O Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919
Part 5 out of 7
Jan Jacobus half started up, but strong hands instantly jerked him down.
"He is a gorgio?"
"Do nothing. We do not soil our hands with gorgios. Let the woman bear
the blame. She is a Romany. She should have known better. She is a
woman, the wiser sex. It is her fault. Let her be punished."
"Do you all say so?" George Lane demanded.
"We say so." Again the rippling murmur.
Jan Jacobus made a desperate attempt to get on his feet, but, for all
his strength, he might as well have tried to uncoil the folds of a great
snake as to unbind the many hands that held him, for the Romanys have
as many secret ways of restraining a person as the Japanese.
George Lane drew his wife tenderly close to him.
"She shall be punished," he said, "but first she shall hear, before you
all, that I love her and that I know she has not lost the spirit of our
love. Her fault was born of lightness of heart and vanity, not of evil."
"What is her fault? Name it," commanded Aunty Lee.
George Lane looked over at Jan.
"Her fault is that she trusted a gorgio to understand the ways of a
Romany. For our girls have the spirit of love in their eyes, but no man
among us would kiss a girl unless he received the sign from her. But the
gorgio men are without honour. To-day, as this woman who is mine stopped
to talk with a gorgio, among some trees where I waited, thinking to
enter her wagon there, he kissed her, and she kissed him, in return."
"Not with the _lubbeny_ kiss--not with that kiss!" Dora Parse cried.
"May I be lost as Pharaoh was in the sea if I speak not the truth!"
The solemn oath, never taken by any Romany lightly and never falsely
sworn to, rang out on the still night air. A cold, but firm little hand
was slipped into Dora Parse's. Marda was near, as she had promised, and
the hot palm of the princess closed gratefully upon it.
George Lane drew his wife upon his breast, and over her glossy head he
looked for encouragement to Aunty Lee, who knew what he must do. He was
very pale, but he must not hesitate.
"Kiss me, my love," he said, loudly and clearly, "here before my people,
that I may punish you. Give me the kiss of love, when tongues and lips
meet, that you may know your fault."
Now Dora Parse grew very pale, too, and she leaned far back against her
man's arms, her eyes wide with terror. And no one spoke, for in all the
history of the tribe this thing had never happened before, though every
one had heard of it. Dora Parse knew that, if she refused, her oath
would be considered false, and she would be cast out, not only from her
husband's tent and wagon, but from all Romany tribes. And slowly she
leaned forward, and George Lane bent down.
Jan Jacobus, although he had not understood the words of the ritual,
thought he knew what had happened. The gypsy fool was forgiving his
pretty wife. The young Dutchman settled back on his haunches, suddenly
aware that he was no longer held. And then, with all the others, he
sprang to his feet, for Dora Parse was hanging in her husband's arms,
with blood pouring from her mouth and George Lane was sobbing aloud as
he called her name.
"What--what--what happened?" Jan stammered. "Gawd--did he kill her?"
Old John Lane, his serene face unruffled, turned the bewildered and
frightened boy toward the lane and spoke, in the silky, incisive tones
which were half of his enchanting charm.
"Nothing much has happened. One of our girls allowed a gorgio to kiss
her, so her man bit off the tip of her tongue. It is not necessary,
often, to do it, but it is not a serious matter. It will soon heal. She
will be able to talk--a little. It is really nothing, but I thought you
might like to see it. It is seldom that gorgios are allowed to see a
thing like that.
"Please say to your father that I will spend the evening as usual with
him. My people will pass on."
THE TRIAL IN TOM BELCHER'S STORE
BY SAMUEL A. DERIEUX
From _The American Magazine_
It was a plain case of affinity between Davy Allen and Old Man
Thornycroft's hound dog Buck. Davy, hurrying home along the country road
one cold winter afternoon, his mind intent on finishing his chores
before dark, looking back after passing Old Man Thornycroft's house to
find Buck trying to follow him--_trying_ to, because the old man, who
hated to see anybody or anything but himself have his way, had chained a
heavy block to him to keep him from doing what nature had intended him
to do--roam the woods and poke his long nose in every briar patch after
At the sight Davy stopped, and the dog came on, dragging behind him in
the road the block of wood fastened by a chain to his collar, and trying
at the same time to wag his tail. He was tan-coloured, lean as a rail,
long-eared, a hound every inch; and Davy was a ragged country boy who
lived alone with his mother, and who had an old single-barrel shotgun at
home, and who had in his grave boy's eyes a look, clear and
unmistakable, of woods and fields.
To say it was love at first sight when that hound, dragging his prison
around with him, looked up into the boy's face, and when that ragged boy
who loved the woods and had a gun at home looked down into the hound's
eyes, would hardly be putting it strong enough. It was more than
love--it was perfect understanding, perfect comprehension. "I'm your
dog," said the hound's upraised, melancholy eyes. "I'll jump rabbits and
bring them around for you to shoot. I'll make the frosty hills echo with
music for you. I'll follow you everywhere you go. I'm your dog if you
want me--yours to the end of my days."
And Davy looking down into those upraised beseeching eyes, and at that
heavy block of wood, and at the raw place the collar had worn on the
neck, then at Old Man Thornycroft's bleak, unpainted house on the hill,
with the unhomelike yard and the tumble-down fences, felt a great pity,
the pity of the free for the imprisoned, and a great longing to own, not
a dog, but _this_ dog.
"Want to come along?" he grinned.
The hound sat down on his haunches, elevated his long nose and poured
out to the cold winter sky the passion and longing of his soul. Davy
understood, shook his head, looked once more into the pleading eyes,
then at the bleak house from which this prisoner had dragged himself.
"That ol' devil!" he said. "He ain't fitten to own a dog. Oh, I wish he
A moment he hesitated there in the road, then he turned and hurried away
"He _ain't_ mine," he muttered. "Oh' dammit all!"
But temptation followed him as it has followed many a boy and man. A
little way down the road was a pasture through which by a footpath he
could cut off half a mile of the three miles that lay between him and
home. Poised on top of the high rail fence that bordered the road, he
looked back. The hound was still trying to follow, walking
straddle-legged, head down, all entangled with the taut chain that
dragged the heavy block. The boy watched the frantic efforts, pity and
longing on his face; then he jumped off the fence inside the pasture and
hurried on down the hill, face set straight ahead.
He had entered a pine thicket when he heard behind the frantic, choking
yelps of a dog in dire distress. Knowing what had happened, he ran back.
Within the pasture the hound, only his hind feet touching the ground,
was struggling and pawing at the fence. He had jumped, the block had
caught, and was hanging him. Davy rushed to him. Breathing fast, he
unclicked the chain. The block an chain fell on the other side of the
fence, and the dog was free. Shrewdly the boy looked back up the road;
the woods hid the old man's house from view, and no one was to be seen.
With a little grin of triumph he turned and broke into a run down the
pasture hill toward the pines, the wind blowing gloriously into his
face, the dog galloping beside him.
Still running, the two came out into the road that led home, and
suddenly Davy stopped short and his face flushed. Yonder around the bend
on his grey mare jogged Squire Kirby toward them, his pipe in his mouth,
his white beard stuck cozily inside the bosom of his big overcoat There
was no use to run, no use to try to make the dog hide, no use to try to
hide himself--the old man had seen them both. Suppose he knew whose dog
this was! Heart pounding, Davy waited beside the road.
Mr. Kirby drew rein opposite them and looked down with eyes that
twinkled under his bushy white brows. He always stopped to ask the boy
how his mother was, and how they were getting along. Davy had been to
his house many a time with eggs and chickens to sell, or with a load of
seasoned oak wood. Many a time he had warmed before Mr. Kirby's fire in
the big living- and bedroom combined, and eaten Mrs. Kirby's fine white
cake covered with frosting. Never before had he felt ill at ease in the
presence of the kindly old man.
"That's a genuine hound you got there, son, ain't it?"
"Yes, sir," said Davy.
"Good for rabbits an' 'possums an' coons, eh?"
"He shore is!"
"Well, next big fat 'possum you an' him ketch, you bring that 'possum
'round an' me an' you'll talk business. Maybe we'll strike a bargain.
Got any good sweet potatoes? Well, you bring four or five bushels along
to eat that 'possum with. Haulin' any wood these days? Bring me a load
or two of good, dry oak--pick it out, son, hear? How's your ma? All
right? That's good. Here--"
He reached deep down in a pocket of his enormous faded overcoat, brought
out two red apples, and leaned down out of his saddle, that creaked
under the strain of his weight.
"Try one of 'em yourself, an' take one of 'em home to your ma. Git up,
He jogged on down the road, and the boy, sobered walked on. One thing
was certain, though, Mr Kirby hadn't known whose dog this was. What
difference did it make anyhow? He hadn't stolen anything. He couldn't
let a dog choke to death before his eyes. What did Old Man Thornycroft
care about a dog, anyhow, the hard-hearted old skin-flint!
He remembered the trouble his mother had had when his father died and
Old Man Thornycroft pushed her for a note he had given. He had heard
people talk about it at the time, and he remembered how white his
mother's face had been. Old Man Thornycroft had refused to wait, and his
mother had had to sell five acres of the best land on the little farm to
pay the note. It was after the sale that Mr. Kirby, who lived five miles
away, had ridden over.
"Why didn't you let me know, Mrs. Allen!" he had demanded. "I would have
loaned you the money--gladly, gladly!" He had risen from the fire and
pulled on the same overcoat he wore now. It was faded then, and that was
two years ago.
It was sunset when Davy reached home to find his mother out in the
clean-swept yard picking up chips in her apron. From the bedroom window
of the little one-storied unpainted house came a bright red glow, and
from the kitchen the smell of cooking meat. His mother straightened up
from her task with a smile when with his new-found partner he entered
"Why, Davy," she asked, "where did you get him?"
"He--he just followed me, Ma."
"But whose dog is he?"
"He's mine, Ma--he just took up with me."
"Oh, way back down the road--in a pasture."
"He must belong to somebody."
"He's just a ol' hound dog, Ma, that's all he is. Lots of hounds don't
belong to nobody--everybody knows that, Ma. Look at him, Ma. Mighty nigh
starved to death. Lemme keep him. We can feed him on scraps. He can
sleep under the house. Me an' him will keep you in rabbits. You won't
have to kill no more chickens. Nobody don't want him but me!"
From her gaunt height she looked down into the boy's eager eyes, then at
the dog beside him. "All right, son," she said. "If he don't belong to
That night Davy alternately whistled and talked to the dog beside him as
he husked the corn he had raised with his own hands, and chopped the
wood he had cut and hauled--for since his father's death he had kept
things going. He ate supper in a sort of haze; he hurried out with a tin
plate of scraps; he fed the grateful, hungry dog on the kitchen steps.
