Part 5 out of 6
leaves twenty dollars for other expenses, not countin' what I've
already spent, which is six-fifty," said she, recovering her
self-possession. "It's plenty."
"But y' ain't calc'lated on no sleepers nor hotel bills."
"I ain't goin' on no sleeper. Mis' Doudney says it's jest scandalous
the way things is managed on them cars. I'm goin' on the
old-fashioned cars, where they ain't no half-dressed men runain'
"But you needn't be afraid of them, Mother; at your age-"
"There! you needn't throw my age an' homeliness into my face,
Ethan Ripley. If I hadn't waited an' tended on you so long, I'd look
a little more's I did when I married yeh."
Ripley gave it up in despair. He didn't realize fully enough how the
proposed trip had unsettled his wife's nerves. She didn't realize it
"As for the hotel bills, they won't be none. I a-goin' to pay them
pirates as much for a day's board as we'd charge for a week's, an'
have nawthin' to eat but dishes. I'm goin' to take a chicken an'
some hard-boiled eggs, an' I'm goin' right through to Georgetown."
"Well, all right; but here's the ticket I got."
"I don't want yer ticket."
"But you've got to take it."
"Wall, I hain't."
"Why, yes, ye have. It's bought, an' they won't take it
"Won't they?" She was staggered again.
"Not much they won't. I ast 'em. A ticket sold is sold."
"Waal, if they won't-"
"You bet they won't."
"I s'pose I'll haff to use it"; and that ended iti -They were a familiar
sight as they rode down the road toward town next day. As usual,
Mrs. Ripley sat up straight and stiff as "a half-drove wedge in a
white-oak log." The day was cold and raw. There was some snow
on the ground, but not enough to warrant the use of sleighs. It was
"neither sleddin' nor wheelin'." The old people sat on a board laid
across the box, and had an old quilt or two drawn up over their
knees. Tewksbury lay in the back part of the box (which was filled
with hay), where he jounced up and down, in company with a
queer old trunk and a brand-new imitation-leather handbag, There
is no ride quite so desolate and uncomfortable as a ride in a lumber
wagon on a cold day in autumn, when the ground is frozen and the
wind is strong and raw with threatening snow. The wagon wheels
grind along in the snow, the cold gets in under the seat at the
calves of one's legs, and the ceaseless bumping of the bottom of
the box on the feet is frightful.
There was not much talk on the way down, and what little there
was related mainly to certain domestic regulations to be strictly
followed regarding churning, pickles, pancakes, etc. Mrs. Ripley
wore a shawl over her head and carried her queer little black
bonnet in her hand. Tewksbury was also wrapped in a shawl. The
boy's teeth were pounding together like castanets by the time they
reached Cedarville, and every muscle ached with the fatigue of
shaking. After a few purchases they drove down to the railway
station, a frightful little den (common in the West) which was
always too hot or too cold. It happened to be hot just now-a fact
which rejoiced little Tewksbury.
"Now git my trunk stamped 'r fixed, 'r whatever they call it," she
said to Ripley in a commanding tone, which gave great delight to
the inevitable crowd of loafers begliming to assemble. "Now
remember, Tukey, have Granddad kill that biggest turkey night
before Thanksgiving, an' then you run right over to Mis'
Doudney's-she's got a nawful tongue, but she can bake a turkey
first-rate-an' she'll fix up some squash pies for yeh. You can warm
up one s' them mince pies. I wish ye could be with me, but ye
can't, so do the best ye can."
Ripley returning now, she said: "Waal, now, I've fixed things up
the best I could. I've baked bread enough to last a week, an' Mis'
Doudney has promised to bake for yeh."
"I don't like her bakin'."
"Waal, you'll haff to stand it till I get back, 'n' you'll find a jar o'
sweet pickles an' some crabapple sauce down suller, 'n' you'd better
melt up brown sugar for 'lasses, 'n' for goodness' sake don't eat all
them mince pies up the fust week, 'n' see that Tukey ain't froze
goin' to school. An' now you'd better get out for home. Good-bye,
an' remember them pies.
As they were riding home, Ripley roused up after a long silence.
"Did she-a-kiss you goodbye, Tukey?"
"No, sir," piped Tewksbury.
"Thunder! didn't she?" After a silence. "She didn't me, neither. I
guess she kind of sort a forgot it, bein' so frustrated, y' know."
One cold, windy, intensely bright day, Mrs. Stacey, who lives
about two miles from Cedarville, looking out of the window, saw a
queer little figure struggling along the road, which was blocked
here and there with drifts. It was an old woman laden with a good
half-dozen parcels, any one of which was a load, which the wind
seemed determined to wrench from her. She was dressed in black,
with a full skirt, and her cloak being short, the wind had excellent
opportunity. to inflate her garments ind sail her off occasionally
into the deep snow outside the track, but she held on bravely till
she reached the gate. As she turned in, Mrs. Stacey cried:
"Why! it's Gran'ma Ripley, just getting back from her trip. Why!
how do you do? Come in. Why! you must be nearly frozen. Let me
take off your hat and veil."
"No, thank ye kindly, but I can't stop. I must be glttin' back to
Ripley. I expec' that man has jest let ev'rything go six ways f'r
"Oh, you must sit down just a minute and warm."
"Waal, I will, but I've got to git home by sundown. Sure I don't
s'pose they's a thing in the house to eat."
"Oh dear! I wish Stacey was here, so he could take you home. An'
the boys at school."
"Don't need any help, if 'twa'n't for these bundles an' things. I guess
I'll jest leave some of 'em here an'- Here! take one of these apples. I
brought 'em from Lizy Jane's suller, back to Yaark State."
"Oh! they're delicious! You must have had a lovely time."
"Pretty good. But I kep' thinkin' o' Ripley an' Tukey all the time. I
s'pose they have had a gay time of it" (she meant the opposite of
gay). "Waal, as I told Lizy Jane, I've had my spree, an' now I've got
to git back to work. They ain't no rest for such as we are. As I told
Lizy Jane, them folks in the big houses have Thanksgivin' dinners
every day uv their lives, and men an' women in splendid do's to
wait on 'em, so't Thanksgivin' don't mean anything to 'em; but we
poor critters, we make a great to-do if we have a good dinner oncet
a year. I've saw a pile o' this world, Mrs. Stacey-a pile of it! I didn't
think they was so many big houses in the world as I saw b'tween
here an' Chicago. Waal, I can't set here gabbin'; I must get home to
Ripley. Jest kinder stow them bags away. I'll take two an' leave
them three others. Goodbye. I must be gittin' home to Ripley. He'll
want his supper on time." And off up the road the indomitable
little figure trudged, head held down to the cutting blast. Little
snow fly, a speck on a measureless expanse, crawling along with
painful breathing and slipping, sliding steps- "Gittin' home to
Ripley an' the boy."
Ripley was out to the barn when she entered, but Tewksbury was
building a fire in the old cookstove. He sprang up with a cry of joy
and ran to her. She seized him and kissed him, and it did her so
much good she hugged him close and kissed him again and again,
"Oh, gran'ma, I'm so glad to see you! We've had an awful time
since you've been gone."
She released him and looked around. A lot of dirty dishes were on
the table, the tablecloth was a "sight to behold," and so was the
stove-kettle marks all over the tablecloth, splotches of pancake
batter all over the stove.
"Waal, I sh'd say as much," she dryly vouchsafed, untying her
When Ripley came in she had on her regimentals, the stove was
brushed, the room swept, and she was elbow-deep in the dishpan.
"Hullo, Mother! Got back, hev yeh?"
"I sh'd say it was about time," she replied briefly with-out looking
up or ceasing work. "Has ol' 'Cruuipy' dried up yit?" This was her
Her trip was a fact now; no chance could rob her of it. She had
looked forward twenty-three years toward it, and now she could
look back at it accomplished. She took up her burden again, never
more thinking to lay it down.
UNCLE ETHAN RIPLEY
"Like the Main-Travelled Road of Life, it is traversed by many
classes of people."
UNCLE ETHAN had a theory that a man's character could be told
by the way he sat in a wagon seat.
"A mean man sets right plumb in the middle o' the seat, as much as
to say, 'Walk, goldarn yeh, who cares!' But a man that sets in the
corner o' the seat, much as to say, 'Jump in-cheaper t' ride 'n to
walk,' you can jest tie to."
Uncle Ripley was prejudiced in favor of the stranger, therefore,
before he came opposite the potato patch, where the old man was
"bugging his vines." The stranger drove a jaded-looking pair of
calico ponies, hitched to a clattering democrat wagon, and he sat
on the extreme end of the seat, with the lines in his right hand,
while his left rested on his thigh, with his little finger gracefully
crooked and his elbows akimbo. He wore a blue shirt, with
gay-colored armlets just above the elbows, and his vest hung
unbuttoned down his lank ribs. It was plain he was well pleased
As he pulled up and threw one leg over the end of the seat, Uncle
Ethan observed that the left spring was much more worn than the
other, which proved that it was not accidental, but that it was the
driver's habit to sit on that end of the seat.
