Thrifty Stock, and Other Stories by Ben Ames Williams

THRIFTY STOCK
AND OTHER STORIES

{ii}

BY THE SAME AUTHOR


EVERED

The Story of the Famous Red Bull

“I read this through from first page to last without leaving my chair. It is a powerful story.”—William Lyon Phelps.

BLACK PAWL

“Ben Ames Williams has chosen a theme such as might have appealed to one of the old Greek dramatists, and has handled it with a skill that entitles him to high rank among the novelists of today.”—The New York Times.


E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY

{iii}

THRIFTY STOCK
AND OTHER STORIES

BY

BEN AMES WILLIAMS

AUTHOR OF “EVERED,” “BLACK PAWL,” ETC.

NEW YORK
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
681 Fifth Avenue
{iv}

Copyright, 1923
By E. P. Dutton & Company

All Rights Reserved

PRINTED IN THE UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA
{v}

To

ROBERT H. DAVIS

{vi}

{vii}

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The following stories of this collection have been previously published: “Old Tantrybogus” and “One Crowded Hour,” in The Saturday Evening Post; “They Grind Exceeding Small,” in The Saturday Evening Post and Current Opinion, and in one of the O. Henry Memorial Volumes; “Mine Enemy’s Dog,” “Not a Drum was Heard,” “Success” (under the title of “So My Luck Began”) and “Sheener,” in Collier’s Weekly; “His Honor,” “The Coward” and “The Man Who Looked Like Edison,” in Cosmopolitan Magazine; “Jeshurun Waxed Fat,” in The Century Magazine; “The Field of Honor,” in The American Magazine; “Thrifty Stock,” in McCall’s Magazine; and “The Right Whale’s Flukes,” in The Bellman. To the editors of these magazines the author makes the customary acknowledgement.{ix}{viii}

PREFACE

The first seven stories in this volume have either locale or characters in common. The village called Fraternity is an actual one; and the surrounding countryside has a beauty which grows with long acquaintance. It is perhaps unnecessary to say that the characters are—with one exception—fictitious. The exception is Mr. A. L. McCorrison, better known as Bert McCorrison, who introduced me to the trout brooks and the woodcock covers thereabouts. To him I here make affectionate acknowledgment for all that introduction has meant to me. He appears in some of the stories, under the name of Chet McAusland.

The third story in the book, “Old Tantrybogus,” is—so far as the dog is concerned—a true story. I never saw old Job, but Bert has told me many things about him, and his exploits are well attested. For the excessive length of this story, an ancient fondness for dogs is my only apology.

The last two stories in the Fraternity group, “Jeshurun Waxed Fat” and “Epitome,” together with the succeeding seven, are each less than four thousand words in length. These stories represent successive attempts to combine brevity with other and more elusive attributes.

It is, perhaps, unnecessary to say that “The{x} Field of Honor” and “The Unconquered” were written during the summer of 1918.

Two of the stories in this book have not been published in any magazine. The two are “Epitome” and the allegory, “A Dream.” In each case, the story has been rejected by numerous editors; the fact that the author has still a stubborn faith in them is his only excuse for including them in this volume.

B. A. W.
{xi}

CONTENTS

PAGE
Thrifty Stock 1
They Grind Exceeding Small 21
Old Tantrybogus 39
One Crowded Hour 74
Mine Enemy’s Dog 113
“Jeshurun Waxed Fat” 145
Epitome 158
A Dream 169
His Honor 185
The Coward 199
Not a Drum Was Heard 211
The Man Who Looked Like Edison 226
Success 239
Sheener 254
The Field of Honor 268
The Unconquered 293
The Right Whale’s Flukes 319
Note 346

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{xiii}

THRIFTY STOCK
AND OTHER STORIES

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{1}

THRIFTY STOCK

HE girl, stormful and rebellious, had come out of the old farmhouse above Fraternity, and without much caring in which direction she turned, walked across the stubble of the freshly cut meadow toward the edge of the woods at the crest of the hill. This meadow was really a high plateau; it was fringed with bushes which grew along the crumbling stone wall which bordered it, and with birch and wild cherry trees here and there along its edge. Between these trees she could look abroad across a wooded valley, down whose middle meandered the dead water of the George’s River, backed up by the mill dam at the village. There had been a light shower at dawn, scarce sufficient to settle the dust; and the air, thus clarified, lent lovely colors to the countryside. Deep green of hemlock and spruce and pine, straggling tracery of hackmatack, lighter green of the birch tops almost yellow in the heart of the woods; the blue of distant hillsides; the blue of the sky; the yellow glory of sunlight drenching everything. In an uncut strip of meadow white daisies bloomed. There were birds about. But to all these matters, Lucia Moore was oblivious. She knew only that her father was stubborn and unreasonable, her mother supine, the world at an ill turn. Drops of{2} water on the stubble wet her ankles; dust and water combined to muddy her impracticable shoes; an occasional bramble tore at her silken stockings. She came to the stone wall at the brink of the hill and chose a large boulder half-shaded by an apple tree that was all run to suckers, and sat down on it, her feet propped upon a stone below, her elbows on her knees, her chin cupped in her hands. The girl’s eyes were sulky, and her lips pouted. There was a hint of color not their own upon these lips of hers, and her eyebrows were plucked to a thin line, their smooth arch distorted by the frown she wore. Her gingham dress was short, and her present posture revealed her thin, unformed legs, which confirmed the almost emaciated slimness of her figure. She stared unseeingly across the lovely land.

Down the slope below her and to the right, Johnny Dree was dusting his orchard. His well-trained team knew their work; they drew the sledge on which he had secured the dusting machine up and down between the wide-spaced rows; and Johnny himself controlled and directed the blast of dust which smothered the trees, depositing itself on every leaf and twig. Now and then, at the turnings, he called a command to the horses; or ran ahead to tug at their reins. He was doing two men’s work, and doing it with very little effort. His voice, pitched musically, carried far across the still hillside on this quiet morning; and the whir of the duster carried further. The spouting clouds of heavy dust rose above the trees, to settle swiftly down again. Lucia Moore heard his voice, heard the duster’s purring, punctuated by{3} the bark of the exhaust; she looked in his direction and saw the violently spouting dust, and wondered who he was and what he was doing. She had an uncontrolled curiosity, and after a few moments her awakened interest brought her down the hill. She entered the orchard at the side where the Wolf Rivers were planted, a hundred trees of them, the fruit already filling and coloring. Johnny’s father had set out this small orchard with discretion; a hundred Wolf Rivers, a hundred Starks, a hundred Ben Davises. Hardy apples, easily tended, easily handled, easily marketed. Wolf Rivers for fancy trade, for the great city hotels to bake and to serve, crisply browned, with rich cream; Starks and Ben Davises for keeping through the winter. Johnny was in the middle of the Starks when he saw Lucia coming toward him among the trees. After the fashion of the countryside, he looked at her with frank curiosity. He had seen her, at some distance, once or twice before, since Walter Moore bought the run-down farm on the hilltop above his orchard. Had summarized his impressions of rouge, plucked brows, short dresses in a single phrase, “A city girl.” There was no malice in the appellation; it was simply a classification. Her approach now did not embarrass him; there is a self respect in such men, not easily disturbed. She had paused between two trees at a point he was approaching, and when he came near where she stood, he stopped the horses and waited for her to speak her errand.

Lucia looked at him curiously. She was just twenty years old, but he was only two or three years older, and she was used to boys. His over{4}alls were patched and faded from much washing; his blue shirt seemed fresh and clean; she thought him nice looking, and when she was sure of this, smiled most dazzlingly. Johnny tugged off his cap at that smile, and Lucia said precisely:

“How do you do?”

“Howdo, Miss Moore,” Johnny replied.

Her eyes widened in a pretty affectation. “Oh, how did you know my name?”

His lips were inscrutable, but his eyes were amused. “I guess everybody around here knows you.”

She pouted a little. “That doesn’t sound nice.”

“It don’t do any harm,” he said equably; and she was a little disappointed, had expected flattery. She pointed to the machine, whose engine still racketed.

“What’s that?”

“A duster,” he told her. “Kills the bugs on the trees.”

She made a grimace. “I should think it would. But what a nasty way to do. Smother them with that dust.”

He did smile this time. “The dust’s poison,” he explained. “It sticks to the leaves, and they eat it with the leaves, and it kills them.”

“Why?” she asked.

He understood that she was interested not in the process but the reason for it. “So they won’t hurt the trees; so the trees will bear better,” he told her.

“Papa doesn’t do that to our trees,” she said.

He turned away, and she thought he smiled. “That’s right,” he agreed.{5}

She looked around her. “And there are lots more apples on your trees than on ours, too.”

“That’s because I dust ’em and spray ’em and take care of them,” he said. “You’ve got to treat an apple tree right if you want it to bear right.”

She came gingerly to his side and inspected the duster and asked questions about it, wrinkling her nose at the smell of the dust; and he answered her questions, warming a little at her interest in that which was dear to him. She perceived that she pleased him, and pretended even greater interest, and smiled at him in her most charming fashion. Turned from the machine to the trees about them, plucked an apple and bit into it and threw it away with a grimace. His engine still coughed and barked; he showed no disposition to shut off its ignition and give his time to her. She discovered a waxy bandage upon one of the trees and asked what it was and he told her it was a graft, and would have added some explanation, but her attention flitted elsewhere.

“Where do you live?” she asked presently. “That house up there?”

“Yes.”

“Is it your house?”

“My mother’s and mine,” he replied.

She turned the full battery of her eyes upon him. “Why haven’t you come up to see a fellow?” she asked. “I’ve been awfully lonesome here.”

He was not at all disconcerted, as she had expected him to be. “I hadn’t thought of it,” he said. “I’m pretty busy.”

“You’ll think of it now, won’t you?” she begged{6} prettily. She was, this morning, in a reckless mood; she had been, was still, a spoiled child.

“I might,” he assented, and she thought again there was a smile deep hidden in his eyes.

“I’m used to having boys crazy to come and see me,” she said wistfully; and he did smile; and she was satisfied with this much of victory, and turned and ran away. She ran prettily, and she knew her skirts were none too long. From the border of the orchard, she looked back and lifted her hand to him. He touched his hat in a restrained fashion by way of response; and she ascended the hill, at peace with the world again.

And this was the first encounter between the tender of trees and Lucia Moore.

II
Her father had bought the farm during the winter from Dan Howe, who moved away to Augusta. Dan, Fraternity said, made a good thing out of it. He had paid eighteen hundred, two years before, and had sold off three hundred dollars’ worth of hard wood for ship timbers, carted to Camden. The price Moore paid him was thirty-three hundred dollars. Moore had thought the figure high; but there was in the man a hunger for contact with the soil. His father had been a farm boy, had harked back to his youthful days in reminiscence during his later years. His death left Moore some fifty-two hundred dollars, and made it possible for him to escape from the small store he had run for years in Somerville, at a yearly profit less than he might have earned{7} as salary. He and his wife had perceived, by that time, that Lucia—they had christened her Lucy—was a problem in need of solving. Lucia liked moving pictures, and dancing, and boys, and she was not strong. Country life, they thought, would be good for her; and Moore did not cavil at Dan Howe’s price. Save for a few hundred dollars, he put the remainder of his legacy, and his own savings, into a newly organized automobile company which seemed to him promising, and came to the hills above Fraternity.

Since then, he had been learning by experience that a horse which can be bought for seventy dollars is probably not worth it, and that pigs cannot profitably be raised with no milk to feed them, and that the directions in printed manuals of the art of farming are not so complete and so reliable as they seem. He was not a practical man. Even the automobile investment had turned out badly; the company was now quietly defunct, without even the formality of a receiver. And he owed a mounting bill at Will Bissell’s store. If it had been possible, he would have escaped from the farm and returned to bondage; but no one would buy the place, and his debts anchored him.

It was Lucia—she had, it appeared, some grain of sense in her—who suggested one day that he might raise apples. “Johnny Dree does,” she explained. This was in early fall, and she had seen Johnny once or twice since that first encounter—at her instance, and not at his. Also she had asked questions, surprisingly shrewd.

Her father nodded. “He’s got a good orchard,” he agreed.{8}

“He’s been picking Wolf Rivers right along,” said Lucia wisely. “He says you can pick the big ones, and the others will grow to make up for it, and he’s going to have hundreds of barrels to sell next month.”

“I’ve looked at our trees,” her father told her. “The apples aren’t good for anything but cider. Full of worms and things.”

“Johnny Dree says you’ve got to take care of a tree,” she insisted impatiently. “But he says—” She hesitated, seeking to remember the word he had used. “He says your trees are good, thrifty stock.”

“It takes years to make an orchard, Lucy,” he said wearily. “You’re talking about impossible things.”

The swift temper which sometimes possessed the girl flamed up at him. “You make me sick!” she cried. “You just sit back and let the world walk over you. You’ve stuck yourself with this damned farm, and now you’re going to sit still and let it smother you. Why don’t you try to do something, anyway? Johnny says you’ve got good orchard land as there is. But you just look wise and think you know it all, and won’t do anything.”

Her mother said wearily: “Lucy, you oughtn’t to swear at your father.”

“Well, he makes me mad!” the girl cried, furiously defiant. “He’s such a damned stubborn fool!”

Moore wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and smiled weakly. “I guess I’m a failure, all{9} right, Lucia,” he agreed. “You’re right to swear at a father like me.”

At his humility, her revulsion was as swift as her anger had been; tenderness swept her. She pressed against him, where he sat beside the table, and with her thin arm drew his head against her fleshless bosom. “You’re not, either, papa!” she cried passionately. “You’re always so patient with me. But I do wish you’d talk to Johnny Dree!”

He reached up to touch her cheek caressingly. “That’s all right, honey,” he said.

“But you will talk to Johnny?”

The man nodded, at last. “All right, Lucy. Yes, I’ll talk to him.”

III
Johnny Dree found a little time, even during the busy weeks of the apple picking, to go with Moore through his orchard, and to search out the trees scattered along the stone walls. He began the work of pruning and trimming them, showed Moore, and showed Lucy, how to continue it. Bade Moore plow under the thick sod around the base of each tree. “Nothing like grass to steal the water an apple tree needs,” he explained. “Grass is worse than weeds.” Before the snow came, much had been done. Moore said once, diffidently:

“I’d like to hire you to help me along with this, Dree!”

But Johnny shook his head. “You don’t want to hire help only when you have to,” he said. “I{10} just come up when I’m not busy at home. You can help me with haying and things, some time.”

The seasons marched monotonously on. The crisp sunshine of fall days, with frost tingling in the air, gave way to bleaker weather, and then to the full rigors of harsh cold, when snow lay thick across the hills, blanketing everything. The routine of little tasks laid itself upon Moore, and upon his wife. Even Lucia, in greater and greater degree, submitted to it. But revolt was always very near the surface in the girl. One day she met Johnny Dree upon the road, and he asked in a friendly way: “Well, you getting to like it here?”

She was in ill humor that morning, and she flamed at him. “Oh, I hate it! I hate it!” she cried. “I wish to God I’d never seen this damned hole. But papa’s got us into it, and we can’t get out, and there’s nothing to do but work and work. Sometimes I wish I were dead.”

He had never heard her swear before; and he looked at her in some astonishment. She was, he thought, so small, and so serenely sweet to look upon that there was something incongruous in her profanity. But he did not speak of his thought at that time; said merely:

“Why, that’s too bad. I thought you were getting to like it, maybe.” And so passed on, leaving her curiously chastened by his very mildness.

There was an interminable sameness in the days. To rise early, to do the morning chores, and cook, and eat, and wash dishes, and dust, and cook, and eat, and wash dishes, and sew, and cook, and eat, and wash dishes, and read the paper, and go fumingly to bed. This was Lucia’s bitter life. But{11} because it is impossible to hold indignation always at its highest pitch, there were hours when she forgot to be unhappy; there were hours when she found something like pleasure in this ordered simplicity of life. Now and then Johnny came in of an evening, and sat in the dining room with them all and talked with her father about apple trees; and Lucia liked, at first, to practice her small cajoleries upon him. He quickly began to call her Lucia, then Lucy as her father and mother did. She preferred the simpler name, upon his simple lips. When the snow thinned and disappeared, and new grass pushed greenly up through the brown that clothed the fields, she was stronger than she had ever been. Her arms were rounding, her figure assuming the proportions for which it was designed; and her color no longer required external application. When Johnny took Moore into his own orchards and showed him how to apply the dormant spray, and how to search out the borers in the base of the trees and kill them with a bit of wire, or with a plug of poisoned cotton, and all the other mysteries of orchardry, Lucy liked to go along, and learned to do these tasks as well as Johnny, and better than her father did. The trees, fed with well-rotted manure which Johnny preferred to any chemical preparation, and freed from the competition of the grass and weeds which had surrounded them and blanketed their thirsty roots, throve and put out a great burst of bloom, and all the hillside was aglow with color. Lucy began to see hope of release from this long bondage here. When the apples were sold, if the market was good, Johnny thought they{12} might make five or six hundred dollars in a year….

Then one midnight she awoke shivering in a sharp blast from her open window, and drew fresh blankets over her; and in the morning there was white frost on the ground, and Johnny came up the hill with a philosophic smile upon his face. Moore met him at the kitchen door.

“Well,” said Johnny slowly. “We won’t do well this year. This frost has nipped them. I guess not bearing will give your trees a chance to get a better start.”

Moore accepted the calamity with mild protest. Said blankly: “No apples. Why, I’ve got to have something….”

But Lucy was not so mild. From the kitchen behind her father she pushed past him and out upon the porch, her eyes ablaze. “No apples!” she cried, in a voice like a scream. “Why not?”

“This frost has killed them,” said Johnny, his eyes hardening.

She almost sprang at him, beat on his broad chest with her fists, and tears streamed down her face. “You fool! You damned fool!” she cried. “There’ve got to be apples. There’ve got to be! You said there would be! You said if we worked, there would be! If we sprayed the damned trees! Oh, you make me sick, with your lies! Oh, I hate this farm! I hate the damned trees….”

Johnny surprised her. He took her by the shoulders, gripping them till she winced. “Stop it, Lucy,” he commanded.

“I won’t!” she cried. “Let go of me….”

“Be still your noise,” he said, no more loudly{13} than before. But the insistence in his voice constrained her, and she began to weep bitterly, and slumped against him, shaken and half fainting. “You can’t talk that way,” he told her. “It’s no way to talk. You got to be a sport. It’s a part of the business, Lucy. Now you go in the house and wash your face and help with breakfast. I want to talk to your father. Go along.”

Her father watched her; and his face was white with surprise and consternation. But Lucy turned and went obediently into the house, and he looked after her, and looked at Johnny Dree; and Johnny grinned, a little sheepishly.

“You see,” he said, ignoring what had happened. “Thing is, you can raise some garden stuff, and some chickens and things, and get along. We’re due for a good year next year.”

Walter Moore nodded. “That’s all right,” he assented, and looked again at the door through which Lucy had gone. “But I’d like to shake hands with you, Dree. I’d like to shake your hand.”

IV
The stoic patience of the farmer, who serves a capricious master and finds his most treasured works casually destroyed by that master’s slightest whim, takes time to learn, but is a mighty armor, when it has been put on. It was Johnny Dree’s heritage; it was, in remoter line, the heritage also of Walter Moore. It bore them through that summer, and through the frost-hued glory of the fall. There is a pleasure in a task well done, regardless of reward; and when Moore surveyed{14} his trees, he found this pleasure. Johnny Dree confirmed it. “They’re like money in the bank, Mr. Moore,” he said. “You can’t lose it, and it pays you interest right along. We’re due for a good apple year, next year.”

Moore nodded. “I’m beginning to like it here,” he assented. “It was tough, at first. But I’m no worse in debt than I was last year, and I ought to pull out when the trees begin to bear.”

“Aye,” said Johnny Dree. “You’ve got something to build on, now. It’ll go easier, from now on.”

Moore had learned many things, in these months that had gone; and so had Lucy. And so had Johnny Dree. Lucy was teaching him a thing he had never had time to learn; she was teaching him to play. When snow came, he brought her, one day, snow-shoes; and thereafter they occasionally tramped the woods together, following the meandering trails of the small creatures of the forest, marking where a partridge had left a delicate tracery of footprints in the snow, exploring the great swamp below the hill where the cedars had been stripped of browse by the moose that wintered there. He found where deer were yarded, and took her to the place, and once they caught glimpses of the startled creatures, bounding away through the cumbering snow. There was a deepening understanding between these two; when they were together she talked almost constantly, and he scarce at all; but she could read his silences, and he understood her fountain-like loquacity. Through a keener understanding, she found matters to love in these hills and woods which were his world;{15} she was, by slow degrees, forgetting the more obvious pleasures of her life before she came to Fraternity to dwell. They were, for the most part, as much isolated as though they lived upon an island in the sea; for, save for the nightly gatherings at Will Bissell’s store, Fraternity folk are not overly social in their inclinations. Once he took her to a grange dance, and she found him surprisingly adequate in this new rôle, found an unsuspected pleasure in the rustic merry-making she would, two years before, have scorned. Johnny did not smoke, and she asked him why; he said he didn’t want to waste the money. Yet once when he went to East Harbor, he brought her a flower, in a pot; and when she asked him if that wasn’t wasting money, he smiled a little and said he did not think it was. One day, to torment him, she cried: “I’d give a lot for a cigarette. I haven’t had one for days. Will you get me some, next time you’re at the store. I don’t dare buy them there.”

Johnny merely smiled at her and replied: “I guess if you ever did smoke them, you don’t any more.”

One day her snow-shoe caught on a broken stub and threw her forward into the snow. She said: “Oh, damn!” More in jest than in anger. Lifting her to her feet, he commented:

“I shouldn’t think a girl would swear much.”

“I like to,” she insisted. “It makes me feel good when I’m mad.”

“I never could see it helped me any,” he rejoined, mildly enough. But she thereafter guarded her tongue, until the necessity for restraint had{16} disappeared. Self discipline was one of the things she learned from Johnny.

You could hardly say they had a romance. They grew together, as naturally as stock and scion grafted by his skilful hands. They had this great community of interest in the trees which were his work, which she had come to love. Their forward looking eyes were centered on the harvest time, now a scant year away, when the fruition of their labors could be expected; and their anticipations were tranquil and serene.

They talked, sometimes, of what he meant to make of his life. “You won’t always be a farmer, will you?” she asked.

“I guess I will,” he told her.

“Slaving away here!”

He smiled a little. “There’s a man up in Winterport,” he said. “He planted some apple trees twenty years ago, and more and more since, and he’s got ten thousand trees, now. I went up there two years ago on the orchard tour the Farm Bureau runs. He cleared over twenty thousand dollars, that year, on his apples. Ten thousand trees. I’ve only got four hundred; but I’m putting in two hundred more next spring, and more when I can, and my land is better than his, and there’s more around me I can buy. It’s clean work. You can learn a lot from an apple tree, and eating apples never did anybody much harm. And you’ve time for thinking, while you work on the trees….”

She slipped her hand through his arm in understanding, as they tramped along.

In December his mother, who had suffered for{17} half a dozen years from a mysterious weakness of the heart, was taken sick with what at first seemed a slight cold. In early January, she died. Walter Moore and his wife and Lucy were among those who followed the little cortege to the receiving tomb where—because the frost had fortified the earth against the digging of a grave—his mother’s body would lie till spring. Lucy was mysteriously moved by the pity of this; that a woman should die, and yet be kept waiting for her final sweet repose in the bosom of earth. After supper that evening, she drew on coat and heavy overshoes and muffled her head against the bitter wind that blew. “I’m going down to cheer up Johnny, mama,” she said.

Moore and his wife, when the door had closed behind her, looked at each other with deep understanding. “Well,” he said, “I guess Lucy’s gone.”

But his wife smiled through misty eyes. “She’s come back to us these last two years,” she said. “No matter what happens, she can’t really go away again.”

V
Down at Johnny’s house, Lucy knocked at the kitchen door and Johnny let her in. He was washing dishes and putting them away. “I’ve finished supper, just finished supper,” he said awkwardly.

“I wanted to comfort you, Johnny,” Lucy told him.

He looked at her, rubbing his plate in his hands with the cloth. “That’s—mighty nice,” he said.

“You mustn’t be unhappy. I don’t want you to{18} be unhappy,” she explained, still standing just within the door. She was plucking away her wraps, laid her coat aside.

“You’re a mighty sweet girl,” Johnny told her, rubbing his plate as though the motion of his hands had hypnotized him.

“I want to take care of you,” said Lucy.

Johnny considered, and saw that she had come a little nearer where he stood. “I guess it would be nice if we got married,” he suggested. “Wouldn’t it?”

Lucy suddenly smiled, tenderly amused at him. Her eyes, full of tears, were dancing. “I think it would be nice, Johnny,” she agreed. And moved a little nearer still. She did not have to go all the way.

The plate, unbroken by its fall, rolled across the floor toward the stove, and tilted over there, and whirled to rest like a dying top, oscillating to and fro on its rim with a sound faintly like the sound of bells.

VI
They were married in March; and as though upon a signal, winter drew back from the land, taking with it the snow; and in due time the grass burst up through the sod, and the buds swelled more swiftly, it seemed to these two, than they had ever swelled before. Yet it was not too warm; the blossoms in the orchards came in their season, and not before. And the air was full of the hum of the bees as they went to and fro upon their mysterious mating of the trees. The color of the blossoms, faintly glowing, was in Lucy’s cheeks;{19} the wonder of the springtime in her eyes while she walked here and there with Johnny about his tasks. When the petals fluttered down, it became at once apparent that the apples had set in great profusion; and through the summer they watched the fruit swell and take form and color, and now and then they pared the skin away from an apple to see the white, sweet meat inside.

Johnny began to pick Wolf Rivers early, choosing the largest and reddest fruit; yet it seemed he had no sooner picked one apple than another swelled to take the place of two. Toward the summer’s end, they knew that the crop would be enormous. And this was one of those years when elsewhere the orchards had failed, so that prices were enhanced and buyers were eager.

One day in early October, one Sunday afternoon, when Johnny and Lucy had gone up the hill to have dinner with the older folk, Johnny and Walter Moore walked into the orchard and surveyed the trees.

“A big year,” Johnny said. “The biggest I ever saw. Your apples will bring you close to seven hundred dollars.”

Moore nodded. “It makes me—kind of humble,” he said. “It doesn’t seem possible. And—it’s so different from what my life has been. So great a change, these last two years….”

Johnny looked up at him. “You’ve told me,” he assented. And he smiled a little. “You know, I’ve said to Lucy some times, you can learn a lot from an apple tree. If it’s got grass and weeds around its roots, they starve it for water; and the scale and the aphis and the borer hurt it;{20} and the suckers waste its strength. You were kind of like that, when you came up here. You’d been crowded in with a lot of other folks—grass and weeds around you, cutting off the air and the good things you needed. And the way you lived, there were all sorts of things hurting you; no exercise, and no time to yourself, and Lucy’s dancing all night, and smoking, and your inside work and all, the way the bugs hurt a tree.” He smiled apologetically. “And things like that automobile stock of yours, sucking your money the way suckers drain a tree….”

“That’s right,” Moore agreed. “I couldn’t see it then; but I felt it, even then. And I couldn’t believe these trees would come back, any more than I expected to be so different, myself, up here. I feel new, and strong, now. Like the trees. The suckers and the bugs and all the wasteful things trimmed out of our lives. Mrs. Moore was never so well. And Lucy … I have to thank you for Lucy, Dree. She used to worry me. She doesn’t, now.”

Johnny, looking off across the orchard, saw his wife and her mother coming toward them. Mrs. Moore erect where she had drooped, laughing where she had been sad; and Lucy, full with the promise of the greatest fruition of all. “Aye,” he said, with the reverent honesty of a man who sees beauty in all the growth of life. “Aye, Lucy’s like the trees. She’s come to bearing now.{21}”

THEY GRIND EXCEEDING SMALL
I
I telephoned down the hill to Hazen Kinch. “Hazen,” I asked, “are you going to town today?”

“Yes, yes,” he said abruptly in his quick, harsh fashion. “Of course I’m going to town.”

“I’ve a matter of business,” I suggested.

“Come along,” he invited brusquely. “Come along.”

There was not another man within forty miles to whom he would have given that invitation.

“I’ll be down in ten minutes,” I promised him; and I went to pull on my Pontiacs and heavy half boots over them and started downhill through the sandy snow. It was bitterly cold; it had been a cold winter. The bay—I could see it from my window—was frozen over for a dozen miles east and west and thirty north and south; and that had not happened in close to a score of years. Men were freighting across to the islands with heavy teams. Automobiles had beaten a rough road along the course the steamers took in summer. A man who had ventured to stock one of the lower islands with foxes for the sake of their fur, counting on the water to hold them prisoners, had gone{22} bankrupt when his stock in trade escaped across the ice. Bitterly cold and steadily cold, and deep snow lay upon the hills, blue-white in the distance. The evergreens were blue-black blotches on this whiteness. The birches, almost indistinguishable, were like trees in camouflage. To me the hills about Fraternity are never so grand as in this winter coat they wear. It is easy to believe that a brooding God dwells upon them. I wondered as I plowed my way down to Hazen Kinch’s farm whether God did indeed dwell among these hills; and I wondered what He thought of Hazen Kinch.

This was no new matter of thought with me. I had given some thought to Hazen in the past. I was interested in the man and in that which should come to him. He was, it seemed to me, a problem in fundamental ethics; he was, as matters stood, a demonstration of the essential uprightness of things as they are. The biologist would have called him a sport, a deviation from type, a violation of all the proper laws of life. That such a man should live and grow great and prosper was not fitting; in a well-regulated world it could not be. Yet Hazen Kinch did live; he had grown—in his small way—great; and by our lights he had prospered. Therefore I watched him. There was about the man the fascination which clothes a tight-rope walker above Niagara, an aeronaut in the midst of the nose dive. The spectator stares with half-caught breath, afraid to see and afraid to miss seeing the ultimate catastrophe. Sometimes I wondered whether Hazen Kinch suspected this attitude on my part. It was not impossible. There was a cynical courage in the man; it might have{23} amused him. Certainly I was the only man who had in any degree his confidence. I have said there was not another within forty miles whom he would have given a lift to town; I doubt if there was another man anywhere for whom he would have done this small favor. He seemed to find a mocking sort of pleasure in my company.

When I came to his house he was in the barn harnessing his mare to the sleigh. The mare was a good animal, fast and strong. She feared and she hated Hazen. I could see her roll her eyes backward at him as he adjusted the traces. He called to me without turning:

“Shut the door! Shut the door! Damn the cold!”

I slid the door shut behind me. There was within the barn the curious chill warmth which housed animals generate to protect themselves against our winters.

“It will snow,” I told Hazen. “I was not sure you would go.”

He laughed crookedly, jerking at the trace.

“Snow!” he exclaimed. “A man would think you were personal manager of the weather. Why do you say it will snow?”

“The drift of the clouds—and it’s warmer,” I told him.

“I’ll not have it snowing,” he said, and looked at me and cackled. He was a little, thin, old man with meager whiskers and a curious precision of speech; and I think he got some enjoyment out of watching my expression at such remarks as this. He elaborated his assumption that the universe was conducted for his benefit, in order to see my{24} silent revolt at the suggestion. “I’ll not have it snowing,” he said. “Open the door.”

He led the mare out and stopped by the kitchen door.

“Come in,” he said. “A hot drink.”

I went with him into the kitchen. His wife was there, and their child. The woman was lean and frail; and she was afraid of him. The countryside said he had taken her in payment of a bad debt. Her father had owed him money which he could not pay.

“I decided it was time I had a wife,” Hazen used to say to me.

The child was on the floor. The woman had a drink of milk and egg and rum, hot and ready for us. We drank, and Hazen knelt beside the child. A boy baby, not yet two years old. It is an ugly thing to say, but I hated this child. There was an evil malevolence in his baby eyes. I have sometimes thought the gray devils must have left just such hate-bred babes as this in France. Also, he was deformed—a twisted leg. The women of the neighborhood sometimes said he would be better dead. But Hazen Kinch loved him. He lifted him in his arms now with a curious passion in his movement, and the child stared at him sullenly. When the mother came near, the baby squalled at her, and Hazen said roughly:

“Stand away! Leave him alone!”

She moved back furtively; and Hazen asked me, displaying the child: “A fine boy, eh?”

I said nothing, and in his cracked old voice he mumbled endearments to the baby. I had often wondered whether his love for the child redeemed{25} the man; or merely made him vulnerable. Certainly any harm that might come to the baby would be a crushing blow to Hazen.

He put the baby down on the floor again and said to the woman curtly: “Tend him well.” She nodded. There was a dumb submission in her eyes; but through this blank veil I had seen now and then a blaze of pain.

Hazen went out of the door without further word to her, and I followed him. We got into the sleigh, bundling ourselves into the robes for the six-mile drive along the drifted road to East Harbor. There was a feeling of storm in the air. I looked at the sky and so did Hazen Kinch. He guessed what I would have said and he answered me before I could speak.

“I’ll not have it snowing,” he said, and leered at me.

Nevertheless, I knew the storm would come. The mare turned out of the barnyard and plowed through a drift and struck hard-packed road. Her hoofs beat a swift tattoo; our runners sang beneath us. We dropped to the little bridge and across and began the mile-long climb to the top of Rayborn Hill. The road from Hazen’s house to town is compounded of such ups and downs.

At the top of the hill we paused for a moment to breathe the mare; paused just in front of the big old Rayborn house, that has stood there for more years than most of us remember. It was closed and shuttered and deserted; and Hazen dipped his whip toward it and said meanly:

“An ugly, improvident lot, the Rayborns were.”

I had known only one of them—the eldest son.{26} A fine man, I had thought him. Picking apples in his orchard, he fell one October and broke his neck. His widow tried to make a go of the place, but she borrowed of Hazen and he had evicted her this three months back. It was one of the lesser evils he had done. I looked at the house and at him, and he clucked to the mare and we dipped down into the steep valley below the hill.

The wind had a sweep in that valley and there was a drift of snow across it and across the road. This drift was well packed by the wind, but when we drove over its top our left-hand runner broke through the coaming and we tumbled into the snow, Hazen and I. We were well entangled in the rugs. The mare gave a frightened start, but Hazen had held the reins and the whip so that she could not break away. We got up together, he and I, and we righted the sleigh and set it upon the road again. I remember that it was becoming bitter cold and the sun was no longer shining. There was a steel-grey veil drawn across the bay.

When the sleigh was upright Hazen went forward and stood beside the mare. Some men, blaming the beast without reason, would have beaten her. They would have cursed, cried out upon her. That was not the cut of Hazen Kinch, But I could see that he was angry and I was not surprised when he reached up and gripped the horse’s ear. He pulled the mare’s head down and twisted the ear viciously. All in a silence that was deadly.

The mare snorted and tried to rear back and Hazen clapped the butt of his whip across her{27} knees. She stood still, quivering, and he wrenched at her ear again.

“Now,” he said softly, “keep the road.”

And he returned and climbed to his place beside me in the sleigh. I said nothing. I might have interfered, but something had always impelled me to keep back my hand from Hazen Kinch.

We drove on and the mare was lame. Though Hazen pushed her, we were slow in coming to town and before we reached Hazen’s office the snow was whirling down—a pressure of driving, swirling flakes like a heavy white hand.

I left Hazen at the stair that led to his office and I went about my business of the day. He said as I turned away:

“Be here at three.”

I nodded. But I did not think we should drive home that afternoon. I had some knowledge of storms.

II
That which had brought me to town was not engrossing. I found time to go to the stable and see Hazen’s mare. There was an ugly welt across her knees and some blood had flowed. The stablemen had tended the welt, and cursed Hazen in my hearing. It was still snowing, and the stable boss, looking out at the driving flakes, spat upon the ground and said to me:

“Them legs’ll go stiff. That mare won’t go home to-night.”

“I think you are right,” I agreed.

“The white-whiskered skunk!” he said, and I knew he spoke of Hazen.{28}

At a quarter of three I took myself to Hazen Kinch’s office. It was not much of an office; not that Hazen could not have afforded a better. But it was up two flights—an attic room ill lighted. A small air-tight stove kept the room stifling hot. The room was also air-tight. Hazen had a table and two chairs, and an iron safe in the corner. He put a pathetic trust in that safe. I believe I could have opened it with a screwdriver. I met him as I climbed the stairs. He said harshly:

“I’m going to telephone. They say the road’s impassable.”

He had no telephone in his office; he used one in the store below. A small economy fairly typical of Hazen.

“I’ll wait in the office,” I told him.

“Go ahead,” he agreed, halfway down the stairs.

I went up to his office and closed the drafts of the stove—it was red-hot—and tried to open the one window, but it was nailed fast. Then Hazen came back up the stairs grumbling.

“Damn the snow!” he said. “The wire is down.”

“Where to?” I asked.

“My house, man! To my house!”

“You wanted to telephone home that you—”

“I can’t get home to-night. You’ll have to go to the hotel.”

I nodded good-naturedly.

“All right. You, too, I suppose.”

“I’ll sleep here,” he said.

I looked round. There was no bed, no cot, nothing but the two stiff chairs. He saw my{29} glance and said angrily: “I’ve slept on the floor before.”

I was always interested in the man’s mental processes.

“You wanted to telephone Mrs. Kinch not to worry?” I suggested.

“Pshaw, let her fret!” said Hazen. “I wanted to ask after my boy.” His eyes expanded, he rubbed his hands a little, cackling. “A fine boy, sir! A fine boy!”

It was then we heard Doan Marshey coming up the stairs. We heard his stumbling steps as he began the last flight and Hazen seemed to cock his ears as he listened. Then he sat still and watched the door. The steps climbed nearer; they stopped in the dim little hall outside the door and someone fumbled with the knob. When the door opened we saw who it was. I knew Marshey. He lived a little beyond Hazen on the same road. Lived in a two-room cabin—it was little more—with his wife and his five children; lived meanly and pitiably, groveling in the soil for daily bread, sweating life out of the earth—life and no more. A thin man, racking thin; a forward-thrusting neck and a bony face and a sad and drooping mustache about his mouth. His eyes were meek and weary.

He stood in the doorway blinking at us; and with his gloved hands—they were stiff and awkward with the cold—he unwound the ragged muffler that was about his neck and brushed weakly at the snow upon his head and his shoulders. Hazen said angrily:

“Come in! Do you want my stove to heat the town?{30}”

Doan shuffled in and he shut the door behind him. He said: “Howdy, Mr. Kinch.” And he smiled in a humble and placating way.

Hazen said: “What’s your business? Your interest is due.”

Doan nodded.

“Yeah. I know, Mr. Kinch. I cain’t pay it all.”

Kinch exclaimed impatiently: “An old story! How much can you pay?”

“Eleven dollars and fifty cents,” said Doan.

“You owe twenty.”

“I aim to pay it when the hens begin to lay.”

Hazen laughed scornfully.

“You aim to pay! Damn you, Marshey, if your old farm was worth taking I’d have you out in this snow, you old scamp!”

Doan pleaded dully: “Don’t you do that, Mr. Kinch! I aim to pay.”

Hazen clapped his hand on the table.

“Rats! Come! Give me what you’ve got! And Marshey, you’ll have to get the rest. I’m sick of waiting on you.”

Marshey came shuffling toward the table. Hazen was sitting with the table between him and the man, and I was a little behind Hazen at one side. Marshey blinked as he came nearer, and his weak nearsighted eyes turned from Hazen to me. I could see that the man was stiff with the cold.

When he came to the table in front of Hazen he took off his thick gloves. His hands were blue. He laid the gloves on the table and reached into an inner pocket of his torn coat and drew out a little cloth pouch and he fumbled into this and I heard the clink of coins. He drew out two quarters{31} and laid them on the table before Hazen, and Hazen picked them up. I saw that Marshey’s fingers moved stiffly; I could almost hear them creak with the cold. Then he reached into the pouch again.

Something dropped out of the mouth of the little cloth bag and fell soundlessly on the table. It looked to me like a bill, a piece of paper currency. I was about to speak, but Hazen without an instant’s hesitation had dropped his hand on the thing and drawn it unostentatiously toward him. When he lifted his hand the money—if it was money—was gone.

Marshey drew out a little roll of worn bills. Hazen took them out of his hand and counted them swiftly.

“All right,” he said. “Eleven-fifty. I’ll give you a receipt. But you mind me, Doan Marshey, you get the rest before the month’s out. I’ve been too slack with you.”

Marshey, his dull eyes watching Hazen write the receipt, was folding the little pouch and putting it away. Hazen tore off the bit of paper and gave it to him. Doan took it and he said humbly: “Thank’e, sir.”

Hazen nodded.

“Mind now,” he exclaimed, and Marshey said: “I’ll do my best, Mr. Kinch.”

Then he turned and shuffled across the room and out into the hall and we heard him descending the stairs.

When he was gone I asked Hazen casually: “What was it that he dropped upon the table?{32}”

“A dollar,” said Hazen promptly. “A dollar bill. The miserable fool!”

Hazen’s mental processes were always of interest to me.

“You mean to give it back to him?” I asked.

He stared at me and laughed. “No! If he can’t take care of his own money—that’s why he is what he is.”

“Still, it is his money.”

“He owes me more than that.”

“Going to give him credit for it?”

“Am I a fool!” Hazen asked me. “Do I look like so much of a fool?”

“He may charge you with finding it?”

“He loses a dollar; I find one. Can he prove ownership? Pshaw!” Hazen laughed again.

“If there is any spine in him he will lay the thing to you as a theft,” I suggested. I was not afraid of angering Hazen. He allowed me open speech; he seemed to find a grim pleasure in my distaste for him and for his way of life.

“If there were any backbone in the man he would not be paying me eighty dollars a year on a five-hundred-dollar loan—discounted.”

Hazen grinned at me triumphantly.

“I wonder if he will come back,” I said.

“Besides,” Hazen continued, “he lied to me. He told me the eleven-fifty was all he had.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “There is no doubt he lied to you.”

Hazen had a letter to write and he bent to it. I sat by the stove and watched him and considered. He had not yet finished the letter when we heard Marshey returning. His dragging feet on the{33} stair were unmistakable. At the sound of his weary feet some tide of indignation surged up in me. I was minded to do violence to Hazen Kinch. But again a deeper impulse held my hand from the man.

Marshey came in and his weary eyes wandered about the room. They inspected the floor; they inspected me; they inspected Hazen Kinch’s table, and they rose at last humbly to Hazen Kinch.

“Well?” said Hazen.

“I lost a dollar,” Marshey told him. “I ’lowed I might have dropped it here.”

Hazen frowned.

“You told me eleven-fifty was all you had.”

“This here dollar wa’n’t mine.”

The money-lender laughed.

“Likely! Who would give you a dollar? You lied to me; or you’re lying now. I don’t believe you lost a dollar.”

Marshey reiterated weakly: “I lost a dollar.”

“Well,” said Hazen, “there’s no dollar of yours here.”

“It was to git medicine,” Marshey said. “It wa’n’t mine.”

Hazen Kinch exclaimed: “By God, I believe you’re accusing me!”

Marshey lifted both hands placatingly.

“No, Mr. Kinch. No, sir.” His eyes once more wandered about the room. “Mebbe I dropped it in the snow,” he said.

He turned to the door. Even in his slow shuffle there was a hint of trembling eagerness to escape. He went out and down the stairs. Hazen looked at me, his old face wrinkling mirthfully.{34}

“You see?” he said.

I left him a little later and went out into the street. On the way to the hotel I stopped for a cigar at the drug store. Marshey was there, talking with the druggist.

I heard the druggist say: “No, Marshey, I’m sorry. I’ve been stung too often.”

Marshey nodded, humbly.

“I didn’t ’low you’d figure to trust me,” he agreed. “It’s all right. I didn’t ’low you would.”

It was my impulse to give him the dollar he needed, but I did not do it. An overpowering compulsion bade me keep my hands off in this matter. I did not know what I expected but I felt the imminence of the fates. When I went out into the snow it seemed to me the groan of the gale was like the slow grind of millstones, one upon the other.

I thought long upon the matter of Hazen Kinch before sleep came that night.

III
Toward morning the snow must have stopped; and the wind increased and carved the drifts till sunrise, then abruptly died. I met Hazen at the post office at ten and he said: “I’m starting home.”

I asked: “Can you get through?”

He laughed.

“I will get through,” he told me.

“You’re in haste.”

“I want to see that boy of mine,” said Hazen Kinch. “A fine boy, man! A fine boy!{35}”

“I’m ready,” I said.

When we took the road the mare was limping. But she seemed to work out the stiffness in her knees and after a mile or so of the hard going she was moving smoothly enough. We made good time.

The day, as often happens after a storm, was full of blinding sunlight. The glare of the sun upon the snow was almost unbearable. I kept my eyes all but closed, but there was so much beauty abroad in the land that I could not bear to close them altogether. The snow clung to twigs and to fences and to wires, and a thousand flames glinted from every crystal when the sun struck down upon the drifts. The pine wood upon the eastern slope of Rayborn Hill was a checkerboard of rich color. Green and blue and black and white, indescribably brilliant. When we crossed the bridge at the foot of the hill we could hear the brook playing beneath the ice that sheathed it. On the white pages of the snow wild things had writ here and there the fine-traced tale of their morning’s adventuring. We saw once where a fox had pinned a big snowshoe rabbit in a drift.

Hazen talked much of that child of his on the homeward way. I said little. From the top of the Rayborn Hill we sighted his house and he laid the whip along the mare and we went down that last long descent at a speed that left me breathless. I shut my eyes and huddled low in the robes for protection against the bitter wind, and I did not open them again till we turned into Hazen’s barnyard, plowing through the unpacked snow.

When we stopped Hazen laughed.{36}

“Ha!” he said. “Now, come in, man, and warm yourself and see the baby! A fine boy!”

He was ahead of me at the door; I went in upon his heels. We came into the kitchen together.

Hazen’s kitchen was also living room and bedroom in the cold of winter. The arrangement saved firewood. There was a bed against the wall opposite the door. As we came in a woman got up stiffly from this bed and I saw that this woman was Hazen’s wife. But there was a change in her. She was bleak as cold iron and she was somehow strong.

Hazen rasped at this woman impatiently: “Well, I’m home! Where is the boy?”

She looked at him and her lips moved soundlessly. She closed them, opened them again. This time she was able to speak.

“The boy?” she said to Hazen. “The boy is dead!”

The dim-lit kitchen was very quiet for a little time. I felt myself breathe deeply, almost with relief. The thing for which I had waited—it had come. And I looked at Hazen Kinch.

He had always been a little thin man. He was shrunken now and very white and very still. Only his face twitched. A muscle in one cheek jerked and jerked and jerked at his mouth. It was as though he controlled a desire to smile. That jerking, suppressed smile upon his white and tortured countenance was terrible. I could see the blood drain down from his forehead, down from his cheeks. He became white as death itself.

After a little he tried to speak. I do not know what he meant to say. But what he did was to{37} repeat—as though he had not heard her words—the question which he had flung at her in the beginning. He said huskily: “Where is the boy?”

She looked toward the bed and Hazen looked that way; and then he went across to the bed with uncertain little steps. I followed him. I saw the little twisted body there. The woman had been keeping it warm, with her own body. It must have been in her arms when we came in. The tumbled coverings, the crushed pillows spoke mutely of a ferocious intensity of grief.

Hazen looked down at the little body. He made no move to touch it, but I heard him whisper to himself: “Fine boy.”

After a while he looked at the woman. She seemed to feel an accusation in his eyes. She said: “I did all I could.”

He asked: “What was it?”

I had it in me—though I had reason enough to despise the little man—to pity Hazen Kinch.

“He coughed,” said the woman. “I knew it was croup. You know I asked you to get the medicine—ipecac. You said no matter—no need—and you had gone.”

She looked out of the window.

“I went for help—to Anne Marshey. Her babies had had it. Her husband was going to town and she said he would get the medicine for me. She did not tell him it was for me. He would not have done it for you. He did not know. So I gave her a dollar to give him—to bring it out to me.

“He came home in the snow last night. Baby was bad by that time, so I was watching for Doan. I stopped him in the road and I asked for the{38} medicine. When he understood, he told me. He had not brought it.”

The woman was speaking dully, without emotion.

“It would have been in time, even then,” she said. “But after a while, after that, baby died.”

I understood in that moment the working of the mills. And when I looked at Hazen Kinch I saw that he, too, was beginning to understand. There is a just mercilessness in an aroused God. Hazen Kinch was driven to questions.

“Why—didn’t Marshey fetch it?” he asked.

She said slowly: “They would not trust him—at the store.”

His mouth twitched, he raised his hands.

“The money!” he cried. “The money! What did he do with that?”

“He said,” the woman answered, “that he lost it—in your office; lost the money there.”

After a little the old money-lender leaned far back like a man wrenched with agony. His body was contorted, his face was terrible. His dry mouth opened wide.

He screamed!

IV
Halfway up the hill to my house I stopped to look back and all round. The vast hills in their snowy garments looked down upon the land, upon the house of Hazen Kinch. Still and silent and inscrutable.

I knew now that a just and brooding God dwelt among these hills.{39}

OLD TANTRYBOGUS
I
TO this day, when Chet McAusland tells the tale his voice becomes husky and his eyes are likely to fill—and, “It was murder,” he will say when he is done. “I felt like a murderer and that’s what I was. But it was too late then.” Sometimes his listeners are silent, appearing to agree with him. More often, those to whom he speaks seek to reassure him, for it is plain to any man that there is no murder in Chet, nor any malice nor anything but a very human large-heartedness toward every man and beast.

In Tantry’s time Chet was a bachelor living alone at his farm above Fraternity, cooking and caring for himself, managing well enough. He had been a granite cutter, a fisherman upon the Banks, a keeper of bees. Now he farmed his rocky hillside farm. He was a man of middle age—a small man with a firm jaw and a pair of bushy eyebrows and deep-set piercing eyes. When he laughed he had a way of setting his head firmly back upon his neck, his chin pressed down, and his laughter was robust and free and fine. I have spoken of his occupations; he had also avocations. All his life he had fished, had hunted, had traversed the forests far and wide. A man who loved the open, loved the woods, loved the very{40} imprint of a deer’s hoof in the mud along the river. A good companion, open-hearted, with never an evil word for any man.

He was, as has been said, a bachelor; but this was not of Chet’s own choosing, as at least one person in Fraternity well knew. Old Tantrybogus knew also—knew even in the days when he was called young Job. He knew his mistress as well as he knew his master; knew her as truly as though she dwelt already at the farm upon the hill. Between her and Chet was his allegiance divided. None other shared it ever, even to the end.

Chet as a bachelor kept open house at his farm upon the hill and this was especially true when there was fishing or gunning to be had. A Rockland man came one October for the woodcock shooting. He and Chet found sport together and found—each in the other—a friend. The Rockland man had fetched with him a she dog of marvelous craft and from her next litter he sent a pup to Chet. In honor of the giver Chet called the dog Job. And Job—Old Tantrybogus that was to be—learned that the farm upon the hill was his world and his home.

