Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Annie Kilburn by W. D. Howells

Part 2 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

perambulator at the door, and she dismounted and fastened her pony with a
weight, which she took from the front of the phaeton. On either door jamb
of the store was a curved plate of polished metal, with the name GERRISH
cut into it in black letters; the sills of the wide windows were of metal,
and bore the same legend. At the threshold a very prim, ceremonious little
man, spare and straight, met Mrs. Munger with a ceremonious bow, and a
solemn "How do you do, ma'am I how do you do? I hope I see you well," and
he put a small dry hand into the ample clasp of Mrs. Munger's gauntlet.

"Very well indeed, Mr. Gerrish. Isn't it a lovely morning? You know Miss
Kilburn, Mr. Gerrish."

He took Annie's hand into his right and covered it with his left, lifting
his eyes to look her in the, face with an old-merchant-like cordiality.

"Why, yes, indeed! Delighted to see her. Her father was one of my best
friends. I may say that I owe everything that I am to Squire Kilburn; he
advised me to stick to commerce when I once thought of studying law. Glad
to welcome you back to Hatboro', Miss Kilburn. You see changes on the
surface, no doubt, but you'll find the genuine old feeling here. Walk right
back, ladies," he continued, releasing Annie's hand to waft them before
him toward the rear of the store. "You'll find Mrs. Gerrish in my room
there--my Growlery, as I call it." He seemed to think he had invented the
name. "And Mrs. Gerrish tells me that you've really come back," he said,
leaning decorously toward Annie as they walked, "with the intention of
taking up your residence permanently among us. You will find very few
places like Hatboro'."

As he spoke, walking with his hands clasped behind him, he glanced to
right and left at the shop-girls on foot behind the counter, who dropped
their eyes under their different bangs as they caught his glance, and
bridled nervously. He denied them the use of chewing-gum; he permitted no
conversation, as he called it, among them; and he addressed no jokes or
idle speeches to them himself. A system of grooves overhead brought to his
counting-room the cash from the clerks in wooden balls, and he returned the
change, and kept the accounts, with a pitiless eye for errors. The women
were afraid of him, and hated him with bitterness, which exploded at crises
in excesses of hysterical impudence.

His store was an example of variety, punctuality, and quality. Upon the
theory, for which he deserved the credit, of giving to a country place
the advantages of one of the great city establishments, he was gradually
gathering, in their fashion, the small commerce into his hands. He had
already opened his bazaar through into the adjoining store, which he had
bought out, and he kept every sort of thing desired or needed in a country
town, with a tempting stock of articles before unknown to the shopkeepers
of Hatboro'. Everything was of the very quality represented; the prices
were low, but inflexible, and cash payments, except in the case of some
rich customers of unimpeachable credit, were invariably exacted; at the
same time every reasonable facility for the exchange or return of goods was
afforded. Nothing could exceed the justice and fidelity of his dealing with
the public. He had even some effects of generosity in his dealing with his
dependants; he furnished them free seats in the churches of their different
persuasions, and he closed every night at six o'clock, except Saturday,
when the shop hands were paid off, and made their purchases for the coming
week.

He stepped lightly before Annie and Mrs. Munger, and pushed open the
ground-glass door of his office for them. It was like a bank parlour,
except for Mrs. Gerrish sitting in her husband's leather-cushioned swivel
chair, with her last-born in her lap; she greeted the others noisily,
without trying to rise.

"You see we are quite at home here," said Mr. Gerrish.

"Yes, and very snug you are, too," said Mrs. Munger, taking one half of the
leather lounge, and leaving the other half to Annie. "I don't wonder Mrs.
Gerrish likes to visit you here."

Mr. Gerrish laughed, and said to his wife, who moved provisionally in her
chair, seeing he had none, "Sit still, my dear; I prefer my usual perch."
He took a high stool beside a desk, and gathered a ruler in his hand.

"Well, I may as well begin at the beginning," said Mrs. Munger, "and I'll
try to be short, for I know that these are business hours."

"Take all the time you want, Mrs. Munger," said Mr. Gerrish affably. "It's
my idea that a good business man's business can go on without him, when
necessary."

"Of course!" Mrs. Munger sighed. "If everybody had your _system_, Mr.
Gerrish!" She went on and succinctly expounded the scheme of the Social
Union. "I suppose I can't deny that the idea occurred to _me_," she
concluded, "but we can't hope to develop it without the co-operation of the
ladies of Old Hatboro', and I've come, first of all, to Mrs. Gerrish."

Mr. Gerrish bowed his acknowledgments of the honour done his wife, with a
gravity which she misinterpreted.

"I think," she began, with her censorious manner and accent, "that these
people have too much done for them _now_. They're perfectly spoiled.
Don't you, Annie?"

Mr. Gerrish did not give Annie time to answer. "I differ with you, my
dear," he cut in. "It is my opinion--Or I don't know but you wish to
confine this matter entirely to the ladies?" he suggested to Mrs. Munger.

"Oh, I'm only too proud and glad that you feel interested in the matter!"
cried Mrs. Munger. "Without the gentlemen's practical views, we ladies are
such feeble folk--mere conies in the rocks."

"I am as much opposed as Mrs. Gerrish--or any one--to acceding to unjust
demands on the part of my clerks or other employees," Mr. Gerrish began.

"Yes, that's what I mean," said his wife, and broke down with a giggle.

He went on, without regarding her: "I have always made it a rule, as far as
business went, to keep my own affairs entirely in my own hands. I fix the
hours, and I fix the wages, and I fix all the other conditions, and I say
plainly, 'If you don't like them, 'don't come,' or 'don't stay,' and I
never have any difficulty."

"I'm sure," said Mrs. Munger, "that if all the employers in the country
would take such a stand, there would soon be an end of labour troubles. I
think we're too concessive."

"And I do too, Mrs. Munger!" cried Mrs. Gerrish, glad of the occasion to be
censorious and of the finer lady's opinion at the same time. "That's what I
meant. Don't you, Annie?"

"I'm afraid I don't understand exactly," Annie replied.

Mr. Gerrish kept his eye on Mrs. Munger's face, now arranged for indefinite
photography, as he went on. "That is exactly what I say to them. That is
what I said to Mr. Marvin one year ago, when he had that trouble in his
shoe shop. I said, 'You're too concessive.' I said, 'Mr. Marvin, if you
give those fellows an inch, they'll take an ell. Mr. Marvin,' said I,
'you've got to begin by being your own master, if you want to be master of
anybody else. You've got to put your foot down, as Mr. Lincoln said; and as
_I_ say, you've got to _keep_ it down.'"

Mrs. Gerrish looked at the other ladies for admiration, and Mrs. Munger
said, rapidly, without disarranging her face--

"Oh yes. And how much _misery_ could be saved in such cases by a
little firmness at the outset!"

"Mr. Marvin differed with me," said Mr. Gerrish sorrowfully. "He agreed
with me on the main point, but he said that too many of his hands had
been in his regiment, and he couldn't lock them out. He submitted to
arbitration. And what is arbitration?" asked Mr. Gerrish, levelling his
ruler at Mrs. Munger. "It is postponing the evil day."

"Exactly," said Mrs. Munger, without winking.

"Mr. Marvin," Mr. Gerrish proceeded, "may be running very smoothly now,
and sailing before the wind all--all--nicely; but I tell _you_ his
house is built upon the _sand_," He put his ruler by on the desk very
softly, and resumed with impressive quiet: "I never had any trouble but
once. I had a porter in this store who wanted his pay raised. I simply
said that I made it a rule to propose all advances of salary myself, and I
should submit to no dictation from any one. He told me to go to--a place
that I will not repeat, and I told him to walk out of my store. He was
under the influence of liquor at the time, I suppose. I understand that he
is drinking very hard. He does nothing to support his family whatever, and
from all that I can gather, he bids fair to fill a drunkard's grave inside
of six months."

Mrs. Munger seized her opportunity. "Yes; and it is just such cases as this
that the Social Union is designed to meet. If this man had some such place
to spend his evenings--and bring his family if he chose--where he could get
a cup of good coffee for the same price as a glass of rum--Don't you see?"

She looked round at the different faces, and Mr. Gerrish slightly frowned,
as if the vision of the Social Union interposing between his late porter
and a drunkard's grave, with a cup of good coffee, were not to his taste
altogether; but he said: "Precisely so! And I was about to make the remark
that while I am very strict--and obliged to be--with those under me in
business, _no_ one is more disposed to promote such objects as this of
yours."

"I was _sure_ you would approve of it," said Mrs. Munger. "That is
why I came to you--to you and Mrs. Gerrish--first," said Mrs. Munger. "I
was sure you would see it in the right light." She looked round at Annie
for corroboration, and Annie was in the social necessity of making a
confirmatory murmur.

Mr. Gerrish ignored them both in the more interesting work of celebrating
himself. "I may say that there is not an institution in this town which I
have not contributed my humble efforts to--to--establish, from the drinking
fountain in front of this store, to the soldiers' monument on the village
green."

Annie turned red; Mrs. Munger said shamelessly, "That beautiful monument!"
and looked at Annie with eyes full of gratitude to Mr. Gerrish.

"The schools, the sidewalks, the water-works, the free library, the
introduction of electricity, the projected system of drainage, and
_all_ the various religious enterprises at various times, I am
proud--I am humbly proud--that I have been allowed to be the means of
doing--sustaining--"

He lost himself in the labyrinths of his sentence, and Mrs. Munger came to
his rescue: "I fancy Hatboro' wouldn't be Hatboro' without _you_, Mr.
Gerrish! And you _don't_ think that Mr. Peck's objection will be
seriously felt by other leading citizens?"

"_What_ is Mr. Peck's objection?" demanded Mr. Gerrish, perceptibly
bristling up at the name of his pastor.

"Why, he talked it over with Miss Kilburn last night, and he objected
to an entertainment which wouldn't be open to all--to the shop hands and
everybody." Mrs. Munger explained the point fully. She repeated some things
that Annie had said in ridicule of Mr. Peck's position regarding it. "If
you _do_ think that part would be bad or impolitic," Mrs. Munger
concluded, "we could drop the invited supper and the dance, and simply have
the theatricals."

She bent upon Mr. Gerrish a face of candid deference that filled him with
self-importance almost to bursting.

"No!" he said, shaking his head, and "No!" closing his lips abruptly, and
opening them again to emit a final "No!" with an explosive force which
alone seemed to save him. "Not at all, Mrs. Munger; not on any account! I
am surprised at Mr. Peck, or rather I am _not_ surprised. He is not a
practical man--not a man of the world; and I should have much preferred to
hear that he objected to the dancing and the play; I could have understood
that; I could have gone with him in that to a certain extent, though I can
see no harm in such things when properly conducted. I have a great respect
for Mr. Peck; I was largely instrumental in getting him here; but he is
altogether wrong in this matter. We are not obliged to go out into the
highways and the hedges until the bidden guests have--er--declined."

"Exactly," said Mrs. Munger. "I never thought of that."

Mrs. Gerrish shifted her baby to another knee, and followed her husband
with her eyes, as he dismounted from his stool and began to pace the room.

