Keeping up with Lizzie
Produced by Al Haines
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
COPYRIGHT, 1910, 1911, BY HARPER & BROTHERS
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
PUBLISHED MARCH, 1911
THE LOVING AND BELOVED
I DEDICATE THIS LITTLE BOOK
I. IN WHICH THE LEADING TRADESMEN OF POINTVIEW
BECOME A BOARD OF ASSESSORS
II. IN WHICH LIZZIE RETURNS TO HER HOME, HAVING MET A QUEEN
AND ACQUIRED AN ACCENT AND A FIANCE
III. IN WHICH LIZZIE DESCENDS PROM A GREAT HEIGHT
IV. IN WHICH THE HAM WAR HAS ITS BEGINNING
V. IN WHICH LIZZIE EXERTS AN INFLUENCE ON THE AFFAIRS
OF THE RICH AND GREAT
VI. IN WHICH THE PURSUIT OF LIZZIE BECOMES HIGHLY SERIOUS
VII. IN WHICH THE HONORABLE SOCRATES POTTER CATCHES UP
A DUEL WITH AUTOMOBILES
WITH HIS MIND ON THE SUBJECT OF EXTRAVAGANCE
"SEVEN DOLLARS A BARREL"
"I WANTED YE TO TELL MR. POTTER ABOUT YER TRAVELS," SAYS SAM
LIZZIE DROPPED INTO A CHAIR AND BEGAN TO CRY
BILL AN' I GOT TOGETHER OFTEN AN' TALKED OF THE OLD HAPPY DAYS
WE SET OUT FOR A TRAMP OVER THE BIG FARM
"I'M A CANDIDATE FOR NEW HONORS"
THREE DAYS LATER I DROVE TO THE VILLA
THE BOY EXERTED HIS CHARMS UPON MY LADY WARBURTON.
SHE LED US INTO THE BEDROOM
THEIR EYES WERE WIDE WITH WONDER
KEEPING UP WITH LIZZIE
KEEPING UP WITH LIZZIE
IN WHICH THE LEADING TRADESMEN OF POINTVIEW BECOME A BOARD OF
The Honorable Socrates Potter was the only "scientific man" in the
village of Pointview, Connecticut. In every point of manhood he
was far ahead of his neighbors. In a way he had outstripped
himself, for, while his ideas were highly modern, he clung to the
dress and manners that prevailed in his youth. He wore broadcloth
every day, and a choker, and chewed tobacco, and never permitted
his work to interfere with the even tenor of his conversation. He
loved the old times and fashions, and had a drawling tongue and
often spoke in the dialect of his fathers, loving the sound of it.
His satirical mood was sure to be flavored with clipped words and
changed tenses. The stranger often took him for a "hayseed," but
on further acquaintance opened his mouth in astonishment, for Soc.
Potter, as many called him, was a man of insight and learning and
of a quality of wit herein revealed. He used to call himself "an
attorney and peacemaker," but he was more than that. He was the
attorney and friend of all his clients, and the philosopher of his
community. If one man threatened another with the law in that
neighborhood, he was apt to do it in these terms, "We'll see what
Soc. Potter has to say about that."
"All right! We'll see," the other would answer, and both parties
would be sure to show up at the lawyer's office. Then, probably,
Socrates would try his famous lock-and-key expedient. He would sit
them down together, lock the door, and say, "Now, boys, I don't
believe in getting twelve men for a job that two can do better,"
and generally he would make them agree.
He had an office over the store of Samuel Henshaw, and made a
specialty of deeds, titles, epigrams, and witticisms.
He was a bachelor who called now and then at the home of Miss
Betsey Smead, a wealthy spinster of Pointview, but nothing had ever
come of it.
He sat with his feet on his desk and his mind on the subject of
extravagance. When he was doing business he sat like other men,
but when his thought assumed a degree of elevation his feet rose
with it. He began his story by explaining that it was all true but
[Illustration: With his mind on the subject of extravagance.]
"This is the balloon age," said he, with a merry twinkle in his
gray eyes. "The inventor has led us into the skies. The odor of
gasoline is in the path of the eagle. Our thoughts are between
earth and heaven; our prices have followed our aspirations in the
upward flight. Now here is Sam Henshaw. Sam? Why, he's a
merchant prince o' Pointview--grocery business--had a girl--name o'
Lizzie--smart and as purty as a wax doll. Dan Pettigrew, the
noblest flower o' the young manhood o' Pointview, fell in love with
her. No wonder. We were all fond o' Lizzie. They were a han'some
couple, an' together about half the time.
"Well, Sam began to aspire, an' nothing would do for Lizzie but the
Smythe school at Hardcastle at seven hundred dollars a year. So
they rigged her up splendid, an' away she went. Prom that day she
set the pace for this community. Dan had to keep up with Lizzie,
and so his father, Bill Pettigrew, sent him to Harvard. Other
girls started in the race, an' the first we knew there was a big
field in this maiden handicap.
"Well, Sam had been aspirin' for about three months, when he began
to perspire. The extras up at Hardcastle had exceeded his
expectations. He was goin' a hot pace to keep up with Lizzie, an'
it looked as if his morals was meltin' away.
"I was in the northern part o' the county one day, an' saw some
wonderful, big, red, tasty apples.
"'What ye doin' with yer apples?' says I to the grower.
"'I've sent the most of 'em to Samuel Henshaw, o' Pointview, an'
he's sold 'em on commission,' says he.
"'What do ye get for 'em ?' I asked.
"'Two dollars an' ten cents a barrel,' says he.
"The next time I went into Sam's store there were the same red
apples that came out o' that orchard in the northern part o' the
"'How much are these apples?' I says.
"'Seven dollars a barrel,' says Sam.
[Illustration: Seven dollars a barrel.]
"'How is it that you get seven dollars a barrel an' only return two
dollars an' ten cents to the grower?' I says.
"Sam stuttered an' changed color. I'd been his lawyer for years,
an' I always talked plain to Sam.
"'Wal, the fact is,' says he, with a laugh an' a wink, 'I sold
these apples to my clerk.'
"'Sam, ye're wastin' yer talents,' I says. 'Go into the railroad
"Sam was kind o' shamefaced.
"'It costs so much to live I have to make a decent profit
somewhere,' says he. 'If you had a daughter to educate, you'd know
"I bought a bill o' goods, an' noticed that ham an' butter were up
two cents a pound, an' flour four cents a sack, an' other things in
proportion. I didn't say a word, but I see that Sam proposed to
tax the community for the education o' that Lizzie girl. Folks
began to complain, but the tax on each wasn't heavy, an' a good
many people owed Sam an' wasn't in shape to quit him. Then Sam had
the best store in the village, an' everybody was kind o' proud of
it. So we stood this assessment o' Sam's, an' by a general tax
paid for the education o' Lizzie. She made friends, an' sailed
around in automobiles, an' spent a part o' the Christmas holidays
with the daughter o' Mr. Beverly Gottrich on Fifth Avenue, an'
young Beverly Gottrich brought her home in his big red runabout.
Oh, that was a great day in Pointview!--that red-runabout day of
our history when the pitcher was broken at the fountain and they
that looked out of the windows trembled.
"Dan Pettigrew was home from Harvard for the holidays, an' he an'
Lizzie met at a church party. They held their heads very high, an'
seemed to despise each other an' everybody else. Word went around
that it was all off between 'em. It seems that they had riz--not
risen, but riz--far above each other.
"Now it often happens that when the young ascend the tower o' their
aspirations an' look down upon the earth its average inhabitant
seems no larger to them than a red ant. Sometimes there's nobody
in sight--that is, no real body--nothin' but clouds an' rainbows
an' kings an' queens an' their families. Now Lizzie an' Dan were
both up in their towers an' lookin' down, an' that was probably the
reason they didn't see each other.
"Right away a war began between the rival houses o' Henshaw an'
Pettigrew. The first we knew Sam was buildin' a new house with a
tower on it--by jingo!--an' hardwood finish inside an' half an acre
in the dooryard. The tower was for Lizzie. It signalized her rise
in the community. It put her one flight above anybody in Pointview.
"As the house rose, up went Sam's prices again. I went over to the
store an' bought a week's provisions, an' when I got the bill I see
that he'd taxed me twenty-nine cents for his improvements.
"I met one o' my friends, an' I says to him, 'Wal,' I says, 'Sam is
goin' to make us pay for his new house an' lot. Sam's ham an'
flour have jumped again. As an assessor Sam is likely to make his
"'Wal, what do ye expect?' says he. 'Lizzie is in high society,
an' he's got to keep up with her. Lizzie must have a home proper
to one o' her station. Don't be hard on Sam.'
"'I ain't,' I says. 'But Sam's house ought to be proper to his
station instead o' hers.'
"I had just sat down in my office when Bill Pettigrew came
in--Sam's great rival in the grocery an' aspiration business. He'd
bought a new automobile, an' wanted me to draw a mortgage on his
house an' lot for two thousand dollars.
"'You'd better go slow,' I says. 'It looks like bad business to
mortgage your home for an automobile.'
"'It's for the benefit o' my customers,' says he.
"'Something purty for 'em to look at?' I asked.
"'It will quicken deliveries,' says he.
"'You can't afford it,' I says.
"'Yes, I can,' says he. 'I've put up prices twenty per cent., an'
it ain't agoin' to bother me to pay for it.'
"'Oh, then your customers are goin' to pay for it!' I says, 'an'
you're only a guarantor.'
"'I wouldn't put it that way,' says he. 'It costs more to live
these days. Everything is goin' up.'
"'Includin' taxes,' I says to Bill, an' went to work an' drew his
mortgage for him, an' he got his automobile.
"I'd intended to take my trade to his store, but when I saw that he
planned to tax the community for his luxuries I changed my mind and
went over to Eph Hill's. He kept the only other decent grocery
store in the village. His prices were just about on a level with
"'How do you explain it that prices have gone up so?' I asked.
"'Why, they say it's due to an overproduction o' gold,' says he.
"'Looks to me like an overproduction of argument,' I says. 'The
old Earth keeps shellin' out more gold ev'ry year, an' the more she
takes out o' her pockets the more I have to take out o' mine.'
"Wal, o' course I had to keep in line, so I put up the prices o' my
work a little to be in fashion. Everybody kicked good an' plenty,
an' nobody worse'n Sam an' Bill an' Ephraim, but I told 'em how I'd
read that there was so much gold in the world it kind o' set me
"Ye know I had ten acres o' worn-out land in the edge o' the
village, an' while others bought automobiles an' such luxuries I
invested in fertilizers an' hired a young man out of an
agricultural school an' went to farmin'. Within a year I was
raisin' all the meat an' milk an' vegetables that I needed, an'
sellin' as much ag'in to my neighbors.
"Well, Pointview under Lizzie was like Rome under Theodora. The
immorals o' the people throve an' grew. As prices went up decency
went down, an' wisdom rose in value like meat an' flour. Seemed so
everybody that had a dollar in the bank an' some that didn't bought
automobiles. They kept me busy drawin' contracts an' deeds an'
mortgages an' searchin' titles, an' o' course I prospered. More
than half the population converted property into cash an' cash into
folly--automobiles, piano-players, foreign tours, vocal music,
modern languages, an' the aspirations of other people. They were
puffin' it on each other. Every man had a deep scheme for makin'
the other fellow pay for his fun. Reminds me o' that verse from
Zechariah, 'I will show them no mercy, saith the Lord, but I will
deliver every man into the hand of his neighbor.' Now the baron
business has generally been lucrative, but here in Pointview there
was too much competition. We were all barons. Everybody was
taxin' everybody else for his luxuries, an' nobody could save a
cent--nobody but me an' Eph Hill. He didn't buy any automobiles or
build a new house or send his girl to the seminary. He kept both
feet on the ground, but he put up his prices along with the rest.
By-an'-by Eph had a mortgage on about half the houses in the
village. That showed what was the matter with the other men.
"The merchants all got liver-comlaint. There were twenty men that
I used to see walkin' home to their dinner every day or down to the
postoffice every evenin'. But they didn't walk any more. They
scud along in their automobiles at twenty miles an hour, with the
whole family around 'em. They looked as if they thought that now
at last they were keepin' up with Lizzie. Their homes were empty
most o' the time. The reading-lamp was never lighted. There was
no season o' social converse. Every merchant but Eph Hill grew fat
an' round, an' complained of indigestion an' sick-headache. Sam
looked like a moored balloon. Seemed so their morals grew fat an'
flabby an' shif'less an' in need of exercise. Their morals
travelled too, but they travelled from mouth to mouth, as ye might
say, an' very fast. More'n half of 'em give up church an' went off
on the country roads every Sunday. All along the pike from
Pointview to Jerusalem Corners ye could see where they'd laid
humbly on their backs in the dust, prayin' to a new god an' tryin'
to soften his heart with oil or open the gates o' mercy with a
"Bill came into my shop one day an' looked as if he hadn't a friend
in the world. He wanted to borrow some money.
"'Money!' I says. 'What makes ye think I've got money?'
"'Because ye ain't got any automobile,' he says, laughin'.
