Howells & Alden, Editors
Part 2 out of 4
than you be slouchin'." She still spoke in a whisper, and Sarah had only
laughed and said nothing more.
As for Mrs. Wilford Biggs and her brother, Mr. John Mangam, they
maintained, as always, silence. Neither of the two ever spoke, as a
rule, unless spoken to. John was called a very rich man in Adams. He had
gone to the far West in his youth and made money in cattle.
"And how in creation he ever made any money in cattle, a man that don't
talk no more than he does, beats me," Mrs. Samson often said to her
granddaughter, Mrs. Lynn. She was quite out-spoken to her about John
Mangam, although never to Sarah. "It does seem as if a man would have to
say somethin', to manage critters," said the old woman.
Mr. John Mangam and Mrs. Wilford Biggs grated on her nerves. She
privately considered it an outrage for Mrs. Biggs to come over nearly
every evening and sit and rock and say nothing, and often fall asleep,
and for Mr. Mangam to do the same. It was not so much the silence as the
attitude of almost injured expectancy which irritated. Both gave the
effect of waiting for other people to talk to them, to tell them
interesting bits of news, to ask them questions--to set them going, as
Mrs. Lynn and her grandmother tried to fulfil their duty in this
direction, but Sarah did not trouble herself in the least. She continued
to sit bent over like a lily limp with the heat, and she stared with her
two great blue eyes in her cameo face forth at the wonders of the summer
night, and she had apparently very little consciousness of the people
around her. Her loose white gown fell loosely around her; her white
elbows were quite visible from the position in which she held her arms.
Her lovely hair hung in soft loops over her ears. She was the only one
who paid the slightest attention to the beauty of the night. She was
filling her whole soul with it.
It was a wonderful night, and Adams was a village in which to see a
wonderful night. It was flanked by a river, upon the opposite bank of
which rose a gentle mountain. Above the mountain the moon was appearing
with the beauty of revelation, and the tall trees made superb shadow
effects. The night also was not without its voices and its fragrances.
Katydids were shrilling from every thicket, and over somewhere near the
river a whippoorwill was persistently calling. As for the fragrances,
they were those of the dark, damp skirts and wings of the night, the
evidences as loud as voices of green shrubs and flowers blooming in low
wet places; but dominant above all was the scent of the lilies. One
breathed in lilies to that extent that one's thought seemed fairly
scented with them. It was easy enough, by looking toward the left, to
see where the fragrance came from. There was evident, on the other side
of a low hedge, a pale florescence of the flowers. Beyond them rose,
pale likewise, the great Ware house, the largest in the village, and the
oldest. Hyacinthus Ware was the sole representative of the old family
known to be living. Presently the group on the Lynn door-step began to
talk about him, leading up to the subject from the fragrance of the
"Them lilies is so sweet they are sickish," said the old grandmother.
"Yes, they be dreadful sickish," said Mrs. Lynn. Mrs. Wilford Biggs and
Mr. Mangam, as usual, said nothing.
"Hyacinthus is home, I see," said Mrs. Lynn.
"Yes, I see him on the street t'other day," said the old woman, in her
thick dialect. She sat straighter than ever as she gazed across at the
garden of lilies and the great Ware house, and the cold step-stone
seemed to pierce her old spinal column like a rod of steel; but she
Mrs. Wilford Biggs and Mr. John Mangam said nothing.
"He is the handsomest man I ever saw," said Sarah Lynn, unexpectedly, in
an odd, shamed, almost awed voice, as if she were speaking of a
Then for the first time Mr. John Mangam gave evidence of life. He did
not speak, but he made an inarticulate noise between a grunt and a
"Well, if you call that man good-lookin'," said Mrs. Lynn, "you don't
see the way I do, that's all." She looked straight at Mr. John Mangam as
"I don't call him good-looking at all," said the old woman; "dreadful
Sarah said nothing at all, but the face of the man, Hyacinthus Ware, was
before her eyes still, as beautiful and grand as the face of a god.
"Never heerd such a name, either," said the old woman. "His mother was
dreadful flowery. She had some outlandish blood. I don't know whether
she was Eyetalian or Dutch."
"Her mother was Greek, I always heard," said Mrs. Lynn. "I dun'no' as I
ever heard of any other Greek round these parts. I guess they don't
"I guess it was Greek, now you speak of it," said the old woman. "I knew
she was outlandish on one side, anyhow. An' as fur callin' him
good-lookin'--" She looked aggressively at her great-granddaughter,
whose beautiful face was turned toward the moonlit night.
It was a long time that they sat there. It had been a very hot day, and
the cool was grateful. Hardly a remark was made, except one from Mrs.
Lynn that it was a blessing there were so few mosquitoes and they could
sit outdoors such a night.
"I ain't heerd but one all the time I've been settin' here," said the
old woman, "and I ketched him."
Sarah, the girl, continued to drink, to eat, to imbibe, to assimilate,
toward her spiritual growth, the beauty of the night, the gentle slope
of the mountain, the wavering wings of the shadows, the song of the
river, the calls of the whippoorwill and the katydids, the perfume of
the unseen green things in the wet places, and the overmastering
sweetness of the lilies.
At last Mrs. Wilford Biggs arose to go, and also John Mangam. Both said
they must be goin', they guessed, and that was the first remark that had
been made by either of them. Mrs. Biggs moved with loose flops down the
front walk, and John Mangam walked stiffly behind her. She had merely to
cross the road; he had half a mile to walk to his bachelor abode.
"I should think he must be lonesome, poor man, with only that no-account
housekeeper to home," said the old woman, as she also rose, with pain,
of which she resolutely gave no evidence. Her poor old joints seemed to
stab her, but she fought off the pain angrily. Instead she pitied with
meaning John Mangam.
"It must be pretty hard for him," assented Mrs. Lynn. She also thought
it would be a very good thing for her daughter to marry John Mangam.
Sarah said nothing. The old woman, after saying, like the others, that
she guessed she must be goin', crept off alone across the field to her
little house. She would have resented any offer to accompany her, and
Mrs. Lynn arose to enter the house.
"Well, be you goin' to set there all night?" she asked, rather sharply,
of Sarah. It had seemed to her that Sarah might have made a little
effort to entertain Mr. John Mangam.
"No. I am coming in, mother," Sarah said. Sarah spoke differently from
the others. She had had, as they expressed it in Adams, "advantages."
She had, in fact, graduated from a girls' school of considerable repute.
Her father had insisted upon it. Mrs. Lynn had rather rebelled against
the outlay on Sarah's education. She had John Mangam in mind, and she
thought that a course at the high school in Adams would fit her
admirably for her life. However, she deferred to Rufus Lynn, and Sarah
had her education.
The Lynn house was a large story-and-a-half cottage, the prevalent type
of house in Adams. Mrs. Lynn slept in the room she had always occupied
on the second floor. In hot weather Sarah slept in the bedroom opening
out of the best parlor, because the other second-floor room was hot.
Mrs. Lynn went up-stairs with her lamp and left Sarah to go to bed in
the bedroom out of the parlor. Sarah went in there with her own little
lamp, but even that room seemed stuffy. The heat of the day seemed to
have become confined in the house. Sarah stood irresolute for a moment.
She looked at the high mound of feather bed, at the small window at the
foot, whence came scarcely a whiff of the blessed night air. Them she
went back out on the door-step and again seated herself. As she sat
there the scent of the lilies came more strongly than ever, and now with
a curious effect. It was to the girl as if the fragrance were twining
and winding about her and impelling her like leashes. All at once an
impulse of yielding which was really freedom came to her. Why in the
world should she not cross the little north yard, step over the low
hedge, and go into that lily-garden? She knew that it would be beautiful
there. She looked forth into the crystalline light and the soft plumy
shade,--she would go over into the Ware garden. With all this, there was
no ulterior motive. She had seen the man who lived in the house, and she
admired him as one from afar, but she was a girl innocent not only in
fact, but in dreams. Of course she had thought of a possible lover and
husband, and that some day he might come, and she resented the
supposition that John Mangam might be he, but she held even her
imagination in a curious respect. While she dreamed of love, she
worshipped at the same time.
When she had stepped lightly over the hedge and was moving among the
lilies in the strange garden where she had no right, she was beautiful
as any nymph. Now that she was in the midst of the lilies, it was as if
their fragrance were a chorus sung with a violence of sweet breath in
her very face. She felt exhilarated, even intoxicated, by it. She felt
as if she were drawing the lilies so into herself that her own
personality waned. She seemed to realize what it would be to bloom with
that pale glory and exhale such sweetness for a few days. There were
other flowers than lilies in the garden, but the lilies were very
plentiful. There were white day-lilies, and tiger-lilies which were not
sweet at all, and marvellous pink freckled ones which glistened as with
drops of silver and were very fragrant. There were also low-growing
spider-lilies, but those were not evident at this time of night, and the
lilies-of-the-valley, of course, were all gone. There were, however,
many other flowers of the old-fashioned varieties--verbenas
sweet-williams, phlox, hollyhocks, mignonette, and the like. There was
also a quantity of box. The garden was divided into rooms by the box,
and in each room bloomed the flowers.
Sarah moved along at her will through the garden. Moving from enclosure
to enclosure of box, she came, before she knew it, to the house itself.
It loomed up before her a pale massiveness, with no lights in any of the
windows, but on the back porch sat the owner. He sat in a high-back
chair, with his head tilted back, and his eyes were closed and he seemed
to be asleep, but Sarah was not quite sure. She stopped short. She
became all at once horribly ashamed and shocked at what she was doing.
What would he think of a girl roaming around his garden so late at
night--a girl to whom he had never spoken? She was standing against a
background of blooming hollyhocks. Her slender height shrank delicately
away; she was like a nymph poised for flight, but she dared not even fly
lest she wake the man on the porch if he were asleep, or arouse his
attention were he awake.
She dared do nothing but remain perfectly still--as still as one of the
tall hollyhocks behind her which were crowded with white and yellow
rosettes of bloom. She had her long dress wound around her, holding it
up with one hand, and the other hand and arm hung whitely at her side in
the folds. She stood perfectly still and looked at the man in the porch,
on whose face the moon was shining. He looked more than ever to her like
something wonderful beyond common. The man had really a wonderful
beauty. He was not very young, but no years could affect the classic
outlines of his face, and his colorless skin was as clear and smooth as
a boys. And more than anything to be remarked was the majestic serenity
of his expression. He looked like a man who all his life had dominated
not only other men, but himself. And there was, besides the appearance
of the man, a certain fascination of mystery attached to him. Nobody in
Adams knew just how or where he had spent his life. The old Ware house
had been occupied for many years only by an old caretaker, who still
remained. This caretaker was a man, but with all the housekeeping
ability of a woman. He was never seen by Adams people except when he
made his marketing expeditions. He was said to keep the house in
immaculate order, and he also took care of the garden. He had always
been in the Ware household, and there was a tradition that in his youth
he had been a very handsome man. "As handsome as any handsome woman you
ever saw," the old inhabitants said. He had come not very long before
Joseph Ware, the father of Hyacinthus, had died. Joseph's wife had
survived him several years. She died quite suddenly of pneumonia when
still a comparatively young woman and when Hyacinthus was a boy. Then a
maternal uncle had come and taken the boy away with him, to live nobody
knew where nor how, until his return a few months since.
