The Copy-Cat & Other Stories
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Part 5 out of 7
awful heat in summer, and the food, which I do not
fancy, but that is simply a matter of time."
Viola's laugh was like a bird's song -- a part of her
-- and nothing except death could silence it for long.
"Then," said Jane, "you stay in New York all
Viola laughed again. "My dear," she replied,
"of course. It is all very simple. If I left New
York, and paid board anywhere, I would never have
enough money to buy my return fare, and certainly
not to keep that wolf from my hall-bedroom door."
"Then," said Jane, "you are going home with me."
"I cannot consent to accept charity, Jane," said
Viola. "Don't ask me."
Then, for the first time in her life, Viola Longstreet
saw Jane Carew's eyes blaze with anger. "You
dare to call it charity coming from me to you?"
she said, and Viola gave in.
When Jane saw the little room where Viola lived,
she marveled, with the exceedingly great marveling
of a woman to whom love of a man has never come,
at a woman who could give so much and with no
Little enough to pack had Viola. Jane under-
stood with a shudder of horror that it was almost
destitution, not poverty, to which her old friend was
"You shall have that northeast room which you
always liked," she told Viola when they were on
"The one with the old-fashioned peacock paper,
and the pine-tree growing close to one window?"
said Viola, happily.
Jane and Viola settled down to life together,
and Viola, despite the tragedy which she had known,
realized a peace and happiness beyond her imagina-
tion. In reality, although she still looked so youth-
ful, she was old enough to enjoy the pleasures of later
life. Enjoy them she did to the utmost. She and
Jane made calls together, entertained friends at
small and stately dinners, and gave little teas. They
drove about in the old Carew carriage. Viola had
some new clothes. She played very well on Jane's
old piano. She embroidered, she gardened. She
lived the sweet, placid life of an older lady in a little
village, and loved it. She never mentioned Harold
Not among the vicious of the earth was poor Har-
old Lind; rather among those of such beauty and
charm that the earth spoils them, making them, in
their own estimation, free guests at all its tables
of bounty. Moreover, the young man had, deeply
rooted in his character, the traits of a mischievous
child, rejoicing in his mischief more from a sense of
humor so keen that it verged on cruelty than from
any intention to harm others. Over that affair of
the amethyst comb, for instance, his irresponsible,
selfish, childish soul had fairly reveled in glee. He
had not been fond of Viola, but he liked her fondness
for himself. He had made sport of her, but only
for his own entertainment -- never for the entertain-
ment of others. He was a beautiful creature, seeking
out paths of pleasure and folly for himself alone,
which ended as do all paths of earthly pleasure and
folly. Harold had admired Viola, but from the same
point of view as Jane Carew's. Viola had, when she
looked her youngest and best, always seemed so
old as to be venerable to him. He had at times
compunctions, as if he were making a jest of his
grandmother. Viola never knew the truth about the
amethyst comb. He had considered that one of the
best frolics of his life. He had simply purloined it
and presented it to Viola, and merrily left matters
to settle themselves.
Viola and Jane had lived together a month before
the comb was mentioned. Then one day Viola was
in Jane's room and the jewel-case was out, and she
began examining its contents. When she found the
amethyst comb she gave a little cry. Jane, who had
been seated at her desk and had not seen what was
going on, turned around.
Viola stood holding the comb, and her cheeks
were burning. She fondled the trinket as if it had
been a baby. Jane watched her. She began to
understand the bare facts of the mystery of the dis-
appearance of her amethyst comb, but the subtlety
of it was forever beyond her. Had the other woman
explained what was in her mind, in her heart -- how
that reckless young man whom she had loved had
given her the treasure because he had heard her
admire Jane's amethysts, and she, all unconscious
of any wrong-doing, had ever regarded it as the one
evidence of his thoughtful tenderness, it being the
one gift she had ever received from him; how she
parted with it, as she had parted with her other
jewels, in order to obtain money to purchase com-
forts for him while he was in prison -- Jane could
not have understood. The fact of an older woman
being fond of a young man, almost a boy, was be-
yond her mental grasp. She had no imagination
with which to comprehend that innocent, pathetic,
almost terrible love of one who has trodden the
earth long for one who has just set dancing feet
upon it. It was noble of Jane Carew that, lacking
all such imagination, she acted as she did: that, al-
though she did not, could not, formulate it to herself,
she would no more have deprived the other woman
and the dead man of that one little unscathed bond
of tender goodness than she would have robbed
his grave of flowers.
Viola looked at her. "I cannot tell you all about
it; you would laugh at me," she whispered; "but
this was mine once."
"It is yours now, dear," said Jane.
THE UMBRELLA MAN
THE UMBRELLA MAN
IT was an insolent day. There are days which,
to imaginative minds, at least, possess strangely
human qualities. Their atmospheres predispose peo-
ple to crime or virtue, to the calm of good will, to
sneaking vice, or fierce, unprovoked aggression. The
day was of the last description. A beast, or a human
being in whose veins coursed undisciplined blood,
might, as involuntarily as the boughs of trees lash
before storms, perform wild and wicked deeds after
inhaling that hot air, evil with the sweat of sin-
evoked toil, with nitrogen stored from festering sores
of nature and the loathsome emanations of suffering
It had not rained for weeks, but the humidity was
great. The clouds of dust which arose beneath the
man's feet had a horrible damp stickiness. His face
and hands were grimy, as were his shoes, his cheap,
ready-made suit, and his straw hat. However, the
man felt a pride in his clothes, for they were at least
the garb of freedom. He had come out of prison the
day before, and had scorned the suit proffered him
by the officials. He had given it away, and bought
a new one with a goodly part of his small stock of
money. This suit was of a small-checked pattern.
Nobody could tell from it that the wearer had just
left jail. He had been there for several years for
one of the minor offenses against the law. His term
would probably have been shorter, but the judge
had been careless, and he had no friends. Stebbins
had never been the sort to make many friends,
although he had never cherished animosity toward
any human being. Even some injustice in his sen-
tence had not caused him to feel any rancor.
During his stay in the prison he had not been
really unhappy. He had accepted the inevitable --
the yoke of the strong for the weak -- with a patience
which brought almost a sense of enjoyment. But,
now that he was free, he had suddenly become alert,
watchful of chances for his betterment. From being
a mere kenneled creature he had become as a
hound on the scent, the keenest on earth -- that of
self-interest. He was changed, while yet living, from
a being outside the world to one with the world
before him. He felt young, although he was a
middle-aged, almost elderly man. He had in his
pocket only a few dollars. He might have had more
had he not purchased the checked suit and had he
not given much away. There was another man whose
term would be up in a week, and he had a sickly
wife and several children. Stebbins, partly from
native kindness and generosity, partly from a senti-
ment which almost amounted to superstition, had
given him of his slender store. He had been de-
prived of his freedom because of money; he said to
himself that his return to it should be heralded by the
music of it scattered abroad for the good of another.
Now and then as he walked Stebbins removed his
new straw hat, wiped his forehead with a stiff new
handkerchief, looked with some concern at the grime
left upon it, then felt anxiously of his short crop
of grizzled hair. He would be glad when it grew
only a little, for it was at present a telltale to obser-
vant eyes. Also now and then he took from another
pocket a small mirror which he had just purchased,
and scrutinized his face. Every time he did so he
rubbed his cheeks violently, then viewed with satis-
faction the hard glow which replaced the yellow
prison pallor. Every now and then, too, he remem-
bered to throw his shoulders back, hold his chin
high, and swing out his right leg more freely. At
such times he almost swaggered, he became fairly
insolent with his new sense of freedom. He felt
himself the equal if not the peer of all creation.
Whenever a carriage or a motor-car passed him on the
country road he assumed, with the skill of an actor,
the air of a business man hastening to an important
engagement. However, always his mind was work-
ing over a hard problem. He knew that his store of
money was scanty, that it would not last long even
with the strictest economy; he had no friends; a
prison record is sure to leak out when a man seeks
a job. He was facing the problem of bare existence.
