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The Best Short Stories of 1919 - and the Yearbook of the American Short Story
Author: Various
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Mrs. Pawket, the light deepening in her eyes, took from her apron pocket the screw; holding it very daintily in one work-worn hand, with the other she dove into further recesses and produced, wrapped in an oily bit of newspaper, a large lump of putty.

Now a solemn ritual began. Breaking off a bit of the putty, Mrs. Pawket welded it on the jar near the other protuberances; while the putty was soft she fixed in it the screw, arranging that implement by a method best calculated to display its screw characteristics. Then Mrs. Pawket's eyes grew darker, a flush came into her wrinkled cheeks; she wrung the moisture from her brow in a sort of agony of creative pleasure. As one who performs an action sacred in its heightened detachment and mechanical efficiency, she rummaged with desperate insistence on another and higher shelf of the cupboard, this time bringing forth a very small vial of gilt varnish and an equally small paint-brush with which to apply it. Mrs. Pawket then observed that her hand was shaking and chid herself severely:

"Look at me! Soon as I see how pritty this here Everything Jar is gettin' to be, I go and get excited. If I'm goosefleshed now, what'll I be when the Everything is finished?"

But the Everything Jar was a long way from finished and the unsatisfied ache of the creative artist made heavy Mrs. Pawket's breast. She surveyed the ceramic, half-erupt with a medley of buttons, screws, safety-pins, hooks, knobs, all covered with their transforming gilt, and tried to imagine how it would seem to have it completed. Then the ultimate anxiety beset her—when completed, should the Everything be bestowed upon the minister's family or—this a recent and daring inspiration—should it be conferred upon Willum's wife, the mistress of the proposed vanilla? Mrs. Pawket was fairly tortured by uncertainty. She shook the sleeping Mr. Pawket by the shoulder.

"Say, look at the Everything. I just now put on that last screw. Ain't it handsome?"

As he blinked at the fantastic jar gleaming with golden excrescences, a deep sense of beauty thrilled Mr. Pawket.

"Hey, Maw," he chuckled. "That's the best yet. My! ain't it pritty? It beats that lamp-shade ye made out er the tinfoil. Now the question is, who ye goin' to give it to?"

"It's fer the vanilla," returned Mrs. Pawket, calmly.

Mr. Pawket put up his hand and wrung out his ear; he thought he could not have heard aright; such aplomb, such dashing assurance as was his wife's! His gray beard vibrated with curiosity.

"For the vanilla," the artist repeated, firmly. "I take it Willum's wife won't be too proud to accept a notion or two fer her parlor. 'Tain't likely that she, being so long in a furrin country, has had much chance to go through the stores and pick out bric-a-brac. I don't know but what she would be thankful for an ornament or so."

"Ornaments?" Mr. Pawket dwelt reverently upon the word. "Ornaments? I dunno but what you got it right, though I wouldn't never have thought of it myself." He leaned over the table the better to gloat upon the golden jar. "Well," he summed up—"well, wimmen do beat all for mind-readin'. First she sets up house-keepin', it's ornaments she's goin' to hanker fer—something fer the center-table most likely; and here you, who she 'ain't never see, stands all ready with an Everything fer her!"

A few days after the excitement produced by Willum's letter the architect arrived. He was a tall, old-young man with the preoccupied air of having reduced all human existence to exact diagrams. He was, however, strangely intoxicated by the quiet and beauty of his country surroundings. On the evening of his arrival he installed himself happily in the spare room of the Pawkets' farm-house, acting, as Mrs. Pawket marveled, as "if he hadn't never lived up in them classy city beehives."

Mr. Badgely, however, seemed to the farmer and his wife unnaturally ecstatic over the ordinary manifestations of the physical universe. He would stand for hours looking off over soft sunrise country; he would hang over the bars by the cow-sheds, staring down the red road or gazing pensively up at the ancient outlines of the Pawkets' homestead. When the old farmer went up to him with knockkneed, rheumatic tread, inquiring, "Well, how goes it?" the architect would reply:

"Oh, heavenly! Such depth! Such substance! Such integrity!"

When Mr. Pawket, fearing such brain lesions as he could not diagnose, saw that these epithets were directed toward his own home in its tulip-tree setting, he would range himself alongside of the architect, eye his residence critically, and expectorate as he avowed:

"It wants roofing. Come vacation I'm goin' ter put the twins to scrapin' them pesky mossback shingles; then I may go with the tide and buy me a fancy tin roof."

Mr. Badgely would sweep him with an unseeing look. He would stretch five very long fingers toward the facade of the farm-house, muttering, "Of course not the dormers; they obtrude, I think, and the note is pseudo-foreign. We should try to evolve something absolutely American, don't you think? But the pilasters, the door paneling, positively Doric in their clean sobriety! The eastern development, now; there may have been reason for the extreme slant toward the east—it orients well, but with a certain shock...."

"Shock? I guess yes," Mr. Pawket would reply. "'Twuz struck by lightnin', tore down considerable." Then Mr. Pawket would remember that Willum had asked him to be all the help he could to the architect, so he would cast his eyes up to the sun as one who dovetails multitudinous engagements, remarking: "What say we go down to Cedar Plains now? Fool around a little. Kindy block the thing all out, as it were."

Once Mr. Pawket had added, "Ef we can't do nothin' else, you can tell me ef you want any of them trees left a-standin'."

The dreaming architect had turned on him like one under sudden electric compulsion; he shook himself into unbelievable alertness.

"The—er—trees? Left standing?"

Mr. Pawket smiled indulgently. He scratched a match on the seat of his overalls and lighted his pipe, answering between puffs: "I guess you 'm new to the business, ain't ye? Don't ye know, boy, the fust thing ye do when ye set out to build a house is to lay all the trees low? Some does it with dunnamite; some does it with mules and swearin'—anything to root out the pesky things."

An extraordinary look of terror had swept the architect's face.

"Nervous," noted Mr. Pawket, "nervous! Maw'll have to feed him up with buttermilk and put drops into his coffee. Them city people is always nagged into nerves." The old man continued in fatherly fashion:

"Now, you wantin' to make all clear for anything as sizable as a vanilla, fust thing we do is to 'scratch off the trees.' I can git you plenty fellers handy with ax and saw, but when it comes to them cussed roots, why, then, you 'm goin' to want dunnamite."

The architect bowed his head thoughtfully. As the two took the little bronzed path leading to the natural park-land dark with tapering cedars, he gave a puzzled look at the old farmer. At last he seemed struck by an idea and said, slowly:

"Do you know, Mr. Pawket, we architects are often a little vague; we need so much to—er—confer—and—er—ahem!—consult. Now, really, I should be so interested. Just what are your personal preferences with regard to the construction of an Italian villa?"

Mr. Pawket was for the moment slightly dazed. He surmised that the question placed him somewhat at a disadvantage; yet, somehow, it seemed to him that he knew a good deal about Italian villas. Gathering together certain impressions derived from the conversation of the twins, from a picture seen on a calendar, from the one lurid film of his experience, and from certain opulent descriptions of the building of the Tabernacle, it seemed to him that he knew a little something about occult species of architecture. He not immodestly presented his ideas.

"I take it"—squashing ruminatively through puddles—"I take it that the vanilla idee is kinder intricate, ain't it?—somethin' fancy and grand like a castle? Two or three cupolos, er course, and all run around with stoops and balconies; marble staircases inside." Mr. Pawket added this carelessly as one used to the larger handling of details. "High sideboards set out in silver in the dinin'-room—a reel handsome phonnygraft into the front room and statoos on the gateposts."

The architect receiving this preliminary sketch with such silent respect, Mr. Pawket gained courage and resumed:

"Wall-papers I ain't so sure about." The old farmer took out a large clasp-knife and, paring his thumb-nail, continued, somewhat loftily: "I presume that is as the lady of the house commands. Some favors blue, but there's a many as is great hands for red. I see a house once had dead animals, stuffed codfish, and shot ducks all over the wall-paper into the dinin'-room; 'twuz reel tony! As fer the yard—well, I mistrust that Willum, bein' sociable and always interested into the open air, would want circular seats around whatever trees was left standin'. Ye could paint 'em red, white, and blue, ye know. And he'd like a pond, maybe, with a white swan shovin' back and forth."

* * *

At last came the day when vans of imported laborers arrived and began quick breaking of ground and laying of foundations on Cedar Plains. Parts of the superb heating system, the installing of which was the architect's special care, numerous white bath-tubs—these things were deposited before the eyes of the excited Mr. Pawket, who, in the absence of the owner of the proposed villa, felt that he must be very vigilant in overseeing. Every day the old man appeared at Cedar Plains, boots spattered, overalls greased and clayey, making his anxious comments to the architect, who received them thoughtfully, with the air of putting all suggestions into immediate execution.

So the building of the "vanilla" proceeded, but it proceeded under the stigma of an outraged countryside. The "show-place" confidently predicted seemed not to evolve; outside of insane expenditures for heating and bathing and the sanitary care of laundry and food, there were few evidences that the villa was to be magnificent. Development after development not only puzzled the neighboring farmers, but incensed them. Men driving by "Willum's vanilla" pointed it out, tongue in cheek, with derisive whip; their women folks, veiled and taciturn, leaned forward in curious wonder to condemn silently. Such complacent agriculturists as owned "ottermobiles" came from miles away to view the thing; they halted their machines by the roadside and went in parties up through the tapering cedars to where stood the slowly rising square white walls, which they stared at with patronizing guffaws. It was the fashion for the youth of Brook Center to spend Sunday afternoons down in Cedar Plains, where among the dark trees they found the rosy trail of arbutus; where strawberries hung in the rank green grass, and where, of autumn days, wandering over the sweet stubble, they confessed to each other those innocent melancholies of beings that have never known sorrow.

