Friendship Village
by Zona Gale
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"I use' to look at her an' wish an' wish I wa'n't who I am, so's I could a' let her know I knew too. I use' to go to mend her lace an' sell orris root to her—an' Madame Proudfit an' Clementina would be there, buyin' an' livin' on the outside, judicious an' refined an' rill right about everything; but when Linda come in, she sort o' reached somewheres, deep, or up, or out, or like that, an' got somethin' that meant it all instead o' gnawin' its way through words. It was like other folks was the recipe an' Linda was the rill dish. They was the way to be, but she was the one that was.

"Well, then one year, when she come home from off to school, this young clerk followed her. I only see 'em together once—he only stayed a day an' had his terrible time with Jason Proudfit an' everybody knew it—but even with seein' 'em that once, I knew about him. I don't care who he was or what he was worth—he was lit up, too. I donno why he was a clerk nor anything of him—excep' that the lit kind ain't always the money-makers—but he could talk to her her way. An' when I see the four of 'em drive up in front of the post-office the day he come, Mis' Proudfit an' Clementina talkin' all soft an' interested an' regular about the foreign postage stamps they was buyin', an' Linda an' him sittin' there with foreign lands fair livin' in their eyes—I knew how it would be. An' so it was. They went off, Linda with only the clothes she was wearin' an' none of her stone rings or like that with her. An' see what it all done—see what it done. Jason Proudfit, he wouldn't forgive 'em nor wouldn't hear a word from 'em, though they say Mis' Linda wrote, at first, an' more than once. An' then when he died two years or so afterwards, an' Mis' Proudfit tried everywhere—they wa'n't no trace. An' no wonder, with a differ'nt name so's nobody should find out how poor they was—an' death—an' like enough prison...."

Calliope stood up, and in the pause Peleg's axe went rhythmically on.

"I'm goin' to be sure," she said. "I hate to—but o' course I've got to be rill certain, in words."

She went out to the shed, taking with her the photograph, and closed the door. Peleg's axe ceased. And when she came back, she said nothing at all for a little, and the axe did not go on.

"We mustn't tell Mis' Proudfit—yet," she put it, presently, "not till we can think. I donno's we ever can tell her. The dyin'—an' the disgrace—an' the other name—an' the hurt about Linda's needin' things ... Peleg thinks not tell her, too."

"At least," I said, "we can wait, for a little. Until they come home."

I listened while, her task long disregarded, Calliope fitted together the dates and the meagre facts she knew, and made the sad tally complete. Then she laid the picture by and stood staring at the cooking-range flame.

"It ain't enough," she said, "bein'—lit up—ain't enough for folks, is it? Not without they're some made out o' iron, too, to hold it—like stoves. An' yet—"

She looked at me with one of her infrequent, passionate doubtings in her eyes.

"—if Mis' Proudfit an' Clementina had just of been lit too," she said, "mebbe—"

She got no farther, though I think it was not the opening of the door by Peleg Bemus that interrupted her. Peleg did not come in. He said something of the snow on his shoes, and spoke through the door's opening.

"I'm a-goin to quit work for to-day, Mis' Marsh," he told her. "Seems like I'm too dead tired to chop."



As spring came on, and I found myself fairly identified with the life of Friendship,—or, at any rate, "more one of us," as they said,—I suggested to Calliope something which had been for some time pleasantly in my mind: might I, I asked one day, give a tea for her?

"A tea!" she repeated. "For me? You know they give me a benefit once in the basement of the Court House. But a private tea, for me?"

And when she understood that this was what I meant,

"Oh," she said earnestly, "I'd be so glad to come. An' you an' I can know the tea is for me—if you rilly mean it—but it won't do to say it so'd it'd get out around. Oh, no, it won't. Not one o' the rest'll come near if you give it for me—nor if you give it for anybody. Mis' Proudfit, now, she tried to give a noon lunch on St. Patrick's day for Mis' Postmaster Sykes, an' the folks she ask' to it got together an' sent in their regrets. 'We're just as good as Mis' Postmaster Sykes,' they give out to everybody, 'an' we don't bow down to her like that.' So Mis' Proudfit she calls it a Shamrock Party an' give it a day later. An' every one of 'em went. It won't do to say it's for me."

So I contented myself with planning to seat Calliope at the foot of my table, and I found a kind of happiness in her child-like content, though only we two knew that the occasion would do her honour. If Delia had been available we would have told her, but Delia was still in Europe, and would not return until June.

Calliope was quite radiant when, on the afternoon of the tea, she arrived in advance of the others. She was wearing her best gray henrietta, and I noted that she had changed her cameo ring from her first to her third finger. ("First-finger rings seem to me more everyday," she had once said to me, "but third-finger I always think looks real dressy.") She was carrying a small parcel.

"You didn't ask to borrow anything," she said shyly; "I didn't know how you'd feel about that, a stranger so. An' we all got together—your company, you know—an' found out you hadn't borrowed anything from any of us, an' we thought maybe you hesitated. So we made up I should bring my spoons. They was mother's, an' they're thin as weddin' rings—an' solid. Any time you want to give a company you're welcome to 'em."

When I had laid the delicate old silver in its place, I found Calliope standing in the middle of my living-room, looking frankly about on my simple furnishings, her eyes lingering here and there almost lovingly.

"Bein' in your house," she said, "is like bein' somewheres else. I don't know if you know what I mean? Most o' the time I'm where I belong—just common. But now an' then—like a holiday when we're dressed up an' sittin' 'round—I feel differ'nt an' special. It was the way I felt when they give the William Shakespeare supper in the library an' had it lit up in the evenin' so differ'nt—like bein' somewheres else. It'll be that way on Market Square next month when the Carnival comes. I guess that's why I'm a extract agent," she added, laughing a little. "When I set an' smell the spices I could think it wasn't me I feel so special. An' I feel that way now—I do' know if you know what I mean—"

She looked at me, measuring my ability to comprehend, and brightening at my nod.

"Well, most o' Friendship wouldn't understand," she said. "To them vanilla smells like corn-starch pudding an' no more. An' that reminds me," she added slowly, "you know Friendship well enough by this time, don't you, to find we're apt to say things here this afternoon?"

"Say things?" I repeated, puzzling.

"We won't mean to," she hastened loyally to add; "I ain't talkin' about us, you know," she explained anxiously, "I just want to warn you so's you won't be hurt. I guess I notice such things more'n most. We won't mean to offend you—but I thought you'd ought to know ahead. An' bein' as it's part my tea, I thought it was kind o' my place to tell you."

She was touching the matter delicately, almost tenderly, and not more, as I saw, with a wish to spare me than with a wish to apologize in advance for the others, to explain away some real or fancied weakness.

"You know," she said, "we ain't never had anybody to, what you might say, tell us what we can an' what we can't say. So we just naturally say whatever comes into our heads. An' then when we get it said, we see often that it ain't what we meant—an' that it's apt to hurt folks or put us in a bad light, or somethin'. But some don't even see that—some go right ahead sayin' the hurt things an' never know it is a hurt. I don't know if you've noticed what I mean," Calliope said, "but you will to-night. An' I didn't want you should be hurt or should think hard of them that says 'em."

But how, I wondered, as my guests assembled, could one "think hard" of any one in Friendship, and especially of the little circle to which I belonged: My dear Mis' Amanda Toplady, Mis' Photographer Sturgis, Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, who, since our Thanksgiving, seemed, as Calliope put it, to have "got good with the universe again"; the Liberty sisters, for that day once more persuaded from their seclusion, and Mis' Postmaster Sykes, with, we sometimes said, "some right to hev her peculiarities if ever anybody hed it." Of them all the Friendship phrase of approval had frequently been spoken: That this one, or that, was "at heart, one o' the most all-round capable women we've got."

I had hoped to have one more guest—Mrs. Merriman, wife of the late chief of the Friendship fire department. But I had promptly received her regrets, "owing to affliction in the family," though the fire chief had died two years and more before.

"But it's her black," Calliope had explained to me sympathetically; "she can't afford to throw away her best dress, made mournin' style, with crape ornaments. As long as that lasts good, she'll hev to stay home from places. I see she's just had new crape cuffs put on, an' that means another six months at the least. An' she won't go to parties wearin' widow weeds. Mis' Fire Chief Merriman is very delicate."

My guests, save Calliope, all arrived together and greeted me, I observed, with a manner of marked surprise. Afterward, when I wondered, Calliope explained simply that it was not usual for a hostess to meet her guests at the door. "Of course, they're usually right in the midst o' gettin' the supper when the company comes," she said.

My prettiest dishes and silver were to do honour to those whom I had bidden; and boughs of my Flowering-currant filled my little hall and curved above the line of sight at table, where the candle shades lent deeper yellows. I delighted in the manner of formality with which they took their places, as if some forgotten ceremonial of ancient courts were still in their veins, when a banquet was not a thing to be entered upon lightly.

Quite in ignorance of the Japanese custom of sipping tea while the first course is arriving, it is our habit in Friendship to inaugurate "supper" by seeing the tea poured. In deference to this ceremony a hush fell immediately we were seated, and this was in courtesy to me, who must inquire how each would take her tea. I think that this conversation never greatly varied, as:—

"Mrs. Toplady?" I said at once, the rest being understood.

"Cream and sugar, if you please," said that great Amanda heartily, "or milk if it's milk. I take the tea for the trimmin's."

