A Modern Instance
William Dean Howells
Part 2 out of 9
any of the people in church are half as happy, do you? Why, old Jonathan
Edwards himself used to allow 'all proper opportunity' for the young
fellows that come to see his girls, 'and a room and fire, if needed.' His
'Life' says so."
"I guess he didn't allow it on the Sabbath," retorted Mrs. Gaylord.
"Well, the 'Life' don't say," chuckled the Squire. "Why, Miranda, I do it
for Marcia! There's never but one first day to an engagement. You know that
as well as I do." In saying this, Squire Gaylord gave way to his repressed
emotion in an extravagance. He suddenly stooped over and kissed his wife;
but he spared her confusion by going out to his office at once, where he
stayed the whole afternoon.
Bartley and Marcia took the "Long Drive," as it was called, at Equity. The
road plunged into the darkly wooded gulch beyond the house, and then
struck away eastward, crossing loop after loop of the river on the covered
bridges, where the neighbors, who had broken it out with their ox-teams in
the open, had thickly bedded it in snow. In the valleys and sheltered spots
it remained free, and so wide that encountering teams could easily pass
each other; but where it climbed a hill, or crossed a treeless level, it
was narrowed to a single track, with turn-outs at established points, where
the drivers of the sleighs waited to be sure that the stretch beyond was
clear before going forward. In the country, the winter which held the
village in such close siege was an occupation under which Nature seemed
to cower helpless, and men made a desperate and ineffectual struggle. The
houses, banked up with snow almost to the sills of the windows that looked
out, blind with frost, upon the lifeless world, were dwarfed in the drifts,
and seemed to founder in a white sea blotched with strange bluish shadows
under the slanting sun. Where they fronted close upon the road, it was
evident that the fight with the snow was kept up unrelentingly; spaces were
shovelled out, and paths were kept open to the middle of the highway, and
to the barn; but where they were somewhat removed, there was no visible
trace of the conflict, and no sign of life except the faint, wreathed lines
of smoke wavering upward from the chimneys.
In the hollows through which the road passed, the lower boughs of the
pines and hemlocks were weighed down with the snow-fall till they lay half
submerged in the drifts; but wherever the wind could strike them, they
swung free of this load and met in low, flat arches above the track. The
river betrayed itself only when the swift current of a ripple broke through
the white surface in long, irregular, grayish blurs. It was all wild and
lonesome, but to the girl alone in it with her lover, the solitude was
sweet, and she did not wish to speak even to him. His hands were both busy
with the reins, but it was agreed between them that she might lock hers
through his arm. Cowering close to him under the robes, she laid her head
on his shoulder and looked out over the flying landscape in measureless
content, and smiled, with filling eyes, when he bent over, and warmed his
cold, red cheek on the top of her fur cap.
The moments of bliss that silence a woman rouse a man to make sure of his
rapture. "How do you like it, Marsh?" he asked, trying at one of these
times to peer round into her face. "Are you afraid?"
"No,--only of getting back too soon."
He made the shivering echoes answer with his delight in this, and chirruped
to the colt, who pushed forward at a wilder speed, flinging his hoofs out
before him with the straight thrust of the horn trotter, and seeming to
overtake them as they flew. "I should like this ride to last forever!"
"Forever!" she repeated. "That would do for a beginning."
"Marsh! What a girl you are! I never supposed you would be so free to let a
fellow know how much you cared for him."
"Neither did I," she answered dreamily. "But now--now the only trouble is
that I don't know _how_ to let him know." She gave his arm to which she
clung a little convulsive clutch, and pressed her head harder upon his
"Well, that's pretty much my complaint, too," said Bartley, "though I
couldn't have expressed it so well."
"Oh, _you_ express!" she murmured, with the pride in him which implied
that there were no thoughts worth expressing to which he could not give a
monumental utterance. Her adoration flattered his self-love to the same
passionate intensity, and to something like the generous complexion of her
"Marcia," he answered, "I am going to try to be all you expect of me. And I
hope I shall never do anything unworthy of your ideal."
She could only press his arm again in speechless joy, but she said to
herself that she should always remember these words.
The wind had been rising ever since they started but they had not noticed
it till now, when the woods began to thin away on either side, and he
stopped before striking out over one of the naked stretches of the
plain,--a white waste swept by the blasts that sucked down through a gorge
of the mountain, and flattened the snow-drifts as the tornado flattens the
waves. Across this expanse ran the road, its stiff lines obliterated here
and there, in the slight depressions, and showing dark along the rest of
It was a good half-mile to the next body of woods, and midway there was one
of those sidings where a sleigh approaching from the other quarter must
turn out and yield the right of way. Bartley stopped his colt, and scanned
"Anybody coming?" asked Marcia.
"No, I don't see any one. But if there's any one in the woods yonder,
they'd better wait till I get across. No horse in Equity can beat this colt
to the turn-out."
"Oh, well, look carefully, Bartley. If we met any one beyond the turn-out,
I don't know what I should do," pleaded the girl.
"I don't know what _they_ would do," said Bartley. "But it's their lookout
now, if they come. Wrap your face up well, or put your head under the robe.
I've got to hold my breath the next half-mile." He loosed the reins, and
sped the colt out of the shelter where he had halted. The wind struck them
like an edge of steel, and, catching the powdery snow that their horse's
hoofs beat up, sent it spinning and swirling far along the glistening
levels on their lee. They felt the thrill of the go as if they were in some
light boat leaping over a swift current. Marcia disdained to cover her
face, if he must confront the wind, but after a few gasps she was glad to
bend forward, and bury it in the long hair of the bearskin robe. When she
lifted it, they were already past the siding, and she saw a cutter dashing
toward them from the cover of the woods. "Bartley!" she screamed, "the
"Yes," he shouted. "Some fool! There's going to be trouble here," he
added, checking his horse as he could. "They don't seem to know how to
manage--It's a couple of women! Hold on! hold on!" he called. "Don't try to
turn out! I'll turn out!"
The women pulled their horse's head this way and that, in apparent
confusion, and then began to turn out into the trackless snow at the
roadside, in spite of Bartley's frantic efforts to arrest them. They sank
deeper and deeper into the drift; their horse plunged and struggled, and
then their cutter went over, amidst their shrieks and cries for help.
Bartley drove up abreast of the wreck, and, saying, "Still, Jerry! Don't be
afraid, Marcia,"--he put the reins into her hands, and sprang out to the
One of the women had been flung out free of the sleigh, and had already
gathered herself up, and stood crying and wringing her hands; "Oh, Mr.
Hubbard, Mr. Hubbard! Help Hannah! she's under there!"
"All right! Keep quiet, Mrs. Morrison! Take hold of your horse's head!"
Bartley had first of all seized him by the bit, and pulled him to his feet;
he was old and experienced in obedience, and he now stood waiting orders,
patiently enough. Bartley seized the cutter and by an effort of all his
strength righted it. The colt started and trembled, but Marcia called to
him in Bartley's tone, "Still, Jerry!" and he obeyed her.
The girl, who had been caught under the overturned cutter, escaped like
a wild thing out of a trap, when it was lifted, and, plunging some paces
away, faced round upon her rescuer with the hood pulled straight and set
comely to her face again, almost before he could ask, "Any bones broken,
"_No_!" she shouted. "Mother! mother! stop crying! Don't you see I'm not
dead?" She leaped about, catching up this wrap and that, shaking the dry
snow out of them, and flinging them back into the cutter, while she laughed
in the wild tumult of her spirits. Bartley helped her pick up the fragments
of the wreck, and joined her in making fun of the adventure. The wind
hustled them, but they were warm in defiance of it with their jollity and
"Why didn't you let me turn out?" demanded Bartley, as he and the girl
stood on opposite sides of the cutter, rearranging the robes in it.
"Oh, I thought I could turn out well enough. You had a right to the road."
"Well, the next time you see any one past the turn-out, you better not
start from the woods."
"Why, there's no more room in the woods to get past than there is here,"
cried the girl.
"There's more shelter."
"Oh, I'm not cold!" She flashed a look at him from her brilliant face, warm
with all the glow of her young health, and laughed, and before she dropped
her eyes, she included Marcia in her glance. They had already looked at
each other without any sign of recognition. "Come, mother! All right, now!"
Her mother left the horse's head, and, heavily ploughing back to the
cutter, tumbled herself in. The girl, from her side, began to climb in, but
her weight made the sleigh careen, and she dropped down with a gay shriek.
Bartley came round and lifted her in; the girl called to her horse, and
drove up into the road and away.
Bartley looked after her a moment, and continued to glance in that
direction when he stood stamping the snow off his feet, and brushing it
from his legs and arms, before he remounted to Marcia's side. He was
excited, and talked rapidly and loudly, as he took the reins from Marcia's
passive hold, and let the colt out. "That girl is the pluckiest fool, yet!
Wouldn't let me turn out because I had the right of way! And she wasn't
going to let anybody else have a hand in getting that old ark of theirs
afloat again. Good their horse wasn't anything like Jerry! How well Jerry
behaved! Were you frightened, Marsh?" He bent over to see her face, but she
had not her head on his shoulder, and she did not sit close to him, now.
"Did you freeze?"
"Oh, no! I got along very well," she answered, dryly, and edged away as far
as the width of the seat would permit. "It would have been better for
you to lead their horse up into the road, and then she could have got in
without your help. Her mother got in alone."
He took the reins into his left hand, and, passing his strong right around
her, pulled her up to his side. She resisted, with diminishing force; at
last she ceased to resist, and her head fell passively to its former place
on his shoulder. He did not try to speak any word of comfort; he only held
her close to him; when she looked up, as they entered the village, she
confronted him with a brilliant smile that ignored her tears.
But that night, when she followed him to the door, she looked him
searchingly in the eyes. "I wonder if you really do despise me, Bartley?"
"Certainly," he answered, with a jesting smile. "What for?"
"For showing out my feelings so. For not even trying to pretend not to care
everything for you."
"It wouldn't be any use your trying: I should know that you did, anyway."
"Oh, don't laugh, Bartley, don't laugh! I don't believe that I ought to.
I've heard that it makes people sick of you. But I can't help it,--I can't
help it! And if--if you think I'm always going to be so,--and that I'm
going to keep on getting worse and worse, and making you so unhappy, why,
you'd better break your engagement now--while you have a chance."
"What have you been making me unhappy about, I should like to know? I
thought I'd been having a very good time."
She hid her face against his breast. "It almost _killed_ me to see you
there with her. I was so cold,--my hands were half frozen, holding the
reins,--and I was so afraid of the colt I didn't know what to do; and I had
been keeping up my courage on your account; and you seemed so long about
it all; and she could have got in perfectly well--as well as her mother
did--without your help--" Her voice broke in a miserable sob, and she
clutched herself tighter to him.
He smoothed down her hair with his hand. "Why, Marsh! Did you think that
made me unhappy? _I_ didn't mind it a bit. I knew what the trouble was, at
the time; but I wasn't going to say anything. I knew you would be all right
as soon as you could think it over. You don't suppose I care anything for
"No," answered a rueful sob. "But I _wish_ you didn't have anything to do
with her. I know she'll make trouble for you, somehow."
"Well," said Bartley, "I can't very well turn her off as long as she does
her work. But you needn't be worried about making me unhappy. If anything,
I rather liked it. It showed how much you _did_ care for me." He bent
toward her, with a look of bright raillery, for the parting kiss. "Now
then: once, twice, three times,--and good night it is!"
The spectacle of a love affair in which the woman gives more of her heart
than the man gives of his is so pitiable that we are apt to attribute a
kind of merit to her, as if it were a voluntary self-sacrifice for her to
love more than her share. Not only other men, but other women, look on with
this canonizing compassion; for women have a lively power of imagining
themselves in the place of any sister who suffers in matters of sentiment,
and are eager to espouse the common cause in commiserating her. Each of
them pictures herself similarly wronged or slighted by the man she likes
best, and feels how cruel it would be if he were to care less for her than
she for him; and for the time being, in order to realize the situation, she
loads him with all the sins of omission proper to the culprit in the alien
case. But possibly there is a compensation in merely loving, even where the
love given is out of all proportion to the love received.
If Bartley Hubbard's sensations and impressions of the day had been at all
reasoned, that night as he lay thinking it over, he could unquestionably
have seen many advantages for Marcia in the affair,--perhaps more than for
himself. But to do him justice he did not formulate these now, or in any
wise explicitly recognize the favors he was bestowing. At twenty-six one
does not naturally compute them in musing upon the girl to whom one is just
betrothed; and Bartley's mind was a confusion of pleasure. He liked so well
to think how fond of him Marcia was, that it did not occur to him then to
question whether he were as fond of her. It is possible that as he drowsed,
at last, there floated airily through the consciousness which was melting
and dispersing itself before the approach of sleep, an intimation from
somewhere to some one that perhaps the affair need not be considered too
seriously. But in that mysterious limbo one cannot be sure of what is
thought and what is dreamed; and Bartley always acquitted himself, and
probably with justice, of any want of seriousness.
What he did make sure of when he woke was that he was still out of sorts,
and that he had again that dull headache; and his instant longing for
sympathy did more than anything else to convince him that he really loved
Marcia, and had never, in his obscurest or remotest feeling, swerved in
his fealty to her. In the atmosphere of her devotion yesterday, he had so
wholly forgotten his sufferings that he had imagined himself well; but now
he found that he was not well, and he began to believe that he was going to
have what the country people call a fit of sickness. He felt that he ought
to be taken care, of, that he was unfit to work; and in his vexation at
not being able to go to Marcia for comfort-it really amounted to nothing
less--he entered upon the day's affairs with fretful impatience.
The Free Press was published on Tuesdays, and Monday was always a busy time
of preparation. The hands were apt also to feel the demoralization that
follows a holiday, even when it has been a holy day. The girls who set the
type of the Free Press had by no means foregone the rights and privileges
of their sex in espousing their art, and they had their beaux on Sunday
night like other young ladies. It resulted that on Monday morning they were
nervous and impatient, alternating between fits of giggling delight in the
interchange of fond reminiscences, and the crossness which is pretty sure
to disfigure human behavior from want of sleep. But ordinarily Bartley got
on very well with them. In spite of the assumption of equality between all
classes in Equity, they stood in secret awe of his personal splendor, and
the tradition of his achievements at college and in the great world; and
a flattering joke or a sharp sarcasm from him went a great way with them.
Besides, he had an efficient lieutenant in Henry Bird, the young printer
who had picked up his trade in the office, and who acted as Bartley's
foreman, so far as the establishment had an organization. Bird had industry
and discipline which were contagious, and that love of his work which is
said to be growing rare among artisans in the modern subdivision of trades.
This boy--for he was only nineteen--worked at his craft early and late out
of pleasure in it. He seemed one of those simple, subordinate natures which
are happy in looking up to whatever assumes to be above them. He exulted to
serve in a world where most people prefer to be served, and it is uncertain
whether he liked his work better for its own sake, or Bartley's, for whom
he did it. He was slight and rather delicate in health, and it came natural
for Bartley to patronize him. He took him on the long walks of which he was
fond, and made him in some sort his humble confidant, talking to him of
himself and his plans with large and braggart vagueness. He depended upon
Bird in a great many things, and Bird never failed him; for he had a
basis of constancy that was immovable. "No," said a philosopher from a
neighboring logging-camp, who used to hang about the printing-office a long
time after he had got his paper, "there aint a great deal of natural git up
and howl about Henry; but he stays put." In the confidences which Bartley
used to make Bird, he promised that, when he left the newspaper for the
law, he would see that no one else succeeded him. The young fellow did not
need this promise to make him Bartley's fast friend, but it colored his
affection with ambitious enthusiasm; to edit and publish a newspaper,--his
dreams did not go beyond that: to devote it to Bartley's interest in the
political life on which Bartley often hinted he might enter,--that would be
the sweetest privilege of realized success. Bird already wrote paragraphs
for the Free Press, and Bartley let him make up a column of news from the
city exchanges, which was partly written and partly selected.
Bartley came to the office rather late on Monday morning, bringing with him
the papers from Saturday night's mail, which had lain unopened over
Sunday, and went directly into his own room, without looking into the
printing-office. He felt feverish and irritable, and he resolved to fill up
with selections and let his editorial paragraphing go, or get Bird to do
it. He was tired of the work, and sick of Equity; Marcia's face seemed to
look sadly in upon his angry discontent, and he no longer wished to go to
her for sympathy. His door opened, and, without glancing from the newspaper
which he held up before him, he asked, "What is it, Bird? Do you want
"Well, no, Mr. Hubbard," answered Bird, "we have copy enough for the force
we've got this morning."
"Why, what's up?" demanded Bartley, dropping his paper.
"Lizzie Sawyer has sent word that she is sick, and we haven't heard or seen
anything of Hannah Morrison."
"Confound the girls!" said Bartley, "there's always something the matter
with them." He rubbed his hand over his forehead, as if to rub out the dull
pain there. "Well," he said, "I must go to work myself, then." He rose,
and took hold of the lapels of his coat, to pull it off; but something in
Bird's look arrested him. "What is it?" he asked.
"Old Morrison was here, just before you came in, and said he wanted to see
you. I think he was drunk," said Bird, anxiously. "He said he was coming
"All right; let him come," replied Bartley. "This is a free
country,--especially in Equity. I suppose he wants Hannah's wages raised,
as usual. How much are we behind on the paper, Henry?"
"We're not a great deal behind, Mr. Hubbard, if we were not so
"Perhaps we can get Hannah back, during the forenoon. At any rate, we can
ask her honored parent when he comes."
Where Morrison got his liquor was a question that agitated Equity from time
to time, and baffled the officer of the law empowered to see that no strong
drink came into the town. Under conditions which made it impossible even in
the logging-camps, and rendered the sale of spirits too precarious for the
apothecary, who might be supposed to deal in them medicinally, Morrison
never failed of his spree when the mysterious mechanism of his appetite
enforced it. Probably it was some form of bedevilled cider that supplied
the material of his debauch; but even cider was not easily to be had.
Morrison's spree was a movable feast, and recurred at irregular intervals
of two, or three, or even six weeks; but it recurred often enough to keep
him poor, and his family in a social outlawry against which the kindly
instincts of their neighbors struggled in vain. Mrs. Morrison was that
pariah who, in a village like Equity, cuts herself off from hope by taking
in washing; and it was a decided rise in the world for Hannah, a wild girl
at school, to get a place in the printing-office. Her father had applied
for it humbly enough at the tremulous and penitent close of one of his long
sprees, and was grateful to Bartley for taking the special interest in her
which she reported at home.
But the independence of a drunken shoemaker is proverbial, and Morrison's
meek spirit soared into lordly arrogance with his earliest cups. The
first warning which the community had of his change of attitude was
the conspicuous and even defiant closure of his shop, and the scornful
rejection of custom, however urgent or necessitous. All Equity might go in
broken shoes, for any patching or half-soling the people got from him. He
went about collecting his small dues, and paying up his debts as long as
the money lasted, in token of his resolution not to take any favors from
any man thereafter. Then he retired to his house on one of the by streets,
and by degrees drank himself past active offence. It was of course in his
defiant humor that he came to visit Bartley, who had learned to expect
him whenever Hannah failed to appear promptly at her work. The affair was
always easily arranged. Bartley instantly assented, with whatever irony he
liked, to Morrison's demands; he refused with overwhelming politeness even
to permit him to give himself the trouble to support them by argument; he
complimented Hannah inordinately as one of the most gifted and accomplished
ladies of his acquaintance, and inquired affectionately after the health
of each member of the Morrison family. When Morrison rose to go he always
said, in shaking hands, "Well, sir, if there was more like you in Equity
a poor man could get along. You're a gentleman, sir." After getting some
paces away from the street door, he stumbled back up the stairs to repeat,
"You're a gentleman!" Hannah came during the day, and the wages remained
the same: neither of the contracting parties regarded the increase so
elaborately agreed upon, and Morrison, on becoming sober, gratefully
ignored the whole transaction, though, by a curious juggle of his brain, he
recurred to it in his next spree, and advanced in his new demand from the
last rise: his daughter was now nominally in receipt of an income of forty
dollars a week, but actually accepted four.
Bartley, on his part, enjoyed the business as an agreeable excitement and
a welcome relief from the monotony of his official life. He never hurried
Morrison's visits, but amused himself by treating him with the most
flattering distinction, and baffling his arrogance by immediate concession.
But this morning, when Morrison came back with a front of uncommon
fierceness, he merely looked up from his newspapers, to which he had
recurred, and said coolly. "Oh, Mr. Morrison! Good morning. I suppose it's
that little advance that you wish to see me about. Take a chair. What is
the increase you ask this time? Of course I agree to anything."
He leaned forward, pencil in hand, to make a note of the figure Morrison
should name, when the drunkard approached and struck the table in front of
him with his fist, and blazed upon Bartley's face, suddenly uplifted, with
his blue crazy eyes:
"No, sir! I won't take a seat, and I don't come on no such business! No,
sir!" He struck the table again, and the violence of his blow upset the
Bartley saved himself by suddenly springing away. "Hollo here!" he shouted.
"What do you mean by this infernal nonsense?"
"What do _you_ mean," retorted the drunkard, "by makin' up to my girl?"
"You're a fool," cried Bartley, "and drunk!"
"I'll show you whether I'm a fool, and I'll show you whether I'm drunk,"
said Morrison. He opened the door and beckoned to Bird, with an air of
mysterious authority. "Young man! Come here!"
Bird was used to the indulgence with which Bartley treated Morrison's tipsy
freaks, and supposed that he had been called by his consent to witness
another agreement to a rise in Hannah's wages. He came quickly, to help
get Morrison out of the way the sooner, and he was astonished to be met by
Bartley with "I don't want you, Bird."
"All right," answered the boy, and he turned to go out of the door.
But Morrison had planted himself against it, and waved Bird austerely
back. "_I_ want you," he said, with drunken impressiveness, "for a
witness--wick--witness--while I ask Mr. Hubbard what he means by--"
"Hold your tongue!" cried Bartley. "Get out of this!" He advanced a pace or
two toward Morrison who stood his ground without swerving.
"Now you--you keep quiet, Mr. Hubbard," said Morrison, with a swift drunken
change of mood, by which he passed from arrogant denunciation to a smooth,
patronizing mastery of the situation. "_I_ wish this thing all settled
Bartley broke into a helpless laugh at Morrison's final failure on a word
difficult to sober tongues, and the latter went on: "No 'casion for bad
feeling on either side. All I want know is what you mean."
"Well, go on!" cried Bartley, good-naturedly, and he sat down in his chair,
which he tilted back, and, clasping his hands behind his head, looked up
into Morrison's face. "What do I mean by what?"
Probably Morrison had not expected to be categorical, or to bring anything
like a bill of particulars against Bartley, and this demand gave him pause.
"What you mean," he said, at last, "by always praising her up so?"
"What I said. She's a very good girl, and a very bright one. You don't deny
"No--no matter what I deny. What--what you lend her all them books for?"
"To improve her mind. You don't object to that? I thought you once thanked
me for taking an interest in her."
"Don't you mind what I object to, and what I thank you for," said Morrison,
with dignity. "I know what I'm about."
"I begin to doubt. But get on. I'm in a great hurry this morning," said
Morrison seemed to be making a mental examination of his stock of charges,
while the strain of keeping his upright position began to tell upon him,
and he swayed to and fro against the door. "What's that word you sent her
by my boy, Sat'day night?"
"That she was a smart girl, and would be sure to get on if she was good--or
words to that effect. I trust there was no offence in that, Mr. Morrison?"
Morrison surrendered, himself to another season of cogitation, in which he
probably found his vagueness growing upon him. He ended by fumbling in all
his pockets, and bringing up from the last a crumpled scrap of paper. "What
you--what you say that?"
Bartley took the extended scrap with an easy air. "Miss Morrison's
handwriting, I think." He held it up before him and read aloud, "'I love my
love with an H because he is Handsome.' This appears to be a confidence of
Miss Morrison to her Muse. Whom do you think she refers to, Mr. Morrison?"
"What's--what's the first letter your name?" demanded Morrison, with an
effort to collect his dispersing severity.
"B," promptly replied Bartley. "Perhaps this concerns you, Henry. Your name
begins with an H." He passed the paper up over his head to Bird, who took
it silently. "You see," he continued, addressing Bird, but looking at
Morrison as he spoke, "Mr. Morrison wishes to convict me of an attempt upon
Miss Hannah's affections. Have you anything else to urge, Mr. Morrison?"
Morrison slid at last from his difficult position into a convenient chair,
and struggled to keep himself from doubling forward. "I want know what you
mean," he said, with dogged iteration.
"I'll show you what I mean," said Bartley with an ugly quiet, while his
mustache began to twitch. He sprang to his feet and seized Morrison by
the collar, pulling him up out of the chair till he held him clear of the
floor, and opened the door with his other hand. "Don't show your face here
again,--you or your girl either!" Still holding the man by the collar, he
pushed him before him through the office, and gave him a final thust out of
the outer door.
Bartley returned to his room in a white heat: "Miserable tipsy rascal!" he
panted; "I wonder who has set him on to this thing."
Bird stood pale and silent, still, nolding the crumpled scrap of paper in
"I shouldn't be surprised if that impudent little witch herself had put him
up to it. She's capable of it," said Bartley, fumbling aimlessly about on
his table, in his wrath, without looking at Bird.
"It's a lie!" said Bird.
Bartley started as if the other had struck him, and as he glared at Bird
the anger went out of his face for pure amazement. "Are you out of your
mind, Henry?" he asked calmly. "Perhaps you're drunk too, this morning. The
Devil seems to have got into pretty much everybody."
"It's a lie!" repeated the boy, while the tears sprang to his eyes. "She's
as good a girl as Marcia Gaylord is, any day!"
"Better go away, Henry," said Bartley, with a deadly sort of gentleness.
"I'm going away," answered the boy, his face twisted with weeping. "I've
done my last day's work for _you_." He pulled down his shirt-sleeves,
and buttoned them at the wrists, while the tears ran out over his
face,--helpless tears, the sign of his womanish tenderness, his womanish
Bartley continued to glare at him. "Why, I do believe you're in love with
her yourself, you little fool!"
"Oh, I've _been_ a fool!" cried Bird. "A fool to think as much of you as
I always have,--a fool to believe that you were a gentleman, and wouldn't
take a mean advantage. I was a fool to suppose you wanted to do her any
good, when you came praising and flattering her, and turning her head!"
"Well, then," said Bartley with harsh insolence, "don't be a fool any
longer. If you're in love with her, you haven't any quarrel with me, my
boy. She flies at higher game than humble newspaper editors. The head of
Willett's lumbering gang is your man; and so you may go and tell that old
sot, her father. Why, Henry! You don't mean to say you care anything for
"And do you mean to say you haven't done everything you could to turn her
head since she's been in this office? She used to like me well enough at
school." All men are blind and jealous children alike, when it comes to
question of a woman between them, and this poor boy's passion was turning
him into a tiger. "Don't come to _me_ with your lies, any more!" Here his
rage culminated, and with a blind cry of "Ay!" he struck the paper which he
had kept in his hand into Bartley's face.
The demons, whatever they were, of anger, remorse, pride, shame, were at
work in Bartley's heart too, and he returned the blow as instantly as if
Bird's touch had set the mechanism of his arm in motion. In contempt of
the other's weakness he struck with the flat of his hand; but the blow was
enough. Bird fell headlong, and the concussion of his head upon the floor
did the rest. He lay senseless.
Bartley hung over the boy with such a terror in his soul as he had never
had before. He believed that he had killed him, and in this conviction came
with the simultaneity of events in dreams the sense of all his blame, of
which the blow given for a blow seemed the least part. He was not so wrong
in that as he was wrong in what led to it. He did not abhor in himself so
much the wretch who had struck his brother down as the light and empty fool
who had trifled with that silly hoyden. The follies that seemed so amusing
and resultless in their time had ripened to this bitter effect, and he knew
that he, and not she, was mainly culpable. Her self-betrayal, however it
came about, was proof that they were more serious with her than with him,
and he could not plead to himself even the poor excuse that his fancy
had been caught. Amidst the anguish of his self-condemnation the need to
conceal what he had done occurred to him. He had been holding Bird's head
in his arms, and imploring him, "Henry! Henry! wake up!" in a low, husky
voice; but now he turned to the door and locked it, and the lie by which he
should escape sprang to his tongue. "He died in a fit." He almost believed
it as it murmured itself from his lips. There was no mark, no bruise,
nothing to show that he had touched the boy. Suddenly he felt the lie choke
him. He pulled down the window to let in the fresh air, and this pure
breath of heaven blew into his darkened spirit and lifted there a little
the vapors which were thickening in it. The horror of having to tell that
lie, even if he should escape by it, all his life long, till he was a gray
old man, and to keep the truth forever from his lips, presented itself to
him as intolerable slavery. "Oh, my God!" he spoke aloud, "how can I bear
that?" And it was in self-pity that he revolted from it. Few men love the
truth for its own sake, and Bartley was not one of these; but he practised
it because his experience had been that lies were difficult to manage, and
that they were a burden on the mind. He was not candid; he did not shun
concealments and evasions; but positive lies he had kept from, and now he
could not trust one to save his life. He unlocked the door and ran out to
find help; he must do that at last; he must do it at any risk; no matter
what he said afterward. When our deeds and motives come to be balanced at
the last day, let us hope that mercy, and not justice, may prevail.
It must have been mercy that sent the doctor at that moment to the
apothecary's, on the other side of the street, and enabled Bartley to get
him up into his office, without publicity or explanation other than that
Henry Bird seemed to be in a fit. The doctor lifted the boy's head, and
explored his bosom with his hand.
"Is he--is he dead?" gasped Bartley, and the words came so mechanically
from his tongue that he began to believe he had not spoken them, when the
"No! How did this happen? Tell me exactly."
"We had a quarrel. He struck me. I knocked him down." Bartley delivered up
the truth, as a prisoner of war--or a captive brigand, perhaps--parts with
his weapons one by one.
"Very well," said the doctor. "Get some water."
Bartley poured some out of the pitcher on his table, and the doctor,
wetting his handkerchief, drew it again and again over Bird's forehead.
"I never meant to hurt him," said Bartley. "I didn't even intend to strike
him when he hit me."
"Intentions have very little to do with physical effects," replied the
doctor sharply. "Henry!"
The boy opened his eyes, and, muttering feebly, "My head!" closed them
"There's a concussion here," said the doctor. "We had better get him home.
Drive my sleigh over, will you, from Smith's."
Bartley went out into the glare of the sun, which beat upon him like the
eye of the world. But the street was really empty, as it often was in the
middle of the forenoon at Equity. The apothecary, who saw him untying the
doctor's horse, came to his door, and said jocosely, "Hello, Doc! who's
"I am," said Bartley, solemnly, and the apothecary laughed at his
readiness. Bartley drove round to the back of the printing-office, where
the farmers delivered his wood. "I thought we could get him out better
that way," he explained, and the doctor, who had to befriend a great many
concealments in his practice, silently spared Bartley's disingenuousness.
The rush of the cold air, as they drove rapidly down the street, with that
limp shape between them, revived the boy, and he opened his eyes, and made
an effort to hold himself erect, but he could not; and when they got him
into the warm room at home, he fainted again. His mother had met them at
the door of her poor little house, without any demonstration of grief or
terror; she was far too well acquainted in her widowhood--bereft of all her
children but this son--with sickness and death, to show even surprise, if
she felt it. When Bartley broke out into his lamentable confession, "Oh,
Mrs. Bird! this is _my_ work!" she only wrung her hands and answered,
"_Your_ work! Oh, Mr. Hubbard, he thought the world of _you_!" and did not
ask him how or why he had done it. After they had got Henry on the bed,
Bartley was no longer of use there; but they let him remain in the corner
into which he had shrunk, and from which he watched all that went on, with
a dry mouth and faltering breath. It began to appear to him that he was
very young to be involved in a misfortune like this; he did not understand
why it should have happened to him; but he promised himself that, if Henry
lived, he would try to be a better man in every way.
After he had lost all hope, the time seemed so long, the boy on the bed
opened his eyes once more, and looked round, while Bartley still sat with
his face in his hands. "Where--where is Mr. Hubbard?" he faintly asked,
with a bewildered look at his mother and the doctor.
Bartley heard the weak voice, and staggered forward, and fell on his
knees beside the bed. "Here, here! Here I am, Henry! Oh, Henry, I didn't
intend--" He stopped at the word, and hid his face in the coverlet.
The boy lay as if trying to make out what had happened, and the doctor told
him that he had fainted. After a time, he put out his hand and laid it on
Bartley's head. "Yes; but I don't understand what makes him cry."
They looked at Bartley, who had lifted his head, and he went over the whole
affair, except so far as it related to Hannah Morrison; he did not spare
himself; he had often found that strenuous self-condemnation moved others
to compassion; and besides, it was his nature to seek the relief of full
confession. But Henry heard him through with a blank countenance. "Don't
you remember?" Bartley implored at last.
"No, I don't remember. I only remember that there seemed to be something
the matter with my head this morning."
"That was the trouble with me, too," said Bartley. "I must have been
crazy--I must have been insane--when I struck you. I can't account for it."
"I don't remember it," answered the boy.
"That's all right," said the doctor. "Don't try. I guess you better let him
alone, now," he added to Bartley, with such a significant look that the
young man retired from the bedside, and stood awkwardly apart. "He'll get
along. You needn't be anxious about leaving him. He'll be better alone."
There was no mistaking this hint. "Well, well!" said Bartley, humbly, "I'll
go. But I'd rather stay and watch with him,--I sha'n't eat or sleep till
he's on foot again. And I can't leave till you tell me that you forgive me,
Mrs. Bird. I never dreamed--I didn't intend--" He could not go on.
"I don't suppose you meant to hurt Henry," said the mother. "You always
pretended to be so fond of him, and he thought the world of you. But I
don't see how you could do it. I presume it was all right."
"No, it was all wrong,--or so nearly all wrong that I must ask your
forgiveness on that ground. I loved him,--I thought the world of him, too.
I'd ten thousand times rather have hurt myself," pleaded Bartley. "Don't
let me go till you say that you forgive me."
"I'll see how Henry gets along," said Mrs. Bird. "I don't know as I
could rightly say I forgive you just yet." Doubtless she was dealing
conscientiously with herself and with him. "I like to be sure of a thing
when I say it," she added.
The doctor followed him into the hall, and Bartley could not help turning
to him for consolation. "I think Mrs. Bird is very unjust, Doctor. I've
done everything I could, and said everything to explain the matter; and
I've blamed myself where I can't feel that I was to blame; and yet you see
how she holds out against me."
"I dare say," answered the doctor dryly, "she'll feel differently, as she
says, if the boy gets along."
Bartley dropped his hat to the floor. "Get along! Why--why you think he'll
get well _now_, don't you, Doctor?"
"Oh, yes; I was merely using her words. He'll get well."
"And--and it wont affect his mind, will it? I thought it was very strange,
his not remembering anything about it--"
"That's a very common phenomenon," said the doctor. "The patient usually
forgets everything that occurred for some little time before the accident,
in cases of concussion of the brain." Bartley shuddered at the phrase, but
he could not ask anything further. "What I wanted to say to you," continued
the doctor, "was that this may be a long thing, and there may have to be
an inquiry into it. You're lawyer enough to understand what that means. I
should have to testify to what I know, and I only know what you told me."
"Why, you don't doubt--"
"No, sir; I've no reason to suppose you haven't told me the truth, as far
as it goes. If you have thought it advisable to keep anything back from me,
you may wish to tell the whole story to an attorney."
"I haven't kept anything back, Doctor Wills," said Bartley. "I've told
you everything--everything that concerned the quarrel. That drunken old
scoundrel of a Morrison got us into it. He accused me of making love to his
daughter; and Henry was jealous--I never knew he cared anything for her. I
hated to tell you this before his mother. But this is the whole truth, so
help me God."
"I supposed it was something of the kind," replied the doctor. "I'm sorry
for you. You can't keep it from having an ugly look if it gets out; and it
may have to be made public. I advise you to go and see Squire Gaylord; he's
always stood your friend."
"I--I was just going there," said Bartley; and this was true.
Through all, he had felt the need of some sort of retrieval,--of
re-establishing himself in his own esteem by some signal stroke; and he
could think of but one thing. It was not his fault if he believed that
this must combine self-sacrifice with safety, and the greatest degree of
humiliation with the largest sum of consolation. He was none the less
resolved not to spare himself at all in offering to release Marcia from her
engagement. The fact that he must now also see her father upon the legal
aspect of his case certainly complicated the affair, and detracted from
its heroic quality. He could not tell which to see first, for he naturally
wished his action to look as well as possible; and if he went first to
Marcia, and she condemned him, he did not know in what figure he should
approach her father. If, on the other hand, he went first to Squire
Gaylord, the old lawyer might insist that the engagement was already at an
end by Bartley's violent act, and might well refuse to let a man in his
position even see his daughter. He lagged heavy-heartedly up the middle of
the street, and left the question to solve itself at the last moment. But
when he reached Squire Gaylord's gate, it seemed to him that it would be
easier to face the father first; and this would be the right way too.
He turned aside to the little office, and opened the door without knocking,
and as he stood with the knob in his hand, trying to habituate his eyes,
full of the snow-glare, to the dimmer light within, he heard a rapturous
cry of "Why Bartley!" and he felt Marcia's arms flung around his neck. His
burdened heart yearned upon her with a tenderness he had not known before;
he realized the preciousness of an embrace that might be the last; but he
dared not put down his lips to hers. She pushed back her head in a little
wonder, and saw the haggardness of his face, while he discovered her father
looking at them. How strong and pure the fire in her must be when her
father's presence could not abash her from this betrayal of her love!
Bartley sickened, and he felt her arms slip from his neck. "Why--why--what
is the matter?"
In spite of some vaguely magnanimous intention to begin at the beginning,
and tell the whole affair just as it happened, Bartley found himself
wishing to put the best face on it at first, and trust to chances to make
it all appear well. He did not speak at once, and Marcia pressed him into
a chair, and then, like an eager child, who will not let its friend escape
till it has been told what it wishes to know, she set herself on his knee,
and put her hand on his shoulder. He looked at her father, not at her,
while he spoke hoarsely: "I have had trouble with Henry Bird, Squire
Gaylord, and I've come to tell you about it."
The old squire did not speak, but Marcia repeated in amazement, "With Henry
"He struck me--"
"Henry Bird _struck_ you!" cried the girl. "I should like to know why
Henry Bird struck _you_, when you've made so much of him, and he's always
pretended to be so grateful--"
Bartley still looked at her father. "And I struck him back."
"You did perfectly right, Bartley," exclaimed Marcia, "and I should have
despised you if you had let any one run over you. Struck you! I declare--"
He did not heed her, but continued to look at her father. "I didn't intend
to hurt him,--I hit him with my open hand,--but he fell and struck his head
on the floor. I'm afraid it hurt him pretty badly." He felt the pang that
thrilled through the girl at his words, and her hand trembled on his
shoulder; but she did not take it away.
The old man came forward from the pile of books which he and Marcia had
been dusting, and sat down in a chair on the other side of the stove. He
pushed back his hat from his forehead, and asked drily, "What commenced
Bartley hesitated. It was this part of the affair which he would rather
have imparted to Marcia after seeing it with her father's eyes, or
possibly, if her father viewed it favorably, have had him tell her. The old
man noticed his reluctance. "Hadn't you better go into the house, Marsh?"
She merely gave him a look of utter astonishment for answer, and did not
move. He laughed noiselessly, and said to Bartley, "Go on."
"It was that drunken old scoundrel of a Morrison who began it!" cried
Bartley, in angry desperation. Marcia dropped her hand from his shoulder,
while her father worked his jaws upon the bit of stick he had picked up
from the pile of wood, and put between his teeth. "You know that whenever
he gets on a spree he comes to the office and wants Hannah's wages raised."
Marcia sprang to her feet. "Oh, I knew it! I knew it! I told you she would
get you into trouble! I told you so!" She stood clinching her hands,
and her father bent his keen scrutiny first upon her, and then upon the
frowning face with which Bartley regarded her.
"Did he come to have her wages raised to-day?"
"What did he come for?" He involuntarily assumed the attitude of a lawyer
crossquestioning a slippery witness.
"He came for--He came--He accused me of--He said I had--made love to his
"What made him think you had?"
"It wasn't necessary for him to have any reason. He was drunk. I had been
kind to the girl, and favored her all I could, because she seemed to be
anxious to do her work well; and I praised her for trying."
"Um-umph," commented the Squire. "And that made Henry Bird jealous?"
"It seems that he was fond of her. I never dreamed of such a thing, and
when I put old Morrison out of the office, and came back, he called me a
liar, and struck me in the face." He did not lift his eyes to the level of
Marcia's, who in her gray dress stood there like a gray shadow, and did not
stir or speak.
"And you never had made up to the girl at all?"
"Kissed her, I suppose, now and then?" suggested the Squire.
Bartley did not reply.
"Flattered her up, and told how much you thought of her, occasionally?"
"I don't see what that has to do with it," said Bartley with a sulky
"No, I suppose it's what you'd do with most any pretty girl," returned the
Squire. He was silent awhile. "And so you knocked Henry down. What happened
"I tried to bring him to, and then I went for the doctor. He revived, and
we got him home to his mother's. The doctor says he will get well; but he
advised me to come and see you."
"Any witnesses of the assault?"
"No; we were alone in my own room."
"Told any one else about it?"
"I told the doctor and Mrs. Bird. Henry couldn't remember it at all."
"Couldn't remember about Morrison, or what made him mad at you?"
"And that's all about it?"
The two men had talked across the stove at each other, practically ignoring
the girl, who stood apart from them, gray in the face as her dress, and
suppressing a passion which had turned her as rigid as stone.
"Now, Marcia," said her father, kindly, "better go into the house. That's
all there is of it."
"No, that isn't all," she answered. "Give me my ring, Bartley. Here's
yours." She slipped it off her finger, and put it into his mechanically
"Marcia!" he implored, confronting her.
"Give me my ring, please."
He obeyed, and put it into her hand. She slipped it back on the finger from
which she had so fondly suffered him to take it yesterday, and replace it
with his own.
"I'll go into the house now, father. Good by, Bartley." Her eyes were
perfectly clear and dry, and her voice controlled; and as he stood passive
before her, she took him round the neck, and pressed against his face,
once, and twice, and thrice, her own gray face, in which all love, and
unrelenting, and despair, were painted. Once and again she held him, and
looked him in the eyes, as if to be sure it was he. Then, with a last
pressure of her face to his, she released him, and passed out of the door.
"She's been talking about you, here, all the morning," said the Squire,
with a sort of quiet absence, as if nothing in particular had happened, and
he were commenting on a little fact that might possibly interest Bartley.
He ruminated upon the fragment of wood in his mouth awhile before he added:
"I guess she won't want to talk about you any more. I drew you out a little
on that Hannah Morrison business, because I wanted her to understand just
what kind of fellow you were. You see it isn't the trouble you've got into
with Henry Bird that's killed her; it's the cause of the trouble. I guess
if it had been anything else, she'd have stood by you. But you see that's
the one thing she couldn't bear, and I'm glad it's happened now instead of
afterwards: I guess you're one of that _kind_, Mr. Hubbard."
"Squire Gaylord!" cried Bartley, "upon my sacred word of honor, there isn't
any more of this thing than I've told you. And I think it's pretty hard to
be thrown over for--for--"
"Fooling with a pretty girl, when you get a chance, and the girl seems to
like it? Yes, it _is_ rather hard. And I suppose you haven't even seen her
since you were engaged to Marcia?"
"Of course not! That is--"
"It's a kind of retroactive legislation on Marcia's part," said the Squire,
rubbing his chin, "and that's against one of the first principles of law.
But women don't seem to be able to grasp that idea. They're queer about
some things. They appear to think they marry a man's whole life,--his past
as well as his future,--and that makes 'em particular. And they distinguish
between different kinds of men. You'll find 'em pinning their faith to a
fellow who's been through pretty much everything, and swearing by him from
the word go; and another chap, who's never _done_ anything very bad, they
won't trust half a minute out of their sight. Well, I guess Marcia _is_ of
rather a jealous disposition," he concluded, as if Bartley had urged this
"She's very unjust to me," Bartley began.
"Oh, yes,--she's _unjust_," said her father. "I don't deny that. But it
wouldn't be any use talking to her. She'd probably turn round with some
excuse about what she had suffered, and that would be the end of it. She
would say that she couldn't go through it again. Well, it ought to be a
comfort to you to think you don't care a great deal about it."
"But I _do_ care!" exclaimed Bartley. "I care all the world for it. I--"
"Since when?" interrupted the Squire. "Do you mean to say that you didn't
know till you asked her yesterday that Marcia was in love with you?"
Bartley was silent.
"I guess you knew it as much as a year ago, didn't you? Everybody else did.
But you'd just as soon it had been Hannah Morrison, or any other pretty
girl. _You_ didn't care! But Marcia did, you see. She wasn't one of the
kind that let any good-looking fellow make love to them. It was because
it was _you_; and you knew it. We're plain men, Mr. Hubbard; and I guess
you'll get over this, in time. I shouldn't wonder if you began to mend,
Bartley found himself helpless in the face of this passionless sarcasm. He
could have met stormy indignation or any sort of invective in kind; but
the contemptuous irony with which his pretensions were treated, the cold
scrutiny with which his motives were searched, was something he could not
meet. He tried to pull himself together for some sort of protest, but
he ended by hanging his head in silence. He always believed that Squire
Gaylord had liked him, and here he was treating him like his bitterest
enemy, and seeming to enjoy his misery. He could not understand it; he
thought it extremely unjust, and past all the measure of his offence. This
was true, perhaps: but it is doubtful if Bartley would have accepted
any suffering, no matter how nicely proportioned, in punishment of his
wrong-doing. He sat hanging his head, and taking his pain in rebellious
silence, with a gathering hate in his heart for the old man.
"M-well!" said the Squire, at last, rising from his chair, "I guess I must
Bartley sprang to his feet aghast. "You're not going to leave me in the
lurch, are you? You're not--"
"Oh, I shall take care of you, young man,--don't be afraid. I've stood your
friend too long, and your name's been mixed up too much with my girl's, for
me to let you come to shame openly, if I can help it. I'm going to see Dr.
Wills about you, and I'm going to see Mrs. Bird, and try to patch it up
"And--and--where shall I go?" gasped Bartley.
"You might go to the Devil, for all I cared for you," said the old man,
with the contempt which he no longer cared to make ironical. "But I guess
you better go back to your office, and go to work as if nothing had
happened--till something does happen. I shall close the paper out as soon
as I can. I was thinking of doing that just before you came in. I was
thinking of taking you into the law business with me. Marcia and I were
talking about it here. But I guess you wouldn't like the idea now."
He seemed to get a bitter satisfaction out of these mockeries, from which,
indeed, he must have suffered quite as much as Bartley. But he ended, sadly
and almost compassionately, with, "Come, come! You must start some time."
And Bartley dragged his leaden weight out of the door. The Squire closed it
after him; but he did not accompany him down the street. It was plain that
he did not wish to be any longer alone with Bartley, and the young man
suspected, with a sting of shame, that he scorned to be seen with him.
The more Bartley dwelt upon his hard case, during the week that followed,
the more it appeared to him that he was punished out of all proportion to
his offence. He was in no mood to consider such mercies as that he had been
spared from seriously hurting Bird; and that Squire Gaylord and Doctor
Wills had united with Henry's mother in saving him from open disgrace. The
physician, indeed, had perhaps indulged a professional passion for hushing
the matter up, rather than any pity for Bartley. He probably had the
scientific way of looking at such questions; and saw much physical cause
for moral effects. He refrained, with the physician's reticence, from
inquiring into the affair; but he would not have thought Bartley without
excuse under the circumstances. In regard to the relative culpability in
matters of the kind, his knowledge of women enabled him to take much the
view of the woman's share that other women take.
But Bartley was ignorant of the doctor's leniency, and associated him with
Squire Gaylord in the feeling that made his last week in Equity a period of
social outlawry. There were moments in which he could not himself escape
the same point of view. He could rebel against the severity of the
condemnation he had fallen under in the eyes of Marcia and her father; he
could, in the light of example and usage, laugh at the notion of harm in
his behavior to Hannah Morrison; yet he found himself looking at it as a
treachery to Marcia. Certainly, she had no right to question his conduct
before his engagement. Yet, if he knew that Marcia loved him, and was
waiting with life-and-death anxiety for some word of love from him, it was
cruelly false to play with another at the passion which was such a tragedy
to her. This was the point that, put aside however often, still presented
itself, and its recurrence, if he could have known it, was mercy and
reprieve from the only source out of which these could come.
Hannah Morrison did not return to the printing-office, and Bird was still
sick, though it was now only a question of time when he should be out
again. Bartley visited him some hours every day, and sat and suffered under
the quiet condemnation of his mother's eyes. She had kept Bartley's secret
with the same hardness with which she had refused him her forgiveness, and
the village had settled down into an ostensible acceptance of the theory of
a faint as the beginning of Bird's sickness, with such other conjectures
as the doctor freely permitted each to form. Bartley found his chief
consolation in the work which kept him out of the way of a great deal of
question. He worked far into the night, as he must, to make up for the
force that was withdrawn from the office. At the same time he wrote more
than ever in the paper, and he discovered in himself that dual life of
which every one who sins or sorrows is sooner or later aware: that strange
separation of the intellectual activity from the suffering of the soul, by
which the mind toils on in a sort of ironical indifference to the pangs
that wring the heart; the realization that, in some ways, his brain can get
on perfectly well without his conscience.
There was a great deal of sympathy felt for Bartley at this time, and his
popularity in Equity was never greater than now when his life there was
drawing to a close. The spectacle of his diligence was so impressive that
when, on the following Sunday, the young minister who had succeeded to the
pulpit of the orthodox church preached a sermon on the beauty of industry
from the text "Consider the lilies," there were many who said that they
thought of Bartley the whole while, and one--a lady--asked Mr. Savin if
he did not have Mr. Hubbard in mind in the picture he drew of the Heroic
Worker. They wished that Bartley could have heard that sermon.
Marcia had gone away early in the week to visit in the town where she used
to go to school, and Bartley took her going away as a sign that she wished
to put herself wholly beyond his reach, or any danger of relenting at sight
of him. He talked with no one about her; and going and coming irregularly
to his meals, and keeping himself shut up in his room when he was not
at work, he left people very little chance to talk with him. But they
conjectured that he and Marcia had an understanding; and some of the ladies
used such scant opportunity as he gave them to make sly allusions to her
absence and his desolate condition. They were confirmed in their surmise by
the fact, known from actual observation, that Bartley had not spoken a word
to any other young lady since Marcia went away.
"Look here, my friend," said the philosopher from, the logging-camp, when
he came in for his paper on the Tuesday afternoon following, "seems to me
from what I hear tell around here, you're tryin' to kill yourself on this
newspaper. Now, it won't do; I tell you it won't do."
Bartley was addressing for the mail the papers which one of the girls
was folding. "What are you going to do about it?" he demanded of his
sympathizer with whimsical sullenness, not troubling himself to look up at
"Well, I haint exactly settled yet," replied the philosopher, who was of
a tall, lank figure, and of a mighty brown beard. "But I've been around
pretty much everywhere, and I find that about the poorest use you can put a
man to is to kill him."
"It depends a good deal on the man," said Bartley. "But that's stale,
Kinney. It's the old formula of the anti-capital-punishment fellows. Try
something else. They're not talking of hanging me yet." He kept on writing,
and the philosopher stood over him with a humorous twinkle of enjoyment at
"Well, I'll allow it's old," he admitted. "So's Homer."
"Yes; but you don't pretend that you wrote Homer."
Kinney laughed mightily; then he leaned forward, and slapped Bartley on the
shoulder with his newspaper. "Look here!" he exclaimed, "I _like_ you!"
"Oh, try some other tack! Lots of fellows like me." Bartley kept on
writing. "I gave you your paper, didn't I, Kinney?"
"You mean that you want me to get out?"
"Far be it from me to say so."
This delighted Kinney as much as the last refinement of hospitality would
have pleased another man. "Look here!" he said, "I want you should come out
and see our camp. I can't fool away any more time on you here; but I want
you should come out and see us. Give you something to write about. Hey?"
"The invitation comes at a time when circumstances over which I have no
control oblige me to decline it. I admire your prudence, Kinney."
"No, honest Injian, now," protested Kinney. "Take a day off, and fill up
with dead advertisements. That's the way they used to do out in Alkali City
when they got short of help on the Eagle, and we liked it just as well."
"Now you are talking sense," said Bartley, looking up at him. "How far is
it to your settlement?"
"Two miles, if you're goin'; three and a half, if you aint."
"When are you coming in?"
"I'm in, now."
"I can't go with you to-day."
"Well, how'll to-morrow morning suit?"
"To-morrow morning will suit," said Bartley.
"All right. If anybody comes to see the editor to-morrow morning, Marilla,"
said Kinney to the girl, "you tell 'em he's sick, and gone a-loggin', and
won't be back till Saturday. Say," he added, laying his hand on Bartley's
shoulder, "you aint foolin'?"
"If I am," replied Bartley, "just mention it."
"Good!" said Kinney. "To-morrow it is, then."
Bartley finished addressing the newspapers, and then he put them up in
wrappers and packages for the mail. "You can go, now, Marilla," he said to
the girl. "I'll leave some copy for you and Kitty; you'll find it on my
table in the morning."
"All right," answered the girl.
Bartley went to his supper, which he ate with more relish than he had
felt for his meals since his troubles began, and he took part in the
supper-table talk with something of his old audacity. The change interested
the lady boarders, and they agreed that he must have had a letter. He
returned to his office, and worked till nine o'clock, writing and selecting
matter out of his exchanges. He spent most of the time in preparing the
funny column, which was a favorite feature in the Free Press. Then he put
the copy where the girls would find it in the morning, and, leaving the
door unlocked, took his way up the street toward Squire Gaylord's.
He knew that he should find the lawyer in his office, and he opened the
office door without knocking, and went in. He had not met Squire Gaylord
since the morning of his dismissal, and the old man had left him for the
past eight days without any sign as to what he expected of Bartley, or of
what he intended to do in his affair.
They looked at each other, but exchanged no sort of greeting, as Bartley,
unbidden, took a chair on the opposite side of the stove; the Squire did
not put down the book he had been reading.
"I've come to see what you're going to do about the Free Press," said
The old man rubbed his bristling jaw, that seemed even lanker than when
Bartley saw it last. He waited almost a minute before he replied, "I don't
know as I've got any call to tell you."
"Then I'll tell you what _I'm_ going to do about it," retorted Bartley.
"I'm going to leave it. I've done my last day's work on that paper. Do you
think," he cried, angrily, "that I'm going to keep on in the dark, and let
you consult your pleasure as to my future? No, sir! You don't know your man
quite, Mr. Gaylord!"
"You've got over your scare," said the lawyer.
"I've got over my scare," Bartley retorted.
"And you think, because you're not afraid any longer, that you're out of
danger. I know my man as well as you do, I guess."
"If you think I care for the danger, I don't. You may do what you please.
Whatever you do, I shall know it isn't out of kindness for me. I didn't
believe from the first that the law could touch me, and I wasn't uneasy on
that account. But I didn't want to involve myself in a public scandal, for
Miss Gaylord's sake. Miss Gaylord has released me from any obligations to
her; and now you may go ahead and do what you like." Each of the men knew
how much truth there was in this; but for the moment in his anger, Bartley
believed himself sincere, and there is no question but his defiance was
so. Squire Gaylord made him no answer, and after a minute of expectation
Bartley added, "At any rate, I've done with the Free Press. I advise you to
stop the paper, and hand the office over to Henry Bird, when he gets about.
I'm going out to Willett's logging-camp tomorrow, and I'm coming back to
Equity on Saturday. You'll know where to find me till then, and after that
you may look me up if you want me."
He rose to go, but stopped with his hand on the door-knob, at a sound,
preliminary to speaking, which the old man made in his throat. Bartley
stopped, hoping for a further pretext of quarrel, but the lawyer merely
asked, "Where's the key?"
"It's in the office door."
The old man now looked at him as if he no longer saw him, and Bartley went
out, balked of his purpose in part, and in that degree so much the more
Squire Gaylord remained an hour longer; then he blew out his lamp, and left
the little office for the night. A light was burning in the kitchen, and he
made his way round to the back door of the house, and let himself in. His
wife was there, sitting before the stove, in those last delicious moments
before going to bed, when all the house is mellowed to such a warmth that
it seems hard to leave it to the cold and dark. In this poor lady, who
had so long denied herself spiritual comfort, there was a certain obscure
luxury: she liked little dainties of the table; she liked soft warmth, an
easy cushion. It was doubtless in the disintegration of the finer qualities
of her nature, that, as they grew older together, she threw more and more
the burden of acute feeling upon her husband, to whose doctrine of life she
had submitted, but had never been reconciled. Marriage is, with all its
disparities, a much more equal thing than appears, and the meek little
wife, who has all the advantage of public sympathy, knows her power over
her oppressor, and at some tender spot in his affections or his nerves can
inflict an anguish that will avenge her for years of coarser aggression.
Thrown in upon herself in so vital a matter as her religion, Mrs. Gaylord
had involuntarily come to live largely for herself, though her talk was
always of her husband. She gave up for him, as she believed, her soul's
salvation, but she held him to account for the uttermost farthing of
the price. She padded herself round at every point where she could have
suffered through her sensibilities, and lived soft and snug in the shelter
of his iron will and indomitable courage. It was not apathy that she
had felt when their children died one after another, but an obscure and
formless exultation that Mr. Gaylord would suffer enough for both.
Marcia was the youngest, and her mother left her training almost wholly
to her father; she sometimes said that she never supposed the child would
live. She did not actually urge this in excuse, but she had the appearance
of doing so; and she held aloof from them both in their mutual relations,
with mildly critical reserves. They spoiled each other, as father and
daughter are apt to do when left to themselves. What was good in the child
certainly received no harm from his indulgence; and what was naughty was
after all not so very naughty. She was passionate, but she was generous;
and if she showed a jealous temperament that must hereafter make her
unhappy, for the time being it charmed and flattered her father to have her
so fond of him that she could not endure any rivalry in his affection.
Her education proceeded fitfully. He would not let her be forced to
household tasks that she disliked; and as a little girl she went to school
chiefly because she liked to go, and not because she would have been
obliged to it if she had not chosen. When she grew older, she wished to go
away to school, and her father allowed her; he had no great respect for
boarding-schools, but if Marcia wanted to try it, he was willing to humor
What resulted was a great proficiency in the things that pleased her, and
ignorance of the other things. Her father bought her a piano, on which she
did not play much, and he bought her whatever dresses she fancied. He never
came home from a journey without bringing her something; and he liked to
take her with him when he went away to other places. She had been several
times at Portland, and once at Montreal; he was very proud of her; he could
not see that any one was better-looking, or dressed any better than his
He came into the kitchen, and sat down with his hat on, and, taking his
chin between his fingers, moved uneasily about on his chair.
"What's brought you in so early?" asked his wife.
"Well, I got through," he briefly explained. After a while he said,
"Bartley Hubbard's been out there."
"You don't mean 't he knew she--"
"No, he didn't know anything about that. He came to tell me he was going
"Well, I don't know what you're going to do, Mr. Gaylord," said his wife,
shifting the responsibility wholly upon him. "'D he seem to want to make it
"M-no!" said the Squire, "he was on his high horse. He knows he aint in any
"Aint you afraid she'll carry on dreadfully, when she finds out 't he's
gone for good?" asked Mrs. Gaylord, with a sort of implied satisfaction
that the carrying on was not to affect her.
"M-yes," said the Squire, "I suppose she'll carry on. But I don't know what
to do about it. Sometimes I almost wish I'd tried to make it up between 'em
that day; but I thought she'd better see, once for all, what sort of man
she was going in for, if she married him. It's too late now to do anything.
The fellow came in to-night for a quarrel, and nothing else; I could see
that; and I didn't give him any chance."
"You feel sure," asked Mrs. Gaylord, impartially, "that Marcia wa'n't too
"No, Miranda, I don't feel sure of anything, except that it's past your
bed-time. You better go. I'll sit up awhile yet. I came in because I
couldn't settle my mind to anything out there."
He took off his hat in token of his intending to spend the rest of the
evening at home, and put it on the table at his elbow.
His wife sewed at the mending in her lap, without offering to act upon his
suggestion. "It's plain to be seen that she can't get along without him."
"She'll have to, now," replied the Squire.
"I'm afraid," said Mrs. Gaylord, softly, "that she'll be down sick. She
don't look as if she'd slept any great deal since she's been gone. I d'
know as I like very much to see her looking the way she does. I guess
you've got to take her off somewheres."
"Why, she's just been off, and couldn't stay!"
"That's because she thought he was here yet. But if he's gone, it won't be
the same thing."
"Well, we've got to fight it out, some way," said the Squire. "It wouldn't
do to give in to it now. It always _was_ too much of a one-sided thing,
at the best; and if we tried now to mend it up, it would be ridiculous. I
don't believe he would come back at all, now, and if he did, he wouldn't
come back on any equal terms. He'd want to have everything his own way.
M-no!" said the Squire, as if confirming himself in a conclusion often
reached already in his own mind, "I saw by the way he began to-night that
there wasn't anything to be done with him. It was fight from the word go."
"Well," said Mrs. Gaylord, with gentle, sceptical interest in the outcome,
"if you've made up your mind to that, I hope you'll be able to carry it
"That's what I've made up my mind to," said her husband.
Mrs. Gaylord rolled up the sewing in her work-basket, and packed it away
against the side, bracing it with several pairs of newly darned socks and
stockings neatly folded one into the other. She took her time for this,
and when she rose at last to go out, with her basket in her hand, the door
opened in her face, and Marcia entered. Mrs. Gaylord shrank back, and then
slipped round behind her daughter and vanished. The girl took no notice of
her mother, but went and sat down on her father's knee, throwing her arms
round his neck, and dropping her haggard face on his shoulder. She had
arrived at home a few hours earlier, having driven over from a station ten
miles distant, on a road that did not pass near Equity. After giving as
much of a shock to her mother's mild nature as it was capable of receiving
by her unexpected return, she had gone to her own room, and remained ever
since without seeing her father. He put up his thin old hand and passed it
over her hair, but it was long before either of them spoke.
At last Marcia lifted her head, and looked her father in the face with a
smile so pitiful that he could not bear to meet it. "Well, father?" she
"Well, Marsh," he answered huskily. "What do you think of me now?"
"I'm glad to have you back again," he replied.
"You know why I came?"
"Yes, I guess I know."
She put down her head again, and moaned and cried, "Father! Father!" with
dry sobs. When she looked up, confronting him with her tearless eyes, "What
shall I do? What shall I do?" she demanded desolately.
He tried to clear his throat to speak, but it required more than one effort
to bring the words. "I guess you better go along with me up to Boston. I'm
going up the first of the week."
"No," she said quietly.
"The change would do you good. It's a long while since you've been away
from home," her father urged.
She looked at him in sad reproach of his uncandor. "You know there's
nothing the matter with me, father. You know what the trouble is." He
was silent. He could not face the trouble. "I've heard people talk of a
heartache," she went on. "I never believed there was really such a thing.
But I know there is, now. There's a pain here." She pressed her hand
against her breast. "It's sore with aching. What shall I do? I shall have
to live through it somehow."
"If you don't feel exactly well," said her father "I guess you better see
"What shall I tell him is the matter with me? That I want Bartley Hubbard?"
He winced at the words, but she did not. "He knows that already. Everybody
in town does. It's never been any secret. I couldn't hide it, from the
first day I saw him. I'd just as lief as not they should say I was dying
for him. I shall not care what they say when I'm dead."
"You'd oughtn't,--you'd oughtn't to talk that way, Marcia," said her
"What difference?" she demanded, scornfully. There was truly no difference,
so far as concerned any creed of his, and he was too honest to make further
pretence. "What shall I do?" she went on again. "I've thought of praying;
but what would be the use?"
"I've never denied that there was a God, Marcia," said her father.
"Oh, I know. _That_ kind of God! Well, well! I know that I talk like a
crazy person! Do you suppose it was providential, my being with you in the
office that morning when Bartley came in?"
"No," said her father, "I don't. I think it was an accident."
"Mother said it was providential, my finding him out before it was too
"I think it was a good thing. The fellow has the making of a first-class
scoundrel in him."
"Do you think he's a scoundrel now?" she asked quietly.
"He hasn't had any great opportunity yet," said the old man,
conscientiously sparing him.
"Well, then, I'm sorry I found him out. Yes! If I hadn't, I might have
married him, and perhaps if I had died soon I might never have found him
out. He could have been good to me a year or two, and then, if I died, I
should have been safe. Yes, I wish he could have deceived me till after we
were married. Then I _couldn't_ have borne to give him up, may be."
"You _would_ have given him up, even then. And that's the only thing that
reconciles me to it now. I'm sorry for you, my girl; but you'd have made me
sorrier then. Sooner or later he'd have broken your heart."
"He's broken it now," said the girl, calmly.
"Oh, no, he hasn't," replied her father, with a false cheerfulness that did
not deceive her. "You're young and you'll get over it. I mean to take you
away from here for a while. I mean to take you up to Boston, and on to
New York. I shouldn't care if we went as far as Washington. I guess, when
you've seen a little more of the world, you won't think Bartley Hubbard's
the only one in it."
She looked at him so intently that he thought she must be pleased at his
proposal. "Do you think I could get him back?" she asked.
Her father lost his patience; it was a relief to be angry. "No, I don't
think so. I know you couldn't. And you ought to be ashamed of mentioning
such a thing!"
"Oh, ashamed! No, I've got past that. I have no shame any more where he's
concerned. Oh, I'd give the world if I could call him back,--if I could
only undo what I did! I was wild; I wasn't reasonable; I wouldn't listen to
him. I drove him away without giving him a chance to say a word! Of course,
he must hate me now. What makes you think he wouldn't come back?" she
"I know he wouldn't," answered her father, with a sort of groan. "He's
going to leave Equity for one thing, and--"
"Going to leave Equity," she repeated, absently Then he felt her tremble.
"How do you know he's going?" She turned upon her father, and fixed him
sternly with her eyes.
"Do you suppose he would stay, after what's happened, any longer than he
"How do you know he's going?" she repeated.
"He told me."
She stood up. "He told you? When?"
"Why, where--where did you see him?" she whispered.
"In the office."
"Since--since--I came? Bartley been here! And you didn't tell me,--you
didn't let me know?" They looked at each other in silence. At last, "When
is he going?" she asked.
She sat down in the chair which her mother had left, and clutched the back
of another, on which her fingers opened and closed convulsively, while she
caught her breath in irregular gasps. She broke into a low moaning, at
last, the expression of abject defeat in the struggle she had waged with
herself. Her father watched her with dumb compassion. "Better go to bed,
Marcia," he said, with the same dry calm as if he had been sending her away
after some pleasant evening which she had suffered to run too far into the
"Don't you think--don't you think--he'll have to see you again before he
goes?" she made out to ask.
"No; he's finished up with me," said the old man.
"Well, then," she cried, desperately, "you'll have to go to him, father,
and get him to come! I can't help it! I can't give him up! You've got to go
to him, now, father,--yes, yes, you have! You've got to go and tell him. Go
and get him to come, for _mercy's_ sake! Tell him that I'm sorry,--that I
beg his pardon,--that I didn't think--I didn't understand,--that I knew he
didn't do anything wrong--" She rose, and, placing her hand on her father's
shoulder, accented each entreaty with a little push.
He looked up into her face with a haggard smile of sympathy. "You're crazy,
Marcia," he said, gently.
"Don't laugh!" she cried. "I'm not crazy now. But I was, then,--yes, stark,
staring crazy. Look here, father! I want to tell you,--I want to explain to
you!" She dropped upon his knee again, and tremblingly passed her arm round
his neck. "You see, I had just told him the day before that I shouldn't
care for anything that happened before we were engaged, and then at the
very first thing I went and threw him off! And I had no right to do it. He
knows that, and that's what makes him so hard towards me. But if you go and
tell him that I see now I was all wrong, and that I beg his pardon, and
then ask him to give me _one_ more trial, just one _more_--You can do as
much as that for me, can't you?"
"Oh, you poor, crazy girl!" groaned her father. "Don't you see that the
trouble is in what the fellow _is_, and not in any particular thing that
he's done? He's a scamp, through and through; and he's all the more a scamp
when he doesn't know it. He hasn't got the first idea of anything but
"No, no! Now, I'll tell you,--now, I'll prove it to you. That very Sunday
when we were out riding together; and we met her and her mother, and their
sleigh upset, and he had to lift her back; and it made me wild to see him,
and I wouldn't hardly touch him or speak to him afterwards, he didn't say
one angry word to me. He just pulled me up to him, and wouldn't let me be
mad; and he said that night he didn't mind it a bit because it showed how
much I liked him. Now, doesn't that prove he's good,--a good deal better
than I am, and that he'll forgive me, if you'll go and ask him? I know he
isn't in bed yet; he always sits up late,--he told me so; and you'll find
him there in his room. Go straight to his room, father; don't let anybody
see you down in the office; I couldn't bear it; and slip out with him as
quietly as you can. But, oh, do hurry now! Don't lose another minute!"
The wild joy sprang into her face, as her father rose; a joy that it was
terrible to him to see die out of it as he spoke: "I tell you it's no use,
Marcia! He wouldn't come if I went to him--"
"Oh, yes,--yes, he would! I know he would! If--"
"He wouldn't! You're mistaken! I should have to get down in the dust for
nothing. He's a bad fellow, I tell you; and you've got to give him up."
"You hate me!" cried the girl. The old man walked to and fro, clutching his
hands. Their lives had always been in such intimate sympathy, his life had
so long had her happiness for its sole pleasure, that the pang in her heart
racked his with as sharp an agony. "Well, I shall die; and then I hope you
will be satisfied."
"Marcia, Marcia!" pleaded her father. "You don't know what you're saying."
"You're letting him go away from me,--you're letting me lose him,--you're
"He wouldn't come, my girl. It would be perfectly useless to go to him.
You _must_--you _must_ try to control yourself, Marcia. There's no other
way,--there's no other hope. You're disgraceful. You ought to be ashamed.
You ought to have some pride about you. I don't know what's come over you
since you've been with that fellow. You seem to be out of your senses. But
try,--try, my girl, to get over it. If you'll fight it, you'll conquer yet.
You've got a spirit for anything. And I'll help you, Marcia. I'll take you
anywhere. I'll do anything for you--"
"You wouldn't go to him, and ask him to come here, if it would save his
"No," said the old man, with a desperate quiet, "I wouldn't."
She stood looking at him, and then she sank suddenly and straight down, as
if she were sinking through the floor. When he lifted her, he saw that she
was in a dead faint, and while the swoon lasted would be out of her misery.
The sight of this had wrung him so that he had a kind of relief in looking
at her lifeless face; and he was slow in laying her down again, like one
that fears to wake a sleeping child. Then he went to the foot of the
stairs, and softly called to his wife: "Miranda! Miranda!"
Kinney came into town the next morning bright and early, as he phrased it;
but he did not stop at the hotel for Bartley till nine o'clock. "Thought
I'd give you time for breakfast," he exclaimed, "and so I didn't hurry up
any about gettin' in my supplies."
It was a beautiful morning, so blindingly sunny that Bartley winked as they
drove up through the glistening street, and was glad to dip into the gloom
of the first woods; it was not cold; the snow felt the warmth, and packed
moistly under their runners. The air was perfectly still; at a distance on
the mountain-sides it sparkled as if full of diamond dust. Far overhead
some crows called.
"The sun's getting high," said Bartley, with the light sigh of one to whom
the thought of spring brings no hope.
"Well, I shouldn't begin to plough for corn just yet," replied Kinney.
"It's curious," he went on, "to see how anxious we are to have a thing
over, it don't much matter what it is, whether it's summer or winter. I
suppose we'd feel different if we wa'n't sure there was going to be another
of 'em. I guess that's one reason why the Lord concluded not to keep us
clearly posted on the question of another life. If it wa'n't for the
uncertainty of the thing, there are a lot of fellows like you that
wouldn't stand it here a minute. Why, if we had a dead sure thing of
over-the-river,--good climate, plenty to eat and wear, and not much to
do,--I don't believe any of us would keep Darling Minnie waiting,--well,
a _great_ while. But you see, the thing's all on paper, and that makes us
cautious, and willing to hang on here awhile longer. Looks splendid on the
map: streets regularly laid out; public squares; band-stands; churches;
solid blocks of houses, with all the modern improvements; but you can't
tell whether there's any town there till you're on the ground; and then, if
you don't like it, there's no way of gettin' back to the States." He turned
round upon Bartley and opened his mouth wide, to imply that this was
"Do you throw your philosophy in, all under the same price, Kinney?" asked
the young fellow.
"Well, yes; I never charge anything over," said Kinney. "You see, I have
a good deal of time to think when I'm around by myself all day, and the
philosophy don't cost me anything, and the fellows like it. Roughing it the
way they do, they can stand 'most anything. Hey?" He now not only opened
his mouth upon Bartley, but thrust him in the side with his elbow, and then
Kinney was the cook. He had been over pretty nearly the whole uninhabitable
globe, starting as a gaunt and awkward boy from the Maine woods, and
keeping until he came back to them in late middle-life the same gross and
ridiculous optimism. He had been at sea, and shipwrecked on several islands
in the Pacific; he had passed a rainy season at Panama, and a yellow-fever
season at Vera Cruz, and had been carried far into the interior of Peru by
a tidal wave during an earthquake season; he was in the Border Ruffian War
of Kansas, and he clung to California till prosperity deserted her after
the completion of the Pacific road. Wherever he went, he carried or found
adversity; but, with a heart fed on the metaphysics of Horace Greeley, and
buoyed up by a few wildly interpreted maxims of Emerson, he had always
believed in other men, and their fitness for the terrestrial millennium,
which was never more than ten days or ten miles off. It is not necessary to
say that he had continued as poor as he began, and that he was never able
to contribute to those railroads, mills, elevators, towns, and cities which
were sure to be built, sir, sure to be built, wherever he went. When he
came home at last to the woods, some hundreds of miles north of Equity, he
found that some one had realized his early dream of a summer hotel on the
shore of the beautiful lake there; and he unenviously settled down to
admire the landlord's thrift, and to act as guide and cook for parties of
young ladies and gentlemen who started from the hotel to camp in the woods.
This brought him into the society of cultivated people, for which he had a
real passion. He had always had a few thoughts rattling round in his skull,
and he liked to make sure of them in talk with those who had enjoyed
greater advantages than himself. He never begrudged them their luck;
he simply and sweetly admired them; he made studies of their several
characters, and was never tired of analyzing them to their advantage to the
next summer's parties. Late in the fall, he went in, as it is called, with
a camp of loggers, among whom he rarely failed to find some remarkable men.
But he confessed that he did not enjoy the steady three or four months in
the winter woods with no coming out at all till spring; and he had been
glad of this chance in a logging camp near Equity, in which he had been
offered the cook's place by the owner who had tested his fare in the
Northern woods the summer before. Its proximity to the village allowed him
to loaf in upon civilization at least once a week, and he spent the greater
part of his time at the Free Press office on publication day. He had always
sought the society of newspaper men, and, wherever he could, he had given
them his. He was not long in discovering that Bartley was smart as a steel
trap; and by an early and natural transition from calling the young lady
compositors by their pet names, and patting them on their shoulders, he had
arrived at a like affectionate intimacy with Bartley.
As they worked deep into the woods on their way to the camp, the road
dwindled to a well-worn track between the stumps and bushes. The ground was
rough, and they constantly plunged down the slopes of little hills, and
climbed the sides of the little valleys, and from time to time they had
to turn out for teams drawing logs to the mills in Equity, each with its
equipage of four or five wild young fellows, who saluted Kinney with an
ironical cheer or jovial taunt in passing.
"They're all just so," he explained, with pride, when the last party had
passed. "They're gentlemen, every one of 'em,--perfect gentlemen."
They came at last to a wider clearing than any they had yet passed through,
and here on a level of the hillside stretched the camp, a long, low
structure of logs, with the roof broken at one point by a stovepipe, and
the walls irregularly pierced by small windows; around it crouched and
burrowed in the drift the sheds that served as stables and storehouses.
The sun shone, and shone with dazzling brightness, upon the opening; the
sound of distant shouts and the rhythmical stroke of axes came to it out of
the forest; but the camp was deserted, and in the stillness Kinney's voice
seemed strange and alien. "Walk in, walk in!" he said, hospitably. "I've
got to look after my horse."
But Bartley remained at the door, blinking in the sunshine, and harking to
the near silence that sang in his ears. A curious feeling possessed him;
sickness of himself as of some one else; a longing, consciously helpless,
to be something different; a sense of captivity to habits and thoughts and
hopes that centred in himself, and served him alone.
"Terribly peaceful around here," said Kinney, coming back to him, and
joining him in a survey of the landscape, with his hands on his hips, and a
stem of timothy projecting from his lips.
"Yes, terribly," assented Bartley.
"But it _aint_ a bad way for a man to live, as long as he's young; or haint
got anybody that wants his company more than his room.--Be the place for
"On which ground?" Bartley asked, drily, without taking his eyes from a
distant peak that showed through the notch in the forest.
Kinney laughed in as unselfish enjoyment as if he had made the turn
himself. "Well, that aint exactly what I meant to say: what I meant was
that any man engaged in intellectual pursuits wants to come out and commune
with nature, every little while."
"You call the Equity Free Press intellectual pursuits?" demanded Bartley,
with scorn. "I suppose it is," he added. "Well, here I am,--right on the
commune. But nature's such a big thing, I think it takes two to commune
"Well, a girl's a help," assented Kinney.
"I wasn't thinking of a girl, exactly," said Bartley, with a little
sadness. "I mean that, if you're not in first-rate spiritual condition,
you're apt to get floored if you undertake to commune with nature."
"I guess that's about so. If a man's got anything, on his mind, a big
railroad depot's the place for _him_. But you're run down. You ought to
come out here, and take a hand, and be a man amongst men." Kinney talked
partly for quantity, and partly for pure, indefinite good feeling.
Bartley turned toward the door. "What have you got inside, here?"
Kinney flung the door open, and followed his guest within. The first
two-thirds of the cabin was used as a dormitory, and the sides were
furnished with rough bunks, from the ground to the roof. The round, unhewn
logs showed their form everywhere; the crevices were calked with moss; and
the walls were warm and tight. It was dark between the bunks, but beyond it
was lighter, and Bartley could see at the farther end a vast cooking-stove,
and three long tables with benches at their sides. A huge coffee-pot stood
on the top of the stove, and various pots and kettles surrounded it.
"Come into the dining-room and sit down in the parlor," said Kinney,
drawing off his coat as he walked forward. "Take the sofa," he added,
indicating a movable bench. He hung his coat on a peg and rolled up his
shirt-sleeves, and began to whistle cheerily, like a man who enjoys his
work, as he threw open the stove door and poked in some sticks of fuel. A
brooding warmth filled the place, and the wood made a pleasant crackling as
it took fire.
"Here's my desk," said Kinney, pointing to a barrel that supported a broad,
smooth board-top. "This is where I compose my favorite works." He turned
round, and cut out of a mighty mass of dough in a tin trough a portion,
which he threw down on his table and attacked with a rolling-pin. "That
means pie, Mr. Hubbard," he explained, "and pie means meat-pie,--or
squash-pie, at a pinch. Today's pie-baking day. But you needn't be troubled
on that account. So's to-morrow, and so was yesterday. Pie twenty-one times
a week is the word, and don't you forget it. They say old Agassiz," Kinney
went on, in that easy, familiar fondness with which our people like to
speak of greatness that impresses their imagination,--"they say old Agassiz
recommended fish as the best food for the brain. Well, I don't suppose but
what it is. But I don't know but what pie is more stimulating to the fancy.
I _never_ saw anything like meat-pie to make ye dream."
"Yes," said Bartley, nodding gloomily, "I've tried it."
Kinney laughed. "Well, I guess folks of sedentary pursuits, like you and
me, don't need it; but these fellows that stamp round in the snow all day,
they want something to keep their imagination goin'. And I guess pie does
it. Anyway, they can't seem to get enough of it. Ever try apples when you
was at work? They say old Greeley kep' his desk full of 'em; kep' munchin'
away all the while when he was writin' his editorials. And one of them
German poets--I don't know but what it was old Gutty himself--kept _rotten_
ones in _his_ drawer; liked the smell of 'em. Well, there's a good deal of
apple in meat-pie. May be it's the apple that does it. _I_ don't know.
But I guess if your pursuits are sedentary, you better take the apple
Bartley did not say anything; but he kept a lazily interested eye on Kinney
as he rolled out his piecrust, fitted it into his tins, filled these from
a jar of mince-meat, covered them with a sheet of dough pierced in
herring-bone pattern, and marshalled them at one side ready for the oven.
"If fish _is_ any better for the brain," Kinney proceeded, "they can't
complain of any want of it, at least in the salted form. They get
fish-balls three times a week for breakfast, as reg'lar as Sunday, Tuesday,
and Thursday comes round. And Fridays I make up a sort of chowder for the
Kanucks; they're Catholics, you know, and I don't believe in interferin'
with _any_ man's religion, it don't matter what it is."
"You ought to be a deacon in the First Church at Equity," said Bartley.
"Is that so? Why?" asked Kinney.
"Oh, they don't believe in interfering with any man's religion, either."
"Well," said Kinney, thoughtfully, pausing with the rolling-pin in his
hand, "there 'a such a thing as being _too_ liberal, I suppose."
"The world's tried the other thing a good while," said Bartley, with
cynical amusement at Kinney's arrest.
It seemed to chill the flow of the good fellow's optimism, so that he
assented with but lukewarm satisfaction.
"Well, that's so, too," and he made up the rest of his pies in silence.
"Well," he exclaimed at last, as if shaking himself out of an unpleasant
reverie, "I guess we shall get along, somehow. Do you like pork and beans?"
"Yes, I do," said Bartley.
"We're goin' to have 'em for dinner. You can hit beans any meal you drop in
on us; beans twenty-one times a week, just like pie. Set 'em in to warm,"
he said, taking up a capacious earthen pot, near the stove, and putting it
into the oven. "I been pretty much everywheres, and I don't know as I
found anything for a stand-by that come up to beans. I'm goin' to give 'em
potatoes and cabbage to-day,--kind of a boiled-dinner day,--but you'll
see there aint one in ten 'll touch 'em to what there will these old
residenters. Potatoes and cabbage'll do for a kind of a delicacy,--sort of
a side-dish,--on-_tree_, you know; but give 'em beans for a steady diet.
Why, off there in Chili, even, the people regularly live on beans,--not
exactly like ours,--broad and flat,--but they're beans. Wa'n't there some
those ancients--old Horace, or Virgil, may be--rung in something about
beans in some their poems?"
"I don't remember anything of the kind," said Bartley, languidly.
"Well, I don't know as _I_ can. I just have a dim recollection of language
thrown out at the object,--as old Matthew Arnold says. But it might have
been something in Emerson."
Bartley laughed "I didn't suppose you were such a reader, Kinney."
"Oh, I nibble round wherever I can get a chance. Mostly in the newspapers,
you know. I don't get any time for books, as a general rule. But there's
pretty much everything in the papers. I should call beans a brain food."
"I guess you call anything a brain food that you happen to like, don't you,
"No, sir," said Kinney, soberly; "but I like to see the philosophy of
a thing when I get a chance. Now, there's tea, for example," he said,
pointing to the great tin pot on the stove.
"Coffee, you mean," said Bartley.
"No, sir, I mean tea. That's tea; and I give it to 'em three times a day,
good and strong,--molasses in it, and no milk. That's a brain food, if ever
there was one. Sets 'em up, right on end, every time. Clears their heads
and keeps the cold out."
"I should think you were running a seminary for young ladies, instead of a
logging-camp," said Bartley.
"No, but look at it: I'm in earnest about tea. You look at the tea drinkers
and the coffee-drinkers all the world over! Look at 'em in our own country!
All the Northern people and all the go-ahead people drink tea. The
Pennsylvanians and the Southerners drink coffee. Why our New England folks
don't even know how to _make_ coffee so it's fit to drink! And it's just
so all over Europe. The Russians drink tea, and they'd e't up those
coffee-drinkin' Turks long ago, if the tea-drinkin' English hadn't kept 'em
from it. Go anywheres you like in the North, and you find 'em drinkin' tea.
The Swedes and Norwegians in Aroostook County drink it; and they drink it
"Well, what do you think of the French and Germans? They drink coffee, and
they're pretty smart, active people, too."
"French and Germans drink coffee?"
Kinney stopped short in his heated career of generalization, and scratched
his shaggy head. "Well," he said, finally, "I guess they're a kind of
a missing link, as old Darwin says." He joined Bartley in his laugh
cordially, and looked up at the round clock nailed to a log. "It's about
time I set my tables, anyway. Well," he asked, apparently to keep the
conversation from flagging, while he went about this work, "how is the good
old Free Press getting along?"
"It's going to get along without me from this out," said Bartley. "This is
my last week in Equity."
"No!" retorted Kinney, in tremendous astonishment.
"Yes; I'm off at the end of the week. Squire Gaylord takes the paper back
for the committee, and I suppose Henry Bird will run it for a while; or
perhaps they'll stop it altogether. It's been a losing business for the
"Why, I thought you'd bought it of 'em."
"Well, that's what I expected to do; but the office hasn't made any money.
All that I've saved is in my colt and cutter."
Bartley nodded. "I'm going away about as poor as I came. I couldn't go much
"Well!" said Kinney, in the exhaustion of adequate language. He went
on laying the plates and knives and forks in silence. These were of
undisguised steel; the dishes and the drinking mugs were of that dense and
heavy make which the keepers of cheap restaurants use to protect themselves
against breakage, and which their servants chip to the quick at every edge.
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