Infomotions, Inc.One Basket / Ferber, Edna, 1885-1968



Author: Ferber, Edna, 1885-1968
Title: One Basket
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): tessie; blanche devine; terry; angie; sophy; ben; devine; aunt sophy; eva; blanche; nap ballou; chuck; orville platt; aunt
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Identifier: etext489
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One Basket [31 Stories]

by Edna Ferber

April, 1996  [Etext #489]


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ONE BASKET

THIRTY-ONE
SHORT STORIES

BY EDNA FERBER



INTRODUCTION                               ix
THE WOMAN WHO TRIED TO BE GOOD              1
THE GAY OLD DOG                            11
THAT'S MARRIAGE                            29
FARMER IN THE DELL                         49
UN MORSO DOO PANG                          68
LONG DISTANCE                              89
THE MATERNAL FEMININE                      94
 . . . . remainder not included





The Woman Who Tried to Be Good
[1913]


Before she tried to be a good woman she had been a very bad
woman--so bad that she could trail her wonderful apparel up and
down Main Street, from the Elm Tree Bakery to the railroad
tracks, without once having a man doff his hat to her or a woman
bow.  You passed her on the street with a surreptitious glance,
though she was well worth looking at-- in her furs and laces and
plumes.  She had the only full-length mink coat in our town, and
Ganz's shoe store sent to Chicago for her shoes.  Hers were the
miraculously small feet you frequently see in stout women.

Usually she walked alone; but on rare occasions, especially round
Christmastime, she might have been seen accompanied by some
silent, dull-eyed, stupid-looking girl, who would follow her
dumbly in and out of stores, stopping now and then to admire a
cheap comb or a chain set with flashy imitation stones--or,
queerly enough, a doll with yellow hair and blue eyes and very
pink cheeks.  But, alone or in company, her appearance in the
stores of our town was the signal for a sudden jump in the cost
of living. The storekeepers mulcted her; and she knew it and paid
in silence, for she was of the class that has no redress.  She
owned the House with the Closed Shutters, near the freight
depot--did Blanche Devine.

In a larger town than ours she would have passed unnoticed.  She
did not look like a bad woman.  Of course she used too much
make-up, and as she passed you caught the oversweet breath of a
certain heavy scent.  Then, too, her diamond eardrops would have
made any woman's features look hard; but her plump face, in spite
of its heaviness, wore an expression of good-humored
intelligence, and her eyeglasses gave her somehow a look of
respectability.  We do not associate vice with eyeglasses.  So in
a large city she would have passed for a well-dressed,
prosperous, comfortable wife and mother who was in danger of
losing her figure from an overabundance of good living; but with
us she was a town character, like Old Man Givins, the drunkard,
or the weak-minded Binns girl.  When she passed the drug- store
corner there would be a sniggering among the vacant-eyed loafers
idling there, and they would leer at each other and jest in
undertones.

So, knowing Blanche Devine as we did, there was something
resembling a riot in one of our most respectable neighborhoods
when it was learned that she had given up her interest in the
house near the freight depot and was going to settle down in the
white cottage on the corner and be good.  All the husbands in the
block, urged on by righteously indignant wives, dropped in on
Alderman Mooney after supper to see if the thing could not be
stopped.  The fourth of the protesting husbands to arrive was the
Very Young Husband who lived next door to the corner cottage that
Blanche Devine had bought.  The Very Young Husband had a Very
Young Wife, and they were the joint owners of Snooky.  Snooky was
three-going- on-four, and looked something like an angel--only
healthier and with grimier hands.  The whole neighborhood
borrowed her and tried to spoil her; but Snooky would not spoil.

Alderman Mooney was down in the cellar, fooling with the furnace.

He was in his furnace overalls; a short black pipe in his mouth. 
Three protesting husbands had just left.  As the Very Young
Husband, following Mrs. Mooney's directions, descended the cellar
stairs, Alderman Mooney looked up from his tinkering.  He peered
through a haze of pipe smoke.

"Hello!" he called, and waved the haze away with his open palm.

"Come on down!  Been tinkering with this blamed furnace since
supper.  She don't draw like she ought.  'Long toward spring a
furnace always gets balky.  How many tons you used this winter?"

"Oh-five," said the Very Young Husband shortly.  Alderman
Mooney considered it thoughtfully.  The Young Husband leaned up
against the side of the water tank, his hands in his pockets. 
"Say, Mooney, is that right about Blanche Devine's having bought
the house on the corner?"

"You're the fourth man that's been in to ask me that this
evening.  I'm expecting the rest of the block before bedtime. 
She bought it all right."

The Young Husband flushed and kicked at a piece of coal with the
toe of his boot.

"Well, it's a darned shame!" he began hotly.  "Jen was ready
to cry at supper.  This'll be a fine neighborhood for Snooky to
grow up in!  What's a woman like that want to come into a
respectable street for, anyway?  I own my home and pay my
taxes--"

Alderman Mooney looked up.

"So does she," he interrupted.  "She's going to improve the
place--paint it, and put in a cellar and a furnace, and build a
porch, and lay a cement walk all round."

The Young Husband took his hands out of his pockets in order to
emphasize his remarks with gestures.

"Whati's that got to do with it?  I don't care if she puts in
diamonds for windows and sets out Italian gardens and a terrace
with peacocks on it. You're the alderman of this ward, aren't
you?  Well, it was up to you to keep her out of this block!  You
could have fixed it with an injunction or somethng.  I'm going to
get up a petition--that's what I'm going----"

Alderman Mooney closed the furnace door with a bang that drowned
the rest of the threat.  He turned the draft in a pipe overhead
and brushed his sooty palms briskly together like one who would
put an end to a profitless conversation.

"She's bought the house," he said mildly, "and paid for it. 
And it's hers. She's got a right to live in this neighborhood as
long as she acts respectable."

The Very Young Husband laughed.

"She won't last!  They never do."

Alderman Mooney had taken his pipe out of his mouth and was
rubbing his thumb over the smooth bowl, looking down at it with
unseeing eyes. On his face was a queer look--the look of one who
is embarrassed because he is about to say something honest.

"Look here!  I want to tell you something:  I happened to be up
in the mayor's office the day Blanche signed for the place.  She
had to go through a lot of red tape before she got it--had quite
a time of it, she did!  And say, kid, that woman ain't so--bad."

The Very Young Husband exclaimed impatiently:

"Oh, don't give me any of that, Mooney!  Blanche Devine's a town
character.  Even the kids know what she is.  If she's got
religion or something, and wants to quit and be decent, why
doesn't she go to another town-- Chicago or someplace--where
nobody knows her?"

That motion of Alderman Mooney's thumb against the smooth pipe
bowl stopped.  He looked up slowly.

"That's what I said--the mayor too.  But Blanche Devine said she
wanted to try it here.  She said this was home to her. 
Funny--ain't it?  Said she wouldn't be fooling anybody here. 
They know her.  And if she moved away, she said, it'd leak out
some way sooner or later.  It does, she said. Always!  Seems she
wants to live like--well, like other women.  She put it like
this: she says she hasn't got religion, or any of that.  She says
she's no different than she was when she was twenty.  She says
that for the last ten years the ambition of her life has been to
be able to go into a grocery store and ask the price of, say,
celery; and, if the clerk charged her ten when it ought to be
seven, to be able to sass him with a regular piece of her mind--
and then sail out and trade somewhere else until he saw that she
didn't have to stand anything from storekeepers, any more than
any other woman that did her own marketing.  She's a smart woman,
Blanche is!  God knows I ain't taking her part--exactly; but she
talked a little, and the mayor and me got a little of her
history."

A sneer appeared on the face of the Very Young Husband.  He had
been known before he met Jen as a rather industrious sower of
wild oats.  He knew a thing or two, did the Very Young Husband,
in spite of his youth! He always fussed when Jen wore even a
V-necked summer gown on the street.

"Oh, she wasn't playing for sympathy," went on Alderman Mooney
in answer to the sneer.  "She said she'd always paid her way and
always expected to.  Seems her husband left her without a cent
when she was eighteen--with a baby.  She worked for four dollars
a week in a cheap eating house.  The two of 'em couldn't live on
that.  Then the baby----"

"Good night!" said the Very Young Husband.  "I suppose Mrs.
Mooney's going to call?"

"Minnie!  It was her scolding all through supper that drove me
down to monkey with the furnace.  She's wild--Minnie is."  He
peeled off his overalls and hung them on a nail.  The Young
Husband started to ascend the cellar stairs.  Alderman Mooney
laid a detaining finger on his sleeve.  "Don't say anything in
front of Minnie!  She's boiling!  Minnie and the kids are going
to visit her folks out West this summer; so I wouldn't so much as
dare to say `Good morning!' to the Devine woman.  Anyway, a
person wouldn't talk to her, I suppose.  But I kind of thought
I'd tell you about her.

"Thanks!" said the Very Young Husband dryly.

In the early spring, before Blanche Devine moved in, there came
stone- masons, who began to build something.  It was a great
stone fireplace that rose in massive incongruity at the side of
the little white cottage.  Blanche Devine was trying to make a
home for herself.

Blanche Devine used to come and watch them now and then as the
work progressed.  She had a way of walking round and round the
house, looking up at it and poking at plaster and paint with her
umbrella or finger tip.  One day she brought with her a man with
a spade.  He spaded up a neat square of ground at the side of the
cottage and a long ridge near the fence that separated her yard
from that of the Very Young Couple next door.  The ridge spelled
sweet peas and nasturtiums to our small-town eyes.

On the day that Blanche Devine moved in there was wild agitation
among the white-ruffed bedroom curtains of the neighborhood. 
Later on certain odors, as of burning dinners, pervaded the
atmosphere.  Blanche Devine, flushed and excited, her hair
slightly askew, her diamond eardrops flashing, directed the
moving, wrapped in her great fur coat; but on the third morning
we gasped when she appeared out-of-doors, carrying a little
household ladder, a pail of steaming water, and sundry voluminous
white cloths.  She reared the little ladder against the side of
the house, mounted it cautiously, and began to wash windows with
housewifely thoroughness. Her stout figure was swathed in a gray
sweater and on her head was a battered felt hat--the sort of
window--washing costume that has been worn by women from time
immemorial.  We noticed that she used plenty of hot water and
clean rags, and that she rubbed the glass until it sparkled,
leaning perilously sideways on the ladder to detect elusive
streaks.  Our keenest housekeeping eye could find no fault with
the way Blanche Devine washed windows.

By May, Blanche Devine had left off her diamond eardrops--perhaps
it was their absence that gave her face a new expression.  When
she went downtown we noticed that her hats were more like the
hats the other women in our town wore; but she still affected
extravagant footgear, as is right and proper for a stout woman
who has cause to be vain of her feet. We noticed that her trips
downtown were rare that spring and summer. She used to come home
laden with little bundles; and before supper she would change her
street clothes for a neat, washable housedress, as is our thrifty
custom.  Through her bright windows we could see her moving
briskly about from kitchen to sitting room; and from the smells
that floated out from her kitchen door, she seemed to be
preparing for her solitary supper the same homely viands that
were frying or stewing or baking in our kitchens.  Sometimes you
could detect the delectable scent of browning, hot tea biscuit. 
It takes a determined woman to make tea biscuit for no one but
herself.

Blanche Devine joined the church.  On the first Sunday morning
she came to the service there was a little flurry among the
ushers at the vestibule door.  They seated her well in the rear. 
The second Sunday morning a dreadful thing happened.  The woman
next to whom they seated her turned, regarded her stonily for a
moment, then rose agitatedly and moved to a pew across the aisle.

Blanche Devine's face went a dull red beneath her white powder. 
She never came again--though we saw the minister visit her once
or twice.  She always accompanied him to the door pleasantly,
holding it well open until he was down the little flight of steps
and on the sidewalk.  The minister's wife did not call.

She rose early, like the rest of us; and as summer came on we
used to see her moving about in her little garden patch in the
dewy, golden morning. She wore absurd pale-blue negligees that
made her stout figure loom immense against the greenery of garden
and apple tree.  The neighborhood women viewed these negligees
with Puritan disapproval as they smoothed down their own prim,
starched gingham skirts.  They said it was disgusting --and
perhaps it was; but the habit of years is not easily overcome. 
Blanche Devine--snipping her sweet peas, peering anxiously at the
Virginia creeper that clung with such fragile fingers to the
trellis, watering the flower baskets that hung from her
porch--was blissfully unconscious of the disapproving eyes.  I
wish one of us had just stopped to call good morning to her over
the fence, and to say in our neighborly, small-town way:  "My,
ain't this a scorcher!  So early too!  It'll be fierce by noon!"

But we did not.

I think perhaps the evenings must have been the loneliest for
her.  The summer evenings in our little town are filled with
intimate, human, neighborly sounds.  After the heat of the day it
is pleasant to relax in the cool comfort of the front porch, with
the life of the town eddying about us.  We sew and read out there
until it grows dusk.  We call across lots to our next- door
neighbor.  The men water the lawns and the flower boxes and get
together in little, quiet groups to discuss the new street
paving.  I have even known Mrs. Hines to bring her cherries out
there when she had canning to do, and pit them there on the front
porch partially shielded by her porch vine, but not so
effectually that she was deprived of the sights and sounds about
her.  The kettle in her lap and the dishpan full of great ripe
cherries on the porch floor by her chair, she would pit and chat
and peer out through the vines, the red juice staining her plump
bare arms.

I have wondered since what Blanche Devine thought of us those
lonesome evenings--those evenings filled with friendly sights and
sounds.  It must have been difficult for her, who had dwelt
behind closed shutters so long, to seat herself on the new front
porch for all the world to stare at; but she did sit
there--resolutely--watching us in silence.

She seized hungrily upon the stray crumbs of conversation that
fell to her.  The milkman and the iceman and the butcher boy used
to hold daily conversation with her.  They--sociable
gentlemen--would stand on her door- step, one grimy hand resting
against the white of her doorpost, exchanging the time of day
with Blanche in the doorway--a tea towel in one hand, perhaps,
and a plate in the other.  Her little house was a miracle of
cleanliness.  It was no uncommon sight to see her down on her
knees on the kitchen floor, wielding her brush and rag like the
rest of us.  In canning and preserving time there floated out
from her kitchen the pungent scent of pickled crab apples; the
mouth-watering smell that meant sweet pickles; or the cloying,
divinely sticky odor that meant raspberry jam.  Snooky, from her
side of the fence, often used to peer through the pickets, gazing
in the direction of the enticing smells next door.

Early one September morning there floated out from Blanche
Devine's kitchen that fragrant, sweet scent of fresh-baked
cookies--cookies with butter in them, and spice, and with nuts on
top.  Just by the smell of them your mind's eye pictured them
coming from the oven-crisp brown circlets, crumbly, delectable. 
Snooky, in her scarlet sweater and cap, sniffed them from afar
and straightway deserted her sand pile to take her stand at the
fence.  She peered through the restraining bars, standing on
tiptoe.  Blanche Devine, glancing up from her board and rolling
pin, saw the eager golden head.  And Snooky, with guile in her
heart, raised one fat, dimpled hand above the fence and waved it
friendlily.  Blanche Devine waved back.  Thus encouraged,
Snooky's two hands wigwagged frantically above the pickets.
Blanche Devine hesitated a moment, her floury hand on her hip. 
Then she went to the pantry shelf and took out a clean white
saucer.  She selected from the brown jar on the table three of
the brownest, crumbliest, most perfect cookies, with a walnut
meat perched atop of each, placed them temptingly on the saucer
and, descending the steps, came swiftly across the grass to the
triumphant Snooky.  Blanche Devine held out the saucer, her lips
smiling, her eyes tender.  Snooky reached up with one plump white
arm.

"Snooky!" shrilled a high voice.  "Snooky!"  A voice of
horror and of wrath.  "Come here to me this minute!  And don't
you dare to touch those!" Snooky hesitated rebelliously, one
pink finger in her pouting mouth.

"Snooky!  Do you hear me?"

And the Very Young Wife began to descend the steps of her back
porch. Snooky, regretful eyes on the toothsome dainties, turned
away aggrieved. The Very Young Wife, her lips set, her eyes
flashing, advanced and seized the shrieking Snooky by one arm and
dragged her away toward home and safety.

Blanche Devine stood there at the fence, holding the saucer in
her hand. The saucer tipped slowly, and the three cookies slipped
off and fell to the grass.  Blanche Devine stood staring at them
a moment.  Then she turned quickly, went into the house, and shut
the door.

It was about this time we noticed that Blanche Devine was away
much of the time.  The little white cottage would be empty for
weeks.  We knew she was out of town because the expressman would
come for her trunk. We used to lift our eyebrows significantly. 
The newspapers and handbills would accumulate in a dusty little
heap on the porch; but when she returned there was always a grand
cleaning, with the windows open, and Blanche--her head bound
turbanwise in a towel--appearing at a window every few minutes to
shake out a dustcloth.  She seemed to put an enormous amount of
energy into those cleanings--as if they were a sort of safety
valve.

As winter came on she used to sit up before her grate fire long,
long after we were asleep in our beds.  When she neglected to
pull down the shades we could see the flames of her cosy fire
dancing gnomelike on the wall. 
There came a night of sleet and snow, and wind and rattling
hail--one of those blustering, wild nights that are followed by
morning-paper reports of trains stalled in drifts, mail delayed,
telephone and telegraph wires down.  It must have been midnight
or past when there came a hammering at Blanche Devine's door--a
persistent, clamorous rapping.  Blanche Devine, sitting before
her dying fire half asleep, started and cringed when she heard
it, then jumped to her feet, her hand at her breast--her eyes
darting this way and that, as though seeking escape.

She had heard a rapping like that before.  It had meant bluecoats
swarming up the stairway, and frightened cries and pleadings, and
wild confusion. So she started forward now, quivering.  And then
she remembered, being wholly awake now--she remembered, and threw
up her head and smiled a little bitterly and walked toward the
door.  The hammering continued, louder than ever.  Blanche Devine
flicked on the porch light and opened the door.  The half-clad
figure of the Very Young Wife next door staggered into the room. 
She seized Blanche Devine's arm with both her frenzied hands and
shook her, the wind and snow beating in upon both of them.

"The baby!" she screamed in a high, hysterical voice.  "The
baby!  The baby----!"

Blanche Devine shut the door and shook the Young Wife smartly by
the shoulders.

"Stop screaming," she said quietly.  "Is she sick?"

The Young Wife told her, her teeth chattering:

"Come quick!  She's dying!  Will's out of town.  I tried to get
the doctor. The telephone wouldn't---- I saw your light!  For
God's sake----"

Blanche Devine grasped the Young Wife's arm, opened the door, and
together they sped across the little space that separated the two
houses. Blanche Devine was a big woman, but she took the stairs
like a girl and found the right bedroom by some miraculous woman
instinct.  A dreadful choking, rattling sound was coming from
Snooky's bed.

"Croup," said Blanche Devine, and began her fight.

It was a good fight.  She marshaled her inadequate forces, made
up of the half-fainting Young Wife and the terrified and awkward
hired girl.

"Get the hot water on--lots of it!"  Blanche Devine pinned up
her sleeves. "Hot cloths!  Tear up a sheet--or anything!  Got an
oilstove?  I want a tea- kettle boiling in the room.  She's got
to have the steam.  If that don't do it we'll raise an umbrella
over her and throw a sheet over, and hold the kettle under till
the steam gets to her that way.  Got any ipecac?"

The Young Wife obeyed orders, white-faced and shaking.  Once
Blanche Devine glanced up at her sharply.

"Don't you dare faint!" she commanded.

And the fight went on.  Gradually the breathing that had been so
frightful became softer, easier.  Blanche Devine did not relax. 
It was not until the little figure breathed gently in sleep that
Blanche Devine sat back, satisfied.  Then she tucked a cover at
the side of the bed, took a last satisfied look at the face on
the pillow, and turned to look at the wan, disheveled Young Wife.

"She's all right now.  We can get the doctor when morning
comes-- though I don't know's you'll need him."

The Young Wife came round to Blanche Devine's side of the bed and
stood looking up at her.

"My baby died," said Blanche Devine simply.  The Young Wife
gave a little inarticulate cry, put her two hands on Blanche
Devine's broad shoulders, and laid her tired head on her breast.

"I guess I'd better be going," said Blanche Devine.

The Young Wife raised her head.  Her eyes were round with fright.

"Going!  Oh, please stay!  I'm so afraid.  Suppose she should
take sick again!  That awful--breathing----"

"I'll stay if you want me to."

"Oh, please!  I'll make up your bed and you can rest----"

"I'm not sleepy.  I'm not much of a hand to sleep anyway.  I'll
sit up here in the hall, where there's a light.  You get to bed. 
I'll watch and see that everything's all right.  Have you got
something I can read out here--something kind of lively--with a
love story in it?"

So the night went by.  Snooky slept in her white bed.  The Very
Young Wife half dozed in her bed, so near the little one.  In the
hall, her stout figure looming grotesque in wall shadows, sat
Blanche Devine, pretending to read.  Now and then she rose and
tiptoed into the bedroom with miraculous quiet, and stooped over
the little bed and listened and looked--and tiptoed away again,
satisfied.

The Young Husband came home from his business trip next day with
tales of snowdrifts and stalled engines.  Blanche Devine breathed
a sigh of relief when she saw him from her kitchen window.  She
watched the house now with a sort of proprietary eye.  She
wondered about Snooky; but she knew better than to ask.  So she
waited.  The Young Wife next door had told her husband all about
that awful night--had told him with tears and sobs.  The Very
Young Husband had been very, very angry with her-- angry, he
said, and astonished!  Snooky could not have been so sick!  Look
at her now!  As well as ever.  And to have called such a woman! 
Well, he did not want to be harsh; but she must understand that
she must never speak to the woman again.  Never!

So the next day the Very Young Wife happened to go by with the
Young Husband.  Blanche Devine spied them from her sitting-room
window, and she made the excuse of looking in her mailbox in
order to go to the door.  She stood in the doorway and the Very
Young Wife went by on the arm of her husband.  She went
by--rather white-faced--without a look or a word or a sign!

And then this happened!  There came into Blanche Devine's face a
look that made slits of her eyes, and drew her mouth down into an
ugly, narrow line, and that made the muscles of her jaw tense and
hard.  It was the ugliest look you can imagine.  Then she
smiled--if having one's lips curl away from one's teeth can be
called smiling.

Two days later there was great news of the white cottage on the
corner. The curtains were down; the furniture was packed; the
rugs were rolled. The wagons came and backed up to the house and
took those things that had made a home for Blanche Devine.  And
when we heard that she had bought back her interest in the House
with the Closed Shutters, near the freight depot, we sniffed.

"I knew she wouldn't last!" we said.

"They never do!" said we.



The Gay Old Dog
[1917]


Those of you who have dwelt--or even lingered--in Chicago,
Illinois, are familiar with the region known as the Loop.  For
those others of you to whom Chicago is a transfer point between
New York and California there is presented this brief
explanation:

The Loop is a clamorous, smoke-infested district embraced by the
iron arms of the elevated tracks.  In a city boasting fewer
millions, it would be known familiarly as downtown.  From
Congress to Lake Street, from Wabash almost to the river, those
thunderous tracks make a complete circle, or loop.  Within it lie
the retail shops, the commercial hotels, the theaters, the
restaurants.  It is the Fifth Avenue and the Broadway of Chicago.

And he who frequents it by night in search of amusement and cheer
is known, vulgarly, as a Loop-hound.

Jo Hertz was a Loop-hound.  On the occasion of those sparse first
nights granted the metropolis of the Middle West he was always
present, third row, aisle, left.  When a new Loop cafe' was
opened, Jo's table always commanded an unobstructed view of
anything worth viewing.  On entering he was wont to say, "Hello,
Gus," with careless cordiality to the headwaiter, the while his
eye roved expertly from table to table as he removed his gloves. 
He ordered things under glass, so that his table, at midnight or
thereabouts, resembled a hotbed that favors the bell system.  The
waiters fought for him.  He was the kind of man who mixes his own
salad dressing. He liked to call for a bowl, some cracked ice,
lemon, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, vinegar, and oil and make a
rite of it.  People at near-by tables would lay down their knives
and forks to watch, fascinated.  The secret of it seemed to lie
in using all the oil in sight and calling for more.

That was Jo--a plump and lonely bachelor of fifty.  A plethoric,
roving- eyed, and kindly man, clutching vainly at the garments of
a youth that had long slipped past him.  Jo Hertz, in one of
those pinch-waist suits and a belted coat and a little green hat,
walking up Michigan Avenue of a bright winter's afternoon, trying
to take the curb with a jaunty youthfulness against which every
one of his fat-encased muscles rebelled, was a sight for mirth or
pity, depending on one's vision.

The gay-dog business was a late phase in the life of Jo Hertz. 
He had been a quite different sort of canine.  The staid and
harassed brother of three unwed and selfish sisters is an
underdog.

At twenty-seven Jo had been the dutiful, hard-working son (in the
wholesale harness business) of a widowed and gummidging mother,
who called him Joey.  Now and then a double wrinkle would appear
between Jo's eyes--a wrinkle that had no business there at
twenty-seven.  Then Jo's mother died, leaving him handicapped by
a deathbed promise, the three sisters, and a
three-story-and-basement house on Calumet Avenue.  Jo's wrinkle
became a fixture.

"Joey," his mother had said, in her high, thin voice, "take
care of the girls."

"I will, Ma," Jo had choked.

"Joey," and the voice was weaker, "promise me you won't marry
till the girls are all provided for."  Then as Jo had hesitated,
appalled:  "Joey, it's my dying wish.  Promise!"

"I promise, Ma," he had said.

Whereupon his mother had died, comfortably, leaving him with a
completely ruined life.

They were not bad-looking girls, and they had a certain style,
too.  That is, Stell and Eva had.  Carrie, the middle one, taught
school over on the West Side.  In those days it took her almost
two hours each way.  She said the kind of costume she required
should have been corrugated steel.  But all three knew what was
being worn, and they wore it--or fairly faithful copies of it. 
Eva, the housekeeping sister, had a needle knack.  She could skim
the State Street windows and come away with a mental photograph
of every separate tuck, hem, yoke, and ribbon.  Heads of
departments showed her the things they kept in drawers, and she
went home and reproduced them with the aid of a seamstress by the
day.  Stell, the youngest, was the beauty.  They called her Babe.

Twenty-three years ago one's sisters did not strain at the
household leash, nor crave a career.  Carrie taught school, and
hated it.  Eva kept house expertly and complainingly.  Babe's
profession was being the family beauty, and it took all her spare
time.  Eva always let her sleep until ten.

This was Jo's household, and he was the nominal head of it.  But
it was an empty title.  The three women dominated his life.  They
weren't con- sciously selfish.  If you had called them cruel they
would have put you down as mad.  When you are the lone brother of
three sisters, it means that you must constantly be calling for,
escorting, or dropping one of them somewhere.  Most men of Jo's
age were standing before their mirror of a Saturday night,
whistling blithely and abstractedly while they discarded a blue
polka-dot for a maroon tie, whipped off the maroon for a
shot-silk and at the last moment decided against the shot-silk in
favor of a plain black-and-white because she had once said she
preferred quiet ties.  Jo, when he should have been preening his
feathers for conquest, was saying:

"Well, my God, I AM hurrying!  Give a man time, can't you?  I
just got home.  You girls been laying around the house all day. 
No wonder you're ready."

He took a certain pride in seeing his sisters well dressed, at a
time when he should have been reveling in fancy waistcoats and
brilliant-hued socks, according to the style of that day and the
inalienable right of any unwed male under thirty, in any day.  On
those rare occasions when his business necessitated an
out-of-town trip, he would spend half a day floundering about the
shops selecting handkerchiefs, or stockings, or feathers, or
gloves for the girls.  They always turned out to be the wrong
kind, judging by their reception.

From Carrie, "What in the world do I want of long white
gloves!"

"I thought you didn't have any," Jo would say.

"I haven't.  I never wear evening clothes."

Jo would pass a futile hand over the top of his head, as was his
way when disturbed.  "I just thought you'd like them.  I thought
every girl liked long white gloves.  Just," feebly, "just
to--to have."

"Oh, for pity's sake!"

And from Eva or Babe, "I've GOT silk stockings, Jo."  Or, "You
brought me handkerchiefs the last time."

There was something selfish in his giving, as there always is in
any gift freely and joyfully made.  They never suspected the
exquisite pleasure it gave him to select these things, these
fine, soft, silken things. There were many things about this
slow-going, amiable brother of theirs that they never suspected. 
If you had told them he was a dreamer of dreams, for example,
they would have been amused.  Sometimes, dead-tired by nine
o'clock after a hard day downtown, he would doze over the evening
paper.  At intervals he would wake, red-eyed, to a snatch of
conversation such as, "Yes, but if you get a blue you can wear
it anywhere.  It's dressy, and at the same time it's quiet,
too."  Eva, the expert, wrestling with Carrie over the problem
of the new spring dress.  They never guessed that the com-
monplace man in the frayed old smoking jacket had banished them
all from the room long ago; had banished himself, for that
matter.  In his place was a tall, debonair, and rather
dangerously handsome man to whom six o'clock spelled evening
clothes.  The kind of man who can lean up against a mantel, or
propose a toast, or give an order to a manservant, or whisper a
gallant speech in a lady's ear with equal ease.  The shabby old
house on Calumet Avenue was transformed into a brocaded and
chandeliered rendezvous for the brilliance of the city.  Beauty
was here, and wit. But none so beautiful and witty as She. 
Mrs.--er--Jo Hertz.  There was wine, of course; but no vulgar
display.  There was music; the soft sheen of satin; laughter. 
And he, the gracious, tactful host, king of his own domain----

"Jo, for heaven's sake, if you're going to snore, go to bed!"

"Why--did I fall asleep?"

"You haven't been doing anything else all evening.  A person
would think you were fifty instead of thirty."

And Jo Hertz was again just the dull, gray, commonplace brother
of three well-meaning sisters.

Babe used to say petulantly, "Jo, why don't you ever bring home
any of your men friends?  A girl might as well not have any
brother, all the good you do."

Jo, conscience-stricken, did his best to make amends.  But a man
who has been petticoat-ridden for years loses the knack, somehow,
of comradeship with men.

