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Full text of "Knitters in the sun"

KNlTTea-) 
IN-THe-S^N 



OCTAVe-THANieT 



1 



THE UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

LIBRARY 




m 



THE WILMER COLLECTION 
OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS 
PRESENTED BY 

RICHARD H. WILMER, JR. 




o 



o 



KNITTERS IN THE SUN 



BY 



OCTAVE THANET 



O, fellow, come, the song we had last night. — 

Mark it, Cesario ; it is old and plain ; 

The spinsters and the knitters in the sun. 

And the free maids tl»at weave their thread with bones, 

Do use to chant it. 

Twelfth Night, Act II., Scene 4. 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 

1887 



Copyright, 1887, 
Br HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & 00- 

AU rights reserved. 



The Riverside Press, Cambridge : 
Electrotyped and Printed by U. 0. Houghton & Co. 



o 



TO MY MOTHER. 



Digitized by the Internet Arciiive 

in 2009 with funding from 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



http://www.archive.org/details/knittersinsunOOthan 



CONTENTS. 



• 

PAGE 

The Ogre of Ha Ha Bay 1 

The Bishop's Vagabond 50 

Mrs. Finlat's Elizabethan Chair .... 97 

Father Quinnailon' s Convert .... 133 

A Communist's Wife 173 

Schopenhauer on Lake Pepin .... 201 
" Ma' Bowlin' " (from Harper's TFee%) . . .237 

Half a Curse . . • 269 

Whitsun Harp, Regulator 301 



KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 

The Saguenay steamboat reaches Ha Ha 
Bay in the early morning. It was just three 
o'clock on a July morning, when Susan and I 
took our first look at the bay. I had been 
trying to marry Susan for ten years, and we 
went up the Saguenay on our wedding journey. 
I have but to shut my eyes to see Ha Ha Bay 
now. Early as the hour was, the pale light 
of that high latitude brought out the scene 
with something the same quality of tone as an 
etching : the desolate cliffs guarding the en- 
trance to the Saguenay ; the hills lower, and 
green with oats and barley about the placid 
pool where the mysterious river widens into 
the bay; the two quaint villages facing each 
other across the water, with their half foreign 
picturesqueness of stone walls and steep red 
roofs ; a pier like a long, black arm thrust forth 
from St. Alphonse; a huge sawmill over at 



2 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Grand Bale; and four full-rigged ships at 
anchor below the mill. The tide was out in 
the flats, and the smell of salt water was in 
the air. 

Behind St. Alphonse some freak of nature 
has heaped a mass of granite rocks, then, re- 
penting, tried to hide them with a frugal ver- 
dure of grass and stunted pines. The hotel is 
built on the rocks. Broad piazzas made it 
imposing, and whitewash, conspicuous. Not 
only has St. Alphonse the hotel of the bay, it 
is also the steamboat landing. Perhaps the 
boat's coming but four times a week, and being 
the sole means of intercourse, outside of horse- 
flesh, between the village and the world, ac- 
counts for the presence of all the inhabitants 
on the pier. Certainly, the traffic of the region 
in wood and blueberries could scarcely bring 
such numbers out of their beds at three o'clock 
in the morning. The wood and the blueberry 
boxes — looking exactly like wee coffins — were 
piled on either side. One man, with a wheel- 
barrow, was hauling the wood into the boat's 
hold, superintended by three officers, all talk- 
ing at once. Half a dozen, having nothing 
better than their arms, were carrying the 
blueberries on board. At the same time, 
sacks of flour and barrels and boxes of mer- 
chandise kept emerging from below, the own- 



o 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 3 

ers of which helped the confusion by running 
about after their goods, while the unwieldy- 
vehicles of the region, the voitures a la planche, 
were recklessly plunging, backing, and turning 
through the crowd amid a mighty clamor of 
French patois. One of the horses fixed my 
attention. He was a splendid creature, a big 
gray, with the great curved neck and powerful 
flanks of a charger on a Greek frieze. The 
muscles stood out like whipcord, as he reared 
and pawed in the air. His driver, a slender 
young habitant, took his antics very coolly, 
merely saying at intervals, in a conversational 
tone, " Sois sage, Bac," as though to an unruly 
baby. 

" I should like to drive after that horse," 
said my wife. Her voice is softer than a flute, 
and she is slender and graceful, with an appeal- 
ing look in her hazel eyes, and the sweetest 
smile in the world ; but I have never met a 
woman so fond of risking her neck. Before I 
knew what was happening she had called, 
" Venez ici, cocher ! " and the gray brute was 
kicking at my elbow. Naturally, nothing re- 
mained but to climb into the voiture a la 
planche. These '' carriages on a plank " are 
simply "buckboard wagons" with two seats, 
the further one of which is protected by a hood 
and a leather apron. Susan was charmed. 



4 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" He has spirit, your horse," said she in French. 
" Oway, Madame," said the driver, politely 
turning in his seat. " Oway," I had already 
discovered, is Canadian French for " Oui." 
The driver was young. He was clad in a 
decent coarse suit of gray, and wore the soft 
felt hat and curious boots of undyed leather, 
tied with a thong, which every habitant wears. 
His features were of the delicate habitant 
type; but his fair skin, blue eyes, and reddish 
yellow hair hinted a mixed race. He was not 
tall, and was slightly round-shouldered. The 
only thing noticeable in his appearance was an 
air of deep dejection, not lightened by so much 
as a smile of courtesy. He spoke no English, 
— almost no one speaks English in the St. 
John country, — but though dejected he was 
not reticent, and we had his whole history be- 
fore we were well into the village. His name 
was Isadore Clovis. He lived in the village 
with his uncle, Xavier Tremblay. That was 
his uncle's house — pointing to a cottage of 
logs covered with birch bark, which stood close 
to a substantial stone house. He, himself, was 
not married, he never should be. His father 
and' mother had been long dead. He was the 
youngest of a large family ; the habitants had 
large families, " Oway, M'sieu'." " And that 
of my mother was of the largest," said he; " the 



o 



TEE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 5 

good God sent her twenty-six. But twelve, 
fifteen, that is common." 

"And did they all live ? " I asked, while Su- 
san remarked in English that she had never 
heard of anything so horrible. 

" Mais, non, M'sieu'," said Isadore, " all are 
dead but six ; they live in Chicontimi, nme 
miles from here. I live here, I with my uncle. 
Regard my uncle, Madame, M'sieu' ! " 

His finger indicated the roof of the stone 
house. Peering over the ridgepole was a bushy 
white head, set with no visible neck upon a pair 
of very broad shoulders. Hair standing out in 
spikes all over, a stubbly gray beard, and pro- 
digious eyebrows imparted an aspect of gro- 
tesque ferocity to features forbidding enough 
of themselves, weatherbeaten, rugged, scored by 
innumerable lines and dents. The attire of 
this extraordinary bust was a plaided red flan- 
nel shirt, torn at the throat, and thus display- 
ing a hairy chest. Altogether, he might have 
given an orang-outang the odds for ugliness. 

" He owns both houses," said Isadore, '' he is 
rich ; he has many farms and a fromagerie and 

"He is fortunate," said Susan, who likes to 
be pleasant with people, and to praise their be- 
longings; "it is a good house, a comfortable 
house. Does he live there ? " 

Isadore threw a lustreless eye over the house. 



6 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

saying slowly, "No one lives there, Madame, 
no one has ever lived there ; it is because of 
his vow." 

"His vow?" 

" Oway, Madame. He made a vow before 
M. Pingat, M. le notaire, M. Rideau, M. Ver- 
net, those, that he would never go into his 
new house until be should marry a maiden of 
twenty. It was twenty-five years ago, but he 
has never gone into the house since." 

" How old is he ? " 

" He is eighty years old, Madame ; he is a 
very strong man. Every day he climbs the 
roof, so." 

"Dear me," cried Susan, "this is most inter- 
esting! he has never married, then?" 

"No, Madame; once be was affianced to a 
maiden of twenty, she had but one eye ; but 
she fell in the river and was drowned." 

"But in his youth?" 

" Once he was afl&anced, Madame," said Isa- 
dore ; "he was then fifty-five, and not long come 
from Quebec. Madame does not know the 
widow Guion ; she is still handsome; but then, 
when she was twent}^, there was no one in the 
parish to compare with her. My uncle would 
marry her, and the affair was arranged, and my 
uncle had built the house ; it was nearly fin- 
ished, when, behold, she will not marry my un- 
cle, she will marry Pierre Guion. Then all the 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 7 

world made jests about my uncle, who, as one 
can see, is not handsome. And it was at M. 
Francois Pouliot's house that they were laugh- 
ing, and saying that my uncle would frighten 
any woman away, he was so ugly, and my uncle 
overheard it, passing by, and came in, and 
swore an oath before them all, that he would 
never go into his new house until he should 
marry a maiden of twenty. ' I can get the best 
of them to marry me, for as ugly as I am,' said 
he. But it was twenty-five years first." 

" Has he succeeded, then ? " Isadore, lean- 
ing forward, gathered up the reins. 

*' Oway, Madame," he said, in a low tone, 
*' he has succeeded. Next month he will marry 
a maiden of twenty, and move into his new 
house." By force of habit Isadore called the 
twenty-five year old house "the new house; " 
doubtless it had been "the old house " and "the 
new house " to him from childhood. " He left 
the house just as it was," said Isadore, " the 
wood and shavings are all scattered about the 
floors, where the carpenters left them. He had 
the carpenters board up the windows, that was 
all. Bac, en avant ! " 

We had turned and were ascending a hill. 
Half-way up Isadore stopped to point again. 
" See, Madame, the cottage of the widow 
GuioD." It was a mere morsel of a house, the 



8 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

unpainted boards of wbicli were made a better 
protection against the weather by a covering 
of birch bark. In the little yard the peas were 
in flower, and a few hollyhocks reared their 
heads above the beet leaves and lettuce. A 
barefooted man was raking coals out of the 
open-air oven which stood to one side of a pile 
of brush. " C'est le beau-frere de Madame," 
said Isadore, " c'est un fou, mais bon naturel, 
pas me chant. From here, Madame can see the 
hotel plainly." 

We looked, not at the hotel, but at the road. 
Could that infatuated Canadian mean to drive 
up a sheer rock, slippery with mud, wider but 
hardly better than a goat path ? 

"Attendez," said I, "do you mean to take 
us up that way, that? " 

"Oway, M'sieu','' replied Isadore, tranquilly, 
" without doubt. Bac is accustomed to it. Be- 
hold ! Bac, en avant ! " With the word, he 
leaped lightly over the shafts, and Bac and he 
went up the hill on a run. It is the pace of 
the country ; up hill and down, they make their 
horses gallop at the top of tbeir speed. I don't 
know why; I suppose they like it. At any 
rate, Susan did ; she was enchanted. 

"Wasn't it lovely, Maurice?" she cried, as 
Isadore pulled Bac up before the hotel piazzas ; 
" do give the man something handsome." 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 9 

I gave him fifty cents, which he said was 
more than he deserved ; and we both watched 
him rattle down the hill at a rate which threat- 
ened to break every bone in his body. Then, 
having seen him emerge unshattered, we entered 
the hotel. There are no such inns in the 
States. Nothing could be more primitive than 
the house and its furnishing. The walls were 
unplastered, the woodwork unpainted; the 
women of the village had spun, woven, and 
dyed the strips of gay carpet on the pine floors. 
We had tallow candles in our bedrooms, a 
candle to a room. If we wanted a maid we 
went out into the hall and called her. A bath 
was a perilous luxury, the one bath tub of the 
house being too large for the doors, so that 
it must be emptied before it could be tilted on 
one side and trundled out of the room, which 
operation usually ended in flooding both the 
bather's chamber and the room below, not 
counting a few stray rivulets likely to meander 
into the hall. Yet, I have been less comfort- 
able in houses with grand names. Everything 
was scrupulously clean ; Madame gave us a 
capital dinner and Monsieur kept most excellent 
wines ; nor is it everywhere that one can eat 
salmon of his own catching. Moreover, it is 
pleasant to live among a people so simple, 
kindlv, and cheerful as the French Canadians. 



10 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

All the ri^ror of a barsh climate and a hard life 
cannot quench their amiable vivacity or that 
engaging politeness which flings a sort of 
Southern grace over their bare Northern homes. 
We grew fond of the viUagers. To them the 
hotel was the centre of festivity ; were there 
not a bowling alley, and a billiard room, and in 
the parlor a 'piano ? Nightly the village mag- 
nates would assemble in the alley and bowl 
with tremendous energy and both hands. We 
came to know them all, the doctor, the notary, 
the rich fur merchant, the various shopkeepers 
and farmers. 

Of them all none interested us more than the 
widow Guion and her daughter. The widow 
was a tall woman, whose figure had been 
moulded on such fine lines that a life of coarse 
toil had not been able to spoil them. Trouble 
had bleached her thick hair and wrinkled her 
face, and the weather had browned her skin, 
but she was as straight as an arrow and still 
had splendid eyes and a profile worth drawing. 
We often saw her in her garden working like a 
man. Indoors, she would wash her hands, tie a 
clean apron about her waist, and sing over her 
spinning. The singing was for the fool. She 
was very kind to him and devoted to her 
dauo'hter. She was also neat, honest, and 
industrious; but she was not popular in the 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 11 

village; they said that she had an imperious 
temper and was unsocial. Melanie, the daugh- 
ter, was one of the maids at the hotel, a 
tall, handsome, black-haired, fair-skinned girl, 
who revived the traditions of her mother's 
beauty. One day something occurred to make 
us notice Melanie. We were sitting on the 
rocks overhanging the village. It was that 
most peaceful hour of the day, the hour before 
sunset. The west was in a glow that turned 
the tin spire of the little church into silver ; the 
mountains cast purple shadows over the bay ; 
and the water was a steel mirror with rippling 
splashes of shade. We could hear the lowing 
of the cows returning homeward, and the faint 
tinkle of bells, and the voices of mothers call- 
ing their children. " How peaceful it is," said 
Susan softly, "and they seem so pastoral and 
childlike, like people in poems. One can hardly 
imagine any one's being very unhappy here." 

Perhaps she was thinking of our own past; 
certainly we had been miserable enough, before 
we drifted into this calm harbor. Just then a 
man and woman, coming along the path be- 
neath, halted, out of sight, but not out of hear- 
ing. The man was speaking : " No, I cannot 
bear it. See, thou art all I have, thou ; I have 
loved thee all my life. Ah, mon dieu, how 
couldst thou promise ! " Now I grant that we 



12 KNITTERS IN TEE SUN 

ought to have risen at once, and gone away; 
but I am not relating what we ought to have 
done, but what we did do, which was to sit still 
and listen with all our ears. The woman an- 
swered. The other's voice was rough and thick 
from passion : but hers was very gentle and quiet. 

" I will tell thee, Isadore," she said (Susan 
pinched my arm) ; " I came here to tell. 
Thou knowest maman has a great opinion of 
M. Tremblay, who has been her only friend, 
though he has so little reason." 

" It was but that he might marry ^/lee," cried 
Isadore, " curse his craft}^ head ! " 

"May be," answered the woman wearily, 
"though I think not; but he has been ever 
kind to us, since before I was born. And 
maman was glad, very glad, when he would 
marry me." 

" And was it tJiat " — 

" Hush ! no, my friend. It was hard to re- 
fuse her who has lived so wearying a life and 
had so great disappointments, but I thought of 
thee. Then — then — she told me. Isadore, 
maman — maman is going blind!" The voice 
which was so steady broke, but in a second it 
went on quietly as before. " It is that, my 
friend, that made me promise. M. le docteur 
says if she will go to Montreal to the great 
doctor there, he will make her eyes well again. 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 13 

But it will cost a great, great sum of money, 
two hundred dollars. And M. Tremblay has 
promised to give it her, and more, besides, 
when I marry him. And if she does not go, 
she must become quite blind. Already she 
cannot spin the yarn even, and when she feels 
the lumps afterwards, she weeps." There was 
a somid like a groan. "Do not weep, my 
friend," she continued, " it cannot be for long. 
He is so very old." 

This practical view of the matter hardly 
seemed to console the lover, who burst out: 
*' Thou dost not understand it, thou ! Ah, no," 
— he swore a grpat oath, with a sob in his 
throat, — "I will not endure it. Listen, I have 
five dollars. I will sell Bac. We will go to 
Quebec and be married. Ah, think, m'amie, 
thou and I." 

There was a break filled by a very pretty 
sound, then the soft voice again. "Ah, no, 
Isadore, thou must not kiss me. It cannot be. 
I have sworn before the image of the blessed 
Virgin to marry him. And, beside — oh, Isa- 
dore, how could I leave her behind, to grow 
blind — without me ! " Isadore did not answer. 
The vesper bell rang from the church tower. 
" My friend," said the girl, " I must go. I can 
never see thee alone again. Wilt thou not for- 
give me, first?" 



14 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

"I might kill him," said the man. 

"And be hanged for it?" answered his 
practical sweetheart, "how would that help? " 

" He would be dead," said the desperate 
Isadore, " he could not marry thee. Mon dieu, 
it would help much ! " 

" But thy soul, it would burn forever ! " 

"It would not burn," said Isadore, practical 
in his turn, " I would repent and confess to the 
priest and he would absolve me." 

" But he could not bring thee back to life. 
Oh, Isadore, promise me thou wilt put away 
such thoughts ! Thou art cruel, thou ! " 

" Ah, dost thou feel what is tearing my 
h6art?" cried poor Isadore. 

"Look at me," said the woman, " dost thou 
remember my face a month ago ? I cannot 
speak when I suffer, like thee ; I can only bear 
it." The man was kissing her again, and cry- 
ing quite openly. " Isadore," said she, " I must 
go. Bid me farewell. No, do not hold me. 
See, thou hast often complained that I never 
will kiss thee. This once." 

I think they were both crying now. We 
were ashamed to listen longer and got up, but 
in a few moments a woman's shape flitted 
round the curve and passed us. She was tall 
and had black hair ; we both recognized M^- 
lanie. " Oh, poor things ! " cried my dear wife, 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 15 

" and we are so happy ; can't we help them, 
Maurice ? " I said that we might try. Any- 
how, it would n't cost more than a picture. 
" So Melanie is the old ogre's victim, is she ? " 
said I ; " what possesses her mother ? " 

In truth, Tremblay, in the village eyes, was 
worse than an ogre. All the world knew him 
to be a miser to his nail points, a cruel, surly 
old reprobate. He was a heretic and a scoffer 
at the saints. He had amassed (doubtless by 
baleful means) what was great wealth in that 
simple community. Most of the villagers were 
in his debt ; nor was this the worst, he had 
possessed himself of all the secrets of the parish. 
How? The doctor talked about gossip; but 
there was a sinister theory more in favor. 
Under the confessional floor, in the church, 
was a space between the timbers large enough 
for a dog to lie, and Xavier, strong and supple, 
in spite of his eighty years, could curl his short 
body into a dog's compass ; the abominable 
wickedness would only give a zest to the act, 
for the old infidel. 

" But what secrets can you have ? " I said to 
the doctor, " they can't be very bad." 

" There is a black spot in the human heart, 
everywhere, Monsieur," answered the doctor. 
Wherever the black spot, Xavier was sure to 
put his wicked old finger on it and gibe at the 



16 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

victim's wincing. Then he would creep away, 
chuckling, to the ground, or, may be, to his pet 
devil, for St. Alphonse firmly believed in such 
a familiar. 

My own acquaintance with the ogre was 
limited to one interview. I found him unload- 
ing blueberries, on the wharf, his cart and a 
sorry skeleton of a horse beside him. A nearer 
view did not give one a better opinion of his 
looks. He was of low stature, with enormously 
long arms, and disproportionately broad shoul- 
ders. I asked him a question; in French, of 
course. 

"Me spik Englis," croaked the old sinner. 

He insisted on speaking a kind of mongrel 
English in answer to my French, and we did 
not make much advance. By and by another 
man appeared and I tried to talk to him. In- 
stantly Xavier's lean fingers were tapping my 
shoulder. 

" He no spik Englis tall," said the exasper- 
ating monster. 

" Tant mieux," said I, "at least I shall un- 
derstand him ! " 

"Mais peut-Stre, M'sieu'," be retorted grin- 
ning, " he no vill undertands you ! " 

I surrendered, bought a box of berries (at an 
awful price), and left him leering like a gar- 
goyle. Recalling that leer, I pitied Melanie. 



o 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 17 

What a husband for a girl of twenty ! Susan 
and I talked the affair over, discussing half a 
dozen plans of rescue. The most obvious 
was to go to the widow. We went. Susan 
broached the subject, after a diplomatic pur- 
chase of hollyhocks. She spoke of Melanie, of 
her beauty, her pleasant ways, of our interest 
in her. We had heard that she was to be mar- 
ried ; might we offer our sincere wishes for her 
happiness ? 

"Oway, Madame," the widow replied, with 
a certain ominous contraction of the muscles of 
the mouth, " she will be happy ; M. Tremblay 
has a good heart." 

"But," said Susan, "pardon, Madame — it 
is our great interest in Melanie — is not M. 
Tremblay very old ? " 

We were in the garden, all four of us, for 
the idiot brother-in-law was there also, piling 
brush ; Madame had been hoeing ; she struck 
her hoe smartly on the ground and rested her 
elbows on the handle, her chin on her hands, 
and so eyed us grimly. 

" Without doubt, Madame," said she ; "quay 
done ? He will die the sooner. In ten, in five 
years she will be a widow, rich, free." 

" Consider those same five years, Madame," 
I cried, " the trouble, the misery, perhaps." 

Her lip cui'led. " M'sieu' has heard the talk 



18 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

of the village. They are imbeciles, they. M. 
Tremblay is a miser. Bah, look around you, 
M'sieu'. This house, that wood, for a nothing, 
a few vegetables — from a miser! Look at 
him," pointing to the idiot, "those clothes are 
from M. Tremblay, from the miser! In" the 
house is a fiddle, one of the most beautiful. 
It is for him. M. Tremblay gave it him. For 
why ? can he play ? Mon dieu, no ; but it 
pleases him to make a noise, and M. Tremblay 
bought it. When Mdlanie was a little child he 
always bought her things, snowshoes, a tobog- 
gan, a doll from Quebec. No child in St. Al- 
phonse has a doll like that. A miser! bah, 
lies of the devil ! " 

" But he is a wicked man, cruel, harsh," I 
persisted. 

" Never to us, M'sieu', never, never!" 

" He is a heretic." 

" Et M'sieu' ? " said the widow. 

" I am not to marry a Catholic. But he is 
worse, he scoffs at the saints and does not be- 
lieve in the good God himself." 

" The good God knows better," said Madame 
Guion placidl3^ 

I tried another tack. " But Melanie may 
love some one else." 

" M'sieu' means Isadore Clovis," said the 
widow, drawing her tall figure to its full height. 



o 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 19 

and thougli I am a big fellow, her eyes were 
nearly level with mine. " Eh bien, I, too, have 
loved a young man, M'sieu'. It was twenty- 
five years ago, and M. Tremblay would marry 
me, but I was a fool, I : my heart was set on 
a young man of this parish, tall, strong, hand- 
some. I quarreled with all my relations, I 
married him, M'sieu'. Within a month of our 
wedding day he broke my arm, twisting it to 
hurt me. He was the devil. Twice, but for 
his brother, he would have killed me. Jules is 
strong, though he has no wits ; he pulled him 
off. See, M'sieu'," flinging the hoe aside to 
push the hair off her temples, "this he did 
with his stick; and this," baring her arm, 
" with his knife. But I was a fool, I forgave 
him and worked for him. He would do noth- 
ing but play cards and drive horses and drink, 
drink, drink. His grandfather was an English- 
man and drank himself to death. The English 
are like that. And I — I forgave him and 
made myself old and wrinkled and black work- 
ing for money for him. Then he would laugh 
at my ugly face and praise the village girls' 
looks. He had a soul of mud ! But I forgave 
that, too. Then my children were born, and 
he beat them. Then I forgave no more, my 
heart was like coals of fire. Attendez, M'sieu', 
I have the mother's heart, I love my children. 



20 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

yet I was glad, I, when they died and were 
safe from him ! Figure, then, what kind of 
father he was ! Only Melanie lived. The oth- 
ers would cry, cry ; but Melanie did not cry, 
and she would never speak to him, her father. 
There was reason: God knows what women 
have to suffer, and He takes vengeance. He, 
that coward, was afraid of Melanie, a little 
baby, because she would not speak to him. He 
tried, many times, to make her, but no, she 
would never speak, and she was three years old 
when he died. A horse kicked him and killed 
him, a horse that he was beating ! " 

The fool had dropped his sticks and was 
staring at her piteously, alarmed at her ges- 
tures and her angry voice. He ran up to her 
and stroked her hand, uttering a mournful, in- 
articulate sound. 

"Ce n'est rien, Jules," said the widow smil- 
ing on him, " sois tranquil." Jules smiled, too, 
and nodded his head, then slunk back to his 
task. " Do you understand, M'sieu', now," 
said the widow, " why I will not have Melanie 
marry a young man ? " 

''But Isadore is so good," said Susan, coming 
to my aid, "he would not be cruel to Melanie." 

Madame Guion laughed harshly. " He ? " 
she shouted, " he ? ma foy ! I think no. My 
Melanie could lift him with the one arm. Al- 



TUE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 21 

ways, she has taken care of him. Look you: 
when they are children, she puts on his snow- 
shoes ; and when he cries for the cold, she puts 
on him her mittens ; and she will fight the boys 
that tease him because he is Tremblay's nephew. 
Always, she takes care of him." 

" But, Madame," said Susan in her gentle 
voice, " if they have loved each other from 
childhood, how hard for them to be separated 



now." 



" It would be harder," said the widow in 
quite another tone, " to marry him and repent 
all the years after. Love, it is pleasant, but 
marriage, that is another pair of sleeves. Tiens, 
Madame, regard the women of this village. 
Without doubt Madame has observed them. 
They work, work, work ; they scrub, they cook, 
they weave, they spin, they knit, they make 
the clothes ; one has not time to say one's 
prayers ; and every year a new mouth to fill, — 
mon dieu, one mouth ? two at a blow, perhaps ! 
That makes one ugly and old. If Melanie mar- 
ries Isadore Clovis she will be like these oth- 
ers, so poor, so tired, so ugly ; and there will be 
the children and her poor old blind mother can- 
not help her. Ah, mon dieu, I will not have 
such a fate come to my beautiful one ! " 

Then I spoke, struggling after a short cut 
through the situation. I offered to pay for her 



22 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

journey to Montreal and to do something for 
Isadore. 

The widow's face stiffened ; plainly she sus- 
pected the Greeks' gifts. "And why should 
M'sieu' incommode himself for my eyes ?" said 
she. 

I thought I had better let Susan do the rest 
of the talking. Her tact is equal to any de- 
mand. " It is for Melanie, too, you under- 
stand," said she, " I am fond of Melanie. And 
see, Madame, we are two lovers, my husband 
and I " (with an adorable blush), " and we are 
very happy ; we should like to make two other 
lovers happy. Is not that what the good God 
intends we should do with happiness, share 
it?" 

The widow Guion smiled a faint and wintry 
smile, saying : " Truly, M'sieu' has cause to be 
happy. But look you," she continued rapidly, 
" M'sieu' does not understand. • It is not for 
myself. To see Mdlanie rich, content, I would 
be blind, deaf, dumb ! " At this climax of 
calamities she spread her hands out to the sky, 
and the fool began to moan. " Melanie will be 
happier with M. Tremblay, — not now, in the 
end. And Isadore, too, he will be happier ; his 
uncle will then give him a farm, — he has told 
me ; he will marr^^, he will content himself, he 
is a slight creature. It is not for him to marry 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 

M^lanie. For see, Madame, she has always had 
better than the other children. Often, I have 
worked all night that she might wear a pretty 
robe to the church. She has been to the con- 
vent at Chicontimi ; she has accomplishments : 
she can embroider, she can make flowers with 
wool, she can play on the piano. One can see 
she is superior to the other girls of the village. 
M. Trembla}^ will do everything for her ; he 
will take her to Quebec. Ah, Madame, it is 
because I love my little one that I would give 
her to M. Tremblav." 

Evidently we could hope nothing from Me- 
lanie's mother. Simultaneously Susan and I 
gave it up, and Susan covered our retreat with 
an order for beets, to be delivered at the hotel. 

But I thought that I understood the situation 
better. I believed Madame Guion told us the 
truth : she was only seeking her daughter's 
happiness. She had an intense but narrow 
nature, and her life of toil, hard and busy 
tbough it was, being also lonely and quiet, 
rather helped than hindered brooding over her 
sorrows. Her mind was of the true peasant 
type, the ideas came slowly and were tenacious 
of grip. Love had been ruin to her. It meant 
heartbreak, bodily anguish, the torture of im- 
potent anger, and the bitterest humiliation. 
Therefore, her fixed determination was to save 



24 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Melanie from its delusions. And because her 
own bloom had withered under sordid hardships, 
she yearned with passionate longing to ward 
them off her child. These two desires had 
come to fill her whole mind. Old Xavier 
offered to gratify both. Besides, he was the 
giver of whatever small comforts had brightened 
her poverty ; she was grateful, and it is quite 
possible that she wanted to make amends for 
the past. As for those aspects of the marriage 
which revolted us, privations and drudgery 
blunt sentiment in women even more effectually 
than in men. Madame Guion felt no horror 
in such a union simply because she could not 
see any. These conclusions solved the problem 
of the widow's motives, but they did not help, 
in the least, to change them, or to make her 
more friendly towards Isadore. We tried the 
young people, next. I talked with Isadore, and 
Susan with Melanie. It was all plain sailing 
with the man. He poured out his woes to me, 
on the way to Lake Ravel, with true Gallic 
effusion. His uncle had been kind to him, after 
a gruff and silent fashion, when a lad, but now, 
grown to manhood, he found himself frankly 
despised. 

" He has said of me, ' C'est un vrai bleche,' " 
cried Isadore, grinding his teeth. " Bac, arretes 
done ! " The horse, plunging at the sight of 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 25 

a fallen tree, was calmed instantly ; I could not 
help admiring the lad's mastery of the animal. 

" He would not say that, if he had seen you 
drive Bac when he was frightened," I said. 

" It is nothing," said Isadore ; " I am good to 
Bac and he knows it, that is all. He taught 
me to be kind to animals. He buys old horses 
that are beaten. M'sieu' has seen the last, 
Charlay, a sight to make fear. He will not be 
so long, he will be fat, lazy, like the others. 
He says : ' Dame, I can get work out of them, 
e'estbon marche ! ' But it is not for that he 
loves all animals. He loves the fool, also ; but 
all good people he hates, and he curses the 
saints, he is so wicked," said Isadore, piously 
crossing himself. 

Certainly his uncle knew of his attachment. 
*' He is glad that I suffer," said Isadore. 
" M'sieu', I speak to you with the heart open ; 
sometimes I think that I will kill myself, but 
Melanie then will weep, and I must burn, my- 
self, forever, also. No, I will go away, she 
shall never see me again. I will go to Chi- 
contimi ! " 

Chicontimi being barely nine miles away 
rather blunted the point of this tragic threat ; 
but the poor fellow's grief and rage were real 
enough. There was no question about his 
willingness to be helped. He burst into tears 



26 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

and insisted upon embracing me over the front 
seat. He would do anything, he would go any- 
where, he was my slave for life. Then he cried 
again. 

Melanie, as the French say, was more diffi- 
cult. At first she could hardly believe in 
Susan's offers. Finally convinced, the poor 
girl grew quite white with emotion ; all she did, 
however, was to lift a fold of Susan's gown, 
press it tightly between her two hands to her 
heart, and then let it drop ; — an odd gesture, 
which, nevertheless, Susan found infinitely ex- 
pressive. 

But she could not be swerved from her pur- 
pose. She had sworn before the Virgin ; to 
retreat now would break her mother's heart ; 
moreover, the marriage would be the best thing 
for Isadore, since M. Tremblay, who never 
broke his word, had promised to give his nephew 
a farm on his wedding day. That Isadore 
might reject the gift did not occur to Melanie ; 
the habitants have no morbid scruples of deli- 
cacy — well, I do not know that it would have 
occurred to Isadore, either. 

Susan would have tried to show her the sure 
unhappiness in such a marriage, but her first 
words were stopped by the girl's quivering 
mouth and the miserable appeal of her eyes. 

" Oh, do not tell it me, Madame," she cried, 



o 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 27 

" I tell myself until I cannot sleep any more at 
night. I work, work, all day, to be tired ; but 
at night it is only that my bones ache, the 
thoughts will not stop. I cannot eat or sleep, 
and always there is the same hard pain here:' 
She touched, not her heart, but her throat. 
" Some day, it will choke me, I think," said she. 
Yet she spoke of Tremblay without bitterness, 
saying: " He was very good to me when I was 
young. For why should he be good at all ? 
All the world has been unkind to him. When 
he was a little child, his own mother did not 
love him because he was ugly. He had a great 
misfortune in his youth, also ; what, I do not 
know, but he will often say to maman, 'Beware 
of doing services to people, Madame. When I 
was young I was a fool. I did kindnesses, I 
would be loved. Men are like wolves, they bite 
the hand that feeds them. Be feared, Madame, 
that is best.' He makes himself feared. What 
he says, he does. He has vowed to marry a 
maiden of twenty, and he will keep his vow ! 
Look you, the mother gave him the key of the 
fields,! he will marry the daughter ; he makes 
two blows with a stone." 

Meanwhile the matter was the absorbing 
topic at the Bay, our unlucky efforts to assist 

'^ Donner le clef des champs, a satirical expression for a dis- 
missal. 



28 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

the lovers being as much common property as 
Isadore's despair or Melanie's filial submission. 
This was just a trifle embarrassing, since we 
could hardly buy a candle that a multitude of 
volunteer counselors did not troop about us ; 
or row on the Bay without the boatman's in- 
quiring anxiously what we meant to do next. 
Not a mother's son had a suggestion to offer ; 
but they all showed a cheerful confidence in our 
ingenuity, and were amazingly sympathetic. 

While this went on, I was seeing Xavier 
daily. Sometimes he would be walking, at- 
tended by a starving retinue of curs, sometimes 
driving Charlay ; always he would grin at me 
in his gargoyle fashion ; but our acquaintance 
got no further until the day I ran against him 
on the pier, talking English to Susan. Susan 
was talking English also. 

"Why not?" was her comment, "he likes 
it. He is going to show us over his cr^merie, 
this afternoon. You know I have an interest 
in a cremerie, myself — and by good luck I 've 
been through it." 

We spent three mortal hours in old Xavier's 
creamery, Susan admiring things right and left. 
Somewhere about Tremblay's porcupine nature 
must have been a soft spot of vanity, and my 
clever wife found it, for actually he looked al- 
most human while he talked to her, and the 



o 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 29 

grin that seemed carved on his face was soft- 
ened into an uncouth smile. 

"Susan," said I, "you are an unprincipled 
woman, flattering that clown ! " 

" Maurice," she answered gravely, " he inter- 
ests me greatly." 

The following day, being Sunday, we went 
to church. We liked the little church of St. 
Alphonse, with its walls covered with mortar 
decorated by laths in wavy lines, to give a 
foothold to future plaster ; its pillars hewn out 
of pine logs ; its echoing floors; its altogether 
dreadful stations and images, and its poor little 
tawdry altars. Whenever mass was celebrated 
a dingy and crumpled flock of surplices crowded 
the chancel. It was worth a long journey to 
see the easy attitudes of the choristers, as they 
lounged in their stalls or shambled through the 
ritual. They all had colds, and expectorated 
with artless freedom. Choristers and organist 
generally started together on the chants; but 
soon the voices would lose the key and wander 
helplessly off, amid a howling mob of discords, 
while the organist was sternly plodding her 
way through her notes, leaving them to their 
fate. Withal there was no irreverence ; on the 
contrary, a devout attention. I used to watch 
the people telling their beads or kneeling at 
their prayers, and question whether their life 



30 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

seemed to tliem the innocent and stupid affair 
that it seemed to me. Thus gazing, this Sun- 
day, I was aware that the aisle was ilhiminated 
by a blaze of red satin, followed by a rusty 
black gown, — Melanie and her mother. Me- 
lanie's gay frock was trimmed with cheap 
white lace. Susan called it a "nightmare" 
later, and it certainly did suggest the splendors 
of the chorus in a comic opera ; but, all the 
same, it was amazingly becoming, and the girl's 
pallor and troubled eyes only enhanced her 
beauty. No wonder the young men stared at 
her and the women whispered. 

The cure preached a good sermon enough ; 
but I could have wished a less appropriate sub- 
ject than the sin of broken vows. Melanie sat 
like a statue, hardly seeming to hear, her beads 
dangling from her limp fingers. The only vis- 
ible portion of the widow's shape was her back, 
but I fancied a grim complacency in the way 
she sat bolt upright and held her chin in the 
air. After mass we had the excitement of a 
shower. There was the customary huddling 
under the church porch, while the fortunate 
owners of " buckboards " drove up, in turn, and 
stored their womankind on the sheltered back 
seats. I had a glimpse of Bac's tossing mane 
among the horses, and saw Isadore standing up 
in the '' buckboard," looking for Melanie. I 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 31 

heard him offer his vehicle to Madame Guion. 
Simultaneously, old Xavier climbed up the 
church steps, in his ordinary garb of homespun, 
with plenty of mud on his boots. His long 
arm extended itself under two or three interven- 
ing shoulders, and jerked the Avidow's shawl. 
What he said was inaudible, but in response, 
she gathered up her skirts above her white 
stockings, took her daughter by the hand, and 
strode out to the voiture ^ la planche. Poor 
Isadore was already at Bac's head smiling. He 
assisted the women in and buttoned the apron 
over their knees. Just as he was about to fol- 
low them his uncle's long arm unceremoniously 
thrust him aside and the old man climbed into 
his seat. The young fellow stood like one stu- 
pefied. His fair skin turned a deep red. 

-' En avant ! " bawled Xavier. The voice 
roused Isadore. Bac flung his heels into the 
air and was off, Isadore after him, screaming 
" Take care ! Bac will go for none but me ! 
Stop, or he will kill you." The old man's an- 
swer was the whistle of a whip. I don't think 
that Xavier meant to touch the horse, it was a 
mere bit of a bravado, but by chance the lash 
did fillip Bac's flank. Up he went, like a shot, 
pawing the air ; then round in a furious half cir- 
cle. Xavier pulled, but he might as well have 
tried to hold a whirlwind. I had started at the 
same instant, and was abreast of Isadore. 



32 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" C'est raon affaire," he cried, jumping at 
the bits. I caught the animal on the other side. 
For a moment I expected that he would tram- 
ple the life out of both of us ; he had the 
strength of ten horses. But Isadore talked 
away as composedly as if in the stable yard : 
" Arretes, done, Bac ; sois sage ! s-s-sh ! Why 
dost thou make such a time, little fool ? " And 
actually, that raving devil of a brute stopped, 
trembling, and rubbed his nose against the 
habitant's breast. 

" M'sieu', mon oncle," said Isadore calmly, 
*' have the goodness to debark.^ Bac is not 
safe for any one but me to drive." 

The old man looked at his nepliew and 
grinned. Quite composedly he got down, and 
stood with his hands on his hips while Isadore 
sprang lightly into the voiture a la planche. 
Neither of the women spoke : the widow looked 
scared, Melanie's eyes were shining. Isadore 
gravely touched his hat to me and drove away, 
old Xavier wrinkling his cheeks over his eyes 
in a deeper grin. " Bah," he muttered, " he 
can drive the little one," and stumped off with- 
out a word of acknowledgment to me. 

Susan, when I told her the story, held that it 

1 The habitants on the Sagueuay and St. Lawrence always 
use deharquer for descendre, probably because they have so 
much to do with boats. 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 33 

was very encouraging. She thought that she 
understood the mot cVenigme about Tremblay. 

" You see, Maurice," said she, " he is awfully 
vain, that is all. Did n't you ever notice that 
deformed people always are vain, poor things ? 
Tremblay, now, has a consuming desire to be 
noticed. I think that at first he tried to win 
people's affection, and I imagine he met with 
some cruel disappointments. He had a dismal 
childhood, and you know, yourself, about the 
widow Guion. I believe he cared more for her 
than he will admit. See how kind he has been 
to her. He may pretend all sorts of mean 
motives for his actions, but there the kind ac- 
tions are. You see, Maurice, now he tries to 
make people fear him, it is the same vanity, 
only twisted a little. He takes as much pains 
to appear wicked and cruel as other people do 
to appear good. Why, he started that story 
about the confessional, himself. Depend upon 
it, it is nothing but his vanity makes him so 
obstinately bent on marrying a girl of twenty." 
She had a pretty theory about his having been 
disappointed in Isadore. " He took the child 
to bring up," said she, " hoping, I feel sure, 
though he may not have owned the hope to 
himself, that the boy would be on his side, 
would share his hatred of mankind, and grow 
up in his own pattern. If Isadore had been a 



34 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

bold, fierce sort of a character, I believe the old 
man would have grown to love him ; but from 
the first the boy was taken up by the village 
people, and he has all their ways of thinking. 
Then, besides, he is such a mild, gentle, ineffi- 
cient seeming fellow that Tremblay can't en- 
dure it. But I fancy he has misjudged Isadore, 
and he is beginning to see it. He would be 
glad." 

I did n't pretend to decide whether my wife 
was right, nor do I now; but this is what 
happened. One day I came out on the piazza 
to find the two, Xavier and Susan, talking ear- 
nestly. He gave me a nod, saying, " Madame 
does not approve of me, M'sieu' ; she thinks I 
marry quite too young a wife." 

"I am of Madame's opinion," said I. 

Old Xavier looked at Susan's pretty, flushed 
cheeks not unkindly. " I care not for the 
people here," he said, " they are imbeciles, 
they ; but her I find different. I wish to make 
myself understood. Look you, I want no wife ; 
but they have made a mock of me in this 
parish. None shall make a mock of Xavier 
Tremblay. I say, ' Oway, I am old, I am ugly, 
all the same, bon gre, mal gre, I can marry a 
girl of twenty. I swear I will not go into my 
new house before.' Eh bien, the time goes on. 
I see a maiden of twenty, not beautiful, stupid. 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 35 

but good, amiable. She has but one eye. Her 
people are unkind to her, often I see her weep. 
I have compassion ; I am ugly, myself, Madame, 
and in my youth I knew what it was to weep. 
I think she will have a pleasanter life with old 
Tremblay. I speak kindly to her. We ar- 
range it; she is not difficult. But she fell 
into the river and was drowned. Then goes a 
long time. Melanie Guion has grown up. She 
pleases me, I think ; the mother gave me the 
key of the fields. Good, I will marry the 
daughter. I will show these beasts that Xa- 
vier Tremblay can do what he pleases. But 
Madame can tell Melanie that I will not be 
troublesome to her, and when I am dead she 
may marry Isadore ; he can drive." 

" You have shown that you can do as you 
please, Monsieur," said Susan: "to marry Me- 
lanie will not show it any more ; all the world 
knows that she has promised." 

" But my vow, Madame, and my new house, 
I tire of living in my old house, c'est bien 
ennuyant." 

There was our sticking, his preposterous old 
new house. He could not endure its standing 
reminder of his unfulfilled vow ; the very sight 
of the walls which he might not enter chafed 
his vanity ; to live in it had grown to be a 
corroding ambition, and the day whereon he 



36 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

should step across those mi completed, yet half 
ruined thresholds appeared to his imagination 
as the climax of his life. We asked too much, 
asking him to give up such visions. 

All this while, Isadore was haunting the 
hotel, waiting with forlorn patience for a word 
or look from me. I repeated his uncle's words 
to him, whereupon he frowned darkly, and in- 
formed me that he longed to kill the old man ; 
a confidence which disturbed me little, since I 
had my own opinion of Isadore's resolution. 

By this time I was decidedly uncomfortable, 
myself. The way Isadore morally flopped over 
on me, as it were, had a subtle tinge of irrita- 
tion in its helplessness. Why could not the 
fellow lift a hand for himself? and the villagers 
w^ere worse. They maintained a maddening 
confidence in my astuteness. When the no- 
tary assured me that " the old fox " (meaning 
Tremblay) had met his match (meaning me), 
and Madame Pingat, the postmistress, gave me 
expressions of faith with my letters, and the 
blacksmith, winking very pleasantly, told me 
that he could guess what I was after, talking 
with old Xavier, I felt like swearing; and 
when Madame Vernet, who kept a " general 
shop," sold me a tea-kettle for a coffee-pot (one 
boiled quite as well as the other, she said, and 
the habitants used them indiscriminately) and 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 37 

asked me if I did n't think it time to do some- 
thing decisive, I went out and kicked an un- 
offending dog. Pretty soon, I felt that we 
should have to fly the country. Like Susan, I 
now rested my slender hope on getting out of 
the mess with credit upon old Xavier, and I 
was glad when an opportunity presented for 
another appeal. Isadore was to drive me to 
Lake Kavel for a day of trout fishing ; but the 
evening previous he appeared with his arm in 
a sling. He had sprained his right wrist and 
offered his uncle's services in his stead, saying 
that the latter had a better horse than Chaiiay. 
So old Xavier took me to the lake. There I 
praised Isadore in French and English. 

"You love 'im," said the old ogre, blinking 
at me with his keen eyes, " mais moi, me tink 
'im vaurien ; can mek wiz ze 'orse, notings of 
morre, non. Bah, for wy he laisse me tek 'is 
amie avays ? " From which I gathered that he 
did not regard Isadore as a young man of 
spirit. In fact, I did n't think much of my 
habitant's spirit myself, but I had a suspicion 
that he wanted to be contradicted, that long 
silent instincts of blood were roused and speak- 
ing; perhaps, too, some faint emotions of com- 
passion for the girl who had been fond of him 
as a child. 

" Chut," he muttered, relapsing into his own 



38 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

tongue, " I will not be troublesome to Melanie. 
It is a good little girl. I should have been her 
father, I; I have thought that always." 

"Make her your niece, then," said I, "that's 
next best." 

" And never go into my new house ? Mais 
non, ca ne va pas ! " 

There we stuck fast again. Briefly, I made 
another failure, and by the time evening came 
and we were in sight of the village I was de- 
cidedly out of temper. The first thing I no- 
ticed put my chagrin to flight. Little crowds 
of people going homewards gazed at us curi- 
ously, until, suddenly, Xavier shook his whip 
handle at a broken, lazy cloud of smoke and 
urged his horse into a gallop. Reason enough ! 
the smoke was rising from the ruins of his 
" new house." A sorry sight they made ; 
heaps of blackened and crumbling stone which 
had been walls, charred skeletons of joists, and 
distorted shapes of tin or iron showed the fierce 
power of the fire. Jets of flame were still 
playing with the remnants of window frames, 
and puffs of black smoke rose only to sink 
again and drift forlornly above the wreck. 
Men with buckets and blankets, women hold- 
ing babies in their arms, and a crowd of chil- 
dren stood around talking shrilly. A kind of 
hush fell on the chatter as we drove up. 



o 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 39 

Everybody stared at old Xavier. His iron 
composure gave no clew to his feelings. "My 
stable," said old Xavier, " what of the horses?" 
A medley of voices explained that Isadore had 
saved the horses. If we were to believe the 
women, he had been a prodigy of valor. Xa- 
vier listened with his smirk that was uglier 
than a frown. " Where then is he, this brave 
fellow?" said he. Half a dozen boys started 
after Isadore. 

I did not wait for his arrival. Seeing Susan 
standing a little to one side, I joined her. She 
told me about the fire. It seems that a party 
of tourists, coming and going by the morning's 
boat, had been shown through the village by 
Isadore and little Antoine Vernet. The gen- 
tlemen, who had somehow heard of old Xavier, 
expressed a curiosity to go into his house. 
They pulled the boards off a window and 
climbed in and roamed over the house. They 
were smoking, and there was a quantity of dry 
wood and shavings about. Little Antoine said 
that Isadore asked them to put out their cigars 
lest a spark should set these afire ; but they 
did not appear to understand him. After they 
were gone, almost three hours, the fire broke 
out. The whole house seemed to flash into a 
blaze at once. When Isadore, brought back 
from the pier, arrived, it was all that he could 



40 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

do to save the horses in the stable and the old 
house. 

As Susan spoke, I saw Isadore and his uncle 
approaching, and, at the same moment, from 
the opposite direction, the widow Guion and 
Melanie. Isadore's expression was completely 
concealed by streaks of smut, his dress was 
torn, and his hair disordered. Old Xavier was 
grinning. To them marched Madame Guion, 
dragging Melanie after her. She did not so 
much as glance at us. Then I saw that she 
was livid with passion. " M'sieu," said she, in 
a voice hardly above a whisper, but holding the 
energy of a thunderbolt, " will you know who 
set fire to your new house ? " 

" Without doubt, Madame," replied Trem- 
blay ; and he stopped grinning. 

The woman thrust out a long forefinger as 
she might have thrust a knife, crying, " Behold 
him ! " 

It was at Isadore that she stabbed with her 
hand, the finger tapping his breast. .He re- 
coiled, but answered boldly enough, " Madame, 
I do not understand." 

"Comment?" said Xavier between his teeth. 

" Oway, it is thou, Isadore Clovis," said Ma- 
dame Guion, always in the same suppressed, 
vibrating tones, " that burned thy uncle's new 
house ; I saw it, I, with these eyes. I tell it to 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 41 

him and to these Americans, who think that I 
should have given my daughter to thee ! " 

M^lanie threw a piteous glance around. 
" Wait, maman," she begged, ^' he will ex- 
plain ! " 

" Peste," growled old Xavier, " what have 
we here? Speak, Madame, you. Tell what 
you have seen." 

The widow released her daughter's hand to 
have both her own free for dramatic action ; 
she spoke rapidly, even fiercely. 

" Behold, then, M'sieu' ; I go, this morning, 
to buy a pair of boots for Jules, and I pass your 
new house. A window has the board hanging 
by the one nail. It is natural, is it not ? I, a 
mother, wish to view the house where my 
daughter shall live. So I look in. Behold Is- 
adore, your nephew, in the room. He splits 
boxes to pieces, chop ! chop ! with both arms, 
view you, he that pretends an arm in a sling. 
Then he goes out. I cannot see him, but I 
hear chop ! chop ! again. Then he comes back ; 
he has, what think you ? a kerosene can in his 
hands. He goes through the room. He does 
not come back. Then I go away. I think, 
' What makes he there ? ' I cannot compre- 
hend. A long time passes. It arrives that I 
hear them crying the alarm. Your house 
burns, M'sieu' ! I run quickly. I am there 



42 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

among the first. They break down the door 
but the fire jumps out, ponf ! m their faces. 
I run to my window ; there, in the room, is the 
pile of wood blazing — so high!" lifting her 
arms. " So was it in every room. He had 
made piles and poured on the kerosene. I have 
a nose, I ; I could smell it ! Now, will he deny 
it, le scelerat ? " 

I suppose we all looked at Isadore. M^lanie 
clasped her hands and took a step towards him. 
Old Xavier gave his nephew a front view of a 
tolerably black scowl. " Eh bien, my nephew," 
said he, " what sayst thou?^'' 

Isadore's sooty face could not show a change 
of color, but in his stiffening muscles, the 
straightened arms, and clinched fists one could 
see that he was pulling himself together. From 
childhood he had been taught to fear the old 
man before him, and those whom we fear in our 
childhood, we seldom can defy with unbiased 
calmness in later years; there is apt to be a 
speck of assertion about our very revolt. A 
sort of desperate hardihood was visible in Isa- 
dore's bearing, now, as he frowned back at his 
uncle. " Oway, mon oncle," said he, in a stri- 
dent tone, " oway, I burned your accursed 
house. Send me to prison. Meme chose." 

M^lanie uttered a low moan and covered her 
face. 



o 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 43 

" Come, mon enfant," said the widow gently, 
"thou seest now." She would have put her 
arm about the girl, but Melanie pushed it aside, 
ran straight to Isadore, and caught him around 
his neck with both her arms. She was taller 
than he, so she drew his head to her breast in- 
stead of resting hers upon him. 

Old Xavier looked on, motionless. " Bon," 
he said, " why did you do it ? " 

Isadore lifted his head. " Why ?" repeated 
he ; '* have I the heart of a mouse to see you 
take Melanie away from me and do nothing ? 
It was to live in the house that you would 
marry her. If the house were burned, it might 
be that you would build another and live in 
it without a wife. Et puis — I burned the 
house." 

" And thy arm ? Was it hurt ? " 

" No," answered the young fellow sullenly, 
yet boldly, " I said it to get you away from 
home." 

" And the gentlemen from the boat ? " 

" Some one must bear the blame. They 
were smoking. I spoke before Antoine that he 
might remember. They would not know them- 
selves if they set it afire. There were the shav- 
ings and the wood. When they were gone I 
came back and made the piles and set them 
afire, so that the house should be all afire inside 
before it would show outside." 



44 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Old Xavier smote his thigh with his hand 
and burst into a peal of harsh laughter; I 
thought that he had lost his wits ; but no, the 
strange old creature simply was tickled by his 
nephew's deviltry. " And I called him un 
vrai bleche," he muttered. " Madame, you 
were right, it is a lad of spirit after all. He 
has been sharp enough to make a fool of Xavier 
Tremblay, and of you, too, M'sieu'." 

There was no denying it, he had, and as I 
looked at him, I marveled how I could be so 
blind; these nervous, irrational, feminine tem- 
peraments, driven to bay, always fight like rats 
— desperately. With nothing to lose, Isadora 
looked his uncle in the eye and smiled. A 
grim and slow smile lighted up the other's 
rough features like a reflection ; for the first 
time one could trace a resemblance between the 
two men. 

" Come, Madame," said Xavier, turning to 
my wife, " what say you ? " 

" This, Monsieur," replied Susan, who alone 
of us took the old man's mood for what it was 
worth : " he proves himself your own nephew, 
since he can cheat you. You don't want the 
girl, you don't want the house ; you have 
shown that you could do what you please. 
Give Melanie to Isadore, and we will see that 
he pays you for the house." 



o 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY, 45 

I saw that Susan meant to get the price of 
that picture. 