He begged some vaseline from his mother and rubbed it on the sore neck.
Then he got two or three empty gunnysacks out of the corncrib, crawled
under the house to a warm place beside the chimney and spread them out
for a bed. He went into the house whistling; he didn't hear a word of
the chapter his mother read out of the Bible. Before he went to bed in
the shed-room, he raised the window.
"You all right, old feller?" he called.
Underneath the house he heard the responsive tap-tap of a tail in the
dry dust. He climbed out of his clothes, leaving them in a pile in the
middle of the floor, tumbled into bed, and pulled the covers high over
"Golly!" he said. "Oh, golly!"
Next day he hunted till sundown. The Christmas holidays were on and
there was no thought of school. He went only now and then, anyway, for
since his father's death there was too much for him to do at home. He
hunted in the opposite direction from Old Man Thornycroft's. It was
three miles away; barriers of woods and bottoms and hills lay between,
and the old man seldom stirred beyond the boundaries of his own farm;
but Davy wanted to be on the safe side.
There were moments, though, when he thought of the old man, and wondered
if he had missed the dog and whether he would make any search for him.
There were sober moments, too, when he thought of his mother and Mr.
Kirby, and wished he had told them the truth. But then the long-drawn
bay of the hound would come from the bottoms ahead, and he would hurry
to the summons, his face flushed and eager. The music of the dog
running, the sound of the shots, and his own triumphant yells started
many an echo among the silent frosted hills that day. He came home with
enough meat to last a week--six rabbits. As he hurried into the yard he
held them up for the inspection of his mother, who was feeding the
"He's the finest rabbit dog ever was, Ma! Oh, golly, he can follow a
trail! I never see anything like it, Ma, I never did! I'll skin 'em an'
clean 'em after supper. You ought to have saw him, Ma! Golly!"
And while he chopped the wood and milked the cow and fed the mule, and
skinned the rabbits, he saw other days ahead like this, and whistled and
sang and talked to the hound, who followed close at his heels every step
Then one afternoon, while he was patching the lot fence, with Buck
sunning himself near the woodpile, came Old Man Thornycroft. Davy
recognized his buggy as it turned the bend in the road. He quickly
dropped his tools, called Buck to him and got behind the house where he
could see without being seen. The buggy stopped in the road, and the old
man, his hard, pinched face working, his buggy whip in his hand, came
down the walk and called Mrs. Alien out on the porch.
"I just come to tell you," he cried, "that your boy Davy run off with my
dog las' Friday evenin'! There ain't no use to deny it. I know all about
it. I seen him when he passed in front of the house. I found the block I
had chained to the dog beside the road. I heered Squire Jim Kirby
talkin' to some men in Tom Belcher's sto' this very mornin'; just
happened to overhear him as I come in. 'A boy an' a dog,' he says, 'is
the happiest combination in nater.' Then he went on to tell about your
boy an' a tan dog. He had met 'em in the road. Met 'em when? Last Friday
evenin'. Oh, there ain't no use to deny it, Mrs. Allen! Your boy
Davy--he _stole_ my dog!"
"Mr. Thornycroft"--Davy could not see his mother, but he could hear her
voice tremble--"he did _not_ know whose dog it was!"
"He didn't? He didn't?" yelled the old man. "An' him a boy that knows
ever' dog for ten miles around! Right in front of my house, I tell
you--that's where he picked him up--that's where he tolled him off!
Didn't I tell you, woman, I seen him pass? Didn't I tell you I found he
block down the road? Didn't know whose dog it was? Ridiculous,
ridiculous! Call him, ask him, face him with it. Likely he'll lie--but
you'll see his face. Call him, that's all I ask. Call him!"
"Davy!" called Mrs. Allen. "Davy!"
Just a moment the boy hesitated. Then he went around the house. The
hound stuck very close to him, eyes full of terror, tail tucked as he
looked at the old man.
"There he is--with my dog!" cried the old man. "You didn't know whose
dog it was, did you, son? Eh? You didn't know, now, did you?"
"Yes!" cried the boy "I knowed!"
"Hear that, Mrs. Allen? Did he know? What do you say now? He stole my
dog, didn't he? That's what he done, didn't he? Answer me, woman! You
come here!" he yelled, his face livid, and started, whip raised, toward
boy and dog.
There were some smooth white stones the size of hen eggs arranged around
a flower bed in the yard, and Davy stood near these stones--and now,
quick as a flash, he stooped down and picked one up.
"You stop!" he panted, his face very white.
His mother cried out and came running toward him, but Thornycroft had
stopped. No man in his right mind wants to advance on a country boy with
a rock. Goliath tried it once.
"All right!" screamed the old man. "You steal first--then you try to
assault an old man! I didn't come here to raise no row. I just came hear
to warn you, Mrs. Allen. I'll have the law on that boy--I'll have the
law on him before another sun sets!"
He turned and hurried toward the buggy. Davy dropped the rock. Mrs.
Allen stood looking at the old miser, who was clambering into his
buggy, with a sort of horror. Then she ran toward the boy.
"Oh, Davy! run after him. Take the dog to him. He's terrible, Davy,
terrible! Run after him--anything--anything!"
But the boy looked up at her with grim mouth and hard eyes.
"I ain't a-goin' to do it, Ma!" he said.
It was after supper that very night that the summons came. Bob Kelley,
rural policeman, brought it.
"Me an' Squire Kirby went to town this mornin'," he said, "to look up
some things about court in the mornin.' This evenin' we run into Old Man
Thornycroft on the street, lookin' for us. He was awful excited. He had
been to Mr. Kirby's house, an' found out Mr. Kirby was in town, an'
followed us. He wanted a warrant swore out right there. Mr. Kirby tried
to argue with him, but it warn't no use. So at last Mr. Kirby turned to
me. 'You go on back, Bob,' he said. 'This'll give me some more lookin'
up to do. Tell my wife I'll just spend the night with Judge Fowler, an'
git back in time for court in Belcher's sto' in the mornin'. An', Bob,
you just stop by Mrs. Allen's--she's guardian of the boy--an' tell her I
say to bring him to Belcher's sto' to-morrow mornin' at nine. You be
there, too, Mr. Thornycroft--an,' by the way, bring that block of wood
you been talkin' about."
That was all the squire had said, declared the rural policeman. No, he
hadn't sent any other message--just said he would read up on the case.
The rural policeman went out and closed the door behind him. It had been
informal, hap-hazard, like the life of the community in which they
lived. But, for all that, the law had knocked at the door of the Widow
Allen, and left a white-faced mother and a bewildered boy behind.
They tried to resume their usual employments. Mrs. Allen sat down beside
the table, picked up her sewing and put her glasses on, but her hands
trembled when she tried to thread the needle. Davy sat on a split-bottom
chair in the corner, his feet up on the rungs, and tried to be still;
but his heart was pounding fast and there was a lump in his throat.
Presently he got up and went out of doors, to get in some kindling on
the back porch before it snowed, he told his mother. But he went because
he couldn't sit there any longer, because he was about to explode with
rage and grief and fear and bitterness.
He did not go toward the woodpile--what difference did dry kindling make
now? At the side of the house he stooped down and softly called Buck.
The hound came to him, wriggling along under the beams, and he leaned
against the house and lovingly pulled the briar-torn ears. A long time
he stayed there, feeling on his face already the fine mist of snow.
To-morrow the ground would be white; it didn't snow often in that
country; day after to-morrow everybody would hunt rabbits--everybody but
him and Buck.
It was snowing hard when at last he went back into the warm room, so
warm that he pulled off his coat. Once more he tried to sit still in the
split-bottom chair. But there is no rage that consumes like the rage of
a boy. In its presence he is so helpless! If he were a man, thought
Davy, he would go to Old Man Thornycroft's house that night, call him
out, and thrash him in the road. If he were a man, he would curse, he
would do something. He looked wildly about the room, the hopelessness of
it all coming over him in a wave. Then suddenly, because he wasn't a
man, because he couldn't do what he wanted to do, he began to cry, not
as a boy cries, but more as a man cries, in shame and bitterness, his
shoulders shaken by great convulsive sobs, his head buried in his hands,
his fingers running through his tangled mop of hair.
"Davy, Davy!" The sewing and the scissors slipped to the floor. His
mother was down on her knees beside him, one arm about his shoulders,
trying to pry his face from his hands, trying to look into his eyes.
"You're my man, Davy! You're the only man, the only help I've got.
You're my life, Davy. Poor boy! Poor child!"
He caught hold of her convulsively, and she pressed his head against her
breast. Then he saw that she was crying, and he grew quiet, and wiped
his eyes with his ragged coat sleeve.
"I'm all right now, Ma," he said; but he looked at her wildly.
She did not follow him into his little unceiled bedroom. She must have
known that he had reached that age where no woman could help him. It
must be a man now to whom he could pin his faith. And while he lay
awake, tumbling and tossing, along with bitter thoughts of Old Man
Thornycroft came other bitter thoughts of Mr. Kirby, whom, deep down in
his boy's heart he had worshipped--Mr. Kirby, who had sided with Old Man
Thornycroft and sent a summons with--no message for him. "God!" he said.
"God!" And pulled his hair, down there under the covers; and he hated
the law that would take a dog from him and give it back to that old
man--the law that Mr. Kirby represented.
It was still snowing when next morning he and his mother drove out of
the yard and he turned the head of the reluctant old mule in the
direction of Belcher's store. A bitter wind cut their faces, but it was
not as bitter as the heart of the boy. Only twice on that five-mile ride
did he speak. The first time was when he looked back to find Buck, whom
they had left at home, thinking he would stay under the house on such a
day, following very close behind the buggy.
"Might as well let him come on," said the boy.
The second time was when they came in sight of Belcher's store, dim
yonder through the swirling snow. Then he looked up into his mother's
"Ma," he said grimly, "I ain't no thief!"
She smiled as bravely as she could with her stiffened face and with the
tears so near the surface. She told him that she knew it, and that
everybody knew it. But there was no answering smile on the boys set
The squire's gray mare, standing huddled up in the midst of other horses
and of buggies under the shed near the store, told that court had
probably already convened. Hands numb, the boy hitched the old mule to
the only rack left under the shed, then made Buck lie down under the
buggy. Heart pounding, he went up on the store porch with his mother and
pushed the door open.
There was a commotion when they entered. The men, standing about the
pot-bellied stove, their overcoats steaming, made way for them. Old Man
Thornycroft looked quickly and triumphantly around. In the rear of the
store the squire rose from a table, in front of which was a cleared
"Pull up a chair nigh the stove for Mrs. Allen, Tom Belcher," he said.
