Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
DefectiveByDesign.org



Title:      The Prodigal Parents (1938)
Author:     Sinclair Lewis
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0301071.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          August 2003
Date most recently updated: August 2003

This eBook was produced by: Don Lainson dlainson@sympatico.ca

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Prodigal Parents (1938)
Author:     Sinclair Lewis







CHAPTER I


In the darkness of the country road after midnight the car was
speeding, but the three young men jammed together in the one seat
did not worry.  They were exhilarated by the violence of the
speeches they had heard at the strikers' mass meeting in the
factory town of Cathay.  When the car skidded slightly on a turn
and the left-hand wheels crunched on the gravelled shoulder, the
driver yelped, 'Hey, whoa-up!'  But she did not whoa-up.

They were not drunk, except with high spirits.  They had had a few
bottles of beer, but what intoxicated them was the drama of thick-
necked, bright-eyed strike leaders denouncing the tyranny of the
bosses, the press, the taxpayers and all other oppressors.  Two of
the young men were juniors in Truxon College, and as they
considered themselves to have been frequently and ludicrously
misjudged by their own bosses, their parents and professors, they
would (they told themselves) have stayed on in Cathay, joined the
picket line, brave with bricks and pick handles, and probably have
been gloriously killed, had it not been for a critically important
fraternity dance at Truxon next evening.

As a substitute for thus entering the martyrs' profession, they now
howled a song which stated that Labour was a Mighty Giant which was
going to smash all its foemen immediately.

The third young man did not sing with them.  He was a radical
agitator; his name was Eugene Silga; he was slim and taut, with
skin the colour of a cigar; and he had had quite enough singing in
Cathay County Jail, a month ago.  When the students stopped for
breath, he protested, in the easy voice of a professional speaker,
'You seem to think it's going to be a cinch to overthrow the
exploiting capitalist class--your own class, remember, you cursed
sons of aristocrats.  It's not!  It'll take a lot more than singing
to make Wall Street apologize to the Proletariat and go crawl in a
hole.'

'Hurray!  Wall Street in a hole!  Lez go dig the hole!' bawled the
driver.

This driver was a tall, wide young man, with wavy hair of red gold,
a Norse god with eyes like the Baltic Sea in summer, and a face
handsome as a magazine cover and stupid as a domesticated carp.
His name was Howard Cornplow, and he was an adept in football, in
golf, and in finding reasons why, at any particular recitation
hour, he knew nothing whatever about the epistemology of Plato's
Meno.  He did know a great deal about the crawl stroke, however,
which may have been just as well.

Howard Cornplow was a hearty young man, and he loved to argue.
Accelerating a little, occasionally looking away from the road
toward the agitator Silga, who sat in the dimness over beside the
right-hand door, he shouted, 'Oh, rats, Gene!  Don't you think if
all us educated guys gang up on our folks, they'll snap out of
their fool ex-up-expropriating attitude?'

'I do not!'

'Now look here.  You take my dad.  Old Fred.  I can argue him down
till he skips out and slams the door.'

As Howard continued, it was revealed that this 'dad', motor dealer
in the city of Sachem Falls, N.Y., was an acceptable fellow, and
that he was chronically overcome by his son's eloquence.  Just to
clarify it, Howard gave samples of the eloquence, and during the
spirited recital he forgot that he was driving an automobile, and
at sixty-five miles an hour.

The other student, Guy Staybridge, scrawny, big-nosed, spectacled,
eager, wailed, 'Hey, watch what you're doing, will you, young
Cornplow?'

'Don't you worry.  I'm a careful driver,' clucked the Norse god, as
he happily developed his theme that, in order to be converted to
loving communism, the stuffy, prosperous, middle-class merchants
like Fred Cornplow needed nothing more than friendly tips from such
up-to-date examples of the Youth Movement as Howard Cornplow,
Eugene Silga, and Guy Staybridge, with a few explanations about how
the economic system really worked.

The car swayed on an abrupt turning.  Howard kept it snugly to the
right.  But this was an S-curve, and as Howard looked away from the
road towards Eugene, accelerating a little in his triumphant high
spirits, the car, in a hundredth of a second, in a madness of speed
that had nothing to do with time by the watch, bolted across the
ditch, bounded on turf, twisted--crushing the three young men
closer together--half swung around, grazed a birch tree, smashed a
fender and a headlight and half the hood, and came up short, while
the huddle of three were jerked sidewise, then hurled toward the
windshield.

Instantly, an incredible silence of night.  The car's lights were
gone.  Stillness and darkness clothed them in unreality.  Nothing
had happened.  They were dead, worried Eugene Silga, as slowly he
came to believe that he was not dead.

He was on his hands and knees on the wet turf of early winter; his
cheek seemed to be bleeding, and his left shoulder stung; he could
feel that his sleeves had been slashed to rags.  But Gene Silga had
been through riots, through club and paving-stone battles between
strikers and policemen; he had been beaten by deputies; he was a
veteran; and for all the reeking ache of his shoulder, he was not
hysterical as he decided that the right-hand door must have burst
open and himself been hurled out.  He crawled to his feet, more
conscious of the cold grass than of his pain, and sloped toward the
car.  No sound save hoarse breathing in this obscene silence.

He lit a cigar lighter--it was a trinket of gold--foppish and
expensive for an agitator like Gene Silga; and the wife of a cement
manufacturer had given it to him when he was abetting a strike
against her husband.  He saw that Howard Cornplow and Guy
Staybridge were bleeding from cut foreheads, both of them
unconscious, both alive.

He felt them over.  He quietly set the flaming cigar lighter in a
crevice of the crumpled dashboard, and with his handkerchief and
others from the boys' pockets, bound their heads.  He tugged Howard
out of the car and laid him on the earth, his own coat under the
Norse god's head.  He propped up Guy in the seat.  He stepped down
from the running board, wincing as, to his sick fancy, his shoulder
seemed to howl with pain.  He staggered into the road and looked
methodically back and ahead.

He made out a tiny light back along the road and went swaying
toward it, his thin hand pressed tight to his shoulder.  As he
plodded, he hummed the 'Internationale', though it was punctuated
with small groans.

The source of the light was a farmhouse, a bulk of darkness--and
instantly there was a hateful dog pattering toward him, snarling.
Gene kicked to right and left, felt a stone with his toe, stooped,
cringing with pain, to pick up the stone, and marched on to meet
the coming dog . . .  For more than a year, once, Gene had been a
hobo and learned the harsh wisdom of outfacing dangers: deppities
and railroad dicks and their relatives, the savage dogs.  He
gushed, in the tone of a spinster lady addressing her Pekinese:
'Why Towser I'm tho ashamed of you!  Don't oo remember oo's old
friend Gene, oo sweet dirty son of a so and so, darling?'

The dog was puzzled.  In a truce, but a truce still armed, it
sniffed at Gene and followed him to the farmhouse door, from which
an old man was peering.

Gene droned, 'Motor accident--smash-up--got a telephone I can use?'

'Guess so.  Thought I heard a crash.  Come in, boy.'

Gene telephoned on to Truxon village, site of the college, for an
ambulance, a doctor.  When he turned, the farmer called from an
adjoining room, 'Be right with you, soon 's I dress.'

'Thanks, sir.  I'll go ahead.'

'Want a flashlight?'

The question seemed to stir in Gene Silga some startling thought,
and he sounded doubtful as he muttered, 'Oh.  Oh, sure, you bet.
Thanks.'

He was too reflective, as he trembled out of the house, to pay much
heed to the still grumbling dog; he absently patted its head, while
its tail wagged as finally it recognized a fellow killer.

On his way to the car, Gene thought angrily:  'Well, why not?  Why
shouldn't I?  These snobs like Howard--oh, they'll buy you a
dinner, yes, with beer and highballs, if they've recently gouged
any money out of their slave-drivers of dads.  That's so they can
show off how liberal and brave they are.  But do they care a hoot
whether an organizer has one cent for breakfast--whether you sleep
in a lousy lodging house--whether you have to hitch-hike to the
next town?  They do not!  They've got to be MADE to care, and to
pay.  It's not for me personally.  It's for the Revolution . . .
Stealing? . . .  Nothing but a word.  One of my last holdovers from
bourgeois morals . . .  Didn't Stalin himself,' and mentally, Gene
crossed himself, 'didn't he rob banks, as a youngster, to get money
for the Cause? . . .  Of course I'll do it.'

He had reached the wrecked car.

He ran the glow of the flashlight over Howard and Guy Staybridge.
They were still out.  With fingers sensitive as those of a
miniature painter, or even a pickpocket, he searched them.  From
inside Howard's coat he took a billfold which contained three ten-
dollar bills, six ones and a five.  He removed one ten and three
ones; with precise care he folded them small and tucked them into
his shoe; and more delicately than ever he slid the billfold back
into the pocket where (but only according to outmoded bourgeois
ethics, of course) it belonged.

He examined Howard's bandage, straightened it a little, and sat on
the running board till the farmer and the ambulance should come.
He had already forgotten the pleasant addition to his war chest.
He was thinking of the editorial on the flimsiness of college
courses in economics which he was going to write as soon as he
succeeded in founding a communist magazine.

The farmer loomed up, grunted, looked, exhibited the proper
pleasure at seeing a real accident so near his hearthstone, made
sure that he got his flashlight back from Gene and went away after,
surprisingly, asking no questions beyond:  Who were these three
young men?  Their occupations?  Their parentage?  Dates of birth?
Place of birth?  Their opinions of Franklin D. Roosevelt?  And
where had they been going, and why were they going so fast,
considering that the farmer himself never drove over 30 m.p.h.--
though, course, it was true that he didn't have no car like this
Triumph Special, a dandy job that Special was, and how many m.p.h.
did Gene, upon reasoned opinion, think a Triumph could do?

The coming ambulance smashed the grateful peace after the farmer
had gone his ways, provided with new breakfast conversation.

The doctor in the Truxon ambulance found that there was among the
three young men no mortal injury: Howard Cornplow had a superficial
frontal cut and two ribs cracked against the steering wheel; Guy
Staybridge, a fractured arm and a contusion probably not serious;
Gene Silga, a broken shoulder-blade.

'Of course you young college geniuses . . .' began the interne, on
the front seat with Gene and the driver.

'I'm no young college genius.  I got kicked out of City College of
New York six years ago, when I was twenty, for insubordination: to
wit, telling a prof that he was a fat-headed grafter and beating up
a tin soldier who tried to stop a pacifist parade,' said Gene, in
the gentlest of purrs.

'Well anyway, you young hell-raisers think you've got more zip than
four thousand pounds of steel and petrol.  Anybody that ever drives
over forty miles an hour is a fool,' said the interne--as the
ambulance accelerated to fifty.  Fretfully he added, to the driver,
'Step on it, can't you?  I got to get back to my poker game.  I need
a little sleep, but, as I was telling you, what could I do when I
had a full house, and Doc Brady lays for me, and seems he has four
kinks, cold, and so I kep' raising him and he raised back . . .
What's the matter with this bus, anyway?  Crawls along like a steam-
roller.'



CHAPTER II


To Frederick William Cornplow, this day was as another.  The round
little man, district agent for Triumph and Houndtooth automobiles
in the Sachem Falls territory, had finished his cornflakes and
bacon and poached eggs, in the scarlet-and-canary-yellow breakfast
porch, which was not a porch, when he was called to the telephone
and learned that his son, Howard, was in the hospital with injuries
from a motor accident.

'I'll be there right away,' answered Fred Cornplow evenly.

He told neither his good wife, Hazel, nor his daughter, Sara, of
the accident.  For Hazel, who always drifted down to breakfast
late, a soft and smiling sleepyhead, he left a note, 'Had to hustle
office to see a man.  F.'

The distance from his brick Colonial house, on the corner of
Fenimore Cooper Boulevard and Tuke Street, Sachem Falls, N.Y., to
the William Jackson Belch Infirmary, Truxon College, was seventy
and a half miles, with a good deal of factory trucking traffic.  He
drove it in two hours flat.  He got up to seventy on stretches, but
through villages he dropped to twenty-five.  He was a veteran
driver and rigidly careful.  He decidedly did not sing about Labour
being a giant or anything else.  He did not think much of Labour
anyway.  He employed it.

Through the drive, never taking his eyes from the road, he
alternately decided that Howard could not be badly hurt, therefore
Howard was a young fool and ought to have his car taken away from
him, and that Howard was nigh unto death, in which case he was a
superb driver whose accident was due to some double-damned garage
mechanic's carelessness with steering gear or brakes . . . and
that, in either case, the Norse god, with his kinky copper hair and
his easy smile, was his father's heart and soul and means of
immortality.

Fred jumped out at the Truxon infirmary, just back of the white and
pillared official residence of the college president, and ran up
the steps, but to the reception girl he said with gravity, 'My name
is Cornplow.  I believe my son was injured in a smash.'

'Oh yes.  He's not badly hurt.  The doctor isn't here, but I think
you can go in and see Mr. Cornplow--he's in Room E, with some other
stoodents.'

As Fred clumped up the linoleum-shining stairs, he reflected that
it was startling to hear Howard called 'Mr. Cornplow'.  He, Fredk
Wm, was Mr. Cornplow.  Howard--heck!--he was HOWARD!

He peeped into Room E, where, sunk on their pillows or sitting on
the edges of their beds, were six young men, all bandaged, all
pale, and all--in Fred's opinion--crazy as ticks, for they were
screaming their opinions (or the opinions of whichever newspaper
they happened to read) of Russia, Roosevelt, Manchuria, backgammon,
biochemistry, and the ham and cabbage at the college dining hall.

Howard was on his back.  As Fred walked between the rows of beds,
shy in the presence of these gilded young strangers, irritated that
he had been so yearningly sentimental all the way from Sachem,
Howard saw him and bellowed, 'Hello, Dad!  Swell of you to come.
I'm O.K.  Couple of ribs K.O.'d.  They don't hurt much, but gosh
almighty, the doc insisted on putting a big, thick adhesive-tape
bandage on me, it's like a double-strength corset, and wow, does it
itch, ask me, DOES it, and the bandage so thick you can't scratch
through it, and say, I figure there's a whole war manoeuvres going
on underneath it--there's six regiments of fleas and a troop of
light-mounted lice and . . .'

Fred sat on a chair by the bed and he, the round, the cheery, the
jesting salesman, was solemn, feeling that the other crocks were
inspecting this phenomenon, a Visiting Father.  He interrupted:

'How'd it happen?'

'Happen?  Nobody could've avoided it.  Car jumped the road and
hit a tree.  And I was cold sober, and tending strictly to
business . . .'

'How fast?'

'Fast?  You mean how fast was I going?'

'I do.'

'Oh, I dunno--not more 'n forty . . .'

'Or maybe sixty?'

'Well, you know--just a fair cruising speed.  There was an S-curve
there--absolutely a disgrace--entirely the fault of the county
authorities--simply a crime--and when I get out of this, I'm going
to sue the county.  Oh say, Dad, you know Guy Staybridge, from
Sachem, don't you--old hawkface, there in the next bed?'

Fred bowed.  Guy waggled a melancholy fingertip.  'Oh, yes--the son
of Putnam Staybridge?' Fred murmured.

'I--I understand so,' said Guy.

Fred was almost reverent.  Like most Americans, he was perfectly
democratic, except, perhaps, as regards social standing, wealth,
political power, and club membership; but was not Mr. Putnam
Staybridge believed to be a descendant of the Mayflower?  Was he
not the chief aristocrat of Sachem Falls?

Howard was volleying on:  'Yessir, absolutely county supervisors'
fault, and they ought to be shown up.  Just like all governments,
except in Russia--oppress the people and kill 'em by tyranny and
darn careless sloppiness.  Dad, did you realize that in the past
year--and the Americans thinking THEY'RE so efficient--the growth
in production in heavy industry in the Ural section of Russia has
been two hundred and seventeen per cent?'

'So?  What is this "heavy industry"?'

'Heavy industry?  Oh, you know.  Darn it, I guess Gene Silga--say,
now I think of it, I wonder where they took Gene when they brought
us here, Guy?--but anyway, I don't believe Gene said anything about
what heavy industry does cover.  It's machines and so on, isn't it?
What d'you think, Dad?'

Fred Cornplow, in the manner of a Roman candle on Fourth of July
evening, suddenly flowered and flamed in parental rage.  But he
spoke so softly that not even Guy, in the next bed, could overhear.

'Think?  Think?  I think you're a conceited, inconsiderate young
pup!  I think you're so self-centred and so dogGONE satisfied
with yourself that it never occurs to you to remember how you might
scare your mother and Sara and me, or how you hurt our feelings!  I
think it would be a bright idea to keep your scholarship marks from
dropping about two hundred and seventeen per cent per each and
every doggone annum, instead of going around feeling good because
you've personally whooped up Soviet production so doggone much.
And finally, I suppose you'll expect me to pay for having your car
fixed after you've deliberately been and gone and driven so
carelessly that I know doggone well you weren't keeping your eyes
on the road and you ran off it!  And of course, pass the buck to
the county--and to me, to get it fixed!'

Howard's blue eyes of a young Balder, Norse godling of the summer
radiance, looked hurt.

'But gee, Dad, it won't cost so much, will it, if you have it done
in your own repair shop, at the agency?'

Fred was glaring now, and Howard begged, 'Gosh, honest, I wasn't
driving fast, Dad.  I don't THINK I was.  I'm awfully sorry.'

'Grrrrr!' said Fredk Wm.  For this was the third calamitous
accident Howard had achieved in two years, and each time Fred had
determined that it was his duty, finally, to say 'Grrrrr!'



CHAPTER III


'It might have been something I ate.  That's what it was.  Prob'ly
something I ate,' said Fred.  'Or maybe it was the snow glare.
Made me dizzy.  Or prob'ly that cold I had last week.  But chances
are,' and he spoke with solidity and conviction, 'it was something
I ate.'

He crawled from under the mountain range of bedclothes, he rubbed
his forehead, he scratched his ruddy moustache, which resembled
half a doughnut, he flapped his tongue in an interested and
speculative manner, he took a romantic position, eyes closed and
forefinger to temple, as befitted one who was importantly ill, and
he croaked, 'I'll bet it was the pie.'

'If you know just what you're talking about, dear, I'd be glad of a
tip on the subject,' sighed his wife, from the other twin bed in
their pink and creamy chamber.

'If I--if I KNOW--what I'm talking about!'  He was moved to light a
cigarette, though normally he was not one to sit in his nightshirt,
upon the edges of beds, after midnight, and toy with cigarettes.
'Of course--of course.  Man dying of pneumonia or malaria or
something--just dying, that's all--and all his family is interested
in is:  "Does he know what he's talking about?"'

'Dear, I just meant . . .  What is it, really?'

'I've got a fever.'

'You?  A fever?'

'Yes, me.  Not Sara, nor Howard, nor the cat, nor the maid's second
cousin's brother-in-law, but me!  F-e-v-e-r!'

Hazel Cornplow, plump little wife of the plump little man, climbed
out of the misty layers of sleep in which she had been nestling,
out of the downy strata of the very best poplin and blankets and
foamy pink comforter, appropriate to this February night, drowsily
wrapped herself in something that was a cross between, a feather
boa and a Persian rug ($31.98 at Swazey & Lindbeck's, this past
Christmas), and laid her plump, kind hand on his forehead.

'My!  It does seem hot!' she exulted, with the pleasure all right-
thinking persons feel in discovering that the best-beloved is
helpless and that we shall be allowed to manage him.

'Something I ate.  Lunch at the Elks' Club,' he croaked, ignorant
of how fondly, in what he believed to be a grand and impressive
tantrum, he was looking at her.

'What did you have?'

'Well--you know--just an ordinary lunch--I was lunching with Walter
Lindbeck and Doc Kamerkink--we were talking about coddling the
unemployed.  I said to the doc, "Where's this business going to
end, that's what I want to know;" and Walter says . . .'

'But what did you eat, dear?'

'Oh.  Eat?  Well, zy remember it, I had some corn soup, and I wish
to thunder you'd try to coax that hired girl to make it for me
oftener, no better soup made than a good corn soup with CORN in it,
and I had couple pork chops and some pickled beets and pickled
watermelon rind and some cucumbers and some pie a la mode--raisin
pie it was, with orange ice on it. . .'

Over Hazel's face--after slumber she looked not her fifty-three,
but a fresh thirty--quivered a grin.

Fred held up his hand like a traffic policeman and protested:

'No!  Wait!  I know!  I guess maybe it wasn't an entirely sensible
lunch.  But still, I don't rate this awful fever just from mixing
up my grub a little.  Are you going to sit there and gabble while
I'm practically dying, you might say?'

'Oh, I know, Fred.  Listen.  Sara's got a clinical thermometer up
in her room--she used it for something or other when she was doing
charity work in New York.  It'll tell if you really feel bad.'

'I don't need any clinical thermometer to tell me how I feel!  I
just listen to the voice of my inner conscience, and it tells me I
feel like the wrath of God!'

'I'm not,' she said, with that power of ignoring chatter which a
professional wife develops after thirty years, 'I'm not sure I can
read the thermometer right.  Isn't it funny how we brought up two
children without thermometers or bran or psychology or any of those
new inventions!  But I'll try it.'

She paddled into the wide hall with its landscape wallpaper.  She
did not seem oppressively worried.  When she returned with the
thermometer, which she held as though it were composed of dynamite,
she spoke not of woe and mortalities, but gossiped, 'Almost one
o'clock, and Sara not in yet.'

'Where the dickens that young woman goes . . .  These modern girls.
Sit AROUND.  Drink gin and try to talk politics!  Discuss
Conditions and Situations.  Never get any sleep.  They'll never
have our pep at our age.  When I was twenty-eight, like Sara . . .
Brugluph!'

Hazel, with the rapture of an amateur nurse, had taken advantage of
him by jamming the thermometer under his tongue.  He sat slowly
wobbling it with his lips, trying to continue his look of brave
suffering, though by now he had almost forgotten from what he
suffered.  The sight of the black-rubber thermometer case in
Hazel's hand recalled to him a new grievance, and as soon as she
had slid the glass tube out of his mouth, he exploded:

'And another thing!  You been using my fountain pen again!  Oh, I
can tell!  The cap was on loose.'

She did not listen to this entirely justified charge.  Like any
other sound wife, she intended to go right on using his pen, as
well as his razor and even his portable typewriter.

Studying the thermometer, she worried:

'Fred!  Darling!  You HAVE got a fever!'

'Whadie tell you!'

'But it seems quite bad.  If I make this thing out correctly, your
temperature is a hundred and twenty degrees!'

'You're crazy!  Gimme that thing!  Hundred and twenty!  If I had
that, I'd be dead.  I'll show you.'

He sucked the thermometer again, removed it, glanced at it with the
careless mastery of a veteran salesman, and howled, 'Good heavens,
girl, I HAVE got a temperature of a hundred and twenty!  I'm dead
as a doornail!'

Side by side, hands clinging, they sat worrying.

His lament had covered a sound of footsteps in the hall, and
neither of them was conscious of their daughter till she stood in
the door, demanding, like an inspector out raiding, 'Why the
wailing, Dad?  What may all the trouble be?'

Pitifully, like a child showing a broken toy, Fred held up the
thermometer, protesting, 'I've got a temperature of a hundred and
twenty!'

'Oh, stuff!'  Sara was, at twenty-eight, a perfect Queen Elizabeth.
(Her name had been Sarah until, as a junior in high school, she had
decapitated it.)  'You can't even read a thermometer.  A fine lot
of good you'd be if you were over in China now, fighting.  Couldn't
even care for the wounded.  As untrained as Howard.'

'I don't intend to be over in China now, fighting, nor any other
time, neither.  The home talent there takes plenty care of that.'

'Huh!  Here, open your mouth, Dad.'

She stood regally tall, silver cape about her seal-brown evening
frock, while Fred, not the meekest of little men, had his
temperature taken for the third time within ten minutes.

The lady Storm Trooper firmly removed the thermometer, and crowed,
'You haven't even half a degree of temperature.  What you need is
more sleep--at your age.  G' night.'

She was gone, trailing behind her that magnificent intolerance.

Hazel looked at Fred, just looked, understandingly, and he trembled
into speech:

'"At your age".  And me only fifty-five!  I ask you, is fifty-five
any "your age"?  It is not!  And here I'd intended to find out what
she means, staying out till all hours.  That's where I lost out--
when I first gave her a latchkey without a struggle.

'And . . .  I suppose a fellow always loves his own daughter, don't
he?' Fred pondered.

'Why, of course!'

'You do read in these novels and stories and everything where sons
and daughters don't always love their parents, though, don't you?'

'Yes, I . . . I guess maybe you do.'

'Think their folks are just cranks and stuffed shirts?'

'Yes, but--oh, she's young, Fred.'

'Her?  I'd been married three years, at her age.'

'Sara is so clever and educated and all.  And she does look exactly
like Diana.  So tall and elegant. . .'

'Diana who?'

'The goddess--you know--in that green book.'

And, indeed, Hazel did not exaggerate.  The supple, grey-eyed,
neat-nosed, swift-moving Miss Sara Cornplow did look exactly like
Diana--not that anybody knows how Diana looked.

'That don't excuse her for being so superior,' complained Fred.
'It beats the dickens how smart she is at making a fellow feel
guilty all the time about things that aren't any of his business.
Conditions and Situations!  Inhibitions and Hormones!  Russia!
Share croppers!  Miners' wages!  Rats!'

Always Fred would mix the literacy of his college days with the
colloquialisms of repair shop and junction lunchroom, till a
foreigner would be puzzled as to whether he might be a scholar or a
comedian.

'Doggone it, I don't own any mines!  I'm not underpaying any
miners!  I don't have to feel guilty!  I've always treated my
family O.K., haven't I?'

'Of course.'

'Ain't a man in the motor game that can say Fred Cornplow ever done
them, not even in the second-hand business.  Why, say, I don't
suppose I've pepped up some old plug with ether, not more'n half a
dozen times in my life.  But Sara--say, she even says, just because
I like a good healthy nightshirt better 'n I do pyjamas, that I
belong to the horse-and-buggy era--me that invented an oil filter
that almost got taken up by Ford--and prob'ly she thinks you're a
secret tobacco-chewer.

'And now that Howard seems to have gone and become a Red, guess
it's from some brain injury he got in that last accident, him and
Sara will gang up on me.  I could always count on their bucking
each other.  When she come out of Vassar and first got noble and
humanitarian on me, and had that six-months' charity job in New
York, Howard was all for athletics; and when she managed to hitch
up socialism and high sassiety, me having about an equal grouch on
both of 'em, Howard decided he was a hairy pioneer and liked
camping.  But if they work together, what a run they'll give us.

'Still, maybe I am hard on Sara.  She don't know yet what she wants
to do--sits around waiting for Santa Claus--can't decide will she
get married or be a missionary or raise wire-haired terriers.  Poor
kid, she's kind of lost, don't you think so?'

'Of course, dear.'

Hazel was wide asleep.  But so wrathful was he that, though he had
principles about 'getting your beauty sleep', he opened his current
detective story and found happiness again: the delights of Chinese
daggers, robbers' castles on the Yorkshire moors, baronets bleeding
in rooms with locked doors and no windows.

He sighed happily as he came to the end of the tale:

'". . . that whatever you say will be taken down in writing and may
be used against you", said Superintendent McCleaver.

'The professor coughed and raised a delicate hand to his pallid
lips.

'"Seize him, men!" shouted the superintendent, lumbering out of the
unwieldy Tudor chair.  Sergeant McBeaver sprang at the professor,
then stood appalled as that slim febrile body, all steel and
rubber, slumped in the chair, and his head fell sidewise.

'P.C. McDeaver growled, "He must 've had potassium cyanide (KCN)
concealed in his hand."

'The superintendent and Dr. Rosecliff exchanged slight smiles, and
the Doctor murmured, "Oh no, that wouldn't be, would it?  Or would
it?"'



Fred Cornplow joined them in the slight smiles.  This was fine.  He
was glad that they had captured the professor; a really dangerous,
anti-social gent, given to murdering with fishhooks the spinster
aunts of rural deans; but the poor maniac had been helpful to the
soya-bean farmers of West Wiltshire.  Fred looked tenderly at Hazel
and turned off the light, and not till 8 a.m. did he think again of
the slings and arrows of outrageous Sara, the sea of troubles that
was certain to lave the golden feet of Howard.



CHAPTER IV


Frederick William Cornplow was in his office, at the Triumph
agency, and he was busy.  He had perceived that it was time to add
an agency for trailers to his business, and he had sent his foreman
and assistant manager, Paul Popple, out to Chicago to look into the
matter of the Duplex Trailer, a new make, only just now in
production but promising well.

That left Fred shorthanded.  He had no one to sell cars except
salesmen, and they had one fault: they could not endure just
selling a car; they had to go through their little pieces about the
Triumph which, with such agony, they had learned from Fred, and if
a customer should attempt to buy a car off the floor, without
letting the salesman lift the bonnet and point out that those funny
jiggers there were the spark plugs, the salesman would go to
pieces.

Fred had finished the morning mail.  He had dictated to his
secretary his decisions that he wouldn't really care to donate a
free car to the Navaho, New Hampshire, Orphanage; nor serve as a
committeeman for the Chamber of Commerce annual banquet in honour
of Commodore Perry; nor contribute a hundred dollars to the Truxon
College badminton association.  Pleased that this morning he had
been satisfactorily hardhearted, Fred lighted his first cigar of
the day (the cigarettes began just after the cornflakes), and
clucked, as into the office was ushered his sub-agent, Bert
Whizzle, Triumph representative at Enigmaville.

'Well, well, well, Bert, how's the boy?' he said.

'Fine, fine!  How's everything by you, Fred?'

'Swell!  Couldn't be better!  The new Houndtooth station wagon is
simply wiping all the other boys off the map.  You bet.  Well,
how's the little woman, Bert?'

'Fine, fine!  Just fine and dandy.'

'Fine!  And how's the three young uns, Bert?'

'Fine and dandy.  Just fine.  Say,' and Mr. Whizzle laughed a good
deal, 'here was the funniest thing.  Here couple nights ago we had
the kids' grandma over for supper, and I let Peggy--she's the
youngest--only six but bright's a dollar--I let her stay up to say
howdy to the old dame, and what d' you think she said to her?'

'What was it?  Tell me!'  Fred's enthusiasm was as untarnished as
on the day, twenty-nine years ago, when, a cadet travelling man in
hardware, he had sold his first glamorous order of sixteen tack
hammers and one three-tined manure fork.

'Well sir, believe me or not, the little tyke took one look at her
grandmother and she pipes up and says, "Say, Gramma, does oo smoke
cigarettes?"  Well, sir, I thought I'd die!  What d' you think of
Roosevelt's New Deal, Fred?'

Fred meditated swiftly.  Confound it, he couldn't remember whether
Mr. Whizzle was a Democrat or a Republican.  (It may be added that
there were times when Fred could not remember whether he himself
was a Sterling Republican or a Loyal Democrat.)  He said weightily,
'Way I see it: now you take F.D.R.  I'm perfectly certain there
ain't a more humanitarian politician in the country--and what a
voice on the radio!  But same time, the needs and aspirations of
the Republicans have got to be given every consideration.  Way I
see it!'

'You bet!  You're dead right,' said Mr. Whizzle feelingly.  'Well
say, Fred, got any interest in a couple 'r three orders this
morning?  Like to make a little dough?'

'Oh, I guess I could stand up under the foul blow--or fell blow,
whichever it is.  But the fact is . . .  Now I don't know whether
you'll believe this or not, but I'm not half as interested in the
cash as I am in the fun of the game.'  He did not believe that Mr.
Whizzle believed that he believed anything of the sort, but it made
a nice, refined atmosphere.

'Sure.  Same way myself, Fred.  Well, I've got orders for a
Houndtooth convertible coop, de luxe, Persian green; a Triumph two-
ton truck, closed body; and a Triumph special four-door sedan,
Garden of Allah sand colour.'

'Have 'em for you by to-morrow, if they aren't already in stock,'
chuckled Fred, as into the office charged his assistant, Paul
Popple, bawling, 'Mr. Cornplow, we've got hold of the biggest
thing . . .!'

'Just a minute!  Just a minute, Paul!  Can't you see I'm busy?  You
know Mr. Whizzle?'

'Oh--oh sure,' said Popple, as vaguely as a bridegroom.  When Mr.
Whizzle was gone, Fred turned on Popple with, 'Look here, son!  Am
I never going to learn you that it's these sub-agents that push off
most of the cars we sell?  Who do you think you are, anyway?'

'Oh, I'm sorry, but I was all excited.  You will be, too.'

'How'd you get back from Chicago so quick?  Didn't expect you till
to-morrow.'

'Flew, sir.'

'FLEW?'

'You bet.'

'In an aeroplane?'

'Nothing less.'

'Well, I'll be doggoned!  I've flown, couple of times.  But don't
know's I liked it so much.  Kept wanting to pull up beside the road
and rest a little and maybe chew the rag with a filling-station
attendant, and then I'd look down and there wasn't any road--just
spider webs, down there.  I felt like a toad in a cyclone.'  His
recollections were interrupted by the realization that Popple was
jittery with a grandiose impatience, and he complained, 'But what
was the idea?  What was all the rush?'

'Mr. Cornplow, I think we've gotten hold of a whale of a
proposition.  I've brought with me a contract giving us not just a
district agency but the whole of northern New York State for the
Duplex Trailer!  I looked it up, and there are six million people
in the territory, and if we can't sell fifty thousand Duplexes in
the next five years--'

'Take it easy!  Get down to brass tacks, Paul.  What is this
machine for counterfeiting money that you think you've discovered?'

'Honest, Mr. Cornplow, the Duplex is a natural!  It's got
everything.  On the road, it looks like an ordinary high-class
passenger trailer, except that it's about eighteen inches higher--
which still gives it as much clearance for railroad underpasses as
any big furniture truck.  Well, in that extra eighteen inches,
there's an entire extra story to the trailer, collapsed like a
bellows when you're driving.

'The roof of the second story--it's of aeroplane linen, with ribs
of ribbon steel--drops right down on the flat roof of the first
story, with room between them for collapsible aluminum-alloy beds
and chairs, and even collapsible washstands.  The sides of the
second story are of tarpaulin, and they cave in like an accordion.'

Fred was not interrupting.  Fred was a lively enough chatterer when
the customers wanted encouragement, but he had trained himself to
utter stillness of listening when it should be useful.

'When you make camp, you raise the top roof with compressed air
worked from the engine--in two minutes you can raise it, and you've
added three separate bedrooms, with tarpaulin partitions and a
gangway.  And that leaves you a really comfortable big living room
and kitchen downstairs.  So Pop and Mom and two-three kids can all
travel together with some privacy.  It's a real moving home!  It's
a knockout!  Look at these photos!'

Fred did look and felt like the first time he had put on radio
earphones, heard Philadelphia talking, and guessed that someday he
would listen from afar to presidents and kings.  Fred had always
found business a diverting struggle; he could not understand these
superior people who considered trade mechanical and witless; and in
the Duplex Trailer he smelled a new adventure.

'I kind of trust your mechanical sense, and you seem to think this
Duplex is O.K., Paul.  I'll think it over.'

'But I'm afraid you'll have to jump.  They can only keep it open
for us a few days.  Honestly!  You'll have to put up ten thousand
cash for a start.  All they need is that and your signature on the
contract.'

And Fred signed.  And the bookkeeper notarized.  And the office-boy
galloped off to the post-office to catch the air mail.  And just as
Fred leaned back, fretting a little, the Norse god Howard glowed
into the office.

'Hello, Dad.  H'are you, h'are you?'

'Fine and dandy, Howard.  Ribs all right?'

'Grand!'

'What you doing in town?'

'Li'l' party with the Staybridges--Guy's going to introduce Sara
and me to his Dad, you know, old Putnam, and his sister Annabel.
Course I've met Annabel, dances and so on, but I don't really know
her.  And a friend of mine, a labour leader--Eugene Silga, his name
is--is coming along.'

(It is true that, with 125,000 inhabitants in Sachem Falls, sound
burghers like the Cornplows would not, save by accident, be
intimate with the proud Staybridges.)

'All right, son.  Staying at the house to-night?'

'No, got to buzz back to Truxon and . . .  No, no, now wait, Dad.
I'll drive like an old lady.'

'You will not!  And if you want to break your neck, that's your
business, but I'm getting good and tired of paying fines and repair
bills, while you loaf through college!'

'But,' with wide, glad innocence, 'that's just what I came to see
you about!  Dad, I'm not getting anything out of college.  The
professors are the darnedest lot of crabs and bookworms.  What good
does it do me to learn about the--the--well, all these things they
teach you?  Couldn't you give me a job here in the agency?'

'Son, someday I hope you do really settle down and look at things
seriously and want to come in with me.  Someday I'll be thinking
about retiring.'

'You?  Never!  You like your hand on the steering wheel too well!
You'll be shoving off Triumphs on the sub-agents when you're
eighty.  But how about me starting in here . . .'

'Howard, I don't want to be any crankier than the law allows, but I
certainly don't want you here, filling this place up with a lot of
your fancy college friends, Guy Staybridge and God knows who all
else, smoking and singing and playing contract.'

'Dad, you don't understand!  Eugene has shown both Guy and me
where . . .  We've cut out being aristocrats.'

'Don't tell me!'

'We have.  We see now that there's got to be a new world.  Youth
has got to take charge.  Gene and Guy and me have been thinking
about starting a cell of the Workers' International Cohesion in
Sachem--the "Coheeze" they call it--you know, to make a United
Front of all socialists and democrats and liberals and the whole
bloomin' lot.  I don't intend to have anything more to do with all
those snobs and idlers.  I'm going to go to work for you, and Guy
and me are going to just associate with the intellectuals.'

'D'you think I'd be so crazy to have THEM make this shop a hangout?
It wouldn't be any very big help to my business to have Reds and
Bolsheviks and these new Coheezers of yours making speeches from
running boards in the showroom, all day long.  No, I'm sorry, but
you can't come in here till you really want to sell cars because
you want to sell cars, if I'm making it clear.'

'You're not, Dad, but . . .  Lookit: course I don't want to be a
fanatic about these revolutionary activities.  Fact, I'd just soon
chuck Eugene--you know: I mean, not let him have too much of an
undue influence on me.  How about me quitting school and taking up
aviation?  You know what a good driver I am . . .'

'Eh?'

'. . . and I'm dead certain I'd be a good aviator--you know, cross
the ocean and everything.  Or what do you think of starting a
silver fox farm?'

'Or grow frogs' legs?'

It was Fred's supposition that he was being bitter, but the Norse
god answered with bright gladness:

'Oh, there'd probably be a lot of money in that, too, but I don't
believe frogs would be as much fun to raise as foxes--OR aviation.
How about it?  Do something useful.'

A little wearily, a little savagely, altogether patiently, Fred
explained, 'Howard, two years ago you wanted to quit and go to
Hollywood.  A year ago, when you had that piece about your
fraternity dance in your college paper, you were ready to quit and
take up your burden as London correspondent for the Associated
Press.  Listen!  I don't necessarily think so much of college.  But
you've only got a year and a half to go before you get your degree,
and if you can't stick that out, you'll have to get along on your
own.  My guess is that you'd make a first-rate coat holder for some
posthole digger on a WPA project that ain't started yet!'

'Why Dad!'  It was clear that Howard was hurt.  Shocked, surprised,
wounded in his filial piety.  'You mean, if I quit college and
tried to really make something of myself, say wanted to buy an
interest in one of these small broadcasting agencies, you wouldn't
back me up?'

'Exactly!'

'Then, gosh, it's all true what Silga says about the Youth
Movement: the older generation is trying to crush our aspirations
and throttle us economically . . .  Oh say, Dad, this Gene is a
grand guy, and awfully hard up.  Could you let me have twenty-five
bucks to lend him?'

'I could not!'

'Well--well--see you again soon.'

Howard departed in complete cheerfulness.

In the heart of Fred, sitting motionless, there was considerably
less cheer.  He glanced irritably about his office.  Yesterday it
had been a sparkling gem of efficiency; now it seemed drearily
commonplace: merely a desk, a couple of filing cabinets, a tableful
of bright catalogues; the inner walls half wood and half clouded
glass; the outer windows looking on a cemented yard full of
dejected turn-ins with one horrible wreck that confessed a
windshield jagged and stained.  The only sounds were the rasping
screech of valve-grinding, and from the sales floor, just outside,
the voice of a salesman:  'Not a chance of your shimmying with a
job like this.  You can drive over cobblestones like you were in
your cradle.'

'Dumb place.  Never anything new,' Fred grunted.

It was running smoothly, it was his own machine, but suddenly he
did not care whether it ran or not.  Was that all that Howard and
Sara wanted from him, just to 'back them up'?

This Duplex business:  It might be too successful.

He might be caught up again in a delirium of business.  Why wasn't
it possible, just possibly possible, for Hazel and him to take a
little time off, to flee from the pleasant padded servitude of the
office, of their home, and see the world?  Do a few crazy things
like learning to ride horseback--gambling not more'n once or twice
at Monte Carlo--trying to play the piano--seeing the Midnight Sun--
building furniture--sitting at a small table in the piazza of
Venice?

As a voice from beyond the clouds came the thought that, actually,
they could do some of those things--do all of them!  He was not
rich, but he had money enough; the agency was not perfect but,
under Paul Popple (not under Howard, by jiminy!), it would get
along.

Almost frightened, he ran from the heretical inspiration; jammed on
his hat and heavy overcoat; fled to the Sachem Club and the
comforting dull talk of Doc Kamerkink and Walter Lindbeck and Ed
Appletree.

For--he put it to himself in protest against himself--what the
dickens would happen to the world if people ever did what they
wanted to?



CHAPTER V


The present house of the Frederick Cornplows was a good brick
Georgian house, on a good street, with a good little lawn and a
good big maple tree, and it proved to their world that they were
successful.  But it was like fifty other residences on Fenimore
Cooper Boulevard, which was like five hundred and fifty other
handsome boulevards in America.

The residence of Mr. Putnam Staybridge--he who with seeming
indifference bore the honour of being the father of Guy--was a
museum piece: a square, white, frame object, with a cupola.  It
seemed to have been built of ice and icily to have defied the
common sun.  Every piece of furniture, to the last console table
and damask-seated chair, belonged rigidly to the period--had in
fact been created by one of the most eminent fakers of antiques.

This was fitting, because Mr. Staybridge was what is technically
known as of a 'better family' than Fred Cornplow.

A better family is one that has had money or land longer than most;
there is nothing more to the trick, and titles and armorial
bearings are merely to fool the eye.  Nor is it always good taste
to ask where the family got the land and money in the first place.
The truth about the Norman families of England is that William the
Conqueror, a folio edition of Al Capone, stole the country from the
Saxons (who had stolen it from the Early English) and divided it
among his gang, not yesterday, which would make it criminal, but
back around 1100, which is aristocratic, and renders Norman lineage
even more important than your golf handicap.

If it had been the Eskimos who had seized England and picked out
pretty titles as earls eight hundred years ago, then the Best
Families, both British and American, would to-day be claiming
descent from Oley the Blubber.

Just so, a Staybridge ancestor, in Salem in the early 1700's, a
pious man, fond of sermons about hell-fire, was a shipowner who
from the West Indies brought molasses which he distilled into rum,
which he shipped to Africa, where it was exchanged for kidnapped
Negroes, who were taken as slaves to the West Indies, to be
exchanged for molasses, with a profit at every corner of the
triangle.  So his descendants were able to become college founders,
cabinet members, and Putnam Staybridges.

Putnam was so aristocratic that he dared, even in 1936, to wear a
small beard.  Perhaps he had slid down a little from the family
standard, in that he was merely a clock manufacturer and a bank
director, but he was first or second cousin to an ambassador, a
Harvard professor, an Episcopalian bishop, and to the spouse of a
Neapolitan duke; and his stamp collection contained a unique
hexagonal black Swiss-Guiana specimen.



