SlowPeople1 2020-03-11T19:02:59+00:00 Hannah Huber d3e4ea8a859f6cdb7403909c52727bbd2c4624eb 1 2 Forerunner Notes plain 2021-06-08T18:49:05+00:00 Hannah Huber d3e4ea8a859f6cdb7403909c52727bbd2c4624eb
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Selections from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Forerunner
- Volume 1
- Three Thanksgivings (story, no. 1)
- His Crutches (poem, no. 2)
- Her Housekeeper (story, no. 3)
- When I was a Witch (story, no. 7)
- While the King Slept (sketch, no. 11)
- In How Little Time (poem, no. 12)
- A Word in Season (story, no. 14)
- Volume 2
- The Slow People (poem no. 3)
- Two Callings (poem no. 4)
- Turned (story, no. 9)
- Recreation (poem, no. 11)
- Making a Change (story, no. 12)
- Volume 3
- Freed (sketch, no. 3)
- Mary Button's Principles (story, no. 7)
- Improving on Nature (sketch, no. 7)
- Morning Devotions (sketch, no. 9)
- Volume 4
- A Dream of Gold (poem, no. 2)
- A March for Women (poem, no. 10)
- The Model Home (sketch, no. 12)
- Volume 5
- With a Difference (story, no. 2)
- Fulfilment (story, no. 3)
- The Real Religion (poem, no. 5)
- A Sea Voyage (sketch, no. 6)
- His Mother (story, no. 7)
- The Hypnotizer (story, no. 10)
- Volume 6
- Mrs. Merrill's Duties (story, no. 3)
- World Rousers (sketch, no. 5)
- Dr. Clair's Place (story, no. 6)
- Encouraging Mrs. Miller (story, no. 12)
- Volume 7
- A Growing Heart (story, no. 12)
Note: The texts I've selected to include in this section are mostly in addition to the Forerunner texts I analyze in my accompanying manuscript. Rather than include the lengthy novellas and treatises that I discuss in the book, I chose to provide a survey of smaller Gilman texts to supplement my discussion of sleep in the Forerunner.
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Andrew's letter and Jean's letter were in Mrs. Morrison's lap. She had read them both, and sat looking at them with a varying sort of smile, now motherly and now unmotherly.
"You belong with me," Andrew wrote. "It is not right that Jean's husband should support my mother. I can do it easily now. You shall have a good room and every comfort. The old house will let for enough to give you quite a little income of your own, or it can be sold and I will invest the money where you'll get a deal more out of it. It is not right that you should live alone there. Sally is old and liable to accident. I am anxious about you. Come on for Thanksgiving—and come to stay. Here is the money to come with. You know I want you. Annie joins me in sending love. ANDREW."
Mrs. Morrison read it all through again, and laid it down with her quiet, twinkling smile. Then she read Jean's.
"Now, mother, you've got to come to us for Thanksgiving this year. Just think! You haven't seen baby since he was three months old! And have never seen the twins. You won't know him—he's such a splendid big boy now. Joe says for you to come, of course. And, mother, why won't you come and live with us? Joe wants you, too. There's the little room upstairs; it's not very big, but we can put in a Franklin stove for you and make you pretty comfortable. Joe says he should think you ought to sell that white elephant of a place. He says he could put the money into his store and pay you good interest. I wish you would, mother. We'd just love to have you here. You'd be such a comfort to me, and such a help with the babies. And Joe just loves you. Do come now, and stay with us. Here is the money for the trip.—Your affectionate daughter, JEANNIE."
Mrs. Morrison laid this beside the other, folded both, and placed them in their respective envelopes, then in their several well-filled pigeon-holes in her big, old-fashioned desk. She turned and paced slowly up and down the long parlor, a tall woman, commanding of aspect, yet of a winningly attractive manner, erect and light-footed, still imposingly handsome.
It was now November, the last lingering boarder was long since gone, and a quiet winter lay before her. She was alone, but for Sally; and she smiled at Andrew's cautious expression, "liable to accident." He could not say "feeble" or "ailing," Sally being a colored lady of changeless aspect and incessant activity.
Mrs. Morrison was alone, and while living in the Welcome House she was never unhappy. Her father had built it, she was born there, she grew up playing on the broad green lawns in front, and in the acre of garden behind. It was the finest house in the village, and she then thought it the finest in the world.
Even after living with her father at Washington and abroad, after visiting hall, castle and palace, she still found the Welcome House beautiful and impressive.
If she kept on taking boarders she could live the year through, and pay interest, but not principal, on her little mortgage. This had been the one possible and necessary thing while the children were there, though it was a business she hated.
But her youthful experience in diplomatic circles, and the years of practical management in church affairs, enabled her to bear it with patience and success. The boarders often confided to one another, as they chatted and tatted on the long piazza, that Mrs. Morrison was "certainly very refined."
Now Sally whisked in cheerfully, announcing supper, and Mrs. Morrison went out to her great silver tea-tray at the lit end of the long, dark mahogany table, with as much dignity as if twenty titled guests were before her.
Afterward Mr. Butts called. He came early in the evening, with his usual air of determination and a somewhat unusual spruceness. Mr. Peter Butts was a florid, blonde person, a little stout, a little pompous, sturdy and immovable in the attitude of a self-made man. He had been a poor boy when she was a rich girl; and it gratified him much to realize—and to call upon her to realize—that their positions had changed. He meant no unkindness, his pride was honest and unveiled. Tact he had none.
She had refused Mr. Butts, almost with laughter, when he proposed to her in her gay girlhood. She had refused him, more gently, when he proposed to her in her early widowhood. He had always been her friend, and her husband's friend, a solid member of the church, and had taken the small mortgage of the house. She refused to allow him at first, but he was convincingly frank about it.
"This has nothing to do with my wanting you, Delia Morrison," he said. "I've always wanted you—and I've always wanted this house, too. You won't sell, but you've got to mortgage. By and by you can't pay up, and I'll get it—see? Then maybe you'll take me—to keep the house. Don't be a fool, Delia. It's a perfectly good investment."
She had taken the loan. She had paid the interest. She would pay the interest if she had to take boarders all her life. And she would not, at any price, marry Peter Butts.
He broached the subject again that evening, cheerful and undismayed. "You might as well come to it, Delia," he said. "Then we could live right here just the same. You aren't so young as you were, to be sure; I'm not, either. But you are as good a housekeeper as ever—better—you've had more experience."
"You are extremely kind, Mr. Butts," said the lady, "but I do not wish to marry you."
"I know you don't," he said. "You've made that clear. You don't, but I do. You've had your way and married the minister. He was a good man, but he's dead. Now you might as well marry me."
"I do not wish to marry again, Mr. Butts; neither you nor anyone."
"Very proper, very proper, Delia," he replied. "It wouldn't look well if you did—at any rate, if you showed it. But why shouldn't you? The children are gone now—you can't hold them up against me any more."
"Yes, the children are both settled now, and doing nicely," she admitted.
"You don't want to go and live with them—either one of them—do you?" he asked.
"I should prefer to stay here," she answered.
"Exactly! And you can't! You'd rather live here and be a grandee—but you can't do it. Keepin' house for boarders isn't any better than keepin' house for me, as I see. You'd much better marry me."
"I should prefer to keep the house without you, Mr. Butts."
"I know you would. But you can't, I tell you. I'd like to know what a woman of your age can do with a house like this—and no money? You can't live eternally on hens' eggs and garden truck. That won't pay the mortgage."
Mrs. Morrison looked at him with her cordial smile, calm and non-committal. "Perhaps I can manage it," she said.
"That mortgage falls due two years from Thanksgiving, you know."
"Yes—I have not forgotten."
"Well, then, you might just as well marry me now, and save two years of interest. It'll be my house, either way—but you'll be keepin' it just the same."
"It is very kind of you, Mr. Butts. I must decline the offer none the less. I can pay the interest, I am sure. And perhaps—in two years' time—I can pay the principal. It's not a large sum."
"That depends on how you look at it," said he. "Two thousand dollars is considerable money for a single woman to raise in two years—and interest."
He went away, as cheerful and determined as ever; and Mrs. Morrison saw him go with a keen, light in her fine eyes, a more definite line to that steady, pleasant smile.
Then she went to spend Thanksgiving with Andrew. He was glad to see her. Annie was glad to see her. They proudly installed her in "her room," and said she must call it "home" now.
This affectionately offered home was twelve by fifteen, and eight feet high. It had two windows, one looking at some pale gray clapboards within reach of a broom, the other giving a view of several small fenced yards occupied by cats, clothes and children. There was an ailanthus tree under the window, a lady ailanthus tree. Annie told her how profusely it bloomed. Mrs. Morrison particularly disliked the smell of ailanthus flowers. "It doesn't bloom in November," said she to herself. "I can be thankful for that!"
Andrew's church was very like the church of his father, and Mrs. Andrew was doing her best to fill the position of minister's wife—doing it well, too—there was no vacancy for a minister's mother.
Besides, the work she had done so cheerfully to help her husband was not what she most cared for, after all. She liked the people, she liked to manage, but she was not strong on doctrine. Even her husband had never known how far her views differed from his. Mrs. Morrison had never mentioned what they were.
Andrew's people were very polite to her. She was invited out with them, waited upon and watched over and set down among the old ladies and gentlemen—she had never realized so keenly that she was no longer young. Here nothing recalled her youth, every careful provision anticipated age. Annie brought her a hot-water bag at night, tucking it in at the foot of the bed with affectionate care. Mrs. Morrison thanked her, and subsequently took it out—airing the bed a little before she got into it. The house seemed very hot to her, after the big, windy halls at home.
The little dining-room, the little round table with the little round fern-dish in the middle, the little turkey and the little carving-set—game-set she would have called it—all made her feel as if she was looking through the wrong end of an opera-glass.
In Annie's precise efficiency she saw no room for her assistance; no room in the church, no room in the small, busy town, prosperous and progressive, and no room in the house. "Not enough to turn round in!" she said to herself. Annie, who had grown up in a city flat, thought their little parsonage palatial. Mrs. Morrison grew up in the Welcome House.
She stayed a week, pleasant and polite, conversational, interested in all that went on.
"I think your mother is just lovely," said Annie to Andrew.
"Charming woman, your mother," said the leading church member.
"What a delightful old lady your mother is!" said the pretty soprano.
And Andrew was deeply hurt and disappointed when she announced her determination to stay on for the present in her old home. "Dear boy," she said, "you mustn't take it to heart. I love to be with you, of course, but I love my home, and want to keep it is long as I can. It is a great pleasure to see you and Annie so well settled, and so happy together. I am most truly thankful for you."
"My home is open to you whenever you wish to come, mother," said Andrew.
But he was a little angry.
Mrs. Morrison came home as eager as a girl, and opened her own door with her own key, in spite of Sally's haste.
Two years were before her in which she must find some way to keep herself and Sally, and to pay two thousand dollars and the interest to Peter Butts. She considered her assets. There was the house—the white elephant. It was big—very big. It was profusely furnished. Her father had entertained lavishly like the Southern-born, hospitable gentleman he was; and the bedrooms ran in suites—somewhat deteriorated by the use of boarders, but still numerous and habitable. Boarders—she abhorred them. They were people from afar, strangers and interlopers. She went over the place from garret to cellar, from front gate to backyard fence.
The garden had great possibilities. She was fond of gardening. and understood it well. She measured and estimated.
"This garden," she finally decided, "with the hens, will feed us two women and sell enough to pay Sally. If we make plenty of jelly, it may cover the coal bill, too. As to clothes—I don't need any. They last admirably. I can manage. I can live—but two thousand dollars—and interest!"
In the great attic was more furniture, discarded sets put there when her extravagant young mother had ordered new ones. And chairs—uncounted chairs. Senator Welcome used to invite numbers to meet his political friends—and they had delivered glowing orations in the wide, double parlors, the impassioned speakers standing on a temporary dais, now in the cellar; and the enthusiastic listeners disposed more or less comfortably on these serried rows of "folding chairs," which folded sometimes, and let down the visitor in scarlet confusion to the floor.
She sighed as she remembered those vivid days and glittering nights. She used to steal downstairs in her little pink wrapper and listen to the eloquence. It delighted her young soul to see her father rising on his toes, coming down sharply on his heels, hammering one hand upon the other; and then to hear the fusilade of applause.
Here were the chairs, often borrowed for weddings, funerals, and church affairs, somewhat worn and depleted, but still numerous. She mused upon them. Chairs—hundreds of chairs. They would sell for very little.
She went through her linen room. A splendid stock in the old days; always carefully washed by Sally; surviving even the boarders. Plenty of bedding, plenty of towels, plenty of napkins and tablecloths. "It would make a good hotel—but I can't have it so—I can't! Besides, there's no need of another hotel here. The poor little Haskins House is never full."
The stock in the china closet was more damaged than some other things, naturally; but she inventoried it with care. The countless cups of crowded church receptions were especially prominent. Later additions these, not very costly cups, but numerous, appallingly.
When she had her long list of assets all in order, she sat and studied it with a clear and daring mind. Hotel—boarding-house—she could think of nothing else. School! A girls' school! A boarding school! There was money to be made at that, and fine work done. It was a brilliant thought at first, and she gave several hours, and much paper and ink, to its full consideration. But she would need some capital for advertising; she must engage teachers—adding to her definite obligation; and to establish it, well, it would require time.
Mr. Butts, obstinate, pertinacious, oppressively affectionate, would give her no time. He meant to force her to marry him for her own good—and his. She shrugged her fine shoulders with a little shiver. Marry Peter Butts! Never! Mrs. Morrison still loved her husband. Some day she meant to see him again—God willing—and she did not wish to have to tell him that at fifty she had been driven into marrying Peter Butts.
Better live with Andrew. Yet when she thought of living with Andrew, she shivered again. Pushing back her sheets of figures and lists of personal property, she rose to her full graceful height and began to walk the floor. There was plenty of floor to walk. She considered, with a set deep thoughtfulness, the town and the townspeople, the surrounding country, the hundreds upon hundreds of women whom she knew—and liked, and who liked her.
It used to be said of Senator Welcome that he had no enemies; and some people, strangers, maliciously disposed, thought it no credit to his character. His daughter had no enemies, but no one had ever blamed her for her unlimited friendliness. In her father's wholesale entertainments the whole town knew and admired his daughter; in her husband's popular church she had come to know the women of the countryside about them. Her mind strayed off to these women, farmers' wives, comfortably off in a plain way, but starving for companionship, for occasional stimulus and pleasure. It was one of her joys in her husband's time to bring together these women—to teach and entertain them.
Suddenly she stopped short in the middle of the great high-ceiled room, and drew her head up proudly like a victorious queen. One wide, triumphant, sweeping glance she cast at the well-loved walls—and went back to her desk, working swiftly, excitedly, well into the hours of the night.
Presently the little town began to buzz, and the murmur ran far out into the surrounding country. Sunbonnets wagged over fences; butcher carts and pedlar's wagon carried the news farther; and ladies visiting found one topic in a thousand houses.
Mrs. Morrison was going to entertain. Mrs. Morrison had invited the
whole feminine population, it would appear, to meet Mrs. Isabelle Carter
Blake, of Chicago. Even Haddleton had heard of Mrs. Isabelle Carter
Blake. And even Haddleton had nothing but admiration for her.
She was known the world over for her splendid work for children—for the school children and the working children of the country. Yet she was known also to have lovingly and wisely reared six children of her own—and made her husband happy in his home. On top of that she had lately written a novel, a popular novel, of which everyone was talking; and on top of that she was an intimate friend of a certain conspicuous Countess—an Italian.
It was even rumored, by some who knew Mrs. Morrison better than others—or thought they did—that the Countess was coming, too! No one had known before that Delia Welcome was a school-mate of Isabel Carter, and a lifelong friend; and that was ground for talk in itself.
The day arrived, and the guests arrived. They came in hundreds upon hundreds, and found ample room in the great white house.
The highest dream of the guests was realized—the Countess had come, too. With excited joy they met her, receiving impressions that would last them for all their lives, for those large widening waves of reminiscence which delight us the more as years pass. It was an incredible glory—Mrs. Isabelle Carter Blake, and a Countess!
Some were moved to note that Mrs. Morrison looked the easy peer of these eminent ladies, and treated the foreign nobility precisely as she did her other friends.
She spoke, her clear quiet voice reaching across the murmuring din, and silencing it.
"Shall we go into the east room? If you will all take chairs in the east room, Mrs. Blake is going to be so kind as to address us. Also perhaps her friend—"
They crowded in, sitting somewhat timorously on the unfolded chairs.
Then the great Mrs. Blake made them an address of memorable power and beauty, which received vivid sanction from that imposing presence in Parisian garments on the platform by her side. Mrs. Blake spoke to them of the work she was interested in, and how it was aided everywhere by the women's clubs. She gave them the number of these clubs, and described with contagious enthusiasm the inspiration of their great meetings. She spoke of the women's club houses, going up in city after city, where many associations meet and help one another. She was winning and convincing and most entertaining—an extremely attractive speaker.
Had they a women's club there? They had not.
Not yet, she suggested, adding that it took no time at all to make one.
They were delighted and impressed with Mrs. Blake's speech, but its effect was greatly intensified by the address of the Countess.
"I, too, am American," she told them; "born here, reared in England, married in Italy." And she stirred their hearts with a vivid account of the women's clubs and associations all over Europe, and what they were accomplishing. She was going back soon, she said, the wiser and happier for this visit to her native land, and she should remember particularly this beautiful, quiet town, trusting that if she came to it again it would have joined the great sisterhood of women, "whose hands were touching around the world for the common good."
It was a great occasion.
The Countess left next day, but Mrs. Blake remained, and spoke in some of the church meetings, to an ever widening circle of admirers. Her suggestions were practical.
"What you need here is a 'Rest and Improvement Club,'" she said. "Here are all you women coming in from the country to do your shopping—and no place to go to. No place to lie down if you're tired, to meet a friend, to eat your lunch in peace, to do your hair. All you have to do is organize, pay some small regular due, and provide yourselves with what you want."
There was a volume of questions and suggestions, a little opposition, much random activity.
Who was to do it? Where was there a suitable place? They would have to hire someone to take charge of it. It would only be used once a week. It would cost too much.
Mrs. Blake, still practical, made another suggestion. Why not combine business with pleasure, and make use of the best place in town, if you can get it? I think Mrs. Morrison could be persuaded to let you use part of her house; it's quite too big for one woman."
Then Mrs. Morrison, simple and cordial as ever, greeted with warm enthusiasm by her wide circle of friends.
Then Mrs. Blake gave them facts and figures, showing how much clubhouses cost—and how little this arrangement would cost. "Most women have very little money, I know," she said, "and they hate to spend it on themselves when they have; but even a little money from each goes a long way when it is put together. I fancy there are none of us so poor we could not squeeze out, say ten cents a week. For a hundred women that would be ten dollars. Could you feed a hundred tired women for ten dollars, Mrs. Morrison?"
Mrs. Morrison smiled cordially. "Not on chicken pie," she said, "But I could give them tea and coffee, crackers and cheese for that, I think. And a quiet place to rest, and a reading room, and a place to hold meetings."
Then Mrs. Blake quite swept them off their feet by her wit and eloquence. She gave them to understand that if a share in the palatial accommodation of the Welcome House, and as good tea and coffee as old Sally made, with a place to meet, a place to rest, a place to talk, a place to lie down, could be had for ten cents a week each, she advised them to clinch the arrangement at once before Mrs. Morrison's natural good sense had overcome her enthusiasm.
Before Mrs. Isabelle Carter Blake had left, Haddleton had a large and eager women's club, whose entire expenses, outside of stationary and postage, consisted of ten cents a week per capita, paid to Mrs. Morrison. Everybody belonged. It was open at once for charter members, and all pressed forward to claim that privileged place.
They joined by hundreds, and from each member came this tiny sum to Mrs. Morrison each week. It was very little money, taken separately. But it added up with silent speed. Tea and coffee, purchased in bulk, crackers by the barrel, and whole cheeses—these are not expensive luxuries. The town was full of Mrs. Morrison's ex-Sunday-school boys, who furnished her with the best they had—at cost. There was a good deal of work, a good deal of care, and room for the whole supply of Mrs. Morrison's diplomatic talent and experience. Saturdays found the Welcome House as full as it could hold, and Sundays found Mrs. Morrison in bed. But she liked it.
A busy, hopeful year flew by, and then she went to Jean's for
The room Jean gave her was about the same size as her haven in Andrew's
home, but one flight higher up, and with a sloping ceiling. Mrs.
Morrison whitened her dark hair upon it, and rubbed her head confusedly.
Then she shook it with renewed determination.
The house was full of babies. There was little Joe, able to get about, and into everything. There were the twins, and there was the new baby. There was one servant, over-worked and cross. There was a small, cheap, totally inadequate nursemaid. There was Jean, happy but tired, full of joy, anxiety and affection, proud of her children, proud of her husband, and delighted to unfold her heart to her mother.
By the hour she babbled of their cares and hopes, while Mrs. Morrison, tall and elegant in her well-kept old black silk, sat holding the baby or trying to hold the twins. The old silk was pretty well finished by the week's end. Joseph talked to her also, telling her how well he was getting on, and how much he needed capital, urging her to come and stay with them; it was such a help to Jeannie; asking questions about the house.
There was no going visiting here. Jeannie could not leave the babies. And few visitors; all the little suburb being full of similarly overburdened mothers. Such as called found Mrs. Morrison charming. What she found them, she did not say. She bade her daughter an affectionate good-bye when the week was up, smiling at their mutual contentment.
"Good-bye, my dear children," she said. "I am so glad for all your happiness. I am thankful for both of you."
But she was more thankful to get home.
Mr. Butts did not have to call for his interest this time, but he called none the less.
"How on earth'd you get it, Delia?" he demanded. "Screwed it out o' these club-women?"
"Your interest is so moderate, Mr. Butts, that it is easier to meet than you imagine," was her answer. "Do you know the average interest they charge in Colorado? The women vote there, you know."
He went away with no more personal information than that; and no nearer approach to the twin goals of his desire than the passing of the year.
"One more year, Delia," he said; "then you'll have to give in."
"One more year!" she said to herself, and took up her chosen task with renewed energy.
The financial basis of the undertaking was very simple, but it would never have worked so well under less skilful management. Five dollars a year these country women could not have faced, but ten cents a week was possible to the poorest. There was no difficulty in collecting, for they brought it themselves; no unpleasantness in receiving, for old Sally stood at the receipt of custom and presented the covered cash box when they came for their tea.
On the crowded Saturdays the great urns were set going, the mighty array of cups arranged in easy reach, the ladies filed by, each taking her refection and leaving her dime. Where the effort came was in enlarging the membership and keeping up the attendance, and this effort was precisely in the line of Mrs. Morrison's splendid talents.
Serene, cheerful, inconspicuously active, planning like the born statesman she was, executing like a practical politician, Mrs. Morrison gave her mind to the work, and thrived upon it. Circle within circle, and group within group, she set small classes and departments at work, having a boys' club by and by in the big room over the woodshed, girls' clubs, reading clubs, study clubs, little meetings of every sort that were not held in churches, and some that were—previously.
Now, five hundred times ten cents a week is twenty-six hundred dollars a year. Twenty-six hundred dollars a year would not be very much to build or rent a large house, to furnish five hundred people with chairs, lounges, books, and magazines, dishes and service; and with food and drink even of the simplest. But if you are miraculously supplied with a club-house, furnished, with a manager and servant on the spot, then that amount of money goes a long way.
On Saturdays Mrs. Morrison hired two helpers for half a day, for half a dollar each. She stocked the library with many magazines for fifty dollars a year. She covered fuel, light, and small miscellanies with another hundred. And she fed her multitude with the plain viands agreed upon, at about four cents apiece.
For her collateral entertainments, her many visits, the various new expenses entailed, she paid as well; and yet at the end of the first year she had not only her interest, but a solid thousand dollars of clear profit. With a calm smile she surveyed it, heaped in neat stacks of bills in the small safe in the wall behind her bed. Even Sally did not know it was there.
The second season was better than the first. There were difficulties, excitements, even some opposition, but she rounded out the year triumphantly. "After that," she said to herself, "they may have the deluge if they like."
She made all expenses, made her interest, made a little extra cash, clearly her own, all over and above the second thousand dollars.
Then did she write to son and daughter, inviting them and their families to come home to Thanksgiving, and closing each letter with joyous pride: "Here is the money to come with."
They all came, with all the children and two nurses. There was plenty of room in the Welcome House, and plenty of food on the long mahogany table. Sally was as brisk as a bee, brilliant in scarlet and purple; Mrs. Morrison carved her big turkey with queenly grace.
"I don't see that you're over-run with club women, mother," said
"It's Thanksgiving, you know; they're all at home. I hope they are all as happy, as thankful for their homes as I am for mine," said Mrs. Morrison.
Afterward Mr. Butts called. With dignity and calm unruffled, Mrs.
Morrison handed him his interest—and principal.
Mr. Butts was almost loath to receive it, though his hand automatically grasped the crisp blue check.
"I didn't know you had a bank account," he protested, somewhat dubiously.
"Oh, yes; you'll find the check will be honored, Mr. Butts."
"I'd like to know how you got this money. You can't 'a' skinned it out o' that club of yours."
"I appreciate your friendly interest, Mr. Butts; you have been most kind."
"I believe some of these great friends of yours have lent it to you.
You won't be any better off, I can tell you."
"Come, come, Mr. Butts! Don't quarrel with good money. Let us part friends."
And they parted.
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Why should the Stronger Sex require,
To hold him to his tasks,
Two medicines of varied fire?
The Weaker Vessel asks.
Hobbling between the rosy cup
And dry narcotic brown,—
One daily drug to stir him up
And one to soothe him down.
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On the top floor of a New York boarding-house lived a particularly attractive woman who was an actress. She was also a widow, not divorcee, but just plain widow; and she persisted in acting under her real name, which was Mrs. Leland. The manager objected, but her reputation was good enough to carry the point.
"It will cost you a great deal of money, Mrs. Leland," said the manager.
"I make money enough," she answered.
"You will not attract so many—admirers," said the manager.
"I have admirers enough," she answered; which was visibly true.
She was well under thirty, even by daylight—and about eighteen on the stage; and as for admirers—they apparently thought Mrs. Leland was a carefully selected stage name.
Besides being a widow, she was a mother, having a small boy of about five years; and this small boy did not look in the least like a "stage child," but was a brown-skinned, healthy little rascal of the ordinary sort.
"I never was so comfortable in my life," said Mrs. Leland to her friends. "I've been here three years and mean to stay. It is not like any boarding-house I ever saw, and it is not like any home I ever had. I have the privacy, the detachment, the carelessness of a boarding-house, and 'all the comforts of a home.' Up I go to my little top flat as private as you like. My Alice takes care of it—the housemaids only come in when I'm out. I can eat with the others downstairs if I please; but mostly I don't please; and up come my little meals on the dumbwaiter—hot and good."
"But—having to flock with a lot of promiscuous boarders!" said her friends.
"I don't flock, you see; that's just it. And besides, they are not promiscuous—there isn't a person in the house now who isn't some sort of a friend of mine. As fast as a room was vacated I'd suggest somebody—and here we all are. It's great."
"But do you like a skylight room?" Mrs. Leland's friends further inquired of her?"
"By no means!" she promptly replied. "I hate it. I feel like a mouse in a pitcher!"
"Then why in the name of reason—?"
"Because I can sleep there! Sleep!—It's the only way to be quiet in New York, and I have to sleep late if I sleep at all. I've fixed the skylight so that I'm drenched with air—and not drenched with rain!—and there I am. Johnny is gagged and muffled as it were, and carried downstairs as early as possible. He gets his breakfast, and the unfortunate Miss Merton has to go out and play with him—in all weathers—except kindergarten time. Then Alice sits on the stairs and keeps everybody away till I ring."
All of which was observed by her friend from the second floor who wanted to marry her. In this he was not alone; either as a friend, of whom she had many, or as a lover, of whom she had more. His distinction lay first in his opportunities, as a co-resident, for which he was heartily hated by all the more and some of the many; and second in that he remained a friend in spite of being a lover, and remained a lover in spite of being flatly refused.
His name in the telephone book was given "Arthur Olmstead, real estate;" office this and residence that—she looked him up therein after their first meeting. He was rather a short man, heavily built, with a quiet kind face, and a somewhat quizzical smile. He seemed to make all the money he needed, occupied the two rooms and plentiful closet space of his floor in great contentment, and manifested most improper domesticity of taste by inviting friends to tea. "Just like a woman!" Mrs. Leland told him.
"And why not? Women have so many attractive ways—why not imitate them?" he asked her.
"A man doesn't want to be feminine, I'm sure," struck in a pallid, overdressed youth, with openwork socks on his slim feet, and perfumed handkerchief.
Mr. Olmstead smiled a broad friendly smile. He was standing near the young man, a little behind him, and at this point he put his hands just beneath the youth's arms, lifted and set him aside as if he were an umbrella-stand. "Excuse me, Mr. Masters," he said gravely, but you were standing on Mrs. Leland's gown."
Mr. Masters was too much absorbed in apologizing to the lady to take umbrage at the method of his removal; but she was not so oblivious. She tried doing it to her little boy afterwards, and found him very heavy.
When she came home from her walk or drive in the early winter dusk, this large quietly furnished room, the glowing fire, the excellent tea and delicate thin bread and butter were most restful. "It is two more stories up before I can get my own;" she would say—"I must stop a minute."
When he began to propose to her the first time she tried to stop him. "O please don't!" she cried. "Please don't! There are no end of reasons why I will not marry anybody again. Why can't some of you men be nice to me and not—that! Now I can't come in to tea any more!"
"I'd like to know why not," said he calmly. "You don't have to marry me if you don't want to; but that's no reason for cutting my acquaintance, is it?"
She gazed at him in amazement.
"I'm not threatening to kill myself, am I? I don't intend going to the devil. I'd like to be your husband, but if I can't—mayn't I be a brother to you?"
She was inclined to think he was making fun of her, but no—his proposal had had the real ring in it. "And you're not—you're not going to—?" it seemed the baldest assumption to think that he was going to, he looked so strong and calm and friendly.
"Not going to annoy you? Not going to force an undesired affection on you and rob myself of a most agreeable friendship? Of course not. Your tea is cold, Mrs. Leland—let me give you another cup. And do you think Miss Rose is going to do well as 'Angelina?'"
So presently Mrs. Leland was quite relieved in her mind, and free to enjoy the exceeding comfortableness of this relation. Little Johnny was extremely fond of Mr Olmstead; who always treated him with respect, and who could listen to his tales of strife and glory more intelligently than either mother or governess. Mr. Olmstead kept on hand a changing supply of interesting things; not toys—never, but real things not intended for little boys to play with. No little boy would want to play with dolls for instance; but what little boy would not be fascinated by a small wooden lay figure, capable of unheard-of contortions. Tin soldiers were common, but the flags of all nations—real flags, and true stories about them, were interesting. Noah's arks were cheap and unreliable scientifically; but Barye lions, ivory elephants, and Japanese monkeys in didactic groups of three, had unfailing attraction. And the books this man had—great solid books that could be opened wide on the floor, and a little boy lie down to in peace and comfort!
Mrs. Leland stirred her tea and watched them until Johnny was taken upstairs.
"Why don't you smoke?" she asked suddenly. "Doctor's orders?"
"No—mine," he answered. "I never consulted a doctor in my life."
"Nor a dentist, I judge," said she.
"Nor a dentist."
"You'd better knock on wood!" she told him.
"And cry 'Uncle Reuben?' he asked smilingly.
"You haven't told me why you don't smoke!" said she suddenly.
"Haven't I?" he said. "That was very rude of me. But look here. There's a thing I wanted to ask you. Now I'm not pressing any sort of inquiry as to myself; but as a brother, would you mind telling me some of those numerous reasons why you will not marry anybody?"
She eyed him suspiciously, but he was as solid and calm as usual, regarding her pleasantly and with no hint of ulterior purpose. "Why—I don't mind," she began slowly. "First—I have been married—and was very unhappy. That's reason enough."
He did not contradict her; but merely said, "That's one," and set it down in his notebook.
"Dear me, Mr. Olmstead! You're not a reporter, are you!"
"O no—but I wanted to have them clear and think about them," he explained. "Do you mind?" And he made as if to shut his little book again.
"I don't know as I mind," she said slowly. "But it looks so—businesslike."
"This is a very serious business, Mrs. Leland, as you must know. Quite aside from any personal desire of my own, I am truly 'your sincere friend and well-wisher,' as the Complete Letter Writer has it, and there are so many men wanting to marry you."
This she knew full well, and gazed pensively at the toe of her small flexible slipper, poised on a stool before the fire.
Mr. Olmstead also gazed at the slipper toe with appreciation.
"What's the next one?" he said cheerfully.
"Do you know you are a real comfort," she told him suddenly. "I never knew a man before who could—well leave off being a man for a moment and just be a human creature."
"Thank you, Mrs. Leland," he said in tones of pleasant sincerity. "I want to be a comfort to you if I can. Incidentally wouldn't you be more comfortable on this side of the fire—the light falls better—don't move." And before she realized what he was doing he picked her up, chair and all, and put her down softly on the other side, setting the footstool as before, and even daring to place her little feet upon it—but with so businesslike an air that she saw no opening for rebuke. It is a difficult matter to object to a man's doing things like that when he doesn't look as if he was doing them.