"I came into this town a poor boy, without a penny in my pocket, and I
have made my own way, every inch of it, unaided and alone. I am a thorough
believer in giving every one an equal chance to rise and to--get along; I
would not throw an obstacle in anybody's way; but I do not believe--I do
_not_ believe--in pampering those who have not risen, or have made no
effort to rise."

"It's their wastefulness, in nine cases out of ten, that keeps them down,"
said Mrs. Gerrish.

"I don't care _what_ it is, I don't _ask_ what it is, that keeps
them down. I don't expect to invite my clerks or Mrs. Gerrish's servants
into my parlour. I will meet them at the polls, or the communion table,
or on any proper occasion; but a man's home is _sacred_. I will not
allow my wife or my children to associate with those whose--whose--whose
idleness, or vice, or whatever, has kept them down in a country
where--where everybody stands on an equality; and what I will not do
myself, I will not ask others to do. I make it a rule to do unto others as
I would have them do unto me. It is all nonsense to attempt to introduce
those one-ideaed notions into--put them in practice."

"Yes," said Mrs. Munger, with deep conviction, "that is my own feeling, Mr.
Gerrish, and I'm glad to have it corroborated by your experience. Then you
_wouldn't_ drop the little invited dance and supper?"

"I will tell you how I feel about it, Mrs. Munger," said Mr. Gerrish,
pausing in his walk, and putting on a fine, patronising,
gentleman-of-the-old-school smile. "You may put me down for any number of
tickets--five, ten, fifteen--and you may command me in anything I can do to
further the objects of your enterprise, if you will _keep_ the invited
supper and dance. But I should not be prepared to do anything if they are
dropped."

"What a comfort it is to meet a person who knows his own mind!" exclaimed
Mrs. Munger.

"Got company, Billy?" asked a voice at the door; and it added, "Glad to see
_you_ here, Mrs. Gerrish."

"Ah, Mr. Putney! Come in. Hope I see you well, sir!" cried Mr. Gerrish.
"Come in!" he repeated, with jovial frankness. "Nobody but friends here."

"I don't know about that," said Mr. Putney, with whimsical perversity,
holding the door ajar. "I see that arch-conspirator from South Hatboro',"
he said, looking at Mrs. Munger.

He showed himself, as he stood holding the door ajar, a lank little figure,
dressed with reckless slovenliness in a suit of old-fashioned black; a
loose neck-cloth fell stringing down his shirt front, which his unbuttoned
waistcoat exposed, with its stains from the tobacco upon which his thin
little jaws worked mechanically, as he stared into the room with flamy blue
eyes; his silk hat was pushed back from a high, clear forehead; he had
yesterday's stubble on his beardless cheeks; a heavy moustache and imperial
gave dash to a cast of countenance that might otherwise have seemed slight
and effeminate.

"Yes; but I'm in charge of Miss Kilburn, and you needn't be afraid of me.
Come in. We wish to consult you," cried Mrs. Munger. Mrs. Gerrish cackled
some applausive incoherencies.

Putney advanced into the room, and dropped his burlesque air as he
approached Annie.

"Miss Kilburn, I must apologise for not having called with Mrs. Putney to
pay my respects. I have been away; when I got back I found she had stolen
a march on me. But I'm going to make Ellen bring me at once. I don't think
I've been in your house since the old Judge's time. Well, he was an able
man, and a good man; I was awfully fond of the old Judge, in a boy's way."

"Thank you," said Annie, touched by something gentle and honest in his
words.

"He was a Christian gentleman," said Mr. Gerrish. with authority.

Putney said, without noticing Mr. Gerrish, "Well, I'm glad you've come back
to the old place, Miss Kilburn--I almost said Annie."

"I shouldn't have minded, Ralph," she retorted.

"Shouldn't you? Well, that's right." Putney continued, ignoring the
laugh of the others at Annie's sally: "You'll find Hatboro' pretty
exciting, after Rome, for a while, I suppose. But you'll get used to
it. It's got more of the modern improvements, I'm told, and it's more
public-spirited--more snap to it. I'm told that there's more enterprise in
Hatboro', more real _crowd_ in South Hatboro' alone, than there is in
the Quirinal and the Vatican put together."

"You had better come and live at South Hatboro', Mr. Putney; that would be
just the atmosphere for you," said Mrs. Munger, with aimless hospitality.
She said this to every one.

"Is it about coming to South Hatboro' you want to consult me?" asked
Putney.

"Well, it is, and it isn't," she began.

"Better be honest, Mrs. Munger," said Putney. "You can't do anything for
a client who won't be honest with his attorney. That's what I have to
continually impress upon the reprobates who come to me. I say, 'It don't
matter what you've done; if you expect me to get you off, you've got to
make a clean breast of it.' They generally do; they see the sense of it."

They all laughed, and Mr. Gerrish said, "Mr. Putney is one of Hatboro's
privileged characters, Miss Kilburn."

"Thank you, Billy," returned the lawyer, with mock-tenderness. "Now, Mrs.
Munger, out with it!"

"You'll have to tell him sooner or later, Mrs. Munger!" said Mrs. Gerrish,
with overweening pleasure in her acquaintance with both of these superior
people. "He'll get it out of you anyway." Her husband looked at her, and
she fell silent.

Mrs. Munger swept her with a tolerant smile as she looked up at Putney.
"Why, it's really Miss Kilburn's affair," she began; and she laid the case
before the lawyer with a fulness that made Annie wince.

Putney took a piece of tobacco from his pocket, and tore off a morsel with
his teeth. "Excuse me, Annie! It's a beastly habit. But it's saved me from
something worse. _You_ don't know what I've been; but anybody in
Hatboro' can tell you. I made my shame so public that it's no use trying
to blink the past. You don't have to be a hypocrite in a place where
everybody's seen you in the gutter; that's the only advantage I've got over
my fellow-citizens, and of course I abuse it; that's nature, you know. When
I began to pull up I found that tobacco helped me; I smoked and chewed
both; now I only chew. Well," he said, dropping the pathetic simplicity
with which he had spoken, and turning with a fierce jocularity from the
shocked and pitying look in Annie's face to Mrs. Munger, "what do you
propose to do? Brother Peck's head seems to be pretty level, in the
abstract."

"Yes," said Mrs. Munger, willing to put the case impartially; "and I should
be perfectly willing to drop the invited dance and supper, if it was
thought best, though I must say I don't at all agree with Mr. Peck in
principle. I don't see what would become of society."

"You ought to be in politics, Mrs. Munger," said Putney. "Your readiness to
sacrifice principle to expediency shows what a reform will be wrought when
you ladies get the suffrage. What does Brother Gerrish think?"

"No, no," said Mrs. Munger. "We want an impartial opinion."

"I always think as Brother Gerrish thinks," said Putney. "I guess you
better give up the fandango; hey, Billy?"

"No, sir; no, Mr. Putney," answered the merchant nervously. "I can't agree
with you. And I will tell you why, sir."

He gave his reasons, with some abatement of pomp and detail, and with the
tremulous eagerness of a solemn man who expects a sarcastic rejoinder. "It
would be a bad precedent. This town is full now of a class of persons who
are using every opportunity to--to abuse their privileges. And this would
be simply adding fuel to the flame."

"Do you really think so, Billy ?" asked the lawyer, with cool derision.
"Well, we all abuse our privileges at every opportunity, of course; I was
just saying that I abused mine; and I suppose those fellows would abuse
theirs if you happened to hurt their wives' and daughters' feelings. And
how are you going to manage? Aren't you afraid that they will hang around,
after the show, indefinitely, unless you ask all those who have not
received invitations to the dance and supper to clear the grounds, as they
do in the circus when the minstrels are going to give a performance not
included in the price of admission? Mind, I don't care anything about your
Social Union."

"Oh, but _surely_!" cried Mrs. Munger, "you _must_ allow that
it's a good object."

"Well, perhaps it is, if it will keep the men away from the rum-holes. Yes,
I guess it is. You won't sell liquor?"

"We expect to furnish coffee at cost price," said Mrs. Munger, smiling at
Putney's joke.

"And good navy-plug too, I hope. But you see it would be rather awkward,
don't you? You see, Annie?"

"Yes, I see," said Annie. "I hadn't thought of that part before."

"And you didn't agree with Brother Peck on general principles? There we
see the effect of residence abroad," said Putney. "The uncorrupted--or
I will say the uninterrupted--Hatborian has none of those aristocratic
predilections of yours, Annie. He grows up in a community where there is
neither poverty nor richness, and where political economy can show by the
figures that the profligate shop hands get nine-tenths of the profits, and
starve on 'em, while the good little company rolls in luxury on the other
tenth. But you've got used to something different over there, and of course
Brother Peck's ideas startled you. Well, I suppose I should have been just
so myself."

"Mr. Putney has never felt just right about the working-men since he lost
the boycotters' case," said Mr. Gerrish, with a snicker.

"Oh, come now, Billy, why did you give me away?" said Putney, with mock
suffering. "Well, I suppose I might as well own up, Mrs. Munger; it's no
use trying to keep it from _you_; you know it already. Yes, Annie, I
defended some poor devils here for combining to injure a non-union man--for
doing once just what the big manufacturing Trusts do every day of the year
with impunity; and I lost the case. I expected to. I told 'em they were
wrong, but I did my best for 'em. 'Why, you fools,' said I--that's the way
I talk to 'em, Annie; I call 'em pet names; they like it; they're used to
'em; they get 'em every day in the newspapers--'you fools,' said I, 'what
do you want to boycott for, when you can _vote_? What do you want to
break the laws for, when you can _make_ 'em? You idiots, you,' said I,
'what do you putter round for, persecuting non-union men, that have as good
a right to earn their bread as you, when you might make the whole United
States of America a Labour Union?' Of course I didn't say that in court."

"Oh, how delicious you are, Mr. Putney!" said Mrs. Munger.

"Glad you like me, Mrs. Munger," Putney replied.

"Yes, you're delightful," said the lady, recovering from the effects of
the drollery which they had all pretended to enjoy, Mr. Gerrish, and Mrs.
Gerrish by his leave, even more than the others. "But you're not candid.
All this doesn't help us to a conclusion. Would you give up the invited
dance and supper, or wouldn't you? That's the question."

"And no shirking, hey?" asked Putney.

"No shirking."

Putney glanced through a little transparent space in the ground-glass
windows framing the room, which Mr. Gerrish used for keeping an eye on his
sales-ladies to see that they did not sit down.

"Hello!" he exclaimed. "There's Dr. Morrell. Let's put the case to him." He
opened the door and called down the store, "Come in here, Doc!"

"What?" called back an amused voice; and after a moment steps approached,
and Dr. Morrell hesitated at the open door. He was a tall man, with a
slight stoop; well dressed; full bearded; with kind, boyish blue eyes that
twinkled in fascinating friendliness upon the group. "Nobody sick here, I
hope?"

"Walk right in, sir! come in, Dr. Morrell," said Mr. Gerrish. "Mrs. Munger
and Mrs. Gerrish you know. Present you to Miss Kilburn, who has come to
make her home among us after a prolonged residence abroad. Dr. Morrell,
Miss Kilburn."

