day. Presently I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder.

“What’s your name, lad?” he said.

I told him Davy.

“Davy, I’ll larn ye a trick worth a little time,” said he, whipping out a knife. In a trice the red carcass hung between the forked stakes, while I stood with my mouth open. He turned to me and laughed gently.

“Some day you’ll cross the mountains and skin twenty of an evening,” he said. “Ye’ll make a woodsman sure. You’ve got the eye, and the hand.”

This little piece of praise from him made me hot all over.

“Game rare?” said he to my father.

“None sae good, now,” said my father.

“I reckon not. My cabin’s on Beaver Creek some forty mile above, and game’s going there, too.”

“Settlements,” said my father. But presently, after a few whiffs of his pipe, he added, “I hear fine things of this land across the mountains, that the Indians call the Dark and Bluidy Ground.”

“And well named,” said the stranger.

“But a brave country,” said my father, “and all tramped down with game. I hear that Daniel Boone and others have gone into it and come back with marvellous tales. D’ye ken him?”

The ruddy face of the stranger grew ruddier still.

“My name’s Boone,” he said.

My father rose without a word, went into the cabin, and immediately reappeared with a flask and a couple of gourds, one of which he handed to our visitor.

“Tell me aboot it,” said he.

That was the fairy tale of my childhood. Far into the night I lay on the dewy grass listening to Mr. Boone’s talk. I recall but little of it, being so small a lad, but I crept closer and closer until I could touch this superior being who had been beyond the Wall. Marco Polo was no greater wonder to the Venetians than Boone to me.

He spoke of leaving wife and children, and setting out for the Unknown with other woodsmen. He told how, crossing over our blue western wall into a valley beyond, they found a “Warrior’s Path” through a gap across another range, and so down into the fairest of promised lands. And as he talked he lost himself in the tale of it, and the very quality of his voice changed. He told of a land of wooded hill and pleasant vale, of clear water running over limestone down to the great river beyond, the Ohio — a land of glades, the fields of which were pied with flowers of wondrous beauty, where roamed the buffalo in countless thousands, where elk and deer abounded, and turkeys and feathered game, and bear in the tall brakes of cane. And he told how, when the others had left him, he stayed for three months roaming the hills alone with Nature herself.

“And you are going back?” asked my father, presently.

“Aye, that I am. There are many families on the Yadkin below going, too. And you, neighbor, you might come with us. Davy is the boy that would thrive in that country.”

My father did not answer. It was late indeed when we lay down to rest, and the night I spent between waking and dreaming of the wonderland beyond the mountains, hoping against hope that my father would go. The sun was just flooding the slopes when our guest arose to leave, and my father bade him God-speed with a heartiness that was rare to him

He mounted his roan and rode away down the slope, waving his hand to us. And it was with a heavy heart that I went to feed our white mare, whinnying for food in the lean-to.


 

II

WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS

AND so our life went on the same, but yet not the same. For I had the Land of Promise to dream of, and as I went about my tasks I conjured up in my mind pictures of its beauty. Bear hunting with my father, and an occasional trip on the white mare twelve miles to the Cross-Roads for salt and other necessaries, were the only diversions to break the routine of my days. But at the Cross-Roads, too, they were talking of Kaintuckee. For so the Land was called, the Dark and Bloody Ground.

The next year came a war on the Frontier, waged by Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia. Of this likewise I heard at the Cross-Roads, though few from our part seemed to have gone to it. And I heard there, for rumors spread over mountains, that men blazing in the new land were in danger, and that my hero, Boone, was gone out to save them. But in the autumn came tidings of a great battle far to the north, and of the Indians suing for peace.

The next year came more tidings of a sort I did not understand. I remember once bringing back from the Cross-Roads a crumpled newspaper, which my father read again and again, and then folded up and put in his pocket. He said nothing to me of these things. But the next time I went to the Cross-Roads, the woman asked me: —

“Is your Pa for the Congress?”

“What’s that?” said I.

“I reckon he ain’t,” said the woman, tartly.

I recall her dimly, a slattern creature in a loose gown and bare feet, wife of the storekeeper and wagoner, with a swarm of urchins about her.

There was no money in that country, and the store took our pelts in exchange for what we needed from civilization. Once a month would I load these pelts on the white mare, and make the journey by the path down the creek. At times I met other settlers there, some of them not long from Ireland, with the brogue still in their mouths. And again, I saw the wagoner with his great canvas-covered wagon standing at the door, ready to start for the town sixty miles away. ’Twas he brought the news of this latest war.

One day I was surprised to see the wagoner riding up the path to our cabin, crying out for my father, for he was a violent man. And a violent scene followed. They remained for a long time within the house, and when they came out the wagoner’s face was red with rage. My father, too, was angry, but no more talkative than usual.

“Ye say ye’ll not help the Congress?” shouted the wagoner.

“I’ll not,” said my father.

“Ye’ll live to rue this day, Alec Trimble,” cried the man. “Ye may think ye’re too fine for the likes of us, but there’s them in the settlement that knows about ye.”

With that he flung himself on his horse, and rode away. But the next time I went to the Cross-Roads the woman drove me away with curses, and called me an aristocrat. Wearily I tramped back the dozen miles up the creek, beside the mare, carrying my pelts with me; stumbling on the stones, and scratched by the dry briers. For it was autumn, the woods all red and yellow against the green of the pines. I sat down beside the old beaver dam to gather courage to tell my father. But he only smiled bitterly when he heard it. Nor would he tell me what the word aristocrat meant.

That winter we spent without bacon, and our salt gave out at Christmas. It was at this season, if I remember rightly, that we had another visitor. He arrived about nightfall one gray day, his horse jaded and cut, and he was dressed all in wool, with a great coat wrapped about him, and high boots. This made me stare at him. When my father drew back the bolt of the door he, too, stared and fell back a step.

“Come in,” said he.

“D’ye ken me, Alec?” said the man.

He was a tall, spare man like my father, a Scotchman, but his hair was in a cue.

“Come in, Duncan,” said my father, quietly. “Davy, run out for wood.”

Loath as I was to go, I obeyed. As I came back dragging a log behind me I heard them in argument, and in their talk there was much about the Congress, and a woman named Flora Macdonald, and a British fleet sailing southward.

And that was the end of it. The man left with scant ceremony, I guiding him down the creek to the main trail.

As the spring drew on I had had a feeling that we could not live thus forever, with no market for our pelts. And one day my father said to me abruptly: —

“Davy, we’ll be travelling.”

“Where?” I asked.

“Ye’ll ken soon enough,” said he. “We’ll go at crack o’ day.”

We went away in the wild dawn, leaving the cabin desolate. We loaded the white mare with the pelts, and my father wore a woollen suit like that of our Scotch visitor, which I had never seen before. He had clubbed his hair. But, strangest of all, he carried in a small parcel the silk gown that had been my mother’s. We had scant other baggage.

We crossed the Yadkin at a ford, and climbing the hills to the south of it we went down over stony traces, down and down, through rain and sun; stopping at rude cabins or taverns, until we came into the valley of another river. This I know now was the Catawba. My memories of that ride are as misty as the spring weather in the mountains. But presently the country began to open up into broad fields, some of these abandoned to pines. And at last, splashing through the stiff red clay that was up to the mare’s fetlocks, we came to a place called Charlotte Town.

What a day that was for me! And how I gaped at the houses there, finer than any I had ever dreamed of! That was my first sight of a town. And how I listened open-mouthed to the gentlemen at the tavern! One I recall had a negro servant to wait on him, and was the principal spokesman. He, too, was talking of war. The Cherokees had risen on the western border, and he was telling of the massacre of a settlement, in no mild language.

“Sirs,” he cried, “the British have stirred them to this. Will you sit here while women and children are scalped, and those devils” (he called them worse names) “Stuart and Cameron go unpunished?”

My father got up from the corner where he sat, and stood beside the man.

“I ken Alec Cameron,” said he.

The man looked at him with amazement.

“Ay?” said he, “I shouldn’t think you’d own it. Damn him,” he cried, “if we catch him we’ll skin him alive.”

“I ken Cameron,” my father repeated, “and I’ll gang with you to skin him alive.”

The man seized his hand and wrung it.

“But first I must be in Charlestown,” said my father.

The next morning we sold our pelts. And though the mare was tired, we pushed southward, I behind the saddle. I had much to think about, wondering what was to become of me while my father went to skin Cameron. I had not the least doubt that he would do it. The world is a story-book to a lad of nine, and the thought of Charlestown filled me with a delight unspeakable. Perchance he would leave me in Charlestown.


 

III

CHARLESTOWN

DOWN and down we went, crossing great rivers by ford and ferry, until the hills flattened themselves and the country became a long stretch of level, broken by the forests only; and I saw many things I had not thought were on the earth. Once in a while I caught glimpses of great red houses, with stately pillars, among the trees. They put me in mind of the palaces in Bunyan, their windows all golden in the morning sun; and as we jogged ahead, I pondered on the delights within them. I saw gangs of negroes plodding to work along the road, an overseer riding behind them with his gun on his back; and there were whole cotton fields in these domains blazing in primrose flower, — a new plant here, so my father said. He was willing to talk on such subjects. But on others, and especially our errand to Charlestown, he would say nothing. And I knew better than to press him.

One day, as we were crossing a dike between rice swamps spread with delicate green, I saw the white tops of wagons flashing in the sun at the far end of it. We caught up with them, the wagoners cracking their whips and swearing at the straining horses. And lo! in front of the wagons was an army, — at least my boyish mind magnified it to such. Men clad in homespun, perspiring and spattered with mud, were straggling along the road by fours, laughing and joking together. The officers rode, and many of these had blue coats and buff waistcoats, — some the worse for wear. My father was pushing the white mare into the ditch to ride by, when one hailed him.

“Hullo, my man,” said he, “are you a friend to Congress?”

“I’m off to Charlestown to leave the lad,” said my father, “and then to fight the Cherokees.”

“Good,” said the other. And then, “Where are you from?”

“Upper Yadkin,” answered my father. “And you?”

The officer, who was a young man, looked surprised. But then he laughed pleasantly.

“We’re North Carolina troops, going to join Lee in Charlestown,” said he. “The British are sending a fleet and regiments against it.”

“Oh, aye,” said my father, and would have passed on. But he was made to go before the Colonel, who plied him with many questions. Then he gave us a paper and dismissed us.

We pursued our journey through the heat that shimmered up from the road, pausing now and again in the shade of a wayside tree. At times I thought I could bear the sun no longer. But towards four o’clock of that day a great bank of yellow cloud rolled up, darkening the earth save for a queer saffron light that stained everything, and made our very faces yellow. And then a wind burst out of the east with a high mournful note, as from a great flute afar, filling the air with leaves and branches of trees. But it bore, too, a savor that was new to me, — a salt savor, deep and fresh, that I drew down into my lungs. And I knew that we were near the ocean. Then came the rain, in great billows, as though the ocean itself were upon us.

The next day we crossed a ferry on the Ashley River, and rode down the sand of Charlestown neck. And my most vivid remembrance is of the great trunks towering half a hundred feet in the air, with a tassel of leaves at the top, which my father said were palmettos. Something lay heavy on his mind. For I had grown to know his moods by a sort of silent understanding. And when the roofs and spires of the town shone over the foliage in the afternoon sun, I felt him give a sigh.

And how shall I describe the splendor of that city? The sandy streets, and the gardens of flower and shade, heavy with the plant odors; and the great houses with their galleries and porticos set in the midst of the gardens, that I remember staring at wistfully. But before long we came to a barricade fixed across the street, and then to another. And presently, in an open space near a large building, was a company of soldiers at drill.

It did not strike me as strange then that my father asked his way of no man, but went to a little ordinary in a humbler part of the town. After a modest meal in a corner of the public room, we went out for a stroll. Then, from the wharves, I saw the bay dotted with islands, their white sand sparkling in the evening light, and fringed with strange trees, and beyond, of a deepening blue, the ocean. And nearer, — greatest of all delights to me, — riding on the swell was a fleet of ships. My father gazed at them long and silently, his palm over his eyes.

“Men-o’-war from the old country, lad,” he said after a while. “They’re a brave sight.”

“And why are they here?” I asked.

“They’ve come to fight,” said he, “and take the town again for the King.”

It was twilight when we turned to go, and then I saw that many of the warehouses along the wharves were heaps of ruins. My father said this was that the town might be the better defended.

We bent our way towards one of the sandy streets where the great houses were. And to my surprise we turned in at a gate, and up a path leading to the high steps of one of these. Under the high portico the door was open, but the house within was dark. My father paused, and the hand he held to mine trembled. Then he stepped across the threshold, and raising the big polished knocker that hung on the panel, let it drop.


 

IV

JOHN TEMPLE’S HOUSE

Alec Trimble proceeds to leave David with John Temple, apparently a relation of some sort, in order pursue his object of “scalping” Cameron and the Cherokees. Temple, a loyalist, lives alone in the house, save for his slave, “Breed.” Temple tells David: “Pay attention to what I tell you. And mark! if you disobey me, you will be well whipped. You have this house and garden to play in, but you are by no means to go out at the front of the house. And whatever you may see or hear, you are to tell no one.”
 

THEY were lonely days after that for a boy used to activity, and only the damp garden paths and lawns to run on. The creek at the back of the garden was stagnant and marshy when the water fell, and overhung by leafy boughs. On each side of the garden was a high brick wall. And though I was often tempted to climb it, I felt that disobedience was disloyalty to my father. Then there was the great house, dark and lonely in its magnificence, over which I roamed until I knew every corner of it.

I was most interested of all in the pictures of men and women in quaint, old-time costumes, and I used during the great heat of the day to sit in the drawing-room and study these, and wonder who they were and when they lived. Another amusement I had was to climb into the deep windows and peer through the blinds across the front garden into the street. Sometimes men stopped and talked loudly there, and again a rattle of drums would send me running to see the soldiers. I recall that I had a poor enough notion of what the fighting was all about. And no wonder. But I remember chiefly my insatiable longing to escape from this prison, as the great house soon became for me. And I yearned with a yearning I cannot express for our cabin in the hills and the old life there.

I caught glimpses of the master on occasions only, and then I avoided him; for I knew he had no wish to see me. Sometimes he would be seated in the gallery, tapping his foot on the floor, and sometimes pacing the garden walks with his hands opening and shutting. And one night I awoke with a start, and lay for a while listening until I heard something like a splash, and the scraping of the bottom-boards of a boat. Irresistibly I jumped out of bed, and running to the gallery rail I saw two dark figures moving among the leaves below.

I lay long awake, until presently the dawn broke, and I arose and dressed and began to wander about the house. No Breed was sweeping the gallery, nor was there any sign of the master. The house was as still as a tomb, and the echoes of my footsteps rolled through the halls and chambers. At last, prompted by curiosity and fear, I sought the kitchen, where I had often sat with Breed as he cooked the master’s dinner. This was at the bottom and end of the house. The great fire there was cold, and the pots and pans hung neatly on their hooks, untouched that day. I was running through the wet garden, glad to be out in the light, when a sound stopped me.

It was a dull roar from the direction of the bay. Almost instantly came another, and another, and then several broke together. And I knew that the battle had begun. Forgetting for the moment my loneliness, I ran into the house and up the stairs two at a time, and up the ladder into the cupola, where I flung open the casement and leaned out.

There was the battle indeed, — a sight so vivid to me that I can call it again before me when I will. The toy men-o’-war, with sails set, ranged in front of the fort. They looked at my distance to be pressed against it. White puffs, like cotton balls, would dart one after another from a ship’s side, melt into a cloud, float over her spars, and hide her from my view. And then presently the roar would reach me, and answering puffs along the line of the fort. And I could see the mortar shells go up and up, leaving a scorched trail behind, curve in a great circle, and fall upon the little garrison.

As the sun got up in the heavens and the wind fell, the cupola became a bake-oven. But I scarcely felt the heat. My whole soul was out in the bay, pent up with the men in the fort. How long could they hold out? Why were they not all killed by the shot that fell like hail among them? Yet puff after puff sprang from their guns, and the sound of it was like a storm coming nearer in the heat. But at noon it seemed to me as though some of the ships were sailing. It was true. Slowly they drew away from the others, and presently I thought they had stopped again. Surely two of them were stuck together, then three were fast on a shoal. Boats, like black bugs in the water, came and went between them and the others. After a long time the two that were together got apart and away. But the third stayed there, immovable, helpless.

Throughout the afternoon the fight, kept on, the little black boats coming and going. I saw a mast totter and fall on one of the ships. I saw the flag shot away from the fort, and reappear again. But now the puffs came from her walls slowly and more slowly, so that my heart sank with the setting sun. And presently it grew too dark to see aught save the red flashes. Slowly, reluctantly, the noise died down until at last a great silence reigned, broken only now and again by voices in the streets below me. It was not until then that I realized that I had been all day without food — that I was alone in the dark of a great house.

I had never known fear in the woods at night. But now I trembled as I felt my way down the ladder, and groped and stumbled through the black attic for the stairs. Every noise I made seemed louder an hundred fold than the battle had been, and when I barked my shins, the pain was sharper than a knife. Below, on the big stairway, the echo of my footsteps sounded again from the empty rooms, so that I was taken with a panic and fled downward, sliding and falling, until I reached the hall. Frantically as I tried, I could not unfasten the bolts on the front door. And so, running into the drawing-room, I pried open the window, and sat me down in the embrasure to think, and to try to quiet the thumpings of my heart.

By degrees I succeeded. The still air of the night and the heavy, damp odors of the foliage helped me. And I tried to think what was right for me to do. I had promised the master not to leave the place, and that promise seemed in pledge to my father. Surely the master would come back — or Breed. They would not leave me here alone without food much longer.

From these thoughts I fell to thinking of my father on the frontier fighting the Cherokees. And so I dozed away to dream of him. I remember that he was skinning Cameron, — I had often pictured it, — and Cameron yelling, when I was awakened with a shock by a great noise.

“Ho there, within!”

My first impulse was to answer. But fear kept me still.

“Batter down the door,” some one shouted.

Then came a straining and splitting of wood, and with a crash the door gave way.


 

V

IN SIGHT OF THE BLUE WALL ONCE MORE

David is discovered by patriots looking for John Temple, who fled the previous night. They take David to live with Temple’s wife at Temple Bow, a plantation outside Charleston. Mrs. Temple is a self-absorbed woman and as uncaring a guardian as her husband. Eventually David learns of his father's death at the hands of the Cherokees, and resolves that “I would no longer tarry under Mrs. Temple's roof, though the world without were a sea or a desert. The one resolution to escape rose stronger and stronger within me, and I determined neither to eat nor sleep until I had got away.”
 