"'No,' I says. 'You bought one, an' that was all I could afford,'
"It never touched him. He went on as dry as a duck in a shower.
'You're one o' the few sensible men in this village. You live
within yer means, an' you ought to have money if ye ain't.'
"'I've got a little, but I don't see why you should have it,' I
says. 'You want me to do all the savin' for both of us.'
"'It costs so much to live I can't save a cent,' he says. 'You
know I've got a boy in college, an' it costs fearful. I told my
boy the other day how I worked my way through school an' lived on a
dollar a week in a little room an' did my own washin'. He says to
me, "Well, Governor, you forget that I have a social position to
"'He's right,' I says. 'You can't expect him to belong to the
varsity crew an' the Dickey an' the Hasty-Puddin' Club an' dress
an' behave like the son of an ordinary grocer in Pointview,
Connecticut. Ye can't live on nuts an' raisins an' be decent in
such a position. Looks to me as if it would require the combined
incomes o' the grocer an' his lawyer to maintain it. His position
is likely to be hard on your disposition. He's tryin' to keep up
with Lizzie--that's what's the matter,'
"For a moment Bill looked like a lost dog. I told him how Grant
an' Thomas stood on a hilltop one day an' saw their men bein' mowed
down like grass, an' by-an'-by Thomas says to Grant, 'Wal, General,
we'll have to move back a little; it's too hot for the boys here.'
"'I'm afraid your boy's position is kind of uncomf'table,' I says.
"'I'll win out,' he says. 'My boy will marry an' settle down in a
year or so, then he'll begin to help me.'
"'But you may be killed off before then,' I says.
"'If my friends 'll stand by me I'll pull through,' says he.
"'But your friends have their own families to stand by,' I says.
"'Look here, Mr. Potter,' says he. 'You've no such expense as I
have. You're able to help me, an' you ought to. I've got a note
comin' due tomorrow an' no money to pay it with.'
"'Renew it an' then retrench,' I says. 'Cut down your expenses an'
"'Can't,' says he. 'It costs too much to live. What 'll I do ?'
"'You ought to die,' I says, very mad.
"'I can't,' says he.
"'It costs so much to die,' he says. 'Why, it takes a thousan'
dollars to give a man a decent funeral these days.'
"'Wal,' I says, 'a man that can't afford either to live or die
excites my sympathy an' my caution. You've taxed the community for
yer luxuries, an' now ye want to tax me for yer notes. It's unjust
discrimination. It gives me a kind of a lonesome feelin'. You
tell your boy Dan to come an' see me. He needs advice more than
you need money, an' I've got a full line of it.'
"Bill went away richer by a check for a few hundred dollars. Oh, I
always know when I'm losin' money! I'm not like other citizens o'
"Dan came to see me the next Saturday night. He was a big,
blue-eyed, handsome, good-natured boy, an' dressed like the son of
a millionaire. I brought him here to the office, an' he sat down
"'Dan,' I says, 'what are your plans for the future?'
"'I mean to be a lawyer,' says he.
"'Quit it,' I says.
"'Why?' says he.
"'There are too many lawyers. We don't need any more. They're
devourin' our substance.'
"'What do you suggest?'
"'Be a real man. We're on the verge of a social revolution. Boys
have been leaving the farms an' going into the cities to be grand
folks. The result is we have too many grand folks an' too few real
folks. The tide has turned. Get aboard.'
"'I don't understand you.'
"'America needs wheat an' corn an' potatoes more than it needs
arguments an' theories.'
"'Would you have me be a farmer?' he asked, in surprise.
"'A farmer!' I says. 'It's a new business--an exact science these
days. Think o' the high prices an' the cheap land with its
productiveness more than doubled by modern methods. The country is
longing for big, brainy men to work its idle land. Soon we shall
not produce enough for our own needs.'
"'But I'm too well educated to be a farmer,' says he.
"'Pardon me,' I says. 'The land 'll soak up all the education
you've got an' yell for more. Its great need is education. We've
been sending the smart boys to the city an' keeping the fools on
the farm. We've put everything on the farm but brains. That's
what's the matter with the farm.'
"'But farming isn't dignified,' says Dan.
"'Pardon me ag'in,' says I. 'It's more dignified to search for the
secrets o' God in the soil than to grope for the secrets o' Satan
in a lawsuit. Any fool can learn Blackstone an' Kent an'
Greenleaf, but the book o' law that's writ in the soil is only for
"'I want a business that fits a gentleman,' says Dan.
"'An' the future farmer can be as much of a gentleman as God 'll
let him,' says I. 'He'll have as many servants as his talents can
employ. His income will exceed the earnings o' forty lawyers taken
as they average. His position will be like that o' the rich
planter before the war.'
"'Well, how shall I go about it?' he says, half convinced.
"'First stop tryin' to keep up with Lizzie,' says I. 'The way to
beat Lizzie is to go toward the other end o' the road. Ye see,
you've dragged yer father into the race, an' he's about winded.
Turn around an' let Lizzie try to keep up with you. Second, change
yer base. Go to a school of agriculture an' learn the business
just as you'd go to a school o' law or medicine. Begin modest.
Live within yer means. If you do right I'll buy you all the land
ye want an' start ye goin'.'
"When he left I knew that I'd won my case. In a week or so he sent
me a letter saying that he'd decided to take my advice.
"He came to see me often after that. The first we knew he was
goin' with Marie Benson. Marie had a reputation for good sense,
but right away she began to take after Lizzie, an' struck a
tolerably good pace. Went to New York to study music an' perfect
herself in French.
"I declare it seemed as if about every girl in the village was
tryin' to be a kind of a princess with a full-jewelled brain.
Girls who didn't know an adjective from an adverb an' would have
been stuck by a simple sum in algebra could converse in French an'
sing in Italian. Not one in ten was willin', if she knew how, to
sweep a floor or cook a square meal. Their souls were above it.
Their feet were in Pointview an' their heads in Dreamland. They
talked o' the doin's o' the Four Hundred an' the successes o'
Lizzie. They trilled an' warbled; they pounded the family piano;
they golfed an' motored an' whisted; they engaged in the titivation
of toy dogs an' the cultivation o' general debility; they ate
caramels an' chocolates enough to fill up a well; they complained;
they dreamed o' sunbursts an' tiaras while their papas worried
about notes an' bills; they lay on downy beds of ease with the last
best seller, an' followed the fortunes of the bold youth until he
found his treasure at last in the unhidden chest of the heroine;
they created what we are pleased to call the servant problem, which
is really the drone problem, caused by the added number who toil
not, but have to be toiled for; they grew in fat an' folly. Some
were both ox-eyed an' peroxide. Homeliness was to them the only
misfortune, fat the only burden, and pimples the great enemy of
"Now the organs of the human body are just as shiftless as the one
that owns 'em. The systems o' these fair ladies couldn't do their
own work. The physician an' the surgeon were added to the list o'
their servants, an' became as necessary as the cook an' the
chambermaid. But they were keeping up with Lizzie. Poor things!
They weren't so much to blame. They thought their fathers were
rich, an' their fathers enjoyed an' clung to that reputation. They
hid their poverty an' flaunted the flag of opulence.
"It costs money, big money an' more, to produce a generation of
invalids. The fathers o' Pointview had paid for it with sweat an'
toil an' broken health an' borrowed money an' the usual tax added
to the price o' their goods or their labor. Then one night the
cashier o' the First National Bank blew out his brains. We found
that he had stolen eighteen thousand dollars in the effort to keep
up. That was a lesson to the Lizzie-chasers! Why, sir, we found
that each of his older girls had diamond rings an' could sing in
three languages, an' a boy was in college. Poor man! he didn't
steal for his own pleasure. Everything went at auction--house,
grounds, rings, automobile. Another man was caught sellin' under
weight with fixed scales, an' went to prison. Henry Brown failed,
an' we found that he had borrowed five hundred dollars from John
Bass, an' at the same time John Bass had borrowed six hundred from
Tom Rogers, an' Rogers had borrowed seven hundred an' fifty from
Sam Henshaw, an' Henshaw had borrowed the same amount from Percival
Smith, an' Smith had got it from me. The chain broke, the note
structure fell like a house o' cards, an' I was the only
loser--think o' that. There were five capitalists an' only one man
with real money.
IN WHICH LIZZIE RETURNS TO HER HOME, HAVING MET A QUEEN AND
ACQUIRED AN ACCENT AND A FIANCE
"Sam Henshaw's girl had graduated an' gone abroad with her mother.
One Sunday 'bout a year later, Sam flew up to the door o' my house
in his automobile. He lit on the sidewalk an' struggled up the
steps with two hundred an' forty-seven pounds o' meat on him. He
walked like a man carryin' a barrel o' pork. He acted as if he was
glad to see me an' the big arm-chair on the piaz'.
"'What's the news?' I asked.
"'Lizzie an' her mother got back this mornin',' he gasped.
'They've been six months in Europe. Lizzie is in love with it.
She's hobnobbed with kings an' queens. She talks art beautiful. I
wish you'd come over an' hear her hold a conversation. It's
wonderful. She's goin' to be a great addition to this community.
She's got me faded an' on the run. I ran down to the store for a
few minutes this mornin', an' when I got back she says to me:
"'"Father, you always smell o' ham an' mustard. Have you been in
that disgusting store? Go an' take a bahth at once." That's what
she called it--a "bahth." Talks just like the English
people--she's been among 'em so long. Get into my car an' I'll
take ye over an' fetch ye back.'
"Sam regarded his humiliation with pride an' joy. At last Lizzie
had convinced him that her education had paid. My curiosity was
excited. I got in an' we flew over to his house. Sam yelled up
the stairway kind o' joyful as we come in, an' his wife answered at
the top o' the stairs an' says:
"'Mr. Henshaw, I wish you wouldn't shout in this house like a boy
calling the cows.'
"I guess she didn't know I was there. Sam ran up-stairs an' back,
an' then we turned into that splendid parlor o' his an' set down.
Purty soon Liz an' her mother swung in an' smiled very pleasant an'
shook hands an' asked how was my family, etc., an' went right on
talkin'. I saw they didn't ask for the purpose of gettin'
information. Liz was dressed to kill an' purty as a
picture--cheeks red as a rooster's comb an' waist like a hornet's.
The cover was off her showcase, an' there was a diamond sunburst in
the middle of it, an' the jewels were surrounded by charms to which
I am not wholly insensible even now.
"'I wanted ye to tell Mr. Potter about yer travels,' says Sam.
[Illustration: "I wanted ye to tell Mr. Potter about yer travels."
"Lizzie smiled an' looked out o' the window a minute an' fetched a
sigh an' struck out, lookin' like Deacon Bristow the day he give
ten dollars to the church. She told about the cities an' the folks
an' the weather in that queer, English way she had o' talking'>
"'Tell how ye hobnobbed with the Queen o' Italy,' Sam says.
"'Oh, father! Hobnobbed!' says she. 'Anybody would think that she
and I had manicured each other's hands. She only spoke a few words
of Italian and looked very gracious an' beautiful an' complimented
"Then she lay back in her chair, kind o' weary, an' Sam asked me
how was business--just to fill in the gap, I guess. Liz woke up
an' showed how far she'd got ahead in the race.
"'Business!' says she, with animation. 'That's why I haven't any
patience with American men. They never sit down for ten minutes
without talking business. Their souls are steeped in
commercialism. Don't you see how absurd it is, father? There are
plenty of lovely things to talk about.'
"Sam looked guilty, an' I felt sorry for him. It had cost heavy to
educate his girl up to a p'int where she could give him so much
advice an' information. The result was natural. She was irritated
by the large cubic capacity--the length, breadth, and thickness of
his ignorance and unrefinement; he was dazed by the length,
breadth, an' thickness of her learning an' her charm. He didn't
say a word. He bowed his head before this pretty, perfumed casket
"'You like Europe,' I says.
"'I love it,' says she, 'It's the only place to live. There one
finds so much of the beautiful in art and music and so many
"Lizzie was a handsome girl, an' had more sense than any o' the
others that tried to keep up with her. After all, she was Sam's
fault, an' Sam was a sin conceived an' committed by his wife, as ye
might say. She had made him what he was.
"'Have you seen Dan Pettigrew lately?' Lizzie asked.
"'Yes.' I says. 'Dan is goin' to be a farmer.'
"'A farmer!" says she, an' covered her face with her handkerchief
an' shook with merriment.
"'Yes,' I says. 'Dan has come down out o' the air. He's abandoned
folly. He wants to do something to help along.'
"'Yes, of course,' says Lizzie, in a lofty manner. 'Dan is really
an excellent boy--isn't he?'
"'Yes, an' he's livin' within his means--that's the first
mile-stone in the road to success,' I says. 'I'm goin' to buy him
a thousand acres o' land, an' one o' these days he'll own it an' as
much more. You wait. He'll have a hundred men in his employ, an'
flocks an' herds an' a market of his own in New York. He'll
control prices in this county, an' they're goin' down. He'll be a
force in the State.'
"They were all sitting up. The faces o' the Lady Henshaw an' her
daughter turned red.
"'I'm very glad to hear it, I'm sure,' said her Ladyship.