On the edge of the plains where the russet path met the highway was an old well. Here the brooding boys and girls were accustomed to bring their loves and quarrels; here they hoisted the bucket from its glittering black depths, poured water on tight bunches of anemone, fern, and Dutchman's breeches, took long, gasping country drinks, and played all the pranks youth plays when relaxed beside its subtle, laughing ally—water. As the Sunday sun went down the boys and girls discussed the strange phenomenon of the new house whose enigmatic walls gleamed through the fields of their once free rovings. They uttered dark hearsay: "Some says them two is crazy; that's why they been chased out er It'ly." The twins, playing stick-knife in the soft turf that edged the road, flatly contradicted this:

"They are not crazy, neither; they 'm as common sense as you are."

"Well, ef they ain't crazy, why they goin' to have stone floors? Why they got them big old stone jars that come yesterday? Why ain't they goin' to have no stair carpets? Why ain't they goin' to have no window-curtings?"

"They are, too, crazy, and they gone and built that old vanilla right on where we used to pick checkerberries, and he's goin' to put a outlandish Dago top right on this here well, the kind they have in It'ly where they all wear rags and eat lemon-skins."

"Nobody won't keep me from drinkin' out of this well when it's got a Dago top."

"Nobody won't never stop me from goin' on Cedar Plains if I've got a mind ter. I got as good a right as they got."

"I'd just as soon heave a rock right now at that there vanilla. I don't care for it. I ain't afraid of no tin-faced I-talian dudes."

At last came a letter announcing the proposed arrival of the villa furniture. The buckboard with the white horse halted again under the tulip-tree and this time Mr. Pawket with unwonted sense of haste intercepted the letter. The Rural, whose Rough Rider hat was now discarded for a black-velvet tam-o'-shanter adorned with a coquettish pink rose, rigidly resigned it to his eager grasp.

Mr. Pawket, for all his preoccupation, was not blind to the pink rose; he quickly got its sense and made the usual deduction.

"When does the weddin' take place?" he asked, facetiously.

The rigidity around the corners of the Rural's mouth did not lessen as she replied with the evasion Brook Center found piquant, "Next day after Never."

Having successfully warded off inquiry as to personal plans, the Rural returned to her rightful prerogatives of newsmonger, demanding:

"How's Mis' Pawket's Everything gittin' along? I got a couple shoe-buttons fer her. She'd better hurry up and finish it; I hear there is four more in town startin' Everything Jars. Seems there's a sort of rivalry of who's goin' to be the first to get a Everything into the vanilla."

A look of calamity shaded Mr. Pawket's face, but he accepted the two shoe-buttons with dignified reserve.

"All she needs now is a harness buckle and a couple peanut-shells," he explained, nonchalantly. "I can get them fer her easy enough; the twins have been helping her some, one with a sinker and the other with a hook and eye. 'Tain't likely any one can git their jar in afore hern. I wouldn't advise nobody to nerve themselves up to it. There's been rumors," added Mr. Pawket, gravely—"there's been rumors as some one is tryin' to git up a rockery fer the vanilla. Now I wouldn't advise 'em to. The lady will want to tinker with that herself. But if everybody is itchin' to help, why don't they take up a nice collection er white door-knobs to trim up the garden paths?"

The mail maiden smiled a contemptuous smile; her black eyes held like sediment the look of repudiation.

"Ah, door-knobs!"—scornfully. "What's the use Of givin' up your curios and souvenirs to folks like that? They don't know how to appreciate it! I got a better use for my door-knobs. They 'm peculiar, them two is; they don't know nothin'. You heard that about the bedrooms, I presume?"

Mr. Pawket, a worried look settling on his kind face, peered up at the Rural; he took off his sun-hat and fanned himself with it.

"The bedrooms?" he questioned, falteringly. "D' ye mean that comical cage-like where they goin' to sleep outdoors?"

The Rural smiled scornfully; she adjusted the pink rosebud with a haughty, gauntleted hand.

"I mean the walls," shortly. "Plaster walls. Yes, sir, that's what I mean and I know what I'm talkin' about—rough walls, plaster, like a cellar. I know what I'm talkin' about, for it's my intended has the job; he's 'most crazy about it, my intended is, it's gone all over the Center and every one laughin' and teasin' him about it.... She's wrote it herself in a letter with that same honey-bee onto the envelope. 'I want the bedroom walls to be rough plaster,' that's what she's went and wrote, 'of a pale yellow colorin' Mr. Badgely will choose. Please allow him to mix the color' (ain't it awful?) 'and put it on very rough' (she says). 'I want the grain especially coarse and rich' (she says). 'Coarse and rich'!" The Rural lifted dramatic eyes, inquiring again, "Ain't that terrible?"

Mr. Pawket hesitated. An idea of loyalty possessed him; he made a feeble attempt at seeming to support the unknown lady's taste.

"Er course, as I look at vanillas—" he began, weakly.

But the Rural interrupted him with a vicious clip of her lean brown jaws. "Vanillas?" with scornful inflection. "Vanillas?" She lashed the white horse into a sprawling stagger as she snapped, "She don't know nothin' about vanillas!" and rattled confidently away, calling back, scornfully; "She don't know nothin'; she 'ain't never had no instruction; she don't reelize that there's such things as wall-papers. 'Coarse and rich,'" sneered the Rural. She peered back over her trim young shoulder, adding: "They say their furniture has come. Everybody is down to the junction, studyin' it. I'm glad it ain't mine."

It was true that the furniture had arrived. Braving the vicissitudes of sea routes; badly shipped by an Italian warehouse, and roughly handled at an American port, still the furniture had arrived. It had been dumped out of its crated cars at the little Brook Center station. To the lover of Flemish and Spanish carving, to the connoisseur of Genoese cabinets and Italian intarsia, to the student of time-fumed designs and forms, the coming of this furniture might well have been an event; for by a freak of destiny, on the little platform of an obscure country junction were assembled the hoardings of centuries of tradition, the adored heirlooms of a long line of ancestry. One huge case, half wrecked, showed the gleam of Florentine brasses; another, crated and roped, revealed faded Genoese brocades; slender broken legs and edges of carved flaps protruded from battered sheathings. To some minds all this might have spelled a certain sort of poetry; to the curious group assembled at the junction it spelled eccentricity and, what was worse, a fixed and immoral shabbiness of existence!

The junction agent pointed out a half-crated table standing by itself; it looked inconceivably old and was of a timber unknown to Brook Center. Its rickety four legs, wrapped separately, tapered off into carvings of opulent nymphs and the wild, laughing faces of dryads and fauns—these legs were observed by the curious groups at the junction to be badly worn and honeycombed with worm-holes.

"For the vanilla," it was whispered from one to another; the junction agent, hand over mouth, bowed himself backward in mirth. "They say it's all from her home, and this is the dinin'-room table. My! My! My! ain't it awful, all them old, ancient things?"

Mr. Pawket, affecting a connoisseurship unconsciously copied from the architect, bent over the table, examining it; with vague puzzlement he passed his hand over its cut and hacked surface—surface on which hundreds of monks of the time of Clement III had whetted their restless knives.

"I don't onderstand it; I don't onderstand it"—the old farmer feebly shook his head—"unless it's she ain't used to nothin' better and he's kep' his mouth shut. 'Twould be like Willum to pertend he didn't care; he was always biddable. M' wife could feed him anythin' from pot-cheese to pork; he was always a great hand to keep the peace."

The junction master watched in leering silence the brittle collection of household fittings being lifted into carts. "Well, I guess I'm glad it ain't me is goin' to have 'em for neighbors," he observed, feelingly. "They 'll fall back on you a good deal, one thing and another; they 'm pretty well broken down in pocket—you can see that."

Mr. Pawket in dumb disappointment climbed up into his wagon and stooped to take the reins. For a few moments he chewed violently with his front teeth before he spat desperately into the junction geranium-bed, asserting with dignity:

"Oh, I guess you got no call to worry. 'Tain't as if they didn't have no friends in this country. Willum's sort of son to me, my own boy bein' long dead. Ef the worst comes to the worst I don't know but what I could make a fist to help him out. Whoa, there!" Mr. Pawket, rising in his seat, backed his team truculently. "Ef anythin's needed," he observed, superbly, "I shall see to it myself—'twould n't take me long to buy him a dining-room table and a few little fixin's so's he could hold up his head in the world."

All the way home Willum's friend pondered the thing. Once when the horses stopped to drink at a wayside trough he slapped his knee fiercely and said: "That's the ticket! Yes, sir, that's the size of it!" At dinner, after the twins had taken their departure, he suggested his plan to his wife; to his immense relief she met the thing in his own spirit.

"A golden-oak dinin'-table, anyway," argued Mr. Pawket. "One or two fancy fixin's so they can hold up their heads in the world."

"And shut people's mouths," agreed his wife. "That hotel-keeper's girl, now, I never see any one more sassy—she with an Everything only half done and sayin' she's goin' to be the first to get one into the vanilla, and yet talkin' something terrible behind them and their furniture's backs."

"How's your Everything?" asked Mr. Pawket, suddenly; a grim determination shot into the eyes under his hairy brows.

For answer his wife rose. Unwrapping some white mosquito-netting, she presented to view a large, bulbous object encircled with protuberances, excrescenced with golden knobbiness—this object, strangely sticky, smelled something like bananas; it was the Everything, completed and unveiled. Mr. and Mrs. Pawket gazed upon it in silent admiration. As they stood lost in contemplation of its conglomerate goldiness, there came the sound of a sprightly whistle and light step, and the architect appeared in the doorway.

Mr. Badgely had by this time become an intimate member of the farm household. The two old people beamed upon him; Mr. Pawket waved him excitedly toward the table, announcing:

"Well, sir, it's finished. Take it or leave it; I don't know as you could find one any handsomer."

Mr. Badgely started theatrically. He was clad in white flannels and a white silk shirt; a golden-brown tie matched the brown of a dreaming fire in his eyes, and there were brown silk socks upon his shapely calf-skinned feet. The Pawkets, even in their absorption, noted that, if not really young, the architect suggested something very like youth. His dapper figure now bent reverently over the kitchen table on whose red-and-white-checkered cloth reposed the gold jar; he drew a long breath.