"Non," cried Madame Guion, "I will not 
have it so ! " On his part old Xavier actually- 
made a sort of bow to my wife, saying : " Ma- 
dame, I thank you, but I am rich enough to 
give my nephew the house. As for the other 
— Madame shall see." 

" I say, though, the insurance companies " — 
This humble and uncompleted sentence was 
started by the writer, but got no further be- 
cause of a slim hand over his mouth and a 
sweet but peremptory voice in his ear : " Hush, 
Maurice, don't you spoil things ! " 

So I was mute and looked at Madame Guion. 
Her face was a study for a tragedy. I got it 
only in profile, for Tremblay had taken her 
aside and was whispering to her. She grew 
more and more agitated, while he seemed in a 
rude way to be trying to soothe her. The two 
lovers clung to each other, perhaps feeling their 
mutual love the only solid thing in the'^torm. 
By this time the loiterers about the ruins had 
observed us and gradually drawn nearer, until 
a circle of amiable and interested eyes watched 
our motions. " My neighbors," said old Xavier, 
" approach, I have something to say to you." 
Upon this there was a narrowing of the circle, 
accompanied by the emerging of a number of 



46 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

small children, whose feet twinkled in the air 
as they fled, to return, I felt certain, with ab- 
sent relatives. " Neighbors," said the village 
ogre, in his strong, harsh voice, " attendez ; 
you know that I vowed never to go into my 
new house until I should marry a maiden of 
twenty. I chose Melanie Guion. She prom- 
ised to marry me. Is it not so, Melanie ? " 

" Oway, M'sieu','' said Melanie, in a trem- 
bling voice. 

" And are you ready, now, to keep your 
promise ? " 

" Oway, M'sieu','' the girl said again, though 
her voice was fainter and she turned exceed- 
ingly pale. 

Old Xavier rolled his eyes over the crowd in 
sardonic triumph. *' Eh bien, my neighbors," 
said he, " you hear. I have shown you that I 
can marry the best, like a young man. Now I 
will show you something else. An old man 
who marries a young wife is a fool, n'est ce pas, 
Emile Badeau ? " 

The unhappy Emile shook his fists in help- 
less rage, while his neighbors shrugged their 
shoulders, Badeau's connubial trials being a 
matter of public interest, like everybody else's 
so called private affairs, in St. Alphonse. 

" Eh bien," continued the ogre, '' I am not 
that fool. Why should I marry now ? To go 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 47 

into my new house ? View it ! If I build me 
another, I need no wife to let me enter it. 
And I want peace in my old age. Alors, 
Ma'm'selle, merci. But since I take away 
your husband, I give you one in my place. 
Isadore, my nephew, make Melanie my niece 
instead of my wife. But take care, you will 
find her harder to drive than Bac ! " 

Isadore was like a man struck by lightning. 
His eyes glared, his knees shook, he gasped for 
breath. But Melanie did the best thing possi- 
ble ; she ran to the old man and kissed him. 

"Non, non," she sobbed, "pas mon oncle, 
mon pere ! " 

Doubtless no one had kissed him since 
Melanie herself was a child. He looked at 
her with a curious expression, almost gentle. 
" Oway, mon enfant," he said ; and there was 
even a rough dignity in his bearing as he en- 
circled her waist with his arm and turned to 
the crowd. " And now, my neighbors, do you 
hold me free from my vow ? " 

The villagers returned a shrill French cheer, 
some of them wept, and the more enterprising 
embraced me and overwhelmed Susan with a 
din of compliments. Only the widow Guion 
maintained a stern and bewildered silence. A 
bitterly disappointed woman, she was turning 
to go her way, when Melanie ran to her. 



48 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" Wilt thou not forgive me, maman ? " cried 
she, weeping and kissing the wrinkled brown 
cheeks, " I shall be so happy ! " 

" Chut ! It is not thou that I blame," said 
the widow, " but he is a slight creature. Bah, 
what use ? It was the will of God. But at 
least, thou wilt be rich, he has said it ! " 

Then she directed a long glance of fierce 
interrogation at me. " You may trust us, 
Madame," I said. 

" Cela se comprend," answered she inclining 
her head towards Susan, " A'vair, Madame." 

I am ashamed to confess that I received the 
applause of the parish quite as though I de- 
served it. On our departure, a week later, 
they displayed the flag at the hotel and fired 
off an ancient cannon, and all the inhabitants 
who were not congregated about the cannon 
assembled on the pier, including Isadore (who 
wept profusely), Melanie, and old Xavier him- 
self. Every man, woman, and child cheered 
with enthusiasm. Barring our fears that the 
cannon might explode, it was a proud moment, 
especially when we overheard the following 
conversation between two of our countrymen. 

" What are they making all this row 
about ? " 

" Don't you know ? See that lady and gen- 
tleman? — they're Lord and Lady Lansdowne, 
just been making a visit." 



THE OGRE OF HA HA BAY. 49 

At present, Susan and I are home in New- 
York. I took the pains to inquire about the 
insurance and was relieved to find that there 
was none on the house, old Xavier having once 
been cheated by an insurance agent, and being 
the mortal foe of insurance companies, in conse- 
quence. Susan said she did n't think that it 
mattered, anyhow. The best of women have 
queer notions of public morality. Susan sent 
Melanie a great box of wedding finery. In 
response, we have received a long letter. Ma- 
dame Guion's eyes were cured a month ago. 
She is still opposed to the marriage, but Isa- 
dora hopes everything from time. Old Xavier 
is well and building him a new house. 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 

The Bishop was walking down the wide 
Aiken street. He was the only Bishop in 
Aiken, and they made much of him, accord- 
ingly, though his diocese was in the West, 
which of course was a drawback. 

He was a tall man, with a handsome, kind 
face under his shovel hat ; portly, as a bishop 
should be, and having a twinkle of humor in 
his eye. He dressed well and soberly, in the 
decorous habiliments of his office. " So Eng- 
lish," the young ladies of the Highland Park 
Hotel used to whisper to each other, admiring 
him. Perhaps this is the time to mention that 
the Bishop was a widower. 

To-day he walked at a gentle pace, repeat- 
edly lifting his hat in answer to a multitude of 
salutations ; for it was a bright April day, and 
the street was thronged. There was the half- 
humorous incongruity between the people and 
the place always visible in a place where two 
thirds of the population are a mere pleasant- 
weather growth, dependent on the climate. 
Groups of Northerners stood in the red and 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 61 

blue and green door-ways of the gay little shops, 
or sauntered past them ; easily distinguished 
by their clothing and their air of unaccustomed 
and dissatisfied languor. One could pick out 
at a glance the new-comers just up from Flor- 
ida ; they were so decorated with alligator- 
tooth jewelry, and gazed so contemptuously at 
the oranges and bananas in the windows. The 
native Southerners were equally conspicuous, 
in the case of the men, from their careless dress 
and placid demeanor. A plentiful sprinkling 
of black and yellow skins added to the pictur- 
esque character of the scene. Over it all hung 
a certain holiday air, the reason for which one 
presently detected to be an almost universal 
wearing of flowers, — bunches of roses, clusters 
of violets or trailing arbutus, or twigs of yellow 
jasmine ; while barefooted boys, with dusky 
faces and gleaming teeth, proffered nosegays 
at every corner. The Aiken nosegay has this 
peculiarity, — the flowers are wedged together 
with unexampled tightness. Truly enough 
may the little venders boast, " Dey 's orful lots 
o' roses in dem, mister ; you '11 fin' w'en you 
onties 'em." No one of the pedestrians ap- 
peared to be in a hurry ; and under all the hol- 
iday air of flowers there was a pathetic dispro- 
portion of pale and weary faces. 

But if they did not hurry on the sidewalk, 



62 KNITTERS IN THE SUN 

there was plenty of motion in the street ; 
horses in Aiken being always urged to their 
full speed, — which, to be sure, is not alarming. 
Now, carriages were whirling by and riders gal- 
loping in both directions. The riders were of 
every age, sex, and condition : pretty girls in 
jaunty riding habits, young men with polo mal- 
lets, old men and children, and grinning ne- 
groes lashing their sorry hacks with twigs. Of 
the carriages, it would be hard to tell which 
was the more noticeable, the smartness of the 
vehicles, or the jaded depression of the thin 
beasts that pulled them. Where Park and 
Ashland Avenues meet at right angles the 
crowd was most dense. There, on one side, 
one sees the neat little post-office and the pho- 
tographer's gallery, and off in the distance the 
white pine towers of the hotel, rising out of its 
green hills ; on the other, the long street slowly 
climbs the hill, through shops and square white 
houses with green blinds, set back in luxuriant 
gardens. At this corner two persons were 
standing, a young man and a young woman, 
both watching the Bishop. The young woman 
was tall, handsome, and — always an attraction 
in Aiken — evidently not an invalid. The 
erect grace of her slim figure, the soft and vary- 
ing color on her cheek, the light in her beauti- 
ful brown eyes, — all were the unmistakable 



o 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 53 

signs of health. The young man was a good- 
looking little fellow, perfectly dressed, and hav- 
ing an expression of indolent amusement on his 
delicate features. He had light yellow hair, 
cut closely enough to show the fine outline of 
his head, a slight mustache waxed at the ends, 
and a very fair complexion. 

The young woman was speaking. " Do you 
see to whom my father is talking, Mr. Tal- 
boys? " said she. 

" Plainly, he has picked up his vagabond." 
"Demming? Yes, it ^s Demming." 
"Now I wonder, do you know," said the 
young man, " what induces the Bishop to waste 
his time on such hopeless moral trash as that." 
He spoke in a pleasant, slow voice with an 
English accent. 

" It is n't hopeless to him, I suppose," she 
answered. Her voice also was slow, and it was 
singularly sweet. 

*'I think- it must be his sense of humor," he 
continued. " The Bishop loves a joke, and 
Demming is a droll fellow. He is a sort of 
grim joke himself, you know, a high-toned gen- 
tleman who lives by begging. He brings his 
bag to the hotels every day. Of course you 
have heard him talk, Miss Louise. His strong 
card is his wife. ' Th' ole 'ooman 's nigh blin',' " 
— here Talboys gave a very good imitation of 



64 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

the South Carolina local drawl — "'an' she's 
been so tenderly raised she cyan't live 'thout 
cyoffee three times a day ! ' " 

" I have heard that identical speech," said 
Louise, smiling as Talboys knew she would 
smile over the imitation. " He gets a good deal 
from the Northerners, I fancy." 

" Enough to enable him to be a pillar of the 
saloons," said Talboys. " He is a lavish soul, 
and treats the crowd when he prospers in his 
profession. Once his money gave out before 
the crowd's thirst. ' Never min', gen'lemen,' 
says our friend, ' res' easy. I see the Bishop 
agwine up the street ; I '11 git a dollar from 
him. Yes, wait ; I won't be gwine long.' " 

"And he got the money? " 

" Oh, yes. I believe he got it to buy quinine 
for ' th' ole 'ooman,' who was down with the 
break-bone fever. He is like Yorick, ' a fellow 
of infinite jest' — in the way of lying. He 
talks well, too. You ought to hear him dis- 
course on politics. As he gets most of his rev- 
enue from the North, he is kind enough to 
express the friendliest sentiments. ' I wuz op- 
posed to the wah's bein' ' is his standard speech, 
' an' now I 'm opposed to its continnerin'.' For 
all that, he was a mild kind of Ku-Klux." 

"He did it for money, he says," returned 
Louise. " The funniest thing about him is 



o 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 55 

his absolute frankness after he is found out 
in any trick. He doesn't seem to have any 
sense of shame, and will fairly chuckle in my 
father's face as he is owning up to some piece of 
roguery." 

" You know he was in the Confederate army. 
Fought well, too, I 'm told. What does he do 
when the Northerners are gone ? Aiken must 
be a pretty bare begging ground." 

" Oh, he has a wretched little cabin out in 
the woods," said Louise, " and a sweet-potato 
patch. He raises sweet-potatoes and persim- 



mons " 



" And pigs," Talboys interrupted. " I saw 
some particularly lean swine grubbing about 
in the sand for snakes. They feed on snakes, 
in the pine barrens, you know, which serves 
two purposes : kills the snakes and fills the 
pigs. Entertainment for man and beast, don't 
you see ? By the way, talking of being enter- 
tained, I know of a fine old Southern manor- 
house over the bridge." 

Louise shook her head incredulously. " I 
have lost faith in Southern manor-houses. Ever 
since I came South I have sought them vainly. 
All the way from Atlanta I risked my life, 
putting my head out of the car windows, to see 
the plantations. At every scrubby-looking 
little station we passed, the conductor would 



56 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

say, ' Mighty nice people live heah ; great deal 
of wealth heah before the wah ! ' Then I 
would recklessly put my head out. I expected 
to see the real Southern mansions of the novel- 
ists, with enormous piazzas and Corinthian 
pillars and beautiful avenues ; and the white- 
washed cabins of the negroes in the middle 
distance ; and the planter, in a white linen suit 
and a wide straw hat, sitting on the piazza 
drinking mint juleps. Well, I don't really 
think I expected the planter, but I did hope 
for the house. Nothing of the kind. All I 
saw was a moderate-sized square house, with 
piazzas and a flat roof, all sadly in need of 
paint. Now, I 'm like Betsey Prig ; ' I don't 
believe there 's no sich person.' It 's a myth, 
like the good old Southern cooking." 

" Oh, they do exist," said Talboys, his eyes 
brightening over this long speech, delivered in 
the softest voice in the world. " There are 
houses in Charleston and Beaufort and on the 
Lower Mississippi that suggest the novels ; but, 
on the whole, I think the novelists have played 
us false. We expect to find the ruins of luxury 
and splendor and all that sort of thing in the 
South ; but in point of fact there was very 
little luxury about Southern life. They had 
plenty of service, such as it was, and plenty of 
horses, and that was about all; their other 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 57 

household arrangements were painfully primi- 
tive. All the same, sha'n't we go over the 
bridge ? " 

Louise assented, and they turned and went 
their way in the opposite direction. 

Meanwhile, the Bishop and his vagabond 
were talking earnestly. The vagabond seemed 
to belong to the class known as "crackers." 
Poverty, sickness, and laziness were written in 
every flatter of his rags, in every uncouth curve 
or angle of his long, gaunt figure and sallow 
face. A mass of unkempt iron-gray hair fell 
about his sharp features, further hidden by a 
grizzly beard. His black frock coat had once 
adorned the distinguished and ample person of 
a Northern senator ; it wrinkled dismally about 
Demming's bones, while its soiled gentility was 
a queer contrast to his nether garments of rag- 
ged butternut, his coarse boots, and an utterly 
disreputable hat, through a hole of which a tuft 
of hair had made its way, and waved plume- 
wise in the wind. Around the hat was wound 
a strip of rusty crape. The Bishop quickly no- 
ticed this woeful addition to the man's garb. 
He asked the reason. 

" She 's done gone, Bishop," answered Dem- 
ming, winking his eyes hard before rubbing 
them with a grimy knuckle ; " th' ole 'ooman 's 
done leff' me 'lone in the worl'. It 's an orful 



58 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

'fliction ! " He made so pitiful a figure, stand- 
ing there in the sandy road, the wind fluttering 
his poor token of mourning, that the Bishop's 
kind heart was stirred. 

" I am trul}^ sorr}^, Demming," said he. 
" Is n't this very sudden ? " 

"Laws, yes, Bishop, powerful suddint an' 
onprecedented. 'Pears 's if I cud n't git myself 
to b'lieve it, nohow. Yes'day ev'nin' she wuz 
peart 's evah, out pickin' pine buds ; an' this 
mahnin' she woked me up, an' says she, ' I 
reckon you 'd better fix the cyoffee yo'self , 
Demming, I feel so cu'se,' says she. An' so I 
did ; an' when I come to gin it ter her, oh, 
oh Lordy, Lordy ! — 'scuse me. Bishop, — she 
wuz cole an' dead ! Doctor cud n't do nuthin', 
w'en I fotch 'im. Rheutmatchism o' th' heart, 
be says.. It wuz turrible suddint, onyhow. 
'Minded me o' them thar games with the thim- 
ble, ye know. Bishop, — now ye see it, an' 
now ye don' ; yes, 's quick 's thet ! " 

The Bishop opened his eyes at the compari- 
son ; but Demming had turned away, with a 
quivering lip, to bury his face in his hands, 
and the Bishop was reproached for his criticism 
of the other's naif phraseology. Now, to be 
frank, he had approached Demming prepared 
to show severity, rather than s^nnpathy, be- 
cause of the cracker's last flagrant wrong-do- 



o 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 59 

ing; but his indignation, righteous though it 
"was, took flight before grief. Forgetting judg- 
ment in mercy, he proffered all the consolations 
he could summon, spiritual and material, and 
ended by asking Demming if he had made any 
preparations for the funeral. 

" Thet thar 's w'at I 'm yere for," replied the 
man mournfully. " You know jes how I 'm 
fixed. Cyoffins cost a heap; an' then thar 's 
the shroud, an' I ain't got no reg'lar fun'al 
cloze, an' 'pears 's ef 't 'ud be a conserlation t' 
have a kerridge or two. She wuz a bawn lady, 
Bishop ; we 're kin ter some o' the real aris- 
tookracy o' Carolina, — we air, fur a fac' ; an 
I 'd kin' o' like ter hev her ride ter own fun'al, 
onyhow." 

" Then you will need money ? " 

"Not frum you. Bishop, not a red cent; but 
if you uns over thar," jerking his thumb in the 
direction of the white pine towers, — *' if you 
all 'd kin' o' gin me a small sum, an' ef you 'd 
jes start a paper, as 't were, an' al-so ef you 
yo'self 'ud hev the gret kin'ness ter come out 
an' conduc' the fun'al obskesies, it 'ud gratify 
the co'pse powerful. Mistress Demming '11 be 
entered ^ then like a bawn lady. Yes, sir, thet 
thar, an' no mo', 's w'at I 'm emboldened ter ax 
frum you." 

1 It is supposed that Mr. Demming intended to say " in- 
terred." 



60 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

The Bishop reflected. " Demming," said he 
gravely, " I will try to help you. You have no 
objection, I suppose, to our buying the cofl&n 
and other things needed. We will pay the 
bills." 

Demming's dejected bearing grew a shade 
more sombre : he waved his hand, a gesture 
very common with him, and usually denoting 
affable approval ; now it meant gloomy assent. 
" No objection 't all. Bishop," he said. " I 
knows my weakness, though I don' feel now 
like I 'd evah want ter go on no carousements 
no mo'. I 'm 'bliged ter you uns jes the same. 
An' you won't forget 'bout the cloze ? I 've 
been a right good f rien' to th' Norf in Aiken, 
an' I hope the Norf '11 stan' by me in the hour 
o' trubbel. Now, Bishop, I '11 be gwine 'long. 
You '11 fin' me at the cyoffin sto'. Mose Barn- 
well — he 's a mighty decent cullud man — lives 
nigh me ; he 's gwine fur ter len' me his cyart 
ter tek the cyoffin home. Mahnin', Bishop, an' 
min', I don' want money outen you. No, sir, I 
do not ! " 

Then, waving his hand at his hat, the cracker 
slouched away. The Bishop had a busy morn- 
ing. He went from friend to friend, until the 
needed sum was collected. Nor did money sat- 
isfy him : he gathered together a suit of clothes 
from the tallest Northerners of benevolent iui- 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 61 

pulses. Talboys was too short to be a donor of 
clothes, but he gave more money than all the 
others united, — a munificence that rebuked 
the Bishop, for he had sought the young Bos- 
ton man last of all and reluctantly ; somehow, 
he could not feel acquainted with him, notwith- 
standing many meetings in many places. More- 
over, he held him in slight esteem, as an idle 
fellow who did little good with a great fortune. 
In his gratitude he became expansive : told Tal- 
boys about his acquaintance with the cracker, 
described his experiences and perplexities, and 
at last invited the young man to go to the fu- 
neral, the next day. Talboys was delighted to 
accept the invitation ; yet it could not be said 
that he was often delighted. But he admired 
the Bishop, and, even more warmly, he admired 
the Bishop's daughter ; hence he caught at any 
opportunity to show his friendliness. Martin 
Talboys was never enthusiastic, and at times 
his views of life might be called cynical ; but it 
would be a mistake to infer, therefore, that, as 
is common enough, he, having a mean opinion 
of other people, struck a balance with a very 
high one of himself. In truth, Martin was too 
modest for his own peace of mind. For years 
he had contrived to meet Louise, by accident, 
almost everywhere she went. She traveled a 
good deal, and her image was relieved against 



62 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

a variety of backgrounds. It seemed to him 
fairer in each new picture. His love for the 
Bishop's daughter grew more and more absorb- 
ing ; but at the same time he became less and 
less sanguine that she would ever care for him. 
Although he was not enthusiastic, he was quite 
capable of feeling deeply ; and he had begun to 
suspect that he was capable of suffering. Yet 
he could not force himself to decide his fate by 
speaking. It was not that Louise disliked him : 
on the contrary, she avowed a sincere liking ; 
she always hailed his coming with pleasure, 
telling him frankly that no one amused her as 
did he. There, alas, was the hopeless part of 
it ; he used to say bitterly to himself that he 
was n't a man, a lover, to her ; he was a mimic, 
a genteel clown, an errand boy, never out of 
temper with his work ; in short, she did not 
take him seriously at all. He knew the man- 
ner of man she did take seriously, — a man of 
action, who had done something in the world. 
Once she told Talboys that he was a " capital 
observer." She made the remark as a compli- 
ment, but it stung him to the quick ; he real- 
ized that she thought of him only as an ob- 
server. "When a trifling but obstinate throat 
complaint brought the Bishop to Aiken, Tal- 
boys felt a great longing to win his approval. 
Surely, Louise, who judged all men by her fa- 



o 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 63 

ther's standard, must be influenced by her fa- 
ther's favor. Unhappily, the Bishop had never, 
as the phrase goes, " taken " to Talboys, nor 
did he seem more inclined to take to him now, 
and Martin was too modest to persist in unwel- 
come attentions. But he greeted the present 
opportunity all the more warmly. 

In the morning, the three — the Bishop, 
Louise, and Talboys — drove to the cracker's 
cabin. The day was perfect, one of those Ai- 
ken days, so fair that even invalids find no com- 
plaint in their wearisome list to bring against 
them and can but sigh over each, " Ah, if all 
days might only be like this ! " Hardly a cloud, 
marred the tender blue of the sky. The air 
was divinely soft. They drove through the 
woods, and the ground was carpeted with dry 
pine spikes, whereon their horses' hoofs made a 
dull and pleasant sound. A multitude of vio- 
lets grew in the little spaces among the trees. 
Yellow jasmine flecked the roadside shade with 
gold, its fragrance blending with the keen odors 
of the pine. If they looked up, they saw the 
pine tops etched upon the sky, and a solemn, 
ceaseless murmur beat its organ-like waves 
through all their talk. The Bishop had put 
on his clerical robes : he sat on the back seat 
of the carriage, a superb figure, with his noble 
head and imposing mien. As they rolled along, 



64 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

the Bishop talked. He spoke of death. He 
spoke not as a priest, but as a man, dwelling on 
the mystery of death, bringing up those specu- 
lations with which from the beginning men 
have striven to light the eternal darkness. 

" I suppose it is the mystery," said the 
Bishop, *' which causes the unreality of death, 
its perpetual surprise. Now, behind my cer- 
tainty of this poor woman's death I have a lurk- 
ing expectation of seeing her standing in the 
doorway, her old clay pipe in her mouth. I 
can't help it." 

" Though she was a ' bawn lady,' she smoked, 
did she ? " said Talboys. Then he felt the re- 
mark to be hopelessly below the level of the 
conversation, and made haste to add, " I sup- 
pose it was a consolation to her ; she had a 
pretty hard life, I fancy." 

" Awfully," said Louise. " She was nearly 
blind, poor woman, yet I think she did what- 
ever work was done. I have often seen her 
hoeing. I believe that Demming was always 
good to her, though. He is a most amiable 
creature." 

"Singular how a woman will bear any 
amount of laziness, actual worthlessness, in- 
deed, in a man who is good to her," the Bishop 
remarked. 

" Beautiful trait in her character," said Tal- 
boys. " Where should we be without it? " 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 65 

" Have the Demmings never had any chil- 
dren ? " asked Louise, who did not like the 
turn the talk was taking. 

" Yes, one," the Bishop answered, " a little 
girl. She died three years ago. Demming 
was devotedly attached to her. He can't talk 
of her now without the tears coming into his 
eyes. He really," said the Bishop meditatively, 
"seemed more affected when he told me about 
her death than he was yesterday. She died 
of some kind of low fever, and was ill a long 
time. He used to walk up and down the little 
path through the woods, holding her in his 
arms. She would wake up in the night and 
cry, and he would wrap her in an old army 
blanket, and pace in front of the house for 
hours. Often the teamsters driving into town 
at break of day, with their loads of wood, 
would come on him thus, walking and talking 
to the child, with the little thin face on his 
shoulder, and the ragged blanket trailing on 
the ground. Ah, Demming is not altogether 
abandoned, he has an affectionate heart ! " 

Neither of his listeners made any response : 
Talboys, because of his slender faith in Dem- 
ming ; Louise, because she was thinking that 
if the Aiken laundresses were intrusted with 
her father's lawn many more times there would 
be nothing left to darn. They went on silently, 



m KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

therefore, until the Bishop said, in a low voice, 
'' Here we are ! " 

The negro driver, with the agility of a coun- 
try coachman, had already sprung to the ground, 
and was holding the carriage door open. 

Before them lay a small cleared tract of 
land, where a pleasant greenness of young po- 
tato vines hid the sand. In the centre was a 
tumble-down cabin, with a mud chimney on the 
outside. The one window had no sash, and its 
rude shutter hung precariously by a single 
leathern hinge. The door was open, revealing 
that the interior was papered with newspapers. 
Three or four yelping curs seemed to be all the 
furniture. 

There was nothing extraordinary in the pic- 
ture ; one could see fifty such cabins, in a ra- 
dius of half a mile. Nor was there anything 
of mark in the appearance of Demming himself, 
dressed exactly as he was the day before, and 
rubbing his eyes in the doorway. But behind 
him ! The coachman's under jaw dropped be- 
neath the weight of a loud *' 'Fo' de Lawd ! " 
The Bishop's benignant countenance was sud- 
denly crimsoned. Talboys and Louise looked 
at each other, and bit their lips. It was only 
a woman, — a tall, thin, bent woman in a 
shabby print gown, with a faded sunbonnet 
pushed back from her gray head and a common 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 67 

clay pipe between her lips. Probably in her 
youth she had been a pretty woman, and the 
worn features and dim eyes still retained some- 
thing engaging in their expression of timid 
good-will. 

" Won' you all step in?" she said, advanc- 
ing. 

"Yes, yes," added Demming, inclining his 
body and waving both hands with magnificent 
courtesy ; " alight, gentlemen, alight ! I 'm 
sorry I ain't no staggah juice to offah ye, but 
yo' right welcome to sweet-'taters an' pussim- 
mon beah, w'ich 's all " — 

" Demming," said the Bishop sternly, "what 
does this mean ? I came to bury Mrs. Dem- 
ming, and — and here she is ! " 

" Burry me I " exclaimed the woman. " Why, 
I ain't dead ! " 

Demming rubbed his hands, his face wearing 
an indescribable expression of mingled embar- 
rassment, contrition, and bland insinuation. 
"Well, yes. Bishop, yere she is, an' no mis- 
take ! Nuthin' more 'n a swond, you unner- 
stan'. I 'lowed ter notify you uns this mahnin', 
but fac' is I wuz so decomposed, fin'in' her 
traipsin' 'bout in the gyardin an' you all 'xpect- 
in' a fun'al, thet I jes hed ter brace up ; an' fac' 
is I braced up too much, an' ovahslep. I 'm 
powerful sorry, an' I don' blame you uns ef you 
do feel mad ! " 



68 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

The Bishop flung off his robes in haste and 
walked to the carriage, where he bundled them 
in with scant regard for their crispness. 

" Never heard of such a thing ! " said Louise, 
that being her invariable formula for occasions 
demanding expression before she was prepared 
to commit herself. By this time a glimmering 
notion of the state of things had reached the 
coachman's brain, and he was in an ecstasy. 
Talboys thought it fitting to speak. He turned 
to Mrs. Demming, who was looking from one 
to another of the group, in a scared way. 

" Were you in a swoon ? " he asked. 

" Oh, laAvs ! " cried the poor woman. " Oh, 
Demming, what hev you done gone an' done 
now ? Gentlemen, he did n't mean no harm, 
I 'm suah ! " 

" You were not^ then ? " said Talboys. 

" Leave her 'lone, Gunnel," Demming said 
quietly. "Don' yo' see she cyan't stan' no 
sech racket? 'Sence yo' so mighty peart 'bout 
it, no, she wahn't, an' thet thar 's the truf. I 
jes done it fur ter raise money. It was this a 
way. Thet thar mahnin', w'ile I wuz a-consid- 
erin' an' a-contemplatin' right smart how I 
wuz evah to git a few dollars, I seen Mose 
Barnwell gwine 'long, — yo' know Mose Barn- 
well," turning in an affable, conversational way 
to the grinning negro, — " an' he *d a string o' 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 69 

crape 'roun' his hat 'cause he 'd jes done loss' 
his wife, an' he wuz purportin' ter git a cyoffin. 
So I 'lowed I 'd git a cyoffin fur him cheap. 
An' I reckon," said Demming, smiling gra- 
ciously on his delighted black auditor, — "I 
reckon I done it." 

" Demming," cried the Bishop, with some 
heat, " this exceeds patience " — 

"I know. Bishop," answered the vagabond 
meekly, — "I know it. I wuz tempted an' I 
fell, as you talked 'bout in yo' sermon. It 's 
orful how I kin do sech things ! " 

" And those chickens, too ! " ejaculated the 
Bishop, with rising wrath, as new causes rushed 
to his remembrance. " You stole chickens, — 
Judge Eldridge's chickens ; you who pretend 
to be such a stanch friend of the North " — 

" Chickens ! " screamed the woman. " Oh, 
Lordy ! Oh, he nevah done thet afo'e ! He '11 
be took to jail ! Oh, Demming, how cud ye ? 
Stealin' chickens, jes like a low-down, no- 
'cyount niggah ! " Sobs choked her voice, and 
tears of fright and shame were streaming down 
her hollow cheeks. 

Demming looked disconcerted. " Now, look 
a-yere ! " said he, sinking his voice reproach- 
fully ; " w'at wuz the use o' bringin' thet thar 
up befo' th' ole 'ooman ? She don' know nuth- 
in' on it, you miners tan', an' why mus' you rila 



70 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

'er up fur ? I 'd not a thought it o' you, 
Bishop, thet I wud n't. Now, Alwynda," 
turning to the weeping woman, who was wip- 
ing her eyes with the cape of her sunbonnet, 
"jes you dry up an' stop yo' bellerin', an' I 
'splain it all in a holy minnit. Thar, thar," 
patting her on the shoulder, *' 't ain't nuthin' 
ter cry 'bout ; 't ain't no fault o' yourn, ony- 
how. 'Fac' is, gen'lemen, 't wuz all 'long o' 
my 'preciation o' the Bishop. I 'm a 'Piscopal, 
like yo'self, Bishop, an' I tole Samson Mobley 
thet you overlaid all the preachers yere fur 
goodness an' shortness bofe. An' he 'lowed, 
' Mebbe he may fur goodness ; I ain't no jedge,' 
says he ; ' but fo' shortness, we 've a feller down 
at the Baptis' kin beat 'im outen sight. They 
've jes 'gin up sleepin' down thar,' says he, 
' 'cause 't ain't worth w'ile.' So we tried it on, 
you unnerstand, 'cause thet riled me, an' I jes 
bet on it, I did ; an' we tried it on, — you in 
the mahnin' and him in the ev'nin'. An' laws, 
ef did n't so happen as how you 'd a powerful 
flow o' speech ! 'T wuz 'mazin' edifyin', but 't 
los' me the bet, you unnerstan' ; an' onct los' I 
bed ter pay ; an' not havin' ary chick o' my 
own I had ter confiscate some frum th' gineral 
public, an' I tuk 'em 'thout distinction o' party 
frum the handiest coop in the Baptis' dernomi- 
nation. I kin' o' hankered arter Baptis' chick- 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 71 

UDS, somehow, so 's ter git even, like. Now, 
Bishop, I jes leaves ter you uns, cud I go back 
on a debt o' honah, like thet? " 

" Honor ! " repeated the Bishop scornfully. 

Talboys interposed again : " We appear to 
be sold. Bishop ; don't you think we had better 
get out of this before the hearse comes ? " 

Demming waved his hand at Talboys, saying 
in his smoothest tones, '' Ef you meet it. Gun- 
nel, p'raps you 'd kin'ly tell 'em ter go on ter 
Mose Barnwell's. He 's ready an' waitin'." 

"Demming" — began the Bishop, but he 
did not finish the sentence : instead, he lifted 
his hat to Mrs. Demming, with his habitual 
stately courtesy, and moved in a slow and dig- 
nified manner to the carriage. Louise followed, 
only stopping to say to the still weeping woman, 
" He is in no danger from us ; but this trick 
was a poor return for my father's kindness." 

Demming had been rubbing his right eye- 
brow obliquely with his hand, thus making a 
shield behind which he winked at the coach- 
man in a friendly and humorous manner ; at 
Louise's words, his hand fell and his face 
changed quickly. " Don' say thet, miss," he 
said, a ring of real emotion in his voice. "I 
know I 'm purty po' pickin's, but I ain't on- 
grateful. Yo' pa will remember I wyould n't 
tek no money frum him!^^ 



72 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" I would have given fifty dollars," cried the 
Bishop, " rather than have had this — this 
scandalous fraud ! Drive on ! " 

They drove away. The last they saw of 
Demming he was blandly waving his hand. 

The drive back from the house so unexpect- 
edly disclosed as not a house of mourning was 
somewhat silent. The Bishop was the first to 
speak. " I shall insist upon returning every 
cent of that money," he said. 

" I assure you none of us will take it," Tal- 
boys answered ; " and really, you know, the 
sell was quite worth the money." 

" And you did see her, after all," said Louise 
dryly, " standing in the doorway, with her old 
clay pipe in her mouth." 

The Bishop smiled, but he sighed, too. 
" Well, well, I ought not to have lost my tem- 
per. But I am disappointed in Demming. I 
thought I had won his affection, and I hoped 
through his affection to reach his conscience. 
I suppose I deceived myself." 

" I fear he has n't any conscience to reach," 
Louise observed. 

" I agree with Miss Louise," said Talboys. 
" You see, Demming is a cracker." 

" Ah ! the cracker has his virtues," observed 
the Bishop ; "not the cardinal New England 
virtues of thrift and cleanliness and energy; 



o 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 73 

but he has his own. He is as hospitable as an 
Arab, brave, faithful, and honest, and full of 
generosity and kindness." 

" All the same, he is n't half civilized," said 
Talboys, " and as ignorant morally as any be- 
ing you can pick up. He does n't steal or lie 
much, I grant you, but he smashes all the other 
commandments to flinders. He kills when he 
thinks he has been insulted, and he has n't the 
feeblest scruples about changing his old wife 
for a new one whenever he feels like it, with- 
out any nonsense of divorce. The women are 
just as bad as the men. But Demming is not 
only a cracker ; he is a cracker spoiled by the 
tourists. We have despoiled him of his sim- 
plicity. He has n't learned any good of us, — 
that goes without saying, — but he has learned 
no end of Yankee tricks. Do you suppose that 
if left to himself he would ever have been up 
to this morning's performance? Oh, we've 
polished his wicked wits for him ! Even his 
dialect is no longer pure South Carolinian ; it 
is corrupted by Northern slang. We have 
ruined his religious principles, too. The crack- 
ers have n't much of any morality, but they are 
very religious, — all Southerners are. But 
Demming is an unconscious Agnostic. ' I tell 
ye,' he says to the saloon theologians, ' thar 
ain't no tellin'. 'Ligion 's a heap like jumpin' 



74 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. ' 

a'ter a waggin in th' dark : yo' mo' 'n likely 
ter Ian' on nuthin' ! ' And you have seen for 
yourselves that he has lost the cracker honesty." 

" At least," said Louise, " he has the cracker 
hospitality left ; he made us welcome to all he 
had." 

" And did you notice," said the Bishop, who 
had quite smoothed his ruffled brow by this 
time, — " did you notice the consideration, ten- 
derness almost, that he showed to his wife? 
Demming has his redeeming qualities, believe 
me, Mr. Talboys." 

" I see that you don't mean to give him up," 
said Talboys, smiling; but he did not pursue 
the subject. 

For several days Demming kept away from 
Aiken. When he did appear he rather avoided 
the Bishop. He bore the jokes and satirical 
congratulations of his companions with his us- 
ual equanimity ; but he utterly declined to 
gratify public curiosity either at the saloon or 
the grocery. One morning he met the Bishop. 
They walked a long way together, and it was 
observed that they seemed to be on most cor- 
dial terms. This happened on Tuesday. Fri- 
day morning Demming came to the Bishop in 
high spirits. He showed a letter from a cousin 
in Charleston, a very old man, with no near 
kindred and a comfortable property. This 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 75 

cousin, repenting of an old injustice to Dem- 
ming's mother, had bethought him of Dem- 
ming, his nearest relative ; and sent for him, 
inclosing money to pay all expenses. *' He is 
right feeble," said Demming, with a cheerful 
accent not according with his mournful words, 
*' an' wants ter see me onct fo' he departs. 
Reckon he means ter do well by me." 

The Bishop's hopeful soul saw a chance for 
the cracker's reclamation. So he spoke sol- 
emnly to him, warning him against periling 
his future by relapsing into his old courses in 
Charleston. Nothing could exceed Demming's 
bland humility. He filled every available 
pause in the exhortation with " Thet 's so," 
and " Shoo 's yo' bawn ! " and answered, " I 'm 
gwine ter be 's keerful 's a ole coon thet 's jes 
got shet o' the dogs. You nevah said truer 
words than them thar, an' don' you forget it! 
I 'm gwine ter buy mo' Ian', an' raise hogs, an' 
keep th' ole 'ooman like a lady. Don' ye be 
'feard o' me gwine on no' mo' tears. No, sir, 
none o' thet in mine. 'T wuz ony 'cause I wuz 
so low in my min' I evah done it, onyhow. 
Now, I 'm gwine ter be *s sober 's a owl ! " 

Notwithstanding these and similar protes- 
tations, hardly an hour was gone before Dem- 
ming was the glory of the saloon, haranguing 
the crowd on his favorite topic, the Bishop's 



76 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

virtues. " High-toned gen'leman, bes' man in 
the worl', an' nobody's fool, neither. I 'm 
proud to call him my frien', an' Aiken's put in 
its bes' licks w'en it cured him. Gen'lemen, he 
'vised me ter fight shy o' you all. I reckon as 
how I mought be better off ef I 'd alius a fol- 
lered his ammonitions. Walk up, gen'lemen, 
an' drink his health ! My 'xpens'." 

The sequel to such toasts may readily be im- 
agined. By six o'clock, penniless and tipsy, 
Demming was apologizing to the Bishop on the 
hotel piazza. He had the grace to seem 
ashamed of himself. " Wust o' 't is flingin' 
away all thet money; but I felt kinder like 
makin' everybody feel good, an' I set 'em up. 
An' 't 'appened, somehow, they wuz a right 
smart o' people in, jes thet thar minit, — they 
gen'rally is a right smart o' people in when a 
feller sets 'em up ! an' they wuz powerful dry, 
— they gen'rally is dry, then ; an' the long an' 
short o' 't is, they cleaned me out. An' now, 
Bishop, I jes feel nashuated with myself. Suah 
's yo' bawn. Bishop, I 'm gwine ter reform. 
' Stop short, an' nevah go on again,' like thet 
thar clock in the song. I am, fur a fac', sir. 
I 'm repentin' to a s'prisin' extent." 

" I certainly should be surprised if you ivere 
repentant," the Bishop said, dryly ; then, after 
a pause, " Well, Demming, I will help you this 



o 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 77 

once again. I will buy you a ticket to Charles- 
ton." 

Some one had come up to the couple unper- 
ceived ; this person spoke quickly : " Please let 
me do that, Bishop. Demming has afforded 
me enough entertainment for that." 

" You don' think no gret shakes o' me, do 
you, Gunnel?" said Demming, looking at Tal- 
boys half humorously, yet with a shade of some- 
thing else in his expression. " You poke fun 
at me all the time. Well, pleases you, an' don' 
hurt me, I reckon. Mahnin', Bishop ; mahnin', 
Gunnel. I'll be at th' deppo." He waved 
his hand and shambled away. Both men looked 
after him. 

" I will see that he gets off," said Talboys. 
"I leave Aiken, myself, in the morning." 

" Leave Aiken ? " the Bishop repeated. "But 
you will return ? " 

" I don't expect to." 

" Why, I am sorry to hear that, Mr. Talboys, 
— truly sorry." The Bishop took the young 
man's hand and pressed it. " I am just begin- 
ning to know you ; I may say, to like you, if 
you will permit the expression. Won't you 
walk in with me now, and say good-by to my 
daughter ? " 

" Thanks, very much, but I have already 
made my adieux to Miss Louise." 



78 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

"Ah, yes, certainly," said the Bishop, ab- 
sently. 

He was an absorbed clergyman ; but he had 
sharp enough eyes, did he choose to use them ; 
and Talboys' reddening cheeks told him a great 
deal. It cannot be said that he was sorry be- 
cause his daughter had not looked kindly on 
this worldly and cynical young man's affection ; 
but he was certainly sorry for the young man 
himself, and his parting grasp of the hand was 
warmer than it would have been but for that 
fleeting blush. 

" Poor fellow, poor fellow ! " soliloquized the 
Bishop, when, after a few cordial words, they 
had parted. " He looks as though it had hurt 
him. I suppose that is the way we all take it. 
Well, time cures us : but it would scarcely do 
to tell him that, or how much harder it is to 
win a woman, find how precious she is, and then 
to lose her. Ah, well, time helps even that. 
' For the strong years conquer us.' " 

But he sighed as he went back to his daugh- 
ter, and he did not see the beautiful Miss Rey- 
nolds when she bowed to him, although she was 
smiling her sweetest and brightest smile. 

Louise sat in her room. Its windows opened 
upon the piazza, and she had witnessed the in- 
terview. She did not waver in her conviction 
that she had done right. She could not wisely 



o 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 79 

marry a man whom she did not respect, let his 
charm of manner and temper be what it might. 
She needed a man who was manly, who could 
rule other men ; besides, how could she make 
up her mind to walk through life with a husband 
hardly above her shoulder ? Still, she conceded 
to herself that, had Talboys compelled one 
thrill of admiration from her by any mental or 
moral height, she would not have caviled at his 
short stature. But there was something ridicu- 
lous in the idea of Talboys thrilling anybody. 
For one thing, he took everything too lightly. 
Suddenly, with the sharpness of a new sensa- 
tion, she remembered that he had not seemed 
to take the morning's episode lightly. Poor 
Martin ! — for the first time, even in her rev- 
eries, she called him by his Christian name, — 
there was an uncomfortable deal of feeling in 
his few words. Yet he was considerate ; he 
made it as easy as possible for her. 

Martin was always considerate ; he never 
jarred on her ; possibly, the master mind might 
jar, being so masterful. He was always kind, 
too ; continually scattering pleasures about in 
his quiet fashion. Such a quiet fashion it was 
that few people noticed how persistent was the 
kindness. Now a hundred instances rushed to 
her mind. All at once, recalling something, 
she blushed hotly. That morning, just as Tal- 



80 KNITTERS, IN THE SUN 

boys and she were turning from the place where 
he had asked and she had answered, she caught 
a glimpse of Demming's head, through the 
leaves. He had turned, also, and he made a 
feint of passing them, as though he were but 
that instant walking by. The action had a 
touch of delicacy in it ; a Northerner of Dem- 
ming's class would not have shown it. Louise 
felt grateful to the vagabond ; at the same time, 
it was hardly pleasant to know that he was as 
wise as she in Talboys' heart affairs. As for 
Talboys himself, he had not so much as seen 
Demming ; he had been too much occupied with 
his own bitter thoughts. Again Louise mur- 
mured, " Poor Martin ! " What was the need, 
though, that her own heart should be like lead ? 
Almost impatiently, she rose and sought her 
father. 

The Bishop, after deliberation, had decided 
to accompany Demming to Charleston. He 
excused his interest in the man so elaborately 
and plausibly that his daughter was reminded 
of Talboys. 

Saturday morning all three — the Bishop, the 
vagabond, and Talboys — started for Charles- 
ton. Talboys, however, did not know that the 
Bishop was going. He bought Demming's 
ticket, saw him safely to a seat, and went into 
the smoking-car. The Bishop was late, but the 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 81 

conductor, with true Southern good-nature, 
backed the train and took him aboard. He 
seated himself in front of Demming, and began 
to wipe his heated brow. 

" Why do they want to have a fire in the 
stove this weather ? " said he. 

" Well," said the cracker slyly, " you see we 
hain't all been runnin', an' we 're kinder chilly ! " 
" Humph ! " said the Bishop. After this 
there was silence. The train rolled along; 
through the pine woods, past small stations 
where rose-trees brightened trim white cottages, 
then into the swamp lands, where the moisture 
painted the bark of tall trees, and lay in shiny 
green patches among them. The Southern 
moss dripping from the giant branches shrouded 
them in a weird drapery, soft as mist. There 
was something dreary and painful to a Northern 
eye, in the scene ; the tall and shrouded trees, 
the stagnant pools of water gleaming among 
them, the vivid green patches of moss, the bar- 
ren stretches of sand. The very beauty in it 
all seemed the unnatural glory of decay, repel- 
ling the beholder. Here and there were cabins. 
One could not look at them without wondering 
whether the inhabitants had the ague, or its 
South Carolina synonym, the " break - bone 
fever." At one, a bent old woman was wash- 
ing. She lifted her head, and Demming waved 



82 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

his hat at her. Then he glanced at the Bishop, 
now busy with a paper, and chuckled over some 
recollection. He looked out again. There was 
a man running along the side of the road waving 
a red flag. He called out a few words, which 
the wind of the train tore to pieces. At the 
same instant, the whistle of the engine began a 
shrill outcry. " Sunthin' 's bust, I reckon," 
said Demming. And then, before he could see, 
or know, or understand, a tremendous crash 
drowned his senses, and in one awful moment 
blended shivering glass and surging roof and 
white faces like a horrible kaleidoscope. 

The first thing he noticed, when he came to 
himself, was a thin ribbon of smoke. He 
watched it lazily, while it melted into the blue 
sky, and another ribbon took its place. But 
presently the pain in his leg aroused him. He 
perceived that the car was lying on one side, 
making the other side into a roof, and one open 
window was opposite his eyes. At the other 
end the car was hardly more than a mass of 
broken seats and crushed sides, but it was al- 
most intact where he lay. He saw that the 
stove had charred the wood- work near it ; hence 
the smoke, which escaped through a crack and 
floated above him. The few people in the car 
were climbing out of the windows as best they 
might. A pair of grimy arms reached down to 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 83 

Demming, and he heard the brakeman's voice 
(he knew Jim Herndon, the brakeman, well) 
shouting profanely for the " next." 

" Whar 's the Bishop ? " said Demming. 

" Reckon he 's out," answered Jim. " Mought 

as well come yo'self ! H ! you 've broke 

yo' leg ! " 

" Pull away, jes the same. I don' wanter 
stay yere an' roast ! " 

The brakeman pulled him through the win- 
dow. Demming shut his teeth hard ; only the 
fear of death could have made him bear the aor- 
ony every motion gave him. 

The brakeman drew him to one side before 
he left him. Demming could see the wreck 
plainly. A freight train had been thrown from 
the track, and the passenger train had run into 
it while going at full speed. " The brakes 
wouldn't work," Demming heard Jim say. 
Now the sight was a sorry one : a heap of rub- 
bish which had been a freight car ; the passen- 
ger engine sprawling on one side, in the swamp, 
like a huge black beetle ; and, near it, the two 
foremost cars of its train overturned and shat- 
tered. The people of both trains were gathered 
about the wreck, helplessly talking, as is the 
manner of people in an accident. They were, 
most of them, on the other side of the track. 
No one had been killed ; but some were 



84 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

wounded, and were stretched in a ghastly row 
on car cushions. The few women and children 
in the train were collected about the wounded. 

" Is the last man out ? " shouted the conduc- 
tor. 

Jim answered, "Yes, all out — no, d it ! 

I see a coat tail down here." 

" Look at the fire ! " screamed a woman. 
« Oh, God help him ! The car 's afire ! " 

" He 's gone up, whoever he is," muttered 
Jim. " They ain't an axe nor nothin' on 
board, an' he's wedged in fast. But come on, 
boys ! I '11 drop in onct mo' ! " 

" You go with him," another man said. 
" Here, you fellows, I can run fastest ; I '11 go 
to the cabin for an axe. Some of you follow 
me for some water ! " 

Demming saw the speaker for an instant, — 
an erect little figure in a foppish gray suit, with 
a " cat's eye " gleaming from his blue cravat. 
One instant he stood on the piece of timber 
upon which he had jumped ; the next he had 
flung off his coat, and was speeding down the 
road like a hare. 

" D ef 't ain't the Gunnel," said Dem- 
ming. 

" Come on ! " shouted Talboys, never slack- 
ening his speed. " Hurry ! " 

The men went. Demming, weak with pain, 



o 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 85 

was content to look across the gap between the 
trams and watch those left behind. The smoke 
was growmg denser now, and tongues of flame 
shot out between the joints of wood. They 
said the man was at the other end. Happily, 
the wind blew the fire from him. Jim and two 
other men climbed in, again. Demming could 
hear them swearing and shouting. He looked 
anxiously about, seeking a familiar figure which 
he could not find. He thought it the voice of 
his own fears, that cry from within the car. 
" Good God, it 's the Bishop ! " But immedi- 
ately Jim thrust his head out of the window, 
and called, " The Bishop 's in hyar ! Under 
the cyar seats ! He ain't hurt, but we cyant 
move the infernal things ter get him out ! " 

" Oh, Lordy ! " groaned the vagabond ; " an' 
I 'm so broke up I cyant liff' a han' ter help 
him ! " ■ 

In desperation, the men outside tried to bat- 
ter down the car walls with a broken tree 
limb. Inside, they strained feverishly at the 
heavy timbers. Vain efforts all, at which the 
crackling flames, crawling always nearer, 
seemed to mock. 

Demming could hear the talk, the pitying 
comments, the praise of the Bishop : " Such a 
good man ! " " His poor daughter, the only 
child, and her mother dead ! " " They were 



86 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

SO fond of each other, poor thing, poor thing ! " 
And a soft voice added, '* Let us pray ! " 

" PrayinV' muttered Demming, "jes like 
wimmen ! Laws, they don't know no better. 
How '11 I git ter him ? " 

He began to crawl to the car, dragging his 
shattered leg behind him, reckless of the throbs 
of pain it sent through his nerves. " Ef I kin 
ony stan' it till I git ter him ! " he moaned. 
" Burnin' alive 's harder nor this." He felt 
the hot smoke on his face ; he heard the snap- 
ping and roaring of the fire ; he saw the men 
about the car pull out Jim and his companions, 
and perceived that their faces were blackened. 

" It '11 cotch me, suah 's death ! " said Dem- 
ming between his teeth. '' Well, 't ain't much 
mattah ! " Mustering all his strength he pulled 
himself up to the car window below that from 
which Jim had just emerged. The crowd, oc- 
cupied with the helpless rescuers, had not ob- 
served him before. They shouted at him as 
one man : " Get down, it 's too late I " " You 're 
crazy, you ! " yelled Jim, with an oath. 

"Never you min'," Demming answered coolly. 
" I know what I 'm 'bout, I reckon." 

He had taken his revolver from his breast, 
and was searching through his pockets. He 
soon pulled out what he sought, merely a piece 
of stout twine ; and the crowd saw him, sitting 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 87 

astride the trucks, while he tied the string 
about the handle of the weapon. Then he 
leaned over the prison walls, and looked down 
upon the Bishop. Under the mass of wood and 
iron the Bishop lay, unhurt but securely im- 
prisoned ; yet he had never advanced to the 
chancel rails with a calmer face than that he 
lifted to his friend. 

" Demming," he cried, " you here ! Go 
back, I implore you ! You can't save me." 

" I know thet. Bishop," groaned the cracker. 
" I ain't aimin' ter. But I cyan't let you roast 

in this yere d barbecue ! Look a yere ! " 

He lowered the revolver through the window. 
" Thar 's a pistil, an' w'en th' fire cotches onter 
you an' yo' gwine suah 's shootin', then put it 
ter yo' head an' pull the trigger, an' yo '11 be 
outen it all ! " 

The Bishop's firm pale face grew paler as 
he answered, " Don't tempt me, Demming ! 
Whatever God sends I must bear. I can't do 
it ! " Demming paused. He looked steadily 
at the Bishop for a second ; then he raised the 
revolver, with a little quiver of his mouth. 
" And go away, for God's sake, my poor friend! 
Bear my love to my dear, dear daughter ; tell 
her that she has always been a blessing and a 
joy to me. And remember what I have said to 
you, yourself. It will be worth dying for if 



88 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

you will do that ; it will, indeed. It is only a 
short pain, and then heaven ! Now go, Dem- 
ming. God bless and keep you. Go ! " 

But Demming did not move. ''Don' you 
want ter say a prayer, Bishop ? " he said in a 
coaxing tone, — " jes a little mite o' one fur 
you an' me ? Ye don' need ter min' 'bout sayin' 
't loud. I '11 unnerstan' th' intention, an' feel 
jes so edified. I will, fur a fac." 

" Go, first, Demming. I am afraid for you! " 

" I 'm a-gwine. Bishop," said Demming, in 
the same soft, coaxing tone. " Don' min' me. 
I 'm all right." He crouched down lower, so 
that the Bishop could not see him, and the 
group below saw him rest the muzzle of the 
pistol on the window-sill and take aim. 