"'I wasn't so sure o' that as she was, an' there, for me, was the
milk in the cocoanut. I was joyful.
"'Why, it's perfectly lovely!' says Lizzie, as she fetched her
pretty hands together in her lap.
"'Yes, you want to cultivate Dan,' I says. 'He's a man to be
"'Oh, indeed!' says her Ladyship.
"'Yes, indeed!' I says, 'an' the girls are all after him.'
"I just guessed that. I knew it was unscrupulous, but livin' here
in this atmosphere does affect the morals even of a lawyer. Lizzie
grew red in the face.
"'He could marry one o' the Four Hundred if he wanted to,' I says.
'The other evening he was seen in the big red tourin'-car o' the
Van Alstynes. What do you think o' that?'
"Now that was true, but the chauffeur had been a college friend o'
Dan's, an' I didn't mention that.
"Lizzie had a dreamy smile in her face.
"'Why, it's wonderful!' says she. 'I didn't know he'd improved so.'
"'I hear that his mother is doing her own work,' says the Lady
Henshaw, with a forced smile.
"'Yes, think of it,' I says. 'The woman is earning her daily
bread--actually helpin' her husband. Did you ever hear o' such a
thing! I'll have to scratch 'em off my list. It's too uncommon.
It ain't respectable.'
"Her Ladyship began to suspect me an' retreated with her chin in
the air. She'd had enough.
"I thought that would do an' drew out o' the game. Lizzie looked
confident. She seemed to have something up her sleeve besides that
lovely arm o' hers.
"I went home, an' two days later Sam looked me up again. Then the
secret came out o' the bag. He'd heard that I had some money in
the savings-banks over at Bridgeport payin' me only three and a
half per cent., an' he wanted to borrow it an' pay me six per cent.
His generosity surprised me. It was not like Sam.
"'What's the matter with you?' I asked. 'Is it possible that your
profits have all gone into gasoline an' rubber an' silk an'
education an' hardwood finish an' human fat?'
"'Well, it costs so much to live,' he says, 'an' the wholesalers
have kept liftin' the prices on me. Now there's the meat
trust--their prices are up thirty-five per cent.'
"'Of course,' I says, 'the directors have to have their luxuries.
You taxed us for yer new house an' yer automobile an' yer
daughter's education, an' they're taxin' you for their steam-yachts
an' private cars an' racin' stables. You can't expect to do all
the taxin'. The wholesalers learnt about the profits that you an'
others like ye was makin', an' they concluded that they needed a
part of 'em. Of course they had to have their luxuries, an'
they're taxin' you--they couldn't afford to have 'em if they
didn't. Don't complain.'
"'I'll come out all right,' he says. 'I'm goin' to raise my whole
schedule fifteen per cent.'
"'The people won't stand it--they can't,' says I. 'You'll be
drownin' the miller. They'll leave you.'
"'It won't do 'em any good,' says he. 'Bill an' Eph will make
their prices agree with mine.'
"'Folks will go back to the land, as I have,' says I.
"'They don't know enough,' says Sam. 'Farmin' is a lost art here
in the East. You take my word for it--they'll pay our
prices--they'll have to--an' the rich folks, they don't worry about
prices. I pay a commission to every steward an' butler in this
"'I won't help you,' says I. 'It's wicked. You ought to have
saved your money.'
"'In a year from now I'll have money to burn,' he says. 'For one
thing, my daughter's education is finished, an' that has cost
"'How much would it cost to unlearn it?' I asked. 'That's goin' to
cost more than it did to get it, I'm 'fraid. In my opinion the
first thing to do with her is to uneducate her.'
"That was like a red-hot iron to Sam. It kind o' het him up.
"'Why, sir, you don't appreciate her,' says he. 'That girl is far
above us all here in Pointview. She's a queen.'
"'Well, Sam,' I says, 'if there's anything you don't need just now
it's a queen. If I were you I wouldn't graft that kind o' fruit on
the grocery-tree. Hams an' coronets don't flourish on the same
bush. They have a different kind of a bouquet. They don't
harmonize. Then, Sam, what do you want of a girl that's far above
ye? Is it any comfort to you to be despised in your own home?'
"'Mr. Potter, I haven't educated her for my own home or for this
community, but for higher things,' says Sam.
"'You hairy old ass! The first you know,' I says, 'they'll have
your skin off an' layin' on the front piaz' for a door-mat.'
"Sam started for the open air. I hated to be ha'sh with him, but
he needed some education himself, an' it took a beetle an' wedge to
open his mind for it. He lifted his chin so high that the fat
swelled out on the back of his neck an' unbuttoned his collar.
Then he turned an' said: 'My daughter is too good for this town,
an' I don't intend that she shall stay here. She has been asked to
marry a man o' fortune in the old country.'
"'So I surmised, an' I suppose you find that the price o' husbands
has gone up,' I says.
"Sam didn't answer me.
"'They want you to settle some money on the girl--don't they?' I
"'My wife says it's the custom in the old country,' says Sam.
"'Suppose he ain't worth the price?'
"'They say he's a splendid fellow,' says Sam.
"'You let me investigate him,' I says, 'an' if he's really worth
the price I'll help ye to pay it.'
"Sam said that was fair, an' thanked me for the offer, an' gave me
the young man's address. He was a Russian by the name of Alexander
Rolanoff, an' Sam insisted that he belonged to a very old family of
large means an' noble blood, an' said that the young man would be
in Pointview that summer. I wrote to the mayor of the city in
which he was said to live, but got no answer.
"Alexander came. He was a costly an' beautiful young man, about
thirty years old, with red cheeks an' curly hair an' polished
finger-nails, an' wrote poetry. Sometimes ye meet a man that
excites yer worst suspicions. Your right hand no sooner lets go o'
his than it slides down into your pocket to see if anything has
happened; or maybe you take the arm o' yer wife or yer daughter an'
walk away. Aleck leaned a little in both directions. But, sir,
Sam didn't care to know my opinion of him. Never said another word
to me on the subject, but came again to ask about the money.
"'Look here, Sam,' I says. 'You tell Lizzie that I want to have a
talk with her at four o'clock in this office? If she really wants
to buy this man, I'll see what can be done about it.'
"'All right, you talk with her,' says he, an' went out.
"In a few minutes Dan showed up.
"'Have you seen Lizzie?' says I.
"'Not to speak to her,' says Dan. 'Looks fine, doesn't she?'
"'Beautiful!'I says. 'How is Marie Benson?'
"'Oh, the second time I went to see her she was trying to keep up
with Lizzie,' says he. 'She's changed her gait. Was going to New
York after a lot o' new frills. I suppose she thought that I
wanted a grand lady. That's the trouble with all the girls here.
A man might as well marry the real thing as an imitation. I wish
Lizzie would get down off her high horse.'
"'She's goin' to swap him for one with still longer legs,' I says.
'Lizzie is engaged to a gentleman o' fortune in the old country.'
"Dan's face began to stretch out long as if it was made of
"'It's too bad,' says he. 'Lizzie is a good-hearted girl, if she is
"'Fine girl!' I says. 'An', Dan, I was in hopes that she would
discover her own folly before it was too late. But she saw that
others had begun to push her in the race an' that she had to let
out another link or fall behind.'
"'Well, I wish her happiness,' says Dan, with a sigh.
"'Go an' tell her so,' I says. 'Show her that you have some care
as to whether she lives or dies.'
"I could see that his feelin's had been honed 'til they were sharp
as a razor.
"'I've seen that fellow,' he says, 'an' he'll never marry Lizzie if
I can prevent it. I hate the looks of him. I shall improve the
first opportunity I have to insult him.'
"'That might be impossible,' I suggested.
"'But I'll make the effort,' says Dan.
"As an insulter I wouldn't wonder if Dan had large capacity when
properly stirred up.
"'Better let him alone. I have lines out that will bring
information. Be patient.'
"Dan rose and said he would see me soon, an' left with a rather
stern look in his face.
IN WHICH LIZZIE DESCENDS FROM A GREAT HEIGHT
"Lizzie was on hand at the hour appointed. We sat down here all by
"'Lizzie,' I says, 'why in the world did you go to Europe for a
husband? It's a slight to Pointview--a discouragement of home
"'There was nobody here that seemed to want me,' she says, blushin'
"She had dropped her princess manner an' seemed to be ready for
"'If that's so, Lizzie, it's your fault,' I says.
"'I don't understand you,' says she.
"'Why, my dear child, it's this way,' I says. 'Your mother an'
father have meant well, but they've been foolish. They've educated
you for a millionairess, an' all that's lackin' is the millions.
You overawed the boys here in Pointview. They thought that you
felt above 'em, whether you did or not; an' the boys on Fifth
Avenue were glad to play with you, but they didn't care to marry
you. I say it kindly, Lizzie, an' I'm a friend o' yer father's,
an' you can afford to let me say what I mean. Those young fellows
wanted the millions as well as the millionairess. One of our boys
fell in love with ye an' tried to keep up, but your pace was too
hot for him. His father got in trouble, an' the boy had to drop
out. Every well-born girl in the village entered the race with ye.
An era of extravagance set in that threatened the solvency, the
honor, o' this sober old community. Their fathers had to borrow
money to keep agoin'. They worked overtime, they importuned their
creditors, they wallowed in low finance while their daughters
revelled in the higher walks o' life an' sang in different
languages. Even your father--I tell you in confidence, for I
suppose he wouldn't have the courage to do it--is in financial
difficulties. Now, Lizzie, I want to be kind to you, for I believe
you're a good girl at heart, but you ought to know that all this is
what your accomplishments have accomplished.'
"She rose an' walked across the room, with trembling lips. She had
seized her parachute an' jumped from her balloon and was slowly
approachin' the earth. I kept her comin', 'These clothes an'
jewels that you wear, Lizzie--these silks an' laces, these
sunbursts an' solitaires--don't seem to harmonize with your
father's desire to borrow money. Pardon me, but I can't make 'em
look honest. They are not paid for--or if they are they are paid
for with other men's money. They seem to accuse you. They'd
accuse me if I didn't speak out plain to ye.'
"All of a sudden Lizzie dropped into a chair an' began to cry. She
had lit safely on the ground.
[Illustration: Lizzie dropped into a chair an' began to cry.]
"It made me feel like a murderer, but it had to be. Poor girl! I
wanted to pick her up like a baby an' kiss her. It wasn't that I
loved Lizzie less but Rome more. She wasn't to blame. Every
spoilt woman stands for a fool-man. Most o' them need--not a
master--but a frank counsellor. I locked the door. She grew calm
an' leaned on my table, her face covered with her hands. My clock
shouted the seconds in the silence. Not a word was said for two or
"'I have been brutal,' I says, by-an'-by. 'Forgive me.'
"'Mr. Potter,' she says, 'you've done me a great kindness. I'll
never forget it. What shall I do?'
"'Well, for one thing,' says I, 'go back to your old simplicity an'
live within your means.'
"'I'll do it,' she says; 'but--I--I supposed my father was rich.
Oh, I wish we could have had this talk before!'
"'Did you know that Dan Pettigrew was in love with you?' I put it
straight from the shoulder. 'He wouldn't dare tell ye, but you
ought to know it. You are regarded as a kind of a queen here, an'
it's customary for queens to be approached by ambassadors.'
"Her face lighted up.
"'In love with me?' she whispered. 'Why, Mr. Potter, I never
dreamed of such a thing. Are you sure? How do you know? I
thought he felt above me.'
"'An' he thought you felt above him,' I says.
"'How absurd! how unfortunate!' she whispered. 'I couldn't marry
him now if he asked me. This thing has gone too far. I wouldn't
treat any man that way.'
"'You are engaged to Alexander, are you?' I says.
"'Well, there is a sort of understanding, and I think we are to be
"She paused, and tears came to her eyes again.
"'You are thinking o' the money,' says I.
"'I am thinking o' the money,' says she. 'It has been promised to
him. He will expect it.'
"'Do you think he is an honest man? Will he treat you well?'
"'I suppose so.'
"'Then let me talk with him. Perhaps he would take you without
anything to boot.'
"'Please don't propose that,' says she. 'I think he's getting the
worst of it now. Mr. Potter, would you lend me the money? I ask
it because I don't want the family to be disgraced or Mr. Rolanoff
to be badly treated. He is to invest the money in my name in a
very promising venture. He says he can double it within three
"It would have been easy for me to laugh, but I didn't. Lizzie's
attitude in the whole matter pleased me. I saw that her heart was
sound. I promised to have a talk with her father and see her
again. I looked into his affairs carefully and put him on a new
financial basis with a loan of fifteen thousand dollars.
"One day he came around to my office with Alexander an' wanted me
to draw up a contract between him an' the young man. It was a
rather crude proposition, an' I laughed, an' Aleck sat with a bored
smile on his face.
"'Oh, if he's good enough for your daughter,' I said, 'his word
ought to be good enough for you.'
"'That's all right,' says Sam, 'but business is business. I want
it down in black an' white that the income from this money is to be
paid to my daughter, and that neither o' them shall make any
further demand on me.'
