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Title:      Obscure Destinies
Author:     Willa Cather
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Obscure Destinies
Author:     Willa Cather


1.  Neighbour Rosicky

2.  Old Mrs. Harris

3.  Two Friends



When Doctor Burleigh told neighbour Rosicky he had a bad heart,
Rosicky protested.

"So?  No, I guess my heart was always pretty good.  I got a little
asthma, maybe.  Just a awful short breath when I was pitchin' hay
last summer, dat's all."

"Well now, Rosicky, if you know more about it than I do, what did
you come to me for?  It's your heart that makes you short of
breath, I tell you.  You're sixty-five years old, and you've always
worked hard, and your heart's tired.  You've got to be careful from
now on, and you can't do heavy work any more.  You've got five boys
at home to do it for you."

The old farmer looked up at the Doctor with a gleam of amusement in
his queer triangular-shaped eyes.  His eyes were large and lively,
but the lids were caught up in the middle in a curious way, so that
they formed a triangle.  He did not look like a sick man.  His
brown face was creased but not wrinkled, he had a ruddy colour in
his smooth-shaven cheeks and in his lips, under his long brown
moustache.  His hair was thin and ragged around his ears, but very
little grey.  His forehead, naturally high and crossed by deep
parallel lines, now ran all the way up to his pointed crown.
Rosicky's face had the habit of looking interested,--suggested a
contented disposition and a reflective quality that was gay rather
than grave.  This gave him a certain detachment, the easy manner of
an onlooker and observer.

"Well, I guess you ain't got no pills fur a bad heart, Doctor Ed.
I guess the only thing is fur me to git me a new one."

Doctor Burleigh swung round in his desk-chair and frowned at the
old farmer.  "I think if I were you I'd take a little care of the
old one, Rosicky."

Rosicky shrugged.  "Maybe I don't know how.  I expect you mean fur
me not to drink my coffee no more."

"I wouldn't, in your place.  But you'll do as you choose about
that.  I've never yet been able to separate a Bohemian from his
coffee or his pipe.  I've quit trying.  But the sure thing is
you've got to cut out farm work.  You can feed the stock and do
chores about the barn, but you can't do anything in the fields that
makes you short of breath."

"How about shelling corn?"

"Of course not!"

Rosicky considered with puckered brows.

"I can't make my heart go no longer'n it wants to, can I, Doctor

"I think it's good for five or six years yet, maybe more, if you'll
take the strain off it.  Sit around the house and help Mary.  If I
had a good wife like yours, I'd want to stay around the house."

His patient chuckled.  "It ain't no place fur a man.  I don't like
no old man hanging round the kitchen too much.  An' my wife, she's
a awful hard worker her own self."

"That's it; you can help her a little.  My Lord, Rosicky, you are
one of the few men I know who has a family he can get some comfort
out of; happy dispositions, never quarrel among themselves, and
they treat you right.  I want to see you live a few years and enjoy

"Oh, they're good kids, all right," Rosicky assented.

The Doctor wrote him a prescription and asked him how his oldest
son, Rudolph, who had married in the spring, was getting on.
Rudolph had struck out for himself, on rented land.  "And how's
Polly?  I was afraid Mary mightn't like an American daughter-in-
law, but it seems to be working out all right."

"Yes, she's a fine girl.  Dat widder woman bring her daughters up
very nice.  Polly got lots of spunk, an' she got some style, too.
Da's nice, for young folks to have some style."  Rosicky inclined
his head gallantly.  His voice and his twinkly smile were an
affectionate compliment to his daughter-in-law.

"It looks like a storm, and you'd better be getting home before it
comes.  In town in the car?"  Doctor Burleigh rose.

"No, I'm in de wagon.  When you got five boys, you ain't got much
chance to ride round in de Ford.  I ain't much for cars, noway."

"Well, it's a good road out to your place; but I don't want you
bumping around in a wagon much.  And never again on a hay-rake,

Rosicky placed the Doctor's fee delicately behind the desk-
telephone, looking the other way, as if this were an absent-minded
gesture.  He put on his plush cap and his corduroy jacket with a
sheepskin collar, and went out.

The Doctor picked up his stethoscope and frowned at it as if he
were seriously annoyed with the instrument.  He wished it had been
telling tales about some other man's heart, some old man who didn't
look the Doctor in the eye so knowingly, or hold out such a warm
brown hand when he said good-bye.  Doctor Burleigh had been a poor
boy in the country before he went away to medical school; he had
known Rosicky almost ever since he could remember, and he had a
deep affection for Mrs. Rosicky.

Only last winter he had had such a good breakfast at Rosicky's, and
that when he needed it.  He had been out all night on a long, hard
confinement case at Tom Marshall's,--a big rich farm where there
was plenty of stock and plenty of feed and a great deal of
expensive farm machinery of the newest model, and no comfort
whatever.  The woman had too many children and too much work, and
she was no manager.  When the baby was born at last, and handed
over to the assisting neighbour woman, and the mother was properly
attended to, Burleigh refused any breakfast in that slovenly house,
and drove his buggy--the snow was too deep for a car--eight miles
to Anton Rosicky's place.  He didn't know another farm-house where
a man could get such a warm welcome, and such good strong coffee
with rich cream.  No wonder the old chap didn't want to give up his

He had driven in just when the boys had come back from the barn and
were washing up for breakfast.  The long table, covered with a
bright oilcloth, was set out with dishes waiting for them, and the
warm kitchen was full of the smell of coffee and hot biscuit and
sausage.  Five big handsome boys, running from twenty to twelve,
all with what Burleigh called natural good manners,--they hadn't a
bit of the painful self-consciousness he himself had to struggle
with when he was a lad.  One ran to put his horse away, another
helped him off with his fur coat and hung it up, and Josephine, the
youngest child and the only daughter, quickly set another place
under her mother's direction.

With Mary, to feed creatures was the natural expression of
affection,--her chickens, the calves, her big hungry boys.  It was
a rare pleasure to feed a young man whom she seldom saw and of whom
she was as proud as if he belonged to her.  Some country
housekeepers would have stopped to spread a white cloth over the
oilcloth, to change the thick cups and plates for their best china,
and the wooden-handled knives for plated ones.  But not Mary.

"You must take us as you find us, Doctor Ed.  I'd be glad to put
out my good things for you if you was expected, but I'm glad to get
you any way at all."

He knew she was glad,--she threw back her head and spoke out as if
she were announcing him to the whole prairie.  Rosicky hadn't said
anything at all; he merely smiled his twinkling smile, put some
more coal on the fire, and went into his own room to pour the
Doctor a little drink in a medicine glass.  When they were all
seated, he watched his wife's face from his end of the table and
spoke to her in Czech.  Then, with the instinct of politeness which
seldom failed him, he turned to the Doctor and said slyly; "I was
just tellin' her not to ask you no questions about Mrs. Marshall
till you eat some breakfast.  My wife, she's terrible fur to ask

The boys laughed, and so did Mary.  She watched the Doctor devour
her biscuit and sausage, too much excited to eat anything herself.
She drank her coffee and sat taking in everything about her
visitor.  She had known him when he was a poor country boy, and was
boastfully proud of his success, always saying:  "What do people go
to Omaha for, to see a doctor, when we got the best one in the
State right here?"  If Mary liked people at all, she felt physical
pleasure in the sight of them, personal exultation in any good
fortune that came to them.  Burleigh didn't know many women like
that, but he knew she was like that.

When his hunger was satisfied, he did, of course, have to tell them
about Mrs. Marshall, and he noticed what a friendly interest the
boys took in the matter.

Rudolph, the oldest one (he was still living at home then), said:
"The last time I was over there, she was lifting them big heavy
milk-cans, and I knew she oughtn't to be doing it."

"Yes, Rudolph told me about that when he come home, and I said it
wasn't right," Mary put in warmly.  "It was all right for me to do
them things up to the last, for I was terrible strong, but that
woman's weakly.  And do you think she'll be able to nurse it, Ed?"
She sometimes forgot to give him the title she was so proud of.
"And to think of your being up all night and then not able to get a
decent breakfast!  I don't know what's the matter with such

"Why, Mother," said one of the boys, "if Doctor Ed had got
breakfast there, we wouldn't have him here.  So you ought to be

"He knows I'm glad to have him, John, any time.  But I'm sorry for
that poor woman, how bad she'll feel the Doctor had to go away in
the cold without his breakfast."

"I wish I'd been in practice when these were getting born."  The
doctor looked down the row of close-clipped heads.  "I missed some
good breakfasts by not being."

The boys began to laugh at their mother because she flushed so red,
but she stood her ground and threw up her head.  "I don't care, you
wouldn't have got away from this house without breakfast.  No
doctor ever did.  I'd have had something ready fixed that Anton
could warm up for you."

The boys laughed harder than ever, and exclaimed at her:  "I'll bet
you would!"  "She would, that!"

"Father, did you get breakfast for the doctor when we were born?"

"Yes, and he used to bring me my breakfast, too, mighty nice.  I
was always awful hungry!" Mary admitted with a guilty laugh.

While the boys were getting the Doctor's horse, he went to the
window to examine the house plants.  "What do you do to your
geraniums to keep them blooming all winter, Mary?  I never pass
this house that from the road I don't see your windows full of

She snapped off a dark red one, and a ruffled new green leaf, and
put them in his buttonhole.  "There, that looks better.  You look
too solemn for a young man, Ed.  Why don't you git married?  I'm
worried about you.  Settin' at breakfast, I looked at you real
hard, and I seen you've got some grey hairs already."

"Oh, yes!  They're coming.  Maybe they'd come faster if I married."

"Don't talk so.  You'll ruin your health eating at the hotel.  I
could send your wife a nice loaf of nut bread, if you only had one.
I don't like to see a young man getting grey.  I'll tell you
something, Ed; you make some strong black tea and keep it handy in
a bowl, and every morning just brush it into your hair, an' it'll
keep the grey from showin' much.  That's the way I do!"

Sometimes the Doctor heard the gossipers in the drug-store
wondering why Rosicky didn't get on faster.  He was industrious,
and so were his boys, but they were rather free and easy, weren't
pushers, and they didn't always show good judgment.  They were
comfortable, they were out of debt, but they didn't get much ahead.
Maybe, Doctor Burleigh reflected, people as generous and warm-
hearted and affectionate as the Rosickys never got ahead much;
maybe you couldn't enjoy your life and put it into the bank, too.


When Rosicky left Doctor Burleigh's office he went into the farm-
implement store to light his pipe and put on his glasses and read
over the list Mary had given him.  Then he went into the general
merchandise place next door and stood about until the pretty girl
with the plucked eyebrows, who always waited on him, was free.
Those eyebrows, two thin India-ink strokes, amused him, because he
remembered how they used to be.  Rosicky always prolonged his
shopping by a little joking; the girl knew the old fellow admired
her, and she liked to chaff with him.

"Seems to me about every other week you buy ticking, Mr. Rosicky,
and always the best quality," she remarked as she measured off the
heavy bolt with red stripes.

"You see, my wife is always makin' goose-fedder pillows, an' de
thin stuff don't hold in dem little down-fedders."

"You must have lots of pillows at your house."

"Sure.  She makes quilts of dem, too.  We sleeps easy.  Now she's
makin' a fedder quilt for my son's wife.  You know Polly, that
married my Rudolph.  How much my bill, Miss Pearl?"

"Eight eighty-five."

"Chust make it nine, and put in some candy fur de women."

"As usual.  I never did see a man buy so much candy for his wife.
First thing you know, she'll be getting too fat."

"I'd like dat.  I ain't much fur all dem slim women like what de
style is now."

"That's one for me, I suppose, Mr. Bohunk!"  Pearl sniffed and
elevated her India-ink strokes.

When Rosicky went out to his wagon, it was beginning to snow,--the
first snow of the season, and he was glad to see it.  He rattled
out of town and along the highway through a wonderfully rich
stretch of country, the finest farms in the county.  He admired
this High Prairie, as it was called, and always liked to drive
through it.  His own place lay in a rougher territory, where there
was some clay in the soil and it was not so productive.  When he
bought his land, he hadn't the money to buy on High Prairie; so he
told his boys, when they grumbled, that if their land hadn't some
clay in it, they wouldn't own it at all.  All the same, he enjoyed
looking at these fine farms, as he enjoyed looking at a prize bull.

After he had gone eight miles, he came to the graveyard, which lay
just at the edge of his own hay-land.  There he stopped his horses
and sat still on his wagon seat, looking about at the snowfall.
Over yonder on the hill he could see his own house, crouching low,
with the clump of orchard behind and the windmill before, and all
down the gentle hill-slope the rows of pale gold cornstalks stood
out against the white field.  The snow was falling over the
cornfield and the pasture and the hay-land, steadily, with very
little wind,--a nice dry snow.  The graveyard had only a light wire
fence about it and was all overgrown with long red grass.  The fine
snow, settling into this red grass and upon the few little
evergreens and the headstones, looked very pretty.

It was a nice graveyard, Rosicky reflected, sort of snug and
homelike, not cramped or mournful,--a big sweep all round it.  A
man could lie down in the long grass and see the complete arch of
the sky over him, hear the wagons go by; in summer the mowing-
machine rattled right up to the wire fence.  And it was so near
home.  Over there across the cornstalks his own roof and windmill
looked so good to him that he promised himself to mind the Doctor
and take care of himself.  He was awful fond of his place, he
admitted.  He wasn't anxious to leave it.  And it was a comfort to
think that he would never have to go farther than the edge of his
own hayfield.  The snow, falling over his barnyard and the
graveyard, seemed to draw things together like.  And they were all
old neighbours in the graveyard, most of them friends; there was
nothing to feel awkward or embarrassed about.  Embarrassment was
the most disagreeable feeling Rosicky knew.  He didn't often have
it,--only with certain people whom he didn't understand at all.

Well, it was a nice snowstorm; a fine sight to see the snow falling
so quietly and graciously over so much open country.  On his cap
and shoulders, on the horses' backs and manes, light, delicate,
mysterious it fell; and with it a dry cool fragrance was released
into the air.  It meant rest for vegetation and men and beasts, for
the ground itself; a season of long nights for sleep, leisurely
breakfasts, peace by the fire.  This and much more went through
Rosicky's mind, but he merely told himself that winter was coming,
clucked to his horses, and drove on.

When he reached home, John, the youngest boy, ran out to put away
his team for him, and he met Mary coming up from the outside cellar
with her apron full of carrots.  They went into the house together.
On the table, covered with oilcloth figured with clusters of blue
grapes, a place was set, and he smelled hot coffee-cake of some
kind.  Anton never lunched in town; he thought that extravagant,
and anyhow he didn't like the food.  So Mary always had something
ready for him when he got home.

After he was settled in his chair, stirring his coffee in a big
cup, Mary took out of the oven a pan of kolache stuffed with
apricots, examined them anxiously to see whether they had got too
dry, put them beside his plate, and then sat down opposite him.

Rosicky asked her in Czech if she wasn't going to have any coffee.

She replied in English, as being somehow the right language for
transacting business:  "Now what did Doctor Ed say, Anton?  You
tell me just what."

"He said I was to tell you some compliments, but I forgot 'em."
Rosicky's eyes twinkled.

"About you, I mean.  What did he say about your asthma?"

"He says I ain't got no asthma."  Rosicky took one of the little
rolls in his broad brown fingers.  The thickened nail of his right
thumb told the story of his past.

"Well, what is the matter?  And don't try to put me off."

"He don't say nothing much, only I'm a little older, and my heart
ain't so good like it used to be."

Mary started and brushed her hair back from her temples with both
hands as if she were a little out of her mind.  From the way she
glared, she might have been in a rage with him.

"He says there's something the matter with your heart?  Doctor Ed
says so?"

"Now don't yell at me like I was a hog in de garden, Mary.  You
know I always did like to hear a woman talk soft.  He didn't say
anything de matter wid my heart, only it ain't so young like it
used to be, an' he tell me not to pitch hay or run de corn-

Mary wanted to jump up, but she sat still.  She admired the way he
never under any circumstances raised his voice or spoke roughly.
He was city-bred, and she was country-bred; she often said she
wanted her boys to have their papa's nice ways.

"You never have no pain there, do you?  It's your breathing and
your stomach that's been wrong.  I wouldn't believe nobody but
Doctor Ed about it.  I guess I'll go see him myself.  Didn't he
give you no advice?"

"Chust to take it easy like, an' stay round de house dis winter.  I
guess you got some carpenter work for me to do.  I kin make some
new shelves for you, and I want dis long time to build a closet in
de boys' room and make dem two little fellers keep dere clo'es hung

Rosicky drank his coffee from time to time, while he considered.
His moustache was of the soft long variety and came down over his
mouth like the teeth of a buggy-rake over a bundle of hay.  Each
time he put down his cup, he ran his blue handkerchief over his
lips.  When he took a drink of water, he managed very neatly with
the back of his hand.

Mary sat watching him intently, trying to find any change in his
face.  It is hard to see anyone who has become like your own body
to you.  Yes, his hair had got thin, and his high forehead had deep
lines running from left to right.  But his neck, always clean
shaved except in the busiest seasons, was not loose or baggy.  It
was burned a dark reddish brown, and there were deep creases in it,
but it looked firm and full of blood.  His cheeks had a good
colour.  On either side of his mouth there was a half-moon down the
length of his cheek, not wrinkles, but two lines that had come
there from his habitual expression.  He was shorter and broader
than when she married him; his back had grown broad and curved, a
good deal like the shell of an old turtle, and his arms and legs
were short.

He was fifteen years older than Mary, but she had hardly ever
thought about it before.  He was her man, and the kind of man she
liked.  She was rough, and he was gentle,--city-bred, as she always
said.  They had been shipmates on a rough voyage and had stood by
each other in trying times.  Life had gone well with them because,
at bottom, they had the same ideas about life.  They agreed,
without discussion, as to what was most important and what was
secondary.  They didn't often exchange opinions, even in Czech,--it
was as if they had thought the same thought together.  A good deal
had to be sacrificed and thrown overboard in a hard life like
theirs, and they had never disagreed as to the things that could
go.  It had been a hard life, and a soft life, too.  There wasn't
anything brutal in the short, broad-backed man with the three-
cornered eyes and the forehead that went on to the top of his
skull.  He was a city man, a gentle man, and though he had married
a rough farm girl, he had never touched her without gentleness.

They had been at one accord not to hurry through life, not to be
always skimping and saving.  They saw their neighbours buy more
land and feed more stock than they did, without discontent.  Once
when the creamery agent came to the Rosickys to persuade them to
sell him their cream, he told them how much money the Fasslers,
their nearest neighbours, had made on their cream last year.

"Yes," said Mary, "and look at them Fassler children!  Pale,
pinched little things, they look like skimmed milk.  I'd rather put
some colour into my children's faces than put money into the bank."

The agent shrugged and turned to Anton.

"I guess we'll do like she says," said Rosicky.


Mary very soon got into town to see Doctor Ed, and then she had a
talk with her boys and set a guard over Rosicky.  Even John, the
youngest, had his father on his mind.  If Rosicky went to throw hay
down from the loft, one of the boys ran up the ladder and took the
fork from him.  He sometimes complained that though he was getting
to be an old man, he wasn't an old woman yet.

That winter he stayed in the house in the afternoons and
carpentered, or sat in the chair between the window full of plants
and the wooden bench where the two pails of drinking-water stood.
This spot was called "Father's corner," though it was not a corner
at all.  He had a shelf there, where he kept his Bohemian papers
and his pipes and tobacco, and his shears and needles and thread
and tailor's thimble.  Having been a tailor in his youth, he
couldn't bear to see a woman patching at his clothes, or at the
boys'.  He liked tailoring, and always patched all the overalls and
jackets and work shirts.  Occasionally he made over a pair of pants
one of the older boys had outgrown, for the little fellow.

While he sewed, he let his mind run back over his life.  He had a
good deal to remember, really; life in three countries.  The only
part of his youth he didn't like to remember was the two years he
had spent in London, in Cheapside, working for a German tailor who
was wretchedly poor.  Those days, when he was nearly always hungry,
when his clothes were dropping off him for dirt, and the sound of a
strange language kept him in continual bewilderment, had left a
sore spot in his mind that wouldn't bear touching.

He was twenty when he landed at Castle Garden in New York, and he
had a protector who got him work in a tailor shop in Vesey Street,
down near the Washington Market.  He looked upon that part of his
life as very happy.  He became a good workman, he was industrious,
and his wages were increased from time to time.  He minded his own
business and envied nobody's good fortune.  He went to night school
and learned to read English.  He often did overtime work and was
well paid for it, but somehow he never saved anything.  He couldn't
refuse a loan to a friend, and he was self-indulgent.  He liked a
good dinner, and a little went for beer, a little for tobacco; a
good deal went to the girls.  He often stood through an opera on
Saturday nights; he could get standing-room for a dollar.  Those
were the great days of opera in New York, and it gave a fellow
something to think about for the rest of the week.  Rosicky had a
quick ear, and a childish love of all the stage splendour; the
scenery, the costumes, the ballet.  He usually went with a chum,
and after the performance they had beer and maybe some oysters
somewhere.  It was a fine life; for the first five years or so it
satisfied him completely.  He was never hungry or cold or dirty,
and everything amused him: a fire, a dog fight, a parade, a storm,
a ferry ride.  He thought New York the finest, richest, friendliest
city in the world.

Moreover, he had what he called a happy home life.  Very near the
tailor shop was a small furniture-factory, where an old Austrian,
Loeffler, employed a few skilled men and made unusual furniture,
most of it to order, for the rich German housewives up-town.  The
top floor of Loeffler's five-storey factory was a loft, where he
kept his choice lumber and stored the odd pieces of furniture left
on his hands.  One of the young workmen he employed was a Czech,
and he and Rosicky became fast friends.  They persuaded Loeffler to
let them have a sleeping-room in one corner of the loft.  They
bought good beds and bedding and had their pick of the furniture
kept up there.  The loft was low-pitched, but light and airy, full
of windows, and good-smelling by reason of the fine lumber put up
there to season.  Old Loeffler used to go down to the docks and buy
wood from South America and the East from the sea captains.  The
young men were as foolish about their house as a bridal pair.
Zichec, the young cabinet-maker, devised every sort of convenience,
and Rosicky kept their clothes in order.  At night and on Sundays,
when the quiver of machinery underneath was still, it was the
quietest place in the world, and on summer nights all the sea winds
blew in.  Zichec often practised on his flute in the evening.  They
were both fond of music and went to the opera together.  Rosicky
thought he wanted to live like that for ever.

But as the years passed, all alike, he began to get a little
restless.  When spring came round, he would begin to feel fretted,
and he got to drinking.  He was likely to drink too much of a
Saturday night.  On Sunday he was languid and heavy, getting over
his spree.  On Monday he plunged into work again.  So he never had
time to figure out what ailed him, though he knew something did.
When the grass turned green in Park Place, and the lilac hedge at
the back of Trinity churchyard put out its blossoms, he was
tormented by a longing to run away.  That was why he drank too
much; to get a temporary illusion of freedom and wide horizons.

Rosicky, the old Rosicky, could remember as if it were yesterday
the day when the young Rosicky found out what was the matter with
him.  It was on a Fourth of July afternoon, and he was sitting in
Park Place in the sun.  The lower part of New York was empty.  Wall
Street, Liberty Street, Broadway, all empty.  So much stone and
asphalt with nothing going on, so many empty windows.  The
emptiness was intense, like the stillness in a great factory when
the machinery stops and the belts and bands cease running.  It was
too great a change, it took all the strength out of one.  Those
blank buildings, without the stream of life pouring through them,
were like empty jails.  It struck young Rosicky that this was the
trouble with big cities; they built you in from the earth itself,
cemented you away from any contact with the ground.  You lived in
an unnatural world, like the fish in an aquarium, who were probably
much more comfortable than they ever were in the sea.