"I'm busy tryin' this chicken-stealin' nigger. When I get through, Mrs.
Allen, if you're ready I'll call your case."
Davy stood beside his mother while the trial of the negro proceeded.
Some of the fight had left him now, crowded down here among all these
grown men, and especially in the presence of Mr. Kirby, for it is hard
for a boy to be bitter long. But with growing anxiety he heard the sharp
questions the magistrate asked the negro; he saw the frown of justice;
he heard the sentence "sixty days on the gang." And the negro had stolen
only a chicken--and he had run off with another man's dog!
"The old man's rough this mornin'," a man whispered to another above
him; and he saw the furtive grin on the face of Old Man Thornycroft, who
leaned against the counter, waiting.
His heart jumped into his mouth when after a silence the magistrate
spoke: "Mr. Thornycroft, step forward, sir. Put your hand on the book
here. Now tell us about that dog of yours that was stole."
Looking first at the magistrate, then at the crowd, as if to impress
them also, the old man told in a high-pitched, excited voice all the
details--his seeing Davy Allen pass in front of his house last Friday
afternoon, his missing the dog, his finding the block of wood down the
road beside the pasture fence, his over-hearing the squire's talk right
here in the store, his calling on Mrs. Allen, the boy's threatening him.
"I tell you," he cried, "that's a dangerous character--that boy!"
"Is that all you've got to say?" asked the squire.
"It's enough, ain't it?" demanded Thornycroft angrily.
The squire nodded and spat into the cuspidor between his feet. "I think
so," he said quietly, "Stand aside. Davy Alien step forward. Put your
hand on the book here, son. Davy, how old are you?"
The boy gulped. "Thirteen years old, goin' on fo'teen."
"You're old enough, son, to know the nater of the oath you're about to
take. For over two years you've been the mainstay an' support of your
mother. You've had to carry the burdens and responsibilities of a man,
Davy. The testimony you give in this case will be the truth, the whole
truth an' nothin' but the truth, so help you God. What about it?"
Davy nodded, his face very white.
"All right now. Tell us about it. Talk loud so we can hear--all of us."
The boy's eyes never left Mr. Kirby's while he talked. Something in them
held him, fascinated him, overawed him. Very large and imposing he
looked there behind his little table, with his faded old overcoat on,
and there was no sound in the room but the boy's clear voice.
"An' you come off an' left the dog at first?"
"An' you didn't unfasten the chain from the block till the dog got
caught in the fence?"
"No, sir, I didn't."
"Did you try to get him to follow you then?"
"No, sir, he wanted to."
"Ask him, Mr. Kirby," broke in Thornycroft angrily, "if he tried to
drive him home!"
"I'll ask him whatever seems fit an' right to me, sir," said Mr. Kirby.
"What did you tell your ma, Davy, when you got home?"
"I told her he followed me."
"Did you tell her whose dog he was?
"Ain't that what you ought to have done? Ain't it?"
Davy hesitated. "Yes, sir."
There was a slight shuffling movement amoung the men crowded about.
Somebody cleared his throat. Mr. Kirby resumed.
"This block you been tellin' about--how was it fastened to the dog?"
"Thar was a chain fastened to the block by a staple. The other end was
fastened to the collar."
"How heavy do you think that block was?"
"About ten pound. I reckon."
"Five," broke in Old Man Thornycroft with a sneer.
Mr. Kirby turned to him. "You fetched it with you, didn't you? I told
you to. It's evidence. Bob Kelley, go out to Mr. Thornycroft's buggy an'
bring that block of wood into court."
The room was silent while the rural policeman was gone. Davy still stood
in the cleared space before Mr. Kirby, his ragged overcoat on, his
tattered hat in his hand, breathing fast, afraid to look at his mother.
Everybody turned when Kelley came in with the block of wood. Everybody
craned their necks to watch, while at the magistrate's order Kelley
weighed the block of wood on the store's scales, which he put on the
"Fo'teen punds," said Mr. Kirby. "Take the scales away."
"It had rubbed all the skin off'n the dog's neck," broke in Davy
impulsively. "It was all raw an' bleedin'."
"Aw, that ain't so!" cried Thornycroft.
"Is the dog out there?" asked Mr. Kirby.
"Yes, sir, under the buggy."
"Bob Kelley, you go out an' bring that dog into court."
The rural policeman went out, and came back with the hound, who looked
eagerly up from one face to the other, then, seeing Davy, came to him
and stood against him, still looking around with that expression of
melancholy on his face that a hound dog always wears except when he's in
"Bring the dog here, son!" commanded Mr. Kirby. He examined the raw
place on the neck. "Any of you gentlemen care to take a look?" he asked.
"It was worse than that," declared Davy, "till I rubbed vase-leen on
Old Man Thornycroft pushed forward, face quivering. "What's all this got
to do with the boy stealin' the dog?" he demanded. "That's what I want
to know--what's it got to do?"
"Mr. Thornycroft," said Kirby, "at nine o'clock this mornin' this place
ceased to be Tom Belcher's sto', an' become a court of justice. Some
things are seemly in a court, some not. You stand back there!"
The old man stepped back to the counter, and stood julling his chin, his
eyes running over the crowd of faces.
"Davy Allen," spoke Mr. Kirby, "you stand back there with your ma. Tom
Belcher make way for him. And, Tom, s'pose you put another stick of wood
in that stove an' poke up the fire." He took off his glasses, blew on
them, polished them with his handkerchief and readjusted them. Then,
leaning back in his chair, he spoke.
"Gentlemen, from the beginnin' of time, as fur back as records go, a
dog's been the friend, companion, an' protector of man. Folks say he
come from the wolf, but that ain't no reflection on him, seem' that we
come from monkeys ourselves, an' I believe, takin' all things into
account, I'd as soon have a wolf for a ancestor as a monkey, an' a
"Last night in the libery of my old friend Judge Fowler in town, I
looked up some things about this dog question. I find that there have
been some queer decisions handed down by the courts, showin' that the
law does recognize the fact that a dog is different from other
four-footed critters. For instance, it has been held that a dog has a
right to protect not only his life but his dignity; that where a man
worries a dog beyond what would be reasonable to expect any self
respectin' critter to stand, that dog has a right to bite that man, an'
that man can't collect any damages--provided the bitin' is done at the
time of the worryin' an' in sudden heat an' passion. That has been held
in the courts, gentlemen. The law that holds for man holds for dogs.
"Another thing: If the engineer of a railroad train sees a cow or a
horse or a sheep on the track, or a hog, he must stop the train or the
road is liable for any damage done 'em. But if he sees a man walkin'
along the track he has a right to presume that the man, bein' a critter
of more or less intelligence, will git off, an' he is not called on to
stop under ordinary circumstances. The same thing holds true of a dog.
The engineer has a right to presume that the dog, bein' a critter of
intelligence, will get off the track. Here again the law is the same for
dog an' man.
"_But_--if the engineer has reason to believe that the man's mind is
took up with some object of an engrossin' nater, he is supposed to stop
the train till the man comes to himself an' looks around. The same thing
holds true of a dog. If the engineer has reason to suspect that the
dog's mind is occupied with some engrossin' topic, he must stop the
train. That case has been tested in this very state, where a dog was on
the track settin' a covey of birds in the adjoinin' field. The railroad
was held responsible for the death of that dog, because the engineer
ought to have known by the action of the dog that his mind was on
somethin' else beside railroad trains an' locomotives."
Again the magistrate spat into the cuspidor between his feet. Davy,
still watching him, felt his mother's grip on his arm. Everyone was
listening so closely that the whispered sneering comment of Old Man
Thornycroft to the man next to him was audible, "What's all this got to
do with the case?"
"The p'int I'm gettin' to is this," went on Mr. Kirby, not paying
attention to him: "a dog is not like a cow or a horse or any four-footed
critter. He's a individual, an' so the courts have held in spirit if not
in actual words. Now this court of mine here in Tom Belcher's sto, ain't
like other courts. I have to do the decidin' myself; I have to interpret
the true spirit of the law, without technicalities an' quibbles such as
becloud it in other an' higher courts. An' I hold that since a dog is
_de facto_ an' _de jure_ an individual, he has a right to life, liberty
an' the pursuit of happiness.
"Therefore, gentlemen, I hold that that houn' dog, Buck, had a perfect
right to follow that boy, Davy Allen, there; an' I hold that Davy Allen
was not called on to drive that dog back, or interfere in any way with
that dog followin' him if the dog so chose. You've heard the evidence of
the boy. You know, an' I know, he has spoke the truth this day, an'
there ain't no evidence to the contrary. The boy did not entice the dog.
He even went down the road, leavin' him behind. He run back only when
the dog was in dire need an' chokin' to death. He wasn't called on to
put that block an' chain back on the dog. He couldn't help it if the dog
followed him. He no more stole that dog than I stole him. He's no more a
thief than I am. I dismiss this case, Mr. Thornycroft, this case you've
brought against Davy Allen. I declare him innocent of the charge of
theft. I set it down right here on the records of this court."
"Davy!" gasped Mrs. Allen. "Davy!"
But, face working, eyes blazing, Old Man Thornycroft started forward,
and the dog, panting, shrank between boy and mother. "Jim Kirby!" cried
the old man, stopping for a moment in the cleared space. "You're
magistrate. What you say goes. But that dog thar--he's mine! He's my
property--mine by law!" He jerked a piece of rope out of his overcoat
pocket and came on toward the cowering dog. "Tom Belcher, Bob Kelley!
Stop that dog! He's mine!"
"Davy!" Mrs. Alien was holding the boy. "Don't--don't say anything.
You're free to go home. Your record's clear. The dog's his!"
"Hold on!" Mr. Kirby had risen from his chair. "You come back here, Mr.
Thornycroft. This court's not adjourned yet. If you don't get back, I'll
stick a fine to you for contempt you'll remember the rest of your days.
You stand where you are, sir! Right there! Don't move till I'm through!"
Quivering the old man stood where he was. Mr. Kirby sat down, face
flushed, eyes blazing. "Punch up that fire, Tom Belcher," he said. "I
ain't through yet."
The hound came trembling back to Davy, looked up in his face, licked his
hand, then sat down at the side opposite his former master, looking
around now and then at the old man, terror in his eyes. In the midst of
a deathly silence the magistrate resumed.