"Well, I drew that fool contract, an', after it was signed, Sam
delivered ten one-thousand-dollar bills to the young man, who was
to become his son-in-law the following month with the assistance of
a caterer and a florist and a string-band, all from New Haven.
"Within half an hour Dan Pettigrew came roarin' up in front o' my
office in the big red automobile of his father's. In a minute he
came in to see me. He out with his business soon as he lit in a
"'I've learned that this man Rolanoff is a scoundrel,' says he.
"'A scoundrel!' says I.
"'Of purest ray serene,' says he.
"I put a few questions, but he'd nothing in the way o' proof to
otter--it was only the statement of a newspaper.
"'Is that all you know against him?' I asked.
"'He won't fight,' says Dan. 'I've tried him--I've begged him to
"'Well, I've got better evidence than you have,' I says. 'It came
a few minutes before you did.'
"I showed him a cablegram from a London barrister that said:
"'Inquiry complete. The man is a pure adventurer, character _nil_.'
"'We must act immediately,' says Dan.
"'I have telephoned all over the village for Sam,' I says. 'They
say he's out in his car with Aleck an' Lizzie. I asked them to
send him here as soon as he returns.'
"'They're down on the Post Road I met 'em on my way here,' says
Dan. 'We can overtake that car easy.'
"Well, the wedding-day was approaching an' Aleck had the money, an'
the thought occurred to me that he might give 'em the slip
somewhere on the road an' get away with it. I left word in the
store that if Sam got back before I saw him he was to wait with
Aleck in my office until I returned, an' off we started like a
baseball on its way from the box to the catcher.
"An officer on his motor-cycle overhauled us on the Post Road. He
"'It's a case o' sickness,' I says, 'an' we're after Sam Henshaw.'
"'He's gone down the road an' hasn't come back yet,' says the
"I passed him a ten-dollar bill.
"'Keep within sight of us,' I says. 'We may need you any minute.'
"He nodded and smiled, an' away we went.
"'I'm wonderin' how we're agoin' to get the money,' I says, havin'
told Dan about it.
"'I'll take it away from him,' says Dan.
"'That wouldn't do,' says I.
"'Why not!' says I. 'You wouldn't want to be arrested for highway
robbery. Then, too, we must think o' Lizzie. Poor girl! It's
agoin' to be hard on her, anyhow. I'll try a bluff. It's probable
that he's worked this game before. If so, we can rob him without
violence an' let him go.'
"Dan grew joyful as we sped along.
"'Lizzie is mine,' he says. 'She wouldn't marry him now.'
"He told me how fond they had been of each other until they got
accomplishments an' began to put up the price o' themselves. He
said that in their own estimation they had riz in value like beef
an' ham, an' he confessed how foolish he had been. We were excited
an' movin' fast.
"'Something'll happen soon,' he says.
"An' it did, within ten minutes from date. We could see a blue car
half a mile ahead.
"'I'll go by that ol' freight-car o' the Henshaws',' says Dan.
'They'll take after me, for Sam is vain of his car. We can halt
them in that narrow cut on the hill beyond the Byron River.'
"We had rounded the turn at Chesterville, when we saw the Henshaw
car just ahead of us, with Aleck at the wheel an' Lizzie beside him
an' Sam on the back seat. I saw the peril in the situation.
"The long rivalry between the houses of Henshaw an' Pettigrew,
reinforced by that of the young men, was nearing its climax.
"'See me go by that old soap-box o' the Henshaws',' says Dan, as he
pulled out to pass 'em.
"Then Dan an' Aleck began a duel with automobiles. Each had a
forty-horse-power engine in his hands, with which he was resolved
to humble the other. Dan knew that he was goin' to bring down the
price o' Alecks an' Henshaws. First we got ahead; then they
scraped by us, crumpling our fender on the nigh side. Lizzie an' I
lost our hats in the scrimmage. We gathered speed an' ripped off a
section o' their bulwarks, an' roared along neck an' neck with 'em.
The broken fenders rattled like drums in a battle. A hen flew up
an' hit me in the face, an' came nigh unhorsin' me. I hung on. It
seemed as if Fate was tryin' to halt us, but our horse-power was
too high. A dog went under us. It began to rain a little. We
were a length ahead at the turn by the Byron River. We swung for
the bridge an' skidded an' struck a telephone pole, an' I went
right on over the stone fence an' the clay bank an' lit on my head
in the water. Dan Pettigrew lit beside me. Then came Lizzie an'
Sam--they fairly rained into the river. I looked up to see if
Aleck was comin', but he wasn't. Sam, bein' so heavy, had stopped
quicker an' hit in shallow water near the shore, but, as luck would
have it, the bottom was soft an' he had come down feet foremost,
an' a broken leg an' some bad bruises were all he could boast of.
Lizzie was in hysterics, but seemed to be unhurt. Dan an' I got
'em out on the shore, an' left 'em cryin' side by side, an'
scrambled up the bank to find Aleck. He had aimed too low an' hit
the wall, an' was stunned, an' apparently, for the time, dead as a
herrin' on the farther side of it. I removed the ten
one-thousand-dollar bills from his person to prevent complications
an' tenderly laid him down. Then he came to very sudden.
"'Stop!' he murmured. 'You're robbin' me.'
"'Well, you begun it,' I says. 'Don't judge me hastily. I'm a
philanthropist. I'm goin' to leave you yer liberty an' a hundred
dollars. You take it an' get. If you ever return to Connecticut
I'll arrest you at sight.'
"I gave him the money an' called the officer, who had just come up.
A traveller in a large tourin'-car had halted near us.
"'Put him into that car an' take him to Chesterville,' I said.
"He limped to the car an' left without a word.
"I returned to my friends an' gently broke the news.
"Sam blubbered 'Education done it,' says he, as he mournfully shook
"'Yes,' I says. 'Education is responsible for a damned lot of
"'An' some foolishness,' says Sam, as he scraped the mud out of his
hair. 'Think of our goin' like that. We ought to have known
better.' "'We knew better,' I says, 'but we had to keep up with
"Sam turned toward Lizzie an' moaned in a broken voice, 'I wish it
had killed me.'
"'Why so?' I asked.
"'It costs so much to live,' Sam sobbed, in a half-hysterical way.
'I've got an expensive family on my hands.'
"'You needn't be afraid o' havin' Lizzie on your hands,' says Dan,
who held the girl in his arms.
"'What do you mean?^ Sam inquired.
"'She's on my hands an' she's goin' to stay there,' says the young
man. 'I'm in love with Lizzie myself. I've always been in love
"'Your confession is ill-timed,' says Lizzie, as she pulled away
an' tried to smooth her hair. She began to cry again, an' added,
between sobs: 'My heart is about broken, and I must go home and get
help for my poor father.'
"'I'll attend to that,' says Dan; 'but I warn you that I'm goin' to
offer a Pettigrew for a Henshaw even. If I had a million dollars
I'd give it all to boot.'
"Sam turned toward me, his face red as a beet.
"'The money!' he shouted. 'Get it, quick!'
"'Here it is!' I said, as I put the roll o' bills in his hand.
"'Did you take it off him?'
"'I took it off him.'
"'Poor Aleck!' he says, mournfully, as he counted the money. 'It's
kind o' hard on him.'
"Soon we halted a passin' automobile an' got Sam up the bank an'
over the wall. It was like movin' a piano with somebody playin' on
it, but we managed to seat him on the front floor o' the car, which
took us all home.
"So the affair ended without disgrace to any one, if not without
violence, and no one knows of the cablegram save the few persons
directly concerned. But the price of Alecks took a big slump in
Pointview. No han'some foreign gent could marry any one in this
village, unless it was a chambermaid in a hotel.
"That was the end of the first heat of the race with Lizzie in
Pointview. Aleck had folded up his bluff an' silently sneaked
away. I heard no more of him save from a lady with blond, curly
hair an' a face done in water-colors, who called at my office one
day to ask about him, an' who proved to my satisfaction that she
was his wife, an' who remarked with real, patrician accent when I
told her the truth about him: 'Ah, g'wan, yer kiddin' me.'
"I began to explore the mind of Lizzie, an' she acted as my guide
in the matter. For her troubles the girl was about equally
indebted to her parents an' the Smythe school. Now the Smythe
school had been founded by the Reverend Hopkins Smythe, an
Englishman who for years had been pastor of the First
Congregational Church--a soothin' man an' a favorite of the rich
New-Yorkers. People who hadn't slept for weeks found repose in the
First Congregational Church an' Sanitarium of Pointview. They
slept an' snored while the Reverend Hopkins wept an' roared. His
rhetoric was better than bromide or sulphonal. In grateful
recollection of their slumbers, they set him up in business.
"Now I'm agoin' to talk as mean as I feel. Sometimes I get tired
o' bein' a gentleman an' knock off for a season o' rest an'
refreshment. Here goes! The school has some good girls in it, but
most of 'em are indolent candy-eaters. Their life is one long,
sweet dream broken by nightmares of indigestion. Their study is
mainly a bluff; their books a merry jest; their teachers a butt of
ridicule. They're the veriest little pagans. Their religion is,
in fact, a kind of Smythology. Its High Priest is the Reverend
Hopkins. Its Jupiter is self. Its lesser gods are princes, dukes,
earls, counts, an' barons. Its angels are actors an' tenors. Its
baptism is flattery. Poverty an' work are its twin hells.
Matrimony is its heaven, an' a slippery place it is. They revel in
the best sellers an' the worst smellers. They gossip of intrigue
an' scandal. They get their lessons if they have time. They cheat
in their examinations. If the teacher objects she is promptly an'
generally insulted. She has to submit or go--for the girls stand
together. It's a sort of school-girls' union. They'd quit in a
body if their fun were seriously interrupted, an' Mr. Smythe
couldn't afford that, you know. He wouldn't admit it, but they've
got him buffaloed.
"Lizzie no sooner got through than she set out with her mother to
find the prince. She struck Aleck in Italy."
Socrates leaned back and laughed.
"Now, if you please, I'll climb back on my pedestal," he said.
"Thank God! Lizzie began to rise above her education. She went to
work in her father's store, an' the whole gang o' Lizzie-chasers
had to change their gait again. She organized our prosperous young
ladies' club--a model of its kind--the purpose of which is the
promotion of simple livin' an' a taste for useful work. They have
fairs in the churches, an' I distribute a hundred dollars in cash
prizes--five dollars each for the best exhibits o' pumpkin-pie,
chicken-pie, bread, rolls, coffee, roast turkey, plain an' fancy
sewin', an' so on. One by one the girls are takin' hold with us
an' lettin' go o' the grand life. They've begun to take hold o'
the broom an' the dish-cloth, an' the boys seem to be takin' hold
o' them with more vigor an' determination. The boys are concluding
that it's cheaper to buy a piano-player than to marry one, that
canned prima-donnas are better than the home-grown article, that
women are more to be desired than playthings.
IN WHICH THE HAM WAR HAS ITS BEGINNING
"One day in the old time a couple of industrious Yankees were hard
at work in a field," Socrates continued. "Suddenly one said to the
"'I wish I was worth ten thousand dollars.'
"An' the other asked:
"'What would ye do with it?'
"The wisher rested on his shovel an' gave his friend a look of
"'What would I do with it?' he said. 'Why, you cussed fool, I'd
set down--an' without blamin' myself.'
"By-and-by the Yankee got to settin' down without blamin' himself,
an' also without the ten thousand. Here in Pointview we're
learnin' how to stand up again, an' Lizzie is responsible. You
shall hear how it happened.
"First I must tell you that Dan had been makin' little progress in
the wooin' o' Lizzie. Now she was inclined to go slow. Lizzie was
fond o' Dan. She put on her best clothes when he came to see her
of a Sunday. She sang to him, she walked him about the place with
her arm in his, but she tenderly refused to agree to marry him.
When he grew sentimental she took him out among the cucumbers in
the garden. She permitted no sudden rise in his temperature.
"'I will not marry,' she said, 'until I have done what I can to
repay my father for all that he has tried to do for me. I must be
uneducated and re-educated. It may take a long time. Meanwhile
you may meet some one you like better. I'm not going to pledge you
to wait for me. Of course I shall be awfully proud and pleased if
you do wait, but, Dan, I want you to be free. Let's both be free
until we're ready.'
"It was bully. Dan pleaded with the eloquence of an old-fashioned
lawyer. Lizzie stood firm behind this high fence, an' she was
right. With Dan in debt an' babies comin', what could she have
done for her father? Suddenly it seemed as if all the young men
had begun to take an interest in Lizzie, an', to tell the truth,
she was about the neatest, sweetest little myrmidon of commerce
that ever wore a white apron. The light of true womanhood had
begun to shine in her face. She kept the store in apple-pie order,
an' everybody was well treated. The business grew. Sam bought a
small farm outside the village with crops in, an' moved there for
the summer. Soon he began to let down his prices. The combine was
broken. It was the thing we had been waitin' for. People flocked
to his store. The others came down, but too late. Sam held his
gain, an' Lizzie was the power behind the fat. Dan finished his
course in agriculture an' I bought him a farm, an' he went to work
there, but he spent half his time in the store of his father tryin'
to keep up with Lizzie. Suddenly Dan started a ham war. He cut
the price of hams five cents a pound. Ham was one of our great
staples, an' excitement ran high. Lizzie cut below him two cents a
pound. Dan cut the price again. Lizzie made no effort to meet
this competition. The price had gone below the wholesale rate by
quite a margin. People thronged to Dan's emporium. Women stood on
the battle-field, their necks blanched with powder, their cheeks
bearin' the red badge o' courage, an' every man you met had a ham
in his hand. The Pettigrew wagon hurried hither an' thither loaded
with hams. Even the best friends of Sam an' Lizzie were seen in
Dan's store buyin' hams. They laid in a stock for all winter.