"The—er—Everything!" he murmured. After a long and careful scrutiny of the golden object, he turned to Mr. Pawket.

"Really—it—it defies description—it is so—er—genuine! I confess I never have seen anything quite like it—anywhere. Mrs. Pawket, I do congratulate you."

"There's a rage for 'em now," explained Mr. Pawket, proudly, "but 't was she started the first one. She began the hull thing; we was foolish enough to mention ourn to the hotel-keeper's daughter, and now, as fur as I can gather, there's six Everythings started right here in Brook Center."

Mr. Badgely showed deep emotion. "Really, six Everythings? You surprise me. I had no idea the community boasted such—er—creative feeling."

The old farmer looked at the young man, then at his wife. "Tell him what you goin' to do," he commanded. Mrs. Pawket, however, twisted nervously at the end of the white mosquito-netting and said she felt too shy. Mr. Pawket with manly decision relieved her of the burden of explanation.

"Seems she's had it in her mind to finish that there Everything in time to have it on the center-table in the vanilla," he said; "and now she's gone and got me so het up with interest that I got to take a hand, too. Now, fer instance, the furniture—" The old man hitched himself nearer to the architect, saying in sepulchral tones of parental anxiety: "'Tain't fer me to interfere, but I seen the stuff. I been down to the junction and see what they got. Well, say, ain't it pitiful, all that old, ancient furniture?"

Mr. Badgely nodded his head with another sort of concern. "Perfectly rotten carelessness. But I've sent to town for a corking man who handles these things; he's coming out to-morrow with his staff. After all, it's merely a question of understanding period, and American restoration is diabolically clever."

But the old farmer waved the younger man grandly aside. "That's as may be; that's as may be," he said, hastily. "Put it in the kitchen or use it in the g'rage—I ain't one to advise waste; but see here, my young man"—he stared impressively into the architect's face—"I knowed Willum's folks. I know what he's used to and what he's got a right to expect. Ef he's lost money, that ain't none of my business, and ef he's married an Eyetalian, that ain't no reflection on her. As I take it, they 'm all sorter down at heel in It'ly, and it seems they got now so they don't know no better. But I knowed Willum's folks. I know he should hold up his head in his own country."

A faint color stole into Mr. Pawket's gray-bearded face. Mrs. Pawket's eyes were fixed admiringly on her husband. Mr. Badgely bent his head in respectful listening. Mr. Pawket struck an attitude close to the Everything Jar. He was glad that the twins, with their habit of shrewd analysis, were not there as he said:

"I ain't rich—but," with a significant cough, "I ain't no one to stand by and see the hull Center pokin' the finger er shame at Willum and his furniture. The vanilla ... well, what's done is done, and it can't be helped: seems it's what they set their hearts on and some folks like to be strange-appearin', but the furniture—well, it don't suit, that's all! Willum's the kind should have what 's all the go—plush and satin and chenille-like." The old farmer looked at the architect meaningly; he felt himself suddenly a man of the world; he stood almost straight in his wrinkled boots, looking around the little kitchen fiercely and roaring: "Golden oak or bird's-eye maple! I got catalogues. Spare no expense. Get him what he needs. I'll back you!"

It was a moment full of significance. The architect, a man of many subtle perceptions, was quite aware of it. He himself had been worried over the general attitude of the country community toward the villa, which, he could see, had deeply disappointed and mortified anticipation. Rumors had reached him that the neighborhood not only repudiated the new building on the grounds of general distaste, but that a movement of ostracism had begun by which the intents and purposes of the occupants of the villa were to be balked and frustrated. Brook Center, so Mr. Badgely had divined, was keen for patronizing the newly arrived Italian lady with gifts of decorated umbrella-stands, lamp-shades, and door-mats; but, on the other hand, it had severely decided not to be patronized by the expected householders. Supplies of milk and cream could not be promised; fresh eggs, it appeared, were needed for home consumption; pranks were planned by the young people to further humiliate the supposedly downtrodden and financially embarrassed Willum. There had even been talk of filling up the well—now topped by a graceful Italian canopy—with mud and stones; and one enterprising spirit had already chalked upon the bucket, "We don't want no Dagos to Brook Center." In short, it had begun to seem to the architect that the immediate atmosphere was unpropitious for a serene home-coming. Now, as he faced the eager old farmer, something like a solution dawned on him.

"Er—expense"—the architect repeated Mr. Pawket's word—"er—do I understand, sir, that besides that very rare and (ahem!) imposing specimen of Mrs. Pawket's handiwork—this Everything Jar—do I understand you to mean that you are so good as to wish to assist in the—er—interior furnishings?"

The old farmer eyed him with delight.

"That's the ticket," he roared. "You got it right; you're the man for my money." He struck an attitude of almost intoxicated satisfaction, roaring again: "Golden oak, that's what; none too good for such as him. Get him what he's used to. Him with that old, ancient furniture!" Mr. Pawket pressed a roll of extremely faded one-dollar bills into the architect's hand, repeating: "A golden-oak set fer the dinin'-room. I know where they have it slick and shinin'. Take yer catalogue and make yer pick. Cost! By the great gander! what do I care fer cost?" A fervor like that of a whirling dervish seized the old farmer. "Golden oak!" he roared. Red-plush parlor suite." His gaze, falling upon the Everything, became radiant. He hitched his suspenders with broad effects of swagger, repeating once more, "It's what he's used to and the best ain't too good for how he was brought up."

* * *

At last arrived the morning of the day when the owners of the villa were expected, and it found the architect in a curious mixture of dread, amusement, doubt, and eagerness. The villa, its tiled roof melting softly through the filed tapers of dark cedars, was, he knew, what it should be. He walked about the winding drives, his eyes dwelling upon clumps of imported cypress and rare fruit-trees, his approving glance sweeping over vistas landscaped by his own art, which clever art had set stone benches in lovely little dells or by pools where a mossy nymph sprayed the surrounding ferns.

Everything was as it should be. The walls of the white villa would soon be softened by young vines newly sprouting; the terraces had stretches of arcades and flowers; large terra-cotta pots filled with acacias and oleanders massed well against the white of the steps and the blue of the country sky. The whole scene was almost Italian—sunny, graceful, restful. The architect smiled happily and knew himself justified of his undertaking.

But within—within, where most he had dreamed mellowness—where most he had desired the sense of ripe and harmonious surroundings? Oh, the thing was too horrible, too outrageous! Could they possibly understand? Could William Folsom and this Italian wife of his ever be made to see how unavoidable, inevitable it had all been? Badgely, anxiously gnawing his lower lip, shook his head. "I'm a fool," he muttered; "and yet I vow I know of no other way. Talk about vendettas! they are queer here, really queer—if one were sufficiently to antagonize them!..."

The architect directed his steps to the big stucco garage, still a little raw-looking with its green shutters and tiles; there he encountered the head of the workmen who were engaged in restoring the much-suffering villa furniture. The alert, gray-clad man met him at the door and shook his head deprecatingly.

"Don't ask me about those heavenly things!" He waved despairing hands. "They are too lovely. I've been quoting Tasso to that little signorina of a writing-desk. But, dear man, we can't possibly install any of it for at least a month. These things are exquisite, priceless, but so antique they've got to be mothered like babies. The chests are about the only things in condition, and they've lost their hinges and I've got to have the lovely brasses copied."

Stepping into the smartly cushioned car, Mr. Badgely sat himself down. He gave the order dreamily. With a perturbed yet dauntless expression he lay back on the soft cushions, gazing up to the whirling green of the trees as the car flew along the country road.

"It all depends on her—it really all depends upon her. If she's the real thing she'll understand and play the game; if she isn't—" He shook his head, put one long leg over the other, and groaned.

When, however, the train stopped at the Brook Center Junction and William Folsom, laughing, waved his hat, Mr. Badgely drew a long breath of relief, for at Folsom's side stood a tall, graceful cosmopolite, a being dark-eyed, daring, with the keen, lovable face of the aristocrat of the spirit—in short, a perfection of feminine understanding in very assured tailoring.

"She'll do," the architect told himself. His greetings were suave and deliberate, but of necessity, almost before the car sprang away from the junction, he began to explain that which was heavily on his mind. William Folsom leaned back in the car, his shining eyes dwelt upon old landmarks; he chuckled as he listened.

"You see, dear lady, your welcome is to be of the people—the forestiere—I wonder if I can make you understand in so short a time as we have? The entire countryside is at the villa now; they all told me they were coming to greet you—so"—he shot a look at Folsom—"I invited them."

The owner of the vanilla gave a mild war-whoop. "Oh, I say, this is enchanting! Badgely, old chap, I can picture your sufferings." Then, with a droll look at his wife: "She understands, bless her! She isn't the idol of her own town for nothing!" Folsom turned and sketched the architect's perturbation to his wife.

"Have the goodness to mention the—er—Everything," insisted Mr. Badgely, grimly. "Have you ever seen one? No? Well, then, you needn't be so funny." He added desperately: "They are there now arranging the—er—golden oak and the (ahem!) the red-plush suite." He shuddered, reiterating: "Really, Billy, the thing was necessary. I didn't dare refuse. You've no idea how these people are antagonized by an Italian villa. It seems sort of shameful to them. They foam at the mouth. Why, unless I had been tactful you'd have had vendetta and Mafia and everything else wished on you."

Mrs. Folsom tried to comprehend. "The poor Littles!" She had a marvelous voice full of bird-like stirrings. Then she looked thoughtfully at the architect. "But we will say to them 'Forget it,'" adding, with a little pride, "I am learning William's slangs."

"Dear old gump, you forget that I was brought up in this very neighborhood." Folsom soothed the despairing architect, but he laughed immoderately. "His precious artistic sensibilities are having perfect duck fits," he shouted. "He's as mad as a wet hen."

But Mrs. Folsom leaned back, taking fresh breaths of air. "This is a green country," she announced, "and you have a little brown brook that winds, and great trees like cathedrals. Do you think that with all this around me I shall be staying to the salon remarking continuously upon the Jar of Everythings?"

Both men laughed and the architect kissed her hand.

When the car swept around the white shell drive and halted by the lower terrace, Folsom, with a whoop like a boy, sprang out; he ran joyfully forward, for there stood the old couple whose faces, to his home-coming sense, seemed like those of parents. Mr. Pawket trembled slightly; he stood high-collared and coattailed, upon the glittering steps. Mrs. Pawket, in black silk, clove to his arm. The twins, in the heated wretchedness of Sunday clothes, stepped forward, and in the interests of sentiment stuck forth two wads of tightly bound pink roses. The Rural, blushing in a costume of very bright blue, wearing elbow mitts, and carrying a pink feather fan, introduced a sweet-smelling young man as "my intended."

Among the small groups of peering and excited neighbors was Mr. Fripp, the junction agent.

"Seems there's a good deal of excitement in the air. We 'ain't all been out like this sence the mad dog was shot down to Galloway's." When this gentleman was presented to Mrs. Folsom he drew himself up, looked at her suspiciously, and said, "Pleased to meet you." He cast the eye of a worldling over her quiet traveling costume and retired to nudge the Rural and remark: "Well, I see the furniture money 'ain't been spent on her back."

The lady of the vanilla looked about her with pure happiness. She met all introductions radiantly, sniffing rapturously at the twins' roses, lifting first one, then the other stodgy bunch.

"But you are all so kind!" The clear voice rippling with novelty and excitement gave a sense of thrill to the occasion. The mistress of the vanilla held Mrs. Pawket's perspiring hand.

"To know this lady—like the mother of Weeliam—and Mr. Pawket, my first American of the famous farmer trrribes!"

The stranger's insecurity of English had its immediate triumph. The countryside had expected that she would chatter Italian like a predatory organ-grinder, but around this picturesque naivete they clustered as they would around a lost child. Jessica Folsom met the architect's eyes triumphantly, but he edged to her side and bent to whiff the roses, muttering, "The worst is yet to come."

However, the slender figure of Mrs. Folsom drifted from one to the other of her welcomers, unembarrassed, friendly, appealing. She put them immediately at their ease as she announced:

"We shall all at once have tea. On the terrace—my little festa! I, who find the home of my fathers in your new green country." A lovely color coming into her dark face, she burst into undulating Italian. "The first Dago she's spoke sence she's got here," commented Mr. Fripp, in an undertone. Once more he creaked up to the mistress of the villa, saying, loudly:

"Too bad about the furniture!"

The new-comer turned upon the junction agent liquid, long-lashed eyes. "Ah the garnitures of Bella Fortuna, they have been—how do you say it, Weeliam?—dislocated, smashed in traveling the great waves." She appealed anxiously to the junction agent. "I fear they are in great distress of breaking, but"—a light came into the appealing dark eyes—"but in your so practical country shall we not find the new?"

Mrs. Pawket, hearing this, suddenly nudged her husband, and Mr. Pawket realized that his moment had come. He took one or two ponderous steps forward, wiping his brow, clearing his throat. In his buzzing brain he sensed a great occasion, like a wedding or a funeral. He got a glimpse of Mrs. Pawket nodding her head urgently and mouthing his words after him as he roared:

"That's as may be; that's as may be." Again Mr. Pawket cleared his throat. He felt, as he afterward expressed it, "like he was grindin' a corn-hopper with nothing into it." Suddenly his gaze fell upon Willum, his boy, now a glad-looking man with a tender light in his eyes and his arm around his dark-eyed wife. This, Mr. Pawket felt, was as it should be. It gave him sudden eloquence.

"I dunno," he said, and he bent a severe eye upon the Rural, Mr. Fripp, and the hotel-keeper's daughter—"I dunno but what we was gettin' a little sour-hearted, here in Brook Center. There has been some spites and a good many mean doin's and sayin's—namin' no names. What we didn't have was big feelin's. Everybody was nesty and nifty, and we all thought we know'd it all; but it seems that yet for all we didn't know much about vanillas nor that they could turn out so purty as this here vanilla has gone and turned."

William Folsom poked the architect in the ribs. "Hear! Hear!" he murmured, in a subdued voice.

Mr. Pawket mildly waited for these asides to conclude before he resumed: "Howsomever, it seems that one dear to us"—he fixed his eyes on Willum, but in spite of him his gaze wandered off to Willum's lady—"one dear to us has got back from foreign lands and built a vanilla." The old farmer turned to Mrs. Folsom with a burst of eloquence. "Sence that has happened, by gum! our whole lives is changed and we know more about It'ly than I ever thought we should; and so with regards to this here new vanilla house and a few little presents and one thing and another, why, all I can say is, Mrs. Folsom, we've gone and did as we'd be done by."

There was something very like a cheer at the conclusion of these remarks. Meanwhile, at a sign from the architect, the great carved doors of the villa swung open and the little group pressed in.

They stepped into the cool, dim court with its paved floors and delicately woven stairways. Mrs. Folsom clasped her hands with pleasure over a wide window-seat which gave on a western slope where the gold sun was speared by the tall black trees. But Folsom, to whom the architect gave a nervous cue, hurried to the sala da mangiare, and thrust back its sumptuous Genoese curtains.

There under the iron candelabra of the Medicis stood a shining table of varnished splendor; on it, as if hoping to deaden its aggressive luster, was a marvelous strip of Paduan lace, while around its stodgy newness were six smug chairs of a very palpable "golden oak." Folsom threw up his hands in apparent joy and astonishment.

"Great Harry!" The young man's voice was extraordinarily exalted. He bent over and touched the varnished surfaces with a reverent hand. "A perfectly new dining-table—a present—a complete set of absolutely unused chairs! Oh, I say! This won't do—it's preposterous! Somebody has been getting gay." The young man first looked suspiciously at the architect, then turned and with severe eyes surveyed Farmer Pawket's shamefaced elation.

"So it's you, sir," he said. "Now look here!" Folsom strode up and put his firm hand on the old man's chest. "Brace up and tell what you know about this. Look me in the eye and tell me you didn't do it. No, you can't hide behind Mother Pawket." Folsom's grave glance reduced Mrs. Pawket to a helpless flutter. "She's probably put you up to it; she's a designing woman." Folsom went eagerly over to the dark-eyed Italian lady. "Jessica dearest, look at all this. Golden oak. Store furniture, by Jove! Mr. Pawket's gift to you and me."

The lady of the vanilla did not betray Mr. Badgely's hope of her. Widening her lovely eyes at the rich solidities before her, she slipped to the old man's side and seized his hands. A strange sense of fog enveloped Mr. Pawket; he stole a scared glance sidewise at the Rural. "It was all for me," the vibrant voice insisted. "This Weeliam he is favorito—he thinks the whole world is for his gift; but kind Signor Pawket thinks only of me; he knew"—with exquisite slow arrangement of accents—"how interested and happy I should be to at once understand the practical American ways—and he knew, with such understanding, how I must save and guard the poor destructed—what you call them?—foornitures, of my own people."

"Now, now, now!" protested Mr. Pawket, feebly.

Mr. Fripp, however, nodded to the Rural. "Well, it seems she knowed all the while that that there furniture warn't no good."

At last, at the architect's somewhat desperate solicitation, they all turned their steps to the salon. Mr. Badgely, making pathetic dumb-show, dragged William Folsom to the rear.

"Nerve yourself," he whispered, "nerve yourself. I'm afraid it's going to be worse than I feared. It seems that there were actually six of them—only one is not quite finished. The competition was very tense—and they all arrived in my absence. Old man, hold me! I'm about all in!"

Mr. Folsom, with appropriate concern, put his arm about his friend. Together they braced to meet any shock. When at last they lifted their eyes it was to stand locked in awe and admiration. Over the shoulders of the group in front of them they could see into the salon. It was furnished with a sofa and six chairs upholstered in scarlet plush. There was also a center-table on which was spread a red plush cover. On this table, each with a card tied with a ribbon bow and bearing the name of its maker, stood ranged in solid splendor six golden "Everythings."



A NIGHT AMONG THE HORSES[5]

[Note 5: Copyright, 1918, by Margaret C. Anderson. Copyright, 1920, by Djuna Barnes.]

BY DJUNA BARNES

From The Little Review

Toward dusk, in the summer of the year, a man dressed in a frock coat and top hat, and carrying a cane, crept through the underbrush bordering the corral of the Buckler farm.

As he moved small twigs snapped, fell and were silent. His knees were green from wounded shrubbery and grass, and his outspread hands tore unheeded plants. His wrists hurt him and he rested from time to time, always caring for his hat and knotted yellow cane, blowing through his moustache.

Dew had been falling covering the twilight leaves like myriad faces, damp with the perspiration of the struggle for existence, and half a mile away, standing out against the darkness of the night, a grove of white birches shimmered, like teeth in a skull.

He heard the creaking of a gate, and the splashing of late rain into the depths of a dark cistern. His heart ached with the nearness of the earth, the faint murmur of it moving upon itself, like a sleeper who turns to throw an arm about a beloved.

A frog began moaning among the skunk cabbages, and John thrust his hand deep into his bosom.

Something somnolent seemed to be here, and he wondered. It was like a deep, heavy, yet soft prison where, without sin, one may suffer intolerable punishment.

Presently he went on, feeling his way. He reached a high plank fence and sensing it with his fingers, he lay down, resting his head against the ground.

He was tired, he wanted to sleep, but he searched for his hat and cane and straightened out his coat beneath him before he turned his eyes to the stars.

And now he could not sleep, and wondered why he had thought of it; something quick was moving the earth, it seemed to live, to shake with sudden immensity.

He heard a dog barking, and the dim light from a farm window kept winking as the trees swung against its square of light. The odor of daisies came to him, and the assuring, powerful smell of the stables; he opened his mouth and drew in his moustache.