A gasp ran through the crowd, — that catch- 
ing of the breath in which overtaxed feeling 
relieves itself. " He 's doin' the las' kindness 
he can to him," said the brakeman to the con- 
ductor, " and by the Lord, he 's giv' his own 
life to do it ! " 

The flames had pierced the roof, and streamed 
up to the sky. Through the sickening, dull 
roar they heard the Bishop's voice again : — 

" Demming, are you gone ? " 

The cracker struck a loose piece of wood, and 
sent it clattering down. " Yes, Bishop, that 
wuz me. I 'm safe on th' groun'. Good-by, 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND, 89 

Bishop. I do feel 'bleeged ter you ; an', Bishop, 
them chickens wuz the fust time. They wuz, 
on my honah. Now, Bishop, shet yo' eyes an' 
pray, fur it 's a-comin ! " 

The Bishop prayed. They could not hear 
what he said, below. No one heard save the 
uncouth being who clung to the window, revol- 
ver in hand, steadily eying the creeping red 
death. But they knew that, out of sight, a 
man who had smiled on them, full of life and 
hope but an hour ago, was facing such torture 
as had tried the martyr's courage, and facing it 
with as high a faith. 

With one accord men and women bent their 
heads. Jim, the brakeman, alone remained 
standing, his form erect, his eyes fixed on the 
two iron lines that made an angle away in the 
horizon. " Come on ! " he yelled, leaping wildly 
into the air. " Fo' the Lord's sake, hurry ! 
D — him, but he 's the bulliest runner ! " 

Then they all saw a man flying down the 
track, axe in hand. He ran up to the car side. 
He began to climb. A dozen hands caught 
him. " You 're a dead man if you get in there ! " 
was the cry. " Don't you see it 's all afire ? " 

" Try it from the outside, Colonel ! " said the 
conductor. 

" Don't you see I have n't time ? " cried Tal- 
boys. " He '11 be dead before we can get to 



90 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

him. Stand back, my men, and, Jim, be ready 
to pull us both out! " 

The steady tones and Talboys' business-like 
air had an instantaneous effect. The crowd 
were willing enough to be led ; they fell back, 
and Talboys dropped through the window. To 
those outside the whole car seemed in a blaze, 
and over them the smoke hung like a pall ; but 
through the crackling and roaring and the crash 
of falling timber came the clear ring of axe 
blows, and Talboys' voice shouting, " I say, my 
man, don't lose heart ! We 're bound to get 
you out ! " 

" Lordy, he don't know who 't is," said Dem- 
ming. "Nobody could see through that thar 
smoke ! " v 

All at once the uninjured side of the car 
gave way beneath the flames, falling in with an 
immense crash. The flame leaped into the air. 

" They 're gone ! " cried the conductor. 

"No, they're not!" yelled Demming. "He's 
got him, safe an' soun' ! " And as he spoke, 
scorched and covered with dust, bleeding from 
a cut on his cheek but holding the Bishop in 
his arms, Talboys appeared at the window. 
Jim snatched the Bishop, the conductor helped 
out Talboys, and half a dozen hands laid hold 
of Demming. He heard the wild cheer that 
greeted them ; he heard another cheer for the 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 91 

men with the water, just in sight; but he heard 
no more, for as they pulled him down a dozen 
fiery pincers seemed tearing at his leg, and he 
fainted dead away. 

The Bishop's daughter sat in her room, mak- 
ing a very pretty picture, with her white hands 
clasped on her knee and her soft eyes uplifted. 
She looked sad enough to please a pre-Raphael- 
ite of sentiment. Yet her father, whom this 
morning she would have declared she loved 
better than any one in the world, had just been 
saved from a frightful death. She knew the 
story of his deliverance. At last she felt that 
most unexpected thrill of admiration for Tal- 
boys ; but Talboys had vanished. He was 
gone, it was all ended, and she owned to herself 
that she was wretched. Her father was with 
Demming and the doctors. The poor vagabond 
must hobble through life on one leg, hencefor- 
ward. " If he lived," the doctor had said, mak- 
ing even his existence as a cripple problematic. 
Poor Demming, who had flung away his life to 
save her father from suffering, — a needless, 
useless sacrifice, as it proved, but touching 
Louise the more because of its very failure ! 

At this stage in her thoughts, she heard Sam, 
the waiter, knocking softly, outside. Her first 
question was about Demming. " The opera- 



92 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

tion 's ovah, miss, an' Mr. Demming he 's 
sinkinV' answered Sam, giving the sick man a 
title he had never accorded him before, " an' he 
axes if you 'd be so kin' 's to step in an' speak 
to him ; he 's powerful anxious to see you." 

Silently Louise arose and followed the mu- 
latto. They had carried Demming to the ho- 
tel: it was the nearest place, and the Bishop 
wished it. His wife had been sent for, and was 
with him. Her timid, tear-stained face was the 
first object that met Louise's eye. She sat in a 
rocking-chair close to the bed, and, by sheer 
force of habit, was unconsciously rocking to and 
fro, while she brushed the tears from her eyes. 
Demming's white face and tangle of iron-gray 
hair lay on the pillow near her. 

He smiled feebly, seeing Louise. She did 
not know anything better to do than to take 
his hand, the tears brightening her soft eyes. 
" Laws," said Demming, " don' do thet. I ain't 
wuth it. Look a yere, I got sun'thin' ter say 
ter you. An' you must n't min', 'cause I mean 
well. You know 'bout — yes'day mahnin'. 
Mabbe you done what you done not knowin' 
yo' own min', — laws, thet 's jes girls, — an' I 
wants you ter know jes what kin' o' feller he is. 
You know he saved yo' pa, but you don' know, 
mabbe, thet he did n't know 't was the Bishop 
till he'd jump down in thet thar flamin' pit o' 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 93 

hell, as 't were, an' fished him out. He done it 
jes 'cause he'd thet pluck in him, an' — don' 
you go fer ter chippin' in, Gunnel. I 'm a dyin' 
man, an' don' you forget it ! Thar he is, miss, 
hidin' like behin' the bed." 

Louise during this speech had grown red to 
the roots of her hair. She looked up into Tal- 
boys' face. He had stepped forward. His 
usual composure had quite left him, so that he 
made a pitiful picture of embarrassment, not 
helped by crumpled linen and a borrowed coat 
a world too large for him. " It 's just a whim 
of his," he whispered hurriedly ; " he wanted 
me to stay. I did n't know — I did n't under- 
stand ! For God's sake, don't suppose I meant 
to take such an advantage of the situation ! I 
am going directly. I shall leave Aiken to- 
night." 

It was only the strain on her nerves, but 
Louise felt the oddest desire to laugh. The 
elegant Martin cut such a very droll figure as a 
hero. Then her eye fell on Demming's eager 
face, and a sudden revulsion of feeling, a sud- 
den keen realization of the tragedy that Martin 
had averted brought the tears back to her eyes. 
Her beautiful head dropped. " Why do you 
go — now ? " said she. 

" Hev you uns made it up, yet ? " murmured 
Demming's faint voice. 



94 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

"Yes," Talboys answered, "I think we have, 
and — I thank you, De naming." The vaga- 
bond waved his hand with a feeble assump- 
tion of his familiar gesture. " Yo' a square 
man. Gunnel. I alius set a heap by you, though 
I did n't let on. An' she 's a right peart young 
lady. I'm glad yo' gwine ter be so happy. 
Laws, I kind o' wish I wuz to see it, even on a 
wooden leg " — The woman at his side began 
to sob. " Thar, thar, Alwynda, don' take on 
so ; cyan't be helped. You mus' 'scuse her, 
gen'lemen ; she so petted on me she jes cyan't 
hole in ! " 

" Demming," said the Bishop, " my poor 
friend, the time is short ; is there anything you 
want me to do ? " Demming's dull eyes spar- 
kled with a glimmer of the old humor. 

" Well, Bishop, ef you don' min', I 'd like 
you ter conduc' the fun'al services. Reckon 
they '11 be a genuwine co'pse this yere time, fo' 
suah. An', Bishop, you '11 kind o' look ayfter 
Alwynda ; see she gets her coffee an' terbacco 
all right. An' I wants ter 'sure you all again 
thet them thar chickens wuz the fust an' ony 
thing I evah laid ban's on t' want mine. Thet 's 
the solemn truf ; ain't it, Alwynda ? " 

The poor woman could only rock herself in 
the chair, and sob, " Yes, 't is. An' he 's been 
a good husband to me. I 've alius bed the bes* 



THE BISHOP'S VAGABOND. 95 

uv everything! Oh, Lordy, 'pears 's like I 
cyan't bear it, nohow ! " 

Louise put her hand gently on the thin 
shoulder, saying, " I will see that she never 
wants anything we can give, Demming; and 
we will try to comfort her." 

The cracker looked wistfully from her fresh, 
young face to the worn face below. " She wuz 's 
peart an' purty 's you, miss, w'en I fust struck 
up with 'er," said he slowly. " Our little gal 
wuz her very image. Alwynda," in a singu- 
larly soft, almost diffident tone, " don' take on 
so ; mabbe I 'm gwine fer ter see 'er again. 
'T won't do no harm ter think so, onyhow," he 
added, with a glance at Talboys, as though sure 
there of comprehension. 

Then the Bishop spoke, solemnly, though 
with sympathy, urging the dying man, whose 
worldly affairs were settled, to repent of his sins 
and prepare for eternity. *' Shall I pray for 
you, Demming ? " he said in conclusion. 

" Jes as you please. Bishop," answered Dem- 
ming, and he tried to wave his hand. " I ain't 
noways partickler. I reckon God a'mighty 
knows I 'd be th' same ole Demming ef I could 
get up, an' I don' mean ter make no purtenses. 
But mabbe it'll cheer up th' ole 'ooman a bit. 
So you begin, an' I '11 bring in an Amen when- 
ever it 's wanted ! " 



96 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

So speaking, Demming closed his eyes wear- 
ily, and the Bishop knelt by the bedside. Tal- 
boys and Louise left them, thus. After a while, 
the wife stretched forth her toil-worn hand and 
took her husband's. She thought she was 
aware of a weak pressure. But when the 
prayer ended there came no Amen. Demming 
was gone where prayer may only faintly follow ; 
nor could the Bishop ever decide how far his 
vagabond had joined in his petitions. Such 
doubts, however, did not prevent his cherishing 
an assured hope that the man who died for him 
was safe, forever. The Bishop's theology, like 
that of most of us, yielded, sometimes, to the 
demands of the occasion. 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 

" What do they want ? " said Mr. Finlay. 
A sunbeam, reflected from the burnished silver 
of the urn, flicked athwart his face, to empha- 
size his smile. Mr. Finlay smiled often, for he 
was not only a good-tempered man, but a man 
keenly susceptible to humorous impressions. 
He was a type of domestic happiness this morn- 
ing, seated in that family temple, the dining- 
room, his two handsome boys on his knees and 
the breakfast-table before him. It was a table 
glittering with silver and cut-glass, and it wore 
that air of elegant antiquity which pertained 
to all Mrs. Finlay's house-furnishing, being 
further adorned with the shell-like blue china 
brought from over the seas by Mrs. Finlay's 
great-uncle, old Captain Crowninshield. The 
room was ample and lofty, fitted up in oak, 
which had gleams of red and gold in the sunken 
carvings, to match the red and gold stamped 
leather on the walls. There were no plaques, 
no pictures, unless that were a picture revealed 
by the wide glass doors, — a glimpse of tropical 
foliage and falling water and the white Diana 



98 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

lifting her lovely arms above the green. Only 
a glimpse it was ; but it supplied an effect of 
repose and mystery that the sunshiny room 
must have lacked else, and added a light touch 
to the half foreign picturesqueness everywhere, 
the rows of Venetian glass on the sideboard, 
the Persian rug on the floor, the fire-place, with 
its quaint Flemish tiles, the dim and heavy 
folds of old Italian tapestry draping the win- 
dows. Framed by these folds were two more 
pictures : on one side, an undulating sweep of 
hills in the fresh beauty of June, brightly 
painted wooden houses showing through the 
trees ; on the other, a long street, ending in a 
huddle of factory chimneys and the Mississippi 
quivering and glittering below. Mrs. Finlay 
was gazing absently at the river. Her smooth, 
low brow was darkened by a rare cloud. 

" Want? " she repeated. " Oh, everything; 
a museum in a country town is such an elastic 
affair. Mrs. Cody says they don't want to con- 
fine it to pictures. They were all here, the 
entire committee, Mrs. Cody, Mrs. Hubbard, 
and Miss Durham." 

"Violet?" said Mr. Finlay, looking inter- 
ested. " I wish I had seen her ; it is an age 
since I have seen Violet." 

"She was looking extremely pretty," said 
Mrs. Finlay, who had been told long ago that 



o 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 99 

her husband had once wanted to marry Violet 
Durham. " She picked out most of my Meissen 
plates ; she knew the King's Period at a glance. 
And they want my old Flemish lace and most 
of the pictures, and the old sword and the 
screens, and — oh, yes, they want the chair ! " 

*' Well, you will let them have the things, 
won't you?" 

" Everything but the chair. There is a limit, 
Tom." 

" Why not the chair ? They won't hurt it ; 
and here 's a chance for you to educate the 
WrenJiam taste." 

Mrs. Finlay shrugged her pretty shoulders, 
and said that she had no such ambition. 

" Milly," said Tom Finlay, looking at his 
wife over his son's curly head, " don't you think 
you are just the least bit hard on Wrenham ? " 

" On the contrary," she answered coldly, "it 
is they who are hard on me. They quite dis- 
approve of me, Tom. I have wine at dinner, 
with my two boys growing up ; I have a butler 
and a coachman ; hence I am a snob and ape 
the English. Don't you remember, Tom, how 
the boys used to shout after poor John Rogers, 
whenever he drove out, ' Hi, where 's the cir- 
cus ? ' I shall be contented if the museum cul- 
tivates the Wrenham taste up to the point of 
tolerating my liveries." 



100 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" I don't think it 's the liveries that makes 
the trouble, Milly," said Mr. Finlay, gravely ; 
*' it 's a notion they have here that you look 
down on them as uncouth and provincial. Per- 
haps we are, but we don't like to be despised 
for it, all the same. I 'm not complaining, you 
know. I realize that it is a bore for you to 
have to live in Wrenham ; but it would really 
be so much less of a bore if you could like the 
people, and there is a great deal in them to like 
when you get at them." 

" Probably I have never got at them," said 
Mrs. Finlay. 

Then she was silent. The Finlays were 
rich enough to have made a figure in New York 
or Boston, and it was the skeleton in Emily 
FinMy's closet that she must live in Wrenham, 
a stupid, censorious, provincial town, where one 
could n't even get ice-cream in bricks. 

Too well bred to exhibit the skeleton, possi- 
bly she did not lock it up securely, since the 
Wrenham people knew quite well that she 
never stayed a day longer there than she could 
help. On their side, they repaid this passive 
and unexpressed dislike with indignant criti- 
cism. They mimicked her accent, ridiculed her 
hospitality, mocked at her housekeeping. 

It was a pity, too, for Mrs. Finlay w^as a 
charming woman. She had vivacity as well as 



MRS. FINLATS ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 101 

repose, and such exquisite taste in dress that 
she passed for a beauty ; although, to be frank, 
she was simply a graceful creature with a Greek 
forehead, most beautiful brown eyes, and a del- 
icate mouth a trifle too large for her face. 

But grace and charm, both, were wasted on 
Wrenham. Indeed, that the criticism was not 
more bluntly expressed she owed to her hus- 
band. Tom Finlay — so every one called him 
— was the most popular man in all the country 
round about ; he was liked by the towns-people 
and the farmers, by the workmen in his coal 
mines and the clerks in his railroad office ; by 
women and children ; for that matter, by the 
very dogs on the street and the horses in his 
stable. Nor was such universal affection 
strange. Tom Finlay was a man at once up- 
right and genial, and he had a singularly gentle 
and modest manner. He was the descendant 
of an ancient Scotch family, whose two centuries 
in America had obliterated their national char- 
acteristics. The two centuries had been spent 
in Philadelphia ; but Tom's father had gone 
to Illinois for his health, and there, in Wren- 
ham, Tom was born. Inheriting a fortune, he 
had been rather elaborately educated ; but Har- 
vard and Heidelberg could not quite brush 
away the flavor of the prairies ; to the end he 
was a Westerner ; he had a dash of the West- 



102 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

ern unconventionality and all the Western en- 
ergy ; and there was in him a peculiarly West- 
ern blending of sympathy and shrewdness. 
Nothing human was foreign to him, yet he 
rarely threw away either his money or his emo- 
tions. His attachment to the soil certainly was 
not Western ; it must have come to him from 
his Scotch ancestors. The original family of 
Finlays had it also. They abode in Philadel- 
phia, still, cherishing the family traditions and 
the old portraits by Peale and Copley. They 
mourned over Tom, " who was not like the Fin- 
lays." His choice of a wife, they felt, was a 
direct interposition of Providence. " A Massa- 
chusetts Endicott ! '' they said under their 
breath, and they welcomed Emily with open 
arms. She justified their confidence, taking 
the liveliest interest in Tom's ancestors and 
reverently admiring the family relics. As for 
Tom, he laughed openly at the illustrious house 
of Finlay. The glories of a race, tracing the 
roots of its ancestral tree down to the stone cof- 
fins of the early Scottish kings, were only a 
joke to this irreverent descendant. " It was 
his horrid Western humor," his wife supposed. 
She dreaded Tom's humor, which found its food 
everywhere, quiet as it was. Though he was 
the most generous and tolerant of husbands, 
she sometimes had the strangest, chilliest sensa- 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 103 

tion of serving as the butt of bis silent and 
secret wit. He never ridiculed ber ; be was 
only amused by ber, wbicb was worse. Her 
fears did ber busband injustice, but tbey were 
so undemonstrative that be never bad a cbance 
to dispel them. All the same they did their 
work well. Tbey cut off the natural simple 
confidences between husband and wife. They 
made Emily shy of any vivid expression of feel- 
ing. Tbey repressed the very evidences of ber 
affection for Tom, while they made it out of 
the question for ber to confess those vague and 
passing doubts which trouble the serenest love 
when the lover is a woman. Besides, she was 
a New England woman, trained to exaggerate 
ber conscience and underrate ber emotions. 
Therefore, she tried on honest, unworldly Tom 
tactics which bad been better suited to a worn- 
out man of pleasure. She gave him a beautiful 
and harmonious home; she won admiration 
everywhere — except in Wrenham ; she never 
let him see ber out of temper ; in short, she 
made him delightfully comfortable. When 
they were away from Wrenham, — and they 
were away from Wrenham a great deal, — Tom 
was told on all sides bow fortunate be was in 
bis wife. He agreed heartily ; yet, in truth, 
he was not more satisfied with bis married hap- 
piness than was she. He would have liked 



104 KNITTERS IN TEE SUN. 

Emily to be more expansive; he longed for 
those trivial confidences which she withheld as 
bores ; and, on many accounts, it would have 
gratified him to have had his wife fond of his 
native town. But, being so tolerant, he rea- 
soned that he could not expect everything from 
one woman. " Milly is the most charming and 
sweetest-tempered woman in the world, and the 
best mother," thought Tom, stroking a rather 
melancholy smile with his big hand ; " and 
I 'm much too ugly and tame for a beautiful 
woman to fall desperately in love with me. 
Very likely I 'm a trifle provincial in the bar- 
gain. Wrenham and I suit each other. It 
is n't odd we don't just suit her." Therefore, 
he said nothing of his feelings. To-day, for the 
first time in years, he had spoken. Now, he 
was blaming himself for his speech. What was 
the use ? He had merely bothered Milly. 
Mrs. Finlay, on her part, was disgusted with 
herself because she had shown a tinge of irri- 
tability. 

"You see, Tom," she said after a pause, 
" that chair is my pet weakness." 

" Well, I would n't send it then," answered 
Tom, easily. 

Mrs. Finlay considered. 

Now, the chair was the delight of her eyes 
— the darling of her pride ; a genuine Eliza- 



o 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 105 

betlian chair of age-blackened oak, given her 
by the chief of the Fin lay clan, who still main- 
tained a faded magnificence in the Highlands. 
Originally it was an English chair, coming 
north as part of the bridal portion of the Eng- 
lish wife of one of the Finlays ;* and tradition 
declared that the hapless Queen of Scots, while 
visiting her loyal follower, the then Sir Fergus, 
had made the chair her throne. The Finlay 
arms were carved on the back, and the date, — 
a sight to awe caviling skeptics. Very dear to 
Mrs. Finlay was the chair ; dearer than her 
pictures or her rare old engravings or her fra- 
gile treasures from Venice, or even the wonder- 
ful vase which was possibly " Henri Deux " ; 
dearer by far than her own family heir-looms 
of sword and clock and china. There was 
another sword, a Scottish claymore, as well as 
a battered buckler, further gifts of Sir Fergus ; 
but a haze hung over their history, and Mrs. 
Finlay, alluding to them, simply gave them 
the general title of honor, " In the family." 
Of course, there could be no comparison of 
such as these with the chair. This was why 
Mrs. Finlay considered. The children thought 
it time to join in the conversation. Fergus, 
the elder, who was nine, wanted to know what 
kind of a show an art museum was ; " did it 
have an elephant ? " 



106 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" They only have pictures and things," said 
his mother ; " you may go, if we are here." 

"I'd rather go to Barnum's," said Fergus, 
thoughtfully. "Say, mamma, let's stay and 
go to Barnum's ; you take me. Lots of boys' 
mammas take them to the circus ! " 

" Francis will take you, brother, and you 
may ask that boy you like so much — Jimmy 
Hubbard, is n't it ? " 

" I 'm 'fraid he would n't want to go with me, 
he's so big," Fergus replied, despondently. 
Jimmy Hubbard was his boy hero, but he was 
fifteen, and Fergus worshiped him from afar. 
"Maybe, though," he continued, brightening, 
" he might if I had on long pants ; I would n't 
look so little then ; and, mamma, honesty there 
ain't another boy in Wrenham, big as me, 
wears short pants ! " 

"Do say trousers, Fergus. Anyhow, we 
shan't be in Wrenham much more than a 
week. You shall see Jumbo, East " — 

" Oh, mamma ! " said Fergus, reproachfully ; 
and, " Oh, mamma ! " echoed little four-year- 
old Tom. 

" My very children desert me and like the 
place," thought Mrs. Finlay. 

" Better stay till this fandango is over, don't 
you think, Milly ? " said Tom ; " it looks more 
neighborly." 



o 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 107 

" Very well, dear," said Emily, with a smile 
which, under the circumstances, was heroic. 
She turned the talk lightly to something else ; 
but when Tom and the children were gone, 
and she was alone in the pretty dining-room, 
she sighed. 

Tom Finlay came home to luncheon that 
day, and ran in upon the " soliciting committee " 
of the Wrenham Art Museum. They were 
standing in the hall, around the chair, all three, 
Mrs. Hubbard, Mrs. Cody, and Violet Durham. 
Mrs. Hubbard was the president of the library, 
for the benefit of which the museum was to be. 
She was a tall woman, with winning manners, 
and a handsome, care-worn face. Her husband 
was a district judge. His salary was small, 
and they had six children ; but Mrs. Hubbard 
was always pressed to serve on church commit- 
tees and to aid charitable undertakings, because 
she had so much tact and was " such a worker." 
Mrs. Cody, the second member, had a more 
brilliant worldly lot, being the wife of a rich 
grocer. She was large, florid, and sprightly, 
and her gleaming black satin gown rattled 
and sparkled with jet pendants. Violet Dur- 
ham, the remaining member, leaned over the 
high chair-back, her pretty face upraised. The 
wind had roughened her smooth, black braids ; 
one loosened lock curled against her white 



108 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

neck ; under the shadow of her hat, her great, 
dark eyes were shining. She wore a simple 
cambric gown, which had brown figures on a 
yellowish background, and there were bows of 
brown ribbon about it, with long ends to flut- 
ter when she moved ; and a careless bunch of 
Jacqueminot roses was stuck in her belt. In 
the light poise of her figure, in the expression 
of her face, even in the arrangement of her 
daintily fresh dress, there was an air of cheer- 
ful animation ; she made one think of prairie 
flowers when the breeze shakes the dew from 
them. Tom Finlay gave her a glance of ad- 
miration and a half wistful smile. He had 
known Violet all his life. Her only brother, 
who died at college, had been his most intimate 
friend ; Mrs. Durham used to call Tom " her 
other boy " ; he was always at their house. 
Naturally, he fell in love with Violet. It was 
a boyish passion, never avowed and soon cured ; 
and he married Emily Finlay with no disturb- 
ing memories. He did more ; he gave substan- 
tial aid to the young lawyer whom Violet had 
preferred to him. She was on the eve of marry- 
in s: this man when both her father and he were 
killed in a railway accident. Colonel Durham 
left a large property in such a state of confusion 
that it was feared there would be nothing left 
for Violet and her mother. Then Tom Finlay 



o 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 109 

came forward; his advice and energy, and the 
loan he insisted upon making them, rescued a 
modest independence from the tangle. Mrs. 
Durham and Violet went abroad, and were 
gone five years. Tom wanted his wife to take 
these good friends of his to her heart ; there- 
fore, praising himself for Machiavelian wile, he 
was very reticent about thera, and said not a 
word of his little romance. So the story came 
to Mrs. Finlay in bits, to be pieced together by 
her fancy. She did not take the Durhams to 
her heart. She was perfectly courteous ; she 
asked them to the house whenever Tom sug- 
gested ; but the pleasant, informal intercourse 
that he had planned never came. He did 
not complain ; indeed, what cause for com- 
plaint had he ? Mrs. Finlay did all he asked ; 
but there was a sore spot in his regret. To- 
day, as he greeted Violet, he was thinking how 
seldom he saw the Durhams in his home, and 
how welcome he had always been made to 
theirs. A hundred trivial, touching recollec- 
tions of his childhood helped to bring that 
wistful curve to his lips. Instantly it was 
gone, and he was greeting the ladies with most 
commonplace politeness ; but his wife had seen 
it before it went. 

The moment the salutations were over, Mrs. 
Cody, who had been speaking, continued : — 



110 KNITTERS IN TEE SUN. 

" Yes, indeed, I know your feeling, Mrs. 
Finlay. When they asked me for my Jackson 
chair, — it was given to Mr. Cody by the Gen- 
eral himself, you know, and he said it was a 
hundred years old, — well, when they asked 
for that, it didn't seem as though I could let it 
go. But we're so interested in the library, 
and of course it 's different with you ; you can't 
be expected, as I told the ladies, to feel an 
interest. It ain't as though you belonged to 
the town." 

" I hope you don't think of us as not belong- 
ing to Wrenham," said Tom ; " I 'm a regular 
Wrenham boy." 

Mrs. Cody waved her plump hand. " Oh, 
you, of course, Mr. Finlay; but gentlemen 
are different ; you have your business here. 
But we see so little of Mrs. Finlay, we feel she 
is quite a stranger." 

Mrs. Cody had a marvelous faculty for say- 
ing stinging things. Charitable people held 
that she was simjDly heedless ; the less chari- 
table said her shafts were too well aimed for 
shots in the air. Mrs. Hubbard hurried into 
the conversation. 

"Mrs. Finlay always shows she is not a 
stranger by her kindness," she said; "she has 
let us have such a quantity of beautiful things." 

" That 's right," said Tom, cordially ; " can't 
you think of something else ? " 



MRS. FINLATS ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. Ill 

" Only the chair," Mrs. Cody replied, sol- 
emnly. 

Mrs. Finlay looked from the speaker to her 
husband. 

" If you really think the chair will help the 
museum, you are quite welcome to it," she 
said. 

The visitors broke into a confusion of thanks. 

" It is very kind of you, Mrs. Finlay," cried 
Violet Durham. " I will look after the chair, 
myself." 

" We will all look after it," said Mrs. Cody. 
" And now, Mrs. Finlay, you encourage us to 
ask one favor more : won't you come on to our 
general committee ? " 

Again Emily glanced at her husband ; there 
was a familiar twinkle in his eye. 

" I fear I shan't be any help to you," she an- 
swered, gravely, ''but — yes, certainly, if you 
wish it." 

It must be confessed that, though the com- 
mittee professed unbounded gratitude and sat- 
isfaction over this last boon, they looked rather 
blank ; Mrs. Finlay guessed that they had ex- 
pected a refusal. She urged them to stay to 
lancheon, a courtesy which had its natural ef- 
fect, the hastening of their departure. 

After they were gone, Tom Finlay said; 
" You were very good-natured, Milly." 



112 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

"It was not good - nature, Tom," she an- 
swered ; " it was — well, I am not sure I know 
what it was myself." 

She walked up-stairs, leaving him whistling 
softly. 

• ••••••••• 

The Wrenham Art Museum opened its doors 
two weeks later. For days the workers had 
toiled over a chaos of old books, pictures, and 
bric-a-brac. The result exceeded their hopes. 
But even in riches there is embarrassment. 
The usual procession of petty trials had filed 
through the days. A sad amount of ill-feeling 
was caused by a few slips of memory, some la- 
dies not being asked to help at all, and others 
being asked too late. Careless remarks about 
the objects of art had wounded sensitive souls. 
Disputes had arisen in the committees. There 
was the quarrel about the building, happily set- 
tled at last by Mr. Cody's generous offer of his 
late grocery shop, free of rent. To be sure, 
the vigilant nose could still sniff odors of salt 
fish, kerosene oil, and molasses, despite the la- 
bors of the scrub-women ; and it never had 
been considered a well-lighted shop. But a 
gift horse should not be looked in the mouth ; 
it was a large, convenient, inexpensive museum 
hall, and the committee accepted it gratefully, 
as was their duty. 



o 



MRS. FINLATS ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 113 

The selection of a janitor was not so easily- 
made. Mrs. Cody proposed a retainer of her 
own, an old fellow named Judson, who picked 
• up a precarious livelihood, mowing lawns, run- 
ning of errands, and working out poll-taxes, 
while his wife made up the deficiencies in the 
family income by taking in washing. Judson 
had lately joined a temperance society, but a 
particularly unsavory past marred his reputa- 
tion. 

This was Miss Durham's objection to him. 

"He may get drunk and burn us all up," 
said she ; " besides, he is a weak old man, and 
couldn't fight a burglar ! " 

" He belongs to the Sons of Temperance," 
Mrs. Cody returned stiffly ; " he don't drink a 
drop, and he will have a pistol." 

A mild little woman here said that she 
guessed he did need the place ; his wife had 
been sick most of the winter. 

" For my part," said Mrs. Cody warmly, " / 
think that when anybody repents and is strug- 
gling to do better, they ought to be encouraged 
and not trampled on ! " 

" That 's so," another member of the com- 
mittee agreed. " Besides, we want to have 
Mrs. Judson to clean, and it will be much more 
convenient. She can come in the mornings, 
too, and sweep and dust. She oughtn't to 



114 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

charge much, if we have him. We can make 
all the cleaning part of his business; then 
she '11 come and do it." 

In vain Violet pleaded the danger of Jud- . 
son's relapsing into his old habits ; mercy and 
thrift combined carried the day ; Mrs. Finlay 
was the single member voting with her. 

Mrs. Finlay came to most of the meetings. 
She said little and noticed much. Mrs. Hub- 
bard, " for her sins," Violet said, was the chief 
ruler of the artistic council. Mrs. Finlay used 
to marvel at her unfailing patience. She 
thought her own politeness, well trained as it 
was, would have trembled beneath the awful 
responsibilities of china, the charges of express 
companies, the delays of printers, the assaults 
of irate owners of pictures which were not hung 
to their taste, and of distracted hanging com- 
mittees and amateur artists with pictures of 
their own to show, who had the " artistic tem- 
perament " to such a degree that they could 
scarcely be trusted in the same room together. 
But Mrs. Hubbard never winced, she only 
looked rather more tired at times. Her son 
and Violet were her great helpers, Jimmy 
Hubbard was young Fergus Finlay 's hero, a 
tall lad of fifteen, whose wrists were always 
growing out of his jacket sleeves. He was de- 
voted to Violet, and Violet was devoted to 



MRS. FIN LAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 115 

Jimmy's handsome, overworked mother. They 
did a little of nearly everything that was to be 
done, from scrubbing show-cases to writing ad- 
vertisements. 

" Only," said Violet, " I trust a confiding 
public does n't believe the wild tales owners of 
antiquities tell about their things. If this ex- 
hibition lasts much longer, I shall lose my soul 
— I 've got into such a way of lying ! " Jim- 
my's specialty was painting placards. He made 
beautiful letters, but his spelling was not be- 
yond reproach. He enjoyed the museum im- 
mensely. "Such fun!" said Jimmy; "those 
people in the picture-room are just going it ! 
Mrs. Cody had somebody's picture took down 
and hers hung in the same place ; said her pic- 
ture needed that light and t' other one did n't. 
And now the other woman, she 's come back, 
and — oh, ain't they having a circus, though ! 
And up in the room where they have the Jap- 
anese things, they 've lost all the labels ; they 
tumbled off and got mixed up, and they 're put- 
ting 'em back by guess. Folks '11 open their 
eyes when they see the catalogue. And doAvn- 
stairs in the china-room, somebody 's hooked 
their show-case, so the china 's standing round 
on the floor ; and they say they can't do noth- 
ing till they get another show-case, so they 've 
gone off to dinner, and there ain't nobody in 
the room 'cept a dog ! " 



116 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" A dog ! " cried Mrs. Hubbard, while Mrs. 
Finlay turned pale. " I must go this in- 
stant " — 

" Oh, I coaxed him out," said Jimmy ; " I 
thought it didn't look just healthy for the 
china. Guess he had n't broke much ; some of 
it was broke to start with, was n't it ? " 

Poor Mrs. Hubbard hurried away. Violet 
laughed. 

" I think I must hunt them up a show-case," 
said she. " Take our old books out, Jimmy, 
and let us give them that." 

'' But you spent all the morning arranging 
them," said Mrs. Finlay; "and you brought 
the show-case yourself. It is quite too bad ! " 

" Oh, it does n't matter," answered Violet, 
gayly ; " it 's all for the public good." She 
was always cheerful. " I suppose I have no 
proper pride," she said once; "nobody wants 
me to be chairman of anything ; my valuable 
suggestions have been uniformly rejected ; and 
still, Jimmy, we are happy ! " 

" I wish that Mrs. Cody was n't chairman of 
our committee, though," said Jimmy; "she 
never does a thing — just sails round and 
bosses ! " 

"But she ha's been very liberal. Think of 
the things she has sent us ; think of the Jack- 
son chair ! " 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 117 

"It ain't half as pretty as Mrs. Finlay's," 
said Jimmy, unwitting that Mrs. Finlay stood 
behind him ; " and she makes ten times as 
much fuss. No Cody in mine, thank you." 

Mrs. Finlay smiled as she walked away, feel- 
ing more friendly than she would have believed 
possible toward Violet and Jimmy. She had 
been as good as her word and sent the chair. 
Francis, the butler, attended to its safe deliv- 
ery. He remained while Violet removed the 
wrappings. 

" Mrs. Finlay said as how you would look 
after it yourself, Miss," he remarked, in a tone 
of deep solemnity, adding, as if from the impe- 
rious promptings of his own conscience, " She 
sets the world by that chair, and I wouldn't 
have it hurt for nothing whatsoever ! " 

" It shan't be my fault if it gets hurt, Fran- 
cis," Violet answered. 

On the appointed day the museum was 
opened. The Cody chair stood beside Mrs. 
Finlay's on a kind of dais of honor, and to 
many minds was the nobler chair of the two. 
Like the Finlay chair, it was of imposing pro- 
portions. Its substance was mahogany, and — 
again like the Finlay chair — it had arms. In- 
deed, at first view there was a general resem- 
blance of form, if not of color, between the two 
chairs, although that of Mrs. Finlay was orna- 



118 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

men ted with florid carving as behooved an Eliz- 
abethan chair, while the lines of the other were 
chastely plain. 

From the first the exhibition was a triumph. 
It went victoriously on to its close. One day, 
somewhere near the middle of its career, Violet 
Durham walked through it with her mother. 
The rooms were almost empty, for the time 
was early in the morning. The two women 
paused before a screen of Mrs. Finlay's, a mar- 
vel of embroidery on dull gold plush. 

" Hasn't she ravishing taste?" said Violet; 
"all her things are so lovely. Why did fate 
direct Mrs. Cody to hang that horror of a crazy- 
quilt dh-ectly over it ? Mrs. Finlay will faint 
when she sees it ; it will be the last straw. I 
wish you could see her in the committees, so 
disgusted with our vulgarities, but so invincibly 
polite. She never says a word, but anything 
more deadly superior than her silence I never 
did encounter. I never am with her, anyhow, 
that I don't feel myself so hopelessly provincial 
that I almost don't want to live." 

" You are unjust, Violet," said Mrs. Durham, 
a placid gentlewoman, with soft gray hair and 
a grave sweet smile ; " Mrs. Finlay is n't a bit 
of a snob " — 

" Oh, I don't mean she is. What I do think 
is that she is rather narrow-minded. She can't 



o 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 119 

conceive of people being nice who are n't nice 
in just her way, who haven't just such man- 
ners, for instance, and just such ways of think- 
ing, and have n't been to Europe just so many 
times. Tom deserves a woman cut on a larger 
pattern. It makes it hard for him." 

" He seems perfectly satisfied," said Mrs. 
Durham, smiling. And then they passed on. 

Now, Mrs. Finlay was behind the screen. 
It was purely an accident. She happened to 
be standing there looking at some articles on 
the wall. She did not think of their discussing 
any personal matter, and after they had begun 
to speak and she understood, she was too sur- 
prised and embarrassed to go forward. 

The conversation was a revelation. Her first 
emotion was a shock. She felt as though she 
had been shown to be brutally rude. True, she 
did believe her ways of living and thinking 
vastly better than those of a country town ; 
but her sense of superiority was so deeply rooted 
that it was hardly visible to her own conscious- 
ness ; to manifest it to its objects seemed to 
her unutterably indelicate. Her cheeks were 
burning as she stepped forth from her involun- 
tary hiding-place. 

Was she narrow-minded, she who prided her- 
self upon her cosmopolitan toleration? Had 
her distaste for life in Wrenham made it hard 



120 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

for Tom ? Did he think her narrow-minded ? 
Such thoughts made her miserable for days. 
" The worst of it, too," she said to herself, " is 
that it is no use my trying to pacify them. 
Whatever I do, they are bound to misunder- 
stand me ! " Nevertheless, she went again and 
still another time to the museum. The chil- 
dren went, and Tom and Francis, and John 
Rogers (who was very much bored), and Elise, 
Mrs. Finlay's maid, and the cook, and the other 
maids, and the gardener with all his family. 
" I will say she spends her money on us," said 
Mrs. Cody. 

To the very end the weather was propitious ; 
but the day after, the clouds distilled a gentle, 
unremitting drizzle. Most of the owners of ar- 
ticles sent for them notwithstanding. Francis 
and John Rogers appeared at five o'clock, hav- 
ing waited until then in the vain hope of sun- 
shine. They took the pictures and the china, 
but there was not room for the chair. There- 
fore they wrapped it in the tarpaulin they had 
brought and left it in Violet's charge — Francis 
saying, with his air of decent gloom, " Mrs. 
Finlay told me to bring the pictures first and 
take the chair on another load. I '11 be back 
to-night if I can. Are i/ou going to stay here, 
may I ask, Miss ? " 

" I shall stay until dark, Francis ; but Judson 



will be here all night. 



j> 



MRS. FINLAYS ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 121 

Francis turned a gloomy eye upon old Judson, 
who was shambling about, getting Mrs. Cody's 
property together. 

" Thank you, Miss ; but I 'd rather come 
back if I can," said he. 

" Now, I wonder," said Violet to Jimmy 
Hubbard, later, " I wonder what he meant by 
that:' 

Old Judson had gone up-stairs, the other peo- 
ple had gone home, and they were alone in the 
room. 

" Ask me an easier one," said Jimmy. 

" He is sober enough to-night, is n't he ? " 
Violet asked, looking up into Jimmy's face with 
that anxious reliance on the masculine judgment 
in such matters which confirms a boy's opinion 
of his sex. 

" Oh, straight as a string," said Jimmy, re- 
assuringly ; '' but he was on a toot Thursday, 
if you want to know. Say, Judson, come down 
and light up." 

Judson lighted a single burner, and listened 
silently to Violet's warnings and injunctions, 
scowling to himself. Then Jimmy and she 
went home. The last thing they noticed in the 
room was a group of the two chairs, standing 
on their dais, island-wise, amid a sea of crum- 
pled wrapping-paper. Mrs. Cody's chair was 
undraped, but Mrs. Finlay's, in its white tar- 
paulin, looked like a clumsy ghost. 



122 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

By this time the rain had ceased and the 
stars were shining. They walked to Mrs. Dur- 
ham's house very cheerfully. Jimmy was pre- 
vailed upon to enter and be refreshed with tea. 
Perhaps an hour had passed before they were 
startled by the clangor of bells. 

"- Fire ! " cried Violet. 

" Hope it ain't ws .' " said Jimmy, with more 
good-will than grammar. 

The Wrenham fire-bells rang in a startling 
but not systematic fashion, as fast as they could 
go ; and the fire companies — volunteers, mostly 
of tender years — assembled in their respective 
engine-houses, and ran about the streets inquir- 
ing for the fire until it made enough headway 
to be seen. The bells themselves afforded no 
clew. Jimmy ran out into the street for infor- 
mation, at the same time yelling " Fire ! " at 
the top of his voice. " Fire ! fire ! Say, Mis- 
ter, where 's the fire ? " 

" Cass street," yelled back a running boy ; 
" Cody's old grocery store." 

" Mercy ! " cried Mrs. Durham from the door- 
way, " the museum ! Violet " — 

But Violet was gone. With the first word 
she had sped swiftly after Jimmy, nor did she 
stop until they saw the smoke pouring out of 
the museum windows. 

*' Mrs. Finlay's chair ! " she gasped; " Jim- 
my, we must save it ! '* 



o 



MRS. FIN LAYS ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 123 

" All right," said Jimmy ; " just you wait ! " 
He dashed through the crowd that shouted af- 
ter him : '' Come back ! " " The door 's locked." 
" It 's all afire ! " Unheeding, he unlocked the 
door — he had his mother's key with him 
— and ran into the smoke. Horrible smoke it 
was — dense, blinding, stifling. His eyes were 
stung ; his ears stunned ; the murky air seemed 
to roar all about him. But he saw the white 
tarpaulin through his smoky tears, and stag- 
gered up to it. Somebody caught the other 
side : they dragged the chair out together — not 
a second too soon, for the wainscoting of the 
room was blazing. Safe on the sidewalk, he 
saw that his unknown helper was Violet, who 
said : — 

" We 're a couple of fools, but we 've saved 
the chair. Now, let us get it out of the way ! " 

They carried it across the street just in time 
to avoid the charge of a fire company. They 
came with a rush and a cheer, and with their 
coming the whole street brightened into a kind 
of lurid gayety. The flames leaped up in the 
museum windows. Up-stairs, where the fire had 
started, they were all aglow. In the street, the 
boys were shouting, the water splashing, the 
firemen swearing, and apparently everybody 
ordering somebody else to do something. Violet 
scanned the crowd, trying to discover old Jud- 



124 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

son ; but she saw no sign of that aged reprobate, 
and began to fear he was burning up in the 
building. Suddenly, two men laid hands on 
the chair. One of them spoke — roughly, but 
not unkindly : — 

" You '11 have to get outer this, ma'am : they 
want to lay the hose here. Here, hurry up ! 
This way ! " 

Resolutely clinging to the chair, Violet and 
Jimmy were pushed down the street. 

" We '11 have to carry the chair home our- 
selves, Jimmy," said Violet ; "there's no use 
trying to look for a wagon — good gracious ! " 

" What 's the matter ? " cried Jimmy. 
" Confound the fools ! " 

It was only that some sportive souls among 
the firemen had turned the hose on their com- 
rades over the street ; Violet and Jimmy, be- 
ing in a direct line with the comrades, were 
drenched to the skin. 

" Nothing but water," said Violet ; " but I 
never did fancy shower-baths. Jimmy, the man 
was right ; we 'd better get away from here." 

Jimmy looked at the chair. " It 's awful 
heavy ; let 's leave it in a saloon ; they 're 
open." 

"Never," said Violet; "it's not going out 
of my sight again. Here, boy," addressing a 
stout lad in the crowd, " I '11 give you a dollar 
if you '11 help us carry this chair home." 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 125 

" All right ! " said the boy. 

He grinned at Jimmy, whom he knew, and 
took the chair by the arm. They forced their 
way to the corner. The boy's stout lungs and 
ready profanity cleared a passage, assisted as 
they were by his skillful use of the chair cor- 
ners as a battering-ram. Violet was a devout 
churchwoman, but she did not tell him not to 
swear; she had a desperate feeling that any- 
thing was allowable, in the present crisis, to 
rescue the chair. Torn, dishevelled, dripping 
with muddy water, the three — say rather the 
four, for does not the chair count as one ? — 
emerged from the din into the quiet and starlit 
streets where there was no fire. Violet's own 
plight was deplorable. Little streams of water 
drained from her soaked skirts ; her hat was 
crushed into a shapeless bunch, through an un- 
intentional collision with a hook-and-ladder com- 
pany. She had a great bruise on her cheek 
(side lunge of the chair), and a never explained 
scratch across her nose. But she was in high 
spirits — her wooden ward was safe ! Almost 
jubilantly she paid the boy at Mrs. Durham's 
gate ; she answered her mother's anxious in- 
quiries with a kiss and a laugh. 

" I 've been a fireman, mamma ; I 've helped 
save portable property. Jimmy, take off the 
tarpaulin, please." 



126 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Jimmy pulled it off with a flourish ; then he 
gave a shout : " Oh, thunder ! " 

Violet uttered a deep groan. She leaned 
against the side of the house like one about to 
faint. Poor Mrs. Durham caught her in her 
arms. 

" Oh, it 's nothing, mamma," said Violet, in 
a hollow voice ; " only, we 've made a mistake, 
and saved the wrong chair ! " 

I draw a veil over the remainder of the night. 

The explanation is simple enough. Old Jud- 
son had beguiled the tedium of the night- 
watches with whiskey. After he had pretty 
well drowned his feeble wits, he took a notion 
to inspect the chairs, and put the tarpaulin on 
Mrs. Cody's chair. Then he departed to get 
more whiskey, leaving bis lighted pipe up-stairs, 
among the wrapping-papers. And Mrs. Fin- 
lay's idol was ashes ! 

Mrs. Finlay had a headache the night of the 
fire, and slept undisturbed through the fire-bells. 
Languid but unsuspecting, she came down to a 
late breakfast. Tom and the boys were gone, 
but Francis was in waiting, looking absolutely 
tragic in his solemnity. Mrs. Finlay took up 
the Wrenham paper. Francis, with a plate of 
oatmeal in one hand and the cream-jug in the 



MRS. FIN LAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 127 

other, stood watching her. " Ah ! " cried Mrs. 
Finlay. She held the paper higher; Francis 
could not see her face. He made a gesture of 
despair with the cream- jug. 

" Were you at the fire last night, Francis ? " 
came from behind the paper. 

" Yes, ma'am, I was, ma'am," said Francis, 
his pent-up feelings relieving themselves in a 
heavy and irrepressible sigh. " It ain't no use, 
ma'am ; it 's all gone ! When I got there, 
everything was blazing. And they say, ma'am, 
the janitor set it afire hisself . He was a-reeling 
round there drunk 's a lord — begging your 
pardon, ma'am ; and he locked the door, so they 
could n't get in ! " 

Mrs. Finlay put the paper down. She might 
have been a shade paler, but Francis could see 
no change in her expression. Yet, behind this 
calm mask a sharp struggle was going on. This 
stupid and barbarous town, after railing at her 
and slandering her for years, had capped its 
exasperations by destroying her most precious 
possession ! Her nerves tingled with irritation. 
But the blood of generations of Puritans did 
not flow in Emily Finlay's veins for nothing. 
She had as robust a conscience as the best of 
them, although it was illumined by most un- 
puritanic lights. After all, she reasoned, the 
Wrenham people had burned up their own 



128 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

treasures as well as hers ; certainly, they had 
intended no harm. 

" Miss Durham," announced Francis, inter- 
rupting the inward colloquy between anger and 
justice. 

" Show her in here," said Mrs. Finlay. She 
remembered that Violet had opposed old Jud- 
son's appointment, and greeted her with actual 
warmth. 

" You see, I know all," she said, touching 
the newspaper. " I am so very sorry for you." 

Violet looked pale and dejected ; she did not 
lift her eyes ; her voice trembled as she an- 
swered : — 

" But your chair is gone ; I was down there 
this morning, and could n't find even a piece of 
it. And we persuaded you to send it ! " 

" But you could n't know what was to hap- 
pen," said Mrs. Finlay, gently ; " it was n't 
your fault " — 

" Master James Hubbard," said Francis, ap- 
pearing again in the door-way. Jimmy had 
unceremoniously followed the butler, and was 
at his heels. He began a carefully conned 
speech in breathless haste. He was sorry to 
come so early in the morning ; but he saw 
Miss Durham and wanted to come, also " be- 
cause," cried Master Jimmy, growing red in the 
face and forgetting his speech, " I knew she 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 129 

would n't say anything about what she did, and 
it was all old Judson's fault, 'cause he changed 
the tarpaulin, and we couldn't see through the 
smoke, and we hauled it out, and she got wet 
through, and the hose-cart smashed her hat, and 
Fritz Miiller and she and me, we carried it to 
her house, and then, after all, it was Mrs. Cody's 
chair ! " 

Mrs. Finlay listened with evident emotion. 

"Do you mean you ran into the burning 
building for my chair ? " she cried. " Risked 
your lives ? " 

*' That 's about the size of it," said Jimmy. 
Then more in detail he recounted the night's 
adventures. When he finished, Mrs. Finlay 
turned to Violet. 

" How brave you were ! " she exclaimed. 

" I promised to take care of the chair," said 
Violet, with a little rueful smile, " and you see 
I failed, after all." 

" What could you have done more ? " 

" Well, we might have picked out the right 
chair, you know," said Jimmy, impartially ; 
" but it was so smoky." 

" You took the one with the tarpaulin ; you 
could n't know. Believe me, I am most grate- 
ful for — why. Miss Durham ! " 

For Violet, overcome by the long strain on 
her nerves, and the reaction after a night spent 



130 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

in picturing her reception, eacli picture por- 
traying more humiliating explanations than the 
last, had sunk into a chair and turned very 
white. Jimmy, in distress, threw the contents 
of the cream-jug in her face ; happily the jug 
was almost empty, and Mrs. Finlay instantly 
repaired damages with a finger-bowl. 

"Don't — bother," implored Violet faintly; 
" I 'm not going to — do anything. But I was 
so sorry, and you are so kind, and it is all so 

— different ! " 

" We thought you 'd be awful mad," Jimmy 
explained, with calm suavity. 

"We were unjust to you," said Violet; " I 

— I think I have always been unjust to you." 

" We have been unjust to each other," an- 
swered Mrs. Finlay. " Can't we try all our 
acquaintance over again, don't you think ? " 

She looked up into Violet's face with a 
charming smile, but her eyes were wet ; and 
when Violet took the hand that was extended 
to her, she could not speak because of the lump 
in her throat. 

Then Jimmy, who had been absorbed in 
meditation, remarked : — 

" Well, I guess there won't be any trouble 
'bout getting the insurance ; that 's one good 
thin or 






Violet must either laugh or cry ; it was just 



MRS. FINLAY'S ELIZABETHAN CHAIR. 131 

as well that she should laugh. Mrs. Finlay 
laughed with her. " And then," said Jimmy, 
describing the interview to his mother afterward, 
" then Mr. Finlay came in, and they wanted us 
to sit down and have breakfast ; but of course 
I would n't. And, mother, I 'm going there 
to luncheon to-morrow. And I don't believe 
Mrs. Finlav cared much about the chair, 'cause 
she didn't say another word about it." 

When they were all gone, Tom Finlay put 
his arm around his wife's waist. He was smil- 
ing ; but, for once, she found nothing to quar- 
rel with in his smile. He only said : — 

" Milly, I was in the conservatory, and heard 
it all. I am tremendously proud of you." 

" Because I was n't cross ? " said Emily, 
" But I had no right to be cross." 

" Milly, you are a very just woman." 

" Don't say that, Tom," cried his wife, with 
a quick movement ; " I have been horrid about 
Wrenham and about — about Miss Durham. 
Tom, I wish you had told me that you asked 
her to marry you." 

Tom opened his eyes. 

" But I never did, Milly. I thought of doing 
it once ; but I found out she liked somebody 
else better, so I held my tongue. Then I saw 
you, and was glad enough I had. Milly, you 
weren't " — 

" Yes, I was, Tom," murmured Emily, hid- 



132 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

ing her head on his shoulder ; " I was just so 
stupid." 

Tom held her close ; she felt the quickened 
beating of his heart, and she said : — 

" I shall never be — stupid about Miss Dur- 
ham again. She is so nice, and she was so 
brave about the chair." 

"The poor chair!" said Tom. " Milly, I 
am sorry." 

Mrs. Finlay pulled her husband's head down 
to her own level and kissed his hair. 

" If you are sorry, Tom," she whispered, 
" then I do not mind." 

Nevertheless she is not ungrateful to the 
chair's memory. It is perhaps a fanciful no- 
tion, but she feels as though the chair died for 
her happiness. A water-color sketch of it 
hangs in her chamber, and she has, when she 
looks at it, an emotion of almost personal grat- 
itude. She returned the insurance money 
(which duly came to her) to the managers of 
the museum, accompanying the money with 
a sympathetic note. The note made a favor- 
able impression. Wrenham has come to the 
conclusion that Mrs. Finlay has her good 
points. It only remains to add that Tom Fin- 
lay has no cause to complain of his wife's cool- 
ness to the Durhams ; and that James Hub- 
bard is the proud possessor of a new and most 
gorgeous gold watch. 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 

A STUDY. 