When Howard Cornplow lumberingly, Sara tensely, and the black-
enamel-eyed organizer, Eugene Silga, placidly, came roaring with
Guy into the Staybridge mansion, Putnam was artistically seated in
the library, holding an Elzevir Apuleius in his lap and tapping the
walnut chair arm with his eyeglasses . . .  He had owned the
Apuleius for ten years and had not, to date, read ten words beyond
the title page.  And he had been arranged here, tapping the
glasses, for half an hour, ever since Guy had telephoned to
announce this dreadful visitation.

He arose, for the purpose of bowing to Sara, looking quizzically at
Howard, and snubbing Gene Silga, and went back to sitting, to
tapping, and to glancing at his book.

Behind him was his daughter, Annabel, and Annabel was, to be brief,
a darling.  She was a tousled, smiling, shy, sloppy, brown-haired,
easygoing, very pretty, happily cynical darling of nineteen or
twenty, and Howard looked upon her--she looked upon the Norse god--
with young rapture.  Years ago they had met, at dances, but since
she had been chased off to school at Farmington, they had never
said anything more ardent than 'Mave nexdance?'

Howard was jarred out of his adoration by Mr. Putnam Staybridge's
answer to whatever it was Guy had been babbling:

'So you intend to inaugurate in Sachem Falls a chapter of the
Workers' International Cohesion--the Coheeze?  Delightful name; so
suitable to a young man like yourself, Guy, who was brought up to
the traditions of Henry Adams.  You purpose to start a monthly
called Protest & Progress, nicknamed "P. & P.", to be cheaply
printed and to unite the underprivileged of the entire world--no
mean feat for three young men, even when abetted by so charming a
young lady as Miss Sara Cornplow, considering that all the
revolutionists in the world, including the accomplished Mr. Lenin,
have hitherto failed to achieve this.  And you wish me to
contribute a sum which, I should judge from your slightly
hysterical exposition, Guy, would be approximately a hundred
dollars? . . .  Now, Mr. Silga, will you be so good as to tell me
whether this Protest & Progress will be definitely communistic?'

'Not in the least, sir.'  Gene was calm, and Gene's smile was
tender.

'It will not be under the eventual control of the Party, or
whatever you may call the organization that receives orders from
Moscow?'

'Oh no.  The purpose of the "P. & P.", Mr. Staybridge, will be to
unite people of all political faiths who believe in scientific
control of politics, whether they are Republicans or Reds--except
that, I'm sure, the Reds will denounce us as wishy-washy.'

Mr. Staybridge arose quietly.  He murmured, 'In that case, I shall
give Guy a cheque for one hundred dollars for your enterprise, on
CONDITION that no copy of the blasted sheet shall ever be brought
into this house!'

He went beautifully up to his bedroom and read the same detective
story that Fred Cornplow was, just then, reading at home.

When his father was safely gone, Guy fretted:

'But lookit, Gene, of course "P. & P." WILL be pro-communist.'

'Of course.'

'But you told Father it wouldn't be.'

'Of course I did.'

'But that's a lie.'

'Of course it is.  Do you intend to go down to police headquarters
and pin up posters announcing we're going to take over the
constabulary, soon as we get the strength?'

Howard intruded, while the thrushlike Annabel Staybridge admired
his copper-shining nobleness:

'Thunder, no, Guy, you certainly wouldn't do that?'

'No, maybe not,' said Guy, rubbing his large Staybridge nose,
wiping his spectacles, in a jittery manner.  It was only of late
that he had gone from poetry into the lusher fields of communism
and Holy Russia.

Gene exulted, 'With the seven-fifty the New York Coheeze has
promised us, that makes eleven hundred and fifty dollars we've
raised to start Protest & Progress.  Think you can get a hundred
out of your father, Howard--Sara?'

'Well, the old man is pretty down on the Reds, but he's a
kindhearted old skate, if you're patient and let him get his
bellyaching over,' rejoiced Howard.

'Even without it, we'll be able to get out one number, anyway--and
what a terrible printing job THAT'S going to be!' said Gene.



Eugene was a year or two younger than the Dianic Sara, a quarter of
an inch shorter, and not having, like Sara, studied French at
Vassar, he could not speak it.  (Neither could Sara.)  But so easy
was he, so understandingly did those bright dark eyes look into
her, that Sara was flattered to be called by her first name, was
captivated by Gene's power--the result of his excellent endocrine
glands--and interpreted it as her conversion to communism.  She had
done a little communism, just as she had done a little tennis,
Thomas Wolfe, golf, Bach diving, William Faulkner, biochemistry,
Buddhism, vegetarianism, and Buchmanism.  Now she plunged deep, and
at one end of Putnam Staybridge's chaste drawing-room Guy and
Eugene and she happily agreed that within five years Putnam would
be set by the American Soviets to digging canals.

But Annabel and Howard were at the other end of the apartment, and
nothing like so revolutionary.

'Gosh, Miss Staybridge, I'm sorry I never really had a chance to
get acquainted with you.  You must of been just a kid when you went
off to school.'

'Yes, I was--just a skinny awkward kid.  But then I guess I still
am, Mr. Cornplow.'

'You are not!  Say, gosh, Miss Staybridge, you got more darn
gracefulness and the loveliest lips I ever did see.'

'Oh, now you're flattering me, Mr. Cornplow.  You college pundits!
I'm just another young female, where you're a regular movie star.
You play football at Truxon, don't you?'

'Well--that is--course I'm on the scrub team.  The captain and the
coach ganged up on me.  They claim I'm lazy, just because they said
I had to live on prunes and bran and go to bed at nine, and I told
'em where they got off!  "I'm not going to bed at any nine o'clock
and I'm not going to eat any prunes", I told 'em.  No sir!  Prunes!
Don't you think so?'

'Oh, absolutely, Mr. Cornplow . . .  Prunes!'

'I bet you love to dance, Miss Staybridge.'

'Oh, I adore it, but not with any of these little shrimps--only
with tall men--and I've noticed that all you golden-haired boys, I
don't know WHY it is, but somehow, you always dance so well.'

'Me?  Golden-haired?  It's just plain, dumb RED--tray ordinary.'

'Oh, it is not red!  It's gold.'

'It's red!'

'Gold!'

They dived into laughter--Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde,
Mrs. Nickleby and the vegetable marrows.

At the other end of the room, Gene Silga explaining that in Russia--
to which he had never been nearer than Fall River--the least
skilful workman has a better time than any Detroit foreman: free
lectures and a chance to do parachute jumping.



The revolutionary conspirators, the two lovers, could hear from
above them an irritable pacing.

'That's Father, registering indignation,' sighed Guy.  'Don't it
beat the Dutch how unsympathetic all fathers are!'

This beginning of the open season on parents drew the romantics
back to the general hunting party, as Sara observed, 'Doesn't it!
My father, old Freddie, wants to do the right thing by his
offspring, sometimes dismayingly so, but he has no imagination; he
can't understand that young people aren't altogether content to
play bridge every evening and go to bed at ten-thirty.  Why--why--
he still wears a nightshirt instead of pyjamas!'

'No!' marvelled Guy.

'He's lucky.  I usually don't have on anything at night except an
undershirt,' said Gene.

'I'll bet Mr. Cornplow does so have imagination,' protested
Annabel.  'I mean, I don't really know your father very well, but I
talked to him once about getting a new car--Mr. Putnam Staybridge
sure quenched THAT maiden's dream--and I thought your father was
swell.  He was so kind and he joked so . . .'

'Naturally, if he thought he could sell you a car!' said Sara.
'Oh, Dad really is kind, or means to be, but he hasn't got the
imagination to see that the younger generation wants something more
than being a respected resident of Cooper Boulevard.  It's
impossible for him to conceive that we, that Youth, no longer wants
anything merely for itself, but demands that the whole world be
freed of the bonds of capitalism.'  She looked to Eugene for
approval, and got it, from his well-trained professional smile.
'Why . . .  Look, Annabel--I may call you Annabel, mayn't I?--
doesn't your father travel a lot?'

'Sure.  Comrade Putnam is even worse than the kind of globe-trotter
that shows you his snapshots--he's the kind that sneaks off to
Vienna and Rio and then gloats at you and won't even tell you what
he's seen.'

Sara was relentless:  'Well, Dad won't travel one bit.  Doesn't
want to travel.  And he can perfectly well afford to, the rest of
his life.  Why, time and again I've offered to take him to Paris--
think of it, I've never been there myself!--and he always says,
"We'll see", and sneaks out of it.  Positively, Freddie ENJOYS
being an old horse in a treadmill.  I believe, no matter how he
kicks about it, he's secretly pleased when we sponge on him.  Shows
what a noble, stalwart pillar of society he is!  We must see to it
that he contributes to the Coheeze.'

'Yes, we must see to that,' said Gene.

'Anyway, this whole business of parents,' began Guy, the poet,
philosopher and pal, 'is a funny--well, it's a funny business.  I
think they ought to appreciate their children for taking the
trouble to represent them in the new social movements, the
socialization of education and the extension of labour unionism,
since they're too old-fashioned to do it themselves.  But say,
speaking of your dad, how's to skip down to your house?  There's
Putnam making unfriendly noises upstairs again.'

'Grand!  Come along!  It's only ten-forty.  Dad will be glad to see
us.'

Howard was buoyant, and Annabel followed him in demure obedience.
And Sara hinted no opposition after she had looked at Eugene and
found him ready, and after she covered all points by explaining:

'Well . . .  All right.'



CHAPTER VI


Fred had wound his watch, he had listened to the broadcaster's
opinion that to-morrow it would rain in Omaha and parts of West
Virginia, and he had proffered to Hazel his nightly observation,
'How about turning in and getting a little sleep?'  The front door
crashed, and in, like a flock of sheep with the voices of crows,
tumbled Sara, Howard, Eugene, Guy, Annabel.

But when Fred had been presented to Annabel, he was sweet to her--
too sweet, thought Hazel.

Sara purred, 'Father, Mother, this is Eugene Silga of the Workers'
International Cohesion.  I think you've heard Howard speak of him.'

'Oh yes, yes, sure, you bet!' crowed Fred, shaking hands.

Gene's thin hands were hard, and his eyes half friendly, half
shrewd, altogether cynical.  The comedian Fred, who all day long
shouted stories, became cautious and dead quiet.

'Sara has been telling me about your two-story trailer,' said
Eugene to him.

'Yes?'

'I'll remember it, next time I have anything to do with a
demonstration in Union Square.  Speech from the second story might
go over big.  I'm not sure you approve, but I'm interested in
radical labour unions, Mr. Cornplow.'

Sara flared, 'Oh, why don't you TELL 'em you're a communist and a
party member, Mr. Silga--Eugene?  It won't hurt 'em!'

Fred was more cautious than ever.  'No, it won't hurt us at all.  I
heard you were a communist, Mr. Silga, when you were mixed up in
the Pragg glass-works strike.  But here's something even stranger
than that.  Me, I'm a Republican and go to church!'

From Hazel there was a faint squawk that sounded like, 'WHEN?' as
Fred went on selling:

'I'm glad to meet you, I won't pretend I like communism, but I much
prefer you out-and-out advocates to the limousine socialists, like
Sara here, who say, No, it wasn't the communism, it was something
they ate; who cuss out capitalism and go right on living on it.'

'I don't know, Mr. Cornplow.  An agitator finds limousines awfully
useful sometimes, for escaping from the cops.'

'Hm.  Yes.  Glad meet you.  I've been reading where it's become
the fashion for the Reds to shave and bathe and leave the bombs
home . . .'

'Sorry, never seen a bomb.'

'. . . in the bottom bureau drawer, and I'm interested to see that
it's true, Gene.'

With warm-hearted aid from Guy and Howard, derisiveness from
Annabel, and watchful silence from Eugene, Sara portrayed for Fred
and Hazel the future of the Coheeze, and of the monthly Protest &
Progress, which was to bring to far-flung workers in byre and
grange and speak-easy the surprising news that, if they were real
toilers and not parasites, like Fred, all Irishmen, Chinese,
Japanese, Germans, Frenchmen, Spanish leftists, Spanish rightists,
Negroes, Californians, Floridians, New York garment workers,
Vermont apple growers, and pearl divers in Borneo loved one another
to death.

'What do I do about it?' weasled Fred.

'Why, you contribute!' Sara laughed heartily.

'Not me.  I laid off loving the workers when the last automobile
strike prevented my getting any cars to sell for couple of months,
right at the height of the season.'

Sara protested, 'Guy's father, Mr. Staybridge, has given us a
hundred dollars.  Are you going to let him beat you?'

'Absolutely!  Guy, you tell your father I'll let him contribute the
whole doggone fund, if he wants to.'

'Oh, Dad!'  (That was Sara again.)

Hazel spoiled everything:

'Fred, if Sara is enjoying this so much, and I'm sure Mr. Silga
could tell us such interesting things about Russia, sex and
divorces and how much the servants get and all--I do hope he'll be
willing to lecture before the Egeria Club, it's my turn next month
to get a speaker--and if Sara is having a good time out of it, I'm
going to donate fifty dollars myself!  Out of my own money, I
mean!'

Fred goggled, remembering that Hazel's 'own money', from the estate
of an unexpected uncle, had last year brought in $786.10, of which,
to his knowledge, she had spent over nine hundred.  While Hazel was
being thanked, Fred craftily led Annabel apart and fished:

'Didn't know you knew my boy, Miss Staybridge.'

'Oh, I don't, really.  I've just met him at dances.'

'That's probably the best place to meet him.  I'd steer clear of
him in the classroom.'

'Don't you guarantee him?'

'Well, he uses an awful lot of oil and gas and he backfires going
uphill, not down, and his brakes are slipping.  But he's got a nice
three-coat finish, and I kind of like him.'

'So do I!'

Everyone else was lounging; everyone was chattering; Hazel was
explaining to Gene Silga what a wonderful time they had had at the
Egeria Club when they had entertained a pupil of Dale Carnegie, who
had informed them that the ability to express one's self on one's
feet was as important to a clubwoman as it was even to a senator or
a lubricant salesman.  But Annabel sat straight, her hands folded
in her lap, her eyes straight ahead, in a trance.  Her lips seemed
very soft; Fred thought that they would tremble, if she was hurt.
She seemed to him made not of patches of prejudice and unimportant
informations, like the rest, but to be all of one piece, clear and
sure and kind.

'She'll fall in love with Howard because he looks like a movie
star, and then keep it up because she'll be sorry for him,' sighed
Fred to himself.  'He'll wear her out.  Here, quit it!  Don't crab
about your own son.  Way Annabel's looking round, guess she likes
it here--kind of free and easy--or would be if Sara wasn't so
doggone high-minded--in comparison with Staybridge, that old stiff.
But Annabel--got the friendliest eyes I ever saw--friendly 's a
pup--I'd like to have Howard safely married to a good loyal girl
like her, but do I want to see HER married to a loafer?  Duties of
parents?  Someday I'll chuck the lot of 'em . . .  I won't!'



By request of Sara, Eugene Silga outstayed Annabel and Guy.  After
ten minutes' discussion of the fact that, if he started in five
minutes, he could be in Truxon at a fair hour, Howard went up to
bed; and Eugene and Fred, with the Cornplow women for gallery,
circled about each other.

Let us be clear about the political activities of Eugene Silga.  He
was not at all like the melodramatic Bolsheviks of British
detective stories; he had no secret gang with an abbey crypt for
hideout, no beautiful phoney countess (in black with a platinum dog
collar) for spy.  Fred suspected that Sara's radical toying,
suddenly become so active this evening, meant nothing more than a
desire to be important, to be Different, and to associate with
romantic young men.  But Gene's purpose was clear.  He had hated
the bland and rich ever since his infanthood in a riverside slum in
Brooklyn.  Making his way at City College of New York by pressing
clothes had not improved his benevolence.  He wanted power and
revenge; he was willing to risk death in the hope of smashing the
entire democratic system and winding up with the factory workers
dictatorially running the country, and himself running the workers.

Both Sara and he did love humanity.  Whether either of them loved a
single individual human being was less certain.

Eugene did not come out of the comic papers.  He was neither dirty-
necked nor bellowing, nor had he any especial tropism for
soapboxes.  He was neat and quiet-voiced; he smiled affectionately;
and he was, to the world of Fred Cornplow--to the world of Franklin
and Emerson and Mark Twain, of Willa Cather and William Allen
White--as dangerous as a rattlesnake.

There is a vulgar error about rattlesnakes.  Hordes of sensible
people assume that it is treacherous in a rattlesnake to bite the
tourists, but to himself a rattlesnake is an honest, kind-hearted
family man who believes that human beings treacherously kill a lot
more rattlesnakes than snakes kill humans.



Eugene was telling Fred about the Youth Movement.

'It's not purely a communist doctrine.  We're willing to make a
United Front with the liberals and even lukewarm socialists.  I've
just been out at a Youth Convention in Cincinnati.  We're demanding
of Congress . . .'

'Demanding?'

'Certainly!  Demanding that all young people up to twenty-five--oh,
I'm a year beyond that limit, so it's not personal--be granted
college educations with all expenses paid, free cigarettes, free
movies twice a week, and jobs at union wages guaranteed after
college.'

Fred was gulping, but Sara stopped him with, 'Now, Dad, please
don't tell us again how you waited on table at college, and then
went to work at seven dollars a week.'

It was Hazel who, surprisingly, led the attack:  'I never could
quite understand the Youth Movement.  I know; so many of the boys
and girls are having a dreadful time getting started, nowadays.
But is it any harder on them when they can't find a job than it is
on a man of forty-five, with a sick wife and three children?'

'That's scarcely an answer,' condescended Eugene, while inwardly
Fred began to rage that, 'Doggone it, this Silga fellow acts like
he owned the house.  Pretty soon he'll give us lessons in how to
drive a car, if we'll just pay strict attention.'

'That's scarcely an answer.  Naturally, I believe in guaranteeing
work, with a maximum week's labour of thirty hours and a minimum
wage of fifty dollars, for all workers, whether they are twenty-
five or sixty-five.  But our chief concern is with Youth, because
it has a chance to be educated: it isn't blinded by the American
myth that this is a democracy and that everybody still has a
chance.'

While Fred tried to look relaxed and impartial, and did look as
relaxed and impartial as a cat on flypaper, Eugene informed him
that all automobile workers' wages could easily be doubled if the
manufacturers would get rid of the middleman (such as Fred
Cornplow); that it was a good thought that Great Britain would soon
lose India and Egypt, France lose Indo-China, and Holland lose
Java; that it was an even better thought that during the first
three months of the Next War, Russia would take over Alaska,
western Canada, China, Scandinavia and Poland, and make their
inhabitants as joyous as the Russian peasants.  So, by easy stages,
they came to Spain, where, everyone said, there would be a
dangerous right revolution before long.

Eugene announced, and quite politely, 'I've talked it all over with
Sara, Mr. Cornplow and--I hope you won't think it's impertinent of
us, but we find that the only way to get proper contributions for
the Spanish government is to figure out quotas for different
contributors, and let them know.'

'But I'm not a con . . .'

'And Sara and I feel that you could show that you really do believe
in democracy and popular rule by contributing five hundred dollars
to the Spanish government and . . .'

'Five hun . . .'

'Certainly!  Heaven knows I can't give anything, with my wretched
income,' snarled Sara.

Fredk Wm, who gave her that income, didn't think it was at all
wretched, considering his own resources.  A thousand a year and all
found?  So that was wretched, was it?  He spoke with spirit and
wrath:

'Look here, you young people, I'm getting tired of being badgered.
I know I'm just a millionaire capitalist--just a multi-millionaire,
that's all, nothing but a face grinder and an orphan robber, just a
foe of the oppressed.  Sure, I understand that horny-handed
proletarians like you two have got to destroy capitalists like me--
certainly--just take us out and destroy us--put us up against a
wall and destroy us--take away my steam yacht and my French château
and my wife's ruby necklace--just take 'em away and stick us up
against a wall and fill us full of holes.  That's the proper caper,
just destroy us.  Only, I don't expect to contribute for the
privilege of being destroyed!  I'll be content with just being
shot; let the other fellow pay for the bullets.

'No, wait now, Sara.  I know, when you open your mouth like a fish,
I'm going to get hell.  But you listen to me first, for a while.

'I do read the newspapers.  Seriously, I do know there's a lot of
things wrong in this world; mining is dangerous and badly paid; Tom
Mooney was rail-roaded and ought to be released; the Southern share
croppers have a terrible time--AND so do most of the plantation
owners!--a lot of priests and college professors get sent to prison
in Europe for telling the truth; the Negroes get an awful deal; a
lot of farmers just work to feed their mortgages.

'But unlike you communists, I don't feel that I'm Almighty God.  I
can't do everything in the world at once.  I'm the president of the
Mind Your Own Business Association.  I'm just not rich enough and
not smart enough to rebuild the New York slums and stop all war at
one and the same time.  I don't think I've done so bad with my own
job.  My workmen and my customers both seem pretty well satisfied.
I get along all right with my own family . . .'

'Do you?' breathed Sara.

That hurt.  It seemed to Fred equally pertinent and impertinent.
He went on less confidently.

'I mean . . .  And so . . .  Well, as I was trying to say: I don't
pretend to be a Rockefeller.  I'm just a plain ordinary citizen of
Sachem Falls, N.Y., and you highbrows, who love to talk so much
about realism and seeing clearly, ought to appreciate the fact that
I know what I am.'

Hazel had looked at Fred sympathetically, and she charged up with
reinforcements.  With the most restful prosiness, she told Eugene
about the Spreadeagle Little Theatre of Sachem, about Howard's
remarkable success in baseball, as a boy, and about her cousins in
California.  This warm bath soothed them all, and Eugene eased out,
with an abstracted farewell which said that he would never come
back.

'Did you really have to go out of your way to be insulting?'
demanded Sara.

'Not very far!  I never could understand why it was that thirty
years ago we were supposed to be apologetic to all the visiting
firemen from France and England for being American, and now we're
expected to apologize to Russia.  When this young pup hits me in a
tender spot . . .'

'Your pocket-book, Father!'

'You bet!  It's what you've always lived on, isn't it, young lady,
if you want me to be vulgar?'

'I don't!'

'Well, when he sashays in here and tells me my duty . . .'

'I wonder you didn't spring on him something refreshing like, "If
you don't like it here, why don't you go back where you came
from?"'

'Well, I did think of taking that up, but I wasn't sure he came
from some country I disliked enough to wish him off on it!  But I
respect him more than I do you.  He has the decency to be openly a
threat to every doggone thing I stand for, and risk his life in
strikes, and prob'ly he lives on fifteen-twenty bucks a week, while
the young folks like you sponge on your parents for all you can
get, and are ashamed of yourselves for it, and take it out on us!'

'Father!'

'Absolutely.  Maybe you're not to blame personally.  Whole
country's full of smart young people whose folks have sent 'em to
school and done all they could to help 'em socially and
financially, and the kids despise 'em for being so soft, and don't
for one second hesitate to correct their parents' manners and
historical dates!  But I don't intend to have any of those
intellectual snobs in my house, not if I know it!  Young lady,
after children get to be eighteen or so, they have no more claim on
their parents' affection than anybody else.  They've got to earn
it!'

Sara rushed from the room, sobbing.

Fred paced a good deal.

'Oh, hang it, I didn't mean . . .  But that girl, Sara, she got me
so riled up, just when I'd laid myself out to be so polite to her
and that dark-eyed comrade, that Bolshevik gigolo!  Why can't they
be nice, like Annabel?  There's MY daughter.  Not sure I'll let her
marry Howard, the stuffed sweater!  But Sara . . .  All right, all
RIGHT!  Shall I wait and apologize to her to-morrow, or go up and
get it over now?'



CHAPTER VII


The renowned Old Home Week of Sachem Falls was held in March,
however inclement, because that month marked the birthday of the
city's one revolutionary hero, General Abram Pough, of whom no one
knew anything except that he had been a hero, that he had almost
certainly been born, that he had been born in March, and that he
had not been born at the celebrated Pough Birthplace, on Beecher
Street.  The annual Home Week parade was, by custom, the occasion
for the first outdoor showing of the new automobile models, an
attraction altogether more interesting than General Pough to the
citizenry.

It was in this parade that Fred exhibited the first Duplex Trailers
beheld in Sachem.  His assistant, Paul Popple, had fretted, 'Say,
Chief, I've got the low-down on what the Conqueror people are going
to do.  They're showing six models, all decorated with hot-house
flowers.  What say we have ours tied up with gold ribbons?'

'I'm not selling ribbons.  Nor gold.  Nor flowers.  I'm selling
automobiles.  I'll work out our display,' snorted Fred.

Paul Popple was doubtful, Hazel was doubtful, and Sara was shocked
when, in the Old Home Week parade, after floats showing the Dutch
first settlers making cheese and consequently being scalped by the
Iroquois, after the American Legion and the Sons of Sweden and the
pickle-works exhibit and the Woodmen of America, rich in axes and
badges, after the elegant display of the rival Conqueror Motor
Company, ornate with roses and daffodils, came the eccentric
display arranged by Fred.  Leading it was a Triumph town car, and
in that car was the mayor of Sachem, who owed Fred three hundred
dollars.  The spectators, packed in like baled hay and encouraged
by dollar-a-day clappers hired by Fred, applauded with an apparent
feeling that this was official and the Triumph must, therefore, be
a very good car indeed.  Following was a Houndtooth Six, and, to
Sara's wan disapproval, it lacked not only flowers and ribbons, but
even a decent body.  There was only the chassis, without fenders
and with the driver on a greasy wooden box.  But the crowd was
stirred by seeing the wheels go round, and jammed in close to the
Houndtooth, crying, 'Look, Bill, the way them brakes work!'

After it rolled six Duplex Trailers, and this was the first time
that any outsider in Sachem had seen a Duplex.

The trailers were in busy action.  The extra second story of each
was being raised or taken down.  The crowd gasped and gurgled, and
Hazel patted Fred's cheek in wonder, as she saw three bedrooms
magically created out of air.

The news stories about the parade, later, in all three papers,
could not ignore this innovation--particularly as Fred had promised
each of them a full-page Duplex advertisement.  In each news story
was a paragraph to the effect:  'The surprise of the show, however,
was a fleet of Duplex Trailers, which unfold to provide a second
story.'

Fred had sold six Duplexes before twilight the next day.

But at home, quiet beside Hazel on the couch, listening to a
nostalgic Hawaiian radio quartette (from the Bronx), Fred pondered,
'Yuh, it was a good show.  I'm a swell salesman AND a good showman.
But--funny--the kick don't seem to last.  I felt kind of naked out
there, watching the Duplexes dress and undress in public.  Am I
getting tired of just being a showman, honey?  Then what 'll I DO?



He did not speak to Hazel, he didn't even speak to himself, about
the important occurrence of the Old Home Week parade.

During the passing of the Duplexes, Fred had wandered away from
Hazel, to greet possible customers, and in the crowd had come upon
Putnam Staybridge and Annabel.

But for the treachery of George Washington, Mr. Staybridge would
now be Gen. the Rt. Hon. Sir Putnam Staybridge, P.C., D.S.O.,
K.C.M.G., and though he had been robbed of this rightful label, yet
in the precision of his little beard, the quiet intolerance of his
grey eyes, the erectness of his frail shoulders, Mr. Staybridge
showed his private knightliness.  He was devoting it now to
sneering at the Duplex demonstration, and it did not help Fred to
know that Mr. Staybridge had some unacknowledged interest in the
opposition Conqueror Motor Company.

'How d'you do, Mr . . . Cornplow,' said Mr. Staybridge.  But Fred
felt that he didn't really much care how he did, or whether he did
at all.  Putnam was already ignoring him while he acknowledged the
passing of a woman acquaintance by pinching the top of his hat and
slightly widening his lips, like the stretching of a rubber band.

But Annabel was beaming.  Fred flagrantly winked at her.

Five minutes later, while Fred was watching the passing of the Boy
Scouts, someone plucked at his sleeve, and he looked down--not very
far down--on a shy Annabel.

He comprehensively remarked, 'Well, well!'

'Father's gone and . . .'

'You stay with me.  I'll guard you.  I used to be a G-man.'

'Honestly?'

'Absolutely.  I captured Jesse James.'

'Jesse James wasn't captured.  He was shot in the back by a member
of his gang.'

Fred looked on Annabel with favour.  How rare it was, he thought,
to find anyone under thirty these days who was not dazzled by the
movies and aviation, but knew such sanctities of American history
as the James Boys.  'Good girl,' he said.  He could not treat her
like a Staybridge.  She really seemed human.  He grumbled, 'Afraid
your father didn't care much for my trick trailers, Miss
Staybridge.'

'I'm afraid he enjoys not caring for much of anything.  Uh . . .
uh . . .'  Annabel twisted a button of his coat.  'Have you seen
Howard?'

'Not for a few days.  He's coming down for my birthday party, at
the house, week from next Tuesday.  Look!  Why don't you come?'

'I'd love to, Mr. Cornplow!'

He envied the clear light of Annabel in a foggy, complicated world.

'By golly,' he swore, 'if Howard don't fall properly in love with
her, I'll--well, I'll do the worst thing to him I possibly can:
I'll let him do what he thinks he wants to do--leave college and go
to work!'



CHAPTER VIII


The house of Frederick William Cornplow was filled with openly
secret preparations for his fifty-sixth birthday, next day.  He sat
in plump contentment, awaiting dinner and snorting over the evening
paper, and all life seemed secure.

The doorbell rang then, and all the forgotten sorrows of life
trooped in.

Hilda, the maid, announced, 'There's some folks here, name of
Tillery, Enos Tillery and his folks; they say they want to see
you.'

'Tillery?  Never heard . . .  Oh, wait.'

With creeping horror Fred remembered that he did have some second-
hand cousins of that ominous name.  One Joe Tillery, from back
yonder.  Not since boyhood had he seen any of the tribe, but he
remembered them, in a paintless farm shanty, unbathed, uncombed,
insolvent and full of jolly music; he remembered his father giving
Joe a tenth of the ten dollars which Joe had modestly solicited.
This Enos Tillery would be Joe's faithful son.

Fred stalked into the hall.  With touching trustfulness he hoped
that the Tillerys would get no farther.

By the door, looked appallingly friendly, was a man of Fred's own
age--Enos, presumably--whose hair had not been cut for two months
nor his cheeks shaven for four days, but who displayed checked
plus-fours, golf stockings purple and leaf-green, and a moth-eaten
red sweater.  Enos was reinforced by his wife, in a tweed coat with
a fur collar which needed combing, as did her greasy black hair,
and by two lumps of grown sons and a small boy and a small girl.

Now Fred had resolutely freed himself of the heresy, held by his
father and his father's friends, that there was disgrace in poverty
and evil in the poor.  On the other hand, he had not slipped into
the new credo that poverty and bad luck and dirt are always and
necessarily superior to thrift and good fortune and soap . . .  And
perhaps he wouldn't have cared a hang, one way or the other, but he
was that most shrewdly disciplined of beings, a Good Family Man,
and as the Tillerys broke out in a rash of smiles that to the
experienced tradesman meant cases of the helping-themselves hand,
Fred was itchily conscious that Hazel might be peeping around a
corner and refusing to forgive him for having brought these
relatives into the world.

Enos was shouting, 'Well, well, it's fat little Freddie Cornplow,
the old thief!  Remember how you used to pinch apples, at our farm,
and Dad walloped the daylights out of you?  Remember how you were
scared to go swimming in the crick?  Oh, those were the great
days!'

From the blue distances of jocund Youth, there seemed to float past
Fred a delicate odour of the Tillery pigpen.  But he got out
shakily:

'Oh, yuh, sure--yuh, that's right.  So this is the family.'

'Yes, here's Edna, the wife, and Mac and Cal, the big fellows, and
little Tom and Sagittaria.'

Fred did not understand it, but somehow they were no longer in the
hall; they were in the living-room, seated, and Cal had helped
himself to a cigarette, Mrs. Tillery to candy, while Tom and
Sagittaria were bouncing gleefully on the couch, whose springs were
none too hale.

(But you couldn't turn down your relatives, your own cousins, now
could you?  Blood thicker than--thicker 'n glue, this time . . .
But golly, if Sara came in!)

Enos was caroling, 'Well, sir, we're kind of driving down towards
West Virginia--fellow told us there was some kind of Rural
Resettlement project down there where we could get a farm free, and
all the tools.  I noticed we was right near here, and I says to
Edna, that's the wife, "We'll just drop in on fat little Freddie--
not make any trouble--maybe he's got engagements--not give him and
his woman . . ."  Eglantine, that's your wife's name, ain't it?'

'Hazel.'

'Hazel?  Kind of a hick name.  She just a plain farmer, too, like
you and me, Fred?  Well, anyway, Edna says no--says it's almost
forty years since you and me have seen each other--you wouldn't
want to entertain us, she says, but I says "Of course he'll want
to see a COUSIN!" I says.  "Wouldn't I be tickled to death to give
HIM a shakedown if I had a house and if him and his family come
along?" . . .  How many kids you got, Fred?'

'Two.'

'Oh well, you never were much good.  Six, I've got--these four, and
another one that's got a fine job selling patent medicines, and the
other--well, he had kind of bad luck, and 's matter of fact, he was
innocent, but he's in the reformatory, and . . .  Anyway, "No," I
says to Edna, "of course he'll be glad to see us.  What's relatives
for?" I says.  "Fred may have gone and got rich, but I'll bet he
don't think he's too good for his own people--I'll bet that at
heart he's just a dumb, plain rube like the rest of us."  Is that
steak I smell?'

Fred was by now in a simple state of dementia.  Beyond question he
knew that if he invited his kin, and perhaps kind, to dinner, Hazel
would kill him and Sara cremate him.  He stuttered:

'H-had your supper, E-Enos?'

'Not yet!  Ready to eat an ox!'

'How you fixed for money?'

Enos laughed.  His wife laughed.  His young laughed.  Enos giggled,
'You wouldn't kid me, would you?  You always were a great little
kidder.'  He arose to run at Fred and jab him in the ribs--
unnecessarily, Fred thought.  'Between us, we've got about a dollar
and a half.'

'Well, you let this be my treat.  Here's five dollars, Enos.'

Enos took the bill not at all reluctantly; the only reluctance was
in his yearning venture, 'But wouldn't it maybe be cheaper to feed
us here, Freddie?  Not but what I could take the five bucks too, if
you insist!'

Enos laughed.  His wife laughed.  His young . . .

Reduced already to the state of a pitiful liar, and not a very
good liar, Fred implored, 'We've got some folks coming in for
dinner . . .'

'That's all right with me, if it is with you.  I could run down to
the store and get couple cans of beans . . .'

Desperately, 'No, guess we better have it this way.'

'Well, look, Freddie, I don't want to be a nuisance.  No man living
can say I've ever been a bother to nobody.  I've often said, "I may
not have much of this world's goods, but I've worked and worked
hard for what I've got, and one thing I always been proud of is,
I've been independent."  Neither a borrower be nor a lender, like
the fellow says.  But I was wondering if you happened to have any
spare rooms we could stay in, just for to-night--maybe a couple of
nights, so the children could look over the town.  Educate 'em.  We
wouldn't be a bit of trouble.  The younger kids could just well
sleep here in the sitting-room.'

'Uh--uh--afraid our guests will be staying . . .'

Fred's brow was sopping; he wished that he could again try Sara's
clinical thermometer.

'Enos!' said his wife.

'Huh?'

'Beat it!' said his wife.

'Me?'

'All of us.  Scram!' said his wife.

'All right . . .  Now there's just one other thing, Freddie.
Happen to know about any jobs for Mac and Cal here?  Course I want
to grab me that Gov'ment farm, but the boys are real good at fixing
cars.  Both worked in filling stations, and of course with your big
agency . . .'

'What have they done?'

'Cal, he was in the CCC for a while, but he didn't care so much for
it, and then he hitched up with the WPA, but say, those WPA bosses
are fierce, they expect you to work like it was a real paid job,
and then he was kind of a sweeper in a factory and afterwards, he
had a couple of days cooking in a lunch wagon when the fellow was
sick, but Cal didn't seem to take to that so much, and here lately
he hasn't hardly been doing anything, you might say, just
travelling with us--we had a real interesting time--most of the
winter we was in Florida, but we had kind of a run-in with the
authorities.  Oh yes, Cal's a good worker, providin' he has a boss
that understands he's high-strung and nobody that you can cuss and
knock around.  But Mac . . .  Well, he reads a lot, but he hasn't
had Cal's experience.  But what the dickens!  No use worrying.
Gov'ment owes everybody a living, don't it?'

Fred rose.  The others didn't.  He had to make it severe--at least
he tried to make it severe, even in face of Enos's leering
remembrance of himself as fat little Freddie Cornplow:

'Enos!  Have Cal and Mac come to see me at the Triumph agency to-
morrow, between ten and twelve.  I'll see if I can't put them to
work.'

It took half an hour before the Tillerys oozed out of the house,
during which period Hazel peeped in and looked at Fred like the
Gorgon sisters; it took five days and a hundred dollars before Fred
coaxed them to ooze out of Sachem.  As Mac and Cal were only half
an hour late in coming to see him the next day, he put both of them
at work, washing though rarely cleaning cars.

The brief comedy of the Tillerys affected him as biliously as
Sara's conversion to communism or Howard's desire to leave college.

Fred had not hugely differed from Enos Tillery in a simple faith
that a man is as chained to his family, even to all of his
blessedly lost relatives, as he is to the law and the prophets and
his most understanding friends.  But the affaire Tillery, coming
just a day before the family gathering on his fifty-sixth birthday,
left him in a shocking state of tribal infidelity.

'My own bunch are Hazel, and now Annabel, and friends like Doc
Kamerkink and Walter Lindbeck--none of them blood relations, thank
heaven!' he blasphemed, and, greatly daring, he wondered whether he
was compelled to serve the desires of even Howard and Sara, unless
they should choose to be his friends as well as his children.

At dinner, Hazel said, 'Did I hear those people say they were
cousins of yours?  Why didn't you invite them to dinner?'



CHAPTER IX


The living-room was littered with crocuses and daffodils, lilies
and hothouse roses, for Fred's birthday party, and he, who hated
this clammy reminder of advancing years, grumbled, 'Sure!  Getting
me used to my funeral by degrees!'

The dining-room was set out with the gold-and-sky-blue Limoges
plates, cut-glass dishes of Hazel's celebrated brandied peaches,
and gold-rimmed, faintly etched wineglasses, from which they would
each drink two doses of champagne, except for Fred, who would have
three, and Annabel Staybridge, who would have ginger ale.

The more he disliked birthdays, the more Fred drove himself to be
merry and grateful, particularly when they produced the surprise
gifts, which he had already viewed, in their hiding-place in the
linen closet, with disapproval.  The gifts were also a give-away of
the donors.  Fred had complained that he hadn't a dressing-gown
long enough to cover his nervous feet on a winter morning, and from
Hazel he had a woolly robe large enough to cover the feet of Jumbo.
But it was of a dizzying purple, edged with fiery red cord, and the
sash, he was certain, would never stay tied.  Howard gave him a
framed photograph--of Howard; and from his friends and guests Dr.
and Mrs. Kamerkink, he had a pipe.  It was the second pipe they had
given him, and Fred never smoked a pipe, but the Doc believed that
for a gentleman of forty and upwards a pipe was more manly and
hygienic than cigarettes.

Fred gabbled, 'Mighty handsome pipe.  Imported from England?
Golly!'

Sara was responsible for a dreadful bottom-shelf book, A
Statistical Survey of the Diminishing Returns of the Capitalist
System, whose sour cover contrasted with the frock of silver lamé
which she wore as the result of capitalist returns.  Fred was
meanly suspicious about her having really spent three-fifty on a
book for him, and later he privily investigated.  Sure enough; on
the flyleaf there had previously been a pencilled name, now erased.

But from the blessed Annabel was an omnibus of Dorothy Sayers'
detective stories, with the promise that for his next birthday he
should have a set of Agatha Christie.  'Girl, you're walking out
with the wrong generation of Cornplows,' he said, and he kissed
her, Howard kissed her, and Hazel, who had watched all this
foolishness without applause, kissed her with an entirely different
accent.

The dinner was lush but difficult.

The extra maid, brought in temporarily for waiting on table, had
been trained in a laundry, so that while she was warm and quick,
she did rather slop things, and things you would not have expected
to be slopped: not only the soup and champagne, but the currant
jelly and the ice cream.  Sara, the socialist, was testy with her,
as Sara always was with waiters, taxi-drivers and telephone girls.
Hazel was bland and forgiving, but then, Sara sniffed, Hazel was
still afraid of servants.

With the hors d'oeuvres which Fred called the 'duffers'--there were
anchovies and sardines and two kinds of potato salad--they all
asked with considerable politeness about the progress of the Duplex
Trailer and happily turned to boasting of their own troubles:
Howard's fascinating troubles with the Truxon proctor who disliked
the melodies of a mouth organ at two a.m.; Sara's troubles with
finding a 'half-way human' hairdresser in Sachem; Doc Kamerkink's
troubles with a scoundrel who had developed a coronary thrombosis
on the day when he had promised to pay his bill.

With the mushroom soup, Howard talked about the probability of his
being student commandant of the Truxon R.O.T.C. next year, while
Sara informed them that in Russia, though under the Tsar music and
dancing had been unknown, the peasantry now spent practically every
moment from five p.m. to eight next day in dancing by moonlight.

But with the duck, and continuing through the ice cream and
chocolate sauce, Howard really got under way, and every moment, as
he became more exhilarated, Miss Annabel Staybridge looked at him
more proudly.  The glances she telegraphed to Fred indicated that
she was not deceived; she considered Howard a good deal of a baby,
but adored him nevertheless.

It was a little hard for the others, particularly the Kamerkinks,
to understand just what it was that Howard expected to do.

It seemed that he was going to remain in college, thwart his
enemies and play in the college football team; yet simultaneously
march out of college and do something thrilling and lucrative with
rockets, which, he rejoiced, were shortly to replace gasoline
motors for flying, and propel a plane from New York to London in
five hours.  At the same time, apparently, he was going to start a
cabaret near Truxon.  All he needed was a few thousand dollars--and
in the bright buoyancy of youth, he beamed at Fred, who flinched.

'Cal Tillery's cousin, that's who Howard is,' thought Fred.

With the apricot brandy, a drink which Fred considered related to
pink silk underwear and rose-tipped cigarettes, Howard had managed
to bring off an entirely new victory.  Apparently he was now with
the Triumph-Houndtooth-Duplex agency, as assistant and future
successor to Fred, and was making things not merely hum but yell.

'You've certainly done a grand job, Dad, but there's a lot of new
ideas that would quadruple the racket.  Pretty soon, I think, we
could add television sales to our other junk, and say, I've got
some real ideas about the kind of showroom we ought to have--knock
the eyes out of every other dealer in town--place right on Chester
Avenue, all black glass and mirrors and red leather upholstery, and
maybe a private bar for the big shots, and we could keep open
evenings in summer and have an orchestra.'

Fred saw, instantly, that so insane is the world that Howard's
hysterical plans for the Triumph agency might actually succeed.
They really might 'quadruple the racket', and quadruple his work;
and if that happened, he wanted to be out of it, hiding in a
haystack.

He recalled that for more than thirty years he had been slapping
almost unslappable backs, taking buyers to cafés when he had longed
for his slippers, enduring more talk about the weather than there
had been weather.  He saw that it had been with the tension of a
crusade that he had engaged himself in loving like a brother
anybody who had $1100 for a car.  He was suddenly and inexplicably
weary.  It would be a pleasure to refuse ever to sell anything else
to anybody.

'Certainly, Mr. Jones, we have five million television sets, 1943
model, on hand, and I wouldn't sell you one for five million
dollars!  I don't like your split infinitives!'

Fred heard himself saying, but not in the least believing, 'You
better get busy and learn something about motor engineering,
Howard, if you're going into my firm, because pretty soon I'm going
to sell it and retire.'

The entire company, who had hardened into the affable boredom
suitable to a birthday party, sat up.

'You're going . . .'

'YOU'RE going . . .'

'To retire?'

'Nonsense!'

'You?'

'WHEN?'

Fred enjoyed it.  He had not been so important in his family since
he had bought his opera hat.  It pleased his vanity to see that his
reputation for Being Different was so solid that he had taken in
all of them, except perhaps Hazel, and that even she was wondering
a little.

'And when would you pull this big hermit-and-monastery act?' Dr.
Kamerkink demanded.

'One year from now.'

Howard bleated, 'Dad!  You couldn't possibly!  Whether I stick it
out in college or not, I've got to get started, somehow, and you're
the only one that'll help me!'

But it was Annabel's eyes that most pleaded for Howard.

'Good Lord, son, I expect to help you get started.  But only
started.  I don't expect to carry you for years and years, like a
lot of parents are doing, nowadays.  I guess that's another demand
the Youth Movement is making on Congress--let the old folks do it--
penalize the folks that like to work by making 'em support the ones
that don't.'

Hazel, rather sharply for Hazel:  'Don't tease him, Fred.'

'Me?  I'm not teasing.'  And Fred wondered if he really had been
only teasing.

Howard, shocked at the threat to his one sure lifelong profession,
was begging, 'But Dad, if you retired in ten-fifteen years from
now, when I had things going . . .'

'No.  One year.  You can go to work and learn the motor car
business from Paul Popple.'

'But Dad, oh, Paul is O.K., but he isn't even a college man!'

It was Sara who cut through the argument; who killed the epigrams
which Fred was trying to work out, to the effect that a couple of
fellows named Washington and Lincoln and Henry Ford and Thomas
Edison had got along without college.  She explained, more
affectionately than usual:

'Father, of course we know you don't mean it, but please don't
dramatize yourself, like a child playing soldiers.  You aren't one
bit abused; you like the game of selling things to people who don't
want them, and you like seeing us dependent on you and turning to
you for everything.'

Fred winced.

'I think your Duplex Trailer is absurd; in the very worst taste,
and too horribly inconvenient--like those covered wagons of the
pioneers, that always seem so romantic, but they must have been
beastly uncomfortable to ride in and impossible to sleep in.  But I
do believe the thing may make a lot of money, and so might these
nuisances that Howard raves about: television and nasty airships
with rockets in their tails.  There'll be a lot of cash, and of
course you want to get it while the getting's good!'

'Why, Sara, I thought you were so much against all this doggone
capitalistic acquisition of wealth and everything!'

'If I had--if we had the money, I could do such splendid things for
Protest & Progress and the Workers' International Cohesion, an
organization which . . .'

'You mean the Coheeze?'

'I believe it is sometimes so called.'

Believe? reflected Fred.  She knew doggone good and well it was so
called.  He had heard her so-calling it on the telephone, that
evening.

She was continuing, in the benign manner of St. Patrick watching
the last snake leave Ireland:  'I'm working with Eugene Silga every
day now, making plans to start the "P. & P."  Of course we're not
communists, but we believe the Soviets must have a chance, and we
want to expose the beastly libel that the Bolsheviks have ever
liquidated one . . .'

'"Liquidate!"  That mean "slaughter"?'

'. . . single person unless they were traitors and spies for
Trotsky, and trying to wreck the people's state.  What would you
do, if you were Stalin?'

'Now how the devil do I know what I'd do if I were Stalin?  I don't
even know what I'd do if I were Max Schmeling or Mae West.  I never
claimed to be much good on deciding what other people ought to do.'

'And yet you're constantly deciding what Howard and Mother and I
ought to do.'

'Ow.  You win, girl.'  For the first time since his confession of
desertion, there were smiles at the table.  'But look here; you're
crowding me.  You're getting me away from the subject in hand--the
fact that I am going to retire in one year, and your mother and I
are going to enjoy ourselves.  Anybody got any real objections?'

'Yes.  I have,' said his wife.



CHAPTER X


'I don't suppose for a minute,' said Hazel, 'that you mean any of
this, but what would you do with yourself if you did retire?'

'Prob'ly travel.'

'You remember our one big trip together?  Didn't we see everything--
Washington, Mount Vernon, Chicago, the Yellowstone, the Grand
Canyon?  But all I can recall is how sore our feet got.'

'Well, thunder, we went too fast.  Day and a half in Washington!
Too quick.  Why, Washington's a darn interesting town.  Worth maybe
three days of anybody's time.  I'd like to go to Europe, say, and
really sit around.'

'Can't we sit around here?  Just think, dear, how uncomfortable
you'd be in a strange bed.  Or having waiters carve the roast beef.
No, no!  You stay on the job and have the fun of working with
Howard and seeing the business expand.  You'll never retire!  You
don't WANT to.  You want to see the children get along, and help
'em.'

'Of course.  You'd be bored to death travelling,' shouted Howard.

Annabel now burst:

'Please excuse me--I'm a dreadful outsider--but why shouldn't Mr.
Cornplow go off bumming if he wants to, after all these years?  I
think it would be swell if he went and sat under a palm tree and
threw rocks at the whales!  Instead of teaching you which part of a
car the engine's in, Howard!'

All of them stared at her severely, all but Howard, who was
bothered, and Fred, who did not see her at all.

For this moment, during a rather pointless talk at a rather
pointless birthday party, was suddenly and appallingly the most
important in his life.

Whether it was the addition of another year to his age, or the
toothaching memory of the cousinly Tillerys' sponging, or Howard's
picture of an expanded agency with Fred as leading lunatic, or
Sara's explanation that he was useless except as a feeder for
communism, or whether it was some hidden impatience that for years
he had struggled against recognizing, he knew, in this half-second,
and knew terrifyingly, that what he had said as jest was
devastating truth.  He perceived that he did want to retire and,
with Hazel, try to discover what manner of man he was and might
become . . . that he INTENDED to retire . . . that he might even
actually do it.

He looked puzzled.  He coughed a little.  He scratched his ear.  He
jiggled his watch chain.  The table and the guests came back to him
out of the mist.  He informed himself that he had returned to his
senses, that the retirement notion was fantastic and that no sane
fella like himself could be so anarchistic as to do something
merely because he wanted and intended to do it.

He was conscious that Howard was finishing what had, apparently,
been a lengthy speech:

'. . . and in my opinion, if you care for it, Dad, I think you'd be
making a big mistake.  But I agree with Mother that you don't mean
it.  You couldn't possibly retire.  In one year--impossible!
Because, to be specific, as my history prof says, aside from coupla
months travelling in Europe, what could you DO?'

It was hard for Fred to outface their pity.  He waggled his fingers
while he fumbled and mumbled:

'Do?  Oh.  DO.  There's a lot of things I could do.  I've been a
good salesman; I've helped spread mechanical conveniences among a
lot of stubborn dumb-bells, and I'm glad of it.  Sara thinks I've
been a pedlar; I think I've been a missionary.  But I'd hate to
pass out thinking I couldn't do anything else.  Do?  Travel, like I
said, and not just two months in Europe, either.  Nosir!  Study it
thoroughly, every corner; take an entire year!  And learn things,
like languages and music.  And this manual stuff, carpentry and
fixing clocks--nice, clean, interesting work.  Maybe wind up in the
country and have a crossroads store and a small farm, just to have
something to fuss with.'

Hazel was worried.  Better than any of them she knew that Fred had
possibilities of madness, and she said luringly, 'But, dear, you'd
be bored, after the city and contacting all these different people--
stimulus, you might say.'

'Think I get so much kick out of "contacts" with Bert Whizzle and
Paul Popple--and Cal and Mac Tillery, the rubber-boot twins?  High-
class stimulus that is!'

'But we can't just consider ourselves in this life, Fred.  After
all, we have got a duty to our family and friends.'

'Duty!  Duty!  Duty!'  Was this the conservative Fred Cornplow?
'I'm sick of hearing about duty.  Duty of husbands to come home to
their wives every night, when it would be better for everybody's
temper if they stayed downtown and had a little poker and liquor
with the boys!  Duty of wives to stay home instead of going out to
the movies, just because Pa has his slippers on!  Duty of Howard
and Sara here to pretend they think I went to college once, and
read a book.  Duty of Annabel and the Kamerkinks to pretend they're
not embarrassed by this family's undressing in public . . .'

'Not at all,' said Dr. Kamerkink.

'Ought to hear the Staybridges,' said Annabel.

'Duty!  I figger life would be a lot better for everybody if more
folks did things because it was fun and not because it was their
dumb duty!  Remember what Chum Frink wrote:


     '"Lives of great men all remind us
       We can make our lives sublime
       If we nag the kids and neighbours
       And look noble all the time!"'


'Duty!' said Fred.

'Horrid word,' said Annabel.

'Shut up, dearest,' said Howard.

'O.K.,' said Annabel.



CHAPTER XI


As the Cornplows' family physician, Dr. Kamerkink must have known
that there was no use in giving Fred any advice which Fred was not,
beforehand, prepared to hear and pay for.  But the Doc had recently
begun a book which showed that the latest thing in medical
practice--true, it was known to the ancient Greeks, but without the
sparkling terms which now made it interesting--was to use
psychiatry on the patients: not let an honest citizen develop
cramps or colitis because, subconsciously, he didn't like his
wife's new green dress.  No.  Change the dress.  Or change the
wife.

Unfortunately the Doc hadn't got far enough into the book to learn
what, in detail, you did with psychic therapeutics, but he took a
shot with what he had:

'Now, Fred, if you'll allow me to give you some advice both as your
physician and old golfing companion . . .  This idea of yours about
retiring and going off and making yourself uncomfortable is just an
incipient psychosis.  Course, I advise you to cut down your smoking
and drinking and eat at regular periods and get a lot of rest.'

'No!'

'Oh yes.  I told you that before.  But the thing to correct is
your--uh--your conditioned reflexes.'

This time it was Annabel who jeered 'No!'--but softly, almost
inoffensively, with lips puckered in Fred's direction.

'Just as important as these somatic corrections, however, is the
mental hygiene, and in good old cart horses like you and me, Fred,
that implies a steady carrying on of your normal occupation.
Any man who retires from his natural work before he's finally
carted off to the hospital is a sap!  None of these high-class
psychiatrists, that get a hundred bucks an hour for telling you
what you already know, could beat me at advocating plenty of good,
juicy vacations and hobbies.  Why, I knew one insurance agent with
dyspepsia who, on my humble advice, took up archery, with the
result that his wife--I want you to listen to this carefully now,
Fred; it's quite a sensational case, and I'd of written it up for
the Journal of Psychiatry if I'd had the time--and the result was
that his wife, who was about twenty years younger than he was and
who he suspected of sneaking off to dances with younger men, began
to join him in archery. . .'

'Archery?  Shooting arrows?  No!  I won't shoot any arrows!'

'Well, she became his real pal.  But appetite ticklers like that
are just the opposite of retiring.  Fellow's got to be an authority
on one thing, and stick by it, if he's going to win people's
respect.  Suppose, say, you were on a steamer and . . .'

'Steamer to where?' demanded Annabel.

'Heavens!  Steamer to anywhere!  I'm just imagining a case.'

'Oh,' said Annabel.

Fred chuckled, and Dr. Kamerkink looked at both of them
suspiciously as he struggled on:

'You're on this steamer, and somebody asks you, "Who's that guy?"
Do you answer, "Why, he's the fellow that sang 'Trees' at the
ship's concert," or "He's the one that knows the difference between
Barbados and Haitian rum."  No!  What you answer is, "Him?  He's
the biggest manufacturer of automobile tops west of the
Mississippi!" and the other fellow gets interested and says, "Is
that a fact!  Say, I've got an automobile top!  I'd like to get
acquainted with him."  See how I mean, Fred?'

'I see,' said Fred.

Hadn't Doc Kamerkink been saying something about how to get along
well on steamers?  He'd like to get along on steamers, well or ill.



Sara finished it--Sara tore it.

'But of course if you ever did retire, actually you wouldn't stay
away for more than a month, Father.  Impossible!'

'How so?'

'You're too much a creature of habit.  You've often laughed and
told us about how fussy Grandpa Cornplow was: had to have the
wastebasket or his footstool in exactly the same place, and carried
on if anybody moved his ruler, which he never used, one inch from
its proper place.  And of course you're precisely like him!'

'Me?  That've always made such fun of him . . .'

'Precisely!  If the cleaning woman ever changes the order you
always keep your toothbrushes in, you have three fits before
breakfast.  You're as fixed in your routine as if you were in a
plaster cast, and you'd be chilly without it!'

'Wh-why--me--why, I'm known throughout the entire motor business as
a lone wolf.  Do just what I please . . .'

'But, darling, you're always pleased to do exactly the same thing
at exactly the same second every day, and if you went travelling
and had to change your habits, you'd go crazy.  Please, Father,
this isn't any criticism.  Since you'd rather play cards than read
anything new and discover what's going on in the world, it doesn't
matter.  Gives you a stability that, maybe, the rest of us do
depend on, as you hinted--not awfully politely, I thought.  But it
does mean you'll never in the world be able to do anything
different from selling Triumphs and coming home to hear Lowell
Thomas on the radio.'

'Why--why . . .' said Fred.

'Isn't that just what I told you!' crowed Doc Kamerkink, who
hadn't.

There was a certain listlessness, as the party broke up, in all of
them except Howard and Annabel, who trotted off together.



'Routine?  Fixed habits?  ME?' raged Fred, as he drank a glass of
sodium bicarbonate--remembering that it had been his father's
habit, also, to think that after every company dinner he needed
soda.

Hazel raised her eyes at him and dropped them, silent.

While he worried his undershirt off, even during the pleasure of
scratching his back, he studied her, and sighed to himself,
'Hazel's the best woman I know.'

But, he fretted, she was fanatically devoted to possessions, to
things.  Perhaps she coddled her belongings just to keep from being
bored to death, but still . . .  She was the cave woman who desired
a larger fire, a thicker bearskin, than the lady in the next-door
den.

Almost the only jealousy that had ever spotted her life was a
small, annoying envy of the possessions of others.  In the cottage
of her Utica father she had lived meagrely, with any new purchase,
a new doormat, a fly net for the horse, a matter to be discussed by
the family for days.  Yet at fifty-three she believed that she
would be miserable if she were deprived of her candle-wick
bedspreads, the grand piano she had bought for Sara, her private
jar of balsam-scented bath salts.

'You and I really could skip off together and have a handsome time,
if you weren't so set on having things just so,' he sighed.

'Fred!  If you ever really WANT to travel, or do anything else,
anything at all, I'll always be right there with you.  But we
mustn't fool ourselves.  I've always said it would be a great treat
to see Europe, but honestly, we wouldn't be happy, trying to get
along without our comforts.  I suppose in London, or even in Paris,
there's hotels modern as anything in Sachem, but how would you like
to go back to sleeping on a horrible hard mattress, like you
probably had as a boy?  Cornhusks!  You can say what you want to,
but it's awfully important to have an advertised mattress.'

'If I liked the scenery, I wouldn't care if I slept on a board.'

'But you can't very well look at the scenery while you're
sleeping.'

'Oh, you know what I mean.'

'And since when did you ever sleep on a board?  Not since you were
arrested for rioting in college!'

'Arrested?  Me?  You know doggone good and well I've never been
arrested in my life--except maybe ten-twelve times for speeding,
and that time when I was a kid and punched the fresh waiter . . .
Say, there's a button off this clean shirt, and I was going to wear
it to-morrow!'

'Put it there on the chair; I'll sew it on . . .'

'But I was going to wear it . . .'

'Oh, wear another one!  And you know, it isn't just THINGS, that
we've got fixed up so nice now, as we want 'em.  It's our children
and friends--people you can trust and count on.  Course it's
pleasant to meet strangers, but you can't understand 'em and feel
SAFE, not like with your own folks.'

'Oh--well--thunder--gee--I guess maybe you're right.  Don't meet
many fellows like Doc Kamerkink, or Walter Lindbeck--even if he is
fifteen-sixteen years younger than me, but how he can play poker!'
Fred smacked his head on the pillow, turned the pillow over and
pulled the blanket up under his chin, 'And Annabel's a peach.'

'And Sara, of course.'

'Except when she says fool things like my being a slave of habit.'

Resolutely he flopped on the pillow again.  A truce to all this
chatter.  He was a man of resolute action, and he was going to
sleep.  Yes, he'd never be able to get away; he had enough nerve to
admit it, when he had taken a licking.

He lay awake watching the shadows move against the yellow window
blinds and trying to remember where he had heard a phrase,
meaningless to him and exciting and a little sad:

'We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.'



CHAPTER XII


The morning after his birthday, he wondered what it was that had
been plaguing his sleep--something confused and risky.  He was
aghast as he remembered that he had made threats about becoming a
Kipling hero.

But slowly, as morning strength flowed into him, he rejoiced.  Yes!
They hadn't licked him!  He would do it!  He would see many golden
roads beyond the walls of Samarkand . . .  Incidentally, where the
deuce was Samarkand?

It was a frowsy day, cold for mid-spring, with a meaningless
drizzle that seemed more to rise from the sticky brown earth than
to drop from the disapproving skies.  The rain was as dreary as
Sara's charge of last evening that he had been so imprisoned in
ruts that he couldn't even look over the edges.

In his shaky zest for freedom, he tried to defy the thought of
Sara, but he shrewdly watched himself during the routine of
dressing; he really saw himself; and that is, for any man over
thirty-five, no joyful sight before breakfast.  He stood apart and
spied on his own fussing.  He noticed that always, on rising, he
first looked at the still-sleeping Hazel, to see if she was really
there and still alive.  On chilly mornings he always completed the
first layers of dressing in the warm bathroom.  He discovered that
he always--but invariably with the prickliest discomfort if he
failed to follow the rite--hung his underclothes on the bathroom
hooks in the same order, with some fidgety notion of its being
easier thus to dress after his bath.

He noticed that, perhaps every morning for a good many years, he
had daily protested, 'All nonsense, this daily bath business.  As
kids we only got bathed once a week, didn't we, and we didn't smell
so bad, did we?'

He noticed that he always soaped his feet before soaping his knees,
and that it was a struggle to reverse that order.  He noticed that
it maddened him to find that the maid had left his bottle of
mouthwash on the window-sill instead of where, by all the ritual
proprieties, it belonged--in the medicine chest, and not just stuck
any old where in the medicine chest either, but put away nicely and
correctly between the sodium bicarbonate and the aspirin.

Where it BELONGS? he queried, in rebellion against his own pattern.
Who passed that law?

He discovered that he always closed his eyes when he brushed his
teeth; furiously discovered that he had to close his eyes.

It was distressing to admit that Sara could be right.  Then it was
time to break the mould of his job and household and tricks of
personal habit, do anything, go anywhere, before he was encased in
the coffin of routine, a living dead man.

Yes, and he'd do it, too.  Wasn't going to permit even the best of
habits to be his master.  Already, he exulted, as he drew on his
coat and started downstairs, he was changing . . . and noticed then
that he had, as on every morning these last twenty years, coughed a
tiny and perfectly meaningless cough at the exact moment when he
tucked his watch into his lower left-hand vest pocket . . . and
that if he had inconceivably ever found the watch in any other
pocket, he would have felt naked.

So, with his exultations quenched, he went down to breakfast, in
the scarlet-and-canary-yellow 'nook' off the butler's pantry, and
as he heard himself muttering to the maid, 'I'll have my coffee
right with my porridge', he realized that he had said this once a
day for decades . . . and realized that if the Morning Recorder had
not been there, exactly where it 'belonged', six inches to the
right of his water glass, he would have felt himself betrayed by
his nearest and dearest.

'Looks like I've gotten in such a habit I simply can't start the
day without coffee and the baseball news.  I better get out of this
quick.'

It was rather too bad, because for years he had enjoyed his
anecdotes about how ludicrously punctual his father had always
been.  'Yessir, neighbours used to set their clocks by him.  Made
it kind of hard for a wild bunch like us young uns!' . . .  How
many times, for how many years, had he been saying that? he
wondered.



Hazel, as always--and he now perceived that she had her own
rigidities of habit--came down to breakfast as he was finishing.
She was, as always, drowsily apologetic for being late, but she was
so downy, so soft in her grey-and-crimson négligé, so like a robin
with ruffled feathers, that her comfortableness reassured him.  He
would achieve freedom, yes; but no concept of freedom that did not
include the presence of Hazel was imaginable.  He was as married as
a cooing dove or an Anglican bishop.  Once or twice in his cheery
life he may have looked with approval upon a cigar-store wench or a
grass-widow customer, but he had never wanted to live on either
cream puffs or caviare; and he knew that he would be for ever
hungry without the honest bread and butter of Hazel.

'Well, still like to maybe travel a little?' he said.

'Oh, yes,' Hazel babbled.  'I think it would be grand.  My, I would
like to see this Westminster Cathedral or Monastery or whatever it
is where they're going to have the Coronation.  It must be a lovely
church.  Honestly, do you think we could go . . . for a few weeks?'

'Could we?  Say, we can do any doggone thing we doggone well want
to!' swore Fred.



Sara made her entrance as he was leaving.  She was less purposeful
and disciplinary this morning; she was, indeed, all one youthful
yawn, and she spoke to him tolerantly:

'Say, Dad, I hate most awfully to bother you, but my allowance is
nearly overdrawn.  I wonder if you could let me have twenty-five
dollars?  I had to lend twenty-five to a poor fellow that came in
to see Gene and me at the Coheeze yesterday.'

'Who?  Why?'

'He's been out in Detroit helping organize the automobile workers,
and the cops were after him and he had to scram.'

'Scram--cops!  What kind of language d'you call that, young lady?
Think that's what I sent you to Vassar to learn?  Doggone it, I'll
be everlastingly doggoned if I'll stand for anybody slinging that
kind of slang and colloquialisms around this shack!  And just
kindly lemme call to your attention the fact that I happen to deal
in motor cars, and I'm not any too darn rapturous about sit-down
strikes and Lord knows what all darn shenanigans that keep me from
getting cars to sell!'

'So you think the poor workers have no right to organize!'

'Sure they have, if they can get away with it.  But we poor God-
forsaken bourjoyces also got the right to organize against their
sitting down on our pocket-books.  Why should I hand twenty-five
bucks to your little comrade to help him keep me from making a
living!  Go on and read the Daily Worker about people like me,
girl.  It'll explain that I'm such a dirty dog that it's a waste of
time to expect me to dig down and support a revolution against
everything I stand for.  That's all, just a dirty dog, nothing but
a dirty dog, just a bourjoyce bum--go on, read your communist
paper, just read it, that's all.  Yessir, dirty dog.  And your
allowance is overdrawn $68.60 already.  Good morning!'

Sara stared at the menacing purple aura left behind him when the
hall door had closed.  Not since she had won the high-school
literary medal with an essay on the errors of Thomas Jefferson had
her muttonheaded parent dared so to speak to her.  Her lips
flattened in rage, and she stormed, 'I see that, for your own sake,
darling, so you won't make yourself publicly ridiculous, you will
have to be taken in hand!'



CHAPTER XIII


Despite streets slippery as a soapy bathtub, grey as a kitchen mop,
Fred drove merrily to his office.

Shame to have to jump on poor Sara like that, but he'd had to do it
for her own sake, so that she wouldn't make herself publicly
ridiculous.  And wasn't he already doing something about his
chronic routinitis?  Hadn't he shown independence in refusing to
let the parental Sara nag him any longer?

Retire?  Prob'ly not, but he certainly was going to take longer
vacations.  He was going to study this travel proposition a little
more.

He came into the office whistling, with a feeling that it was
somehow particularly suitable, 'Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean'.
But he was restless.  After the mail and the daily balance sheet,
he jumped up abruptly and announced to Paul Popple, 'Going out for
a breath of fresh air.'

'This time of day?'

'Yes, this time of day.  I'm good and sick of being expected to
have my breakfast every morning at eight-fifteen, rain, pour or
shine, and always be in the office at eight forty-five, and sit
here all day and listen to every sub-agent that thinks he can just
walk in and waste my time.  Don't know when I'll be back.  Don't
ever get into too much of a rut, Paul.  Learn to dominate your
habits, way I do.'

Fredk Wm, that man of mechanisms, usually drove, even in the city,
and economized on time by taking fifteen minutes to find a parking
space in order to avoid an eight-minute walk.  But to-day he
tramped out into the rain, the collar of his leather jacket high
and a handkerchief thrust inside it.  His legs had no protection;
presently his knees were itching with wetness, his shoes were like
sponges soaked in ice water, but he walked sturdily and in bliss.

Everything in this sober inland city was inexplicably transformed;
everything was rosy as the hills of Georgia, blue as the Caribbean.

At the window of a hardware shop, a row of dangling new dishpans
did not remind this ex-hardware-drummer of wholesale prices on
kitchenware, but of an Algerian market square.  There would be
camels there prob'ly and mouse-coloured asses with tiny bells,
white-hooded men with red pointed shoes, and the smell of musk and
attar of rose.  The blue and yellow dressing-gowns of silk in
Swazey & Lindbeck's windows were to Fred nothing so domestic; they
belonged to mandarins in porcelain temples where the doomed gongs
boomed.  The red pumps at a filling station were letter boxes on
Piccadilly, and in a 'gents' furnishing store' there were orange
bathing suits for Deauville.

He came to a liquor store, and saw vodka from Poland, rice wine
from Canton, and Moselle with castles upon the labels.

He sighed, and wilfully, just at the time when the office would be
busy and he sorely needed, he turned into the lunchroom of 'Nick
from Naples' and ordered coffee and sinkers.

'Ever go back to Naples, Nick?' he demanded.

'Sure.  That's a fine place.'

'Can you sure enough see Vesuvius from there?'

'Sure, smoke alla time.'

'You can see smoke coming out of the volcano?'

'Sure.  Smoke, coals, fire--ev'thing--shine like hell all night.'

'Well sir, I cer'nly would like to see that.  Glows at night, eh?
Well sir, that must be mighty interesting.'  Fred turned to the
amiable, unshaven taxi-driver beside him and chuckled, 'Be kind of
nice to travel in Europe, if a fellow could afford it.'

'O.K., I guess.  My old man was born in Jugoslavia.'

'Is that a fact!  Hear they got old walled cities there--yuh,
great, big thick long walls--built by the Romans!  I'd like to see
'em.'

'Yuh.'

'By the Romans!  DogGONE!'

He was now emboldened to risk the implications suggested in
actually entering a travel bureau.

The clerk was amused by the excitement of what was to him just a
round little business man in a leather driving jacket, a jesting,
over-cordial little man, for this clerk was a person who hated his
job, who stood behind counters only till it should be time to
escape, and dash to the Y.M.C.A. and gloriously race with himself
on the rowing machine.  He did not know that he was a merchant of
adventure; he supposed that he was selling minimum rates, and
tariffs on dogs and children, and reservations on steamer chairs,
and not the mist of dawn over rosy seas, Norman cathedrals, goat-
loud uplands in the Massif Central.  But he will have been of some
use to civilization, for he enabled Fred to walk out with pamphlets
on Why Not Winter in Flowery South Africa, Native Dances in the
Island of Celebes, and Ski Haunts in the Tyrol.

Fred could not promise himself that he would ever know his South
Africa, or speak whatever it is they do speak in the Island of
Celebes, and he professionally loathed skis--with a ski you
couldn't just put it in low and grind comfortably uphill.  But he
liked the idea.



While the mere body of Frederick William Cornplow, plump and
sometimes panting, unmagically draped in double-breasted blue suits
and startling red and green neckties, went about the office
correctly doing the correct things--delivering selling talks like a
phonograph, signing papers, planning a sales-floor addition to
house the trailers--the person inside Fred would have astounded the
customers, for he was not a man but a credulous child.  Fred was
nourishing an idea greater than himself.  He was like a small boy
who has, in a forest, found the entrance to a cave which surely
leads to the centre of the earth.  He was playing with the concept
that there is no law that a man of fifty-six must stop all of
living except sleeping and reading the newspapers and going to the
bathroom.  Why, he might have another thirty years of vigour and
experiment, and that was a journey which lay as far ahead of him as
was the journey back to the time when he had been a brat of twenty-
six, younger than Sara now!  But he had to start his pilgrimage out
of hand; he had to undergo the ticklish complications of retiring
in a year or of taking a whole year's vacation.

Having made this reasonable decision, in three days he abruptly
changed it--and with that the whole world changed.  And why not?
For who in the world has ever been more important than Fred
Cornplow?

He has, at times, been too noisy or too prosy, he has now and then
thought more of money than of virtue and music; but he has been the
eternal doer; equally depended upon--and equally hated--by the
savage mob and by the insolent nobility.

When Fred Cornplow was an Egyptian, it was he who planned the
pyramids, conciliated the mad pharaohs, tried to make existence
endurable for the sweating slaves.  In the days when he was called
a Roman Citizen, he was a centurion and he conquered Syria and
ruled his small corner of it with as much justice as the day
allowed.

As Fr. Abbot Cornplow, in the bright Dark Ages, he developed
agriculture and the use of building stone; later, as a captain
under Cromwell, he helped tame the political power of the
ecclesiastics.  The American Civil War was not fought between
General Grant and General Lee, but between Private Fred Cornplow of
Massachusetts and Private Ed Cornplow of Alabama; and a few years
later it was they who created bribery and railroads and gave all
their loot to science.

From Fred Cornplow's family, between B.C. 1937 and A.D. 1937, there
came, despite an occasional aristocratic Byron or an infrequent
proletarian John Bunyan, nearly all the medical researchers, the
discoverers of better varieties of wheat, the poets, the builders,
the singers, the captains of great ships.  Sometimes his name has
been pronounced Babbitt; sometimes it has been called Ben Franklin;
and once, if Eugene O'Neill may be trusted, he went by the style of
Marco Polo and brought back from civilized China to barbaric Europe
the sound of camel bells, and the silken tents, scented with
sandalwood, which have overshadowed the continent ever since.

He is the eternal bourgeois, the bourjoyce, the burgher, the Middle
Class, whom the Bolsheviks hate and imitate, whom the English love
and deprecate, and who is most of the population worth considering
in France and Germany and these United States.

He is Fred Cornplow; and when he changes his mind that crisis is
weightier than Waterloo or Thermopylae.



No, Fred decided, he couldn't either retire or take a year's
vacation.  Howard, confound him, was right; just now, he had to
stay by the ship.  But he certainly wouldn't drudge on for another
ten or fifteen years.  He would retire in five years from now,
exactly; he had made up his mind, and dogGONE, let anybody try
to change it!  And meantime he would gorgeously 'get in shape.'



He felt absurd in doing it, but Fred was in training for adventure.
He stopped smoking before breakfast; he occasionally walked to the
office; and once or twice a week, with intense distress and a
feeling of being silly, he wabbled dumb-bells in the Elks'
gymnasium or joined in the calisthenics of a squad of bankers and
brokers and superintendents of schools, worthy gentlemen who as
dancers and high kickers resembled a mixed group of turkeys and
hippopotami enacting an Andalusian flower song.

But he persisted.  He had worked out for himself a principle:
'You'll never make any change in your life that you haven't already
begun.'



A fortnight after the beginning of Fred's madness, Howard appeared
in the office and croaked, 'Of course all those jokes you pulled at
your birthday party about retiring--I know you're too responsible
to do anything like that.'

'Well, YOU know, son--fellow sometimes feels like kicking the
dashboard.'

'Sure.  I didn't take you seriously.'

'No?  Well . . .  Gosh it's hot for May.'  Indeed, Fred was wiping
his forehead.

'Sure is.  Yessir, actually hot!'

'Guess I'll drop in at Swazey & Lindbeck's, this noon, and pick me
out a summer suit.'

'No, no.'  Howard was pretty firm.  'They'll sting you.  Go to the
Gotham Mart.'

'You think so?'

'I know it.  And I don't want you to stop carrying a silk muffler
yet.  Pretty fickle weather.'

'Yuh, I suppose . . .  Though I bet your mother is sweating to
death, this morning, laying out her sweet peas.'

'And that's another thing.  I've told Mother and I've told her, but
I just can't get her to listen to me.  It's all foolishness, her
trying to grow sweet peas.  Why don't she put in some good sturdy
rose bushes that don't need so much attention?  But think she'd pay
any attention to me?  Oh no!'

When Howard was gone, to drive back to Truxon College at a
conservative sixty miles an hour, Fred mused, 'So if the young man
should make good, and not always lean on me, fifteen years from now
he'd be tying up Hazel and me by the fireplace and telling us when
to breathe.  Nothing doing!  He travels the fastest who travels
alone . . .  Always providing, of course, he has Hazel with him,
you understand.'



CHAPTER XIV


No doubt Sara and Eugene Silga didn't deserve any particular credit
for it.

Their office was one stingy room on the third floor of the Stiggis
Building, between a photographer of riotous babies and the agency
for a platinum mine.  They had nothing but two kitchen tables, four
kitchen chairs, a wire basket filled with bills, a pile of rival
radical magazines which damned one another for luke-warmness in
revolution, one window--dirty; and a telephone--in arrears, but no
doubt they enjoyed it more than a plush and walnut office with
respectful attendants.  You can feel more heroic in shirt-sleeves
than in ermine.

In this primitive office of the Sachem Falls Cell of the Workers'
International Cohesion, and of Protest & Progress, Sara was
luxuriously misreading proof on the forthcoming first number, while
Gene sputtered on the telephone:

'Why, certainly, comrade, we'll provide the speakers . . .  Good?
Listen!  One of 'em's been beaten by the gorillas seven times . . .
Sure, all the decorations; I've got a four-by-seven-foot poster of
Lenin . . .  No.  Fifty per cent of the gate . . .  No, won't touch
it for less . . .  All right, you talk to 'em and give me a ring.'

Gene glanced at her with those eyes, daring and amused, that seemed
to understand her every foolishness and desire.  She didn't CARE,
resolved Sara; she would marry Gene even if they had to live in a
one-room flat and she do the cooking.  Oh yes; that was what she
had been trying to remember: she must learn to cook.

She chucked the proofs and swam shyly toward him.  She panted as he
smiled at her with his especial smile of friendliness, but what he
said was:

'Sara!'

'Yes, Gene!'

'I, uh . . .  You know these Channing Praggs--the glass manufacturer?
Think you could get old lady Pragg to pull a soirée, or whatever
she calls it, for me?  I'll spiel on birth control in Russia and
pass the hat.  Isn't it funny, darling!'  He patted her hand, which
was clenching the edge of his table-desk.  'Nobody comes through
with funds for the revolution like the wives of millionaires, even
after we've openly announced we intend to overthrow the Democratic
State and institute a real, honest-to-God dictatorship of the
rednecks like me.  How come?  You're a capitalist, darling.  Why do
you guys in the ruling class let us get away with it?'

'I don't think Mr. Frederick W. Cornplow is as keen on our getting
away with it as I'd like to see.  We'll have to work on him a lot
yet, dear.'

Their laughter was a gust that blew away all such featherbrains as
Fred.  She was certain that Gene was going to show a little more
affection now than just the patting of hands which had been his
only gesture, and she leaned over the shining blackness of his
hair--as Frieda Kitz clumped into the office.

Frieda earned her living in a wall-paper warehouse; she was
treasurer of the Coheeze; she never laughed except for a triumphant
snort at the thought of a firing squad's converting the Praggs and
Cornplows; and though she had a tranquil broad-browed loveliness,
she wore her hair tight and never dressed in anything but stiff
corduroy suits and flat low shoes.

Sara looked at Frieda with hatred--she at Sara with contempt--while
Gene greeted Frieda all too quietly, too understandingly, 'Good
morning, comrade.'

Sara felt that she had been sent back to the kitchen.  She had been
snubbed by amateur snobs like Mrs. Channing Pragg; not till now had
she been snubbed by an expert like Comrade Kitz.  She crept to her
desk and the suddenly hateful proofs.

Gene and the Comrade did not seem to think that she was important
enough to hide their secrets from her as they talked softly at his
desk of orders from the great lords of communism in New York.  Sara
was as uncomfortable as she had felt when, at ten, she had
blundered into one of her mother's tiny coffee parties and heard
those shocking bores, the Grown-up Ladies, confiding, 'Oh, they say
he drinks', and 'In October, she told me.'

She was sickened by the easy intimacy with which Gene and Frieda
shook hands at parting, needing to say nothing beyond a soft,
revealing, 'So long, comrade.'  But she made no comment on Frieda,
as Gene again pulled toward him the telephone on which, all day
long, he placidly forwarded his plans to smash the American
government.  She buckled to work.  She had not learned until now
that most banal, most ancient, most weighty truth, that there is
refuge in work.

Sara was magnificently playing the role of new broom.  She was
assistant secretary of the Coheeze, and managing editor (the other
editors were Eugene Silga) as well as two-finger stenographer and
advertising solicitor of Protest & Progress.  She wrote the minor
editorials, with happy thought of how much they were going to annoy
Fred, and in them felt herself a combination of Queen Marie, Emma
Goldman, Lady Astor, Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Corday.  It was a
good job, this profession of being not merely allowed but
encouraged to clout every head that rose above the mob, and of
actually being paid for doing it--provided she went out and raised
funds for the payment.



Into the office exploded their collaborators, Howard Cornplow and
Guy Staybridge, with the uncollaborative, the hopelessly bourgeois
Annabel tagging after them.

'Gene!  Gene!  I've got a poem for you!  Wrote it in biology
class!' crowed Guy.  "This'll stir up the fakers in Washington.
Listen:


     '"Here is a dime," the President said,
      "If you'll vote for me twice and bow your head.
       Red roses rioting North and South--
       Think of them buddy, and shut your mouth.
       Go buy you a suit of clothes," he said,
      "But careful, buddy, the coat ain't red!"'


'Fine!  Fine!' said Gene easily, and for that ease Sara loved him.
He dropped the poem into the pasteboard box which, Sara knew, held
the manuscripts he had accepted and would never publish.  He
gushed, 'Hope you've been able to raise a little dough, Guy.  Kind
of a crisis with the "P. & P."  If our friends will help us to get
through this month . . .'

'Yeh, I got fifteen dollars from Dr. Gomber, the professor of
drama--he sympathizes with communism--he's got plenty money--his
father owns in on the Piping Rock Explosives Corporation.'  Guy
handed over a wrinkled ten-dollar bill and a five.  These did not
go into any pasteboard box, but into Gene's vest pocket, and Gene
turned on Howard with an affectionate, 'How about you, old man?'

Howard was looking vaguely at the window.  'You ought to have more
air in here, Gene.  If I had time I could fix it so you'd have more
air in here, Gene.'

'I'm sure you could, Howard, but did you manage to raise any
funds?'

'Oh, I was going to, but I've been awful busy.'

'Sure, but the world revolution has to be pretty busy, too,
Howard.'

'Well now, I'll tell you how I feel about that, Gene.  I can't say
I'm entirely sold on communism.'  Howard looked as handsome as
Pike's Peak at sunset and as dumb.  'With my scientific training,
Gene, you got to show me the data--show me the data; the thing
is . . .'

'The data,' chirped Annabel, sitting on a pile of 'Proletarian
Art'.

Howard faced her crossly.  'Well, what about it?  Don't YOU think
you gotta have the data, Bell?'

'Sure.  Data is the goods.'

'You're so frivolous all the time!  You got no idea the risks I
take, in a conservative dump like Truxon, coming right out for the
left wing.  Are you with me or aren't you?'

'I'm with you, beautiful, just the same as your mother will be with
your father, no matter how much she may kick beforehand, if he ever
decides to go and do something sweet and crazy.'

Sara and Howard swapped glances of surprise.  It had not occurred
to them that anybody, certainly not a flippant young woman,
certainly not a superior Staybridge, could speak of their matter-
of-fact parents with enthusiastic affection.

'Howard!' Sara demanded.  'Tell me something more about rockets for
aerial power.  Just exactly how do they work, mechanically?'

'Rockets?'

'Good heavens, don't you remember that the other day you were
making a fortune out of them?  Come through now; don't hold out all
this priceless information on your comrade and sister, stupid.  How
do the rockets work?  I've got to write something about 'em.'

Annabel was helpful:  'The aviator wears an opera hat with the
rockets in 'em, and every time he shuts the thing, a rocket goes
off.'

'Can it!' said Howard.

'Don't be an idiot,' said Sara.

'Darling!' said Gene.

'Check,' said Annabel.

'Now rockets,' said Howard, 'these rockets--well, if you want a
technical explanation, they're affixed to the, I think it's the
rear of the fuselage, I think it's the fuselage, and--well, they go
off, and the sum of the reaction is equal to the reaction, I mean
to the action, and there you are, Sara, can't you see?  If you'd
only studied physics, instead of all this literature and stuff!'

'My beautiful,' yearned Annabel.



Winnie Weston Blear's Tea Room was to Sachem Falls a combination of
all the Greenwich Village restaurants that begin with Ye and all
the Broadway restaurants in which legitimate theatrical producers
have a farewell drink before catching the train for Hollywood.
Mrs. Blear's establishment had caviare once or twice a year, you
could get slivovitz if you knew the head waitress, and English
muffins were practically obligatory.  Here exhibited themselves the
featured players of the Spreadeagle Little Theatre, all the violin
teachers in town, and the local literary celebrity--the dramatic
critic on the Evening Tidings, who had written a book on his
travels in New Zealand.

Guy took all of the 'P. & P.' conspirators, except Gene, who had a
rendezvous with the telephone, over to Mrs. Blear's and went
cosmopolitan on them.  His father, the bleak Mr. Putnam Staybridge,
had once suffered Guy's presence for two weeks in London and one in
Paris, and Guy explained now, to the untravelled Howard and Sara
and Annabel, how sophisticated were cream cheese with bar le duc,
avocado soaked with curaçao, and Stilton with port--while the
nearest they came to these elegances was cinnamon toast with chilly
tea.

Annabel paid attention to her brother not with her ears but with
her memory.  For years she had listened to her father and Guy being
airy about European food, and that may explain why she looked so
fondly on a Howard who confessed that he knew no more about Stilton
(which he seemed to regard as some variety of sponge cake) than a
rabbit.  Howard warmed handsomely to her stilly gaze, and suddenly,
to the disgust of those hard-boiled communist warriors, Sara and
Guy, he demanded of Annabel:

'Are you crazy about me?'

'Absolutely.'

'How crazy?'

'Catatonics, catelepsies and cataclysms.'

Sara barked, 'I'm going to the office.'

'And me,' said Guy.  'When do you publish my poem?'



CHAPTER XV


While Fred, with Hazel on the arm of his chair, was reading the
first copy of Protest & Progress, Sara pretended to be lost in the
Daily Worker, and over it she watched them with what she hoped was
cynical amusement.

On the 'P. & P.' cover, in a technique familiar to Fred from the
high-school papers his children had once brought home, was a
caricature labelled 'A Dictator of the Auto Industry', depicting a
grossly fat man drinking champagne from a magnum.  That was fairly
easy for Hazel to understand, but she balked at two other
caricatures, 'Workers Unite!' and 'The Newest Deal'.  In the first,
'Labour' was revealed as an agonized dwarf lashed by a diabolic
monster named 'Capital', but in the second Labour was a young and
singing giant who laughed at a wizened Capital held in the palm of
his brawny hand: a hand worthy of a structural steel worker or even
of Litvinoff.

Hazel worried, 'Look, Fred, I don't get that.  If Labour is such a
shrimp in one place and gets all beat up by Capital, how come he
can squeeze Capital so, two pages farther on?'

'Hush, Hazel.  That shows how fast the Coheeze is working.  Don't
be bourjoyce.'

Sara sniffed.

The bourjoyces studied, then, the 'P. & P.'s' news from Russia.

With only nineteen years since the revolution, it appeared, the
Soviets had built factories, railroads, playgrounds and a twelve-
story hotel.

'Hm.  Pretty good.  Still, that's the same period as from 1865 to
1884, when America built up the entire West, after having had the
stuffin's knocked out of her in the Civil War,' said Fred.

To his delight, that did draw Sara.  'Entirely different,' she
proclaimed.  'How?' said Fred.  'Any number of ways,' said Sara.

He was not so well pleased when he read Eugene Silga's interview
with the executive vice-president of the Colonial Motor Car
Company, which presented the executive as a languider, pouchier and
more mulish version of George III, ignorant alike of motor
engineering and of the living conditions of the workers.  This
demon Fred had met in Detroit; he knew that he was the son of a
blacksmith, an engineer who was equally interested in rear-end
motors, in mountain climbing and in hospitals.  'We are not
amused,' felt Fred.