Suddenly Dan quit an' restored his price to the old figure. Lizzie
continued to sell at the same price, an' was just as cheerful as
ever. She had won the fight, an' ye wouldn't think that anything
unusual had happened; but wait an' see.
"Every day boys an' girls were droppin' out o' the clouds an' goin'
to work tryin' to keep up with Lizzie. The hammocks swung limp in
the breeze. The candy stores were almost deserted, an' those that
sat by the fountains were few. We were learnin' how to stand up.
"One day Dan came into my office all out o' gear. He looked sore
an' discouraged. I didn't wonder.
"'What's the matter now?' I says.
"'I don't believe Lizzie cares for me.'
"'How's that?' I says.
"'Last Sunday she was out riding with Tom Bryson, an' every Sunday
afternoon I find half-a-dozen young fellows up there.'
"'Well, ye know, Lizzie is attractive, an' she ain't our'n yit--not
just yit,' I says. 'If young men come to see her she's got to be
polite to 'em. You wouldn't expect her to take a broom an' shoo
"'But I don't have anything to do with other girls.'
"'An' you're jealous as a hornet,' I says. 'Lizzie wants you to
meet other girls. When Lizzie marries it will be for life. She'll
want to know that you love her an' only her. You keep right on
tryin' to catch up with Lizzie, an' don't be worried.'
"He stopped strappin' the razor of his discontent, but left me with
unhappy looks. That very week I saw him ridin' about with Marie
Benson in his father's motor-car.
"Soon a beautiful thing happened. I have told you of the
melancholy end of the cashier of one of our local banks. Well, in
time his wife followed him to the cemetery. She was a distant
relative of Sam's wife, an' a friend of Lizzie. We found easy
employment for the older children, an' Lizzie induced her parents
to adopt two that were just out of their mother's arms--a girl of
one an' a boy of three years. I suggested to Lizzie that it seemed
to me a serious undertaking, but she felt that she ought to be
awfully good by way of atonement for the folly of her past life.
It was near the end of the year, an' I happen to know that when
Christmas came a little sack containing five hundred dollars in
gold was delivered at Sam Henshaw's door for Lizzie from a source
unknown to her. That paid for the nurse, an' eased the situation."
IN WHICH LIZZIE EXERTS AN INFLUENCE ON THE AFFAIRS OF THE RICH AND
A year after Socrates Potter had told of the descent of Lizzie, and
the successful beginning of her new life, I called again at his
"How is Pointview?" I asked.
"Did ye ever learn how it happened to be called Pointview?" he
"Well, it began with a little tavern with a tap-room called the
Pointview House, a great many years ago. Travellers used to stop
an' look around for the Point, an', of course, they couldn't see
it, for there's none here; at least, no point of land. They'd go
in an' order drinks an' say:
"'Landlord, where's the point?'
"An' the landlord would say: 'Well, boys, if you ain't in a hurry
you'll probably see it purty soon.'
"All at once it would appear to 'em, an' it was apt to be an'
amusin' bit o' scenery.
"We've always been quick to see a point here, an' anxious to show
it to other people."
He leaned back and laughed as one foot sought the top of his desk.
"Our balloons rise from every walk o' life an' come down out o'
ballast," he went on. "Many of 'em touch ground in the great
financial aviation park that surrounds Wall Street. In our stages
of recovery the power of Lizzie has been widely felt."
Up went his other foot. I saw that the historical mood was upon
"Talk about tryin' to cross the Atlantic in an air-ship--why,
that's conservative," he continued. "Right here in the eastern
part o' Connecticut lives a man who set out for the vicinity of the
moon with a large company--a joint-stock company--in his life-boat.
First he made the journey with the hot-air-ship of his mind, an'
came back with millions in the hold of his imagination. Then he
thought he'd experiment with a corporation of his friends--his
surplus friends. They got in on the ground floor, an' got out in
the sky. Most of 'em were thrown over for ballast. The Wellman of
this enterprise escaped with his life an' a little wreckage. He
was Mr. Thomas Robinson Barrow, an' he came to consult me about
his affairs. They were in bad shape.
"'Sell your big house an' your motor-cars,' I urged.
"'That would have been easy,' he answered, 'but Lizzie has spoilt
the market for luxuries. You remember how she got high notions up
at the Smythe school, an' began a life of extravagance, an' how we
all tried to keep up with her, an' how the rococo architecture
broke out like pimples on the face of Connecticut?'
"I smiled an' nodded.
"'Well, it was you, I hear, that helped her back to earth and
started her in the simpleton life. Since then she has been going
just as fast, but in the opposite direction, and we're still tryin'
to keep up with her. Now I found a man who was going to buy my
property, but suddenly his wife decided that they would get along
with a more modest outfit. She's trying to keep up with Lizzie.
Folks are getting wise.'
"'Why don't you?'
"'Because I'm a born fool. We're fettered; we're prisoners of
"Only a night or two before I had seen his wife at a reception with
a rope of pearls in her riggin' an' a search-light o' diamonds on
her forward deck an' a tiara-boom-de-ay at her masthead an' the
flags of opulence flyin' fore an' aft.
"'If I were you,' I said, 'I'd sell everything--even the jewels.'
"'My poor wife!' he exclaimed. 'I haven't the heart to tell her
all. She don't know how hard up we are!'
"'I wouldn't neglect her education if I were you,' I said.
'There's a kindness, you know, that's most unkind. Some day I
shall write an article on the use an' abuse of tiaras--poor things!
It isn't fair to overwork the family tiara. I suggest that you get
a good-sized trunk an' lock it up with the other jewels for a
vacation. If necessary your house could be visited by a
burglar--that is, if you wanted to save the feelin's of your wife.'
"He turned with a puzzled look at me.
"'Is it possible that you haven't heard of that trick?' I asked--'a
man of your talents!'
"He shook his head.
"'Why, these days, if a man wishes to divorce the family jewels an'
is afraid of his wife, the house is always entered by a burglar.
My dear sir, the burglar is an ever-present help in time of
trouble. It's a pity that we have no Gentleman's Home Journal in
which poor but deservin' husbands could find encouragement an'
"He looked at me an' laughed.
"'Suppose you engage a trusty and reliable burglar?' he proposed.
"'There's only one in the world.' I said.
"'Who is it?'
"'Thomas Robinson Barrow. Of course, I'm not sayin' that if I
needed a burglar he's just the man I should choose, but for this
job he's the only reliable burglar. Try him.'
"He seemed to be highly amused.
"'But it might be difficult to fool the police,' he said, in a
"'Well, it isn't absolutely necessary, you know,' I suggested.
'The Chief of Police is a friend of mine.'
"'Good! I'm engaged for this job, and will sell the jewels and
turn the money over to you.'
"'I do not advise that--not just that,' I said. 'We'll retire them
from active life. A tiara in the safe is worth two in the Titian
bush. We'll use them for collateral an' go to doin' business.
When we've paid the debts in full we'll redeem the goods an' return
them to your overjoyed wife. We'll launch our tiara on the Marcel
"Tom was delighted with this plan--not the best, perhaps--but,
anyhow, it would save his wife from reproach, an' I don't know what
would have happened if she had continued to dazzle an' enrage his
creditors with the pearls an' the tiara.
"'It will not be so easy to sell the house,' Tom went on. 'That's
our worst millstone. It was built for large hospitality, and we
have a good many friends, and they come every week and jump on to
"'If one has to have a millstone he should choose it with
discretion,' I said. 'It doesn't pay to get one that is too
inviting. You'll have to swim around with yours for a while, and
watch your chance to slip it on to some other fellow's neck. You
don't want your son to be a millstonaire. Some day a man of
millions may find it a comfortable fit, an' relieve you. They're
buyin' places all about here.'
"Tom left an' began work on our programme. The burglary was well
executed an' advertised. It achieved a fair amount of
publicity--not too much, you know, but enough. The place was
photographed by the reporters with the placard 'For Sale' showin'
plainly on the front lawn. The advertisin' was worth almost as
much as the diamonds. Tom said that his wife had lost weight since
the sad event.
"'Of course,' I said. 'You can't take ten pounds of jewelry from a
woman without reducin' her weight. She must have had a pint o'
"'Pictures an' glowin' accounts of the villa were printed in all
the papers, an' soon a millionaire wrote that it was just the place
he was lookin' for. I closed the deal with him. It was Bill
Warburton, who used to go to school with me up there on the hills.
He had long been dreamin' of a home in Pointview.
"They used to say that Bill was a fool, but he proved an alibi.
Went West years ago an' made a fortune, an' thought it would be
nice to come back an' finish his life where it began, near the
greatest American city. I drew the papers, an' Bill an' I got
together often an' talked of the old happy days, now glimmering in
the far past--some thirty-five years away,
[Illustration: Bill an' I got together often an' talked of the old
"Well, they enlarged the house--that was already big enough for a
hotel--an' built stables an' kennels an' pheasant yards an' houses
for ducks an' geese an' peacocks. They stocked up with fourteen
horses, twelve hounds, nine collies, four setters, nineteen
servants, innumerable fowls, an' four motor-cars, an' started in
pursuit o' happiness.
"You see, they had no children, an' all these beasts an' birds were
intended to supply the deficiency in human life, an' assist in the
campaign. Well, somehow, it didn't succeed, an' one day Bill came
into my office with a worried look. He confided to me the
well-known fact that his wife was nervous and unhappy.
"'The doctors don't do her any good, an' I thought I'd try a
lawyer,' said he.
"'Do you want to sue Fate for damages or indict her for malicious
persecution?' I asked.
"'Neither,' he said, 'but you know the laws of nature as well as
the laws of men. I appeal to you to tell me what law my wife has
broken, and how she can make amends.'
"'You surprise me,' I said. 'You an' the madame can have
everything you want, an' still you're unhappy.'
"'What can we have that you can't? You can eat as much, an' sleep
better, an' wear as many clothes, an' see an' hear as well as we
"'Ah, but in the matter of quality I'm way behind the flag, Bill.
You can wear cloth o' gold, an Russian sables, an' have champagne
an' terrapin every meal, an' fiddlers to play while ye eat it, an'
a brass band to march around the place with ye, an' splendid horses
to ride, an' dogs to roar on ahead an' attract the attention of the
populace. You can have a lot of bankrupt noblemen to rub an'
manicure an' adulate an' chiropodize ye, an' people who'd have to
laugh at your wit or look for another job, an' authors to read from
their own works--'
"Bill interrupted with a gentle protest: 'Soc, how comforting you
"'Well, if all that is losin' its charm, what's the matter with
"'Don't talk to me about travel,' said Bill. 'We've worn ruts in
the earth now. Our feet have touched every land.'
"'How many meals do you eat a day?'
"'Try six,' I suggested.
"He laughed, an' I thought I was makin' progress, so I kept on.
"'How many motor-cars have ye ?'
"'Get eight,' I advised, as Bill put on the loud pedal. 'You've
got nineteen servants, I believe, try thirty-eight. You
have--twenty-one dogs--get forty-two. You can afford it.'
"'Come, be serious,' said Bill. 'Don't poke fun at me.'
"'Ah! but your wife must be able to prove that she has more dogs
an' horses an' servants an' motor-cars, an' that she eats more
meals in a day than any other woman in Connecticut. Then, maybe,
she'll be happy. You know it's a woman's ambition to excel.'
"'We have too many fool things now,' said Bill, mournfully. 'She's
had enough of them--God knows!'
"Something in Bill's manner made me sit up and stare at him.
"'Of course, you don't mean that she wants another husband!' I
"'I'm not so sure of that,' said Bill, sadly. 'Sometimes I'm
almost inclined to think she does.'
"'Well, that's one direction in which I should advise strict
economy,' said I. 'You can multiply the dogs an' the horses, an'
the servants an' the motor-cars, but in the matter o' wives an'
husbands we ought to stick to the simple life. Don't let her go to
competing with those Fifth Avenue ladies.'
"'I don't know what's the matter,' Bill went on. 'She's had
everything that her heart could wish. But, of course, she has had
only one husband, and most of her friends have had two or three.
They've outmarried her. It may be that, secretly, she's just a
little annoyed about that. Many of her old friends are consumed
with envy; their bones are rotten with it. They smile upon her;
they accept her hospitality; they declare their love, and they long
for her downfall. Now, my wife has a certain pride and joy in all
this, but, naturally, it breeds a sense of loneliness--the bitter
loneliness that one may find only in a crowd. She turns more and
more to me, and, between ourselves, she seems to have made up her
mind that I don't love her, and I can't convince her that I do.'