THAT night I climbed carefully out of the window, and so down the corner of the house to the ground. It was starlight, and a waning moon hung in the sky. I made my way through the drive between the black shadows of the forest, and came at length to the big gates at the entrance, locked for the night. A strange thought of their futility struck me as I climbed the rail fence beside them, and pushed on into the main road, the mud sucking under my shoes as I went. I must have walked two hours or more before I came to the mire of a cross-road, and there I stood in a quandary of doubt as to which side led to Charlestown.

As I lingered a light began to tremble in the heavens. A cock crew in the distance. I sat down on a fallen log to rest. But presently, as the light grew, I heard shouts which drew nearer and deeper and brought me to my feet in an uncertainty of expectation. Next came the rattling of chains, the scramble of hoofs in the mire, and here was a wagon with a big canvas cover. Beside the straining horses was a great, burly man with a red beard, cracking his long whip, and calling to the horses in a strange tongue. He stopped still beside his panting animals when he saw me, his high boots sunk in the mud.

“Gut morning, poy,” he said, wiping his red face with his sleeve; “what you do here?”

“I am going to Charlestown,” I answered.

“Ach!” he cried, “dot is pad. Mein poy, he run avay. You are ein gut poy, I know. I vill pay ein gut price to help me vit mein wagon — ja.”

“Where are you going?” I demanded, with a sudden wavering.

“Up country — pack country. You know der Proad River — yes?”

No, I did not. But a longing came upon me for the old backwoods life, with its freedom and self-reliance, and a hatred for this steaming country of heat and violent storms.

And so I went with him, and spent the time on the whole happily with this Dutchman, whose name was Hans Koppel. He talked merrily save when he spoke of the war against England, and then contemptuously, for he was a bitter English partisan. And in contrast to this he would dwell for hours on a king he called Friedrich der Grosse, and a war he waged that was a war; and how this mighty king had fought a mighty queen at Rossbach and Leuthen in his own country, — battles that were battles.

“And you were there, Hans?” I asked him once.

Ja,” he said, “but I did not stay.”

“You ran away?”

Ja,” Hans would answer, laughing, “run avay. I love peace, Tavid. Dot is vy I come here, and now,” bitterly, “and now ve haf var again once.”

I would say nothing; but I must have looked my disapproval, for he went on to explain that in Saxe-Gotha, where he was born, men were made to fight whether they would or no; and they were stolen from their wives at night by soldiers of the great king, or lured away by fair promises.

Travelling with incredible slowness, in due time we came to a county called Orangeburg, where all were Dutchmen like Hans, and very few spoke English. And they all thought like Hans, and loved peace, and hated the Congress. On Sundays, as we lay over at the taverns, these would be filled with a rollicking crowd of fiddlers and dancers, quaintly dressed, the women bringing their children and babies. At such times Hans would be drunk, and I would have to feed the tired horses and mount watch over the cargo. And at length we came to Hans’s farm, in a prettily rolling country on the Broad River. Hans’s wife spoke no English at all, nor did the brood of children running about the house. I had small fancy for staying in such a place, and so Hans paid me two crowns for my three weeks’ service; I think, with real regret, for labor was scarce in those parts, and though I was young, I knew how to work. And I could at least have guided his plough in the furrow and cared for his cattle.

For the convenience of travellers passing that way, Hans kept a tavern, — if it could have been dignified by such a name. It was in truth merely a log house with shakedowns, and stood across the rude road from his log farmhouse. And he gave me leave to sleep there and to work for my board until I cared to leave. It so chanced that on the second day after my arrival a pack-train came along, guided by a nettlesome old man and a strong, black-haired lass of sixteen or thereabouts. The old man, whose name was Ripley, wore a nut-brown hunting shirt trimmed with red cotton; and he had no sooner slipped the packs from his horses than he began to rail at Hans, who stood looking on.

“You damned Dutchmen be all Tories, and worse,” he cried; “you stay here and till your farms while our boys are off in the hill towns fighting Cherokees. I wish the devils had every one of your fat sculps. Polly Ann, water the nags.”

Hans replied to this sally with great vigor, lapsing into Dutch. Polly Ann led the scrawny ponies to the trough, but her eyes snapped with merriment as she listened. She was a wonderfully comely lass, despite her loose cotton gown and poke-bonnet and the shoepacks on her feet. She had blue eyes, the whitest, strongest of teeth, and the rosiest of faces.

“Gran’pa hates a Dutchman wuss’n pizen,” she said to me. “So do I. We’ve all been burned out and sculped up river — and they never give us so much as a man or a measure of corn.”

I helped her feed the animals, and tether them, and loose their bells for the night, and carry the packs under cover.

“All the boys is gone to join Rutherford and lam the Indians,” she continued, “so Gran’pa and I had to go to the settlements. There wahn’t any one else. What’s your name?” she demanded suddenly.

I told her.

She sat down on a log at the corner of the house, and pulled me down beside her.

“And whar be you from?”

I told her. It was impossible to look into her face and not tell her. She listened eagerly, now with compassion, and now showing her white teeth in amusement. And when I had done, much to my discomfiture, she seized me in her strong arms and kissed me.

“Poor Davy,” she cried, “you ain’t got a home. You shall come home with us.”

Catching me by the hand, she ran like a deer across the road to where her grandfather was still quarrelling violently with Hans, and pulled him backward by the skirts of his hunting shirt. I looked for another and mightier explosion from the old backwoodsman, but to my astonishment he seemed to forget Hans’s existence, and turned and smiled on her benevolently.

“Polly Ann,” said he, “what be you about now?”

“Gran’pa,” said she, “here’s Davy Trimble, who’s a good boy, and his pa is just killed by the Cherokees along with Baskin, and he wants work and a home, and he’s comin’ along with us.”

“All right, David,” answered Mr. Ripley, mildly, “ef Polly Ann says so, you kin come.”

As for me, Polly Ann never consulted me on the subject — nor had she need to. I would have followed her to kingdom come, and at the thought of reaching the mountains my heart leaped with joy. We all slept in the one flea-infested, windowless room of the “tavern” that night; and before dawn I was up and untethered the horses, and Polly Ann and I together lifted the two bushels of alum salt on one of the beasts and the ploughshare on the other. By daylight we had left Hans and his farm forever.

I can see the lass now, as she strode along the trace by the flowing river, through sunlight and shadow, straight and supple and strong. Sometimes she sang like a bird, and the forest rang. Sometimes she would make fun of her grandfather or of me; and again she would be silent for an hour at a time, staring ahead. She would wake from those reveries with a laugh, and give me a push to send me rolling down a bank.

But as we rose into the more rugged country we passed more than one charred cabin that told its silent story of Indian massacre. On the scattered hill farms only women and boys and old men were working in the fields, all save the scalawags having gone to join Rutherford. There were plenty of these around the taverns to make eyes at Polly Ann and open love to her, had she allowed them; but she treated them in return to such scathing tirades that they were glad to desist.

We travelled slowly, day by day, until I saw the mountains lift blue against the western sky, and the sight of them was like home once more. And though I thought with sadness of my father, I was on the whole happier with Polly Ann than I had been in the lonely cabin on the Yadkin. Her spirits flagged a little as she drew near home, but old Mr. Ripley’s rose.

“There’s Burr’s,” he would say, “and O’Hara’s and Williamson’s,” marking the cabins set amongst the stump-dotted corn-fields. “And thar,” sweeping his hand at a blackened heap of logs lying on the stones, “thar’s whar Nell Tyler and her baby was sculped.”

“Poor Nell,” said Polly Ann, the tears coming into her eyes as she turned away.

“And Jim Tyler was killed gittin’ to the fort. He can’t say I didn’t warn him.”

“I reckon he’ll never say nuthin’, now,” said Polly Ann.

It was in truth a dismal sight, — the shapeless timbers, the corn, planted with such care, choked with weeds, and the poor utensils of the little family scattered and broken before the door-sill. These same Indians had killed my father; and there surged up in my breast that hatred of the painted race felt by every backwoods boy in my time.

Towards the end of the day the trace led into a beautiful green valley, and in the middle of it was a stream shining in the afternoon sun. Then Polly Ann fell entirely silent. And presently, as the shadows grew purple, we came to a cabin set under some spreading trees on a knoll where a woman sat spinning at the door, three children playing at her feet. She stared at us so earnestly that I looked at Polly Ann, and saw her redden and pale. The children were the first to come shouting at us, and then the woman dropped her wool and ran down the slope straight into Polly Ann’s arms. Mr. Ripley halted the horses with a grunt.

The two women drew off and looked into each other’s faces. Then Polly Ann dropped her eyes.

“Have ye — ?” she said, and stopped.

“No, Polly Ann, not one word sence Tom and his Pa went. What do folks say in the settlements?”

Polly Ann turned up her nose.

“They don’t know nuthin’ in the settlements,” she replied.

“I wrote to Tom and told him you was gone,” said the older woman. “I knowed he’d wanter hear.”

And she looked meaningly at Polly Ann, who said nothing. The children had been pulling at the girl’s skirts, and suddenly she made a dash at them. They scattered, screaming with delight, and she after them.

“Howdy, Mr. Ripley?” said the woman, smiling a little.

“Howdy, Mis’ McChesney?” said the old man, shortly.

“Who hev ye brought with ye?” she asked, glancing at me.

“A lad Polly Ann took a shine to in the settlements,” said the old man. “Polly Ann! Polly Ann!” he cried sharply, “we’ll hev to be gittin’ home.” And then, as though an afterthought (which it really was not), he added, “How be ye for salt, Mis’ McChesney?”

“So-so,” said she.

“Wal, I reckon a little might come handy,” said he. And to the girl who stood panting beside him, “Polly, give Mis’ McChesney some salt.”

Polly Ann did, and generously, — the salt they had carried with so much labor threescore and ten miles from the settlements. Then we took our departure, the girl turning for one last look at “Tom’s” mother, and at the cabin where he had dwelt. We were all silent the rest of the way, climbing the slender trail through the forest over the gap into the next valley. For I was jealous of this “Tom.”

Then, in the smoky haze that rises just before night lets her curtain fall, we descended the farther slope, and came to Mr. Ripley’s cabin.

 
 

Polly Ann lived alone with her grandfather, her father and mother having been killed by indians some years before. There was that bond between us, had we needed one. Her father had built the cabin, a large one with a loft and a ladder climbing to it, and a sleeping room and a kitchen. The cabin stood on a terrace that nature had levelled, looking across a swift and shallow stream towards the mountains. There was the truck patch, with its yellow squashes and melons, and cabbages and beans, where Polly Ann and I worked through the hot mornings; and the corn patch, with the great stumps of the primeval trees standing in it. All around us the silent forest threw its encircling arms, spreading up the slopes, higher and higher, to crown the crests with the little pines and hemlocks and balsam fir.

There had been no meat save bacon since the McChesneys had left, for of late game had become scarce, and old Mr. Ripley was too feeble to go on the long hunts. So one day, when Polly Ann was gone across the ridge, I took down the long rifle from the buckhorns over the hearth, and the hunting knife and powder-horn and pouch beside it, and trudged up the slope to a game trail I discovered. All day I waited, until the forest light grew gray, when a buck came and stood over the water, raising his head and stamping from time to time. I took aim in the notch of a sapling, brought him down, cleaned and skinned and dragged him into the water, and triumphantly hauled one of his hams down the trail. Polly Ann gave a cry of joy when she saw me.

“Davy,” she exclaimed, “little Davy, I reckoned you was gone away from us. Gran’pa, here is Davy back, and he has shot a deer.”

“You don’t say?” replied Mr. Ripley, surveying me and my booty with a grim smile.

“How could you, Gran’pa?” said Polly Ann, reproachfully.

“Wal,” said Mr. Ripley, “the gun was gone, an’ Davy. I reckon he ain’t sich a little rascal after all.”

Polly Ann and I went up the next day, and brought the rest of the buck merrily homeward. After that I became the hunter of the family; but oftener than not I returned tired and empty-handed, and ravenously hungry. Indeed, our chief game was rattlesnakes, which we killed by the dozens in the corn and truck patches.

As Polly Ann and I went about our daily chores, we would talk of Tom McChesney. Often she would sit idle at the hand-mill, a light in her eyes that I would have given kingdoms for. One memorable morning, early in the crisp autumn, a grizzled man strode up the trail, and Polly Ann dropped the ear of corn she was husking and stood still. It was Mr. McChesney, Tom’s father — alone.

“No, Polly Ann,” he cried, “there ain’t nuthin’ happened. We’ve laid out the hill towns. But the Virginny men wanted a guide, and Tom volunteered, and so he ain’t come back with Rutherford’s boys. He sent ye this.”

He drew from the bosom of his hunting shirt a soiled piece of birch bark, scrawled over with rude writing. Polly seized it, and flew into the house.

The hickories turned a flaunting yellow, the oaks a copper-red, the leaves crackled on the Catawba vines, and still Tom McChesney did not come. The Cherokees were homeless and houseless and subdued, — their hill towns burned, their corn destroyed, their squaws and children wanderers. One by one the men of the Grape Vine settlement returned to save what they might of their crops, and plough for the next year — Burrs, O’Haras, Williamsons, and Winns. Then one windy morning, when the leaves were kiting over the valley and we were getting ready for pounding hominy, a figure appeared on the trail. Steadying the hood of her sunbonnet with her hand, the girl gazed long and earnestly, and a lump came into my throat at the thought that it might be Tom McChesney.

Polly Ann sat down at the block again in disgust.

“It’s only Chauncey Dike,” she said.

“Who’s Chauncey Dike?” I asked.

“He reckons he’s a buck.”

Chauncey drew near with a strut. He had very long black hair, a new coonskin cap with a long tassel, and a new blue-fringed hunting shirt. What first caught my eye was a couple of withered Indian scalps that hung by their long locks from his girdle.

“Wal, Polly Ann, are ye tired of hanging out fer Tom?” he cried, when a dozen paces away.

“I wouldn’t be if you was the only one left ter choose,” Polly Ann retorted.

Chauncey Dike stopped in his tracks and haw-hawed with laughter. But I could see that he was not very much pleased.

“Wal,” said he, “I ’low ye won’t see Tom very soon. He’s gone to Kaintuckee.”

“Has he?” said Polly Ann, with brave indifference.

“He met a gal on the trail — a blazin’ fine gal,” said Chauncey Dike. “She was goin’ to Kaintuckee. And Tom — he ’lowed he’d go ’long.”

Polly Ann laughed, and fingered the withered pieces of skin at Chauncey’s girdle.

“Did Tom give you them sculps?” she asked innocently.

Chauncey drew up stiffly.

“Who? Tom McChesney? I reckon he ain’t got none to give. This here’s from a big brave at Noewee, whar the Virginny boys was surprised.” And he held up the one with the longest tuft. “He’d liked to tomahawked me out’n the briers, but I throwed him fust.”

“Shucks,” said Polly Ann, pounding the corn, “I reckon you found him dead.”

But that night, as we sat before the fading red of the backlog, the old man dozing in his chair, Polly Ann put her hand on mine.

“Davy,” she said softly, “do you reckon he’s gone to Kaintuckee?”

The days passed. The wind grew colder, and one subdued dawn we awoke to find that the pines had fantastic white arms, and the stream ran black between white banks. All that day, and for many days after, the snow added silently to the thickness of its blanket, and winter was upon us. It was a long winter and a rare one. Polly Ann sat by the little window of the cabin, spinning the flax into linsey-woolsey. And she made a hunting shirt for her grandfather, and another little one for me which she fitted with careful fingers. But as she spun, her wheel made the only music — Polly Ann sang no more. Once I came on her as she was thrusting the tattered piece of birch bark into her gown, but she never spoke to me of Tom McChesney. When, from time to time, the snow melted on the hillsides, I sometimes surprised a deer there and shot him with the heavy rifle. And so the months wore on till spring.

The buds reddened and popped, and the briers grew pink and white. Through the lengthening days we toiled in the truck patch, but always as I bent to my work Polly Ann’s face saddened me — it had once been so bright, and it should have been so at this season. Old Mr. Ripley grew querulous and savage and hard to please. And in the evening, when my work was done, I often lay on the banks of the stream staring at the high ridge (its ragged edges the setting sun burned a molten gold), and the thought grew on me that I might make my way over the mountains into that land beyond, and find Tom for Polly Ann. I even climbed the watershed to the east as far as the O’Hara farm, to sound that big Irishman about the trail. For he had once gone to Kentucky, to come back with his scalp and little besides. But O’Hara, with his brogue, gave me such a terrifying notion of the horrors of the wilderness trail that I threw up all thought of following it alone. War was a-waging in Kentucky. The great Indian nations were making a frantic effort to drive from their hunting grounds the little bands of settlers there, and these were in sore straits.

There came a certain hot Sunday in July when Polly Ann having gone on an errand, and Grandpa Ripley having gone to spend the day at old man Winn’s, I was left alone. I remember I sat on the squared log of the door-step cleaning the long rifle, when suddenly I looked up, startled to see a man standing in front of me. How he got there I know not. He was a young man, very spare and very burned, with bright red hair and blue eyes that had a kind of laughter in them, and yet were sober. His buckskin hunting shirt was old and stained and frayed by the briers, and his leggins and moccasins were wet from fording the stream. He leaned his chin on the muzzle of his gun.

“Folks live here, sonny?” said he.

I nodded.

“Whar be they?”

“Out,” said I.

“Comin’ back?” he asked.

“To-night.”

And I began to rub the lock.

“Be they good folks?” said he.

“Yes,“ I answered.

“Wal,” said he, making a move to pass me, “I reckon I’ll slip in and take what I’ve a mind to, and move on.”

Now I liked the man’s looks very much, but I did not know what he would do. I got in his way and clutched the gun. It was loaded, but not primed, and I emptied a little powder from the flask in the pan.

At that he grinned.

“You’re a good boy, sonny,” he said. “Do you reckon you could hit me if you shot?”

“Yes,” I said. But I knew I could scarcely hold the gun out straight without a rest.

“And do you reckon I could hit you fust?” he asked.

At that I laughed, and he laughed.

“What’s your name?”

I told him.

“Who do you love best in all the world?” said he.

It was a queer question. but I told him Polly Ann Ripley.

“Oh!” said he, after a pause. “And what’s she like?”

“She’s beautiful,” I said; “she’s good.”

“And a sharp tongue, I reckon.”

“When people need it,” I answered.

“Do you reckon your Polly Ann would give me a little mite to eat?”

This time I jumped up, ran into the house, and got down some corn-pone and a leg of turkey. For that was the rule of the border. He took them in great bites, but slowly, and he picked the bones clean.

“I had breakfast yesterday morning,” said he, “about forty mile from here.”

“And nothing since?” said I, in astonishment.

“Fresh air and water and exercise,” said he, and sat down on the grass. He was silent for a long while, and so was I.

All at once he stared up the ridge.

“Is that Polly Ann?” said he.

I looked, and far up the trail was a speck.

“I reckon it is,” I answered, and wondered at his eyesight.

He looked at me queerly.

“I reckon I’ll go over there and sit down, so’s not to be in the way.” And he walked around the corner of the house.