"Good afternoon," said the stranger pleasantly.
"Good afternoon, sir."
"Bugs purty plenty?"
"Plenty enough, I gol! I don't see where they all come fum."
"Early Rose?" inquired the man, as if referring to the bugs.
"No; Peachblows an' Carter Reds. My Early Rose is over near the
house. The old woman wants 'em near. See the darned things!" he
pursued, rapping savagely on the edge of the pan to rattle the bugs
"How do yeh kill 'em-scald 'em?"
"Mostly. Sornetimcs I
"Good piece of oats," yawned the stranger listessly.
"So 'tis. Didn't notice."
Uncle Ethan was wondering who the man was. He had some pots
of black paint in the wagon and two or three square boxes.
"What do yeh think o' Cleveland's chances for a second term?"
continued the man, as if they had been talking politics all the
Uncle Ripley scratched his head. "Waal-I dunn~ bein' a
"That's so-it's a purty scaly outlook. I don't believe in second terms
myself," the man hastened to say.
"Is that your new barn acrosst there?" be asked, point-ing with his
"Yes, sir, it is," replied the old man proudly. After years of
planning and hard work he had managed to erect a little wooden
barn, costing possibly three hundred dollars. It was plain to be seen
he took a childish pride in the fact of its newness.
The stranger mused. "A lovely place for a sign," he said as his eyes
wandered across its shining yellow broadside.
Uncle Ethan stared, unmindful of the bugs crawling over the edge
of his pan. His interest in the pots of paint deepened.
"Couldn't think o' lettin' me paint a sign on that barn?" the stranger
continued, putting his locked hands around one knee and gaining
away across the pigpen at the building.
"What kind of a sign? Goldarn your skins!" Uncle Ethan pounded
the pan with his paddle and scraped two or three crawling
abominations off his leathery wrist.
It was a beautiful day, and the man in the wagon seemed unusually
loath to attend to business. The tired ponies slept in the shade of
the lombardies. The plain was draped in a warm mist and
shadowed by vast, vaguely defined masses of clouds-a lazy June
"Dodd's Family Bitters," said the man, waking out of his
abstraction with a start and resuming his working manner. "The
best bitter in the market." He alluded to it in the singular. "Like to
look at it? No trouble to show goods, as the fellah says," he went
on hastily, seeing Uncle Ethan's hesitation.
He produced a large bottle of triangular shape, like a bottle for
pickled onions. It had a red seal on top and a strenuous caution in
red letters on the neck, "None genuine unless 'Dodd's Family
Bittem' is blown in the bottom."
"Here's what it cures," pursued the agent, pointing at the side,
where; in an inverted pyramid, the names of several hundred
diseases were arranged, running from "gout" to "pulmonary
"I gol! She cuts a wide swath, don't she?" exclaimed Uncle Ethan,
profoundly impressed with the list.
"They ain't no better bitter in the world," said the agent with a
"What's its speshy-ality? Most of 'em have some speshy-ality."
"Well-summer complaints-an'-an'-spring an' fall troubles-tones ye
up, sort of."
Uncle Ethan's forgotten pan was empty of his gathered bugs. He
was deeply interested in this man. There was something he liked
"What does it sell fur?" he asked after a pause.
"Same price as them cheap medicines-dollar a bottle-big bottles,
too. Want one?"
"Wal, mother ain't to home, an' I don't know as she'd like this kind.
We ain't been sick fr years. Still, they's no tellln'," he added,
seeing the answer to his objection in the agent's eyes. "Times is
purty close too, with us, y' see;; we've just built that stable-"
'Say I'll tell yeh what I'll do," said the stranger, waking up and
speaking in a warnily generous tone. "I'll give you ten bottles of the
bitter if you'll let me paint a sign on that barn. It won't hurt the
barn a bit, and if you want 'o you can paint it Out a year from date.
Come, what d'ye say?"
"I guess I hadn't better."
The agent thought that Uncle Ethan was after more pay, but in
reality he was thinking of what his little old wife would say.
"It simply puts a family bitter in your home that may save you fifty
dollars this comin' fall. You can't tell."
Just what the man said after that Uncle Ethan didn't follow. His
voice had a confidential purring sound as he stretched across the
wagon seat and talked on, eyes half shut. He straightened up at last
and concluded in the tone of one who has carried his point:
"So! If you didn't want to use the whole twenty five bottles y'rself,
why! sell it to your neighbors. You can get twenty dollars out of it
easy, and still have five bottles of the best family bitter that ever
went into a bottle."
It was the thought of this opportunity to get a buffalo skin coat that
consoled Uncle Ethan as he saw the hideous black letters
appearing under the agent's lazy brush.
It was the hot side of the barn, and painting was no light work. The
agent was forced to mop his forehead with his sleeve.
"Say, hain't got a cookie or anything, and a cup o' milk, handy?" he
said at the end of the first enormous word, which ran the whole
length of the barn.
Uncle Ethan got him the milk and oookie, which he ate with an
exaggeratedly dainty action of his fingers, seated meanwhile on the
staging which Uncle Ripley had helped him to build. This lunch
infused new energy into him, and in a short time "DODD'S
FAMILY BITTERS, Best in the Market," disfigured the
sweet-smelling pine boards.
Ethan was eating his self-obtained supper of bread and milk when
his wife came home.
"Who's been a-paintin' on that barn?" she demanded, her beadlike
eyes flashing, her withered little face set in an ominous frown.
"Ethan Ripley, what you been doin'?"
"Nawthin'," he replied feebly.
"Who painted that sign on there?"
"A man come along an' he wanted to paint that on there, and I let
'im; and it's my barn anyway. I guess I can do what I'm a min' to
with it," he ended defiantly; but his eyes wavered.
Mrs. Ripley ignored the defiance. "What under the sun p'sessed
you to do such a thing as that, Ethan Ripley? I declare I don't see!
You git fooler an' fooler cv'ry day you live, I do believe."
Uncle Ethan attempted a defense.
"Wal, he paid me twenty-five dollars f'r it, anyway."
"Did 'e?" She was visibly affected by this news.
"Wal, anyhow, it amounts to that; he give me twenty-five bottles-"
Mrs. Ripley sank back in her chair. "Wal, I swan to Bungay! Ethan
Ripley-wal, you beat all I ever see!" she added in despair of
expression. "I thought you had some sense left; but you hain't, not
one blessed scimpton. Where is the stuff?"
"Down cellar, an' you needn't take on no airs, ol' woman. I've
known you to buy things you didn't need time an' time an' agin-tins
an' things, an' I guess you wish you had back that ten dollars you
paid for that illustrated Bible,"
"Go 'long an' bring that stuff up here. I never see such a man in my
life. It's a wonder he didn't do it f'r two bottles." She glared out at
the 'sign, which faced directly upon the kitchen window.
Uncle Ethan tugged the two cases up and set them down on the
floor of the kitchen. Mrs. Ripley opened a bottle and smelled of it
like a cautious cat.
"Ugh! Merciful sakes, what stuff! It ain't fit f'r a hog to take.
What'd you think you was goin' to do with it?" she asked in
"I expected to take it-if I was sick. Whaddy ye s'pose?" He
defiantly stood his ground, towering above her like a leaning
"The hull cartload of it?"
"No. I'm goin' to sell part of it an' git me an overcoat-"
"Sell it!" she shouted. "Nobuddy'il buy that sick'nin' stuff but an
old numskull like you. Take that slop out o' the house this 'minute!
Take it right down to the sinkhole an' smash every bottle on the
Uncle Ethan and the cases of medicine disappeared, and the old
woman addressed her concluding remarks to little Tewksbury, her
grandson, who stood timidly on one leg in the doorway, like an
"Everything around this place 'ud go to rack an' ruin if I didn't
keep a watch on that soft-pated old dummy. I thought that
lightnin'-rod man had glve him a lesson he'd remember; but no, he
must go an' make a reg'lar-"
She subsided in a tumult of banging pans, which helped her out in
the matter of expression and reduced her to a grim sort of quiet.
Uncle Ethan went about the house like a convict on shipboard.
Once she caught him looking out of the window.
"I should think you'd feel proud o' that."
Uncle Ethan had never been sick a day in his life. He was bent and
bruised with never-ending toil, but he had nothing especial the
matter with him.
He did not smash the medicine, as Mrs. Ripley commanded,
because he had determined to sell it. The next Sunday morning,
after his chores were done, he put on his best coat of faded
diagonal, and was brushing his hair into a ridge across the center
of his high, narrow head when Mrs. Ripley carne in from feeding
"Where you goin' now?"
"None o' your business," he replied. "It's darn funny if I can't stir
without you wantin' to know all about it. Where's Tukey?"
"Feedin' the chickens. You ain't goin' to take him off this mornin'
now! I don't care where you go."
"Who's a-goin' to take him off? I ain't said nothin' about takin' him
"Wal, take y'rseif off, an' if y' ain't here f'r dinner, I ain't goin' to get
Ripley took a water pail, and put four bottles of "the bitter mto it,
and trudged away up the road with it in a pleasant glow of hope.