On that very day he began to think seriously about the articles he
had read in the Bohemian papers, describing prosperous Czech
farming communities in the West.  He believed he would like to go
out there as a farm hand; it was hardly possible that he could ever
have land of his own.  His people had always been workmen; his
father and grandfather had worked in shops.  His mother's parents
had lived in the country, but they rented their farm and had a hard
time to get along.  Nobody in his family had ever owned any land,--
that belonged to a different station of life altogether.  Anton's
mother died when he was little, and he was sent into the country to
her parents.  He stayed with them until he was twelve, and formed
those ties with the earth and the farm animals and growing things
which are never made at all unless they are made early.  After his
grandfather died, he went back to live with his father and
stepmother, but she was very hard on him, and his father helped him
to get passage to London.

After that Fourth of July day in Park Place, the desire to return
to the country never left him.  To work on another man's farm would
be all he asked; to see the sun rise and set and to plant things
and watch them grow.  He was a very simple man.  He was like a tree
that has not many roots, but one tap-root that goes down deep.  He
subscribed for a Bohemian paper printed in Chicago, then for one
printed in Omaha.  His mind got farther and farther west.  He began
to save a little money to buy his liberty.  When he was thirty-
five, there was a great meeting in New York of Bohemian athletic
societies, and Rosicky left the tailor shop and went home with the
Omaha delegates to try his fortune in another part of the world.


Perhaps the fact that his own youth was well over before he began
to have a family was one reason why Rosicky was so fond of his
boys.  He had almost a grandfather's indulgence for them.  He had
never had to worry about any of them--except, just now, a little
about Rudolph.

On Saturday night the boys always piled into the Ford, took little
Josephine, and went to town to the moving-picture show.  One
Saturday morning they were talking at the breakfast table about
starting early that evening, so that they would have an hour or so
to see the Christmas things in the stores before the show began.
Rosicky looked down the table.

"I hope you boys ain't disappointed, but I want you to let me have
de car tonight.  Maybe some of you can go in with de neighbours."

Their faces fell.  They worked hard all week, and they were still
like children.  A new jack-knife or a box of candy pleased the
older ones as much as the little fellow.

"If you and Mother are going to town," Frank said, "maybe you could
take a couple of us along with you, anyway."

"No, I want to take de car down to Rudolph's, and let him an' Polly
go in to de show.  She don't git into town enough, an' I'm afraid
she's gettin' lonesome, an' he can't afford no car yet."

That settled it.  The boys were a good deal dashed.  Their father
took another piece of apple-cake and went on:  "Maybe next Saturday
night de two little fellers can go along wid dem."

"Oh, is Rudolph going to have the car every Saturday night?"

Rosicky did not reply at once; then he began to speak seriously:
"Listen, boys; Polly ain't lookin' so good.  I don't like to see
nobody lookin' sad.  It comes hard fur a town girl to be a farmer's
wife.  I don't want no trouble to start in Rudolph's family.  When
it starts, it ain't so easy to stop.  An American girl don't git
used to our ways all at once.  I like to tell Polly she and Rudolph
can have the car every Saturday night till after New Year's, if
it's all right with you boys."

"Sure it's all right, Papa," Mary cut in.  "And it's good you
thought about that.  Town girls is used to more than country girls.
I lay awake nights, scared she'll make Rudolph discontented with
the farm."

The boys put as good a face on it as they could.  They surely
looked forward to their Saturday nights in town.  That evening
Rosicky drove the car the half-mile down to Rudolph's new, bare
little house.

Polly was in a short-sleeved gingham dress, clearing away the
supper dishes.  She was a trim, slim little thing, with blue eyes
and shingled yellow hair, and her eyebrows were reduced to a mere
brush-stroke, like Miss Pearl's.

"Good evening, Mr. Rosicky.  Rudolph's at the barn, I guess."  She
never called him father, or Mary mother.  She was sensitive about
having married a foreigner.  She never in the world would have done
it if Rudolph hadn't been such a handsome, persuasive fellow and
such a gallant lover.  He had graduated in her class in the high
school in town, and their friendship began in the ninth grade.

Rosicky went in, though he wasn't exactly asked.  "My boys ain't
goin' to town tonight, an' I brought de car over fur you two to go
in to de picture show."

Polly, carrying dishes to the sink, looked over her shoulder at
him.  "Thank you.  But I'm late with my work tonight, and pretty
tired.  Maybe Rudolph would like to go in with you."

"Oh, I don't go to de shows!  I'm too old-fashioned.  You won't
feel so tired after you ride in de air a ways.  It's a nice clear
night, an' it ain't cold.  You go an' fix yourself up, Polly, an'
I'll wash de dishes an' leave everything nice fur you."

Polly blushed and tossed her bob.  "I couldn't let you do that, Mr.
Rosicky.  I wouldn't think of it."

Rosicky said nothing.  He found a bib apron on a nail behind the
kitchen door.  He slipped it over his head and then took Polly by
her two elbows and pushed her gently toward the door of her own
room.  "I washed up de kitchen many times for my wife, when de
babies was sick or somethin'.  You go an' make yourself look nice.
I like you to look prettier'n any of dem town girls when you go in.
De young folks must have some fun, an' I'm goin' to look out fur
you, Polly."

That kind, reassuring grip on her elbows, the old man's funny
bright eyes, made Polly want to drop her head on his shoulder for a
second.  She restrained herself, but she lingered in his grasp at
the door of her room, murmuring tearfully:  "You always lived in
the city when you were young, didn't you?  Don't you ever get
lonesome out here?"

As she turned round to him, her hand fell naturally into his, and
he stood holding it and smiling into her face with his peculiar,
knowing, indulgent smile without a shadow of reproach in it.  "Dem
big cities is all right fur de rich, but dey is terrible hard fur
de poor."

"I don't know.  Sometimes I think I'd like to take a chance.  You
lived in New York, didn't you?"

"An' London.  Da's bigger still.  I learned my trade dere.  Here's
Rudolph comin', you better hurry."

"Will you tell me about London some time?"

"Maybe.  Only I ain't no talker, Polly.  Run an' dress yourself

The bedroom door closed behind her, and Rudolph came in from the
outside, looking anxious.  He had seen the car and was sorry any of
his family should come just then.  Supper hadn't been a very
pleasant occasion.  Halting in the doorway, he saw his father in a
kitchen apron, carrying dishes to the sink.  He flushed crimson and
something flashed in his eye.  Rosicky held up a warning finger.

"I brought de car over fur you an' Polly to go to de picture show,
an' I made her let me finish here so you won't be late.  You go put
on a clean shirt, quick!"

"But don't the boys want the car, Father?"

"Not tonight dey don't."  Rosicky fumbled under his apron and found
his pants pocket.  He took out a silver dollar and said in a
hurried whisper:  "You go an' buy dat girl some ice cream an' candy
tonight, like you was courtin'.  She's awful good friends wid me."

Rudolph was very short of cash, but he took the money as if it hurt
him.  There had been a crop failure all over the county.  He had
more than once been sorry he'd married this year.

In a few minutes the young people came out, looking clean and a
little stiff.  Rosicky hurried them off, and then he took his own
time with the dishes.  He scoured the pots and pans and put away
the milk and swept the kitchen.  He put some coal in the stove and
shut off the draughts, so the place would be warm for them when
they got home late at night.  Then he sat down and had a pipe and
listened to the clock tick.

Generally speaking, marrying an American girl was certainly a risk.
A Czech should marry a Czech.  It was lucky that Polly was the
daughter of a poor widow woman; Rudolph was proud, and if she had a
prosperous family to throw up at him, they could never make it go.
Polly was one of four sisters, and they all worked; one was book-
keeper in the bank, one taught music, and Polly and her younger
sister had been clerks, like Miss Pearl.  All four of them were
musical, had pretty voices, and sang in the Methodist choir, which
the eldest sister directed.

Polly missed the sociability of a store position.  She missed the
choir, and the company of her sisters.  She didn't dislike
housework, but she disliked so much of it.  Rosicky was a little
anxious about this pair.  He was afraid Polly would grow so
discontented that Rudy would quit the farm and take a factory job
in Omaha.  He had worked for a winter up there, two years ago, to
get money to marry on.  He had done very well, and they would
always take him back at the stockyards.  But to Rosicky that meant
the end of everything for his son.  To be a landless man was to be
a wage-earner, a slave, all your life; to have nothing, to be

Rosicky thought he would come over and do a little carpentering for
Polly after the New Year.  He guessed she needed jollying.  Rudolph
was a serious sort of chap, serious in love and serious about his

Rosicky shook out his pipe and walked home across the fields.
Ahead of him the lamplight shone from his kitchen windows.  Suppose
he were still in a tailor shop on Vesey Street, with a bunch of
pale, narrow-chested sons working on machines, all coming home
tired and sullen to eat supper in a kitchen that was a parlour
also; with another crowded, angry family quarrelling just across
the dumb-waiter shaft, and squeaking pulleys at the windows where
dirty washings hung on dirty lines above a court full of old brooms
and mops and ash-cans. . . .

He stopped by the windmill to look up at the frosty winter stars
and draw a long breath before he went inside.  That kitchen with
the shining windows was dear to him; but the sleeping fields and
bright stars and the noble darkness were dearer still.


On the day before Christmas the weather set in very cold; no snow,
but a bitter, biting wind that whistled and sang over the flat land
and lashed one's face like fine wires.  There was baking going on
in the Rosicky kitchen all day, and Rosicky sat inside, making over
a coat that Albert had outgrown into an overcoat for John.  Mary
had a big red geranium in bloom for Christmas, and a row of
Jerusalem cherry trees, full of berries.  It was the first year she
had ever grown these; Doctor Ed brought her the seeds from Omaha
when he went to some medical convention.  They reminded Rosicky of
plants he had seen in England; and all afternoon, as he stitched,
he sat thinking about those two years in London, which his mind
usually shrank from even after all this while.

He was a lad of eighteen when he dropped down into London, with no
money and no connexions except the address of a cousin who was
supposed to be working at a confectioner's.  When he went to the
pastry shop, however, he found that the cousin had gone to America.
Anton tramped the streets for several days, sleeping in doorways
and on the Embankment, until he was in utter despair.  He knew no
English, and the sound of the strange language all about him
confused him.  By chance he met a poor German tailor who had
learned his trade in Vienna, and could speak a little Czech.  This
tailor, Lifschnitz, kept a repair shop in a Cheapside basement,
underneath a cobbler.  He didn't much need an apprentice, but he
was sorry for the boy and took him in for no wages but his keep and
what he could pick up.  The pickings were supposed to be coppers
given you when you took work home to a customer.  But most of the
customers called for their clothes themselves, and the coppers that
came Anton's way were very few.  He had, however, a place to sleep.
The tailor's family lived upstairs in three rooms; a kitchen, a
bedroom, where Lifschnitz and his wife and five children slept, and
a living-room.  Two corners of this living-room were curtained off
for lodgers; in one Rosicky slept on an old horsehair sofa, with a
feather quilt to wrap himself in.  The other corner was rented to a
wretched, dirty boy, who was studying the violin.  He actually
practised there.  Rosicky was dirty, too.  There was no way to be
anything else.  Mrs. Lifschnitz got the water she cooked and washed
with from a pump in a brick court, four flights down.  There were
bugs in the place, and multitudes of fleas, though the poor woman
did the best she could.  Rosicky knew she often went empty to give
another potato or a spoonful of dripping to the two hungry, sad-
eyed boys who lodged with her.  He used to think he would never get
out of there, never get a clean shirt to his back again.  What
would he do, he wondered, when his clothes actually dropped to
pieces and the worn cloth wouldn't hold patches any longer?

It was still early when the old farmer put aside his sewing and his
recollections.  The sky had been a dark grey all day, with not a
gleam of sun, and the light failed at four o'clock.  He went to
shave and change his shirt while the turkey was roasting.  Rudolph
and Polly were coming over for supper.

After supper they sat round in the kitchen, and the younger boys
were saying how sorry they were it hadn't snowed.  Everybody was
sorry.  They wanted a deep snow that would lie long and keep the
wheat warm, and leave the ground soaked when it melted.

"Yes, sir!" Rudolph broke out fiercely; "if we have another dry
year like last year, there's going to be hard times in this

Rosicky filled his pipe.  "You boys don't know what hard times is.
You don't owe nobody, you got plenty to eat an' keep warm, an'
plenty water to keep clean.  When you got them, you can't have it
very hard."

Rudolph frowned, opened and shut his big right hand, and dropped it
clenched upon his knee.  "I've got to have a good deal more than
that, Father, or I'll quit this farming gamble.  I can always make
good wages railroading, or at the packing house, and be sure of my

"Maybe so," his father answered dryly.

Mary, who had just come in from the pantry and was wiping her hands
on the roller towel, thought Rudy and his father were getting too
serious.  She brought her darning-basket and sat down in the middle
of the group.

"I ain't much afraid of hard times, Rudy," she said heartily.
"We've had a plenty, but we've always come through.  Your father
wouldn't never take nothing very hard, not even hard times.  I got
a mind to tell you a story on him.  Maybe you boys can't hardly
remember the year we had that terrible hot wind, that burned
everything up on the Fourth of July?  All the corn an' the gardens.
An' that was in the days when we didn't have alfalfa yet,--I guess
it wasn't invented.

"Well, that very day your father was out cultivatin' corn, and I
was here in the kitchen makin' plum preserves.  We had bushels of
plums that year.  I noticed it was terrible hot, but it's always
hot in the kitchen when you're preservin', an' I was too busy with
my plums to mind.  Anton come in from the field about three
o'clock, an' I asked him what was the matter.

"'Nothin',' he says, 'but it's pretty hot, an' I think I won't work
no more today.'  He stood round for a few minutes, an' then he
says:  'Ain't you near through?  I want you should git up a nice
supper for us tonight.  It's Fourth of July.'

"I told him to git along, that I was right in the middle of
preservin', but the plums would taste good on hot biscuit.  'I'm
goin' to have fried chicken, too,' he says, and he went off an'
killed a couple.  You three oldest boys was little fellers, playin'
round outside, real hot an' sweaty, an' your father took you to the
horse tank down by the windmill an' took off your clothes an' put
you in.  Them two box-elder trees was little then, but they made
shade over the tank.  Then he took off all his own clothes, an' got
in with you.  While he was playin' in the water with you, the
Methodist preacher drove into our place to say how all the
neighbours was goin' to meet at the schoolhouse that night, to pray
for rain.  He drove right to the windmill, of course, and there was
your father and you three with no clothes on.  I was in the kitchen
door, an' I had to laugh, for the preacher acted like he ain't
never seen a naked man before.  He surely was embarrassed, an' your
father couldn't git to his clothes; they was all hangin' up on the
windmill to let the sweat dry out of 'em.  So he laid in the tank
where he was, an' put one of you boys on top of him to cover him up
a little, an' talked to the preacher.

"When you got through playin' in the water, he put clean clothes on
you and a clean shirt on himself, an' by that time I'd begun to get
supper.  He says:  'It's too hot in here to eat comfortable.  Let's
have a picnic in the orchard.  We'll eat our supper behind the
mulberry hedge, under them linden trees.'

"So he carried our supper down, an' a bottle of my wild-grape wine,
an' everything tasted good, I can tell you.  The wind got cooler as
the sun was goin' down, and it turned out pleasant, only I noticed
how the leaves was curled up on the linden trees.  That made me
think, an' I asked your father if that hot wind all day hadn't been
terrible hard on the gardens an' the corn.

"'Corn,' he says, 'there ain't no corn.'

"'What you talkin' about?' I said.  'Ain't we got forty acres?'

"'We ain't got an ear,' he says, 'nor nobody else ain't got none.
All the corn in this country was cooked by three o'clock today,
like you'd roasted it in an oven.'

"'You mean you won't get no crop at all?' I asked him.  I couldn't
believe it, after he'd worked so hard.

"'No crop this year,' he says.  'That's why we're havin' a picnic.
We might as well enjoy what we got.'

"An' that's how your father behaved, when all the neighbours was so
discouraged they couldn't look you in the face.  An' we enjoyed
ourselves that year, poor as we was, an' our neighbours wasn't a
bit better off for bein' miserable.  Some of 'em grieved till they
got poor digestions and couldn't relish what they did have."

The younger boys said they thought their father had the best of it.
But Rudolf was thinking that, all the same, the neighbours had
managed to get ahead more, in the fifteen years since that time.
There must be something wrong about his father's way of doing
things.  He wished he knew what was going on in the back of Polly's
mind.  He knew she liked his father, but he knew, too, that she was
afraid of something.  When his mother sent over coffee-cake or
prune tarts or a loaf of fresh bread, Polly seemed to regard them
with a certain suspicion.  When she observed to him that his
brothers had nice manners, her tone implied that it was remarkable
they should have.  With his mother she was stiff and on her guard.
Mary's hearty frankness and gusts of good humour irritated her.
Polly was afraid of being unusual or conspicuous in any way, of
being "ordinary," as she said!

When Mary had finished her story, Rosicky laid aside his pipe.

"You boys like me to tell you about some of dem hard times I been
through in London?  Warmly encouraged, he sat rubbing his forehead
along the deep creases.  It was bothersome to tell a long story in
English (he nearly always talked to the boys in Czech), but he
wanted Polly to hear this one.

"Well, you know about dat tailor shop I worked in in London?  I had
one Christmas dere I ain't never forgot.  Times was awful bad
before Christmas; de boss ain't got much work, an' have it awful
hard to pay his rent.  It ain't so much fun, bein' poor in a big
city like London, I'll say!  All de windows is full of good t'ings
to eat, an' all de pushcarts in de streets is full, an' you smell
'em all de time, an' you ain't got no money,--not a damn bit.  I
didn't mind de cold so much, though I didn't have no overcoat,
chust a short jacket I'd outgrowed so it wouldn't meet on me, an'
my hands was chapped raw.  But I always had a good appetite, like
you all know, an' de sight of dem pork pies in de windows was awful
fur me!

"Day before Christmas was terrible foggy dat year, an' dat fog gits
into your bones and makes you all damp like.  Mrs. Lifschnitz
didn't give us nothin' but a little bread an' drippin' for supper,
because she was savin' to try for to give us a good dinner on
Christmas Day.  After supper de boss say I can go an' enjoy myself,
so I went into de streets to listen to de Christmas singers.  Dey
sing old songs an' make very nice music, an' I run round after dem
a good ways, till I got awful hungry.  I t'ink maybe if I go home,
I can sleep till morning an' forgit my belly.

"I went into my corner real quiet, and roll up in my fedder quilt.
But I ain't got my head down, till I smell somet'ing good.  Seem
like it git stronger an' stronger, an' I can't git to sleep noway.
I can't understand dat smell.  Dere was a gas light in a hall
across de court, dat always shine in at my window a little.  I got
up an' look round.  I got a little wooden box in my corner fur a
stool, 'cause I ain't got no chair.  I picks up dat box, and under
it dere is a roast goose on a platter!  I can't believe my eyes.  I
carry it to de window where de light comes in, an' touch it and
smell it to find out, an' den I taste it to be sure.  I say, I will
eat chust one little bite of dat goose, so I can go to sleep, and
tomorrow I won't eat none at all.  But I tell you, boys, when I
stop, one half of dat goose was gone!"

The narrator bowed his head, and the boys shouted.  But little
Josephine slipped behind his chair and kissed him on the neck
beneath his ear.

"Poor little Papa, I don't want him to be hungry!"

"Da's long ago, child.  I ain't never been hungry since I had your
mudder to cook fur me."

"Go on and tell us the rest, please," said Polly.

"Well, when I come to realize what I done, of course, I felt
terrible.  I felt better in de stomach, but very bad in de heart.
I set on my bed wid dat platter on my knees, an' it all come to me;
how hard dat poor woman save to buy dat goose, and how she get some
neighbour to cook it dat got more fire, an' how she put it in my
corner to keep it away from dem hungry children.  Dey was a old
carpet hung up to shut my corner off, an' de children wasn't
allowed to go in dere.  An' I know she put it in my corner because
she trust me more'n she did de violin boy.  I can't stand it to
face her after I spoil de Christmas.  So I put on my shoes and go
out into de city.  I tell myself I better throw myself in de river;
but I guess I ain't dat kind of a boy.

"It was after twelve o'clock, an' terrible cold, an' I start out to
walk about London all night.  I walk along de river awhile, but dey
was lots of drunks all along; men, and women too.  I chust move
along to keep away from de police.  I git onto de Strand, an' den
over to New Oxford Street, where dere was a big German restaurant
on de ground floor, wid big windows all fixed up fine, an' I could
see de people havin' parties inside.  While I was lookin' in, two
men and two ladies come out, laughin' and talkin' and feelin' happy
about all dey been eatin' an' drinkin', and dey was speakin'
Czech,--not like de Austrians, but like de home folks talk it.

"I guess I went crazy, an' I done what I ain't never done before
nor since.  I went right up to dem gay people an' begun to beg dem:
'Fellow-countrymen, for God's sake give me money enough to buy a

"Dey laugh, of course, but de ladies speak awful kind to me, an'
dey take me back into de restaurant and give me hot coffee and
cakes, an' make me tell all about how I happened to come to London,
an' what I was doin' dere.  Dey take my name and where I work down
on paper, an' both of dem ladies give me ten shillings.

"De big market at Covent Garden ain't very far away, an' by dat
time it was open.  I go dere an' buy a big goose an' some pork
pies, an' potatoes and onions, an' cakes an' oranges fur de
children,--all I could carry!  When I git home, everybody is still
asleep.  I pile all I bought on de kitchen table, an' go in an' lay
down on my bed, an' I ain't waken up till I hear dat woman scream
when she come out into her kitchen.  My goodness, but she was
surprise!  She laugh an' cry at de same time, an' hug me and waken
all de children.  She ain't stop fur no breakfast; she git de
Christmas dinner ready dat morning, and we all sit down an' eat all
we can hold.  I ain't never seen dat violin boy have all he can
hold before.

"Two three days after dat, de two men come to hunt me up, an' dey
ask my boss, and he give me a good report an' tell dem I was a
steady boy all right.  One of dem Bohemians was very smart an' run
a Bohemian newspaper in New York, an' de odder was a rich man, in
de importing business, an' dey been travelling togedder.  Dey told
me how t'ings was easier in New York, an' offered to pay my passage
when dey was goin' home soon on a boat.  My boss say to me:  'You
go.  You ain't got no chance here, an' I like to see you git ahead,
fur you always been a good boy to my woman, and fur dat fine
Christmas dinner you give us all.'  An' da's how I got to New

That night when Rudolph and Polly, arm in arm, were running home
across the fields with the bitter wind at their backs, his heart
leaped for joy when she said she thought they might have his family
come over for supper on New Year's Eve.  "Let's get up a nice
supper, and not let your mother help at all; make her be company
for once."

"That would be lovely of you, Polly," he said humbly.  He was a
very simple, modest boy, and he, too, felt vaguely that Polly and
her sisters were more experienced and worldly than his people.


The winter turned out badly for farmers.  It was bitterly cold, and
after the first light snows before Christmas there was no snow at
all,--and no rain.  March was as bitter as February.  On those days
when the wind fairly punished the country, Rosicky sat by his
window.  In the fall he and the boys had put in a big wheat
planting, and now the seed had frozen in the ground.  All that land
would have to be ploughed up and planted over again, planted in
corn.  It had happened before, but he was younger then, and he
never worried about what had to be.  He was sure of himself and of
Mary; he knew they could bear what they had to bear, that they
would always pull through somehow.  But he was not so sure about
the young ones, and he felt troubled because Rudolph and Polly were
having such a hard start.

Sitting beside his flowering window while the panes rattled and the
wind blew in under the door, Rosicky gave himself to reflection as
he had not done since those Sundays in the loft of the furniture-
factory in New York, long ago.  Then he was trying to find what he
wanted in life for himself; now he was trying to find what he
wanted for his boys, and why it was he so hungered to feel sure
they would be here, working this very land, after he was gone.

