The Copy-Cat & Other Stories
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Part 4 out of 7
Margaret became a horror to herself. At times
it seemed to her that she was in the way of fairly
losing her own identity. It mattered little that
Camille and Jack were very kind to her, that they
showed her the nice things which her terrible earn-
ings had enabled them to have. She sat in her two
chairs -- the two chairs proved a most successful
advertisement -- with her two kid-cushiony hands
clenched in her pink spangled lap, and she suffered
agony of soul, which made her inner self stern and
terrible, behind that great pink mask of face. And
nobody realized until one sultry day when the show
opened at a village in a pocket of green hills -- indeed,
its name was Greenhill -- and Sydney Lord went to
Margaret, who had schooled herself to look upon
her audience as if they were not, suddenly compre-
hended among them another soul who understood
her own. She met the eyes of the man, and a won-
derful comfort, as of a cool breeze blowing over the
face of clear water, came to her. She knew that the
man understood. She knew that she had his fullest
sympathy. She saw also a comrade in the toils of
comic tragedy, for Sydney Lord was in the same case.
He was a mountain of flesh. As a matter of fact,
had he not been known in Greenhill and respected
as a man of weight of character as well as of body,
and of an old family, he would have rivaled Mar-
garet. Beside him sat an elderly woman, sweet-
faced, slightly bent as to her slender shoulders, as if
with a chronic attitude of submission. She was
Sydney's widowed sister, Ellen Waters. She lived
with her brother and kept his house, and had no
will other than his.
Sydney Lord and his sister remained when the rest
of the audience had drifted out, after the privileged
hand-shakes with the queen of the show. Every
time a coarse, rustic hand reached familiarly after
Margaret's, Sydney shrank.
He motioned his sister to remain seated when
he approached the stage. Jack Desmond, who
had been exploiting Margaret, gazed at him with
admiring curiosity. Sydney waved him away
with a commanding gesture. "I wish to speak to
her a moment. Pray leave the tent," he said,
and Jack obeyed. People always obeyed Sydney
Sydney stood before Margaret, and he saw the
clear crystal, which was herself, within all the flesh,
clad in tawdry raiment, and she knew that he saw it.
"Good God!" said Sydney, "you are a lady!"
He continued to gaze at her, and his eyes, large
and brown, became blurred; at the same time his
"How came you to be in such a place as this?"
demanded Sydney. He spoke almost as if he were
angry with her.
Margaret explained briefly.
"It is an outrage," declared Sydney. He said
it, however, rather absently. He was reflecting.
"Where do you live?" he asked.
"You mean --?"
"They make up a bed for me here, after the people
"And I suppose you had -- before this -- a com-
"The house which my grandfather Lee owned,
the old Lee mansion-house, before we went to the
city. It was a very fine old Colonial house," ex-
plained Margaret, in her finely modulated voice.
"And you had a good room?"
"The southeast chamber had always been mine.
It was very large, and the furniture was old Spanish
"And now --" said Sydney.
"Yes," said Margaret. She looked at him, and
her serious blue eyes seemed to see past him. "It
will not last," she said.
"What do you mean?"
"I try to learn a lesson. I am a child in the school
of God. My lesson is one that always ends in peace."
"Good God!" said Sydney.
He motioned to his sister, and Ellen approached
in a frightened fashion. Her brother could do no
wrong, but this was the unusual, and alarmed her.
"This lady --" began Sydney.
"Miss Lee," said Margaret. "I was never mar-
ried. I am Miss Margaret Lee."
"This," said Sydney, "is my sister Ellen, Mrs.
Waters. Ellen, I wish you to meet Miss Lee."
Ellen took into her own Margaret's hand, and said
feebly that it was a beautiful day and she hoped
Miss Lee found Greenhill a pleasant place to -- visit.
Sydney moved slowly out of the tent and found
Jack Desmond. He was standing near with Camille,
who looked her best in a pale-blue summer silk and
a black hat trimmed with roses. Jack and Camille
never really knew how the great man had managed,
but presently Margaret had gone away with him
and his sister.
Jack and Camille looked at each other.
"Oh, Jack, ought you to have let her go?" said
"What made you let her go?" asked Jack.
"I -- don't know. I couldn't say anything. That
man has a tremendous way with him. Goodness!"
"He is all right here in the place, anyhow," said
Jack. "They look up to him. He is a big-bug here.
Comes of a family like Margaret's, though he hasn't
got much money. Some chaps were braggin' that
they had a bigger show than her right here, and I
"Suppose," said Camille, "Margaret does not
"He could not keep her without bein' arrested,"
declared Jack, but he looked uneasy. He had, how-
ever, looked uneasy for some time. The fact was,
Margaret had been very gradually losing weight.
Moreover, she was not well. That very night, after
the show was over, Bill Stark, the little dark man,
had a talk with the Desmonds about it.
"Truth is, before long, if you don't look out, you'll
have to pad her," said Bill; "and giants don't
amount to a row of pins after that begins."
Camille looked worried and sulky. "She ain't
very well, anyhow," said she. "I ain't going to
"It's a good thing she's got a chance to have a
night's rest in a house," said Bill Stark.
"The fat man has asked her to stay with him and
his sister while the show is here," said Jack.
"The sister invited her," said Camille, with a
little stiffness. She was common, but she had lived
with Lees, and her mother had married a Lee. She
knew what was due Margaret, and also due herself.
"The truth is," said Camille, "this is an awful sort
of life for a woman like Margaret. She and her
folks were never used to anything like it."
"Why didn't you make your beauty husband
hustle and take care of her and you, then?" de-
manded Bill, who admired Camille, and disliked her
because she had no eyes for him.
"My husband has been unfortunate. He has
done the best he could," responded Camille. "Come,
Jack; no use talking about it any longer. Guess
Margaret will pick up. Come along. I'm tired out."
That night Margaret Lee slept in a sweet chamber
with muslin curtains at the windows, in a massive
old mahogany bed, much like hers which had been
sacrificed at an auction sale. The bed-linen was
linen, and smelled of lavender. Margaret was too
happy to sleep. She lay in the cool, fragrant sheets
and was happy, and convinced of the presence of
the God to whom she had prayed. All night Sydney
Lord sat down-stairs in his book-walled sanctum
and studied over the situation. It was a crucial one.
The great psychological moment of Sydney Lord's
life for knight-errantry had arrived. He studied
the thing from every point of view. There was no
romance about it. These were hard, sordid, tragic,
ludicrous facts with which he had to deal. He knew
to a nicety the agonies which Margaret suffered.
He knew, because of his own capacity for sufferings
of like stress. "And she is a woman and a lady,"
he said, aloud.
If Sydney had been rich enough, the matter would
have been simple. He could have paid Jack and
Camille enough to quiet them, and Margaret could
have lived with him and his sister and their two old
servants. But he was not rich; he was even poor.
The price to be paid for Margaret's liberty was a
bitter one, but it was that or nothing. Sydney faced
it. He looked about the room. To him the walls
lined with the dull gleams of old books were lovely.
There was an oil portrait of his mother over the
mantel-shelf. The weather was warm now, and
there was no need for a hearth fire, but how ex-
quisitely home-like and dear that room could be
when the snow drove outside and there was the leap
of flame on the hearth! Sydney was a scholar and
a gentleman. He had led a gentle and sequestered
life. Here in his native village there were none to
gibe and sneer. The contrast of the traveling show
would be as great for him as it had been for Margaret,
but he was the male of the species, and she the
female. Chivalry, racial, harking back to the begin-
ning of nobility in the human, to its earliest dawn,
fired Sydney. The pale daylight invaded the study.
Sydney, as truly as any knight of old, had girded
himself, and with no hope, no thought of reward,
for the battle in the eternal service of the strong
for the weak, which makes the true worth of the
There was only one way. Sydney Lord took it.
His sister was spared the knowledge of the truth
for a long while. When she knew, she did not lament;
since Sydney had taken the course, it must be right.
As for Margaret, not knowing the truth, she yielded.