It was a very modest sign : dingy gilt letters 
on a rusty black ground, the entire sign being 
not larger in area than two feet by one ; and it 
hung, moreover, in a helpless, one-sided, mutely- 
appealing fashion by a single corner nail. Why 
then did the handsome young man who was 
passing give it a vicious twist with his cane, and 
send the announcement of the " Office of the 
Woman's Suffrage Association " into the mud 
of the street ? Being a western street, the mud 
was deep. "You be hanged!" muttered the 
young man — which, indeed, was just what the 
sign needed ; but he did not hang it. He walked 
on with a little irritable laugh and turned down 
a side street, when, seeing no one near enough 
to observe him, he soon allowed the dejection 
of his feelings to shape his expression. The 
cause of his melancholy mood was that frequent 
disturber of a lover's peace, a quarrel with his 
mistress. The quarrel was no transient dis- 
agreement ; it was a final rupture. Six times 
since the morning mail had Harold Durham 



134 KNITTERS IN THE SUN 

read a certain note which he then received ; now 
he was repeating its contents from memory ; 
certainly they showed no indecision in the 
writer. 

I have read your letter carefully. I cannot 
say anything but what I have said before so 
often you must be tired. I do not blame you, 
Harold, that you are not willing to have your 
wife feel so differently from you ; but you must 
not blame me, either, if I cannot give up my 
friends and my convictions for you. A woman 
has a sense of honor as well as a man, and I 
cannot do it, Harold. But I do not mean to 
reproach you. I never had the shadow of a 
claim on you, you know. You are quite free. 
I have sent you back your letters and your ring. 
And please believe that I shall always remain 
Your faithful friend, 

Lillian S. Maine. 

" Then there 's a postscript," continued the 
young man, " about hoping she has n't been 
abrupt and hoping I will be happy. Happy ! 
Oh, yes." — Here Harold broke off his reflec- 
tions to scowl ferociousl}^ at a small boot-black 
and shout, " JVo " ; but before the boy could 
turn he stopped him. " Yes, I do, too ; only be 
quick about it ! " He did not really want his 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 135 

boots blacked (in truth they had been blacked 
ten minutes before this episode, for he was on 
his way to a friend's house), but he wanted to 
make amends for his harshness to a child, and 
some scruples concerning almsgiving forbade 
the easier device of a quarter. The act was 
trivial, yet a clew to Harold's character. He 
had a fervid temperament which his will kept 
in rigid retirement, but sometimes it escaped 
and hurried him into action, in which cases his 
atonement was prone to be as impetuous as his 
offense. He looked after the boy when he 
dashed away, having finished the merest pre- 
tense of blacking. " Poor little rat," he thought ; 
" after all, it is harder lines for him than for 
me. If a man can only do something perma- 
nent for that crowd, he ought not to make a row 
if he does n't get all the other things he asks of 
life." 

Pursuing this elevating strain of meditation, 
Harold resolved to waste no more moans over 
his ruined hopes, but, dismissing importunate 
visions of a noble, candid face and classic head, 
with its thick brown braids, to fix his mind upon 
the object of his visit to Xerxes ; namely, tene- 
ment houses. "Drains," said Harold sternly, 
" drains ; they must be settled ! " And as a 
judicious initiative to the settlement of drains 
he leaned against a fence, and taking Miss 



136 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Maine's letter out of his pocket he proceeded to 
give it a seventh reading. 

It is as good a time as any to draw his picture. 
His dress, his tall, athletic figure, his fresh com- 
plexion, and his reddish-blonde beard parted in 
the centre lent his presence an English air, and 
he spoke with an English accent ; he was, how- 
ever, an American, the son of a Chicago pork 
packer and a Vermont school-teacher. His 
father was a jovial, shrewd, strong-willed, faith- 
ful man who had inherited a small fortune and 
had made it a great one. His mother was a 
gentle and graceful woman who had almost for- 
gotten that she was not born rich. She had 
very soft, winning manners, dressed perfectly, 
and had the most harmoniously picturesque 
house in Chicago. Mrs. Durham had visited 
England three times ; the first time she brought 
back her butler, the second time her coachman, 
the third time her invaluable housekeeper, 
" Becket." " Now I feel that I can live^'' she 
said confidentially. Harold was the only child. 
It was Mrs. Durham's idea to send him to Eng- 
land ; she wanted him to go to Eton first, then 
to Oxford ; but I believe they compromised 
upon Phillips Academy and Oxford. 

Meanwhile Mr. Durham had retired from 
business under the influence of a siege of head- 
ache and his wife's entreaties, and when Harold 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 137 

returned home lie found him in a deplorable 
state of anxious laziness. Harold most unex- 
pectedly came to his relief by plunging into 
philanthropy and tenement houses. Mr. Dur- 
ham saw that the tenement houses paid, while 
Harold, who had studied architecture and sani- 
tary science and political economy for no other 
purpose, as he told his father, planned the 
buildings. 

He quite agreed with his father that the 
houses must be made to pay a fair interest on 
the money. 

" We shall do no good with it as a charity," 
he used to say, " but if we can make decent 
dwellings for the working classes a paying in- 
vestment, we shall have plenty of people follow- 
ing our example. And that is what we want. 
We want to make these vile fire»traps and fever- 
holes unrentable ! " 

It will be seen that Harold had the hope as 
well as the courage of his opinions. One might 
fancy that he would have been tolerably busy, 
what with overseeing building, collecting rents, 
helping his tenants to help themselves, and 
writing explanations of the model tenement 
scheme to the newspapers ; but he was a young 
man of immense energy, he felt that his country 
as well as the poor needed him, and he took an 
active interest in politics. He made quite a 



138 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

little oration to his father when the subject was 
first mentioned between them. 

" What do we most need in America ? " he 
cried. " That gentlemen should enter politics ! 
We leave them to the lower classes, and see the 
scoundrelly cads who represent us in Congress ! 
I don't wonder they sneer at us in Europe. 
The class who are our natural leaders, who have 
the leisure to study the theory of civilization 
and find out what government can and what it 
can't do, they stay at home for fear of a little 
mud throwing ! I tell you it 's a cowardly 
shame ! " shouted Harold, growing hot and 
bringing his fist down on the table with a bang. 

" Well, don't break things, dear, if it is ! " 
said his mother, in some alarm. There was a 
real Palissy vase on that table and it was tot- 
tering frightfully. 

Mr. Durham chuckled, but said nothing. 
His son's English social tone, his vehemence, 
and his astounding political innocence tickled 
the elder man's sense of humor. "He 's a good 
fellow," thought Mr. Durham, " and he '11 get 
over his nonsense in a little while. Give him 
his head a while, and let him fool about the 
primaries and vote independent tickets till he's 
tired. He '11 come out all right, and there ain't 
a bit of danger of his being elected to any- 
thing ! " 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 139 

Mrs. Durham took Harold much more se- 
riously ; his enthusiasm, to be sure, was rather 
alarming in a drawing-room, but that was a 
trifling blemish ; she admired the English tone ; 
Harold's sentiments, his manners, the very ris- 
ing inflections of his voice at the close of his 
sentences thrilled her heart with an exquisite 
vanity ; she loved her husband, but her son was 
her realized ideal. At last, she felt that she 
could crush Mrs. Maine. A grandmother who 
had been a Van Rensselaer and a sister who 
had crossed the Atlantic eighteen times could 
never stand up against a son educated at Ox- 
ford, with his English training visible in every 
bow and audible in every question that he asked. 

It was a natural consequence of such a reverie 
that Mrs. Durham should take Harold over to 
the Maines, that same evening. Harold found 
a tall young woman, handsome as Diana, in- 
stead of the merry little girl who had skated 
and climbed trees with him ten years ago. He 
instantly discovered that he had loved her all 
his life, and told her so two months later. Lily 
Maine had been cruel enough to doubt the du- 
ration of his feeling, and had refused to be posi- 
tively his promised wife until he had known 
her lonsjer: but she had admitted what she 
styled a "partiality" for him and had consented 
to wear his ring, although she would not let 



140 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

him bu}' her one. In short, they finally arrived 
at an " understanding " which was to be an 
" engagement " at the end of the year. Harold 
had never been so happy in his life ; he thought 
Lily more charming every day. 

He was not alone in this opinion ; few people 
knew Miss Maine without feeling the subtle at- 
traction of her mingled sincerity and sympathy. 
There are many sincere people in the world, 
and many sympathetic people ; but the sincere 
people are apt to be disagreeable, and the sym- 
pathetic people are apt to lie, more or less. 
Lily, while she was absolutely truthful, knew 
how to be silent, and her interest in others' 
goodness or sorrow was too quick to need to be 
whipped up by her politeness. As most of us 
are either good or unhappy, and some of us are 
both, Lily's interest had a wide career before 
it — so wide, indeed, that Mrs. Maine shuddered 
over her daughter's disregard of the convention- 
alities. She used to discuss Lily's " eccentri- 
city" with her second daughter, — her husband 
was dead, — always ending the recital of her 
grievances with the declaration that she could 
have borne anything better than "that dreadful 
women's rights crowd ! " 

Now I trust the reader perceives why Harold 
flung the sign of the Woman's Suffrage Associa- 
tion into the mire ; "the cause " had torn Lily 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 141 

from him. He was, on the whole, hi spite of 
his impetuous nature, a very sweet-tempered fel- 
low ; but he had a touch of his father's dogged- 
ness, and he cherished his few prejudices. The 
son of his mother could hardly help having an 
intense dislike to anything harsh or coarse in a 
woman ; by an easy transition his dislike was 
transferred to a movement which seemed to him 
an effort to make all women harsh and coarse. 
I fear a visit which he made the previous year 
(I am writing of 1879) to Washington, and the 
glimpse he there had of the workings of the 
cause, reinforced his prejudices. There was 
the usual delegation of ladies in the city, to 
present the claims of women to the ballot be- 
fore Congress. Harold attended one of their 
meetings. Several ladies were speaking when 
he entered, and because of this circumstance 
he could hear very little. Soon one enterprising 
speaker mounted a chair, a bolder spirit climbed 
upon the table, and the climax was reached 
when a strangely attired being — Harold sup- 
posed she was a woman — put a chair upon the 
table, clambered into the chair, and screamed 
her views above the uproar. Harold shrugged 
his shoulders and went away. 

He did not know of Lily's opinions until 
some two months after he had asked her to be 
his wife. He never suspected that a girl with 



142 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

so much hair could be a defender of the rights 
of woman, and his first intimation of such a hor- 
rible anomaly was the sight of her name in the 
"Times" as secretary of the Chicago branch. 
There is no necessity of detailing the particu- 
lars of their quarrel — for quarrel it became at 
last. Harold felt that Lily would have given 
up a whim for his sake had she loved him 
deeply ; Lily felt that she could never again 
respect herself if she were to give up her prin- 
ciples to secure her happiness ; between the 
feelings of both they soon came to bitter words. 

" Lily, if I had heard j^ou were a Roman 
Catholic I could n't have been more shocked," 
cried Harold, pacing the room. " It is n't so 
much the object as the people, such a horribly 
ill-bred crowd ! All the crack-brained women 
I know are shrieking for the suffrage." 

" They are queer, some of them," admitted 
Lily, half laughing and half sighing, " but you 
know, Harold, that in all reforms odd people 
come at first. You should have heard father 
tell of the extraordinary creatures who used to 
flock to the early anti-slavery gatherings. We 
used to entertain the brethren — such looking 
people as they were sometimes ! And they 
never could eat things like other people ! " 

" I presume we shall have to entertain quite 
as interesting specimens," retorted Harold with 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 143 

a sneer; but all the time his heart had softened 
over the " we," and he was sorely tempted to 
surrender on the spot. 

Howeyer, being always on guard against his 
impulses, he resisted temptation and took a 
very dignified leave. It was the day of his de- 
parture for Xerxes. Some tenement houses in 
that thriving town had lately become Mr. Dur- 
ham's property, and Harold was going there to 
superintend their transformation into the model 
tenements of his dreams. He told Lily that 
he would call on his way to the depot to say 
good-by. Neither Lily nor he had any reason 
to suspect that Dr, Jerusha Dale would call 
also ; nevertheless he found her overshoes re- 
posing on the tiles of the vestibule. Even we 
who know and respect Dr. Dale feel that she 
has not a prepossessing appearance. She is a 
tall lady, very thin but prodigiously muscular ; 
(there is a legend current among her friends 
that she once knocked a rude medical student 
down, and it is certain that she did collar a 
drunken man who was beating his wife ;) her 
dress never shows any concession to the fashion 
of the day, her voice is loud and her movements 
ungraceful ; she wears her black hair short ; 
and there is, to be frank, a kind of griraness 
about her whole aspect. Yet she is a woman 
of undoubted talent, who half starved herself 



144 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

to learn her profession, and now is continually 
spending her knowledge upon miserable men 
and women who cannot pay her fees ; she is 
said to be marvelously gentle in a sick room, 
and her loud voice itself was acquired in duti- 
fully shouting at her deaf mother, whom she 
keeps in great comfort. Harold unfortunately 
knew nothing of her amiable traits. He shud- 
dered when he saw her long form gradually 
emerge from a Queen Anne chair. *' What an 
awful woman ! " he thought, as he bowed. She, 
kind soul, who really loved Lily, thought he 
had a good face ; and suspecting him to be 
Lily's lover almost immediately took her leave, 
although she had not been in the house ten 
minutes, and had come six miles through the 
mud and rain solely to make this one call. 
Harold had not the grace to recognize her con- 
sideration. He was furious when he heard her 
kiss Lily in the hall ; and Lily on her return 
found him standing, hat in hand, by the door. 

No, he said, with an air of distant politeness, 
he would not take off his overcoat ; he had only 
come to say good-by. He was glad he was 
leaving her in such good hands ; he hoped she 
would have a pleasant time during his absence ; 
doubtless he should hear of her through the 
newspapers ; some speech — 

"Oh, dear, no," said Lily, trying to laugh. 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 145 

"I am not gifted in that way. I never could 
write an essay when I was in school, and I 
should break down if I tried to read it, any- 
how. It is in the drudgery of committees that 
I shine." 

" I shall wish you much success in commit- 
tees, then," said Harold. " Good-by." He lifted 
her hand coldly to his lips, and he did not see 
that there were tears in her eyes. 

The next day he wrote her a long letter from 
Xerxes. He begged her to give up such prin- 
ciples and friends ; he made the most moving 
plea in his power, and wrote six pages about 
his love for her. Lily cried over the letter all 
night, and answered by an appeal to his justice. 
He wrote her (by the next mail) that she did 
not seem to consider that it was a matter of 
principle with him, and that he certainly never 
could bring himself to tolerate Dr. Jerusha 
Dale as one of his wife's friends. His answer 
was the letter \vhich he held in his hand. 

He had finished reading it now, and was list- 
lessly looking about him. This was his first 
walk in that part of Xerxes. He did not ad- 
mire the town. The slightly built houses, the 
soft coal dinginess everywhere, and the abound- 
ing mud jarred on an eye accustomed to the 
picturesque tidiness of English country towns. 
Harold never took a walk that he did not stum- 



146 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

ble over some broken board in the wooden side- 
walks, or have a loose board fly up in his face 
as he trod upon it, or sink up to his ankles in 
the black slime of a crossing. The number of 
unprotected cows, geese, and pigs which he met 
also amazed him ; and he found stagnant pools 
of water in ravines close to beautifully kept 
lawns and handsome houses. 

" Most extraordinary town ! " said Harold. 
Montgomery Street below the railroad (w^hich 
runs through the busiest part of the town, at 
the base of the hills — another astonishing cir- 
cumstance to Harold) is not a pretty street ; 
and St. Patrick's Church, against whose fence 
he was leaning, is as severely ugly as the stern- 
est Puritan could desire, although the cross 
which surmounts its unadorned stone walls and 
wooden roof is the symbol of the most ancient 
Christian faith. On one side of the church is 
the parochial school, a row of brick buildings 
with battered wooden doors and worn wooden 
steps. Nearer the street there is the priest's 
house, a small two-story brick edifice, and in 
front of the house is a garden. The day on 
which Harold first saw it was in April, and it 
was ablaze with tulips. 

" Pretty fine display, ain't it ? " said a mau, 
coming up to Harold. He wore a working- 
man's dress with a carpenter's rule sticking out 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 147 

of liis coat pocket, and he rested two patched 
elbows on the fence rail as he spoke. 

" Yes, it is, my man," said Harold ; *' whose 
garden is it ? " 

" Mister Quinnailon's, the priest here ; that 's 
him now ! " 

Harold looked rather curiously at the priest, 
a stout old man in a threadbare black cassock, 
whose strongly marked, dark face showed his 
foreign birth ; it would have been a plain face 
but for the bright eyes and benevolent smile. 
" How sly he looks ! " thought Harold, whose 
English education had intensified the average 
good Protestant's distrust of the Church of 
Rome. » 

" Good morning," said Father Quinnailon ; 
" how is your vife zis morning ? " 

" She 's 'bout the same," said the man. 

The priest was picking tulips ; he handed 
them over the fence to the man. 

" Shall you give zem to her, please," he said, 
" and tell her zat she has my prayers." 

"Much obliged. Mister Quinnailon," said 
the man, taking the flowers. It seemed to 
Harold that he would have said more had he 
found any words to his mind, but he merely 
gave a short nod and walked down the street. 

The priest, turning to Harold, asked him if 
he cared to see the garden. " I have seen you 
standing here for a long time," he said. 



148 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Harold blushed and said that he was inter- 
ested in tulips. 

" And you, zen, know someting of ze tulip 
culture, perhaps?" said Father Quinnailon, 
with sparkling eyes. " I do not often have such 
a pleasure to meet one zat cares for zat. Vill 
you valk in, my dear sir ? " 

Harold, half amused at his own complaisance, 
followed the priest about the garden and talked 
for ten minutes of tulips and Dutch culture. 
Then he spoke of the man who had just left 
them, and asked the priest if he was a good 
workman. 

Father Quinnailon shook his head. " Zat I 
do not know. You see, my dear sir, I . have 
know him but a small time. It vas zis vay. I 
go to veesit one of my people in a poor house 
on Tyler Street " — 

"One of my father's houses, probably," in- 
terrupted Durham. " I am come to repair 
them." 

" Zat is good news," said Father Quinnai- 
lon, bowing. " Eh veil, it vas zere I see ]\Irs. 
Higgins. Mrs. Barnes had ze room across her, 
and ven I vas to leave I see a leetle girl brush- 
ing vith a broom — so leetle a maiden vith so 
great a broom ! — and I say, ' My child, vat 
make you vith ze broom ? ' Vile I talk, I hear 
her mother call, and I come in to find her sick, 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 149 

in great distress, her husband gone to look for 
vork, no one to help her but ze leetle maid. 
So I sveep ze room for her, and we get ac- 
quainted a leetle, and I have come two other 
times and send her a flower or a leetle soup or 
such ting ; but zat is all I know. She did tell 
me — yes — zat her husband have money saved 
up ven he come here, but he breaked his leg ; 
zat vas a great expense, and she also has been 
long sick. But I tink dem to be good, honest 
people too proud to beg." 

" Then you can't recommend the man ? " 

" No, not as to vork, for zat I do not know. 
But I hope you vill see Mr. Lawrence. He is 
a builder and has employed him. Stay, it is 
but a step ; if you vill but vait here I vill ask 
Mr. Lawrence myself." 

" No," said Harold, " I will go ; pray don't 
take so much trouble. They are poor, then, 
these Higginses ? " 

" Very poor, I fear, sir, but zey do not tell 
me ; I am not of zeir profession ; zey are Prot- 
estants as yourself, sir," said the priest, with 
a little wistful glance up at Harold's face. 
(" He wants to convert me," thought Harold.) 
** Zey speak but leetle to me of zeir affairs, and 
I vish not to intrude." 

" Certainly not," said Harold. " I thank 
you for your courtesy — ah — Father ; and I 
will wish you good afternoon." 



150 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

The old priest insisted on picking a most 
gorgeous tulip for him, saying, ''It is so great 
a pleasure to give to one who knows of flowers." 

" Decidedly, he means to convert me," 
thought Harold, walking up the hill. His sin- 
gle acquaintance in Xerxes had invited him to 
a " tea-party," a festivity of ambiguous nature, 
but he was told enjoyable, and to it he was now 
hastening. Xerxes is on the Mississippi ; and 
as Harold stood on the Gilberts' vine-covered 
porch, he could see the river shining through 
the tender green leaves. He thought that he 
would write Lily of the pretty home which the 
Gilberts had, and how beautiful was the river ; 
and then, with a sharp pang, he remembered 
that none of his friends or thoughts mattered 
to Lily any more. In most incongruous spirits 
he was ushered by his host through two hand- 
somely and airily furnished rooms, filled with 
ladies in black silk and point lace. Apparently 
the gentlemen were all in the hall. Harold 
was introduced to Mrs. Gilbert, a pretty little 
woman with very bright brown eyes and very 
white hands, and so sweet a voice that Harold 
thought the western accent delicious. She in- 
troduced him to some fifty other women, young 
and old, who all asked him how he liked Xerxes. 
He said, with diffidence, that it seemed to him 
" rather muddy." 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 151 

They, without exception, opened their eyes 
very wide and said, — 

" Do you think it muddy noio ? " 

" Is it possible for a place to be muddier ? " 
cried Harold desperately, at last. 

Mrs. Gilbert made a little grimace. " You 
are evidently fresh from some effete monarchy 
where they pave the very alleys. Mr. Durham, 
this is n't mud, this is fair walking ; when we 
are muddy the cross streets are impassable; 
people don't even dare to die because they know 
they can't have a funeral ! " 

" But the farmers," said Harold ; " how do 
they come to town ? " 

" Oh, they don't come." 

" But is n't it very awkward, you know? " 

" Very," said Mrs. Gilbert placidly. " Will 
you sit here, Mr. Durham ? " 

Harold perceived that a number of small 
tables had appeared in the rooms, and that peo- 
ple were seating themselves around them. He 
found himself provided mysteriously with a nap- 
kin and a tiny bouquet, and seated near a very 
pretty girl who was equally amiable, but whom, 
I am sorry to say, he was never able afterward 
to describe. Indeed, all through the " tea," — 
which was an elaborate supper, by the way, — 
he talked mechanically. Once only he was 
roused to any interest in the conversation. A 
lady near him was speaking ; — 



152 KNITTERS IN THE SUN 

" I said to her right off, I could n't help it, 
' Mrs. Hunter,' I said, ' you ain't going to send 
Mary to the Sisters ? ' ' Well, yes,' she said, 
she ' guessed so ; her father did n't feel he could 
afford to send Mary East this year, and Mary 
had shown such a decided taste for painting 
they thought just for this year they would let 
her try the Sisters.' " 

" A year ! " repeated one of the listeners in 
a hollow voice, " a year ! Six months is enough 
for them ! She '11 come back a Romanist, Mrs. 
Dow." 

" Of course she will. I would n't send a 
child of mine to a Romanist school if they had 
to grow up ignorant." 

'* What I object to in the Papists," said a 
gentleman opposite, " is their proselyting spirit. 
They are quite welcome to their superstitions 
for themselves, but when they come to this 
country for refuge and we receive them, the 
least they can do is to keep from forcing their 
religion on us. The Romanists are getting to 
be a political power in this country, and unless 
we stop their influence now, while we have the 
power, we shall soon find that the church of 
Rome hasn't lost its old persecuting spirit." 

" Oh, well," said a stout lady near Harold, 
with a comfortable, tolerant smile dimpling her 
handsome face, " there are good people every- 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 153 

wbere ; I have seen as good Catholics as Prot- 
estants ; the best cook I ever had was a Cath- 
olic. It 's the priests I can't bear ; the poor, 
deluded people I pity." 

It was generally agreed that the priests were 
deceitful above all things, and one lady who 
had lately heard Edith O'Gorman darkly hinted 
that they were also desperately wicked. Mrs. 
Gilbert had been listening to the conversation 
in silence ; at this last remark she spoke. 

" You really didn't expect me to hear that 
and say nothing, did you ? " she said laughing. 
"I don't know what the priests are in other 
countries ; I 've never lived there ; but here in 
America I know they are in the main, to say 
the least, hard-working, devoted, honest men of 
irreproachable lives. I should think any one 
in Xerxes could see that. Look at Father 
O'Rourke, who does good every day he lives, 
who has got those wild Irish boys of his church 
into a literary society, and is making decent 
men of them ; and Father Qainnailon, who is a 
saint if ever " — 

The stout lady interrupted her to say that 
she always excepted Father Quinnailon. " And 
the Sisters of Mercy," she added. 

" Who is Father Quinnailon ? " asked Harold. 
Every one looked at Mrs. Gilbert. 

" Father Quinnailon," said Mrs. Gilbert, " is 



154 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

an old settler who came here when Xerxes was 
a village and everybody was dying of cholera. 
My father and mother had just come here then, 
and my mother had the cholera. They could 
n't get a house anywhere, and were thankful 
enough to get into a warehouse where there 
was a crowd of German emigrants in the same 
case, and half of them down with the cholera. 
Our furniture had not come (things came on 
boats then, and I believe our boat was fast on a 
sand bar) ; my poor mother had not a bed to 
lie on, only some husks and a piece of carpet, 
until Father Quinnailon brought his own mat- 
tress to her. Poor man, he slept on the hard 
floor because of it. And he used to bring her 
and the poor Germans who were there, too, 
soup and all kinds of things which he would 
make at home." 

'' They were Catholics ? " said Harold. 

" Catholics ? They were all heretics, every 
soul of them. Father Quinnailon never inquired 
about a sufferer's religion before he helped him. 
And as for proselyting — look at us, who have 
known the dear old man all our lives and are 
as firm Presbyterians as you can find I " 

" Yes, Father Quinnailon is a good man," 
said the stout lady. "I remember, thirty years 
ago, when I first came here and our house took 
fire, how he was up on the roof, the first man, 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 155 

witli his bucket ; he always used to go to every 
fire with that bucket before we had the fire 
companies." 

"And he was a loyal man during the war," 
said the gentleman who had spoken first; "give 
every one his due, I say. Father Quinnailon 
did a great deal to encourage enlistments, and 
I must say I liked those queer little speeches 
he used to make about ' supporting ze generous 
country zat have receive us,' when we had flag 
raisings." 

"Well," said another gentleman, " he 's likely 
to receive the reward of all his virtues ; I hear 
they 're going to make him bishop of the new 
diocese in this state." 

" Yes, and the poor man is so distressed 
about it, Mr. Graham," said Mrs. Gilbert. "He 
told me of it with tears in his eyes ; he said 
that he had written and begged them not to 
think of it ; ' for,' he said, ' I am not a learned 
man, I cannot be a bishop, I am but fit to min- 
ister to the poor people.' " 

" I have heard of that kind of thing in apos- 
tolic times," said Mr. Graham, " but I have 
never seen any clergyman who would decline 
promotion, myself. It is n't the salary, you 
understand, it 's the larger opportunities of 
usefulness. You will find Father Quinnailon 
will take the same view of it." 



166 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" I don't think so," said Mrs. Gilbert. 

" Well, I don't think so either," said the 
stout lady. '' Father Quinnailon is a kind of 
apostolic man, if he does pray to idols and wor- 
ship the Virgin Mary." 

" But he does n't," said Mrs. Gilbert. " I 
never saw a Catholic who did." 

There were several exclamations. 

" Perhaps not the better classes " — began 
Mr. Towne. 

Mrs. Dow interrupted him. " Don't you 
think Romanists pray to the Virgin, Mrs. Gil- 
bert ? I know I 've read in ' Life and Light ' 
the letters from our missionaries among the 
Romanists, in Spain and Mexico and Austria, 
and they talk about the superstitious obser- 
vances there." 

" I never knew any Mexicans or Spaniards," 
said Mrs. Gilbert. " I have known Austrians, 
but they never thought of* such a thing. All 
the Catholics I know have told me that they 
only pray the Virgin to intercede for them with 
God. They would feel it as blasphemous to 
pray to her directly as you or I would." 

" But I have read in ' Life and Light,' " said 
the unshaken Mrs. Dow, " that some Mexicans 
who were converted and became Christians "— r 

" What were they before ? " asked Harold. 
Romanists," answered Mrs. Dow severely. 



(( 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 157 

" ITie^/ said that they used to kneel down be- 
fore the Virgin's shrine and prai/ ! " 

" Well, it does n't make much difference 
whether they call it interceding or not," said 
Mr. Towne; "they pray to her; that's the 
main point." 

Mrs. Gilbert gave Harold a helpless glance, 
and changed the subject. Shortly after Harold 
made his excuses and went away. 

During the two months following he was 
much in Xerxes. He often met Father Quin- 
nailon, for most of his tenants were the old 
priest's parishioners. From a few words of 
greeting they soon came to long conversations ; 
not upon religion, but upon the people in whom 
they were both interested and upon the many 
difficulties in the way of helping the poor. 
Sometimes Harold would talk to Higgins, whom 
he had employed, about the priest. Higgins 
always called him " Mister Quinnailon," which 
title it appeared was Mr. Higgins' oblique pro- 
test against the errors of Rome, he being one 
of the best of Protestants though an indifferent 
Christian. 

" Fact is," he said confidentially to Harold, 
" since Bessie 's been sick, I 've kinder got out 
of the way of going to church ; now she 's bet- 
ter, I guess I'll begin again. But for all that, 
I ain't forgot the stories my mother used to tell 



158 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

me 'bout John Rogers and all them. We had 
a whole book about them, full of pictures of 
people being burned and hung and prodded 
with spears and sich things ; we used to be let 
to read in it Sunday afternoons. No, sir, no 
Catholic in mine ! But Mister Quinnailon 's 
an honest man, if he is a priest, and he 's done 
a sight of kind things to us. I 've seen him 
off with his coat and wash the dishes himself. 
And, between you and me, I guess Bessie tells 
him the most of her troubles. ' Don't you be 
letting him make you a Catholic, Bessie,' says 
I. ' He 's making me a better Protestant, 
Obed,' says she ; ' it ain't in me to ever be a 
Catholic, and he knows it, but his talks and 
his prayers make me feel better,' says she. 
He 's a pretty good man, and that 's what I '11 
stick to." 

Harold also talked of Father Quinnailon to 
Mrs. Gilbert, although he considered her testi- 
mony biased beyond expression. Mrs. Gilbert 
drew her own conclusions from these conver- 
sations, and from the despondency which Har- 
old's most strenuous efforts failed to conceal. 

" He is having some trouble with his girl," 
said Mrs. Gilbert. " I do believe, from all his 
questions about Father Quinnailon and Roman 
Catholics, that she is one, and that 's the trou- 
ble. Probably she 's a new convert. If she is. 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 159 

she is odious. I never knew a new convert 
who was n't ! I confess I 'm of Charles Lamb's 
opinion, that one should n't set one's self up 
to be wiser than his ancestors, but should stick 
to the religion he 's born in, whatever it is." 

Mr. Gilbert made no reply ; in fact, he was 
taking his Sunday afternoon nap, and had not 
heard a word of his wife's discourse. 

She was confirmed in her suppositions by 
Harold's next conversation. He happened to 
be standing at the window as a long procession 
of young girls, in whose gowns dark red pre- 
dominated, brightened the dingy street, four 
familiar black-robed figures leading the proces- 
sion, four more guarding the rear. Harold, 
idly watching them, saw a merry young face 
turned towards him with a frank smile, suc- 
ceeded by a blush. 

" Why, there 's Mamie Hunter ! " exclaimed 
Mrs. Gilbert. " How shocked Mrs. Dow would 
be to see her ! You remember her dread of the 
Sisters' influence ? " 

"Don't you think they do try to proselyte?" 
Harold said. 

" Very likely. They are human, and they 
believe their faith is the only sure foundation 
for goodness and happiness. I know Protestant 
girls' schools do their best to give their religious 
character to their scholars. The one I went 



160 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

to — and there is a better nowhere ! — made a 
tremendous assault on a girl's sensibilities." 

" Nevertheless you must admit that the whole 
tone of Protestants is more tolerant than that 
of Catholics." 

" Yes, I suppose so. I have been told so 
from my youth up ; but individually, I confess 
the Catholics I have known have shown a 
broader charity towards Protestants than the 
Protestants have shown to the Catholics. One 
of my dearest friends is a devoted Catholic ; 
she knows a great deal more than I, with my 
two babies, can ever hope to achieve ; and she 
is the best, the sweetest, the most truthful, and 
the truest girl I ever knew. I have known her 
ten years ; I love her, and she loves me ; but 
in all that time I never heard a word from her 
in praise of her church or in disparagement of 
mine. And though my other Catholic acquaint- 
ances are n't such absolute angels as she, I can 
say the same thing of them. There are plenty 
of bigoted Catholics, of course, but I think they 
are mostly among the uneducated people ; and 
I don't think they make the most tolerant Prot- 
estants." 

Harold shrugged his shoulders. " They talk 
like angels of light, now, but wait until they are 
stronger politically " — 

" I don't know much about politics," inter- 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 161 

rupted Mrs. Gilbert, " but I do know tliat if 
the Protestant creed is driven out of America, 
it will be because it is not fit to stay, and de- 
serves to go ! But I confess I see no signs of 
such things, and I d(3 see that there is — what 
do you call it? — a reflex influence. If the 
Catholic Church is affecting America, so is 
America affecting the Catholic Church. And I 
actually, do you know, am such a lukewarm 
Protestant that I can conceive of them both 
doing each other good." 

Harold smiled and said that she was too 
clever for him. He did not pursue the subject ; 
he was in no humor for argument ; indeed, in 
those days he was abjectly miserable. 

" The Rainbow comes and goes, 

And lovely is the Rose ; 

The Moon doth with delight 
Look round her when the heavens are bare ; 

Waters on a starry night 

Are beautiful and fair ; 

The sunshine is a glorious birth ; 

But yet I know, where'er I go. 
That there hath passed away a glory from the earth.'* 

Harold still has the old memorandum book 
in which he copied this stanza one day when he 
was particularly despondent ; and it is the best 
record of his feelings. Every passing interest 
seemed to fling a chain of associations to grap- 
ple Lily's image to his thoughts. When he 



162 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

picked the first auemone, in a ravine, he wanted 
to tell her how much earlier the flowers came 
to him than to her ; when Mrs. Barnes's little 
Annie sickened with a baleful something, sup- 
posed to be small-pox but proving no worse 
than measles, he longed to pour out his relief to 
her ; when he settled the drain plans to his 
satisfaction, he longed as much to impart his 
pleasure ; when he went to church, even, he 
could not sit in his pew without seeing again 
the light streaming through the rich hues of 
the stained window on the oval of her cheek 
and her beautiful hair, without feeling again 
the stir of a tender dream in his heart. A hun- 
dred pretty conceits assailed his fancy, and he 
had never in the whole time of their friendship 
compared her to so many fair and adorable ob- 
jects as he did during those two unhappy 
months. He went back and forth from Xerxes 
to Chicago, but he saw nothing of the Maines, 
and he found his existence duller every day. 

Mrs. Gilbert became quite settled in her 
theory of the something on his mind. 

" My dear Jim," she remarked to Mr. Gil- 
bert, — who " did n't see anything out of the 
way in Durham," — "my dear Jim," she said, 
with that air of compassionate moderation 
which in a woman denotes that she has given 
up trying to sound the depths of masculine ob- 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 163 

tuseness and feels no longer irritation but pity, 
" did you ever know a man who was n't deaf 
and did n't have something on his mind hear so 
little of what was said as Mr. Durham does ? 
He is always saying, <- 1 beg pardon ! ' in his 
horrid English way." She declared that he 
was growing thin ; and a second time confided 
her explanatory romance to her husband. He 
burst into a great, rude, unbelieving laugh, 
and shouted out that he would tell Harold ; a 
threat which, Mrs. Gilbert afterward said, fairly 
sent cold chills through her. 

But Harold was not told, and unconsciously 
went his dismal way, working much harder 
than was good for him and sleeping much less. 
Oddly enough, it may seem, he found his great- 
est comfort in Father Quinnailon's friendship. 
The old man's simple and loving heart from 
the first had warmed to him, and Harold, 
though thinking himself mighty cynical at 
present, had a nature easily touched by genu- 
ine kindness. He took a languid pleasure in 
helping the priest's little charities, or sending 
him rare plants for his garden, or sometimes 
driving him along the beautiful river shore, to 
see a sick child or an aged woman who lived 
too far from the church to come often to the 
services. They spoke French together on these 
drives. The priest was only the son of a peas- 



164 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

ant, and spoke quite frankly of his humble 
origin. His father and mother had long been 
dead; he had no nearer relatives living than 
aunts and cousins, whom he had never seen ; 
but he never wearied talking of his native vil- 
lage and the old curS who had been his first 
teacher. 

" He is dead, too," he said ; " so many are 
dead ! It is lonely to be an old man, my son." 

Harold found it decidedly difficult, about this 
time, to keep his distrust of the Roman Catho- 
lic clergy as active as behooved a stanch Prot- 
estant. However, he thought of bloody JVIary 
and the Spanish Inquisition and the Machia- 
velian wiles of the Jesuits, and he held his lik- 
ing for Father Quinnailon well in check until 
one day nearly two months after his arrival in 
Xerxes. It was a May day, in the mornings 
there had been a rain during the night, and the 
sidewalks, the piles of brick, and the loose 
boards scattered over the grass were steam- 
ing in the sun. Some women were washing 
clothes ; they had stretched a rope from one 
tree to another, directly above the hod-carri- 
er's path, so that the red and yellow flannels 
flapped against the hods. A few bare-legged 
little children were wading through the wet 
jimson weeds which bordered the sidewalk, and 
their laughter mingled with the shrill clangor 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 165 

of the blue jays in the tree tops. Harold 
looked and listened and only half heard Hig- 
gins who was talking to him. 

*' There 's the new bishop," said Higgins, 
suddenly. 

Harold saw Father Quinnailon approaching ; 
he walked more slowly than was usual with 
him, and his head was bent. 

" Is he to be bishop ? " asked the young man. 

" Yes, they done it at last, after hanging fire 
three months, made the new diocese and he 's 
appointed ; only needs the Pope's approval 
now." 

Harold stroked his moustache to hide a sneer. 
"Larger opportunities for usefulness, I fancy," 
he muttered to himself. Then half ashamed 
of his thought, he cordially greeted the old 
priest, whom he had not seen for a week as he 
had been in Chicago. Father Quinnailon was 
looking sadly ill. 

" You have heard ? " he said anxiously, in 
French. 

"I have heard only good news," Harold re- 
plied ; " that you are to be bishop." 

" It is that, it is that," cried the priest, sigh- 
ing heavily; "for see, my son, I have fasted, 
I have prayed, but it is still the same to me. 
I would give up my people, with whom I have 
been so long, whom I love so dearly, if I could 



166 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

be a bishop; but I am a simple old man, not 
fit for such a high office, I should make mis- 
takes ; I should make the people to laugh at our 
holy religion. I have written. It is pain to 
me to write, who write so poorly; but I have 
written many — three — four — letters, I have 
besought them. But they will not heed me. 
There remains one thing only. I have sgld 
the little that I have, and my people out of 
their poverty will give me some little more, 
and I will go to the Holy Father. It is not 
much which I need ; I can live on little things 
— soup, good black bread that I have eaten as 
a lad ; and I do not care to ride in the grand 
coaches like nobles ; I shall have enough. 
There I shall go ; I will fall at the feet of the 
Holy Father, and beseech him not to make a 
bishop out of a poor, simple old man who can- 
not bear so great a burden ; but to let me come 
back and die among my dear people ! " 

The priest had clasped his hands, and the 
tears were rolling down his cheeks ; the women 
who had drawn near were rubbing their eyes, 
although they could not understand a word. 
Harold, uttering an inarticulate exclamation, 
strode off through the grass. Before the priest 
could speak he strode back again, and began to 
shake the old man's hand. 

"Father Quinnailon," he cried, "I respect 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 167 

you from the bottom of my heart ; you are a 
good man ! Yes, if I am a heretic you mustn't 
refuse it ! " He thrust a bill into the priest's 
hand ; and in spite of bloody Mary and the 
Inquisition and the Jesuits, — not to mention 
two German farmers and the six women hang- 
ing out clothes, ^ — he took off his hat and bowed 
his head to the priest's blessing. 

" May God bless you, my son ; I will not 
refuse the gift of a generous heart. And may 
God bring us to meet again in this world, if it 
be His will ; but if not, may He bring you and 
me to worship Him in Heaven with all his 
Saints, by the way He sees best." 

Then Harold actually ran away, followed by 
the women's voluble blessings. 

He was one of the multitude who gathered 
at the depot the next morning to see Father 
Quinnailon start on his long journey. Mrs. 
Gilbert described the scene to James. 

" Never was there such time of weeping and 
wailing ! Father Quinnailon cried and the 
people cried and the babies just howled ! In 
the midst of all this grief I managed to lose 
my handkerchief, and you 've no idea, Jim, 
how awkward it is to have nothing but your 
gloves to cry on ! I thought of borrowing Mr. 
Durham's, — he was there, — but he looked so 
grand and glum and so dreadfully well dressed 



168 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

that I felt it was quite too much to ask, so I 
sniffed and winked and choked and got on as 
well as I could without it. I saw him going 
into St. Patrick's, when I came home ; what- 
ever do you suppose he was doing ? " 

Harold himself could hardly have answered 
her question. He saw the church doors stand- 
ing open, and obeying an impulse whose depth 
he did not gauge, he entered. He had never 
been in the church before. Evidently it was 
a church of the poor ; the worn pine pews, the 
colored lithographs representing the Saviour's 
passion, which were the only ornaments of 
unpainted walls, the wooden crucifix above 
the high altar, the white wooden steps to the 
altar crowded with votive offerings of the 
cheapest artificial flowers, the lace paper fring- 
ing the altar steps ; all told of stinted purses. 
Yet in their careful neatness there was a touch 
of pathos to Harold ; it was as though the 
sacred symbolism of altar and cross had made 
the mean material precious. While he was 
musing thus, two women came down the aisle 
and knelt in a pew near him. One of them 
was a very old woman with a grotesquely 
wrinkled and withered face, shaded by a huge 
white cap like the caps in Sir Joshua Reynolds' 
portraits, only the crown had somehow shrunken 
to a scanty bag. The other woman was still 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 169 

young ; she carried a heavy basket, and there 
was a bruise on her cheek. Both were very 
poorly dressed, and both prayed devoutly. 
Harold watched them for a few moments, and 
then walked softly out of the church. He was 
about to put a piece of silver in the box at the 
door when he perceived another man there, 
hand extended ; and the man turning, to his 
infinite amazement he saw the features of 
that sturdy enemy of the Scarlet Woman, Mr. 
Obed Higgins. They wore a singular expres- 
sion of shamefaced emotion. Higgins made a 
sign with his forefinger implying a desire for 
further communication, and tiptoed out to the 
sidewalk. 

" I did n't suspect you of generosity in that 
quarter, Higgins," said Harold. 

Higgins rubbed his forehead. " Well now, 
Mr. Durham, wa'n't you there, yourself ? You 
can't say he wa'n't a good man ; and I had n't 
no other way of showing I appreciated what he 
done for Bessie ; and anyhow, 't ain't for the 
church, if I rightly understand it, — it 's for 
the poor." 

"I don't blame you, Higgins," said Harold, 
and walked away. 

We do not often understand what it is that, 
in the slow changing of our judgments and 
ideals, completes the transmutation and turns 



170 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

chaos into form ; but often we can remember 
the moment wlien the new powers demanded 
their first hearing. Harold always remembered 
the May morning on which he owned to him- 
self that he had been gravely unjust. 

" In short, I have been a bigot," said he ; 
" because I thought the Catholic faith was a 
remnant of the Dark Ages, and because I believe 
it politically dangerous, I, who belong to the 
party of toleration, could n't tolerate their com- 
ing here and trying to disseminate their belief 
just as I try to disseminate mine. I have 
judged people solely on the evidence against 
them, without listening to what they might 
have to say for tliemselves ; I have had mean 
suspicions of a kind old man ; I have n't done 
justice, much less shown mercy; it's a disgust- 
ing fact, I 'm a bigot." 

He was walking up the hill. The air was 
very soft, and the sky was unfathomably clear, 
and the river, in the sunlight, took on blue and 
silver tints which he had never noticed before. 
He saw a violet growing amid the long grass 
close to a fence and picked it ; he had told 
Lily often that she was a violet rather than a 
lily. A great wave of remorseful tenderness 
swept over Harold's heart, and washed it clean 
from any taint of bitterness or selfish pride. 
" Oh, my love," he whispered to the little 



o 



FATHER QUINNAILON'S CONVERT. 171 

flower, " have I been unjust and cruel to 7/ouf 
By Jove, I 'm not only a bigot but a snob ; I 
needed Father Quinnailon to take the worldli- 
ness out of me. What right had I to ask Lily 
to give up her principles ? It was just the 
same conceited stuff as my wanting those poor 
creatures in the church to give up the religion 
which helps them to bear their hard lives ! " 

The sequel to meditation of this sort is easy 
to imagine. Harold wrote nine letters, which 
he tore up into such small pieces as to give 
much trouble to the chambermaid when she 
read them ; and then he took the evening train 
for Chicago. 

At nine o'clock upon the following morning 
he met Lily at the door of her mother's house ; 
to be exact, her hand was on the door-knob. 
The young people looked at each other ; and 
Harold, after a night spent in the composition 
of penitent speeches, found nothing better to 
say than, — 

"Lily, can you forgive a fool?" 

" If I had been a fool, too, and — and I — 
loved him, I might," said Lily. 

What is there left to add ? I have no doubt 
that Harold will learn to admire all Dr. Jeru- 
sha Dale's virtues, but I doubt much if his 
mother ever will like her. Father Quinnailon 
succeeded in his mission, and his memories of 



172 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Rome and the Pope's kindness will make the 
rest of his days bright. Perhaps I should add 
that the Gilberts were present at Harold's wed- 
ding ; Mrs. Gilbert was very pretty and very 
jubilant, saying to her husband, "You may re- 
member, Jim " — 

" I remember you said Durham was sweet on 
a Roman Catholic," said the rude James, " and 
you hoped Father Quinnailon would convert 
him to toleration." 

" Well, he did convert him to tolerating 
something a great deal worse than the Catho- 
lics, who do dress like other people, however 
bad their hearts may be ! James, do you know, 
I think conversion 's like archery ; of course 
you mean to hit the gold, but you are glad if 
you get your arrow anywhere in the target ! " 



o 



A COMMUNIST'S WIFE. 

A SKETCH FROM LIFE. 

The Countess von Arno was Mr. Seleigman's 

confidential clerk. Not that M smiled 

over any such paradox ; the countess called her- 
self simply Mrs. von Arno. 

M is a picturesque town on the Missis- 
sippi, devoted in general to the manufacture of 
agricultural implements. The largest plow- 
factory is Seleigman's : he does business all 
over the world. A clerk who wrote French, 
German, and Italian fluently was a godsend. 
This clerk, moreover, had an eminently concise 
and effective style, and displayed a business 
capacity which the old German admired im- 
mensely. As much because of her usefulness 
as the modest sum she was able to invest in 
the business, he offered her a small share in it 

four years after she first came to M . She 

had come to M because Mrs. Greymer 

lived there. Therese Greymer had known the 
countess from her school-days. When her hus- 
band died she came back to her father's house, 



174 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

but spent her summers in Germany. Then old 
Mr. Dare died suddenly, leaving Therese with 
her little brother to care for, and only a few 
thousand dollars in the world. About this 
time the countess separated from her husband. 
" So I am poor," said she, " but it will go hard 
if I can't take care of you, Therese." Thus 
she became Mr. Seleigman's clerk. M for- 
gave her the clerkship, forgave her even her 
undoubted success in making money, on account 
of Mrs. Greymer. It had watched Therese 
grow from a slim girl, with black braids hang- 
ing down her white neck as she sat in the 
" minister's pew " of the old brick church, into 
a beautiful pale woman in a widow's bonnet. 
Therese went now every Sunday to the same 
church where her father used to preach. The 
countess accompanied her most decorously. 
She was a pagan at heart, but it pleased Ther- 
ese. In church she spent her time looking at 
her friend's profile and calculating the week's 
sales. 

The countess had a day-dream : the dreams 
which most women have, had long ago been 
rudely broken for her, and the hopes which she 
cherished now had little romance about them. 
She knew her own powers and how necessary 
she was to Seleigman ; some day she saw the 
firm becoming Seleigman & Von Arno, the 



o 



A COMMUNISTS WIFE, 175 

business widening, and the plows, with the 
yellow eagle on them, in every great city of 
Europe. " Then," said the countess to herself, 
standing one March morning, four years after 
she had first come to M , by the little din- 
ing-room window — "then we can perhaps per- 
suade the workmen to buy stock in the concern, 
and have a few gleams of sense about profits 
and wages." 

She lifted one arm above her head and rested 
her cheek against it. Otto von Arno during 
his brief period of fondness had been used to 
call his wife " his Scandinavian goddess." She 
was of the goddess type, tall, fair-faced, and 
stately, with thick, pale gold hair, and brown 
lashes lifted in level lines from steady, deep- 
gray eyes. " Pretty " seemed too small a word 
for such a woman, yet " beautiful " conveys a 
hint of tenderness; and Mrs. von Arno's face — 
it might be because of those steady eyes — was 
rather a hard face, notwithstanding the soft 
pink and white of her skin, and even the dim- 
ples that dented her cheek when she smiled. 

Now she was not smiling. The air was 
heavy with the damp chill of early spring ; and 
as the countess absently surveyed a gravel- walk 
bordered by limp brown grasses and a line of 
trees dripping last night's frost through the 
fog, she saw a woman's figure emerge from the 



176 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

shadows and come slowly up the walk. She 
was poorly dressed, and walked to the kitchen- 
door, where the countess could see her carefully 
wipe her feet before rapping. 

" That must be Bailey's wife," she thought : 
" I saw her waiting for him yesterday when he 
came round to the shops for work. — William, 
my friend, you are a nuisance." 

With this comment she went to the kitchen. 
Lettice, the maid-of-all-work, was frying cakes 
in solitude. " Mrs. Greymer had taken Mrs. 
Bailey into the library," she told the countess 
with significant inflections. 

The latter went to the library. It was a 
tiny, red-frescoed room fitted up in black wal- 
nut. There were plants in the bay-window: 
Mrs. Greymer stood among them, her soft gray 
wrapper falling in straight and ample folds 
about her slender figure. Her face was turned 
toward the countess ; a loosened lock of black 
hair brushed the blue vein on her cheek ; she 
held some lilies-of-the-valley in her hand, and 
the gold of her wedding-ring shone against the 
dark green leaves. 

" She looks like one of Fra Angelico's saints," 
thought the countess : " the crimson lights are 
good too." 

She stood unnoticed in the doorway, leisurely 
admiring the picture. Mrs. Bailey sat in the 



o 



A COMMUNISTS WIFE. 177 

writing-chair on her right. Once, probably, 
she had been a pretty woman, and she still had 
abundant wavy brown hair and large dark-blue 
eyes with curling lashes ; but she was too thin 
and faded and narrow-chested for any prettiness 
now. Her calico gown was unstarched, though 
scrupulously clean: she wore a thin blue-and- 
white summer shawl, and her old straw bonnet 
was trimmed with a narrow blue ribbon pieced 
in two places. Her voice was slightly monoto- 
nous, but low-keyed : as she spoke her hands 
clasped and unclasped each other. The veins 
stood out and the knuckles were enlarged, but 
they were rather white than otherwise. 

She went on with her story ; " The children 
are so good, Mrs. Greymer ; but six of them, 
and me not over strong — it makes it hard. 
We hain't had anything but corn meal in the 
house all this week, and the second-hand woman 
says our things ain't worth the carting. The 
children have got so shabby they hate to go to 
school, and the boys laugh at Willie 'cause his 
hat's his pa's old one and ain't got no brim, 
though I bound it with the best of the old braid, 
for I thought maybe they 'd think it was a cap. 
And the worst was this morning, when there 
was nothin' but just mush: we hadn't even 
'lasses, and the children cried. Oh, I did n't 
go to tell you all this : you know I ain't a beg- 



178 KNITTERS IN TEE SUN. 

gar. I 've tried to live decent. Oh dear ! oh 
dear ! " She tried to wipe away the tears 
which were running down her thin cheeks with 
the tips of her fingers, but they came too fast. 
Mechanically, she put her hand in her pocket, 
only to take it out empty. 

Mrs. Greymer slipped her own dainty hand- 
kerchief, whicli the countess had embroidered, 
into the other's hand. " You ought to ha^e 
come to me before, Martha," she said reproach- 
fully — " such an old friend as I am ! " 

" 'T ain't easy to have them as has known 
you when you were like folks see you without 
even a handkerchief to cry on," said Mrs. 
Bailey. " If I 'd known where to turn for a 
loaf of bread, I 'd not ha' come now ; but I 
can't see my children starve. And I ain't come 
to beg now. All we want is honest work. 
William has been everywhere since they sent 
him away from Dorsey's just because the men 
talked about striking, though they didn't strike. 
He 's been to all the machine-shops, but they 
won't take him : they say he has too long a 
tongue for them, though he's as sober and 
steady a man as lives, and there ain't a better 

workman in M , or D either. William 

is willing to do anything : he tried to get work 
on the streets, but the street commissioner said 
he 'd more men he 'd employed for years asking 



A COMMUNIST'S WIFE. 179 

work than he knew what to do with. And I 
thought — I thought, Mrs. Greymer, if you 
would only speak to Mrs. von Arno " — 

" Good-morning, Mrs. Bailey," said the coun- 
tess, advancing. She had a musical voice, clear 
and full, with a vibrating quality like the notes 
of a violin — a very pleasant voice to hear, yet 
it hardly seemed reassuring to the visitor. Un- 
consciously, she sat up straighter in her chair, 
her nervous fingers plaiting the fringe of her 
shawl. 

" I heard you mention my name," the coun- 
tess continued. "Is there anything you wish of 
me?" 