They would have to work hard on the farm, and probably they would
never do much more than make a living.  But if he could think of
them as staying here on the land, he wouldn't have to fear any
great unkindness for them.  Hardships, certainly; it was a hardship
to have the wheat freeze in the ground when seed was so high; and
to have to sell your stock because you had no feed.  But there
would be other years when everything came along right, and you
caught up.  And what you had was your own.  You didn't have to
choose between bosses and strikers, and go wrong either way.  You
didn't have to do with dishonest and cruel people.  They were the
only things in his experience he had found terrifying and horrible;
the look in the eyes of a dishonest and crafty man, of a scheming
and rapacious woman.

In the country, if you had a mean neighbour, you could keep off his
land and make him keep off yours.  But in the city, all the
foulness and misery and brutality of your neighbours was part of
your life.  The worst things he had come upon in his journey
through the world were human,--depraved and poisonous specimens of
man.  To this day he could recall certain terrible faces in the
London streets.  There were mean people everywhere, to be sure,
even in their own country town here.  But they weren't tempered,
hardened, sharpened, like the treacherous people in cities who live
by grinding or cheating or poisoning their fellow-men.  He had
helped to bury two of his fellow-workmen in the tailoring trade,
and he was distrustful of the organized industries that see one out
of the world in big cities.  Here, if you were sick, you had Doctor
Ed to look after you; and if you died, fat Mr. Haycock, the kindest
man in the world, buried you.

It seemed to Rosicky that for good, honest boys like his, the worst
they could do on the farm was better than the best they would be
likely to do in the city.  If he'd had a mean boy, now, one who was
crooked and sharp and tried to put anything over on his brothers,
then town would be the place for him.  But he had no such boy.  As
for Rudolph, the discontented one, he would give the shirt off his
back to anyone who touched his heart.  What Rosicky really hoped
for his boys was that they could get through the world without ever
knowing much about the cruelty of human beings.  "Their mother and
me ain't prepared them for that," he sometimes said to himself.

These thoughts brought him back to a grateful consideration of his
own case.  What an escape he had had, to be sure!  He, too, in his
time, had had to take money for repair work from the hand of a
hungry child who let it go so wistfully; because it was money due
his boss.  And now, in all these years, he had never had to take a
cent from anyone in bitter need,--never had to look at the face of
a woman become like a wolf's from struggle and famine.  When he
thought of these things, Rosicky would put on his cap and jacket
and slip down to the barn and give his work-horses a little extra
oats, letting them eat it out of his hand in their slobbery
fashion.  It was his way of expressing what he felt, and made him
chuckle with pleasure.

The spring came warm, with blue skies,--but dry, dry as a bone.
The boys began ploughing up the wheat-fields to plant them over in
corn.  Rosicky would stand at the fence corner and watch them, and
the earth was so dry it blew up in clouds of brown dust that hid
the horses and the sulky plough and the driver.  It was a bad

The big alfalfa-field that lay between the home place and Rudolph's
came up green, but Rosicky was worried because during that open
windy winter a great many Russian thistle plants had blown in there
and lodged.  He kept asking the boys to rake them out; he was
afraid their seed would root and "take the alfalfa."  Rudolph said
that was nonsense.  The boys were working so hard planting corn,
their father felt he couldn't insist about the thistles, but he set
great store by that big alfalfa field.  It was a feed you could
depend on,--and there was some deeper reason, vague, but strong.
The peculiar green of that clover woke early memories in old
Rosicky, went back to something in his childhood in the old world.
When he was a little boy, he had played in fields of that strong
blue-green colour.

One morning, when Rudolph had gone to town in the car, leaving a
work-team idle in his barn, Rosicky went over to his son's place,
put the horses to the buggy-rake, and set about quietly raking up
those thistles.  He behaved with guilty caution, and rather enjoyed
stealing a march on Doctor Ed, who was just then taking his first
vacation in seven years of practice and was attending a clinic in
Chicago.  Rosicky got the thistles raked up, but did not stop to
burn them.  That would take some time, and his breath was pretty
short, so he thought he had better get the horses back to the barn.

He got them into the barn and to their stalls, but the pain had
come on so sharp in his chest that he didn't try to take the
harness off.  He started for the house, bending lower with every
step.  The cramp in his chest was shutting him up like a jack-
knife.  When he reached the windmill, he swayed and caught at the
ladder.  He saw Polly coming down the hill, running with the
swiftness of a slim greyhound.  In a flash she had her shoulder
under his armpit.

"Lean on me, Father, hard!  Don't be afraid.  We can get to the
house all right."

Somehow they did, though Rosicky became blind with pain; he could
keep on his legs, but he couldn't steer his course.  The next thing
he was conscious of was lying on Polly's bed, and Polly bending
over him wringing out bath towels in hot water and putting them on
his chest.  She stopped only to throw coal into the stove, and she
kept the tea-kettle and the black pot going.  She put these hot
applications on him for nearly an hour, she told him afterwards,
and all that time he was drawn up stiff and blue, with the sweat
pouring off him.

As the pain gradually loosed its grip, the stiffness went out of
his jaws, the black circles round his eyes disappeared, and a
little of his natural colour came back.  When his daughter-in-law
buttoned his shirt over his chest at last, he sighed.

"Da's fine, de way I feel now, Polly.  It was a awful bad spell,
an' I was so sorry it all come on you like it did."

Polly was flushed and excited.  "Is the pain really gone?  Can I
leave you long enough to telephone over to your place?"

Rosicky's eyelids fluttered.  "Don't telephone, Polly.  It ain't no
use to scare my wife.  It's nice and quiet here, an' if I ain't too
much trouble to you, just let me lay still till I feel like myself.
I ain't got no pain now.  It's nice here."

Polly bent over him and wiped the moisture from his face.  "Oh, I'm
so glad it's over!" she broke out impulsively.  "It just broke my
heart to see you suffer so, Father."

Rosicky motioned her to sit down on the chair where the tea-kettle
had been, and looked up at her with that lively affectionate gleam
in his eyes.  "You was awful good to me, I won't never forgit dat.
I hate it to be sick on you like dis.  Down at de barn I say to
myself, dat young girl ain't had much experience in sickness, I
don't want to scare her, an' maybe she's got a baby comin' or

Polly took his hand.  He was looking at her so intently and
affectionately and confidingly; his eyes seemed to caress her face,
to regard it with pleasure.  She frowned with her funny streaks of
eyebrows, and then smiled back at him.

"I guess maybe there is something of that kind going to happen.
But I haven't told anyone yet, not my mother or Rudolph.  You'll be
the first to know."

His hand pressed hers.  She noticed that it was warm again.  The
twinkle in his yellow-brown eyes seemed to come nearer.

"I like mighty well to see dat little child, Polly," was all he
said.  Then he closed his eyes and lay half-smiling.  But Polly sat
still, thinking hard.  She had a sudden feeling that nobody in the
world, not her mother, not Rudolph, or anyone, really loved her as
much as old Rosicky did.  It perplexed her.  She sat frowning and
trying to puzzle it out.  It was as if Rosicky had a special gift
for loving people, something that was like an ear for music or an
eye for colour.  It was quiet, unobtrusive; it was merely there.
You saw it in his eyes,--perhaps that was why they were merry.
You felt it in his hands, too.  After he dropped off to sleep,
she sat holding his warm, broad, flexible brown hand.  She had
never seen another in the least like it.  She wondered if it wasn't
a kind of gypsy hand, it was so alive and quick and light in its
communications,--very strange in a farmer.  Nearly all the farmers
she knew had huge lumps of fists, like mauls, or they were knotty
and bony and uncomfortable-looking, with stiff fingers.  But
Rosicky's was like quicksilver, flexible, muscular, about the
colour of a pale cigar, with deep, deep creases across the palm.
It wasn't nervous, it wasn't a stupid lump; it was a warm brown
human hand, with some cleverness in it, a great deal of generosity,
and something else which Polly could only call "gypsy-like,"--
something nimble and lively and sure, in the way that animals are.

Polly remembered that hour long afterwards; it had been like an
awakening to her.  It seemed to her that she had never learned so
much about life from anything as from old Rosicky's hand.  It
brought her to herself; it communicated some direct and
untranslatable message.

When she heard Rudolph coming in the car, she ran out to meet him.

"Oh, Rudy, your father's been awful sick!  He raked up those
thistles he's been worrying about, and afterwards he could hardly
get to the house.  He suffered so I was afraid he was going to

Rudolph jumped to the ground.  "Where is he now?"

"On the bed.  He's asleep.  I was terribly scared, because, you
know, I'm so fond of your father."  She slipped her arm through his
and they went into the house.  That afternoon they took Rosicky
home and put him to bed, though he protested that he was quite well

The next morning he got up and dressed and sat down to breakfast
with his family.  He told Mary that his coffee tasted better than
usual to him, and he warned the boys not to bear any tales to
Doctor Ed when he got home.  After breakfast he sat down by his
window to do some patching and asked Mary to thread several needles
for him before she went to feed her chickens,--her eyes were better
than his, and her hands steadier.  He lit his pipe and took up
John's overalls.  Mary had been watching him anxiously all morning,
and as she went out of the door with her bucket of scraps, she saw
that he was smiling.  He was thinking, indeed, about Polly, and how
he might never have known what a tender heart she had if he hadn't
got sick over there.  Girls nowadays didn't wear their heart on
their sleeve.  But now he knew Polly would make a fine woman after
the foolishness wore off.  Either a woman had that sweetness at her
heart or she hadn't.  You couldn't always tell by the look of them;
but if they had that, everything came out right in the end.

After he had taken a few stitches, the cramp began in his chest,
like yesterday.  He put his pipe cautiously down on the window-sill
and bent over to ease the pull.  No use,--he had better try to get
to his bed if he could.  He rose and groped his way across the
familiar floor, which was rising and falling like the deck of a
ship.  At the door he fell.  When Mary came in, she found him lying
there, and the moment she touched him she knew that he was gone.

Doctor Ed was away when Rosicky died, and for the first few weeks
after he got home he was hard driven.  Every day he said to himself
that he must get out to see that family that had lost their father.
One soft, warm moonlight night in early summer he started for the
farm.  His mind was on other things, and not until his road ran by
the graveyard did he realize that Rosicky wasn't over there on the
hill where the red lamplight shone, but here, in the moonlight.  He
stopped his car, shut off the engine, and sat there for a while.

A sudden hush had fallen on his soul.  Everything here seemed
strangely moving and significant, though signifying what, he did
not know.  Close by the wire fence stood Rosicky's mowing-machine,
where one of the boys had been cutting hay that afternoon; his own
workhorses had been going up and down there.  The new-cut hay
perfumed all the night air.  The moonlight silvered the long,
billowy grass that grew over the graves and hid the fence; the few
little evergreens stood out black in it, like shadows in a pool.
The sky was very blue and soft, the stars rather faint because the
moon was full.

For the first time it struck Doctor Ed that this was really a
beautiful graveyard.  He thought of city cemeteries; acres of
shrubbery and heavy stone, so arranged and lonely and unlike
anything in the living world.  Cities of the dead, indeed; cities
of the forgotten, of the "put away."  But this was open and free,
this little square of long grass which the wind for ever stirred.
Nothing but the sky overhead, and the many-coloured fields running
on until they met that sky.  The horses worked here in summer; the
neighbours passed on their way to town; and over yonder, in the
cornfield, Rosicky's own cattle would be eating fodder as winter
came on.  Nothing could be more un-deathlike than this place;
nothing could be more right for a man who had helped to do the work
of great cities and had always longed for the open country and had
got to it at last.  Rosicky's life seemed to him complete and

New York, 1928



Mrs. David Rosen, cross-stitch in hand, sat looking out of the
window across her own green lawn to the ragged, sunburned back yard
of her neighbours on the right.  Occasionally she glanced anxiously
over her shoulder toward her shining kitchen, with a black and
white linoleum floor in big squares, like a marble pavement.

"Will dat woman never go?" she muttered impatiently, just under her
breath.  She spoke with a slight accent--it affected only her th's,
and, occasionally, the letter v.  But people in Skyline thought
this unfortunate, in a woman whose superiority they recognized.

Mrs. Rosen ran out to move the sprinkler to another spot on the
lawn, and in doing so she saw what she had been waiting to see.
From the house next door a tall, handsome woman emerged, dressed in
white broadcloth and a hat with white lilacs; she carried a
sunshade and walked with a free, energetic step, as if she were
going out on a pleasant errand.

Mrs. Rosen darted quickly back into the house, lest her neighbour
should hail her and stop to talk.  She herself was in her kitchen
housework dress, a crisp blue chambray which fitted smoothly over
her tightly corseted figure, and her lustrous black hair was done
in two smooth braids, wound flat at the back of her head, like a
braided rug.  She did not stop for a hat--her dark, ruddy, salmon-
tinted skin had little to fear from the sun.  She opened the half-
closed oven door and took out a symmetrically plaited coffee-cake,
beautifully browned, delicately peppered over with poppy seeds,
with sugary margins about the twists.  On the kitchen table a tray
stood ready with cups and saucers.  She wrapped the cake in a
napkin, snatched up a little French coffee-pot with a black wooden
handle, and ran across her green lawn, through the alley-way and
the sandy, unkept yard next door, and entered her neighbour's house
by the kitchen.

The kitchen was hot and empty, full of the untempered afternoon
sun.  A door stood open into the next room; a cluttered, hideous
room, yet somehow homely.  There, beside a goods-box covered with
figured oilcloth, stood an old woman in a brown calico dress,
washing her hot face and neck at a tin basin.  She stood with her
feet wide apart, in an attitude of profound weariness.  She started
guiltily as the visitor entered.

"Don't let me disturb you, Grandma," called Mrs. Rosen.  "I always
have my coffee at dis hour in the afternoon.  I was just about to
sit down to it when I thought:  'I will run over and see if Grandma
Harris won't take a cup with me.'  I hate to drink my coffee

Grandma looked troubled,--at a loss.  She folded her towel and
concealed it behind a curtain hung across the corner of the room to
make a poor sort of closet.  The old lady was always composed in
manner, but it was clear that she felt embarrassment.

"Thank you, Mrs. Rosen.  What a pity Victoria just this minute went
down town!"

"But dis time I came to see you yourself, Grandma.  Don't let me
disturb you.  Sit down there in your own rocker, and I will put my
tray on this little chair between us, so!"

Mrs. Harris sat down in her black wooden rocking-chair with curved
arms and a faded cretonne pillow on the wooden seat.  It stood in
the corner beside a narrow spindle-frame lounge.  She looked on
silently while Mrs. Rosen uncovered the cake and delicately broke
it with her plump, smooth, dusky-red hands.  The old lady did not
seem pleased,--seemed uncertain and apprehensive, indeed.  But she
was not fussy or fidgety.  She had the kind of quiet, intensely
quiet, dignity that comes from complete resignation to the chances
of life.  She watched Mrs. Rosen's deft hands out of grave, steady
brown eyes.

"Dis is Mr. Rosen's favourite coffee-cake, Grandma, and I want you
to try it.  You are such a good cook yourself, I would like your
opinion of my cake."

"It's very nice, ma'am," said Mrs. Harris politely, but without

"And you aren't drinking your coffee; do you like more cream in

"No, thank you.  I'm letting it cool a little.  I generally drink
it that way."

"Of course she does," thought Mrs. Rosen, "since she never has her
coffee until all the family are done breakfast!"

Mrs. Rosen had brought Grandma Harris coffee-cake time and again,
but she knew that Grandma merely tasted it and saved it for her
daughter Victoria, who was as fond of sweets as her own children,
and jealous about them, moreover,--couldn't bear that special
dainties should come into the house for anyone but herself.  Mrs.
Rosen, vexed at her failures, had determined that just once she
would take a cake to "de old lady Harris," and with her own eyes
see her eat it.  The result was not all she had hoped.  Receiving a
visitor alone, unsupervised by her daughter, having cake and coffee
that should properly be saved for Victoria, was all so irregular
that Mrs. Harris could not enjoy it.  Mrs. Rosen doubted if she
tasted the cake as she swallowed it,--certainly she ate it without
relish, as a hollow form.  But Mrs. Rosen enjoyed her own cake, at
any rate, and she was glad of an opportunity to sit quietly and
look at Grandmother, who was more interesting to her than the
handsome Victoria.

It was a queer place to be having coffee, when Mrs. Rosen liked
order and comeliness so much: a hideous, cluttered room, furnished
with a rocking-horse, a sewing-machine, an empty baby-buggy.  A
walnut table stood against a blind window, piled high with old
magazines and tattered books, and children's caps and coats.  There
was a wash-stand (two wash-stands, if you counted the oilcloth-
covered box as one).  A corner of the room was curtained off with
some black-and-red-striped cotton goods, for a clothes closet.  In
another corner was the wooden lounge with a thin mattress and a red
calico spread which was Grandma's bed.  Beside it was her wooden
rocking-chair, and the little splint-bottom chair with the legs
sawed short on which her darning-basket usually stood, but which
Mrs. Rosen was now using for a tea-table.

The old lady was always impressive, Mrs. Rosen was thinking,--one
could not say why.  Perhaps it was the way she held her head,--so
simply, unprotesting and unprotected; or the gravity of her large,
deep-set brown eyes, a warm, reddish brown, though their look,
always direct, seemed to ask nothing and hope for nothing.  They
were not cold, but inscrutable, with no kindling gleam of
intercourse in them.  There was the kind of nobility about her head
that there is about an old lion's: an absence of self-consciousness,
vanity, preoccupation--something absolute.  Her grey hair was parted
in the middle, wound in two little horns over her ears, and done in
a little flat knot behind.  Her mouth was large and composed,--
resigned, the corners drooping.  Mrs. Rosen had very seldom heard
her laugh (and then it was a gentle, polite laugh which meant only
politeness).  But she had observed that whenever Mrs. Harris's
grandchildren were about, tumbling all over her, asking for cookies,
teasing her to read to them, the old lady looked happy.

As she drank her coffee, Mrs. Rosen tried one subject after another
to engage Mrs. Harris's attention.

"Do you feel this hot weather, Grandma?  I am afraid you are over
the stove too much.  Let those naughty children have a cold lunch

"No'm, I don't mind the heat.  It's apt to come on like this for a
spell in May.  I don't feel the stove.  I'm accustomed to it."

"Oh, so am I!  But I get very impatient with my cooking in hot
weather.  Do you miss your old home in Tennessee very much,

"No'm, I can't say I do.  Mr. Templeton thought Colorado was a
better place to bring up the children."

"But you had things much more comfortable down there, I'm sure.
These little wooden houses are too hot in summer."

"Yes'm, we were more comfortable.  We had more room."

"And a flower-garden, and beautiful old trees, Mrs. Templeton told

"Yes'm, we had a great deal of shade."

Mrs. Rosen felt that she was not getting anywhere.  She almost
believed that Grandma thought she had come on an equivocal errand,
to spy out something in Victoria's absence.  Well, perhaps she had!
Just for once she would like to get past the others to the real
grandmother,--and the real grandmother was on her guard, as always.
At this moment she heard a faint miaow.  Mrs. Harris rose, lifting
herself by the wooden arms of her chair, said:  "Excuse me," went
into the kitchen, and opened the screen door.

In walked a large, handsome, thickly furred Maltese cat, with long
whiskers and yellow eyes and a white star on his breast.  He
preceded Grandmother, waited until she sat down.  Then he sprang up
into her lap and settled himself comfortably in the folds of her
full-gathered calico skirt.  He rested his chin in his deep bluish
fur and regarded Mrs. Rosen.  It struck her that he held his head
in just the way Grandmother held hers.  And Grandmother now became
more alive, as if some missing part of herself were restored.

"This is Blue Boy," she said, stroking him.  "In winter, when the
screen door ain't on, he lets himself in.  He stands up on his hind
legs and presses the thumb-latch with his paw, and just walks in
like anybody."

"He's your cat, isn't he, Grandma?"  Mrs. Rosen couldn't help
prying just a little; if she could find but a single thing that was
Grandma's own!

"He's our cat," replied Mrs. Harris.  "We're all very fond of him.
I expect he's Vickie's more'n anybody's."

"Of course!" groaned Mrs. Rosen to herself.  "Dat Vickie is her
mother over again."

Here Mrs. Harris made her first unsolicited remark.  "If you was to
be troubled with mice at any time, Mrs. Rosen, ask one of the boys
to bring Blue Boy over to you, and he'll clear them out.  He's a
master mouser."  She scratched the thick blue fur at the back of
his neck, and he began a deep purring.  Mrs. Harris smiled.  "We
call that spinning, back with us.  Our children still say:  'Listen
to Blue Boy spin,' though none of 'em is ever heard a spinning-
wheel--except maybe Vickie remembers."

"Did you have a spinning-wheel in your own house, Grandma Harris?"

"Yes'm.  Miss Sadie Crummer used to come and spin for us.  She was
left with no home of her own, and it was to give her something to
do, as much as anything, that we had her.  I spun a good deal
myself, in my young days."  Grandmother stopped and put her hands
on the arms of her chair, as if to rise.  "Did you hear a door
open?  It might be Victoria."

"No, it was the wind shaking the screen door.  Mrs. Templeton won't
be home yet.  She is probably in my husband's store this minute,
ordering him about.  All the merchants down town will take anything
from your daughter.  She is very popular wid de gentlemen,

Mrs. Harris smiled complacently.  "Yes'm.  Victoria was always much

At this moment a chorus of laughter broke in upon the warm silence,
and a host of children, as it seemed to Mrs. Rosen, ran through the
yard.  The hand-pump on the back porch, outside the kitchen door,
began to scrape and gurgle.

"It's the children, back from school," said Grandma.  "They are
getting a cool drink."

"But where is the baby, Grandma?"

"Vickie took Hughie in his cart over to Mr. Holliday's yard, where
she studies.  She's right good about minding him."

Mrs. Rosen was glad to hear that Vickie was good for something.

Three little boys came running in through the kitchen; the twins,
aged ten, and Ronald, aged six, who went to kindergarten.  They
snatched off their caps and threw their jackets and school bags on
the table, the sewing-machine, the rocking-horse.

"Howdy do, Mrs. Rosen."  They spoke to her nicely.  They had nice
voices, nice faces, and were always courteous, like their father.
"We are going to play in our back yard with some of the boys,
Gram'ma," said one of the twins respectfully, and they ran out to
join a troop of schoolmates who were already shouting and racing
over that poor trampled back yard, strewn with velocipedes and
croquet mallets and toy wagons, which was such an eyesore to Mrs.

Mrs. Rosen got up and took her tray.

"Can't you stay a little, ma'am?  Victoria will be here any

But her tone let Mrs. Rosen know that Grandma really wished her to
leave before Victoria returned.

A few moments after Mrs. Rosen had put the tray down in her own
kitchen, Victoria Templeton came up the wooden sidewalk, attended
by Mr. Rosen, who had quitted his store half an hour earlier than
usual for the pleasure of walking home with her.  Mrs. Templeton
stopped by the picket fence to smile at the children playing in the
back yard,--and it was a real smile, she was glad to see them.

She called Ronald over to the fence to give him a kiss.  He was hot
and sticky.

"Was your teacher nice today?  Now run in and ask Grandma to wash
your face and put a clean waist on you."


That night Mrs. Harris got supper with an effort--had to drive
herself harder than usual.  Mandy, the bound girl they had brought
with them from the South, noticed that the old lady was uncertain
and short of breath.  The hours from two to four, when Mrs. Harris
usually rested, had not been at all restful this afternoon.  There
was an understood rule that Grandmother was not to receive visitors
alone.  Mrs. Rosen's call, and her cake and coffee, were too much
out of the accepted order.  Nervousness had prevented the old lady
from getting any repose during her visit.