She was really on the verge of illness. Her spirit
was of too fine a strain to enable her body to endure
long. When she was told that she was to remain
with Sydney's sister while Sydney went away on
business, she made no objection. A wonderful sense
of relief, as of wings of healing being spread under
her despair, was upon her. Camille came to bid
"I hope you have a nice visit in this lovely house,"
said Camille, and kissed her. Camille was astute,
and to be trusted. She did not betray Sydney's
confidence. Sydney used a disguise -- a dark wig
over his partially bald head and a little make-up --
and he traveled about with the show and sat on
three chairs, and shook hands with the gaping crowd,
and was curiously happy. It was discomfort; it
was ignominy; it was maddening to support by the
exhibition of his physical deformity a perfectly
worthless young couple like Jack and Camille Des-
mond, but it was all superbly ennobling for the man
Always as he sat on his three chairs, immense,
grotesque -- the more grotesque for his splendid dig-
nity of bearing -- there was in his soul of a gallant
gentleman the consciousness of that other, whom
he was shielding from a similar ordeal. Compassion
and generosity, so great that they comprehended
love itself and excelled its highest type, irradiated
the whole being of the fat man exposed to the gaze
of his inferiors. Chivalry, which rendered him almost
god-like, strengthened him for his task. Sydney
thought always of Margaret as distinct from her
physical self, a sort of crystalline, angelic soul, with
no encumbrance of earth. He achieved a purely
spiritual conception of her. And Margaret, living
again her gentle lady life, was likewise ennobled
by a gratitude which transformed her. Always a
clear and beautiful soul, she gave out new lights of
character like a jewel in the sun. And she also
thought of Sydney as distinct from his physical self.
The consciousness of the two human beings, one of
the other, was a consciousness as of two wonderful
lines of good and beauty, moving for ever parallel,
separate, and inseparable in an eternal harmony of
JIM BENNET had never married. He had
passed middle life, and possessed considerable
property. Susan Adkins kept house for him. She
was a widow and a very distant relative. Jim had
two nieces, his brother's daughters. One, Alma
Beecher, was married; the other, Amanda, was not.
The nieces had naively grasping views concerning
their uncle and his property. They stated freely
that they considered him unable to care for it; that
a guardian should be appointed and the property
be theirs at once. They consulted Lawyer Thomas
Hopkinson with regard to it; they discoursed at
length upon what they claimed to be an idiosyn-
crasy of Jim's, denoting failing mental powers.
"He keeps a perfect slew of cats, and has a coal
fire for them in the woodshed all winter," said Amanda.
"Why in thunder shouldn't he keep a fire in the
woodshed if he wants to?" demanded Hopkinson.
"I know of no law against it. And there isn't a
law in the country regulating the number of cats a
man can keep." Thomas Hopkinson, who was an
old friend of Jim's, gave his prominent chin an up-
ward jerk as he sat in his office arm-chair before
"There is something besides cats," said Alma
"He talks to himself."
"What in creation do you expect the poor man to
do? He can't talk to Susan Adkins about a blessed
thing except tidies and pincushions. That woman
hasn't a thought in her mind outside her soul's
salvation and fancy-work. Jim has to talk once in
a while to keep himself a man. What if he does
talk to himself? I talk to myself. Next thing you will
want to be appointed guardian over me, Amanda."
Hopkinson was a bachelor, and Amanda flushed
"He wasn't what I call even gentlemanly," she
told Alma, when the two were on their way home.
"I suppose Tom Hopkinson thought you were
setting your cap at him," retorted Alma. She rel-
ished the dignity of her married state, and enjoyed
giving her spinster sister little claws when occasion
called. However, Amanda had a temper of her own,
and she could claw back.
"YOU needn't talk," said she. "You only took
Joe Beecher when you had given up getting anybody
better. You wanted Tom Hopkinson yourself. I
haven't forgotten that blue silk dress you got and
wore to meeting. You needn't talk. You know
you got that dress just to make Tom look at you,
and he didn't. You needn't talk."
"I wouldn't have married Tom Hopkinson if he
had been the only man on the face of the earth,"
declared Alma with dignity; but she colored hotly.
Amanda sniffed. "Well, as near as I can find out
Uncle Jim can go on talking to himself and keeping
cats, and we can't do anything," said she.
When the two women were home, they told Alma's
husband, Joe Beecher, about their lack of success.
They were quite heated with their walk and excite-
ment. "I call it a shame," said Alma. "Anybody
knows that poor Uncle Jim would be better off with
"Of course," said Amanda. "What man that
had a grain of horse sense would do such a crazy
thing as to keep a coal fire in a woodshed?"
"For such a slew of cats, too," said Alma, nodding
Alma's husband, Joe Beecher, spoke timidly and
undecidedly in the defense. "You know," he said,
"that Mrs. Adkins wouldn't have those cats in the
house, and cats mostly like to sit round where it's
His wife regarded him. Her nose wrinkled. "I
suppose next thing YOU'LL be wanting to have a cat
round where it's warm, right under my feet, with
all I have to do," said she. Her voice had an actual
acidity of sound.
Joe gasped. He was a large man with a constant
expression of wondering inquiry. It was the expres-
sion of his babyhood; he had never lost it, and it
was an expression which revealed truly the state of
his mind. Always had Joe Beecher wondered, first
of all at finding himself in the world at all, then at
the various happenings of existence. He probably
wondered more about the fact of his marriage with
Alma Bennet than anything else, although he never
betrayed his wonder. He was always painfully
anxious to please his wife, of whom he stood in
awe. Now he hastened to reply: "Why, no, Alma;
of course I won't."
"Because," said Alma, "I haven't come to my
time of life, through all the trials I've had, to be
taking any chances of breaking my bones over any
miserable, furry, four-footed animal that wouldn't
catch a mouse if one run right under her nose."
"I don't want any cat," repeated Joe, miserably.
His fear and awe of the two women increased.
When his sister-in-law turned upon him he fairly
"Cats!" said Amanda. Then she sniffed. The
sniff was worse than speech.
Joe repeated in a mumble that he didn't want
any cats, and went out, closing the door softly after
him, as he had been taught. However, he was en-
tirely sure, in the depths of his subjugated masculine
mind, that his wife and her sister had no legal au-
thority whatever to interfere with their uncle's right
to keep a hundred coal fires in his woodshed, for a
thousand cats. He always had an inner sense of
glee when he heard the two women talk over the
matter. Once Amanda had declared that she did
not believe that Tom Hopkinson knew much about
"He seems to stand pretty high," Joe ventured
with the utmost mildness.
"Yes, he does," admitted Alma, grudgingly.
"It does not follow he knows law," persisted
Amanda, "and it MAY follow that he likes cats.
There was that great Maltese tommy brushing round
all the time we were in his office, but I didn't dare
shoo him off for fear it might be against the law."
Amanda laughed, a very disagreeable little laugh.
Joe said nothing, but inwardly he chuckled. It was
the cause of man with man. He realized a great,
even affectionate, understanding of Jim.
The day after his nieces had visited the lawyer's
office, Jim was preparing to call on his friend Edward
Hayward, the minister. Before leaving he looked
carefully after the fire in the woodshed. The stove
was large. Jim piled on the coal, regardless out-
wardly that the housekeeper, Susan Adkins, had
slammed the kitchen door to indicate her contempt.
Inwardly Jim felt hurt, but he had felt hurt so long
from the same cause that the sensation had become
chronic, and was borne with a gentle patience.
Moreover, there was something which troubled him
more and was the reason for his contemplated call
on his friend. He evened the coals on the fire with
great care, and replenished from the pail in the ice-
box the cats' saucers. There was a circle of clean
white saucers around the stove. Jim owned many
cats; counting the kittens, there were probably over
twenty. Mrs. Adkins counted them in the sixties.
"Those sixty-seven cats," she said.
Jim often gave away cats when he was confident
of securing good homes, but supply exceeded the
demand. Now and then tragedies took place in
that woodshed. Susan Adkins came bravely to the
front upon these occasions. Quite convinced was
Susan Adkins that she had a good home, and it
behooved her to keep it, and she did not in the least
object to drowning, now and then, a few very young
kittens. She did this with neatness and despatch
while Jim walked to the store on an errand and was
supposed to know nothing about it. There was
simply not enough room in his woodshed for the
accumulation of cats, although his heart could have
That day, as he poured out the milk, cats of all
ages and sizes and colors purred in a softly padding
multitude around his feet, and he regarded them
with love. There were tiger cats, Maltese cats, black-
and-white cats, black cats and white cats, tommies
and females, and his heart leaped to meet the plead-
ing mews of all. The saucers were surrounded.