"No, there's nobody sick here, in one sense," said Putney, when the doctor
had greeted the ladies. "But. we want your advice all the same. Mrs. Munger
is in a pretty bad way morally, Doc."

"Don't you mind Mr. Putney, doctor!" screamed Mrs. Gerrish.

Putney said, with respectful recognition of the poor woman's attempt to be
arch, "I'll try to keep within the bounds of truth in stating the case,
Mrs. Gerrish."

He went on to state it, with so much gravity and scrupulosity, and with
so many appeals to Mrs. Munger to correct him if he were wrong, that the
doctor was shaking with laughter when Putney came to an end with unbroken
seriousness. At each repetition of the facts, Annie's relation to them grew
more intolerable; and she suspected Putney of an intention to punish her.
"Well, what do you say?" he demanded of the doctor.

"Ha, ha, ha! ah, ha, ha." laughed the doctor, shutting his eyes and
throwing back his head.

"Seems to consider it a _laughing_ matter," said Putney to Mrs.
Munger.

"Yes; and that is all your fault," said Mrs. Munger, trying, with the
ineffectiveness of a large woman, to pout.

"No, no, I'm not laughing." began the doctor.

"Smiling, perhaps," suggested Putney.

The doctor went off again. Then, "I beg--I _beg_ your pardon, Mrs.
Munger," he resumed. "But it isn't a professional question, you know; and
I--I really couldn't judge--have any opinion on such a matter."

"No shirking," said Putney. "That's what Mrs. Munger said to me."

"Of course not," gurgled the doctor. "You ladies will know what to do. I'm
sure _I_ shouldn't," he added.

"Well, I must be going," said Putney. "Sorry to leave you in this fix,
Doc." He flashed out of the door, and suddenly came back to offer Annie his
hand. "I beg your pardon, Annie. I'm going to make Ellen bring me round.
Good morning." He bowed cursorily to the rest.

"Wait--I'll go with you, Putney," said the doctor.

Mrs. Munger rose, and Annie with her. "We must go too," she said. "We've
taken up Mr. Gerrish's time most unconscionably," and now Mr. Gerrish did
not urge her to remain.

"Well, good-bye," said Mrs. Gerrish, with a genteel prolongation of the
last syllable.

Mr. Gerrish followed his guests down the store, and even out upon the
sidewalk, where he presided with unheeded hospitality over the superfluous
politeness of Putney and Dr. Morrell in putting Mrs. Munger and Annie into
the phaeton. Mrs. Munger attempted to drive away without having taken up
her hitching weight.

"I suppose that there isn't a post in this town that my wife hasn't tried
to pull up in that way," said Putney gravely.

The doctor doubled himself down with another fit of laughing.

Annie wanted to laugh too, but she did not like his laughing. She
questioned if it were not undignified. She felt that it might be
disrespectful. Then she asked herself why he should respect her.

IX.

"That was a great success," said Mrs. Munger, as they drove away. Annie
said nothing, and she added, "Don't you think so?"

"Well, I confess," said Annie, "I don't see how, exactly. Do you mean with
regard to Mr. Gerrish?"

"Oh no; I don't care anything about him," said Mrs. Munger, touching her
pony with the tip of her whip-lash. "He's an odious little creature, and I
knew that he would go for the dance and supper because Mr. Peck was opposed
to them. He's one of the anti-Peck party in his church, and that is the
reason I spoke to him. But I meant the other gentlemen. You saw how they
took it."

"I saw that they both made fun of it," said Annie.

"Yes; that's just the point. It's so fortunate they were frank about it. It
throws a new light on it; and if that's the way nice people are going to
look at it, why, we must give up the idea. I'm quite prepared to do so. But
I want to see Mrs. Wilmington first."

"Mrs. Munger," said Annie uneasily, "I would rather not see Mrs. Wilmington
with you on this subject; I should be of no use."

"My dear, you would be of the _greatest_ use," persisted Munger, and
she laid her arm across Annie's lap, as if to prevent her jumping out of
the phaeton. "As Mrs. Wilmington's old friend, you will have the greatest
influence with her."

"But I don't know that I wish to influence her in favour of the supper and
dance; I don't know that I believe in them," said Annie, cowed and troubled
by the affair.

"That doesn't make the slightest difference," said Mrs. Munger impartially.
"All you will have to do is to keep still. I will put the case to her."

She checked the pony before the bar which the flagman at the railroad
crossing had let down, while a long freight train clattered deafeningly
by, and then drove bumping and jouncing across the tracks. "I suppose you
remember what 'Over the Track' means in Hatboro'?"

"Oh yes," said Annie, with a smile. "Social perdition at the least. You
don't mean that Mrs. Wilmington lives 'Over the Track'?"

"Yes. It isn't so bad as it used to be, socially. Mr. Wilmington has built
a very fine house on this side, and there are several pretty Queen Anne
cottages going up."

They drove along under the elms which here stood somewhat at random about
the wide, grassless street, between the high, windowy bulks of the shoe
shops and hat shops. The dust gradually freed itself from the cinders
about the tracks, and it hardened into a handsome, newly made road beyond
the houses of the shop hands. They passed some open lots, and then, on a
pleasant rise of ground, they came to a stately residence, lifted still
higher on its underpinning of granite blocks. It was built in a Boston
suburban taste of twenty years ago, with a lofty mansard-roof, and it was
painted the stone-grey colour which was once esteemed for being so quiet.
The lawn before it sloped down to the road, where it ended smoothly at the
brink of a neat stone wall. A black asphalt path curved from the steps by
which you mounted from the street to the steps by which you mounted to the
heavy portico before the massive black walnut doors.

The ladies were shown into the music-room, from which the notes of a piano
were sounding when they rang, and Mrs. Wilmington rose from the instrument
to meet them. A young man who had been standing beside her turned away.
Mrs. Wilmington was dressed in a light morning dress with a Watteau fall,
whose delicate russets and faded reds and yellows heightened the richness
of her complexion and hair.

"Why, Annie," she said, "how glad I am to see you! And you too, Mrs.
Munger. How _vurry_ nice!" Her words took value from the thick
mellow tones of her voice, and passed for much more than they were worth
intrinsically. She moved lazily about and got them into chairs, and was not
resentful when Mrs. Munger broke out with "How hot you have it!" "Have we?
We had the furnace lighted yesterday, and we've been in all the morning,
and so we hadn't noticed. Jack, won't you shut the register?" she drawled
over her shoulder. "This is my nephew, Mr. Jack Wilmington, Miss Kilburn.
Mr. Wilmington and Mrs. Munger are old friends."

The young fellow bowed silently, and Annie instantly took a dislike to him,
his heavy jaw, long eyes, and low forehead almost hidden under a thick
bang. He sat down cornerwise on a chair, and listened, with a scornful
thrust of his thick lips, to their talk.

Mrs. Munger was not abashed by him. She opened her budget with all her
robust authority, and once more put Annie to shame. When she came to the
question of the invited supper and dance, and having previously committed
Mrs. Wilmington in favour of the general scheme, asked her what she thought
of that part, Mr. Jack Wilmington answered for her--

"I should think you had a right to do what you please about it. It's none
of the hands' business if you don't choose to ask them."

"Yes, that's what any one would think--in the abstract," said Mrs. Munger.

"Now, little boy," said Mrs. Wilmington, with indolent amusement, putting
out a silencing hand in the direction of the young man, "don't you be so
fast. You let your aunty speak for herself. I don't know about not letting
the hands stay to the dance and supper, Mrs. Munger. You know I might feel
'put upon.' I used to be one of the hands myself. Yes, Annie, there was a
time after you went away, and after father died, when I actually fell so
low as to work for an honest living."

"I think I heard, Lyra," said Annie; "but I had forgotten." The fact, in
connection with what had been said, made her still more uncomfortable.

"Well, I didn't work very hard, and I didn't have to work long. But I was
a hand, and there's no use trying to deny it. As Mr. Putney says, he and I
have our record, and we don't have to make any pretences. And the question
is, whether I ought to go back on my fellow-hands."

"Oh, but Mrs. _Wilmington_!" said Mrs. Munger, with intense
deprecation, "that's such a very different thing. You were not brought up
to it; it was just temporary; and besides--"

"And besides, there was Mr. Wilmington, I know. He was very opportune. I
might have been a hand at this moment if Mr. Wilmington had not come along
and invited me to be a head--the head of his house. But I don't know,
Annie, whether I oughtn't to remember my low beginnings."

"I suppose we all like to be consistent," answered Annie aimlessly,
uneasily.

"Yes," Mrs. Munger broke in; "but they were not your beginnings, Mrs.
Wilmington; they were your incidents--your accidents."

"It's very pretty of you to say so, Mrs. Munger," drawled Mrs. Wilmington.
"But I guess I must oppose the little invited dance and supper, on
principle. We all like to be consistent, as Annie says--even if we're
inconsistent in the attempt," she added, with a laugh.

"Very well, then," exclaimed Mrs. Munger, "we'll _drop_ them. As I
said to Miss Kilburn on our way here, 'if Mrs. Wilmington is opposed to
them, we'll drop them.'"

"Oh, am I such an influential person?" said Mrs. Wilmington, with a shrug.
"It's rather awful--isn't it, Annie?"

"Not at all!" Mrs. Munger answered for Annie. "We've just been talking the
matter over with Mr. Putney and Dr. Morrell, and they're both opposed.
You're merely the straw that breaks the camel's back, Mrs. Wilmington."

"Oh, _thank_ you! That's a great relief."

"Well--and now the question is, will you take the part of the Nurse or not
in the dramatics?" asked Mrs. Munger, returning to business.

"Well, I must think about that, and I must ask Mr. Wilmington. Jack," she
called over her shoulder to the young man at the window, "do you think your
uncle would approve of me as Juliet's Nurse?"

"You'd better ask him," growled the young fellow.

"Well," said Mrs. Wilmington, with another laugh, "I'll think it over, Mrs.
Munger."

"Thank you," said Mrs. Munger. "And now we must really be going," she
added, pulling out her watch by its leathern guard.

"Not till you've had lunch," said Mrs. Wilmington, rising with the ladies.
"You must stay. Annie, I shall not excuse you."

"Well," said Mrs. Munger, complying without regard to Annie, "all this
diplomacy is certainly very exhausting."

"Lunch will be on the table in one moment," returned Mrs. Wilmington, as
the ladies sat down again provisionally. "Will you join us, Jack?"

"No; I'm going to the office," said the nephew, bowing himself out of the
room.

"Jack's learning to be superintendent," said Mrs. Wilmington, lifting her
teasing voice to make him hear her in the hall, "and he's been spending the
whole morning here."

In the richly appointed dining-room--a glitter of china and glass and a
mass of carven oak--the table was laid for two.

"Put another plate, Norah," said Mrs. Wilmington carelessly.

There was bouillon in teacups, chicken cutlets in white sauce, and luscious
strawberries.

"_What_ a cook!" cried Mrs. Munger, over the cutlets.

"Yes, she's a treasure; I don't deny it," said Mrs. Wilmington.

X.