After the rest of the family had left the supper table, she went
into the dining-room and took her place, but she ate very little.
She put away the food that was left, and then, while Mandy washed
the dishes, Grandma sat down in her rocking-chair in the dark and

The three little boys came in from playing under the electric light
(arc lights had been but lately installed in Skyline) and began
begging Mrs. Harris to read Tom Sawyer to them.  Grandmother loved
to read, anything at all, the Bible or the continued story in the
Chicago weekly paper.  She roused herself, lit her brass "safety
lamp," and pulled her black rocker out of its corner to the wash-
stand (the table was too far away from her corner, and anyhow it
was completely covered with coats and school satchels).  She put on
her old-fashioned silver-rimmed spectacles and began to read.
Ronald lay down on Grandmother's lounge bed, and the twins, Albert
and Adelbert, called Bert and Del, sat down against the wall, one
on a low box covered with felt, and the other on the little sawed-
off chair upon which Mrs. Rosen had served coffee.  They looked
intently at Mrs. Harris, and she looked intently at the book.

Presently Vickie, the oldest grandchild, came in.  She was fifteen.
Her mother was entertaining callers in the parlour, callers who
didn't interest Vickie, so she was on her way up to her own room by
the kitchen stairway.

Mrs. Harris looked up over her glasses.  "Vickie, maybe you'd take
the book awhile, and I can do my darning."

"All right," said Vickie.  Reading aloud was one of the things she
would always do toward the general comfort.  She sat down by the
wash-stand and went on with the story.  Grandmother got her
darning-basket and began to drive her needle across great knee-
holes in the boys' stockings.  Sometimes she nodded for a moment,
and her hands fell into her lap.  After a while the little boy on
the lounge went to sleep.  But the twins sat upright, their hands
on their knees, their round brown eyes fastened upon Vickie, and
when there was anything funny, they giggled.  They were chubby,
dark-skinned little boys, with round jolly faces, white teeth, and
yellow-brown eyes that were always bubbling with fun unless they
were sad,--even then their eyes never got red or weepy.  Their
tears sparkled and fell; left no trace but a streak on the cheeks,

Presently old Mrs. Harris gave out a long snore of utter defeat.
She had been overcome at last.  Vickie put down the book.  "That's
enough for tonight.  Grandmother's sleepy, and Ronald's fast
asleep.  What'll we do with him?"

"Bert and me'll get him undressed," said Adelbert.  The twins
roused the sleepy little boy and prodded him up the back stairway
to the bare room without window blinds, where he was put into his
cot beside their double bed.  Vickie's room was across the narrow
hallway; not much bigger than a closet, but, anyway, it was her
own.  She had a chair and an old dresser, and beside her bed was a
high stool which she used as a lamp-table,--she always read in bed.

After Vickie went upstairs, the house was quiet.  Hughie, the baby,
was asleep in his mother's room, and Victoria herself, who still
treated her husband as if he were her "beau," had persuaded him to
take her down town to the ice-cream parlour.  Grandmother's room,
between the kitchen and the dining-room, was rather like a passage-
way; but now that the children were upstairs and Victoria was off
enjoying herself somewhere, Mrs. Harris could be sure of enough
privacy to undress.  She took off the calico cover from her lounge
bed and folded it up, put on her nightgown and white nightcap.

Mandy, the bound girl, appeared at the kitchen door.

"Miz' Harris," she said in a guarded tone, ducking her head, "you
want me to rub your feet for you?"

For the first time in the long day the old woman's low composure
broke a little.  "Oh, Mandy, I would take it kindly of you!" she
breathed gratefully.

That had to be done in the kitchen; Victoria didn't like anybody
slopping about.  Mrs. Harris put an old checked shawl round her
shoulders and followed Mandy.  Beside the kitchen stove Mandy had a
little wooden tub full of warm water.  She knelt down and untied
Mrs. Harris's garter strings and took off her flat cloth slippers
and stockings.

"Oh, Miz' Harris, your feet an' legs is swelled turrible tonight!"

"I expect they air, Mandy.  They feel like it."

"Pore soul!" murmured Mandy.  She put Grandma's feet in the tub
and, crouching beside it, slowly, slowly rubbed her swollen legs.
Mandy was tired, too.  Mrs. Harris sat in her nightcap and shawl,
her hands crossed in her lap.  She never asked for this greatest
solace of the day; it was something that Mandy gave, who had
nothing else to give.  If there could be a comparison in absolutes,
Mandy was the needier of the two,--but she was younger.  The
kitchen was quiet and full of shadow, with only the light from an
old lantern.  Neither spoke.  Mrs. Harris dozed from comfort, and
Mandy herself was half asleep as she performed one of the oldest
rites of compassion.

Although Mrs. Harris's lounge had no springs, only a thin cotton
mattress between her and the wooden slats, she usually went to
sleep as soon as she was in bed.  To be off her feet, to lie flat,
to say over the psalm beginning:  "The Lord is my shepherd" was
comfort enough.  About four o'clock in the morning, however, she
would begin to feel the hard slats under her, and the heaviness of
the old home-made quilts, with weight but little warmth, on top of
her.  Then she would reach under her pillow for her little
comforter (she called it that to herself) that Mrs. Rosen had given
her.  It was a tan sweater of very soft brushed wool, with one
sleeve torn and ragged.  A young nephew from Chicago had spent a
fortnight with Mrs. Rosen last summer and had left this behind him.
One morning, when Mrs. Harris went out to the stable at the back of
the yard to pat Buttercup, the cow, Mrs. Rosen ran across the

"Grandma Harris," she said, coming into the shelter of the stable,
"I wonder if you could make any use of this sweater Sammy left?
The yarn might be good for your darning."

Mrs. Harris felt of the article gravely.  Mrs. Rosen thought her
face brightened.  "Yes'm, indeed I could use it.  I thank you

She slipped it under her apron, carried it into the house with her,
and concealed it under her mattress.  There she had kept it ever
since.  She knew Mrs. Rosen understood how it was; that Victoria
couldn't bear to have anything come into the house that was not for
her to dispose of.

On winter nights, and even on summer nights after the cocks began
to crow, Mrs. Harris often felt cold and lonely about the chest.
Sometimes her cat, Blue Boy, would creep in beside her and warm
that aching spot.  But on spring and summer nights he was likely to
be abroad skylarking, and this little sweater had become the
dearest of Grandmother's few possessions.  It was kinder to her,
she used to think, as she wrapped it about her middle, than any of
her own children had been.  She had married at eighteen and had had
eight children; but some died, and some were, as she said,

After she was warm in that tender spot under the ribs, the old
woman could lie patiently on the slats, waiting for daybreak;
thinking about the comfortable rambling old house in Tennessee, its
feather beds and hand-woven rag carpets and splint-bottom chairs,
the mahogany sideboard, and the marble-top parlour table; all that
she had left behind to follow Victoria's fortunes.

She did not regret her decision; indeed, there had been no
decision.  Victoria had never once thought it possible that Ma
should not go wherever she and the children went, and Mrs. Harris
had never thought it possible.  Of course she regretted Tennessee,
though she would never admit it to Mrs. Rosen:--the old neighbours,
the yard and garden she had worked in all her life, the apple trees
she had planted, the lilac arbour, tall enough to walk in, which
she had clipped and shaped so many years.  Especially she missed
her lemon tree, in a tub on the front porch, which bore little
lemons almost every summer, and folks would come for miles to see

But the road had led westward, and Mrs. Harris didn't believe that
women, especially old women, could say when or where they would
stop.  They were tied to the chariot of young life, and had to go
where it went, because they were needed.  Mrs. Harris had gathered
from Mrs. Rosen's manner, and from comments she occasionally
dropped, that the Jewish people had an altogether different
attitude toward their old folks; therefore her friendship with this
kind neighbour was almost as disturbing as it was pleasant.  She
didn't want Mrs. Rosen to think that she was "put upon," that there
was anything unusual or pitiful in her lot.  To be pitied was the
deepest hurt anybody could know.  And if Victoria once suspected
Mrs. Rosen's indignation, it would be all over.  She would freeze
her neighbour out, and that friendly voice, that quick pleasant
chatter with the little foreign twist, would thenceforth be heard
only at a distance, in the alley-way or across the fence.  Victoria
had a good heart, but she was terribly proud and could not bear the
least criticism.

As soon as the grey light began to steal into the room, Mrs. Harris
would get up softly and wash at the basin on the oilcloth-covered
box.  She would wet her hair above her forehead, comb it with a
little bone comb set in a tin rim, do it up in two smooth little
horns over her ears, wipe the comb dry, and put it away in the
pocket of her full-gathered calico skirt.  She left nothing lying
about.  As soon as she was dressed, she made her bed, folding her
nightgown and nightcap under the pillow, the sweater under the
mattress.  She smoothed the heavy quilts, and drew the red calico
spread neatly over all.  Her towel was hung on its special nail
behind the curtain.  Her soap she kept in a tin tobacco-box; the
children's soap was in a crockery saucer.  If her soap or towel got
mixed up with the children's, Victoria was always sharp about it.
The little rented house was much too small for the family, and Mrs.
Harris and her "things" were almost required to be invisible.  Two
clean calico dresses hung in the curtained corner; another was on
her back, and a fourth was in the wash.  Behind the curtain there
was always a good supply of aprons; Victoria bought them at church
fairs, and it was a great satisfaction to Mrs. Harris to put on a
clean one whenever she liked.  Upstairs, in Mandy's attic room over
the kitchen, hung a black cashmere dress and a black bonnet with a
long crêpe veil, for the rare occasions when Mr. Templeton hired a
double buggy and horses and drove his family to a picnic or to
Decoration Day exercises.  Mrs. Harris rather dreaded these drives,
for Victoria was usually cross afterwards.

When Mrs. Harris went out into the kitchen to get breakfast, Mandy
always had the fire started and the water boiling.  They enjoyed a
quiet half-hour before the little boys came running down the
stairs, always in a good humour.  In winter the boys had their
breakfast in the kitchen, with Vickie.  Mrs. Harris made Mandy eat
the cakes and fried ham the children left, so that she would not
fast so long.  Mr. and Mrs. Templeton breakfasted rather late, in
the dining-room, and they always had fruit and thick cream,--a
small pitcher of the very thickest was for Mrs. Templeton.  The
children were never fussy about their food.  As Grandmother often
said feelingly to Mrs. Rosen, they were as little trouble as
children could possibly be.  They sometimes tore their clothes, of
course, or got sick.  But even when Albert had an abscess in his
ear and was in such pain, he would lie for hours on Grandmother's
lounge with his cheek on a bag of hot salt, if only she or Vickie
would read aloud to him.

"It's true, too, what de old lady says," remarked Mrs. Rosen to her
husband one night at supper, "dey are nice children.  No one ever
taught them anything, but they have good instincts, even dat
Vickie.  And think, if you please, of all the self-sacrificing
mothers we know,--Fannie and Esther, to come near home; how they
have planned for those children from infancy and given them every
advantage.  And now ingratitude and coldness is what dey meet

Mr. Rosen smiled his teasing smile.  "Evidently your sister and
mine have the wrong method.  The way to make your children
unselfish is to be comfortably selfish yourself."

"But dat woman takes no more responsibility for her children than a
cat takes for her kittens.  Nor does poor young Mr. Templeton, for
dat matter.  How can he expect to get so many children started in
life, I ask you?  It is not at all fair!"

Mr. Rosen sometimes had to hear altogether too much about the
Templetons, but he was patient, because it was a bitter sorrow to
Mrs. Rosen that she had no children.  There was nothing else in the
world she wanted so much.


Mrs. Rosen in one of her blue working dresses, the indigo blue that
became a dark skin and dusky red cheeks with a tone of salmon
colour, was in her shining kitchen, washing her beautiful dishes--
her neighbours often wondered why she used her best china and linen
every day--when Vickie Templeton came in with a book under her arm.

"Good day, Mrs. Rosen.  Can I have the second volume?"

"Certainly.  You know where the books are."  She spoke coolly, for
it always annoyed her that Vickie never suggested wiping the dishes
or helping with such household work as happened to be going on when
she dropped in.  She hated the girl's bringing-up so much that
sometimes she almost hated the girl.

Vickie strolled carelessly through the dining-room into the parlour
and opened the doors of one of the big bookcases.  Mr. Rosen had a
large library, and a great many unusual books.  There was a
complete set of the Waverley Novels in German, for example; thick,
dumpy little volumes bound in tooled leather, with very black type
and dramatic engravings printed on wrinkled, yellowing pages.
There were many French books, and some of the German classics done
into English, such as Coleridge's translation of Schiller's

Of course no other house in Skyline was in the least like Mrs.
Rosen's; it was the nearest thing to an art gallery and a museum
that the Templetons had ever seen.  All the rooms were carpeted
alike (that was very unusual), with a soft velvet carpet, little
blue and rose flowers scattered on a rose-grey ground.  The deep
chairs were upholstered in dark blue velvet.  The walls were hung
with engravings in pale gold frames: some of Raphael's "Hours," a
large soft engraving of a castle on the Rhine, and another of
cypress trees about a Roman ruin, under a full moon.  There were a
number of water-colour sketches, made in Italy by Mr. Rosen himself
when he was a boy.  A rich uncle had taken him abroad as his
secretary.  Mr. Rosen was a reflective, unambitious man, who didn't
mind keeping a clothing-store in a little Western town, so long as
he had a great deal of time to read philosophy.  He was the only
unsuccessful member of a large, rich Jewish family.

Last August, when the heat was terrible in Skyline, and the crops
were burned up on all the farms to the north, and the wind from the
pink and yellow sand-hills to the south blew so hot that it singed
the few green lawns in the town, Vickie had taken to dropping in
upon Mrs. Rosen at the very hottest part of the afternoon.  Mrs.
Rosen knew, of course, that it was probably because the girl had no
other cool and quiet place to go--her room at home under the roof
would be hot enough!  Now, Mrs. Rosen liked to undress and take a
nap from three to five,--if only to get out of her tight corsets,
for she would have an hourglass figure at any cost.  She told
Vickie firmly that she was welcome to come if she would read in the
parlour with the blind up only a little way, and would be as still
as a mouse.  Vickie came, meekly enough, but she seldom read.  She
would take a sofa pillow and lie down on the soft carpet and look
up at the pictures in the dusky room, and feel a happy, pleasant
excitement from the heat and glare outside and the deep shadow and
quiet within.  Curiously enough, Mrs. Rosen's house never made her
dissatisfied with her own; she thought that very nice, too.

Mrs. Rosen, leaving her kitchen in a state of such perfection as
the Templetons were unable to sense or to admire, came into the
parlour and found her visitor sitting cross-legged on the floor
before one of the bookcases.

"Well, Vickie, and how did you get along with Wilhelm Meister?"

"I like it," said Vickie.

Mrs. Rosen shrugged.  The Templetons always said that; quite as if
a book or a cake were lucky to win their approbation.

"Well, WHAT did you like?"

"I guess I liked all that about the theatre and Shakspere best."

"It's rather celebrated," remarked Mrs. Rosen dryly.  "And are you
studying every day?  Do you think you will be able to win that

"I don't know.  I'm going to try awful hard."

Mrs. Rosen wondered whether any Templeton knew how to try very
hard.  She reached for her work-basket and began to do cross-
stitch.  It made her nervous to sit with folded hands.

Vickie was looking at a German book in her lap, an illustrated
edition of Faust.  She had stopped at a very German picture of
Gretchen entering the church, with Faustus gazing at her from
behind a rose tree, Mephisto at his shoulder.

"I wish I could read this," she said, frowning at the black Gothic
text.  "It's splendid, isn't it?"

Mrs. Rosen rolled her eyes upward and sighed.  "Oh, my dear, one of
de world's masterpieces!"

That meant little to Vickie.  She had not been taught to respect
masterpieces, she had no scale of that sort in her mind.  She cared
about a book only because it took hold of her.

She kept turning over the pages.  Between the first and second
parts, in this edition, there was inserted the Dies Iræ hymn in
full.  She stopped and puzzled over it for a long while.

"Here is something I can read," she said, showing the page to Mrs.

Mrs. Rosen looked up from her cross-stitch.  "There you have the
advantage of me.  I do not read Latin.  You might translate it for

Vickie began:

     "Day of wrath, upon that day
      The world to ashes melts away,
      As David and the Sibyl say.

"But that don't give you the rhyme; every line ought to end in two

"Never mind if it doesn't give the metre," corrected Mrs. Rosen
kindly; "go on, if you can."

Vickie went on stumbling through the Latin verses, and Mrs. Rosen
sat watching her.  You couldn't tell about Vickie.  She wasn't
pretty, yet Mrs. Rosen found her attractive.  She liked her sturdy
build, and the steady vitality that glowed in her rosy skin and
dark blue eyes,--even gave a springy quality to her curly reddish-
brown hair, which she still wore in a single braid down her back.
Mrs. Rosen liked to have Vickie about because she was never
listless or dreamy or apathetic.  A half-smile nearly always played
about her lips and eyes, and it was there because she was pleased
with something, not because she wanted to be agreeable.  Even a
half-smile made her cheeks dimple.  She had what her mother called
"a happy disposition."

When she finished the verses, Mrs. Rosen nodded approvingly.
"Thank you, Vickie.  The very next time I go to Chicago, I will try
to get an English translation of Faust for you."

"But I want to read this one."  Vickie's open smile darkened.
"What I want is to pick up any of these books and just read them,
like you and Mr. Rosen do."

The dusky red of Mrs. Rosen's cheeks grew a trifle deeper.  Vickie
never paid compliments, absolutely never; but if she really admired
anyone, something in her voice betrayed it so convincingly that one
felt flattered.  When she dropped a remark of this kind, she added
another link to the chain of responsibility which Mrs. Rosen
unwillingly bore and tried to shake off--the irritating sense of
being somehow responsible for Vickie, since, God knew, no one else
felt responsible.

Once or twice, when she happened to meet pleasant young Mr.
Templeton alone, she had tried to talk to him seriously about his
daughter's future.  "She has finished de school here, and she
should be getting training of some sort; she is growing up," she
told him severely.

He laughed and said in his way that was so honest, and so
disarmingly sweet and frank:  "Oh, don't remind me, Mrs. Rosen!
I just pretend to myself she isn't.  I want to keep my little
daughter as long as I can."  And there it ended.

Sometimes Vickie Templeton seemed so dense, so utterly
unperceptive, that Mrs. Rosen was ready to wash her hands of her.
Then some queer streak of sensibility in the child would make her
change her mind.  Last winter, when Mrs. Rosen came home from a
visit to her sister in Chicago, she brought with her a new cloak of
the sleeveless dolman type, black velvet, lined with grey and white
squirrel skins, a grey skin next a white.  Vickie, so indifferent
to clothes, fell in love with that cloak.  Her eyes followed it
with delight whenever Mrs. Rosen wore it.  She found it picturesque,
romantic.  Mrs. Rosen had been captivated by the same thing in the
cloak, and had bought it with a shrug, knowing it would be quite out
of place in Skyline; and Mr. Rosen, when she first produced it from
her trunk, had laughed and said:  "Where did you get that?--out of
Rigoletto?"  It looked like that--but how could Vickie know?

Vickie's whole family puzzled Mrs. Rosen; their feelings were so
much finer than their way of living.  She bought milk from the
Templetons because they kept a cow--which Mandy milked,--and every
night one of the twins brought the milk to her in a tin pail.
Whichever boy brought it, she always called him Albert--she thought
Adelbert a silly, Southern name.

One night when she was fitting the lid on an empty pail, she said

"Now, Albert, I have put some cookies for Grandma in this pail,
wrapped in a napkin.  And they are for Grandma, remember, not for
your mother or Vickie."


When she turned to him to give him the pail, she saw two full
crystal globes in the little boy's eyes, just ready to break.  She
watched him go softly down the path and dash those tears away with
the back of his hand.  She was sorry.  She hadn't thought the
little boys realized that their household was somehow a queer one.

Queer or not, Mrs. Rosen liked to go there better than to most
houses in the town.  There was something easy, cordial, and
carefree in the parlour that never smelled of being shut up, and
the ugly furniture looked hospitable.  One felt a pleasantness in
the human relationships.  These people didn't seem to know there
were such things as struggle or exactness or competition in the
world.  They were always genuinely glad to see you, had time to see
you, and were usually gay in mood--all but Grandmother, who had the
kind of gravity that people who take thought of human destiny must
have.  But even she liked light-heartedness in others; she drudged,
indeed, to keep it going.

There were houses that were better kept, certainly, but the
housekeepers had no charm, no gentleness of manner, were like hard
little machines, most of them; and some were grasping and narrow.
The Templetons were not selfish or scheming.  Anyone could take
advantage of them, and many people did.  Victoria might eat all the
cookies her neighbour sent in, but she would give away anything she
had.  She was always ready to lend her dresses and hats and bits of
jewellery for the school theatricals, and she never worked people
for favours.

As for Mr. Templeton (people usually called him "young Mr.
Templeton"), he was too delicate to collect his just debts.  His
boyish, eager-to-please manner, his fair complexion and blue eyes
and young face, made him seem very soft to some of the hard old
money-grubbers on Main Street, and the fact that he always said
"Yes, sir," and "No, sir," to men older than himself furnished a
good deal of amusement to by-standers.

Two years ago, when this Templeton family came to Skyline and moved
into the house next door, Mrs. Rosen was inconsolable.  The new
neighbours had a lot of children, who would always be making a
racket.  They put a cow and a horse into the empty barn, which
would mean dirt and flies.  They strewed their back yard with
packing-cases and did not pick them up.

She first met Mrs. Templeton at an afternoon card party, in a house
at the extreme north end of the town, fully half a mile away, and
she had to admit that her new neighbour was an attractive woman,
and that there was something warm and genuine about her.  She
wasn't in the least willowy or languishing, as Mrs. Rosen had
usually found Southern ladies to be.  She was high-spirited and
direct; a trifle imperious, but with a shade of diffidence, too, as
if she were trying to adjust herself to a new group of people and
to do the right thing.

While they were at the party, a blinding snowstorm came on, with a
hard wind.  Since they lived next door to each other, Mrs. Rosen
and Mrs. Templeton struggled homeward together through the
blizzard.  Mrs. Templeton seemed delighted with the rough weather;
she laughed like a big country girl whenever she made a mis-step
off the obliterated sidewalk and sank up to her knees in a snow-

"Take care, Mrs. Rosen," she kept calling, "keep to the right!
Don't spoil your nice coat.  My, ain't this real winter?  We never
had it like this back with us."

When they reached the Templeton's gate, Victoria wouldn't hear of
Mrs. Rosen's going farther.  "No, indeed, Mrs. Rosen, you come
right in with me and get dry, and Ma'll make you a hot toddy while
I take the baby."

By this time Mrs. Rosen had begun to like her neighbour, so she
went in.  To her surprise, the parlour was neat and comfortable--
the children did not strew things about there, apparently.  The
hard-coal burner threw out a warm red glow.  A faded, respectable
Brussels carpet covered the floor, an old-fashioned wooden clock
ticked on the walnut bookcase.  There were a few easy chairs, and
no hideous ornaments about.  She rather liked the old oil-chromos
on the wall:  "Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness," and "The Light
of the World."  While Mrs. Rosen dried her feet on the nickel base
of the stove, Mrs. Templeton excused herself and withdrew to the
next room,--her bedroom,--took off her silk dress and corsets, and
put on a white challis négligée.  She reappeared with the baby, who
was not crying, exactly, but making eager, passionate, gasping
entreaties,--faster and faster, tenser and tenser, as he felt his
dinner nearer and nearer and yet not his.

Mrs. Templeton sat down in a low rocker by the stove and began to
nurse him, holding him snugly but carelessly, still talking to Mrs.
Rosen about the card party, and laughing about their wade home
through the snow.  Hughie, the baby, fell to work so fiercely that
beads of sweat came out all over his flushed forehead.  Mrs. Rosen
could not help admiring him and his mother.  They were so
comfortable and complete.  When he was changed to the other side,
Hughie resented the interruption a little; but after a time he
became soft and bland, as smooth as oil, indeed; began looking
about him as he drew in his milk.  He finally dropped the nipple
from his lips altogether, turned on his mother's arm, and looked
inquiringly at Mrs. Rosen.