There was, of course, much curiosity in Adams concerning him, and the
curiosity was not, generally speaking, of a complimentary tendency. Some
young and marriageable girls esteemed him very handsome, but the
majority of the people said that he was odd and stuck up, as his mother
had been before him. He led a quiet life with his books, and he had a
room on the ground-floor fitted up as a studio. In there he made things
of clay and plaster, as the Adams people said, and curious-looking boxes
were sent away by express. It was rumored that a statue by him had been
exhibited in New York.
Some faces show more plainly in the moonlight, or one imagines so.
Hyacinthus Ware's showed as clearly as if carved in marble. He in
reality looked so like a statue that the girl standing in the enclosure
of box with the background of hollyhocks had for a moment imagined that
he might be one of his own statues. The eyes, either closed in sleep or
appearing to be, heightened the effect.
But the girl was not now in a position to do more than tremble at the
plight into which she had gotten herself. It seemed to her that no girl,
certainly no girl in Adams, had ever done such a thing. Her freedom of
mind now failed her. Another heredity asserted itself. She felt very
much as her mother or her great-grandmother might have felt in a similar
predicament. It was as horrible as dreams she had sometimes had of
walking into church in her nightgear. She was sure that she must not
move, and the more so because at a very slight motion of hers there had
been a motion as if in response from the man on the porch. Then there
was another drawback. Some roses grew behind the hollyhocks, and her
skirt was caught. She had felt a little pull at her skirt when she
essayed a slight tentative motion. Therefore, in order to fly she could
not merely slip away; she would have to make extra motions to
disentangle her dress. She therefore remained perfectly still in the
attitude of shrinking and flight. She thought that her only course until
the man should wake and enter the house; then she could slip away. She
had not much fear of being discovered unless by motion; she stood in
shadow. Besides, the man had no reason whatever to apprehend the
presence of a girl in his garden at that hour, and would not be looking
for her. She had an intuitive feeling that unless she moved he would not
perceive her. Cramps began to assail even her untrammelled limbs. To
maintain one pose so long was almost an impossible feat. She kept hoping
that he would wake, that he must wake. It did not seem possible that he
could sit there much longer and not wake; and yet the night was so
hot--hot, probably, even in the great square rooms of the old Ware
house. It was quite natural that he should prefer sleeping there in the
cool out-of-door if he could, but an unreasoning rage seized upon her
that he should. She rebelled against the very freedom in another which
she had always coveted for herself.
And still he sat there, as white and beautiful and motionless as a
statue, and still she kept her enforced attitude. She suffered tortures,
but she said to herself that she would not yield, that she would not
move. Rather than have that man discover her at that hour in his garden,
she would suffer everything. It did not occur to her that possibly this
suffering might have consequences which she did not foresee. All that
she considered was a simple question of endurance; but all at once her
head swam, and she sank down at the feet of the hollyhocks like a broken
flower herself. She had completely lost consciousness.
When she came to herself she was lying on the back porch of the old Ware
house and a pile of pillows was under her head, and she had a confused
impression of vanishing woman draperies, which later on she thought she
must have been mistaken about, as she knew, of course, that there was no
woman there. Hyacinthus Ware himself was bending over her and fanning
her with a great fan of peacock feathers, and the old caretaker had a
little glass of wine on a tray. The first thing Sarah heard was
Hyacinthus's voice, evenly modulated, with a curious stillness about it.
"I think if you can drink a little of this wine," he said, "you will
Sarah looked up at the face looking down at her, and all at once a
conviction seized upon her that he had not been asleep at all; that he
had pretended to be so, and had been enjoying himself at her expense,
simply waiting to see how long she would stand there. He probably
thought that she--she, Sarah Lynn--had come into his garden at midnight
to see him. A sudden fury seized upon her, but when she tried to raise
herself she found that she could not. Then she reached out her hand for
the wine, and drank it with a fierce gulp, spilling some of it over her
dress. It affected her almost instantly. She raised herself, the wine
giving her strength, and she looked with a haughty anger at the man,
whose expression seemed something between compassion and mocking.
"You saw me all the time," she said. "You did, I know you did, and you
let me think you were asleep to see how long I would stand still there,
and you think--you think--I was sitting on my door-step--I live in the
next house--and it was very warm in the house, so I came out again and I
smelled the lilies over the hedge, and--and--I did not think of you at
all." She was quite on her feet then, and she looked at him with her
head thrown back with an air of challenge. "I thought I would like to
come over here in the garden," she continued, in the same angrily
excusing tone, "and I did not dream of seeing any one. It was so late, I
thought the house would be closed, and when I saw you I thought you were
The man began to look genuinely compassionate; the half-smile faded from
his lips. "I understand," he said.
"And I thought if I moved you would wake and see me, and you were awake
all the time. You knew all the time, and you waited for me to stand
there and feel as I did. I never dreamed a man could be so cruel."
"I beg your pardon with all my heart," began Hyacinthus Ware.
But the girl was gone. She staggered a little as she ran, leaping over
the box borders. When she was at last in her own home, with the door
softly closed and locked behind her, and she was in the parlor bedroom,
she could not believe that she was herself. She began to look at things
differently. The influence of the intergeneration waned. She thought how
her mother would never have done such a thing when she was a girl, how
shocked she would be if she knew, and she herself was as shocked as her
mother would have been.
It was only a week from the night of the garden episode that Mr. Ware
came to make a call, and he came with the minister, who had been an old
friend of his father's.
She lay awake a long time that night, thinking with angry humiliation
how her mother wanted her to marry John Mangam, and she thought of Mr.
Hyacinthus Ware and his polished, gentle manner, which was yet strong.
Then all at once a feeling which she had never known before came over
her. She saw quite plainly before her, in the moonlit dusk of the room,
Hyacinthus Ware's face, and she felt that she could go down on her knees
before him and worship him.
"Never was such a man," she said to herself. "Never was a man so
beautiful and so good. He is not like other men."
It was not so much love as devotion which possessed her. She looked out
of her little window opposite the bed, at the moonlit night, for the
storm had cleared the air. She had the window open and a cool wind was
blowing through the room. She looked out at the silver-lit immensity of
the sky, and a feeling of exaltation came over her. She thought of
Hyacinthus as she might have thought of a divinity. Love and marriage
were hardly within her imagination in connection with him. But they came
Ware quite often called at the Lynn house. He often joined the group on
the door-step in the summer nights. He often came when John Mangam
occupied his usual chair in his usual place, and his graceful urbanity
on such occasions seemed to make more evident the other man's stolid or
stupid silence. Hyacinthus and Sarah usually had the most of the
conversation to themselves, as even Mrs. Lynn and the old woman, who
were not backward in speech, were at a loss to discuss many of the
topics introduced. One evening, after they had all gone home, Mrs. Lynn
looked fiercely at her daughter as she turned, holding her little lamp,
which cast a glorifying reflection upon her face, into the parlor whence
led her little bedroom.
"You are a good-for-nothin' girl," she said. "You ought to be ashamed of
"What do you mean, mother?" asked Sarah. She stood fair and white,
confronting her mother, who was burning and coarse with wrath.
"You talk about things you and him know that the rest of us can't talk
about. You take advantage because your father and me sent you to school
where you could learn more than we could. It wasn't my fault I didn't go
to school, and 'twa'n't his fault, poor man. He had to go to work and
get all that money he has." By the last masculine pronoun Mrs. Lynn
meant John Mangam.
Sarah had a spirit of her own, and she turned upon her mother, and for
the time the two faces looked alike, being swayed with one emotion.
"If," she said, "Mr. Ware and I had to regulate our conversation in
order to enable Mr. Mangam to talk with us, I am sure I don't know what
we could say. Mr. Mangam never talks, anyway."
"It ain't always the folks that talks that knows the most and is the
best," said Mrs. Lynn. Then her face upon her daughter's turned
malevolent, triumphant, and cruel. "I wa'n't goin' to tell you what I
heard when I was in Mis' Ketchum's this afternoon," she said. "I thought
at first I wouldn't, but now I'm goin' to."
"What do you mean, mother?" asked Sarah, in an angry voice; but she
"I thought at first I wouldn't," her mother continued, pitilessly, "but
I see to-night how things are goin'."
"What do you mean by that, mother?"
"I see that you are fool enough to get to likin' a man that has got the
gift of the gab, and that you think is good-lookin', and that wears
clothes made in the city, better than a good honest feller that we have
all known about ever since he was born, and that ain't got no outlandish
blood in him, neither."
"You needn't say mother that way. I ain't a fool, if I haven't been to
school like some folks, and I see the way you two looked at each other
to-night right before that poor man that has been comin' here steady and
"Nobody asked or wanted him to come," said Sarah.
"Maybe you'll change your mind when you hear what I've got to tell you.
And I'm goin' to tell you. _Hyacinthus Ware has got a woman livin' over
there in that house._" Sarah turned ghastly pale, but she spoke firmly.
"You mean he is married?" she said.
"I dun'no' whether he is married or not, but there is a woman livin'
"I don't believe a word of it."
"It don't make no odds whether you believe it or not, she's there."
"I don't believe it."
"She's been seed."
"Who has seen her."
"Abby Jane Ketchum herself, when she went round to the back door day
before yesterday afternoon to ask if Mr. Ware would buy some of her
soap. You know she's sellin' soap to get a prize."
"Where was the woman?"
"She was sittin' on the back porch with Mr. Ware, and she up and run
when she see Abby Jane, and Mr. Ware turned as white as a sheet, and he
bought all the soap Abby Jane had left to git out of it, so she's got
enough to get a sideboard for a prize. And Abby Jane she kept her eyes
open and she see a blind close in the southwest chamber, and that's
where the woman sleeps."
"What kind of a looking woman was she?" asked Sarah, in a strange voice.
"As handsome as a picture, Abby Jane said, and she had on an awful
stylish dress. Now if you want to have men like that comin' here to see
you, and want to make more of them than you do of a man that you know is
all right and is good and honest, you can."
There was something about the girl's face, as she turned away without a
word, that smote her mother's heart. "I felt as if I had to tell you,
Sarah," she said, in a voice which was suddenly changed to pity and
"You did perfectly right to tell me, mother," said Sarah. When at last
she got in her little bedroom she scarcely knew her own face in the
glass. Hyacinthus Ware had kissed that face the night before, and ever
since the memory of it had seemed like a lamp in her heart. She had met
him when she was coming home from the post-office after dark, and he had
kissed her at the gate and told her he loved her, and she expected, of
course, to marry him. Even now she could not bring herself to entirely
doubt him. "Suppose there is a woman there," she said to herself, "what
does it prove?" But she felt in her inmost heart that it did prove a
She remembered just bow Hyacinthus looked when he spoke to her; there
had been something almost childlike in his face. She could not believe,
and yet in the face of all this evidence! If there was a woman living in
the house with him, why had he kept it secret? Suddenly it occurred to
her that she could go over in the garden and see for herself. It was a
bright moonlight night and not yet late. If the woman was there, if she
inhabited the southwest chamber, there might be some sign of her. Sarah
placed her lamp on her bureau, gathered her skirts around her, and ran
swiftly out into the night. She hurried stealthily through the garden.
The lilies were gone, but there was still a strong breath of sweetness,
a bouquet, as it were, of mignonette and verbena and sweet thyme and
other fragrant blossoms, and the hollyhocks still bloomed. She went very
carefully when she reached the last enclosure of box; she peeped through
the tall file of hollyhocks, and there was Hyacinthus on the porch and
there was a woman beside him. In fact, the woman was sitting in the old
chair and Hyacinthus was at her feet, on the step, with his head in her
lap. The moon shone on them; they looked as if they were carved with
Sarah never knew how she got home, but she was back there in her little
room and nobody knew that she had been in the Ware garden except
herself. The next morning she had a talk with her mother. "Mother," said
she, "if Mr. John Mangam wants to marry me why doesn't he say so?" She
was fairly brutal in her manner of putting the question. She did not
change color in the least. She was very pale that morning, and she stood
more like her mother and her great-grandmother than herself.
Mrs. Lynn looked at her, and she was almost shocked. "Why, Sarah Lynn!"
"I mean just what I say," said Sarah, firmly. "I want to know. John
Mangam has been coming here steadily for nearly two years, and he never
even says a word, much less asks me to marry him. Does he expect me to
"I suppose he thinks you might at least meet him half-way," said her
That afternoon she went over to Mrs. Wilford Biggs's, and the next
night, it being John Mangam's night to call, Mrs. Biggs waylaid him as
he was just about to cross the street to the Lynn house.
After a short conversation Mrs. Biggs and her brother crossed the street
together, and it was not long before Mrs. Lynn asked Mrs. Biggs and the
old grandmother, who had also come over, to go in the house and see her
new black silk dress. Then it was that John Mangam mumbled something
inarticulate, which Sarah translated into an offer of marriage. "Very
well, I will marry you if you want me to, Mr. Mangam," she said. "I
don't love you at all, but if you don't mind about that--"
John Mangam said nothing at all.
"If you don't mind that, I will marry you," said Sarah, and nobody would
have known her voice. It was a voice to be ashamed of, full of despair
and shame and pride, so wronged and mangled that her very spirit seemed
violated. John Mangam said nothing then. She and the man sat there quite
still, when Hyacinthus came stepping over the hedge.
Sarah found a voice when she saw him. She turned to him. "Good evening,
Mr. Ware," she said, clearly. "I would like to announce my engagement to
Hyacinthus stood staring at her. Sarah repeated her announcement. Then
Hyacinthus Ware disregarded John Mangam as much as if he had been a post
of the white fence that enclosed the Lynn yard. "What does it mean?" he
"You have no right to ask," said she, also disregarding John Mangam, who
sat perfectly still in his chair.
"No right to ask after--Sarah, what do you mean? Why have I no right to
ask, after what we told each other?--and I intended to see your mother
to-night. I only waited because--"
"Because you had a guest in the house," said Sarah, in a cold, low
voice. Then John Mangam looked up with some show of animation. He had
heard the gossip.
Hyacinthus looked at her a moment, speechless, then he left her without
another word and went home across the hedge.
It was soon told in Adams that Sarah Lynn and John Mangam were to be
married. Everybody agreed that it was a good match and that Sarah was a
lucky girl. She went on with her wedding preparations. John Mangam came
as usual and sat silently. Sometimes when Sarah looked at him and
reflected that she would have to pass her life with this automaton a
sort of madness seized her.
Hyacinthus she almost never saw. Once in a great while she met him on
the street, and he bowed, raising his hat silently. He never made the
slightest attempt at explanation.
One night, after supper, Sarah and her mother sat on the front
door-step, and by and by the old grandmother came across the fields, and
Mrs. Wilford Biggs across the street, and Mr. John Mangam from his own
house farther down. He looked preoccupied and worried that night, and
while he was as silent as ever, yet his silence had the effect of
They sat in their customary places: Mrs. Lynn and Mrs. Biggs in the
chairs on the broad step-stone, Sarah and the old woman on the step, and
Mr. John Mangam in his chair on the gravel path,--when a strange lady
came stepping across the hedge from the Ware garden. She was not so very
young, although she was undeniably very handsome, and her clothes were
of a fashion never seen in Adams. She went straight up to the group on
the door-step, and although she had too much poise of manner to appear
agitated, it was evident that she was very eager and very much in
earnest. Mrs. Lynn half arose, with an idea of giving her a chair, but
there was no time, the lady began talking so at once.
"You are Miss Sarah Lynn, are you not?" she asked of Sarah, and she did
not wait for a reply, "and you are going to be married to him?" and
there was an unmistakable emphasis of scorn.
"I have just returned," said the lady; "I have not been in the house
half an hour, and my father told me. You do not know, but the gentleman
who has lived so long in the Ware house, the caretaker, is my father,
and--and my mother was Hyacinthus's mother; her second marriage was
secret, and he would never tell. My father and my mother were cousins.
Hyacinthus never told." She turned to Sarah. "He would not even tell
you, when he knew that you must have seen or heard something that made
you believe otherwise, because--because of our mother. No, he would not
even tell you."
She spoke again with a great impetuosity which made her seem very young,
although she was not so very young. "I have been kept away all my life,"
she said, "all my life from here, that the memory of our mother should
not suffer, and now I come to tell, myself, and you will marry my
brother, whom you must love better than that gentleman. You must. Will
you not? Tell me that you will," said she, "for Hyacinthus is breaking
his heart, and he loves you."
Before anything further could be said John Mangam rose, and walked
rapidly down the gravel walk out of the yard and down the street.
Sarah felt dizzy. She bent lower as she sat and held her head in her two
hands, and the strange lady came on the other side of her, and she was
enveloped in a fragrance of some foreign perfume.
"My brother has been almost mad," she whispered in her ear, "and I have
just found out what the trouble was. He would not tell on account of our
mother, but poor mother is dead and gone."
Then the old woman on the other side raised her voice unexpectedly, and
she spoke to her granddaughter, Mrs. Lynn. "You are a fool," said she,
"if you wouldn't rather hev Serrah merry a man like Hyacinthus Ware,
with all his money and livin' in the biggest house in Adams, than a man
like John Mangam, who sets an' sets an' sets the hull evenin' and never
opens his mouth to say boo to a goose, and beside bein' threatened with
a suit for breach."
"I don't care who she marries, as long as she is happy," said Sarah's
"Well, I'm goin'," said the old woman. "I left my winders open, and I
think there's a shower comin' up."
She rose, and Mrs. Wilford Biggs at the same time. Sarah's mother went
into the house.
"Won't you?" whispered the strange lady, and it was as if a rose
whispered in Sarah's ear.
"I didn't know that he--I thought--" stammered Sarah.
Sarah did not exactly know when the lady left and when Hyacinthus came,
but after a while they were sitting side by side on the door-step, and
the moon was rising over the mountain, and the wonderful shadows were
gathering about them like a company of wedding-guests.
JANE'S GRAY EYES
BY SEWELL FORD
When _The Insurgent_ took its place among the "best six sellers,"
Decatur Brown formed several good resolutions. He would not have himself
photographed in a literary pose, holding a book on his knee, or propping
his forehead up with one hand and gazing dreamily into space; he would
not accept the praise of newspaper reviewers as laurel dropped from
Olympus; and he would not tell "how he wrote it."
Firmly he held to this commendable programme, despite frequent urgings
to depart from it. Yet observe what pitfalls beset the path of the
popular fictionist. There came a breezy, shrewd-eyed young woman of
beguiling tongue who announced herself as a "lady journalist."
"Now for goodness' sake don't shy," she pleaded. "I'm not going to ask
about your literary methods, or do a kodak write-up of the way you brush
your hair, or any of that rot. I merely want you to say something about
Sunday Weeks. That's legitimate, isn't it? Sunday's a public character
now, you know. Every one talks about her. So why shouldn't you, who know
It was the voice of the siren. Decatur Brown should have recognized it
as such. But the breezy young person was so plausible, she bubbled with
such enthusiasm for his heroine, that in the end he yielded. He talked
of Sunday Weeks. And such talk!
Obviously the "lady journalist" had come all primed with the rather
shop-worn theory that the Sunday Weeks who figured as the heroine of
_The Insurgent_ must be a real personage, a young woman in whom Decatur
Brown took more than a literary interest. Possibly the cards were ready
to be sent out.
Had she put these queries point-blank, he would have denied them
definitely and emphatically, and there would have been an end. But she
was far too clever for that. She plied him with sly hints and deft
insinuation. Then, when he began to scent her purpose, she took another
tack. "Did he really admire women of the Sunday Weeks type? Did he
honestly think that the unconventional, wilful, whimsical Sunday, while
perfectly charming in the unmarried state, could be tamed to matrimony?
Was he willing to have his ideal of womanhood judged by this
disturbingly fascinating creature of the 'sober gray eyes and piquant
Naturally he felt called upon to endorse his heroine, to defend her.
Loyalty to his art demanded that much. Then, too, there recurred to him
thoughts of Jane Temple. He could truthfully say that Sunday was a
wholly imaginative character, that she had no "original." And yet
subconsciously he knew that all the time he was creating her there had
been before him a vision of Jane. Not a very distinct vision, to be
sure. It had been some years since he had seen her. But that bit about
the sober gray eyes and the piquant chin Jane was responsible for. He
could never forget those eyes of Jane's. He was not so certain about the
chin. It might have been piquant; and then again, it might not. At any
rate, it had been adorable, for it was Jane's.
So, while some of his enthusiasm in the defence of Sunday Weeks was due
to artistic fervor, more of it was prompted by thoughts of Jane Temple.
He did not pretend, he declared, to speak for other men; but as for
himself, he liked Sunday--he liked her very much.
The shrewd eyes of the "lady journalist" glistened. She knew her cue
when she heard it. Throwing her first theory to the four winds, she
eagerly gripped this new and tangible fact.
"Then she really is your ideal?"
He had not thought much about it, but he presumed that in a sense she
"But suppose now, Mr. Brown, just suppose you should some day run across
a young woman exactly like the Sunday Weeks you have described: would
you marry her?"
Decatur Brown laughed--a light, irresponsible, bachelor laugh. "I should
probably ask her if I might first."
"But you _would_ ask her?"
"And would you like to find such a girl?"
Decatur gazed sentimentally over the smart little polo-hat of the "lady
journalist" and out of the window at a sky--a sky as gray as Jane's eyes
had been that last night when they had parted, she to travel abroad with
her aunt, he to become a cub reporter on a city daily.
"Yes, I would like very much to find her," he replied.
Do you think, after this, that the interviewer waited for more? Not she.
Leaving him mixed up with his daydream, she took herself off before he
could retract, or modify, or in any way spoil the story.
Still, considering what she might have printed, she was really quite
decent about it. Leaving out the startling head-lines, hers was a nice,
readable, chatty article. It contained no bald announcement that the
author of _The Insurgent_ was hunting, with matrimonial intent, for a
gray-eyed prototype of Sunday Weeks. Yet that was the impression
conveyed. Where was there a girl with sober gray eyes and a piquant chin
who could answer to certain other specifications, duly set forth in one
of the most popular novels of the day? Whoever she might be, wherever
she was, she might know what to expect should she be discovered.
Having survived the first shock to his reticence, Decatur Brown was
inclined to dismiss the matter with a laugh. He had been cleverly
exploited, but he could not see that any great harm had been done. He
supposed that he must become used to such things. Anyway, he was
altogether too busy to give much thought to the incident, for he was in
the middle of another novel that must be ready for the public before
_The Insurgent_ was forgotten.
He was yet to learn the real meaning of publicity. First there appeared
an old friend, one who should have understood him too well to put faith
in such an absurdity.
"Say, Deck, you've simply got to dine with us Thursday night. My wife
insists. She wants you to meet a cousin of hers--Denver girl, mighty
bright, and"--this impressively--"she has gray eyes, you know."
Decatur grinned appreciatively, but he begged off. He was really very
sorry to miss a gray-eyed girl, of course, but there was his work.
One by one his other friends had their little shy at him. Mayhew sent by
messenger a huge placard reading, "Wanted, A Wife." Trevors called him
up by telephone to advise him to see _Jupiter Belles_ at once.
"Get a seat in A," he chuckled, "and take a good look at the third from
the left, first row. She has gray eyes."
By the time he received Tiddler's atrocious sketch, representing the
author of _The Insurgent_ as a Diogenes looking for gray-eyed girls, he
had ceased to smile over the thing. The joke was becoming a trifle
Then the letters began to come in, post-marked from all over the
country. They were all from young persons who had read _The Insurgent_,
and evidently the interview; for, no matter what else was said, each
missive contained the information that the writer of it possessed gray
eyes. All save one. That was accompanied by a photograph on which an
arrow had been drawn pointing towards the eyes. Under the arrow was
naively inscribed, "Gray."
Decatur was not flattered. His dignity suffered. He felt cheapened,
humiliated. The fact that the waning boom of his novel had received new
impetus did not console him. His mildly serious expression gave place to
a worried, injured look.
And then Mrs. Wheeler Upton swooped down on him with a demand for his
appearance at one of her Saturday nights. For Decatur there was no
choice. He was her debtor for so many helpful favors in the past that he
could not refuse so simple a request. Yet he groaned in spirit as he
viewed the prospect. Once it would have been different. Was it not in
her pleasant drawing-rooms that he had been boosted from obscurity to
shine among the other literary stars? Mrs. Upton knew them all. She made
it her business to do so, bless the kindly heart of her, and to see that
they knew each other. No wonder her library table groaned under the
weight of autographed volumes.
But to face that crowd at Mrs. Wheeler Upton's meant to run a rapid-fire
gauntlet of jokes about gray-eyed girls. However, go he must, and go he
He was not a little relieved to find so few there, and that most of them
were young women. A girl often hesitates at voicing a witticism, because
she is afraid, after all, that it may not be really funny. A man never
doubts the excellence of his own humor. So, when a quarter of an hour
had passed without hint of that threadbare topic, he gradually threw off
his restraint and began to enjoy himself. He was talking Meredith to a
tall girl in soft-blue China silk, when suddenly he became aware that
they had been left entirely to themselves. Every one else seemed to have
drifted into an adjoining room. Through the doorway he could see them
about Mrs. Upton, who was evidently holding their attention.
"Why, what's up, I wonder? Why do they leave us out, I'd like to know?"
and he glanced inquiringly at the girl in soft blue. She flushed
consciously and dropped her lashes. When she looked at him again, and
rather appealingly, he saw that she had gray eyes.
It was Decatur's turn to flush. Could Mrs. Upton have done this
deliberately? He was loath to think so. The situation was awkward, and
awkwardly he got himself out of it.
"I say, let's see what they're up to in there," he suggested, and
marched her into the other room, wondering if he showed his
embarrassment as much as she did. As he sidled away from her he
determined to pick out a girl whose eyes were not gray, and to stick to
her for the remainder of the evening. Accordingly he began his
inspection. A moment later and the whole truth blazed enlighteningly
upon him. They were all gray-eyed girls, every last one of them.
If he had been waiting for a climax, he was entirely satisfied. Of
course it was rather silly of him to take it all so seriously, but,
sitting safely in his rooms long after his panicky retreat from Mrs.
Upton's collection, he could not make light of the situation. It _was_
serious. He was losing sleep, appetite, and self-respect over it.
Not that he was vain enough to imagine that every gray-eyed girl in the
country, or any one of them, wished to marry him. No; he was fairly
modest, as men go. He suspected that the chief emotions he inspired were
curiosity and mischievousness. It was the thought of what those
uncounted thousands of gray-eyed girls must conceive as his attitude
towards them that hurt. Why, it was almost as though he had put a
matrimonial advertisement in the newspapers. When he pictured himself
looked upon as assuming to be a connoisseur of a certain type of
femininity he felt as keenly disgraced as if he had set himself up for
In next morning's mail he noted an increased number of letters from
unknown gray-eyed correspondents. That settled it. Hurriedly packing a
capacious kit-bag, with the uncompleted manuscript on top, he took the
first train for Ocean Park. Where else could he find a more habitable
solitude than Ocean Park in early June? Once previously he had gone
there before the season opened, and he knew. Later on the popular big
seashore resort would seethe with vacationists. They would crowd the
hotels, over-flow the board walk, cover the sands, and polka-dot the
ocean. But in June the sands would be deserted, the board walk untrod,
the hotels empty.
And so it was. The landlord of The Empress welcomed him effusively, not
as Decatur Brown, author of _The Insurgent_ and seeker of an ideal girl
with gray eyes, but as plain, every-day Mr. Brown, whom Providence had
sent as a June guest. Decatur was thankful for it. The barren verandas
were grateful in his sight. When he had been installed in a corner
suite, spread out his writing things on a flat-topped table that faced
the sea, filled his ink-well, and lighted his pipe, he seemed to have
escaped from a threatening presence.
He could breathe freely here, thank goodness, and work. He was just
settling down to it when through the open transom behind him came the
sound of rustling skirts and a voice which demanded:
"But how do you suppose he found that we were here? You're certain that
it was Decatur Brown, are you?"
"Oh yes, quite certain. He has changed very little. Besides, there was
the name on the register."
Decatur thrilled at the music of that answering voice. There was a
little quaver in it, a faint but fascinating breaking on the low notes,
such as he had never heard in any voice save Jane Temple's.
"Then Mabel must not come down to dinner to-night. She must--" The rest
was lost around the corner of a corridor.
What Mabel must do remained a mystery. Must she go without her dinner
altogether? He hoped not, for evidently his arrival had something to do
with it. Why? Decatur gave it up. Who was Mabel, anyway? The owner of
the other voice he could guess at. That must be Mrs. Philo Allen, Jane's
aunt Judith, the one who had carried her off to Europe and forbidden
them to write to each other. But Mabel? Oh yes! He had almost forgotten
that elaborately gowned miss who at sixteen had assumed such
young-ladyfied airs. Mabel was Jane's young cousin, of course, the one
to whom he used to take expensive bonbons, his intent being to
propitiate Aunt Judith.
So they were guests at The Empress, too--Jane and her aunt and the
pampered Mabel? Chiefly, however, there was Jane. The others did not
matter much. Ah, here was a gray-eyed girl that he did not dread to
meet. And she had not forgotten him!
An hour later he was waiting for her in the lower hallway. Luckily she
came down alone, so they had the hall seat to themselves for those first
few minutes. She was the same charming Jane that he had known of old.
There was an added dignity in the way she carried her shapely little
head, a deeper sweetness in the curve of her thin lips. Perhaps her
manner was a little subdued, too; but, after all those years with Mrs.
Philo Allen, why not?
"How nice of you," she was saying, "to hunt us up and surprise us in
this fashion. Auntie has been expecting you at home for weeks, you know,
but when Mabel's rose-cold developed she decided that we must go to the
seashore, even though we did die of lonesomeness. And here we find
you--or you find us. The sea air will make Mabel presentable in a day or
so, we hope."
"I'm sure I hope so, too," he assented, without enthusiasm. Really, he
did not see the necessity of dragging in Mabel. Nor did he understand
why Mrs. Allen had expected him, or why Jane should assume that he had
hunted them up. Now that she had assumed it, though, he could hardly
explain that it was an accident. He asked how long they had remained
"Oh, ages! There was an age in France, while Mabel was perfecting her
accent; then there was another age in Italy, where Mabel took
voice-culture and the old masters; and yet another age in Germany, while
Mabel struggled with the theory of music. Our year in Devon was not
quite an age; we went there for the good of Mabel's complexion."
"Indeed! Has she kept those peaches-and-cream checks?"
"Ah, you must wait and see," and Jane nodded mysteriously.
"But I--" protested Decatur.
"Oh, it will be only for a day or so. Rose-colds are so hard on the
eyes, you know. In the mean time perhaps you will tell us how you
happened to develop into a famous author. We are immensely proud of you,
of course. Aunt Judith goes hardly anywhere without a copy of _The
Insurgent_ in her hand. If the persons she meets have not read it, she
scolds them good. And you must hear Mabel render that chapter in which
Sunday runs away from the man she loves with the man she doesn't."
There they were, back to Mabel again.
"But what about yourself, Jane?" suggested Decatur.
"About me! Why, I only--Oh, here is Aunt Judith."
Yes, there was no mistaking her, nor overlooking her. She was just as
colossally commanding as ever, just as imperious. At sight of her,
Decatur understood Jane's position clearly. She was still the dependent
niece, the obscure satellite of a star of the first magnitude. Very
distinctly had Mrs. Philo Allen once explained to him this dependence of
Jane's, incidentally touching on his own unlikely prospects. That had
been just before she had swept Jane off to Europe with her.
All this Aunt Judith now seemed to have forgotten. In her own imperial
way she greeted him graciously, inspecting him with critical but
"Really, you do look quite distinguished," was her verdict, as she took
his arm in her progress towards her dinner. "I am sure Mabel will say
Whereupon they reverted once more to Mabel. The maid was bathing Mabel's
eyes with witch-hazel and trying to persuade her to eat a little hot
soup. Such details about Mabel seemed to be regarded as of first
importance. By some mysterious reasoning, too, Mrs. Allen appeared to
connect them with Decatur Brown and his presence at Ocean Park.
"To-morrow night, if all goes well, you shall see her," she whispered,
exultantly, in his ear, as they left the dining-hall.
Decatur was puzzled. What if he _could_ see Mabel the next night? Or
what if he could not? He should survive, even if the event were
indefinitely postponed. What he desired just then was that Jane should
accompany him on an early-evening tramp down the board walk.
"Wouldn't it be better to wait until to-morrow evening?" asked Jane.
"Perhaps Mabel can go then."
"The deuce take Mabel!" He half smothered the exclamation, and Jane
appeared not to hear, yielding at last to his insistence that they start
at once. But it was not the kind of a talk he had hoped to have with
Jane Temple. The intimate and personal ground of conversation towards
which he sought to draw her she avoided as carefully as if it had been
stuck with the "No Trespassing" notices. When they returned to the
hotel, Decatur felt scarcely better acquainted with her than before he
had found her again.
Next evening, according to schedule, Mabel appeared. She was an
exquisite young woman, there was no doubt about that. She carried
herself with an almost royal air which impressed even the head waiter.
Her perfect figure, perfectly encased, was graceful in every long curve.
Her Devon-repaired complexion was of dazzling purity, all snowy white
and sea-shell pink. One could hardly imagine how even so aristocratic a
malady as a rose-cold could have dared to redden slightly the tip of
that classic nose.
Turning to Decatur with languid interest she murmured:
"Ah, you see I have not forgotten you, although I often do forget faces.
You may sit here, if you please, and talk to me."
It was quite like being received by a sovereign, Decatur imagined. He
did his best to talk, and talk entertainingly, for no other reason than
that it was expected of him. At last he said something which struck the
right chord. The perfect Mabel smiled approvingly at him, and he noticed
for the first time that her eyes were gray. Suspiciously he glanced
across the table at Jane. Was that a mocking smile on her thinly curved
lips, or was it meant for kindly encouragement?
Little by little during the succeeding two days he pieced out the
situation. It was not a plot exactly, unless you could dignify Mrs.
Philo Allen's confident plans by such a name. But, starting with what
basis Heaven only knew, she had reached the conclusion that when the
author of _The Insurgent_ had described Sunday Weeks he could have had
in mind but one person, the one gray-eyed girl worthy of such
distinction, the girl to whom he had shown such devotion but a few years
before--her daughter Mabel. Then she had begun expecting him to appear.
And when he had seemingly followed them to the seaside--well, what would
any one naturally think? Flutteringly she had doubtless put the question
to Jane, who had probably replied as she was expected to reply.
The peerless Mabel, of course, was the only one not in the secret.
Anyway, she would have taken no interest in it. Her amazing egoism would
have prevented that. Nothing interested Mabel acutely unless it
pertained to some attribute of her own loveliness.
As for Jane Temple's view of this business, that remained an enigma. Had
she grown so accustomed to her aunt Judith's estimate of Mabel that she
could accept it? That was hardly possible, for Jane had a keen sense of
humor. Then why should she help to throw Mabel at his head, or him at
Meanwhile he walked at Mabel's side, carrying her wraps, while her
mother and Jane trailed judiciously in the rear. He drove out with
Mabel, Mabel's mother sitting opposite and smiling at him with an air of
complacent proprietorship. He stood by the piano and turned the music
while Mabel executed sonatas and other things for which he had not the
least appreciation. He listened to solos from _Lucia_, which Mabel sang
at Jane's suggestion. Also, Jane brought forth Mabel's sketch-books and
then ostentatiously left them alone with each other.
There was much meekness in Decatur. When handled just right he was
wonderfully complaisant. But after a whole week of Mabel he decided that
the limit had been reached. Seizing an occasion when Mabel was in the
hands of the hairdresser and manicurist, he led her mother to a secluded
veranda corner and boldly plunged into an explanation.
"I have no doubt you thought it a little strange, Mrs. Allen," he began,
"my appearing to follow you down here, but really--"
"There, there, Decatur, it isn't at all necessary. It was all perfectly
natural and entirely proper. In fact, I quite understood."
"But I'm afraid that you--"
"Oh, but I do comprehend. We old folks are not blind. When it was a
matter of those foreign gentlemen, German barons, Italian counts,
Austrian princes, and so on, I was extremely particular, perhaps
overparticular. Their titles are so often shoddy. But I know all about
you. You come from almost as good New England stock as we do. You are
talented, almost famous. Besides, your attachment is of no sudden
growth. It has stood the test of years. Yes, my dear Decatur, I heartily
approve of you. However"--here she rested a plump forefinger simperingly
on the first of her two chins, "your fate rests with Mabel, you know."
Once or twice he had gaspingly tried to stop her, but smilingly she had
waved him aside. When she ended he was speechless. Could he tell her,
after all that, what a precious bore her exquisite Mabel was to him? It
had been difficult enough when the situation was only a tacit one, but
now that it had been definitely expressed--well, it was proving to be a
good deal like those net snares which hunters of circus animals use, the
more he struggled to free himself the more he became entangled.
Abruptly, silently, he took his leave of Mrs. Allen. He feared that if
he said more she might construe it as a request, that she should
immediately lay his proposal before Mabel. With a despairing, haunted
look he sought the board walk.
Carpenters were hammering and sawing, painters were busy in the booths,
a few old ladies sat about in the sun, here and there a happy youngster
dug in the sand with a tin shovel. Decatur envied them all. They were
sane, rational persons, who were not likely to be interviewed and
trapped into saying fool things. Their acts were not liable to be
Seeing a pier jutting out, he heedlessly followed it to the very end.
And there, on one of the seats built for summer guests, he found Jane.
"Where is Mabel?" she asked, anxiously.
"She is having her hair done and her nails polished, I believe," said
Decatur, gloomily, dropping down beside Jane. "She is being prepared, as
nearly as I can gather, to receive a proposal of marriage."
"Ah! Then you--" She turned to him inquiringly.
"It appears so now," he admitted. "I have been talking to her mother."
"Oh, I see." She said it quietly, gently, in a tone of submission.
"But you don't see," he protested. "No one sees; that is, no one sees
things as they really are. Do you think, Jane, that you could listen to
me for a few moments without jumping at conclusions, without assuming
that you know exactly what I am going to say before I have said it?"
She said that she would try.
"Then I would like to make a confession to you."
"Wouldn't it be better to--to make it first to Mabel?"
"No, it would not," he declared, doggedly. "It concerns that interview
in which I was quoted as saying things about gray-eyed girls."
"Yes, I read it. We all read it."
"I guessed that much. Well, I said those things, just as I was quoted as
saying them, but I did not mean all that I was credited with meaning. I
want you to believe, Jane, that when I admitted my preference for gray
eyes and--and all that, I was thinking of one gray-eyed girl in
particular. Can you believe that?"
"Oh, I did from the very first; that is, I did as soon as Aunt Judith--"
"Never mind about Aunt Judith," interrupted Decatur, firmly. "We will
get to her in time. We are talking now about that interview. You must
admit, Jane, that there are many gray-eyed girls in the country; I don't
know just how many, thank Heaven, but there are a lot of them. And most
of them seem not only to have read that interview, but to have made a
personal application of my remarks. Have you any idea what that means to
"Then you think that they are all in--"
"No, no! I don't imagine there's a single one that cares a bone button
for me. But each and every one of them thinks that I am in love with
her, or willing to be. If she doesn't think so, her friends do. They
expect me to propose on sight, simply because of what I have said about
gray eyes. You doubt that? Let me tell you what occurred just before I
left town: A person whom I had counted as a friend got together a whole
houseful of gray-eyed girls, and then sent for me to come and make my
choice. That is what drove me from the city. That is why I came to Ocean
Park in June."
"But the one particular gray-eyed girl that you mentioned? How was it
that you happened to--"
"It was sheer good fortune, Jane, that I found you here."
Decatur had slipped a tentative arm along the seat-back. He was leaning
towards Jane, regarding her with melancholy tenderness.
"That you found me?" she said, wonderingly. "Oh, you mean that it was
fortunate you found _us_ here?"
"No, I don't. I mean you--y-o-u, second person singular. Haven't you
guessed by this time who was the particular gray-eyed girl I had in
"Of course I have; it was Mabel, wasn't it?"
"Mabel! Oh, hang Mabel! Jane, it was you."
"Me! Why, Decatur Brown!" Either surprise or indignation rang in her
tone. He concluded that it must be the latter.
"Oh, well," he said, dejectedly, "I had no right to suppose that you'd
like it. It's the truth, though, and after so much misunderstanding I am
glad you know it. I want you to know that it was you who inspired Sunday
Weeks, if any one did. I have never mentioned this before, have not
admitted it, even to myself, until now. But I realize that it is true.
We have been a long time apart, but the memory of you has never faded
for a day, for an hour. So, when I tried to describe the most charming
girl of whom I could think, I was describing you. As I wrote, there was
constantly before me the vision of your dear gray eyes, and--"
"Decatur! Look at me. Look me straight in the eyes and tell me if they
He looked. As a matter of fact, he had been looking into her eyes for
several moments. Now there was something so compelling about her tone
that he bent all his faculties to the task. This time he looked not with
that blindness peculiar to those who love, but, for the moment,
discerningly, seeingly. And they were not gray eyes at all. They were a
clear, brilliant hazel.
"Why--why!" he gasped out, chokingly. "I--I have always thought of them
as gray eyes."
"If that isn't just like a man!" she exclaimed, shrugging away from him.
Her quarter profile revealed those thinly curved lips pursed into a most
delicious pout. "You acknowledge, don't you, that they're _not_ gray?"
she flung at him over her shoulder--an adorable shoulder, Decatur
"Oh, I admit it," he groaned.
"Then--then why don't you go away?" It was just that trembling little
quaver on the low notes which spurred him on to cast the die.
"Jane," he whispered, "I don't want to go away, and I don't want you to
send me. It isn't gray eyes that I care for, or ever have cared for.
It's been just you, your own dear, charming self."
"No, it hasn't been. I haven't even a piquant chin."
"That doesn't matter. What is a piquant chin, anyway?"
"You ought to know; you wrote it."
"So I did, but I didn't know what it meant. I just knew that it ought to
mean something charming, which you are."
"I'm not. And I am not accomplished. I don't sing, I don't play, I don't
"Thanks be for that! I don't, either. But I think you are the dearest
girl in the world."
At that she turned to him and smiled a little as only Jane could smile.
"You told me that once before, a long time ago, you know."
"And you have not forgotten?"
"No. I--you see--I didn't want to forget."
Had it been August, or even July, doubtless a great number of
vacationists would have been somewhat shocked at what Decatur did then.
But it was early June, you remember, and on the far end of the Ocean
Park fishing-pier were only these two, with just the dancing blue ocean
"But," she said at length, after many other and more important things
had been said between them, "what will Aunt Judith say?"
"I suppose she'll think me a lucky dog--and slightly color-blind,"
chuckled Decatur, joyously. "But come," he went on, helping her to rise
and retaining both her hands, swaying them back and forth clasped in
his, as children do in the game of London Bridge,--"come," he repeated,
impulsively, "while my courage is high let us go and break the news to
your aunt Judith."
There was, however, no need. Looming ponderously in the middle distance
of the pier's vista, a lorgnette held to her eyes, and a frozen look of
horror on her ample features, was Aunt Judith herself.
A STIFF CONDITION
BY HERMAN WHITAKER
An Ontario sun shed a pleasant warmth into the clearing where Elder
Hector McCakeron sat smoking. His gratified consciousness was pleasantly
titillated by sights and sounds of worldly comfort. From the sty behind
the house came fat gruntings; in the barn-yard hens were shrilly
announcing that eggs would be served with the bacon; moreover, Janet was
vigorously agitating a hoe among the potatoes to his left, while his
wife performed similarly in the cabbage-garden. And what better could a
man wish than to see his women profitably employed?
It was a pause in Janet's labors that gave the elder first warning of an
intruder on his peace. A man was coming across the clearing--a short
fellow, thick-set and bow-legged in figure, slow and heavy of face. The
elder observed him with stony eyes.
"It's the Englisher," he muttered. "What'll he be wanting wi' me?"
His accent was hostile as his glance. Since, thirty years before, a wave
of red-haired Scots inundated western Ontario, no man of Saxon birth had
settled in Zorra, the elder's township. That in peculiar had been held
sealed as a heritage to the Scot, and when Joshua Timmins bought out
Sandy Cruikshanks the township boiled and burned throughout its length
Not that it had expected to suffer the contamination. It was simply
astounded at the man's impudence. "We'll soon drum him oot!" Elder
McCakeron snorted, when he heard of the invasion; to which, on learning
that Timmins was also guilty of Methodism, he added, "Wait till the
meenister lays claws on the beast."
It was confidently expected that he would be made into a notable
example, a warning to all intruders from beyond the pale; and the first
Sunday after his arrival a full congregation turned out to see the
minister do the trick. Interest was heightened by the presence of the
victim, who, lacking a chapel of his own faith, attended kirk. His
entrance caused a sensation. Forgetting its Sabbath manners, the
congregation turned bodily and stared till recalled to its duty by the
minister's cough. Then it shifted its gaze to him. What thunders were
brewing behind that confident front? What lightnings lurked in the
depths of those steel-gray eyes? Breathlessly Zorra had waited for the
anathema which should wither the hardy intruder and drive him as chaff
from a burning wind.
But it waited in vain. By the most liberal interpretation no phrase of
his could be construed as a reflection on the stranger. Worse! After
kirk-letting the minister hailed Timmins in the door, shook hands in the
scandalized face of the congregation, and hoped that he might see him
regularly at service.
Scandalous? It was irreligious! But if disappointed in its minister,
Zorra had no intention of neglecting its own duty in the premises: the
Englisher was not to be let off while memories of Bruce and Bannockburn
lived in Scottish hearts. Which way he turned that day and in the months
that followed he met dour faces. Excepting Cap'en Donald McKay, a
retired mariner, whose native granite had been somewhat disintegrated by
exposure to other climates, no man gave him a word;--this, of course,
without counting Neil McNab, who called on Timmins three times a week to
offer half-price for the farm.
With one exception, too, the women looked askance upon him, wondering,
doubtless, how he dared to oppose their men-folks' wishes. Calling the
cows of evenings, Janet McCakeron sometimes came on Timmins, whose farm
cornered on her father's, and thus a nodding acquaintance arose between
them. That she should have so demeaned herself is a matter of reproach
with many, but the fair-minded who have sufficiently weighed the merits
of her case are slower with their blames. For though Zorra can boast
maidens who have hung in the wind till fifty and still, as the
vernacular has it, "married on a man," a girl was counted well on the
way to the shelf at forty-five. Janet, be it remembered, lacked but two
years of the fatal age. Already chits of thirty-five or seven were
generously alluding to her as the prop of her father's age; so small
wonder if she simpered instead of passing with a nifty air when Timmins
spoke one evening.
His remark was simple in tenor--in effect that her bell-cow was "a wee
cat-ham'ed"; but Janet scented its underlying tenderness as a hungry
traveller noses a dinner on a wind, and after that drove her cows round
by the corner which was conveniently veiled by heavy maple-bush. Indeed,
it was to the friendly shadows which shrouded it, day or dark, that
Cap'en McKay--a man wise in affairs of the heart by reason of much
sailing in and out of foreign ports--afterward attributed the record
which Timmins set Zorra in courting.
"He couldna see her bones, nor her his bow-legs," the mariner phrased
it. But be this as it may, whether or no each made love to a voice,
Cupid ran a swift course with them, steeplechasing over obstacles that
would have taken years for a Zorra lad to plod around. In less than six
months they passed from a bare goodnight to the exchange of soul
thoughts on butter-making, the raising of calves, fattening of swine,
and methods of feeding swedes that they might not taint cow's milk, and
so had progressed by such tender paths through gentle dusks to the point
where Timmins was ready to declare himself in the light of this present
Assured by one glance that Timmins's courage still hung at the point to
which she had screwed it the preceding evening, Janet drooped again to
To his remark that the potatoes were looking fine, however, the elder
made no response--unless a gout of tobacco smoke could be so counted.
With eyes screwed up and mouth drawn down, he gazed off into space--a
Highland sphinx, a Gaelic Rhadamanthus.
His manner, however, made no impression on Timmins's stolidity. The
latter's eye followed the elder's in its peregrinations till it came to
rest, when, without further preliminaries, he began to unfold his suit,
which in matter and essence was such as are usually put forward by those
whom love has blinded.
It was really an able plea, lacking perhaps those subtilities of detail
with which a Zorra man would have trimmed it, but good enough for a man
who labored under the disadvantages which accrue to birth south of the
Tweed and Tyne. But it did not stir the elder's sphinxlike calm. "Ha' ye
done?" he inquired, without removing his gaze from the clouds; and when
Timmins assented, he delivered judgment in a cloud of tobacco smoke.
"Weel--ye canna ha' her." After which he resumed his pipe and smoked
placidly, wearing the air of one who has settled a difficult question
But if stolid, Timmins had his fair share of a certain slow pugnacity.
"Why?" he demanded.
The elder smoked on.
"Weel,"--the elder spoke slowly to the clouds,--"I'm no obliged to quote
chapter an' verse, but for the sake of argyment--forbye should Janet
marry on an Englisher when there's good Scotchmen running loose?"
This was a "poser." Born to a full realization of the vast gulf which
providence has fixed between the Highlands and the rest of the world,
Janet recognized it as such. Pausing, she leaned on her hoe, anxiously
waiting, while Timmins chewed a straw and the cud of reflection.
"Yes," he slowly answered, "they've been runnin' from 'er this twenty
year." Nodding confirmation to the brilliant rejoinder, Janet fell again
But the elder was in no wise discomposed. Withdrawing one eye from the
clouds, he turned it approvingly upon her hoe practice. "She's young
yet," he said, "an' a lass o' her pairts wull no go til the shelf."
"Call three-an'-forty young?"
"Christy McDonald," the elder sententiously replied, "marrit on Neil
McNab at fifty. Janet's labor's no going to waste. An' if you were the
on'y man i' Zorra, it wad behoove me to conseeder the lassie's prospects
i' the next world. Ye're a Methodist."
"Meanin'," said Timmins, when his mind had grappled with the charge, "as
there's no Methodists there?"
Questions of delicacy and certain theological difficulties involved
called for reflection, and the elder smoked a full minute on the
question before be replied: "No, I wadna go so far as that. It stan's to
reason as there's some of 'em there; on'y--I'm no so sure o' their
Timmins thoughtfully scratched his head ere he came back to the charge.
"Meanin' as there's none in 'eaven?"
Again the elder blew a reflective cloud over the merits of the question.
"Weel," he said, delivering himself with slow caution, "if so--it's no
Again Janet looked up, with defeat perching amid her freckles. "He's got
ye this time," her face said, and the elder's expression of placid
satisfaction affirmed the same opinion. But Timmins rose to a sudden
"In 'eaven," he answered, "there's neither marriage nor givin' in
"Pish, mon!" the elder snorted. "It's no a question o' marrying; it's a
question o' getting theer, an' Janet's no going to do it wi' a Methodist
hanging til her skirts."
Silence fell in the clearing--silence that was broken only by the crash
and tinkle of Janet's hoe as she buried Timmins under the clod. A Scotch
daughter, she would bide by her father's word. Unaware of his funeral,
Timmins himself stood scratching his poll.
"So you'll not give her to me?" he futilely repeated.
For the first time the elder looked toward him. "Mon, canna ye see the
impossibility o' it? No, ye canna ha' her till--till"--he cast about for
the limit of inconceivability--"till ye're an elder i' the Presbyterian
Kirk." He almost cracked a laugh at Timmins's sudden brightening. He had
evolved the condition to drive home and clinch the ridiculous
impossibility of the other's suit, and here he was, the doddered fule,
taking hope! It was difficult to comprehend the workings of such a mind,
and though the elder smoked upon it for half an hour after Timmins left
the clearing, he failed of realization.
"Yon's a gay fule," he said to Janet, when she answered his call to
hitch the log farther into the cabin. "He was wanting to marry on you."
"Ay?" she indifferently returned,--adding, without change of feature,
"There's no lack o' fules round here."
Meanwhile Timmins was making his way through the woods to his own place.
As he walked along, the brightness gradually faded from his face, and by
the time he reached the trysting-corner his mood was more in harmony
with his case. His face would have graced a funeral.
Now Cap'en McKay's farm lay cheek by jowl with the elder's, and as the
mariner happened to be fixing his fence at the corner, he noted
Timmins's signals of distress. "Man!" he greeted, "ye're looking
hipped." Then, alluding to a heifer of Timmins's which had _bloated_ on
marsh-grass the day before, he added, "The beastie didna die?" Assured
that it was only a wife that Timmins lacked, he sighed relief. "Ah,
weel, that's no so bad; they come cheaper. But tell us o't"
"Hecks, lad!" he commented, on Timmins's dole, "I'd advise ye to drive
your pigs til anither market."
"Were?" Timmins asked--"w'ere'll I find one?"
"That's so." The mariner thoughtfully shaved his jaw with a red
forefinger, while his comprehensive glance took in the other's bow-legs.
"There isna anither lass i' Zorra that wad touch ye with a ten-foot
Reddening, Timmins breathed hard, but the mariner met his stare with the
serene gaze of one who deals in undiluted truth; so Timmins gulped and
went on: "Say! I 'ear that you're mighty clever in these 'ere affairs.
Can't you 'elp a feller out?"
The cap'en modestly bowed to reputation, admitting that he had assisted
"a sight of couples over the broomstick," adding, however, that the
knack had its drawbacks. There were many door-stones in Zorra that he
dared not cross. And he wagged his head over Timmins's case, wisely, as
a lawyer ponders over the acceptance of a hopeless brief. Finally he
suggested that if Timmins was "no stuck on his Methodisticals," he might
join the kirk.
"You think that would 'elp?"
The cap'en thought that, but he was not prepared to endorse Timmins's
following generalization that it didn't much matter what name a man
worshipped under. It penetrated down through the aforesaid rubble of
disintegration and touched native granite. Stiffly enough he returned
that Presbyterianism was good enough for him, but it rested on Timmins
to follow the dictates of his own conscience.
Now when bathed in love's elixir conscience becomes very pliable indeed,
and as the promptings of Timmins's inner self were all toward Janet, his
outer man was not long in making up his mind. But though, following the
cap'en's advice, he joined himself to the elect of Zorra, his change of
faith brought him only a change of name.
Elder McCakeron officiated at the "christening" which took place in the
crowded market the day after Timmins's name had been spread on the kirk
register. "An' how is the apoos-tate the morning?" the elder inquired,
meeting Timmins. And the name stuck, and he was no more known as the
"Any letters for the Apoos-tate?" The postmaster would mouth the
question, repeating it after Timmins when he called for his mail. Small
boys yelled the obnoxious title as he passed the log school on the
corner; wee girls gazed after him, fascinated, as upon one destined for
a headlong plunge into the lake of fire and brimstone. Summing the
situation at the close of his second month's fellowship in the kirk,
Timmins confessed to himself that it had brought him only a full
realization of the "stiffness" of Elder McCakeron's "condition." He was
no nearer to Janet, and never would have been but for the sudden decease
of Elder Tammas Duncan.
In view of what followed, many hold that Elder Tammas made a vital
mistake in dying, while a few, less charitable, maintain that his
decease was positively sinful.
But if Elder Tammas be not held altogether blameless in the premises,
what must be said of Saunders McClellan, who loaded himself with
corn-juice and thereby sold himself to the fates? Saunders was a
bachelor of fifty and a misogynist by repute. Twenty years back he had
paid a compliment to Jean Ross, who afterward married on Rab Murray. It
was not a flowery effort; simply to the effect that he, Saunders, would
rather sit by her, Jean, than sup oatmeal brose. But though he did not
soar into the realms of metaphor, the compliment seems to have been a
strain on Saunders's intellect, to have sapped his being of tenderness;
for after paying it he reached for his hat and fled, and never again
placed himself in such jeopardy.
"Man!" he would exclaim, when, at threshing or logging bees, hairbreadth
escapes from matrimony cropped up in the conversation,--"man! but I was
near done for yon time!" And yet, all told, Saunders's dry bachelorhood
seems to have been caused by an interruption in the flow rather than a
drying up of his wells of feeling, as was proven by his conduct coming
home from market the evening he overloaded with "corn-juice."
For as he drove by Elder McCakeron's milk-yard, which lay within easy
hailing distance of the gravel road, Saunders bellowed to Janet: "Hoots,
there! Come awa, my bonnie bride! Come awa to the meenister!" In front
of her mother and Sib Sanderson, the cattle-buyer--who was pricing a fat
cow,--Saunders thus committed himself, then drove on, chuckling over his
"Ye're a deevil! man, ye're a deevil!" he told himself, giving his hat a
rakish cock. "Ye're a deevil wi' the weemen, a sair deceever."
He did feel that way--just then. But when, next morning, memory
disentangled itself from a splitting headache, Saunders's red hair
bristled at the thought of his indiscretion. It was terrible! He,
Saunders, the despair of the girls for thirty years, had fallen into a
pit of his own digging! He could but hope it a nightmare; but as doubt
was more horrible than certainty, he dressed and walked down the line to
Once again he found Janet at the milking; or rather, she had just turned
the cows into the pasture, and as she waited for him by the bars,
Saunders thought he had never seen her at worse advantage. The sharp
morning air had blued her nose, and he was dimly conscious that the
color did not suit her freckles.
"Why, no!" she said, answering his question as to whether or no he had
not acted a bit foolish the night before. "You just speired me to marry
on you. Said I'd been in your eye this thirty years."
In a sense this was true. He had cleared from her path like a bolting
rabbit, but gallantry forbade that manifest explanation. "'Twas the
whuskey talking," he pleaded. "Ye'll no hold me til a drunken promise?"
But he saw, even before she spoke, that she would.
"'Deed but I will!" she exclaimed, tossing her head. "An' them says ye
were drunken will ha' to deal wi' me. Ye were sober as a sermon."
Though disheartened, Saunders tried another tack. "Janet," he said,
solemnly, "I dinna think as a well-brought lass like you wad care to
marry on a man like me. I'm terrible i' the drink. I might beat ye."
Janet complacently surveyed an arm that was thick as a club from heavy
choring. "I'll tak chances o' that."
Saunders's heart sank into his boots; but, wiping the sweat from his
brow, he made one last desperate effort: "But ye're promised to
"I am no. Father broke that off."
Saunders shot his last bolt. "I believe I'm fickle, Janet. There'll be a
sair heart for the lass that marries me. I wouldna wonder if I jilted
"Then," she calmly replied, "I'll haul ye into the justice coort for
breach o' promise."
With this terrible ultimatum dinging in his ears Saunders fled. Zorra
juries were notoriously tender with the woman in the case, and he saw
himself stripped of his worldly goods or tied to the apron of the
homeliest girl in Zorra. One single ray illumined the dark prospect.
That evening be called on Timmins, whom he much astonished by the extent
and quality of his advice and encouragement. He even went so far as to
invite the Englisher to his own cabin, thereby greatly scandalizing his
housekeeper--a maiden sister of fifty-two, who had forestalled fate by
declaring for the shelf at forty-nine.
"What'll he be doing here?" the maiden demanded, indicating Timmins with
accusatory finger on the occasion of his first visit. But his meekness
and the propitiatory manner in which he sat on the very edge of his
chair, hat gripped between his knees, mollified her so much that she
presently produced a bowl of red-cheeked apples for his refreshment.
But her thawing did not save Saunders after the guest was gone. "There's
always a fule in every family," she cried, when he had explained his
predicament, "an' you drained the pitcher."
"But you'll talk Janet to him," Saunders urged, "an' him to her? She's
that hard put to it for a man that wi' a bit steering she'll consent to
But, bridling, Jeannie tossed a high head. "'Deed, then, an' I'll no do
ither folk's love-making."
"Then," Saunders groaned, "I'll ha' the pair of ye in this hoose."
This uncomfortable truth gave Jeannie pause. The position of maiden
sister carried with it more chores than easements, and Jeannie was not
minded to relinquish her present powers. For a while she seriously
studied the stove, then her face cleared; she started as one who
suddenly sees her clear path, and giving Saunders a queer look, she
said: "Ah, weel, you're my brother, after all. I'll do my best wi' both.
Tell the Englisher as I'll be pleased to see him any time in the
Matters were at this stage when Elder McCakeron's cows committed their
dire trespass on Neil McNab's turnips.
Who would imagine that such unlike events as Saunders McClellan's lapse
from sobriety, the death of Elder Duncan, and the trespass of
McCakeron's cows could have any bearing upon one another? Yet from their
concurrence was born the most astounding hap in the Zorra chronicles.
Even if Elder McCakeron had paid Neil's bill of damage instead of
remarking that he "didna see as the turnips had hurt his cows," the
thing would have addled in the egg; and his recalcitrancy, so necessary
to the hatching, has caused many a wise pow to shake over the
inscrutability of Providence. But the elder did not pay, and in revenge
Neil placed Peter Dunlop, the elder's ancient enemy, in nomination for
Tammas Duncan's eldership.
It was Saunders McClellan who carried the news to the McCakeron
homestead. According to her promise, Jeannie had visited early and late
with Janet; and dropping in one evening to check up her report of
progress, Saunders found the elder perched on a stump.
Saunders discharged him of his news, which dissipated the elder's calm
as thunder shatters silence.
"What?" he roared. "Yon scunner? Imph! I'd as lief ... as lief ...
elect"--_the devil_ quivered back of his teeth, but as that savored of
irreverence, he substituted "the Apoostate!"
Right here a devil entered in unto Saunders McClellan--the mocking devil
whose mission it was to abase Zorra to the dust. But it did not make its
presence known until, next day, Saunders carried the news of Elder
McCakeron's retaliation to Cap'en McKay's pig-killing.
"He's going," Saunders informed the cap'en and Neil McNab between
pigs,--"he's going to run Sandy 'Twenty-One' against your candidate."
Now between Neil and Sandy lay a feud which had its beginnings what time
the latter _doctored_ a spavined mare and sold her for a price to the
former's cousin Rab.
"Yon scunner?" Neil exclaimed, using the very form of the elder's words,
"yon scunner? I'd as lief ... as lief ... elect ..."
"... the Apoos-tate," said the Devil, though Neil thought that Saunders
"Ay, the Apoos-tate," he agreed.
"It wad be a fine joke," the Devil went on by the mouth of Saunders, "to
run the Apoos-tate agin' his candidate. McCakeron canna thole the man."
"But what if he was elected?" the mariner objected.
The Devil was charged with glib argument. "We couldna very weel. It's to
be a three-cornered fight, an' Robert Duncan, brother to Tammas, has it
"'Twad be a good one on McCakeron," Neil mused. "To talk up Dunlop, who
doesna care a cent for the eldership, an' then spring the Apoos-tate on
"'Twould be bitter on 'Twenty-One,'" the cap'en added. He had been
diddled by Sandy on a deal of seed-wheat.
"It wad hit the pair of 'em," McNab chuckled, and with that word the
So far, as aforesaid, Saunders had been unconscious of the Devil, but
going home the latter revealed himself in a heart-to-heart talk. "Ye're
no pretty to look at," Saunders said. "I'm minded to throw ye oot!"
The Devil chuckled. "Janet's so bonny. Fancy her on the pillow beside,
ye--scraggy--bones--freckles. Hoots, man! a nightmare!"
Shuddering, Saunders reconsidered proceedings of ejectment. "But the
thing is no posseeble?"
"You know your men," the Devil answered. "Close in the mouth as they are
in the fist. McCakeron will never get wind o' the business till they
spring it on him in meeting."
"That is so," Saunders acknowledged. "'Tis surely so-a."
"Then why," the Devil urged,--"then why not rig the same game on him?"
"Bosh! He wouldna think o't."
"Loving Dunlop as himself?" The Devil was apt at paraphrasing Scripture.
"It _would_ let me out?" Saunders mused.
"Ye can but fail," argued the Devil. "Try it."
"This very night!" It is a wonder that the sparks did not fly, the Devil
struck so hard on the hot iron. "To-night! Ye ken the election comes off
"To-night," Saunders agreed.
Throughout that week the din of contending factions resounded beneath
brazen harvest skies; for if there was a wink behind the clamor of any
faction, it made no difference in the volume of its noise. Wherever two
men foregathered, there the spirit of strife was in their midst; the
burr of hot Scot's speech travelled like the murmur of robbed bees along
the Side Lines, up the Concession roads, and even raised an echo in the
hallowed seclusion of the minister's study. And harking back to certain
eldership elections in which the breaking of heads had taken the place
of "anointing with oil," Elder McIntosh quietly evolved a plan whereby
the turmoil should be left outside the kirk on election night.
But while it lasted no voice rang louder than that of Saunders
McClellan's devil. Not a bit particular in choice of candidates, he
roared against Dunlop, Duncan, or "Twenty-One" according to the company
which Saunders kept. "Ye havna the ghaist of a show!" he assured Cap'en
McKay, chief of the Dunlopers. "McCakeron drew three mair to him last
night." While to the elder he exclaimed the same day: "Yon crazy
sailorman's got all the Duncanites o' the run. He has ye spanked, Elder.
Scunner the deil!" So the Devil blew, hot and cold, with Saunders's
mouth, until the very night before the election.
The morning of the election the sun heaved up on a brassy sky. It was
intensely hot through the day, but towards evening gray clouds scudded
out of the east, veiling the sun with their twisting masses; at twilight
heavy rain-blots were splashing the dust. At eight o'clock,
meeting-time, rain flew in glistening sheets against the kirk windows
and forced its way under the floor. There was but a scant
attendance--twoscore men, perhaps, and half a dozen women, who sat, in
decent Scotch fashion, apart from the men--that is, apart from all but
Joshua Timmins. Not having been raised in the decencies as observed in
Zorra, he had drifted over to the woman's side and sat with Janet
McCakeron and Jean McClellan, one on either side.
But if few in number, the gathering was decidedly formidable in
appearance. As the rain had weeded out the feeble, infirm, and
pacifically inclined, it was distinctly belligerent in character. Grim,
dour, silent, it waited for the beginning of hostilities.
Nor did the service of praise which preceded the election induce a
milder spirit. When the precentor led off, "Howl, ye Sinners, Howl! Let
the Heathen Rage and Cry!" each man's look told that he knew well whom
the psalmist was hitting at; and when the minister invoked the "blind,
stubborn, and stony-hearted" to "depart from the midst," one-half of his
hearers looked their astonishment that the other half did not
immediately step out in the rain. A heavy inspiration, a hard sigh, told
that all were bracing for battle when the minister stepped down from the
pulpit, and noting it, he congratulated himself on his precautions
"For greater convenience in voting," he said, reaching paper slips and a
box of pencils from behind the communion rail, "we will depart from the
oral method and elect by written ballot"
He had expected a protest against such a radical departure from
ancestral precedent, but in some mysterious way the innovation seemed to
jibe with the people's inclination.
"Saunders McClellan," the minister went on, "will distribute and collect
balloting-papers on the other aisle."
"Give it to him, Cap'en!" Saunders whispered, as he handed him a slip.
"He's glowering at ye."
The elder was indeed surveying the mariner, McNab, and Dunlop with a
glance of comprehensive hostility over the top of his ballot. "See what
I'm aboot!" his look said, as he folded the paper and tossed it into
"The auld deevil!" McNab whispered, as the minister unfolded the first
ballot. "He'll soon slacken his gills."
"That'll be one of oor ballots," the cap'en hoarsely confided.
The minister was vigorously rubbing his glasses for a second perusal of
the ballot, but when the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth were added to
the first, his face became a study in astonishment. And presently his
surprise was reflected by the congregation. For whereas three candidates
were in nomination, the ballots were forming but two piles.
Whispers ran through the kirk; the cap'en nudged McNab.
"McCakeron must ha' swung all the Duncanites?"
"Ah," Neil muttered. "An' that wad account for the stiff look o' the
reptile. See the glare o't."
They would have stiffened in astonishment could they have translated the
"glare." "Got the Duncanites, did ye?" the elder was thinking. "Bide a
wee, bide a wee! He laughs best that laughs last."
Saunders McClellan and his Devil alone sensed the inwardness of those
two piles, and they held modest communion over it in the back of the
kirk. "You may be ugly, but ye've served me well," Saunders began.
The Devil answered with extreme politeness: "You are welcome to all ye
get through me. If no honored, ye are at least aboot to become famous in
your ain country."
"Infamous, I doobt, ye mean," Saunders corrected. Then, glancing
uneasily toward the door, he added, "I think as we'd better be leaving."
"Pish!" the Devil snorted. "They are undone by their ain malignancy. See
"That's so," Saunders agreed. "That is surely so-a. Hist! The
meenister's risen. Man, but he's tickled to death over the result. His
face is fair shining."
The minister did indeed look pleased. Stepping down to the floor that he
might be closer to these his people, he beamed benevolently upon them
while he made a little speech. "People of Scottish birth," he said,
closing, "are often accused of being hard and uncharitable to the
stranger in their gates, but this can never be said of you who have
extended the highest honor in your gift to a stranger; who have elected
Brother Joshua Timmins elder in your kirk by a two-thirds majority."
The benediction dissolved the paralysis which held all but Saunders
McClellan; but stupefaction remained. Astounding crises are generally
attended with little fuss, from the inability of the human intellect to
grasp their enormous significance. As John "Death" McKay afterward put
it, "Man, 'twas so extraordin'ry as to seem ordin'ry." Of course neither
Dunlopers nor "Twenty-One's" were in a position to challenge the
election, and if the Duncanites growled as they pawed over the ballots,
their grumbling was presently silenced by a greater astonishment.
For out of such evenings history is made. While the minister had held
forth on the rights and duties of eldership, Saunders McClellan's gaze
had wandered over to Margaret McDonald--a healthy, red-cheeked girl--and
he had done a little moralizing on his own account. In the presence of
such an enterprising spinsterhood, bachelorhood had become an
exceedingly hazardous existence, and if a man must marry, be might as
weel ha' something young an' fresh! Margaret, too, was reputed
industrious as pretty! Of Janet's decision, Saunders had no doubts.
Between himself and Jeannie, and Timmins--meek, mild, and
unencumbered--there could be no choice. Still there was nothing like
certainty; 'twas always best to be off wi' the old, an' so forth!
Rising, he headed for Janet, who, with her father, Jeannie, Timmins, and
the minister, stood talking at the vestry door. As he made his way
forward, he reaped a portion of the Devil's promised fame. As they filed
sheepishly down the aisle, the Dunlopers gave him the cold shoulder, and
when he joined the group, Elder McCakeron returned a stony stare to his
"But ye needna mind that," the Devil encouraged. "He daurna tell, for
his own share i' the business."
So Saunders brazened it out. "Ye ha' my congratulations, Mr. McCakeron.
I hear you're to get a son-in-law oot o' this?"
If Elder McCakeron had given Saunders the tempter the glare which he now
bestowed on Saunders the successfully wicked, he had not been in such
"Why, what is this?" the minister exclaimed. "Cause for further
congratulation, Brother Timmins?"
Saunders now shone as Cupid's assistant. "He was to ha' Janet on
condeetion that he made the eldership," he fulsomely explained.
The minister's glance questioned the elder.
"Well," he growled, "I'm no going back on my word."
Saunders glowed all over, and in exuberance of spirit actually winked at
Margaret McDonald across the kirk. Man, but she was pretty!
"It's to your credit, Mr. McCakeron, that you should hold til a
promise," Jeannie was saying. "But ye'll no be held. A man may change
his mind, and since you refused Joshua, he's decided to marry on me."
Saunders blenched. He half turned to flee, but Janet's strong fingers
closed on his sleeve; and as her lips moved to claim him before minister
and meeting, he thought that he heard the Devil chuckling, a great way
IN THE INTERESTS OF CHRISTOPHER
BY MAY HARRIS
Mrs. Manstey's big country-house was temporarily empty of the guests she
had gathered for a week-end in June when the two Eversley girls reached
it, Saturday at noon. Their hostess met them at the door when the
carriage wheels crunched on the gravelled curve of the drive before the
house--a charming gray-haired woman of sixty, with a youthful face and a
delicate girlish color.
"I've sent everybody away to explore--to ravage the country," she gayly
explained the emptiness of the large hall, where the grouped chairs
seemed recently vacated and pleasantly suggestive of suspended
tete-a-tete. "I've had Rose before," Mrs. Manstey pursued, taking them
up the stairs to their rooms, "but not _you!_" She gave Edith's shoulder
an affectionate little pat. She thought the younger girl extremely
beautiful--which she was, with a vivid, piquant face and charming eyes.
"I've had my day," Rose Eversley acknowledged, with her usual air of
jesting gravity, that, almost ironic, made one always a little unsure of
her. "Dear Mrs. Manstey, you perfectly see--don't you?--that Edith is
papa's image, and--"
"And he was my old sweetheart!" Mrs. Manstey completed, with humorous
appreciation of her own repetition of an old story.
"Was he, really?" Edith wondered. "Mamma says you were _her_ friend."
Mrs. Manstey laughed. "Couldn't I have been--both?" she gayly put it.
"Friends are better than sweethearts--they last longer. Though of course
you won't agree, at your age, to such heresy."
"Sweethearts?" the girl pondered as she lifted her hands to take off her
hat. "I--don't know. It's such a pretty word, but it doesn't mean much
these days--there aren't any!" She shrugged her shoulders with a
petulant pessimism her youth made amusing. "Papa was the last of the
kind--he's a _love!_--and you let mamma have him!"
"I didn't 'let.'" Mrs. Manstey enjoyed it. "When he met your mother he
forgot all about me. Think of it! I haven't seen either him or your
mother in years, years, years!"
"_My_ years!" Edith said. "I was a baby, mamma says, when she saw you
"So you were."
A servant knocked, with a note for Mrs. Manstey. As she took it and
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