Then a little stir of laughter and a straying comment or two about, say, the length of days at that time of year, and:—

"Mrs. Sykes?"

"Just milk, please. I always say I don't think tea would hurt anybody if they'd leave the sugar alone. But then, I've got a very peculiar stomach."

"Mrs. Holcomb?"

"I want mine plain tea, thank you. My husband takes milk and the boys like sugar, but I like the taste of the tea."

At which, from Libbie Liberty: "Oh, Mis' Holcomb just says that to make out she's strong-minded. Plain tea an' plain coffee's regular woman's rights fare, Mis' Holcomb!" And then, after more laughter and Mis' Holcomb's blushes, they awaited:—

"Mrs. Sturgis?"

"Not any at all, thank you. No, I like the tea, but the tea don't like me. My mother was the same way. She never could drink it. No, not any for me, though I must say I should dearly love a cup."

"Miss 'Viny?"

"Just a little tea and the rest hot water. Dear me, I shouldn't go to sleep till to-morrow night if I was to drink a cup as strong as that. No—a little more water, please. I s'pose I can send it back for more if it's still too strong?"

"Miss Libbie?"

"Laviny just wants the canister pointed in her direction, an' she thinks she's had her tea. Lucy don't dare take any. Three lumps for me, please. I like mine surup."


"Oh," said Calliope, "milk if there's any left in the pitcher. An' if there ain't, send it down clear. I like it most any way. Ain't it queer about the differ'nce in folks' tastes in their tea and coffee?"

That was the signal for the talk to begin with anecdotes of how various relatives, quick and passed, had loved to take their tea. No one ever broached a real topic until this introduction had had its way. To do so would have been an indelicacy, like familiar speech among those in the ceremony of a first meeting.

Thus I began to see that in spite of Calliope's distress at the ways of us in Friendship, a matchless delicacy was among its people a dominant note. Not the delicacy born of convention, not that sometimes bred in the crudest by urban standards, but a finer courtesy that will spare the conscious stab which convention allows. It was, if I may say so, a savoir faire of the heart instead of the head. But we had hardly entered upon the hour before the ground for Calliope's warning was demonstrated.

"There!" she herself bridged a pause with her ready little laugh, "I knew somebody'd pass me somethin' while I was saltin' my potato. My brother, older, always said that at home. 'I never salt my potato,' he use' to say, 'without somebody passes me somethin'."

Next instant her eyes flew to my face in a kind of horror, for:—

"We've noticed that at our house, too," Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss observed, vigorously using a salt-shaker, "but then I always believe, myself, in havin' everything properly seasoned in the kitchen before it comes on to the table."

"See!" Calliope signalled me fleetly.

But no one else, and certainly not Mis' Holcomb herself, perceived the surface of things vexed by a ripple.

"Well, now," said that great Mis' Amanda Toplady heartily, "that is so about saltin' your potato. I know it now, but I never thought of it right out before. Lots o' things are true that you don't think of right out. Now I come to put my mind on it, I know at our house if I cut up a big plate o' bread we don't eat up half of it; but just as sure as I don't, I hev to get up from the table an' go get more bread."

"I know—we often speak of that!" and "So my husband says," chimed Mis' Holcomb and Mis' Sturgis.

"Seems as if I'd noticed that, too," Calliope said brightly.

Whereupon: "My part," Miss Lucy Liberty contributed shyly, "I always like to see a great big plate of good, big slices o' bread come on to the table. Looks like the crock was full," she added, laughing heartily to cover her really pretty shyness, "an' like you wouldn't run out."

Calliope's glance at me was still more distressed, for my table showed no bread at all, and my maid was at that moment handing rolls the size of a walnut. But for the others the moment passed undisturbed.

"I've never noticed in particular about the bread," observed Mis' Sykes,—she had great magnetism, for when she spoke an instant hush fell,—"but what I have noticed"—Mis' Sykes was very original and usually disregarded the experiences of others,—"is that if I don't make a list of my washing when it goes, something is pretty sure to get lost. But let me make a list, an' even the dust-cloths'll come back home."

Everybody had noticed that. Even Libbie Liberty assented, and exchanged with her sister a smile of domestic memories.

"An' every single piece has got my initial in the corner, too," Mis' Sykes added; "I wouldn't hev a piece o' linen in the house without my initial on. It don't seem to me rill refined not to."

Calliope's look was almost one of anguish. My hemstitched damask napkins bear no saving initial in a corner. But no one else would, I was certain, connect that circumstance, even if it was observed, with what Mis' Sykes had said.

"It's too bad Mis' Fire Chief Merriman wouldn't come to-day," Calliope hastily turned the topic. "She can't seem to get used to things again, since Sum died."

"She didn't do this way for her first husband that died in the city, I heard," volunteered Mis' Sturgis. "Why, I heard she went out there, right after the first year."

"That's easy explained," said Mis' Sykes, positively.

"Wasn't she fond of him?" asked Mis' Holcomb. "She seems real clingin', like she would be fond o' most any one."

"Oh, yes, she was fond of him," declared Mis' Sykes. "Why, he was a professional man, you know. But then he died ten years ago, durin' tight skirts. Naturally, being a widow then wasn't what it is now. She couldn't cut her skirt over to any advantage—a bell skirt is a bell skirt. An' they went out the very next year. When she got new cloth for the flare skirts, she got colours. But the Fire Chief died right at the height o' the full skirts. She's kep' cuttin' over an' cuttin' over, an' by the looks o' the Spring plates she can keep right on at it. She really can't afford to go out o' mournin'. I don't blame her a bit."

"She told me the other day," remarked Libbie Liberty, "that she was real homesick for some company food. She said she'd been ask' in to eat with this family an' that, most hospitable but very plain. An' seems though she couldn't wait for a company lay-out."

"She won't go anywheres in her crape," Mis' Sykes turned to me, supplementing Calliope's former information. "She's a very superior woman,—she graduated in Oils in the city,—an' she's fitted for any society, say where who will. We always say about her that nobody's so delicate as Mis' Fire Chief Merriman."

"She don't take strangers in very ready, anyway," Mis' Holcomb explained to me. "She belongs to what you might call the old school. She's very sensitive to everything."

The moment came when I had unintentionally produced a hush by serving a salad unknown in Friendship. When almost at once I perceived what I had done, I confess that I looked at Calliope in a kind of dread lest this too were a faux pas, and I took refuge in some question about the coming Carnival. But my attention was challenged by my maid, who was in the doorway announcing a visitor.

"Company, ma'am," she said.

And when I had bidden her to ask that I be excused for a little:—

"Please, ma'am," she said, "she says she has to see you now."

And when I suggested the lady's card:—

"Oh, it's Mis' Fire Chief Merriman," the maid imparted easily.

"Mis' Fire Chief Merriman!" exclaimed every one at table. "Well forevermore! Speakin' of angels! She must 'a' forgot the tea was bein'."

In my living-room, in her smartly freshened spring toilet of mourning, Mis' Fire Chief Merriman rose to greet me. She was very tall and slight, and her face was curiously like an oblong yellow brooch which fastened her gown at the throat.

"My dear friend," she said, "I felt, after your kind invitation, that I must pay my respects during your tea. Afterwards wouldn't be the same. It's a tea, and there couldn't be lanterns an' bunting or anything o' the sort. So I felt I could come in."

"You are very good," I murmured, and in some perplexity, as she resumed her seat, I sat down also. Mis' Merriman sought in the pocket of her petticoat for a black-bordered handkerchief.

"When you're in mourning so," she observed, "folks forget you. They don't really forget you, either. But they get used to missing you places, an' they don't always remember to miss you. I did appreciate your inviting me to-day so. Because I'm just as fond of meeting my friends as I was before the chief died."

And when I had made an end of murmuring something:—

"Really," she went on placidly, "it ought to be the custom to go out in society when you're in mourning if you never did any other time. You need distraction then if you ever needed it in your life. An' the chief would 'a' been the first to feel that too. He was very partial to going out in company."

And when I had made an end of murmuring something else:—

"You were very thoughtful to give me an invitation for this afternoon," she said. "An' I felt that I must stop in an' tell you so, even if I couldn't attend."

Serenely she spread her black crape fan and swayed it. In the dining-room my guests proceeded with their lonely salad toward a probable lonely dessert. At thought of that dessert and of that salad, a suggestion, partly impulsive and partly flavoured with some faint reminiscence, at once besieged me, and in it I divined a solution of the moment.

"Mrs. Merriman," I said eagerly, "may I send you in a cup of strawberry ice? I've some early strawberries from the city."

She turned on me her great dark eyes, with their flat curve of shadow accenting her sadness.

"I'm sure you are very kind," she said simply. "An' I should be pleased, I'm sure."

I rose, hesitating, longing to say what I had in mind.

"I'd really like your opinion," I said, "on rather a new salad I'm trying. Now would you not—"

"A salad?" Mis' Merriman repeated. "The chief," she said reflectively, "was very partial to all green salads. I don't think men usually care for them the way he did."

"Dear Mrs. Merriman," said I at this, "a cup of bouillon and a bit of chicken breast and a drop of creamed cauliflower—"

"Oh," she murmured, "really, I couldn't think—"

And when I had made my cordial insistence she looked up at me for a moment solemnly, over her crape fan. I thought that her eyes with that flat, underlying curve of shadow were as if tears were native to them. Her grief and the usages of grief had made of her some one other than her first self, some one circumscribed, wary of living.