"What a beautiful baby!" she exclaimed from her heart.  And he was.
A sort of golden baby.  His hair was like sunshine, and his long
lashes were gold over such gay blue eyes.  There seemed to be a
gold glow in his soft pink skin, and he had the smile of a cherub.

"We think he's a pretty boy," said Mrs. Templeton.  "He's the
prettiest of my babies.  Though the twins were mighty cunning
little fellows.  I hated the idea of twins, but the minute I saw
them, I couldn't resist them."

Just then old Mrs. Harris came in, walking widely in her full-
gathered skirt and felt-soled shoes, bearing a tray with two
smoking goblets upon it.

"This is my mother, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Rosen," said Mrs. Templeton.

"I'm glad to know you, ma'am," said Mrs. Harris.  "Victoria, let me
take the baby, while you two ladies have your toddy."

"Oh, don't take him away, Mrs. Harris, please!" cried Mrs. Rosen.

The old lady smiled.  "I won't.  I'll set right here.  He never
frets with his grandma."

When Mrs. Rosen had finished her excellent drink, she asked if she
might hold the baby, and Mrs. Harris placed him on her lap.  He
made a few rapid boxing motions with his two fists, then braced
himself on his heels and the back of his head, and lifted himself
up in an arc.  When he dropped back, he looked up at Mrs. Rosen
with his most intimate smile.  "See what a smart boy I am!"

When Mrs. Rosen walked home, feeling her way through the snow by
following the fence, she knew she could never stay away from a
house where there was a baby like that one.


Vickie did her studying in a hammock hung between two tall
cottonwood trees over in the Headmaster's green yard.  The
Headmaster had the finest yard in Skyline, on the edge of the town,
just where the sandy plain and the sage-brush began.  His family
went back to Ohio every summer, and Bert and Del Templeton were
paid to take care of his lawn, to turn the sprinkler on at the
right hours and to cut the grass.  They were really too little to
run the heavy lawn-mower very well, but they were able to manage
because they were twins.  Each took one end of the handle-bar, and
they pushed together like a pair of fat Shetland ponies.  They were
very proud of being able to keep the lawn so nice, and worked hard
on it.  They cut Mrs. Rosen's grass once a week, too, and did it so
well that she wondered why in the world they never did anything
about their own yard.  They didn't have city water, to be sure (it
was expensive), but she thought they might pick up a few
velocipedes and iron hoops, and dig up the messy "flower-bed," that
was even uglier than the naked gravel spots.  She was particularly
offended by a deep ragged ditch, a miniature arroyo, which ran
across the back yard, serving no purpose and looking very dreary.

One morning she said craftily to the twins, when she was paying
them for cutting her grass:

"And, boys, why don't you just shovel the sand-pile by your fence
into dat ditch, and make your back yard smooth?"

"Oh, no, ma'am," said Adelbert with feeling.  "We like to have the
ditch to build bridges over!"

Ever since vacation began, the twins had been busy getting the
Headmaster's yard ready for the Methodist lawn party.  When Mrs.
Holliday, the Headmaster's wife, went away for the summer, she
always left a key with the Ladies' Aid Society and invited them to
give their ice-cream social at her place.

This year the date set for the party was June fifteenth.  The day
was a particularly fine one, and as Mr. Holliday himself had been
called to Cheyenne on railroad business, the twins felt personally
responsible for everything.  They got out to the Holliday place
early in the morning, and stayed on guard all day.  Before noon the
drayman brought a wagon-load of card-tables and folding chairs,
which the boys placed in chosen spots under the cottonwood trees.
In the afternoon the Methodist ladies arrived and opened up the
kitchen to receive the freezers of home-made ice-cream, and the
cakes which the congregation donated.  Indeed, all the good cake-
bakers in town were expected to send a cake.  Grandma Harris baked
a white cake, thickly iced and covered with freshly grated coconut,
and Vickie took it over in the afternoon.

Mr. and Mrs. Rosen, because they belonged to no church, contributed
to the support of all, and usually went to the church suppers in
winter and the socials in summer.  On this warm June evening they
set out early, in order to take a walk first.  They strolled along
the hard gravelled road that led out through the sage toward the
sand-hills; tonight it led toward the moon, just rising over the
sweep of dunes.  The sky was almost as blue as at midday, and had
that look of being very near and very soft which it has in desert
countries.  The moon, too, looked very near, soft and bland and
innocent.  Mrs. Rosen admitted that in the Adirondacks, for which
she was always secretly homesick in summer, the moon had a much
colder brilliance, seemed farther off and made of a harder metal.
This moon gave the sage-brush plain and the drifted sand-hills the
softness of velvet.  All countries were beautiful to Mr. Rosen.  He
carried a country of his own in his mind, and was able to unfold it
like a tent in any wilderness.

When they at last turned back toward the town, they saw groups of
people, women in white dresses, walking toward the dark spot where
the paper lanterns made a yellow light underneath the cottonwoods.
High above, the rustling tree-tops stirred free in the flood of

The lighted yard was surrounded by a low board fence, painted the
dark red Burlington colour, and as the Rosens drew near, they
noticed four children standing close together in the shadow of some
tall elder bushes just outside the fence.  They were the poor Maude
children; their mother was the washwoman, the Rosens' laundress and
the Templetons'.  People said that every one of those children had
a different father.  But good laundresses were few, and even the
members of the Ladies' Aid were glad to get Mrs. Maude's services
at a dollar a day, though they didn't like their children to play
with hers.  Just as the Rosens approached, Mrs. Templeton came out
from the lighted square, leaned over the fence, and addressed the
little Maudes.

"I expect you children forgot your dimes, now didn't you?  Never
mind, here's a dime for each of you, so come along and have your

The Maudes put out small hands and said:  "Thank you," but not one
of them moved.

"Come along, Francie" (the oldest girl was named Frances).  "Climb
right over the fence."  Mrs. Templeton reached over and gave her a
hand, and the little boys quickly scrambled after their sister.
Mrs. Templeton took them to a table which Vickie and the twins had
just selected as being especially private--they liked to do things

"Here, Vickie, let the Maudes sit at your table, and take care they
get plenty of cake."

The Rosens had followed close behind Mrs. Templeton, and Mr. Rosen
now overtook her and said in his most courteous and friendly
manner:  "Good evening, Mrs. Templeton.  Will you have ice-cream
with us?"  He always used the local idioms, though his voice and
enunciation made them sound altogether different from Skyline

"Indeed I will, Mr. Rosen.  Mr. Templeton will be late.  He went
out to his farm yesterday, and I don't know just when to expect

Vickie and the twins were disappointed at not having their table to
themselves, when they had come early and found a nice one; but they
knew it was right to look out for the dreary little Maudes, so they
moved close together and made room for them.  The Maudes didn't
cramp them long.  When the three boys had eaten the last crumb of
cake and licked their spoons, Francie got up and led them to a
green slope by the fence, just outside the lighted circle.  "Now
set down, and watch and see how folks do," she told them.  The boys
looked to Francie for commands and support.  She was really Amos
Maude's child, born before he ran away to the Klondike, and it had
been rubbed into them that this made a difference.  The Templeton
children made their ice-cream linger out, and sat watching the
crowd.  They were glad to see their mother go to Mr. Rosen's table,
and noticed how nicely he placed a chair for her and insisted upon
putting a scarf about her shoulders.  Their mother was wearing her
new dotted Swiss, with many ruffles, all edged with black ribbon,
and wide ruffly sleeves.  As the twins watched her over their
spoons, they thought how much prettier their mother was than any of
the other women, and how becoming her new dress was.  The children
got as much satisfaction as Mrs. Harris out of Victoria's good

Mr. Rosen was well pleased with Mrs. Templeton and her new dress,
and with her kindness to the little Maudes.  He thought her manner
with them just right,--warm, spontaneous, without anything
patronizing.  He always admired her way with her own children,
though Mrs. Rosen thought it too casual.  Being a good mother, he
believed, was much more a matter of physical poise and richness
than of sentimentalizing and reading doctor-books.  Tonight he was
more talkative than usual, and in his quiet way made Mrs. Templeton
feel his real friendliness and admiration.  Unfortunately, he made
other people feel it, too.

Mrs. Jackson, a neighbour who didn't like the Templetons, had been
keeping an eye on Mr. Rosen's table.  She was a stout square woman
of imperturbable calm, effective in regulating the affairs of the
community because she never lost her temper, and could say the most
cutting things in calm, even kindly, tones.  Her face was smooth
and placid as a mask, rather good-humoured, and the fact that one
eye had a cast and looked askance made it the more difficult to see
through her intentions.  When she had been lingering about the
Rosens' table for some time, studying Mr. Rosen's pleasant
attentions to Mrs. Templeton, she brought up a trayful of cake.

"You folks are about ready for another helping," she remarked

Mrs. Rosen spoke.  "I want some of Grandma Harris's cake.  It's a
white coconut, Mrs. Jackson."

"How about you, Mrs. Templeton, would you like some of your own

"Indeed I would," said Mrs. Templeton heartily.  "Ma said she had
good luck with it.  I didn't see it.  Vickie brought it over."

Mrs. Jackson deliberately separated the slices on her tray with two
forks.  "Well," she remarked with a chuckle that really sounded
amiable, "I don't know but I'd like my cakes, if I kept somebody in
the kitchen to bake them for me."

Mr. Rosen for once spoke quickly.  "If I had a cook like Grandma
Harris in my kitchen, I'd live in it!" he declared.

Mrs. Jackson smiled.  "I don't know as we feel like that, Mrs.
Templeton?  I tell Mr. Jackson that my idea of coming up in the
world would be to forget I had a cook-stove, like Mrs. Templeton.
But we can't all be lucky."

Mr. Rosen could not tell how much was malice and how much was
stupidity.  What he chiefly detected was self-satisfaction; the
craftiness of the coarse-fibred country girl putting catch
questions to the teacher.  Yes, he decided, the woman was merely
showing off,--she regarded it as an accomplishment to make people

Mrs. Templeton didn't at once take it in.  Her training was all to
the end that you must give a guest everything you have, even if he
happens to be your worst enemy, and that to cause anyone
embarrassment is a frightful and humiliating blunder.  She felt
hurt without knowing just why, but all evening it kept growing
clearer to her that this was another of those thrusts from the
outside which she couldn't understand.  The neighbours were sure to
take sides against her, apparently, if they came often to see her

Mr. Rosen tried to distract Mrs. Templeton, but he could feel the
poison working.  On the way home the children knew something had
displeased or hurt their mother.  When they went into the house,
she told them to go up-stairs at once, as she had a headache.  She
was severe and distant.  When Mrs. Harris suggested making her some
peppermint tea, Victoria threw up her chin.

"I don't want anybody waiting on me.  I just want to be let alone."
And she withdrew without saying good-night, or "Are you all right,
Ma?" as she usually did.

Left alone, Mrs. Harris sighed and began to turn down her bed.  She
knew, as well as if she had been at the social, what kind of thing
had happened.  Some of those prying ladies of the Woman's Relief
Corps, or the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, had been
intimating to Victoria that her mother was "put upon."  Nothing
ever made Victoria cross but criticism.  She was jealous of small
attentions paid to Mrs. Harris, because she felt they were paid
"behind her back" or "over her head," in a way that implied
reproach to her.  Victoria had been a belle in their own town in
Tennessee, but here she was not very popular, no matter how many
pretty dresses she wore, and she couldn't bear it.  She felt as if
her mother and Mr. Templeton must be somehow to blame; at least
they ought to protect her from whatever was disagreeable--they
always had!


Mrs. Harris wakened at about four o'clock, as usual, before the
house was stirring, and lay thinking about their position in this
new town.  She didn't know why the neighbours acted so; she was as
much in the dark as Victoria.  At home, back in Tennessee, her
place in the family was not exceptional, but perfectly regular.
Mrs. Harris had replied to Mrs. Rosen, when that lady asked why in
the world she didn't break Vickie in to help her in the kitchen:
"We are only young once, and trouble comes soon enough."  Young
girls, in the South, were supposed to be carefree and foolish; the
fault Grandmother found in Vickie was that she wasn't foolish
enough.  When the foolish girl married and began to have children,
everything else must give way to that.  She must be humoured and
given the best of everything, because having children was hard on a
woman, and it was the most important thing in the world.  In
Tennessee every young married woman in good circumstances had an
older woman in the house, a mother or mother-in-law or an old aunt,
who managed the household economies and directed the help.

That was the great difference; in Tennessee there had been plenty
of helpers.  There was old Miss Sadie Crummer, who came to the
house to spin and sew and mend; old Mrs. Smith, who always arrived
to help at butchering- and preserving-time; Lizzie, the coloured
girl, who did the washing and who ran in every day to help Mandy.
There were plenty more, who came whenever one of Lizzie's barefoot
boys ran to fetch them.  The hills were full of solitary old women,
or women but slightly attached to some household, who were glad to
come to Miz' Harris's for good food and a warm bed, and the little
present that either Mrs. Harris or Victoria slipped into their
carpet-sack when they went away.

To be sure, Mrs. Harris, and the other women of her age who managed
their daughter's house, kept in the background; but it was their
own background, and they ruled it jealously.  They left the front
porch and the parlour to the young married couple and their young
friends; the old women spent most of their lives in the kitchen and
pantries and back dining-room.  But there they ordered life to
their own taste, entertained their friends, dispensed charity, and
heard the troubles of the poor.  Moreover, back there it was
Grandmother's own house they lived in.  Mr. Templeton came of a
superior family and had what Grandmother called "blood," but no
property.  He never so much as mended one of the steps to the front
porch without consulting Mrs. Harris.  Even "back home," in the
aristocracy, there were old women who went on living like young
ones,--gave parties and drove out in their carriage and "went
North" in the summer.  But among the middle-class people and the
country-folk, when a woman was a widow and had married daughters,
she considered herself an old woman and wore full-gathered black
dresses and a black bonnet and became a housekeeper.  She accepted
this estate unprotestingly, almost gratefully.

The Templetons' troubles began when Mr. Templeton's aunt died and
left him a few thousand dollars, and he got the idea of bettering
himself.  The twins were little then, and he told Mrs. Harris his
boys would have a better chance in Colorado--everybody was going
West.  He went alone first, and got a good position with a mining
company in the mountains of southern Colorado.  He had been book-
keeper in the bank in his home town, had "grown up in the bank," as
they said.  He was industrious and honourable, and the managers of
the mining company liked him, even if they laughed at his polite,
soft-spoken manners.  He could have held his position indefinitely,
and maybe got a promotion.  But the altitude of that mountain town
was too high for his family.  All the children were sick there;
Mrs. Templeton was ill most of the time and nearly died when Ronald
was born.  Hillary Templeton lost his courage and came north to the
flat, sunny, semi-arid country between Wray and Cheyenne, to work
for an irrigation project.  So far, things had not gone well with
him.  The pinch told on everyone, but most on Grandmother.  Here,
in Skyline, she had all her accustomed responsibilities, and no
helper but Mandy.  Mrs. Harris was no longer living in a feudal
society, where there were plenty of landless people glad to render
service to the more fortunate, but in a snappy little Western
democracy, where every man was as good as his neighbour and out to
prove it.

Neither Mrs. Harris nor Mrs. Templeton understood just what was the
matter; they were hurt and dazed, merely.  Victoria knew that here
she was censured and criticized, she who had always been so admired
and envied!  Grandmother knew that these meddlesome "Northerners"
said things that made Victoria suspicious and unlike herself; made
her unwilling that Mrs. Harris should receive visitors alone, or
accept marks of attention that seemed offered in compassion for her

These women who belonged to clubs and Relief Corps lived
differently, Mrs. Harris knew, but she herself didn't like the way
they lived.  She believed that somebody ought to be in the parlour,
and somebody in the kitchen.  She wouldn't for the world have had
Victoria go about every morning in a short gingham dress, with bare
arms, and a dust-cap on her head to hide the curling-kids, as these
brisk housekeepers did.  To Mrs. Harris that would have meant real
poverty, coming down in the world so far that one could no longer
keep up appearances.  Her life was hard now, to be sure, since the
family went on increasing and Mr. Templeton's means went on
decreasing; but she certainly valued respectability above personal
comfort, and she could go on a good way yet if they always had a
cool pleasant parlour, with Victoria properly dressed to receive
visitors.  To keep Victoria different from these "ordinary" women
meant everything to Mrs. Harris.  She realized that Mrs. Rosen
managed to be mistress of any situation, either in kitchen or
parlour, but that was because she was "foreign."  Grandmother
perfectly understood that their neighbour had a superior
cultivation which made everything she did an exercise of skill.
She knew well enough that their own ways of cooking and cleaning
were primitive beside Mrs. Rosen's.

If only Mr. Templeton's business affairs would look up, they could
rent a larger house, and everything would be better.  They might
even get a German girl to come in and help,--but now there was no
place to put her.  Grandmother's own lot could improve only with
the family fortunes--any comfort for herself, aside from that of
the family, was inconceivable to her; and on the other hand she
could have no real unhappiness while the children were well, and
good, and fond of her and their mother.  That was why it was worth
while to get up early in the morning and make her bed neat and draw
the red spread smooth.  The little boys loved to lie on her lounge
and her pillows when they were tired.  When they were sick, Ronald
and Hughie wanted to be in her lap.  They had no physical shrinking
from her because she was old.  And Victoria was never jealous of
the children's wanting to be with her so much; that was a mercy!

Sometimes, in the morning, if her feet ached more than usual, Mrs.
Harris felt a little low.  (Nobody did anything about broken arches
in those days, and the common endurance test of old age was to keep
going after every step cost something.)  She would hang up her
towel with a sigh and go into the kitchen, feeling that it was hard
to make a start.  But the moment she heard the children running
down the uncarpeted back stairs, she forgot to be low.  Indeed, she
ceased to be an individual, an old woman with aching feet; she
became part of a group, became a relationship.  She was drunk up
into their freshness when they burst in upon her, telling her about
their dreams, explaining their troubles with buttons and shoe-laces
and underwear shrunk too small.  The tired, solitary old woman
Grandmother had been at daybreak vanished; suddenly the morning
seemed as important to her as it did to the children, and the
mornings ahead stretched out sunshiny, important.


The day after the Methodist social, Blue Boy didn't come for his
morning milk; he always had it in a clean saucer on the covered
back porch, under the long bench where the tin wash-tubs stood
ready for Mrs. Maude.  After the children had finished breakfast,
Mrs. Harris sent Mandy out to look for the cat.

The girl came back in a minute, her eyes big.

"Law me, Miz' Harris, he's awful sick.  He's a-layin' in the straw
in the barn.  He's swallered a bone, or havin' a fit or somethin'."

Grandmother threw an apron over her head and went out to see for
herself.  The children went with her.  Blue Boy was retching and
choking, and his yellow eyes were filled up with rhume.

"Oh, Gram'ma, what's the matter?" the boys cried.

"It's the distemper.  How could he have got it?"  Her voice was so
harsh that Ronald began to cry.  "Take Ronald back to the house,
Del.  He might get bit.  I wish I'd kept my word and never had a
cat again!"

"Why, Gram'ma!"  Albert looked at her.  "Won't Blue Boy get well?"

''Not from the distemper, he won't."

"But Gram'ma, can't I run for the veter'nary?"

"You gether up an armful of hay.  We'll take him into the coal-
house, where I can watch him."

Mrs. Harris waited until the spasm was over, then picked up the
limp cat and carried him to the coal-shed that opened off the back
porch.  Albert piled the hay in one corner--the coal was low, since
it was summer--and they spread a piece of old carpet on the hay and
made a bed for Blue Boy.  "Now you run along with Adelbert.
There'll be a lot of work to do on Mr. Holliday's yard, cleaning up
after the sociable.  Mandy an' me'll watch Blue Boy.  I expect
he'll sleep for a while."

Albert went away regretfully, but the drayman and some of the
Methodist ladies were in Mr. Holliday's yard, packing chairs and
tables and ice-cream freezers into the wagon, and the twins forgot
the sick cat in their excitement.  By noon they had picked up the
last paper napkin, raked over the gravel walks where the salt from
the freezers had left white patches, and hung the hammock in which
Vickie did her studying back in its place.  Mr. Holliday paid the
boys a dollar a week for keeping up the yard, and they gave the
money to their mother--it didn't come amiss in a family where
actual cash was so short.  She let them keep half the sum Mrs.
Rosen paid for her milk every Saturday, and that was more spending
money than most boys had.  They often made a few extra quarters by
cutting grass for other people, or by distributing handbills.  Even
the disagreeable Mrs. Jackson next door had remarked over the fence
to Mrs. Harris:  "I do believe Bert and Del are going to be
industrious.  They must have got it from you, Grandma."

The day came on very hot, and when the twins got back from the
Roadmaster's yard, they both lay down on Grandmother's lounge and
went to sleep.  After dinner they had a rare opportunity; the
Roadmaster himself appeared at the front door and invited them to
go up to the next town with him on his railroad velocipede.  That
was great fun: the velocipede always whizzed along so fast on the
bright rails, the gasoline engine puffing; and grasshoppers jumped
up out of the sagebrush and hit you in the face like sling-shot
bullets.  Sometimes the wheels cut in two a lazy snake who was
sunning himself on the track, and the twins always hoped it was a
rattler and felt they had done a good work.

The boys got back from their trip with Mr. Holliday late in the
afternoon.  The house was cool and quiet.  Their mother had taken
Ronald and Hughie down town with her, and Vickie was off somewhere.
Grandmother was not in her room, and the kitchen was empty.  The
boys went out to the back porch to pump a drink.  The coal-shed
door was open, and inside, on a low stool, sat Mrs. Harris beside
her cat.  Bert and Del didn't stop to get a drink; they felt
ashamed that they had gone off for a gay ride and forgotten Blue
Boy.  They sat down on a big lump of coal beside Mrs. Harris.  They
would never have known that this miserable rumpled animal was their
proud tom.  Presently he went off into a spasm and began to froth
at the mouth.

"Oh, Gram'ma, can't you do anything?" cried Albert, struggling with
his tears.  "Blue Boy was such a good cat,--why has he got to

"Everything that's alive has got to suffer," said Mrs. Harris.
Albert put out his hand and caught her skirt, looking up at her
beseechingly, as if to make her unsay that saying, which he only
half understood.  She patted his hand.  She had forgot she was
speaking to a little boy.

"Where's Vickie?" Adelbert asked aggrievedly.  "Why don't she do
something?  He's part her cat."

Mrs. Harris sighed.  "Vickie's got her head full of things lately;
that makes people kind of heartless."

The boys resolved they would never put anything into their heads,

Blue Boy's fit passed, and the three sat watching their pet that no
longer knew them.  The twins had not seen much suffering;
Grandmother had seen a great deal.  Back in Tennessee, in her own
neighbourhood, she was accounted a famous nurse.  When any of the
poor mountain people were in great distress, they always sent for
Miz' Harris.  Many a time she had gone into a house where five or
six children were all down with scarlet fever or diphtheria, and
done what she could.  Many a child and many a woman she had laid
out and got ready for the grave.  In her primitive community the
undertaker made the coffin,--he did nothing more.  She had seen so
much misery that she wondered herself why it hurt so to see her
tom-cat die.  She had taken her leave of him, and she got up from
her stool.  She didn't want the boys to be too much distressed.

"Now you boys must wash and put on clean shirts.  Your mother will
be home pretty soon.  We'll leave Blue Boy; he'll likely be easier
in the morning."  She knew the cat would die at sundown.

After supper, when Bert looked into the coal-shed and found the cat
dead, all the family were sad.  Ronald cried miserably, and Hughie
cried because Ronald did.  Mrs. Templeton herself went out and
looked into the shed, and she was sorry, too.  Though she didn't
like cats, she had been fond of this one.