'Huh.  Oh, Hazel--jus' second--almost forgot--phone the Kamerkinks
about Sunday--c'mon, jus' second,' he blurted.  As Hazel opened her
mouth, he pinched her arm in caution, and she followed him into the
hall.  He led her not to the telephone but to the coat closet.

'Eh?' she wondered.

'Hush.  Take a swig of this.  Maybe it'll get us through the
intelligence test without our kicking Sara.'

He had taken from the inside pocket of an aged raincoat a bottle of
gin; he gargled at it and handed it over.

'Oh, so that's where you keep it!  No.  I can't drink the beastly
stuff . . .  Straight?  I never heard--I never heard of . . .  My,
that has got a kick . . .  I do feel better!'

They read through the editorials, two of which began:


So-called modern ingenuity is producing a wealth of mechanical
gadgets which, if they were conceived of as serving the Proletariat
and as vehicles for sound Propaganda, would be triumphs of popular
achievement.  Such innovations as trailers, easily transported and
opening out into four- or five-room houses, television, and the
probable future of propulsion of airships by rockets, so that one
could go from New York State to Moscow in six or eight hours,
should institute a new civilization, but to the dull, greedy, cruel
and unimaginative mind of the American 'business man' they are
nothing but future sources of profit wherewith he can the better
contribute to the funds of the Fascist armies threatening Russia.


And:


A sardonically amusing revelation of the mind of the American
'business man' is found in the fact that as soon as he can pile up
the swag, he betrays his real lack of interest in his calling by
hoping to retire.  Naturally!  He has none of the deep inner
satisfaction felt by Soviet experts in building permanently and for
the people.


'Now who do you suppose could have written those two gems?' said
Fred.  'Sara!'

Coolly:  'Yes?'

'I've been looking at your new Coheeze paper.'

'Yes?'

'I've got a new title for it; same alliteration:  "Prig and
Prattle".'

'Are you being humorous, Father?'

'Not very.  When you get a real communist fanatic that's as het up
as a prohibition reformer or a censorship maniac, and let him also
use machine-guns and firing squads the way he wants to, maybe it
sounds humorous, but I don't suppose it is.'



CHAPTER XVI


Her mother had gone to bed; her father, Sara guessed, with just a
little uneasiness, had shown unusual powers of keeping his mouth
shut and, without any lecture on the subject, had made it clear
that he would not contribute to the Coheeze.  But that was only
part of her troubles, and she said to him coaxingly:

'Sometimes you think I don't appreciate how hard you work, Father,
but I do.  I've been learning about real work.  Not only at the
Coheeze . . .  I don't suppose you care to talk much about that.
But I have so many other activities, too.  Did you know I'm going
to enter the club tennis tournament this summer?'

'That sounds better.'

'And I'm afraid I'll have to contribute to the courts fund and my
allowance is so shamefully overdrawn . . .'

'Ten dollars be enough? . . .  No? . . .  Fifteen? . . .  No?
Well, twenty-five, and that's my limit!'

'Oh, I suppose we can get away with that . . .'

'"We"?'

'But if the club were only the end of it!  Here I've gone and got
myself mixed up with the amateur summer theatre that the
Spreadeagle Little Theatre is sponsoring, and they've elected me
chairman of the Box Office, Seats, and Ushering Committee--of
course it is quite an honour, with Mrs. Channing Pragg and Putnam
Staybridge (and how HE ever came to have a tacky daughter like
Annabel I don't know; wait; don't shoot; if Howard and you say
she's pretty, I suppose she must be)--and with them on the board of
directors, it's quite a social honour, and so of course I'll have
to try and raise a fifty- or seventy-five-dollar subscription,
somehow or other . . .'

And Fred fired, after keeping his powder so dry so long:

'I know I'm just a clodhopper, that's all, nothing but a
clodhopper, just a clown, that's all, nothing but a dumb bunny, but
I'll be everlastingly doggoned if I can understand how you can hook
up your doggoned Young Men's Anarchist Association with guzzling
tea with Sister Pragg and kissing the doggone snobs in the tennis
association . . .'

'Yes?  Perhaps I might just happen to convert them to socialism.'

'And perhaps you might just happen to not do anything of the kind.
You look here, Sara: I've always given you all the allowance I
thought I could afford, but now you're proposing to support not
only Holy Russia and Holy Joe Stalin but also the white-pants
aggregation, and this amateur-dramatics-in-a-barn . . .'

'"Dramatics"!'

'. . . circus, that Sister Pragg would do anything for it except
ever come through with a cent, I--well, I'm afraid you'll have to
get Comrade Silga to increase your salary--from about ten bucks a
week minus to something plus--and then devote that to these
children's games.'

At the end of that scene, as he described it to Hazel in their
bathroom, 'She went and got hurt, and then she walked out on me.
Oh, I don't want to be mean, but I don't like to see her--yes, or
see me--falling for people that just use her for what they can get
out of her,' he worried, while Hazel, smoothing his cheek, was
worried along with him.



He was the more dependent upon the security of home because he was
too busy and doing too well.  The Triumph and Houndtooth were
prospering; the Duplex Trailer was a sensation; and he had to
bounce all over his district, leasing out Duplex rights to sub-
agents, and thus getting rid, wherever he could, of responsibility.
That he also got rid thus of much of his profits he did not tell
his family.

He said nothing about retiring; he did not think about it very
clearly; but he kept up his absurdly grave 'training'; and he was
giving Paul Popple more experience in accounting and sales.

''F anything ever happened to me, ought to be somebody else could
kind of take charge--just temporarily,' he said to Paul.

In one bright idea he had a regrettable failure.

Among the less desirable features of the Triumph shop, along with
rats, high insurance rates and a smell of sewer gas, was the
continued presence of his near-cousins, Cal and Mac Tillery.  Fred
had, briefly, been too much of a coward to fire them and to risk
receiving the hurt letter which their sire, Cousin Enos, would
inevitably write.

He had tried them at cleaning cars, until too many owners
complained of wet upholstery, and of running boards abloom with
soaked cigarette butts; he had tried them at selling gasoline,
until he noticed that with each gallon they donated five minutes of
bright backwoods chatter about the weather--'Hot, I'll say it's
hot.  Oh boy, is it hot to-day--say, it was hot when I woke up this
morning--oh boy, was it hot!'  Painting did not seem suited to the
particular talents of Cal and Mac; they broke spray guns and made
the car bodies contrasts of gummy spots with patches entirely bare.
At last Fred had put them to packing and toting boxes in the supply
department, which they did fairly well, except when they dropped
the boxes, lost them or used them as targets for tobacco juice.

In whatever job they might be, they told all colleagues and all
customers, 'We're Fred Cornplow's own cousins.  He's learned how to
get away with it, but say, is that guy a hick!  Oh boy!'

Fred begged of them, tenderly, 'Boys, now summer's coming, don't
you suppose your dad will need you on his farm?'

'His what?'

'His farm.  In West Virginia.  From the government.'

'Oh.  That.  Oh, Dad never got there.  He run into a cousin of
Ma's, on the way, that's got a wild animal farm, and he and Ma and
the kids are staying there to help train the tigers.'

'Well, well, Cal!  That's fine, Mac!  That must be mighty
interesting!  Don't you want to join him?  I hear tigers make fine
pets.  I'd be glad to pay your railroad fares.'

'Naw.  Dad wrote me a postcard; he said Cousin Albert was an awful
tightwad and gives 'em rotten grub.  He got so sore he prett' near
left Cousin Albert flat.  No, we like it all right here, Fred.
We'll stick by you.'



By Sara, Fred sent word to Gene Silga that if he could use one or
two fine young men, just the sort of real proletarians to whom Gene
wished to hand the control of the American government, Fred could
supply them, and he might even contribute to the Coheeze.

Eugene sent back jeering word:  'The Soviets and their fellow
travellers don't want shiftless bums any more than the capitalists
do; in fact, not being sentimental like the soppy American
capitalists, the Bolsheviks give slackers a choice between working
and losing citizenship.'

It was at that moment that Fred almost joined the communists.  And
he felt thus for a second time when Howard dragged in his playful
friend, Ben Bogey, whose slogan was 'Homes that are nice at lowest
price'.



CHAPTER XVII


Having had words with the dean on the matter of tooting his horn in
front of Henry Ward Beecher Hall at dawn, Howard came down to
Sachem and the Coheeze office to have company during the agony of
being solitary and rebellious.

It was all off with Annabel; she had told him that she regarded his
well-considered plan of studying finger-prints and becoming a G-man
as less than practical; love's labour was lost and Annabel could go
to the devil.

There were but two weeks before commencement, but he still had his
lamentable senior year to undergo, and he hit on the good new
notion that it would be sensible to spend it in Moscow.  Gene Silga
hadn't exactly said so, but Howard was fairly sure that he
remembered hearing somebody say that, in Russia, university
students spent most of their time shooting, leaping out of
aeroplanes with absolutely safe parachutes, and bathing with lady
students who were crazy about Americans.

At a cost in oil, gasoline, depreciation and sustaining hot dogs--
to omit the interest and overhead--of approximately seven
times what it would have cost to have the envelopes addressed
professionally, Howard had come down from Truxon and was sitting
now on a small box in front of a big box, addressing Coheeze
letters which informed their 'friends and loyal supporters' that if
they could just come through once more, Protest & Progress would
get along prosperously for ever.  Gene was telephoning to the local
liberal pastor; Sara was picking out on a portable typewriter an
editorial revealing that Kathleen Norris, Andrew Mellon and Dizzy
Dean were plotting against the independence of Mexico.

Their happy hour of conspiracy was interrupted by the entrance of a
bald but youthful male in spats and a belted coat, who handed to
each of them a card:


                       BEN BUTLER BOGEY
                      Saringham & Peters
                     Optimists Bank Bldg.
                     'Homes That Are Nice
                        At Lowest Price'


'What would I do with a home?' said Gene.

'Too much home already,' said Sara.

'Can I sell you a subscription to Protest & Progress?' said Howard.

'You bet; I'll take a subscription right now!' said Ben.

'Well, I'll be darned . . .  How much does one cost?' Howard
inquired of Gene.

Ben Bogey cheerfully handed over two dollars and a half, which was
more real money than that office had seen for a week; he popped his
hat off his head in greeting to Sara; he patted it back on again
with a gesture like a vaudeville hoofer's; he sat on the edge of
Sara's table and went into action:

'The home I'm thinking of just now isn't for you folks personally.
You can kid me, but I'm sure you've got cosy little hideaways of
your own.  The home I'm thinking about is for your magazine, and
your society, this International Workers' whatever-it-is--I forget.
My firm is developing a new development on a new principle of
developing.  It's going to be the first addition in the world
that's got culture for a selling point.  We don't want to contact
brokers or even bankers, but docs and lawyers and advertising men
and radio announcers and real intellectuals like that.  I can offer
you a whole floor in a fine, made-over, old, ancient house, built
back in 1890 but with all necessary modern improvements, including
electric ice-water cooler, for a mere two hundred dollars a month.

'You'll be taken right into the social and artistic activities of
the community.  Why, I wouldn't wonder if you'd be invited to a
reception-tea by Mrs. Stotes Emery--and there's a real author for
you--her husband is the big bond house, and she's had poems
published in a bound book that, I know for a fact, has been sent to
G. B. Wells and a number of other famous foreign scribes for their
criticism, and she'd be tickled to death to advise and inspire
you . . .'

'Comrade Bogey!'  Gene was smiling; Gene sounded affectionate.
'We're both working the same side of the avenue!  I address street
meetings myself.  I'm afraid you don't understand that our little
sheet is entirely subversive.  We're what is known as Reds--
Radicals--Dangerous Alien Elements; and I'm afraid that Pansy
Park . . .  You did say, didn't you, that was the name of your
garden suburb?'

'No; it's Lilac Lane.  Pansy Park would make a swell name to use,
though.  Excuse me if I jot it down.'

'Certainly, comrade.  What I'm getting at is that your sterling
community would throw us out on our ears.'

'That's just where you're off your base.  Red Radicalism is the
newest, the most fashionable racket there is to-day.  Nothing a
banker's wife likes so much as to hear that her husband may get
stuck up before a firing squad.  Say, nothing will get publicity
and pack his pews for a liberal clergyman, with a wife and seven
children and a mortgage, as much as to say at a society dinner
party that family life is going to be abolished.  No.  You boys
come in with us and we'll give you three months' rent free.'

'So kind of you, comrade, but we happen to believe in our "racket".
We don't like rich women that give you tea and advice.'

'Good God, who does!  I'm not talking about liking it; I'm talking
about young fellows trying to get along!'



Not for fifteen minutes did Gene make a real effort to get rid of
Ben Bogey, for like all people who work in offices, including
magazine offices, publishers' offices and the clangorous offices of
latter-day authors, with their lecture and radio and cinema
departments, Gene was pleased by anything like an excuse to stop
telephoning.  When Ben went cheerily out, Howard stuttered, 'S-s-
say, could I see you for just a minute, Mr. Bogey?  Let's go across
the street and have a cuppacoffee.'

At Ye Olde Robin's Egg Rotisserie, Howard confided, 'I'm finishing
up college next year, and I've been thinking right along I'd like
to go into the real-estate game.  Course I've been offered chances
in developing television and frog farms and all that sort of bunk,
but real estate has always been my one ambition.'

Howard was not lying; he was merely being dramatic and self-
convinced, as was Howard's father when he said that he liked
writing orders in triplicate.

'I'm not a communist, you understand, Mr. Bogey; I was just in
there because I've got a sister works there.  Say, I've got a swell
idea for a new kind of suburb.'

'Yeah?' cautiously.

'Instead of measly little houses, everybody live in one big
skyscraper--go call on your neighbours, winter evenings, not have
to get your feet wet--and use all the land for playgrounds and
great, big, huge gardens.  And grottos, maybe.'

'Yeah?' wearily.  'Listen, brother.  In the real-estate game you
don't want ideas--you want prospects.'

'But I was thinking--I'm sure I could get my dad to back me--he
don't know what to do with all the money he makes, he's such a
slave of routine, and with him behind me . . .'

'Who is your dad?'

'F. W. Cornplow, the district agent for the Triumph.'

'Oh yes, sure.  I heard him talk once at the Boosters' Club.  Great
salesman.  Great!  Wish I could interest him in a new rental.  I've
got the sweetest proposition for a motor agency in this man's
town . . .'

'Let's go and see him.  Got your bus here?  Shall I give you a
lift?'

'Got my coop parked right across.  You go ahead and I'll trail
you.'

'O.K., Ben.'

'Swell.  What do they call you for short, baby?'

Arm in arm, the two swarmed into Fred's office.

'Dad, want you to meet Ben Bogey, the best little real-estate
salesman in Sachem, and he's got the slickest proposition for a
motor-agency rental in this man's town . . .'

Fred considered Ben's spats, he considered Ben's belted coat, and
he was noticeably uncordial.  'I've got a rental!'

Ben Bogey stepped forward and took the limelight away from Howard.
'I know what a busy man you are, Mr. Cornplow . . .'

'I am!'

'. . . and I won't take your time just now, but if you are
interested in air, light, space, costs-saving . . .'

'I am not.  I loathe all of 'em.'

'I see, but . . .'

Howard laughed.  'You better listen to the old scoundrel, Dad,
because Ben and me have just fixed it up to start a real-estate
firm.'

'On who?  On Ben?'

'Not exactly, Dad.  I'm sure that when you hear our plans you'll be
able to see your way clear . . .'

'Come back next year, Howard, and we'll talk it over, and now--
please--go--AWAY!'



Annabel was small and forlorn, at the end of a mahogany couch,
pride of the Staybridge Mansion.  She peeped at the telephone out
in the hall.  By now, she thought, the instrument must be so well
trained that she would have but to pick up the receiver to be
connected with Truxon College.

Why, she thought, did she ever call him up?  Howard never said
anything on the telephone but 'Ullo, ullo, ullo' in what he
considered an English accent.  But he was so cheerful and knowable,
in contrast to her cultured Parent, whose level voice was always a
veil, soaked in ice water, between them.

Forlorn and very small.  Actually, Annabel was as tall as her
father, who sat in elegant flowing lines at the other end of the
drawing-room.  But so erect was his pride and self-satisfaction
that, beside her, he seemed like an obelisk.

He did not pretend to be reading; frankly he was watching her,
everything she did, and she became jerky.  She looked away from the
telephone.  She rose and paced toward the fireplace, airily
swinging her hands, trying to think of any reason why she should go
to the fireplace.  She moved the brass Buddha on the mantelpiece
two inches to the right; she felt her father's condemnatory glance
scorching her back, and hastily she moved Buddha back again.  With
a fine fingertip, she smoothed the cool glossy cover of a garden
magazine--and peeped at the telephone.

Her fingers wandered through the poems of Yeats; the old edition,
with the cross and the mystic rose and falling leaves upon the
cover, which her father had brought home from London thirty years
ago and which, after her mother's death, he had been wont to read
to her until suddenly she had awakened to the charm of the lines,
at which he immediately became impatient of them, said they were
sentimental, for milk-sick girls, and threw the book on the floor.
She had picked it up and defiantly treasured it.

He was half sneering at her now as she read again:


                      . . . the land of faery
     Where nobody gets old and godly and grave,
     Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise,
     Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue;
     And she is still there, busied with a dance,
     Deep in the dewy shadow of a wood,
     Or where stars walk upon a mountain-top.


Again she looked toward the telephone, and he spoke suavely, like a
man superior to all emotion:

'It would be obvious, wouldn't it, Ann, that you are expecting a
telephone call from this bloated young bruiser, Cornplow, this
study in the mind of primitive man, whom you have been seeing
lately?'

'He isn't bloated.  But I am expecting him to phone . . .'

'The word is "telephone".'

'. . . or to drop in.'

'Drop into what?  The speech of youth to-day is very picturesque.
It lacks only one thing that speech normally should have--an
intelligible meaning . . .'

She was screaming.

'Stop, stop, stop, stop!  Dear God, I get so sick of your making
spider webs of words that choke me!  Howard IS simple!  That's one
reason I like him!  He's like daylight and fresh air, and this
place is like a dungeon!'

'I trust you like his family, also--they are certainly on the
simple, fresh-airish side.'

'I do!  Especially his father.  There's such nice wiggly lines
beside his eyes, where he laughs.  And you dare to patronize him!
Oh, I do hate you!'

'Are you quite sure, my dear Ann?  I suspect that, at least, my
superciliousness will keep you from making a fool of yourself . . .'

And then, astonishingly, Howard was ringing the doorbell.  After
her father's wry, dark, feline teasing, the young man seemed to
Annabel like a jolly St. Bernard.  She clasped his solid chunk of a
hand and towed him into the drawing-room.

Mr. Putnam Staybridge was a successful experimenter in moods.  He
had already dropped the venom and honey, the purr of a cat with a
mouse, and he barked like a terrier:

'Good evening, Howard, I daresay you would agree that the weather
is warm.'

'Uh . . .'

'I see that we are in accord about the weather.'

'Uh . . .'

'But there is, perhaps, a weightier topic.  I don't know whether
you have the intelligence to perceive it, but it looks to me as
though you either had grossly improper intentions, as they call
'em, toward my daughter, or else you are young idiot enough to
think that you could marry her.  Which, eh?  Which?'

'W-why, I'll tell you, Mr. Staybridge . . .'

'Don't stammer!'

'Well, golly, springing things like that so suddenly--hard for a
fellow to answer, right off the bat . . .'

Light fingers on his arm, Annabel had guided Howard to a stiff
Colonial settee, and she perched beside him, like a cowbird
chaperoning an ox, while he struggled:

'Course, maybe I suppose I ought to finish college before I think
about getting married, sir, but I certainly am crazy about Bell,
and the minute I get out, I hope to land a good job and be able to
support her.'

'It is your notion, then, that all Miss Annabel needs is to be
provided with food and lodging?  She seems to me to be quite
adequately cared for already.  Has it occurred to you that it would
also be necessary for you to learn her language; the language I've
reared her to speak?'

'Her language?'

'Quite!  If you see this as in a glass, darkly, Miss Annabel might
be willing to explain.'

Mr. Staybridge did not, as usual, embarrass them by snatching up
his toys and going home; he embarrassed them more by sitting in
easy indifference, reading Baron Corvo.  If in the chill of that
dry ice Annabel and Howard were too congealed for speech, their
touching hands were voluble, and soundlessly they crept into the
hall, out to a stiff white bench beside a stiff red plot of roses.

June, moon, tune--roses red and joybells soon; it should all have
been a comedy of boy meets girl; but actually the young people were
shaken with fear of Putnam Staybridge's contempt, fear of a world
where the commonplaces of jobs and rent and food had become as
difficult as winning an empire; and most of all, fear of their own
overwhelming and illogical love, released now by Putnam's jibes.

Annabel dropped her protective street-corner flipness, all the
'O.K.s' and 'Swells' she had adopted equally from shopgirls and
from the elegant Junior Leaguers.  Howard was frightened out of his
heavy humour.  With his arm desperate about her shoulder, he could
feel her tremble, her arm and shoulder tremble, as though every
muscle were a shaken cord, and he was trembling himself as he
struggled:

'G-golly, I g-guess we got to do something about it.  I can't stand
being away from you any more.  All the fellows at Truxon, yellin'
and throwing books around, and even drinking gin, and I'm beginning
to think gin is awfully bad for your digestion, and the bums, they
come bursting into my room any hour, day or night, in those dirty
ole sweaters and grey pants, and I want to throw 'em out--honest,
Bell, I guess maybe I'm kind of crazy, but I can see you there
standing in the dormitory hall, in a white dress, like a white
flower the wind has blown there, and . . .  But gosh, I wonder if
I'm very intelligent?  I don't know if I really care so much for
reading, except the comic strips.'

'Dear, my dear, your heart is intelligent . . .  I think it is!
God help me if it isn't!  Oh, it is!'

'Say, I'll settle down and read like the dickens--Tolstoi and
biology and all those things.'

'We'll read together.  I don't really know anything except what I
parrot from Father.'

'You'll have to stand for keeping after me and making me work--be
hard on you, but now we can't help it--this love business got so
hold of me--feel like I was swimming in some rapids.  We'll be
married before this week is up!'

'But don't they expel students that marry, at Truxon?'

'Um-huh.'

'But don't you think you have to finish college?'

'We can't go on pretending to be a couple of monks.'

'No.  Perhaps not.'

'I'll get a job right away.  Dad bellyaches about it, but I can
depend on him to find . . .'

'No!  Howard!  We mustn't depend on anybody!  And besides!  I have
a hunch that Father Cornplow, the darling, is getting pretty fed up
on having a bunch of grown-up huskies like you and Sara, and maybe
me, hanging on to him as if we were babies with the measles.  Be
nice if he would give you a job, but . . .  He's not like Putnam.
That One enjoys having me stick around, so he can nag me and try
out all the nifties he heard in Munich and Florence.  Father Fred
doesn't owe us a thing, not any longer, and he's beginning to
suspect it . . .'

'He's GOT to help us!  The world and the government and your own
folks owe everybody a living.'

'You know: my father--sometimes he's pretty bright, or else he
knows what books to steal from--he was saying that there isn't any
government; there's nothing but a lot of people that are the
government only they don't know it.'

'Maybe, but a fellow's own parents . . .  I never asked to be
born.'

'I doubt if anybody invited you to, either!  No.  If Father Fred
gets sick of nursing us, I won't blame him.  He's not asking us to
marry--if we do get married . . .'

'We do!'

'Looks so, from this side.  But I want us to economize.  I'm crazy
to.  Honestly, honey, I'd get more kick out of having the nerve to
do without things than I ever would getting them.  Live in one
room, if necessary.  And I really am a pretty good cook--Putnam,
the old gourmet, has seen to that.  Let's live on eighteen dollars
a week, if we have to . . .'

'Sure.  That's O.K. by me.  But before we start, there's a few
things we'll have to have, and I'm busted just this minute, so
Brother Cornplow will have to come through.  We'll need a new
radio--I haven't anything but my little portable--and the one in
the car, of course--but that's a cinch; I'd be perfectly satisfied
with a radio that didn't cost over fifty bucks.'

'Howard!'  She was not trembling now, but rigid.

'Think that'd be too much?  Well, all right.  We could wait to get
that--maybe months.  But I've simply got to have a new Tuxedo.'

'My child, my child!  Good-bye, Mr. Yeats!  Goodbye, dove-grey edge
of the sea and stormy sunset on doomed ships!'  Annabel put on
again her mask of country-club vulgarity.  'What a job _I_ went and
picked out for myself!'  She kissed him on the lips.  'Call me ten
to-morrow morning, when That One is off to his den,' and she fled
into the gloomy house, while he wailed, 'But wait--wait--just
minute . . .  Aw, Bell, please . . .  I'll be doggoned!'



CHAPTER XVIII


Three p.m.  A June day.  Office of the Triumph Motor Agency, also
the Duplex Trailer, the Nation's Movable Home.  Mr. Putnam
Staybridge calling on Mr. Frederick William Cornplow.

'How d'you do, Mr. Staybridge!  What can I do for you to-day?  Can
I have one of the salesmen show you the mid-year model Triumphs?'

'Thanks, no.  Do you mind if I sit down?'

'Why, no.'

'Cornplow, I have ventured on a course, somewhat rare in these
complex days--I'm quite old-fashioned, you see--of coming to you
and speaking directly.  Are you aware that your son and my
daughter, mere children both of them, and perhaps neither of them
very wise, apparently think they are in love?'

Fred was as angry at the smooth and supercilious tone as he had
ever been in his life.  Sitting behind his desk, he pressed his
fingertips together till his knuckles felt as though they were
breaking, but never in his life had he sounded more civil:

'I've noticed something of the kind, Mr.--uh--yes, I have noticed
it, Staybridge.'

'You realize that it would be entirely unsuitable for Miss Annabel
to marry your son.'

'Possibly.'

Mr. Staybridge waited for wrath, but had to carry on the play
without it:

'I suppose your son has no money?'

'Not unless he's been holding out on me!'

'Nor prospects?'

'He tells me he may play in the college team, next autumn.'

'I'm being serious, Cornplow.'

Fred grunted.

'And I think that in other respects they aren't exactly mated,'
said Putnam.

'Such as?'

'Oh, need we go into details, my dear fellow?'

Fred tramped the floor for almost a quarter of a minute before he
was able to answer with suavity:

'Want me to tell you what you're trying to say, Staybridge?  No.  I
don't suppose you do.  But I'll be doggoned if I'm not going to.
The idea is that you come from an aristocratic family, and me and
the boy from a bunch of plain farmers and blacksmiths.  That's the
bunk.  If it were true, which it doesn't happen to be . . .'

'Aren't you rather assuming . . .'

'. . . as I say, it doesn't happen to BE true, because there's
about six hard-up school teachers or government clerks among the
Staybridge gang to one rich one . . .'

'If you PLEASE!'

'. . . but what of it?  We're dealing with to-day.  You're the kind
of snob, Putnam, that thinks a manufacturer is socially 'way ahead
of a wholesaler, and a wholesaler has got it all over a retailer,
God knows why, and . . .  And it happens that you aren't even a
strictly kosher manufacturer--you own in pretty heavily, as a
sleeping partner, on the Conqueror Company, which is engaged in
peddling cars, same as I am.  Oh, Putnam, how could you, my boy!'

Fred had seated himself again, very red; the pearl-pale Putnam had
risen, even redder, and was shrieking, 'There happens also to be a
question of breeding and manners!'

Quite gallantly Putnam took the risk of turning his back to Fred
the Terrier and walking out.

Fred was brooding, 'And now, by golly, I'll be doggoned if I won't
go and make those doggoned young idiots go and get married even if
they doggoned don't want to! . . .  Huh?  No, I'm busy.  Have Paul
Popple talk to him.'

Later:  'But the little rat was right about one thing.  Annabel
certainly has got better manners than my brat, and I suspect she
can read and write.'

Much later:  'What can a parent, that isn't more'n average bright
himself, do for his children?  Maybe leave them alone?  If I only
knew! . . .  Maybe the poor, conceited little flute player loves
his daughter, in his fool fashion.  Wants to keep her . . .  He's
lost her.  Do we always lose the people we love; only keep the
people that we don't plague with loving?  I guess those are the
real wars--men against women--parents against children--and not all
this monkey business in Europe.  I'd like an armistice!  I'd like
to go off someplace to a valley where there's peace.'



CHAPTER XIX


The first fireflies of the summer beckoned in the garden beside the
Staybridge Mansion.  There was a smell of rain-wet rhododendrons,
and beside the white gate a girl in a white cloak was waiting.

With muted engine, the car crept through the little street of
maples and apple trees, stopped with the engine throbbing, and the
horn, thrice sounded, was only a whimpering murmur.  Annabel
rustled through the gate.  The right-hand front door was held open
for her, and she crept into the car in silence; in silence they
slipped away.

Annabel could see that Howard was driving.  In the back seat were
Sara, Eugene Silga and her brother, Guy.

'Got the licence in my pocket,' muttered Howard.

She patted his arm nervously.

'You're of age, anyway, aren't you, Bell?' said Sara, leaning
forward, hands on the back of the front seat.

'Just.'

'Then your father couldn't do anything.'

Annabel sighed.  'You never know what that man might do . . .
Howard, did you see your father?'

'Yes.  But I didn't say anything about the marriage.  Neither did
he.  He just looked sort of funny.'

'"Marriage!"  It sounds so solemn and scary,' said Sara.

'To me it sounds like whiskers and horsehair sofas and whalebone
corsets,' sniffed Gene.

Annabel seemed to be talking in sleep:  'Yes.  I don't believe
we're going to do it.  We're putting on an amateur play, and
afterwards, pretty soon now, Putnam S. will come back to my
dressing-room and say, "Ann, if you had more discipline, if you
didn't let the emotion govern you, you wouldn't be a bad actress".
Maybe he's right.'

'Him?  Never!' from Howard.

'Wasn't he right when he thought me up?'

'Yes, he did have a pretty good idea that time!'

They were coming into the business section, garish with lights from
movie theatres.  Howard drove scarily, as swiftly as he could,
bounding ahead as the lights turned from red to green, till his
shaken passengers nodded like Asian gods.  Their escape from the
stillness beside Putnam Staybridge's garden enlivened them, and
they became hysterical:

'Don't forget to stop at the cathedral and pick up the bish and the
canon . . .'

'And the trench mortar . . .'

'I've arranged for a hillbilly choir and six Jugoslav maestri
playing twelve pianos . . .'

'But how can they . . .'

'With their feet, of course, idiot . . .'

'We can't get the bishop.  He's playing poker down at Honest Tom's,
and I heard he picked up his skirts and chased the cop on the beat
seven blocks with a bung starter . . .'

'Annabel can have a choice of a rabbi, a Mormon missionary, and a
Kentucky cardinal . . .'

'That's a bird, my good fool.'

'So is he!'

'Well, all you true-blue Aryan Tories and goyim can have your
marriages, but I'd rather learn bezique . . .'

'Howard, for heaven's sake, you're doing fifty-five!'

'Fifty-seven,' said Howard.



Guy Staybridge had been looking through the back window.  'Howard!
Ann!  I think there's somebody following us.  He's been making
every turn we make and there's darn little traffic on this Patchin
route, so I can pick him out.'

'The road is free, white and twenty-one,' said Howard, contentedly--
accelerating.

'The horn sounds to me like my father's Conqueror--I know that
horn,' said Guy.

'All right.  We'll ditch him.  Not that I'm scared of him or
nobody,' growled Howard and, after thinking it over thoroughly,
'never!'

But he sped up, turned off on a side street so sharply that they
were almost thrown from their seats, missed a station waggon,
circled a block and came back on the main road.

'Have we lost him?' Howard demanded.

Guy speculated, 'I think so, but it's hard to figure out--these
headlights.'

'Do you mind slowing up?' begged Annabel.  'I'd hate to have
"Arrived at her wedding minus seven ribs" on my tombstone.'

'Personally, I'm scared to death,' said Gene.

Guy, still taking sight through the rear window and feeling
important in the role of detective on guard, said with fake calm,
'I don't think that was his horn just now.  These Conquerors got a
whale of a lot of power--more'n your Triumph, I believe.'

Annabel hooted hysterically.

'What's the matter with you?'  Howard was stolid and disapproving.

'Oh, darling!  Don't you SEE?  A curse on both your supply houses!
Howardeo Montague Triumph and Annabel Capulet Conqueror!'

'I don't get that.  Explain it to me afterwards, when I'm not so
busy,' said Howard.

Annabel, with a small sound like a moan, looked closely at him and,
no longer speaking, leaned forward, chin in hand.



The parsonage in Patchin, which was half suburb to Sachem and half
country village, was a white box, more porch than house.

Sara had imagined aloud:  'The preacher will be a sweet old soul
with spectacles, and his wife will be a dumpling, and they'll both
be colossal bores.  They'll kiss everybody that doesn't skip fast,
and tell you two idiots to try to stand for each other, which is
plainly unreasonable.'

But the minister and his wife, who came worrying out on to the
porch as soon as the car hooted, were a timid, awkward pair, nearly
as young as Howard and Annabel, though they possessed a pair of
twins, whom they introduced as Abner and Bernice and sent
protesting up to bed.  They seemed more frightened about the
marriage than did the brazen principals, and the pastor's lady
begged them all to have 'just a bite to eat--just a little
something--maybe some nice fresh doughnuts.'

She did kiss Annabel, and tenderly, but after looking Sara, Guy and
Eugene over with anxiety, dismissed them as one of those accidents
that just will happen.

The scanty living-room could not have been changed much since 1890.
It still displayed a parlour organ and a brocade table-cover with
ball fringes.  On hanging shelves were the little pastor's books,
each volume painstakingly covered with oilcloth.

'This isn't a wedding!  Didn't I say it was just a play!' Annabel
whispered to Howard, as they lined up.

'Bell, you must stop and realize that this is a very solemn moment
in the lives of both of us,' he began, and she cut it short with
'You're telling ME?' as the little pastor quavered, 'If you please
now!'

Hearing an entirely illegitimate sound above them, Annabel looked
up and discovered that the pastor's twins were peering down at the
enchanted mystery through the hot-air register in the ceiling,
vigorously pushing each other and commenting, 'She's kind of a
nice-looking lady.  I bet she paid anyways five dollars for that
hat.  What do they want to get married for?  Hey, quit shoving me!'

She wanted to laugh, but she grew sober as she understood that the
pastor was cutting her off from all the white, shy, maiden life she
had known, with the timid solemnity of his question, 'Do you take
this man to be your lawful husband?'

After the ceremony, the little pastor said only, 'Dearly beloved, I
am not wise, and I don't know much about the rich city you come
from, and all I can do is hope and pray you two will be as happy as
my wife and I have been in our little house, and help each other
the way she helps me every day.'

Annabel wanted to cry, then.  She looked at Howard.  His mouth was
open, his eyes beseeching, and on his nose a tear was absurd and
beautiful.  But the time when she suddenly did cry, whooping like
an indignant baby, was when she looked around to find, standing by
the door, unexpected, unexplained, Fred and Hazel Cornplow, holding
out to her their plain plump hands.



CHAPTER XX


The initial salary received by Howard Cornplow, a new apprentice at
the Triumph Motor Agency, was twenty-five dollars a week, which was
eighteen a week as a worker and seven a week as a son.  He started
in as a salesman, and he liked it.  He pictured himself in a
silver-and-scarlet automobile, spurting all over the district,
crowing over his former fellow prisoners at Truxon College next
autumn, and with lush commissions investing in the stock market and
becoming a millionaire.  He bought a suit of imported Harris tweed
and, for no reason that he could ever explain, a pair of
binoculars, which he kept in his demonstrator.  Meanwhile, on one
day at least, he borrowed lunch money from his shaggy second
cousin, Cal Tillery.

But he did not sell any cars, not any cars at all, and Fred noticed
this more than he did the Harris tweeds.  After a week, Fred
summoned him to the office, at close of the day's work.

Swinging his foot good-naturedly, Howard chuckled 'Can't take very
long, Dad.  Bell and I are going out and shoot some golf.'

'Son, I don't want you to think I'm grouchy.  But it's time
now . . .'

'Oh, golly, Dad, Bell is always saying "it's time now" to do some
confounded thing or other!'

'Dry up till I finish!  I said it's time for you to settle down to
work.  No employer is going to pay you for looking handsome--not
even Hollywood, because you do have to be on time there, I
understand, and in the nine days you've worked here now, you've
been on an average of twenty-one minutes late in the morning, and
you've taken an average of an hour and twenty-two minutes for
lunch.'

'You've checked up on me--spied on me--like that?'

'I have.  Any other employer would just have fired you.  But your
unpunctuality isn't as bad as the fact that you don't know a single
thing about automobiles.'

'Now look here, Dad!  Fair's fair!  I've been driving cars since I
was fifteen . . .'

'And you still don't know what all those funny tubes under the hood
are for!  Before you can sell, you've got to be able to take down a
motor.  I'm going to put you in the repair shop.  I'm going to have
Bill Merman teach you how to use a lathe and a hammer and a cold
chisel . . .'

'Me work for that greasy, tobacco-spitting roughneck?'

'Maybe chewing tobacco is what makes a good machinist.  Maybe you
better learn . . .  Wait!  Excuse me.  I didn't mean to get flip.
I called you in here so we could get right down to brass tacks and
cut out this fencing and covering up that we've always done, all
our lives, doggone it!  You're no longer a nice kid that I'm
responsible for.  You're a grown, married man--theoretically--and
you're responsible for yourself and for Annabel.  So you'll either
put on overalls, and really go to work, and maybe some day I may
put you to selling again, or else you'll get out and find work
somewhere else.'

'And if I can't?  With the raw deal Youth is getting . . .'

'Then you'll probably starve.'

Howard struck attitudes by the dozen, heroic ones:  'Oh, I can take
it!  I can live on handouts!  I can sleep in the hay!  But what
about Annabel?  Her father won't speak to her.'

'Your mother and I would be very pleased to have Annabel stay with
us while you're sleeping in the hay, but if you come to our house
to call on her, please brush off the hayseed . . .  Howard!  Damn
it!  Have I got to wake up and find I have a fool for a son?  You
can get to work or get out, and I've got so now's I don't care
which . . .  Oh, son, son, don't make me angry!  I want to help
you.  Can't you see that?'

'Oh, all right, Dad.  I'll try.  I'll spit tobacco juice, if you
say so, and pinch every penny . . .  Want to drive out with me and
meet Bell?  I'll buy you a dry martini.'



While Howard and Annabel had been on their honeymoon of a week
(which Fred had felt was all he ought, for their own sakes, to give
them), he had found for them a three-room flat with appreciable
light and air.  Three months' rent he paid, and Hazel and he,
somewhat timidly, provided electric stove and refrigerator, beds
and a few chairs, and painted dining furniture.  They called in
Sara to approve and were flattered when she found these intrusions
tolerable.

When Annabel returned, Fred called her to his office and ventured:

'It'll be a long time before Howard is able to do much more.  I
want to lend you, uh, lend you personally, Annabel, a thousand
dollars, so you can finish the furnishing.  I want you to give me
your personal note for it--thousand bucks to be paid back in, uh,
say ten years, at, uh, shall we say two per cent interest?  Oh,
it'll be a good investment for me, the way things are!'

'Dad, I don't want to take it.  You've already given us enough
furniture to scrape along on.  I'd rather save, and buy things bit
by bit.  Howard is sweet, but . . .'

'Doggone it, Annabel, will you stop being so doggone noble?  I'm
being noble and you're being noble and no wonder Howard goes
haywire with everybody forgiving him the whole doggone time,
doggone it!  Here, you take this thousand bucks and sign this note
and get out of here and go buy that furniture, do you hear?'

'O.K., Chief!'



From the sketchiness of the lounge chairs, the couch, the
occasional tables, the dressing-table and bureau that she bought,
Fred suspected that Annabel had thriftily kept half of the
thousand.  He came in for coffee or lunch once or twice a week; he
found that, as she often asserted, Putnam Staybridge had taught her
perfection in making soups and desserts, canapés and salads.  But
she had never learned to cook roast beef or bread pudding or
porridge, she was not precise in bed-making, and she belonged to
the school of sweepers who leave rolls of dust under the bureau.
She did perceive the sloppiness of her housekeeping, and day after
day he saw her trying to remember where she had put the ice pick,
trying to clean the ash trays and the glasses which their friends
had left on every chair and table at last night's party.

He sighed, 'Dunno how come, but I feel more at home eating sinkers
and lukewarm coffee off a soap-box with Annabel than I would having
a bottle of champagne with Sara.'

(There were, to him, only five types of wine: champagne wine,
sherry wine, red wine, California wine and cowslip wine, of which,
as he understood it, only the first was to be drunk for pleasure
and not to flatter one's host.)



The third issue of Protest & Progress contained two articles which
irritated Fred beyond tolerance.  He read them on an evening when
Sara was away and, despite the sweet vision of sleep, he stayed up,
girt for battle.

The first article stated that rarely had there been so persuasive a
proof that all Americans were fools as had been seen during the
recent visit of General Kynok, of the Soviet Air Corps.  Aside from
being entertained by the American airmen, invited to lunch by the
President, urged to lecture in several cities, and shown all our
landing fields and aeroplane factories, he had been ignored.

This curtain lecture was accompanied by a few sound
generalizations:  (1)  It is glorious for a Russian to be a soldier
and ready to defend his country.  (2)  Any American who is ready to
defend his country and has become a soldier is either a
bloodthirsty fiend or has been misled by the paid hypnotizers of
Capitalism.  (3)  The Russian air fleet is stronger than those of
any other three countries combined.  (4)  America, if she had any
sort of nice feeling, would be devoting herself to helping
defenceless and aeroplaneless Russia.  (5)  General Kynok was at
once a Wellingtonian commander and a true-blue, tail-wagging
Proletarian comrade.

That essay was merely an appetizer for the article in which Gene
Silga urged that the Pragg Glassworks, the largest industry in
Sachem Falls, be organized forthwith as a closed shop, and since it
had been successful in resisting organization, that this be done by
violence.  He advised the workers to buy rifles, to form classes in
marksmanship, to study Georges Sorel.

Fred was raving, when Sara appeared, after midnight.

'Wait a minute,' she said crisply.  'You're just an amateur scold.
Look what the professionals have done.'

She gave him an early edition of the Sachem Falls Recorder, the
morning paper, open at the third page.  The right-hand column was
filled with a story headed:  'Mayor and Council Denounce Local
Red', which announced that one Eugene Silga was a notorious
Bolshevik, that his paper was inciting to riot, and that the Board
of Aldermen, with the mayor in attendance, would take up, to-
morrow, means of ridding the city of Silga and his followers.

'You better get out of town!' agonized Fred.

'No.  I can't run away.'

'Yes.  That's so.  You oughtn't to.  But I certainly think you
ought to stay away from Gene and your office a few days.'

'I suppose you're ashamed of me!  Perhaps it's Mother and you that
will want to run away!'

Mildly, rather surprised:  'No--no.  I don't have to tell you I
don't like what "P. & P." is doing--trying to make the whole
country a WPA with unemployability the only test of employability.
But of course I want to help you any way I can . . .'

'There is one thing you can do: help straighten up the office
accounts.  With this beastly attack, I expect all our beastly
creditors will be surging into the office to-morrow, clamouring to
be paid.'

'They might be.  Some business men do like to be paid!  I'll step
around in the morning.'

'If you'd care to,' she said indifferently, as she started up
stairs.

Fred's splendid rage had gone damp.  Once more he had discovered
that even when you have a sinner exactly where you want him, he
still may have something to say; that it is, perhaps, a mistake to
rehearse a play without inquiring whether your opposite is going to
have some lines also.

He did not long brood on his failure.  He knew that his daughter,
beneath her icing, must be disheartened.  He paddled to the upper
hall and, after she should have been asleep, heard her softly
thumping about her room.  He longed to go in and have what he
called a 'real talk with her'.  Suddenly, feeling lonely, he saw
that not for years had Sara and he talked with easy simplicity.
This Coheeze disaster might be a bridge between them.