Therese came to Mrs. Bailey's assistance : 
" Her husband is out of work. Can't you do 
something with Mr. Seleigman, Helen? Bailey 
is a good workman." 

" He is indeed, ma'am," added Bailev's wife 
eagerly, " and as sober and faithful to his work : 
he never slights one bit." 

"I don't doubt it," said the countess gravely; 
" but, Mrs. Bailey, if we were to take your 
husband on, and the union were to order a 
strike, even though he were perfectly satisfied 
with his own wages, wouldn't he strike him- 
self, and do all he could to make the others 
strike ? " Mrs. Bailey was silent. 

" A strike might cost us thousands of dollars. 



180 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Naturally, we don't want to risk one ; so we 
have no union-men. If Bailey will leave the 
union he may go to hammering plowshares for 
us to-morrow, and earn, with his skill, twenty 
dollars a week." 

Mrs. Bailey's face worked. " 'T ain't no use, 
ma'am," she said desperately ; " he won't go 
back on his principles. He says it 's the cause 
of Labor, and he '11 stick to it till he dies. You 
can't blame a man for doing what he thinks is 
right." 

*' Perhaps not. But you see that it is impos- 
sible for us to employ your husband. Isn't 
there something I can do for you yourself, 
though ? Mrs. Greymer tells me you sew very 
neatly." 

" Yes, I sew," said Mrs. Bailey in a dull 
tone, " but I 'd be obliged to you, ma'am, if 
you 'd give me the work soon : I 've a machine 
now, and I'll likely not have it next week. 
There 's ten dollars due on it, and the agent 
says he '11 have to take it back. I 've paid fifty 
dollars on it, but this month and last times was 
so hard I couldn't pay." 

The countess put a ten-dollar bill in her 
hand. "Let me lend you this, then," she said, 
unheeding the half shrinking of Mrs. Bailey's 
face and attitude ; and then she avoided all 
thanks by answering Lettice's summons at the 
door. 



A COMMUNIST'S WIFE. 181 

" Poor little woman ! " she said to Mrs. Grey- 
mer at breakfast ; " she did n't half like to 
take it. She looked nearly starved, too, though 
she ate so little breakfast. How did you man- 
age to persuade her to take that huge bundle?" 

"She is a very brave little woman, Helen. 
I should like to tell you about her," said Mrs. 
Greymer. 

" Until a quarter of eight my time is yours, 
and my sympathy, as usual, is boundless." 

Mrs. Greymer smiled slightly. " I have 
known her for a great many years," she said, 
disregarding the countess's last speech ; " she 
went to school with me, in fact. She was such 
a pretty girl then ! Somehow, she took a fancy 
to me, and used to help me with my Practical 
Arithmetic " — 

" So called because it is written in the most 
unpractical and incomprehensible style : yes, 
I know it," interrupted the countess. 

" Martha was much brighter than I at it, 
anyhow, and used to do my examples. She 
used to bring me the loveliest violets ; she 
would walk all the way over to the island for 
them. I remember I cried when her people 
moved to Chicago and she left school. I did n't 
see her for almost ten years: then I met her 
accidentally on Randolph Street in Chicago. 
She knew me, and insisted on my going out 



182 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

with her to see her home. It was in the sub- 
urbs, and was a very pretty, tidy little place, 
with a garden in front, where Martha raised 
vegetables, and a little plot for flowers. She 
was so proud of it all and of her two pretty 
babies, and showed me her chickens and her 
furniture and a picture of her husband. They 
had bought the house, and were to pay for it in 
six years, but William was getting high wages, 
and she had no fears. Poor Martha ! " 

" Their Arcadia did n't last ? " 

" No. William got interested in trades- 
unions, — there was a strike, and he was very 
prominent. He was out of work a long time, 
and Martha supported the family by taking in 
sewing and selling the vegetables. Then her 
third child was born, and she was sick for a 
long time afterward, — she had been working 
too hard, poor thing ! His old employers took 
William on with the rest of the men when the 
strike ended, but very soon found a pretext for 
discharging him ; and, in short, they used up 
all their little savings, and the house went. 
William thought he had been ill-used, and be- 
came more violent in his opinions." 

" A Communist, is n't he ? " 

^' I believe so. Martha with her three chil- 
dren couldn't go out to work, but she is a model 
housekeeper, and she opened a little laundry 



o 



5? 



A COMMUNIST'S WIFE. 183 

with the money she got from the sale of some 
of their furniture. William got work, but lost 
it again, but Martha managed in a humble way 
to support the family until William had an 
offer, to come here ; so they sold out the laun- 
dry to get money to moye.' 

" Very idiotic of them.' 

" After they came here they at first lived 
on Front Street, which is near the river, and 
Martha caught the chills and fever. William 
soon lost his place, and they moved across 

the river to D . He became known as a 

speaker, and things have been going from bad 
to worse ; the children have come fast, and 
Martha has never really recovered from her 
fever ; and they have had simply an awfully 
hard time. I haven't seen Martha for three 
months, and have tried in vain to find out 
where she lived. Poor Martha ! she has never 
complained, but it has been a hard life for 
her." 

" Yes, a hard life," repeated the countess, 
rising and putting on her jacket ; " but it seems 
to me she has chiefly her own husband to 
thank for it. And six children ! I have my 
opinion of Mr. William Bailey." 

" You are hardly just to Bailey, Helen. He 
has sacrificed his own interests to his principles. 
He is as honest — as honest as the Christian 
martyrs, though he is an infidel." 



184 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" The Christian martyrs always struck me as 
a singularly unpractical set of people," said the 
countess. 

" Maybe ; nevertheless, they founded a reli- 
gion and changed the world. And, Helen, you 
and the people like you laugh at Commun- 
ism and the complaints of the laboring classes, 
but it's like Samson and the Philistines; and 
this Samson, blind though he is, will one day, 
unless we do something besides laugh, pull the 
pillars down on his head — and on ours." 

" He will ^r?/," said the countess. " If we are 
wise, we shall be ready and shoot him dead." 
She kissed Mrs. Greymer smilingly, and went 
away. Her friend, watching her through the 
window, saw her stop to pat a great dog on the 
head and give a little boy a nickel piece. 

One Sunday afternoon, two weeks later, the 

two friends crossed the bridge to D to 

visit the Baileys. When they reached the end 
of the bridge they paused a moment to rest. 
The day was one of those warm, bright spring 
days which deceitfully presage an immediate 
summer. On the river-sbore crawfishes were 
lazily creeping over the gravel. The air rang 
with the blue jay's chatter, a robin showed his 
tawny breast among the withered grasses, and 
a " flicker " on a dead stump bobbed his little 
red-barred head and fluttered his yellow wings. 



A COMMUNIST'S WIFE. 185 

Beneatli the bridge the swift current sparkled 
in the sun. Over the river, on each side, rose 
the hills. The gray stone of the government 
works was visible to the right through the leaf- 
less trees; nearer, square, yellow and ugh^ stood 
the old arsenal. A soldier, musket on shoulder, 
marched along the river-edge ; the cape of his 
coat fluttered in the breeze, and his slanting 
bayonet shone like silver. Before them lay 

D , the smoke from its mills and houses 

curling into the pale blue air. 

The countess drew a long breath ; she had a 
keen feeling for beauty. " Yes, it is a lovely 
place," she said. *' The hills are not high 
enough, but the river makes amends for every- 
thing. But what are those hideous shanties, 
Therese ? " 

" Are they not hideous ? " said Mrs. Greymer. 
" They are all pine, and it gets such an ugly 
dirt-black when it isn't painted. The glass is 
broken out of the windows, and the shingles 
have peeled off the roofs. When it rains the 
water drips through. In spring, when the 
river rises, it comes up to their very doors ; one 
spring it came in. It is not a nice place to 
live in." 

" Not exactly ; still, I suppose people do live 
there." 

" Yes, the Baileys live there. You see, the 
rent is low." 



186 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

The countess lifted her eyebrows and fol- 
lowed Mrs. Greymer without answering. Some 
sulky-looking men were smoking pipes on the 
doorsteps, and a few women, whose only Sun- 
day adorning seemed to have been plastering 
their hair down over their cheeks with a great 
deal of water, gossiped at the corner. Half a 
dozen children were playing on the river-bank. 

" They fall in every little while," Therese 
explained, " they are so small, and most of the 
mothers here go out washing. This is the 
Bailevs'." 

William Bailey answered the knock. He 
was a tall man, who carried his large frame 
with a kind of muscular ease. He had a square, 
gray-whiskered face with firm jaws and mild 
light-blue eyes. The hair being worn away 
from his forehead made it seem higher than it 
really was. He wore his working clothes and 
a pair of very old boots cut down into slippers. 
The only stocking he had was in his hand, and 
he appeared to have been darning it. Close 
behind him came his wife, holding the baby. 
The bright look of recognition on her face at 
the sight of Mrs. Greymer faded when she per- 
ceived the countess. Rather stiffly she invited 
them to enter. 

The room was small and most meanly fur- 
nished, but it was clean. The walls were dingy 



A COMMUNISTS WIFE. 187 

beyond the power of soap and water to change, 
but the floor had been scrubbed, and what glass 
there was in the windows had been washed. 
There were occasional holes in the ceiling and 
walls where the plaster had given way ; out of 
one of these peered the pointed nose and gleam- 
ing eyes of a great rat. Judging from sundry 
noises she heard, the countess concluded there 
were many of these animals under the house, 
though what they found to live on was a puzzle ; 
but they ate a little of the children now and 
then, and perhaps the hope of more sustained 
them. A pale little boy was lying on a mat- 
tress in the corner, covered with a faded blue- 
and- white shawl. 

Therese had mysteriously managed to dis- 
pose of the basket she had brought before she 
went up to him and kissed him, saying, " I am 
sorry to see Willie is still sick." 

" Yes," said Bailey, smiling bitterly. *' The 
doctor says he needs dry air and exercise ; it 's 
damp here." 

'' Tommy More has promised to lend iis his 
cart, and Susie will take him on the island," 
Mrs. Bailey said hastily ; " it 's real country 
there." 

" But you have to have a pass," answered 
Bailey in a low tone. 

" Any one can get a pass," said the countess ; 



188 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" but if you prefer I will ask the colonel to-day, 
and he will send you one to-morrow." 

For the first time Bailey fairly looked the 
countess in the face ; his brows contracted, he 
opened his lips to speak. 

" Oh, papa," cried the boy in a weak voice 
trembling with eagerness, " the island is splen- 
did ! Tommy's father works there, and they 's 
cannon and a foundry and a live eagle ! " 

'^ Yes, Willie dear," said his father, as he laid 
his brown hand gently on the boy's curls. He 
inclined his head toward the countess. " I '11 
thank you," he said gravely. 

The countess picked up a pamphlet from the 
table, more to break the uncomfortable pause 
which followed than for any other reason. 
"Do you like this?" she said, hardly reading 
the title. 

" I believe it," said Bailey ; " I am a Com- 
munist myself." He drew himself up to his 
full height as he spoke. There was a certain 
suppressed defiance in his attitude and expres- 
sion. 

" Are you ? " said the countess. *' Why ? " 

" Why ? " cried Bailey. " Look at me ! I 'm 
a strong man, and willing to do any kind of 
work. I 've worked hard for sixteen year ; I 've 
been sober and steady and saving. Look what 
all that work and saving has brought me ! This 



A COMMUNISTS WIFE. 189 

is a nice place for a decent man and his family 
to live in, ain't it? Them walls ain't clean ? 
No, because scrubbing can't make 'em. The 
grime 's in the plaster ; yes, and worse than 
grime — vermin and disease sech as 't ain't right 
for me to mention even to ladies like you, but 
it 's right enough for sech as us to live in. Yes, 

by G ! to die in ! " He was a man who 

spoke habitually in a low voice, and it had not 
grown louder, but the veins on his forehead 
swelled and his eyes began to glow. 

" It is hard, truly," said the countess. " Whose 
fault is it ? " 

" Whose fault ? " Bailey repeated her words 
vehemently, yet with something of bewilder- 
ment. " Society's fault, which grinds a poor 
man to powder, so as to make a rich man richer. 
But the people won't stand this sort of thing 
forever." 

" You would have a general division of prop- 
erty, then ? " 

" Indirectly, yes. Power must be taken from 
bloated corporations and given to the people; 
the railroads must be taken by government; 
accumulation of capital over a limited amount 
must be forbidden ; men must work for Human- 
ity, and not for their selfish interests." 

" Do you know any men who are working 
so?" 



190 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

"I know a few." 

" Mostly workingmen ? " 

" All workingmen," 

" Don't you think a general division of prop- 
erty would be for their selfish interests? " 

" I don't call it selfish to ask for just a decent 
living." 

" I fancy the chiefs of your party would de- 
mand a great deal more than a bare decent liv- 
ing. Mr. Bailey, the rights of property rest on 
just this fact in human nature: A man will 
work better for himself than he will for some- 
body else. And you can't get him to work un- 
less he is guaranteed the fruits of his labor. 
Capital is brain, and Labor is muscle, but the 
brain has as much to do with the creation of 
wealth as muscle : more, for it can invent ma- 
chines and do without muscle, while muscle 
cannot do without brain. You can't alter 
human nature, Mr. Bailey. If you had a Com- 
mune, every man would be for himself there as 
he is here : the weak would have less protection 
than even now, for all those restraints of moral- 
ity, which are bound up inseparabl}^ with rights 
of property, would have been thrown aside. 
Marx and Lasalle and Bradlaugh, clever as 
they are, can't prevent the survival of the fit- 
test. You knock your head against a stone 
wall, Mr. Bailey, when you fight society. You 



A COMMUNISTS WIFE. 191 

have been knocking it all your life, and now 
you are angry because your head is hurt. If 
you had never tried to strip other men of their 
earnings because you fancied you ought to have 
more, as skillful a blacksmith as you would have 
saved money and been a capitalist himself. 
Supposing you give it up ? Our firm will give 
you a chance to make plowshares and earn 
twenty dollars a week if you will only promise 
not to strike us in return the first chance you 
get." 

The workingman had listened with a curling 
lip. " Do you mean that for an offer ? " he said, 
in a smothered voice. 

"I mean it for an offer, certainly." 

*' Oh, William ! " cried his wife, turning ap- 
pealing eyes up to his face. 

He grew suddenly white, and brought his 
clinched hand heavily down on the table. The 
dishes rattled with the jar, and the baby, scared 
at the noise, began to scream. " Then," said 
Bailey, " you may just understand that a man 
ain't always a sneak if he is poor ; and you can 
be glad you ain't a man that 's tempting me to 
turn traitor." 

"I am sure my friend didn't mean to hurt 
your feelings," Mrs. Greymer explained quickly, 
giving the countess that expressive side-glance 
which much more plainly than words says, 



192 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" Now you have done it ! " Mrs. Bailey was 
walking up and down soothing the baby : the 
little boy looked on open-eyed. 

" I am sorry if I have said anything which 
has seemed like an insult," said the countess ; 
" I certainly did n't intend one. Perhaps after 
you have thought it all over you will feel differ- 
ently. You know where to find me. Good- 
evening." 

She held out her hand, which Bailey did not 
seem to see, smiled on the little boy and went 
out, leaving Mrs. Greymer behind. 

A little girl with pretty brown curls and 
deep-blue eyes was making sand-caves on the 
shore. The countess spoke to her in passing, 
and left her staring at her two hands, which 
were full of silver coin. At the bridge the 
countess paused to wait for her friend. She 
saw her come out, attended by Mrs. Bailey : 
she saw Mrs. Bailey watch her, saw the little 
girl give her mother the money, and then she 
saw the woman, still carrying her baby in her 
arms, walk slowly down the river bank to 
where a boat lay keel uppermost like a great 
black arrowhead on the sand. Here she sat 
down, and, clasping the child closer, hid her 
face in its white hair. 

" And, upon my soul, I believe she is crying," 
said the spectator, who stopped at the com- 



A COMMUNIST'S WIFE. 193 

mandant's house and obtained the pass before 
she went home. 

On Monday, Mrs. Greymer proposed asking 
little Willie Bailey to spend a week with them. 
The countess assented, merely saying, " You 
must take the little skeleton to drive every day, 
and send the livery -bills to me." 

" Then I shall drive over this afternoon if 
Freddy's sore throat is better," said Mrs. Grey- 
mer. 

But she did not go : Freddy's sore throat 
was worse instead of better, and his sister had 
enough to do for some days fighting off diph- 
theria. So it happened that it was a week be- 
fore she was able to go to D . She found 

the Baileys' door swinging on its hinges, and 
a high-stepping hen of inquisitive disposition 
investigating the front room : the Baileys had 
gone. 

" They went to Chicago four days ago," an 
amiable neighbor explained ; " they did n't say 
what fur. The little boy he cried 'cause he 
wanted to go on the island fust. Guess he ain't 
like to live long ; he 's a weak, pinin' little 
chap." 

Only once did Therese hear from Mrs. Bailey. 
The letter came a few days after her useless 

drive to D . It was dated Chicago, and 

expressed simply but fervently her gratitude 



194 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

for all Mrs. Greymer's kindness. Inclosed 
were three one-dollar bills, part payment, the 
writer said, " of my debt to Mrs. von Arno, and 
I hope she won't think I meant to run away 
from it because I can't just now send more." 
There was no allusion to her present condition 
or her prospects for the future. Mrs. Greymer 
read the letter aloud, then held out the bills to 
the countess. 

She pushed them aside as if they stung her. 
" What does the woman think I am made of ? " 
she exclaimed. " Why, it 's hideous, Therese ! 
Write and tell her I never meant her to pay 



me." 



" I am afraid the letter won't reach her," 
said Mrs. Greymer. 

Nor did it. In due course of time Therese 
received her own letter back from the Dead- 
Letter Office. The words of interest and sym- 
pathy, the plans and encouragement, sounded 
very oddly to her then, for, as far as they were 
concerned, Martha Bailey's history was ended. 
It was in July the countess had met them again. 
She was in Chicago. Otto was dead. He had 
given back to his wife by his will the property 
which had come to him through her, — whether 
because of a late sense of justice or a dislike to 
his heir, a distant cousin who wrote theological 
works and ate with his knife, the countess 



A COMMUNIST'S WIFE. 195 

never ventured to decide. The condition of 
part of this property, which was in Chicago, 
had obliged her to go there. She arrived on 
the evening of the fifteenth of July — a day 
Chicago people remember because the great 
railroad strike of 1877 reached the city that 
day. 

The countess found the air full of wild ru- 
mors. Stories of shops closed by armed men, 
of vast gatherings of Communists on the North 
Side, of robbery, bloodshed, and — to a Chicago 
ear most blood-curdling whisper of all — of a 
contemplated second burning of the city, flew 
like prairie-fire through the. streets. 

The countess's lawyer, whom she had visited 
very early on Thursday morning, msisted on 
accompanying her from his office to her friend's 
house on the North Side. On Halstead Street 
their carriage suddenly stopped. Putting her 
head out of the window, the countess perceived 
that the coachman had drawn up close to the 
curbstone to avoid the onset of a yelling mob 
of boys and men armed with every description 
of weapon, from laths and brickbats to old mus- 
kets. The boys appeared to regard the whole 
affair as merely a gigantic "spree," and shouted 
" Bread or Blood ! " with the heartiest enthu- 
siasm ; but the men marched closer, in silence, 
and with set faces. The gleaming black eyes, 



196 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

sharp features, and tangled black hair of half 
of them showed their Polish or Bohemian blood. 
The others were Norwegians and Germans, with 
a sprinkling of Irish and Americans. Their 
leader was a tall man whom the countess knew. 
He had turned to give an order when she saw 
him. At that same instant a shabby woman 
ran swiftly from a side street, and tried to throw 
her arms about the man's neck. He pushed 
her aside, and the crowd swept them both out 
of sight. 

" I think I have seen a woman I know," said 
the countess composedly ; " and do you know, 
Mr. Wilder, that our horses have gone ? Our 
Communist friends prefer riding to walking, it 
seems." They were obliged to get out of the 
carriage. The countess looked up and down 
the street, but saw no trace of the woman. 
Apparently, she had followed the mob. 

By this time some small boys, inspired by 
the occasion, had begun to show their sympathy 
with oppressed labor by pelting the two well- 
dressed strangers with potatoes and radishes, 
which they confiscated from a bloated capitalist 
of a grocer on the corner. The shower was so 
thick that Mr. Wilder was relieved when they 
reached the Halstead street police - station, 
where they sought refuge. Here they passed 
a sufficiently exciting hour. They could hear 



A COMMUNISTS WIFE. 197 

plainly the sharp crack of revolvers and the 
yells and shouts of the angry mob blending in 
one indistinguishable roar. Once a barefooted 
boy ran by, screaming that the police were 
driven back and the Communists were coming. 
Then a troop of cavalry rode up the street on a 
sharp trot, their bridles jingling and horses' 
hoofs clattering. The roar grew louder, ebbed, 
swelled again, then broke into a multitude of 
sounds — screams, shouts, and the tumultuous 
rush of many feet. 

A polite sergeant opened the door of the lit- 
tle room where the countess was sittino^ to in- 
form her the riot was over. They were just 
bringing in some prisoners : he was very sorry, 
but one of them would have to come in there. 
He was a prominent rioter whom they had cap- 
tured trying to bring off the body of his wife, 
who had been killed by a chance shot. It 
would be only for a short time : the gentleman 
had gone for a carriage. He hoped the lady 
would n't mind. 

The lady, who had changed color slightly, 
said she should not mind. The sergeant held 
the door back, and some men brought in some- 
thing over which had been flung an old blue- 
and-white shawl. They carried it on a shutter, 
and the folds of a calico dress, torn and tram- 
pled, hung down over the side. 



198 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Then came two policemen, pushing after the 
official manner a man covered with dust and 
blood. 

" Bailey ! " exclaimed the countess. Their 
eyes met. 

Bailey bent his head toward the table where 
the men had laid their burden. " Lift that," 
he said hoarsely. 

The countess lifted the shawl with a steady 
hand. There was an old white straw bonnet 
flattened down over the forehead ; a wisp of 
blue ribbon string was blown across the face 
and over the red smear between the eyebrow 
and the hair ; the eyes stared wide and glassy. 
But it was the same soft brown hair. The 
countess knew Martha Bailey. 

"There was women and children on the side- 
walk, but they fired right into us," said Bailey. 
He spoke in a monotonous, dragging voice, as 
though every word were an effort. " They 
killed her. I asked you to give me work in 
your shop, and you would n't do it. Here 's 
the end of it. Now you can go home and say 
your prayers." 

" I don't say prayers," answered the countess, 
"and you know I offered you work. But don't 
let us reproach each other here. Where are 
your children?" 

" Ain't you satisfied with what you have done 



A COMMUNIST'S WIFE. 199 

already?" said Bailey. "Leave me alone; 
you 'd better." 

" Gently now ! " said one of the policemen. 

" Whatever you may think of me," said the 
countess quietly, "you know Mrs. Greymer was 
always your wife's friend. We only wanted to 
help her." 

Bailey shook off the grasp of the policeman 
as though it had been a feather : with one great 
stride he reached the countess and caught her 
roughly by the wrist. " Look at her^ will you ? " 
he cried ; " you and the likes of you, with your 
smooth cant, have killed her ! You crush us 
and starve us till we turn, and then you shoot 
us down like dogs. Leave my children alone." 

" None of that, my man ! " said the sergeant. 

The two policemen would have pulled Bailey 
away, but the countess stopped them. She had 
turned pale even to her lips, but she did not 
wince. 

" Curse you ! " groaned the Communist, fling- 
ing his arms above his head ; " curse a society 
which lets such things be ! curse a religion " — 

The policemen dragged him back. " You 'd 
better go, I think, ma'am," said the sergeant ; 
" the man 's half crazy with the sun and fight- 
ing and grief." 

" You are right," said the countess. She 
stopped at the station door to put a bill in the 



200 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

policeman's hands : " You will find out about 
the children and let me know, please." 

Mr. Wilder, who had been standing in the 
doorway, an amazed witness of the whole scene, 
led her out to the carriage. " He 's a bad fel- 
low, that rioter," he said, as they drove along. 

The countess pulled her cuff over a black 
mark on her wrist. " No, he is not half a bad 
fellow," she answered, " but for all that he has 
murdered his wife." 

Nor has she ever changed her opinion on that 
point ; neither, so far as is known, has William 
Bailey changed his. 



o 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 

A STUDY. 

The Alfred McGinnis was passing through 
Lake Pepin, It was six o'clock in the afternoon 
of a June day, 1878. On the lower deck groups 
of " roustabouts " were scattered among the 
flour barrels, at the foot of a row of monster 
threshing machines which glistened with red 
paint ; the upper deck was crowded ; and ten 
women all wearing black — not in mourning 
for dead kindred but because they were trav- 
eling — admired the Mississippi from the pilot- 
house. 

The boat had rounded point No Point (whose 
facetious character had been duly explained by 
the pilot) ; and nothing was now to be seen 
save the wide stretch of steel-gray waters, soft- 
ening into blue with the distance ; and on either 
side, the high, steep hills. The ragged line of 
hill-tops was pierced by the underlying rock 
into a fantastic semblance of ruined forts and 
castles, or dented by vast hollows which might 
easily have served for amphitheatres ; as though 



202 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

some vanished race had here lived and fought 
and kept barbaric festivals. Nature subtly 
aided the fancy with a profusion of shrubbery 
flung over the crumbling walls and here and 
there a slender umber streak climbing up the 
hillside, marvelously like a foot-path. 

All this landscape wore the sumptuous tints 
of early summer. Sombre masses of pine and 
dull red brown rocks intensified the effect of 
the yellow green of the maples and the white 
green of the willows and the bars of green sun- 
light burning along the grass between the 
shadows. The sun had not yet dropped below 
the horizon, there were no flaming hues, but 
the sky was filled with soft grays and silver 
mists floating in a sea of tender blue, and away 
to the southwest a dark blue circle looked out 
from a halo of dazzling white light. 

A lady and gentleman who had just come on 
to the hurricane deck paused a moment to gaze 
at this scene. They were both young and the 
lady was beautiful. Her beauty was of that 
English type which New England has preserved, 
or possibly revived ; there were the fair, broad 
brow, the pale gold hair, the mildly Roman 
profile, the exquisite coloring, and the charming 
figure of English loveliness. Usually such 
beauty in the American is etherealized, one 
might almost say attenuated ; she is a thought 



o 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 203 

too slender, — often she is a thought too pale. 
Mrs. Berkely, the lady in question, was slender 
but she was not too pale ; the women on the 
boat had said with a sigh, " What complexions 
those Boston girls do have ! " They inferred 
that she came from Boston because of her erect 
carriage, her soft, distinct intonations, the some- 
what cold reserve of her manner, and the severe 
elegance of her toilet, — " prim," I think, was 
the word used. Nevertheless Mrs. Berkely was 
not a Boston girl, she was a native of Pittsfield, 
Massachusetts, a delightful town where they 
have ancestors, go to Europe at decent intervals, 
and play whist according to Cavendish. 

Until she was twenty-three Ethel Berkely 
had performed, most conscientiously all the 
duties pertaining to that station in life to which 
a Pittsfield girl is called, including the jour- 
neys to Europe and a trip up the Nile, which 
may be considered as a work of supererogation. 
She was, also, extremely clever and she played 
a strong game of whist, never hesitating to sac- 
rifice her own hand to her partner's. When 
she was twenty-three she married Captain John 
Clarence Berkely of the United States army. 
Since their marriage, now some three years, 
they had been stationed West, and it had struck 
them both as a picturesque scheme to explore 
the upper Mississippi. Captain Berkely was 



204 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

standing b}^ his wife's side. He was rather a 
tall young man, thin and dark, with fine brown 
eyes and an unobtrusive brown mustache. 
Only his square shoulders and the gentle indif- 
ference of his expression betrayed the army. 
He wore a gray plaid traveling suit and had 
that appearance of having very recently attired 
himself w^hich is produced by immaculately 
stiff and white linen. As he was using his hat 
for a fan, one could see that what little hair 
the barber had left him was parted in the centre, 
a fact which had already excited the unfavora- 
ble comments of the captain, the two pilots, and 
three fourths of the passengers of the Alfred 
McGinnis. 

The couple had been exhaustively discussed. 
They were regarded (on the grounds of their 
youth and expensive clothing) as newly married 
people, and their avoidance of the boat society 
was charitably ascribed to the pardonable ab- 
sorption of lovers. Fortunately for EtlieFs 
peace of mind such an explanation of numerous 
kindly but curious glances and inquiries had 
never occurred to her. She was, indeed, more 
interested in the people whom she met than 
one would have imagined from her manner — 
one, that is, who did not know Pittsfield. At 
the present moment she was questioning her 
husband about the cabin. What were they 
doing, John, and who were there ? 



o 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 205 

John was not interested; he looked bored. 
*' Oh, the usual thing. There are only two 
new arrivals, two youthful beings from Texas 
on their wedding journey. They came on at 
Winona. She is singing, ''Tis but a Little 
Faded Flower,' and he sits near with his hands 
in his pockets, looking blissful. Then there 's 
an old German fast asleep and some women 
talking about their 'hired girls,' and forward 
there 's a Methodist minister reading his Bible." 

" How do you know he is a Methodist min- 
ister ? " 

" The looks and the coat of him, my dear. 
I can always pick out the clergy. Episcopalians 
wear white cravats and have their waistcoats 
cut high, and if they are high church they have 
loner skirts to their coats : the more ' advanced ' 
their views the longer their coats are. Presby- 
terians wear white cravats but their waistcoats 
haven't the clerical cut. Congregationalists 
lean to black cravats. Unitarians are quite un- 
re^enerate in their dress, and the Methodist 
parson from the country you can always tell 
by his black alpaca coat and the frayed edges 
to his shirt collar. Our friend is a Methodist, 
perad venture a revivalist ; now I think of it, he 
had that kind of disapproving-of-everything-in- 
general aspect which marks the Man in Ear- 
nest ! " 



206 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" He may be a good, humble-minded man, 
John." 

" And read his Bible in the face of all men ? 
Ethel, there is a natural religious modesty which 
he outrages. I feel convinced he is a narrow- 
minded prig." 

Ethel looked at her husband. He fancied 
that there was a slightly wistful expression in 
her beautiful violet eyes, but without answering 
she turned them again to the river and the 
hills ; although she was so clever she was not 
ready of speech. He wondered what she was 
thinking, yet did not ask her, for they held 
widely divergent opinions upon some vital ques- 
tions, and he rarely cared to define their differ- 
ences by discussion. Ethel was the first to 
speak, changing the subject in the abrupt fash- 
ion of people who know each other well. "See, 
John, there is a little house all by itself ! 
Should n't you think the man who lives there 
must be lonely ?" 

" Perhaps he is fond of solitude. I should 
like a little box like that myself — with you ! " 

" Resign and have one." 

" I wonder why I don't resign," said Berkely 
moodily. " I suppose because I am not fit for 
anything else, and I have a weak-minded aver- 
sion to lounging about on my wife's money. 
But it isn't because I admire the way they 
manage things that I stay." 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 207 

" This is the worst of possible worlds, is n't 
it ? " said Ethel smiling. 

" Very nearly." 

" Are you then so unhappy, John ? " 

"On the contrary, if it were not for those 
impertinent pilot-house windows which prevent 
my putting my arm about your waist I should 
be uncommonly serene." 

Ethel shook her pretty head. " John, you 
are a dreadful justification of Mr. Mallock ! 
You seem always shrugging your shoulders and 
saying, 'But as for me, the life that now is is 
not worth the living ! ' " 

" Well, Ismene's cynicism proved very shal- 
low ; perhaps mine is too." Ethel shook her 
head again ; there fell a little silence which 
the voices from the pilot-house penetrated. 

" I had a lady friend, and her husband, he 
was drowned. He put his life preserver around 
her and she seen him raise and sink, raise and 
sink, till he went down, and could n't do a 
thing ! They saved her and she 's living now, 
but nobody ever seen her laugh or be lively 
again ; and it 's ten years now ! " 

" That was dreadful ! But do you think it 
jest right to be so unresigned ? " 

" No, I don't, Mrs. Wattles ; it used to make 
me feel bad to be with her. I don't think peo- 
ple ought to grieve so ; they make everybody 



208 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

'round kinder relieved like wten they 're out 
of sight. There 's a hymn I 'm very fond of, — 
maybe you know it : ' Go bury thy sorrow, the 
world hath its share.' " 

" That 's sound doctrine," interposed the 
pilot's hearty voice, " if it is poetry." (" Not 
much poetry, if it is the hymn I know," mut- 
tered Berkely.) 

A woman's voice joined the conversation, a 
high -keyed, ear-disturbing voice with long- 
drawn falling inflections and the flat Western 
accent, which together made her sentences a 
succession of wails. 

" That hymn was a great favoryte of cousin 
Lou's, she that went to Kansas, Mrs. Wattles. 
Goodness knows she 'd enough to bury out 
there ; no wood, no water and the wind strong 
enough to blow the soul out of your body, living 
in a sod house, too, and snakes crawling round 
in the walls and dropping down on you in bed 
at night, unexpected like, rain soaking through, 
— when there was rain, — a mortgage on the 
farm and the 'hoppers eating up their crops 
bare two years running, and she with her eight 
children and three of them dying in one sum- 
mer ! I think she did! And then soon 's they 'd 
got things fixed up a little, trees planted and a 
well dug and a two-story frame with blinds 
built — then poor Lou has to die. And he 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 209 

posted off to Blue Rapids, six months after, 
and married a girl of sixteen ! Oh, the men 1 " 

" Well, you 'd have somebody enjoy that 
new house, wouldn't you ? " said the pilot. 

"No, I wouldn't — for the gracious sakes, 
Mr. Ripley, what makes this boat shake so ? " 

The captain had walked briskly into the 
pilot-house and whispered a few words to the 
pilot. "There isn't the least danger, ladies," 
he said impatiently, " we 're jest going ashore, 
that 's all." 

" Is there any danger, John ? " said Ethel, 
drawing nearer her husband. 

" Not a bit of it, dear," said John, privately 
thinking quite the reverse and measuring the 
length of a possible swim with his eye. " There 's 
the parson, though, coming up the stairway; 
I '11 tackle him if you like and find out all about 
it." 

He walked up to a tall, gaunt man with a 
prominent nose and a stiff black beard. The 
new-comer wore the black alpaca coat which 
Berkely had mentioned, and his nether garments 
of black broadcloth had an unintentional baggi- 
ness at the knees. He said " Hey ? " in a loud 
voice to Berkely 's first question, but the subse- 
quent conversation was unintelligible. At all 
events it was reassuring, since Berkely saun- 
tered back smiling and told his wife there was 



210 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

something tlie matter with the machinery and 
they were going ashore for an hour or so to re- 
pair things. That was all. 

By this time the boat was grinding against 
the side of an almost perpendicular bluff. To 
the right, the grassy wall was cleft by a deep 
and long ravine in which stood a small house 
of unpainted pine wood, the same house which 
Ethel had noticed a short time before. Behind 
the house on the flat lands was a wheat field, 
a rectangle of vivid green over which ran rip- 
ples of sunlight as the wheat swayed in the 
wind. The house door swung on its hinges, 
and the doorway framed the figure of a man 
holding a wide straw hat a little above his head. 
Rather to Ethel's surprise their fellow traveler 
in the black alpaca coat instantly waved his 
own hat, as if in response to a signal, and ran 
hastily down the stairway. A few moments 
later he appeared on shore, carrying a large 
newspaper bundle and a shabby black leather 

bag. 

*' Apparently has intentions of sojourning 
here," said Berkely ; '' do you care to go, too, 
Ethel ? " 

" I don't mind, if it 's not muddy." 

" Dry as Dr. Todd. Let me take your um- 
brella." ■ 

They found a natural foot-path and, being in 



o 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 211 

the humor, climbed to a grass overgrown ledge 
of rocks, half way up the bluff. There they 
paused to rest, saying little, but if one might 
judge from their attitude not dissatisfied with 
each other's quiet society. Finally, Berkely 
proposed a descent on " the hermit." 

" How do you know he is a hermit ? " said 
Ethel : " he may be an honest farmer with half 
a dozen children." 

*' No," answered a voice, so near that Berkely 
abruptly took his arm from his wife's waist, 
" no, he is as lonely as you could wish ! " 

" May I ask " — began Berkely haughtily, 
looking at the stranger who had emerged from 
the sheltering rocks and now stood before them. 

*' I came up on the other side," interrupted 
the man without the customary smile of expla- 
nation. "Would you like to see my place, 
ma'am ? " 

He lifted his hat as he spoke, revealing a 
high projecting forehead and a sallow, sunken- 
cheeked face. Under the shadow of his over- 
bearing forehead, his large blue eyes looked 
out, veiled with an absent-minded mist. His 
sunburned hair and beard were so vilely cut that 
Berkely decided on the spot that he had been 
his own barber with a pair of scissors. He was 
short but muscular enough. His costume was 
a singular combination of a threadbare black 



212 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

frock coat, gray flannel shirt, and blue overalls. 
Thus clad, and absolutely unconscious, it ap- 
peared, of the grotesqueness of his dress, he 
stood unsmilingly waiting Ethel's answer. Yet 
he seemed pleased in a sullen and repressed 
fashion when his invitation was accepted, and 
at once led the way to the house. 

Ethel noticed that a vine had been trained 
against the side of the house, and there were 
pansies blooming in a little flower-bed near the 
door. The room which they entered was both 
unpainted and unplastered ; a table, chairs, and 
stove completed the meagre list of its furniture ; 
and its sole ornament was a black easel very 
neatly decorated with forget-me-nots, which 
held the crayon picture of a lady and child. 
Both the visitors glanced at the picture. The 
lady had a delicate, pretty face, but did not 
look happy although she was smiling ; the child 
was a fine little fellow with a large forehead 
and eyes like the master of the house. The 
latter laid his hand on the frame, saying, " Do 
you think it a pretty picture ? " 

" Very," answered Berkely ; " is the lady 
your wife ? " 

" She was my wife," said the man, " she is 
dead." 

" Oh, I beg pardon," Berkely exclaimed. 

'•' You need n't, you 've done no harm," said 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 213 

the hermit. " Won't you sit down, please ? 
And I have n't asked you to take anything ; 
I 've some coffee on the stove and fresh bread 
and butter, and I '11 answer for the eggs since 
I keep chickens myself." He set plates on the 
table, bestirring himself with an air of eager 
hospitality which his visitors' politeness could 
not resist. 

" Besides," Berkely whispered, during a tem- 
porary absence of the hermit for eggs, " noth- 
ing can be worse than the boat ! " 

They had no reason to repent their confidence, 
for they found the simple fare excellent. Their 
host sat with them, crumbling a piece of bread 
but drinking nothing; perhaps he had only the 
two cups, Ethel said afterwards. He did not 
seem reluctant to speak of himself or of his 
lonely life. He lived by his little farm, — not 
his own, only rented. In summer he loaded a 
skiff with his wheat, and rowed to the mill six 
miles farther down the river ; in winter he drew 
what few provisions he needed on a sled, skating 
himself. Yes, it was lonely, but he had his dog 
and his chickens for company. " I 've seen 
enough of men," he said grimly. 

"I fear you have had a hard life," said 
Berkely, " do you mind telling us something of 
it?" 

" No," said the hermit, " I don't mind. I '11 



214 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

never, most likely, see you again, and sometimes 
it 's a relief to talk. When I saw you to-day 
sitting there together, so happy" (the dismay 
on Ethel's face was reflected in Berkely's), " I 
felt a sudden longing to talk again with a good 
woman. For four years I have n't talked — 
except about wheat and such things — to any 
man but Wesley Mitchel. I was seized with a 
sudden desire to have some fair-minded person 
judge my whole case ; I 'm tired of running it 
over in my own mind. I know all Wesley has 
to say — but you are different I Does this 
strike you as very extraordinary, ma'am ? " 

" No, I don't think it does," said Ethel, flush- 
ing slightly beneath her husband's curious eyes. 
" I think I understand — a little — what you 
mean." 

'' Thank you," said the hermit, " I will tell 
3'ou the whole story. My name is Herman 
Witte. ^l\ parents were Germans who came 
to America when I was ten, and my mother 
died the year after. She was a good woman 
and her folks were well off in Germany, but 
she offended them by marrying father, who was 
only a foreman in a foundry. He was n't even 
that long, for he fell first into socialism and 
then into drink, and the upshot was he came 
over here — to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He 
got work in the iron mills there easy enough, 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 215 

and he was a first-class workman, too, when he 
was half sober. He married another German 
woman after mother died ; she was n't very 
good, but she was good enough for him. There 
were seven boys of us, and we all worked in the 
iron works. I worked there till I was twenty, 
then I was converted by a Methodist preacher ; 
and, sir, if ever a man longed and prayed and 
agonized to lead a better life I did. The 
preacher was interested in me, especially when 
my father knocked me down and swore he 'd 
have nothing more to do with, such a canting 
hypocrite. I 've no doubt that to this day I 'm 
an illustration in his sermons. He got me into 
a school where they give a weekly stipend to 
students who engage to enter the ministry ; 
then I went to the seminary, and when the war 
broke out I went as chaplain. I served through 
the war, saw some fighting, and had a mild 
touch of yellow fever, but came out all right 
and got my first parish. It was in Iowa ; I 
thought I 'd like the West, so went there. It 
was in my first parish I met my wife, — her 
father was one of the prominent men of my 
church. I can't say much about my feeling for 
her, but if — if you've ever known anybody, 
sir, who seemed to represent everything pure 
and good and beautiful to you, making you feel 
like some great clumsy animal crawling out of 



216 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

a slough, not fit to be in such a presence, even 
— you are not likely to have felt that way, but 
if you have ever seen anybody who seemed to 
be doing naturally and inevitably what you 
pant and struggle and fail to do, whose thoughts 
the angels must love to look at because there 's 
no soil in them, who makes you despise yourself 
and hope for yourself at the same time — if you 
have known any one like that., sir " — 

" Yes," said Berkely, " I have known some 
one like that." He was sitting near Ethel and 
he laid his hand gently on hers. 

The hermit looking up suddenly, smiled for 
the first time. "I see, I see," he said. "Well, 
sir, I loved my wife as you love yours. I loved 
her for two years, not daring to tell her so, for 
I could n't forget how I was raised ; why, sir, 
the uncouth habits and speech of childhood and 
youth are sticking to me still. I was glad my 
family had quarreled with me, glad they 'd left 
Pittsburgh, glad I 'd lost all trace of them, but 
still there they were and I had belonged to 
them ! I don't know how I dared to speak to 

• 

her finally. I think it was her father's death, 
leaving her all alone in the world, for her 
mother had been dead many years and her re- 
lations all lived East. Then, Dr. Wilson had 
been too generous a man to die rich, and the 
life insurance failed because of some informality. 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 217 

You know the tricks of those fellows, sir. Well, 
I had to tell Emily the news, and somehow I 
was emboldened to speak. Then — think what 
it was to me, ma'am — I found she loved me, 
and had loved me for months, me ! " He was 
sitting with his head resting on his hands, talk- 
ing most of the time to a crack in the table ; 
now, by a slight movement of the shoulders, he 
shielded his face from view. It was a move- 
ment exceedingly suggestive. 

In a moment he resumed his story, still with 
his elbows on the table and his head on his 
hands ; his absurdly cut hair had fallen over 
his face, his position drew the waist of his coat 
half way up his back ; on the whole, he was not 
a tragical figure ; yet Berkely, who was suffi- 
ciently susceptible to the ridiculous, felt no in- 
clination to sraile. " We were married," said 
Witte; "at first we were happy. We had a 
small salary, never punctually paid, and Emily's 
health was poor, but we loved each other and 
our two children and we kept up good hearts. 
I am telling you the truth as nearly as I can 
see it, therefore I will say that I believe I was 
what is called a successful preacher, but as a 
pastor I failed. I was always fatally embar- 
rassed with the most of my congregation. They 
called me stiff and pedantic and awkward. It 's 
likely enough that I was. A man is apt to be 



218 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

stiif and pedantic who is constantly supervising 
his own speech and actions. Somehow, too, I 
never got near my people, I sympathized with 
them from the bottom of my heart but I was n't 
fortunate in expressing my sympathy, and natu- 
rally enough they did n't give me credit for what 
they did n't see. I tried, by hard study, to bal- 
ance my deficiencies in pastoral work with fine 
sermons ; kept abreast of the popular thought, 
as the phrase is, preached on scientific skepti- 
cism, and refuted Robert Ingersoll. My con- 
gregation called me a rising man, the papers 
published abstracts of my sermons, making me 
say all kinds of things I never dreamed of, and 
the young men used to bring the young women 
to hear me in the evening. But in spite of the 
crowded pews and the papers and the flatter- 
ing things the women said to Emily, I began 
to feel that I was preaching to others who was 
myself a castaway. 

" It was the doctrine of evolution staggered 
me first. The more I tried to investigate the 
physical basis of life the deeper I found mj^self 
in the mire, and the more impossible it seemed 
to accept the inspiration of the Scriptures, and 
the proved conclusions (to say nothing of the 
frohahle conclusions) of modern science. At 
the same time I was plunged in other difficulties. 
From the first I had visited the poor regularly 



o 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 219 

(I was one of them, you know), I had worked 
up an industrial school and established a read- 
ing-room, and my church donated to it all the 
worn-out books in the Sunday-school library, 
and a number of quite new " Lives of the Meth- 
odist Bishops," which we somehow couldn't get 
the children to read. I got on better with the 
poor than with the respectable people. Yet 
they were stumbling blocks. They gave me 
an awful sense of the burden of life. There 
was n't anything sentimental or poetic about 
their suffering or their temptations, and the 
worst of their poverty in many cases seemed to 
be its apparent necessity. How are men and 
women ignorant, squalid, unthrifty, and reckless 
to be anything hut poor ? And yet when from 
the minute they open their eyes they see noth- 
ing about them but ignorance and dirt, how can 
they be anything else ? I tell you, sir, my 
visits among the poor gave me new light on the 
survival of the fittest. And the poverty out 
West ain't a circumstance to that of the great 
cities East. Yes, sir, the more I saw of the 
world and the more in my office I explored the 
windings of the human heart the more I saw 
how we are only a very little ourselves ! Our 
ancestors hold us, sir ; our environment and 
our education build bars around us that we can't 
break through. There 's awful little margin 



220 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

for a man's individual will when you consider 
all these things ! I looked about me and it 
seemed to me that everywhere the evil was 
strangling the good. At first I believed more 
implicitly than ever in the devil, then step by 
step, inch by inch, with an agony you can't 
conceive, I began to disbelieve in God. It was 
at this stage of my moral development, when 
my little boy was six and my little girl three, 
that the conference sent me to a town on the 
Mississippi, and there I met Mitchel. You 
have seen him ; he came on your boat. Very 
likely you did not notice him though, or if you 
did, did not think much about him, for he does 
not prepossess strangers, but he is the best man 
I ever knew, the truest and the noblest ! He 
had the Sixth Street Methodist church, for 
there are two Methodist churches in the place ; 
it 's a large place, though half the population 
are Germans who don't go to church at all. 
You would have thought, being in the same 
city, he would have felt a little bit like a rival 
of mine, but instead he seemed to rejoice in my 
success. ' You have great gifts, brother,' said 
he, ' great gifts ; may the Lord prosper them to 
the saving of souls ! ' I liked him from the 
first, — he had a simple, confiding faith about 
him that attracted me. He was a widower 
with five children ; poor, of course, but living 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 221 

SO plainly that he always had something to give 
and was able to exercise hospitality. ' We 
never make any change,' said he, ' and there 's 
always plenty though it 's plain, so I 'm always 
glad to see my friends.' Why, sir, he brought 
the bishop up to his Saturday dinner, just baked 
beans and brown bread and a watermelon. 
' The bishop is a New England man, too, Maria,' 
he says to his sister, ' and I 've told him you 
are the best hand at baked beans I know.' And 
he sat down with his eyes twinkling over those 
baked beans as if they had been a grand dinner. 
He enjoys everything, Mitchel does ; and every 
one else's pleasure seems like his own. And 
so it is with their sorrow. I had n't been with 
him six months before I told him something 
of the doubts that were eating my heart out. 
' You haven't read Joseph Cook,' says he, 'he's 
the man for such men as you ! He 's too deep 
for me, but then God has been merciful to me 
and kept my faith clear, so it don't matter. 
You read him, brother, he is a wonderful logi- 
cian.' So I read the lectures. Have you ever 
read them, sir ? " 

" Mrs. Berkely has," answered Berkely ; 
"one volume on transcendentalism and that 
sort of thing was all /was able to bear." 

" Then you know there is a kind of ponderous 
fascination about the man; he marshals such 



222 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

an enormous array of authorities that at first 
you don't dare to examine anything, and his 
syllogisms look so imposing you don't think of 
asking just what the terms mean. I was car- 
ried away by him — why, my poor Emily and 
I used to pray every night that God would 
bless that man for the spiritual help he Lad 
been to me. But it is the curse of such tem- 
peraments as mine that they can't stop ques- 
tioning while there 's anything left. I began 
to ask what Cook meant in his various steps of 
the argument instead of simply accepting his 
conclusions." 

" You must have had a jolly time finding 
out," said Berkely. 

The hermit looked at him gravely. " I can't 
say that I rightly did find out, sir. But I be- 
came convinced there were some discrepancies 
in his statements. I thought I would go di- 
rectly to the German philosophers he talked of. 
It was n't so easy to get their works, but I 'd 
always kept up my German, and an old Ger- 
man lent me a stray volume of Kant, Hegel's 
Phenomenology and something of Schopen- 
hauer, his essay on the Will. Then Mitchel 
got me some odd numbers of a St. Louis maga- 
zine that deals with German philosophy mostly, 
and then I found more Hegel and some Fichte 
and Schelling. And I confess, sir, I got con- 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 223 

siderably tangled up among them all and went 
to Schopenhauer with my mind in a muddle. 
You have read him, sir ? " 

" Bits about the Will, merely," said Berkely ; 
" my wife amused herself, one summer, teach- 
ing me German philosophy. She has read him." 

" The Will is the central doctrine. You can 
understand, then, how he struck me. He dared 
to express all my half-confessed, unworked-out 
thoughts. Here was a world that was one uni- 
versal battle - field, every species preying on 
some other ; war, carnage, agony everywhere, 
everywhere an appalling waste ; Nature stingy 
only of the means of sustaining life, prodigal 
alike of the powers of increase and destruction ; 
always utterly indifferent to suffering ! Then 
in man himself, the grand result, what do we 
see ? The beast survivinor and clutchino^ his 
will, dragging him into sin he loathes ; a crea- 
ture with just enough appreciation of spiritual 
beauty to feel remorse for sins he has n't the 
strength to resist ! And this being the uni- 
verse, I was to imagine the God of the universe 
more merciful than his own laws ! My reason 
recoiled, sir. But Schopenhauer makes all this 
paradox plain." 

'* How? " said Berkely. 

" I am afraid I can't make myself as clear as 
I 'd like, but this, in brief, is what I understand 



224 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Schopenhauer's theory to be. And I ought to 
say, in the first place, that he goes to work in- 
ductively ; he flings aside the dialectic of the 
idealists and finds his facts first, then fits his 
theory to them. He goes with Kant so far as 
this, that he believes all this visible world to 
be, as far as we can know, simply ' a phenome- 
non of our own consciousness.' But something 
must produce this ' phenomenon,' therefore the 
world is ' not a mere shadow world,' but a real- 
ity, just as we are a reality and the force behind 
the world is the force behind us. That univer- 
sal primary force is the will. The essential 
principle of man is not a soul (that is, a unit 
in which will and consciousness are indissolubly 
combined), but what Schopenhauer calls the 
' radical of the soul,' the will ; for, the con- 
sciousness is, as science teaches us, only the re- 
sult of a nervous system, while the will exists 
independently, it is found where there is no 
nervous system, consequently no consciousness; 
therefore the will is the primary force in man. 
It is likewise the primary force in nature ; it 
has made all the visible forms of life, or rather 
they are its representation, just as our bodily 
actions are the representation of our will. The 
will is the thing in itself which has made all 
things. But the will wdthout consciousness is 
a blind force, it is simply the will to he, an in- 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 225 

finite hunger for existence. This it is which 
has turned the polyp into beast and the beast 
into man. Now you can see, sir, that this will 
being the will to exist at all costs, each creature 
struggles for his own preservation careless of 
every other, or only careful as far as they have 
found out that hurting others will eventually 
hurt themselves. 'Nature, regardless of the 
individual, studies only to preserve the race.' 
Hence the endless conflict we see. There is no 
such thing as freedom of the will, as it is gen- 
erally understood, because each man's tempera- 
ment, that is his destiny, is determined for him 
before he is born. The universal will deter- 
mines that for each individual, yet he as part 
of the universal will may be said to make his 
own fate. There is no such thing, either, as 
personal immortality. The individual depends 
for his consciousness on his nervous system, 
and when that decays he vanishes ; his will is 
absorbed into the will of the whole. This blind 
will of the whole is the only God, and he, as 
Von Hartmann truly says, is to be pitied rather 
than reverenced. And as there is no God, so 
there are no absolute, innate ideas of right and 
wrong. Morality is simply a safeguard of ex- 
istence, a deduction of experience, men having 
learned that some pleasures cost more than they 
are worth, and that hurting others in the end 



226 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

hurts themselves. Happiness is an illusion 
like the rest, for what is it but the cessation of 
the pain of desire ? and the will itself is an in- 
satiable desire, and the instant we cease to de- 
sire we cease to exist. Love is as much of an 
illusion as happiness ; there is no future aud no 
hope save in ceasing to will, which is annihila- 
tion. ' This is the worst possible world, and we 
are the worst possible beings ! ' " 

" Cheerful, all that," said Berkely, " but go 
on!" 