"Oh," she said wistfully, "I ain't had anything like that since I went into mourning. If you don't think it would be disrespectful to him—?"

"I am certain that it would not be so," I assured her, and construed her doubting silence as capitulation.

So I filled a tray with all the dainties of our little feast, and my maid carried it to her where she sat, and then to us at table served dessert. And my strange party went forward with seven guests in my dining-room and one mourner at supper in my living-room.

"How very, very delicate!" said Mis' Postmaster Sykes, in an emphatic whisper. "Mis' Fire Chief Merriman is a very superior woman, an' she always does the delicate thing."

And now as I met Calliope's eyes I saw that the dear little woman was looking at me with a manner of unmistakable pride. In spite of her warning to me and what she thought had been its justification during the supper, here was an occasion to reveal to me a delicacy unequalled.

Thereafter, in deference to my mourning guest in the next room, we all dropped our voices and talked virtually in whispers. And when at last we rose from the table, complete silence had come upon us.

Then, the tray not having yet been brought from that other room, I confess to having found myself somewhat uncertain how to treat a situation so out of my experience. But the kind heart of my dear Mis' Amanda Toplady was the dictator.

"Now," she whispered, tip-toeing, "we must all go in an' speak to her. Poor woman—she don't call anywheres, an' she stays in mournin' so long folks have kind o' dropped off goin' to see her. Let's walk in an' be rill nice to her."

Mis' Fire Chief Merriman sat as I had left her, and the tray was before her on my writing-table. She looked up gravely and greeted them all, one by one, without rising. We sat about her in a circle and spoke to her gently on subjects decently allied to her grief: on the coming meeting of the Cemetery Improvement Sodality; on the new styles in mourning; on the deaths in Friendship during the winter; and on two cases of typhoid fever recently developed in the town. (The Fire Chief had died of "walking typo.") And Mis' Merriman, gravely partaking of strawberry ice and cake and bonbons, listened and replied and, with the last morsel, rose to take her leave.

It was then that my unlucky star shone effulgent. For, as she was shaking hands all round:—

"Oh, Mrs. Merriman," I said, with the gentlest intent, "would you care to come out to see my dining-room? My Flowering-currant was very early this year—"

To my horrified amazement Mis' Fire Chief Merriman lifted her black-bordered handkerchief to her face and broke into subdued sobbing. Suddenly I understood that all the others were looking at me in a kind of reproachful astonishment. My bewilderment, mounting for an instant, was precipitately overthrown by the sobbing woman's words.

"Oh," Mis' Merriman said indistinctly, "I'm much obliged to you, I'm sure. But how can you think I would? I haven't looked at lanterns an' bunting an' such things since the Fire Chief died. I don't know how I'm ever going to stand the Carnival!"

In deep distress I apologized, and found myself adrift upon a sea of uncharted classifications. Here were niceties of distinction which escaped my ruder vision, trained to the mere interchange of signals in smooth sailing or straight tempest, on open water. But I knew with grief that I had given her pain—that was clear enough; and in my confusion and wish to make amends, I caught up from their jar on the hall table my Flowering-currant boughs and thrust them in her hands.

"Ah," I begged breathlessly, "at all events, take these!"

On which she drew away from me and shook her head and fairly fled down the path, her floating crape brushing the mother bushes of my offending offering. And I was helplessly aware that sympathetic silence had fallen on the others and that the sympathy was not for me.

"But what on earth was the matter?" I entreated my guests.

It was that great Mis' Amanda Toplady who slipped her arm about me and explained.

"When we've got any dead belongin' to us," she said, "we always carry all the flowers we get to the grave—an', of course, we don't feel we can carry them that's been used for a company. It's the same with Mis' Fire Chief. An' she can't bear even to see flowers an' things that's fixed for a company, either. Of course, that's her privilege."

Mis' Sykes took my hands.

"You come here so lately," she said, "you naturally wouldn't know what's what in these things, here in Friendship. An' then, of course, Mis' Fire Chief Merriman is very, very delicate."

Calliope linked her arm in mine.

"Don't you mind," she whispered; "we're all liable to our mistakes."

* * * * *

Half an hour after tea my guests took leave.

"I enjoyed myself so much," said Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss; "you look tired out. I hope it ain't been too much for you."

"Entertainin' is a real job," said Mis' Sturgis, "but you do it almost as if you liked it. I enjoyed myself so much."

"I'll give bail you're glad it's over," said Libbie Liberty, sympathetically, "even if it did go off nice. I enjoyed myself ever so much."

"Ever so much," murmured Miss Lucy, laughing heartily.

"Good night. Everything was lovely. I enjoyed myself very much," Mis' Postmaster Sykes told me. "And," she said, "you'll hear from me very, very soon in return for this."

"Now don't you overdo, reddin' up to-night," advised my dear Mis' Amanda Toplady. "Just pick up the silver an' rense it off, an' let the dishes set till mornin', I say. I did enjoy myself so much."

"Good-by," Calliope whispered in the hall. "Oh, it was beautiful. I never felt so special. Thank you—thank you. An'—you won't mind those things we said at the supper table?"

"Oh, Calliope," I murmured miserably, "I've forgotten all about them."

I went out to the veranda with her. At the foot of the steps the others had paused in consultation. Hesitating, they looked up at me, and Mis' Sykes became their spokesman.

"If I was you," she said gently, "I wouldn't feel too cut up over that slip o' yours to Mis' Merriman. She'd ought not to see blunders where they wasn't any meant. It'd ought to be the heart that counts, I say. Good-by. We enjoyed ourselves very, very much!"

They went down the path between blossoming bushes, in the late afternoon sun. And as Calliope followed,—

"That's so about the heart, ain't it?" she said brightly.



"Busy, busy, busy, busy all the day. Busy, busy, busy. And busy ..."

"There goes Ellen Ember, crazy again," we said, when we heard that cry of hers, not unmelodious nor loud, echoing along Friendship streets.

Then we usually ran to the windows and peered at her. Sometimes her long hair would be unbound on her shoulders, sometimes her little figure would be leaping lightly up as she caught at the lowest boughs of the curb elms, and sometimes her hand would be moving swiftly back and forth above her heart.

"If your heart is broken," she had explained to many, "you can lace it together with 'Busy, busy, busy ...' Sing it and see! Or mebbe your heart is all of a piece?"

Once, when I had gone to Miss Liddy's house, I had found Ellen in a skirt fashioned of an old plaid shawl of her father's, her bare shoulders wound in the rosy "nubia" that had been her mother's, and she was dancing in the dining-room, with surprising grace, as Pierrette might have danced in Carnival, and singing, in a sweet, piping voice, an incongruous little song:—

O Day of wind and laughter, A goddess born are you, Whose eyes are in the morning Blue—blue!

"I made that up," she had explained, "or I guess mebbe I remembered it from deep in my skull. I like the feel of it in my mouth when I speak the words."

I used to think that Miss Liddy was really a less useful citizen than Ellen. For though Miss Liddy worked painstakingly at her dressmaking, and even dreamed over it little partial dreams, Ellen, mad or sane, made a garden, and threw little nosegays over our fences, and exercised a certain presence, latent in the rest of us, which made us momentarily gentle and in awe of our own sanity.

When, one spring morning, a week before the Friendship Carnival, she passed down Daphne Street with her plaintive, musical "Busy, busy, busy ..." Doctor June and the young Reverend Arthur Bliss sat on Doctor June's screened-in porch discussing a deficit in the Good Shepherd's Orphans' Home fund for the fiscal year. Ever since the wreck of the Through, Friendship had contributed to the support of the Home,—having first understood then that the Home was its patient pensioner,—and now it was almost like a compliment that we had been appealed to for help.

Doctor June listened with serene patience to what his visitor would say.

"Tension," said the Reverend Arthur Bliss, squaring his splendid young shoulders, "tension. Warfare. We, as a church, are enormously equipped. We have—shall we say?—the helmets of our intelligence and the swords of our wills. Why, the joy of the fight ought to be to us like that of a strong man ready to do battle, oughtn't it—oughtn't it?"

Doctor June, his straight white hair outlining his plump pink face, nodded; but one would have said that it was rather less at the Reverend Arthur than at his Van Houtii spiraea, which nodded back at him.

"My young friend," said Doctor June, "will you forgive me for saying that it is fairly amazing to me how the church of God continues to use the terms of barbarism? We talk of the peace that passeth understanding, and yet we keep on employing metaphors of blood-red war. What does the modern church want of a helmet and a sword, if I may ask? Even rhetorically?"

"The Christian life is an eternal warfare against the forces of sin, is it not?" asked the Reverend Arthur Bliss in surprise.

"Let me suggest," said Doctor June, "that all good life is an eternal surrender to the forces of good. There's a difference."

The visitor from the city smiled very reverently.

"I see, sir," he said, "that you are one of those wonderful non-combatants. You are by nature sanctified—and that I can well believe."

"I am by nature a miserable old sinner," rejoined the doctor, warmly. "Often—often I would enjoy a fine round Elizabethan oath—note how that single adjective condones my poor taste. But I hold that good is inflowing and that it possesses whom it may possess. If a man is too busy fighting, it may pass him by."

"But surely, sir," said the young clergyman, "you agree with me that a man wins his way into the kingdom of light by both a staff and a sword?"

"You will perhaps forgive me for agreeing with nothing of the sort," said the doctor, mildly; "I hold that a man takes his way to the light by grasping whatever the Lord puts in his hand—a hammer, a rope, a pen—and grasping it hard."