All nature seemed to declare the day a time of rest and invited men
to disassoeiate ideas of toil from the rustling green wheat, shining
grass, and tossing blooms. Something of the sweetness and
buoyancy of all nature permeated the old man's work-calloused
body, and he whistled little snatches of the dance tunes he
played on his fiddle.
But he found neighbor Johnson to be supplied with another variety
of bitter, which was all he needed for the present. He qualified his
refusal to buy with a cordial invitation to go out and see his shoats,
in which he took infinite pride. But Uncle Ripley said: "I guess I'll
haf t' be gom'; I want 'o git up to Jennings' before dimier."
He couldn't help feeling a little depressed when he found Jennings
away. The next house along the pleasant lane was inhabited by a
"newcomer." He was sitting on the horse trough, holding a horse's
halter, while his hired man dashed cold water upon the galled spot
on the animal's shoulder.
After some preliminary talk Ripley presented his medicine.
"Hell, no! What do I want of such stuff? When they's anything the
matter with me, I take a lunkin' ol' swig of popple bark and
bourbon! That fixes me."
Uncle Ethan moved off up the lane. He hardly felt like whistling
now. At the next house he set his pail down in the weeds beside
the fence and went in without it. Doudney came to the door in his
bare feet, buttoning his suspenders over a clean boiled shirt. He
was dressing to go out.
"Hello, Ripley. I was just goin' down your way. Jest wait a minute,
an' I'll be out."
When he came out, fully dressed, Uncle Ethan grappled him.
"Say, what d' you think o' paytent med-"
"Some of 'em are boss. But y' want 'o know what y're gittin'."
"What d' ye think o, Dodd's-"
"Best in the market."
Uncle Ethan straightened up and his face lighted. Doudney went
"Yes, sir; best bitter that ever went into a bottle. I know, I've tried
it. I don't go much on patent medicines, but when I get a good-"
"Don't want 'o buy a bottle?"
Doudney turned and faced him.
"Buy! No. I've got nineteen bottles I want 'o sell" Ripley glanced
up at Doudney's new granary and there read "Dodd's Family
Bitters." He was stricken dumb. Doudney saw it all and roared.
"Wal, that's a good one! We two tryin' to sell each other bitters.
Ho-ho-ho-har, whoop! wal, this is rich! How many bottles did you
"None o' your business," said Uncle Ethan as he turned and made
off, while Doudney screamed with merriment.
On his way home Uncle Ethan grew ashamed of his burden.
Doudney had canvassed the whole neighborhood, and he
practically gave up the struggle. Everybody he met seemed
determined to find out what he had been doing, and at last he
began lying about it.
"Hello, Uncle Ripley, what y' got there in that pail?"
"Goose eggs fr settin'."
He disposed of one bottle to old Gus Peterson. Gus never paid his
debts, and he would oniy promise fifty cents "on tick" for the
bottle, and yet so desperate was Ripley that this questionable sale
cheered him up not a little.
As he came down the road, tired, dusty, and hungry, he climbed
over the fence in order to avoid seeing that sign on the barn and
slunk into the house without looking back.
He couldn't have felt meaner about it if he had allowed a
Democratic poster to be pasted there.
The evening passed in grim silence, and in sleep he saw that sign
wriggling across the side of the barn like boa constrictors hung on
rails. He tried to paint them out, but every time he tried it the man
seemed to come back with a sheriff and savagely warned him to let
it stay till the year was up. In some mysterious way the agent
seemed to know every time he brought out the paint pot, and he
was no longer the pleasant-voiced individual who drove the calico
As he stepped out into the yard next morning that abominable,
sickening, scrawling advertisement was the first thing that claimed
his glance-it blotted out the beauty of the morning.
Mrs. Ripley came to the window, buttoning her dress at the throat,
a wisp of her hair sticking assertively from the little knob at the
back of her head.
"Lovely, ain't it! An' J've got to see it all day long. I can't look out
the winder, but that thing's right in my face." It seemed to make
her savage. She hadn't been in such a temper since her visit to New
York. "I hope you feel satisfied with it."
Ripley walked off to the barn. His pride in its clean sweet newness
was gone. He slyly tried the paint to see if it couldn't be scraped
off, but it was dried in thoroughly. Whereas before he had taken
delight in having his neighbors turn and look at the building, now
he kept out of sight whenever he saw a team coming. He hoed corn
away in the back of the field, when he should have been bugging
potatoes by the roadside.
Mrs. Ripley was in a frightful mood about it, but she held herself
in check for several days. At last she burst forth:
"Ethan Ripley, I can't stand that thing any longer, and I ain't goin'
to, that's all! You've got to go and paint that thing out, or I will. I'm
just about crazy with it."
"But, Mother, I promised-"
"I don't care what you promised, it's got to be painted out. I've got
the nightmare now, seein' it. I'm goin' to send for a pail o' red paint,
and I'm goin' to paint that out if it takes the last breath I've got to
"I'll tend to it, Mother, if you won't hurry me-"
"I can't stand it another day. It makes me boil every time I look out
Uncle Ethan hitched up his team and drove gloomily off to town,
where he tried to find the agent. He lived in some other part of the
county, however, and so the old man gave up and bought a pot of
red paint, not daring to go back to his desperate wife without it.
"Goin' to paint y'r new barn?" inquired the merchant with friendly
Uncle Ethan turned with guilty sharpness; but the merchant's face
was grave and kindly.
"Yes, I thought I'd tech it up a little-don't cost much."
"It pays-always," the merchant said emphatically.
"Will it-stick jest as well put on evenings?" inquired Uncle Ethan
"Yes-won't make any difference. Why? Ain't goin' to have-"
"Wal-I kind o' thought I'd do it odd times night an' mornin'-kind o'
He seemed oddly confused about it, and the merchant looked after
him anxiously as he drove away.
After supper that night he went out to the barn, and Mrs. Ripley
heard him sawing and hammering. Then the noise ceased, and he
came in and sat down in his usual place.
"What y' be'n makin'?" she inquired. Tewksbury had gone to bed.
She sat darning a stocking.
"I jest thought I'd git the stagin' ready f'r paintin'," he said
"Wal! I'll be glad when it's covered up." When she got ready for
bed, he was still seated in his chair, and after she had dozed off
two or three times she began to wonder why he didn't come When
the clock struck ten, and she realized that he had not stirred, she
began to get impatient. "Come, are y' goin' to sit there all night?"
There was no reply. She rose up in bed and looked about the
room. The broad moon flooded it with light, so that she could see
he was not asleep in his chair, as she had supposed. There was
something ominous in his disappearance.
"Ethan! Ethan Ripley, where are yeh?" There was no reply to her
sharp call. She rose and distractedly looked about among the
furniture, as if he inight somehow be a cat and be hiding in a
corner somewhere. Then she went upstairs where the boy slept, her
hard little heels making a curious tunking noise on the bare boards.
The moon fell across the sleeping hoy like a robe of silver. He was
She began to be alarmed. Her eyes widened in fear. An sorts of
vague horrors sprang unbidden into her brain. She still had the
mist of sleep in her brain.
She hurried down the stairs and out into the fragrant night. The
katydids were singing in infinite peace under the solemn splendor
of the moon. The cattle sniffed and sighed, jangling their bells now
and then, and the chickens in the coop stirred uneasily as if
overheated. The old woman stood there in her bare feet and long
nightgown, horror-stricken. The ghastly story of a man who had
hung himseif in his barn because his wife deserted him came into
her mind and stayed there with frightful persistency. Her throat
She felt a wild rush of loneliness. She had a sudden realization of
how dear that gaunt old figure was, with its grizzled face and ready
smile. Her breath came quick and quicker, and she was at the point
of bursting into a wild cry to Tewksbury when she heard a strange
noise. It came from the barn, a creaking noise. She looked that way
and saw in the shadowed side a deeper shadow moving to and fro.
A revulsion to astonishment and anger took place in her.
"Land o' Bungay! If he ain't paintin' that barn, like a perfect old
idiot, in the night."
Uncle Ethan, working desperately, did not hear her feet pattering
down the path, and was startled by her shrill voice.
"Well, Ethan Ripley, whaddy y' think you're doin' now?"
He made two or three slapping passes with the brush and then
snapped out, "I'm a-paintin' this barn-whaddy ye s'pose? II ye had
eyes y' wouldn't ask."
"Well, you come right straight to bed. What d'you mean by actin'
"You go back into the house an' let me be. I know what I'm a-doin'.
You've pestered me about this sign jest about enough." He dabbed
his brush to and fro as he spoke. His gaunt figure towered above
her in shadow. His slapping brush had a vicious sound.
Neither spoke for some time. At length she said more gently, "Ain't
you comin' in?"
"No-not till I get a-ready. You go 'long an' tend to y'r own business.
Don't stan' there an' ketch cold."
She moved off slowly toward the house. His shout subdued her.
Working alone out there had rendered him savage; he was not to
be pushed any further. She knew by the tone of his voice that he
must now be respected.
She slipped on her shoes and a shawl, and came back where he
was working, and took a seat on a sawhorse.