Polly Ann sauntered down the trail.

“Have you been lonesome, Davy?” she said.

“No,” said I, “I’ve had a visitor.”

“It’s not Chauncey Dike again?”

“No, it wasn’t Chauncey. This man would like to have seen you.”

“I reckon that’s so,” said the stranger, who had risen and was standing at the corner.

Polly Ann looked at him, and the color surged into her cheeks and mounted to her fair forehead.

“Tom!” she faltered.

“I’ve come back, Polly Ann,” said he. But his voice was not so clear as a while ago.

Then Polly Ann surprised me.

“What made you come back?” said she, as though she didn’t care a minkskin.

“I reckon it was to fetch you, Polly Ann.”

“I like that!” cried she. “He’s come to fetch me, Davy. I heerd you fetched one gal acrost the mountains, Tom, and now you want to fetch another.”

“Polly Ann,” says he, “there was a time when you knew a truthful man from a liar.”

“That time’s past, Tom McChesney; I reckon all men are liars. What are ye Tom-foolin’ about here for, when yere ma’s breakin’ her heart? I wonder ye come back at all.”

“Polly Ann,” says he, very serious, “I ain’t a boaster. But when I think what I come through to git here, I wonder that I come back at all. The folks shut up at Harrod’s said it was sure death ter cross the mountains now. I’ve walked two hundred miles, and fed seven times, and my sculp’s as near hangin’ on a red stick’s belt as I ever want it to be.”

“Tom” said Polly Ann, with her hands on her hips and her sunbonnet tilted, “that’s the longest speech you ever made in your life.”

 
 

And so it was that preparations for a wedding went on that week. And I had not thought that the Grape Vine settlement held so many people. They came from other settlements, too, for news spread quickly in that country, despite the distances. All the week they came, loaded with offerings, turkeys and venison and pork and bear meat — greatest delicacy of all — until the cool spring was filled for the feast. And from thirty miles down the Broad, a gaunt baptist preacher on a fat white pony arrived the night before. He had been sent for to tie the knot.

Polly Ann’s wedding-day dawned bright and fair, and long before the sun glistened on the corn tassels we were up and clearing out the big room. The fiddlers came first — a merry lot. Then the guests from afar began to arrive. Some of them had travelled half the night. The bridegroom’s friends were assembling at the McChesney place. And at last, when the sun was over the stream, rose such Indian war-whoops and shots from the ridge trail as made me think the redskins were upon us. The shouts and hurrahs grew louder and louder, the quickening thud of horses’ hoofs was heard in the woods, and there burst into sight of the assembly by the truck patch two wild figures on crazed horses charging down the path towards the house. We scattered to right and left. On they came, leaping logs and brush and ditches, until one of them pulled up, yelling madly, at the very door, the foam-flecked sides of his horse moving with quick heaves.

It was Chauncey Dike, and he had won the race for the bottle of “Black Betty,” — Chauncey Dike, his long, black hair shining with bear’s oil. Amid the cheers of the bride’s friends he leaped from his saddle, mounted a stump and, flapping his arms, crowed in victory. Before he had done the vanguard of the groom’s friends were upon us, pell-mell, all in the finest of backwoods regalia, — new hunting shirts, trimmed with bits of color, and all armed to the teeth — scalping knife, tomahawk, and all. Nor had Chauncey Dike forgotten the scalp of the brave who leaped at him out of the briers at Neowee.

Polly Ann was radiant in a white linen gown, woven and sewed by her own hands. It was not such a gown as Mrs. Temple would have worn, and yet she was to me an hundred times more beautiful than that lady in all her silks. Peeping out from under it were the little blue-beaded moccasins which Tom himself had brought across the mountains in the bosom of his hunting shirt. Polly Ann was radiant, and yet at times so rapturously shy that when the preacher announced himself ready to tie the knot she ran into the house and hid in the cupboard. Thence, coloring like a wild rose, she was dragged by a boisterous bevy of girls in linsey-woolsey to the spreading maple of the forest that stood on the high bank over the stream. The assembly fell solemn, and not a sound was heard save the breathing of nature in the heyday of her time.

The deep-toned words of the preacher in prayer broke the stillness. They were made man and wife. And then began a day of merriment, of unrestraint, such as the backwoods alone knows. The feast was spread out in the long grass under the trees — sides of venison, bear meat, corn-pone fresh baked by Mrs. McChesney and Polly Ann herself, and all the vegetables in the patch. There was no stint, either, of maple beer and rum and “Black Betty,” and toasts to the bride and groom amidst gusts of laughter “that they might populate Kaintuckee.” The fiddlers played, and there were foot races and shooting matches. Ay, and wrestling matches in the severe manner of the backwoods between the young bucks, more than one of which might have ended seriously were it not for the high humor of the crowd.

So the long summer afternoon wore away into twilight, and the sun fell behind the blue ridges. Pine knots were lighted in the big room, the fiddlers set to again, and then came jigs and three and four handed reels that made the puncheons rattle, — chicken-flutter and cut-the-buckle, — and Polly Ann was the leader now, the young men flinging the girls from fireplace to window in the reels, and back again; and when, panting and perspiring, the lass was too tired to stand longer, she dropped into the hospitable lap of the nearest buck who was perched on the bench along the wall awaiting his chance. For so it went in the backwoods in those days, and long after, and no harm in it that ever I could see.

Suddenly, as if by concert, the music stopped, and a shout of laughter rang under the beams as Polly Ann flew out of the door with the girls after her, as swift of foot as she. They dragged her, a struggling captive, to the bride-chamber which made the other end of the house, and when they emerged, blushing and giggling and subdued, the fun began with Tom McChesney. He gave the young men a pretty fight indeed, and long before they had him conquered the elder guests had made their escape through door and window.

All night the reels and jigs went on, and the feasting and drinking too. In the fine rain that came at dawn to hide the crests, the company rode wearily homeward through the notches.


 

VI

THE NOLLICHUCKY TRACE

Some to endure, and many to quail,
Some to conquer, and many to fail,
Toiling over the Wilderness Trail.
 

TOM had promised the Kentucky settlers, fighting for their lives in their blockhouses, that he would come back again, for a good shot was sorely missed in that country in those days. But Polly Ann refused to listen when he implored her to let him return alone, to come back for her when the furies of war had abated. And she insisted that Tom take me, too. So after much discussion it was arranged that one of the Winn boys should come over to stay with old Mr. Ripley until quieter times.

As for me, the thought of going with them into that promised land was like wine, and, wondering what the place was like, I could not sleep of nights. Then came the morning we started on our journey across the Blue Wall. Before the sun chased away the filmy veil of mist from the brooks in the valley, the McChesneys, father, mother, and children, were gathered to see us depart. And as they helped us to tighten the packsaddles Tom himself had made from chosen tree-forks, they did not cease lamenting that we were going to certain death. Our scrawny horses splashed across the stream, and we turned to see a gaunt and lonely figure standing apart against the sun, stern and sorrowful. We waved our hands, and set our faces towards Kaintuckee.

Tom walked ahead, rifle on shoulder, then Polly Ann; and lastly I drove the two shaggy ponies, the instruments of husbandry we had been able to gather awry on their packs, — a scythe, a spade, and a hoe. I triumphantly carried the axe.

It was not long before we were in the wilderness, shut in by mountain crags, and presently Polly Ann forgot her sorrows in the perils of the trace. Choked by briers and grapevines, blocked by sliding stones and earth, it rose and rose through the heat and burden of the day until it lost itself in the open heights. As the sun was wearing down to the western ridges the mischievous sorrel mare turned her pack on a sapling, and one of the precious bags burst. In an instant we were on our knees gathering the golden meal in our hands. Polly Ann baked journeycakes on a hot stone from what we saved under the shiny ivy leaves, and scarce had I spancelled the horses ere Tom returned with a fat turkey he had shot.

“Was there ever sech a wedding journey!” said Polly Ann, as we sat about the fire, for the mountain air was chill. “And Tom and Davy as grave as parsons. Ye’d guess one of you was Rutherford himself, and the other Mr. Boone.”

No wonder he was grave. I little realized then the task he had set himself, to pilot a woman and a lad into a country where single men feared to go this season. But it was on the whole a merry journey, the first part of it, if a rough one. Often Polly Ann would draw me to her and whisper: “We’ll hold out, Davy. He’ll never know.” When the truth was that the big fellow was going at half his pace on our account. He told us there was no fear of Indians here. Yet, when the scream of a painter or the hoot of an owl stirred me from my exhausted slumber, I caught sight of him with his back to a tree, staring into the forest, his rifle at his side.

It was wonderful to me how he chose his way through the mountains. Once in a while we caught sight of a yellow blaze in a tree, made by himself scarce a month gone, when he came southward alone to fetch Polly Ann. At sundown, when we loosed our exhausted horses to graze on the wet grass by the streams, Tom would go off to look for a deer or turkey, and often not come back to us until long after darkness had fallen.

“Davy’ll take care of you, Polly Ann,” he would say as he left us.

And she would smile at him bravely and say, “I reckon I kin look out for Davy awhile yet.”

But when he was gone, and the crooning stillness set in broken only by the many sounds of the night, we would sit huddled together by the fire. And in both our minds rose red images of hideous foes skulking the forest floor.

Strangely enough it was I who chanced upon the Nollichucky Trace, which follows the meanderings of that river northward through the great Smoky Mountains. It was made long ago by the Southern Indians as they threaded their way to the Hunting Lands of Kaintuckee, and was shared now by Indian traders. The path was redolent with odors, and bright with mountain shrubs and flowers, — the pink laurel bush, the shining rhododendron, and the grape and plum and wild crab. The clear notes of the mountain birds were in our ears by day, and the music of the water falling over the ledges, mingled with that of the leaves rustling in the wind, lulled us to sleep at night. High above us, as we descended, the gap, from naked crag to timber-covered ridge, was spanned by the eagle’s flight. And virgin valleys, where future generations were to be born, spread out and narrowed again, — valleys with a deep carpet of cane and grass, where the deer and elk and bear fed unmolested.

Our way was down past the great bend of the Nollichucky below Lick Creek, and so to the Great War-path, the trail by which countless parties of red marauders had travelled north and south. It led northeast between the mountain ranges. And at length we forded the Holston and came to the scattered settlement in Carter’s Valley.

I have since racked my brain to remember at whose cabin we stopped there. He was a rough backwoodsman with a wife and a horde of children. But I recall that a great rain came out of the mountains and down the valley. We were counting over the powder gourds in our packs, when there burst in at the door as wild a man as has ever been my lot to see. His brown beard was grown like a bramble patch, his eye had a violet light, and his hunting shirt was in tatters. He was thin to gauntness, ate ravenously of the food that was set before him, and throwing off his soaked moccasins, he spread his scalded feet to the blaze, the steaming odor of drying leather filling the room.

“Whar be ye from?” asked Tom.

For answer the man bared his arm, then his shoulder, and two angry scars, long and red, revealed themselves, and around his wrists were deep gouges where he had been bound.

“They killed Sue,” he cried, “sculped her afore my very eyes. And they chopped my boy outen the hickory withes and carried him to the Creek Nation. At a place where there was a standin’ stone I broke loose from three of ’em and come here over the mountains, and I ain’t had nothin’, stranger, but berries and chainey brier-root for ten days. God damn ’em!” he cried, standing up and tottering with the pain in his feet, “if I can get a Deckard —”

“Will you go back?” said Tom.

“Go back!” he shouted, “I’ll go back and fight ’em while I have blood in my body.”

He fell into a bunk, but his sorrow haunted him even in his troubled sleep, and his moans awed us as we listened. The next day he told us his story with more calmness, and it was horrible indeed, and might well have frightened a less courageous woman than Polly Ann. Imploring her not to go, he became wild again, and brought tears to her eyes when he spoke of his own wife.

“They tomahawked her, ma’am, because she could not walk, and the baby beside her, and I standing by with my arms tied.”

Now Tom pleaded with Polly Ann to stay behind, but she would not listen to him.

“You’re going, Tom?” she said.

“Yes,” he answered, turning away, “I gave ’em my word.”

“And your word to me?” said Polly Ann.

He did not answer.

We fixed on a Saturday to start, to give the horses time to rest, and in the hope that we might hear of some relief party going over the Cumberland Gap. On Thursday Tom made a trip to the store in the valley, and came back with a Deckard rifle he had bought for the stranger, whose name was Weldon. There was no news from Kaintuckee, but the Carter’s Valley settlers seemed to think that matters were better there. It was that same night, I believe, that two men arrived from Fort Chiswell. One, whose name was Cutcheon, was a little man with a short forehead and a bad eye, and he wore a weather-beaten blue coat of military cut. The second was a big, light-colored, fleshy man, and a loud talker. He wore a hunting shirt and leggings. They were both the worse for rum they had had on the road, the big man talking very loud and boastfully.

“Afeard to go to Kaintuckee!” said he. “I’ve met a parcel o’ cowards on the road, turned back. There ain’t nothin’ to be afeard of, eh, stranger?” he added, to Tom, who paid no manner of attention to him. The small man scarce opened his mouth, but sat with his head bowed forward on his breast when he was not drinking. We passed a dismal, crowded night in the room with such companions. And when they heard that we were to go over the mountains, nothing would satisfy the big man but to go with us.

“Come, stranger,” said he to Tom, “two good rifles such as we is ain’t to be throwed away.”

“Why do you want to go over?” asked Tom. “Be ye a Tory?” he demanded suspiciously.

“Why do you go over?” retorted Riley, for that was his name. “I reckon I’m no more of a Tory than you.”

“Whar did ye come from?” said Tom.

“Chiswell’s mines, taking out lead for the army o’ Congress. But there ain’t excitement enough in it.”

“And you?” said Tom, turning to Cutcheon and eying his military coat.

“I got tired of their damned discipline,” the man answered surlily. He was a deserter.

“Look you,” said Tom, sternly, “if you come, what I say is law.”

Such was the sacrifice we were put to by our need of company. But in those days a man was a man, and scarce enough on the Wilderness Trail in that year of ’77. So we started away from Carter’s Valley on a bright Saturday morning, the grass glistening after a week’s rain, the road sodden, and the smell of the summer earth heavy. Tom and Weldon walked ahead, driving the two horses, followed by Cutcheon, his head dropped between his shoulders. The big man, Riley, regaled Polly Ann.

“My pluck is,” said he, “my pluck is to give a redskin no chance. Shoot ’em down like hogs. It takes a good un to stalk me, Ma’am. Up on the Kanawha I’ve had hand-to-hand fights with ’em, and made ’em cry quits.”

“Law!” exclaimed Polly Ann, nudging me, “it was a lucky thing we run into you in the valley.”

But presently we left the road and took a mountain trail, — as stiff a climb as we had yet had. Polly Ann went up it like a bird, talking all the while to Riley, who blew like a bellows. For once he was silent.

We spent two, perchance three, days climbing and descending and fording. At night Tom would suffer none to watch save Weldon and himself, not trusting Riley or Cutcheon. And the rascals were well content to sleep. At length we came, to a cabin on a creek, the corn between the stumps around it choked with weeds, and no sign of smoke in the chimney. Behind it slanted up, in giant steps, a forest-clad hill of a thousand feet, and in front of it the stream was dammed and lined with cane.

“Who keeps house?” cried Tom, at the threshold.

He pushed back the door, fashioned in one great slab from a forest tree. His welcome was an angry whir, and a huge yellow rattler lay coiled within, his head reared to strike. Polly Ann leaned back.

“Mercy,” she cried, “that’s a bad sign.”

But Tom killed the snake, and we made ready to use the cabin that night and the next day. For the horses were to be rested and meat was to be got, as we could not use our guns so freely on the far side of Cumberland Gap. In the morning, before he and Weldon left to hunt, Tom took me around the end of the cabin.

“Davy,” said he, “I don’t trust these rascals. Kin you shoot a pistol?”

I reckoned I could.

He took had taken one out of the pack and pushed it between the logs where the clay had fallen out. “If they try anything,” said he, “shoot ’em. And don’t be afeard of killing ’em.” He patted me on the back, and went off up the slope with Weldon. Polly Ann and I stood watching them until they were out of sight.

About eleven o’clock Riley and Cutcheon moved off to the edge of a cane-brake near the water, and sat there for a while, talking in low tones. The horses were belled and spancelled near by, feeding on the cane and wild grass, and Polly Ann was cooking journey-cakes on a stone.

“What makes you so sober, Davy?” she said.

I didn’t answer.

“Davy,” she cried, “be happy. ’Tis a fine day, and Kaintuckee’s over yonder.” She picked up her skirts and sang: —

“First upon the heeltap,
Then upon the toe.”

The men by the cane-brake turned and came towards us.

“Ye’re happy to-day, Mis’ McChesney,” said Riley.

“Why shouldn’t I be?” said Polly Ann; “we’re all a-goin’ to Kaintuckee.”

“We’re a-goin’ back to Cyarter’s Valley,” said Riley, in his blustering way. “This here ain’t as excitin’ as I thought. I reckon there ain’t no redskins nohow.”

“What!” cried Polly Ann, in loud scorn, “ye’re a-goin’ to desert? There’ll be redskins enough by and by, I’ll warrant ye.”

“How’d you like to come along of us,” says Riley; “that ain’t any place for wimmen, over yonder.”

“Along of you!” cried Polly Ann, with flashing eyes. “Do you hear that, Davy?”

I did. Meanwhile the man Cutcheon was slowly walking towards her. It took scarce a second for me to make up my mind. I slipped around the corner of the house, seized the pistol, primed it with a trembling hand, and came back to behold Polly Ann, with flaming cheeks, facing them. They did not so much as glance at me. Riley held a little back of the two, being the coward. But Cutcheon stood ready, like a wolf.

I did not wait for him to spring, but, taking the best aim I could with my two hands, fired. With a curse that echoed in the crags, he threw up his arms and fell forward, writhing, on the turf.

“Run for the cabin, Polly Ann,” I shouted, “and bar the door.”

There was no need. For an instant Riley wavered, and then fled to the cane.

Polly Ann and I went to the man on the ground, and turned him over. His eyes slid upwards. There was a bloody froth on his lips.

“Davy!” cried she, awestricken, “Davy, ye’ve killed him!”

I grew dizzy and sick at the thought, but she caught me and held me to her. Presently we sat down on the door log, gazing at the corpse. Then I began to reflect, and took out my powder gourd and loaded the pistol.

“What are ye a-doing?” she said.

“In case the other one comes back,” said I.

“Pooh,” said Polly Ann, “he’ll not come back.”

Which was true. I have never laid eyes on Riley to this day.

“I reckon we’d better fetch it out of the sun,” said she, after a while. And so we dragged it under an oak, covered the face, and left it.

That day the journey-cakes which Polly Ann had made were untasted by us both. The afternoon dragged interminably. Try as we would, we could not get out of our minds the Thing that lay under the oak.