Although the day was so hot, it was late summer;
soon would come the frost and the winter. He wished
to live to enjoy his freedom, and all he had for assets
was that freedom; which was paradoxical, for it
did not signify the ability to obtain work, which
was the power of life. Outside the stone wall of the
prison he was now inclosed by a subtle, intangible,
yet infinitely more unyielding one -- the prejudice
of his kind against the released prisoner. He was
to all intents and purposes a prisoner still, for all his
spurts of swagger and the youthful leap of his pulses,
and while he did not admit that to himself, yet
always, since he had the hard sense of the land of
his birth -- New England -- he pondered that problem
of existence. He felt instinctively that it would be
a useless proceeding for him to approach any human
being for employment. He knew that even the
freedom, which he realized through all his senses
like an essential perfume, could not yet overpower
the reek of the prison. As he walked through the
clogging dust he thought of one after another whom
he had known before he had gone out of the world
of free men and had bent his back under the hand of
the law. There were, of course, people in his little
native village, people who had been friends and
neighbors, but there were none who had ever loved
him sufficiently for him to conquer his resolve to
never ask aid of them. He had no relatives except
cousins more or less removed, and they would have
nothing to do with him.
There had been a woman whom he had meant to
marry, and he had been sure that she would marry
him; but after he had been a year in prison the
news had come to him in a roundabout fashion that
she had married another suitor. Even had she re-
mained single he could not have approached her,
least of all for aid. Then, too, through all his term
she had made no sign, there had been no letter, no
message; and he had received at first letters and
flowers and messages from sentimental women.
There had been nothing from her. He had accepted
nothing, with the curious patience, carrying an odd
pleasure with it, which had come to him when the
prison door first closed upon him. He had not for-
gotten her, but he had not consciously mourned
her. His loss, his ruin, had been so tremendous that
she had been swallowed up in it. When one's
whole system needs to be steeled to trouble and pain,
single pricks lose importance. He thought of her
that day without any sense of sadness. He imagined
her in a pretty, well-ordered home with her husband
and children. Perhaps she had grown stout. She
had been a slender woman. He tried idly to imagine
how she would look stout, then by the sequence of
self-preservation the imagination of stoutness in an-
other led to the problem of keeping the covering
of flesh and fatness upon his own bones. The ques-
tion now was not of the woman; she had passed
out of his life. The question was of the keeping that
life itself, the life which involved everything else,
in a hard world, which would remorselessly as a steel
trap grudge him life and snap upon him, now he was
become its prey.
He walked and walked, and it was high noon, and
he was hungry. He had in his pocket a small loaf
of bread and two frankfurters, and he heard the
splashing ripple of a brook. At that juncture the
road was bordered by thick woodland. He followed,
pushing his way through the trees and undergrowth,
the sound of the brook, and sat down in a cool,
green solitude with a sigh of relief. He bent over
the clear run, made a cup of his hand, and drank,
then he fell to eating. Close beside him grew some
wintergreen, and when he had finished his bread and
frankfurters he began plucking the glossy, aromatic
leaves and chewing them automatically. The savor
reached his palate, and his memory awakened before
it as before a pleasant tingling of a spur. As a boy
how he had loved this little green low-growing plant!
It had been one of the luxuries of his youth. Now,
as he tasted it, joy and pathos stirred in his very
soul. What a wonder youth had been, what a
splendor, what an immensity to be rejoiced over
and regretted! The man lounging beside the brook,
chewing wintergreen leaves, seemed to realize anti-
podes. He lived for the moment in the past, and
the immutable future, which might contain the past
in the revolution of time. He smiled, and his face
fell into boyish, almost childish, contours. He
plucked another glossy leaf with his hard, veinous
old hands. His hands would not change to suit his
mood, but his limbs relaxed like those of a boy. He
stared at the brook gurgling past in brown ripples,
shot with dim prismatic lights, showing here clear
green water lines, here inky depths, and he thought
of the possibility of trout. He wished for fishing-
Then suddenly out of a mass of green looked two
girls, with wide, startled eyes, and rounded mouths
of terror which gave vent to screams. There was a
scuttling, then silence. The man wondered why
the girls were so silly, why they ran. He did not
dream of the possibility of their terror of him. He
ate another wintergreen leaf, and thought of the
woman he had expected to marry when he was ar-
rested and imprisoned. She did not go back to his
childish memories. He had met her when first youth
had passed, and yet, somehow, the savor of the
wintergreen leaves brought her face before him. It
is strange how the excitement of one sense will some-
times act as stimulant for the awakening of another.
Now the sense of taste brought into full activity
that of sight. He saw the woman just as she had
looked when he had last seen her. She had not been
pretty, but she was exceedingly dainty, and pos-
sessed of a certain elegance of carriage which at-
tracted. He saw quite distinctly her small, irregu-
lar face and the satin-smooth coils of dark hair
around her head; he saw her slender, dusky hands
with the well-cared-for nails and the too prominent
veins; he saw the gleam of the diamond which he
had given her. She had sent it to him just after his
arrest, and he had returned it. He wondered idly
whether she still owned it and wore it, and what her
husband thought of it. He speculated childishly --
somehow imprisonment had encouraged the return
of childish speculations -- as to whether the woman's
husband had given her a larger and costlier diamond
than his, and he felt a pang of jealousy. He re-
fused to see another diamond than his own upon
that slender, dark hand. He saw her in a black silk
gown which had been her best. There had been
some red about it, and a glitter of jet. He had
thought it a magnificent gown, and the woman in it
like a princess. He could see her leaning back, in
her long slim grace, in a corner of a sofa, and the
soft dark folds starry with jet sweeping over her
knees and just allowing a glimpse of one little foot.
Her feet had been charming, very small and highly
arched. Then he remembered that that evening
they had been to a concert in the town hall, and
that afterward they had partaken of an oyster stew
in a little restaurant. Then back his mind traveled
to the problem of his own existence, his food and
shelter and clothes. He dismissed the woman from
his thought. He was concerned now with the primal
conditions of life itself. How was he to eat when
his little stock of money was gone? He sat staring
at the brook; he chewed wintergreen leaves no
longer. Instead he drew from his pocket an old
pipe and a paper of tobacco. He filled his pipe
with care -- tobacco was precious; then he began to
smoke, but his face now looked old and brooding
through the rank blue vapor. Winter was coming,
and he had not a shelter. He had not money enough
to keep him long from starvation. He knew not
how to obtain employment. He thought vaguely of
wood-piles, of cutting winter fuel for people. His
mind traveled in a trite strain of reasoning. Some-
how wood-piles seemed the only available tasks for
men of his sort.
Presently he finished his filled pipe, and arose
with an air of decision. He went at a brisk pace
out of the wood and was upon the road again. He
progressed like a man with definite business in view
until he reached a house. It was a large white
farm-house with many outbuildings. It looked most
promising. He approached the side door, and a
dog sprang from around a corner and barked, but
he spoke, and the dog's tail became eloquent. He
was patting the dog, when the door opened and a
man stood looking at him. Immediately the taint
of the prison became evident. He had not cringed
before the dog, but he did cringe before the man
who lived in that fine white house, and who had
never known what it was to be deprived of liberty.
He hung his head, he mumbled. The house-owner,
who was older than he, was slightly deaf. He
looked him over curtly. The end of it was he was
ordered off the premises, and went; but the dog
trailed, wagging at his heels, and had to be roughly
called back. The thought of the dog comforted
Stebbins as he went on his way. He had always
liked animals. It was something, now he was past
a hand-shake, to have the friendly wag of a dog's
The next house was an ornate little cottage with
bay-windows, through which could be seen the flower
patterns of lace draperies; the Virginia creeper
which grew over the house walls was turning crim-
son in places. Stebbins went around to the back
door and knocked, but nobody came. He waited
a long time, for he had spied a great pile of uncut
wood. Finally he slunk around to the front door.
As he went he suddenly reflected upon his state of
mind in days gone by; if he could have known that
the time would come when he, Joseph Stebbins,
would feel culpable at approaching any front door!
He touched the electric bell and stood close to the
door, so that he might not be discovered from the
windows. Presently the door opened the length
of a chain, and a fair girlish head appeared. She
was one of the girls who had been terrified by him
in the woods, but that he did not know. Now again
her eyes dilated and her pretty mouth rounded!
She gave a little cry and slammed the door in his
face, and he heard excited voices. Then he saw two
pale, pretty faces, the faces of the two girls who had
come upon him in the wood, peering at him around
a corner of the lace in the bay-window, and he under-
stood what it meant -- that he was an object of ter-
ror to them. Directly he experienced such a sense
of mortal insult as he had never known, not even
when the law had taken hold of him. He held his
head high and went away, his very soul boiling with
a sort of shamed rage. "Those two girls are afraid
of me," he kept saying to himself. His knees shook
with the horror of it. This terror of him seemed the
hardest thing to bear in a hard life. He returned
to his green nook beside the brook and sat down
again. He thought for the moment no more of wood-
piles, of his life. He thought about those two young
girls who had been afraid of him. He had never had
an impulse to harm any living thing. A curious
hatred toward these living things who had accused
him of such an impulse came over him. He laughed
sardonically. He wished that they would again
come and peer at him through the bushes; he would
make a threatening motion for the pleasure of seeing
the silly things scuttle away.
After a while he put it all out of mind, and again
returned to his problem. He lay beside the brook
and pondered, and finally fell asleep in the hot air,
which increased in venom, until the rattle of thun-
der awoke him. It was very dark -- a strange, livid
darkness. "A thunder-storm," he muttered, and
then he thought of his new clothes -- what a mis-
fortune it would be to have them soaked. He arose
and pushed through the thicket around him into a
cart path, and it was then that he saw the thing
which proved to be the stepping-stone toward his
humble fortunes. It was only a small silk umbrella
with a handle tipped with pearl. He seized upon it
with joy, for it meant the salvation of his precious
clothes. He opened it and held it over his head,
although the rain had not yet begun. One rib of
the umbrella was broken, but it was still serviceable.
He hastened along the cart path; he did not know
why, only the need for motion, to reach protection
from the storm, was upon him; and yet what pro-
tection could be ahead of him in that woodland
path? Afterward he grew to think of it as a blind
instinct which led him on.
He had not gone far, not more than half a mile,
when he saw something unexpected -- a small un-
tenanted house. He gave vent to a little cry of joy,
which had in it something child-like and pathetic,
and pushed open the door and entered. It was
nothing but a tiny, unfinished shack, with one room
and a small one opening from it. There was no
ceiling; overhead was the tent-like slant of the
roof, but it was tight. The dusty floor was quite
dry. There was one rickety chair. Stebbins, after
looking into the other room to make sure that the
place was empty, sat down, and a wonderful wave
of content and self-respect came over him. The
poor human snail had found his shell; he had a
habitation, a roof of shelter. The little dim place
immediately assumed an aspect of home. The rain
came down in torrents, the thunder crashed, the
place was filled with blinding blue lights. Stebbins
filled his pipe more lavishly this time, tilted his
chair against the wall, smoked, and gazed about
him with pitiful content. It was really so little,
but to him it was so much. He nodded with satis-
faction at the discovery of a fireplace and a rusty
He sat and smoked until the storm passed over.
The rainfall had been very heavy, there had been
hail, but the poor little house had not failed of per-
fect shelter. A fairly cold wind from the northwest
blew through the door. The hail had brought about
a change of atmosphere. The burning heat was
gone. The night would be cool, even chilly.
Stebbins got up and examined the stove and the
pipe. They were rusty, but appeared trustworthy.
He went out and presently returned with some fuel
which he had found unwet in a thick growth of
wood. He laid a fire handily and lit it. The little
stove burned well, with no smoke. Stebbins looked
at it, and was perfectly happy. He had found other
treasures outside -- a small vegetable-garden in which
were potatoes and some corn. A man had squatted
in this little shack for years, and had raised his own
garden-truck. He had died only a few weeks ago,
and his furniture had been pre-empted with the ex-
ception of the stove, the chair, a tilting lounge in
the small room, and a few old iron pots and frying-
pans. Stebbins gathered corn, dug potatoes, and
put them on the stove to cook, then he hurried out
to the village store and bought a few slices of bacon,
half a dozen eggs, a quarter of a pound of cheap tea,
and some salt. When he re-entered the house he
looked as he had not for years. He was beaming.
"Come, this is a palace," he said to himself, and
chuckled with pure joy. He had come out of the
awful empty spaces of homeless life into home. He
was a man who had naturally strong domestic in-
stincts. If he had spent the best years of his life
in a home instead of a prison, the finest in him would
have been developed. As it was, this was not even
now too late. When he had cooked his bacon and
eggs and brewed his tea, when the vegetables were
done and he was seated upon the rickety chair, with
his supper spread before him on an old board propped
on sticks, he was supremely happy. He ate with a
relish which seemed to reach his soul. He was at
home, and eating, literally, at his own board. As
he ate he glanced from time to time at the two win-
dows, with broken panes of glass and curtainless.
He was not afraid -- that was nonsense; he had
never been a cowardly man, but he felt the need of
curtains or something before his windows to shut
out the broad vast face of nature, or perhaps prying
human eyes. Somebody might espy the light in the
house and wonder. He had a candle stuck in an old
bottle by way of illumination. Still, although he
would have preferred to have curtains before those
windows full of the blank stare of night, he WAS
After he had finished his supper he looked long-
ingly at his pipe. He hesitated for a second, for he
realized the necessity of saving his precious tobacco;
then he became reckless: such enormous good for-
tune as a home must mean more to follow; it must
be the first of a series of happy things. He filled
his pipe and smoked. Then he went to bed on the
old couch in the other room, and slept like a child
until the sun shone through the trees in flickering
lines. Then he rose, went out to the brook which
ran near the house, splashed himself with water,
returned to the house, cooked the remnant of the
eggs and bacon, and ate his breakfast with the same
exultant peace with which he had eaten his supper
the night before. Then he sat down in the doorway
upon the sunken sill and fell again to considering
his main problem. He did not smoke. His tobacco
was nearly exhausted and he was no longer reckless.
His head was not turned now by the feeling that
he was at home. He considered soberly as to the
probable owner of the house and whether he would
be allowed to remain its tenant. Very soon, how-
ever, his doubt concerning that was set at rest. He
saw a disturbance of the shadows cast by the thick
boughs over the cart path by a long outreach of
darker shadow which he knew at once for that of a
man. He sat upright, and his face at first assumed
a defiant, then a pleading expression, like that of a
child who desires to retain possession of some dear
thing. His heart beat hard as he watched the ad-
vance of the shadow. It was slow, as if cast by an
old man. The man was old and very stout, sup-
porting one lopping side by a stick, who presently
followed the herald of his shadow. He looked like
a farmer. Stebbins rose as he approached; the two
men stood staring at each other.
"Who be you, neighbor?" inquired the new-
The voice essayed a roughness, but only achieved
a tentative friendliness. Stebbins hesitated for a
second; a suspicious look came into the farmer's
misty blue eyes. Then Stebbins, mindful of his
prison record and fiercely covetous of his new home,
gave another name. The name of his maternal
grandfather seemed suddenly to loom up in printed
characters before his eyes, and he gave it glibly.
"David Anderson," he said, and he did not realize
a lie. Suddenly the name seemed his own. Surely
old David Anderson, who had been a good man,
would not grudge the gift of his unstained name to
replace the stained one of his grandson. "David
Anderson," he replied, and looked the other man
in the face unflinchingly.
"Where do ye hail from?" inquired the farmer;
and the new David Anderson gave unhesitatingly
the name of the old David Anderson's birth and
life and death place -- that of a little village in New
"What do you do for your living?" was the next
question, and the new David Anderson had an in-
spiration. His eyes had lit upon the umbrella which
he had found the night before.
"Umbrellas," he replied, laconically, and the
other man nodded. Men with sheaves of umbrellas,
mended or in need of mending, had always been
familiar features for him.
Then David assumed the initiative; possessed
of an honorable business as well as home, he grew
bold. "Any objection to my staying here?" he
The other man eyed him sharply. "Smoke
much?" he inquired.
"Smoke a pipe sometimes."
"Careful with your matches?"
"That's all I think about," said the farmer.
"These woods is apt to catch fire jest when I'm
about ready to cut. The man that squatted here
before -- he died about a month ago -- didn't smoke.
He was careful, he was."
"I'll be real careful," said David, humbly and
"I dun'no' as I have any objections to your stay-
ing, then," said the farmer. "Somebody has always
squat here. A man built this shack about twenty
year ago, and he lived here till he died. Then
t'other feller he came along. Reckon he must have
had a little money; didn't work at nothin'! Raised
some garden-truck and kept a few chickens. I took
them home after he died. You can have them now
if you want to take care of them. He rigged up
that little chicken-coop back there."
"I'll take care of them," answered David, fer-
"Well, you can come over by and by and get 'em.
There's nine hens and a rooster. They lay pretty
well. I ain't no use for 'em. I've got all the hens
of my own I want to bother with."
"All right," said David. He looked blissful.
The farmer stared past him into the house. He
spied the solitary umbrella. He grew facetious.
"Guess the umbrellas was all mended up where
you come from if you've got down to one," said he.
David nodded. It was tragically true, that guess.
"Well, our umbrella got turned last week," said
the farmer. "I'll give you a job to start on. You
can stay here as long as you want if you're careful
about your matches." Again he looked into the
house. "Guess some boys have been helpin' them-
selves to the furniture, most of it," he observed.
"Guess my wife can spare ye another chair, and
there's an old table out in the corn-house better
than that one you've rigged up, and I guess she'll
give ye some old bedding so you can be comfortable.
Got any money?"
"I don't want any pay for things, and my wife
won't; didn't mean that; was wonderin' whether
ye had anything to buy vittles with."
"Reckon I can manage till I get some work,"
replied David, a trifle stiffly. He was a man who
had never lived at another than the state's expense.
"Don't want ye to be too short, that's all," said
the other, a little apologetically.
"I shall be all right. There are corn and potatoes
in the garden, anyway."
"So there be, and one of them hens had better
be eat. She don't lay. She'll need a good deal of
b'ilin'. You can have all the wood you want to
pick up, but I don't want any cut. You mind that
or there'll be trouble."
"I won't cut a stick."
"Mind ye don't. Folks call me an easy mark,
and I guess myself I am easy up to a certain point,
and cuttin' my wood is one of them points. Roof
didn't leak in that shower last night, did it?"
"Not a bit."
"Didn't s'pose it would. The other feller was
handy, and he kept tinkerin' all the time. Well,
I'll be goin'; you can stay here and welcome if
you're careful about matches and don't cut my wood.
Come over for them hens any time you want to.
I'll let my hired man drive you back in the wagon."
"Much obliged," said David, with an inflection
that was almost tearful.
"You're welcome," said the other, and ambled
The new David Anderson, the good old grand-
father revived in his unfortunate, perhaps graceless
grandson, reseated himself on the door-step and
watched the bulky, receding figure of his visitor
through a pleasant blur of tears, which made the
broad, rounded shoulders and the halting columns of
legs dance. This David Anderson had almost for-
gotten that there was unpaid kindness in the whole
world, and it seemed to him as if he had seen angels
walking up and down. He sat for a while doing
nothing except realizing happiness of the present
and of the future. He gazed at the green spread
of forest boughs, and saw in pleased anticipation
their red and gold tints of autumn; also in pleased
anticipation their snowy and icy mail of winter,
and himself, the unmailed, defenseless human crea-
ture, housed and sheltered, sitting before his
own fire. This last happy outlook aroused him.
If all this was to be, he must be up and doing.
He got up, entered the house, and examined the
broken umbrella which was his sole stock in trade.
David was a handy man. He at once knew that
he was capable of putting it in perfect repair.
Strangely enough, for his sense of right and wrong
was not blunted, he had no compunction whatever
in keeping this umbrella, although he was reasonably
certain that it belonged to one of the two young
girls who had been so terrified by him. He had a con-
viction that this monstrous terror of theirs, which
had hurt him more than many apparently crueler
things, made them quits.
After he had washed his dishes in the brook, and
left them in the sun to dry, he went to the village
store and purchased a few simple things necessary
for umbrella-mending. Both on his way to the store
and back he kept his eyes open. He realized that
his capital depended largely upon chance and good
luck. He considered that he had extraordinary
good luck when he returned with three more umbrel-
las. He had discovered one propped against the
counter of the store, turned inside out. He had in-
quired to whom it belonged, and had been answered
to anybody who wanted it. David had seized upon
it with secret glee. Then, unheard-of good fortune,
he had found two more umbrellas on his way home;
one was in an ash-can, the other blowing along like
a belated bat beside the trolley track. It began to
seem to David as if the earth might be strewn with
abandoned umbrellas. Before he began his work
he went to the farmer's and returned in triumph,
driven in the farm-wagon, with his cackling hens
and quite a load of household furniture, besides
some bread and pies. The farmer's wife was one of
those who are able to give, and make receiving
greater than giving. She had looked at David,
who was older than she, with the eyes of a mother,
and his pride had melted away, and he had held out
his hands for her benefits, like a child who has no
compunctions about receiving gifts because he knows
that they are his right of childhood.
Henceforth David prospered -- in a humble way,
it is true, still he prospered. He journeyed about
the country, umbrellas over his shoulder, little bag
of tools in hand, and reaped an income more than
sufficient for his simple wants. His hair had grown,
and also his beard. Nobody suspected his history.
He met the young girls whom he had terrified on
the road often, and they did not know him. He
did not, during the winter, travel very far afield.
Night always found him at home, warm, well fed,
content, and at peace. Sometimes the old farmer
on whose land he lived dropped in of an evening
and they had a game of checkers. The old man was
a checker expert. He played with unusual skill,
but David made for himself a little code of honor.
He would never beat the old man, even if he were
able, oftener than once out of three evenings. He
made coffee on these convivial occasions. He made
very good coffee, and they sipped as they moved
the men and kings, and the old man chuckled, and
David beamed with peaceful happiness.
But the next spring, when he began to realize that
he had mended for a while all the umbrellas in the
vicinity and that his trade was flagging, he set his
precious little home in order, barricaded door and
windows, and set forth for farther fields. He was
lucky, as he had been from the start. He found
plenty of employment, and slept comfortably enough
in barns, and now and then in the open. He had
traveled by slow stages for several weeks before he
entered a village whose familiar look gave him a
shock. It was not his native village, but near it.
In his younger life he had often journeyed there.
It was a little shopping emporium, almost a city.
He recognized building after building. Now and
then he thought he saw a face which he had once
known, and he was thankful that there was hardly
any possibility of any one recognizing him. He had
grown gaunt and thin since those far-off days; he
wore a beard, grizzled, as was his hair. In those
days he had not been an umbrella man. Sometimes
the humor of the situation struck him. What would
he have said, he the spruce, plump, head-in-the-air
young man, if anybody had told him that it would
come to pass that he would be an umbrella man lurk-
ing humbly in search of a job around the back doors
of houses? He would laugh softly to himself as he
trudged along, and the laugh would be without the
slightest bitterness. His lot had been so infinitely
worse, and he had such a happy nature, yielding
sweetly to the inevitable, that he saw now only
cause for amusement.
He had been in that vicinity about three weeks
when one day he met the woman. He knew her
at once, although she was greatly changed. She
had grown stout, although, poor soul! it seemed as
if there had been no reason for it. She was not
unwieldy, but she was stout, and all the contours of
earlier life had disappeared beneath layers of flesh.
Her hair was not gray, but the bright brown had
faded, and she wore it tightly strained back from
her seamed forehead, although it was thin. One had
only to look at her hair to realize that she was a
woman who had given up, who no longer cared.
She was humbly clad in a blue-cotton wrapper, she
wore a dingy black hat, and she carried a tin pail
half full of raspberries. When the man and woman
met they stopped with a sort of shock, and each
changed face grew like the other in its pallor. She
recognized him and he her, but along with that
recognition was awakened a fierce desire to keep it
secret. His prison record loomed up before the
man, the woman's past loomed up before her. She
had possibly not been guilty of much, but her life
was nothing to waken pride in her. She felt shamed
before this man whom she had loved, and who felt
shamed before her. However, after a second the
silence was broken. The man recovered his self-
He spoke casually.
"Nice day," said he.
The woman nodded.
"Been berrying?" inquired David. The woman
David looked scrutinizingly at her pail. "I saw
better berries real thick a piece back," said he.
The woman murmured something. In spite of
herself, a tear trickled over her fat, weather-beaten
cheek. David saw the tear, and something warm
and glorious like sunlight seemed to waken within
him. He felt such tenderness and pity for this
poor feminine thing who had not the strength
to keep the tears back, and was so pitiably shorn
of youth and grace, that he himself expanded. He
had heard in the town something of her history.
She had made a dreadful marriage, tragedy and
suspicion had entered her life, and the direst poverty.
However, he had not known that she was in the vi-
cinity. Somebody had told him she was out West.
"Living here?" he inquired.
"Working for my board at a house back there,"
she muttered. She did not tell him that she had
come as a female "hobo" in a freight-car from the
Western town where she had been finally stranded.
"Mrs. White sent me out for berries," she added.
"She keeps boarders, and there were no berries in
the market this morning."
"Come back with me and I will show you where
I saw the berries real thick," said David.
He turned himself about, and she followed a little
behind, the female failure in the dust cast by the
male. Neither spoke until David stopped and
pointed to some bushes where the fruit hung thick
on bending, slender branches.
"Here," said David. Both fell to work. David
picked handfuls of berries and cast them gaily into
the pail. "What is your name?" he asked, in an
"Jane Waters," she replied, readily. Her hus-
band's name had been Waters, or the man who had
called himself her husband, and her own middle
name was Jane. The first was Sara. David remem-
bered at once. "She is taking her own middle name
and the name of the man she married," he thought.
Then he asked, plucking berries, with his eyes averted:
"No," said the woman, flushing deeply.
David's next question betrayed him. "Husband
"I haven't any husband," she replied, like the
She had married a man already provided with
another wife, although she had not known it. The
man was not dead, but she spoke the entire miser-
able truth when she replied as she did. David as-
sumed that he was dead. He felt a throb of relief,
of which he was ashamed, but he could not down it.
He did not know what it was that was so alive and
triumphant within him: love, or pity, or the natural
instinct of the decent male to shelter and protect.
Whatever it was, it was dominant.
"Do you have to work hard?" he asked.
"Pretty hard, I guess. I expect to."
"And you don't get any pay?"
"That's all right; I don't expect to get any,"
said she, and there was bitterness in her voice.
In spite of her stoutness she was not as strong as
the man. She was not at all strong, and, moreover,
the constant presence of a sense of injury at the
hands of life filled her very soul with a subtle poison,
to her weakening vitality. She was a child hurt and
worried and bewildered, although she was to the
average eye a stout, able-bodied, middle-aged wom-
an; but David had not the average eye, and he
saw her as she really was, not as she seemed. There
had always been about her a little weakness and
dependency which had appealed to him. Now they
seemed fairly to cry out to him like the despairing
voices of the children whom he had never had, and
he knew he loved her as he had never loved her be-
fore, with a love which had budded and flowered
and fruited and survived absence and starvation.
He spoke abruptly.
"I've about got my business done in these parts,"
said he. "I've got quite a little money, and I've
got a little house, not much, but mighty snug, back
where I come from. There's a garden. It's in the
woods. Not much passing nor going on."
The woman was looking at him with incredulous,
pitiful eyes like a dog's. "I hate much goin' on,"
"Suppose," said David, "you take those berries
home and pack up your things. Got much?"
"All I've got will go in my bag."
"Well, pack up; tell the madam where you live
that you're sorry, but you're worn out --"
"God knows I am," cried the woman, with sudden
force, "worn out!"
"Well, you tell her that, and say you've got an-
other chance, and --"
"What do you mean?" cried the woman, and she
hung upon his words like a drowning thing.
"Mean? Why, what I mean is this. You pack
your bag and come to the parson's back there, that
"I know --"
"In the mean time I'll see about getting a license,
Suddenly the woman set her pail down and
clutched him by both hands. "Say you are not
married," she demanded; "say it, swear it!"
"Yes, I do swear it," said David. "You are the
only woman I ever asked to marry me. I can sup-
port you. We sha'n't be rolling in riches, but we
can be comfortable, and -- I rather guess I can make
"You didn't say what your name was," said the
The woman looked at him with a strange ex-
pression, the expression of one who loves and re-
spects, even reveres, the isolation and secrecy of
another soul. She understood, down to the depths
of her being she understood. She had lived a hard
life, she had her faults, but she was fine enough to
comprehend and hold sacred another personality.
She was very pale, but she smiled. Then she turned
"How long will it take you?" asked David.
"About an hour."
"All right. I will meet you in front of the par-
son's house in an hour. We will go back by train.
I have money enough."
"I'd just as soon walk." The woman spoke with
the utmost humility of love and trust. She had
not even asked where the man lived. All her life
she had followed him with her soul, and it would
go hard if her poor feet could not keep pace with
"No, it is too far; we will take the train. One
goes at half past four."
At half past four the couple, made man and wife,
were on the train speeding toward the little home
in the woods. The woman had frizzled her thin
hair pathetically and ridiculously over her temples;
on her left hand gleamed a white diamond. She had
kept it hidden; she had almost starved rather than
part with it. She gazed out of the window at the
flying landscape, and her thin lips were curved in a
charming smile. The man sat beside her, staring
straight ahead as if at happy visions.
They lived together afterward in the little house
in the woods, and were happy with a strange crys-
tallized happiness at which they would have mocked
in their youth, but which they now recognized as the
essential of all happiness upon earth. And always
the woman knew what she knew about her husband,
and the man knew about his wife, and each recog-
nized the other as old lover and sweetheart come
together at last, but always each kept the knowledge
from the other with an infinite tenderness of deli-
cacy which was as a perfumed garment veiling the
innermost sacredness of love.
THE BALKING OF CHRISTOPHER
THE BALKING OF
THE spring was early that year. It was only
the last of March, but the trees were filmed
with green and paling with promise of bloom; the
front yards were showing new grass pricking through
the old. It was high time to plow the south field
and the garden, but Christopher sat in his rocking-
chair beside the kitchen window and gazed out, and
did absolutely nothing about it.
Myrtle Dodd, Christopher's wife, washed the
breakfast dishes, and later kneaded the bread, all
the time glancing furtively at her husband. She
had a most old-fashioned deference with regard to
Christopher. She was always a little afraid of him.
Sometimes Christopher's mother, Mrs. Cyrus Dodd,
and his sister Abby, who had never married, re-
proached her for this attitude of mind. "You are
entirely too much cowed down by Christopher,"
Mrs. Dodd said.
"I would never be under the thumb of any man,"
"Have you ever seen Christopher in one of his
spells?" Myrtle would ask.
Then Mrs. Cyrus Dodd and Abby would look
at each other. "It is all your fault, mother," Abby
would say. "You really ought not to have allowed
your son to have his own head so much."
"You know perfectly well, Abby, what I had to
contend against," replied Mrs. Dodd, and Abby
became speechless. Cyrus Dodd, now deceased
some twenty years, had never during his whole life
yielded to anything but birth and death. Before
those two primary facts even his terrible will was
powerless. He had come into the world without
his consent being obtained; he had passed in like
manner from it. But during his life he had ruled,
a petty monarch, but a most thorough one. He had
spoiled Christopher, and his wife, although a woman
of high spirit, knew of no appealing.
"I could never go against your father, you know
that," said Mrs. Dodd, following up her advantage.
"Then," said Abby, "you ought to have warned
poor Myrtle. It was a shame to let her marry a
man as spoiled as Christopher."
"I would have married him, anyway," declared
Myrtle with sudden defiance; and her mother-in-
law regarded her approvingly.
"There are worse men than Christopher, and
Myrtle knows it," said she.
"Yes, I do, mother," agreed Myrtle. "Christo-
pher hasn't one bad habit."
"I don't know what you call a bad habit," re-
torted Abby. "I call having your own way in spite
of the world, the flesh, and the devil rather a bad
habit. Christopher tramples on everything in his
path, and he always has. He tramples on poor Myrtle."
At that Myrtle laughed. "I don't think I look
trampled on," said she; and she certainly did not.
Pink and white and plump was Myrtle, although she
had, to a discerning eye, an expression which denoted
This morning of spring, when her husband sat
doing nothing, she wore this nervous expression. Her
blue eyes looked dark and keen; her forehead was
wrinkled; her rosy mouth was set. Myrtle and
Christopher were not young people; they were a
little past middle age, still far from old in look or
Myrtle had kneaded the bread to rise for the
last time before it was put into the oven, and had
put on the meat to boil for dinner, before she dared
address that silent figure which had about it some-
thing tragic. Then she spoke in a small voice.
"Christopher," said she.
Christopher made no reply.
"It is a good morning to plow, ain't it?" said
Christopher was silent.
"Jim Mason got over real early; I suppose he
thought you'd want to get at the south field. He's
been sitting there at the barn door for 'most two
Then Christopher rose. Myrtle's anxious face
lightened. But to her wonder her husband went
into the front entry and got his best hat. "He
ain't going to wear his best hat to plow," thought
Myrtle. For an awful moment it occurred to her
that something had suddenly gone wrong with her
husband's mind. Christopher brushed the hat care-
fully, adjusted it at the little looking-glass in the
kitchen, and went out.
"Be you going to plow the south field?" Myrtle
"No, I ain't."
"Will you be back to dinner?"
"I don't know -- you needn't worry if I'm not."
Suddenly Christopher did an unusual thing for him.
He and Myrtle had lived together for years, and out-
ward manifestations of affection were rare between
them. He put his arm around her and kissed her.
After he had gone, Myrtle watched him out of
sight down the road; then she sat down and wept.