"But the ungifted—what of the ungifted?" cried the Reverend Arthur Bliss.

"In this sense, there are none," said Doctor June, briefly.

"Busy, busy, busy all the day. Busy, busy, busy ..." sounded suddenly from the street in Ellen's thin soprano. Doctor June looked down at her, his expression scarcely changing, because it was always serenely soft. But the young clergyman saw with amazement the strange little figure with her unbound hair and her arms high and swaying, and as she took some steps of her dance before the gate, he questioned his host with uplifted brows.

"A little mad," the doctor said, nodding, "like us all. She sings in the streets of a glad morning, and dances now and then. We take ours out in tangential opinions. It is nearly the same thing."

The young clergyman's face lighted responsively at this, and then he deferentially clinched his argument.

"There is a case in point," said he. "That poor creature there—what has the Lord put in her hand?"

Doctor June looked thoughtful.

"Nothing," he declared, "for any fight. But I'm not sure that she isn't made to be a leaven. The kingdom of God works like a leaven, you know, my dear young friend. Not like a dum-dum bullet."

"But—that poor creature. A leaven?" doubted the Reverend Arthur Bliss.

"I shouldn't wonder," said Doctor June, "I shouldn't wonder. I'm not so sure as I used to be that I can recognize leaven at first sight."

"Ah, that's it!" cried his guest. "But a soldier, now, is a soldier!"

Then they smiled their lack of acquiescence, and went back to the figures for the fiscal year.

An hour later Doctor June stood alone on his garden walk, aimlessly poking about among his slips. He had done what he always did, following close on the heels of his well-established resolution never to do it again. He had pledged himself to try to raise one hundred dollars in Friendship for a pet philanthropy.

"It's a kind of dissipation with me," he said, helplessly, and wandered down to his gate. "If I read an article about the Congo Free State or Women in India, it acts on me like brandy. I go off my head and give away my substance, and involve innocent people. But then, of course, this is different. It is always different."

Then he heard Ellen's little song again. "Busy, busy, busy ..." she sang, and came round the corner from the town, catching at the lowest branches of the curb elms and laughing a little. At Doctor June's gate she halted and shook some lilacs at him.

"Here," she said, "put some on your coat for a patch on your heart so's the break won't show. Ain't the Lord made the sun shine down this morning? Did you know there's a Carnival comin' to town?"

"Like enough, Ellen," said Doctor June. "Like enough."

"Is one," she persisted. "They said about it in the Post-Office—I heard 'em. Dancin', an' parrots, an' jumpin' dogs."

He stood looking at her thoughtfully as she arranged her flowers, singing under breath.

"Ellen," he said, "will you tell Miss Liddy a few of us are going to meet here in my yard to-morrow afternoon, to talk over some money-raising? And ask her to come?"

"I will," Ellen sang it, "I will an' I will. Did you mean me to come, too?" she broke off wistfully.

"My stars, yes!" said Doctor June. "You're going to come early and help me, aren't you? I took that for granted."

"Here's your lilacs," said Ellen, tossing him a nosegay. "I'll tell Liddy while she's eatin'. Liddy don't like me to talk much when she's workin'. But when she eats I can talk, an' I'll tell her then."

She went on, singing, and Doctor June shook his head.

"I don't know but Mr. Bliss is right," he said, "though I hope I can keep my doubts to myself and not brag about 'em, just to be the style. But it does look as if poor Ellen Ember came into the world empty-handed. As if the Lord didn't give her much of anything to work with."

Summons to a meeting to talk over money-raising is, in Friendship, like the call to festivity in a different life. The cause never greatly matters. Interests appear eclectically to range from ice to coral. For let the news get about that there is to be a bazaar for China, a home bakery sale for the missionary station at Trebizond, or a Japanese tea for the Friendship cemetery fund, and we all sew or bake or lend dishes or sell tickets with the same infinity of zeal. The enterprise in hand absorbs our sense of the ultimate object; as when, after three days of hand-to-hand battle to wrest money for the freedmen from the patrons of a Kirmess at the old roller-skating rink, dear Mis' Amanda, secretary and door-tender, handed over our $64.85 with the wondering question:—

"What do they mean by Freegman, anyway? What country is it they live in?"

It was no marvel that Doctor June's garden was filled, that yellow afternoon, with many eager for action. Some of us knew that there was an Orphans' Home fund deficit; but more of us knew only that we were to "talk over some money-raising." I remember how, from the garden seat against the spiraea, the doctor faced us, all scattered about the antlered walk and its triangle of green, erect on golden oak and bright velvet chairs from within doors. And when he had told us of the shortage to which we were party, instantly the talk emptied into channels of possible pop-corn social, chicken-pie supper, rummage sale, art and loan exhibit, Old Settlers' Entertainment, and so on. After which Doctor June rose, and stood touching thoughtfully at the leaves which grew nearest, while he essayed to turn our minds from chicken-pot-pie-part-veal, and bib-aprons, to the eternal verities.

"My friends," he said, "isn't there a better way? Let us, this time, give of our hearts' love to the little children of God, instead of buying pies and freezing ice cream in His name."

There was, of course, an instant's hush in the garden. We were not used to paradoxes, and we felt as concave images must feel when they first look upon the world. It was as amazing as if we had been told that God grieves with us instead of afflicting us, as we held.

"None of us has much money to give," Doctor June went on; "let us take the way that lies nearest our hand, and make a little money. God never permitted any normal human creature to come into His world unprovided with some means of making it better. Only, let us get outside our bazaar and chicken-pie faculties. Now what can we each do?"

We sat still for a little, tentatively murmuring; and then Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss stood up by the sweet-alyssum urn.

"Speakin' of what we can do," she said, "doin' ain't easy. Not when you're well along in years. Your ways seem to stiffen up some. When I was a girl, I could 'a' been quite an elocutionist if I could 'a' had lessons. I had a reg'lar born sense o' givin' gestures. But I never took. An' now I declare I don't know of anything I could do. It's the same way, I guess, with quite a number of us."

Mis' Postmaster Sykes was in the arm-chair, and she sat still, queenly.

"I could do some o' my embroidery," she observed, "but it's quite expensive stuff, an' I don't know whether it would sell rill well here in Friendship. I'd be 'most afraid to risk. An' I don't do enough cookin', myself, to what-you-might-say know how, any more."

"Same with my sewing," observed Mis' Doctor Helman; "I put it all out now. I don't know as I could sew up a seam. That's the trouble, hiring everything done so."

Those who did not hire everything done preserved a respectful silence. And Doctor June looked up in the elm trees.

"The Lord," he said, "spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. The Lord said unto Moses, 'What is that in thine hand?' Moses had, you remember, nothing but a rod in his hand. But it was enough to let the people know that God had been with him—that the Lord had appeared unto him. Suppose the glory of the Lord, here in the garden, should ask us now, as it does ask, 'What is that in thine hand?' What have we got?"

There was silence again, and we looked at one another doubtfully.

"Land, Doctor!" said Libbie Liberty then, "I been tryin' for two years to earn a new parlour carpet, an' I ain't had nothin' in my hand to earn with. So I keep on sayin' I like an old Brussels carpet—they're so easy to sweep."

"My!" said Abigail Arnold, "I declare, I'd be real put to it to try to make extry money. 'Bout the only thing the Lord seems to 'a' put in my hand is time. I've got oodles o' that, layin' 'round loose."

Mis' Photographer Sturgis was in the big garden chair, wrapped in a shawl, her feet on an inverted flower-pot.

"I'm tryin' to think," she said, looking sidewise at the ground. "I donno's I know how I could earn a cent, convenient. It ain't real easy for women to earn. I think mebbe the Lord meant the men to be the Moseses."

Mis' Amanda Toplady's voice rolled out, deep and comfortable, like a complaisant giant's.

"Well said!" she remarked. "I'm drove to death all day. If anybody's to ask me what I got in my hand, I declare I guess I'd say, rill reverent: Dear Lord, I've got my hands full, an' that's about all I have got."

So we went on, saying much or little as was our nature, but we were all agreed that we were virtually helpless—for Calliope was out of town that week, and not present to shame us.

"What's in my hands?" said grim Miss Liddy Ember, finally, in her thin falsetto. "Well, I ain't got any rill, what-you-might-call hands. I just got kind o' cat's paws for my three meals a day an' my rent."

Then, by her sister's side, Ellen Ember stood up. We had hardly noticed her, sitting there quietly playing with some of the doctor's flowers. But now we saw that she had hurriedly twisted her splendid hair about her head, and by this we understood that she was herself again. We had seen her come to herself like this on the street, and then she would go hurrying home, the tears running down her face in shame for her unbound hair and her singing and dancing. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were shining as she rose now, and she looked appealingly pretty, one hand, palm outward, half hiding her trembling mouth. By her soft eyes, too, we knew that she was herself again.

"You all know," she began, and dare not trust herself. "You all know ..." she said once more, and we understood what she would say. "What can I do?" she cried to us. "What is there I can do? I ain't got anything but my craziness! Oh, it seems like I ain't much, an' so I'd ought to do all the more."

To soothe her, we took our woman's way of all talking at once. And then Doctor June called out cheerily that he felt the way Ellen did, that he wasn't a real Moses, for what had he—Doctor June—in his hand, and didn't we all know there was no money in pills? And then he told us how the Reverend Arthur Bliss was to be in town again on Wednesday of the next week, and would we not all think the matter over quietly, and meet with them on that evening, for cakes and tea?