" Of course that is n't the whole of it. There 
are some beautiful things said about art and ab- 
stract conceptions and a man of genius lifting 
himself transiently out of the struggle and for- 
getting himself in the beautiful ; but the sum- 
ming up of it all is that life is an inevitable 
failure, art itself is an illusion, and ' history re- 
lates,' says Schopenhauer, 'only the long, heavy, 
confused dream of humanity.' Now, sir, I can't 
give you any idea of the fascinating way in which 
Schopenhauer states this theory, I can only say 
that he seems to me to explain by it all the 
varied phenomena of existence. Can you see 
how such a philosophy captured me against my 
will ? I did n't want to believe it ; but a thing 
is true or not true, and the truth of Schopen- 
hauer's doctrines did n't depend on my finding 
them unpleasant or the reverse. Against every 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 227 

wish and every worldly prospect I had to believe 
Lim, sir ! " 

" But your wife," said Ethel. 

" My wife was an angel, if such things could 
be," answered the hermit with a softer inflec- 
tion in his tone. " She prayed for me continu- 
ally, but when she saw how it was with me she 
said, ' Herman, you must give up the ministry ; 
the blind cannot lead the blind ! ' So then I 
went to Wesley and told him the whole story. 
He was dreadfully shocked, but he stuck to 
me like a brother — enough better than any 
brother /ever had ! ' Yes, you must leave the 
ministry,' said he, ' but don't give up the fight, 
brother; God won't suffer you to remain al- 
ways in darkness.' Well, I left the ministry, 
resigned, and preached a farewell sermon giv- 
ing my reasons. It made a great stir in the 
place for a while ; I know now it broke Emily's 
heart. A crowd of people called on me. I was 
talked most to death in the two weeks follow- 
ing. Some of them congratulated me on my 
'manl3^, straightforward course,' as they called 
it ; and the Unitarian minister shook hands 
with me on the street and told me 'truth had 
set me free.' ' What is truth ? ' says I ; ' have 
you found it ? I only know that everything 
I 've given my life to is a lie. I 'm a miserable 
man ! How shall I support my family ? ' He 



228 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

said there were other openings for an honest 
man. Well, I did n't find them. You see I 
belonged to nobody. If I 'd turned Unitarian 
or Catholic they would have looked after me a 
little, but there I was, a credit to no denomina- 
tion's logic, clean outside of everything ! Well, 
I '11 not make a long story of it. At first every- 
body said Emily was n't to blame, and the 
ladies showed their Christian charity by asking 
her to lunch parties, which were convenient 
because then they need n't ask me. 

" But Emily was shy and would n't go, 
though I 've often urged her just so she might 
get a hearty meal; for it had come to that 
with us, ma'am. My congregation had run be- 
hind with my salary, and they said the scandal 
of my leaving so broke up the church that they 
couldn't pay me. Butchers and grocers de- 
clined to lose more money by us. Wesley got 
me a little work on a paper, and I went about 
the small towns where I could, lecturing for 
ten dollars and my traveling expenses. But 
with it all we were often hungry, and should 
have been oftener if Wesley hadn't been al- 
ways sending things and getting us over there 
under one pretext or another for a better din- 
ner than he 'd give himself. But I said I 
wouldn't make a long story of it. My little 
Herman wore out his shoes, I 'd no money for 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 229 

more ; it was wet weather, and he took cold. 
It turned into diphtheria ; he died one week, 
and his mother the next of the same disease. 
Mitchel's sister came over and took care of her ; 
we were so miserably poor then I caught her 
bringing flour over in a bucket. When Emily- 
was taken first, a little town near wanted me 
for a lecture ; she told me to go. I had n't a 
dollar in the world, sir, had to borrow my fare 
of Wesley, so — I went. When I came back 
she was dead." 

He dropped his head on his folded arms. 
Neither of the listeners found anything to say. 

Witte rose and walked to the easel. He flung 
one arm about the picture frame, and some- 
times while he was speaking his fingers would 
gently stroke the glass. *' Mitchel had this 
done from a photograph," he said. "Mitchel 
got me this place, too ; he 'd been trying for 
it some time. Getting it a little earlier would 
have made a difference. My wife's relations 
took my little girl ; they offered to adopt 
her if I 'd give her up entirely. My unfortu- 
nate rehgious views made the condition neces- 
sary, they said. It was the best thing for the 
child, so I gave her up. Once I went to see 
her. I saved up money enough to get to New 
York state where they lived. I bought some 
little things I thought would please her and 



230 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

went straight to her aunt's house ; I said to 
myself all the way that they surely would n't 
have the cruelty to hinder me from kissing her 
and talking to her a little while." 

" Well, had they ? " said Berkely. 

" Oh, I guess not ; they 'd no need, for they 
were n't there ; they 'd gone to Europe to stay 
four years. I came back here. Some time I 
think I '11 end it all with a pistol bullet, but 
where 's the use ? The will is indestructible, 
in another form I should still live and suffer. 
They are gone," he said with his hand on the 
picture frame ; " I can never find them, and for 
what else should I go ? There is but one way 
to peace, to cease to desire, and then I shall 
cease to exist." 

He resumed his seat by the table, and lean- 
ing his head on his hand turned toward Ethel 
his hopeless, misty blue eyes. A sudden im- 
pulse made her stretch out her hand, saying, 
" I am so sorry for you ! " He took the hand 
awkwardly, and at the same moment, unper- 
ceived by any of them, the man whom he had 
called Mitchel came across the grass plot before 
the house and stood in the doorway. 

" Thank you," said Witte, '' but tell me, can 
I do better? You, sir, too, can I do better? 
What better is there to do ? " 

"I think you can do better," said Berkely. 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 231 

" Don't you see one thing ? Granting this is 
a bad world, still, toe have improved ! Nature 
has somehow made a man, and he is better than 
an ape. And don't you see if there is any 
progress there is hope, and a world with hope 
in it can't be the worst possible world, for a 
world without hope would be worse still ! And 
if there is such a thing as progress, doesn't 
every man help himself in helping the rest ? 
I 'm taking your own premises, only talking 
Von Hartmann instead of his master. One 
thing is sure, Mr. Witte, the only pleasures 
which don't leave a sting behind them are 
those which come from obeying what is conven- 
tionally called our higher nature ; and no man 
has ever listened to that unexplainable some- 
thing in him which decides for righteousness 
and been sorry, no matter what the decision 
has cost him ! I take it there 's something sig- 
nificant in that fact. Mr. Witte, you and I 
are only two out of a multitude, and every 
other one's happiness is as dear to him as ours 
to us ; now, it is another significant fact that 
the men who have, as you may say, flung their 
own happiness into the pool with the other fel- 
lows have been happier than those who have 
— well, played a lone hand, caring for no one 
else." (" I 'm getting my morals awfully mixed 
with betting and euchre," thought Berkely ; "I 



232 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

shall have to cut it short.") " Say you were 
to try the first of these plans, and since your 
own happiness is ruined give the best that 's in 
you to the poor beggars almost as badly off as 
yourself; don't you think your will would then 
stand a better chance than it does here, alone 
with yourself and your bitter memories, to get 
into harmony with the universal Will ? That 's 
the view I take of it as a pagan." 

" And what do you say ? " said the hermit, 
turning abruptly to Ethel. Her husband looked 
at her also. She blushed a little, and being 
exceedingly shy her voice was not quite steady 
when she began to speak. 

" I don't look at it as a pagan," she said, 
" for I am a Christian " (the man in the door- 
way took off his hat); "and I am a Christian 
for the same reason that you are a pessimist — 
because Christianity alone seems to me to offer 
a reasonable explanation of the contradictions 
and miseries of life. With another world this 
world seems reasonable, without one it is just 
a grim and cruel joke ; and Schopenhauer sees 
that himself, for he tries to escape his own con- 
clusions with the theories of art and his Bud- 
dhist ideas of absorption into the universal. 
Schopenhauer contradicts and dogmatizes worse 
than the Bible his followers despise, yet he 
cannot deny that there may be a will which is 



o 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 233 

in and for itself and conscious of itself — that 
is God; be only can see no sign of any such 
will in the universe. Between his dogmatism 
and that of the Bible it seems to me easy 
choosing, especially when you look at their 
practical results. I am quite willing to accept 
any proved conclusion of modern science, the 
origin of the species if you will, but what dif- 
ference does it make hotv God has worked ? 
You only remove the difficulty a step farther 
back; you don't solve it. Who created tbis 
matter which contains 'the promise and po- 
tency of life ' ? All that has been said of the 
only true happiness I firmly believe, only — 
has n't it been as well said in the Sermon on 
the Mount as by the modern Altruists ? " 

"Yes, ma'am, it has," said Mitchel, advan- 
cing. 

"This is my friend I told you of," said Witte. 

Berkely bowed in silence, but Ethel held 
out her hand. Probably Mitchel had not the 
slightest idea of any especial grace in the ac- 
tion; it is customary in the West to shake 
hands on an introduction. He shook hands 
with great cordiality, saying something Ethel 
could not hear, for just then the boat whistle 
blew. 

" We must go," said Berkely hastily ; " but 
think the whole thing over, and if you want 



234 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

help to get away from here, this is my card. 
I should be glad — you understand. Good-by." 
He turned to Mitchel and said a few words in 
a low tone, while Ethel said to Witte, " You 
will think it over again, won't you ? " He did 
not answer, unless it was an answer to silently 
pick a pansy from the little bed of flowers near 
the door and give it to her. The boat whistle 
blew again and the bell began to ring. 

" No, I 'm not going," called Mitchel. 
" Good-by." 

Berkely and his wife ran down the shore to 
the boat. " What did you say to Mr. Mitchel, 
John ? " said Ethel as they gained the deck. 

" Told him he was the best sermon for the 
Methodist Church I knew, and he said he only 
' done what any Christian man would do for 
another ; ' then I gave him something for any 
charitable object he might have on hand, told 
him he was as good a Christian as Marcus 
Aurelius, and went off. But, Ethel, that fellow 
has taught me a lesson ; I am afraid it is I who 
am the bigoted prig, not he." Ethel gave him 
a look which made the woman whose cousin 
died in Kansas whisper to Mrs. Wattles: "Just 
married, poor things ; they won't look that 
way at each other long ! " 

" And I think," said Berkely, with a little 
screw of his lips as though he brought the words 



SCHOPENHAUER ON LAKE PEPIN. 235 

out hardly, — "I think the other poor beggar 
taught me one too. My cynicism is tolerably 
cheap, Ethel ; I 'ra not proud of it. See, we 
are going." 

The hermit and Mitchel were standing on 
the shore, and both waved their hats as the boat 
moved off. Looking back, they saw the west- 
ern sky aflame and the western water opal in 
the light, while under the darkening hills the 
lonely hut stood grim and silent, making no 
sign of life. 

They sat on deck that night until the red 
faded from the sky, the hills grew into shape- 
less black masses, and they left Lake Pepin be- 
hind them. Nor have they ever returned. 

The hermit did not write to Berkely, but 
Ethel thinks that she once had news of him. 
It was in the September of that same year when 
every newspaper was a death list because of 
the pestilence which wasted the South. Among 
the names of the dead at some obscure town in 
Mississippi — so blotted in the type that she 
could not read it rightly — was the name, 
" Herman Witte, volunteer nurse," and beneath 
the brief comment, "Mr. Witte is the nurse 
who was taken sick the day after his arrival." 

She handed the paper to Berkely. He lifted 
his eyebrows, and being alone with his wife 
gave a low whistle. 



236 KNITTERS IN THE SUN, 

" I believe it 's that Schopenhauer fellow, 
Ethel," he said. " By Jove, if the unlucky- 
beggar did n't manage to make a failure of his 
death as well as his life ! " 



o 



"MA' BOWLIN'." 

When the spring overflow comes, the plan- 
tation of Clover Bend becomes a rustic Venice. 
Boats glide over the cypress knees in the 
swamps, where the cypresses and sycamores 
look oddly short, and the thorn trees dip their 
red spikes in the water. Usually the store 
stands on a high bank, but then looking over 
the edge you can see the green waves curdling 
about the willow roots barely a step below. 

Bud Quinn's house faces the plantation, the 
store, the mill, and the score of houses ; but its 
western windows are toward the river and the 
sunset and the undulating line of cane which 
limits the hill country from whence the Quinns 
came. It is a house of the common Arkansas 
type — two ill-built chimneys on the outside, 
a beetling roof, and an open " gallery " in the 
middle. 

One morning, during a certain overflow sea- 
son a good many years ago, Mrs. Quinn sat in 
the gallery with her neighbor, Mrs. Brand, and 
the Quinns' only child, Ma' Bowlin'. The 
women of the " bottom-lands " are inclined to 



238 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

be thin and sallow, while Mrs. Quinn's comely 
plumpness of person was accompanied by a 
particularly fair skin with roses and freckles. 
There were dimples in her cheeks deep enough 
to show when she was not smiling, and in spite 
of hard and sad years her blue eyes sparkled 
with a placid, kindly, half-humorous brightness. 
She had been sewing on a child's frock of flow- 
ered cotton, which she shook out, finally, say- 
ing : " Thar, now. Ma' Bowlin' ; thar 's yo' 
new gownd. Mus' be keerful ; not mud it ; not 
muss it — mus' be keerful." 

The child listened with a strained attention, 
though the words were so simple. She was a 
fair, pretty child, with curling flaxen hair and 
dark blue eyes, in shape and color the copy of 
her mother's, but quite lacking their expression, 
having in its place a look at once wistful and 
dazed. 

Mrs. Quinn repeated the words until the ear- 
nest little face brightened, and the curly head 
was nodded vehemently. " Ma' Bowlin' knaw. 
Ma' Bowlin' keerful. Putt on ! " cried the child. 

" Stan' still, then." 

Ma' Bowlin' assumed a rigid military atti- 
tude, like a soldier at drill, while her mother 
slipped the frock over her shoulders. 

"Do look at the little trick!" said Mrs. 
Brand. 



''MA' BOWLIN':' 239 

" I I'arned 'er thet ar," said Mrs. Quinn. 
" She '11 Stan' twell I tell 'er ter quit, ef she 
Stan's all day. She are the best chile ter mind. 
W'y, I tole 'er onst ter be shore keep up the 
fire w'ile I wuz ter the mill, an' ef ye please 
she piled on cotton seed twell she nigh sot 
the heouse afire — she did so ; the mantil war 
a-scorchin'." 

"Wa'al, a good, mindin' chile's a comfort, 
even ef they don't jes make the wiggle," said 
Mrs. Brand. 

Mrs. Brand was a widow from Georgia, a 
tall, spare, black-haired, bright-eyed woman, in 
a very clean and stiff print gown ; much re- 
spected by her neighbors because she openly 
despised the State of Arkansas, and her husband 
had owned slaves before the war. To be sure, 
the slaves were only a decrepit old pair thrown 
in as " boot " to a horse trade ; but Mrs. Brand 
always spoke of them in a large plural as " We 
all's niggers," and felt about their vanished 
ownership much as a ruined noble might feel 
about his patent of nobilit}^. 

" Law me ! " she continued, with a sigh, feel- 
ing for her snuff-stick, " ain't the ways er Prov- 
idence onscrutable ? But I reckon ye set jes 
much store on 'er, ef not a little mucher." 

Mrs. Quinn's arms, which were about the 
child, tightened into an almost savage clasp. 



240 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

She crushed the fair curls against her cheek ; 
but directly she laughed. " I reckon," said 
she. " Thar now, honey, ye look right peart. 
Ye kin — yes, ye kin run long ter the store an' 
strike up with yo' paw an' show him yo' new 
dress. Be shore ye don' mud it, an' ye show it 
ter him. Yere 's yo' bunnit." 

Both women looked after the pretty little 
shape as it skipped along the narrow ridge of 
land leading to the plantation store. The 
widow compressed her lips over some unuttered 
thought. 

Mrs. Quinn answered it : " Bud '11 fotch 'er 
'ome on his boss. He don' much 'er like some ; 
but he means kin'. He never guvs 'er a ha'sh 
word — never." 

" Some folks say he never gives her any word 
't all," said the widow, dryly. " But law ! some 
folks wud bust if they cud n't talk ; it swells in 
'em so, like pop-corn. Say, how ole is Ma' 
Bowlin' ; risin' er eight ? " 

" Eight this day. Ye had orter remember 
the day." 

" So I had," rejoined Mrs. Brand, with some 
emotion. " Law me ! yo' man nigh busted my 
do' down ; an' I was so phased I said right out : 
' Bud Quinn, ain't ye ben lynched yet ? ' ' Yes, 
I have,' says he, 'n' Sukey begged me off. An' 
now she's took bad, an' for the Lord's sake 



<'MA' BOWLIN\" 241 

come an' hope 'er ! ' Wa'al, I had n't much 
acquaintanceship with you all, but I knowed 
what the matter was, an' I cud n't refuse. So, 
if ye please, off we went — on that same wil' 
colt you taken. An' the way that there critter 
went r'arin' an' chargin' through the water — 
ye 'member how high the overflow was that 
year — my word ! I says, ' Mr. Quinn,' says I, 
' if I kin have my ruthers, I 'd ruther walk.' 
' Sukey done rode 'im,' says he ; 'he won' make 
no blunders.' ' Then I ain't s'prised she 's 
took,' says I. Say, Sukey, war n't ye skeered ? 
Night 'n' all." 

"I don' 'member like I war," said Sukey, 
rising and beginning to lay the table in the 
kitchen ; " onyhow he war all the hoss left, so 
I had ter tek 'im." 

The widow gave a moment to remembrance 
and her snuff-stick before saying, " Sorter quar 
they all never fund nuthin er Zed Ruffner 'cept 
that ole hat er his'n all bloodied an' tromped 
on." 

" Bud 'lowed 't warn't Zed's hat 't all," said 
Sukey, quickly ; " jes er old un the hoegs fit 
over an' tromped up. Ye knaw how them wil' 
hoegs fight. Zed Ruffner tole Bud he war 
gwine ter light a shuck, kase he cud n't put up 
no longer with his maw's cavin'. He 'lowed 
ter go on the trade boat." 



242 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" Yes, I 'member," said the widow, '' an' I 
don' know w'y Bud's story war n't likely as 
t' other, an' Zed done make tracks with the hun- 
erd an' twenty dollars. I expect he 'lowed 
't was his own money, bein' like 't was from 
sellin' the hoss his own mother left 'im; an' my 
son Frank says Zed taken it turrible hard for 
to have his money used that a-way. But ayfter 
they all fund the hat, an' knowed how Bud 
done, ridin' off in the bottom with Zed, an' 
comin' back by his lone, they was jes like a 
pack er dogs ayfter a wil' hog — no reasonin' 
in 'em, nuthin' cept bark." 

" Oh, wa'al," said Mrs. Quinn, mildly, " I 
don't guess 't wuz so quar, ayfter all. We-uns 
had n't ben in Clover Bend mo'n two months ; 
an' bein' frum the hill country, too, folkses war 
sorter sot agin us, natchelly nuff. An' the wust 
trick er all war we-uns hevin hed hard words 
with the Ruffners. 'T war all 'long thet ar same 
colt witch Mis' Ruffner she offered ter Bud, an' 
Bud he taken up with it ; but somebody offered 
more, an' she sole the colt ter them, an' w'en 
Bud guv 'er his opinion, she war r'arin' an' 
chargin' — wa'al I don' want fur ter say nuthin 
agin onybody cole in their grave " — 

" She wuz a venermous ole liar, cole or hot," 
interrupted the widow, calmly ; " an' hot nuff 
she had orter be, ef all tales air true. Ye knaw 



o 



''MA' BOWLIN'." 243 

she jes sicked them men on Bud. An' I reckon 
ye wudn'tgot'im off ef she'd 'a ben reoun'. 
No, ma'am. How did ye, onyhow ? I 've 
wanted ter knaw fur a right smart, but I did 
n't like fur ter quiz ye." 

" I '11 tell ye, then," said Mrs. Quinn. " I wuz 
comin' home, w'en I met up with Tennessee 
Gale, an' she tole me how they 'd toted Bud off 
ter the big bayou whar they fund the hat, ye 
knaw, fur ter lynch him. So 't war powerful 
dark, but I follered ayfter fas' I cud, an' I come 
up on 'em w'en they 'd got the rope reoun' Bud's 
neck. 'T wuz Ruffner tole 'em ter lemme talk. 
I knawed 'im spite er his black kaliker mask. 
So then I tole 'em how Bud come home that ar 
night 'thout a scratch er a t'ar on 'im. I axed 
they all ter s'arch 'im right thar, an' they done 
it, an' 't war jes like I tole 'em. Then I put it 
ter they all, cud a gre't big feller like Zed Ruff- 
ner be killed up 'thout mekin' a fight fur 't ? 
'Sides, the place war all tore up ; thar war a 
turrible fight thar, shore, hoegs or humans. 
An' how wud they all feel ef ayfter they bunged 
Bud they 'd fin' Zed Ruffner safe an' soun' ? I 
don't 'member on the words, but I begged hard, 
an' bymeby Ruffner he stomps his foot an' he 
says, sezee : ' Dad burn me ! I cay n't stan' no 
mo', guilty or not guilty. Mis' Quinn, go 'long 
'home ; ye ain't fit ter be out yere. Boys, le's 



244 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

let 'er tek 'er man 'ome with 'er. We kin fin' 
'im easy naff ef we want 'im.' An' that war 
how it happened. Bud he 'lowed Zed wud 
turn up, or leastways he write his paw. But 
it 's eight years now, an' nary word nur sign. 
We-uns hez stopped on yere, an' Bud he gits 
good pay 's stockman, and Mr. Francis he won' 
yere a word agin 'im ; but thet ar ole story don' 
never let us 'lone. Folkses don' knaw fur shore 
he done hit, but they don' knaw fur shore he 
did n't done hit, an' they all don' want fur ter 
hev no truck with us. The wust er 't are, Bud 
he cayn't git reconciled no way, an' he studies 
an' studies twell he are plum changed ; he ain't 
the same man like — Law me ! ef thar ain't 
Bud over yander, an' 'thout Ma' Bowlin' ! " 

'' So 't is," said the widow, rising, " an' time 
fur me ter be gwine, too." 

" Ye come fur a fire ? " said Mrs. Quinn, in 
hospitable sarcasm ; " w'y won't ye stop fur 
dinner ? Res' yo bunnit on the bed and dror 
up — do ! " 

But the widow was not to be detained. It 
almost seemed as though she were hurrying 
away from her host, who had alighted, and was 
now in his own doorway. He brushed past 
her with a surly "Howdy?" and flung himself 
into a seat before the table, where Mrs. Quinn 
presently served him, smiling as cheerfully as 



o 



"MA' BOWLIIV." 245 

though she expected a smile in return, which is 
hardly likely, did she pay any attention to ex- 
perience. 

" Ye did n't meet up with Ma' Bowlin' no- 
whar?" said she. "She war purportin' ter 
show ye her new gownd. She looked so purty 
in it, an' railly, Bud, Ma' Bowlin' hev 
I'arned " — 

" I wisht ye'd quit yo' everlastin' gabbin' ' 
'beout Ma' Bowlin'," the man broke in, sav- 
agely. " Naw, I did n't meet up with 'er, nur 
I did n't wanter. I 've had nuff er Ma' Bowlin' 
a'ready this mornin'. Thet thar blamed fool 
Tom Lardy darst ter tell me she war a jedg- 
ment on me fur killin' Zed Ruffner, an' thar 
war half a dozen t' other men reoun ter back 'im 
up. Jes down yander en the stone 't war. I 
don' guess I wanter hear ony mo' er Ma' Bow- 
lin'." 

He scowled at his food the picture of morose, 
dejection ; yet only eight years ago Bud Quinn 
had been the model young man of the hill coun- 
try, whom fathers were accustomed to hold up 
to their sons, and whose mop of red-brown curls, 
sparkling eyes, and splendid muscles were not 
more admired by the hill girls than his jovial 
good-humor. 

Sukey Quinn was used to " Bud's ways," but 
even to her Bud seemed more wretched, and by 



246 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

consequence more sullen, than usual. She sat 
pondering, her pleasant countenance a little 
saddened, until at last she said, rather timidly : 
" Bud, I ben studyin'. I don' see no reason fur 
ter b'lieve that ar Zed '11 turn up. Le 's quit 
Clover Bend an' go back ter the hills, an' mek 
a fresh start whar folkses don' knaw." 

" An' them all be mekin' their brags on me ? 
Ye talk like a fool ! " 

Sukey did n't wince ; the phrase was only 
one of those " ways " to which she was accus- 
tomed. Discussions between the pair were apt 
to end in that final retort by Bud, " Ye talk 
like a fool ! " Not that Bud really thought 
that she did talk foolishly ; on the contrary, he 
had a great pride in her sense : it was simply 
that he was at the end of his arguments, but 
not of his combativeness. Sukey would listen 
with unfeigned good temper, understanding 
perfectly that he gave vent to his sorrows and 
angers for the sake of being consoled and con- 
tradicted at once, and bearing no more malice 
for her snubbings than she would have borne 
her baby had it kicked her in a fit of colic ; for 
Sukey was a maternal soul, who treated her 
husband all the more gently because his unde- 
served ignominy had soured his temper. "Law 
me ! men folkses they cayn't hoi' in," she said 
to her sole confidant, the widow from Georgia ; 



o 



"MA' BOWLIN"." 247 

"an' I are the onlies' critter Bud kin sass, kase 
they all 's so sot agin 'im 't wun't tek mo'n a 
word ter fetch a shoot." 

But this admirable impersonal way of view- 
ing things failed when it came to Ma' Bowlin' ; 
and Sukey, so tolerant, so equable everywhere 
else, could not endure a slighting word there. 

Bud knew this as well as anybody, and a 
kind of instinct had kept him silent about his 
aversion to his child. At least he was never 
openly unkind to her. But to-day he was ach- 
ing with impotent anger and humiliation and 
an intolerable sense of wrong. " An' 't war all 
longer Z^er," he thought, meaning poor Ma' 
Bowlin'. ^' I 'clare I hate 'er ! " 

He jumped out of his chair and began walk- 
ing the floor, talking furiously. " Hit 's no 
good ; they all air down on me. I cayn't mek 
a riffle. An', good Lord ! whut did I done? I 
never hurted a human critter in my life, nur 
wanted ter. Yit look how they run me down 
like a wil' hoeg ! Looks like ter me thar war a 
gre't black devil, too big fur me, a-harntin' me, 
an' mekin' everything go bad fur me. An' I 
knaw tvho, too. I tell ye, Sukey, 't are that 
thar ole gypsy critter I would n't let camp in 
we all's yard : she done it. Don' ye 'member 
how she cussed me turrible hard ? An' I seen . 
a black cat nex' day, an' that ar m.ght 't hap- 
pened. Oh. dad burn her!" 



2-4:8 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

He swung his arm out in a gesture of uncon- 
trollable irritation. The wall was nearer than 
he realized, and his fist struck the logs smartly. 
Bud laughed. 

" Bud, I are sorry fur ye," said his wife, very 
gently. 

There was a pity and tenderness in her voice 
that soothed Bud in spite of himself, but he 
was in a mood to resent comfort. He raved 
on : " Oh ! I 'm done now ; I won' stan' no mo' 
er they all's fool tricks. I tek my gun ter the 
store ter-morrer. Let 'em sass me then I " 

Sukey was too wise to argue further, since 
Bud was quite capable of carrying out his 
threat. She wondered whether he bad finished 
his dinner, but was afraid to inquire, so she 
began to remove the superfluous dishes — very 
softly. 

Bud remained glowering at the fire until he 
was disturbed by her passing to put a plate on 
the hearth. '' Whut ye doin' with them taters ? " 
growled he. 

" Wa'al, ye knaw. Ma' Bowlin' — she ain't 
back yet." 

" An' good luck fur we all if she never comes 
back." 

The cruel answer made the poor woman turn 
pale and tremble; she was so hurt that the tears 
would not come. Not lifting his sullen eyes, 



"MA' BOW UN'." 249 

Bud went on : " Ye much thet ar critter a heap ; 
be ye so shore she are your^n? Hain't ye never 
read en the Bible 'beout them thar folkses was 
persessed er the devil? You knaw that boy — 
Sukey, I swar w'en I see the critter grin-grin- 
nin' ayfter me, I swar looks like ter me thet ar 
same devil wants me 's got inter her ! Thar, 
hit 's spoke now ; I cud n't never bide thet ar 
chile — and now ye knaw w'y." 

He would not look at his wife, though he could 
hear her sob as he strode out of the house. 

It miojht have been two hours before he came 
back to find the rooms empty, and to see Sukey 
running swiftly across the soaked cotton fields, 
her sun -bonnet on her back, her hair blown 
about a scared white face, and her skirts muddy 
up to her waist. 

''Bud," she screamed, "git the bosses! 
Quick ! Ma' Bowlin's en the swamp ! " 

" My ! ray ! my ! Sukey ! " exclaimed Bud, 
peevishly, " whut ye mean traipsin' 'beout the 
kentry so ondecent ? Look at yo' skeert ! " 

Sukey had reached the porch by this time. 
She could hardly catch her breath, but she 
panted out : " Git the bosses ! She went ter 
the store an' axed fur ye like I tole 'er, an' 
they all tole 'er ye war gone ter Tobe Morrow's, 
an' they 'low she sot out fur ter go ter Tobe's, 
an' some way missed the turn. I ben ter Tobe's, 



250 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

an' she ain't ben thar. Bud, I tole 'er ter meet 
up with ye, an' she 's off en the swamp s'archin' 
an' seekin' ye, an' she '11 go twell she drops I 
O my Lord ! " She was so agitated that Bud 
stared at her aghast, for a quieter, more easy- 
going woman than Sukey Quinn never lived in 
Arkansas. Sukey wringing her hands, Sukey 
taking on, was a spectacle too bizarre for Bud 
to realize. Why, never but once — and then 
suddenly that once returned so vividly that Bud 
seemed to watch the torch flames slant in the 
wind, and felt that wicked jerk of the rope 
against his throat. 

"Don' ye tek on, Sukey," said he, gently; 
"we '11 find 'er." 

The father and mother rode together until 
they came to the crossing of the two roads, 
where Mrs. Quinn, who had n't spoken again, 
drew rein to say : " Mabbe she mought er gone 
by the river road. The Brown boys they wuz 
down yander with their bateau ; she mought er 
gone with them. Ye better go down ter the 
big bayou." 

" Whar — whar Zed — thar ? " gasped Bud, 
flinching at a hideous fancy which flitted over 
the surface of his mind, as a vulture might 
brush a black wing past an eye. Was the devil 
haunting him going to finish the job by tolling 
his child out to mire and freeze and die just 



*'MA' BOW LIN'." 251 

where they all believed he had killed Zed Ruff- 
ner ? Then who would n't allow he was guilty ? 

" I '11 go," said he. 

Off he galloped, splashing through the mud- 
dy water. The road to the " big bayou" was 
mostly under water. North and south, east 
and west, the eye met the same horizontal lines, 
now dark, now gleaming, dappled with flicker- 
ing prints of leafage, etched with shadows of 
trunks and limbs, and here and there lost in a 
soft fur-like growth of young cane. Uncanny 
shapes of roots and logs and cypress knees 
showed duskily under the lustrous green water, 
blending with the masses of shade which huge 
live-oaks and cypresses flung on the surface, 
until it was hard telling which was the reality 
of form and which the semblance. An opal- 
escent mist rose from the open spaces toward 
the west, through which blazed a sea of gold. 
The forest was in blossom. Sumptuous petals 
of wild- plum flowers or dog-wood drifted among 
the trees. Aloft was a twitter of birds and 
bird happiness, drowned for a second by the 
splash of hurrying hoofs, but instantly reassert- 
ing itself and rippling keenly and blithely 
through the wood. 

Peril hid underfoot, and beauty was plain 
aboTe ; but the horseman rushing by was not 
conscious of either. There was an extraor- 



252 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

dinary and terrible commotion in Bud Quinn's 
mind ; using his own phrase, he was " powerful 
riled up " ; and whether what he felt was grief, 
or dread, or a ghastly relief, he could n't tell for 
his life. Too simple for analysis, his emotions 
took the image of pictures — his wife in the 
swamp, the old crone cursing him, his neighbors 
frowning, and the children running to get out 
of his way. Then he was fooling with those 
sweet-potatoes that he sent around one winter 
because nobody else had any left. His throat 
tightened and his cheeks burned, just as they 
did when every bag and basket came back. 
What a heap of those fool things he did, any- 
how, and how bad he felt about them ! Visions 
of Ma' Bowlin' came incessantly. She was a 
baby ; a girl, when he wanted a boy ; she was a 
toddling little thing who would n't learn to talk, 
but used queer sounds of her own for a lan- 
guage ; he had a notion that it was this which 
first gave him his repugnance to the child. She 
was a girl whose feeble mind was a judgment ; 
then he slowly grew to hate her. He did n't 
know whether he hated her now or not; he 
only knew that if Sukey wanted her so bad, she 
must have her. Presently another feeling stole 
into the medley of his thoughts. As the air 
grew chill with nightfall he began to consider 
the child. "Say, ye devil," called Bud, who 



"MA' BOW LIN':' 253 

was as brave as he was superstitious, and made 
no ado of defying the devil by name — " say, 
it 's a mean trick er your'n toUin' thet ar little 
critter off inter the swamp ! " He took sides 
with Ma' Bowlin'. *' Dad burn ye, devil, I '11 
find 'er an' fotch 'er home spiter ye ! " cried he. 
Then he would shout, " Ma' Bowlin' — hit 's 
paw ! I 'm a-comin', baby; don' ye be skeered." 
But only the echo of his own voice returned to 
him. He reached the big bayou. It was a 
moment before he could collect himself enough 
to look about, and his heart jumped when he 
saw a floating log. The relief which he felt 
surprised him. " A body 'd 'low I set store by 
the little trick," he said, huskily ; ''but I'm 
glad ye did n't do it yefe, anyhow, devil 1 " 

His horse was worn out ; the stars were shin- 
ing ; there was nothing for it but to go home. 

As soon as he reached the brow of the little 
hill which dips into the swamp beyond the mill, 
he could see lights dancing through the fields 
and hear shouts. 

A horseman galloped toward him holding up 
a torch. Mr. Francis it was, the resident owner 
of the plantation. 

" Come to the store. Bud," he called ; "we 're 
all out." 

Indeed, Mrs. Quinn had aroused the planta- 
tion, and the men had been scouring the country 



254 . KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

all the afternoon. One band had just come in, 
and were sitting on horseback before the plat- 
form of the store. Their leader sat sideways 
on his saddle in an attitude of languid indiffer- 
ence, yet he had ridden harder than any one. 
He was a slightly built man, whose thin face 
looked the thinner for a peaked black beard 
and long straight silky black hair falling over 
his flannel collar. His features were regular, 
and his dark eyes had a very pleasant, mild ex- 
pression. 

" Reckon ye 'ain't fund no trail ? " he said, 
listlessly, not looking at Bud, to whom the 
other men also paid no attention. 

"Naw, Mr. Ruffner," answered Bud. 

" Mos' like she strayed off en the swamp. 
We all bes' look up them hoeuses off in the 
cane-brake. Thar 's coffee b'ilin' en the store, 
an' Mis' Quinn are thar." 

Bud dismounted and entered the store. A 
portion of the long room had been railed off 
for an " office." The store is the centre of 
everything on a plantation. The office was 
full of women, and a cloud of vapor came from 
a boiler of coffee on the stove. The widow 
from Georgia was ladling coffee, and Mrs. 
Quinn holding the cups. 

Just then a little commotion outside caused 
all the other women to run out, giving Bud an 



o 



''MA' B0WLIN\" 255 

opportunity to approach his wife. Her face 
was so strange and rigid that he was fright- 
ened, and her eyes traveled over his mud- 
splashed figure in hopeless, stern inquiry. 

" Ye need n't tell me," said she, " ye did n't 
fin' nuthin'. I reckon yo' glad. Ye hated 'er ; 
ye wanted 'er outen yo' road, an' ye got yo' 
wan tin'. But don' come nigh me ; fur ef my 
baby 's los', I '11 never live longer ye no mo', 
Bud Quinn — never ! " 

" Oh, hush ! " said the widow from Georgia, 
good-humoredly ; '' thet ain't no tallc fur 'tween 
man an' wife ! Ain't the chile his'n well 's 
yuur'n? G'way, Bud; she don' knaw rightly 
whut she 's sayin'." 

With that she pushed Bud — dumb as a bird 
caught up in a whirlwind — out into the main 
room of the store, 

" Wy are Sukey gone back on me ? " were 
the first words he could stammer. 

"I reckon she's wored out," answered the 
widow, grimly. " Look-a-here, Bud Quinn ; I 
sorter taken yo' side jes now, but 't ain't kase I 
got ony gre't opinion of ye, for I 'ain't " — 

" Yo' like they all ; ye 'low " — 

"I don' 'low ye hurted Zed Ruffner, if ye 
mean that. No, sir ; I got a low down 'pinion 
of ye jes kase ye treat yo' wife so mean — an' 
thet thar po' little trick she 's so petted on, po' 



256 KNITTERS IN TEE SUN. 

little innercent, smilin', mindin' critter, always 
cravin' fur to please ye ! She ain't to blame 
fur not havin' good sense ; I reckon she 'd take 
sense if she cud! But ye had a grudge agin 
'er kase she was throwed up at ye fur a jedg- 
ment. An' I kin tell ye, Bud Quinn, ye made 
folks dead sho' she was a jedgment jes by the 
way ye treated 'er ! Ye 've grieved Sukey all 
that chile's life treatin' 'er so. Not a kin' word 
nur look fur her ; an' ye ben so busy studyin* 
on yo' troubles an' hatin' t' other folks fur mis- 
jedgin' ye, that ye never taken no thought er 
her'n ! Laws ! Bud Quinn, d' ye expect she 
liked bein' looked down on? Or liked fur to 
have Ma' Bowlin half cracked? Or liked fur 
to have you glumin' roun' nur never muchin' 
yo' own chile ? I reckon Sukey's human, an 
ye 've got ter the eend er 'er long-sufferin' " — 

"Wa'al, Mis' Brand," Bud interrupted dog- 
gedly, " whutsumever I done, jawin' me won't 
fin' Ma' Bowlin'. I got ter git my tother boss 
an' go. Ye tell Sukey I '11 find Ma' Bowlin' 
— someways I " 

"Ye Je^fer," retorted the unabashed widow, 
" an' the less truck ye try ter have with Sukey 
befo' then, the mo' she '11 like ye." 

Bud walked away without another word. 
Mr. Francis gave him a torch, and he rode off 
on his fresh horse. Nobody else spoke to him 
or offered him any help. 



"MA' BOWLIN\" 257 

This time he chose the high-road. For some 
distance it was above water ; but, finally, he 
came to a depression in the ground which the 
overflow had turned into a shallow river, filled 
with leaves and sticks and floating logs, and all 
the debris of the swamp. By stepping from 
log to log it was just possible for a footman to 
cross to the firm land beyond. 

" Ma' Bowlin' war powerful spry," thought 
Bud ; " hopped like a 'coon." He had a feel- 
ing of admiration for the child's agility. 
" Mought be a show er findin' a trail ef 't war 
daylight," he muttered ; " cayn't do much 
with a torch." But he held it high, and sud- 
denly he uttered a loud exclamation. On the 
moss of one of the logs was a tiny footprint. 
In spite of the darkness he had found the trail. 
To pursue it was not so difficult : here a freshly 
broken twig where the little fingers had caught, 
there a patch of moss as though a foot had 
slipped, oak limbs swayed out of place, or logs 
wet by a fresh immersion beneath a passing 
weight, told the story of the journey plainly 
enough for a woodman like Bud. 

But all at once the trail ceased. Let him 
ride in what direction he might, he could not 
find a sign. The print of fingers on the low 
branch of a pawpaw-tree showed that so far 
the little traveler must have come ; but there 



258 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

was the end. While Bud hesitated, a great 
log drifted slowly and majestically through the 
circle of light cast by his torch out into the for- 
est darkness. 

" Mought er skipped on a log like thet," 
Bud mused, " an' the log sailed off ; but, God 
A'mighty, witch way ? " 

He rode aimlessly about the swamp, shout- 
ing until he was hoarse : " Ma' Bowlin' ! Ma' 
Bowlin' ! Paw 's comin' ! Don't be skeered, 
honey ! Who-op ! Whoo-op ! " 

He could hardly remember the time when 
he had used such a caressing word to the child ; 
but now, somehow the image of the little 
" wanting," trustful thing hunting for him in 
the swamp affected him strangely. He remem- 
bered that there had been times when his heart 
had turned to the child and he had hardened 
it again. One scene in particular kept recur- 
ring to him. He had gone to a Fourth of July 
celebration, and the people were sitting in 
groups about the grass, eating their luncheon. 
Lum Shinault was leaning against a tree near 
Bud, and his little daughter, hardly two years 
old, toddled up to him, stretching out her arms 
and crying, *'Up ! up ! " Lum snatched her up 
and marched along with her, laughing and sing- 
ing. At this Ma' Bowlin', who was not quite 
six years old, but just beginning to talk, pulled 



o 



''MA' BOWLiJsr." 259 

at Bud's trousers. *' Up ! up ! " she stammered, 
in exactly the other child's tone. It made some 
of the children titter, and Bud was furious. 
He pushed the little thing away. He remem- 
bered how the smiling little face had fallen, 
and how she had run to hide it against her 
mother's arm. Sukey had lifted her up, heavy 
as she was. " Maw '11 tote ye a piece, honey." 
Bud could hear the words, with the slight 
tremor in them, so distinctly that he started. 
" Lord, how cud I ben so mean ? " he groaned. 
'* Thet blamed critter war right. Poor Sukey ! 
An she war alius seekin', quiet like, ter mek 
the little trick set store by me ! " 

The night wore on, chillier and darker every 
hour. And somehow, as Bud Quinn's hopes 
sank lower and lower, and his torch began to 
flare, and his horse to stumble with fatigue, 
his mind went back to his simple and tender 
thoughts in the time before Ma' Bowlin' was 
born, and the lost child was his own little baby 
again. 

"Lord, but I hate ter leave ye, honey," he 
cried, " but Nig cajmt skeercely walk. I '11 
come back quick 's I kin." 

The morning was dawning before he reached 
the store. There is always something dispirit- 
ing about the first gray dawn, and the forlorn- 
ness of a cotton plantation when the mill has 



260 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

black unsightly wooden walls, showing gaps, 
and the whitewash is peeling off the sides of 
the store, and a fog hangs over the drowned 
lands, was in this case increased by half a dozen 
muddy horses dropping their necks below the 
horns of their saddles by the store fence. All 
night the search had gone on with no result. 
Ruffner was just in, bringing no news except 
that every cabin within ten miles had been 
visited in vain. He told Bud that Sukey was 
out searching. Three or four men had come 
out on the platform. They put their hands in 
their pockets, and looked at Bud curiously as 
he almost tumbled off his horse. He staggered 
and fell, in fact, when he tried to walk. They 
did not take their hands out of their pockets, 
and he got up painfully and leaned against a 
post. Lnm Shinault, coming to the door, saw 
him, and went back, to reappear directly with 
a steaming cup of coffee and a piece of corn 
bread. 

" Ye hev ter eat 'em," he said. " I don' 
guess yo' much better off 'n yo' boss. Say, got 
any other un 'cept the un Mis' Quinn on ? " 

"Naw," said Bud. "I'll hev ter try a ba- 
teau." 

" Ye kin hev my gray if ye like," said Lum. 

Tears started to the broken man's eyes. 

" I tell ye thet ar feller feels 5ac?," Lum told 



o 



''MA' BOWLIN'r 261 

his wife, later. "Needn't tell me he don't. 
He went off like a shot the minnit he got his 
hoss ; an' he done ben out sence yistiddy 
ev'nin'." 

All day the search continued. Late in the 
afternoon, however, the worn-out searchers be- 
gan to come into the store. Last of all, Bud 
Quinn rode up on Shinault's horse. Mrs. 
Quinn was talking to Ruffner on the platform. 
Ruffner said, " Howdy ? naw, we ain't fund 
'er yit.'^ And another man led his own horse 
away to make room for Bud ; but Bud heard 
and saw nothing. He only looked miserably 
at his wife, and she turned away. 

Lum Shinault brought a horse to Bud, say- 
ing, kindly : " Yere 's yo' Nig ; he are rested 
by this, an' I 've fed 'im good. I knowed ye 
cud n't res' twell ye knowed sartin. But ye 
mus' eat fust ; an' Mis' Brand 's fotchin' ye 
suthin'." 

"I are 'bleeged ter ye, Lum," said Bud al- 
most sobbing. He took what the widow had 
brought, while she looked on grimly. Then 
he said : "Mis' Brand, I are goin'. Will ye 
kin'ly tell Sukey how she caynt want fur ter 
fin' Ma' Bowlin' mo'n me, nur be mo' wishtful 
ter be good ter 'er ayfterwuds ? " 

"All right," said the widow; "now ye talk. 
Bud Quinn. Pity ye did n't talk that a-way 
befo' ; but better late nur never." 



262 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Bud was off before she finished. She could 
see hiin slip about in the saddle ; in truth, he 
felt dizzy and weak, and, what is worse, hope- 
less. 

Hardly a rod beyond the mill he was joined by 
Ruffner, who remarked, carelessly, " Mought 's 
well travel "long tergether, goin' same way." 

'> Ef ye wanter," said Bud. " I 'm goin' in 
the bottom." 

They rode along, Ruffner furtively watching 
Bud, until finally the elder man spoke with the 
directness of primitive natures and strong ex- 
citement : — 

" Whut 's come ter ye. Bud Quinn ? Ye 
seem all broke up 'beout this yere losin' yo' 
little trick ; yit ye did n't useter set no gre't 
store by 'er — least, looked like " — 

" I knaw," answered Bud, lifting his heavy 
eyes, too numb, himself, with weariness and 
misery to be surprised, — "I knaw ; an' 't ar 
curi's ter me too. I did nt set no store by 
'er w'en I had 'er. I taken a gredge agin 'er 
kase she had n't got no good sense, an' you 
all throwed it up ter me fur a jedgment. An' 
knawin' how I had n't done a thing ter hurt 
Zed, it looked like cl'ar agin right an' natur' 
fur the Lord ter pester me that a-way ; so some- 
ways I taken the notion 't war the devil, an' 
thet he got inter Ma' Bowlin', an' I mos' 



''MA' BOWLIN\" 263 

cud n't b'ar the sight er that pore little crit- 
ter. But the day she got lost kase er tryin' ter 
meet up with me, I 'lowed mabbe he tolled 'er 
off, an' I sorter felt bad fur 'er ; an' — an' w'en 
I seen them little tracks er her'n, some ways 
all them mean feelin's I got they jes broked 
off short insider me like a string mought snap. 
They done so. An' I wanted thet chile bader 'n 
I ever wanted anything." 

" Law me ! " said Ruffner, quite puzzled. 
"But say. Bud, ef ye want 'er so bad's all thet, 
ye war n't wanter mad the Lord by lyin', kase 
He are yo' on'y show now. Bud Quinn, did 
ye hurt my boy?" He had pushed his face 
close to Bud's, and his mild eyes were glowing 
like live coals. 

"Naw, Mr. Ruffner," answered Bud, quietly, 
" I never tetched a ha'r er 'is head ! '* 

Ruffner kept up his eager and almost fierce 
scrutiny for a moment ; then he drew a long 
gasping sigh, crying, " Blame my skin ef I don' 
b'lieve ye ! I 've 'lowed, fur a right smart, we 
all used ye mighty rough." 

" 'T ain't no differ," said Bud, dully. Noth- 
ing mattered now, the poor fellow thought ; 
Ma' Bowlin' was dead, and Sukey hated him. 

Ruffner whistled slowly and dolefully; that 
was his way of expressing sympathy ; but the 
whistle died on his lips, for Bud smote his 
shoulder, then pointed toward the trees. 



264 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" Look a-thar ! " whispered Bud, witli a 
ghastly face and dilating eyeballs : " Oh, Lord 
A'mighty ! thar 's her — an' him ! " 

Ruffner saw a boat leisurely propelled by a 
long pole approaching from the river side ; a 
black-haired young man in the bow with the 
pole, a fair-haired little girl in the stern. The 
little girl jumped up, and at the same instant 
a shower of water from light-flying heels blind- 
ed the young man. 

" Paw ! paw ! " screamed the little girl ; 
" maw tole Ma' Bowlin' — meet up — paw ! " 

Bud had her in his arms now; he was pat- 
ting her shoulder, and stroking her hair with a 
trembling hand. Her face looked like an an- 
gel's to him in its cloud of shining hair; her 
eyes sparkled, her cheeks were red, but there 
was something else which in the intense emo- 
tion of the moment Bud dimly perceived — the 
familiar dazed look was gone. How the blur 
came over that innocent soul, why it went, are 
alike mysteries. The struggle for life wherein, 
amid anguish and darkness, the poor baby in- 
tellect somehow went astray, and the struggle 
for life wherein it groped its way back to light, 
both are the secrets of the swamp, their wit- 
ness ; but however obscurely, none the less 
surely, the dormant soul had awakened and 
claimed its rights, and Ma' Bowlin' had ceased 
to be the baby, forever. 



"MA' BOW LIN \" 265 

Meanwhile, if possible, the other actors in 
the scene were equally agitated. The old man 
choked, and the young man exclaimed, huskily, 
" Paw ! ye ain't dead, then ? " 

" Waal, I don't guess I be," said Ruffner, 
struggling after his old dry tone, though his 
voice shook ; " did ye 'low I war ? " 

" I read it in a Walnut Ridge paper only a 
month ayfter I went: 'The late Mr. William 
Ruffner er Clover Bend ' — an' a right smart 
abeout ye"' — 

" Thet thar war yo' Uncle Raker, boy. He 
war on a visit like, an' died ; an' that ar blamed 
galoot in Walnut Ridge got 'im sorter mixed 
up with me, ye un'erstan' ; but yo' maw, she 
are gone, boy, shore, died up an' burried." 

" I kin b'ar hit," said Zed Ruffner ; " but I 
ivas right riled up 'beout you^ paw. ' Lef all 
his property to his widder,' says the paper ; 
thet ar riled me too. Says I, ye wun't see me 
very soon to Clover Bend — I was allers sorter 
ashy, ye know. Fur a fact, ye would n't 'a 
seen me now ef 't had n't a-ben fur this yere 
little trick. I war on a trade boat near New- 
port, an' some fellers I know taken me off fur 
a night ter thar camp. They was stavers. 
Hit 's 'way off in the swamp, twelve mile frum 
here ; an' I was up befo' sun up, aimin' ter 
start back fur the river, w'en I heard the fun- 



266 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

niest sound, suthin' like a kid, ' Maw ! maw ! ' 
Natcbelly I listened, an' byme-by I follered 
ayfter it, an' whut shud I come on but a gre'fc 
big log, an' this here little critter settin' on 't, 
hol'in on by her two hands to a sorter limb 
growin' on the log, an' shore's ye live, with 
her gownd slung reoun' her neck in a bundle. 
Lord knows how fur thet ar log had come, or 
whut sorter travelin' it made, but thar war n't 
a speck or a spot on thet ar gownd. 'S all I 
cud do ter git 'er ter lemme pack it up in a 
bundle, kase she wud n't put 't on nohow ; 
said the bateau was wet. So we warmed 'er 
an' fed 'er, an' I taken her 'er long seekin' fur 
her kin ; an' — wa'al, that 's w'y I 'm yere I " 

Just as the big clock in the store struck the 
last stroke of six, Sukey Quinn, who had been 
cowering on the platform steps, lifted her head 
and put her hand to her ear. Then everybody 
heard it, the long peal of a horn. The widow 
from Georgia ran quickly up to Sukey and 
threw her arm about her shoulders. For a 
second the people held their breath. It had 
been arranged that whoever found the lost 
child should give the signal by blowing his 
horn, once if the searchers came too late, three 
times if the child should be alive. Would the 
horn blow again? 



o 



"MA' BOW UN':' 267 

" It are Bud's born ! " sobbed Sukey. " He 'd 
never blow fur oust ! Hark ! Thar 't goes 
agin! Three times! An' me wud n't hev no 
truck with 'im ; but he set store by Ma' Bow- 
lin' all the time." 

Horn after horn caught up the signal joy- 
fully, and when the legitimate blowing was 
over, two enterprising boys exhausted them- 
selves on a venerable horn which was so 
cracked that no one would take it. In an in- 
credibly short time every soul within hearing 
distance, not to mention a herd of cattle and 
a large number of swine, had run to the store, 
and when at last the two horses' heads ap- 
peared above the hill, and the crowd could see 
a little pink sun-bonnet against Bud Quinn's 
brown jean, an immense clamor rolled out, the 
men tearing their throats with shouting, the 
women sobbing aloud, the children yelling their 
shrillest, cattle bellowing, and pigs squealing. 

But there came a hush as Bud dismounted, 
and, carrying Ma' Bowlin', walked up to his 
wife, and silently put the child in her arms. 

" Oh, Bud ! " sobbed she, and before she 
looked at Ma' Bowlin' she clung to him and 
kissed him. 

" It are all right, all right, Sukey," he kept 
repeating, while the tears ran down his tanned 
cheeks ; " don' take on, honey." 



268 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" Laws ! '* sniffed the widow from Georgia, 
flapping some drops off her own face with the 
corner of her apron, " ef the critter ain't in her 
petticuts ! " 

Then came Ma' Bowhn's proud moment. 
She had her bundle tight clasped in her little 
arms, and now she undid it, displaying the 
brilliant frock. " Maw tole Ma' Bowlin'," 
she cried, '' nawnaw mud hit, nawnaw muss 
hit ; Ma' Bowlin' new gownd ! " 

" An' ef 't had n't a-ben fur the new gownd, 
sis," said the widow, " I reckon ye 'd 'a never 
ben los' ! " 

" Nur fetched back Zed," Ruffner interjec- 
ted, amid a general bewilderment. 

" The Lord bless the gownd, then," said Bud 
Quinn ; " an' the baby too ! " 

" Amen ! " said William Ruffner. 



HALF A CURSE. 