"That's better," said he cheerfully, taking the place where she had been. "Now, what's the next one?"
"The next one is my boy."
"Second—Boy," he said, putting it down. "But I should think he'd be a reason the other way. Excuse me—I wasn't going to criticize—yet! And the third?"
"Why should you criticize at all, Mr. Olmstead?"
"I shouldn't—on my own account. But there may come a man you love." He had a fine baritone voice. When she heard him sing Mrs. Leland always wished he were taller, handsomer, more distinguished looking; his voice sounded as if he were. And I should hate to see these reasons standing in the way of your happiness," he continued.
"Perhaps they wouldn't," said she in a revery.
"Perhaps they wouldn't—and in that case it is no possible harm that you tell me the rest of them. I won't cast it up at you. Third?"
"Third, I won't give up my profession for any man alive."
"Any man alive would be a fool to want you to," said he setting down,
"Fourth—I like Freedom!" she said with sudden intensity. "You don't know!—they kept me so tight!—so tight—when I was a girl! Then—I was left alone, with a very little money, and I began to study for the stage—that was like heaven! And then—O what idiots women are!" She said the word not tragically, but with such hard-pointed intensity that it sounded like a gimlet. "Then I married, you see—I gave up all my new-won freedom to marry!—and he kept me tighter than ever." She shut her expressive mouth in level lines—stood up suddenly and stretched her arms wide and high. "I'm free again, free—I can do exactly as I please!" The words were individually relished. "I have the work I love. I can earn all I need—am saving something for the boy. I'm perfectly independent!"
"And perfectly happy!" he cordially endorsed her. "I don't blame you for not wanting to give it up."
"O well—happy!" she hesitated. "There are times, of course, when one isn't happy. But then—the other way I was unhappy all the time."
"He's dead—unfortunately," mused Mr. Olmstead.
He looked at her with his straightforward, pleasant smile. "I'd have liked the pleasure of killing him," he said regretfully.
She was startled, and watched him with dawning alarm. But he was quite quiet—even cheerful. "Fourth—Freedom," he wrote. "Is that all?"
"No—there are two more. Neither of them will please you. You won't think so much of me any more. The worst one is this. I like—lovers! I'm very much ashamed of it, but I do! I try not to be unfair to them—some I really try to keep away from me—but honestly I like admiration and lots of it."
"What's the harm of that?" he asked easily, setting down,
"No harm, so long as I'm my own mistress," said she defiantly. "I take care of my boy, I take care of myself—let them take care of themselves! Don't blame me too much!"
"You're not a very good psychologist, I'm afraid," said he.
"What do you mean?" she asked rather nervously.
"You surely don't expect a man to blame you for being a woman, do you?"
"All women are not like that," she hastily asserted. "They are too conscientious. Lots of my friends blame me severely."
"Women friends," he ventured.
"Men, too. Some men have said very hard things of me."
"Because you turned 'em down. That's natural."
"No, I don't. I'm different.".
"How different?" she asked.
He looked at her steadily. His eyes were hazel, flecked with changing bits of color, deep, steady, with a sort of inner light that grew as she watched till presently she thought it well to consider her slipper again; and continued, "The sixth is as bad as the other almost. I hate—I'd like to write a dozen tragic plays to show how much I hate—Housekeeping! There! That's all!"
"Sixth—Housekeeping," he wrote down, quite unmoved. "But why should anyone blame you for that—it's not your business."
"No—thank goodness, it's not! And never will be! I'm free, I tell you and I stay free!—But look at the clock!" And she whisked away to dress for dinner.
He was not at table that night—not at home that night—not at home for some days—the landlady said he had gone out of town; and Mrs. Leland missed her afternoon tea.
She had it upstairs, of course, and people came in—both friends and lovers; but she missed the quiet and cosiness of the green and brown room downstairs.
Johnny missed his big friend still more. "Mama, where's Mr. Olmstead? Mama, why don't Mr. Olmstead come back? Mama! When is Mr. Olmstead coming back? Mama! Why don't you write to Mr. Olmstead and tell him to come back? Mama!—can't we go in there and play with his things?"
As if in answer to this last wish she got a little note from him saying simply, "Don't let Johnny miss the lions and monkeys—he and Miss Merton and you, of course, are quite welcome to the whole floor. Go in at any time."
Just to keep the child quiet she took advantage of this offer, and Johnnie introduced her to all the ins and outs of the place. In a corner of the bedroom was a zinc-lined tray with clay in it, where Johnnie played rapturously at making "making country." While he played his mother noted the quiet good taste and individuality of the place.
"It smells so clean!" she said to herself. "There! he hasn't told me yet why he doesn't smoke. I never told him I didn't like it."
Johnnie tugged at a bureau drawer. "He keeps the water in here!" he said, and before she could stop him he had out a little box with bits of looking-glass in it, which soon became lakes and rivers in his clay continent.
Mrs. Leland put them back afterward, admiring the fine quality and goodly number of garments in that drawer, and their perfect order. Her husband had been a man who made a chowder of his bureau drawers, and who expected her to find all his studs and put them in for him.
"A man like this would be no trouble at all," she thought for a moment—but then she remembered other things and set her mouth hard. "Not for mine!" she said determinedly.
By and by he came back, serene as ever, friendly and unpresuming.
"Aren't you going to tell me why you don't smoke?" she suddenly demanded of him on another quiet dusky afternoon when tea was before them.
He seemed so impersonal, almost remote, though nicer than ever to Johnny; and Mrs. Leland rather preferred the personal note in conservation.
"Why of course I am," he replied cordially. "That's easy," and he fumbled in his inner pocket.
"Is that where you keep your reasons?" she mischievously inquired.
"It's where I keep yours," he promptly answered, producing the little notebook. "Now look here—I've got these all answered—you won't be able to hold to one of 'em after this. May I sit by you and explain?"
She made room for him on the sofa amiably enough, but defied him to convince her. "Go ahead," she said cheerfully.
"First," he read off, "Previous Marriage. This is not a sufficient objection. Because you have been married you now know what to choose and what to avoid. A girl is comparatively helpless in this matter; you are armed. That your first marriage was unhappy is a reason for trying it again. It is not only that you are better able to choose, but that by the law of chances you stand to win next time. Do you admit the justice of this reasoning?"
"I don't admit anything," she said. "I'm waiting to ask you a question."
"Ask it now."
"No—I'll wait till you are all through. Do go on."
"'Second—The Boy,'" he continued. "Now Mrs. Leland, solely on the boy's account I should advise you to marry again. While he is a baby a mother is enough, but the older he grows the more he will need a father. Of course you should select a man the child could love—a man who could love the child."
"I begin to suspect you of deep double-dyed surreptitious designs, Mr. Olmstead. You know Johnnie loves you dearly. And you know I won't marry you," she hastily added.
"I'm not asking you to—now, Mrs. Leland. I did, in good faith, and I would again if I thought I had the shadow of a chance—but I'm not at present. Still, I'm quite willing to stand as an instance. Now, we might resume, on that basis. Objection one does not really hold against me—now does it?"
He looked at her cheerily, warmly, openly; and in his clean, solid strength and tactful kindness he was so unspeakably different from the dark, fascinating slender man who had become a nightmare to her youth, that she felt in her heart he was right—so far. "I won't admit a thing," she said sweetly. "But, pray go on."
He went on, unabashed. "'Second—Boy,' Now if you married me I should consider the boy as an added attraction. Indeed—if you do marry again—someone who doesn't want the boy—I wish you'd give him to me. I mean it. I think he loves me, and I think I could be of real service to the child."
He seemed almost to have forgotten her, and she watched him curiously.
"Now, to go on," he continued. "'Third-Profession.' As to your profession," said he slowly, clasping his hands over one knee and gazing at the dark soft-colored rug, "if you married me, and gave up your profession I should find it a distinct loss, I should lose my favorite actress."
She gave a little start of surprise.
"Didn't you know how much I admire your work?" he said. "I don't hang around the stage entrance—there are plenty of chappies to do that; and I don't always occupy a box and throw bouquets—I don't like a box anyhow. But I haven't missed seeing you in any part you've played yet—some of 'em I've seen a dozen times. And you're growing—you'll do better work still. It is sometimes a little weak in the love parts—seems as if you couldn't quite take it seriously—couldn't let yourself go—but you'll grow. You'll do better—I really think—after you're married "
She was rather impressed by this, but found it rather difficult to say anything; for he was not looking at her at all. He took up his notebook again with a smile.
"So—if you married me, you would be more than welcome to go on with your profession. I wouldn't stand in your way any more than I do now. 'Fourth—Freedom,'" he read slowly. "That is easy in one way—hard in another. If you married me,"—She stirred resentfully at this constant reference to their marriage; but he seemed purely hypothetical in tone; "I wouldn't interfere with your freedom any. Not of my own will. But if you ever grew to love me—or if there were children—it would make some difference. Not much. There mightn't be any children, and it isn't likely you'd ever love me enough to have that stand in your way. Otherwise than that you'd have freedom—as much as now. A little more; because if you wanted to make a foreign tour, or anything like that, I'd take care of Johnnie. 'Fifth—Lovers.'" Here he paused leaning forward with his chin in his hands, his eyes bent down. She could see the broad heavy shoulders, the smooth fit of the well-made, coat, the spotless collar, and the fine, strong, clean-cut neck. As it happened she particularly disliked the neck of the average man—either the cordy, the beefy or the adipose, and particularly liked this kind, firm and round like a Roman's, with the hair coming to a clean-cut edge and stopping there.
"As to lovers," he went on—"I hesitate a little as to what to say about that. I'm afraid I shall shock you. Perhaps I'd better leave out that one."
"As insuperable?" she mischievously asked.
"No, as too easy," he answered.
"You'd better explain," she said.
"Well then—it's simply this: as a man—I myself admire you more because so many other men admire you. I don't sympathize with them, any!—Not for a minute. Of course, if you loved any one of them you wouldn't be my wife. But if you were my wife—"
"Well?" said she, a little breathlessly. "You're very irritating! What would you do? Kill 'em all? Come—If I were your wife?—"
"If you were my wife—" he turned and faced her squarely, his deep eyes blazing steadily into hers, "In the first place the more lovers you had that you didn't love the better I'd be pleased."
"And if I did?" she dared him.
"If you were my wife," he purused with perfect quietness, "you would never love anyone else."
There was a throbbing silence.
"'Sixth—Housekeeping,'" he read.
At this she rose to her feet as if released. "Sixth and last and all-sufficient!" she burst out, giving herself a little shake as if to waken. "Final and conclusive and admitting no reply!"—I will not keep house for any man. Never! Never!! Never!!!"
"Why should you?" he said, as he had said it before; "Why not board?"
"I wouldn't board on any account!"
"But you are boarding now. Aren't you comfortable here?"
"O yes, perfectly comfortable. But this is the only boarding-house I ever saw that was comfortable."
"Why not go on as we are—if you married me?"
She laughed shrilly. "With the other boarders round them and a whole floor laid between," she parodied gaily. "No, sir! If I ever married again—and I wont—I'd want a home of my own—a whole house—and have it run as smoothly and perfectly as this does. With no more care than I have now!"
"If I could give you a whole house, like this, and run it for you as smoothly and perfectly as this one—then would you marry me?" he asked.
"O, I dare say I would," she said mockingly.
"My dear," said he, "I have kept this house—for you—for three years."
"What do you mean?" she demanded, flushingly.
"I mean that it is my business," he answered serenely. "Some men run hotels and some restaurants: I keep a number of boarding houses and make a handsome income from them. All the people are comfortable—I see to that. I planned to have you use these rooms, had the dumbwaiter run to the top so you could have meals comfortably there. You didn't much like the first housekeeper. I got one you liked better; cooks to please you, maids to please you. I have most seriously tried to make you comfortable. When you didn't like a boarder I got rid of him—or her—they are mostly all your friends now. Of course if we were married, we'd fire 'em all." His tone was perfectly calm and business like. "You should keep your special apartments on top; you should also have the floor above this, a larger bedroom, drawing-room, and bath and private parlor for you;—I'd stay right here as I am now—and when you wanted me—I'd be here."
She stiffened a little at this rather tame ending. She was stirred, uneasy, dissatisfied. She felt as if something had been offered and withdrawn; something was lacking.
"It seems such a funny business—for a man," she said.
"Any funnier than Delmonico's?" he asked. "It's a business that takes some ability—witness the many failures. It is certainly useful. And it pays—amazingly."
"I thought it was real estate," she insisted.
"It is. I'm in a real estate office. I buy and sell houses—that's how
I came to take this up!"
He rose up, calmly and methodically, walked over to the fire, and laid his notebook on it. "There wasn't any strength in any of those objections, my dear," said he. "Especially the first one. Previous marriage, indeed! You have never been married before. You are going to be—now."
It was some weeks after that marriage that she suddenly turned upon him—as suddenly as one can turn upon a person whose arms are about one—demanding.
"And why don't you smoke?—You never told me!"
"I shouldn't like to kiss you so well if you smoked!"—said he.
"I never had any idea," she ventured after a while, "that it could be—like this."
When I was a Witch
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If I had understood the terms of that one-sided contract with Satan, the Time of Witching would have lasted longer—you may be sure of that. But how was I to tell? It just happened, and has never happened again, though I've tried the same preliminaries as far as I could control them.
The thing began all of a sudden, one October midnight—the 30th, to be exact. It had been hot, really hot, all day, and was sultry and thunderous in the evening; no air stirring, and the whole house stewing with that ill-advised activity which always seems to move the steam radiator when it isn't wanted.
I was in a state of simmering rage—hot enough, even without the weather and the furnace—and I went up on the roof to cool off. A top-floor apartment has that advantage, among others—you can take a walk without the mediation of an elevator boy!
There are things enough in New York to lose one's temper over at the best of times, and on this particular day they seemed to all happen at once, and some fresh ones. The night before, cats and dogs had broken my rest, of course. My morning paper was more than usually mendacious; and my neighbor's morning paper—more visible than my own as I went down town—was more than usually salacious. My cream wasn't cream—my egg was a relic of the past. My "new" napkins were giving out.
Being a woman, I'm supposed not to swear; but when the motorman disregarded my plain signal, and grinned as he rushed by; when the subway guard waited till I was just about to step on board and then slammed the door in my face—standing behind it calmly for some minutes before the bell rang to warrant his closing—I desired to swear like a mule-driver.
At night it was worse. The way people paw one's back in the crowd! The cow-puncher who packs the people in or jerks them out—the men who smoke and spit, law or no law—the women whose saw-edged cart-wheel hats, swashing feathers and deadly pins, add so to one's comfort inside.
Well, as I said, I was in a particularly bad temper, and went up on the roof to cool off. Heavy black clouds hung low overhead, and lightning flickered threateningly here and there.
A starved, black cat stole from behind a chimney and mewed dolefully. Poor thing! She had been scalded.
The street was quiet for New York. I leaned over a little and looked up and down the long parallels of twinkling lights. A belated cab drew near, the horse so tired he could hardly hold his head up.
Then the driver, with a skill born of plenteous practice, flung out his long-lashed whip and curled it under the poor beast's belly with a stinging cut that made me shudder. The horse shuddered too, poor wretch, and jingled his harness with an effort at a trot.
I leaned over the parapet and watched that man with a spirit of unmitigated ill-will.
"I wish," said I, slowly—and I did wish it with all my heart—"that every person who strikes or otherwise hurts a horse unnecessarily, shall feel the pain intended—and the horse not feel it!"
It did me good to say it, anyhow, but I never expected any result. I saw the man swing his great whip again, and—lay on heartily. I saw him throw up his hands—heard him scream—but I never thought what the matter was, even then.
The lean, black cat, timid but trustful, rubbed against my skirt and mewed.
"Poor Kitty" I said; "poor Kitty! It is a shame!" And I thought tenderly of all the thousands of hungry, hunted cats who stink and suffer its a great city.
Later, when I tried to sleep, and up across the stillness rose the raucous shrieks of some of these same sufferers, my pity turned cold. "Any fool that will try to keep a cat in a city!" I muttered, angrily.
Another yell—a pause—an ear-torturing, continuous cry. "I wish," I burst forth, "that every cat in the city was comfortably dead!"
Things went fairly well next morning, till I tried another egg. They were expensive eggs, too.
"I can't help it!" said my sister, who keeps house.
"I know you can't," I admitted. "But somebody could help it. I wish the people who are responsible had to eat their old eggs, and never get a good one till they sold good ones!"
"They'd stop eating eggs, that's all," said my sister, "and eat meat."
"Let 'em eat meat!" I said, recklessly. "The meat is as bad as the eggs! It's so long since we've had a clean, fresh chicken that I've forgotten how they taste!"
"It's cold storage," said my sister. She is a peaceable sort; I'm not.
"Yes, cold storage!" I snapped. "It ought to be a blessing—to tide over shortages, equalize supplies, and lower prices. What does it do? Corner the market, raise prices the year round, and make all the food bad!"
My anger rose. "If there was any way of getting at them!" I cried. "The law don't touch 'em. They need to be cursed somehow! I'd like to do it! I wish the whole crowd that profit by this vicious business might taste their bad meat, their old fish, their stale milk—whatever they ate. Yes, and feel the prices as we do!"
"They couldn't you know; they're rich," said my sister.
"I know that," I admitted, sulkily. "There's no way of getting at 'em. But I wish they could. And I wish they knew how people hated 'em, and felt that, too—till they mended their ways!"
When I left for my office I saw a funny thing. A man who drove a garbage cart took his horse by the bits and jerked and wrenched brutally. I was amazed to see him clap his hands to his own jaws with a moan, while the horse philosophically licked his chops and looked at him.
The man seemed to resent his expression, and struck him on the head, only to rub his own poll and swear amazedly, looking around to see who had hit him. the horse advanced a step, stretching a hungry nose toward a garbage pail crowned with cabbage leaves, and the man, recovering his sense of proprietorship, swore at him and kicked him in the ribs. That time he had to sit down, turning pale and weak. I watched with growing wonder and delight.
A market wagon came clattering down the street; the hard-faced young ruffian fresh for his morning task. He gathered the ends of the reins and brought them down on the horse's back with a resounding thwack. The horse did not notice this at all, but the boy did. He yelled!
I came to a place where many teamsters were at work hauling dirt and crushed stone. A strange silence and peace hung over the scene where usually the sound of the lash and sight of brutal blows made me hurry by. The men were talking together a little, and seemed to be exchanging notes. It was too good to be true. I gazed and marvelled, waiting for my car.
It came, merrily running along. It was not full. There was one not far ahead, which I had missed in watching the horses; there was no other near it in the rear.
Yet the coarse-faced person in authority who ran it, went gaily by without stopping, though I stood on the track almost, and waved my umbrella.
A hot flush of rage surged to my face. "I wish you felt the blow you deserve," said I, viciously, looking after the car. "I wish you'd have to stop, and back to here, and open the door and apologize. I wish that would happen to all of you, every time you play that trick."
To my infinite amazement, that car stopped and backed till the front door was before me. The motorman opened it. holding his hand to his cheek. "Beg your pardon, madam!" he said.
I passed in, dazed, overwhelmed. Could it be? Could it possibly be that—that what I wished came true. The idea sobered me, but I dismissed it with a scornful smile. "No such luck!" said I.
Opposite me sat a person in petticoats. She was of a sort I particularly detest. No real body of bones and muscles, but the contours of grouped sausages. Complacent, gaudily dressed, heavily wigged and ratted, with powder and perfume and flowers and jewels—and a dog.
A poor, wretched, little, artificial dog—alive, but only so by virtue of man's insolence; not a real creature that God made. And the dog had clothes on—and a bracelet! His fitted jacket had a pocket—and a pocket-handkerchief! He looked sick and unhappy.
I meditated on his pitiful position, and that of all the other poor chained prisoners, leading unnatural lives of enforced celibacy, cut off from sunlight, fresh air, the use of their limbs; led forth at stated intervals by unwilling servants, to defile our streets; over-fed, under-exercised, nervous and unhealthy.
"And we say we love them!" said I, bitterly to myself. "No wonder they bark and howl and go mad. No wonder they have almost as many diseases as we do! I wish—" Here the thought I had dismissed struck me agin. "I wish that all the unhappy dogs in cities would die at once!"
I watched the sad-eyed little invalid across the car. He dropped his head and died. She never noticed it till she got off; then she made fuss enough.
The evening papers were full of it. Some sudden pestilence had struck both dogs and cats, it would appear. Red headlines struck the eye, big letters, and columns were filled out of the complaints of those who had lost their "pets," of the sudden labors of the board of health, and interviews with doctors.
All day, as I went through the office routine, the strange sense of this new power struggled with reason and common knowledge. I even tried a few furtive test "wishes"—wished that the waste basket would fall over, that the inkstand would fill itself; but they didn't.
I dismissed the idea as pure foolishness, till I saw those newspapers, and heard people telling worse stories.
One thing I decided at once—not to tell a soul. "Nobody'd believe me if I did," said I to myself. "And I won't give 'em the chance. I've scored on cats and dogs, anyhow—and horses."
As I watched the horses at work that afternoon, and thought of all their unknown sufferings from crowded city stables, bad air and insufficient food, and from the wearing strain of asphalt pavements in wet and icy weather, I decided to have another try on horses.
"I wish," said I, slowly and carefully, but with a fixed intensity of purposes, "that every horse owner, keeper, hirer and driver or rider, might feel what the horse feels, when he suffers at our hands. Feel it keenly and constantly till the case is mended."
Now I felt pretty well assured in my own mind, and kept my assurance to my self. Also I began to make a list of my cherished grudges, with a fine sense of power and pleasure.
"I must be careful," I said to myself; "very careful; and, above all things, make the punishment fit the crime."
The subway crowding came to my mind next; both the people who crowd because they have to, and the people who make them. "I mustn't punish anybody, for what they can't help," I mused. "But when it's pure meanness!" Then I bethought me of the remote stockholders, of the more immediate directors, of the painfully prominent officials and insolent employees—and got to work.
"I might as well make a good job of it while this lasts," said I to myself. "It's quite a responsibility, but lots of fun." And I wished that every person responsible for the condition of our subways might be mysteriously compelled to ride up and down in them continuously during rush hours.
This experiment I watched with keen interest, but for the life of me I could see little difference. There were a few more well-dressed persons in the crowds, that was all. So I came to the conclusion that the general public was mostly to blame, and carried their daily punishment without knowing it.
For the insolent guards and cheating ticket-sellers who give you short change, very slowly, when you are dancing on one foot and your train is there, I merely wished that they might feel the pain their victims would like to give them, short of real injury. They did, I guess.
Then I wished similar things for all manner of corporations and officials. It worked. It worked amazingly. There was a sudden conscientious revival all over the country. The dry bones rattled and sat up. Boards of directors, having troubles enough of their own, were aggravated by innumerable communications from suddenly sensitive stockholders.
In mills and mints and railroads, things began to mend. The country buzzed. The papers fattened. The churches sat up and took credit to themselves. I was incensed at this; and, after brief consideration, wished that every minister would preach to his congregation exactly what he believed and what he thought of them.
I went to six services the next Sunday—about ten minutes each, for two sessions. It was most amusing. A thousand pulpits were emptied forthwith, refilled, re-emptied, and so on, from week to week. People began to go to church; men largely—women didn't like it as well. They had always supposed the ministers thought more highly of them than now appeared to be the case.
One of my oldest grudges was against the sleeping-car people; and now I began to consider them. How often I had grinned and borne it—with other thousands—submitting helplessly.
Here is a railroad—a common carrier—and you have to use it. You pay for your transportation, a good round sum.
Then if you wish to stay in the sleeping car during the day, they charge you another two dollars and a half for the privilege of sitting there, whereas you have paid for a seat when you bought your ticket. That seat is now sold to another person—twice sold! Five dollars for twenty-four hours in a space six feet by three by three at night, and one seat by day; twenty-four of these privileges to a car—$120 a day for the rent of the car—and the passengers to pay the porter besides. That makes $44,800 a year.
Sleeping cars are expensive to build, they say. So are hotels; but they do not charge at such a rate. Now, what could I do to get even? Nothing could ever put back the dollars into the millions of pockets; but it might be stopped now, this beautiful process.
So I wished that all persons who profited by this performance might feel a shame so keen that they would make public avowal and apology, and, as partial restitution, offer their wealth to promote the cause of free railroads!
Then I remembered parrots. This was lucky, for my wrath flamed again. It was really cooling, as I tried to work out responsibility and adjust penalties. But parrots! Any person who wants to keep a parrot should go and live on an island alone with their preferred conversationalist!
There was a huge, squawky parrot right across the street from me, adding its senseless, rasping cries to the more necessary evils of other noises.
I had also an aunt with a parrot. She was a wealthy, ostentatious person, who had been an only child and inherited her money.
Uncle Joseph hated the yelling bird, but that didn't make any difference to Aunt Mathilda.
I didn't like this aunt, and wouldn't visit her, lest she think I was truckling for the sake of her money; but after I had wished this time, I called at the time set for my curse to work; and it did work with a vengeance. There sat poor Uncle Joe, looking thinner and meeker than ever; and my aunt, like an overripe plum, complacent enough.
"Let me out!" said Polly, suddenly. "Let me out to take a walk!"
"The clever thing!" said Aunt Mathilda. "He never said that before."
She let him out. Then he flapped up on the chandelier and sat among the prisms, quite safe.
"What an old pig you are, Mathilda!" said the parrot.
She started to her feet—naturally.
"Born a Pig—trained a Pig—a Pig by nature and education!" said the parrot. "Nobody'd put up with you, except for your money; unless it's this long-suffering husband of yours. He wouldn't, if he hadn't the patience of Job!"
"Hold your tongue!" screamed Aunt Mathilda. "Come down from there!
Polly cocked his head and jingled the prisms. "Sit down, Mathilda!" he said, cheerfully. "You've got to listen. You are fat and homely and selfish. You are a nuisance to everybody about you. You have got to feed me and take care of me better than ever—and you've got to listen to me when I talk. Pig!"
I visited another person with a parrot the next day. She put a cloth over his cage when I came in.
"Take it off!" said Polly. She took it off.
"Won't you come into the other room?" she asked me, nervously.
"Better stay here!" said her pet. "Sit still—sit still!"
She sat still.
"Your hair is mostly false," said pretty Poll. "And your teeth—and your outlines. You eat too much. You are lazy. You ought to exercise, and don't know enough. Better apologize to this lady for backbiting! You've got to listen."
The trade in parrots fell off from that day; they say there is no call for them. But the people who kept parrots, keep them yet—parrots live a long time.
Bores were a class of offenders against whom I had long borne undying enmity. Now I rubbed my hands and began on them, with this simple wish: That every person whom they bored should tell them the plain truth.
There is one man whom I have specially in mind. He was blackballed at a pleasant club, but continues to go there. He isn't a member—he just goes; and no one does anything to him.
It was very funny after this. He appeared that very night at a meeting, and almost every person present asked him how he came there. "You're not a member, you know," they said. "Why do you butt in? Nobody likes you."
Some were more lenient with him. "Why don't you learn to be more considerate of others, and make some real friends?" they said. "To have a few friends who do enjoy your visits ought to be pleasanter than being a public nuisance."
He disappeared from that club, anyway.
I began to feel very cocky indeed.
In the food business there was already a marked improvement; and in transportation. The hubbub of reformation waxed louder daily, urged on by the unknown sufferings of all the profiters by iniquity.
The papers thrived on all this; and as I watched the loud-voiced protestations of my pet abomination in journalism, I had a brilliant idea, literally.
Next morning I was down town early, watching the men open their papers. My abomination was shamefully popular, and never more so than this morning. Across the top was printing in gold letters:
All intentional lies, in adv., editorial, news, or any other column. .
All malicious matter. . .Crimson
All careless or ignorant mistakes. . .Pink
All for direct self-interest of owner. . .Dark green
All mere bait—to sell the paper. . .Bright green
All advertising, primary or secondary. . .Brown
All sensational and salacious matter. . .Yellow
All hired hypocrisy. . .Purple
Good fun, instruction and entertainment. . .Blue
True and necessary news and honest editorials. . .Ordinary print
You never saw such a crazy quilt of a paper. They were bought like hot cakes for some days; but the real business fell off very soon. They'd have stopped it all if they could; but the papers looked all right when they came off the press. The color scheme flamed out only to the bona-fide reader.
I let this work for about a week, to the immense joy of all the other papers; and then turned it on to them, all at once. Newspaper reading became very exciting for a little, but the trade fell off. Even newspaper editors could not keep on feeding a market like that. The blue printed and ordinary printed matter grew from column to column and page to page. Some papers—small, to be sure, but refreshing—began to appear in blue and black alone.
This kept me interested and happy for quite a while; so much so that I quite forgot to be angry at other things. There was such a change in all kinds of business, following the mere printing of truth in the newspapers. It began to appear as if we had lived in a sort of delirium—not really knowing the facts about anything. As soon as we really knew the facts, we began to behave very differently, of course.
What really brought all my enjoyment to an end was women. Being a woman, I was naturally interested in them, and could see some things more clearly than men could. I saw their real power, their real dignity, their real responsibility in the world; and then the way they dress and behave used to make me fairly frantic. 'Twas like seeing archangels playing jackstraws—or real horses only used as rocking-horses. So I determined to get after them.
How to manage it! What to hit first! Their hats, their ugly, inane, outrageous hats—that is what one thinks of first. Their silly, expensive clothes—their diddling beads and jewelry—their greedy childishness—mostly of the women provided for by rich men.
Then I thought of all the other women, the real ones, the vast majority, patiently doing the work of servants without even a servant's pay—and neglecting the noblest duties of motherhood in favor of house-service; the greatest power on earth, blind, chained, untaught, in a treadmill. I thought of what they might do, compared to what they did do, and my heart swelled with something that was far from anger.
Then I wished—with all my strength—that women, all women, might realize Womanhood at last; its power and pride and place in life; that they might see their duty as mothers of the world—to love and care for everyone alive; that they might see their dirty to men—to choose only the best, and then to bear and rear better ones; that they might see their duty as human beings, and come right out into full life and work and happiness!
I stopped, breathless, with shining eyes. I waited, trembling, for things to happen.
You see, this magic which had fallen on me was black magic—and I had wished white.
It didn't work at all, and, what was worse, it stopped all the other things that were working so nicely.
Oh, if I had only thought to wish permanence for those lovely punishments! If only I had done more while I could do it, had half appreciated my privileges when I was a Witch!
While the King Slept
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He was a young king, but an old subject, for he had been born and raised a subject, and became a king quite late in life, and unexpectedly.
When he was a subject he had admired and envied kings, and had often said to himself "If I were a king I would do this—and this." And now that he was a king he did those things. But the things he did were those which came from the envy of subjects, not from the conscience of kings.
He lived in freedom and ease and pleasure, for he did not know that kings worked; much less how their work should be done. And whatever displeased him he made laws against, that it should not be done; and whatever pleased him he made laws for, that it should be done—for he thought kings need but to say the word and their will was accomplished.
Then when the things were not done, when his laws were broken and disregarded and made naught of, he did nothing; for he had not the pride of kings, and knew only the outer showing of their power.
And in his court and his country there flourished Sly Thieves and Gay Wantons and Bold Robbers; also Poisoners and Parasites and Impostors of every degree.
And when he was very angry he slew one and another; but there were many of them, springing like toadstools, so that his land became a scorn to other kings.
He was sensitive and angry when the old kings of the old kingdoms criticized his new kingdom. "They are envious of my new kingdom;" he said; for he thought his kingdom was new, because he was new to it.
Then arose friends and counsellors, many and more, and they gave him criticism and suggestion, blame, advice, and special instructions. Some he denied and some he neglected and some he laughed at and some he would not hear.
And when the Sly Thieves and Gay Wantons and Bold Robbers and Poisoners and Parasites and Imposters of every degree waxed fat before his eyes, and made gorgeous processions with banners before him, he said, "How prosperous my country is!"
Then his friends and counsellors showed him the prisons—overflowing; and the hospitals—overflowing; and the asylums—overflowing; and the schools—with not enough room for the children; and the churches—with not enough children for the room; and the Crime Mill, into which babies were poured by the hundreds every day, and out of which criminals were poured by the hundreds every day; and the Disease Garden, where we raise all diseases and distribute them gratis.
And he said "I am tired of looking at these things, and tired of hearing about them. Why do you forever set before me that which is unpleasant?"
And they said "Because you are the king. If you choose you can turn the empty churches into free schools, teaching Heaven Building. You can gradually empty the hospitals and asylums and prisons, and destroy the Crime Mill, and obliterate the Disease Garden."
But the king said "You are dreamers and mad enthusiasts. These things are the order of nature and cannot be stopped. It was always so." For the king had been a subject all his life, and was used to submission; he knew not the work of kings, nor how to do it.
And the false counsellors and the false friends and all the lying servants who stole from the kitchens and the chambers answered falsely when he asked them, and said, "These evils are the order of nature. Your kingdom is very prosperous."
And the Sly Thieves and the Gay Wantons and the Bold Robbers and the Parasites and Poisoners and Impostors of every degree hung like leeches on the kingdom and bled it at every pore.
But the king was weary and slept.
Then the friends and counsellors went to the Queen, and called on her to learn Queen's work, and do it; for the King slept.
"It is Queen's work also," they said to her; and though she had been a subject with her husband, she was more by nature a Queen. So she fell to and learned Queen's work, and did it.