A faint tumult had begun. A tremor ran under the length of his body and trembled off into the earth like a shudder of joy,—died down and repeated itself. And presently he began to tremble, answering, throwing out his hands, curling them up weakly, as if the earth were withholding something precious, necessary.

His hat fell off, striking a log with a dull hollow sound, and he pressed his red moustache against the grass weeping.

Again he heard it, felt it; a hundred hoofs beat upon the earth and he knew the horses had gone wild in the corral on the other side of the fence, for animals greet the summer, striking the earth, as friends strike the back of friends. He knew, he understood; a hail to summer, to life, to death.

He drew himself against the bars, pressing his eyes under them, peering, waiting.

He heard them coming up across the heavy turf, rounding the curve in the Willow Road. He opened his eyes and closed them again. The soft menacing sound deepened, as heat deepens, strikes through the skin into the very flesh. Head on, with long legs rising, falling, rising again, striking the ground insanely, like needles taking terrible, impossible and purposeless stitches.

He saw their bellies, fawn colored, pitching from side to side, flashing by, straining the fence, and he rose up on his feet and silently, swiftly, fled on beside them.

Something delirious, hysterical, came over him and he fell. Blood trickled into his eyes down from his forehead. It had a fine feeling for a moment, like a mane, like that roan mare's mane that had passed him—red and long and splendid.

He lifted his hand, and closed his eyes once more, but the soft pounding did not cease, though now, in his sitting position, it only jogged him imperceptibly, as a child on a knee.

It seemed to him that he was smothering, and he felt along the side of his face as he had done in youth when they had put a cap on him that was too large. Twining green things, moist with earth-blood, crept over his fingers, the hot, impatient leaves pressed in, and the green of the matted grass was deathly thick. He had heard about the freeness of nature, thought it was so, and it was not so.

A trailing ground pine had torn up small blades in its journey across the hill, and a vine, wrist-thick, twisted about a pale oak, hideously, gloriously, killing it, dragging it into dust.

A wax Patrick Pipe leaned against his neck, staring with black eyes, and John opened his mouth, running his tongue across his lips snapping it off, sighing.

Move as he would, the grass was always under him, and the crackling of last autumn's leaves and last summer's twigs—minute dead of the infinite greatness—troubled him. Something portentous seemed connected with the patient noises about him. An acorn dropped, striking a thin fine powder out of a frail oak pod. He took it up, tossing it. He had never liked to see things fall.

He sat up, with the dim thunder of the horses far off, but quickening his heart.

He went over the scene he had with Freda Buckler, back there in the house, the long quivering spears of pot-grass standing by the window as she walked up and down, pulling at them, talking to him.

Small, with cunning fiery eyes and a pink and pointed chin. A daughter of a mother who had known too many admirers in her youth; a woman with an ample lap on which she held a Persian kitten or a trifle of fruit. Bounty, avarice, desire, intelligence—both of them had always what they wanted.

He blew down his moustache again thinking of Freda in her floating yellow veil that he had called ridiculous. She had not been angry, he was nothing but a stable boy then. It was the way with those small intriguing women whose nostrils were made delicate through the pain of many generations that they might quiver whenever they caught a whiff of the stables.

"As near as they can get to the earth," he had said and was Freda angry? She stroked his arm always softly, looking away, an inner bitterness drawing down her mouth.

She said, walking up and down quickly, looking ridiculously small:

"I am always gentle, John—" frowning, trailing her veil, thrusting out her chin.

He answered: "I liked it better where I was."

"Horses," she said showing sharp teeth, "are nothing for a man with your bile—poy-boy—curry comber, smelling of saddle soap—lovely!" She shrivelled up her nose, touching his arm: "Yes, but better things. I will show you—you shall be a gentleman—fine clothes, you will like them, they feel nice." And laughing she turned on one high heel, sitting down. "I like horses, they make people better; you are amusing, intelligent, you will see—"

"A lackey!" he returned passionately throwing up his arm, "what is there in this for you, what are you trying to do to me? The family—askance—perhaps—I don't know."

He sat down pondering. He was getting used to it, or thought he was, all but his wordy remonstrances. He knew better when thinking of his horses, realizing that when he should have married this small, unpleasant and clever woman, he would know them no more.

It was a game between them, which was the shrewder, which would win out? He? A boy of ill breeding, grown from the gutter, fancied by this woman because he had called her ridiculous, or for some other reason that he would never know. This kind of person never tells the truth, and this, more than most things, troubled him. Was he a thing to be played with, debased into something better than he was, than he knew?

Partly because he was proud of himself in the costume of a groom, partly because he was timid, he desired to get away, to go back to the stables. He walked up to the mirrors as if about to challenge them, peering in. He knew he would look absurd, and then knew, with shame, that he looked splendidly better than most of the gentlemen that Freda Buckler knew. He hated himself. A man who had grown out of the city's streets, a fine common thing!

She saw him looking into the mirrors, one after the other, and drew her mouth down. She got up, walking beside him in the end, between him and them, taking his arm.

"You shall enter the army—you shall rise to General, or Lieutenant at least—and there are horses there, and the sound of stirrups—with that physique you will be happy—authority you know," she said shaking her chin, smiling.

"Very well, but a common soldier—"

"As you like—afterward."

"Afterward?"

"Very well, a common soldier."

He sensed something strange in her voice, a sort of irony and it took the patience out of him:

"I have always been common, I could commit crimes, easily, gladly—I'd like to!"

She looked away. "That's natural," she said faintly, "it's an instinct all strong men have—"

She knew what was troubling him, thwarted instincts, common beautiful instincts that he was being robbed of. He wanted to do something final to prove his lower order; caught himself making faces, idiot faces, and she laughed.

"If only your ears stuck out, chin receded," she said, "you might look degenerate, common, but as it is—"

And he would creep away in hat, coat and cane to peer at his horses, never daring to go in near them. Sometimes when he wanted to weep he would smear one glove with harness grease, but the other one he held behind his back, pretending one was enough to prove his revolt.

She would torment him with vases, books, pictures, making a fool of him gently, persistently, making him doubt by cruel means, the means of objects he was not used to, eternally taking him out of his sphere.

"We have the best collection of miniatures," she would say with one knee on a low ottoman, bringing them out in her small palm.

"Here, look."

He would put his hands behind him.

"She was a great woman—Lucrezia Borgia—do you know history—" She put it back again because he did not answer, letting his mind, a curious one, torment itself.

"You love things very much, don't you?" she would question because she knew that he had a passion for one thing only. She kept placing new ladders beneath his feet, only to saw them off at the next rung, making him nothing more than a nervous irritable experiment. He was uneasy, like one given food to smell and not to taste, and for a while he had not wanted to taste, and then curiosity began, and he wanted to, and he also wanted to escape, and he could do neither.

Well, after he had married her, what then? Satisfy her whim and where would he be? He would be nothing, neither what he had been nor what other people were. This seemed to him, at times, her wish—a sort of place between lying down and standing up, a cramped position, a slow death. A curious woman.

This same evening he had looked at her attentively for the first time. Her hair was rather pretty, though too mousy, yet just in the nape of the neck, where it met the lawn of the collar it was very attractive. She walked well for a little woman too.

Sometimes she would pretend to be lively, would run a little, catch herself at it, as if she had not intended to do it, and calm down once more, or creeping up to him, stroking his arm, talking to him, she would walk beside him softly, slowly, that he might not step out, that he would have to crawl across the carpet.

Once he had thought of trying her with honesty, with the truth of the situation. Perhaps she would give him an honest answer, and he had tried.

"Now Miss Freda—just a word—what are you trying to do. What is it you want? What is there in me that can interest you? I want you to tell me—I want to know—I have got to ask someone, and I haven't anyone to ask but you."

And for a moment she almost relented, only to discover that she could not if she had wished. She did not know always what she meant herself.

"I'll tell you," she said, hoping that this, somehow, might lead her into the truth, for herself, if not for him, but it did not. "You are a little nervous, you will get used to it—you will even grow to like it. Be patient. You will learn soon enough that there is nothing in the world so agreeable as climbing, changing."

"Well," he said trying to read her, "And then?"

"That's all, you will regret the stables in the end—that's all." Her nostrils quivered. A light came into her eyes, a desire to defy, to be defied.

And then on this last night he had done something terrible, he had made a blunder. There had been a party. The guests, a lot of them, were mostly drunk, or touched with drink. And he too had too much. He remembered having thrown his arms about a tall woman, gowned in black with loose shoulder straps, dragging her through a dance. He had even sung a bit of a song, madly, wildly, horribly. And suddenly he had been brought up sharp by the fact that no one thought his behavior strange, that no one thought him presumptuous. Freda's mother had not even moved or dropped the kitten from her lap where it sat, its loud resolute purr shaking the satin of her gown.

And he felt that Freda had got him where she wanted him, between two rungs. Going directly up to her he said:

"You are ridiculous!" and twirled his moustache, spitting into the garden.

And he knew nothing about what happened until he found himself in the shrubbery crawling toward the corral, through the dusk and the dampness of the leaves, carrying his cane, making sure of his hat, looking up at the stars.

And now he knew why he had come. He was with his horses again. His eyes, pressed against the bars, stared in. The black stallion in the lead had been his special pet, a rough animal, but kindly, knowing. And here they were once more, tearing up the grass, galloping about in the night like a ball-room full of real people, people who wanted to do things, who did what they wanted to do.

He began to crawl through the bars, slowly, deftly, and when half way through he paused, thinking.

Presently he went on again, and drawing himself into the corral, his hat and cane thrown in before him, he lay there mouth to the grass.

They were still running, but less madly, one of them had gone up the Willow Road leading into a farther pasture, in a flare of dust, through which it looked immense and faint.

On the top of the hill three or four of the horses were standing, testing the weather. He would mount one, he would ride away, he would escape. And his horses, the things he knew, would be his escape.

Bareback, he thought, would be like the days when he had taken what he could from the rush of the streets, joy, exhilaration, life, and he was not afraid. He wanted to stand up, to cry aloud.

And he saw ten or twelve of them rounding the curve, and he did stand up.

They did not seem to know him, did not seem to know what to make of him, and he stared at them wondering. He did not think of his white shirt front, his sudden arising, the darkness, their excitement. Surely they would know, in a moment more.

Wheeling, flaring their wet nostrils, throwing up their manes, striking the earth in a quandary, they came on, whinnied faintly, and he knew what it was to be afraid.

He had never been afraid and he went down on his knees. With a new horror in his heart he damned them. He turned his eyes up, but he could not open them. He thought rapidly, calling on Freda in his heart, speaking tenderly, promising.

A flare of heat passed his throat, and descended into his bosom.

"I want to live. I can do it—damn it—I can do it. I can forge ahead, make my mark."

He forgot where he was for a moment and found new pleasure in this spoken admission, this new rebellion. He moved with the faint shaking of the earth like a child on a woman's lap.

The upraised hoofs of the first horse missed him, but the second did not.

And presently the horses drew apart, nibbling here and there, switching their tails, avoiding a patch of tall grass.



LONG, LONG AGO[6]

[Note 6: Copyright, 1919, by The Bellman Company. Copyright, 1920, by Frederick Orin Bartlett.]

BY FREDERICK ORIN BARTLETT

From The Bellman

When the brakeman swung back the door and with resonant indifference shouted in Esperanto "Granderantal stashun," Galbraithe felt like jumping up and shaking the man's hand. It was five years since he had heard that name pronounced as it should be pronounced because it was just five years since he had resigned from the staff of a certain New York daily and left to accept the editorship of a Kansas weekly. These last years had been big years, full of the joy of hard work, and though they had left him younger than when he went they had been five years away from New York. Now he was back again for a brief vacation, eager for a sight of the old crowd.

When he stepped from the train he was confused for a moment. It took him a second to get his bearings but as soon as he found himself fighting for his feet in the dear old stream of commuters he knew he was at home again. The heady jostle among familiar types made him feel that he had not been gone five days, although the way the horde swept past him proved that he had lost some of his old-time skill and cunning in a crowd. But he did not mind; he was here on a holiday, and they were here on business and had their rights. He recognized every mother's son of them. Neither the young ones nor the old ones were a day older. They wore the same clothes, carried the same bundles and passed the same remarks. The solid business man weighted with the burden of a Long Island estate was there; the young man in a broker's office who pushed his own lawn mower at New Rochelle was there; the man who got aboard at One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street was there. There was the man with a Van Dyke, the man with a mustache and the fat, smooth-shaven man and the wives, the sisters and the stenographers of all these. They were just as Galbraithe had left them—God bless 'em.

Swept out upon Forty-second Street, he took a long, full breath. The same fine New York sky was overhead (the same which roofed Kansas) and the same New York sun shone down upon him (even as in its gracious bounty it shone upon Kansas). The thrill of it made him realize as never before that, though the intervening years had been good to him, New York was in his blood. His eyes seized upon the raw angular buildings as eagerly as an exiled hill-man greets friendly mountain peaks. There are no buildings on earth which look so friendly, once a man gets to know them, as those about the Grand Central. Galbraithe noticed some new structures, but even these looked old. The total effect was exactly as he had left it. That was what he appreciated after his sojourn among the younger cities of the West. New York was permanent—as fixed as the pole star. It was unalterable.

Galbraithe scorned to take cab, car or bus this morning. He wanted to walk—to feel beneath his feet the dear old humpy pavement. It did his soul good to find men repairing the streets in the same old places—to find as ever new buildings going up and old buildings coming down, and the sidewalks blocked in the same old way. He was clumsy at his hurdling, but he relished the exercise.

He saw again with the eyes of a cub reporter every tingling feature of the stirring street panorama, from gutter to roof top, and thrilled with the magic and vibrant bigness of it all. Antlike, men were swarming everywhere bent upon changing, and yet they changed nothing. That was what amazed and comforted him. He knew that if he allowed five years to elapse before returning to his home town in Kansas he wouldn't recognize the place, but here everything was as he had left it, even to the men on the corners, even to the passers-by, even to the articles in the store windows. Flowers at the florist's, clothing at the haberdasher's, jewels at the jeweler's, were in their proper places, as though during the interval nothing had been sold. It made him feel as eternal as the Wandering Jew.

Several familiar landmarks were gone but he wondered if they had ever been. He did not miss them—hardly noticed any change. New buildings fitted into the old niches as perfectly as though from the first they had been ordained for those particular spots. They did not look at all the upstarts that all new buildings in Kansas did.

He hurried on to Park Row, and found himself surrounded by the very newsboys he had left. Not one of them had grown a day older. The lanky one and the lame one and the little one were there. Perhaps it was because they had always been as old as it is possible for a boy to be, that they were now no older. They were crying the same news to the same indifferent horde scurrying past them. Their noisy shouting made Galbraithe feel more than ever like a cub reporter. It was only yesterday that his head was swirling with the first mad excitement of it.

Across the street the door stood open through which he had passed so many times. Above it he saw the weatherbeaten sign which had always been weatherbeaten. The little brick building greeted him as hospitably as an open fire at home. He knew every inch of it, from the outside sill to the city room, and every inch was associated in his mind with some big success or failure. If he came back as a vagrant spirit a thousand years from now he would expect to find it just as it was. A thousand years back this spot had been foreordained for it. Lord, the rooted stability of this old city.

He had forgotten that he no longer had quarters in town, and must secure a room. He was still carrying his dress-suit case, but he couldn't resist the temptation of first looking in on the old crowd and shaking hands. He hadn't kept in touch with them except that he still read religiously every line of the old sheet, but he had recognized the work of this man and that, and knew from what he had already seen that nothing inside any more than outside could be changed. It was about nine o'clock, so he would find Hartson, the city editor, going over the rival morning papers, his keen eyes alert to discover what the night staff had missed. As he hurried up the narrow stairs his heart was as much in his mouth as it had been the first day he was taken on the staff. Several new office boys eyed him suspiciously, but he walked with such an air of familiarity that they allowed him to pass unquestioned. At the entrance to the sacred precinct of the city editor's room he paused with all his old-time hesitancy. Even after working five years for himself as a managing editor, he found he had lost nothing of his wholesome respect for Hartson. The latter's back was turned when Galbraithe entered, and he waited at the rail until the man looked up. Then with a start Galbraithe saw that this was not Hartson at all.

"I—I beg pardon," he stammered.

"Well?" demanded the stranger.

"I expected to find Mr. Hartson," explained Galbraithe.

"Hartson?"

"I used to be on the staff and—"

"Guess you're in the wrong office," the stranger shut him off abruptly.

For a moment Galbraithe believed this was possible, but every scarred bit of furniture was in its place and the dusty clutter of papers in the corner had not been disturbed. The new city editor glanced suspiciously toward Galbraithe's dress suit case and reached forward as though to press a button. With flushed cheeks Galbraithe retreated, and hurried down the corridor toward the reportorial rooms. He must find Billy Bertram and get the latter to square him with the new city editor. He made at once for Billy Bertram's desk, with hand extended. Just beyond was the desk he himself had occupied for so long. Bertram looked up and then Galbraithe saw that it was not Bertram at all.

"What can I do for you, old man?" the stranger inquired. He was a fellow of about Bertram's age, and a good deal of Bertram's stamp.

"I'm looking for Billy Bertram," stammered Galbraithe. "Guess he must have shifted his desk."

He glanced hopefully at the other desks in the room but he did not recognize a face.

"Bertram?" inquired the man who occupied Bertram's desk. He turned to the man next to him.

"Say, Green, any one here by the name of Bertram?"

Green lighted a fresh cigarette, and shook his head.

"Never heard of him," he replied indifferently.

"He used to sit here," explained Galbraithe.

"I've held down this chair fifteen months, and before me a chump by the name of Weston had that honor. Can't go back any further than that."

Galbraithe lowered his dress suit case, and wiped his forehead. Every one in the room took a suspicious glance at the bag.

"Ever hear of Sanderson?" Galbraithe inquired of Green.

"Nope."

"Ever hear of Wadlin or Jerry Donahue or Cartwright?"

Green kicked a chair toward him.

"Sit down, old man," he suggested. "You'll feel better in a minute."

"Ever hear of Hartson? Ever hear of old Jim Hartson?"

"That's all right," Green encouraged him. "If you have a line in that bag you think will interest us, bring it out. It's against office rules, but—"

Galbraithe tried to recall if, on his way downtown, he had inadvertently stopped anywhere for a cocktail. He had no recollection of so doing. Perhaps he was a victim of a mental lapse—one of those freak blank spaces of which the alienists were talking so much lately. He made one more attempt to place himself. In his day he had been one of the star reporters of the staff.

"Ever hear of—of Galbraithe?" he inquired anxiously.

By this time several men had gathered around the two desks as interested spectators. Galbraithe scanned their faces, but he didn't recognize one of them.

"Haven't got a card about your person, have you?" inquired Green.

"Why, yes," answered Galbraithe, fumbling for his case. The group watched him with some curiosity, and Harding, the youngest man, scenting a story, pushed to the front. With so many eyes upon him Galbraithe grew so confused that he couldn't find his card case.

"I'm sure I had it with me," he apologized.

"Remember where you were last night?" inquired Green.

"Just got in this morning," answered Galbraithe. "I—here it is."

He drew out a card and handed it to Green. The group gathered closer and read it.

"Harvey L. Galbraithe, Trego County Courier."

Green solemnly extended his hand.

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Galbraithe. Up here on business, or pleasure?"

"I used to work here," explained Galbraithe. "I came up on a vacation to see the boys."

"Used to work on this sheet?" exclaimed Green, as though doubting it.

"I left five years ago," answered Galbraithe.

"Holy Smoke!" exclaimed Green, with a low whistle. "You are sure some old-timer. Let's see—that's over fifteen hundred days ago. When did you come on?"