Little pink tongues lapped. "Pretty pussy! pretty
pussy!" cooed Jim, addressing them in general. He
put on his overcoat and hat, which he kept on a peg
behind the door. Jim had an arm-chair in the wood-
shed. He always sat there when he smoked; Susan
Adkins demurred at his smoking in the house, which
she kept so nice, and Jim did not dream of rebellion.
He never questioned the right of a woman to bar
tobacco smoke from a house. Before leaving he
refilled some of the saucers. He was not sure that
all of the cats were there; some might be afield,
hunting, and he wished them to find refreshment
when they returned. He stroked the splendid striped
back of a great tiger tommy which filled his arm-
chair. This cat was his special pet. He fastened the
outer shed door with a bit of rope in order that it
might not blow entirely open, and yet allow his
feline friends to pass, should they choose. Then he
The day was clear, with a sharp breath of frost.
The fields gleamed with frost, offering to the eye a
fine shimmer as of diamond-dust under the brilliant
blue sky, overspread in places with a dapple of little
"White frost and mackerel sky; going to be falling
weather," Jim said, aloud, as he went out of the
yard, crunching the crisp grass under heel.
Susan Adkins at a window saw his lips moving.
His talking to himself made her nervous, although it
did not render her distrustful of his sanity. It was
fortunate that Susan had not told Jim that she
disliked his habit. In that case he would have
deprived himself of that slight solace; he would not
have dreamed of opposing Susan's wishes. Jim had
a great pity for the nervous whims, as he regarded
them, of women -- a pity so intense and tender that
it verged on respect and veneration. He passed his
nieces' house on the way to the minister's, and both
were looking out of windows and saw his lips moving.
"There he goes, talking to himself like a crazy
loon," said Amanda.
Jim went on, blissfully unconscious. He talked
in a quiet monotone; only now and then his voice
rose; only now and then there were accompanying
gestures. Jim had a straight mile down the broad
village street to walk before he reached the church
and the parsonage beside it.
Jim and the minister had been friends since boy-
hood. They were graduates and classmates of the
same college. Jim had had unusual educational ad-
vantages for a man coming from a simple family.
The front door of the parsonage flew open when Jim
entered the gate, and the minister stood there
smiling. He was a tall, thin man with a wide mouth,
which either smiled charmingly or was set with
severity. He was as brown and dry as a wayside
weed which winter had subdued as to bloom but
could not entirely prostrate with all its icy storms
and compelling blasts. Jim, advancing eagerly tow-
ard the warm welcome in the door, was a small
man, and bent at that, but he had a handsome old
face, with the rose of youth on the cheeks and the
light of youth in the blue eyes, and the quick changes
of youth, before emotions, about the mouth.
"Hullo, Jim!" cried Dr. Edward Hayward. Hay-
ward, for a doctor of divinity, was considered some-
what lacking in dignity at times; still, he was Dr.
Hayward, and the failing was condoned. More-
over, he was a Hayward, and the Haywards had
been, from the memory of the oldest inhabitant, the
great people of the village. Dr. Hayward's house
was presided over by his widowed cousin, a lady
of enough dignity to make up for any lack of it in
the minister. There were three servants, besides
the old butler who had been Hayward's attendant
when he had been a young man in college. Village
people were proud of their minister, with his degree
and what they considered an imposing household
Hayward led, and Jim followed, to the least pre-
tentious room in the house -- not the study proper,
which was lofty, book-lined, and leather-furnished,
curtained with broad sweeps of crimson damask, but
a little shabby place back of it, accessible by a nar-
row door. The little room was lined with shelves;
they held few books, but a collection of queer and
dusty things -- strange weapons, minerals, odds and
ends -- which the minister loved and with which his
lady cousin never interfered.
"Louisa," Hayward had told his cousin when she
entered upon her post, "do as you like with the
whole house, but let my little study alone. Let it
look as if it had been stirred up with a garden-rake
-- that little room is my territory, and no disgrace
to you, my dear, if the dust rises in clouds at every
Jim was as fond of the little room as his friend.
He entered, and sighed a great sigh of satisfaction
as he sank into the shabby, dusty hollow of a large
chair before the hearth fire. Immediately a black
cat leaped into his lap, gazed at him with green-
jewel eyes, worked her paws, purred, settled into a
coil, and slept. Jim lit his pipe and threw the match
blissfully on the floor. Dr. Hayward set an electric
coffee-urn at its work, for the little room was a
curious mixture of the comfortable old and the
"Sam shall serve our luncheon in here," he said,
with a staid glee.
Jim nodded happily.
"Louisa will not mind," said Hayward. "She is
precise, but she has a fine regard for the rights of the
individual, which is most commendable." He seated
himself in a companion chair to Jim's, lit his own
pipe, and threw the match on the floor. Occasion-
ally, when the minister was out, Sam, without orders
so to do, cleared the floor of matches.
Hayward smoked and regarded his friend, who
looked troubled despite his comfort. "What is it,
Jim?" asked the minister at last.
"I don't know how to do what is right for me to
do," replied the little man, and his face, turned
toward his friend, had the puzzled earnestness of a
Hayward laughed. It was easily seen that his
was the keener mind. In natural endowments
there had never been equality, although there was
great similarity of tastes. Jim, despite his education,
often lapsed into the homely vernacular of which he
heard so much. An involuntarily imitative man in
externals was Jim, but essentially an original. Jim
"You know, Edward, I have never been one to
complain," he said, with an almost boyish note
"Never complained half enough; that's the trou-
ble," returned the other.
"Well, I overheard something Mis' Adkins said
to Mis' Amos Trimmer the other afternoon. Mis'
Trimmer was calling on Mis' Adkins. I couldn't
help overhearing unless I went outdoors, and it
was snowing and I had a cold. I wasn't listening."
"Had a right to listen if you wanted to," declared
"Well, I couldn't help it unless I went outdoors.
Mis' Adkins she was in the kitchen making light-
bread for supper, and Mis' Trimmer had sat right
down there with her. Mis' Adkins's kitchen is as
clean as a parlor, anyway. Mis' Adkins said to Mis'
Trimmer, speaking of me -- because Mis' Trimmer
had just asked where I was and Mis' Adkins had
said I was out in the woodshed sitting with the cats
and smoking -- Mis' Adkins said, 'He's just a door-
mat, that's what he is.' Then Mis' Trimmer says,
'The way he lets folks ride over him beats me.'
Then Mis' Adkins says again: 'He's nothing but a
door-mat. He lets everybody that wants to just
trample on him and grind their dust into him, and
he acts real pleased and grateful.'"
Hayward's face flushed. "Did Mrs. Adkins men-
tion that she was one of the people who used you
for a door-mat?" he demanded.
Jim threw back his head and laughed like a child,
with the sweetest sense of unresentful humor. "Lord
bless my soul, Edward," replied Jim, "I don't be-
lieve she ever thought of that."
"And at that very minute you, with a hard cold,
were sitting out in that draughty shed smoking
because she wouldn't allow you to smoke in your
"I don't mind that, Edward," said Jim, and
"Could you see to read your paper out there,
with only that little shed window? And don't you
like to read your paper while you smoke?"
"Oh yes," admitted Jim; "but my! I don't mind
little things like that! Mis' Adkins is only a poor
widow woman, and keeping my house nice and not
having it smell of tobacco is all she's got. They can
talk about women's rights -- I feel as if they ought
to have them fast enough, if they want them, poor
things; a woman has a hard row to hoe, and will
have, if she gets all the rights in creation. But I
guess the rights they'd find it hardest to give up
would be the rights to have men look after them
just a little more than they look after other men,
just because they are women. When I think of
Annie Berry -- the girl I was going to marry, you
know, if she hadn't died -- I feel as if I couldn't do
enough for another woman. Lord! I'm glad to sit
out in the woodshed and smoke. Mis' Adkins is
pretty good-natured to stand all the cats."
Then the coffee boiled, and Hayward poured out
some for Jim and himself. He had a little silver ser-
vice at hand, and willow-ware cups and saucers.
Presently Sam appeared, and Hayward gave orders
"Tell Miss Louisa we are to have it served here,"
said he, "and mind, Sam, the chops are to be thick
and cooked the way we like them; and don't forget
the East India chutney, Sam."
"It does seem rather a pity that you cannot have
chutney at home with your chops, when you are so
fond of it," remarked Hayward when Sam had gone.
"Mis' Adkins says it will give me liver trouble,
and she isn't strong enough to nurse."
"So you have to eat her ketchup?"
"Well, she doesn't put seasoning in it," admitted
Jim. "But Mis' Adkins doesn't like seasoning her-
self, and I don't mind."
"And I know the chops are never cut thick, the
way we like them."
"Mis' Adkins likes her meat well done, and she
can't get such thick chops well done. I suppose our
chops are rather thin, but I don't mind."
"Beefsteak and chops, both cut thin, and fried
up like sole-leather. I know!" said Dr. Hayward,
and he stamped his foot with unregenerate force.
"I don't mind a bit, Edward."
"You ought to mind, when it is your own house,
and you buy the food and pay your housekeeper.
It is an outrage!"
"I don't mind, really, Edward."
Dr. Hayward regarded Jim with a curious ex-
pression compounded of love, anger, and contempt.
"Any more talk of legal proceedings?" he asked,
Jim flushed. "Tom ought not to tell of that."
"Yes, he ought; he ought to tell it all over town.
He doesn't, but he ought. It is an outrage! Here
you have been all these years supporting your
nieces, and they are working away like field-mice,
burrowing under your generosity, trying to get a
chance to take action and appropriate your property
and have you put under a guardian."
"I don't mind a bit," said Jim; "but --"
The other man looked inquiringly at him, and,
seeing a pitiful working of his friend's face, he
jumped up and got a little jar from a shelf. "We
will drop the whole thing until we have had our
chops and chutney," said he. "You are right; it is
not worth minding. Here is a new brand of tobacco
I want you to try. I don't half like it, myself, but
Jim, with a pleased smile, reached out for the
tobacco, and the two men smoked until Sam brought
the luncheon. It was well cooked and well served
on an antique table. Jim was thoroughly happy.
It was not until the luncheon was over and another
pipe smoked that the troubled, perplexed expression
returned to his face.
"Now," said Hayward, "out with it!"
"It is only the old affair about Alma and Amanda,
but now it has taken on a sort of new aspect."
"What do you mean by a new aspect?"
"It seems," said Jim, slowly, "as if they were
making it so I couldn't do for them."
Hayward stamped his foot. "That does sound
new," he said, dryly. "I never thought Alma
Beecher or Amanda Bennet ever objected to have
you do for them."
"Well," said Jim, "perhaps they don't now, but
they want me to do it in their own way. They
don't want to feel as if I was giving and they taking;
they want it to seem the other way round. You
see, if I were to deed over my property to them, and
then they allowance me, they would feel as if they
were doing the giving."
"Jim, you wouldn't be such a fool as that?"
"No, I wouldn't," replied Jim, simply. "They
wouldn't know how to take care of it, and Mis'
Adkins would be left to shift for herself. Joe Beecher
is real good-hearted, but he always lost every dollar
he touched. No, there wouldn't be any sense in
that. I don't mean to give in, but I do feel pretty
well worked up over it."
"What have they said to you?"
"Out with it, now. One thing you may be sure
of: nothing that you can tell me will alter my opinion
of your two nieces for the worse. As for poor Joe
Beecher, there is no opinion, one way or the other.
What did they say?"
Jim regarded his friend with a curiously sweet,
far-off expression. "Edward," he said, "sometimes
I believe that the greatest thing a man's friends can
do for him is to drive him into a corner with God;
to be so unjust to him that they make him under-
stand that God is all that mortal man is meant to
have, and that is why he finds out that most people,
especially the ones he does for, don't care for
Hayward looked solemnly and tenderly at the
other's almost rapt face. "You are right, I suppose,
old man," said he; "but what did they do?"
"They called me in there about a week ago and
gave me an awful talking to."
Jim looked at his friend with dignity. "They
were two women talking, and they went into little
matters not worth repeating," said he. "All is --
they seemed to blame me for everything I had ever
done for them, and for everything I had ever done,
anyway. They seemed to blame me for being born
and living, and, most of all, for doing anything for
"It is an outrage!" declared Hayward. "Can't
you see it?"
"I can't seem to see anything plain about it,"
returned Jim, in a bewildered way. "I always sup-
posed a man had to do something bad to be given
a talking to; but it isn't so much that, and I don't
bear any malice against them. They are only two
women, and they are nervous. What worries me is,
they do need things, and they can't get on and be
comfortable unless I do for them; but if they are
going to feel that way about it, it seems to cut me
off from doing, and that does worry me, Edward."
The other man stamped. "Jim Bennet," he said,
"they have talked, and now I am going to."
"Yes, I am. It is entirely true what those two
women, Susan Adkins and Mrs. Trimmer, said about
you. You ARE a door-mat, and you ought to be
ashamed of yourself for it. A man should be a man,
and not a door-mat. It is the worst thing in the
world for people to walk over him and trample him.
It does them much more harm than it does him. In
the end the trampler is much worse off than the
trampled upon. Jim Bennet, your being a door-
mat may cost other people their souls' salvation.
You are selfish in the grain to be a door-mat."
Jim turned pale. His child-like face looked sud-
denly old with his mental effort to grasp the other's
meaning. In fact, he was a child -- one of the little
ones of the world -- although he had lived the span
of a man's life. Now one of the hardest problems of
the elders of the world was presented to him. "You
mean --" he said, faintly.
"I mean, Jim, that for the sake of other people,
if not for your own sake, you ought to stop being
a door-mat and be a man in this world of men."
"What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to go straight to those nieces of yours
and tell them the truth. You know what your
wrongs are as well as I do. You know what those
two women are as well as I do. They keep the letter
of the Ten Commandments -- that is right. They
attend my church -- that is right. They scour the
outside of the platter until it is bright enough to
blind those people who don't understand them; but
inwardly they are petty, ravening wolves of greed and
ingratitude. Go and tell them; they don't know
themselves. Show them what they are. It is your
"You don't mean for me to stop doing for them?"
"I certainly do mean just that -- for a while,
"They can't possibly get along, Edward; they
"They have a little money, haven't they?"
"Only a little in savings-bank. The interest pays
"And you gave them that?"
"Very well, their taxes are paid for this year;
let them use that money. They will not suffer, ex-
cept in their feelings, and that is where they ought
to suffer. Man, you would spoil all the work of the
Lord by your selfish tenderness toward sinners!"
"They aren't sinners."
"Yes, they are -- spiritual sinners, the worst kind
in the world. Now --"
"You don't mean for me to go now?"
"Yes, I do -- now. If you don't go now you never
will. Then, afterward, I want you to go home and
sit in your best parlor and smoke, and have all your
cats in there, too."
Jim gasped. "But, Edward! Mis' Adkins --"
"I don't care about Mrs. Adkins. She isn't as
bad as the rest, but she needs her little lesson,
"Edward, the way that poor woman works to
keep the house nice -- and she don't like the smell
of tobacco smoke."
"Never mind whether she likes it or not. You
"And she don't like cats."
"Never mind. Now you go."
Jim stood up. There was a curious change in his
rosy, child-like face. There was a species of quicken-
ing. He looked at once older and more alert. His
friend's words had charged him as with electricity.
When he went down the street he looked taller.
Amanda Bennet and Alma Beecher, sitting sewing
at their street windows, made this mistake.
"That isn't Uncle Jim," said Amanda. "That
man is a head taller, but he looks a little like him."
"It can't be Uncle Jim," agreed Alma. Then
"It is Uncle Jim, and he is coming here," said
Jim entered. Nobody except himself, his nieces,
and Joe Beecher ever knew exactly what happened,
what was the aspect of the door-mat erected to
human life, of the worm turned to menace. It must
have savored of horror, as do all meek and down-
trodden things when they gain, driven to bay, the
strength to do battle. It must have savored of the
god-like, when the man who had borne with patience,
dignity, and sorrow for them the stings of lesser
things because they were lesser things, at last arose
and revealed himself superior, with a great height of
the spirit, with the power to crush.
When Jim stopped talking and went home, two
pale, shocked faces of women gazed after him from
the windows. Joe Beecher was sobbing like a child.
Finally his wife turned her frightened face upon him,
glad to have still some one to intimidate.
"For goodness' sake, Joe Beecher, stop crying
like a baby," said she, but she spoke in a queer whis-
per, for her lips were stiff.
Joe stood up and made for the door.
"Where are you going?" asked his wife.
"Going to get a job somewhere," replied Joe, and
went. Soon the women saw him driving a neighbor's
cart up the street.
"He's going to cart gravel for John Leach's new
sidewalk!" gasped Alma.
"Why don't you stop him?" cried her sister.
"You can't have your husband driving a tip-cart
for John Leach. Stop him, Alma!"
"I can't stop him," moaned Alma. "I don't
feel as if I could stop anything."
Her sister gazed at her, and the same expression
was on both faces, making them more than sisters
of the flesh. Both saw before them a stern boundary
wall against which they might press in vain for the
rest of their lives, and both saw the same sins of
Meantime Jim Bennet was seated in his best
parlor and Susan Adkins was whispering to Mrs.
Trimmer out in the kitchen.
"I don't know whether he's gone stark, staring
mad or not," whispered Susan, "but he's in the
parlor smoking his worst old pipe, and that big
tiger tommy is sitting in his lap, and he's let in all
the other cats, and they're nosing round, and I
don't dare drive 'em out. I took up the broom, then
I put it away again. I never knew Mr. Bennet
to act so. I can't think what's got into him."
"Did he say anything?"
"No, he didn't say much of anything, but he said
it in a way that made my flesh fairly creep. Says he,
'As long as this is my house and my furniture and
my cats, Mis' Adkins, I think I'll sit down in the
parlor, where I can see to read my paper and smoke
at the same time.' Then he holds the kitchen door
open, and he calls, 'Kitty, kitty, kitty!' and that
great tiger tommy comes in with his tail up, rubbing
round his legs, and all the other cats followed after.
I shut the door before these last ones got into the
parlor." Susan Adkins regarded malevolently the
three tortoise-shell cats of three generations and vari-
ous stages of growth, one Maltese settled in a purring
round of comfort with four kittens, and one perfectly
black cat, which sat glaring at her with beryl-colored
"That black cat looks evil," said Mrs. Trimmer.
"Yes, he does. I don't know why I didn't drown
him when he was a kitten."
"Why didn't you drown all those Malty kittens?"
"The old cat hid them away until they were too
big. Then he wouldn't let me. What do you sup-
pose has come to him? Just smell that awful pipe!"
"Men do take queer streaks every now and then,"
said Mrs. Trimmer. "My husband used to, and he
was as good as they make 'em, poor man. He
would eat sugar on his beefsteak, for one thing.
The first time I saw him do it I was scared. I
thought he was plum crazy, but afterward I found
out it was just because he was a man, and his ma
hadn't wanted him to eat sugar when he was a boy.
Mr. Bennet will get over it."
"He don't act as if he would."
"Oh yes, he will. Jim Bennet never stuck to
anything but being Jim Bennet for very long in
his life, and this ain't being Jim Bennet."
"He is a very good man," said Susan with a
somewhat apologetic tone.
"He's too good."
"He's too good to cats."
"Seems to me he's too good to 'most everybody.
Think what he has done for Amanda and Alma, and
how they act!"
"Yes, they are ungrateful and real mean to him;
and I feel sometimes as if I would like to tell them
just what I think of them," said Susan Adkins.
"Poor man, there he is, studying all the time what
he can do for people, and he don't get very much
Mrs. Trimmer arose to take leave. She had a
long, sallow face, capable of a sarcastic smile.
"Then," said she, "if I were you I wouldn't begrudge
him a chair in the parlor and a chance to read and
smoke and hold a pussy-cat."
"Who said I was begrudging it? I can air out the
parlor when he's got over the notion."
"Well, he will, so you needn't worry," said Mrs.
Trimmer. As she went down the street she could
see Jim's profile beside the parlor window, and she
smiled her sarcastic smile, which was not altogether
unpleasant. "He's stopped smoking, and he ain't
reading," she told herself. "It won't be very long
before he's Jim Bennet again."
But it was longer than she anticipated, for Jim's
will was propped by Edward Hayward's. Edward
kept Jim to his standpoint for weeks, until a few
days before Christmas. Then came self-assertion,
that self-assertion of negation which was all that
Jim possessed in such a crisis. He called upon Dr.
Hayward; the two were together in the little study
for nearly an hour, and talk ran high, then Jim
"It's no use, Edward," he said; "a man can't
be made over when he's cut and dried in one fashion,
the way I am. Maybe I'm doing wrong, but to me
it looks like doing right, and there's something in
the Bible about every man having his own right
and wrong. If what you say is true, and I am hin-
dering the Lord Almighty in His work, then it is
for Him to stop me. He can do it. But meantime
I've got to go on doing the way I always have. Joe
has been trying to drive that tip-cart, and the horse
ran away with him twice. Then he let the cart fall
on his foot and mash one of his toes, and he can
hardly get round, and Amanda and Alma don't dare
touch that money in the bank for fear of not having
enough to pay the taxes next year in case I don't
help them. They only had a little money on hand
when I gave them that talking to, and Christmas
is 'most here, and they haven't got things they really
need. Amanda's coat that she wore to meeting last
Sunday didn't look very warm to me, and poor
Alma had her furs chewed up by the Leach dog, and
she's going without any. They need lots of things.
And poor Mis' Adkins is 'most sick with tobacco
smoke. I can see it, though she doesn't say anything,
and the nice parlor curtains are full of it, and cat
hairs are all over things. I can't hold out any longer,
Edward. Maybe I am a door-mat; and if I am, and
it is wicked, may the Lord forgive me, for I've got
to keep right on being a door-mat."
Hayward sighed and lighted his pipe. However,
he had given up and connived with Jim.
On Christmas eve the two men were in hiding
behind a clump of cedars in the front yard of Jim's
nieces' house. They watched the expressman deliver
a great load of boxes and packages. Jim drew a
breath of joyous relief.
"They are taking them in," he whispered -- "they
are taking them in, Edward!"
Hayward looked down at the dim face of the man
beside him, and something akin to fear entered his
heart. He saw the face of a lifelong friend, but he
saw something in it which he had never recog-
nized before. He saw the face of one of the children
of heaven, giving only for the sake of the need of
others, and glorifying the gifts with the love and
pity of an angel.
"I was afraid they wouldn't take them!" whis-
pered Jim, and his watching face was beautiful,
although it was only the face of a little, old man of
a little village, with no great gift of intellect. There
was a full moon riding high; the ground was covered
with a glistening snow-level, over which wavered
wonderful shadows, as of wings. One great star pre-
vailed despite the silver might of the moon. To
Hayward Jim's face seemed to prevail, as that star,
among all the faces of humanity.
Jim crept noiselessly toward a window, Hayward
at his heels. The two could see the lighted interior
"See poor Alma trying on her furs," whispered
Jim, in a rapture. "See Amanda with her coat.
They have found the money. See Joe heft the tur-
key." Suddenly he caught Hayward's arm, and
the two crept away. Out on the road, Jim fairly
sobbed with pure delight. "Oh, Edward," he said,"I
am so thankful they took the things! I was so afraid
they wouldn't, and they needed them! Oh, Edward,
I am so thankful!" Edward pressed his friend's arm.
When they reached Jim's house a great tiger-cat
leaped to Jim's shoulder with the silence and swift-
ness of a shadow. "He's always watching for me,"
said Jim, proudly. "Pussy! Pussy!" The cat be-
gan to purr loudly, and rubbed his splendid head
against the man's cheek.
"I suppose," said Hayward, with something of
awe in his tone, "that you won't smoke in the parlor
"Edward, I really can't. Poor woman, she's got
it all aired and beautifully cleaned, and she's so
happy over it. There's a good fire in the shed, and
I will sit there with the pussy-cats until I go to bed.
Oh, Edward, I am so thankful that they took the
"Good night, Jim."
"Good night. You don't blame me, Edward?"
"Who am I to blame you, Jim? Good night."
Hayward watched the little man pass along the
path to the shed door. Jim's back was slightly
bent, but to his friend it seemed bent beneath a
holy burden of love and pity for all humanity, and
the inheritance of the meek seemed to crown that
drooping old head. The door-mat, again spread
freely for the trampling feet of all who got comfort
thereby, became a blessed thing. The humble
creature, despised and held in contempt like One
greater than he, giving for the sake of the needs
of others, went along the narrow foot-path through
the snow. The minister took off his hat and stood
watching until the door was opened and closed and
the little window gleamed with golden light.
THE AMETHYST COMB
THE AMETHYST COMB
MISS JANE CAREW was at the railroad station
waiting for the New York train. She was
about to visit her friend, Mrs. Viola Longstreet.
With Miss Carew was her maid, Margaret, a middle-
aged New England woman, attired in the stiffest
and most correct of maid-uniforms. She carried an
old, large sole-leather bag, and also a rather large
sole-leather jewel-case. The jewel-case, carried
openly, was rather an unusual sight at a New Eng-
land railroad station, but few knew what it was.
They concluded it to be Margaret's special hand-
bag. Margaret was a very tall, thin woman, un-
bending as to carriage and expression. The one
thing out of absolute plumb about Margaret was
her little black bonnet. That was askew. Time
had bereft the woman of so much hair that she could
fasten no head-gear with security, especially when
the wind blew, and that morning there was a stiff
gale. Margaret's bonnet was cocked over one eye.
Miss Carew noticed it.
"Margaret, your bonnet is crooked," she said.
Margaret straightened her bonnet, but immedi-
ately the bonnet veered again to the side, weighted
by a stiff jet aigrette. Miss Carew observed the
careen of the bonnet, realized that it was inevitable,
and did not mention it again. Inwardly she resolved
upon the removal of the jet aigrette later on. Miss
Carew was slightly older than Margaret, and dressed
in a style somewhat beyond her age. Jane Carew
had been alert upon the situation of departing youth.
She had eschewed gay colors and extreme cuts, and
had her bonnets made to order, because there were
no longer anything but hats in the millinery shop.
The milliner in Wheaton, where Miss Carew lived,
had objected, for Jane Carew inspired reverence.
"A bonnet is too old for you. Miss Carew," she
said. "Women much older than you wear hats."
"I trust that I know what is becoming to a woman
of my years, thank you. Miss Waters," Jane had
replied, and the milliner had meekly taken her order.
After Miss Carew had left, the milliner told her
girls that she had never seen a woman so perfectly
crazy to look her age as Miss Carew. "And she a
pretty woman, too," said the milliner; "as straight
as an arrer, and slim, and with all that hair, scarcely
turned at all."
Miss Carew, with all her haste to assume years,
remained a pretty woman, softly slim, with an abun-
dance of dark hair, showing little gray. Sometimes
Jane reflected, uneasily, that it ought at her time
of life to be entirely gray. She hoped nobody would
suspect her of dyeing it. She wore it parted in the
middle, folded back smoothly, and braided in a
compact mass on the top of her head. The style
of her clothes was slightly behind the fashion, just
enough to suggest conservatism and age. She car-
ried a little silver-bound bag in one nicely gloved
hand; with the other she held daintily out of the
dust of the platform her dress-skirt. A glimpse of
a silk frilled petticoat, of slender feet, and ankles
delicately slim, was visible before the onslaught of
the wind. Jane Carew made no futile effort to keep
her skirts down before the wind-gusts. She was so
much of the gentlewoman that she could be gravely
oblivious to the exposure of her ankles. She looked
as if she had never heard of ankles when her black
silk skirts lashed about them. She rose superbly
above the situation. For some abstruse reason Mar-
garet's skirts were not affected by the wind. They
might have been weighted with buckram, although
it was no longer in general use. She stood, except
for her veering bonnet, as stiffly immovable as a
Miss Carew seldom left Wheaton. This visit to
New York was an innovation. Quite a crowd gath-
ered about Jane's sole-leather trunk when it was
dumped on the platform by the local expressman.
"Miss Carew is going to New York," one said to
another, with much the same tone as if he had said,
"The great elm on the common is going to move
into Dr. Jones's front yard."
When the train arrived, Miss Carew, followed by
Margaret, stepped aboard with a majestic disregard
of ankles. She sat beside a window, and Margaret
placed the bag on the floor and held the jewel-case
in her lap. The case contained the Carew jewels.
They were not especially valuable, although they
were rather numerous. There were cameos in
brooches and heavy gold bracelets; corals which
Miss Carew had not worn since her young girlhood.
There were a set of garnets, some badly cut diamonds
in ear-rings and rings, some seed-pearl ornaments,
and a really beautiful set of amethysts. There were
a necklace, two brooches -- a bar and a circle -- ear-
rings, a ring, and a comb. Each piece was charm-
ing, set in filigree gold with seed-pearls, but perhaps
of them all the comb was the best. It was a very
large comb. There was one great amethyst in the
center of the top; on either side was an intricate
pattern of plums in small amethysts, and seed-pearl
grapes, with leaves and stems of gold. Margaret
in charge of the jewel-case was imposing. When
they arrived in New York she confronted every-
body whom she met with a stony stare, which was
almost accusative and convictive of guilt, in spite
of entire innocence on the part of the person stared
at. It was inconceivable that any mortal would
have dared lay violent hands upon that jewel-case
under that stare. It would have seemed to partake
of the nature of grand larceny from Providence.
When the two reached the up-town residence of
Viola Longstreet, Viola gave a little scream at the
sight of the case.
"My dear Jane Carew, here you are with Mar-
garet carrying that jewel-case out in plain sight.
How dare you do such a thing? I really wonder
you have not been held up a dozen times."
Miss Carew smiled her gentle but almost stern
smile -- the Carew smile, which consisted in a widen-
ing and slightly upward curving of tightly closed lips.
"I do not think," said she, "that anybody would
be apt to interfere with Margaret."
Viola Longstreet laughed, the ringing peal of a
child, although she was as old as Miss Carew. "I
think you are right, Jane," said she. "I don't be-
lieve a crook in New York would dare face that
maid of yours. He would as soon encounter Ply-
mouth Rock. I am glad you have brought your de-
lightful old jewels, although you never wear any-
thing except those lovely old pearl sprays and dull
"Now," stated Jane, with a little toss of pride,
"I have Aunt Felicia's amethysts."
"Oh, sure enough! I remember you did write
me last summer that she had died and you had the
amethysts at last. She must have been very old."
"She might have given you the amethysts before.
You, of course, will wear them; and I -- am going
to borrow the corals!"
Jane Carew gasped.
"You do not object, do you, dear? I have a new
dinner-gown which clamors for corals, and my bank-
account is strained, and I could buy none equal to
those of yours, anyway."
"Oh, I do not object," said Jane Carew; still she
Viola Longstreet shrieked with laughter. "Oh,
I know. You think the corals too young for me.
You have not worn them since you left off dotted
muslin. My dear, you insisted upon growing old
-- I insisted upon remaining young. I had two
new dotted muslins last summer. As for corals, I
would wear them in the face of an opposing army!
Do not judge me by yourself, dear. You laid hold
of Age and held him, although you had your com-
plexion and your shape and hair. As for me, I had
my complexion and kept it. I also had my hair
and kept it. My shape has been a struggle, but it
was worth while. I, my dear, have held Youth so
tight that he has almost choked to death, but held
him I have. You cannot deny it. Look at me,
Jane Carew, and tell me if, judging by my looks,
you can reasonably state that I have no longer the
right to wear corals."
Jane Carew looked. She smiled the Carew smile.
"You DO look very young, Viola," said Jane, "but
you are not."
"Jane Carew," said Viola, "I am young. May
I wear your corals at my dinner to-morrow night?"
"Why, of course, if you think --"
"If I think them suitable. My dear, if there
were on this earth ornaments more suitable to ex-
treme youth than corals, I would borrow them if you
owned them, but, failing that, the corals will answer.
Wait until you see me in that taupe dinner-gown
and the corals!"
Jane waited. She visited with Viola, whom she
loved, although they had little in common, partly
because of leading widely different lives, partly be-
cause of constitutional variations. She was dressed
for dinner fully an hour before it was necessary,
and she sat in the library reading when Viola
Viola was really entrancing. It was a pity that
Jane Carew had such an unswerving eye for the
essential truth that it could not be appeased by
actual effect. Viola had doubtless, as she had said,
struggled to keep her slim shape, but she had kept
it, and, what was more, kept it without evidence
of struggle. If she was in the least hampered by
tight lacing and length of undergarment, she gave
no evidence of it as she curled herself up in a big
chair and (Jane wondered how she could bring her-
self to do it) crossed her legs, revealing one delicate
foot and ankle, silk-stockinged with taupe, and shod
with a coral satin slipper with a silver heel and a
great silver buckle. On Viola's fair round neck the
Carew corals lay bloomingly; her beautiful arms
were clasped with them; a great coral brooch with
wonderful carving confined a graceful fold of the
taupe over one hip, a coral comb surmounted the
shining waves of Viola's hair. Viola was an ash-
blonde, her complexion was as roses, and the corals
were ideal for her. As Jane regarded her friend's
beauty, however, the fact that Viola was not young,
that she was as old as herself, hid it and overshad-
"Well, Jane, don't you think I look well in the
corals, after all?" asked Viola, and there was some-
thing pitiful in her voice.
When a man or a woman holds fast to youth, even
if successfully, there is something of the pitiful and
the tragic involved. It is the everlasting struggle
of the soul to retain the joy of earth, whose fleeting
distinguishes it from heaven, and whose retention
is not accomplished without an inner knowledge of
"I suppose you do, Viola," replied Jane Carew,
with the inflexibility of fate, "but I really think
that only very young girls ought to wear corals."
Viola laughed, but the laugh had a minor cadence.
"But I AM a young girl, Jane," she said. "I MUST
be a young girl. I never had any girlhood when I
should have had. You know that."
Viola had married, when very young, a man old
enough to be her father, and her wedded life had been
a sad affair, to which, however, she seldom alluded.
Viola had much pride with regard to the inevitable
"Yes," agreed Jane. Then she added, feeling
that more might be expected, "Of course I suppose
that marrying so very young does make a difference."
"Yes," said Viola, "it does. In fact, it makes of
one's girlhood an anti-climax, of which many dis-
pute the wisdom, as you do. But have it I will. Jane,
your amethysts are beautiful."
Jane regarded the clear purple gleam of a stone
on her arm. "Yes," she agreed, "Aunt Felicia's ame-
thysts have always been considered very beautiful."
"And such a full set," said Viola.
"Yes," said Jane. She colored a little, but Viola
did not know why. At the last moment Jane had
decided not to wear the amethyst comb, because it
seemed to her altogether too decorative for a woman
of her age, and she was afraid to mention it to Viola.
She was sure that Viola would laugh at her and in-
sist upon her wearing it.
"The ear-rings are lovely," said Viola. "My dear,
I don't see how you ever consented to have your
"I was very young, and my mother wished me
to," replied Jane, blushing.
The door-bell rang. Viola had been covertly lis-
tening for it all the time. Soon a very beautiful
young man came with a curious dancing step into
the room. Harold Lind always gave the effect of
dancing when he walked. He always, moreover,
gave the effect of extreme youth and of the utmost
joy and mirth in life itself. He regarded everything
and everybody with a smile as of humorous appre-
ciation, and yet the appreciation was so good-
natured that it offended nobody.
"Look at me -- I am absurd and happy; look at
yourself, also absurd and happy; look at every-
body else likewise; look at life -- a jest so delicious
that it is quite worth one's while dying to be made
acquainted with it." That is what Harold Lind
seemed to say. Viola Longstreet became even more
youthful under his gaze; even Jane Carew regretted
that she had not worn her amethyst comb and be-
gan to doubt its unsuitability. Viola very soon
called the young man's attention to Jane's ame-
thysts, and Jane always wondered why she did not
then mention the comb. She removed a brooch and
a bracelet for him to inspect.
"They are really wonderful," he declared. "I
have never seen greater depth of color in amethysts."
"Mr. Lind is an authority on jewels," declared
Viola. The young man shot a curious glance at her,
which Jane remembered long afterward. It was one
of those glances which are as keystones to situations.
Harold looked at the purple stones with the ex-
pression of a child with a toy. There was much of
the child in the young man's whole appearance,
but of a mischievous and beautiful child, of whom
his mother might observe, with adoration and ill-
concealed boastfulness, "I can never tell what that
child will do next!"
Harold returned the bracelet and brooch to Jane,
and smiled at her as if amethysts were a lovely
purple joke between her and himself, uniting them
by a peculiar bond of fine understanding. "Exqui-
site, Miss Carew," he said. Then he looked at Viola.
"Those corals suit you wonderfully, Mrs. Long-
street," he observed, "but amethysts would also
"Not with this gown," replied Viola, rather piti-
fully. There was something in the young man's
gaze and tone which she did not understand, but
which she vaguely quivered before.
Harold certainly thought the corals were too young
for Viola. Jane understood, and felt an unworthy
triumph. Harold, who was young enough in actual
years to be Viola's son, and was younger still by
reason of his disposition, was amused by the sight
of her in corals, although he did not intend to be-
tray his amusement. He considered Viola in corals
as too rude a jest to share with her. Had poor Viola
once grasped Harold Lind's estimation of her she
would have as soon gazed upon herself in her cof-
fin. Harold's comprehension of the essentials was
beyond Jane Carew's. It was fairly ghastly, par-
taking of the nature of X-rays, but it never disturbed
Harold Lind. He went along his dance-track undis-
turbed, his blue eyes never losing their high lights
of glee, his lips never losing their inscrutable smile
at some happy understanding between life and him-
self. Harold had fair hair, which was very smooth
and glossy. His skin was like a girl's. He was so
beautiful that he showed cleverness in an affecta-
tion of carelessness in dress. He did not like to wear
evening clothes, because they had necessarily to
be immaculate. That evening Jane regarded him
with an inward criticism that he was too handsome
for a man. She told Viola so when the dinner was
over and he and the other guests had gone.
"He is very handsome," she said, "but I never
like to see a man quite so handsome."
"You will change your mind when you see him
in tweeds," returned Viola. "He loathes evening
Jane regarded her anxiously. There was some-
thing in Viola's tone which disturbed and shocked
her. It was inconceivable that Viola should be in
love with that youth, and yet -- "He looks very
young," said Jane in a prim voice.
"He IS young," admitted Viola; "still, not quite
so young as he looks. Sometimes I tell him he will
look like a boy if he lives to be eighty."
"Well, he must be very young," persisted Jane.
"Yes," said Viola, but she did not say how young.
Viola herself, now that the excitement was over,
did not look so young as at the beginning of the
evening. She removed the corals, and Jane con-
sidered that she looked much better without
"Thank you for your corals, dear," said Viola.
"Where Is Margaret?"
Margaret answered for herself by a tap on the
door. She and Viola's maid, Louisa, had been sit-
ting on an upper landing, out of sight, watching the
guests down-stairs. Margaret took the corals and
placed them in their nest in the jewel-case, also the
amethysts, after Viola had gone. The jewel-case
was a curious old affair with many compartments.
The amethysts required two. The comb was so
large that it had one for itself. That was the reason
why Margaret did not discover that evening that it
was gone. Nobody discovered it for three days,
when Viola had a little card-party. There was a
whist-table for Jane, who had never given up the
reserved and stately game. There were six tables
in Viola's pretty living-room, with a little conserva-
tory at one end and a leaping hearth fire at the other.
Jane's partner was a stout old gentleman whose wife
was shrieking with merriment at an auction-bridge
table. The other whist-players were a stupid, very
small young man who was aimlessly willing to play
anything, and an amiable young woman who be-
lieved in self-denial. Jane played conscientiously.
She returned trump leads, and played second hand
low, and third high, and it was not until the third
rubber was over that she saw. It had been in full
evidence from the first. Jane would have seen it
before the guests arrived, but Viola had not put it
in her hair until the last moment. Viola was wild
with delight, yet shamefaced and a trifle uneasy.
In a soft, white gown, with violets at her waist, she
was playing with Harold Lind, and in her ash-blond
hair was Jane Carew's amethyst comb. Jane gasped
and paled. The amiable young woman who was her
opponent stared at her. Finally she spoke in a low
"Aren't you well. Miss Carew?" she asked.
The men, in their turn, stared. The stout one
rose fussily. "Let me get a glass of water," he said.
The stupid small man stood up and waved his hands
"Aren't you well?" asked the amiable young lady
Then Jane Carew recovered her poise. It was
seldom that she lost it. "I am quite well, thank you,
Miss Murdock," she replied. "I believe diamonds
They all settled again to the play, but the young
lady and the two men continued glancing at Miss
Carew. She had recovered her dignity of manner,
but not her color. Moreover, she had a bewildered
expression. Resolutely she abstained from glancing
again at her amethyst comb in Viola Longstreet's
ash-blond hair, and gradually, by a course of sub-
conscious reasoning as she carefully played her cards,
she arrived at a conclusion which caused her color
to return and the bewildered expression to disappear.
When refreshments were served, the amiable young
lady said, kindly:
"You look quite yourself, now, dear Miss Carew,
but at one time while we were playing I was really
alarmed. You were very pale."
"I did not feel in the least ill," replied Jane
Carew. She smiled her Carew smile at the young
lady. Jane had settled it with herself that of course
Viola had borrowed that amethyst comb, appealing
to Margaret. Viola ought not to have done that;
she should have asked her, Miss Carew; and Jane
wondered, because Viola was very well bred; but
of course that was what had happened. Jane had
come down before Viola, leaving Margaret in her
room, and Viola had asked her. Jane did not then
remember that Viola had not even been told that
there was an amethyst comb in existence. She
remembered when Margaret, whose face was as
pale and bewildered as her own, mentioned it, when
she was brushing her hair.
"I saw it, first thing. Miss Jane," said Margaret.
"Louisa and I were on the landing, and I looked
down and saw your amethyst comb in Mrs. Long-
"She had asked you for it, because I had gone
down-stairs?" asked Jane, feebly.
"No, Miss Jane. I had not seen her. I went
out right after you did. Louisa had finished Mrs.
Longstreet, and she and I went down to the mail-
box to post a letter, and then we sat on the landing,
and -- I saw your comb."
"Have you," asked Jane, "looked in the jewel-
"Yes, Miss Jane."
"And it is not there?"
"It is not there. Miss Jane." Margaret spoke with
a sort of solemn intoning. She recognized what the
situation implied, and she, who fitted squarely and
entirely into her humble state, was aghast before
a hitherto unimagined occurrence. She could not,
even with the evidence of her senses against a lady
and her mistress's old friend, believe in them. Had
Jane told her firmly that she had not seen that
comb in that ash-blond hair she might have been
hypnotized into agreement. But Jane simply stared
at her, and the Carew dignity was more shaken than
she had ever seen it.
"Bring the jewel-case here, Margaret," ordered
Jane in a gasp.
Margaret brought the jewel-case, and everything
was taken out; all the compartments were opened,
but the amethyst comb was not there. Jane could
not sleep that night. At dawn she herself doubted
the evidence of her senses. The jewel-case was thor-
oughly overlooked again, and still Jane was incredu-
lous that she would ever see her comb in Viola's
hair again. But that evening, although there were
no guests except Harold Lind, who dined at the
house, Viola appeared in a pink-tinted gown, with a
knot of violets at her waist, and -- she wore the ame-
thyst comb. She said not one word concerning it;
nobody did. Harold Lind was in wild spirits. The
conviction grew upon Jane that the irresponsible,
beautiful youth was covertly amusing himself at her,
at Viola's, at everybody's expense. Perhaps he
included himself. He talked incessantly, not in
reality brilliantly, but with an effect of sparkling
effervescence which was fairly dazzling. Viola's
servants restrained with difficulty their laughter at
his sallies. Viola regarded Harold with ill-concealed
tenderness and admiration. She herself looked even
younger than usual, as if the innate youth in her
leaped to meet this charming comrade.
Jane felt sickened by it all. She could not under-
stand her friend. Not for one minute did she dream
that there could be any serious outcome of the
situation; that Viola, would marry this mad youth,
who, she knew, was making such covert fun at her
expense; but she was bewildered and indignant.
She wished that she had not come. That evening
when she went to her room she directed Margaret
to pack, as she intended to return home the next
day. Margaret began folding gowns with alacrity.
She was as conservative as her mistress and she
severely disapproved of many things. However, the
matter of the amethyst comb was uppermost in her
mind. She was wild with curiosity. She hardly
dared inquire, but finally she did.
"About the amethyst comb, ma'am?" she said,
with a delicate cough.
"What about it, Margaret?" returned Jane,
"I thought perhaps Mrs. Longstreet had told you
how she happened to have it."
Poor Jane Carew had nobody in whom to confide.
For once she spoke her mind to her maid. "She
has not said one word. And, oh, Margaret, I don't
know what to think of it."
Margaret pursed her lips.
"What do YOU think, Margaret?"
"I don't know. Miss Jane."
"I did not mention it to Louisa," said Margaret.
"Oh, I hope not!" cried Jane.
"But she did to me," said Margaret. "She asked
had I seen Miss Viola's new comb, and then she
laughed, and I thought from the way she acted
that --" Margaret hesitated.
"That she meant Mr. Lind had given Miss Viola
Jane started violently. "Absolutely impossible!"
she cried. "That, of course, is nonsense. There
must be some explanation. Probably Mrs. Long-
street will explain before we go."
Mrs. Longstreet did not explain. She wondered
and expostulated when Jane announced her firm
determination to leave, but she seemed utterly at
a loss for the reason. She did not mention the comb.
When Jane Carew took leave of her old friend she
was entirely sure in her own mind that she would
never visit her again -- might never even see her
Jane was unutterably thankful to be back in her
own peaceful home, over which no shadow of absurd
mystery brooded; only a calm afternoon light of
life, which disclosed gently but did not conceal or
betray. Jane settled back into her pleasant life,
and the days passed, and the weeks, and the months,
and the years. She heard nothing whatever from
or about Viola Longstreet for three years. Then, one
day, Margaret returned from the city, and she had
met Viola's old maid Louisa in a department store,
and she had news. Jane wished for strength to
refuse to listen, but she could not muster it. She
listened while Margaret brushed her hair.
"Louisa has not been with Miss Viola for a long
time," said Margaret. "She is living with some-
body else. Miss Viola lost her money, and had to
give up her house and her servants, and Louisa said
she cried when she said good-by."
Jane made an effort. "What became of --" she
Margaret answered the unfinished sentence. She
was excited by gossip as by a stimulant. Her thin
cheeks burned, her eyes blazed. "Mr. Lind," said
Margaret, "Louisa told me, had turned out to be
real bad. He got into some money trouble, and
then" -- Margaret lowered her voice -- "he was ar-
rested for taking a lot of money which didn't belong
to him. Louisa said he had been in some business
where he handled a lot of other folks' money, and
he cheated the men who were in the business with
him, and he was tried, and Miss Viola, Louisa thinks,
hid away somewhere so they wouldn't call her to
testify, and then he had to go to prison; but --"
"What is it?" asked Jane.
"Louisa thinks he died about a year and a half
ago. She heard the lady where she lives now talking
about it. The lady used to know Miss Viola, and
she heard the lady say Mr. Lind had died in prison,
that he couldn't stand the hard life, and that Miss
Viola had lost all her money through him, and then"
-- Margaret hesitated again, and her mistress prodded
sharply -- "Louisa said that she heard the lady say
that she had thought Miss Viola would marry him,
but she hadn't, and she had more sense than she
"Mrs. Longstreet would never for one moment
have entertained the thought of marrying Mr. Lind;
he was young enough to be her grandson," said
"Yes, ma'am," said Margaret.
It so happened that Jane went to New York
that day week, and at a jewelry counter in one of
the shops she discovered the amethyst comb. There
were on sale a number of bits of antique jewelry,
the precious flotsam and jetsam of old and wealthy
families which had drifted, nobody knew before
what currents of adversity, into that harbor of
sale for all the world to see. Jane made no inquiries;
the saleswoman volunteered simply the information
that the comb was a real antique, and the stones
were real amethysts and pearls, and the setting was
solid gold, and the price was thirty dollars; and
Jane bought it. She carried her old amethyst comb
home, but she did not show it to anybody. She
replaced it in its old compartment in her jewel-
case and thought of it with wonder, with a hint of
joy at regaining it, and with much sadness. She
was still fond of Viola Longstreet. Jane did not
easily part with her loves. She did not know where
Viola was. Margaret had inquired of Louisa, who
did not know. Poor Viola had probably drifted
into some obscure harbor of life wherein she was
hiding until life was over.
And then Jane met Viola one spring day on Fifth
"It is a very long time since I have seen you,"
said Jane with a reproachful accent, but her eyes
were tenderly inquiring.
"Yes," agreed Viola. Then she added, "I have
seen nobody. Do you know what a change has come
in my life?" she asked.
"Yes, dear," replied Jane, gently. "My Margaret
met Louisa once and she told her."
"Oh yes -- Louisa," said Viola. "I had to dis-
charge her. My money is about gone. I have only
just enough to keep the wolf from entering the door
of a hall bedroom in a respectable boarding-house.
However, I often hear him howl, but I do not mind
at all. In fact, the howling has become company
for me. I rather like it. It is queer what things one
can learn to like. There are a few left yet, like the
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