On a certain April day, in the year 1862, 
the stage-coach was waiting at the plaza-corner 
of the oldest Floridian town. At that time 
the plaza was merely an unkempt common, 
where cows and pigs might ramble at will, tak- 
ing their siestas in the ruined old market-house, 
or sunning themselves at the base of the stubbed 
pyramid erected by the last Spanish rulers. 
Where now the smart little shops elbow the 
grim old cathedral, then high coquina walls, 
over which waved orange and palmetto-trees, 
joined the ancient house-fronts, and hanging 
balconies cast a grateful shade on the sand be- 
low. Then as now the wharf and the sea-wall 
bounded the eastern side, and the water glit- 
tered behind a little flock of sails. If one 
stepped on the sea-wall he could see the hated 
Yankee flag flying over the old fort, and a blue- 
coated officer was watching the crowd about 
the coach. High above the hats and bonnets 
towered a gay turban, and a black cheek pressed 
tenderly against the white cheek of a child, 
while tears ran unrestrained down both faces 



270 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

alike. The child sobbed aloud ; but the woman, 
not uttering a sound, only strained the small 
body closer, and looked through her tears at 
the young gentlewoman beside her. She was 
a beautiful creature — Johnny Tindall, the 
young Federal captain, thought — so slender, 
graceful, and high-bred looking, with such a 
touching sweetness of expression, and yet such 
a tropical fire in those brilliant, almond-shaped, 
dark eyes. He caught her last words : " Yes, 
it is hard, hard ; but what should I do without 
you to take care of the place ? I know I shall 
find you here, whatever happens." 

" Yes, Miss Nannie," was the answer ; '' I 
keep de place good 's I kin, an' yo sholy fin' me 
yere waitin'." 

" All aboard ! " shouted the driver. 

The parting came, and was over ; Johnny 
had the impression that all three cried at once. 

" What is the matter? " said he. 

He spoke to his next neighbor ; but another 
roan — a stout florid man in civilian's dress, 
though wearing a military cap — replied ; " Oh, 
jess some rebs leavin' ruther'n swaller the 
oath." 

" Such a trifle would n't send you awa}'-, 
would it, Baldwin ? " said Johnny, glancing 
with undisguised contempt at the speaker, a 
sutler in his own regiment. 



o 



HALF A CURSE. 271 

" Of course I 'd take the oath, captain ; I 
ain't a Southerner." 

** I thought you came from South Carohna." 

I was only there for a while," said Baldwin, 
sullenly; but directly, with a more cheerful 
air, he added: "Did ye notice them people? 
That there lady 's Mrs.'Legree. Her pa was a 
Charleston big-bug, and she married Renny 
Legiee. He 's off in the rebel army. They 've 
a mighty fine place here. Say, did you ever 
see a mortal critter tali's that there colored 
woman ? " 

" I want to see her," said Johnny, walking 
off ; but Venus was gone. 

Afterward he learned something of her his- 
tory. Venus Clinch was born a slave on the 
Clinch plantation in South Carolina. She 
claimed to have Indian blood in her veins, which 
is quite possible, since her father was one of 
the "negro allies" of the Seminoles, captured 
durino" the Florida wars. Venus was a famous 
cook; and on Miss Nannie Clinch's marriage, 
she was one of the wedding-gifts. With her 
went Ambrose, her husband, a handsome, amia- 
ble, indolent, utterly worthless mulatto. It 
was supposed that Venus might want her hus- 
band's company. She, however, was a most 
philosophical spouse. "Now, ole marse," said 
she, kindly, " don' ye poturb yoseff 'bout Am- 



272 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

bros'. I ain't no-ways 'tickler 'bout dat ar nig- 
ger. Ef you all kin git 'im trowed in wid de 
bosses, I says, fotch 'im 'long ; but he ain't 
wuth no buy in' no ticket fo', dat 's sho ! " 

Nevertheless Ambrose came, and often 
enough Venus regretted her qualified assent. 

" Mazin' how come I taken up wid dat tri- 
flin', ornery, yaller nigger," she would say. 
'' Nebber done a stroke fo' me, nebber guv me 
nuffin' — 'cept de measles, an' dem I wan't 
seekin'. Dese yere yaller niggers dey 's no na- 
tion ; got de good er none, an' bad er all. Am- 
bros' am bad down to he heel." 

Venus never had but one child, and it died 
in infancy. After that her sore heart's entire 
and lavish devotion was given to Nannie Clinch. 
She was a faithful servant to all the Clinches, 
but she worshiped " Miss Nannie." 

All these particulars gradually came to John- 
ny, who very soon made Venus's acquaintance. 

The beginning was his noticing her as she 
walked daily on the beach before the barracks ; 
indeed, no one could help noticing a figure built 
on such an enormous scale. Besides, there was 
a certain massive dignity, and even symmetry, 
about her form, and her features, Indian rather 
than negro, were brightened by a smile of true 
African good -humor. Her costume recalled 
the best days of the vanished regime. Her gay 



o 



HALF A CURSE. 273 

turban and her white apron were always fresh 
from the iron ; and on her head was poised a 
great basket filled with enticing tropical sweet- 
meats, the secrets of which Aunt Venus had 
guarded for years. 

When neither vending her wares nor making 
them, she toiled in the Legare garden. Mean- 
while, Ambrose led a life of elegant leisure as 
skipper of a sail-boat so leaky and unruly that 
only a suicide could care to hire it. A little 
labor would have made a tidy sloop out of this 
relic of the Legares, but Ambrose always said : 
"Dar's udder t'ings en life dan toilin' fo' 
money ! " 

Johnny was Venus's best customer. Nothing 
pleased the faithful creature more than to talk 
of her mistress. 

" I 'members," said she, " de ve'y fustis time 
I sot heyes on Miss Nannie, to know 'er. Ye 
muss know, sah, dat I wuz bawn on de planta- 
tion an' raised dar twel I 'se risin' er sixteen, 
w'en my mammy she done die up. She wuz a 
witch'ooman, my mammy wuz ; an' one er 
witchin's, 'e done got twurn' roun', some'ow, 
an' hit kill' 'er dead. De obberseer, he 'lowed 
't wuz kase 't wuz fallin' wedder, an' she 
cotch cold en de wet. But I knows 't wuz de 
witchin' ! So, den, dey sen' me ter Chawlston, 
an' de cook she I'arn me ter cook, an' spat me 



274 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

good wh'n she 's mad ; an' onct she guy me a 
nios' outrigeous lick wid a stick er fat wood, an' 
runned a splenter enter my awm. So, den, I 
wuz pickin' at it outside, an' a grievin' fo' 
my mammy — dat nebber taken nufiin' wuss'n 
a sbengle to me — an' a bellerin' ve'y sorf like, 
dat Aunt Phoebe don' heah my lammertations, 
an' give me mo' ter lammertate fo', w'en in 
runs my Miss Nannie. De angil looks er dat 
cbile in 'er sweet li'le w'ite frock, an' de li'le 
black slippers, an' de big blue sash. An', ef ye 
please, she taken pity on me an' guy me a big 
chunk er cake, an' calls her paa ter cut out de 
splenter. She did so. He wuz a ye'y kin' 
man, ole marse ; an' so wuz ole miss, too, dat's 
cole an' dead now, po' t'ing ! " 

It was curious what a sense of intimacy 
Johnny came to feel in this unseen rebel fam- 
ily. He knew all about "ole marse" and "ole 
miss," who had been an invalid (" ole marse 
kep' 'er a invaleed fo' twenty yeahs "), and 
Marse Tim, and Marse Bertie. 

Johnny's cheeks were rosy, and he had a 
chubby little figure ; but there was a streak of 
romance in his kind heart — why, indeed, should 
only the thin be romantic? — and it pleased 
him to be indirectly serving these absent ene- 
mies through Venus. She always received him 
in the garden. " I wud like mazin' ter ax ye 



HALF A CURSE. 275 

in, marse cap'n, but I knows Miss Nannie's 
'pinyuns, an' I cayn't ; but de kitchen, dat 
'long ter me, an' you is right welcome dar, 
alius. I ain't none er yo' cooks dat 's skeered 
fp' hab folks see dar cookin'." 

Johnny's eyes twinkled. North, his chubby 
form was hailed with delight by all the mothers 
of his acquaintance — for Johnny had great 
possessions. South, it appeared, he might be 
glad to visit the kitchen. He did visit the 
kitchen, and was content to view the mansion 
from the garden. Yenus regarded the house 
with awe, and even to Johnny's eyes it looked 
imposing — a Southern house of the last gener- 
ation, built in fond imitation of a South Caro- 
lina home, with its lofty Doric portico, and the 
galleries on the sides, which the Cherokee rose 
changed into bowers. But it was the garden 
which was Johnny's paradise. Here, orange- 
trees, magnolias, and myrtles kept an unchang- 
ing verdure through the season, palmettoes lined 
the wide avenue, and strangely cut leaves of 
the tropics — fig, pomegranate, date-palm — 
mingled with more familiar foliage ; while 
everywhere the tree-limbs dripped with Spanish 
moss. A sumptuous color and glow dazzled 
the Northern eye ; trumpet flowers swinging 
their flames against the walls, oleanders taller 
than pear-trees, the gold of jasmine and the 



276 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

dead-white of orange-blossoms relieved against 
the weird haze of the dripping trees. Johnny 
used to be reminded of the Garden of Eden. 
He would tell himself that the poignant odors 
which filled the air had intoxicated him. 

Certainly he thought more than was good for 
him of the beautiful mistress of the place. 

So, during a few weeks he walked in the 
garden, and Venus toiled hopefully, and Am- 
brose was quite as hopeful though he did not 
toil at all. Then, one fine morning. Captain 
Tindall's regiment marched away. 

He went in the autumn ; and in the following 
summer he was sent back to the town oq some 
military business. As soon as he could he went 
to see Venus. There was a dismal change in 
the place. The gate was gone, and the fence 
looked as though a regiment had charged down 
on it. Within, it was worse. The flower-beds 
were trampled out of shape, the scuppernong- 
vines draggled on the ground, as if torn down 
by impatient hands ; and limbs had been 
wrenched off the orange-trees, or left hanging 
at forlorn right angles by strips of bark. The 
house, with its shattered windows, and the 
weeds growing over its broad steps, seemed 
mutely lamenting over the desolation. Yet a 
wisp of smoke crept out of the huge coquina 
chimney of the kitchen — token that Venus 



HALF A CURSE. 217 

must still be living there. But in vain Johnny 
hunted and shouted, and, at last, in despair he 
took his way back to the city gates. He passed 
along the narrow streets, vaguely depressed by 
what he had seen, until he was stopped by a 
crowd before the building which still bears the 
title of " The Governor's Palace." 

In the day of Spain the palace doubtless cut 
a becoming and princely figure, with its tower 
and balconies and portico, and the famous gar- 
den, wherein was planted every kind of tree on 
earth (according to the old chronicler) ; to-day, 
shorn of all these, it is a commonplace post- 
office, but when Johnny saw it a shabby vestige 
of pomp remained in the crumbling ornamenta- 
tion of the facade and the Spanish corridor of 
arches opposite that row of pride-of-India trees, 
not one of which remains. The building was 
used as a court-house by the United States 
Government during the war ; and it was so used 
at this time. A crowd of men overflowed the 
corridor into the street. 

The people were Minorcans for the most part, 
dark, thin, and dejected looking ; but there was 
a sprinkling of black faces and blue coats, and 
a little bandying of jokes. Johnny asked a 
man what was going on. He was a Minorcan ; 
he answered, sullenly : " Dey refuge 'low us 
pay tax, so den dey sell our Ian', now." 



278 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

''Listen," called a soldier, nearer the door, 
" there 's a circus in there. An old colored 
woman 's bidding against Baldy. She goes him 
ten cents better every time, and he's hoppin' 
mad ! Too bad ! He 's got it." 

A burst of lausjhter rolled out of the court- 
room. 

" What's the joke? " called another soldier. 

" Auntie wants Uncle Sam to lend her a few 
hundred to beat Baldy, and to take it out in 
jam ! " 

Johnny wedged himself through the men to 
where Venus stood, her gay turban towering 
above all the heads and her black profile cut 
against the yellow stucco pillar like a bas-relief 
of anguish. 

She turned a piteous gaze down to Johnny's 
kind eyes. 

" You 'se done come too late, marse cap'n," 
she said; "dey taken Miss Xannie's place 'way. 
I 'se offer dem all de money fum de po'serves, 
but dey won' hab it." 

Johnny got her out of the court-room into 
the plaza opposite, where he made her sit down. 

"Now tell me what this all means," said he. 

" Dey done take hit, sah. Fust dey steal all 
de gyardin truck an' de chickins, an' dey 'tice 
'way po' ol' Strawberry, de onlies' cow we all 
hab leff " — 



HALF A CURSE. 279 

" Why did n't you complain? " 

"I done de bes' I knowed, sah. I cotcli one 
t'ief an' I take my slipper to 'im de same like 
his own mudder ; an' den I tote 'im to de cun- 
nel by de collar. Dey done punish 'im. But 
I cud n't cotch no mo' ; dey wuz too spry. Den 
dey putt de wah-tax on, an' I done went prompt 
fo' ter pay, wid de change e'zact ; but de boss, 
he say Miss Nannie am a rebil, an' de loil peo- 
ples dey 's de onlies' people kin pay taxes ; an' 
he refuge " — 

" But he had n't any right to refuse ! " 

" Dunno. Dat am w'at he done. Dey done 
Mr. Dee Medeecis de same way; dey twurn 'im 
hout on de pa'metto scrub kase he hab two sons 
wid de 'federates, an' den dey sole 'im up. 
Dat t'ief, BaFwin, he git de 'ous. 'Spec' he 
git de town, d'rectly. Well." 

Her head sank hopelessly on her breast ; but 
in a moment she looked up ; she even made 
an effort at the conversation which her notions 
of politeness demanded. " You 's lookin' right 
peart, sah. I hopes you is gittin' on smart. 
I 'se made some dem fig po'serbs an' guavas fo' 
ye, sah, an' ef ye cay n't tote 'em wid ye, whar 
will I sen' dem kase I won' hab no mo' — 
place." 

A kind of dry sob shook her frame, though 
it brought no tears. Her woeful patience af- 



280 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

fected Johnny so that the good fellow could n't 
sleep that night. He did what he could — pro- 
tested against the sale as illegal, and even of- 
fered Baldwin twice his purchase-money for the 
title-deeds. 

" Ye cayn't buy it of me," said Baldwin, 
grinning in a very irritating fashion. Thanks 
to Johnny, he was no longer in the army, and 
he let his old captain understand that he re- 
membered. 

" I 'm hanged but I '11 get the house in spite 
of you, you scoundrelly cad," vowed Johnny at 
last. At which Baldwin only grinned again. 

For the present, however, nothing could be 
done. Johnny helped Venus move Mrs. Le- 
gare's property into the house of a Minorcan, 
the same De' Medici whose wrongs had been 
recited by Venus. Venus herself worked like 
a horse, and never spoke a superfluous word. 
She showed a curious patience over all the de- 
lays and annoyances of such a flitting ; even 
Ambrose did not get a hard word. He lent his 
amiable countenance to the occasion, advising, 
directing, criticising, everything but working ; 
and the next morning he presented himself to 
John-ny very smartly dressed, with a traveling 
bag in his hand, like one ready for a journey. 

" I 'se called, sah," said Ambrose, in his soft- 
est voice, *' ter 'trust ye, sah, wid my ados ter 



HALF A CURSE. 281 

Venus. I 'se gwine 'way, sah, wid Cap'n Grace. 
Venus, she sut'nly ar comical, an' I wisht, sah, 
you hab de kin'ness ter look ayfter 'er dis yere 
mawnin' ; she up yonder ter de place, an' I 'se 
unner de impression, sah, she aimin' fo' ter chop 
Mr. Bal'win's head open wid de ax ! Yes'ah. 
No, sah " — as Johnny made an impulsive 
movement — " dar ain't no call fo' aggitatin' 
yo' seff ; wait twell I comes ter de squeal 'er 
de story. I done seen Venus sharpin' dat ax, 
an' I seen 'er guvin' de stockin' — dat same 
stockin' she kep 'er money in, ye unnerstan', 
sah, an' nebber so much 's let 'er lawfil husban' 
peek enter hit — she guv dat stockin' ter Miz 
Dee Medeecis fo' ter keep fo' Miz Legree. She 
done so ; I seen 'er. I wuz present, pussonly, 
myseff, unner de bed. So, sah, habin' de bes' 
wishes fo' Venus, dough she hab no right no- 
tions 'bout de duties er de weaker vessel, I 'se 
done gone ter Mr. Bal'win, an' he won' go dar 
't all, but send de sogers." 

" But she may resist the soldiers " — 
" No, sah ; pardin', sah ; I 'se guv 'em de 
key er de back do', an' w'ile Venus she darin' 
dem in front, torrers kin come in behin'. I 
hates ter argy wid Venus ; she am so prege- 
deeced like, she ain't reasonable. So ye be so 
kin', please, sah, gib my bes' respec' ter Venus, 
an' tell 'er I forgibs ev'yt'ing, an' I 'se done 



282 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

gone fo' good ; an' ef we all don' meet up en 
dis worl', I hopes ter meet up with 'er en de 
bright worl' above, whar dey ain't no merry in' 
nur givin' up merryin' an' de wicked cease deir 
trubblin' an' de weary am at res'." 

Here Ambrose took out a white handker- 
chief, and, so to speak, dusted his eyes with it ; 
then made a deep bow and departed. 

" Venus is well rid of him," thought John- 
ny ; " now, how much of that was a lie ? " 

But for once Ambrose had spoken the truth, 
as Johnny discovered when he got to the Legree 
gate, for he could see blue-coats on the piazzas, 
and he met Venus with an axe on her shoulder. 
She answered his questions with inscrutable 
composure : " I 'se gwine speak Mr. Bal'win," 
said she. 

" Do you need an axe for that ? Venus, I 
believe you mean to kill Baldwin. You think 
then Mrs. Legare will get the place back, but 
she won't; it will go to Baldwin's relations. 
You never will get it back that way. And 
they will hang you, my poor friend, and what 
will Miss Nannie do without you ? " 

He had touched the right chord. The axe 
trembled on the huge shoulder, then all at once 
it was hurled to the ground, and Venus was 
crouching beside it, rocking herself to and fro 
in bitter anguish, but never uttering a sound. 



HALF A CURSE. 283 

Johnny did not know how to interrupt this sav- 
age, silent grief. At last she arose, arranged 
her dress decently, and said very quietly : 
" Marse cap'n, Miss Nannie done los' ev'yt'ing 
— her paa, dera two boys, an Marse Renny he 
killed up, too, las' monf ; an' — an' my li'le w'ite 
baby, de Lawd done take 'er fo' ter be happy 
'way fum we all. Marse cap'n, I cayn't lebe 
Miss Nannie by 'er lone ! No, I 'se hab ter 
stay. Oh, how come my witch mammy nebber 
I'arn me no witchin' ? All I knows dess haff 
er cuss. Wat de wuth am Aa^ercusa ? Deb- 
bil lebe ye most 'tickleres' p'int." 

" Never mind, Venus," said Johnny ; " we '11 
get it without the devil." 

He quite meant what he said, and, on leav- 
ing Florida, he used all his own and his family's 
influence, which was not small, in Mrs. Legare's 
behalf ; but it was a time when both sides were 
stripping themselves of the superfluous moral- 
ities for the last fierce tussle, and he could do 
nothing. Then he wrote to Venus, proposing 
that she try to buy the place of Baldwin. An 
answer came promptly enough, from Mrs. De' 
Medici ; Venus had tried, but Baldwin wouldn't 
sell the place for less than five thousand dollars. 

Johnny was not too good to swear a little 
over that letter. "Wait a little," said he, 
" we '11 get the place cheaper than that." 



284 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

His interest was so tlioronglily roused tLat lie 
went down to see Venus as soon as the end of 
the war left him at liberty. He found her 
established in the Minorcan's house, and selling 
preserves at such a rate that she had to hire an 
assistant. She had fitted up a room with the 
old furniture of Mrs. Legare's chamber, and 
kept it always ready, down to the nosegay on 
the table. " Kase I knows not de day nur de 
hour, and I'se keep ready fo' my Miss Nannie." 

Baldwin was as obdurate as ever. This was 
the state of things when Miss Nannie came 
back. Johnny was still in town, but so changed 
was she that he did not know her. He had 
gone out that day with Venus to "the place." 
Walking through the ruined gardens, and 
viewing the deserted and dismantled house, it 
seemed to him a type of the whole South. Per- 
haps, because he knew all the little domestic 
details of the life of the past owners, and 
because he had, in a way, entered into their 
joys and their sorrows, a profound sense of the 
contrast and the desolation made Johnny mel- 
ancholy. He recalled the radiant creature 
whom he had seen, with a kind of pang. And it 
was at this moment that he saw a thin, elderly 
woman, in rusty black draperies, come slowly 
and wearily down the avenue. She was quite 
near him before he perceived that really she 



HALF A CURSE. 285 

was a young woman, whose hair had turned 
gray. Venus was just behind Johnny. She 
screamed, and ran towards the lady. 

At the same time a man came around the 
house. The man was Baldwin. Johnny saw 
that the lady spoke to him. " Do you live here, 
sir ? " said she. 

" No, ma'am," answered Baldwin, civilly ; 
" but I own the place." 

" You — own — the — place ? " gasped she. 
" How did you get it ? " 

'' Bought it of Uncle Sam. It was sold for 
taxes." 

Then Venus caught her mistress about the 
waist, and, supporting her with one arm, shook 
her free fist in Baldwin's face. 

*'0h, ye debbil!" she yelled. " Dis am 
Miz' Legree ! " 

" Hey ? " said Baldwin. » Well, I don't guess 
ye '11 expect me to say I 'm pleased to meet ye, 
ma'am." 

" I thought I was coming home, Venus," 
said the poor lady. 

Johnny could n't bear any more. 

" Confound it all, Baldwin," said he, " let 's 
see if we can't settle this. You say you will 
sell for five thousand ; I '11 give you your price." 

"No ye don't, colonel," said Baldwin. *'I 
ain't sellin', and what 's more, I ain't going to 



286 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

sell. The land will rise, and I kin afford to 
wait. An' if I was sellin', d — d if I 'd sell to 

"You cur," said Johnny, " if you say another 
word I '11 thrash you." He looked as though 
he might not wait for the other word. 

" An' I holp him," said Venus. 

"No, Venus," Mrs. Legare cried. "No, sir; 
you are kind, but it would be useless; I know 
the man now. He was an overseer on my 
uncle's plantation, and was sent away for cheat- 
ing. He went into the Yankee army afterward 
as a sutler, but he had to leave because he 
would get provisions for the people here from 
the commissary and then sell the provisions." 

Baldwin ground his teeth, but it was not 
easy to denj^ this with Tindall looking on, so he 
forced a sickly kind of laugh, saying: " You 're 
a lady, ma'am, an' you kin talk an' I have to 
listen, if it is on my own grounds, but it 's gittin' 
late an' I have to be goin'." 

Mrs. Legare turned her back on him, not 
deigning to answer. Venus accompanied her 
mistress ; but she rather marred the dignity of 
their departure by shaking her fists at Baldwin 
all the way to the gate, and screaming unintel- 
ligible imprecations, backing out, meanwhile, as 
if from a royal presence. 

She informed Johnny, later, that she had 



HALF A CURSE. 287 

launched at Baldwin a curse of terrific power. 
"Dat same haff er cuss my mammy I'arn me," 
said she, '^ mek dat Bal'win squeal fo' sho, fotch 
de wuss sorter trubbel on him. Mabbe he git 
out dough, kase dey 's jess de fust haff. Mos' 
like gre't trubbel, deff, mabbe, come ter me, 
too, kase er meddlin' wid de debbil's tings. 
Dat ar's w'yfo' I done nebber cuss 'im befo'. 
I like fo' ter lib an 'see Miss Nannie. Dess 
see 'er, dat 's a satisfaction ter me." 

This was after Venus had taken Mrs. Legare 
to her home, and when she was bidding good-by 
to Johnny, who must leave the town that night, 
having received a telegram from the North 
about business requiring his presence. 

Venus wept as she blessed him and implored 
him to return soon. 

• ••••••• 

The decrepit old Spanish town was trans- 
formed into a fashionable " winter-resort " 
before Johnny saw it again. He stared discon- 
tentedly at the smart new shops and the huge 
wooden hotels which had taken the place of the 
modest hostelries of his knowledge. " Confound 
it, how they have spoiled the place ! " thought 
Colonel Tindall. 

Strolling along, he found himself at last in 
one of those lane-like streets which are inter- 
rupted by the plaza for a space and then go 



288 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

crookedly on until they melt into the marshes 
beyond the town. He stopped before a house, 
such a house as used to be common as possible, 
but which was already growing rare. The pink 
plaster hiding the coquina front was richly 
mottled by lichens, chipped away, also, in 
places, showing the stone. It rose in a straight 
line from the sand (sidewalk the street had 
none), and was continued in a garden wall. 
The steep roof made an upward and forward 
slant over a hanging balcony, and some queer 
little dormer windows blinked out above. The 
door to the house was the garden gate. Over 
the brass knocker hung a sign — " Furnished 
Rooms." 

" Now, this is a decent house," said Johnny. 
" By Jove ! " 

The exclamation was caused by the appear- 
ance of a gigantic negress on the balcony. She 
looked down, saw, clapped her hands together, 
and disappeared. In an incredibly short time 
she was below, kneeling before Johnny the bet- 
ter to embrace him, and blessing the Lord. 

" De chari'ts er Isril an' de hossmen darof," 
shouted Venus, swaying Johnny backward and 
forward ; " de rose er Sharon an' de lily er de 
valle}^ praise de Lawd, O my soul, dis am you 
fo' sho', honey ! De lamb, wid him same yaller 
ha'r, an' lubly red cheeks de ve'y same — dess 



HALF A CURSE. 289 

fatter ! Hallelooger ! laws, laws — kin ye hole 
yo'seff stiddy, marse cuniiel, dess a minit twell 
I res' my ban' on yo' sboul'er 'n h'ist myseff 
hup — I ain't de figger fo' knellin', dat 's sho'." 

Of course Venus would have him go into the 
house to Mrs. Legare, who received him with, a 
cordiality amazing to the modest fellow. 

'^ Laws, my baby," said Venus, " ye ain't 
s'pose Miss Nannie Legree an' me done forgit 
ye ? We all 'members ye reg'lar en our ev'nin' 
supperclations, we does. An' dat ar check er 
ye done sen' me, I 'se got it safe en de stockin'. 
Miss Nannie, she guv de stockin' ter de bank 
fo' ter keep in deir big iron box " — 

" But the check was for your law-suit — to 
get back your property," said Johnny. He sat 
blushing in the most extraordinary way, and 
thinking Mrs. Legare handsomer every minute. 
Gray hair ? — well, what could suit those divine 
dark eyes better ? Thin ? — yes, to be sure ; 
but the stouter Johnny grew in his own person, 
the slimmer became his ideal woman's shape. 

Meanwhile, Venus answered in the fullness 
of her heart: "De 'serbs, dey pays fo' de la win'. 
An' we rents rooms ; sleeps 'em, don' eat 'em ; 
an' we alls roomers don' make a mite er trub- 
bel. An, de lawin' ar gwine on prosperin' 
an' ter prosper ; be'n frow two co'ts a'reddy. 
We alls lawyer, he says ef we kin dess git 



290 KNITTERS IN THE SUN 

de 'session we'se git de propputty. Dey 's 
a right smart er folkses lawed bout deir prop- 
putty, an' some dey 's comperromised, but dat 
BalVin lie won' gib in — I lay de debbil holp 
him" — 

" How about the curse, Venus ? " Johnny 
could not resist asking. 

He got a portentous roll of head and eyes to- 
gether, and " Nebber you min' de cuss," said 
Venus ; " hit come. Ain't he done los' de on- 
lies' chile he hab ? An' I know dis, he don' 
durst lib in dat ar house hisseff ; lets it ter a 
po' cracker man fo' mos' nuffin', he so skeered." 
Johnny soon found from Mrs. Legare that 
Venus was not misinformed as to the value of 
the possession of the property in a legal sense. 

"Venus," said Johnny, "I think I see my 
way ; I '11 manage the cracker." 

" Yes, marse cunnel," said Venus, in nowise 
surprised, " an' dis time, I lay de debbil holp 
ws." 

Johnny and Venus had resumed their confi- 
dential relations at once. He had explained 
that his long absence was caused by his being 
in Europe. " Wid yo' wife, honey ? " said Ve- 
nus, rather anxiously. 

"I am not so fortunate as to be married, 
Venus." 

" I 'lows 't war de ladv dat am forternate," 



o 



HALF A CURSE. 291 

said Venus, simply. " Den you ain't merriad, 
an' Miss Nannie Legree am a widder? Singler ! 
Singler ! But ain't she dat sweet, marse cun- 
nel?" 

" She certainly is, Venus," said Johnny, with 
rather a doleful smile, for he had begun to think 
that he was likely to exchange a few delicious 
days for a long heartache. " However, I '11 get 
her place back," thought he, " then I can go." 

The cracker was induced to move out by 
night, — how, Johnny best knew, — and that 
same night Venus and Johnny moved Mrs. 
Legare's furniture back into the house. They 
had unloaded the last cartload, and were stand- 
ing in the hall, and Venus had chuckled to her- 
self, " Got de debbil on we alls side dis time," 
when they both heard the same noise — the 
rapid thud of hoofs, as if a furious rider were 
galloping down the avenue. 

Somehow, Baldwin had discovered the plot. 
" Let him come," said Venus, grimly, flinging 
the door open wide, " me an' de debbil kin 
match him ! " Baldwin jumped off his horse 
and rushed at her. She had a candle in her 
hand, and by its flare her vast bulk loomed up 
like a black mountain. With one arm she 
caught the raging man by the shoulder and 
held him writhing and sputtering with fury, 
but helpless as a kitten in her grasp, while with 



292 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

the other she slowly and impressively wagged 
the candle at him in the manner of a finger, 
saying: "I 'clar' I'se 'sprised at ye, boss, mos' 
knockin' me down dat a way ; clean ondecent ! " 

" You git outer my house ! " roared Baldwin. 

" Dis yere am Miss Nannie Legree's house," 
said Venus ; " it ain't yo' house nebber no mo'. 
We alls got de 'session, and I 'se tell ye plain, 
boss, ef ye'se gwine on dis a way, 'sturbin' de 
quality an' tryin' ter faze 'em, I 'se trow ye 
down, right yere, an' sot on ye twell ye ca'm 
an' peacerful an' readdy go home. Fo' de 
Lawd, I will so. Ye heah me ! " 

Baldwin blustered something about wanting 
to talk to a man. 

" Try TTze," said Johnny. 

"I'll fix you to-morrer," snarled Baldwin. 
" If there 's a law in the land I '11 have it, 
and " — 

But the rest of his threats were lost, for he 
turned on his heel, mounted his horse, and rode 
off, swearing. 

"Bress de good debbil, fo' so much!" said 
Venus. 

All the next day they expected him — an 
anxious day it was ; but he did not come, nor 
did he come the day after, and so a week went 
by without any sign from him, until it was ru- 
mored about the town that he had fallen ill. 



HALF A CURSE. 293 

Then they said that his wife and a servant had 
taken the disease. Finally the oldest doctor in 
town reined in his horse to say a few low spoken 
words to Mrs. Legare on the street. The horse 
was jaded and the doctor pale ; he had been 
riding in different directions, but all his patients 
had the same disease, and all had been with 
Baldwin. 

" He went to Savannah and brought it back 
with him," said the doctor. " When he knew 
he had it, he let people come to see him. Yes, 
ma'am. He has always been a curse to this 
town, but this is the worst of all, for it 's yellow 
fever sure as death." 

Mrs. Legare went home and warned her 
boarders. There were only three of them, the 
time being early in November. Two of them 
left the town that day. The third was Johnny 
Tindall. He flatly refused to stir unless he 
might take Mrs. Legare and Venus with him. 

" But / have had the fever ; there is no dan- 
ger for me," pleaded Mrs. Legare, '' and the 
negroes don't take it. Besides, I am a South- 
erner, these are my people, my place is here. 
But you, sir, why should you risk your life ? " 

Johnny looked at her, a longing that shook 
his heart rising in him, to tell her that it was 
because it would be sweeter to die with her, 
beside her, for her, as it were, than to live apart 



294 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

from her. But he only said : " Well, it would 
be rather a scrubby thing to run off and leave 
you, don't you think ? " 

He was the stronger — he stayed. 

The fever grew worse and worse. People 
shut themselves in their houses, so that it be- 
came hard to get nurses for the sick. It was 
such a new calamity that the townspeople were 
stunned. " There never was a case of yellow 
fever in the town before," they would repeat pit- 
eously, as though there were some hope in their 
past immunity. Then they cursed the man who 
had brought this horrible mischief upon them. 
No soul would go near him, and the house where 
he and his wife lay sick was shunned like one 
haunted. 

" Let them live or die as the devil pleased," 
the people said. So the weeds choked the gar- 
den, and the wind rattled the blinds, and the 
rain poured in through an open window, while 
the few passers-by only crossed themselves and 
hurried on. 

" Hit am de cuss," said Venus, with solem- 
nity, not without a touch of gloom}^ pride, " de 
cuss dat I cussed ? " 

One day, a lady, passing on the other side of 
the street, observed a little girl mount the steps, 
and called to her, " Don't go in there, dearie ; 
they have the fever ? " 



o 



HALF A CURSE. 295 

"Oh, yes, ma'am, I must !" answered the 
child, lookuig back brightly. "I take care of 
them ; I 'm their little girl ! They 're awful 
sick." Before the lady could cross the street 
she had entered the house. 

" Oh, the poor little thing," thought Mrs. 
Legare. " Who can she be ? They have no 
children. And oh, how like she is to Tessie! " 

She told Venus about the incident. '' 'Clar' 
dat ar muss er be'n dat li'le gyurl dey done 
'dopt," said Venus, " an' dey does say dat debbil 
am right petted on her. Dar now, Miss Nan- 
nie, you lay down an' res' or I'se tell Marse 
Tindall." 

Already Johnny had come to play an impor- 
tant part in Mrs. Legare's thoughts. In those 
days of selfish fear and frantic misery brave 
souls were drawn together. She admired 
Johnny's clear head and his military cheerful- 
ness, so independent of outside gloom. She 
would not let him assist her directly in nursing; 
but he was invaluable outside, the right hand 
of the mayor, the commandant of the post, and 
the doctors. Yet she was conscious, all the 
time, of a vigilant watch over her health and 
comfort, and of a hundred unobtrusive atten- 
tions. " Nobody but Venus could take such 
good care of me as you do," she said once, 
gratefully. 



296 KNITTERS IN TEE SUN. 

Venus, of course, was a tower of strength. 

" Laws," said she, *' I wisht I cud mek my- 
seff inter ten folks, den I mought go 'roun' ! 
Say, dough. Miss Nannie, dar am one pow'full 
comfort er dis yere hour er 'fliction — dat ar 
ole Bal'win ain't gwine to bodder we all no 
mo', kase his gwine die, sho'. Miz' Dee Med- 
eecis, she say she go by 'is 'ouse dis mawnin', 
an' she heah dat ar' li'le gyurl, po' ting ! moan- 
in', an' moanin' rale pittible, an' dey wuz clean 
deserted, an' dat debbil he come to der winder, 
an' he wuz lookin' like deff, an' he h'ist down 
a tin pail, tied on a sheet tored in two, an' he 
done holler on Miz' Dee Medeecis, how he'd gin 
'er ten doUa' fo' ter fotch 'im a pail er watter 
fo' ter guv dat ar baby. ' I know ye hates me,' 
sezee, ' but de chile nebber hurted ye.' So 
Miz' Dee Medeecis she got 'im de watter, an' 
she 'lows by dis time dey 's all drinked deyseff 
ter deff, mos' like — laws, honey, whar ye 
gwine ? " 

Mrs. Legare did not look at the negress as 
she replied that she was going to the Bald- 
wins. 

" Oh, my heavenly Marster," screamed Ve- 
nus, "de chile am gone clean 'stracted crazy. 
Dar, honey, you sot right down an' leff dat ar 
old debbil die comf'uble ; he 's got all dat ar 
watter ! " 



HALF A CURSE. 297 

" Venus," said Mrs. Legare, " I must go. I 
have been thinking of it for two days. I said 
if the child got sick — Oh, Venus, the poor 
little child, the baby that looks like Tessie ! " 

" Well den," said Venus, sullenly, " if dat 
chile hab be sabe kase she favor Miss Tessie, 
den I 'se de one ter do it, an' I does it. I goes 
an' nusses de w'ole batch er dem. I knowed 
dat debbil git eben wid me, foolin' wid he 
cusses ! " 

She was as good as her word, and in spite of 
Mrs. Legare's expostulations went to Baldwin's 
within the hour. 

She faithfully nursed them until the fever 
turned and the new nurse secured by Johnny 
arrived. Then she went home. It is doubt- 
ful if, in their weakness and delirium, they 
quite realized why she was there. 

The night of her return was rainy, and when 
Johnny looked in on Mrs. Legare, the next 
morning, he found Venus wrapped in shawls 
over the fire and Mrs. Legare busy with med- 
icines. 

*' She ought not to have come out in the rain 
last night," said Mrs. Legare; "she was tired 
and heated, and she has caught cold." 

" Laws, Miss Nannie," said Venus, feebly, 
*' I cud n't holp comin', I wuz dat 'omesick. 
I'se cl'ar sides myseff wid j'y, gittin' back ter 



298 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

my own fambly ag'in. An' dis yere cole am 
dess de spite er de debbil, nuffin else on earth." 

Just a week from that day, John Tindall, 
sitting with his bowed head on his hands, 
vaguely conscious of the fragrance of roses all 
about him, heard the knocker on the front 
door clank and clank. 

The man outside was Baldwin. Mrs. Legare 
opened the door. She was looking worn and 
pale, her eyelids were swollen with weeping, 
and her eyes had the glaze of recent tears, but 
they blazed into their old brilliancy at the 
sight of him and his words. *' You see I 've 
come, ma'am, like I said. Now, I want to 
know how soon you '11 be ready to move out ! " 

He was prepared for everything except the 
one thing that happened. She drew aside her 
skirts ; she said, " Come in ! " 

" Well ! " said Baldwin ; but he came in, 
stumbling a little because of his weakness and 
the dark hall, and she, leading, opened the par- 
lor door. 

Tindall had jumped up, and Baldwin saw 
him standing behind some large dark object. 
Looking more closely, he perceived the object 
to be a coffin, and within the coffin, above the 
flowers and the soft wool draperies, was the 
peaceful mask which had been Venus's face. 



HALF A CURSE. 299 

Mrs. Legare laid her hand on the folded 
hands which would never work for her again. 

" There," she said, very quietly, *' there is 
my last friend. She lies there because she 
went to help you. She came home from your 
house and died. Now, if you will, turn me 
— and her out of our home ! " 

Baldwin's hat was still on his head, he took 
it off ; his face was changed, and he leaned 
against the wall. 

"Damn.it all," said he, hoarsely, "I ain't 
goin' to turn ye out. She came and nursed us, 
true enough. I know now. Look a here, she's 
always be'n tryin' to buy it — I give her the 
house." 

He stumbled back through the hall. They 
heard the door swing — not loudly. 

Johnny came and stood by Mrs. Legare. 

" Dear," he said, " don't say your last friend, 
because that can't be while I am alive. I want 
to tell you what Venus said to me just before 
she died. You know, dear soul, she believed 
she was dying on account of that foolish curse. 
' The devil will kill me,' she said ; ' but I don't 
care, I got the house for Miss Nannie. I give 
it to her and you. Keep it for her, won't you, 
Marse Tindall, for you love her too ? ' Truly, 
she has given you the house now, and if — the 



300 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

other — Oh, my darling, I love you with all 
my heart ; don't send me away ! " 

She was crying bitterly ; but when he took 
her hand she did not repulse him. 

" It is Venus gives it to me," he said. 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 

PAET I. 

Polly Ann Shinault was mending the 
Clover Bend ferry-boat. The ferry-boat was 
nothing more than an old scow, leaky and un- 
ruly. Lum, Polly Ann's husband, meant to 
mend it that morning ; but Lum was scouring 
the bottom after a stray mule. So Polly Ann 
had pounded the head of the hatchet on the 
handle — they have a natural tendency to part 
and go their separate ways in a Southern yard 
— and was patching the leaks herself. They 
said at the Bend that Polly Ann was "pow'ful 
handy." She was a handsome young woman. 
Some blending of French and Spanish blood 
from the earliest Arkansas travelers had given 
her the mass of purple-black hair under her 
man's hat, the clear olive of her skin, her velvet 
black eyes, and delicate profile. Her eyelashes 
were long and thick and curled at the ends. 
Long eyelashes and small features are not un- 
common in Arkansas faces. Did Polly Ann 
smile, she showed a rarer beauty, even little 



302 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

teeth, white as milk. But Polly Ann seldom 
smiled, being a silent, serious creature whose 
own husband felt a trifle in awe of her. Her 
primitive repairs completed, she straightened 
her bent shoulders, clasped her hands behind 
her neck, and looked about her. When she 
stood she was tall and erect as a young cypress. 
Her eyes spanned the Black River flowing 
at her feet, and took in, without noting, the 
whitewashed walls of the mill, the store, and 
the score or two of houses that go with an Ar- 
kansas cotton plantation. The time was early 
in November. The cotton was ready for pick- 
ing, and flakes of white spattered the brown 
fields. The yards were frowsy with stalks of 
jimson weed and withered grass. The great 
cypress forest shut in the cleared space like a 
wall. The scene was monotonous, yet about it 
was something sombre and vast, a loneliness 
that the presence of the few low-browed houses 
seemed to mark rather than lessen. A little 
spiral of smoke drifting above a chimney here 
and there, some pigs dotting the sandy road, a 
few riderless horses patiently drooping their 
noses against the fence rail before the store, 
were the only signs of habitation. Behind 
Polly Ann lay the canebrake and the forest. 
The water mirrored the Shinault cabin with 
its one wee window and "stick and dirt " chim- 
ney. 



o 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 303 

During the war (not so far back by many- 
years, that November day, as now) escaped 
prisoners used to hide in the canebrake. After 
the war runaway convicts from the stockade at 
Powhatan found shelter there sometimes, and 
then the cane would be crushed by the leaps of 
panting hounds; and many a night had Polly 
Ann shuddered, listening to the dogs baying, 
and picturing the wretch crouched among the 
sodden grasses. 

Plenty of grim traditions hung, heavy as its 
own miasma, over the cypress swamp. Not a 
rod away was the bare spot, dented by cypress 
trees, where Old Man Bryce's cabin stood un- 
til the guerillas murdered him and his wife and 
burned their bones under their home. A whole 
company of guerillas had dangled from the syc- 
amore limbs for that murder. The shapeless 
green in front of the store had been the scene 
of bloody quarrels. Down by the river bank, 
on the little knoll which the spring covered 
with wild flowers, Bud Boas had killed his part- 
ner. Boas was tried and acquitted ; but his 
own conscience was not so lenient as men. As 
the slain man fell he had flung out his hand, 
touching Boas's cheek. Ever since, the unhappy 
slayer had been haunted by a touch. He would 
wake from sleep, screaming that he felt the 
hand. At his work, at home, at camp-meetings 



304 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

even, where tie would go in the vain hope of 
eluding his persecutor, the tortured man might 
spring up, wildly rubbing his face, and rush 
away, or fall in convulsions horrible to see. 
From no other cause than this ghostly touch, he 
had seasons of drinking hard, but it was said 
that liquor could not blunt his senses. 

Boas's cabin was near the Shinaults' ; and 
this afternoon while Polly Ann stood looking, 
she saw his limp figure in butternut jeans slip 
through the store doorway and creep along the 
bank. Years ago Boas had been an exception- 
ally tall and strong man, bringing a backwoods- 
man's stature, muscle, and ruddy tan from the 
Tennessee mountains ; now his stooping shoul- 
ders and lank chest matched the sickly pallor 
of his face, with its hollow cheeks and restless, 
faded eyes. 

Approaching the shore, he hailed Polly Ann 
with a " Whoo — op ! " She got into the scow 
and pushed off. She paddled as easily as an 
Indian. Meanwhile Boas had been joined by 
another man, who drew the boat up on the 
beach, saying, " How 's all, Polly Ann ? " 

Polly Ann had not seen him until he spoke ; 
and she flushed a little, as though from surprise. 

" You come back, Whitsun Harp?" said she. 

" Got back yistiddy," the man replied. He 
had a slow full voice, with a kind of severe 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 305 

melody in its cadence not in the least like the 
high-pitched Arkansas drawl. Whitsun Harp 
was a head shorter than Boas. He wore a blue 
flannel shirt, and brown jean trousers tucked 
into high boots, all quite whole and clean. His 
compact, powerful frame was not of the Arkan- 
sas type any more than his dark, square, reso- 
lute face ; yet, in the phrase of the region, he 
had been " born and raised on the Black River 
bottom." 

At first glance, one could see a resemblance 
between him and the young woman, — not a 
likeness of feature, but of manner and expres- 
sion ; both had the same direct, serious gaze, 
the same slow speech, and the same proud bear- 
ing. When Polly Ann reddened, Harp grew 
paler. The men stepped into the boat, and 
Polly Ann greeted Boas: "Howdy, Mr. Boas?" 

" My health 's mighty triflin'," answered 
Boas ; " someway, I 'm puny all the time ; 
sorter mis'ry in my ches' ; some days I feel 
pow'ful weak, caynt skeercely walk. Ora she 
'lows she '11 send fer Dr. Vinson, but I don't 
guess it's no use." 

" Doctors does good sometimes," said Polly 
Ann. 

" Say, Polly Ann," said Harp, " I heerd tell 
you all 'd los' a mewl." 

" Lum 's went ayfter it," said Polly Ann ; 



306 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" we missed it Monday, an' we waited an' 
waited fer it to come back, an' it did n't, so 
Lum he 's went ayfter it. Lum 'lows it 's stole, 
he 'lows some cotton-picker toled it off." 

'' Looks like," assented Boas ; " them cotton- 
pickers is mighty ornery folks." 

Harp asked a few questions, short and to the 
point; and when the boat landed he drew Polly 
Ann aside, while Boas stooped to mend a dilapi- 
dated shoe with a rag. 

" Polly Ann," said Harp, " I come to see ye. 
I '11 tend to yo' mewl. Ye know I ar' turned 
regerlater." 

" I 've heerd tell on 't." 

" Wa'al, hit 's so. I aim to mek these yere 
pyarts mo' decenter. Polly Ann, this yere 's a 
turrible mean kentry, drinkin' an' sw'arin' an' 
fightin' an' devilment er all kin's o' goin' on ! 
An' the chil'en bein' raised to drink an' fight 
an' die jes like we uns ; Polly Ann, hit ain't 
right! An' thar ain't no need fer it to be, 
neether. I be'n in other settlements. They 
ain't like we all ; they 've got brick chimbleys, 
an' battened heouses, an' a school-heouse whar 
they kin hev preachin', stiddier hevin' it in a 
loft like we all. We mought, too, but we 're so 
triflin' we caynt mek a riffle." 

" Looks like," agreed Polly Ann politely. 

" Yit how to holp it ? I 'd lay an' study the 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 307 

hull night through, Polly Ann, studin' 'beout 
hit. The mo' I studied the wuss it looked. 
Wa'al — it war ayf ter ye taken up with Lum 
an' war merried, hit come preachin' Sunday, 
an' I went ter preachin'. 'T war the best out 
at preachin' I ever heerd. All 'beout calls. 
God called some on us one way an' some a 
tother, but we wuz all called ter his sarvice. 
An' I says ter myself, ' Lord, how ar' I called ? 
I ar' the bes' blacksmith in the bottom, but I 
cayn't talk wuth a shuck.' An', Polly Ann, a 
voice said back, cl'ar 's a boat- whistle : ' Whit- 
sun Harp, ye caynt talk folks decent, but ye 
kin lick 'em decent. They need a regerlater 
yere mo'n a preacher.' I jes growed cole all 
over, fur I war walkin' all by my lone self en 
the bottom, not a critter 'reoun' 'cept hoegs. 
'Lord,' says I ter the sky, 'they'll kill me 
shore, if I turn regerlater an' lick 'em. An' 
w'at '11 maw do then ? ' So I went home tur- 
rible troubled in my mind. Polly Ann, w'en I 
got home maw was in one 'er spells, an' afore 
sundown she war dead. Thet war the Lord 
A'mighty's answer to my hesitatin'. Ayfter 
thet I went ter wuk. Fust I sarved notice 
on them men thet got drunk reg'lar Saturday 
nights at the store. Then I licked them thet 
persisted in wrong-doin'. I licked ole Skirey 
fer oppressin' the pore ; an' I evened it up by 



808 KNITTERS IN THE SUN 

lickin' two niggers tliet wild n't do a fair day's 
wuk fer their wages. I licked Sol Looney fer 
fightin' with his wife, an' I licked a man right 
smart fer stealin' — thet ar 's 'beout all." 

"Law me," said Polly Ann, admiring him, 
"but, Whitsun, don' they fight ye? Folks 
don' like ter be licked." 

" They 've got to fight or be licked — one. 
Mos' times I ar' too spry fer 'em an' take their 
knives an pistils 'way. They did shoot a shoot 
at me wunst, but hit missed." 

Polly Ann's dark eyes were shining through 
a mist of eagerness, and her lip quivered as she 
said : " But they mought hit ye ! " 

"Yes," said Harp quietly, while something 
gentle and unusual relaxed his features, a look 
at once patient and sad ; " wa'al, ef they did n't 
kill me, I wud go on jes' the same, an' ef hit 
did — I ain't no wife nur babies ter grieve 
ay f ter me, an' I reckon the Lord kin tek keer 
Clover Bend some other way." 

Polly Ann drew a deep breath. " Looks 
like 't wuz a call ! " said she. 

"'Tis a call, shore," said Harp solemnly ; 
" I waynted ter tell ye so 's ye wud know the 
truth 'beout it, folks lyin' so ginerally. It 's no 
differ ter me 'beout the res', but I waynted you 
ter know bekase — we uns played tergether 
w'en we wuz little tricks, an' I alius tole ye 
everythin', ye rememberJ' 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 309 

She remembered. Perhaps she remembered 
more, for her cheeks grew red, and her brown 
fingers were clasped together so tightly that 
they made dents in the knuckles. 

" An'," continued Harp very gently, " ef I 
shud hev ter do suthin' thet ye moughtn't like, 
hit 's 'kase I hev ter an' not my seekin' — bein' 
called. Ye '11 consider thet thar, Polly Ann ? " 

" I don't guess ye '11 ever do nuthin' ye don' 
hole ter be right, Whitsun Harp." 

" Thankee, Polly Ann," said Harp. He al- 
most timidly touched her hand, holding it for 
a second in a loose clasp. Then he strode away 
without a glance at Boas. The latter rose di- 
rectly and joined Polly Ann. 

" Did Whitsun Harp say onythin' 'beout Lum 
ter ye ? " said Boas. 

" Naw," said Polly Ann ; " w'at fer shud 
he?" 

Boas seemed to have a difEculty in speaking ; 
he had to clear his throat twice before he could 
say : " Wa'al, fact is, Polly Ann, he 's heerd tell 
— wa'al, lies 'beout Lum like he be'n too much 
ter the store an' dances an' sich like tricks, 
an' Whitsun he 'lows Lum 's triflin' an' — he 's 
warned him." 

" Warned — Lum ? " cried Polly Ann. 

" Said like he 'd lick 'im, ef he don' quit," re- 
plied Boas with primitive directness. He laid 



310 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

the tips of his fingers on her sleeve, and his face 
grew earnest. " Fer the good Lord's sake, Polly- 
Ann, don' ye let Lum mad Whitsun ! Nary 
man en this bottom kin stan' agin him. Ye 
know Steve Elder, how big he is ? He stole 
a pa'r boots at the store. Whitsun he seen 
it, but he never let on ; but w'en this yere 
Steve comes fer his acceount he fin's at the 
bottom, ' One pa'r boots, so much. Putt down 
by Whitsun Harp.' W'en he read thet ar he 
never opened 'is mouth. Jes paid. Heknowed 
he cud n't stand up agin Whitsun." All the 
while Boas talked he was scanning Polly Ann's 
face to see the effect of his words. " Thar war 
a circus feller too. He brung a mighty ornery, 
mean show to the Bend, and Whitsun warned 
him not ter show thet ar show agin ; but he 
pitched 'is tent an' wuz marchin' 'reoun' in 
front, a puttin' on doeg, w'en up comes Whit- 
sun, an' he says, ' Did n't I warn ye not ter show 
yo' durned ondecent show yere?' sezee. An' 
he slapped up thet ar feller an' flung him 'cross 
a log an' pulled his belt 'reoun' an' yanked out 
'is pistil an' flung hit cl'ar 'n' 'cross the road 
an' licked thet ar circus feller tell he hollered. 
An' ye 'member ole Skirey thet he guv the bud 
to, spiter him an' 'is two sons. He knocked 
the big un down, an' the little one lit a shuck 
mighty spry. An' who killed the mad doeg 



o 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR 311 

with a hammer ? An' who held the wild hoeg 
by the tail tell Mark Lady cud stick 'im ? — 
them two men off their hosses en the cane, an' 
their guns empty ! Naw, naw, Polly Ann, don' 
let Lum mad Whitsun ! An' 't ain't lickin's 
thet 's mos' ter fear." His woeful eyes turned 
from Polly Ann's face in a fleeting, shrinking, 
indescribable glance toward the river bank — 
" they mought git — ter — fightin' ! " 

"I ain't feered fer Lum ef they do," said 
Lum's wife haughtily. 

But no sooner had the well-meaning threat- 
ener gone than she ran into the cabin, shut the 
door, and flung her proud head on the table in 
a passion of tears. 

Lum Shinault came home by moonlight. His 
wife had saved his supper, and he stretched his 
legs out beneath the white oil-cloth with a sigh 
of content. 