"As many of you as can," he said, "come with a plan to earn a dollar, and tell how you mean to do it. Ellen, you and I'll preside at the meeting, and hear what the rest say, and keep real still ourselves, like proper officers."

But Ellen Ember would not be comforted. She stood with that one hand, palm outward, pressed against her lips, looking at us with big, brimming eyes.

"I ain't got nothin' but my craziness, you know," she said over. And then, as she was going through the gateway, she turned to Doctor June.

"Why, Wednesday's the first night o' the Carnival!" she cried. "You set the dollar meetin' on the first night o' the Carnival!"

"My stars!" cried Doctor June, gravely. "And I might have been selling pills on the grounds!"

* * * * *

All Friendship Village loves a Carnival. Once the word meant to me a Florentine fiesta day, with a feast of colour, and of many little fine things, "real, like laughter." Now when I say "carnival" I mean the painted eruption by night from the market square of some town like Friendship, when lines broaden and waver grotesquely, when the mirth is in great silhouettes and Colour goes unmasked.

I always make my way to such a place, for it holds for me the wonder of the untoward; as will a strolling Italian plodding past my house at night with his big, silent bear; or the spectacle of the huge, faded red ice-wagon, with powerful horses and rattling chains and tongs, and giants in blue denim atop the crystal; or the strange, copper world that dissolves in the fluid of certain sunsets. And that Wednesday night, a week later, on my way to the "dollar meeting" at Doctor June's, I turned toward the Friendship Carnival with some vestige of my youth clinging to the hem of things.

I gave my attention to them all: The pop-corn wagon, an aristocratic affair that looked like a hearse; the little painted canaries and love-birds, so out of place and patient that I thought they must have souls to form as well as we; the sad little live monkey, incessantly dodging white balls thrown at him by certain immortals (who, when they hit him, got pipes); and the giant who flung "Look! Look! Look! Look!" through a megaphone, while a good little dog toiled up a ladder and then stood at the ladder's top in a silence that was all nice reticence and dignity. Also, the huge Saxon fellow who, at the portal of the Arabian Court of Art and Regular Cafe Restaurant, sang a love-song through a megaphone—"Tenderly, dearest, I breathe thy sweet name," he hallooed, with his free hand beckoning the crowd to the Court of Art.

And then I saw the Lyric Dance Arcade and Indian Palace of Asiatic Mystery. And I found myself close to the platform, listening to the cry of a man in gilt knickerbockers.

"Ladies! Gentlemen! All!" he summoned. "Never in the history of the show business has there been anything resemblin' this. Come here—here—here—here! See Zorah, queen of the West and princess of the East, who is about to begin one of her most sublimely sensational dances. See her, see her, you may never again see her! Graceful, glittering, genteel. Graceful, glittering, gen-te-e-e-l. I am telling you about Zorah, queen of the West and princess of the East, in her ancient Asiatic dance, the most up-to-date little act in the entire show business to-day. Here she is, waiting for you—you—you. Everybody that's got the dime!"

Until he ceased, I had hardly noticed Zorah herself, standing in the canvas portico. The woman had, I then observed, a kind of appealing prettiness and a genuineness of pose. She was looking out on the crowd with the usual manner of simulated shyness, but to the shyness was given conviction by an uplifted hand, palm outward, hiding her mouth. I noted her small, stained face, her splendid unbound hair—and then a certain resemblance caught at my heart. And I saw that she was wearing a skirt made of a man's plaid shawl, and about her shoulders was a rosy, old-fashioned nubia. Her face and throat were stained, and so were her thin little arms—but I knew her.

The performance, as the man had said, was about to begin, and already he was giving Zorah her signal to go within. Somehow I bought a ticket and hurried into the tent. The seats were sparingly occupied, and I saw, as I would have guessed, no one whom I knew in the eager, stamping little audience. In their midst I lost the slim figure that had preceded me, until she mounted the platform and swept before the footlights a stately courtesy.

And there, in the smoky little tent, Ellen Ember began to dance, with her quite surprising grace—as Pierrette might have danced in Carnival. It was the charming, faery measure which she had danced for me in Miss Liddy's dining-room; and as she had sung to me then, so now, in a sweet piping voice, she sang her incongruous little song:—

O Day of wind and laughter, A goddess born are you, Whose eyes are in the morning Blue—blue! The slumbrous noon your body is, Your feet are the shadow's flight, But the immortal soul of you Is Night.

It seemed to me that I sat for hours in that hot little place, cut off from the world, watching. Again and again, to the brass blare of some hoiden tune, she set the words of the lyric that "she liked the feel of," and she danced on and on. And when at last the music shattered off, and she ceased, and ran behind a screening canvas, somehow I made my way forward through the crowd that was clapping hands and calling her back, and I gained the place where she stood.

When I asked her to come with me, she nodded and smiled, with unseeing eyes, and assented quite simply, and then suddenly sat down before the lifted tent flap.

"But I must wait for my money," she said. "That's what I came for—my money. They thought I'd never earn my dollar, but I have."

At this I understood. And now I marvel how I talked at all to the man in gilt knickerbockers who arrived and haggled over the whole matter.

Zorah, he explained, the sure-enough Zorah, had took down sick in the last place they made, an' they'd had to leave her behind. An' when he told about it down town that morning, this little piece here had up an' offered. Somethin' had to be done—he left it to me if they didn't. He felt his duty to the amusement park public, him. So he had closed with her for a dollar for three fifteen-minute turns—he give two shillings a turn, on the usual, but she'd hung out stout for the even money. An' she'd danced her three, odd but satisfactory. You could hand 'em queer things in the show business, if you only dressed the part. Yes, sure, here was the dollar. Be on hand to-morrow night? No? Sufferin' snakes, but was we goin' to leave him shipwrecked?

Finally I got her away, and skirted the market-place with her dancing at my side, shaking her silver dollar in her shut palms and singing:—

"Busy, busy, busy all the day. An' then I earned my dollar, my dollar—they never thought I'd earn my dollar ..."

I remember, as we struck into the unlighted block where Miss Liddy's house stood, that I was struggling hard for my own serenity, so that for a moment I did not observe that Ellen stopped beside me. But I knew that she fell silent, and when I turned I saw her there on the dark walk hurriedly twisting her splendid hair about her head. And by that and by her silence I understood that she was suddenly herself, and of her own mind, as we say.

On this, "Ellen!" said I quickly, "how fine of you to have earned your Orphans' Home dollar so soon. But you have beaten us all!"

She had contrived to fasten her hair, and I saw her touching tentatively the folds of her strange dress. And so I made her know what she had done, as gently as I might, and with all praise I stilled her dismay and shame. And last I led her, as I was determined that I would do, past Miss Liddy's dark little house and on to the home of Doctor June.

I think that I would not have dared take Ellen, just as she was, in her plaid skirt and her rosy nubia, into that black and brown henrietta-cloth assembly, if I had remembered that there was to be a stranger present. But this, in the events of the hour, I had quite forgotten. I remembered as I entered the room and came face to face with the Reverend Arthur Bliss, talking of the figures for the fiscal year.

"—and the deficit," he was saying, "ought to be made up by us who are so well equipped to do it. With Paul, let us fight the good fight—of every day. This is to-day's fight. Now let us talk over our various weapons."

Doctor June looked thoughtfully at his young guest, and in the older face was a brooding tenderness, like the tenderness of the father who longs to hold the child in quiet, in his arms.

"Yes," said Doctor June, "'fighting' is one name for it. I am tempted to say that 'drudgery' is another name. Errantry, ministry, service, or whatever. It all comes to the same thing: 'What is that in thine hand?' Well, now, who of us is first?"

"I think," said I then, "that Ellen Ember is first."

She would have shrunk back from the doorway to the passage, but I put my arm about her, and then I told them. And when I had done, I remember how she threw up that pathetic hand of hers, palm outward, and this time it was over her eyes.

"I'm a disgrace to all of you!" she said, sobbing, "an' to the whole Good Shepherd's Home. But I guess anyhow it's all the way I had. Seems like I ain't got nothin' in the world but my craziness!"

There was silence for a moment, that rich silence which flowers in the heart. And then great Mis' Amanda Toplady spoke out, in her deep voice which now she some way contrived to keep firm.

"Well said!" she cried. "I come here to say I'd give a dollar outright to get red o' the whole thing, rather'n to fuss. But now I ain't goin' to stop at a dollar. Seems like a dollar for me wouldn't be moral. I'm goin' to sell some strawberry plants—why, we got hundreds of 'em to spare. I can do it by turnin' my hand over. An' I expec' the Lord meant you should turn your hand over to find out what's in it, anyway."

I think that then we tried our woman's way of all talking at once, but I remember how the shrill voice of Abigail Arnold, of the home bakery, rose above the others:—

"Cream puffs!" she cried. "I got a rush demand for my cream puffs every Sat'day, an' I ain't been makin' 'em sole-because I hate to run after the milk an' set it. An' I was goin' to get out o' this by givin' fifty cents out o' the bakery till. An' me with my hands full o' cream puffs...."

"Hens—hens is what mine is," Libbie Liberty was saying. "My grief, I got both hands full o' hens. I wouldn't sell 'em because I can't bear to hev any of 'em killed—they're tame as a bag o' feathers, all of 'em. I guess I ben settin' the hens o' my hand over against the heathen an' the orphans. An' now I'm goin' to sell spring chickens...."

Mis' Sturgis in the rocking-chair was waving a corner of her shawl.

"C-canaries!" she cried. "I can rise canary-birds an' sell 'em a dollar apiece in the city. I m-meant to slide out account o' my health, but it was just because I hate to muss 'round b-boilin' eggs for the little ones. I'll raise a couple or two—mebbe more."

"My good land!" came Miss Liddy Ember's piping falsetto; "to think o' my sittin' up, hesitatin', when new dresses just falls off the ends o' my fingers. An' me in my right mind, too."

Dear Doctor June stood up among us, his face shining.

"Bless us," he said. "Didn't I have some spiraea in my hand right while I stood talking to you the other afternoon in my garden? And haven't I got some tricolored Barbary varieties of chrysanthemums, and some hardy roses and one thing and another to make men marvel? And can't I sell 'em in the city at a pretty profit? What I've got in my hand is seeds and slips—I see that plain enough. And my stars, out they go!"

Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, Mis' Mayor Uppers, even Mis' Postmaster Sykes—ah, they all knew what to do, knew it as if somebody had been saying it over and over, and as if they now first listened.

But Ellen Ember sat crying, her face buried in her hands. And I think that she cannot have understood, even when Doctor June touched her hair and said something of the little leaven which leaveneth the whole lump.

Last, the Reverend Arthur Bliss arose, and there was a sudden hush among us, for it was as if a new spirit shone in his strong young face.

"Dear friends," he said, "dear friends ..." And then, "Lord God," he prayed abruptly, "show me what is that in my hand—thy tool where I had looked for my sword!"



"I donno," Calliope said, as, on her return, we talked about Ellen Ember, "I guess I kind o' believe in craziness."

Calliope's laugh often made me think of a bluebird's note, which is to say, of the laughter of a child. Bluebirds are the little children among birds, as robins are the men, house-wrens the women, scarlet tanagers the unrealities and humming-birds the fairies.

"Only," Calliope added, "I do say you'd ought to hev some sort o' leadin' strap even to craziness, an' that I ain't got an' never had. I guess folks thinks I'm rill lunar when I take the notion. Only thing comforts me, they don't know how lunar I rilly can be."

Then she told me about 'Leven.

"A shroud, to look rill nice," Calliope said, "ought to be made as much as you can like a dress—barrin' t' you can't fit it. Mis' Toplady an' Mis' Holcomb an' I made Jennie Crapwell's shroud—it was white mull and a little narrow lace edge on a rill life-like collar. We finished it the noon o' the day after Jennie died,—you know Jennie was Delia's stepsister that they'd run away from—an' I brought it over to my house an' pressed it an' laid it on the back bedroom bed—the room I don't use excep' for company an' hang my clean dresses in the closet of.

"In the afternoon I went up to the City on a few little funeral urrants,—a crape veil for Jennie's mother an' like that,—you know Jennie died first. We wasn't goin' to dress her till the next mornin'—her mother wanted we should leave her till then in her little pink sacque she'd wore, an' the soft lavender cloth they use now spread over her careless. An' we wanted to, too, because sence Mis' Jeweler Sprague died nobody could do up the Dead's hair, an' Jennie wa'n't the exception.

"Mis' Sprague, she'd hed a rill gift that way. She always done folks' hair when they died an' she always got it like life—she owned up how, after she begun doin' it so much, she used to set in church an' in gatherin's and find herself lookin' at the backs of heads to see if they was two puffs or three, an' whether the twist was under to left or over to right—so's she'd know, if the time come. But none of us could get Jennie's to look right. We studied her pictures an' all too, but best we could do we got it all drawed back, abnormal.

"I was 'most all the afternoon in the City, an' it was pretty warm—a hot April followin' on a raw March. I stood waitin' for the six o'clock car an', my grief, I was tired. My feet ached like night in preservin' time. An' I was thinkin' how like a dunce we are to live a life made up mostly of urrants an' feetache followin'. Yet, after all, the right sort o' urrants an' like that is life—an', if they do ache, 'tain't like your feet was your soul. Well, an' just before the car come, up arrove the girl.

"I guess she was towards thirty, but she seemed even older, 'count o' bein' large an' middlin' knowin'. First I see her was a check gingham sleeve reachin' out an' she was elbowed up clost by me. 'Say,' she says, 'couldn't you gimme a nickel? I'm starved hollow.' She didn't look it special—excep' as thin, homely folks always looks sort o' hungry. An' she was homely—kind o' coarse made, more like a shed than a dwellin' house. Her dress an' little flappy cape hed the looks o' bein' held on by her shoulders alone, an' her hands was midnight dirty.

"I was feelin' just tired enough to snap her up.

"'A nickel!' s'I, crisp, 'give you a nickel! An' what you willin' to give me?'

"She looked sort o' surprised an' foolish an' her mouth open.

"'Huh?' s'she, intelligent as the back o' somethin'.

"'You,' I says, 'are some bigger an' some stronger'n me. What you goin' to give me?'

"Well, sir, the way she dropped her arms down sort o' hit at me, it was so kitten helpless. I took that in rather than her silly, sort o' insultin' laugh.

"'I can't do nothin',' she told me—an' all to once I saw how it was, an' that that was what ailed her. I didn't stop to think no more'n as if I didn't hev a brain to my name. 'Well,' I says, 'I'll give you a nickel. Leastways, I'll spend one on you. You take this car,' I says, 'an' come on over to Friendship with me. An' we'll see.'

"She come without a word, like goin' or stayin' was all of a piece to her, an' her relations all dead. When I got her on the car I begun to see what a fool thing I'd done, seemin'ly. An' yet, I donno. I wouldn't 'a' left a month-old baby there on the corner. I'd 'a' bed to 'a' done for that, like you do—I s'pose to keep the world goin'. An' that woman was just as helpless as a month-old. Some are. I s'pose likely," Calliope said thoughtfully, "we got more door-steps than we think, if we get 'em all located.

"When we got to my house I pumped her a pitcher o' water an' pointed to the back bedroom door. 'First thing,' s'I, blunt, 'clean up'—bein' as I was too tired to be very delicate. 'An',' s'I, 'you'll see a clean wrapper in the closet. Put it on.' Then I went to spread supper—warmed-up potatoes an' bread an' butter an' pickles an' sauce an' some cocoanut layer cake. It looked rill good, with the linen clean, though common.

"I donno how I done it, excep' I was so ramfeezled. But I clear forgot Jennie Crapwell's shroud, layin' ready on the back bedroom bed. An' land, land, when the woman come out, if she didn't hev it on.

"I tell you, when I see her come walkin' out towards the supper table with them fresh-ironed ruffles framin' in her face, I felt sort o' kitterin'-headed—like my i-dees had fell over each other to get away from me. The shroud fit her pretty good, too, barrin' it was a mite long-skirted. An' somehow, it give her a look almost like dignity. Come to think of it, I donno but a shroud does become most folks—like they was rilly well-dressed at last.

"She come an' set down to table, quiet as you please—an' differ'nt. Your clothes don't make you, by any means, but they just do sort o' hem your edges, or rhyme the ends of you, or give a nice, even bake to your crust—I donno. They do somethin'. An' the shroud hed done it to that girl. She looked rill leaved out.

"How she did eat. It give me some excuse not to say anything to her till she was through with the first violence. I did try to say grace, but she says: 'Who you speakin' to? Me?' An' I didn't let on. I thought I wouldn't start in on her moral manners. I just set still an' kep' thinkin': You poor thing. Why, you poor thing. You're nothin' but a piece o' God's work that wants doin' over—like a back yard or a poor piece o' road or a rubbish place, or sim'lar. An' this tidyin' up is what we're for, as I see it—only some of us lays a-holt of our own settin' rooms an' butt'ry cupboards an' sullars an' cleans away on them for dear life, over an' over, an' forgets the rest. I ain't objectin' to good housekeepin' at all, but what I say is: Get your dust-rag big enough to wipe up somethin' besides your own dust. The Lord, He's a-housekeepin' too.

"So, with that i-dee, I got above the shroud an' I begun on the woman some like she was my kitchen closet in the spring o' the year.

"'What's your name?' s'I.

"''Leven,' s'she.

"'Leaven,' s'I, 'like the Bible?'

"'Huh?' s'she.

"'Why—oh, 'leven',' s'I, 'that ain't a name at all. That's a number.'

"'I know it,' s'she, indiffer'nt, 'that was me. I was the 'leventh, an' they'd run out a'ready.'

"'For the land,' s'I, simple.

"An' that just about summed her up. They seemed to 'a' run out o' everything, time she come.

"She hadn't been taught a thing but eat an' drink. Them was her only arts. Excep' for one thing: When I ask' her what she could do, if any, she says like she had on the street corner:—

"'I can't do nothin'. I donno no work.'

"'You think it over,' s'I. She had rill capable hands—them odd, undressed-lookin' hands—I donno if you know what I mean?

"'Well,' s'she, sort o' sheepish, 'I can comb hair. Ma was allus sick an' me an' Big Lil—she's the same floor—combed her hair for her. But I could do it nicest.'

"Wan't that a curious happenin'—an' Jennie Crapwell layin' dead with her hair drawn tight back because none of us could do it up human?

"'Could you when dead?' s'I. 'I mean when them that has the hair is?'

"An' with that the girl turns pallor white.