Did children, afraid to ask their parents for favours, know how
often those parents were afraid of seeming ridiculous or bossy, and
how they hovered, hesitating, outside bedroom doors?

He knocked.

There was no hearty 'Come in'.  Sara evidently burrowed around for
a dressing-gown before she opened the door, with an annoyed 'Yes?'

'Nothing, nothing, daughter.  Just--well, I wanted you to know I'd
help, any way I can.'

'Oh, thanks,' she said bleakly.

Fred had never been in the Coheeze office, and when he climbed to
it, at ten the next morning, he felt uncomfortably that he had
returned to his early days of canvassing.  The unpainted, boxed-in
stairs were littered with papers and muddy heelprints, they smelled
of yellow soap, and they displayed the signs of an electric healer
and of a philanthropist who sold loaded dice 'for scientific
purposes only'.

In his one glance about the Coheeze office, Fred rather liked it,
reminded of the crazy tents, littered with fishing tackle and old
shoes, in which he had camped as a boy.  Gene and Sara were sitting
on their tables, muttering anxiously.

'Well, Gene, this is kind of hard luck.'

'Eh?  Oh, how d'you do, Mr. Cornplow.  Hard luck is right.  I get
all the blame, but how could I guess?'

'You might've known . . .'

'I was following instructions absolutely.  Now, I suppose, I won't
get a cent more money.'

'You could hardly expect the Channing Praggs to come through when
you've jumped on the source of all their cash . . .'

'Praggs?  PRAGGS?  Oh!  Them!  We aren't talking about the same
thing, Mr. Cornplow.'

Sara said witheringly, 'Of course not!' while the young Fred felt
like a calf in the scornful company of these, his elders.  Gene
condescended:

'I don't mind the Press roasting me, either.  That's my job,
stirring them up.  My trouble is with the C.P.'

'Oh yes.  The C.P.?'

'Good heavens, Father!' from Sara.  'The Communist Party, of
course.'

'Oh, I see.'

Gene sighed, 'I've just had a long wire from them this morning . . .
I'm a good radical, but I never did understand why it is that
the harder up a left-wing organization is, the more it sends out
hundred-word night letters that could just as well go under a
three-cent stamp . . .  Happen to notice that in the last "P. & P."
I gave quite a boost to the Russian general, Kynok?'

'Um-uhh.'

'The real model for all American soldiers that might want to go
revolutionary?'

'Um-huh.'

'Well the Party wires me that Comrade Kynok was secretly arrested
in Moscow day before yesterday, as a spy for Japan, and tried last
night, and of course he will be shot this morning.  Kynok!  That
stood with Stalin's arm about his shoulders while 175,000 children
marched past them, saluting, a month ago!  How could I know?  Now,
I suppose I'm a Jap spy and a Trotskyite, too!'

'But big leader like that, Gene, prob'ly they'll find him
innocent.'

Gene turned on his smile, friendly, a little cynical.

'Nope.  They don't waste time in Moscow.  They don't spend the
State's money inquiring whether somebody's innocent unless they can
prove he's guilty.  It's a new system of justice!  Good Lord, I
sound like a counter-revolutionary!  Sorry.  Well, I've got to get
to work writing a piece telling how I finally got on to Kynok, the
dirty, treacherous rat!  The enemies of the Proletarian State must
be rooted out ruthlessly!  Rat--root--rut'less, that's my tune--my
rune--oh hell!'

Gene's typewriter began firing, shooting out flames, the platen
turning red hot, the gunner's face grim.

Sara suggested almost civilly, 'You wanted to look over our
accounts, Father?'

He indicated that such had been his presumptuous longing.

She led him to a third kitchen table, which the Coheeze office had
extravagantly added to its equipment; she pointed to a mess of
letters, bills and ten-cent notebooks, and said casually:  'There's
our books.'

After half an hour of rustling through papers like a discouraged
sparrow scratching up gravel, Fred decided that he was not going to
be able to 'straighten up their accounts'.  For there were no
accounts.  Except for transactions during their first week, they
had noted down nothing whatever.  Uncashed donation cheques were
mixed with unpaid bills.  On torn slips of paper were such helpful
notes as 'Recd cash from J.K., ten.'  In one envelope he found a
cheque for one hundred dollars from the Southside Marxian and
Literary Club and a bill for sixty-five from a stationery firm, and
the envelope was from neither party but from the Maplehurst Labour
College.

Fred was opening his mouth in wrath at such sacrilege against
bookkeeping when the tramp of a dozen heavy feet came from the
rickety stairs below them.



CHAPTER XXI


At the tramping on the stairs, the three sprang up, Gene with
quivering hand at his lips.

'You scared?' demanded Sara.

'You bet I am!  Sounds like the cops.  I've been beaten by cops
before!'

'They've got no reason to arrest us.'

'They don't arrest you for reason--just for fun!'

Fred took command--not these many years had he dared to command
Sara.  'You two get out of this!  Hustle up on the roof and hide.
I know lots of the cops.'  They hesitated, and his voice became
military.  'Hear me?  Get out!  Beat it!'

The two revolutionaries beat it.

He made much of looking as though he had proper business here.  He
sat squarely at the table, pencil in hand, note-book and bills
before him, but he was trembling, and afterward he found that the
only entry he had made in the note-book was:  'Scared myself.'  He
was gravely drawing ballet girls on a blotter when, like pigs
bursting out of an opened pen, into the room sprang a police
sergeant and five patrolmen, all with clubs in their fists, a
couple with hands on pistol holsters.

'What the!' grunted the sergeant.

'Well I'll be!' intelligently commented the others.

'Hello, Sergeant.  Afraid you're too late.  Your birds have flown
the coop,' Fred carolled.

He remained seated; he knew that to be the safest position against
a thug not too drunk.

'Who are you?  Oh.  It's Mr. Cornplow.  What you doing here?
Where's this anarchist guy?'

'Skipped town, I'm afraid.  I'm here representing the creditors.
This fellow Silga owes me for a light truck, damn him!'

'What makes you think he's gone?'

'My daughter saw him off at the train.'

'Oh, that's so!  She was mixed up in this.'

'She just worked here--she talked it over with my friend, the
mayor, before she took the job.  She has no responsibility.'

'Well, I don't want her, anyway.  Get busy, boys!'

It was appalling to the placid Fred, the gloating frenzy with which
the boys 'got busy'.  From somewhere out in the hall axes were
brought, and they gleefully went to work.  There is no greater
bliss than to be destructive as hell while being moral as heaven.
The guardians of the law smashed tables, threw a typewriter through
a closed window, with hysterical laughter.  Reporters and news
photographers were somehow suddenly there, very cheerful, and it
was the glare of a flashlight bulb that startled Fred into action.
He rose; he faced the sergeant as he would have faced a chronic
dead beat.

'Stop this business or I'll have the whole bunch of you kicked off
the force!  I represent the creditors, and you have no court
order . . .'

'Don't need none.'

'I'll sue you, personally, for every cent of damage!  Look,
Sergeant--chase all these roughnecks out of here, and I'll
explain.'

'Outside youse,' said the sergeant, wiping his hand on the seat of
his trousers, that it might be clean to receive the dirty money.

Fred's argument was brief: it consisted entirely in a twenty-dollar
bill and the reminder that, already, the sergeant had been
photographed enough to ensure publicity.

'I would like to get hold of that there atheist Silga, though.
Hate to have the cops in the next town find we let him go without
marking him,' mourned the faithful sergeant, as he departed, after
giving his inspiring lesson in How to Make Communists.

Fred sat down, unsteadily.  As Gene and Sara crept back into the
room, he, who had hated all Reds, was positively loving in his
address:

'Son, better get going quick--get out of town.  They want to beat
you.  I finagled the cops out, but they might come back.'

Sara said sniffily, 'I suppose you bribed them!  I suppose you were
humble to them!'

'I certainly was--I bribed and humbled and I lied, you little prig,
you Soviet Salvation Army lassie, you . . .  Grrrr!  Gene, got any
compromising papers here?  Get 'em out quick.'

'Only the C.P. telegram this morning.  I burn 'em.'

That telegram Gene was taking from a telephone book and tucking
into his pocket.

'Want to hide out at my house, Gene?  Seeing Sara was in this
with . . .'

'I do not!  I'm leaving town.'

'You probably aren't very flush.  Can you use this ten bucks?'

Gene took the bill disdainfully--oh, he took it, just the same!--
and without thanks headed for the door.

'Gene!' wailed Sara.

'Well?'

'Can't we help you with your baggage?'

'Baggage?  You're very funny, Comrade Cornplow!' Gene snarled.  'My
baggage consists of two suitcasefuls--one of them books--which is
what I have to show for my twenty-seven years--six of 'em spent in
either being beaten by cops, or enduring middle-class females
playing at being free souls, like you!'

'Gene!'  It slashed Fred's heart to see with what agonized fondness
his daughter was looking at the young man.

'But you remind me, Sara,' remarked Gene, and for a second his
reckless smile came back.  He dialled on the telephone, and
murmured, 'Miss Kitz, please . . .  Oh, Frieda, this is Gene . . .
Yes, they've been here--wrecked everything.  I'm hitch-hiking out
of town and glad of it.  I'll meet you in the old place in Albany,
'bout eight to-night.  O.K.? . . .  Fine.  Auf Wiedersehen!'

He turned debonairly on the Cornplows with, 'You see, you needn't
worry about my future now, Mr. Cornplow!  You wouldn't be a bad
sort, if you just had the sense to realize that your good-natured
democratic sort of middle-roadishness is plumb finished--or will
finish, in front of a stone wall.'

'I suppose you want me to play safe and join the Communist Party!'

Fred believed that he had been chillingly sarcastic, but Gene
answered serenely, 'No I'm afraid we wouldn't want you!' and Gene
was gone.

Fred turned pitifully to Sara, who was standing mute, hands at her
breast.  'Honey, it's what you get if you mix up with folks that
are crazy for power.  Were you awfully fond of Gene?'

The tornado struck him squarely:

'Gene?  You call that little guttersnipe "Gene"?  I hate him!  I
always did!  He was just an experiment in psychology to me.
"Fond"?  Oh, can't you even begin to understand me? . . .  I'm
going to the tennis club.  I've been neglecting my game.  I'm going
out for it seriously now.  But before I play, I'm going to have a
Tom Collins and see if I can't wash the taste of all this vulgarity
out of my mouth.'  She looked indignantly down on the parent who
had wished upon her these unpleasantnesses, the Coheeze and Protest
& Progress and the police.  She said, from the doorway, 'It's all
very distasteful to me.  Bribery!  Insisting that I'm such a fool
as to like that little rat, Silga.  Very--distasteful--indeed!'

Fred was left alone with a mess of unpaid bills.

'I won't pay one cent of 'em,' he stormed--with twenty-five-per-
cent honesty.

An hour later, in front of a miraculously straightened table, he
added, 'I'd like to get out of this!  I suppose I love my grateful
son and daughter, but now I know what old man Solomon meant when he
said, "Comfort me with apples for I am sick of love!"'



CHAPTER XXII


As an apprentice mechanic at the Triumph Agency, Howard was
popular.  For a couple of days he sulked at grease and overalls,
the time clock and an aching back, but he discovered that the
workmen were as individual as the pedigreed young gentlemen he had
known in college, and more vigorous in humour.  Their stories of
jobs and girls and drunks, of the navy, the Pacific Coast, Detroit,
seemed to him better than the giggling of young collegians, and it
became important to him to be one of the boys.

He learned that nobody will find it out--at least not till the
rear-end burns out, months later--if you save your energy by
squirting only a quarter enough grease into the differential.  He
learned to get something very like a nap, after lunch and a couple
of Bourbons, by lying under a car and in a friendly manner tapping
the springs with a hammer now and then.  And the chief mechanic was
indulgent when the Son of the Boss got a group about him and taught
them 'Three Cheers for Old TruxON'.

Howard perceived that he had been wrong in regarding his second
cousin, Cal Tillery, as a lout and a bore.  Cal might never achieve
life's prime purpose and learn to sell motor cars to bankers; Cal's
hair might resemble a ravelled gunnysack; but in the wholesome
fastnesses of the Adirondacks, Cal had developed a rustic slyness
that to Howard seemed sharper than the book-taught perceptions of
Guy Staybridge.  He played poker with the tenacity of one who had
learned it in the hay-mow; waitresses might laugh at him, but they
did walk out with him; and for all city slickers and their rules,
Cal had contempt.  No scolding from his father could embarrass
Howard so much as Cousin Cal's drawling, 'You going to go society
on us, are you, Big Boy, and put on the Tuxedo and play bridge
whist with the old girls with the red fingernails?'

Cal started by borrowing money from Howard; it ended with Howard's
borrowing from Cal and nervously volunteering to his father that
Cal was a jewel and they must never lose him.

Fred listened with no comment beyond that of his wrinkling
eyebrows.



Fred was calling upon Ben Bogey, 'Homes that are nice at lowest
price'.

'Cutting out the bunk, Mr. Bogey, how much chance do you think
you'd stand of making a living if you and my son started a firm
together?'

'A living?  Why, Mr. Cornplow, as sure as I'm sitting here, we'd
make twenty per cent on the investment . . .'

'Whoa-up!  I asked could you two make a LIVING?  In my experience,
that totals a lot more than the twenty per cent that you boys seem
to figure out on some kind of arithmetic different from what I
studied.  What real prospects you got?'

Mr. Bogey showed letters.  Three firms were willing to let him
handle their apartment-house rents; another firm congratulated him
on 'developing' a cow pasture into a human pasture.

Fred mused, 'Well, now, you take Howard, and what's he got for
you?'

'Oh, everything, Mr. Cornplow!  Simply everything!  I cer'nly
understand why you're so proud of that boy.  Good looks, nice
voice, athletic training--gracious, how the ladies that are looking
for suburban homes would fall for that fellow!  And fine education
and nice dependable manners--why, everything!  You don't have to
tell me!'

'As matter of fact, I WAS going to tell you a few interesting facts
about him.  His education is phony.  He can mis-spell in three
languages.  He hasn't just learned the history of the U.S.--no
indeed--he's forgotten the dates and names in the history of the
whole world.  But aside from all this modern education stuff, he's
unpunctual, he chatters like a monkey all day long, when he's
supposed to be reconditioning cars, he wastes material, he boasts
that he's the son of the boss, and he borrows money.  Think you
could do anything with him?'

'Sure.  He's the kind that needs freedom.'

'How much would I have to put up for him, if he went in partnership
with you?'

'I figured it would be five thousand dollars.'

'Can't do it possibly.  I'll tell you.  I'll put up two thousand
now.  Three months from now, if you two are making a real, honest-
to-God beginning, I may put in another two.'

'It's a go!'

So was Howard kicked upstairs; so was the Triumph Agency saved from
becoming a glee club; and in the innocent belief that his own
overwhelming charm had done it all, Howard began his career as a
builder of cities, a king of contracts, a viceroy of choice
rentals.



Annabel was hanging the curtains in the bright new three-room
office of the bright new firm of Bogey & Cornplow, Realtors.  Ben
had chosen the city's northern outskirts, a pouncing place for the
best suburbs, and for their office chosen the ground floor of a
cheerful-looking building filled with doctors and dentists.
Already he was out hustling for prospects, while Howard conducted
the office, a task which, so far, had consisted in watching Annabel
fill flower vases and the girl stenographer type 'The quick brown
fox jumped with zest over the gay lady'.  He lighted a thin cigar
with an air he had never shown in lighter college days, and to
Annabel he pontificated:

'This is something like it!  Course at the Triumph the trouble was,
I was kept back by being the owner's son.  Everybody took advantage
of it and tried to borrow money . . .'

'Howard!  Please!  Howard!'

He threw down the cigar; he became serious.

'I know what you're going to say, dear, every word; and most of its
true.  I was loafing.  And I did kinda borrow a little.  But what
was there ahead, stuck in that dirty shop?  Now I'm free!  I've got
the world by the tail!  I'm going to work twenty hours a day, every
day, by golly--uh--just soon as there's any customers to work on!'



The Cornplow family had always taken its vacations together, in
August or September, at some lakeside hotel.  This year, with
Howard's marriage, with Sara's revolution, with Coheeze creditors
still to be pacified, with the Duplex booming, their vacation plans
had been unmade.

Fred sat with Hazel on the screened porch at the side of their
house on a late July evening, very hot, conducive to bad tempers
and rebellion.  It seemed to him that he had been fighting a battle
in the fog, with shadows that proved to be armed enemies, and
enemies that were mist; and that he could depend only on the fixed
cool light that was Hazel.

'Say, uh, Hazel, don't you think we better start thinking about
what we're going to do for vacation?  Looks like with the boy
married, and Sara so doggone busy at the tennis club explaining she
never was a communist, just you and I'll go off together.  First
time in all these years, and will I enjoy it!  Let's drive up to
the Gaspé.  Or how about putting the car on a lake steamer and
going out to Duluth?  We'll have some adventures, too--no Sara
along to highhat the populace!  Just us two old bums!'

'It would be nice, Fred, but . . .  The children have been talking
with me.  I know Howard expects to take Annabel and come with us.'

'Now?  Just started in business?  Just married?'

'He says it would be cheaper . . .'

'I see.  He don't so much want a trip with us as on us!'

'And Sara has an idea.  She expects to play in a tennis tournament
in the South, in October--down at Wormtail Hot Springs . . .'

'That doggone dump?  Where the politicians boil out enough alcohol
so they can enjoy a fresh filling?  If she goes there, she goes by
herself, lemme tell you!'

'She feels that after the mistake she made about this fellow
Silga's character, she's got to be extra respectable, and she has
an idea that if we took a cottage at Wormtail together . . .'

'Of all the . . .'

'I know, Fred, I know, but I also know how Sara is, and if she
makes up her mind and starts nagging, we'll give in to her to save
trouble.  The only way you could handle it would be to run away
from her.'

'Well, and what's the matter with running away?  Hm!  Think I'll
take a little walk.'

Hazel stared after him.  Fred was excited, and she was afraid of
spontaneous combustion.



CHAPTER XXIII


At ten next morning, a dusty and discouraged morning of July, Fred
telephoned from the office:

'Oh, Hazel?  Sara there?'

'No, she's at the club.  Anything I can do?'

'Just something I wanted to ask about.'

'I'll be going down town shopping, in about an hour, Fred.'

'Say, wait for me at the house, will you?  Got anything important
on for to-day?'

'No, just coffee at Louise Kamerkink's this afternoon.'

'Fine.  Wait for me.'

He looked embarrassed, she was puzzled and a little anxious, when
he came into the house at this unexampled hour of the day.

'Lookit, Hazel.  Grand day, and I'm kind of tired.  What say we
jump in the car and skip off for two-three days?'

'To-day?'

'Why not?'

'Heavens, you have to make preparations!'

'Don't need any.  Gas and oil and a toothbrush and a comb and a
nightshirt--what more do you need?  If you have to get a lipstick
along the way, prob'ly there are some stores outside Sachem Falls!
I brought some cash from the office.'

'If you'd just told me a few days ago.  I've made some dates . . .'

'Anything you can't bust?'

'I don't think that would be awfully nice of me.'

'What 'd you do if you stepped off the kerb and got killed by an
auto?  Wouldn't be able to keep your dates then, would you?'

'Why, what a perfectly awful suggestion!'

'Well, it does happen sometimes, don't it?  Hop to it and call 'em
off.'

'You're just as arbitrary as Sara.'

'Sure.  I inherited it from her.  Can do?'

'Oh, I suppose . . .'

'Get at it, then, and pack a bag--just toilet things and some
underwear.'

'But where--what . . .'

'Thought maybe we'd run over to Saratoga Springs and see the new
buildings there.  But the point isn't where we're going; it's the
fun of us two running off together.'

'I think I might like it.'

She was already dialling Mrs. Kamerkink.

Fred hurried upstairs and packed one bag--the chief necessity in
it, the latest P. G. Wodehouse novel.  He telephoned to his
secretary, at the office, that it was such a hot day--going take
little run to Saratoga--would she call up Mr. Howard and Miss Sara
and--tell 'em be back endaweekmiddlanext.

When Howard telephoned, as Howard was certain to, Fred was densely
misunderstanding about the overwhelming need of Bogey & Cornplow
for his advice on importunate problems.  He merely chuckled a
little, inanely babbled, 'Yuh, thought I'd check out for couple
days--Saratoga', hung up on Howard--though, to any salesman,
hanging up is a crime ranking with malfeasance and conversion--and
did not answer the telephone when it rang again.  That would be
Sara.  He knew that Sara would hurry right back to the house, but
he also knew that Sara could never hurry right back anywhere
without stopping to nag somebody about something, and indeed she
did not arrive until five minutes after Fred had set the nickled
snout of his Triumph Special Convertible Coupé eastward on Fenimore
Cooper Boulevard, with Hazel warm and bewildered beside him.

Though he felt that in his flight into Egypt there were several
important principles illustrated, he was thinking less about his
boldness in running away from the parental tyranny of his children
than about the fact that in the taut grey suit and the small
tricorne hat which Hazel had assumed for motoring she looked ten
years younger than when, soft and flowing, hinting of the harem,
she appeared in an afternoon frock, phony jewellery and household
cares.  He observed that she was beginning to permit herself the
questionable privilege of enjoying life.  Could she ever be cured
of her servitude to Things, her love of Possessions and of
establishing her secure respectability by showing them off?  Could
she ever be free of blue china and of lacy mats?

She said cheerfully, 'It'll be interesting to see Saratoga
Springs.'

'Yes, I guess maybe it would be, some day.'

'How do you mean?  What are you being so mysterious about?'

'You don't know half of it.  Listen, honey!  I'm the most
mysterious guy in this whole length and breadth of Sachem Falls!
I'm Frenzied Fred, the Masked Menace.  I'm right out of Edgar
Wallace.  I'm J. G. Reeder, with a dagger in my fountain pen.'

'Idiot!  What ARE you . . .'

'I'm the man with three faces--all of 'em prob'ly a mistake.'

'Darling, I thought I heard you sneak downstairs last night and
have a little nip.'

'It's worse than liquor, woman.  It's the wine of life.  It's . . .'

'Please stop trying to be cute, Fred, and tell me what you're up
to.'

'Oh, we're merely taking the Golden Road to Samarkand!'

'Well, it may look so to you, but it looks to me like Route 29; and
it may be gold, but right along here, there seem to be patches of
cement.'

'Don't notice it.  Some poor cusses on the WPA came along last
night and pinched this stretch of gold.  You'll see it again in
couple blocks.'

'Fred, dearest, I don't mind, but are you cuckoo?'

'Completely!  See that man there?'

'What man, where?'

'Sitting up on the bonnet of the car--the little fellow with the
pointed hat and the green whiskers?'

'Oh--yes--well--I can't say I see him very clearly.'

'You will, if you stick around with me long enough.  That clears it
all up, don't it?'

Not a word more would he say till he had turned at right angles off
Fenimore Cooper Boulevard, which led straight to Saratoga.  Now,
the car was headed south-east.

'Where are we going?' wondered Hazel.  But she said it without
alarm, for whatever she might think of Fred's capacity as a
romantic lover, he was to her the Beethoven of motoring.

'What's trouble?' he droned.

'Why, the car seems headed in the wrong direction.'

'It does?  Doggone!  We'll just have to go along with it, I guess.
Too fast for us to jump.'

'Frederick, will you please stop all this coyness . . .'

'I know.  But I feel so cheerful and free--and unusual--and
therefore silly!'

'Well, quit it a moment, won't you?  I'm sorry, but this is not the
road to Saratoga!'

'Whoever said it was?'

'Aren't we going to Saratoga?'

'Whatever made you think we were?'

'I heard you telephoning to Howard . . .'

'Has it ever been your opinion that our darling son is a safe man
to trust the truth with?'

'Then where are we going?'

'I think--unless we change my mind--we're going to an inn at
Stonefield, Mass., east of Lenox.  But does it matter where we land
up, as long as nobody can catch us, and we can quit being
responsible parents for a few days and see if we're still human
beings also?  How about it?'

'I--I don't think it's such a bad idea.  I do like going with you.'

'Remember one evening I was kind of talking about retiring?  I
haven't forgotten it.  Maybe I'm not so satisfied with what Fred
Cornplow has done with life.  I want to try and see--just
experiment and try and see if there aren't some new things I'm not
too old to learn, just for the fun of learning 'em.  And then . . .
About Sara and Howard.  One reason for this running off is, I
figure that if I can be plumb away from 'em for a while, where they
can't find us and interfere, I'll get over my irritation and quit
being so mean to 'em.'

'I didn't think you were so mean.'

'Well, if you didn't, then I missed the target pretty bad, because
I certainly set out to be mean.  Maybe what I'll get out of this
trip will be ability to be a whole lot meaner.  Anyway, something
interesting is bound to happen to anybody nowadays who has the
nerve to buck this Reign of Youth.  Rights for the Uptrodden!'



They sat for half an hour on a hilltop of rough upland pasture,
loud with insects; they sat on the running board, contentedly
saying nothing at all, and his cigarette tasted good.

They had lunch at a farmhouse, under the maples, and he crowed,
'You simply can't get real fried chicken and home-made ice cream
like this in the city!'  She did not explain that the chicken had
undoubtedly come from a can, the ice cream from a renowned creamery
in Troy.

They had, in mid-afternoon, an old-fashioned milk shake in a
village drug-store and, while Hazel cooed at them to make them feel
neighbourly, Fred and the druggist told each other that they had
elegant motors, handsome and co-operative children, constructive
ideas about the future of the Republican party, and that life was a
good idea.  Grey-haired, grey-browed, in grey alpaca jacket, his
grey hands thin and long, the druggist leaned his elbows on the
counter and meditated, 'Nice thing about my business is, grand
people like you come in and pass the time of day.'

Fred went out to the car in a one-man parade.  He liked to be grand
people, reflected Hazel.  'Set that man down in Warsaw or Tokyo',
she thought proudly, 'and inside an hour he'd know the names of all
the children of the nearest cigar-store man and all the taxi-
drivers and the policeman on the block . . .  In that, he's like
Howard.  Maybe some day I'll get my two men together!'



It was not over a hundred and fifty miles from Sachem to
Stonefield, and for Fred, normally, that was one-third of a day's
driving, but they so happily dawdled, enchanted by deep meadows and
thick trees, that at five they were still fifty miles from
Stonefield, and filling up with petrol at the Daisy Dell Cabins and
Café, All Home Comforts, Flats Fixed.

The Daisy Dell establishment seemed to have been constructed by the
carpentry class of a kindergarten.  The only reason, Hazel
surmised, why no resolute burglar had picked up a couple of the
cabins and carried them away was that they would have been of use
for nothing but kindling.

With distress she heard Fred cackling, 'Say, I got an idea!  What
say we spend the night at this dump?'

'But we could be in Stonefield in time for dinner, easy, and I
think these cabins look awfully sloppy.'

'Sure.  Prob'ly are.  But be kinda fun--be a change, camping out.'

'And terrible mattresses.  Lumpy.'

'Be good for our souls to not be so dunked in luxury for one
night.'

'Well, if you'd like to.  But I never did think much of martyrdom
if it's going to be uncomfortable.'

'Huh!  Think of the lousy camel drivers' huts we'll have to sleep
in along the road to Samarkand.'

'And think of what a joke it'll be on us if we wake up in one of
those huts and find it's on the wrong road.  HOWEVER!'



CHAPTER XXIV


The Daisy Dell Cabins were thin and tall, with a list to leeward;
they were of clapboards, once painted white, but the raw pine had
soaked up the paint.  The yard before them was lined with gravel
and cinders and inhabited by a shamefaced dog given to constant
scratching.  Something more had been done with the 'café', the
camp's central building, a four-room shanty with a public room
fresh painted a bright yellow and containing chairs and tables in
booths, and a counter for five-cent bars of decayed candy,
cigarettes, pies, and 'souvenirs' in a way of china ash trays
lettered 'Greetings from Butiful Daisy Dell'.

Pa and Ma Stickle were the proprietors.  Pa had a moustache
apparently made of raw cotton, which needed changing, and the tails
of his collarless shirt should have been tucked in oftener, and Ma
had smut on her nose.  Yet they were friendly as old milk-route
horses, and seemed instantly to recognize Fred as one of their own
disreputable race of vagabonds.

When Fred had registered--he wrote it down 'Frederick Williams,
N.Y.', so that he might not be traced--Pa Stickle whispered, 'Say,
neighbour, of course we haven't got a licence here, but a fellow I
don't know his name left some applejack and I thought maybe you
might be thirsty after driving . . .'

Fred drank, then choked, gurgled, looked around as though wondering
who had hit him, and immediately became hilarious.  Hazel had a
finger of applejack in ginger-ale, hiccupped, murmured, 'Gracious
sakes alive!' and began to giggle.  When she heard Fred laughing at
her, she stared at him with mild bovine disapproval and suddenly
became as hilarious as he.

They did not dine till seven, two hours later, but they were
enchanted out of the flow of time.  They told Pa Stickle all about
themselves and listened while Pa narrated that he had been a ship's
cook, a vaudeville dancer, an arctic explorer and (since Fred and
Hazel seemed to have swallowed all this, as safely as they had the
applejack) a trader in the Solomon Isles.

'That's a grand old boy, and I'll bet anyway five per cent of his
stories are true,' glowed Fred, as Pa departed to bring their
hamburg steak with fried onions.

Hazel was more or less serious.  'But d'you think we ought to start
off our journey by associating with such low people?'

'Low?  Low?  Thank God they're low!  After Sara, Pa tastes good to
me--like a mutton chop after a diet of cheese soufflé.  I love to
be low.  Like getting back to earth.  Provided it ain't Cousin Enos
Tillery's earth.  Don't want any earth in my ears!'

'Well . . .  But I'm sure the hamburgs won't be very good.'

They weren't, but Hazel left unconsumed only one snippet of fried
butcher's paper which had got in among the onions.

From the Daisy Dell, only a couple of farmhouses were to be seen,
far off, but by eight o'clock the place was filled with rustic
versions of Sara and Howard.  The café did smell, rather, of frying
pans, paraffin, cabbage and Stickles, but it was lively with yellow
paint and pink paper doilies and soft-drink posters showing bathing
girls, and it crackled now with jokes fresh from the radio.  Fred
admired one young lady in a silk frock decorated with red poppies,
in silk stockings and silver slippers, who sat on a high stool
delicately sipping a lemonade into which her escort, a young man
with a plaid pullover and an irremovable camel's-hair cap, kept
pouring gin.

'Expensive-looking pair,' Fred hinted to Pa Stickle.  'The young
lady in silk.'

'Her?  Oh yes.  Smart girl.  She's daughter of Ole Man Bocks, up
the road here a piece--the one that's doing time for burning down
folks' barns, seems like he just can't keep from it, somehow, and
she's got a fine job, working for Doc Onderdonck's folks down in
the village--eight dollars a week, yessir, and the washing sent
out.'  You bet.  But that ain't no silk--it's rayon--eleven-fifty
for the dress and 'tain't paid for, neither!'

'Oh dear, I'm afraid this place is too fast for conservative people
like us,' yawned Hazel.  'I'm going to bed right away.'

'I'm going to hit the hay pretty sudden myself,' agreed Fred.

But at eleven, when Hazel had slipped off to their cottage, Fred
was playing poker in the kitchen with Pa Stickle, a brush salesman,
the local auctioneer, who was also the local assemblyman, and a
hired man, and was losing steadily to all of them and enjoying it.
Afterward Ma Stickle invited them to share what she called 'couple
sandwiches or something', which proved to consist of beans, brown
bread, clam chowder, honey, cold fish and applejack.  All of it
Fred devoured; he imitated Pa Stickle in lying preposterously about
his travels; and he went across the cinder courtyard to bed in his
cabin, weaving and inclined to music.



Fred did not look very closely at their cabin at Daisy Dell until
he awoke, in the sway-backed bed, on a mattress filled with iron
ore and paving stones, at eight in the morning.  He had a head, and
he knew that Dr. Kamerkink would have been profane about his liver
and blood pressure, but he lay and chuckled at his idiocy of the
night before.

With slight whimpers as the sutures of his skull cracked open and
closed again, he sat on the bed, surveying the caravansary in
Samarkand for which they had given up their pink-and-cream bedroom.
It was the largest cabin at the Dell; a double one, containing no
furniture except the two wiggly iron beds, two straight chairs, a
piano lamp minus its shade, a mirror, and a bureau which lacked one
drawer.  The wall was covered with plaster the colour of withered
lettuce, with map-shaped holes where the plaster had fallen, but
gloriously, startlingly, on it were hung, by count, nine pictorial
calendars, presenting kittens in baskets, cherries in baskets,
little girls tormenting little dogs, and a church beside a moonlit
lake.

Fred turned to look at Hazel, and she was lying drowsily awake,
smiling at him.

'Isn't it lovely--the room,' she said, blessedly making no comment
whatever upon his hour of returning last night.  'But what I was
thinking was: I never enjoyed a drive in my life as much as
yesterday.  When we were a young married couple, there were always
the children along, bawling and asking questions.  Remember how
Sara used to say "Why?" . . . "Ma-ma, why is that man ploughing the
field?"  "So he can plant his seed--now hush, dear."  "Why?"  "So
he can grow crops."  "Why?"  "So he can sell them."  "Why?"  "So he
can support his family."  "Why?"'

'Sensible question, the last one.'

'And ever since, seems like we've always had to get somewhere on
time, and then get right back for an "important engagement".'

'I didn't know how you'd feel this morning, when you woke up and
had another look at this dump.'

'I don't mind it, because I don't have to worry about whether Hilda
will get around to vacuum-cleaning it to-day.  Honestly, did I ever
worry about things like that?  Seems so long ago.'

'Don't it!'  What a little wizard he was, Fred exulted.  Already he
had Hazel half-cured of her slavery to possessions.  Then she was
firmly remarking:

'Fun here--for a change--for one night.  But of course I didn't
sleep much.  This mattress is like a relief map of the Adirondacks.
But it might be nice to have a nice cottage in the country.'

'Yes!'

'But of course we'd want it nice--you know--a swimming pool and a
greenhouse, oh, just a little one.  But nice.  And I do think,
mornings when you don't feel so good, it's economy in the long run
to have the girl bring you a nice breakfast in bed.'

'Well,' said the diminished Fredk Wm.



CHAPTER XXV


The hills were not so proud as their own Adirondacks, but softer,
more feminine, thought Fred, as they came to Stonefield, a dormered
and white-spired hamlet in the Berkshires.  The tavern, where Fred
again craftily registered as Frederick Williams, N.Y., was no Daisy
Dell, but a competent grey-shingled inn, and the annex cottages
were isolated on the slope of a hillside dark with pines, light
with maples, gleaming with a cleared meadow.

In front, the Cornplows' cottage looked from a half-screened wide
porch, through the columns of a pine grove, to a meadow, and to a
pond which would be silver at dawn, blazing in late afternoon, a
shield of rose and black just after sunset.  At the back, from a
minute brick terrace edged with gloxinia, it looked up to the
hills, which led the exploring eye from a mountain ridge to ever
higher ridges beyond.  There were but three rooms: living-room,
double bedroom, and kitchen with dining alcove.  The cottagers
could prepare their own meals or dine at the tavern.

The rooms were ceiled with soft-stained pine; the only pictures
were a few sharply coloured prints; the fireplace was of the
simplest--brick with a pine mantel; and everything possible had
been built in: bookshelves, bureau, dressing-table, couch.  The
dishes, Hazel found, gently squealing with domestic fervour, were
of the best five-and-ten-cent native pottery, made by handmade
machinery; there were, incredibly, enough ash trays, and these
devised to hold ashes and butts and not to display reproductions of
the higher-class barnyard fauna; the screen doors closed tightly
without a bang; and there was a shower as well as a smallish tub.

'It's swell!' said Fred, with an idiotic look of bliss.

He paraded around and around the cottage, as proud as once he had
been, years ago, when he had first become an owner of property.
That had been one lot, with a four-room yellow house, but every
foot was miraculously different from all other earth.  Why, its one
maple tree had roots and branches and a real bird's-nest, and the
sun clung to its trunk, as it never did elsewhere on the block!

He discovered that the name of their cottage was William Tyler
Longwhale.  Anyway, said Hazel, that was better than naming the
cottages Romeo and Portia and Desdemona.  They never did find out
who the historical William Tyler Longwhale may have been, but Fred
insisted on giving their hermitage its full fruity name.

They sat on their porch at dusk.  There had been strawberry
shortcake for dinner, down at the tavern; they were full of
shortcake and humanitarianism.  The meadow below them was
hysterical with unusually late fireflies; it resembled a still,
dark pool reflecting transient stars.

'D'you realize,' marvelled Hazel, 'that this is the first time
we've had a house that's entirely our own?'

'I had some such an idee,' said Frederick William.



Not even to a sub-agent who might order fifty cars had Fred ever
paid such court as he now was paying to Hazel.  He had brought his
clubs, and Hazel expected him to spend hours a day golfing, during
which time she planned to do a little happy, unnecessary cleaning.
But he was irritated at having to do anything, even follow the
rules of golf.  'Coupla days, what say we just stroll; not go
anywhere in particular,' he proposed to Hazel, and she pondered,
'Why, yes, I suppose we COULD!'

Panting a little, very sweaty, observing that Fred's 'wind' had not
been improved by cigarettes, carrying extra sweaters and wishing
they hadn't, delighted at the convenience of stopping to see a view
without having to find a parking place, they crawled, like two
benevolent caterpillars gone vertical, up peaks from which they
peered at the placid valley of the Housatonic, into orchards where
early apples were afire in the long sweet grass, through pine
groves which remembered old German fairy stories.  On the multi-
coloured stone flagging of the terrace at the King's Arms, the
grand hotel of the region, where Austrian counts, their Chicago
countesses, and even proud Amherst and Williams students skied all
winter, they lazily drank to each other, not to a nervous gang of
Sachem citizens determined to be gay and like it.

But Fred's favourite goal was the country store in Stonefield
Centre, with its back door opening on forty acres of pasture and
sugar maples.  Amid the overalls, slabs of dried codfish, patent
medicines, and country-auction posters, Hazel and he sat on boxes
and listened to the storekeeper's libellous stories about Judge
Basser, down the road, of whose housekeeper, who had been with him
for twenty-seven years now, people were beginning to suspect the
worst.

When they had left this refuge, scented with the molasses sweetness
of chewing tobacco, dusty and quiet and serene, Hazel sighed, 'I
like going there.  Oh dear, I don't suppose there'll be any old-
fashioned stores left in ten years--just glass and air-conditioning
and telephone.'

'I thought you were the one that liked all these modern
improvements--electric kitchens,' he jeered.

'Well, that's different,' she answered in her adequate, wifely way.



Their house in Sachem, he perceived, no longer belonged to them
except by the artificial convention of deeds and lawbooks.  It
belonged to Sara, to Howard, to Annabel, to their friends, to the
telephone company and the gas-furnace man and the meter reader, to
their maid, and to their maid's sister, sister-in-law, and sister-
in-law's sister's son and his large red toy automobile.  But
William Tyler Longwhale was theirs alone.

Hazel had so zealously taken to housekeeping that she wanted to
prepare not only breakfast but lunch and dinner.  He caught her
just in time to keep her from putting on the hair shirt of domestic
discipline.  'That's why we ran away, to avoid fussing.'

'Well, I just thought I'd fix up a bit for lunch--just some cold
meat--no real cooking.'

'I see.  Just cold meat.  And a little soup, maybe?'

'Oh yes, I thought I might make a little hot soup . . .'

'And a couple hot vegetables?'

'No, only one.  Honestly.  Just some nice peas.'

'And hot potatoes, of course.'

'Oh, of course, POTATOES!'

'How about dessert?'

'Oh, a tiny bit of prune whip--so light--nothing to make . . .'

'You know, Hazel, you read where women are so much more dependable
about bringing up kids and caring for property than men.  Fact is,
women over-elaborate everything and make life twice as complicated
as any normal man ever would, and then they kick because the men
don't jump in and kill themselves taking care of things they never
wanted in the first place.  You can bet no male ever invented
dancing schools for children, or lace collars, or sweet little bows
to parents, or eating with forks, or saying "please" and "thank
you".  No man ever invented perfume or round flower beds or service
plates or doilies or velvet upholstery or dress suits and boiled
shirts--and if some tailor invented 'em, well, he didn't do it; his
wife did!'

'In other words, women have been trying to make life a little
pleasant and civilized, while men prefer to live in mud dug-outs
and never wash,' said Hazel, firmly, as she started to make the
prune whip.



CHAPTER XXVI


Men at the dangerous age, between forty-five and sixty, occasionally
do land in court and have to writhe over their letters beginning
'Sweetest little earwig', but most of them have not only forgotten
how to make love but forgotten that there ever has been so
extraordinary a mania as that in which competent young males believe
that some run-of-the-mill female, of a physique set forth in the
anatomy books without any deception or anything up the sleeve, a
young woman with toothaches, freckles, the hives, and admitted
ignorance of Bach and bio-chemistry, is a new Helen of Troy.

Fred was of the more fortunate fraction.  He exalted Hazel, not as
a being of fire, ice and chronic hysteria, but as a companion true
as bread and salt.

He had heard that a man sees the ageing of his contemporaries but
never sees it in himself.  But while he was conscious of his own
swelling middle, his violent lack of interest in anything happening
after one a.m., and the torture of trying to interest elfin young
females skipping about at dances, yet in Hazel he could see no
change.  Oh yes.  She did have grey hair.  What of it?  Went
beautifully with her blue-eyed pinkness.  And maybe the least bit
more plump?  Improved her.  Didn't he seem to remember that, thirty
years ago, she had been too skinny?

He sang to her 'Ev'ry morn I bring thee vi'lets', but what he
actually brought her every morn was fresh eggs.  He walked all the
way to the King's Arms for chocolate pralines and the New York
tabloids, and what could more add to a vagabond vacation than
pictures of hammer slayers and punctured gunmen?  Every night he
kissed her; every morning he patted her hand.  He admitted that
these attentions might fall short of rapture, but he guessed that
if he had done anything more, she would have been justifiably
suspicious about his recent private conduct.  He knew that in exile
she was happy.  She smiled at him naturally, and she hummed over
the morning ham and eggs.

He was not conscienceless enough to be quite happy in deserting his
family.  When he walked alone at twilight, or in the tavern lounge
he heard the radio play old songs, he remembered the curly-headed,
tiny Howard, with a kitten, and the minute Sarah--not Sara, then--
who had demanded the string cradles that no one but Daddy could
make.  The worst thing about real babies and kittens is that they
look so much like sentimental chromos of babies and kittens.

In such an hour of grey nostalgia he could not have endured exile
without the presence of Hazel.  He dashed back to her for
protection, and he fretted, while she sat before the rustic
dressing-table, her handsome arms upraised to her hair, 'Say, hon,
maybe we ought to write the folks now--see how the Duplex and the
new-married couple are getting on.'

'Don't you do any such a thing, Fred.  Let 'em learn how to get
along by themselves for a while.'

'Well, if you think so . . .' he said.

And next morning when Hazel was brisk over the stove, and he came
in with an armful of wood, feeling like Paul Bunyan, the god of the
lumber-choppers, he crowed, 'Are you happy?'

Once, placidly knitting on the shadow-dancing porch of William
Tyler Longwhale, Hazel explained, 'Of course you spoiled both our
children.  You always were a man to go to extremes.  First you
encourage 'em to walk over you, and then you fly right to the other
extreme and want to run off to Abyssinia to get away from 'em.'

'Maybe.  But isn't it the craziest doggone thing in this crazy
world to-day, where half the nations are willing to go to war for
the right to be slaves, that children have become the bossy
parents, now, and the parents scared kids!  Say, how did an easy-
going couple like me and you ever have such a pair of Japanese
waltzing mice for children?'

'Spoiled 'em, I tell you.  You AND me.'  Hazel was more placid than
ever.

'Maybe.'

'Let's go up to the King's Arms and have a cocktail.'

'Fine.  Happy?'

'So happy!'