"What I was goin' to say, gentlemen, is this: I'm not only magistrate,
I'm an officer in an organization that you country fellers likely don't
know of, an organization known as the Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals. As such an officer it's my duty to report an' bring
to trial any man who treats a dumb brute in a cruel an' inhuman way. Mr
Thornycroft, judgin' by the looks of that houn', you ain't give him
enough to eat to keep a cat alive--an' a cat we all know, don't eat
much, just messes over her vittles. You condemned that po' beast, for no
fault of his own, to the life of a felon. A houn' that ain't happy at
best, he's melancholy; an' a houn' that ain't allowed to run free is of
all critters the wretchedest. This houn's neck is rubbed raw. God only
knows what he's suffered in mind an' body. A man that would treat a dog
that way ain't fitten to own one. An' I hereby notify you that, on the
evidence of this boy, an' the evidence before our eyes, I will indict
you for breakin' the law regardin' the treatment of animals; an' I
notify you, furthermore, that as magistrate I'll put the law on you for
that same thing. An' it might be interestin' to you to know, sir, that I
can find you as much as five hundred dollars, or send you to jail for
one year, or both, if I see fit--an' there ain't no tellin' but what I
will see fit, sir."
He looked sternly at Thornycroft.
"Now I'm goin' to make a proposition that I advise you to jump at like
you never jumped at anything before. If you will give up that houn'
Buck--to me, say, or to anybody I decide will be kind to him--I will let
the matter drop. If you will go home like a peaceable citizen, you won't
hear no more about it from me; but if you don't--"
"Git out of my way!" cried Old Man Thornycroft. "All of you! I'm
"Hold on!" said Mr. Kirby, when he had got almost to the door. "Do you,
in the presence of these witnesses, turn over this dog to me,
relinquishin' all claims to him, on the conditions named? Answer Yes or
There was a moment's silence; then the old man cried out:
"Take the old hound! He ain't wuth the salt in his vittles!"
He jerked the door open.
"Yes or no?" called Mr. Kirby inexorably.
"Yes!" yelled the old man, and slammed the door behind him.
"One minute, gentlemen," said Mr. Kirby, rising from the table and
gathering his papers and records together. "Just one more thing: If
anybody here has any evidence, or knows of any, tendin' to show that
this boy Davy Allen is not the proper person to turn over a houn' dog
to, I hope he will speak up." He waited a moment. "In the absence of any
objections, an' considerin' the evidence that's been given here this
mornin', I think I'll just let that dog go back the way he come. Thank
you, gentlemen. Court's adjourned!"
BY JAMES BRANCH CABELL
From _Century Magazine_
OF GREATNESS INTIMATELY VIEWED
"Oh, but they are beyond praise," said Cynthia Allonby, enraptured, "and
certainly you should have presented them to the Queen."
"Her majesty already possesses a cup of that ware," replied Lord
Pevensey. "It was one of her New Year's gifts, from Robert Cecil. Hers
is, I believe, not quite so fine as either of yours; but then, they tell
me, there is not the like of this pair in England, nor indeed on the
hither side of Cataia."
He set the two pieces of Chinese pottery upon the shelves in the south
corner of the room. These cups were of that sea-green tint called
celadon, with a very wonderful glow and radiance. Such oddities were the
last vogue at court in this year of grace 1593: and Cynthia could not
but speculate as to what monstrous sum Lord Pevensey had paid for this
his last gift to her.
Now he turned, smiling, a really superb creature in his blue and gold.
"I had another message from the Queen--"
"George," Cynthia said, with fond concern, "it frightens me to see you
thus foolhardy, in tempting alike the Queen's anger and the Plague."
"Eh, as goes the Plague, it spares nine out of ten," he answered,
lightly. "The Queen, I grant you, is another pair of sleeves, for an
irritated Tudor spares nobody."
But Cynthia Allonby kept silence, and did not exactly smile, while she
appraised her famous young kinsman. She was flattered by, and a little
afraid of, the gay self-confidence which led anybody to take such
chances. Two weeks ago it was that the painted terrible old Queen had
named Lord Pevensey to go straightway into France, where rumour had it,
King Henri was preparing to renounce the Reformed Religion, and making
his peace with the Pope: and for two weeks Pevensey had lingered, on one
pretence or another, at his house in London, with the Plague creeping
about the city like an invisible incalculable flame, and the Queen
asking questions at Windsor. Of all the monarchs that had ever reigned
in England, Elizabeth was the least used to having her orders
disregarded. Meanwhile Lord Pevensey came every day to the Marquis of
Falmouth's lodgings at Deptford; and every day Lord Pevensey pointed out
to the marquis's daughter that Pevensey, whose wife had died in
childbirth a year back, did not intend to go into France, for nobody
could foretell how long a stay, as a widower. Certainly it was all very
"Yes, and you would be an excellent match," said Cynthia, aloud, "if
that were all. And yet, what must I reasonably expect in marrying, sir,
the famous Earl of Pevensey?"
"A great deal of love and petting, my dear. And if there were anything
else to which you had a fancy, I would get it for you."
Her glance went to those lovely cups and lingered fondly. "Yes, dear
Master Generosity, if it could be purchased or manufactured, you would
get it for me--"
"If it exists I will get it for you," he declared.
"I think that it exists. But I am not learned enough to know what it is.
George, if I married you I would have money and fine clothes and soft
hours and many lackeys to wait on me, and honour from all men. And you
would be kind to me, I know when you returned from the day's work at
Windsor--or Holyrood or the Louvre. But do you not see that I would
always be to you only a rather costly luxury, like those cups, which the
Queen's minister could afford to keep for his hours of leisure?"
He answered: "You are all in all to me. You know it. Oh, very well do
you know and abuse your power, you adorable and lovely baggage, who have
kept me dancing attendance for a fortnight, without ever giving me an
honest yes or no." He gesticulated. "Well, but life is very dull in
Deptford village, and it amuses you to twist a Queen's adviser around
your finger! I see it plainly, you minx, and I acquiesce because, it
delights me to give you pleasure, even at the cost of some dignity. Yet
I may no longer shirk the Queen's business,--no, not even to amuse you,
"You said you had heard from her--again?"
"I had this morning my orders, under Glorianna's own fair hand, either
to depart to-morrow into France or else to come to-morrow to Windsor. I
need not say that in the circumstances I consider France the more
Now the girl's voice was hurt and wistful. "So, for the thousandth time,
is it proven the Queen's business means more to you than I do. Yes,
certainly it is just as I said, George."
He observed, unruffled: "My dear, I scent unreason. This is a high
matter. If the French King compounds with Rome, it means war for
Protestant England. Even you must see that."
She replied, sadly: "Yes, even I! oh, certainly, my lord, even a
half-witted child of seventeen can perceive as much as that."
"I was not speaking of half-witted persons, as I remember. Well, it
chances that I am honoured by the friendship of our gallant Bearnais,
and am supposed to have some claim upon him, thanks to my good fortune
last year in saving his life from the assassin Barriere. It chances that
I may perhaps become, under providence, the instrument of preserving my
fellow countrymen from much grief and trumpet-sounding and
throat-cutting. Instead of pursuing that chance, two weeks ago--as was
my duty--I have dangled at your apron-strings, in the vain hope of
softening the most variable and hardest heart in the world. Now,
clearly, I have not the right to do that any longer."
She admired the ennobled, the slightly rapt look which, she knew,
denoted that George Bulmer was doing his duty as he saw it, even in her
disappointment. "No, you have not the right. You are wedded to your
state-craft, to your patriotism, to your self-advancement, or christen
it what you will. You are wedded, at all events, to your man's business.
You have not time for such trifles as giving a maid that foolish and
lovely sort of wooing to which every maid looks forward in her heart of
hearts. Indeed, when you married the first time it was a kind of
infidelity; and I am certain that poor dear mouse-like Mary must have
felt that often and over again. Why, do you not see, George, even now,
that your wife will always come second to your real love?"
"In my heart, dear sophist, you will always come first. But it is not
permitted that any loyal gentleman devote every hour of his life to
sighing and making sonnets, and to the general solacing of a maid's
loneliness in this dull little Deptford. Nor would you, I am sure,
desire me to do so."
"I hardly know what I desire," she told him ruefully. "But I know that
when you talk of your man's business I am lonely and chilled and far
away from you. And I know that I cannot understand more than half your
fine high notions about duty and patriotism and serving England and so
on," the girl declared: and she flung wide her lovely little hands, in a
despairing gesture. "I admire you, sir, when you talk of England. It
makes you handsomer--yes, even handsomer!--somehow. But all the while I
am remembering that England is just an ordinary island inhabited by a
number of ordinary persons, for the most of whom I have no particular
feeling one way or the other.".
Pevensey looked at her for a while with queer tenderness. Then he
smiled. "No, I could not quite make you understand, my dear. But, ah,
why fuddle that quaint little brain by trying to understand such matters
as lie without your realm? For a woman's kingdom is the home, my dear,
and her throne is in the heart of her husband--"
"All this is but another way of saying your lordship would have us cups
upon a shelf," she pointed out--"in readiness for your leisure."
He shrugged, said "Nonsense!" and began more lightly to talk of other
matters. Thus and thus he would do in France, such and such trinkets he
would fetch back--"as toys for the most whimsical, the loveliest and the
most obstinate child in all the world," he phrased it. And they would be
married, Pevensey declared, in September: nor (he gaily said) did he
propose to have any further argument about it. Children should be
seen--the proverb was dusty, but it particularly applied to pretty
Cynthia let him talk. She was just a little afraid of his self
confidence, and of this tall nobleman's habit of getting what he wanted,
in the end: but she dispiritedly felt that Pevensey had failed her. He
treated her as a silly infant: and his want of her, even in that
capacity, was a secondary matter: he was going into France, for all his
petting talk, and was leaving her to shift as she best might, until he
could spare the time to resume his love-making....
WHAT COMES OF SCRIBBLING
Now when Pevensey had gone the room seemed darkened by the withdrawal of
so much magnificence. Cynthia watched from the window as the tall earl
rode away, with three handsomely clad retainers. Yes, George was very
fine and admirable, no doubt of it: even so, there was relief in the
reflection that for a month or two she was rid of him.
Turning, she faced a lean dishevelled man who stood by the Magdalen
tapestry scratching his chin. He had unquiet bright eyes, this
out-at-elbows poet whom a marquis's daughter was pleased to patronize,
and his red hair to-day was unpardonably puzzled. Nor were his manners
beyond reproach, for now, without saying anything, he too went to the
window. He dragged one foot a little as he walked.
"So my lord Pevensey departs! Look how he rides in triumph! like lame
Tamburlaine, with Techelles and Usumcasane and Theridamas to attend him,
and with the sunset turning the dust raised by their horses' hoofs into
a sort of golden haze about them. It is a beautiful world. And truly,
Mistress Cyn," the poet said, reflectively, "that Pevensey is a very
splendid ephemera. If not a king himself, at least he goes magnificently
to settle the affairs of kings. Were modesty not my failing Mistress
Cyn, I would acclaim you as strangely lucky, in being beloved by two
fine fellows that have not their like in England."
