The Minister's Charge
William D. Howells
Part 4 out of 7
as she cared a great deal, but it's a pretty queer way of showin'
you cared for her."
"I didn't mean that!" retorted Lemuel; and he added by an immense
effort, "I meant--the way I behaved when I was there; I meant--"
"Oh!" said 'Manda Grier, turning her face away again; she turned it
so far away that the back of her head was all that Lemuel could see.
"I guess you better speak to Statira about that."
By this time they had reached the door of the boarding-house, and
'Manda Grier let herself in with her latch-key. "Won't you walk in,
Mr. Barker?" she said in formal tones of invitation.
"Is she well enough to see--company?" murmured Lemuel. "I shouldn't
want to disturb her."
"I don't believe but what she can see you," said 'Manda Grier, for
the first time relentingly.
"All right," said Lemuel, gulping the lump in his throat, and he
followed 'Manda Grier up the flights of stairs to the door of the
girls' room, which she flung open without knocking.
"S'tira," she said, "here's Mr. Barker," and Lemuel, from the dark
landing, where he lurked a moment, could see Statira sitting in the
rocking-chair in a pretty blue dressing-gown; after a first flush
she looked pale, and now and then put up her hand to hide a hoarse
"Walk right in, Mr. Barker," cried 'Manda Grier, and Lemuel entered,
more awkward and sheepish in his new suit from the Misfit Parlours
than he had been before in his Willoughby Pastures best clothes.
Statira merely said, "Why, Mr. Barker!" and stood at her chair where
she rose. "You're quite a stranger. Won't you sit down?"
Lemuel sat down, and 'Manda Grier said politely, "Won't you let me
take your hat, Mr. Barker?" and they both treated him with so much
ceremony and deference that it seemed impossible he could ever have
done such a monstrous thing as kiss a young lady like Miss Dudley;
and he felt that he never could approach the subject even to accept
a just doom at her hands.
They all talked about the weather for a minute, and then 'Manda
Grier said, "Well, I guess I shall have to go down and set this
boneset to steep;" and as he rose, and stood to let her pass, she
caught his arm, and gave it a clutch. He did not know whether she
did it on purpose, or why she did it, but somehow it said to him
that she was his friend, and he did not feel so much afraid.
When she was gone, however, he returned to the weather for
conversation; but when Statira said it was lucky for her that the
winter held off so, he made out to inquire about her sickness, and
she told him that she had caught a heavy cold; at first it seemed
just to be a head-cold, but afterwards it seemed to settle on the
lungs, and it seemed as if she never _could_ throw it off; they
had had the doctor twice; but now she was better, and the cough was
nearly _all_ gone.
"I guess I took the cold that day, from havin' the window open," she
concluded; and she passed her hand across her lap, and looked down
demurely, and then up at the ceiling, and her head twitched a little
Lemuel knew that his hour had come, if ever it were to come, and he
said hoarsely: "I guess if I made you take cold that day, it wasn't
all I did. I guess I did worse than that."
She did not look at him and pretend ignorance, as 'Manda Grier would
have done; but lifting her moist eyes and then dropping them, she
said, "Why, Mr. Barker, what can you mean?"
"You know what I mean," he retorted, with courage astonishing to
him. "It was because I liked you so much." He could not say loved;
it seemed too bold. "There's nothing else can excuse it, and I don't
know as _that_ can."
She put up her hands to her eyes, and began to cry, and he rose and
went to her, and said, "Oh, don't cry, don't cry!" and somehow he
took hold of her hands, and then her arms went round his neck, and
she was crying on his breast.
"You'll think I'm rather of a silly person, crying so much about
nothing," she said, when she lifted her head from his shoulder to
wipe her eyes. "But I can't seem to help it," and she broke down
again. "I presume it's because I've been sick, and I'm kind of weak
yet. I know you wouldn't have done that, that day, if you hadn't
have cared for me; and I wasn't mad a bit; not half as mad as I
ought to have been; but when you stayed away so long, and never
seemed to come near any more, I didn't know what _to_ think.
But now I can understand just how you felt, and I don't blame you
one bit; I should have done just so myself if I'd been a man, I
suppose. And now it's all come right, I don't mind being sick or
anything; only when Thanksgiving came, we felt sure you'd call, and
we'd got the pies nicely warmed. Oh dear!" She gave way again, and
then pressed her cheek tight against his to revive herself. "'Manda
said she knew it was just because you was kind of ashamed, and I was
too sick to eat any of the pies, anyway; and so it all turned out
for the best; and I don't want you to believe that I'm one to cry
over spilt milk, especially when it's all gathered up again!"
Her happy tongue ran on, revealing, divining everything, and he sat
down with her in his arms, hardly speaking a word, till her heart
was quite poured out. 'Manda Grier left them a long time together,
and before she came back he had told Statira all about himself since
their last meeting. She was very angry at the way that girl had
behaved at Miss Vane's, but she was glad he had found such a good
place now, without being beholden to any one for it, and she showed
that she felt a due pride in his being an hotel clerk. He described
the hotel, and told what he had to do there, and about Mrs. Harmon
and the fashionableness of all the guests. But he said he did not
think any of the ladies went ahead of her in dress, if they came up
to her; and Statira pressed her lips gratefully against his cheek,
and then lifting her head held herself a little away to see him
again, and said, "_You're_ splendidly dressed _too_; I noticed it the
first thing when you came in. You look just as if you had always lived
"Is that so?" asked Lemuel; and he felt his heart suffused with
tender pride and joy. He told her of the Misfit Parlours and the
instalment plan, and she said, well, it was just splendid; and she
asked him if he knew she wasn't in the store any more; and "No," she
added delightedly, upon his confession of ignorance, "I'm going to
work in the box-factory, after this, where 'Manda Grier works. It's
better pay, and you have more control of your hours, and you can set
down while you work, if you've a mind to. I think it's going to be
splendid. What should you say if 'Manda Grier and me took some rooms
and went to housekeepin'?"
"I don't know," said Lemuel; but in his soul he felt jealous of her
keeping house with 'Manda Grier.
"Well, I don't know as we shall do it," said Statira, as if feeling
his tacit reluctance.
'Manda Grier came in just then, and cast a glance of friendly satire
at them. "Well, I declare!" she said, for all recognition of the
Lemuel made an offer to rise, but Statira would not let him. "I
guess 'Manda Grier won't mind it much."
"I guess I can stand it if you can," said 'Manda Grier; and this
seemed such a witty speech that they all laughed, till, as Statira
said, she thought she should die. They laughed the more when 'Manda
Grier added dryly, "I presume you won't want your boneset now." She
set the vessel she had brought it up in on the stove, and covered it
with a saucer. "I do' know as _I_ should if I was in your
place. It's kind o' curious I should bring _both_ remedies home
with me at once." At this they all laughed a third time, till 'Manda
Grier said, "'Sh! 'sh! Do you want to raise the roof?"
She began to bustle about, and to set out a little table, and cover
it with a napkin, and as she worked she talked on. "I guess if you
don't want any boneset tea, a little of the other kind won't hurt
any of us, and I kinder want a cup myself." She set it to steep on
the stove, and it went through Lemuel's mind that she might have
steeped the boneset there too, if she had thought of it; but he did
not say anything, though it seemed a pretty good joke on 'Manda
Grier. She ran on in that way of hers so that you never could tell
whether she really meant a thing or not. "I guess if I have to
manage many more cases like yours, S'tira Dudley, I shall want to
lay in a whole chest of it. What do you think, Mr. Barker?"
"_Mr. Barker!_" repeated Statira.
"Well, I'm afraid to say Lemuel any more, for fear he'll fly off the
handle, and never come again. What do you think, Mr. Barker, of
havin' to set at that window every Sunday for the last three weeks,
and keep watch of both sidewalks till you get such a crick in your
neck, and your eyes so set in your head, you couldn't move either of
"Now, 'Manda Grier!" said Statira from Lemuel's shoulder.
"Well, I don't say I had to do it, and I don't say who the young man
was that I was put to look out for----"
"But I _do_ say it's pretty hard to wait on a sick person one
side the room, and keep watch for a young man the other side, both
"'Manda Grier, you're _too_ bad!" pouted Statira. "Don't you
believe a word she says, Mr. Barker."
_"Mr. Barker!"_ repeated 'Manda Grier.
"Well, I don't care!" said Statira, "I know who I mean."
"_I_ don't," said 'Manda Grier. "And I didn't know who you
meant this afternoon when you was standin' watch 't the window, and
says you, 'There! there he is!' and I had to run so quick with the
dipper of water I had in my hand to water the plants that I poured
it all over the front of my dress."
"_Do_ you believe her?" asked Statira.
"And I didn't know who you meant," proceeded 'Manda Grier, busy with
the cups and saucers, "when you kept hurryin' me up to change it;
'Oh, quick, quick! How long you are! I know he'll get away; I
_know_ he will!' and I had to just _sling_ on a shawl and rush out after
"There! Now that _shows_ she's makin' it all up!" cried
Statira. "She put on a sack, and I helped her on with it myself. So
"Well, if it _was_ a sack! And after all, the young man was
gone when I got down int' the street," concluded 'Manda Grier
Lemuel had thought she was talking about him; but now a pang of
jealousy went through him, and showed at the eyes he fixed on her.
"I don't know what I sh'd 'a' done," she resumed demurely, "if I
hadn't have found Mr. Barker at the apothecary's and got _him_
to come home 'th me; but of course, 'twan't the same as if it was
the young man!"
Lemuel's arm fell from Statira's waist in his torment.
"Why, Lemuel!" she said in tender reproach.
"Why, you coot!" cried 'Manda Grier in utter amazement at his
single-mindedness; and burst into a scream of laughter. She took the
teapot from the stove, and set it on the table. "There, young man--
if you _are_ the young man--you better pull up to the table,
and have something to start your ideas. S'tira! Let him come!" and
Lemuel, blushing for shame at his stupidity, did as he was bid.
"I've got the greatest mind in the world to set next to S'tira
myself," said 'Manda Grier, "for fear she should miss that young
man!" and now they both laughed together at Lemuel; but the girls
let him sit between them, and Statira let him keep one of her hands
under the table, as much as she could. "I never saw such a jealous
piece! Why, I shall begin to be afraid for myself. What should you
think of S'tira's going to housekeeping with me?"
"I don't believe he likes the idea one bit," Statira answered for
"Oh yes, I do!" Lemuel protested.
"'D you tell him?" 'Manda Grier demanded of her. She nodded with
saucy defiance. "Well, you _have_ got along! And about the box-
factory?" Statira nodded again, with a look of joyous intelligence
at Lemuel. "Well, what _hain't_ you told, I wonder!" 'Manda
Grier added seriously to Lemuel, "I think it'll be about the best
thing in the world for S'tira. I see for the last six months she's
been killin' herself in that store. She can't ever get a chance to
set down a minute; and she's on her feet from mornin' till night;
and I think it's more 'n half that that's made her sick; I don't
_say_ what the other four-fifths was!
"Now, 'Manda Grier, stop!"
"Well, that's over with now, and now we want to keep you out that
store. I been lookin' out for this place for S'tira a good while.
She can go onto the small boxes, if she wants to, and she can set
down all the time; and she'll have a whole hour for her dinner; and
she can work by the piece, and do as much or as little as she's a
mind to; but if she's a mind to work she can make her five and six
dollars a week, easy. Mr. Stevens's _real_ nice and kind, and
he looks out for the girls that ain't exactly strong--not but what
S'tira's as strong as anybody, when she's well--and he don't put 'em
on the green paper work, because it's got arsenic in it, and it
makes your head ache, and you're liable to blood poisonin'. One the
girls fainted and had spasms, and as soon as he found it out he took
her right off; and he's just like clockwork to pay. I think it'll do
everything for S'tira to be along 'th me there, where I can look
Lemuel said he thought so too; he did not really think at all, he
was so flattered at being advised with about Statira, as if she were
in his keeping and it was for him to say what was best for her; and
when she seemed uncertain about his real opinion, and said she was
not going to do anything he did not approve of, he could scarcely
speak for rapture, but he protested that he did approve of the
"But you shouldn't want we girls to set up housekeeping in rooms?"
she suggested; and he said that he should, and that he thought it
would be more independent and home-like.
"We're half doin' it now," said 'Manda Grier, "and I know some
rooms--two of 'em--where we could get along first rate, and not cost
us much more 'n half what it does here."
After she cleared up the tea-things she made another errand
downstairs, and Lemuel and Statira went back to their rocking-chair.
It still amazed him that she seemed not even to make it a favour to
him; she seemed to think it was favour to her. What was stranger yet
was that he could not feel that there was anything wrong or foolish
about it; he thought of his mother's severity about young folks'
sickishness, as she called it, and he could not understand it. He
knew that he had never had such right and noble thoughts about girls
before; perhaps Statira was better than other girls; she must be;
she was just like a child; and he must be very good himself to be
anyways fit for her; if she cared so much for him, it must be a sign
that he was not so bad as he had sometimes thought. A great many
things went through his mind, the silent comment and suggestion of
their talk, and all the time while he was saying something or
listening to her, he was aware of the overwhelming wonder of her
being so frank with him, and not too proud or ashamed to have him
know how anxious she had been, ever since they first met, for fear
he did not care for her. She had always appeared so stylish and
reserved, and now she was not proud at all. He tried to tell her how
it had been with him the last three weeks; all that he could say was
that he had been afraid to come. She laughed, and said, the idea of
his being afraid of _her_! She said that she was glad of
everything she had gone through. At times she lifted herself from
his shoulder and coughed; but that was when she had been laughing or
crying a little. They told each other about their families; Statira
said she had not really any folks of her own; she was just brought
up by her aunt; and Lemuel had to tell her that his mother wore
bloomers. Statira said she guessed she should not care much for the
bloomers; and in everything she tried to make out that he was much
better than she was, and just exactly right. She already spoke of
his sister by her first name, and she entered into his whole life,
as if she had always known him. He said she must come with him to
hear Mr. Sewell preach, sometime; but she declared that she did not
think much of a minister who could behave the way he had done to
Lemuel. He defended Sewell, and maintained that if it had not been
for him he might not have come to Boston, and so might never have
seen her; but she held out that she could not bear Mr. Sewell, and
that she knew he was double-faced, and everything. Lemuel said well,
he did not know that he should ever have anything more to do with
him; but he liked to hear him preach, and he guessed he tried to do
what was about right. Statira made him promise that if ever he met
Mr. Sewell again, he would not make up to him, any way; and she
would not tolerate the thought of Miss Vane.
"What you two quar'lin' about?" demanded 'Manda Grier, coming
suddenly into the room; and that turned their retrospective griefs
into joy again.
"I'm scoldin' him because he don't think enough of himself," cried
"Well, he seems to take it pretty meekly," said 'Manda Grier. "I
guess you didn't scold very hard. Now, young man," she added to
Lemuel, "I guess you better be goin'. It's five o'clock, and if you
should be out after dark, and the bears should get you, I don't know
what S'tira would do."
"'Tain't five yet!" pleaded Statira. "That old watch of yours is
always tryin' to beat the town clock."
"Well, it's the clock that's ahead this time," said 'Manda Grier.
"My watch says quarter of. Come, now, S'tira, you let him go, or he
sha'n't come back any more."
They had a parting that Lemuel's mother would have called sickish
without question; but it all seemed heavenly sweet and right.
Statira said now he had got to kiss 'Manda Grier too; and when he
insisted, her chin knocked against his, and saved her lips, and she
gave him a good box on the ear.
"There, I guess that 'll do for one while," she said, arranging her
tumbled hair; "but there's more kisses where that came from, for
both of you if you want 'em. Coots!"
Once, when Lemuel was little, he had a fever, and he was always
seeming to glide down the school-house stairs without touching the
steps with his feet. He remembered this dream now, when he reached
the street; he felt as if he had floated down on the air; and
presently he was back in his little den at the hotel, he did not
know how. He ran the elevator up and down for the ladies who called
him from the different floors, and he took note of the Sunday
difference in their toilet as they passed in to tea; but in the same
After the boarders had supped, he went in as usual with Mrs.
Harmon's nephew, less cindery than on week-days, from the cellar,
and Mrs. Harmon, silken smooth for her evening worship at the shrine
of a popular preacher from New York. The Sunday evening before, she
had heard an agnostic lecture in the Boston Theatre, and she said
she wished to compare notes. Her tranquillity was unruffled by the
fact that the head-waitress had left, just before tea; she presumed
they could get along just as well without her as with her: the
boarders had spoiled her, anyway. She looked round at Lemuel's face,
which beamed with his happiness, and said she guessed she should
have to get him to open the dining-room doors, and seat the
transients the next few days, till she could get another head-
waitress. It did not seem to be so much a request as a resolution;
but Lemuel willingly assented. Mrs. Harmon's nephew said that so
long as they did not want him to do it he did not care who did it;
and if a few of them had his furnace to look after they would not be
so anxious to kick.
Lemuel had to be up early in the morning to get the bills of fare,
which Mrs. Harmon called the Meanyous, written in time for the seven
o'clock breakfasters; and after opening the dining-room doors with
fit ceremony, he had to run backward and forward to answer the rings
at the elevator, and to pull out the chairs for the ladies at the
table, and slip them back under them as they sat down. The ladies at
the St. Albans expected to get their money's worth; but their
exactions in most things were of use to Lemuel. He grew constantly
nimbler of hand and foot under them, and he grew quicker-witted; he
ceased to hulk in mind and body. He did not employ this new mental
agility in devising excuses and delays; he left that to Mrs. Harmon,
whose conscience was easy in it; but from seven o'clock in the
morning till eleven at night, when the ladies came in from the
theatre, he was so promptly, so comfortingly at their service, that
they all said they did not see how they had ever got along without
His activities took the form of interruptions rather than constant
occupation, and he found a good deal of broken-up time on his hands,
which he passed in reading, and in reveries of Statira. At the hours
when the elevator was mostly in use he kept a book in it with him,
and at other times he had it in the office, as Mrs. Harmon called
his little booth. He remained there reading every night after the
house quieted down after dinner, until it was time to lock up for
the night; and several times Mr. Evans stopped and looked in at him
where he sat in the bad combustion of the gas that was taking the
country tan out of his cheeks. One night when he came in late, and
Lemuel put his book down to take him up in the elevator, he said,
"Don't disturb yourself; I'm going to walk up," but he lingered at
the door looking in with the queer smile that always roused the
ladies' fears of tacit ridicule. "I suppose you don't find it
necessary," he said finally, "to chase a horse-car now, when you
want to find your way to a given point?"
Lemuel reddened and dropped his head; he had already recognised in
Mr. Evans the gentleman from whose kindly curiosity he had turned,
that first day, in the suspicion that he might be a beat. "No," he
said, "I guess I can go pretty near everywhere in Boston now."
"Well," said Mr. Evans, "it was an ingenious system. How do you like
"I like it first-rate, but I've not seen many other places,"
answered Lemuel cautiously.
"Well, if you live here long enough you won't care to see any other
places; you'll know they're not worth seeing." Lemuel looked up as
if he did not understand exactly, and Mr. Evans stepped in and
lifted the book he had been reading. It was one he had bought at
second hand while he was with Miss Vane: a tough little epitome of
the philosophies in all times, the crabbed English version of a dry
German original. Mr. Evans turned its leaves over. "Do you find it a
very exciting story?" he asked.
"Why, it isn't a story," said Lemuel, in simple surprise.
"No?" asked Mr. Evans. "I thought it must be. Most of the young
gentlemen who run the elevators I travel in read stories. Do you
like this kind of reading?"
Lemuel reflected, and then he said he thought you ought to find out
about such things if you got a chance.
"Yes," said the editor musingly, "I suppose one oughtn't to throw
any sort of chance away. But you're sure you don't prefer the
novels? You'll excuse my asking you?"
"Oh, perfectly excusable," said Lemuel. He added that he liked a
good novel too, when he could get hold of it.
"You must come to my room some day, and see if you can't get hold of
one there. Or if you prefer metaphysics, I've got shelves full that
you're welcome to. I suppose," he added, "you hadn't been in Boston
a great while when I met you that day?"
"No," said Lemuel, dropping his head again, "I had just come."
As if he saw that something painful lurked under the remembrance of
the time for Lemuel the editor desisted.
The next morning he stopped on his way to breakfast with some books
which he handed to Lemuel. "Don't feel at all obliged to read them,"
he said, "because I lend them to you. They won't be of the least use
to you, if you do so."