"Just before the Spanish War," answered Galbraithe eagerly. "Hartson sent me to Cuba."

Harding came closer, his eyes burning with new interest.

"Gee," he exclaimed, "those must have been great days. I ran across an old codger at the Press Club once who was with Dewey at Manila."

He spoke as Galbraithe might speak of the Crimean War. He pressed the latter for details, and Galbraithe, listening to the sound of his own voice, allowed himself to be led on. When he was through he felt toothless, and as though his hair had turned gray.

"Those were the happy days," exclaimed Harding. "The game was worth playing then—eh, old man?"

"Yes," mumbled Galbraithe. "But don't any of you know what has become of Hartson?"

"Haydon would probably remember him—"

"Haydon?" broke in Galbraithe. "Is he here?"

He looked wistfully about the room to the corner where the exchange editor used to sit.

"He died last spring," said Green. "Guess he was the last leaf on the tree."

"He came on five years ahead of me," said Galbraithe. "He and I did the barrel murders together."

"What was that story?" inquired Harding.

Galbraithe looked at Harding to make sure this was not some fool joke. At the time nothing else had been talked of in New York for a month, and he and Haydon had made something of a name for themselves for the work they did on it. Harding was both serious and interested—there could be no doubt about that.

The details were as fresh in Galbraithe's mind as though it were yesterday. But what he was just beginning to perceive was that this was so because he had been away from New York. To those living on here and still playing the old game that story had become buried, even as tradition, in the multiplicity of subsequent stories. These younger men who had superseded him and his fellows, already had their own big stories. They came every day between the dawn and the dark, and then again between the dark and the dawn. Day after day they came unceasingly, at the end of a week dozens of them, at the end of a month hundreds, at the end of a year thousands. It was fifteen hundred days ago that he had been observing the manifold complications of these million people, and since that time a thousand volumes had been written about as many tragedies enacted in the same old setting. Time here was measured in hours, not years. The stage alone remained unchanged.

Galbraithe made his feet, so dazed that he faltered as with the palsy. Harding took his arm.

"Steady, old man," he cautioned. "You'd better come out and have a drink."

Galbraithe shook his head. He felt sudden resentment at the part they were forcing upon him.

"I'm going back home," he announced.

"Come on," Harding encouraged him. "We'll drink to the old days, eh?"

"Sure," chimed in Green. The others, too, rose and sought their hats.

"I won't," replied Galbraithe, stubbornly, "I'm going back home, I tell you. And in ten years I'll be twenty-five years younger than any of you."

He spoke with some heat. Harding laughed but Green grew sober. He placed his hand on Galbraithe's arm.

"Right," he said. "Get out, and God bless you, old man."

"If only Haydon had been here—" choked Galbraithe.

"I expect he's younger than any of us," replied Green, soberly. "He's measuring time by eternities."

Galbraithe picked up his bag.

"S'long," he said.

He moved toward the door, and the entire group stood stock still and without a word watched him go out. He moved along the narrow corridor and past the city editor's room. He went down the old stairs, his shoulders bent and his legs weak. Fifteen hundred days were upon his shoulders. He made his way to the street, and for a moment stood there with his ears buzzing. About him swarmed the same newsboys he had left five years before, looking no older by a single day. Squinting his eyes, he studied them closely. There was Red Mick, but as he looked more carefully he saw that it was not Red Mick at all. It was probably Red Mick's younger brother. The tall one, the lanky one and the little lame one were there, but their names were different. The drama was the same, the setting was the same, but fifteen hundred days had brought a new set of actors to the same old parts. It was like seeing Shakespeare with a new cast, but the play was older by centuries than any of Shakespeare's.

Galbraithe hailed a taxi.

"Granderantal stashun," he ordered.

Peering out of the window, he watched the interminable procession on street and sidewalks. He gazed at the raw angular buildings—permanent and unalterable. Overhead a Kansas sun shone down upon him—the same which in its gracious bounty shone down upon New York.



DISHES[7]

[Note 7: Copyright, 1919, by The Pictorial Review Company. Copyright, 1920, by Agnes Mary Brownell.]

BY AGNES MARY BROWNELL

From The Pictorial Review

"Well, I guess that's the last of that!" Myra Bray said grimly, and blinked at the smashed fragments of the cup.

It had been so fragile, that even the sound of its breaking was thin and evanescent like a note blown, not struck. Now as it lay on the floor, it seemed dwindled to nothing more than the fine gilt stem that had been its handle, and irregular pinkish fragments like fallen petals.

"Myry Bray! Butterfingers!" Myra apostrophized herself, and darted a quick, sidelong glance in the direction of old Mrs. Bray, her mother-in-law.

It had been old Mrs. Bray's cup. This was old Mrs. Bray's house. When Myra married Marvin Bray it had been with the understanding that they must make their home with his mother, now that Nellie was gone.

Old Mrs. Bray said nothing. The pink cup had belonged to Nellie; Marvin's had been blue. They had been old-time Christmas gifts; and they had never been used. They were too fine to use. All those years they had stood side by side on an upper shelf of the safe, along with the majolica pickle-dish, the cracker-jar that Abbie Carter had painted in a design of wheat-heads, the lemonade-set that George's wife had presented upon the occasion of a visit, and a collection of little china souvenirs—trays and miniature pitchers with "Souvenir of the Springs" inscribed upon them.

"At least the saucer's safe," ventured Myra, after a pause. She had only just come to live with old Mrs. Bray. She wondered how she would take it. "Well—might's well sweep up the muss!"

Old Mrs. Bray spoke. Myra thought she detected a quiver in her voice:

"Pick 'em up," her mother-in-law directed, "and put 'em here in my apron." Myra obeyed. Old Mrs. Bray gathered up her apron and went away to her room. She did not emerge till nearly supper-time.

Once Myra had gone to her door. It was inhospitably closed. Myra thought she detected a faint chinking sound. "Now I wonder"—thought Myra—"is she agrievin' or asulkin'? I'd ruther it was asulkin'—an old pink chiny cup! I'd buy her another, only I s'pose it wouldn't make it up to her—Nellie's and all. Mebbe if I hurried and put off my waist, I could finish up her challis. She don't need the challis, and I do the waist. But mebbe it might take her mind off—losin' Nellie and then losin' the cup. I expect that come hard to Mother Bray."

Myra smoothed her hair and put on a fresh afternoon percale. To see Myra with her thin brown face, her slicked-back black hair which showed white threads like ravellings, in her afternoon house-dress of gray percale, one would never have taken her for a bride. Yet Myra had a very bridal feeling, sitting in her own home, with her own sewing, instead of running the machine in the shop, as she had done before her marriage. That it was, in reality, her husband's mother's home, and her husband's mother's sewing, scarcely altered the case. It was home, not shop. She had been married in August, when work fell slack. Now it was October. She had not broken anything until to-day.

Myra sewed and rocked and looked up at the framed portraits of Marvin and Nellie and Frank as children—the girl in queer plaid, and a locket; the boys in gilt-braided suits. Old and crude as the drawing was, it had a look of them—that steady, serious look of Marvin which he had never lost, and Nellie's—bold and managerial. Frank had died. Poor mother. She had known trouble.

At five, old Mrs. Bray came stiffly out. She had a curious, secretive air, not in the least mournful nor accusative, as Myra had feared. Myra held up the dress—a soft, gray challis with lavender pipings. Old Mrs. Bray's eyes widened like a pleased child's.

"Want to try it on?" suggested Myra.

"It ain't done!"

"To the last hook." She began to assist her mother into the new dress.

Mrs. Bray was a pretty old woman. There was about her an effect of fragile bloom like that of her old cup. In her gray-and-lavender she was like a quaint pastel.

"There!" cried Myra, standing off to view the effect.

"I ain't agoin' to take it off!" declared old Mrs. Bray suddenly; and waited for the remonstrance.

Nellie had always said: "Why, mother! Of course you'll take it off right away! Wear your good clothes out at home!"

To her surprise, Myra assented. "Keep it on, and let Marvin see how fine you look."

"Wun't you need me about supper?"

"Now you just set and let me get supper alone to-night."

"I'll set the table," decided old Mrs. Bray. "I guess just laying plates won't hurt it none."

Myra set about her biscuits. Marvin had to have his hot bread. Suddenly she heard a little splintering crash, followed by a whimpering wail—"Myry! Oh, Myry! I've broke the sasser!" The last remnants of Nellie's saucer, with their pink, fluted edges like ravished petals, lay spread out at old Mrs. Bray's feet.

"Now ain't that just too bad! (I s'pose she was touching it, for old times' sake—and her trembly old fingers and all, she let it slip.) Never mind, Mother; you got the blue one yet. And mebbe that saucer can be mended—"

Her mother with a jealous sweep of old hands, gathered up the fragments of the broken saucer. "I don't want mended dishes," she said resentfully, and went stiffly away to her room.

That night, when they were alone, Myra told Marvin about Nellie's cup and saucer. "And I just know she's akeeping of the pieces, and amourning over them," she finished. "Such things get to have associations. I 'most wish it had been your cup that got broke. She's got you, and Nellie's gone."

"Gone—what's a hundred miles!"

"I'm afraid she misses Nell."

"Now don't you go getting notions in your head. Nell was a master hand for work, but she didn't keep things up a mite better than you—not so good, to my notion. You're restfuller. Nell couldn't rest herself nor let anybody else. Nell couldn't atouched them biscuit—fact!"

"I try to keep things up as much like Nell as I can. I'd ruther use white table-cloths myself, but Nell always used the checkered. And my own chiny set the folks gave me—but I know Mother'd feel strange without her old white ones. There's lots of pretty chiny in the safe, but Nell always used it so careful. I've never used a piece. And yet, just adustin' that pink cup I had to go and drop it! I don't s'pose it was ever drunk out of."

"What's the good," argued Marvin, "of having things too fine to use?"