" My, my, my ! " said Lum in his soft, pleas- 
ant voice, " talk 'beout cookin' ! Polly Ann, 
ye allers git thar with both feet. Fried pork 
an' sop an' taters an' pie an' light bread ! Ony- 
thin' mo' ter foller ? " 

A faint smile lifted the corners of Polly Ann's 
mouth. She knew her gifts, and appreciation 
is sweet. " I reckon," Lum continued, " hit 
meks a differ eatin' en a purty room. This 
yere 's a right purty room, Polly Ann." 



312 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

He looked about the room, and she looked at 
him. The room was poor and bare enough, 
with its log walls and uneven floor ; but the 
big cotton -stuffed pillows on the bed shone out 
of the dusk ; there was a clock on the rude 
mantelpiece, a red cushion on the black and 
gilt rocking-chair, and a log thicker than a 
man's body was blazing in the fire-place. The 
flames, rather than the sickly gleam of the 
grease lamp, lighted the room and Lum Shi- 
nault's face. He was of low stature and slight, 
and in the firelight he made one think of a 
terra-cotta figure, he was so all of a color, hair, 
skin, and clothes all the same, whitish-brown. 
But he had sparkling brown eyes and a sensi- 
tive mouth that could shut firmly. "Did ye 
fin' the mewl ? " said his wife. 

" Not a hide nur a ha'r er the blamed crit- 
ter," answered Lum cheerfully, " but I seen a 
big gang er turkeys. Reckon I shot one, but 
I cud n't fin' hit." 

" Whitsun Harp wuz yere ; he 'lows he '11 fin' 
the mewl fer us." 

Lum whistled. His meal being finished, he 
got up and stood close to his wife. She had 
knotted a scarlet handkerchief about her 
throat, which suited her olive skin and black 
hair. Lum slid his arm around her waist. " Ye 
ar' turrible good-lookin', Polly Ann," said he 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 313 

smiling half wistfully ; " I sot a heap er store 
by ye." 

She neither accepted nor repulsed the caress ; 
merely stood, her hands clasped before her, ab- 
sently gazing at the fire. His arm fell ; but in 
a second he put out his hand again, to finger 
softly a stray lock of hair. 

" An' Bud Boas, he was yere too," said Polly 
Ann ; '* he 'lows ye 'd bes' be keerful kase Whit- 
sun 's mad at ye. He 'lows yo' too triflin'." 

" An' / 'low Whitsun Harp 's too meddlin' ! " 
cried Lum, opening his brown eyes angrily. 
"Wat bus'ness ar' hit er his'n? I don' rent er 
bim. 'T ain't his plantation. To my notion, 
Wbitsun bed orter be run off this yere place ! " 

" He 's did a heap er good yere," said Polly 
Ann — was it the firelight, Lum wondered, that 
made her cheeks so red ? — " Look at the fiorht- 
in' an' drinkin' he's stopped ! Thar ain't be'n 
a man killed yere sence he turned regerlater." 

" Thar '11 be one killed mighty quick, though, 
ef he don' quit projickin' 'roun' an' lickin' folks 
permiscus'." 

Polly Ann laid her hand on her husband's 
arm, looking down at him, for she was taller 
than he. " Lum," she said solemnly, " he is 
called., Whitsun is. They caynt hurt him till 
his work 's did. Don' ye say anythin' agin 'im, 
Lum." 



314 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Luin's frown turned into a broad grin. " Ob, 
laws ! called ter lick folks ? Ef tbet ain't tbe 
durndest trick ! " 

" But be is," sbe insisted ; " be 's bed signs 
an' tokens. Don' go agin 'im, Lum." 

" Wa'al, boney," said Lum easily, " I ain't 
purportin' ter go agin 'im. He 's too big a b'ar 
fer me ter tackle." 

Polly Ann turned away abruptly. Lum 
looked after ber, all tbe ligbt-bearted careless- 
ness gone out of bis face. " 'Pears like I jes 
cud n't please ber nobow," be tbougbt wbile be 
busied bimself clearing tbe table. Lum bad tbe 
babit of helping bis wife about tbe bouse ; be 
bad acquired it belping bis motber, Lum's fa- 
tber being " triflin'." 

At tbe same time Polly Ann was tbinking : 
"He won' figbt bisself or run enter no danger, 
but be '11 sick tbe rest on, an' bim stan' by." 
Sbe bardly noticed bow deftly Lum wiped tbe 
disbes and brusbed out tbe room. " Be ye too 
tired ter listen ter a leetle music, boney ? " be 
said wben be bad put tbe broom bebind tbe 
door. 

" Naw," said Polly Ann, trying to smile, " I 
don't guess I 'm ever too tired fer music." 

Faint as tbe smile was, Lum welcomed it and 
took down bis violin witb a brigbter face. 

He played a long wbile; at first, simple mel- 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 315 

odies of the plantation and the camp-meeting ; 
then, as his thoughts drifted into other memo- 
ries, they took their own shape in music rude 
as his life, but weird and sad like the cypress 
brake. Lum was born a musician. He had 
a wonderful ear but the scantiest knowledge, 
most of which came from a strolling violinist 
who had the swamp fever in Lum's cabin and 
left a book of songs for payment. Lum learned 
the songs by heart. They were as common- 
place as possible, but the ideas, worn shabby 
through the handling of generations, were new 
and splendid to Lum. Why not ? They could 
not have been any fresher to him if they had 
just been discovered. They lifted and adorned 
his notion of love. They aided the ever-in- 
creasing power which his wife exercised over 
his imagination. He thought of her in their 
language, which had a dignity and charming 
tenderness quite lacking in the speech of his 
birthplace where a man " took up with a girl 
and married her," making no more ado about it ; 
the song words were so pretty and kind-sound- 
ing, it was like kissing a girl to say them. Lum 
was too shy to say them himself. Once he 
ventured to call Polly Ann " darling," instantly 
blushing up to his eyes. She did not seem to 
mind, neither did she seem pleased. It was the 
way in which she always met her husband's 



316 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

affection. This passive endurance of his love 
had come to have a kind of terror for Lum. He 
could not understand his wife. To go back to 
the beginning, — as Lum did to-night on his 
violin strings, — he had married Polly Ann out 
of compassion. He was in the field when Old 
Man Gooden fell dead in a fit of apoplexy. He 
helped Polly Ann carry her father into the 
house, and he witnessed her passionate, dumb 
agony. Lum had a soft heart, unfettered ex- 
cept by a few rustic attentions to a certain 
pretty widow on the plantation, Mistress Savan- 
nah Lady. When he beheld Polly Ann's des- 
olate condition his heart melted. 

" Nary kin nigher 'n the Sunk Lan's," mused 
Lum, " hit 's turrible hard. An' she sot sich 
store by her paw, an' he muched ^ her so. They 
sorter kep' ter theyselves, too, I don't guess they 
wuz the socherbel kin'. Nary un waitin' on 'er 
neether, 'less hit ar' Whitsun Harp. Ef he 
don' merry her, I reckon I hed orter. 'T ain't 
no mo'n neighborly." 

Whitsun making no sign, he carried out his 

intention. 

Polly Ann assented gravely, almost silently, 
to whatever he proposed. Nothing was easier 
than to rent a cabin and a pair of mules from 

1 To much; Arkansas for to pet, to caress, to make much 
of. 



o 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 317 

the Northern men who had bought the planta- 
tion, and settle down to raise a crop. 

PoUy Ann, after the first outburst, put her 
grief stoically away and only worked the harder. 
Polly Ann's father came from the " Sunk 
Lands," that mysterious region created by the 
great Lisbon earthquake, — an island in the 
swamps, half the year cut off from the world, 
forgotten except by a few traders. Until she 
was fifteen she had lived the solitary life of the 
people and grown up in their Indian-like reti- 
cence. When she was fifteen, her mother died 
and her father took her to Clover Bend. She 
was now twenty-three years old, and she had 
been married hardly five months. Lum was a 
man of the lowlands, who inherited French in- 
stincts of sociability and liked idling about and 
gossiping. He took his new relations lightly 
at first, but soon his wife's stronger nature fas- 
cinated him. She awakened all the ardor and 
tenderness in him, this beautiful, silent, haughty, 
patient woman. " She ar' fairer nur the flow- 
ers," quoted Lum from the songs; "an' she's 
got a right smart er sense too," he added in the 
vernacular. He declared his wife's superiority 
with much frankness. " Law me," said he to 
Boas, — it was a few days later, and they sat on 
the store counter, indulging in the unpretend- 
ing luxury of brown sugar and crackers, — *'law 



318 KNITTERS IN 'THE SUN. 

me, Polly Ann 's wutli a hull crap er me ! Ye 'd 
orter see the plunder she 've bought, pickin' 
cotton " — 

" Wa'al, then," interrupted Boas, dropping 
his customary mild, plaintive drawl to a lower 
key, " w'y fur be ye so possessed ter cavoort 
'reoun' with Savannah Lady ? " 
" Me ! " exclaimed Lum. 
" Yes, jes ?/ott," repeated Boas with an anx- 
ious gaze into Lum's scarlet face. " They 'lows 
like ye taken up with 'er. Boy, j-e had n't 
orter be agwine on thet way ! Nur j^e had n't 
orter come yere, fiddlin' an' carryin' on, an' yo' 
wife ter home, by her lone self, studyin' an' 
grievm — 

" Polly Ann don' grieve," said Lum rather 
sullenly ; " leastways she don' grieve ayfter me^ 
nohow. In co'se I mean," he went on quickly, 
" she ar' grievin' fer her paw." 

" In co'se," said Boas. There was a pause. 
" An' ez regardin' Mistress Lady," Lum 
said finally, giving the full prefix with dignit}^ 
— on ordinary occasions one would only say 
" Mis' " in Arkansas, — " we uns wuz raised to- 
gether an' natchelly have frien'ly feelin's. But 
ef ye ar' 'lowin' thet I even her or ary nother 
lady ter Polly Ann ye ar' a long sight outer yo' 
reckonin', thet 's all. I knaw I taken her ter 
the singin' school the fiddler bed ; but Polly 



WHITS UN HARP, REGULATOR. 319 

Ann never 'd go thar ter singin', kase — wa'al, 
Polly Ann jes natchelly cayn't sing, cay n't 
cotch a tune. An' ez fer me goin' ter the store 
an' drinkin', I disremember how often I done 
come yere ; but I know I never got drunk ony- 
"whar, not the least bit on earth. But I ain't 
purportin' to be goin' yere ter fiddle nights, 
Bud Boas, never no mo'. Folks ain't got no 
call ter say I don' ruther stay by Polly Ann 
than onywhar nelse." 

" Thet 's so," said Boas. " I knawed they 
wuz lyin'." Lum did not tell Boas that he 
only went to the store because he thought that 
Polly Ann did not care to see him home, and 
his heart was sore. He could not say that, 
since it would seem like complaining of Polly 
Ann. But Boas's caution set him thinking; 
gossip must be loud to rouse that haunted soul 
from its dream of pain. 

"Thet thar's w'at Whit Harp done heerd, 
dad bum him," growled Lum, " an' blame my 
skin ef I don' b'lieve thet ar Savannah ar' 
jes foolin' with me fur ter tol on Steve Mor- 
row." Which it happened was precisely the 
case. Savannah wanted to marry the stock- 
man, Morrow, and she used Lum to help her, 
not at all sorry to make Polly Ann jealous, 
if she could, as well as Morrow. " Ain't thet 
thar jest like the critter?" said Lum with per- 



320 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

feet good humor; "it's a rig on me an' Steve, 
though." Yet he felt a queer resentment 
against Harp — a resentment not diminished 
by the sight of his lost mule munching cotton 
stalks in his own field. " Whitsun fetched 'im," 
Polly Ann exclaimed. It seemed to Lum that 
she spoke as though proud of Harp's success. 
Lum, the best-tempered man on the plantation, 
ground his teeth. "I sw'ar I hate thet thar 
Whitsun Harp!" he was thinking. 

The next time that he saw Harp was mail day. 
Twice a week a rider brought the mail to Clover 
Bend. The post-office was in the store, just as 
the court-room was, whenever the majesty of 
the law was invoked or a jail needed. The 
store had a wide platform the right height to 
serve instead of a horse block. Savannah Lady 
rode up to the platform as Whitsun came 
through the door. She was a pretty, kittenish, 
fair little woman, and her hair, which was of a 
lovely reddish-brown color, had a trick of es- 
caping in little ringlets and blowing round her 
white neck. After all, there was no great harm 
in her ; but to Harp she was the embodiment of 
all that was dangerous and alluring in woman. 

Lum was on the platform so near that com- 
mon gallantry required him to help her alight. 
Somehow she stumbled, so he held her for a 
second by the elbows. Harp, black as night, 



WHITS UN HARP, REGULATOR. 321 

watched her recover herself, laugh, blush, and 
flutter into the store. He strode up to Lura. 
"Lum Shinault," said he in a low tone and 
very deliberately, " ef ye don' quit yo' ornery 
triflin' ways I '11 lick ye ! " 

" Then I '11 kill ye, shore 's death, Whitsun 
Harp ! " Lum gasped, choked with passion. 

Whitsun only gave him a steady gaze and 
turned on his heel. 

Lum felt himself despised. 

A week went by. Polly Ann was conscious 
of a change in Lum. Though kind as ever, his 
shy caresses were no longer offered. He worked 
harder and seldom went to the store, " an' he 
jis' studies the plum w'ile," said Polly Ann. 

One day Mrs. Boas came over to ask Lum to 
get some quinine and whiskey at the store for 
Boas. " He had one er 'is spells," — so the poor 
wife always named Boas's fits of terror, — ''an' 
he run out en the woods an' got soppin' wet 
an' cotched cole an' 'pears like hit gits a leetle 
mucher all the w'ile." 

After Lum was gone Polly Ann bethought 
herself of some corn which should be ground, 
and that it was grinding day at the mill. Like 
the store, the mill was a versatile and accom- 
modating establishment, ginning cotton, sawing 
wood, or grinding corn with equal readiness. 
So saddling the big gray horse, which was at 



322 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

once her dowry and her inheritance, she led 
him to the ferry and paddled boat, horse, and 
woman across the stream. The Clover Bend 
ferry was deserted, but it was accustomed to 
desertion, being conducted on Southern prin- 
ciples: if you came when the ferryman was 
away you must wait until he got back, that 
was all. 

Polly Ann saw Lum's wagon-box boat on the 
sand, and riding up the bank she perceived 
Lum himself walking through the cypress brake. 

" Cypress Swamp," or the " Black River 
bottom," is like a dry river channel winding 
through the higher land. When the spring over- 
flow comes the lustrous green water rushes 
among the tree trunks, and the high land be- 
comes a multitude of islands and peninsulas; 
but most of the year the channel is dry, and in 
autumn the cypress boughs spread a soft russet 
carpet on the ground ; the hackberry, maples, 
live-oaks, and holly-trees which mingle with the 
cypress splash the foliage with splendid hues, 
the sunlight filters through the branches and 
prints shifting shadows of the vines masking 
the thorn-trees, or turns the red berries into 
dots of flame. Then the cypress brake is beau- 
tiful. But Lum Shinault was not thinking of 
its beauty. He was walking slowly, his head 
sunk between his shoulders. 



o 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 323 

" Studyin' !" said Polly Ann. 

Lum looked up. The silhouette of a horse's 
head had fallen across his path. A sun-bonnet 
was bent over the mane. The bonnet hid the 
woman's face, but that ringlet of dazzling hair, 
floating under the cape, could only belong to 
one person. Horse and rider stopped. So did 
the footman. His shadow spread out gigantic 
on the ground. Then both shadows were blend- 
ed together as if in an embrace. Did Polly Ann 
grow angry? Not in the least ; she could see 
too well. 

" Wats got Savannah Lady ? " said she ; 
" looks like Lum was guvin' 'er w'iskey an' hold- 
m uv er. 

This, indeed, was what he was doing. For 
once there was no guile about Savannah's acts ; 
Lum had served her turn. Young Morrow had 
spoken, and she was on her way to buy her 
wedding finery when she was seized with a chill ; 
but she still rode on, clinging to her horse's 
neck, until she met Lum. He gave her some 
whiskey. 

Now by an evil chance, at this moment, 
Whitsun Harp must needs enter the scene on a 
gallop. He saw the shadows, he saw the bright 
head on Lum's shoulder, the little hands clutch- 
ing Lum's arm. 

A shower of cypress boughs whirled in the 



324 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

air ; a pawpaw branch snapped, wrenched away 
by a furious hand ; and Lum lifted his eyes to 
see Whitsun's face. 

" I tell ye, yo' mistaken ! " shouted Lum. 

•' It 's too late for talking now," said Whit- 
sun, deep and low. 

He jumped off his horse and caught Lum by 
the throat. The smaller man was like a baby 
in his grip. Lum, writhing and struggling, in 
an impotent fury of rage and shame, hardly felt 
the blows. Suddenly the hand at his throat 
released him so suddenly that he was hurled 
to the ground ; he heard his wife's voice, shrill 
with anger : " Whitsun Harp, w'at ye doin' ter 
my man?" 

He sat up, his brain swimming, specks of fire 
and blood floating in the air ; but there was 
Whitsun standing empty-handed, and Polly 
Ann's face over the gray's head. 

*' I did n't aim ye shud ever knaw on 't, Polly 
Ann," said Whitsun, " I cud n't holp it, hit hed 
ter be did." 

" I '11 never fergive ye en this worF, Whitsun 
Harp ! " said Polly Ann. 

Lum put his hands on the tree near him and 
got to his feet. He leaned on the tree and 
steadied his choked and shaking voice enough 
to say, '* Look a yere, Whitsun Harp, I '11 kill 
ye fer this." 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 325 

Harp did not glance toward him ; he took 
one step forward as though he would speak to 
Polly Ann, but at her gesture of repulsion he 
turned silently and mounted his horse. On 
horseback, he reined in his horse, and looking 
at Polly Ann, said again, '•' I cud n't holp it," 
before he galloped away. 

Savannah was shivering and crying. 

" Hit you ary lick, Savannah ? '* said Lum. 

" Naw, naw," sobbed she. " Oh, Lum, oh. 
Mis' Shinault, 't wa'n't my fault ! I war jes 
sick. Whitsun 's heerd lies on me 'n' Lum. 
I 'm goin' ter be merried ter Steve Morrow 
nex' week. Fer the Lord's sake, don' tell 'im ; 
he wud n't never speak ter me agin ! I done 
my best ! I pulled Whitsun's arm." 

For all his misery, Lum burst into a bitter 
laugh. " Muster hendered Whitsun a heap, 
you hoklin' on," said he. '* You go 'long home, 
Savannah, an' don' be skeered er we uns tell- 
in' ; jes tek keer ye don' let on nuthin' yo'self — 
never min' w'at happens ! " 

Something in his face checked her answer ; 
she was scared, and glad to ride away. 

The husband and wife were left alone to- 
gether. 

Lum looked at Polly Ann, who was very pale, 
" Ye come jes in time, Polly Ann," said he. 

"I wud n't o' b'lieved ye'd a taken it, Lum 



326 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

Shinault," said she bitterlj^ *' with yo' knife on 
too. Pull yo' belt 'reoun ' ! " 

Mechanically, Lum put his hand to his belt, 
which had been twisted so that the knife was 
in the back. "I done forgot 'beout the knife," 
muttered Lum, reddening ; " thet ar 's a favor- 
yte trick er Harp's." Then, in a second, he 
added : " I ain't goin' ter tek hit, Polly Ann." 

She said nothing. 

" Ye don' b'lieve me," cried Lum. 

" 'T ain't no use talkin'," said she wearily. 

" I '11 hev it out with 'im. Ye 'low I 'm a 
ornery, triflin', pusillanimous " — 

" Whar 's the use callin' yo'self names ? " in- 
terrupted Polly Ann. '' I don' wanter yere no 
more 'beout it. • Reckon Boas '11 waynt 'is w'is- 
key, onyhow. Thar 't is un'er the gum-tree." 
Lum looked at his wife with imploring eyes 
and quivering mouth ; at that moment he was 
longing to fling his arms about her and sob out 
his shame on her breast. Poor Lum's grand- 
father was a Frenchman. 

Polly Ann did not look at him, but went on 
arranging her bag of corn; all Lum could see 
was the profile of her sun-bonnet — there is 
nothing sympathetic about a sun-bonnet. " Bes' 
git on ter the mill ef I waynt a pone er bread 
ter-day," said Polly Ann. " Be bacli ter din- 
ner, Lum." 



WniTSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 327 

She rode on a little way and stopped. " I 'm 
goin' ter hev a plum good dinner fer ye, Lum," 
she called back. 

" Thankee, Polly Ann," said Lum. He 
watched her until the trees hid horse and rider. 
"Polly Ann 'lows thar ain't no troubles men 
persons cayn't cure with eatin' an' drinkin'," 
said he ; " drinkin'," — he eyed the whiskey 
bottle lying at the foot of the gam-tree, — 
" naw, thar ain't ony comfort fer me en thet 
ar. I 'm en a hole, an' thar 's jes one way outen 
hit. No good talkin' ter Polly Ann, she 's sot. 
'T wud on'y pester her. Oh, my Lord, ain't it 
hard ! " 

"I wisht I cud hev kissed her jes wunst," he 
said, after a while, " on'y fer ter say good-by. 
How soft her cheek wuz ! An' thar war a little 
blue vein jes un'er the ear. Wa'al, hit won' 
mek no differ ter her, but I wisht " — 

He walked on slowly until he came to the 
boat on the sand. He could see his own cabin. 
He remembered the day that he brought Polly 
Ann to it — his wedding-day. He crawled into 
the boat, lay down in the stern, and cried Hke 
a child. 

PART n. 

Polly Ann's good dinner waited in vain. ' 
Lum did not come. Yet she was sure that, 



828 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

while at the well drawing water, she had seen 
his figure through the window. She blew the 
horn. She called at the top of her voice. Fi- 
nally she went to the shed to see if the horse 
was gone. Gone he was, and there was a piece 
of brown wrapping-paper, such as they used at 
the store, tacked on to a log and directed to 
"Mistris Shinalt." She took it down, turned it 
over, and saw a single sentence, written in 
pencil, in cramped, careful letters : " Darling 
Polly an i taken your Hoss fer a Errant i wunt 
be bak your Lovin Husban. C. Shinalt." 

" Law me ! " said Polly Ann, " he mought 
hev come in, onyhow. An' the dinner 's plum 
sp'iled." 

She was wretched over the morning's work, 
but she did not feel alarmed, having no belief in 
Lura's courage ; and when she discovered that 
the gun was gone, she merely thought that he 
meant to shoot squirrels. 

But Lum was seeking other game. His er- 
rand was to kill Whitsun Harp. The smoulder- 
ing jealousy and resentment of weeks had burst 
into a flame that was shriveling his heart. He 
had been beaten before his wife, his wife who 
valued strength and bravery beyond everything. 
And Whitsun, whom she praised because he 
was so strong and brave, had beaten him. 
How many times had she praised Whitsun to 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 329 

his face. Like enough she had wanted the 
regulator all along, and had only taken up with 
Lura because Whitsun did n't speak — girls 
did such things Lum knew from the songs. 
Here was the secret of her being so quiet and 
sad, and of that queer way she had with her 
that made him feel farther away, in the same 
room, than he did thinking of her, miles off, in 
the bottom. 

" I never cud much her like I cud t' other 
gells," thought Lum; "I alius hed ter study 
on 't afore I cud putt my arm 'reoun' her waist. 
Reckon I sorter s'picioned, inside, thet it pes- 
tered her. Pore Polly Ann ! " 

It was like Lum to feel no anger, only com- 
passion, for his wife. 

*' Hit's bad fer her too — turrible bad," he 
pondered ; " ef it 's me gits killed up she caynt 
hev no mo' truck wi' him, an' ef it 's him she '11 
natcbally hate the sight er me ! Wa'al, she 
won' be pestered with it ; I '11 go off on the 
cotton-boat afore sundown. All through this 
wide worl' I '11 wander, my lone," said Lum, 
his thoughts unaffectedly shaping themselves 
in the words of his songs. They did not cause 
him to waver in his purpose ; he knew Polly 
Ann's notions of manly honor too well. Old 
Man Gooden shot a man once. 

"Paw hed ter shoot him," Polly Ann ex- 
plained ; " he spatted paw en the face." 



330 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

*' An' ef a feller spatted me, wud I hev ter 
shoot him?" Lum had asked, amused by her 
earnestness, for this was before he passed the 
careless stage of his marriage. 

" Wud n't ye waynt fer ter shoot 'im ? " said 
Polly Ann, fixing her beautiful grave eyes on 
his smiling face. 

" Wa'al, I shudn't crave it," said Lum. 

" But ye wud, Lum, ye wud shoot him ! " 

"Mabbe — ef I cud n't run away," answered 
Lum, and he had laughed at her face over that 
speech. 

He did not laugh now, riding with his bruised 
throat and aching shoulders, and the gun slung 
across his saddle-peak. 

" Him or me," groaned Lum ; " hit 's him or 
me — one ! Thar ain't no tother way ! " 

He was riding through the bottom lands 
above the mill. The entire bottom was like 
an innocent jungle with its waving green un- 
dergrowth of cane. Pigs were rooting under 
the trees, and the heads of cattle rose above the 
cane, turning peaceful eyes of satisfied appetite 
upon Lum's reckless speed. 

There was no reason for haste, really, outside 
the relief which motion gives to a perturbed 
soul, for Lum knew that Whitsun was buying 
a horse of a farmer up on the bayou, and would 
have to return by the same road. But he did 



W BITS UN HARP, REGULATOR. 331 

not slacken his pace until he came on a man 
riding more leisurely. The man hailed him, 
and he saw Boas. 

" W'y, I wuz at yo' heouse," said Lum, " an' 
Mis' Boas 'lowed ye wuz en bed." 

" So I war," said Boas in a weak, high voice, 
*' but — I got up — I got up ! " 

" Toby shore, toby shore," said Lum sooth- 
ingly. 

He saw the man could barely keep in his sad- 
dle for trembling, and that his features were 
ghastly ; but Lum had the humblest Southern- 
er's innate politeness ; it was not deemed good 
manners in Clover Bend to take notice of any 
thing singular in Boas's appearance or conduct ; 
there was one unhappy explanation always 
ready. 

Lum, through his daze of anguish, felt a prick 
of pity for this miserable being who had done 
many a kindness to Lum's mother in his un- 
haunted days. He stretched out his arm and 
supported Boas by the elbow. 

" Oh, I 'm peart enough," said Boas ; " I 
waynter tell ye suthin', Lum." 

The younger man resigned himself with in- 
ward impatience to a slower gait. 

"This yere 's a sightly kentry, Lum, ain't 
it? " said Boas, gazing about him, " but I ain't 
'repinin' ter leave it." 



332 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

'* Be ye gwine ter Texas ? " 

" Farder 'n Texas, boy. Dr. Vinson was over 
an' he tole me — naw, Lum, ye don' need ter 
say yo' sorry, I know ye ar. Ye be'n like a 
son ter me sence ever ye wuz a little trick an' 
played with my boys. Ye wuz the least little 
trick er all. Ye 'member 'em, Lum, sich peart, 
likely boys they wuz, an' they all died up an' 
nary un ter home, peaceable like; Mat an' Tobe 
drownded, an' Mark throwed from his hoss. 
All on 'em ayf ter — ye know w'at — all three 
en one year, ev'ry chile we 'd got, Ora an' me. 
Hit war hard ter endure, Lum, turrible hard." 

"It war so," said Lum. 

" Wa'al, they 're all on 'em gone. An' I '11 
be gone, too, afore long. I ain't repinin'. Lum, 
ye never heerd me talk on 't ; I cud n't b'ar ter 
speak ; but, somehow, 'pears like 't wud ease 
my min' a bit ter tell ye suthin' er my feelin's, 
Lum ; ef I hed n't er be'n so mortal skeered er 
meetin' up with Grundy, I 'd a killed myse'f a 
long spell back, I wud so. I 'm wore out. Boy, 
ef so be yo' tempted ter fight, 'mind yo'se'f er 
me ! I killed Grundy Wild, killed 'im fair too ; 
but. Lord ferguv me, I done went enter thet ar 
fight aimirC ter kill. I 'low thet war how he 
got 'is holt on me. Fer he 's never lef me 
sence. Fust I wud n't guv in. * Be thet ar all 
the harntin' ye kin mek out ? ' sez I. But hit 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 333 

kep' a comin' an' a comin', never no differ, tell 
hit crazied me, Lum ! 

" Niir thet war n't the wust on it. The wust 
war bein' skeered the hull w'ile, 'spectin' an' 
dreadin' never no tell. 

" Did ye never hev a door a squeakin', Lum ? 
A squeakin' door ar' a mighty little trick ; 
't ain't nuthin', ye may say ; but ye '11 be a set- 
tin' an' thet thar door '11 squeak an' stop, an' 
then it '11 squeak agin, an' then not, an' then 
squeak an' squeak an' squeak tell ye git up, 
sw'arin' mad, an' shet the door. Lum., I cud nt 
shet the door! I taken ter drinkin', but I 
cud n't git so drunk thet I 'd not feel thet thar 
cole han' er his'n a flap flabbin' on my face. 
Hit 's wore me out. At las' I jes give up ; an', 
my Lord ! 'peared like his soul fa'rly enjyed 
trompin' on me, r'arin' an' chargin' like 't wuz 
a wil' hog ! Oh, my Lord ! my Lord ! " The 
man shook in his saddle with the horror of his 
recollections. But he controlled himself enough 
to go on, though the sentences came in pants. 
" Then I 'merabered — thet thar tex' — an eye 
fer an eye an' a tooth fer a tooth. Hit come 
ter me — cud I on'y swap a life with the Lord 
fer Grundy's — then it mought be he wud tek 
Grundy offen me an' — let me die en peace. I 
don' ax no mo'." He stopped, gasping and 
coughing while Lum held him. Lum was 



334 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

deeply touched ; he was not a whit moved from 
his intention ; but he was touched, and he felt 
a sombre sense of comradeship, thinking, 
*' Mabbe I '11 know how ye feel, termorrer." 
Boas continued : — 

" An', Lum, w'ile I war study in' an' pray in', 
'Lord, let thy pore sinful sarvint wipe the 
blood-guiltiniss offen his soul an' not hev ter 
die skeered I ' Lum, I heerd them Case boys 
from the hills talkin' outside. They wuz come 
ter borry my bateau. They wuz ayfter Whit- 
sun Harp, bekase he 'd prommused the big un, 
Ike, a lickin' fer beatin' Ole Man Bryce outen 
'is cotton. They wuz 'lowin' ter pick a fight 
wi' him an' kill him. I peeked outer a crack 
an' seen 'em. Two hed guns, an' all three hed 
knives. So I tole Ora ter tell 'em we 'lowed 
ter use our own boat. But they got a bateau 
farder down, an' I seen 'em en the river, so I 
hed Ora row me over an' I borried Looney's 
hoss, it bein' so easy — an' I 'm agwine ter 
warn 'im. The river twists so, an' thar's a 
right smart er groun' 'tween Young Canes whar 
he ar' an' the water, I kin' git thar fust, easy — 
Say, little tricks, w'at ye bellerin' fer ? " The 
road had passed a little clearing, made in Ar- 
kansas fashion by burning down the trees. The 
cabin in the centre had no window, and the 
door was open, showing three particularly dirty 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 335 

children who were all crying together. The 
oldest stuck a shaggy white head out to say, 
" Hit 's fer maw ? " 

" Whar 's yor maw done gone ? " 

" She 's done gone 'ith Mr. Harp fer ter see 
Aunt Milly Thorn, kase Uncle Tobe Thorn 
done lick er hide off en er," said the child, evi- 
dently repeating an older tongue's story. " I 
sended three men ayfter er, but she ain't come 
back, an' we uns is hungry. Oh dear, maw ! 
maw ! " 

" Hush, hush, honey," said Boas, trembling, 
" whar did the men come from ? " 

" They come from a boat, an' they axed fer 
Mr. Harp, an' they said they wud fotch maw 
back in the boat. Will ye fotch maw ? " 

" Ter Tobe Thorn's," screamed Boas, clutch- 
ing Lum's arm ; " d 'ye onnerstan', Lum ? 
Thet 's 'cross the big bayou, the heouse on the 
bank ; they kin cut 'cross en the bateau an' the 
road goes 'way off t' other side. I cayn't do 
hit, Lum, the Lord don' mean ter parden me ! 
An' pore Whitsun " — shaking Lum's arm in 
his uncontrollable ao^itation — " Lum, mabbe 
its 'tended fer you ter save 'im ! . Yo' boss 
never makes a blunder. Ye knaw the bottom, 
an' ye kin ride through the brake fast — fast ! " 

Lum turned a dull, deep red ; he felt him- 
self suffocating with passion ; he saw his re- 



336 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

venge lost and with it everything else. Yet 
he could not wrench his last hope from this 
hunted, desperate, d34ng creature. And Boas 
had been kind to his mother. 

" Lum, ye will do hit," pleaded Boas ; " I 
knaw ye don' bear no good will ter Harp, but, 
God A'mighty, he 's a human critter, ye won' 
see 'im murdered, w'en ye kin save 'is life ! 
Ye cayn't be so hard-hearted ! Oh, Lum, do 
it ter save me^ ter holp me outen the hell I 
be'n en fer five year ! " 

" Yes," said Lum, " I '11 go fer you., Boas." 

His face was as white as Boas's, but Boas 
could not see ; he pushed his helper by the 
shoulder to hurry him, panting, " Go 'long, 
then, fast, fer God's sake ! God bless ye, boy, 
ye '11 save two men stiddyer one. How he rides, 
an' I useter ride thet way " — The children 
cried, and he went to them ; Lum was out of 
sight in the high cane. 

The young fellow rode furiously. Beneath 
that pleasant green sea lay pronged roots and 
logs and ugly holes. Thorn-trees stretched out 
their spiked limbs, wild grape-vines flung their 
beautiful treacherous lassos on the breeze, and 
pawpaw saplings, stout enough to trip a horse, 
were ambushed in the cane. Through them 
all crashed the brave gray, leaping, dodging, 
beating down the cane with his broad chest, 



o 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 337 

and never slackening his speed. It looked like 
a frantic race through the wilderness, but, 
with the woodman's instinct, the rider leaving 
the perils below to the beast's sure eyes was 
really guiding him on an invisible course. 

At last Lum drew rein before another clear- 
ing. He could see Thorn's cabin and women 
in the "gallery," and riding along the shore, 
nearer and more distinct, the figure of a man 
on horseback, plainly Whitsun Harp. 

Lum galloped up to him. 

The regulator carried pistols in the holsters 
of his old cavalry saddle ; the barrel of one 
flashed out as Lum approached. 

" Ye ain't no call ter be skeered er me ! '* 
shouted Lum. " Not this time. Look out fer 
the Case boys — thar, on the bateau ! They 're 
a comin' ! " — 

" Shucks ! " said Whitsun. He gave Lum a 
long and keen glance which apparently satis- 
fied him, for he addressed himself at once to 
the more imperative danger. In fact, the Case 
boys were landing. Ike, the tallest, he to 
whom the " lickin' " had been promised, stood 
up in the boat, as the keel grated on the sand, 
and hailed Lum ; — 

" Say, Lum Shinault, moosey outer yere, we 
hain't no gredge agin you ! " 

" Wat mought ye hev come fer, then ? " said 
Lum sarcastically. 



338 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

" Ter guv that thar regerlater a show 

ter lick Ike, ef lie dai'st," called the second 
brother. 

" I darst," Whitsun replied with his usual 
composure; "jes come on over! " The broth- 
ers consulted ; then Lum was hailed again : — 

" Lum Shinault, git outen the road ! " 

"The road's free," said Lum. '^ Yo' mighty 
brash orderin' folks outen the road ! " 

" Dad burn ye, be ye on his side ? " 

" Looks like," replied Lum indifferently ; 
" onyhow, ef ye waynt a fight ye kin hev 
hit ! " 

" They all won* fight," said Whitsun. 

Nor did they. The third Case boy (while 
the others were bending to their oars) yelled : 
" A man so mean 's you, Whit Harp, hed orter 
be shot 'twixt the cross er the gallowses, an' 
we '11 do hit yit ! " And the big Ike informed 
Lum that he was " let off " on account of the 
women in the cabin; but not one of them lifted 
his gun. Safe out in the river, they threw 
back a shower of threats and oaths, but noth- 
ing more solid. 

" They 're pusillanimous cusses," remarked 
Harp. Then he drew nearer Lum, looking 
actually embarrassed. " I cajm't mek you out 
rightly, nohow, Columbus Shinault," said he. 

" Naw," said Lum scornfully, " nor I cayn't 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 339 

mek myself out. Look a yere, Whit Harp, I 
come enter this yere bottom ter kill yoa." 

Whitsun nodded gravely, making a little af- 
firmative noise in his throat, exactly as he might 
have done to a remark about the weather. 

" An' I wud hev killed ye or be'n killed up 
myself — one, ef I bed n't met up with Bud 
Boas. 'T ain't no differ hoiv he stopped me ; 
he done hit, he sent me on his errant ter ye — 
ter warn ye ; an' w'at 's mo', so longer 's he 
Kves, ye ain't nuthin' ter fear from me. But 
w'en he done gone — look out ! " He would 
have wheeled his horse, but Harp caught the 
rein, saying, " Stop ! w'at sorter trick 's all 
this ? W'at fer did ye stop fer Bud Boas ? 
Did he — did he skeer ye with his ghost ? " 

Lum laughed harshly, in sheer bitterness of 
soul : " A dozen ghosts wud n't a stopped me. 
I don' hole by ghosts nohow." 

" Then w'y did ye go ? " 

None of us are above wishing to be justified, 
and there is a peculiar zest in overturning our 
enemies' false notions of us. Lum never would 
have proffered an explanation, but there may 
have been a grim comfort in letting Whitsun 
see his real self. He replied quietly, " I come 
ter holp Boas." 

" How 'd thet holp 'im ? " 

" 'Kase he war purportin' ter warn ye his- 



340 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

self. He 'lowed ef he cud jes save some un's 
life — a sorter swap like fer the one he taken, 
thet ar glios' w'at harnts 'ira monght quit." 

" Did the ghost say so ? " 

" I don' hole by ghosts, I tell ye. Naw, it 's 
jes a idy. So 's the ghost a idy, ter mi/ min'. 
But hit's plura fixed in 'is head jes strong's 
scripter. An' I reckon 't wuU be like he 'lows 
't will be — so. He 'lowed ef he cud save ye 
from bein' killed up er hev me, then the ghost 
'ud let up an' he cud die in peace." 

" Toby shore. An' hit war thet away ? An' 
thet thar 's w'y ye won' fight me — kase the 
life won' be saved then an' the sperrit mought 
cum back ? " 

Lum shrugged his shoulders : " I guess." 

Whitsun's stolid face worked as he cried : 
" Blame my skin ef I kin mek ye out onyhow ! 
Ye ain't no sich feller like I wuz 'ceountin' ye 
ter be ! " The blood rushed to Lum's fore- 
head with a sudden sense of the uselessness of 
this late recognition, a sudden fury of pain. 
*' Ye hev foun' hit out too late, Whitsun Harp," 
he cried ; " ye shamed me afore Polly Ann, an' 
ye shamed her too, lickin' her husband jes be- 
kase ye wuz the bigges' an' stronges', an' ye 
WHIZ too dumb ter see thet thar triflin' critter. 
Savannah, war jes sick with a chill, an' I wus 
guvin' on her w'iskey." 



WHITS UN HARP, REGULATOR. 341 

"An' was them lies 'beaut you an 'er?" 

" Ax Aer," said Lum, overcome by irrita- 
tion ; " I don' want no mo' truck 'ith ye, Whit 
Harp, w'ile Boas is 'live. Let go ! " 

" Jes er minute mo', Lum. I ain't agoin' 
ter fight with ye ayfter this ev'nin'. An' ef I 
done ye wrong I '11 ondo hit yit." 

The hand on Lum's bridle dropped, and the 
gray leaped forward ; Lum's farewell words 
hurled behind : " Ye cayn't ondo hit ; all ye 
kin do ar' ter fight me, an' ye shell ! " 

" Ef I mistaken him," muttered Whitsun, 
who hardly seemed to hear, so absorbed was 
he in his own train of thought, " ef — how cud 
hit a be'n — me bein' called ? " 

Boas was waiting at the cabin. He thanked 
and blessed Lum, but the poor fellow's heart 
was too sore to be thus eased. He must go 
back to Polly Ann, who despised him. It 
never occurred to him to try to lift himself a 
little in his wife's opinion by telling the story 
of the afternoon ; he felt too sure that Polly- 
Ann would not believe in any real intention 
of his to fight Harp, and would think that he 
welcomed any excuse. If only the Case boys 
had fought, if somebody's blood, no matter 
whose, had been spilled ! " Gells is alius a 
cravin' fer folks ter be killin' each other," 
mused Lum. ^^ Polly Ann wud feel a heap 



842 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

pearter ef I Led a fust-rate title ter a ghost er 
my own. But now I never '11 Lev no show, 
not the leas' bit on earth ! " 

Polly Ann received him with great kindness, 
saying nothing of the spoiled dinner or the 
delayed supper and twice-made coffee. After 
supper she herself brought him the violin. 
But he put it aside, saying : " Tek hit 'way, 
I don' feel like fiddlin' ! " He had scarcely 
touched his supper. " Ye feelin' puny, Lum ? " 
said Polly Ann timidly. He only shook his 
head and went out, forgetting his hat. Her 
kindness jarred on his sick soul ; this morning 
he had yearned for it because this morning he 
had a conviction that she would not despise 
him long or grudge him, afterward, a last 
caress. But now — "I 'm so low down en 
her min' she cayn't holp pityin' me," thought 
Lum. Degraded in his own eyes and in hers, 
and uncertain how long before Savannah's 
giddy tongue might be released from the fear 
that tied it and make his humiliation the 
latest joke for the store, Lum's whole nature 
seemed to collapse. He shunned the Clover 
Bend people ; he even shunned his wife, spend- 
ing days in the woods shooting, or picking cot- 
ton, and taking a lunch into the field. At 
night, supper over, he would go out and be 
gone until late. Many a night did Polly Ann 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 343 

pretend to be sleeping when Lum stepped 
softly across the floor. He never had been 
drinking; and he did not cross the river, for 
Polly Ann, always watching at the window, 
could see that the boats were not moved. One 
night she followed him. All that he did was 
to wander restlessly among the hills. She saw 
him make wild gestures ; once she heard a 
groan. Then she crept back to bed and cried, 
poor woman, whether for him or for herself, 
who knows ? 

She began to be frightened. She saw Harp 
at a distance, and once he crossed the river and 
paid a long call on Boas ; so that she did not 
connect any possible remorse with her hus- 
band's gloom. How could she imagine that he 
was ceaselessly and poignantly regretting his 
not being a murderer ? 

The only place where Lum was anything 
like his old self was in Boas's cabin. Boas was 
dying, but very peacefully. The visions which 
had tortured his life away were gone. He had 
no more dread of them. Thanks to Lum, he 
told his wife. He told her nothing else, but 
that was enough to arouse her gratitude. She 
would not pain him with questions, but she 
thought no harm of questioning Polly Ann. 
" D'ye 'low Lum done seen Grundy an' druv 
him 'way ? " she asked in tones of awe. " Law 



344 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

me, Mis' Shinaiilt, but he mus' hev grit ! " 
Grit ? — poor Lum ! But Polly Ann, who was 
superstitious, did have a vague and appalling 
theory that in some way Boas might have trans- 
ferred Grundy to Lum. Yet, were she right, it 
was not natural for Lum to take such evident 
comfort in Boas's society, going there every day, 
and taking his violin, although he never lifted 
the bow at home. 

Boas had little to say ; what he had was about 
the time when his lost boys were children. He 
would lie for hours, quite patient, quite content, 
watching his wife at her simple tasks or hear- 
ing Lum play. He often smiled. It was a pa- 
thetic sight to see how this man, who had not 
known peace for so long, seemed actually to 
revel in mere immunity from dread. " 'Pears 
like I cud n't git enough er jes restin'," he would 
say. He suffered very little physically. " It 
is n't so much that his lungs are gone," the doc- 
tor had said ; " all his organs seem used up. 
It 's more a death from exhaustion than any- 
thing else." 

November passed. Early in December Boas 
died. Lum saw him onlv a few hours before 
the event. He had never alluded to the past 
horror, but to-day he said : " Lum, I be'n bav- 
in' a cur'is dream. 'Beared like I war haulin' 
logs alonger Grundy Wild, like we useter. An' 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 345 

we uns war hevin' sich a pleasan' time. Hit 
war purty weather, an' we uns did n't 'pear ter 
hev no bad feelin's 'twixt us, an' Grundy he 
war a laffin' an' pokin' fun, an' me, I war laf- 
fin', too, kase ye know them tricks er his'n an' 
quar contraptions, an' nary un 'membered nuth- 
in' er thet ar bad time. I war a laffin' w'en I 
waked up. Lum, we uns war right good frien's 
wunst, an' hits quar but I ar' a feelin' them ole 
frien'ly feelin's now agin. Hit 's like the res' 
war jes a bad dream. I ain't skeered no mo' 
er meetin' up with Grundy, Lum." 

Not long afterward he fell asleep, and he may 
have wakened with Grundy, for he did not 
waken in this world. There was a great gath- 
ering at the funeral. To this day the widow 
talks about it with doleful pride ; " 'T war the 
vurry bigges' an' the gran'es' buryin' the Bend 
ever seen. A hun'erd an' sixty-two, big an' 
little, looked at the co'pse. I ceounted." 

Whitsun Harp came to the funeral. It so 
happened that when Lum first saw him they 
were both standing at the grave. The open 
grave was between them. Polly Ann saw 
Lum's moody countenance brightened by a fierce 
light. Harp did not seem to see Lum or any 
one ; his composed and melancholy gaze went 
past their heads over the forlorn little field 
with its rail fence and high gray grass waving 



346 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

above the unmarked mounds. The services 
ended, the people slowly walked down the path 
which their own footsteps had made through 
the grass. Polly Ann kept close to Lum. He 
edged himself up to Whitsun. They spoke 
together in a low tone, but Polly Ann had the 
ears of an Indian ; she caught two fragments 
of Lum's sentences : '' Nuthin' now ter ben- 
der," and '' Down en th' bottom, by the little 
bayou." 

There were people with the Shinaults as far 
as the ferry, and afterward there were the 
widow and two cousins to escort home. One of 
the cousins, intent on having a comfortable gos- 
sip about the dead man with some one not too 
near him for free discussion, returned with Lum. 
So she gave Polly Ann no chance to see her 
husband alone, and was still rocking and talk- 
ing in the black and gilt rocking-chair when he 
came in and took down his gun. " I 'm goin' 
fer a shoot, Polly Ann," said he. He had 
crossed the threshold, but he came back and 
kissed his wife on both cheeks, before the cousin. 
The cousin giggled ; but Polly Ann remem- 
bered that he had not kissed her before in three 
Veeks. I fear that her visitor found her an un- 
gracious hostess. The instant she was free, she 
ran to the shore. Lum's boat was gone, but 
Boas's little boat had been left near the ferry ; 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 347 

in this she rowed over to Clover Bend. At 
first she hesitated on the other shore, but pres- 
ently she ran at the top of her speed. She had 
heard a single shot. " Thar wud er be'n two^'' 
her white lips kept muttering ; " thar wuz on'y 
one ! " 

She ran past the mill, past the pasture, down 
into the swamp. It was the same cypress 
brake through which Lum had ridden with 
Boas, three weeks before ; but it was another 
scene to-day. One of the wood fires, so com- 
mon in autumn, had shorn the ground of the 
green cane and all the undergrowth that hides 
the weirdugliness of the cypress roots. Now, 
bared of every tender disguise of vine or moss, 
the hideous things, in their grotesque and dis- 
torted semblance of human form, seemed demon 
dwarfs crouching over their fires ; while the cy- 
press knees bore an uncanny resemblance to 
the toes of incompletely buried giants. Out of 
this huddle of monstrous shapes rose the cy- 
press-trees, un marred by knot or branch until 
high, high above a rider's head, some slim and 
erect like stately young maidens, others of enor- 
mous girth, brother giants to those that the 
earth refuse to cover. Some were as smooth- 
and glossy white as dead bones. The fire had 
eaten out their life. Charred logs were tumbled 
over the ground, and the cypress boughs were 



348 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

ashes whence rose a cloud of smoke under hurry- 
ing feet. 

Polly Ann ran on farther and farther into 
the ruined forest. She could see the shining of 
water. A log had fallen across the road. No, 
O God ! it was no log, it was a man, it was 
Whitsun Harp lying on his face, shot dead from 
behind. 

Another woman might have screamed. Polly 
Ann only knelt down beside the man who had 
loved her all his youth, and very gently turned 
his face to the sun. 

He who so seldom smiled now wore a pleas- 
ant, dreamy smile on his lips. The murderer 
had taken such sure aim that death did not 
even interrupt the murdered man's thought. 

Then, at last, Polly Ann understood her hus- 
band. This was what he was studying. 

Without a moan or cry her body swayed for- 
ward like a broken tree and fell beside Harp's. 
But she did not lose consciousness ; she knew 
the voice that called her name, and she stag- 
gered to her feet. Lum was standing in the 
road, his face ashen white and his gun shaking 
in his hands. She ran to him with a great sob 
and threw herself against his breast. 

" Run ! run ! " she gasped,' " they '11 cotch 
ye ! Tek the boat ; the river 's bes' ! " 

" Fer w'y must I run ? " said Lum. Though 



o 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 349 

he was so agitated, so excited, lie seemed rather 
like a man overcome by some unexpected sight 
of horror than one who fears for himself, 

'' You " — began Polly Ann ; she clutched the 
barrel of his gun. It was cold to the touch. 

" Ye hav' n't fired hit off ! " screamed she. 

"Naw," said Lum, " I see ye weepin' over 
Whitsun Harp ; ye 'low /killed him ? " 

" Ye looked so — skeered ! " 

" I war skeered — pow'ful skeered. Kase, 
Polly Ann, I lef home 'ith my min' sot on kill- 
in' thet thar dead man, but I did n't do hit. 
Hark' ter me, afore him lyin' thet away ye don' 
b'lieve I cud lie. Lemme tell ye the hull truth." 
Then he told, with the conciseness of strong 
emotion, how Boas had saved him in the first 
place, and how, as long as Boas lived, he could 
not renew his attempt. " But, ter-day," said 
he, " I war free agin. I cud show ye I war a 
man 's much ez Harp. I spoken ter him at the 
buryin'." — He shuddered. — "I 'p'inted this 
yere place. He tole me ter come ter the store 
fust, an' then ef I wanted he 'd come yere. I 
done wen' ter the store. And he war thar. Afore 
'em all, he stepped up an' begged my pardin'. 
* Mr. Shinault knows w'at fer,' he says, an' 
then he thanked me fer ' savin' ' on his life — 
he putt hit like thet — an' tole the hull story. * 
' An' now,' sezee, ' I don't guess ye keer fer my 



350 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 

comp'ny down en the bottom.' Then he holes 
out his han', an' I taken it, an' he said, ' Ye 
won' keep no gredge agin me no mo', will ye, 
you nor yo' wife ? ' an' I said ' Naw,' an' he 
went away, an' I never seen him agin tell I seen 
you settin' by him, an' him dead. Polly Ann, 
ye do b'lieve me." 

Polly Ann was sobbing, but she nodded. 
" Abe Davis, he war with me, but he went on 
the high road, an' I come down yere fer a shoot 
so I 'd hev some squirrels to tote home. We 
heerd the shoot, but folks is alius shootin' in 
the bottom. We mought er cotched of 'em ef 
we 'd come straight down : I don't guess they '11 
ever cotch 'em now. Thar 's too many ter 
suspicion. " 

Lum judged rightly. Among the dozen men 
who had cause to hate Whitsun, Justice (a 
somewhat unwieldy personage in the bottom) 
never could find enough evidence against any 
one to take action. Whitsun's murderer was 
never punished, to Clover Bend's knowing ; he 
was never even pursued. 

Lum knelt down as Polly Ann had done by 
the dead man's side ; he looked up at his wife 
with love and pity beyond his expression. " Yes, 
he's ddne gone shore, dearie," he said slowly; 
" I wisht he warn't. He war a better man nor 



me." 



WHITSUN HARP, REGULATOR. 351 

Polly Ann only sobbed. 

" Wild ye — wud ye like ter — ter say good- 
by ter him afore I holler on Tobe ? I'll step 
over yander ter look fer 'im." 

Then Polly Ann looked up. She read his 
thoughts. 

" Lum," said she, " come yere ! " He came. 

" Ye 'low thet I set store by Whitsun, too 
gre't store, mor'n I done by you f " 

*' He war yo' kin', honey, I don' meanter-ter 
trow it up agin ye — ye 'lowed I war triflin'." 

" Lum, Lum, don' say the word," cried she, 
" donH ! I don' know how ter tell ye ; but 
't waz you alius, alius, even w'en ye hed n't nary 
thought fer me an' wuz waitin' on Savannah 
Lady. I fit agin hit, I done my bes' ter brung 
my min' ter Whitsun, fer he — he axed me an' 
he war so good, so brave, the bes' an' faith- 
fulles' — but I cud n't do it, kase my min' war so 
sot on you. An' then we uns wuz married, an' 
ye did n't set no gre't store by me fer a right 
smart. An' I wuz so lonesome, an' paw war 
gone, an' I grieved. An' then w'en ye sorter — 
sorter began ter hev a — a differ en yo' feelin's 
I war frettin' an' takin' on bekase ye war n't 
like Whitsun, an' kase ye wud let 'im dare ye 
an' prommus ye lickin's an' not tek it up. Oh, 
Lum, I war a fool, but 't war alius you. Whitsun 
knows it war alius you." 



352 KNITTERS IN THE SUN. 



» >j 



" Yes, honey, yes, my darlin', I onnerstan', 
said Lum softly, gathering her into his arms 
with a full heart. In that supreme moment 
they both forgot all the world but themselves. 

But Whitsun, lying in the sunlight at their 
feet, was smiling still. 



o 



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RARE BOOK 
COLLECTION 




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AT 

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475 



^m