"I guess that anything you like will be worth reading," said Lemuel,
flattered by the trouble so chief a boarder as Mr. Evans had taken
"Not if they supplied a want you didn't feel. You seem to be fond of
books, and after a while you'll be wanting to lend them yourself.
I'll give you a little hint that I'm too old to profit by: remember
that you can lend a person more books in a day than he can read in a
His laugh kept Lemuel shy of him still, in spite of a willingness
that the editor showed for their better acquaintance. He seemed to
wish to know about Lemuel, particularly since he had recognised the
pursuer of the horse-car in him, and this made Lemuel close up the
more. He would have liked to talk with him about the books Evans had
lent him. But when the editor stopped at the office door, where
Lemuel sat reading one of them, and asked him what he thought of it,
the boy felt that somehow it was not exactly his opinion that Mr.
Evans was getting at; and this sense of being inspected and arranged
in another's mind, though he could not formulate the operation in
his own, somehow wounded and repelled him. It was not that the
editor ever said anything that was not kind and friendly; he was
always doing kind and friendly things, and he appeared to take a
real interest in Lemuel. At the end of the first week after Lemuel
had added the head waitership to his other duties, Evans stopped in
going out of the dining-room and put a dollar in his hand.
"What is it for?" asked Lemuel.
"For? Really, I don't know. It must be tribute-money," said the
editor in surprise, but with a rising curiosity. "I never know what
Lemuel turned red, and handed it back. "I don't know as I want any
money I haven't earned."
That night, after dinner, when Evans was passing the office door on
his way out of the hotel, Lemuel stopped him and said with
embarrassment, "Mr. Evans, I don't want you should think I didn't
appreciate your kindness this morning."
"Ah, I'm not sure it was kindness," said Evans with immediate
interest. "Why didn't you take the money?"
"Well, I told you why," said Lemuel, overcoming the obscure
reluctance he felt at Evans's manner as best he could. "I've been
thinking it over, and I guess I was right; but I didn't know whether
I had expressed it the best way."
"The way couldn't be improved. But why did you think you hadn't
earned my dollar?"
"I don't do anything but open the doors, and show people to their
places; I don't call that anything."
"But if you were a waiter and served at table?"
"I wouldn't _be_ one," said Lemuel, with a touch of
indignation; "and I shouldn't take presents, anyway."
Evans leaned against the door-jamb.
"Have you heard of the college students who wait at the mountain
hotels in vacation? They all take fees. Do you think yourself better
than they are?"
"Yes, I do!" cried Lemuel.
"Well, I don't know but you are," said the editor thoughtfully. "But
I think I should distinguish. Perhaps there's no shame in waiting at
table, but there is in taking fees."
"Yes; that's what I meant," said Lemuel, a little sorry for his
heat. "I shouldn't be ashamed to do any kind of work, and to take my
pay for it; but I shouldn't want to have folks giving me money over
and above, as if I was a beggar."
The editor stood looking him absently in the face. After a moment he
asked, "What part of New England did you come from, Mr. Barker?"
"I came from the middle part of the State--from Willoughby
"Do those ideas--those principles--of yours prevail there?"
"I don't know whether they do or not," said Lemuel.
"If you were sure they did, I should like to engage board there for
next summer," said the editor, going out.
It was Monday night, a leisure time with him, and he was going out
to see a friend, a minister, with whom Monday night was also leisure
After he was gone, some of the other boarders began to drop in from
the lectures and concerts which they frequented in the evening. The
ladies had all some favour to ask of Lemuel, some real or fancied
need of his help; in return for his promise or performance, they
each gave him advice. What they expressed collectively was that they
should think that he would put his eyes out reading by that gas, and
that he had better look out, or he would ruin his health anyway,
reading so much. They asked him how much time he got for sleep; and
they said that from twelve till six was not enough, and that he was
just killing himself. They had all offered to lend him books; the
least literary among them had a sort of house pride in his fondness
for books; their sympathy with this taste of his amused their
husbands, who tolerated it, but in their hearts regarded it as a
womanish weakness, indicating a want of fibre in Lemuel. Mrs. Harmon
as a business woman, and therefore occupying a middle ground between
the sexes, did not exactly know herself what to make of her clerk's
studiousness; all that she could say was that he kept up with his
work. She assumed that before Lemuel's coming she had been the sole
motive power of the house; but it was really a sort of democracy,
and was managed by the majority of its inmates. An element of
demagoguery tampered with the Irish vote in the person of Jerry,
nominally porter, but actually factotum, who had hitherto, pending
the strikes of the different functionaries, filled the offices now
united in Lemuel. He had never been clerk, because his literature
went no further than the ability to write his name, and to read a
passage of the constitution in qualifying for the suffrage. He did
not like the new order of things, but he was without a party, and
helpless to do more than neglect the gong-bell when he had reason to
think Lemuel had sounded it.
About eleven o'clock the law-student came in with the two girl art-
students, fresh from the outside air, and gay from the opera they
had been hearing. The young man told Lemuel he ought to go to see
it. After the girls had opened their door, one of them came running
back to the elevator, and called down to Lemuel that there was no
ice-water, and would he please send some up.
Lemuel brought it up himself, and when he knocked at the door, the
same girl opened it and made a pretty outcry over the trouble she
had given him. "I supposed, of course, Jerry would bring it," she
said contritely; and as if for some atonement, she added, "Won't you
come in, Mr. Barker, and see my picture?"
Lemuel stood in the gush of the gas-light hesitating, and the law-
student called out to him, jollily, "Come in, Mr. Barker, and help
me play art-critic." He was standing before the picture, with his
overcoat on and his hat in his hand. "First appearance on any
stage," he added; and as Lemuel entered, "If I were you," he said,
"I'd fire that porter out of the hotel. He's outlived his
"It's a shame, your having to bring the water," said Miss Swan; she
was the girl who had spoken before.
The other one came forward and said, "Won't you sit down?"
She spoke to Lemuel; the law-student answered, "Thank you; I don't
care if I do."
Lemuel did not know whether to stay, nor what to say of Miss Swan's
picture, and he thanked the young lady and remained standing.
"O Jessie, _Jessie_, Jessie!" cried Miss Swan.
The other went to her, tranquilly, as if used to such vehement
"Just _see_ how my poor cow looks since I painted out that
grass! She hasn't got a leg to stand on!"
The law-student did nothing but make jokes about the picture. "I
think she looks pretty well for a cow that you must have had to
study from a milk-can--nearest you could come to a cow in Boston."
Miss Carver, the other young lady, ignored his joking, and after
some criticisms on the picture, left him and Miss Swan to talk it
over. She talked to Lemuel, and asked him if he had read a book he
glanced at on the table, and seemed willing to make him feel at
ease. But she did not. He thought she was very proud, and he
believed she wanted him to go, but he did not know how to go. Her
eyes were so still and pure; but they dwelt very coldly upon him.
Her voice was like that look put into sound; it was rather high-
pitched but very sweet and pure, and cold. He hardly knew what he
said; he felt hot, and he waited for some chance to get away.
At last he heard Miss Swan saying, "_Must_ you go, Mr. Berry?
So _soon_!" and saw her giving the student her hand, with a bow
of burlesque desolation.
Lemuel prepared to go too. All his rusticity came back upon him, and
he said, "Well, I wish you good evening."
It seemed to him that Miss Carver's still eyes looked a sort of
starry scorn after him. He found that he had brought away the book
they had been talking about, and he was a long time in question
whether he had better take it back at once, or give it to her when
she came to breakfast.
He went to bed in the same trouble of mind. Every night he had
fallen asleep with Statira in his thoughts, but now it was Miss
Carver that he thought of, and more and more uncomfortably. He asked
himself what she would say if she saw his mother in the bloomers.
She was herself not dressed so fashionably as Statira, but very
At Sewell's house the maid told Evans to walk up into the study,
without seating him first in the reception-room, as if that were
needless with so intimate a friend of the family. He found Sewell at
his desk, and he began at once, without the forms of greeting:
"If you don't like that other subject, I've got a new one for you,
and you could write a sermon on it that would make talk."
"You look at it from the newspaper point of view," returned Sewell,
in the same humour. "I'm not an 'enterprise,' and I don't want to
make talk in your sense. I don't know that I want to make talk at
all; I should prefer to make thought, to make feeling."
"Well," said the editor, "this would do all three."
"Would you come to hear me, if I wrote the sermon?"
"Ah, that's asking a good deal."
"Why don't you develop your idea in an article? You're always
bragging that you preach to a larger congregation than I."
"I propose to let you preach to my congregation too, if you'll write
this sermon. I've talked to you before about reporting your sermons
in _Saturday Afternoon_. They would be a feature; and if we
could open with this one, and have a good 'incisive' editorial on
it, disputing some of your positions, and treating certain others
with a little satire, at the same time maintaining a very respectful
attitude towards you on the whole, and calling attention to the fact
that there was a strong and increasing interest in your
'utterances,' which we were the first to recognise,--it would be a
card. We might agree beforehand on the points the editorial was to
touch, and so make one hand wash another. See?"
"I see that journalism has eaten into your soul. What is your
"Well, in general terms, and in a single word, _Complicity_.
Don't you think that would be rather taking? 'Mr. Sewell, in his
striking sermon on Complicity,' and so forth. It would be a great
hit, and it would stand a chance of sticking, like Emerson's
"Delightful! The most amusing part is that you've really a grain of
business in your bushel of chaff." Sewell wheeled about in his
swivel-chair, and sat facing his guest, deeply sunken in the low
easy seat he always took. "When did this famous idea occur to you?"
he pursued, swinging his glasses by their cord.
"About three weeks ago, at the theatre. There was one of those
pieces on that make you despair of the stage, and ashamed of writing
a play even to be rejected by it--a farrago of indecently amusing
innuendoes and laughably vile situations, such as, if they were put
into a book, would prevent its being sent through the mail. The
theatre apparently can still be as filthy in suggestion as it was at
the Restoration, and not shock its audiences. There were all sorts
of people there that night: young girls who had come with young men
for an evening's polite amusement; families; middle-aged husbands
and wives; respectable-looking single women; and average bachelors.