"You and me, Marvin, think the same about them things. But Nell and Mother—they're different."

"You're a good woman, Myry."

It pleased Myra to be told that she was good, and that her biscuits surpassed those of the capable Nell. But such compliments, for all their practicality and worth, sent no flush to her sallow cheek.

In her woman's magazine, which came to her monthly, lovers (and more rarely, husbands) were always breathing into the heroine's ear, "I love you. How beautiful you are!" or sentiments in that tenor. Marvin had not told her he loved her. He had asked her seriously and respectfully to marry him, when it became apparent that the efficient Nell was about to wed. And he had never told her that she was beautiful. She could not have believed him if he had.

Two days after the accident to the pink cup, the majolica pickle-dish was found shattered in front of the safe, when Marvin came out to start the kitchen fire. No one could account for its being there. The safe doors were ajar, and they decided that the majolica dish must have got pushed too near the edge of the shelf, and that a sudden jar had dislodged it. The safe doors were never remembered to have been left open before; the majolica dish had always sat well back; and nothing more jarring than Marvin's step disturbed the habitual quiet of the house. Still, how else account for it? "Mebbe Tom leaped up and done it," suggested old Mrs. Bray. The sleepy Tom, a handsome Tiger-stripe, sunk in bodily comfort, seemed to eye her reproachfully. He had not leaped in years.

Old Mrs. Bray carried away with her the fragments of the majolica pickle-dish and that afternoon, and other afternoons, she passed in the solitary privacy of her room.

Still her retirement seemed to work her no ill. From these solitary vigils she always emerged dressed in her gray-and-lavender. Ordinarily the ladies Bray wore percale on week day afternoons—fresh ones, but prints for all that. That had been Nell's way. Although old Mrs. Bray had a closet hung with good wool dresses, and even one festival silk.

Myra's trousseau had been so simple as scarcely to deserve the name. She had been married in a neat, dark suit, turned out in the shop where she had been employed for more than seven years. Myra had been "on skirts" for most of the seven years; and her dress had been almost a uniform—skirt and blouse. But she had secretly sewed for herself another sort of dress—house-dresses for the afternoon, of inexpensive, but delicate and light-colored fabrics, made a little "fussy." These she never wore. Old Mrs. Bray never wore fussy clothes; and it had not been Nell's way. The gray-and-lavender challis had been in the nature of an experiment. Old Mrs. Bray was plainly pleased; but she rarely wore it. She said it would make it common.

So the Brays, as in Nellie's regime, continued to wear the common gray percales, and to eat off the common white crockery. And with a strange, bewitched pertinacity, the fine, decorative bits of china, shut away on their upper shelf in the safe continued to get themselves broken.

Once it was one of the glasses of George's wife's lemonade-set. These glasses had ornate gilt bands about the brim, and painted flowers upon the side. Taking down the set one day, to show George's wife's gift to a caller (gifts were never gifts in fee simple in the Bray household. Always part possession seemed vested in the donor) old Mrs. Bray let slip one of the glasses. The fragments lay in a path of sun, struck through and through with light, they seemed to possess a strange, new iridescence.

"Now ain't that too bad!" sympathized the caller. "Spoils the whole set. You want to get every bit of that glass up and in the ash-can. Glass is awful to grind in."

Old Mrs. Bray gathered up the pieces. They sent out strange gleams like rude gems. Myra and the caller watched sympathetically the eager abruptness of her departure.

"Your mother-in-law is some shaky," observed the caller. "She hadn't ought to go to handle such delicate things."

"I expect she won't come out again," Myra said. "It always makes Mother feel bad to break things."

Old Mrs. Bray did not come out again till after the caller had departed. She had on her gray-and-lavender dress. "Always when Mother breaks a dish seems like she goes and puts on her gray-and-lavender," thought Myra; but she only said, "You look nice in that dress, Mother."

"I know I do," returned old Mrs. Bray serenely, "but I don't aim to make it common, Myry."

At holiday time, Nell and her husband came for a visit. Nell immediately proceeded to take the reins of government. She was a big, good-looking woman, younger than Myra. She had a large, well-modeled face with bloomy cheeks, golden brown eyes, fringed thick as daisies, and crisply undulating waves of dark hair. She disposed of their greetings in short order, retired to her old room to change into serviceable work things, and issued her ultimatum.

"Now don't go to any fuss, Myry. John and me ain't company. Treat us like the family. You've changed the roaster, ain't you, Myry? This ain't near so good a place for it. I've brought you one of my hens, Mother—all dressed and ready. We'll have it for dinner. Now Myry, don't you go to getting out a white table-cloth. Get one of them red-checkered ones. I s'pose those are your weddin' dishes—well, leave 'em be, now you got them down. But we won't use 'em common—the old white ones is plenty good enough. Folks that use their best every day has got no best. You might get the potatoes on now, Myry."

"Let me finish settin' the table, Myry," pleaded old Mrs. Bray. A moment later there was a crash, "Oh, Nellie! Oh, Myry! I didn't go to do it! My arm breshed it."

"Marvin's souvenir pitcher his Aunt Mat give him one Fair time! It must a' be'n fifteen year old!"

"I didn't go to do it!" quavered old Mrs. Bray.

"Who ever heard of such a thing? Of course you didn't do no such crazy thing! But that don't save its being broke. Here—let me sweep it up."

"Don't you sweep them pieces up!" shrilled her mother.

This voice of high command on the part of her little old subservient mother gave Nell pause. She stood, dust-pan in hand, looking down upon that stiffly stooping figure garnering into her gathered apron a little heap of splintered china.

"Mother must be getting childish," Nell said to Myra, when old Mrs. Bray had trotted stiffly away with her spoils.

Myra did not reply. She hoped Nell would not discover that ravished shelf of prized old china.

"Well—Nell got ye in hand?" inquired Nell's husband, John Peebles, at dinner. The good-natured wink which accompanied the words, the hearty voice and friendly manner, robbed the words of offense. They seemed rather a humorous gibe directed against Nell. These two got along excellently well. There was about John Peebles an effect of tender strength, re-assuring and at the same time illuminating—responsive to weakness, but adamant to imposition. Even the managerial Nell had not succeeded in piercing that armored side of him—his 'thus far and no further.'"

"Aw—you!" said Nell, adoringly.

"I bet Nell's met her boss!" grinned Marvin. "He don't go so fur as to beat ye, does he, Nell?"

"Smarty!" returned Nell. Her eyes crinkled up at the corners. She had met her match, and she knew it and gloried in it. But she didn't want any sass from the family.

She had none. They submitted without demur. The dish-pan sunned in the old place. The towels dried along a line of her own stretching. "John and me don't mean to make you any work," she assured them. They made no work. It seemed there had never been so much leisure.

"Myry," inquired Nell, "where's that other glass that goes with George's wife's lemonade-set?"

"Oh, it must be 'round som'ers," Myra returned vaguely.

"Round som'ers! Why ain't they all together?" Nell prodded in further search.

"Where's my pink gilt cup and saucer Aunt Em gimme one Christmas?"

"Ain't it there?" ventured Myra, with a cowardly shrinking from confession, not so much on her own account as for old Mrs. Bray. There was the majolica pickle-dish, the gilt, beflowered lemonade-glass, Abbie Carter's cracker-jar, certain of the fragile souvenir pin-trays stacked in a corner of the shelf.

"Here's Marvin's blue one. It's funny where them things can be. I always kept them here together, on this shelf."

"They're som'ers," Myra repeated vaguely.

Old Mrs. Bray had sat throughout this conversation, making buttonholes in a new gray percale. Once, when Nell was back at the sink, she reached out a wavering, fat old arm, and gave Myra's apron-string a tug, as a bad child pulls a cat's tail in a sort of impish humor. Her eyes, blue and shining as a child's saucer, looked very wise. A little laugh clucked in her throat.

"Mother—you feel chilly? You want to keep out of drafts," cautioned Nellie from the sink.

"Never felt more chipper!" averred old Mrs. Bray.

She had not spent an afternoon in her room since Nell's arrival. To-day, however, after dinner, she withdrew with an air of intending to remain there for some time. She took her buttonholes with her. It was likely that Nell could not content herself until she had searched every cupboard and pantry for the missing treasure.

"I declare—it is the beatin'est thing! Whatever can have become of them?" she apprized Myra. "You find much time to read, Myry?"

Myra found time to read her woman's magazine from cover to cover, in the course of the month. Some things she read more than once—those frankly impossible stories in which the heroines were always beautiful and always loved. Myra had never known a heroine; the women of her acquaintance were neither beautiful nor adored; and were probably quite comfortably unaware of this lack.

"I'm getting notional," Myra accused herself fearfully. The Family Doctor Book, a learned and ancient tome, confirmed these suspicions. It treated of this, and related matters, with a large assurance, like a trusty confidant.

"Funny how long Mother stays in her room!" wondered Nell.

"Mebbe she's fell asleep. Old people need all the sleep they can get. It's mostly so broken."

"I'm agoing to see!" deposed Nell.

Myra had never invaded that withdrawn privacy. But Nell, with her grenadier step, went swiftly and threw open the door.

"What on earth! Mother!"

Old Mrs. Bray's voice streamed quavering out, "Oh, Nellie! Don't scold me! Myry!—"

Somehow Myra was there—past the affronted Nell in the door. In the instant silence they made a strange tableau.

Old Mrs. Bray in her fine gray-and-lavender gown was seated before her little wash-hand-stand. The floral pitcher in its floral bowl had been set to one side on the floor. What covered the towel-protected top of the stand, was Nellie's looted treasure.

There were the fragments of the pink cup and saucer; the leaf-green and brown majolica bits that had been the pickle-dish; the iridescent curved sides of George's wife's lemonade-glass; Aunt Em's shattered souvenir pitcher; Abbie Carter's cracker-jar with its smashed wheat-heads. Myra only looked bewilderedly; but on Nell's gaping face apprehension succeeded stupefaction and dissolved in its turn into a great brimming tenderness.

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