By the end of May most of the summer folk had come to their cottages in
South Hatboro'. One after another the ladies called upon Annie. They all
talked to her of the Social Union, and it seemed to be agreed that it was
fully in train, though what was really in train was the entertainment to
be given at Mrs. Munger's for the benefit of the Union; the Union always
dropped out of the talk as soon as the theatricals were mentioned.

When Annie went to return these visits she scarcely recognised even
the shape of the country, once so familiar to her, of which the summer
settlement had possessed itself. She found herself in a strange world--a
world of colonial and Queen Anne architecture, where conscious lines and
insistent colours contributed to an effect of posing which she had never
seen off the stage. But it was not a very large world, and after the young
trees and hedges should have grown up and helped to hide it, she felt sure
that it would be a better world. In detail it was not so bad now, but
the whole was a violent effect of porches, gables, chimneys, galleries,
loggias, balconies, and jalousies, which nature had not yet had time to
palliate.

Mrs. Munger was at home, and wanted her to spend the day, to drive out with
her, to stay to lunch. When Annie would not do any of these things, she
invited herself to go with her to call at the Brandreths'. But first she
ordered her to go out with her to see the place where they intended to have
the theatricals: a pretty bit of natural boscage--white birches, pines, and
oaks--faced by a stretch of smooth turf, where a young man in a flannel
blazer was painting a tennis-court in the grass. Mrs. Munger introduced him
as her Jim, and the young fellow paused from his work long enough to bow to
her: his nose now seemed in perfect repair.

Mr. Brandreth met them at the door of his mother's cottage. It was a very
small cottage on the outside, with a good deal of stained glass _en
evidence_ in leaded sashes; where the sashes were not leaded and the
glass not stained, the panes were cut up into very large ones, with little
ones round them. Everything was very old-fashioned inside. The door opened
directly into a wainscoted square hall, which had a large fireplace with
gleaming brass andirons, and a carved mantel carried to the ceiling. It was
both baronial and colonial in its decoration; there was part of a suit of
imitation armour under a pair of moose antlers on one wall, and at one side
of the fireplace there was a spinning-wheel, with a tuft of flax ready to
be spun. There were Japanese swords on the lowest mantel-shelf, together
with fans and vases; a long old flint-lock musket stretched across the
panel above. Mr. Brandreth began to show things to Annie, and to tell how
little they cost, as soon as the ladies entered. His mother's voice called
from above, "Now, Percy, you stop till _I_ get there!" and in a moment
or two she appeared from behind a _portiere_ in one corner. Before she
shook hands with the ladies, or allowed any kind of greeting, she pulled
the _portiere_ aside, and made Annie admire the snug concealment of
the staircase. Then she made her go upstairs and see the chambers, and the
second-hand colonial bedsteads, and the andirons everywhere, and the old
chests of drawers and their brasses; and she told her some story about
each, and how Percy picked it up and had it repaired. When they came down,
the son took Annie in hand again and walked her over the ground-floor,
ending with the kitchen, which was in the taste of an old New England
kitchen, with hard-seated high-backed chairs, and a kitchen table with
curiously turned legs, which he had picked up in the hen-house of a
neighbouring farmer for a song. There was an authentic crane in the
dining-room fireplace, which he had found in a heap of scrap-iron at a
blacksmith's shop, and had got for next to nothing. The sideboard he had
got at an old second-hand shop in the North End; and he believed it was
an heirloom from the house of one of the old ministers of the North End
Church. Everything, nearly, in the Brandreth cottage was an heirloom,
though Annie could not remember afterward any object that had been an
heirloom in the Brandreth family.

When she went back with Mr. Brandreth to the hall, which seemed to be also
the drawing-room, she found that Mrs. Brandreth had lighted the fire on
the hearth, though it was rather a warm day without, for the sake of the
effect. She was sitting in the chimney-seat, and shielding her face from
the blaze with an old-fashioned feather hand-screen.

"Now don't you think we have a lovely little home?" she demanded.

Mrs. Munger began to break out in its praise, but she shook the screen
silencingly at her.

"No, no! I want Miss Kilburn's unbiassed opinion. Don't you speak, Mrs.
Munger! Now haven't we?"

Mrs. Brandreth made Annie assent to the superiority of her cottage in
detail. She recapitulated the different facts of the architecture and
furnishing, from each of which she seemed to acquire personal merit, and
she insisted that Percy should show some of them again. "We think it's a
little picture," she concluded, and once more Annie felt obliged to murmur
her acquiescence.

At last Mrs. Munger said that she must go to lunch, and was going to take
Annie with her; Annie said she must lunch at home; and then Mrs. Brandreth
pressed them both to stay to lunch with her. "You shall have a cup of tea
out of a piece of real Satsuma," she said; but they resisted. "I don't
believe," she added, apparently relieved by their persistence, and losing a
little anxiety of manner, "that Percy's had any chance to consult you on a
very important point about your theatricals, Miss Kilburn."

"Oh, that will do some other time, mother," said Mr. Brandreth.

"No, no! Now! And you can have Mrs. Munger's opinion too. You know Miss Sue
Northwick is going to be Juliet?"

"No!" shouted Mrs. Munger. "I thought she had refused positively. When did
she change her mind?"

"She's just sent Percy a note. We were talking it over when you came, and
Percy was going over to tell you."

"Then it is _sure_ to be a success," said Mrs. Munger, with a
solemnity of triumph.

"Yes, but Percy feels that it complicates one point more than ever--"

"It's a question that always comes up in amateur dramatics," said Mr.
Brandreth, with reluctance, "and it always will; and of course it's
particularly embarrassing in _Romeo and Juliet_. If they don't show
any affection--it's very awkward and stiff; and if--"

"I never approved of those liberties on the stage," said Mrs. Brandreth.
"I tell Percy that it's my principal objection to it. I can't make it
seem nice. But he says that it's essential to the effect. Now _I_
say that they might just incline their heads toward each other without
_actually_, you know. But Percy is afraid that it won't do, especially
in the parting scene on the balcony--so passionate, you know--it won't do
simply to--They must _act_ like lovers. And it's such a great point to
get Miss Sue Northwick to take the part, that he mustn't risk losing her by
anything that might seem--"

"Yes," said Mrs. Munger, with deep concern.

Mr. Brandreth looked very unhappy. "It's an embarrassing point. We can't
change the play, and so the difficulty must be met and disposed of at
once."

He did not look at either of the ladies, but Mrs. Munger referred the
matter to Annie with a glance of impartiality. His mother also turned her
eyes upon Annie. "Percy thought that you must have seen so much of amateur
dramatics in Europe that you could tell him just how to do."

"Perhaps you could consult Miss Northwick herself," said Annie dryly, after
a moment of indignation, and another of amusement.

"I thought of that," said Mrs. Brandreth; "but as Percy's to be Romeo--You
see he wishes the play to be a success artistically; but if it's to succeed
socially, he must have Miss Northwick, and she might resign at the first
suggestion of--"

"Bessie Chapley would certainly have been better. She's so outspoken you
could have put the case right to her," said Mrs. Munger.

"Yes," said Mr. Brandreth gloomily.

"But we shall find out a way. Why, you can settle it at rehearsal!"

"Perhaps at rehearsal," said Mr. Brandreth, with a pensive absence of mind.

Mrs. Munger crushed his hand and his mother's in her leathern grasp, and
took Annie away with her. "It isn't lunch-time yet," she explained, when
they were out of earshot, "but I saw she was simply killing you, and so I
made the excuse. She has no mercy. There's time enough for you to make your
calls before lunch, and then you can come home with me."

Annie suggested that this would not do after refusing Mrs. Brandreth.

"Why, it would never have done to _accept_!" Mrs. Munger cried. "They
didn't dream of it!" At the next place she said: "This is the Clevingers'.
_They're_ some of our all-the-year-round people too." She opened the
door without ringing, and let herself noisily in. "This is the way we run
in, without ceremony, everywhere. It's quite one family. That's the charm
of the place. We expect to take each other as we find them."

Her freedom did not find the ladies off their guard anywhere. At all the
houses there was a skurrying of feet and a flashing of skirts out of the
room or up the stairs, and there was an interval for a thorough study of
the features of the room before the hostess came in, with the effect of
coming in just as she was. She had naturally always made some change in
her dress, and Annie felt that she had not really liked being run in upon.
Everywhere they talked to her about the theatricals; and they talked across
her to Mrs. Munger, about one another, pretty freely.

"Well, that's all there is of us at present," said Mrs. Munger, coming down
the main road with her from the last place, "and you see just what we are.
It's a neighbourhood where everybody's just adapted to everybody else.
It's not a mere mush of concession, as Emerson says; people are perfectly
outspoken; but there's the greatest good feeling, and no vulgar display, or
lavish expenditure, or--anything."

Annie walked slowly homeward. She was tired, and she was now aware of
having been extremely bored by the South Hatboro' people. She was very
censorious of them, as we are of other people when we have reason to be
discontented with ourselves. They were making a pretence of simplicity
and unconventionality; but they had brought each her full complement of
servants with her, and each was apparently giving herself in the summer
to the unrealities that occupied her during the winter. Everywhere Annie
had found the affectation of intellectual interests, and the assumption
that these were the highest interests of life: there could be no doubt
that culture was the ideal of South Hatboro', and several of the ladies
complained that in the summer they got behind with their reading, or their
art, or their music. They said it was even more trouble to keep house in
the country than it was in town; sometimes your servants would not come
with you; or, if they did, they were always discontented, and you did not
know what moment they would leave you.

Annie asked herself how her own life was in any wise different from that of
these people. It had received a little more light into it, but as yet it
had not conformed itself to any ideal of duty. She too was idle and vapid,
like the society of which her whole past had made her a part, and she owned
to herself, groaning in spirit, that it was no easier to escape from her
tradition at Hatboro' than it was at Rome.

When she reached her own house again, Mrs. Bolton called to her from the
kitchen threshold as she was passing the corner on her way to the front
door: "Mis' Putney's b'en here. I guess you'll find a note from her on the
parlour table."

Annie fired in resentment of the uncouthness. It was Mrs. Bolton's business
to come into the parlour and give her the note, with a respectful statement
of the facts. But she did not tell her so; it would have been useless.

Mrs. Putney's note was an invitation to a family tea for the next evening.

XI.

Putney met Annie at the door, and led her into the parlour beside the hall.
He had a little crippled boy on his right arm, and he gave her his left
hand. In the parlour he set his burden down in a chair, and the child drew
up under his thin arms a pair of crutches that stood beside it. His white
face had the eager purity and the waxen translucence which we see in
sufferers from hip-disease.

"This is our Winthrop," said his father, beginning to talk at once. "We
receive the company and do the honours while mother's looking after the
tea. We only keep one undersized girl," he explained more directly to
Annie, "and Ellen has to be chief cook and bottlewasher herself. She'll
be in directly. Just lay off your bonnet anywhere."