It was near sundown when Tom and Weldon appeared on the mountain side carrying a buck between them. Tom glanced from one to the other of us keenly.

“Whar be they?” said he.

“Show him, Davy,” said Polly Ann.

I took him over to the oak, and Polly Ann told him the story. He gave me one look, then he seized a piece of cold cake from the stone.

“Which trace did he take?” he demanded of me.

But Polly Ann hung on his shoulder.

“Tom, Tom!” she cried, “you beant goin’ to leave us again. Tom, he’ll die in the wilderness, and we must git to Kaintuckee.”

*       *       *       *       *       *

The next vivid thing in my memory is the view of the last barrier Nature had reared between us and the delectable country. It stood like a lion at the gateway, and for some minutes we gazed at it in terror from Powell’s Valley below. How many thousands have looked at it with sinking hearts! How many weaklings has its frown turned back! There seemed to be engraved upon it the dark history of the dark and bloody land beyond.

For fifty miles we travelled under it, towards the Gap, our eyes drawn to it by a resistless fascination. The sun went over it early in the day, as though glad to leave the place, and after that a dark scowl would settle there. At night we felt its presence, like a curse. Even Polly Ann was silent. And she had need to be now. When it was necessary, we talked in low tones, and the bell-clappers on the horses were not loosed at night. It was here, but four years gone, that Daniel Boone’s family was attacked, and his son killed by the Indians.

We passed, from time to time, deserted cabins and camps, and some places that might once have been called settlements: Elk Garden, where the pioneers of the last four years had been wont to lay in a simple supply of seed corn and Irish potatoes; and the spot where Henderson and his company had camped on the way to establish Boonesboro two years before. And at last we struck the trace that mounted upward to the Gateway itself.


 

VII

ON THE WILDERNESS TRAIL

AND now we had our hands upon the latch, and God alone knew what was behind the gate. Toil, with a certainty, but our lives had known it. Death, perchance. But Death had been near to all of us, and his presence did not frighten. As we climbed towards the Gap, I recalled with strange aptness a quaint saying of my father’s that Kaintuckee was the Garden of Eden, and that men were being justly punished with blood for their presumption.

As if to crown that judgment, the day was dark and lowering, with showers of rain from time to time. And when we spoke, —Polly Ann and I, — it was in whispers. The trace was very narrow, with Daniel Boone’s blazes, two years old, upon the trees; but the way was not over steep. Cumberland Mountain was as silent and deserted as when the first man had known it.

We gained the top, and entered unmolested. No Eden suddenly dazzled our eye, no splendor burst upon it. Nothing told us, as we halted in our weariness, that we had reached the Promised Land. The mists weighed heavily on the evergreens of the slopes and hid the ridges, and we passed that night in cold discomfort. It was the first of many without a fire.

The next day brought us to the Cumberland, tawny and swollen from the rains, and here we had to stop to fell trees to make a raft on which to ferry over our packs. We bound the logs together with grapevines, and as we worked my imagination painted for me many a red face peering from the bushes on the farther shore. And when we got into the river and were caught and spun by the hurrying stream, I hearkened for a shot from the farther bank. While Polly Ann and I were scrambling to get the raft landed, Tom and Weldon swam over with the horses. And so we lay the second night dolefully in the rain. But not so much as a whimper escaped from Polly Ann. I have often told her since that the sorest trial she had was the guard she kept on her tongue, — a hardship indeed for one of Irish inheritance. Many a pull had she lightened for us by a flash of humor.

The next morning the sun relented, and the wine of his dawn was wine indeed to our flagging hopes. Going down to wash at the river’s brink, I heard a movement in the cane, and stood frozen and staring until a great, bearded head, black as tar, was thrust out between the stalks and looked at me with blinking red eyes. The next step revealed the hump of the beast, and the next his tasselled tail lashing his dirty brown quarters. I did not tarry longer, but ran to tell Tom. He made bold to risk a shot and light a fire, and thus we had buffalo meat for some days after.

We were still in the mountains. The trail led down the river for a bit through the worst of canebrakes, and every now and again we stopped while Tom and Weldon scouted. Once the roan mare made a dash through the brake, and though Polly Ann burst through one way to head her off and I another, we reached the bank of Richland Creek in time to see her nose and the top of her pack above the brown water. There was nothing for it but to swim after her, which I did, and caught her quietly feeding in the cane on the other side. By great good fortune the other horse bore the powder.

“Drat you, Nancy,” said Polly Ann to the mare, as she handed me my clothes, “I’d sooner carry the pack myself than be bothered with you.”

“Hush,” said I, “the redskins will get us.”

Polly Ann regarded me scornfully as I stood bedraggled before her.

“Redskins!” she cried. “Nonsense! I reckon it’s all talk about redskins.”

But we had scarce caught up ere we saw Tom standing rigid with his hand raised. Before him, on a mound bared of cane, were the charred remains of a fire. The sight of them transformed Weldon. His eyes glared again, even as when we had first seen him, curses escaped under his breath, and he would have darted into the cane had not Tom seized him sternly by the shoulder. As for me, my heart hammered against my ribs, and I grew sick with listening.

It was at that instant that I got some real inkling of what woodcraft might be. Stepping silently between the tree trunks, Tom’s eyes bent on the leafy loam, he found a footprint here and another there, and suddenly he went into the cane with a sign to us to remain. It seemed an age before he returned. Then he began to rake the ashes, and, suddenly bending down, seized something in them, — the broken bowl of an Indian pipe.

“Shawnees!” he said; “I reckoned so. A war party — tracks three days old. They took poplar.”

To take poplar was our backwoods expression for embarking in a canoe, the dugouts being fashioned from the great poplar trees.

The rest of the day he led us in silence down the trace, his eye alert to penetrate every corner of the forest, his hand near the trigger of his long Deckard. I followed in boylike imitation, searching every thicket for alien form and color, and yearning for stature and responsibility. As for poor Weldon, he would stride for hours at a time with eyes fixed ahead, a wild figure, — ragged and fringed. And we knew that the soul within him was torn with thoughts of his dead wife and of his child in captivity. Again, when the trance left him, he was an addition to our little party not to be despised.

At dark Polly Ann and I carried the packs across a creek on a fallen tree, she taking one end and I the other. We camped there, where the loam was trampled and torn by countless herds of bison, and had only parched corn and the remains of a buffalo steak for supper, as the meal was mouldy from its wetting, and running low. When Weldon had gone a little distance up the creek to scout, Tom relented from the sternness which his vigilance imposed and came and sat down on a log beside Polly Ann and me.

“’Tis a hard journey, little girl,” he said, patting her; “I reckon I done wrong to fetch you.”

I can see him now, as the twilight settled down over the wilderness, his honest face red and freckled, but aglow with the tenderness it had hidden during the day, one big hand enfolding hers, and the other on my shoulder.

“Hark, Davy!” said Polly Ann, “he’s fair tired of us already. Davy, take me back.”

“Hush, Polly Ann,” he answered; delighted at her raillery. “But I’ve a word to say to you. If we come on to the redskins, you and Davy make for the cane as hard as you kin kilter. Keep out of sight.”

“As hard as we kin kilter!” exclaimed Polly Ann, indignantly. “I reckon not, Tom McChesney. Davy taught me to shoot long ago, afore you made up your mind to come back from Kaintuckee.”

Tom chuckled. “So Davy taught you to shoot,” he said, and checked himself. “He ain’t such a bad one with a pistol,“ — and he patted me, — “but I allow ye’d better hunt kiver just the same.”

Two days went by, — two days of strain in sunlight, and of watching and fitful sleep in darkness. But the Wilderness Trail was deserted. Here and there a lean-to — silent remnant of the year gone by — spoke of the little bands of emigrants which had once made their way so cheerfully to the new country. Again it was a child’s doll, the rags of it beaten by the weather to a rusty hue. Every hour that we progressed seemed to justify the sagacity and boldness of Tom’s plan, nor did it appear to have entered a painted skull that a white man would have the hardihood to try the trail this year. There were neither signs nor sounds save Nature’s own, the hoot of the wood-owl, the distant bark of a mountain wolf, the whir of a partridge as she left her brood. At length we could stand no more the repression that silence and watching put upon us, and when a rotten bank gave way and flung Polly Ann and the sorrel mare into a creek, even Weldon smiled as we pulled her, bedraggled and laughing, from the muddy water. This was after we had ferried the Rockcastle River.

Our trace rose and fell over height and valley, until we knew that we were come to a wonderland at last. We stood one evening on a spur as the setting sun flooded the natural park below us with a crystal light and, striking a tall sycamore, turned its green to gold. We were now on the hills whence the water ran down to nourish the fat land, and I could scarce believe that the garden spot on which our eyes feasted could be the scene of the blood and suffering of which we had heard. Here at last was the fairyland of my childhood, the country beyond the Blue Wall.

We went down the river that led into it, with awe, as though we were trespassers against God Himself, — as though He had made it too beautiful and too fruitful for the toilers of this earth. And you who read this an hundred years hence may not believe the marvels of it to the pioneer, and in particular to one born and bred in the scanty, hard soil of the mountains. Nature had made it for her park, — ay, and scented it with her own perfumes. Giant trees, which had watched generations come and go, some of which mayhap had been saplings when the Norman came to England, grew in groves, — the gnarled and twisted oak, and that godsend to the settlers, the sugar-maple; the coffee tree with its drooping buds; the mulberry, the cherry, and the plum; the sassafras and the pawpaw; the poplar and the sycamore, slender maidens of the forest, garbed in daintier colors, — ay, and that resplendent brunette with the white flowers, the magnolia; and all underneath, in the green shade, enamelled banks which the birds themselves sought to rival.

At length, one afternoon, we came to the grove of wild apple trees so lovingly spoken of by emigrants as the Crab Orchard, and where formerly they had delighted to linger. The plain near by was flecked with the brown backs of feeding buffalo, but we dared not stop, and pressed on to find a camp in the forest. And as we walked in the filtered sunlight we had a great fright, Polly Ann and I. Shrill, discordant cries suddenly burst from the branches above us, and a flock of strange, green birds flecked with red flew over our heads. Even Tom, intent upon the trail, turned and laughed at Polly Ann as she stood clutching me.

“Shucks,” said he, “they’re only paroquets.”

We made our camp in a little dell where there was short green grass by the brookside and steep banks overgrown with brambles on either hand. Tom knew the place, and declared that we were within thirty miles of the station. A giant oak had blown down across the water, and, cutting out a few branches of this, we spread our blankets under it on the turf. Tethering our faithful beasts, and cutting a quantity of pea-vine for their night’s food, we lay down to sleep, Tom taking the first watch.

I had the second, for Tom trusted me now, and glorying in that trust I was alert and vigilant. A shy moon peeped at me between the trees, and was fantastically reflected in the water. The creek rippled over the limestone, and an elk screamed in the forest far beyond. When at length I had called Weldon to take the third watch, I lay down with a sense of peace, soothed by the sweet odors of the night.

I awoke suddenly. I had been dreaming of and Temple Bow, and my father coming back to me there with a great gash in his shoulder like Weldon’s. I lay for a moment dazed by the transition, staring through the gray light. Then I sat up, the soft stamping and snorting of the horses in my ears. The sorrel mare had her nose high, her tail twitching, but there was no other sound in the leafy wilderness. With a bound of returning sense I looked for Weldon. He had fallen asleep on the bank above, his body dropped across the trunk of the oak. I leaped on the trunk and made my way along it, stepping over him, until I reached and hid myself in the great roots of the tree on the bank above. The cold shiver of the dawn was in my body as I waited and listened. Should I wake Tom? The vast forest was silent, and yet in its shadowy depths my imagination drew moving forms. I hesitated.

The light grew: the boles of the trees came out, one by one, through the purple. The tangled mass down the creek took on a shade of green, and a faint breath came from the southward. The sorrel mare sniffed it, and stamped. Then silence again, — a long silence. Could it be that the cane moved in the thicket? Or had my eyes deceived me? I stared so hard that it seemed to rustle all over. Perhaps some deer were feeding there, for it was no unusual thing, when we rose in the morning, to hear the whistle of a startled doe near our camping ground. I was thoroughly frightened now. The thicket was some one hundred and fifty yards above, and on the flooded lands at a bend. If there were Indians in it, they could not see the sleeping forms of our party under me because of a bend in the stream. But if Indians were there, they could determine our position well enough by the occasional stamping and snorting of the horses. And this made my fear more probable, for I had heard that horses and cattle often warned pioneers of the presence of Indians.

If they were a small party, they would probably seek to surprise us by coming out of the cane into the creek bed above the bend, and stalk down the creek. If a large band, they would surround and overpower us. I drew the conclusion that it must be a small party — if a party at all. I would have given a shot in the arm to be able to see over the banks of the creek. Finally I decided to awake Tom.

It was no easy matter to get down to where he was without being seen by eyes in the cane. I clung to the under branches of the oak, finally reached the shelving bank, and slid down slowly. I touched him on the shoulder. He awoke with a start, and by instinct seized the rifle lying beside him.

“What is it, Davy?” he whispered.

I told what had happened and my surmise. He glanced then at the restless horses and nodded, pointing up at the sleeping figure of Weldon, in full sight on the log. The Indians must have seen him.

Tom picked up the spare rifle.

“Davy,” said he, “you stay here beside Polly Ann, behind the oak. You kin shoot with a rest; but don’t shoot,” said he, earnestly, “for God’s sake don’t shoot unless you’re sure to kill.”

I nodded. For a moment he looked at the face of Polly Ann, sleeping peacefully, and the fierce light faded from his eyes. He brushed her on the cheek and she awoke and smiled at him, trustfully, lovingly. He put his finger to his lips.

“Stay with Davy,” he said. Turning to me, he added: “When you wake Weldon, wake him easy. So.” He put his hand in mine, and gradually tightened it. “Wake him that way, and he won’t jump.”

Polly Ann asked no questions. She looked at Tom, and her soul was in her face. She seized the pistol from the blanket. Then we watched him creeping down the creek on his belly, close to the bank. Next we moved behind the fallen tree, and I put my hand on Weldon’s. He woke with a sigh, started, but we drew him down behind the log. Presently he climbed cautiously up the bank and took station in the muddy roots of the tree. Then we waited, watching Tom with a prayer in our hearts. Those who have not felt it know not the fearfulness of waiting for an Indian attack.

At last Tom reached the bend in the bank, beside some red-bud bushes, and there he stayed. A level shaft of light shot through the forest. The birds, twittering, awoke. A great hawk soared high in the blue over our heads. An hour passed. I had sighted the rifle among the yellow leaves of the fallen oak an hundred times. But Polly Ann looked not once to the right or left. Her eyes and her prayers followed the form of her husband.

Then, like the cracking of a great drover’s whip, a shot rang out in the stillness, and my hands tightened over the rifle-stock. A piece of bark struck me in the face, and a dead leaf fluttered to the ground. Almost instantly there was another shot, and a blue wisp of smoke rose from the red-bud bushes, where Tom was. The horses whinnied, there was a rustle in the cane, and silence. Weldon bent over.

“My God!” he whispered hoarsely, “he hit one. Tom hit one.”

I felt Polly Ann’s hand on my face.

“Davy dear,” she said, “are ye hurt?”

“No,” said I, dazed, and wondering why Weldon had not been shot long ago as he slumbered.

Again there was silence, — a silence more awful than before. The sun crept higher, the magic of his rays turning the creek from black to crystal, and the birds began to sing again. And still there was no sign of the enemy that lurked about us. Could Tom get back? I glanced at Polly Ann. The same question was written in her yearning eyes, staring at the spot where the gray of his hunting shirt showed through the bushes at the bend. Suddenly her hand tightened on mine. The hunting shirt was gone!

After that, in the intervals when my terror left me, I tried to speculate upon the plan of the savages. Their own numbers could not be great, and yet they must have known from our trace how few we were. Scanning the ground, I noted that the forest was fairly clean of undergrowth on both sides of us. Below, the stream ran straight, but there were growths of cane and briers.

But where had Tom gone?

All at once my breath left me. Through the tangle of bramble stems at the mouth of the run, above naked brown shoulders there glared at me, streaked with red, a face. Or had my fancy lied? I stared again until my eyes were blurred, now tortured by doubt, now so completely convinced that suddenly my fingers released the trigger; and my shoulder bruised by the kick, the smoke like a veil before my face, it was some moments ere I knew that the air was full of whistling bullets. Then the gun was torn from my hands. And I saw Polly Ann ramming in a new charge.

“The pistol, Davy,” she cried.

Crack after crack sounded from the forest — from here and there and everywhere, it seemed — and with a song like hurtling insects bullets buried themselves in the trunk of our oak. Then a longing to kill seized me, a longing so strange and fierce that I could scarce be still. I fairly prayed for the sight of a painted form, and time after time my fancy tricked me into the notion that I had one. A bullet buried itself in the roots near Weldon, who fired in return. He was crazed with passion at fighting the race which had wronged him. Horror-struck, I saw him swing down from the bank, splash through the water with raised tomahawk, and gain the top of the run. In less time than it takes me to write these words he had dragged a warrior out of the brambles, and with an avalanche of crumbling earth they slid into the waters of the creek. It was man to man as they rolled in the shallow water, locked in a death embrace. Neither might reach for his knife, neither was able to hold the other down, Weldon’s curses surcharged with hatred, the Indian straining silently save for a gasp or a guttural note. But the pent-up rage of months gave the white man strength.

Polly Ann and I were powerless for fear of shooting Weldon, and gazed at the scene transfixed. Suddenly the tree-trunk shook, as a long bronze arm reached out from above, and a painted face glowered at us from the very roots where Weldon had lain. That moment I took to be my last. I heard but faintly a noise beyond. It was the shock of the heavy Indian falling on Polly Ann and me as we cowered under the trunk. And then we stood gazing at him as at a worm writhing in the clay. It was she who had fired the pistol and made the great hole in his head, and so he twitched and died.

After that a confusion of shots, war-whoops, a vision of two naked forms flying from tree to tree towards the cane, and then — God be praised —Tom’s voice shouting: —

“Polly Ann! Polly Ann!”

Before she had reached the top of the bank Tom had her in his arms. But beyond trajedy awaited us. My eyes turned with theirs to see the body of Weldon lying face downward in the water. Defiant, immovable, save for the heaving of his naked chest, the warrior who had killed him stood erect with folded arms facing us.

The smoke cleared away from the rifle-barrel, and the brave staggered and fell and died as silent as he stood, his feathers making ripples in the stream. It was cold-blooded, if you like, but war in those days was to the death, and knew no mercy. The tall backwoodsman who had shot him waded across the stream, and in the twinkling of an eye seized the scalp-lock and ran it round with his knife, holding up the bleeding trophy with a shout.