I don't think the ordinary theatrical audience is of a high grade
intellectually; it's third or fourth rate; but morally it seems
quite as good as other public assemblages. All the people were
nicely dressed, and they sat there before that nasty mess--it was an
English comedy where all the jokes turn upon the belief of the
characters that their wives and husbands are the parents of
illegitimate offspring--and listened with as smooth self-
satisfaction as if they were not responsible for it. But all at once
it occurred to me that they _were_ responsible, every one of
them--as responsible as the players, as the author himself."
"Did you come out of the theatre at that point?" asked Sewell.
"Oh, I was responsible too; but I seemed to be the only one ashamed
of my share in the business."
"If you were the only one conscious of it, your merit wasn't very
great," suggested the minister.
"Well, I should like the others to be conscious of it too. That's
why I want you to preach my sermon. I want you to tell your people
and my people that the one who buys sin or shame, or corruption of
any sort, is as guilty as the one who sells it."
"It isn't a new theory," said Sewell, still refusing to give up his
ironical tone. "It was discovered some time ago that this was so
"Well, I've just discovered that it ought to be so before man," said
"Still you're not the first," said Sewell.
"Yes," said the editor, "I think I am, from my peculiar standpoint.
The other day a friend of mine--an upright, just, worthy man, no one
more so--was telling me of a shocking instance of our national
corruption. He had just got home from Europe, and he had brought a
lot of dutiable things, that a customs inspector passed for a
trifling sum. That was all very well, but the inspector afterwards
came round with a confidential claim for a hundred dollars, and the
figures to show that the legal duties would have been eight or ten
times as much. My friend was glad to pay the hundred dollars; but he
defied me to name any country in Europe where such a piece of
official rascality was possible. He said it made him ashamed of
America!" Evans leaned his head back against his chair and laughed.
"Yes," said Sewell with a sigh, and no longer feigning lightness.
"Well, now," said Evans, "don't you think it your duty to help
people realise that they can't regard such transactions _de haut
en bas_, if they happen to have taken part in them? I have heard
of the shameful condition of things down in Maine, where I'm told
the French Canadians who've come in regularly expect to sell their
votes to the highest bidder at every election. Since my new system
of ethics occurred to me, I've fancied that there must have always
been a shameful state of things there, if Americans could grow up in
the willingness to buy votes. I want to have people recognise that
there is no superiority for them in such an affair; that there's
nothing but inferiority; that the man who has the money and the wit
to corrupt is a far baser rascal than the man who has the ignorance
and the poverty to be corrupted. I would make this principle seek
out every weak spot, every sore spot in the whole social
constitution. I'm sick to death of the frauds that we practise upon
ourselves in order to be able to injure others. Just consider the
infernal ease of mind in which men remain concerning men's share in
the social evil----"
"Ah, my dear friend, you can't expect me to consider _that_ in
my pulpit!" cried the minister.
"No; I couldn't consider it in my paper. I suppose we must leave
that where it is, unless we can affect it by analogy, and show that
there is infamy for both parties to any sin committed in common. You
must select your instances in other directions, but you can find
plenty of them--enough and to spare. It would give the series a
tremendous send-off," said Evans, relapsing into his habitual tone,
"if you would tackle this subject in your first sermon for
publication. There would be money in it. The thing would make a
success in the paper, and you could get somebody to reprint it in
pamphlet form. Come, what do you say?"
"I should say that you had just been doing something you were
ashamed of," answered Sewell. "People don't have these tremendous
moral awakenings for nothing."
"And you don't think my present state of mind is a gradual outgrowth
of my first consciousness of the common responsibility of actors and
audience in the representation of a shameless comedy?"
"No, I shouldn't think it was," said the minister securely.
"Well you're right." Evans twisted himself about in his chair, and
hung his legs over one of the arms.
"The real reason why I wish you to preach this sermon is because I
have just been offering a fee to the head-waiter at our hotel."
"And you feel degraded with him by his acceptance? For it _is_
"No, that's the strangest thing about it. I have a monopoly of the
degradation, for he didn't take my dollar."
"Ah, then a sermon won't help _you!_ Why wouldn't he take it?"
"He said he didn't know as he wanted any money he hadn't earned,"
said Evans, with a touch of mimicry.
The minister started up from his lounging attitude. "Is his name--
Barker?" he asked, with unerring prescience.
"Yes," said Evans with a little surprise. "Do you know him?"
"Yes," returned the minister, falling back in his chair helplessly,
not luxuriously. "So well that I knew it was he almost as soon as
you came into the room to-night."
"What harm have you been doing him?" demanded the editor, in parody
of the minister's acuteness in guessing the guilty operation of his
"The greatest. I'm the cause of his being in Boston."
"This is very interesting," said Evans. "We are companions in crime--pals.
It's a great honour. But what strikes me as being so interesting is that
we appear to feel remorse for our misdeeds; and I was almost persuaded
the other day by an observer of our species, that remorse had gone out,
or rather had never existed, except in the fancy of innocent people;
that real criminals like ourselves were afraid of being found out, but
weren't in the least sorry. Perhaps, if we are sorry, it proves that we
needn't be. Let's judge each other. I've told you what my sin against
Barker is, and I know yours in general terms. It's a fearful thing to
be the cause of a human soul's presence in Boston; but what did you do
to bring it about? Who is Barker? Where did he come from? What was his
previous condition of servitude? He puzzles me a good deal."
"Oh, I'll tell you," said Sewell; and he gave his personal chapter
in Lemuel's history.
Evans interrupted him at one point. "And what became of the poem he
brought down with him?"
"It was stolen out of his pocket, one night when he slept in the
"Ah, then he can't offer it to me! And he seems very far from
writing any more. I can still keep his acquaintance. Go on."
Sewell told, in amusing detail, of the Wayfarer's Lodge, where he
had found Barker after supposing he had gone home. Evans seemed more
interested in the place than in the minister's meeting with Lemuel
there, which Sewell fancied he had painted rather well, describing
Lemuel's severity and his own anxiety.
"There!" said the editor. "There you have it--a practical
illustration! Our civilisation has had to come to it!"
"Come to what?"
Sewell made an impatient gesture.
"Don't sacrifice the consideration of a great principle," cried
Evans, "to the petty effect of a good story on an appreciative
listener. I realise your predicament. But don't you see that in
establishing and regulating a place like that the city of Boston has
instinctively sanctioned my idea? You may say that it is aiding and
abetting the tramp-nuisance by giving vagrants food and shelter, but
other philosophers will contend that it is--blindly perhaps--
fulfilling the destiny of the future State, which will at once
employ and support all its citizens; that it is prophetically
recognising my new principle of Complicity?"
"Your new principle!" cried Sewell. "You have merely given a new
name to one of the oldest principles in the moral world."
"And that is a good deal to do, I can tell you," said Evans. "All
the principles are pretty old now. But don't give way to an ignoble
resentment of my interruption. Go on about Barker."
After some feints that there was nothing more important to tell,
Sewell went on to the end; and when he had come to it, Evans shook
his head. "It looks pretty black for you, but it's a beautifully
perfect case of Complicity. What do you propose to do, now you've
"Oh, I don't know! I hope no more mischief. If I could only get him
back on his farm!"
"Yes, I suppose that would be the best thing. But I dare say he
wouldn't go back!"
"That's been my experience with him."
They talked this aspect of the case over more fully, and Evans said:
"Well, I wouldn't go back to such a place myself after I'd once had
a glimpse of Boston, but I suppose it's right to wish that Barker
would. I hope his mother will come to visit him while he's in the
hotel. I would give a good deal to see her. Fancy her coming down in
her bloomers, and the poor fellow being ashamed of her? It would be
a very good subject for a play. Does she wear a hat or a bonnet?
What sort of head-gear goes with that 'sleek odalisque' style of
dress? A turban, I suppose."
"Mrs. Barker," said the minister, unable to deny himself the
fleeting comfort of the editor's humorous view of the situation, "is
as far from a 'sleek odalisque' as any lady I've ever seen, in spite
of her oriental costume. If I remember, her _yashmak_ was not
gathered at the ankles, but hung loose like occidental trousers; and
the day we met she wore simply her own hair. There was not much of
it on top, and she had it cut short in the neck. She was rather a
terrible figure. Her having ever been married would have been
inconceivable, except for her son."
"I should like to have seen her," said Evans, laughing back in his
"She was worth seeing as a survival of the superficial fermentation
of the period of our social history when it was believed that women
could be like men if they chose, and ought to be if they ever meant
to show their natural superiority. But she was not picturesque."
"The son's very handsome. I can see that the lady boarders think him
"Do you find him at all remarkable otherwise? What dismayed me more
than his poetry even was that when he gave that up he seemed to have
no particular direction."
"Oh, he reads a good deal, and pretty serious books; and he goes to
hear all the sermons and lectures in town."
"I thought he came to mine only," sighed the minister, with, a
retrospective suffering. "Well, what can be done for him now? I feel
my complicity with Barker as poignantly as you could wish."
"Ah, you see how the principle applies everywhere!" cried the editor
joyously. He added: "But I really think that for the present you
can't do better than let Barker alone. He's getting on very well at
Mrs. Harmon's, and although the conditions at the St. Albans are
more transitory than most sublunary things, Barker appears to be a
fixture. Our little system has begun to revolve round him
unconsciously; he keeps us going."
"Well," said Sewell, consenting to be a little comforted. He was
about to go more particularly into the facts; but Mrs. Sewell came
in just then, and he obviously left the subject.
Evans did not sit down again after rising to greet her; and
presently he said good night.
She turned to her husband: "What were you talking about when I came
"When you came in?"
"Yes. You both had that look--I can always tell it--of having
"Oh!" said Sewell, pretending to arrange the things on his desk.
"Evans had been suggesting the subject for a sermon." He paused a
moment, and then he continued hardily, "And he'd been telling me
about--Barker. He's turned up again."
"Of course!" said Mrs. Sewell. "What's happened to him now?"
"Nothing, apparently, but some repeated strokes of prosperity. He
has become clerk, elevator-boy, and head-waiter at the St. Albans."
"And what are you going to do about him?"
"Evans advises me to do nothing."
"Well, that's sensible, at any rate," said Mrs. Sewell. "I really
think you've done quite enough, David, and now he can be left to
manage for himself, especially as he seems to be doing well."
"Oh, he's doing as well as I could hope, and better. But I'm not
sure that I shouldn't have personally preferred a continued course
of calamity for him. I shall never be quite at peace about him till
I get him back on his farm at Willoughby Pastures."