On the seventh morning of their refuge in Stonefield, Fred awoke at
six-thirty, too gay and clearheaded to lie abed.  He marched out to
the porch, down to the drift of pine needles, in his nightshirt and
bare feet.  He knew the earth was chilly, yet he did not seem to be
chilled.  'Reg'lar grizzly, that's what I am!' he gloated.  The
ticklish needles felt good to his feet, and the scent of pines and
earth and grass and dew was a curtain shutting him away from the
odours of gasoline and wet cement.

From inside he could hear the sleepy-headed Hazel grousing, 'WHAT
an hour to be getting up!'

He bellowed that she was to stay in bed.  In the kitchen he plugged
in the coffee percolator and returned to the porch to loll on a
swing couch, violently at peace.  He heard Hazel padding about the
kitchen; she could not yet believe that a man could master so
difficult a domestic task as measuring coffee and water into a
percolator.  She came out with two cups on a very fine tray which
they had bought at the country store for ten cents; she perched
beside him and kissed his cheek.

'What say we take William Tyler Longwhale for all summer?'
suggested Fred.  'Every couple weeks or so, I could go back to
Sachem for maybe one day.'

'Yes.  Let's!  Oh, good heavens!  Oh, NO!'

A Triumph Special sedan had slid out of the pine grove and up the
grassy road to their porch, and out of it were dribbling Sara and
Howard.



With suspicious sweetness, Sara commented, 'Oh, Father!  Bare feet?
How cute!'

Fred glanced down.  They looked worse than cute; they looked
absurd, those objects called feet which till now he had taken for
granted; those flat blobs of flesh, pallid from city living,
fringed with imitation fingers.  But he flung at Howard, bravely
enough, 'How d'you ever find us here?'

'Oh, it took Ben Bogey all of half an hour on the long-distance
telephone--he just described you and the car--a cinch, with those
red fenders.  We've known where you were for three-four days now,
but we thought we'd let you enjoy yourselves and imagine you'd made
a getaway.  But now . . .  You promised Ben to let us have some
more capital, and we need it pretty bad.  And we got a chance for
the contract on a new development, Capitola Lodge, but the owners
want to talk to you.'

'And the cook has quit--and I swear I don't know why--I gave her so
much attention,' said Sara.

'And Annabel is awfully worried about you two getting rheumatism
here.'

'And I had to go to the Rochester tournament without any chaperon--
oh, that was so thoughtless of you!'

'And Cal Tillery had a run-in with Paul Popple, and he thinks, and
so do I, you ought to take a look at the way Popple tries to run
things.'

'And Louise Kamerkink says you promised to go to dinner there last
Thursday.'

'And Popple's got some papers for you to sign--he's simply going
nuts.'

'And everybody's talking--wondering whatever possessed you.'

'And Annabel says that her father says that he knows this dump, and
why didn't you go to the King's Arms?'

'And the way I've had to lie to people, and I hate to lie except
when it's necessary, and the Coheeze bills are still coming in, and
not one word from Gene Silga.  The double-crosser!  Honestly, I
hate to say it, but don't you think it was a little thoughtless of
you?'

'And of course, after all, Sara and Bell and I are only kids, and
we've done our best to carry on, but . . .  I'd never think of
trying to tell you your duty, but . . .'

'Well, I would!  Honestly, my dears, I wish I could get the
picture.  What is it?  Brave bold pioneers, right out of the
movies, returned to the simple days of our forefathers, when men
were men and never bathed, and the brats weren't demanding, like
Howard and me, but always did what they were told to, and ploughed
before breakfast, and walked six miles to the li'l' red schoolhouse
and liked it?'

'Grrrrr!' said Fred.

Sara was laughing in quite a well-bred, filial manner as she went
on:

'Darlings, I do wish I could see you as tanned and resolute
frontiersmen, but I just don't; I see you as pretty pale and
overweight, and--do forgive me--in terrible shape for lack of
exercise.  You'd have done much better, in my humble opinion, if
you'd stayed home and seen Dr. Kamerkink and dieted and played
golf.  And, honestly, I don't think a pre-Civil-War nightshirt is
such a romantic garment!  And your dear li'l' hide-away--rather
damp, isn't it?  And DID they have to go and give it a name like
"William Tyler Longwhale"?'

Oh yes, even with her dark Dianic power, that was the most that
Sara could do to them: take away all their joy in the adventure;
make the still nights they had known, and the placid days, the
sight of distant valleys and their sharing of renewed love seem the
vain calf sickness of a premature senility.  That was all she could
do, but such as it was, she accomplished it with the skill she had
learned in her diversified training as outlaw communist and polite
tennis star.

So Fred and Hazel went back into captivity.

A week after their return to Sachem, Fred applied for their
passports.  When, or whether, they would ever be used, he did not
know.



CHAPTER XXVII


The autumn, no very great season in the selling of motor cars, had
become lively with the sale of trailers in which those citizens of
Sachem Falls who had retired from the economic struggle, because
they had too much money or too little, planned to go to Florida or
California for winter.  The Duplex had been booming all summer, but
in September, Fred's treacherous rivals, the Conqueror Motor
Company, dealt the Duplex a nasty blow with its announcement of the
Allover Caravan.

The Allover was not a trailer, but built like a bus, with the motor
contained in the body.  It burst on Sachem with full-page newspaper
advertisements which asserted convincingly that the Allover was
easier to drive, easier to park, and much easier to handle in
passing other cars.  As a minor virtue, in this war of transportation
with its almost theological disputation, the Allover's furnishings
could readily be removed, turning it into a truck.

A sound commercial warrior like Fred would have hated any
opposition at all which took money away from him, but in this
particular attack, he persuaded himself, there was something
malign, for Putnam Staybridge, putative father to Annabel, was
known to be part owner of the Conqueror company.  And, Fred
complained, hadn't he gone and made a fool of himself and thought
the Cornplows and the Staybridges were getting on to better terms?
For the good Putnam had invited Howard and Annabel for a week at
his Adirondack cabin, and Sara for a week-end . . .  Everybody
except the persons concerned seemed to feel that Fred and Hazel had
already had as much vacation as was good for them.

The day after the Allover advertisements appeared, Staybridge
invited Fred to call upon him, at the general offices of the
Liberty Bell Clock Company.  'Hell with him; let him come here and
call on me; I won't go a step,' growled Fred, as he reached for his
hat.

Staybridge's office, with its large mahogany table for the
directors and the small polished desk for the president, looked
like a Colonial dining-room.  You could almost smell boiled
codfish.

Staybridge was cautiously cordial in his 'How do'.

'Hear you all had a fine time at the cottage, Brother Staybridge.'

'Oh yes.  Very agreeable.  Your son--uh, Howard, uh--is an
excellent swimmer.  Really!  So sorry we didn't have room to invite
Mrs. Cornplow and yourself.'

'Oh, we had our vacation . . .  I suppose you might say.  And what
can I do for you?'

Staybridge looked as though he thought Fred was being rude.  Fred
was sorry, but he felt rude; in the damp cold air that Staybridge
perpetually exuded, he always felt rude.  But the gentlemanly
assassin of Duplexes was saying graciously:

'No doubt you will have noted the advertisements of the Allover
Caravans--the Conqueror company.'

'Good ads!  Fine!'

'Kind of you to say so.  It just happens that I have some small
interest in the Conqueror company.'

'Ur.'

'And I have thought of suggesting to them that they come to some
agreement with you, possibly even joint advertising.  Since your
Duplex is a trailer, and the Allover not, they need not exactly be
in competition, and I was thinking that if we--or rather, I should
say, they--combined, you might in a way dominate the field
together--freeze out the others, I believe it is called.'

'Yes.  It's called that.  It's also called stifling competition,
and ganging up on the other racketeers.'

'Oh?  What I was really thinking was that since the Duplex is not
made by the Triumph company, you might conceivably try to arrange
with the makers to dispose of it to us.  Particularly since I
understand from your son--uh, from Howard--that you are giving some
thought to retiring in four or five years.'

Staybridge's persistent objection to remembering Howard's name
would have been enough to irritate Fred handsomely; it wanted only
the pinch-nosed patronage with which Staybridge was going on:

'Of course I don't know what you plan to do, if you retire.  I
shouldn't have thought you were cursed with hobbies, as I am.  But
no doubt you'll find something with which to busy yourself, more or
less.  But the point is, if you feel like retiring, just possibly
you might not care to face the rather sharp opposition that, I'm
afraid, the Conqueror company, with its large resources, is
planning to give you.  I'm sure you'd be wise to take it easy.'

This to Fred Cornplow, who had never in his life evaded a fight--
except with Sara.  He exploded up from his chair, but he managed to
be fairly calm as he croaked:

'Me?  Retire?  Where d'you suppose Howard (that's my son) ever got
such a foolish idea?  Not me!  I like a scrap too well.  But thanks
for the tip.  Morning!'



Opposite the large Conqueror agency, Fred hired a vacant lot, and
within three days he had installed there a Duplex Trailer display
in open air.  He had one side ripped off a Duplex, so that its
hidden domesticities were revealed.  He engaged two men and two
young women of a stranded night-club troupe, with a couple of
children, and this theatrical family was displayed living the life
of Riley in the trailer.  They prepared and smackingly devoured
large meals; on the roof they drank tea and afterward danced to a
radio; they modestly retired, in the several chambers provided when
the roof was hoisted; and all one night they remained abed in the
Duplex, before a tremendous crowd which stayed up till two a.m. to
behold human beings engaged in so very odd a practice as sleeping.

Duplex sales doubled, and Fred's spy in the Conqueror agency
reported that salesmen who attempted to demonstrate Allover
Caravans were answered with jeers.  A week after the opening of
Fred's circus, Staybridge telephoned him again, but Fred found
himself too busy to call.  The next day Annabel came in, and
Annabel was near to giggling.

'My father asked me to tell you he thinks your Duplex cabaret is
vulgar.'

'Do you think so?'

'Yes.'

'So what?'

'Oh, I like vulgarity.  All the interesting things in life are so
vulgar, Father Cornplow: birth and death and battles.  Have I done
my job?'

'Eh?'

'Have I complained properly about the vulgarity?'

'Darling!'

Next night a curious thing happened.  A man named Tom McKuffee, a
truck farmer who lived nine miles south-east of Sachem, and who had
bought an Allover Caravan that afternoon, had an unfortunate
accident at or near midnight.  In front of the Duplex show lot he
tried to park his Allover, but the brakes failed, the Allover
dashed in to the lot and was wrecked against a pile of rocks which
no one seemed previously to have noticed there.  McKuffee, though
he could not stop the caravan, had time to jump.

Now he was no hit-and-run driver, even if the object of his
solicitude was merely a pile of rocks.  He walked to the police
station, admitted the accident, and explained that the brakes had
failed; explained it so eloquently that a green reporter noted the
fact in his story.  The detail got past the copyreaders, and in the
paper next morning there was an almost libellous statement about
the brakes of an Allover.

It was only an item, but the scene of one caravan wrecked, while
hard by, in another, night-club ladies were dancing and sipping
ginger ale from highball glasses, was too much for the art editor
of the evening paper.  By this time, the struggle between Duplex
and Allover was so familiar to all Sachem motorists that there was
no need of a legend to explain what were the makes of the caravans
in the newspaper photograph.

All the day after, persons who looked as though they might have
trailer money in their pockets stood and admired the cabaret,
snickered at the wreck.  McKuffee happened, by a coincidence, to be
there, and he seemed glad to explain how the accident had occurred,
and to point out how flimsy were the smashed and exposed
furnishings of the Allover.  By another coincidence, Fred Cornplow
knew McKuffee, who had once been the Triumph foreman.

'You ARE rubbing it in.  Old Putnam will never speak to any of us
again,' Sara reproached her father, yet in her he detected
admiration.

In another day there were double-page advertisements of the Allover
in the papers, but people in limousines, in shops, on street
corners laughed at them.  The Allover wreck remained there for a
week.  Then came the chief of police to Fred and offered to cart it
away.

'No, you needn't.  Glad to accommodate the fellow that owns the
thing--what's his name?--McGurrey?--till he raises the money to get
it overhauled.'

'There was something funny about this accident,' said the chief
darkly and returned to his bezique, after a telephone call.

For a week, not one Allover Caravan was sold.  This fact Fred
conveyed to Hazel, who protested:

'Why, you absolute pirate!  I thought you'd reformed!'

'Look here!  I tried to reform.  I tried to go off on a pilgrimage
and become a better and tenderer man, and my two brats objected.
Can I help it?'

Mr. Putnam Staybridge telephoned to Mr. Frederick Cornplow:

'Uh, I thought you might just possibly be interested to know that
the Conqueror agency, or so I am informed, intend to reduce their
advertising for Allover Caravans to, uh, to approximately the same
space used for Duplexes.'

'Thanks,' said Fred.  He removed the show trailer, and McKuffee's
wreck vanished.  But he learned later, all his kindness could not
stir up a proper sale of Allovers.

Hazel sighed, 'Well, now you've had another big success, I suppose
you've got your teeth in it so firm that you and I'll never be
running off together again.'

'You mean it?  You'd like to?'

'I THINK so.'



CHAPTER XXVIII


The scene was, for Fred, too fragile and artificial for comfort,
yet he admired its gaiety: the club tennis courts, the white
cement, the green balls flying, and the young people in white,
young men with blue and crimson scarves above white shirts, girls
with white shorts and honey-coloured legs, all against hills
flamboyant with late September.  He particularly liked the tall
umpire's chair, now empty.  To be perched up there, above the
conflict yet close to it and dominating it, would be kingly, he
explained to Walter Lindbeck.

'Awful.  I knew a fellow got a tennis ball in his eye just when
Fred Perry was smacking the hands across the sea,' argued Walter.

Mr. Walter Lindbeck, junior partner by inheritance of the large
department store of Swazey & Lindbeck, was fifteen or sixteen years
younger than Fred, but he had by chance, on a fishing trip, become
one of Fred's intimates.  Though he had gone to a large university
and spent a year abroad in fruitfully doing nothing, Walter had, in
Sachem, the high moral rank of:  'Steady but progressive; a fine,
conservative, forward-looking young fella, and got no bad habits
even if he is a bachelor.'  He belonged to a chess club, but he
also rode horseback; he went annually to New York City for the
grand opera, but it was said that at the S. & L. Employees'
Association he played pool with the elevator men and packers.
Altogether, a high type of the youngish captain of commerce, though
Sara sniffed that with a man like Mr. Lindbeck, whose thin face,
and a black moustache small and neat as a cigarette, looked poetic,
it 'made her tired' to see him interested only in sales leaders and
invoices.

Fred and Lindbeck had done eighteen holes of golf, and after a
quick one, they relaxed by watching Sara play tennis.  Fred was
proud of her feverish speed--even prouder than of his new waist-
pleated slacks.  She was opposing a dull-faced dumpy girl of
eighteen who played with the efficiency of a chopping knife.  The
girl lacked all of Sara's dramatic gestures and elegant backhands;
her serves just missed the net and dropped dead before Sara could
reach them, though she galloped in like the Light Brigade.  In
grieved wrath, Sara threw down her racket and screamed, 'Can't you
put some fun into the game, Daugherty?  We're not digging ditches!'

'Tst!  Tst!  Tst!' Fred clucked.  'Sara oughtn't to lose her temper
that way.'

Walter Lindbeck sounded partisan.  'I don't blame her a bit.  I've
played that Daugherty girl.  She's like lard; just plays to win,
while your daughter has so much fire and gracefulness . . .  Tell
me, Fred, why the dickens did she ever get mixed up with this
communist sheet?  Doesn't believe all that stuff, does she?'

'I don't think so.  But we've got to admit, way things are now, the
young folks and the working men are demanding more say, and you
can't blame 'em entirely.'

'That's so.'

Both men exhibited almost frightened admiration of their
liberalism.

'Tell you, Walter, trouble with Sara is, she hasn't got enough to
do, and she's got too much brains and energy to just stick around.
She'd like to follow the tennis tournaments to Bermuda and Florida
this winter, but I can't afford it.  Say, I've got an inspiration!
She's got a great eye for colours and all that junk.  Why don't you
give her a job in your interior-decorating department?  If there's
any way you could fix it in your accounting, I'd be willing to
finance the scheme to the tune of a few hundred bucks, provided she
never knew it.  She's so doggone proud she wouldn't take a job like
that if she found out I'd rigged it.'

'Oh, that wouldn't be necessary.  Matter of fact, we do need a
little new blood in the decorating department.  Old Mrs. Vix is
about the period of Edward the Seventh, and I always did think Sara
had a lot of dash and go.  I'd be glad to try her, if she was
interested.'

'She wouldn't touch it, if she thought I'd butted in.  You know how
touchy all these blasted young people are to-day.  If you're
interested, too--and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it--
let's get her to sell herself to you.'

When Sara had finished her act, Fred beckoned, and she rode up
cavalierly to sit between the two ancients.  (Lindbeck was thirteen
years her senior.)

'Didn't seem to have such a high old time with Miss Daugherty,
Sara.'

'Oh, she's the dumbest cluck in the club!  It's like playing with a
steam roller.'

Lindbeck bubbled, 'I agree.'

Fred chattered, 'I seem to be the only cheerful guy here to-day, in
all this lovely autumn weather, with the maples turning.  Walter's
been kicking because he can't find the right person to put some pep
in his foolish furnishing-and-decorating department--somebody that
knows the local swells with money to spend and that has got an
artistic eye for design.  Don't suppose you'd pay real money for
the job, Walter?'

'Not at first.  Twenty a week for a start, with a small commission.
But there wouldn't be any limit on the future, and the right man,
or possibly it might be a woman, might work up to ten thousand a
year or more.  I'm not looking for an ex-charwoman, or on the other
hand for some tired lily that thinks he's arty.  I'd like to find
some college graduate with a knowledge of the history of art and
with a lot of energy and sense . . .'

Fred was amused, then a trifle guilty, to see the way in which Sara
turned on Lindbeck her full flashlight:

'Funny you should speak of that, Mr. Lindbeck!  I've always been so
interested in both painting and furniture and, in a modest way of
course, I think I know quite a little about them.  I have some
ideas about decorating . . .  It seems to me that people are stupid
in just using chromium and red leather and mirrors and rounded
corners, so that every room that calls itself "moderne" looks like
a café.  I think you could take Biedermeyer models and Duncan Phyfe
motifs and modernize them so that they'd be original, and do so
many unconventional things with concealed lighting . . .'

'Yes, yes, that's so.  Would you like to drop into my office to-
morrow and talk with Mr. Swazey and myself?'



As they drove back home, Sara babbled to her parent, 'I talked Mr.
Lindbeck right into it!  He had no idea I was thinking about a job.
I just talked about decoration in general, as though I hadn't the
slightest notion of going to work, and he, the poor little man,
thought it was all his own precious idea, getting me to accept a
position.  I think I might like it.  Decorating, in this dull town--
why, I can do it on my head, and please the stupid plutocrats like
the Praggs almost to death!  Father, my darling, you're always
fussing about me, but you wouldn't have thought of a career like
this for me in a thousand years, now would you!'

'That's so,' said Fred.



For two weeks he rarely saw her, so absorbed was she in her new job
of plotting against every innocent rocker and club chair left in
town; for two weeks he had peace; but on a day just after the two
weeks' truce, he came home from the office to find Sara,
triumphant, and Hazel, very anxious, standing in the hall and
looking mysteriously into the living-room.

'What's all the excitement?'

'I tell you, he won't like it!' said Hazel.

'He will as soon as he gets used to it.  If my own family can't
appreciate creative ideas, how can you expect anybody else to?'
said Sara.

'Where's the fire?' said Fred.

'Look at it, and don't blame me . . .  It is pretty lovely though
. . .  I think I'd come to like it a lot,' said Hazel, waving her
hand in the direction of the living-room and standing aside.

The room had been magicked.  Gone were all the pieces of furniture
that to Fred meant home and security; gone was his sacred, rather
shabby, rather faded red arm-chair, in which, alone, the evening
paper tasted right; gone the couch on which, ritually, Hazel and he
had listened to the radio side by side; gone the Maxfield Parrish
painting of maidens dancing in twilight; gone the shiftless pile of
magazines on a table with dragons' feet clasping glass balls; gone
the stuffed head of the deer he had (illegally) shot in Quebec;
gone was everything that made home stuffy, ugly and lovable.

Sara had redecorated the room in plum colour and dull gold, rich as
mince pie and sombre as the thoughts of a defeated Congressman.
The furniture was dethroned Louis Quinze.  And on the walls,
replacing a nest of cheerful photographs showing Hazel with a
watering pot, Fred in wading boots, complete with shotgun, Howard
with a toy wagon, and Sara reciting James Whitcomb Riley, was one
lone painting of the Towers of Rouen, which towers, taken jointly,
resembled a fish fork.

'Isn't it distinguished!  Hasn't it real dignity!' bubbled Sara.

'I didn't--I don't . . .' endeavoured Fred.

'It's just on trial, of course.'

'Well, it's certainly swell, but I don't think it quite suits your
mother and me.'

'Suits me, all right,' said the treacherous Hazel, all the
fanatical love of possessions in her eyes.

'Look, Father; if one's own people don't back you up, how can you
expect me to make a career with other people?'

He was warning himself, 'She's got some reason.  You were asking
for it, Freddie.'  He temporized, 'If I did decide I liked the
room, when I got used to it, how much would all this set me back?'

'I can do it for nineteen hundred dollars, Father.'

'Ouch!' said Fred, but feebly, as he turned for comfort to Hazel,
saw her acquisitive glow and knew that he was sold.

'We-ll, I couldn't possibly pay it all in a lump.'  So, for Fredk
Wm, his home was turned into a house; and a house was easier to
leave than was a home.



CHAPTER XXIX


Cold ham, pineapple-and-cream-cheese salad, scalloped potatoes,
tea, beer, vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce--it was a Cornplow
family supper again, with Cornplow family food, at Howard's flat.

Before supper, Howard and he had what Fred would have called--would
have called?  He did call it that!--a heart-to-heart talk, taking
refuge in the bedroom from the bustling domesticity of Hazel and
Annabel and the stateliness with which Sara sat and read the New
Yorker.

Not in the four and a half months since the firm of Bogey &
Cornplow had been founded had they been out of the red.  It was
only slightly irritating to Fred to go on contributing, but it was
disturbing to have Howard expect advice on every contract, expect
him to lure to the Bogey & Cornplow office every prosperous person
Fred met in agency or club or church.

Howard was gushing, 'Dad, I think you'll agree with me . . .'

'Rarely!'

'. . . that if I'm going to rent and build swell houses, I've got
to prove my standing and show my good taste . . .'

'Your what?'

'. . . by living in a nice house myself, and not in this dump.'

'What d'you mean, "dump"?  Wish you could've seen the four-room
shack that your mother and I had when we were first married.  Only
stoves, and no bathroom, just outdoor service.  I tell you, in
those days a real man was glad to shovel coal and lug the doggone
ashes, instead of just moving a lever with one finger.  We had
oilcloth on the table.  And,' Fred added, without great originality,
'guess we were just about as happy as the young folks to-day, that
expect to start in where their folks left off!'

'Um--yes.  But I want you to look at this as an investment.  I know
where I can get a dandy, up-to-date modern house, six and a half
rooms, for a hundred and ten a month, and then I can take prospects
home for dinner.  I want you to understand, Dad, I've turned over
an entirely new leaf.  Golly, Ben Bogey is twice as hard on me as
you or Paul Popple ever were.  I don't even take a single drink--
oh, maybe just a cocktail before dinner . . .'

'Or maybe two?'

'Well, of course, if there's a dividend left in the shaker, there's
no sense wasting it . . .'

'Son, if you expect me to put up the hundred and ten a month for
your rent, I'm simply not going to do it, do you hear me, won't do
it, simply won't do it, do you understand, and that's FLAT!'

Privately, he hoped it was flat.



All through supper Howard seemed to have the hives.  He kept
winking at Annabel, clucking at her, and once he reached out and
tenderly slapped her hand.  There seemed to be nothing in the
conversation to stir up such fervour.  It consisted in Sara's
detailed account of wishing a bedroom in powder blue and crocus
yellow upon Mrs. Kamerkink, Howard's speculation as to whether he
could 'interest' Dr. Kamerkink in a lot at Capitola Lodge, and
Annabel's dutiful plea to Hazel for the name of her hairdresser.

Yet Howard was certainly exhilarated, and after the ice cream he
pounded the table and gave tongue:

'I've got a very important announcement to make . . .  Now, Bell,
don't blush!'

'I don't intend to!' said Annabel, blushing.

'Mother and Dad, along about next March, you are going to have your
first lovely little grandchild--and you, your first nephew,
sister!'

'Oh, Howard--ANNABEL!' said Hazel.

'Heh?  Oh.  You mean you're going to have a baby?  Fine,' said
Fred.

'Yessir!' Howard roared.  'And if it's a son, and I've got a good
strong hunch it will be, I'm going to name him . . .'

'Heh!  I'm in on this, too, aren't I?  Won't I be related to the
infant?' protested Annabel.

'Why, yes, very much so,' said Howard.  He was indulgent about it,
too.

'He's going to be called Little Nero, no matter what's entered in
the registry.  I've always wanted to name a child "Little Nero".
It may take the curse off him.'

'Well now, Bell, you just forget that silly idea, and keep your
little head clear for action.  But Dad and Mother, there's another
point to this announcement that I don't want you to forget.
Because now, Dad--hard luck, old man, but that's the way life
goes!--you'll have to help me make a great place in the world for
the little cuss!  Your grandson!'

Annabel was snappish:  'I don't see why Father Cornplow should do
any such a fool thing!  He's not responsible for our having Little
Nero . . .'

'I simply do not like that nickname, even joking.'

'. . . and how about your doing a little great-place-making
yourself?  The Gimme Generation!'

'Annabel, I think this is in the worst possible taste.  And at such
a moment!'  Howard was stern but refined.

'If you couldn't find jobs . . .  But, you great, big, darling,
beautiful, dumb Greek god, you and all your vintage have the
chronic gimmes.'

'That will do, Bell, and if it weren't for your condition . . .'

'Just the gimmes, that's all; just the plain old-fashioned gimmes!'

'Annabel!'

'And that's why I'm going to call him Little Nero, so he won't grow
up to have the gimmes too, and expect you to stick at work--I mean,
go to work--for him at seventy!'

'I've never heard you talk such beastly nonsense before!  What can
Father and Mother Cornplow be thinking of you!'  Howard turned
grandly upon his parents.  'At least, YOU'RE glad the baby is
coming, aren't you, Mammy?'

'Oh, simply delighted, dear.  You mustn't mind Annabel's teasing
you a little.'

'Just the gimmes,' chirped that lady, so beatifically that Fred
wondered if she had sneaked in a couple of drinks before supper.
He decided that she had had no such luck.  No.  The sound of
Howard's mellifluous optimism, day by day, would in itself produce
spontaneous intoxication accompanied by tremor and slight delirium.

'And you, Dad, you're glad too, aren't you?' insisted Howard.

'Why, of course!  Tickled to death.  Lit--I mean, our first little
grandchild!  Gracious!'

'Swell!' said Sara mechanically.  'But you look here, Howard.
Don't you go and get the idea you're the only one Father has to
look out for.  With the good luck I've been having, I wouldn't
wonder if I didn't start a decorating shop of my own, and of course
it would have to be financed.  Of course.  But congratulations and
all that sort of thing on the baby.'



'You ARE glad about the baby, aren't you?' hinted Hazel, back home.

'What baby?'

'Howard's baby.'

''Tain't Howard's baby.  He's just an accident.'

'Well then, our coming grandchild.'

'Oh, I guess so.  May be kind of hard on Little Nero himself . . .'

'I DON'T think it's nice . . .'

'. . . but it will amuse Annabel, and it will be swell for Howard.
Think of what a chance he'll have now to go swelling around being
guide, philosopher and friend to the defenceless kid!  There is one
thing.  You know how often the pendulum swings back to the
grandparents.  Maybe Little Nero will have some of our independence,
and not be a fat-head like his father.'

'Why, Fred!  Who ever heard or imagined grandparents not being just
pleased to death at the coming of their first grandchild!'

'Well, I am pleased.  Don't get me wrong.  Only I don't figure on
being both granddad and dad.  You've read about grandchildren that
didn't spend any too much time longing to support their
grandparents, haven't you?'

'I suppose so.'

'Why shouldn't it more or less work both ways?  You know Howard
darned well meant it when he hinted he expected us to drop any
personal plans we might have and stick around and nurse the royal
heir.'

'Ye-es.'

'And you know, don't you, that if we DO stick around, he'll
probably make us do anything he wants us to--there not being any
more powerful influence on God's green earth than the smile that
wins, when it's got a bottom layer of good, sticky self-approval.
He'll be too strong for us, and too dumb.  So we better not stick
around.  Ain't there something to what I say?  Ain't there?'

'Um--anyway, it really is a little too much, expecting you to
support four generations.'

'How d' you mean?'

'You helped your father pay off his mortgage when you were a
travelling man, didn't you?  And you helped your sister start her
dressmaking business . . .'

'How that would grind Putnam Staybridge!  Aristocratic to wear
swell dresses, but low-class to make 'em.'

'And you certainly have always supported your own self since you
were a brat--and I'll bet you were a brat, too!  No, I don't bet
any such thing.  I bet you were a cute baby.'

'I don't know about when I was a baby, but 'long 'bout six-seven, I
was such a fat, sweet-looking kid, with long curls, that I had to
lick the everlastin' daylights out of about one neighbouring kid
per day, to keep my standing.  Golly--I hope Sara don't come in on
us, but that certainly does feel better.'

They were on the new settee in the living-room, the radio turned on
so low that it emitted only a background of music, like wind in the
trees, but amid all this refinement, Fred had sighingly removed his
shoes.

'Well, you and your sister make a second generation you've
supported.  And you certainly saw Howard and Sara through
everything.  And now, apparently, Howard expects you to be
responsible for this fourth generation--Little Nero.  It's a little
too much.'

'Maybe that's so,' and Fred looked upon her with such lovelight in
his eyes as not even eighteen holes in seventy-five could have set
there.  'I wouldn't mind supporting Little Nero.  I just hate to
think about his being brought up to correct all my breaks.'

'Well, if Little Nero is really OUR sort, he'd rather have a high-
stepping, jolly, independent old grandfather than a reservoir!'

That night, remembering Howard's old contention that he was fast in
the handcuffs of routine, Fred so far flaunted the ritual of
fetishism as to throw his shirt on the floor instead of, as was his
compulsion, hanging it smoothly over his coat on the back of the
one habitual chair.

Hazel picked it up.  She supposed that it was a shirt that had been
flung down, and not the strait-jacket of timidity.



CHAPTER XXX


All his life until now, night had been to Frederick William
Cornplow only a blank of sleep.  Even as a travelling salesman,
thirty years ago, waiting at vile junction depots till after
midnight or snoozing on bumpy branch trains, though he might have
had but six hours' sleep, it had been profound.

Now he took worries to bed with him; they cuddled up beside him
when he retired, then laughed and bit him.  As long as he tried to
lie still, he went tediously over and over his frets:

Howard's extravagance; the probability that he would not support
Little Nero and the certainty that he would grieve young Annabel.

Sara's new job, in which she would spare him and his pocketbook no
more than she would spare herself.

Hazel's alternation between miserly pride in adornment and a desire
to see what the world was like.

Paul Popple's reluctance to take authority at the agency.  The
wonder whether, if he left them to themselves, Paul and Howard
would be forced to become dependable, or simply break.

Always, his own timidity and his meagre learning.

Worst of all, the neighbourhood opinion which kept him a steady and
commonplace little citizen: the opinion of Dr. Kamerkink, Ed
Appletree, the lawyer, even of Walter Lindbeck, that he would be a
fool to do anything save settle inoffensively into old age.  He saw
that most of us do what most of the people about us mostly expect
us to do, become brave or criminal or both, and he knew definite
fear of the compulsion upon him to remain safe and dreary, a
compulsion which could be escaped only by running away.

Running where?  For what?

But when he sprang up from bed, scoffing at the need of sleep, then
night became an adventure; sometimes wry, sometimes dismaying,
always an excitement.  He sat trying not to disturb Hazel, or he
crept down to make coffee for himself and to sit brooding at the
kitchen table.

He longed for Stonefield and the cottage William Tyler Longwhale.
That elopement had proved that he could get along, be amused,
without the crutch of daily industriousness which his friends so
recommended.

Hazel was conscious of his rebellion and sometimes cocked a drowsy
eye at him as he crept out of the room, but she guessed that he
wanted to be left alone.  Sara was conscious of it--she was a night
prowler herself--but for a time he avoided her probing.

In this unearthly second life he didn't always brood.  Sometimes he
read, soaked himself in the oddest magazine articles and in books
stolen from Sara's shelves: articles about Javanese coffee culture,
dialects in Burma, the roof of Ely Cathedral, Cycling in Tanganyika
with Notes on Hotels in Dar es Salaam.  He laid the magazine down
to dream out one-dimensioned pictures woven of coloured cloud:
Pike's Peak in the sun, bell towers of Bruges, himself playing the
piano in an English cottage, himself chatty at the counter of the
general store in Stonefield, with Hazel gaily clattering pans in
the kitchen.

Most embarrassing of all were the nights when he did not lie awake,
when the worries treacherously let him go to sleep, then woke him
jeeringly at three o'clock or four or five.

It was cold downstairs then, even when it wasn't cold.



This November morning, at four-thirty, he knew that he was caught
and would not sleep again until an hour at which a responsible man
would be brightly awakening.

He bundled himself up grotesquely: sweater as well as dressing-
gown, with an old golf stocking about his neck.  The house was so
still that it was noisy with creeping burglars.  He looked out of a
window and shivered.  The street was bitterly empty; the pavements,
and a fire plug that should have been a lively red but was now
grey, seemed lonely.

He sat in the kitchen, at the metal-topped table, an illicit cup of
coffee and a folder showing the Australian airlines before him.  He
startled at distant shuffling feet, the creak of the swing door
between dining-room and butler's pantry.  He beamed with comfort as
Sara's face, sharpened with weariness, came peering at him.

She smiled, and she sounded genial:

'Why, you disreputable old tramp!  Couldn't you sleep?  Neither
could I.'

Sara tucked the ridiculous golf stocking in about his neck, she
clucked at him and kissed his ear.  She seemed more truly his
little girl than since she had been a lanky child.  She sat
opposite him, chin in hand, and said softly, 'This insomnia is the
worst idea I ever met.  I've got some little pills for it.  Don't
you want some?'

'No indeed.'

'But you've got to sleep!'

'Why?  What's the difference, as long as you get rest?  The need
for sleep is kind of a superstition.  I enjoy breaking up my old
routine.  And besides, I don't want to get this little pill habit.'

'Mine aren't habit-forming, not a bit.'

'But the habit of taking them, of depending on taking anything at
all to make you sleep, is habit-forming.  Don't get to depend on
it, sweetie.'

The whole hour, the empty hour that was neither night nor day,
seemed to him strange as Sara's abnormal kindness.  He was too
listless for self-defence, and thus was he betrayed into honesty.

Sara hinted, a little more sharply:

'Curious, you, of all people, can't sleep.  Worried, Father?'

'No, not exactly.'

'I noticed you were reading a lot of travel stuff . . .  Do you
still want to retire and go places?'

'Maybe.  Sort of.'

'But you wouldn't really go to Europe, would you, or some other
place far off from us?'

'Well, thunder, if you're going to make a break, might's well make
a good one.  No particular novelty for me, going out to the club
for golf!'

'It'd be fierce for me if you did go away, Father; especially if
Mother went, too.'

'Why?'

'Oh, Howard would think he was head of the family and the boss,
then, and he's such a dope!  I suppose Annabel is all right, but
Howard's one of these curly-headed boys.  He's the kind that reads
books about How to Sell, and gets so busy rushing out and selling
that he never takes time to find out what he's going to sell.'

'But why do you worry so?  You're smart enough.  You're making a go
of this decoration thing.'

'But if I start my own shop, I'd never get away with it without
your help.'

'Then why start it?  You got a good boss in Walter Lindbeck.'

'Yes, he's kind of a nice little man.  But . . .  Probably I
wouldn't bare my throbbing little heart if it weren't such an
ungodly hour, but I don't always want to be a lone spinster, and
between us, as man to man, I don't seem to click with the boys,
except rootless freaks like Gene Silga, curse him!'

'I suppose Gene was sort of on the free-love side.'

'And how!  And theoretically, I agree.  I never did think much of
getting caged up with a man you've hardly been introduced to!  But
practically, I guess I've got too much Cornplow and Jenkins in me,
doggone it . . .  Heavens!  I'm talking just like you!'

'What's the matter with talking like me?  I always do!'

'Not always, darling.  Sometimes you forget yourself and become
quite literate.'

'Well, I did more or less go to college, and recent years, I've
been brought up on luncheon-club oratory:  "Fellow members, real
and enduring prosperity lies in the abandonment of the antiquated
ethic of every guy for himself."  I have got some vocabulary, but
mostly I leave it up in the attic, with the trunks.'

'Of course you have.  But, Father, I wonder if you're really and
truly quite on to yourself?  If you'd still like to go off and be a
hobo . . .'

'I would!'

'But why don't you face it as you would a business problem?
Suppose you were in a European hotel, where almost every guest was
a globe-trotter.  You'd feel as out of place as a stray pup.  Oh, I
know you have worries; you've always worked so hard.  In fact, I
have an idea you're more exhausted than Mother or even you suspect.
You don't know how I've been watching you.  But it wouldn't be any
remedy to go roaming.  That's hard work for anybody that isn't used
to it.  I wish you'd just relax and rest.  I wish you'd get help
from somebody who understands these things.  I wish you'd get
well!'

'Now what the . . .  Get well from WHAT?  What's supposed to be my
fatal sickness?'

'This insomnia.  All this fretting about Howard and me.  And--do
let me say it, Father, in all friendliness--this crazy restlessness.
The idea that you'd enjoy wandering, or taking up some hobby that
you're too old to start on.  Please!  I don't think you're selfish
in being willing to leave us flat--not entirely selfish, at least;
I won't even say it's utterly absurd; but I do think you fool
yourself.  If instead of riding off in all directions at once, like
Leacock's hero, you would relax and go to some place where the
doctors are accustomed to advise people and help them to get into
shape . . .'

Fred was angry now:

'"Get in shape"!  "Get well"!  Good Lord, girl!  I've been told
there are wives who believe that any husband who doesn't absolutely
slave himself to death for the little woman is a dirty traitor, and
ought to have his head examined by the docs.  Now looks as though
wives are getting over that notion, and the children are taking it
up.  By golly, I thought the younger generation during Prohibition
was bad enough--the generation of Flaming Gin--but I swear they
were better than the present Youth, that despise their folks if
they forget a quotation they haven't looked at these thirty years,
or if they think they got just as much right to travel and buy
clothes with their own money as their kids have and . . .  I
couldn't get your switching from Red Radicalism to Society
Upholstering, but now I see you're consistent: in both cases, you
think that the world was born in 1917, and everything we thought we
knew or we thought we were doing before then was idiotic.  Well,
let me tell you . . .'

'Father, have you had a drink of liquor this morning?'

It was almost a knockout, but he rallied.

'I have not, and you know it.'

'Well, certainly you'd never talk in such a wild, senseless,
exaggerated way if you really were WELL.  And this insomnia of
yours . . .'

'Got it yourself, ain't you?'

'With me, it's different.  I'm a creative artist.'

'And I suppose I'm just a pedlar!'

'You used the word, dear!  I didn't!'

'Oh, Sara, don't let's scrap!  You almost seemed like my girl, to-
night, when you came in first.  You're too young to understand that
old codgers like me can change, too--a few of us--and push out old
habits with a set of new ones--same as when I get to humming a tune
till it bores me, I start another tune to chase it out.'

'That's curious!  That's practically what Dr. George Janissary
says--you know, the famous psychiatrist--I met him once at dinner,
when I lived in New York.  You sounded like him--for a moment, I
mean.'

'Huh!  These mind doctors, like Friend Janissary, haven't patented
psychology and mental hygiene, have they?  I guess Ben Franklin and
Voltaire and Dickens must have known something!'

'Father, you wouldn't think I was too rude . . .'

'Prob'ly would!'

'. . . if I pointed out that you're not Franklin or Voltaire?
Honestly, the help a man like Dr. Janissary could give you in re-
education, by constructive personal conferences . . .'

'I don't know the gent.  Maybe he might re-educate me into being
some kind of a tabby cat I wouldn't want to be.  Yes, there's
something I am getting well from, all right: from crawling along
through life and being doped by routine.  But Howard and you never
thought that was a disease.  You thought it was pretty convenient
for you!'

'Oh, Father, to talk like that--if Dr. Janissary heard you!--to
make us out monsters . . .'

'You're not, of course.  But neither am I.  We're just normal
people, up to the oldest trick in the world: nagging your relatives
for nagging you.  I didn't want to be rude, girl.  But get right
over this idea you can coax me out of my idea of turning myself
from a Parent into a Human Being.  Good night--uh--good morning!'

So Fred clumped up to bed, with the intention of lying awake to
lick his parental wounds, and went to sleep blissfully and at once.

Belowstairs, Sara was still in the kitchen, vowing, 'His idea of
leaving us in the lurch--it's insane--it's beastly--and now I've
got to do something about it!'



CHAPTER XXXI


There is no way in which a normally stubborn husband can more
fruitfully surprise and annoy his loved ones than by being a 'good
patient', which means a man who brightly agrees with the family
doctor even when the doctor isn't sure that he agrees with himself.

Another technical phrase that goes along with 'good patient' is
'worried about his health', and it happened to Fredk Wm now that
his wife decided to be worried about his health.

'Don't you think you ought to go to Dr. Kamerkink and have a
general physical overhauling?' she said, on a beautifully Saraless
evening.

He had watched her nervously approaching this bold position by way
of chatter about a respected neighbour who, at eighty-one, probably
from gross over-use of coffee, alcohol, tobacco and attendance on
baseball games, had astounded the community by popping off.  So
Fred was ready for the attack and able to be genial:

'Why?'

'Oh, no special reason.  I just think everybody past fifty ought to
look after his health.'

'But not before fifty?'

'Wellofcoursebutimean . . .'

'My state of health been bothering anybody lately?'

'No, but . . .'

'Pains in the back, dizziness, sudden loss of memory, B.O.,
athlete's foot?  Do they laugh when I say I can speak French?
Won't my best friends tell me?  Delusions of persecution?  Violent
and unexpected assault on man believed to be income-tax collector?'

'Don't be so silly!'

'Comrade Sara been hinting I'm losing grip--unable to see smart
decorator's shop as an investment?'

'Well, she is a little worried.  So am I!'

'What's the matter with old Fred?'

'You know you don't sleep right.'

'If I can get along without sleep--and all through the ages people
been kicking because that's the worst waste of time there is--then
I must be in swell shape!'

'I wish you would have Lafe Kamerkink look you over.  Please do.'

'All right.  I will.'

'When?'

'Next Saturday.'

'I'll be hanged!' she said, unprophetically but with the most
gratifying astonishment.



After the usual assaults and embarrassments which doctors call an
examination, Dr. Kamerkink illustrated the advance of medicine, and
proved that he had kept up, by grunting:

'You'll have to take a basal-metabolism test, and I want a blood
count.'

'All right.'

Kamerkink looked suspicious.  He was certain that Fred had
something up his sleeve.

'I said I want a B.M.R.'

'Whatever it is, I'm for it.'

'For a B.M.R., I want to have it taken after twelve-fourteen hours'
complete rest, without food and even without your smoking a
cigarette.'

'O.K.'

'I wouldn't trust you to do that at home.'

'Neither would I.'

'So you'll have to spend a night in a hospital.'

'O.K.'

Dr. Kamerkink was overwhelmed.  Was Fred concealing a flask, or
drugs, or a revolver?  Never in these years of acquaintanceship had
Fred given him any reason to suppose that he could be so abnormal
as to act like a sane and normal patient.  Doubtfully, wondering
when he would find the trick in it, Dr. Kamerkink telephoned to
engage Fred's room in the hospital and lighted a cigarette,
prefatory to telling Fred about cutting down the cigarettes.