 
 

It must have been the next afternoon, about four, that the rough stockade of Harrodstown greeted our eyes as we stole cautiously to the edge of the forest. And the sight of roofs and spires could not have been more welcome than that of these logs and cabins, broiling in the midsummer sun. At a little distance from the fort, a silent testimony of siege, the stumpy, cleared fields were overgrown with weeds, tall and rank, the corn choked. Nearer the stockade, where the keepers of the fort might venture out at times, a more orderly growth met the eye.

We went forward quickly, hands waved a welcome above the logs, the great wooden gates swung open, and at last we had reached the haven for which we had suffered so much. Mangy dogs barked at our feet, men and women ran forward joyfully to seize our hands and greet us.

And so we came to Kaintuckee.


 

 

THE NEW DOCTRINE

 
 

1

IT was late November, and as Honora sat at the window of the drawing-room of the sleeping car, life seemed as fantastic and unreal as the moss-hung Southern forest into which she stared. She was happy, as a child is happy who is taken on an excursion into the unknown. The monotony of existence was broken — and the circumscribing walls. The emancipation had not been without its pangs of sorrow, of course, and there were moments of retrospection — as now. She saw herself on Uncle Tom’s arm, walking up the aisle of the old church. How many Sundays of her life had she sat watching a shaft of sunlight strike across the stone pillars of its gothic arches! She saw, in the chancel, the man with the flushed face who was to be her husband. She heard the familiar voice of Dr. Ewing reciting the words. At other weddings she had been moved. Why was her own so unrealizable?

Honora, wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together in the holy state of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

She had promised. After that a series of events. She was in a corner of a carriage, her veil raised, gazing at her husband, the representative of the future she had deliberately chosen. Yet, by virtue of the ceremony through which they had passed, he seemed to have changed. Next she recalled the arrival at the little house that had been her home for so many years. A red and white awning, stretching up the length of the walk, gave it an unrecognizable, gala air. She was standing beside her husband in the little parlour, while carriage doors slammed in the dusk outside, and one by one the friends of her childhood came and went. Laughter and tears and kisses! And then, in no time at all, she found herself changing for the journey. Aunt Mary, helpful under the most trying circumstances, was putting her articles in a bag with initials on which she did not recognize — H. L. S. — Honora Leffingwell Spence. Then came the good-bys — the real ones. As they drove towards the station, a question irresistibly presented itself: she had married Prosperity; was it not Prosperity that she had promised to love, honour, and obey?

It must not be thought that Honora was discontented with her Prosperity. He was new — that was all. But then Howard had always looked new; it was one of his greatest charms. And to-day his well-fitting suit had the magic touch of the metropolis. Obsequious porters grasped his pig-skin bag, the man at the gate inclined his head as he examined their tickets, and the Pullman conductor himself showed them their stateroom, and softly closed the door.

2

After a journey of two weeks, to mysterious quarters of New Orleans and through blue-stained valleys of the Virginia mountains, their honeymoon excursion reached New York, — where hidden somewhere amidst bristling miles of masonry must be Honora’s future home. Her mind dwelt upon it and tried to construct it. Once during the trip she had spoken to Howard of it, but he had smiled and avoided discussion. What would it be like to have a house of one’s own in New York? — a house on Fifth Avenue? She found it difficult to ask the question on her lips.

“I suppose,— I suppose we couldn’t go — home? You have never told me where we are to live, Howard.”

He refused, however, to be drawn. She did not hear the directions he gave the cabman, and it was not until they turned into a narrow side street, which became dingier and dingier, that Honora experienced a sudden sinking sensation.

“Howard!” she cried. “Where are you going? You must tell me.”

“One of the prettiest suburbs in New Jersey — Rivington. Wait till you see the house.”

Suburbs! Rivington! New Jersey! The words swam before Honora’s eyes like the great signs she had seen printed in black letters on the tall buildings they had passed. She had a sickening sensation, and the odour of Howard’s cigarette in the cab became unbearable.

“It’s in the country!” she said.

Howard appeared disturbed. More than that, he appeared astonished, solicitous.

“Why, what’s the matter, Honora? I thought you’d like it. It’s a brand new house, and I got Lily Dallam to furnish it. She’s a wonder on that sort of thing. I talked it over with your aunt and uncle, and they agreed with me you’d much rather live out there for a few years than in a flat.”

“In a flat!”

“Certainly,” he said, flicking his ashes out of the window. “Who do you think I am, at my age? Frederick T. Maitland, or the owner of the Brougham Building?”

“But — Howard — why didn’t you talk it over with me?”

“Because I wanted to surprise you. I spent a month and a half looking for that house. And you never seemed to care. It didn’t occur to me that you would care — for the first few years.” There was in his voice a note of reproach that did not escape her. “Sid Dallam and I are making money. We expect to be on Easy Street some day — or Fifth Avenue. Some day I hope you can show some of these people the road. But just now what capital we have has to go into the business.”

Strangely enough, in spite of the intensity of her disappointment, Honora felt nearer to her husband in this instant than at any time since their marriage. She seized his hand repentantly and tears started in her eyes.

“Oh, Howard,” she cried, “I must seem to you very ungrateful. It was such a — such a surprise. I have never lived in the country, and I’m sure it will be delightful — and much more healthful than the city.”

If he had known as much about the fluctuations of the feminine temperament as of stocks, the ease with which Honora executed this complete change of front might have disturbed him. But Howard possessed that quality which is loosely called good nature. In marriage he had been told (and was ready to believe) that the wind blew where it listed. He kissed her before he helped her out of the carriage, they boarded the North River ferry, and presently he led her through the wooden ferry house on the New Jersey side to where the Rivington train was standing beside a platform shed.

There was no parlour car. Men and women — mostly women — with bundles were already appropriating the seats and racks, and Honora found herself wondering how many of them were her future neighbours. After many stops, — in forty-two minutes, to be exact, — the brakeman shouted out the name of the place which was to be her home. They alighted at an old red railroad station, were seized upon by a hackman in a coonskin coat, and thrust into a carriage that threatened to fall to pieces on the frozen macadam road. They passed through a village, had a glimpse of the drug store and grocery and the Grand Army Hall, then of detached houses of all ages in one and two-acre plots, and finally the carriage turned sharply to the left under an archway on which were the words “Stafford Park,” — and stopped at a very new curbstone on the right.

“Here we are!” cried Howard, as he fished in his trousers pockets for money to pay the hackman.

Honora looked around her. Stafford Park consisted of a wide centre-way of red gravel, not yet packed, with an island in its middle planted with shrubbery and young trees, the bare branches of which formed a black tracery against the orange-red of the western sky. On both sides of this centre-way were concrete sidewalks, with walks from the curbs to the houses. There were six of these — three on each side — standing on a raised terrace and about two hundred feet apart. Beyond them, to the northward, Stafford Park was still a wilderness of second-growth hardwood, interspersed with a few cedars.

Honora’s house, the first on the right, was exactly like the other five. If we look at it through her eyes, we shall find this similarity its main drawback. If we are a little older, however, and more sophisticated, we shall suspect the owner of Stafford Park and his architect of a design to make it appear imposing. It was (indefinite and much-abused term) Colonial, painted white, and double-storied, with dormer windows in the roof. There was a large pillared porch on its least private side — namely, the front. A white-capped maid stood in the open doorway and smiled at Honora as she entered.

Honora walked through the rooms. There was nothing intricate about the house; it was as simple as two times four, and really too large for them. Her presents were installed, the pictures and photograph frames and chairs, even Cousin Eleanor’s dining-room table. The sight of these, and of the engraving which Aunt Mary had sent on, and which all her childhood had hung over her bed in the little room at home, brought the tears once more to her eyes, but she forced them back.

These reflections were interrupted by the appearance of the little maid announcing that tea was ready, and bringing her two letters. One was from Aunt Mary, and the other, written in a large, slanting, and angular handwriting, was signed “Lily Dallam.” It was dated from New York.

“My dear Honora,” it ran, “I feel that I must call you so, for Sid and Howard, in addition to being partners, are such friends. I hesitated so long about furnishing your house, my dear, but Howard insisted, and said he wished to surprise you. I am sending you this line to welcome you, and to tell you that I have arranged with the furniture people to take any or all things back that you do not like. After all, they will be out of date in a few years, and Howard and Sid will have made so much money by that time that I shall be able to leave my apartment, which is dear, and you will be coming to town.”

The tea-table was in the parlour, in front of a fire in the blue tiled fireplace. The oak floor reflected its gleam, and that of the electric lights; the shades were drawn; and a slight odour of steam heat pervaded the place. Howard, smoking a cigarette, reclined on a sofa evidently not made for such a purpose, reading the evening newspapers.

“Well,” he said, as she took a seat behind the tea-table, “you haven’t told me how you like it. Pretty cosey, eh? And enough spare room to have people out Sundays.”

“Oh, Howard, I do like it,” Honora said, in an attempt — which came near succeeding — to convince herself that she could have desired nothing more. “It’s so sweet and clean and new — and all our own.”

She succeeded, at any rate, in convincing Howard — in certain matters, he was easily convinced.

“I thought you’d be pleased,” he said.

3

It was the poet Cowper who sang of domestic happiness as the only bliss that has survived the Fall. One of the burning and unsolved questions of to-day is, — will it survive the twentieth century? Will it survive rapid transit and bridge and Woman’s Rights, the modern novel and modern drama, automobiles, flying machines, and intelligence offices; hotel, apartment, and suburban life, or four homes, or none at all? Is it a weed that will grow anywhere, in a crevice between two stones in the city? Or is it a plant that requires tender care and the water of self-sacrifice? Above all, is it desirable?

Our heroine, of course, has an adaptable temperament. Her natural position is upright, but like the reed, she can bend gracefully, and yields only to spring back again. Since this chronicle concerns her, we must try to look at existence through her eyes, and those of some of her generation and her sex: we must give the two years of her life in Rivington the approximate value which she herself would have put upon it — which is a chapter. We must regard Rivington as a kind of purgatory, not solely a place of departed spirits, but of those which have not yet arrived; as one of the many temporary abodes of the Great Unattached.

No philosophical writer has as yet made the attempt to define the change — as profound as that of the tadpole to the frog — between the lover and the husband. An author of ideals would not dare to proclaim that this change is inevitable: some husbands — and some wives — are fortunate enough to escape it, but it is not unlikely to happen in our modern civilization. Just when it occurred in Howard Spence it is difficult to say, but we have got to consider him henceforth as a husband; one who regards his home as a shipyard rather than the sanctuary of a goddess; as a launching place, the ways of which are carefully greased, that he may slide off to business every morning with as little friction as possible, and return at night to rest undisturbed in a comfortable berth, to ponder over the combat of the morrow.

It would be inspiring to summon the vision of Honora, in rustling garments, poised as the figurehead of this craft, beckoning him on to battle and victory. Alas! the launching happened at that grimmest and most unromantic of hours — ten minutes of eight in the morning. There was a period, indeterminate, when she poured out his coffee with wifely zeal; a second period when she appeared at the foot of the stairs to kiss him as he was going out of the door; a third when, clad in an attractive dressing-gown, she waved him good-by from the window; and lastly, a fourth, which was only marked by an occasional protest on his part, when the coffee was weak.

“I’d gladly come down, Howard, if it seemed to make the least difference to you,” she said. “But all you do is sit with your newspaper propped up and read the stock reports, and growl when I ask you a polite question. You’ve no idea how long it makes the days out here, to get up early.”

“It seems to me you put in a good many days in town,” he retorted.

“Surely you don’t expect me to spend all my time in Rivington! I’d die. And then I am always having to get new cooks for you, because they can’t make Hollandaise sauce like hotel chefs. Men have no idea how hard it is to keep house in the country, — I just wish you had to go to those horrid intelligence offices. You wouldn’t stay in Rivington ten days. And all the good cooks drink.”

Howard, indeed, with the aid of the village policeman, had had to expel from his kitchen one imperious female who swore like a dock hand, and who wounded Honora to the quick by remarking, as she departed in durance, that she had always lived with ladies and gentlemen and people who were somebody. The incident had tended further to detract from the romance of the country.

It is a mistake, however, to suppose that the honeymoon disappears below the horizon with the rapidity of a tropical sun. There is generally an afterglow. In spite of cooks and other minor clouds, in spite of visions of metropolitan triumphs (not shattered, but put away in camphor), life was touched with a certain novelty. There was a new runabout which Honora could drive herself, and she sometimes went to the station to meet her husband. On mild Saturday and Sunday afternoons they made long excursions into the country — until the golf season began, when he offered to give her lessons. But after a while certain male competitors appeared, and the lessons were discontinued. Sunday, after Howard’s pile of newspapers had religiously been disposed of, became a field day. Indeed, it is impossible, without a twinge of pity, to behold him taking root in Rivington, for we know that sooner or later he will be dug up and transplanted. The soil was congenial; he played poker on the train with the Rivington husbands, and otherwise got along with them famously. And it was to him an enigma — when occasionally he allowed his thoughts to dwell upon such trivial matters — why Honora was not equally congenial with the wives.

There were, no doubt, interesting people in Rivington about whom many stories could be written: people with loves and fears and anxieties and joys, with illnesses and recoveries, with babies, but few grandchildren. There were weddings at the little church; there were dances at the golf club; there were Christmas trees, where most of the presents — like Honora’s — came from afar from family centres formed in a social period gone by; there were promotions for the heads of families, and consequent rejoicings over increases of income; there were movings; there were — inevitable in the ever grinding action of that remorseless law, the survival of the fittest — commercial calamities, and the heartrending search for new employment.

Rivington called upon Honora in vehicles of all descriptions, in proportion to the improvidence or prosperity of the owners. And Honora returned the calls, and joined the Sewing Circle, and the Woman’s Luncheon Club, which met for the purpose of literary discussion. In the evenings there were little dinners of six or eight, where the men talked business and the women house rent and groceries and gossip and the cheapest places in New York City to buy articles of the latest fashion. Some of them had actually built or were building houses that cost as much as thirty thousand dollars, with the inexplicable intention of remaining in Rivington the rest of their lives!

Honora was kind to these ladies. She was kind to everybody. She almost allowed two or three of them to hope that they might become her intimates, and made excursions to New York with them, and lunched in fashionable restaurants. Their range of discussion included babies and Robert Browning, the modern novel and the best matinée. It would be interesting to know why she treated them, on the whole, like travellers met by chance in a railroad station, from whom she was presently forever to depart.

It would be interesting to know, likewise, just at what period the intention of moving away from Rivington became fixed in Honora’s mind. The gods exist somewhere, though many incarnations may be necessary to achieve their companionship, and no prison walls loomed so high as to appall our heroine’s soul. Howard — poor man! — was fatuous enough to regard a great problem as being settled once and for all by a marriage certificate and a benediction; and laboured under the delusion that henceforth he may come and go as he pleased, eat his breakfast in silence, sleep after dinner, and spend his Sundays at the Rivington Golf Club. It is as well to leave him, at present, in blissful ignorance of his future.

Our sympathies, however, must be with Honora, who has paid the price for heaven, and who now discovers that by marriage she has merely joined the ranks of the Great Unattached. Hitherto it had been inconceivable to her that any one sufficiently prosperous could live in a city, or near it and dependent on it, without being socially a part of it. Most momentous of disillusions! With the exception of the Sidney Dallams and one or two young brokers who occasionally came out on Sunday, her husband had no friends in New York. Rivington formed the sum total of her acquaintance.

On Monday mornings in particular, if perchance she went to town, the huge signs which she read across the swamps, of breakfast foods and other necessaries, seemed for some reason best to express her isolation. Well-dressed, laughing people descended from omnibuses at the prettier stations, people who seemed all-sufficient to themselves; people she was sure she should like if only she knew them. Once the sight of a school friend, chatting with a tall young man, brought up a flood of recollections.

Sometimes she would walk on Fifth Avenue, watching, with mingled sensations, the procession there. The colour, the movement, the feeling of living in a world where every one was fabulously wealthy, was at once a stimulation and a despair. Brougham after brougham passed, victoria after victoria, in which beautifully gowned women chatted gayly or sat back, impassive, amidst the cushions. Some of them, indeed, looked bored, but this did not mar the general effect of pleasure and prosperity. Even the people — well-dressed, too — in the hansom cabs were usually animated and smiling. On the sidewalk athletic, clear-skinned girls passed her, sometimes with a man, sometimes in groups of two and three, going in and out of the expensive-looking shops with large, plate-glass windows.

All of these women, apparently, had something definite to do, somewhere to go, some one to meet the very next minute. They protested to milliners and dressmakers if they were kept waiting, and even seemed impatient of time lost if anybody by chance bumped into them. But Honora had no imperative appointments. Lily Dallam was almost sure to be out, or going out immediately, and seemed to have more engagements than any one in New York.

“I’m so sorry, my dear,” she would say, and add reproachfully: “why didn’t you telephone me you were coming? If you had only let me know we might have lunched together or gone to the matinée. Now I have promised Clara Trowbridge to go to a lunch party at her house.”

Mrs. Dallam had a most convincing way of saying such things, and in spite of one’s self put one in the wrong for not having telephoned. But if indeed Honora telephoned — as she did once or twice in her innocence — Lily was quite as distressed.

“My dear, why didn’t you let me know last night? Trixy Brent has given Lula Chandos his box at the Horse Show, and Lula would never, never forgive me if I backed out.”

Although she lived in an apartment — in a most attractive one, to be sure — there could be no doubt that Lily Dallam was fashionable. She had a way with her and her costumes were always marvellous. She could have made her fortune either as a dressmaker or a house decorator, and she bought everything from “little” men and women whom she discovered herself — before they became fashionable, too. Lily was kind to Honora and gave her their addresses.

While we are confessing the trials of our heroine, we shall have to admit that she read, occasionally, the society columns of the newspapers. And in this manner she grew to have a certain familiarity with the doings of those favourites of fortune who had more delightful engagements than hours in which to fulfil them. So intimate was Lily Dallam with many of these Olympians that she spoke of them by their first names, and the year after Honora’s marriage had even taken a house in that much discussed colony of Quicksands, where sport and pleasure reigned supreme. More than once the gown which Mrs. Sidney Dallam had worn to a polo match had been faithfully described in the public prints, and the dinner she had given at the Quicksands Club. One of these dinners, Honora learned, had been given in honour of Mr. Trixton Brent.

“You ought to know Trixy, Honora,” Mrs. Dallam declared; “he’d be crazy about you.”

Time passed, however, and Mrs. Dallam made no attempt to bring about this most desirable meeting. When Honora and Howard went to town to dine with the Dallams, it was always at a restaurant — Lily Dallam thought it dull to dine at home. They went to the theatre afterwards — invariably a musical comedy. Although Honora did not care particularly for comedies, she always experienced a certain feverish stimulation which kept her wide awake on the midnight train to Rivington. Howard had a most exasperating habit of dozing in the corner of the seat.

“You are always sleepy when I have anything interesting to talk to you about,” she complained, “or are reading stock reports. I scarcely see anything at all of you.”

Howard roused himself.

“Where are we now?”