She had no patience with the Gay Wantons and Sly Thieves and Bold Robbers; and the Poisoners and the Parasites and the Impostors of every degree were a horror to her. The false friends she saw through, and the lying servants she disbelieved.
Since the king would not, she would; and when at last he woke, behold, the throne was a double one, and the kingdom smiled and rejoiced from sea to sea.
In How Little Time
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In how little time, were we so minded,
We could be wise and free—not held and blinded!
We could be hale and strong—not weak and sickly!
Could do away with wrong—and do it quickly!
Riches of earth, enough for all our keeping;
Love in the heart, awake, no longer sleeping;
Power in the hand and brain for what needs making;
Joy in the gift of power, joy in the taking!
In how little time could grow around us
A people clean and fair as life first found us!
One with the under-earth, in peaceful growing,
One with the over-soul, in doing, knowing.
Labor a joy and pride, in ease and beauty;
Art that should fill at last its human duty;
This we could make and have, were we not blinded!
In how little time—were we so minded!
A Word in Season
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"Children pick up words like pigeons peas,
And utter them again as God shall please."
When Grandma came to the breakfast table with her sour little smile and her peremptory "Good morning," every one said "good morning" as politely and pleasantly as they could, but they didn't say very much else. They attempted bravely.
"A fine morning, Mother," Papa observed, but she only answered "Too cold."
"Did you sleep well, Mother?" ventured Mama; and the reply to that was, "No, I never do!"
Then Uncle John tried—he always tried once.
"Have you heard of our new machine, Mrs. Grey? We've got one now that'll catch anything in a room—don't have to talk right into it."
Mrs. Grey looked at him coldly.
"I do not take the least interest in your talking machines, Henry, as I have told you before."
She had, many times before, but Uncle Henry never could learn the astonishing fact. He was more interested in his machines than he was in his business, by far; and spent all his spare time in tinkering with them.
"I think they are wonderful," said little Josie.
"You're my only friend, Kid! I believe you understand 'em almost as well is I do," her Uncle answered gaily; and finished his breakfast as quickly as possible.
So did everybody. It was not appetizing to have Grandma say "How you do dawdle over your meals, Louise!"
Little Josephine slipped down from her chair, with a whispered "Scuse me
Mama!" and whisked into her play room.
"How you do spoil that child!" said Grandma, and Mama closed her lips tight and looked at her husband.
"Now Mother, don't you fret about Josie," said he. "She's a good little girl and quiet as a mouse."
"Anything I can do for you downtown, Mother?"
"No thank you Joseph. I'll go to my room and be out of Louise's way."
"You're not in my way at all, Mother—won't you sit down stairs?"
Young Mrs. Grey made a brave effort to speak cordially, but old Mrs. Grey only looked injured, and said "No thank you, Louise," as she went upstairs.
Dr. Grey looked at his wife. She met his eyes steadily, cheerfully.
"I think Mother's looking better, don't you dear?" she said.
"There's nothing at all the matter with my mother—except—" he shut his mouth hard. "There are things I cannot say, Louise," he continued, "but others I can. Namely; that for sweetness and patience and gentleness you—you beat the Dutch! And I do appreciate it. One can't turn one's Mother out of the house, but I do resent her having another doctor!"
"I'd love your Mother, Joseph, if—if she was a thousand times worse!" his wife answered; and he kissed her with grateful love.
Sarah came in to clear the table presently, and Ellen stood in the pantry door to chat with her.
"Never in my life did I see any woman wid the patience of her!" said
Ellen, wiping her mouth on her apron.
"She has need of it," said Sarah. "Any Mother-in-law is a trial I've heard, but this wan is the worst. Why she must needs live with 'em I don't see—she has daughters of her own."
"Tis the daughter's husbands won't put up wid her," answered Ellen, "they havin' the say of course. This man's her son—and he has to keep her if she will stay."
"And she as rich as a Jew!" Sarah went on. "And never spendin' a cent!
And the Doctor workin' night and day!"—
Then Mama came in and this bit of conversation naturally came to an end.
A busy, quiet, sweet little woman was Mama; and small Josie flew into her arms and cuddled there most happily.
"Mama Dearest," she said, "How long is it to Christmas? Can I get my mat done for Grandma? And do you think she'll like it?"
"Well, well dear—that's three questions! It's two weeks yet to Christmas; and I think you can if you work steadily; and I hope she'll like it."
"And Mama—can I have my party?"
"I'm afraid not, dearest. You see Grandma is old, and she hates a noise and confusion—and parties are expensive. I'm sorry, childie. Can't you think of something else you want, that Mother can give you?"
"No," said the child, "I've wanted a party for three years, Mama!
Grandma just spoils everything!"
"No, no, dear—you must always love Grandma because she is dear Papa's mother; and because she is lonely and needs our love.
"We'll have a party some day, Dearest—don't feel badly. And we always have a good time together, don't we?"
They did; but just now the child's heart was set on more social pleasures, and she went sadly back to her playroom to work on that mat for Grandma.
It was a busy day. Mama's married sister came to see her, and the child was sent out of the room. Two neighbors called, and waited, chatting, some time before Mama came down.
Grandma's doctor—who was not Papa—called; and her lawyer too; and they had to wait some time for the old lady to dress as she thought fitting.
But Grandma's doctor and lawyer were very old friends, and seemed to enjoy themselves.
The minister came also, not Grandma's minister, who was old and thin and severe and wore a long white beard; but Mama's minister, who was so vigorous and cheerful, and would lift Josephine way up over his head—as if she was ten years old. But Mama sent her out of the room this time, which was a pity.
To be sure Josephine had a little secret trail from her playroom door—behind several pieces of furniture—right up to the back of the sofa where people usually sat, but she was not often interested in their conversation. She was a quiet child, busy with her own plans and ideas; playing softly by herself, with much imaginary conversation. She set up her largest doll, a majestic personage known as "The Lady Isobel," and talked to her.
"Why is my Grandma so horrid? And why do I have to love her? How can you love people—if you don't, Lady Isobel?
"Other girls' Grandmas are nice. Nelly Elder's got a lovely Grandma! She lets Nelly have parties and everything. Maybe if Grandma likes my mat she'll—be pleasanter.
"Maybe she'll go somewhere else to live—sometime. Don't you think so,
The Lady Isobel's reply, however, was not recorded.
Grandma pursued her pious way as usual, till an early bedtime relieved the family of her presence. Then Uncle Harry stopped puttering with his machines and came out to be sociable with his sister. If Papa was at home they would have a game of solo—if not, they played cribbage, or quiet.
Uncle Harry was the life of the household—when Grandma wasn't around.
"Well, Lulu," he said cheerfully, "What's the prospect? Can Joe make it?"
"No," said Mama. "It's out of the question. He could arrange about his practice easily enough but it's the money for the trip. He'll have to send his paper to be read."
"It's a shame!" said the young man, "He ought to be there. He'd do those other doctors good. Why in the name of reason don't the old lady give him the money—she could, easy enough."
"Joe never'll ask her for a cent," answered Mrs. Grey, "and it would never occur to her to give him one! Yet I think she loves him best of all her children."
"Huh! Love!" said Uncle Harry.
Grandma didn't sleep well at night. She complained of this circumstantially and at length.
"Hour after hour I hear the clock strike," she said. "Hour after hour!"
Little Josephine had heard the clock strike hour after hour one terrible night when she had an earache. She was really sorry for Grandma.
"And nothing to take up my mind," said Grandma, as if her mind was a burden to her.
But the night after this she had something to take up her mind. As a matter of fact it woke her up, as she had napped between the clock's strikings. At first she thought the servants were in her room—and realized with a start that they were speaking of her.
"Why she must live with 'em I don't see—she has daughters of her own—"
With the interest of an eavesdropper she lay still, listening, and heard no good of herself.
"How long is it to Christmas?" she presently heard her grandchild ask, and beg her mother for the "party"—still denied her.
"Grandma spoils everything!" said the clear childish voice, and the mother's gentle one urged love and patience.It was some time before the suddenly awakened old lady, in the dark, realized the source of these voices—and then she could not locate it.
"It's some joke of that young man's" she said grimly—but the joke went on.
It was Mrs. Grey's sister now, condoling with her about this mother-in-law.
"Why do you have to put up with it Louise? Won't any of her daughters have her?"
"I'm afraid they don't want her," said Louise's gentle voice. "But Joe is her son, and of course he feels that his home is his mother's. I think he is quite right. She is old, and alone—she doesn't mean to be disagreeable."
"Well, she achieves it without effort, then! A more disagreeable old lady I never saw, Louise, and I'd like nothing better than to tell her so!"
The old lady was angry, but impressed. There is a fascination in learning how others see us, even if the lesson is unpleasant. She heard the two neighbors who talked together before Mama came down, and their talk was of her—and of how they pitied young Mrs. Grey.
"If I was in her shoes," said the older of the two, "I'd pick up and travel! She's only sixty-five—and sound as a nut."
"Has she money enough?" asked the other.
"My, yes! Money to burn! She has her annuity that her father left her, and a big insurance—and house rents. She must have all of three thousand a year."
"And doesn't she pay board here?"
"Pay board! Not she. She wouldn't pay anything so long as she has a relative to live on. She's saved all her life. But nobody'll get any good of it till she's dead."
This talk stopped when their hostess entered, changing to more general themes; but the interest revived when men's voices took up the tale.
"Yes—wants her will made again. Always making and unmaking and remaking. Harmless amusement, I suppose."
"She wastes good money on both of us—and I tell her so. But one can't be expected to absolutely refuse a patient."
"Or a client!"
"No. I suppose not."
"She's not really ill then?"
"Bless you, Ruthven, I don't know a sounder old woman anywhere. All she needs is a change—and to think of something besides herself! I tell her that, too—and she says I'm so eccentric."
"Why in all decency don't her son do her doctoring?"
"I suppose he's too frank—and not quite able to speak his mind. He's a fine fellow. That paper of his will be a great feature of our convention. Shame he can't go."
"Why can't he? Can't afford it?"
"That's just it. You see the old lady don't put up—not a cent—and he has all he can do to keep the boys in college." And their conversation stopped, and Grandma heard her own voice—inviting the doctor up to her room—and making another appointment for the lawyer.
Then it was the young minister, a cheerful, brawny youth, whom she had once described as a "Godless upstart!"
He appeared to be comforting young Mrs. Grey, and commending her. "You are doing wonders," he said, as their voices came into hearing, "and not letting your right hand know it, either."
"You make far too much of it, Mr. Eagerson," the soft voice answered, "I am so happy in my children—my home—my husband. This is the only trouble—I do not complain."
"I know you don't complain, Mrs. Grey, but I want you to know that you're appreciated! 'It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a woman in a wide house'—especially if she's your mother-in-law."
"I won't allow you to speak so—if you are my minister!" said young Mrs. Grey with spirit; and the talk changed to church matters, where the little lady offered to help with time and service, and regretted that she had no money to give.
There was a silence, save for small confused noises of a day time household; distant sounds of doors and dishes; and then in a sad, confidential voice—"Why is Grandma so horrid? And why do I have to love her? How can you love people you don't, Lady Isobel?"
Grandma was really fond of quiet little Josephine, even if she did sometimes snub her as a matter of principle. She lay and listened to these strictly private remarks, and meditated upon them after they had ceased. It was a large dose, an omnibus dose, and took some time to assimilate; but the old lady had really a mind of her own, though much of it was uninhabited, and this generous burst of light set it to working.
She said nothing to anyone, but seemed to use her eyes and ears with more attention than previously, and allowed her grand-daughter's small efforts toward affection with new receptiveness. She had one talk with her daughter-in-law which left that little woman wet-eyed and smiling with pleasure, though she could not tell about it—that was requisite.
But the family in general heard nothing of any change of heart till breakfast time on Christmas morning. They sat enjoying that pleasant meal, in the usual respite before the old lady appeared, when Sarah came in with a bunch of notes and laid one at each plate, with an air of great importance.
"She said I was to leave 'em till you was all here—and here they are!" said Sarah, smiling mysteriously, "and that I was to say nothing—and I haven't!" And the red-cheeked girl folded her arms and waited—as interested as anybody.
Uncle Harry opened his first. "I bet it's a tract!" said he. But he blushed to the roots of his thick brown hair as he took out, not a tract, but a check.
"A Christmas present to my son-in-law-by-marriage; to be spent on the improvement of talking machines—if that is necessary!"
"Why bless her heart!" said he, "I call that pretty handsome, and I'll tell her so!"
Papa opened his.
"For your Convention trip, dear son," said this one, "and for a new dress suit—and a new suit case, and a new overcoat—a nice one. With Mother's love."
It was a large check, this one. Papa sat quite silent and looked at his wife. She went around the table and hugged him—she had to.
"You've got one, too, Louise," said he—and she opened it.
"For my dear daughter Louise; this—to be spent on other people; and this" (this was much bigger) "to be inexorably spent on herself—every cent of it! On her own special needs and pleasures—if she can think of any!"
Louise was simply crying—and little Josephine ran to comfort her.
"Hold on Kiddie—you haven't opened yours," said Uncle Harry; and they all eagerly waited while the child carefully opened her envelope with a clean knife, and read out solemnly and slowly, "For my darling Grand-child Josephine, to be spent by herself, for herself, with Mama's advice and assistance; and in particular to provide for her party!"
She turned over the stiff little piece of paper—hardly understanding.
"It's a check, dear," said Papa. "It's the same as money. Parties cost money, and Grandma has made you a Christmas present of your party."
The little girl's eyes grew big with joy.
"Can I?—Is there really—a party?"
"There is really a party—for my little daughter, this afternoon at four!"
"O where is Grandma!" cried the child—"I want to hug her!"
They all rose up hurriedly, but Sarah came forward from her scant pretense of retirement, with another note for Dr. Grey.
"I was to give you this last of all," she said, with an air of one fulfilling grave diplomatic responsibility.
"My dear ones," ran the note, "I have gathered from my family and friends, and from professional and spiritual advisers the idea that change is often beneficial. With this in mind I have given myself a Christmas present of a Cook's Tour around the world—and am gone. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!"
She was gone.
Sarah admitted complicity.
"Sure she would have no one know a thing—not a word!" said Sarah. "And she gave us something handsome to help her! And she's got that young widder Johnson for a companion—and they went off last night on the sleeper for New York!"
The gratitude of the family had to be spent in loving letters, and in great plans of what they would do to make Grandma happy when she came back.
No one felt more grateful than little loving Josephine, whose dearest wishes were all fulfilled. When she remembered it she went very quietly, when all were busy somewhere else, climbed up on the step ladder, and took down the forgotten phonograph from the top of the wardrobe.
"Dear Grandma!" she said. "I do hope she liked it!"
The Slow People
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Slow to anger, the People—
Patient and Dumb and Meek—
But the time is coming, coming fast,
When the People shall awake at last,
Slow to arouse, the People,
Blind to the staring Fact,
But the time is come of opening eyes,
When a wakened people shall arise,
The World belongs to the People—
The all, and not to a few—
We have no force to waste in rage,
For we have the work of a wondrous age
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I hear a deep voice through uneasy dreaming,
A deep, soft, tender, soul-beguiling voice;
A lulling voice that bids the dreams remain,
That calms my restlessness and dulls my pain,
That thrills and fills and holds me till in seeming
There is no other sound on earth— no choice.
"Home!" says the deep voice,
"Home!" and softly singing
Brings me a sense of safety unsurpassed;
So old! so old! The piles above the wave—
The shelter of the stone-blocked,
Security of sun-kissed treetops swinging—
Safety and Home at last!
"Home" says the sweet voice, and warm Comfort rises,
Holding my soul with velvet-fingered hands;
Comfort of leafy lair and lapping fur,
Soft couches, cushions, curtains, and the stir
Of easy pleasures that the body prizes,
Of soft, swift feet to serve the least commands.
I shrink— half rise— and then it murmurs "Duty!"
Again the past rolls out— a scroll unfurled;
Allegiance and long labor due my lord—
Allegiance in an idleness abhorred—
I am the squaw— the slave— the harem beauty—
I serve and serve, the handmaid of the world.
My soul rebels— but hark! a new note thrilling,
Deep, deep, past finding— I protest no more;
The voice says "Love!" and all those ages dim
Stand glorified and justified in him;
I bow— I kneel— the woman soul is willing—
"Love is the law. Be still! Obey! Adore!”
And then— ah, then! The deep voice murmurs "Mother!"
And all life answers from the primal sea;
A mingling of all lullabies; a peace
That asks no understanding; the release
Of nature's holiest power— who seeks another?
Home? Home is Mother— Mother, Home— to me.
"Home!" says the deep voice; "Home and Easy Pleasure!
Safety and Comfort, Laws of Life well kept!
Love!" and my heart rose thrilling at the word;
"Mother!" it nestled down and never stirred;
"Duty and Peace and Love beyond all measure!
Home! Safety! Comfort! Mother!"— and I slept.
A bugle call! A clear keen ringing cry
Relentless — eloquent — that found the ear
Through fold on fold of slumber, sweet, profound —
A widening wave of universal sound,
Piercing the heart — filling the utmost sky —
I wake — I must wake! Hear — for I must hear!
“The World! The World is crying! Hear its needs!
Home is a part of life — I am the whole!
Home is the cradle — shall a whole life stay
Cradled in comfort through the working day?
I too am Home — the Home of all high deeds —
The only Home to hold the human soul!
"Courage! — the front of conscious life! it cried;
"Courage that dares to die and dares to live!
Why should you prate of safety? Is life meant
In ignominious safety to be spent?
Is Home best valued as a place to hide? —
Come out, and give what you are here to give!
"Strength and Endurance! of high action born!”
And all that dream of Comfort shrank away,
Turning its fond, beguiling face aside —
So Selfishness and Luxury and Pride
Stood forth revealed, till I grew fierce with scorn,
And burned to meet the dangers of the day.
“Duty! Aye, Duty! Duty! Mark the word!”
I turned to my old standard. It was rent
From hem to hem, and through the gaping place
I saw at last its meaning and its place
I saw my undone duties to the race
Of man — neglected — spurned — how had I heard
That word and never dreamed of what it meant!
“Duty! Unlimited — eternal — new!”
And I? My idol on a petty shrine
Fell as I turned, and Cowardice and Sloth
Fell too, unmasked, false Duty covering both —
While the true Duty, all-embracing, high,
Showed the clear line of noble deeds to do.
And then the great voice rang out to the sun,
And all my terror left me, all my shame,
While every dream of joy from earliest youth
Came back and lived! — that joy unhoped was truth,
All joy, all hope, all truth, all peace grew one,
Life, opened clear, and Love? Love was its name!
So when the great word “Mother!” rang once more,
I saw at last its meaning and its place,
Not the blind passion of the brooding past,
But Mother — the World's Mother — came at last,
To love as she had never loved before
To feed and guard and teach the human race.
The world was full of music clear and high!
The world was full of light! The world was free!
And I? Awake at last, in joy untold
Saw Love and Duty broad as life unrolled —
Wide as the earth — unbounded as the sky —
Home was the World — the World was Home to me!
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IN HER soft-carpeted, thick-curtained, richly furnished chamber, Mrs. Marroner lay sobbing on the wide, soft bed.
She sobbed bitterly, chokingly, despairingly; her shoulders heaved and shook convulsively; her hands were tight-clenched; she had forgotten her elaborate dress, the more elaborate bed- cover; forgotten her dignity, her self- control, her pride. In her mind was an overwhelming, unbelievable horror, an immeasurable loss, a turbulent, struggling mass of emotion.
In her reserved, superior, Boston-bred life she had never dreamed that it would be possible for her to feel so many things at once, and with such trampling intensity.
She tried to cool her feelings into thoughts; to stiffen them into words; to control herself—and could not. It brought vaguely to her mind an awful moment in the breakers at York Beach, one summer in girlhood, when she had been swimming under water and could not find the top.
In her uncarpeted, thin-curtained, poorly furnished chamber on the top floor, Gerta Petersen lay sobbing on the narrow, hard bed.
She was of larger frame than her mistress, grandly built and strong; but all her proud young womanhood was prostrate now, convulsed with agony, dissolved in tears. She did not try to control herself. She wept for two.
If Mrs. Marroner suffered more from the wreck and ruin of a longer love—perhaps a deeper one; if her tastes were finer, her ideals loftier; if she bore the pangs of bitter jealousy and outraged pride, Gerta had personal shame to meet, a hopeless future, and a looming present which filled her with unreasoning terror.
She had come like a meek young goddess into that perfectly ordered house, strong, beautiful, full of good will and eager obedience, but ignorant and childish—a girl of eighteen.
Mr. Marroner had frankly admired her, and so had his wife. They dis- cussed her visible perfections and as visible limitations with that perfect confidence which they had so long en- joyed. Mrs. Marroner was not a jeal- ous woman. She had never been jealous in her life—till now.
Gerta had stayed and learned their ways. They had both been fond of her. Even the cook was fond of her. She was what is called "willing," was unusually teachable and plastic; and Mrs. Marroner, with her early habits of giving instruction, tried to educate her somewhat.
"I never saw anyone so docile," Mrs. Marroner had often commented. "It is perfection in a servant, but almost a defect in character. She is so helpless and confiding."
She was precisely that; a tall, rosy-cheeked baby; rich womanhood without, helpless infancy within. Her braided wealth of dead-gold hair, her grave blue eyes, her mighty shoulders, and long, firmly moulded limbs seemed those of a primal earth spirit; but she was only an ignorant child, with a child's weakness.
When Mr. Marroner had to go abroad for his firm, unwillingly, hating to leave his wife, he had told her he felt quite safe to leave her in Gerta's hands—she would take care of her.
"Be good to your mistress, Gerta," he told the girl that last morning at breakfast. "I leave her to you to take care of. I shall be back in a month at latest."
Then he turned, smiling, to his wife. "And you must take care of Gerta, too," he said. "I expect you'll have her ready for college when I get back."
This was seven months ago. Business had delayed him from week to week, from month to month. He wrote to his wife, long, loving, frequent letters; deeply regretting the delay, explaining how necessary, how profitable it was; congratulating her on the wide resources she had; her well-filled, well-balanced mind; her many interests.
"If I should be eliminated from your scheme of things, by any of those 'acts of God' mentioned on the tickets, I do not feel that you would be an utter wreck," he said. "That is very comforting to me. Your life is so rich and wide that no one loss, even a great one, would wholly cripple you. But nothing of the sort is likely to happen, and I shall be home again in three weeks— if this thing gets settled. And you will be looking so lovely, with that eager light in your eyes and the changing flush I know so well—and love so well! My dear wife! We shall have to have a new honeymoon—other moons come every month, why shouldn't the mellifluous kind?"
He often asked after "little Gerta," sometimes enclosed a picture postcard to her, joked his wife about her labori-ous efforts to educate "the child"; was so loving and merry and wise---
All this was racing through Mrs. Marroner's mind as she lay there with the broad, hemstitched border of fine linen sheeting crushed and twisted in one hand, and the other holding a sodden handkerchief.
She had tried to teach Gerta, and had grown to love the patient, sweet-natured child, in spite of her dullness. At work with her hands, she was clever, if not quick, and could keep small accounts from week to week. But to the woman who held a Ph.D., who had been on the faculty of a college, it was like baby-tending.
Perhaps having no babies of her own made her love the big child the more, though the years between them were but fifteen.
To the girl she seemed quite old, of course; and her young heart was full of grateful affection for the patient care which made her feel so much at home in this new land.
And then she had noticed a shadow on the girl's bright face. She looked nervous, anxious, worried. When the bell rang she seemed startled, and would rush hurriedly to the door. Her peals of frank laughter no longer rose from the area gate as she stood talking with the always admiring tradesmen.
Mrs. Marroner had labored long to teach her more reserve with men, and flattered herself that her words were at last effective. She suspected the girl of homesickness; which was denied. She suspected her of illness, which was denied also. At last she suspected her of something which could not be denied. For a long time she refused to believe it, waiting. Then she had to believe it, but schooled herself to patience and understanding. "The poor child," she said. "She is here without a mother—she is so foolish and yielding—I must not be too stern with her." And she tried to win the girl's confidence with wise, kind words.
But Gerta had literally thrown herself at her feet and begged her with streaming tears not to turn her away. She would admit nothing, explain nothing; but frantically promised to work for Mrs. Marroner as long as she lived—if only she would keep her.
Revolving the problem carefully in her mind, Mrs. Marroner thought she would keep her, at least for the present. She tried to repress her sense of ingratitude in one she had so sincerely tried to help, and the cold, contemptuous anger she had always felt for such weakness.
"The thing to do now," she said to herself, "is to see her through this safely. The child's life should not be hurt any more than is unavoidable. I will ask Dr. Bleet about it—what a comfort a woman doctor is! I'll stand by the poor, foolish thing till it's over, and then get her back to Sweden somehow with her baby. How they do come where they are not wanted—and don't come where they are wanted!" And Mrs. Marroner, sitting along in the quiet, spacious beauty of the house, almost envied Gerta.
Then came the deluge.
She had sent the girl out for needed air toward dark. The late mail came; she took it in herself. One letter for her—her husband's letter. She knew the postmark, the stamp, the kind of typewriting. She impulsively kissed it in the dim hall. No one would suspect Mrs. Marroner of kissing her husband's letters—but she did, often.
She looked over the others. One was for Gerta, and not from Sweden. It looked precisely like her own. This struck her as a little odd, but Mr. Marroner had several times sent messages and cards to the girl. She laid the letter on the hall table and took hers to her room.
"My poor child," it began. What letter of hers had been sad enough to warrant that?
"I am deeply concerned at the news you send." What news to so concern him had she written? "You must bear it bravely, little girl. I shall be home soon, and will take care of you, of course. I hope there is no immediate anxiety—you do not say. Here is money, in case you need it. I expect to get home in a month at latest. If you have to go, be sure to leave your address at my office. Cheer up—be brave—I will take care of you."
The letter was typewritten, which was not unusual. It was unsigned, which was unusual. It enclosed an American bill—fifty dollars. It did not seem in the least like any letter she had ever had from her husband, or any letter she could imagine him writing. But a strange, cold feeling was creeping over her, like a flood rising around a house.
She utterly refused to admit the ideas which began to bob and push about outside her mind, and to force them- selves in. Yet under the pressure of these repudiated thoughts she went downstairs and brought up the other letter—the letter to Gerta. She laid them side by side on a smooth dark space on the table; marched to the piano and played, with stern precision, refusing to think, till the girl came back. When she came in, Mrs. Marroner rose quietly and came to the table. "Here is a letter for you," she said.
The girl stepped forward eagerly, saw the two lying together there, hesitated, and looked at her mistress.
"Take yours, Gerta. Open it, please."
The girl turned frightened eyes upon her.
"I want you to read it, here," said Mrs. Marroner. "Oh, ma'am No! Please don't make me!"
There seemed to be no reason at hand, and Gerta flushed more deeply and opened her letter. It was long; it was evidently puzzling to her; it be-gan "My dear wife." She read it slowly.
"Are you sure it is your letter?" asked Mrs. Marroner. "Is not this one yours? Is not that one—mine?"
She held out the other letter to her. "It is a mistake," Mrs. Marroner went on, with a hard quietness. She had lost her social bearings somehow; lost her usual keen sense of the proper thing to do. This was not life, this was a nightmare.
"Do you not see? Your letter was put in my envelope and my letter was put in your envelope. Now we understand it." But poor Gerta had no antechamber to her mind; no trained forces to preserve order while agony entered. The thing swept over her, resistless, overwhelming. She cowered before the outraged wrath she expected; and from some hidden cavern that wrath arose and swept over her in pale flame.
"Go and pack your trunk," said Mrs. Marroner. "You will leave my house to-night. Here is your money."
She laid down the fifty-dollar bill. She put with it a month's wages. She had no shadow of pity for those anguished eyes, those tears which she heard drop on the floor.
"Go to your room and pack," said Mrs. Marroner. And Gerta, always obedient, went.
Then Mrs. Marroner went to hers, and spent a time she never counted, lying on her face on the bed.
But the training of the twenty-eight years which had elapsed before her marriage; the life at college, both as student and teacher; the independent growth which she had made, formed a very different background for grief from that in Gerta's mind.
After a while Mrs. Marroner arose. She administered to herself a hot bath, a cold shower, a vigorous rubbing. "Now I can think," she said.
First she regretted the sentence of instant banishment. She went upstairs to see if it had been carried out. Poor Gerta! The tempest of her agony had worked itself out at last as in a child, and left her sleeping, the pillow wet, the lips still grieving, a big sob shuddering itself off now and then.
Mrs. Marroner stood and watched her, and as she watched she considered the helpless sweetness of the face; the defenseless, unformed character; the docility and habit of obedience which made her so attractive—and so easily a victim. Also she thought of the mighty force which had swept over her; of the great process now working itself out through her; of how pitiful and futile seemed any resistance she might have made.
She softly returned to her own room, made up a little fire, and sat by it, ignoring her feelings now, as she had before ignored her thoughts.
Here were two women and a man. One woman was a wife; loving, trusting, affectionate. One was a servant; loving, trusting, affectionate: a young girl, an exile, a dependent; grateful for any kindness; untrained, uneducated, childish. She ought, of course, to have resisted temptation; but Mrs. Marroner was wise enough to know how difficult temptation is to recognize when it comes in the guise of friendship and from a source one does not suspect.
Gerta might have done better in resisting the grocer's clerk; had, indeed, with Mrs. Marroner's advice, resisted several. But where respect was due, how could she criticize? Where obedience was due, how could she refuse— with ignorance to hold her blinded— until too late?
As the older, wiser woman forced herself to understand and extenuate the girl's misdeed and foresee her ruined future, a new feeling rose in her heart, strong, clear, and overmastering; a sense of measureless condemnation for the man who had done this thing. He knew. He understood. He could fully foresee and measure the consequences of his act. He appreciated to the full the innocence, the ignorance, the grateful affection, the habitual docility, of which he deliberately took advantage.
Mrs. Marroner rose to icy peaks of intellectual apprehension, from which her hours of frantic pain seemed far indeed removed. He had done this thing under the same roof with her— his wife. He had not frankly loved the younger woman, broken with his wife, made a new marriage. That would have been heart-break pure and simple. This was something else.
That letter, that wretched, cold, carefully guarded, unsigned letter: that bill—far safer than a check—these did not speak of affection. Some men can love two women at one time. This was not love.
Mrs. Marroner's sense of pity and outrage for herself, the wife, now spread suddenly into a perception of pity and outrage for the girl. All that splendid, clean young beauty, the hope of a happy life, with marriage and motherhood; honorable independence, even—these were nothing to that man. For his own pleasure he had chosen to rob her of her life's best joys.
He would "take care of her" said the letter? How? In what capacity? And then, sweeping over both her feelings for herself, the wife, and Gerta, his victim, came a new flood, which literally lifted her to her feet. She rose and walked, her head held high. "This is the sin of man against woman," she said. "The offense is against womanhood. Against motherhood. Against—the child."
She stopped. The child. His child. That, too, he sacrificed and injured—doomed to degradation.
Mrs. Marroner came of stern New England stock. She was not a Calvinist, hardly even a Unitarian, but the iron of Calvinism was in her soul: of that grim faith which held that most people had to be damned "for the glory of God."
Generations of ancestors who both preached and practiced stood behind her; people whose lives had been sternly moulded to their highest moments of religious conviction. In sweeping bursts of feeling they achieved "conviction," and afterward they lived and died according to that conviction.
When Mr. Marroner reached home, a few weeks later, following his letters too soon to expect an answer to either, he saw no wife upon the pier, though he had cabled; and found the house closed darkly. He let himself in with his latch-key, and stole softly upstairs, to surprise his wife.
No wife was there.
He rang the bell. No servant answered it.
He turned up light after light; searched the house from top to bottom; it was utterly empty. The kitchen wore a clean, bald, unsympathetic aspect. He left it and slowly mounted the stair, completely dazed. The whole house was clean, in perfect order, wholly vacant.
One thing he felt perfectly sure of— she knew.
Yet was he sure? He must not assume too much. She might have been ill. She might have died. He started to his feet. No, they would have cabled him. He sat down again.
For any such change, if she had wanted him to know, she would have written. Perhaps she had, and he, returning so suddenly, had missed the letter. The thought was some comfort. It must be so. He turned to the telephone, and again hesitated. If she had found out—if she had gone—utterly gone, without a word—should he announce it himself to friends and family?
He walked the floor; he searched everywhere for some letter, some word of explanation. Again and again he went to the telephone—and always stopped. He could not bear to ask: "Do you know where my wife is?"
The harmonious, beautiful rooms reminded him in a dumb, helpless way of her; like the remote smile on the face of the dead. He put out the lights; could not bear the darkness; turned them all on again.
It was a long night---
In the morning he went early to the office. In the accumulated mail was no letter from her. No one seemed to know of anything unusual. A friend asked after his wife—"Pretty glad to see you, I guess?" He answered evasively.
About eleven a man came to see him; John Hill, her lawyer. Her cousin, too. Mr. Marroner had never liked him. He liked him less now, for Mr. Hill merely handed him a letter, remarked, "I was requested to deliver this to you personally," and departed, looking like a person who is called on to kill something offensive.
"I have gone. I will care for Gerta. Good-bye. Marion."
That was all. There was no date, no address, no postmark; nothing but that. In his anxiety and distress he had fairly forgotten Gerta and all that. Her name aroused in him a sense of rage. She had come between him and his wife. She had taken his wife from him. That was the way he felt.
At first he said nothing, did nothing; lived on alone in his house, taking meals where he chose. When people asked him about his wife he said she was traveling—for her health. He would not have it in the newspapers. Then, as time passed, as no enlightenment came to him, he resolved not to bear it any longer, and employed detectives. They blamed him for not having put them on the track earlier, but set to work, urged to the utmost secrecy.
What to him had been so blank a wall of mystery seemed not to embarrass them in the least. They made careful inquiries as to her “past,” found where she had studied, where taught, and on what lines; that she had some little money of her own, that her doctor was Josephine L. Bleet, M.D., and many other bits of information.
As a result of careful and prolonged work, they ﬁnally told him that she had resumed teaching under one of her old professors; lived quietly, and apparently kept boarders; giving him town, street, and number, as if it were a matter of no difficulty whatever.
He had returned in early spring. It was autumn before he found her.
A quiet college town in the hills, a broad, shady street, a pleasant house standing in its own lawn, with trees and ﬂowers about it. He had the address in his hand, and the number showed clear on the white gate. He walked up the straight gravel path and rang the bell. An elderly servant opened the door.
“Does Mrs. Marroner live here?”
“This is number twenty-eight?”
“Yes, sir.” “Who does live here?”
“Miss Wheeling, sir.”
Ah! Her maiden name. They had told him, but he had forgotten.
He stepped inside. “I would like to see her,” he said.
He was ushered into a still parlor, cool and sweet with the scent of ﬂowers, the ﬂowers she had always loved best. It almost brought tears to his eyes. All their years of happiness rose in his mind again; the exquisite beginnings; the days of eager longing be- fore she was really his; the deep, still beauty of her love.
Surely she would forgive him—she must forgive him. He would humble himself ; he would tell her of his honest remorse—his absolute determination to be a different man.
Through the wide doorway there came in to him two women. One like a tall Madonna, bearing a baby in her arms.
Marion, calm, steady, deﬁnitely impersonal; nothing but a clear pallor to hint of inner stress.
Gerta, holding the child as a bulwark, with a new intelligence in her face, and her blue, adoring eyes ﬁxed on her friend—not upon him.
He looked from one to the other dumbly.
And the woman who had been his wife asked quietly: “What have you to say to us?”
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O hurry, People, hurry!
You are missing all the show!
The great green earth a spinning,
The midnight skies aglow,
The whirl of circling seasons,
The dance of flying days,
The scented shadowy forests,
The still blue water ways,
The meadows white like snow!
The meadows red and gold with flowers—
O hurry, People, hurry!
You are missing all the show.
Why are you waiting, People?
Leave your flat walls arid floors—
There's room for everybody;
It's simply all outdoors!
There's time for everybody
To have three months to play;
We needn't work the hours we do,
We needn't work that way;
We can arrange a whole new game
And show our children how—
Why are you waiting, People?
Why don't you do it now?
Making a Change
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"W A-A-A-A! Waa-a-a-aaa!" Frank Gordins set down his coffee cup so hard that it spilled over into the saucer.
"Is there no way to stop that child crying?" he demanded.
"I do not know of any," said his wife, so definitely and politely that the words seemed cut off by machinery.
"I do," said his mother with even more definiteness, but less politeness.
Young Mrs. Gordins looked at her mother-in-law from under her delicate level brows, and said nothing. But the weary lines about her eyes deepened; she had been kept awake nearly all night, and for many nights.
So had he. So, as a matter of fact, had his mother. She had not the care of the baby—but lay awake wishing she had.
"There's no need at all for that child's crying so, Frank. If Julia would only let me---"
"It's no use talking about it," said Julia. "If Frank is not satisfied with the child's mother he must say so—perhaps we can make a change."
This was ominously gentle. Julia's nerves were at the breaking point. Upon her tired ears, her sensitive mother's heart, the grating wail from the next room fell like a lash—burnt in like fire. Her ears were hypersensitive, always. She had been an ardent musician before her marriage, and had taught quite successfully on both piano and violin. To any mother a child's cry is painful; to a musical mother it is torment.
But if her ears were sensitive, so was her conscience. If her nerves were weak her pride was strong. The child was her child, it was her duty to take care of it, and take care of it she would. She spent her days in unremitting devotion to its needs, and to the care of her neat flat; and her nights had long since ceased to refresh her.
Again the weary cry rose to a wail. "It does seem to be time for a change of treatment," suggested the older woman acidly.
"Or a change of residence," offered the younger, in a deadly quiet voice. "Well, by Jupiter! There'll be a change of some kind, and p. d. q.!" said the son and husband, rising to his feet.
His mother rose also, and left the room, holding her head high and refusing to show any effects of that last thrust.
Frank Gordins glared at his wife. His nerves were raw, too. It does not benefit any one in health or character to be continuously deprived of sleep. Some enlightened persons use that deprivation as a form of torture.
She stirred her coffee with mechanical calm, her eyes sullenly bent on her plate. "I will not stand having Mother spoken to like that," he stated with decision. "I will not stand having her interfere with my methods of bringing up children."
"Your methods! Why, Julia, my mother knows more about taking care of babies than you'll ever learn! She has the real love of it—and the practical experience. Why can't you let her take care of the kid—and we'll all have some peace!"
She lifted her eyes and looked at him; deep inscrutable wells of angry light. He had not the faintest appreciation of her state of mind. When people say they are "nearly crazy" from weariness, they state a practical fact. The old phrase which describes reason as "tottering on her throne," is also a clear one. Julia was more near the verge of complete disaster than the family dreamed. The conditions were so simple, so usual, so inevitable.
Here was Frank Gordins, well brought up, the only son of a very capable and idolatrously affectionate mother. He had fallen deeply and desperately in love with the exalted beauty and fine mind of the young music teacher, and his mother had approved. She too loved music and admired beauty.
Her tiny store in the savings bank did not allow of a separate home, and Julia had cordially welcomed her to share in their household.
Here was affection, propriety and peace. Here was a noble devotion on the part of the young wife, who so worshipped her husband that she used to wish she had been the greatest musician on earth—that she might give it up for him! She had given up her music, perforce, for many months, and missed it more than she knew.
She bent her mind to the decoration and artistic management of their little apartment, finding her standards difficult to maintain by the ever-changing inefficiency of her help. The musical temperament does not always include patience; nor, necessarily, the power of management.
When the baby came her heart overflowed with utter devotion and thankfulness; she was his wife—the mother of his child. Her happiness lifted and pushed within till she longed more than ever for her music for the free pouring current of expression, to give forth her love and pride and happiness. She had not the gift of words.
So now she looked at her husband, dumbly, while wild visions of separation, of secret flight—even of self-destruction—swung dizzily across her mental vision. All she said was "All right, Frank. We'll make a change. And you shall have—some peace."
"Thank goodness for that, Jule! You do look tired, Girlie—let Mother see to His Nibs, and try to get a nap, can't you?"
"Yes," she said. "Yes I think I will." Her voice had a peculiar note in it. If Frank had been an alienist, or even a general physician, he would have noticed it. But his work lay in electric coils, in dynamos and copper wiring—not in woman's nerves—and he did not notice it. He kissed her and went out, throwing back his shoulders and drawing a long breath of relief as he left the house be- hind him and entered his own world.
"This being married—and bringing up children—is not what it's cracked up to be." That was the feeling in the back of his mind. But it did not find full admission, much less expression.
When a friend asked him, "All well at home?" he said, "Yes, thank you—pretty fair. Kid cries a good deal—but that's natural, I suppose."
He dismissed the whole matter from his mind and bent his faculties to a man's task—how he can earn enough to support a wife, a mother, and a son. At home his mother sat in her small room, looking out of the window at the ground glass one just across the "well," and thinking hard.
By the disorderly little breakfast table his wife remained motionless, her chin in her hands, her big eyes staring at nothing, trying to formulate in her weary mind some reliable reason why she should not do what she was thinking of doing. But her mind was too exhausted to serve her properly.
Sleep—Sleep—Sleep—that was the one thing she wanted. Then his mother could take care of the baby all she wanted to, and Frank could have some peace Oh, dear! It was time for the child's bath.
She gave it to him mechanically. On the stroke of the hour she prepared the sterilized milk, and arranged the little one comfortably with his bottle. He snuggled down, enjoying it, while she stood watching him.
She emptied the tub, put the bath apron to dry, picked up all the towels and sponges and varied appurtenances of the elaborate performance of bathing the first-born, and then sat staring straight before her, more weary than ever, but growing inwardly determined.
Greta had cleared the table, with heavy heels and hands, and was now rattling dishes in the kitchen. At every slam the young mother winced, and when the girl's high voice began a sort of doleful chant over her work, young Mrs. Gordins rose to her feet with a shiver, and made her decision.
She carefully picked up the child and his bottle, and carried him to his grandmother's room.
"Would you mind looking after Albert?" she asked in a flat, quiet voice; "I think I'll try to get some sleep."
"Oh, I shall be delighted," replied her mother-in-law. She said it in a tone of cold politeness, but Julia did not notice. She laid the child on the bed and stood looking at him in the same dull way for a little while, then went out without another word.
Mrs. Gordins, senior, sat watching the baby for some long moments. "He's a perfectly lovely child!" she said softly, gloating over his rosy beauty. "There's not a thing the matter with him! It's just her absurd ideas. She's so irregular with him! To think of letting that child cry for an hour! He is nervous because she is. And of course she couldn't feed him till after his bath—of course not!" She continued in these sarcastic meditations for some time, taking the empty bottle away from the small wet mouth, that sucked on for a few moments aimlessly, and then was quiet in sleep.
"I could take care of him so that he'd never cry!" she continued to herself, rocking slowly back and forth. "And I could take care of twenty like him—and enjoy it! I believe I'll go off somewhere and do it. Give Julia a rest. Change of residence, indeed!"
She rocked and planned, pleased to have her grandson with her, even while asleep.
Greta had gone out on some errand of her own. The rooms were very quiet. Suddenly the old lady held up her head and sniffed. She rose swiftly to her feet and sprang to the gas jet—no, it was shut off tightly. She went back to the dining-room—all right there.
"That foolish girl has left the range going and it's blown out!" she thought, and went to the kitchen. No, the little room was fresh and clean; every burner turned off.
"Funny! It must come in from the hall." She opened the door. No, the hall gave only its usual odor of diffused basement. Then the parlor—nothing there. The little alcove called by the renting agent "the music room," where Julia's closed piano and violin case stood dumb and dusty—nothing there.
"It's in her room—and she's asleep!" said Mrs. Gordins, senior; and she tried to open the door. It was locked. She knocked—there was no answer; knocked louder—shook it—rattled the knob. No answer.
Then Mrs. Gordins thought quickly. "It may be an accident, and nobody must know. Frank mustn't know. . I'm glad Greta's out. I must get in somehow!" She looked at the transom, and the stout rod Frank had himself put up for the portieres Julia loved.
"I believe I can do it, at a pinch."
She was a remarkably active woman of her years, but no memory of earlier gymnastic feats could quite cover the exercise. She hastily brought the step-ladder. From its top she could see in, and what she saw made her determine recklessly. Grabbing the pole with small strong hands, she thrust her light frame bravely through the opening, turning clumsily but successfully, and dropping breathlessly and somewhat bruised to the floor, she flew to open the windows and doors. When Julia opened her eyes she found loving arms around her, and wise, tender words to soothe and reassure.
"Don't say a thing, dearie—I understand. I understand I tell you! Oh, my dear girl—my precious daughter! We haven't been half good enough to you, Frank and I! But cheer up now—I've got the loveliest plan to tell you about! We are going to make a change! Listen now!"
And while the pale young mother lay quiet, petted and waited on to her heart's content, great plans were discussed and decided on.
Frank Gordins was pleased when the baby "outgrew his crying spells." He spoke of it to his wife.
"Yes," she said sweetly. "He has better care."
"I knew you'd learn," said he, proudly.
"I have!" she agreed. "I've learned— ever so much!"
He was pleased too, vastly pleased, to have her health improve rapidly and steadily, the delicate pink come back to her cheeks, the soft light to her eyes; and when she made music for him in the evening, soft music, with shut doors—not to waken Albert—he felt as if his days of courtship had come again.
Greta the hammer-footed had gone, and an amazing French matron who came in by the day had taken her place. He asked no questions as to this person's peculiarities, and did not know that she did the purchasing and planned the meals, meals of such new delicacy and careful variance as gave him much de- light. Neither did he know that her wages were greater than her predecessors. He turned over the same sum weekly, and did not pursue details.
He was pleased also that his mother seemed to have taken a new lease of life. She was so cheerful and brisk, so full of little jokes and stories—as he had known her in his boyhood; and above all she was so free and affectionate with Julia, that he was more than pleased.
"I tell you what it is!" he said to a bachelor friend. "You fellows don't know what you're missing!" And he brought one of them home to dinner—just to show him.
"Do you do all that on thirty-five a week ?" his friend demanded.
"That's about it," he answered proudly. "Well, your wife's a wonderful man- ager—that's all I can say. And you've got the best cook I ever saw, or heard of, or ate of—I suppose I might say—for five dollars."
Mr. Gordins was pleased and proud. But he was neither pleased nor proud when someone said to him, with displeasing frankness, "I shouldn't think you'd want your wife to be giving music lessons, Frank!"
He hid not show surprise nor anger to his friend, but saved it for his wife. So surprised and so angry was he that he did a most unusual thing—he left his business and went home early in the afternoon. He opened the door of his flat. There was no one in it. He went through every room. No wife; no child; no mother; no servant.
The elevator boy heard him banging about, opening and shutting doors, and grinned happily. When Mr. Gordins came out Charles volunteered some information.
"Young Mrs. Gordins is out, Sir; but old Mrs. Gordins and the baby—they're upstairs. On the roof, I think."
Mr. Gordins went to the roof. There he found his mother, a smiling, cheerful nursemaid, and fifteen happy babies. Mrs. Gordins, seuior, rose to the occasion promptly.
"Welcome to my baby garden, Frank, she said cheerfully. "I'm so glad you could get off in time to see it."
She took his arm and led him about, proudly exhibiting her sunny roof-garden, her sand-pile, and big, shallow, zinc-lined pool; her flowers and vines, her see-saws, swings, and floor mattresses.
"You see how happy they are," she said. "Celia can manage very well for a few moments." And then she exhib- ited to him the whole upper flat, turned into a convenient place for many little ones to take their naps or to play in if the weather was bad.
"Where's Julia?" he demanded first. "Julia will be in presently," she told him, "by five o'clock anyway. And the mothers come for the babies by then, too. I have them from nine or ten to five."
He was silent, both angry and hurt. "We didn't tell you at first, my dear boy, because we knew you wouldn't like it, and we wanted to make sure it would go well. I rent the upper flat, you see— it is forty dollars a month, same as ours—and pay Celia five dollars a week, and pay Dr. Holbrook downstairs the same for looking over my little ones every day. She helped me to get them, too. The mothers pay me three dollars a week each, and don't have to keep a nursemaid. And I pay ten dollars a week board to Julia, and still have about ten of my own."
"And she gives music lessons?"
"Yes, she gives music lessons, just as she used to. She loves it, you know. You mut have noticed how happy and well she is now—haven't you? And so am I. And so is Albert. You can't feel very badly about a thing that makes us all happy, can you?"
Just then Julia came in, radiant from a brisk walk, fresh and cheery, a big bunch of violets at her breast.
"Oh, Mother," she cried, "I've got tickets and we'll all go to hear Melba— if we can get Celia to come in for the evening."
She saw her husband, and a guilty flush rose to her brow as she met his reproachful eyes. "Oh, Frank!" she begged, her arms around his neck. "Please don't mind! Please get used to it! Please be proud of us! Just think, we're all so happy, and we earn about a hundred dollars a week—all of us together. You see I have Mother's ten to add to the house money, and twenty or more of my own!" They had a long talk together that evening, just the two of them. She told him, at last, what a danger had hung over them—how near it came.
"And Mother showed me the way out, Frank. The way to have my mind again—and not lose you! She is a different woman herself now that she has her heart and hands full of babies. Albert does enjoy it so! And you've en- joyed it—till you found it out!
"And dear—my own love—I don't mind it now at all! I love my home, I love my work, I love my mother, I love you. And as to children—I wish I had six!"
He looked at her flushed, eager, lovely face, and drew her close to him.
"If it makes all of you as happy as that," he said, "I guess I can stand it."
And in after years he was heard to remark, "This being married and bringing up children is as easy as can be— when you learn how!"
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SUDDENLY, and without warning, there fell upon the world a calamity unparalleled. As strange chemicals seek out and destroy certain alien cells among our tissues, without injuring the organism, so on the mind of humanity was worked a spell and also on that frozen mass of brain stuff we call books. A night of blind stress and turmoil, dread nightmare and rending dreams, gave way to the strange daylight of a disordered world.
Women woke and turned to touch their husbands, with a sense of terror and uncertainty, for in their minds were wide blank spaces, and what remained strayed disconnected.
Men sat barefoot on the bed's edge, their hands to their foreheads, groping for something that had gone. Their memories were as a puzzle picture of which most of the pieces are lost. Only young children showed no change, their fresh minds happily discharged of the least loved part of their scant contents.
The cities buzzed with blind excitement, depleted libraries yawned bookless, save for the department of science, a few works of fiction, humor and scattered poems. The halls of records were empty; deeds and mortgages had disappeared; securities, stocks, bonds, all the paper representatives of fortune were gone completely. Not only were they gone from sight, but from the mind. From the world without and the world within had utterly vanished The Past.
Save, indeed, the practical knowledge of our accumulated years, and its visible fruits. All that we had learned of science, of biology and chemistry, astronomy and physics, with an anthropology and ethnology that stopped before history began; with physical geography, but not political;—these remained in the printed page and the stored knowledge within.
Also there remained the work of our hands, so far as it was serviceable to mankind, but all the mighty munitions of war, the forts, armories and battleships, were obliterated from the world. But the fruits of all our long-grown crafts and trades remained, things builded and moulded and woven and spun, and the knowledge and skill to continue them. And of the works of art, some remained, those most true and vital, but many had vanished. Yet there lived the soul of the artist, his love and his power, and the craft of his hand. So that every workman knew his trade, and the world's necessary functions were not destroyed.
Now the human mind rose like a freed bird, and soared gaily, for it was lightended of the Burden of Time, yet retained all its intelligence, new powered. Then was this mind of man full of strange vigor, lifting and stretching itself in easy freedom, relieved of all prejudice, all superstition, all ancient dogma and tradition, all past history and economics and turned full and fair upon the Facts of Life To-day. And it saw all about it such marks of waste and folly that it was amazed, and such swift and easy means of making all go well that it sprang to its task rejoicing.
Then all the neighboring races of the world—and each race is neighbor to the next—found themselves annoyed and hindered in their undertakings by the Barriers of Speech. "It is evident," they said, jumping the blank ages from pre-historic ethnology to the conditions about them, "that peoples have diverged, and established themselves separately during many years. But how could they have matained[sic] separate languages when it caused so much trouble in their business?" For the business of the world went on, the real business whereby food was distributed, and clothing made and children taught, and people carried hither and thither, and new truths discovered and made public, and beauty given to the world.
And the neighboring races, having nothing in their minds against one another, and no record of any previous quarrel, found themselves to be all people together, the People of the Earth. And they rapidly established a common language, and used it, and their exchange of commodities increased, and they served one another by reason of their diversities in natural products and in gifts.
Nevertheless, many persons were thrown out of employment; all those who had lived backward, burrowing into the past, learning and teaching always of that which used to be—these found themselves with blank minds and empty hands, and were forthwith compelled to learn new matter of available use. Also those whose position in the world had rested solely on their ancestors, found themselves now footless and roofless, existing without reason or excuse, having no merit nor stand- ing whatsoever. And of nations, also, those which had lived by exhibiting ruins, and boasting of what their forbears had accomplished, now found themselves as much at sea as the daughter of a hundred nothings. They were in the world, and must needs make good, with their own hands and brains, so they fell to work forthwith, their eyes fixed perforce upon the future.
But the greatest hardship fell on that large class of helpless persons whose knowledge and skill was of no use to any one, and who had lived heretofore only by virtue of those Paper Representatives of Fortune, which were utterly gone. As all knowledge of them was gone also, these persons were eyed askance by the others, who considered curiously why such had been kept alive in fine raiment: and they themselves, having now untrammeled minds, marveled at their own existence. These must now do something for others in order to induce others to serve them, and as their capacity was small, so was their reward.
But the glory of the new day came to that vast bulk of the world, in whose minds had been little of this knowledge of the past, save indeed in its worst part. Race prejudice they had felt, class prejudice, sex prejudice and all the world old limitations of the ancient religions.
In their minds was no longer one of those old barriers, in their hands was the skill which keeps the world alive, and in their hearts the love which grows by service. These were now free, as an Atlas, erect, the world lightly carried upon one arm, and their work was recognized as the basis of all our life, so that they were honored and rewarded highly.
Then all those whose eyes were on the future, all Seers, Teachers and Builders of a Better Day, rose up like giants refreshed, and poured forth the light that was in them. And men said, "Why not?" for all those things which had blinded them and held them back were gone from the world.
So they applied the full strength of the human intellect to the practical problem of life untrammeled by the mistakes of many dead men, and met with no real difficulties, the obstacles which had hindered the world so long were gone. So that there arose a new art, rich and wide, and literature was re-born, coming forth with glad breaths, as one released from beneath a mile-deep mountain of rubbish. And the critics were unable to criticise, for there were no standards.
Then rose the massive intellect of China, supplied itself in five years' time with the working knowledge of science and mechanics, freed its crippled women, and found the natural reverence of the male for the female shone forth anew when the Load of a Thousand Lies was lifted from it. With their intelligence, their industry and their enormous wealth of natural resources, they set their millions at a glorious task, re-soiling and re-foresting their long prostituted land. And the rivers ran clear and steady through singing groves in green fields, and China's Sorrow became a Living Joy.
Also their women, free and wise, said: "This land has been choked with people. Now the number of the people is for us to say. There shall be only enough for health and happiness and prosperity in all the land."
And all the women in the world, free, proud, strong, saw with new eyes the duty of women, and re-populated the earth with a clean people, holding their numbers within reason.
And all over the world, the mind of man turned to the thought of God, as it does by nature. And being free from the Load of a Thousand Lies they sought and found, knowing God at work and gladly doing the Work of God.
Mary Button’s Principles
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MARY was a quiet little woman, plain as a mouse, and as bright-eyed. Her mouth was small, with a patient, submissive droop, but those who knew her best saw firmness in the gentle lines. She was diminutive in size, not brilliant in intellect, yet with a patient, plodding, accurate mind which worked steadily on to its own conclusions. When these conclusions were reached they stayed. Some- times it took Mary several years to make up her mind about a thing, but it was a well-made mind when done.
No one knew that she was a timid person, for she had long since made up that mind of hers to the effect that cowardice was a sin. When a thing was right to do, it had to be done—that was all. Personal terror was no more important than personal dislike. But all her friends and neighbors knew that she was a person of tremendous propriety. The slight, short figure would loom and stiffen ominously when the faintest in- discretion was alluded to. No one should so much as speak of evil in the presence of Mary Button; not while her feet could carry her elsewhere, and her straight, uncompromising little back leave behind it a sense of cold reproof.
She lived, with her small son, in a frail little wood-and-paper cottage in the middle of an orange grove; not a big, dark- green, luxuriant orange grove, thick-dotted with heavy Washington Navels, sixty cents a dozen where they grew; but a small, sparse-leaved, ill-irrigated orange grove, speckled with little seedy fruit for which twenty-five cents was a distant hope to the owner. Still, they were oranges; their blossoms filled the soft, moon-glorious nights with sweetness; and when ripe and fresh they were good to eat. They colored the dry, brown soil agreeably when they fell; lying in little glowing pools under the trees, and they knocked softly on the low roof of the cottage when the wind was strong enough to lift them, which was not often.
The owner of grove and cottage, and landlord of Mary Button, was a good man, albeit poor, plucked successively by many clever "boomers" till this one lot was his sole remaining source of in- come. The orange crop, such as it was, he had sold on the trees, to a small purchaser—an elderly man, evidently of the commoner sort, who was now engaged in picking.
Mary Button sat on her rose-shadowed porch and watched him. Being practical and kindly-disposed toward her fellow-men, she saw that the man's efforts to reach the oranges were slow and only partially effectual, even though she had lent him her step-ladder, so she further offered the little boy's rake, a useful addition. And as she watched, she wished Mr. Button was at home. The man was perfectly respectful, but then----
When supper-time drew near the work was not finished; about a fifth of the trees remained unpicked. The picker came toward her, rubbing the "black scale" from his hands, and looking care-worn and worried.
"I'd like t' ask yer, ma'am," he said, "if I might put up my horse in your barn and sleep on the porch here—y' see I've got a few trees left—'n' I live nine miles off, 'n' I hate t' drive clear home and back tomorrer mornin' just for them few."
Mrs. Button hesitated. She was quite alone there with the child, her husband having had to go back to Maine to settle up his father's small estate. She was timid by nature, and the thought of this strange man on her little porch all night alarmed her. But far worse than terror was the thought of what the neighbors would say. In all her prim and spotless life she had never done a thing which could lay her open to just criticism—nor to any criticism, in fact—unless to that of being "too particular."
"I won't make no trouble," said the man. "It would be a great accommodation." He was a grizzled, heavy person, evidently honest and sincere in his re- quest. He looked tired, too, and so did the horse.
She thought of that nine miles of sandy road in the Californian sun; of the man's day lost; it irked her New England soul to allow waste of time and labor like that. It was quite evident that he was a poor man, too, and that he asked the favor in a self-respecting, neighborly fashion. But to have a man, a strange man, there over night—and her husband away—how could she! The horse moved uneasily and the man went to water him.
Mrs. Button thought hard, for her principles were tugging at the leash. "Give unto him that asketh thee," she heard in her ears. Here was a chance to do a human creature a practical service. It was a good act—not a wrong one. He would do her no harm. Her timidity was no excuse; neither was the pitiful dread of Mrs. Grundy; if it was the right thing to do that was all there was to it!
She remembered other hard places when her principles had made her brave in the very face of terror. There was the time in her girlhood when Fanny Moulder came and taxed her with offence.
"I have heard," said Fanny, with deep feeling, "that you said I was a liar! Now you didn't, did you?"
Mary had sat grasping the arms of her chair. Fanny was a liar—everybody knew it; Mary had said so, in the confidence of private friendship—a confidence visibly misplaced. But how could she own it to Fanny's face!
"You didn't say so, did you?" pursued the injured one.
And Mary, small and pale and mouse-eyed, hung to the arms of her chair and answered: "I did!"
The visitor was nonplussed; she had not dreamed that the thing would be admitted. She sparred for wind.
"But—but—you don't believe it! You don't mean to say you think so, do you?"
Mary's small finger nails were red and white and she was shivering, but she answered: "Yes—I do!"
It cost her Fanny's friendship, which was no great loss, to be sure, but it left her stronger for the efforts of later years. There had been more than one occasion when it took all the strength she had to live up to those convictions of hers; but she had never failed yet— should she now!
The man approached uncertainly, and she rose to the occasion.
"The barn is not mine," she said. "It belongs to Mrs. Anderson, next door, but I think she would be willing to have you use it—you can ask her. And you can sleep on the porch if you like—or in that back kitchen."
There was a little lean-to at the back of the frail cottage and a lounge she could put out there. Yes, that was the Christian thing to do. She would speak to Mrs. Anderson about it—it would be all right.
"Thank you, ma'am," said the man. "It's a real accommodation." He made a toilet at the hydrant outside while Mrs. Button prepared supper. Little Jack came in, his small feet muddy with clean soil and water, his bright eyes, so like his mother's, shining beadily on the stranger.
"Who is he, mother?" he demanded in a loud, childish whisper. "Sh! dear—sh! He's the man that's bought the oranges, and he asked to stay over night."
"Where will he sleep, mother?"
"Out here, dear—we can move the lounge out—this is my little boy, Jack, Mr.-----?"
"Peck is my name," said the man. "Josiah Peck." He had washed a fine clean space on his face and neck; his hair was brushed as well as he could do it with his fingers; and if his manners were not of the best neither were they offensive. He accepted the hospitality of her table quite as naturally as he would have offered his own in like case.
Jack watched him solemnly:
"What will you do with the oranges?" he demanded.
"Sell 'em," Mr. Peck replied. "I couldn't eat 'em all, you see, could I?"
After supper Mrs. Button tried her best to get him out of the house for awhile, for Mrs. Anderson was coming in the evening to do some work with her for the church fair, but he was not to be stirred. Places of amusement he seemed to think wicked, the Young Men's Christian Association had no charms for him; he sat around heavily while Mrs. Button washed the dishes, read to Jacky and put him to bed. Then he took hold of one end of the lounge and helped her move it out to the little lean-to.
"If anything should scare ye in the night, don't ye be afraid to call on me, ma'am," he said.
She thanked him, not expressing the feeling so strong within her that she thought he must see it—that he was the only thing she was afraid of. Mrs. Anderson came in presently, and praised both her benevolence and her courage.
"I do admire your spunk!" she said. "Ain't you afraid?"
"Well, yes, I am afraid some," said Mrs. Button, always truthful. "But it seemed the right thing to do. He's a poor man, evidently, and honest—it's all right."
"Well, if he does anything, you holler!" advised her friend. "Lucky I'm so near."
They spent a busy evening, Mrs. Button doing all she could to keep her friend as long as possible, but she had to go home at last. It was only a step across the ploughed ground under the orange trees, but after she had gone Mary But- ton sat awhile on that little porch of hers, feeling as remote and helpless as if on a desert island. Should she go to bed at all?
The air was heavy with the fragrance of the roses—the Lady Banksias on the roof, the big La France bush just before the door, the drooping Saffranos overhead. It was still and soft and clear—one of the year-round perfect nights of California.
Little Jack was asleep there in the big bed. He tossed a little and murmured a sleepy "Mother!" She rose determinedly" "If a thing's right to do, it's all right," she said to herself, and went to bed.
Nothing happened. The still hours went by. The rose-shadows played on the floor. Jacky's soft breathing was regular at her side. Farther off she could hear another breathing, not soft, not regular, but growing heavier and heavier till it rose to incredibly loud snores, and then collapsed into temporary silence.
The little house was only of thin boards, papered. She had nothing between her and that undesired guest but two. frail doors. She had turned down the little catch over the latch on the outside one, but what was that—if he should try to get in? Every time the snoring ceased she was alarmed again, thinking he was awake—he might get up—what should she do if she heard him move?
The righteous little woman slept poorly that night and rose with only a high sense of duty done to comfort her. He was up betimes; she heard him about outside when the small soft cloudlets overhead were yet pink with the dawn. He had his oranges picked by the time breakfast was ready, and again came to the hydrant and made his ablutions with conscientious care. Mrs. Anderson had seen him early, and had run across to extend congratulations.
"Didn't bite you, did he?" she said. "Looks like a perfectly nice man."
"Oh, yes—he's all right, of course. Won't you stay to breakfast?"
No, she had to go back to her own breakfast—and went, while Jacky climbed up into his high chair and regarded the man with amiability now, as an established fact, almost a member of the family.
He ate heartily, as before, appreciating Mrs. Button's excellent cookery to the full. As he stirred his second cup of coffee, his orange crop all picked, and the day yet before him, he seemed more at ease, even disposed to conversation.
"Where is your husband now?" he asked, not with any sense of inquisition, but by way of a friendly remark.
"In Maine," said Mrs. Button. The man dropped his spoon, and looked at her. His heavy, tanned face almost paled, and an expression of overwhelming reproach came over it .
"Well!" said he, with decision, still gazing on her as one misled, "if I'd 'a' known that, nothing in the would would have indooced[sic] me to stay here!"
And he did not stay longer, but drove hastily away, even forgetting to give back Jacky's rake.
Improving on Nature
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MOTHER NATURE had been dozing. She had worked very hard and brought up most of her children, until Man, the youngest, had learned to walk and to feed himself; and then the old lady thought she could safely take a nap.
She dozed and dozed, while a few thousands of years flitted by, and finally woke up with a start.
There was quite a noise going on. Man, it appeared, had grown somewhat; indeed, he imagined he was really grown up, and had been managing things to suit himself for a long time.
He made a good deal of the noise himself but that never would have awakened Mother Nature; all the large he-creatures made a noise; she was used to that.
This was different; it was something she had never heard before since any- thing could squeak; it was a sort of screaming sound, made by the woman.
"Dear me! Dear me!" said Mother Nature, gazing about her in surprise. "Well, I never did!" And she never had; no other of her females had ever cried for help.
"Goodness me!" said the old lady in rising anger. "Come here at once and tell me what it's all about."
Then Man came readily enough and explained to her that his female was behaving in an abominable and unheard-of manner, and that he should really have to be severe with her if she did not cease.
"What's she trying to do?" asked Mother Nature.
"She's trying to be a man!" he protested, "and it's against nature."
"It is indeed!" said the old lady. "I never heard of such goings-on in all the millions of years I've been doing business. Where is she? Why doesn't she speak for herself?"
Then Man exhibited with fond pride the female of the species, and she was a plump, pink little person; hobbled, stilted, and profusely decorated, she approached Mother Nature, and that aged parent laughed till she cried and then laughed again.
"Why are you so little?" she demanded.
"He likes us that way," answered the female. "He would only marry the little ones."
"And why are you so weak?"
"He likes us that way. He keeps us shut up in houses and tied up in clothes, and says it isn't proper for us to do anything to develop strength, and he only marries the weak ones."
"And why are you so meek?" "He likes us that way. He says it is proper for us to be meek, and improper for us even to use strong language— much more strong action. He only marries the meek ones."
"And what on earth are you doing with all these tail-feathers? Don't you know that tail-feathers and manes and crests and wattles and all those decorative appendages are masculine sex characteristics?"
"He likes us that way; he only marries the decorated ones." "I never heard such talk!" said Mother Nature. "What business has he to do the choosing? That is your place, my dear, and has been since you was a cirriped. Picks out the little weak timid ones, does he? And what does he inherit then?"
"He is as you see him," replied the female. And Mother Nature looked at him and shook her head sadly.
"This is what comes of neglecting one's business," said she. "Now, look here, Man! Why have you done this?" Then Man began to explain to Mother Nature how much better he understood this business than she did.
"You see it is all in a nut-shell," said he. "She is a female, and that's all there is to it!"
"Oho!" said she. "You call that a female, do you!"
"Certainly it is a female!" said he. "And the female must be small and weak and foolish and timid and inefficient— because she is a female. That," said he, pompously, "is the Law of Nature!"
Mother Nature flushed up to her eternal hair.
"You dare!" she said. You dare to call that a Law of Nature! Look here, son!" Then she hastily summoned be-fore him a few of her females; and he saw the careful female cirriped with a few microscopic parasitic males tucked away in the crevices of her person; and the terrible female mantis, tearing her persevering little lover limb from limb; and the economical female spider, eating up her little husband; and the watchful female bee, only using one among a swarm of would-be mates, and that one dying when his mission was accomplished; while all the rest died without accomplishing anything.
She showed him the female eagle and osprey and hawk, larger and stronger than their males; and the female stork and swan and swallow—migrating their long sky-miles beside their mates.
She showed him the female cat, defending her young against their greedy father; the female fox and wolf and bear; leopard and tiger and lion—as fierce, as clever, as skilful and ravenous as their wild mates.
"Now, then, young man!" she said, still sputtering with rage. "You that are so conversant with the Laws of Nature! Be so kind as to pick me out a female to suit your definition—'small and weak and timid and foolish and inefficient!' And if these don't suit you, just name one that does—and I'll send for her!"
And the great lean lioness stretched out a heavy paw at him; the tigress opened her red jaws at him; the vixen sniffed dislainfully at him; even the little mantis sat up tall and twiddled her mandibles at him.
And Man clung rather closely to the skirts of Mother Nature, and admitted that these did not seem to agree with his ideas of females.
"But mine is higher!" he said, and held himself erect with renewed pride. "She is finer and nobler. She is sacred to maternity!"
Mother Nature looked at him dubiously, and then at the weak-legged toddling thing in the hobble-skirt.
"That a sacred mother?" she demanded. "Does she bear many strong children, easily, successfully?"
Man admitted that she had but a few and that he had to help her as a physician."
"Hm!" said Mother Nature. "Your super-mother has to have assistance to begin with. Does she suckle her children successfully?"
Man admitted that he had to help her, as a manufacturer of infant foods.
"Hm!" said Mother Nature. "Does she provide food, shelter, defence, for her children—like these others?"
Man admitted that he did all this himself; he had to—she was so busy.
"Hm!" said Mother Nature. "Does she teach them all that is needed to carry on the race?"
Man admitted that so far he had invented and managed education.
"Hm!" said Mother Nature. "Will you explain to me wherein this pretty pet of yours is a better mother than her ancestors?"
But while he hesitated she lifted her head and listened.
"Look here!" she said to him. "I still hear that noise. This isn't the one that was screaming!"
"No, indeed!" said the high-heeled pet. "I wanted to tell you that. I don't complain. I have all these decorations, and nothing much to do, and no children to speak of. My weakness is my power, you see. At least I know on which side my bread is buttered!"
But Mother Nature swept her aside. "You wretched little travesty!" she said. "You weak little imitation of a parasitic he-cirriped and a peacock! Out of my way—let me see the real ones!"
And she stood up and looked far and wide at the female of the human race. She called to her a tall, lean, savage African woman; a sturdy, straight- backed woman of the hill-tribes of India, bearing great stones upon her head; a vigorous, big-armed German peasant woman; a free-limbed athletic English woman; a swift, agile, competent western woman from America; and all of these were big and strong and brave and wise and efficient.
"Are these females?" she demanded of him. And he perceived that each one of them had her children with her, so he could not deny it.
"Where is the child of your pet?" asked Mother Nature. "Has she it there behind her?" But all the pet had behind her was a little yapping dog on a string; and she burst into tears.
Then Man was enraged, that Nature should dare to find fault with the work of his hands. He held up his head in pride.
"I love my pet," he said. "I made her like this. I prefer her like this. By careful selection and education I have made the kind of woman I like."
"I see," said Mother Nature thoughtfully. "With all nature behind you for example, and all womanhood around you for illustration, you deliberately chose to evolve this work of art! It shows, my son, how utterly unfit you are to do the choosing."
The Mother Nature turned to the women who were making the noise.
"Come, come, children," said she, "you do not have to make all this fuss. Develop your brains and muscles; earn your own livings; be bought by no man; and choose the kind with which you wish to replenish the earth. He has created the kind of woman he liked—and a pretty poor job he's made of it. Now do you resume your natural function of choosing—and make the kind of man you like—that is your especial duty to the race.
But the man raised a fearful outcry. "This is an outrage against nature!" he cried. "Is not this the woman that God gave me? Is not this my female?"
"Tut, tut, son!" said Mother Nature, now quite calm again, and even a little sorry for him since he was about to lose his pet. "I can't say about that donation, but I do know that she is not your female—you are her male! Go study your biology!"
And Nature began to pay attention to business again, rather regretting her nap.
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Beautiful, healthy bodies, smoothly and broadly efficient; days of full exercise; the special work which they did for social service, and the free play of mind and muscle with which they personally refreshed themselves; pure and delicious food, hungrily eaten; association and entertainment; then sleep. Early sleep, because daylight was beloved, and darkness also, for rest and growth; long quiet hours of sleep, sound, dreamless, perfect.
To all their minds, from childhood, had been given the picture of the round earth whirling softly between light and darkness; and, as it whirled, the glowing wave of light that rolled forever over its fair face. Out of the darkness and into the light it rose forever; softly out of the light and into the darkness it dipped again. The darkness was welcomed with soft acceptance, tired eyes closing; weary limbs relaxing; blessed sleep affectionately received; but the returning light brought consciousness, and consciousness, to humanity, was joy.
As the east turned from gray to rose, and from rose to saffron; even as the birds stirred, twittering; so stirred the myriad sleepers, smiling, as they woke to life again, in the new day.
Clear of conscience and rested utterly; in pure health and vigor; for a few delicious moments they lay, wakening, feeling the wave of consciousness rise through them as the wave of light rose round the turning world. From a myriad starlit beds they rose, on a myriad sky-kissed roofs; plunged in clear pools with joyous laughter; dried their tossed hair and fastened their light robes, before the sun was born. Then from those roofs, all up and down the world along the border of the dawn, held in one harmony by that long wave of rolling light, soft music rose as the gold rim grew brighter: music of welcome, of glad hope and new-born power, of pouring, feeding, building love that gloried in its doing; music that arched across the hemisphere as did the daybreak; that marched from kindling land to land as marched the sun; that broke in waves of glorious sound as that great sun rose round and splendid on the rejoicing world.
Music and light, health, hope and joy, forever blended, forever rolling round the waking world.
A Dream of Gold
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(This is a "nonsense" sestina, done in alternate lines by C. P. G. and a friend, M. A. L., and quite too good to be lost.)
He sat alone, encumbered with his gold,
Alone beside the border of the lake,
And far across the water's shimmering bed
He saw a Lady in a little boat,
A Lady lovely as a Summer dream,
Dreamed in the depths of a mild full-mooned night.
The Lady waited till the middle night,
For she had fell designs upon his gold,
And meant to linger till he fell to dream,
Sleeping beside the border of the lake,
And then she planned to leave the little boat
And roll him down into a watery bed.
Little she recked of how that beauteous bed
Would claim her too while the unhappy night
Looked down to see the drifting oarless boat,
The drifting moonlight on the piles of gold,
The drifting shadows on the level lake,
And all as vague and silent as a dream.
Soft stole she to him, noiseless as a dream,
But he rose up upon his glittering bed,
And sat there like a lily on a lake,
And asked her if she'd like to spend the night
In sitting there by him to count his gold
Better than floating broadcast in a boat.
She answered him that she preferred the boat,
And begged him not to interrupt her dream,
Stating that she had only thought of gold
When tossing wearily upon her bed
In indigestive watches of the night,
There in her lonely bower beside the lake.
But he maintained she ought to like the lake,
And softly beckoned her into the boat,
And drowned her in the middle of the night,
And then returned to dimly drowse and dream
There on the margin in his shining bed
All lit and glimmering with plenteous gold.
Sweet is much gold and sweet a lovely lake,
Better a lady in her bed than boat,
And the best dreams are those that fly by night.
A March for Women
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Long! Long! Long were the years of bondage.
Dark! Dark! So weary, dull and blind;
Bright with promise now the hour.
Day of freedom! Day of power!
Day of larger motherhood,
Mother of mankind!
Hand in hand! No more beneath a master!
Side by side! No more an idle toy!
Man and woman standing free,
Newer, nobler love may see,
Strong in true equality,
Liberty and joy!
Wake! Wake! Wake to the work before you!
Rise! Rise! Rise to the toil to-day!
Brain and body, heart and soul,
Strain to win the splendid goal!
Stand together humanly,
Show the world the way!
Now! Now! Now is the day of freedom!
Free! Free! Free to be strong and brave!
Not for liberty alone,
Not for pleasure of our own,
Free to guard and feed the world!
Free to serve and save!
The Model Home
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I HAVE been often asked to give my idea of a model home.
It is a small, beautiful, simple house, in a fair garden. One's private grass is almost as necessary as one's private room—a home of sunlight and starlight and sweet air. In the home is a separate room or two for each member of the family, and one or more gathering rooms; meeting the twin needs of human life, union and privacy. The house is supplied with perfect plumbing, with plenty of conveniences for bathing for all the inmates, thus minimizing labor.
The beauty of the home is first in its own proportion, color, and decoration— a house one would make a picture of with delight; or sit in a shaded garden seat and look at—because it was beautiful. There would be very little cloth in the home. Cloth is animal or vegetable tissue, dead, and gradually adding dust to the air. Smooth surfaces, made soft by color, and rich with noble decoration, would satisfy the eyes; and a system of of exhaust sweeping would make it antiseptically clean.
Each bedroom would express the nature and tastes of the occupants, and its own main purpose of rest and retirement; and the common rooms have that large, simple beauty necessary to the happiness of a mixed group. The main effect of this home, to a visitor, would be its distinct expression of the family there living; to the inhabitants it would be to each an intimate personal expression and a common joy. Here young lovers would find their shelter and separateness; here baby souls would learn the rudiments of life in peace and concord; here the aged would have that quiet, that aloofness, that enjoyment of long habit, they so need; here friends would be welcome. Sounds rather vacant, does it? Nothing going on; what would they do in such a home?
Do? Rest and recuperate for the day's work, to be sure—what is home for? Enjoy their own close companionship apart from the rest of the world—the sweet, primal, restful family ties which are so essential a part of life. Invite their own chosen friends to share that aloofness. All that belongs to the physical basis of life; all the close, tender, original ties; these have their place in the home. Perfect fitness, ease, comfort, quiet, privacy, rest; and all sweet family affection and intimacy—these would be ours in such a home—what more do you want?
As to what they would do there—rise in the morning vigorous and happy, dress perfectly for what tasks lay before them; go out gaily and perform those tasks; come back for seclusion and rest and reassumption of family ties. And in the hours of absence?—I am talking of a model home,—not of a model world. But the babies—the children—where would they be? Asleep in their own rooms, or awake in the common rooms or the garden, while at home. And where would they be when not at home?
In school; baby garden, kindergarten, school and college "models," too, while we are at it. And the mother, the wife, where is she? At home with her family while her family is at home. And where else? In the "model world" I am not describing. But—but—where is the housework? There isn't any, to speak of. The exhaust company sucks out the dust as often as necessary, skilful cleaners do what more is wanted when desired. There are not so many "things" to wait on in the model home.
But the dining-room—the kitchen! As to the kitchen, that has no place in a model home. If the family prefer to eat at home, the food comes up on a dumb waiter and the dishes return on it.
From where? To where? From the Food Supply Company which any civilized village would maintain; with its system of underground connections by which all the common needs of the separate homes were supplied—a finished network of conducts for all pipes, wires, and regular transference of food; running to each home from the street mains; all underground, noiseless, safe, clean, easy to keep in repair. Above, your truly private home, your private garden, your clean, smooth, tree-shaded street, never torn up but once.
Then the woman would have nothing to do at home? She would have as much to do as the man—no more.
It would be their home. They would take the same pleasure in planning and arranging and adorning it as they do now —with better results. They would have each other's society there, and that of the children. They would have everything people have now in a home except care, worry, labor, noise, dirt, interruption, confusion, waste, intrusion, discord and disease. I admit that takes a good deal out. There would be very little left in some of our homes if all that were gone.
But the model home would replace them with ease and relaxation, peace, rest, quiet, purity, privacy, simplicity, economy, harmony and health.
"Well," says my reader, dubiously, "that's all very pretty, but I don't like it. It doesn't sound natural."
True. We haven't got it yet. But we shall like it when we have it.
Now if the reader, vaguely conscious of a lack, missing so much of what she has always considered home life, asks where is all the interest, the effort, the ambition, the love and pride, that we now centre in the home; the answer is simple and beautiful.
With home an easy, restful place, no tax at all upon our minds and hearts, but just pure comfort and recuperation, we could then turn all the power we now spend there, and all the tenfold more power we should have with nobler homes, upon the world we live in. Interest, effort, ambition, love and pride—all these gladly poured forth to make the smallest village and the largest city as satisfying and developing as we now seek to make our homes.
Remember that we now waste in our homes two-thirds of the money spent there, and almost half the productive labor of the world, to say nothing of the anxious love and care with which we try to "save at the spigot and spend at the bunghole." We seek to make home happy and to keep people there—but people live in the world, which is far from happy, and that great neglected world reacts with cruel injury on all our struggling homes.
"The model home," will give us time and strength and wealth, clear minds and overflowing hearts with which to hasten on the making of a model world.
With a Difference
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THIS story begins like any story—but it doesn't end that way.
We will begin and run along on the lines so sadly familiar, lines that fairly shine from constant use, like street-car rails. Now we are off: Dora Holcomb was the idolized daughter of an honest workman and Jennie, his wife. She was their eldest, their first-born, a winsome, light-hearted child, whom they had hoped to educate with the best in the land. The two other children were also beloved, but Dora was the light of their eyes, and the center of their deepest pride.
Hard times had descended upon them however. Nat Holcomb was discharged from the position he had filled so long and faithfully, which he had fondly assumed would be his so long as he could work—and he was not yet fifty.
There followed a year of hardship, increased by illness, till all their little hoard was gone, and Dora must give up her hopes of college, even of a business college, and go to work.
Her parents suffered more than she in the change, for they dreaded for her the shocks and dangers of the rude world. She had been reared like a sheltered flower. No thought of evil had entered her young mind, and they had hoped, when the time was ripe, to give her, unsullied as a child, to some noble, loving man.
But Dora was brave and generous-hearted. "You have done so much for me," she said. "Now I must help you. My little sisters must go to school; we will give them a longer start in life. Cheer up, dear father—I know the work you have now is not what you would choose, but we will be thankful for it— and what I can earn will help us to live comfortably."
They dreaded for her the exposure of selling goods in the great shops; her father still tried to protect his child. But she found a position in a cap factory and worked cheerfully for long hours while her mother toiled at home, a smaller home now, to cook their meals and make their clothes and keep all clean and sweet for her beloved ones.
Then came danger, a danger that the child-hearted Dora had never even imagined. She was seen, as she came out from her work with the flock of crowding, chattering girls, seen and noted with an appraising eye, by one of those monsters in human form who prey upon young girls. Theirs is not the comparatively limited villainy of a more directly brutal past, the stunning blow of the cave man, or even the lying promises of the old-fashioned seducer, who won young hearts only to break and leave them.
This modern mercantile villain was worse than his prototypes; the ruin of innocent girls, to him, was not only pleasure but business.
With one of his companions in iniquity he planned the surest approach to a romantic young heart. While his partner followed and annoyed the girl on her way home, up stepped the heroic rescuer, knocked down the insulter, courteously lifted his hat to the frightened girl, and apologized for intruding, but begged to be allowed to see her safe to her door.
He was an attractive fellow, tall and good-looking, well-dressed and pleasant mannered. He saw her more and more frequently and presently surprised her one evening by showing her two tickets to the theater.
"Come on," he urged. "Let's go—it's only once—and we'll have a fine time." "My father never'd let me," she argued. "I know he won't—I'm sorry." His face fell. "Couldn't you do it— just for the fun—he won't be mad afterwards. If you'll let me, I'll come and see you at your home—but these are for to-night, you see. Oh, come on— run out to post a letter or something— or just stay over from work—we'll get supper somewhere."
Because she knew no evil and believed her friend was good, she consented. A little poor finery to add to her dress was smuggled to the factory; they had a hasty little supper, with nothing in his manner to alarm her, and a delightful evening at the theater.
Then he urged a bite afterwards. Might as well be hung for an old sheep as a lamb, he said—he'd make it all right with father when he took her home.
She was excited, happy, unwilling to displease him, and he took her to a gay little restaurant where the lights and flowers and music and pretty dresses made her young head swim enough without the wine he urged upon her. No—she would not drink it—she never had— she never would, she knew it was wrong.
"All right," he agreed, politely, "then we'll have some grapejuice." And he gave the order to the waiter with a side-long wink she did not see.
Neither did she see his hand hover over her glass while he called her attention to the rich headdress of a tall lady behind her.
"Now a little fizzy water and some sugar—to make it taste good. Though what a girl wants of more sugar I cannot see," he added with cheerful compliment. "Here's to your father and mother—and may they let you off easy!" The sophisticated reader now follows with hopeless sympathy the pathetic tragedy which followed.
Drowsy and but half-conscious he helped her to a taxi, and led her unresisting, not into her parent's home, but his, to the apartment he occupied with whatever temporary companion or victim he chose.
* * * * * *
When the wretched girl awoke next day she found herself alone in a strange place. Slowly her drugged brain began to work, slowly the situation dawned upon her. Innocent as was her mind, she had read in stories vague hints of a fate like this—and so by the light of fiction there suddenly burst upon her the awful Fact! She was ruined!
To see the blind terror, the agony of mind, the awful heaped-up sense of Shame, that now fell upon poor Dora would have melted any heart able to realize it. This poor child suffered alone, and above all else, almost, was the sharp pang of disappointment in her lover— for she had so supposed him.
Hastily crushing her hat over her disordered hair, she stole to the door— it was locked. To another door—she heard there heavy breathing and shrank back. To the window—it was high up, but it opened on a fire-escape, and with a little gasping prayer she slipped softly out and felt her way down those long ladders to the short drop to the sidewalk. She was free—free to-do what—to go where? With the instinct of a hurt animal—of a sorrowing child—she fled to her home. Only her mother was there to receive her—the little ones had gone to school—the father still searching for her.
With a glad cry her mother took her to her arms, and the poor girl wept in that warm embrace as she had done in all her childish sorrows. Slowly, tenderly, with unbelieving horror, the wretched mother drew from her that dreadful story, and grasped its horror far more fully than the child in her arms. Her face turned gray, her tears ran down on the bright hair of her child, but she held her the closer.
Only woman can sympathize with another in trouble like this.
Suddenly the father bursts in. He has heard nothing—found nothing. He sees his daughter—sees her mother's face— sees the harsh truth.
But he demands it from her own lips. All his grief and anxiety but add to his anger. In spite of her tears, her frantic appeals for forgiveness, her childish, foolish: "I will be good, father—I'll never do it again"—he tells her to leave his home forever.
The broken-hearted mother pleads in vain. He towers above them both. "No!" he thunders. "My home is poor, but it is clean. I have other children to protect from such as this—Out of my house!" he storms—and puts her out.
* * * * * *
There—that is the old story—so far. Farther it leads the poor girl down the steps that grow steeper and narrower till she slips helpless into the abyss. The same old story.
But in this story something happened. Witchcraft—revelations—inspiration—call it what you like; but this is what happened, in this story.
The mother went swiftly to the door he had slammed and brought her sobbing daughter back.
"You listen to me, Nat Holcomb," she remarked calmly. "This is my child, as much as yours—and considerably more, if you count mothering. This is my home as much as yours—even according to law. You can't turn me out at your will and pleasure, and I don't believe you can a minor child.
"This is my home and my child, and she stays here—with me. Where else on earth will she be safe now?
"Isn't it enough that that miserable villain has taken advantage of this poor innocent child and brought this shame upon her, without you should kick her out to absolute disgrace?
"It's your own pride, Nat Holcomb, you know it is. As for the other children, I can tell you who'll watch over 'em and guard 'em like a mother—and that's this sister of theirs. She's learned something—she'll help me to keep them safe.
"You'll know how to take care of yourself now, dearie, and others, too, won't you? Perhaps this'll make a stronger woman of you in the end.
"Come here, you poor lamb. We'll get you another job somewhere else. You keep your tongue still about this. We'll wait and see what happens, and help you bear it, whatever it is."
* * * * * *
The daughter stood still, breathing more quietly. She dried her eyes, lifted them, faced her father.
"What have I done—really done— that you should cast me off like this?" she said. "Remember that you and mother never told me a word about any such awful danger as this.—I didn't know it was there. I knew you were very strict about my speaking to strangers, or anything like that—but I didn't know why. If I had—if you had told me of the kind of world I had to live in, if you had told me that there were that kind of men in the world—and the way they worked to trap young girls—then I'd have known what to look out for. But all I knew was that young men might be lovers—and might not. And this one was so nice—" She choked a little, but steadied herself again. "I can see now the kind of a brute he was, and you needn't tell me to be ashamed of having trusted him.
"But mind you, father, I did not do anything I thought was wrong—except just taking one evening's pleasure without telling you. Of course that was wrong—but it wasn't a big enough sin for you to turn me out of doors for, surely. Why, if I had come back all right last night, you would have scolded me, of course, and I'd have been awfully sorry for worrying you so, but you would have forgiven your naughty girl. "Now what has happened, dreadful as it is, is not my fault. I was drugged, taken advantage of when I was helpless. I didn't even drink the wine he offered —I had heard that wine was dangerous —but I never was told men would do things like that.
"But surely, father, what has happened is a hideous misfortune—not a sin. And even if you call it sin—why should you punish me like this? If you turn me out that will not help me to be good, will it? It seems to me that the sin is on the other side, and that instead of being angry with me, an ignorant young girl, upon whom has fallen this awful misfortune, you might turn your anger upon the man who has injured me. Surely there must be some law against doing things like that.
"I needn't say I'm sorry. I've got all my life to be sorry in! All my hope, all my happiness, all I could look forward to as a woman—gone in one night —because I was a little foolish, and because I was not taught what I needed to know."
* * * * * *
Then the father saw a great light. Said he to his wife:
"My dear, I am ashamed of myself. To think that I should have ignored the claim of motherhood. Of course, this is your home, dear heart—always, and this is your child—always.
"Daughter, come here. Forgive me for adding to your awful sorrow my unreasonable fury. I see now that it was pure selfishness and pride. I wasn't thinking of you at all—only of myself— of my self-elected code of masculine honor. Why a man feels that his daughter is a—a sort of ornament and crown of glory, and if anything happens to her —to spoil the glory—he feels himself insulted. It was my honor I was thinking of, dear child—not yours. "
You are quite right about your fault. You were foolish—and that was because we had not taught you wisdom. You were disobedient because we had not shown you the real terrors around you. If we had taught you properly this would never have happened.
"Why, my dear—we should have told you plainly that as soon as a girl has passed babyhood, almost, she is in danger. We should have told you that men are a sort of natural enemy to girls —always surrounding them with temptations to commit some little folly which will result in a lifelong ruin—for the girl, and no harm at all to the young man. We should have told you how they wait for working-girls at the door of the shop or the factory, of all their devices to make acquaintance—and what they are for. That rescue trick is one of the commonest—I knew it well enough—but I never told you. I knew more than your mother—for I know what men are. Of course it's not all men—I don't mean to say that, but so many of 'em that the world is not safe for girls, hardly anywhere."
* * * * * *
"But father," urges the girl, listening fascinated. "If it is so common—so awful—so cruelly unfair, if the wise and strong take advantage of the ignorant and weak—with such a terrible penalty for the victim—why doesn't anybody stop it? Isn't it against the law?"
"The law, my poor child, is made by men," her father sadly replies. "And so far they have not seen the necessity for being very thorough in this matter. But if you will take me to where this young man lives, and point him out to me, I will see what I can do—temporarily."
Temporarily, Mr. Holcomb succeeded in altering the map of the young gentleman's face, so as to injure his vanity permanently. The law, however, refused to believe the girl's story, and there was no other evidence.
The girl survived her sorrow, grew older in her own home, the chief comfort of her parents and the best instructor and guardian of her sisters. No man married her because his honor was putatively involved in her early disgrace, but she led a long, strong, useful life, happy in the large happiness of teaching and shielding young girls, and working for a permanent enlightenment of all of us, such as had miraculously fallen upon her family.
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TWO women rocked slowly in the large splint chairs on a breezy corner of the hotel piazza. One sat as if she grew there, as if a rocking-chair were her natural habitat, as if she passed her life occupying rocking-chairs, merely eating and sleeping in the necessary intervals between one sitting and the next; as if, without a rocking-chair, she lacked explanation, missing it as a sailor his ship, or a cowboy his horse.
The other looked comfortable enough, and rocked appreciatively, but her air and her garments suggested other seats: desk-chairs, parlor-car chairs, and no chairs at all—long erect standing, brisk continued walking. There was about her even a subtle suggestion of one running easily, and this in spite of pleasant relaxation, such as one sees in the lines of a sleeping hound.
Mrs. Edgar Maxwell, she of the soul affinity to rocking-chairs, was daintily engaged with some bright fancy work, a graceful wildrose wreath on a large linen centerpiece. Her white fingers were dexterously busy, but her eyes were placid pools of contentment.
Her sister, Irma Russell, did nothing. Her vigorous supple hands were quiet, though carrying their clear suggestion of active power, but her eyes were vividly alive.
They talked freely, with increasing intimacy, with a clear view of two long empty stretches of verandah, and neither of them thought that the closed slats of the long green-blinded window beside them concealed a conscienceless novelist. They did not know he was in the hotel, as indeed he intended no one should. He was only waiting over a day to meet a friend, and carefully avoiding the crowds of female admirers, toward whom decent courtesy and business principles compelled some politeness when unes-capable.
The term "conscienceless" is perhaps too severe to describe him; he had an artistic conscience, deep, broad, accurate, relentless, but refused to be bound by the standards of most people.
Mrs. Maxwell held her work off from her approving eyes, and drew a happy little sigh of admiration. Her glance dwelt briefly on the green slopes and blue heights about them, then long and tenderly on her boy and girl, playing tennis with the other young folks in the near distance.
"Oh, Irma!" she said. "If only you were as happy as I am!"
"How do you know I'm not. You haven't seen me for twenty years, you know. Do I look unhappy?"
"Oh, no! I think you look wonderfully well, and you have certainly done well out there."
"Out there" was California. It seemed the end of the earth to Mrs. Maxwell.
Irma smiled. "You are a dear girl— you always were, Elsie. It's a treat to see you. We haven't had a chance at a good talk for all this while—about half our lives. Pitch in now—tell me about your happiness."
Elsie laid down her work for a moment and looked lovingly at her sister. "You always were—different," she said. "I remember just as well how we used to talk—just girls! And now we're both forty and over—and here we are together again. But I've nothing to tell—that you don't know."
"I know the facts, of course," her sister agreed. "You wrote me of your engagement, sent wedding cards and baby-cards, and all—and photographs of everybody. But you never were much of a letter-writer—you always did talk better than you wrote, Elsie. What I want you to talk about is first your happiness—and, second, your superiority."
"My superiority! Why, Irma! What do you mean?"
"Just a little air of 'Poor Irma' I detect about you—that's all. I'm perfectly well; I'm doing nicely with my prunes and apricots; I want to know why you think you're happier than I am.
Elsie met the affectionate quizzical gray eyes with the peaceful conviction of her own soft blue ones. "You certainly know that, Irma. You've seen Hugh—and the children."
"Yes, I've seen Hugh and the children —they are dears—I cheerfully agree to that. But what I want is the story of your life. Come—I've been a day at your house and here a week, getting acquainted all over again—and this is the first clear safe quiet time we've had together. You're just as sweet as ever, and I love to see you so contented— you haven't changed a bit, for all your 'Hugh and the children.'"
"There isn't anything to tell, Irma, but what you know. Hugh came the year you left. It helped me not to miss you so cruelly. We couldn't marry for some time—he had to save, and I waited. But I was glad to—I'd have waited till now for Hugh. . . . Then we had to struggle along for a good while—you knew that, too, and often helped, bless you! The children came pretty soon— and then we lost little Bobby . . . and the dear baby that never even lived to be named." The blue eyes filled, but she looked at the gay young tennis players again and turned bravely back to her sister. "There was waiting, and work, and going without—there always has been a lot of planning and some sacrifices, of course. But there has been love, always, and the blessed children . . . even the grief—we had together. . . . It is life, Irma, it is living—and if I seem to say, 'Poor Irma!'—which I deny, it is only on that account. A woman who hasn't married, who isn't a mother—I don't care how successful she is—she hasn't lived."
"I see," said Irma, somewhat drily. "I thought as much. I wanted you to say it, that's all. And now will you answer me a few questions. How do you spend your time?"
"My time?" Elsie looked at her perplexedly. "Spend my time? Why, as any woman does."
"Yes, but specify, please—what do you dot Hour by hour—what does your day mean to you?" The conscienceless novelist behind the green slats had been half dozing on the little hard sofa in the corner, and carrying on a half-hearted skirmish with the rudiments of ordinary people's principles. Now he trampled on those principles, kicked them out entirely, drew forth a worn little note-book, and devoted himself with whole-hearted enthusiasm to the business of listening. "Invaluable material!" he murmured inaudibly.
"I don't know as I ever thought of it that way," Elsie said slowly.
"Well—think of it that way now," her sister urged. "You get up at—shall we say seven? What do you do—with brain and hand and heart, all day?"
"I—why, I keep house. You know!" protested Elsie.
"Do you make the fire?" Get breakfast? Wash and iron?"
"No indeed—of course not. That was one reason Hugh waited. He said his wife was not to be his servant," quoted Mrs. Maxwell proudly.
"I see. Well—what do you do?"
"Why—when the children were little there was more to do than there is now—of course, night and day too."
"You had no nurse?"
"No—we couldn't afford that. Besides, I preferred to care for my children myself—it is a mother's sacred duty, I think. And a pleasure," she added carefully.
Irma looked at her sister with tender sympathy. She loved her far too much to suggest that for this sacred duty she had never prepared herself by either study or practice, and that in performance of it she had lost fifty per cent, of her children. That would have been cruel—and useless.
"We'll skip the babies, Elsie. Your youngest is fifteen. You haven't had to spend many hours a day on them for ten years or so, now have you? Come —what do you do with your time? Twenty-four hours a day; eight out for sleep, one for toilet activities, two for three meals—that leaves thirteen. What do you do for a day's work in thirteen hours?"
"Oh, I'm sure it's not that!" protested Elsie. "It can't be!"
Irma produced pencil and paper. "What time do you get up—seven?"
"Ye—es "agreed her sister, rather faintly. "Seven-thirty," wrote Irma. "Breakfast at eight?"
"An hour to eat it?"
"Oh, no—half an hour—the children have to get off—and Hugh. We're always through by eight-thirty."
"What time is lunch?"
"One o'clock—that doesn't take long either—the children have to hurry—say half an hour."
"Dinner's at seven—Hugh is so often late. I'd like it at six-thirty—on account of the cook—but it's seven."
"Well, now, my dear sister. I'll give you your evening to play in; but you have from eight-thirty to one, and one-thirty to seven to account for—ten hours. A good working day—what do you do with it?"
"Ten hours!" Elsie would not admit it.
"Ten hours—your own figures. I'll give you another half-hour after breakfast, and after lunch—just to dawdle, read the paper, and so on, but that leaves nine. Now then, Elsie—speak up!"
Elsie spoke up, a little warmly.
"You can't measure housekeeping that way—by hours. Sometimes it's one thing and sometimes another. There is always something to do—always! And then there's one thing you forget—people coming in—and my going out."
"Exercise—we'll allow an hour for exercise—you don't walk more than an hour a day, do you, sister?"
"I don't mean just walking—one hasn't time to walk much. I mean calling—and shopping."
"And you haven't any idea how many hours a day—or a week—you call—or shop?"
"No, I haven't. I tell you it's impossible to figure it out that way. And then when the children come home I have to be there." She grasped a thought, and lifted her head rather defiantly. "That's what housekeeping is," she said proudly. "It's being there!"