She was taking in the humility of the house and its belongings while she
received the impression of an unimagined simplicity in its life from his
easy explanations. The furniture was in green terry, the carpet a harsh,
brilliant tapestry; on the marble-topped centre table was a big clasp Bible
and a basket with a stereoscope and views; the marbleised iron shelf above
the stove-pipe hole supported two glass vases and a French clock under a
glass bell; through the open door, across the oil-cloth of the hallway, she
saw the white-painted pine balusters of the steep, cramped stairs. It was
clear that neither Putney nor his wife had been touched by the aesthetic
craze; the parlour was in the tastelessness of fifteen years before; but
after the decoration of South Hatboro', she found a delicious repose in
it. Her eyes dwelt with relief on the wall-paper of French grey, sprigged
with small gilt flowers, and broken by a few cold engravings and framed
photographs.

Putney himself was as little decorated as the parlour. He had put on a
clean shirt, but the bulging bosom had broken away from its single button,
and showed two serrated edges of ragged linen; his collar lost itself from
time to time under the rise of his plastron scarf band, which kept escaping
from the stud that ought to have held it down behind. His hair was brushed
smoothly across a forehead which looked as innocent and gentle as the
little boy's.

"We don't often give these festivities," he went on, "but you don't come
home once in twelve years every day, Annie. I can't tell you how glad I am
to see you in our house; and Ellen's just as excited as the rest of us; she
was sorry to miss you when she called."

"You're very kind, Ralph. I can't tell _you_ what a pleasure it was to
come, and I'm not going to let the trouble I'm giving spoil my pleasure."

"Well, that's right," said Putney. "_We_ sha'n't either." He took out
a cigar and put it into his mouth. "It's only a dry smoke. Ellen makes
me let up on my chewing when we have company, and I must have something
in my mouth, so I get a cigar. It's a sort of compromise. I'm a terribly
nervous man, Annie; you can't imagine. If it wasn't for the grace of God,
I think I should fly to pieces sometimes. But I guess that's what holds me
together--that and Winthy here. I dropped him on the stairs out there, when
I was drunk, one night. I saw you looking at them; I suppose you've been
told; it's all right. I presume the Almighty knows what He's about; but
sometimes He appears to save at the spigot and waste at the bung-hole, like
the rest of us. He let me cripple my boy to reform me."

"Don't, Ralph!" said Annie, with a voice of low entreaty. She turned and
spoke to the child, and asked him if he would not come to see her.

"What?" he asked, breaking with a sort of absent-minded start from his
intentness upon his father's words.

She repeated her invitation.

"Thanks!" he said, in the prompt, clear little pipe which startles by
its distinctness and decision on the lips of crippled children. "I guess
father'll bring me some day. Don't you want I should go out and tell mother
she's here?" he asked his father.

"Well, if you want to, Winthrop," said his father.

The boy swung himself lightly out of the room on his crutches, and his
father turned to her. "Well, how does Hatboro' strike you, anyway, Annie?
You needn't mind being honest with me, you know."

He did not give her a chance to say, and she was willing to let him talk
on, and tell her what he thought of Hatboro' himself. "Well, it's like
every other place in the world, at every moment of history--it's in a
transition state. The theory is, you know, that most places are at a
standstill the greatest part of the time; they haven't begun to move, or
they've stopped moving; but I guess that's a mistake; they're moving all
the while. I suppose Rome itself was in a transition state when you left?"

"Oh, very decidedly. It had ceased to be old and was becoming new."

"Well, that's just the way with Hatboro'. There is no old Hatboro' any
more; and there never was, as your father and mine could tell us if they
were here. They lived in a painfully transitional period, poor old fellows!
But, for all that, there is a difference. They lived in what was really a
New England village, and we live now in a sprawling American town; and by
American of course I mean a town where at least one-third of the people
are raw foreigners or rawly extracted natives. The old New England ideal
characterises them all, up to a certain point, socially; it puts a decent
outside on most of 'em; it makes 'em keep Sunday, and drink on the sly.
We got in the Irish long ago, and now they're part of the conservative
element. We got in the French Canadians, and some of them are our best
mechanics and citizens. We're getting in the Italians, and as soon as they
want something better than bread and vinegar to eat, they'll begin going to
Congress and boycotting and striking and forming pools and trusts just like
any other class of law-abiding Americans. There used to be some talk of the
Chinese, but I guess they've pretty much blown over. We've got Ah Lee and
Sam Lung here, just as they have everywhere, but their laundries don't seem
to increase. The Irish are spreading out into the country and scooping in
the farms that are not picturesque enough for the summer folks. You can buy
a farm anywhere round Hatboro' for less than the buildings on it cost. I'd
rather the Irish would have the land than the summer folks. They make an
honest living off it, and the other fellows that come out to roost here
from June till October simply keep somebody else from making a living
off it, and corrupt all the poor people in sight by their idleness and
luxury. That's what I tell 'em at South Hatboro'. They don't like it, but
I guess they believe it; anyhow they have to hear it. They'll tell you in
self-defence that J. Milton Northwick is a practical farmer, and sells his
butter for a dollar a pound. He's done more than anybody else to improve
the breeds of cattle and horses; and he spends fifteen thousand a year on
his place. It can't return him five; and that's the reason he's a curse and
a fraud."

"Who _is_ Mr. Northwick, Ralph?" Annie interposed. "Everybody at South
Hatboro' asked me if I'd met the Northwicks."

"He's a very great and good man," said Putney. "He's worth a million, and
he runs a big manufacturing company at Ponkwasset Falls, and he owns a
fancy farm just beyond South Hatboro'. He lives in Boston, but he comes out
here early enough to dodge his tax there, and let poorer people pay it.
He's got miles of cut stone wall round his place, and conservatories and
gardens and villas and drives inside of it, and he keeps up the town roads
outside at his own expense. Yes, we feel it such an honour and advantage to
have J. Milton in Hatboro' that our assessors practically allow him to fix
the amount of tax here himself. People who can pay only a little at the
highest valuation are assessed to the last dollar of their property and
income; but the assessors know that this wouldn't do with Mr. Northwick.
They make a guess at his income, and he always pays their bills without
asking for abatement; they think themselves wise and public-spirited men
for doing it, and most of their fellow-citizens think so too. You see it's
not only difficult for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven, Annie,
but he makes it hard for other people.

"Well, as I was saying, socially, the old New England element is at the top
of the heap here. That's so everywhere. The people that are on the ground
first, it don't matter much who they are, have to manage pretty badly not
to leave their descendants in social ascendency over all newer comers for
ever. Why, I can see it in my own case. I can see that I was a sort of
fetich to the bedevilled fancy of the people here when I was seen drunk in
the streets every day, just because I was one of the old Hatboro' Putneys;
and when I began to hold up, there wasn't a man in the community that
wasn't proud and flattered to help me. Curious, isn't it? It made me sick
of myself and ashamed of them, and I just made up my mind, as soon as I got
straight again, I'd give all my help to the men that hadn't a tradition.
That's what I've done, Annie. There isn't any low, friendless rapscallion
in this town that hasn't got me for his friend--and Ellen. We've been in
all the strikes with the men, and all their fool boycottings and kicking
over the traces generally. Anybody else would have been turned out of
respectable society for one-half that I've done, but it tolerates me
because I'm one of the old Hatboro' Putneys. You're one of the old Hatboro'
Kilburns, and if you want to have a mind of your own and a heart of your
own, all you've got to do is to have it. They'll like it; they'll think
it's original. That's the reason South Hatboro' got after you with that
Social Union scheme. They were right in thinking you would have a great
deal of influence. I was sorry you had to throw it against Brother Peck."

Annie felt herself jump at this climax, as if she had been touched on
an exposed nerve. She grew red, and tried to be angry, but she was only
ashamed and tempted to lie out of the part she had taken. "Mrs. Munger,"
she said, "gave that a very unfair turn. I didn't mean to ridicule Mr.
Peck. I think he was perfectly sincere. The scheme of the invited dance and
supper has been entirely given up. And I don't care for the project of the
Social Union at all."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it," said Putney, indifferently, and he resumed his
analysis of Hatboro'--

"We've got all the modern improvements here, Annie. I suppose you'd
find the modern improvements, most of 'em, in Sheol: electric light,
Bell telephone, asphalt sidewalks, and city water--though I don't know
about the water; and I presume they haven't got a public library or an
opera-house--perhaps they _have_ got an opera-house in Sheol: you see
I use the Revised Version, it don't sound so much like swearing. But, as
I was saying--"

Mrs. Putney came in, and he stopped with the laugh of a man who knows that
his wife will find it necessary to account for him and apologise for him.

The ladies kissed each other. Mrs. Putney was dressed in the black silk of
a woman who has one silk; she was red from the kitchen, but all was neat
and orderly in the hasty toilet which she must have made since leaving the
cook-stove. A faint, mixed perfume of violet sachet and fricasseed chicken
attended her.

"Well, as you were saying, Ralph?" she suggested.

"Oh, I was just tracing a little parallel between Hatboro' and Sheol,"
replied her husband.

Mrs. Putney made a _tchk_ of humorous patience, and laughed toward
Annie for sympathy. "Well, then, I guess you needn't go on. Tea's ready.
Shall we wait for the doctor?"

"No; doctors are too uncertain. We'll wait for him while we're eating.
That's what fetches him the soonest. I'm hungry. Ain't you, Win?"

"Not so very," said the boy, with his queer promptness. He stood resting
himself on his crutches at the door, and he now wheeled about, and led the
way out to the living-room, swinging himself actively forward. It seemed
that his haste was to get to the dumb-waiter in the little china closet
opening off the dining-room, which was like the papered inside of a square
box. He called to the girl below, and helped pull it up, as Annie could
tell by the creaking of the rope, and the light jar of the finally arriving
crockery. A half-grown girl then appeared, and put the dishes on at the
places indicated with nods and looks by Mrs. Putney, who had taken her
place at the table. There was a platter of stewed fowl, and a plate of
high-piled waffles, sweltering in successive courses of butter and sugar.
In cut-glass dishes, one at each end of the table, there were canned
cherries and pine-apple. There was a square of old-fashioned soda biscuit,
not broken apart, which sent up a pleasant smell; in the centre of the
table was a shallow vase of strawberries.

It was all very good and appetising; but to Annie it was pathetically
old-fashioned, and helped her to realise how wholly out of the world was
the life which her friends led.

"Winthrop," said Putney, and the father and mother bowed their heads.

The boy dropped his over his folded hands, and piped up clearly: "Our
Father, which art in heaven, help us to remember those who have nothing to
eat. Amen!"

"That's a grace that Win got up himself," his father explained, beginning
to heap a plate with chicken and mashed potato, which he then handed to
Annie, passing her the biscuit and the butter. "We think it suits the
Almighty about as well as anything."

"I suppose you know Ralph of old, Annie?" said Mrs. Putney. "The only way
he keeps within bounds at all is by letting himself perfectly loose."

Putney laughed out his acquiescence, and they began to talk together about
old times. Mrs. Putney and Annie recalled the childish plays and adventures
they had together, and one dreadful quarrel. Putney told of the first time
he saw Annie, when his father took him one day for a call on the old judge,
and how the old judge put him through his paces in American history, and
would not admit the theory that the battle of Bunker's Hill could have been
fought on Breed's Hill. Putney said that it was years before it occurred to
him that the judge must have been joking: he had always thought he was
simply ignorant.