“Oh,” cried Honora, “we haven’t passed Hydeville. Howard, who is Trixton Brent?”

“What about him?”

“Nothing — except that be is one of Lily’s friends. I wish you would be more interested in people. Who is he?”

“One of the best-known operators in the market.” And his air implied that a lack of knowledge of Mr. Brent was ignorance indeed. “He cornered cotton once, and raked in over a million. He’s a sport, too.”

“How old is he?”

“About forty-three.”

“Is he married?”

“Divorced.”

And Honora had to be content with so much of the gentleman’s biography, for her husband relapsed into somnolence again. A few days later she saw a picture of Mr. Brent, in polo costume, in one of the magazines. She thought him good-looking, and wondered what kind of a wife he’d had.

There followed a period during which Howard was unusually uncommunicative and morose. But just as electrical disturbances are said to be in some way connected with sun spots, so Honora learned that a certain glumness and a sudden tendency to discuss expenses on the part of her husband were synchronous with a depression in the market.

“I wish you’d learn to go a little slow, Honora,” he said one evening. “The bills are pretty stiff this month. You don’t seem to have any idea of the value of money.”

“Oh, Howard,” she exclaimed, “how can you say such a thing, when I save you so much?”

“Save me so much!” he echoed.

“Yes. If I had gone to Ridley for this suit, he would have charged me two hundred dollars. I took such pains — all on your account — to find a little man Lily Dallam told me about, who actually made it for one hundred and twenty-five.”

It was typical of the unreason of his sex that he failed to be impressed by this argument.

“If you go on saving that way, we’ll be in the hands of a receiver by Christmas. I can’t see any difference between buying one suit from Ridley — whoever he maybe — and three from Lily Dallam’s ‘little man.’”

“Oh, I didn’t get three! — I never thought you could be so unjust, Howard. Surely you don’t want me to dress like these Rivington women, do you?”

“I can’t see anything wrong with their clothes.”

“And to think that I was doing it all to please you!”

“To please me!”

“Who else? We don’t know anybody in New York! And I’ve tried so hard and — and sometimes you don’t even look at my gowns, and — and they are all for you.”

This argument, at least, did not fail of results, combined as it was with a hint of tears. Its effect upon Howard was peculiar — he was at once irritated, disarmed, and softened. He put down his cigarette — and put Honora on his knee. He could not deny her attractions.

“How could you be so cruel, Howard?” she said. “You know you wouldn’t like me to be a slattern. It was my own idea to save money — and you act as though you had such a lot of it when we’re in town for dinner. You always have champagne. If — if you’re poor, you ought to have told me so, and I shouldn’t have ordered another dinner gown.”

“You’ve ordered another dinner gown!”

“Only a little one,” said Honora, “the simplest kind. But if you’re poor —”

She made a discovery — to reflect upon his business success was to touch a sensitive nerve.

“I’m not poor,” he said, “but the bottom’s dropped out of the market, and even old James Wing is economizing. We’ll have to put on the brakes for awhile, Honora.”

4

This history concerns a free and untrammelled — and, let us add, feminine — spirit. No lady is in the least interesting if restricted and contented with her restrictions, — a fact which the ladies of our nation are fast finding out. So it was, at quarter to seven one blustery evening of the April following their second anniversary, Honora returned from New York to find her husband seated under the tall lamp in the room he somewhat facetiously called his “den,” scanning the financial page of the newspaper. He was in his dressing gown, smoking a cigarette, his slippered feet extended towards the hearth, and on the stand beside him was a cocktail glass — empty.

“Howard,” Honora cried, brushing his ashes from the table, “how can you be so untidy when you are so good-looking dressed up? I really believe you’re getting fat. And there,” she added, touching a place on the top of his head, “is a bald spot!”

“Anything else?” he murmured, with his eyes still on the sheet.

“Lots,” said Honora, pulling down the newspaper from before his face. “For one thing, I’m not going to allow you to be a bear any more. I don’t mean a Stock Exchange bear, but a domestic bear — which is much worse. You’ve got to notice me once in a while. If you don’t, I’ll get another husband. That’s what women do in these days, you know, when the one they have doesn’t take the trouble to make himself sufficiently agreeable. I’m sure I could get another one — quite easily.”

He looked up at her as she stood facing him in the lamplight, and was forced to admit to himself that the boast might not be wholly idle. A smile was on her lips, her furs — of silver fox — were thrown back, and the crimson roses pinned on her mauve afternoon gown matched the glow in her cheeks.

Thus did Howard Spence experience one of those startling, illuminating moments which come on occasions to the busy and self-absorbed husbands of our nation. Ten minutes before, so far as his thoughts were concerned, Honora had not existed, and suddenly she had become a possession which he had not, in truth, sufficiently prized. Absurd though it was, the possibility which she had suggested aroused in him a slight uneasiness.

“You are a deuced good-looking woman, I’ll say that for you,” he admitted.

“Thanks,” she answered, mockingly. “If I had only known you were going to settle down in Rivington and get fat and bald and wear dressing gowns and be a bear, I never should have married you — never, never, never! How young and simple and foolish I was! And the magnificent way you talked about New York, and intimated that you were going to conquer the world. I believed you. Wasn’t I a little idiot not to know that you’d make for a place like this and dig a hole and stay in it, and let the world go hang?”

He laughed, though it was a poor attempt. She read in his eyes, which had not left her face, that he was more or less disturbed.

“I treat you pretty well, don’t I, Honora?” There was an amorous, apologetic note in his voice that amused her, and reminded her of their honeymoon. “I give you all the money you want — or rather — you take it, — and I don’t kick up a row, except when the market goes to pieces —”

“When you act as though we’d have to live in Harlem — which couldn’t be much worse. And you stay in town all day and have no end of fun making money, — and expect me to amuse myself the better part of my life with a lot of women who don’t know enough to keep thin.”

He laughed again, still uneasily. Honora continued to smile.

“What’s got into you?” he demanded. “I know you don’t like Rivington, but you never broke loose like this before.”

“If you stay here,” Honora said, “it will be alone. I can’t see what you want with a wife, anyway. I don’t do anything for you, except get you cooks — and anybody can do that. All I do is loiter around the house, or go to New York and buy clothes for nobody to look at except strangers in restaurants. I think I’ll get married again.”

“Great Lord, what are you talking about?” — when he had got his breath.

“I think I’ll take a man next time, the kind of man I thought I was getting when I took you — only I shouldn’t be fooled again. Women remarry a good deal in these days, and I’m beginning to see the reason why. And those who have done it appear to be perfectly happy — much happier than they were at first. I saw one of them at Lily Dallam’s this afternoon. She was radiant.”

Her husband got up.

“Jehosaphat! I never heard such talk in my life.”

The idea that she would for a moment consider leaving him, he rejected as preposterous. Nevertheless, there was in her words a new undertone of determination he had never heard before — or, at least, noticed.

There was, however, one argument, or panacea, which had generally worked like a charm, although some time had elapsed since last he had resorted to it. He tried to seize and kiss her, but she eluded him, for a while.

“Howard — you’ll knock over the lamp — you’ll ruin my gown — and then you’ll have to buy me another. I did mean it,” she insisted, holding back her head; “you’ll have to choose between Rivington and me. It’s — it’s an ultimatum. There were at least three very attractive men at Lily Dallam’s tea — I won’t tell you who they were — who would be glad to marry me in a minute.”

He released her.

“Now that Lily has a house in town,” he said weakly, “I suppose you think you’ve got to have one.”

“Oh, Howard, it is such a dear house — all French, with mirrors and satin chairs and sofas, and a carved gilt piano that she got for nothing from a dealer she knows. It was only a hideous, old-fashioned stone front when she bought it. Nobody but Reggie Farwell could have made anything out of it.”

“Who’s Reggie Farwell?”

“Howard, do you really mean to say you’ve never heard of Reggie Farwell? Lily was so lucky to get him. He built the Maitlands’ house, and did over the Cecil Graingers’. And he’s going to do our house — some day.”

“Some day?”

Yes, some day. I’ve made up my mind to be reasonable. We’re going to Quicksands first.”

“To Quicksands!” It was another shock, but in spite of himself he experienced a feeling of relief that she had not demanded a mansion in town on the spot. “I don’t know about this Quicksands proposition. Let’s talk it over a little more —”

“We’ll talk it over another time. Remember my ultimatum. I am taking you there for your own good — to get you out of a rut, to keep you from becoming commonplace and obscure and — and everything you promised not to be when you married me. It is my last desperate effort as a wife to save you from baldness, obesity, and nonentity!”

Wherewith she disappeared from the room and closed the door.

We read of earthquakes in the tropics and at the ends of the earth with commiseration, it is true, yet with the fond belief that the ground on which we have built is so firm that our own lares and penates are in no danger of being shaken down. And in the same spirit we learn of other people’s domestic cataclysms. Howard Spence had had only a slight shock, but it frightened him and destroyed his sense of immunity. And during the week that followed he lacked the moral courage either to discuss the subject of Quicksands thoroughly or to let it alone: to put down his foot like a Turk or accede like a Crichton.

Either course might have saved him. One trouble with the unfortunate man was that he realized but dimly the gravity of the crisis. He had laboured under the delusion that matrimonial conditions were still what they had been in the Eighteenth Century — though it is doubtful whether he had ever thought of that century. Characteristically, he considered the troublesome affair chiefly from its business side. His ambition, if we may use so large a word for the sentiment that filled his breast, had been coincident with his prenuptial passion for Honora. And she had contrived, after two years, in some mysterious way to stir up that ambition once more; to make him uncomfortable; to compel him to ask himself whether he were not sliding downhill; to wonder whether living at Quicksands might not bring him in touch with important interests which had as yet eluded him. And, above all, — if the idea be put a little more crudely and definitely than it occurred in his thoughts, — he awoke to the realization that his wife was an asset he had hitherto utterly neglected. Inconceivable though it were (a middle-of-the-night reflection), if he insisted on trying to keep such a woman bottled up in Rivington she might some day pack up and leave him.

One never could tell what a woman would do in these days.


 

 

A NEW ENGLAND RECESSIONAL

 
 

1

IN this modern industrial civilization of which we are sometimes wont to boast, a certain glacier-like process may be observed. The bewildered, the helpless — and there are many — are torn from the parent rock, crushed, rolled smooth, and left stranded in strange places. Thus was Edward Bumpus severed and rolled from the ancestral ledge, from the firm granite of seemingly stable and lasting things, into shifting shale; and surrounded by fragments of cliffs from distant lands he had never seen. At five and fifty, he found himself gate-keeper of the leviathan Chippering Mill in the city of Hampton, and that the polyglot, smoky settlement sprawling on both sides of an historic river should be a part of his native New England seemed at times to be a hideous dream. Nor could he comprehend what had happened to him, and to the world of order and standards and religious sanctions into which he had been born.

His had been a life of relinquishments. For a long time he had clung to the institution he had been taught to believe was the rock of ages, the Congregational Church, finally to abandon it, — even that form assuming the fantastic and unreal, as embodied in the edifice three blocks distant from Fillmore Street. The building was symbolic of a decadent and bewildered Puritanism, of its pathetic attempt to keep abreast with the age. It was a nondescript medley of rounded, knob-like towers covered with mulberry-stained shingles. And the minister was sensational and dramatic. He looked like an actor, and aroused in Edward Bumpus an inherent prejudice that condemned the stage. Half a block from this tabernacle stood a Roman Catholic Church, prosperous, brazen, serene, flaunting an eternal permanence amidst the chaos which had succeeded permanence!

There were, to be sure, other Protestant churches where Edward Bumpus and his wife might have gone. One in particular, which he passed on his way to the mill, with a terraced steeple and classic facade, preserved all the outward semblance of the old Order that once had seemed so enduring and secure. But he hesitated to join the decorous and dwindling congregation — the remains of a social stratum from which he had been pried loose. And — more irony — this street, called Warren, of arching elms and white-gabled houses, was now the abiding place of those prosperous Irish who had moved thither from the tenements and ruled the city.

On just such a street in the once thriving New England village of Dolton had Edward been born. In Dolton, Bumpus was once a name of names, rooted there since the seventeenth century. And if you had cared to listen, Edward would have told you, in a dialect precise but colloquial, the history of a family that by right of priority and service should have been destined to inherit the land, whose descendants were preserved only to see it delivered to the alien. Edward could never understand this; or why the Universe, so long static and immutable, had suddenly begun to move. He had always been prudent, but in spite of youthful “advantages,” of an education, so called, from a sectarian college on a hill, he had never been taught that, while prudence may prosper in a static world, it is a futile virtue in a dynamic one.

Experience also had been powerless to impress this upon him. For more than twenty years after leaving college he had clung to a clerkship in a Dolton mercantile establishment. But the mercantile establishment amalgamated with a rival — and Edward’s services were no longer required. During a succession of precarious places with decreasing salaries, a terrified sense of economic pressure had gradually crept over him. It would be painful to record in detail the cracking-off process, the slipping into shale, the rolling, the ending up in Hampton. Edward had now for some dozen years been keeper of one of the gates in the frowning brick wall bordering the canal, — a position obtained for him by a childhood friend who had risen in life and knew the agent of the Chippering Mill, Mr. Claude Ditmar. Thus had virtue failed to hold its own.

One might have thought in all the years he had sat within the gates, staring at the brick row of boarding houses on the opposite bank of the canal, that reflection might have brought a certain degree of enlightenment. It was not so. The fog of Edward’s bewilderment never cleared, and the unformed question was ever clamouring for an answer — how had it happened? Job’s cry. How had it happened to an honest and virtuous man, the days of whose forebears had been long in the land, which the Lord their God had given them? Inherently American, though lacking the saving quality of push that had been the making of men like Ditmar, he never ceased to regard with resentment and distrust the hordes of foreigners trooping between the pillars. A bent, broad shouldered, silent man: lips covered by a grizzled moustache, hooked nose and sallow cheeks, grizzled brows and grey eyes drawn down at the corners; but for all its ancestral strength of feature, his was a face from which will had been extracted, which lacked the fire and fanaticism, the indomitable hardness it should have proclaimed. His clothes were slightly shabby, but always neat.

2

Little as one might have guessed it, however, what may be called a certain transmuted enthusiasm was alive in Edward Bumpus. He had a hobby almost amounting to an obsession, not uncommon amongst Americans who have slipped downward in the social scale. It was the Bumpus Family in America. He collected documents about his ancestors and relations, and wrote letters with a fine, painful penmanship on a ruled block bought at Hartshorne’s drug store to distant Bumpuses in Kansas and Illinois and Michigan, common descendants of Ebenezer, the original immigrant, of Dolton. Many of these western kinsmen answered: not so the magisterial Bumpus who lived in Boston on the water side of Beacon, whom likewise Edward had ventured to address, — to the indignation and disgust of his elder daughter, Janet.

“Why are you so proud of Ebenezer?” she demanded once.

“Why? Aren’t we descended from him?”

“How many generations?”

“Seven,” said Edward, emphasizing the last syllable.

Janet was quick at figures. She made a mental calculation.

“Well, you’ve got one hundred and twenty-seven other ancestors of Ebenezer's time, haven’t you?”

Edward was a little surprised. He had never thought of this, but his ardour for Ebenezer remained undampened. Genealogy — his own — had become his religion, and instead of going to church he spent his Sunday mornings poring over papers of various degrees of discolouration, making careful notes on the ruled block. This consciousness of his descent from good American stock that had somehow been deprived of its heritage, while a grievance to him, was also a comfort. It had a compensating side, in spite of the lack of sympathy of his daughters and his wife.

Hannah Bumpus took the situation more grimly: she was a logical projection in a new environment of the religious fatalism of ancestors whose God was a God of vengeance. She did not concern herself as to what all this vengeance was about; life was a trap into which all mortals walked sooner or later, and her particular trap was a treadmill, — a round of household duties she kept whirling with an energy that might have made their fortunes if she had been the head of the family.

It is bad to be a fatalist unless one has an incontrovertible belief in one’s destiny, — which Hannah had not. But she kept the little flat with its worn furniture as clean as a merchant ship of old Salem, and when it was scoured and dusted to her satisfaction she would sally forth to Bonnaccossi’s grocery and provision store on the corner to do her bargaining in competition with the Italian housewives of the neighborhood. She was wont to pause outside for a moment, her quick eye encompassing the coloured prints of red and yellow jellies cast in rounded moulds, the gaudy boxes of cereals and buckwheat flour, the “Brookfield” eggs in packages. Significant, this modern package system, of an era of flats with little storage space. She took in at a glance the blue lettered placard announcing the current price of butterine, and walked around to the other side of the store, on Holmes Street, where the beef and bacon hung, where the sidewalk stands were filled, in the autumn, with cranberries, apples, cabbages, and spinach.

With little outer complaint Hannah had adapted herself to the constantly lowering levels to which her husband had dropped, and if she hoped that in Fillmore Street they had reached bottom, she did not say so. Her unbetrayed regret was for the loss of what she would have called “respectability”; and the giving up, long ago, in a little city which had been their home, of the servant girl had been the first wrench. Until they came to Hampton they had always lived in houses, and her adaptation to a flat had been hard — a flat without a parlour. Hannah Bumpus regarded a parlour as necessary to a respectable family as a wedding ring to a virtuous woman. Janet and Lise would be growing up, there would be young men, and no place to see them save the sidewalks.

The fear that haunted her came true, and she never was reconciled. The two girls went to the public schools, and afterwards, inevitably, to work, and it seemed to be a part of her punishment for the sins of her forefathers that she had no more control over them than if they had been boarders. While she looked on helplessly, they did what they pleased. Janet, whom she never understood, was almost as much a source of apprehension as Lise, who became part and parcel of all Hannah deemed reprehensible in this new America, which she refused to recognize and acknowledge as her own country.

Hannah used to lie awake nights wondering what would happen if Edward became sick. It worried her that they never saved any money: try as she would to cut the expenses down, there was a limit of decency; New England thrift, hitherto justly celebrated, was put to shame by that which the foreigners displayed, and which would have delighted the souls of gentlemen of the Manchester school. Every once in a while there rose up before her fabulous instances of this thrift, of Italians and Jews who, ignorant emigrants, had entered the mills only a few years before, and were now independent property owners. Still rankling in Hannah’s memory was a day when Lise had returned from school, dark and mutinous, with a tale of such a family. One of the younger children was a classmate.

“They live on Jordan Street in a house, and Laura has roller skates. I don’t see why I can’t.”

This was one of the occasions on which Hannah had given vent to her indignation. Lise was fourteen. Her open rebellion was less annoying than Janet’s silent reproach, but at least Hannah had something to take hold of.

“Well, Lise,” she said, shifting the saucepan to another part of the stove, “I guess if your father and I had put both you girls in the mills and crowded into one room and cooked in a corner, and lived on onions and macaroni, and put four boarders each in the other rooms, I guess we could have had a house, too. We can start in right now, if you’re willing.”

But Lise had only looked darker.

“I don’t see why father can’t make money — other men do.”

“Isn’t he working as hard as he can to send you to school, and give you a chance?”

“I don’t want that kind of a chance. There’s Sadie Howard at school — she don’t have to work. She liked me before she found out where I lived. . .”

There was an element of selfishness in Hannah’s mania for keeping busy, for doing all their housework and cooking herself. She could not bear to have her daughters interfere; perhaps she did not want to give herself time to think. Her affection for Edward, such as it was, her loyalty to him, was the logical result of a conviction ingrained in early youth that marriage was an indissoluble bond; a point of view once having a religious sanction, no less powerful now that it had deteriorated into a superstition. The beliefs of other days, when she had donned her best dress and gone to church on Sundays, had simply lapsed and left — habits. No new beliefs had taken their place.

Even after Janet and Lise had gone to work the household never seemed to gain that margin of safety for which Hannah yearned. Always, when they were on the verge of putting something by, some untoward need or accident seemed to arise on purpose to swallow it up: Edward, for instance, had been forced to buy a new overcoat, the linoleum on the dining-room floor must be renewed, and Lise had had a spell of sickness, losing her position in a flower shop. Afterwards, when she became a saleslady in the Bagatelle, that flamboyant department store in Faber Street, she earned four dollars and a half a week. Two of these were supposed to go into the common fund, but there were clothes to buy; Lise loved finery, and Hannah had not every week the heart to insist. Even when, on an occasional Saturday night, the girl somewhat consciously and defiantly flung down the money on the dining-room table Hannah pretended not to notice it. But Janet, who was earning six dollars as a stenographer in the office of the Chippering Mill, regularly gave half of hers.

3

As sharply, rudely, the cold stillness of the winter mornings was broken by agitating waves of sound, penetrating the souls of sleepers, Janet would stir, her mind still lingering on some dream, — soon to fade into the inexpressible, in which she had been near to the fulfilment of a heart’s desire. Each morning, as the clamour grew louder, there was an interval of bewilderment, of revulsion, until the realization came of mill bells swinging in high cupolas above the river, one rousing another. She could even distinguish the bells: the deep-toned, penetrating one belonged to the Patuxent Mill, over on the west side, while the Arundel had a high, ominous reverberation like a fire bell. When at last the clangings had ceased, she would lie listening to the overtones throbbing in the air, high and low, high and low; lie shrinking, awaiting the second summons that never failed to terrify, the siren of the Chippering Mill, — to her the cry of an insistent, hungry monster demanding its food, the symbol of a stern, ugly, and unrelenting necessity.

Beside her in the bed she could feel the soft body of her younger sister cuddling up to her in fright. In such rare moments as this her heart melted towards Lise, and she would fling a protecting arm about her. A sense of Lise’s need of protection invaded her, a sharp conviction, like a pang, that Lise was destined to wander. Janet was never so conscious of the feeling as in this dark hour, though it came to her at other times, when they were not quarreling. Quarreling seemed to be the normal reaction between them.

It was Janet, presently, who would get up, shivering, close the window, and light the gas, revealing the room which the two girls shared together. Against the middle of one wall was the bed, opposite this a travel-dented walnut bureau with a marble top, with an oval mirror into which were stuck numerous magazine portraits of the masculine and feminine talent adorning the American stage, a preponderance of the music hall variety. There were pictures of other artists whom the recondite would have recognized as “movie” stars, amazing yet veridic stories of whose wealth Lise read in the daily press: all possessed limousines — an infallible proof, to Lise, of the measure of artistic greatness.

Between one of these movie millionaires and a lady who found vaudeville profitable was wedged the likeness of a popular idol whose connection with the footlights would be contingent upon an acquittal at the hands of a jury of her countrymen, and whose trial for murder, in Chicago, was chronicled daily in thousands of newspapers and followed by Lise with breathless interest and sympathy. She was wont to stare at this lady while dressing and exclaim:—

“Say, I hope they put it all over that district attorney!”

To such sentiments, Janet remained cold. Lise was a truer daughter of her time and country in that she had the national contempt for law, was imbued with the American hero-worship of criminals that caused the bombardment of Cora Wellman’s jail with candy, fruit and flowers and impassioned letters.

It was Lise who had given the note of ornamentation to the bedroom. Against the cheap faded lilac and gold wall-paper were tacked photo-engravings that had taken the younger sister’s fancy: a young man and woman, clad in scanty bathing suits, seated side by side in a careening sail boat, — the work of a popular illustrator whose manly and womanly “types” had become national ideals.

There were other drawings; one, sketched in bold strokes, of a dinner party in a stately neo-classic dining-room, the table laden with flowers and silver, the bare-throated women with jewels. The sight of these young gods of leisure, the contemplation of the stolid butler and plush footmen in the background, never failed to make Lise’s heart beat faster.

On the marble of the bureau amidst a litter of toilet articles, and bought by Lise for a quarter at the Bagatelle bargain counter, was an oval photograph frame from which the silver wash had begun to rub off. The frame always contained the current object of Lise’s affections, though the exhibits were subject to change without notice. The Adonis who now reigned had black hair cut in the prevailing Hampton fashion, very long in front and hanging down over his eyes like a Scottish terrier’s. The manly beauty of Mr. Max Wylie was of the lantern-jawed order, and in his photograph he conveyed the astonished and pained air of one who has been suddenly seized by an officer of the law from behind. It is only fair to add that the photograph scarcely did Mr. Wylie justice. In real life he did not wear the collar, was free and easy in his manners, and sure of his powers of conquest. As Lise observed, he had made a home-run with her at Slattery’s Riverside Park.

It was Lise’s habit to slight her morning toilet, to linger until the last minute in bed, which she left in reluctant haste to stand before the bureau frantically combing out the kinks of the brown hair falling over her shoulders before jamming it down across her forehead in the latest mode. Thus occupied, she revealed a certain petulant beauty. Her figure was good, her skin white; her discontented mouth gave her the touch of piquancy apt to play havoc with the work of the world. . .

4

In winter breakfast was eaten by the light of a rococo metal lamp set in the centre of the table. This was to save gas. There was usually a rump steak and potatoes, bread and “creamery” butterine, and the inevitable New England doughnuts. At six thirty the whistles screeched again, — a warning note, the signal for Edward’s departure; and presently, after a brief respite, the heavy bells once more began their clamour, not to die down until ten minutes of seven, when the last of the stragglers had hurried through the mill gates. The Bumpus flat included the second floor of a small wooden house prainted a livid clay-yellow. The house was separated from its neighbour by a narrow interval, giving but a precarious light to the the dining-room and kitchen. The very unattractiveness of such a home had certain compensations, however; for Janet, after the effort of early rising had been surmounted, felt a real relief in leaving it; a relief, too, in leaving Fillmore Street, every feature of which was indelibly fixed in her mind.

Opposite was the blind brick face of a warehouse, and next to that the converted dwelling house that held the shop of A. Bauer, with the announcement that ice-cold soda was to be had within, as well as cigars and tobacco, fruit and candy. Then came a tenement, under which two enterprising Greeks by the name of Pappas conducted a business called “The Gentleman,” a tailoring, pressing, and dyeing establishment. Janet could see the brilliantined black heads of the two proprietors bending over their boards, and sometimes they would be lifted to smile at her as she passed. The Pappas Brothers were evidently happy in this drab environment, and she sometimes wondered at this, for she had gathered from her education in the Channing public school that Greece was beautiful.

Janet was one of the unfortunate who love beauty, and who are condemned to dwell in exile. Desire was incandescent within her breast. Desire for what? It would have been some relief to know. She could not, like Lise, find joy and forgetfulness at dance halls, at the “movies,” at Slattery’s Riverside Park in summer, in “joy rides” with the Max Wylies of Hampton. Vividly idealized was the memory of a seaside village, the scene of one of the brief sojourns of her childhood, where the air was fragrant with the breath of salt marshes, and a shining glimpse of the sea.

Next to Pappas Brothers was the grey wooden building of Mule Spinners’ Hall, that elite organization of skilled labour, and underneath it the store of Johnny Tiernan, its windows piled up with stoves and stovepipes, sheet iron and cooking utensils. Mr. Tiernan, like the Greeks, was happy, too: unlike the Greeks, he never appeared to be busy, and yet he throve. He was proud of the business in which he had invested his savings, but he seemed to have other affairs lying blithely on his mind, affairs of moment to the community, as the frequent presence of policemen, aldermen, and other important looking persons bore witness. He hailed by name Italians, Greeks, Belgians, Syrians, and “French”; he hailed Janet, too, with respectful cheerfulness, taking off his hat.

He gave Janet the odd impression that he understood her. And she did not understand herself!

By the time she reached the Common the winter sun, as though red from exertion, had begun to dispel the smoke and heavy morning mists. Her way lay along Faber Street, the main artery of Hampton, a wide strip of asphalt threaded with car tracks, lined on both sides with edifices indicative of a rapid, undiscriminating, and artless prosperity. There were long stretches of “ten foot” buildings, so called on account of the single story, their height deceptively enhanced by the superimposition of huge, gaudy signs, one on top of another, announcing the merits of “Stewart’s Amberine Ale,” of “Cooley’s Oats, the Digestible Breakfast Food,” of graphophones and “spring heeled” shoes, tobacco, and naphtha soaps. “No, We don’t give Trading Stamps, Our Products are Worth all You Pay.”

These “ten foot” stores were the repositories of pianos, automobiles, hardware, and millinery, and interspersed amongst them were buildings of various heights; The Bagatelle, where Lise worked, the Wilmot Hotel, office buildings, and an occasional relic of old Hampton, like that housing the Banner. Here, during those months when the sun made the asphalt soft, on a scaffolding spanning the window of the store, might be seen a perspiring young man in his shirt sleeves chalking up baseball scores for the benefit of a crowd below.

Then came the funereal, liver-coloured, long-windowed Hinckley Block (1872), and on the corner a modern, glorified drugstore thrusting forth plate glass bays — two on Faber Street and three on Stanley — filled with cameras and candy, hot water bags, throat sprays, catarrh and kidney cures, calendars, fountain pens, stationery, and handy alcohol lamps. Flanking the sidewalks, symbolizing and completing the heterogeneous and bewildering effect of the street were long rows of heavy hemlock trunks, unpainted and stripped of bark, with crosstrees bearing webs of wires. Trolley cars rattled along, banging their gongs, trucks rumbled across the tracks, automobiles uttered frenzied screeches behind the startled pedestrians. Janet was always galvanized into alertness here, Faber Street being no place to dream. By night an endless procession moved up one sidewalk and down another, staring hypnotically at the flash-in and flash-out electric signs that kept the breakfast foods and ales, the safety razors, soaps, and soups incessantly in the minds of a fickle public.

Two blocks from Faber Street was the North Canal, with a granite-paved roadway between it and a monotonous row of company boarding houses. Even in bright weather Janet felt a sense of oppression here; on dark, misty mornings the stern, huge battlements of the mills lining the farther bank were menacing indeed, bristling with projections, towers, and chimneys, flanked by heavy walls. Her feeling about the mills was that they were at once fortress and prison, and she a slave driven thither day after day by an all-compelling power; as much a slave as those who trooped in through the gates in the winter dawn.

The sound of the looms was like heavy rain hissing on the waters of the canal.

5

The administrative offices of a giant mill such as the Chippering in Hampton are labyrinthine. Janet did not enter by the great gates her father kept, but walked through an open courtyard into a vestibule where, day and night, a watchman stood. She climbed iron-shod stairs, passed the doorway leading to the paymaster’s suite, to catch a glimpse, behind the grill, of numerous young men settling down at those mysterious and complicated machines that kept so unerring a record, in dollars and cents, of the human labour of the operatives. There were other suites for the superintendents, for the purchasing agent; and at the end of the corridor, on the south side of the mill, the outer of the two rooms reserved for Mr. Claude Ditmar, the Agent and general-in-chief of this vast establishment.

In this outer office, behind the rail that ran the length of it, Janet worked; from the window where her typewriter stood was a sheer drop of eighty feet or so to the river, which ran here swiftly through a wide canon whose sides were formed by miles and miles of mills, built on buttressed stone walls to retain the banks. The prison-like buildings on the farther shore were also of colossal size, casting their shadows far out into the waters; while in the distance, up and down the stream, could be seen the delicate web of the Stanley and Warren Street bridges, with trolley cars like toys gliding over them, with insect pedestrians creeping along the footpaths.

Mr. Ditmar’s immediate staff consisted of Mr. Price, an elderly bachelor of tried efficiency whose peculiar genius lay in computation, of a young Mr. Caldwell who, during the four years since he had left Harvard, had been learning the textile industry, of Miss Ottway, and Janet. Miss Ottway was the agent’s private stenographer, a strongly built, capable woman with reserves seemingly inexhaustible. She had a deep, masculine voice, not unmusical, the hint of a masculine moustache, a masculine manner of taking to any job that came to hand. Janet was the second stenographer, and performed, besides, any odd tasks that might be assigned.

There were, in the various offices of the superintendents, the paymaster and purchasing agent, other young women stenographers whose companionship Janet, had she been differently organized, might have found congenial, but something in her refused their proffered friendship. She had but one friend, — if Eda Rawle, who worked in a bank, and whom she had met at a lunch counter by accident, may be called so. The young women stenographers in the Chippering Mill gathered in the hallway at the end of the noon hour to enter into discussions of waists, hats, and lingerie, to ogle and exchange persiflages with the young men of the paymaster’s corps, to giggle, to relate, sotto voce, certain stories that ended invariably in hysterical laughter. Janet detested these conversations. At such moments she would turn to the typewriter, her fingers striking the keys with amazing rapidity, with extraordinary accuracy and force, — force vaguely disturbing to Mr. Claude Ditmar as he entered the office one afternoon and involuntarily paused to watch her.

She was unaware of his gaze, but her colour was like a crimson signal that flashed to him and was gone. Why had he never noticed her before? All these months, — for more than a year, perhaps, — she had been in his office, and he had not so much as looked at her twice. He had a flair for women, and it was characteristic of his mental processes that this one should remind him now of a dark, lithe panther capable of fierceness. The pain of having her scratch him would be delectable.

When he measured her it was to discover that she was not so little, though her head was small, her hair like a dark, blurred shadow clinging round it. He wanted to examine her hair, but not daring to linger he went into his office, closed the door, somewhat appalled by his discovery, considerably amazed at his previous stupidity. He had thought of Janet — when she had entered his mind at all — as unobtrusive, demure; now he recognized this demureness as repression. Her qualities needed illumination.

Later in the day, quite casually, he made inquiries of Miss Ottway.

“Why, she’s a clever girl, Mr. Ditmar, a good stenographer, and conscientious in her work. She’s very quick, too.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed that,” Ditmar replied.

“She keeps to herself and minds her own affairs. You can see she comes of good stock.” Miss Ottway herself was proud of her New England blood. “Her father, you know, is the gatekeeper down there.”

“You don’t say — I didn’t connect her with him. Fine looking old man.”

6

There were times, especially during the long winters, when life became almost unbearable for Janet, and she was seized by a desire to run away from Fillmore Street, from the mills, from Hampton itself. Only she did not know where to go, or how to get away. The office was not so bad. It was when, at night, she went back to Fillmore Street, — when she thought of the monotony and the sordidness of home, when she let herself in at the door and climbed the dark and narrow stairway, — that her feet grew leaden. The tiny flat reeked with the smell of cooking, and Janet, from the upper hall, had a glimpse of a thin, angular woman with a scrawny neck, scant grey hair tightly drawn into a knot, a gingham apron covering an old dress, bending over the kitchen stove. After supper, when Lise had departed with her best young man, Hannah would occasionally, though grudgingly, permit Janet to help her with the dishes.

“You work all day, you have a right to rest.”

“But I don’t want to rest,” Janet would declare, and rub the dishes the harder. With the spirit underlying this protest, Hannah sympathized. Mother and daughter were alike in that both were inarticulate, but Janet had a secret contempt for Hannah’s uncomplaining stoicism. She was filled with rage at the thought of any woman endowed with energy permitting herself to be overtaken and overwhelmed by such a fate as Hannah’s: divorce, desertion, anything, she thought, would have been better — anything but to be cheated out of life. She would glance at her mother and ask herself whether it were possible that Hannah had ever known longings, had ever been wrung by inexpressible desires, — desires in which the undiscovered spiritual was so alarmingly compounded with the undiscovered physical. She would have died rather than speak to Hannah of these things. The mere thought of confiding them to any person appalled her.

She had tried reading, with unfortunate results. Her schooling had failed to instil into her a discriminating taste for literature; and when, on occasions, she had entered the Public Library opposite the Common it had been to stare hopelessly at rows of books whose authors and titles offered no clue to their contents. Her few choices had not been happy.

Of the Bumpus family Lise alone found refuge in the vulgar modern world by which they were surrounded. Lise went out into it, became a part of it, returning only to sleep and eat, — a tendency Hannah found unaccountable, and against which even her stoicism was not wholly proof.

“She didn’t happen to mention where she was going, did she, Janet?” Hannah would query, when she had finished her work and put on her spectacles to read the Banner.

“To the movies, I suppose,” Janet would reply. Although well aware that her sister indulged in other distractions, she thought it useless to add to Hannah’s disquietude.

“Well,” Hannah would add, “I never can get used to her going out nights the way she does, and with young men and women I don’t know anything about. But as long as she’s got to work for a living I guess there’s no help for it.”

And she would glance at Edward. It was obviously due to his inability adequately to cope with modern conditions that his daughters were forced to toil, but this was the nearest she ever came to reproaching him. If he heard, he acquiesced humbly, and in silence; more often than not he was oblivious, buried in the mazes of the Bumpus family history, his papers spread out on the red cloth of the dining-room table, under the lamp.

7

If the city of Hampton was emblematic of our modern world in which haphazardness has replaced order, Fillmore Street may be likened to a back eddy of the muddy and troubled waters, in which all sorts of flotsam and jetsam had collected. Or, to find perhaps an even more striking illustration of the process that made Hampton in general and Fillmore Street in particular, one had only to take the trolley to Glendale, the Italian settlement on the road leading to the old New England village of Shrewsbury. Janet sometimes walked there, alone or with her friend Eda Rawle. Disintegration itself had built Glendale. When real estate became valuable for commerce, one by one the more decorous edifices of the old American order had been torn down and carried piecemeal by sons of Italy to the bare hills of Glendale, there to enter into new combinations representing, to an eye craving harmony, the last word of chaos: a cupola, once the white crown of the Sutter mansion, walls wrested from the sides of Mackey’s Tavern, shutters for many years adorning the parsonage of the old First Church. Similarly, in Hampton and in Fillmore Street, lived in enforced neighbourliness human fragments once having their places in crystallized communities where existence had been regarded as solved. Here there was but one order, one relationship, direct, or indirect, one necessity claiming them all — the mills.