"I see," said Irma, and wrote it down. (So did the novelist.) "I'll stop quizzing you as to hours, child—it's evident you never made a time-schedule in your life—much less kept one. Did you ever make a budget? Do you know, as a matter of fact, if your housekeeping is more or less efficient, more or less expensive, than your neighors?"
Elsie drew herself up, a little hurt. "I am sure nobody could be more economical than I am. Hugh always says I am such a good manager. I often make my house-dresses myself, and Betty's; and I watch the sales------"
"But you don't know—nor Hugh— anything definite about it? Comparing with other families of the same size— on a similar amount?"
"I'd like to know what you're driving at, Irma. No—we neither of us has made any such calculation. No two families are alike. Each one is a law to itself—has to be. If I am satisfied —and Hugh is—whose business is it besides?"
"Not mine," agreed Irma cheerfully. "Excuse me, dear, if I've offended you. I wanted to get at the real working of your life if I could, to compare with mine. Let's take a new tack. Tell me —have you kept up your physical culture?" "I have not," said Elsie, a little sharply. "Motherhood interferes w4th gymnastics."
"Are you as strong and active as you used to be?"
"I am not," still a little sharply. "You don't seem to understand, Irma— I suppose you can't, not being a mother —that if you have children you can't have everything else."
"Have you kept up your music? Or your languages?"
"No—for the same reason." "Have you learned anything new? Now, Elsie, don't be angry—what I'm getting at is this: You have spent twenty years in one way, I in another. You have certain visible possessions and joys which I have not. You have also had experiences—griefs—cares— which I have not. I'm just trying to see if besides these you have other gains, or if these are the only gains to offset what I may show."
"I'm not angry with you, Irma—how could I be? You are my only sister, and you've always been good to me. I'll make you all the concessions you wish. Marriage is a mutual compromise, dear. A man gives up his freedom and a woman gives up hers. They have their love—their home—their children. But nobody can have everything." "That's a fact—I'll grant you that, Elsie. But tell me one more thing— what do you look forward to?"
"I don't look forward," protested Elsie stoutly. "I don't believe in it. 'Sufficient unto the day------'"
"'Is the evil thereof?" asked Irma. "Please do look forward. You are forty-two. You'll live, I hope, to be twice that. What do you expect to accomplish in the next forty years?" There was a deeper note in her voice.
Elsie dropped her work and looked at her, a little shaken. "As long as you have lived before— and no preliminary childhood to wade through! From now on, full grown, experienced, with your home, your happiness, your motherhood achieved; with your housekeeping surely no great burden by this time. With no more children coming and these two fairly grown—they'll be off your hands entirely soon — college — business — marriage. Then you won't have to 'be there' so much, will you? What are you going to do—with forty years of life?"
"I may not live "suggested Elsie, rather as if it were an agreeable alternative.
"And you may. We're a long-lived lot, all of us. And you know motherhood really adds to the chances of longevity—if you don't die at it. I'll excuse you from the last ten though; after seventy you can rock all the time. Call it thirty years, ten hours a day— or nine—or eight—why Elsie—don't you even want to do anything?"
Elsie gave a little nervous laugh. "I feel like quoting from Potash and Perlmutter," she said. "'Whadda y' mean do anything?' Come, you leave off questioning me and let's hear all the fine things you've been doing—you never would write about yourself."
Irma rose and walked softly, smoothly, up and down the piazza, watched with slanting eagerness by the eyes behind the slats. She came back and stood near her sister, leaning against the railing.
"All right—I'll make up for it now. And in the first place, Elsie, I don't want you to think I minimize your happiness —it is a great big splendid slice of life that you've had and I haven't. I'm sorry I've missed it—I'd like to have had that too. Well—here's my record: "I went to California as you know at twenty-one. Sort of governess-companion. All of our people protested—but I was twenty-one—they couldn't stop me. I went because I wanted to grow—and I have grown. I studied the place, the people, the opportunities. I kept at work, saved my salary, added to my capacities. Took that chance to go to Europe with the Cheeseboro kids—saw a lot—learned a lot—got three languages, a world of experience—and a good bit of money. That was at twenty-four.
"Came back to the coast and invested my money in a small private school business."
"You gave me some of it, you dear thing," Elsie interrupted, affectionately.
"Oh, well—that was natural. I had enough left to start. I did well with the school, and set up a sort of boarding-school—a health-and-educational stunt, up in the foot-hills. Bought land up there—a fine breezy mesa it is, with an artesian well of its own.
"I worked—but it's work I love. Built on, enlarged my staff, cautiously. Added a sort of winter camp for adults —not invalids. By the time I was thirty I had quite a place up there, a lovely home of my own all by itself on a sort of promontory—with such a garden! O Elsie—you're coming out to see me some day—all of you!
"Then I went very cautiously, used my accumulating experience, invested wisely and slowly. Things move rather quickly out there, but common sense keeps on being useful. As to money I'm very comfortable indeed, and may be rich—rich enough. All sweet, safe, honestly-earned money—my own.
"But that's the least of it. What I'm gladdest of is the living. The kind of work I've done has helped people—lots of people—especially children. I've been a sort of foster-mother to hundreds of them, you see, some fifteen years, averaging twenty new ones a year—that's three hundred, besides those in the first five beginning years.
"Also—I adopted some."
Elsie started. "And never said a word about it!"
"No—I wanted to see how it would turn out. But I've got four I call my own—took 'em as babies, you know. They're a splendid lot. Two about the age of Tom and Betty—two younger— I'll show you their pictures presently.
"Personally, physically, I mean, I'm a hundred per cent, stronger and more efficient than I used to be. I've trained —years and years of it—in sunlight and mountain air. It's not just strength, but skill. I can climb mountains, ride, shoot, fence, row, swim, play golf, tennis, bil- liards, dance like a youngster—or a professional. I'm more alive, literally, than I was at twenty. I have a good car and can run it as well as the man.
"Then I know more—I've had plenty of time to study. The town is only a half-hour run—the city about an hour.
"I belong to clubs, classes, societies. I'm a citizen, too—I can vote now. I begin to have ambitions of bigger service by and by—widening and deepening as I get older I have plans for when I'm fifty—sixty—seventy.
"As to prunes and apricots—they are growing well—pay well, too. I have a little cannery of my own—and a little settlement of working people near it, and a creche there for the women to tuck the babies in while they work—a jewel of a creche, mind you. And I'm promoting all manner of industries among the women. I've got plans—oh, I couldn't begin to tell you of my plans------!"
"You never did," said Elsie slowly. "I—I never dreamed you had spread out so. How splendid of you, Irma!" "It isn't what I've done that keeps me so happy," mused her sister. "It's the things I'm going to do! The widening horizon! Every year I feel stronger, braver, see things more clearly. Life is so—glorious!
"You see, Elsie dear, I have had the babies to love and care for, even if not mine born—they were babies—and I do love them. I have a home, too, a lovely one, with comfort and beauty and peace—and space, too. The one thing I haven't got is the husband—there you are ahead. But I'm not wearing the willow, sister. Life is big enough to bring endless happiness, even without that. Don't you ever show me that 'Poor Irma!' look again—now, will you?"
"No------" said Elsie, sitting very quiet, "I never will."
There was a hop at the Hotel that night.
Elsie sat among the matrons, watching her son and daughter frisk with the young people.
Irma, dressed to quiet perfection, danced; danced so well that girls, half her age, were envious of her partners. "What a woman!" said the unprincipled novelist to himself before he danced with her.
"Which is the quickest route to Southern California?" he inquired, after he had danced with her.
The Real Religion
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Man, the hunter, Man, the warrior;
Slew for gain and slew for safety,
Slew for rage, for sport, for glory—
Slaughter was his breath:
So the man's mind, searching inward,
Saw in all one red reflection,
Filled the world with dark religions
Built on Death.
Death, and The Fate of The Soul;—
The soul, from the body dissevered,
Through the withering failure of age,
Through the horror and pain of disease,
Through raw wounds and destruction and fear:—
In fear, black fear of the dark,
Red fear of terrible gods,
Sent forth on its journey, alone,
To eternity, fearful, unknown—
Death, and The Fate of the Soul.
Woman, bearer; Woman, teacher;
Overflowing love and labor,
Service of the tireless mother
Filling all the earth;—
Now her mind, awakening, searching,
Sees a fair world, young and growing,
Sees at last our real religion—
Built on Birth.
Birth, and The Growth of The Soul;—
The Soul, in the body established;
In the ever-new beauty of childhood,
In the wonder of opening power,
Still learning, improving, achieving;
In hope, new knowledge and light,
Sure faith in the world's fresh Spring,—
Together we live, we grow,
On the earth that we love and know—
Birth, and The Growth of the Soul.
A Sea Voyage
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TAKE a sea voyage," says your doctor. "You need a change —you need a complete rest. Nothing is so restful as ocean travel—sleep a great deal—eat plenty —keep very quiet—get all the ozone— the pure, exhilarating sea air!'"
So the confiding invalid invests her little all in a ponderous ticket and many conspicuous trunk labels, and sets forth on the towering liner. The "change" is granted her. A more complete change from the comforts of civilized life could hardly be desired. But as to rest and quiet!—as to eating!—as to that much-extolled sea air! Let us suppose the lady to be seasick for a few days. That is nothing so dreadful. Some, to be sure, suffer much, but ordinary seasickness is rather beneficial. One ceases to eat, which gives a rest to the internal machinery; and other causes give it exercise. Then there is a period of quiescence—nothing doing. This busy food- factory of ours is closed for repairs; and more thoroughly renovated than by a course of spring medicine.
So we will not dwell upon the discomforts of seasickness, but merely upon those incidental to the voyage per se. As to eating. If ever there is a time when one needs simple, wholesome nourishing food, it is on a steamer. And if ever there is a time when mortal stomach—that pale and weary organ so recently outraged, so tired, so grateful for peace—was presented with a medley of ill-assorted luxuries, it is on a steamer. Heliogabalus might have liked it, or Vitellius, or any professional epicure; but for persons inured only to "home cooking," or what a modest purse and taste command at a restaurant, this deluge of dainties with two sets of foreign names is not what the soul craves. However, in its heavy-gorgeous way, the food is good; and if one is well it can be assimilated.
But when we come to consider that "complete rest" which was promised, for which we abandoned our beloved bed and board, our family and circle of friends, I should like to be shown where it can be found on shipboard.
Does one take to one's bed for it?
These beds are straight and narrow enough to lead to eternal life, and hard as the way of the transgressor. Two enormous blankets, buttoned into a bag of sheeting that looks like table-cloth, keep one warm; but do not lend themselves to changes of temperature with any degree of facility. When they give you clean sheets, it is another bag put on over the first one. Pillow cases the same.
Adjusting one's self to this padded shelf, rest is then confidently expected. It is not easy for a body accustomed to be still when it sleeps, to sleep while being swung and joggled about. It is not easy for a brain accustomed to quiet when it sleeps, to sleep under an intermittent assault of all manner of strange noises. No one would expect to sleep at home if somebody was regularly joggling and irregularly tipping the bed; and other persons were chopping wood, beating carpets, firing pistols, clapping and popping and whistling, ringing bells and tooting horns at intervals.
As a measure in therapeutics it might appeal to an Apache medicine man, but it is not a rest cure.
However—you get up after a while and come on deck. This you have read about and seen pictures of. You have your rug—a Kenwood, if you are wise —and your chair, and a little pillow. The wide ocean is before you to gaze listlessly across. Now for that complete rest!
And you find yourself cooped up for an interminable week or more in a sort of garden party and afternoon tea. Your chair is but one of a row set thick along the crowded deck, all filled with people, all—or mostly all—talking, talking, talking the day long. That listless gazing across the illimitable waters is grievously interfered with by innumerabble[sic] other people who walk. Up and down, up and down they walk between you and the sea; over your head, if there is a deck above you; underneath, if there is a deck below you; and right in front of you, wherever you are.
They have to walk. You walk, yourself, as soon as you are able. It is such a relief from resting!
On a big liner, in the season of travel, there is no place short of the masthead where one can be alone—and passengers find that "Zutritt verboten."
And now for that trump card of the good doctor—"the sea air."
Sea air is a fine thing. On many a clean-scoured sunny rock, on level yellow beaches, on warm windy downs of close turf have I lain and gloried in that strong sweet ocean air. Clean, vivifying, strengthening, full of ozone and inspiration—too much cannot be said for sea air. Unless you are rheumatic. Sea air is apt to be damp. When you are at sea, it seems invariably damp. Your bed is damp, your clothes are damp. You never feel really dry. But the damp- ness is the main thing you can secure in the way of sea air—at sea. Did you expect to breathe it—poor landling? What you breathe on an ocean steamer is not so much like ozone as it is like H.2 S.O.4. (That may not be the way to write a chemical formula, but those are the letters and figures, I think. At any rate, that is the kind of smell.
If you are warm-blooded, and clad in furs, and can sit or walk all day in the teeth of the wind,—when there is a wind,—you get sea air. But nowhere else. The air you get otherwise is not sea air but ship air—and if any animal has fouler breath than these marine monsters, I have not met it.
If you go "forward," thinking to find sea air, you smell the steerage, which is not invigorating. If you go leeward to find shelter from the searching wind, you also find the ports and windows open, and more kinds of smells pouring but of them than ever you smelled on land. Wherever you plant your chair, some blunt-nosed ventilating pipe is near you, and contributes its sample of what is going on in the bowels of the ship. And if you go to the stern,—misguided wanderer,—you find sweeping over you in a mingled stream all the odors that drift back along the mighty creature's decks, a rich potpourri—the blended reek of the whole vessel. Of course it is diluted with sea air—else would you die unpleasantly, but for the pure article, give me a solitary stretch of coast somewhere, above all the voyages that ever were taken. At least on steamers. Perhaps in the sailing days it was better. Soot and cinders did not mingle with your ozone, nor so many kinds of cooking go on down below your staterooms.
One other thing deserves to be mentioned in enumerating the pleasures of a voyage. Surely nowhere, save on an ocean steamer, are the inequalities of our social life so coarsely forced upon you. It is a shock to go from Fifth Avenue to the lower East Side in New York; but it takes some little time to get there—there is a merciful distance be- tween. But here the rank squalor of the steerage, its slouching hopeless forms and discouraged faces, its inconvenience and visible misery, is arranged like a spectacle before you. The first cabin passengers stand gazing down at the steerage, laughing, taking photographs, as if it was a bear pit.
The second cabin is less obtrusive, being merely fenced off in the rear, on the promenade deck; and its ill-bred children daringly dodge around the barrier and visit the glories of the first. Second cabin travelling is very popular, too, having really all the comforts of the more expensive class, for about half the money. But it is a painful thing to any genuine democrat to see people thus glaringly cut in sections—financial sections; and to have to see it all the time.
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WHEN a keen-witted, hard-headed, highly conscientious New England woman does let herself go, she goes, as she herself might describe it, "a good way." Ellen Burrell was that kind of a woman, and she let herself go by marrying an Italian lover, a successful man enough, but hopelessly "a Dago" in the eyes of all Ellen's friends.
She was not sorry when his business took him west; not sorry when the cares and labors of carrying on life in strange scenes occupied her mind to the partial exclusion of new and painful thoughts; and, so greatly did these thoughts gain upon her in spite of all conscientious effort, not too overwhelmingly sorry when he died.
If a marriage proves personally unsympathetic the contracting parties are fortunate in possessing common interests; the more the better. When personally incompatible, it is added misfortune if they also disagree politically, religiously, or, as in this case, nationally.
There was bitter and growing misunderstanding, not in any way helped by Ellen's unflinching adherence to Duty, that special deity of the New Englander. Mr. Martini being gone, she buried her hopes of romance with him, and turned her whole attention upon Jack—Giacomo his father had named him, but she preferred Jack.
Also being now her own mistress, she moved with her baby to another town, and left the "i"' off the name she had acquired by marriage.
Followed the usual idyl of the only son of his mother, and she a widow; the years of hard work, of rigid economy, of careful instruction, such as many and many a widowed mother has spent in caring for her son.
But not even mother love could blind her wholly to his obvious faults and weaknesses worse than faults. He was a brilliantly beautiful child, a handsome boy, and as he grew to manhood this "fatal gift" seemed to work like a poison among his better qualities.
The teachers, with stroking hand upon those glossy curls, forgave him when his freckled and bristly-headed companions were promptly punished. When he sold papers women bought of him because of his bright cheeks and brighter eyes. When he found summer employment as a grocer boy his back-door popularity quite turned his head.
His mother saved and planned for college, but he slipped quietly out of high school before graduation, his exit covered by a burst of precocious scandal in which most of the female gossips insisted that "she must have been to blame."
Mrs. Martin had no such illusions. In righteous horror she insisted on his going with her to the parents of the wretched girl, even more a child than he was, and promising to make amends as far as might be by marrying her when he was old enough.
"If they'll let you!" she said sternly. "If she'll have you—when she knows what a man ought to be!"
Jack was remorseful, self-extenuating, but the more he excused himself the less she could excuse him.
"Oh, pshaw, mother!" he protested. "You're makin' too much of it. It isn't such an awful thing. She'll get over it all right. Lots of the fellows are worse'n I am. I'm sorry of course that it came out that Way—we were only havin' fun----"
"Fun!" she cried grimly. "Fun for you, perhaps—but how about her?"
She could not make him see the harm of what he had done, the cruel disproportion between his "fun" and that life-long injury and shame inflicted on a foolish, ignorant girl.
"She knew as much as I did!" he protested. "Why do you lay it all on me?" "Because she's the one to suffer," she insisted, and steadily demanded that he make the offer of such protection as he could give the ruined child.
That night he went away.
He did not write for many months, then from a city more than a thousand miles away, and giving no address but General Delivery.
"I'm going to leave here soon," he said. "Have heard of a better job further south." He did not state what the job was, or where.
So for a few years she heard from him now and then, cheerful letters enough, sometimes sending her money, and boasting of success, sometimes speaking of great things in prospect, never of coming back.
Ellen Martin began to face the prospect of the rest of a lifetime alone. She was forty-five now. She was keener witted and harder headed than ever, but this mixture of sorrow and shame had softened her heart unrecognizably. Not to the light-hearted young rascal who had left such distress behind him, but to girls, to the yearly crop of fresh young creatures, blossoming out of childhood into girlhood, and paying such a terrible price for the follies incidental to youth plus ignorance plus temptation.
She began to study the subject seriously, and in one year's reading learned enough to bury her own grief deep out of sight under the piling griefs of others.
"I can't ever make up to that poor child for what my boy's done," she said, "nor to her parents. I don't wonder they won't take so much as a word from me." But secretly she mailed to the girl such casual sums as Jack sent her.
"He ought to have been taking care of her all this time," she thought. "I'll do what I can."
But the girl slipped out of sight altogether, left the town, and people judged by the silence of her family that they knew nothing of her, or knew no good.
Mrs. Martin sold what little she possessed, took what little she had saved, and went to the nearest large city.
"I don't suppose I can find her," she said solemnly to herself, looking blankly out of the black car window into the dim night spaces. "But there are others —hundreds of 'em—thousands of 'em— I can be some use, I guess———"
So she went into the business of girl saving.
This is new work. For long years we have had "Rescue Homes," "Magdalen Asylums," and the like, but each and all did their pitiful best after the wrong was done.
Modern society, stirring to new consciousness of its responsibility, is beginning to exert itself to secure the safety of young girls.
Mrs. Martin was eagerly interested, sternly practical, a woman of ability, and with no other ties. She proved a valuable assistant in more than one branch of the work, and studied eagerly.
Securing a room near one of the great Social Settlements, and visiting it often, she met others of the same spirit as herself; the earnest beginners, the wise old-timer, the blazing theorist, and that growing group of helpers who bring widely gathered facts and figures to help on the good work.
Her keen, deep feeling for the one poor little victim, lost and ruined through her own boy's fault, was now broadened into care for ignorant girlhood everywhere, and as it broadened the bitterness of personal shame was lifted from her. She felt that she could now atone for Jack's misbehavior, and perhaps do more good, in the end, than he had done harm.
For a while she held the position of watchful matron in a railroad station; learning much of those other watchers, always looking for fresh material for their dreadful trade, and joyfully helping bewildered young visitors to escape such quick disaster.
She visited the night courts and learned how young girls are treated there; she read the reports of Vice Commissions, of various reformatory institutions, of the national and international societies now engaged in rescue or preventive work.
She learned the general character of these young victims, always young, averaging about seventeen. Many, very many, much younger; poor, of course; deficient in education, some having passed merely the lowest grades in schools, and a large proportion absolutely feeble witted—these were the kind of girls hired, lured, and often compelled to give themselves up to what the other half of the world calls "a social necessity."
"Surely," meditated Mrs. Martin, "they must mean a masculine necessity! Land alive! To imagine it's a necessity to those poor young ones—or to the rest of us women!"
Widening knowledge brings broader judgment also. Her fierce uncompromising New England conscience began to stretch enough to see that most young boys were as ignorant as the girls they ruined, and not only ignorant, but filled up from childhood with old sex-traditions, false and mischievous; teaching them that all this was not only necessary to their health, but rather commendable and fine.
This did not lift the hard-pressing pain from her own heart though. Jack knew—for she had taught him the simple facts in the case. He had deliberately chosen to accept the standards of boys who knew less; he had given way to his own worst weaknesses, without excuse.
"Unless it's his father that's in him!" she thought. "And that's my fault for giving him such a father! But I didn't know about these things then. Girls ought to. They ought to realize that it's not a question of losing their hearts, but of keeping their heads. What if they do fall in love! My heavens! Wouldn't I rather be a stark old maid a hundred times than go through what I've had to bear—and have to bear now———
"There's that poor young man, going from bad to worse, I don't doubt, and I can't stop him! Talk about a mother's prayer! Let the girls do some praying before it's too late."
She worked and studied and taught and helped; and filled her sore and empty heart with the grateful love of many a young girl whose life's happiness was owed to her.
In process of her varied labors she became more and more skilled as a detective; not the miracle working literary figure with a magnifying glass, but a keen observer, whose accumulating knowledge of previous cases made each new one easier.
She became a probation officer, and learned much; a police-woman, and learned more. They offered her a good position as the head of a great reformatory for women, but she preferred to work "before the horse was stolen," she told them.
And in course of time, as the special agent of a powerful society, with her police badge safe inside her coat, she undertook an important piece of work in one of our largest cities, a study of the recruiting among the working girls of great department stores for what we have learned to call "white slavery."
As she investigated the conditions of their work she wondered not that some were always dropping out of the ranks of "straight" living, but that so many remained in.
Take a young girl of ordinary stock and training, give her long, exhausting hours of work, pay so inefficient that she cannot even live comfortably, much less gratify her natural girlish desires for beauty and for "fun"; surround her with gleaming piles of all the lovely things she wants and cannot have—a torture of Tantalus, this; and also the walking embodiment of her foolish ambitions—the gaily clad shoppers who pass ever before her; then add, to make the pressure stronger, a continuous invitation from the men who need new material to meet their "necessities," and you have an environment which makes the continued virtue of so many of our young girls a miracle of noble womanhood.
Then one day she saw her son. He was well dressed, too well dressed. His cigarette box was jewelled, his scarf pin a costly, glittering thing.
She started towards him, then checked herself, and studied his face hungrily. He was handsomer than ever, but not as she remembered him. That fresh, bright color, the soft, brilliant eyes, the winning smile—all were there but changed; harder, colder, more intentionally alluring. He had an air of practised charm, easy, indifferent, compelling, very effective with the little blue-eyed girl at the glove counter—why do they put such particularly pretty young girls at these counters? Merely a natural desire to promote business, of course. She nodded sternly and watched him a little, holding her heart in check. He was making graceful advances to the blue-eyed one which she received with an air of being quite used to the game and able to take care of herself; as a pert young mouse might fence awhile with an admiring cat.
Mrs. Martin was there apparently as a shopper, looking as interested in the bargain table of shirtwaists as any other middle-aged enthusiast. Now she came up swiftly, a love she could hardly believe surging up in her. "Jack, oh Jack!" He greeted her with easy cordiality; took her to lunch forthwith; was full of questions about her work—and airily eluded any inquiry about his. He was with a commission house, he said, and only gave name and place when driven to it; then at a trans-continental distance.
And how was she doing? She looked well, handsomer than ever, he insisted. That was a bad play. She had never been handsome. It snowed the kind of compliments he was used to making, and how little he knew, or cared, about mothers.
He was delighted to get a glimpse of her—sorry he couldn't see more of her —he had to go back the next day— couldn't she go to the theatre with him that night?
No, she was sorry. She had an engagement. She, too, must return to her home city soon. She was doing well, had been working for a Social Settlement—no, he mustn't give her anything. He had a thick roll of bills.
Was he married, she suddenly asked. He checked a smile, and answered with sudden fervor that he was going to be, as soon as he got a raise—that he'd bring her to see his mother when they could afford to come. He even took a photograph from his pocket and showed it proudly—her picture.
He watched his mother as she looked at it; and she, with the practised skill of long experience, by every look and tone and word and gesture, measured him.
She asked, as a mother must, about his life, where he had been all this time, why he had not written———
He owned his carelessness, gave a glib account of adventures and travels—too glib, too fluent, too impressive.
The practiced investigator felt him lie. A cold horror seized on her. This was not her boy. Her boy was dead. This was a man as hard and hollow as a brazen bell, a bell of base metal, ringing false at every stroke.
No love for her, no remorse for his idle youth and its wrong-doing, no ambition for better things; he had thought it best to acknowledge her, and was throwing dust in her eyes. She was sure of it.
He went with her to her hotel; they said good-bye at the door—and as he turned away she spoke to the plain-clothes man who was wafting there to help her in her work:
"Find where he lives, please; the man I was with."
Then she went to a telegraph office, not in the hotel, and wired to a friend in the city where he had told her he worked, asking about that commission house, and waited for an answer.
There was no such name and number there.
The man came back in the early evening. Said he'd had no end of trouble to follow him up, that the chap acted as if he knew he was being shadowed—but he'd managed to get considerable information—some of the police knew him. He had a bachelor apartment in a border-land district—fashionable and select in one direction, "anything but" in the other. Known to gamble a good bit. Known to have questionable friends. Known to be a gay one with the women. Suspected of worse than that by some.
"How does he live?" she asked. No one seemed to know.
Then Mrs. Martin began to do some detective work on her own account. It was a kind she was used to, and the more she learned the more familiar grew the trail. Presently she learned that this man, once her boy, was "Joe Mitchell," alias "Jerry Moore," one of the men who lived on the earnings of fallen women, women whose fall they first bring about, and then carefully prevent their ever rising.
She remembered the stories of three whom she had known personally, and more whom she had heard of, whose ruin was traced to this man; and, with all this evidence in hand, had close watch kept on the little blue-eyed glove-seller. Daily report told how he gradually won her confidence. The child wore a diamond ring, giggling and blushing showed it among her friends. There came a night when he took her to the theatre, then to a supper afterward, and then, drugged and half-conscious, to his own room.
He locked the door as he brought her in; he laid the helpless form down on his bed, standing a moment with a sneering smile.
Then, turning as he threw off his coat, he met the gray eyes of his mother.
"Just in time, I think,' Jack," she said calmly. "This one can be saved anyhow. But I doubt if you can."
He tried every argument he knew, every cajolery, every plea. Was he not, after all, her son—her own boy? Surely she would not give him up—he would reform.
"If you were a leper, Jack—which would be less serious—they wouldn't consult me. I'd have to give you up. You are far more dangerous to society than that. I know your record now, for ten years back. I'm sorry, God knows how sorry—but that doesn't help those ruined lives you've left behind you.
"I'm thinking of the happy homes that might have been—the fine children and proud parents that might have been— but for you. It's got to stop right here. As for this child—she's my girl now. I'll take care of her—poor helpless little thing."
There were men present to take him away.
And having made the mistake of committing some of his worst offenses in a state where women help make laws to protect themselves, he was "withdrawn from circulation" then and there.
His mother, with a black stone in her heart above the grave of her young love and pride, spent a long life in trying to do good enough to make up for her own share in his evil.
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I DON'T know where the man came from. None of us did. He was a friend of a friend of Mat Newcome's—Mat brought him down for a week-end at the Bellthorpe and he stayed.
He wasn't very big, but I admit he was a good-looker, and as graceful as a girl. He could play all the games well enough to be a good partner,—not well enough to beat all the time—ideal for the women. And he seemed to like to play with them.
He said he was a writer, but when the girls tried to find out what he had written he only said "a lot of poor stuff," or something like that—never showed the goods.
Also he seemed to have plenty of money.
I don't know why I say "seemed" in that scornful way; maybe he did, maybe he earned it. If you don't like a fellow, nothing he does strikes you right, somehow.
All the girls liked him fast enough, including Sophie. You can call me jealous all you like—I'll admit it. I was jealous—who wouldn't have been?
Here I'd been working two years to get next with Sophie—two years, and most of it was uplift! I'd left off smoking—not that I ever smoked much—that wasn't much of a sacrifice; and drinking—which was less; and coffee—that, now, was a pull. But I'd have given up eating to please Sophie—if she'd have married me before I died!
And here comes this hypnotizer, Maurice Foster,—a pussy-cattish sort of name, I call it—who smokes and drinks and takes coffee three times a day—and she falls for him at once.
When I taxed her with it, she said that she did not mind his habits because she took no personal interest in him— which sounded comforting.
We were practically engaged, though she wouldn't really promise yet, when he came; and then, whether it was personal interest or not, she spent far more time with him than she did with me.
The fellow certainly had "a winning way" with him. He made himself solid with the landlady" in no time,—lean, fierce-looking, old thing she was, but soft-hearted for all that. He pleased all the mothers by praising their children— that didn't take long—he could do it between dances.
I noticed he didn't take any of the kids out sailing, or play games with 'em —too busy with the young ladies; but he got around the mothers all right. If they were mothers of the pretty girls he went with, then he gave more time to them, and would sit talking New Thought or Bergson or Brieux, or whatever their specialty was, till he had 'em hypnotized. We called him a hypnotizer before any of us knew he was one, but he was the real article all right.
Sophie had a cousin there; a poor little skate he was to look at, but a mighty nice boy for all that. I'd have liked him even if he hadn't been her cousin, and in spite of his money; but he was so rich a good many of us fellows rather shied off—and he spent most of his time in his boats. I use the plural advisedly—he had a regular fleet,—a sea-going yacht, a fine little nosy powerboat that was good for all inland waters, and a first rate racing cat-boat—to say nothing of rowboats and canoes. Oh, and one of those sea-sleds. That was a goer!
Well, this boy Maurice just laid for Hal Jerome, the cousin; it seemed to me that he gunned for him, as if he was an heiress he could marry—and he succeeded fast enough. He made Jerome feel that he didn't care for his money. How he managed it I don't know, but he did. Instead of toadying to him, he bossed him; instead of being respectful he talked about "the idle rich"—and took the boy to task for loafing around in those boats and all that.
Everybody was for him except the fellows whose girls he monopolized so much. We had our opinion of him—but much good that did us.
All this was going on, and Mat Newcome kicking himself that he ever brought the chap down, when the real hypnotizing began.
Now I'm studying medicine—about ready to start practise—and I know what the real thing is; how useful it is, and how dangerous it is. I've been in Charcot's hospital and seen amazing things done. I knew of a case over here —one of a good many, of course, but vivid—where a woman had some nervous affection of the throat and couldn't swallow. She had money to burn, and all the doctors and surgeons and osteopaths could do was done—done pretty quick too, for she was missing her food and drink, and the woman was at death's door—with the door beginning to open —and still she couldn't swallow.
Then they brought in a hypnotist. He fixed her with his glittering eye all right; went through the motions—just told her that she could swallow—and lo, she did it. That's the good of hypnotism.
As to the harm it does—that I know about too, with good reason. From the mildest and most insidious "suggestion," and what the lawyers call "undue influence," up to these powerful rascals who make other people do their crimes for them—it's bad. Bad for the ones who do it, too; a degrading business, I call it,—monkeying with another person's internal machinery like that.
I rather suspected this boy was that kind of a person, but didn't know how much, till they got him started in the hotel parlor one night; first just talking, and then doing tricks.
Everybody was interested of course— red hot—they always are. Some hung back and some wouldn't have anything to do with it, and some were eager to be "subjects," but all of 'em wanted to see the performance.
Foster was in his element. That dark pale face of his got rather set in its lines, his big eyes looked bigger; he was going to show what he could do.
Sophie was intensely interested. She drew closer and closer, and when he asked for subjects I could see she meant to offer—she was courageous, and had what she called "scientific curiosity" to a high degree.
I simply couldn't bear to think of her putting herself in that fellow's grip even for a few moments in that hotel parlor.
"Sophie! Sophie!" I urged softly. "Please step out here a moment—I want very much to speak to you." She was annoyed, but came—not a very favorable opportunity.
"What is it?" she asked in that cold impersonal sort of way that takes all the ginger out of you.
"Don't let that fellow try his tricks on you!" I said. "It's not safe—really." It's always a mistake to try to scare that kind of a girl.
"Thank you for your interest," she said, "but I am not in the least afraid of anything Mr. Foster can do."
"I know more about this thing than you do," I urged. "I've studied it abroad—it is really a serious matter. I hate to see it played with in this way— there's no knowing what mischief it may lead to—please, Sophie—I beg of you."
I guess that was a mistake too; perhaps anything I said then would have been wrong. Anyway she wouldn't agree to keep out.
He'd got three people to come forward,—one of the boys, about twelve or thirteen, a sturdy little fellow with a round cheerful face and a nice grin—I wasn't worried about him; Miss Meakins, a maiden lady, very plump and emotional, and Jerome.
"Your cousin oughn't to be in it either," I insisted. He's not at all strong —he's in no condition for such experimenting—can't you persuade him not to try It?"
"Perhaps you can persuade him yourself, Jack," she said sweetly. "Better try!" And she stepped back into the parlor—we'd been just outside a long window on the verandah—and marched up to those other three and said she'd like to try too.
He was tremendously pleased. I could see he'd been wanting her—even before I spoke, and he'd had his eye on that window for some time.
I was mad clear through, personally and professionally—too mad to be reasonable, but I wanted to see everything that was done, so I came in and got a good position.
He fell to work, and I could see at once that he knew the game and was good at it. The boy was too much for him. He was willing, even eager, and did everything Foster told him, in the way of fixing his eyes on this and taking his mind off that; but when he was solemnly told: "You cannot remember your name," he only grinned and said "Yes, I can."
Foster went on with his treatment a bit, and then solemnly repeated: "You — can — NOT — remember your name. You can—NOT—tell me what your name is when I ask you!" And then while we all waited and young Norton grinned, he solemnly asked: "What is your name?"
"Parr Norton," said the youngster without the least hesitation.
I wondered why on earth he had picked out such an unlikely subject to begin with, but I thought afterward he did it on purpose—to show good faith and reassure the spectators.
He smiled it off. "Failure!!" he said easily. "Complete failure! We cannot always succeed. I congratulate you Master Norton—you need never fear the hypnotist."
Norton was mightily pleased with himself.
Then Foster concentrated on Miss Meakins. She was a pretty easy mark. It didn't take any time to get her reduced to a jelly. He was perfectly polite of course, didn't lay a hand on her, or make her do anything the others could really object to, but I thought it was abominable. He made that poor lady recite:
"Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candle-stick,"
and say that in her opinion it was the most beautiful poem ever written. He made her say her name was Pollyoodle, and Mary Janey and a dozen absurdities —each time passionately asserting that it was hers. He made her chew her own handkerchief under the profound conviction that it was a peach. It was pitiful, and, to me, highly offensive, to see that harmless woman made a monkey of by this fellow from goodness knows where.
Sophie watched it all, and I did hope she would change her mind—she's quite capable of that at times. But she saw me looking on, my arms folded and my face pretty black, I dare say, and her mouth tightened a little—I know the look. Perhaps she thought she could stick it out like young Norton. Anyhow she was next.
He was mighty careful, I'll say that for him, just as cautious and respectful as could be. And I will say it was quite masterly, the subtle steady way he worked. But it was all I could do to keep my hands off him when I saw she was abdicating her own mind—letting that chap run it, if only for a moment.
I thought I saw a special look of triumph come across him, but he hid it. And he didn't make her ridiculous in any way—not a bit; just some nonsense about matches being flowers—enough to show him he could do it—and let her off—said she was not a good subject— that her will was too strong.
But I had got closer to her than he noticed, and my ears are hypersensitive anyway. I heard him whisper to her: "You will meet me at moonrise tomorrow by the old boathouse," before he let her go.
And the moon past the full! But the sport of the evening, for the lookers-on, was poor young Jerome. Foster certainly did play cat-and-fiddle with him. If the boy had been well I'm sure he couldn't have done it, but he was in a low nervous condition, and had a serious breakdown afterward—took him a year or more to get over it.
He had been watching all this with feverish eagerness, getting more and more excited, and it didn't take three minutes to put his intellect and will out of commission. He was a reed in Foster's hands. Foster did anything he liked with him. He made him ridiculous. He made him pathetic. He set him to doing silly stunts, or to not doing them, rather. He laid a walking-stick down on the floor and told the boy he couldn't jump over it. And he couldn't all right. He'd start and totter, and nearly fall on his nose; but cross that stick he couldn't.
Then he straightened his arm down by his side, stroked it carefully down. "You cannot bend your arm," he told him. "It is as stiff as a log of wood. Nobody else can bend it."
Sure enough—Jerome couldn't, and the men who tried to, couldn't. They laid him, head and heels, stretched between two chairs—and told him he was a log—and couldn't bend—and he didn't, though they sat a boy on his stomach.
Then finally he stood him up there, all white and tired, and arranged the closing scene. "I am going out in the hall," he told him, "and will call you to me. You must come. Nothing can prevent you. You must come. I will set three men here to hold you back and they cannot do it."
Then he picked out three of us, two rather light weights, who had been looking on, over-awed, and myself. "Try your best," he said, "you cannot do it."
Success had gone to his head a little, I think, or he would have noticed my—state of mind.
Mad? I don't think I'd ever been so mad in my life. But my folks are English; when we're mad we're cold—and hard.
I stood up there in front of that pale sweating, exhausted boy and concentrated all the power I had, all the method I had ever learned.
Foster, out in the hall, they told me afterward, was a sight. He was pretty well exhausted too, the perspiration rolled down his face; he couldn't see us inside, but stood at the foot of the stairs and beckoned steadily, with a drawing clutching motion. "Come!" he was commanding softly, "Come!"
And I stood there, big and healthy and so full of rage I was equal to any ten of them, and I put my hands up against Jerome—didn't touch him, you know, but sort of pushed the air, and said: "Stay here! Stay here! You shall not go!" Silently, of course.
Well—Jerome wavered like a grass-stalk. He leaned forward; he swayed backward, that poor body of his was a mere rag between those opposing wills. But I was fresher to the game, and, I fancy, little as I use the power, that I've really got a lot of it. It was all there that night, and red hot.
"Go and sit on that sofa," I inwardly commanded Jerome. He did.
Then I turned on Foster, still frantically pulling, and made him come into the room, paying no attention to me, and apologize to Jerome—and to the company in general—for his cruel and silly performance.
He was terribly upset; didn't really know what had got hold of him. I said to him—inside: "You will leave here tomorrow morning before breakfast. But first—state your business, now, to us." He did—owned that he was a professional hypnotizer—and left, as directed—was glad to.
Sophie seemed dazed. I suggested a turn in the moonlight, to relax our minds before sleeping, and she came cheerfully.
I was still pretty well keyed up—but she didn't know it. We were silent for a bit, and all the time I was turning on all the power that was in me, saying to my darling: "You will not go to the old boathouse at moonrise tomorrow night. You will never think of that man again, nor see him, without contempt and loathing. You will never again submit yourself to any such foolish experiment as this!"
And she never did. I don't really think she would have anyhow. She is a very sensible girl.
I had the job of fixing up young Jerome—went off on a trip with him, and it helped me much in starting my practice. So much so that Sophie and I got married next year.
Mrs. Merrill’s Duties
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GRACE LEROY, in college, was quite the most important member of the class. She had what her professors proudly pointed out as the rarest thing among women—a scientific mind. The arts had no charms for her; she had no wish to teach, no leaning toward that branch of investigation and alleviation in social pathology we are so apt to call "social service."
Her strength was in genuine research work, and, back of that, greatest gift of all, she showed high promise in "the scientific imagination," the creative synthesizing ability which gives new discoveries to the world.
In addition to these natural advantages a merciful misfortune saved her from the widespread silvery quicksand which so often engulfs the girl graduate. Instead of going home to decorate the drawing-room and help her mother receive, she was obliged to go to work at once, owing to paternal business difficulties.
Her special teacher, old Dr. Welsch, succeeded in getting a laboratory position for her; and for three years she worked side by side with a great chemist and physicist, Dr. Hammerton, his most valued assistant.
She was very happy.
Happy, of course, to be useful to her family at once, instead of an added burden. Happy in her sense of independence and a real place in the world; happy in the feeling of personal power and legitimate pride of achievement. Happiest of all in the brightening dawn of great ideas, big glittering hopes of a discovery that should lighten humanity's burdens. Hardly did she dare to hope for it, yet it did seem almost possible at times. Being of a truly religious nature she prayed earnestly over this; to be good enough to deserve the honor; to keep humble and not overestimate her powers; to be helped to do the Great Work.
Then Life rolled swiftly along and swept her off her feet.
Her father recovered his money and her mother lost her health. For a time there seemed absolute need of her at home.
"I must not neglect plain duty," said the girl, and resigned her position.
There was a year of managing the household, with the care of younger brothers and sisters; a year of travel with the frail mother, drifting slowly from place to place, from physician to physician, always hoping, and always being disappointed.
Then came the grief of losing her, after they had grown so close, so deeply, tenderly intimate.
"Whatever happens," said Grace to herself, "I shall always be glad of these two years. No outside work could justify me in neglecting this primal duty."
What did happen next was her father's turning to her for comfort. She alone could in any degree take her mother's place to him. He could not bear to think of her as leaving the guidance of the family. His dependence was touching.
Grace accepted the new duty bravely. There was the year of deep mourning, both in symbolic garments and observances and in the real sorrow; and she found herself learning to know her father better than she ever had, and learning how to somewhat make up to him for the companionship he had lost. There was the need of mothering the younger ones, of managing the big house.
Then came the next sister's debut, and the cares and responsibilities involved. Another sister was growing up, and the young brother called for sympathetic guidance. There seemed no end to it. She bowed her head and faced her duty.
"Nothing can be right," she said, "which would take me away from these intimate claims."
Everyone agreed with her in this. Her father was understanding and tender in his thoughtfulness.
"I know what a sacrifice you are making, daughter, in giving up your chem- istry, but what could I do without you! . . You are so much like your mother . . ."
As time passed she did speak once or twice of a housekeeper, that she might have some free hours during the day-time, but he was so hurt at the idea that she gave it up.
Then something happened that proved with absurd ease the fallacy of the fond conclusion that nothing could be right which would take her away. Hugh Merrill took her away, and that was accepted by everyone as perfectly right.
She had known him a long time, but had hardly dared let herself think of marrying him—she was so indispensable at home. But when his patience and his ardor combined finally swept her off her feet; when her father said: "Why, of course, my child! Hugh is a splendid fellow! We shall miss you—but do you think I would stand in the way of your happiness!"—she consented. She raised objections about the housekeeping, but her father promptly met them by installing a widowed sister, Aunt Adelaide, who had always been a favorite with them all.
She managed the home quite as well, and the children really better, than had Grace; and she and her brother played cribbage and backgammon in the evenings with pleasant reversion to their youthful comradeship—he seemed to grow younger for having her there.
Grace was so happy, so relieved by the sudden change from being the main- stay of four other people and a big house to being considered and cared for in every way by a strong resourceful affectionate man, that she did not philosophize at all at the easy dispensibility of the indispensable.
With Hugh she rested; regained her youth, bloomed like a flower. There was a long delightful journey; a pleasant homecoming; the setting up of her very own establishment; the cordial welcome from her many friends.
In all this she never lost sight of her inner hope of the Great Work.
Hugh had profound faith in her. They talked of it on their long honeymoon, in full accord. She should have her laboratory, she should work away at her leisure, she would do wonderful things—he was sure of it.
But that first year was so full of other things, so crowded with invitations, so crowded with careful consideration of clothes and menus and servants, the duties of a hostess, or a guest—that the big room upstairs was not yet a laboratory.
An unexpected illness with its convalescence took another long period; she needed rest, a change. Another year went by.
Grace was about thirty now.
Then the babies came—little Hugh and Arnold—splendid boys. A happier, prouder mother one would not wish to see. She thanked God with all her heart; she felt the deep and tender oneness with her husband that comes of parentage, with reverent joy.
To the task of education she now devoted her warmly loving heart, her clear strong mind. It was noble work. She neglected nothing. This duty was imperative. No low-grade nursemaid should, through ignorance, do some irremediable injury to opening baby minds.
With the help of a fully competent assistant, expensive, but worth all she cost, Mrs. Merrill brought up those boys herself, and the result should have satisfied even the most exacting educator. Hearty, well-grown, unaffected, with clear minds and beautiful manners, they grew up to sturdy boyhood, taking high places when they went to school; loved by their teachers, comrades and friends, and everyone said: "What a lovely mother she is!"
She did not admit to anyone that even in this period of lovely mothering, even with the home happiness, the wife happiness, the pleasant social position, there was still an aching want inside. She wanted her laboratory, her research, her work. All her years of education, from the first chemistry lessons at fourteen to the giving up of her position at twenty-four, had made her a chemist, and nature had made her a discoverer.
She had not read much during these years; it hurt her—made her feel an exile. She had shut the door on all that side of her life, and patiently, gladly fulfilled the duties of the other side, neglecting nothing.
Not till ten more years had passed did she draw a long breath and say: "Now I will have my laboratory!"
She had it. There was the big room, all this time a nursery; now at last fitted up with all the mysterious implements and supplies of her chosen profession.
The boys were at school—her husband at his business—now she could concentrate on the Great Work.
And then Mrs. Merrill began to realize "the defects of her qualities."
There is such a thing as being too good.
We all know that little one-handed tool combination which carries in its inside screw-driver, gouge and chisel, awl and file—a marvellously handy thing to have in the house. Yes—but did you ever see a carpenter use one? The real workman, for real work, must have real tools, of which the value is, not that they will all fit one hollow and feeble handle, but that each will do what it is meant for, well.
We have seen in Grace Leroy Merrill the strength of mind and character, Christian submission, filial duty, wifely love, motherly efficiency. She had other qualities also, all pleasant ones. She was a pre-eminently attractive woman, more than pretty—charming. She was sweet and cordial in manner, quick and witty, a pleasure to talk with for either man or woman. Add to these the pos- session of special talent for dress, and a gentle friendliness that could not bear to hurt anyone, and we begin to feel "this is too much. No person has a right to be so faultless, so universally efficient and attractive."
Social psychology is a bit complicated. We need qualities, not only valuable for personal, but for social relation. In the growing complexity of a highly specialized organization the law of organic specialization calls for a varying degree of sacrifice in personal fulfillment. It is quite possible* indeed it is usual, to find individuals whose numerous good qualities really stand in the way of their best service to society. The best tools are not those of the greatest "all round" variety of usefulness.
When the boys were grown up enough to be off her mind for many hours a day; when the house fairly ran itself in the hands of well-trained servants; when, at last, the laboratory was installed and the way seemed open; Mrs. Merrill found herself fairly bogged in her own popularity. She had so many friends; they were so unfailingly anxious to have her at their dinners, their dances, their continuous card parties; they came to her so confidingly, so frequently—and she could never bear to hurt their feelings.
There were, to be sure, mornings. One is not required to play bridge in the morning, or dance, or go to the theatre. But even the daily ordering for a household takes some time, and besides the meals there are the supplies in clothing, linen, china; and the spring and fall extras of putting things away with moth-balls, having rugs cleaned and so on—and so on.
Then—clothes; her own clothes. The time to think about them; the time to discuss them; the time to buy them; the time to stand up and be fitted—to plan and struggle with the dressmaker— a great deal of time—and no sooner is the feat accomplished than—presto!—it must be done all over.
Day after day she mounted the stairs to her long looked-for work-room, with an hour—or two—or three—before her. Day after day she Was called down again; friends at the telephone, friends at the door; friends who were full of cheerful apology and hopes that they did not disturb her; and tradesmen who were void of either.
"If only I could get something done!" she said, as she sat staring at her retorts. "If once I could really accomplish a piece of good work, that should command public acknowledgement—then they would understand. Then I could withdraw from all this———
"For she found that her hours were too few, and too broken, to allow of that concentration of mind without which no great work is possible.
But she was a strong woman, a patient woman, and possessed of a rich fund of perserverance[sic]. With long waiting, with careful use of summer months when her too devoted friends were out of town, she managed in another five years, to really accomplish something. From her little laboratory, working alone and under all distractions, she finally sent out a new formula; not for an explosive of deadly power, but for a safe and simple sedative, something which induced natural sleep, with no ill results.
It was no patented secret. She gave it to the world with the true scientific spirit, and her joy was like that of motherhood. She had at last achieved! She had done something—something of real service to thousands upon thousands. And back of this first little hill, so long in winning, mountain upon mountain, range on range, rose hopefully tempting before her.
She was stronger now. She had gotten back into the lines of study, of persistent work. Her whole mind stirred and freshened with new ideas, high purposes. She planned for further research, along different lines. Two Great Ones tempted her; a cheap combustible fluid; and that biggest prize of all—the mastering of atomic energy.
And now, now that she had really made this useful discovery, which was widely recognized among those who knew of such matters, she could begin to protect herself from these many outside calls!
* * * * * *
What did happen?
She found herself quite lionized for a season—name in the papers, pictures, interviews, and a whole series of dinners and receptions where she was wearied beyond measure by the well-meant comments on her work.
Free? Respected? Let alone?
Her hundreds of friends, who had known her so long and so well, as a charming girl, a devoted daughter, an irreproachable wife, a most unusually successful mother, were only the more cordial now.
"Have you heard about Grace Merrill? Isn't it wonderful! She always had ability—I've always said so."
"Such a service to the world! A new anesthetic!"
"Oh, it's not an anesthetic—not really." "Like the Twilight Sleep, I imagine."
"It's splendid of her anyway. I've asked her to dinner Thursday, to meet Professor Andrews—he's an authority on dietetics, you know, and Dr. North and his wife—they are such interesting people!"
* * * * * *
Forty-six! Still beautiful, still charming, still exquisitely gowned. Still a happy wife and mother, with Something Done—at last.
And yet— Her next younger sister, who had lost her husband and was greatly out of health, now wanted to come and live with her; their father had followed his wife some years back and the old home was broken up.
That meant being tied up at home again. And as to the social engagements, she was more hopelessly popular than ever.
Then one day there came to see her Dr. Hammerton. His brush of hair was quite white, but thick and erect as ever. His keen black eyes sparkled portentously under thick white eyebrows.
"What's this you've been doing, Child? Show me your shop."
She showed him, feeling very girlish again in the presence of her early master. He looked the place over in silence, told her he had read about her new product, sat on the edge of a table and made her take a chair.
"Now tell me about it!" he said.
She told him—all about it. He listened, nodding agreeably as she recounted the steps.
"Mother? Yes. Father? Yes—for awhile at least. Husband? Yes. Boys? Of course—and you've done well. But what's the matter now?"
She told him that too—urging her hope of forcing some acknowledgment by her proven ability.
He threw back his big head and laughed.
"You've got the best head of any woman I ever saw," he said; "you've done what not one woman in a thousand does —kept a living Self able to survive family relations. You've proven, now, that you are still in the ring. You ought to do—twenty—maybe thirty years of worthwhile work. Forty-six? I was forty-eight when you left me, have done my best work since then, am seventy now, and am still going strong. You've spent twenty-two years in worthwhile woman-work that's done—now you have at least as much again to do human work. I daresay you'll do better because of all this daughtering and mothering—women are queer things. Anyhow you've plenty of time. But you must get to work.
"Now, see here—if you let all these childish flub-dubs prevent you from doing what God made you for—you're a Criminal Fool!"
Grace gave a little gasp.
"I mean it. You know it. It's all nonsense, empty nonsense. As for your sister—let her go to a sanitarium—she can afford it, or live with her other sister—or brother. You've earned your freedom.
"As to clothes and parties—Quit!"
She looked at him.
"Yes, I know. You're still pretty and attractive, but what of it? Suppose Spencer or Darwin had wasted their time as parlor ornaments—supposing they could have—would they have had a right to?"
She caught at the names. "You think I could do something—Great?" she asked. "You think I am—big enough— to try?"
He stood up. She rose and faced him.
"I think you are great, to have done what you have—a task no man could face. I think you will be greater—perhaps one of the big World Helpers." Then his eyes shot fire—and he thundered: "How Dare you hinder the World's Work by wasting your time with these idle women? It is Treason —High Treason—to Humanity."
"What can I do?" she asked at last.
"That's a foolish question, child. Use your brain—you've got plenty. Learn to assert yourself and stand up to it, that's all. Tell your sister you can't. Disconnect the telephone. Hire some stony-faced menial to answer the door and say: 'Mlrs. Merrill is engaged. She left orders not to be disturbed.'
"Decide on how many evenings you can afford to lose sleep, and decline to go out on all others. It's simple enough. "But you've got to do it. You've got to plan it and stand by it. It takes Courage—and it takes Strength."
"But if it is my duty—" said Grace Merrill.
The old man smiled and left her. "Once that woman sees a Duty!" he said to himself.
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The task of those who most actively and consciously push the world forward is not that of creating new conditions, nor of urging humanity forward along new lines, so much as it is the rousing of people to a recognition of the real conditions now about them and their own real powers.
In the face of the potential wealth of the earth, of the undiscovered limit of human power, of the unused love in our hearts, of the boundless hope and ambition of our young people, of the pouring riches of talent and genius which ask only to be used and en- joyed, of the steady progress of science, of the unmeasured physical forces at our command and the boundless psychic forces equally ours to use—in the face of all this the condition of people in general is—ludicrous!
What else can it be called!
Here they sit, on the round rich earth, huddled and crammed together in their reeking cities, or starved tor companionship on isolated farms— people, living people, able to walk; yes, and able to ride, yet hopelessly stationary.
Here they are, led by the nose by politicians of the most mediocre intelligence; robbed by thieves who differ but slightly from themselves; lied to by newspapers which they pay for that service; poisoned by those who feed them, who make their drinks and their drugs; dressed ridiculously, and made to change their clothes far faster than is convenient for them, at great expense, by strangers whom they never saw; dying from accidents which need not happen, from diseases which they need not suffer; working long hours at dreary tasks they hate—and these are the People of the World—the Human Race!
To them, from age to age, come the World Rousers, whose task is merely to wake them up. It is no easy task. This is not the natural sleep of health which holds us. We are drugged, drugged these ages past, our brains dulled and clouded, our nerves relaxed, our muscles weak, our eyes unable to open. It is like trying to rescue one poisoned with laudanum; the patient must be kept walking, walking —must be made to move.
Through all history they have appeared, these Awakeners, crying great announcements; and have died, one after another, while the world slept on.
But now there are more of them, many together, in all lands, using many voices; and, what is more, the very movement of events runs now so swiftly that we cannot sleep as we used. Those manacles of habit are broken perforce—we have not time to be hopelessly chained to one custom before another appears. We are so jarred and shaken by the whirling changes of our times that we begin to look about us, to hear something of what is said to us, to almost understand.
Never was there such a Day Break for the world! We are 'beginning to shut our minds to the dragging old falsehoods which have held us sense- less so long; and to open them to the uplifting truths of life.
There are thousands of World Rousers now. They talk of a thousand opening ways—all leading onward, upward. They take turns, they cry all together, they will not let the patient sleep. They show us the way up, the laws of growth, the best measures of progress. They bring proofs, they show instances; they reach the dullest ears—they succeed!
Slowly we waken and look about us. We!—that is the main idea—WE! We can do this and that; not you or I, but We. And there lifts the Great Veil that kept us apart, our mistaken sense of Personality; and we begin to feel the Enormous Life of Humanity— Ours.
We can set the world straight—it is only we who have made a mess of it. We can make wealth and education, travel and leisure, so common that all of us will soon be equal to the very best of us now. We can make beautiful healthful people, a joy to look at; kind, friendly, cheerful people, a joy to live with. All we need is to get together, and to establish by pushing swift experiment, the best ways to work it out.
But it is Our World and we are the people—there is nothing to hinder us. Wake up!
Dr. Clair’s Place
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"YOU must count your mercies," said her friendly adviser. "There's no cloud so dark but it has a silver lining, you know, —count your mercies."
She looked at her with dull eyes that had known no hope for many years. "Perhaps you will count them for me: Health—utterly broken and gone since I was twenty-four. Youth gone too—I am thirty-eight. Beauty—I never had it. Happiness—buried in shame and bitterness these fourteen years. Motherhood —had and lost. Usefulness—I am too weak even to support myself. I have no money. I have no friends. I have no home. I have no work. I have no hope in life." Then a dim glow of resolution flickered in those dull eyes. "And what is more I don't propose to bear it much longer."
It is astonishing what people will say to strangers on the cars. These two sat on the seat in front of me, and I had heard every syllable of their acquaintance, from the "Going far?" of the friendly adviser to this confidence as to proposed suicide. The offerer of cheerful commonplaces left before long, and I took her place, or rather the back-turned seat facing it, and studied the Despairing One.
Not a bad looking woman, but so sunk in internal misery that her expression was that of one who had been in prison for a life-time. Her eyes had that burned out look, as hopeless as a cinder heap; her voice a dreary grating sound. The muscles of her face seemed to sag downward. She looked at the other passengers as if they were gray ghosts and she another. She looked at the rushing stretches we sped past as if the window were ground glass. She looked at me as if I were invisible.
"This," said I to myself, "is a case for Dr. Clair."
It was not difficult to make her acquaintance. There was no more protective tissues about her than about a skeleton. I think she would have showed the utter wreck of her life to any who asked to look, and not have realized their scrutiny. In fact it was not so much that she exhibited her misery, as that she was nothing but misery—whoever saw her, saw it.
I was a "graduate patient" of Dr. Clair, as it happened; and had the usual enthusiasms of the class. Also I had learned some rudiments of the method, as one must who has profited by it. By the merest touch of interest and considerate attention I had the "symptoms"—more than were needed; by a few indicated "cases I had known" I touched that spring of special pride in special misery which seems to be co-existent with life; and then I had an account which would have been more than enough for Dr. Claire to work on.
Then I appealed to that queer mingling of this pride and of the deep instinct of social service common to all humanity, which Dr. Clair had pointed out to me, and asked her—
"If you had an obscure and important physical disease you'd be glad to leave your body to be of service to science, wouldn't you?" She would—anyone would, of course.
"You can't leave your mind for an autopsy very well, but there's one thing you can do—if you will; and that is, give this clear and prolonged self-study you have made, to a doctor I know who is profoundly interested in neurasthenia—melancholia—all that kind of thing. I really think you'd be a valuable—what shall I say—exhibit."
She gave a little muscular smile, a mere widening of the lips, the heavy gloom of her eyes unaltered.
"I have only money enough to go where I am going," she said. "I have just one thing to do there—that ought to be done before I—leave."
There was no air of tragedy about her. She was merely dead, or practically so. "Dr. Clair's is not far from there, as it happens, and I know her well enough to be sure she'd be glad to have you come. You won't mind if I give you the fare up there—purely as a scientific experiment? There are others who may profit by it, you see."
She took the money, looking at it as if she hardly knew what it was, saying dully: "All right—I'll go." And, after a pause, as if she had half forgotten it, "Thank you."
And some time later she added: "My name is Octavia Welch."
Dr. Willy Clair—she was Southern, and really named Willy—was first an eager successful young teacher, very young. Then she spent a year or two working with atypical children. Then, profoundly interested, she plunged into the study of medicine and became as eager and successful a doctor as she had been a teacher. She specialized in psychopathic work, developed methods of her own, and with the initial aid of some of her numerous "G. P.'s" established a sanatorium in Southern California. There are plenty of such for "lungers," but this, was of quite another sort.
She married, in the course of her full and rich career, one of her patients, a young man who was brought to her by his mother—a despairing ruin. It took five years to make him over, but it was done, and then they were married. He worshipped her; and she said he was the real mainstay of the business—and he was, as far as the business part of it went .
Dr. Clair was about forty when I sent Octavia Welch up there. She had been married some six years, and had, among her other assets, two splendid children. But other women have husbands and children, also splendid—no one else had a psycho-sanatorium. She didn't call it that; the name on the stationery was just "The Hills."
On the southern face of the Sierra Madres she had bought a high-lying bit of mesa-land and steep-sided arroyo, and gradually added to it both above and below, until it was now quite a large extent of land. Also she had her own water; had built a solid little reservoir in her deepest canyon; had sunk an artesian well far up in the hills behind, ran a windmill to keep the water up, and used the overflow for power as well as for irrigation. That had made the whole place such garden land as only Southern California knows. From year to year, the fame of the place increased, and its income also, she built and improved; and now it was the most wonderful combination of peaceful, silent wilderness and blossoming fertility.
The business end of it was very simply managed. On one of the steep flat-topped mesas, the one nearest the town that lay so pleasantly in the valley below, she had built a comfortable, solid little Center surrounded by small tent-houses. Here she took ordinary patients, and provided them not only with good medical advice but with good beds and good food, and further with both work and play.
"The trouble with Sanatoriums," said Dr. Clair to me—we were friends since the teaching period, and when I broke down at my teaching I came to her and was mended—"is that the sick folks have nothing to do but sit about and think of themselves and their 'cases.' Now I let the relatives come too; some well ones are a resource; and I have one or more regularly engaged persons whose business it is to keep them busy—and amused."
She did. She had for the weakest ones just chairs and hammocks; but these were moved from day to day so that the pa- tient had new views. There was an ex- cellent library, and all manner of maga- zines and papers. There were picture-puzzles too, with little rimmed trays to set them up in—they could be carried here and there, but not easily lost. Then there were all manner of easy things to learn to do; basket-work, spinning, weaving, knitting, embroidery; it cost very little to the patients and kept them occupied. For those who were able there was gardening and building—always some new little place going up, or a walk or something to make. Her people enjoyed life every day. All this was not compulsory, of course, but they mostly liked it.
In the evenings there was music, and dancing too, for those who were up to it; cards and so on, at the Center; while the others went off to their quiet little separate rooms. Everyone of them had a stove in it; they were as dry and warm as need be—which is more than you can say of most California places.
People wanted to come and board—well people, I mean—and from year to year she ran up more cheap comfortable little shacks, each with its plumbing, electric lights and heating—she had water-power, you see—and a sort of caffeteria place where they could eat together or buy food and take to their homes. I tell you it was popular. Mr. Wolsey (that's her hus- band, but she kept on as Dr. Clair) ran all this part of it, and ran it well. He had been a hotel man.
All this was only a foundation for her real work with the psychopathic cases. But it was a good foundation, and it paid in more ways than one. She not only had the usual string of Grateful Patients, but another group of friends among those boarders. And there's one thing she did which is well worth the notice of other people who are trying to help humanity— or to make money—in the same way.
You know how a hotel will have a string of "rules and regulations" strung up in every room? She had that—and more. She had a "Plain Talk With Boarders" leaflet, which was freely distributed—a most amusing and useful document. I haven't one here to quote directly, but it ran like this:
You come here of your own choice, for your own health and pleasure, freely ; and are free to go when dissatisfied. The comfort and happiness of such a place depends not only on the natural resources, on the quality of the accommodations, food, service and entertain- ment, but on the behavior of the guests.
Each visitor is requested to put in a complaint at the office, not only of fault in the management, but of objectionable conduct on the part of patrons.
Even without such complaint any visitor who is deemed detrimental in character or behavior will be requested to leave.
She did it too. She made the place so attractive, so comfortable, in every way so desirable, that there was usually a waiting list; and if one of these fault-finding old women, or noisy, disagreeable young men, or desperately flirtatious persons got in, Dr. Clair would have it out with them.
"I am sorry to announce that you have been black-balled by seven of your fellow guests. I have investigated the complaints and find them well founded. We herewith return your board from date (that was always paid in advance) and shall require your room tomorrow."
People didn't like to own to a thing like that—not and tell the truth. They did tell all manner of lies about the place, of course; but she didn't mind—there were far more people to tell the truth. I can tell you a boarding-place that is as beautiful, as healthful, as exquisitely clean and comfortable, and as reasonable as hers in price, is pretty popular. Then, from year to year, she enlarged and developed her plan till she had, I believe, the only place in the world where a sick soul could go and be sure of help.
Here's what Octavia Welch wrote about it. She showed it to me years later: I was dead—worse than dead—buried —decayed—gone to foul dirt. In my body I still walked heavily—but out of accumulated despair I had slowly gathered about enough courage to drop that burden. Then I met the Friend on the train who sent me to Dr. Clair.
* * * * * *
I sent the post-card, and was met at the train, by a motor. We went up and up—even I could see how lovely the country was—up into the clear air, close to those shaggy, steep dry mountains.
We passed from ordinary streets with pretty homes through a region of pleasant groups of big and little houses which the driver said was the "boarding section," through a higher place where he said there were "lungers and such," on to "Dr. Clair's Place."
The Place was apparently just out of doors. I did not dream then of all the cunningly contrived walks and seats and shelters, the fruits and flowers just where they were wanted, the marvellous mixture of natural beauty and ingenious loving-kindness, which make this place the wonder it is. All I saw was a big beautiful wide house, flower-hung, clean and quiet, and this nice woman, who received me in her office, just like any doctor, and said: "I'm glad to see you, Mrs. Welch. I have the card announcing your coming, and you can be of very great service to me, if you are willing. Please understand —I do not undertake to cure you; I do not criticize in the least your purpose to leave an unbearable world. That I think is the last human right—to cut short unbearable and useless pain. But if you are willing to let me study you awhile and experiment on you a little—it won't hurt, I assure you—"
Sitting limp and heavy, I looked at her, the old slow tears rolling down as usual. "You can do anything you want to," I said. "Even hurt—what's a little more pain ?—if it's any use."
She made a thorough physical exam- ination, blood-test and all. Then she let me tell her all I wanted to about myself, asking occasional questions, making notes, setting it all down on a sort of chart. "That's enough to show me the way for a start," she said. "Tell me—do you dread anaesthetics?"
"No," said I, "so that you give me enough."
"Enough to begin with," she said cheerfully. "May I show you your room?"
It was the prettiest room I had ever seen, as fair and shining as the inside of a shell.
"You are to have the bath treatment first," she said, "then a sleep—then food —I mean to keep you very busy for a while."
So I was put through an elaborate course of bathing, shampoo, and massage, and finally put to bed, in that quiet fragrant rosy room, so physically comfortable that even my corroding grief and shame,were forgotten, and I slept.
It was late next day when I woke. Someone had been watching all the time, and at any sign of waking a gentle anaesthetic was given, quite unknown to me. My special attendant, a sweet-faced young giantess from Sweden, brought me a tray of breakfast and flowers, and asked if I liked music.
"It is here by your bed," she said. "Here is the card—you ask for what you like, and just regulate the sound as you please."
There was a light moveable telephone, with a little megaphone attached to the receiver, and a long list of records. I had only to order what I chose, and listen to it as close or as far off as I desired. Between certain hours there was a sort of "table d'hote" to which we could listen or not as we liked, and these other hours wherein we called for favorites. I found it very restful. There were books and magazines, if I chose, and a rose-draped balcony with a hammock where I could sit or lie, taking my music there if I preferred. I was bathed and oiled and rubbed and fed; I slept better than I had for years, and more than I knew at the time, for when the restless misery came up they promptly put me to sleep and kept me there.
Dr. Clair came in twice a day, with notebook and pencil, asking me many careful questions; not as a physician to a patient, but as an inquiring scientific searcher for valuable truths. She told me about other cases, somewhat similar to my own, consulted me in a way, as to this or that bit of analysis she had made; and again and again as to certain points in my own case. Insensibly under her handling this grew more and more objective, more as if it were someone else who was suffering, and not myself.
"I want you to keep a record, if you will," she said, "when the worst paroxysms come, the overwhelming waves of despair, or that slow tidal ebb of misery—here's a little chart by your bed. When you feel the worst will you be so good as to try either of these three things, and note the result. The Music, as you have used it, noting the effect of the different airs. The Color—we have not introduced you to the color treatment yet— see here—"
She put in my hand a little card of but- tons, as it were, with wire attachments. I pressed one; the room was darkened, save for the tiny glow by which I saw the color list. Then, playing on the others, I could fill the room with any lovely hue I chose, and see them driving, ming- ling, changing as I played.
"There," she said, "I would much like to have you make a study of these effects and note it for me. Then—don't laugh! —I want you to try tastes, also. Have you never noticed the close connection between a pleasant flavor and a state of mind?"
For this experiment I had a numbered set of little sweetmeats, each delicious and all beneficial, which I was to deliberately use when my misery was acute or wearing. Still further, she had a list of odors for similar use.
This bedroom and balcony treatment lasted a month, and at the end of that time I was so much stronger physically that Dr. Clair said, if I could stand it, she wanted to use certain physical tests on me. I almost hated to admit how much better I felt, but told her I would do anything she said. Then I was sent out with my attending maiden up the canyon to a certain halfway house. There I spent another month of physical enlargement. Part of it was slowly graduated mountain climbing; part was bathing and swimming in a long narrow pool. I grew gradually to feel the delight of mere ascent, so that every hilltop called me, and the joy of plain physical exhaustion and utter rest. To come down from a day on the mountain, to dip deep in that pure water and be rubbed by my ever careful masseuse; to eat heartily of the plain but delicious food, and sleep—out of doors now, on a pine needle bed—that was new life.
My misery and pain and shame seemed to fade into a remote past, as a wholesome rampart of bodily health grew up between me and it.
Then came the People.
This was her Secret. She had People there who were better than Music and Color and Fragrance and Sweetness,— People who lived up there with work and interests of their own, some teachers, some writers, some makers of various things, but all Associates in her wonderful cures.
It was the People who did it. First she made my body as strong as might be, and rebuilt my worn-out nerves with sleep—sleep—sleep. Then I had the right Contact, Soul to Soul.
And now? Why now I am still under forty; I have a little cottage up here in these heavenly hills; I am a well woman; I earn my living by knitting and teaching it to others. And out of the waste and wreck of my life—which is of small consequence to me, I can myself serve to help new-comers. I am an Associate—even I! And I am Happy!
Encouraging Mrs. Miller
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THE minister had just left. Perhaps it would be fairer to say that the minister had just taken—for he went away with a check in three figures—the extracted gift of Miss Miller.
He had talked very well, as he always did, and had made the work of educating "atypical children" fairly shine with beauty and importance, talking of "these little ones" and the Kingdom of Heaven, until Miss Miller had a fleeting vision of atypical angels and half-witted cherubs fluttering aimlessly about.
He had talked about what her father always gave, the father to whom she owed her comfortable little fortune; and her mother's good works; and much, very much, about the "milk of human kindness."
When he went away with the check Miss Miller had a feeling that she had been milked thoroughly. She looked at her bankbook. There was enough for the bills, of course, there had to be. There was still a margin for Christmas presents —and the Christmas presents she gave grew more numerous and more expensive every year as her nephews and nieces and cousins increased and multiplied and desired something more than toys.
The Christmas presents she received, however, were not as satisfying as they used to be, when wise and loving elders met her wants and added unexpected luxuries. Most of what she had now were from those numerous young people who would on no account forget Cousin Agatha, but whose gifts became an increasing problem.
Well—she would come out even at the end of the year if nothing more arose in the way of charities, public or private. But she must give up all thought of that new little electric she wanted; the other would do another year. It would have to. Cousin Henrietta came in just then. She was making a visit, on her way to The Exposition, with Cousin Adelaide and Cousin Josie, her daughters.
The Miller homestead was large and fine, and Miss Miller loved it. She remembered it as full of merry young people, when she and her brothers and sisters had been young themselves, with the bright sweet face of her mother shining over them all, and the big cheery father who so loved to be hospitable. One by one the boys and girls had married till Agatha was left, the only one to nurse her parents, their comfort and reliance to the end. It was a great still place of grief and tender memories for awhile, visited by gentle ghosts of the pleasant days gone, but now it seemed fuller every year. The tradition of hospitality remained, and was not forgotten. Relatives began coming even before her time of mourning was over, then friends; and then, she hardly knew how, there seemed to be always some social refugee living alone in the big house, someone she had taken in out of kindness, and was unable to get rid of afterward.
There was a frail widow there now, whose visit had been of two years duration; always offering to be helpful, and never being it; always dissolving in slow tears when some other place of residence was never so delicately suggest.
"I feel so at home with you," she said. "It cheers my heavy heart. Ah! You will never know how much your kindness has been to me!"
There was a rather hard-faced young woman, middling young, that is, who had been left suddenly alone in the world.
"She is alone in the world, as you are yourself, my dear," the friend said who had begged her to take her in. "Just till she can turn around, you know—adapt herself to her loss and find employment. It is so hard for a girl who has been gently bred. I know you will do it— your heart is as big as your house."
Miss Miller had done it, but the orphan, whose name was Horn, Jane Horn, had not adapted herself to her loss as yet, neither had she found employment, though always making efforts toward it. "If I had only been trained to anything!" she would complain. "It is not right to bring a girl up so helplessly. But I must not blame the dead!"
Miss Miller, in her secret heart, began a little to blame the living. Surely a healthy woman of thirty could train herself to something—it was not too late.
That made six at the table. Sometimes it was more. And they all had friends, who came to call, frequently so near to mealtimes that, obedient to her tradition of hospitality, Miss Miller asked them to sit down and eat—which they nearly always did.
"You set such a good table!" Cousin Henrietta approved. "Your mother always did. You have the gift. You will never be without friends."
Sometimes, indeed with growing frequency, Miss Miller wished she were.
Her marketing was quite a daily task, and a steadily growing expense as "the cost of living" rose and rose. Also she found that she had never allowed enough for "depreciation and repairs." The house was old, and grew no younger. From year to year she meant to have some needed changes made, but other things seemed always to eat up her income. She was kept pretty closely tied, too, and Miss Miller loved to travel. She had meant to go abroad the year after her mother died—but Cousin Margaret and the children had come, to cheer her up! There had never been a vacant time since.
"I must take time to think this thing out," said Miss Miller to herself. But it was hard to find the time.
She was an efficient member of various clubs and societies, and always being urged to join more. Every committee wanted her to serve. "You are such a willing worker, dear Miss Miller," the president would say, in appointing her. "You always get results."
"It isn't as if you were a married woman, you know, with family cares," her friends would say; those who were married women with one or two children and a small house; even some with no children and a flat. There was one who lived in an apartment hotel, with "maid service" and meals sent up—or gone down to, who rather irritated Miss Miller with her talk of family cares.
What she wanted to do was to study. There were several lines of work ir which she was particularly interested, one especially, but somehow there was never time for it, nor, indeed strength. She found she got more easily tired at forty than at twenty.
"I'm a fool," said Miss Miller to herself. "I'm fast getting to be an old fool. I must break loose somehow."
And then her sister Isabel's boy Joe came to spend the winter with her— he had broken down from overstudy— Southern California would do worlds for him. It did. He had a very pleasant six months' visit with "Aunt Agatha," but Miss Miller found him quite a care.
There were her "social duties" of course, mostly inherited like the "traditions of hospitality"; a long list of people to be called on, to receive calls from, to send invitations to, to answer invitations from, and so on interminably; and then there was that further margin of people and organizations who wanted "the use of her name" with absolutely no obligation assumed, and who kept her snowed under with "literature," as it is so nobly called. Also there was her correspondence.
"You'll have to have a secretary," advised a kind old lady, a friend of her mother's.
"I can't afford it," said Miss Miller, quite seriously.
"You can't afford not to," urged the old lady. "She'll save enough time to more than pay for herself. You can get' one to come in by the day for about fifteen dollars a week, to begin with. Less, if you don't take all her time. You look dragged out, child. Get a secretary—my Alice knows of one."
"I'll think of it," said Miss Miller. "It's awfully kind of you to care." She was quite touched to have anyone trying to take care of her now. Anyone, that is, besides Maud and Susie. Without them she felt she could hardly have kept going at all.
Two tall sturdy black women they were, twins, living in intermittent combat between themselves, but united in service of "the family" since Mrs. Miller had taken them from a colored orphan asylum. They had three rooms to themselves, over the kitchen and laundry, and while fixed and reliable in their industrial capacity, carried on a domestic life of strange vicissitudes of which Miss Miller sometimes found it hard to keep track.
"Their morals are certainly different from ours," she said, and was wise enough not to describe their matrimonial adventures to her stricter friends.
Maud was the admirable cook who so attracted visitors. Susie was the indefatigable sweeper and duster, scrubber and cleaner and beater of pillows, who kept the house in order. They did not mind the work; the house had always been full since they could remember.
Miss Miller's doctor now joined his advice to that of the old lady. "You'll go to pieces presently," he said. "Either drop the whole thing and go abroad—or get a secretary at once. And I advise you to drop it and leave."
"I wish I could," she said wistfully, "but it's impossible this year. Next year —perhaps. I don't mean to undertake too much," she explained. "But people seem to call on me more and more. They know I'm not married, you see, and not poor, and not in business."
"Better try one of those things," suggested the doctor, who was a discerning woman. "One does not like to marry for one's health—that is a woman does not; and I don't recommend being poor —but how about a business?"
"I'm afraid I've no business head," said Miss Miller. "But I'll get the secretary."
Miss Sayles was her name; a neat, quiet, sharp-eyed, firm-mouthed little person, about Miss Miller's age, and more expensive than she had meant to employ. But she liked her. She liked her immensely.
"I'll give myself a treat!" she declared inwardly. "She's a person you can depend on."
So Miss Sayles was installed, not by the day, but in the house; in a big attic room that opened on a roof, where she could sleep—for Miss Sayles had lungs. She had been forced to leave a very good position in Boston and go somewhere to outlive the inward enemy. The room delighted her. It was bare and bright, clean and still, full of sun; and out on that hot roof, under the dry night skies, she could recover strength. The good and profuse food was just what she needed, too; and presently she developed a deep, warm, genuine, but well-restrained affection for her hostess and employer.
It was a new thing to Miss Miller. She had been taking care of people all her adult life, as hard as she could, and enjoying it, for the most part; but, since her parents were gone, no one in particular had taken care of her. Her soft brown eyes, rather prominent and near- sighted ; her soft brown hair that always straggled a little; her big kind mouth, that did not close very thoroughly over her white but even teeth; her rather dumpy figure in its good, but never wholly satisfactory clothes—these had not won her a lover—until now.
But little Miss Sayles, who had had an arid and difficult life, bringing out her useful qualities rather than the emotions, became most genuinely attached to her. Nothing did she say of this; but she began to do things, more and more things, to make Miss Miller comfortable, by no means confining herself to the things she was paid for.
For one—and a genuine benefaction it was—she found a position for Miss Horn, so good and so easy a position that everyone marvelled how any man could offer it to her inexperience. But then those who marvelled did not know that Miss Sayles had arranged with the employer to pay half the wages herself if he'd keep her a month; and during that time it was not difficult to fill Miss Horn's place with a temporary cousin. Neither was it difficult for Miss Sayles to answer Miss Horn's letter when it came, begging to be allowed to come back for a week— while she looked around—and to politely regret that the house was entirely full at the time.
Miss Miller heaved a long sigh of relief. "She is really better off at work— don't you think?" she asked her secretary, and her secretary cordially agreed with her.
Next Miss Sayles evicted the widow. This was a work of some time, involving enough duplicity to obtain from easily encouraged conversation the names of certain relations among whom must surely be some one able to take care of this rather helpless person. A brother, a sturdy brother in Chicago, successfully engaged in the commission business, seemed the best one to appeal to—to properly appeal to.
So Miss Sayles wrote to the brother, mentioning with delicately adjusted politeness of his sister's long visit; suggesting with the utmost care that possibly his sister had not let him know how dependent she was; speaking, in terms that could not give offense, of how the circumstances which had made the house a haven had changed somewhat (they had, by the entrance of Miss Sayles); asking if he could suggest someone other than himself to whom his sister might go if they were compelled to leave suddenly —a contingency which might quite possibly arise, Miss Sayles assured herself. A perfectly nice letter, kindly phrased and considerate, and as efficacious as a well disguised dose—in capsules.
The Chicago brother sent his sister a ticket with her name on it, money for the journey, and an invitation so peremptory that the flaccid little woman quite stiffened with importance and went gaily. She even wore a slightly aggrieved air, as of one long detained against her best interests.
"It's been so kind of you to keep me so long," she told Miss Miller. "But one must not neglect one's relatives, must one? Brother Harry has sent for me."
The house was perceptibly lightened by the absence of the orphan and the widow, but there remained cousins, nephews, nieces and aunts. Also there remained the growing fields of club activities, charities, and all their widening range of claims on time and strength.
After Miss Miller had grown used to Miss Sayles, had grown fond of Miss Sayles, had grown to confide more and more in her good sense and competence, she unburdened her mind quite freely.
"As long as I have the house, people will fill it," she said. "I'd hate to have it empty—and I'd hate to leave it. As long as I have the money, there'll be demands on it, I suppose, and yet I'd hate not to have the money. Also as long as I have the time I'm expected to use it—of course."
"What would you do if you really felt free to choose?" asked Miss Sayles, with her little dry voice. Her rather expres- sionless eyes gleamed for once behind the large-lensed glasses.
"Why, I hardly know—" Miss Miller answered vaguely. "I've never really thought it out."
Then Miss Sayles encouraged her to think it out, and by slow sympathetic questioning, by a gentle repeated pressure worthy of a psychotherapist, dragged up from the depths of her employer's subconscious mind a profound interest in bacteriology. Miss Miller's soft sallow face grew bright with enthusiasm as she dilated on what little she knew of the subject, how much there was to know, how she longed to study, and to experiment.
"But there never is time enough," she sadly added, "and I'm too tired. One can never say too old—after Fabre, but one can be too tired."
Miss Sayles gave her mind to the mat- ter, lying awake under the far clear stars, on, not under, that hospitable roof. "She'd be a thousand times happier with some life of her own—instead of being a free lunch for all these people. And they will do it. And Miss Miller can't stop 'em. I must fix it somehow."
An extremely capable little woman was Miss Sayles; and her affection, while not in the least of a warmly emotional cast, had its practical values.
With much talk, some careful reading, and a few lectures they attended together, she steadily fanned the smothered flame of Miss Miller's interest. She urged her to attend a summer-school course in the nearest university, to add more definite knowledge to her store, and she went with her, too, and applied her own sinewy intellect to the same study, merely for its encouraging effect.
"There are some people," she said, filling her now healed lungs with the soft California air of her skyey bedroom, "that have to be encouraged. They can't do things alone."
Being encouraged, Miss Miller plunged into bacteriology with passion. She developed "the scientific mind" with all the ardor of a new convert. Her studies broadened into a large general knowledge of biology, but she always concentrated in ceaseless interest on the microscopic marvels of swarming life which mean so much to all the higher forms, including our own. This interest seemed gradually to alienate her family.
The big house became more and more like a laboratory, full of suspicious "cultures" of more than suspicious "germs." Miss Miller began to invite to it friends of her own, professors and students, absorbed and busy, whose table-talk was of such a nature that more casual guests found it unappetizing.
The question of the money seemed harder to handle, and Miss Miller grew more impatient of the earnest letters, always calling for help for new and different undertakings, as well as for all the old ones.
"It's so wasteful!" protested Miss Miller. "So childish, so ineffecutal—all this sprinkling around of little bits of money! Whereas if any of us, or all of us together, can isolate the living squirming cause of a single disease, and learn how to destroy it—that's something done!"
Miss Sayles agreed with her. She was still her secretary, with a somewhat larger salary and the added duties of house-manager; that is, she did the marketing. She still had the roof-bedroom and enjoyed it, and she still maintained her equable and useful affection for Miss Miller, without mentioning it.
"You might invest it in something perfectly safe that doesn't pay much," she suggested. "You might have a few well-selected boarders in this house—to keep it up economically. Professor Thorn, perhaps, and some students. But after all Miss Miller, if you, as a real research worker, with your laboratory here, just conclude that these things are unwise and unnecessary—you can drop them."
And Miss Miller, a new Miss Miller now, really becoming known in her chosen world as "A. R. Miller," already a discoverer in a small way, found that she could. She grew braver and stronger as her work widened. Her loving kindness, her wish to serve, was centered in steady fruitful work. She lived to see her name associated, as a co-worker, with one of the most useful discoveries of her time; to feel that she had helped to save the lives and preserve the health of thousands, yes, of millions.
To her pleased surprise, she found as well, that her own people loved her none the less for "being somebody," as well as being Aunt Agatha; and also that her well won position kept her comfortably immune from small demands.
"A good secretary is a great help," said Miss Miller.
A Growing Heart
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THEY had taken the house next door. That seemed a cruelty impossible to bear. It was hard enough when Joe was being "attentive" to Margie; and when Agnes still had glimmers of hope now and then. It was hard, bitterly hard, when they were married. Agnes went to the wedding, as practically every one did, in that small town; and, she hoped, showed no sign of her misery. But wise heads wagged as they discussed her, and unwise tongues wagged far more. She well knew that it was said of her "Agnes Clark had tried to get Joe Manning—and couldn't."
Margie had been her friend, was yet—she had no quarrel with Margie. But to watch the growing piles of pretty underwear and house linen, to look over the wedding gifts with her, to see her enter smilingly on the sweet new life with Joe—and to know that as the door of happiness opened for Margie, it closed forever on herself—that was hard.
And now Joe had rented the Hughes place, next door. Joe's father had it painted and put in order for them, and Margie was delighted—she could see so much of dear Agnes!
Agnes' mother made it worse, if anything could. Part of the time she condoled with her, loving but clumsy, psychologically clumsy; and part of the time she criticized Joe, and told Agnes she was just as well off without him. This mother was the anchor which held the girl, or the chain which bound her there, like Andromeda to suffer helplessly.
Not that she was aged or sick or crippled in any way; but merely that she was her mother—Agnes was the only child left at home—and, of course, it was her duty to stay there. Nothing could be simpler.
This had gone on for a year or more, and now Margie had a baby—a big beautiful boy, who looked so like Joe that Agnes' heart jumped and sank again at her first sight of him. That night she did not sleep at all. To lose Joe had broken her heart, she thought, looking no further; but now she found that there was plenty of heart left to be broken over and over; and as she looked down the years, she felt she could not bear it.
She forced herself to face the future squarely.
"I'm just twenty-one," she told herself slowly, "I'm not a bit handsome, but I'm healthy. I shall live to be old. Mother is only forty-six, and also healthy. She'll live to be eighty or ninety—like grandma and great-grandma—I should be sixty-five then!—and while I live here with mother, alone, Margie and Joe will be growing old—together. And there will be children over there—growing up— calling me Aunt Agnes, I suppose. I can't bear it!"
* * * * * *
Her mother assured her that she'd "get over it" in time. She said she "ought to have more pride." She said she "ought to be ashamed of herself, feeling that way about a married man." Mrs. Clark did not know her daughter very well. She was a brisk, capable little woman, not extraordinary in any way, very proud of her three children. Henry, who was so capable and prosperous, al- ready succeeding in his father's business (Mr. Clark had been dead for some years), and Maria, also successful—in marriage. Maria lived on the other side of their lot; and Henry only a block away.
Now that she had her children "off her hands" as she described it, Mrs. Clark entered briskly into church work, and enjoyed herself thoroughly in "The Ladies' Literary Union."
"You must throw this off!" she told Agnes. "Really—people will talk about you. Bless me, child—Joe Manning isn't the only man on earth!"
But he was, for Agnes.
In her misery, without any very definite hope, the girl went to see the new minister,--a woman, a Universalist, a person of whom the town was half warmly in favor, and half coldly critical.
This minister was a real one, a "servant," a helper. Having lived through some thirty years of variegated trouble since she was Agnes' age, she felt qualified to advise.
At first she listened, listened and helped the girl to put into words her dumb distress. "Let's say it all out, the very words," she suggested at length. "You are twenty-one. You have lost the man you love and will love no other. You must live—alone. You care for children passionately—but you will never be a mother. On top of this, you are obliged to live next door to the happiness you have lost—for all your life apparently. On top of this, you have to live with your mother—and your mother—hurts. On top of this, you have no real interest in life to help you bear it."
At that last layer of misery Agnes looked up. The minister was smiling at her, a strange, sweet, remote smile, as impersonal as sunshine.
"You need surgery," said she, "right away. You have to be hurried to the hospital for an immediate operation. Are you ready?"
Her tone, as she clearly set the girl's agony before her, had been gently, firmly sympathetic. Now it was as gentle, as firm, but keenly inspiring. There was a hint of the bugle, of the call to arms, in the clear voice, and in the clear, kindling eyes.
Agnes lifted her head and faced her. In the deep morass of misery wherein she had been floundering for so long, this was like a hint of solid ground at last. Someone was reaching out a hand. Someone was going to do something for her.
"First you must be anesthetized," said the minister, smiling, "Are you ready?" Agnes was ready—for anything, and said so. Then the minister began to speak, as earnestly, as convincingly, as ever she had spoken to a hushed and crowded church full. She opened the girl's eyes to the fact that the Power we call God was in her, was her—and by virtue of that power she could bear not only this pain—but far worse.
"You can't stand it?" queried the minister. "Of course, you can't. But you don't have to—God can stand it—easily. It's not yours to bear. It's His—or its— I never think of God as male or female. A human being is a detachment of God, and as such can stand anything. Proof? Look at history. See what the martyrs have borne—in any religion mind you— just because they knew God was in them. Now, then, to you, a living expression of God, has come this Pain. What of it? Being what you are, you can stand it easily.
"Now, look here. What's done is done. If you can't have love and marriage and motherhood, you can't—but bless you— that's not the whole of life!"
Agnes stared. She had been taught it was the whole of life, or ninety-nine hundredths of it for a woman.
The minister smiled again, this time it was not only like sunlight; it was like a sunrise.
Then she began to talk—
She showed Agnes—Life.
She exhibited the world to her.
With a great map of the country spread wide on the wall, she pointed here and there and showed what the people were doing, what they needed, what they suffered from, what their prospects were, what splendid hopes opened before them.
"Children!" she cried. "You love children—and are grieved because you won't have any of your own. There are some twenty million children in our country— perhaps ten million babies—what do you care about them?"
She told her, swiftly, steadily, of the conditions of child labor, till the girl's heart took fire, and she began to long to plunge into the work of remedial legislation. And then, suddenly, the minister swung to the school system, and told that shaming revelation made by Miss Helen Todd in her factory inspecting disclosures, that the majority of the children working under the worst conditions said they would rather do that than go to school!
From one department of social progress to another, she stepped swiftly, turning her searchlight on each, so that it sprang into vivid life before the girl's eyes; eyes in which the look of settled grief was changing fast to sympathy, to interest, to hope.
From children to women, the talk turned, the injustice under which they live, their misery, their power; from women to men, with their achievement and their failures, their vice, disease, and shame; from personality to sociology, at last, a brief, blazing review of our economic and political conditions, with the splendid possibilities and hopes of the day we live in.
She stopped. Agnes was facing her, leaning forward, breathing quickly, her eyes aflame. "I want to—help!" she said.
Then the minister took her in her arms and kissed her. "You shall!" she answered.
For awhile it was a matter of reading and study, of local plans and purposes; but the girl's courage flagged, her hope weakened, all the minister's flame of spirit could not keep Agnes up to the level of high purpose. There was the constant sight of the personal happiness next door. There was the constant irritation of her mother's well meant words.
"Hm," said the minister. "Patient not doing well. Rallied after the operation, but seems to be sinking again. Must have change of scene. You've got to go away from here, my dear."
"How can I leave mother?" asked Agnes. "Why not? What's to hinder?" The minister looked fairly mischievous. "She doesn't need you, not the least bit in the world. That estimable colored girl of yours runs the house for her; your sister is next door, your brother is able to care for her, if necessary, and she has money enough to live on. Why does she need you?"
"For—for company, I suppose."
"Rather a feeble occupation for a girl of your talent, isn't it? Being company for a vigorous middle-aged woman with plenty to occupy her—rather uncongenial company at that. Come, come, Agnes, be a Man! which is to say, be a Human Creature. You have lost your chance of being a woman—in the usual sense— but Life remains open to you. Go out, as a man would. Go to work. Make a fortune, if you can do it honestly. Best of all, go to some place where you will be needed; and if you can't be mother to a family, be mother to a town."
There was opposition, plenty of it. Brother Henry thought it preposterous, Sister Maria thought it wicked, and Mother—Mother was so hurt, so astonished that she could not put it in words —though trying to, daily with lavish effort. That Agnes should want to leave her!
But the minister's influence was strong; and also that of the books she had led the girl to read. With a strange new patience, Agnes listened and said nothing. She was cheerful. She was kind. She did not argue or contradict. But she went.
"If you want to do every bit of it yourself, you can," the minister said. "You know the trick—a position as housemaid at $25.00 a month will give you a clear $250.00 at the end of a year, and some time to study.
"With that money, you can go to any town you choose, board for a while, study openings, advertise, and if worse comes to worst, do it again.
"But I advise you to go to a real western state, to prove up a homestead if you can, to buy and sell and get to be a business woman. As soon as you have a real home of your own, you can adopt a child or two, later on—if you must. But go to a small growing town, a, child-town, adopt it, be a mother to it—you'll find it a heart-filling business. To save time; I'll lend you passage money, and I can get you a job—with folks I know in Montana."
That was how she went, without telling her clamorous family anything about it. Her brother thought her helpless— and meant to keep her so. That she should borrow money for her own purposes seemed to him almost criminal. Yet he often borrowed in his business, as most men do.
After all, what could they do? The girl was of age. Her action was not criminal. She was going out to work, as many of the young men of the town did. It might be called "unwomanly," but hardly immoral.
If talk would not stop her, they were helpless. The fear of disinheritance does not often work in our country, even if there is much to inherit. Neither is withholding of the parental blessing a valid threat with us.
The minister gave her practical advice. "This is a long job you're facing," she told her. "It's simply Life. At present, you are a young girl. No one will take you very seriously. Spend these years in building a local reputation, doing good work, saving money, and learning. By the time you're thirty, you'll be a respected citizen. By the time you're forty, you may be quite rich. By the time you're fifty, you can be a benefactor. There should be plenty of years after that.
"Work on life lines—do things for one town that can be done in others. Get to be an authority on your chosen subject. Perhaps—mind you I don't know, nor does anyone, but perhaps you'll be a real World Lifter. At any rate you can be a town lifter. Those little ragged, new-made, growing towns! They need mothering.
"And remember, my dear; if you are sure you will never love again—and marry; live up to your determination. Dress the part. Do it square."
Agnes' first job was in a real estate and surveying office in Great Falls, Montana. Her minister knew a minister there, someone to give local help and advice if needed. She came there, quiet, cheerful, determined, eager to learn. She studied shorthand, in the evenings, she studied the business she was in, she made herself useful. She did not wear seductive transparencies, nor elaborate coiffures; but was pleasant to look at, neat and fresh, without extra attractions.
She boarded in several places, till she found one that suited her, and then stayed, making friends gradually among the other boarders. In a year, she had paid back the hundred dollars lent her. Fifteen dollars a week is not much, but she only spent $50.00 on clothes that year, and practically nothing on herself beyond the real necessities. Board and washing she got for $10.00, carfare and lunches she kept at $1.50 a week. All her "extras" inside the $32.00 left over Next year, she earned a little more, and began to save.
When an earnest young woman begins to put her purposeful enthusiasm into business, she goes far. As soon as she had perfected herself in shorthand and the typing, which was fairly good to start with, she began to read up about the state, to study maps, and local history, to dig into the economic possibilities and social needs of the community. She talked with men who knew things practically; not one of them perhaps with as full or general views as hers, but each one well informed in his own line. Presently it was possible for her to buy a small piece of land, wild and remote, not very valuable, but hers.
For a lifetime Agnes remembered the peculiar thrill of standing on that bit of woodland soil and feeling that she allied forces of society guaranteed it hers. She soon sold it, however, all but a few forest acres on an outstanding ledge, that looked down over a wide inland sea of grain.
In that wide valley lay the baby town she was thinking of adopting.
As she grew abler, her pay advanced. Keeping her habits as simple as before, she saved more yearly, and with the inside information open to her, she bought wisely and sold with good judgment. When she was twenty-eight, she had an opportunity to secure a large fraction of that baby town among the wheat fields; the holding of a man who had to sell to meet debts he was not proud of, a man ruined by his own bad habits.
Agnes had no bad habits—why should she? She was a keen-eyed, eager young woman now, mightily respected among business men; and for all her plain attire she had more than one opportunity to prove that she could love again.
This new purchase of hers included several ragged lots near the center of the little place, and a big piece of valley land just outside, with a swift clear brook in it, curving among the willows. Not mining land, not ranch land, not much of anything to the eyes of the neighborhood; but Agnes said to herself, "This baby will grow and will eat more every year. I shall help feed it."
She studied anew, consulting the agricultural bureau of the state and nation; getting an expert to come and give an opinion of the possibilities of her place. The little town she learned by heart, its brief history required small study.
Still holding her position and still saving money, she rented parts of her land on very favorable terms to them, to people she knew, who would be willing to plant and. work according to direction. Presently she had a little group of successful truck farmers, raising such vegetables and fruits as grew best there and planting trees each year. When Agnes was thirty she moved to the little town and set up in the real estate business for herself in a small house office and garage she built on one of her own lots.
At forty she was a proud and happy woman. Proud of her success, honest, hard-working, commonplace, business success. Her truck farms, nurseries and hot-houses not only largely filled the local market, but did a good outside trade as well in flowers, seedlings, tomatoes and such things. The town had grown so fast and well that already her land was highly valuable. She was respected, liked, yes, loved, in the young community. She had helped many a boy and girl to get a start in life. She had helped many a widow and spinster to keep a hold on life. She had helped many a man too—men liked her.
"She's a good fellow, all right," they said. "She don't flirt, and she don't preach, but you can tie to her. She's all to the good."
This is not a wonderful story. It can be duplicated a thousand times—among men. There is no reason why it should not be among women.
When she was forty Agnes went home for a visit. Her dear minister had gone on, but her family were there yet. They had not corresponded very freely, considering her rather a black sheep. She had always told them that she was "doing nicely," that her "wages had been raised" and things like that. They pictured her as a meagre "old maid," resigned and methodical, doing secretary work in offices forever.
She came home, well filled out, well groomed, well dressed, a handsome, vigorous woman, far broader in mind and outlook than her brother, who had gone on steadily in his business, getting rich to be sure, but getting nothing else.
Her sister was the same as always, enlarged in bulk, but apparently shrunken somewhat in intellect, more contented With gossip and tatting. Her mother was now sixty-five, as busy and happy as ever, a confirmed club-woman, quite influential and serene. She instantly became inordinately proud of her errant daughter, and wrote papers on "The Modern Woman in Industry."
And Joe and Margie? Margie had died with her sixth baby, quite recently. Joe was the same as every, precisely, doing his best by the six.
Then—to Agnes' surprise—he asked her to marry him, and to her still greater surprise she did not want to—and declined. She went back to her child town, to her farm and nurseries, to her thriving business, to the schools and libraries and wide spread improvement schemes she had on her mind.
Her life was rich and full, yet it held one more blessing and astonishment in store. Even at forty she found love, new love for one of her strong Western friends, married, and as the Arabian Nights puts it "was blessed with a son." Also with a daughter later.
Yet for all her late found and gratefully accepted happiness she used to say that she hardly knew which she loved best—her family or her town.
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Text from Project Gutenberg and HathiTrust Digital Library
- Volume 1