"Hillary," she hold her husband, "when you go down town tonight,
tell the Mexican to come and get that cat early in the morning,
before the children are up."

The Mexican had a cart and two mules, and he hauled away tin cans
and refuse to a gully out in the sage-brush.

Mrs. Harris gave Victoria an indignant glance when she heard this,
and turned back to the kitchen.  All evening she was gloomy and
silent.  She refused to read aloud, and the twins took Ronald and
went mournfully out to play under the electric light.  Later, when
they had said good-night to their parents in the parlour and were
on their way upstairs, Mrs. Harris followed them into the kitchen,
shut the door behind her, and said indignantly:

"Air you two boys going to let that Mexican take Blue Boy and throw
him onto some trash-pile?"

The sleepy boys were frightened at the anger and bitterness in her
tone.  They stood still and looked up at her, while she went on:

"You git up early in the morning, and I'll put him in a sack, and
one of you take a spade and go to that crooked old willer tree that
grows just where the sand creek turns off the road, and you dig a
little grave for Blue Boy, an' bury him right."

They had seldom seen such resentment in their grandmother.
Albert's throat choked up, he rubbed the tears away with his fist.

"Yes'm, Gram'ma, we will, we will," he gulped.


Only Mrs. Harris saw the boys go out next morning.  She slipped a
bread-and-butter sandwich into the hand of each, but she said
nothing, and they said nothing.

The boys did not get home until their parents were ready to leave
the table.  Mrs. Templeton made no fuss, but told them to sit down
and eat their breakfast.  When they had finished, she said

"Now you march into my room."  That was where she heard
explanations and administered punishment.  When she whipped them,
she did it thoroughly.

She followed them and shut the door.

"Now, what were you boys doing this morning?"

"We went off to bury Blue Boy."

"Why didn't you tell me you were going?"

They looked down at their toes, but said nothing.  Their mother
studied their mournful faces, and her overbearing expression

"The next time you get up and go off anywhere, you come and tell me
beforehand, do you understand?"


She opened the door, motioned them out, and went with them into the
parlour.  "I'm sorry about your cat, boys," she said.  "That's why
I don't like to have cats around; they're always getting sick and
dying.  Now run along and play.  Maybe you'd like to have a circus
in the back yard this afternoon?  And we'll all come."

The twins ran out in a joyful frame of mind.  Their grandmother had
been mistaken; their mother wasn't indifferent about Blue Boy, she
was sorry.  Now everything was all right, and they could make a
circus ring.

They knew their grandmother got put out about strange things,
anyhow.  A few months ago it was because their mother hadn't asked
one of the visiting preachers who came to the church conference to
stay with them.  There was no place for the preacher to sleep
except on the folding lounge in the parlour, and no place for him
to wash--he would have been very uncomfortable, and so would all
the household.  But Mrs. Harris was terribly upset that there
should be a conference in the town, and they not keeping a
preacher!  She was quite bitter about it.

The twins called in the neighbour boys, and they made a ring in the
back yard, around their turning-bar.  Their mother came to the show
and paid admission, bringing Mrs. Rosen and Grandma Harris.  Mrs.
Rosen thought if all the children in the neighbourhood were to be
howling and running in a circle in the Templetons' back yard, she
might as well be there, too, for she would have no peace at home.

After the dog races and the Indian fight were over, Mrs. Templeton
took Mrs. Rosen into the house to revive her with cake and
lemonade.  The parlour was cool and dusky.  Mrs. Rosen was glad to
get into it after sitting on a wooden bench in the sun.
Grandmother stayed in the parlour with them, which was unusual.
Mrs. Rosen sat waving a palm-leaf fan,--she felt the heat very
much, because she wore her stays so tight--while Victoria went to
make the lemonade.

"De circuses are not so good, widout Vickie to manage them,
Grandma," she said.

"No'm.  The boys complain right smart about losing Vickie from
their plays.  She's at her books all the time now.  I don't know
what's got into the child."

"If she wants to go to college, she must prepare herself, Grandma.
I am agreeably surprised in her.  I didn't think she'd stick to

Mrs. Templeton came in with a tray of tumblers and the glass
pitcher all frosted over.  Mrs. Rosen wistfully admired her
neighbour's tall figure and good carriage; she was wearing no
corsets at all today under her flowered organdie afternoon dress,
Mrs. Rosen had noticed, and yet she could carry herself so smooth
and straight,--after having had so many children, too!  Mrs. Rosen
was envious, but she gave credit where credit was due.

When Mrs. Templeton brought in the cake, Mrs. Rosen was still
talking to Grandmother about Vickie's studying.  Mrs. Templeton
shrugged carelessly.

"There's such a thing as overdoing it, Mrs. Rosen," she observed as
she poured the lemonade.  "Vickie's very apt to run to extremes."

"But, my dear lady, she can hardly be too extreme in dis matter.
If she is to take a competitive examination with girls from much
better schools than ours, she will have to do better than the
others, or fail; no two ways about it.  We must encourage her."

Mrs. Templeton bridled a little.  "I'm sure I don't interfere with
her studying, Mrs. Rosen.  I don't see where she got this notion,
but I let her alone."

Mrs. Rosen accepted a second piece of chocolate cake.  "And what do
you think about it, Grandma?"

Mrs. Harris smiled politely.  "None of our people, or Mr.
Templeton's either, ever went to college.  I expect it is all on
account of the young gentleman who was here last summer."

Mrs. Rosen laughed and lifted her eyebrows.  "Something very
personal in Vickie's admiration for Professor Chalmers we think,
Grandma?  A very sudden interest in de sciences, I should say!"

Mrs. Templeton shrugged.  "You're mistaken, Mrs. Rosen.  There
ain't a particle of romance in Vickie."

"But there are several kinds of romance, Mrs. Templeton.  She may
not have your kind."

"Yes'm, that's so," said Mrs. Harris in a low, grateful voice.  She
thought that a hard word Victoria had said of Vickie.

"I didn't see a thing in that Professor Chalmers, myself," Victoria
remarked.  "He was a gawky kind of fellow, and never had a thing to
say in company.  Did you think he amounted to much?"

"Oh, widout doubt Doctor Chalmers is a very scholarly man.  A great
many brilliant scholars are widout de social graces, you know."
When Mrs. Rosen, from a much wider experience, corrected her
neighbour, she did so somewhat playfully, as if insisting upon
something Victoria capriciously chose to ignore.

At this point old Mrs. Harris put her hands on the arms of the
chair in preparation to rise.  "If you ladies will excuse me, I
think I will go and lie down a little before supper."  She rose and
went heavily out on her felt soles.  She never really lay down in
the afternoon, but she dozed in her own black rocker.  Mrs. Rosen
and Victoria sat chatting about Professor Chalmers and his boys.

Last summer the young professor had come to Skyline with four of
his students from the University of Michigan, and had stayed three
months, digging for fossils out in the sandhills.  Vickie had spent
a great many mornings at their camp.  They lived at the town hotel,
and drove out to their camp every day in a light spring-wagon.
Vickie used to wait for them at the edge of the town, in front of
the Roadmaster's house, and when the spring-wagon came rattling
along, the boys would call:  "There's our girl!" slow the horses,
and give her a hand up.  They said she was their mascot, and were
very jolly with her.  They had a splendid summer,--found a great
bed of fossil elephant bones, where a whole herd must once have
perished.  Later on they came upon the bones of a new kind of
elephant, scarcely larger than a pig.  They were greatly excited
about their finds, and so was Vickie.  That was why they liked her.
It was they who told her about a memorial scholarship at Ann Arbor,
which was open to any girl from Colorado.


In August Vickie went down to Denver to take her examinations.  Mr.
Holliday, the Roadmaster, got her a pass, and arranged that she
should stay with the family of one of his passenger conductors.

For three days she wrote examination papers along with other
contestants, in one of the Denver high schools, proctored by a
teacher.  Her father had given her five dollars for incidental
expenses, and she came home with a box of mineral specimens for the
twins, a singing top for Ronald, and a toy burro for Hughie.

Then began days of suspense that stretched into weeks.  Vickie went
to the post-office every morning, opened her father's combination
box, and looked over the letters, long before he got down town,--
always hoping there might be a letter from Ann Arbor.  The night
mail came in at six, and after supper she hurried to the post-
office and waited about until the shutter at the general-delivery
window was drawn back, a signal that the mail had all been
"distributed."  While the tedious process of distribution was going
on, she usually withdrew from the office, full of joking men and
cigar smoke, and walked up and down under the big cottonwood trees
that overhung the side street.  When the crowd of men began to come
out, then she knew the mail-bags were empty, and she went in to get
whatever letters were in the Templeton box and take them home.

After two weeks went by, she grew downhearted.  Her young
professor, she knew, was in England for his vacation.  There would
be no one at the University of Michigan who was interested in her
fate.  Perhaps the fortunate contestant had already been notified
of her success.  She never asked herself, as she walked up and down
under the cottonwoods on those summer nights, what she would do if
she didn't get the scholarship.  There was no alternative.  If she
didn't get it, then everything was over.

During the weeks when she lived only to go to the post-office, she
managed to cut her finger and get ink into the cut.  As a result,
she had a badly infected hand and had to carry it in a sling.  When
she walked her nightly beat under the cottonwoods, it was a kind of
comfort to feel that finger throb; it was companionship, made her
case more complete.

The strange thing was that one morning a letter came, addressed to
Miss Victoria Templeton; in a long envelope such as her father
called "legal size," with "University of Michigan" in the upper
left-hand corner.  When Vickie took it from the box, such a wave of
fright and weakness went through her that she could scarcely get
out of the post-office.  She hid the letter under her striped
blazer and went a weak, uncertain trail down the sidewalk under the
big trees.  Without seeing anything or knowing what road she took,
she got to the Headmaster's green yard and her hammock, where she
always felt not on the earth, yet of it.

Three hours later, when Mrs. Rosen was just tasting one of those
clear soups upon which the Templetons thought she wasted so much
pains and good meat, Vickie walked in at the kitchen door and said
in a low but somewhat unnatural voice:

"Mrs. Rosen, I got the scholarship."

Mrs. Rosen looked up at her sharply, then pushed the soup back to a
cooler part of the stove.

"What is dis you say, Vickie?  You have heard from de University?"

"Yes'm.  I got the letter this morning."  She produced it from
under her blazer.

Mrs. Rosen had been cutting noodles.  She took Vickie's face in two
hot, plump hands that were still floury, and looked at her
intently.  "Is dat true, Vickie?  No mistake?  I am delighted--and
surprised!  Yes, surprised.  Den you will BE something, you won't
just sit on de front porch."  She squeezed the girl's round, good-
natured cheeks, as if she could mould them into something definite
then and there.  "Now you must stay for lunch and tell us all about
it.  Go in and announce yourself to Mr. Rosen."

Mr. Rosen had come home for lunch and was sitting, a book in his
hand, in a corner of the darkened front parlour where a flood of
yellow sun streamed in under the dark green blind.  He smiled his
friendly smile at Vickie and waved her to a seat, making her
understand that he wanted to finish his paragraph.  The dark
engraving of the pointed cypresses and the Roman tomb was on the
wall just behind him.

Mrs. Rosen came into the back parlour, which was the dining-room,
and began taking things out of the silver-drawer to lay a place for
their visitor.  She spoke to her husband rapidly in German.

He put down his book, came over, and took Vickie's hand.

"Is it true, Vickie?  Did you really win the scholarship?"

"Yes, sir."

He stood looking down at her through his kind, remote smile,--a
smile in the eyes, that seemed to come up through layers and layers
of something--gentle doubts, kindly reservations.

"Why do you want to go to college, Vickie?" he asked playfully.

"To learn," she said with surprise.

"But why do you want to learn?  What do you want to do with it?"

"I don't know.  Nothing, I guess."

"Then what do you want it for?"

"I don't know.  I just want it."

For some reason Vickie's voice broke there.  She had been terribly
strung up all morning, lying in the hammock with her eyes tight
shut.  She had not been home at all, she had wanted to take her
letter to the Rosens first.  And now one of the gentlest men she
knew made her choke by something strange and presageful in his

"Then if you want it without any purpose at all, you will not be
disappointed."  Mr. Rosen wished to distract her and help her to
keep back the tears.  "Listen: a great man once said:  'Le but
n'est rien; le chemin, c'est tout.'  That means:  The end is
nothing, the road is all.  Let me write it down for you and give
you your first French lesson."

He went to the desk with its big silver inkwell, where he and his
wife wrote so many letters in several languages, and inscribed the
sentence on a sheet of purple paper, in his delicately shaded
foreign script, signing under it a name:  J. Michelet.  He brought
it back and shook it before Vickie's eyes.  "There, keep it to
remember me by.  Slip it into the envelope with your college
credentials,--that is a good place for it."  From his deliberate
smile and the twitch of one eyebrow, Vickie knew he meant her to
take it along as an antidote, a corrective for whatever colleges
might do to her.  But she had always known that Mr. Rosen was wiser
than professors.

Mrs. Rosen was frowning, she thought that sentence a bad precept to
give any Templeton.  Moreover, she always promptly called her
husband back to earth when he soared a little; though it was
exactly for this transcendental quality of mind that she reverenced
him in her heart, and thought him so much finer than any of his
successful brothers.

"Luncheon is served," she said in the crisp tone that put people in
their places.  "And Miss Vickie, you are to eat your tomatoes with
an oil dressing, as we do.  If you are going off into the world, it
is quite time you learn to like things that are everywhere

Vickie said:  "Yes'm," and slipped into the chair Mr. Rosen had
placed for her.  Today she didn't care what she ate, though
ordinarily she thought a French dressing tasted a good deal like
castor oil.


Vickie was to discover that nothing comes easily in this world.
Next day she got a letter from one of the jolly students of
Professor Chalmers's party, who was watching over her case in his
chief's absence.  He told her the scholarship meant admission to
the freshman class without further examinations, and two hundred
dollars toward her expenses; she would have to bring along about
three hundred more to put her through the year.

She took this letter to her father's office.  Seated in his
revolving desk-chair, Mr. Templeton read it over several times and
looked embarrassed.

"I'm sorry, daughter," he said at last, "but really, just now, I
couldn't spare that much.  Not this year.  I expect next year will
be better for us."

"But the scholarship is for this year, Father.  It wouldn't count
next year.  I just have to go in September."

"I really ain't got it, daughter."  He spoke, oh so kindly!  He had
lovely manners with his daughter and his wife.  "It's just all I
can do to keep the store bills paid up.  I'm away behind with Mr.
Rosen's bill.  Couldn't you study here this winter and get along
about as fast?  It isn't that I wouldn't like to let you have the
money if I had it.  And with young children, I can't let my life
insurance go."

Vickie didn't say anything more.  She took her letter and wandered
down Main Street with it, leaving young Mr. Templeton to a very bad

At dinner Vickie was silent, but everyone could see she had been
crying.  Mr. Templeton told Uncle Remus stories to keep up the
family morale and make the giggly twins laugh.  Mrs. Templeton
glanced covertly at her daughter from time to time.  She was
sometimes a little afraid of Vickie, who seemed to her to have a
hard streak.  If it were a love-affair that the girl was crying
about, that would be so much more natural--and more hopeful!

At two o'clock Mrs. Templeton went to the Afternoon Euchre Club,
the twins were to have another ride with the Roadmaster on his
velocipede, the little boys took their nap on their mother's bed.
The house was empty and quiet.  Vickie felt an aversion for the
hammock under the cottonwoods where she had been betrayed into such
bright hopes.  She lay down on her grandmother's lounge in the
cluttered play-room and turned her face to the wall.

When Mrs. Harris came in for her rest and began to wash her face at
the tin basin, Vickie got up.  She wanted to be alone.  Mrs. Harris
came over to her while she was still sitting on the edge of the

"What's the matter, Vickie child?"  She put her hand on her grand-
daughter's shoulder, but Vickie shrank away.  Young misery is like
that, sometimes.

"Nothing.  Except that I can't go to college after all.  Papa can't
let me have the money."

Mrs. Harris settled herself on the faded cushions of her rocker.
"How much is it?  Tell me about it, Vickie.  Nobody's around."

Vickie told her what the conditions were, briefly and dryly, as if
she were talking to an enemy.  Everyone was an enemy; all society
was against her.  She told her grandmother the facts and then went
upstairs, refusing to be comforted.

Mrs. Harris saw her disappear through the kitchen door, and then
sat looking at the door, her face grave, her eyes stern and sad.  A
poor factory-made piece of joiner's work seldom has to bear a look
of such intense, accusing sorrow; as if that flimsy pretence of
"grained" yellow pine were the door shut against all young


Mrs. Harris had decided to speak to Mr. Templeton, but
opportunities for seeing him alone were not frequent.  She watched
out of the kitchen window, and when she next saw him go into the
barn to fork down hay for his horse, she threw an apron over her
head and followed him.  She waylaid him as he came down from the

"Hillary, I want to see you about Vickie.  I was wondering if you
could lay hand on any of the money you got for the sale of my house
back home."

Mr. Templeton was nervous.  He began brushing his trousers with a
little whisk-broom he kept there, hanging on a nail.

"Why, no'm, Mrs. Harris.  I couldn't just conveniently call in any
of it right now.  You know we had to use part of it to get moved up
here from the mines."

"I know.  But I thought if there was any left you could get at, we
could let Vickie have it.  A body'd like to help the child."

"I'd like to, powerful well, Mrs. Harris.  I would, indeedy.  But
I'm afraid I can't manage it right now.  The fellers I've loaned to
can't pay up this year.  Maybe next year--"  He was like a little
boy trying to escape a scolding, though he had never had a nagging
word from Mrs. Harris.

She looked downcast, but said nothing.

"It's all right, Mrs. Harris," he took on his brisk business tone
and hung up the brush.  "The money's perfectly safe.  It's well

Invested; that was a word men always held over women, Mrs. Harris
thought, and it always meant they could have none of their own
money.  She sighed deeply.

"Well, if that's the way it is--"  She turned away and went back to
the house on her flat heelless slippers, just in time; Victoria was
at that moment coming out to the kitchen with Hughie.

"Ma," she said, "can the little boy play out here, while I go down


For the next few days Mrs. Harris was very sombre, and she was not
well.  Several times in the kitchen she was seized with what she
called giddy spells, and Mandy had to help her to a chair and give
her a little brandy.

"Don't you say nothin', Mandy," she warned the girl.  But Mandy
knew enough for that.

Mrs. Harris scarcely noticed how her strength was failing, because
she had so much on her mind.  She was very proud, and she wanted to
do something that was hard for her to do.  The difficulty was to
catch Mrs. Rosen alone.

On the afternoon when Victoria went to her weekly euchre, the old
lady beckoned Mandy and told her to run across the alley and fetch
Mrs. Rosen for a minute.

Mrs. Rosen was packing her trunk, but she came at once.
Grandmother awaited her in her chair in the play-room.

"I take it very kindly of you to come, Mrs. Rosen.  I'm afraid it's
warm in here.  Won't you have a fan?"  She extended the palm leaf
she was holding.

"Keep it yourself, Grandma.  You are not looking very well.  Do you
feel badly, Grandma Harris?"  She took the old lady's hand and
looked at her anxiously.

"Oh, no, ma'am!  I'm as well as usual.  The heat wears on me a
little, maybe.  Have you seen Vickie lately, Mrs. Rosen?"

"Vickie?  No.  She hasn't run in for several days.  These young
people are full of their own affairs, you know."

"I expect she's backward about seeing you, now that she's so

"Discouraged?  Why, didn't the child get her scholarship after

"Yes'm, she did.  But they write her she has to bring more money to
help her out; three hundred dollars.  Mr. Templeton can't raise it
just now.  We had so much sickness in that mountain town before we
moved up here, he got behind.  Pore Vickie's downhearted."

"Oh, that is too bad!  I expect you've been fretting over it, and
that is why you don't look like yourself.  Now what can we do about

Mrs. Harris sighed and shook her head.  "Vickie's trying to muster
courage to go around to her father's friends and borrow from one
and another.  But we ain't been here long,--it ain't like we had
old friends here.  I hate to have the child do it."

Mrs. Rosen looked perplexed.  "I'm sure Mr. Rosen would help her.
He takes a great interest in Vickie."

"I thought maybe he could see his way to.  That's why I sent Mandy
to fetch you."

"That was right, Grandma.  Now let me think."  Mrs. Rosen put up
her plump red-brown hand and leaned her chin upon it.  "Day after
tomorrow I am going to run on to Chicago for my niece's wedding."
She saw her old friend's face fall.  "Oh, I shan't be gone long;
ten days, perhaps.  I will speak to Mr. Rosen tonight, and if
Vickie goes to him after I am off his hands, I'm sure he will help

Mrs. Harris looked up at her with solemn gratitude.  "Vickie ain't
the kind of girl would forget anything like that, Mrs. Rosen.  Nor
I wouldn't forget it."

Mrs. Rosen patted her arm.  "Grandma Harris," she exclaimed, "I
will just ask Mr. Rosen to do it for you!  You know I care more
about the old folks than the young.  If I take this worry off your
mind, I shall go away to the wedding with a light heart.  Now
dismiss it.  I am sure Mr. Rosen can arrange this himself for you,
and Vickie won't have to go about to these people here, and our
gossipy neighbours will never be the wiser."  Mrs. Rosen poured
this out in her quick, authoritative tone, converting her th's into
d's, as she did when she was excited.

Mrs. Harris's red-brown eyes slowly filled with tears,--Mrs. Rosen
had never seen that happen before.  But she simply said, with quiet
dignity:  "Thank you, ma'am.  I wouldn't have turned to nobody

"That means I am an old friend already, doesn't it, Grandma?  And
that's what I want to be.  I am very jealous where Grandma Harris
is concerned!"  She lightly kissed the back of the purple-veined
hand she had been holding, and ran home to her packing.  Grandma
sat looking down at her hand.  How easy it was for these foreigners
to say what they felt!


Mrs. Harris knew she was failing.  She was glad to be able to
conceal it from Mrs. Rosen when that kind neighbour dashed in to
kiss her good-bye on the morning of her departure for Chicago.
Mrs. Templeton was, of course, present, and secrets could not be
discussed.  Mrs. Rosen, in her stiff little brown travelling-hat,
her hands tightly gloved in brown kid, could only wink and nod to
Grandmother to tell her all was well.  Then she went out and
climbed into the "hack" bound for the depot, which had stopped for
a moment at the Templetons' gate.

Mrs. Harris was thankful that her excitable friend hadn't noticed
anything unusual about her looks, and, above all, that she had made
no comment.  She got through the day, and that evening, thank
goodness, Mr. Templeton took his wife to hear a company of
strolling players sing The Chimes of Normandy at the Opera House.
He loved music, and just now he was very eager to distract and
amuse Victoria.  Grandma sent the twins out to play and went to bed

Next morning, when she joined Mandy in the kitchen, Mandy noticed
something wrong.

"You set right down, Miz' Harris, an' let me git you some whisky.
Deed, ma'am, you look awful porely.  You ought to tell Miss
Victoria an' let her send for the doctor."

"No, Mandy, I don't want no doctor.  I've seen more sickness than
ever he has.  Doctors can't do no more than linger you out, an'
I've always prayed I wouldn't last to be a burden.  You git me some
whisky in hot water, and pour it on a piece of toast.  I feel real

That afternoon when Mrs. Harris was taking her rest, for once she
lay down upon her lounge.  Vickie came in, tense and excited, and
stopped for a moment.

"It's all right, Grandma.  Mr. Rosen is going to lend me the money.
I won't have to go to anybody else.  He won't ask Father to endorse
my note, either.  He'll just take my name."  Vickie rather shouted
this news at Mrs. Harris, as if the old lady were deaf, or slow of
understanding.  She didn't thank her; she didn't know her
grandmother was in any way responsible for Mr. Rosen's offer,
though at the close of their interview he had said:  "We won't
speak of our arrangement to anyone but your father.  And I want you
to mention it to the old lady Harris.  I know she has been worrying
about you."