Fred liked his hospital room.  He had declined Hazel's company and
all offers of flowers and depressingly cheerful bedside books.  It
was refreshing to have, without the penalty of pain, this simple
room that was pictureless, pinkless and candlewick-spreadless, and
that falsely seemed to get itself cleaned with none of the horrors
of hiring maids, seeing that they were transported to the movies
and otherwise entertained, and listening to the whine of their
vacuum cleaners.  The better rooms in heaven must be automatic
cells like this, he thought.

They did let him undress himself and get into his fine small high
bed without tender helping hands.  The one thing he had feared, in
contemplating this adventure, had been that with mocking jeers some
pretty young nurse would snatch his protective clothes away and
show him up as just a skinned rabbit.  But he certainly had no
intention, he assured himself, of missing any of his opportunity to
be waited on.

Hazel was fond enough of him, but Hazel wouldn't think at all well
of bringing him cooling fruit juices all evening, and extra
pillows, of smoothing the bedclothes if he was such a fool as to
keep on violently turning over, or of listening to his oldest
jokes, as did the floor nurse who--usually--answered the bell this
evening.

He thought it was a splendid idea to have a call bell on the end of
a cord, hanging beside his head.  He wanted to introduce it at
home, though he had the sanity to admit that he didn't know what
would happen if he pressed it with any idea that it would influence
Hedgar the Hun.

He had heard (though he was to discover that the tale was false,
and told only to make the narrator seem heroic) that in taking a
basal-metabolism test he would find it difficult to breathe, and he
had every intention of enjoying himself by lying awake and worrying
about it.  But in the pleasure of not having to wonder whether
Howard would call up, late, or wonder at what time Sara would be
coming home, he forgot about being insomniac, fell sweetly asleep
at ten and awoke in daylight to find a keen young woman in white
wheeling into his room what resembled a trench mortar polished up
for the use of the crown prince.

The floor nurse was chirping at Fred with the sugared cheerfulness
reserved for children, manic-depressives and patients, 'This is the
technician.'

Fred had time only to note that he ought to look into this fact
that all hospital technicians were beautiful before the lady
pinched his nose with a glorified clothespin and fitted over his
amazed and protesting mouth a rubber apparatus through which, she
told him coolly, he was to breathe.

That breathing, it seemed, caused a polished plunger to rise up and
down in the trench mortar.  Instantly scared, but resolved to be
gallant, he enjoyed fighting against choking, his body tense, his
breath labouring.  But he discovered that he was merely making
things hard for himself.  He quit being gallant and energetic, and
therewith the breathing was as natural as though he stood on a
hilltop, free of rubber gadgets and hospital beds.

'Good man!  That's fine,' said the technician.

He was to treasure that commendation along with the highest
distinctions he had known in life; with the letter from the
president of the Duplex company saying that his agency had the best
credit in the East; with the admission of the golf professional
that he had a fairly accurate swing; with the sigh of a very young
Hazel that he had been so nice to her father; with his election as
vice-president of the Boosters' Club; and with the remark of his
professor of rhetoric, back in Truxon, that his essay on The
Character of Portia hadn't been bad at all.

He was still in the glow of this honour, and the rubber mask had
been removed, when the technician, taking his hand tenderly, turned
savage and jabbed into his finger a needle stuck in a cork.

'Ouch!' he wailed in protest.

It was true that it hadn't hurt, but he felt that the principle was
very bad.  Then he was asleep, before he could do anything about
it; and he awoke to a tray of ham and eggs, and to Dr. Kamerkink by
the bed, saying suspiciously, 'Why, there doesn't seem to be one
darn thing the matter with you!'

'But did they look at your teeth and tonsils, too?' said Sara when,
at home, Fred crowed over his superiority.



CHAPTER XXXII


In all innocence and glee, Fred was playing poker at the residence
of his friend and lawyer, Edward McTavish Appletree, and the
conversation was hearty with humour:

'By me.'  'I'll whoop you two.'  Knock, knock.  'What're you trying
to do with that hooch, Ed--save it for your grandchildren?'

But he was also present, though not physically, in his own house,
where Hazel, Sara, Howard, Annabel and Dr. Kamerkink were sitting
as comfortably as possible, which wasn't very comfortably, on Louis
Quinze.  Sara was holding forth:

'You may think I'm absolutely silly, maybe a little melodramatic,
in asking you to meet, but we've really got to be serious and
practical.  I don't mean Father is the least bit insane, of course,
but I do feel he's got some pretty queer ideas that might make him
do things that, afterward, he'd be the first to regret.'

'Oh, come down to cases.  What's so queer?' fretted Hazel.

'These ideas about going off and being some kind of a John Ruskin,
wandering around Europe studying art.  Father's one of the dearest,
most dependable men living--or at least he has been--but even you,
Mother, have got to admit that he can never be anything except a
completely unimaginative small-city merchant; and with all
affection, we ought to keep him from making himself ridiculous.'

They spoke together:

'Only one of the whole lot of us that HAS imagination!' from
Annabel.

'I think there's a lot to what Sara says,' from Howard.

'He's never even pretended he wanted to go Ruskin-ing around
Europe,' from Hazel.

'His euphoria does kind of puzzle me,' from Dr. Kamerkink.

'His what?  Is that one of these things you take this to your
druggist now and he'll fill it, take three times daily just before
meals?' from Annabel.

'Euphoria.  State of gaiety and well-being.  I don't,' said the
doctor resentfully, 'see what the dickens Fred has got to be
cheerful about!'

Sara took over the debate again:

'I don't want to be an alarmist.  I suppose Father is perfectly all
right, really.  But you all know of cases where a man who has been
a reliable husband and father has suddenly gone haywire, and at
just about Father's age, and started gambling or drinking or
chasing women, and left his family . . .'

('With all their gimmes,' murmured Annabel.)

'. . . unprovided for.  Of course Father has built up a good
business, but you know what can happen to any business, these days,
if the responsible head starts neglecting it.  So far as I know,
the only real safeguard any of his family has is Father's fifty-
thousand-dollar life insurance.  Now I'm the last person in the
world to be grasping or dependent.  I belong to the new race of
women who want to carve out their own destinies, but at the same
time, I have to make a start.  It's not my fault if I have to have
lots more training before I can achieve a great position and get my
own shop.  I'm simply not going to let Father let me down!
Considering that we are, after all, the only people that Father
depends on, if we stick together, he'll just have to give up any
ideas of ditching us . . .  And of course Howard's career also, I
suppose, and your child coming, Annabel.'

('Howard, is this true?  Why didn't you tell me?')

('Oh, shut up, Bell.')

('Do you belong to the new race of men, beautiful?')

'Now I'm sure Dr. Kamerkink will back me up in saying that the
comparatively new science of psychiatry has developed to a point
where they can cure a twisted mind just as they cure a twisted
foot, and I happen to know slightly the most wonderful psychiatrist
in New York: Dr. George Janissary.  His patients look up to him
with absolute reverence--and, mind you, they're not a bunch of
hysterical spinsters, but a lot of them are brokers and engineers
and college professors and doctors, too.  Why, ever so many of them
come back to him every year.'

Annabel snorted:  'If a doctor cured my twisted foot but I had to
go back every year, I'd think he was a bum untwister.'

'For heaven's sake, Annabel, will you please permit ME, at least,
to be serious?'

('Butting in again . . .  Gimmes.'  Annabel's mutter was like the
muted bark of a small dog that has been told to dry up.)

'I ventured to talk over all this with Dr. Janissary when I was in
New York on my last buying trip, and he says it would be a cinch--
very common psychosis, mild delusions of grandeur--and he says he
can easily guide Father into getting well.'

Through it all, though she had not glibly interrupted like Annabel,
Hazel had looked shocked.  She stammered now, 'B-but did this
doctor make a diagnosis just from what you told him?'

'After all, a daughter, and living right in the same house with her
father, ought to understand him, if she's reasonably intelligent.'

('If!' from Annabel.)

Hazel struggled on, 'I'm perfectly certain you're wrong.  I've
never known your father clearer-headed.'

'But you'll admit, Mother, it wouldn't hurt Father to SEE Dr.
Janissary?  Weren't you glad when he had his general physical
examination?'

'Ye-es . . . though he did crow so, afterwards!'

'And what do you think, Doctor?'

Dr. Kamerkink said benignly, 'Well, I don't suppose it would hurt
Fred any, though I certainly don't see any need,' but he barely got
it out, so vigorously did Hazel take over the conference:

'Sara!  Listen to me for a moment--even if I am only your mother!
Strikes me this all comes down to how honest a man your Janissary
person is.  I'm not so behind-the-times that I don't know that
psychiatry, or however you pronounce it, does do wonders; helps
ever so many people get straight what it is that's worrying them.
But to a lot of folks, and I confess I'm one of 'em, it still seems
a little like magic, and if they depended on a psychiatrist that
was money-grabbing, and if they thought he was an all-powerful
medicine man, wouldn't it be dangerous?  Seems to me I have heard
about American women going to Europe and getting into the clutches
of fancy psychologists . . .'

('With whiskers!')

'. . . that got them all confused and milked 'em.'

'Foreigners?  Yes, possibly.  Foreigners are often crooked.  But
Dr. Janissary is a real American.  And he speaks five languages and
plays the violin and goes trout fishing.'

'The fishing part sounds fine,' said Dr. Kamerkink.



CHAPTER XXXIII


Fred was flattered to a point of grinning when Sara invited him to
accompany her to New York City on a buying trip for Swazey &
Lindbeck.  He accepted with zeal and with the notion that he would
show the little girl a thing or two: the best restaurant in New
York, and how a real salesman could order.  He swallowed her
statement that she wanted the aid of his common sense in buying
furniture for game rooms--those assemblages of pool tables, card
tables, private bars, and grills for cooking chops which were
decidedly the thing in Sachem domestic architecture.  But on the
train she so buttered his good taste that, remembering the Louis
Quinze into whose chill lap he had been enticed, he became
suspicious.

In the city he was so lulled by the toe-tapping music of 'Kiss Me
Quick', so youthfully enchanted by an Italian café and by memories
of the Paris boulevards which he had never seen, that he trusted
her as though she were not a relative, and he agreed gaily, next
morning, when she invited, 'Come along with me, will you?  I want
you to meet such a nice man.'

Their taxicab stopped at an uptown apartment house.  A chaste
bronze sign in the lobby announced that the Janissary Sanatorium
occupied Floors 7-10 Incl. & Roof.  Still was he gullible . . .
Some pleasant man living upstairs whom Sara had known in New York
days, or met in this decoration game? . . .  Would he be married?
Oh, surely . . .  Would he have a handsome flat? . . .  Would he
offer Fred a drink, and would Fred take it, so early in the
day? . . .  Probably!

They entered a room which didn't in the least suggest a friendly
flat, nor yet a drink.  At first, indeed, it suggested nothing
whatever to Fred except quantities of money.  It seemed to be a
combination of a baronial hall in the North Riding, an operating
room, and a beauty parlour in Hollywood.  On either side of a high
oak Tudor fireplace were oak thrones, but at one end of the room,
modestly, was a young woman in a white uniform at a desk of white-
enamelled metal, with a glass top, uncomfortably hinting of
surgical knives.  And the lulling voice with which she sang 'Your
names, IF you please!' wafted the sweet fumes of ether.

They waited ten minutes.

'What the deuce are you up to?' protested the aroused Fredk Wm.

'I wanted you to meet Dr. George Janissary, the psychiatrist--the
grandest man--you'll love him.'

'I doubt it.  Somehow this shack he's got here don't seem to rouse
any stirrings of love.  Psychiatrist?  Mind doc?'

'You appreciate them, don't you?'

'Of course.  For those that need 'em.  I don't.  I also don't need
a chiropodist or an aviator.'

They argued in the most spirited manner, those ten minutes.  Sara
asserted that it was handy for almost anybody to drop in on his
psychiatrist now and then, and find out what phobias, schizophrenic
reactions, paranoid behaviours, or obsessive-compulsive neuroses he
might have developed this past week.  Fred said that, in his
experience, if your carburetor is working right, don't let any
mechanic monkey with it.

He could not have been expected to know that, in a psychologist's
or a psychiatrist's office, the only person who is ever permitted
to say 'in my experience' is the healer.

They were admitted then to the friendly presence of George Carlyon
Janissary, B.A., M.A., M.D., L.H.D.; and Fred, who had come to
expect a point-headed wizard in a black gown sprinkled with crimson
stars, was relieved.  Dr. Janissary was a jolly, tweedish,
sporting, lanky gentleman, with a long red moustache and sun-
browned hands.  He smelled of heather, good pipe tobacco and the
best soap; he shook hands merrily and spoke in baritone:

'I don't really know why you're here, Brother Cornplow, but Miss
Sara seems to have some kind of an idea that I might be able to
advise you on how to get the most fun out of your retiring--great
idea, retiring; majority of us keep our noses to the grindstone too
long.  Just as you might advise me about buying an automobile.'

This was fine.

Fred beamed.  Sara beamed.  Dr. Janissary beamed more than twice as
much as both of them put together.  But he somewhat less suggested
golf courses and the fishing camp on the Ouareau River as he
reached for a handful of filing cards and demanded:  'What was the
date of your birth?'

'What was the calling of your father--his father--his mother's
father--their financial condition?'

'What do you believe to be your ambition in life?'

'Do you usually consider yourself passionate or frigid by nature?'

'Have you any hobby--any interest outside of making money and
caring for your family?'

Till this point, Fred had been too hypnotized to do anything but
answer meekly, and inadequately, but he shook himself loose:

'Say, what's the idea of all this, anyway?  Sara, have you signed
up for my giving a lecture on my life and adventures?  And who pays
who for it?'

Dr. Janissary did not think this was in the least funny--for that
matter, Fred didn't think it was so very funny himself.

The doctor was grave and warning:

'Mr. Cornplow, from what Sara has told me and from what I have
already observed, it is clear that you have lost grip--oh, just the
least bit; nothing that can't readily be corrected by psychobiologic
re-education.  Lost grip on your personal affairs.  Don't be
frightened.'

'I'm not!'

'That's splendid.  It happens to the most competent men of affairs,
sometimes, from exhaustion and worry.  I'm quite sure that your
hallucination about being an explorer is temporary.  Quite a
satisfactory prognosis, I should think.  Your only real danger is
the practical one that in your state . . .'

'MY STATE?'

'. . . you might be led into extravagances that would dissipate
your entire small fortune.  But of course, my dear fellow, you're
not even sure that you want us to do our modest best for you, as
yet.  Do let me show you our place here--our "plant" you would no
doubt call it.'

Fred had swung between amusement and exasperation till now, but he
found nothing amusing at all in the four floors and roof which made
up the sanatorium.  The bedrooms, though small, were bright enough
with red-and-yellow upholstery, and there were no bars on the
windows, but the corridors smelled of drugs, and he saw a male
attendant, a shaved gorilla, standing in a niche, watchfully
looking up and down a corridor--up and down, with surly slowness.
His forearms, revealed by the cut-off sleeves of his white jacket,
were strong and horribly well scrubbed.

Half a floor was given over to the workshop activities which Dr.
Janissary called Occupational Therapy, Dr. Kamerkink called
Hobbies, and the untutored Fred Cornplow called Tinkering.  There
was apparatus for basket making, model-boat making, carpentry and
knitting, and there, most busily knitting, was, to Fred's
embarrassment, an aged gentleman with a white beard.

'Knitting?' said Fred.

'Yes, it's so soothing.  Very recreational.  Last year we had an
ex-United States senator here, seventy years old, and he knitted a
sweater for his wife.'

'What she do with it?  Give it to her gigolo or to the Salvation
Army?' said Fred.

In the light of Sara's look of affliction, Janissary's look of
pain, he warned himself he was nothing but an upstate hick and
mustn't annoy these sophisticates with his rustic American jeers.
He wanted to, but didn't, ask whether men patients got well because
they knitted, or got sick in the first place because they were the
kind that would knit.

He fell into low humour once more when Dr. Janissary had showed
them the roof of the building, which he called the 'recreational
garden'.  As a garden, it wasn't so much, thought Fred.  Besides
the gravelled roofing, parallel bars and a few deck-chairs, forlorn
under December sky, it exhibited no entertaining features save a
view of the Hudson and a brewery across it, and a high woven-wire
fence.  Before Fred could check his unfortunate humour, he had
demanded, 'What's fence for?  Keep the nuts from jumping off?'

Dr. Janissary did not answer, but so queerly did he glance at Sara
that Fred felt boorish.  He looked about the roof, trying to think
of something agreeable to say.

A few feet behind him, the same male attendant was standing, rigid,
his arms folded.

(Now the truth is that the attendant was not following Fred.  He
had sneaked up to the roof for an illegal cigarette.  But it is a
principle known to soldiers that it is as bad to be frightened to
death as it is to be killed.)

As they descended from the roof, Sara said, and her tone was
infuriatingly kind and maternal.  'Now don't you think that's a
lovely fresh-air nook?'

'A NOOK!' was all that Fred could get out.



He really spoke up when they were back in Dr. Janissary's office:

'Well, Doctor, I'm glad to have seen your shop.  I'm sure you could
do a lot for people who are disturbed and puzzled.  But I hope you
don't think any of this is for me!  Nosir!  Well, Sara, let's skip
back to the hotel.'

But Dr. Janissary would not let him go.  Presumably there was no
law by which he could force Fred to sit there, sweating, yet Fred
felt as though a couple of deputies stood behind his chair, ready
to spring, while the doctor said amiably:

'I'm afraid you're not entirely original or unusual, Mr. Cornplow,
in thinking that while we could do something for the other fellow,
you're too clear-headed and self-analytical for us to do anything
for YOU.  What we strive for here chiefly, perhaps, is to train our
friends to understand themselves.  People have so many blind spots
in their mental steering vision.'

Bluntly, 'You got any blind spots, too, Doc?'

He felt slightly astonished that Janissary neither hit him nor
called for handcuffs, but merely hesitated, 'Oh yes--yes, of
course.'

'So we can call it quits, eh, Doc?'  (Within, 'Why can't you be
refined with these highbrows, Fred, and not try to jolly 'em the
way you would Cal Tillery?')  'Because I certainly hope neither you
nor Sara have any idea I'd ever let myself be cooped up here and
have somebody try to "do some constructive psychiatric work" with
me, as I believe you call it.'

Dr. Janissary did not, thereafter, sound so tolerant as one would
have expected in a teacher of toleration:

'About your condition, my dear Mr. Cornplow . . .'  ('I'll be
everlastingly doggoned if I'll let any doggone man say I've got a
"condition"!')  '. . . there can be no question whatever.  You are
suffering from disassociation and a toxic condition probably due to
drug escapism.  And, to scotch one of the commonest lay errors, no
one can do anything permanent by the use of his own so-called "will
power".  You need the help of trained experts.'

'You mean nobody at all can get in shape by his own will power?'

'Oh, there are apparent exceptions.'

'And maybe I'm an exception!  And maybe there's more'n you think.
Because sensible people don't worry too much about worrying.  And
maybe a lot of 'em steer clear of you.  So, Sara, let's beat it.'

'Mr. Cornplow, let me say, in this amiable parting, that in a way I
agree with you in your own diagnosis.'

'Eh?  What's wrong with it, then?'

'I wouldn't consider taking your case useless I had complete
authority--which I'm afraid you wouldn't agree to, as you suffer
from the very common complaint of thinking you know as much as the
doctor!--unless you agreed to stay under control for, at the least,
six months.'

'Six . . .  Sara!  We're going.'

He had no farewell for the doctor.  In the reception room, the
white-clad secretary said tenderly, 'It will be one hundred dollars
for the consultation, please, and if you don't mind, with new cases
the doctor would prefer cash.'

Fred choked a little before chuckling (and it was his only chuckle
of the day), 'This young lady will pay.  She brought the Case here.
He can't.  He has a Condition!'

At the lower door of the apartment house, he said, 'Get this
straight, Sara.  I don't blame Janissary.  I blame you and whatever
you've been telling him.  You take a taxi.  I'm going to walk.  And
I shan't see you in New York again.  I'm taking the noon train to
Sachem . . .  Shan't see you again.  No!'



CHAPTER XXXIV


On the noon train to Sachem there was a celebrated lecturer who
beguiled the tedium by analysing the people he saw along the way.
He devoted only one glance to Fred Cornplow, sitting in dumpy
stiffness in his Pullman chair.  There he was, merely a round
little man with a round little head and half-round little moustache
and round little hands, his fingers tapping with slow regularity on
the side of a folded magazine, his glance straight ahead and
uncommunicative.

Obviously a petty business man, too unimaginative, too regimented,
too incapable of strange sorrows and of fierce achievement, to be
worthy the contemplation of a celebrated lecturer who, only eight
hours from now, would be explaining to an audience with nice clean
shirts and nice earnest smiles that life would be ever so much more
amusing if you trained your eyes.



Fred had heard, as something that might happen to people whom you
never met, that there had been cases in which entirely sane persons
had been forced into private institutions, that were really private
insane asylums, by relatives who were grasping or simply stupid.
They had been penned in for years, and the more they protested, the
more they had been considered dangerous, until they had sunk into
the belief that they really were cracked.

He did not know whether these stories were ever true.  He did know
that Hazel and Annabel, certainly, Dr. Kamerkink and Walter
Lindbeck and Lawyer Appletree, probably, would not find anything
unsound in his sudden protest at being a combination of mint and
treadmill.  But he also knew that a whole world of easy-going
people can be swayed by such single-track, demanding minds as
Sara's.  And he believed, perhaps foolishly, that a week at such a
hospital as Janissary's, with that skilled finger hooking out of
him the quirks and crankinesses all of us possess, would really
make him unwell.  It wouldn't be anything so melodramatic as padded
cells and strait-jackets; it would be just the spying, pitying,
incessant care that would turn him feeble-minded.

Didn't he know, Fred insisted to himself, in terror--at the moment
when the skilled lecturer was dismissing him as a human polyp--that
sound fellows, competent enough in their professions and their
homes, when they were drafted into an army often appeared as clumsy
plodders scorned by every boneheaded sergeant, or even as
quivering, yelping cowards?  Why shouldn't a sanatorium be as black
with magic as an army?

Fred half opened his magazine, closed it and went to tapping it
again.

He drove out his nagging thoughts and began swiftly to scheme what
he would do.  Absorbed though he was in planning, he was sensitive
to every smell, every sound, as he had never been since boyhood,
when he had gone off to college in a grimy day coach and everything
had been new and promising and terrifying and beautiful.  His
senses were heightened to ecstasy.  (Dr. Janissary would probably
have smirked and called him 'hypomanic'.)

This was not a familiar Pullman chair car, such as he took forty
times a year; it was a coloured jungle swaying in an earthquake.
He smelled the plush of the seat, the metal and leather of his bag
beside him, the gasoline-washed gloves of the woman across the way,
the cellared grey air from the vestibule.  He heard the steady bang
of chains between the cars.  He was conscious of the dustiness in
his throat, and in imagination he tasted the thin, vintage coolness
of a glass of ice water which had ripened till the ice had almost
melted.

He was emotionally aware of fellow passengers whom normally he
would never have seen.  He hated the bushy-haired, vellum-faced man
with a cord on his eyeglasses.  (It was the celebrated lecturer.)
He loved the powdery-cheeked old woman who sat so primly, soft old
hands quietly folded.  He was agitated by the sharp-nosed thin man
far down the car . . .  Could he be a shadow, sent by Sara to spy
on him?  Why did the man watch him so?  Hell with him!

At a station stop he heard a radio, in a standing taxi, blatting
'Coming Round the Mountain', cloying as eggnog, and he wanted to
weep.  'Oh, stop it, you sentimental old hen!' he jeered at
himself, but that liquid oozing sweetness made him yearn over
everything tender and banal: church bells on a June morning, babies
laughing on a lawn, sunset over a lake, the cottage William Tyler
Longwhale, and Hazel polishing glasses.

He was aware of the stream of life on which he was floating, and
aware of himself as not being, any longer, merely Our Mr. Cornplow,
Sr., a suit of clothes sitting at a desk, but a separate and
exciting soul, a little different from any other.  He rejoiced in
his self, selfishness, self-consciousness.  Why, he demanded,
shouldn't he be as gloriously self-conscious as any of the great
souls of which he had read: Napoleon or St. Francis or Philip
Sidney?  Perhaps a part of their greatness had been an unwillingness
to be cogs.

He had only this one life to live; on this side Jordan, he still
had, at most, some thirty years for seeing all the hills and
headlands and bright rivers, and he must hasten about his business
of seeing.

Perhaps he would yet walk up the Champs-Elysées.



He was in Sachem Falls a little after four.  With no telephoning,
he took a taxi to the Triumph agency.  He cut short the greetings.
He summoned Paul Popple, his aide.

'Paul, I want you to stick around till you hear from me.  It may be
about six o'clock.  It may not be till late evening.  Now send me
in Cal and Mac Tillery.  When I get through with 'em, give 'em each
a month's salary and make sure, you personally, that they're out of
this place before six.'

Cal and Mac ranged in, looking slyly confident.

'You boys are fired.  You're no good.  You'll get a month's pay.'

'Say, Cousin Freddie, I think you're making a big mistake.  Mac and
me are always watching out for your interests.  The mechanics you
got out there are no good.'

'For once, I'm not going to argue.  I don't want any long song and
dance.  Let's admit you're related to me.  So is Judas Iscariot, if
you carry it far enough.  You two pose as the simple country boys
that get done by the city slickers.  Fact is, you're wolves.
They're rustic, too!  Your only idea of a job is that it's a fight
between you and the boss, and every minute you can loaf, every time
you can duck a piece of work, is just one skirmish you've won.
It's never occurred to you there could ever be anything but hatred
between you and the man you've consented to work for.  You're
fired, and you might write this to your father:  When he comes
around to ask me, "You can't let your own relatives starve, can
you?" I'll tell him, "With pleasure."  Now get out!'

They fled.

The grim little round man at the desk was saying within himself, 'I
don't know how long I can keep up this hard-boiled attitude.  I
better work quick, while it lasts . . .  Don't it prove Dr.
Janissary IS good?  One hour with him, this morning, and I'm re-
educated already.'

He telephoned to the house, then to a series of half a dozen other
numbers, found Hazel at a hat shop, and demanded, 'Be home in half
an hour, could you?  Something important I want to tell you'.

He telephoned to a tourist agency in Sachem and to one in Boston.

He telephoned to Lawyer Appletree.

When he left the office, he did not look back.

He took a taxicab home.  In it, over and over, without quite
knowing it, he repeated:


     'For to admire an' for to see,
      For to be'old this world so wide--
      It never done no good to me,
      But I can't drop it if I tried.'


He became conscious of what he was quoting, and laughed at himself--
not bitterly, now.

'Old Freddie, the International Bum!  Remember that time we met the
tea planter at the Shanghai Club bar and went up the Wing Wang Wong
in a catamaran--now what the deuce IS a catamaran, I wonder?'

Hazel was at home.  Before he could attack, she kissed him,
unexcitedly, and said, 'Howard has been trying to get you on the
phone.  I couldn't quite make out what he wanted: something about
Sara telephoning from New York, about how you met a Dr. Janissary
and liked him so much, and Sara thinks we ought to get this doctor
to come to Sachem and look you over some more.  Is anything the
matter with you?'

'Not any more!  Not ever again!  Hazel, I don't want to take a lot
of time explaining, but Sara is bound and determined to keep me
from retiring, or even taking a year's layoff.'

'But how could she keep you?'

'I don't know.  But she's a smart girl and awfully determined--and
if you don't believe it, look at this doggone inhuman furniture
that somehow, I swear I don't know how, she wished on to me.
Hazel, I'm leaving for Europe . . .'

'EUROPE?'

'. . . to-night, and I want . . .'

'TO-NIGHT?'

'. . . you to go with me.  I won't stop to explain why I want to
get out and get out quick.  Let's say it's just for the fun of it.
That's really the best reason, anyway, I'm GOING.  To-night.  Are
you with me or against me?'

'Why . . .'

'Are you?'

'Why, yes, of course, though . . .  I'd love to go to Europe with
you.  I think it would be lovely.  But start to-night?  It's
crazy.'

'Certainly.  So am I.  At least, I'm doggone serious, and seems
that's the same as being insane.  Coming?'

'You're joking.  We'd have to have two weeks, at the very least, to
get ready.'

'What ready?'

'Clothes.'

'You'd be surprised, but they sell clothes in Europe, too.  And
I'll bet anything, maybe you could buy toothbrushes there.'

'But why . . .'

'Because Howard and Sara will gang up on me, on us, and if they get
us to delay our leaving--call it our sneaking off like cowards, if
you want to--we never will make a break.  They'll put up such an
argument about my having to stay here and get them started standing
on their own feet--keep on for the next twenty years getting 'em
started.  Oh, Sara wouldn't ever let us go.'

'Don't be silly!  How could she prevent it?'

'Oh, maybe she couldn't absolutely prevent it, if we kicked and
screamed, but I'll tell you what she doggone well could do: she'd
sneer so and jeer so that she'd spoil the whole thing, same as she
spoiled William Tyler Longwhale and our second honeymoon; she'd
manage to take all the fun out of it and make us feel we were
irresponsible old fools if we ever did anything except sit and
knit.  KNITTING!  We either go quick, and go secret, and go to-
night, or we never go at all.  And I'm going.  Are you going with
me?  Are you my wife?'

'I--I think I am, Fred.  What time do we leave?'

'Before midnight.'

'I'll start packing . . .  Will you want your winter underwear?'

'Yes--no--I don't know--and if Howard calls up again, stall him
off.'



To Lawyer Appletree's considerable indignation, Fred insisted that
they stop only for a sandwich, instead of dinner, before they set
to work, at Appletree's house.

A bank cashier, who on the telephone had even more indignantly
complained, 'But what's all the hurry?' went wearily into the
closed bank and met Fred at Appletree's with twenty-five hundred
dollars in travellers' cheques.

Paul Popple arrived at Appletree's with Fred's car, which Paul
himself had been greasing and inspecting.  To Appletree and Paul,
Fred stated, with a refusal to argue:

'Paul is left in charge of the agency, entirely, for the next three
months, possibly much longer.  Ed, I want you to draw up some kind
of a fancy power of attorney for him, showing he's the boss.  He is
to receive his present salary, plus fifteen per cent of all
profits.  The rest are to be deposited to my account in the
Grangers' National.

'Against that account, you are to pay Howard fifteen hundred
dollars to-morrow, and Sara five hundred, and thereafter, a
thousand a year to each of them, except that if Sara marries, which
don't look any too doggone probable, she gets only five hundred.
She is to stay in our house, meanwhile, and you are to pay the
servants and taxes and insurance--I'll give you a list of all those
items--but if I send you word at the end of three months, you are
to let the place furnished.

'Now you, Ed--you have a complete power of attorney, and all I ask
you to do is not follow my example and begin enjoying yourself.
Because, as you are about to tell me--I'll admit it's a dirty trick
to spoil your speech--sane, normal, honest-to-God citizens with a
stake in the community don't do anything so crazy as pull up stakes
and hike out for no reason except they merely want to.  No indeed!
They sit around and think it over and make preparations for going
so carefully that when they're ready to go--they don't go!'



CHAPTER XXXV


Not till ten minutes before midnight were they off for Boston,
which Fred had chosen as a safer port than New York, where Saras
and Janissarys lurked in every alley.

When he returned from Appletree's, Hazel had begun to pack, but had
not finished.  She was sitting on the floor of a closet, whimpering
like a baby, her wet face wrinkled like a baby's, as she pawed over
a box filled with the shabby treasures of lost youth.  Silently she
held up to him a report card of Howard from the fourth grade--
Deportment was Fair; Drawing and Language, Excellent; Arithmetic,
Geography and the rest were Poor.

Fred chuckled, 'He used to draw curlicues, and he said they were
smoke from a chimney, but I'd turn the house into a pig!'

She held up the gilt-lettered invitation to Sara's first public
dance, the High School Assembly, when she had been fifteen.  He
remembered Sara in the preposterously short skirt of the day, her
legs so long and reedy: remembered that her hair had been short and
choppy and uncombable as a boy's.  Such a gallant little tike she
had been.

Hazel was sobbing, 'Oh, Fred, must we . . .  They're so sweet.  And
they're all we have.'

Just then the one thing in the world he wanted to do was not to do
the intemperate thing that was the one thing in the world he wanted
to do.  As desperately as a man who has got himself into a fight
that is too big for him, he wished that he had never started the
commotion.  He struggled:

'I know.  But we'll mean all the more to them if they see us as
something besides a couple of stand-bys that they can take for
granted.'



He helped her finish packing.  She had brilliantly foreseen that
they mustn't take anything they didn't indisputably need; they kept
the luggage down to eight bags, and perhaps a canvas roll and a few
odd bundles; and in all of them, later, they found nothing
unnecessary except, possibly:  A large framed photograph of Sara
aged eleven and Howard aged four; photographs of the same ones,
two, five and nine years later; a handsome binocular case which
proved to contain not the binoculars but shells for a sixteen-gauge
shotgun; a map of New England; volume two of Tom Jones--neither of
them had read volume one; a guidebook of Austro-Hungary dated 1913;
half pair gent's alligator-hide slippers; a bar of almond
chocolate; an extra hairbrush, which each of them had thought
belonged to the other; four sheets of letter paper headed 'Olympia
Hotel, East Utica'; a pair of round golf garters; nail tint, which
Hazel never used; an empty box for digestive pills; and a
magnificent, transparent, purple waterproof, which proved to be
split down the back.

Their bags were all in the Triumph coupé; they sat outside, in a
forbidding world of frost, looking up at their home.  It seemed
kind and secure, built not of bricks but of hopes.  The street
before them was a corridor of forbidding steel.

She gasped, resolutely turning her face from the house, 'Oh, go, go
quick--while we can.'

It was miles afterward that she asked, 'Do you happen to know what
ship we're going on, what port we're going to?  I don't suppose it
matters, really, now that we've given up everything we've loved and
trusted, but it might be interesting!'

He stopped the car.  'Sure.  It's hard.  We can go back, of course.
It all comes down to--and I'm not so doggone certain I've got a
right to ask it--but it's a question of do you trust me?'

She rubbed her left forefinger, in its knitted glove, on the seat
between them; she hesitated; and said, a little doubtfully, 'Yes,
I . . .'  Then, strongly, almost gaily, 'YES!'



From Sachem to Boston the distance was two hundred and forty-two
miles, and they drove it in seven hours and forty minutes, with
Hazel cautiously deputing at the wheel for seventy miles of the
way, while Fred leaned his cheek on his fist and tried to sleep.

They seemed to be slipping through no living world at all, but
through unending cemetery aisles lined with pale tombstones.  The
car fled smooth and effortless as the passage of a ghost.  Between
the tombs, now and then, were lights that might have been villages,
but they passed so quickly that Fred could not be certain that he
had seen them.  Only when a bridge bumbled quickly under the car,
or they heard the swishing that marked their rush through a narrow
defile between hills, was he sure that he had not really died, but
was actually going forward to more life.

Then around and in front of them was Albany, a cauldron that
bewildered and frightened them, and they stopped hastily, climbed
stiffly out, to demand coffee and to gulp its scorching bitterness.
Again they drank coffee in a sleeping Pittsfield, and he thought of
Stonefield near by, of William Tyler Longwhale, and the happy
evening carelessness in which, decades and decades ago, Hazel and
he had lounged on the porch there and tried to sing 'Seeing Nellie
Home'.

He tried to hum it now, as they creaked on, flipped around a corner
and shot straight ahead, but it died on the dead air inside the
car.

Hazel was intimidatingly silent and withdrawn beside him.  But
once, beyond Stonefield, she fondly touched his arm, and he was
moved to crow, 'The golden road to Samarkand--we're on the way--the
golden road!'

He was certain, presently, that she had gone to sleep, and he could
drive as fast as he wanted.  It lulled his nostalgia to watch the
needle of the illuminated speedometer, only spot of light in the
gloomy car, flicker up to fifty-five, sixty, sixty-five.  Hills
arose before him, as dark mounds beyond the headlights, and he
flung the car at them with joyful viciousness.  Flats spread beside
them; he imagined that--in snowy December--he could hear frog
choruses, and he pushed the wheels into eating up the level road.
Village lights came up at him and he scorched by them, ever faster,
so that they slipped past like clusters of fireflies.

He felt sleepiness parching his eyes and, as a veteran driver,
stopped by the road, let Hazel jolt awake in the motion of stopped
motion, turned the wheel over to her and tried to doze off.

He startled as he remembered that on his desk at home he had left a
marked list of sailings from Boston.

Would it lead Howard or Sara to him?  Would their complaints, their
drugging appeals to his sense of duty, paralyse him again and at
the last moment prevent his going?

No.  They'd never find it till morning.  And so indirect were the
flying routes that they would not be able to catch him even by
plane.

He gave up sleep.  When he lighted a cigarette, in the glow of the
match he saw Hazel's face tense.  'Lemme drive again,' he grunted,
with no shadings from the tenderness he felt.

The route nicked off only a corner of Worcester, and instantly they
were again in the graveyard lane.  But at Waltham there was a
shivering hint of daylight, and he suddenly felt strong and gay.
Almost in Boston!  Almost on a ship!  Almost bucking the winter
ocean!  So he cheerfully slowed up for the first traffic, after
their dash across one wide state and half another, and decorously
he slipped up to a hotel on Beacon Street, in winter daylight.

The doorman yawned, 'Like your car garaged for all day?'

Fred slightly alarmed him by sighing, 'I want to pay in advance for
storing it, dead, for three months,' and by sentimentally smoothing
the hot cheeks of its bonnet.

Would he ever drive a Triumph again?



He slept for two hours; Hazel, so far as he knew, till noon.  He
hastened to the tourist agency to which he had telephoned from
Sachem and bought two tickets from Boston to Constantinople
(Constantinople!), on the Aranjuna Queen, a cargo ship which
carried some twenty passengers and which was headed for Channel
ports, Lisbon, Gibraltar and clear round the Mediterranean.  (But
he did not call it a 'cargo ship' as yet; not till he had been
baptized with salt water and the chief officer's salty jeers would
he know how land-lubberly he had once been in calling the Aranjuna
a 'freight boat'.)

He galloped about Boston, being polylingual to the extent of always
saying 'Jah' for 'Yes,' and timidly demanded visas for Great
Britain, Portugal, Jugoslavia and other patently fictional lands.
He bought a book called A Satchel Guide to Europe, and a small
motion-picture camera with which he hoped to snap Hazel walking in
front of the pyramids, Hazel feeding pigeons at St. Mark's, Hazel
fishing in a Norwegian fjord.

And he bought for her six winter roses--very expensive.



At two o'clock that afternoon they stood amidships on the S.S.
Aranjuna Queen, looking down on the freight-littered pier.  From
the bridge, they heard the captain shouting to the chief officer,
up on the forecastle head, 'Single up, fore and aft,' and the bosun
bellowing to the sailors, 'Heave the gangway aboard.'

Hazel clutched his arm.  'Our last link with shore!  In a minute,
it'll be too late!'

'Yes, too late,' he croaked.

The gangway was slid up and flopped on the deck.

The last lines were let go.  The captain, above them, cried to the
third mate, at the engine-room telegraph, 'Slow astern.'  They were
incredibly moving; going, for the first time in either of their
lives, from the security of land to the savage unknown.  They held
each other like terrified children as the whistle burst into
obscene blatting.

Just then two people galloped along the pier below them, screaming.

'Good Lord!  It's Howard and Annabel!  How'd they ever know?  Can
they grab us and make us come back now?  No!  We're safe!' rattled
Fred.

Out on the perilous edge of wharf beside the dock-house ran the
little couple.  Annabel was crying, 'Take me with you!  Please!
Take me along!'

Hazel sobbed.  The ship was quivering now and moving more swiftly.
Howard had been waving imploringly.  Now, as the black side of the
ship drew definitely away, he stopped waving, and his whole face
puckered with weeping.

'My boy--my little boy that we're deserting!  He's so unformed yet.
He can't take care of himself,' whimpered Hazel.

The Aranjuna Queen snorted regally again and drew out into the
harbour, and they could see their children only as doll-like
figures, faithfully waving to the last.

'How did we ever get here on this boat?' marvelled the completely
astonished Fredk Wm.



CHAPTER XXXVI


'Poor kid!  I know--I know!  Howard, the poor kid, he's never had
to take anything seriously, not even his marriage.  I guess it does
jar him to see us running out on him.  I've got a hunch it's been
our fault; we never worked much at teaching him to stand on his own
feet.  Maybe he'll learn now.  And then someday he'll want to get a
little acquainted with himself, too, and maybe he'll have to run
away from Little Nero!'

He had been trying to comfort Hazel, down in their stateroom, but
out of all his chatter nothing was distinct except 'Poor kid'.  In
a few days, he assured her, they would forget Howard and enjoy
being wrecked on the mobile desert island that is a ship.

'I'm going to hate it!  I'll want to come back the minute we land!
I'll see poor Howard crying there, all the time,' she bawled, while
Fred mechanically tapped her back . . . and, no longer listening
much, over her shoulder surveyed their first stateroom . . .  He
carefully did not tell her that there was such a thing as returning
to Boston on the pilot boat.

The room, rather humble, delighted him more than a rosewood-and-
tapestry suite on any cruising hotel would have done.  Its stripped
neatness belonged to ships.  There were two beds, as promised by
the travel circulars on which he had become such an authority, and
between them was a bedside table with electric reading lamp, but
the chairs were straight and small, the wash-bowl was of the
tricky, delightful, old-fashioned sort that folded up like a shelf,
and one side of the stateroom, of white-daubed bolts and steel
plates curving up to an honest porthole, was frankly the side of
the vessel.

'I'm sure enough on a ship!' he exulted.

That moment the ship rolled heavily, and his stomach did not exult.

'Guess better guppon deck get li'l' fresh air,' he panted.

They struggled, step by swaying step, up the forward stairs, and in
the beginnings of distress Hazel began to neglect being homesick.
Astern they saw a grey bank--she did not know whether it was fog or
land, but she decided on land, so that she could agonize over
leaving it.

'Take a last look.  Snow and ice.  Next land we see--golly, think!--
it'll be foreign land!--a strange country!--and I reckon it'll be
all green,' he said with false buoyancy.

'By the way, Fred, where are you going?'

'How do you mean?  I showed you the ticket--all these different
countries--whole slew of 'em!'

'But what port, what country, do we touch first of all?  Where are
we GOING?'

'Golly, I was so busy getting away, I forgot to ask!'

It was to Hull, in Yorkshire, that they were going, said the
purser.

'Oh yes, that's what I thought,' said Fred.



Never, not even in William Tyler Longwhale, had they been so lured
to each other as in the three days, out of a ten-day crossing, when
they idled in the stateroom, never getting out of dressing-gowns,
always in the not too disagreeable state between seasickness and a
bounding health that would have compelled them to go up and be
athletic and social.  In the Cornplow home, meals had been brought
up to bedrooms on trays only in case of definite illnesses, and
with increasing sense of power and travelled sophistication they
enjoyed ringing for the steward and for tea and toast and orange
juice all day long.

'I just can't face the thought of leaving our nice little room and
meeting a lot of strangers,' Hazel sighed.  'I'm sorry, Fred, but I
can see now I'm not going to be any good as a traveller.  I'm too
shy of new people and new ways.  But you'll be grand at it, you old
mixer, and I'll just stick along . . . till you get tired of it and
want to trot back home.'

So all day, contentedly, for hours at a time forgetting that they
had shamefully deserted their helpless brood, they talked of
themselves; recalled, with snorts or giggles, old, far-off, unhappy
things and battles long ago, such as the quarrel, comic now but
devastating then, when he had been discovered, during a stately
ball, shooting craps with a bunch of chauffeurs in the basement,
with his dress coat hung on a coal shovel, and on his proud shirt
front a skull and bones drawn in lipstick.