"Well, that you will never do; and you may as well rest easy about
"I don't know as to never doing it," said Sewell. "All prosperity,
especially the prosperity connected with Mrs. Harmon's hotel, is
transitory; and I may succeed yet."
"Does everything go on there in the old way, does Mr. Evans say?"
Mrs. Sewell did not refer to any former knowledge of the St. Albans,
but to a remote acquaintance with the character and methods of Mrs.
Harmon, with whom the Sewells had once boarded. She was then freshly
widowed by the loss of her first husband, and had launched her
earliest boarding-house on that sea of disaster, where she had
buoyantly outridden every storm and had floated triumphantly on the
top of every ingulfing wave. They recalled the difficult navigation
of that primitive craft, in which each of the boarders had taken a
hand at the helm, and their reminiscences of her financial
embarrassments were mixed with those of the unfailing serenity that
seemed not to know defeat, and with fond memories of her goodness of
heart, and her ideal devotion in any case of sickness or trouble.
"I should think the prosperity of Mrs. Harmon would convince the
most negative of agnostics that there was an overruling Providence,
if nothing else did," said Sewell. "It's so defiant of all law, so
delightfully independent of causation."
"Well, let Barker alone with her, then," said his wife, rising to
leave him to the hours of late reading which she had never been able
to break up.
After agreeing with his wife that he had better leave Barker alone,
Sewell did not feel easy in doing so. He had that ten-dollar note
which Miss Vane had given him, and though he did not believe, since
Evans had reported Barker's refusal of his fee, that the boy would
take it, he was still constrained to do something with it. Before
giving it back to her, he decided at least to see Barker and learn
about his prospects and expectations. He might find some way of
making himself useful to him.
In a state of independence he found Lemuel much more accessible than
formerly, and their interview was more nearly amicable. Sewell said
that he had been delighted to hear of Lemuel's whereabouts from his
old friend Evans, and to know that they were housed together. He
said that he used to know Mrs. Harmon long ago, and that she was a
good-hearted, well-meaning woman, though without much forecast. He
even assented to Lemuel's hasty generalisation of her as a perfect
lady, though they both felt a certain inaccuracy in this, and Sewell
repeated that she was a woman of excellent heart and turned to a
more intimate inquest of Lemuel's life.
He tried to find out how he employed his leisure time, saying that
he always sympathised with young men away from home, and suggesting
the reading-room and the frequent lectures at the Young Men's
Christian Union for his odd moments. He learned that Lemuel had not
many of these during the week, and that on Sundays he spent all the
time he could get in hearing the different noted ministers. For the
rest, he learned that Lemuel was very much interested in the city,
and appeared to be rapidly absorbing both its present civilisation
and its past history. He was unsmilingly amused at the comments of
mixed shrewdness and crudity which Lemuel was betrayed into at times
beyond certain limits of diffidence that he had apparently set
himself; at his blunders and misconceptions, at the truth divined by
the very innocence of his youth and inexperience. He found out that
Lemuel had not been at home since he came to Boston; he had expected
to go at Thanksgiving, but it came so soon after he had got his
place that he hated to ask; the folks were all well, and he would
send the kind remembrances which the minister asked him to give his
mother. Sewell tried to find out, in saying that Mrs. Sewell and
himself would always be glad to see him, whether Lemuel had any
social life outside of the St. Albans, but here he was sensible that
a door was shut against him; and finally he had not the courage to
do more about that money from Miss Vane than to say that from time
to time he had sums intrusted him, and that if Lemuel had any
pressing need of money he must borrow of him. He fancied he had
managed that rather delicately, for Lemuel thanked him without
severity, and said he should get along now, he guessed, but he was
much obliged. Neither of them mentioned Miss Vane, and upon the
whole the minister was not sure that he had got much nearer the boy,
Certainly he formed no adequate idea of the avidity and thoroughness
with which Lemuel was learning his Boston. It was wholly a Public
Boston which unfolded itself during the winter to his eager
curiosity, and he knew nothing of the social intricacies of which it
seems solely to consist for so many of us. To him Boston society was
represented by the coteries of homeless sojourners in the St.
Albans; Boston life was transacted by the ministers, the lecturers,
the public meetings, the concerts, the horse-cars, the policemen,
the shop-windows, the newspapers, the theatres, the ships at the
docks, the historical landmarks, the charity apparatus.
The effect was a ferment in his mind in which there was nothing
clear. It seemed to him that he had to change his opinions every
day. He was whirled round and round; he never saw the same object
twice the same. He did not know whether he learned or unlearned
most. With the pride that comes to youth from the mere novelty of
its experiences was mixed a shame for his former ignorance, an
exasperation at his inability to grasp their whole meaning.
His activities in acquainting himself with Boston interested Evans,
who tried to learn just what his impression was; but this was the
last thing that Lemuel could have distinctly imparted.
"Well, upon the whole," he asked, one day, "what do you think? From
what you've seen of it, which is the better place, Boston or
Willoughby Pastures? If you were friendless and homeless, would you
rather be cast away in the city or in the country?"
Lemuel did not hesitate about this. "In the city! They haven't got
any idea in the country what's done to help folks along in the
"Is that so?" asked Evans. "It's against tradition," he suggested.
"Yes, I know that," Lemuel assented. "And in the country they think
the city is a place where nobody cares for you, and everybody is
against you, and wants to impose upon you. Well, when I first came
to Boston," he continued with a consciousness of things that Evans
did not betray his own knowledge of, "I thought so too, and I had a
pretty hard time for a while. It don't seem as if people _did_
care for you, except to make something out of you; but if any one
happens to find out that you're in trouble, there's ten times as
much done for you in the city as there is in the country."
"Perhaps that's because there are ten times as many to do it," said
Evans, in the hope of provoking this impartial spirit further.
"No, it isn't that altogether. It's because they've seen ten times
as much trouble, and know how to take hold of it better. I think our
folks in the country have been flattered up too much. If some of
them could come down here and see how things are carried on, they
would be surprised. They wouldn't believe it if you told them."
"I didn't know we were so exemplary," said Evans.
"Oh, city folks have their faults too," said Lemuel, smiling in
recognition of the irony.
Lemuel seemed uncertain whether to say it. "Well, they're too
Evans enjoyed this frank simplicity. He professed not to understand,
and begged Lemuel to explain.
"Well, at home, in the country, they mightn't want to do so much for
you, or be so polite about it, but they wouldn't feel themselves so
much above you. They're more on an equality. If I needed help, I'd
rather be in town; but if I could help myself, I'd just as soon be
in the country. Only," he added, "there are more chances here."
"Yes, there _are_ more chances. And do you think it's better
not to be quite so kind, and to be more on an equality?"
"Why, don't you?" demanded Lemuel.
"Well, I don't know," said Evans, with a whimsical affection of
seriousness. "Shouldn't you like an aristocracy if you could be one
of the aristocrats? Don't you think you're opposed to aristocracy
because you don't want to be under? I have spoken to be a duke when
we get an order of nobility, and I find that it's a great relief. I
don't feel obliged to go in for equality nearly as much as I used."
Lemuel shyly dropped the subject, not feeling himself able to cope
with his elder in these railleries. He always felt his heaviness and
clumsiness in talking with the editor, who fascinated him. He did
not know but he had said too much about city people being
aristocratic. It was not quite what he meant; he had really been
thinking of Miss Carver, and how proud she was, when he said it.
Lately he had seemed to see a difference between himself and other
people, and he had begun to look for it everywhere, though when he
spoke to Evans he was not aware how strongly the poison was working
in him. It was as if the girl had made that difference; she made it
again, whatever it was, between herself and the black man who once
brought her a note and a bunch of flowers from one of her young lady
pupils. She was very polite to him, trying to put him at ease, just
as she had been with Lemuel that night. If he came into the dining-
room to seat a transient when Miss Carver was there, he knew that
she was mentally making a difference between him and the boarders.
The ladies all had the custom of bidding him good morning when they
came in to breakfast, and they all smiled upon him except Miss
Carver; she seemed every morning as if more surprised to see him
standing there at the door and showing people to their places: she
looked puzzled, and sometimes she blushed, as if she were ashamed
He had discovered, in fine, that there were sorts of honest work in
the world which one must not do if he would keep his self-respect
through the consideration of others. Once all work had been work,
but now he had found that there was work which was service, and that
service was dishonour. He had learned that the people who did this
work were as a class apart, and were spoken of as servants, with
slight that was unconscious or conscious, but never absent.
Some of the ladies at the St. Albans had tried to argue with Lemuel
about his not taking the fees he refused, and he knew that they
talked him over. One day, when he was showing a room to a transient,
he heard one of them say to another in the next apartment, "Well, I
did hate to offer it to him, just as if he was a common servant;"
and the other said, "Well, I don't see what he can expect if he puts
himself in the place of a servant." And then they debated together
whether his quality of clerk was sufficient to redeem him from the
reproach of servitude; they did not call his running the elevator
anything, because a clerk might do that in a casual way without loss
of dignity; they alleged other cases of the kind.
His inner life became a turmoil of suspicions, that attached
themselves to every word spoken to him by those who must think
themselves above him. He could see now how far behind in everything
Willoughby Pastures was, and how the summer folks could not help
despising the people that took them to board, and waited on them
like servants in cities. He esteemed the boarders at the St. Albans
in the degree that he thought them enlightened enough to contemn him
for his station; and he had his own ideas of how such a person as
Mr. Evans really felt toward him. He felt toward him and was
interested in his reading as a person might feel toward and be
interested in the attainments of some anomalous animal, a learned
pig, or something of that kind.
He could look back, now, on his life at Miss Vane's, and see that he
was treated as a servant there,--a petted servant, but still a
servant,--and that was what made that girl behave so to him; he
always thought of Sibyl as that girl.
He would have thrown up his place at once, though he knew of nothing
else he could do; he would have risked starving rather than keep it;
but he felt that it was of no use; that the stain of servitude was
indelible; that if he were lifted to the highest station, it would
not redeem him in Miss Carver's eyes. All this time he had scarcely
more than spoken with her, to return her good mornings at the
dining-room door, or to exchange greetings with her on the stairs,
or to receive some charge from her in going out, or to answer some
question of hers in coming in, as to whether any of the pupils who
had lessons of her had been there in her absence. He made these
interviews as brief as possible; he was as stiff and cold as she.