"'Well, Bill, I should guess that you have always been fond of your
wife--and--true to her.'
"'And you are right,' said Bill. 'I've loved with all my heart and
with a conscience. It's my only pride, for, of course, I might
have been gay. In society I enjoy a reputation for firmness. It
is no idle boast.'
"'Well, Bill, you can't do anything more for her in the matter of
food, raiment, beasts, or birds, an' as to jewelry she carries a
pretty heavy stock. I often feel the need of smoked glasses when I
look at her. You'll have to make up your mind as to whether she
needs more or less. I'll study the situation myself. It may be
that I can suggest something by-and-by--just as a matter of
"'Your common sense may discern what is needed,' said Bill. 'I
wish you'd come at least once a week to dinner. My wife would be
delighted, to have you, Soc. You are one of the few men who
"She was a pretty woman, distinguished for a look of weariness and
a mortal fear of fat. She had done nothing so hard an' so long,
that, to her, nothing was all there was in the world--save fat.
She was so busy about it that she couldn't sit still an' rest. She
wandered from one chair to another, smokin' a cigarette, an' now
and then glancin' at her image in a mirror an' slyly feelin' her
ribs to see if she had gained flesh that day. She liked me because
I was unlike any other man she had met. I poked fun at her folly
an' all the grandeur of the place. I amused her as much as she
amused me, perhaps. Anyhow, we got to be good friends, an' the
next Sunday we all drove out in a motor-car to see Lizzie. Mrs.
Bill wanted to meet her. Lizzie had become famous. She was
walkin' up an' down the lawn with the infant in a perambulator, an'
the small boy toddling along behind her. We left Mrs. Bill with
Lizzie an' the kids, an' set out for a tramp over the big farm.
When we returned we found the ladies talkin' earnestly in the house.
[Illustration: We set out for a tramp over the big farm.]
"Before we left I called Lizzie aside for a minute.
"'How do you get along with these babies?' I asked.
"'They're the life of our home. My father and mother think they
couldn't live without them.'
"'An' they're good practice for you,' I suggested. 'It's time you
were plannin' for yourself, Lizzie.'
"'I've no prospects,' said she.
"'How is that?'
"'Why, there's only one boy that I care for, an' he has had enough
"'You don't mean Dan?'
"'Yes,' she whispered with trembling lips, an' turned away.
"'What's the matter?'
"She pulled herself together an' answered in half a moment: 'Oh, I
don't know! He doesn't come often. He goes around with other
"'Well,' I said, 'it's the same ol' story. He's only tryin' to
keep up with Lizzie. You've done some goin' around yourself.'
"'I know, but I couldn't help it.'
"'He knows, an' he couldn't help it,' I says. 'The boys have
flocked around you, an' the girls have flocked around Dan. They
were afraid he'd get lonesome. If I were you I'd put a mortgage on
him an' foreclose it as soon as possible.'
"'It's too late,' says she. 'I hear he's mortgaged.'
"'You'd better search the records,' I says, 'an' if it ain't so,
stop bein' careless. You've put yer father on his feet. Now look
out for yerself.'
"'I think he's angry on account of the ham war,' says she.
"'Why do you think that?'
"She told me the facts, an' I laughed 'til the tears came to my
"'Nonsense,' I says, 'Dan will like that. You wait 'til I tell
him, an' he'll be up here with his throttle wide open.'
"'Do you suppose he'd spend Christmas with us?' she asked, with a
very sober look. 'You know, his mother an' father have gone South,
an' he'll be all alone.'
"'Ask him at once--call him on the 'phone,' I advised, an' bade her
"The happiness o' Lizzie an' the charm o' those kids had suggested
an idea. I made up my mind that I'd try to put Mr. an' Mrs. Bill
on the job o' keepin' up with Lizzie.
"'That's a wonderful woman,' said Mrs. Bill, as we drove away. 'I
envy her--she's so strong and well and happy. She loves those
babies, and is in the saddle every afternoon, helping with the work
o' the farm.'
"'Why don't you get into the saddle and be as well and strong as
she is?' Bill asked.
"'Because I've no object--it's only a way of doing nothing,' said
Mrs. Bill. 'I'm weary of riding for exercise. There never was a
human being who could keep it up long. It's like you and your
dumb-bells. To my knowledge you haven't set a foot in your
gymnasium for a month. As a matter of fact, you're as tired of
play as I am, every bit. Why don't you go into Wall Street an' get
"'Tired of play!' Bill exclaimed. 'Why, Grace, night before last
you were playing bridge until three o'clock in the morning.'
"'Well, it's a way of doing nothing skilfully and on the
competitive plan,' said she. 'It gives me a chance to measure my
capacity. When I get through I am so weary that often I can go to
sleep without thinking. It seems to me that brains are a great
nuisance to one who has no need of them. Of course, by-and-by,
they'll atrophy and disappear like the tails of our ancestors.
Meanwhile, I suppose they are bound to get sore. Mine is such a
fierce, ill-bred, impudent sort of a brain, and it's as busy as a
bat in a belfry. I often wish that I had one of those soft,
flexible, paralytic, cocker-spaniel brains, like that of our friend
Mrs. Seavey. She is so happy with it--so unterrified. She is
equally at home in bed or on horseback, reading the last best
seller or pouring tea and compliments. Now just hear how this
brain of mine is going on about that poor, inoffensive creature!
But that's the way it treats me. It's a perfect heathen of a
"Bill an' I looked at each other an' laughed. Her talk convinced
me of one thing--that her trouble was not the lack of a brain.
"'You're always making fun of me,' she said. 'Why don't you give
me something to do?'
"'Suppose you wash the dishes?' said Bill.
"'Would it please you?'
"'Anything that pleases you pleases me.'
"'I saw that she, too, was goin' to try to keep up with Lizzie, an'
I decided that I'd help her. When we arrived at the villa we made
our way to its front door through a pack of collie dogs out for an
"'By-the-way,' I said, when we sat down to luncheon at Bill's
house, 'congratulate me. I'm a candidate for new honors.'
[Illustration: I'm a candidate for new honors.]
"'Those of a husband? I've been hoping for that--you stubborn old
bachelor.' said Mrs. Bill, expectantly.
"'No,' I answered, 'I'm to be a father.'
"Bill put down his fork an' turned an' stared at me. Mrs. Bill
leaned back in her chair with a red look of surprise.
"'The gladdest, happiest papa in Connecticut,' I added.
"Mrs. Bill covered her face with her napkin an' began to shake.
"'S-Soc., have you fallen?' Bill stammered.
"'No, I've riz,' I said. 'Don't blame me, ol' man, I had to do it.
I've adopted some orphans. I'm goin' to have an orphanage on the
hill; but it will take a year to finish it. I'm goin' to have five
children. They're beauties, an' I know that I'm goin' to love
them. I propose to take them out of the atmosphere of indigence
an' wholesale charity. They'll have a normal, pleasant home, an' a
hired mother an' me to look after them--the personal touch, you
know. I expect to have a lot of fun with them.'
"'But what a responsibility!' said Mrs. Bill.
"'I know, but I feel the need of it. Of course it's different with
you--very different--you have all these dogs an' horses to be
responsible for an' to give you amusement. I couldn't afford that.
Then, too, I'm a little odd, I guess. I can get more fun out of
one happy, human soul than out of all the dogs an' horses in
"'But children! Why, they're so subject to sickness and accident
and death,' said Mrs. Bill.
"'An' they're subject, also, to health an' life an' safety,' I
"'Yes, but you know--they'll be getting into all kinds of trouble.
They'll worry you.'
"'True; but as for worry, I don't mind that much,' I said. 'My
best days were those that were full of worry. Now, that I've won a
competence an' my worries are gone, so is half my happiness. You
can't have sunshine without shadows. There was one of my neighbors
who was troubled with "boils." He had to have 'em cured right
away, an' a doctor gave him some medicine that healed 'em up, but
he was worse off than ever. The boils began to do business inside
of him, an' he rushed back to the doctor.
"'What's the matter now?" said the medical man.
"'"Outside I'm sound as a dollar," said my neighbor, "but it seems
as if all hell had moved into me."
"'Now, cares are like boils: it don't do to get rid of 'em too
quick. They're often a great relief to the inside of a man, an'
it's better to have 'em on the surface than way down in your
"Bill an' his wife looked into each other's eyes for half a minute,
but neither spoke.
"'I'm goin' to ask a favor of you,' I said. 'I see that there's
nobody livin' in the old farm-house out back of the garden. I wish
you'd let me put my little family into it until I can build a home
"'Oh, my!' Mrs. Bill exclaimed. 'Those children would be running
all over the lawns and the garden. They'd destroy my roses.'
"'True; but, after all, they're more beautiful than the roses,' I
urged. 'They're more graceful in form, more charming in color.
Then, too, roses cannot laugh or weep or play. Roses cannot look
up at you out of eyes full of the light of heaven an' brighter than
your jewels. Roses may delight, but they cannot love you or know
that you love them. Dear woman, my roses will wander over the
lawns. Their colors will be flickering about you, and the music of
their voices will surround the villa some days; but, God knows,
they'll look better, far better than the dogs or the bronze lions,
or the roses. I shall dress them well.'
"'I think he's right,' said Bill.
"'He's most disturbing and persuasive anyway--the revolutionist!'
said Mrs. Bill. 'If it's really a favor to you, Mr. Potter, I
shall agree to it. But you must have a trusty woman. I really
cannot assume any responsibility.'
"'I thanked her and promised to assume all responsibility, and Mrs.
Warburton was to get the old house ready at once.
"Three days later I drove to the villa with my matron and the
babies. Rather quick work, wasn't it? I hadn't let any grass grow
under my plan. When we lit at the front door every youngster broke
out in a loud hurrah of merriment. The three-year-old
boy--beautiful beyond all words--got aboard one of the crouched
lions and began to shout. A little girl made a grab at the
morning-glories on a Doric column, while her sister had mounted a
swinging seat an' tumbled to the floor. The other two were
chattering like parrots. Honestly, I was scared. I was afraid
that Mrs. Bill would come down and jump into hysterics. I snaked
the boy off the lion's back and rapped on him for order. The
matron got busy with the others. In a jiffy it seemed as if they
had all begun to wail an' roar. I trembled when a maid opened the
door an' I saw Mrs. Bill comin' down the staircase. I wouldn't
have been surprised to have seen the bronze lion get up an' run.
[Illustration: Three days later I drove to the villa.]
"'The saints defend us!' exclaimed Mrs. Bill, in the midst of the
"'They're not at their best,' I shouted, 'but here they are.'
"'Yes, I knew they were there,' said Mrs. Bill. 'This is the music
of which you were speaking the other day. Take them right around
to the old house, if you please. I'm sorry, but I must ask you to
excuse me this morning.'
"I succeeded in quellin' the tumult, and introduced the matron, who
received a nod an' a look that made a dent in her, an' away we went
around the great house, a melancholy, shuffling troop, now silent
as the grave. It looked dark for my little battalion with which I
had been hoping to conquer this world within the villa gates. They
were of the great army of the friendless.
"I asked Mrs. Hammond, the matron, to see that they did as little
damage as possible, and left them surrounded by every comfort.
"They had a telephone and unlimited credit at the stores, an' Mrs.
Hammond was a motherly soul of much experience with children, an' I
knew that I could trust her.
"I was to dine with the Warburtons later in the week, an' before I
entered the big house that evening I went around to the lodge. The
children were all well an' asleep in their beds, an' the matron
apparently happy an' contented. She said that Mrs. Bill had met
them in the grounds that day, an' she told how the little
three-year-old boy had exerted his charms upon my lady Warburton,
who had spent half an hour leading him through the gardens.
[Illustration: The boy had exerted his charms upon my lady
"How beautiful he was lying asleep in his bed that evening!--his
face like the old dreams of Eros, with silken, yellow, curly locks
on his brow, an' long dark lashes, soft as the silk of the growing
corn, an' a red mouth, so wonderfully curved, so appealing in its
silence. Beneath it were teeth like carved ivory. Those baby lips
seemed to speak to me and to say: 'O man that was born of a woman,
and like me was helpless, give me your love or look not upon me!'
"But I could not help looking, an" as I looked he smiled in what
dreams--of things past or to come--I wish it were in me to tell
you. Something touched me--like a strong hand. I went out under
the trees in the darkness an' stood still an' wondered what had
happened to me. Great Scott!--me! Socrates Potter, lawyer,
"'With that little captain I could take a city,' I whispered, an' I
got up an' brushed myself off, as it were, an' walked around to the
front door of the great house.
"Therein I was to witness an amusing comedy. The butler wore a new
sort of grin as he took my wraps at the door. There were guests,
mostly from New York an' Greenwich. We had taken our seats at the
table when, to my surprise, Mrs. Bill, in a grand costume, with a
tiara on her head, an' a collar of diamonds on her neck, began to
serve the caviar.
"'Ladies and gentlemen,' said she, 'this is to convince Mr.
Socrates Potter that I can do useful work. I'm dieting, anyhow,
and I can't eat.'