Jim Mason came slouching around from his station
at the barn door. He surveyed Myrtle uneasily.
"Mr. Dodd sick?" said he at length.
"Not that I know of," said Myrtle, in a weak
quaver. She rose and, keeping her tear-stained face
aloof, lifted the lid off the kettle on the stove.
"D'ye know am he going to plow to-day?"
"He said he wasn't."
Jim grunted, shifted his quid, and slouched out of
Meantime Christopher Dodd went straight down
the road to the minister's, the Rev. Stephen Wheaton.
When he came to the south field, which he was
neglecting, he glanced at it turning emerald upon
the gentle slopes. He set his face harder. Christo-
pher Dodd's face was in any case hard-set. Now
it was tragic, to be pitied, but warily, lest it turn
fiercely upon the one who pitied. Christopher was
a handsome man, and his face had an almost classic
turn of feature. His forehead was noble; his eyes
full of keen light. He was only a farmer, but in
spite of his rude clothing he had the face of a man
who followed one of the professions. He was in
sore trouble of spirit, and he was going to consult
the minister and ask him for advice. Christopher
had never done this before. He had a sort of in-
credulity now that he was about to do it. He had
always associated that sort of thing with womankind,
and not with men like himself. And, moreover,
Stephen Wheaton was a younger man than himself.
He was unmarried, and had only been settled in the
village for about a year. "He can't think I'm com-
ing to set my cap at him, anyway," Christopher
reflected, with a sort of grim humor, as he drew
near the parsonage. The minister was haunted by
marriageable ladies of the village.
"Guess you are glad to see a man coming, instead
of a woman who has doubts about some doctrine,"
was the first thing Christopher said to the minister
when he had been admitted to his study. The
study was a small room, lined with books, and only
one picture hung over the fireplace, the portrait of
the minister's mother -- Stephen was so like her that
a question concerning it was futile.
Stephen colored a little angrily at Christopher's
remark -- he was a hot-tempered man, although a
clergyman; then he asked him to be seated.
Christopher sat down opposite the minister. "I
oughtn't to have spoken so," he apologized, "but
what I am doing ain't like me."
"That's all right," said Stephen. He was a short,
athletic man, with an extraordinary width of shoul-
ders and a strong-featured and ugly face, still indica-
tive of goodness and a strange power of sympathy.
Three little mongrel dogs were sprawled about the
study. One, small and alert, came and rested his
head on Christopher's knee. Animals all liked him.
Christopher mechanically patted him. Patting an
appealing animal was as unconscious with the man
as drawing his breath. But he did not even look at
the little dog while he stroked it after the fashion
which pleased it best. He kept his large, keen,
melancholy eyes fixed upon the minister; at length
he spoke. He did not speak with as much eagerness
as he did with force, bringing the whole power of
his soul into his words, which were the words of a
man in rebellion against the greatest odds on earth
and in all creation -- the odds of fate itself.
"I have come to say a good deal, Mr. Wheaton,"
"Then say it, Mr. Dodd," replied Stephen, without
Christopher spoke. "I am going back to the very
beginning of things," said he, "and maybe you will
think it blasphemy, but I don't mean it for that.
I mean it for the truth, and the truth which is too
much for my comprehension."
"I have heard men swear when it did not seem
blasphemy to me," said Stephen.
"Thank the Lord, you ain't so deep in your rut
you can't see the stars!" said Christopher. "But
I guess you see them in a pretty black sky sometimes.
In the beginning, why did I have to come into the
world without any choice?"
"You must not ask a question of me which can
only be answered by the Lord," said Stephen.
"I am asking the Lord," said Christopher, with
his sad, forceful voice. "I am asking the Lord, and
I ask why?"
"You have no right to expect your question to be
answered in your time," said Stephen.
"But here am I," said Christopher, "and I was
a question to the Lord from the first, and fifty years
and more I have been on the earth."
"Fifty years and more are nothing for the answer
to such a question," said Stephen.
Christopher looked at him with mournful dissent;
there was no anger about him. "There was time
before time," said he, "before the fifty years and
more began. I don't mean to blaspheme, Mr.
Wheaton, but it is the truth. I came into the world
whether I would or not; I was forced, and then I was
told I was a free agent. I am no free agent. For
fifty years and more I have thought about it, and
I have found out that, at least. I am a slave -- a
slave of life."
"For that matter," said Stephen, looking curi-
ously at him, "so am I. So are we all."
"That makes it worse," agreed Christopher -- "a
whole world of slaves. I know I ain't talking in
exactly what you might call an orthodox strain. I
have got to a point when it seems to me I shall go
mad if I don't talk to somebody. I know there is that
awful why, and you can't answer it; and no man
living can. I'm willing to admit that sometime, in
another world, that why will get an answer, but
meantime it's an awful thing to live in this world
without it if a man has had the kind of life I have.
My life has been harder for me than a harder life
might be for another man who was different. That
much I know. There is one thing I've got to be
thankful for. I haven't been the means of sending
any more slaves into this world. I am glad my wife
and I haven't any children to ask 'why?'
"Now, I've begun at the beginning; I'm going on.
I have never had what men call luck. My folks
were poor; father and mother were good, hard-
working people, but they had nothing but trouble,
sickness, and death, and losses by fire and flood.
We lived near the river, and one spring our house
went, and every stick we owned, and much as ever
we all got out alive. Then lightning struck father's
new house, and the insurance company had failed,
and we never got a dollar of insurance. Then my
oldest brother died, just when he was getting started
in business, and his widow and two little children
came on father to support. Then father got rheu-
matism, and was all twisted, and wasn't good for
much afterward; and my sister Sarah, who had been
expecting to get married, had to give it up and take
in sewing and stay at home and take care of the
rest. There was father and George's widow -- she
was never good for much at work -- and mother and
Abby. She was my youngest sister. As for me, I
had a liking for books and wanted to get an educa-
tion; might just as well have wanted to get a seat
on a throne. I went to work in the grist-mill of the
place where we used to live when I was only a boy.
Then, before I was twenty, I saw that Sarah wasn't
going to hold out. She had grieved a good deal,
poor thing, and worked too hard, so we sold out
and came here and bought my farm, with the mort-
gage hitching it, and I went to work for dear life.
Then Sarah died, and then father. Along about then
there was a girl I wanted to marry, but, Lord, how
could I even ask her? My farm started in as a
failure, and it has kept it up ever since. When there
wasn't a drought there was so much rain everything
mildewed; there was a hail-storm that cut every-
thing to pieces, and there was the caterpillar year.
I just managed to pay the interest on the mortgage;
as for paying the principal, I might as well have tried
to pay the national debt.
"Well, to go back to that girl. She is married
and don't live here, and you ain't like ever to see
her, but she was a beauty and something more. I
don't suppose she ever looked twice at me, but
losing what you've never had sometimes is worse
than losing everything you've got. When she got
married I guess I knew a little about what the
martyrs went through.
"Just after that George's widow got married again
and went away to live. It took a burden off the
rest of us, but I had got attached to the children.
The little girl, Ellen, seemed 'most like my own.
Then poor Myrtle came here to live. She did
dressmaking and boarded with our folks, and I
begun to see that she was one of the nervous sort of
women who are pretty bad off alone in the world,
and I told her about the other girl, and she said she
didn't mind, and we got married. By that time
mother's brother John -- he had never got married --
died and left her a little money, so she and my sister
Abby could screw along. They bought the little
house they live in and left the farm, for Abby was
always hard to get along with, though she is a
good woman. Mother, though she is a smart woman,
is one of the sort who don't feel called upon to inter-
fere much with men-folks. I guess she didn't inter-
fere any too much for my good, or father's, either.
Father was a set man. I guess if mother had been a
little harsh with me I might not have asked that
awful 'why?' I guess I might have taken my bitter
pills and held my tongue, but I won't blame myself
on poor mother.
"Myrtle and I get on well enough. She seems
contented -- she has never said a word to make me
think she wasn't. She isn't one of the kind of
women who want much besides decent treatment
and a home. Myrtle is a good woman. I am sorry
for her that she got married to me, for she deserved
somebody who could make her a better husband.
All the time, every waking minute, I've been growing
more and more rebellious.
"You see, Mr. Wheaton, never in this world have
I had what I wanted, and more than wanted --
needed, and needed far more than happiness. I
have never been able to think of work as anything
but a way to get money, and it wasn't right, not
for a man like me, with the feelings I was born with.
And everything has gone wrong even about the
work for the money. I have been hampered and
hindered, I don't know whether by Providence or
the Evil One. I have saved just six hundred and
forty dollars, and I have only paid the interest on
the mortgage. I knew I ought to have a little ahead
in case Myrtle or I got sick, so I haven't tried to
pay the mortgage, but put a few dollars at a time
in the savings-bank, which will come in handy now."
The minister regarded him uneasily. "What," he
asked, "do you mean to do?"
"I mean," replied Christopher, "to stop trying to
do what I am hindered in doing, and do just once in
my life what I want to do. Myrtle asked me this
morning if I wasn't going to plow the south field.
Well, I ain't going to plow the south field. I ain't
going to make a garden. I ain't going to try for
hay in the ten-acre lot. I have stopped. I have
worked for nothing except just enough to keep soul
and body together. I have had bad luck. But that
isn't the real reason why I have stopped. Look at
here, Mr. Wheaton, spring is coming. I have never
in my life had a chance at the spring nor the summer.
This year I'm going to have the spring and the sum-
mer, and the fall, too, if I want it. My apples may
fall and rot if they want to. I am going to get as
much good of the season as they do."
"What are you going to do?" asked Stephen.
"Well, I will tell you. I ain't a man to make
mystery if I am doing right, and I think I am. You
know, I've got a little shack up on Silver Mountain
in the little sugar-orchard I own there; never got
enough sugar to say so, but I put up the shack one
year when I was fool enough to think I might get
something. Well, I'm going up there, and I'm going
to live there awhile, and I'm going to sense the
things I have had to hustle by for the sake of a
few dollars and cents."
"But what will your wife do?"
"She can have the money I've saved, all except
enough to buy me a few provisions. I sha'n't need
much. I want a little corn meal, and I will have a
few chickens, and there is a barrel of winter apples
left over that she can't use, and a few potatoes.
There is a spring right near the shack, and there are
trout-pools, and by and by there will be berries,
and there's plenty of fire-wood, and there's an old
bed and a stove and a few things in the shack.
Now, I'm going to the store and buy what I want,
and I'm going to fix it so Myrtle can draw the money
when she wants it, and then I am going to the
shack, and" -- Christopher's voice took on a solemn
tone -- "I will tell you in just a few words the gist
of what I am going for. I have never in my life
had enough of the bread of life to keep my soul
nourished. I have tried to do my duties, but I believe
sometimes duties act on the soul like weeds on a
flower. They crowd it out. I am going up on Silver
Mountain to get once, on this earth, my fill of the
bread of life."
Stephen Wheaton gasped. "But your wife, she
will be alone, she will worry."
"I want you to go and tell her," said Christopher,
"and I've got my bank-book here; I'm going to
write some checks that she can get cashed when she
needs money. I want you to tell her. Myrtle won't
make a fuss. She ain't the kind. Maybe she will
be a little lonely, but if she is, she can go and visit
somewhere." Christopher rose. "Can you let me
have a pen and ink?" said he, "and I will write
those checks. You can tell Myrtle how to use
them. She won't know how."
Stephen Wheaton, an hour later, sat in his study,
the checks in his hand, striving to rally his courage.
Christopher had gone; he had seen him from his
window, laden with parcels, starting upon the ascent
of Silver Mountain. Christopher had made out
many checks for small amounts, and Stephen held
the sheaf in his hand, and gradually his courage
to arise and go and tell Christopher's wife gained
strength. At last he went.
Myrtle was looking out of the window, and she
came quickly to the door. She looked at him, her
round, pretty face gone pale, her plump hands
twitching at her apron.
"What is it?" said she.
"Nothing to be alarmed about," replied Stephen.
Then the two entered the house. Stephen found
his task unexpectedly easy. Myrtle Dodd was an
unusual woman in a usual place.
"It is all right for my husband to do as he pleases,"
she said with an odd dignity, as if she were defending
"Mr. Dodd is a strange man. He ought to have
been educated and led a different life," Stephen said,
lamely, for he reflected that the words might be
hard for the woman to hear, since she seemed obvi-
ously quite fitted to her life, and her life to her.
But Myrtle did not take it hardly, seemingly rather
with pride. "Yes," said she, "Christopher ought
to have gone to college. He had the head for it.
Instead of that he has just stayed round here and
dogged round the farm, and everything has gone
wrong lately. He hasn't had any luck even with
that." Then poor Myrtle Dodd said an unexpectedly
wise thing. "But maybe," said Myrtle, "his bad
luck may turn out the best thing for him in the end."
Stephen was silent. Then he began explaining
about the checks.
"I sha'n't use any more of his savings than I can
help," said Myrtle, and for the first time her voice
quavered. "He must have some clothes up there,"
said she. "There ain't bed-coverings, and it is
cold nights, late as it is in the spring. I wonder
how I can get the bedclothes and other things to
him. I can't drive, myself, and I don't like to hire
anybody; aside from its being an expense, it would
make talk. Mother Dodd and Abby won't make
talk outside the family, but I suppose it will have
to be known."
"Mr. Dodd didn't want any mystery made over
it," Stephen Wheaton said.
"There ain't going to be any mystery. Christo-
pher has got a right to live awhile on Silver Mountain
if he wants to," returned Myrtle with her odd,
"But I will take the things up there to him, if you
will let me have a horse and wagon," said Stephen.
"I will, and be glad. When will you go?"
"I'll have them ready," said Myrtle.
After the minister had gone she went into her
own bedroom and cried a little and made the moan
of a loving woman sadly bewildered by the ways
of man, but loyal as a soldier. Then she dried
her tears and began to pack a load for the
The next morning early, before the dew was off
the young grass, Stephen Wheaton started with the
wagon-load, driving the great gray farm-horse up
the side of Silver Mountain. The road was fairly
good, making many winds in order to avoid steep
ascents, and Stephen drove slowly. The gray farm-
horse was sagacious. He knew that an unaccustomed
hand held the lines; he knew that of a right he should
be treading the plowshares instead of climbing a
mountain on a beautiful spring morning.
But as for the man driving, his face was radiant,
his eyes of young manhood lit with the light of the
morning. He had not owned it, but he himself had
sometimes chafed under the dull necessity of his life,
but here was excitement, here was exhilaration. He
drew the sweet air into his lungs, and the deeper
meaning of the spring morning into his soul. Christo-
pher Dodd interested him to the point of enthusiasm.
Not even the uneasy consideration of the lonely,
mystified woman in Dodd's deserted home could
deprive him of admiration for the man's flight into
the spiritual open. He felt that these rights of the
man were of the highest, and that other rights, even
human and pitiful ones, should give them the right
It was not a long drive. When he reached the
shack -- merely a one-roomed hut, with a stove-
pipe chimney, two windows, and a door -- Christo-
pher stood at the entrance and seemed to illuminate
it. Stephen for a minute doubted his identity.
Christopher had lost middle age in a day's time.
He had the look of a triumphant youth. Blue smoke
was curling from the chimney. Stephen smelled
bacon frying, and coffee.
Christopher greeted him with the joyousness of
a child. "Lord!" said he, "did Myrtle send you up
with all those things? Well, she is a good woman.
Guess I would have been cold last night if I hadn't
been so happy. How is Myrtle?"
"She seemed to take it very sensibly when I told
Christopher nodded happily and lovingly. "She
would. She can understand not understanding, and
that is more than most women can. It was mighty
good of you to bring the things. You are in time
for breakfast. Lord! Mr. Wheaton, smell the trees,
and there are blooms hidden somewhere that smell
sweet. Think of having the common food of man
sweetened this way! First time I fully sensed I was
something more than just a man. Lord, I am paid
already. It won't be so very long before I get my
fill, at this rate, and then I can go back. To think
I needn't plow to-day! To think all I have to do
is to have the spring! See the light under those
Christopher spoke like a man in ecstasy. He tied
the gray horse to a tree and brought a pail of water
for him from the spring near by.
Then he said to Stephen: "Come right in. The
bacon's done, and the coffee and the corn-cake and
the eggs won't take a minute."
The two men entered the shack. There was noth-
ing there except the little cooking-stove, a few
kitchen utensils hung on pegs on the walls, an old
table with a few dishes, two chairs, and a lounge
over which was spread an ancient buffalo-skin.
Stephen sat down, and Christopher fried the eggs.
Then he bade the minister draw up, and the two
"Ain't it great, Mr. Wheaton?" said Christopher.
"You are a famous cook, Mr. Dodd," laughed
Stephen. He was thoroughly enjoying himself, and
the breakfast was excellent.
"It ain't that," declared Christopher in his ex-
alted voice. "It ain't that, young man. It's be-
cause the food is blessed."
Stephen stayed all day on Silver Mountain. He
and Christopher went fishing, and had fried trout for
dinner. He took some of the trout home to Myrtle.
Myrtle received them with a sort of state which
defied the imputation of sadness. "Did he seem
comfortable?" she asked.
"Comfortable, Mrs. Dodd? I believe it will mean
a new lease of life to your husband. He is an un-
"Yes, Christopher is uncommon; he always was,"
"You have everything you want? You were not
timid last night alone?" asked the minister.
"Yes, I was timid. I heard queer noises," said
Myrtle, "but I sha'n't be alone any more. Chris-
topher's niece wrote me she was coming to make
a visit. She has been teaching school, and she lost
her school. I rather guess Ellen is as uncommon for
a girl as Christopher is for a man. Anyway, she's
lost her school, and her brother's married, and she
don't want to go there. Besides, they live in Boston,
and Ellen, she says she can't bear the city in spring
and summer. She wrote she'd saved a little, and
she'd pay her board, but I sha'n't touch a dollar of
her little savings, and neither would Christopher
want me to. He's always thought a sight of Ellen,
though he's never seen much of her. As for me, I
was so glad when her letter came I didn't know
what to do. Christopher will be glad. I suppose
you'll be going up there to see him off and
on." Myrtle spoke a bit wistfully, and Ste-
phen did not tell her he had been urged to come
"Yes, off and on," he replied.
"If you will just let me know when you are going,
I will see that you have something to take to him
-- some bread and pies."
"He has some chickens there," said Stephen.
"Has he got a coop for them?"
"Yes, he had one rigged up. He will have plenty
of eggs, and he carried up bacon and corn meal and
tea and coffee."
"I am glad of that," said Myrtle. She spoke with
a quiet dignity, but her face never lost its expression
of bewilderment and resignation.
The next week Stephen Wheaton carried Myrtle's
bread and pies to Christopher on his mountainside.
He drove Christopher's gray horse harnessed in his
old buggy, and realized that he himself was getting
much pleasure out of the other man's idiosyncrasy.
The morning was beautiful, and Stephen carried in
his mind a peculiar new beauty, besides. Ellen,
Christopher's niece, had arrived the night before,
and, early as it was, she had been astir when he
reached the Dodd house. She had opened the door
for him, and she was a goodly sight: a tall girl,
shaped like a boy, with a fearless face of great beauty
crowned with compact gold braids and lit by un-
swerving blue eyes. Ellen had a square, determined
chin and a brow of high resolve.
"Good morning," said she, and as she spoke she
evidently rated Stephen and approved, for she smiled
genially. "I am Mr. Dodd's niece," said she. "You
are the minister?"
"And you have come for the things aunt is to
"Aunt said you were to drive uncle's horse and
take the buggy," said Ellen. "It is very kind of you.
While you are harnessing, aunt and I will pack the
Stephen, harnessing the gray horse, had a sense
of shock; whether pleasant or otherwise, he could
not determine. He had never seen a girl in the least
like Ellen. Girls had never impressed him. She
When he drove around to the kitchen door she
and Myrtle were both there, and he drank a cup of
coffee before starting, and Myrtle introduced him.
"Only think, Mr. Wheaton," said she, "Ellen says
she knows a great deal about farming, and we are
going to hire Jim Mason and go right ahead."
Myrtle looked adoringly at Ellen.
Stephen spoke eagerly. "Don't hire anybody,"
he said. "I used to work on a farm to pay my way
through college. I need the exercise. Let me help."
"You may do that," said Ellen, "on shares.
Neither aunt nor I can think of letting you work
without any recompense."
"Well, we will settle that," Stephen replied.
When he drove away, his usually calm mind was in
"Your niece has come," he told Christopher,
when the two men were breakfasting together on
"I am glad of that," said Christopher. "All that
troubled me about being here was that Myrtle might
wake up in the night and hear noises."
Christopher had grown even more radiant. He
was effulgent with pure happiness.
"You aren't going to tap your sugar-maples?"
said Stephen, looking up at the great symmetrical
efflorescence of rose and green which towered about
Christopher laughed. "No, bless 'em," said he,
"the trees shall keep their sugar this season. This
week is the first time I've had a chance to get ac-
quainted with them and sort of enter into their feel-
ings. Good Lord! I've seen how I can love those
trees, Mr. Wheaton! See the pink on their young
leaves! They know more than you and I. They
know how to grow young every spring."
Stephen did not tell Christopher how Ellen and
Myrtle were to work the farm with his aid. The two
women had bade him not. Christopher seemed to
have no care whatever about it. He was simply
happy. When Stephen left, he looked at him and
said, with the smile of a child, "Do you think I am
"Crazy? No," replied Stephen.
"Well, I ain't. I'm just getting fed. I was starv-
ing to death. Glad you don't think I'm crazy, be-
cause I couldn't help matters by saying I wasn't.
Myrtle don't think I am, I know. As for Ellen, I
haven't seen her since she was a little girl. I don't
believe she can be much like Myrtle; but I guess if
she is what she promised to turn out she wouldn't
think anybody ought to go just her way to have it
the right way."
"I rather think she is like that, although I saw
her for the first time this morning," said Stephen.
"I begin to feel that I may not need to stay here
much longer," Christopher called after him. "I
begin to feel that I am getting what I came for so
fast that I can go back pretty soon."
But it was the last day of July before he came.
He chose the cool of the evening after a burning day,
and descended the mountain in the full light of the
moon. He had gone up the mountain like an old
man; he came down like a young one.
When he came at last in sight of his own home,
he paused and stared. Across the grass-land a
heavily laden wagon was moving toward his barn.
Upon this wagon heaped with hay, full of silver
lights from the moon, sat a tall figure all in white,
which seemed to shine above all things. Christopher
did not see the man on the other side of the wagon
leading the horses; he saw only this wonderful
white figure. He hurried forward and Myrtle came
down the road to meet him. She had been watch-
ing for him, as she had watched every night.
"Who is it on the load of hay?" asked Christopher.
"Ellen," replied Myrtle.
"Oh!" said Christopher. "She looked like an
angel of the Lord, come to take up the burden I had
dropped while I went to learn of Him."
"Be you feeling pretty well, Christopher?" asked
Myrtle. She thought that what her husband had
said was odd, but he looked well, and he might have
said it simply because he was a man.
Christopher put his arm around Myrtle. "I am
better than I ever was in my whole life, Myrtle,
and I've got more courage to work now than I had
when I was young. I had to go away and get rested,
but I've got rested for all my life. We shall get
along all right as long as we live."
"Ellen and the minister are going to get married
come Christmas," said Myrtle.
"She is lucky. He is a man that can see with the
eyes of other people," said Christopher.
It was after the hay had been unloaded and Chris-
topher had been shown the garden full of lusty
vegetables, and told of the great crop with no draw-
back, that he and the minister had a few minutes
alone together at the gate.
"I want to tell you, Mr. Wheaton, that I am
settled in my mind now. I shall never complain
again, no matter what happens. I have found that
all the good things and all the bad things that come
to a man who tries to do right are just to prove to
him that he is on the right path. They are just the
flowers and sunbeams, and the rocks and snakes,
too, that mark the way. And -- I have found out
more than that. I have found out the answer to my
"What is it?" asked Stephen, gazing at him curi-
ously from the wonder-height of his own special
"I have found out that the only way to heaven
for the children of men is through the earth," said
ANNIE HEMPSTEAD lived on a large family
canvas, being the eldest of six children. There
was only one boy. The mother was long since dead.
If one can imagine the Hempstead family, the head of
which was the Reverend Silas, pastor of the Orthodox
Church in Lynn Corners, as being the subject of a
mild study in village history, the high light would
probably fall upon Imogen, the youngest daughter.
As for Annie, she would apparently supply only a
part of the background.
This afternoon in late July, Annie was out in the
front yard of the parsonage, assisting her brother
Benny to rake hay. Benny had not cut it. Annie
had hired a man, although the Hempsteads could
not afford to hire a man, but she had said to Benny,
"Benny, you can rake the hay and get it into the
barn if Jim Mullins cuts it, can't you?" And Benny
had smiled and nodded acquiescence. Benny Hemp-
stead always smiled and nodded acquiescence, but
there was in him the strange persistency of a willow
bough, the persistency of pliability, which is the
most unconquerable of all. Benny swayed gracefully
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