"Truly you are not always thus modest, Kit Marlowe--"
"But, Lord, how seriously Pevensey takes it all! and himself in
particular! Why, there departs from us, in befitting state, a personage
whose opinion as to every topic in the world is written legibly in the
carriage of those fine shoulders, even when seen from behind and from so
considerable a distance. And in not one syllable do any of these
opinions differ from the opinions of his great-great-grandfathers. Oho,
and hark to Deptford! now all the oafs in the Corn-market are cheering
this bulwark of Protestant England, this rising young hero of a people
with no nonsense about them. Yes, it is a very quaint and rather
A marquis's daughter could not quite approve of the way in which this
shoemaker's son, however talented, railed at his betters. "Pevensey will
be the greatest man in these kingdoms some day. Indeed, Kit Marlowe,
there are those who say he is that much already."
"Oh very probably! Still, I am puzzled by human greatness. A century
hence what will he matter, this Pevensey? His ascent and his declension
will have been completed, and his foolish battles and treaties will have
given place to other foolish battles and treaties and oblivion will have
swallowed this glistening bluebottle, plumes and fine lace and stately
ruff and all. Why, he is but an adviser to the queen of half an island,
whereas my Tamburlaine was lord of all the golden ancient East: and what
does my Tamburlaine matter now, save that he gave Kit Marlowe the
subject of a drama? Hah, softly though! for does even that very greatly
matter? Who really cares to-day about what scratches were made upon wax
by that old Euripides, the latchet of whose sandals I am not worthy to
unloose? No, not quite worthy, as yet!"
And thereupon the shabby fellow sat down in the tall leather-covered
chair which Pevensey had just vacated: and this Marlowe nodded his
flaming head portentously. "Hoh, look you, I am displeased, Mistress
Cyn, I cannot lend my approval to this over-greedy oblivion that gapes
for all. No, it is not a satisfying arrangement that I should teeter
insecurely through the void on a gob of mud, and be expected bye and bye
to relinquish even that crazy foothold. Even for Kit Marlowe death lies
in wait! and it may be, not anything more after death, not even any
lovely words to play with. Yes, and this Marlowe may amount to nothing,
after all: and his one chance of amounting to that which he intends may
be taken away from him at any moment!"
He touched the breast of a weather-beaten doublet. He gave her that
queer twisted sort of smile which the girl could not but find
attractive, somehow. He said: "Why but this heart thumping here inside
me may stop any moment like a broken clock. Here is Euripides writing
better than I: and here in my body, under my hand, is the mechanism upon
which depend all those masterpieces that are to blot the Athenian from
the reckoning, and I have no control of it!"
"Indeed, I fear that you control few things," she told him, "and that
least of all do you control your taste for taverns and bad women. Oh, I
hear tales of you!" And Cynthia raised a reproving fore-finger.
"True tales, no doubt." He shrugged. "Lacking the moon he vainly cried
for, the child learns to content himself with a penny whistle."
"Ah, but the moon is far away," the girl said, smiling--"too far to hear
the sound of human crying: and besides, the moon, as I remember it, was
never a very amorous goddess--"
"Just so," he answered: "also she was called Cynthia, and she, too, was
"Yet is it the heart that cries to me, my poet?" she asked him, softly,
"or just the lips?"
"Oh, both of them, most beautiful and inaccessible of goddesses." Then
Marlowe leaned toward her, laughing and shaking that disreputable red
head. "Still you are very foolish, in your latest incarnation, to be
wasting your rays upon carpet earls who will not outwear a century. Were
modesty not my failing, I repeat, I could name somebody who will last
longer. Yes, and--if, but I lacked that plaguey virtue--I would advise
you to go a-gypsying with that nameless somebody, so that two manikins
might snatch their little share of the big things that are eternal, just
as the butterfly fares intrepidly and joyously, with the sun for his
torch-boy, through a universe wherein thought cannot estimate the
unimportance of a butterfly, and wherein not even the chaste moon is
very important. Yes, certainly I would advise you to have done with this
vanity of courts and masques, of satins and fans and fiddles, this
dallying with tinsels and bright vapours; and very movingly I would
exhort you to seek out Arcadia, travelling hand in hand with that still
nameless somebody." And of a sudden the restless man began to sing.
Sang Kit Marlowe:
"Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods or sleepy mountain yields.
"And we will sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals--"
But the girl shook her small, wise head decisively. "That is all very
fine, but, as it happens, there is no such place as this Arcadia, where
people can frolic in perpetual sunlight the year round, and find their
food and clothing miraculously provided. No, nor can you, I am afraid,
give me what all maids really, in their heart of hearts, desire far
more than any sugar-candy Arcadia. Oh, as I have so often told you, Kit,
I think you love no woman. You love words. And your seraglio is tenanted
by very beautiful words, I grant you, thought there is no longer any
Sestos builded of agate and crystal, either, Kit Marlowe. For, as you
may perceive, sir, I have read all that lovely poem you left with me
She saw how interested he was, saw how he almost smirked. "Aha, so you
think it not quite bad, eh, the conclusion of my 'Hero and Leander'?"
"It is your best. And your middlemost, my poet, is better than aught
else in English," she said, politely, and knowing how much he delighted
to hear such remarks.
"Come, I retract my charge of foolishness, for you are plainly a wench
of rare discrimination. And yet you say I do not love you! Cynthia, you
are beautiful, you are perfect in all things. You are that heavenly
Helen of whom I wrote, some persons say, acceptably enough--How strange
it was I did not know that Helen was dark-haired and pale! for certainly
yours is that immortal loveliness which must be served by poets in life
"And I wonder how much of these ardours," she thought, "is kindled by my
praise of his verses?" She bit her lip, and she regarded him with a hint
of sadness. She said, aloud: "But I did not, after all, speak to Lord
Pevensey concerning the printing of your poem. Instead, I burned your
'Hero and Leander'."
She saw him jump, as under a whip-lash. Then he smiled again, in that
wry fashion of his. "I lament the loss to letters, for it was my only
copy. But you knew that."
"Yes, Kit, I knew it was your only copy."
"Oho! and for what reason did you burn it, may one ask?"
"I thought you loved it more than you loved me. It was my rival, I
thought--" The girl was conscious of remorse, and yet it was remorse
commingled with a mounting joy.
"And so you thought a jingle scribbled upon a bit of paper could be
your rival with me!"
Then Cynthia no longer doubted, but gave a joyous little sobbing laugh,
for the love of her disreputable dear poet was sustaining the stringent
testing she had devised. She touched his freckled hand caressingly, and
her face was as no man had ever seen it, and her voice, too, caressed
"Ah, you have made me the happiest of women, Kit! Kit, I am almost
disappointed in you, though, that you do not grieve more for the loss of
that beautiful poem."
His smiling did not waver; yet the lean, red-haired man stayed
motionless. "Do I appear perturbed?" he said. "Why, but see how lightly
I take the destruction of my life-work in this, my masterpiece! For I
can assure you it was a masterpiece, the fruit of two years' toil and of
much loving repolishment--"
"Ah, but you love me better than such matters, do you not?" she asked
him, tenderly. "Kit Marlowe, I adore you! Sweetheart, do you not
understand that a woman wants to be loved utterly and entirely? She
wants no rivals, not even paper rivals. And so often when you talked of
poetry I have felt lonely and chilled and far away from you, and I have
been half envious, dear, of your Heros and your Helens, and your other
good-for-nothing Greek minxes. But now I do not mind them at all. And I
will make amends, quite prodigal amends, for my naughty jealousy; and my
poet shall write me some more lovely poems, so he shall--"
He said "You fool!"
And she drew away from him, for this man was no longer smiling.
"You burned my 'Hero and Leander'! You! you big-eyed fool! You lisping
idiot! you wriggling, cuddling worm! you silken bag of guts! had not
even you the wit to perceive it was immortal beauty which would have
lived long after you and I were stinking dirt? And you, a half-witted
animal, a shining, chattering parrot, lay claws to it!" Marlowe had
risen in a sort of seizure, in a condition which was really quite
unreasonable when you considered that only a poem was at stake, even a
rather long poem.
And Cynthia began to smile, with tremulous hurt-looking young lips. "So
my poet's love is very much the same as Pevensey's love! And I was
right, after all."
"Oh, oh!" said Marlowe, "that ever a poet should love a woman! What
jokes does the lewd flesh contrive!" Of a sudden he was calmer: and then
rage fell from him like a dropped cloak and he viewed her as with
respectful wonder. "Why, but you sitting there, with goggling innocent
bright eyes, are an allegory of all that is most droll and tragic. Yes,
and indeed there is no reason to blame you. It is not your fault that
every now and then is born a man who serves an idea which is to him the
most important thing in the world. It is not your fault that this man
perforce inhabits a body to which the most important thing in the world
is a woman. Certainly it is not your fault that this compost makes yet
another jumble of his two desires, and persuades himself that the two
are somehow allied. The woman inspires, the woman uplifts, the woman
strengthens him for his high work, saith he! Well, well, perhaps there
are such women, but by land and sea I have encountered none of them."
All this was said while Marlowe shuffled about the room, with bent
shoulders, and nodding his tousled red head, and limping as he walked.
Now Marlowe turned, futile and shabby-looking, just where Pevensey had
loomed resplendent a while since. Again she saw the poet's queer,
twisted, jeering smile.
"What do you care for my ideals? What do you care for the ideals of that
tall earl whom you have held from his proper business for a fortnight?
or for the ideals of any man alive? Why, not one thread of that dark
hair, not one snap of those white little fingers, except when ideals
irritate you by distracting a man's attention from Cynthia Allonby.
Otherwise, he is welcome enough to play with his incomprehensible toys."
He jerked a thumb toward the shelves behind him.
"Oho, you virtuous pretty ladies! what all you value is such matters as
those cups: they please the eye, they are worth sound money, and people
envy you the possession of them. So you cherish your shiny mud cups, and
you burn my 'Hero and Leander': and I declaim all this dull nonsense,
over the ashes of my ruined dreams, thinking at bottom of how pretty you
are, and of how much I would like to kiss you. That is the real tragedy,
the immortal tragedy, that I should still hanker after you, my
His voice dwelt tenderly upon her name. His fever-haunted eyes were
tender, too, for just a moment. Then he grimaced.