"'My friend, I observe that you are serving us, and we are proud,
but you do not appear to be serving a purpose,' I said.
"'Now, don't spoil it all with your relentless logic,' she began.
'You see, I am going to take a hand in this keeping-up-with-Lizzie
business. One of our ladies had to give up a dinner-party the
other day, because her butlers had left suddenly.'
"'"Why didn't you and a maid serve the dinner yourselves?" I said.
"'"Impossible!" was her proud answer.
"'"It would have been a fine lark. I would have done it," I said.
"'"I'd like to see you," she laughed.
"'"You shall," I answered, and here I am.'
"Now, there were certain smiles which led me to suspect that it was
a blow aimed at one of the ladies who sat at the table with us, but
of that I am not sure.
"'I'm also getting my hand in,' our hostess went on. 'Bill and I
are going to try the simple life. Tomorrow we move into the
log-cabin, where we shall do our own work, and send the servants
off for a week's holiday. I'm going to do the cooking--I've been
learning how--and I shall make the beds, and Bill is to chop the
wood, and help wash the dishes, and we shall sleep out-of-doors.
It will, I hope, be a lesson to some of these proud people around
us who are living beyond their means. That's good, isn't it?'
"'Excellent!' I exclaimed, as the others laughed.
"'Incidentally, it will help me to reduce,' she added.
"'An' it promises to reduce Bill,' I said. 'It will kill Bill, I
fear, but it will pay. You might change your plan a little--Just a
little--an' save poor Bill. Think of eating biscuit an' flapjacks
from the hand of a social leader! Between the millstones of duty
and indigestion he will be sadly ground, but with the axe he may,
if he will, defend his constitution.'
"'Well, what's a constitution between husband and wife?' she asked.
"'Nothin'.' I says. 'Bear in mind I wouldn't discourage you. With
the aid of the axe his ancestors were able to withstand the
assaults of pork an' beans an' pie. If he uses it freely, he is
"'You see, I shall have him in a position where he must work or
die,' said Mrs. Bill.
"'He'll die,' said a guest.
"'I call it a worthy enterprise whatever the expense,' I said. 'It
will set a fashion here an' a very good one. In this community
there are so many dear ladies who are prisoners of gravitation.
They rely almost exclusively on hired hands an' feet, an' are
losin' the use o' their own. What confusion will spread among them
when they learn that Mrs. William Henry Warburton, the richest
woman in Fairfield County, and the daughter of a bishop, has been
doin' her own work! What consternation! What dismay! What female
profanity! What a revision of habits an' resolutions! Why,
there's been nothin' like it since the descent of Lizzie.'
"'I think it's terrible,' said a fat lady from Louisville,
distinguished for her appetite, an' often surreptitiously referred
to as 'The Mammoth Cave of Kentucky.' 'The idea of trying to make
it fashionable to endure drudgery! I think we women have all we
can do now.'
"'To be respectable,' said Mrs. Bill; 'but let's try to do
"'Why don't you form a Ladies' Protective Union,' Bill suggested,
'an' choose the tiara for a symbol, an' strike for no hours a day
an' all your husbands can earn?'
"'And the employment of skilled idlers only,' Mrs. Bill put in.
'They must all know how to do nothing in the modern way--by
discussing the rights of women and the novel of lust, and the
divorces past and prospective, by playing at bridge and
benevolence. How absurd it all is! I'm not going to be an
overgrown child any longer.'
"I saw that Mrs. Bill was makin' progress, an' with her assistance
I began to hope for better things in that neighborhood.
"You've got to reach the women somehow, you see, before you can
improve the social conditions of a community. I love them, but
many are overgrown children, as Mrs. Bill had put it, an' doin'
nothing with singular skill an' determination an' often with
"Our pretty hostess had been helping a butler, as this talk went
on, an' presently one of the other ladies joined her, an' never was
any company so picturesquely an' amusingly served.
"'I've quite fallen in love with that three-year-old boy,' said
Mrs. Bill, as we rose from the table. 'I had a good romp with him
"'I wish you'd go over to the old farm-house with me; I want to
show you something,' I said.
"In a moment we were in wraps an' making our way across the lawn.
"'I was glad to get a rap at that Mrs. Barrow,' she whispered, as
we walked along. 'She's just got back her jewels that were stolen,
and has begun to go out again. She's the vainest, proudest fool of
a woman, and her husband is always borrowing money. Did you know
"'Some--that is, fairly well,' I said, with bitterness.
"'So does Bill, and she goes about with the airs of a grand lady
and the silliest notions. Really, it was for her benefit that I
helped the butler.'
"'If it weren't for Bill I'd call you an angel,' I said. 'You have
it in your power to redeem the skilled idlers of this community.'
"We reached the little house so unlike the big, baronial thing we
had left. It was a home. Mrs. Hammond sat by the reading-lamp in
its cozy sitting-room before an open fire. She led us into the
bedroom with the lamp in her hand. There lay the boy as I had left
him, still smiling with a lovelier, softer red in his cheeks than
that of roses.
[Illustration: She led us into the bedroom.]
"'See the color and the dimples,' I said.
"She looked from one to another, an' suddenly the strong appeal of
their faces fell upon her. She raised the boy from his bed, an' he
put his arms around her neck an' began to talk in a tender baby
"Did you ever hear the voice of a child just out of dreamland, when
it expresses, not complaint, but love an' contentment? Well, sir,
it is the sweetest, the most compelling note in all nature, I
believe. It is like a muted violin--voice of God or voice of
man--which is it? I dare not say, but I do know that the song of
the hermit-thrush is but sounding brass compared with that.
"I felt its power, an' I said to myself: 'I will waste my life no
longer. I will marry.'
"She, too, had felt it. The little captain had almost overcome
her. She laid him down, an' we turned away.
"We walked through the garden paths, an' neither spoke, but in the
stillness I could hear trumpets of victory. We entered the great
hall an' sat with the others by its fireside, but took little part
in the talk. When I made my adieus she shook my hand warmly and
said I was very good to them.
"Save for its good example, the log-cabin experiment was not a
success. They slept with all the doors and windows open, an' one
night a skunk came in an' got under the bed. Mrs. Bill discovered
that they had company, an' Bill got up an' lit the lantern, an'
followed the clew to its source. He threatened an' argued an'
appealed to the skunk's better nature with a doughnut, but the
little beast sat unmoved in his corner. The place seemed to suit
"Bill got mad an' flung the axe at him. It was a fatal move--fatal
to the skunk an' the cabin an' the experiment, an' a blow to the
sweetness an' sociological condition of Connecticut.
"They returned to the big house, an' by-an'-by told me of their
"'Don't be discouraged,' I said. 'You will find skunks in every
walk of life, but when you do, always throw down your cards an'
quit the game. They can deal from the bottom of the pack. You
haven't a ghost of a show with 'em.'
"Being driven out of the cabin, Mrs. Bill gave most of her leisure
to the farm-house, where I had spent an hour or more every day.
"Suddenly I saw that a wonderful thing had happened to me. I was
in love with those kids, an' they with me. The whole enterprise
had been a bluff conceived in the interest of the Warburtons. I
hadn't really intended to build a house, but suddenly I got busy
with all the mechanics I could hire in Pointview, and the house
began to grow like a mushroom.
"Another wonderful thing happened. Mrs. Warburton fell in love
with the kids, and they with her. She romped with them on the
lawn; she took them out to ride every day; she put them to bed
every night; she insisted upon buying their clothes; she bought
them a pony an' a little omnibus; she built them a playhouse for
their comfort. The whole villa began to revolve around the
children. They called her mama an' they called me papa, a
sufficiently singular situation.
IN WHICH THE PURSUIT OF LIZZIE BECOMES HIGHLY SERIOUS
Dan had been out of town, an' immediately on his return he came to
"'How's business?' I asked.
"'Well, the ham war was a little hard on us, but we're picking up,'
says he. 'They're still selling hams way below a decent price over
at Henshaw's. I don't see how they can do it.'
"'I do,' I says.
"'Please explain," says Dan.
"'Don't you know that Lizzie was buyin' most o' those hams that you
sold way below the wholesale price, an' that she's now makin' a
good profit on 'em?' I says.
"'Great Scott!' Dan exclaimed, as he sank in a chair.
"'The fact is, Dan, the only way to keep up with that girl is to
marry her,' says I. 'Get busy. If you don't somebody else will.
Put a mortgage on her an' foreclose it as soon as possible. As a
floatin' asset Lizzie is dangerous.'
"Dan picked up his hat an' started for the door.
"'Tell her she must do business or you'll cut the price of
Pettigrews,' I suggested.
"'Good idea!' he answered, as he went away.
"Meanwhile Mr. an' Mrs. Bill Warburton were hot on the trail of
"Bill came to me one day an' said: 'Those babies have solved the
problem; my wife is happy and in excellent health. She sleeps an'
eats as well as ever, an' her face has a new look--you have
"'Certainly, Bill, an' you're goin' to hear some rather chesty an'
superior talk. I saw what was the matter long ago--she was
motor-sick, an' tiara-sick, an' dog-sick, an' horse-sick. She was
sick of idleness an' rich food an' adulation. She has discovered
that there are only three real luxuries--work, children,
motherhood--that to shirk responsibility is to forfeit happiness.
I have been a little disappointed in you, Bill. Your father was a
minister; he had the love of men in his soul. You seem to have
taken to dogs an' horses with an affection almost brotherly. I
don't blame you so much. When men get rich they naturally achieve
a passion for the things that money will buy. They think they've
got to improve the breed o' dogs an' horses, an' they're apt to
forget the breed o' men. You've been pursuin' Happiness with dogs,
horses, an' motor-cars. You never can catch her in that
way--never. Don't you remember, Bill, that in the old days we
didn't pursue Happiness? Why, Happiness pursued us an' generally
caught us. Some days she didn't succeed until we were all tired
out, an' then she led us away into the wonderful land o' dreams,
an' it was like heaven. You never get Happiness by pursuin'
_her_--that's one dead sure thing. Happiness is never captured.
She comes unbidden or not at all. She travels only in one path,
an' you haven't found it. Bill, we've strayed a little. Let's try
to locate the trail o' Happiness. I believe we're gettin' near it.
"'Last year a colt of yours won a classic event of the turf. How
much finer it would be if you had some boys in training for the
sublime contests of life, an' it wouldn't cost half so much. You
know, there are plenty of homeless boys who need your help.
Wouldn't it pay better to develop a Henry M. Stanley--once a
homeless orphan--than a Salvator or an Ormonde or a Rayon d'Or?'
"'Pound away,' said Bill. 'Nail an' rivet me to the cross. I
haven't a word to say, except this: What in the devil do ye want me
"'Well, ye might help to redeem New England,' I said. 'The Yankee
blood is runnin' out, an' it's a pity. To-day the Yankees are
almost a childless race. Do ye know the reason?'
"He shook his head.
"'It costs so much to live,' I says. 'We can't afford children.
To begin with, the boys an' girls don't marry so young. They can't
stand the expense. They're all keepin' up with Lizzie, but on the
wrong road. The girls are worse than the boys. They go out o' the
private school an' beat the bush for a husband. At first they
hope to drive out a duke or an earl; by-an'-by they're willin' to
take a common millionaire; at last they conclude that if they can't
get a stag they'll take a rabbit. Then we learn that they're
engaged to a young man, an' are goin' to marry as soon as he can
afford it. He wears himself out in the struggle, an' is apt to be
a nervous wreck before the day arrives. They are nearin' or past
thirty when he decides that with economy an' _no children_ they can
afford to maintain a home. The bells ring, the lovely strains from
"Lohengrin" fill the grand, new house o' God, an' overflow into the
quiet streets o' the village, an' we hear in them what Wagner never
thought of--_the joyful death-march of a race_. Think of it, Bill,
this old earth is growin' too costly for the use o' man. We prefer
autos an' diamonds an' knick-knacks! Life has become a kind of a
circus where only the favored can pay the price of admission, an'
here in America, where about all the great men we have had were
bred in cabins, an' everything worth a fish-hook came out o'
poverty! You have it in your power to hasten the end o' this
wickedness,' I said. 'For one thing, you can make the middleman
let go of our throats in this community. Near here are hundreds of
acres o' land goin' to waste. Buy it an' make it produce--wool,
meat, flax, grains, an' vegetables. Start a market an' a small
factory here, an' satisfy yourself as to what is a just price for
the necessaries of life. If the tradesmen are overchargin' us,
they'll have to reduce prices. Put your brain an' money into it;
make it a business. At least, you'll demonstrate what it ought to
cost to live here in New England. If it's so much that the average
Yankee can't afford it by honest work--if we must all be lawyers or
bankers or brokers or graspin' middle-men in order to live--let's
start a big Asylum for the Upright, an' give 'em a chance to die
comfortably. But it isn't so. I can raise potatoes right here for
thirty cents a bushel, as good as those you pay forty cents a peck
for at Sam Henshaw's. You'll set an example of inestimable value
in this republic of ours. Dan has begun the good work, an'
demonstrated that it will pay.'