"I'm goin' to set right here till you come in, Ethan Ripley," she said
in a firm voice, but gentler than usual.
"Wal, you'll set a good while," was his ungracious reply, but each
felt a furtive tenderness for the other. He worked on in silence. The
boards creaked heavily as he walked to and fro, and the slapping
sound of the paint brush sounded loud in the sweet harmony of
the night. The majestic moon swung slowly round the corner of the
barn and fell upon the old man's grizzled head and bent shoulders.
The horses inside could be heard stamping the mosquitoes away
and chewing their hay in pleasant chorus.
The little figure seated on the sawhorse drew the shawl closer
ahout her thin shoulders. Her eyes were in shadow, and her hands
were wrapped in her shawl. At last she spoke in a curious tone.
"Wal, I don't know as you was so very much to blame. I didn't want
that Bible myself-I hold out I did, but I didn't."
Ethan worked on until the full meaning of this unprecedented
surrender penetrated his head, and then he threw down his brush.
"Wal, I guess I'll let 'er go at that. I'ye covered up the most of it,
anyhow. Guess we better go in."
CHICAGO has three winds that blow upon it. One comes from the
East, and the mind goes out to the cold gray-blue lake. One from
the North, and men think of illimitable spaces of pinelands and
maple-clad ridges which lead to the unknown deeps of the arctic
But the third is the West of Southwest wind, dry, magnetic, full of
smell of unmeasured miles of growing grain in summer, or
ripening corn and wheat in autumn. When it comes in winter the
air glitters with incredible brilliancy. The snow of the country
dazzles and flames in the eyes; deep blue shadows everywhere
stream like stains of ink. Sleigh bells wrangle from early morning
till late at night, and every step is quick and alert. In the city,
smoke dims its clarity, but it is welcome.
But its greatest moment of domination is spring. The bitter gray
wind of the East has held unchecked rule for days, giving place to
its brother the North wind only at intervals, till some day in March
the wind of the southwest begins to blow. Then the eaves begin to
drip. Here and there a fowl (in a house that is really a prison)
begins to sang the song it sang on the farm, and toward noon its
song becomes a chant of articulate joy.
Then the poor crawl out of their reeking hovels on the South and
West sides to stand in the sun-the blessed sun-and felicitate
themselves on being alive. Windows of sickrooms are opened, the
merry small boy goes to school without his tippet, and men lay off
their long ulsters for their beaver coats. Caps give place to hats,
and men women pause to chat when they meet each other the
street. The open door is the sign of the great change of wind.
There are imaginative souls who are stirred yet deeper by this
wind-men like Robert Bloom, to whom come vague and very
sweet reminiscences of farm life when the snow is melting and the
dry ground begins to appear. To these people the wind comes from
the wide unending spaces of the prairie West. They can smell the
strange thrilling odor of newly uncovered sod and moist brown
plowed lands. To them it is like the opening door of a prison.
Robert had crawled downtown and up to his office high in the Star
block after a month's sickness. He had resolutely pulled a pad of
paper under his hand to write, but the window was open and that
wind coming in, and he could not write-he could only dream.
His brown hair fell over the thin white hand which propped his
head. His face was like ivory with dull yellowish stains in it. His
eyes did not see the mountainous roofs humped and piled into vast
masses of brick and stone, crossed and riven by streets, and swept
by masses of gray-white vapor; they saw a little valley circled by
low-wooded bluffs-his native town in Wisconsin.
As his weakness grew his ambition fell away, and his heart turned
back to nature and to the things he had known in his youth, to the
kindly people of the olden time. It did not occur to him that the
spirit of the country might have changed.
Sitting thus, he had a mighty longing come upon him to give up
the struggle, to go back to the simplest life with his wife and two
boys. Why should he tread in the mill, when every day was taking
the lifeblood out of his heart?
Slowly his longing took resolution. At last he drew his desk down,
and as the lock clicked it seemed like the shutting of a prison gate
At the elevator door he met a fellow editor. "Hello, Bloom! Didn't
know you were down today."
"I'm only trying it. I'm going to take a vacation for a while."
"That's right, man. You look like a ghost."
"He hadn't the courage to tell him he never expected to work there
again. His step on the way home was firmer than it had been for
weeks. In his white face his wife saw some subtle change.
"What is it, Robert?"
"Mate, let's give it up."
"What do you mean?"
"The struggle is too hard. I can't stand it. I'm hungry for the country
again. Let's get out of this."
"Where'll we go?"
"Back to my native town-up among the Wisconsin hills and
coulees. Go anywhere, so that we escape this pressure-it's killing
me. Let's go to Bluff Siding for a year. It will do me good-may
bring me back to life. I can do enough special work to pay our
grocery bill; and the Merrill place-so Jack tells me-is empty. We
can get it for seventy-five dollars for a year. We can pull through
"Very well, Robert."
"I must have rest. All the bounce has gone out of me, Mate," he
said with sad lines in his face. "Any extra work here is out of the
question. I can only shamble around-an excuse for a man."
The wife had ceased to smile. Her strenuous cheerfulness could
not hold before his tragically drawn and bloodless face.
"I'll go wherever you think best, Robert It will be just as well for
the boys. I suppose there is a school there?"
"Oh, yes. At any rate, they can get a year's schooling in nature."
"Well-no matter, Robert; you are the one to be considered." She
had the self-sacrfficing devotion of the average woman. She
fancied herself hopelessly his inferior.
They had dwelt so long on the crumbling edge of poverty that they
were hardened to its threat, and yet the failure of Robert's health
had been of the sort which terrifies. It was a slow but steady
sinking of vital force. It had its ups and downs, but it was a
downward trail, always downward. The time for sell-deception had
His paper paid him a meager salary, for his work was prized only
by the more thoughtful readers of the Star.
In addition to his' regular work he occasionally hazarded a story
for the juvenile magazines of the East. In this way he turned the
antics of his growing boys to account, as he often said to his wife.
He had also passed the preliminary stages of literary success by
getting a couple of stories accepted by an Eastern magazine, and
he still confidently looked forward to seeing them printed.
His wife, a sturdy, practical little body, did her part in the bitter
struggle by keeping their little home one of the most attractive on
the West Side, the North Side being altogether too high for them.
In addition, her sorely pressed brain sought out other ways of
helping. She wrote out all her husband's stories on the typewriter,
and secretly she had tried composing others herself, the results
being queer dry little chronicles of the doings of men and women,
strung together without a touch of literary grace.
She proposed taking a large house and rerenting rooms, but Robert
would not hear to it. "As long as I can crawl about we'll leave that
In the month of preparation which followed he talked a great deal
about their venture.
"I want to get there," he said, "just when the leaves are coming out
on the trees. I want to see the cherry trees blossom on the hillside.
The popple trees always get green first."
At other times he talked about the people. "It will be a rest just to
get back among people who aren't ready to tread on your head in
order to lift themselves up. I believe a year among those kind,
unhurried people will glve me all the material I'll need for years.
I'll write a series of studies somewhat like Jefferies'-or Barrie's-
only, of course, I'll be original. I'll just take his plan Of telling
about the people I meet and their queer ways, so quaint and good."
"I'm tired of the scramble," he kept breaking out Of silence to say.
"I don't blame the boys, but it's plain to me they see that my going
will let them move up one. Mason cynically voiced the whole
thing today: 'I can say, "Sorry to see you go, Bloom," because your
going doesn't concern me. I'm not in line of succession, but some
of the other boys don't feel so. There's no divinity doth hedge an
editor; nothing but law prevents the murder of those above by
"I don't like Mr. Mason when he talks like that," said the wife.
"Well-I don't." He didn't tell her what Mason said when Robert
talked about the good simple life of the people in Bluff Siding:
"Oh, bosh, Bloom! You'll find the struggle of the outside world
reflected in your little town. You'll find men and women just as
hard and selfish in their small way. It'll be harder to bear, because
it will all be so petty and pusillailmous."
It was a lovely day in late April when they took the train out of the
great grimy terrible city. It was eight o'clock, but the streets were
muddy and wet, a cold East wind blowing off the lake.
With clanging bell the train moved away, piercing the ragged gray
formless mob of houses and streets (through which railways
always run in a city). Men were hurrying to work, and Robert
pitied them, poor fellows, condemned to do that thing forever.
In an hour they reached the prairies, already clothed upon faintly
with green grass and tender springing wheat. The purple-brown
squares reserved for the corn looked deliciously soft and warm to
the sick man, and he longed to set his bare feet into it.
His boys were wild with delight. They had the natural love of the
earth still in them, and correspondingly cared little for the city.
They raced through the cars like colts. They saw everything. Every
blossoming plant, every budding tree, was precious to them all.
All day they rode. Toward noon they left the sunny prairie land of
northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, and entered upon the hill
land of Madison and beyond. As they went North, the season was
less advanced, but spring was in the fresh wind and the warm
As evening drew on, the hylas began to peep from the pools, and
their chorus deepened as they came on toward Bluff Siding, which
seemed very small, very squalid, and uninteresting, but Robert
pointed at the circling wine-colored wall of hills and the warm
"We're in luck to find a hotel," said Robert. "They burn down every
They were met by a middle-aged man and conducted across the
road to a hotel, which had been a roller-skating rink in other days,
and was not prepossessing. However, they were ushered into the
parlor, which resembled the sitting room of a rather ambitious
village home, and there they took seats, while the landlord
consulted about rooms.
The wife's heart sank. From the window she could see several of
the low houses, and far off just the hills which seemed to make the
town so very small, very lonely. She was not given time to shed
tears. The children clamored for food, tired and cross.
Robert went out into the office, where he sigued his name under
the close and silent scrutiny of a half dozen roughly clad men, who
sat leaning against the wall. They were merely workingmen to
him, but in Mrs. Bloom's eyes they were dangerous people.
The landlord looked at the name as Robert wrote. "Your boxes are
all here," he said.
Robert looked up at him in surprise. "What boxes?"
"Your household goods. They came in on No.9."
Robert recovered himself. He remembered this was a village
where everything that goes on-everything-is known.
The stairway rose picturesquely out of the office to the low
second story, and wp these stairs they tramped to' their tiny rooms,
which were like cells.
"Oh, Mamma, ain't it queer?" cried the boys.
"Supper is all ready," the landlord's soft, deep voice aunounced a
few moments later, and the boys responded with whoops of
They were met by the close scrutiny of every boarder as they
entered, and they heard also the muttered cornments and
"Family to take the Merrill house."
"He looks purty well fiaxed out, don't he?"
They were agreeably surprised to find everything neat and clean
and wholesome. The bread was good and the butter delicious.
Their spirits revived.
"That butter tastes like old times," said Robert. "li's fresh. It's really
They made a hearty meal, and the boys, being filled up, grew
sleepy. After they were put to bed Robert said, "Now, Mate, let's
go see the house."
They walked out arm in arm like lovers. Her sturdy form steadied
him, though he would not have acknowledged it. The red flush was
not yet gone from the west, and the hills still kept a splendid tone
of purple-black. It was very clear, the stars were out, the wind
deliciously soft. "Isn't it still?" Robert aimost whispered.
They walked on under the budding trees up the hill, till they came
at last to the small frame house set under tall maples and locust
trees, just showing a feathery fringe of foliage.
"This is our home," said Robert.
Mate leaned on the gate in silence. Frogs were peeping. The smell
of spring was in the air. There was a magnificent repose in the
hour, restful, recreating, impressive.
"Oh, it's beautiful, Robert! I know we shall like it."
"We must like it," he said.
First contact with the people disappointed Robert. In the work of
moving in he had to do with people who work at day's work, and
the fault was his more than theirs. He forgot that they did not
consider their work degrading. They resented his bossing. The
drayman grew rebellious.
"Look a-here, my Christian friend, if you'll go 'long in the house
and let us alone it'll be a good job. We know what we're about."
This was not pleasant, and he did not perceive the trouble. In the
same way he got foul of the carpenter and the man who plowed his
garden. Some way his tone was not right. His voice was cold and
distant. He generally found that the men knew better than he
what was to be done and how to do it; and sometimes he felt like
apologizing, but their attitude had changed till apology was
He had repelled their friendly advances because he considered
them (without meaning to do so) as workmen, and not as
neighbors. They reported, therefore, that he was cranky and rode a
"He thinks he's a little tin god on wheels," the drayman said.
"Oh, he'll get over that," said McLane. "I knew the boy's folks
years ago-tip-top folks, too. He ain't well, and that makes him a
"That's the trouble-he thinks he's an upper crust," said Jim Cullen,
At the end of ten days they were settled, and nothing remained to
do but plan a little garden and-get well. The boys, with their
unspoiled natures, were able to melt into the ranks of the
village-boy life at once, with no more friction than was indicated
by a couple of rough-and-tumble fights. They were sturdy fellows,
like their mother, and these fights gave them high rank.
Robert got along in a dull, smooth way with his neighbors. He was
too formal with them. He met them only at the meat shop and the
post office. They nodded genially and said, "Got settled yet?" And
he replied, "Quite comfortable, thank you." They felt his coldness.
Conversation halted when he came near and made him feel that he
was the subject of their talk. As a matter of fact, he generally was.
He was a source of great speculation with them. Some of them had
gone so far as to bet he wouldn't live a year. They all seemed
grotesque to him, so work-scarred and bent and hairy. Even the
men whose names he had known from childhood were queer to
him. They seemed shy and distant, too, not like his ideas of them.
To Mate they were almost caricatures. "What makes them look
so-so 'way behind the times, Robert?"
"Well, I suppose they are," said Robert. "Life in these coulees goes
on rather slower than in Chicago. Then there are a great many
Welsh and Germans and Norwegians living way up the coulees,
and they're the ones you notice. They're not all so." He could be
generous toward them in general; it was in special cases where he
failed to know them.
They had been there nearly two weeks without meeting any of
them socially, and Robert was beginning to change his opinion
about them. "They let us severely alone," he was saying one night
to his wife.
"It's very odd. I wonder what I'd better do, Robert. I don't know the
etiquette of these small towns. I never lived in one before, you
know. Whether I ought to call first-and, good gracious, who'll I call
on? I'm in the dark."
"So am I, to tell the truth. I haven't lived in one of these small
towns since I was a lad. I have a faint recollection that
introductions were absolutely necessary. They have an etiquette
which is as binding as that of McAilister's Four Hundred, but what
it is I don't know."
"Well, we'll wait."
"The boys are perfectly at home," said Robert with a little
emphasis on boys, which was the first indication of his
disappointment. The people he had failed to reach.
There came a knock on the door that startled them both. "Come
in," said Robert in a nervous shout.
"Land sakes! did I scare ye? Seem so, way ye yelled," said a
high-keyed nasal voice, and a tall woman came in, followed by an
equally stalwart man.
"How d'e do, Mrs. Folsom? My wife, Mr. Folsom."
Folsom's voice was lost in the bustle of getting settled, but Mrs.
Folsom's voice rose above the clamor. "I was tellin' him it was
about time we got neighborly. I never let anybody come to town a
week without callin' on 'em. It does a body a heap o' good to see a
face outside the family once in a while, specially in a new place.
How do you like up here on the hill?"
"Very much. The view is so fine."
"Yes, I s'pose it is. Still, it ain't my notion. I don't like to climb
hills well enough. Still, I've heard of people buildin' just for the
view. It's all in taste, as the old woman said that kissed the cow."
There was an element of shrewdness and sell-analysis in Mrs.
Folsom which saved her from being grotesque. She knew she was
queer to Mrs. Bloom, but she did not resent it. She was still young
in form and face, but her teeth were gone, and, like so many of her
neighbors, she was too poor to replace them from the dentist's. She
wore a decent calico dress and a shawl and hat.
As she talked her eyes took in every article of furniture in the
room, and every little piece of fancywork and bric-a-brac. In fact,
she reproduced the pattern of one of the tidies within two days.
Folsom sat dumbly in his chair. Robert, who met him now as a
neighbor for the first time, tried to talk with him, but failed, and
turned himself gladly to Mrs. Folsom, who delighted him with her
"Oh, we're a-movin', though you wouldn't think it. This town is
filled with a lot of old skinflints. Close ain't no name for 'em. Jest
ask Folsom thar about 'em. He's been buildin' their houses for 'em.
Still, I suppose they say the same thing o' me," she added with a
touch of humor which always saved her. She used a man's phrases.
"We're always ready to tax some other feller, but we kick like
mules when the tax falls on us," she went on. "My land! the fight
we've had to git sidewalks in this town!"
"You should be mayor."
"That's what I tell Folsom. Takes a woman to clean things up.
Well, I must run along. Thought I'd jest call in and see how you all
was. Come down when ye kin."
"Thank you, I will."
After they had gone Robert turned with a smile: "Our first formal
"Oh, dear, Robert, what can I do with such people?"
"Go see 'em. I like her. She's shrewd. You'll like her, too."
"But what can I say to such people? Did you hear her say 'we
fellers' to me?"
Robert laughed. "That's nothing. She feels as much of a man, or
'feller,' as anyone. Why shouldn't she?"
"But she's so vulgar."
"I admit she isn't elegant, but I think she's a good wife and
"I wonder if they're all like that?"
"Now, Mate, we must try not to offend them. We must try to be
one of them."
But this was easier said than done. As he went down to the post
office and stood waiting for his mail like the rest, he tried to enter
into conversation witb them, but mainly they moved away from
him. William McTurg nodded at him and said, "How de do?" and
McLane asked how he liked his new place, and that was about all.
He couldn't reach them. They suspected him. They had only the
estimate of the men who had worked for him; and, while they were
civil, they plainly didn't need him in the slightest degree, except as
a topic of conversation.
He did not improve as he had hoped to do. The spring was wet and
cold, the most rainy and depressing the valley had seen in many
years. Day after day the rain clouds sailed in over the northern hills
and deluged the flat little town with water, till the frogs sang in
every street, till the main street mired down every team that drove
The corn rotted in the earth, but the grass grew tall and
yellow-green, the trees glistened through the gray air, and the hills
were like green jewels of incalculable worth, when the sun shone,
at sweet infrequent intervals.