"No, I am wrong--the tragedy strikes deeper. The root of it is that
there is in you and in all your glittering kind no malice, no will to do
harm nor to hurt anything, but just a bland and invincible and, upon the
whole, a well-meaning stupidity, informing a bright and soft and
delicately scented animal. So you work ruin among those men who serve
ideals, not foreplanning ruin, not desiring to ruin anything, not even
having sufficient wit to perceive the ruin when it is accomplished. You
are, when all is done, not even detestable, not even a worthy peg
whereon to hang denunciatory sonnets, you shallow-pated pretty creatures
whom poets--oh, and in youth all men are poets!--whom poets, now and
always, are doomed to hanker after to the detriment of their poesy. No,
I concede it: you kill without premeditation, and without ever
suspecting your hands to be anything but stainless. So in logic I must
retract all my harsh words; and I must, without any hint or reproach,
endeavour to bid you a somewhat more civil farewell."
She had regarded him, throughout this preposterous and uncalled-for
harangue, with sad composure, with a forgiving pity. Now she asked him,
very quietly, "Where are you going, Kit?"
"To the Golden Hind, O gentle, patient and unjustly persecuted virgin
martyr!" he answered, with an exaggerated how--"since that is the part
in which you now elect to posture."
"Not to that low, vile place again!"
"But certainly I intend in that tavern to get tipsy as quickly as
possible: for then the first woman I see will for the time become the
woman whom I desire and who exists nowhere." And with that the
red-haired man departed, limping and singing as he went to look for a
trull in a pot-house.
Sang Kit Marlowe:
"And I will make her beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle.
"A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold--"
ECONOMICS OF EGERIA
She sat quite still when Marlowe had gone.
"He will get drunk again," she thought despondently. "Well, and why
should it matter to me if he does, after all that outrageous ranting? He
has been unforgivably insulting--Oh, but none the less, I do not want to
have him babbling of the roses and gold of that impossible fairy world
which the poor, frantic child really believes in, to some painted woman
of the town who will laugh at him. I loathe the thought of her laughing
at him--and kissing him! His notions are wild foolishness; but I at
least wish that they were not foolishness, and that hateful woman will
not care one way or the other."
So Cynthia sighed, and to comfort her forlorn condition fetched a
hand-mirror from the shelves whereon glowed her green cups. She touched
each cup caressingly in passing; and that which she found in the mirror,
too, she regarded not unappreciatively, from varying angles.... Yes
after all, dark hair and a pale skin had their advantages at a court
where pink and yellow women were so much the fashion as to be common.
Men remembered you more distinctively. Though nobody cared for men, in
view of their unreasonable behaviour, and their absolute
self-centeredness.... Oh, it was pitiable, it was grotesque, she
reflected sadly, how Pevensey and Kitt Marlowe had both failed her,
after so many pretty speeches.
Still, there was a queer pleasure in being wooed by Kit: his insane
notions went to one's head like wine. She would send Meg for him again
to-morrow. And Pevensey was, of course, the best match imaginable....
No, it would be too heartless to dismiss George Bulmer outright. It was
unreasonable of him to desert her because a Gascon threatened to go to
mass; but, after all, she would probably marry George in the end. He was
really almost unendurably silly, though, about England and freedom and
religion, and right and wrong things like that. Yes, it would be tedious
to have a husband who often talked to you as though he were addressing a
public meeting.... However, he was very handsome, particularly in his
highflown and most tedious moments; that year-old son of his was sickly
and would probably die soon, the sweet, forlorn little pet, and not be a
bother to anybody: and her dear old father would be profoundly delighted
by the marriage of his daughter to a man whose wife could have at will a
dozen celadon cups, and anything else she chose to ask for....
But now the sun had set, and the room was growing quite dark. So Cynthia
stood a-tiptoe, and replaced the mirror upon the shelves, setting it
upright behind those wonderful green cups which had anew reminded her of
Pevensey's wealth and generosity. She smiled a little, to think of what
fun it had been to hold George back, for two whole weeks, from
discharging that horrible old queen's stupid errands.
TREATS PHILOSOPHICALLY OF BREAKAGE
The door opened. Stalwart young Captain Edward Musgrave came with a
lighted candle, which he placed carefully upon the table in the room's
He said: "They told me you were here. I come from London. I bring news
"You bring no pleasant tidings, I fear--"
"As Lord Pevensey rode through the Strand this afternoon, on his way
home, the Plague smote him. That is my sad news. I grieve to bring such
news, for your cousin was a worthy gentleman and universally respected."
"Ah," Cynthia said, very quiet, "so Pevensey is dead. But the Plague
"Yes, yes, that is a comfort, certainly. Yes, he turned quite black in
the face, they report, and before his men could reach him had fallen
from his horse. It was all over almost instantly. I saw him afterward,
hardly a pleasant sight. I came to you as soon as I could. I was
"So George Bulmer is dead, in a London gutter! It seems strange, because
he was here, befriended by monarchs, and very strong and handsome and
self-confident, hardly two hours ago. Is that his blood upon your
"But of course not! I told you I was vexatiously detained, almost at
your gates. Yes, I had the ill luck to blunder into a disgusting
business. The two rapscallions tumbled out of a doorway under my horse's
very nose, egad! It was a near thing I did not ride them down. So I
stopped, naturally. I regretted stopping, afterward, for I was too late
to be of help. It was at the Golden Hind, of course. Something really
ought to be done about that place. Yes, and that rogue Marler bled all
over a new doublet, as you see. And the Deptford constables held me with
their foolish interrogatories--"
"So one of the fighting men was named Marlowe! Is he dead, too, dead in
"Marlowe or Marler, or something of the sort--wrote plays and sonnets
and such stuff, they tell me. I do not know anything about him--though,
I give you my word now, those greasy constables treated me as though I
were a noted frequenter of pot-houses. That sort of thing is most
annoying. At all events, he was drunk as David's sow, and squabbling
over, saving your presence, a woman of the sort one looks to find in
that abominable hole. And so, as I was saying, this other drunken rascal
dug a knife into him--"
But now, to Captain Musgrave's discomfort, Cynthia Allonby had begun to
So he cleared his throat, and he patted the back of her hand. "It is a
great shock to you, naturally--oh, most naturally, and does you great
credit. But come now, Pevensey is gone, as we must all go some day, and
our tears cannot bring him back, my dear. We can but hope he is better
off, poor fellow, and look on it as a mysterious dispensation and that
sort of thing, my dear--"
"Oh, Ned, but people are so cruel! People will be saying that it was I
who kept poor Cousin George in London this past two weeks, and that but
for me he would have been in France long ago. And then the Queen,
Ned!--why, that pig-headed old woman will be blaming it on me, that
there is nobody to prevent that detestable French King from turning
Catholic and dragging England into new wars, and I shall not be able to
go to any of the court dances! nor to the masque!" sobbed Cynthia, "nor
"Now you talk tender-hearted and angelic nonsense. It is noble of you to
feel that way, of course. But Pevensey did not take proper care of
himself, and that is all there is to it. Now I have remained in London
since the Plague's outbreak. I stayed with my regiment, naturally. We
have had a few deaths, of course. People die everywhere. But the Plague
has never bothered me. And why has it never bothered me? Simply because
I was sensible, took the pains to consult an astrologer, and by his
advice wear about my neck, night and day, a bag of dried toad's blood
and powdered cinnamon. It is an infallible specific for men born in
February. No, not for a moment do I wish to speak harshly of the dead,
but sensible persons cannot but consider Lord Pevensey's death to have
been caused by his own carelessness."
"Now, certainly that is true," the girl said, brightening. "It was
really his own carelessness, and his dear, lovable rashness. And
somebody could explain it to the Queen. Besides, I often think that wars
are good for the public spirit of a nation, and bring out its true
manhood. But then it upset me, too, a little, Ned, to hear about this
Marlowe--for I must tell you that I knew the poor man, very slightly. So
I happen to know that today he flung off in a rage, and began drinking,
because somebody, almost by pure accident, had burned a packet of his
Thereupon Captain Musgrave raised heavy eyebrows, and guffawed so
heartily that the candle flickered. "To think of the fellow's putting it
on that plea! when he could so easily have written some more verses.
That is the trouble with these poets, if you ask me: they are not
practical even in their ordinary, everyday lying. No, no, the truth of
it was that the rogue wanted a pretext for making a beast of himself,
and seized the first that came to hand. Egad, my dear, it is a daily
practice with these poets. They hardly draw a sober breath. Everybody
Cynthia was looking at him in the half-lit room with very flattering
admiration.... Seen thus, with her scarlet lips a little
parted--disclosing pearls--and with her naive dark eyes aglow, she was
quite incredibly pretty and caressable. She had almost forgotten until
now that this stalwart soldier, too, was in love with her. But now her
spirits were rising venturously, and she knew that she liked Ned
Musgrave. He had sensible notions; he saw things as they really were,
and with him there would never be any nonsense about top-lofty ideas.
Then, too, her dear old white-haired father would be pleased, because
there was a very fair estate....
So Cynthia said: "I believe you are right, Ned. I often wonder how they
can be so lacking in self-respect. Oh, I am certain you must be right,
for it is just what I felt without being able quite to express it You
will stay for supper with us, of course. Yes, but you must, because it
is always a great comfort for me to talk with really sensible persons. I
do not wonder that you are not very eager to stay, though, for I am
probably a fright, with my eyes red, and with my hair all tumbling down,
like an old witch's. Well, let us see what can be done about it, sir!
There was a hand-mirror--"
And thus speaking, she tripped, with very much the reputed grace of a
fairy, toward the far end of the room, and standing a-tiptoe, groped at
the obscure shelves, with a resultant crash of falling china.
"Oh, but my lovely cups!" said Cynthia, in dismay. "I had forgotten they
were up there: and now I have smashed both of them, in looking for my
mirror, sir, and trying to prettify myself for you. And I had so fancied
them, because they had not their like in England!"
She looked at the fragments, and then at Musgrave, with wide, innocent
hurt eyes. She was honestly grieved by the loss of her quaint toys. But
Musgrave, in his sturdy, common-sense way, only laughed at her
seriousness over such kickshaws.
"I am for an honest earthenware tankard myself!" he said, jovially, as
the two went in to supper.
THE HIGH COST OF CONSCIENCE
_BY BEATRICE RAVENEL_
From _Harper's Magazine_
"Any woman who can accept money from a gentleman who is in no way
related to her--" Miss Fowler delivered judgment.
"My dear Aunt Maria, you mean a gentleman's disembodied spirit," Hugh's
light, pleasant tones intervened.
"A legacy, Maria, is not quite the same thing. Mr. Winthrop Fowler's
perfect intonation carried its usual implication that the subject was
"---- is what I call an adventuress," Miss Fowler summed up. She had a
way of ignoring objections, of reappearing beyond them like a submarine
with the ultimate and detonating answer. "And now she wants to reopen
the matter when the whole thing's over and done with. After three years.
Extraordinary taste." She hitched her black-velvet Voltaire arm-chair a
little away from the fire and spread a vast knitting-bag of Chinese
brocade over her knees. "I suppose she isn't satisfied; she wants more."
"Naturally. I cannot imagine what other reason she could have for
insisting on a personal interview," her brother agreed, dryly. He
retired into the _Transcript_ as a Trappist withdraws into his vows. A
chastened client of Mr. Fowler's once observed that a half-hour's
encounter with him resulted in a rueful of asphyxiated topics.
Miss Maria, however, preferred disemboweling hers, "I shouldn't have
consented," she snapped. "Hugh, if you would be so good as to sit down.
You are obstructing the light. And the curtain-cord. If you could
refrain from twisting it for a few moments."
Hugh let his long, high-shouldered figure lapse into the window-seat.
"And besides, we're all dying to know what she looks like," he
"Speak for yourself, please," said Miss Fowler, with the vivacity of the
lady who protests too much.
"I do, I do! Good Lord! I'm just as bad as the rest of you. All my life
I've been consumed to know what Uncle Hugh could have seen in a
perfectly obscure little person to make him do what he did. There must
have been something." His eyes travelled to a sketch in pencil of a
man's head which hung in the shadow of the chimneypiece, a sketch whose
uncanny suggestion might have come from the quality of the sitter or
merely from a smudging of the medium. "Everything he did always seemed
to me perfectly natural," he went on, as though conscious of new
discovery. "Even those years when he was knocking about the world,
hiding his address. Even when he had that fancy that people were
persecuting him. Most people did worry him horribly."
A glance flashed between the two middle-aged listeners. It was a
peculiar glance, full of a half-denied portent. Then Miss Fowler's
fingers, true to their traditions, loosened their grip on her needles
and casually smoothed out her work.
"I have asked you not to speak of that," she mentioned, quietly.
"I know. But of course there was no doubt at all that he was sa--was
entirely recovered before his death. Don't you think so, sir?"
His uncle laid down the paper and fixed the young man with the gray,
unsheathed keenness that had sent so many witnesses grovelling to the
naked truth. "No doubt whatever. I always held, and so did both the
physicians, that his lack of balance was a temporary and sporadic thing,
brought on by overwork--and certain unhappy conditions of his life.
There has never been any such taint in our branch of the family."
"No-o, so they say," Hugh agreed. "One of our forebears did see ghosts,
but that was rather the fashion. And his father, that old Johnnie over
the fireplace--you take after him, Aunt Maria--he was the prize
witch-smeller of his generation, and he condemned all the young and
pretty ones. That hardly seems well-balanced."
"Collaterals on the distaff side," Mr. Fowler put in hastily. "If you
would read Mendel--"
"Mendel? I have read about him." He raised the forefinger of his right
hand. "Very suggestive. If your father was a black rabbit"--he raised
the forefinger of his left--"and your mother was a white rabbit, then
your male children would be"--he raised all the other fingers and paused
as though taken aback by the size of the family--"would be blue
guinea-pigs, with a tendency to club-foot and astigmatism, but your
female children might only be rather clumsy tangoists with a weakness
for cutting their poor relations. That's all I remember, but I _do_ know
that because I studied the charts."
"Very amusing," said Mr. Fowler, indulgently.
"I am sure it can't be that way." Miss Maria flapped her knitting over.
"But everything has changed since my day, and _not_ for the better. The
"Beg pardon," muttered Hugh. His mind went on churning nonsense. "There
are two days it is useless to flee from--the day of your death and the
day when your family doesn't care for your jokes.
"For a joke is an intellectual thing,
And a _mot_ is the sword of an angel king.
"Good old Blake. Why do the best people always see jokes? Why does a
really good one make a whole frozen crowd feel jolly and united all of a
sudden?" He pondered on the beneficence of the comic spirit. Hugh was a
born Deist. It gave him no trouble at all to believe that since the
paintings of Velasquez and the great outdoors which he had seen, were
beautiful, so much the more beautiful must be that God whom he had not
seen. It seemed reasonable. As for the horrors like Uncle Hugh's
affair--well, they must be put in for chiaroscuro. A thing couldn't be
all white without being blank. The thought of the shadows, however,
always made him profoundly uncomfortable, and his instinct
right-about-faced to the lighter surface of life. "Anyhow," he broke
silence, "the daughter of Heth must be game. Three to one, and on our
He looked appraisingly about the room, pausing at the stiff,
distinguished, grey-haired couple, one on either side of the fire. The
effect was of a highly finished genre picture: the rich wainscot between
low book-shelves, the brooding portraits, the black-blue rug bordered by
a veiled Oriental motive, the black-velvet cushions that brought out the
watery reflections of old Sheraton as even the ancient horsehair had not
done; the silver candlesticks, the miniatures, and on the mantel those
two royal flower-pots whose precarious existence was to his aunt a very
fearful joy. Even the tortoise-shell cat, sprawled between the two
figures like a tiny tiger-skin, was in the picture. It was a room that
gently put you into your place. Hugh recalled with a faint grin certain
meetings here of philanthropic ladies whose paths had seldom turned into
the interiors of older Beacon Street. The state of life to which it had
pleased their Maker to call them, he reflected, would express itself
preferably in gilding and vast pale-tinted upholstery and pink
bibelots--oh, quite a lot of pink. This place had worried them into a
condition of disconcerted awe.
He tried to fancy what it was going to do to the unbidden, resented
guest. A queer protest against its enmity, an impulse to give her a
square deal, surged up in him from nowhere. After all, whatever else she
might be, she was Uncle Hugh's girl. Like all the world, Hugh loved the
dispossessed lover. He knew what it felt like. One does not reach the
mature age of twenty-four without having at least begun the passionate
pilgrimage. His few tindery and tinselly affairs suspected of following
the obvious formula: three parts curiosity, three parts the literary
sense, three parts crude young impulse, one part distilled moonshine.
The real love of his life had been Uncle Hugh.
He sprang up with an abruptness to which his elders seemed to be used.
He stopped before a brass-trimmed desk and jerked at the second drawer.
"Where are those letters, sir?"
"Yes, the one you wrote her about the money, and her answer. You put
them with his papers, didn't you? Where's the key?"
The older man drew from his waistcoat pocket a carved bit of brass.
"What do you want with them?" he asked, cautiously.
"I want to refresh my memory--and Aunt Maria's." He took out a neat
little pile of papers and began to sort them intently. "Here they are on
top." He laid out a docketed envelope on the desk. "And here are the
essays and poems that you wouldn't publish. I considered them the best
things he ever did."
"You were not his literary executor," said his uncle, coldly. Another
stifled glance passed between the seniors, but this time Miss Maria made
no effort to restore the gloss of the surface. She sat idle, staring at
the papers with a sort of horror.
"Put them back," she said. "Winthrop, I do think you might burn them. If
you keep things like that too long the wrong people are sure to get
"Wait a bit. I haven't seen them for years, not since you published the
collected works--with Hamlet left out." The young man lifted a worn
brown-morocco portfolio tied with a frazzled red ribbon. "And here"--his
voice dropped--"here is It--the letters he wrote to her and never sent.
It was a sort of diary, wasn't it, going on for years? What a howling
pity we couldn't print that!"
"Don't faint, Aunt Maria. You wouldn't catch me doing anything so
indecent. But suppose Dante's dear family had suppressed the _Vita
Nuova_. And it ought to be one of the most extraordinary human documents
in the world, perfectly intimate, all the bars down, full of those
flashes of his. Just the man, _ipsissimus_, that never happened but that
once. Uncle Winthrop, don't you think that I might read it?"
"Do you think so? I never did."
"Oh, if you put it up to me like that! Of course I can't. But what luck
that he didn't ask you to send it to her--supposing she's the wrong
kind--wasn't it ..." His voice trailed off, leaving his lips foolishly
open. "You don't mean--he did?"
"Yes, at the end, after you had left the room," said Mr. Fowler, firmly.
"And you--didn't? Why not?"
"As you said, for fear she was the wrong kind"
"It was too much to hope that she would be anything else," his aunt
broke in, harshly. "Shut your mouth, Hugh; you look like a fool. Think
what she might have done with them--she and some of those unspeakable
"Oh, I see! I see!" groaned the young man. "But how awful not to do the
very last thing he wanted! Did you ever try to find out what kind of a
person she was?"
"She took the money. That was enough," cried Miss Fowler. "She got her
share, just as though she had been his legal wife."
Hugh gave her a dazed look. "You don't mean that she was his illegal
one? I never--"
"Oh no, no!" Mr. Fowler interposed. "We have no reason to think that she
was otherwise than respectable. Maria, you allow most unfortunate
implications to result from your choice of words. We know very little,
"He met her in Paris when he gave that course of lectures over there. We
know that much. And she was an American student--from Virginia, wasn't
it? But that was over twenty years ago. Didn't he see her after that?"
"I am sure he did not."
"She wasn't with him when he was knocking about Europe?"
"Certainly not. She came home that very year and married. As her letter
states, she was a widow with three children at the time of his death."
"I have always considered it providential that he didn't know she was a
widow," observed Miss Maria, primly.
Her nephew shot her a look that admitted his intermittent amusement in
his aunt Maria, but definitely gave her up. He carefully leaned the
portfolio inside the arm of the sofa that neighboured the desk, and
picked up the long envelope.
"A copy of my letter," said Mr. Fowler.
To his sister, watching him as he watched Hugh, came the unaccountable
impression that his sure and chiselled surface covered a nervous
anxiety. Then Miss Maria, being a product of the same school, dismissed
the idea as absurd.
Hugh raised bewildered eyes from the letters. "I can't exactly
remember," he said. "I was so cut up at the time. Did I ever actually
read this before or was I merely told about it? I went back for
Midyear's, you know, almost at once. I know my consent was asked, but--"
"You--did not see it."
"And you, Aunt Maria, of course you knew about it!"
"Certainly," said Miss Fowler, on the defensive. "As usual in business
matters, your uncle decided for me. We have been accustomed to act as a
family always. To me the solidarity of the family it more than the
interest of any member of it."
"Oh, I know that the Fowler family is the noblest work of God." The
young man looked from one to the other as he might have regarded two
strangers whose motives it was his intention to find out. "I've been
brought up on that. But what I want to know now is the whyness of this
"What do you mean?" Mr. Fowler's voice cut the pause like a trowel
executing the middle justice on an earthworm.
"Why--why--" Hugh began, desperately. "I mean, why wasn't the money
turned over to her at once--all of it?"
"It is customary to notify legatees."
"And she wasn't even a legatee," added Miss Maria, grimly. He never made
"No," said Hugh, with an ugly laugh, "he merely trusted to our
There was a brief but violent silence.
"I think, Winthrop," Miss Maria broke it, "that instead of questioning
the propriety of my language, you might do well to consider your
Hugh half-tendered the letter. "You're so confoundedly clever. Uncle
Winthrop. You--you just put the whole thing up to the poor woman. I
can't pick out a word to show where you said it, but the tone of your
letter is exactly this, 'Here's the money for you, and if you take it
you're doing an unheard-of thing.' _She_ saw it right enough. Her answer
is just defence of why she has to take it--some of it. She's a mother
with three children, struggling to keep above water. She's a human
animal fighting for her young. So she takes, most apologetically, most
unhappily, a part of what he left her, and she hates to take that. It's
the most pitiful thing--"
"Piteous," corrected Miss Maria, in a tone like a bite.
Mr. Fowler laid the tips of his fingers very delicately on his nephew's
knee. "Will you show me the place or places where I make these very
"That's just it. I can't pick them out, but--"
"I am sure that you cannot, because they exist only in your
somewhat--shall we say, lyrical imagination? I laid the circumstances
before the woman and she acted as she saw fit to act. Hugh, my dear boy,
I wish that you would try to restrain your--your growing tendency to
excitability. I know that this is a trying day for all of us."
"O Lord, yes! It brings it all back," said Hugh, miserably. "I'm sorry
if I said anything offensive sir, but--" He gave it up. "You know I have
a devil, sometimes." He gave a half-embarrassed laugh.
"Offensive--if you have said anything offensive?" Miss Fowler boiled
over. "Is that all you are going to say, Winthrop? If so--"
Mr. Fowler lifted a warning hand. The house door was opening. Then the
discreet steps of Gannett came up the hall, followed by something
lighter and more resilient.
"At least don't give me away to the lady the very first thing," said
Hugh, lightly. He shoved the papers into the drawers and swung it shut.
His heart was beating quite ridiculously. He would know at last--What
wouldn't he know? "Uncle Hugh's girl, Uncle Hugh's girl," he told
himself, and his temperamental responsiveness to the interest and the
mystery of life expanded like a sea-anemone in the Gulf Stream.
Gannett opened the door, announced in his impeccable English, "Mrs.
Shirley," and was not.
* * * * *
A very small, very graceful woman hesitated in the doorway. Hugh's first
impression was surprise that there was so little of her. Then his always
alert subconsciousness registered:
"A lady, yes, but a country lady; not _de par le monde_. Pleasantly
rather than well dressed; those veils are out." He had met her at once
with outstretched hand and the most cordial, "I am glad to see you, Mrs.
Shirley." Then he mentioned the names of his aunt and uncle. He did not
dare to leave anything to Aunt Maria.
That lady made a movement that might or might not have been a gesture of
recognition. Mr. Fowler, who had risen, inclined his handsome head with
a polite murmur and indicated a chair which faced the light. Mrs.
Shirley sat, instead, upon the edge of the sofa, which happened to be
nearer. With her coming Hugh's expansiveness had suffered a sudden
rebuff. A feeling of dismal conventionality permeated the room like a
fog. He plumbed it in vain for the wonder and the magic that ought to
have been the inescapable aura of Uncle Hugh's girl. Was this the mighty
ocean, was this all? She was a little nervous, too. That was a pity.
Nervousness in social relations was one of the numerous things that Aunt
Maria never forgave.
Then the stranger spoke, and Hugh's friendliness went out to the sound
as to something familiar for which he had been waiting.
"It is very good of you to let me come," she said.
"But she must be over forty," Hugh told himself, "and her voice is
young. So was his always." It was also very natural and moving and not
untinged by what Miss Fowler called the Southern patois. "And her feet
Mr. Fowler uttered another polite murmur. There was no help from that
quarter. She made another start.
"It seemed to me--" she addressed Miss Fowler, who looked obdurate. She
cast a helpless glance at the cat, who opened surprising topaz eyes and
looked supercilious. Then she turned to Hugh. "It seemed to me," she
said, steadily, "that I could make you understand--I mean I could
express myself more clearly if I could see you, than I could by writing,
but--it is rather difficult."
The overheated, inclement room waited. Hugh restrained his foot from
twitching. Why didn't Aunt Maria say something? She was behaving
abominably. She was still seething with her suppressed outburst like a
tea-kettle under the cozy of civilization. And it was catching.
"I explained at the time, three years ago," Mrs. Shirley made the
plunge, "why I took the--money at all." The hard word was out, and Hugh
relaxed. "I don't know what you thought of me, but at the time it seemed
like the mercy of Heaven. I had to educate the children. We were
horribly poor. I was almost in despair. And I felt that if I could take
it from any one I could take it from him ..."
"Yes," said Hugh, unhappily. The depression that dropped on him at
intervals seemed waiting to pounce. He glanced at his uncle's judicial
mask, knowing utterly the distaste for sentimental encounters that it
covered. He detested his aunt's aloofness. He was almost angry with this
little woman's ingenuousness that put her so candidly at their cynical
"But now," she went on, "some land we have that seemed worth nothing at
the time has become very valuable. The town grew out in that direction.
And my eldest boy is doing very well indeed, and my daughter is studying
for a library position."
"The short and simple annals of the poor," sighed Hugh to Hugh.
"And so," said little Mrs. Shirley, with astounding simplicity, "I came
to ask you please to take it back again." She gave an involuntary sigh
of relief, as though she had returned a rather valuable umbrella. Mr.
Fowl's eyeglasses dropped from his nose as his eyebrows shot up.
"Good Lord!" ejaculated Miss Maria with all the unexpectedness of
Galatea. "You don't really mean it?" Her bag slid to the floor and the
cat became thoroughly intrigued.
"Do I understand you to say"--Mr. Fowler's voice was almost
stirred--"that you wish to return my brother's legacy to the family?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Shirley, "only, it wasn't a legacy. It was merely
kindness that let me have it. You never can know how kind it was. But we
can get on without it now."
Mr. Fowler cleared his throat. To Hugh his manner faintly suggested the
cat busy with the yarn, full of a sort of devout curiosity. "Pardon me,"
he said, gently, "but are you sure--have you given this matter
sufficient thought? The sum is a considerable one. Your children--"
"I have talked it over with them. They feel just as I do."
"A very proper feeling," said Miss Fowler, approvingly. "I must say that
I never expected it. I shall add part of my share of it to the Marian
Fowler Ward in the Home for Deficient Children. A most worthy charity.
Perhaps I could interest you--"
"Oh, that would be lovely!" cried Mrs. Shirley. "Anything for
children.... I've already spoken to my cousin, who is a lawyer, about
transferring the securities back to you."
"I shall communicate with him at once," said Mr. Fowler. His court-room
manner had bourgeoned into his best drawing-room blend of faintly
implied gallantry and deep consideration. One almost caught Winter
getting out of the lap of Spring. Then the three heads which had
unconsciously leaned together suddenly straightened up and turned in the
Hugh stood almost over them. In one hand he held his aunt's knitting,
which he had mechanically rescued from the cat. Now he drew out one of
the ivory needles and snapped it into accurate halves. "This is
atrocious!" he said, with care and precision. His voice shook. "I shall
not touch a cent of it and"--he embraced his uncle and aunt in the same
devastating look--"neither will you if you have any sense of decency."
"It doesn't matter remotely what you--we think sir. What matters is what
Uncle Hugh thought." He turned to Mrs. Shirley with an extraordinary
softening of tone. "Couldn't you keep it? When he died ... in the room
over this"--with a little gasp her glance flew to the ceiling as though
this topographical detail had brought her a sharp realization of that
long-past scene--"he made us promise that you should have it, all of it.
He felt that you needed it; he worried about it."
"Oh, how kind of him--how kind!" cried the little woman. The poignancy
of her voice cut into his disappointment like a sharp ray of light.
"Even then--to think of me. But don't you understand that he wouldn't
want me to--to take anything that I felt I ought not to take?"
"That's the way out," rippled across Mr. Fowler's face. He was
experiencing a variety of mental disturbances, but this came to the
surface just in time for Hugh to catch it.
"Oh well," he murmured, wearily. "Only, none for this deficient child,
thank you." He walked to the window and stood looking out into the blown
spring green of the elm opposite. His ebbed anger had left a residuum of
stubbornness. There was still an act of justice to be consummated and
the position of grand-justicer offered a certain righteous attraction.
As he reminded himself, if you put your will to work on a difficult
action you were fain to commit, after a while the will worked
automatically and your mind functioned without aid from you, and the
action bloomed of itself. This kinetic process was a constant device of
the freakish impulse that he called his devil. He deliberately laid the
"There is one more thing," the alien was saying. Her voice had gained a
wonderful fluency amid the general thaw. "I didn't dare to ask before,
but if we thought of me then--I have always hoped he left some message
for me ... a letter, perhaps."
Hugh smiled agreeably. "In just a moment," he considered, "I am going to
do something so outrageous that I can't even imagine how my dear
families are going to take it." He was about to hurt them severely, but
that was all right. His uncle was a tempered weapon of war that despised
quarter; and as for Aunt Maria, he rather wanted to hurt Aunt Maria for
her own good.
Into the eloquent and mendacious silence that was a gift of their caste
the voice fell humbly: "So there wasn't? I suppose I oughtn't to have
"Any time now, Gridley," Hugh signalled to his familiar. Like a
response, a thin breeze tickled the roots of his hair. He swung around
with the pivot of a definite purpose. With an economy of movement that
would have contented an efficiency expert he set a straight
fiddle-backed chair squarely in front of Uncle Hugh's girl and settled
himself in it with his back to his own people.
"Mrs. Shirley," he began, quietly, "will you talk to me, please? I hope
I shan't startle you, but there are things I absolutely have to know,
and this is my one chance. I am entirely determined not to let it slip.
Talk to me, please, not to them. As you have doubtless noticed, though
excellent people where the things not flatly of this world are
concerned, my uncle is a graven image and my aunt is a deaf mute. As for
me, I am just unbalanced enough to understand anything." He was aware of
the rustle of consternation behind him and hurried on, ignoring that and
whatever else might be happening there. "That's what I'm banking on now.
I intend to say my say and they are going to allow it, because it is
dangerous to thwart queer people--very dangerous indeed. You know, they
thwarted Uncle Hugh in every possible way. My grandfather was a
composite of those two, and all of them adored my uncle and contradicted
him and watched him until he went over the border. And they're so dead
scared that I'm going to follow him some day that they let me do quite
as I please." He passed his hand across his eyes as though brushing away
cobwebs. "Will you be so good as to put your veil up."
"Why--why, certainly!" Mrs. Shirley faltered. She uncovered her face and
Hugh nodded to the witness within.
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