Having brusquely announced her news, Vickie hurried away.  There
was so much to do about getting ready, she didn't know where to
begin.  She had no trunk and no clothes.  Her winter coat, bought
two years ago, was so outgrown that she couldn't get into it.  All
her shoes were run over at the heel and must go to the cobbler.
And she had only two weeks in which to do everything!  She dashed

Mrs. Harris sighed and closed her eyes happily.  She thought with
modest pride that with people like the Rosens she had always "got
along nicely."  It was only with the ill-bred and unclassified,
like this Mrs. Jackson next door, that she had disagreeable
experiences.  Such folks, she told herself, had come out of nothing
and knew no better.  She was afraid this inquisitive woman might
find her ailing and come prying round with unwelcome suggestions.

Mrs. Jackson did, indeed, call that very afternoon, with a
miserable contribution of veal-loaf as an excuse (all the
Templetons hated veal), but Mandy had been forewarned, and she was
resourceful.  She met Mrs. Jackson at the kitchen door and blocked
the way.

"Sh-h-h, ma'am, Miz' Harris is asleep, havin' her nap.  No'm, she
ain't porely, she's as usual.  But Hughie had the colic last night
when Miss Victoria was at the show, an' kep' Miz' Harris awake."

Mrs. Jackson was loath to turn back.  She had really come to find
out why Mrs. Rosen drove away in the depot hack yesterday morning.
Except at church socials, Mrs. Jackson did not meet people in Mrs.
Rosen's set.

The next day, when Mrs. Harris got up and sat on the edge of her
bed, her head began to swim, and she lay down again.  Mandy peeped
into the play-room as soon as she came downstairs, and found the
old lady still in bed.  She leaned over her and whispered:

"Ain't you feelin' well, Miz' Harris?"

"No, Mandy, I'm right porely," Mrs. Harris admitted.

"You stay where you air, ma'am.  I'll git the breakfast fur the
chillun, an' take the other breakfast in fur Miss Victoria an' Mr.
Templeton."  She hurried back to the kitchen, and Mrs. Harris went
to sleep.

Immediately after breakfast Vickie dashed off about her own
concerns, and the twins went to cut grass while the dew was still
on it.  When Mandy was taking the other breakfast into the dining-
room, Mrs. Templeton came through the play-room.

"What's the matter, Ma?  Are you sick?" she asked in an accusing

"No, Victoria, I ain't sick.  I had a little giddy spell, and I
thought I'd lay still."

"You ought to be more careful what you eat, Ma.  If you're going to
have another bilious spell, when everything is so upset anyhow, I
don't know what I'll do!"  Victoria's voice broke.  She hurried
back into her bedroom, feeling bitterly that there was no place in
that house to cry in, no spot where one could be alone, even with
misery; that the house and the people in it were choking her to

Mrs. Harris sighed and closed her eyes.  Things did seem to be
upset, though she didn't know just why.  Mandy, however, had her
suspicions.  While she waited on Mr. and Mrs. Templeton at
breakfast, narrowly observing their manner toward each other and
Victoria's swollen eyes and desperate expression, her suspicions
grew stronger.

Instead of going to his office, Mr. Templeton went to the barn and
ran out the buggy.  Soon he brought out Cleveland, the black horse,
with his harness on.  Mandy watched from the back window.  After he
had hitched the horse to the buggy, he came into the kitchen to
wash his hands.  While he dried them on the roller towel, he said
in his most business-like tone:

"I likely won't be back tonight, Mandy.  I have to go out to my
farm, and I'll hardly get through my business there in time to come

Then Mandy was sure.  She had been through these times before, and
at such a crisis poor Mr. Templeton was always called away on
important business.  When he had driven out through the alley and
up the street past Mrs. Rosen's, Mandy left her dishes and went in
to Mrs. Harris.  She bent over and whispered low:

"Miz' Harris, I 'spect Miss Victoria's done found out she's goin'
to have another baby!  It looks that way.  She's gone back to bed."

Mrs. Harris lifted a warning finger.  "Sh-h-h!"

"Oh yes'm, I won't say nothin'.  I never do."

Mrs. Harris tried to face this possibility, but her mind didn't
seem strong enough--she dropped off into another doze.

All that morning Mrs. Templeton lay on her bed alone, the room
darkened and a handkerchief soaked in camphor tied round her
forehead.  The twins had taken Ronald off to watch them cut grass,
and Hughie played in the kitchen under Mandy's eye.

Now and then Victoria sat upright on the edge of the bed, beat her
hands together softly and looked desperately at the ceiling, then
about at those frail, confining walls.  If only she could meet the
situation with violence, fight it, conquer it!  But there was
nothing for it but stupid animal patience.  She would have to go
through all that again, and nobody, not even Hillary, wanted
another baby,--poor as they were, and in this overcrowded house.
Anyhow, she told herself, she was ashamed to have another baby,
when she had a daughter old enough to go to college!  She was sick
of it all; sick of dragging this chain of life that never let her
rest and periodically knotted and overpowered her; made her ill and
hideous for months, and then dropped another baby into her arms.
She had had babies enough; and there ought to be an end to such
apprehensions some time before you were old and ugly.

She wanted to run away, back to Tennessee, and lead a free, gay
life, as she had when she was first married.  She could do a great
deal more with freedom than ever Vickie could.  She was still
young, and she was still handsome; why must she be for ever shut up
in a little cluttered house with children and fresh babies and an
old woman and a stupid bound girl and a husband who wasn't very
successful?  Life hadn't brought her what she expected when she
married Hillary Templeton; life hadn't used her right.  She had
tried to keep up appearances, to dress well with very little to do
it on, to keep young for her husband and children.  She had tried,
she had tried!  Mrs. Templeton buried her face in the pillow and
smothered the sobs that shook the bed.

Hillary Templeton, on his drive out through the sage-brush, up into
the farming country that was irrigated from the North Platte, did
not feel altogether cheerful, though he whistled and sang to
himself on the way.  He was sorry Victoria would have to go through
another time.  It was awkward just now, too, when he was so short
of money.  But he was naturally a cheerful man, modest in his
demands upon fortune, and easily diverted from unpleasant thoughts.
Before Cleveland had travelled half the eighteen miles to the farm,
his master was already looking forward to a visit with his tenants,
an old German couple who were fond of him because he never pushed
them in a hard year--so far, all the years had been hard--and he
sometimes brought them bananas and such delicacies from town.

Mrs. Heyse would open her best preserves for him, he knew, and kill
a chicken, and tonight he would have a clean bed in her spare room.
She always put a vase of flowers in his room when he stayed
overnight with them, and that pleased him very much.  He felt like
a youth out there, and forgot all the bills he had somehow to meet,
and the loans he had made and couldn't collect.  The Heyses kept
bees and raised turkeys, and had honeysuckle vines running over the
front porch.  He loved all those things.  Mr. Templeton touched
Cleveland with the whip, and as they sped along into the grass
country, sang softly:

     "Old Jesse was a gem'man,
      Way down in Tennessee."


Mandy had to manage the house herself that day, and she was not at
all sorry.  There wasn't a great deal of variety in her life, and
she felt very important taking Mrs. Harris's place, giving the
children their dinner, and carrying a plate of milk toast to Mrs.
Templeton.  She was worried about Mrs. Harris, however, and
remarked to the children at noon that she thought somebody ought to
"set" with their grandma.  Vickie wasn't home for dinner.  She had
her father's office to herself for the day and was making the most
of it, writing a long letter to Professor Chalmers.  Mr. Rosen had
invited her to have dinner with him at the hotel (he boarded there
when his wife was away), and that was a great honour.

When Mandy said someone ought to be with the old lady, Bert and Del
offered to take turns.  Adelbert went off to rake up the grass they
had been cutting all morning, and Albert sat down in the play-room.
It seemed to him his grandmother looked pretty sick.  He watched
her while Mandy gave her toast-water with whisky in it, and thought
he would like to make the room look a little nicer.  While Mrs.
Harris lay with her eyes closed, he hung up the caps and coats
lying about, and moved away the big rocking-chair that stood by the
head of Grandma's bed.  There ought to be a table there, he
believed, but the small tables in the house all had something on
them.  Upstairs, in the room where he and Adelbert and Ronald
slept, there was a nice clean wooden cracker-box, on which they sat
in the morning to put on their shoes and stockings.  He brought
this down and stood it on end at the head of Grandma's lounge, and
put a clean napkin over the top of it.

She opened her eyes and smiled at him.  "Could you git me a tin of
fresh water, honey?"

He went to the back porch and pumped till the water ran cold.  He
gave it to her in a tin cup as she had asked, but he didn't think
that was the right way.  After she dropped back on the pillow, he
fetched a glass tumbler from the cupboard, filled it, and set it on
the table he had just manufactured.  When Grandmother drew a red
cotton handkerchief from under her pillow and wiped the moisture
from her face, he ran upstairs again and got one of his Sunday-
school handkerchiefs, linen ones, that Mrs. Rosen had given him and
Del for Christmas.  Having put this in Grandmother's hand and taken
away the crumpled red one, he could think of nothing else to do--
except to darken the room a little.  The windows had no blinds, but
flimsy cretonne curtains tied back,--not really tied, but caught
back over nails driven into the sill.  He loosened them and let
them hang down over the bright afternoon sunlight.  Then he sat
down on the low sawed-off chair and gazed about, thinking that now
it looked quite like a sick-room.

It was hard for a little boy to keep still.  "Would you like me to
read Joe's Luck to you, Gram'ma?" he said presently.

"You might, Bertie."

He got the "boy's book" she had been reading aloud to them, and
began where she had left off.  Mrs. Harris liked to hear his voice,
and she liked to look at him when she opened her eyes from time to
time.  She did not follow the story.  In her mind she was repeating
a passage from the second part of Pilgrim's Progress, which she had
read aloud to the children so many times; the passage where
Christiana and her band come to the arbour on the Hill of
Difficulty:  "Then said Mercy, how sweet is rest to them that

At about four o'clock Adelbert came home, hot and sweaty from
raking.  He said he had got in the grass and taken it to their cow,
and if Bert was reading, he guessed he'd like to listen.  He
dragged the wooden rocking-chair up close to Grandma's bed and
curled up in it.

Grandmother was perfectly happy.  She and the twins were about the
same age; they had in common all the realest and truest things.
The years between them and her, it seemed to Mrs. Harris, were full
of trouble and unimportant.  The twins and Ronald and Hughie were
important.  She opened her eyes.

"Where is Hughie?" she asked.

"I guess he's asleep.  Mother took him into her bed."

"And Ronald?"

"He's upstairs with Mandy.  There ain't nobody in the kitchen now."

"Then you might git me a fresh drink, Del."

"Yes'm, Gram'ma."  He tiptoed out to the pump in his brown canvas

When Vickie came home at five o'clock, she went to her mother's
room, but the door was locked--a thing she couldn't remember ever
happening before.  She went into the playroom,--old Mrs. Harris was
asleep, with one of the twins on guard, and he held up a warning
finger.  She went into the kitchen.  Mandy was making biscuits, and
Ronald was helping her to cut them out.

"What's the matter, Mandy?  Where is everybody?"

"You know your papa's away, Miss Vickie; an' your mama's got a
headache, an' Miz' Harris has had a bad spell.  Maybe I'll just fix
supper for you an' the boys in the kitchen, so you won't all have
to be runnin' through her room."

"Oh, very well," said Vickie bitterly, and she went upstairs.
Wasn't it just like them all to go and get sick, when she had now
only two weeks to get ready for school, and no trunk and no clothes
or anything?  Nobody but Mr. Rosen seemed to take the least
interest, "when my whole life hangs by a thread," she told herself
fiercely.  What were families for, anyway?

After supper Vickie went to her father's office to read; she told
Mandy to leave the kitchen door open, and when she got home she
would go to bed without disturbing anybody.  The twins ran out to
play under the electric light with the neighbour boys for a little
while, then slipped softly up the back stairs to their room.  Mandy
came to Mrs. Harris after the house was still.

"Kin I rub your legs fur you, Miz' Harris?"

"Thank you, Mandy.  And you might get me a clean nightcap out of
the press."

Mandy returned with it.

"Lawsie me!  But your legs is cold, ma'am!"

"I expect it's about time, Mandy," murmured the old lady.  Mandy
knelt on the floor and set to work with a will.  It brought the
sweat out on her, and at last she sat up and wiped her face with
the back of her hand.

"I can't seem to git no heat into 'em, Miz' Harris.  I got a hot
flat-iron on the stove; I'll wrap it in a piece of old blanket and
put it to your feet.  Why didn't you have the boys tell me you was
cold, pore soul?"

Mrs. Harris did not answer.  She thought it was probably a cold
that neither Mandy nor the flat-iron could do much with.  She
hadn't nursed so many people back in Tennessee without coming to
know certain signs.

After Mandy was gone, she fell to thinking of her blessings.  Every
night for years, when she said her prayers, she had prayed that she
might never have a long sickness or be a burden.  She dreaded the
heart-ache and humiliation of being helpless on the hands of people
who would be impatient under such a care.  And now she felt certain
that she was going to die tonight, without troubling anybody.

She was glad Mrs. Rosen was in Chicago.  Had she been at home, she
would certainly have come in, would have seen that her old
neighbour was very sick, and bustled about.  Her quick eye would
have found out all Grandmother's little secrets: how hard her bed
was, that she had no proper place to wash, and kept her comb in her
pocket; that her nightgowns were patched and darned.  Mrs. Rosen
would have been indignant, and that would have made Victoria cross.
She didn't have to see Mrs. Rosen again to know that Mrs. Rosen
thought highly of her and admired her--yes, admired her.  Those
funny little pats and arch pleasantries had meant a great deal to
Mrs. Harris.

It was a blessing that Mr. Templeton was away, too.  Appearances
had to be kept up when there was a man in the house; and he might
have taken it into his head to send for the doctor, and stir
everybody up.  Now everything would be so peaceful.  "The Lord is
my shepherd" she whispered gratefully.  "Yes, Lord, I always
spoiled Victoria.  She was so much the prettiest.  But nobody won't
ever be the worse for it: Mr. Templeton will always humour her, and
the children love her more than most.  They'll always be good to
her; she has that way with her."

Grandma fell to remembering the old place at home: what a dashing,
high-spirited girl Victoria was, and how proud she had always been
of her; how she used to hear her laughing and teasing out in the
lilac arbour when Hillary Templeton was courting her.  Toward
morning all these pleasant reflections faded out.  Mrs. Harris felt
that she and her bed were softly sinking, through the darkness to a
deeper darkness.

Old Mrs. Harris did not really die that night, but she believed she
did.  Mandy found her unconscious in the morning.  Then there was a
great stir and bustle; Victoria, and even Vickie, were startled out
of their intense self-absorption.  Mrs. Harris was hastily carried
out of the play-room and laid in Victoria's bed, put into one of
Victoria's best nightgowns.  Mr. Templeton was sent for, and the
doctor was sent for.  The inquisitive Mrs. Jackson from next door
got into the house at last,--installed herself as nurse, and no one
had the courage to say her nay.  But Grandmother was out of it all,
never knew that she was the object of so much attention and
excitement.  She died a little while after Mr. Templeton got home.

Thus Mrs. Harris slipped out of the Templetons' story; but Victoria
and Vickie had still to go on, to follow the long road that leads
through things unguessed at and unforeseeable.  When they are old,
they will come closer and closer to Grandma Harris.  They will
think a great deal about her, and remember things they never
noticed; and their lot will be more or less like hers.  They will
regret that they heeded her so little; but they, too, will look
into the eager, unseeing eyes of young people and feel themselves
alone.  They will say to themselves:  "I was heartless, because I
was young and strong and wanted things so much.  But now I know."

New Brunswick, 1931



Even in early youth, when the mind is so eager for the new and
untried, while it is still a stranger to faltering and fear, we yet
like to think that there are certain unalterable realities,
somewhere at the bottom of things.  These anchors may be ideas; but
more often they are merely pictures, vivid memories, which in some
unaccountable and very personal way give us courage.  The sea-
gulls, that seem so much creatures of the free wind and waves, that
are as homeless as the sea (able to rest upon the tides and ride
the storm, needing nothing but water and sky), at certain seasons
even they go back to something they have known before; to remote
islands and lonely ledges that are their breeding-grounds.  The
restlessness of youth has such retreats, even though it may be
ashamed of them.

Long ago, before the invention of the motorcar (which has made more
changes in the world than the War, which indeed produced the
particular kind of war that happened just a hundred years after
Waterloo), in a little wooden town in a shallow Kansas river
valley, there lived two friends.  They were "business men," the two
most prosperous and influential men in our community, the two men
whose affairs took them out into the world to big cities, who had
"connections" in St. Joseph and Chicago.  In my childhood they
represented to me success and power.

R. E. Dillon was of Irish extraction, one of the dark Irish, with
glistening jet-black hair and moustache, and thick eyebrows.  His
skin was very white, bluish on his shaven cheeks and chin.  Shaving
must have been a difficult process for him, because there were no
smooth expanses for the razor to glide over.  The bony structure of
his face was prominent and unusual; high cheek-bones, a bold Roman
nose, a chin cut by deep lines, with a hard dimple at the tip, a
jutting ridge over his eyes where his curly black eyebrows grew and
met.  It was a face in many planes, as if the carver had whittled
and modelled and indented to see how far he could go.  Yet on
meeting him what you saw was an imperious head on a rather small,
wiry man, a head held conspicuously and proudly erect, with a
carriage unmistakably arrogant and consciously superior.  Dillon
had a musical, vibrating voice, and the changeable grey eye that is
peculiarly Irish.  His full name, which he never used, was Robert
Emmet Dillon, so there must have been a certain feeling somewhere
back in his family.

He was the principal banker in our town, and proprietor of the
large general store next the bank; he owned farms up in the grass
country, and a fine ranch in the green timbered valley of the Caw.
He was, according to our standards, a rich man.

His friend, J. H. Trueman, was what we called a big cattleman.
Trueman was from Buffalo; his family were old residents there, and
he had come West as a young man because he was restless and
unconventional in his tastes.  He was fully ten years older than
Dillon,--in his early fifties, when I knew him; large, heavy, very
slow in his movements, not given to exercise.  His countenance was
as unmistakably American as Dillon's was not,--but American of that
period, not of this.  He did not belong to the time of efficiency
and advertising and progressive methods.  For any form of pushing
or boosting he had a cold, unqualified contempt.  All this was in
his face,--heavy, immobile, rather melancholy, not remarkable in
any particular.  But the moment one looked at him one felt
solidity, an entire absence of anything mean or small, easy
carelessness, courage, a high sense of honour.

These two men had been friends for ten years before I knew them,
and I knew them from the time I was ten until I was thirteen.  I
saw them as often as I could, because they led more varied lives
than the other men in our town; one could look up to them.  Dillon,
I believe, was the more intelligent.  Trueman had, perhaps, a
better tradition, more background.

Dillon's bank and general store stood at the corner of Main Street
and a cross-street, and on this cross-street, two short blocks
away, my family lived.  On my way to and from school, and going on
the countless errands that I was sent upon day and night, I always
passed Dillon's store.  Its long, red brick wall, with no windows
except high overhead, ran possibly a hundred feet along the
sidewalk of the cross-street.  The front door and show windows were
on Main Street, and the bank was next door.  The board sidewalk
along that red brick wall was wider than any other piece of walk in
town, smoother, better laid, kept in perfect repair; very good to
walk on in a community where most things were flimsy.  I liked the
store and the brick wall and the sidewalk because they were solid
and well built, and possibly I admired Dillon and Trueman for much
the same reason.  They were secure and established.  So many of our
citizens were nervous little hopper men, trying to get on.  Dillon
and Trueman had got on; they stood with easy assurance on a deck
that was their own.

In the daytime one did not often see them together--each went about
his own affairs.  But every evening they were both to be found at
Dillon's store.  The bank, of course, was locked and dark before
the sun went down, but the store was always open until ten o'clock;
the clerks put in a long day.  So did Dillon.  He and his store
were one.  He never acted as salesman, and he kept a cashier in the
wire-screened office at the back end of the store; but he was there
to be called on.  The thrifty Swedes to the north, who were his
best customers, usually came to town and did their shopping after
dark--they didn't squander daylight hours in farming season.  In
these evening visits with his customers, and on his drives in his
buckboard among the farms, Dillon learned all he needed to know
about how much money it was safe to advance a farmer who wanted to
feed cattle, or to buy a steam thrasher or build a new barn.

Every evening in winter, when I went to the post-office after
supper, I passed through Dillon's store instead of going round it,--
for the warmth and cheerfulness, and to catch sight of Mr. Dillon
and Mr. Trueman playing checkers in the office behind the wire
screening; both seated on high accountant's stools, with the
checker-board on the cashier's desk before them.  I knew all
Dillon's clerks, and if they were not busy, I often lingered about
to talk to them; sat on one of the grocery counters and watched the
checker-players from a distance.  I remember Mr. Dillon's hand used
to linger in the air above the board before he made a move; a well-
kept hand, white, marked with blue veins and streaks of strong
black hair.  Trueman's hands rested on his knees under the desk
while he considered; he took a checker, set it down, then dropped
his hand on his knee again.  He seldom made an unnecessary movement
with his hands or feet.  Each of the men wore a ring on his little
finger.  Mr. Dillon's was a large diamond solitaire set in a gold
claw, Trueman's the head of a Roman soldier cut in onyx and set in
pale twisted gold; it had been his father's, I believe.

Exactly at ten o'clock the store closed.  Mr. Dillon went home to
his wife and family, to his roomy, comfortable house with a garden
and orchard and big stables.  Mr. Trueman, who had long been a
widower, went to his office to begin the day over.  He led a double
life, and until one or two o'clock in the morning entertained the
poker-players of our town.  After everything was shut for the
night, a queer crowd drifted into Trueman's back office.  The
company was seldom the same on two successive evenings, but there
were three tireless poker-players who always came: the billiard-
hall proprietor, with green-gold moustache and eyebrows, and big
white teeth; the horse-trader, who smelled of horses; the dandified
cashier of the bank that rivalled Dillon's.  The gamblers met in
Trueman's place because a game that went on there was respectable,
was a social game, no matter how much money changed hands.  If the
horse-trader or the crooked money-lender got over-heated and broke
loose a little, a look or a remark from Mr. Trueman would freeze
them up.  And his remark was always the same:

"Careful of the language around here."

It was never "your" language, but "the" language,--though he
certainly intended no pleasantry.  Trueman himself was not a lucky
poker man; he was never ahead of the game on the whole.  He played
because he liked it, and he was willing to pay for his amusement.
In general he was large and indifferent about money matters,--
always carried a few hundred-dollar bills in his inside coat-
pocket, and left his coat hanging anywhere,--in his office, in the
bank, in the barber shop, in the cattle-sheds behind the freight

Now, R. E. Dillon detested gambling, often dropped a contemptuous
word about "poker bugs" before the horse-trader and the billiard-
hall man and the cashier of the other bank.  But he never made
remarks of that sort in Trueman's presence.  He was a man who
voiced his prejudices fearlessly and cuttingly, but on this and
other matters he held his peace before Trueman.  His regard for him
must have been very strong.

During the winter, usually in March, the two friends always took a
trip together, to Kansas City and St. Joseph.  When they got ready,
they packed their bags and stepped aboard a fast Santa Fé train and
went; the Limited was often signalled to stop for them.  Their
excursions made some of the rest of us feel less shut away and
small-townish, just as their fur overcoats and silk shirts did.
They were the only men in Singleton who wore silk shirts.  The
other business men wore white shirts with detachable collars, high
and stiff or low and sprawling, which were changed much oftener
than the shirts.  Neither of my heroes was afraid of laundry bills.
They did not wear waistcoats, but went about in their shirt-sleeves
in hot weather; their suspenders were chosen with as much care as
their neckties and handkerchiefs.  Once when a bee stung my hand in
the store (a few of them had got into the brown-sugar barrel), Mr.
Dillon himself moistened the sting, put baking soda on it, and
bound my hand up with his pocket handkerchief.  It was of the
smoothest linen, and in one corner was a violet square bearing his
initials, R. E. D., in white.  There were never any handkerchiefs
like that in my family.  I cherished it until it was laundered, and
I returned it with regret.