The cold and damp struck through into the alien's heart. It seemed
to prophesy his dark future. He sat at his desk and looked out into
the gray rain with gloomy eyes-a prisoner when he had expected to
He had failed in his last venture. He had not gained any power-he
was reaily weaker than ever. The rain had kept him confined to the
house. The joy he had anticipated of tracing out all his boyish
pleasure haunts was cut off. He had relied, too, upon that as a
source of literary power.
He could not do much more than walk down to the post office and
back on the pleasantest days. A few people called, but he could
not talk to them, and they did not call again.
In the meanwhile his little bank account was vanishing. The boys
were strong and happy; that was his only comfort. And his wife
seemed strong, too. She had little time to get lonesome.
He grew morbid. His weakness and insecurity made him jealous of
the security and health of others.
He grew almost to hate the people as he saw them coming and
going in the mud, or heard their loud hearty voices sounding from
the street. He hated their gossip, their dull jokes. The flat little
town grew vulgar and low and desolate to him.
Every little thing which had amused him now annoyed him. The
cut of their beards worried him. Their voices jarred upon him.
Every day or two he broke forth to his wife in long tirades of
"Oh, I can't stand these people! They don't know any-thing. They
talk every rag of gossip into shreds. Taters, fish, hops; hops, fish,
and taters. They've saved and pinched and toiled till their souls are
pinched and ground away. You're right. They are caricatures. They
don't read or think about anything in which I'm interested. This life
is nerve-destroying. Talk about the health of the village life! it
destroys body and soul. It debilitates me. It will warp us both down
to the level of these people."
She tried to stop him, but he went on, a flush of fever on his cheek:
"They degrade the nature they have touched. Their squat little
town is a caricature like themselves. Everything they touch they
belittle. Here they sit while side-walks rot and teams mire in the
He raged on like one demented-bitter, accusing, rebellious. In such
a mood he could not write. In place of inspiring him, the little
town and its people seemed to undermine his power and turn his
sweetness of spirit into gall and acid. He only bowed to them now
as he walked feebly among them, and they excused it by referring
to his sickness. They eyed him each time with pitying eyes; "He's
failin' fast," they said among themselves.
One day, as he was returning from the post office, he felt blind for
a moment and put his hand to his head. The wold of vivid green
grew gray, and life rceded from him into illimitable distance. He
had one dim fading glimpse of a shaggy-bearded face looking
down at him, and felt the clutch of an iron-hard strong arm under
him, and then he lost hold even on so much consciousness.
He came back slowly, rising out of immeasurable deeps toward a
distant light which was like the mouth of a well filled with clouds
of misty vapor. Occasionally he saw a brown big hairy face
floating in over this lighted horizon, to smile kindly and go away
again. Others came with shaggy beards. He heard a cheery tenor
voice which he recognized, and then another face, a big brown
smiling face; very lovely it looked now to him-almost as lovely as
his wife's, which floated in from the other side.
"He's all right now," said the cheery tenor voice from the big
"Oh, Mr. McTurg; do you think so?"
"Ye-e-s, sir. He's all right. The fever's left him. Brace up, old man.
We need ye yit awhile." Then all was silent agam.
The well mouth cleared away its mist again, and he saw more
clearly. Part of the time he knew he was in bed staring at the
ceiling. Part of the time the well mouth remained closed in with
Gaunt old women put spoons of delicious broth to his lips, and
their toothless mouths had kindly lines about them. He heard their
high voices sounding faintly.
"Now, Mis' Bloom, jest let Mis' Folsom an' me attend to things out
here. We'll get supper for the boys, an' you jest go an' lay down.
We'll take care of him. Don't worry. Bell's a good hand with sick."
Then the light came again, and he heard a robin singing, and a
catbird squalled softly, pitifully. He could see the ceiling again. He
lay on his back, with his hands on his breast. He felt as if he had
been dead. He seemed to feel his body as if it were an alien thing.
"How are you, sir?" called the laughing, thrillingly hearty voice of
He tried to turn his head, but it wouldn't move. He tried to speak,
but his dry throat made no noise.
The big man bent over him. "Want 'o change place a little?"
He closed his eyes in answer.
A giant arm ran deftly under his shoulders and turned him as if he
were an infant, and a new part of the good old world burst on his
sight. The sunshine streamed in the windows through a waving
screen of lilac leaves and fell upon the carpet in a priceless flood
There sat William McTurg smiling at him. He had no coat on and
no hat, and his bushy thick hair rose up from his forehead like
thick marsh grass. He looked to be the embodiment of sunshine
and health. Sun and air were in his brown face, and the perfect
health of a fine animal was in his huge limbs. He looked at Robert
with a smile that brought a strange feeling into his throat. It made
him try to speak; at last he whispered.
The great figure bent closer: "What is it?"
William laughed a low chuckle. "Don't bother about thanks. Would
you like some water?"
A tall figure joined William, awkwardiy.
"How is he, Bm?"
"He's awake today."
"That's good. Anything I can do?"
"No, I guess not. An he needs is somethin' to eat."
"I jest brought a chicken up, an' some jell an' things the women
sent. I'll stay with him till twelve, then Folsom will come in."
Thereafter he lay hearing the robins laugh and the orioles whistle,
and then the frogs and katydids at night. These men with greasy
vests and unkempt beards came in every day. They bathed him,
and helped him to and from the bed. They helped to dress him and
move him to the window, where he could look out on the blessed
green of the grass.
O God, it was so beautiful! It was a lover's joy only to live, to look
into these radiant vistas again. A catbird was singing in the currant
hedge. A robin was hopping across the lawn. The voices of the
children sounded soft and jocund across the road. And the
surshine-"Beloved Christ, Thy sunshine falling upon my feet!" His
soul ached with the joy of it, and when his wife came in she found
him sobbing like a child.
They seemed never to weary in his service. They lifted him about
and talked to him in loud and hearty voices which roused him like
fresh winds from free spaces.
He heard the women busy with things in the kitchen. He often saw
them loaded with things to eat passing his window, and often his
wife came in and knelt down at his bed.
"Oh, Robert, they're so good! They feed us like Gods ravens."
One day, as he sat at the window fully dressed for the fourth of
fifth time, William McTurg came up the walk.
"Well, Robert, how are ye today?"
"First-rate, William," he smiled. "I believe I can walk out a little if
you'll help me."
"All right, sir."
And he went forth leaning on William's arm, a piteous wraith of a
On every side the golden June sunshine fell, filling the valley from
purple brim to purple brim. Down over the hill to the west the light
poured, tangled and glowing in the plum and cherry trees, leaving
the glistening grass spraying through the elms and flinging
streamers of pink across the shaven green slopes where the cattle
On every side he saw kindly faces and heard hearty voices: "Good
day, Robert. Glad to see you out again." It thrilled him to hear
them call him by his first name.
His heart swelled till he could hardly breathe. The passion of
living came back upon him, shaking, uplifting him. His pallid lips
moved. His face was turned to the sky.
"O God, let me live! It is so beautiful! O God, give me strength
again! Keep me in the light of the sun! Let me see the green grass
come and go!"
He turned to William with trembling lips, trying to speak:
"Oh, I understand you now. I know you all now."
But William did not understand him.
"There! there!" he said soothingly. "I guess you're gettin' tired." He
led Robert back and put him to bed.
"I'd know but we was a little brash about goin' out," William said
to him as Robert lay there smiling up at him.
"Oh, I'm all right now," the sick man said.
"Matie," the alien cried, when William had gone, "we knew our
neighbors now, don't we? We never can hate or ridicule them
"Yes, Robert. They never will be caricatures again-to me."
A"GOOD FELLOW'S" WIFE
LIFE in the small towns of the older West moves slowly-almost as
slowly as in the seaport villages or little towns of the East. Towns
like Tyre and Bluff Siding have grown during the last twenty years,
but very slowly, by almost imperceptible degrees. Lying too far
away from the Mississippi to be affected by the lumber interest,
they are merely trading points for the farmers, with no perceivable
germs of boom in their quiet life.
A stranger coming into Belfast, Minnesota, excites much the same
lanquid but persistent inquiry as in Belfast, New Hampshire. Juries
of men, seated on salt barrels and nall kegs, discuss the stranger's
appearance and his probable action, just as in Kittery, Maine, but
with a lazier speech tune and with a shade less of apparent interest.
On such a rainy day as comes in May after the corn is planted-a
cold, wet rainy day-the usual crowd was gathered in Wilson's
grocery store at Bluff Siding, a small town in the "coulee country."
They were farmers, for the most part, retired from active service.
Their coats were of cheap diagonal or cassimere, much faded and
burned by the sun; their hats, flapped about by winds and soaked
with countless rains, were also of the same yellow-brown tints.
One or two wore paper collars on their hickory shirts.
Mcllvaine, farmer and wheat buyer, wore a paper collar and a
butterfly necktie, as befitted a man of his station in life. He was a
short, squarely made Scotchman, with sandy whiskers much
grayed and with a keen, in-tensely blue eye.
"Say," called McPhail, ex-sheriff of the county, in the silence that
followed some remark about the rain, "any o' you fellers had any
talk with this feller Sanford?"
"I hain't," said Vance. "You, Bill?"
"No; but somebody was sayin' he thought o' startin' in trade here."
"Don't Sam know? He generally knows what's goin' on.',
"Knows he registered from Pittsfield, Mass., an' that's all. Say,
that's a mighty smart-lookin' woman o' his."
"Vance always sees how the women look, Where'd you see her?"
"Came in here the other day to look up prices."
"Wha'd she say 'bout settlin'?"
"Hadn't decided yet."
"He's too slick to have much business in him. That waxed
mustache gives 'im away."
The discussion having reached that point where his word would
have most effect, Steve Gilbert said, while opening the hearth to
rap out the ashes of his pipe, "Sam's wife heerd that he was kind o'
thinkin' some of goin' into business here, if things suited 'im
They all knew the old man was aching to tell something, but they
didn't purpose to gratify him by any questions. The rain dripped
from the awning in front and fell upon the roof of the storeroom at
the back with a soft and steady roar.
"Good f'r the corn," MePhail said after a long pause.
"Purty cold, though."
Gilbert was tranquil-he had a shot in reserve. "Sam's wife said his
wife said he was thinkin' some of goin' into a bank here-"
"What in thunder-"
Vance turned, with a comical look on his long, placid face, one
hand stroking his beard.
"Well, now, gents, I'll tell you what's the matter with this town. It
needs a bank. Yes, sir! I need a bank."
"Yes, me. I didn't know just what did ail me, but I do how. It's the
need of a bank that keeps me down."
"Well, you fellers can talk an' laugh, but I tell yeb they's a boom
goin' to strike this town. It's got to come.. W'y, just look at
"Their boom is our bust," was McPhail's comment.
"I don't think so," said Sanford, who had entered in time to hear
these last two speeches. They all looked at him with deep interest.
He was a smallish man. He wore a derby hat and a neat suit. "I've
looked things over pretty close-a man don't like to invest his
capital" (here the rest looked at one another) "till he does; and I
believe there's an opening for a bank."
As he dwelt upon the scheme from day to day, the citizens,
warmed to him, and he became "Jim" Sanford. He hired a little
cottage and went to housekeeping at once; but the entire summer
went by before he made his decision to settle. In fact, it was in the
last week of August that the little paper announced it in the usual
Mr. James G. Sanford, popularly known as "Jim," has decided to
open an' exchange bank for the convenienee of our citizens, who
have hitherto been forced to transact business in Lumberville. The
thanks of the town are due Mr. Sanford, who comes well
recommended from Massachusetts and from Milwaukee, and,
better still, with a bag of ducats. Mr. S. will be well patronized.
The bank was open by the time the corn crop and the hogs were
being marketed, and money was received on deposit while the
carpenters were still at work on the building. Everybody knew now
that he was as solid as oak.
He had taken into the bank, as bookkeeper, Lincoln Bingham, one
of McPhail's multitudinous nephews; and this was a capital move.
Everybody knew Link, and knew he was a McPhail, which meant
that he "could be tied to in all kinds o' weather." Of course the
McPhails, McIlvaines, and the rest of the Scotch contingency
"banked on Link." As old Andrew McPhail put it:
"Link's there, an' he knows the bank an' books, an' just how things
stand"; and so when he sold his hogs he put the whole sum-over-
fifteen hundred dollars-into the bank. The McIlvaines and the
Binghams did the same, and the bank was at once firmly
established among the farmers.
Only two people held out against Sanford, old Freeme Cole and
Mrs. Bingham, Lincoln's mother; but they didn't count, for Freeme
hadn't a cent, and Mrs. Bingham was too unreasoning in her
opposition. She could only say:
"I don't like him, that's all. I knowed a man back in New York that
curled his mustaches just that way, an' he wa'n't no earthiy good."
It might have been said by a cynic that Banker Sanford had all the
virtues of a defaulting bank cashier. He had no bad habits beyond
smoking. He was genial, companionable, and especially ready to
help when sickness came. When old Freeme Cole got down with
delirium tremens that winter, Sanford was one of the most heroic
of nurses, and the service was so clearly disinterested and
maguanimous that everyone spoke of it.
His wife and he were included in every dance or picnic; for Mrs.
Sanford was as great a favorite as the banker himself, she was so
sincere, and her gray eyes were so charmingly frank, and then she
said "such funny things."
"I wish I had something to do besides housework. It's a kind of a
putterin' job, best ye can do," she'd say merrily, just to see the
others stare. "There's too much moppin' an' dustin'. Seems 's if a
woman used up half her life on things that don't amount to
anything, don't it?"
"I tell yeh that feller's a scallywag. I know it buh the way 'e walks
'long the sidewalk," Mrs. Bingham insisted to her son, who wished
her to put her savings into the bank.
The youngest of a large family, Link had been accustomed all his
life to Mrs. Biugham's many whimsicalities.
"I s'pose you can smell he's a thief, just as you can tell when it's
goin' to rain, or the butter's comin', by the smell."
"Well, you needn't laugh, Lincoln. I can," maintained the old lady
stoutly. "An' I ain't goin' to put a red cent o my money mto his
pocket-f'r there's where it 'ud go to."
She yielded at last, and received a little bankbook in return for her
money. "Jest about all I'll ever get," she said privately; and
thereafter out of her' brass-bowed spectacles with an eagle's gaze
she watched the banker go by. But the banker, seeing the dear old
soul at the window looking out at him, always smiled and bowed,
unaware of her suspicion.
At the end of the year he bought the lot next to his rented house
and began building one of his own, a modest little affair, shaped
like a pork pie with a cupola, or a Tamo'-Shanter cap-a style of
architecture which became fashionable at once.
He worked heroically to get the location of the plow factory at
Bluff Siding, and all but succeeded; but Tyre, once their ally,
turned against them, and refused to consider the fact of the Siding's
position at the center of the county. However, for some reason or
other, the town woke up to something of a boom during the next
two years. Several large farmers decided to retire and live off the
sweat of some other fellow's brow, and so built some houses of the
pork-pie order and moved into town.
This inflow of moneyed men from the country resulted in the
establishment of a "seminary of learning" on the hillside, where
the Soldiers' Home was to be located. This called in more farmers
from the country, and a new hotel was built, a sash-and-door
factory followed, and Burt McPhail set up a feed mill.
An this improvement unquestionably dated, from the opening of
the bank, and the most unreasonmg partisans of the banker held
him to be the chief cause of the resulting development of the town,
though he himself modestly disclaimed any hand in the affair.
Had Bluff Siding been a city, the highest civic honors would have
been open to Banker Sanford; indeed, his name was repeatedly
mentioned in connection with the county offices.
"No, gentlemen," he explained firmly, but courteously, in Wilson's
store one night; "I'm a banker, not a politician. I can't ride two
In the second year of the bank's history he went up to the north part
of the state on business, visiting West Superior, Duluth, Ashland,
and other booming towns, and came back full of the wonders of
what he saw.
"There's big money up there, Nell," he said to his wife.
But she had the woman's tendency to hold fast to what she had,
and would not listen to any plans about moving.
"Build up your business here, Jim, and don't worry about what
good chances there are somewhere else."
He said no more about it, but he took great interest in all the news
the "boys" brought back from their annual deer hunts "up North."
They were all enthusiastic over West Superior and Duluth, and
their wonderful development was the never-ending theme of
discussion in Wilson's store.
The first two years of the bank's history were solidly successful,
and "Jim" and "Nellie" were the head and front of all good works
and the provoking cause of most of the fun. No one seemed more
"We consider ourselves just as young as anybody," Mrs. Sanford
would say, when joked about going out with the young people so
much; but sometirnes at home, after the children were asleep, she
sighed a little.
"Jim, I wish you was in some kind of a business so I could help. I
don't have enough to do. I s'pose I could mop an' dust, an' dust an'
mop; but it seems sinful to Waste time that way. Can't I do
"Why, no. If you 'tend to the children and keep house, that's all
anybody asks of you."
She was silent, but not convinced. She had a desire to do
something outside the walls of her house-a desire transmitted to
her from her father, for a woman inherits these things.
In the spring of the second year a number of the depositors drew
out money to invest in Duluth and Superior lots, and the whole
town was excited over the matter.
The summer passed, Link and Sanford spending their tirne in the
bank-that is, when not out swimming or fishing with the boys. But
July and August were terribly hot and dry, and oats and corn were
only half-crop; and the farmers were grumbling. Some of them
were forced to draw on the bank instead of depositing.
McPhail came in, one day in November, to draw a thousand
dollars to pay for a house and lot he had recently bought.
Sanford was alone. He whistled. "Phew! You're comin' at me hard.
Come in tomorrow. Link's gone down to the city to get some
"All right," said MePhail; "any time."
"Goin' t' snow?"
"Looks like it. I'll haf to load a lot o' ca'tridges ready fr biz."
About an hour later old lady Bingham burst upon the banker, wild
and breathless. "I want my money," she announced.
"Good morning, Mrs. Bingham. Pleasant-"
"I want my money. Where's Lincoln?"
She had read that morning of two bank failure-one in Nova Scotia
and one in Massachusetts-and they seemed providential warnings
to her. Lincoln's absence confirmed them.
"He's gone to St. Paul-won't be back till the five-o'clock train. Do
you need some money this morning? How much?"
"All of it, sir. Every cent."
Sanford saw something was out of gear. He tried to explain. "I've
sent your son to St. Paul after some money-"
"Where's my money? What have you done with that?" In her
excitement she thought of her money just as she hand handed it
in-silver and little rolls and wads of bills.
"If you'll let me explain-"
"I don't want you to explain nawthin'. Jest hand me out my
Two or three loafers, seeing her gesticulate, stopped on the walk
outside and looked in at the door. Sanford was annoyed, but he
remained calm and persuasive. He saw that something had caused
a panic in the good, simple old woman. He wished for Lincoln as
one wishes for a policeman sometimes.
"Now, Mrs. Bingham, if you'll only wait till Lincoln-"
"I don't want 'o wait. I want my money, right now."
"Will fifty dollars do?"
"No, sir; I want it all-every cent of it-jest as it was."
"But I can't do that. Your money is gone-"
"Gone? Where is it gone? What have you done with it? You thief-"
"'Sh!" He tried to quiet her. "I mean I can't give you your money-"
"Why can't you?" she stormed, trotting nervously on her feet as she
"Because-if you'd let me explain-we don't keep the money just as it
comes to us. We pay it out and take in other-"
Mrs. Bingham was getting more and more bewildered. She now
had only one clear idea-she couldn't get her money. Her voice grew
tearful like an angry child's.
"I want my money-I knew you'd steal it-that I worked for. Give me
Sanford hastily handed her some money. "Here's fifty dollars. You
can have the rest when-"
The old lady clutched the money, and literally ran out of the door,
and went off up the sidewalk, talking incoherently. To everyone
she met she told her story; but the men smiled and passed on. They
had heard her predictions of calamity before.
But Mrs. Mcllvaine was made a triffe uneasy by it "He wouldn't
give you y'r money? Or did he say he couldn't?" she inquired in her
"He couldn't, an' he wouldn't!" she said. "If you've got any money
there, you'd better get it out quick. It ain't safe a minute. When
Lincoln comes home I'm goin' to see if I can't-"
"Well, I was calc'latin' to go to Lumberville this week, anyway, to
buy a carpet and a chamber set. I guess I might 's well get the
When she came in and demanded the money, Sanford was scared.
Were these two old women the beginning of the deluge? Would
McPhail insist on being paid also? There was just one hundred
dollars left in the bank, together with a little silver. With rare
strategy he smiled.
"Certainly, Mrs. McIlvaine. How much will you need?" She had
intended to demand the whole of her deposit-one hundred and
seventeen dollars-but his readiness mollified her a little. "I did 'low
I'd take the hull, but I guess seventy-five dollars 'll do."
He paid the money briskly out over the little glass shelf. "How is
your children, Mrs. McIlvaine?"
"Purty well, thanky," replied Mrs. Mcllvaine, laboriously counting
"Is it all right?"
"I guess so," she replied dubiously. "I'll count it after I get home."
She went up the street with the feeling that the bank was all right,
and she stepped in and told Mrs. Bingham that she had no trouble
in getting her money.
Alter she had gone Sanford sat down and wrote a telegram which
he sent to St. Paul. This telegram, according to the duplicate at the
station, read in this puzzling way:
E. O., Exchange Block, No.96. All out of paper. Send five hundred
noteheads and envelopes to match. Business brisk. Press of
correspondence just now. Get them out quick. Wire.
Two or three others came in after a little money, but he put them
off easily. "Just been cashing some paper, and took all the ready
cash I can spare. Can't you wait till tomorrow? Link's gone down to
St. Paul to collect on some paper. Be back on the five o'clock.
Nine o'clock, sure."
An old Norwegian woman came in to deposit ten dollars, and he
counted it in briskly, and put the amount down on her little book
for her. Barney Mace came in to deposit a hundred dollars, the
proceeds of a horse sale, and this helped him through the day.
Those who wanted small sums he paid.
"Glad this ain't a big demand. Rather close on cash today," he said,
smiling, as Lincoln's wife's sister came in.
She laughed, "I guess it won't bust yeh. If I thought it would, I'd
leave it in."
"Busted!" he said, when Vance wanted him to cash a draft. "Can't
do it. Sorry, Van. Do it in the morning all right. Can you wait?"
"Oh, I guess so. Haf to, won't I?"
"Curious," said Sanford, in a confidential way. "I don't know that I
ever saw things get in just such shape. Paper enough-but exchange,
ye know, and readjustment of accounts."
"I don't know much about banking, myself," said Vance, good
naturedly; "but I s'pose it's a good 'eal same as with a man. Git
short o' cash, first they know -ain't got a cent to spare."
"That's the idea exactly. Credit all right, plenty o' property, but-"
and he smiled and went at his books. The smile died out of his
eyes as Vance went out, and he pulled a little morocco book from
his pocket and began studying the beautiful columns of figures
with which it seemed to be filled. Those he compared with the
books with great care, thrusting the book out of sight when anyone
He closed the bank as usual at five. Lincoln had not come couldn't
come now till the nine-o'clock accommodation. For an hour after
the shades were drawn he sat there in the semidarkness, silently
pondering on his situation. This attitude and deep quiet were
unusual to him. He heard the feet of friends and neighbors passing
the door as he sat there by the smoldering coal fire, in the growing
darkness. There was something impressive in his attitude.
He started up at last and tried to see what the hour was by turning
the face of his watch to the dull glow from the cannon stoye's open
"Suppertime," he said and threw the whole matter off, as if he had
decided it or had put off the decision till another time.
As he went by the post office Vance said to Mcllvaine in a smiling
way, as if it were a good joke on Sanford:
"Little short o' cash down at the bank."
"He's a good fellow," Mcllvaine said.
"So's his wife," added Vance with a chuckle.
That night, after supper, Sanford sat in his snug little skting room
with a baby on each knee, looking as cheerful and happy as any
man in the village. The children crowed and shouted as he "trotted
them to Boston," or rode them on the toe of his boot. They made a
noisy, merry group.
Mrs. Sanford "did her own work," and her swift feet could be
heard moving to and fro out in the kitchen. It was pleasant there;
the woodwork, the furniture, the stove, the curtains-all had that
look of newness just growing into coziness. The coal stove was
lighted and the curtains were drawn.
After the work in the kitchen was done, Mrs. Sanford came in and
sat awhile by the fire with the children, looking very wifely in her
dark dress and white apron, her round, smiling face glowing with
love and pride-the gloating look of a mother seeing her children in
the arms of her husband.
"How is Mrs. Peterson's baby, Jim?" she said suddenly, her face
"Pretty bad, I guess. La, la, la-deedle-dee! The doctor seemed to
think it was a tight squeak if it lived. Guess it's done for-oop 'e
She made a little leap at the youngest child and clasped it
convulsively to her bosom. Her swift maternal imagination had
made another's loss very near and terrible.
"Oh, say, Nell," he broke out, on seeing her sober, "I had the
confoundedest time today with old lady Bingham-"
"'Sh! Baby's gone to sleep."
After the children had been put to bed in the little alcove off the
sitting room, Mrs. Sanford came back, to find Jim absorbed over a
little book of accounts.
"What are you studying, Jim?"
Someone knocked on the door before he had time to reply.
"Come in!" he said.
'Sh! Don't yell so," his wife whispered.
"Telegram, Jim," said a voice in the obscurity.
"Oh! That you, Sam? Come in.
Sam, a lathy fellow with a quid in his cheek, stepped in. "How d' 'e
do, Mis' Sanford?"
"Set down-se' down."
"Can't stop; 'most train time."
Sanford tore the envelope open, read the telegram rapidly, the
smile fading out of his face. He read it again, word for word, then
sat looking at it.
"Any answer?" asked Sam.
"All right. Good night."
After the door slammed, Sanford took the sheet from the envelope
and reread it. At length he dropped into his chair. "That settles it,"
he said aloud.
"Settles what? What's the news?" His wife came up and looked
over his shoulder.
"Settles I've got to go on that nine-thirty train."
"Be back on the morning train?"
"Yes; I guess so-I mean, of course-I'll have to be-to open the bank."
Mrs. Sanford looked at him for a few seconds in silence. There
was something in his look, and especially in his tone, that troubled
"What do you mean? Jim, you don't intend to come back!" She
took his arm. "What's the matter? Now tell me! What are you
going away for?"
He knew he could not deceive his wife's ears and eyes just then, so
he remained silent. "We've got to leave, Nell," he admitted at last.
"Why? What for?"
"Because I'm busted-broke-gone up the spout-and all the rest!" he
said desperately, with an attempt at fun. "Mrs. Bingham and Mrs.