The law-student, whose full name was Alonzo W. Berry, had one joking
manner for all manner of men and women, and Lemuel's suspicion could
not find any offensive distinction in it toward himself; but he
disabled Berry's own gentility for that reason, and easily learning
much of the law-student's wild past in the West from so eager an
autobiographer, he could not comfort himself with his friendship.
While the student poured out his autobiography without stint upon
Lemuel, his shyness only deepened upon the boy. There were things in
his life for which he was in equal fear of discovery: his arrest and
trial in the police court, his mother's queerness, and his servile
condition at Miss Vane's. The thought that Mr. Sewell knew about
them all made him sometimes hate the minister, till he reflected
that he had evidently told no one of them. But he was always
trembling lest they should somehow become known at the St. Albans;
and when Berry was going on about himself, his exploits, his
escapes, his loves,--chiefly his loves,--Lemuel's soul was sealed
within him; a vision of his disgraces filled him with horror.
But in the delight of talking about himself, Berry was apparently
unaware that Lemuel had not reciprocated his confidences. He
celebrated his familiarity with Miss Swan and her friend, though no
doubt he had the greater share of the acquaintance,--that was apt to
be the case with him,--and from time to time he urged Lemuel to come
up and call on them with him.
"I guess they don't want _me_ to call," said Lemuel with feeble
bitterness at last, one evening after an elaborate argument from
Berry to prove that Lemuel had the time, and that he just knew they
would be glad to see him.
"Why?" demanded Berry, and he tried to get Lemuel's reason; but when
Lemuel had stated that belief, he could not have given the reason
for it on his death-bed. Berry gave the conundrum up for the time,
but he did not give Lemuel up; he had an increasing need of him as
he advanced in a passion for Miss Swan, which, as he frankly
prophesied, was bound to bring him to the popping-point sooner or
later; he debated with himself in Lemuel's presence all the best
form's of popping, and he said that it was simply worth a ranch to
be able to sing to him,
"She's a darling,
She's a daisy,
She's a dumpling,
She's a lamb,"
and to feel that he knew who _she_ was. He usually sang this
refrain to Lemuel when he came in late at night after a little
supper with some of the fellows that had left traces of its cheer on
his bated breath. Once he came downstairs alone in the elevator, in
his shirt-sleeves and stocking-feet, for the purpose of singing it
after Lemuel had thought him in bed.
Every Sunday afternoon during the winter Lemuel went to see Statira,
and sometimes in the evening he took her to church. But she could
not understand why he always wanted to go to a different church; she
did not see why he should not pick out one church and stick to it:
the ministers seemed to be all alike, and she guessed one was pretty
near as good as another. 'Manda Grier said she guessed they were all
Lemuel to her; and Statira said well, she guessed that was pretty
much so. She no longer pretended that he was not the whole world to
her, either with him or with 'Manda Grier; she was so happy from
morning till night, day in and day out, that 'Manda Grier said if
she were in her place she should be afraid something would happen.
Statira worked in the box-factory now; she liked it a great deal
better than the store, and declared that she was ever so much
stronger. The cough lingered still, but none of them noticed it
much; she called it a cold, and said she kept catching more. 'Manda
Grier told her that she could throw it off soon enough if she would
buy a few clothes for warmth and not so many for looks; but they did
not talk this over before Lemuel. Before he came Statira took a
soothing mixture that she got of the apothecary, and then they were
all as bright and gay as could be, and she looked so pretty that he
said he could not get used to it. The housekeeping experiment was a
great success; she and 'Manda Grier had two rooms now, and they
lived better than ever they had, for less money. Of course, Statira
said, it was not up to the St. Albans, which Lemuel had told them of
at first a little braggingly. In fact she liked to have him brag of
it, and of the splendours of his position and surroundings. She was
very curious, but not envious of anything, and it became a joke with
her and 'Manda Grier, who pretended to despise the whole affair.
At first it flattered Lemuel to have her admire his rise in life so
simply and ardently; but after a while it became embarrassing, in
proportion as it no longer seemed so superb to him. She was always
wanting him to talk of it; after a few Sundays, with the long hours
they had passed in telling each other all they could think of about
themselves, they had not much else to talk of. Now that she had him
to employ her fancy, Statira no longer fed it on the novels she used
to devour. He brought her books, but she did not read them; she said
that she had been so busy with her sewing she had no time to read;
and every week she showed him some pretty new thing she had been
making, and tried it on for him to see how she looked in it. Often
she seemed to care more to rest with her head on his shoulder, and
not talk at all; and for a while this was enough for him too, though
sometimes he was disappointed that she did not even let him read to
her out of the books she neglected. She would not talk over the
sermons they heard together; but once when Mr. Evans offered him
tickets for the theatre, and Lemuel had got the night off and taken
Statira, it seemed as if she would be willing to sit up till morning
and talk the play over.
Nothing else ever interested her so much, except what one of the
girls in the box-factory had told her about going down to the beach,
summers, and waiting on table. This girl had been at Old Orchard,
where they had splendid times, with one veranda all to themselves
and the gentlemen-help; and in the afternoon the girls got together
on the beach--or the grass right in front of the hotel--and sewed.
They got nearly as much as they did in the box-factory; and then the
boarders all gave you something extra; some of them gave as much as
a dollar a week apiece. The head-waiter was a college student, and a
perfect gentleman; he was always dressed up in a dress-suit and a
white silk neck-tie. Statira said that next summer she wanted they
should go off somewhere, she and 'Manda Grier, and wait on table
together; and she knew Lemuel could easily get the head-waiter's
place, after the St. Albans. She should not want he should be clerk,
because then they could not have such good times, for they would be
Lemuel heard her restively through, and then broke out fiercely and
told her that he had seen enough of waiting on table at the St.
Albans for him never to want her to do it; and that the boarders who
gave money to the waiters despised them for taking it. He said that
he did not consider just helping Mrs. Harmon out the same as being
head-waiter, and that he would not be a regular waiter for any
money: he would rather starve.
Statira did not understand; she asked him meekly if he were mad at
her, he seemed so; and he had to do what he could to cheer her up.
'Manda Grier took Statira's part pretty sharply. She said it was one
thing to live out in a private family--that _was_ a disgrace,
if you could keep the breath of life in you any other way--and it
was quite another to wait in an hotel; and she did not want to have
any one hint round that she would let Statira demean herself. Lemuel
was offended by her manner, and her assumption of owning Statira.
She defended him, but he could not tell her how he had changed; the
influences were perhaps too obscure for him to have traced them all
himself; after the first time he had hardly mentioned the art-
student girls to her. There were a great many things that Statira
could not understand. She had been much longer in the city than
Lemuel, but she did not seem to appreciate the difference between
that and the country. She dressed very stylishly; no one went beyond
her in that; but in many things he could see that she remained
countrified. Once on a very mild April evening, when they were
passing through the Public Garden, she wished him to sit on a vacant
seat they came to. All the others were occupied by young couples who
sat with their arms around each other.
"No, no!" shuddered Lemuel, "I don't want people should take you for
one of these servant-girls."
"Why, Lem, how proud you're getting!" she cried with easy
acquiescence. "You're awfully stuck up! Well, then, you've got to
take a horse-car; I can't walk any further."
Lemuel had found out about the art-students from Berry. He said they
were no relation to each other, and had not even been acquainted
before they met at the art-school; he had first met them at the St.
Albans. Miss Swan was from the western part of the State, and Miss
Carver from down Plymouth way. The latter took pupils, and sometimes
gave lessons at their houses; she was, to Berry's thinking, not half
the genius and not half the duck that Miss Swan was, though she was
a duck in her way too. Miss Swan, as nearly as he could explain, was
studying art for the fun of it, or the excitement, for she was well
enough off; her father was a lawyer out there, and Berry believed
that a rising son-in-law in his own profession would be just the
thing for the old man's declining years. He said he should not be
very particular about settling down to practice at once; if his wife
wanted to go to Europe a while, and kind of tender foot it round for
a year or two in the art-centres over there, he would let the old
man run the business a little longer; sometimes it did an old man
good. There was no hurry; Berry's own father was not excited about
his going to work right away; he had the money to run Berry and a
wife too, if it came to that; Miss Swan understood that. He had not
told her so in just so many words, but he had let her know that
Alonzo W. Berry, senior, was not borrowing money at two per cent. a
month any more. He said he did not care to make much of a blow about
that part of it till he was ready to act, and he was not going to
act till he had a dead-sure thing of it; he was having a very good
time as it went along, and he guessed Miss Swan was too; no use to
hurry a girl, when she was on the right track.
Berry invented these axioms apparently to put himself in heart; in
the abstract he was already courageous enough. He said that these
Eastern girls were not used to having any sort of attention; that
there was only about a tenth or fifteenth of a fellow to every girl,
and that it tickled one of them to death to have a whole man around.
He was not meanly exultant at their destitution. He said he just
wished one of these pretty Boston girls--nice, well dressed,
cultured, and brought up to be snubbed and neglected by the tenths
and fifteenths of men they had at home--could be let loose in the
West, and have a regular round-up of fellows. Or, no, he would like
to have about five thousand fellows from out there, that never
expected a woman to look at them, unloaded in Boston, and see them
open their eyes. "Wouldn't one of 'em get home alive, if kindness
could kill 'em. I never saw such a place! I can't get used to it! It
makes me tired. _Any_ sort of fellow could get married in Boston!"
Berry made no attempt to reconcile his uncertainty as to his own
chances with this general theory, but he urged it to prove that Miss
Swan and Miss Carver would like to have Lemuel call; he said they
had both said they wished they could paint him. He had himself
sustained various characters in costume for them, and one night he
pretended that they had sent him down for Lemuel to help out with a
certain group. But they received him with a sort of blankness which
convinced him that Berry had exceeded his authority; there was a
helplessness at first, and then an indignant determination to save
him from a false position even at their own cost, which Lemuel felt
rather than saw. Miss Carver was foremost in his rescue; she devoted
herself to this, and left Miss Swan to punish Berry, who conveyed
from time to time his sense that he was "getting it," by a wink to
An observer with more social light might have been more puzzled to
account for Berry's toleration by these girls, who apparently
associated with him on equal terms. Since he was not a servant, he
_was_ their equal in Lemuel's eyes; perhaps his acceptance
might otherwise be explained by the fact that he was very amusing,
chivalrously harmless, and extremely kind-hearted and useful to
them. One must not leave out of the reckoning his open devotion for
Miss Swan, which in itself would do much to approve him to her, and
commend him to Miss Carver, if she were a generous girl, and very
fond of her friend. It is certain that they did tolerate Berry, who
made them laugh even that night in spite of themselves, till Miss
Swan said, "Well, what's the use?" and stopped trying to discipline
him. After that they had a very sociable evening, though Lemuel kept
his distance, and would not let them include him, knowing what the
two girls really thought of him. He would not take part in Berry's
buffooneries, but talked soberly and rather austerely with Miss
Carver; and to show that he did not feel himself an inferior,
whatever she might think, he was very sarcastic about some of the
city ways and customs they spoke of. There were a good many books
about--novels mostly, but not the kind Statira used to read, and
poems; Miss Carver said she liked to take them up when she was
nervous from her work; and if the weather was bad, and she could not
get out for a walk, a book seemed to do her almost as much good.
Nearly all the pictures about in the room seemed to be Miss Swan's;
in fact, when Lemuel asked about them, and tried to praise them in
such a way as not to show his ignorance, Miss Carver said she did
very little in colour; her lessons were all in black and white. He
would not let her see that he did not know what this was, but he was
ashamed, and he determined to find out; he determined to get a
drawing-book, and learn something about it himself. To his thinking,
the room was pretty harum-scarum. There were shawls hung upon the
walls, and rugs, and pieces of cloth, which sometimes had half-
finished paintings fastened to them; there were paintings standing
round the room on the floor, sometimes right side out, and sometimes
faced to the walls; there were two or three fleeces and fox-pelts
scattered about instead of a carpet; and there were two easels, and
stands with paints all twisted up in lead tubes on them. He compared
the room with Statira's, and did not think much of it at first.
Afterwards it did not seem so bad: he began to feel its
picturesqueness, for he went there again, and let the girls sketch
him. When Miss Swan asked him that night if he would let them he
wished to refuse; but she seemed so modest about it, and made it
such a great favour on his part, that he consented; she said she
merely wished to make a little sketch in colour, and Miss Carver a
little study of his head in black and white; and he imagined it a
trifling affair that could be despatched in a single night. They
decided to treat his head as a Young Roman head; and at the end of a
long sitting, beguiled with talk and with thoughtful voluntaries
from Berry on his banjo, he found that Miss Carver had rubbed her
study nearly all out with a piece of bread, and Miss Swan said she
should want to try a perfectly new sketch with the shoulders draped;
the coat had confused her; she would not let any one see what she
had done, though Berry tried to make her let him.
Lemuel looked a little blank when she asked him for another sitting;
but Berry said, "Oh, you'll have to come, Barker. Penalty of
greatness, you know. Have you in Williams & Everett's window;
notices in all the papers. 'The exquisite studies, by Miss Swan and
Miss Carver, of the head of the gentlemanly and accommodating clerk
of the St. Albans, as a Roman Youth.' Chromoed as a Christmas card
by Prang, and photograph copies everywhere. You're all right,
One night Miss Swan said, in rapture with some momentary success,
"Oh, I'm perfectly in love with this head!"
Berry looked up from his banjo, which he ceased to strum. "Hello,
Then the two broke into a laugh, in which Lemuel helplessly joined.
"What--what is it?" asked Miss Carver, looking up absently from her
"Nothing; just a little outburst of passion from our young friend
here," said Berry, nodding his head toward Miss Swan.
"What does it mean, Mad?" asked Miss Carver in the same dreamy way,
continuing her work.
"Yes, Madeline," said Berry, "explain yourself."
"Mr. Berry!" cried Miss Swan warningly.
"That's me; Alonzo W., Jr. Go on!"
"You forget yourself," said the girl, with imperfect severity.
"Well, you forgot me first," said Berry, with affected injury.
"Ain't it hard enough to sit here night after night, strumming on
the old banjo, while another fellow is going down to posterity as a
Roman Youth with a red shawl round his neck, without having to hear
people say they're in love with that head of his?"
Miss Carver now stopped her work, and looked from her friend, with
her head bowed in laughter on the back of her hand, to that of Berry
bent in burlesque reproach upon her, and then at Lemuel, who was
trying to control himself.
"But I can tell you what, Miss Swan; you spoke too late, as the man
said when he swallowed the chicken in the fresh egg. Mr. Barker has
a previous engagement. That so, Barker?"
Lemuel turned fire-red, and looked round at Miss Carver, who met his
glance with her clear gaze. She turned presently to make some
comment on Miss Swan's sketch, and then, after working a little
while longer, she said she was tired, and was going to make some
The girls both pressed Lemuel to stay for a cup, but he would not;
and Berry followed him downstairs to explain and apologise.
"It's all right," said Lemuel. "What difference would it make to
them whether I was engaged or not?"
"Well, I suppose as a general rule a girl would rather a fellow
wasn't," philosophised Berry. He whistled ruefully, and Lemuel
drawing a book toward him in continued silence, he rose from the
seat he had taken on the desk in the little office, and said, "Well,
I guess it'll all come out right. Come to think of it, _I_
don't know anything about your affairs, and I can tell 'em so."
"Oh, it don't matter."
He had pulled the book toward him as if he were going to read, but
he could not read; his head was in a whirl. After a first frenzy of
resentment against Berry, he was now angry at himself for having
been so embarrassed. He thought of a retort that would have passed
it all off lightly; then he reflected again that it was of no
consequence to these young ladies whether he was engaged or not, and
at any rate it was nobody's business but his own. Of course he was
engaged to Statira, but he had hardly thought of it in that way.
'Manda Grier had joked about the time when she supposed she should
have to keep old maid's hall alone; when she first did this Lemuel
thought it delightful, but afterwards he did not like it so much; it
began to annoy him that 'Manda Grier should mix herself up so much
with Statira and himself. He believed that Statira would be
different, would be more like other ladies (he generalised it in
this way, but he meant Miss Swan and Miss Carver), if she had not
'Manda Grier there all the time to keep her back. He convinced
himself that if it were not for 'Manda Grier, he should have had no
trouble in telling Statira that the art-students were sketching him;
and that he had not done so yet because he hated to have 'Manda ask
her so much about them, and call them that Swan girl and that Carver
girl, as she would be sure to do, and clip away the whole evening
with her questions and her guesses. It was now nearly a fortnight
since the sketching began, and he had let one Sunday night pass
without mentioning it. He could not let another pass, and he knew
'Manda Grier would say they were a good while about it, and would
show her ignorance, and put Statira up to asking all sorts of
things. He could not bear to think of it, and he let the next Sunday
night pass without saying anything to Statira. The sittings
continued; but before the third Sunday came Miss Swan said she did
not see how she could do anything more to her sketch, and Miss
Carver had already completed her study. They criticised each other's
work with freedom and good humour, and agreed that the next thing
was to paint it out and rub it out.
"No," said Berry; "what you want is a fresh eye on it. I've worried
over it as much as you have,--suffered more, I believe,--and Barker
can't tell whether he looks like a Roman Youth or not. Why don't you
have up old Evans?"
Miss Swan took no apparent notice of this suggestion; and Miss
Carver, who left Berry's snubbing entirely to her, said nothing.
After a minute's study of the pictures, Miss Swan suggested, "If Mr.
Barker had any friends he would like to show them to?"
"Oh no, thank you," returned Lemuel hastily, "there isn't anybody,"
and again he found himself turning very red.
"Well, I don't know how we can thank you enough for your patience,
Mr. Barker," said the girl.
"Oh, don't mention it. I've--I've enjoyed it," said Lemuel.
"Game--every time," said Berry; and their evening broke up with a
The next morning Lemuel stopped Miss Swan at the door of the
breakfast room, and said, "I've been thinking over what you said
last night, and I _should_ like to bring some one--a lady
friend of mine--to see the pictures."
"Why, certainly, Mr. Barker. Any time. Some evening?" she suggested.
"Should you mind it if I came to-morrow night?" he asked; and he
thought it right to remind her, "it's Sunday night."
"Oh, not at all! To-morrow night, by all means! We shall both be at
home, and very glad to see you." She hurried after Miss Carver,
loitering on her way to their table, and Lemuel saw them put their
heads together, as if they were whispering. He knew they were
whispering about him, but they did not laugh; probably they kept
themselves from laughing. In coming out from breakfast, Miss Swan
said, "I hope your friend isn't _very_ critical, Mr. Barker?"
and he answered confusedly, "Oh, not at all, thank you." But he said
to himself that he did not care whether she was trying to make fun
of him or not, he knew what he had made up his mind to do.
Statira did not seem to care much about going to see the pictures,
when he proposed it to her the next evening. She asked why he had
been keeping it such a great secret, and he could not pretend, as he
had once thought he could, that he was keeping it as a surprise for
her. "Should _you_ like to see 'em, 'Manda?" she asked, with
"I d' know as I care much about Lem's picture, s'long's we've got
_him_ around," 'Manda Grier whipped out, "but I _should_ like t' see
those celebrated girls 't we've heard s' much about."
"Well," said Statira carelessly, and they went into the next room to
put on their wraps. Lemuel, vexed to have 'Manda Grier made one of
the party, and helpless to prevent her going, walked up and down,
wondering what he should say when he arrived with this unexpected
But Miss Swan received both of the girls very politely, and chatted
with 'Manda Grier, whose conversation, in defiance of any sense of
superiority that the Swan girl or the Carver girl might feel, was a
succession of laconic snaps, sometimes witty, but mostly rude and
Miss Carver made tea, and served it in some pretty cups which Lemuel
hoped Statira might admire, but she took it without noticing, and in
talking with Miss Carver she drawled, and said "N-y-e-e-e-s," and "I
don't know as I d-o-o-o," and "Well, I should think as mu-u-ch,"
with a prolongation of all the final syllables in her sentences
which he had not observed in her before, and which she must have
borrowed for the occasion for the gentility of the effect. She tried
to refer everything to him, and she and 'Manda Grier talked together
as much as they could, and when the others spoke of him as Mr.
Barker, they called him Lem. They did not look at anything, or do
anything to betray that they found the studio, on which Lemuel had
once expatiated to them, different from other rooms.
At last Miss Swan abruptly brought out the studies of Lemuel's head,
and put them in a good light; 'Manda Grier and Statira got into the
wrong place to see them.
'Manda blurted out, "Well, he looks 's if he'd had a fit of sickness
in _that_ one;" and perhaps, in fact, Miss Carver had refined
too much upon a delicate ideal of Lemuel's looks.
"So he d-o-o-es!" drawled Statira. "And how funny he looks with that
red thing o-o-o-n!"
Miss Swan explained that she had thrown that in for the colour, and
that they had been fancying him in the character of a young Roman.
"You think he's got a Roman n-o-o-se?" asked Statira through her
"I think Lem's got a kind of a pug, m'self," said 'Manda Grier.
"Well, 'Manda Grier!" said Statira.
Lemuel could not look at Miss Carver, whom he knew to be gazing at
the two girls from the little distance to which she had withdrawn;
Miss Swan was biting her lip.
"So that's the celebrated St. Albans, is it?" said 'Manda Grier,
when they got in the street. "Don't know 's I really ever expected to
see the inside 'f it. You notice the kind of oilcloth they had on
that upper entry, S'tira?"
They did not mention Lemuel's pictures, or the artists; and he
scarcely spoke on the way home.
When they parted, Statira broke out crying, and would not let him
"I'm afraid your little friend at the St. Albans isn't altogether
happy of late," said Evans toward the end of what he called one of
his powwows with Sewell. Their talk had taken a vaster range than
usual, and they both felt the need, that people know in dealing with
abstractions, of finally getting the ground beneath their feet
"Ah?" asked Sewell, with a twinge that allayed his satisfaction in
this. "What's the matter with him?"
"Oh, the knowledge of good and evil, I suspect."
"I hope there's nothing wrong," said Sewell anxiously.
"Oh no. I used the phrase because it came easily. Just what I mean
is that I'm afraid his view of our social inequalities is widening
and deepening, and that he experiences the dissatisfaction of people
who don't command that prospect from the summit. I told you of his
censure of our aristocratic constitution?"
"Yes," said Sewell, with a smile.
"Well, I'm afraid he feels it more and more. If I can judge from the
occasional distance and _hauteur_ with which he treats me, he
is humiliated by it. Nothing makes a man so proud as humiliation,
"There are a couple of pretty girls at the St. Albans, art-students,
who have been painting Barker. So I learn from a reformed cow-boy of
the plains who is with us as a law-student and is about with one of
the young ladies a good deal. They're rather nice girls; quite nice,
in fact; and there's no harm in the cow-boy, and a good deal of fun.
But if Barker had conceived of being painted as a social inferior,
and had been made to feel that he was merely a model; and if he had
become at all aware that one of the girls was rather pretty--they
"I don't say it's so. But he seems low-spirited. Why don't you come
round and cheer him up--get into his confidence--"
"Get into the centre of the earth!" cried Sewell. "I never saw such
an inapproachable creature!"
Evans laughed. "He _is_ rather remote. The genuine American
youth is apt to be so, especially if he thinks you mean him a
kindness. But there ought to be some way of convincing him that he
need not feel any ignominy in his employment. After so many
centuries of Christianity and generations of Democracy, it ought to
be very simple to convince him that there is nothing disgraceful in
showing people to their places at table."
"It isn't," said the minister soberly.
"No, it isn't," said Evans. "I wonder," he added thoughtfully, "why
we despise certain occupations? We don't despise a man who hammers
stone or saws boards; why should we despise a barber? Is the care of
the human head intrinsically less honourable than the shaping of
such rude material? Why do we still condemn the tailor who clothes
us, and honour the painter who portrays us in the same clothes? Why
do we despise waiters? I tried to make Barker believe that I
respected all kinds of honest work. But I lied; I despised him for
having waited on table. Why have all manner of domestics fallen
under our scorn, and come to be stigmatised in a lump as servants?"
"Ah, I don't know," said the minister. "There _is_ something in
personal attendance upon us that dishonours; but the reasons of it
are very obscure; _I_ couldn't give them. Perhaps it's because
it's work that in a simpler state of things each of us would do for
himself, and in this state is too proud to do."
"That doesn't cover the whole ground," said Evans.
"And you think that poor boy is troubled--is really suffering from a
sense of inferiority to the other young people?"
"Oh, I don't say certainly. Perhaps not. But if he were, what should
you say was the best thing for him to do? Remain a servant; cast his
lot with these outcasts; or try to separate and distinguish himself
from them, as we all do? Come; we live in the world,--which isn't so
bad, though it's pretty stupid. He couldn't change it. Now, what
ought he to do?"
Sewell mused a while without answering anything. Then he said with a
smile, "It's very much simpler to fit people for the other world
than for this, don't you think?"
"Yes, it is. It was a cold day for the clergy when it was imagined
that they ought to do both."
"Well," said Sewell, rising to follow his friend to the door, "I
will come to see Barker, and try to talk with him. He's a very
complicated problem. I supposed that I had merely his material
prosperity to provide for, after getting him down here, but if I
have to reconcile him to the constitution of society!----"
"Yes," said Evans. "I wish you'd let me know the result of your
labours. I think I could make a very incisive article on the
subject. The topic is always an attractive one. There is nobody who
doesn't feel that somebody else is taking on airs with him, and
ought to have his comb cut. Or, if you should happen to prove to
Barker that his ignominy is in accordance with the Development
Theory, and is a necessary Survival, or something of that sort,
don't you see what a card it would be for us with the better
They went downstairs together, and at the street door Evans stopped
again. "Or, I'll tell you what. Make it a simple study of Barker's
mind--a sort of psychological interview, and then with what I've
been able to get from him we can present the impression that Boston
makes upon a young, fresh, shrewd mind. That would be something
rather new, wouldn't it? Come! the _Afternoon_ would make it
worth your while. And then you could work it into a sermon
"You shameless reprobate!" said Sewell, laying his hand
affectionately on his friend's arm.
There was nothing in Lemuel's case that seemed to him urgent, and he
did not go to see him at once. In the meantime, Fast Day came, and
Lemuel got away at last to pay his first visit home.
"Seems to me ye ain't lookin' over and above well, Lem," was the
first thing his mother said to him, even before she noticed how well
he was dressed.
His new spring overcoat, another prize from the Misfit Parlours, and
his new pointed-toe shoes, and Derby hat, with the suit of clothes
he had kept so carefully all through the winter, were not the
complete disguise he had fancied they might be at Willoughby
Pastures. The depot-master had known him as soon as he got out of
the cars, and ignored his splendour in recognising him. He said,
"Hello, Lem," and had not time to reconcile himself to the boy's
changed appearance before Lemuel hurried away with the bag he had
bought so long before for the visit. He met several people on his
way home from the depot: two of them were women, and one of these
said she knew as soon as she looked at him who it was, and the other
said she should have known it was Lem Barker as far as she could see
him. She asked him if he was home for good now.
His mother pushed back his thick hair with her hard old hand as she
spoke to him, and then she pressed his head down upon her neck,
which was mostly collar-bone. But Lemuel could hear her heart beat,
and the tears came into his eyes.
"Oh, I'm all right, mother," he said huskily, though he tried to say
it cheerfully. He let her hold his head there the longer because
mixed with his tenderness for her was a horror of her bloomers,
which he was not at once able to overcome. When he gained courage to
look, he saw that she had them on, but now he had the strength to
"Ye had any breakfast?" she asked, and when he said that he had got
a cup of coffee at Fitchburg, she said, well, she must get him
something, and she drew him a cup of Japan tea, and made him some
milk toast and picked-fish, talking all the time, and telling him
how his sister and her husband had gone to the village to have one
of her teeth drawn. They had got along through the winter pretty
well; but she guessed that they would have had more to complain of
if it had not been for him. This was her way of acknowledging the
help Lemuel had given them every week, and it was casually
sandwiched between an account of an Indian Spirit treatment which
Reuben had tried for his rheumatism, and a question whether Lemuel
had seen anything of that Mind Cure down to Boston.
But when he looked about the room, and saw here and there the simple
comforts and necessaries which his money had bought the sick man and
the two helpless women, his heart swelled with joy and pride; and he
realised the pleasure we all feel in being a good genius. At times
it had come pretty hard to send the greater part of his week's wages
home, but now he was glad he had done it. The poor, coarse food
which his mother had served him as a treat; the low, cracked
ceilings; the waving floor, covered with rag carpet; the sagging
doors, and the old-fashioned trim of the small-paned windows, were
all very different from the luxurious abundance, the tesselated
pavement, and the tapestry Brussels, the lofty studding, and the
black walnut mouldings of the St. Albans; and Lemuel felt the
difference with a curious mixture of pride and remorse in his own
escape from the meanness of his home. He felt the self-reproach to
which the man who rises without raising with him all those dear to
him is destined in some measure all his life. His interests and
associations are separated from theirs, but if he is not an ignoble
spirit, the ties of affection remain unweakened; he cares for them
with a kind of indignant tenderness, and calls himself to account
before them in the midst of pleasures which they cannot share, or
Lemuel's mother did not ask him much about his life in Boston; she
had not the materials for curiosity about it; but he told her
everything that he thought she could understand. She recurred to his
hopes when he left home and their disappointment in Sewell, and she
asked if Lemuel ever saw him nowadays. She could not reconcile
herself to his reconciliation with Sewell, whom she still held to
have behaved treacherously. Then she went back to Lemuel's looks,
and asked him if he kept pretty well; and when he answered that he
did, she smoothed with her hand the knot between her eyes, and did
not question him further.
He had the whole forenoon with his mother, and he helped her to get
the dinner, as he used to do, pulling the stove-wood out of the
snow-drift that still embedded part of the wood-pile, though the
snow was all gone around Boston. It was thawing under the dull, soft
April sky, and he saw the first bluebird perched on the clothes-line
when he went out for the wood; his mother said there had been lots
of them. He walked about the place, and into the barn, taking in the
forlornness and shabbiness; and then he went up into the room over
the shed, where he used to study and write. His heart ached with
He realised as he had not done at a distance how dependent this
wretched home was upon him; and after meaning the whole morning to
tell his mother about Statira, he decided that he was keeping it
from her, not merely because he was ashamed to tell her that he was
engaged, but because it seemed such a crazy thing, for a person in
his circumstances, if it was really an engagement. He had not seen
Statira since that night when he brought her to look at the pictures
the art-students had made of him. He felt that he had not parted
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