Never had Hazel found out what female serpent had drawn it . . .
Neither had Fred.



They first emerged from their cave for dinner in the saloon.  Hazel
wailed, 'I'm going to be embarrassed to death--all those people
staring at me.'  So she was embarrassed by nobody's staring at all.
The company didn't even cackle at her having failed to show up.
They had been sufficiently seasick themselves.

The eighteen passengers were divided among four tables in the
saloon.  As members of the wholesale-selling, or knightly, caste,
Fred and Hazel were seated at the captain's table, where they found
no one more intimidating than a Mr. and Mrs. Alphen, of Joliet, and
Miss Pablum, a school teacher from Minneapolis, all three of whom
seemed to have no particular reason in going abroad except to
inspect things, to be found only in Europe, called Culture,
Castles, Napoleon Brandy, and Points of Historical Interest.

The captain was a very good captain, and as such his chief interest
was in real-estate investment in Mount Vernon, New York, where he
resided.  He was tall and thin, he told jokes about nagging wives,
and he played the piano.

Mrs. Alphen showed the Cornplows, at the very first meal, pictures
of her grandchildren.  Miss Pablum lent them a lively book called
In the Footsteps of British Bards.  As for Mr. Alphen, he was that
vestigial remain, a State Patriot.  He asserted, touchily, that
Illinois air was tastier than Wisconsin air, Illinois taxes lower
than New York taxes, Illinois Swedes more Swedish than Minnesota
Swedes, and Joliet penitentiary more flourishing than Sing Sing.

'Why, they're all nice, friendly people, just like home,' said
Hazel.

There was a good deal of merry jesting between table and table;
each insisting that it possessed more wit, more skill in bridge
playing, than the others.  But, complained Hazel, the other
passengers seemed even shyer than herself; they did not 'get
together in social activities'.

It was she who organized them.

In company with the purser, who pleased her very much indeed by
insisting that she must have 'crossed' at least ten or twelve
times, Hazel got up a bridge tournament, a backgammon tournament, a
shuffle-board tournament, a masquerade ball, and a Reading, by Miss
Pablum, who led them plodding from footstep to footstep of the
bards.

On vacations Fred had noticed that Hazel took cheerfully to new
people and to those extraordinary games by which adults escaped
sitting and thinking, but he had explained it as a few days'
excitement in getting away from domestic chores.  He perceived,
now, that she had more talent than he for liking strangers and
strange ways and for being noisy and jokey with them.  She became,
indeed, Queen of the Ship, and it was she whom the other passengers
asked about the day and hour of their arrival in Hull, the amount
to tip, the name of the what-is-it that swings out the boats, the
rules for deck tennis and the latitude of Spitzbergen.

Fred was merely her Prince Consort.

He had pictured, as a chief joy of travelling, greater than ancient
abbeys and beards on the Boulevard, being intimate with ever so
many new wandering gentlemen.  Was he not the trained salesman, the
jolly good fellow, who could enter an unfamiliar hotel lobby and be
calling five men by their first names within ten minutes?

But, released from having to be any particular sort of person, he
found that he wanted to get acquainted only with himself.  Brother
Alphen, he admitted, was a swell fellow; but somehow, he marvelled
to Hazel, he didn't want to hear anything more about the New Deal
or the convenience of oil furnaces.  He had had to listen to so
many hearty citizens, for so many years, at the Triumph Agency, and
to Hazel and Sara at home afterward.  He thought it queer in
himself; he wondered what Dr. Janissary would have said; but he
enjoyed silence.  Doc Kamerkink would have ridiculed the notion
that the breezy and back-slapping Fred was actually an introvert,
interested only in the forms and colours of his hidden little soul;
and Hazel an extrovert, and not at all the inward-looking sensitive
plant that the seclusion of domesticity made her appear.  But a
great deal of the ten days Fred spent in circling the deck by
himself, or in standing at the forward rail, while Hazel was in the
lounge, playing contract.

Mrs. Alphen, from her deck-chair, would call at him brightly,
'Aren't you ashamed of yourself, being so selfish and neglecting us
ladies and all!' and she would gesture at the deck-chair beside
her, but he would only smile and scuttle away, realizing that he
was asocial and a scoundrel.

Hour-long, as the ship rolled, he watched the forward derrick sway
against the seas rushing at him.  In the power of the waves he felt
freedom; in the bows, tenderly swelling to a piercing point, he
felt speed; and in the pendulum of the derrick, a rhythm of
security . . .  Perhaps in wandering he could be minutely great, as
in room-bound labour he had, these years, been greatly small.



Toward the end of the passage, Hazel spoke of home and of Howard
and Sara barely once a day, as if merely by habit.  Her
homesickness, and his, was acute only at Christmas, which they
spent on the Aranjuna Queen in the English Channel, with a dim
sight of Margate and the mouth of the Thames.

'B-but anyway, we aren't any homesicker than the others, I guess!'
she sobbed gallantly.

Indeed, the more the Aranjuna's passengers tried to be festive and
bear in the garlands and the Yule log, the more veiled and timid
were their eyes.  They had a Christmas tree in the lounge, and the
captain swore it was a damn fine tree, for hadn't he brought it
himself from Mount Vernon?  The head steward rather mechanically
produced silver cord and crimson glass balls, and rather
mechanically the passengers dressed the tree.  They cleared out the
cubbyhole which was the 'souvenir shop' of the barber-bath-steward,
and gave one another souvenir handkerchiefs and tin toy automobiles
and ten-cent boxes of candy; they had a large dinner, with goose
and turkey and anguished paper hats, and afterwards they danced.

But every time Miss Pablum danced awkwardly past the tree, she
looked away.  Her mother had died on the first of December.

In mid afternoon they had their Christmas radiogram:


MERRY XMAS HAPPY NEW YEAR EXQUISITE EASTER MUCH LOVE DONT FORGET
LOVING KIDS SARA HOWARD ANNABEL LILNERO


Then Hazel wept, and watered the sacred rose of Christmas.

'They're grand children.  They'll be perfect, now they see they
can't run over us!' swore Fred.  'Say!  Do you still feel you want
to go right back, soon as we land in Hull--just take couple days in
London, maybe, and then sail . . .'

Hazel was judicious:

'Well, now we're here, seems to me it 'd be an awful waste of good
money not to take advantage of it.  Katie Alphen says we'll just
love the Riviera.  But we certainly won't want to stay long . . .
Look, Fred.  If we just happened to still be here next summer, just
happened to decide to stay on, I mean, do you think we'd enjoy
having a country cottage in England?  Minnie Pablum says we'd adore
Rural England . . .  Not that she's been there.'

'Well,' said Fred.



They drank a toast to home, in the smoking-room, which wasn't a
smoking-room but an alcove off the lounge.

'Let's drink an extra one to Annabel--best of the lot,' proposed
Fred.

Hazel giggled.  'You're so funny!  You don't know yourself one
single bit?  You're half in love with that girl, and you have no
idea of it!'

'You think so?  Ha, ha!' he said.

It made his voyage of discovery of himself curiously easier to
travel with a pleasant person who did not embarrass him by
understanding him.



CHAPTER XXXVII


The Villa Sophie, at Belfayol, on the Côte d'Azur between Hyères
and St. Tropez, was a smart little pension, a respectable pension,
a white pension streaked with purple bougainvillaea, on the beach,
overlooking the fishing boats, with the tiny casino only two blocks
away, and with victorias, in which no one ever seemed to drive,
always standing in front of it.  It had a tidy salon with Spanish
arm-chairs, yellow marble-topped tables, grey marble floor, and
gold-coloured curtains.  Tea could be had in an arbour in the rose
garden.  And though the bedrooms were small, their long windows,
opening like doors, gave on tiny iron balconies facing the full
brilliance of the tideless sea.

At the Villa Sophie, in late April, Frederick William Cornplow &
wfe, as it was stated in the pension register, were living the life
of international culture de luxe, all modern improvements, lowest
rates.

They had seen perhaps one half per cent of London (on the 'side
trip' from Hull), of Rotterdam and Brest, of a Lisbon hysterical
with the waxing Spanish revolution, of Capri by way of Naples, of
divine Venice, of Ragusa, Athens and at last of Istanbul.  (They
blushed that they had ever called it 'Constantinople'.  Which name
they went right on calling it, whenever they weren't careful.)

At Istanbul, Fred was embarrassingly near to the golden road to
Samarkand, and at Istanbul he was uncomfortable to a point of
terror.  He didn't understand what they sold in these crazy
littered shops; he didn't know how to get a hot bath; he saw no
Triumph cars nor ever heard a meaty American voice.  He was a Heck
Centre pup lost on Hester Street.

Though they had not known there was such a thing as a Jugoslavian
steamer, a particularly trim and slim and black-and-nickel
Jugoslavian craft had taken them back to Villefranche, whence they
timidly drove to Belfayol.

In Ragusa they had received, and in the shadow of its old walls
they had re-re-read, the cable from Sara saying that she had just
been married to Walter Lindbeck, her boss, and could they rent the
Cornplow home?

Yes, they could, Fred cabled, though he felt that with the den of
their wolf cubs thus gone, and with Hazel daily more sprightly
about the joys of Europe and the Great World, he would never be
able to return now to the one place in the world he longed to see.

Early in March they had the cable from Howard that Little Nero had
been born, that Little Nero's name was Franklin R. Cornplow, and
that 'mother son self oke'.

So when they came, weary and eyesore and foot-aching, to the Villa
Sophie, in April, they were for a certain time glad to feel they
had found a new fixed home.



The guests of the Villa were very cosmopolitan, considered Fred and
Hazel.  They included a Belgian count, a Russian colonel and lady,
a professor who, unlike most professors, looked like a professor, a
Swedish sculptor who never seemed to do anything to rocks and whose
favourite daily joke was that he was there 'studying villasophie',
a mysterious lady in black who had nothing to recommend her except
her mysteriousness, a fat Englishwoman called Lady Jaxon, five
respectable but indistinguishable women, and a fat retired Irish
contractor from Omaha, also with lady.  The contractor was cheery
and became Fred's best friend and worst pest: his wife spoke of art
and was studying French--as, suddenly, amazingly, Hazel seemed also
to be doing.

In this international musical comedy troupe Hazel could not star as
she had on the steamer, but she fitted, she loved their wan
references to ancestral wealth; she became smarter and rosier, and
daily keener about the pension's communal sports: meals, swimming,
anticipation of meals, boule at the casino, reminiscences about
meals, shopping, and picnics with hot meals and bottles of white
Bordeaux, on top of Mont Nid . . .  Fred noticed that the fat
contractor, the fat Lady Jaxon and his own plump self were
invariably favoured with the bills for these picnics.

Hazel had first been awed at the be-titled company but within a
month she was muttering to Fred, 'Oh, these are nothing but small-
time pension tramps.  I'm looking forward to Monte Carlo and Paris,
and then our cottage in England.  Lady Jaxon--she really is top-
drawer--she says we can get a perfectly ducky cottage near her
Place in Devon.  Would you like that?'

'Uh--oh yes--sure--I guess so.'

'Happy?'

'Oh yes--sure!'

'Oh, BE happy!'

But daily he felt more out of it, out of everything.  In this alien
land, with its funny language, nothing, not politics nor business
nor manners nor food, was any of his affair.  He was an outsider,
merely tolerated, and without very definitely longing for home he
wanted to be back where he could exercise the citizen's precious
privilege of kicking about the way everybody ran everything.



It seemed to be one of Fred's typical mornings in this suburb of
Samarkand.

He had successfully begged off from a morning's motor trip to
Bandol with Hazel, Lady Jaxon and the contractress.  Hazel was so
exceptional among American women that she understood that he might,
without viciousness or secret plans of dissipation, want to escape
so feminized an expedition.  She didn't suspect him of having an
engagement with a Provençal enchantress.  In this, unfortunately,
she was right.

He sat alone, feeling alone and lost, drinking coffee at a café on
the plaza, with the sea in front, the casino on one side, and on
the other, the plaster railway station.  If on the steamer he had
been glad to avoid noisy inquiries about the state of his family,
now he would have rejoiced if someone he had known long ago, almost
anyone he had ever known, had come up behind him, assaulted his
back and bellowed, 'Well, you old so-and-so!  What you doing here?'

He tried to read the last crop of American newspapers.

What was all this about this new labour organization called the
Committee on Industrial Organization?  He wasn't sure what he could
do about it, but he felt that he ought to dash right over to
Michigan and show the boys, on both sides, how to act nicely.  He
puzzled over the President's proposal to change the Supreme Court.
He could do nothing here in Belfayol; these foreigners, these
Frenchman, didn't seem to think he was an authority on their
politics; but if he were back in America, where he belonged, he'd
certainly have something to say that would help the President.

In Belfayol, not so far from Spain, there was a backwash of the
great rebellion; now and then he saw refugees, bewildered with
bundles, but he had already discovered the queer fact of how little
a world calamity changes streets and customs.

As he always did, when he was here alone, he studied the tramway
passengers debarking at their end of the line.  He saw a young
couple, American by their voices, and longed to pick them up, but
they were too worldly for him: the girl in slacks and sweater, the
man in beret, flappy blue trousers, espadrilles.  No.  Prob'ly they
had a villa up the mountain; prob'ly been coming here for years;
prob'ly think he was only a vulgar tourist.  Well, and maybe he
was.  But doggone it, in Sachem they didn't think he was just a
tourist.

More dramatic than the tramway was the railway station, at which
the Paris train was now due.  Sometimes whole squads of Americans
got out.  Once he had gloriously seen, coming from the train, a
Kansas City man he had met at a Triumph convention in Atlantic
City!  The coachmen before the station were waking up; their horses
were shaking off flies.  The porters were streaming inside, yelling
at one another as though war had started.  The sellers of oranges
were gathered.  From the station straggled the passengers.  Suppose
there should again be a man from Kansas City!  Or even from
incomparable Sachem!

Fred watched the doorway like a trysting lover.  He noticed a young
woman in clothes that he guessed were American.  She was carrying a
very young baby and looking feverishly back at the porter, ahead at
the carriages, shaking her head over the crowd's volubility,
comforting the howling baby--altogether clean flustered.

'Wonder if I could help her any way?' thought Fred, not much
concerned.

Then he saw that the young woman was his daughter-in-law, Annabel.



CHAPTER XXXVIII


Returning from her bland and chatty drive to Bandol, Hazel climbed
out of the mildewed limousine, calling to Lady Jaxon, 'Such a
pleasant trip, and indeed I will look into the Cotswolds.'

She revolved and saw, entering the Villa Sophie, a procession
consisting of her husband, looking agitated, of Annabel Staybridge
Cornplow, who was, of course, not here at all, but in Sachem Falls,
U.S.A., of her first grandchild, F. Roosevelt Cornplow, who didn't
exist, except as a sentence in a cablegram and a few gushing pages
in a letter, a porter, with bags that seemed familiar, and a
furious cocher, who had not received his fare.

'Good heavens and earth!' said Hazel.

Her slight jealousy of Annabel vanished in joy of this dear,
customary face; she swooped on the girl, kissed her, kissed the
baby and babbled, 'Bell--Bell--and the baby--but only six weeks
old--how could you come--where is Howard--what's it all mean--Bell--
I couldn't believe my eyes--I can't!'

Fred mumbled, 'Oh yes you can.  It just means Howard has gone to
pieces, and I've got to sail from Havre to-morrow afternoon and
yank him out of it.'



Annabel's room in the Villa Sophie, where the baby was asleep in a
crib improvised from a bureau drawer, a room with clattering
composition stone floor, high panelled plastered walls, and frigid
pink-and-gilt ceiling, seemed unfriendly to them, these lost
Americans, and to Annabel's sorrows.

'Now what is it, dear?  Where's Howard?' said Hazel.

'Back home.  He didn't want me to come.  But he was drunk.  He
couldn't prevent my coming.  Father gave me the money.  But Father
wouldn't go see Howard.  He just laughed at me.  He talked about
giving me a trip to Reno as a belated wedding present, Father
did . . .  I don't just know why I came here.  I just felt so
lonely in our flat, with Howard lying drunk.'

'Honey, I don't know what I can say that's very comforting.  But
let's see if there's anything I can do.  What about Howard's
business--Bogey & Cornplow?' said Fred.

'Howard said Ben cheated him.  Ben said Howard hurt their business--
not booze so much as he didn't keep dates.  They quarrelled.  At
the flat.  I grabbed Howard's arm and kept him from hitting Ben.
Ben bought him out--for five hundred dollars.  He's living on that,
and the money Judge Appletree sends him from you.  But I don't
think it will last.  He keeps giving it to Cal Tillery . . .'

'Cal?  Cousin Cal?'  Fred was appalled.

'Yes.  Howard says Cal is his only friend.  Cal doesn't nag him.
Cal's brother, Mac, got fed up with them and actually went to work.
He was so surprised to find he liked it!  Now, Howard and Cal have
bought a garage together--that is, Howard gives Cal the money, and
Cal SAYS he's paying for it, on time.  Howard never goes near the
place.  Mostly he stays in the flat.  And Cal brings him in booze.
Cal laughed at me.'

'Cal's scum!  He's a cousin-by-accident!'

And once Cal tried to kiss me.  That's what made me run away--and I
was afraid what might happen to Baby--oh, Howard was always sweet
to the baby, even when he was drunk, but he was so shaky--once he
almost dropped the baby on the floor, when he was trying to dress
it--and I didn't want it to grow up listening to Howard and Cal
sing "The Old Oaken Bucket"!'

'But Annabel, dear,' said Hazel, 'what's Howard going to do, now
he's out of the firm?'

'Oh, he has a hundred new plans a day: he's going to join the army
and learn flying.  He's going to Hollywood and be a star--but oh,
his face is changing so; it almost seems as if it was getting
coarse already . . .  Oh, my darlings, I don't like to talk this
way about him!'

'Go on!  You're as much our child as he is,' Fred vowed.

Hazel looked only a little doubtful.

'And then he talks about going to Alaska--he thinks he can get a
free farm there--he says it's the only place where "a young fellow
has a chance".  And he talks about making millions selling cotton-
stripping machines.  And the latest I heard, he was going to be a
tree doctor!  But no matter what he says, I feel he's just given
up.  Completely discouraged.  He's only part to blame, maybe . . .'

Fred groaned, 'I'm to blame!  Me and my insisting on running away.'

'No.  Your going isn't to blame.  But maybe your putting it off so
long is.  Sara and Howard thought you'd always be there and nurse
them.'

'Annabel!  What about Sara?  Does she seem happy?' demanded Hazel.

'Darling, Sara has now been married to her Walter for fifty years,
and she just can't understand why Howard doesn't obey me the way
Walter has obeyed her, these sixty-seven years they've been
married . . .  She made him put on a sale of surrealist paintings in
the store; they already have two pictures in it; one of them was
done by a bookkeeper in Schenectady, and one by a Frenchman, who
wanted to come over, but they wouldn't let him out of the asylum.'

Fred interrupted, 'Sweet child, I love you, but we must get
going . . .  Hazel, I find I have to take an evening train, to
catch the Sovereign at Havre, tomorrow . . .  I'll be in New York
in six and a half days!'

'But you want us to come along--me, anyway?' said Hazel.

She was a little reluctant.

'No.  Stay here.  Show the Riviera to Annabel.  Take her to Paris.
I want two people in this doggone family to do what they want to do
for once.  If you can pull THAT off, the Associated Press will put
it on the wire, and it'll go down in history as the one big event
of the year!'



He might be fond of Annabel, but he wanted his last half-hour in
Belfayol alone with Hazel.  He lured her to their best café; not
the historic castle cave but the tiny new bar where the wall bench
was so bright and red, the iron tables such shining green, the
awning over the sidewalk so sunshine-like a yellow.  Embedded in
the glass of the windows was wire in the shape of stalks and
flowers.

'Lord, I hate to skip off and leave you, girl.  Will we ever sit in
a foreign saloon again?'

'Oh, we will, and be so close to each other.  I regret every second
I've spent away from you; like running off to Bandol with those
silly women this morning.'

'No.  Less friction, when we don't tag each other.  And now you
just forget me for a while.'

'Maybe.'

'Well . . .  By golly, we pulled it off.  Didn't we!'

'Yes . . .  We did see Europe.  Didn't we!'

'Yes . . .  And I didn't do so bad.  Did I!  I wasn't too bad a
greenhorn.  Was I!'  Fred seemed not too sure about it.'

'Never . . .  And I was a good sport.  The old folks showed they
could run off together.  And I did learn to like Burgundy.  Didn't
I!'

'Yes, you bet . . .  Golly!'

'Happy?'

'Yes.'

'Oh, be happy!'

So absorbed was he in Hazel, their last half-hour, that when the
young American couple whom he had always wanted to pick up went
swinging by, he nodded to them casually and wasn't even flattered
by their pleased bow in answer.



On the R.M.S. Sovereign's five-day falcon flight to New York, Fred
spoke to no one but stewards and the inescapable stranger who
interrupted his vigil, again at the forward rail of the promenade
deck, by inquiring, 'Well, how do you like this weather?'

He was a veteran of travel now; he could have produced seasoned
remarks to the effect that he 'liked it a little rough like this;
then you know you're at sea.'  But he barely saw the friendly
greeter, for wavering between them were Howard, Sara, Hazel,
Annabel, Cal Tillery.

He grunted, 'All right, I guess,' and let it go at that.  Beyond
the bobbing spectral faces he saw, on the midsea horizon, a
quivering dark bank that must be the Long Island shore, that must
be America.



Standing at the rail, he tried to work out a philosophy of The
Family.  He saw it in sharp-coloured little motion pictures rather
than in definite words, but they might have been translated thus:

Women have for decades been revolting against the restrictions of
men and the home.  Votes.  Jobs.  Uniforms in 1914-18.  Cocktails
they didn't appreciate enough and cigarettes they appreciated too
much.  Now the children were revolting; thought their parents were
convenient bores at best, tyrants at worst; children not, as for
centuries past, claiming merely their own just rights in the
household, but domination over it.

Perhaps next would come, perhaps there was already coming, secret
and dangerous, the Revolt of the Men; they would admit how sick
they were of the soft and scented cushions of women, of women's
nervous reminders that pipe ashes didn't belong on the floor;
perhaps they would go off to monasteries and fishing camps (much
the same thing) and leave their wives and children flat.

If the institution of The Family was to survive at all, if it
possibly could survive, parents would have to stop expecting
children to accept their ideas (but that was a warning even older
than Bernard Shaw).  Men and women must expect nothing, nothing
whatever, from each other as of vested right (but that was an
ancient battle, too, though still as little won as when Ibsen was
new and shocking).  But beginning about 1914, and each year since
then more violent, there was a growing revolt of parents against
the growing revolt of Youth; a demand that the young Saras and
Howards should regard their parents' houses as something more than
places in which to change clothes before dashing off in motor cars
(dressing-rooms, clothes and cars all provided free, by the
courtesy of the management) to places more interesting.

But Fred didn't at all advocate the Fascist-Nazi-Bolshevik system,
the naively new and wearisomely antiquated system of belief that
everybody ought to sacrifice himself for everybody else.  He had
the opposite faith: that nobody ought to expect any sacrifice from
anybody else, and that (in merely another ten thousand years or so,
if the luck and weather held good) thus might be ended for ever the
old structure, equally practised by small circles of relatives and
by monstrously great nations, whereby A sacrificed his honest
desires on behalf of B, and B sacrificed for C, and C sacrificed
himself violently but complainingly, all day long, for A, and
everybody resented the whole business and chanted, 'How loyal and
unselfish we all are--curse it!'



The sight of the Statue of Liberty was not his chief thrill on
arriving in New York, but rather his first American 'cuppacoffee,
slabapie, à la mode, please, Sister.'

When he trudged out of the railroad station in Sachem, he was
astonished to see that after this lifetime of five months, in which
the entire world had been changed, Harriman Square seemed exactly
the same.  Apparently the cigar stores had unfeelingly gone on
selling cigars without his aid; and the familiar corner loafers
looked at him without interest.

He had telegraphed to Sara--Mrs. Walter Lindbeck--but not to
Howard.

He went up the sandstone steps of what had been his home.  But his
tread sounded different on the stones; the doorbell sounded
different and unwelcoming; and the door was opened by a strange
maid who, when he sighed, 'Is Mrs. Lindbeck in?--I'm Mr. Cornplow,'
snapped at him, 'Whajah say your name was?'

In the hallway a new and echoing mirror had replaced the
reproduction of Whistlers' 'Mother'.

But Sara came downstairs affably enough.

'Well, well!  Mrs. Lindbeck, by golly!'

She didn't frown.

'Glad to see me, Sara?'

She was placid in her:  'But of course, dear.'

'Forgiven me for sneaking off like that?'

'But you don't need any forgiveness.  You were quite right.  We
were all getting on your nerves, and your going away was good both
for you and for us--I trust.  Oh, I've settled down, and I hope
I've acquired some sense, since I married.'

'Like it?'

'Immensely.  Walter is the Rock of Gibraltar, and what's more
important, he's amusing.  I do think we're a quite unusually
rational and understanding pair . . .  Oh, Inga!'  This, sharply
and confidently as a section-gang boss, to the maid, lolloping
about the adjacent dining-room with some notions about dusting.
'Will you kindly be more quiet?'

'Still keeping up your interior-decoration job?'

'But naturally! . . .  I mean: I've laid it aside just
temporarily.'

'Now give me the low-down on Howard.  I haven't seen him yet.'

Then did she lose her disciplinary serenity.

'Father!  I never want to see him again!  After what we did to get
him started!  I can't believe he's my brother.  He's drunk all the
time, and associating with that disgusting clodhopper, Cal Tillery.
Walter and I did everything we could for him.  We gave him all
sorts of good advice, and Walter even offered to take him into the
store, if he'd sign a promise not to drink.  We've had to wash our
hands of him.  But cheer up, Father dear.  You have ONE child who's
quit boiling and begun to set!'

'Yes--yes--that's fine--that certainly is--it's fine to know you're
happy--certainly is fine--but I feel I ought to try my hand with
Howard.'

'Of course.'  She laughed then:  'The only thing I can't figure out
is who's who in your new version of the Fable of the Prodigal.
You're Prodigal Son, obviously, with Mother as Assistant Prodigal,
and I'm the forgiving parents, and I'm afraid Howard is the swine,
with Cal for husks, but who's the fatted calf, and who's the elder
son that got sore?'

He was wincing at her complacent humour.  Trying to be
conversational, he interrupted:

'Ever hear from this fellow Silga?'

'Silga?'

'Yes.  Sure.  You remember.  Gene.'

'Oh, HIM!  That rat!  I understand he was mixed up in some auto
strike in the West and got arrested, and now he's doing time.
Serves him right.'

'Now, Sara!  I don't think that's nice!  I never had any reason to
love him, but you got to admire an enemy that's got nerve.'

'Do you?  I wouldn't know.  But just as you like, my dear!'

With considerable awkwardness he got himself away from the assured
and masterful Mrs. Lindbeck.  He refused her invitation to stay at
the house--his own house, from which he had fled, to which
apparently he could never return--with the lying explanation that
he had arranged to sleep on a couch at Howard's.

Well, he persuaded himself in the taxicab, for good or ill, this
one child had been set on the way.  But there was another child
that needed him, needed him urgently . . . he hoped.



CHAPTER XXXIX


Howard's flat was a 'second-story walk-up'.  The first flight of
the stairs was clean and waxy; the second, littered with cigarette
butts, mud and a dozen milk bottles, some empty and tumbled on
their sides, some full of milk turned sour.

When Fred knocked, from within came a voice, apparently Cal
Tillery's, bawling, 'Ah gwan, beat it!'

Fred walked in.  The living-room, which Annabel had kept sweet as a
new moon, was like a junk shop.  Middle of the floor lay a glass
lamp, smashed, with its vellum shade dented, and beside it,
Annabel's volume of Yeats, with the cover torn off.  Cal Tillery,
in undershirt and trousers, happily waving a cigarette, lay on
Annabel's chaise-longue, upon a woolly afghan (she had knitted it).
Beside Cal was a highball on a low maple table, in the middle of
which a cigarette had burned itself out.  The charred paper and
ashes still outlined its corpse.

Nailed to the wall with an ice pick was a photograph of Annabel's
father, the beard daubed red with a coloured pencil.

Cal looked up cheerfully.  'Hello, Cousin Freddie!  Who let you
out?  So they wouldn't keep you in Europe heh?'

Fred took an appreciable time in walking over to him.  His voice
was low.  'Get out.  Quick.'

'What's your hurry?  Have a drink?'

Fred's voice was not so low now.  'Quick, I said!'

'Give a fellow time to put his shoes on, can't you?'

Fred looked about for the shoes.  They had been placed, carefully
ranged side by side, on Annabel's baby-grand piano, which her
mother had given to her when she was ten.  Cal's straw hat and coat
were dumped on the floor.  Fred picked up shoes, hat, coat, and
threw them out into the hall.

He was thirty years older than Cal, and small and fat and
unexercised.  He stooped over Cal, his plump hands making clawing
motions.  He must have looked mad.

'I said--quick!'

'All right--all right--keep your shirt on--Freddie!'  But Cal was
staggering out, as he said it.

Howard could be heard groaning, 'Oh, what's all racket?' from the
bedroom.

Before Fred went to him, he looked over the kitchen-dining-room.
There was not one plate or glass left in the cupboard; a pile of
dishes, smeared with egg yolk, bacon grease and burned toast
crumbs, tottered on the dish slide.  In the sink were a dishpan
full of greasy water, the smashed ruin of a glass coffee percolator
and the slowly perishing shred of a cake of expensive hand-soap.
The roller towel, behind the door, was streaked with black.

Fred marched into the bedroom.  Howard, in pyjamas, the top
unbuttoned over his woolly red chest, lay flat on the bed,
groaning, trying to stroke his wet and blazing forehead.  A whisky
bottle was snugly tilted on the pillow beside his cheek.

With pain he lifted his reeking, tousled head and stared.

'Oh, hello.  It's Dad, ain't it?  I know!  You came back from
Europe!'  His drivelling triumph at this recognition he interrupted
with the surly demand:  'Where's Cal?'

'He's gone out.'

Howard wept with self-pity.  'You get him back, ri' 'way.  Cal's
best of the wholy cranky lot.  Only one that never asks me to do
anything don't want to.  Family always after me to hustle an' do
something.  Howard--wash your fool neck!  Howard--don't ever stop
on the street and be nice to folks, because you got to be in the
repair shop at eight sharp!  Howard--curse you, now appreciate this
highbrow music I'm playing!  Howard--quit laughing and get busy and
make a million dollars, even if you don't want a million dollars!
Howard--don't smoke, don't drink, don't play poker, don't kiss that
hat-check girl, don't skip dumb classes, don't drive over thirty
miles an hour, don't ever laugh! . . .  Cal's the only one lets me
be a roustabout, which what--what--that's what naturally am!  Only
one lets me be!'

He closed his eyes, exhausted by his oration.

Fred stood by him, unspeaking.  With a shock he realized that there
was much to what the boy had said.

Howard reared up, looking ugly, and scolding, 'You send Cal in now!
I don't want to talk to you.  I won't talk to you till Cal comes
in . . .  Cal!  Oh, Cal!  Hey!  Come on in here!'

'Howard, for a start, I'm afraid you'll have to get used to doing
without Cal.  I've chased him out of here--for keeps.'

'You did?  Well, blast and damn you, then!  And you can chase
yourself out, too.  Get out and stay out!'

Feverishly Howard had bundled himself out of bed.  He loomed far
above his father.  He swayed, but his eyes--not his eyes, but the
eyes of the evil leering thing within him--were murderous.  He
reached back, stooping a little, and fumbled for the whisky bottle
on the pillow.  As he shakily raised it, Fred hit him, clean and
hard, on the point of the chin.

Howard tumbled on the bed, threshed, tried to rise again, whimpered
like a little hurt dog and passed out.

Fred drew up a chair and sat watching him, too profoundly troubled
to think anything tangible.  Presently he rose, creakingly, and
began to bustle.

In the bathroom there wasn't a clean towel.  Fred rinsed out a
soiled one and carefully wiped Howard's sweating forehead, the back
of his neck, his wrists.

Howard slept on.

Fred began on the kitchen.  Swiftly, not very competently, he
scraped the dirty dishes into the garbage pail, washed them, put
them away.  Meantime he had telephoned to a laundry, to a clothes
presser, and when the runners came, he gave out all of Howard's
garments that he could round up, for cleaning by special twelve-
hour service.

He telephoned for coffee, cream, eggs, a percolator.  He scrubbed
the kitchen floor, painfully down on his plump knees, the small of
his back stinging.  By now he was in shirt sleeves, his hair
tousled, his cheeks smutty, and when the messengers came in answer
to his telephoning, they looked as suspiciously at him as he had
looked at his son.

When he heard Howard groaning he shambled in to give the boy hot
black coffee and aspirin; shaved him as well as he could; combed
his hair.  He said nothing at all the while.  Howard looked at him
gratefully, got out a hoarse 'Sorry, Dad,' and went back to sleep.

Fred telephoned a cable (deferred!) to Hazel:


HOWARD OKAY PLANNING JOB FOR HIM AM WRITING LOVE YOU HAPPY QUESTION


He had just sent it when Sara telephoned:

'Father?  I was so nasty about Howard when you were here.  Please
forgive me.  Kind of upset about him, and I guess I was trying to
hide it or something.  It was a dirty mean trick of me to take it
out on you, darling!'

Then Fred rejoiced, 'Hallelujah!  Now let's see what a dumb worker
can do with the other child.'

Wearily he began to clean the living-room.



Whether many of the things he did for Howard were wise, is not to
be known.  One was intelligent; as soon as the flat was clean
enough so that the Cornplows could face the world, he sent out for
a cook, a powerful coloured woman, and began to feed the young man.

Since Howard was no old and conditioned alcoholic, Fred guessed (as
he set up in rivalry to Dr. Janissary as domestic psychiatrist)
that it would be injurious to fix his attention too much on alcohol
by drastically forbidding it.  He let him have three or four, later
one or two, drinks a day, and with no great pleasure shared them
with him.

For three days Howard slept most of the time between meals, in the
secure feeling that his father was there, not going to nag him,
ready to give anything and forgive everything.

Not even on the two steamers, since there he had by his tension
been helping push them forward to a destination, had Fred devoted
so many unclocked, eternal-seeming hours to meditation on the one
question that is of moment:  Why are we here in life?  What is its
purpose?

He persuaded himself that he had to know something of the answer
before he could do anything for Howard; before he could determine
whether it was his business, or merely an impertinence, to 'do
anything' for Howard at all.

Like every other philosopher since time was, greybeard in a
hermitage of old, or parachute-jumper with two seconds for
contemplation before pulling the rip cord, he gave up trying to
master the question entire.  But he did work out a comforting
notion or two, and the first was that he had in all his life done
nothing so important as to cease completely the bustling which had
given him his little distinction as a citizen, and let life itself
work on him.

If it be doubted that a Fred Cornplow would evolve a philosophy, it
may be answered that the Fred Cornplows are great men, but most of
them do not have the disastrous good fortune of sitting for many
quiet hours beside a heartsick son, after having for five months
sat, ineffectual and alone, by café tables in strange lands, and do
not, thus, often ask: what is a Fred Cornplow that he too should
live, along with such divine creatures as the humming-bird and the
shark?

He perceived that his purpose in life had not been, as usually he
had believed, to sell motor cars or handy household gadgets.  Yet
such selling was not, as the professors and communists would have
it, trivial.  It had demanded diplomacy, patience, ingenuity, faith
that cars are worth having.

He worked away, also, at another notion:

Howard had been reared to demand, not that he be permitted to train
his eyes and memory and chest muscles, but that he have, without
passionate struggle, all the material richness of a medieval
emperor: a palace small but luxuriously heated, a chariot which
could gallop at eighty miles an hour, a magic device whereby he
could talk to fellow potentates five thousand miles away.

Could he teach himself, then teach Howard, a vision of self-
mastery?



Fred came out of his dreaming with a dismaying snap.

'Can any father do much of anything--that is, permanently--for any
son?  Golly!  Not even sure I can make him see he's got to start at
the bottom and build, because if I did have the gift of gab, like
Doc Janissary, when I got all through my lecture, Howard would say,
"Sure, I get you, but fellow has to show some class and be up to
date, these days, hasn't he?"  But anyway, even if I can't actually
help him much, maybe by trying to I can keep my own doggone self
from withering too much.'

What, definitely, ought he to do with Howard till the boy was ready
to run on his own feet?

The normal thing, free of all fancy romantic ideas, would be to
start him off in the Triumph agency again.  But a new world would
for a little while, suggest new thoughts.  In strange lands, Fred
hoped he himself had at least learned to be alone and lonely
without whimpering.

Take Howard with him to Europe?  No; let Annabel rest there.  And
it looked now, in all the news from Russia, Spain, Germany, Italy,
as though the wise old nations of Europe that so despised America's
rawness were going to devote their ten thousand years of culture to
butchering one another again.

He thought of the Whitefall River, in Canada, where he had once
gone fishing.  Even if it did nothing to turn Howard from an easy-
going young gentleman into a stalwart hero, so dependable that he
might some day become assistant to the assistant to the first vice-
president of a chewing-gum factory, at least the sweating on the
hot trail through the pines, the cold searing plunge afterward, and
the chill still nights would in themselves be glorious living.



CHAPTER XL


Howard laughed.  Of late he had been more given to laughing.  They
were making the last portage, about Little Run Rapids, before
returning to their permanent camp on the river and to the supper
for which they had been longing this past hour.  The portage was a
gash between thick spruce, close as a closet, hot, lively with
mosquitoes which jabbed at the sun-sore backs of their necks.  The
edges of the upturned canoe bit into their unaccustomed shoulders
as they toted it, and their arms ached with the burden of blankets,
paddles and cooking kit.

When they came out again on the river bank, with the sun glaring on
rippling river, the sand flies pounced on them.

So Howard laughed.  'Certainly a swell idea to come three hundred
miles to get your neck chewed and have your shoulders feel like
they'd been through a clothes wringer!'

'Like it?' grunted Fred.

'Sure.  As Mother would say:  "Happy!"'

Their tent awaited them on the river bank, at the edge of an
unknown country of jack pine, spruce and birch, through which the
only highway was the Whitefall; it was not three hundred but three
thousand miles removed from the clatter and contacts of Sachem.
The world well lost, thought Fred.  His son was ruddy again, and
confident, and for three weeks now had lived in company with a
whisky flask, without touching it.

Fred was certain now that the boy was neither an alcoholic nor
cruel, but the victim of confused marriage and confused jobs in a
confused world.

Fred was camp cook, and he celebrated their return that evening, by
not merely frying bacon, with steaks of the lake trout and
muskallonge they had caught at Lake Dead Man, but adding the
inexpressible luxury of prunes.  They gobbled; silent, content.

Howard stretched out luxuriously afterward, his head against a
stump, droning:

'You ought to be head of the Boy Scouts.  You sure were a great
little inspiration this afternoon.'

'Well, what's the daily insult now?'

'Funny enough, I mean it!  Seeing an old coot like you, the way you
sweat at paddling and didn't give up when you looked ready to drop,
I got ashamed of how lazy I am.'

'Thinking about starting in with the Triumph Agency again?'

'I'd like to.  I'd like to really learn it, so some day, possibly,
I might succeed you . . . if you thought, then, I'd made good.'

'Fine.  Like to look at my book on internal-combustion engines
now?'

'Be glad to.'

That was all there was of the camp meeting and the mourners' bench.



In the tent, by candlelight, sitting on his folded sleeping bag
with a suit-case on his knees for desk, Fred was trying to answer
Hazel's anxious query from Paris:


Aren't you coming back to join me, or shall I sail for home,
whichever you think best.  This is a lovely city, we would enjoy it
so much here and Annabel is the nicest companion but not without
you.  Your loving Hazel.


For half an hour he had been inspired, and he had reached the
climactic point in composition where almost everything he had
written had been crossed out.  He was not used to letters like
this.  Most of his epistles home, all these years, had confined
themselves to: business good, hope you are all well, as is Yrs
Truly.

But now he had painfully achieved:


You stay in Europe, see some more of London as well as Paris, etc.
etc., as long as you want to.  In this family we never did have
much compulsion, us over the kids, you and me over each other, and
if maybe it has not entirely worked out O.K. always I think
children beginning to appreciate it and everything going to be
swell.  And hope you and I will start off again some day.  But now
it don't seem to matter like it did when I used to talk about
golden road to Samarkand and when we got near there, Istanbul, etc.
etc., wasn't the smell fierce in that market place!  It seems to me
now that it isn't going where you want to that is freedom, but
knowing that you can go.


That was all the high creative effort he could endure for the time.
He wiped his brow, said, 'Whew,' killed a mosquito and crawled out
through the netting to squat beside his son.

Howard observed, 'Do you hear something like an outboard motor,
'way off down the river?  Wonder why they got one.  Must be fierce
job to tote it round the rapids.'

Yes.  Fred could hear, like a rapidly beaten carpet, the exhaust of
the motor.  What tenderfoot would use it in these waters?  He
listened nervously.  He felt that, unexplainably, it was coming for
him.

The canoe, a big nineteen-foot freighter, had rounded a bend.  Its
small headlight, probably a camp flashlight fastened to the bow,
illuminated the wrinkled, tumbling brown water, the wash of current
about rocks sticking out of the river like the backs of seals, and
ashore, the fallen and rotted log-cabin of a trapper, in a grove of
willow and scrub pine.  It seemed to be heading for their camp
fire.

The two men by the tent muttered, 'What's the idea?' and 'Don't
believe there's any bad Indians left along the river, but maybe if
they'd got hold of some liquor . . .'

The canoe darted in to shore, well guided.  They could make out a
tall Indian in the bow, and behind him, nothing but a blurry mass.
The blurry mass arose, crawled forward, edged past the Indian,
stepped cautiously ashore.  And the blurry mass was Hazel Cornplow,
plus two blankets and man's felt hat.


'But where is Annabel?  Where?  Where?' begged Howard.

'I left her in Paris, dear, to study a little there.  She's such a
darling.  I've become so fond of her.  Imagine!  Once I was almost
jealous of her!  Silly.  And the baby seems to be thriving.  It's
the huskiest little mite you ever saw.  My!  He grabs your finger
and almost breaks it in two.  And his smile, I declare, it's
exactly like yours when you were a little tad, Howard.'

'But Annabel!  Is she coming back?  I want her!'

'I thought--it's hard to say, Howard, but I thought she ought to
stay away until you earn her.'

'Hm.  Man earn his own wife?  Well, maybe it isn't such a sour
idea.  It'll be something to work for!'

Later Hazel purred, 'My, I didn't know we three would all be
together again, sitting cosy on a blanket and eating bacon!  Isn't
it nice here!  No telephones ringing.'

'Practically never,' Fred assured her.

'And Fred:  I don't want to be too light-footed, but some day would
you like to go travelling again?  I would so like to see
Scandinavia, if they don't manage to have a war in Europe, and--oh,
not make a business of wandering, like these silly restless
tourists, but just see a FEW places, say like Brazil and Egypt and
Cairo and Java and Iceland and so on.  What do you think, Fred?'

'I don't know yet.  Say, here's a hot one!  Right there in the tent
I've got a letter about it that I was writing to you.  Yessir, by
golly, just this minute.  I'll tell you, dear.  Just now I feel
like I ought to stick around a while and . . .'

Then Howard took charge; the Howard of old, cocky and omniscient,
yet more affectionate than the old Howard had ever been:

'Now you're not looking at it right, Dad.  Way I see it, you old
codgers ought to get out more and learn how the world is changing.
I tell you, you haven't any idea what the young fellows are doing,
these days, Dad.  There's nobody like you for steadiness, but you
ought to take a chance once in a while.'

'Indeed you ought to,' said Hazel.

'I see,' said Frederick William Cornplow.  'Say!  In Brazil we
ought to get doggone good coffee.  Well, you can sit up and talk
till sunrise if you want to, but the old man's going to turn in.
I hear where there's good coffee in Egypt, too.  We'll see.  Good
night--good night!'



THE END




This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia