From a Bench in Our Square
Samuel Hopkins Adams
Part 3 out of 4
"I see," said the Little Red Doctor, recognizing a condition by no means
unprecedented in local practice. "Couldn't you get a job in some
"Where, for instance?"
"Well, if you knew any one in California."
"How's the walkin'?" asked Mayme.
"It's long," replied the Little Red Doctor, "seeing" again. "Anyway,
you've got to have fresh air."
"They serve it fresh, every morning, right here in Our Square," Mayme
"Good idea. Get up early and fill your lungs full of it for an hour
every day." He gave some further instructions.
Mayme produced a dollar, and delicately placed it on the mantel.
"Take it away," said the Little Red Doctor. "Didn't I tell you--"
"Go-wan!" said Mayme. "Whadda you think you are; Bellevue Hospital? I
pay as I go, Doc."
The Little Red Doctor frowned austerely.
"What's the matter? Face hurt you?" asked the solicitous Mayme.
"People don't call me 'Doc,'" began the offended practitioner in
"Oh, that's because they ain't on to you," she assured him. "I wouldn't
call you 'Doc' myself if I didn't know you was a good sport back of
The Little Red Doctor grinned, looking first at Mayme and then at the
dollar. "You aren't such a bad sport yourself," he admitted. "Well,
we'll call this a deal. But if I see you in the Square and give you a
tip about yourself now and again, that doesn't count. That's on the
She considered it gravely. "All right," she agreed at length. "Between
pals, yes? Shake, Doc."
So began the quaint friendship between our hard-worked, bluff,
knightly-hearted practitioner, and the impish and lovable little
store-girl. Also another of the innumerable tilts between him and his
old friend, Death.
"He's got the jump on me, Dominie," complained the Little Red Doctor to
me. "But, at that, we're going to give him a fight. She's clear grit,
that youngster is. She's got a philosophy of life, too. I don't know
where she got it, or just what it is, but it's there. Oh, she's worth
"If I hadn't reason to think you safeguarded, my young friend," said I,
"I'd give you solemn warning."
"Why, she's an infant!" returned the Little Red Doctor scornfully. "A
poor, little, monkey-faced child. Besides--" He stopped and sighed.
"Yes; I know," I assented. There was at that time a "Besides" in the
Little Red Doctor's sorrowful heart which bulked too large to admit of
any rivalry. "Nevertheless," I added, "you needn't be so scornful about
the simian type in woman. It's a concentrated peril to mankind. I've
seen trouble caused in this world by kitten faces, by pure, classic
faces, by ox-eyed-Juno faces, by vivid blond faces, by dreamy, poetic
faces, by passionate Southern faces, but for real power of catastrophe,
for earthquake and eclipse, for red ruin and the breaking up of laws,
commend me to the humanized, feminized monkey face. I'll wager that when
Antony first set eyes on Cleopatra, he said, 'And which cocoa palm did
she fall out of?' Phryne was of the beautified baboon cast of features,
and as for Helen of Troy, the best authorities now lean to the belief
that the face that launched a thousand ships and fired the topless
towers of Ilium was a reversion to the arboreal. I tell you, man that is
born of woman cannot resist it. Give little Mayme three more years--"
"I wish to God I could," said the Little Red Doctor.
"Can't you?" I asked, startled. "Is it as bad as that?"
"It isn't much better. How's your insomnia, Dominie?"
"Insomnia," said I, "is a scientific quibble for unlaid memories. I take
mine out for the early morning air at times, if that's what you mean."
"It is. Keep an eye on the kid, and do what you can to prevent that busy
little mind of hers from brooding."
In that way Mayme McCartney and I became early morning friends. She
adopted for her special own a bench some rods from mine under the lilac
near the fountain. After her walk, taken with her thin shoulders flung
back and the chest filling with deep, slow breaths, she would pay me a
call or await one from me and we would exchange theories and opinions
and argue about this and other worlds. Seventy against seventeen. Fair
exchange, for, if mine were the riper creed, hers was the more vivid and
adventurous. Who shall say which was the sounder?
On the morning of the astonishing Trespass, I was late, being
discouraged by a light rain. As she approached her bench, she found it
occupied by an individual who appeared to be playing a contributory part
in the general lamentation of nature. The interloper was young and quite
exquisite of raiment, which alone would have marked him for an
outlander. His elbows were propped on his knees, his fists supported his
cheekbones, his whole figure was in a slump of misery. Scrutinizing him
with surprise, Mayme was shocked to see a glistening drop, detached from
his drooping countenance, fall to the pavement, followed by another. At
the same time she heard an unmistakable and melancholic sound.
The benches in Our Square have seen more life than most. They have
cradled weariness of body and spirit; they have assuaged grief and given
refuge to shaking terror, and been visited by Death. They have shivered
to the passion of cursing men and weeping women. But never before had
any of their ilk heard grown young manhood blubber. Neither had Mayme
McCartney. It inspired her with mingled emotions, the most immediate of
which was a desire to laugh.
Accordingly she laughed. The intruder lifted a woeful face, gave her one
vague look, and reverted to his former posture. Mayme stopped laughing.
She advanced and put a friendly hand on one of the humped shoulders.
"Cheer up, Buddy," she said. "It ain't as bad as you think it is."
"It's worse," gulped a choky voice. Then the head lifted again. "Who are
you?" it demanded.
"I'm your big sister," said Mayme reassuringly. "Tell a feller about
The response was neither polite nor explanatory. "D---n sisters!" said
"Oh, tutt-_tutt_ and naughty-naughty!" rebuked Mayme. "Somebody's sister
been puttin' somethin' over on poor little Willy?"
"My own sister has." He was in that state of semi-hysterical exhaustion
in which revelation of one's intimate troubles to the first comer seems
natural. "She's gone and got arrested," he wailed.
Mayme's face became grave and practical.
"That's different," said she. "What's her lay?"
"Lay? I don't know--"
"What's her line? What's she done to get pinched?"
"Shoplifting. At the special night sale of the Emporium."
"You're tellin' me! In the silks, huh?"
"What do you know about it? My God! Is it in the papers already?"
"Keep your hair on, Buddy. I work there, and I heard about that pinch.
Swell young married lady. Say," she added, after a thoughtful pause:
"has she got somethin' comin'?"
"Something coming? How? What?"
"Don't be dumb. A kid."
He stared. She was looking at him with unabashed frankness. Those who
live in the close, rough intimacy of the slums do not cherish false
shame about the major facts of life.
"Suppose she has?" queried the youth sulkily.
"Why, that'll be all right, you poor boob," returned the kindly Mayme.
"The judge'll let her off with a warning."
"How do you know?"
"They always do. Those cases are common. Dolan ought to be canned for
makin' a pinch of a lady in the fam'ly way."
"What if they do let her off?" lamented the youth. "It'll be in all the
papers and I'll be ruined. My life's spoiled. I might as well leave
"Ah, don't do a mean trick like that to the old town!" besought the
sardonic Mayme. "Where do you come in to get hurt?"
He burst into the hectic grievances of the pampered and spoiled child.
His family was just getting a foothold in Society (with an almost holy
emphasis on the word) and now they were disgraced. All was up. Their
new, precariously held acquaintances would drop them. In his petulant
grief he did an amazing thing; he produced a bunch of clippings from the
local society columns, setting forth, in the printed company of the
Shining Ones, the doings (mostly charitable) of Mrs. Samuel Berthelin,
her daughter, Mrs. Harris, and her son, David, referred to glowingly as
"the scion of the wealth and position of the late lamented financier."
Mayme was impressed. Like most shop-girls she was a fervent reader of
society news. (If shop-girls did not read this fine flower of American
democracy, nobody would, except those who wait eagerly and anxiously for
their names to appear.) She perceived--not knowing that the advertising
leverage of the Berthelin Loan Agency had forced those insecure portals
of print for the entry of Mrs. Berthelin and her progeny--that she was
in the presence of the Great. Capacity for awe was not in Mayme's
independent soul. But she was interested and sympathetic. Here was a
career worth saving!
"Let's go over to the station-house," said she. "I know some of the
To the white building with the green lanterns they went. The shoplifting
case, it appeared, had already been bailed out. Furthermore, everything
would be all right and there was little fear of publicity; the store
itself would see to that. Vastly relieved and refreshed in spirit, David
Berthelin began to take stock of his companion with growing interest.
She was decidedly not pretty. Just as decidedly she was quaint and
piquant and quite new to his jejune but also somewhat bored experience.
From the opening passage of their first conversation he deduced, lacking
the insight to discriminate between honest frankness and immodesty, that
she was a "fly kid." On that theory he invited her to breakfast with
him. Mayme accepted. They went to Thomson's Elite Restaurant, on the
corner, where David roused mingled awe and misgivings in the breast of
Polyglot Elsa, the cashier, by ordering champagne, and Mayme reassured
her by declining it.
Thus began an acquaintanceship which swiftly ripened into a queer sort
of intimacy, more than a little disturbing to us of Our Square who were
interested in Mayme. Young Berthelin's over-ornate roadster lingered in
our quiet precincts more often than appeared to us suitable or safe, and
black-eyed Mayme, looking demure and a little exalted, was whirled away
to unknown worlds, always returning, however, at respectable hours. When
the Little Red Doctor remonstrated with her ostensibly on the score of
her health, she reminded him in one breath that he hadn't been invited
to censor her behavior which was entirely her own affair, and in the
next--with his hand caught between hers and her voice low and
caressing--declared that he was the best little old Doc in the world and
there was nothing to worry about, either as to health or conduct.
Indeed, her condition seemed to be improving. I dare say young Mr.
Berthelin's expensive food was one of the things she needed.
Furthermore, she ceased to be the raggle-taggle, hoydenishly clad Mayme
of the cash department, and, having been promoted to saleswoman, quite
went in for dress. On this point she sought the advice of the Bonnie
Lassie. The result went far to justify my prophecy that Mayme's queer
little face might yet make its share of trouble in an impressionable
world. But the Bonnie Lassie shook her bonnie head privately and said
that the fine-feathers development was a bad sign, and that if young
Berthelin would obligingly run his seventeen-jeweled roadster off the
Williamsburgh Bridge, with himself in it, much trouble might be saved
for all concerned.
If little Mayme were headed for trouble, she went to meet it with a
smiling face. Never had she seemed so joyous, so filled with the desire
of life. This much was to be counted on the credit side, the Little Red
Doctor said. On the debit side--well, to me was deputed the unwelcome
task of conveying the solemn, and, as it were, official protest and
warning of Our Square. Of course I did it at the worst possible moment.
It was early one morning, when Mayme, on her bench, was looking a little
hollow-eyed and disillusioned. I essayed the light and jocular approach
to the subject:
"Well, Mayme; how is the ardent swain?"
She turned to me with the old flash in her big, shadowed eyes: "Did you
say swain or swine, Dominie?"
"Ah!" said I. "Has he changed his role?"
"He's given himself away, if that's what you mean."
"I thought that would come."
"He--he wanted me to take a trip to Boston with him."
I considered this bit of information, which was not as surprising or
unexpected as Mayme appeared to deem it. "Have you told the Little
"Doc'd kill him," said Mayme simply.
"What better reason for telling?"
"Oh, the poor kid: he don't know any better."
"Doesn't he? In any case I trust that you know better, after this, than
to have anything more to do with him."
"Yep. I've cut him out," replied Mayme listlessly. "I figured you and
Doc were right, Dominie. It's no good, his kind of game. Not for girls
like me." She looked up at me with limpid eyes, in which there was
courage and determination and suffering.
"My dear," I murmured, "I hope it isn't going to be too hard."
"He's so pretty," said Mayme McCartney wistfully.
So he was, now that I came to think of it. With his clear, dark color,
his wavy hair, his languishing brown eyes, his almost girlishly graceful
figure, and his beautiful clothes, he was pretty enough to fascinate any
inexperienced imagination. But I cannot say that he looked pretty when,
a few days later, he invaded Our Square in search of a Mayme who had
vanished beyond his ken (she had kept her tenement domicile a secret
from him), and, addressing me as "you white-whiskered old goat," accused
me of having come between him and the girl upon whom he had deigned to
bestow his lordly favor. Unfortunately for him, the Little Red Doctor
chanced along just then and inquired, none too deferentially, what the
Scion of Wealth and Position was doing in that quarter.
"What business is it of yours, Red-Head?" countered the offended
He then listened with distaste, but perforce (for what else could he do
in the grasp of a man of twice his power?), to a brilliant and
convincing summary of his character, terminating in a withering sketch
of his personal and sartorial appearance.
"I didn't mean the kid any harm," argued the Scion suavely. "I--I came
back to apologize."
"Let me catch you snooping around here again and I'll break every bone
in your body," the Little Red Doctor answered him.
"I guess this Square's free to everybody. I guess you don't own it,"
said the youth, retreating to his car.
Notwithstanding the unimpeachable exactitude of this surmise, he was
seen no more in that locality. Judge, then, of our dismay, locally, at
learning, not a fortnight later, from a fellow employee of Mayme's, that
she had been met at closing time by a swell young guy in a
cherry-colored rattler, who took her away to dine with him. Catechized
upon the point, later on, by a self-appointed committee of two
consisting of the Little Red Doctor and myself, Mayme said vaguely that
it was all right; we didn't understand. This is, I believe, the usual
formula. The last half of it at least, was true.
About that time we, in common with the rest of the Nation, took that
upon our minds which was even more important than Mayme McCartney's love
affair. War loomed imminently before us. It was only a question of the
fitting time to strike; and Our Square was feverishly reckoning up its
military capacity. The great day of the declaration came. The Nation had
drawn the sword. In the week following, Our Square was invaded.
She descended upon us from the somber sumptuousness of a gigantic
limousine, the majestic, the imposing, the formidable, the authoritative
Mrs. S. Berthelin. We knew at once who she was, because she led, by the
ear, as it were, her hopeful progeny, young David. I do not mean that
she had an actual auricular grip on him, but the effect upon his
woe-begone and brow-beaten person was the same. He suggested vividly a
spoiled and pretty lapdog being sternly conveyed to a detested bath. She
suggested a vivified bouquet of artificial flowers. We hastily rallied
our forces to meet her; the Little Red Doctor, the Bonnie Lassie, and
myself. Mrs. Berthelin opened her exordium in a tone of high philippic,
not even awaiting the formalities of introduction. But when I insisted
upon these, and she learned that the Bonnie Lassie was Mrs. Cyrus
Staten, she cringed. Despite a desire to keep out of the society columns
quite as genuine as that of Mrs. Berthelin's to get in, the Cyrus
Statens frequently figure among the Shining Ones, a fact almost
painfully appreciated by our visitor. After that it was easy to get her
into the Bonnie Lassie's house, where her eloquence could not draw a
crowd. To get young David there was not quite so easy. He made one
well-timed and almost successful effort to bolt, and even evinced signs
of balking on the steps.
His punishment was awaiting him. No sooner were we all settled in the
Bonnie Lassie's studio than the mother proceeded to regale us with a
history and forecast of his career, beginning with his precocious infant
lispings and terminating with his projected, though wholly indefinite,
marriage into the Highest Social Circles. To do David justice,
"Have you got him a job as a general in the army yet, ma'am?" inquired
the Little Red Doctor suavely.
It was quite lost upon Mrs. Berthelin. She informed us that a commission
as Captain in the Quartermaster's Department was arranged for, and she
expected to have the young officer assigned to New York so that he could
live at home in the comfort and luxury suitable to his wealth and
condition. And what she wanted us to understand clearly was that no
designing little gutter-snipe was to be allowed to compromise David's
future. She concluded with an imaginative and most unflattering estimate
of Mayme McCartney's character, manners, and morals, in the midst of
which I heard a gasp.
It came from Mayme, standing, wide-eyed and white, in the doorway. The
front door had been left ajar, and, seeing the Berthelins' monogrammed
car outside, she had come in. The oratress turned and stared.
"That's a lie," said Mayme McCartney steadily. "I'm as straight a girl
as your own daughter. Ask him."
She pointed to the stricken David. Pointing may not be ladylike, but it
can be extremely effective. David's head dropped into his hands.
"Oh, Ma!" he groaned.
"Don't call me 'Ma,'" snapped the goaded Mrs. Berthelin. "And this is
the girl?" She looked Mayme up and down. Mayme did the same by her and
did it better.
"I could give you a lorny-yette and beat you at the frozen-stare trick,"
said the irrepressible Mayme at the conclusion of the duel which ended
in her favor.
The Little Red Doctor gurgled. I saw the Bonnie Lassie's eyelids quiver,
but her face was cold and impassive as she turned to the visitor.
"Mrs. Berthelin," said she, "you have made some very damaging
statements, before witnesses, about Miss McCartney's character. What
proof have you?"
"Why, he wants to _marry_ her!" almost yelled the mother. "She's trapped
"That's another lie," said Mayme.
"He told me himself that he was going to marry you."
"Did he? Then he's wrong. I wouldn't marry him with a brass ring,"
"You wouldn't mar--You wouldn't _what_?" demanded the mother, outraged
"You heard me. He knows it, too. I don't like the family--what I've seen
of them," observed Mayme judicially. "Besides, he's yellow."
David's shamed face emerged into view. "I'm not," he gulped. "She--she
"Captain!" said Mayme with a searing scorn in her voice.
"Quartermaster's Department! Safety first! When half the little
fifteen-per tape-snippers in the Emporium are breakin' their
fourteen-inch necks volunteerin' early and often to get where the
David Berthelin stood on his feet, and his pretty face wore an ugly
"Let me out of here," he growled.
"David!" said his mother. "Where are you going?"
"Davey!" It was a shriek. "You shan't."
"I won't let you."
"You can go to--"
"Buddy!" Mayme's voice, magically softened, broke in. "Cut out the rough
stuff. You better go home and think it over. Bein' a private is no
"I'd rather see a son of mine dead than a common soldier!" cried Mrs.
The Bonnie Lassie, very white, rose. "You must leave this house," she
said. "At once. Think yourself fortunate that I cannot bring myself to
betray a guest. Otherwise I should report you to the authorities."
Young David addressed Mayme in the words and tone of a misunderstood and
aggrieved pet. "You think I'm no good. I'll show you, Mayme. Wait till I
come back--if I ever do come back--and you'll be sorry."
"Hero stuff," commented the Little Red Doctor. "It'll all have oozed out
of his fingertips this time to-morrow."
"Will you show me a place to enlist?" challenged the boy. "And," he
added with a malicious grin, "will you enlist with me?"
"Sure!" said the Little Red Doctor. "I'll show you. But they won't take
me." He bestowed a bitter glance on his twisted foot. "Come along."
They went off together, while Mrs. Berthelin scandalized Our Square by
an exhibition of hysterics involving language not at all in accord with
the rich respectability of her apparel and her limousine.
We waited at the Bonnie Lassie's for the Little Red Doctor's return. He
came back alone. I thought that I detected a pathetic little gleam of
disappointment in Mayme's deep eyes.
"He's done it," said the Little Red Doctor. And I was sorry for him, so
much was there of tragic envy in his face.
"Did you give him your blessing?" I asked.
"I did. He shook hands like a man. There's maybe something in that boy,
if it weren't for the old hell-cat of a mother. However, she won't have
much chance. He's off to-morrow."
"Will he write?" said Mayme in a curious, strained voice.
"He will. He'll report to me from time to time."
"Didn't he--wasn't there any message?"
"Just good-bye and good luck," answered the Little Red Doctor, censoring
The Bonnie Lassie went over and put her arms around Mayme McCartney.
"My dear," she said softly. "It wouldn't do. It really wouldn't. He
isn't worth it. You're going to forget him."
"All right." Suddenly Mayme looked like a very helpless and sorrowful
little girl. "Only, it--it isn't goin' to be as easy as you think. He
was so pretty," said Mayme McCartney wistfully.
Summer was smiting Our Square with white-hot bolts of sun-fire, from
which one could scarcely find refuge beneath the scraggly shelter of
parched shrubbery, when one morning the Bonnie Lassie approached my
bench with a fell and purposeful smile.
"Dominie, you're a dear old thing," she began in her most insinuating
"I won't do it," I said determinedly, foreboding something serious.
The Bonnie Lassie raised her eyebrows at me, affecting aggrieved
innocence. "Won't do what?" she inquired.
"Whatever it is that you're trying to wheedle me into."
The eyebrows resumed their normal arch, and a dimple flickered in the
corner of the soft lips. By this I knew that the case was hopeless. "Oh,
but you've already done it," she said.
"Help! Tell me the worst and get it over with."
"It must be lovely to be rich," said the Bonnie Lassie meditatively.
"And so generous!"
"How much is it? What do you want it for? I haven't got that much," I
"And to keep it an absolute secret from everybody. Even from Mayme
"Go on. Don't mind me," I murmured.
"The Little Red Doctor has found the place. It's in New Mexico. And in
the fall she's going on to the Coast. He's almost willing to guarantee
that a year of it will make her as strong as ever. And the hundred
dollars a month you allow her besides her traveling expenses will be
plenty. You _are_ a good old thing, Dominie!"
"What you mean is that I'm an old good-thing. How shall I look," I
demanded bitterly, "when Mayme comes to thank me?"
"No foolisher than you do now, trying to raise unreasonable objections
to our perfectly good plans," retorted the Bonnie Lassie. "Besides, she
won't. She knows that your way is to do good by stealth and blush to
find it fame, and she's under pledge to pretend to know nothing
"Where did the Little Red Doctor raise it?" I queried.
"There are times, Dominie, when your mind has real penetrative power.
Think it over."
"The Weeping Scion of Wealth and Position!" I cried. "Did our medical
friend blackmail him?"
"Not necessarily. He only dropped a hint that Mayme's chance here was
rather poorer than a soldier's going to war, unless something could be
done and the Weeping Scion fairly begged to be allowed to do it. 'Do you
think she'd take it from you?' said the Little Red Doctor, 'after what
your mother called her?' 'Don't let her know,' says our ornamental young
weeper. 'Tell her somebody else is doing it. Tell her it's from that
white-whiskered old--from the elderly and handsome gentleman with the
"Yes: I know," I broke in. "Very good. I'm the goat. Lying, hypocrisy,
false pretense, fake charity; it's all one to a sin-seared old reprobate
like me. After it's over I'll go around the corner and steal what
pennies I can find in Blind Simon's cup, just to make me feel
comparatively respectable and decent again."
It was no easier than I expected it to be, especially when little Mayme,
having come to say good-bye, put her lips close to my ear and tried to
whisper something, and cried and kissed me instead.
Our Square was a dimmer and duller place after she left. But her letters
helped. They were so exactly like herself! Even at the first, when
things seemed to be going ill with her, they were all courage, and
quaint humor and determination to get well and come back to Our Square,
which was the dearest and best place in the world with the dearest and
best people in it. Homesickness! Poor little, lonely Mayme. She was
reading--she wrote the Bonnie Lassie--all the books that the Dominie had
listed for her, and she was being tutored by a school-teacher with blue
goggles and a weak heart who lived at the same resort. "Why grow up a
Boob," wrote the philosophic Mayme, "when the lil old world is full of
wise guys just aking to spill their wiseness?"
Contemporaneously the Weeping Scion of Wealth was writing back his views
on life and the emptiness thereof, in better orthography, but with
distinctly less of spirit.
"It appears," reported the Little Red Doctor, "that every man in his own
company has licked our young friend and now the other companies of the
regiment are beginning to show interest, and he doesn't like it. I
believe he'd desert if it weren't that he's afraid of what Mayme
"Still on his mind, is she?" I asked.
The Little Red Doctor produced a letter with a camp postmark from the
South and read a passage:
"You were right when you guessed that I never wanted anything very much
before, without having it handed to me. Perhaps you are right about its
being good for me. But it comes hard. The promise goes, of course. I'm
going to show you and her that I'm not yellow. [So that was still
rankling; salutary, if bitter dose!] But if this war ever finishes, all
bets are off and I'm coming back to find her. And don't you forget your
part of the bargain, to write and let me know how she is getting on."
The Little Red Doctor was able to send progressively encouraging news.
When the cold weather came, Mayme moved westward to Southern California,
and found herself on the edge of one of the strange, tumultuous,
semi-insane moving-picture colonies of that region. Thence issued,
presently, stirring tidings.
"What do you think?" wrote our exile. "They've got my funny little
monkey mug in the movies. Five per and steady work. The director likes
me and says he will give me a real chance one of these days. But, as the
Dominie would say, this is a hell of a place. [Graceless imp!] I would
not say it myself, because I am a perfect lady. You have to be, out
here. That reminds me: I have cut out the Mayme. Every fresh little
frizzle in the colony with a false front and a pneumatic figure calls
herself Mayme or Daisye or Tootsye. Not for me! I am keeping up my
lessons and trying to make my head good for something besides carrying a
switch. Tell the Little Red Doctor that it is so long since I coughed I
have forgotten how. And I love you all so hard that it _hurts_.
"P.S. I am going to be Marie Courtenay when I get my name up in the
pictures. Put that in the Directory and see how it looks.
"P.S.2. How is my soldier boy getting along? Poor kid! I expect he is
finding it a lot different from Broadway with money in your pocket."
About this time the Weeping Scion was finding things very different,
indeed, from Broadway, having been shifted to a specially wet and muddy
section of France; and was taking them as he found them. That is to say,
he had learned the prime lesson of war.
"And he's been made corporal," announced the Little Red Doctor with
"That sounds encouraging," remarked the Bonnie Lassie. "How did it
"He went over on one of the 'flu ships,' and when the epidemic began to
mow 'em down there was a kind of panic. From what I can make out, the
Scion kept his head and his nerve, and made good. A corporal's stripes
aren't much, but they're something."
Better was to come. There was high triumph in the Little Red Doctor's
expression when he came to my bench with the glad tidings of young
David's promotion to a sergeantcy.
"While it's very gratifying," I remarked, "it doesn't seem to me an
"Doesn't it!" retorted my friend. "That's because of your abysmal
military ignorance, Dominie. Let me tell you how it is in our army. A
fellow can get himself made a captain by pull, or a major by luck, or a
colonel by desk-work, or a general by having a fine martial figure, but
to get yourself made a sergeant, by Gosh, you've got to show the
_stuff_. You've got to be a _man_. You've got to have--"
"Are you going to tell her?" interrupted the Bonnie Lassie who had been
sent for to share the news.
The Little Red Doctor fell suddenly grave. "She's another matter," he
said. "I don't think I shall."
Matters were going forward with Mayme--beg her pardon, Mary McCartney,
"Better and more of it," she wrote the Bonnie Lassie. "They rang me in
on one of their local Red Cross shows to do a monologue. Was I a hit?
Say, I got more flowers than a hearse! You've got to remember, though,
that they deliver flowers by the car-load out here. And the local stock
company has made me an offer. Ingenue parts. There is not the money that
I might get in the pictures, but the chance is better. So Marie
Courtenay moves on to the legit.--I mean the spoken drama. Look out for
me on Broadway later!"
In the correspondence from Sergeant Berthelin there came a long hiatus
followed by a curt bit of official information: "Seriously wounded." The
Little Red Doctor brought the news to me, with a queer expression on
"It doesn't look good, Dominie," he said. "You know, my old friend,
Death, is a shrewd picker. He's got an eye for men." He mused, rubbing
his tousled, brickish locks with a nervous hand. "I was getting to kind
of like that young pup," he muttered moodily.
The saying that no news is good news was surely concocted by some one
who never chafed through day after lengthening day for that which does
not come. But in the end it did come, in the form of a scrawl from the
Weeping Scion himself. He was mending, but very slowly, and they said it
would be a long time--months, perhaps--before he could get back to the
front. Meantime, they were still picking odds and ends, chiefly
metallic, out of various parts of his system.
"I'm one of the guys you read about that came over here to collect
souvenirs," he commented. "Well, I've got all I need of 'em. They can
have the rest. All I want now is to get back and present a few to
Fritzie before the show is over."
Thereafter the Little Red Doctor exhibited, but read to us only in small
parts, quite bulky communications from overseas. Some of them, it became
known, he was forwarding to our little Mary, out in the Far West. With
her answer came the solution.
"Some of the 'Grass and Asphalt' sketches are wonders; some not so good.
I am going to try out 'Doggy' if I can find a poodle with enough
intelligence to support me. But you need not have been so mysterious,
Doc, about your 'young amateur writer who seems to have some talent.'
Did you think I would not know it was David? Why, bless your dear, silly
heart, I told him some of those stories myself. But how does he get a
chance to write them? Is he back on this side? Or is he invalided? Or
what? Tell me. I want to know about him. You do not have to worry about
my--well, my infatuation for him, any more. He was a pretty boy, though,
wasn't he? But I have seen too many of that kind in the picture game.
I'm spoiled for them. How I would love to smear some of their pretty,
smirky faces! They give me a queer feeling in my breakfast. Excuse me: I
forgot I was a lady. But don't say 'pretty' to me any more. I'm through.
At that, you were all wrong about Buddy. He was a lot decenter than you
thought: only he was brought up wrong. Give him my love as one pal to
another. I hope he don't come back a He-ro. I'm offen he-roes, too.
Wars and exiles alike come to an end in time. And in time our two
wanderers returned, but Mary first, David having been sent into Germany
with the Army of Occupation. Modest announcements in the theatrical
columns informed an indifferent theater-going world that Miss Marie
Courtenay, an actress new to Broadway, was to play the ingenue part in
the latest comedy by a highly popular dramatist. Immediately upon the
production, the theater-going world ceased to be indifferent to the new
actress; in fact, it went into one of its occasional furores about her.
Not that she was in any way a great genius, but she had a certain
indefinable and winningly individual quality. The critics discussed it
gravely and at length, differing argumentatively as to its nature and
constitution. I could have given them a hint. My predictions regarding
the ancestral potencies of the monkey-face were being abundantly
No announcements, even of the most modest description, heralded the
arrival of Sergeant Major (if you please!) David Berthelin upon his
native shores. He came at once to Our Square and tackled the Little
"Where is she?" he asked.
The Little Red Doctor assumed an air of incredulous surprise. "Have you
still got _that_ bee in your bonnet?" said he.
"Where is she?" repeated the Weeping Scion.
Maneuvering for time and counsel, the Little Red Doctor took him to see
the Bonnie Lassie and they sent for me. We beheld a new and
reconstituted David. He was no longer pretty. The soft brown eyes were
less soft and more alert, and there were little wrinkles at their
corners. He had broadened a foot or so. That pinky-delicate complexion
by which he had, in earlier and easier days, set obvious store, was
brownish and looked hardened. The Cupid's-bow of his mouth had
straightened out. High on one cheekbone was a not unsightly scar. His
manner was unassertive, but eminently self-respecting, and me, whom
aforetime he had stigmatized as a "white-whiskered old goat," he now
addressed as "Sir."
"Perhaps _you'll_ tell me where she is, sir," said he patiently.
"Leave it to me," said the Bonnie Lassie, who has an unquenchable thirst
for the dramatic in real life. "And keep next Sunday night open."
She arranged with Mary McCartney to give a reading on that evening, at
her studio, of David's "Doggy" from the "Grass and Asphalt" sketches
which he had written in hospital. It was a quaint, pathetic little
conceit, the bewildered philosophy of a waif of the streets, as
expressed to his waif of a dog. For the supporting part we borrowed
Willy Woolly from the House of Silvery Voices, and admirably he played
it, barking accurately and with true histrionic fervor in the right
places (besides promptly falling in love with the star at the first and
only rehearsal). After the try-out, Mary came over to my bench with a
check for a rather dazzling sum in her hand, and said that now was the
time to settle accounts, but she never could repay--and so forth and so
on; all put so sweetly and genuinely that I heartily wished I might
accept the thanks if not the check. Instead of which I blurted out
"Oh, _Dominie_!" said the girl, with such reproach that my heart sank
within me. "Do you think that was fair? Don't you know that I never
could have taken the money?"
"Precisely. And we had to find a way to make you take it. We couldn't
have you dying on the premises," I argued with a feeble attempt at
"But from _him_!" she said. "After what had happened--And his mother.
How could you let me do it!"
"I thought you would have gotten over that feeling by this time," I
"Oh, there's none of the old feeling left," she answered, so simply that
I knew she believed her own statement. "But to have lived on his
money--Where is he?" she asked abruptly.
I told her that also and about Sunday night; the whole thing. The Bonnie
Lassie would have slain me. But I couldn't help it. I was feeling
Sunday night came, and with it Miss Marie Courtenay, escorted by an
"ace" covered with decorations, whose name is a household word and who
was only too obviously her adoring slave. Already there had been hints
of their engagement. Had I been that ace, I should have felt no small
discomposure at the sight of the girl's face when she first saw the
changed and matured Weeping Scion of three years before. After the first
flash of recognition she had developed on that expressive face of hers a
look of wonder and almost pathetic questioning, and, I thought, who knew
and loved the child, already something deeper and sweeter. Young David,
after greeting the star of the evening, took a modest rear seat as
befitted his rank. But when the Bonnie Lassie announced "Doggy," it was
his face that was the study.
Of that performance I shall say nothing. It is now famous and familiar
to thousands of theater-goers. But if ever mortal man spent twenty
minutes in fairyland, it was David, while Mary was playing the work of
his fancy. At the close, he disappeared. I suppose he did not dare trust
himself to join in the congratulations with which she was overwhelmed. I
found him, as I rather expected, on the bench where he had sat when
Mayme McCartney first found him. And when the crowd had departed from
the studio, I told the girl. Without even stopping to put on her hat she
went out to him.
He was sitting with his elbows on his knees and his fists supporting his
cheekbones. But this time he was not weeping. He was thinking. Just as
of old she put a hand on his humped shoulder. Startled, he looked up,
and jumped to his feet. She was holding something out to him.
"What's that?" he said.
"A check. For what I owe you."
"Who told you? The Little Red Doctor promised--"
"He's kept his promise. The Dominie told me."
"Oh! I suppose," he said slowly, "I've got to take this. You
wouldn't--no, of course you wouldn't," he sighed.
"I've tried to keep strict account," she said.
David adopted a matter-of-fact tone. "I can't deny that it'll come in
handy, just now," he remarked. "At the present price of clothing, and
with my personal exchequer in its depleted state--"
"Why," she broke in, "has anything happened? Your mother--?"
"Cut off," said David briefly.
"She's cut you off? On my account? Oh--"
"No. I've cut her off. Temporarily. She doesn't want me to work. I'm
working. On a newspaper."
"That's good," said the girl warmly. "Let's sit down."
They sat down. Each, however, found it curiously hard to begin again.
Mary was aching to thank him, but had a dreadful fear that if she tried
to, she would cry. She didn't want to cry. She had a feeling that crying
would be a highly unstrategic procedure leading to possible alarming
developments. Why didn't David say something? Finally he did make a
"No: not 'Mayme' any more."
He flushed to his temples. "I beg your pardon, Miss Courtenay."
"Nonsense!" she said softly. "Mary. I've discarded the 'Mayme' long
"Mary," he repeated in a tone of musing content.
He caught his breath. "A few thousand of the best guys in the world," he
said, "call a fellow that. And every time they said it, it made my heart
ache with longing to hear it in your voice."
"You're a queer Buddy," returned the girl, not quite steadily. "Did you
bring me home a German helmet for a souvenir?"
He shook his head. "I didn't bring home much of anything, except some
experience and the discovery of the fact that when I had to stand on my
own feet, I wasn't much."
"You got your stripes, didn't you?" suggested the girl.
"That's all I did get," he returned jealously. "I didn't get any medal,
or palms or decorations or crosses of war: I didn't get anything except
an occasional calling down and a few scratches. If I'd had the luck to
get into aviation or some of the fancy branches--" David checked
himself. "There I go," he said in self-disgust. "Beefing again."
It was quite in the old, spoiled-child tone; an echo of indestructible
personality, the Weeping Scion of other days; and it went straight to
Mary's swelling, bewildered, groping heart. She began to laugh and a sob
tangled itself in the laughter, and she choked and said:
He turned toward her.
"Don't be dumb, Buddy," she said, in the words of their unforgotten
first talk. "You've--you've got me--if you still want me."
She put out a tremulous hand to him, and it slipped over his shoulder
and around his neck, and she was drawn close into his arms.
"The Little Red Doctor," remarked David after an interlude, in the
shaken tone of one who has had undeserved miracles thrust upon him,
"said that to want something more than anything in the world and not get
it was good for my soul, besides serving me right."
"The Little Red Doctor," retorted Mary McCartney, with the reckless
ingratitude of a woman in love, "is a dear little red idiot. What does
he know about _Us!_"
Immediately upon hearing of my fell design MacLachan, the tailor, paid a
visit of protest to my bench.
"Is it true fact that I hear, Dominie?"
"What do you hear, MacLachan?"
"That ye're to make one of yer silly histories about Barbran?"
"Perfectly true," said I, passing over the uncomplimentary adjective.
"'Tis a feckless waste of time."
"'Twill encourage the pair, when a man of yer age and influence in Our
Square should be dissuadin' them."
"Perhaps they need a friendly word."
MacLachan frowned. "Ye're determined?"
"Then I'll give ye a title for yer romance."
"That's very kind of you. Give it."
"The Story of Two Young Fools. By an Old One," said MacLachan
witheringly, and turned to depart.
"Wait a moment."
I held him with my glittering eye. Also, in case that should be
inadequate, with the crook of my cane firmly fixed upon his ankle.
"I'll waste na time from the tailorin'," began the Scot disdainfully,
but paused as I pointed a loaded finger at his head. "Well?" he said,
showing a guilty inclination to flinch.
"Mac, was _I_ an original accomplice in this affair?"
"Will ye purtend to deny--"
"Did _I_ scheme and plot with Cyrus the Gaunt and young Stacey?"
MacLachan mumbled something about undue influence.
"Did _I_ get arrested?"
"In a cellar?"
"With my nose painted green?"
MacLachan groaned. "There was others," he pleaded.
"A man of your age and influence in Our Square," I interrupted sternly,
"should have been dissuading them."
"Arr ye designin' to put all that in yer sil--in yer interestin'
MacLachan dislodged my crook from his leg, gave me such a look as
mid-Victorian painters strove for in pictures of the Dying Stag, and
retired to his Home of Fashion.
* * * * *
That men of the sobriety and standing of Cyrus the Gaunt, MacLachan,
Leon Coventry, the Little Red Doctor, and Boggs (I do not count young
Phil Stacey, for he was insane at the time, and has been so, with
modifications and glorifications, ever since) should paint their noses
green and frequent dubious cellars, calls for explanation. The
explanation is Barbran.
Barbran came to us from the immeasurable distances; to wit, Washington
Let me confess at once that we are a bit supercilious in our attitude
toward the sister Square far to our West, across the Alps of Broadway.
Our Square was an established center of the social respectabilities when
the foot of Fifth Avenue was still frequented by the occasional cow
whose wanderings are responsible for the street-plan of Greenwich
Village. Our Square remains true to the ancient and simple traditions,
whereas Washington Square has grown long hair, smeared its fingers with
paint and its lips with free verse, and gone into debt for its
inconsiderable laundry bills. Washington Square we suspect of playing at
life; Our Square has a sufficiently hard time living it. We have little
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that there are veritable humans, not
wholly submerged in the crowd of self-conscious mummers who crowd the
Occidental park-space, and it was at the house of one of these, a woman
architect with a golden dream of rebuilding Greenwich Village, street by
street, into something simple and beautiful and, in the larger sense
urban, that the Bonnie Lassie, whose artistic deviations often take her
far afield, met Barbran.
They went for coffee to a queer little burrow decorated with improving
sentiments from the immortal Lewis Carroll which, Barbran told the
Bonnie Lassie, was making its blue-smocked, bobbed-haired, attractive
and shrewd little proprietress quite rich. Barbran hinted that she was
thinking of improving on the Mole's Hole idea if she could find a
suitable location, not so much for the money, of course--her tone
implied a lordly indifference to such considerations--as for the fun of
The Bonnie Lassie was amused but not impressed. What did impress her
about Barbran was a certain gay yet restful charm; the sort of difficult
thing that our indomitable sculptress loves to catch and fix in her
wonderful little bronzes. She set about catching Barbran.
Now the way of a snake with a bird is as nothing for fascination
compared to the way of the Bonnie Lassie with the doomed person whom she
has marked down as a subject. Barbran hesitated, capitulated, came to
the Bonnie Lassie's house, moused about Our Square in a rapt manner and
stayed. She rented a room from the Angel of Death ("Boggs Kills Bugs" is
the remainder of his sign, which is considered to lend tone and local
interest to his whole side of the Square), just over Madame Tallafferr's
apartments, and, in the course of time, stopped at my bench and looked
at me contemplatively. She was a small person with shy, soft eyes.
"The Bonnie Lassie sent you," said I.
"You've come here to live--Heaven only knows why--but we're glad to see
you. And you want to know about the people; so the Bonnie Lassie said,
'Ask the Dominie; he landed here from the ark.' Didn't she?"
Barbran sat down and smiled at me.
"Having sought information," I pursued, "on my own account, I learn that
you are the only daughter of a Western millionaire ranch-owner. How does
it feel to revel in millions?"
"Romantic," said she.
"Of course you have designs upon us."
"Humanitarian, artistic, or sociological?"
"Oh, nothing long and clever like that."
"You grow more interesting. Having designs upon us, you doubtless wish
"No," she answered softly: "I've done it already."
"Rash and precipitate adventuress! What have you done already?"
"Started my designs. I've rented the basement of Number 26."
"Are you a rag-picker in disguise?"
"I'm going to start a coffee cellar. I was thinking of calling it 'The
Coffee Pot.' What do you think?"
"So you do wish my advice. I will give it to you. Do you see that
plumber's shop next to the corner saloon?" I pointed to the Avenue whose
ceaseless stream of humanity flows past Our Square without ever sweeping
us into its current. "That was once a tea-shop. It was started by a dear
little, prim little old maiden lady. The saloon was run by Tough Bill
Manigan. The little old lady had a dainty sign painted and hung it up
outside her place, 'The Teacup.' Tough Bill took a board and painted a
sign and hung it up outside _his_ place; 'The Hiccup.' The dear little,
prim little old maiden lady took down her sign and went away. Yet there
are those who say that competition is the life of trade."
"Is there a moral to your story, Mr. Dominie?"
"Take it or leave it," said I amiably.
"I will not call my cellar 'The Coffee Pot' lest a worse thing befall
"You are a sensible young woman, Miss Barbara Ann Waterbury."
"It is true that my parents named me that," said she, "but my friends
call me 'Barbran' because I always used to call myself that when I was
little, and I want to be called Barbran here."
"That's very friendly of you," I observed.
She gave me a swift, suspicious look. "You think I'm a fool," she
observed calmly. "But I'm not. I'm going to become a local institution.
A local institution can't be called Barbara Ann Waterbury, unless it's a
creche or a drinking-fountain or something like that, can it?"
"It cannot, Barbran."
"Thank you, Mr. Dominie," said Barbran gratefully. She then proceeded to
sketch out for me her plans for making her Coffee Cellar and herself a
Local Institution, which should lure hopeful seekers for Bohemia from
the far parts of Harlem and Jersey City, and even such outer realms of
darkness as New Haven and Cohoes.
"That's what I intend to do," said Barbran, "as soon as I get my Great
Idea worked out."
What the Great Idea was, I was to learn later and from other lips. In
fact, from the lips of young Phil Stacey, who appeared, rather
elaborately loitering out from behind the fountain, shortly after my new
friend had departed, a peculiar look upon his extremely plain and
friendly face. Young Mr. Stacey is notable, if for no other reason than
that he represents a flat artistic failure on the part of the Bonnie
Lassie, who has tried him in bronze, in plaster, and in clay with equal
lack of success. There is something untransferable in the boy's face;
perhaps its outshining character. I know that I never yet have said to
any woman who knew him, no matter what her age, condition, or
sentimental predilections, "Isn't he a homely cub!" that she didn't
reply indignantly: "He's _sweet_!" Now when women--wonderful women like
the Bonnie Lassie and stupid women like Mrs. Rosser, the twins' aunt,
and fastidious women like Madame Tallafferr--unite in terming a smiling
human freckle "_sweet_," there is nothing more to be said. Adonis may as
well take a back seat and the Apollo Belvedere seek the helpful
resources of a beauty parlor. Said young Phil carelessly:
"Dominie, who's the newcomer?"
"That," said I, "is Barbran."
"Barbran," he repeated with a rising inflection. "It sounds like a
"As she pronounces it, it sounds like a strain of music," said I.
"What's the rest of her name?"
"I am not officially authorized to communicate that."
"Are you officially authorized to present your friends to her?"
"On what do you base your claim to acquaintanceship, my boy?" I asked
"Oh, claim! Well, you see, a couple of days ago, she was on the
cross-town car; and I--well, I just happened to notice her, you know.
"Yet I am informed on good and sufficient authority that her appearance
is not such as to commend her, visually, if I may so express myself, to
the discriminating eye."
"Who's the fool--" began Mr. Stacey hotly.
"Tut-tut, my young friend," said I. "Certain ladies whom we both esteem
can and will prove, to the satisfaction of the fair-minded, that none of
the young person's features is exactly what it should be or precisely
where it ought to be. Nevertheless, the net result is surprising and
"She's a peach!" asseverated my companion.
"Substantially what I was remarking. As for your other hint, you need no
introduction to Barbran. Nobody does."
"_What_?" Phil Stacey's plain face became ugly; a hostile light
glittered in his eyes. "What do you mean by that?" he growled.
"Simply that she's about to become a local institution. She's plotting
against the peace and security of Our Square, to the extent of starting
a coffee-house at Number 26."
"No!" cried Phil joyously. "Good news!"
"As a fad. She's a budding millionairess from the West."
"No!" growled Phil, his face falling.
"Bad news; eh? It occurred to me that she might want some decorations,
and that you might be the one to do them." In his leisure hours, my
young friend, who is an expert accountant by trade (the term "expert"
appears to be rather an empty compliment, since his stipend is only
twenty-five dollars a week), perpetrates impressionistic decorations and
scenery for such minor theaters as will endure them.
"You're a grand old man, Dominie!" said he. "Let's go."
We went. We found Barbran. We conversed. Half an hour later when I left
them--without any strenuous protests on the part of either--they were
deeply engrossed in a mutual discussion upon decorations, religion, the
high cost of living, free verse, two-cent transfers, Charley Chaplin,
aviation, ouija, and other equally safe topics. Did I say safe?
Dangerous is what I mean. For when a youth who is as homely as young
Phil Stacey and in that particular style of homeliness, and a girl who
is as far from homely as Barbran begin, at first sight, to explore each
other's opinions, they are venturing into a dim and haunted region,
lighted by will-o'-the-wisps and beset with perils and pitfalls. Usually
they smile as they go. Phil was smiling as I left them. So was Barbran.
I may have smiled myself.
Anything but a smile was on Phil Stacey's normally cheerful face when,
some three days thereafter, he came to my rooms.
"Dominie," said he, "I want to tap your library. Have you got any of the
works of Harvey Wheelwright?"
"God forbid!" said I.
Phil looked surprised. "Is it as bad as that? I didn't suppose there was
anything wrong with the stuff."
"Don't you imperil your decent young soul with it," I advised earnestly.
"It reeks of poisonous piety. The world he paints is so full of
nauseating virtues that any self-respecting man would rather live in
hell. His characters all talk like a Sunday-school picnic out of the
Rollo books. No such people ever lived or ever could live, because a
righteously enraged populace would have killed 'em in early childhood.
He's the smuggest fraud and best seller in the United States.
Wheelwright? The crudest, shrewdest, most preposterous panderer to
"Whew! Help! I didn't know what I was starting," protested my visitor.
"As a literary critic you're some Big Bertha, Dominie. I begin to
suspect that you don't care an awful lot about Mr. Wheelwright's style
of composition. Just the same, I've got to read him. All of him. Do you
think I'll find his stuff in the Penny Circulator?"
"My poor, lost boy! Probably not. It is doubtless all out in the hands
of eager readers."
However, Phil contrived to round it up somewhere. The awful and
unsuspected results I beheld on my first visit of patronage to Barbran's
cellar, the occasion being the formal opening. A large and curious crowd
of five persons, including myself and Phil Stacey, were there. Outside,
an old English design of a signboard with a wheel on it creaked
despairingly in the wind. Below was a legend: "_At the Sign of the
Wheel_--_The Wrightery_." The interior of the cellar was decorated with
scenes from the novels of Harvey Wheelwright, triumphant virtue,
discomfited villains, benignant blessings, chaste embraces, edifying
death-beds, and orange-blossoms. They were unsigned; but well I knew
whose was the shame. Over the fireplace hung a framed letter from the
Great Soul. It began, "Dear Young Friend and Admirer," and ended, "Yours
for the Light. Harvey Wheelwright."
The guests did as well as could be expected. They ate and drank
everything in sight. They then left; that is to say, four of them did.
Finally Phil departed, glowering at me. I am a patient soul. No sooner
had the door slammed behind him than I turned to Barbran, who was
"Well, what have you to say in your defense?"
The way Barbran's eyebrows went up constituted in itself a defense fit
to move any jury to acquittal.
"For what?" she asked.
"For corrupting my young friend Stacey. You made him paint those
"They're very nice," returned Barbran demurely. "Quite true to the
"They're awful. They're an offense to civilization. They're an insult to
Our Square. Of all subjects in the world, Harvey Wheelwright! Why,
Barbran? Why? Why? Why?"
"Business," said Barbran.
"Explain, please," said I.
"I got the idea from a friend of mine in Washington Square. She got up a
little cellar cafe built around Alice. Alice in Wonderland, you know,
and the Looking Glass. Though I don't suppose a learned and serious
person like you would ever have read such nonsense."
"It happened to be Friday and there wasn't a hippopotamus in the house,"
"Oh," said Barbran, brightening. "Well, I thought if she could do it
with Alice, I could do it with Harvey Wheelwright."
"In the name of Hatta and the March Hare, _why_?"
"Because, for every one person who reads Alice nowadays, ten read the
author of 'Reborn Through Righteousness' and 'Called by the Cause.'
Isn't it so?"
"Therefore I ought to get ten times as many people as the other place.
Don't you think so?" she inquired wistfully.
Who am I to withhold a comforting fallacy from a hopeful soul.
"Undoubtedly," I agreed. "But do you love him?"
"Who?" said Barbran, with a start. The faint pink color ran up her
"Harvey Wheelwright, of course. Whom did you think I meant?"
"He is a very estimable writer," returned Barbran primly, quite ignoring
my other query.
"Good-night, Barbran," said I sadly. "I'm going out to mourn your lost
One might reasonably expect to find peace and quiet in the vicinity of
one's own particular bench at 11.45 P.M. in Our Square. But not at all
on this occasion. There sat Phil Stacey. I challenged him at once.
"What did you do it for?"
To do him justice he did not dodge or pretend to misunderstand. "Pay,"
"Phil! Did you take money for that stuff?"
"Not exactly. I'm taking it out in trade. I'm going to eat there."
"You'll starve to death."
"I haven't got much of an appetite."
"The inevitable effect of overfeeding on sweets. An uninterrupted diet
of Harvey Wheelwright--"
"Don't speak the swine's name," implored Phil, "or I'll be sick."
"You've sold your artistic birthright for a mess of pottage, probably
indigestible at that."
"I don't care," he averred stoutly. "I don't care for anything
except--Dominie, who told you her father was a millionaire?"
"It's well known," I said vaguely. "He's a cattle king or an emperor of
sheep or the sultan of the piggery or something. A good thing for
Barbran, too, if she expects to keep her cellar going. The kind of
people who read Har--our unmentionable author, don't frequent Bohemian
coffee cellars. They would regard it as reckless and abandoned
debauchery. Barbran has shot at the wrong mark."
"The place has got to be a success," declared Phil between his teeth,
his plain face expressing a sort of desperate determination.
"Otherwise the butterfly will fly back West," I suggested. The boy
What man could do to make it a success, Phil Stacey did and heroically.
Not only did he eat all his meals there, but he went forth into the
highways and byways and haled in other patrons (whom he privately paid
for) to an extent which threatened to exhaust his means.
Our Square is conservative, not to say distrustful in its bearing toward
innovations. Thornsen's Elite Restaurant has always sufficed for our
inner cravings. We are, I suppose, too old to change. Nor does Harvey
Wheelwright exercise an inspirational sway over us. We let the little
millionairess and her Washington Square importation pretty well alone.
She advertised feebly in the "Where to Eat" columns, catching a few
stray outlanders, but for the most part people didn't come. Until the
first of the month, that is. Then too many came. They brought their
bills with them.
Evening after evening Barbran and Phil Stacey sat in the cellar almost
or quite alone. So far as I could judge from my occasional visits of
patronage (Barbran furnished excellent sweet cider and cakes for late
comers), they endured the lack of custom with fortitude, not to say
indifference. But in the mornings her soft eyes looked heavy, and once,
as she was passing my bench deep in thought, I surprised a look of blank
terror on her face. One can understand that even a millionaire's
daughter might spend sleepless nights brooding over a failure. But that
look of mortal dread! How well I know it! How often have I seen it,
preceding some sordid or brave tragedy of want and wretchedness in Our
Square! What should it mean, though, on Barbran's sunny face? Puzzling
over the question I put it to the Bonnie Lassie.
"Read me a riddle, O Lady of the Wise Heart. Of what is a child of
fortune, young, strong, and charming, afraid?"
At the time we were passing the house in which the insecticidal Angel of
Death takes carefully selected and certified lodgers.
"I know whom you mean," said the Bonnie Lassie, pointing up to the
little dormer window which was Barbran's outlook on life. "Interpret me
a signal. What do you see up there?"
"It appears to be a handkerchief pasted to the window," said I adjusting
"Upside down," said the Bonnie Lassie.
"How can a handkerchief be upside down?" I inquired, in what was
intended to be a tone of sweet reasonableness.
Contempt was all that it brought me. "Metaphorically, of course! It's a
signal of distress."
"In what distress can Barbran be?"
"In what kind of distress are most people who live next under the roof
in Our Square?"
"She's doing that just to get into our atmosphere. She told me so
herself. A millionaire's daughter--"
"Do millionaires' daughters wash their own handkerchiefs and paste them
on windows to dry? Does any woman in or out of Our Square _ever_ soak
her own handkerchiefs in her own washbowl except when she's desperately
saving pennies? Did you ever wash one single handkerchief in your
"Certainly not. It isn't manly. Then you think she isn't a
"Look at her shoes when next you see her," answered the Bonnie Lassie
conclusively. "_I_ think the poor little thing has put her every cent in
the world into her senseless cellar, and she's going under."
"But, good Heavens!" I exclaimed. "Something has got to be done."
"It's going to be."
"Who's going to do it?"
"Me," returned the Bonnie Lassie, who is least grammatical when most
"Then," said I, "the Fates may as well shut up shop and Providence take
a day off; the universe has temporarily changed its management. Can
The Bonnie Lassie focused her gaze in a peculiar manner upon the exact
center of my countenance. A sort of fairy grin played about her lips. "I
wonder if--No," she sighed. "No. I don't think it would do, Dominie.
Anyway, I've got six without you."
"Including Phil Stacey?"
"Of course," retorted the Bonnie Lassie. "It was he who came to me for
help. I'm really doing this for him."
"I thought you were doing it for Barbran."
"Oh; she's just a transposed Washington Squarer," answered the tyrant of
Our Square. "Though she's a dear kiddie, too, underneath the nonsense."
"Do I understand--"
"I don't see," interrupted the Bonnie Lassie sweetly, "how you could. I
haven't told you. And the rest are bound to secrecy. But don't be unduly
alarmed at anything queer you may see in Our Square within the next
Only by virtue of that warning was I able to command the emotions
aroused by an encounter with Cyrus the Gaunt some evenings later. He was
hurrying across the park space in the furtive manner of one going to a
shameful rendezvous, and upon my hailing him he at first essayed to
sheer off. When he saw who it was he came up with a rather swaggering
and nonchalant effect. I may observe here that nobody has a monopoly of
nonchalance in this world.
"Good-evening, Cyrus," I said.
"Beautiful weather we're having."
"Couldn't be finer."
"Do you think it will hold?"
"The paper says rain to-morrow."
"Why is the tip of your nose painted green?"
"Is it green?" inquired Cyrus, as if he hadn't given the matter any
special consideration, but thought it quite possible.
"Emerald," said I. "It looks as if it were mortifying."
"It would be mortifying," admitted Cyrus the Gaunt, "if it weren't in a
"What cause?" I asked.
"Come out of there!" said Cyrus the Gaunt, not to me, but to a figure
lurking in the shrubbery.
The Little Red Doctor emerged. I took one look at his most distinctive
"You, too!" I said. "What do you mean by it?"
"Ask Cyrus," returned the Little Red Doctor glumly.
"It's a cult," said Cyrus. "The credit of the notion belongs not to me,
but to my esteemed better half. A few chosen souls--"
"Here comes another of them," I conjectured, as a bowed form approached.
"Who is it? MacLachan!"
The old Scot appeared to be suffering from a severe cold. His
handkerchief was pressed to his face.
"Take it down, Mac," I ordered. "It's useless." He did so, and my worst
suspicions were confirmed.
"He bullied me into it," declared the tailor, glowering at Cyrus the
"It'll do your nose good," declared Cyrus jauntily. "Give it a change.
Complementary colors, you know. What ho! Our leader."
Phil Stacey appeared. He appeared serious; that is, as serious as one
can appear when his central feature glows like the starboard light of an
incoming steamship. Following him were Leon Coventry, huge and shy, and
the lethal Boggs looking unhappy.
"Where are you all going?" I demanded.
"To the Wrightery," said Phil.
"Is it a party?"
"It's a gathering."
"Am I included?"
"Not on any account," I declared firmly. It had just occurred to me why
the Bonnie Lassie had centered her gaze upon my features. "Follow your
indecent noses as far as you like. I stay."
Still lost in meditation, I may have dozed on my bench, when heavy,
measured footsteps aroused me. I looked up to see Terry the Cop,
guardian of our peace, arbiter of differences, conservator of our
morals. I peered at him with anxiety.
"Terry," I inquired, "how is your nose?"
"Keen, Dominie," said Terry. He sniffed the air. "Don't you detect the
smell of illegal alcohol?"
"I can't say I do."
"It's very plain," declared the officer wriggling his nasal organ which,
I was vastly relieved to observe, retained its original hue. "Wouldn't
you say, Dominie, it comes from yonder cellar?"
"I am informed that a circle of dangerous char-_ack_ters with green
noses gather there and drink cider containing more than two-seventy-five
per cent of apple juice. I'm about to pull the place."
"For Heaven's sake, Terry; don't do that! You'll scare--"
"Whisht, Dominie!" interrupted Terry with an elaborate wink. "There'll
be no surprise, except maybe to the Judge in the morning. You better
drop in at the court."
Of the round-up I have no details, except that it seemed to be quietly
conducted. The case was called the next day, before Magistrate Wolf Tone
Hanrahan, known as the "Human Judge." Besides being human, his Honor is,
as may be inferred from his name, somewhat Irish. He heard the evidence,
tested the sample, announced his intention of coming around that evening
for some more, and honorably discharged Barbran.
"And what about these min?" he inquired, gazing upon the dauntless six.
"Dangerous suspects, Yeronner," said Terry the Cop.
"They look mild as goat's milk to me," returned the Magistrate, "though
now I get me eye on the rid-hidded wan [with a friendly wink at the
Little Red Doctor] I reckonize him as a desprit charackter that'd save
your life as soon as look at ye. What way are they dang'rous?"
"When apprehended," replied Terry, looking covertly about to see that
the reporters were within hearing distance, "their noses were
"Is this true?" asked the Magistrate of the six.
"It is, your Honor," they replied.
"An', why not!" demanded the Human Judge hotly. "'Tis a glorious color!
Erin go bragh! Off'cer, ye've exceeded yer jooty. D' ye think this is
downtrodden an' sufferin' Oireland an' yerself the tyrant Gineral
French? Let 'em paint their noses anny color they loike; but green for
preference. I'm tellin' ye, this is the land of freedom an' equality,
an' ivery citizen thereof is entitled to life, liberty, and the purshoot
of happiness, an' a man's nose is his castle, an' don't ye fergit it.
Dis-charrrrged! Go an' sin no more. I mane, let the good worruk go awn!"
"Now watch for the evening papers," said young Phil Stacey exultantly.
"The Wrightery will get some free advertising that'll crowd it
Alas for youth's golden hopes! The evening papers ignored the carefully
prepared event. One morning paper published a paragraph, attributing the
green noses to a masquerade party. The conspirators, gathered at the
cellar with their war-paints on (in case of reporters), discussed the
fiasco in embittered tones. Young Stacey raged against a stupid and
corrupt press. MacLachan expressed the acidulous hope that thereafter
Cyrus the Gaunt would be content with making a fool of himself without
implicating innocent and confiding friends. The Bonnie Lassie was not
present, but sent word (characteristically) that they must have done it
all wrong; men had no sense, anyway. The party then sent out for
turpentine and broke up to reassemble no more. Only Phil Stacey,
inventor of the great idea, was still faithful to and hopeful of it.
Each evening he conscientiously greened himself and went to eat
Time justified his faith. One evening there dropped in a plump man who
exhaled a mild and comforting benevolence, like a gentle country parson.
He smiled sweetly at Phil, and introduced himself as a reporter for the
"Sunday World Magazine"--and where was the rest of the circle? In a
flurry of excitement, the pair sent for Cyrus the Gaunt to do the
talking. Cyrus arrived, breathless and a trifle off color (the Bonnie
Lassie had unfortunately got a touch of bronze scenic paint mixed with
the green, so that he smelled like an over-ripe banana), and proceeded
"This," he explained, "is a new cult. It is based on the
back-to-the-spring idea. The well-spring of life, you know.
The--er--spring of eternal youth, and--and so forth. You understand?"
"I hope to," said the reporter politely. "Why on the nose?"
"I will explain that," returned Cyrus, getting his second wind; "but
first let me get the central idea in your mind. It's a nature movement;
a readjustment of art to nature. All nature is green. Look about you."
Here he paused for effect, which was unfortunate.
"Quite so," agreed the reporter. "The cable-car, for instance, and the
dollar bill, not to mention the croton bug and the polar bear. But,
pardon me, I interrupt the flow of your eloquence."
"You do," said Cyrus severely. "Inanimate nature I speak of. All
inanimate nature is green. But we poor fellow creatures have gotten away
from the universal mother-color. We must get back to it. We must learn
to think greenly. But first we must learn to see greenly. How shall we
accomplish this? Put green in our eyes? Impossible, unfortunately. But,
our noses--there is the solution. In direct proximity to the eye, the
color, properly applied, tints one's vision of all things. Green shadows
in a green world," mooned Cyrus the Gaunt poetically. "As the bard
"'Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade.'"
"Wait a minute," said the visitor, and made a note on an envelope-back.
"Accordingly, Miss Barbran, the daughter and heiress of a millionaire
cattle owner in Wyoming [here the reporter made his second note], has
established this center where we meet to renew and refresh our souls."
"Good!" said the benevolent reporter. "Fine! Of course it's all bunk--"
"Bunk!" echoed Barbran and Phil, aghast, while Cyrus sat with his lank
"You don't see any of your favorite color in my eye, do you?" inquired
the visitor pleasantly. "Just what you're putting over I don't know.
Some kind of new grease paint, perhaps. Don't tell me. It's good enough,
anyway. I'll fall for it. It's worth a page story. Of course I'll want
some photographs of the mural paintings. They're almost painfully
beautiful.... What's wrong with our young friend; is he sick?" he added,
looking with astonishment at Phil Stacey who was exhibiting
"He painted 'em," explained Cyrus, grinning.
"And he's sorry," supplemented Barbran.
"Yes; I wouldn't wonder. Well, I won't give him away," said the kindly
journalist. "Now, as to the membership of your circle...."
The Sunday "story" covered a full page. The "millionairess" feature was
played up conspicuously and repeatedly, and the illustrations did what
little the text failed to do. It was a "josh-story" from beginning
"I'll kill that pious fraud of a reporter," declared Phil.
"Now the place _is_ ruined," mourned Barbran.
"Wait and see," advised the wiser Cyrus.
Great is the power of publicity. The Wrightery was swamped with custom
on the Monday evening following publication, and for the rest of that
week and the succeeding week.
"I never was good at figures," said the transported Barbran to Phil
Stacey at the close of the month, "but as near as I can make out, I've a
clear profit of eight dollars and seventy cents. My fortune is made. And
it's all due to you."
Had the Bonnie Lassie been able to hold her painted retainers in line,
the owner's golden prophecy might have been made good. But they had
other matters on hand for their evenings than sitting about in a dim
cellar gazing cross-eyed at their own scandalous noses. MacLachan was
the first defection. He said that he thought he was going crazy and he
knew he was going blind. The Little Red Doctor was unreliable owing to
the pressure of professional calls. He complained with some justice that
a green nose on a practicing physician tended to impair confidence. Then
Leon Coventry went away, and Boggs discovered (or invented) an important
engagement with a growing family of clothes-moths in a Connecticut
country house. So there remained only the faithful Phil. One swallow
does not make a summer; nor does one youth with a vernal proboscis
convince a skeptical public that it is enjoying the fearful
companionship of a subversive and revolutionary cult. Patronage ebbed
out as fast as it had flooded in. Barbran's eyes were as soft and happy
as ever in the evenings, when she and Phil sat in a less and less
interrupted solitude. But in the mornings palpable fear stalked her.
Phil never saw it. He was preoccupied with a dread of his own.
One evening of howling wind and hammering rain, when all was cosy and
home-like for two in the little firelit Wrightery, she nerved herself up
to facing the facts.
"It's going to be a failure," she said dismally.
"Then you're going away?" he asked, trying to keep his voice from
She set her little chin quite firmly. "Not while there's a chance left
of pulling it out."
"Well; it doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned," he muttered. "I'm
going away myself."
"You?" She sat up very straight and startled. "Where?"
"Oh! What for?"
"Do you remember a fat old grandpa who was here last month and came back
to ask about the decorations?"
"He's built him a new house--he calls it a mansion--and he wants me to
paint the music-room. He likes"--Phil gulped a little--"my style
"Isn't that great!" said Barbran in the voice of one giving three cheers
for a funeral. "How does he want his music-room decorated?"
Young Phil put his head in his hands. "Scenes from Moody and Sankey," he
said in a muffled voice.
"Good gracious! You aren't going to do it?"
"I am," retorted the other gloomily. "It's good money." Almost
immediately he added, "Damn the money!"
"No; no; you mustn't do that. You must go, of course. Would--will it
"I'm not coming back."
"I don't _want_ you not to come back," said Barbran, in a queer,
frightened voice. She put out her hand to him and hastily withdrew it.
He said desperately: "What's the use? I can't sit here forever looking
at you and--and dreaming of--of impossible things, and eating my heart
out with my nose painted green."
"The poor nose!" murmured Barbran.
With one of her home-laundered handkerchiefs dipped in turpentine, she
gently rubbed it clean. It then looked (as she said later in a feeble
attempt to palliate her subsequent conduct) very pink and boyish and
pathetic, but somehow faithful and reliable and altogether lovable.
So she kissed it. Then she tried to run away. The attempt failed.
It was not Barbran's nose that got kissed next. Nor, for that matter,
was it young Phil's. Then he held her off and shut his eyes, for the
untrammeled exercise of his reasoning powers, and again demanded of
Barbran and the fates:
"What's the use?"
"What's the use of what?" returned Barbran tremulously.
"Of all this? Your father's a millionaire, and I won't--I can't--"
"He isn't!" cried Barbran. "And you can--you will."
"He isn't?" ejaculated Phil. "What is he?"
"He's a school-teacher, and I haven't got a thing but debts."
Phil received this untoward news as if a flock of angels, ringing joy
bells, had just brought him the gladdest tidings in history. After an
interlude he said:
"Because," said Barbran, burrowing her nose in his coat: "I thought it
would be an asset. I thought people would consider it romantic and it
would help business. See how much that reporter made of it! Phil!
Wh-wh-why are you treating me like a--a--a--dumbbell?"
For he had thrust her away from him at arm's-length again.
"There's one other thing between us, Barbran."
"If there is, it's your fault. What is it?"
"Harvey Wheelwright," he said solemnly. "Do you really like that
She raised to him eyes in which a righteous hate quivered. "I loathe
him. I've always loathed him. I despise the very ink he writes with and
the paper it's printed on."
When I happened in a few minutes later, they were ritually burning the
"Dear Friend and Admirer" letter in a slow candle-flame, and Harvey
Wheelwright, as represented by his unctuously rolling signature, was
writhing in merited torment. Between them they told me their
"And he's not going to Kansas City," said Barbran defiantly.
"I'm not going anywhere, ever, away from Barbran," said young Phil.
"And he's going to paint what he wants to."
"Pictures of Barbran," said young Phil.
"And we're going to burn the Wheel sign in effigy, and wipe off the
walls and _make_ the place a success," said Barbran.
"And we're going to be married right away," said Phil.
"Next week," said Barbran.
"What do you think?" said both.
Now I know what I ought to have said just as well as MacLachan himself.
I should have pointed out the folly and recklessness of marrying on
twenty-five dollars a week and a dowry of debts. I should have preached
prudence and caution and delay, and have pointed out--The wind blew the
door open: Young Spring was in the park, and the wet odor of little
burgeoning leaves was borne in, wakening unwithered memories in my
"Bless you, my children!" said I.
It was actually for this, as holding out encouragement to their
reckless, feckless plans, that Wisdom, in the person of MacLachan, the
tailor, reprehended me, rather than for my historical intentions
regarding the pair.
"What'll they be marryin' on?" demanded Mac Wisdom--that is to say,
"Spring and youth," I said. "The fragrance of lilac in the air, the glow
of romance in their hearts. What better would you ask?"
"A bit of prudence," said MacLachan.
"Prudence!" I retorted scornfully. "The miser of the virtues. It may pay
its own way through the world. But when did it ever take Happiness along
for a jaunt?"
I was quite pleased with my little epigram until the Scot countered upon
me with his observation about two young fools and an old one.
Oh, well! Likely enough. Most unwise, and rash and inexcusable, that
headlong mating; and there will be a reckoning to pay. Babies, probably,
and new needs and pressing anxieties, and Love will perhaps flutter at
the window when Want shows his grim face at the door; and Wisdom will be
justified of his forebodings, and yet--and yet--who am I, old and lonely
and uncompanioned, yet once touched with the spheral music and the
sacred fire, that I should subscribe to the dour orthodoxies of
MacLachan and that ilk?
Years and years ago a bird flew in at my window, a bird of wonderful and
flashing hues, and of lilting melodies. It came; it tarried--and I let
the chill voice of Prudence overbear its music. It left me. But the song
endures; the song endures, and all life has been the richer for its
echoes. So let them hold and cherish their happiness, the two
As for the old one, would that some good fairy, possessed of the pigment
and secret of perishable youth, might come down and paint his
PLOOIE OF OUR SQUARE
Whenever Plooie went shuffling by my bench, I used to think of an old
and melancholy song that my grandfather sang:
"And his skin was so thin
You could almost see his bones
As he ran, hobble--hobble--hobble
Over the stones."
Before I could wholly recapture the quaint melody, my efforts would
invariably be nullified by the raucous shriek of his trade which had
forever fixed the nickname whereby Our Square knew Plooie:
"Parapluie-ee-ee-ee-ees a raccommoder!" He would then recapitulate
in English, or rather that unreproducible dialect which was his
substitute for it. "Oombrella for mend? Annie oombrella for mend?"
So he would pass on his way, shattering the peaceful air at half-minute
intervals with his bilingual disharmonies. He was pallid, meagerly
built, stoop-shouldered, bristly-haired, pock-marked, and stiff-gaited,
with a face which would have been totally insignificant but for an
obstinate chin and a pair of velvet-black, pathetically questioning
eyes; and he was incurably an outlander. For five years he had lived
among us, occupying a cubbyhole in Schepstein's basement full of ribs,
handles, crooks, patches, and springs, without appreciably improving his
speech or his position. It was said that his name was Garin--nobody
really knew or cared--and it was assumed from his speech that he
Few umbrellas came his way. Those of us affluent enough to maintain such
non-essentials patch them ourselves until they are beyond reclamation.
Why Plooie did not starve is one of the mysteries of Our Square, though
by no means the only one of its kind. I have a notion that the Bonnie
Lassie, to whom any variety of want or helplessness is its own
sufficient recommendation, drummed up trade for him among her uptown
friends. Something certainly enlisted his gratitude, for he invariably
took off his frowsy cap when he passed her house, whether or not she was
there to see, and he once unbosomed himself to me to the extent of
declaring that she was a kind lady. This is the only commentary I ever
heard him make upon any one in Our Square, which in turn completely
ignored him until the development of his love affair stimulated our
condescending and contemptuous interest.
The object of Plooie's addresses was a little Swiss of unknown
derivation and obscure history. She appeared to be as detached from the
surrounding world as the umbrella-mender himself. An insignificant bit
of a thing she was, anaemic and subdued, with a sad little face, soft
hazel eyes slightly crossed, and the deprecating manner of those who
scrub other people's doorsteps at fifteen cents an hour.
For a year their courtship, if such it might be termed, ran an
uneventful course. I had almost said unromantic. But who shall tell
where is fancy bred or wherein romance consists? Whenever Plooie saw the
drabbled little worker busy on a doorstep, he would cross over and open
the conversation according to an invariable formula.
Back to Full Books