Like the boards forming the walls of the shacks at Glendale, these human planks torn from an earlier social structure were likewise warped, which is to say they were dominated by obsessions. Edward’s was the Bumpus family; and Chris Auermann, who lived in the flat below, was convinced that the history of mankind was a deplorable record of havoc caused by women. He came from a little village near Wittenburg that has scarcely changed since Luther’s time. Like most residents of Hampton who did not work in the mills, he ministered to those who did, or to those who sold merchandise to the workers, cutting their hair in his barber shop on Faber Street.

The Bumpuses, save Lise, clinging to a native individualism and pride, preferred isolation to companionship with the other pieces of driftwood by which they were surrounded, and with which the summer season compelled a certain enforced contact. When the heat in the little dining-room grew unbearable, they were driven to take refuge on the front steps shared in common with the household of the barber. The barber’s wife was a mild hausfrau who had little to say, and their lodgers, two young Germans who worked in the mills, spent most of their evenings at a bowling club; but Auermann himself, exhaling a strong odour of bay rum, would arrive promptly at quarter past eight, take off his coat, and thus stripped for action, would turn upon the defenceless Edward.

“Vill you mention one great man — yoost one — who is not greater if the vimmen leave him alone?” he would demand.

Sometimes the barber, in search of a more aggressive adversary than Edward, would pay visits, when as likely as not another neighbour with profound convictions would swoop down on the defenceless Bumpuses: Joe Shivers, for instance, who lived in one of the tenements above the cleaning and dyeing establishment kept by the Pappas Brothers. In the daytime Mr. Shivers was a model of acquiescence in a system he would have designated as one of industrial feudalism, his duty being to examine the rolls of cloth as they came from the looms of the Arundel Mill, in case of imperfections handing them over to the women menders: at night, to borrow an expression from Lise, he was “batty in the belfry” on the subject of socialism. Squatting on the lowest step, his face upturned, by the light of the arc sputtering above the street he looked like a yellow frog, his eager eyes directed toward Janet, whom he suspected of intelligence.

“If there was a God, a nice, kind, all-powerful God, would he permit what happened in one of the loom-rooms last week? A Polak girl gets her hair caught in the belt — pfff!” He had a marvellously realistic gift when it came to horrors: Janet felt her hair coming out by the roots. Although she never went to church, she did not like to think that no God existed. Of this Mr. Shivers was very positive. Edward, too, listened uneasily, making ineffectual attempts to combat Mr. Shivers’s socialism with a native individualism that Shivers declared as defunct as Christianity.

“If it is possible for the workingman to rise under a capitalistic system, why do you not rise, then? Why do I not rise? I’m as good as Ditmar, I’m better educated, but we’re all slaves. What right has a man to make you and me work for him just because he has capital?”

In spite of the fact that Janet detested him, he sometimes exercised over her a paradoxical fascination, suggesting as he did unexplored intellectual realms. She despised her father for not being able to crush the little man.

“You can’t change human nature, Mr. Shivers,” Edward would insist in his precise but ineffectual manner. “You would accept a fortune if it was offered to you, and so should I. Americans will never become socialists.”

“But look at me, wasn’t I born in Meriden, Connecticut? Ain’t that Yankee enough for you?” Thus Mr. Shivers sought blandly to confound him.

Edward, too polite to descend to personalities, was silent.

8

Eda Rawle, Janet’s solitary friend of these days, must be mentioned, though the friendship was merely a brief episode in Janet’s life. Their first meeting was at Grady’s quick-lunch counter in Faber Street, and the fact that each had ordered a ham sandwich, a cup of coffee, and a confection — new to Grady’s — known as a Napoleon had led to conversation. Eda, of course, was the aggressor. A stenographer in the Wessex National Bank, in appearance Miss Rawle was strikingly blonde, with white eyelashes, and cheeks of an amazing elasticity that worked rather painfully as she talked or smiled, drawing back inadequate lips, and revealing long, white teeth and vivid gums.

Their dissipations together consisted of “sundaes” at a drug-store, or sometimes of movie shows at the Star or the Alhambra. Stereotyped on Eda’s face during the tender passages of these dramas was an expression of rapture made peculiarly infatuate by that inadequacy of lip and preponderance of white teeth and red gums. It irritated, almost infuriated Janet, to whom it appeared as the logical reflection of what was passing on the screen; she averted her glance from both, staring into her lap, filled with shame that the relation between the sexes should be thus exposed to public gaze, parodied, sentimentalized. There were, however, marvels to stir her as well, strange landscapes, cities, seas, — once a fire in the forest of a western reserve with gigantic tongues of orange flame leaping from tree to tree. The movies brought the world to Hampton, they were peepholes in the walls of her prison; and at night she often charmed herself to sleep with remembered visions of wide, treeshaded terraces reserved for kings.

By virtue of these marvels — Hampton ugly and sordid Hampton! — actually began for Janet to take on a romantic tinge. Were not the strange peoples of the earth flocking here? She saw them arriving at the station, straight from Ellis Island, bewildered, ticketed like dumb animals, the women draped in the soft, exotic colours that many of them were presently to exchange for the cheap and gaudy apparel of Faber Street. She sought to summon up in her mind the glimpses she had had of the wonderful lands from which they had come, to imagine their lives in that earlier environment. Sometimes she wandered, alone or with Eda, through the various quarters of the city. Each quarter had a flavour of its own, a synthetic flavour belonging neither to the old nor to the new, yet partaking of both.

In the German quarter, to the north, one felt a sort of ornamental bleakness; the tenements here were clean and not too crowded, the scroll-work on their superimposed porches, like that decorating the Turnverein and the stern Lutheran Church, was eloquent of a Teutonic inheritance. The Belgians were to the west, beyond the base-ball park and the car barns, their grey houses scattered among new streets beside Torrey’s hill. Almost under the hill itself was the Franco-Belgian co-operative store, with its salle de réunion above and a stage for amateur theatricals. Standing in the mud outside, Janet would gaze through the tiny windows in the stucco wall at the baskets prepared for each household, laid in neat rows beside the counter; and at the old man with the watery blue eyes and lacing of red in his withered cheeks who spoke no English, whose duty it was to distribute the baskets to the women and children as they called.

Turning eastward again, one came to Dey Street, in the heart of Hampton, where Hibernian Hall stood alone and grim, sole testimony to the departed glories of a district where the present Irish rulers of the city had once lived and gossiped and fought in the days when the mill bells had roused the boarding-house keepers at half past four of a winter morning. Beside the hall was a corner lot, heaped high with hills of ashes and rubbish, the unsightliness of which was half concealed by huge signs announcing the merits of chewing gums, tobaccos, and cereals.

But why had the departure of the Irish, the coming of the Syrians, made Dey Street dark, narrow, mysterious, oriental? Was it the coffee-houses? One of these, in front of which Janet liked to linger, was set weirdly into an old New England cottage. In summer the whole front of it lay open to the street, and here all day long could be seen saffron-coloured Armenians absorbed in a Turkish game played on a backgammon board, their gentleness and that of the loiterers looking on in strange contrast to their hawk-like profiles and burning eyes. Occasionally, the fat proprietor emerged bearing Turkish coffee or long Turkish pipes. When not thus occupied the proprietor carried a baby. The street swarmed with babies, and mothers nursed them on the door-steps. And in this teeming, prolific street one could scarcely move without stepping on a fat, almond eyed child, though some, indeed, were wheeled; wheeled in all sorts of queer contrivances by fathers with ragged black moustaches and eagle noses who, to the despair of mill superintendents, had decided in the morning that three days’ wages would suffice to support their families for the week. In the midst of the throng might be seen occasionally the stout and comfortable and not too immaculate figure of a shovel bearded Syrian priest, in a frock coat and square-topped “Derby” hat, sailing along serenely, heedless of the children who scattered out of his path.

Nearby was the quarter of the Canadian French, scarcely now to be called foreigners, still somewhat reminiscent of the cramped little towns in the northern wilderness of water and forest. The elders spoke the patois. These, despite the mill pallor, retained in their faces, in their eyes, a suggestion of the outdoor look of their ancestors, the coureurs des bois, but the children spoke English, and the young men, as they played base-ball in the street or in the corner lots might be heard shouting the cry of the section hands so familiar in mill cities, “Doff, you beggars you, doff!

Occasionally the two girls strayed into that wide thoroughfare not far from the canal, known by the classic name of Hawthorne, which the Italians had appropriated to themselves. This street, too, in spite of the telegraph poles flaunting crude arms in front of its windows, in spite of the trolley running down its middle, had acquired a character, a unity all its own, a warmth and picturesqueness. It was not Italy, but it was something. Blocking the end of the street, in stern contrast, was the huge Clarendon Mill with its sinister brick pillars running up its six stories between the glass. Here likewise the sidewalks overflowed with children, large-headed, with great, lustrous eyes, mute, appealing, the eyes of cattle. Unlike American children, they never seemed to be playing.

Opposite the Clarendon Mill on the corner of East Street was a provision store with stands of fruit and vegetables encroaching on the pavement. Janet’s eye was attracted by a box of olives.

“Oh Eda,” she cried, “do you remember, we saw them being picked — in the movies? All those old trees on the side of a hill?”

“Why, that’s so,” said Eda. “You never would have thought anything’d grow on those trees.”

The young Italian who kept the store gave them a friendly grin.

“You lika the olives?” he asked, putting some of the shining black fruit into their hands. Eda bit one dubiously with her long, white teeth, and giggled.

“Don’t they taste funny!” she exclaimed.

“Good — very good,” he asserted gravely, and it was to Janet he turned, as though recognizing a discrimination not to be found in her companion. She nodded affirmatively. The strange taste of the fruit enhanced her sense of adventure, she tried to imagine herself among the gatherers in the grove; she glanced at the young man to perceive that he was tall and well formed, with remarkably expressive eyes almost the colour of the olives themselves. It surprised her that she liked him, though he was an Italian and a foreigner. And she wanted to talk to him about Italy, — only she did not know how to begin. Then a customer appeared, an Italian woman who conversed with him in soft, liquid tones that moved her.

Sometimes on these walks — especially if the day were grey and sombre — Janet’s sense of romance and adventure deepened, became more poignant, charged with presage. These feelings, vague and unaccountable, she was utterly unable to confide to Eda, yet the very fear they inspired was fascinating; a fear and a hope that some day, in all this Babel of peoples, something would happen!

9

Lise was the only member of the Bumpus family who did not find uncongenial such distractions and companionships as were offered by the civilization that surrounded them. The Bagatelle she despised; that was slavery — but slavery out of which she might any day be snatched by a prince charming who had made a success in life. Success to Lise meant money. Although what some sociologists might call a victim of our civilization, Lise would not have changed it, since it produced not only Lise herself, but also those fabulous financiers with yachts and motors and town and country houses she read about in the supplements of the Sunday newspapers. It contained her purgatory, which she regarded in good conventional fashion as a mere temporary place of detention, and likewise the heaven toward which she strained, the dwelling-place of light.

In short, her philosophy was that of the modern, orthodox American, tinged by a somewhat commercialized Sunday school tradition of an earlier day, and highly approved by the censors of the movies. The peculiar kind of abstinence once euphemistically known as “virtue,” particularly if it were combined with beauty, never failed of its reward. Lise, in this sense, was indeed virtuous, and her mirror told her she was beautiful. Almost anything could happen to such a lady: any day she might be carried up into heaven by that modern chariot of fire, the motor car, driven by a celestial chauffeur.

A popular production known as “Leila of Hawtrey’s” contained her creed, — Hawtrey’s being a glittering metropolitan restaurant where men of the world are wont to gather and discuss the stock market, and Leila a beautiful, blonde and orphaned waitress upon whom several of the fashionable frequenters had exercised seductive powers in vain. But virtue is to be rewarded, lavishly, as virtue should be, in dollars and cents, in stocks and bonds, in pearls and diamonds. Leila becomes a Bride. We behold her, at the end, mistress of one of those magnificent stone mansions with grilled vestibules and negro butlers into whose sacred precincts we are occasionally, in the movies, somewhat breathlessly ushered — a long way from Hawtrey’s restaurant and a hall-bedroom. A long way, too, from the Bagatelle and Fillmore Street — but to Lise a way not impossible, nor even improbable.

This work of art, conveying the moral that virtue is an economic asset, made a great impression on Lise. Leila, pictured as holding out for a higher price and getting it, encouraged Lise to hold out also. Mr. Wiley, in whose company she had seen this play, and whose likeness filled the silver-plated frame on her bureau, remained ignorant of the fact that he had paid out his money to make definite an ambition, an ideal hitherto nebulous in the mind of the lady whom he adored.

10

One morning in spring Janet crossed the Warren Street bridge, for the day, dedicated to the memory of heroes fallen in the Civil War, was a legal holiday. Feeling an irresistible longing for freedom, for beauty, for adventure, for quest and discovery of she knew not what, she avoided Eda’s street, and after gazing awhile at the sunlight dancing in the white mist of the river, walked on, southward, until she had left behind her the last straggling houses of the city and found herself on a wide tarvia road that led ultimately to Boston; so read the sign. Presently great maples, heavy with leaves, stood out against the soft blue of the sky, and the sunlight poured over everything, bathing stone walls, the thatches of the farmhouses, and extracting from copses of stunted pine a pungent, reviving perfume.

Sometimes Janet stopped to rest on the beds of pine needles, then walked on again, aimlessly, following the road because it was the easiest way. There were spring flowers in the farmhouse yards, masses of lilacs whose purple she drank in; the air, which had a tang of New England sharpness, was filled with tender sounds, the clucking of hens, snatches of the songs of birds, the rustling of leaves in a fitful breeze. A chipmunk ran down an elm and stood staring at her with beady, inquisitive eyes, motionless save for his quivering tail, and she put forth her hand, shyly, beseechingly; but he darted away.

She looked around at the sky, at the trees, at the flowers and ferns and fields, at the vireos and thrushes, the robins and tanagers flashing in and out amidst the foliage, and was filled with a strange yearning to expand and expand until she should become a part of all nature and cease to be herself. Occasionally, intruding faintly upon the countryside peace, she was aware of a distant humming sound that grew louder and louder until there shot roaring past her an automobile filled with noisy folk, leaving behind it a suffocating cloud of dust. Even these intrusions, reminders of the city she had left, were powerless to destroy her mood, and she began to skip like a schoolgirl, pausing once in a while to look around her fearfully, lest she was observed; and it pleased her to think that she had escaped forever, that she would never go back: she cried aloud, as she skipped, “I won’t go back, I won’t go back,” keeping time with her feet until she was out of breath and almost intoxicated, delirious, casting herself down, her heart beating wildly, on a bank of ferns, burying her face in them.

After an hour or more of sauntering, the farming landscape was left behind and the crumbling stone fences were replaced by a well-kept retaining wall capped by a privet hedge, through which, between stone pillars, a driveway mounted a shaded slope, turning and twisting until lost to view. Between tree trunks and foliage Janet saw one end of the mansion to which it led, and ventured eagerly in among the trees in the hope of satisfying new-born curiosity. But try as she would, she never could get any but a disappointing and partial glimpse of the house. She was not even allowed to look at it! The thought was like a cloud across the sun.

When she had regained the tarvia road and walked a little way, the shadow suddenly passed, and she stood surprised: the sight of a long common with its ancient trees, dense maples, sturdy oaks, strong, graceful elms that cast flickering, lacy shadows across the road, filled her with sudden satisfaction. This deepened with an awareness of stately, dignified buildings in the background, each in an appropriate frame of foliage, and she knew this must be Silliston, the seat of a famous academy of which she had heard. The older school buildings and instructors’ houses, most of them white or creamy yellow, were native Colonial, with tall, graceful chimneys and classic pillars and delicate balustrades; and a modern architect, of whose work there was an abundance, had graciously and intuitively held this earlier note and developed it. It pleased her, struck within her responsive chords. For the first time in her adult life she stood in the presence of tradition — a tradition that miraculously was not dead.

She wandered up and down the Common, whose vivid green was starred with golden dandelions; and then, spying the arched and shady vista of a lane, entered it, bent on new discoveries. It led past one of the newer buildings, the library (as she read in a carved inscription over the door), then plunged into shade again presently to emerge at a square farmhouse, ancient and weathered, with a great square chimney thrust out of the very middle of the ridge-pole, — a landmark left by one of the earliest of Silliston’s settlers. Presiding over it, protecting it, was a splendid tree. The place was evidently in process of reconstruction and repair, for the roof had been newly shingled, new frames, with old-fashioned, tiny panes had been put in the windows, a little garden was being laid out under the sheltering branches of the tree, and between the lane and the garden, half finished, was a fence, consisting of pillars placed at intervals with pickets sawed in curves between. Janet did not perceive the workman engaged in building this fence until the sound of his hammer attracted her attention. His back was bent, absorbed in his task.

“Are there any stores near here?” she inquired.

He straightened up. “Why yes. Come to think of it, I have seen stores, I’m sure I have.”

Janet laughed; his manner of speech was so whimsical, so in keeping with the spirit of her day; and yet his workman’s clothes belied his bearing.

“Yes, there are stores, in the village,” he went on, “but isn’t it a holiday, or something of the kind?”

“It’s Decoration Day,” she reminded him, with deepening surprise.

“So it is! And all the storekeepers have gone on picnics in their automobiles, or else they’re playing golf. Nobody’s working today.”

“But you — aren’t you working?”

“Working? I suppose some people would call it work. I hadn’t thought of it in that way.”

“You mean — you like it?”

“Well, yes.”

She had profound doubts now of his being a carpenter.

“Were you thinking of going shopping?” he asked.

“Only to buy some crackers, or a sandwich.”

“Oh, down in the village, on the corner where the cars stop, is a restaurant. They have sandwiches and coffee. At least they call it coffee.”

“Thank you,” said Janet.

“You’d better wait till you try it,” he warned her.

“Oh, I don’t mind, I don’t want much.” And she was impelled to add: “It’s such a beautiful day.”

“It’s absurd to get hungry on such a day,” he agreed.

Suddenly, in conflict with a desire to remain indefinitely talking with this strange man, Janet felt an intense impulse to leave. She could bear the conversation no longer — she might burst into tears: such was the extraordinary effect he produced on her.

“I must go, — I’m ever so much obliged to you,” she said.

“Drop in again,” he replied, as he took her hand.

When she had walked a little way she looked back over her shoulder to see him leaning idly against the post, gazing after her, and for a while her feet fairly flew, while her heart kept time with her racing thoughts. She walked about the Common, seeing nothing, paying no attention to the passers-by. But at length she grew calmer, and realizing that she was tired and hungry, she sought and found the little restaurant in the village below.

She journeyed back to Hampton pondering the man — if only she were “educated” she might know him, become his friend. Often during the weeks that followed he dwelt in her mind as she sat at her desk and stared out across the river, and several times that summer she started to walk to Silliston. But always she turned back, fearing to break the charm of that memory.