One Sunday in May Jo came home from a late-Sunday-afternoon walk
to find company for supper.  Carrie often had in one of her
schoolteacher friends, or Babe one of her frivolous intimates, or
even Eva a staid guest of the old-girl type.  There was always a
Sunday-night supper of potato salad, and cold meat, and coffee,
and perhaps a fresh cake.  Jo rather enjoyed it, being a
hospitable soul.  But he regarded the guests with the undazzled
eyes of a man to whom they were just so many petticoats, timid of
the night streets and requiring escort home.  If you had
suggested to him that some of his sisters' popularity was due to
his own presence, or if you had hinted that the more kittenish of
these visitors were probably making eyes at him, he would have
stared in amazement and unbelief.

This Sunday night it turned out to be one of Carrie's friends.

"Emily," said Carrie, "this is my brother, Jo."

Jo had learned what to expect in Carrie's friends.  Drab-looking
women in the late thirties, whose facial lines all slanted
downward.

"Happy to meet you," said Jo, and looked down at a different
sort altogether.  A most surprisingly different sort, for one of
Carrie's friends.  This Emily person was very small, and fluffy,
and blue-eyed, and crinkly looking. The corners of her mouth when
she smiled, and her eyes when she looked up at you, and her hair,
which was brown, but had the miraculous effect, somehow, of
looking golden.

Jo shook hands with her.  Her hand was incredibly small, and
soft, so that you were afraid of crushing it, until you
discovered she had a firm little grip all her own.  It surprised
and amused you, that grip, as does a baby's unexpected clutch on
your patronizing forefinger.  As Jo felt it in his own big clasp,
the strangest thing happened to him.  Something inside Jo Hertz
stopped working for a moment, then lurched sickeningly, then
thumped like mad.  It was his heart.  He stood staring down at
her, and she up at him, until the others laughed.  Then their
hands fell apart, lingeringly.

"Are you a schoolteacher, Emily?" he said.

"Kindergarten.  It's my first year.  And don't call me Emily,
please."

"Why not?  It's your name.  I think it's the prettiest name in
the world." Which he hadn't meant to say at all.  In fact, he
was perfectly aghast to find himself saying it.  But he meant it.

At supper he passed her things, and stared, until everybody
laughed again, and Eva said acidly, "Why don't you feed her?"

It wasn't that Emily had an air of helplessness.  She just made
him feel he wanted her to be helpless, so that he could help her.

Jo took her home, and from that Sunday night he began to strain
at the leash.  He took his sisters out, dutifully, but he would
suggest, with a carelessness that deceived no one, "Don't you
want one of your girl friends to come along?  That little
What's-her-name-Emily, or something.  So long's I've got three of
you, I might as well have a full squad."

For a long time he didn't know what was the matter with him.  He
only knew he was miserable, and yet happy.  Sometimes his heart
seemed to ache with an actual physical ache.  He realized that he
wanted to do things for Emily.  He wanted to buy things for
Emily--useless, pretty, expensive things that he couldn't afford.

He wanted to buy everything that Emily needed, and everything
that Emily desired.  He wanted to marry Emily. That was it.  He
discovered that one day, with a shock, in the midst of a
transaction in the harness business.  He stared at the man with
whom he was dealing until that startled person grew
uncomfortable.  "What's the matter, Hertz?"  "Matter?"  "You
look as if you'd seen a ghost or found a gold mine.  I don't know
which."  "Gold mine," said Jo.  And then, "No.  Ghost."  For
he remembered that high, thin voice, and his promise.  And the
harness business was slithering downhill with dreadful rapidity,
as the automobile business began its amazing climb.  Jo tried to
stop it.  But he was not that kind of businessman.  It never
occurred to him to jump out of the down-going vehicle and catch
the up-going one.  He stayed on, vainly applying brakes that
refused to work.  "You know, Emily, I couldn't support two
households now.  Not the way things are.  But if you'll wait.  If
you'll only wait.  The girls might--that is, Babe and Carrie--"

She was a sensible little thing, Emily.  "Of course I'll wait. 
But we mustn't just sit back and let the years go by.  We've got
to help."  

She went about it as if she were already a little matchmaking
matron.  She corralled all the men she had ever known and
introduced them to Babe, Carrie, and Eva separately, in pairs,
and en masse.  She got up picnics. She stayed home while Jo took
the three about.  When she was present she tried to look as plain
and obscure as possible, so that the sisters should show up to
advantage.  She schemed, and planned, and contrived, and hoped;
and smiled into Jo's despairing eyes.  

And three years went by.  Three precious years.  Carrie still
taught school, and hated it.  Eva kept house more and more
complainingly as prices advanced and allowance retreated.  Stell
was still Babe, the family beauty.  Emily's hair, somehow, lost
its glint and began to look just plain brown.  Her crinkliness
began to iron out.  

"Now, look here!" Jo argued, desperately, one night.  "We
could be happy, anyway.  There's plenty of room at the house. 
Lots of people begin that way.  Of course, I couldn't give you
all I'd like to, at first.  But maybe, after a while--"  No
dreams of salons, and brocade, and velvet-footed servitors, and
satin damask now.  Just two rooms, all their own, all alone, and
Emily to work for.  That was his dream.  But it seemed less
possible than that other absurd one had been.  

Emily was as practical a little thing as she looked fluffy.  She
knew women.  Especially did she know Eva, and Carrie, and Babe. 
She tried to imagine herself taking the household affairs and the
housekeeping pocket- book out of Eva's expert hands.  So then she
tried to picture herself allowing the reins of Jo's house to
remain in Eva's hands.  And everything feminine and normal in her
rebelled.  Emily knew she'd want to put away her own freshly
laundered linen, and smooth it, and pat it.  She was that kind of
woman.  She knew she'd want to do her own delightful haggling
with butcher and grocer.  She knew she'd want to muss Jo's hair,
and sit on his knee, and even quarrel with him, if necessary,
without the awareness of three ever-present pairs of maiden eyes
and ears.  

"No!  No!  We'd only be miserable.  I know.  Even if they didn't
object. And they would, Jo.  Wouldn't they?"  

His silence was miserable assent.  Then, "But you do love me. 
don't you, Emily?"  

"I do, Jo.  I love you--and love you--and love you.  But, Jo,
I--can't."  

"I know it, dear.  I knew it all the time, really.  I just
thought, maybe, somehow----"  

The two sat staring for a moment into space, their hands clasped.

Then they both shut their eyes with a little shudder, as though
what they saw was terrible to look upon.  Emily's hand, the tiny
hand that was so unexpectedly firm, tightened its hold on his,
and his crushed the absurd fingers until she winced with pain.

That was the beginning of the end, and they knew it.  

Emily wasn't the kind of girl who would be left to pine.  There
are too many Jos in the world whose hearts are prone to lurch and
then thump at the feel of a soft, fluttering, incredibly small
hand in their grip.  One year later Emily was married to a young
man whose father owned a large, pie- shaped slice of the
prosperous state of Michigan.  

That being safely accomplished, there was something grimly
humorous in the trend taken by affairs in the old house on
Calumet.  For Eva married.  Married well, too, though he was a
great deal older than she.  She went off in a hat she had copied
from a French model at Field's, and a suit she had contrived with
a home dressmaker, aided by pressing on the part of the little
tailor in the basement over on Thirty-first Street.  It was the
last of that, though.  The next time they saw her, she had on a
hat that even she would have despaired of copying, and a suit
that sort of melted into your gaze.  She moved to the North Side
(trust Eva for that), and Babe assumed the management of the
household on Calumet Avenue.  It was rather a pinched little
household now, for the harness business shrank and shrank.  

"I don't see how you can expect me to keep house decently on
this!" Babe would say contemptuously.  Babe's nose, always a
little inclined to sharpness, had whittled down to a point of
late.  "If you knew what Ben gives Eva."  

"It's the best I can do, Sis.  Business is something rotten."

"Ben says if you had the least bit of----"  Ben was Eva's
husband, and quotable, as are all successful men.  

"I don't care what Ben says," shouted Jo, goaded into rage.  
"I'm sick of your everlasting Ben.  Go and get a Ben of your
own, why don't you, if you're so stuck on the way he does
things."  

And Babe did.  She made a last desperate drive, aided by Eva, and
she captured a rather surprised young man in the brokerage way,
who had made up his mind not to marry for years and years.  Eva
wanted to give her her wedding things, but at that Jo broke into
sudden rebellion.  

"No, sir!  No Ben is going to buy my sister's wedding clothes,
understand? I guess I'm not broke--yet.  I'll furnish the money
for her things, and there'll be enough of them, too."  Babe had
as useless a trousseau, and as filled with extravagant pink-and-
blue and lacy and frilly things, as any daughter of doting
parents.  Jo seemed to find a grim pleasure in providing them. 
But it left him pretty well pinched.  After Babe's marriage (she
insisted that they call her Estelle now) Jo sold the house on
Calumet.  He and Carrie took one of those little flats that were
springing up, seemingly overnight, all through Chicago's South
Side.  

There was nothing domestic about Carrie.  She had given up
teaching two years before, and had gone into social-service work
on the West Side. She had what is known as a legal mind--hard,
clear, orderly--and she made a great success of it.  Her dream
was to live at the Settlement House and give all her time to the
work.  Upon the little household she bestowed a certain amount of
grim, capable attention.  It was the same kind of attention she
would have given a piece of machinery whose oiling and running
had been entrusted to her care.  She hated it, and didn't
hesitate to say so.  

Jo took to prowling about department-store basements, and
household goods sections.  He was always sending home a bargain
in a ham, or a sack of potatoes, or fifty pounds of sugar, or a
window clamp, or a new kind of paring knife.  He was forever
doing odd jobs that the janitor should have done.  It was the
domestic in him claiming its own.  

Then, one night, Carrie came home with a dull glow in her
leathery cheeks, and her eyes alight with resolve.  They had what
she called a plain talk.  

"Listen, Jo.  They've offered me the job of first assistant
resident worker. And I'm going to take it.  Take it!  I know
fifty other girls who'd give their ears for it.  I go in next
month."  

They were at dinner.  Jo looked up from his plate, dully.  Then
he glanced around the little dining room, with its ugly tan walls
and its heavy, dark furniture (the Calumet Avenue pieces fitted
cumbersomely into the five-room flat).  

"Away?  Away from here, you mean--to live?"  

Carrie laid down her fork.  "Well, really, Jo!  After all that
explanation."  

"But to go over there to live!  Why, that neighborhood's full of
dirt, and disease, and crime, and the Lord knows what all.  I
can't let you do that, Carrie."

Carrie's chin came up.  She laughed a short little laugh.  "Let
me!  That's eighteenth-century talk, Jo.  My life's my own to
live.  I'm going."  

And she went.  

Jo stayed on in the apartment until the lease was up.  Then he
sold what furniture he could, stored or gave away the rest, and
took a room on Michigan Avenue in one of the old stone mansions
whose decayed splendor was being put to such purpose.  

Jo Hertz was his own master.  Free to marry.  Free to come and
go.  And he found he didn't even think of marrying.  He didn't
even want to come or go, particularly.  A rather frumpy old
bachelor, with thinning hair and a thickening neck.  

Every Thursday evening he took dinner at Eva's, and on Sunday
noon at Stell's.  He tucked his napkin under his chin and openly
enjoyed the homemade soup and the well-cooked meats.  After
dinner he tried to talk business with Eva's husband, or Stell's. 
His business talks were the old- fashioned kind, beginning:  

"Well, now, looka here.  Take, f'rinstance, your raw hides and
leathers."  

But Ben and George didn't want to take, f'rinstance, your raw
hides and leathers.  They wanted, when they took anything at all,
to take golf, or politics, or stocks.  They were the modern type
of businessman who prefers to leave his work out of his play. 
Business, with them, was a profession-- a finely graded and
balanced thing, differing from Jo's clumsy, down- hill style as
completely as does the method of a great criminal detective
differ from that of a village constable.  They would listen,
restively, and say, "Uh-uh," at intervals, and at the first
chance they would sort of fade out of the room, with a meaning
glance at their wives.  Eva had two children now.  Girls.  They
treated Uncle Jo with good-natured tolerance.  Stell had no
children.  Uncle Jo degenerated, by almost imperceptible degrees,
from the position of honored guest, who is served with white
meat, to that of one who is content with a leg and one of those
obscure and bony sections which, after much turning with a
bewildered and investigating knife and fork, leave one baffled
and unsatisfied.  

Eva and Stell got together and decided that Jo ought to marry.  

"It isn't natural," Eva told him.  "I never saw a man who took
so little interest in women."  

"Me!" protested Jo, almost shyly.  "Women!"  

"Yes.  Of course.  You act like a frightened schoolboy."  

So they had in for dinner certain friends and acquaintances of
fitting age.  They spoke of them as "splendid girls."  Between
thirty-six and forty. They talked awfully well, in a firm, clear
way, about civics, and classes, and politics, and economics, and
boards.  They rather terrified Jo.  He didn't understand much
that they talked about, and he felt humbly inferior, and yet a
little resentful, as if something had passed him by.  He escorted
them home, dutifully, though they told him not to bother, and
they evidently meant it.  They seemed capable not only of going
home quite unattended but of delivering a pointed lecture to any
highwayman or brawler who might molest them.  

The following Thursday Eva would say, "How did you like her,
Jo?"  

"Like who?" Joe would spar feebly.  

"Miss Matthews."  

"Who's she?"  

"Now, don't be funny, Jo. You know very well I mean the girl who
was here for dinner.  The one who talked so well on the
emigration question."  

"Oh, her!  Why, I liked her all right.  Seems to be a smart
woman."  

"Smart!  She's a perfectly splendid girl."  

"Sure," Jo would agree cheerfully.  

"But didn't you like her?"  

"I can't say I did, Eve.  And I can't say I didn't.  She made me
think a lot of a teacher I had in the fifth reader.  Name of
Himes.  As I recall her, she must have been a fine woman.  But I
never thought of Himes as a woman at all.  She was just
Teacher."  

"You make me tired," snapped Eva impatiently.  "A man of your
age. You don't expect to marry a girl, do you?  A child!"  

"I don't expect to marry anybody," Jo had answered.  

And that was the truth, lonely though he often was.  

The following spring Eva moved to Winnetka.  Anyone who got the
meaning of the Loop knows the significance of a move to a North
Shore suburb, and a house.  Eva's daughter, Ethel, was growing
up, and her mother had an eye on society.  

That did away with Jo's Thursday dinners.  Then Stell's husband
bought a car.  They went out into the country every Sunday. 
Stell said it was getting so that maids objected to Sunday
dinners, anyway.  Besides, they were unhealthful, old-fashioned
things.  They always meant to ask Jo to come along, but by the
time their friends were placed, and the lunch, and the boxes, and
sweaters, and George's camera, and everything, there seemed to be
no room for a man of Jo's bulk.  So that eliminated the Sunday
dinners.  

"Just drop in any time during the week," Stell said, "for
dinner.  Except Wednesday--that's our bridge night--and Saturday.

And, of course, Thursday. Cook is out that night.  Don't wait for
me to phone."  

And so Jo drifted into that sad-eyed, dyspeptic family made up of
those you see dining in second-rate restaurants, their paper
propped up against the bowl of oyster crackers, munching solemnly
and with indifference to the stare of the passer-by surveying
them through the brazen plate-glass window.  

And then came the war.  The war that spelled death and
destruction to millions.  The war that brought a fortune to Jo
Hertz, and transformed him, overnight, from a baggy-kneed old
bachelor whose business was a failure to a prosperous
manufacturer whose only trouble was the shortage in hides for the
making of his product.  Leather!  The armies of Europe called for
it.  Harnesses!  More harnesses! Straps!  Millions of straps. 
More! More!  

The musty old harness business over on Lake Street was magically
changed from a dust-covered, dead-alive concern to an orderly
hive that hummed and glittered with success.  Orders poured in. 
Jo Hertz had inside information on the war.  He knew about troops
and horses.  He talked with French and English and Italian buyers
commissioned by their countries to get American-made supplies. 
And now, when he said to Ben or George, "Take, f'rinstance, your
raw hides and leathers," they listened with respectful
attention.  

And then began the gay-dog business in the life of Jo Hertz.  He
developed into a Loop-hound, ever keen on the scent of fresh
pleasure.  That side of Jo Hertz which had been repressed and
crushed and ignored began to bloom, unhealthily.  At first he
spent money on his rather contemptuous nieces.  He sent them
gorgeous furs, and watch bracelets, and bags.  He took two
expensive rooms at a downtown hotel, and there was something more
tear-compelling than grotesque about the way he gloated over the
luxury of a separate ice-water tap in the bathroom.  He explained
it.  

"Just turn it on.  Any hour of the day or night.  Ice water!"  

He bought a car.  Naturally.  A glittering affair; in color a
bright blue, with pale-blue leather straps and a great deal of
gold fittings, and special tires.  Eva said it was the kind of
thing a chorus girl would use, rather than an elderly
businessman.  You saw him driving about in it, red-faced and
rather awkward at the wheel.  You saw him, too, in the Pompeian
Room at the Congress Hotel of a Saturday afternoon when
roving-eyed matrons in mink coats are wont to congregate to sip
pale-amber drinks. Actors grew to recognize the semibald head and
the shining, round, good- natured face looming out at them from
the dim well of the theater, and sometimes, in a musical show,
they directed a quip at him, and he liked it. He could pick out
the critics as they came down the aisle, and even had a nodding
acquaintance with two of them.  

"Kelly, of the Herald," he would say carelessly.  "Bean. of
the Trib. They're all afraid of him."  

So he frolicked, ponderously.  In New York he might have been
called a Man About Town.  

And he was lonesome.  He was very lonesome.  So he searched about
in his mind and brought from the dim past the memory of the
luxuriously furnished establishment of which he used to dream in
the evenings when he dozed over his paper in the old house on
Calumet.  So he rented an apartment, many-roomed and expensive,
with a manservant in charge, and furnished it in styles and
periods ranging through all the Louis.  The living room was
mostly rose color.  It was like an unhealthy and bloated boudoir.
And yet there was nothing sybaritic or uncleanly in the sight of
this paunchy, middle-aged man sinking into the rosy-cushioned
luxury of his ridiculous home.  It was a frank and naive
indulgence of long-starved senses, and there was in it a great
resemblance to the rolling-eyed ecstasy of a schoolboy smacking
his lips over an all-day sucker.  

The war went on, and on, and on.  And the money continued to roll
in-- a flood of it.  Then, one afternoon, Eva, in town on
shopping bent, entered a small, exclusive, and expensive shop on
Michigan Avenue.  Eva's weakness was hats.  She was seeking a hat
now.  She described what she sought with a languid conciseness,
and stood looking about her after the saleswoman had vanished in
quest of it.  The room was becomingly rose-illumined and somewhat
dim, so that some minutes had passed before she realized that a
man seated on a raspberry brocade settee not five feet away-- a
man with a walking stick, and yellow gloves, and tan spats, and a
check suit--was her brother Jo.  From him Eva's wild-eyed glance
leaped to the woman who was trying on hats before one of the many
long mirrors.  She was seated, and a saleswoman was exclaiming
discreetly at her elbow.  

Eva turned sharply and encountered her own saleswoman returning
hat-laden.  "Not today," she gasped.  "I'm feeling ill. 
Suddenly."  And almost ran from the room.  

That evening she told Stell, relating her news in that telephone
pidgin English devised by every family of married sisters as
protection against the neighbors.  Translated, it ran thus:  

"He looked straight at me.  My dear, I thought I'd die!  But at
least he had sense enough not to speak.  She was one of those
limp, willowy creatures with the greediest eyes that she tried to
keep softened to a baby stare, and couldn't, she was so crazy to
get her hands on those hats.  I saw it all in one awful minute. 
You know the way I do.  I suppose some people would call her
pretty.  I don't.  And her color.  Well!  And the most expensive-
looking hats.  Not one of them under seventy-five.  Isn't it
disgusting!  At his age!  Suppose Ethel had been with me!"  

The next time it was Stell who saw them.  In a restaurant.  She
said it spoiled her evening.  And the third time it was Ethel. 
She was one of the guests at a theater party given by Nicky
Overton II.  The North Shore Overtons.  Lake Forest.  They came
in late, and occupied the entire third row at the opening
performance of Believe Me!  And Ethel was Nicky's partner.  She
was glowing like a rose.  When the lights went up after the first
act Ethel saw that her uncle Jo was seated just ahead of her with
what she afterward described as a blonde.  Then her uncle had
turned around, and seeing her, had been surprised into a smile
that spread genially all over his plump and rubicund face.  Then
he had turned to face forward again, quickly.  

"Who's the old bird?" Nicky had asked.  Ethel had pretended not
to hear, so he had asked again.  

"My uncle," Ethel answered, and flushed all over her delicate
face, and down to her throat.  Nicky had looked at the blonde,
and his eyebrows had gone up ever so slightly.  

It spoiled Ethel's evening.  More than that, as she told her
mother of it later, weeping, she declared it had spoiled her
life.  

Eva talked it over with her husband in that intimate hour that
precedes bedtime.  She gesticulated heatedly with her hairbrush. 

"It's disgusting, that's what it is.  Perfectly disgusting. 
There's no fool like an old fool.  Imagine!  A creature like
that.  At his time of life."  

"Well, I don't know," Ben said, and even grinned a little.  "I
suppose a boy's got to sow his wild oats sometime."  

"Don't be any more vulgar than you can help," Eva retorted. 
"And I think you know, as well as I, what it means to have that
Overton boy interested in Ethel."  

"If he's interested in her," Ben blundered, "I guess the fact
that Ethel's uncle went to the theater with someone who isn't
Ethel's aunt won't cause a shudder to run up and down his frail
young frame, will it?"  

"All right," Eva had retorted.  "If you're not man enough to
stop it, I'll have to, that's all.  I'm going up there with Stell
this week."  

They did not notify Jo of their coming.  Eva telephoned his
apartment when she knew he would be out, and asked his man if he
expected his master home to dinner that evening.  The man had
said yes.  Eva arranged to meet Stell in town.  They would drive
to Jo's apartment together, and wait for him there.  

When she reached the city Eva found turmoil there.  The first of
the American troops to be sent to France were leaving.  Michigan
Boulevard was a billowing, surging mass: flags, pennants,
banners, crowds.  All the elements that make for demonstration. 
And over the whole-quiet.  No holiday crowd, this.  A solid,
determined mass of people waiting patient hours to see the
khaki-clads go by.  Three years had brought them to a clear
knowledge of what these boys were going to.  

"Isn't it dreadful!" Stell gasped.  

"Nicky Overton's too young, thank goodness."  

Their car was caught in the jam.  When they moved at all, it was
by inches.  When at last they reached Jo's apartment they were
flushed, nervous, apprehensive.  But he had not yet come in.  So
they waited.  

No, they were not staying to dinner with their brother, they told
the relieved houseman.  

Stell and Eva, sunk in rose-colored cushions, viewed the place
with disgust and some mirth.  They rather avoided each other's
eyes.  

"Carrie ought to be here," Eva said.  They both smiled at the
thought of the austere Carrie in the midst of those rosy
cushions, and hangings, and lamps.  Stell rose and began to walk
about restlessly.  She picked up a vase and laid it down;
straightened a picture.  Eva got up, too, and wandered into the
hall.  She stood there a moment, listening.  Then she turned and
passed into Jo's bedroom, Stell following.  And there you knew Jo
for what he was.  

This room was as bare as the other had been ornate.  It was Jo,
the clean-minded and simplehearted, in revolt against the cloying
luxury with which he had surrounded himself.  The bedroom, of all
rooms in any house, reflects the personality of its occupant. 
True, the actual furniture was paneled, cupid-surmounted, and
ridiculous.  It had been the fruit of Jo's first orgy of the
senses.  But now it stood out in that stark little room with an
air as incongruous and ashamed as that of a pink tarlatan
danseuse who finds herself in a monk's cell.  None of those wall
pictures with which bachelor bedrooms are reputed to be hung.  No
satin slippers.  No scented notes. Two plain-backed military
brushes on the chiffonier (and he so nearly hairless!).  A little
orderly stack of books on the table near the bed.  Eva fingered
their titles and gave a little gasp.  One of them was on
gardening.  

"Well, of all things!" exclaimed Stell.  A book on the war, by
an Englishman. A detective story of the lurid type that lulls us
to sleep.  His shoes ranged in a careful row in the closet, with
a shoe tree in every one of them. There was something speaking
about them.  They looked so human.  Eva shut the door on them
quickly.  Some bottles on the dresser.  A jar of pomade.  An
ointment such as a man uses who is growing bald and is panic-
stricken too late.  An insurance calendar on the wall.  Some
rhubarb-and- soda mixture on the shelf in the bathroom, and a
little box of pepsin tablets.  

"Eats all kinds of things at all hours of the night," Eva said,
and wandered out into the rose-colored front room again with the
air of one who is chagrined at her failure to find what she has
sought.  Stell followed her furtively.  

"Where do you suppose he can be?" she demanded.  "It's"--she
glanced at her wrist--"why, it's after six!"  

And then there was a little click.  The two women sat up, tense. 
The door opened.  Jo came in.  He blinked a little.  The two
women in the rosy room stood up.  

"Why--Eve!  Why, Babe!  Well!  Why didn't you let me know?"  

"We were just about to leave.  We thought you weren't coming
home."  

Jo came in slowly.  

"I was in the jam on Michigan, watching the boys go by."  He
sat down, heavily.  The light from the window fell on him.  And
you saw that his eyes were red.  

He had found himself one of the thousands in the jam on Michigan
Avenue, as he said.  He had a place near the curb, where his big
frame shut off the view of the unfortunates behind him.  He
waited with the placid interest of one who has subscribed to all
the funds and societies to which a prosperous, middle-aged
businessman is called upon to subscribe in war-time.  Then, just
as he was about to leave, impatient at the delay, the crowd had
cried, with a queer, dramatic, exultant note in its voice, "Here
they come!  Here come the boys!"  

Just at that moment two little, futile, frenzied fists began to
beat a mad tattoo on Jo Hertz's broad back.  Jo tried to turn in
the crowd, all indignant resentment.  "Say, looka here!"  

The little fists kept up their frantic beating and pushing.  And
a voice--a choked, high little voice--cried, "Let me by!  I
can't see!  You MAN, you! You big fat man!  My boy's going by--to
war--and I can't see!  Let me by!"  

Jo scrooged around, still keeping his place.  He looked down. 
And upturned to him in agonized appeal was the face of Emily. 
They stared at each other for what seemed a long, long time.  It
was really only the fraction of a second.  Then Jo put one great
arm firmly around Emily's waist and swung her around in front of
him.  His great bulk protected her.  Emily was clinging to his
hand.  She was breathing rapidly, as if she had been running. 
Her eyes were straining up the street.  

"Why, Emily, how in the world----!"  

"I ran away.  Fred didn't want me to come.  He said it would
excite me too much."  

"Fred?"  

"My husband.  He made me promise to say good-by to Jo at home." 

"Jo?"  

"Jo's my boy.  And he's going to war.  So I ran away.  I had to
see him.  I had to see him go."  

She was dry-eyed.  Her gaze was straining up the street.  

"Why, sure," said Jo.  "Of course you want to see him."  And
then the crowd gave a great roar.  There came over Jo a feeling
of weakness.  He was trembling.  The boys went marching by.  

"There he is," Emily shrilled, above the din.  "There he is! 
There he is! There he----"  And waved a futile little hand.  It
wasn't so much a wave as a clutching.  A clutching after
something beyond her reach.  

"Which one?  Which one, Emily?"  

"The handsome one.  The handsome one."  Her voice quavered and
died.  

Jo put a steady hand on her shoulder.  "Point him out," he
commanded "Show me."  And the next instant, "Never mind.  I
see him."  

Somehow, miraculously, he had picked him from among the hundreds.
Had picked him as surely as his own father might have.  It was
Emily's boy.  He was marching by, rather stiffly.  He was
nineteen, and fun-loving, and he had a girl, and he didn't
particularly want to go to France and--to go to France.  But more
than he had hated going, he had hated not to go. So he marched
by, looking straight ahead, his jaw set so that his chin stuck
out just a little.  Emily's boy.  

Jo looked at him, and his face flushed purple.  His eyes, the
hard-boiled eyes of a Loop-hound, took on the look of a sad old
man.  And suddenly he was no longer Jo, the sport; old J. Hertz,
the gay dog.  He was Jo Hertz, thirty, in love with life, in love
with Emily, and with the stinging blood of young manhood coursing
through his veins.  

Another minute and the boy had passed on up the broad street--the
fine, flag-bedecked street--just one of a hundred service hats
bobbing in rhythmic motion like sandy waves lapping a shore and
flowing on.  

Then he disappeared altogether.  

Emily was clinging to Jo.  She was mumbling something, over and
over. "I can't.  I can't.  Don't ask me to.  I can't let him go.

Like that.  I can't."  

Jo said a queer thing.  

"Why, Emily!  We wouldn't have him stay home, would we?  We
wouldn't want him to do anything different, would we?  Not our
boy.  I'm glad he enlisted.  I'm proud of him.  So are you
glad."  

Little by little he quieted her.  He took her to the car that was
waiting, a worried chauffeur in charge.  They said good-by,
awkwardly.  Emily's face was a red, swollen mass.  

So it was that when Jo entered his own hallway half an hour later
he blinked, dazedly, and when the light from the window fell on
him you saw that his eyes were red.  

Eva was not one to beat about the bush.  She sat forward in her
chair, clutching her bag rather nervously.  

"Now, look here, Jo.  Stell and I are here for a reason.  We're
here to tell you that this thing's going to stop."  

"Thing?  Stop?"  

"You know very well what I mean.  You saw me at the milliner's
that day.  And night before last, Ethel.  We're all disgusted. 
If you must go about with people like that, please have some
sense of decency."  

Something gathering in Jo's face should have warned her.  But he
was slumped down in his chair in such a huddle, and he looked so
old and fat that she did not heed it.  She went on.  "You've got
us to consider.  Your sisters.  And your nieces.  Not to speak of
your own----"  

But he got to his feet then, shaking, and at what she saw in his
face even Eva faltered and stopped.  It wasn't at all the face of
a fat, middle-aged sport.  It was a face Jovian, terrible.  

"You!" he began, low-voiced, ominous.  "You!"  He raised a
great fist high. "You two murderers!  You didn't consider me,
twenty years ago.  You come to me with talk like that.  Where's
my boy!  You killed him, you two, twenty years ago.  And now he
belongs to somebody else.  Where's my son that should have gone
marching by today?"  He flung his arms out in a great gesture of
longing.  The red veins stood out on his forehead.  "Where's my
son!  Answer me that, you two selfish, miserable women.  Where's
my son!"  Then, as they huddled together, frightened, wild-eyed.

"Out of my house!  Out of my house!  Before I hurt you!"  

They fled, terrified.  The door banged behind them.  

Jo stood, shaking, in the center of the room.  Then he reached
for a chair, gropingly, and sat down.  He passed one moist,
flabby hand over his forehead and it came away wet.  The
telephone rang.  He sat still.  It sounded far away and
unimportant, like something forgotten.  But it rang and rang
insistently.  Jo liked to answer his telephone when he was at
home.  

"Hello!"  He knew instantly the voice at the other end.  

"That you, Jo?" it said.  

"Yes."  

"How's my boy?"  

"I'm--all right."  

"Listen, Jo.  The crowd's coming over tonight.  I've fixed up a
little poker game for you.  Just eight of us."  

"I can't come tonight, Gert."  

"Can't!  Why not?"  

"I'm not feeling so good."  

"You just said you were all right."  

"I AM all right.  Just kind of tired."  

The voice took on a cooing note.  "Is my Joey tired?  Then he
shall be all comfy on the sofa, and he doesn't need to play if he
don't want to.  No, sir."  

Jo stood staring at the black mouthpiece of the telephone.  He
was seeing a procession go marching by.  Boys, hundreds of boys,
in khaki.  

"Hello!  Hello!"  The voice took on an anxious note.  "Are you
there?"  

"Yes," wearily.  

"Jo, there's something the matter.  You're sick.  I'm coming
right over."  

"No!"  "Why not?  You sound as if you'd been sleeping.  Look
here----"  

"Leave me alone!" cried Jo, suddenly, and the receiver clacked
onto the hook.  "Leave me alone.  Leave me alone."  Long after
the connection had been broken.  

He stood staring at the instrument with unseeing eyes.  Then he
turned and walked into the front room.  All the light had gone
out of it.  Dusk had come on.  All the light had gone out of
everything.  The zest had gone out of life.  The game was
over--the game he had been playing against loneliness and
disappointment.  And he was just a tired old man.  A lonely,
tired old man in a ridiculous rose-colored room that had grown,
all of a sudden, drab {sic}




   That's Marriage 
   [1917]   

Theresa Platt (she had been Terry Sheehan) watched her husband
across the breakfast table with eyes that smoldered.  But Orville
Platt was quite unaware of any smoldering in progress.  He was
occupied with his eggs.  How could he know that these very eggs
were feeding the dull red menace in Terry Platt's eyes?  

When Orville Platt ate a soft-boiled egg he concentrated on it. 
He treated it as a great adventure.  Which, after all, it is. 
Few adjuncts of our daily life contain the element of chance that
is to be found in a three-minute breakfast egg.  

This was Orville Platt's method of attack: first, he chipped off
the top, neatly.  Then he bent forward and subjected it to a
passionate and relentless scrutiny.  Straightening--preparatory
to plunging his spoon therein--he flapped his right elbow.  It
wasn't exactly a flap; it was a pass between a hitch and a flap,
and presented external evidence of a mental state.  Orville Platt
always gave that little preliminary jerk when he was
contemplating a serious step, or when he was moved, or
argumentative.  It was a trick as innocent as it was maddening.  

Terry Platt had learned to look for that flap--they had been
married four years--to look for it, and to hate it with a morbid,
unreasoning hate.  That flap of the elbow was tearing Terry
Platt's nerves into raw, bleeding fragments.  

Her fingers were clenched tightly under the table, now.  She was
breathing unevenly.  "If he does that again," she told herself,
"if he flaps again when he opens the second egg, I'll scream. 
I'll scream.  I'll scream!  I'll sc----"  

He had scooped the first egg into his cup.  Now he picked up the
second, chipped it, concentrated, straightened, then--up went the
elbow, and down, with the accustomed little flap.  

The tortured nerves snapped.  Through the early-morning quiet of
Wetona, Wisconsin, hurtled the shrill, piercing shriek of Terry
Platt's hysteria.  

"Terry!  For God's sake!  What's the matter!"  

Orville Platt dropped the second egg, and his spoon.  The egg
yolk trickled down his plate.  The spoon made a clatter and flung
a gay spot of yellow on the cloth.  He started toward her. 

Terry, wild-eyed, pointed a shaking finger at him.  She was
laughing, now, uncontrollably.  "Your elbow!  Your elbow!" 

 "Elbow?"  He looked down at it, bewildered, then up, fright in
his face. "What's the matter with it?"  

She mopped her eyes.  Sobs shook her.  "You f-f-flapped it." 

"F-f-f----"  The bewilderment in Orville Platt's face gave way
to anger. "Do you mean to tell me that you screeched like that
because my--because I moved my elbow?"  

"Yes."  

His anger deepened and reddened to fury.  He choked.  He had
started from his chair with his napkin in his hand.  He still
clutched it.  Now he crumpled it into a wad and hurled it to the
center of the table, where it struck a sugar bowl, dropped back,
and uncrumpled slowly, reprovingly. "You--you----"  Then
bewilderment closed down again like a fog over his countenance. 
"But why?  I can't see----"  

"Because it--because I can't stand it any longer.  Flapping. 
This is what you do.  Like this." 

And she did it.  Did it with insulting fidelity, being a clever
mimic.  

"Well, all I can say is you're crazy, yelling like that, for
nothing."  

"It isn't nothing."  

"Isn't, huh?  If that isn't nothing, what is?"  They were
growing incoherent.  "What d'you mean, screeching like a maniac?

Like a wild woman?  The neighbors'll think I've killed you.  What
d'you mean, anyway!"  

"I mean I'm tired of watching it, that's what.  Sick and
tired."  

"Y'are, huh?  Well, young lady, just let me tell YOU
something----"  

He told her.  There followed one of those incredible quarrels, as
sickening as they are human, which can take place only between
two people who love each other; who love each other so well that
each knows with cruel certainty the surest way to wound the
other; and who stab, and tear, and claw at these vulnerable spots
in exact proportion to their love.  

Ugly words.  Bitter words.  Words that neither knew they knew
flew between them like sparks between steel striking steel.  

From him:  "Trouble with you is you haven't got enough to do. 
That's the trouble with half you women.  Just lay around the
house, rotting.  I'm a fool, slaving on the road to keep a
good-for-nothing----"  

"I suppose you call sitting around hotel lobbies slaving!  I
suppose the house runs itself!  How about my evenings?  Sitting
here alone, night after night, when you're on the road."  

Finally, "Well, if you don't like it," he snarled, and lifted
his chair by the back and slammed it down, savagely, "if you
don't like it, why don't you get out, hm?  Why don't you get
out?"  

And from her, her eyes narrowed to two slits, her cheeks scarlet:

"Why, thanks.  I guess I will."  

Ten minutes later he had flung out of the house to catch the 8:19
for Manitowoc.  He marched down the street, his shoulders
swinging rhythmically to the weight of the burden he carried--his
black leather handbag and the shiny tan sample case,
battle-scarred, both, from many encounters with ruthless porters
and busmen and bellboys.  For four years, as he left for his
semi-monthly trip, he and Terry had observed a certain little
ceremony (as had the neighbors).  She would stand in the doorway,
watching him down the street, the heavier sample case banging
occasionally at his shin.  The depot was only three blocks away. 
Terry watched him with fond but unillusioned eyes, which proves
that she really loved him.  He was a dapper, well-dressed fat
man, with a weakness for pronounced patterns in suitings, and
addicted to derbies.  One week on the road, one week at home. 
That was his routine.  The wholesale grocery trade liked Platt,
and he had for his customers the fondness that a traveling
salesman has who is successful in his territory.  Before his
marriage to Terry Sheehan his little red address book had been
overwhelming proof against the theory that nobody loves a fat
man.  

Terry, standing in the doorway, always knew that when he reached
the corner just where Schroeder's house threatened to hide him
from view, he would stop, drop the sample case, wave his hand
just once, pick up the sample case and go on, proceeding backward
for a step or two until Schroeder's house made good its threat. 
It was a comic scene in the eyes of the onlooker, perhaps because
a chubby Romeo offends the sense of fitness. The neighbors,
lurking behind their parlor curtains, had laughed at first. But
after a while they learned to look for that little scene, and to
take it unto themselves, as if it were a personal thing. 
Fifteen-year wives whose husbands had long since abandoned
flowery farewells used to get a vicarious thrill out of it, and
to eye Terry with a sort of envy.  

This morning Orville Platt did not even falter when he reached
Schroeder's corner.  He marched straight on, looking steadily
ahead, the heavy bags swinging from either hand.  Even if he had
stopped--though she knew he wouldn't--Terry Platt would not have
seen him.  She remained seated at the disordered breakfast table,
a dreadfully still figure, and sinister; a figure of stone and
fire, of ice and flame.  Over and over in her mind she was
milling the things she might have said to him, and had not.  She
brewed a hundred vitriolic cruelties that she might have flung in
his face.  She would concoct one biting brutality, and dismiss it
for a second, and abandon that for a third.  She was too angry to
cry--a dangerous state in a woman.  She was what is known as cold
mad, so that her mind was working clearly and with amazing
swiftness, and yet as though it were a thing detached; a thing
that was no part of her.  

She sat thus for the better part of an hour, motionless except
for one forefinger that was, quite unconsciously, tapping out a
popular and cheap little air that she had been strumming at the
piano the evening before, having bought it downtown that same
afternoon.  It had struck Orville's fancy, and she had played it
over and over for him.  Her right forefinger was playing the
entire tune, and something in the back of her head was following
it accurately, though the separate thinking process was going on
just the same.  Her eyes were bright, and wide, and hot. 
Suddenly she became conscious of the musical antics of her
finger.  She folded it in with its mates, so that her hand became
a fist.  She stood up and stared down at the clutter of the
breakfast table.  The egg--that fateful second egg--had congealed
to a mottled mess of yellow and white.  The spoon lay on the
cloth. His coffee, only half consumed, showed tan with a cold
gray film over it. A slice of toast at the left of his plate
seemed to grin at her with the semi-circular wedge that he had
bitten out of it.  

Terry stared down at these congealing remnants.  Then she
laughed, a hard high little laugh, pushed a plate away
contemptuously with her hand, and walked into the sitting room. 
On the piano was the piece of music (Bennie Gottschalk's great
song hit, "Hicky Boola") which she had been playing the night
before.  She picked it up, tore it straight across, once, placed
the pieces back to back, and tore it across again.  Then she
dropped the pieces to the floor.  

"You bet I'm going," she said, as though concluding a train of
thought. "You just bet I'm going.  Right now!"  And Terry went. 
She went for much the same reason as that given by the ladye of
high degree in the old English song--she who had left her lord
and bed and board to go with the raggle-taggle gipsies-O!  The
thing that was sending Terry Platt away was much more than a
conjugal quarrel precipitated by a soft-boiled egg and a flap of
the arm.  It went so deep that it is necessary to delve back to
the days when Theresa Platt was Terry Sheehan to get the real
significance of it, and of the things she did after she went.

When Mrs. Orville Platt had been Terry Sheehan, she had played
the piano, afternoons and evenings, in the orchestra of the Bijou
Theater, on Cass Street, Wetona, Wisconsin.  Anyone with a name
like Terry Sheehan would, perforce, do well anything she might
set out to do.  There was nothing of genius in Terry, but there
was something of fire, and much that was Irish.  Which meant that
the Watson Team, Eccentric Song and Dance Artists, never needed a
rehearsal when they played the Bijou.  Ruby Watson used merely to
approach Terry before the Monday performance, sheet music in
hand, and say, "Listen, dearie.  We've got some new business I
want to wise you to.  Right here it goes `TUM dee-dee DUM dee-dee
TUM DUM DUM.'  See?  Like that.  And then Jim vamps.  Get me?"  

Terry, at the piano, would pucker her pretty brow a moment. 
Then, "Like this, you mean?"  

"That's it!  You've got it."  

"All right.  I'll tell the drum."  

She could play any tune by ear, once heard.  She got the spirit
of a thing, and transmitted it.  When Terry played a martial
number you tapped the floor with your foot, and unconsciously
straightened your shoulders.  When she played a home-and-mother
song you hoped that the man next to you didn't know you were
crying (which he probably didn't, because he was weeping, too).  

At that time motion pictures had not attained their present
virulence. Vaudeville, polite or otherwise, had not yet been
crowded out by the ubiquitous film.  The Bijou offered
entertainment of the cigar-box-tramp variety, interspersed with
trick bicyclists, soubrettes in slightly soiled pink, trained
seals, and Family Fours with lumpy legs who tossed each other
about and struck Goldbergian attitudes.  

Contact with these gave Terry Sheehan a semiprofessional tone. 
The more conservative of her townspeople looked at her askance. 
There never had been an evil thing about Terry, but Wetona
considered her rather fly. Terry's hair was very black, and she
had a fondness for those little, close-fitting scarlet turbans. 
Terry's mother had died when the girl was eight, and Terry's
father had been what is known as easygoing.  A good-natured,
lovable, shiftless chap in the contracting business.  He drove
around Wetona in a sagging, one-seated cart and never made any
money because he did honest work and charged as little for it as
men who did not.  His mortar stuck, and his bricks did not
crumble, and his lumber did not crack. Riches are not acquired in
the contracting business in that way.  Ed Sheehan and his
daughter were great friends.  When he died (she was nineteen)
they say she screamed once, like a banshee, and dropped to the
floor.  

After they had straightened out the muddle of books in Ed
Sheehan's gritty, dusty little office Terry turned her
piano-playing talent to practical account.  At twenty-one she was
still playing at the Bijou, and into her face was creeping the
first hint of that look of sophistication which comes from daily
contact with the artificial world of the footlights.  

There are, in a small Midwest town like Wetona, just two kinds of
girls.  Those who go downtown Saturday nights, and those who
don't. Terry, if she had not been busy with her job at the Bijou,
would have come in the first group.  She craved excitement. 
There was little chance to satisfy such craving in Wetona, but
she managed to find certain means. The traveling men from the
Burke House just across the street used to drop in at the Bijou
for an evening's entertainment.  They usually sat well toward the
front, and Terry's expert playing, and the gloss of her black
hair, and her piquant profile as she sometimes looked up toward
the stage for a signal from one of the performers caught their
fancy, and held it.  

She found herself, at the end of a year or two, with a rather
large acquaintance among these peripatetic gentlemen.  You
occasionally saw one of them strolling home with her.  Sometimes
she went driving with one of them of a Sunday afternoon.  And she
rather enjoyed taking Sunday dinner at the Burke Hotel with a
favored friend.  She thought those small-town hotel Sunday
dinners the last word in elegance.  The roast course was always
accompanied by an aqueous, semifrozen concoction which the bill
of fare revealed as Roman Punch.  It added a royal touch to the
repast, even when served with roast pork.  

Terry was twenty-two when Orville Platt, making his initial
Wisconsin trip for the wholesale grocery house he represented,
first beheld her piquant Irish profile, and heard her deft
manipulation of the keys.  Orville had the fat man's sense of
rhythm and love of music.  He had a buttery tenor voice, too, of
which he was rather proud.  

He spent three days in Wetona that first trip, and every evening
saw him at the Bijou, first row, center.  He stayed through two
shows each time, and before he had been there fifteen minutes
Terry was conscious of him through the back of her head.  Orville
Platt paid no more heed to the stage, and what was occurring
thereon, than if it had not been.  He sat looking at Terry, and
waggling his head in time to the music.  Not that Terry was a
beauty.  But she was one of those immaculately clean types. That
look of fragrant cleanliness was her chief charm.  Her clear,
smooth skin contributed to it, and the natural penciling of her
eyebrows.  But the thing that accented it, and gave it a last
touch, was the way in which her black hair came down in a little
point just in the center of her forehead, where hair meets brow. 
It grew to form what is known as a cowlick.  (A prettier name for
it is widow's peak.)  Your eye lighted on it, pleased, and from
it traveled its gratified way down her white temples, past her
little ears, to the smooth black coil at the nape of her neck. 
It was a trip that rested you.  

At the end of the last performance on the night of his second
visit to the Bijou, Orville waited until the audience had begun
to file out.  Then he leaned forward over the rail that separated
orchestra from audience.  

"Could you," he said, his tones dulcet, "could you oblige me
with the name of that last piece you played?"  

Terry was stacking her music.  "George!" she called to the
drum.  "Gentleman wants to know the name of that last piece." 
And prepared to leave.  

"`My Georgia Crackerjack,'" said the laconic drum.  

Orville Platt took a hasty side step in the direction of the door
toward which Terry was headed.  "It's a pretty thing," he said
fervently.  "An awful pretty thing.  Thanks.  It's beautiful." 


Terry flung a last insult at him over her shoulder:  "Don't
thank ME for it.  I didn't write it."  

Orville Platt did not go across the street to the hotel.  He
wandered up Cass Street, and into the ten-o'clock quiet of Main
Street, and down as far as the park and back.  "Pretty as a
pink!  And play! . . .  And good, too.  Good."  

A fat man in love.  

At the end of six months they were married.  Terry was surprised
into it.  Not that she was not fond of him.  She was; and
grateful to him, as well.  For, pretty as she was, no man had
ever before asked Terry to be his wife.   They had made love to
her.  They had paid court to her.  They had sent her large boxes
of stale drugstore chocolates, and called her endearing names as
they made cautious declarations such as:  

"I've known a lot of girls, but you've got something different. 
I don't know.  You've got so much sense.  A fellow can chum
around with you.  Little pal."  

Wetona would be their home.  They rented a comfortable,
seven-room house in a comfortable, middle-class neighborhood, and
Terry dropped the red velvet turbans and went in for picture
hats.  Orville bought her a piano whose tone was so good that to
her ear, accustomed to the metallic discords of the Bijou
instrument, it sounded out of tune.  She played a great deal at
first, but unconsciously she missed the sharp spat of applause
that used to follow her public performance.  She would play a
piece, brilliantly, and then her hands would drop to her lap. 
And the silence of her own sitting room would fall flat on her
ears.  It was better on the evenings when Orville was home.  He
sang, in his throaty, fat man's tenor, to Terry's expert
accompaniment.  

"This is better than playing for those ham actors, isn't it,
hon?"  And he would pinch her ear.  

"Sure"--listlessly.  

But after the first year she became accustomed to what she termed
private life.  She joined an afternoon sewing club, and was
active in the ladies' branch of the U.C.T.  She developed a knack
at cooking, too, and Orville, after a week or ten days of hotel
fare in small Wisconsin towns, would come home to sea-foam
biscuits, and real soup, and honest pies and cake.  Sometimes, in
the midst of an appetizing meal he would lay down his knife and
fork and lean back in his chair, and regard the cool and
unruffled Terry with a sort of reverence in his eyes.  Then he
would get up, and come around to the other side of the table, and
tip her pretty face up to his.  

"I'll bet I'll wake up, someday, and find out it's all a dream. 
You know this kind of thing doesn't really happen--not to a dub
like me."  

One year; two; three; four.  Routine.  A little boredom.  Some
impatience. She began to find fault with the very things she had
liked in him: his superneatness; his fondness for dashing suit
patterns; his throaty tenor; his worship of her.  And the flap. 
Oh, above all, that flap!  That little, innocent, meaningless
mannerism that made her tremble with nervousness.  She hated it
so that she could not trust herself to speak of it to him.  That
was the trouble.  Had she spoken of it, laughingly or in earnest,
before it became an obsession with her, that hideous breakfast
quarrel, with its taunts, and revilings, and open hate, might
never have come to pass.  

Terry Platt herself didn't know what was the matter with her. 
She would have denied that anything was wrong.  She didn't even
throw her hands above her head and shriek:  "I want to live!  I
want to live!  I want to live!" like a lady in a play.  She only
knew she was sick of sewing at the Wetona West End Red Cross
shop; sick of marketing, of home comforts, of Orville, of the
flap.  

Orville, you may remember, left at 8:19.  The 11:23 bore Terry
Chicago-ward.  She had left the house as it was--beds unmade,
rooms unswept, breakfast table uncleared.  She intended never to
come back.  

Now and then a picture of the chaos she had left behind would
flash across her order-loving mind.  The spoon on the tablecloth.

Orville's pajamas dangling over the bathroom chair.  The
coffeepot on the gas stove.  

"Pooh!  What do I care?"  

In her pocketbook she had a tidy sum saved out of the
housekeeping money.  She was naturally thrifty, and Orville had
never been niggardly. Her meals when Orville was on the road had
been those sketchy, haphazard affairs with which women content
themselves when their household is manless.  At noon she went
into the dining car and ordered a flaunting little repast of
chicken salad and asparagus and Neapolitan ice cream.  The men in
the dining car eyed her speculatively and with appreciation. 
Then their glance dropped to the third finger of her left hand,
and wandered away.  She had meant to remove it.  In fact, she had
taken it off and dropped it into her bag.  But her hand felt so
queer, so unaccustomed, so naked, that she had found herself
slipping the narrow band on again, and her thumb groped for it,
gratefully.  

It was almost five o'clock when she reached Chicago.  She felt no
uncertainty  or bewilderment.  She had been in Chicago three or
four times since her marriage.  She went to a downtown hotel.  It
was too late, she told herself, to look for a less expensive room
that night.  When she had tidied herself she went out.  The
things she did were the childish, aimless things that one does
who finds herself in possession of sudden liberty.  She walked up
State Street, and stared in the windows; came back, turned into
Madison, passed a bright little shop in the window of which
taffy-white and gold-- was being wound endlessly and
fascinatingly about a double-jointed machine.  She went in and
bought a sackful, and wandered on down the street, munching.  

She had supper at one of those white-tiled sarcophagi that
emblazon Chicago's downtown side streets.  It had been her
original intention to dine in state in the rose-and-gold dining
room of her hotel.  She had even thought daringly of lobster. 
But at the last moment she recoiled from the idea of dining alone
in that wilderness of tables so obviously meant for two.  

After her supper she went to a picture show.  She was amazed to
find there, instead of the accustomed orchestra, a pipe organ
that panted and throbbed and rumbled over lugubrious classics. 
The picture was about a faithless wife.  Terry left in the middle
of it.  

She awoke next morning at seven, as usual, started up wildly,
looked around, and dropped back.  Nothing to get up for.  The
knowledge did not fill her with a rush of relief.  She would have
her breakfast in bed.  She telephoned for it, languidly.  But
when it came she got up and ate it from the table, after all. 

That morning she found a fairly comfortable room, more within her
means, on the North Side in the boardinghouse district.  She
unpacked and hung up her clothes and drifted downtown again,
idly.  It was noon when she came to the corner of State and
Madison Streets.  It was a maelstrom that caught her up, and
buffeted her about, and tossed her helplessly this way and that. 


The thousands jostled Terry, and knocked her hat awry, and dug
her with unheeding elbows, and stepped on her feet.  

"Say, look here!" she said once futilely.  They did not stop to
listen.  State and Madison has no time for Terrys from Wetona. 
It goes its way, pell-mell.  If it saw Terry at all it saw her
only as a prettyish person, in the wrong kind of suit and hat,
with a bewildered, resentful look on her face.  

Terry drifted on down the west side of State Street, with the
hurrying crowd.  State and Monroe.  A sound came to Terry's ears.

A sound familiar, beloved.  To her ear, harassed with the roar
and crash, with the shrill scream of the whistle of the policeman
at the crossing, with the hiss of feet shuffling on cement, it
was a celestial strain.  She looked up, toward the sound.  A
great second-story window opened wide to the street.  In it a
girl at a piano, and a man, red-faced, singing through a
megaphone.  And on a flaring red and green sign:         

     BERNIE GOTTSCHALK'S MUSIC HOUSE!    

COME IN!  HEAR BERNIE GOTTSCHALK'S LATEST HIT! 
THE HEART-THROB SONG THAT HAS GOT 'EM ALL!  
THE SONG THAT MADE THE SQUAREHEADS CRAWL!  

"I COME FROM PARIS, ILLINOIS, BUT OH!  YOU PARIS, FRANCE! 
I USED TO WEAR BLUE OVERALLS BUT NOW IT'S KHAKI PANTS."         

  
COME IN!  COME IN!   

Terry accepted,  

She followed the sound of the music.  Around the corner.  Up a
little flight of stairs.  She entered the realm of Euterpe;
Euterpe with her hair frizzed; Euterpe with her flowing white
robe replaced by soiled white shoes; Euterpe abandoning her flute
for jazz.  She sat at the piano, a red- haired young lady whose
familiarity with the piano had bred contempt.  Nothing else could
have accounted for her treatment of it.  Her fingers, tipped with
sharp-pointed and glistening nails, clawed the keys with a
dreadful mechanical motion.  There were stacks of music sheets on
counters and shelves and dangling from overhead wires.  The girl
at the piano never ceased playing.  She played mostly by request.

A prospective purchaser would mumble something in the ear of one
of the clerks.  The fat man with the megaphone would bawl out,
"Hicky Boola, Miss Ryan!"  And Miss Ryan would oblige.  She
made a hideous rattle and crash and clatter of sound.  

Terry joined the crowds about the counter.  The girl at the piano
was not looking at the keys.  Her head was screwed around over
her left shoulder and as she played she was holding forth
animatedly to a girl friend who had evidently dropped in from
some store or office during the lunch hour.  Now and again the
fat man paused in his vocal efforts to reprimand her for her
slackness.  She paid no heed.  There was something gruesome,
uncanny, about the way her fingers went their own way over the
defenseless keys.  Her conversation with the frowzy little girl
went on.  

"Wha'd he say?"  (Over her shoulder.)  

"Oh, he laffed."  

"Well, didja go?"  

"Me!  Well, whutya think I yam, anyway?"  

"I woulda took a chanst."  

The fat man rebelled.  

"Look here!  Get busy!  What are you paid for?  Talkin' or
playin'?  Huh?"  

The person at the piano, openly reproved thus before her friend,
lifted her uninspired hands from the keys and spake.  When she
had finished she rose.  

"But you can't leave now," the megaphone man argued.  "Right
in the rush hour."  

"I'm gone," said the girl.  The fat man looked about,
helplessly.  He gazed at the abandoned piano, as though it must
go on of its own accord.  Then at the crowd.  

"Where's Miss Schwimmer?" he demanded of a clerk.  

"Out to lunch."  

Terry pushed her way to the edge of the counter and leaned over. 
"I can play for you," she said.  

The man looked at her.  "Sight?"  

"Yes."  

"Come on."  

Terry went around to the other side of the counter, took off her
hat and coat, rubbed her hands together briskly, sat down, and
began to play.  The crowd edged closer.  

It is a curious study, this noonday crowd that gathers to sate
its music hunger on the scraps vouchsafed it by Bernie
Gottschalk's Music House.  Loose-lipped, slope-shouldered young
men with bad complexions and slender hands.  Girls whose clothes
are an unconscious satire on present-day fashions.  On their
faces, as they listen to the music, is a look of peace and
dreaming.  They stand about, smiling a wistful half smile.  The
music seems to satisfy a something within them.  Faces dull, eyes
lusterless, they listen in a sort of trance.  

Terry played on.  She played as Terry Sheehan used to play.  She
played as no music hack at Bernie Gottschalk's had ever played
before.  The crowd swayed a little to the sound of it.  Some kept
time with little jerks of the shoulder--the little hitching
movement of the dancer whose blood is filled with the fever of
syncopation.  Even the crowd flowing down State Street must have
caught the rhythm of it, for the room soon filled.  

At two o'clock the crowd began to thin.  Business would be slack,
now, until five, when it would again pick up until closing time
at six.  The fat vocalist put down his megaphone, wiped his
forehead, and regarded Terry with a warm blue eye.  He had just
finished singing "I've Wandered Far from Dear Old Mother's
Knee."  (Bernie Gottschalk Inc. Chicago.  New York.  You can't
get bit with a Gottschalk hit.  15 cents each.)  

"Girlie," he said, emphatically, "you sure--can--play!"  He
came over to her at the piano and put a stubby hand on her
shoulder.  "Yessir!  Those little fingers----"  

Terry just turned her head to look down her nose at the moist
hand resting on her shoulder.  "Those little fingers are going
to meet your face if you don't move on."  

"Who gave you your job?" demanded the fat man.  

"Nobody.  I picked it myself.  You can have it if you want it." 

"Can't you take a joke?"  

"Label yours."  

As the crowd dwindled she played less feverishly, but there was
nothing slipshod about her performance.  The chubby songster
found time to proffer brief explanations in asides.  "They want
the patriotic stuff.  It used to be all that Hawaiian dope, and
Wild Irish Rose stuff, and songs about wanting to go back to
every place from Dixie to Duluth.  But now seems it's all these
here flag wavers.  Honestly, I'm so sick of 'em I got a notion to
enlist to get away from it."  

Terry eyed him with withering briefness.  "A little training
wouldn't ruin your figure."  

She had never objected to Orville's embonpoint.  But then,
Orville was a different sort of fat man; pink-cheeked, springy,
immaculate.  

At four o'clock, as she was in the chorus of "Isn't There
Another Joan of Arc?" a melting masculine voice from the other
side of the counter said "Pardon me.  What's that you're
playing?"  

Terry told him.  She did not look up.  "I wouldn't have known
it.  Played like that--a second `Marseillaise.'  If the
words----What are the words?  Let me see a----"  

"Show the gentleman a `Joan,'" Terry commanded briefly, over
her shoulder.  The fat man laughed a wheezy laugh.  Terry glanced
around, still playing, and encountered the gaze of two melting
masculine eyes that matched the melting masculine voice.  The
songster waved a hand uniting Terry and the eyes in informal
introduction.  

"Mr. Leon Sammett, the gentleman who sings the Gottschalk songs
wherever songs are heard.  And Mrs.--that is--and Mrs.
Sammett----"  

Terry turned.  A sleek, swarthy world-old young man with the
fashionable concave torso, and alarmingly convex bone-rimmed
glasses.  Through them his darkly luminous gaze glowed upon
Terry.  To escape their warmth she sent her own gaze past him to
encounter the arctic stare of the large blonde who had been
included so lamely in the introduction.  And at that the
frigidity of that stare softened, melted, dissolved.  

"Why, Terry Sheehan!  What in the world!"  

Terry's eyes bored beneath the layers of flabby fat. "It's--why,
it's Ruby Watson, isn't it?  Eccentric Song and Dance----"  

She glanced at the concave young man and faltered.  He was not
Jim, of the Bijou days.  From him her eyes leaped back to the
fur-bedecked splendor of the woman.  The plump face went so
painfully red that the make-up stood out on it, a distinct layer,
like thin ice covering flowing water.  As she surveyed that bulk
Terry realized that while Ruby might still claim eccentricity,
her song-and-dance days were over.  "That's ancient history, m'
dear.  I haven't been working for three years.  What're you doing
in this joint?  I'd heard you'd done well for yourself.  That you
were married."  

"I am.  That is I--well, I am.  I----"  

At that the dark young man leaned over and patted Terry's hand
that lay on the counter.  He smiled.  His own hand was incredibly
slender, long, and tapering.  

"That's all right," he assured her, and smiled.  "You two
girls can have a reunion later.  What I want to know is can you
play by ear?"  

"Yes, but----"  

He leaned far over the counter.  "I knew it the minute I heard
you play.  You've got the touch.  Now listen.  See if you can get
this, and fake the bass."  

He fixed his somber and hypnotic eyes on Terry.  His mouth
screwed up into a whistle.  The tune--a tawdry but haunting
little melody--came through his lips.  Terry turned back to the
piano.  "Of course you know you flatted every note," she said.

  This time it was the blonde who laughed, and the man who
flushed.  Terry cocked her head just a little to one side, like a
knowing bird, looked up into space beyond the piano top, and
played the lilting little melody with charm and fidelity.  The
dark young man followed her with a wagging of the head and little
jerks of both outspread hands.  His expression was beatific,
enraptured.  He hummed a little under his breath and anyone who
was music-wise would have known that he was just a half beat
behind her all the way.  

When she had finished he sighed deeply, ecstatically.  He bent
his lean frame over the counter and, despite his swart coloring,
seemed to glitter upon her--his eyes, his teeth, his very
fingernails.  

"Something led me here.  I never come up on Tuesdays.  But
something----"  

"You was going to complain," put in his lady, heavily, "about
that Teddy Sykes at the Palace Gardens singing the same songs
this week that you been boosting at the Inn."  

He put up a vibrant, peremptory hand.  "Bah!  What does that
matter now!  What does anything matter now!  Listen
Miss--ah--Miss----?"  

"Pl-Sheehan.  Terry Sheehan."  

He gazed off a moment into space.  "Hm.  `Leon Sammett in Songs.

Miss Terry Sheehan at the Piano.'  That doesn't sound bad.  Now
listen, Miss Sheehan.  I'm singing down at the University Inn. 
The Gottschalk song hits.  I guess you know my work.  But I want
to talk to you, private.  It's something to your interest.  I go
on down at the Inn at six.  Will you come and have a little
something with Ruby and me?  Now?"  

"Now?" faltered Terry, somewhat helplessly.  Things seemed to
be moving rather swiftly for her, accustomed as she was to the
peaceful routine of the past four years.  

"Get your hat.  It's your life chance.  Wait till you see your
name in two- foot electrics over the front of every big-time
house in the country.  You've got music in you.  Tie to me and
you're made."  He turned to the woman beside him.  "Isn't that
so, Rube?"  

"Sure.  Look at ME!"  One would not have thought there could be
so much subtle vindictiveness in a fat blonde.  

Sammett whipped out a watch.  "Just three quarters of an hour. 
Come on, girlie."  

His conversation had been conducted in an urgent undertone, with
side glances at the fat man with the megaphone.  Terry approached
him now.  

"I'm leaving now," she said.  

"Oh, no, you're not.  Six o'clock is your quitting time."  

In which he touched the Irish in Terry.  "Any time I quit is my
quitting time.  She went in quest of hat and coat much as the
girl had done whose place she had taken early in the day.  The
fat man followed her, protesting.  Terry, putting on her hat,
tried to ignore him.  But he laid one plump hand on her arm and
kept it there, though she tried to shake him off.  

"Now, listen to me.  That boy wouldn't mind grinding his heel on
your face if he thought it would bring him up a step.  I know'm. 
See that walking stick he's carrying?  Well, compared to the
yellow stripe that's in him, that cane is a Lead pencil.  He's a
song tout, that's all he is."  Then, more feverishly, as Terry
tried to pull away:  "Wait a minute.  You're a decent girl.  I
want to--Why, he can't even sing a note without you give it to
him first.  He can put a song over, yes.  But how?  By flashing
that toothy grin of his and talking every word of it.  Don't
you----"  

But Terry freed herself with a final jerk and whipped around the
counter.  The two, who had been talking together in an undertone,
turned to welcome her.  "We've got a half-hour.  Come on.  It's
just over to Clark and up a block or so."  

The University Inn, that gloriously intercollegiate institution
which welcomes any graduate of any school of experience, was
situated in the basement, down a flight of stairs.  Into the
unwonted quiet that reigns during the hour of low potentiality,
between five and six, the three went, and seated themselves at a
table in an obscure corner.  A waiter brought them things in
little glasses, though no order had been given.  The woman who
had been Ruby Watson was so silent as to be almost wordless.  But
the man talked rapidly.  He talked well, too.  The same quality
that enabled him, voiceless though he was, to boost a song to
success was making his plea sound plausible in Terry's ears now. 


"I've got to go and make up in a few minutes.  So get this.  I'm
not going to stick down in this basement eating house forever. 
I've got too much talent. If I only had a voice--I mean a singing
voice.  But I haven't.  But then, neither had Georgie Cohan, and
I can't see that it wrecked his life any. Now listen.  I've got a
song.  It's my own.  That bit you played for me up at
Gottschalk's is part of the chorus.  But it's the words that'll
go big.  They're great.  It's an aviation song, see?  Airplane
stuff.  They're yelling that it's the airyoplanes that're going
to win this war.  Well, I'll help 'em.  This song is going to put
the aviator where he belongs.  It's going to be the big song of
the war.  It's going to make `Tipperary' sound like a Moody and
Sankey hymn.  It's the----"  

Ruby lifted her heavy-lidded eyes and sent him a meaning look. 
"Get down to business, Leon.  I'll tell her how good you are
while you're making up."  

He shot her a malignant glance, but took her advice.  "Now what
I've been looking for for years is somebody who has got the music
knack to give me the accompaniment just a quarter of a jump ahead
of my voice, see?  I can follow like a lamb, but I've got to have
that feeler first.  It's more than a knack.  It's a gift.  And
you've got it.  I know it when I see it.  I want to get away from
this night-club thing.  There's nothing in it for a man of my
talent.  I'm gunning for bigger game.  But they won't sign me
without a tryout.  And when they hear my voice they---- Well, if
me and you work together we can fool 'em.  The song's great.  And
my make-up's one of these aviation costumes to go with the song,
see?  Pants tight in the knee and baggy on the hips.  And a coat
with one of those full-skirt whaddyoucall- 'ems----" 

 "Peplums," put in Ruby, placidly.  

"Sure.  And the girls'll be wild about it.  And the words!"  He
began to sing, gratingly off key:       

Put on your sky clothes,      
Put on your fly clothes,      
And take a trip with me.      
We'll sail so high      
Up in the sky      
We'll drop a bomb from Mercury.   

"Why, that's awfully cute!" exclaimed Terry.  Until now her
opinion of Mr. Sammett's talents had not been on a level with
his.  

"Yeah, but wait till you hear the second verse.  That's only
part of the chorus.  You see, he's supposed to be talking to a
French girl.  He says:       

`I'll parlez-vous in Francais plain      
You'll answer, "Cher Americain,"      
We'll both . . .'"   

The six-o'clock lights blazed up suddenly.  A sad-looking group
of men trailed in and made for a corner where certain bulky,
shapeless bundles were soon revealed as those glittering and
tortuous instruments which go to make a jazz band.  

"You better go, Lee.  The crowd comes in awful early now, with
all these buyers in town."  

Both hands on the table, he half rose, reluctantly, still
talking.  "I've got three other songs.  They make Gottschalk's
stuff look sick.  All I want's a chance.  What I want you to do
is accompaniment.  On the stage, see?  Grand piano.  And a swell
set.  I haven't quite made up my mind to it.  But a kind of an
army camp room, see?  And maybe you dressed as Liberty.  Anyway,
it'll be new, and a knockout.  If only we can get away with the
voice thing.  Say, if Eddie Foy, all those years never had
a----"  

The band opened with a terrifying clash of cymbal and thump of
drum.  "Back at the end of my first turn," he said as he Red. 
Terry followed his lithe, electric figure.  She turned to meet
the heavy-lidded gaze of the woman seated opposite.  She relaxed,
then, and sat back with a little sigh.  "Well!  If he talks that
way to the managers I don't see----"  

Ruby laughed a mirthless little laugh.  "Talk doesn't get it
over with the managers, honey.  You've got to deliver."  

"Well, but he's--that song is a good one.  I don't say it's as
good as he thinks it is, but it's good."  

"Yes," admitted the woman, grudgingly, "it's good."  

"Well, then?"  

The woman beckoned a waiter; he nodded and vanished, and
reappeared with a glass that was twin to the one she had just
emptied.  "Does he look like he knew French?  Or could make a
rhyme?"

"But didn't he?  Doesn't he?"  

"The words were written by a little French girl who used to
skate down here last winter, when the craze was on.  She was
stuck on a Chicago kid who went over to fly for the French."  

"But the music?"  

"There was a Russian girl who used to dance in the cabaret and
she----"  

Terry's head came up with a characteristic little jerk.  "I
don't believe it!"  

"Better."  She gazed at Terry with the drowsy look that was so
different from the quick, clear glance of the Ruby Watson who
used to dance so nimbly in the old Bijou days.  "What'd you and
your husband quarrel about, Terry?"  

Terry was furious to feel herself flushing.  "Oh, nothing.  He
just--I--it was---- Say, how did you know we'd quarreled?"  

And suddenly all the fat woman's apathy dropped from her like a
garment and some of the old sparkle and animation illumined her
heavy face.  She pushed her glass aside and leaned forward on her
folded arms, so that her face was close to Terry's.  

"Terry Sheehan, I know you've quarreled, and I know just what it
was about.  Oh, I don't mean the very thing it was about; but the
kind of thing.  I'm going to do something for you, Terry, that I
wouldn't take the trouble to do for most women.  But I guess I
ain't had all the softness knocked out of me yet, though it's a
wonder.  And I guess I remember too plain the decent kid you was
in the old days.  What was the name of that little small-time
house me and Jim used to play?  Bijou, that's it; Bijou."  

The band struck up a new tune.  Leon Sammett--slim, sleek, lithe
in his evening clothes--appeared with a little fair girl in pink
chiffon.  The woman reached across the table and put one pudgy,
jeweled hand on Terry's arm.  "He'll be through in ten minutes. 
Now listen to me.  I left Jim four years ago, and there hasn't
been a minute since then, day or night, when I wouldn't have
crawled back to him on my hands and knees if I could.  But I
couldn't.  He wouldn't have me now.  How could he?  How do I know
you've quarreled?  I can see it in your eyes.  They look just the
way mine have felt for four years, that's how.  I met up with
this boy, and there wasn't anybody to do the turn for me that I'm
trying to do for you.  Now get this.  I left Jim because when he
ate corn on the cob he always closed his eyes and it drove me
wild.  Don't laugh."  

"I'm not laughing," said Terry.  

"Women are like that.  One night--we was playing Fond du Lac; I
remember just as plain--we was eating supper before the show and
Jim reached for one of those big yellow ears, and buttered and
salted it, and me kind of hanging on to the edge of the table
with my nails.  Seemed to me if he shut his eyes when he put his
teeth into that ear of corn I'd scream.  And he did.  And I
screamed.  And that's all."  

Terry sat staring at her with a wide-eyed stare, like a
sleepwalker.  Then she wet her lips slowly.  "But that's almost
the very----"  

"Kid, go on back home.  I don't know whether it's too late or
not, but go anyway.  If you've lost him I suppose it ain't any
more than you deserve; but I hope to God you don't get your
deserts this time.  He's almost through.  If he sees you going he
can't quit in the middle of his song to stop you.  He'll know I
put you wise, and he'll prob'ly half kill me for it.  But it's
worth it.  You get."  

And Terry--dazed, shaking, but grateful--fled.  Down the noisy
aisle, up the stairs, to the street.  Back to her rooming house. 
Out again, with her suitcase, and into the right railroad station
somehow, at last.  Not another Wetona train until midnight.  She
shrank into a remote corner of the waiting room and there she
huddled until midnight, watching the entrances like a child who
is fearful of ghosts in the night.  

The hands of the station clock seemed fixed and immovable.  The
hour between eleven and twelve was endless.  She was on the
train.  It was almost morning.  It was morning.  Dawn was
breaking.  She was home!  She had the house key clutched tightly
in her hand long before she turned Schroeder's corner.  Suppose
he had come home!  Suppose he had jumped a town and come home
ahead of his schedule.  They had quarreled once before, and he
had done that.  

Up the front steps.  Into the house.  Not a sound.  She stood
there a moment in the early-morning half-light.  She peered into
the dining room.  The table, with its breakfast debris, was as
she had left it.  In the kitchen the coffeepot stood on the gas
stove.  She was home.  She was safe.  She ran up the stairs, got
out of her clothes and into gingham morning things.  She flung
open windows everywhere.  Downstairs once more she plunged into
an orgy of cleaning.  Dishes, table, stove, floor, rugs.  She
washed, scoured, swabbed, polished.  By eight o'clock she had
done the work that would ordinarily have taken until noon.  The
house was shining, orderly, and redolent of soapsuds.  

During all this time she had been listening, listening, with her
subconscious ear.  Listening for something she had refused to
name definitely in her mind, but listening, just the same;
waiting.  

And then, at eight o'clock, it came.  The rattle of a key in the
lock.  The boom of the front door.  Firm footsteps.  

He did not go to meet her, and she did not go to meet him.  They
came together and were in each other's arms.  She was weeping.  

"Now, now, old girl.  What's there to cry about?  Don't, honey;
don't.  It's all right."  She raised her head then, to look at
him.  How fresh and rosy and big he seemed, after that little
sallow restaurant rat.  

"How did you get here?  How did you happen----?"  

"Jumped all the way from Ashland.  Couldn't get a sleeper, so I
sat up all night.  I had to come back and square things with you,
Terry.  My mind just wasn't on my work.  I kept thinking how I'd
talked--how I'd talked----"  

"Oh, Orville, don't!  I can't bear---- Have you had your
breakfast?"  

"Why, no.  The train was an hour late.  You know that Ashland
train."  

But she was out of his arms and making for the kitchen.  "You go
and clean up.  I'll have hot biscuits and everything in no time. 
You poor boy.  No breakfast!"  

She made good her promise.  It could not have been more than half
an hour later when he was buttering his third feathery,
golden-brown biscuit.  But she had eaten nothing.  She watched
him, and listened, and again her eyes were somber, but for a
different reason.  He broke open his egg. His elbow came up just
a fraction of an inch.  Then he remembered, and flushed like a
schoolboy, and brought it down again, carefully.  And at that she
gave a tremulous cry, and rushed around the table to him.  

"Oh, Orville!"  She took the offending elbow in her two arms,
and bent and kissed the rough coat sleeve.  

"Why, Terry!  Don't, honey.  Don't!"  

"Oh, Orville, listen----"  

"Yes."  

"Listen, Orville----"  

"I'm listening, Terry."  

"I've got something to tell you.  There's something you've got
to know."  

"Yes, I know it, Terry.  I knew you'd out with it, pretty soon,
if I just waited."  

She lifted an amazed face from his shoulder then, and stared at
him.  "But how could you know?  You couldn't!  How could you?" 

He patted her shoulder then, gently.  "I can always tell.  When
you have something on your mind you always take up a spoon of
coffee, and look at it, and kind of joggle it back and forth in
the spoon, and then dribble it back into the cup again, without
once tasting it.  It used to get me nervous, when we were first
married, watching you.  But now I know it just means you're
worried about something, and I wait, and pretty soon----"  

"Oh, Orville!" she cried then.  "Oh, Orville!"  

"Now, Terry.  Just spill it, hon.  Just spill it to Daddy.  And
you'll feel better."    





Farmer in the Dell 
[1919]   

Old Ben Westerveld was taking it easy.  Every muscle taut, every
nerve tense, his keen eyes vainly straining to pierce the
blackness of the stuffy room--there lay Ben Westerveld in bed,
taking it easy.  And it was hard.  Hard.  He wanted to get up. 
He wanted so intensely to get up that the mere effort of lying
there made him ache all over.  His toes were curled with the
effort.  His fingers were clenched with it.  His breath came
short, and his thighs felt cramped.  Nerves.  But old Ben
Westerveld didn't know that.  What should a retired and
well-to-do farmer of fifty-eight know of nerves, especially when
he has moved to the city and is taking it easy?  

If only he knew what time it was.  Here in Chicago you couldn't
tell whether it was four o'clock or seven unless you looked at
your watch.  To do that it was necessary to turn on the light. 
And to turn on the light meant that he would turn on, too, a
flood of querulous protest from his wife, Bella, who lay asleep
beside him.  

When for forty-five years of your life you have risen at
four-thirty daily, it is difficult to learn to loll.  To do it
successfully, you must be a natural- born loller to begin with
and revert.  Bella Westerveld was and had.  So there she lay,
asleep.  Old Ben wasn't and hadn't.  So there he lay, terribly
wide- awake, wondering what made his heart thump so fast when he
was lying so still.  If it had been light, you could have seen
the lines of strained resignation in the sagging muscles of his
patient face.  

They had lived in the city for almost a year, but it was the same
every morning.  He would open his eyes, start up with one hand
already reaching for the limp, drab work-worn garments that used
to drape the chair by his bed.  Then he would remember and sink
back while a great wave of depression swept over him.  Nothing to
get up for.  Store clothes on the chair by the bed.  He was
taking it easy.  

Back home on the farm in southern Illinois he had known the hour
the instant his eyes opened.  Here the flat next door was so
close that the bed- room was in twilight even at midday.  On the
farm he could tell by the feeling--an intangible thing, but
infallible.  He could gauge the very quality of the blackness
that comes just before dawn.  The crowing of the cocks, the
stamping of the cattle, the twittering of the birds in the old
elm whose branches were etched eerily against his window in the
ghostly light --these things he had never needed.  He had known. 
But here in the un- sylvan section of Chicago which bears the
bosky name of Englewood, the very darkness had a strange quality.

A hundred unfamiliar noises misled him.  There were no cocks, no
cattle, no elm.  Above all, there was no instinctive feeling. 
Once, when they first came to the city, he had risen at
twelve-thirty, thinking it was morning, and had gone clumping
about the flat, waking up everyone and loosing from his wife's
lips a stream of acid vituperation that seared even his
case-hardened sensibilities.  The people sleeping in the bedroom
of the flat next door must have heard her.  

"You big rube!  Getting up in the middle of the night and
stomping around like cattle.  You'd better build a shed in the
back yard and sleep there if you're so dumb you can't tell night
from day."  

Even after thirty-three years of marriage he had never ceased to
be appalled at the coarseness of her mind and speech--she who had
seemed so mild and fragile and exquisite when he married her.  He
had crept back to bed shamefacedly.  He could hear the couple in
the bedroom of the flat just across the little court grumbling
and then laughing a little, grudgingly, and yet with
appreciation.  That bedroom, too, had still the power to appall
him.  Its nearness, its forced intimacy, were daily shocks to him
whose most immediate neighbor, back on the farm, had been a
quarter of a mile away. The sound of a shoe dropped on the
hardwood floor, the rush of water in the bathroom, the murmur of
nocturnal confidences, the fretful cry of a child in the night,
all startled and distressed him whose ear had found music in the
roar of the thresher and had been soothed by the rattle of the
tractor and the hoarse hoot of the steamboat whistle at the
landing.  His farm's edge had been marked by the Mississippi
rolling grandly by. 

Since they had moved into town, he had found only one city sound
that he really welcomed--the rattle and clink that marked the
milkman's matutinal visit.  The milkman came at six, and he was
the good fairy who released Ben Westerveld from durance vile--or
had until the winter months made his coming later and later, so
that he became worse than useless as a timepiece.  But now it was
late March, and mild.  The milkman's coming would soon again mark
old Ben's rising hour.  Before he had begun to take it easy, six
o'clock had seen the entire mechanism of his busy little world
humming smoothly and sweetly, the whole set in motion by his own
big work-callused hands.  Those hands puzzled him now.  He often
looked at them curiously and in a detached sort of way, as if
they belonged to someone else.  So white they were, and smooth
and soft, with long, pliant nails that never broke off from rough
work as they used to.  Of late there were little splotches of
brown on the backs of his hands and around the thumbs.  

"Guess it's my liver," he decided, rubbing the spots
thoughtfully.  "She gets kind of sluggish from me not doing
anything.  Maybe a little spring tonic wouldn't go bad.  Tone me
up."  

He got a little bottle of reddish-brown mixture from the druggist
on Halstead Street near Sixty-third.  A genial gendeman, the
druggist, white- coated and dapper, stepping affably about the
fragrant-smelling store.  The reddish-brown mixture had toned old
Ben up surprisingly--while it lasted.  He had two bottles of it. 
But on discontinuing it he slumped back into his old apathy.  

Ben Westerveld, in his store clothes, his clean blue shirt, his
incongruous hat, ambling aimlessly about Chicago's teeming,
gritty streets, was a tragedy.  Those big, capable hands, now
dangling so limply from inert wrists, had wrested a living from
the soil; those strangely unfaded blue eyes had the keenness of
vision which comes from scanning great stretches of earth and
sky; the stocky, square-shouldered body suggested power
unutilized. All these spelled tragedy.  Worse than
tragedy--waste.  

For almost half a century this man had combated the elements,
head set, eyes wary, shoulders squared.  He had fought wind and
sun, rain and drought, scourge and flood.  He had risen before
dawn and slept before sunset.  In the process he had taken on
something of the color and the rugged immutability of the fields
and hills and trees among which he toiled.  Something of their
dignity, too, though your town dweller might fail to see it
beneath the drab exterior.  He had about him none of the
highlights and sharp points of the city man.  He seemed to blend
in with the background of nature so as to be almost
undistinguishable from it, as were the furred and feathered
creatures.  This farmer differed from the city man as a hillock
differs from an artificial golf bunker, though form and substance
are the same.  

Ben Westerveld didn't know he was a tragedy.  Your farmer is not
given to introspection.  For that matter, anyone knows that a
farmer in town is a comedy.  Vaudeville, burlesque, the Sunday
supplement, the comic papers, have marked him a fair target for
ridicule.  Perhaps one should know him in his overalled,
stubble-bearded days, with the rich black loam of the Mississippi
bottomlands clinging to his boots.  

At twenty-five, given a tasseled cap, doublet and hose, and a
long, slim pipe, Ben Westerveld would have been the prototype of
one of those rollicking, lusty young mynheers that laugh out at
you from a Frans Hals canvas.  A roguish fellow with a merry eye;
red-cheeked, vigorous.  A serious mouth, though, and great
sweetness of expression.  As he grew older, the seriousness crept
up and up and almost entirely obliterated the roguishness.  By
the time the life of ease claimed him, even the ghost of that
ruddy wight of boyhood had vanished.  

The Westerveld ancestry was as Dutch as the name.  It had been
hundreds of years since the first Westervelds came to America,
and they had married and intermarried until the original Holland
strain had almost entirely disappeared.  They had drifted to
southern Illinois by one of those slow processes of migration and
had settled in Calhoun County, then almost a wilderness, but
magnificent with its rolling hills, majestic rivers, and
gold-and-purple distances.  But to the practical Westerveld mind,
hills and rivers and purple haze existed only in their relation
to crops and weather. Ben, though, had a way of turning his face
up to the sky sometimes, and it was not to scan the heavens for
clouds.  You saw him leaning on the plow handle to watch the
whirring flight of a partridge across the meadow.  He liked
farming.  Even the drudgery of it never made him grumble.  He was
a natural farmer as men are natural mechanics or musicians or
salesmen.  Things grew for him.  He seemed instinctively to know
facts about the kin ship of soil and seed that other men had to
learn from books or experience.  It grew to be a saying in that
section that "Ben Westerveld could grow a crop on rock."  

At picnics and neighborhood frolics Ben could throw farther and
run faster and pull harder than any of the other farmer boys who
took part in the rough games.  And he could pick up a girl with
one hand and hold her at arm's length while she shrieked with
pretended fear and real ecstasy. The girls all liked Ben.  There
was that almost primitive strength which appealed to the untamed
in them as his gentleness appealed to their softer side.  He
liked the girls, too, and could have had his pick of them.  He
teased them all, took them buggy riding, beaued them about to
neighbor- hood parties.  But by the time he was twenty-five the
thing had narrowed down to the Byers girl on the farm adjoining
Westerveld's.  There was what the neighbors called an
understanding, though perhaps he had never actually asked the
Byers girl to marry him.  You saw him going down the road toward
the Byers place four nights out of the seven.  He had a quick,
light step at variance with his sturdy build, and very different
from the heavy, slouching gait of the work-weary farmer.  He had
a habit of carrying in his hand a little twig or switch cut from
a tree.  This he would twirl blithely as he walked along.  The
switch and the twirl represented just so much energy and animal
spirits.  He never so much as flicked a dandelion head with it.  

An inarticulate sort of thing, that courtship.  

"Hello, Emma."  

"How do, Ben."  

"Thought you might like to walk a piece down the road.  They got
a calf at Aug Tietjens' with five legs."  

"I heard.  I'd just as lief walk a little piece.  I'm kind of
beat, though.  We've got the threshers day after tomorrow.  We've
been cooking up."  

Beneath Ben's bonhomie and roguishness there was much shyness. 
The two would plod along the road together in a sort of blissful
agony of embarrassment.  The neighbors were right in their
surmise that there was no definite understanding between them. 
But the thing was settled in the minds of both.  Once Ben had
said:  "Pop says I can have the north eighty on easy payments
if--when----"  

Emma Byers had flushed up brightly, but had answered equably: 
"That's a fine piece.  Your pop is an awful good man."  

The stolid exteriors of these two hid much that was fine and
forceful. Emma Byers' thoughtful forehead and intelligent eyes
would have revealed that in her.  Her mother was dead.  She kept
house for her father and brother.  She was known as "that smart
Byers girl."  Her butter and eggs and garden stuff brought
higher prices at Commercial, twelve miles away, than did any
other's in the district.  She was not a pretty girl, according to
the local standards, but there was about her, even at twenty-two,
a clear- headedness and a restful serenity that promised well for
Ben Westerveld's future happiness.  

But Ben Westerveld's future was not to lie in Emma Byers' capable
hands.  He knew that as soon as he saw Bella Huckins.  Bella
Huckins was the daughter of old "Red Front" Huckins, who ran
the saloon of that cheerful name in Commercial.  Bella had
elected to teach school, not from any bent toward learning but
because teaching appealed to her as being a rather elegant
occupation.  The Huckins family was not elegant.  In that day a
year or two of teaching in a country school took the place of the
present-day normal-school diploma.  Bella had an eye on St.
Louis, forty miles from the town of Commercial.  So she used the
country school as a step toward her ultimate goal, though she
hated the country and dreaded her apprenticeship.  

"I'll get a beau," she said, "who'll take me driving and
around.  And Saturdays and Sundays I can come to town."  

The first time Ben Westerveld saw her she was coming down the
road toward him in her tight-fitting black alpaca dress.  The
sunset was behind her.  Her hair was very golden.  In a day of
tiny waists hers could have been spanned by Ben Westerveld's two
hands.  He discovered that later.  Just now he thought he had
never seen anything so fairylike and dainty, though he did not
put it that way.  Ben was not glib of thought or speech.  

He knew at once this was the new schoolteacher.  He had heard of
her coming, though at the time the conversation had interested
him not at all.  Bella knew who he was, too.  She had learned the
name and history of every eligible young man in the district two
days after her arrival.  That was due partly to her own bold
curiosity and partly to the fact that she was boarding with the
Widow Becker, the most notorious gossip in the county.  In
Bella's mental list of the neighborhood swains Ben Westerveld
already occupied a position at the top of the column.  

He felt his face redden as they approached each other.  To hide
his embarrassment he swung his little hickory switch gaily and
called to his dog Dunder, who was nosing about by the roadside. 
Dunder bounded forward, spied the newcomer, and leaped toward her
playfully and with natural canine curiosity.  

Bella screamed.  She screamed and ran to Ben and clung to him,
clasping her hands about his arm.  Ben lifted the hickory switch
in his free hand and struck Dunder a sharp cut with it.  It was
the first time in his life that he had done such a thing.  If he
had had a sane moment from that time until the day he married
Bella Huckins, he never would have forgotten the dumb hurt in
Dunder's stricken eyes and shrinking, quivering body.  

Bella screamed again, still clinging to him.  Ben was saying: 
"He won't hurt you.  He won't hurt you," meanwhile patting her
shoulder reassuringly.  He looked down at her pale face.  She was
so slight, so childlike, so apparently different from the sturdy
country girls.  From--well, from the girls he knew.  Her
helplessness, her utter femininity, appealed to all that was
masculine in him.  Bella, the experienced, clinging to him, felt
herself swept from head to foot by a queer electric tingling that
was very pleasant but that still had in it something of the
sensation of a wholesale bumping of one's crazy bone.  If she had
been anything but a stupid little flirt, she would have realized
that here was a specimen of the virile male with which she could
not trifle.  She glanced up at him now, smiling faintly.  "My, I
was scared!"  She stepped away from him a little--very little. 


"Aw, he wouldn't hurt a flea."  

But Bella looked over her shoulder fearfully to where Dunder
stood by the roadside, regarding Ben with a look of uncertainty. 
He still thought that perhaps this was a new game.  Not a game
that he cared for, but still one to be played if his master
fancied it.  Ben stooped, picked up a stone, and threw it at
Dunder, striking him in the flank.  

"Go on home!" he commanded sternly.  "Go home!"  He started
toward the dog with a well-feigned gesture of menace.  Dunder,
with a low howl, put his tail between his legs and loped off
home, a disillusioned dog.  

Bella stood looking up at Ben.  Ben looked down at her.  "You're
the new teacher, ain't you?"  

"Yes.  I guess you must think I'm a fool, going on like a baby
about that dog."  

"Most girls would be scared of him if they didn't know he
wouldn't hurt nobody.  He's pretty big."  

He paused a moment, awkwardly.  "My name's Ben Westerveld."  

"Pleased to meet you," said Bella.  "Which way was you going? 
There's a dog down at Tietjens' that's enough to scare anybody. 
He looks like a pony, he's so big."  

"I forgot something at the school this afternoon, and I was
walking over to get it."  Which was a lie.  "I hope it won't
get dark before I get there.  You were going the other way,
weren't you?"  

"Oh, I wasn't going no place in particular.  I'll be pleased to
keep you company down to the school and back."  He was surprised
at his own sudden masterfulness.  

They set off together, chatting as freely as if they had known
one another for years.  Ben had been on his way to the Byers
farm, as usual.  The Byers farm and Emma Byers passed out of his
mind as completely as if they had been whisked away on a magic
rug.  

Bella Huckins had never meant to marry him.  She hated farm life.

She was contemptuous of farmer folk.  She loathed cooking and
drudgery.  The Huckinses lived above the saloon in Commercial and
Mrs. Huckins was always boiling ham and tongue and cooking pigs'
feet and shredding cabbage for slaw, all these edibles being
destined for the free-lunch counter downstairs.  Bella had early
made up her mind that there should be no boiling and stewing and
frying in her life.  Whenever she could find an excuse she
loitered about the saloon.  There she found life and talk and
color.  Old Red Front Huckins used to chase her away, but she
always turned up again, somehow, with a dish for the lunch
counter or with an armful of clean towels.  

Ben Westerveld never said clearly to himself, "I want to marry
Bella."  He never dared meet the thought.  He intended honestly
to marry Emma Byers.  But this thing was too strong for him.  As
for Bella, she laughed at him, but she was scared, too.  They
both fought the thing, she selfishly, he unselfishly, for the
Byers girl, with her clear, calm eyes and her dependable ways,
was heavy on his heart.  Ben's appeal for Bella was merely that
of the magnetic male.  She never once thought of his finer
qualities.  Her appeal for him was that of the frail and alluring
woman.  But in the end they married.  The neighborhood was rocked
with surprise.  

Usually in a courtship it is the male who assumes the bright
colors of pretense in order to attract a mate.  But Ben
Westerveld had been too honest to be anything but himself.  He
was so honest and fundamentally truthful that he refused at first
to allow himself to believe that this slovenly shrew was the
fragile and exquisite creature he had married.  He had the habit
of personal cleanliness, had Ben, in a day when tubbing was a
ceremony in an environment that made bodily nicety difficult.  He
discovered that Bella almost never washed and that her appearance
of fragrant immaculateness, when dressed, was due to a natural
clearness of skin and eye, and to the way her blond hair swept
away in a clean line from her forehead.  For the rest, she was a
slattern, with a vocabulary of invective that would have been a
credit to any of the habitues of old Red Front Huckins' bar. 

They had three children, a girl and two boys.  Ben Westerveld
prospered in spite of his wife.  As the years went on he added
eighty acres here, eighty acres there, until his land swept down
to the very banks of the Mississippi.  There is no doubt that she
hindered him greatly, but he was too expert a farmer to fail.  At
threshing time the crew looked forward to working for Ben, the
farmer, and dreaded the meals prepared by Bella, his wife.  She
was notoriously the worst cook and housekeeper in the county. 
And all through the years, in trouble and in happiness, her
plaint was the same-- "If I'd thought I was going to stick down
on a farm all my life, slavin' for a pack of menfolks day and
night, I'd rather have died.  Might as well be dead as rottin'
here."  

Her schoolteacher English had early reverted.  Her speech was as
slovenly as her dress.  She grew stout, too, and unwieldy, and
her skin coarsened from lack of care and from overeating.  And in
her children's ears she continually dinned a hatred of farm life
and farming.  "You can get away from it," she counseled her
daughter, Minnie.  "Don't you be a rube like your pa," she
cautioned John, the older boy.  And they profited by her ad-
vice.  Minnie went to work in Commercial when she was seventeen,
an overdeveloped girl with an inordinate love of cheap finery. 
At twenty, she married an artisan, a surly fellow with roving
tendencies.  They moved from town to town.  He never stuck long
at one job.  John, the older boy, was as much his mother's son as
Minnie was her mother's daughter.  Restless, dissatisfied,
emptyheaded, he was the despair of his father.  He drove the farm
horses as if they were racers, lashing them up hill and down
dale.  He was forever lounging off to the village or wheedling
his mother for money to take him to Commercial.  It was before
the day of the ubiquitous automobile.  Given one of those present
adjuncts to farm life, John would have ended his career much
earlier.  As it was, they found him lying by the roadside at dawn
one morning after the horses had trotted into the yard with the
wreck of the buggy bumping the road behind them.  He had stolen
the horses out of the barn after the help was asleep, had led
them stealthily down the road, and then had whirled off to a
rendezvous of his own in town.  The fall from the buggy might not
have hurt him, but evidently he had been dragged almost a mile
before his battered body became somehow disentangled from the
splintered wood and the reins.  

That horror might have served to bring Ben Westerveld and his
wife together, but it did not.  It only increased her bitterness
and her hatred of the locality and the life.  

"I hope you're good an' satisfied now," she repeated in endless
reproach. "I hope you're good an' satisfied.  You was bound
you'd make a farmer out of him, an' now you finished the job. 
You better try your hand at Dike now for a change."  

Dike was young Ben, sixteen; and old Ben had no need to try his
hand at him.  Young Ben was a born farmer, as was his father.  He
had come honestly by his nickname.  In face, figure, expression,
and manner he was a five-hundred-year throwback to his Holland
ancestors.  Apple-cheeked, stocky, merry of eye, and somewhat
phlegmatic.  When, at school, they had come to the story of the
Dutch boy who saved his town from flood by thrusting his finger
into the hole in the dike and holding it there until help came,
the class, after one look at the accompanying picture in the
reader, dubbed young Ben "Dike" Westerveld.  And Dike he
remained.  

Between Dike and his father there was a strong but unspoken
feeling.  The boy was cropwise, as his father had been at his
age.  On Sundays you might see the two walking about the farm,
looking at the pigs--great black fellows worth almost their
weight in silver; eying the stock; speculating on the winter
wheat showing dark green in April, with rich patches that were
almost black.  Young Dike smoked a solemn and judicious pipe,
spat expertly, and voiced the opinion that the winter wheat was a
fine prospect Ben Westerveld, listening tolerantly to the boy's
opinions, felt a great surge of joy that he did not show.  Here,
at last, was compensation for all the misery and sordidness and
bitter disappointment of his married life.  

That married life had endured now for more than thirty years. 
Ben Westerveld still walked with a light, quick step--for his
years.  The stocky, broad-shouldered figure was a little
shrunken.  He was as neat and clean at fifty-five as he had been
at twenty-five-a habit that, on a farm, is fraught with
difficulties.  The community knew and respected him.  He was a
man of standing.  When he drove into town on a bright winter
morning, in his big sheepskin coat and his shaggy cap and his
great boots, and entered the First National Bank, even Shumway,
the cashier, would look up from his desk to say:  

"Hello, Westerveld!  Hello!  Well, how goes it?"  

When Shumway greeted a farmer in that way you knew that there
were no unpaid notes to his discredit.  

All about Ben Westerveld stretched the fruit of his toil; the
work of his hands.  Orchards, fields, cattle, barns, silos.  All
these things were dependent on him for their future
well-being--on him and on Dike after him.  His days were full and
running over.  Much of the work was drudgery; most of it was
backbreaking and laborious.  But it was his place.  It was his
reason for being.  And he felt that the reason was good, though
he never put that thought into words, mental or spoken.  He only
knew that he was part of the great scheme of things and that he
was functioning ably.  If he had expressed himself at all, he
might have said:  

"Well, I got my work cut out for me, and I do it, and do it
right."  

There was a tractor, now, of course; and a sturdy, middle-class
automobile in which Bella lolled red-faced when they drove into
town.  

As Ben Westerveld had prospered, his shrewish wife had reaped her
benefits.  Ben was not the selfish type of farmer who insists on
twentieth- century farm implements and medieval household
equipment.  He had added a bedroom here, a cool summer kitchen
there, an icehouse, a commodious porch, a washing machine, even a
bathroom.  But Bella remained unplacated.  Her face was set
toward the city.  And slowly, surely, the effect of thirty years
of nagging was beginning to tell on Ben Westerveld.  He was the
finer metal, but she was the heavier, the coarser.  She beat him
and molded him as iron beats upon gold.  

Minnie was living in Chicago now--a good-natured creature, but
slack like her mother.  Her surly husband was still talking of
his rights and crying down with the rich.  They had two children.

Minnie wrote of them, and of the delights of city life.  Movies
every night.  Halsted Street just around the corner.  The big
stores.  State Street.  The el took you downtown in no time. 
Something going on all the while.  Bella Westerveld, after one of
those letters, was more than a chronic shrew; she became a
terrible termagant.  

When Ben Westerveld decided to concentrate on hogs and wheat he
didn't dream that a world would be clamoring for hogs and wheat
for four long years.  When the time came, he had them, and sold
them fabulously.  But wheat and hogs and markets became
negligible things on the day that Dike, with seven other farm
boys from the district, left for the nearest training camp that
was to fit them for France and war.  

Bella made the real fuss, wailing and mouthing and going into
hysterics. Old Ben took it like a stoic.  He drove the boy to
town that day.  When the train pulled out, you might have seen,
if you had looked close, how the veins and cords swelled in the
lean brown neck above the clean blue shirt. But that was all.  As
the weeks went on, the quick, light step began to lag a little. 
He had lost more than a son; his right-hand helper was gone. 
There were no farm helpers to be had.  Old Ben couldn't do it
all.  A touch of rheumatism that winter half crippled him for
eight weeks.  Bella's voice seemed never to stop its plaint.  

"There ain't no sense in you trying to make out alone.  Next
thing you'll die on me, and then I'll have the whole shebang on
my hands."  At that he eyed her dumbly from his chair by the
stove.  His resistance was wearing down.  He knew it.  He wasn't
dying.  He knew that, too.  But something in him was.  Something
that had resisted her all these years.  Something that had made
him master and superior in spite of everything.  

In those days of illness, as he sat by the stove, the memory of
Emma Byers came to him often.  She had left that district
twenty-eight years ago, and had married, and lived in Chicago
somewhere, he had heard, and was prosperous.  He wasted no time
in idle regrets.  He had been a fool, and he paid the price of
fools.  Bella, slamming noisily about the room, never suspected
the presence in the untidy place of a third person--a sturdy girl
of twenty-two or -three, very wholesome to look at, and with
honest, intelligent eyes and a serene brow.  

"It'll get worse an' worse all the time," Bella's whine went
on.  "Everybody says the war'll last prob'ly for years an'
years.  You can't make out alone.  Everything's goin' to rack and
ruin.  You could rent out the farm for a year, on trial.  The
Burdickers'd take it, and glad.  They got those three strappin'
louts that's all flat-footed or slab-sided or cross-eyed or
somethin', and no good for the army.  Let them run it on shares. 
Maybe they'll even buy, if things turn out.  Maybe Dike'll never
come b----"  

But at the look on his face then, and at the low growl of
unaccustomed rage that broke from him, even she ceased her
clatter.  

They moved to Chicago in the early spring.  The look that had
been on Ben Westerveld's face when he drove Dike to the train
that carried him to camp was stamped there again--indelibly this
time, it seemed.  Calhoun County in the spring has much the
beauty of California.  There is a peculiar golden light about it,
and the hills are a purplish haze.  Ben Westerveld, walking down
his path to the gate, was more poignantly dramatic than any
figure in a rural play.  He did not turn to look back, though, as
they do in a play.  He dared not.  

They rented a flat in Englewood, Chicago, a block from Minnie's. 
Bella was almost amiable these days.  She took to city life as
though the past thirty years had never been.  White kid shoes,
delicatessen stores, the movies, the haggling with peddlers, the
crowds, the crashing noise, the cramped, unnatural mode of
living--necessitated by a four-room flat--all these urban
adjuncts seemed as natural to her as though she had been bred in
the midst of them.  

She and Minnie used to spend whole days in useless shopping. 
Theirs was a respectable neighborhood of well-paid artisans,
bookkeepers, and small shopkeepers.  The women did their own
housework in drab garments and soiled boudoir caps that hid a
multitude of unkempt heads.  They seemed to find a great deal of
time for amiable, empty gabbling From seven to four you might see
a pair of boudoir caps leaning from opposite bedroom windows,
conversing across back porches, pausing in the task of sweeping
front steps, standing at a street corner, laden with grocery
bundles.  Minnie wasted hours in what she called "running over
to Ma's for a minute."  The two quarreled a great deal, being so
nearly of a nature.  But the very qualities that combated each
other seemed, by some strange chemical process, to bring them
together as well.  

"I'm going downtown today to do a little shopping," Minnie
would say.  "Do you want to come along, Ma?"  

"What you got to get?"  

"Oh, I thought I'd look at a couple little dresses for
Pearlie."  

"When I was your age I made every stitch you wore."  

"Yeh, I bet they looked like it, too.  This ain't the farm.  I
got all I can do to tend to the house, without sewing."  

"I did it.  I did the housework and the sewin' and cookin', an'
besides----"  

"A swell lot of housekeepin' you did.  You don't need to tell
me."  

The bickering grew to a quarrel.  But in the end they took the
downtown el together.  You saw them, flushed of face, with
twitching fingers, indulging in a sort of orgy of dime spending
in the five-and-ten-cent store on the wrong side of State Street.

They pawed over bolts of cheap lace and bits of stuff in the
stifling air of the crowded place.  They would buy a sack of
salted peanuts from the great mound in the glass case, or a bag
of the greasy pink candy piled in profusion on the counter, and
this they would munch as they went.  

They came home late, fagged and irritable, and supplemented their
hurried dinner with hastily bought food from the near-by
delicatessen.  

Thus ran the life of ease for Ben Westerveld, retired farmer. 
And so now he lay impatiently in bed, rubbing a nervous
forefinger over the edge of the sheet and saying to himself that,
well, here was another day.  What day was it?  L'see now. 
Yesterday was--yesterday.  A little feeling of panic came over
him.  He couldn't remember what yesterday had been.  He counted
back laboriously and decided that today must be Thursday.  Not
that it made any difference.  

They had lived in the city almost a year now.  But the city had
not digested Ben.  He was a leathery morsel that could not be
assimilated.  There he stuck in Chicago's crop, contributing
nothing, gaining nothing.  A rube in a comic collar ambling
aimlessly about Halsted Street or State downtown. You saw him
conversing hungrily with the gritty and taciturn Swede who was
janitor for the block of red-brick flats.  Ben used to follow him
around pathetically, engaging him in the talk of the day.  Ben
knew no men except the surly Gus, Minnie's husband.  Gus, the
firebrand, thought Ben hardly worthy of his contempt.  If Ben
thought, sometimes, of the respect with which he had always been
greeted when he clumped down the main street of Commercial--if he
thought of how the farmers for miles around had come to him for
expert advice and opinion--he said nothing.  

Sometimes the janitor graciously allowed Ben to attend to the
furnace of the building in which he lived.  He took out ashes,
shoveled coal.  He tinkered and rattled and shook things.  You
heard him shoveling and scraping down there, and smelled the
acrid odor of his pipe.  It gave him something to do.  He would
emerge sooty and almost happy.  

"You been monkeying with that furnace again!"  Bella would
scold.  "If you want something to do, why don't you plant a
garden in the back yard and grow something?  You was crazy about
it on the farm."  

His face flushed a slow, dull red at that.  He could not explain
to her that he lost no dignity in his own eyes in fussing about
an inadequate little furnace, but that self-respect would not
allow him to stoop to gardening-- he who had reigned over six
hundred acres of bountiful soil.  

On winter afternoons you saw him sometimes at the movies, whiling
away one of his many idle hours in the dim, close-smelling
atmosphere of the place.  Tokyo and Rome and Gallipoli came to
him.  He saw beautiful tiger-women twining fair, false arms about
the stalwart but yielding forms of young men with cleft chins. 
He was only mildly interested.  He talked to anyone who would
talk to him, though he was naturally a shy man.  He talked to the
barber, the grocer, the druggist, the streetcar conductor, the
milkman, the iceman.  But the price of wheat did not interest
these gentlemen.  They did not know that the price of wheat was
the most vital topic of conversation in the world.  

"Well, now," he would say, "you take this year's wheat crop,
with about 917,000,000 bushels of wheat harvested, why, that's
what's going to win the war!  Yes, sirree!  No wheat, no winning,
that's what I say."  

"Ya-as, it is!" the city men would scoff.  But the queer part
of it is that Farmer Ben was right.  

Minnie got into the habit of using him as a sort of nursemaid. 
It gave her many hours of freedom for gadding and gossiping.

"Pa, will you look after Pearlie for a little while this
morning?  I got to run downtown to match something and she gets
so tired and mean-acting if I take her along.  Ma's going with
me."  

He loved the feel of Pearlie's small, velvet-soft hand in his big
fist.  He called her "little feller," and fed her forbidden
dainties.  His big brown fingers were miraculously deft at
buttoning and unbuttoning her tiny garments, and wiping her soft
lips, and performing a hundred tender offices.  He was playing a
sort of game with himself, pretending this was Dike become a baby
again.  Once the pair managed to get over to Lincoln Park, where
they spent a glorious day looking at the animals, eating popcorn,
and riding on the miniature railway.  

They returned, tired, dusty, and happy, to a double tirade. 

Bella engaged in a great deal of what she called worrying about
Dike. Ben spoke of him seldom, but the boy was always present in
his thoughts. They had written him of their move, but he had not
seemed to get the impression of its permanence.  His letters
indicated that he thought they were visiting Minnie, or taking a
vacation in the city.  Dike's letters were few.  Ben treasured
them, and read and reread them.  When the Armistice news came,
and with it the possibility of Dike's return, Ben tried to fancy
him fitting into the life of the city.  And his whole being
revolted at the thought.  

He saw the pimply-faced, sallow youths standing at the corner of
Halsted and Sixty-third, spitting languidly and handling their
limp cigarettes with an amazing labial dexterity.  Their
conversation was low-voiced, sinister, and terse, and their eyes
narrowed as they watched the overdressed, scarlet-lipped girls go
by.  A great fear clutched at Ben Westerveld's heart.  

The lack of exercise and manual labor began to tell on Ben.  He
did not grow fat from idleness.  Instead his skin seemed to sag
and hang on his frame, like a garment grown too large for him. 
He walked a great deal.  Perhaps that had something to do with
it.  He tramped miles of city pave- ments.  He was a very lonely
man.  And then, one day, quite by accident, he came upon South
Water Street.  Came upon it, stared at it as a water-crazed
traveler in a desert gazes upon the spring in the oasis, and
drank from it, thirstily, gratefully.  

South Water Street feeds Chicago.  Into that close-packed
thoroughfare come daily the fruits and vegetables that will
supply a million tables.  Ben had heard of it, vaguely, but had
never attempted to find it.  Now he stumbled upon it and,
standing there, felt at home in Chicago for the first time in
more than a year.  He saw ruddy men walking about in overalls and
carrying whips in their hands--wagon whips, actually.  He hadn't
seen men like that since he had left the farm.  The sight of them
sent a great pang of homesickness through him.  His hand reached
out and he ran an accustomed finger over the potatoes in a barrel
on the walk.  His fingers lingered and gripped them, and passed
over them lovingly.  

At the contact something within him that had been tight and
hungry seemed to relax, satisfied.  It was his nerves, feeding on
those familiar things for which they had been starving.  

He walked up one side and down the other.  Crates of lettuce,
bins of onions, barrels of apples.  Such vegetables!  The
radishes were scarlet globes.  Each carrot was a spear of pure
orange.  The green and purple of fancy asparagus held his expert
eye.  The cauliflower was like a great bouquet, fit for a bride;
the cabbages glowed like jade.  

And the men!  He hadn't dreamed there were men like that in this
big, shiny-shod, stiffly laundered, white-collared city.  Here
were rufous men in overalls--worn, shabby, easy-looking overalls
and old blue shirts, and mashed hats worn at a careless angle. 
Men, jovial, good-natured, with clear eyes, and having about them
some of the revivifying freshness and wholesomeness of the
products they handled.  

Ben Westerveld breathed in the strong, pungent smell of onions
and garlic and of the earth that seemed to cling to the
vegetables, washed clean though they were.  He breathed deeply,
gratefully, and felt strangely at peace.  

It was a busy street.  A hundred times he had to step quickly to
avoid a hand truck, or dray, or laden wagon.  And yet the busy
men found time to greet him friendlily.  "H'are you!" they said
genially.  "H'are you this morning!"  

He was marketwise enough to know that some of these busy people
were commission men, and some grocers, and some buyers, stewards,
clerks.  It was a womanless thoroughfare.  At the busiest
business corner, though, in front of the largest commission house
on the street, he saw a woman.  Evidently she was transacting
business, too, for he saw the men bringing boxes of berries and
vegetables for her inspection.  A woman in a plain blue skirt and
a small black hat.  

A funny job for a woman.  What weren't they mixing into nowadays!

He turned sidewise in the narrow, crowded space in order to pass
her little group.  And one of the men--a red-cheeked,
merry-looking young fellow in a white apron--laughed and said: 
"Well, Emma, you win.  When it comes to driving a bargain with
you, I quit.  It can't be did!"  

Even then he didn't know her.  He did not dream that this
straight, slim, tailored, white-haired woman, bargaining so
shrewdly with these men, was the Emma Byers of the old days.  But
he stopped there a moment, in frank curiosity, and the woman
looked up.  She looked up, and he knew those intelligent eyes and
that serene brow.  He had carried the picture of them in his mind
for more than thirty years, so it was not so surprising.  

He did not hesitate.  He might have if he had thought a moment,
but he acted automatically.  He stood before her.  "You're Emma
Byers, ain't you?"  

She did not know him at first.  Small blame to her, so completely
had the roguish, vigorous boy vanished in this sallow, sad-eyed
old man.  Then: "Why, Ben!" she said quietly.  And there was
pity in her voice, though she did not mean to have it there.  She
put out one hand--that capable, reassuring hand--and gripped his
and held it a moment.  It was queer and significant that it
should be his hand that lay within hers.  

"Well, what in all get-out are you doing around here, Emma?" 
He tried to be jovial and easy.  She turned to the aproned man
with whom she had been dealing and smiled.  

"What am I doing here, Joe?"  

Joe grinned, waggishly.  "Nothin'; only beatin' every man on the
street at his own game, and makin' so much money that----"  

But she stopped him there.  "I guess I'll do my own
explaining."  She turned to Ben again.  "And what are you doing
here in Chicago?"  

Ben passed a faltering hand across his chin.  "Me?  Well,
I'm--we're living here, I s'pose.  Livin' here."  

She glanced at him sharply.  "Left the farm, Ben?"  

"Yes."  

"Wait a minute."  She concluded her business with Joe; finished
it briskly and to her own satisfaction.  With her bright brown
eyes and her alert manner and her quick little movements she made
you think of a wren--a businesslike little wren--a very early
wren that is highly versed in the worm-catching way.  

At her next utterance he was startled but game.  

"Have you had your lunch?"  

"Why, no; I----"  

"I've been down here since seven, and I'm starved.  Let's go and
have a bite at the little Greek restaurant around the corner.  A
cup of coffee and a sandwich, anyway."  

Seated at the bare little table, she surveyed him with those
intelligent, understanding, kindly eyes, and he felt the years
slip from him.  They were walking down the country road together,
and she was listening quietly and advising him.  

She interrogated him gently.  But something of his old
masterfulness came back to him.  "No, I want to know about you
first.  I can't get the rights of it, you being here on South
Water, tradin' and all."  

So she told him briefly.  She was in the commission business. 
Successful.  She bought, too, for such hotels as the Blackstone
and the Congress, and for half a dozen big restaurants.  She gave
him bare facts, but he was shrewd enough and sufficiently versed
in business to know that here was a woman of established
commercial position.  

"But how does it happen you're keepin' it up, Emma, all this
time?  Why, you must be anyway--it ain't that you look
it--but----"  He floundered, stopped.  

She laughed.  "That's all right, Ben.  I couldn't fool you on
that.  And I'm working because it keeps me happy.  I want to work
till I die.  My children keep telling me to stop, but I know
better than that.  I'm not going to rust out.  I want to wear
out."  Then, at an unspoken question in his eyes:  "He's dead. 
These twenty years.  It was hard at first, when the children were
small.  But I knew garden stuff if I didn't know anything else. 
It came natural to me.  That's all."  

So then she got his story from him bit by bit.  He spoke of the
farm and of Dike, and there was a great pride in his voice.  He
spoke of Bella, and the son who had been killed, and of Minnie. 
And the words came falteringly. He was trying to hide something,
and he was not made for deception.  When he had finished:  

"Now, listen, Ben.  You go back to your farm."  

"I can't.  She--I can't."  

She leaned forward, earnestly.  "You go back to the farm."  

He turned up his palms with a little gesture of defeat.  "I
can't."  

"You can't stay here.  It's killing you.  It's poisoning you. 
Did you ever hear of toxins?  That means poisons, and you're
poisoning yourself.  You'll die of it.  You've got another twenty
years of work in you.  What's ailing you?  You go back to your
wheat and your apples and your hogs.  There isn't a bigger job in
the world than that."  

For a moment his face took on a glow from the warmth of her own
inspiring personality.  But it died again.  When they rose to go,
his shoulders drooped again, his muscles sagged.  At the doorway
he paused a moment, awkward in farewell.  He blushed a little,
stammered.  

"Emma--I always wanted to tell you.  God knows it was luck for
you the way it turned out--but I always wanted to----"  

She took his hand again in her firm grip at that, and her kindly,
bright brown eyes were on him.  "I never held it against you,
Ben.  I had to live a long time to understand it.  But I never
held a grudge.  It just wasn't to be, I suppose.  But listen to
me, Ben.  You do as I tell you.  You go back to your wheat and
your apples and your hogs.  There isn't a bigger man-size job in
the world.  It's where you belong."  

Unconsciously his shoulders straightened again.  Again they
sagged.  And so they parted, the two.  

He must have walked almost all the long way home, through miles
and miles of city streets.  He must have lost his way, too, for
when he looked up at a corner street sign it was an unfamiliar
one.  

So he floundered about, asked his way, was misdirected.  He took
the right streetcar at last and got off at his own corner at
seven o'clock, or later.  He was in for a scolding, he knew.  

But when he came to his own doorway he knew that even his
tardiness could not justify the bedlam of sound that came from
within.  High-pitched voices.  Bella's above all the rest, of
course, but there was Minnie's too, and Gus's growl, and
Pearlie's treble, and the boy Ed's and----  

At the other voice his hand trembled so that the knob rattled in
the door, and he could not turn it.  But finally he did turn it,
and stumbled in, breathing hard.  And that other voice was
Dike's.  

He must have just arrived.  The flurry of explanation was still
in progress. Dike's knapsack was still on his back, and his
canteen at his hip, his helmet slung over his shoulder.  A brown,
hard, glowing Dike, strangely tall and handsome and older, too. 
Older.  

All this Ben saw in less than one electric second.  Then he had
the boy's two shoulders in his hands, and Dike was saying,
"Hello, Pop."  

Of the roomful, Dike and old Ben were the only quiet ones.  The
others were taking up the explanation and going over it again and
again, and marveling, and asking questions.  

"He come in to--what's that place, Dike?--Hoboken--yesterday
only.  An' he sent a dispatch to the farm.  Can't you read our
letters, Dike, that you didn't know we was here now?  And then
he's only got an hour more.  They got to go to Camp Grant to be,
now, demobilized.  He came out to Minnie's on a chance.  Ain't he
big!"  

But Dike and his father were looking at each other quietly.  Then
Dike spoke.  His speech was not phlegmatic, as of old.  He had a
new clipped way of uttering his words:  

"Say, Pop, you ought to see the way the Frenchies farm!  They
got about an acre each, and, say, they use every inch of it.  If
they's a little dirt blows into the crotch of a tree, they plant
a crop in there.  I never seen nothin' like it.  Say, we waste
enough stuff over here to keep that whole country in food for a
hundred years.  Yessir.  And tools!  Outta the ark, believe me. 
If they ever saw our tractor, they'd think it was the Germans
comin' back.  But they're smart at that.  I picked up a lot of
new ideas over there.  And you ought to see the old
birds--womenfolks and men about eighty years old-- runnin'
everything on the farm.  They had to.  I learned somethin' off
them about farmin'."  

"Forget the farm," said Minnie.  

"Yeh," echoed Gus, "forget the farm stuff.  I can get you a
job here out at the works for four-fifty a day, and six when you
learn it right."  

Dike looked from one to the other, alarm and unbelief on his
face.  "What d'you mean, a job?  Who wants a job!  What you
all----"  

Bella laughed jovially.  "F'r heaven's sakes, Dike, wake up! 
We're livin' here.  This is our place.  We ain't rubes no more."



Dike turned to his father.  A little stunned look crept into his
face.  A stricken, pitiful look.  There was something about it
that suddenly made old Ben think of Pearlie when she had been
slapped by her quick- tempered mother.  

"But I been countin' on the farm," he said miserably.  "I just
been livin' on the idea of comin' back to it.  Why, I---- The
streets here, they're all narrow and choked up.  I been countin'
on the farm.  I want to go back and be a farmer.  I want----"

And then Ben Westerveld spoke.  A new Ben Westerveld--the old Ben
Westerveld.  Ben Westerveld, the farmer, the monarch over six
hundred acres of bounteous bottomland.  

"That's all right, Dike," he said.  "You're going back.  So'm
I.  I've got another twenty years of work in me.  We're going
back to the farm."  

Bella turned on him, a wildcat.  "We ain't!  Not me!  We ain't! 
I'm not agoin' back to the farm."  

But Ben Westerveld was master again in his own house.  "You're
goin' back, Bella," he said quietly, "an' things are goin' to
be different.  You're goin' to run the house the way I say, or
I'll know why.  If you can't do it, I'll get them in that can. 
An' me and Dike, we're goin' back to our wheat and our apples and
our hogs.  Yessir!  There ain't a bigger man-size job in the
world."    




    Un Morso doo Pang 
    [1919]  

When you are twenty you do not patronize sunsets unless you are
unhappy, in love, or both.  Tessie Golden was both.  Six months
ago a sunset had wrung from her only a casual tribute, such as: 
"My! Look how red the sky is!" delivered as unemotionally as a
weather bulletin.  

Tessie Golden sat on the top step of the back porch now, a slim,
inert heap in a cotton house coat and scuffed slippers.  Her head
was propped wearily against the porch post.  Her hands were limp
in her lap.  Her face was turned toward the west, where shone
that mingling of orange and rose known as salmon pink.  But no
answering radiance in the girl's face met the glow in the
Wisconsin sky.  


Saturday night, after supper in Chippewa, Wisconsin, Tessie
Golden of the presunset era would have been calling from her
bedroom to the kitchen:  "Ma, what'd you do with my pink
blouse?"  

And from the kitchen:  "It's in your second bureau drawer.  The
collar was kind of mussed from Wednesday night, and I give it a
little pressing while my iron was on."  

At seven-thirty Tessie would have emerged from her bedroom in the
pink blouse that might have been considered alarmingly frank as
to texture and precariously low as to neck had Tessie herself not
been so reassuringly unopulent; a black taffeta skirt, very
brief; a hat with a good deal of French blue about it; fragile
high-heeled pumps with bows.  

As she passed through the sitting room on her way out, her mother
would appear in the doorway, dishtowel in hand.  Her pride in
this slim young thing and her love of her she concealed with a
thin layer of carping criticism.  

"Runnin' downtown again, I s'pose."  A keen eye on the swishing
skirt hem.  

Tessie, the quick-tongued, would toss the wave of shining hair
that lay against either glowing cheek.  "Oh, my, no!  I just
thought I'd dress up in case Angie Hatton drove past in her auto
and picked me up for a little ride.  So's not to keep her
waiting."  

Angie Hatton was Old Man Hatton's daughter.  Anyone in the Fox
River Valley could have told you who Old Man Hatton was.  You saw
his name at the top of every letterhead of any importance in
Chippewa, from the Pulp and Paper Mill to the First National
Bank, and including the watch factory, the canning works, and the
Mid-Western Land Company. Knowing this, you were able to
appreciate Tessie's sarcasm.  Angie Hatton was as unaware of
Tessie's existence as only a young woman could be whose family
residence was in Chippewa, Wisconsin, but who wintered in Italy,
summered in the mountains, and bought (so the town said) her very
hairpins in New York.  When Angie Hatton came home from the East
the town used to stroll past on Mondays to view the washing on
the Hatton line.  Angie's underwear, flirting so audaciously with
the sunshine and zephyrs, was of silk and crepe de Chine and
satin--materials that we had always thought of heretofore as
intended exclusively for party dresses and wedding gowns.  Of
course, two years later they were showing practically the same
thing at Megan's dry-goods store.  But that was always the way
with Angie Hatton.  Even those of us who went to Chicago to shop
never quite caught up with her.  

Delivered of this ironic thrust, Tessie would walk toward the
screen door with a little flaunting sway of the hips.  Her
mother's eyes, following the slim figure, had a sort of grudging
love in them.  A spare, caustic, wiry little woman, Tessie's
mother.  Tessie resembled her as a water color may resemble a
blurred charcoal sketch.  Tessie's wide mouth curved into humor
lines.  She was the cutup of the escapement department at the
watch factory; the older woman's lips sagged at the corners. 
Tessie was buoyant and colorful with youth.  The other was
shrunken and faded with years and labor.  As the girl minced
across the room in her absurdly high-heeled shoes, the older
woman thought:  My, but she's pretty!  But she said aloud: "I
should think you'd stay home once in a while and not be runnin'
the streets every night."  

"Time enough to be sittin' home when I'm old like you."  

And yet between these two there was love, and even understanding.

But in families such as Tessie's, demonstration is a thing to be
ashamed of; affection a thing to conceal.  Tessie's father was
janitor of the Chippewa High School.  A powerful man, slightly
crippled by rheumatism, loquacious, lively, fond of his family,
proud of his neat gray frame house and his new cement sidewalk
and his carefully tended yard and garden patch. In all her life
Tessie had never seen a caress exchanged between her parents.  

Nowadays Ma Golden had little occasion for finding fault with
Tessie's evening diversion.  She no longer had cause to say,
"Always gaddin' downtown, or over to Cora's or somewhere, like
you didn't have a home to stay in.  You ain't been in a evening
this week, only when you washed your hair."  

Tessie had developed a fondness for sunsets viewed from the back
porch --she who had thought nothing of dancing until three and
rising at half- past six to go to work.  

Stepping about in the kitchen after supper, her mother would eye
the limp, relaxed figure on the back porch with a little pang at
her heart.  She would come to the screen door, or even out to the
porch on some errand or other--to empty the coffee grounds, to
turn the row of half-ripe tomatoes reddening on the porch
railing, to flap and hang up a damp tea towel.  

"Ain't you goin' out, Tess?"  

"No."  

"What you want to lop around here for?  Such a grant evening. 
Why don't you put on your things and run downtown, or over to
Cora's or somewhere, hm?"  

"What for?"--listlessly.  

"What for!  What does anybody go out for!"  

"I don't know."  

If they could have talked it over together, these two, the girl
might have found relief.  But the family shyness of their class
was too strong upon them.  Once Mrs. Golden had said, in an
effort at sympathy, "Person'd think Chuck Mory was the only one
who'd gone to war an' the last fella left in the world."  

A grim flash of the old humor lifted the corners of the wide
mouth.  "He is.  Who's there left?  Stumpy Gans, up at the
railroad crossing?  Or maybe Fatty Weiman, driving the garbage. 
Guess I'll doll up this evening and see if I can't make a hit
with one of them."  

She relapsed into bitter silence.  The bottom had dropped out of
Tessie Golden's world.  


In order to understand the Tessie of today one would have to know
the Tessie of six months ago--Tessie the impudent, the
life-loving.  Tessie Golden could say things to the
escapement-room foreman that anyone else would have been fired
for.  Her wide mouth was capable of glorious insolences. 
Whenever you heard shrieks of laughter from the girls' washroom
at noon you knew that Tessie was holding forth to an admiring
group.  She was a born mimic; audacious, agile, and with the gift
of burlesque.  The autumn that Angie Hatton came home from Europe
wearing the first tight skirt that Chippewa had ever seen, Tessie
gave an imitation of that advanced young woman's progress down
Grand Avenue in this restricting garment.  The thing was cruel in
its fidelity, though containing just enough exaggeration to make
it artistic.  She followed it up by imitating the stricken look
on the face of Mattie Haynes, cloak-and-suit buyer at Megan's,
who, having just returned from the East with what she considered
the most fashionable of the new fall styles, now beheld Angie
Hatton in the garb that was the last echo of the last cry in
Paris modes--and no model in Mattie's newly selected stock bore
even the remotest resemblance to it.  

You would know from this that Tessie was not a particularly deft
worker.  Her big-knuckled fingers were cleverer at turning out a
blouse or retrimming a hat.  Hers were what are known as handy
hands, but not sensitive.  It takes a light and facile set of
fingers to fit pallet and arbor and fork together: close work and
tedious.  Seated on low benches along the tables, their chins
almost level with the table top, the girls worked with pincers
and flame, screwing together the three tiny parts of the watch's
anatomy that were their particular specialty.  Each wore a
jeweler's glass in one eye.  Tessie had worked at the watch
factory for three years, and the pressure of the glass on the eye
socket had given her the slightly hollow- eyed appearance
peculiar to experienced watchmakers.  It was not unbecoming,
though, and lent her, somehow, a spiritual look which made her
impudence all the more piquant.  

Tessie wasn't always witty, really.  But she had achieved a
reputation for wit which insured applause for even her feebler
efforts.  Nap Ballou, the foreman, never left the escapement room
without a little shiver of nervous apprehension--a feeling
justified by the ripple of suppressed laughter that went up and
down the long tables.  He knew that Tessie Golden, like a naughty
schoolgirl when teacher's back is turned, had directed one of her
sure shafts at him.  

Ballou, his face darkling, could easily have punished her. 
Tessie knew it. But he never did, or would.  She knew that, too. 
Her very insolence and audacity saved her.  

"Someday," Ballou would warn her, "you'll get too gay, and
then you'll find yourself looking for a job."  

"Go on--fire me," retorted Tessie, "and I'll meet you in
Lancaster"--a form of wit appreciated only by watchmakers.  For
there is a certain type of watch hand who is as peripatetic as
the old-time printer.  Restless, ne'er-do- well, spendthrift, he
wanders from factory to factory through the chain of watchmaking
towns: Springfield, Trenton, Waltham, Lancaster, Waterbury,
Chippewa.  Usually expert, always unreliable, certainly fond of
drink, Nap Ballou was typical of his kind.  The steady worker had
a mingled admiration and contempt for him.  He, in turn, regarded
the other as a stick-in-the-mud.  Nap wore his cap on one side of
his curly head, and drank so evenly and steadily as never to be
quite drunk and never strictly sober.  He had slender, sensitive
fingers like an artist's or a woman's, and he knew the parts of
that intricate mechanism known as a watch from the jewel to the
finishing room.  It was said he had a wife or two.  He was forty-
six, good-looking in a dissolute sort of way, possessing the
charm of the wanderer, generous with his money.  It was known
that Tessie's barbs were permitted to prick him without
retaliation because Tessie herself appealed to his errant fancy.

When the other girls teased her about this obvious state of
affairs, something fine and contemptuous welled up in her. 
"Him!  Why, say, he ought to work in a pickle factory instead of
a watchworks.  All he needs is a little dill and a handful of
grape leaves to make him good eatin' as a relish."  

And she thought of Chuck Mory, perched on the high seat of the
American Express truck, hatless, sunburned, stockily muscular,
clattering down Winnebago Street on his way to the depot and the
7:50 train.  

Something about the clear simplicity and uprightness of the firm
little figure appealed to Nap Ballou.  He used to regard her
curiously with a long, hard gaze before which she would grow
uncomfortable.  "Think you'll know me next time you see me?" 
But there was an uneasy feeling beneath her flip exterior.  Not
that there was anything of the beautiful, persecuted factory girl
and villainous foreman about the situation.  Tessie worked at
watchmaking because it was light, pleasant, and well paid.  She
could have found another job for the asking.  Her money went for
shoes and blouses and lingerie and silk stockings.  She was
forever buying a vivid necktie for her father and dressing up her
protesting mother in gay colors that went ill with the drab,
wrinkled face.  "If it wasn't for me, you'd go round looking
like one of those Polack women down by the tracks," Tessie would
scold.  "It's a wonder you don't wear a shawl!"  

That was the Tessie of six months ago, gay, carefree, holding the
reins of her life in her own two capable hands.  Three nights a
week, and Sunday, she saw Chuck Mory.  When she went downtown on
Saturday night it was frankly to meet Chuck, who was waiting for
her on Schroeder's drugstore corner.  He knew it, and she knew
it.  Yet they always went through a little ceremony.  She and
Cora, turning into Grand from Winnebago Street, would make for
the post office.  Then down the length of Grand with a leaping
glance at Schroeder's corner before they reached it.  Yes, there
they were, very clean-shaven, clean-shirted, slick-looking. 
Tessie would have known Chuck's blond head among a thousand.  An
air of studied hauteur and indifference as they approached the
corner.  Heads turned the other way.  A low whistle from the
boys.  

"Oh, how do!"  

"Good evening!"  

Both greetings done with careful surprise.  Then on down the
street.  On the way back you took the inside of the walk, and
your hauteur was now stony to the point of insult.  Schroeder's
corner simply did not exist.  On as far as Megan's, which you
entered and inspected, up one brightly lighted aisle and down the
next.  At the dress-goods counter there was a neat little stack
of pamphlets entitled "In the World of Fashion."  You took one
and sauntered out leisurely.  Down Winnebago Street now, homeward
bound, talking animatedly and seemingly unconscious of quick
footsteps sounding nearer and nearer.  Just past the Burke House,
where the residential district began, and where the trees cast
their kindly shadows:  "Can I see you home?"  A hand slipped
through her arm; a little tingling thrill.  

"Oh, why, how do, Chuck!  Hello, Scotty.  Sure, if you're going
our way."  

At every turn Chuck left her side and dashed around behind her in
order to place himself at her right again, according to the rigid
rule of Chippewa etiquette.  He took her arm only at street
crossings until they reached the tracks, which perilous spot
seemed to justify him in retaining his hold throughout the
remainder of the stroll.  Usually they lost Cora and Scotty
without having been conscious of their loss.  

Their talk?  The girls and boys that each knew; the day's
happenings at factory and express office; next Wednesday night's
dance up in the Chute; and always the possibility of Chuck's
leaving the truck and assuming the managership of the office.  

"Don't let this go any further, see?  But I heard it straight
that old Benke is going to be transferred to Fond du Lac.  And if
he is, why, I step in, see?  Benke's got a girl in Fondy, and
he's been pluggin' to get there.  Gee, maybe I won't be glad when
he does!"  A little silence.  "Will you be glad, Tess?  Hm?"

Tess felt herself glowing and shivering as the big hand closed
more tightly on her arm.  "Me?  Why, sure I'll be pleased to see
you get a job that's coming to you by rights, and that'll get you
better pay, and all."  

But she knew what he meant, and he knew she knew.  

No more of that now.  Chuck--gone.  Scotty--gone.  All the boys
at the watchworks, all the fellows in the neighborhood--gone.  At
first she hadn't minded.  It was exciting.  You kidded them at
first:  "Well, believe me, Chuck, if you shoot the way you play
ball, you're a gone goon already."  

"All you got to do, Scotty, is to stick that face of yours up
over the top of the trench and the Germans'll die of fright and
save you wasting bullets."  

There was a great knitting of socks and sweaters and caps. 
Tessie's big- knuckled, capable fingers made you dizzy, they flew
so fast.  Chuck was outfitted as for a polar expedition.  Tess
took half a day off to bid him good-by.  They marched down Grand
Avenue, that first lot of them, in their everyday suits and hats,
with their shiny yellow suitcases and their pasteboard boxes in
their hands, sheepish, red-faced, awkward.  In their eyes,
though, a certain look.  And so off for Camp Sherman, their young
heads sticking out of the car windows in clusters--black, yellow,
brown, red.  But for each woman on the depot platform there was
just one head.  Tessie saw a blurred blond one with a misty halo
around it.  A great shouting and waving of handkerchiefs: 

"Good-by!  Good-by!  Write, now!  Be sure!  Mebbe you can get
off in a week, for a visit.  Good-by!  Good----"  

They were gone.  Their voices came back to the crowd on the depot
platform-- high, clear young voices; almost like the voices of
children, shouting.  

Well, you wrote letters--fat, bulging letters--and in turn you
received equally plump envelopes with a red emblem in one corner.

You sent boxes of homemade fudge (nut variety) and cookies and
the more durable forms of cake.  

Then, unaccountably, Chuck was whisked all the way to California.

He was furious at parting with his mates, and his indignation was
expressed in his letters to Tessie.  She sympathized with him in
her replies.  She tried to make light of it, but there was a
little clutch of terror in it, too.  California! Might as well
send a person to the end of the world while they were about it. 
Two months of that.  Then, inexplicably again, Chuck's letters
bore the astounding postmark of New York.  She thought, in a
panic, that he was Franceward bound, but it turned out not to be
so.  Not yet.  Chuck's letters were taking on a cosmopolitan
tone.  "Well," he wrote, "I guess the little old town is as
dead as ever.  It seems funny you being right there all this time
and I've traveled from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Everybody
treats me swell.  You ought to seen some of those California
houses.  They make Hatton's place look like a dump."  

The girls, Cora and Tess and the rest, laughed and joked among
themselves and assured one another, with a toss of the head, that
they could have a good time without the fellas.  They didn't need
boys around.

They gave parties, and they were not a success.  There was one of
the type known as a stag.  "Some hen party!" they all said. 
They danced, and sang "Over There."  They had ice cream and
chocolate layer cake and went home in great hilarity, with their
hands on each other's shoulders, still singing.  

But the thing was a failure, and they knew it.  Next day, at the
lunch hour and in the washroom, there was a little desultory talk
about the stag.  But the meat of such an aftergathering is
contained in phrases such as "I says to him"--and "He says to
me."  They wasted little conversation on the stag.  It was much
more exciting to exhibit letters on blue-lined paper with the red
emblem at the top.  Chuck's last letter had contained the news of
his sergeancy.  

Angie Hatton, home from the East, was writing letters, too. 
Everyone in Chippewa knew that.  She wrote on that new art paper
with the gnawed- looking edges and stiff as a newly laundered
cuff.  But the letters which she awaited so eagerly were written
on the same sort of paper as were those Tessie had from
Chuck--blue-lined, cheap in quality.  A New York fellow, Chippewa
learned; an aviator.  They knew, too, that young Hatton was an
infantry lieutenant somewhere in the East.  These letters were
not from him.  

Ever since her home-coming, Angie had been sewing at the Red
Cross shop on Grand Avenue.  Chippewa boasted two Red Cross
shops.  The Grand Avenue shop was the society shop.  The East End
crowd sewed there, capped, veiled, aproned--and unapproachable. 
Were your fingers ever so deft, your knowledge of seams and
basting mathematical, your skill with that complicated garment
known as a pneumonia jacket uncanny, if you did not belong to the
East End set, you did not sew at the Grand Avenue shop.  No
matter how grossly red the blood which the Grand Avenue bandages
and pads were ultimately to stanch, the liquid in the fingers
that rolled and folded them was pure cerulean.  

Tessie and her crowd had never thought of giving any such service
to their country.  They spoke of the Grand Avenue workers as
"that stinkin' bunch."  Yet each one of the girls was capable
of starting a blouse in an emergency on Saturday night and
finishing it in time for a Sunday picnic, buttonholes and all. 
Their help might have been invaluable.  It never was asked.

Without warning, Chuck came home on three days' furlough.  It
meant that he was bound for France right enough this time.  But
Tessie didn't care.  

"I don't care where you're goin'," she said exultantly, her
eyes lingering on the stocky, straight, powerful figure in its
rather ill-fitting khaki.  "You're here now.  That's enough. 
Ain't you tickled to be home, Chuck?  Gee!"  `

`I'll say," responded Chuck.  But even he seemed to detect some
lack in his tone and words.  He elaborated somewhat shamefacedly:

"Sure.  It's swell to be home.  But I don't know.  After you've
traveled around, and come back, things look so kind of little to
you.  I don't know--kind of----"  He floundered about, at a loss
for expression.  Then tried again:  "Now, take Hatton's place,
for example.  I always used to think it was a regular palace,
but, gosh, you ought to see places where I was asked to in San
Francisco and around there.  Why, they was--were--enough to make
the Hatton house look like a shack.  Swimmin' pools of white
marble, and acres of yard like a park, and the help always
bringing you something to eat or drink.  And the folks
themselves--why, say!  Here we are scraping and bowing to Hattons
and that bunch.  They're pikers to what some people are that
invited me to their houses in New York and Berkeley, and treated
me and the other guys like kings or something.  Take Megan's
store, too"--he was warming to his subject, so that he failed to
notice the darkening of Tessie's face--"it's a joke compared to
New York and San Francisco stores.  Reg'lar hick joint."  

Tessie stiffened.  Her teeth were set, her eyes sparkled.  She
tossed her head.  "Well, I'm sure, Mr. Mory, it's good enough
for me.  Too bad you had to come home at all now you're so
elegant and swell, and everything.  You better go call on Angie
Hatton instead of wasting time on me.  She'd probably be tickled
to see you."  

He stumbled to his feet, then, awkwardly.  "Aw, say, Tessie, I
didn't mean--why, say--you don't suppose--why, believe me, I
pretty near busted out cryin' when I saw the Junction eatin'
house when my train came in.  And I been thinking of you every
minute.  There wasn't a day----"  

"Tell that to your swell New York friends.  I may be a hick but
I ain't a fool."  She was near to tears.  

"Why, say, Tess, listen!  Listen!  If you knew--if you knew--A
guy's got to--he's got no right to----"  

And presently Tessie was mollified, but only on the surface.  She
smiled and glanced and teased and sparkled.  And beneath was
terror.  He talked differently.  He walked differently.  It
wasn't his clothes or the army.  It was something else--an ease
of manner, a new leisureliness of glance, an air.  Once Tessie
had gone to Milwaukee over Labor Day.  It was the extent of her
experience as a traveler.  She remembered how superior she had
felt for at least two days after.  But Chuck!  California!  New
York!  It wasn't the distance that terrified her.  It was his new
knowledge, the broadening of his vision, though she did not know
it and certainly could not have put it into words.  

They went walking down by the river to Oneida Springs, and drank
some of the sulphur water that tasted like rotten eggs.  Tessie
drank it with little shrieks and shudders and puckered her face
up into an expression indicative of extreme disgust.  

"It's good for you," Chuck said, and drank three cups of it,
manfully.  "That taste is the mineral qualities the water
contains--sulphur and iron and so forth."  

"I don't care," snapped Tessie irritably.  "I hate it!"  They
had often walked along the river and tasted of the spring water,
but Chuck had never before waxed scientific.  They took a boat at
Baumann's boathouse and drifted down the lovely Fox River.

"Want to row?" Chuck asked.  "I'll get an extra pair of oars
if you do."  

"I don't know how.  Besides, it's too much work.  I guess I'll
let you do it."  

Chuck was fitting his oars in the oarlocks.  She stood on the
landing looking down at him.  His hat was off.  His hair seemed
blonder than ever against the rich tan of his face.  His neck
muscles swelled a little as he bent.  Tessie felt a great longing
to bury her face in the warm red skin.  He straightened with a
sigh and smiled at her.  "I'll be ready in a minute."  He took
off his coat and turned his khaki shirt in at the throat, so that
you saw the white line of his untanned chest in strange contrast
to his sun- burned throat.  A feeling of giddy faintness surged
over Tessie.  She stepped blindly into the boat and would have
fallen if Chuck's hard, firm grip had not steadied her.  "Whoa,
there!  Don't you know how to step into a boat?  There.  Walk
along the middle."  

She sat down and smiled up at him.  "I don't know how I come to
do that.  I never did before."  

Chuck braced his feet, rolled up his sleeves, and took an oar in
each brown hand, bending rhythmically to his task.  He looked
about him, then at the girl, and drew a deep breath, feathering
his oars.  "I guess I must have dreamed about this more'n a
million times."  

"Have you, Chuck?"  

They drifted on in silence.  "Say, Tess, you ought to learn to
row.  It's good exercise.  Those girls in California and New
York, they play tennis and row and swim as good as the boys. 
Honest, some of 'em are wonders!"  

Oh, I'm sick of your swell New York friends!  Can't you talk
about something else?"  

He saw that he had blundered without in the least understanding
how or why.  "All right.  What'll we talk about?"  In itself a
fatal admission.  

"About--you."  Tessie made it a caress.  

"Me?  Nothin' to tell about me.  I just been drillin' and
studyin' and marchin' and readin' some---- Oh, say, what d'you
think?"  

"What?"  

"They been learnin' us--teachin' us, I mean--French.  It's the
darnedest language!  Bread is pain.  Can you beat that?  If you
want to ask for a piece of bread, you say like this:  DONNAY MA
UN MORSO DOO PANG.  See?"  

"My!" breathed Tessie.  

And within her something was screaming:  Oh, my God!  Oh, my God!
He knows French.  And those girls that can row and swim and
everything.  And me, I don't know anything.  Oh, God, what'll I
do?  

It was as though she could see him slipping away from her, out of
her grasp, out of her sight.  She had no fear of what might come
to him in France.  Bullets and bayonets would never hurt Chuck. 
He'd make it, just as he always made the 7:50 when it seemed as
if he was going to miss it sure.  He'd make it there and back,
all right.  But he'd be a different Chuck, while she stayed the
same Tessie.  Books, travel, French, girls, swell folks----

And all the while she was smiling and dimpling and trailing her
hand in the water.  "Bet you can't guess what I got in that
lunch box."  

"Chocolate cake."  

"Well, of course I've got chocolate cake.  I baked it myself
this morning."  



"Yes, you did!"  "Why, Chuck Mory, I did so!  I guess you
think I can't do anything, the way you talk."  

"Oh, don't I!  I guess you know what I think."  

"Well, it isn't the cake I mean.  It's something else."

 "Fried chicken!"  

"Oh, now you've gone and guessed it."  She pouted prettily.

"You asked me to, didn't you?"  

Then they laughed together, as at something exquisitely witty. 
Down the river, drifting, rowing.  Tessie pointed to a house half
hidden among the trees on the farther shore:  "There's Hatton's
camp.  They say they have grand times there with their swell
crowd some Saturdays and Sundays.  If I had a house like that,
I'd live in it all the time, not just a couple of days out of the
whole year."  She hesitated a moment.  "I suppose it looks like
a shanty to you now."  

Chuck surveyed it, patronizingly.  "No, it's a nice little
place."  

They beached their boat, and built a little fire, and had supper
on the riverbank, and Tessie picked out the choice bits for
him--the breast of the chicken, beautifully golden brown; the
ripest tomato; the firmest, juiciest pickle; the corner of the
little cake which would give him a double share of icing.  

From Chuck, between mouthfuls:  "I guess you don't know how good
this tastes.  Camp grub's all right, but after you've had a few
months of it you get so you don't believe there IS such a thing
as real fried chicken and homemade chocolate cake."  

"I'm glad you like it, Chuck.  Here, take this drumstick.  You
ain't eating a thing!"  His fourth piece of chicken.  

Down the river as far as the danger line just above the dam, with
Tessie pretending fear just for the joy of having Chuck reassure
her.  Then back again in the dusk, Chuck bending to the task now
against the current.  And so up the hill, homeward bound.  They
walked very slowly, Chuck's hand on her arm.  They were dumb with
the tragic, eloquent dumbness of their kind.  If she could have
spoken the words that were churning in her mind, they would have
been something like this:  

"Oh, Chuck, I wish I was married to you.  I wouldn't care if
only I had you.  I wouldn't mind babies or anything.  I'd be
glad.  I want our house, with a dining-room set, and a mahogany
bed, and one of those overstuffed sets in the living room, and
all the housework to do.  I'm scared.  I'm scared I won't get it.

What'll I do if I don't?"  

And he, wordlessly:  "Will you wait for me, Tessie, and keep on
thinking about me?  And will you keep yourself like you are so
that if I come back----"  

Aloud, she said:  "I guess you'll get stuck on one of those
French girls.  I should worry!  They say wages at the watch
factory are going to be raised, workers are so scarce.  I'll
probably be as rich as Angie Hatton time you get back."  

And he, miserably:  "Little old Chippewa girls are good enough
for Chuck.  I ain't counting on taking up with those Frenchies. 
I don't like their jabber, from what I know of it.  I saw some
pictures of 'em, last week, a fellow in camp had who'd been over
there.  Their hair is all funny, and fixed up with combs and
stuff, and they look real dark like foreigners."  

It had been reassuring enough at the time.  But that was six
months ago.  And now here was the Tessie who sat on the back
porch, evenings, surveying the sunset.  A listless,
lackadaisical, brooding Tessie.  Little point to going downtown
Saturday nights now.  There was no familiar, beloved figure to
follow you swiftly as you turned off Elm Street, homeward bound.
If she went downtown now, she saw only those Saturday-night
family groups which are familiar to every small town.  The
husband, very damp as to hair and clean as to shirt, guarding the
gocart outside while the woman accomplished her Saturday-night
trading at Ding's or Halpin's.  Sometimes there were as many as
half a dozen gocarts outside Halpin's, each containing a sleeping
burden, relaxed, chubby, fat-cheeked.  The waiting men smoked
their pipes and conversed largely.  "Hello, Ed.  The woman's
inside, buyin' the store out, I guess."  

"That so?  Mine, to.  Well, how's everything?"  

Tessie knew that presently the woman would come out, bundle
laden, and that she would stow these lesser bundles in every
corner left available by the more important sleeping bundle--two
yards of oilcloth; a spool of 100, white; a banana for the baby;
a new stewpan at the five-and-ten.  

There had been a time when Tessie, if she thought of these women
at all, felt sorry for them--worn, drab, lacking in style and
figure.  Now she envied them.   


There were weeks upon weeks when no letter came from Chuck.  In
his last letter there had been some talk of his being sent to
Russia.  Tessie's eyes, large enough now in her thin face,
distended with a great fear.  Russia!  His letter spoke, too, of
French villages and chateaux.  He and a bunch of fellows had been
introduced to a princess or a countess or something--it was all
one to Tessie--and what do you think?  She had kissed them all on
both cheeks!  Seems that's the way they did in France.  

The morning after the receipt of this letter the girls at the
watch factory might have remarked her pallor had they not been so
occupied with a new and more absorbing topic.  

"Tess, did you hear about Angie Hatton?"  

"What about her?"  

"She's going to France.  It's in the Milwaukee paper, all about
her being Chippewa's fairest daughter, and a picture of the
house, and her being the belle of the Fox River Valley, and she's
giving up her palatial home and all to go to work in a canteen
for her country and bleeding France."  

"Ya-as she is!" sneered Tessie, and a dull red flush, so deep
as to be painful, swept over her face from throat to brow. 
"Ya-as she is, the doll-faced simp!  Why, say, she never wiped
up a floor in her life, or baked a cake, or stood on them feet of
hers.  She couldn't cut up a loaf of bread decent. Bleeding
France!  Ha!  That's rich, that is."  She thrust her chin out
brutally, and her eyes narrowed to slits.  "She's going over
there after that fella of hers.  She's chasing him.  It's now or
never, and she knows it and she's scared, same's the rest of us. 
On'y we got to set home and make the best of it.  Or take what's
left."  She turned her head slowly to where Nap Ballou stood
over a table at the far end of the room.  She laughed a grim, un-
lovely little laugh.  "I guess when you can't go after what you
want, like Angie, why you gotta take second choice."  

All that day, at the bench, she was the reckless, insolent,
audacious Tessie of six months ago.  Nap Ballou was always
standing over her, pretending to inspect some bit of work or
other, his shoulder brushing hers.  She laughed up at him so that
her face was not more than two inches from his.  He flushed, but
she did not.  She laughed a reckless little laugh.  

"Thanks for helping teach me my trade, Mr. Ballou.  'Course I
only been at it over three years now, so I ain't got the hang of
it yet."  

He straightened up slowly, and as he did so he rested a hand on
her shoulder for a brief moment.  She did not shrug it off.


That night, after supper, Tessie put on her hat and strolled down
to Park Avenue.  It wasn't for the walk.  Tessie had never been
told to exercise systematically for her body's good, or her
mind's.  She went in a spirit of unwholesome brooding curiosity
and a bitter resentment.  Going to France, was she?  Lots of good
she'd do there.  Better stay home and--and what?  Tessie cast
about in her mind for a fitting job for Angie.  Guess she might's
well go, after all.  Nobody'd miss her, unless it was her father,
and he didn't see her but about a third of the time.  But in
Tessie's heart was a great envy of this girl who could bridge the
hideous waste of ocean that separated her from her man.  Bleeding
France.  Yeh!  Joke!  

The Hatton place, built and landscaped twenty years before,
occupied a square block in solitary grandeur, the show place of
Chippewa.  In architectural style it was an impartial mixture of
Norman castle, French chateau, and Rhenish schloss, with a dash
of Coney Island about its facade.  It represented Old Man
Hatton's realized dream of landed magnificence.  

Tessie, walking slowly past it, and peering through the high iron
fence, could not help noting an air of unwonted excitement about
the place, usually so aloof, so coldly serene.  Automobiles
standing out in front.  People going up and down.  They didn't
look very cheerful.  Just as if it mattered whether anything
happened to her or not!  

Tessie walked around the block and stood a moment, uncertainly. 
Then she struck off down Grand Avenue and past Donovan's pool
shack.  A little group of after-supper idlers stood outside,
smoking and gossiping, as she knew there would be.  As she turned
the corner she saw Nap Ballou among them.  She had known that,
too.  As she passed she looked straight ahead, without bowing. 
But just past the Burke House he caught up with her.  No half-shy
"Can I walk home with you?" from Nap Ballou.  No.  Instead:
"Hello, sweetheart!"  

"Hello, yourself."  

"Somebody's looking mighty pretty this evening, all dolled up in
pink."  

"Think so?"  She tried to be pertly indifferent, but it was
good to have someone following, someone walking home with you. 
What if he was old enough to be her father, with graying hair? 
Lots of the movie heroes had graying hair at the sides.  

They walked for an hour.  Tessie left him at the corner.  She had
once heard her father designate Ballou as "that drunken skunk." 
When she entered the sitting room her cheeks held an unwonted
pink.  Her eyes were brighter than they had been in months.  Her
mother looked up quickly, peering at her over a pair of
steel-rimmed spectacles, very much askew.  

"Where you been, Tessie?"  

"Oh, walkin'."  

"Who with?"  

"Cora."  

"Why, she was here, callin' for you, not more'n an hour ago."

Tessie, taking off her hat on her way upstairs, met this coolly. 
"Yeh, I ran into her comin' back."  

Upstairs, lying fully dressed on her hard little bed, she stared
up into the darkness, thinking, her hands limp at her sides.  Oh,
well, what's the diff?  You had to make the best of it. 
Everybody makin' a fuss about the soldiers--feeding 'em, and
asking 'em to their houses, and sending 'em things, and giving
dances and picnics and parties so they wouldn't be lonesome. 
Chuck had told her all about it.  The other boys told the same. 
They could just pick and choose their good times.  Tessie's mind
groped about, sensing a certain injustice.  How about the girls? 
She didn't put it thus squarely.  Hers was not a logical mind. 
Easy enough to paw over the men- folks and get silly over brass
buttons and a uniform.  She put it that way.  She thought of the
refrain of a popular song:  "What Are You Going to Do to Help
the Boys?"  Tessie, smiling a crooked little smile up there in
the darkness, parodied the words deftly:  "What're you going to
do to help the girls?" she demanded.  "What're you going to
do----"  She rolled over on one side and buried her head in her
arms.   


There was news again next morning at the watch factory.  Tessie
of the old days had never needed to depend on the other girls for
the latest bit of gossip.  Her alert eye and quick ear had always
caught it first.  But of late she had led a cloistered existence,
indifferent to the world about her.  The Chippewa Courier went
into the newpaper pile behind the kitchen door without a glance
from Tessie's incurious eye.  

She was late this morning.  As she sat down at the bench and
fitted her glass in her eye, the chatter of the others, pitched
in the high key of unusual excitement, penetrated even her
listlessness.  

"And they say she never screeched or fainted or anything.  She
stood there, kind of quiet, looking straight ahead, and then all
of a sudden she ran to her pa----"  

"I feel sorry for her.  She never did anything to me.  She----"

Tessie spoke, her voice penetrating the staccato fragments all
about her and gathering them into a whole.  "Say, who's the
heroine of this picture?  I come in in the middle of the film, I
guess."  

They turned on her with the unlovely eagerness of those who have
ugly news to tell.  They all spoke at once, in short sentences,
their voices high with the note of hysteria.  

"Angie Hatton's beau was killed----"  

"They say his airyoplane fell ten thousand feet----"  

"The news come only last evening about eight----"  

"She won't see nobody but her pa----"  

Eight!  At eight Tessie had been standing outside Hatton's house,
envying Angie and hating her.  So that explained the people, and
the automobiles, and the excitement.  Tessie was not receiving
the news with the dramatic reaction which its purveyors felt it
deserved.  Tessie, turning from one to the other quietly, had
said nothing.  She was pitying Angie.  Oh, the luxury of it!  Nap
Ballou, coming in swiftly to still the unwonted commotion in work
hours, found Tessie the only one quietly occupied in that
chatter-filled room.  She was smiling as she worked.  Nap Ballou,
bending over her on some pretense that deceived no one, spoke
low-voiced in her ear.  But she veiled her eyes insolently and
did not glance up.  She hummed contentedly all the morning at her
tedious work.  

She had promised Nap Ballou to go picknicking with him Sunday. 
Down the river, boating, with supper on shore.  The small, still
voice within her had said, "Don't go!  Don't go!"  But the
harsh, high-pitched, reckless overtone said, "Go on!  Have a
good time.  Take all you can get."  

She would have to lie at home and she did it.  Some fabrication
about the girls at the watchworks did the trick.  Fried chicken,
chocolate cake.  She packed them deftly and daintily. 
High-heeled shoes, flimsy blouse, rustling skirt.  Nap Ballou was
waiting for her over in the city park.  She saw him before he
espied her.  He was leaning against a tree, idly, staring
straight ahead with queer, lackluster eyes.  Silhouetted there
against the tender green of the pretty square, he looked very
old, somehow, and different-- much older than he looked in his
shop clothes, issuing orders.  Tessie noticed that he sagged
where he should have stuck out, and protruded where he should
have been flat.  There flashed across her mind a vividly clear
picture of Chuck as she had last seen him--brown, fit, high of
chest, flat of stomach, slim of flank.  

Ballou saw her.  He straightened and came toward her swiftly. 
"Somebody looks mighty sweet this afternoon."  

Tessie plumped the heavy lunch box into his arms.  "When you get
a line you like you stick to it, don't you?"   


Down at the boathouse even Tessie, who had confessed ignorance of
boats and oars, knew that Ballou was fumbling clumsily.  He
stooped to adjust the oars to the oarlocks.  His hat was off. 
His hair looked very gray in the cruel spring sunshine.  He
straightened and smiled up at her.  

"Ready in a minute, sweetheart," he said.  He took off his
collar and turned in the neckband of his shirt.  His skin was
very white.  Tessie felt a little shudder of disgust sweep over
her, so that she stumbled a little as she stepped into the boat.

The river was very lovely.  Tessie trailed her fingers in the
water and told herself that she was having a grand time.  She
told Nap the same when he asked her.  

"Having a good time, little beauty?" he said.  He was puffing a
little with the unwonted exercise.  

Tessie tried some of her old-time pertness of speech.  "Oh, good
enough, considering the company."  

He laughed admiringly at that and said she was a sketch.  

When the early evening came on they made a clumsy landing and had
supper.  This time Nap fed her the tidbits, though she protested.

"White meat for you," he said, "with your skin like milk."

"You must of read that in a book," scoffed Tessie.  She glanced
around her at the deepening shadows.  "We haven't got much time.

It gets dark so early."  

"No hurry," Nap assured her.  He went on eating in a leisurely,
finicking sort of way, though he consumed very little food,
actually.  

"You're not eating much," Tessie said once, halfheartedly.  She
decided that she wasn't having such a very grand time, after all,
and that she hated his teeth, which were very bad.  Now, Chuck's
strong, white, double row----  

"Well," she said, "let's be going."  

"No hurry," again.  

Tessie looked up at that with the instinctive fear of her kind. 
"What d'you mean, no hurry!  'Spect to stay here till dark?" 
She laughed at her own joke.  

"Yes."  

She got up then, the blood in her face.  "Well, _I_ don't."  

He rose, too.  "Why not?"  

"Because I don't, that's why."  She stooped and began picking
up the remnants of the lunch, placing spoons and glass bottles
swiftly and thriftily into the lunch box.  Nap stepped around
behind her.  

"Let me help," he said.  And then his arm was about her and his
face was close to hers, and Tessie did not like it.  He kissed
her after a little wordless struggle.  And then she knew.  She
had been kissed before.  But not like this.  Not like this!  She
struck at him furiously.  Across her mind flashed the memory of a
girl who had worked in the finishing room.  A nice girl, too. 
But that hadn't helped her.  Nap Ballou was laughing a little as
he clasped her.  

At that she heard herself saying:  "I'll get Chuck Mory after
you--you drunken bum, you!  He'll lick you black and blue. 
He'll----"  

The face, with the ugly, broken brown teeth, was coming close
again.  With all the young strength that was in her she freed one
hand and clawed at that face from eyes to chin.  A howl of pain
rewarded her.  His hold loosened.  Like a flash she was off.  She
ran.  It seemed to her that her feet did not touch the earth. 
Over brush, through bushes, crashing against trees, on and on. 
She heard him following her, but the broken-down engine that was
his heart refused to do the work.  She ran on, though her fear
was as great as before.  Fear of what might have happened--to
her, Tessie Golden, that nobody could even talk fresh to.  She
gave a sob of fury and fatigue.  She was stumbling now.  It was
growing dark.  She ran on again, in fear of the overtaking
darkness.  It was easier now.  Not so many trees and bushes.  She
came to a fence, climbed over it, lurched as she landed, leaned
against it weakly for support, one hand on her aching heart. 
Before her was the Hatton summer cottage, dimly outlined in the
twilight among the trees.  

A warm, flickering light danced in the window.  Tessie stood a
moment, breathing painfully, sobbingly.  Then, with an
instinctive gesture, she patted her hair, tidied her blouse, and
walked uncertainly toward the house, up the steps to the door. 
She stood there a moment, swaying slightly.  Somebody'd be there.

The light.  The woman who cooked for them or the man who took
care of the place.  Somebody'd----  

She knocked at the door feebly.  She'd tell 'em she had lost her
way and got scared when it began to get dark.  She knocked again,
louder now.  Footsteps.  She braced herself and even arranged a
crooked smile.  The door opened wide.  Old Man Hatton!  

She looked up at him, terror and relief in her face.  He peered
over his glasses at her.  "Who is it?"  Tessie had not known,
somehow, that his face was so kindly.  

Tessie's carefully planned story crumbled into nothingness. 
"It's me!" she whimpered.  "It's me!"  

He reached out and put a hand on her arm and drew her inside.

"Angie!  Angie!  Here's a poor little kid----"  

Tessie clutched frantically at the last crumbs of her pride.  She
tried to straighten, to smile with her old bravado.  What was
that story she had planned to tell?  

"Who is it, Dad?  Who----?"  Angie Hatton came into the
hallway.  She stared at Tessie.  Then:  "Why, my dear!" she
said.  "My dear!  Come in here."  

Angie Hatton!  Tessie began to cry weakly, her face buried in
Angie Hatton's expensive shoulder.  Tessie remembered later that
she had felt no surprise at the act.  

"There, there!" Angie Hatton was saying.  "Just poke up the
fire, Dad.  And get something from the dining room.  Oh, I don't
know.  To drink, you know.  Something----"  

Then Old Man Hatton stood over her, holding a small glass to her
lips. Tessie drank it obediently, made a wry little face,
coughed, wiped her eyes, and sat up.  She looked from one to the
other, like a trapped little animal.  She put a hand to her
tousled head.  

"That's all right," Angie Hatton assured her.  "You can fix it
after a while."  

There they were, the three of them:  Old Man Hatton with his back
to the fire, looking benignly down upon her; Angie seated, with
some knitting in her hands, as if entertaining bedraggled,
tear-stained young ladies at dusk were an everyday occurrence;
Tessie, twisting her handkerchief in a torment of embarrassment. 
But they asked no questions, these two.  They evinced no
curiosity about this disheveled creature who had flung herself in
upon their decent solitude.  

Tessie stared at the fire.  She looked up at Old Man Hatton's
face and opened her lips.  She looked down and shut them again. 
Then she flashed a quick look at Angie, to see if she could
detect there some suspicion, some disdain.  None.  Angie Hatton
looked--well, Tessie put it to herself, thus:  "She looks like
she'd cried till she couldn't cry no more--only inside."  

And then, surprisingly, Tessie began to talk.  "I wouldn't never
have gone with this fella, only Chuck, he was gone.  All the
boys're gone.  It's fierce.  You get scared, sitting home,
waiting, and they're in France and everywhere, learning French
and everything, and meeting grand people and having a fuss made
over 'em.  So I got mad and said I didn't care, I wasn't going to
squat home all my life, waiting----"  

Angie Hatton had stopped knitting now.  Old Man Hatton was
looking down at her very kindly.  And so Tessie went on.  The
pent-up emotions and thoughts of these past months were finding
an outlet at last.  These things which she had never been able to
discuss with her mother she now was laying bare to Angie Hatton
and Old Man Hatton!  They asked no questions.  They seemed to
understand.  Once Old Man Hatton interrupted with:  "So that's
the kind of fellow they've got as escapement-room foreman, eh?"

Tessie, whose mind was working very clearly now, put out a quick
hand.  "Say, it wasn't his fault.  He's a bum, all right, but I
knew it, didn't I?  It was me.  I didn't care.  Seemed to me it
didn't make no difference who I went with, but it does."  She
looked down at her hands clasped so tightly in her lap.  

"Yes, it makes a whole lot of difference," Angie agreed, and
looked up at her father.  

At that Tessie blurted her last desperate problem:  "He's
learning all kind of new things.  Me, I ain't learning anything. 
When Chuck comes home he'll just think I'm dumb, that's all. 
He----"  

"What kind of thing would you like to learn, Tessie, so that
when Chuck comes home----"  

Tessie looked up then, her wide mouth quivering with eagerness. 
"I'd like to learn to swim--and row a boat--and play
tennis--like the rich girls-- like the girls that's making such a
fuss over the soldiers."  

Angie Hatton was not laughing.  So, after a moment's hesitation,
Tessie brought out the worst of it.  "And French.  I'd like to
learn to talk French."  

Old Man Hatton had been surveying his shoes, his mouth grim.  He
looked at Angie now and smiled a little.  "Well, Angie, it looks
as if you'd found your job right here at home, doesn't it?  This
young lady's just one of hundreds, I suppose.  Thousands.  You
can have the whole house for them, if you want it, Angie, and the
grounds, and all the money you need.  I guess we've kind of
overlooked the girls.  Hm, Angie?  What d'you say?"  

But Tessie was not listening.  She had scarcely heard.  Her face
was white with earnestness.  

"Can you speak French?"  

"Yes," Angie answered.  

"Well," said Tessie, and gulped once, "well, how do you say in
French:  `Give me a piece of bread'?  That's what I want to learn
first."  

Angie Hatton said it correctly.  

"That's it!  Wait a minute!  Say it again, will you?"  

Angie said it again,  Tessie wet her lips.  Her cheeks were
smeared with tears and dirt.  Her hair was wild and her blouse
awry.  "DONNAY-MA-UN-MORSO-DOO-PANG," she articulated
painfully.  And in that moment, as she put her hand in that of
Chuck Mory, across the ocean, her face was very beautiful with
contentment.    




       Long Distance 
        [1919]   

Chet Ball was painting a wooden chicken yellow.  The wooden
chicken was mounted on a six-by-twelve board.  The board was
mounted on four tiny wheels.  The whole would eventually be
pulled on a string guided by the plump, moist hand of some
blissful five-year-old.  

You got the incongruity of it the instant your eye fell upon Chet
Ball. Chet's shoulders alone would have loomed large in contrast
with any wooden toy ever devised, including the Trojan horse. 
Everything about him, from the big, blunt-fingered hands that
held the ridiculous chick to the great muscular pillar of his
neck, was in direct opposition to his task, his surroundings, and
his attitude.  

Chet's proper milieu was Chicago, Illinois (the West Side); his
job that of lineman for the Gas, Light & Power Company; his
normal working position astride the top of a telegraph pole,
supported in his perilous perch by a lineman's leather belt and
the kindly fates, both of which are likely to trick you in an
emergency.  

Yet now he lolled back among his pillows, dabbing complacently at
the absurd yellow toy.  A description of his surroundings would
sound like pages 3 to 17 of a novel by Mrs. Humphry Ward.  The
place was all greensward, and terraces, and sundials, and
beeches, and even those rhododendrons without which no English
novel or country estate is complete.  The presence of Chet Ball
among his pillows and some hundreds similarly disposed revealed
to you at once the fact that this particular English estate was
now transformed into Reconstruction Hospital No. 9.  

The painting of the chicken quite finished (including two beady
black paint eyes), Chet was momentarily at a loss.  Miss Kate had
not told him to stop painting when the chicken was completed. 
Miss Kate was at the other end of the sunny garden walk, bending
over a wheel chair.  So Chet went on painting, placidly.  One by
one, with meticulous nicety, he painted all his fingernails a
bright and cheery yellow.  Then he did the whole of his left
thumb and was starting on the second joint of the index finger
when Miss Kate came up behind him and took the brush gently from
his strong hands.  

"You shouldn't have painted your fingers," she said.  

Chet surveyed them with pride.  "They look swell."  

Miss Kate did not argue the point.  She put the freshly painted
wooden chicken on the table to dry in the sun.  Her eyes fell
upon a letter bearing an American postmark and addressed to
Sergeant Chester Ball, with a lot of cryptic figures and letters
strung out after it, such as A.E.F. and Co. 11.  

"Here's a letter for you!"  She infused a lot of Glad into her
voice.  But Chet only cast a languid eye upon it and said,
"Yeh?"  

"I'll read it to you, shall I?  It's a nice fat one."  

Chet sat back, indifferent, negatively acquiescent.  And Miss
Kate began to read in her clear young voice, there in the
sunshine and scent of the centuries-old English garden.  

It marked an epoch in Chet's life--that letter.  It reached out
across the Atlantic Ocean from the Chester Ball of his Chicago
days, before he had even heard of English gardens.  

Your true lineman has a daredevil way with the women, as have all
men whose calling is a hazardous one.  Chet was a crack workman. 
He could shinny up a pole, strap his emergency belt, open his
tool kit, wield his pliers with expert deftness, and climb down
again in record time.  It was his pleasure--and seemingly the
pleasure and privilege of all lineman's gangs the world over--to
whistle blithely and to call impudently to any passing petticoat
that caught his fancy.  

Perched three feet from the top of the high pole he would cling
protected, seemingly, by some force working in direct defiance of
the law of gravity.  And now and then, by way of brightening the
tedium of their job, he and his gang would call to a girl passing
in the street below, "Hoo-hoo!  Hello, sweetheart!"  

There was nothing vicious in it.  Chet would have come to the aid
of beauty in distress as quickly as Don Quixote.  Any man with a
blue shirt as clean and a shave as smooth and a haircut as round
as Chet Ball's has no meanness in him.  A certain daredeviltry
went hand in hand with his work--a calling in which a careless
load dispatcher, a cut wire, or a faulty strap may mean instant
death.  Usually the girls laughed and called back to them or went
on more quickly, the color in their cheeks a little higher.  

But not Anastasia Rourke.  Early the first morning of a two-week
job on the new plant of the Western Castings Company, Chet Ball,
glancing down from his dizzy perch atop an electric-light pole,
espied Miss Anastasia Rourke going to work.  He didn't know her
name or anything about her, except that she was pretty.  You
could see that from a distance even more remote than Chet's.  But
you couldn't know that Stasia was a lady not to be trifled with. 
We know her name was Rourke, but he didn't.  

So then:  "Hoo-hoo!" he had called.  "Hello, sweetheart!  Wait
for me and I'll be down."  

Stasia Rourke had lifted her face to where he perched so high
above the streets.  Her cheeks were five shades pinker than was
their wont, which would make them border on the red.  

"You big ape, you!" she called, in her clear, crisp voice. 
"If you had your foot on the ground you wouldn't dast call to a
decent girl like that.  If you were down here I'd slap the face
of you.  You know you're safe up there."  

The words were scarcely out of her mouth before Chet Ball's
sturdy legs were twinkling down the pole.  His spurred heels dug
into the soft pine of the pole with little ripe, tearing sounds. 
He walked up to Stasia and stood squarely in front of her, six
feet of brawn and brazen nerve.  One ruddy cheek he presented to
her astonished gaze.  "Hello, sweetheart," he said.  And
waited.  The Rourke girl hesitated just a second.  All the Irish
heart in her was melting at the boyish impudence of the man
before her.  Then she lifted one hand and slapped his smooth
cheek.  It was a ringing slap.  You saw the four marks of her
fingers upon his face.  Chet straightened, his blue eyes bluer. 
Stasia looked up at him, her eyes wide.  Then down at her own
hand, as if it belonged to somebody else.  Her hand came up to
her own face.  She burst into tears, turned, and ran.  And as she
ran, and as she wept, she saw that Chet was still standing there,
looking after her.  

Next morning, when Stasia Rourke went by to work, Chet Ball was
standing at the foot of the pole, waiting.  

They were to have been married that next June.  But that next
June Chet Ball, perched perilously on the branch of a tree in a
small woodsy spot somewhere in France, was one reason why the
American artillery in that same woodsy spot was getting such a
deadly range on the enemy.  Chet's costume was so devised that
even through field glasses (made in Germany) you couldn't tell
where tree left off and Chet began.  

Then, quite suddenly, the Germans got the range.  The tree in
which Chet was hidden came down with a crash, and Chet lay there,
more than ever indiscernible among its tender foliage.  

Which brings us back to the English garden, the yellow chicken,
Miss Kate, and the letter.  

His shattered leg was mended by one of those miracles of modern
war surgery, though he never again would dig his spurred heels
into the pine of a G. L. & P. Company pole.  But the other
thing--they put it down under the broad general head of shock. 
In the lovely English garden they set him to weaving and painting
as a means of soothing the shattered nerves.  He had made
everything from pottery jars to bead chains, from baskets to
rugs.  Slowly the tortured nerves healed.  But the doctors, when
they stopped at Chet's cot or chair, talked always of "the
memory center."  Chet seemed satisfied to go on placidly
painting toys or weaving chains with his great, square-tipped
fingers--the fingers that had wielded the pliers so cleverly in
his pole-climbing days.  

"It's just something that only luck or an accident can mend,"
said the nerve specialist.  "Time may do it--but I doubt it. 
Sometimes just a word-- the right word--will set the thing in
motion again.  Does he get any letters?"  

"His girl writes to him.  Fine letters.  But she doesn't know
yet about-- about this.  I've written his letters for him.  She
knows now that his leg is healed and she wonders----"  

That had been a month ago.  Today Miss Kate slit the envelope
post- marked Chicago.  Chet was fingering the yellow wooden
chicken, pride in his eyes.  In Miss Kate's eyes there was a
troubled, baffled look as she began to read:   

    Chet, dear, it's raining in Chicago.  And you know when it   

  rains in Chicago it's wetter, and muddier, and rainier than any

  place in the world.  Except maybe this Flanders we're reading  

  so much about.  They say for rain and mud that place takes the 

  prize.  

     I don't know what I'm going on about rain and mud for, Chet 

   darling, when it's you I'm thinking of.  Nothing else and     

   nobody else.  Chet, I got a funny feeling there's something   

   you're keeping back from me.  You're hurt worse than just the 

   leg.  Boy, dear, don't you know it won't make any difference  

   with me how you look, or feel, or anything?  I don't care how 

 bad you're smashed up.  I'd rather have you without any         

 features at all than any other man with two sets.  Whatever's   

 happened to the outside of you, they can't change your          

 insides.  And you're the same man that called out to me that    

 day, "Hoo-hoo!  Hello, sweetheart!" and when I gave you a      
 piece of my mind, climbed down off the pole, and put your face  

up to be slapped, God bless the boy in you----   

A sharp little sound from him.  Miss Kate looked up, quickly. 
Chet Ball was staring at the beady-eyed yellow chicken in his
hand.  

"What's this thing?" he demanded in a strange voice.  

Miss Kate answered him very quietly, trying to keep her own voice
easy and natural.  "That's a toy chicken, cut out of wood."

"What'm I doin' with it?"  

"You've just finished painting it."  

Chet Ball held it in his great hand and stared at it for a brief
moment, struggling between anger and amusement.  And between
anger and amusement he put it down on the table none too gently
and stood up, yawning a little.  

"That's a hell of a job for a he-man!"  Then in utter
contrition:  "Oh, beggin' your pardon!  That was fierce!  I
didn't----"  

But there was nothing shocked about the expression on Miss Kate's
face.  She was registering joy--pure joy.    




    The Maternal Feminine 
      [1919]   
Called upon to describe Aunt Sophy, you would have to coin a term
or fall back on the dictionary definition of a spinster.  "An
unmarried woman," states that worthy work, baldly, "especially
when no longer young."  That, to the world, was Sophy Decker. 
Unmarried, certainly.  And most certainly no longer young.  In
figure, she was, at fifty, what is known in the corset ads as a
"stylish stout."  Well dressed in dark suits, with broad-toed
health shoes and a small, astute hat.  The suit was practical
common sense.  The health shoes were comfort.  The hat was
strictly business.  Sophy Decker made and sold hats, both astute
and ingenuous, to the female population of Chippewa, Wisconsin. 
Chippewa's East End set bought the knowing type of hat, and the
mill hands and hired girls bought the naive ones.  But whether
lumpy or possessed of that thing known as line, Sophy Decker's
hats were honest hats.  

The world is full of Aunt Sophys, unsung.  Plump, ruddy, capable
women of middle age.  Unwed, and rather looked down upon by a
family of married sisters and tolerant, good-humored
brothers-in-law, and careless nieces and nephews.  

"Poor Aunt Soph," with a significant half smile.  "She's such
a good old thing.  And she's had so little in life, really."

She was, undoubtedly, a good old thing--Aunt Soph.  Forever
sending a model hat to this pert little niece in Seattle; or
taking Adele, Sister Flora's daughter, to Chicago or New York as
a treat on one of her buying trips.  

Burdening herself, on her business visits to these cities, with a
dozen foolish shopping commissions for the idle womenfolk of her
family.  Hearing without partisanship her sisters' complaints
about their husbands, and her sisters' husbands' complaints about
their wives.  It was always the same.  

"I'm telling you this, Sophy.  I wouldn't breathe it to another
living soul.  But I honestly think, sometimes, that if it weren't
for the children----"  

There is no knowing why they confided these things to Sophy
instead of to each other, these wedded sisters of hers.  Perhaps
they held for each other an unuttered distrust or jealousy. 
Perhaps, in making a confidante of Sophy, there was something of
the satisfaction that comes of dropping a surreptitious stone
down a deep well and hearing it plunk, safe in the knowledge that
it has struck no one and that it cannot rebound, lying there in
the soft darkness.  Sometimes they would end by saying, "But you
don't know what it is, Sophy.  You can't.  I'm sure I don't know
why I'm telling you all this."  

But when Sophy answered, sagely, "I know; I know," they paid
little heed, once having unburdened themselves.  The curious part
of it is that she did know.  She knew as a woman of fifty must
know who, all her life, has given and given and in return has
received nothing.  Sophy Decker had never used the word
inhibition in her life.  She may not have known what it meant. 
She only knew (without in the least knowing she knew) that in
giving of her goods, of her affections, of her time, of her
energy, she found a certain relief.  Her own people would have
been shocked if you had told them that there was about this
old-maid aunt something rather splendidly Rabelaisian.  Without
being what is known as a masculine woman, she had, somehow,
acquired the man's viewpoint, his shrewd value sense.  She ate a
good deal, and enjoyed her food.  She did not care for those
queer little stories that married women sometimes tell, with
narrowed eyes, but she was strangely tolerant of what is known as
sin.  So simple and direct she was that you wondered how she
prospered in a line so subtle as the millinery business.  

You might have got a fairly true characterization of Sophy Decker
from one of fifty people: from a salesman in a New York or
Chicago wholesale millinery house; from Otis Cowan, cashier of
the First National Bank of Chippewa; from Julia Gold, her head
milliner and trimmer; from almost anyone, in fact, except a
member of her own family.  They knew her least of all.  Her three
married sisters--Grace in Seattle, Ella in Chicago, and Flora in
Chippewa--regarded her with a rather affectionate disapproval
from the snug safety of their own conjugal inglenooks.  

"I don't know.  There's something--well--common about Sophy,"
Flora confided to Ella.  Flora, on shopping bent, and Sophy,
seeking hats, had made the five-hour run from Chippewa to Chicago
together.  "She talks to everybody.  You should have heard her
with the porter on our train. Chums!  And when the conductor took
our tickets it was a social occasion. You know how packed the
seven-fifty-two is.  Every seat in the parlor car taken.  And
Sophy asking the colored porter about how his wife was getting
along--she called him William--and if they were going to send her
West, and all about her.  I wish she wouldn't."   


Aunt Sophy undeniably had a habit of regarding people as human
beings.  You found her talking to chambermaids and delivery boys,
and elevator starters, and gas collectors, and hotel clerks--all
that aloof, unapproachable, superior crew.  Under her benign
volubility they bloomed and spread and took on color as do those
tight little paper water flowers when you cast them into a bowl. 
It wasn't idle curiosity in her.  She was interested.  You found
yourself confiding to her your innermost longings, your secret
tribulations, under the encouragement of her sympathetic, "You
don't say!"  Perhaps it was as well that Sister Flora was in
ignorance of the fact that the millinery salesmen at Danowitz &
Danowitz, Importers, always called Miss Decker Aunt Soph, as,
with one arm flung about her plump shoulder, they revealed to her
the picture of their girl in the back flap of their billfold.  

Flora, with a firm grip on Chippewa society, as represented by
the East End set, did not find her position enhanced by a sister
in the millinery business in Elm Street.  

"Of course it's wonderful that she's self-supporting and
successful and all," she told her husband.  "But it's not so
pleasant for Adele, now that she's growing up, having all the
girls she knows buying their hats of her aunt.  Not that I--but
you know how it is."  

H. Charnsworth Baldwin said yes, he knew.  

When the Decker girls were young, the Deckers had lived in a
sagging old frame house (from which the original paint had long
ago peeled in great scrofulous patches) on an unimportant street
in Chippewa.  There was a worm-eaten, russet-apple tree in the
yard, an untidy tangle of wild-cucumber vine over the front
porch, and an uncut brush of sunburned grass and weeds all about.

From May until September you never passed the Decker place
without hearing the plunkety-plink of a mandolin from somewhere
behind the vines, laughter, and the creak-creak of the hard-
worked and protesting hammock hooks.  

Flora, Ella, and Grace Decker had had more beaux and fewer
clothes than any other girls in Chippewa.  In a town full of
pretty young things, they were, undoubtedly, the prettiest; and
in a family of pretty sisters (Sophy always excepted) Flora was
the acknowledged beauty.  She was the kind of girl whose nose
never turns red on a frosty morning.  A little, white, exquisite
nose, purest example of the degree of perfection which may be
attained by that vulgarest of features.  Under her great gray
eyes were faint violet shadows which gave her a look of almost
poignant wistfulness.  Her slow, sweet smile give the beholder an
actual physical pang.  Only her family knew she was lazy as a
behemoth, untidy about her person, and as sentimental as a hungry
shark.  The strange and cruel part of it was that, in some
grotesque, exaggerated way, as a cartoon may be like a
photograph, Sophy resembled Flora.  It was as though nature, in
prankish mood, had given a cabbage the color and texture of a
rose, with none of its fragile reticence and grace.  

It was a manless household.  Mrs. Decker, vague, garrulous,
referred to her dead husband, in frequent reminiscence, as poor
Mr. Decker.  Mrs. Decker dragged one leg as she
walked--rheumatism, or a spinal affection.  Small wonder, then,
that Sophy, the plain, with a gift for hatmaking, a knack at
eggless cake baking, and a genius for turning a sleeve so that
last year's style met this year's without a struggle, contributed
nothing to the sag in the center of the old twine hammock on the
front porch.  

That the three girls should marry well, and Sophy not at all, was
as inevitable as the sequence of the seasons.  Ella and Grace did
not manage badly, considering that they had only their girlish
prettiness and the twine hammock to work with.  But Flora, with
her beauty, captured H. Charnsworth Baldwin.  Chippewa gasped. 
H. Charnsworth Baldwin drove a skittish mare to a high-wheeled
yellow runabout; had his clothes made at Proctor Brothers in
Milwaukee; and talked about a game called golf.  It was he who
advocated laying out a section of land for what he called links,
and erecting a clubhouse thereon.  

"The section of the bluff overlooking the river," he explained,
"is full of natural hazards, besides having a really fine
view."  

Chippewa--or that comfortable, middle-class section of it which
got its exercise walking home to dinner from the store at noon,
and cutting the grass evenings after supper--laughed as it read
this interview in the Chippewa Eagle.  

"A golf course," they repeated to one another, grinning. 
"Conklin's cow pasture, up the river.  It's full of
natural--wait a minute--what was?--oh, yeh, here it is--hazards. 
Full of natural hazards.  Say, couldn't you die!"  

For H. Charnsworth Baldwin had been little Henry Baldwin before
he went East to college.  Ten years later H. Charnsworth, in
knickerbockers and gay-topped stockings, was winning the cup in
the men's tournament played on the Chippewa golf-club course,
overlooking the river.  And his name, in stout gold letters,
blinked at you from the plate-glass windows of the office at the
corner of Elm and Winnebago:        

NORTHERN LUMBER AND LAND COMPANY           
  H. Charnsworth Baldwin, Pres.   

Two blocks farther down Elm Street was another sign, not so
glittering, which read:
              
Miss Sophy Decker                
   Millinery   

Sophy's hatmaking, in the beginning, had been done at home.  She
had always made her sisters' hats, and her own, of course, and an
occasional hat for a girl friend.  After her sisters had married,
Sophy found herself in possession of a rather bewildering amount
of spare time.  The hat trade grew so that sometimes there were
six rather botchy little bonnets all done up in yellow paper
pyramids with a pin at the top, awaiting their future wearers. 
After her mother's death Sophy still stayed on in the old house.
She took a course in millinery in Milwaukee, came home, stuck up
a homemade sign in the parlor window (the untidy cucumber vines
came down), and began her hatmaking in earnest.  In five years
she had opened a shop on a side street near Elm, had painted the
old house, installed new plumbing, built a warty stucco porch,
and transformed the weedy, grass-tangled yard into an orderly
stretch of green lawn and bright flower beds.  In ten years she
was in Elm Street, and the Chippewa Eagle ran a half column twice
a year describing her spring and fall openings.  On these
occasions Aunt Sophy, in black satin and marcel wave and her most
relentless corsets, was, in all the superficial things, not a
pleat or fold or line or wave behind her city colleagues.  She
had all the catch phrases:  

"This is awfully good this year."  

"Here's a sweet thing.  A Mornet model."  

". . .  Well, but, my dear, it's the style--the line--you're
paying for, not the material."  

"No, that hat doesn't do a thing for you."  

"I've got it.  I had you in mind when I bought it.  Now don't
say you can't wear henna.  Wait till you see it on."  

When she stood behind you as you sat, uncrowned and expectant
before the mirror, she would poise the hat four inches above your
head, holding it in the tips of her fingers, a precious, fragile
thing.  Your fascinated eyes were held by it, and your breath as
well.  Then down it descended, slowly, slowly.  A quick pressure.

Her fingers firm against your temples.  A little sigh of relieved
suspense.  

"That's wonderful on you! . . .  You don't!  Oh, my dear!  But
that's because you're not used to it.  You know how you said, for
years, you had to have a brim, and couldn't possibly wear a
turban, with your nose, until I proved to you that if the head
size was only big . . .  Well, perhaps this needs just a lit-tle
lift here.  Ju-u-ust a nip.  There!  That does it."  

And that did it.  Not that Sophy Decker ever tried to sell you a
hat against your judgment, taste, or will.  She was too wise a
psychologist and too shrewd a businesswoman for that.  She
preferred that you go out of her shop hatless rather than with an
unbecoming hat.  But whether you bought or not you took with you
out of Sophy Decker's shop something more precious than any
hatbox ever contained.  Just to hear her admonishing a customer,
her good-natured face all aglow:  

"My dear, always put on your hat before you get into your dress.

I do.  You can get your arms above your head, and set it right. 
I put on my hat and veil as soon's I get my hair combed."  

In your mind's eye you saw her, a stout, well-stayed figure in
tight brassiere and scant slip, bare-armed and bare-bosomed, in
smart hat and veil, attired as though for the street from the
neck up and for the bedroom from the shoulders down.  

The East End set bought Sophy Decker's hats because they were
modish and expensive hats.  But she managed, miraculously, to
gain a large and lucrative following among the paper-mill girls
and factory hands as well. You would have thought that any
attempt to hold both these opposites would cause her to lose one
or the other.  Aunt Sophy said, frankly, that of the two, she
would have preferred to lose her smart trade.  

"The mill girls come in with their money in their hands, you
might say.  They get good wages and they want to spend them.  I
wouldn't try to sell them one of those little plain model hats. 
They wouldn't understand 'em or like them.  And if I told them
the price they'd think I was trying to cheat them.  They want a
hat with something good and solid on it.  Their fathers wouldn't
prefer caviar to pork roast, would they?  It's the same idea."

Her shopwindows reflected her business acumen.  One was chastely,
severely elegant, holding a single hat poised on a slender stick.

In the other were a dozen honest arrangements of velvet and satin
and plumes.  

At the spring opening she always displayed one of those little
toques completely covered with violets.  That violet-covered
toque was a symbol.  

"I don't expect 'em to buy it," Sophy Decker explained.  "But
everybody feels there should be a hat like that at a spring
opening.  It's like a fruit centerpiece at a family dinner. 
Nobody ever eats it, but it has to be there."  

The two Baldwin children--Adele and Eugene--found Aunt Sophy's
shop a treasure trove.  Adele, during her doll days, possessed
such boxes of satin and velvet scraps, and bits of lace and
ribbon and jet as to make her the envy of all her playmates.  She
used to crawl about the floor of the shop workroom and under the
table and chairs like a little scavenger.  

"What in the world do you do with all that truck, child?" asked
Aunt Sophy.  "You must have barrels of it."  

Adele stuffed another wisp of tulle into the pocket of her
pinafore.  

"I keep it," she said.  

When she was ten Adele had said to her mother, "Why do you
always say `Poor Sophy'?"  

"Because--Aunt Sophy's had so little in life.  She never has
married, and has always worked."  

Adele considered that.  "If you don't get married do they say
you're poor?"  

"Well--yes----"  

"Then I'll get married," announced Adele.  A small, dark, eerie
child, skinny and rather foreign-looking.  The boy, Eugene, had
the beauty which should have been the girl's.  Very tall, very
blond, with the straight nose and wistful eyes of the Flora of
twenty years ago.  "If only Adele could have had his looks,"
his mother used to say.  "They're wasted on a man.  He doesn't
need them, but a girl does.  Adele will have to be well dressed
and interesting.  And that's such hard work."  

Flora said she worshiped her children.  And she actually
sometimes still coquetted heavily with her husband.  At twenty
she had been addicted to baby talk when endeavoring to coax
something out of someone.  Her admirers had found it
irresistible.  At forty it was awful.  Her selfishness was
colossal.  She affected a semi-invalidism and for fifteen years
had spent one day a week in bed.  She took no exercise and a
great deal of soda bicarbonate and tried to fight her fat with
baths.  Fifteen or twenty years had worked a startling change in
the two sisters, Flora the beautiful and Sophy the plain.  It was
more than a mere physical change.  It was a spiritual thing,
though neither knew nor marked it.  Each had taken on weight, the
one, solidly, comfortably; the other, flabbily, unhealthily. 
With the encroaching fat, Flora's small, delicate features
seemed, somehow, to disappear in her face, so that you saw it as
a large white surface bearing indentations, ridges, and hollows
like one of those enlarged photographs of the moon's surface as
seen through a telescope.  A self-centered face, and misleadingly
placid.  Aunt Sophy's large, plain features, plumply padded now,
impressed you as indicating strength, courage, and a great human
understanding.  

From her husband and her children, Flora exacted service that
would have chafed a galley slave into rebellion.  She loved to
lie in bed, in an orchid bed jacket with ribbons, and be read to
by Adele, or Eugene, or her husband.  They all hated it.  

"She just wants to be waited on, and petted, and admired,"
Adele had stormed one day, in open rebellion, to her Aunt Sophy. 
"She uses it as an excuse for everything and has, ever since
Gene and I were children.  She's as strong as an ox."  Not a
daughterly speech, but true.  

Years before, a generous but misguided woman friend, coming in to
call, had been ushered in to where Mrs. Baldwin lay propped up in
a nest of pillows.  

"Well, I don't blame you," the caller had gushed.  "If I
looked the way you do in bed I'd stay there forever.  Don't tell
me you're sick, with all that lovely color!"  

Flora Baldwin had rolled her eyes ceilingward.  "Nobody ever
gives me credit for all my suffering and ill-health.  And just
because all my blood is in my cheeks."  

Flora was ambitious, socially, but too lazy to make the effort
necessary for success in that direction.  

"I love my family," she would say.  "They fill my life.  After
all, that's a profession in itself--being a wife and mother."

She showed her devotion by taking no interest whatever in her
husband's land schemes; by forbidding Eugene to play football at
school for fear he might be injured; by impressing Adele with the
necessity for vivacity and modishness because of what she called
her unfortunate lack of beauty.  

"I don't understand it," she used to say in the child's
presence.  "Her father's handsome enough, goodness knows; and I
wasn't such a fright when I was a girl.  And look at her!  Little
dark skinny thing."  

The boy, Eugene, grew up a very silent, handsome, shy young
fellow.  The girl, dark, voluble, and rather interesting.  The
husband, more and more immersed in his business, was absent from
home for long periods irritable after some of these home-comings;
boisterously high-spirited following other trips.  Now growling
about household expenses and unpaid bills; now urging the
purchase of some almost prohibitive luxury.  Anyone but a
nagging, self-absorbed, and vain woman such as Flora would have
marked these unmistakable signs.  But Flora was a taker, not a
giver.  She thought herself affectionate because she craved
affection unduly.  She thought herself a fond mother because she
insisted on having her children with her, under her thumb,
marking their devotion as a prisoner marks time with his feet,
stupidly, shufflingly, advancing not a step.  

Sometimes Sophy, the clear-eyed, seeing this state of affairs,
tried to stop it.  

"You expect too much of your husband and children," she said
one day, bluntly, to her sister.  

"I!"  Flora's dimpled hand had flown to her breast like a
wounded thing.  "I!  You're crazy!  There isn't a more devoted
wife and mother in the world.  That's the trouble.  I love them
too much."  

"Well, then," grimly, "stop it for a change.  That's half
Eugene's nervousness--your fussing over him.  He's eighteen. 
Give him a chance.  You're weakening him.  And stop dinning that
society stuff into Adele's ears.  She's got brains, that child. 
Why, just yesterday, in the workroom, she got hold of some satin
and a shape and turned out a little turban that Angie
Hatton----"

"Do you mean to tell me that Angie Hatton saw my Adele working
in your shop!  Now, look here, Sophy.  You're earning your
living, and it's to your credit.  You're my sister.  But I won't
have Adele associated in the minds of my friends with your hat
store, understand?  I won't have it.  That isn't what I sent her
away to an expensive school for.  To have her come back and sit
around a millinery workshop with a lot of little, cheap, shoddy
sewing girls!  Now, understand, I won't have it!  You don't know
what it is to be a mother.  You don't know what it is to have
suffered.  If you had brought two children into the world----"

So, then, it had come about during the years between their
childhood and their youth that Aunt Sophy received the burden of
their confidences, their griefs, their perplexities.  She seemed,
somehow, to understand in some miraculous way, and to make the
burden a welcome one.  

"Well, now, you tell Aunt Sophy all about it.  Stop crying,
Della.  How can I hear when you're crying!  That's my baby.  Now,
then."  

This when they were children.  But with the years the habit clung
and became fixed.  There was something about Aunt Sophy's
house--the old frame house with the warty stucco porch.  For that
matter, there was something about the very shop downtown, with
its workroom in the rear, that had a cozy, homelike quality never
possessed by the big Baldwin house.  H. Charnsworth Baldwin had
built a large brick mansion, in the Tudor style, on a bluff
overlooking the Fox River, in the best residential section of
Chippewa.  It was expensively furnished.  The hall console alone
was enough to strike a preliminary chill to your heart.  

The millinery workroom, winter days, was always bright and warm
and snug.  The air was a little close, perhaps, and heavy, but
with a not unpleasant smell of dyes and stuffs and velvet and
glue and steam and flatiron and a certain racy scent that Julia
Gold, the head trimmer, always used.  There was a sociable cat,
white with a dark-gray patch on his throat and a swipe of it
across one flank that spoiled him for style and beauty but made
him a comfortable-looking cat to have around.  Sometimes, on very
cold days, or in the rush season, the girls would not go home to
dinner, but would bring their lunches and cook coffee over a
little gas heater in the corner.  Julia Gold, especially, drank
quantities of coffee.  Aunt Sophy had hired her from Chicago. 
She had been with her for five years.  She said Julia was the
best trimmer she had ever had.  Aunt Sophy often took her to New
York or Chicago on her buying trips.  Julia had not much genius
for original design, or she never would have been content to be
head milliner in a small-town shop.  But she could copy a
fifty-dollar model from memory down to the last detail of crown
and brim.  It was a gift that made her invaluable.  

The boy, Eugene, used to like to look at Julia Gold.  Her hair
was very black and her face was very white, and her eyebrows met
in a thick dark line.  Her face as she bent over her work was
sullen and brooding, but when she lifted her head suddenly, in
conversation, you were startled by a vivid flash of teeth and
eyes and smile.  Her voice was deep and low.  She made you a
little uncomfortable.  Her eyes seemed always to be asking
something.  Around the worktable, mornings, she used to relate
the dream she had had the night before.  In these dreams she was
always being pursued by a lover.  "And then I woke up,
screaming."  Neither she nor the sewing girls knew what she was
revealing in these confidences of hers.  But Aunt Sophy, the
shrewd, somehow sensed it.  

"You're alone too much, evenings.  That's what comes of living
in a boardinghouse.  You come over to me for a week.  The change
will do you good, and it'll be nice for me, too, having somebody
to keep me company."  

Julia often came for a week or ten days at a time.  Julia, about
the house after supper, was given to those vivid splashy
negligees with big flower patterns strewn over them.  They made
her hair look blacker and her skin whiter by contrast.  Sometimes
Eugene or Adele or both would drop in and the four would play
bridge.  Aunt Sophy played a shrewd and canny game, Adele a
rather brilliant one, Julia a wild and disastrous hand, always,
and Eugene so badly that only Julia would take him on as a
partner.  Mrs. Baldwin never knew about these evenings.  

It was on one of these occasions that Aunt Sophy, coming
unexpectedly into the living room from the kitchen, where she and
Adele were foraging for refreshments after the game, beheld Julia
Gold and Eugene, arms clasped about each other, cheek to cheek. 
They started up as she came in and faced her, the woman
defiantly, the boy bravely.  Julia Gold was thirty (with
reservations) at that time, and the boy not quite twenty-one.
 
"How long?" said Aunt Sophy, quietly.  She had a mayonnaise
spoon and a leaf of lettuce in her hand then, and still she did
not look comic.  

"I'm crazy about her," said Eugene.  "We're crazy about each
other.  We're going to be married."  

Aunt Sophy listened for the reassuring sound of Adele's spoons
and plates in the kitchen.  She came forward.  "Now,
listen----" she began.  

"I love him," said Julia Gold, dramatically.  "I love him!"

Except that it was very white and, somehow, old-looking, Aunt
Sophy's face was as benign as always.  "Now, look here, Julia,
my girl.  That isn't love, and you know it.  I'm an old maid, but
I know what love is when I see it.  I'm ashamed of you, Julia. 
Sensible woman like you, hugging and kissing a boy like that, and
old enough to be his mother."  

"Now, look here, Aunt Sophy!  If you're going to talk that
way---- Why, she's wonderful.  She's taught me what it means to
really----"  

"Oh, my land!" Aunt Sophy sat down, looking suddenly very ill.

And then, from the kitchen, Adele's clear young voice:  "Heh! 
What's the idea!  I'm not going to do all the work.  Where's
everybody?"  

Aunt Sophy started up again.  She came up to them and put a
hand-- a capable, firm, steadying hand--on the arm of each.  The
woman drew back, but the boy did not.  

"Will you promise me not to do anything for a week?  Just a
week!  Will you promise me?  Will you?"  

"Are you going to tell Father?"  

"Not for a week, if you'll promise not to see each other in that
week.  No, I don't want to send you away, Julia, I don't want to.
. . .  You're not a bad girl.  It's just--he's never had--at home
they never gave him a chance.  Just a week, Julia.  Just a week,
Eugene.  We can talk things over then."  

Adele's footsteps coming from the kitchen.  

"Quick!"  

"I promise," said Eugene.  Julia said nothing.  

"Well, really," said Adele, from the doorway, "you're a nervy
lot, sitting around while I slave in the kitchen.  Gene, see if
you can open the olives with this fool can opener.  I tried."

There is no knowing what she expected to do in that week, Aunt
Sophy; what miracle she meant to perform.  She had no plan in her
mind.  Just hope.  She looked strangely shrunken and old,
suddenly.  But when, three days later, the news came that America
was to go into the war she had her answer.  

Flora was beside herself.  "Eugene won't have to go.  He isn't
old enough, thank God!  And by the time he is it will be over. 
Surely."  She was almost hysterical.  

Eugene was in the room.  Aunt Sophy looked at him and he looked
at Aunt Sophy.  In her eyes was a question.  In his was the
answer.  They said nothing.  The next day Eugene enlisted.  In
three days he was gone. Flora took to her bed.  Next day Adele, a
faint, unwonted color marking her cheeks, walked into her
mother's bedroom and stood at the side of the recumbent figure. 
Her father, his hands clasped behind him, was pacing up and down,
now and then kicking a cushion that had fallen to the floor.  He
was chewing a dead cigar, one side of his face twisted curiously
over the cylinder in his mouth so that he had a sinister and
crafty look.  

"Charnsworth, won't you please stop ramping up and down like
that!  My nerves are killing me.  I can't help it if the war has
done something or other to your business.  I'm sure no wife could
have been more economical than I have.  Nothing matters but
Eugene, anyway.  How could he do such a thing!  I've given my
whole life to my children----"  

H. Charnsworth kicked the cushion again so that it struck the
wall at the opposite side of the room.  Flora drew her breath in
between her teeth as though a knife had entered her heart.  

Adele still stood at the side of the bed, looking at her mother. 
Her hands were clasped behind her, too.  In that moment, as she
stood there, she resembled her mother and her father so
startlingly and simultaneously that the two, had they been less
absorbed in their own affairs, must have marked it.  

The girl's head came up stiffly.  "Listen.  I'm going to marry
Daniel Oakley."  

Daniel Oakley was fifty, and a friend of her father's.  For years
he had been coming to the house and for years she had ridiculed
him.  She and Eugene had called him Sturdy Oak because he was
always talking about his strength and endurance, his walks, his
rugged health; pounding his chest meanwhile and planting his feet
far apart.  He and Baldwin had had business relations as well as
friendly ones.  

At this announcement Flora screamed and sat up in bed.  H.
Charnsworth stopped short in his pacing and regarded his daughter
with a queer look; a concentrated look, as though what she had
said had set in motion a whole mass of mental machinery within
his brain.  

"When did he ask you?"  

"He's asked me a dozen times.  But it's different now.  All the
men will be going to war.  There won't be any left.  Look at
England and France.  I'm not going to be left."  She turned
squarely toward her father, her young face set and hard.  "You
know what I mean.  You know what I mean."  

Flora, sitting up in bed, was sobbing.  "I think you might have
told your mother, Adele.  What are children coming to!  You stand
there and say, `I'm going to marry Daniel Oakley.'  Oh, I am so
faint . . . all of a sudden . . .  Get the spirits of ammonia."

Adele turned and walked out of the room.  She was married six
weeks later.  They had a regular prewar wedding--veil, flowers,
dinner, and all.  Aunt Sophy arranged the folds of her gown and
draped her veil.  The girl stood looking at herself in the
mirror, a curious half smile twisting her lips.  She seemed
slighter and darker than ever.  

"In all this white, and my veil, I look just like a fly in a
quart of milk," she said, with a laugh.  Then, suddenly, she
turned to her aunt, who stood behind her, and clung to her,
holding her tight, tight.  "I can't!" she gasped.  "I can't! 
I can't!"  

Aunt Sophy held her off and looked at her, her eyes searching the
girl.  

"What do you mean, Della?  Are you just nervous or do you mean
you don't want to marry him?  Do you mean that?  Then what are
you marrying for?  Tell me!  Tell your Aunt Sophy."  

But Adele was straightening herself and pulling out the crushed
folds of her veil.  "To pay the mortgage on the old homestead,
of course.  Just like the girl in the play."  She laughed a
little.  But Aunt Sophy did not.  

"Now look here, Della.  If you're----"  

But there was a knock at the door.  Adele caught up her flowers. 
"It's all right," she said.  Aunt Sophy stood with her back
against the door.  "If it's money," she said.  "It is!  It is,
isn't it!  I've got money saved.  It was for you children.  I've
always been afraid.  I knew he was sailing pretty close, with his
speculations and all, since the war.  He can have it all.  It
isn't too late yet.  Adele!  Della, my baby."  

"Don't, Aunt Sophy.  It wouldn't be enough, anyway.  Daniel has
been wonderful, really.  Dad's been stealing money for years. 
Dan's.  Don't look like that.  I'd have hated being poor, anyway.

Never could have got used to it.  It is ridiculous, though, isn't
it?  Like something in the movies.  I don't mind.  I'm lucky,
really, when you come to think of it.  A plain little black thing
like me."  

"But your mother----"  

"Mother doesn't know a thing."  

Flora wept mistily all through the ceremony, but Adele was
composed enough for two.  

When, scarcely a month later, Baldwin came to Sophy Decker, his
face drawn and queer, Sophy knew.  

"How much?" she said.  

"Thirty thousand will cover it.  If you've got more than
that----"  

"I thought Oakley----Adele said----"  

"He did, but he won't any more, and this thing's got to be met. 
It's this damned war that's done it.  I'd have been all right. 
People got scared.  They wanted their money.  They wanted it in
cash."  

"Speculating with it, were you?"  

"Oh, well, a woman doesn't understand these business deals."

"No, naturally," said Aunt Sophy, "a butterfly like me."

"Sophy, for God's sake don't joke now.  I tell you this will
cover it, and everything will be all right.  If I had anybody
else to go to for the money I wouldn't ask you.  But you'll get
it back.  You know that."  

Aunt Sophy got up, heavily, and went over to her desk.  "It was
for the children, anyway.  They won't need it now."  

He looked up at that.  Something in her voice.  "Who won't?  Why
won't they?"  

"I don't know what made me say that.  I had a dream."

"Eugene?"  

"Yes."

"Oh, well, we're all nervous.  Flora has dreams every night and
presentiments every fifteen minutes.  Now, look here, Sophy. 
About this money. You'll never know how grateful I am.  Flora
doesn't understand these things, but I can talk to you.  It's
like this----"  

"I might as well be honest about it," Sophy interrupted.  "I'm
doing it, not for you, but for Flora, and Della--and Eugene. 
Flora has lived such a sheltered life.  I sometimes wonder if she
ever really knew any of you.  Her husband, or her children.  I
sometimes have the feeling that Della and Eugene are my
children--were my children."  

When he came home that night Baldwin told his wife that old Soph
was getting queer.  "She talks about the children being hers,"
he said.  

"Oh, well, she's awfully fond of them," Flora explained.  "And
she's lived her little, narrow life, with nothing to bother her
but her hats and her house.  She doesn't know what it means to
suffer as a mother suffers --poor Sophy."  

"Um," Baldwin grunted.  

When the official notification of Eugene's death came from the
War Department, Aunt Sophy was so calm it might have appeared
that Flora had been right.  She took to her bed now in earnest,
did Flora.  Sophy neglected everything to give comfort to the
stricken two.  

"How can you sit there like that!"  Flora would rail.  "How
can you sit there like that!  Even if you weren't his mother,
surely you must feel something."  

"It's the way he died that comforts me," said Aunt Sophy.

"What difference does that make!"         

AMERICAN RED CROSS     
(Croix Rouge Americaine)  

MY DEAR MRS. BALDWIN:  
  I am sure you must have been officially notified by the U.S.
War Dept. of the death of your son, Lieut. Eugene H. Baldwin. 
But I want to write you what I can of his last hours.  I was with
him much of that time as his nurse.  I'm sure it must mean much
to a mother to hear from a woman who was privileged to be with
her boy at the last.  
  Your son was brought to our hospital one night badly gassed
from the fighting in the Argonne Forest.  Ordinarily we do not
receive gassed patients, as they are sent to a special hospital
near here.  But two nights before, the Germans wrecked that
hospital, so many gassed patients have come to us.  
  Your son was put in the officers' ward, where the doctors who
examined him told me there was absolutely no hope for him, as he
had inhaled so much gas that it was only a matter of a few hours.

I could scarcely believe that a man so big and strong as he was
could not pull through.  
  The first bad attack he had, losing his breath and nearly
choking, rather frightened him, although the doctor and I were
both with him.  He held my hand tightly in his, begging me not to
leave him, and repeating, over and over, that it was good to have
a woman near.  He was propped high in bed and put his head on my
shoulder while I fanned him until he breathed more easily.  I
stayed with him all that night, though I was not on duty.  You
see, his eyes also were badly burned.  But before he died he was
able to see very well.  I stayed with him every minute of that
night and have never seen a finer character than he showed during
all that fight for life.  
  He had several bad attacks that night and came through each one
simply because of his great will power and fighting spirit. 
After each attack he would grip my hand and say, "Well, we made
it that time, didn't we, nurse?"  Toward morning he asked me if
he was going to die.  I could not tell him the truth.  He needed
all his strength.  I told him he had one chance in a thousand. 
He seemed to become very strong then, and sitting bolt upright in
bed, he said:  "Then I'll fight for it!"  We kept him alive for
three days, and actually thought we had won when on the third day
. . .  
  But even in your sorrow you must be very proud to have been the
mother of such a son. . . .  
  I am a Wisconsin girl--Madison.  When this is over and I come
home, will you let me see you so that I may tell you more than I
can possibly write?                                      
                                                MARIAN KING

It was in March, six months later, that Marian King came.  They
had hoped for it, but never expected it.  And she came.  Four
people were waiting in the living room of the big Baldwin house
overlooking the river.  Flora and her husband, Adele and Aunt
Sophy.  They sat, waiting.  Now and then Adele would rise,
nervously, and go to the window that faced the street.  Flora was
weeping with audible sniffs.  Baldwin sat in his chair, frowning
a little, a dead cigar in one corner of his mouth.  Only Aunt
Sophy sat quietly, waiting.  

There was little conversation.  None in the last five minutes. 
Flora broke the silence, dabbing at her face with her
handkerchief as she spoke.  

"Sophy, how can you sit there like that?  Not that I don't envy
you.  I do.  I remember I used to feel sorry for you.  I used to
say `Poor Sophy.'  But you unmarried ones are the happiest, after
all.  It's the married woman who drinks the cup to the last,
bitter drop.  There you sit, Sophy, fifty years old, and life
hasn't even touched you.  You don't know how cruel life can be to
a mother."  

Suddenly, "There!" said Adele.  The other three in the room
stood up and faced the door.  The sound of a motor stopping
outside.  Daniel Oakley's hearty voice:  "Well, it only took us
five minutes from the station.  Pretty good."  

Footsteps down the hall.  Marian King stood in the doorway.  They
faced her, the four--Baldwin and Adele and Flora and Sophy. 
Marian King stood a moment, uncertainly, her eyes upon them.  She
looked at the two older women with swift, appraising glances. 
Then she came into the room, quickly, and put her two hands on
Aunt Soph's shoulders and looked into her eyes straight and sure.

"You must be a very proud woman," she said.  "You ought to be
a very proud woman,"   





End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of One Basket, by Edna Ferber


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