"'Oh ...' s'she, 'I ain't never touched the dead. But,' s'she, sort o' defiant at somethin', 'I could do it, I guess, if you want I should.'

"Kind o' like a handle stickin' out from what would 'a' been her character, if she'd hed one, that was, I thought. An', too, I see what it'd mean to her if she knew she was wearin' a shroud, casual as calico.

"But when I told her about Jennie Crapwell, an' how they had a good picture, City-made, of her side head, she took it quite calm.

"'I'll try it,' she says, bein' as she'd done her ma's hair layin' down, though livin'. 'Big Lil always helps dress 'Em,' she says, 'an' guess I could do Their hair.'

"I got right up from the supper table an' took 'Leven over to Crapwell's without waitin' for the dishes. But early as I was, the rest was there before me. I guess they was full ten to Crapwell's when we got there, an' 'Leven an' I, we walked into the sittin'-room right in the midst of 'em—that is, of what wasn't clearin' table or doin' dishes or sweepin' upstairs. Mis' Timothy Toplady an' Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss was the group nearest the door—an' the both of 'em reco'nized that shroud the minute they clamped their eyes on it. But me, bein' back o' 'Leven, I laid my front finger on to my shut lips with a motion that must 'a' been armies with banners. An' they see me an' kep' still, sudden an' all pent up.

"'This,' s'I, 'is a friend o' mine. She's goin' to do up Jennie's hair from her City photograph.'

"Then I hustled 'Leven into the parlour where Jennie was layin' under the soft lavender cloth. Nobody was in there but a few flowers, sent early. An' it was a west window an' open, an' the sky all sunset—like the End. 'Leven hung back, but I took her by the hand an' we went an' looked down at Jennie in that nice, gentlin', after-supper light—'Leven in Jennie's shroud an' neither of 'em knew it.

"An' all out o' the air somethin' says to me, Now—now—like it will when you get so's you listen. I always think it's like the Lord had pressed His bell somewheres for help in His housekeepin'—oh, because how He needs it!

"So I says, ''Leven, you never see anybody dead before. What's the differ'nce between her an' you?'

"'She can't move,' 'Leven says, starin' down.

"'Yes, sir,' s'I, 'that's it. She's through doin' the things she was born to do, an' you ain't.'

"With that 'Leven looks at me.

"'I can't do nothin',' she says again.

"'Why, then,' says I, brisk, 'you're as good as dead, an' we'd best bury you, too. What do you think the Lord wants you 'round for?'

"An' she didn't say nothin', only stood fingerin' the shroud she wore.

"'Here,' s'I, then, 'is the comb. Here is Jennie's picture. The pins is in her hair. Take it down an' do it over. There's somethin' to do an' ease her mother about Jennie not lookin' natural.'

"An' with that I marched myself out an' shut the door.

"Mis' Toplady an' Mis' Holcomb was high-eyebrows on the other side of it, an' they come at me like tick lookin' for tock.

"'Well,' s'I, 'it is Jennie's shroud she's wearin'. But I guess we'll hev to bury 'Leven in it to get it underground. I won't tell her.'

"I give 'em to understand as much as I wanted they should know,—not includin' exactly how I met 'Leven. An' we consulted, vague an' emphatic, like women will. There wasn't time to make another one an' do it up an' all. An' anyway, I was bound not to let the poor thing know what she'd done. The others hated to, too—I donno if you'll know how we felt? I donno but mebbe you sense things like that better when you live in a little town.

"'Well said!' Mis' Amanda bursts out after a while, 'I'm reg'lar put to it. I can scare up an excuse, or a meal, or a church entertainment on as short notice as any, but I declare if I ever trumped up a shroud. An' you know an' I know,' she says, 'poor Jennie'd be the livin' last to want to take it off'n the poor girl.'

"'An',' s'I, 'even if I should give her somethin' else to put on in the mornin', an' sly this into the coffin on Jennie, I donno's I'd want to. The shroud,' s'I, ''s been wore.'

"Mis' Holcomb sort o' kippered—some like a shiver.

"'I donno what it is about its bein' wore first,' s'she, 'but I guess it ain't so much what it is as what it ain't. Or sim'lar.'

"An' I knew what she meant. I've noticed that, often.

"In the end we done what I'd favoured from the beginnin': We ask' Mis' Crapwell if we couldn't bury Jennie in her white mull.

"'A shroud,' says Mis' Crapwell, grievin', 'made by a dressmaker with buttons?'

"'It's the part o' Jennie that wore it before that'll wear it now,' I says, reasonable, 'an' her soul never was buttoned into it anyways. An' it won't be now.'

"An' after a while we made her see it, an' that was the first regular dress ever wore to a buryin' in Friendship, by the one that was the one.

"I'll never forget when 'Leven come out o' that room, after she'd got through. We all went in—Mis' Crapwell an' Mis' Toplady an' Mis' Holcomb an' I, an' some more. An' I took 'Leven back in with me. An' as soon as I see Jennie I see it was Jennie come back—hair just as natural as if it was church Sunday mornin' an' her in her pew. We all knew it was so, an' we all said so, an' Mis' Crapwell, she just out cryin' like she'd broke her heart. An' when the first of it was over, she went acrost to 'Leven, an' 'Oh,' s'she, 'you've give her back to me. You give her back. God bless you!' she says to her. An' when I looked at 'Leven, I see the 'Huh?' look wasn't there at all. But they was a little somethin' on her face like she was proud, an' didn't quite want to show it—along of her features or complexion or somethin' never havin' had it spread on 'em before.

"Nex' mornin' o' course 'Leven put on the shroud again. I must say it give me the creeps to see her wearin' it, even if it did look like everybody's dresses. I donno what it is about such things, but they make somethin' scrunch inside o' you. Like when they got a new babtismal dish for the church, an' the minister's sister took the old one for a cake dish.

"S'I, to 'Leven, after breakfast:—

"We're goin' to line Jennie's grave this mornin'. I guess you'd like to go with us, wouldn't you?'

But I see her face with the old look, like the back o' somethin', or like you'd rubbed down the page when the ink was wet, an' had blurred the whole thing unreadable. An' I judged that, like enough, she knew nothin' whatever about grave-linin', done civilized.

"'I mean, I thought mebbe you'd like to help us some,' I says.

"'I would!' s'she, at that, rill ready an' quick. An' it come to me 't she knew now what help meant. She'd learnt it the night before from Jennie's mother—like she'd learnt to answer a bell when Somebody pressed it. Only, o' course she never guessed Who it was ringin' it—like you don't at first.

"So I made up my mind I'd take her to the cemet'ry. We done the work up first, an' 'Leven spried 'round for me, wipin' the dishes with the wipin' cloth in a bunch, an' settin' 'em up wrong places. An' I did hev to go in the butt'ry an' laugh to see her sweep up. She swep' up some like her broom was a branch an' the wind a-switchin' it.

"Mis' Toplady an' Mis' Holcomb stopped by for us, with the white cotton cloth an' the tacks, an' by nine o'clock we was over to the cemet'ry. The grave was all dug an' lined with nice pine boards, an' the dirt piled 'longside, an' the boards for coverin' an' the spades layin' near. Zittelhof was just leavin', havin' got in his pulley things to lower 'em. Zittelhof's rill up to date. Him an' Mink, the barber, keep runnin' each other to see who can get the most citified things. No sooner'd Zittelhof get his pulleys than Mink, he put in shower-baths. An' when Mink bought a buzz fan, Zittelhof sent for the lavender cloth to spread over 'em before the coffin comes. It makes it rill nice for Friendship.

"'Who's goin to get down in?' says Mis' Toplady, shakin' out the cloth.

Mis' Toplady always use' to be the one, but she can't do that any more since she got so heavy. An' Mis' Holcomb's rheumatism was bad that day an' the grave middlin' damp, so it was for me to do. An' all of a sudden I says:—

"''Leven, you just get down in there, will you? An' we'll tell you how.'

"'In the grave?' says 'Leven.

"I guess I'm some firm-mannered, just by takin' things for granted, an' I says, noddin':—

"'Yes. You're the lightest on your feet,' I says—an' I sort o' shoved at her, bird to young, an' she jumped down in, not bein' able to help it.

"'Here,' s'I, flingin' her an end o' cloth, 'tack it 'round smooth to them boards.'

"'Mother o' God,' says she, swallowin' in her breath.

"But she done it. She knelt down there in the grave, her poor, frowzy head showin,' an' she tacked away like we told her to, an' she never said another word. Mis' Toplady an' Mis' Holcomb didn't say nothin', either, only looked at me mother-knowin'. Them two—Mis' Toplady more'n anybody in Friendship, acts like bein' useful is bein' alive an' nothin' else is. They see what I was doin', well enough—only I donno's they'd 'a' called it what I did, 'bout the Lord's housekeepin' an all. An' I knew I couldn't gentle 'Leven into the i-dee, but I judged I could shock it into her—same as her an' the Big Lil kind have to hev. Some folks you hev to shoot i-dees at, muzzle to brain.