"I used to set a good deal by the battle of Bunker's Hill," he continued.
"I thought the whole Revolution and subsequent history revolved round it,
and that it gave us all liberty, equality, and fraternity at a clip. But
the Lord always finds some odd jobs to look after next day, and I guess He
didn't clear 'em all up at Bunker's Hill."

Putney's irony and piety were very much of a piece apparently, and Annie
was not quite sure which this conclusion was. She glanced at his wife, who
seemed satisfied with it in either case. She was waiting patiently for
him to wake up to the fact that he had not yet given her anything to eat;
after helping Annie and the boy, he helped himself, and pending his wife's
pre-occupation with the tea, he forgot her.

"Why didn't you throw something at me," he roared, in grief and
self-reproach. "There wouldn't have been a loose piece of crockery on this
side of the table if I hadn't got my tea in time."

"Oh, I was listening to Annie's share in the conversation," said Mrs.
Putney; and her husband was about to say something in retort of her thrust
when a tap on the front door was heard.

"Come in, come in, Doc!" he shouted. "Mrs. Putney's just been helped, and
the tea is going to begin."

Dr. Morrell's chuckle made answer for him, and after time enough to put
down his hat, he came in, rubbing his hands and smiling, and making short
nods round the table. "How d'ye do, Mrs. Putney? How d'ye do, Miss Kilburn?
Winthrop?" He passed his hand over the boy's smooth hair and slipped into
the chair beside him.

"You see, the reason why we always wait for the doctor in this formal way,"
said Putney, "is that he isn't in here more than seven nights of the week,
and he rather stands on his dignity. Hand round the doctor's plate, my
son," he added to the boy, and he took it from Annie, to whom the boy gave
it, and began to heap it from the various dishes. "Think you can lift that
much back to the doctor, Win?"

"I guess so," said the boy coolly.

"What is flooring Win at present," said his father, "and getting him down
and rolling him over, is that problem of the robin that eats half a pint of
grasshoppers and then doesn't weigh a bit more than he did before."

"When he gets a little older," said the doctor, shaking over his plateful,
"he'll be interested to trace the processes of his father's thought from a
guest and half a peck of stewed chicken, to a robin and half a pint of--"

"Don't, doctor!" pleaded Mrs. Putney. "He won't have the least trouble if
he'll keep to the surface."

Putney laughed impartially, and said: "Well, we'll take the doctor out and
weigh him when he gets done. We expected Brother Peck here this evening,"
he explained to Dr. Morrell. "You're our sober second thought--Well,"
he broke off, looking across the table at his wife with mock anxiety.
"Anything wrong about that, Ellen?"

"Not as far as I'm concerned, Mrs. Putney," interposed the doctor. "I'm
glad to be here on any terms. Go on, Putney."

"Oh, there isn't anything more. You know how Miss Kilburn here has been
round throwing ridicule on Brother Peck, because he wants the shop-hands
treated with common decency, and my idea was to get the two together and
see how she would feel."

Dr. Morrell laughed at this with what Annie thought was unnecessary malice;
but he stopped suddenly, after a glance at her, and Putney went on--

"Brother Peck pleaded another engagement. Said he had to go off into
the country to see a sick woman that wasn't expected to live. You don't
remember the Merrifields, do you, Annie? Well, it doesn't matter. One of
'em married West, and her husband left her, and she came home here and
got a divorce; I got it for her. She's the one. As a consumptive, she had
superior attractions for Brother Peck. It isn't a case that admits of
jealousy exactly, but it wouldn't matter to Brother Peck anyway. If he saw
a chance to do a good action, he'd wade through blood."

"Now look here, Ralph," said Mrs. Putney, "there's such a thing as letting
yourself _too_ loose."

"Well, _gore_, then," said Putney, buttering himself a biscuit.

The boy, who had kept quiet till now, seemed reached by this last touch,
and broke into a high, crowing laugh, in which they all joined except his
father.

"Gore suits Winthy, anyway," he said, beginning to eat his biscuit. "I met
one of the deacons from Brother Peck's last parish, in Boston, yesterday.
He asked me if we considered Brother Peck anyways peculiar in Hatboro', and
when I said we thought he was a little too luxurious, the deacon came out
with a lot of things. The way Brother Peck behaved toward the needy in that
last parish of his made it simply uninhabitable to the standard Christian.
They had to get rid of him somehow--send him away or kill him. Of course
the deacon said they didn't want to _kill_ him."

"Where was his last parish?" asked the doctor.

"Down on the Maine coast somewhere. Penobscotport, I believe."

"And was he indigenous there?"

"No, I believe not; he's from Massachusetts. Farm-boy and then mill-hand,
I understand. Self-helped to an education; divinity student with summer
intervals of waiting at table in the mountain hotels probably. Drifted down
Maine way on his first call and stuck; but I guess he won't stick here
very long. Annie's friend Mr. Gerrish is going to look after Brother Peck
before a great while." He laughed, to see her blush, and went on. "You see,
Brother Gerrish has got a high ideal of what a Christian minister ought to
be; he hasn't said much about it, but I can see that Brother Peck doesn't
come up to it. Well, Brother Gerrish has got a good many ideals. He likes
to get anybody he can by the throat, and squeeze the difference of opinion
out of 'em."

"There, now, Ralph," his wife interposed, "you let Mr. Gerrish alone.
_You_ don't like people to differ with you, either. Is your cup out,
doctor?"

"Thank you," said the doctor, handing it up to her. "And you mean Mr.
Gerrish doesn't like Mr. Peck's doctrine?" he asked of Putney.

"Oh, I don't know that he objects to his doctrine; he can't very well; it's
'between the leds of the Bible,' as the Hard-shell Baptist said. But he
objects to Brother Peck's walk and conversation. He thinks he walks too
much with the poor, and converses too much with the lowly. He says he
thinks that the pew-owners in Mr. Peck's church and the people who pay his
salary have some rights to his company that he's bound to respect."

The doctor relished the irony, but he asked, "Isn't there something to say
on that side?"

"Oh yes, a good deal. There's always something to say on both sides, even
when one's a wrong side. That's what makes it all so tiresome--makes you
wish you were dead." He looked up, and caught his boy's eye fixed with
melancholy intensity upon him. "I hope you'll never look at both sides when
you grow up, Win. It's mighty uncomfortable. You take the right side, and
stick to that. Brother Gerrish," he resumed, to the doctor, "goes round
taking the credit of Brother Peck's call here; but the fact is he opposed
it. He didn't like his being so indifferent about the salary. Brother
Gerrish held that the labourer was worthy of his hire, and if he didn't
inquire what his wages were going to be, it was a pretty good sign that he
wasn't going to earn them."

"Well, there was some logic in that," said the doctor, smiling as before.

"Plenty. And now it worries Brother Gerrish to see Brother Peck going round
in the same old suit of clothes he came here in, and dressing his child
like a shabby little Irish girl. He says that he who provideth not for
those of his own household is worse than a heathen. That's perfectly true.
And he would like to know what Brother Peck does with his money, anyway. He
would like to insinuate that he loses it at poker, I guess; at any rate, he
can't find out whom he gives it to, and he certainly doesn't spend it on
himself."

"From your account of Mr. Peck." said the doctor, "I should think Brother
Gerrish might safely object to him as a certain kind of sentimentalist."

"Well, yes, he might, looking at him from the outside. But when you come
to talk with Brother Peck, you find yourself sort of frozen out with a
most unexpected, hard-headed cold-bloodedness. Brother Peck is plain
common-sense itself. He seems to be a man without an illusion, without an
emotion."

"Oh, not so bad as that!" laughed the doctor.

"Ask Miss Kilburn. She's talked with him, and she hates him."

"No, I don't, Ralph," Annie began.

"Oh, well, then, perhaps he only made you hate yourself," said Putney.
There was something charming in his mockery, like the teasing of a brother
with a sister; and Annie did not find the atonement to which he brought her
altogether painful. It seemed to her really that she was getting off pretty
easily, and she laughed with hearty consent at last.

Winthrop asked solemnly, "How did he do that?"

"Oh, I can't tell exactly, Winthrop," she said, touched by the boy's simple
interest in this abstruse point. "He made me feel that I had been rather
mean and cruel when I thought I had only been practical. I can't explain;
but it wasn't a comfortable feeling, my dear."

"I guess that's the trouble with Brother Peck," said Putney. "He doesn't
make you feel comfortable. He doesn't flatter you up worth a cent.
There was Annie expecting him to take the most fervent interest in her
theatricals, and her Social Union, and coo round, and tell her what a noble
woman she was, and beg her to consider her health, and not overwork herself
in doing good; but instead of that he simply showed her that she was a
moral Cave-Dweller, and that she was living in a Stone Age of social
brutalities; and of course she hated him."

"Yes, that was the way, Winthrop," said Annie; and they all laughed with
her.

"Now you take them into the parlour, Ralph," said his wife, rising, "and
tell them how he made _you_ hate him."

"I shouldn't like anything better," replied Putney. He lifted the large
ugly kerosene lamp that had been set on the table when it grew dark during
tea, and carried it into the parlour with him. His wife remained to speak
with her little helper, but she sent Annie with the gentlemen.

"Why, there isn't a great deal of it--more spirit than letter, so to
speak," said Putney, when he put down the lamp in the parlour. "You know
how I like to go on about other people's sins, and the world's wickedness
generally; but one day Brother Peck, in that cool, impersonal way of his,
suggested that it was not a wholly meritorious thing to hate evil. He went
so far as to say that perhaps we could not love them that despitefully used
us if we hated their evil so furiously. He said it was a good deal more
desirable to understand evil than to hate it, for then we could begin to
cure it. Yes, Brother Peck let in a good deal of light on me. He rather
insinuated that I must be possessed by the very evils I hated, and that was
the reason I was so violent about them. I had always supposed that I hated
other people's cruelty because I was merciful, and their meanness because
I was magnanimous, and their intolerance because I was generous, and
their conceit because I was modest, and their selfishness because I was
disinterested; but after listening to Brother Peck a while I came to the
conclusion that I hated these things in others because I was cruel myself,
and mean, and bigoted, and conceited, and piggish; and that's why I've
hated Brother Peck ever since--just like you, Annie. But he didn't reform
me, I'm thankful to say, any more than he did you. I've gone on just
the same, and I suppose I hate more infernal scoundrels and loathe more
infernal idiots to-day than ever; but I perceive that I'm no part of the
power that makes for righteousness as long as I work that racket; and now
I sin with light and knowledge, anyway. No, Annie," he went on, "I can
understand why Brother Peck is not the success with women, and feminine
temperaments like me, that his virtues entitle him to be. What we feminine
temperaments want is a prophet, and Brother Peck doesn't prophesy worth
a cent. He doesn't pretend to be authorised in any sort of way; he has a
sneaking style of being no better than you are, and of being rather stumped
by some of the truths he finds out. No, women like a good prophet about
as well as they do a good doctor. Now if you, if you could unite the two
functions, Doc--"

"Sort of medicine-man?" suggested Morrell.