Chet’s farm, numbering some eighty acres, included meadows that cut thirty or forty tons of hay; it included ample pasturage for a dozen cows; and it ran down to the George’s River behind the barn, through a patch of hardwood growth that furnished Chet with firewood for the cutting—a farm fairly typical of Fraternity. No man might grow rich upon its fruits, but any man with a fair measure of industry could draw a{41} pleasant living from it and find time for venturing along the brooks for trout or through the alder runs after woodcock or into the swamps for deer, according to the season. From the wall that bounds the orchard you may look down to where the little village lies along the river. A dozen or so of houses, each scrupulously neat and scrupulously painted; a white church with its white spire rising above the trees; the mill straddling the river just below the bridge, and a store or two. Will Bissell’s store is just above the bridge, serving as market place and forum. The post office is there, and there after supper the year round Fraternity foregathers.

In Fraternity most men own dogs; not the cross-bred and worthless brutes characteristic of small towns in less favored countrysides, but setters of ancient stock or hounds used to the trail of fox or rabbit. Now and then you will see a collie or a pointer, though these breeds are rare. Utilitarian dogs—dogs which have tasks to do and know their tasks and do them.

Most men in Fraternity own or have owned some single wonderful dog of which they love to tell—a dog above all other dogs for them, a dog whose exploits they lovingly recount. And it was to come to pass that Job, better known as Old Tantrybogus, should be such a dog to Chet McAusland.

II
Your true setter is born, not made. The instincts of his craft are a part of his birthright. Nevertheless they must be guided and cultivated{42} and developed. There are men whose profession it is to train bird dogs, or as the phrase goes, to break them. With some of these men it is a breaking indeed, for they carry a lash into the field, nor spare to use it. Others work more gently to a better end. But any man may make his dog what he will if he have patience coupled with the gift of teaching the dog to understand his wishes.

Chet decided to train Job himself. He set about it when the pup was some six months old, at a season when winter was settling down upon the farm and there were idle hours on his hands. He had kept as trophies of the gunning season just past the head and the wings of a woodcock. These he bound into a ball of soft and woolly yarn and on a certain day he called Job to his knee and made him sniff and smell this ball until the puppy knew the scent of it. Job wished to tear and rend the pleasantly soft and yielding plaything, but Chet forbade this by stern word, backed by restraining hand, till the pup seemed to understand.

Then he looped about the dog’s neck a stout cord and he held this cord in his hand, the pup at his feet, while he tossed the woolen ball across the kitchen floor. The pup turned and leaped after the ball.

Before he could make a second jump Chet said sharply, “Whoa!”

And he snubbed the cord he held so that Job was brought up short in a tumbling heap, his toe nails scratching on the floor.

Chet got up and crossed and picked up the ball; he returned to his chair, called the pup to his knee, tossed the ball again. Again Job darted after it{43} and again Chet said, “Whoa,” and checked Job with the cord. At which the puppy, with the utmost singleness of purpose, caught the cord in his mouth, squatted on the floor and set about gnawing his bonds in two. Chet laughed at him, called him in, fetched the ball, and tried again.

After Chet had checked him half a dozen times with voice and string the pup sat on its small haunches, looked at Chet with his head on one side and wrinkled its furry brow in thought. And Chet repeated slowly over and over:

“Whoa, Job! Whoa! Whoa!”

The lesson was not learned on the first day or the second or the third. But before the week was gone Job had learned this much: That when Chet said “Whoa” he must stop, or be stopped painfully. Being a creature of intelligence, Job thereafter stopped; and when he was sure the pup understood, Chet applauded him and fed him and made much of him.

One day in the middle of the second week, Job having checked at the word of command, Chet waited for a moment and then said, “Go on!”

Job looked round at Chet, and the man motioned with his hand and repeated, “Go on, Job!”

The pup a little doubtfully moved toward where lay the woolly ball. When he was within a yard of it Chet said again, “Whoa!”

When he stopped this time he did not look back at Chet but watched the ball, and Chet after a single glance threw back his head and laughed aloud and cried to himself, “Now ain’t that comical?”

For Job, a six-months’ puppy, was on his first{44} point. Head low and flattened, nose on a line toward the ball, legs stiff, tail straight out behind with faintly drooping tip, the pup was motionless as a graven dog—a true setter in every line.

And Chet laughed aloud.

This laughter was a mistake, for at the sound the pup leaped forward, the cord slipped through Chet’s fingers and the dog caught the woolly ball and began to worry it. Chet, still laughing, took the ball from him, caressed him, praised him and ended the lesson for that day. And by so doing he permitted the birth in Job of one fault which he would never be able to overcome. The pup supposed he had been applauded for capturing the woolly ball and that notion would never altogether die in his dog brain. Job would break shot, as the gunners say, till the end of his days.

III
By October of his second year Job was sufficiently educated to be called a good working dog. He would stop at the word of command; he would swerve to right or left at a hand gesture; he would come to heel; he would point and hold his point as long as the bird would lie. He was a natural retriever, though Chet had to correct a tendency to chop the object that was retrieved. The man did this by thrusting through and through the woolen teaching ball a dozen long darning needles. When the dog, retrieving this ball, closed his jaws too harshly these needles pricked his tender mouth. He learned to lift the ball as lightly as a feather; he developed a mouth as{45} soft as a woman’s hand; and even in his second year he would at command retrieve an egg which Chet rolled across the kitchen floor and never chip the shell.

His one fault, his trick of breaking shot, was buttressed and built into the dog’s very soul by an incident which occurred in his first year’s hunting. He and Chet left the farmhouse one afternoon and started down through the fringe of woodland toward the river. It was near sunset. Chet had his gun, and as he expected, they found game; Chet had ample warning when he saw Job stiffen at half point, his tail twitching. He watched until the dog began to move forward with slow steps, and he said to himself, “He’s roding a pa’tridge. I knew there’d be one here.”

Job’s head was high, evidence in itself that he had located partridge rather than woodcock. Chet skirted the fringe in the open land, studying the ground well ahead of the dog, alert for the burst of drumming wings. He moved quietly and Job moved among the trees, his feet stirring the leaves. The dog was tense; so was the man. And presently the dog froze again, this time in true point, tail rigid as an iron bar.

Chet knew that meant the partridge had squatted, would run no more. Forced to move now, the bird would fly. He waited for a long half minute, but the partridge waited also. So Chet, rather than walk in among the trees and spoil his chance for a shot, stooped to pick up a stone, intending to toss it in and frighten the bird to wing.

When he stooped, out of position to shoot, he{46} heard the drum of pinions and saw rise not one partridge but two. They swept across the open below him, unbelievably swift, and Chet whipped up his gun and fired once and then again. And never a feather fell. The birds on set wings glided out of his sight into the edge of an evergreen growth down the hill where it would be hopeless to try for a shot at them again.

And Job pursued them. As the birds rose the dog had raced forward. As they disappeared among the tops of the low hemlocks the dog went out of sight after them. Ejecting the empty shells from his gun, Chet swore at himself for his poor shooting and swore at Job for breaking shot and loudly commanded the dog to return. Job did not do so; did not even respond when Chet put his whistle to his lips and blew. So the man started after the dog, whose bell he could faintly hear, and promised to find Job and teach him a thing he needed to know. He started toward the cover, whistling and shouting for Job to come to heel.

When he was half way across the open Job did emerge from the shelter of the evergreens, and he came toward Chet at a swift trot, head held high. Chet started to abuse him. And then when the dog was still half a dozen rods away he saw that Job carried a cock partridge in his mouth. The bird, wounded unto death, had flown to the last wing beat far into the wood. And Job pursuing had found the game and was fetching it in.

For consistency’s sake and for the dog’s sake Chet should still have punished Job—should still{47} have made him understand that to break shot was iniquity. But—Chet was human and much too warm-hearted to be a disciplinarian. Perhaps he is not to be blamed for praising Job after all. Certainly the man did praise the dog, so that Job’s dog brain was given again to understand that if he chased a bird and caught it he would be applauded. The fault dwelt in him thereafter.

“I tried to break him all his life,” Chet will say. “I put a rope on him and a choke collar and I shook him up—everything I knew. It wan’t no good. But it was my fault in the beginning. I never really blamed Old Tantry—never could.”

IV
This is not properly the story of Job’s youth or of his life, but of his aging and the death of him. Nevertheless there was much in his life that was worth the telling. His reputation rests not on Chet’s word alone—the village knew him and was proud of him. His renown began in his third year in deep winter when Chet and Jim Saladine went fishing one day through the ice on Sebacook Pond. Chet and Saladine became separated, one on either side of the lower end of the pond, and Jim had the pail of bait. Chet made Job go after the pail clear across the pond and fetch it to him and take it back to Saladine again. The dog’s sagacity and understanding, evidenced then and chronicled by Saladine at Bissell’s store that night, were to wax thereafter for half a dozen years; and even when the dog grew old his understanding never waned.{48}

It was in his ninth year that Job had his greatest day—a day into which he crowded epic deeds enough to make heroes of half a dozen dogs. And the tale of that day may perhaps be worth the telling.

Chet had taken Job out the night before to try for a partridge in the fringes of the wood below the farm. They were late in starting, but within fifteen minutes Job was marking game and just at sunset the bird rose and wheeled toward the thickets of the wood. Chet had a snap shot; he took it and he saw the bird’s legs drop and dangle before it disappeared. He knew what that meant. A body wound, a deadly wound. The bird would fly so long as its wings would function, then set its pinions and glide in a long slant to earth, and when it struck ground it would be dead.

He sent Job into the wood, himself followed the dog, and he was in haste, for dark was already coming down. He hunted till he could no longer see—found nothing. In the end he called Job in, and the dog reluctantly abandoned the search at Chet’s command and followed his master back to the farm.

Two Rockland men telephoned that evening asking if they might come to the farm next day and try for birds; and Chet, who can always find time for a day’s gunning, bade them come. Doctor Gunther, who was telephoning, said: “Hayes and I’ll be there by half past eight. Mind if we bring our dogs?”

“Mind? No,” said Chet. “Sure!{49}”

“They’re wild,” said the doctor, “but I’d like to have them work with Job—do them good.”

“Best thing in the world for them,” Chet agreed. “Let them back him on a few points and it’ll steady them. I’ll look for you.”

In the morning he rose early and busied himself with his chores so that he might be ready when the hunters came. It was not an ideal hunting day. The morning was lowery and overcast and warm and there was a wind from the east that promised fog or rain. With an eye on the clouds Chet worked swiftly. He fed Job in the shed where the dog usually slept and it chanced that he left the door latched so that Job was a prisoner until the others arrived. They were a little ahead of time and Chet asked them to wait a little. He had been picking apples in the orchard behind the shed and he took them out there to see the full barrels of firm fruit. Job went out into the orchard with them and no one of the men noticed that the dog slipped away beyond the barn toward the woods.

When a little later they were ready to start Chet missed the dog. He is a profane man, and he swore and whistled and called. Hayes, the man who had come with Gunther, winked at the doctor and asked Chet: “Is he a self-hunter? Has he gone off on his own?”

“Never did before,” Chet said hotly. His heat was for Job, not for Hayes. “I’ll teach him something!”

He went out behind the barn, still whistling and calling, and the others followed him. Their dogs were in the car in which they had come from{50} Rockland. The three men walked across the garden to the brow of the hill above the river and Chet blew his whistle till he was purple of countenance. The other two were secretly amused, as men are apt to be amused when they find that an idol has feet of clay. For Job was a famous dog.

Hayes it was who caught first sight of him and said, “There he comes now.”

They all looked and saw Job loping heavily up the slope through an open fringe of birches. But it was not till he scrambled over the wall that they saw he bore something in his mouth.

Hayes said, “He’s got a woodchuck.”

Chet, with keener eyes, stared for a moment, then exclaimed exultantly: “He’s got that partridge I killed down there last night! I knew that bird was dead.”

They were still incredulous, even after he told them how he had shot the bird the night before.

They were incredulous until Job came near enough for them all to see, came trotting to Chet and proudly dropped the splendid bird at his master’s feet. When they could no longer doubt they exclaimed. For such a feat is alone enough to found a dog reputation on.

As for Chet, though he was swelled with pride, he made light of the matter.

“You’ll see him work to-day though,” he said. “The scent lies on a day like this. But it’ll rain by noon—we want to get started.”

They did get started and without more delay. They went in the car, and after a mile or so stopped on a rocky ledge beside the road at what{51} Chet was used to call the Dummy Cover—an expanse of half a dozen acres tangled with alders and birches and thorn and dotted with wild apple trees here and there. Two or three low knolls lifted their heads above the muck of the lower land—an ideal place for woodcock when the flight was on.

The men got out and belled their dogs and old Job stood quietly at Chet’s heel while Chet filled his pockets with shells. The other dogs were racing and plunging, breaking across the wall, returning impatiently at command, racing away again. When they were ready the three men went through the bars, and with a gesture Chet sent Job into an alder run to the right. The great dog began his systematic zigzagging progress, designed to cover every foot of the ground, while the younger dogs circled and scuffled and darted about him, nosing here and there, wild with the excitement of the hunt.

Such dogs flush many birds and one of these dogs flushed a woodcock now fifty yards ahead of where old Job was working. The bird started to circle back, saw the men and veered away again. Though the range was never less than forty yards, Chet, who had a heavy far-shooting gun, took a snap shot through the alder tops as the bird turned in flight and he saw it jump slightly in the air as though the sound of the gun had startled it. Chet knew what that little break in its flight had meant and he watched the bird as long as he could see it and marked where it scaled to earth at last in the deeps of the cover ahead of them.{52}

It was while his attention was thus distracted that Job disappeared. When Chet had reloaded he looked round for the dog and Job was gone. He listened and heard no sound of Job’s bell. He blew his whistle and blew again. The other two dogs came galloping to their masters, heads up, eyes questioning, but Job did not appear.

The man Hayes said: “He’s gone off alone. I wouldn’t have a dog I couldn’t keep in.”

Chet looked at him with a flare of his native temper in his eyes.

“He’s got a bird,” said Chet. “He’s right here somewhere and he’s got a bird.”

He turned and began to push his way into the alders and the other two men kept pace with him, one on either side. It was hard going; they could see only a little way. Now and then Chet whistled again, but for the most part they went quietly. Woodcock may not be found in open stubble like the obliging quail. You will come upon them singly or by twos in wet alder runs or upon birch-clad knolls or even in the shelter of a clump of evergreens—in thick cover almost always, where it is difficult for a man to shoot; and the bird must usually be killed before it has gone twenty yards in flight or it goes scot-free.

In such a cover as this the men were now hunting for Job; and at the end of fifteen minutes, in which they had worked back and forth and to and fro without discovering the dog, Hayes and the doctor were ready to give up.

“Call him in,” Hayes told Chet. “Maybe we’ll see the bird get up. We can’t find him and we’re wasting time.{53}”

Chet hesitated, then he said: “I’ll shoot. Maybe that’ll scare up the bird.”

On the last word his gun roared and through its very echoes each of the three men heard the tinkle of a bell, and Chet, who was nearest, cried: “There he is! Careful! The bird’s moving.”

The dog was in the very center of the cover they had traversed—in a little depression where he chanced to be well hidden. They had passed within twenty feet of him, yet had he held his point. Hayes was the first to do homage.

“By gad,” he cried, “that is some dog, McAusland!”

“You be ready to shoot,” Chet retorted. “I’ll walk up the bird.”

They said they were ready; he moved in to one side of Job and the woodcock got up on whistling wings. Hayes’ first shot knocked him down.

Job found another bird a little farther on and Chet killed it before it topped the alders. Then they approached the spot where he had marked down that first woodcock, the one which had been flushed by the too-rangy dogs. He called Job, pointed, said briefly: “Find dead bird, Job.”

The dog went in, began to work. When the other men came up Chet said: “I think I hurt that first bird. He dropped in here. Job will find him.”

“Let’s send the other dogs in, too,” Hayes suggested. “Mine hasn’t learned retrieving yet.”

Chet nodded and the other two dogs plunged into the cover to one side of Job and began to circle, loping noisily. Job looked toward them{54} with an air of almost human disgust at such incompetency, then went on with his business of finding the bird.

The men, watching, saw then a curious thing: they saw old Job freeze in a point and as he did so the other dogs charged toward him. One, Gunther’s, caught the scent ten feet away and froze. The other hesitated, then came on—and Job growled, a warning deadly growl. The other dog stopped still.

Chet exclaimed: “Now ain’t that comical? Hear old Job tell him to freeze?”

Hayes nodded and the three stood for a moment, watching the motionless dogs, silent. Then the young dog stirred again and Job moved forward two paces and flattened his head so low it almost touched the ground and—growled again.

Chet laughed.

“All right, Job,” he called. “Dead bird! Fetch it in!”

Job did not move, and Hayes said: “Maybe it’s not dead.

“I’ll walk in,” Chet told him. “I won’t shoot. You do the shooting.”

They nodded and he began to work in through the alders toward where Job stood. The others waited in vantage points outside. Chet came abreast of Job and stopped. But the dog stood still, and this surprised Chet, for Job was accustomed to rush forward, flushing up the bird as soon as he knew that Chet was near at hand. So the man studied the ground ahead of Job’s nose, trying to locate the bird; and he moved forward a step or two cautiously and at last began to beat{55} to and fro, expecting every minute to hear the whistle of the woodcock’s wings as it rose.

Nothing happened. The two younger dogs broke point with a careless air as though to say they had not been pointing at all; that they had merely been considering the matter. They began to move about in the alders. And at last Chet, half convinced that Job was on a false point, turned to his dog and said harshly: “There’s nothing here, Job. Come out of it. Come along. Come in.”

Job watched Chet, but did not move. His lower jaw was fairly resting on the ground, and Chet exclaimed impatiently and stooped and caught his collar to drag him away. When he did this he saw the bird—saw its spreading wing beneath Job’s very jaw—and he reached down and lifted it, stone dead, from where it lay. Not till Chet had taken up the woodcock did Job stir, but when he saw it safe in his master’s hand he shook himself, looked at the other dogs with a triumphant cock of his ears and turned and trotted on down the run.

They left that cover presently, put in an hour in the Fuller pasture, where a partridge and two woodcock fell to their guns, and then drove back to the farm. It was beginning to rain—the thick brush soaked them. Chet bade them come and have dinner at the farm and wait on the chance that the afternoon would see a clearing sky. So they had a dinner of Chet’s cooking, and afterward they sat upon the side veranda watching the rain, smoking.

Chet McAusland is an extravagantly generous{56} man. If you go fishing with him you take home both your fish and his own. He will not have it otherwise. Likewise if you go into the covers the birds are yours.

“Sho, I can get woodcock any time! You take them,” he will say. “Go on now.”

And it is so obvious that he is happier in giving than in keeping that he usually has his way.

After dinner he brought out the birds that had been killed in the morning and laid them on an empty chair beside him and began to tie their legs together so that they could be conveniently handled. Job was on the floor a yard away, apparently asleep. The men were talking. And Job growled.

Chet looked down, saw there were kittens about—there were always kittens at the farm—and reproved Job for growling at the kits. He was a little surprised, for Job usually paid no attention to them, even permitted them to eat from his plate. He said good-naturedly: “What are you doing, Job? Scaring that little kitten? Ain’t you ashamed!”

Job was so far from being ashamed that he barked loudly and Chet bent to cuff him into silence. Then he saw and laughed aloud. “Now ain’t that comical!” he demanded. “Look a-there!”

One of the kittens under Chet’s very chair was laboring heavily, trying to drag away a woodcock that seemed twice as large as itself. The other men laughed; Chet rescued the woodcock; the kitten fled and Job beamed with satisfaction and slapped his tail upon the floor.{57}

Hayes cried: “By gad, McAusland, that dog has sense! I’d like to buy him.”

“You don’t want to buy him. He’s getting old. He won’t be able to hunt much longer.”

“Is he for sale?”

“Oh, you don’t want him,” Chet said uncomfortably. He hated to refuse any man anything.

“I’ll give you three hundred for him,” said Hayes.

Now three hundred dollars was as much cash as Chet was like to see in a year’s time, but—Job was Job. He hesitated, not because the offer attracted him but because he did not wish to refuse Hayes. He hesitated, but in the end he said, “You don’t want old Job.”

Gunther touched Hayes’ arm, caught his eye, shook his head; and Hayes forbore to push the matter. But he could not refrain from praising Job.

“I never saw as good a dog!” he declared.

“He is a good dog,” Chet agreed. “He’ll break shot, but that’s his only out. He’s staunch, he’ll mind, he works close in and he’s the best retriever in the County.”

“You don’t lose many birds with him,” Hayes agreed.

“I can throw a pebble from here right over the barn and he’ll fetch it in,” said Chet. “There’s nothing he won’t bring—if I tell him to.”

Gunther laughed.

“You’re taking in a good deal of territory, Chet.”

“I could tell you some things he’s done that would surprise you,” Chet declared.{58}

Hayes chuckled.

“Let’s try him out,” he suggested.

“All right.”

Hayes pointed toward the barn. The great doors were open and a yellow and black cat was coming through the barn toward them. As Hayes pointed her out she sat down in the doorway and began to lick her breast fur down.

“Have him fetch the cat,” said Hayes.

Chet laughed. He stooped and touched the dog’s head.

“Job,” he said, “come here.”

Job got up and stood at Chet’s knee, looking up into his master’s face, tail wagging slowly to and fro. Chet waved his hand toward the barn.

“Go fetch the cat,” he said. “Go fetch the cat, Job.” The dog looked toward the barn, looked up at Chet again. Chet repeated, “Fetch the cat, Job.”

And the dog, a little doubtfully, left them and walked toward the barn. The cat saw Job coming, but was not afraid. They were old friends. All creatures were friends on Chet’s farm. It rose as Job approached and rubbed against his legs. Job stood still, uncertain; he looked back at Chet, looked down at the cat, looked back at Chet.

“Fetch, Job!” Chet called.

Then the dog in a matter of fact way that delighted the three men on the porch closed his jaws over the cat’s back, at the shoulder. The cat may have been astonished, but it is cat instinct to hang quietly when lifted in this wise. It made no more than a muffled protest; it hung{59} in a furry ball, head drawn up, paws close against its body.

Job brought the cat gravely to Chet’s knee, and Chet took it from his mouth and soothed it and applauded Job.

“I’ll give you five hundred for that dog,” said Hayes.

“You don’t want to buy him,” Chet replied slowly, and the two men saw that there was a fierce pride in his eyes.

V
A dog does not live as long as a man and this natural law is the fount of many tears. If boy and puppy might grow to manhood and doghood together, and together grow old, and so in due course die, full many a heartache might be avoided. But the world is not so ordered, and dogs will die and men will weep for them so long as there are dogs and men.

A setter may live a dozen years—may live fifteen. Job lived fourteen years. But the years of his prime were only seven, less than his share, for in his sixth year he had distemper and hunted not at all then or the year thereafter. For months through his long convalescence he was too weak to walk and Chet used to go in the morning and lift the dog from his bed in the barn into a wheelbarrow; and he would wheel Job around into the sun where he might lie quietly the long day through. But in his eighth year he was himself again—and in his ninth and tenth he hunted.{60}

When he was eleven years old his eyes failed him. The eye is the first target of old age in a setter. It fails while the nose is still keen. In August of Job’s eleventh year he went into the fields with Chet one day when Chet was haying, and because the day was fine the dog was full of life, went at a gallop to and fro across the field.

Chet had begun to fear that Job was aging; he watched the dog now, somewhat reassured; and he said to Jim Saladine, who was helping him, “There’s life in the old dog yet.”

“Look at that!” said Saladine.

But Chet had seen. Job going full tilt across the field had run headlong into a bowlder as big as a barrel, which rose three feet above the stubble. He should have seen it clear across the field; he had not seen it at all. They heard his yelp of pain at the blow upon his tender nose and saw him get up and totter in aimless circles. Chet ran toward him, comforted him.

The dog was not stone blind, but his sight was almost gone. It must have gone suddenly, though Chet looking backward could see that he should have guessed before. Job was half stunned by the blow he had received and he followed Chet to the barn and lay down on a litter of hay there and seemed glad to rest. Chet, his eyes opened by what had happened, seemed to see the marks of age very plain upon the old dog of a sudden.

He took him into the covers that fall once or twice and Job’s nose functioned as marvelously as ever. But Chet could not bear to see the old dog blundering here and there, colliding with every obstacle that offered itself. After the{61} third trial he gave up and hunted no more that fall. He even refused to go out with others when they brought their dogs.

“My old Job can’t hunt any more,” he would say. “I don’t seem to enjoy it any more myself. I guess I’ll not go out to-day.”

Hayes was one of those who tried to persuade Chet to take the field. An abiding friendship had grown up between these two. And late in October Hayes brought another puppy to the farm.

“He’ll never be the dog Job was,” he told Chet. “But he’s a well-blooded dog.”

“There won’t ever be another Job,” Chet agreed. “But—I’m obliged for the puppy—and he’ll be company for Job.”

He called the new dog Mac and he set about Mac’s training that winter, but his heart was not in it. That Job should grow old made Chet feel his own years heavy upon him. He was still in middle life, as hale as any man of twenty. But—Job was growing old and Chet’s heart was heavy.

Mary Thurman in the village—it was she whom Job called his mistress—saw the sorrow in Chet. She was full of sympathetic understanding of the man. They were as truly one as though they had been married these dozen years.

Annie Bissell, Will Bissell’s wife, said to her once: “Why don’t you marry him, Mary? Land knows, you’ve loved him long enough.”

Mary Thurman told her: “He don’t need me. He’s always lived alone and been comfortable enough and never known the need of a woman.{62} I’ll marry no man that don’t know he needs me and tells me so.”

“Land knows, he needs someone to rid up that house of his. It’s a mess,” the other woman said.

“Chet don’t need me,” Mary insisted. “When he needs me I reckon I’ll go to him.”

She saw now the sorrow in Chet’s eyes and she tried to talk him out of it and to some extent succeeded.

Chet laughed a little, rubbed Job’s head, said slowly: “I hate to see the old dog get old, that’s all.”

“Sho,” said Mary, “he’s just beginning to enjoy living. Don’t have to work any more.”

In the end she did bring some measure of comfort to Chet. And it was she who christened Job anew. He and Chet came down one evening, stopped on their way for the mail, and she greeted Chet and to the dog said, “Hello, Old Tantrybogus.”

Chet looked at her, asked what she meant.

“Nothing,” Mary told him. “He just looks like an old tantrybogus, that’s all.”

“What is a tantrybogus?” Chet asked. “I don’t believe there’s any such thing.”

“Well, if there was he’d look like one,” said Mary.

The name took hold. Mary always used it; Chet himself took it up. By the time Job was twelve years old he was seldom called anything else.

Chet had expected that Mac, the young dog, would prove a companion for Job, but at first it{63} seemed he would be disappointed. To begin with, Job was jealous; he sulked when Chet paid Mac attention and was a scornful spectator at Mac’s training sessions. This early jealousy came to a head about the time Mac got his full stature—in a fight over a field mouse. It happened in the orchard, where Chet was piling hay round his trees. Mac dug the mouse out of the grass, Old Tantrybogus stole it and Mac went for him.

Tantry was old, but strength was still in him, and some measure of craft. He got a neck hold and it is probable he would have killed Mac then and there if Chet had not interfered. As it was, Chet broke the hold, punished both dogs and chained them up for days till by every language a dog can muster they promised him to behave themselves. They never fought again. Mac had for Tantry a deep respect; Job had for Mac—having established his ascendancy—a mild and elderly affection.

In Tantry’s thirteenth year during the haying Mac caught a mouse one day and brought it and gave it to the older dog; and Chet, who saw the incident, slapped his knee and cried, “Now ain’t that comical?”

About his twelfth year old Tantry’s bark had begun to change. Little by little it lost the deeper notes of the years of his prime; it lost the certainty and decision which were always a part of the dog. It began to crack, as an old man’s voice quavers and cracks. A shrill querulous note was born in it. Before he was thirteen his bark had an inhuman sound and Chet could hardly bear to hear it. On gunning days while Chet was pre{64}paring to take the field with Mac, Old Tantrybogus would dance unsteadily round him, barking this hoarse, shrill, delighted bark.

It was like seeing an old man gamboling; it was age aping youth. There was something pitiful in it, and Chet used to swear and chain Tantry to his kennel and bid him—abusively—be still.

The chain always silenced Tantry. He would lie in the kennel, head on his paws in the doorway, and watch Chet and Mac start away, with never a sound. And at night when they came home Chet would show him the birds and Tantry would snuffle at them eagerly, then hide his longing under a mask of condescension as though to say that woodcock had been of better quality in his day.

In his thirteenth year age overpowered Tantry. His coat by this time was long; it hung in fringes from his thin flanks, through which the arched ribs showed. His head drooped, his tail dragged; his long hair was clotted into tangles here and there, because he was grown too old to keep himself in order. The joints of his legs were weak and he was splayfooted, his feet spreading out like braces on either side of him. When he walked he weaved like a drunken man; when he ran he collided with anything from a fence post to the barn itself. His eyes were rheumy. And he was pathetically affectionate, pushing his nose along Chet’s knee, smearing Chet’s trousers with his long white hairs. In his prime he had been a proud dog, caring little for caresses. This senile craving for the touch of Chet’s hand made Chet cry—and swear. It was{65} at this time that Mary Thurman told Chet he ought to put Tantrybogus away.

“He’s too old for his own good,” she said—“half sick, and sore and uncomfortable. He ain’t happy, Chet.”

Chet told her that he would—some day. But the day did not come, and Mary knew it would not come. Nevertheless she urged Chet more than once to do the thing.

“You ought to. He’d be happier,” she said—“and so would you. You ain’t happy with him around.”

Chet laughed at her.

“I guess Old Tantry won’t bother me long as he wants to live,” he said.

“He makes you feel like an old man, Chet McAusland, just to look at him,” she protested. But Chet shook his head.

“I won’t feel old long as I can see you,” he told her.

So Old Tantry lived on and grew more decrepit. One day in the winter of his thirteenth year he followed Chet down into the wood lot and hunted him out there—and was so weary from his own exertions that Chet had to carry the dog up the hill and home and put him to bed in the barn.

“I ought to put you away, Tantry,” he said to himself as he gave the weary old creature a plate of supper. “It’s time you were going, old dog. But I can’t—I can’t.”

His fourteenth year saw Tantrybogus dragging out a weary life. Till then there had been nothing the matter with him save old age, but in his fourteenth summer a lump appeared on his{66} right side against the ribs, and it was as large as a nut before Chet one day discovered it. Thereafter it grew. And at times when the old dog lay down on that side he would yelp with pain and get up hurriedly and lie down on the other side. By September the lump was half as large as an apple. And when Chet touched it Tantry whined and licked Chet’s hand in a pitiful appeal. Even then Chet would not do that which Mary wished him to do.

“He’ll go away some day and I’ll never see him again,” he told her. “But as long as he wants to stay—he’ll stay.”

“It’s cruel to the dog,” Mary told him. “You keep him, but you won’t let him do what he wants to do. I’m ashamed of you, Chet McAusland.”

Chet laughed uncomfortably.

“I can’t help it, Mary,” he said.

VI
October came—the month of birds, the month when a dog scents the air and feels a quickening in his blood and watches to see his master oil the gun and break out a box of shells and fetch down the bell from the attic. And on the third day of the season, a crisp day, frost upon the ground and the sun bright in the sky, Chet decided to go down toward the river and try to find a bird.

When the bell tinkled Mac came from the barn at a gallop and danced on tiptoe round his master so that Chet had difficulty in making him{67} stand quietly for as long as it took to adjust the bell on his collar. Old Tantrybogus had been asleep in the barn, and he was as near deaf as he was blind by this time, so that he heard nothing. But the stir of Mac’s rush past him roused the old dog and he climbed unsteadily to his feet and came weaving like a drunken man to where Chet stood. And he barked his shrill, senile, pitiful bark and he tried in his poor old way to dance as Mac was dancing.

Chet looked down at the old dog and because there were tears in his eyes he spoke harshly.

“Tantry, you old fool,” he said, “go lie down. You’re not going. You couldn’t walk from here to the woods. Go lie down and rest, Tantry.”

Tantry paid not the least attention; he barked more shrilly than ever. He pretended that it was a matter of course that Chet would bell him and take him along. This is one of the favorite ruses of the dog—to pretend to be sure of the treat in store for him until his master must have a heart of iron to deny him.

Tantry continued to dance until Chet walked to the kennel and pointed in and said sternly, “Get in there, Tantry!”

Then and only then the old dog obeyed. He did not sulk; he went in with a certain dignity, and once inside he turned and lay with his head in the door, watching Chet and Mac prepare to go. Chet did not chain him. There was no need, he thought. Tantry could scarce walk at all, much less follow him to the fringe of woodland down the hill.

When he was ready he and Mac went through{68} the barn and across the garden into the meadow and across this meadow and the wall beyond till the hill dropped steeply toward the river. Repeated commands kept Mac to heel, though the dog was fretting with impatience. Not till they were at the edge of the wood did Chet wave his hand and bid the dog go on.

“Now find a bird, Mac,” Chet commanded. “Go find a bird.”

And Mac responded, moving into the cover at a trot, nosing to and fro. They began to work along the fringe down toward the river, where in an alder run or two Chet hoped to find a woodcock. Neither of them looked back toward the farm and so it was that neither of them saw Old Tantrybogus like a shadow of white slip through the barn and come lumbering unsteadily along their trail. That was a hard journey for Tantry. He was old and weak and he could not see and the lump upon his side was more painful than it had ever been before. He passed through the barn without mishap, for that was familiar ground. Between the barn and the garden he brushed an apple tree that his old eyes saw too late. In the garden he blundered among the dead tops of the carrots and turnips, which Chet had not yet harvested. He was traveling by scent alone, his nose to the ground, picking out Chet’s footsteps. He had not been so far away from the farm for months; it was an adventure and a stiff one. The wall between the garden and the meadow seemed intolerably high and a rock rolled under him so that he fell painfully. The old dog only whimpered a little and{69} tried again and passed the wall and started along Chet’s trail across the meadow.

Midway of this open his strength failed him so that he fell forward and lay still for a considerable time, tongue out, panting heavily. But when he was rested he climbed to his feet again—it was a terrible effort, even this—and took up his progress.

The second wall, which inclosed Chet’s pasture, was higher and there was a single strand of barbed wire atop it. Tantry failed twice in his effort to leap to the top of the unsteady rank of stones and after that he turned aside and moved along the wall looking for an easier passage. He came to a bowlder that helped him, scrambled to the top, cut his nose on the barbed wire, slid under it and half jumped, half fell to the ground. He was across the wall.

Even in the trembling elation of this victory the old dog’s sagacity did not fail him. Another dog might have blundered down into the wood on a blind search for his master. Tantrybogus did not do this. He worked back along the wall until he picked up the trail, then followed it as painstakingly as before. He was increasingly weary, however, and more than once he stopped to rest. But always when a thin trickle of strength flowed back into his legs he rose and followed on.

Chet and Mac had found no partridges in the fringe of the woods, so at the river they turned to the right, pushed through some evergreens and came into a little alder run where woodcock were accustomed to nest and where Chet ex{70}pected to find birds lying on this day. Almost at once Mac began to mark game, standing motionless for seconds on end, moving forward with care, making little side casts to and fro. Chet’s attention was all on the dog; his gun was ready; he was alert for the whistle of the woodcock’s wings, every nerve strung in readiness to fling up his gun and pull.

If Mac had not found game in this run, if Chet and the dog had kept up their swift hunter’s gait, Old Tantrybogus would never have overtaken them, for the old dog’s strength was almost utterly gone. But Chet halted for perhaps five minutes in the little run, following slowly as Mac worked uphill, and this halt gave Old Tantry time to come up with them. He lumbered out of the cover of the evergreens and saw Chet, and the old dog barked aloud with joy and scrambled and tottered to where Chet stood. He was so manifestly exhausted that Chet’s eyes filled with frank tears—they flowed down his cheeks. He had not the heart to scold Tantry for breaking orders and following them.

He reached down and patted the grizzled old head and said huskily: “You damned old fool, Tantry! What are you doing down here?”

Tantry looked up at him and barked again and again and there was a rending ring of triumph in the old dog’s cackling voice.

Chet said gently: “There now, be still. You’ll scare the birds, Tantry. Behave yourself. Mac’s got a bird here somewhere. Be still—you’ll scare the birds.”

For answer, as though his deaf old ears had{71} caught the familiar word and read it as an order, Tantry shuffled past his master and worked in among the alders toward where Mac was casting slowly to and fro. Chet watched him for a minute through eyes so blurred he could hardly see and he brushed his tears away with the back of his hand.

“The poor old fool,” he said. “Hell, let him have his fun!”

He took one step forward to follow the dogs—and stopped. For old Tantrybogus, a dog of dogs in his day, had proved that he was not yet too old to know his craft. Unerringly, where Mac had blundered for a minute or more, he had located the woodcock—he was on point. And Mac, turning, saw him and stiffened to back the other dog.

Tantrybogus’ last point was not beautiful; it would have taken no prize in field trials. His splayfeet were spread, the better to support his body on his tottering legs. His tail drooped to the ground instead of being stiffened out behind. His head was on one side, cocked knowingly, and it was still as still. When Chet, frankly weeping, worked in behind him he saw that the old dog was trembling like a leaf and he knew this was no tremor of weakness but a shivering ecstacy of joy in finding game again.

Chet came up close behind Old Tantry and stopped and looked down at the dog. He paid no heed to Mac. Mac was young, unproved. But he and Tantry, they were old friends and tried; they knew each the other.

“You’re happier now than you’ve been for a{72} long time, Tantry,” said Chet softly, as much to himself as to the dog. “Happy old boy! It’s a shame to make you stay at home.”

And of a sudden, without thought or plan but on the unconsidered impulse of the moment, Chet dropped his gun till the muzzle was just behind Old Tantry’s head. At the roar of it a woodcock rose on shrilling wings—rose and flew swiftly up the run with never a charge of shot pursuing. Chet had not even seen it go.

The man was on his knees, cradling the old dog in his arms, crying out as though Tantry still could hear: “Tantry! Tantry! Why did I have to go and—I’m a murderer, Tantry! Plain murderer! That’s what I am, old dog!”

He sat back on his heels, laid the white body down and folded his arms across his face as a boy does, weeping. In the still crisp air a sound seemed still ringing—the sound of a dog’s bark—the bark of Old Tantrybogus, yet strangely different too. Stronger, richer, with a new and youthful timbre in its tones; like the bark of a young strong dog setting forth on an eternal hunt with a well-loved master through alder runs where woodcock were as thick as autumn leaves.

VII
Half an hour after that Will Bissell chanced by Chet’s farm and saw Chet fetching pick and shovel from the shed, and something in the other’s bearing made him ask: “What’s the matter, Chet? Something wrong?”

Chet looked at him slowly, said in a hoarse{73} voice: “I’ve killed Old Tantrybogus. I’m going down to put him away.”

And he went through the barn and left Will standing there, down into the wood to a spot where the partridges love to come in the late fall for feed, and made a bed there and lined it thick with boughs and so at last laid Old Tantry to sleep.

His supper that night was solitary and cheerless and dreary and alone. But—Will Bissell must have spread the news, for while Chet was washing the dishes someone knocked, and when he turned Mary Thurman opened the door and came in.

Chet could not bear to look at her. He turned awkwardly and sat down at the kitchen table and buried his head in his arms. And Mary, smiling though her eyes were wet, came toward him. There was the mother light in her eyes, the mother radiance in Mary Thurman’s face. And she took Chet’s lonely head in her arms.

“There, Chet, there!” she whispered softly. “I reckon you need me now.{74}”

ONE CROWDED HOUR
I
JEFF RANNEY lived on the road from East Harbor to Fraternity, some eight miles from the bay. He was, at the period of which I write, a man fifty-seven years old, and his life had been as completely uneventful as life can be. He had never had an adventure, had never suffered a catastrophe, had never achieved any great thing, had never even been called upon to endure a particularly poignant grief. He was born in the house where he still lived and save for one trip to Portland had never crossed the county line. He married the daughter of a man whose farm lay on the other side of Fraternity. She was not particularly pretty at any time; and he had never any passion for her, though he had always liked her well enough, and had always been kind. His father and mother lived till he was in his forties, then died peaceably in their beds. He had been a child of their later years, and before they died they had become almost completely helpless, so that he felt it was time for them to go. He and his wife had three children, all of whom grew to maturity. The oldest, a girl, married an East Harbor boy who later moved to Augusta; the other two, boys, went to Augusta to work in a factory there, pre{75}ferring the ordered hours of confined toil to the long and irregular tasks upon the farm.

Now and then Jeff’s wife departed to visit her daughter, leaving him to keep bachelor hall alone. He managed comfortably enough; his life, then as always, followed a well-ordered and familiar routine. He rose at daylight, cared for his stock, made his own breakfast, did whatever tasks lay before him for the day, finished his chores before cooking supper at night, washed the dishes, read the evening paper till he fell asleep in his chair, and then went to bed. Now and then in the spring and summer months he found time to catch a mess of trout; now and then in the fall or winter he shot a partridge or a rabbit. When there was a circus in East Harbor, or a fair, he went to town for the day. When there was a dance in the Grange Hall he and his wife had used to go; but they had long since ceased these frivolities.

Jeff’s farm was well kept; he had a profitable orchard, his cows were of good stock. When the price of feed made the enterprise worth while he raised a few pigs. There was no mortgage on the farm, his taxes were paid, he owed no bills, his buildings were in good condition, he owned a secondhand automobile and a piano, and he had some few hundred dollars in the bank. It is fair to say that by the standards of the community in which he lived he was a prosperous man. He was also a just man, and he had a native sense and wit which his neighbors respected.

{76}

One November day, some years before this time of which I propose to write, he woke early and looked from his kitchen window and saw a deer feeding on the windfalls in his orchard. He shot the animal through the open window; and the spike horns, still attached to a fragment of the skull, were kept on the marble-topped table in the parlor of the farmhouse. The shooting of this deer was the most exciting, the most interesting thing that had ever happened to Jeff until that series of incidents in which romance and drama were so absorbingly mingled, and which is to be here set down.

It was a day in October. He had planned to go down into his woodlot and manufacture stove wood, to be stored for use during the winter that was still twelve months away. But when he awoke in the morning a cold rain was lashing his window, and a glance at the sky assured him the rain would continue all that day. He decided to postpone the outdoor task. A few errands in town wanted doing, so he put before his animals sufficient water for their needs till night, threw a thing or two into the tonneau of his car, secured the curtains, cranked the engine and started for East Harbor. Since the road was muddy and somewhat rutted, and he had no chains, it was necessary for him to drive slowly; and his late start made it almost noon when he slid down the steep and muddy hill into the town. He parked his car at an angle in the middle of the street and went to the restaurant presided over by Bob Bumpass for his midday meal. Eating at a restaurant on his trips to town was one of the things Jeff accounted luxuries.{77}

Bob, fat and amiable as a Mine Host out of Dickens, asked Jeff what he wanted; and Jeff ordered Regular Dinner Number Three: Vegetable soup, fried haddock, pie and coffee; thirty-five cents. Not till he had given his order did Jeff perceive that a certain excitement was in the air.

There were two other customers having lunch near where he sat. One was Dolph Bullen, whose haberdashery was among the most prosperous of East Harbor mercantile establishments; the other was the chief of police, Sam Gallop, a wordy man. Bob Bumpass, having taken Jeff’s order and served his soup, leaned against the counter to talk with these two men. Jeff perceived that Sam was telling over again a story that had evidently been told before.

“Yes, sir,” said Sam, “he came right along when I took a hold of him. And he had the necklace in a kind of a leather case in his pocket the whole time.”

“You took him right off the Boston boat, didn’t you?” Dolph asked.

“Yep,” said Sam. “Right out of his stateroom. He had his suitcase open on the bunk when I knocked on the door. I didn’t wait for him to let me in. Just opened her right up and went in; and he looked at me kind of impudent; and he says, ‘Hullo,’ he says. ‘What’s the matter?’ Cool as you want.”

“He come in here one day this summer, when the yacht was in here,” Bob commented. “I kind of liked his looks.{78}”

Sam shook his head ponderously. “Them’s the worst kind. But he didn’t fool me.”

“Name’s Gardner, isn’t it?” Dolph asked.

Bob nodded. “Frank Gardner. He’s worked for old Viles for six-seven years, he said.”

The chief of police was not willing that his part in the affair should be forgotten. He was a round-faced, bald, easy-going man; but he knew his rights, knew that in this drama which had been played he had a leading rôle.

“I says to him, ‘Matter enough,’” he continued importantly. “‘I got a warrant for you,’ I says. And he asked me what for; and I told him for stealing Mrs. Viles’ jewels. He got red enough at that, and mad looking, I’ll tell you. And he started to say something. But I shut him up. ‘You can tell that to someone else,’ I says. ‘My job’s to take you up to jail.’ Then he asked who swore out the warrant; and I told him old Viles did; and at that he shut up like a clam, and snapped his suitcase shut, and came along. I found the things when I went through his clothes, up’t the jail.”

He had more to tell, and when Bob Bumpass had brought Jeff his fried haddock and resumed his place as auditor Sam took up the telling. How Leander Viles had come to him, demanding the arrest of his secretary; how he had insisted that the millionaire swear out a warrant; how incensed Viles had become at this insistence.

“I’ll tell you,” said Sam emphatically, “he got right purple, till I thought the man’d burst; and he sort of fell down in a chair, grabbing at his chest; and then he got white as can be.{79}”

Dolph nodded. “Men like him, big and fat, and full of whisky all the time—they go that way. He’s got a temper too. Some day when he’s good and mad that heart of his will crack on him.”

Their talk continued, and Jeff continued to listen. In any issue it is instinctive for mankind to take sides. Dolph and Bob Bumpass were inclined to think a mistake had been made. “I don’t believe he aimed to steal that necklace at all,” said Bob; and Jeff found himself agreeing with the restaurant man. The three were still discussing the matter when Jeff finished his pie, paid his score and went his way.

His errands kept him busy all that afternoon. An ax handle, two or three pounds of nails, four feet of strap iron and a box of shells from the hardware store; a pair of overalls from Dolph Bullen; oatmeal, coffee, sugar and salt from the grocer; a bag of feed from the hay and grain market at the foot of the street. These errands were attended with much casual conversation, chiefly concerned with the arrest of the jewel thief. Late in the afternoon Jeff sought out Ed Whalen, who dealt in coal and wood, and made a deal by which Ed would buy from him a dozen cords of stove wood, to be delivered while snow was on the ground. Ed’s office was near the water front; and when Jeff came out he perceived the Viles yacht at her anchorage a little above the steamboat wharf. Jeff studied the craft for a while admiringly, and he wondered how much she had cost. “As much as my whole farm,” he guessed. “Or mebbe more.{80}”

Night was coming swiftly; the lights aboard the yacht were turned on while he stood there, and her portholes appeared like round and luminous eyes. He could dimly see a sailor or two, in oilskins, under the deck lamps. Rain was still falling, cold and implacable. “Guess the folks that live on her are keeping dry, inside,” he hazarded. He tried to picture to himself their manner of life, so different from his own, as he went back up the hill toward where he had left his car.

A farmer from Winterport, whom he had not seen for years, halted him on the corner above Dolph’s store, and they talked together for a space in the shelter of the entrance to the bank. A whistle down the harbor announced the coming of the Boston boat; and before they separated another whistle told of her departure. Then Jeff had trouble cranking his car. He had forgotten to cover the hood, and the ignition wires and plugs were wet. One cylinder caught at last; and then another; and finally all four. He had already loaded in his purchases on the floor and seat of the tonneau. The bag of feed lay along the seat.

The Winterport man had reported that the steamship line would make a new rate for apples by the barrel to Boston that fall; and Jeff decided to go down to the wharf and make inquiries. He parked his car on the edge of the wharf, in the lee of the freight sheds, and this time threw an old rubber blanket over the hood to keep the plugs dry, before turning toward the office. With the departure of the boat, business hereabouts was done for the day; and save for a{81} light in the office, and another on the pier toward shore, the wharf was dark. Jeff’s errand occupied some ten minutes’ time; and while he was inside a fiercer squall of rain burst over the harbor. He could hear the water drumming on the roof.

When the squall had passed he returned to his car and took the blanket off the hood and threw it into the dark cavern of the tonneau, then cranked the engine and turned around and started home. His lights, run from the magneto, were dim and uncertain; his attention was all upon the road. The car skidded and slid and slued and bumped; but it came to no disaster. He drove into his own barn toward seven o’clock in the evening, and left his purchases untouched while he went into the house to change into overalls, so that he might do his chores.

When he came back into the barn he saw someone standing motionless beside the machine. He lifted the lantern which he carried, so that its light flooded the still figure, and perceived that the person who stood there, facing him, was a woman.

II
This woman, in these surroundings, was an amazing apparition. Against the background of his old hayrick, still half full of hay, Jeff saw her outlined. She wore a sailor’s oilskin coat, buttoned about her throat; and beneath the skirts of the draggled coat he glimpsed slim silk-clad ankles and badly soiled white satin pumps. She{82} wore no hat; her hair was wet and all awry; and there was a thin streak of blood from a scratch upon her temple that had trickled down across the bridge of her nose in a slanting direction. Yet in spite of these difficulties he perceived that she was very beautiful.

At sight of her Jeff had stopped in his tracks and still stood motionless with surprise, the lantern in his lifted hand. The woman’s white fingers fumbled nervously at the fastenings of the oilskin coat she wore; she waited for a moment in silence; but when he did not speak she nodded in an uneasy little way and stammeringly said to him, “Good evening!” Her voice was full and throaty and pleasantly modulated.

Jeff replied, “Howdo!”

She began to speak very rapidly.

“You’re probably wondering how I came here. I was in your car. On the floor of the back seat. Almost crushed. That big bag fell off the seat on top of me when you hit that terrible bump. It banged my head down on a piece of iron. I’m afraid it has bled a little. I was almost smothered. The road was so rough.”

She was panting as though she had run a race; and Jeff watched her steadfastly for a moment, and then, for sheer relief from his astonishment, gripped the commonplace with both hands.

“You better come in the house and wash up,” he told her slowly, “and get warm. I guess you’re kind of wet.”

She nodded. “Yes. I’d like that. I’d like to do that.{83}”

He perceived that she was fighting for self-control, putting down the revolt of jangling nerves.

“Come through here, ma’am,” he bade her, and led the way through the woodshed and into the kitchen. There he set his lantern on the table and brought fresh water from the pump. “I’ve been away since morning,” he explained. “The water in the tank is cold. You want to wait till I heat some up?”

She shook her head. “This will do finely.”

He went through into the bedroom and returned with a heavy porcelain bowl, which he set in the sink, removing the granite-ware wash-basin. The woman had sunk down limply in a chair beside the table. Jeff, careful not to distress her by his scrutiny, unwrapped a fresh bar of soap, brought out a clean towel. Then with half a dozen motions he threw shavings and bits of kindling into the stove, touched a match to them, laid a stick or two of hardwood atop. “That’ll warm the kitchen up pretty quick,” he told her. He understood that she wished to be alone, yet was not sure what he should do. At last he said awkwardly, “I’ll be doing the chores,” and lighted a lamp for her, then took the lantern and departed through the shed again.

When he had gone only a few steps he stopped, considered, then returned and knocked upon the door through which he had come out. She bade him enter; and when he did so he found her on her feet, unfastening the long black coat.

“You could go into the bedroom,” he said tentatively.{84}

She shook her head, smiling gratefully. “I’m sure this is fine. But I would like a comb.”

“I’ll get my wife’s for you,” he replied; and brought it to her. Mrs. Ranney was a good housekeeper; the comb was as clean as new. “Would there be anything else?” he asked when she had thanked him for it.

“No. But you’re very kind to me.”

“I’ll get the chores done,” he replied uncomfortably, and this time departed in good earnest to the barn.

When he had fed and watered the stock, finding a relief in the familiar routine, he removed his purchases from the car. Saw where the woman had crouched on the floor. The rubber blanket which he had thrown in at the wharf must have fallen across her back; the heavy sack of feed might well have crushed her. “Lucky she wa’n’t worse hurt,” he told himself. He was full of speculations, full of questions, half dazed with wonder. Women of such a sort as this were as though they lived in another world. Yet she was in his kitchen now.

It was necessary for him to go back to the house to get the milking pails. Again he knocked upon the door, and the woman bade him come in. She had laid aside the oilskins; he was not able at once to understand just what it was she wore. A dress, but of a sort unfamiliar to his eyes. He had seen magazine pictures of such things. An evening gown, décolletté. Her hair was loose in a warm cloud about her smooth shoulders, and she was leaning above the stove.{85}

“I’m sorry,” she apologized, flushing with some confusion. “I’m trying to get it dry.”

He would have backed out of the kitchen. “I’m not in a hurry, ma’am.”

But she cried warmly, “No, no, it’s all right. Come in.”

“I come to get the milk pails,” he explained. “I scalded them out this morning.” He took them from the draining board at one end of the sink. “I’ll go milk now.”

She asked diffidently, “Can’t I be starting supper while you’re doing that?”

Jeff smiled faintly. “I’m used to cooking. I know where the things are.”

“I can cook,” she assured him. “What are we going to have for supper?” She was beginning to see some humor in the situation.

“Why I just figured to scramble some eggs, and make coffee,” Jeff confessed. “The things are in the pantry, in through the dining room,” he added.

“I’ll have supper all ready when you come back,” she promised.

He said reluctantly, “Well, all right,” and left her there.

When he returned, half an hour later, he found her, her hair in a loose braid, wearing one of his wife’s aprons, busy about the kitchen table. “I’ve everything ready,” she told him, “but I waited, so that things would be nice and hot.”

“I got to separate the milk first,” he explained.

She nodded and, while he performed that operation, busied herself with egg beater and mixing{86} bowl. He took the cream down cellar, set the skim milk in the shed for his hogs. When he had washed his hands and face she summoned him to supper in the dining room. She had made an omelet and toast, and her coffee was better than his. He ate with the silent intentness of a hungry man. Afterward she insisted on washing the dishes, while he read, fitfully enough, yet with an appearance of absorption, the paper that had been left that afternoon in the mail box before the door. There was something grotesquely domestic in the situation, and Jeff’s pulses were pounding with wonder at it all.

He had asked the woman no single question. There were a thousand questions he desired to ask, but an innate delicacy restrained him. The glamour of the hour had dazed this man; his senses were confused. There was an unreality about the whole experience. The dishes, rattling in the sink, sounded no differently than when his wife washed them. The illusion that it was his wife who had come home in this guise had for a moment dominion over him. The lines of newsprint staggered and swam before his inattentive eyes. He wondered, wondered, wondered. But he asked no question of his guest.

When she had finished her self-appointed task and come into the dining room where he was sitting she seemed to expect a catechism; but Jeff kept his eyes upon his paper, as a man clings to a safe anchorage, till at last she was forced to speak.

“I’ve been expecting you to question me,” she said uncertainly.{87}

Jeff looked up at her and then found some reassurance in the fact that the silence was thus broken. “I’ve been expecting you’d tell me without asking,” he said, smiling faintly at her.

“I ought to,” she nodded. “But there’s so much to tell; and it must sound so incredible to you. I hid in your car at the wharf, blindly, not knowing who you were. I had to get away; wanted to get away. Anywhere. To hide. For a little while. I can pay you.” She spoke uncertainly, unwilling to give offense.

Jeff shook his head good-humoredly. “I don’t run a boarding house, ma’am.”

“I have to find some place where I can stay.”

He was thoughtfully silent for a little, then asked, “How long?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps only a little while.”

“I guess you can stay here a while,” he said.

“You spoke of your wife?” she suggested.

“She’s visiting my daughter, over in Augusta,” Jeff explained. “Won’t be back for a week anyways. I reckon it’d be easier for you if she was here; but you’re welcome anyways.”

She looked down helplessly at the gown she wore. “It was a mad thing to do,” she whispered, half to herself. Jeff guessed what she was thinking.

“I reckon you could wear some of my wife’s things,” he suggested.

“Have you room for me?”

There were two bedrooms on the ground floor of the farmhouse; but he thought she would prefer a measure of isolation. “I can make the bed in the room upstairs,” he replied.{88}

“Won’t your neighbors be surprised that I am here?”

Jeff considered that for a long time in silence, till she began to be afraid the obstacle was insuperable. Then his eyes lighted with recollection, and he said slowly, “My brother moved to California and married there, and his girl has been talking about coming to see us. We can let on you’re her.”

She cried with sudden friendly warmth in her tones, “You’re ever so kind to me. I appreciate it. Your taking me in so unquestioningly.”

“That’s all right,” he told her.

“I’m going to take you at your word,” she exclaimed. “I’m going to stay.”

III
Jeff Ranney was a man habituated to routine; he fell naturally into a regular way of doing even irregular things. The next morning his life was on the surface as it had always been. He rose to his chores, returned to his breakfast, went into the woodlot and set about the task he had postponed the day before. The woman cooked breakfast and did the work about the kitchen that his wife might have done. It would have been easy for any outsider to accept as fact her pretended status as Jeff’s niece from California.

But Jeff was not deceived by the apparent normality of this new existence. The man was immensely curious about her, absorbed in the mystery which she personified. His thoughts all that day were full of conjectures, full of hypoth{89}eses, formed and as quickly thrown away. One guess he clung to as probable fact. It seemed to him certain she had come ashore from that yacht which he had seen lying in East Harbor the night before; had come ashore as one who flees. But to the questions who she might be and why she had fled, he found a thousand answers and accepted none of them.

The question of her identity was solved that night, for on the first page of his Boston paper a headline caught his eye. It read thus:

Millionaire Viles’
Wife is a Suicide
His eyes moved down the closely printed column, intent on each word. Save for journalistic padding the first paragraph told the story:

East Harbor, Me., Oct. 18—Lucia Viles, wife of Leander Viles, the millionaire banker, committed suicide here last night by drowning. She left the Viles’ yacht, which is anchored in the harbor, in a small rowboat, at a moment when a heavy squall of rain had driven the crew to shelter; and it is presumed that she threw herself into the water as soon as she had reached a sufficient distance so that she would not be seen. The tide was running out; and the rowboat was picked up by an incoming fisherman early this morning, down below the bell buoy, three miles from the yacht’s anchorage. The body has not been recovered. Mr. Viles, millionaire husband of the dead woman, said to-day that she had been subject to fits of melancholy for some time.

Jeff read this while his guest was washing the dishes after supper. She had thrown herself zealously into these household tasks, as though{90} her overstrained nerves found relief in them. When she came into the dining room afterward he laid the paper down in such a manner that she must see the headline which had caught his eye.

She did see it, caught up the paper, read hurriedly, looked up when she was done, to find him watching her.

“You’ve read it?” she asked. He nodded. “I didn’t think they’d have it in the papers,” she cried, as though appalled at what she had done.

“Guess you didn’t make your boat fast when you landed,” Jeff suggested.

She shook her head. “No. I pushed it off. I hoped they would think this.”

He studied her, surprised and thoughtful. “Won’t your husband be kind of worried about you?” he suggested mildly, and was startled at the fierce anger behind her reply.

“I want him to be worried! Oh, I want him to be tortured!” she cried, and became absorbed once more in that which was printed on the page before her. “The body has not been recovered,” she read aloud after a moment; and with a quick change of mood laughed at him, shuddering faintly. “It does give me a creepy feeling,” she said.

“I should think it might,” Jeff assented mildly. “Yes, I should think it would.”

She was wearing a gingham dress belonging to his wife, which he had found at her request. Now, sitting across the table from him, she began to tremble and to laugh in nervous bursts of sound.{91}

Jeff asked, “What’s the matter! What you laughing at?”

“I can’t stop,” she told him helplessly. “It just strikes me as funny. I can’t help laughing. If I didn’t laugh I should cry. They think I’m dead. Dead!” The word was high pitched, almost like a scream.

Jeff had seen feminine hysteria before; he said sternly, “You got to stop. Now you be still.”

The woman controlled herself at once, nodding reassuringly. “Yes, I’ll be still. I will be still,” she promised. “You won’t let them find me here, will you? You won’t let them know I’m here?”

“Andy Wattles stopped here this morning, in the truck,” Jeff answered. “I told him you’d come. He’d heard me say you was thinking of coming. It was safest to tell him.”

“But I wasn’t thinking of coming!” she cried, appalled.

“My brother’s girl from California was,” he reminded her; and she nodded over and over, as a child nods, to show her understanding and her acquiescence. Her trembling had ceased; her fright was passing. She went to bed at last, somewhat reassured.

But the paper next day, in even larger headlines, announced that doubt was cast upon the theory that she was a suicide.

“Mr. Viles,” the reporter wrote, “said to-day he thought it possible his wife might have become temporarily insane; that she was subject to hours of extreme nervous depression. It is known that she took a considerable sum of money from a safe in her cabin before she left{92} the yacht. It is possible that she went ashore upon some errand and was assaulted and robbed. The three possibilities which the police of East Harbor are considering are suicide, robbery and murder, or an insane flight.” Jeff smiled at the picture of Sam Gallop, the “police of East Harbor,” considering anything. “In order to enlist every possible helper in the search for the missing woman,” the reporter added, “Mr. Viles has offered a reward of a thousand dollars for her body or of ten thousand for information that will lead to her discovery alive.”

The woman, when she read this, shivered with dread. “They will find me,” she told Jeff wearily. “Oh, I hoped they would believe me dead.”

“I dunno as they’ll find you,” Jeff argued. “They’re not apt to look out this way. They’re more likely to think you headed for Boston or somewheres.”

“It’s hopeless,” she insisted. “I think you’d better go tell them where I am, and get the money. The ten thousand dollars. Some good will come out of it, that way. I’d like you to have the money. You’ve been kind to me.”

The man laughed reassuringly. “Shucks, ma’am,” he said. “What would I do with a lot of money like that? It’s no good except to buy things with, and I’ve got more things than I can take care of now. Don’t you fret yourself. They ain’t going to find you, ma’am.”

“Everyone knows I’m here. Those women who came to-day—” She moved her hands drearily. “Someone will tell.”

Jeff shook his head. “No, they won’t. That{93} was Will Bissell’s wife and Mrs. McAusland. They heard from the store that you was here; and they’d heard my wife say you was coming.”

“Oh, they must have seen that I was—” She paused, unwilling to hurt him.

“Different from us folks?” he asked, smiling at her understandingly. “Well, California folks are different from people around here. They’d have thought it was funny if you was like us.”

“And my wearing your wife’s dress.”

“I told ’em your trunk was lost. You had to have something to work around the house in.”

She was, in the end, unwillingly persuaded to a more hopeful point of view. But when she had gone up the stairs to her room Jeff sat for a long time, turning the newspaper in his hands, reading over and over that which was written there. She was so beautiful, so much more beautiful than anyone he had ever seen; and the gown she wore when she came to the farm had stamped itself upon his visual memory as a part of her beauty. That a reward of ten thousand dollars should have been offered for her discovery did not surprise Jeff; though it added to the glamour which cloaked her in his eyes.

“She’s worth more,” he told himself softly. “If she was mine I’d give a hundred times that much to get her back again.” And he thought of this husband of hers, whom she wished to torture, and wondered what he had done to her, and hated this man he had never seen because the woman hated him. “He’s not going to get her back,” Jeff swore in his thoughts. “If I can help her keep away from him he’ll not get her{94} again.” There was nothing possessive in the feeling which was awakening in him. His devotion to her was a completely unselfish force.

It was also the most powerful emotion Jeff had felt in all his fifty-seven years.

IV
Will Belter stopped at the farm next morning, and lingered, talking with Jeff, watching furtively for a glimpse of the woman; asked at last, point-blank, if it was true that Jeff’s niece had come to visit him. He and Jeff were on the porch, outside the kitchen door; and Jeff nodded and, raising his voice, called to the woman, who was inside. He called her by his niece’s name.

“Mary!”

She came slowly to the door, dreading this contact with a stranger.

“This here’s Will Belter, one of our neighbors,” Jeff said by way of introduction. “He lives up on the ridge beyond the village.”

Will, greedy eyes upon her, said, “Howdo, ma’am!”

The woman watched him through the screen door, and answered, “How do you do!”

He said no more, and after a moment she turned back into the obscurity of the kitchen.

Will told Jeff, “She’s older than I figured she’d be.”

“She looks older,” Jeff agreed. “That long train trip was pretty hard; and she was kind of sick.{95}”

“Ain’t but twenty-two or three, is she? I’d think she was thirty, anyway.”

“Twenty-four,” Jeff told him.

When Will presently went on his way Jeff watched his disappearing figure with stern eyes, and there was trouble in his countenance when he turned and saw the woman standing inside the screen door and also watching.

“Who was that?”

“I’d as soon he hadn’t come here,” Jeff confessed. “He’s a mean hound. A natural-born talebearer. Maybe we fooled him though.”

She made no comment, but both understood that her desire to remain hidden was imperiled by this man’s appearance. The shadow hung over them all that day. In the evening they read the paper together, found in it little that was new.

Afterwards the woman sat for a long time, thoughtfully silent, and at last said abruptly, “I think I’d better tell you why I ran away.”

Jeff looked across at her in surprise, hesitated. Then: “You needn’t, ’less you’re a mind to,” he assured her. “It don’t matter a bit in the world to me.”

“It is your right to know,” she decided. “And—I’d like to be able to talk about it with you. It would be a relief, I believe.”

Jeff nodded. “I expect that’s so,” he assented.

She took the paper from him, opened it to an inner page and pointed to a paragraph under a separate headline, beneath the story of her own disappearance.{96}

“You saw this about Mr. Viles’ secretary being arrested?” she asked.

Jeff looked at the paper. The paragraph recited the fact that after a preliminary hearing Franklin Gardner, secretary to Leander Viles, had been held for the grand jury on a charge of stealing gems belonging to the missing woman.

Ranney nodded. “I heard about his being arrested, in town that day,” he told her.

“That was why I had to run away!” she cried, a sudden passion in her tones. “That was why I had to get away. Because it was I who saw him take them, and if they made me tell he would have to go to jail.”

She was leaning across the table, resting on her elbows, her fingers twisting together; and she watched Jeff anxiously, hungrily, as though to be sure he understood.

Jeff considered what she had said for a moment, and at length asked slowly, “Saw him steal them?”

“It’s a necklace,” she explained desperately. “Pearls, and a pendant set with diamonds, very beautifully. Mr. Viles used to boast how much he paid for it. He was ever so proud of it, you see. He wanted to show it to a man who is on the yacht with him, and that’s why he asked me to go down to the cabin and get it from the safe.”

Jeff was trying to fill out the gaps in her story. “That’s when you found out the necklace was gone, eh?” he inquired.

She nodded. Her words came in a rush:

“I saw Mr. Gardner come out of my cabin door, with the leather case in his hand. He{97} dodged away; and I suppose he thought I had not seen him. And when I opened the little safe in my cabin the necklace was gone.”

Jeff grinned a little at that. “So your husband didn’t get to show it off, and brag about it, after all?”

His antipathy toward this husband of hers was increasing.

The woman shook her head. “I had to go back and tell him it was gone,” she assented. “And he went into one of his terrible rages. I was frightened. The doctors have warned him. So I tried to reassure him, told him that Mr. Gardner had the necklace.” Her hands were tightly clasped, the knuckles white. “Oh, I shouldn’t have let him know!” she cried wearily. “But I thought he must have asked Mr. Gardner to get it, must have given him the combination of the safe. Only he and I had it.”

Memories silenced her; and Jeff had to prompt her with a question: “But he hadn’t done that?”

“He hadn’t! He hadn’t!” she assented in a voice like a wail. “And when we tried to find Mr. Gardner he was gone. Gone off the yacht. Had run away. So then Mr. Viles went ashore himself, and by and by he came back, very well pleased, and said they had caught Mr. Gardner on the boat and had the necklace back again.”

“Did you run away right then?” he asked, when he saw she had forgotten to go on.

She hesitated, as though choosing her words.

“No,” she told him. “That was the day before. I was very unhappy even then. But until the next day I did not realize. Mr. Viles made{98} me see. It was just before dinner, and I met him in the main cabin. He was very expansive and very good-humored and triumphant. He spoke of Mr. Gardner. And he said this to me.”

She repeated the words in a curious, parrot-like tone, as though they were engraved upon her memory. “He said: ‘It’s lucky you saw him, Lucia. If you hadn’t actually seen him come out of your cabin with the necklace in his hands we probably couldn’t send him to jail, even now!’”

Jeff was watching her attentively, waiting.

“I hadn’t really understood, before, that they would send him to jail,” the woman cried. “I asked Mr. Viles if he meant to do that, and begged him not to; and he just laughed at me. He said: ‘He’ll do ten years for this little piece of work, Lucia. And you’ll be the one whose testimony will send him up. That ought to be a satisfaction to you.’”

She added, with a movement of her hands as though everything were explained, “So I ran away. There was a sailor who helped me and gave me his coat, and I ran away, and got in your car because it was raining so hard and that was the first place I saw where I could hide and be sheltered from the rain.”

She broke off abruptly; and neither of them spoke for a period, while Jeff considered that which she had told him.

At length he asked gently, “You didn’t want to see this here Gardner in jail?”

The woman cried passionately, “No! No! Oh, he was wrong to steal. If I had not seen him I{99} would never have believed—But I didn’t want to put him in jail!”

“I guess you liked him pretty well,” Jeff said. His tone was sympathetic, not inquisitive.

“Yes,” she nodded sadly, as though she spoke of one who were dead. “Yes, I did.” With a sudden confidence she added, “Why, he was my best friend. We knew each other so well. It was through him I met Mr. Viles. And then Frank had to go to Europe on business for Mr. Viles, and he was away so long, and I did not hear from him. I used to work, you know. I was a buyer in one of the New York stores. And Mr. Viles was ever so good to me, and I was tired, and he begged me so. That was how I came to marry him.”

“I don’t figure you ever loved him very much,” Jeff suggested after an interval.

“He was good to me at first,” she protested. “I think he meant to be good to me.”

Silence fell upon them both once more, and this time it persisted. By and by Jeff rose from his chair, passed behind hers and touched her shoulder roughly with his heavy hand.

“I wouldn’t worry too much,” he said cheerfully. “I wouldn’t worry too much if I was you.”

She looked up at him and smiled through sudden tears. “You’re good to me,” she told him.

“You run along to bed,” Jeff bade her. “Just forget your bothers and run along to bed.”

But when she had gone upstairs the man remained for a long time in his chair beside the warm lamp, thinking over what she had told him,{100} supplying for himself the things she had not told. Jeff had a shrewd common sense; he was able to fill in many of the gaps, to see the truths to which even Lucia was blind. And as he thought, his eyes clouded with slow anger and his brows drew somewhat together; and when he got up at last to turn toward his bedroom there was a ferocity in his expression that no one had ever seen on Jeff Ranney’s face in all his fifty-seven years. He spoke slowly, half aloud, addressing no one at all.

“Damn the man,” he muttered. “I’d like to bust him a good one. It’d do him good.”

Upon this wish, which had a solemnity about it almost like a prayer, Jeff went to bed.

V
Next morning, when Andy Wattles drove by the farm with Will Bissell’s truck on his way to East Harbor, Jeff saw that Andy had a passenger. Will Belter was riding to town with Andy. They hailed him as they passed the barn, and Andy waved a hand in greeting as they disappeared. Jeff’s perceptions were quick; it was no more than half a dozen seconds before he understood that there was menace in this move on Belter’s part. His first thought was to stop the man and bring him back, but the truck was already far away along the townward road. He shook his head; there was nothing he could do. If Belter meant harm the harm was done.

But the incident put Jeff on his guard, so that{101} he made it his business to stay about the house that day; and when, in the early afternoon, an automobile stopped in the road before the farm he saw it and was ready. He had given the woman no warning, but she heard the machine, and came to his side in the dining room and looked out through the window. Themselves hidden, they could see the car. Three men were in it—the chauffeur, Will Belter and another. Jeff knew this other man; it needed not the woman’s exclamation to inform him. Her husband had found her hiding place.

When Lucia saw him she sank weakly in a chair beside the table, said in a voice like a moan, “He’s found me! He’s found me!”

But for this crisis of his adventure Jeff was ready; he rose to meet the moment, gripped her shoulder.

“Just mind this,” he told her swiftly. “Keep your head, ma’am, and mind what I say. You don’t have to go back with him unless you want. He can’t make you, ha’n’t no legal way to make you; and if you don’t want to go you don’t have to go. I’ll see he don’t take you unless you say the word.”

She looked up at him in swift gratitude; and he smiled at her and asked, “Now can’t you take a little heart from that, ma’am?”

“He’s coming,” she whispered.

And Jeff looked through the window again and saw that Viles had left Belter and the chauffeur in the car he had hired in East Harbor. He himself came steadily toward the kitchen door, while the two other men watched him from the road.{102} Jeff and the woman heard his loud knock upon the door.

At this summons Jeff left her where she sat, her strength returning. He opened the kitchen door and faced the man he had learned to hate so blindingly that the passion intoxicated him. Yet his countenance was calm, his features all composed.

Viles was a large man without being fat; one of those men who have about them the apparent solidity of flesh which is the attribute of such dogs as Boston terriers. He may have been six feet tall, but he was inches broader across the shoulders than most men of his height. His countenance was peculiarly pink, as though rich blood coursed too near the surface of his skin. Jeff marked that he was subject to a certain shortness of breath, that his eyes were too small, and that even now a little pulse was beating in the man’s throat.

Yet Viles spoke in a smooth and pleasant voice, said a jovial good afternoon and asked if this was Jeff Ranney’s farm. Jeff said it was.

Viles asked, “Are you Ranney?”

“I’m Ranney,” Jeff assented. He had not asked the other to come in; the screen door still separated them.

“Ah,” said Viles. “I am told your niece from California is visiting you. I have a rather important bit of business to transact with her.”

Jeff shook his head. “She ain’t my niece,” he answered frankly. “She’s your wife, that had to run away from you.”

His voice was stony; but at his words Viles{103} moved backward a step, as though under the impact of a blow, and Jeff saw the swift rage mount his cheeks in a purple flood. Then the rich man laid his hand upon the screen door, opened it.

Jeff did not move to one side, and Viles said hoarsely, “Get out of my way, you impudent fool!”

Jeff shook his head. “Listen, mister,” he said softly. “This is my house. You can’t come in here on your own say-so. I’m not fooling with you either. If you want to come in, you ask.”

Viles lifted one clenched hand as though to sweep the other aside; and Jeff added, “I’ve heard enough about you so I’d like right well to mix it up with you a little bit—if you want to try anything like that. Do you?”

“I want to come in,” said Viles hoarsely.

Jeff considered this for a moment, then he spoke to the woman, over his shoulder. “Do you want to see him?” he asked her.

“I suppose so,” she told him wearily.

Jeff nodded. “All right, mister,” he said to Viles. “Come in and take a chair.”

Viles had somewhat recovered himself. He followed Jeff’s indifferent back into the dining room. The woman did not rise. Jeff set a chair across the table from her, and Viles sat down in it while Jeff himself crossed to shut the door that led into the parlor, then came back and leaned against the kitchen door, watching this husband and wife, waiting for what they would say.

Viles had drawn a velvet glove over the iron hand. He asked the woman gently, “Are you all{104} right, my dear?” She nodded. “You are well?”

“Yes,” she said slowly. “Yes, I am well.”

He looked toward Jeff. “Mrs. Viles is unfortunately subject to moments of great depression,” he explained courteously. “In these moments—” He stopped, arched his eyebrows meaningly, as though Jeff must understand.

“You mean she has crazy spells?” Jeff asked bluntly. Viles protested wordlessly. “She don’t act crazy to me,” Jeff commented. “But you may be right. She married you.”

He was seeking quite deliberately to goad the other man into violence, but Viles controlled himself, said across the table to his wife, “We have been greatly concerned, my dear.”

“I’m sorry,” she said unconvincingly.

“It is a relief to know that you have not suffered. That scratch across your temple—”

Lucia touched with her fingers the slight wound. “It is nothing.”

“You must have a good rest in bed when we get back to the yacht,” he told her. There was an elephantine sportiveness in the man’s demeanor. “I’m going to enjoy taking care of you.”

She was silent for a moment, then slowly shook her head. “I don’t think I’ll go back,” she told him. “I don’t think I’ll go back at all.”

He tried to laugh easily. “You’re fancying things, Lucia. It is your home. You belong there.”

She faced him with a moment of decision. “If you withdraw the charge against Frank I’ll go back with you, Leander.{105}”

“Withdraw it?” he asked in pretended astonishment.

“I can’t bear to have him go to jail,” she cried softly.

“But, my dear, the man’s a thief; has betrayed the trust I reposed in him.”

“I can’t help it. I can’t help it. I don’t want him to go to jail.”

Viles dropped his eyes to the oilcloth that covered the table and drummed upon it with his fingers for a moment, then turned to Jeff.

“I’d be obliged for a few moments’ talk with my wife alone,” he said, a sardonic note in his tone.

Jeff held his eyes for a minute, then looked toward the woman. “What shall I do, ma’am?” he asked, as though it were a matter of course that he should defer to her.

She made a weary gesture. “He has a right to that,” she said.

Jeff nodded. “I’ll come back in fifteen minutes, mister,” he told Viles menacingly.

But Viles smiled in affable assent. “That will do finely,” he agreed.

Jeff went out through the kitchen into the shed. When he was gone Viles rose and crossed to listen at the door, and heard Jeff go on into the barn. He returned to the dining room and stood above his wife, and when she did not move he gripped her chin harshly and turned her face up to his. No velvet glove upon the iron hand now. She winced a little with the pain, but made no sound. There was triumph and malice in his grin.{106}

“Thought you could get away with it, did you, Lucia?” he asked. She said nothing. “Thought I wouldn’t find you?” Still she made no sound. “Where’d you pick up this rural squire of yours?”

His tone was insult, and her continued silence seemed to anger him; he loosed her chin with a gesture as though he flung her aside; rounded the table again and sat down facing her and lighted a cigar, watching his wife through the smoke. For a long minute neither of them moved or spoke; then she lifted her head, very slowly, and met his eyes.

After an instant he laughed at her mockingly and leaned forward, gesturing with the cigar, dropping flecks of ash upon the oilcloth.

“Lucia, my dear,” he said, “you haven’t played fair with me. You and that tame cat of yours. And now I’m going to even the score. If you loved him you shouldn’t have married me. Or having married me you should have ceased to love him. Isn’t that a fair statement of the ethics of the case?”

“I didn’t know, Leander,” she said pitifully. “He had been so long away.”

“I sent him away,” the man admitted harshly. “I wanted a clear field, and got it and got you. Thought I was getting the whole of you. But when he came back I saw within six months’ time that it was only the husk of you I had won.”

“You’re unfair!” she cried. “Frank never spoke to me—there was never anything—”

“What do I care?” Viles demanded. “Don’t you suppose I know that? Don’t you suppose{107} I’ve seen to it that you were both pretty closely looked after? But you loved him, and he loved you. A blind man could see that whenever you were together.”

“I played fair with you,” his wife pleaded. “And he did too.”

“That’s because you were afraid to do anything else,” he assured her scornfully. “That’s because you’re weaklings. I’m not a weakling, my dear. In his place I’d have you. In my place I’ve evened the score—against both of you.”

She began to sense that there was something more, something she did not know. “What?” she asked faintly. “What have you done to him?”

He puffed at his cigar, relishing it, relishing the situation. “You two blind fools! Did you think I was also blind?”

She shook her head helplessly. “What are you trying to say?”

The man swung around for a moment to look toward the road and make sure the two men who had come with him were still in the car, then leaned across the table toward her, speaking softly.

“I gave Frank the combination of your safe,” he told her, grinning with delight in this moment of his triumph. “I told him to get the necklace, and take it to Boston. To have it restrung; a surprise for you. Told him not to let you see him, not to let you know. The poor fool believed me.”

She was staring at him, half understanding. “He didn’t steal it? He didn’t steal it, then?{108}”

“And the pretty part of it was the way I rang you in,” her husband assured her mockingly. “Sending you down to the cabin at a moment when I knew he would be there. So that you might catch him in the very doing of it. So that your own testimony, my dear, might send this sweetheart of yours to jail.” Her eyes widened, she was white as snow; and he threw back his head and laughed aloud. “Ah, you see it now?”

Lucia came swiftly to her feet. “He didn’t steal it? He didn’t steal it?” she cried. “Oh, he won’t have to go to jail!”

Her husband chuckled, watching her narrowly. “Not so quick on the trigger, Lucia. Not so fast. He’ll go to jail, right enough. Don’t worry about that. And you’ll send him there.”

“But he didn’t do it, Leander?” she urged pleadingly. “He’s not a thief at all!”

“Of course he isn’t,” Viles assented. “That’s the beauty of the little trap I laid.”

Flames were burning in her cheeks now; her head was high. “I won’t testify against him,” she said swiftly. “You can’t do it without me, and I won’t—”

“That was why you ran away?” he asked casually. “To avoid testifying? I thought as much.”

“I won’t go back!” she cried. “I’ll go away again!”

He smiled. “There were others who saw,” he told her mildly. “Do you suppose I would be content with so loose a plan? They saw him, as well as you. Saw you also.” He leaned toward her ferociously. “You’ll testify, and you’ll tell{109} the truth, or I’ll convict you of perjury on your own lie, my dear. He’ll go to jail certainly; and you also if you choose.”

The woman was very intent, her thoughts racing. And suddenly she laughed in his face. “And I’ll tell what you’ve just told me,” she reminded him. “How long will your scheme stand then?”

He shook his head. “Oh, no, you won’t, my dear.”

“I will.”

“There is,” he said equably, “a little provision in the law of evidence which will prevent you. A wife cannot testify to any private conversation between herself and her husband. Did you suppose I would be so mad as to let you slip out of this trap so easily? The judge himself will forbid your saying one word as to what I have told you here.”

She was trembling with despair. “I won’t obey him!” she cried. “I’ll tell anyway. The jurymen will believe me.”

“If you blurt out such a thing against the order of the court you will be jailed for contempt, and the jury will be forbidden to believe you, will be told to forget what you have said.” He shook his head mockingly. “No, Lucia, my dear, there’s no way out. I have told you this simply in order that you might appreciate the pains I have taken.” He laughed a little. “What a thoughtful husband you have!”

He was still sitting, watching her with a cruel satisfaction; but she was trembling, broken, her knees yielding beneath her. By littles she sank{110} into her chair, and put her head down upon her arms and wept bitterly.

Her husband watched her from across the table and puffed at his cigar.

Then Jeff Ranney opened the parlor door and came into the room. Viles, at the sound of the opening door, looked up in surprise, looked toward the kitchen through which Jeff had disappeared, looked at Jeff again.

“What were you doing there?” he demanded, coming to his feet in sudden anger.

“Listening to you talk,” said Jeff equably.

“Listening? How long?”

“Oh, I came right around the house and in the front door, soon as I went out the back. Heard all you said, I guess.”

Lucia had stopped crying; she lifted her head and dried her eyes and looked at Jeff. He looked down at her and smiled, a reassuring smile that gave her somehow comfort.

Viles swung toward him, cried aloud, “You dog! I’ll teach you manners!”

“Yes, sir,” said Jeff slowly. “I’d like right well to mix it up with you.”

Viles stopped in his tracks; the man was convulsed and shaking with his own ferocious rage. “But it ain’t fair to pick on you,” Jeff decided; “you’re such a fool.”

Lucia came to her feet, turned to Jeff appealingly. “You heard what he said?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Is it true? Can he do this? Is the law that way?”

{111}

Viles reached toward his wife, would have taken her arm. “Lucia!” he cried. “Come away from here. Come away from here with me.”

But Jeff put an arm between them, swept the big man back against the table. For an instant no one of them moved. Then Jeff said slowly, “I had a lawsuit once, so I happen to know. What he says is all right. On private conversations. But you see, this wa’n’t private. I heard.”

“You heard?” she whispered, not understanding.

Jeff nodded. “Sure. And I can tell anything I heard; and I guess—not sure, but it don’t matter much, anyhow—I guess you can tell it, too, if I heard what he said.”

He was looking down at her, had for the moment forgotten her husband. But Lucia had not forgotten, and it was Lucia’s cry that warned Jeff. Viles was tugging a pistol from his pocket.

Jeff swung his right leg upward, kicked cunningly at the big man’s hand. The pistol flew across the room; and Viles, roaring with pain, swung in at Jeff to grapple him. They came breast to breast, stood thus for an instant, each straining terribly, exerting utmost strength.

Then Viles’ big head drooped with a little snapping jerk as all his body let go; and he slid limply through Jeff’s arms to the floor. Jeff’s one great hour was done.

An hour later Jeff drove Lucia back to town. He would send a man who made such matters his profession, to care for what was left of Leander Viles.{112}

VI
A day or two later Mrs. Ranney came home from Augusta. By that time Jeff had settled into the old routine once more. His life had become again as uneventful as any life can be. Save for one or two echoes of his great adventure—when Lucia wrote that she and Gardner were to wed, and when their first baby was born—his existence continued in its old accustomed way. He lived some dozen years or so on his farm eight miles out of East Harbor. Last winter, while working in his woodlot, he became overheated and then chilled with the coming of night; and a few days later he died.{113}

MINE ENEMY’S DOG
I
FRATERNITY has not changed in a hundred years; yet is there always some new thing in Fraternity. It may be only that Lee Motley’s sow has killed her pigs, or that choleric Old Man Varney has larruped his thirty-year-old son with an ax helve, or that Jean Bubier has bought six yearling steers. But there is always some word of news, for the nightly interchange in Will Bissell’s store, before the stage comes in with the mail. You may see the men gather there, a little after milking time, coming from the clean, white houses that are strung like beads along the five roads which lead into the village. A muscular, competent lot of men in their comfortable, homely garments. And they sit about the stove, and talk, and smoke, and spit, and laugh at the tales that are told.

Fraternity lies in a country of little towns and villages, with curious names something more than a century old. Liberty is west of Fraternity, Union is to the southward, Freedom lies northwest. Well enough named, these villages, too. Life in them flows easily; there is no great striving after more things than one man can use. The men are content to get their gardening quickly done so that they may trail the brooks for trout;{114} they hurry with their winter’s wood to find free time for woodcock and partridge; and when the snow lies, they go into the woods with trap for mink or hound for fox.

Thirty years ago there were farms around Fraternity, and the land was clear; but young men have gone, and old men have died, and the birches and the alders and the pines have taken back the land. There are moose and deer in the swamps, and a wildcat or two, and up in Freedom a man killed a bear a year ago….

The hills brood over these villages, blue and deeper blue from range to farther range. There is a bold loveliness about the land. The forests, blotched darkly with evergreens, or lightly splattered with the gay tops of the birches, clothe the ridges in garments of somber beauty. Toward sunset a man may stand upon these hilltops and look westward into the purple of the hills and the crimson of the sky until his eyes are drunk with looking. Or in the dark shadows down along the river he may listen to the trembling silences until he hears his pulses pound. And now and then, with a sense of unreality, you will come upon a deer along some old wood road; or a rabbit will fluster from some bush and rise on haunches, twenty yards away.

The talk in Will Bissell’s store turns, night by night, upon these creatures of the woods that lie about the town; and by the same token the talk is filled with speech concerning dogs. The cult of the dog is strong in Fraternity. Every man has one dog, some have two. These, you will understand, are real dogs. No mongrels here; no{115} sneaking, hungry, yapping curs. Predominant, the English setter, gentlest and kindest and best-natured of all breeds; and, in second place, the lop-eared hounds. A rabbit hound here and there; but not many of these. Foxhounds more often. Awkward, low-bodied, heavy dogs that will nevertheless nose out a fox and push him hard for mile on mile. These are not such fox-hounds as run in packs for the sport of red-coated men. These are utilitarian dogs; their function is to keep the fox moving until the hunter can post himself for a shot. A fox skin is worth money; and cash money is scarce in Fraternity, as in all such little towns, and very hard to come by.

There are few sheep in Fraternity, so the dogs are free of that temptation; but there are deer. The deer is sacrosanct, to be taken only with rifle and ball, and by a woodcraft that bests the wild thing at its own game. No dog may justly chase a deer; and a dog so pursuing is outlawed and may legally be shot by any man. Men without conscience and dogs without honor will thus pursue the deer, in season and out; nevertheless, deer running is for the dogs of Fraternity the black and shameful crime.

They were talking dogs, on a certain night in late September, in Will Bissell’s store. A dozen men were there; most of them from the village itself, two or three from outlying farms. Jim and Bert Saladine, both keen hunters of the deer, who killed their legal quota year by year, leaned side by side against the candy counter, and Andy Wattles sold them licorice sticks. Lee Motley{116} had driven down from his farm above the Whitcher Swamp; and Jean Bubier had come in from the head of the Pond; and there was Gay Hunt; and there was George Freeland, and two or three besides. Proutt was one of these others, Proutt of South Fraternity, a farmer, a fox hunter, and a trainer of setter dogs. Finally, Nick Westley, a North Fraternity man, appointed within six months’ time to be game warden for the district; a gentle man, well liked in spite of his thankless job; a man with a sense of humor, a steady and persistent courage, and a kindly tongue.

This night, as it happened, was to be the beginning of the enmity between Proutt and Westley. One-sided at first, this ill feeling. Two-sided at the last, and bitter enough on either side. A strange thing, dramatic enough in its development, fit to be numbered among the old men’s tales that were told around the stove….

Proutt, the dog breaker, was a man who knew dogs. None denied him that. “Yes,” they would say; “Proutt’ll break a dog for you. And when he gits done with your dog, your dog’ll mind.” If you scented some reservation in word or tone, and asked a question, you got no explanation. But your informant might say casually: “Hepperton’s a good man with a dog, too. Over in Liberty. Gentles ’em.”

Persistent inquiry might have brought out the fact that Hepperton never whipped a dog; that Proutt knew no other method. Lee Motley, who loved dogs, used to tell an incident. “Went out with Proutt once,” he would explain. “After{117} woodcock, we was. He was breaking a two-year-old. Nice a dog as I ever see. First bird, she took a nice point; but she broke shot. He had him a rawhide strap; and he called her in and I never see a dog hurt worse. And after that he, couldn’t get her out from under his legs. Ain’t been out with him since. Not me.”

Proutt was not liked. He was a morose man, and severe, and known to nurse a grudge. But he turned out dogs which knew their business, and none denied him this. So had he his measure of respect; and his neighbors minded their own affairs and kept out of the man’s harsh path.

Curiously enough, though he trained setters, Proutt did not like them. He preferred the hound; and his own dog—a lop-eared brown-and-white named Dan—was his particular pride. This pride was like the pride of a new father; it showed itself in much talk of Dan’s deeds and Dan’s virtues, so that Fraternity’s ears were wearied with the name of Dan, and it was the fashion to grin in one’s sleeve at Proutt’s tales and to discredit them.

Proutt spoke, this night, of a day’s hunting of the winter before. How, coursing the woods, he had heard a hound’s bay far below him, and had taken post upon a ledge across which he thought the fox would come. “Dan ’uz with me,” he said, in his hoarse loud voice. “I says to Dan: ‘Set’ and he set on his ha’nches, right aside me, cocking his nose down where t’other dog was baying, waiting, wise as an owl.

“I had my old gun, with Number Threes in both bar’ls; and me and Dan stayed there, await{118}ing; and the baying come nearer all the time, till I see the fox would come acrost that ledge, sure.

“Cold it was. Wind ablowing, and the snow acutting past my ears. Not much snow on the ground; but it was froze hard as sand. I figured Dan’d get uneasy; but he never stirred. Set where I’d told him to set; and us awaiting.

“Time come, I see the fox, sneaking up the ledge at that long, easy lope o’ theirs. Dan see him too. His ears lifted and he looked my way. I says: ‘Set.’ And he let his ears down again, and stayed still. Fox come along, ’bout five rods below us. Crossed over there. So fur away I knowed I couldn’t drop him. Never pulled; and he never saw me; and old Dan set where he was. Never moved a mite.

“After a spell, Will Belter’s hound come past; and then come Will himself, cutting down from where he’d been waiting. Says: ‘See a fox go by?’ And I told him I did. He ast why I didn’t shoot; and I says the fox was too fur off. And he says: ‘Where was your dog?’ So I told him Dan was setting right by me.”

Proutt laughed harshly, and slapped a triumphant hand upon his knee. “Will wouldn’t believe me,” he declared, “till I showed him tracks, where he wuz, and where the fox went by.”

He looked around for their admiration; but no one spoke at all. Only one or two glanced sidewise at each other, and slowly grinned. The tale was all right, except for a thing or two. In the first place, Proutt was no man to let a fox go by, no matter how long the shot; and, in the second place, Dan was known to be a surly dog, not{119} overly obedient, unruly as his master. And, in the third place, this incident, thoroughly authenticated, had happened two years before to another man and another dog, as everyone in the store knew. Proutt had borrowed his tale from a source too close home….

So they knew he lied; but no one cared to tell him so. Only, after a little silence, Nick Westley, the game warden, said with a slow twinkle in his eye: “Proutt, that reminds me of a story my father used to tell.”

Proutt grunted something or other, disgusted with their lack of appreciation; and Westley took it for encouragement, and began to whittle slow, fine shavings from a sliver of pine which he held in hand, and told the tale.

 

“It was when he was younger,” he explained, “before he was married, while he still lived at home. But I’ve heard him tell the story many a time.

“My Uncle Jim was living then; and he and my father had a hound. Good dog he was, too. Good as Dan, I think, Proutt.

“Well, one winter morning, with six or eight inches of loose snow on the ground, they were working up some old wood in the shed; and they saw the old hound drift off into the pasture and up the hill. And after a spell they heard him yelling down by the river.

“Jim said to my father: ‘He’s got a fox.’ And father said: ‘Jim, let’s go get that fox.’ So they dropped their axes, and went in and got their guns, and they worked up through the pas{120}ture and over the hill till they located the dog’s noise, and they figured the fox would come up around the hill by a certain way; and so they posted themselves there, one on either side of the path they thought he would take. And set to waiting. And it was cold as could be, and cold waiting, and they stamped their feet a little, but they couldn’t move much for fear the fox would see them.

“So they were both well pleased when they saw the fox coming; and they both shot when he came in range, because they were cold and in a hurry and anxious to be done.

“Well, they shot into each other. Jim yelled: ‘Damn it, my legs are full of shot!’ And my father said: ‘Mine too, you clumsy coot!’ So they made remarks to each other for a spell; and then Jim said: ‘Well, anyway, there’s the fox; and I’m full of your shot, and I’m half froze. Let’s skin the darn critter and get home.’

“So father agreed; and they went at it. The old dog had come up by then, and was sitting there with an eye on the fox, as a dog will. And father took the front legs and Jim took the hind legs, and they worked fast. And they kept cussing their hurts, and the cold, and each other. But they slit the legs down, and skinned out the tail, and trimmed up the ears and all, knives flying. And when they got about done, Jim, he said:

“‘Look ahere, there’s not a bullet in this fox.’

“Well, they looked, and they couldn’t find a hole. Only there was a blue streak across the fox’s head where a bullet had gone. And that was queer enough, but father said: ‘I don’t give{121} a hoot. There’s bullets enough in me. Skin out his nose and let’s go.’

“So they cussed each other some more, and finished it up; and Jim, he heaved the carcass out into the brush, and father slung the skin over his shoulder, and they turned around to start home.

“Well, just about then the old dog let out behind them, and they whirled around. And father always used to say that, mad as they were at each other, they forgot all about it then; and they bust out laughing. He said you couldn’t blame them. He said you never saw anything funnier.

“You see, that fox was just stunned. The cold snow must have revived him. Because when my father and Uncle Jim looked around, that skinless fox was going up over the hill like a cat up a tree—and the old dog hot on his heels.”

 

The store rocked with their mirth as Westley stopped. Lee Motley roared, and the Saladines laughed in their silent fashion, and Will Bissell chuckled discreetly behind Proutt’s back. Westley himself displayed such surprise at their mirth that they laughed the more; and fat little Jean Bubier shook a finger at Proutt and cried:

“And that will put the bee to your Dan, M’sieu Proutt. That will hold your Dan for one leetle while, I t’ink.”

Proutt himself was brick-red with fury; and his eyes were black on Westley; but he pulled himself together, and he laughed … shortly.

His eyes did not leave Westley’s face. And Lee Motley found a chance to warn the warden a{122} little later. “It was a good joke,” he said. “You handed it to him right. But look out for the man, Westley. He’s mad.”

Westley, still smiling, was nevertheless faintly troubled. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I did it for a joke.”

“He can’t take a joke,” said Motley.

The warden nodded, considering. “I’ll tell you,” he told Motley. “I’ll square it with him.”

“If it was me,” Motley agreed, “I would.”

Westley did not like to make enemies. And there had been only the friendliest malice in his jest. He took his measures to soothe Proutt before they left the store that night.

Westley had a dog, a setter, clean-blooded, from one of the country’s finest kennels. A New York man who had shot woodcock with the warden the year before had sent the dog as a friendly gift, and Westley accepted it in the same spirit. In its second year and still untrained, it had nevertheless won Westley and won his wife and his children. They all loved the dog, as they loved each other….

Originally this dog had been called Rex. The Westleys changed this name to Reck, which may be short for Reckless, or may be a name by itself. At any rate, it pleased them, and it pleased the dog….

 

The dog was untrained, and Westley had no time for the arduous work of training. He had meant to send Reck, this fall, to Hepperton, in Liberty; but, to make his amends to Proutt, he{123} took the latter aside this night and asked Proutt to take the training of the dog.

On longer consideration, he might not have done this; but Westley was a man of impulse and, as has been said, he was anxious to keep Proutt as a friend. Nevertheless, he had no sooner asked Proutt to take the dog than he regretted it, and hoped Proutt would refuse. But the dog trainer only gave a moment to slow consideration, with downcast eyes.

Then he said huskily: “I charge fifty dollars.”

“Sure,” said Westley.

“He’s a well-blooded dog,” said Proutt. “I’ll come to-morrow and fetch him.”

And with no further word—they were outside the store—he drove away. Westley, watching him go, was filled with vague disquiet. He wished he might withdraw; he wished Proutt would change his mind; he wished the trainer might not come next day….

But Proutt did come, and Westley himself bade Reck into the trainer’s buggy and watched the dog ride away with wistful eyes turned backward.

Westley’s wife was more concerned than he; and he forgot his own anxiety in reassuring her.

II
There are a thousand methods for the training of a bird dog, and each man prefers his own. There are some dogs which need much training; there are others which require little or none.{124}

Reck was so nobly blooded that the instincts of his craft were deeply bedded in him. On his first day in the alder swamps with Proutt he proved himself to the full. Proutt was a dog beater, as all men know, but he did not beat dogs which obeyed him, and he did not beat Reck. This first day he was merely trying the dog.

Reck found a bird, and took stanch point, steady as a rock. It was not yet October, the season was not yet open; and so Proutt had no right to shoot. Nevertheless he did walk up this bird, and flushed it from where it lay six feet before Reck’s nose, and knocked it over before it topped the alders.

Reck stood at point till the bird rose; when its whistling wings lifted it, his nose followed it upward, followed its fall…. But he did not stir, did not break shot; and Proutt, watching, knew that this was indeed a dog.

When the bird had fallen, Proutt said softly: “Reck! Fetch dead bird.”

Now, this is in some measure the test of a setter. There are many setters which take a natural point and hold it; there are some few which are also natural retrievers, without training. Reck had been taught by Westley’s children to fetch sticks or rocks at command. He knew the word.

He went swiftly forward and brought the woodcock, scarce ruffled, and laid it in Proutt’s hand. And Proutt took the bird, and stood still, looking down at Reck with a darkly brooding face. Considering, weighing…. After a little he began to curse softly, under his breath; and he turned and stamped out of the alder run, and bade Reck{125} to heel, and went home. And Reck trotted at his heels, tongue out, panting happily….

There are many ways by which the Devil may come at a man. One of them is through hatred, and another way is to put a helpless thing in that man’s hands. If the good in him outweighs the bad, well enough; but if the evil has ascendancy, then that man is utterly lost and damned.

Proutt hated Westley; Proutt had in his hands Reck, a dog by Westley well-beloved. And Reck was pliant in Proutt’s hands, both because Proutt knew dogs and because Reck was by nature tractable, eager to please, anxious to do that which he was asked to do. The combination presented itself to Proutt full clearly, as he walked his homeward way that day, and it is to be supposed that he fought out what fight there was within himself, during that long walk, and through the evening that followed.

That Proutt had some battle with himself cannot be denied. No man sets out to destroy a soul without first overcoming the scruples which bind him; and there were scruples in Proutt. There must have been. He loved dogs, loved fine dogs, and Reck was fine. Yet the destruction of Reck’s honor and reputation and life—these were the ends which Proutt set himself to bring about—at what pain to his own heart no man may fully guess. It can only be known that in the end his hatred outweighed all else—that he threw himself into the thing he meant to do.

 

Reck, as has been shown, needed no training for his appointed work. Yet Proutt kept him,{126} labored with him daily, for close to four long weeks, as all Fraternity men knew. None saw that training. It was known that Proutt took Reck far over the Sheepscot Ridge, where farms were all deserted, and no man was like to come upon him. But he had done that with dogs before, for woodcock lay thick in Sheepscot Valley. Once or twice men heard the barking of a dog in that valley; and there was a measure of pain in the notes. And three times men met Proutt driving homeward, with Reck lying weary and subdued upon the floor of the buggy, scarce fit to lift his head. It was remarked that Proutt was more dour and morose than ever; and Lee Motley thought the man was aging….

 

One man only, and that man Jim Saladine, caught some inkling of that which was afoot. Jim was a deer hunter; and toward mid-October, with a shotgun under his arm for luck’s sake, but never a buckshot in his cartridge pocket, he went one day into the Sheepscot Valley to search out the land. Deer lay in the swamps there; and Jim sought to locate them against the coming season. He moved slowly and quietly, as his custom was; ears and eyes open. And he saw many things which another man would never have seen.

Two things he saw which had significance. Once, in a muddy patch along the Sheepscot’s brim, he came upon a deer’s track; and other tracks beside it. A man’s track, and a dog’s.

Jim studied these tracks. They were sadly muddled; and he could make little of them. But{127} he was sure of this much—that man and dog had been attentive to the tracks of the deer. And this stayed in Jim’s mind, because no dog in Fraternity has any business with the track of a deer, and no man may justly set a dog upon such track.

Later that day Jim was to find some explanation for what he had seen. Where Fuller’s brook comes into the Sheepscot, there lies an open meadow half a mile long, and half as broad; and near the lower end of the meadow half a dozen alders group about a lone tree in the open. Deer and moose, coming up the Sheepscot Valley, are like to cross the stream below and then traverse this meadow; and Jim Saladine stopped under cover at the meadow’s head—it was near dusk—to see what he should see.

He saw what you may see any day along the Sheepscot, and what, by the same token, you may go a weary year without seeing. He saw a deer, a proud buck, come up from the stream and follow the meadow toward where he lay. It passed the isolated alder clump, and something there gave it alarm; for Jim saw its head lift—saw then the quick leap and rush which carried the creature to cover and away….

Saw something else. Out from the alder clump burst a man, driving before him a dog. Dusk was falling, Jim could see their figures only dimly. But this much he saw. The man urged the dog after the deer, with waving arms; and the dog, ever looking backward shame-facedly, trotted slowly off upon the trail, the man still urging from behind.{128}

They slipped into the brush where the deer had gone, and Jim caught no further glimpse of them.

Now, Saladine was an honest man, who loved the deer he hunted; and he was angry. But he was also a just man; and he could not be sure whom he had seen. So it was that he kept a still tongue, and waited, and through the weeks that followed he watched, patiently enough, for what should come.

He meant, in that hour, to take a hand.

III
With a week of October left, Proutt took Reck home to Westley. Westley was not there, but Mrs. Westley marked Proutt’s lowering eye, and was frightened of the man, and told Westley so when he came. But Westley was well enough pleased to have Reck back again; and he bade her forget Proutt.

Proutt had been, thus far, somewhat favored by fortune. The business of his office had taken Westley away from Fraternity for two weeks at a time, so that Proutt had had full time to do with Reck as he chose. Fraternity knew nothing of what had happened, though Jim Saladine may have guessed. There was one night at Will’s store when Jim and Proutt were near fisticuffs. Proutt had brought Dan with him to the store; and Jim, studying the surly dog, asked:

“Dan ever notice a deer, Proutt?”

Proutt exclaimed profanely. “No,” he said.

“I was over in the Sheepscot, t’other day,{129}” said Jim evenly. “See tracks where a dog had been after a deer.”

“More like it was one of these setters,” Proutt declared, watching them all from beneath lowered lids. “They’ll kill a deer, or a sheep, give ’em a chance.”

“It was hound’s tracks,” Jim persisted mildly; and something in Jim’s tone, or in Proutt’s own heart, made the trainer boil into fury, so that he strode toward Saladine. But Will Bissell came between, and the matter passed.

Proutt, before this, had taken Reck home; and the Westleys made much of the dog. Reck had affable and endearing little tricks of his own. He had a way of giving welcome, drawing back his upper lip so that his teeth showed as though in a snarl, yet panting with dog laughter all the time; and he had a way of talking, with high whines of delight, or throaty growls that ran the scale. And he would lie beside Westley, or beside Westley’s wife, and paw at them until they held his paw in their hands, when he would go contentedly enough to sleep.

They thought the dog was unhappy when he came home to them. He had a slinking, shamed way about him. At first Westley supposed Proutt had whipped him; but Reck showed no fear of a whip in Westley’s hands. After two or three days this furtiveness passed away and Reck was the joyously affectionate creature he had always been. So the Westleys forgot his first attitude of guilt, and loved him ardently as men and women will love a dog.

Westley had opportunity for one day’s hunting{130} with him, and Reck never faltered at the task to which he had been born and bred.

He had one fault. Chained, he would bark at the least alarm, in a manner to wake the neighborhood. So Westley had never kept him chained. It was not the way of Fraternity to keep dogs in the house of nights; so Reck slept in the woodshed, and Westley knocked a plank loose and propped it, leaving Reck an easy avenue to go out or in. It was this custom of Westley’s which gave Proutt the chance for which he had laid his plans.

October had gone; November had come. This was in the days when woodcock might be shot in November if you could find them. But most men who went into the woods bore rifles; for it was open season for deer. Now and then you might hear the snapping crash of a thirty-thirty in Whitcher Swamp, or at one of the crossings, or—if you went so far—in the alder vales along the Sheepscot. And one day in the middle of the month, when the ground was frozen hard, Proutt came to Nick Westley’s home.

He came at noon, driving his old buggy. Westley was at dinner when he heard Proutt drive into the yard; and he went to the door and bade the dog trainer come in. But Proutt shook his head, and his eyes were somber.

“You come out, Westley,” he said. “I’ve a word for you.”

There was something in Proutt’s tone which disturbed Westley. He put on his mackinaw, and drew his cap down about his ears, and went out into the yard. Reck had been asleep on the{131} doorstep when Proutt appeared; he had barked a single bark. But now he was gone into the shed, out of sight; and when Westley came near Proutt’s buggy, the dog trainer asked:

“Did you see Reck sneak away?”

Westley was angry; and he was also shaken by a sudden tremor of alarm. He said hotly enough: “Reck never sneaks. He did not sneak away.”

“He knows I saw him,” said Proutt. “He heard me yell.”

Westley asked, with narrowing eyes: “What are you talking about? Where did you see him?”

“This morning,” Proutt declared. “Scant daylight. Down in the Swamp.”

Westley stood very still, trying to remember whether he had seen Reck early that morning. And he could only remember, with a shocking certainty, that Reck had not been at home when he came out of the house to do his chores. He had called and got no answer; and it may have been half an hour before the dog appeared. It had disturbed Westley at the time; and he scolded Reck for self-hunting. But any dog will range the home farm in the morning hours, and Westley had not taken the matter seriously.

Proutt’s words, and his tone more than his words, made the matter very serious indeed. Westley forced himself to ask: “What were you doing in the Swamp?”

“I was after a deer,” said Proutt; and when Westley remained silent, Proutt added huskily: “So was Reck.”

Westley cried: “That’s a lie.” But his own voice sounded strange and unnatural in his ears.{132} He would not believe. Yet he knew that other dogs had chased deer in the past, and would again. He had himself shot half a dozen. It was the law; and he was the instrument of the law. And this was the very bitterness of Proutt’s accusation; for if it were true, then he must shoot Reck. And Westley would as soon have shot one of his own blood as the dog he loved.

In the little instant of silence that followed upon his word, he saw all this, too clearly. And in spite of his love for Reck, and in spite of his ardent longing to believe that Proutt had lied, he feared desperately that the man spoke truth. Westley’s wife would never have believed; for a woman refuses to believe any evil of those she loves. She is loyal by refusing to believe; a man may believe and be loyal still.

Westley did not know whether to believe or not; but he knew that he was terribly afraid. He told Proutt: “That’s a lie!” And Proutt, after a long moment, clucked to his horse and started on. Westley called after him: “Wait!”

Proutt stopped his horse; and Westley asked: “What are you going to do?”

“You’re game warden,” Proutt told him sullenly. “Nobody around here can make you do anything, less’n you’re a mind to. But I’ve told you what’s going on.”

Westley was sweating in the cold, and said pitifully: “Proutt, are you sure?”

“Yes,” said Proutt; and Westley cried: “What did you see?”

“I had a deer marked,” said Proutt slowly. “He’d been feeding under an old apple tree{133} down there. I was there before day this morning, figuring to get a shot at him. Crep’ in quiet. Come day, I couldn’t see him. But after a spell I heard a smashing in the brush, and he come out through an open, and was away before I could shoot. And hot after him came Reck.”

“How far away?” Westley asked.

“Not more’n ten rod.”

“You couldn’t be sure.”

“Damn it, man, I know Reck. Besides, I wouldn’t want to say it was him, would I? He’s a grand dog.”

“What did you do?” Westley asked.

“Yelled at him to come in.”

“Did he stop?”

“Stopped for one look, and then one jump into the brush and away he went.”

Westley was almost convinced; he turned to call Reck, with some curious and half-formed notion that he might catechize the dog himself. But when he turned, he found Reck at his side; and the setter was standing steadily, legs stiff and proud like a dog on show, eyes fixed on Proutt. There was no guilt in his attitude; nor was there accusation. There was only steady pride and self-respect; and Westley, at sight of him, could not believe this damning thing.

He said slowly: “Look at him, Proutt. If this were true, he’d be ashamed, and crawling. You saw some other dog.”

Proutt shook his head. “He’s a wise, bold dog, is Reck. Wise as you and me. He’ll face it out if he can.”

Westley pulled himself together, dropping one{134} hand on Reck’s head. “I don’t believe it, Proutt,” he said. “But I’m going to make sure.”

“I am sure,” said Proutt. “You can do as you please. But don’t ask me to keep my mouth shut. You was quick enough to shoot Jackson’s dog when you caught her on that doe.”

“I know,” said Westley; and his face was white. “I’ll be as quick with Reck, when I’m sure.”

“You’ll take pains not to get sure.”

Westley held his voice steady. “Did you ever have to call Reck off deer tracks?”

“No.”

“Then he’s never been taught not to run them?”

“Neither had Jackson’s dog.”

“What I mean,” said Westley, “is this. He doesn’t know it’s wrong to run deer.”

“That’s no excuse.”

“I’m not excusing him.”

Proutt swore. “Well, what are you doing?”

“I’m going to take him into the swamp and find a deer,” said Westley slowly. “See what he does. He’s never been taught not to run them. So he’ll run any that we find. If it’s in him to do it, he’ll take after them—”

Proutt nodded; and there was a certain triumph in his eyes. “You take your gun along,” he said. “You’re going to need that gun.”

Westley, white and steady, said: “I’ll take the gun. Will you come along?”

“Sure.”

“Do you know where we can find a deer?{135}”

“No; not this time o’ day.”

Westley turned toward the house. “Wait,” he said. “I’ll get my gun; and we’ll go pick up Jim Saladine. He’ll know.”

Proutt nodded. “I’ll wait,” he agreed.

Westley went into the house. Reck stood on the doorstep. Proutt, waiting, watched Reck with a flickering, deadly light in his sullen eyes.

IV
Saladine listened silently to Westley’s request; but he looked at Proutt with an eye before which Proutt uneasily turned away his head. Nevertheless, being by nature a taciturn man, he made no comment or suggestion. He only said: “I can find a deer.”

“Where?” Westley asked.

“Over in the Sheepscot,” said Saladine. “I’ve got mine for this season; but I know some hardwood ridges over there where they’re like to be feeding, come evening.”

Proutt said uneasily: “Hell, there’s a deer nearer than Sheepscot.”

“Where?” Westley asked.

“Everywhere.”

“We ain’t got time to cover that much territory to-day,” the hunter said mildly. “If the Sheepscot suits, I’ll go along. I’m most sure well pick up deer.”

Westley asked: “Do you think I’m testing Reck fair?”

Saladine spat. “Yes, I’d say so,” he agreed.{136}

“I’ve got work to do,” Proutt still objected. “Sheepscot’s a danged long way.”

“I want you to come,” said Westley.

So Proutt assented at last; and they set off in his team. He and Westley in the front seat, Saladine and Reck behind. A five-mile drive over the Sheepscot Ridge. “Past Mac’s Corner,” Saladine told them; and they went that way.

The road took them by Proutt’s house; and old Dan, Proutt’s hound, came out to bark at them, and saw Proutt, and tried to get into the buggy. Proutt bade him back to the house; then, as an afterthought, got out and shut the hound indoors. “Don’t want him following,” he said.

Saladine’s eyes were narrow with thought, but he made no comment, and they moved on their way.

That part of Maine in which Fraternity lies is a curious study for geologists. A good many centuries ago, when the great glaciers graved this land, they slid down from north to south into the sea, and in their sliding plowed deep furrows, so that the country is cut up by ridges, running almost true north and south, and ending in peninsulas with bays between. Thus the coast line is jagged as a saw.

These ridges run far up into the State; and the Sheepscot Ridge is as bold as any one of them. There is no break in it; and it herds the little waterways down into Sheepscot River, and guides the river itself south till it meets the sea. There are trout in Sheepscot; and thirty years ago the valley was full of farms and mills; but{137} these farms are for the most part deserted now, and the mills are gone, leaving only shattered dams to mark the spots where they stood. The valley is a tangle of second-growth timber, broken here and there by ancient meadows through which brooks meander. Here dwells every wild thing that the region knows.

Proutt’s old buggy climbed the long road up the eastern slope of the ridge; and the somber beauty of the countryside lay outspread behind them. The sun was falling lower; the shadows were lengthening; and a cold wind blew across the land. Across George’s Valley and George’s Lake lay the lower hills, the Appleton Ridge beyond, and far southeast the higher domes of Megunticook and the Camden Hills. The bay itself could not be seen, but the dark top of Blue Hill showed, twenty miles beyond the bay; and Mount Desert, ten miles farther still….

The men had no eyes for these beauties. They rode in silence, watching the road ahead. And they passed through Liberty, and past Mac’s Corner, and so up to top the ridge at last. Paused there to breathe Proutt’s horse.

 

Back at Proutt’s home, about the time they were in Liberty, some one had opened the door of the shed in which old Dan was locked; and the hound, watching his chance, scuttled out into the open. What well-founded habit prompted him can only be guessed; certain it is that he wheeled, never heeding the calls from behind him, and took the road by which Proutt had gone, hard on his master’s trail.{138}

If the dog trainer had known this, matters might have turned out differently. But Proutt could not know.

V
The roads from Sheepscot Ridge down into Sheepscot Valley are for the most part rough and little used. An occasional farmer comes this way; an occasional fisherman drops from the steep descent to the bridge. But the frost has thrown boulders up across the road; and grass grows between the ruts, and the young hardwood crowds close on either side. Down this road, at Saladine’s direction, Proutt turned; and the westering sun shone through the leafless branches and laid a bright mosaic before the feet of the horse.

Halfway down the hill Saladine spoke. “Let’s light out,” he said. “We’ll find something up along this slope.”

Westley nodded; and Proutt, after a moment’s hesitation, stopped his horse. They got out, and Reck danced about their feet. Proutt tied the horse to a sapling beside the road; and they climbed the ruined stone wall and turned into the wood. Westley alone had a gun; the others were unarmed.

The course Saladine set for them was straight along the slope, moving neither up nor down; and the three men, accustomed to the woods, went quickly. Westley spoke to Reck now and then. His only word was the hunter’s command. “Get in there,” he said. “Get in. Go on.” And{139} Reck ranged forward, and up, and down, covering a front of half a dozen rods as they advanced. Westley was in the middle, Saladine was below, Proutt above the other two.

Westley had suggested putting his hunting bell on Reck; but Proutt negatived that with a caustic word. “He’d know, then, you wanted birds,” he said. “And, anyways, it’d scare the deer.” So they followed the dog by sight or by the stirring of his feet among the leaves; and at times he was well ahead of them, and at times when he moved more slowly they were close upon his heels. At such moments Westley held them back till Reck should work ahead.

Whether Reck had any knowledge of what was in their minds, no man can say. There were moments when they saw he was uncertain, when he turned to look inquiringly back at them. But for the most part he worked steadily back and forth as a good dog will, quartering the ground by inches. And always he progressed along the ridge, and always they followed him. And Saladine, down the slope, watched Proutt as they moved on.

No man spoke, save that Westley urged Reck softly on when the dog turned back to look at them. And at the last, when he saw that Reck had found game, it needed no word to bring the three together, two or three rods behind the dog.

Reck, as the gunners say, was “marking game.” Nose down, he moved forward, foot by foot; and now and then he stopped for long seconds motionless, as though at point; but always he moved forward again. And Westley felt the cold sweat upon his forehead; and he looked at Proutt and saw{140} the dog trainer licking his tight lips. Only Saladine kept a steady eye upon the dog and searched the thickets ahead.

After a rod or two Reck stopped, and this time he did not move. And Westley whispered to the others: “Walk it up, whatever it is. Move in.” So the men went slowly forward, eyes aching with the strain of staring into the shadows of the wood.

When Reck took his point he was well ahead of them. He held it while they came up beside him; and then, as they passed where the dog stood, something plunged in the brush ahead, and they all saw the swift flash of brown and the bobbing white tail as a buck deer drove straight away from them along the slope. And Proutt cried triumphantly:

“A deer, by God! I said it. I told you so. Shoot, Westley. Damn you, shoot!”

Westley stood still as still, and his heart was sunk a hundred fathoms deep. His hand was shaking and his eyes were blurred with tears. For Reck, who had no rightful concern with anything that roved the woods save the creatures which go on the wing, had marked a deer. Enough to damn him! Had hunted deer!…

He tried to lift the gun, but Saladine spoke sharply. “Hold on. Look at the dog. He didn’t chase the deer.”

Westley realized then that Reck was, in fact, still marking game, moving slowly on ahead of them. But Proutt cried: “He’d smelled it; he didn’t see it go. Or there’s another ahead.”

“He didn’t chase the deer,” said Saladine. Westley, without speaking, moved forward be{141}hind the dog. And of a second his heart could beat again.

For they came to where the buck had been lying, to his bed, still warm. And Reck passed over this warm bed, where the deer scent was so strong the men could almost catch it themselves; passed over this scent as though it did not exist, and swung, beyond, to the right, and up the slope. The buck had gone forward and down.

“He’s not after deer,” said Saladine.

They knew what he was after in the next instant; for wings drummed ahead of them, and four partridges got up, huge, fleeting shadows in the darkening woods. And Reck’s nose followed them in flight till they were gone, then swung back to Westley, wrinkling curiously, as though he asked:

“Why did you not shoot?”

Westley went down on his knees and put his arms about the dog’s neck; and then he came to his feet uncertainly as Proutt exclaimed: “Hell, he was after deer. He knew we were watching. Took the birds.”

Westley tried to find a word, but Saladine, that silent man, stepped forward.

“Westley,” he said, “wait a minute. You, Proutt, be still.”

They looked at him uncertainly, Proutt growling. And Saladine spat on the ground as though he tasted the unclean. “I’ve kept my mouth shut. Wanted to see. Meant to tell it in the end. Westley, Proutt broke your dog.”

Westley nodded. “Yes.” He looked at Proutt.

“He broke him to run deer.{142}”

Westley began to tremble, and he could not take his eyes from Saladine; and Proutt broke out in a roaring oath, till Saladine turned slowly upon him.

The deer hunter went on: “I waited to see. I knowed what would come; but I wanted to see. A bird dog’s bred to birds. If he’s bred right, it’s in him. Reck’s bred right. You can make him run deer. Proutt did. But you can’t make him like it. Birds is his meat. You saw that just now. He didn’t pay any heed to that buck; but he did pay heed to the pa’tridge.”

Proutt cried: “Damn you, Saladine, you can’t say a thing like that.”

Saladine cut in: “I saw you. Month ago. Down by Fuller’s Brook. A deer crossed there, up into the meadow. You was in the alders with Reck, and you tried to set him on. He wouldn’t run, and you drove him. I saw you, Proutt.”

Westley looked down at Reck; and he looked at Proutt, the trainer; and he looked back at Reck again. There was something in Reck’s eyes which made him hot and angry; there was a pleading something in Reck’s slowly wagging tail…. And Westley turned to Proutt, cool enough now; and he said:

“I can see it now, Proutt. I’ve known there was something, felt there was something.” He laughed joyously. “Why, Proutt, you man who knows dogs. Didn’t you know you could not kill the soul and the honor of a dog like mine? Reck is a thoroughbred. He knows his work. And you—”

He moved a little toward the other. “Proutt,{143}” he said, “I’m going to lick you till you can’t stand.”

Proutt’s big head lowered between his shoulders. “So—” he said.

And Westley stepped toward him.

Saladine said nothing; Reck did not stir; and the woods about them were as still as still. It was in this silence, before a blow could be struck, that they heard the sound of running feet in the timber above them; and Saladine said swiftly: “Deer!”

He moved, with the word, half a dozen paces back by the way they had come, to an old wood road they had crossed, and stood there, looking up the slope. Westley and Proutt forgot each other and followed him; and Reck stayed close at Westley’s heel. They could hear the beating feet more plainly now; and Saladine muttered:

“Scared. Something chasing it.”

On the word, abruptly startling them, the deer came into view—a doe, running swiftly and unwearied. Striking the wood road, the creature followed the easier going, down the slope toward them; and because they were so still it failed to discover the men till it was scarce two rods away. Sighting them then, the doe stopped an instant, then lightly leaped into the brush at one side, and was gone.

The men did not look after the deer; they waited to see what pursued it. And after a moment Saladine’s face grimly hardened, and Westley’s became somber and grave, and Proutt turned pale as ashes.

For, lumbering down the hill upon the dee{144}r’s hot trail, came Dan, that hound which Proutt had shut away at home—came Dan, hot on the trail as Proutt had taught him.

The dog saw them, as the deer had done, and would have swung aside. But Proutt cried, in a broken voice: “Dan, come in.”

So came the hound to heel, sullenly and slowly, eyes off into the wood where the doe had gone; and for a moment no one spoke, till Saladine slowly drawled:

“Westley, give Proutt your gun.”

Westley did not speak. He was immensely sorry for Proutt, and all his anger at the man had gone. Proutt looked old, and shaken, and weary; and he had dropped his heavy hand across Dan’s neck. He caught Westley’s eye and said harshly: “To hell with your gun. I’ll use my own.”

An instant more they stood; then Westley turned to Saladine. “Jim, let’s go,” he said. And Saladine nodded, and they moved away, Reck at Westley’s heels. After a moment, an odd panic in his voice, Proutt called after them: “Wait, I’ll ride you home.”

But Saladine answered: “I’ll walk!” And Westley did not speak at all. He and Reck and the deer hunter went steadily upon their way.

The sun was setting; and dark shadows filtered through the trees to hide old Proutt where he still stood close beside his dog.{145}

“JESHURUN WAXED FAT”
I
IT was an evening at Chet McAusland’s farm, on the hill above Fraternity. Chet and I had been all day in the woodcock covers with the dogs, Reck and Frenchy, and with the ghost of old Tantrybogus going on before us. We had come home to a heaping supper of fried woodcock, boiled potatoes, sweet salt pork, squash, doughnuts, cheese, and Mrs. McAusland’s incomparable biscuits, with pie to follow after. When Chet’s chores were done, we went down to Will Bissell’s store to brag about our day’s bag and get the mail; and now we were at home again, and Chet, to confirm his recollection in connection with an ancient catch of trout of which he spoke, brought from the desk in the front room an old leather-backed account-book and conned its yellowing pages.

When he had found that which he sought, he laid the book down between us, and as he talked, I picked it up and looked it through, idly. The covers were worn and ragged with age, and there was a flap upon the one that entered a slit upon the other, holding the book securely closed. The pages were filled with entries in pencil or in pen, and some of these were concerned with matters of business concluded twenty years before; and{146} some recorded the results of days with rod or gun; while here and there, dropped at random, were paragraphs or pages devoted to casual incidents that had struck Chet’s fancy through a space of forty years. On one such series I chanced, and read the entries through, first to myself, and then, with some amusement, aloud. They ran in this wise:

June 6, 1883. Jed was taken sick to-day with a pain in his stomach. He seems very weak. The old man won’t last long.

March, 1887. The old man’s stomach is bothering him again. He has to stay in bed right along.

September 2, 1892. Abbie Grant says Uncle Jed’s pain is worse. He’s not long for this world.

July, 1895. That pain in Uncle Jed’s insides still hangs on. It will be the death of him.

August 2, 1898. Deborah Grant was here to-day. The old man still breathes.

May, 1900. Uncle Jed is still alive and kicking.

When I had finished reading these items aloud, Chet drew his chin back against his neck and laughed with that robust vigor which is characteristic of him; and I, without at all understanding the jest, nevertheless laughed in sympathy.

“But it seems to me,” I suggested, “that the record ends here a bit abruptly. What happened to the old man, anyway?”

“That was old Uncle Jed Grant,” Chet told me, tears of mirth in his eyes. “I could tell you things about Uncle Jed that ’u’d surprise you.”

Mrs. McAusland called from the kitchen to warn me that if I didn’t look out I’d get Chet started; but I reassured her, and bade Chet tell{147} on. That which follows is the substance of his telling.

II
This Jedidiah Grant, so Chet assured me, was by all odds the meanest man that ever dwelt in Fraternity, where to be mean and to be miserly are synonymous.

“Why,” said Chet, “he was so mean he wouldn’t let you see him laugh; fear it ’u’d tickle you.” And he began to chuckle at some recollection, so that it was necessary to spur him before he would go on.

“I was thinking,” he explained, “of the time Jed went down to Boston. Went to turn some gold into greenbacks. This was after the war, when the greenbacks was ’way down. Jed had made some money boot-legging in Bangor, and he see a chance to make some more. Trip didn’t cost him a thing, because a couple of Boston men asked him to come down.”

He had met these men in Bangor, it appeared.

“They ’lowed I uz a side-show,” Jed told Chet. “I knowed they thought so, but long as they paid my way, I didn’t mind. Went along down and did my business at the bank. Then they took me to supper at a tavern and tried to git me drunk; got drunk theirselves. Then we went to a show. Say, Chet, they was the funniest man in that show I ever see. I set between these two, and they kep’ a-looking at me, and I was like to bust, I wanted to laugh so bad. I never did see such a funny man. But I didn’t much as grin; it near killed me. Say, when I got{148} into bed that night, I like’ to died laughing, just thinking about him. But they didn’t know that.”

“I asked him,” Chet explained, “why he didn’t want to laugh in the theater, and he says, ‘I wouldn’t give them two that much satisfaction.’ So he saved it up till he got alone. That’s how mean he was.”

This man had been born in Fraternity, and his brother Nehemiah and his sisters Abigail and Deborah always lived in the town. No one of them was ever to marry. They were dwelling together in the house where their father and mother had lived when Jed came back to Fraternity and settled down to a business in usury, lending out money on iron-clad notes, and collecting on the nail. He was a timorous man, forever fearful lest by force or by stealth he be robbed of the tin box of paper that represented his fortune; therefore he hid the box ingeniously, sharing the secret with no living man.

Jed was already old, and his sixtieth birthday came in 1881. He had bought a little hillside farm, where he lived alone; but in that year his loneliness became oppressive to him, and he sought out his brother ’Miah with a proposal that he had carefully planned.

Before ’Miah’s eyes old Jed spread out all the kingdoms of the world. That is to say, he showed his brother the tin box of notes, showed all his wealth to the other man. He was worth at this time twenty thousand dollars, a fortune in Fraternity.

“It’s this a-way, ’Miah,” he explained. “I’m a-getting old, and mighty feeble sometimes. Ca{149}n’t do for myself like I used. I could hire somebody to take care of me, but that don’t look just right. Seems like what I got ought to stay in the family, ’Miah. Don’t it look that way to you?”

It did. ’Miah had no love for his brother; there was no basis for any such love, since Jed had gouged him as hungrily as he had gouged other men. Nevertheless, there was in Jed’s money a powerful conciliatory factor, and ’Miah, though weaker, was as avaricious as the older man. He asked:

“What are you heading at, anyway?”

“This here, ’Miah,” Jed replied. “You come on over here and fix to live with me and look out for me. You’re younger than I be, and I ain’t a well man, anyway. You do for me long as I live, and I’ll fix it so you heir my prop’ty. Ain’t that a right fair thing?”

’Miah did not consider over-long. The duties proposed to him were burdensome, but the rewards were proportionately great. He did insist on a formal will, which Jed drew and signed and delivered into ’Miah’s custody. Thereafter the younger brother moved from the home farm, leaving the sisters to dwell there alone with a hired man for help, and came to live with the old miser.

Jed began almost at once to prosper on this care. He contributed to the support of the household nothing whatever.

“’Tain’t in the bargain,” he insisted when ’Miah complained. “And, besides,” he added, “all I got is a-going to come to you.” He contributed nothing, yet demanded everything: vic{150}tuals of his choice and plenty of them, the daily paper to read, and a regular allowance of gin. He demanded these things, and got them. Passers used to see him sitting in the sun before the house door, as slothful as a serpent, his little black eyes twisting this way and that in a beady fashion that completed the likeness. He had been spare and thin; he began to put on flesh. But as the angles of his frame became more rounded, the edges of his tongue became keener, and he cut ’Miah with sharp words day by day.

’Miah was a spineless man; nevertheless the hour came when he rebelled. It is impossible to say how this ultimate dissension was begun; the sources of such quarrels are often lost in the flood of recriminations which arise from them. ’Miah, in a futile, shrill-voiced manner, lost his temper, but Jed did not. The older man goaded the other with edged words, observing with malign amusement his brother’s rising anger, till ’Miah suddenly became silent, turned away, and without word began to gather his few belongings. Jed, having watched him for a time, asked:

“What you a-doing, ’Miah?”

“I got enough of you,” ’Miah told him, sullenly. “I’m going back home.”

Persisting in a stubborn silence, he continued his preparations all that morning; and Jed, at first jeering and incredulous, was forced to accept the other’s intentions. It was in this crisis that he conceived the artifice that was to become a part of his life. ’Miah, in the bedroom, heard Jed groan; he paid no heed, and his brother{151} groaned again. This time the younger man came to the door and looked at Jed, suspiciously. The miser was bent forward in his chair, hugging himself and groaning more and more. ’Miah asked petulantly:

“What’s the matter with you?” And Jed gasped, as though in agony:

“Git Doctor Crapo, ’Miah. I’m a-dying. I got a turrible pain in my stummick.”

’Miah studied him; he said incredulously:

“It’s belly-ache.”

Jed wagged his wicked old head and groaned again.

“All right, ’Miah; but git the doctor, anyhow. I’m a-dying, sure.”

There was always a chance that this might be true. ’Miah sent for the doctor, and Doctor Crapo, a young man then and not so wise as he would later be, questioned Jed, and took pulse and temperature, and said with some solemnity:

“I don’t know. You’ve got no fever, but your heart is jumpy. I guess—Well, you’re getting along, you know. If this pain is what you say, it’s just the beginning of one of those ailments that come on old men sometimes. Nothing I can do for it at your age.”

“It’s a-killing me,” Jed pleaded weakly, and the doctor said:

“Well, I can physic you, of course; but if it’s just a stomach-ache, it will stop anyway, and if it’s something worse, physic won’t do a bit of good.”

“This ain’t no stummick-ache,” said Jed and groaned again.{152}

The doctor nodded, and he and ’Miah went out of the room together. ’Miah took this chance to ask:

“How about it, Doc?”

“May be bad,” the doctor told him. “Looks like the beginning of one of those torturing deaths that some men die. Months, maybe years, of that pain, getting worse all the time. And—his heart is bad.”

“He’ll maybe die?”

“Might go any time,” said Doctor Crapo, and drove away.

Now, this was in 1883. Chet McAusland had recorded the first appearance of that pain in the old note-book that I still held in my hand. The effect of Jed’s artifice was that ’Miah did not, after all, desert his brother. Actuated by the avaricious thought that since he had endured three years of servitude for no return, he might as well endure another period, now that the reward was in sight, he stayed on at the little hillside farm. The next spring he died and was laid away. Old Jed had read his brother well; he grinned to himself because he had been able to buy ’Miah’s services with empty promises and nothing more, and the incident gave him confidence. He lived for a few months alone.

III
But in 1885 Jed’s native sloth rebelled at the necessity for tending his own bodily needs, and he sent for his sister Abigail, who lived with Deborah on their father’s farm—sent for Abbie,{153} and showed her, as he had showed ’Miah, that tin box of ugly treasure-trove.

“I’m a-getting feeble, Abbie,” he told her, plaintively. “I’m too old to do for myself.” With some inward appreciation of the satiric drama of the situation, he parroted the phrases he had used to ’Miah four years before. “I could hire somebody, but that don’t look right. What I got ought to stay in the family. You come and take care of me.”

This spinster sister was a humble little woman without strength or assertiveness; she yielded not from greed, but from lack of strength to resist his insistence, and so came to the farm upon the hill. Chet, telling the story, struck his fist upon his knee at the recollection.

“There’s nobody knows what he put her through, and Deborah after her,” he told me. “That old heathen had to have his own way or he’d raise holy Ned; and he got it. Abbie stood it longer than ’Miah; she never did kick up and threaten to leave him. But after two years she took sick and discouraged-like, and wanted to quit and go home. Then Jed he begun to say again how sick he was; made her fetch the doctor again.”

This time, it appeared, Doctor Crapo had been wholly convinced of the miser’s honesty.

“A pain like that,” he told Jed, “is always a sure sign. I’ve seen them go. Specially men that eat heavy, like you do, and that get fat as they go along. You’re going to have that pain the rest of your life, and worse all the time.{154}”

Abbie was in the room, and Jed asked plaintively:

“Hev I got to suffer like this here for days and days, Doc?”

“Months, maybe years,” said the doctor, implacably.

Jed shook his head, turned wearily toward the wall.

“It ain’t a-going to be that long,” he assured them. “I can’t stand it so long as you say.”

Before this pitiable resignation, Abbie had neither the courage nor the selfishness to leave her brother alone; so she struggled on, tending the dying man. But five years later he was still alive, as venomous and as slothful as he had ever been, when Abigail at last gave way. She suffered what would have passed as a nervous breakdown in a woman of more sheltered life, and needed Jed’s care far more than he needed hers. When she would have taken to her bed, however, Jed kept stubbornly to his, so that she drove herself meekly to her round of tasks, and wept with the agony of tight-wrung nerves. It was release when, in the following spring, she died. Jed grinned at the fact that her years of service had brought her no reward at all, and the day after the funeral he sent for Deborah.

IV
“By that time,” Chet assured me, “everybody in town knowed about Uncle Jed and this pain of his, and from now on he talked about it more. You stop to see him any day, and he’d groan and{155} take on in a way that ’u’d surprise you. He stayed in bed all the time, in a room all shut up tight, reading his papers and drinking his gin and eating all the time. Deborah took good care of him; she was that kind of a woman. She had backbone, but she was built to take care of folks, and half the town had had her in when folks was sick. There was times when she threatened to leave him, but she never did, him always saying he was about to die.”

There were skeptics, it appeared. Doctor Crapo himself was at last beginning to suspect the old miser’s play-acting.

“If he’d had that pain all this time,” he told Deborah, “he’d be howling with it night and day or dead long ago. He’s a lazy hound; that’s all, Miss Grant.”

But Deborah would not altogether be convinced, and when Jed heard the doctor’s words, he wagged his head and said pathetically:

“That’s what I git for bearing it so brave’. If I’d yell and take on, you’d believe me; but because I keep my mouth shut and stand these torments, you think I’m lying.”

So Deborah stayed with him. There was no avarice in her, but there was the instinct for service, and some trace of blood affection for this worthless brother, last of her kin alive. She gave him pitying and tender care, and the old man, in his slothful bed, fattened enormously, till it was scarcely possible for him to move at all. Yet in May, 1900, he was, as Chet had recorded, still alive and kicking; and in June of that year Deborah suddenly died.{156}

V
This woman was loved in Fraternity, and with reason. To the funeral services in the little farmhouse came more men and women than could be crowded within doors. Jed, abed in the next room, listened to the minister’s slow and reverent words with a derisive grin. One or two people came in to speak to him, charitably, as people do at such hours. There was an element of martyrdom about the woman’s death that awed them, glorifying even the ugly ceremonies of the funeral.

Jed did not feel this at all. He was amusing himself with his own reflections, and as the service drew toward its end he became so absorbed in his own thoughts that he was not aware when the stirring of feet marked the departure of the little cortège. The last man and the last woman left the house to follow what was left of Deborah to her grave, and five minutes after they were gone Jed realized that he was alone.

Not at first sure of this, he called out; but no one answered. When he knew that he would not be overheard, the fat man began to chuckle and shake with mirth at thought of how he had tricked his brother and sisters; how, trading upon their avarice and their faint love for him, he had bought their lives with empty promises, never to be fulfilled.

But after a little this amusement passed; it gave way to a desire to talk to some one, share this jest with them. He called out once more, but no answer came to his call.{157}

The realization that he was in fact utterly alone, the abrupt possibility that hereafter he would always be alone, with no tender hands to serve him, startled the old man, and somewhat affrighted him. He was aware of a tremor of fear at the prospect of the loneliness that lay ahead, and because he wished to reassure himself, give evidence that power still dwelt in him, he decided to get out of bed.

With some effort he pushed away the heavy coverlets with which he was accustomed to swaddle his vast body, and tried to swing his feet to the floor, lift his bulk from the bed. He struggled for an instant, then fell back with white face and staring eyes, and the sweat of fear upon his forehead.

For the first time in his life he had suddenly been stricken with a terrific pain in his bowels. He had never suffered this agony before, yet knew it for what it was; knew it for one of those shafts of anguish that presage months or years of torment, with no relief save a torturous death at the end.

He whispered, with stiff and horror-stricken lips, “I’m a-dying.” This time he spoke truth. He had, in fact, at last begun to die.{158}

EPITOME
I
IMIGHT begin with a recital of the conversation that led up to his remark; but Chet has taught me the value of selection, the importance of elimination, by the way he has of setting before me just such a curt and poignant drama as this one was. “The last time I had a fight,” said Chet, “was with a boy that was my best friend.”

We had been in the alder swamps and across the birch knolls all that day after woodcock and partridge, tramping the countryside in a flood of autumn sunshine that was more stimulating than any of man’s concoctions; had brought home a partridge or two, and our fair allotment of woodcock; and had dined thereafter on other birds, killed three days before, which had been hanging since then in the cool of the deep cellar. Now our dogs were asleep upon the rugs at our feet; our pipes were going; and the best hour of the day was come.

“What did you fight about?” I asked.

“Fishing,” Chet told me. “We used to always fish Marsh Brook, where you and I went last summer. Where you caught the big trout in that hole in the woods. Remember?”

I nodded. The memory was very sweetly clear.{159}

“That brook starts way in behind the mountain,” Chet reminded me. “It swings down through the old meadow and into the woods, and through the lower meadow there, and finally it runs into Marsh River. There weren’t the trout in it then that there are now. It’s been stocked right along, the last few years…. But there were trout there, even then. If I told you the fish I’ve seen my father take out of some of those holes, it would surprise you.”

“It’s a beautiful brook,” I agreed.

“Jim and I always used to fish it,” Chet went on. “When we started in, we’d draw lots to see who’d take the first hole, and then take turns after that. He took a pebble in one hand, this day; and I picked the hand that had the pebble in it, so I had the choice. And we started up the brook, me fishing the hole under that log above the bridge, and him fishing the next bend where the bank has all fell in and spoiled the hole, years ago. And I fished under the big rock below the fence; and so on.

“Jim was a fellow that loved fishing,” Chet continued; and I interrupted long enough to ask:

“Jim who?”

“Jim Snow,” said Chet. “He loved fishing, and he liked getting into the woods. He was a boy that always played a lot of games with himself, in his imagination. We were only about ten years old. And this day he was an Indian. You could see it in the way he walked, and the way he crawled around, except when he got excited and forgot. There was always a change in him when we climbed up out of the lower meadow{160} into the real woods. He’d begin to whisper, and his eyes to shine. And he’d talk to the trout in the pools; and he was always seeing wildcat, or moose, or bear, in the deeps of the woods.

“I never knew any one it was more fun to go around the country with than Jim.”

He was still for a moment, tasting the sweets of memory; and he chuckled to himself before he spoke again.

“Well,” he said, “we come up out of the meadow into the woods. You’ve fished there. It’s the best part of the brook now, and it was then. My winning when we drew lots in the beginning made it my turn to fish when we came to the big hole. And Jim knew it as well as me.” He chuckled again. “You know the hole I mean. Where that old gray birch leans out over.”

I did know. The brook ran through the heart of a grove of old first growth pine; and the big hole itself was dark and shadowed. The water dropped into it over a ledge a few inches high; spread wide and deep upon a clear and sandy bottom, and spilled out at the foot of the hole over the gravel bar. There was an old pine on one bank, at the upper end, leaning somewhat over the water; and on the opposite side of the brook, a huge gray birch leaned to meet the pine. Except on sunny days, the spot was gloomy. More than once I heard great owls hooting in muffled tones among those pines; and the number and ferocity of the mosquitoes which dwell thereabouts is unbelievable.

“It hasn’t changed much, all this time,” Chet went on. “That slough on the west bank, in that{161} spring hole, was there then, the same as it is now. Maybe you’ve noticed an old stub, rotting away, right beside that slough. That was a blasted hemlock; and it’s been dead a long time. Wind, or lightning, or something knocked it down.

“When we came up to that hole that day, I was on the side toward the pine; and I crept in behind the big tree that leaned out over, and swung my line in, and I had a bite right away. But I jerked too soon; didn’t set the hook. And the line whished up and snarled in the branches over my head.”

He laughed to himself at the recollection, his head back, his chin down upon his neck, deep-set eyes twinkling beneath his bushy eyebrows in the fashion I like to see. “Well, sir,” he chuckled, “while I was untangling my line, I heard a regular Indian hoot, and I turned around and see Jim had caught a fish out of my pool. Quicker than a minute, I was mad as a hat.

“Yes, sir. I didn’t stop for a thing. He was on the other side, by that old hemlock; and I went after him. I waded right across the ledge, running, and when he saw me coming, he jumped to meet me. Because he knew I was mad. We come together right in the black mire of that spring hole; and let me tell you, for a minute the fur flew. I guess we fought there in them woods, nobody within a mile of us, for as much as five minutes, maybe. Both of us grunting and cussing with every lick. Knee deep in that stiff, black mud. And first I’d get him down in it, and then he’d down me; and finally, when we kind of stopped for breath, he yells:{162}

“‘I was only catching the fish for you, anyway, Chet.’

“And I says: ‘I’ll catch my own trout!’ And I managed to roll him under, and by that time we were both too tired to do any more.”

II
He tilted back in his chair, and we laughed together at the picture he had drawn of two wet, mad, and muddy boys. “Rolled in that mud, till we were smeared with it,” he said. And: “Didn’t speak to each other till it come time to eat lunch and we remembered we’d left it at the big hole.” He had laughed till there were tears in his eyes. Now the mirth passed; and by and by he sighed aloud, said wistfully:

“Ah, well. Poor old Jim. He drank himself to death. Died of the D T’s.”

The words were like a shock of cold water; I shivered as though the winds of tragedy had blown upon me. In my thoughts I had been seeing this Jim Snow; freckled, and covered with mud, and fighting so long as he had breath to fight; and protesting in hurt at the end: “I was only catching the fish for you.” A likeable boy, Jim Snow…. And in an instant the picture was shattered; there stood in its place the apparition of a dreadful, sodden, wrecked and ruined man…. The thing was horribly abrupt.

“For God’s sake, Chet,” I protested.

“Yes,” he said soberly. “Yes.”

I tried by a callous tone to insulate myself{163} against the impinging tragedy. “Went to the devil?” I hazarded.

“I guess his father drove him to it, ruined him,” Chet explained. “There wasn’t any harm in Jim. Just a mischievous boy, full of high spirits and fun, like a colt. His father was a churchly man; a religious man. A sober man. And he used to beat Jim, for his pranks, awfully.” He shook his head, seemed faintly to shudder at the recollection. “I’ve seen him take Jim out into the barn; and I’ve heard Jim yell. Yell and screech. ‘Oh, father! Father!’”

My tongue seemed sticking in my mouth. I made a brave show of refilling my pipe; the cheery flame of the match seemed to lighten the dark shadows that oppressed us both. Chet laughed again, mindful of a new incident. One of these practical jokes boys have played since there were boys to play them. But as Chet told it, tragedy overhung the tale.

“His father was a cobbler,” he explained. “A good one, too. He used to make a good living out of his shop. Had a big family, and they did well. Time Jim begun to be able to work, he used to work in the shop, helping.”

He warmed to his tale. “There was a bench, by the counter,” he continued. “Folks used to sit down there when they had to wait. Jim was always up to something; and one day when his father was at home, Jim took a gimlet and bored a little hole in that bench. Then he fixed a brad under that hole, with a spring, and a string on it. And he took this string under the counter and back to the seat where he used to be when he was work{164}ing. He fixed it with a piece of wood, like a trigger, there.”

Chet, spreading his arms wide, illustrated the motion which a cobbler makes in drawing his thread through the leather. “When his arm went out like that,” he said, “he could just reach this piece of wood. And when someone was sitting on the bench, some times he’d just give it a rap; and the brad would come up through and stick into them, and they’d get up in a hurry, I want to tell you.”

“He couldn’t do that when his father was around,” I suggested.

“He never did but once,” Chet agreed. “One day a boy came in that Jim didn’t like. I was there that day; and I knew about this thing Jim had fixed up; and when the other boy sat down on the bench, I kind of tipped my head to Jim. I was sorry about that, after; because Jim was never one to be dared. His father was there; but Jim winked back at me, and then he gave that wooden trigger a good hard poke, and he must have rammed that brad into the boy pretty hard, because he come right up into the air, holding on to himself and yowling.”

He slapped his knee at the memory. “Well, sir, he danced around there like a crazy man. I remember his name was Elnathan Hodge. He danced around and he yelled; and Jim’s father stood there looking at him and frowning awfully, so that I was scared, and I edged over toward the door. Jim’s father just stood, waiting for the boy to quiet down. He was a stern, solemn man; and his voice used to be enough to make us boys tremble.{165}

“By and by he said, slow and steady: ‘What’s the matter with you, Elnathan?’

“And Elnathan says: ‘Jim stuck a needle into me.’

“The old man looked from him to Jim, and Jim was mighty busy, sewing on a sole.

“‘How did he stick a needle into you, Elnathan?’ says the old man. And Elnathan pointed to the bench. He was a big boy, bigger than us; but he was always kind of a sissy. That’s why we never liked him.

“‘Right up through that hole, it come,’ he told Jim’s father.”

“A nice boy, Elnathan!” I commented.

“Jim and me licked him for it afterwards,” Chet explained. “But that didn’t do a bit of good then. The old man went and looked under the bench and saw where the string went through under the counter; and then he followed it out through the shop to the back. He took his time about it, never looking toward Jim, pretending not to know he was there, like a cat with a hurt bird. Traced the string all back till he come to where Jim was sitting. And he didn’t say a word then, but just reached down and got Jim by the collar and started for the back room, dragging Jim after him; and Jim’s heels were clattering on the floor. After he’d shut the door, we heard the first whacks of the strap he kept there, and heard Jim yell; and then me and Elnathan put out the front door and ran away. And we could hear Jim yelling, begging….{166}”

III
He broke off abruptly, shaking his head in sorrow at the recollection. “Poor old Jim!” he murmured, under his breath. For an interval we were silent; and then I suggested that Jim’s father must have done what he thought best for the boy.

Chet would not accept this suggestion. “He knew better,” he said. “Any man knows better. There ought to be friendliness between a man and his son. My father used to take me fishing with him, but Jim was afraid of his father, and kept away from him, except when he had to work in the shop.”

“Yet I’ll bet your father tanned your hide, Chet,” I argued.

Chet laughed at that. “Sure he did. But there are ways of licking a boy.” He snapped his fingers to Frenchy, and the setter came to lay his chin upon Chet’s knee. Reck, jealous of this attention, at once rose and demanded a caress from me. “Take a dog,” said Chet. “You lick him to hurt, so he yelps with the pain of it, and the helplessness, and you can make a rogue dog out of him mighty quick. A pain that breaks down the pride of a man, or a boy, or a dog, and makes him beg for mercy, does bitter things to him. Man, or boy, or dog, he’s not what he was, after that has happened to him. I’ve known dog breakers that whipped dogs, and made rogues or cowards out of them. And that’s what Jim’s father did to him.”

He filled his pipe, slowly, wedging the crumbled tobacco firmly down. “Jim used to go fishing with me and father, till his father stopped him,{167}” he said. “Then he used to run away and go with me.” He chuckled, shamefacedly, “I remember one of those times, the first time he ever got drunk, I guess.” There was something like guilt in his countenance. “We’d been fishing in the rain, all morning; and when it come time to eat our lunch, Jim pulled out a little bottle. I asked him what it was, and he said: ‘It’s gin!’

“He’d got it out of a big bottle his father had. ‘I filled the bottle up with water,’ he told me. ‘So he’ll never know.’ We were soaking wet; and we sat straddling a log that had fallen across the brook, and finished that bottle between us. There couldn’t have been much more than half a pint. We drank it, and then we began to sing; and Jim was wilder than me. He got up to stand on the log, and fell off on his back in the water; and I went to pull him out and he pulled me in. The gin didn’t hit me the way it did him. I didn’t like it; and I only took a mouthful or two; but it got hold of Jim.

“He was seventeen years old, then; and getting big for his age. But his father beat him awfully for that. The gin and water didn’t mix, so he saw someone had got at his bottle. But that was the last time he beat Jim. Jim got mad that time, and grabbed up an axe; and I guess it kind of worried and frightened the old man.”

IV
We puffed at our pipes in silence for a little while; and one of the dogs rose to lay his chin upon my knee. “I can’t help feeling sorry for his father, too,” I said at last.{168}

Chet nodded. “He was wrong all the time,” he replied. “But no one ever regretted it more, when it was too late, and he saw what he had done to Jim.” He was still for a moment, then wrote a swift “finis” to the tale.

“The last time I saw Jim,” he said, “was down on the wharf at East Harbor. He was drunk that day, and his father and his brother Charley were trying to get him home. Jim was a big man then; and when he was drunk, he was strong as a bull. I remember he took Charley around the waist and threw him right off the edge of the wharf into the mud flats, and Charley landed on his face in them.

“His father tried to catch Jim’s arm, and Jim turned around and hit him in the mouth and mashed his lips so they bled, and knocked him down.

“That seemed to sober Jim a little, and he sat down with his back against a pile and cried; and his father got up and came and was kneeling down with his arm around Jim; and he was crying, too. They were both crying. And it may have been the drink in Jim; but the old man hadn’t been drinking.

“That’s the last time I ever saw him. Crying there, with his father. Probably they both saw, then, how bad things had gone.

“But it was too late for anything to change Jim. The next year, I think it was, he died.{169}”

A DREAM
I
BARNARD became conscious that he was dreaming. It was a bad dream, a nightmare.

He had been dreaming for a long time; but at first he had not understood that it was all a dream. It had been too real. When he realized that it was only a dream, he began, as dreamers do, to fight for wakefulness. But sleep held him stubbornly.

His dream was long; it dragged interminably. An endless procession of scenes and events harassed his troubled slumbers. He appeared in these scenes, participated in these events. He was at the same time an actor in his dream, and a spectator.

Some portions of the dream were gay, some were somber; some were happy, some were tragic. But over gay and somber, happy and tragic, there hung an uneasy Cloud. It haunted and harassed him. He tried to escape from this dark Cloud, but he could not. Thus his dream was one long, futile struggle….

II
When the dream began, Barnard seemed in it to be a boy. Yet as an actor in the dream, he felt himself neither boy nor man, simply James Barnard. He was—identity. He was himself.{170}

It was in one of the earliest scenes of his dream that he first discovered the threatening Cloud which was to shadow all the rest.

He seemed to be running desperately after an omnibus, with a door in its rear end. He pursued it at the height of his speed; and yet it drew continually further away, and at length disappeared, in a hazy fashion, at a great distance from him. When at last he abandoned the pursuit, his chest seemed like to burst with his labored breathing.

Two faces looked back at him from the rear windows of this omnibus; and a hand waved through the open door. And above the omnibus, smoothly, and without effort, moved a faint shadow of misty Cloud. It seemed to Barnard to grow darker as the omnibus drew further and further away; and when the vehicle disappeared, the Cloud remained for a moment in his sight before it, too, vanished. There was something menacing about this drifting mist. Barnard thought of it, in his dream, as The Threat.

When the omnibus was gone, he remembered the faces which had looked back at him, and recognized them. His mother, and his brother. His brother was a baby.

Barnard, in his dream, felt an overpowering terror at this recognition, and he shuddered.

Then that misty, shadowy picture was gone, and another took its place.

He saw himself at home, sitting in a low chair before a coal fire, with his chin in his hand. His Aunt Joan stood beside him. She was crying, and she kept patting his head.

“You’re a brave boy, not to cry,” she said to{171} him, over and over. “You’re a brave boy not to cry.”

At the same time, she wept bitterly.

Barnard, in his dream, had no desire to cry. He was puzzled and uneasy; he groped for understanding.

Understanding came with a last glimpse of the baby’s face in the omnibus, and The Threat gliding above, and then he saw in his dream a bit of yellow paper, and on it, written in a long, flowing, telegrapher’s hand, the words:

“Rob died today at noon.”

He understood that Rob was his baby brother; and he understood, from that time forward, the nature of The Threat….

III
Thus, his dream, even while he was still a boy in it, was always disturbing and perplexing. He was uneasy, rebellious. He chafed and suffered and could not find relief. The dream world was hostile and mocking, full of inscrutable forces which were stronger than himself.

But he could not wake up. The dream dragged him inexorably onward. He was like a man bound to the stirrup of a horse, jerked forward constantly, and meeting each instant new blows and pains.

Abruptly, at length, as when at dawn the sun strikes low and sweet across the dewy fields, the complexion of his dream was altered. He smiled in his sleep, and he felt warm and comforted. He{172} did not know why this was so, and at first he did not care.

He had been conscious that his dreams were of a more pleasant hue for some time before he discovered that this new aspect was shared with him by another. A girl.

He saw her very plainly, and there was something familiar about her, and at the same time something baffling. He felt that he ought to recognize her, that he ought to know her name. He tried to remember it, but he could not.

So he set this problem aside, and gave himself up to enjoyment of the dream with her. He could see no more of her than her face, her eyes. They were near each other, yet aloof. Their hands never touched, they never spoke; yet their eyes met frequently.

He had at first no desire to approach this girl more than closely; and she, also, seemed content to go forward with him, side by side, near, yet not together.

After a time, the mists cleared a little, and he saw that they were passing through a pleasant, rolling meadow. Her feet followed a little pathway; and when he looked down, he saw that his feet, also, were set upon a path.

He felt his father and mother somewhere near him, but he could not see them. He could only see the girl.

Suddenly, he perceived that his path and the path the girl followed drew ever nearer together. This frightened him; but when he looked toward the girl and saw that she, too, was a little frightened, he smiled reassuringly, and waved his hand{173} to her, and went boldly forward along the way that was before him.

The girl had hesitated, but when she saw him go forward, she no longer faltered. She moved with him.

Their paths met at a little turnstile in a fence. Their paths met there, and they met there.

For a moment, they looked at each other. Then their eyes went forward through the next field. There were no longer two paths before them. In the next field, there was but one. Either they must now go forward together, or one of them must fall behind forever.

So they clasped hands and passed through the stile.

The field disappeared. The girl stood beside him, her right hand in his right hand, her eyes turned up to his. Her eyes were deep, his were lost in them.

A voice spoke, resonantly, in measured words. He heard his own voice; then the girl’s.

Suddenly he recognized the girl. She was Anne; she was his wife….

IV
They went forward singing, for a little way. Their hands were lightly clasped. The girl skipped and danced beside him; and though he walked sedately, his heart sang and danced with hers.

Then he felt a damp chill in the air, and Anne drew closer to his side, and she no longer danced.

At first he did not understand; but when he{174} looked about them, and then up into the skies, he saw the misty Cloud, The Threat….

He had forgotten the very existence of this Cloud; and he rebelled furiously at its coming now. But it paid no heed to him. It hung not over his strong head, but over the head of Anne, his wife.

Anne saw him looking up at it, and she lifted her head to see what he had seen; but he drew her eyes quickly away so that she should not understand, and with ice at his heart he went forward, watching the thing above them.

He began to reach upward, behind Anne’s back, and try to thrust The Threat away; but it was beyond his reach. It hung relentlessly above Anne’s head, and he could not touch it. He strove, he stood on tiptoe, he pleaded….

Anne turned and saw him; and she dropped her hand on his arm and reassured him. But when he looked into her eyes, he saw the reflection of The Threat there.

Nevertheless, they went bravely forward, shoulders touching; and when presently the Cloud descended and cloaked them so that he could not see Anne, he still held her hand, and they spoke to each other through the shadows.

Then the Cloud lifted, and when Barnard looked down, he saw a little child walking by Anne’s side, holding her hand.

He forgot The Threat in the air above them, and took the other hand of the child, and hurried forward….{175}

V
Thereafter, the threatening Cloud was never out of their sight. At times it hung low above them, at times its cold fingers touched them; and in the intervals it rode high above their heads, distant, but relentless.

His dream was a constant apprehension; he kept a persistent vigil against The Threat, even while his heart told him it was a hopeless one.

When the Cloud hung low above them, he cast his arms about Anne and the child until the mists lifted again. Once, when this happened, and when they started forward once more, he found that not one boy-child, but two walked between Anne and him. Their hands were clasped, and Anne held the hand of one, and he of the other, so that they four went forward together, each helping each.

Their path was rocky and beset. The Threat never left them; and stones rose to trip them, and thorny bushes clutched at them from either side….

VI
For a long time, in his dream, he always felt his father and his mother near at hand. Sometimes their fingers touched his. Sometimes, his father’s firm clasp lifted him over an obstacle in the way; and sometimes his mother’s smile tried to smooth away the bruises he encountered in the path.

His mother and his father loved to cast their arms about the two children, while he and Anne watched proudly.{176}

While they all stood thus one day, The Threat descended upon them, lightly, gently; and thereafter Barnard was unable to find his father or his mother. He looked for them and could not see them; but at times he seemed to hear their voices, speaking to him….

The Threat in the air seemed to mock him; and he perceived that it would never leave him. He must walk forever in its shadow, till he should awake.

A great throng of memories roared down upon him; their wings buffeted his head. They were memories of things he might have done and had not done; of things he had done of which there was no need. They concerned his father and his mother, and they tormented him.

Then Anne’s hand lay lightly on his arm, and he was mysteriously comforted and reassured.

VII
Once another child came to walk with them. This child was very little, and it walked between his two tall sons, and they held it by the hands and guided its stumbling and uncertain steps.

This child laughed easily, and when it laughed, they laughed with it, because they could not help themselves.

In his dream, Barnard forgot for a moment The Threat which drifted above them, and he began to sing, and Anne sang with him. And the three boys, his sons, laughed as he and Anne sang. Their voices were like peals of music.

Then something brushed Barnard’s cheek, and{177} before he could stir, The Threat had engulfed them all. It crushed down upon them, stifling and smothering and blinding them.

He fumbled desperately through this Cloud, seeking the others. He found Anne, and they clung together, and groped about….

“Here is Dick,” she called, and laid the hand of his eldest son in his; and a moment later he felt a straight, youthful shoulder, and when he peered through the mists, he saw that he had found Charles, the second son, and he called to Anne, as she had called to him:

“Here is Charles!”

They were glad at that; and they went more hopefully at their task of finding the little child; but while they were still searching, the Cloud lifted, and they saw that the little boy was gone.

VIII
Barnard, in his dream, began to feel old; and he began to feel lonely.

He missed the laughter of the little child. Even though Anne, and Dick, and Charles still walked with him, he missed the little child.

He could see in Anne’s eyes that she, too, was lonely, but when he taxed her with it, she gave him a gay denial.

The two boys, however, soon forgot. At first Barnard resented this; then he accepted it dumbly. Revolt was dying in him. He still went forward as steadily as before, but the old, fierce defiance no longer burned in his breast. He no longer sought to escape The Threat above them. He ac{178}cepted its presence. Submission was born in him.

The Threat rode high and serene above their heads….

In his dream, he thought they went forward for a long time together, through the fields. There were not so many stones in their path, not so many thorns to snatch at them. Barnard took pleasure in lifting the stones and tossing them aside, and he found joy in lopping off the thorns. He was, in some measure, happy.

Then, one day, he spoke to Charles, and the lad did not hear him, did not reply.

He looked at the boy in surprise; and he saw that Charles was looking off across the field through which they passed. His eyes followed his son’s eyes, and fell upon a girl child walking in the field, a little way off.

She followed a path parallel to theirs, and she was answering Charles’ eyes with her own.

Barnard called to Charles again, more loudly; and this time the boy heard, and turned, and answered him. But his eyes went back to the girl as soon as he had answered.

Then suddenly, they came to a place where a narrow path led off from the broad one they were following, and went toward the girl’s path; and here Charles stopped. He looked along the narrow way.

“This is my path,” he said.

Anne did not understand. She put her arm around Charles’ shoulder. “No, son,” she said. “The broad way is ours.{179}”

“Go on, Charles,” Barnard told his boy, impatiently. “The broad path, Charles. Go on.”

But their son shook his head stubbornly; and his eyes were meeting the eyes of the girl, across the field. Barnard started to protest in anger; but Anne looked at her son, and saw whither his eyes led; and she followed his eyes and saw the girl.

The girl smiled at Anne, very humbly and beseechingly; and Anne put her hand to her throat and trembled.

Then she turned to Barnard, nodding ever so little; and she reached up to brush back a lock of hair upon the forehead of her tall son, and she buttoned a button of his coat.

“Go bravely, Charles,” she whispered. “Good-by.”

He kissed her hurriedly. “I’ll be back,” he promised. “I’m not going far away from you.”

Anne shook her head wistfully; but Charles was already running down the narrow path and did not see; and when Dick shouted after him, Charles did not hear.

They watched, and after a little they saw Charles and the girl come together; and presently their son and the strange girl went happily off across the meadow, out of their sight, hand in hand….

IX
When Barnard, and Anne, and Dick went on, Barnard thought in his dream that he and Anne held Dick’s hands more tightly than before. And when, presently, he saw another girl, walking{180} alone upon a distant path, he caught Anne’s eye behind Dick’s back, and pointed this girl out to her.

Then he and Anne conspired against their son; they left the broad path for another, narrower. They pointed out to Dick the wonders of the way, and talked eagerly to him, and caressed him.

But after a time, they saw that the girl’s path had curved to follow them; and at length, while they spoke together, Dick turned to look back, and his eyes met the eyes of the girl….

X
Thereafter Barnard and Anne moved alone together; and though Barnard, in his dream, felt Anne’s hand in his, his heart ached with loneliness. Anne smiled bravely beside him, but her smile was worse than tears.

They seemed to have lost their path. They no longer went confidently along a broad way, but wandered aimlessly this way and that. They tried new paths that led nowhere; and there were times when they stood still, clinging each to each.

The Threat above them, Barnard saw, was floating lower.

In his dream, Barnard thought that he and Anne came to a path which followed the brink of a great precipice. They walked that way. His arm was about her, hers clasped him. She was talking very gaily; she had never been so beautiful.

Barnard forgot The Threat for a moment; and when uneasy recollection returned to him, and his{181} eyes sought for it, he saw that the cloudlike thing had descended till it rode level with them, and at one side, above the abyss at their left hand. It hung there, following them as they followed the brink of the precipice.

He was afraid, but he tried to tell himself this was a victory, that The Threat was leaving them; and he pointed it out to Anne. In his dream, he thought she looked up to him, and he saw pity in her eyes, and so he was more afraid than before.

He watched the cloudy thing more closely; and presently he saw that it was drifting toward them. So he caught Anne’s hand, and hurried her forward. She ran with him, as though to humor him; and she was speaking comfortingly to him as they ran.

The Cloud moved swiftly closer till it touched Anne. And her steps faltered. He could no longer persuade her to run. He could only throw his arms about her; and in his dream he shouted defiance at The Threat.

Then he pleaded with it….

Anne was being drawn from his arms. It was not that she was torn away; it was just that he could no longer hold her. The solid substance of her, to which he clung, melted in his arms. He tore off his coat and wrapped it about her, but still she slipped away like sand through the fingers.

He begged; and her face came toward him, and her lips touched his. Her fingers rested for an instant on his eyelids.

When they were lifted, and he opened his eyes again, Anne was gone.{182}

He threw himself toward the brink of that precipice to follow her; but the chasm had disappeared. Where it had been, there was only a sweet meadow, mockingly beautiful in the sun.

He looked about him. All the world was beautiful as ice.

XI
The world in which Barnard walked when Anne was gone was full of people. While Anne had been with him, there had seemed to be no one else in the land save himself and Anne. But now the paths were full of folk who moved steadily this way and that.

They did not see Barnard. At first he spoke to them, but he found they did not hear. They were absorbed, each in each. After a time he gave over accosting these people and began to hunt for his sons. But he could not find them.

And so he went forward alone, and very lonely. This was the worst part of Barnard’s dream.

He was so much alone that even The Threat had left him. He missed it. Its absence was more terrible than its presence had been. He longed for it to return, and he sought for it; and then, one day, it appeared in the air, high above him.

It was very beautiful, much to be desired. He wondered that he had never perceived its beauty in the past. It was no longer a threat; it was something kinder.

But it rode high above Barnard, seemed not to perceive him.

Barnard tried to wake and could not; and then he saw that he could only wake by coming closer{183} to the Cloud that had been a threat. He climbed a little hill and called to it; but it rode serenely on, not regarding him.

When it had passed the hill on which he stood, it went more swiftly, and Barnard was fearful that it would vanish again. He ran after it. It was the only friendly and familiar thing in this world without Anne. He could not bear to lose it. By and by he seemed to be overtaking it; and abruptly he plunged into the cool sweetness of its embrace.

It blinded his eyes, and he began to fall; and at the end of his fall, he awoke.

 

For a moment after his waking, Barnard lay shuddering at the horror of his dream. The loss of Anne had been so terribly real that at first he scarce dared reach out in the darkness for her head upon the pillow beside him.

But after a moment he became conscious of the soft warmth of her body there; and he caught the sound of her slow and pleasant breathing; so he fumbled and found her hand and held it and was comforted.

The touch of his hand seemed to wake her; her fingers answered his with a loving pressure, and she said reassuringly to him:

“All right, Jimmie.”

He leaned in the darkness and found her lips and kissed her. “All right, Anne,” he replied. “Just a bad dream.”

He heard her laugh softly; and at the sound of her gentle mirth he felt strangely humble. “What is it, Anne?” he begged.{184}

“I, too, dreamed,” she told him. “I woke before you; that is all. In the morning you will understand.”

“Understand?” he pleaded; and he was trembling with eagerness for this understanding which was already in some parts revealed to him.

“That though it seemed so long, and seemed so real, it was after all but the matter of an instant’s dream,” she told him lovingly. Her hand was on his hair as it had used to be….

So he began to understand; and he held tight to Anne’s hand for a space; and presently they slept for a little time, and woke in the glory of the risen sun, to begin together the new Day.{185}

HIS HONOR
I
JUDGE HOSMER’S study was on the second floor of his home. Not a pretentious room. Calf-bound volumes on the shelves that lined the walls; a comfortable chair under a reading light, a work table on which books, papers, pen and ink were usually littered; and a more formal desk where, in laborious longhand and disdaining the services of a stenographer, the Judge wrought out his opinions. There was a homely honesty about the room; a clean suggestion of common sense and fundamental decency; a certain uprightness. Rooms much used do thus at times reflect the characteristics of those who use them.

The Judge was, this evening, at the desk and writing. He used a stiff, stub pen; and he wrote slowly, forming the large characters with care, forming the pellucid sentences with equal care. He consulted no notes; it was his custom to clarify the issues in any case so thoroughly in his own thoughts that there could be no hesitation when the moment came to set those issues down. Half a dozen sheets, already covered with his large hand, lay at his elbow. His pen was half-way down another when a light knock sounded upon his closed door.{186}

The Judge finished the sentence upon which he was engaged, then lifted his eyes and looked across the room and called:

“Come, Mary.”

His wife opened the door and stepped inside. She shut it behind her, and crossed to her husband’s chair, and dropped her hand lightly on his head. He lifted his own hand to smooth hers caressingly.

“Almost through?” she asked.

He nodded. “Another line or two.”

“Jim Cotterill is down-stairs,” she told him.

The Judge seemed faintly surprised. “Jim?” he repeated. And added thoughtfully, half to himself, “Well, now.”

“He says there’s no hurry,” she explained. “Says he just dropped in for a word or two. Just to say howdy.”

“That’s—neighborly,” her husband commented. “Course, I’ve seen him every day, in court. But I haven’t had a chance to talk to him. To ask him how things are, down home.”

She nodded, smiling. “Another of your scruples, Bob?”

“It wouldn’t hardly have looked right,” he agreed. “The other side were doubtful, anyway, knowing I’d been attorney for the Furnace a few years ago, and knowing Jim and me were townsmen.”

“I know,” she assented.

“Case is finished, now, though,” he commented. “Tell Jim I’ll be through in fifteen or twenty minutes. You entertain him, Mary.”

She made a gesture of impatience. “He makes{187} me uncomfortable,” she said. “I never liked him.”

The Judge smiled. “Oh, Jim’s all right. He’s fat; and he’s a little bit slick. But he means all right, I reckon. Give him a cigar and ask after his folks. He’ll do the talking for both of you.”

She nodded, moving toward the door. “Yes,” she assented; and asked: “I haven’t bothered you?”

The Judge smiled. “Lord, Honey, you never bother me.”

But when the door had closed behind her, his countenance was faintly shadowed. Concern showed in his eyes, dwelt there. He remained for a little time motionless, absorbed in some thought that distressed him. In the end, there was a suggestion of effort in his movements as he picked up his pen and began again his slow and careful writing. Bethany Iron Furnace against John Thomas, David Jones, et al. His decision.

II
It was half an hour later that the Judge came out of his study to the head of the stairs and shouted down them: “Hi, Jim!” Cotterill, a certain impatience increasingly manifest in his eyes, had been talking with Mrs. Hosmer. He answered, and the Judge called to him: “Come along up.”

Mrs. Hosmer followed the attorney into the hall and watched him climb the stairs. A short, bald man with a countenance that was always good-natured, but never prepossessing. She saw him grip her husband’s hand at the top, panting a little{188} from the ascent. They turned together toward the Judge’s study, and she went back into the living room.

“This is neighborly of you, Jim,” Judge Hosmer was saying, as he closed the study door behind them. “Come in and set. Have a stogie. I’m glad you didn’t hop back down home without coming to say hello.”

Cotterill’s rather small eyes whipped toward the older man, then away again. “I didn’t figure we ought to get together while the case was going on,” he explained. Both men, meticulous and precise in their professional utterances, dropped easily into the more colloquial idiom of their daily life.

“Right enough,” Judge Hosmer agreed. “Fair enough. But no harm now. How’re tricks, anyhow? Folks well?”

“Yes, well enough. Were when I left. I’ve been too busy to do much letter writing, since I came up here.”

“They have sort of kept you humping, haven’t they?” the Judge agreed.

“Well, that’s my job,” Cotterill told him; and the Judge assented.

“Sure, that’s your job.”

A little silence fell between these two. The Judge, tall and lean, with bushy brows above his wide-set eyes, studied the fat little man with some curiosity. Cotterill seemed indisposed to speak; and the other asked at last: “Family all well, Jim?”

“Well? Sure. Fine.”

“What’s the news, anyway?” the Judge in{189}sisted. “I haven’t heard from the folks lately.”

The attorney leaned back in his chair, somewhat more at ease; and he smiled. “Well,” he said. “Things go along about the same. Folks down home are right proud of you, Judge.”

“Sho,” said Hosmer, deprecatingly.

“Yes, they are,” Cotterill insisted good-naturedly. “Yes, they are. I was talking to old Tom Hughes, when he sent for me about this case, in the beginning. He told me to give you my regards and good wishes.”

“That was neighborly of him.”

Cotterill nodded. “Tom’s always been proud of you, you know, Bob. Course, being at the head of the Furnace the way he is, he runs a lot of votes in the county; and he’s always kind of figured that he elected you. Helped anyway. Feels like he’s done something to put you where you are. He liked you, when you were handling their business, too. I guess the Old Man kind of feels like you were his own son.”

Hosmer’s thin, wide mouth drew into a smile. “A fatherly interest, eh? Tom’s a good old man.”

“Well, he’s not the only one down there that feels that way about you, Bob. You know how the folks there stick together. The men that amount to anything. Tom’s bunch. Old Charley Steele, and Dave Evans, and that crowd. They’ve always been back of you. Sort of feel as though you were one of them.”

“Best friends I’ve got in the world,” Hosmer agreed.

Cotterill chuckled. “Matter of fact, it’s right funny to see them watch the papers when you’re{190} sitting in one of these big cases up here. Bragging to strangers that you’re from there.”

“Yeah,” Hosmer remarked encouragingly. He watched the fat little lawyer, an ironic question in his eyes.

“They’re all getting ready to get behind you and push, when you run again,” Cotterill assured him. “Dave Evans said here, just the other day, that you could get pretty near anything you wanted to, if you watched your step. It means a lot to have the home town folks back of you, you know. There’s a neat bunch of votes down there, Bob.”

“Sure,” the Judge agreed.

Cotterill opened his hands with a frank gesture. “Of course, they’re all watching this case, right now. It’s pretty important to the Furnace, you know. Not much in this one case, but it’s a precedent. Reckon it would cut into the business they do down there quite a bit if things went wrong. Tom says to me when we first talked about it: ‘You got to win this case, Jim. If you don’t, it’s going to cost us money.’ And what hurts the Furnace hurts the town.”

He hesitated; and the Judge said slowly and pleasantly: “You’re dodging around corners, Jim. What’s on your mind?”

Cotterill swung toward the other, leaning a little forward in his chair. “Well—” he began, then hesitated. “Bob, you know my reputation, I guess?”

“I know you’re reputed to be—successful,” said the Judge. If there was in his word anything of criticism or of reproach, Cotterill paid no heed.{191}

“I mean, you know, that I’ve the reputation of going right after what I want. No wabbling around.”

“Have you, Jim?”

“And I’m coming right to the point now.”

“Come ahead.”

The fat little man hitched his chair a little nearer the other’s. His voice was lowered. He gesticulated with a pudgy finger.

“First thing,” he explained, “I want to be sure you understand just how important this is. To us, and to you, too. It’s business with us; but it’s a policy with you. That’s what I want you to understand. They haven’t asked you for anything because they helped you get started; and they don’t aim to. Not for what was done for you then. But we can’t afford to lose this case now.”

Hosmer said slowly: “Case is finished, Jim. Decision is all written. It’s in that envelop there.” He pointed toward the top of his desk.

Cotterill shot a glance in that direction; and beads of sweat started upon his forehead. “That’s all right,” he said. “No need of going into that. I know I’m not much as a trial lawyer. I know I fell down on this case. Facts and law were with us; but I didn’t get the stuff into the record the way I’d ought to, and some of our witnesses didn’t stand up when Marston got after them. Marston’s a good lawyer; but there’s more to trying a case than the court end of it. I’m trying my case right now, Bob.”

The Judge did not reply. He seemed to have settled into a certain stony calm; his eyes were{192} steady and inscrutable. Cotterill waited for an instant, then swung swiftly on.

“Thing is,” he said. “You want to figure whether you’re going to stand with us, and have us back of you; or whether you want to stand with this other bunch. They were against you at the start. You know that. And they’re not going to shift now, even if you’re good to them. They’ll just figure you’re scared. You’re coming up for reelection one of these days. Maybe for a bigger job. And if we’re solid back of you, you can have anything you want. You know that, Bob. But if we split, you’re a goner. There’s the whole thing. You stick with us, and we’ll stick with you. You throw us, and we’ll—remember it. We’re not asking favors for what we have done, but for what we figure to do. See?”

He stopped short, watching the other shrewdly. The Judge at first made no move, said no word. His eyes were thoughtful; and his glance was not turned toward the other man.

“Do you see?” Cotterill repeated.

“I—see what you mean,” said the Judge, slowly.

“Then what do you say?” the fat man insisted.

Judge Hosmer swung slowly to face him. There was something judicial in his tones, even and calm; and his colloquialisms were gone.

“I’m not ambitious—in a political way,” he replied.

Jim Cotterill watched him, marked the apparent hesitation in his answer; and the fat man licked his lips, and looked behind him toward the door with something furtive in his manner. Then{193} jerked his chair still nearer to the other, with the buttonholing instinct always so strong in his ilk. And laughed in an unpleasant way.

“All right, Bob,” he said. “All right. I get you. We’re ready to meet you on that ground, too.”

“On what ground?” the Judge asked tonelessly.

Cotterill whisperingly explained. “We know your affairs pretty well, Bob,” he said, assuringly. “You’ve got a reasonable salary; but it’s none too much. You like to live comfortable; and nobody blames you. Everybody feels the same way. There are a lot of folks that’d like to be friendly, help you out. If you wanted they should. And there are a lot of ways they could help you. Any way you like.”

“What way?” Judge Hosmer insisted.

Cotterill’s embarrassed reluctance, if such an emotion can fairly be attributed to the man, passed before the Judge’s encouraging inquiry. “There’s that mortgage,” he suggested. “I know it’s a burden to you. It ain’t that you need the money. You’re paying six per cent. on it, and making more than that on the money it releases for you. Pays any man with a business head to borrow at six per cent. That’s all right. But maybe there are times when you fret a little bit about that mortgage. Well, Judge, you don’t need to. Easiest thing in the world to have it tore up. All you got to do is say the word.”

The Judge did not say the word. Cotterill pursued the subject.

“Maybe there’s something else,” he suggested. “I take it you’re a business man, but I may be{194} wrong. Maybe you don’t know where to get any better than six per cent. for your money. If that’s the trouble, we can help you, too. You don’t know the market. Not your business to. But there are men that do know it. Fact is, they are the market, Judge. They make it jump over a stick whenever they like. Old Tom is in with them. And they’d be glad to show you the way. You wouldn’t have to worry. You just open an account. Put in as much as you like. I can guarantee it’ll double and double for you, pretty regular. Handled right. You can call it a speculation; but it’s not that. Not when the market is trained, way it is. You see how I mean?”

The Judge said nothing at all; and Cotterill threw out his hands with an insinuating gesture. “Or,” he suggested, “it may be you haven’t got any loose money to put in. That’ll be all right. They’ll carry the account for you. Carry it, and take care of it and whenever they make a turnover, mail your check to you. You cash it, that’s all there is.” There was no answering gleam in the Judge’s eye; and Cotterill added hurriedly, “Maybe the notion of a check bothers you. It does leave a trail. But cash don’t. And cash can be got. There won’t be any trouble about that. Nor about how much. We’re responsible people. So are you. Come on, Bob; what’s the answer?”

The Judge said, almost abstractedly, and entirely without heat:

“You’re interesting, Jim; but you’re not convincing. You see, it just happens that I don’t take bribes.”

Cotterill twisted in his chair as though under{195} a blow; and his fat face purpled with anger. He struck his fist upon the edge of the desk before him.

“All right! All right, Bob!” he cried hotly. “If you won’t have it in friendship, take it the other way. You can’t pull this high and mighty on me. You can’t get away with it. What are you after, anyway? I haven’t named a figure. You could have named your own, if you’d been reasonable. ’Stead of that, you’ve got to grow wings and fan ’em like an angel, or something. You can’t pull that with me, Bob. I know too much.”

“What do you know, Jim?” the Judge asked mildly.

Cotterill laughed. “Getting under your skin, am I? Thought I would. You think I’d go into this without making sure I had winning cards? I’ve looked you up, Bob. I’ve had you looked up. I know you, inside out. And I’ll tell you flat, either you come across now, or everybody’ll know you as well as we do.”

“How well do you know me?” Hosmer inquired.

The attorney held up his left hand, the fingers outspread; and he ticked off his points upon these fingers. “This well,” he declared. “Item one: You sat in the Steel case. When the decision was announced, the market went off. Robertson Brothers had you on their books, short a thousand shares. You made a nice little pile. Legal enough, maybe, Judge; but not right ethical. Would you say so?”

“Go on,” said the Judge.

The fat little man touched another finger.{196} “Item two: Remember the Daily trial, down home. Chet Thorne. Remember him? Witness for the other side. You was defending Daily. He needed it, too. He was guilty as the devil. Chet told the truth, first trial. But you got a disagreement, just the same. Second trial, Chet lied. You got Daily off. Well, we’ve got Chet. You can’t find him, but we know where he is. And we’ve got his affidavit to why he changed his story. Oh, it was slick! Nobody could get Chet for perjury. Change didn’t amount to enough for that. But it was enough for what you needed. You got away with it then; but Chet’s ready to tell how you got away with it, now.”

He stopped again, and the Judge inquired: “Is that all?”

Cotterill shook his head. “Not quite. Item three: The matter of the Turner trust, and how it happened the trustee was short, and how the thing was covered up. You were the trustee, Bob. One, Two, Three, and there you have it.” He struck the desk again, triumph inflaming him. “Furthermore,” he cried, voice suddenly shrill. “Furthermore, the story’s ready to spring. This afternoon, petition for your disbarment was filed down home. In a sealed envelop. And the whole story back of it’s in type, right now, down town at the Chronicle office. When I leave here, before midnight tonight, I’ll hit a telephone. If I say one word, the envelop goes into the fire and the type is pied. If I don’t say the word, the envelop’s opened in the morning, and the story’s on the street in the Chronicle before breakfast. There’s the load, Judge.” He shrugged, his hands outspread.{197} “Look it over. Simple enough. Be good and you’ll be happy. Now what do you say?”

For a long moment, there was silence in the quiet room; and when the Judge spoke, it was in a gentle, but a decisive tone.

“Nor I’ve never permitted myself to be blackmailed, Cotterill,” he replied.

The lawyer stormed to his feet; he threw up his hands. “All right!” he cried. “Then it’s bust for you.”

The Judge nodded. “Maybe,” he agreed. “Of course, this is old stuff. A little of it true, and a good deal of it lies. Dates back ten—twelve years. Maybe you can make it go. I don’t know. But I do know one thing, Jim. I know you’re a dirty specimen.” There was, abruptly, a hot ring in his tones.

Cotterill cried: “That’ll do! You’re through. No man can talk to me that way….”

Hosmer’s long arm shot out; his fingers twisted into the other’s collar. “Talk to you? Talk to you?” he repeated quietly. “Why, Jim, I aim to do considerable more than talk to you.” His right hand swung; he slapped the squirming man across the cheek. Swung and cuffed Jim Cotterill to and fro in a cold fire of rage….

Urged him toward the door; half dragged, half thrust, half threw him down the stairs; spurred his tumultuous exit from the house. A last stinging blow, and: “Git,” he said.

Cotterill was gone.{198}

III
The Judge’s wife had come into the hall. Hosmer slowly shut the door, and he rubbed his hands as though they were soiled. There was trouble in his eyes, where the anger died.

Mary Hosmer touched his arm; asked softly: “What is it, Bob?”

He looked down at her; slowly shook his head. “Trouble, Mary,” he said frankly. “He wanted to beg, or buy, or steal the Furnace case. They’ve raked up those old affairs. The Chronicle will print the whole business in the morning. He’s gone to release the story now. I guess folks will walk right by and never see us, tomorrow, Mary.”

Comprehension came swiftly into her eyes; she cried rebelliously: “You’ve lived those old tales down, Bob!” He shook his head. “Anyway,” she told him, “I’m glad you—kicked him out as you did.”

The Judge nodded. Then a slow smile crept into his eyes. “Matter of fact, Mary,” he said, “this affair has its funny side.”

“Funny?” she echoed.

“Yeah.”

“Why….”

“I’d written my decision before he came upstairs,” he explained. “I’d already decided the way he wanted me to.{199}”

THE COWARD
I
Little old Bob Dungan, his coat off, his sleeves rolled to the elbow so that they revealed the red-woolen underwear which he habitually wore, sat at his typewriter in the furthest corner of the noisy City Room and rattled off a cryptic sentence. He wrote:

“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Now this is not a piece of information calculated to interest more than a baker’s dozen of the half million readers of a metropolitan daily such as that which Bob served. The sentence as a sentence has but one virtue; it contains all of the letters of the alphabet. That is all you can say for it. Nevertheless, having written the words, Bob studied them profoundly, ticking off with his pencil each letter, from A to Izzard, and when he was done, counted those that still remained.

“Nine,” he said, half aloud. And he scratched his head. “Ought to get it under that.” He put a fresh sheet in the typewriter and prepared to try again. To the casual eye of any one who might be watching from across the room, he looked like a very busy man.

As a matter of fact, this was exactly the impres{200}sion Bob wished to convey. He was anxious to appear busy and indispensable. For little old Bob Dungan was desperately afraid of being fired.

A newspaper staff is built to meet emergencies. That means that, left to itself, it inevitably becomes top-heavy, and on days when news is slack, the City Room is half full of men waiting for an assignment that never comes. When such a condition develops, the veterans in the office know what will follow. Some fine morning, the publisher drifts down stairs and sees the idle men—idle because there is nothing for them to do. And that afternoon, the order comes to cut the staff, cut to the bone.

So faces once familiar begin to disappear. The latest comers are the first to go, and only unusual ability will save them. Then the less efficient among the regulars are dropped, and finally, in drastic cases, those oldtimers who have begun to slow down. There was once a Saturday afternoon when from a single City Room twenty-two men were discharged, and the work went on, Monday morning, just the same. Men who have seemed indispensable disappear—and leave no more of a hole than your finger leaves in a bucket of water. The young reporters take these episodes gaily, as a part of the game; those more experienced accept misfortune with what resignation they can muster. But in the case of a man who has served the paper for ten or fifteen or twenty years, the moment has its black and tragic side.

Old Bob Dungan was wise enough to know the signs. Three weeks before two young reporters had disappeared. A week after, five men were{201} “let go.” Last Saturday seven old friends had stopped at his desk to say goodby. And this morning, his half-admitted apprehensions had been brought to focus. Fear had set its grip on him….

Dade, the City Editor, a driver of a man who was himself driven by a fierce affection for the paper which he served, was standing at Bob’s desk, and they were talking together when Boswell, the publisher, came in from the elevator. And Dade—the man had a kindly, human streak in him which some people never discovered—whispered out of the side of his mouth to Bob:

“Look out, old man. For God’s sake, look busy as hell!”

Then he went across to meet Boswell; and Bob began to write on his machine, at top speed, over and over again:

“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. Now is the time for all good men to come….”

He shifted, after a while, to the other: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Meaningless enough; but Bob hoped, with all his trembling soul, that he was succeeding in looking busy. He was, as has been said, afraid of being fired.

II
Bob could not afford to be fired. He had been a newspaper reporter all his life, and always would be. His salary had always been small, and always would be. His savings were spasmodic, disappearing like snow patches on a sunny day{202} before the occasional emergencies of life, and emergencies insisted on arising. Emergencies do arise, when a man has a family. Just now, for example, his wife was only two days out of hospital, and the bill unpaid…. No, he could not afford the luxury of being fired.

So fear scourged and shook him. It was physical; there were certain muscular and nervous reactions that went with it. His heels, tucked under his chair, felt naked and chilled by the little currents of air that circulated along the floor. His bowels were sick within him, as though there were an actual, ponderable weight in his mid-section. His ears, attuned to what went on in the room behind him, seemed unnaturally enlarged, and there were pricklings in his scalp.

He had known fear before. Such dull periods come to every newspaper office. But Bob had always pulled through, escaped discharge. He had worked at this same desk for a dozen years…. Had come here from the Journal, feeling a little proudly that he was taking an upward step, beginning at last to climb. It had meant more money. Thirty-five dollars a week. He was getting forty, now. So little, yet enough to make a man a coward.

Bob had never been fired from any job. The process of discharge was cloaked, in his thoughts, with an awful mystery. Sometimes men found a note, in a blue envelope, in their mail boxes; sometimes Dade called them to him, spoke to them, explained the necessity which forced him to let them go. They took it variously; defiantly, calmly, humbly, as their natures dictated. But it had never happened to Bob….{203}

He was afraid, these days, to go to his box for mail lest the dreaded note be there; and when Dade stopped at his desk or called him across the room he cringed to his very soul with dread. He was, no doubt of it at all, an arrant and an utter coward.

So he sat, this morning, and wrote, over, and over again:

“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. Now is the….” Or shifted, and tapped off: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” He was still thus occupied when Dade called from his broad desk by the window:

“Bob!”

The little old man looked fearfully around, and Dade beckoned. Bob’s heart dropped into his boots; he was fairly white with fear. Perhaps Boswell had told Dade to let him go….

Nevertheless, he faced the music. Got up and went across the room toward where the City Editor was standing. And he managed a smile. Beat down his panic and smiled.

Dade kept him waiting. The City Editor was giving some instructions to Ingalls, the City Hall man. Bob, his thoughts misted and confused by his own apprehensions, nevertheless heard what Dade was saying, and subconsciously registered and filed it away.

“ …going to start something,” Dade explained to Ingalls. “Mr. Boswell is interested, so you want to get results. The Building Department has been slack. Not inspectors enough, maybe. Fire Department, too. There were two girls caught in that fire in the South End ten days ago. Got out, I know, but it was luck. We’re going to{204} cover every fire, from now on. Going to watch the fire-escapes and the fire-doors and get the goods on this bunch, if they’ve been falling down. You keep it to yourself, but see what you can dig up. There must be stuff filed, up there. I’ll let you know…. Don’t make any breaks till you hear from me, but keep on the job….”

Bob listened, finding some relief from his own apprehensions in doing so. “Another crusade …” he thought, idly. Abruptly, Dade dismissed Ingalls and turned to him, and Bob turned pale, then colored with relief when he understood that Dade simply wished to give him an assignment.

“Jack Brenton,” Dade said, in the staccato sentences which were his habit. “We hear his wife has run away from him. He lives out in Hanbridge. Here’s the address. I sent the district man over. He says Brenton’s drunk. Threatened to shoot him. You’ll have to handle him right. Jack’s a bruiser, looking for trouble. Ask him if it’s true his wife’s gone. Ask him who she went with, and why, and what he’s going to do about it. Telephone me.”

Bob nodded. “All right,” he said quickly. “I’ll phone in.” He swung back to his desk for coat and hat, eager to be away, eager to be out of the office and away from present peril.

III
Outside the building, Bob headed for the subway. He had no qualms at the thought of Jack Brenton and his drunken pugnacity. Bob was an old hand, a good leg man, a competent reporter.{205} He had handled angry husbands many times. He could handle Brenton.

Yet he might have been forgiven for being afraid to encounter Jack Brenton. The man was a professional pugilist of some local note, and his record was bad. He had once, by ill luck, killed an opponent in the ring; he was known to possess a sulky temper that flamed to murderous heat, and it was said of him that when he was in his cups, he was better left alone…. He was in his cups this morning. Bob knew this as soon as he heard the other’s sulky shout that answered his knock at the apartment door. The prize-fighter yelled: “Come in!” And Bob went in.

Inside the door there was a little hallway, with a bathroom opening off one side, and a living-room at the end. Brenton came into this passage from the living-room as Bob entered from the hall, and they met face to face. Brenton looked down at the little man; and he asked suspiciously:

“What’re you after?”

“Dungan’s my name,” said Bob pleasantly. “I’m from the Chronicle.”

He saw the other’s scowl deepen. “I said what I’d do…. Next damn reporter came out here. What you want, anyway?”

“I want to ask you a few questions. About your wife….”

The pugilist dropped his hand on little Bob Dungan’s shoulder. His left hand. His right jerked into sight with a revolver; he thrust the muzzle of it into Bob’s face. “You smell that,” he cried, truculently. “I’ll blow your damn head off.{206}”

Bob—laughed. “Why, that’s all right,” he replied. If he had squirmed, struggled, or even if he had been afraid, the other’s drunken anger might have given him strength to shoot. There was very real and deadly peril in the situation. But Bob, unafraid, laughed; and the prize-fighter could see that there was no fear in the little man’s eyes. “That’s all right,” said Bob. “Go ahead.”

Brenton did not shoot. He hesitated uncertainly, his slow wits wavering. And Bob asked sympathetically:

“Did she treat you pretty bad?”

“Bad?” Brenton echoed. “Why, the things she’s done to me—Why, say….”

“That’s tough,” the reporter murmured.

The fighter’s grip on his shoulder relaxed; the big man’s arm slid around Bob’s neck. He became maudlin and unhappy, weeping for sympathy. “Why, you jus’ lemme tell you….” he begged.

“Sure,” Bob agreed. “Tell me all about it. Let’s go in and sit down.”

They went into the living-room. “Y’see, it was this way….” the pugilist began.

IV
When Bob left the prize-fighter, he called the office and reported to Dade. “Dungan speaking,” he said.

“What you got?” Dade asked hurriedly.

“Jack Brenton. Got his story. About his wife. Good stuff….”

Dade interrupted. “Never mind that now,” he{207} directed. “There’s a big fire in that block of lofts on Chambers Street. Hop a taxi and get there quick as you can. Get busy, Bob.”

Bob said crisply: “‘Right!” He heard the receiver click as Dade hung up. Five minutes later he had located a taxi and was racing toward the fire. As he drew near, he saw the column of smoke that rose from the burning building, black against the sky. “Two or three alarms,” he estimated, out of his long experience in such matters. “Lot of girls working in there, too. Probably caught some of them. Damned rat-hole….”

He had not enough cash in his pocket to pay the taxi fare; so he showed the man his badge and said curtly: “Charge Chronicle.” Then he began to worm through the crowd toward the fire. His badge passed him through the fire-lines, into the smother of smoke and the tumult of voices and the throbbing rhythm of the engines. The loft building was five stories high; and when Bob looked up, he saw, as the smoke thinned and left vistas, the red of flames in every window on the upper floors. Beside an empty hose-wagon, he came upon Brett of the Journal, and asked him: “Anybody caught!”

Brett shook his head. “Seven rescues,” he said. “Fire started on the top floor, so they mostly had time to run.”

“Got the names?” Bob asked.

“Jake’s got ’em,” said Brett. Jake was the Chronicle’s police reporter. “He’s gone to telephone them in.”

Bob nodded. Jake was a good man. He would have picked up enough of incident and accident to{208} make a story. The rewrite men in the office would do the rest. His, Bob’s, job was to look for a feature the other men might have overlooked…. And abruptly, he remembered Dade’s instructions to Ingalls that morning. Fire escapes; fire-doors. Were they adequate, on this old trap?

There was an alley beside the burning building. He could work in through there and find out, perhaps…. At the mouth of the alley a policeman halted him. Bob showed his fire badge. The policeman said scornfully: “I don’t give a damn for that. That wall in there is going to fall in a minute.”

Bob laughed. “I was covering fires when you were in the cradle, old man,” he said, and slipped by, into the alley. The officer started to pursue, swore, changed his mind, returned to his post. The alley was not an attractive place to enter. It was full of smoke, and sprinkled with bits of glass that still tinkled down in a steady rain from the shattered windows above; and as he had said, the upper part of the wall had been gnawed by the fire till it was like to fall at any moment.

In spite of this, Bob went in. He was not afraid, and he was not excited, and he was not valorous. He was simply matter of fact. The smoke made him cough, and burned his eyes. Nevertheless he located the fire-escape, where it came zigzagging down the wall. Its ladder swung seven feet above the sidewalk. He got a barrel and climbed upon it and so reached the ladder.

He scaled the ladder to the second floor landing. He found there a blank, iron-sheathed door. Locked. He could not move it. “But it probably{209} opens from the inside,” he reminded himself. “Let’s see.”

There was no window on this floor; he looked up and discovered that from the landing above he could reach a window. Flames were streaming thinly out of windows ten feet above that landing. Nevertheless, Bob did not hesitate. He climbed, straddled the iron rail, kicked in a pane of glass and pushed the sash up. The room within was full of eddying smoke; Bob crawled inside. He wished to reach the hall, test the doors that opened upon the fire-escape from the inside.

Smoke in the room was thick, so he crouched below it and slipped out into the hall. When he reached the door, he found it adequately equipped with patent bolts of the sort that yielded at a tug. He tried them; the door swung open. The bolts, he saw, were recently installed and in good condition…. The open door had created a draft. Smoke, with a hot breath of fire in it, began to pour past him and out through the door.

Fire-escapes all right; doors all right. No story. Time to get out, he decided.

To do so it was necessary to traverse the building. He did this. Bob had seen fires before. Experience and instinct guided him safely. On the stairs he found lines of hose leading up to where a squad of firemen were fighting the fire from within. He followed the hose down and to the front door and so to the street.

The fire, for newspaper purposes, was over. Three alarms, seven rescues, a hundred thousand damage…. Bob telephoned the office. Dade asked: “How about fire-escapes?{210}”

“I looked at them,” Bob said casually. “They’re O. K. Fire-doors all right, too.” Dade said: “Well, you might as well come in.”

V
Bob brushed his clothes and washed his face and hands in a hotel wash-room before he returned to the office. When he came into the City Room, no one paid him any attention. He went to his desk and wrote the story of Jack Brenton’s wife, and handed the manuscript to Dade. The City Editor scanned the pages with swift eyes, said over his shoulder: “Good stuff, Bob.” Then tossed the story to the copy-desk. “Top 7,” he directed. “Good little local story. But you’d better cut it down. Half a column’s enough.”

Bob went back to his desk. He was beginning to feel the reaction; he was somewhat tired. So for a little while he sat idly, doing nothing at all.

Then Boswell, the publisher, came in from the corridor; and Bob saw him, and turned to his typewriter, and inserted a sheet of paper, and began to write. He wrote, over and over again:

“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

The little old reporter wished to appear busy. He was, you see, a good deal of a coward; he was desperately afraid of being fired.{211}

NOT A DRUM WAS HEARD
I
THIS is, in all essentials, a true story. It came through an old friend from the Southwest, a newspaper man, who telephoned an invitation to lunch the other day. He says he remembers, as a boy, seeing the whole population of his home town embark on horseback, in wagons, and afoot to go to the hanging. That was in 1881; but it was not till twenty years afterward that he heard from one Chris O’Neill the true inwardness of that hanging, as he told it to me over our coffee. The thing happened in a little frontier town in the cow country; and since swift justice and a ready rope were characteristics of the time and the place, it occasioned only passing comment in that day. Nevertheless, the tale may well bear preserving.

I cannot hope to reproduce my friend’s words, nor the atmosphere of those reckless times, so long dead, which he brought back to life for me. Nevertheless, here is the substance of the story that he told.

II
There were two cowboys in the O K O outfit, otherwise called the Hourglass; and these two men were pardners. This, I was given to understand, is a very different thing from being part{212}ners. In France, a few years ago, they would have called themselves “buddies.” The relationship is the same, though it appears under another name. The two men were named Jack Mills and Bud Loupel. If you hired one, you hired both. If one was fired, the other quit. If you licked one, the other licked you; and if one became involved in a shooting affray, the other was apt to be somewhere in the background with a gun in his hand and an eye out for possible sharp practice by allies of the party of the second part. The foreman of the Hourglass, being wise in his generation, assigned the two to tasks at which they could work together; and they stayed with that outfit for a length of time that was considered extraordinary in those tempestuous days. That is to say, they labored in the vineyard for the O K O for a matter of a year and a half. At the end of that time Jack Mills was twenty-one and Bud Loupel was twenty-two.

As they did their work jointly, so they took their pleasures together; and it came to pass on a certain day that they rode away to town with full pockets and lively plans for the evenings immediately before them. Jack Mills, always the gayer spirit of the two, pulled his gun at the edge of town and perforated the blue sky above him. At the same time he emitted certain shrill sounds and spurred his horse to the gallop. Bud was more given to a certain sobriety and decorum; he did not shoot and he did not yell. But his horse kept close beside the other’s. They swung into the wide and dusty main street with hats flapping, horses racing like jack rabbits, holsters pounding{213} against their thighs. They swept up the street together, saw the same vision at the same instant, and jerked their horses to a sliding, tail-grinding stop with a single movement of their bridle hands.

The vision’s name was Jeanie Ross. She was the daughter of old man Ross, the storekeeper, and she had just come home from the East. The rattle of the shots had brought her to the door of the store, and she stood there when the two cowboys discovered her. She looked at them; they stared at her. Then Jack Mills swung boldly to the ground and walked toward her, grinning in his pleasantly likable way. He swept his wide hat low, and he said: “Ma’am, I’m Jack Mills of the Hourglass.”

The girl, though she had lived long in the East, was a daughter of the West. She was amused and not displeased, for Jack was easy enough to look at. She smiled, and this emboldened Bud Loupel, who was always conservative, to imitate his pardner’s example. He, too, dismounted and stepped forward, and Jack Mills bowed again to the girl and told her: “Furthermore, ma’am, this here is my bashful friend, Bud Loupel. The cat has got his tongue, but he’s a nice little fellow. Now you know everybody worth knowing.”

Jeanie Ross, still very much amused, asked: “Who were you shooting at?”

“The man in the moon,” said Jack Mills. “But I missed him a mile.”

She laughed and said she was glad of that. “I’d hate not to be able to see him up there once in a while,” she told Jack.

“Just to prove he ain’t hurt,” he assured her,{214} “I’ll ride in and point him out to you when the signs is right.”

She shook her head, looking from one man to the other, withdrawing a little into the doorway. Jack marked, even then, that her eyes rested longest on Bud Loupel. “I’ve studied astronomy my own self,” she said, and while he was still crushed by that she backed into the store and disappeared.

The two mounted in silence and continued more demurely down the street. In front of Brady’s they hitched their horses, tramped dustily inside, and touched elbows at the bar. The first drink was taken without speech; the second followed it.

After a while Bud Loupel said: “Jack!”

“Huh?”

“Me, you know what I aim to do?”

Mills grinned. “I don’t know, but I’m waiting.”

“I aim,” said Bud Loupel, “to quit the range and get me a job in this here little old town.”

Jack Mills banged his open hand upon the bar. “Bud, she sure is that and more,” he cried. “Just make it the same for me.”

III
They had ridden into town, as has been said, with full pockets. They had expected to ride out again in a day or two with empty ones. But the encounter with Jeanie Ross and their subsequent abrupt decision made all the difference in the world. The procedure of each one, in the circumstances, was characteristic. Bud Loupel crossed the street to the bank and opened an account, de{215}positing his money. Jack Mills went into Brady’s back room, where there was a bank of another kind, and set to work to double his.

The bank Bud patronized was owned by Sam Rand, who was also cashier, president, and board of directors. There had been, till some three days before, a teller, but Rand had let him go. Bud found the banker, as a consequence, up to his eyes in unaccustomed work. Rand knew Loupel, knew that the cowboy had a certain aptitude for figures. When Bud, in the casual talk that followed his deposit, mentioned the fact that he was hunting for a town job, Rand hired him on the spot.

An hour or so later Bud went back to Brady’s to tell Jack of his good fortune, and Mills rolled a cigarette and said cheerfully: “Then you’re fixed to lend me five dollars.”

“As quick as this?” Bud asked. “You must have picked ’em mighty scant.”

“I didn’t pick them,” Jack told him. “They picked me.”

They went out together and sought a restaurant and food. By supper time Jack had a job in the blacksmith shop. He was as good with horses as Bud was with figures. That evening they hired a room, and Bud wrote a note to the Hourglass foreman, telling him not to expect them back again. Then they settled down to live the life of sober and substantial citizens. Object matrimony.

Now, this is not a story of how a woman came between two men and turned good friends into enemies. Jeanie Ross did nothing of the kind. It is a fact that they both loved her and that they both wooed her, but it is also a fact that they con{216}tinued to be pardners just the same. And it is furthermore true that when Jeanie made up her mind between them, Jack was the first one she told.

She told him she was going to marry Bud. And Jack rolled a cigarette with both hands, slowly and with care; he fashioned it neatly, and stroked it between his fingers, and twisted the ends and lighted it before he spoke at all.

“Said so to him?” he asked then.

Jeanie shook her head. “No. I wanted you to know first, because I want you and Bud to keep on being friends. I like you, Jack. But you’re—flighty. Bud’s steady. You’re more amusing sometimes, but he’s more reliable. I couldn’t ever really count on you. I can count on Bud, Jack. But you will go on being friends with him, won’t you? That’s why I’m telling you.”

“He’s steady, he’s reliable, and you can count on him,” Jack repeated, ticking the points off upon his fingers. “Now, is there maybe any other little thing besides?”

“Yes,” said Jeanie softly. “Yes. I love him, Jack.”

He flicked his cigarette away. “Keno!” he exclaimed. “And Bud’s a good scout too. I don’t reckon you’ll ever need to be sorry at all.” He picked up his hat and started away.

“Where are you going?” she asked softly, and there were tears in her eyes for him.

“I aim to tell Bud you’re a-waiting,” he said.

And he did. Bud was working late that night at the bank. Jack bade him go and find her. “And, Bud,” he warned good-humoredly, “I’ll aim to{217} perforate you, sudden and complete, if you don’t name the first after me.”

When Bud was gone Jack stood very still for a while, whistling a little tune between his teeth. Then he went across to Brady’s and had a drink or two, but the liquor would not bite. It was still early in the evening when he sought the room he shared with Bud, and went to bed. Bud, returning two hours later, undressed quietly, because he thought his pardner was asleep.

But Jack Mills was not asleep.

IV
The first was a boy, and was well and duly named Jack Loupel; and Uncle Jack used to go to the house for Sunday dinner and play bear all over the floor of the sitting room. The next was a girl, and the next was a boy again. Bud was by that time cashier of the bank, and Sam Rand left most of the work to him. Jack Mills was just what he had always been; that is to say, a likable, wild young chap with a quick gun and a reckless eye and a fondness for the society he found at Brady’s. Sometimes, after eating one of Jeanie’s dinners, he would take his horse and ride out of town and be gone for a day or two. He was always alone on these excursions; but ranging cowboys came across him now and then and reported that he seemed to be just sitting around, smoking, doing nothing at all. When he got ready he would drift back into town and go to work again. Old man Ross liked him; Jeanie liked him; everybody liked him. But the sober citizens were also in{218}clined to disapprove of him; and some of the stories that came to Jeanie’s ears made her think that when the children were a little older she had better quit asking Jack to come to the house. She hated to think of doing this; and because she was kind of heart, it is unlikely that she would ever have come to the actual point. But that the possibility should occur to her is some measure of the man’s standing in the town.

One day, about seven years after Bud and Jeanie were married, Bud sought out Jack Mills and asked him to get his horse and come for a ride. “Want to tell you something, Jack,” he explained.

Mills saw the trouble and distress in the other’s eyes, so he saddled up, and they trotted out of town. When the last building was well behind them, Jack asked mildly: “What’s on your mind, Bud?”

Bud Loupel, with some hesitation, said: “I’m in trouble.”

“Yeah! I judged so,” Mills told him. “Well, what brand?”

“I’ve been putting money in the market at Wichita,” Loupel said. “I’ve had rotten luck. It’s gone.”

Jack nodded. “I got three-four hundred in the bank,” he suggested. “Take that.”

“It’s not enough.”

“Maybe I could look around and raise five hundred more.”

“It wouldn’t do a bit of good.”

Mills produced tobacco and papers and rolled a slow cigarette while their horses jogged along. At last: “How much?” he asked.{219}

“Forty-four hundred.”

“You’ve saved a right smart, ain’t you?”

“It’s the bank’s,” Loupel confessed, and Jack puffed deeply and expelled the smoke in a cloud and remarked:

“Well, at a guess, I’d say you were a damned fool.”

“I know it.”

Their horses plodded on, and the dust cloud rose and hovered in the air behind them. For a space neither man spoke at all. Then Loupel bitterly exclaimed: “I’m not whining for my own sake, Jack. If it was me, I’d hop out. I’d take a chance. But Jeanie….”

“Sure,” Jack Mills mildly agreed. “Sure.”

“Damn it, Jack, Jeanie’s proud of me. She’s proud of me.”

“Yeah!”

“I can’t bear to think of her knowing. It would just about bust her.”

Mills drawled: “Your sentiments does you credit, Bud.”

There was a cold and scornful anger in his tone that kept the other for the moment silent. They rode on, side by side, and Loupel, covertly watching the younger man, waited for him to speak. Mills finished his cigarette, eyes straight before him, face unchanging. Then he flicked the butt away and turned in his saddle and looked at his pardner.

“What’s Rand say?” he asked.

“He’s been away. Due back to-morrow afternoon. He’ll spot it in a minute.”

Mills whistled for a moment, between his teeth,{220} a gallant little tune; then he nodded, as though in decision, and he asked: “All right, Bud. What’s your idea?”

While they rode on at the trot toward the low hills south of the town Bud Loupel outlined his idea; and when they turned back again at sunset Jack had agreed to do what the other asked of him.

V
At ten o’clock next morning the town lay still and shimmering in the blistering sun of a summer day. There were one or two men in Brady’s, and here and there along Main Street other figures lounged in the shade. Jack Mills rode in from the south on a strange horse, wearing new overalls and an indistinguishable hat. There was a red bandanna loosely knotted about his neck. He encountered no one within recognizing distance. In front of the bank he dropped off, hitched the horse, lifted the handkerchief so that it hid his mouth and nose, and stepped into the building. Two or three people at some distance saw him go in, and idly wondered who the stranger was.

He had hoped to find Loupel alone in the bank; but Jim Paine was there. Paine had just cashed a check and stood with his back toward the door, talking to Bud. When Bud saw the masked man he turned pale, and Jim marked the change in his countenance and whirled around. But Jack’s gun was leveled, so Bud and Jim Paine reached for the ceiling.

Mills, with some attempt to disguise his voice,{221} said harshly to Bud: “Paper money. All of it. Quick!”

Loupel, hands still in the air, started toward the safe. Jack looked that way and saw that the safe door was open. He changed his mind.

“Wait,” he commanded. With a gesture he bade Paine face the wall. Then he leaped the counter, motioned Loupel aside, and himself approached the safe. Paine, watching sidewise, saw the masked man drag out half a dozen packets of bills and stuff them into the front of his shirt. Mills did this with his left hand; his right hand held the gun, and his eyes covered Paine and Loupel almost constantly. Loupel, backed into a corner, watched in silence.

When Mills had taken what he came for, he rose and turned toward the counter again. At that instant a gun roared behind him, and something tugged at his shirt, under the left arm. He whirled, saw Rand standing in the back door of the bank building. Rand’s gun was going. Jack fanned his hammer twice, and the banker fell.

Paine had not moved. Mills swung, half crouching, toward Loupel. Loupel had double-crossed him. That was the thought that tightened his finger on the trigger. But—Jeanie! That was the thought which made his trigger finger relax. He slid across the counter, made the door in one jump. Five seconds after his shot, his horse was galloping out of town. And as he passed the last house a rifle spoke, somewhere behind him.

 

Half a mile from town he looked back and saw three or four horsemen just emerging from Main{222} Street. On their heels others appeared. He laughed a grim little laugh, and slid forward in his stirrups to help his horse to greater speed. But when he reached the hills, some half a dozen miles south of town, they were close behind him, and their rifles were reaching out for him. He knew a certain cave, a narrow, shallow cover. Poor refuge, but better than none.

In this cave they brought him to bay. He lay prone behind the bowlder that screened and half closed the entrance, and watched them draw off and circle to inclose him. “Got a little while,” he said to himself. “Fireworks won’t start right away.”

Satisfied of this, he rolled a little on his side and drew from the front of his shirt the packages he had taken from the safe. Strictly in line with Bud Loupel’s well-laid plan, these were simply dummy packets of waste paper, with a genuine bill on the outside of each bundle. Mills laid them on the ground and studied them thoughtfully, considering their significance.

His situation was sufficiently desperate. Rand was dead. He had no doubt of that, and he regretted it. He had always liked Rand, but there had been no choice at the moment. The question was, what next! These fake bundles of money had their place in the scheme of things. If he kept them, told the true story, they might well save his life. Frontier justice was swift, but it was also tempered by considerations not accepted under a more rigid system of law. If he proved Bud Loupel’s part in this, Bud would be damned, and he might himself be saved. And the dummy bundles{223} would prove Bud’s guilty foreknowledge of the robbery.

A rifle bullet spattered on the rock above him, and he postponed decision. “Needs thinking over,” he told himself. “We’ll see what we will see.”

They held him in siege all that afternoon, and toward sunset brought a barrel of kerosene from town. Men climbed the hill above the cave, where the bullets could not reach them, and poured this oil so that it ran down into a pool just in front of his retreat. Then they set fire to it. He saw at once that he could not endure the smoke and gas, and after some preparations shouted his surrender.

They bade him come out with his hands in the air, and he did so. His boots were somewhat scorched by the flames. Then they tied his hands behind his back and his ankles beneath the horse’s belly, and took him back to town. Toward dusk he was lodged in the calaboose there, and Nick Russ, the deputy, went on guard outside.

VI
About nine o’clock that night Bud Loupel came to the calaboose and asked if he could talk with Mills. Russ told him to go ahead. Bud asked permission to talk privately; and, though Russ was inclined to protest, he was at length persuaded. The deputy moved away from the little, one-room building, and Bud went inside. Mills was confined in a rude cell of two-by-four timbers.{224} Bud approached these bars, and Jack came to meet him.

Loupel was sweating faintly. “For God’s sake, Jack,” he whispered. “This is terrible!”

Mills grinned. “Well,” he agreed. “It looks right critical to me.”

“If Rand hadn’t happened to get back ahead of time…. Hadn’t come in right then….”

“You didn’t happen to know he was coming, I don’t reckon.”

Loupel cried: “No, no, Jack. Honest to God!”

Mills nodded. “I know. I thought at first you did; but I reckon you wouldn’t play it that low down. Is he—hurt much?”

“Oh, you got him.”

“Yeah,” said Mills. “Well, that’s tough, too. When is it going to happen to me?”

“To-morrow morning.”

“They’re right prompt, ain’t they?”

Loupel gripped the stout timbers to stop the trembling of his hands. There was a terrible and pitiful anxiety in his voice. “Jack!” he whispered.

“Yeah?”

“Have you told?”

Mills turned his head away; he could not bear to look upon this old friend of his. “Why, no,” he said gently. “No, Bud, I ain’t told. Don’t aim to, if that helps any.”

“But the money,” Bud stammered. “The packages of bills. You couldn’t get rid of them. When they find them, they’ll know.”

“They won’t find them bundles,” Jack Mills told him; and, while Bud could only stare with{225} widening eyes, he cheerfully explained: “You see, I was cold for a spell. So I had me a little bonfire in that cave.”

There was something hideous and craven in the relief that leaped into the eyes of Bud Loupel. Mills reached through the bars, caught the other’s shoulder, shook him upright. “Take a brace, Bud,” he said gently. “Go on home.”

Bud Loupel could not speak. He turned and went stumbling toward the door; he forgot so little a thing as shaking his pardner’s hand in farewell. Jack watched him go; and as the other reached the door he called:

“Take care of Jeanie, Bud.”

Loupel turned to look back, muttered a low assent, went on his way. Mills heard him speak to Russ as he departed. Then the deputy came to look in and make sure that the prisoner was still secure. He resumed his seat on a chair tipped against the wall, just outside the door.

Mills went back to the bench against the rear of his cell and rolled and smoked a cigarette. Then he lay down, one knee crossed above the other, and the man on guard heard him whistling.

Heard him whistling softly, between his teeth, a gay and gallant and triumphant little tune.{226}

THE MAN WHO LOOKED LIKE EDISON
I
ERNIE BUDDER was a leading member of a profession not always given its just due—that is to say, he was an expert washer of automobiles. You have seen his like in your own service-station, garbed in rubber boots and rubber apron, a long-handled soapy brush in one hand, and the ragged end of a line of hose without a nozzle in the other. But unless you have attempted on your own account the task he so expeditiously performs, you have never properly appreciated this man. By the time you have run water over your car, only to find that it dries in muddy spots upon the varnished surface; by the time you have wet it again and wiped it hurriedly, and found the result suggestive of the protective coloration of a zebra; by the time you have for a third time applied the hose, and scrubbed with the sponge, and wiped with the chamois, and picked off with your fingernails the lint and dust that still persist in sticking, you will have begun to value at their true worth such men as Ernie Budder.

Ernie could and did wash and polish a car an hour, with monotonous regularity, all day long. For this work he was paid a dollar an hour, which{227} seems munificent until you have tried it, and until you stop to consider that, for the work he has done, you paid his employer three dollars, and until you remember the cost of living and such matters not easy to forget.

He was a fixture at my particular service-station, where his abilities were recognized by the powers that were. If you ran your car in and said confidentially to Forgan, the foreman: “Give her an extra good going-over, will you? I’ve been out on some muddy roads, and she needs it,” then Forgan would nod, and promise reassuringly, “I’ll see to it that Ernie does her himself, boss.” Upon which, if you knew Ernie and trusted Forgan, you went away completely at your ease.

Ernie was not a young man, in spite of his youthful appellation. I suppose his name had once been Ernest. He was past middle life—how far past it was hard to guess. His hair was snow-white, and his square shoulders were a little stooped, but his hands were vigorous and his eye was mild and clear. There was a diffident affability about him, an amiability like that of a puppy which is afraid of being misunderstood; and, as a result of this quality, it is probable that he was somewhat put upon by the more aggressive characters among whom his lines were laid. My acquaintance with him was a matter of slow growth over a period of years. What might be called our friendship dated from the day when Ernie whispered to me that there had been a small leak in my radiator. I nodded abstractedly.

“Thanks,” I told him. “I’ll run her in to-morrow and let them patch it up.{228}”

He shook his head.

“Don’t need to,” he told me. “I stuck a drop of solder on her to-day. Gave it a lick of enamel. You’ll never notice the place at all.”

I stifled my natural suspicion—for I did not know the man—and pulled out a bill; but Ernie smiled and backed away.

“No, no,” he said pleasantly. “No; I like to tinker. Don’t let Forgan know. That’s all.”

I was a little dazed, would have insisted. But in the face of his persistent, good-natured refusal, I perceived that I had been mistaken. The man was not a type; he was an individual. And thereafter we became, as I have suggested, friends. If there was a grease-cup missing when he washed the car, I was sure to find it replaced. If my brakes needed adjusting, he found time to attend to them. A surface-cut on a tire that passed under his hands was apt to be filled with cement and composition and firmly closed. I eventually discovered that this habit was no secret to Forgan.

“He thinks we ain’t wise,” the foreman said to me. “But I’ve spotted him at it. Long as he does them things on his own time, why should we kick? We don’t want to soak our customers. We’re human, ain’t we? Besides, it makes ’em good-natured. And Ernie likes to think he’s putting something over. So I don’t let on.”

But it was not that Ernie liked to think he was putting something over; it was simply, as the man had told me, that he liked to tinker. I was not alone in his favor. Others also benefited. He was a friend of all the world.{229}

II
I missed him one day when I drove in and left the car. Forgan laughed at my question.

“Yep,” he said. “Gone. Got a vacation. Guy came in here—one of these movie men. Spotted Ernie, and said he wanted him for a picture. Said he looked the part. He’ll be back in a month or so. ’Less he gets the bug.”

I was interested, and a little amused at the thought of Ernie on the film; and I hoped he would come back at the end of the stipulated month, hoped he would, in fact, escape the bug.

As matters chanced, it was two weeks over the allotted month before I had occasion to take my car to the service-station. I drove in on my way to town in the morning, and Forgan slid back the doors for me, and Ernie’s familiar smile, a little more alert than of old, greeted me from the washing-floor.

“Just a wash and a polish,” I told Forgan, as I rolled past him at the door; and he nodded and said,

“Give her to Ernie.”

I maneuvered in the narrow passage and headed in to the washing-floor; but Ernie held up a warning hand, smiling and nodding.

“Cut her,” he called. “Over this side.”

And as I obeyed, wondering what it was all about, I saw that he cocked a wise eye toward the ceiling. Under his guidance, I brought the car into the position he desired, and then alighted and asked:{230}

“What’s the idea, Ernie! Used to be any old place would do.”

Ernie chuckled.

“Look a’ there,” he admonished, and pointed upward. “There’s an arrangement I’ve fixed up. Just shut up your windows and you’ll see.”

Mine is a sedan; I obediently closed windows and doors.

“Rigged her myself,” Ernie repeated. “Just three-four lengths of pipe and a punch. Works great on a closed car.” And he yanked at the long wooden pole which opened the water-valve against the ceiling.

That which Ernie had indicated so pridefully was a rectangle of two-inch pipe, hung in such position that it was just above the roof of the car. When the valve was opened, from this pipe through numberless orifices descended a veritable water-curtain composed of many tiny streams. The water struck upon the top of the car and flowed down over front and rear and sides in sheets.

“Wets her and rinses her all at once,” Ernie pointed out to me. “Saves a lot of time, and does a sight better job. I rigged her.”

He was, as I have said, immensely proud—proud as a child. The idea was undoubtedly ingenious, and I told him so.

“I got a lot of ideas,” he assured me. “I’m figuring on them.”

I nodded.

“How’d you like the movies?” I asked.

“Great!” he said. “Say, I want to tell you—”

But I was already overdue at the office, and I{231} made my excuses to the old man. Another time, I said, would do. He agreed, as he always agreed, and I left him at work upon the car. Forgan, at the door, winked in his direction as I passed, and asked,

“Do you make him?”

“Why?” I inquired. “What do you mean?”

“You watch the old coot,” Forgan admonished me. “He’s a new man.”

III
I heard from Ernie, and in fragmentary snatches, the story of his moving-picture experience. There was a studio in one of the more remote suburbs, the plant of a fly-by-night company of none too good repute. The director of this company it was who had enticed Ernie away.

“They wanted me,” he told me seriously one day, “because I looked so much like Tom Edison. Didn’t you ever notice that?”

I did not smile, for Ernie was perfectly sober. But that this washer of automobiles was even remotely like the great inventor seemed to me a ridiculous suggestion. It was true that Ernie had white hair, had a round and placid face; but there was in his countenance none of that strength which is so evident in the other’s. I told myself that it was possible the picture-people were wiser than I, that under the lights and with a touch of makeup here and there—

“A war-film, it was,” Ernie assured me. “I was the big man in it.”

“So?” I prompted.{232}

“Yeah. Inventor. Working on a new torpedo thing. Spies after it, trying to get it from me. They had me working in a shop with barred windows and a steel door and a guard outside. Had a bed there. Slept there. In the picture, you understand. Ate there and everything. People’d come to see me, and I’d show ’em how the thing worked. I was the big man in that picture, I’ll tell you.”

“That must have been an interesting experience,” I suggested.

He nodded, started to speak, but an expression curiously and almost ludicrously secretive crossed his countenance. He held his tongue, turned back to his task in a manner almost curt.

I drove out, and just outside the door—this was in January, and there was snow upon the streets—one of my chains flipped off. Forgan’s hail of warning stopped me, and he shut the door and came out to help me adjust the chain.

“I see Ernie telling you about his movie,” he said, as we worked. And I was surprised, for the man’s tone was perfectly respectful.

“Yes,” I replied. “He seems to take it seriously.”

“Well, now, you know,” Forgan told me, “it’s made a big change in Ernie.”

“Change?” I blew upon my cold fingers and fumbled at the chains.

“Yes. He never had much git-up to him before. But now he’s full of ideas. Rigged that water-curtain to wash the cars. Things like that. Good ideas, too.”

My interest was caught.{233}

“A real inventor?”

“You’d be surprised. He took him two of these here electric pads that you sleep on when you got the lumbago, and made a bag of them, just right to fit round the carbureter and the manifold of his old flivver; and he keeps her all warm at night from the light-socket. No heat in his garage. No starter on his car; but he says she starts at the first whirl now.”

“That’s pretty good,” I agreed. “More power to him. I’ve no heat, either. Use one of those electric things under the hood; but Ernie’s notion is better.”

“Get him to make you one,” Forgan advised. And, the chain adjusted, I stepped in and drove away.

I was able, thus prompted by Forgan, to mark the development in Ernie during the succeeding weeks. He became steadily more alert of eye, and at the same time more confident of his own powers. One day in early spring I drove in and remarked that I had dropped a grease-cup off the forward right-hand spring.

“I’ll stick one on,” he promised. “One around here somewheres.” And added, “You won’t be using them things any more in a year or two.”

“I suppose you’re right. They’ll do away with them somehow,” I agreed.

“They won’t,” said Ernie. “But I will.”

“You’ve got a scheme? Automatic lubrication?”

“Better than that,” he told me.

“Better?{234}”

“I’ll show you one o’ these days,” he promised. But would say no more.

IV
It was not till early May that I was shown, and, as the thing chanced, it was Forgan who then showed me.

I happened to come in when Ernie was not there. We spoke of him, and Forgan said,

“You know what that old guy’s done?” I shook my head. “Company’s backing him,” said Forgan. “He’s got a great thing. You come down-stairs.”

We went down to the machine shop under the receiving floor. Forgan unlocked the door, led me into a small room. On a bench was set up a tiny electric motor, harnessed to a wheel and connected with a simple bit of apparatus which had no meaning, at first sight, at all. But Forgan stopped the motor and made all clear to me. The power revolved a wooden spindle, which entered a hole in a steel block, whirling there. I could perceive no purpose in this, but Forgan said:

“It’s a test. It don’t do anything. Feel of it. Ain’t hot, is it?”

I touched the steel, touched the spindle that had been revolving so swiftly.

“No.”

“See if you can pull it out.” I tried, and failed. “Tight fit, you see,” Forgan told me. “But she’s been spinning in there for three days now, except when we stop her to measure once in a while. No oil, and no heat, and no wear.{235}”

“But what’s it all about?” I asked.

“That’s an oilless bearing,” Forgan explained, a little disgusted with my stupidity. “Piece of hard wood, filled with oil. Use the stuff to make wrist-pins and all, and you’ll never have to oil your chassis at all.”

The thing broke upon me.

“But does it work?” I asked.

“You see it,” he said. “It works here. Well, it’ll work anywhere.”

“And Ernie figured that out?”

“He sure did.”

“Why, the man’s a genius!”

“Yeah. Ever since he went and got his picture took.”

“How does he make this, anyway—this bearing? Soak the wood in oil?”

Forgan laughed.

“Not as easy as that. He puts her in as hot as the devil, and under a lot of pressure. Don’t just know how. He won’t tell. He’s got a lay-off now to work it out. Figuring on cost. Cost’s too much now; but he’s going to figure to make it cheaper. He—”

Ernie himself came in just then. I hardly knew him. He had on a new suit of clothes; he was close-shaven, and his hair was trimmed. His bearing was that of a successful and confident man, and he nodded to the respectful Forgan as one nods to a chauffeur.

“How is she?” he asked.

“Cool as a cucumber,” Forgan assured him.

“Any wear?”

“I’ll see,” the foreman said with alacrity, and{236} proceeded to dismantle the test-apparatus and apply a micrometer to the bearing. Ernie nodded to me, and I said,

“Seems like a fine thing.”

“It is,” he replied, positively and confidently, yet without a trace of arrogance or ugly pride. “Yes; it will do very well.”

“No wear at all,” Forgan reported, and Ernie nodded assent.

“Keep her going,” he directed.

While Forgan was setting the apparatus again in position, Ernie and I went up the stair together. He said, as we came to the main floor,

“By the way, that film, you know—”

“The one you were in—”

“Yes. It’s at the Globe next week.”

“I’ll surely go and see it,” I promised him.

We separated with a word, and I drove home, marveling at this new man that had been Ernie Budder—marveling at the power of suggestion. He had been told that he looked like a great inventor, and he had emerged from this experience stimulated, sure of himself, alert, and keen—a new man.

Such a slight fillip from the finger of Destiny to throw open before a man’s feet new and lofty ways—

V
Toward the end of the next week I went to the Globe, and so understood at last that what Destiny had brewed was tragedy. Ernie was in the film; so far he had been right. But in how different a rôle! I could understand how they had tricked{237} him. An actor on the screen knows nothing, or may know nothing of scenes in which he does not himself appear. Ernie had no doubt been told that he was playing the part of a great inventor upon whom the hopes of the nation rested; he had accepted the explanation, had accepted the barred windows, the steel door, the guard outside, and the solicitous visitors.

But he had been deceived, perhaps because they feared he would not otherwise consent to play the part they assigned to him. For the Ernie in the films was no great inventor but an insane old man; the bars at his windows were the bars of a madman’s cell. Within, this madman pottered at his mad designs, and the guard at the door was not to keep others out but to keep him in; and the solicitous visitors paid him no respect but only humored his poor illusion. There were tears in my eyes before the thing was finished—tears of pity for Ernie, and tears of hot anger at the callous brutality of those who had contrived this thing. I thought of legal action on his behalf; but they had, no doubt, been wise enough to have him sign a release from all responsibility. There was nothing that could be done.

I avoided the service-station for the week thereafter; I could not bear to see Ernie. But at last it was necessary to go in. I planned to tell him, if he asked, that I had missed seeing the film. So much poor kindness I could do the man.

When I drove in, he was on the washing-floor, working about a limousine. The old, ragged hose was in his hand; the sprinkler he had designed was still attached to the ceiling, but unused. I{238} parked my car in an empty space and walked across to him. He looked up with his old timidly amiable smile, and I saw that the alert confidence and the sense of power were utterly gone.

“There’s a grease-cup missing, Ernie, from the rear end,” I told him. “If you see one kicking around—”

“Why, yes; sure,” he promised me.

I hesitated, then said smilingly, “Won’t need to bother with them in a year or two—”

By his answer, I knew that the dreams were gone and the vision was fled.

“Oh, I guess we’ll have to keep puttering on in the same old ways,” said Ernie Budder hopelessly.{239}

SUCCESS
I
JENKINS was a special writer of national reputation, and he had come on from Philadelphia to see Homer Dean, the automobile man whose name is a registered trade-mark borne by some hundred thousand cars of the first class upon the nation’s thoroughfares. Jenkins’ appointment with Dean was for two-thirty in the afternoon, but he was in the reception room outside the other’s office a little ahead of time.

While he sat there Dean came out with an older man, to whom he was saying goodby, and when this older man was gone the millionaire turned to Jenkins with a friendly nod of invitation, and Jenkins followed him into his office. But Dean at once went to a closet in the corner and brought out his coat and hat, saying: “I’m going to have to put you off till to-morrow, Mr. Jenkins. Old Jasper Hopkins, my first boss—that was him who just went out—has just told me something I should have known twenty years ago. I’ve got to—straighten it out. Come in to-morrow, can you?”

The writer’s disappointment showed in his face. “I had figured on taking the six o’clock to-night.”

Dean hesitated, glancing at his watch. “Just what is it you wanted of me?” he asked.

Jenkins smiled. “The usual thing. The story{240} of how you did it. People are always interested in such things. Self-made man, you know. It’s old stuff, sir, but it’s sure-fire.”

“I know,” the automobile man agreed, nodding thoughtfully. He considered for a moment, then, with abrupt decision, took off his coat, his hat. “After all, it’s waited twenty years,” he said. “Another two hours won’t matter. And—the affair may interest you.” He turned back to his desk, indicated a chair for the other. “Sit down,” he directed. “I think I understand what you’re planning. ‘How to Make Yourself. By One Who Has Done It.’ Is that the idea?”

“Yes.”

Dean smiled. “I’ve heard folks speak of me as self-made,” he confessed. “In fact, that has been, secretly, my own idea. Until an hour ago. Just how much do you know of my—success, anyway?”

“I know you’re the head of one of the half dozen biggest concerns in the business.”

“Know how I came to be here?”

“You were managing vice-president in the beginning; bought out Hopkins ten years or so ago.”

“Can you go back any farther than that?”

“I’ve understood you were sales manager of the old Hopkins Tool Company; that you were a world beater in that job.”

Dean laughed. “Those were boom times, and sales jumped. I happened to be the head of the department, and I got the credit. Ever hear how Hopkins came to make me sales manager?” Jenkins shook his head.{241}

“He had put me on as a salesman,” Dean explained. “My first trip, a big prospect hunted me up, said he’d decided to trade with us, and gave me a whooping order. My predecessor had worked on them four years; they fell into my lap, and Hopkins thought I was a worker of miracles from that day.”

Jenkins shook his head, smiling. “You give yourself the worst of it,” he commented.

Dean’s eyes had become sober and thoughtful; he spoke slowly, as though invoking memory. “You’ve called me a self-made man. But, as a matter of fact, it was the mere accident that I was on the spot which gave me that first order; and that order made me sales manager within two months’ time. By and by the automobile came along, and Old Jasper remodeled his factory and went after the business—with me in charge. He gave me some stock; and a year or two later his son Charlie died and took the heart out of the old man. He offered to sell out to me, and I gave him a bundle of notes for the whole thing. The business paid them off inside of five years. Do you see? The fact that I was salesman made me sales manager; the fact that I was sales manager made me vice-president; the fact that I was vice-president threw the business into my hands; and the fact that everybody wanted to buy cars has done the rest. Still call me a self-made man?”

“After all,” Jenkins suggested, “you had made good or you wouldn’t have been given the job as salesman.”

Dean nodded emphatically. “That’s the key to the whole structure,” he agreed. “That first job{242} as salesman. And that’s what I want to tell you about. If you care to hear.”

The reporter did care to hear, and this—as he shaped the tale in his thoughts thereafter—is what he heard:

II
Homer Dean and Will Matthews grew up in adjoining back yards, fought and bled with and for each other as boys will, went through high school side by side, took a business course given by a broken-down bookkeeper in a bare room over the Thornton Drug Store, and went to work in the offices of the Hopkins Tool Company within a month of each other, as vacancies occurred there. Will got the first job, Homer the second. They helped with labels in the shipping room, kept checking lists, and eventually graduated to keeping books.

The tool company was a one-man concern. Old Jasper Hopkins had founded it, and intended to turn it over to his boy Charlie when his own time should be done. Old Jasper—he was then no more than in his late forties, but he was Old Jasper just the same—was a man of many eccentricities. He had begun as a mechanic, a machinist; and he had mastered the machinery of the shop, but never mastered the machinery of business. He picked machinists for his shop work, but for the white-collar jobs he chose men with no grime under their finger nails. Who sought a job with him began in the shipping room, and advanced—if he had merit—through regular and accustomed channels.{243} Keeping books was the second rung of the ladder. Jasper could not multiply eight by seven; he had a vast respect for any man who could.

Will Matthews could, and so could Homer Dean. Also they recommended themselves to Jasper in other ways. The head of the Hopkins Tool Company had breathed the dust from his own emery wheels in the past; he was of a gritty and abrading disposition. His nerves were tight, his temper was loose; and to arouse him meant an explosion that resembled nothing so much as the commotion which results when the mainspring of an ancient alarm clock, in process of dissection, is injudiciously set free.

His prejudices were tradition. While Will and Homer were still in the shipping room they heard how he had scorched Charlie Dunn with many words over the mere slamming of a door. And how he had reduced Luther Worthing from salesman to bookkeeper again because Luther faced him one morning with waistcoat half unbuttoned. And how he had summarily discharged Jim Porter for carelessly rumpling the corner of the office rug. Noise he hated, neatness and order he demanded and revered; and more than one office boy had lost his job for scanting his daily task of putting a fresh and spotless blotter on the broad pad upon Old Jasper’s desk.

These likes and dislikes Homer and Will respected; to a legitimate extent they catered to them; and thus they attained a certain eminence in their employer’s eyes. He had been known to refer to them as promising young men. They knew this as well as others did, and there was a{244} good-natured rivalry between them to see which should distance the other on the upward way.

III
This was not the only rivalry between the two young men. Her name was Annie Cool, and she was some four years younger than either. They became aware of her the year after her graduation from high school, when she let down her skirts and put up her prettily luxuriant hair and ceased to be “that Cool kid” in their eyes. There is a wide gulf between twelve and sixteen; there is even a gulf between sixteen and twenty. But when the signs are right, there is no gulf at all between, say, eighteen and twenty-two.

Annie was eighteen and they were twenty-two. Presently she was nineteen and they were twenty-three, and a little after that she was twenty and they were twenty-four.

By this time each of the young men was conscious of much more than a pleasantly intense delight in Annie Cool’s companionship. Will Matthews was always somewhat more mature than Homer Dean; he took Annie more seriously. He wooed her gently, with kindliness and much persistence; and Homer wooed her laughingly, with raillery and the rough teasing that goes with youth. There were times when she liked to be with Will; there were other times when she liked to be with Homer, but most of the time she liked to be with both of them, and said so. Other young men of the community knew the uselessness of intrusion on their intimacy.{245}

It had not come to the point of marriage talk, for Will and Homer were getting only a matter of fifteen dollars weekly wage, and even in those days fifteen dollars a week was not considered a competence. But Jasper never paid his bookkeepers more. A salesman, now, was another matter; beside those of a bookkeeper, his wages were munificent. Enough, that is to say, for marrying.

In the fall of the year, when they were twenty-four and Annie Cool was twenty, Steve Randall was killed in a train wreck. Steve was a salesman in the southern territory, and Old Jasper was accustomed to fill vacancies in his selling force from the men who worked upon his books. Both Will and Homer were in line for the job. For three days, till after Steve’s funeral, everyone ignored this fact; then a certain atmosphere of expectancy began to develop in the office. Old Jasper was in bed at home with a shaking cold, but on the fourth day word came that next morning would see him at the office. Everyone knew his choice would be either Homer or Will.

On their way home together after work that day these two met Charlie Hopkins, the old man’s son; and Charlie stopped, smiling like a bearer of good news. “I’ve just come from father,” he told them, and he added: “Homer, you’ve got to congratulate Will this time.”

He shook Will by the hand, and Homer said:

“You’re going to get it, Will. Good for you. I sure am glad!”

Will looked at the other, and there was a faint mist in his eyes. “I know you are, Homer,” he said. “I’d have been just as glad for you.{246}”

Nevertheless, both knew that this moment must always mark the parting of their ways. Thus far they had gone shoulder to shoulder; hereafter one would lead. Also, both thought of Annie Cool.

IV
That evening after supper Homer Dean went over to see Annie. He did not telephone to ask if he might come, for Annie was always glad to see him, or to see Will, whether she knew they were coming or not. Homer got there early, so early that the Cools were still at supper, and he went into the dining room and sat by the door, refusing Mrs. Cool’s hospitable urgings that he eat a second supper with them. He did surrender to a piece of pumpkin pie, but it failed to raise his spirits. He was not yet able to face with composure the fact that Will had beaten him. Will was his friend; there was no malice in Homer. Nevertheless, he was disappointed, and discouraged, and sick at heart.

This was not apparent to Mr. Cool, nor to Annie’s mother, nor to her younger sister and brother. They all liked Homer, and they talked to him, all at once, but Annie said very little. She watched him, with a curiously wistful questioning in her eyes, but she did not at that time put her question into words.

After supper Mr. Cool and Homer went into the sitting room and smoked together while Mrs. Cool and the two girls cleaned up the supper dishes. Annie’s brother had gone downtown immediately{247} after supper, and soon after they came in from the kitchen Annie’s sister was borne away by one of the boys of the neighborhood. Then Annie drew a scarf across her shoulders and suggested to Homer that they sit on the porch.

“It’s warm to-night,” she told him. “We shan’t be cold.”

So they went outside and sat down a little to one side of the front steps, where they were shadowed and hidden by some wistaria vines from which the leaves were just beginning to fall. And Annie asked at once:

“What is it, Homer? What is wrong?”

He did not ask her how she knew anything was wrong. In a boyish fashion he had rather enjoyed the melancholy mien he wore, and knew she had noticed it.

“Oh—nothing,” he said.

Annie shook her head in slow reproof, her eyes softly shining in the shadows.

“Yes, there is too, Homer,” she insisted. “Please tell me what it is.”

“Why, I haven’t any right to growl,” he told her. “I didn’t mean you to see. Didn’t mean anyone to see.”

“I could see,” she insisted gently.

He and Will had already explained to her the significance of the death of Steve Randall, the salesman; it was not necessary for Homer to repeat these things. He simply said: “Will’s got that job.”

She did not speak for a moment, then asked softly: “Mr. Randall’s—job?”

“Yes. Charlie Hopkins told us to-night his{248} father had decided.” He added with careful sportsmanship: “Of course Will deserves it. He’s a better man. But I sort of hoped I’d…. Oh, you know.”

“I know, Homer,” she agreed, in a voice that was scarce more than a whisper. And laid her hand, ever so lightly, upon the hand of Homer Dean.

Now Annie Cool had kissed and been kissed many a time, by Will, and by Homer, and by others, in the cheerful frolicking of youth; and she had held hands on hay rides, or beneath the table at supper parties, or even on more public occasions. Thus that she should touch Homer’s hand had in itself no great significance.

But she had never touched his hand, nor he hers, before this night, save when there were others all about them; and always before this night there had been laughter back of the gesture. This night there was not laughter; there were tears.

A conspicuously different matter.

Ten minutes later they drew their eyes one from another for long enough to see that a man had come across the lawn from the street to the steps; that he stood there, looking at them. A man. Will Matthews.

“Will!” cried Annie; and Homer came to his feet, laughing in nervous exhilaration. “Will, old man,” he exclaimed.

Will stepped up on the porch, and they saw that he was smiling. He held out his hand. “I’m sorry I—butted in,” he apologized. “But I’m glad I was the first to know. You’ll never be sorry, Annie. Homer….” Homer had gripped{249} his hand; each held the other fast, as good friends will.

He stayed only a minute, then left them alone together; and he left no shadow of sorrow for him to cloud their hour of happiness.

V
Will Matthews had a practical and straightforward habit of thought; he possessed what men call a level head. He was not given to illusions; and through that long night he faced facts squarely and without self-deception. He had time to weigh many matters, for he did not sleep at all. Time to fight off the first and crushing grief, time to understand fully and beyond changing that he could never love any girl but Annie. He meant that Annie should never know how deeply he had cared, would always care. He could spare her this measure of unhappiness. There was a somber sort of pleasure in planning thus to serve her. Thus and in other fashions…. Do what he could to make her happy as might be…. His thoughts went racing on a half-seen road.

Will was not a heroic figure. Rather a small man, with light hair and a round and amiable countenance, there was nothing about him to arrest the eye. He already wore glasses; his shoulders were already faintly stooped from too close companionship with the ledgers where lay his daily toil. His mother made him wear a strip of oily, red flannel about his throat when he had taken cold. All in all, a man at whom you were like to smile.{250}

But—hear what Will did, and try then if you’re moved to smile.

He made it his business to reach the office next morning some five minutes ahead of the hour. It was chance, a chance that favored what he meant to do, which made Homer Dean ten minutes late. Old Jasper was there before Will; and Will found on his desk a memorandum, commanding him to come at once to Jasper’s office.

He read this memorandum slowly, considering once more the details of his plan.

None of the other bookkeepers had yet arrived; he was alone. Jasper was in his office at the end of the corridor, a few yards away. After a moment Will went out into this corridor and turned toward Jasper’s door. Outside this door he hesitated, and one hand fumbled at his throat, then dropped to the pocket at his side. From within the office he heard old Jasper’s rumbling cough; and he knocked upon the panel.

Jasper called: “Come in.”

Will obeyed. He pushed the door open, stepped slowly inside, and thrust it shut behind him. He did not slam the door; nevertheless the impact was sufficient to make Old Jasper grimace with distaste, and clap his hands to his ears. Will stood still, waiting for the other to speak; and his employer barked:

“What’s the matter with you, anyway? Come here?”

Will moved slowly across the office till he faced Jasper across the other’s immaculate desk. He rested his finger tips on the polished surface, standing uneasily under the older man’s glare.{251}

Abruptly Jasper cried: “Where’s your cravat, Matthews? You’re not half dressed, man. What’s got into you?”

Will’s hand flew to his collar.

“Why, I—I must have forgotten it,” he lamely apologized. “I’m very sorry, sir.”

Jasper snorted; and Will’s hands fidgeted nervously about the tall, old-fashioned ink bottle on the desk before him. The other seemed to hesitate; he cleared his throat importantly. At last he said:

“Well, for God’s sake look out for your appearance better than that hereafter. I sent for you to….”

Will heard him in something like despair. The slammed door, the lost cravat, these had not been sufficient. He set his teeth hard, and one of his nervous hands touched the high ink bottle. It tilted dangerously. He seemed to try to catch it; but the thing escaped him, was overturned. Across the spotless blotter spread a widening black flood; and as Jasper pushed back his chair with awkward haste, those few drops which the blotter had not absorbed flowed over the edge of the desk and descended upon the rug.

The storm broke upon Will’s devoted head; and he stood with burning cheeks under the old man’s profane and scourging tongue, till the first force of Jasper’s anger was spent, and he cried:

“Damn it, I ought to kick you out for good and all. But you never did a thing like this before. You—”

He fell silent, stumped away across the room as though ill at ease. “I meant to—” he began, then{252} stopped again. Stood a moment by the window, looking out; swung back to where Will stood.

“Look up the Fosdick account for me,” he said, with averted eyes. “Give me the figures on it. That’s all. Get out of here.”

Will got out. In the corridor he paused for a moment to replace his cravat, swiftly fitting the stiff ends under the wings of his collar. He was back on his high stool before the first of the other bookkeepers arrived.

When Homer Dean came in, ten minutes late, Old Jasper’s office boy was in the room, looking for him. “The boss wants to see you, Homer,” he said. Right away.”…

VI
“So,” said Homer Dean, the millionaire, to Jenkins, the reporter. “So I got the job, went on the road, my luck began.”

Jenkins had listened without interruption; now he nodded slow acquiescence. “And he handed it to you. How did you find it out?”

“I’m ashamed of that part,” Homer admitted. “Will and I talked it over at the time, decided Charlie had been mistaken. Old Jasper came in to-day, to talk about old times. I’d never asked him before; to-day I did ask: Why he gave me the job? And he told me what Will did that day.”

“Think it was an accident?” Jenkins asked curiously.

Dean shook his head. “I know Will too well. Besides, the ink might have been an accident, but not the cravat, for he had his cravat on when I{253} came in that morning. No, I can see it beyond any doubting, now.”

The writer nodded. “A pretty decent thing,” he commented. “What became of Matthews?”

“He’s our head bookkeeper, at the office downtown. I was going straight to find him when you came.”

Jenkins reached for his hat. His words were commonplace enough, but there was eloquence in his tone.

“Don’t let me keep you, Mr. Dean,” he said.{254}

SHEENER
I
WHEN he was sober the man always insisted that his name was Evans, but in his cups he was accustomed to declare, in a boastful fashion, that his name was not Evans at all. However, he never went further than this, and since none of us were particularly interested, we were satisfied to call him Evans, or, more often, Bum, for short. He was the second assistant janitor; and whereas, in some establishments, a janitor is a man of power and place, it is not so in a newspaper office. In such institutions, where great men are spoken of irreverently and by their first names, a janitor is a man of no importance. How much less, then, his second assistant. It was never a part of Evans’s work, for example, to sweep the floors. There is something lordly in the gesture of the broom. But the janitor’s first assistant attended to that; and Evans’s regular duties were more humble, not unconnected with such things as cuspidors. There was no man so poor to do him honor; yet he had always a certain loftiness of bearing. He was tall, rather above the average height, with a long, thin, bony face like a horse, and an aristocratic stoop about his neck and shoulders. His hands were slender; he walked in a{255} fashion that you might have called a shuffle, but which might also have been characterized as a walk of indolent assurance. His eyes were wash-blue, and his straggling mustache drooped at the corners.

Sober, he was a silent man, but when he had drunk he was apt to become mysteriously loquacious. And he drank whenever the state of his credit permitted. At such times he spoke of his antecedents in a lordly and condescending fashion which we found amusing. “You call me Evans,” he would say. “That does well enough, to be sure. Quite so, and all that. Evans! Hah!”

And then he would laugh, in a barking fashion that with his long, bony countenance always suggested to me a coughing horse. But when he was pressed for details, the man—though he might be weaving and blinking with liquor—put a seal upon his lips. He said there were certain families in one of the Midland Counties of England who would welcome him home if he chose to go; but he never named them, and he never chose to go, and we put him down for a liar by the book. All of us except Sheener.

II
Sheener was a Jewish newsboy; that is to say, a representative of the only thoroughbred people in the world. I have known Sheener for a good many years, and he is worth knowing; also, the true tale of his life might have inspired Scheherazade. A book must be made of Sheener some day. For the present, it is enough to say that he had{256} the enterprise which adversity has taught his people; he had the humility which they have learned by enduring insults they were powerless to resent, and he had the courage and the heart which were his ancient heritage. And—the man Evans had captured and enslaved his imagination.

He believed in Evans from the beginning. This may have been through a native credulity which failed to manifest itself in his other dealings with the world. I think it more probable that Evans and his pretensions appealed to the love of romance native to Sheener. I think he enjoyed believing, as we enjoy lending ourselves to the illusion of the theatre. Whatever the explanation, a certain alliance developed between the two; a something like friendship. I was one of those who laughed at Sheener’s credulity, but he told me, in his energetic fashion, that I was making a mistake.

“You got that guy wrong,” he would say. “He ain’t always been a bum. A guy with half an eye can see that. The way he talks, and the way he walks, and all. There’s class to him, I’m telling you. Class, bo.”

“He walks like a splay-footed walrus, and he talks like a drunken old hound,” I told Sheener. “He’s got you buffaloed, that’s all.”

“Pull in your horns; you’re coming to a bridge,” Sheener warned me. “Don’t be a goat all your life. He’s a gent; that’s what this guy is.”

“Then I’m glad I’m a roughneck,” I retorted; and Sheener shook his head.

“That’s all right,” he exclaimed. “That’s all{257} right. He ain’t had it easy, you know. Scrubbing spittoons is enough to take the polish off any guy. I’m telling you he’s there. Forty ways. You’ll see, bo. You’ll see.”

“I’m waiting,” I said.

“Keep right on,” Sheener advised me. “Keep right on. The old stuff is there. It’ll show. Take it from me.”

I laughed at him. “If I get you,” I said, “you’re looking for something along the line of ‘Noblesse Oblige.’ What?”

“Cut the comedy,” he retorted. “I’m telling you, the old class is there. You can’t keep a fast horse in a poor man’s stable.”

“Blood will tell, eh?”

“Take it from me,” said Sheener.

It will be perceived that Evans had in Sheener not only a disciple; he had an advocate and a defender. And Sheener in these rôles was not to be despised. I have said he was a newsboy; to put it more accurately, he was in his early twenties, with forty years of experience behind him, and with half the newsboys of the city obeying his commands and worshiping him like a minor god. He had full charge of our city circulation and was quite as important, and twice as valuable to the paper, as any news editor could hope to be. In making a friend of him, Evans had found an ally in the high places; and it became speedily apparent that Sheener proposed to be more than a mere friend in name. For instance, I learned one day that he was drawing Evans’s wages for him, and had appointed himself in some sort a steward for the other.{258}

“That guy wouldn’t ever save a cent,” he told me when I questioned him. “I give him enough to get soused on, and I stick five dollars in the bank for him every week. I made him buy a new suit of clothes with it last week. Say, you wouldn’t know him if you run into him in his glad rags.”

“How does he like your running his affairs?” I asked.

“Like it?” Sheener echoed. “He don’t have to like it. If he tries to pull anything on me, I’ll poke the old coot in the eye.”

I doubt whether this was actually his method of dominating Evans. It is more likely that he used a diplomacy which occasionally appeared in his dealings with the world. Certainly the arrangement presently collapsed, for Sheener confessed to me that he had given his savings back to Evans. We were minus a second assistant janitor for a week as a consequence, and when Evans tottered back to the office and would have gone to work I told him he was through.

He took it meekly enough, but not Sheener. Sheener came to me with fire in his eye.

“Sa-a-ay,” he demanded, “what’s coming off here, anyhow? What do you think you’re trying to pull?”

I asked him what he was talking about, and he said: “Evans says you’ve given him the hook.”

“That’s right,” I admitted. “He’s through.”

“He is not,” Sheener told me flatly. “You can’t fire that guy.”

“Why not?”

“He’s got to live, ain’t he?”

I answered, somewhat glibly, that I did not see{259} the necessity, but the look that sprang at once into Sheener’s eye made me faintly ashamed of myself, and I went on to urge that Evans was failing to do his work and could deserve no consideration.

“That’s all right,” Sheener told me. “I didn’t hear any kicks that his work wasn’t done while he was on this bat.”

“Oh, I guess it got done all right. Some one had to do it. We can’t pay him for work that some one else does.”

“Say, don’t try to pull that stuff,” Sheener protested. “As long as his work is done, you ain’t got any kick. This guy has got to have a job, or he’ll go bust, quick. It’s all that keeps his feet on the ground. If he didn’t think he was earning his living, he’d go on the bum in a minute.”

I was somewhat impatient with Sheener’s insistence, but I was also interested in this developing situation. “Who’s going to do his work, anyhow?” I demanded.

For the first time in our acquaintance I saw Sheener look confused. “That’s all right, too,” he told me. “It don’t take any skin off of your back, long as it’s done.”

In the end I surrendered. Evans kept his job; and Sheener—I once caught him in the act, to his vast embarrassment—did the janitor’s work when Evans was unfit for duty. Also Sheener loaned him money, small sums that mounted into an interesting total; and furthermore I know that on one occasion Sheener fought for him.

The man Evans went his pompous way, accepting Sheener’s homage and protection as a matter of right, and in the course of half a dozen years I{260} left the paper for other work, saw Sheener seldom, and Evans not at all.

III
About ten o’clock one night in early summer I was wandering somewhat aimlessly through the South End to see what I might see when I encountered Sheener. He was running, and his dark face was twisted with anxiety. When he saw me he stopped with an exclamation of relief, and I asked him what the matter was.

“You remember old Bum Evans?” he asked, and added: “He’s sick. I’m looking for a doctor. The old guy is just about all in.”

“You mean to say you’re still looking out for that old tramp?” I demanded.

“Sure, I am,” he said hotly; “that old boy is there. He’s got the stuff. Him and me are pals.” He was hurrying me along the street toward the office of the doctor he sought. I asked where Evans was. “In my room,” he told me. “I found him on the street. Last night. He was crazy. The D. T.’s. I ain’t been able to get away from him till now. He’s asleep. Wait. Here’s where the doc hangs out.”

Five minutes later the doctor and Sheener and I were retracing our steps toward Sheener’s lodging, and presently we crowded into the small room where Evans lay on Sheener’s bed. The man’s muddy garments were on the floor; he himself tossed and twisted feverishly under Sheener’s blankets. Sheener and the doctor bent over him,{261} while I stood by. Evans waked, under the touch of their hands, and waked to sanity. He was cold sober and desperately sick.

When the doctor had done what could be done and gone on his way, Sheener sat down on the edge of the bed and rubbed the old man’s head with a tenderness of which I could not have believed the newsboy capable. Evans’s eyes were open; he watched the other, and at last he said huskily:

“I say, you know, I’m a bit knocked up.”

Sheener reassured him. “That’s all right, bo,” he said. “You hit the hay. Sleep’s the dose for you. I ain’t going away.”

Evans moved his head on the pillow, as though he were nodding. “A bit tight, wasn’t it, what?” he asked.

“Say,” Sheener agreed. “You said something, Bum. I thought you’d kick off, sure.”

The old man considered for a little, his lips twitching and shaking. “I say, you know,” he murmured at last. “Can’t have that. Potter’s Field, and all that sort of business. Won’t do. Sheener, when I do take the jump, you write home for me. Pass the good word. You’ll hear from them.”

Sheener said: “Sure I will. Who’ll I write to, Bum?”

Evans, I think, was unconscious of my presence. He gave Sheener a name; his name. Also, he told him the name of the family lawyer, in one of the Midland cities of England, and added certain instructions….

When he had drifted into uneasy sleep Sheener{262} came out into the hall to see me off. I asked him what he meant to do.

“What am I going to do?” he repeated. “I’m going to write to this guy’s lawyer. Let them send for him. This ain’t no place for him.”

“You’ll have your trouble for your pains,” I told him. “The old soak is plain liar; that’s all.”

Sheener laughed at me. “That’s all right, bo,” he told me. “I know. This guy’s the real cheese. You’ll see.”

I asked him to let me know if he heard anything, and he said he would. But within a day or two I forgot the matter, and would hardly have remembered it if Sheener had not telephoned me a month later.

“Say, you’re a wise guy, ain’t you?” he derided when I answered the phone. I admitted it. “I got a letter from that lawyer in England,” he told me. “This Evans is the stuff, just like I said. His wife run away with another man, and he went to the devil fifteen years ago. They’ve been looking for him ever since his son grew up.”

“Son?” I asked.

“Son. Sure! Raising wheat out in Canada somewhere. They give me his address. He’s made a pile. I’m going to write to him.”

“What does Bum say?”

“Him? I ain’t told him. I won’t till I’m sure the kid’s coming after him.” He said again that I was a wise guy; and I apologized for my wisdom and asked for a share in what was to come. He promised to keep me posted.{263}

IV
Ten days later he telephoned me while I was at supper to ask if I could come to his room. I said: “What’s up?”

“The old guy’s boy is coming after him,” Sheener said. “He’s got the shakes, waiting. I want you to come and help me take care of him.”

“When’s the boy coming?”

“Gets in at midnight to-night,” said Sheener.

I promised to make haste; and half an hour later I joined him in Sheener’s room. Sheener let me in. Evans himself sat in something like a stupor, on a chair by the bed. He was dressed in a cheap suit of ready-made clothes, to which he lent a certain dignity. His cheeks were shaved clean, his mustache was trimmed, his thin hair was plastered down on his bony skull. The man stared straight before him, trembling and quivering. He did not look toward me when I came in; and Sheener and I sat down by the table and talked together in undertones.

“The boy’s really coming?” I asked.

Sheener said proudly: “I’m telling you.”

“You heard from him?”

“Got a wire the day he got my letter.”

“You’ve told Bum?”

“I told him right away. I had to do it. The old boy was sober by then, and crazy for a shot of booze. That was Monday. He wanted to go out and get pied; but when I told him about his boy, he begun to cry. And he ain’t touched a drop since then.”

“You haven’t let him?{264}”

“Sure I’d let him. But he wouldn’t. I always told you the class was there. He says to me: ‘I can’t let my boy see me in this state, you know. Have to straighten up a bit. I’ll need new clothes.’”

“I noticed his new suit.”

“Sure,” Sheener agreed. “I bought it for him.”

“Out of his savings?”

“He ain’t been saving much lately.”

“Sheener,” I asked, “how much does he owe you? For money loaned and spent for him.”

Sheener said hotly: “He don’t owe me a cent.”

“I know. But how much have you spent on him?”

“If I hadn’t have give it to him, I’d have blowed it somehow. He needed it.”

I guessed at a hundred dollars, at two hundred. Sheener would not tell me. “I’m telling you, he’s my pal,” he said. “I’m not looking for anything out of this.”

“If this millionaire son of his has any decency, he’ll make it up to you.”

“He don’t know a thing about me,” said Sheener, “except my name. I’ve just wrote as though I knowed the old guy, here in the house, see. Said he was sick, and all.”

“And the boy gets in to-night?”

“Midnight,” said Sheener, and Evans, from his chair, echoed: “Midnight!” Then asked with a certain stiff anxiety: “Do I look all right, Sheener? Look all right to see my boy?”

“Say,” Sheener told him. “You look like the Prince of Wales.” He went across to where the{265} other sat and gripped him by the shoulder. “You look like the king o’ the world.”

Old Evans brushed at his coat anxiously; his fingers picked and twisted; and Sheener sat down on the bed beside him and began to soothe and comfort the man as though he were a child.

V
The son was to arrive by way of Montreal, and at eleven o’clock we left Sheener’s room for the station. There was a flower stand on the corner, and Sheener bought a red carnation and fixed it in the old man’s buttonhole. “That’s the way the boy’ll know him,” he told me. “They ain’t seen each other for—since the boy was a kid.”

Evans accepted the attention querulously; he was trembling and feeble, yet held his head high. We took the subway, reached the station, sat down for a space in the waiting room.

But Evans was impatient; he wanted to be out in the train shed, and we went out there and walked up and down before the gate. I noticed that he was studying Sheener with some embarrassment in his eyes. Sheener was, of course, an unprepossessing figure. Lean, swarthy, somewhat flashy of dress, he looked what he was. He was my friend, of course, and I was able to look beneath the exterior. But it seemed to me that sight of him distressed Evans.

In the end the old man said, somewhat furtively: “I say, you know, I want to meet my boy alone. You won’t mind standing back a bit when the train comes in.{266}”

“Sure,” Sheener told him. “We won’t get in the way. You’ll see. He’ll pick you out in a minute, old man. Leave it to me.”

Evans nodded. “Quite so,” he said with some relief. “Quite so, to be sure.”

So we waited. Waited till the train slid in at the end of the long train shed. Sheener gripped the old man’s arm. “There he comes,” he said sharply. “Take a brace, now. Stand right there, where he’ll spot you when he comes out. Right there, bo.”

“You’ll step back a bit, eh, what?” Evans asked.

“Don’t worry about us,” Sheener told him. “Just you keep your eye skinned for the boy. Good luck, bo.”

We left him standing there, a tall, gaunt, shaky figure. Sheener and I drew back toward the stairs that lead to the elevated structure, and watched from that vantage point. The train stopped, and the passengers came into the station, at first in a trickle and then in a stream, with porters hurrying before them, baggage laden.

The son was one of the first. He emerged from the gate, a tall chap, not unlike his father. Stopped for a moment, casting his eyes about, and saw the flower in the old man’s lapel. Leaped toward him hungrily.

They gripped hands, and we saw the son drop his hand on the father’s shoulder. They stood there, hands still clasped, while the young man’s porter waited in the background. We could hear the son’s eager questions, hear the older man’s drawled replies. Saw them turn at last, and{267} heard the young man say: “Taxi!” The porter caught up the bag. The taxi stand was at our left, and they came almost directly toward us.

As they approached, Sheener stepped forward, a cheap, somewhat disreputable, figure. His hand was extended toward the younger man. The son saw him, looked at him in some surprise, looked toward his father inquiringly.

Evans saw Sheener too, and a red flush crept up his gaunt cheeks. He did not pause, did not take Sheener’s extended hand; instead he looked the newsboy through and through.

Sheener fell back to my side. They stalked past us, out to the taxi stand.

I moved forward. I would have halted them, but Sheener caught my arm. I said hotly: “But see here. He can’t throw you like that.”

Sheener brushed his sleeve across his eyes. “Hell,” he said huskily. “A gent like him can’t let on that he knows a guy like me.”

I looked at Sheener, and I forgot old Evans and his son. I looked at Sheener, and I caught his elbow and we turned away.

He had been quite right, of course, all the time. Blood will always tell. You can’t keep a fast horse in a poor man’s stable. And a man is always a man, in any guise.

If you still doubt, do as I did. Consider Sheener.{268}

THE FIELD OF HONOR
I
OLD Eph’s favorite stand was on Tremont street, just outside the subway kiosk, where every foot in Boston soon or late must pass. He appeared here about dusk every evening, when the afternoon rush was over; and he squatted, tailor fashion, on crossed legs, and hugged his banjo to his ragged breast, and picked at it and crooned and shouted his old melodies so long as there were any to listen. He was a cheerful old fellow, with the pathetic cheerfulness of the negro. When coins were tossed to him, he had a nimble trick of whisking his banjo bottom side up, catching the contribution in this improvised receptacle, flipping it into the air and pocketing it without interrupting his music. Each time he did this, his fingers returned to the strings with a sweep and a strumming that suggested the triumphant notes of trumpets. There was an ape-like cast to his head; and his long arms and limber old fingers had the uncanny dexterity of a monkey. Pretty girls, watching him, sometimes said shiveringly to their escorts:

“He hardly seems human—squatting there….”

Old Eph always heard. His ears were unnaturally keen, attuned to the murmur of the crowds. And he used to answer them, chanting his reply{269} in time with the tune he happened at the moment to be playing. Thus: “Don’ you cry, ma Honey …” might become:

“‘Don’ you call me monkey,
‘Don’ you call me monk …
‘Eph ain’ gwine tuh lak it, and hit ain’t so….’”
And then he would go on with the song, calm and undisturbed …

“‘All de little black babies, sleepin’ on de flo’ …
‘Mammy only lubs her own.’”
When a particularly liberal coin came his way, he gave thanks in the midst of his song. Thus:

“‘I’m comin’; I’m comin’; and my head is thank ye ma’am …
‘I hear dem darky voices calling: Yes mum-ma’am.’”
He never hesitated to take liberties with the English language in order to preserve the meter; for he had the keen sense of rhythm that characterizes his race. Also, for all the ravages of age, his voice was sweet and true. He sang endlessly, so that his songs were half medley, half monologue; and his banjo would all but speak for him.

No one ever saw Eph about the streets in the day time. He appeared at dusk; and it was known that he sometimes remained at his post, singing and picking at his banjo, long after the ways were empty of pedestrians. Sometimes, in those middle hours between night and morning, when there was no one near, the songs he sang became ineffably sad and mournful; he crooned them, under{270} his breath, to the banjo that he hugged against his breast, and his sweet old voice was like a low lament. Once Walter Ragan, the patrolman on the beat, passed at four in the morning of a late fall day and heard Eph singing, over and over….

“Tramp, tramp, tramp! De boys is marching….”
Eph repeated this song so long and so sorrowfully that Ragan came up quietly behind him and asked:

“What’s the matter, Eph?”

The old negro looked up, and Ragan saw that there were tears on his black and wrinkled cheeks. But the darky grinned cheerfully at sight of the policeman.

“Jes’ thinkin’ on de old times, Miste’ Ragan. Thinkin’ on de old times, suh,” said Eph.

Ragan was half inclined to laugh, and half inclined to cry. He felt so sorry for the old man that he ordered him gruffly to get up and go home and go to bed. And Eph got up, and bowed, and brushed the paving with his cap, so deep was his obeisance. “Yas, suh, Miste’ Ragan,” he promised. “Yas, suh, I’m goin’ right along….”

And he tucked the banjo under his arm, and crossed the street, and started up Beacon Hill. Ragan knew where he dwelt, down in the swarming hive beneath the Hill. He watched old Eph go, watched the shuffling, splay feet, and the bent shoulders, and the twisted, crooked little body….

“The darned old nut,” said Ragan gruffly, to himself. “Not sense enough to go to bed….”

And he went on down the street, whistling be{271}tween his teeth and trying not to think of Eph’s bowed body and the tears upon the black old cheeks.

II
Eph’s songs, in the old days, were simple darky ballads, or lullabys, or the songs of the southland that all the world knows. People sometimes brought their children, of an evening, just to hear Eph sing: “Don’ You Cry, Ma Honey …” or that fearsome lullaby about the “Conju’ cats….” When the old man was in good voice, he never failed to gather a little audience about him. His listeners used to call out and ask him to sing certain songs that were their favorites; and sometimes Eph sang what they wished to hear, and sometimes he refused. He would never sing “Dixie.” “I ain’ no slave nigger,” he was accustomed to protest, with scorn. “I fit ag’in’ de South, in de big war. Rackon I’m gwine sing dat song? Lawdy, man, no suh.”

They told him, laughingly, that the war was over. “Da’s all right,” he agreed. “De war’s over. Mebbe so. But I ain’ over. Not me. An’ long as I is what I is, I don’ sing no rebelliums. No suh.”

Those who had enough curiosity to make inquiries found that Eph told the truth when he said he had fought for the North. He had served in that colored regiment whose black ranks are immortalized in the Shaw Memorial, opposite the State House, just up the hill from where Eph had his nightly stand; and he carried his discharge{272} papers in a tattered old wallet in his tattered coat…. By the same token, though he would never sing “Dixie,” it required no more than a word to start him off on that mighty battle hymn, “Mine eyes have seen the glory….” When he sang this, his voice rolled and throbbed and thrummed with a roar like the roar of drums, and there was the beat of marching feet in the cadence of his song. His banjo tinkled shrilly as the piping of the fifes, and his bent shoulders straightened, and his head flung high, and his old eyes snapped and shone….

When Europe went to war, Eph little by little forsook the gentler melodies of his repertoire; he chose songs with a martial swing. He chose them by ear and by words; and when he sang them, there was the blare of bugles in his voice. He was, from the beginning, violently anti-German; and now and then, when his enthusiasm overcame him, he delivered an oration on the subject to his nightly audience. At which they laughed.

But if it was a joke to them, it was not funny to Eph; and he proved this when the United States went into the war. He went, unostentatiously, to the recruiting office and offered himself to the country.

The Sergeant in charge did not smile at old Eph, because he saw that Eph himself was deadly serious. Eph had said simply:

“I’ve come to jine up in de army, suh.” The Sergeant asked:

“You mean you want to enlist.”

Eph nodded, and grinned. “Yas suh, jes dat.”

The Sergeant frowned, and he considered. “I’ll{273} tell you, old man,” he said. “I’m afraid you’re over the age limit.”

“Whut de age limit?” Eph asked cautiously.

“Forty-five.”

Eph cackled with delight. “I declare, dat jes lets me in. Me, I’m gwine on fo’ty-four, dis minute.”

The Sergeant grinned. “Get out!” he protested. “You’ll never see seventy-four again.”

“I kin prove it,” Eph offered.

The other shook his head. “You’re too old; and your eyes are no good, and your teeth are gone, and you’ve got flat-foot….”

Eph perceived that the man was friendly. “I can p’int a gun an’ pull a trigger,” he urged wheedlingly.

“There’s more than that to war,” the Sergeant told him; and Eph’s eyes blazed.

“Whut you know ’bout war, man?” he demanded. “Ain’ I been in it. Ain’ I slep’ in de rain, an’ et raw corn, an’ fit in mud to de knees, an’ got a bullet in my laig, an’ laid out in de snow three days till they come an’ fotch me in. Don’ you let on about war to me, man. I been it and I done it, befo’ you uz thought of. Go way!”

Eph was so deadly earnest that the Sergeant’s eyes misted. The Sergeant himself knew what it was to grow old. He had a terrible, sneaking fear that they would keep him on such duty as this; that he would never see France. And he crossed, and dropped his hand on Eph’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s no go. We can’t take you.”

Eph passed from anger to pleading. “Spos{274}e’n I uz to go along an’ sing to um,” he proposed. “I c’d do that, anyways.”

“No. They wouldn’t allow you….”

“I’m a jim dandy cook,” Eph offered pitifully.

The Sergeant had to swear or weep. He swore. “Get out of here, you damned old scamp,” he exclaimed, and swept Eph toward the door. “Get out of here and stay out, or I’ll have you run in….”

And Eph, who knew white folks and their ways as well as the slave niggers he scorned, understood that this was the Sergeant’s way of telling him there was no hope at all. So he said simply: “Thank’e, sir.” And he turned, and with a sad and dreary dignity he went out, and down the stairs to the street, and up the Hill and down to the little room where he lodged.

He was alone in his room all that day. The woman who kept the boarding house, a billowy negress with a pock-marked face, heard little moaning cries and lamentations coming from behind his closed door; and once she knocked and offered her comfort, but Eph drove her away with hard words, and nursed his sorrow alone.

That night, some of those who saw him at his stand by the subway kiosk thought he looked tired; but he was as gay as ever, and as cheerful. He made one innovation in his singing. Across the street and above his head rose the spire of the Park street church. Whenever the hands of the clock in this spire touched the hour, old Eph rose, and took off his hat, and lifted up his voice and sang:

“‘Oh say, kin you see….{275}’”

He sang this each hour that evening, and each hour in all the evenings that were to come, until the end. And at first they scoffed a little, because they thought he was playing patriotism for his own ends; but when they saw how earnestly he sang, and felt the wistful tenderness in his tones, they faintly understood, and more respected him.

When Ragan came on duty, shortly after midnight that night, he thought old Eph looked sick, and he sent the old man home.

III
It was Ragan, in the end, who brought Jim Forrest to see Eph. Forrest was a reporter on one of the daily papers. He was unlike the reporter of fiction, in that he was neither a “cub” nor a “star.” He was just plain reporter, with a nose for news, and human sympathy, and some ability as a writer. He was a young fellow twenty-two or three years old. His father died just as he finished college, and Jim of necessity gave up law school and buckled down to earn a living for his mother and himself. The newspaper business seldom pays enormous salaries; but there is no other profession in which a green man can earn so much. Jim began on a salary of fifteen dollars a week, and at the end of his first year was raised to twenty. At the same time they put him on the night shift at police headquarters.

When Jim was earning fifteen dollars a week, he and his mother lived, and that was about all. For they had been accustomed to five or six thousand a year before Mr. Forrest died; and a dollar{276} still looked small and unimportant to them. By the time Jim was raised to twenty, Mrs. Forrest had learned to make one dollar do the work of two; and they managed…. Jim worked hard, and wondered when he could ask for another raise.

But when the United States went into the war, newspapers stopped raising salaries. And the worst of it was that Jim was particularly anxious for more money at that time. The sight of his friends, the young unmarried men among whom his life was laid, decked out in khaki, gave Jim a miserable feeling that was like nothing so much as homesickness. He had a nostalgia for the training camps that was actually physical; it was so acute that it sickened him.

But—there was nothing he could do. If he went, his mother could not live. That was pure mathematics; and when Jim had reluctantly accepted this fact, he set himself to keep a stiff upper lip and stick heroically to the tasks of peace when the cowardly way would have been for him to go to war. He stuck to the tasks of peace, but he did not accept the situation as hopeless. He began to cast about for chances to earn a little extra money, for special stories he might write, for opportunities to earn one of the bonuses that were sometimes awarded for exceptional performance.

He was a likeable boy; he had friends, and they helped him with suggestions. One of these friends was Ragan, and Ragan told Jim one day to go see old Eph.

“There’s a story in him, and a big one,” he assured Jim. “That old nigger…. You can{277} write a yarn about him that will make every man in town cry into his coffee.”

Jim knew Eph by sight; he asked Ragan for details.

“Work the patriotic line,” Ragan advised him. “D’you know Eph tried to enlist, when we went into the war? Well, he did.”

“Is that straight?”

“Sure. Sergeant Hare told me. Said Eph all but cried at being turned down. Offered to go along and sing to the boys, or cook for them….”

“Thanks,” said Jim. “You know Eph pretty well. Put in a word for me, will you?”

“You’re through at four in the morning,” Ragan suggested. “He’ll probably be around till then. Come up with me, and I’ll take you to him.”

That was in September, a warm, still night of early fall; and they found old Eph as Ragan had expected, still squatting with his back against the kiosk, still strumming softly, still crooning under his breath as he strummed. The darky looked up sidewise when they came near, and grinned at Ragan, and bobbed his head.

“Howdy, Miste’ Ragan,” he said.

Ragan chuckled. “Tol’able, Eph,” he mimicked. “Get up out of that. This is Jim Forrest, wants to talk to you.”

Eph looked at Jim suspiciously. “Howcome?” he asked.

Forrest smiled. “I’m a reporter,” he explained. “I want to write something about you. Everyone has seen you; I want to tell them more about you than they’ve seen.”

Eph shook his head stubbornly. “Ol’ Eph ain{278}’ gwine git his name in no papers,” he protested. “You go ’long, boy, and lemme ’lone.”

Jim became grave. He knew the first and strongest weapon in a reporter’s armory; the art of making your victim angry. And he knew enough about Eph to hit the old man in a tender spot. “I want to get your story about the way you fought in the Confederate army,” he explained.

Eph got to his feet with a menacing swiftness; and he shook his old fist in Jim’s face. “Dat’s a lie,” he said shrilly. “I fit ag’in’ de South; an’ I kin prove it.”

Jim looked puzzled. “Why—aren’t you twisted, sir? I understand that you fought for three years, before you were wounded, and that General Lee himself gave you a letter….”

Eph boiled, but he controlled his tongue. He studied Jim, leaning closer to look into the young man’s eyes. “Y’all know dat ain’ right,” he said steadily. “Howcome you want to pester an ol’ nigger lak me?”

Jim was ashamed of himself, but he stuck to his attack. “I may be mistaken,” he confessed. “Maybe they told me wrong…. Maybe they were trying to start trouble between us, sir. What was the straight of it? Didn’t you fight in the war at all?”

Eph tapped Jim slowly on the breast. “Nemmine me,” he said slowly. “Nemmine me. Le’s talk ’bout you. Howcome you ain’ got on one o’ dem kharki uniforms, boy? Howcome? Huh?”

The attack was so unexpected; it struck so acutely to the mark that Jim was silenced. But{279} Ragan took his part; he touched old Eph’s arm. “There now, old man,” he said. “He’s all right. But he’s got a mother to support. If he don’t take care of her, nobody will. He’s got to take care of her, hasn’t he?”

Eph looked from Jim to Ragan, puzzling. “Ain’ he got tuh tek care o’ dis country, too?” he demanded. “Why caint his maw tek in washin’?”

Ragan chuckled. “Don’t you worry,” he told Eph. “Jim here will go, when he can. Why, here, Eph. He wants to write this story about you so he can make extra money—get enough ahead so he can go…. Enough to take care of his mother….”

Jim had turned hopelessly away. Eph looked at the boy’s straight shoulders; and he looked at Ragan. And then the old darky did a surprising thing.

He crossed, and touched Jim’s arm. “You, suh …” he said softly.

Jim looked at him. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I won’t bother you any more….”

Eph chuckled. “Lawdy, man, you cain’ bother me. Listen…. You come ’long home with me now. I aim tuh talk to you, some….”

Jim hesitated; he was surprised. Eph nodded. “You come ’long,” he insisted, and took Jim’s arm, and turned him about, and led the boy, half unwilling, across the street, past the tall old church, and up the hill.

Ragan scratched his head, watching them go, puzzled; and he wondered; and then he gave up the puzzle.{280}

IV
There is some quality which possesses the soul of a good old negro that gives them a power not granted to other men. They have, above everything, the power to inspire confidence, to win confidences. Perhaps this is because of their simplicity, or because of their vast sympathy. White children in the South will love and trust their darky friends and will share with them those intimate secrets of childhood from which even parents are excluded. These old darkies have a talisman against the griefs that visit others; they soothe the sufferer, they murmur: “Nemmine, now chile,” and the suffering is forgotten. In their own sorrows they wail and lament theatrically, and tear their hair and vent without restraint their primitive despair. But when white folks weep, the darky has comfort to give, and gives it…. To tell them a secret is like whispering it to one’s own self; there is the bliss of confession without the anguish of knowing that one’s shame is shared. It is easy to tell, hard to rebuff their gentle inquiries….

Jim Forrest was never able to understand how he had been led to unbosom himself to old Eph; but he did. The negro took him over Beacon Hill, and down one thin and dingy street, and then another; and so into a boarding house, and up to the room where Eph dwelt. This room was as clean as a new pin; it was meagerly furnished; yet it was comfortable. It was tiny, but it was large enough to be a home. Eph made Jim wel{281}come there; he sat the boy down; he talked to him….

And Jim, who had come to hear Eph’s story, found himself talking while Eph listened. And though he held his head high and steadily, there was in the boy’s tones something of the longing that possessed him, something of the shame that oppressed him because he could not be out and doing like his fellows. Day broke and found them there together; and it was two hours after dawn before Jim left at last, comforted in a way he could not understand, cheered and content as he had not been for months, steady and unafraid….

He did not realize till that night that he had failed to get Eph’s story.

Old Eph, when the boy was gone, sat down on his bed and put his head in his hands and thought hard. He was a shrewd old man, for all his simplicity; and the fruits of his thoughts were action. He knew what he wished to do, he considered only the method; and when this was chosen at length, he took his hat and went out, and up over the Hill, and down Beacon street to find the man he sought.

He waited humbly in an outer office till this man could see him. When he was admitted, he fumbled in his inner pocket for a dog-eared little bank book, and went in.

Jim Forrest, the day after, received a registered letter. This letter contained a check for eleven hundred dollars; and it read briefly:

“I am instructed by my client to hand you this check, and to inform you that there will be mailed, each week, to your mother, for an indefinite period hereafter, a check for ten dollars. I have no fur{282}ther instructions, except to preserve absolute secrecy.”

The letter ended in due legal form.

Jim, thereafter, did three things. The first was to go to the lawyer who had sent the letter and ask who had given the money. He got no answer. The second was to seek out old Eph and accuse him of sending it. At which Eph cackled joyfully.

“Lawdy, suh,” the old darky chuckled guilelessly. “Where you think I gwine git ’leven hunnerd dollars. Don’ you joke an old man, boy.”

The third thing Jim did, when he gave up hope of discovering the identity of his benefactor, was to enlist.

V
One of the charms of old Eph’s nightly performances at his chosen spot near the subway kiosk was that he never asked for money. The mercenary side of his activities was never prominent. It was his custom to remain, sitting cross-legged upon the paving, from beginning to end. He never rose to pass his hat or his palm solicitously among the listeners; and he never went so far as to set a tin cup or a similar receptacle invitingly beside him. If coins were tossed his way, he caught them with skinny fingers or inverted banjo; if none were tossed, no matter. Eph never complained.

But about the time Jim Forrest enlisted, it was remarked that old Eph began to grow greedy. At first he interspersed among his songs little half-caught remarks about the exceeding hard times;{283} the high cost of living, even for a dry old darky; and the necessity of eating which possesses every man. A little later, he introduced the custom of passing his battered old hat out through the crowd. He never carried it from man to man himself; he simply tossed it to the nearest, and then broke into a gay and chuckling melody to hide his own confusion while it went from hand to hand and came back to him. Eventually, he fell into the habit of leaving his hat, bottom side up, upon the paving between his feet; and he referred now and then, in his songs, to the necessity for putting coins into it.

Some people who had known Eph for a good many years thought he was becoming miserly. They told stories, from man to man, about beggars of whom they had heard who owned half a dozen apartment houses out in Dorchester. And they quit coming to hear Eph sing. Others deplored the old man’s avarice, but gave. Still others decided that the high cost of living must have hit Eph hard, and offered to help him.

All in all, his earnings did increase. His old, unbusiness-like arrangement had in the past sufficed. There was always a little money; there was sometimes a considerable sum. He might go home with one dollar, or two, or even five; or he might trudge up the hill with only a few pennies to show for his night’s singing. On the whole, however, there had always been enough. He lived in some measure of comfort; and he laid up something for a rainy day. This hoard had been long years accumulating….

Eph told no one his troubles; no one had known{284} of his little wealth; no one knew that it was gone. Eph was bankrupt; and not only that, but he had mortgaged his earnings. He had pledged his future. He had given hostages to fortune. He had promised to find and send to Jim Forrest’s mother the sum of ten dollars every week.

And in spite of the fact that in the past he had never averaged earning ten dollars a week, he proposed to keep his word.

He believed, in the beginning, that this would not be hard. He would have to demean himself, to ask for money, to invite gifts…. The thought irked him; yet he was ready to do it. And to help out, he himself prepared to make sacrifices. Down in his boarding house, he gave up his comfortable little two dollar room and took another, in the very top of the house, which cost him half a dollar less. Likewise he cut down on his food. He gave up altogether the sliced, roast ham that had always been his delight; the occasional eggs; the bananas. He ate meagerly, and scouted the scolding insistences of his old colored landlady when she tried to force food upon him.

“I ain’ no beggar, Mis’ Hopkins,” he told her, over and over. “When old Eph cain’ pay his way, he gwine git out o’ here to som’eres where he can.”

In the beginning, matters went well enough. The people who stopped to listen to his singing opened their purses at his unwilling hints to them. He was able to take the promised ten dollars to the lawyer every week, and to live on what remained. And when he heard Jim Forrest was in the army, the old darky sang in a fashion that he{285} had not equalled for a dozen years, and the next day he boasted to his landlady of the matter.

“Ol’ Eph ain’ here, at all, Mis’ Hopkins,” he told her gleefully. “Y’all jes’ thinks he is. He ain’ here, I’m tellin’ you.”

She shooed him, with fat hands. “Go ’long, Eph, you ol’ scamp,” she scolded.

“I’m tellin’ you,” he repeated. “Eph ain’ here. Ol’ Eph’s in de army, now. Ain’ old Eph no more; he’s a fine, stroppin’ boy big enough to cut de Dutch. A fixin’ tuh fight, Mis’ Hopkins. A fixin’ tuh fight!”

“Whut you tryin’ let out, anyhows?” she demanded. “You sayin’ somethin; or is you jes’ talkin’ th’ough yore hat?”

“I’m tellin’ you,” he chanted. “Eph’s in de army, now.”

But he did not lay bare his secret to her, even then. Eph knew white folks. He knew that Jim Forrest wouldn’t want it noised abroad that a nigger street singer was supporting his mother. And he kept his tongue in his head; but he exulted. He carried his old head high; and when he met on the street one day that Sergeant Hare who had refused him enlistment, Eph went into a fit of merriment that made the Sergeant think the old darky had gone witless.

“Dat man ’lowed he ’uz gwine keep me out o’ dis here war,” he boasted to Mis’ Hopkins next day. “But I showed him. Old Eph showed whut ’uz whut.”

“Yo’re crazy,” Mis’ Hopkins told him scornfully. “Git out o’ my way.”

Eph told his lawyer, the next week, to ask Ji{286}m’s mother to give them word of Jim; and when she wrote, two weeks later, that the boy had been admitted to an officer’s training camp, Eph danced on his bowed legs, and told Mis’ Hopkins loftily that she would have to step lively now.

“Howcome?” she demanded.

“’Caze I’m an orf’cer now,” Eph told her proudly.

“Yo’re bughouse,” she assured him. “De booby man’ll git you.”

Eph thought nothing of her word at that time; but two or three weeks later, it was repeated in a way that frightened him.

He had fallen into the habit of acting a little comedy of his own; a habit infinitely soothing to his soul. When he climbed the Hill every night, on his way home, he passed the Shaw Memorial, and he had always stopped to look at it. Now he fell into the habit of marching stiffly down the middle of the road to face the Memorial, and of coming to a halt there, standing at attention, and saluting after the ancient fashion of his Rebellion days. He used to fancy that the eyes in the sculptured faces of the marching soldiers turned sidewise to look at him; he used to imagine that the arm of the officer graven in the stone flicked upward in an answering gesture. And there were nights when he stood thus for a minute or two, speaking his thoughts aloud….

Walter Ragan came upon him so, one bleak dawn in mid-November. Old Eph, very stiff and straight, was saying respectfully:

“Yas suh, Cunnel; I’se a soldier now. Ol’ Eph. Yas suh; gwine tuh be an orf’cer, too.{287}”

Ragan called to him: “You, Eph, what are you doing out there?”

Eph saw the patrolman, and cackled. “Howdy, Miste’ Ragan,” he called.

“What are you up to, you old rascal?”

“Jes’ makin’ my reports to de Cunnel,” said Eph gleefully. “Makin’ my reports on a little matter.”

“Look out, Eph,” Ragan warned him. “You’ll go bugs, next thing I know, and I’ll have to ship you out to Waverly.”

Now when Mis’ Hopkins had warned Eph that he was showing symptoms of insanity, Eph had laughed; but Ragan’s warning was another matter. Ragan, for all he was Eph’s good friend, was a policeman, an arm of the law; and Eph had the negro’s deep-rooted and abiding awe of the blue uniform and the helmet. Ragan’s word hushed him instantly; and it chilled him with a sudden, cold fear….

That accumulated hoard of the years had been Eph’s safeguard against old age. He had expected it would one day make him comfortable while he smoked, and sang, and waited his time to die; he had known it would always keep him out of the institutions he dreaded. But now it was gone; and when he thought of this fact, Eph felt stripped and defenseless and afraid. So now he was afraid; he hushed his mirth and touched his cap to Ragan.

“Yas suh,” he said respectfully.

“Get along home to bed,” Ragan advised him.

“I’m gone,” said Eph; and he went.

Ragan, considering the matter afterward, won{288}dered if old Eph’s mind might not indeed be weakening. He decided to keep an eye on the darky.

He thought, during the next month, that Eph was aging. The old negro was growing thin; and Ragan guessed this might be the sudden wastage of age. But he was wrong. It was something distinctly more tangible. It was a matter of money, and of food.

Times were tightening purse-strings. There were a thousand calls for money besetting every man; and each had the high urge of country behind it. People who had never considered dollars before began to count pennies. A quarter thrown to Eph would buy a thrift stamp…. And men, thinking this, returned the quarter to their pockets and turned away. Old Eph, after all, was only a beggar. No doubt he wasted his money on rum; or if not that, he must own at least one “three-decker” that brought him in fat rents. The legend of the wealth of beggars harassed Eph and was like to ruin him. He did his best; he labored manfully; he descended to covert pleadings….

One week in mid-December, he had only nine dollars and thirty cents on the appointed day. He borrowed the remaining seventy cents from the lawyer, and repaid the loan next day, in spite of that gentleman’s insistence.

“Naw suh,” Eph told him proudly. “Dis heah’s my arrangement, suh. I’ll manage. Lemme alone.”

The next week he brought ten dollars; and the next. But for two days of that second week he ate nothing. He admitted this, in the bleak dawn,{289} when he stopped for a whispered colloquy with the stone figure of his old Colonel, at the Memorial.

“But dat ain’ no matter, suh,” he assured the inscrutable officer. “Dis ol’ coon don’ need tuh eat. Nothin’ but skin an’ bone, anyhow. Lawdy, suh, whut good is vittles tuh me?”

Cold had struck down on Boston in December; and it held and intensified as January came. Sometimes people, listening to Eph’s singing, thought the old man must be shivering where he sat upon the stones; and Ragan drove him away two or three nights and bade him warm himself. But each time Eph looked at him with such pitiful entreaty against this kindness that Ragan gave up. “Have it your own way, you old idiot,” he told Eph. “If you want to freeze, go ahead and freeze. But don’t look at a man like he’s kicked you….”

“Yas suh,” said Eph. “Thank’e kindly, suh.”

Neither Ragan, nor Eph’s friend, the lawyer, realized how serious the matter was. They found Eph stubbornly determined to hold his own course; they decided he would not otherwise be content; and Eph was but one figure in their crowded lives. They let him have his way.

Eph duly met his obligations in the first week of that cold January; he was at his post through the second week. On the appointed day, he went to make the payment….

The lawyer had good news for him. Jim Forrest’s mother wrote that Jim had won a commission in the training camp; he had won, by exceptional merit, a commission as Captain.{290}

“You understand, Eph,” the attorney explained, “this means he’ll have a good salary, about two hundred dollars a month. So his mother can get along all right, now….”

Eph’s feet were shuffling on the floor in something that sounded very like a soft but jubilant hornpipe; he disregarded utterly the attorney’s word. “My man’s a captain, suh,” he chanted. “An’ I put him in where he c’ud be it. Same as if I ’uz a captain in de army, now….”

“By Jove, Eph, you’re right,” the lawyer agreed. “I … I’d like to….”

There were tears in his eyes when he had shaken Eph’s hand and seen him go; but there were no tears in old Eph. He was riotously happy, madly happy, tenderly happy…. He went out, and down the street, and in the early dusk spread a newspaper on the cold stones of the pavement by the kiosk there, and sat him down, and lifted up his voice in song….

People said afterward that Eph had never sung so tunefully as that last evening. His voice had an unusual purity and sweetness; it was as tender as a woman’s. There was an exaltation about the old man, so that the discerning eye seemed to see a glory hanging over him. He sang and sang….

That was a bitter cold night, and the streets cleared early. Ragan came along about one o’clock and found Eph still singing, with no one near to hear. He bade Eph stop and go home; but Eph protested:

“Please suh, Miste’ Ragan; dis is my night tuh sing, suh.”

Ragan, shivering in his warm garments, said{291} harshly: “This’ll be your night to freeze to death. Get up and go home, before I run you in.”

Eph got up. There was nothing else to do when a policeman commanded. And Ragan watched him cross the street, and called: “Good night.”

Eph looked back and nodded. “Good night, suh,” he echoed. “I’m gwine right along.”

He started up Park street; and Ragan went on his way, trying the shop doors, huddling in the doorways to avoid the wind, blowing on his aching hands.

“By God, I don’t see how the old fool stands it,” he said to himself. “It’s a wonder he’s not stiff….”

VI
Eph went up the Hill. Half way up Park street he looked back and saw Ragan disappearing; so when he came to the top, he felt safe in turning aside a little, to pause before the Memorial and report his triumph to his Colonel there.

He stood on the steps before the Monument, and took off his hat, and explained the matter very respectfully; and for all the howling of the wind that swept up the street and past him, he was sure he heard the low exclamations of his comrades in the stone ranks there; and he was sure the graven officer looked down at him, and spoke with him, and praised him….

The night watchman, at the State House across Beacon street, reported afterward that he had thought, in the night, he heard the sound of martial music in the street out there. It might have{292} been a banjo, and an old man’s voice; he could not be sure.

“But it sounded like a fife and drums to me,” he said, again and again. “I came to a window and looked out; but I couldn’t see a thing…. Thought I must have been dreaming…. Went back to the fire….”

Whether it was old Eph’s banjo, and old Eph’s song he heard, or whether it was indeed the shrilling of invisible pipes, welcoming a hero home, I cannot say. He says it was The Battle Hymn of the Republic that he heard, so Ragan thinks it was only old Eph. But I am not so sure….

At any rate, Ragan found Eph, in the morning. The old darky was huddled at the base of the Memorial, cuddling his banjo in his arms, while above his head the stone ranks marched interminably on.

 

Ragan and his lawyer between them decided to tell Jim Forrest the truth of the matter; and it was Jim who devised old Eph’s epitaph. That which he caused to be set upon Eph’s small, white stone was a familiar phrase enough; but glorious as simple things may be.

The legend on the stone reads:

“Old Eph.”
“January 17, 1918”
“Dead on the Field of Honor”
{293}

THE UNCONQUERED
I
THIS was in the first months after the war. The old Frenchman was still in uniform. His round-topped, gold-braided cap lay on the table at his elbow, beside the open box of cigarettes, and the half-empty glass. The breast and the sleeve of his tunic bore testimony to his honorable service. He was a short man, a heavy man, with a large stomach, and solid shoulders; and his head hunched forward in a leonine fashion. His eyes were blue; and his hair was thick, and coarse, and white as snow. He was in New York on some business of reconstruction…. And while the other men had been exchanging reminiscences, he had stared with thoughtful eyes at a large, framed print upon the wall before him.

This print was a reproduction of a painting thoroughly familiar. It portrayed an old man, a man of middle age, a boy, a fife, a drum and a flag…. And one who looked at it could feel the brush of the wind through the banner’s waving folds, and hear the scream of shrill fifes piping in the air….

Hinchcliffe, who knew the Frenchman better than the others, observed this scrutiny, and asked a question, softly. The Frenchman smiled.

“I was thinking, sir,” he told Hinchcliffe,{294} “That I have witnessed a scene like that, in my time.”

His words came in a little pause in the conversation of the others, so that they all heard, and waited for him to continue. And Hinchcliffe ventured to urge quietly: “Tell us.”

The Frenchman lifted his hand in a deprecating fashion; they insisted. He sipped at his glass, and in the end he nodded. Barton lighted a fresh cigar. Hinchcliffe shifted to a more comfortable position in his chair. Hughes beckoned the nearest attendant with a silent forefinger. The Frenchman began to speak. His tone was level and unemotional; his articulation was precise. Only an odd construction of sentences now and then betrayed his unfamiliarity with the tongue. His eyes were on the framed print upon the wall; and they seemed to look through it, and beyond….

II
It was, in the beginning, (said the old Frenchman) one of those valorous and devoted regiments to which fall the hardest and most honorable tasks. The men came, for the most part, from the Argonne; they were rugged stock, men of the farms and of the hills. Simple, and direct…. Good soldiers…. And Frenchmen.

It chanced that when the war came, this regiment fought in its own homeland. The men knew every foot of the hills they defended, the ravines which they turned into death traps, the forests through which they marched, the meadows where they skirmished. They knew this land, and by{295} the same token, they loved it. It was as though they had their roots in the soil. They could not be torn from it. They waited for the Germans at ten kilometres from the frontier—you remember, my friends, how we waited for them there so that they might not say we had provoked the conflict—and when the Germans came, this regiment stopped its immediate foe and held the Germans in their tracks.

At this time, the French invasion toward Muelhausen was prospering; but at the same time, the Germans were crushing Belgium, and pouring through, so that they turned our flank and we were forced to go back. That was unpleasant, and for a little time, at the very first, it was dangerous. But in a few days we were safely disengaged, and the enemy was exhausting himself to come up with us, and our counter stroke was preparing.

But to give us time for this retreat and preparation, certain organizations had to be sacrificed. This regiment was one. It was ordered to stand firm, to hold…. It held. The enemy attacked on the front and was repulsed; but on either side, our lines gave way, and the second day saw the regiment attacked on the right flank, and the left.

It was well posted, upon a hill that dominated two good roads, and it held….

But the Germans poured past them on either side; and in the press of more important matters to the southward, the work of overwhelming this regiment was delayed. A containing force was left to hold them, starve them…. And the main battle swept away and left them stranded there.

The men had fought tirelessly; they were pre{296}pared to fight on, and to die. But when it became apparent that the Germans did not propose to push matters, and when it became clear that another day would see hunger among them, the commander determined to strike. He had, at this time, some three hundred fit men of the regiment remaining. They were no longer of use where they stood. And the regiment was not accustomed to be idle.

Therefore, that night, a little after mid-night, when it was very dark and only the occasional flashes from the German positions illumined the blackness, the regiment attacked. They went down in three lines, a hundred men to a line, with their commander and their officers ahead, gentlemen. And they flung themselves upon the Germans.

The Germans were surprised. They had expected another day or two of waiting, and then an easy surrender. Instead, they found themselves beset by swarming enemies, stout men with long bayonets who sweated and swore and struck. The first charge of the French cut through the encircling lines; the remnant of the regiment might have escaped even then. But there had been no orders to escape, so they turned to right and left along the German positions, and flung the huddled enemy back and back and back.

The word was passed that their commander had fallen; and this man—he was my very good friend and comrade, gentlemen—had been beloved by them. Therefore they continued to fight with bitterness in their hearts until the resistance melted before them. There may have been a thou{297}sand Germans left to hold this battered remnant of a regiment; but those who lived, out of that thousand, fled before the three hundred.

They fled, and were lost in the night; and the flame from a fired straw stack nearby illumined the field, so that the Frenchmen could look into each other’s eyes and consider what was to be done.

Their commissioned officers were dead, gentlemen; but there was an under officer in that regiment named Jacques Fontaine. He was a big man, a farmer; and he was a very serious and practical and thrifty man. Also, he knew that country, and many of the men of the regiment were his neighbors, and all of them knew him for what he was.

Therefore it seemed natural that he should take the command that night. He called to a man named Lupec, and spoke with him. This Lupec was a little, wry-necked man, as shrewd as a fox. And Lupec advised Jacques Fontaine, and the big farmer shouted aloud to the panting men of the regiment, where they stood about him in the red trousers and the blue coats that had made our army so vulnerable in that first rush of war. He looked about him, and he shouted to them….

He bade them strip cartridges and rifles from the dead; and he told them to take what provisions they could find. And when this was done, they were to scatter, and rendezvous the next night but one in a certain ravine which all that country knew.

This ravine was in the heart of the forest. It was well hidden; it might be defended. There{298} was water in it; and there were farms upon the borders of the forest where food might be had.

When, a little before dawn, a German force came back and descended upon them, the men melted before it like the morning mists before the sun; and the Germans did not know what to do, so they made camp, and cooked, and ate, and slept. And the men of the regiment made their way, singly, and by twos and threes, through the forest toward the ravine that was the rendezvous.

This spot was called in your tongue, gentlemen, the Ravine of the Cold Tooth.

III
Now modern warfare, gentlemen, is a curious and inconsistent thing. It is vast, and yet it is minute.

This battered regiment, added to the French armies at that moment, would have been of small account. A burst of shrapnel, a mine, an unimportant counter thrust might have accounted for them all. Their weight in an attack would have been inconsiderable.

But this regiment which did not know how to surrender, and which was at large behind the German lines, was another matter, my friends. It was worth well nigh a division to France. For an army is as vulnerable as it is vast, gentlemen; and it can do only one thing at a time.

The Emperor discovered this truth, long ago, in Spain. When he scattered his army to overcome the guerillas, he exposed himself to the blows of the Iron Duke; and when he effected a con{299}centration to attack Wellington, the Spanish peasants sliced off every straggler. He was incessantly harassed, and he lost that campaign; and that was his first defeat.

The warfare of today—or, let us say, the warfare of yesterday, which we hope will never be the warfare of tomorrow—the warfare of yesterday was like that. The army’s front is like the front of a dam, vast and impregnable; but behind, that front is bolstered and strengthened and buttressed by many little lines of communication and supply, just as a dam may be buttressed on the lower side. A division may shatter itself in vain against the army’s front; a hundred men may cut one of those little lines behind.

This was the fact which aided Jacques Fontaine and his men, the regiment.

You must understand, also, gentlemen, that in the heat of open battle, a fighting line is an unstable thing. It sways, and bends, and yields, and rebounds; and fragments are broken off from it. They return to their places, or they do not return. At times, the line itself is shattered, when it grows too thin. And when the line is shattered, its component parts are thrown to every side. In open country, these component parts—men, gentlemen—may be run down and sabred by the cavalry, or they may surrender.

In wooded land, however, it is hard to exterminate men who will yield to nothing less than extermination. Cavalry can work through the forest only in small patrols, and along defined paths and roads. And for infantry, the currying of a wood is slow and painful work.{300}

Therefore, when an army makes a considerable advance, it leaves in its rear many small and scattered parties of the enemy. It was so when the Germans thrust down into France, gentlemen. There were many Frenchmen left behind to wander and hide in the forest, to starve, or yield, or die…. Or, perhaps, to survive.

This will explain to you, my friends, the growth of the regiment under Jacques Fontaine’s command. When they scattered, after dispersing the German force which had been set to hold them, there were scarce a hundred of them without wounds. When they gathered at the Ravine of the Cold Tooth, straggling parties had swelled that number so that Jacques Fontaine, counting, with his big forefinger pointing in turn toward each man and his lips mumbling as he counted, found that he had a force of two hundred and seven hardy and energetic men.

And he was pleased.

The first thing this man did, gentlemen, was to reconstitute the regiment. A regiment, you understand, is an immortal thing. It cannot die. When every man of it is dead, the regiment still lives; because a regiment is an idea, and ideas are eternal. Jacques Fontaine was a slow man, my friends; and you would have considered him a dull man. Nevertheless, this conception of the immortality of the regiment was a part of his heart and his soul. If you had told him the regiment was destroyed, he would have been very sorry for you.

They had saved their regimental colors, you understand; the banner with its honorable decora{301}tions. They had saved this, and Jacques Fontaine’s first act was to assign six men to guard this banner. He explained to them, carefully, that they were to seclude themselves. They were to engage in no enterprise involving hazard; and they were to keep the standard immaculate and unstained. They were to fight only to defend it; and they were to save it by evasion and flight when they could, and fight only when they must.

Jacques Fontaine understood, gentlemen, that the banner is the regiment.

When he had made this arrangement, he called Lupec, and they found a man skilled in writing, and they prepared a regimental roll. Those stragglers from other regiments who had joined them were mustered in after a formula which Jacques Fontaine devised. In the end, the two hundred and seven men were one body and one soul, and Jacques Fontaine was satisfied with the arrangement.

Having counted his men, he began, thriftily, to consider their equipment.

He found that these two hundred and seven men had two hundred and fifty-four rifles. A hundred or so of these rifles were German; and for these weapons there was a plentiful supply of German ammunition. But there were very few cartridges for the French rifles; there were only the long, needle-like bayonets.

Jacques Fontaine was vexed with this discovery. He was one of those penurious peasants whom De Maupassant knew how to paint, my friends. He could not bear poverty, or waste. He derived a solid satisfaction from the mere posses{302}sion of wealth; and his conception of wealth was strictly in accord with academic economic principles. Any useful article was wealth to him.

He perceived that while his command was wealthy in rifles and bayonets, it was very badly off indeed for cartridges.

He sat down on a big rock at the head of the ravine, while the men with little fires cooked supper in the deeps below him; and he took off his hat and scratched his head and considered what to do. Another man might have chosen his course more swiftly; it required some hours for Jacques Fontaine to make up his mind.

But when he rose from the rock, this man had laid out before his feet the path they were to follow through the four interminable and glorious years which were to come.

Any other man would have been wise enough to know that the plan he had chosen was impossible. Jacques Fontaine was valorously stupid. He did not know he could not do that which he planned to do, gentlemen.

Therefore, he did the impossible.

IV
The German armies, at this time, were throwing themselves against our barricade of steel and fire along the Marne; and by every possible avenue, they were hurrying forward munitions and guns and all supplies. They gave little thought to the stragglers in the forests behind them. They knew that stragglers are not danger{303}ous to an organized force. It is only when the stragglers organize that they become a peril.

Jacques Fontaine had organized these stragglers. At dawn, on the third day after that first rendezvous, he flung his men upon a wagon train that threaded one of the forest roads.

This train was escorted by a troop of some five score Uhlans; it was upon a road which was guarded by patrols of three and four men stationed at every farm. Yet in a dip between two hills, the single Uhlan in advance found his way blocked by felled trees in the road, and at the same time other trees, cut almost through and held erect by ropes until the appointed time, crashed down upon his comrades behind.

With the crashing of these trees was mingled the crashing discharge of two hundred rifles. And after the first discharge, out of a hundred troopers scarce fifty remained upon their horses; and after the second volley, not thirty men were still unharmed. And after the third, there were only fugitive Uhlans galloping headlong back to give the alarm.

Before these fugitives were out of sight, Jacques Fontaine and his men flung themselves upon the loaded wagons. The two foremost wagons bore cartridges. They laid open the boxes with axe and bayonet; and they plunged in their hands.

It was hopeless to attempt to make away with the wagons themselves. Thick forest lay on every hand. Therefore, by Jacques’ order, each man took all the cartridges he could bear, and raced back into the wood, and hid the precious things between rocks, and beneath logs, and in every{304} cranny he could find; and when he had disposed of his burden he returned and took as many more as he could carry. The men filled their pockets, their belts, their pouches, their hats…. Some of them dropped the cartridges inside the legs of their trousers, so that the things hung heavy about their knees. And when this was done, of the two wagon loads, no cartridges remained.

The men took also the rifles and revolvers of the fallen Germans; and they stripped their own few dead of weapons. And then they slipped into the forest, and scattered, and fled away.

The hunt began within the hour; and for a week, the men were chivvied through the woods like hares. Dogs bayed upon their trails; they hid in caves, in trees, in the thick-growing underbrush; they lay for hours in the pools with only mouth and nose and eyes exposed above the water. And some of them were shot, and some were taken alive…. And some took Germans with them when they died.

Lupec was one of those who was captured. On the fourth day, weary and utterly exhausted, he fell asleep in a crevice beneath two boulders; and a German stumbled on him. His captor took him, at gun point, back through the forest toward a cross-road where the Germans were encamped.

When they came in sight of this place, his captor halted to stare, and Lupec also looked. The Germans were busy; they were engaged in hanging three Frenchmen by the necks to a beech tree beside the farmhouse there.

Lupec had no desire to thrust his wry-neck into a noose. Therefore he turned, and plunged{305} into the man who had captured him, and knocked the man down. Even then he found time to snatch up the German’s rifle and turn and fire; and he saw the German officer who was watching the hangings pitch drunkenly forward on his saddle. So that Lupec was grinning as he plunged into the forest again.

He made good his escape; and thus he was able to bring to Jacques Fontaine, when the pursuit relaxed, the word of the hangings.

The big farmer was displeased with this news; because you understand, my friends, he had reconstituted the regiment, so that he considered that he and his comrades were soldiers of France, and as such entitled to better treatment than a noose. He frowned blackly at Lupec’s report; and he sent out men to discover if there had been other hangings.

They found that eleven Frenchmen had been murdered in this fashion, gentlemen; and Jacques Fontaine nodded at this, and made a calculation upon his fingers. He was slow at figures, you understand; but he knew what he wished to do. He made his calculation; and he sent out his men to the farms and the cross-roads, and he gave them careful orders….

They obeyed him so well, my friends, that on the second day after he was able to hang twenty-two Germans, two for each Frenchman, upon the same tree where the men of his regiment had been hung.

When the Germans discovered these pendant figures, looking like sacks of old clothes in their dirty, baggy uniforms, they were violently wrath{306}ful; and for two weeks more the forests were scoured in an effort to exterminate the remnants of the regiment.

But there were no more Frenchmen hanged.

V
To understand the history of the four years which followed, gentlemen, it is necessary to understand the man Jacques Fontaine; it is necessary to understand the spirit of Frenchmen. It is necessary, in short, to comprehend France.

I believe I may be forgiven for holding that valor is a trait of most Frenchmen. And by valor I do not mean the bravery which can be taught, which is merely a form of habit. You may take the most craven material and teach it the habit of obedience, and you have what passes for a brave soldier; but the Frenchman is valorous before he is a soldier, and he is valorous when he is no longer a soldier. The whining beggar has valor; so has the peasant, and the comfortable bourgeois, and the man of birth and breeding. You will find it universally, my friends.

This is perhaps because the French are the great phrase-makers of the world. The turn of a phrase comes easily to them; and the turn of a phrase captivates and conquers them, so that they will die for it. Danton made a phrase that saved France. Verdun made another. Combine the two, my friends, and you have the spirit of France. Dare—and yield not. The valor of France is the valor that will die rather than violate those mighty phrases….{307}

Thus I say Jacques Fontaine was valorous. Bravery is a tangible thing; valor defends the intangible. Bravery is steadfast, and it is sensible. Valor may be foolhardy. Valor is a form of pride. And Jacques Fontaine was proud. Thus, when the Germans hanged men of the regiment, he hanged Germans. He would have done the same, knowing that he himself must be hanged forthwith thereafter. For valor does not consider consequences.

But Jacques Fontaine was not only valorous; he was thrifty. And it was the combination of these two characteristics that enabled him to survive. It is this same combination which has enabled France to survive, my friends. She is valorous; but she is thrifty. She is audacious; but she is pre-eminently logical. Thus Jacques Fontaine; valorous and thrifty, audacious and logical.

Thrift was bred in him. It was thrift which enabled him to survive and keep his regiment alive. He saved supplies, munitions, guns, men…. He had no other belongings save the things of war; therefore he hoarded these things, and when his stores ran short, he secured fresh supplies.

When his stores ran short, he foraged through the land, and he raided the German trains. When munitions threatened to fail, he watched his opportunity to replenish them. When guns wore out, he got new ones. And when the wastage of these operations, the unceasing perils of this life reduced the numbers in his command, he attacked and liberated a convoy of prisoners and recruited his regiment once more.{308}

Through it all, he kept careful records of his regimental life. These records show that at one time, this man and his tattered remnant of a regiment possessed three German machine guns, four hundred rifles, and almost fifty thousand cartridges. Besides clothing, and stores of food, all hidden in caches in the forest depths.

It was inevitable that he should be hunted. There were at least four determined attempts by the Germans to exterminate the regiment. One of these occupied six weeks; it cut the roll from a hundred and eighty men down to less than sixty; it reduced weapons and supplies to a minimum; and for the full six weeks, the men saw each other only now and then, in groups of two or three. For this was the secret of their survival; they scattered before the hunt, they became units, as difficult to find as the beasts of the forest in which they dwelt.

Yet always they survived. That is to say, a nucleus of men always survived; and the regiment could never die. The regimental colors were never captured; the regimental records were never found. And Jacques Fontaine, and Lupec, and a handful of others of the original regiment, preserved themselves and held the rest together.

Picture it to yourselves, my friends, if you can; this handful of men, cohering, enduring; and all around them by the hundred thousand, the enemy. Behind every tree, a possible rifle; in every wood, a potential ambush; in every comrade, the danger of a spy….

There were three spies in the regiment during those four years. The first was suspected and{309} killed before he had reached the rendezvous. The second was detected on the third day when he stiffened at a barked command in German. The third, alone, was clever; he deceived them, he lived among them, he learned their plans, and when the chance came, he brought down a German force upon the rendezvous when almost the full command was there.

But Jaques Fontaine had never grown careless; he had made it a rule from the beginning to post twenty guards in a wide circle about the Ravine of the Cold Tooth when the regiment was assembled. And one of these guards escaped the attempt to overcome him, and gave warning just in time. The regiment flung out of the ravine, broke boldly through the jaws of the German trap, left half its strength in German hands …

But the remnant escaped, and lived.

In the winter of 1915, this regiment was reduced to twenty-seven men. The next winter, at the time of the great hunt, when the men were tracked through the snow, they were cut down to fifty-four. The fall of 1917 was the time of the spy; and some seventy men went through that winter like the beasts, some of them nursing wounds for months on end. They stirred from their hiding places only once, and that was when they cut off a German patrol in which the spy rode, and took him from his comrades and hanged him to the beams of a barn.

They had been forced to leave the Ravine of the Cold Tooth, since the Germans knew that spot; they hid now under the shoulder of one of{310} the little mountains. And there, that winter and the next spring, their numbers grew again….

They had ninety men in March; and the friendly peasants brought to them by devious ways soldiers of England and of France who were cut off in the great offensive of that year, so that in May they numbered a hundred and fifty men; and in June, close to two hundred…. And the Germans were too much concerned with other matters to divert so much as a regiment to run them down….

When in due time the hour came for them to fulfil their destiny, my friends, this regiment which Jacques Fontaine had kept alive numbered three hundred and ninety men, with rifles for all, and two machine guns, and cartridges to feed those clamoring things…. And Jacques prepared to strike his blow for France.

VI
It is certain, my friends, that I have failed to give you any comprehensive picture of the life of this poor regiment during the years of its isolation. It is impossible for you, who have always been well fed and comfortable, to imagine the hunger, the cold, the loneliness, the misery. Some of you have faced peril, perhaps for hours on end. But these men, gentlemen, faced death for years on end. There was never a moment when their lives were secure. They were like the animals in the forest about them; they slept fitfully; they squatted on their haunches while they ate, and were alert to spring to their feet at the least alarm.{311} They subsisted on berries, on nuts, on uncooked grain pilfered from the fields which the Germans forced the peasants to cultivate; they snared rabbits, they were able, now and then, to kill larger game. And when desperation drove them, they attacked the Germans and wrested food from them at price of blood.

This existence was at best an ordeal; and when the Germans found time to try to hunt them down, it became torment. Regiments encircled them, beating through the woods, searching every brake and gully and ravine. Dogs tracked them, baying on their trails; their footprints in the snow, bloody and stumbling, led their pursuers through the forest. At one time, one of the little German princelings gave great sport to his friends by organizing a hunt for these men as he would have organized a hunt for the wild boars. When the beaters overcame a Frenchman, they took his weapons and let him go, and then the princeling and his friends charged the unarmed man with levelled lance, and ran him through.

The Frenchmen spoiled this sport by a stubborn refusal to run before the horses. Robbed of their weapons, they stood erect and faced their foe and took the steel in their breasts, so that the princeling was furious, and those with him were shamed, and the sport was broken off….

Of such things as this was existence for these men….

But I have been unjust in failing, before this, to speak of the peasants who helped them. Word of this regiment had gone abroad through the forest and the mountains. And wherever they{312} went, they were welcomed, and given food, and shelter, and clothed…. And the peasants brought recruits to them, and brought them warnings, and information. They made endurance possible….

It was the peasants, in the end, who brought the word to Jacques Fontaine that told him his hour had come to strike. They came and they said the great battle to the southward was rolling nearer every day. This was at the time, you understand, when we had begun to push the German back; it was at the time when he was giving way each time a little more easily than the time before. We advanced one mile today, two miles tomorrow, three the day after….

And the word of this was abroad among the peasants in that part of France and of Belgium which the German still held. They were fermenting, as though these rumors of approaching liberation had been yeast cast among them….

They came, and they told Jacques Fontaine. And Jacques Fontaine, and wry-necked Lupec, cast about them to find a task for their hands.

The Germans were making up their mind, at this time, to draw back to a new defensive line, where, they counted on being able to hold us at last. And they were withdrawing slowly, a little here, and a little there, and a little yonder, day by day. Behind them they left a ruined country, every house destroyed, every fruit tree cut off at the roots…. But they were going back and back….

There was one line of railroad, along which the trains were pounding, day by day; and this line{313} ran north and south past the fringe of the forest and the mountains where Jacques Fontaine and his regiment were hiding. The regiment was scattered, groups of four men and five and six dwelt here and there among the ravines. But when Jacques Fontaine and Lupec had considered, and had secretly scouted back and forth, and had decided upon what they wished to do, they sent runners to gather the regiment together.

There was a spot where the railroad line which the Germans were burdening so heavily crossed a little stream. On the north bank of this stream, and overlooking the bridge which spanned it, there rose a rocky hillock; and this hillock was topped by one of those ancient, ruined chateaus which were the chief beauty of France before the war. On three sides, sheer precipices fell away from the walls of this old chateau; on the other side, the way of ascent was steep and hard.

A dozen men could hold this spot against an army, so long as cannon were not concerned in the affair. And Jacques Fontaine believed the Germans had other uses for their cannon at this time.

So he gathered his regiment, and drew them near the spot he had chosen, and waited his time to strike.

There was, you understand, a guard set about this bridge. But the guard was not strong, for a strong guard was not considered necessary. There were soldiers passing constantly, working slowly northward in the great retreat; and the long trains of stores and supplies crossed one after another, through every day.{314}

It was like a river of men and of supplies; one of the rivers of war. And on a certain night, Jacques Fontaine dammed that river. His men swept down, they overwhelmed the guard upon the bridge…. And they fired the petard which the Germans had themselves laid, to destroy that bridge when their forces should be across. They fired the petard, and the bridge disappeared in a great flame of orange fire; and Jacques Fontaine and his men fell back swiftly into the night. When dawn came, they were all within the walls of the old chateau, high above the bridge, commanding it. And when the German pioneers swarmed out to repair the bridge, Jacques and his men began to fire.

They swept the pioneers away, for they were marksmen, all. They had been trained for four years never to waste a cartridge; that was the thrift of Jacques Fontaine. And they wasted none now. They did not use the two machine guns. Those were reserved to repel the attack that was sure to come. They used their rifles, and they strove to make every bullet take its toll.

A troop train came north in the morning, and the Germans flung the men against the old chateau, up the steep path. The Frenchmen slaughtered them; they built a barricade of German bodies before the very muzzles of their guns. And more trains came, and were held up by the destroyed bridge. The dammed river began to rise, and grumble, and fret and fume…. The pioneers, down by the ruined bridge, strove fruitlessly under the hail of balls.

The second day, the Germans brought guns to{315} bear. At first, there was only shrapnel, and it spattered harmlessly. But after that came high explosive; and each great shell, detonating amid the ruined walls of the chateau, turned every stone and pebble into a missile that swept to right and left and all about in a storm of death.

When three hundred men are huddled in a narrow area, a single shell will kill half of them. This happened, on that day. An hour after the bombardment began, not a hundred men remained alive upon the top of the little peak; an hour after that, scarce fifty remained, …

But while it was easy to kill the first hundred, and while it was not difficult to kill the second hundred, it was very hard indeed to complete the extermination of the force. A dozen men may live where a hundred would perish; and at noon, the riflemen in the ruins of the old chateau still kept the ruined bridge cleared of men and none could toil there.

By that time, the congestion on the southern bank of the river had become so great that that tide overflowed. And Jacques Fontaine, with a scarf bound around his chest to crush back the blood that was leaking from his great body, could see and hear the roar of the French guns, ten miles away, harassing the fleeing enemy….

By mid-afternoon, French shells began to fall amid the huddle on the southern bank of the river; and at nightfall, the Germans broke, there….

They broke; they poured across the stream, wading, swimming, drowning. They broke in flight to escape the merciless guns. And the French planes overhead till dark was fully fallen{316} marked their going, and signalled the guns that harassed the fleeing men.

Before that, the Frenchmen had been silenced; the Frenchmen of Jacques Fontaine, in the old chateau. There were some few of them still unwounded; there were others who breathed and groaned as they slowly died. There were not enough of them to keep the bridge clear; but that duty no longer was required of them. They had held up a division, till the French armies could come up and rout it. And the Germans, flinging one last charge against the old chateau, drew off to the north and left Jacques Fontaine and his men, masters of the field.

VII
I was with the army that came up to that bridge at dawn, my friends. And I was one of those who saw, floating in the first light above the ruined walls of the old chateau, a flicker of glorious color…. A banner, floating there….

Our skirmishers were flung across, pressing northward. Our engineers swarmed upon the ruined bridge, rebuilding….

And one patrol of men turned aside, by the road that led toward the chateau. They went to solve this riddle, gentlemen. They went to discover who it was that had set there, the banner of France.

They went carefully, one man ahead, others behind. They feared a trap; they did not understand….

I was with them. We came, thus, to a turn in{317} the road; and we rounded it, and we saw our advance man at the halt, upon his horse, in the road ahead.

Toward this man were marching, down the road from the chateau, four men.

One of these men was tall, and strong, and bulky. And there was a scarf about his chest; and the scarf was red. Of the others, two marched proudly; two who had come unscathed through that hell where the chateau had stood. And the fourth, though there was a smeared bandage about his face and eyes, so that he held to the arm of Jacques Fontaine; this fourth man, my friends, held his head as high as any; and his shoulders were erect, and his steps were firm.

It was this fourth man who bore, resting it against his hip and steadying it with his other hand, the flag. They came on, these four, heads high. And though they were haggard, and stained, and worn, the banner above them was unsullied and unsoiled….

As they came toward us, we could hear them singing, in cracked and hoarse voices. Singing those immortal words of Rouget de l’Isle….

When they came near our vidette, where he sat his horse so quietly, they halted. And I saw then that these men still wore the red trousers and the blue coats of their ancient uniforms, which they had preserved for this occasion through the years. And we were all very still as we listened so that we heard the vidette challenge, in a ringing voice:

“Qui vive?”

There was, for me, something splendidly sym{318}bolic in the scene. For to that challenge, those battered but unconquerable men gave answer with one voice, one word.

“Qui vive?” the vidette challenged.

And the four answered hoarsely: “France!{319}”

THE RIGHT WHALE’S FLUKES
’Ware th’ sparm whale’s jaw, an’ th’ right whale’s flukes!
—Old Whaling Maxim.
I
IN the old whaling museum on Johnny Cake Hill, there is a big room with a fireplace where, on a rainy or stormy day, the whaling captains like to gather; and when storms or cold keep him from his rocking chair on the after deck of his Fannie, Cap’n Mark Brackett climbs the hill to the old museum and establishes himself in a chair before the fire. From the windows, you may look down a short, steep street to the piers where great heaps of empty oil casks, brown with the grime of years of service, block the way. Tied up to the piers there may be an old square-rigger, her top hamper removed, and empty so that she rides high in the water and curtsies to every gust; and you will see squat little auxiliary schooners preparing for the summer’s cruising off Hatteras; and beyond these again the eye reaches across the lovely harbor to Fair Haven, gleaming in the sun.

The museum is rich with the treasures of the sea; and this room where the captains like to gather is the central treasure-house. An enormous secretary of mahogany veneer stands against{320} one wall; and in cases about the room you will find old ship’s papers bearing the names of presidents a hundred years dead, pie-crimpers carved from the solid heart of a whale’s tooth, a little chest made by one of the Pitcairn Island mutineers, canes fashioned from a shark’s backbone or the jawbone of the cachalot, enormous locks, half a dozen careful models of whaling craft with the last rope and spar in place, and the famous English frigate, in its glass case at one side.

I found Cap’n Brackett there one afternoon, in an old chair before the fire, his black pipe humming like a kettle, his stout body relaxed in comfortable ease. He had advised me to read “Moby Dick,” and had loaned me the book; and when I entered, he looked up, a welcoming twinkle in the keen old eyes that lurk behind their ambush of leathery wrinkles, and saw the book in my hand.

“Read it?” he asked, between puffs.

“End to end,” I assured him.

“A great book. A classic, I say.”

I nodded, and drew up a chair beside him, and opened the volume to glance again across its pages and to dip here and there into that splendid chronicle of the hunt for the great white whale. The old man watched me over his pipe, and I looked up once and caught his eye.

“He’s stretching it a bit, of course,” I suggested. “You would never meet the same whale twice, in all the wastes of the Seven Seas.”

The cap’n’s eyes gleamed faintly. “Why not?” he asked.

“It’s too much of a coincidence.”

“It happens.{321}”

One certain method to provoke Cap’n Brackett to narration is to pretend incredulity. I smiled in a wary fashion, and said nothing.

“There was one whale I saw four times, myself,” he asserted.

“How do you know it was the same?”

“He was marked…. And the hand of Fate was in it, too.”

I turned the leaves of the book, and chuckled provokingly, watching covertly the captain’s countenance; and, as I expected, he began presently to tell the story that was in his mind. His gruff old voice ran quietly along; the fire puffed and flared as the wind whistled down the chimney, the snow flurried past the windows and hid the harbor below us. Cap’n Brackett’s voice droned on.

II
“You never heard of Eric Scarf,” the old man thoughtfully began. “Not more’n three or four men alive now that knew him. He were mate of the Thomas Pownal when I knew him; a big, straight, fiery man, powerful and strong. He came of some Northland breed, with a great shock of yellow hair, and eyes as blue as the sea; but he was not like most Norsemen in being slow of speech and dull of wit. Quick he was; quick to speak, and quick to think, and quick to act; quick to anger, quick to take hurt, and quick to know Joan for the one woman, when she began that v’y’ge on the Thomas Pownal.

“James Tobbey was the captain of the Pownal; Joan was his daughter. She was a laughing girl,{322} always laughing; a child. Her hair was fine-spun and golden, and it curled. When the fog got into it, it kinked into ringlets as crisp as blubber scraps. You wanted to rub them in your hands, and hear them crinkle and crackle between your palms. And her voice, when she laughed, was the same way, crisp and clean and strong; and her eyes were brown. Give a girl light curly hair and dark brown eyes, and any man’s heart will skip a beat or so at seeing her.

“She used to be everywhere about the ship, always laughing; and little Jem Marvel forever hobbling at her heels. Jem was a baby, a little crippled baby, the son of a sister of Joan’s who had died when Jem was born; and Jem’s father was dead before that, although no one knew it till the Andrew Thomes came back without him, two years after.

“Thomes had been a hard, bitter man; and little Jem took after him. The baby was black, black hair, black eyes, a swart skin; and when he dragged his withered leg about the deck at Joan’s heels, his face worked and grimaced with spleen that was terrible to watch. Maybe six or seven he was then; and for all Joan tended him like a mother, I’ve known him to rip out at her the black oaths that would rot a grown man’s lips.

“Cap’n Tobbey kept his eyes away from the boy; but Joan loved the little thing. None but her could bear with him.

“Eric Scarf was the only man aboard that ever tried to win the baby. I’ve seen him work for weeks at some dinkus he was making for the boy,{323} only to have Jem scorn it when it was done. He put six months of whittling into a little model of the Pownal, with every rope in place; and when he gave it to Jem at last, the boy smashed it on the deck, and stamped upon the splinters.

“Eric but laughed. The mate was a hard man with men, quick with them; but with the child he was as gentle as Joan herself.

“He loved Joan. I loved Joan. Every man aboard the Pownal loved the girl; but Eric more than most of us. He sought ways to please her, and when he bungled it, it was a fight with him to hide his grief. One of the greenies, when the Pownal was but a few days out, bumped against the girl in the waist of the ship at the lurch of a wave; and Eric knocked the man halfway to the fo’c’s’le scuttle with one cuff. But while the greenie was scrambling to his feet, nursing his mouth with one tooth gone, Joan flamed at Eric.

“‘Why was that?’ she demanded, her voice very steady and hot.

“‘He bumped you!’ Eric tells her.

“‘I did not complain. Only a coward hits men who cannot hit back.’

“Eric’s face crimsoned; he whirled to the man. ‘Here,’ he shouted. ‘Forget I’m the mate. Do you want the chance to get even?’

“The man stared affrightedly, then ducked down the scuttle like a rabbit, with Eric glaring after him. But when Eric turned, Joan had gone aft without another word, and he was left to grope for understanding of her.

“Scarf was the strongest, quickest man I ever saw. He was tall and powerful, and built slim{324} and flat like a whalebone spring. He was boiling with his own strength all the time. He suffered for a vent for it; and he trod the deck on his toes like a tiger, his fists swinging, not from any lust for battle so much as from the excess of his own power and vigor.

“I’ve seen him set his hands to tackle and brush the fo’mast hands aside, and do three men’s work himself for the mere peace and joy it gave him to put forth all his strength for a space; his shoulders and back and arms would knot and swell and bulge with his efforts, and his lungs would shout with gladness at the task.

“Eric was never still. On deck, where others would lean against the rail with an eye to the ship and their thoughts somewhere off across the water, he was always moving, pacing up and down, climbing into the rigging, shifting this and stirring that, restless like a caged beast. Something drove him. He could not rest. The springs of life and energy in the man would have torn him to bits if you had held him motionless for an hour. He had to move, to act, to do; and when he buffeted the men, it was neither native cruelty nor bullying. It was but the outburst of his own impatient, restless power.

“It was a strange thing to see such a man gentling little Jem Marvel, or wooing the boy to a romp about the deck; and it was strange to see Scarf stand near Joan, watching her, and the muscles in him twitching and straining with the agony of inaction. Eric worshipped Joan; and she bewildered him. He used to plan little pleasant surprises for her, and watch her joy at them and{325} take his reward in watching. He never spoke love to her, never so much as touched her hand unless it might be to help her along the deck when the ship was wallowing; and when the things he planned failed to delight her, a man watching him could see that his very soul was writhing.

“I said Scarf was a quick man, quick of thought and quick of deed. But where Joan was concerned, he was very dull and slow. He never could learn, try as he would, to please her; and his own impotence and his strength combined to drive him to feats which he meant for wooing, but which the girl abhorred.

“He trapped a little sea bird once, and made a tiny cage for it, and left it for her to find; and when the girl discovered it, she cried out with pity for the captive, and ran on deck with the cage and set the little creature free. Eric Scarf saw her, and she knew it was he who had done it, and pitied him.

“‘I’m really grateful,’ she said, smiling very gently at the big man. ‘But he is so unhappy in a cage.’

“Eric tried to speak, and saw one of the men by the tryworks grinning at him; so he went forward and drove the man with blows to the knight’s heads, and Joan scorned him for days thereafter.

“I’ve seen a cock pa’tridge ruffle his feathers and beat and drum with his wings, all glory and strength and vigor in his wooing; and no doubt the hen liked it. But if the pa’tridge had tried such measures in the courting of a singing thrush, he would only have frighted and dismayed her{326} whom he sought to please. It was so with Eric. His courting would have pleased some women; Joan it but disgusted and disturbed.

“Eric Scarf and I were closer friends than you would think; and I knew the big, strong man to be as shy and as easy to take hurt as a child. But it was his way when he was hurt or shamed to strike out at the nearest, and so to those without understanding he seemed a mere bully, cruel and exultant in his strength.

“Lucky for us on the Pownal, Scarf delighted in the whaling. There was no other task in the world so fitted to the man. So strong he was that nothing short of a whale could give him the fierce joy of battle which soothed him. He drove his men as he drove himself, and they either broke under it or became hard-bitten and enduring hands, fit to match him. His boat was always first away; and he would strike and kill one whale and then another while other officers were content with a single catch. I’ve known him to do what few attempt; to lower at night when moonlight revealed a spout, and make his kill, and tow the fish to the ship by dawn. Cap’n Tobbey never interfered with Eric, for the mate was too valuable; and when the mate’s watch was on deck, he would lower and kill without ever calling the Old Man from his cabin at all.

“I had heard of Scarf before this v’y’ge, but never watched him work before; and many a time I found myself biting my lip and holding the breath in my chest at the daring of him. In any weather short of a gale, he would lower; and once two boats were swamped in lowering before he{327} took the third mate’s and got away—and got the whale.

“With such an officer, and decent luck, a quick voyage was sure; and so it was this time. Before we’d been out two years, the casks were filled, oil was stored in everything that would hold it, and the Old Man gave the word to fly the Blue Peter and put for home. We threw the bricks of the tryworks overboard to lighten ship that much, and struck across the South Pacific, fought our way around the Horn, and took a long slant north’ard toward Tristan.

“There was no place to store more oil if we had it, and we could not try out if we had the blubber; so, though we sighted fish now and then, we let them go—though I could see Eric was fretting at it, and wishing the ship empty again.

“For months now, Eric had been wooing Joan in his own wild, longing way; but the girl would have none of him. He must have known it, and he bridled his tongue as he could. But the word was bound to come one day; and it came at last when we were rocking in a calm, with an island two or three miles to starboard, and the sun hissing on the sea that sighed and swelled like the bosom of a sleeping woman whose dreams are troubled and disturbed.

“The ship was idle, the men squatting forward in what shade they could discover, and the rigging slatting back and forth as the Pownal rocked on the long swells. Eric had the deck, the Old Man was asleep below, and Joan and the boy, Jem, were sitting aft, the girl sewing at something she held in her lap.{328}

“Scarf, with nothing in the world to do, fretted and paced about, his eyes never leaving her, and a worship in them that all the world could see. The afternoon droned away, the Pownal creaked and swung in the cradle of the sea, and the sun burned down endlessly. Scarf could not bear it. He strode across to where the girl sat; and she looked up at him to see what he had come for, and at the look in his eyes rose quickly to face him, her face setting hard.

“Eric must have seen; but he blundered blindly on. The words came awkwardly. He lifted no hand to touch her. ‘I love you. I love you,’ he said, in a dry, husky voice. ‘I love you. I want you to marry me.’

“Black little Jem looked up at them and, with the quick perception of the child, grinned malignantly. Joan’s face turned white beneath the soft bronze the sun and wind had given her cheeks. She could not help pitying the big man; but she could not love him.

“‘I’m sorry, Eric,’ she said. ‘I do not love you.’

“‘I love you,’ he repeated, as though it were an argument he were advancing.

“‘I’m sorry,’ she told him again. ‘I’m sorry to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt you. But I don’t love you.’

“His eyes were quivering and trembling like the raw flesh of a wound, but he stood impassively before her, staring down into her eyes, searching there for something he would never find. Little Jem chuckled, and the sound broke the spell upon the man. He turned rigidly away; and as it al{329}ways was with him when his heart was torn, his great body clamored for action. His fingers bit at his palms.

“And then one of the boatsteerers, standing in the waist, uttered a low ejaculation; and Eric turned and saw the man was pointing toward the shore, where a misty spout was just dissolving against the dark background of the cliffs that dipped to the water there.

“It was the vent Eric wanted for the torment that was tearing him. Without a word, he leaped to his boat; and his men, well trained, came tumbling at his heels. In a minute’s time, Eric had caught up some gear that had been removed from the boats when the fishing was finished, and gave the order to lower.

“Joan came softly to him. ‘You are not going to kill that whale, are you?’ she asked. ‘We have no need for it.’

“Eric did not hear her; for the boat had split the water and was bobbing there below him, and he dropped with his men and in a moment was away. Joan, her eyes burning angrily, watched him go; and presently she brought the glass to see what was to come.

“The whale inshore was lying quietly, but Eric sent the boat along as though his life hung on success; he drove the men till the oars bent like whip-shafts; he drove them and he drove himself; and they ran fair upon the creature before they realized their speed. Then, at Eric’s cry, the boatsteerer in the bow leaped up and drove the harpoons home, and the boat sheered off while Eric changed places with the man.{330}

“They had struck a cow whale, a right whale, with a calf not a week old tucked under her fin; and the little thing lay there, lifting its tiny spout against its mother’s side; its fins feebly fanning.

“A cow whale is the easiest of game; and there is no sentiment in the whaling ships. If the Pownal had been empty, she would have been counted clear gain. With the Pownal full to brimming, this that Eric was doing was mere murderous slaughter.

“When Eric saw that he was cheated of the battle he had craved, a fury seized him. He shouted hoarsely to his boatsteerer, and the man swung them in alongside the whale. The great mother had not stirred, save for a trembling shudder of her whole bulk when the irons seized upon her. The calf was fighting to escape, but the mother’s great fin pinioned it against her side, soothingly, assuringly, as though she promised it should be safe there.

“Eric lifted his lance and pierced the mother, driving home the slender steel into the great body; and he withdrew it, and prodded the vitals of the whale again and again, with a desperate energy, pouring out the fire of his own strength in his efforts.

“It was like piercing butter with a hatpin; and this dull acquiescence on the creature’s part only whetted Eric’s blind rage. When at last the great flukes lifted once, his heart leaped with the hope that at the end there might come the struggle and the opposition for which he hungered; but agony had lifted the flukes, and the bursting heart of the{331} mother brought them gently down again, never even disturbing the little creature at her side.

“She died; a thrust killed the calf. The boat sheered out; and then the boatsteerer shouted a warning from the stern.

“Eric whirled and saw a great bull whale just emerging from the depths; and the whale headed for them furiously.

“I do not say the creature was the dead cow’s mate. It would not be strange if this was so; but it need not be asserted. I do not say the bull attacked the boat. He was badly gallied, he was running blindly.

“But whatever the explanation, he charged them; and Eric shouted triumphantly at thought that here was the adversary he had desired.

“The boatsteerer swung the boat about to meet the onrush; and Eric snatched a harpoon. They swerved out of the path of the bull. As he roared past them in a smother of foam, Eric sent the harpoon home.

“But the next instant the smashing flukes struck them, and the boat’s whole bottom was driven away. Eric chopped the line loose to save them; and in ten seconds from the appearance of the bull, they were to their necks in water, the boat beneath them.

“The bull charged on and disappeared. I lowered and went after the men in the water; and we got them aboard. Eric was reacting from his fury now; he was shamed at what he had done; and he looked back once at the body of the cow, about which sharks were already fighting, with something like apology in his eyes.{332}

“The men were talking. ‘Did ye see the cross on the bull’s head?’ the tub oarsman asked; the steerer assented.

“‘A white scar in the blubber,’ he agreed.

“The others nodded; and Eric looked at me and said quietly: ‘The old bull was marked.’

“It was when we were all aboard again, and Eric had changed to dry garments, that Joan came up to where he stood with me. Her eyes were blazing; and little Jem, at her heels, was chuckling blackly.

“‘That was murder,’ said the girl, trembling with her own anger.

“Eric flushed, and his head bowed a little.

“‘A cow and a calf—killed uselessly!’ Joan exclaimed.

“The big man, uneasy, shy, not knowing where to turn, saw little Jem beside him; and he turned to the boy and caught the lad under his arms, and swung him high in the air. ‘Up you go!’ he cried, trying to laugh.

“He meant only to start a romp—anything to divert the girl’s searing scorn; but the malignant spirit of little Jem converted the movement into black tragedy. The child screamed indignantly, and kicked down at Eric’s upturned face with his sound foot.

“Eric was standing a yard from the rail, his back to it. The kick in his face made him lose his balance, and he staggered backward, and before I could stir, with the boy extended above his head, he had fallen overboard.

“Joan screamed; and together we leaped to the rail. I reached for a coil of rope. The two had{333} sunk in a smother of bubbles; and in the second that we waited for Eric to fight his way to the surface again, a sinister shadow shot like fire along the ship’s side, and I saw the flicker of a silver-white belly, and heard Joan scream again.

“The water turned crimson; and then Eric came to the surface with empty hands. He dove instantly, furiously; and I got a boat into the water. Eric broke to the surface again, his face convulsed with the anguish that tore him; and two of us grabbed him and dragged him, fighting, into the boat.

“‘Let go, let go,’ he screamed, and struck us back. ‘Let me go. I can get him.’

“He was mad; and we caught him, and he broke and dropped, sobbing, in the bottom of the boat. I saw that one of his arms was rasped raw by the shark’s rough skin.

“Joan met him like a fury when he stepped upon the deck again, and I thought she would strike him. He stood before her, drooping and crushed; and the girl caught herself. But I heard the word she said.

“‘Thrice murderer!’ she told him softly. ‘Thrice murderer! A mother and child—and now my baby! Oh curse you, curse you! May you be always accursed until you die!’

“She held him for a moment, and then turned away from the man; and Eric Scarf drooped sick and weak where he stood, until I dragged him below to tend his wounded arm.{334}”

III
The old man paused, and stared into the fire; and when I had waited fruitlessly for another word from him, I asked:

“Is that all?”

He looked up at me quietly. “No,” he said. “No—that is not the whole of it.”

Still he did not continue, so I prompted him. “You said the whale was seen four times,” I suggested.

He nodded; and so drifted into his story again. “Aye, four times,” he agreed. “The old bull with the cross upon his skull. Four times. I’ve but told the first.”

He puffed silently for a little, shifted his great bulk in the chair, rose and crossed to the window to look down toward the harbor, and returned at last to me.

“Joan kept to her cabin much, from that day,” he said. “She kept to her cabin; and Eric Scarf did his tasks and held aloof from her. We came smoothly northward, and presently were at our pier, unloading the casks that filled our holds. Eric had slowly recovered something of the old strength and power that moved him; and though he avoided the girl, and though I could see how he suffered and what agony he was enduring, he kept a steady face to the men, and drove them as he always drove.

“Cap’n Tobbey was a quiet, stern man; but he was just. He blamed Eric for taking out the boat, but he knew the other for what it was, an accident of Fate; and when time came for the next cruise,{335} Eric was too good a man to stay ashore. He shipped as mate, and I was second mate again.

“This time, Joan stayed behind. She had had enough of the sea for a lifetime, she told me; and from a girl, she was become a woman. Lovely as ever, her laughter as sweet and crisp as a spring wind, yet there was a depth in her that had not been there before, and at times her eyes shrank as though they gazed upon awful, tragic happenings.

“She was on the pier the day we sailed; and I saw Eric Scarf watching her with the hopeless longing in his eyes that tears at the vitals of a man.

“There was a shadow over the mate from the beginning of that cruise. Any man could see it; and the fo’mast hands used to watch him, and whisper among themselves. Outwardly he was the same; strong and quick and proud, alive, alert, his body uplifted with the energy it housed. He trod the decks lightly, he moved with the quick precision of an animal; and he plunged into his work in a fashion that would have worn another man to threads.

“A sprinkling of our old crew was aboard; so Eric’s story was no secret. But it was never mentioned by him or in his presence. He seemed to find a joy in his toil that allowed him to forget; and the man’s eyes brightened and his cheeks set in their old firm, fine lines as we drove southward. There is no better index to a man than the cheeks of him. Flabbiness of body or soul shows quickest there, and there all other vices and all virtues first appear. Eric’s face was neither gaunt nor{336} round, but it had a chiseled perfection of contour that was like a song.

“There is a deal of superstition that hangs about the sea; and a whaler has her share of it, and more. But it is never allowed to interfere with the work at hand. And so if the men wished Eric off the ship, they kept their wishes to themselves; and if they were reluctant to serve in his boat, they hid this reluctance. For Eric was a quick man, quick to anger, with a quick fist to him. In his place, I should have moved tremblingly, fearful of a blow from behind during the watch on deck at night. But Eric strode fearlessly about the ship; and none laid hand to him.

“The sea is a grim thing, and inscrutable. No man can look out across its smooth bosom day and day, and remember the vast multitude of lives which go their way beneath that smiling surface, without a sense of mystery and wonder of it all. The sea in a storm may be terrible and appalling, when its broad expanse is cut up into myriad gulleys and mountains in which the ship is lost as in a labyrinth; but to me it has always been even more terrible and menacing when it is calm. In time of storm, its fury rages without curb; the worst is with you. But when the sea is quiet, all its energies hidden, it is like the smiling mask of Fate which conceals unguessed and unpredicted blows.

“Thus, when we sailed southward over smooth and smiling seas, I fell victim to an unrest that harassed me. I rose and looked abroad each day with eyes that searched eagerly for a threat of the fate that seemed impending; and even as I watched{337} the sea, in like manner did I watch Eric Scarf, to discover if I could what it was that hung so threateningly over the man’s smiling head.

“If Eric felt any uneasiness, he gave at first no sign. He was as he had always been, confident, and quick, and strong. But the day came when a hint was given us, just as the impalpable atmospheric changes reveal through the glass the approach of storm.

“We had sighted whales more than once, and made a fair beginning on the long task ahead of us; and then one day in the South Atlantic, the boats were lowered for a pod that lay far off to southward. Eric got fast, and the third mate likewise. But the whale I had chosen as my goal took alarm, and whirled toward us, and then fled before our irons could reach him.

“There had been time, however, for us to see upon his head a dull scar, in the form of a cross, and I heard a cry from Eric’s boat, that was just getting fast, and turned to see Eric staring toward the spot where the old bull had disappeared.

“Then I remembered what the men had said about the whale which had stove Eric’s boat after the kill on the other voyage; and when we were aboard again, the cutting-in done, and the tryworks boiling and smoking, I was not surprised that Eric came to me.

“‘Mark,’ he whispered huskily, ‘was there a cross on the bull that got away?’

“I nodded. ‘On his head,’ I said. ‘An old scar, gouged into the blubber.’

“I saw his jaw set hard. ‘It can’t be!’ he exclaimed, half to himself. I said nothing; and he{338} looked at me a moment later, with an agony of doubt in his eyes.

“‘Well, what of it, Eric?’ I asked, knowing, but thinking that to talk might ease the man.

“‘It was a scarred bull stove my boat—that day,’ he told me.

“‘Every old bull has his scars,’ I said easily.

“‘Aye—but—this was the same, Mark!’

“‘What matter?’

“He flushed and stammered like a child. ‘Her curse is on me,’ he declared. ‘The old bull is going to wait for me!’

“‘He’ll suffer by it,’ I laughed. ‘He’s a fat old duke, too.’

“Eric looked forward where the men were working, and looked aft, and then out across the sea; and then he looked at me at last with an appeal in his eyes. ‘Are you calling me “murderer” as she did, Mark?’ he asked.

“I shook my head. ‘She’s but a girl,’ I told him. ‘There was no need of killing the cow. But what matter for that? And the other—was no one’s blame.’

“His hand gripped my arm till I winced. ‘You mean it?’ he begged, hungrily.

“I clapped him on the shoulder. ‘Forget it all,’ I urged. ‘No harm will come.’

“‘It is not that I’m afraid,’ he told me swiftly; and I saw that I had roused him as I hoped to do.

“‘Sure of that?’ I asked.

“His eyes flamed. ‘I fear nothing,—except myself,’ he exclaimed. ‘But I hear her word always; and I cannot bear it, Mark.’

“Before more could be said, Cap’n Tobbey{339} came toward us; and Eric laughed as though at some jest of mine. His laughter was not a pleasant thing to hear, and I would have wished to reassure the man. But thereafter he gave me no further opportunity.

“I could see the thing was on his mind through the days that followed. He could not forget it; and he took to standing watch at the masthead when there was no need. I asked him once why he did this.

“‘To get the scarred bull, Mark,’ he told me. ‘That will end it.’

“‘You’ll never see him again!’

“He shook his head, and smiled grimly. ‘No fear,’ he said. ‘He’s about us.’

“And Eric was right; for the day we were finishing the trying out, the scarred bull was sighted again, this time so near the ship that his mark could be discerned through the glass as he rose to spout. Eric was aloft; and he tumbled down the rigging like a madman, and lowered; but there was a fog, and in the fog the bull was lost for that time.

“That was thrice he had been seen; and the fourth time came swiftly.

“Eric was never a man to fear or avoid conflict, even with the forces of the universe itself; and after this third appearance of the scarred bull whale, he scarce slept at all, but held himself and his boat’s crew ready for battle the day long. He was aloft from dawn till dark, endlessly scouring the seas for a spout that would reveal the creature which personified to him the thing he was fighting. He became silent, thoughtful; and{340} strength flowed into him and nerved him to a hard and efficient readiness. He was like an athlete in training for a contest, every nerve and muscle tuned.

“We sighted the scarred whale for the fourth time on a Sunday morning; a day when the sea was just rippled by the gentlest breezes, when the sun shone warmly and comfortingly upon the world, when the boats danced upon the waves with a soothing and caressing motion. The water was blue as turquoise, and the sky above it; and the two met at the horizon with the sea’s deeper blue below the sky’s, and the whitecaps gleaming like silver in the wind.

“It was not Eric who sighted the whale, but one of the men on the foret’gallant crosstrees; and his long ‘Blo-o-o-o-o-ow’ came droning down to us on the decks and snatched each one to his post like machinery. Cap’n Tobbey turned his glass on the distant spouts, and ordered the boats away; and Eric’s hard and seasoned men made his boat swing ahead of the others instantly, and steadily increase the lead.

“There was no way of knowing whether or no this was the old, scarred bull; but his spout told us it was a right whale, and not a sperm whale. Nevertheless, either Eric knew it was his enemy he went to meet, or else he was eager to discover whether it was or no, for he drove his men unsparingly, and was more than a quarter of a mile ahead of us when he reached the monster, and ran alongside.

“Over the water came to us the sound of his shouted command: ‘Let ‘im have it!’ And I saw{341} the boatsteerer, standing in the bow with his knee in the clumsy-cleat, put all the strength of back and arms into the stroke, and snatch the second iron and send that home even as the whale leaped forward.

“While Eric and the boatsteerer were changing places, the great whale up-ended ponderously, his flukes lifting gently toward the sky full thirty feet clear of the water, and slid down out of sight. He had sounded; and I spurred my men to harder efforts so that we might be at hand to help if need arose.

“Ahead of us, the boat lay idle on the waves. I could see Eric in the bow, his hand on the line where it ran through the notch, bending to peer down into the depths; and I could see he was putting a strain upon the line, for the bow was down and almost dipping in the waves.

“Then suddenly the bow bobbed up, the strain relaxed; and Eric bent further over in an effort to pierce the depths below him. The whale was coming up; and if by chance he came up under the boat, the fight would be done, forthwith. Eric shouted a command; and the men began to haul in the line desperately, dropping it in a loose coil astern. The boatsteerer leaned upon his oar, alert, bending to hear the word from Eric, and himself looking overside for any sign of the monster who was rushing up from the depths toward them.

“Then a shout from Eric, the boat swung around as though on a pivot; and next instant the whale breached between his boat and mine.

“There is no more splendid sight in the world{342} than this; to see the biggest creature that breathes flinging his four or five score tons clear out of the water to hang, a black bulk against the sky, for an instant before he falls resoundingly. Imagine a leaping trout, magnify the trout’s size a millionfold or more, and you have some faint notion of the monstrous majesty and grace of the breaching whale.

“I had seen whales breach before, sometimes with terror, sometimes with wonder at the beauty of the spectacle; but when this whale leaped clear into the sky and seemed to hang for an instant fair above us, a thrill of horror shot through me.

“For as he was in the air, fair to all to see, the scar upon his head was revealed; a scar like a sunken cross, mark of some ancient wound. It was the scarred bull to which Eric’s boat was fast.

“I looked toward him, and saw that Eric had seen the scar; but Eric loved battle. He shouted to his men, and even as the great whale fell into the water again, Eric’s men hauled in till they were alongside the monster, and Eric drove home his lance.

“The whale, at the prick of steel, redoubled the furious struggle of the breach; and he rolled away and away from the boat, upon the surface, in a smother of foam and spray. The men were forced to loose the line again to avoid capsizing; but Eric himself set his hand to it, and by his own strength held the nose of the boat so near the rolling whale that when the enormous creature straightened out at last to run, half a dozen pulls brought them again alongside.

“They were in some fashion safer there than{343} elsewhere. The harpoons had struck well behind the fin, and the whale’s rolling had wrapped the line about him in such fashion that when the boat pulled alongside it lay safely behind the fin, and yet safely forward of the flukes. If the whale rolled toward them, they would be crushed beneath his bulk; but short of such a move, the monster could not shake them off.

“And Eric was working his lance like mad. I had never seen such frantic energy. He sent the six-foot steel into the soft body again and again, not with a long shove, but with a single stabbing thrust to each attack. His target was the whale’s greatest girth, and the lower part of the body; and although the battle seemed an endless flurry and strife of bloody foam, it was only a matter of seconds before the whale’s labored spouting crimsoned—sure sign he had received a mortal wound.

“I caught the sound of an exultant shout from Eric, and his boat sheered away. The monster had suddenly halted in its flight; it lay momentarily motionless, as though testing its own strength against this attack which had pierced its vitals. Then in a desperate and panic-stricken flurry it leaped forward and away, the boat, with line running free, trailing safely behind.

“They drove past where my boat lay; and Eric turned to look toward me. He was a heroic figure in the bow of the little craft, erect and tall, his bright hair and his naked torso crimson with the flood from the whale’s bloody spout. He was gleaming wet with spray and red foam; and he waved his long lance as he passed and shouted:

“‘The scarred whale, Mark! I’ve killed him!{344}’

“Before I could reply, he was beyond the sound of my voice; and then the great beast whirled and came back toward us. He must have seen my boat and supposed it that of his tormentor; for he charged at us, and only the swiftest swerve took us out of his path in time. Beyond me, I saw him wallow over the third mate’s boat and on; and I hurried to pick up the men in the water.

“Save for their bruises and their drenching, they were uninjured. We dragged them aboard, set a waif in the boat, tied its oars to keep it afloat, and set out after Eric and the whale. The great creature was circling in its last flurry; and as we drew near, with a tremendous spasm it threw its mighty bulk in a swift, short circle and was still.

“We drove ahead, toward Eric’s boat; and Eric’s countenance was burning with a splendid triumph. This last moment of victorious pride Fate allowed him.

“He was ahead; his boat ran alongside the huge carcass, and Eric bent over the bow with the short boat spade to cut a hole in the whale’s tail for towing it to the ship.

“The boat spade is a steel blade, razor sharp, spade-shaped, attached to a stout wooden handle. Eric leaned far out and drove it into the tough fiber of the tail.

“And then the right whale’s flukes whirled in a last, spasmodic struggle; up they whirled, and over, and down. They missed the boat by inches; but from Eric’s strong hands the boat spade was torn. It twisted in the air, its steel blade flashing crimson. Under the blow of the flukes it twisted and sang, and then chocked home. The steel{345} struck Eric squarely in the face; and it split his skull as you split a walnut.”

IV
The old captain leaned forward to knock the dottel from his pipe upon the andirons, and settled in his chair again. For a little time we sat without speaking; but I asked at last:

“Joan—did she forgive him in the end?”

Cap’n Brackett’s grim old countenance softened. “Oh, aye,” he said. “She’d forgiven him before. She warned me when we started on the cruise to watch over him.” He filled and lighted his ancient pipe again, then softly finished: “She’s gone, long since. But our daughter looks very like her now.{346}”

NOTE
IT was, if memory may be relied upon, Aristotle who initiated the Greeks into the delights of classification, analysis and definition. Since then, the love of pasting names on things has become so universal that it may almost be classed as an instinct. The ordinary man, in the presence of a new mountain, river, brook, hill, tree, flower, house, automobile, puppy or kitten infallibly asks himself: “What shall I call it?” And having labelled and catalogued his new discovery or acquisition, he is content.

There would appear to be some need of more accurate classification and definition in the field of prose fiction. The word “novel” has come to be as capacious as an omnibus. A story of twenty thousand words is labelled “novelette” in a magazine; then makes its bow between boards as a full-fledged novel. This same confusion extends in the other direction; and it is not infrequent to see stories of twenty thousand words and upward called “short stories.” A manuscript which is a short story in one magazine is a novelette in another, and a novel later on. This confusion has no doubt arisen from the custom, fairly general among the book-buying public, of preferring a “thick” book. Print a short story in large type, with wide margins, and call it a novel; thus is the demand for bulk most easily satisfied.

 

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