It was in the spring and summer that one saw Mr. Dillon and Mr.
Trueman at their best.  Spring began early with us,--often the
first week of April was hot.  Every evening when he came back to
the store after supper, Dillon had one of his clerks bring two arm-
chairs out to the wide sidewalk that ran beside the red brick
wall,--office chairs of the old-fashioned sort, with a low round
back which formed a half-circle to enclose the sitter, and
spreading legs, the front ones slightly higher.  In those chairs
the two friends would spend the evening.  Dillon would sit down and
light a good cigar.  In a few moments Mr. Trueman would come across
from Main Street, walking slowly, spaciously, as if he were used to
a great deal of room.  As he approached, Mr. Dillon would call out
to him:

"Good evening, J. H.  Fine weather."

J. H. would take his place in the empty chair.

"Spring in the air," he might remark, if it were April.  Then he
would relight a dead cigar which was always in his hand,--seemed to
belong there, like a thumb or finger.

"I drove up north today to see what the Swedes are doing," Mr.
Dillon might begin.  "They're the boys to get the early worm.  They
never let the ground go to sleep.  Whatever moisture there is, they
get the benefit of it."

"The Swedes are good farmers.  I don't sympathize with the way they
work their women."

"The women like it, J. H.  It's the old-country way; they're
accustomed to it, and they like it."

"Maybe.  I don't like it," Trueman would reply with something like
a grunt.

They talked very much like this all evening; or, rather, Mr. Dillon
talked, and Mr. Trueman made an occasional observation.  No one
could tell just how much Mr. Trueman knew about anything, because
he was so consistently silent.  Not from diffidence, but from
superiority; from a contempt for chatter, and a liking for silence,
a taste for it.  After they had exchanged a few remarks, he and
Dillon often sat in an easy quiet for a long time, watching the
passers-by, watching the wagons on the road, watching the stars.
Sometimes, very rarely, Mr. Trueman told a long story, and it was
sure to be an interesting and unusual one.

But on the whole it was Mr. Dillon who did the talking; he had a
wide-awake voice with much variety in it.  Trueman's was thick and
low,--his speech was rather indistinct and never changed in pitch
or tempo.  Even when he swore wickedly at the hands who were
loading his cattle into freight cars, it was a mutter, a low, even
growl.  There was a curious attitude in men of his class and time,
that of being rather above speech, as they were above any kind of
fussiness or eagerness.  But I knew he liked to hear Mr. Dillon
talk,--anyone did.  Dillon had such a crisp, clear enunciation, and
he could say things so neatly.  People would take a reprimand from
him they wouldn't have taken from anyone else, because he put it so
well.  His voice was never warm or soft--it had a cool, sparkling
quality; but it could be very humorous, very kind and considerate,
very teasing and stimulating.  Every sentence he uttered was alive,
never languid, perfunctory, slovenly, unaccented.  When he made a
remark, it not only meant something, but sounded like something,--
sounded like the thing he meant.

When Mr. Dillon was closeted with a depositor in his private room
in the bank, and you could not hear his words through the closed
door, his voice told you exactly the degree of esteem in which he
held that customer.  It was interested, encouraging, deliberative,
humorous, satisfied, admiring, cold, critical, haughty, 
contemptuous, according to the deserts and pretensions of his
listener.  And one could tell when the person closeted with him was
a woman; a farmer's wife, or a woman who was trying to run a little
business, or a country girl hunting a situation.  There was a
difference; something peculiarly kind and encouraging.  But if it
were a foolish, extravagant woman, or a girl he didn't approve of,
oh, then one knew it well enough!  The tone was courteous, but
cold; relentless as the multiplication table.

All these possibilities of voice made his evening talk in the
spring dusk very interesting; interesting for Trueman and for me.
I found many pretexts for lingering near them, and they never
seemed to mind my hanging about.  I was very quiet.  I often sat on
the edge of the sidewalk with my feet hanging down and played jacks
by the hour when there was moonlight.  On dark nights I sometimes
perched on top of one of the big goods-boxes--we called them "store
boxes,"--there were usually several of these standing empty on the
sidewalk against the red brick wall.

I liked to listen to those two because theirs was the only
"conversation" one could hear about the streets.  The older men
talked of nothing but politics and their business, and the very
young men's talk was entirely what they called "josh"; very
personal, supposed to be funny, and really not funny at all.  It
was scarcely speech, but noises, snorts, giggles, yawns, sneezes,
with a few abbreviated words and slang expressions which stood for
a hundred things.  The original Indians of the Kansas plains had
more to do with articulate speech than had our promising young men.

To be sure my two aristocrats sometimes discussed politics, and
joked each other about the policies and pretentions of their
respective parties.  Mr. Dillon, of course, was a Democrat,--it was
in the very frosty sparkle of his speech,--and Mr. Trueman was a
Republican; his rear, as he walked about the town, looked a little
like the walking elephant labelled "G. O. P." in Puck.  But each
man seemed to enjoy hearing his party ridiculed, took it as a

In the spring their talk was usually about weather and planting and
pasture and cattle.  Mr. Dillon went about the country in his light
buckboard a great deal at that season, and he knew what every
farmer was doing and what his chances were, just how much he was
falling behind or getting ahead.

"I happened to drive by Oscar Ericson's place today, and I saw as
nice a lot of calves as you could find anywhere," he would begin,
and Ericson's history and his family would be pretty thoroughly
discussed before they changed the subject.

Or he might come out with something sharp:  "By the way, J. H., I
saw an amusing sight today.  I turned in at Sandy Bright's place to
get water for my horse, and he had a photographer out there taking
pictures of his house and barn.  It would be more to the point if
he had a picture taken of the mortgages he's put on that farm."

Trueman would give a short, mirthless response, more like a cough
than a laugh.

Those April nights, when the darkness itself tasted dusty (or, by
the special mercy of God, cool and damp), when the smell of burning
grass was in the air, and a sudden breeze brought the scent of wild
plum blossoms,--those evenings were only a restless preparation for
the summer nights,--nights of full liberty and perfect idleness.
Then there was no school, and one's family never bothered about
where one was.  My parents were young and full of life, glad to
have the children out of the way.  All day long there had been the
excitement that intense heat produces in some people,--a mild
drunkenness made of sharp contrasts; thirst and cold water, the
blazing stretch of Main Street and the cool of the brick stores
when one dived into them.  By nightfall one was ready to be quiet.
My two friends were always in their best form on those moonlit
summer nights, and their talk covered a wide range.

I suppose there were moonless nights, and dark ones with but a
silver shaving and pale stars in the sky, just as in the spring.
But I remember them all as flooded by the rich indolence of a full
moon, or a half-moon set in uncertain blue.  Then Trueman and
Dillon would sit with their coats off and have a supply of fresh
handkerchiefs to mop their faces; they were more largely and
positively themselves.  One could distinguish their features, the
stripes on their shirts, the flash of Mr. Dillon's diamond; but
their shadows made two dark masses on the white sidewalk.  The
brick wall behind them, faded almost pink by the burning of
successive summers, took on a carnelian hue at night.  Across the
street, which was merely a dusty road, lay an open space, with a
few stunted box-elder trees, where the farmers left their wagons
and teams when they came to town.  Beyond this space stood a row of
frail wooden buildings, due to be pulled down any day; tilted,
crazy, with outside stairs going up to rickety second-storey
porches that sagged in the middle.  They had once been white, but
were now grey, with faded blue doors along the wavy upper porches.
These abandoned buildings, an eyesore by day, melted together into
a curious pile in the moonlight, became an immaterial structure of
velvet-white and glossy blackness, with here and there a faint
smear of blue door, or a tilted patch of sage-green that had once
been a shutter.

The road, just in front of the sidewalk where I sat and played
jacks, would be ankle-deep in dust, and seemed to drink up the
moonlight like folds of velvet.  It drank up sound, too; muffled
the wagon-wheels and hoof-beats; lay soft and meek like the last
residuum of material things,--the soft bottom resting-place.
Nothing in the world, not snow mountains or blue seas, is so
beautiful in moonlight as the soft, dry summer roads in a farming
country, roads where the white dust falls back from the slow wagon-

Wonderful things do happen even in the dullest places--in the
cornfields and the wheat-fields.  Sitting there on the edge of the
sidewalk one summer night, my feet hanging in the warm dust, I saw
a transit of Venus.  Only the three of us were there.  It was a hot
night, and the clerks had closed the store and gone home.  Mr.
Dillon and Mr. Trueman waited on a little while to watch.  It was a
very blue night, breathless and clear, not the smallest cloud from
horizon to horizon.  Everything up there overhead seemed as usual,
it was the familiar face of a summer-night sky.  But presently we
saw one bright star moving.  Mr. Dillon called to me; told me to
watch what was going to happen, as I might never chance to see it
again in my lifetime.

That big star certainly got nearer and nearer the moon,--very
rapidly, too, until there was not the width of your hand between
them--now the width of two fingers--then it passed directly into
the moon at about the middle of its girth; absolutely disappeared.
The star we had been watching was gone.  We waited, I do not know
how long, but it seemed to me about fifteen minutes.  Then we saw a
bright wart on the other edge of the moon, but for a second only,--
the machinery up there worked fast.  While the two men were
exclaiming and telling me to look, the planet swung clear of the
golden disk, a rift of blue came between them and widened very
fast.  The planet did not seem to move, but that inky blue space
between it and the moon seemed to spread.  The thing was over.

My friends stayed on long past their usual time and talked about
eclipses and such matters.

"Let me see," Mr. Trueman remarked slowly, "they reckon the moon's
about two hundred and fifty thousand miles away from us.  I wonder
how far that star is."

"I don't know, J. H., and I really don't much care.  When we can
get the tramps off the railroad, and manage to run this town with
one fancy house instead of two, and have a Federal Government that
is as honest as a good banking business, then it will be plenty of
time to turn our attention to the stars."

Mr. Trueman chuckled and took his cigar from between his teeth.
"Maybe the stars will throw some light on all that, if we get the
run of them," he said humorously.  Then he added:  "Mustn't be a
reformer, R. E.  Nothing in it.  That's the only time you ever get
off on the wrong foot.  Life is what it always has been, always
will be.  No use to make a fuss."  He got up, said:  "Good-night,
R. E.," said good-night to me, too, because this had been an
unusual occasion, and went down the sidewalk with his wide, sailor-
like tread, as if he were walking the deck of his own ship.

When Dillon and Trueman went to St. Joseph, or, as we called it,
St. Joe, they stopped at the same hotel, but their diversions were
very dissimilar.  Mr. Dillon was a family man and a good Catholic;
he behaved in St. Joe very much as if he were at home.  His sister
was Mother Superior of a convent there, and he went to see her
often.  The nuns made much of him, and he enjoyed their admiration
and all the ceremony with which they entertained him.  When his two
daughters were going to the convent school, he used to give theatre
parties for them, inviting all their friends.

Mr. Trueman's way of amusing himself must have tried his friend's
patience--Dillon liked to regulate other people's affairs if they
needed it.  Mr. Trueman had a lot of poker-playing friends among
the commission men in St. Joe, and he sometimes dropped a good deal
of money.  He was supposed to have rather questionable women
friends there, too.  The grasshopper men of our town used to say
that Trueman was financial adviser to a woman who ran a celebrated
sporting house.  Mary Trent, her name was.  She must have been a
very unusual woman; she had credit with all the banks, and never
got into any sort of trouble.  She had formerly been head mistress
of a girls' finishing school and knew how to manage young women.
It was probably a fact that Trueman knew her and found her
interesting, as did many another sound business man of that time.
Mr. Dillon must have shut his ears to these rumours,--a measure of
the great value he put on Trueman's companionship.

Though they did not see much of each other on these trips, they
immensely enjoyed taking them together.  They often dined together
at the end of the day, and afterwards went to the theatre.  They
both loved the theatre; not this play or that actor, but the
theatre,--whether they saw Hamlet or Pinafore.  It was an age of
good acting, and the drama held a more dignified position in the
world than it holds today.

After Dillon and Trueman had come home from the city, they used
sometimes to talk over the plays they had seen, recalling the great
scenes and fine effects.  Occasionally an item in the Kansas City
Star would turn their talk to the stage.

"J. H., I see by the paper that Edwin Booth is very sick," Mr.
Dillon announced one evening as Trueman came up to take the empty

"Yes, I noticed."  Trueman sat down and lit his dead cigar.  "He's
not a young man any more."  A long pause.  Dillon always seemed to
know when the pause would be followed by a remark, and waited for
it.  "The first time I saw Edwin Booth was in Buffalo.  It was in
Richard the Second, and it made a great impression on me at the
time."  Another pause.  "I don't know that I'd care to see him in
that play again.  I like tragedy, but that play's a little too
tragic.  Something very black about it.  I think I prefer Hamlet."

They had seen Mary Anderson in St. Louis once, and talked of it for
years afterwards.  Mr. Dillon was very proud of her because she was
a Catholic girl, and called her "our Mary."  It was curious that a
third person, who had never seen these actors or read the plays,
could get so much of the essence of both from the comments of two
business men who used none of the language in which such things are
usually discussed, who merely reminded each other of moments here
and there in the action.  But they saw the play over again as they
talked of it, and perhaps whatever is seen by the narrator as he
speaks is sensed by the listener, quite irrespective of words.
This transference of experience went further: in some way the lives
of those two men came across to me as they talked, the strong,
bracing reality of successful, large-minded men who had made their
way in the world when business was still a personal adventure.


Mr. Dillon went to Chicago once a year to buy goods for his store.
Trueman would usually accompany him as far as St. Joe, but no
farther.  He dismissed Chicago as "too big."  He didn't like to be
one of the crowd, didn't feel at home in a city where he wasn't
recognized as J. H. Trueman.

It was one of these trips to Chicago that brought about the end--
for me and for them; a stupid, senseless, commonplace end.

Being a Democrat, already somewhat "tainted" by the free-silver
agitation, one spring Dillon delayed his visit to Chicago in order
to be there for the Democratic Convention--it was the Convention
that first nominated Bryan.

On the night after his return from Chicago, Mr. Dillon was seated
in his chair on the sidewalk, surrounded by a group of men who
wanted to hear all about the nomination of a man from a neighbour
State.  Mr. Trueman came across the street in his leisurely way,
greeted Dillon, and asked him how he had found Chicago,--whether he
had had a good trip.

Mr. Dillon must have been annoyed because Trueman didn't mention
the Convention.  He threw back his head rather haughtily.  "Well,
J. H., since I saw you last, we've found a great leader in this
country, and a great orator."  There was a frosty sparkle in his
voice that presupposed opposition,--like the feint of a boxer
getting ready.

"Great windbag!" muttered Trueman.  He sat down in his chair, but I
noticed that he did not settle himself and cross his legs as usual.

Mr. Dillon gave an artificial laugh.  "It's nothing against a man
to be a fine orator.  All the great leaders have been eloquent.
This Convention was a memorable occasion; it gave the Democratic
party a rebirth."

"Gave it a black eye, and a blind spot, I'd say!" commented
Trueman.  He didn't raise his voice, but he spoke with more heat
than I had ever heard from him.  After a moment he added:  "I guess
Grover Cleveland must be a sick man; must feel like he'd taken a
lot of trouble for nothing."

Mr. Dillon ignored these thrusts and went on telling the group
around him about the Convention, but there was a special nimbleness
and exactness in his tongue, a chill politeness in his voice that
meant anger.  Presently he turned again to Mr. Trueman, as if he
could now trust himself:

"It was one of the great speeches of history, J. H.; our
grandchildren will have to study it in school, as we did Patrick

"Glad I haven't got any grandchildren, if they'd be brought up on
that sort of tall talk," said Mr. Trueman.  "Sounds like a
schoolboy had written it.  Absolutely nothing back of it but an
unsound theory."

Mr. Dillon's laugh made me shiver; it was like a thin glitter of
danger.  He arched his curly eyebrows provokingly.

"We'll have four years of currency reform, anyhow.  By the end of
that time, you old dyed-in-the-wool Republicans will be thinking
differently.  The under dog is going to have a chance."

Mr. Trueman shifted in his chair.  "That's no way for a banker to
talk."  He spoke very low.  "The Democrats will have a long time to
be sorry they ever turned Pops.  No use talking to you while your
Irish is up.  I'll wait till you cool off."  He rose and walked
away, less deliberately than usual, and Mr. Dillon, watching his
retreating figure, laughed haughtily and disagreeably.  He asked
the grain-elevator man to take the vacated chair.  The group about
him grew, and he sat expounding the reforms proposed by the
Democratic candidate until a late hour.

For the first time in my life I listened with breathless interest
to a political discussion.  Whoever Mr. Dillon failed to convince,
he convinced me.  I grasped it at once: that gold had been
responsible for most of the miseries and inequalities of the world;
that it had always been the club the rich and cunning held over the
poor; and that "the free and unlimited coinage of silver" would
remedy all this.  Dillon declared that young Mr. Bryan had looked
like the patriots of old when he faced and challenged high finance
with:  "You shall not press this crown of thorns upon the brow of
labour; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."  I
thought that magnificent; I thought the cornfields would show them
a thing or two, back there!

R. E. Dillon had never taken an aggressive part in politics.  But
from that night on, the Democratic candidate and the free-silver
plank were the subject of his talks with his customers and
depositors.  He drove about the country convincing the farmers,
went to the neighbouring towns to use his influence with the
merchants, organized the Bryan Club and the Bryan Ladies' Quartette
in our county, contributed largely to the campaign fund.  This was
all a new line of conduct for Mr. Dillon, and it sat unsteadily on
him.  Even his voice became unnatural; there was a sting of
comeback in it.  His new character made him more like other people
and took away from his special personal quality.  I wonder whether
it was not Trueman, more than Bryan, who put such an edge on him.

While all these things were going on, Trueman kept to his own
office.  He came to Dillon's bank on business, but he did not "come
back to the sidewalk," as I put it to myself.  He waited and said
nothing, but he looked grim.  After a month or so, when he saw that
this thing was not going to blow over, when he heard how Dillon had
been talking to representative men all over the county, and saw the
figure he had put down for the campaign fund, then Trueman remarked
to some of his friends that a banker had no business to commit
himself to a scatter-brained financial policy which would destroy

The next morning Mr. Trueman went to the bank across the street,
the rival of Dillon's, and wrote a cheque on Dillon's bank "for the
amount of my balance."  He wasn't the sort of man who would ever
know what his balance was, he merely kept it big enough to cover
emergencies.  That afternoon the Merchants' National took the check
over to Dillon on its collecting rounds, and by night the word was
all over town that Trueman had changed his bank.  After this there
would be no going back, people said.  To change your bank was one
of the most final things you could do.  The little, unsuccessful
men were pleased, as they always are at the destruction of anything
strong and fine.

All through the summer and the autumn of that campaign Mr. Dillon
was away a great deal.  When he was at home, he took his evening
airing on the sidewalk, and there was always a group of men about
him, talking of the coming election; that was the most exciting
presidential campaign people could remember.  I often passed this
group on my way to the post-office, but there was no temptation to
linger now.  Mr. Dillon seemed like another man, and my zeal to
free humanity from the cross of gold had cooled.  Mr. Trueman I
seldom saw.  When he passed me on the street, he nodded kindly.

The election and Bryan's defeat did nothing to soften Dillon.  He
had been sure of a Democratic victory.  I believe he felt almost as
if Trueman were responsible for the triumph of Hanna and McKinley.
At least he knew that Trueman was exceedingly well satisfied, and
that was bitter to him.  He seemed to me sarcastic and sharp all
the time now.

I don't believe self-interest would ever have made a breach between
Dillon and Trueman.  Neither would have taken advantage of the
other.  If a combination of circumstances had made it necessary
that one or the other should take a loss in money or prestige, I
think Trueman would have pocketed the loss.  That was his way.  It
was his code, moreover.  A gentleman pocketed his gains
mechanically, in the day's routine; but he pocketed losses
punctiliously, with a sharp, if bitter, relish.  I believe now, as
I believed then, that this was a quarrel of "principle."  Trueman
looked down on anyone who could take the reasoning of the Populist
party seriously.  He was a perfectly direct man, and he showed his
contempt.  That was enough.  It lost me my special pleasure of
summer nights: the old stories of the early West that sometimes
came to the surface; the minute biographies of the farming people;
the clear, detailed, illuminating accounts of all that went on in
the great crop-growing, cattle-feeding world; and the silence,--the
strong, rich, outflowing silence between two friends, that was as
full and satisfying as the moonlight.  I was never to know its like

After that rupture nothing went well with either of my two great
men.  Things were out of true, the equilibrium was gone.  Formerly,
when they used to sit in their old places on the sidewalk, two
black figures with patches of shadow below, they seemed like two
bodies held steady by some law of balance, an unconscious relation
like that between the earth and the moon.  It was this mathematical
harmony which gave a third person pleasure.

Before the next presidential campaign came round, Mr. Dillon died
(a young man still) very suddenly, of pneumonia.  We didn't know
that he was seriously ill until one of his clerks came running to
our house to tell us he was dead.  The same clerk, half out of his
wits--it looked like the end of the world to him--ran on to tell
Mr. Trueman.

Mr. Trueman thanked him.  He called his confidential man, and told
him to order flowers from Kansas City.  Then he went to his house,
informed his housekeeper that he was going away on business, and
packed his bag.  That same night he boarded the Santa Fé Limited
and didn't stop until he was in San Francisco.  He was gone all
spring.  His confidential clerk wrote him letters every week about
the business and the new calves, and got telegrams in reply.
Trueman never wrote letters.

When Mr. Trueman at last came home, he stayed only a few months.
He sold out everything he owned to a stranger from Kansas City; his
feeding ranch, his barns and sheds, his house and town lots.  It
was a terrible blow to me; now only the common, everyday people
would be left.  I used to walk mournfully up and down before his
office while all these deeds were being signed,--there were usually
lawyers and notaries inside.  But once, when he happened to be
alone, he called me in, asked me how old I was now, and how far
along I had got in school.  His face and voice were more than kind,
but he seemed absent-minded, as if he were trying to recall
something.  Presently he took from his watch-chain a red seal I had
always admired, reached for my hand, and dropped the piece of
carnelian into my palm.

"For a keepsake," he said evasively.

When the transfer of his property was completed, Mr. Trueman left
us for good.  He spent the rest of his life among the golden hills
of San Francisco.  He moved into the Saint Francis Hotel when it
was first built, and had an office in a high building at the top of
what is now Powell Street.  There he read his letters in the
morning and played poker at night.  I've heard a man whose offices
were next his tell how Trueman used to sit tilted back in his desk
chair, a half-consumed cigar in his mouth, morning after morning,
apparently doing nothing, watching the Bay and the ferry-boats,
across a line of wind-racked eucalyptus trees.  He died at the
Saint Francis about nine years after he left our part of the world.

The breaking-up of that friendship between two men who scarcely
noticed my existence was a real loss to me, and has ever since been
a regret.  More than once, in Southern countries where there is a
smell of dust and dryness in the air and the nights are intense, I
have come upon a stretch of dusty white road drinking up the
moonlight beside a blind wall, and have felt a sudden sadness.
Perhaps it was not until the next morning that I knew why,--and
then only because I had dreamed of Mr. Dillon or Mr. Trueman in my
sleep.  When that old scar is occasionally touched by chance, it
rouses the old uneasiness; the feeling of something broken that
could so easily have been mended; of something delightful that was
senselessly wasted, of a truth that was accidentally distorted--one
of the truths we want to keep.

Pasadena, 1931


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