"Exactly! The aborigines understood the thing. Why, I suppose that a real
live medicine-man could go through a community like this and not leave a
sinful soul nor a sore body in it among the ladies--perfect faith cure."

"But what did you say to Mr. Peck, Ralph?" asked Annie. "Didn't you attempt
any defence?"

"No," said Putney. "He had the advantage of me. You can't talk back at a
man in the pulpit."

"Oh, it was a sermon?"

"I suppose the other people thought so. But I knew it was a private
conversation that he was publicly holding with me."

Putney and the doctor began to talk of the nature and origin of evil, and
Annie and the boy listened. Putney took high ground, and attributed it to
Adam. "You know, Annie," he explained, "I don't believe this; but I like to
get a scientific man that won't quite deny Scripture or the good old Bible
premises, and see him suffer. Hello! you up yet, Winthrop? I guess I'll go
through the form of carrying you to bed, my son."

When Mrs. Putney rejoined them, Annie said she must go, and Mrs. Putney
went upstairs with her, apparently to help her put on her things, but
really to have that talk before parting which guest and hostess value above
the whole evening's pleasure. She showed Annie the pictures of the little
girls that had died, and talked a great deal about their sickness and their
loveliness in death. Then they spoke of others, and Mrs. Putney asked Annie
if she had seen Lyra Wilmington lately. Annie told of her call with Mrs.
Munger, and Mrs. Putney said: "I _like_ Lyra, and I always did. I
presume she isn't very happily married; he's too old; there couldn't have
been any love on her part. But she would be a better woman than she is if
she had children. Ralph says," added Mrs. Putney, smiling, "that he knows
she would be a good mother, she's such a good aunt."

Annie put her two hands impressively on the hands of her friend folded at
her waist. "Ellen, what _does_ it mean?"

"Nothing more than what you saw, Annie. She must have--or she _will_
have--some one to amuse her; to be at her beck and call; and it's best to
have it all in the family, Ralph says."

"But isn't it--doesn't he think it's--odd?"

"It makes talk."

They moved a little toward the door, holding each other's hands. "Ellen,
I've had a _lovely_ time!"

"And so have I, Annie. I thought you'd like to meet Dr. Morrell."

"Oh yes, indeed!"

"And I can't tell you what a night this has been for Ralph. He likes you so
much, and it isn't often that he has a chance to talk to two such people as
you and Dr. Morrell."

"How brilliant he is!" Annie sighed.

"Yes, he's a very able man. It's very fortunate for Hatboro' to have such
a doctor. He and Ralph are great cronies. I never feel uneasy now when
Ralph's out late--I know he's been up at the doctor's office, talking. I--"

Annie broke in with a laugh. "I've no doubt Dr. Morrell is all you say,
Ellen, but I meant Ralph when I spoke of brilliancy. He has a great future,
I'm sure."

Mrs. Putney was silent for a moment. "I'm satisfied with the present, so
long as Ralph--" The tears suddenly gushed out of her eyes, and ran down
over the fine wrinkles of her plump little cheeks.

"Not quite so much loud talking, please," piped a thin, high voice from a
room across the stairs landing.

"Why, dear little soul!" cried Annie. "I forgot he'd gone to bed."

"Would you like to see him?" asked his mother.

She led the way into the room where the boy lay in a low bed near a larger
one. His crutches lay beside it. "Win sleeps in our room yet. He can take
care of himself quite well. But when he wakes in the night he likes to
reach out and touch his father's hand."

The child looked mortified.

"I wish I could reach out and touch _my_ father's hand when I wake in
the night," said Annie.

The cloud left the boy's face. "I can't remember whether I said my prayers,
mother, I've been thinking so."

"Well, say them over again, to me."

The men's voices sounded in the hall below, and the ladies found them
there. Dr. Morrell had his hat in his hand.

"Look here, Annie," said Putney, "_I_ expected to walk home with you,
but Doc Morrell says he's going to cut me out. It looks like a put-up job.
I don't know whether you're in it or not, but there's no doubt about
Morrell."

Mrs. Putney gave a sort of gasp, and then they all shouted with laughter,
and Annie and the doctor went out into the night. In the imperfect light
which the electrics of the main street flung afar into the little avenue
where Putney lived, and the moon sent through the sidewalk trees, they
struck against each other as they walked, and the doctor said, "Hadn't you
better take my arm, Miss Kilburn, till we get used to the dark?"

"Yes, I think I had, decidedly," she answered; and she hurried to add: "Dr.
Morrell, there is something I want to ask you. You're their physician,
aren't you?"

"The Putneys? Yes."

"Well, then, you can tell me--"

"Oh no, I can't, if you ask me as their physician," he interrupted.

"Well, then, as their friend. Mrs. Putney said something to me that makes
me very unhappy. I thought Mr. Putney was out of all danger of
his--trouble. Hasn't he perfectly reformed? Does he ever--"

She stopped, and Dr. Morrell did not answer at once. Then he said
seriously: "It's a continual fight with a man of Putney's temperament, and
sometimes he gets beaten. Yes, I guess you'd better know it."

"Poor Ellen!"

"They don't allow themselves to be discouraged. As soon as he's on his feet
they begin the fight again. But of course it prevents his success in his
profession, and he'll always be a second-rate country lawyer."

"Poor Ralph! And so brilliant as he is! He could be anything."

"We must be glad if he can be something, as it is."

"Yes, and how happy they seem together, all three of them! That child
worships his father; and how tender Ralph is of him! How good he is to his
wife; and how proud she is of him! And that awful shadow over them all the
time! I don't see how they live!"

The doctor was silent for a moment, and finally said: "They have the peace
that seems to come to people from the presence of a common peril, and they
have the comfort of people who never blink the facts."

"I think Ralph is terrible. I wish he'd let other people blink the facts a
little."

"Of course," said the doctor, "it's become a habit with him now, or a
mania. He seems to speak of his trouble as if mentioning it were a sort of
conjuration to prevent it. I wouldn't venture to check him in his way of
talking. He may find strength in it."

"It's all terrible!"

"But it isn't by any means hopeless."

"I'm so glad to hear you say so. You see a great deal of them, I believe?"

"Yes," said the doctor, getting back from their seriousness, with apparent
relief. "Pretty nearly every day. Putney and I consider the ways of God to
man a good deal together. You can imagine that in a place like Hatboro' one
would make the most of such a friend. In fact, anywhere."

"Yes, of course," Annie assented. "Dr. Morrell," she added, in that effect
of continuing the subject with which one breaks away from it, "do you know
much about South Hatboro'?"

"I have some patients there."

"I was there this morning--"

"I heard of you. They all take a great interest in your theatricals."

"In _my_ theatricals? Really this is too much! Who has made them my
theatricals, I should like to know? Everybody at South Hatboro' talked as
if I had got them up."

"And haven't you?"

"No. I've had nothing to do with them. Mr. Brandreth spoke to me about
them a week ago, and I was foolish enough to go round with Mrs. Munger
to collect public opinion about her invited dance and supper; and now it
appears that I have invented the whole affair."

"I certainly got that impression," said the doctor, with a laugh lurking
under his gravity.

"Well, it's simply atrocious," said Annie. "I've nothing at all to do with
either. I don't even know that I approve of their object."

"Their object?"

"Yes. The Social Union."

"Oh! Oh yes. I had forgot about the object," and now the doctor laughed
outright.

"It seems to have dropped into the background with everybody," said Annie,
laughing too.

"You like the unconventionality of South Hatboro'?" suggested the doctor,
after a little silence.

"Oh, very much," said Annie. "I was used to the same thing abroad. It might
be an American colony anywhere on the Continent."

"I suppose," said the doctor musingly, "that the same conditions of sojourn
and disoccupation _would_ produce the same social effects anywhere.
Then you must feel quite at home in South Hatboro'!"

"Quite! It's what I came back to avoid. I was sick of the life over there,
and I wanted to be of some use here, instead of wasting all my days."

She stopped, resolved not to go on if he took this lightly, but the doctor
answered her with sufficient gravity: "Well?"

"It seemed to me that if I could be of any use in the world anywhere, I
could in the place where I was born, and where my whole childhood was
spent. I've been at home a month now, the most useless person in Hatboro'.
I did catch at the first thing that offered--at Mr. Brandreth and his
ridiculous Social Union and theatricals, and brought all this trouble on
myself. I talked to Mr. Peck about them. You know what his views are?"

"Only from Putney's talk," said the doctor.

"He didn't merely disapprove of the dance and supper, but he had some very
peculiar notions about the relations of the different classes in general,"
said Annie; and this was the point she had meant circuitously to lead up
to when she began to speak of South Hatboro', though she theoretically
despised all sorts of feminine indirectness.

"Yes?" said the doctor. "What notions?"

"Well, he thinks that if you have money, you _can't_ do good with it."

"That's rather odd," said Dr. Morrell.

"I don't state it quite fairly. He meant that you can't make any kindness
with it between yourself and the--the poor."

"That's odd too."

"Yes," said Annie anxiously. "You can impose an obligation, he says, but
you can't create sympathy. Of course Ralph exaggerates what I said about
him in connection with the invited dance and supper, though I don't justify
what I did say; and if I'd known then, as I do now, what his history had
been, I should have been more careful in my talk with him. I should be very
sorry to have hurt his feelings, and I suppose people who've come up in
that way are sensitive?"

She suggested this, and it was not the reassurance she was seeking to have
Dr. Morrell say, "Naturally."

She continued with an effort: "I'm afraid I didn't respect his sincerity,
and I ought to have done that, though I don't at all agree with him on the
other points. It seems to me that what he said was shocking, and
perfectly--impossible."

"Why, what was it?" asked the doctor.

"He said there could be no real kindness between the rich and poor, because
all their experiences of life were different. It amounted to saying that
there ought not to _be_ any wealth. Don't you think so?"

"Really, I've never thought about it," returned Dr. Morrell. After a moment
he asked, "Isn't it rather an abstraction?"

"Don't say that!" said Annie nervously. "It's the _most_ concrete
thing in the world!"

The doctor laughed with enjoyment of her convulsive emphasis; but she went
on: "I don't think life's worth living if you're to be shut up all your
days to the intelligence merely of your own class."

"Who said you were?"

"Mr. Peck."

"And what was your inference from the fact? That there oughtn't to be any
classes?"

"Of course it won't do to say that. There _must_ be social
differences. Don't you think so?"

"I don't know," said Dr. Morrell. "I never thought of it in that light
before. It's a very curious question." He asked, brightening gaily after a
moment of sober pause, "Is that the whole trouble?"

"Isn't it enough?"

"No; I don't think it is. Why didn't you tell him that you didn't want any
gratitude?".

"Not _want_ any?" she demanded.

"Oh!" said Dr. Morrell, "I didn't know but you thought it was enough to
_give."_

Annie believed that he was making fun of her, and she tried to make her
resentful silence dignified; but she only answered sadly: "No; it isn't
enough for me. Besides, he made me see that you can't give sympathy where
you can't receive it."

"Well, that _is_ bad," said the doctor, and he laughed again. "Excuse
me," he added. "I see the point. But why don't you forget it?"