"'It's a good idea--I'm with you,' he said. 'If we can get the
boys an' girls to marry while the bloom is on the rye, it's worth
while, an' I wouldn't wonder if indirectly we'd increase the crop
of Yankees an' the yield of happiness to the acre.'
"'Bill, you're a good fellow,' I said. 'You only need to be
reminded of your duty--you're like many another man.'
"'And I'll think you the best fellow in the world if you'll let us
keep those kids. We enjoy them. We've been having a lot of fun
"'I can't do that,' I said, 'but I'll keep 'em here until we can
get some more. There are thousands of them as beautiful, as
friendless, as promising as these were.'
"'I wish you could let us have these,' he urged. 'We wouldn't
adopt them, probably, but we'd do our best for them--our very best.'
"'I can't,' I answered.
"'Because they've got hold of my old heart--that's why. I hadn't
looked for that, Bill, but the little cusses have conquered _me_.'
"'Great God!' he exclaimed. 'I hadn't thought of that. And my
wife told me this morning that she loves that three-year-old boy as
dearly as she loves me. They've all won her heart. What shall I
"'Let me think it over,' I said, an' shook his hand an' left, an' I
knew that I was likely to indulge in the makin' of history right
"I went home an' sat down an' wrote the best brief of my career--an
appeal to the Supreme Court o' this planet--a woman's heart. It
was a letter to one whose name I honored although I had not written
it in years.
"Next mornin' I plunged into a lawsuit an' was workin' night an'
day, until the jury came in with a verdict an' court adjourned for
the Christmas holidays.
"An' that day a decision was handed down in my appeal to the court
of last resort. It was a cablegram from an Italian city, an' a
verdict in my favor. I am to get in that case the best fee on
record--a wife and the love of a dear and beautiful woman. We went
to school together, and I am ashamed that I didn't ask her to marry
me years ago. So much for me had Lizzie an' the kids accomplished.
"I was to dine with the Warburtons Christmas Eve, and be Santa
Claus for the children. I bought a set o' whiskers an' put on my
big fur coat and two sets o' bells on the mare, an' drove to the
villa, with a full pack in the buggy an' a fuller heart in my
"Bill an' Mrs. Bill an' I went over to the farm-house together with
our arms full. The children were in a room up-stairs with Mrs.
Hammond waiting for Santa Claus. Below we helped the two maids,
who were trimming the Christmas tree--and a wonderful tree it was
when we were done with it--why, sir, you'd have thought a rainbow
was falling into a thicket on the edge of a lake. My friend, it
was the tree of all fruits.
"We filled the little stockings hanging on the mantel. Then they
helped me to put on my beard an' the greatcoat an' cap an' the pack
over all, an' Mrs. Bill an' I went out-of-doors. We stood still
an' listened for a moment. Two baby voices were calling out of an
upper window: 'Santa Claus, please come, Santa Claus!' Then we
heard the window close an' the chatter above stairs, but we stood
still. Mrs. Bill seemed to be laughing, but I observed that her
handkerchief had the centre of the stage in this little comedy.
"In half a minute I stole down the road an' picked up the bells
that lay beside it, an' came prancin' to the door with a great
jingle, an' in I went an' took my stand by the Christmas tree. We
could hear the hurry of small feet, an' eager, half-hushed voices
in the hall overhead. Then down the stairway came my slender
battalion in the last scene of the siege. Their eyes were wide
with wonder, their feet slow with fear. The little captain of
three years ran straight to Mrs. Bill an' lay hold of her gown, an'
partly hid himself in its folds, an' stood peekin' out at me. It
was a masterful bit of strategy. I wonder how he could have done
it so well. She raised him in her arms an' held him close. A
great music-box in a corner began to play:
"'O tannenbaum! O tannenbaum!
wie grun sind deine blaetter!'
[Illustration: Their eyes were wide with wonder.]
"Then with laughter an' merry jests we emptied the pack, an'
gathered from the tree whose fruit has fed the starving human heart
for more than a thousand years, an' how it filled those friends o'
"Well, it was the night of my life, an' when I turned to go, its
climax fell upon me. Mrs. Bill kneeled at my feet, an' said with
tears in her eyes, an' her lips an' voice trembling:
"'O Santa Claus! you have given me many things, but I beg for
"The city had fallen. Its queen was on her knees. The victorious
army was swarming into the open gate of her arms. The hosts of
doubt an' fear were fleeing.
"I refuse to tell you all that happened in the next minute or two.
A witness has some rights when testifyin' against his own manhood.
"I helped the woman to her feet, an' said:
"'They are yours. I shall be happy enough, and, anyhow, I do not
think I shall need them now.'
"An' so I left them as happy as human beings have any right to be.
At last they had caught up with Lizzie, an' I, too, was in a fair
way to overtake her.
"An' how fared Dan in his pursuit of that remarkable maiden? Why,
that very night Lizzie an' Dan had been shakin' the tree o' love,
an' I guess the fruit on it was fairly ripe an' meller. Next day
they came up to my house together.
"Dan couldn't hold his happiness, an' slopped over as soon as he
was inside the door.
"'Mr. Potter,' says he, with more than Christmas merriment, 'we're
going to be married next month.'
"Before I could say a word he had gathered Lizzie up in his arms
an' kissed her, an' she kissed back as prompt as if it had been a
slap in a game o' tag.
"'You silly man,' she says, 'you could have had me long ago.'
"'If I'd only 'a' known it,' he says.
"'Oh, the ignorance o' some men!' she says, lookin' into his eyes.
"'It exceeds the penetration o' some women,' I says.
"They came together ag'in quite spiteful. I separated 'em.
"'Quit,' I says. 'Stop pickin' on each other. It provokes you an'
me too. You're like a pair o' kids turned loose in a candy store.
Behave yerselves an' listen to reason.'
"Lizzie turned upon me as if she thought it was none o' my
business. Then she smiled an' hid her face on the manly breast o'
"'Now Lizzie,' I says, 'get yer mind in workin' order as soon as ye
can. Dan, you go over an' stand by the window. I want you to keep
at least ten paces apart, an' please don't fire 'til ye get the
signal. I'm goin' to give a prize for the simplest weddin' that
ever took place in Pointview,' I says. 'It will be five hundred
dollars in gold for the bride. Don't miss it.'
"'The marriage will occur at noon,' says Lizzie. 'There'll be
nothing but simple morning frocks. The girls can wear calico if
they wish. No jewels, no laces, no elaborate breakfast."
"'An' no presents, but mine, that cost over five dollars each,' I
"An' that's the way it was--like old times. No hard work wasted in
gettin' ready, no vanity fair, no heart-burnin', no bitter envy, no
cussin' about the expense. There was nothing but love an'
happiness an' goodwill at that wedding. It was just as God would
have a wedding, I fancy, if He were the master o' ceremonies, as He
ought to be.
"They are now settled on a thousand acres o' land here in New
England. Dan has eight gangs o' human oxen from Italy at work for
him getting in his fertilizers. He rides a horse all day an' is as
cordy as a Roman gladiator. Do you know what it means? Ten
thousand like him are going into the same work, the greed o' the
middleman will be checked, an' one o' these days the old earth 'll
be lopsided with the fruitfulness of America."
IN WHICH THE HONORABLE SOCRATES POTTER CATCHES UP WITH LIZZIE
Early in June I was invited to the wedding of Miss Betsey Smead and
the Honorable Socrates Potter. Miss Betsey had inherited a large
estate, and lived handsomely in the Smead homestead, built by her
grandfather. She was a woman of taste and refinement, but, in
deference to Socrates, no doubt, the invitations had been printed
in the office of the local newspaper. There could have been no
better example of honest simplicity. The good news sent me in
quest of my friend the lawyer. I found him in Miss Betsey's
library. He was in high spirits and surrounded by treasures of art.
"Yes, I'm in luck," he began. "Miss Betsey is a dear soul. We're
bound to be happy in spite of all this polished brass an' plate an'
mahogany. There's nothin' here that I can put my feet on, except
the rugs or the slippery floor or the fender. Everything has the
appearance o' bein' more valuable than I am. If it was mine I'd
take an axe an' bring things down to my level. I'm kind o' scairt
for fear I'll sp'ile suthin' er other. Sometimes I feel as if I'd
like to crawl under the grand pyano an' git out o' danger. Now
look at old gran'pa Smead in his gold frame on the wall. He's got
me buffaloed. Watches every move I make. Betsey laughs an' tells
me I can sp'ile anything I want to, but gran'pa is ever remindin'
me o' the ancient law o' the Smeads an' the Persians."
"Mr. Potter, I owe so much to you," I said. "I want to make you a
present--something that you and your wife will value. I've thought
about it for weeks. Can you--"
He interrupted me with a smile and these gently spoken words:
"Friends who wish to express their good-will in gifts are requested
to consider the large an' elegant stock o' goods in the local
ninety-nine-cent store. Everything from socks to sunbursts may be
found there. Necklaces an' tiaras are not prohibited if guaranteed
to be real ninety-nine-centers. These days nobody has cheap
things. That makes them rare an' desirable. All diamonds should
weigh at least half a pound. Smaller stones are too common.
Everybody has them, you know. Why, the wife of the butcher's clerk
is payin' fifty cents a week on a solitaire. Gold, silver, an'
automobiles will be politely but firmly refused--too common, far
too common! Nothin' is desired likely to increase envy or bank
loans or other forms of contemporaneous crime in Pointview. We
would especially avoid increasin' the risk an' toil of overworked
an' industrious burglars. They have enough to do as it is--poor
fellows--they hardly get a night's rest. Miss Betsey's home has
already given 'em a lot o' trouble."
His humor had relieved its pressure in the deep, good-natured
chuckle of the Yankee, as he strode up an' down the floor with both
hands in his trousers pockets.
"Look at that ol' duffer," he went on, as he pointed at the stern
features of grandpa Smead. "Wouldn't ye think he'd smile now an'
then. Maybe he'll cheer up after I've lived here awhile."
He moved a couple of chairs to give him more room, an' went on:
"Now, there's Bill Warburton. I supposed he was a friend o' mine,
but we had a fight in school, years ago, an' I guess he's never got
over it. Anyhow, I caught him tryin' to slip an automobile on
me--just caught him in time. There he was tryin' to rob me o' the
use o' my legs an' about fifteen hundred a year for expenses an'
build me up into a fat man with indigestion an' liver-complaint. I
served an injunction on him.
"Another man has tried to make me the lifelong slave of a silver
service. He'd gone down to Fifth Avenue an' ordered it, an' I
suppose it would 'a' cost thousands. Tried to sneak it on me. Can
ye think o' anything meaner? It would 'a' cost me a pretty penny
for insurance an' storage the rest o' my life, an' then think of
our--ahem--our poor children! Why, it would be as bad as a
mortgage debt. Every time I left home I would have worried about
that silver service; every time the dog barked at night I would
have trembled in my bed for the safety o' the silver service; every
time we had company I would have been afraid that somebody was
goin' to scratch the silver service; an' when I saw a stranger in
town, I would have said to myself: 'Ah, ha! it may be that he has
heard of our silver service an' has come to steal it.' I would
have begun to regard my servants an' many other people with dread
an' suspicion. Why, once I knew a man who had a silver service,
an' they carried it up three nights to the attic every night for
fifty years. They figured that they'd walked eleven hundred miles
up an' down stairs with the silver service in their hands. The
thought that they couldn't take it with 'em hastened an' embittered
their last days. Then the heirs learned that it wasn't genuine
"Of course, I put another injunction upon that man. 'If we've ever
done anything to you, forgive us,' I said, 'but please do not
cripple us with gold or silver.'"
He stopped and put his hand upon my shoulder and continued:
"My young friend, if you would make us a gift, I wish it might be
something that will give us pleasure an' not trouble, something
that money cannot buy an' thieves cannot steal--your love an' good
wishes to be ours as long as you live an' we live--at least. We
shall need no token o' that but your word an' conduct."
I assured him of all he asked for with a full heart.
"Should I come dressed?" was my query.
"Dressed, yes, but not dressed up," he answered. "Neither white
neckties nor rubber boots will be required."
"How are Mr. and Mrs. Bill?"
"Happier than ever," said he. "Incidentally they've learned that
life isn't all a joke, for one of those little brownies led them to
the gate of the great mystery an' they've begun to look through it
an' are' wiser folks. Two other women are building orphan lodges
on their grounds, an' there's no tellin' where the good work will
We were interrupted by the entrance of Miss Betsey Smead. She was
a comely, bustling, cheerful little woman of about forty-five, with
a playful spirit like that of Socrates himself.
"This is my _financee_," said Socrates. "She has waited for me
"And he kept me waiting--the wretch!--just because my grandfather
left me his money," said Miss Betsey.
"I shall never forgive that man," said Socrates, as he shook his
fist at the portrait. "An' she was his only grandchild, too."
"And think how comfortable he might have been here, and how I've
worried about him." Miss Betsey went on: "Here, Soc., put your
feet on this piano seat. Now you look at home."
"When I achieve the reformation of Betsey I shall have a kitchen
table to put my feet on!" said Soc., as I left them.
Then I decided that I would send him a kitchen table.
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