"I donno if you've took it in that when you're in a grave, or 'round one, your talk sort o' veers that way? Ours did. Mis' Banker Mason's baby had just died in March, an' the choir'd made an awful scandal, breakin' down in the fifth verse of 'One poor flower has drooped and faded.' They'd stood 'em in a half circle where they could look right down on the little thing. An' when the choir got to

"But we feel no thought of sadness For our friend is happy now, She has knelt in heartfelt gladness Where the holy angels bow,

they just naturally broke down an' cried, every one of 'em. An' then the little coffin was some to blame, too—it was sort of a little Lord Fauntleroy coffin, with a broad white puff around, an' most anybody would a' cried when they looked in it, even empty. But Doctor June, he just stood up calm, like his soul was his body, an' he begun to pray like God was there in the parlour, Him feelin' as bad as we, an' not doin' the child's death Himself at all, like we'd been taught—but sorrowin' with us, for some o' His housekeepin' gone wrong. An' by the time Banker an' Mis' Mason got in the close' carriage an' took the little thing's casket on their knees—you know we do that here, not havin' any white hearse—why, we was all feelin' like God Almighty was hand in hand in sorrow with us. An' it's never left me since. I know He is.

"We talked that over while 'Leven tacked the evergreen on the white cloth. An' I know Mis' Toplady says she'd stayed with Mis' Banker Mason so much since then that she felt God had sort o' singled her—Mis' Toplady—out, to give her a chanst to do His work o' comfortin'. 'I've just let my house go,' s'she, 'an' I've got the grace to see it don't matter if I have.' Mis' Toplady ain't one o' them turtle women that their houses is shells on 'em, burden to back. She's more the bird kind—neat little nest under, an' wings to be used every day, somewheres in the blue.

"So 'Leven done all Jennie Crapwell's grave. She must 'a been down in it an hour. An' when she got through, an' looked up at us from down in the green, an' wearin' Jennie's shroud an' all, I just put out my hands, to help her up, an' I thought, almost like prayin': 'Oh, raise up, you Dead, an' come forth—come forth.' Sort o' like Lazarus. An' I know I wasn't sacrilegious from what happened; for when Mis' Toplady an' Miss Holcomb come up to 'Leven an' says, rill warm, how well she'd done it an' how much obliged they was, I see that little look on the girl's face again like—oh, like she'd wrote somethin' on the blurry page, somethin' you could read.

"Jennie was buried that afternoon at sharp three. It was a sad funeral, 'count o' Jennie's trouble, an' all. But it was a rill big funeral an' nicely conducted, if I do say that done the managin'. Mis' Postmaster Sykes seated the guests—ain't she the kind that always seems to be one to stand in the hall at funerals with her hat off, to consult about chairs an' where shall the minister lay his Bible, an' who'd ought to be invited to set next the bier? An' she always takes charge o' the flowers. Mis' Sykes can tell you who sent what flowers to who for years back, an the wordin' on the pillows. She's got a rill gift that way. But I done the managin' behind the scenes, an' it went off rill well, an' I got the minister to drop a flower on Jennie's coffin instead of a pinch o' dirt. An' one chair I did see to: right in the bay, near Jennie, I set 'Leven—I guess with just a kind of a blind feelin' that I wanted to get her near. Near the flowers or the singin' or what the minister said or,—oh, near the mystery an' God speakin' from the dead, like He does. Anyway, I shoved her into the bay window back o' the casket, an' there I left her in behind a looped-back Nottingham—settin' in Jennie's shroud an' didn't either of 'em know it.

"It was a queer chapter for Doctor June to read, some said—but I guess holy things often is queer, only we're better cut out to see queer than holy. Anyway, his voice went all mellow and gentle, boomin' out soft an' in his throat, all over the house. It was that about ..." Calliope quoted piecemeal:—

"'Awake, awake, put on thy strength ... put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city ... shake thyself from the dust, arise and sit down ... loose thyself from the bonds of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion ... how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth! Break forth into joy, sing together ... depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing ... be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord....'

"Sometimes a thing you've heard always will come at you sudden, like a star had fell on your very head. It was that way with me that day. 'Put on thy beautiful garments ...' I says over, 'Put 'em on—put 'em on!' An' all the while I was seein' to the supper for the crowd that was goin' to be there—train relations an' all—I kep' thinkin' that over like a song—'Put 'em on—put 'em on—put 'em on!' An' it was in me yet, like a song had come to life there, when they'd all gone to the cemetery—'Leven with 'em—an' I'd got through straightenin' the chairs—or rather crookedin' 'em some into loops from funeral lines—an' slipped over to my house, back way. For I ain't sunk so low as to be that sympathetic that I'll stay to supper after the funeral just because I've helped at it. There's a time to mourn an' there's a time to eat, an' you better do one with the bereaved an' slip home to your own butt'ry shelf for the other, I say.

"I was just goin' through the side yard to my house when I see 'em comin' back from the cemetery, an' I waited a little, lookin' to see what was sproutin' in the flower-bed. It was a beautiful, beautiful evenin'—when I think of it it seems I can breathe it in yet. It was 'most sunset, an' it was like the West was a big, blue bowl with eggs beat up in it, yolks an' whites, some gold an' some feathery. But the bowl wa'n't big enough, an' it had spilled over an' flooded the whole world yellowish, or all floatin' shinin' in the air. It was like the world had done the way the Bible said—put on its beautiful garments. I was thinkin' that when 'Leven come in the front gate. She was walkin' fast, an' lookin' up, not down. Her cheeks was some pink, an' the light made the shroud all pinkey, an' she looked rill nice. An' I marched straight up to her, feelin' like I was swimmin' in that lovely light:—

"''Leven,' I says, ''Leven—it's like the whole world was made over to-night, ain't it?'

"'Yes,' says she—an' not 'Huh?' at all.

"'Seems like another world than when we met on the street corner, don't it?' I says.

"'Yes,' she says again, noddin'—an' I thought how she'd stood there on the sidewalk, hungry an' her hands all black, an' believin' she couldn't do anything at all. An' it seemed like I hed sort o' scrabbled her up an' held her over a precipice, an' said to her: 'See the dead. Look at yourself. Come forth—come forth! Clean up—do somethin' to help, anything, if it's only tackin' on evergreens an' doin' the Dead's hair up becomin'—' oh, I s'pose, rilly, I was sayin' to her: 'Put on thy beautiful garments. Awake. Put on thy strength.' Only it come out some differ'nt from me than it come from Isaiah.

"I took a-hold of her hand—quite clean by the second day's washin', though I ain't much given to the same (not meanin' second day's washin's). I didn't know quite what I was goin' to say, but just then I looked up Daphne Street, an' I see 'em all sprinkled along comin' from the funeral—neighbours an' friends an' just folks—an' most of 'em livin' in Friendship peaceful an'—barrin' slopovers—doin' the level best they could. Not all of 'em hearin' the Bell, you understand, nor knowin' it by name if they did hear. But in little ways, an' because it was secunt nature, just helpin', helpin', helpin' ... Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, Liddy Ember, Abagail Arnold an' her husband, that was alive then, hurryin' to open the home bakery to catch the funeral trade on the funeral's way back, Amanda an' Timothy Toplady rattlin' by in the wagon an' 'most likely scrappin' over the new springs ... an' all of 'em salt good at heart.

"''Leven,' I says, out o' the fulness o' the lump in my throat, 'stay here with us. Find somethin' honest you can do, an' stay here an' do it. Mebbe,' I told her, 'you could start dressin' the Dead's hair. An' help us,' I says, 'help us.'

"She looked up in my eyes quick, an' my heart stood still. An' then it sunk down an' down.

"'I want to go back ...' she says, 'I want to go back ...' but I'm glad to remember that even for a minute I didn't doubt God's position, because I remember thinkin' swift that if Him an' I had failed it wasn't for no inscrutable reason o' His, but He was feelin' just as bad over it as I was, an' worse.... 'I want to go back,' 'Leven finished up, 'an' get Big Lil, too.'

"Oh, an' I tell you the song in me just crowded the rest o' me out of existence. I felt like a psalm o' David, bein' sung. I hadn't dreamed she'd be like that—I hadn't dreamed it. Why, some folks, Christian an' in a pew, never come to the part o' their lives where they want to go back an' get a Big Lil, too.

"We stood there a little while, an' I talked to her some, though I declare I couldn't tell you what I said. You can't—when the psalm feelin' comes. But we stood out there sort o' occupyin' April, till after the big blue bowl o' feathery eggs had been popped in the big black oven, an' it was rill dark.

"I forgot all about the shroud till we stepped in the house an' lit up, an' I see it. An' then it was like the song in me gettin' words, an' it come to me what it all was: How it rilly hadn't been Jennie's funeral so much as it had been 'Leven's—the 'Leven that was. But I didn't tell her—I never told her. An' she wore that shroud for most two years, mornin's, about her work."

Calliope smiled a little, with her way of coming back to the moment from the four great horizons.

"Land," she said, "sometimes I think I'll make some shrouds an' starch 'em up rill good, an' take 'em to the City an' offer to folks. An' say: Here. Die—die. You've got to, some part o' you, before you can awake an' put on your beautiful garments an' your strength. I told you, you know," she added, "I guess sometimes I kind o' believe in craziness!"



In answer to my summons Liddy Ember appeared before me one morning and outspread a Vienna book of coloured fashion-plates.

"Dressmakin' 'd be a real drudgery for me," she said, "if it wasn't for havin' the colour plates an' makin' what I can to look like 'em. Sometimes I get a collar or a cuff that seems almost like the picture. There's always somethin' in the way of a cedar," she added blithely.

"A cedar?" I repeated.

She nodded, her plain face lighting. "That's what Calliope use' to call 'em," she explained; "'I will plant in the wilderness the cedar,' you know—in the Bible." And I did recall the phrase on Calliope's lips, as if it were the theme of her.

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