"Forget it!"

"Yes. If you can't help it, why need you worry about it?"

She gave a kind of gasp of astonishment. "Do you really think that would be
right?" She edged a little away from Dr. Morrell, as if with distrust.

"Well, no; I can't say that I do," he returned thoughtfully, without
seeming to have noticed her withdrawal. "I don't suppose I was looking at
the moral side. It's rather out of my way to do that. If a physician let
himself get into the habit of doing that, he might regard nine-tenths of
the diseases he has to treat as just penalties, and decline to interfere."

She fancied that he was amused again, rather than deeply concerned, and she
determined to make him own his personal complicity in the matter if she
could. "Then you _do_ feel sympathy with your patients? You find it
necessary to do so?"

The doctor thought a moment. "I take an interest in their diseases."

"But you want them to get well?"

"Oh, certainly. I'm bound to do all I can for them as a physician."

"Nothing more?"

"Yes; I'm sorry for them--for their families, if it seems to be going badly
with them."

"And--and as--as--Don't you care at all for your work as a part of what
every one ought to do for others--as humanity, philan--" She stopped the
offensive word.

"Well, I can't say that I've looked at it in that light exactly," he
answered. "I suspect I'm not very good at generalising my own relations to
others, though I like well enough to speculate in the abstract. But don't
you think Mr. Peck has overlooked one important fact in his theory? What
about the people who have grown rich from being poor, as most Americans
have? They have the same experiences, and why can't they sympathise with
those who have remained poor?"

"I never thought of that. Why didn't I ask him that?" She lamented so
sincerely that the doctor laughed again. "I think that Mr. Peck--"

"Oh no! oh no!" said the doctor, in an entreating, coaxing tone, expressive
of a satiety with the subject that he might very well have felt; and he
ended with another laugh, in which, after a moment of indignant
self-question, she joined him.

"Isn't that delicious?" he exclaimed; and she involuntarily slowed her pace
with his.

The spicy scent of sweet-currant blossoms hung in the dewy air that wrapped
one of the darkened village houses. From a syringa bush before another, as
they moved on, a denser perfume stole out with the wild song of a cat-bird
hidden in it; the music and the odour seemed braided together. The shadows
of the trees cast by the electrics on the walks were so thick and black
that they looked palpable; it seemed as if she could stoop down and lift
them from the ground. A broad bath of moonlight washed one of the house
fronts, and the white-painted clapboards looked wet with it.

They talked of these things, of themselves, and of their own traits and
peculiarities; and at her door they ended far from Mr. Peck and all the
perplexities he had suggested.

She had told Dr. Morrell of some things she had brought home with her,
and had said she hoped he would find time to come and see them. It would
have been stiff not to do it, and she believed she had done it in a very
off-hand, business-like way. But she continued to question whether she had.

XII.

Miss Northwick called upon Annie during the week, with excuses for her
delay and for coming alone. She seemed to have intentions of being polite;
but she constantly betrayed her want of interest in Annie, and disappointed
an expectation of refinement which her physical delicacy awakened. She
asked her how she ever came to take up the Social Union, and answered for
her that of course it had the attraction of the theatricals, and went on
to talk of her sister's part in them. The relation of the Northwick family
to the coming entertainment, and an impression of frail mottled wrists and
high thin cheeks, and an absence of modelling under affluent drapery, was
the main effect of Miss Northwick's visit.

When Annie returned it, she met the younger sister, whom she found a great
beauty. She seemed very cold, and of a _hauteur_ which she subdued
with difficulty; but she was more consecutively polite than her sister,
and Annie watched with fascination her turns of the head, her movements of
leopard swiftness and elasticity, the changing lights of her complexion,
the curves of her fine lips, the fluttering of her thin nostrils.

A very new basket phaeton stood glittering at Annie's door when she got
home, and Mrs. Wilmington put her head out of the open parlour window.

"How d'ye do, Annie?" she drawled, in her tender voice. "Won't you come in?
You see I'm in possession. I've just got my new phaeton, and I drove up at
once to crush you with it. Isn't it a beauty?"

"You're too late, Lyra," said Annie. "I've just come from the Northwicks,
and another crushing beauty has got in ahead of your phaeton."

"Oh, _poor_ Annie!" Lyra began to laugh with agreeable intelligence.
"_Do_ come in and tell me about it!"

"Why is that girl going to take part in the theatricals? She doesn't care
to please any one, does she?"

"I didn't know that people took part in theatricals for that, Annie. I
thought they wanted to please themselves and mortify others. _I_ do.
But then I may be different. Perhaps Miss Northwick wants to please Mr.
Brandreth."

"Do you mean it, Lyra?" demanded Annie, arrested on her threshold by the
charm of this improbability.

"Well, I don't know; they're opposites. But, upon second thoughts, you
needn't come in, Annie. I want you to take a drive with me, and try my new
phaeton," said Lyra, coming out.

Annie now looked at it with that irresolution of hers, and Lyra commanded:
"Get right in. We'll go down to the Works. You've never met my husband yet;
have you, Annie?"

"No, I haven't, Lyra. I've always just missed him somehow. He seems to have
been perpetually just gone to town, or not got back."

"Well, he's really at home now. And I don't mean at the house, which isn't
home to him, but the Works. You've never seen the Works either, have you?"

"No, I haven't."

"Well, then, we'll just go round there, and kill two birds with one stone.
I ought to show off my new phaeton to Mr. Wilmington first of all; he gave
it to me. It would be kind of conjugal, or filial, or something. You know
Mr. Wilmington and I are not exactly contemporaries, Annie?"

"I heard he was somewhat your senior," said Annie reluctantly.

Lyra laughed. "Well, I always say we were born in the same century,
_any_way."

They came round into the region of the shops, and Lyra checked her pony in
front of her husband's factory. It was not imposingly large, but, as Mrs.
Wilmington caused Annie to observe, it was as big as the hat shops and as
ugly as the shoe shops.

The structure trembled with the operation of its industry, and as they
mounted the wooden steps to the open outside door, an inner door swung ajar
for a moment, and let out a roar mingled of the hum and whirl and clash of
machinery and fragments of voice, borne to them on a whiff of warm, greasy
air. "Of course it doesn't smell very nice," said Lyra.

She pushed open the door of the office, and finding its first apartment
empty, led the way with Annie to the inner room, where her husband sat
writing at a table.

"George, I want to introduce you to Miss Kilburn."

"Oh yes, yes, yes," said her husband, scrambling to his feet, and coming
round to greet Annie. He was a small man, very bald, with a serious and
wrinkled forehead, and rather austere brows; but his mouth had a furtive
curl at one corner, which, with the habit he had of touching it there with
the tip of his tongue, made Annie think of a cat that had been at the
cream. "I've been hoping to call with Mrs. Wilmington to pay my respects;
but I've been away a great deal this season, and--and--We're all very happy
to have you home again, Miss Kilburn. I've often heard my wife speak of
your old days together at Hatboro'."

They fenced with some polite feints of interest in each other, the old man
standing beside his writing-table, and staying himself with a shaking hand
upon it.

Lyra interrupted them. "Well, I think now that Annie is here, we'd better
not let her get away without showing her the Works."

"Oh--oh--decidedly! I'll go with you, with great pleasure. Ah!" He bustled
about, putting the things together on his table, and then reaching for
the Panama hat on a hook behind it. There was something pathetic in his
eagerness to do what Lyra bade him, and Annie fancied in him the uneasy
consciousness which an elderly husband might feel in the presence of those
who met him for the first time with his young wife. At the outer office
door they encountered Jack Wilmington.

"I'll show them through," he said to his uncle; and the old man assented
with, "Well, perhaps you'd better, Jack," and went back to his room.

The Wilmington Stocking-Mills spun their own threads, and the first room
was like what Annie had seen before in cotton factories, with a faint
smell of oil from the machinery, and a fine snow of fluff in the air, and
catching to the white-washed walls and the foul window sashes. The tireless
machines marched back and forth across the floor, and the men who watched
them with suicidal intensity ran after them barefooted when they made
off with a broken thread, spliced it, and then escaped from them to
their stations again. In other rooms, where there was a stunning whir of
spindles, girls and women were at work; they looked after Lyra and her
nephew from under cotton-frowsed bangs; they all seemed to know her, and
returned her easy, kindly greetings with an effect of liking. From time to
time, at Lyra's bidding, the young fellow explained to Annie some curious
feature of the processes; in the room where the stockings were knitted she
tried to understand the machinery that wrought and seemed to live before
her eyes. But her mind wandered to the men and women who were operating it,
and who seemed no more a voluntary part of it than all the rest, except
when Jack Wilmington curtly ordered them to do this or that in illustration
of some point he was explaining. She wearied herself, as people do in such
places, in expressing her wonder at the ingenuity of the machinery; it was
a relief to get away from it all into the room, cool and quiet, where half
a dozen neat girls were counting and stamping the stockings with different
numbers. "Here's where _I_ used to work," said Lyra, "and here's
where I first met Mr. Wilmington. The place is _full_ of romantic
associations. The stockings are all one _size_, Annie; but people like
to wear different numbers, and so we try to gratify them. Which number do
_you_ wear? Or don't you wear the Wilmington machine-knit? _I_
don't. Well, they're not _dreams_ exactly, Annie, when all's said and
done for them."

When they left the mill she asked Annie to come home to tea with her,
saying, as if from a perception of her dislike for the young fellow, that
Jack was going to Boston.

They had a long evening together, after Mr. Wilmington took himself off
after tea to his study, as he called it, and remained shut in there. Annie
was uneasily aware of him from time to time, but Lyra had apparently no
more disturbance from his absence than from his presence, which she had
managed with a frank acceptance of everything it suggested. She talked
freely of her marriage, not as if it were like others, but for what it was.
She showed Annie over the house, and she ended with a display of the rich
dresses which he was always buying her, and which she never wore, because
she never went anywhere.

Annie said she thought she would at least like to go to the seaside
somewhere during the summer, but "No," Lyra said; "it would be too much
trouble, and you know, Annie, I always did hate _trouble_. I don't
want the care of a cottage, and I don't want to be poked into a hotel, so
I stay in Hatboro'." She said that she had always been a village girl, and
did not miss the interests of a larger life, as she caught glimpses of them
in South Hatboro', or want the bother of them. She said she studied music a
little, and confessed that she read a good deal, novels mostly, though the
library was handsomely equipped with well-bound general literature.

At moments it all seemed no harm; at others, the luxury in which this life
was so contentedly sunk oppressed Annie like a thick, close air. Yet she
knew that Lyra was kind to many of the poor people about her, and did
a great deal of good, as the phrase is, with the superfluity which it
involved no self-denial to give from. But Mr. Peck had given her a point
of view, and though she believed she did not agree with him, she could not
escape from it.

Lyra told her much about people in Hatboro', and characterised them all so
humorously, and she seemed so good-natured, in her ridicule which spared
nobody.

She shrieked with laughter about Mr. Brandreth when Annie told her of his
mother's doubt whether his love-making with Miss Northwick ought to be
tacit or explicit in the kissing and embracing between Romeo and Juliet.

Book of the day: