Part 3 out of 5
was only a third cousin of a collateral branch of the Caswell family.
Genealogy disposed of, he took up, to my distaste, his private family
matters. He spoke of his wife, traced her descent back to Eve, and
profanely denied any possible rumor that she may have had relations in
the land of Nod.
By this time I was beginning to suspect that he was trying to obscure
by noise the fact that he had ordered the drinks, on the chance that
I would be bewildered into paying for them. But when they were down he
crashed a silver dollar loudly upon the bar. Then, of course, another
serving was obligatory. And when I had paid for that I took leave of him
brusquely; for I wanted no more of him. But before I had obtained my
release he had prated loudly of an income that his wife received, and
showed a handful of silver money.
When I got my key at the desk the clerk said to me courteously: "If that
man Caswell has annoyed you, and if you would like to make a complaint,
we will have him ejected. He is a nuisance, a loafer, and without any
known means of support, although he seems to have some money most the
time. But we don't seem to be able to hit upon any means of throwing him
"Why, no," said I, after some reflection; "I don't see my way clear
to making a complaint. But I would like to place myself on record as
asserting that I do not care for his company. Your town," I continued,
"seems to be a quiet one. What manner of entertainment, adventure, or
excitement have you to offer to the stranger within your gates?"
"Well, sir," said the clerk, "there will be a show here next Thursday.
It is--I'll look it up and have the announcement sent up to your room
with the ice water. Good night."
After I went up to my room I looked out the window. It was only about
ten o'clock, but I looked upon a silent town. The drizzle continued,
spangled with dim lights, as far apart as currants in a cake sold at the
"A quiet place," I said to myself, as my first shoe struck the ceiling
of the occupant of the room beneath mine. "Nothing of the life here that
gives color and variety to the cities in the East and West. Just a good,
ordinary, humdrum, business town."
Nashville occupies a foremost place among the manufacturing
centres of the country. It is the fifth boot and shoe market
in the United States, the largest candy and cracker manufacturing
city in the South, and does an enormous wholesale drygoods,
grocery, and drug business.
I must tell you how I came to be in Nashville, and I assure you the
digression brings as much tedium to me as it does to you. I was
traveling elsewhere on my own business, but I had a commission from a
Northern literary magazine to stop over there and establish a personal
connection between the publication and one of its contributors, Azalea
Adair (there was no clue to the personality except the handwriting) had
sent in some essays (lost art!) and poems that had made the editors
swear approvingly over their one o'clock luncheon. So they had
commissioned me to round up said Adair and corner by contract his or her
output at two cents a word before some other publisher offered her ten
At nine o'clock the next morning, after my chicken livers _en brochette_
(try them if you can find that hotel), I strayed out into the drizzle,
which was still on for an unlimited run. At the first corner I came
upon Uncle Cęsar. He was a stalwart Negro, older than the pyramids,
with gray wool and a face that reminded me of Brutus, and a second
afterwards of the late King Cettiwayo. He wore the most remarkable coat
that I ever had seen or expect to see. It reached to his ankles and had
once been a Confederate gray in colors. But rain and sun and age had so
variegated it that Joseph's coat, beside it, would have faded to a pale
monochrome. I must linger with that coat, for it has to do with the
story--the story that is so long in coming, because you can hardly
expect anything to happen in Nashville.
Once it must have been the military coat of an officer. The cape of it
had vanished, but all adown its front it had been frogged and tasseled
magnificently. But now the frogs and tassles were gone. In their stead
had been patiently stitched (I surmised by some surviving "black mammy")
new frogs made of cunningly twisted common hempen twine. This twine
was frayed and disheveled. It must have been added to the coat as a
substitute for vanished splendors, with tasteless but painstaking
devotion, for it followed faithfully the curves of the long-missing
frogs. And, to complete the comedy and pathos of the garment, all
its buttons were gone save one. The second button from the top alone
remained. The coat was fastened by other twine strings tied through the
buttonholes and other holes rudely pierced in the opposite side. There
was never such a weird garment so fantastically bedecked and of so many
mottled hues. The lone button was the size of a half-dollar, made of
yellow horn and sewed on with coarse twine.
This Negro stood by a carriage so old that Ham himself might have
started a hack line with it after he left the ark with the two animals
hitched to it. As I approached he threw open the door, drew out a
feather duster, waved it without using it, and said in deep, rumbling
"Step right in, suh; ain't a speck of dust in it--jus' got back from a
I inferred that on such gala occasions carriages were given an extra
cleaning. I looked up and down the street and perceived that there was
little choice among the vehicles for hire that lined the curb. I looked
in my memorandum book for the address of Azalea Adair.
"I want to go to 861 Jessamine Street," I said, and was about to step
into the hack. But for an instant the thick, long, gorilla-like arm of
the old Negro barred me. On his massive and saturnine face a look of
sudden suspicion and enmity flashed for a moment. Then, with quickly
returning conviction, he asked blandishingly: "What are you gwine there
"What is it to you?" I asked, a little sharply.
"Nothin', suh, jus' nothin'. Only it's a lonesome kind of part of town
and few folks ever has business out there. Step right in. The seats is
clean--jes' got back from a funeral, suh."
A mile and a half it must have been to our journey's end. I could hear
nothing but the fearful rattle of the ancient hack over the uneven brick
paving; I could smell nothing but the drizzle, now further flavored with
coal smoke and something like a mixture of tar and oleander blossoms.
All I could see through the streaming windows were two rows of dim
The city has an area of 10 square miles; 181 miles of streets,
of which 137 miles are paved; a system of water-works that cost
$2,000,000, with 77 miles of mains.
Eight-sixty-one Jessamine Street was a decayed mansion. Thirty yards
back from the street it stood, outmerged in a splendid grove of trees
and untrimmed shrubbery. A row of box bushes overflowed and almost hid
the paling fence from sight; the gate was kept closed by a rope noose
that encircled the gate post and the first paling of the gate. But when
you got inside you saw that 861 was a shell, a shadow, a ghost of former
grandeur and excellence. But in the story, I have not yet got inside.
When the hack had ceased from rattling and the weary quadrupeds came
to a rest I handed my jehu his fifty cents with an additional quarter,
feeling a glow of conscious generosity, as I did so. He refused it.
"It's two dollars, suh," he said.
"How's that?" I asked. "I plainly heard you call out at the hotel:
'Fifty cents to any part of the town.'"
"It's two dollars, suh," he repeated obstinately. "It's a long ways from
"It is within the city limits and well within them." I argued. "Don't
think that you have picked up a greenhorn Yankee. Do you see those hills
over there?" I went on, pointing toward the east (I could not see them,
myself, for the drizzle); "well, I was born and raised on their other
side. You old fool nigger, can't you tell people from other people when
you see 'em?"
The grim face of King Cettiwayo softened. "Is you from the South, suh?
I reckon it was them shoes of yourn fooled me. They is somethin' sharp
in the toes for a Southern gen'l'man to wear."
"Then the charge is fifty cents, I suppose?" said I inexorably.
His former expression, a mingling of cupidity and hostility, returned,
remained ten seconds, and vanished.
"Boss," he said, "fifty cents is right; but I _needs_ two dollars, suh;
I'm _obleeged_ to have two dollars. I ain't _demandin'_ it now, suh;
after I know whar you's from; I'm jus' sayin' that I _has_ to have two
dollars to-night, and business is mighty po'."
Peace and confidence settled upon his heavy features. He had been
luckier than he had hoped. Instead of having picked up a greenhorn,
ignorant of rates, he had come upon an inheritance.
"You confounded old rascal," I said, reaching down to my pocket, "you
ought to be turned over to the police."
For the first time I saw him smile. He knew; _he knew_. HE KNEW.
I gave him two one-dollar bills. As I handed them over I noticed that
one of them had seen parlous times. Its upper right-hand corner was
missing, and it had been torn through the middle, but joined again. A
strip of blue tissue paper, pasted over the split, preserved its
Enough of the African bandit for the present: I left him happy, lifted
the rope and opened a creaky gate.
The house, as I said, was a shell. A paint brush had not touched it in
twenty years. I could not see why a strong wind should not have bowled
it over like a house of cards until I looked again at the trees that
hugged it close--the trees that saw the battle of Nashville and still
drew their protecting branches around it against storm and enemy and
Azalea Adair, fifty years old, white-haired, a descendant of the
cavaliers, as thin and frail as the house she lived in, robed in the
cheapest and cleanest dress I ever saw, with an air as simple as a
queen's, received me.
The reception room seemed a mile square, because there was nothing in
it except some rows of books, on unpainted white-pine bookshelves, a
cracked marble-top table, a rag rug, a hairless horsehair sofa and two
or three chairs. Yes, there was a picture on the wall, a colored crayon
drawing of a cluster of pansies. I looked around for the portrait of
Andrew Jackson and the pinecone hanging basket but they were not there.
Azalea Adair and I had conversation, a little of which will be repeated
to you. She was a product of the old South, gently nurtured in the
sheltered life. Her learning was not broad, but was deep and of splendid
originality in its somewhat narrow scope. She had been educated at
home, and her knowledge of the world was derived from inference and
by inspiration. Of such is the precious, small group of essayists
made. While she talked to me I kept brushing my fingers, trying,
unconsciously, to rid them guiltily of the absent dust from the
half-calf backs of Lamb, Chaucer, Hazlitt, Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne
and Hood. She was exquisite, she was a valuable discovery. Nearly
everybody nowadays knows too much--oh, so much too much--of real life.
I could perceive clearly that Azalea Adair was very poor. A house and a
dress she had, not much else, I fancied. So, divided between my duty to
the magazine and my loyalty to the poets and essayists who fought Thomas
in the valley of the Cumberland, I listened to her voice, which was like
a harpsichord's, and found that I could not speak of contracts. In the
presence of the nine Muses and the three Graces one hesitated to lower
the topic to two cents. There would have to be another colloquy after
I had regained my commercialism. But I spoke of my mission, and three
o'clock of the next afternoon was set for the discussion of the business
"Your town," I said, as I began to make ready to depart (which is the
time for smooth generalities), "seems to be a quiet, sedate place. A
home town, I should say, where few things out of the ordinary ever
It carries on an extensive trade in stoves and hollow ware with
the West and South, and its flouring mills have a daily capacity
of more than 2,000 barrels.
Azalea Adair seemed to reflect.
"I have never thought of it that way," she said, with a kind of sincere
intensity that seemed to belong to her. "Isn't it in the still, quiet
places that things do happen? I fancy that when God began to create the
earth on the first Monday morning one could have leaned out one's window
and heard the drops of mud splashing from His trowel as He built up the
everlasting hills. What did the noisiest project in the world--I mean
the building of the Tower of Babel--result in finally? A page and a half
of Esperanto in the _North American Review_."
"Of course," said I platitudinously, "human nature is the same
everywhere; but there is more color--er--more drama and movement
and--er--romance in some cities than in others."
"On the surface," said Azalea Adair. "I have traveled many times around
the world in a golden airship wafted on two wings--print and dreams. I
have seen (on one of my imaginary tours) the Sultan of Turkey bowstring
with his own hands one of his wives who had uncovered her face in
public. I have seen a man in Nashville tear up his theatre tickets
because his wife was going out with her face covered--with rice powder.
In San Francisco's Chinatown I saw the slave girl Sing Yee dipped
slowly, inch by inch, in boiling almond oil to make her swear she would
never see her American lover again. She gave in when the boiling oil had
reached three inches above her knee. At a euchre party in East Nashville
the other night I saw Kitty Morgan cut dead by seven of her schoolmates
and lifelong friends because she had married a house painter. The
boiling oil was sizzling as high as her heart; but I wish you could have
seen the fine little smile that she carried from table to table. Oh,
yes, it is a humdrum town. Just a few miles of red brick houses and mud
and lumber yards."
Some one knocked hollowly at the back of the house. Azalea Adair
breathed a soft apology and went to investigate the sound. She came back
in three minutes with brightened eyes, a faint flush on her cheeks, and
ten years lifted from her shoulders.
"You must have a cup of tea before you go," she said, "and a sugar
She reached and shook a little iron bell. In shuffled a small Negro girl
about twelve, barefoot, not very tidy, glowering at me with thumb in
mouth and bulging eyes.
Azalea Adair opened a tiny, worn purse and drew out a dollar bill,
a dollar bill with the upper right-hand corner missing, torn in two
pieces, and pasted together again with a strip of blue tissue paper. It
was one of the bills I had given the piratical Negro--there was no doubt
"Go up to Mr. Baker's store on the corner, Impy," she said, handing the
girl the dollar bill, "and get a quarter of a pound of tea--the kind he
always sends me--and ten cents worth of sugar cakes. Now, hurry. The
supply of tea in the house happens to be exhausted," she explained to
Impy left by the back way. Before the scrape of her hard, bare feet
had died away on the back porch, a wild shriek--I was sure it was
hers--filled the hollow house. Then the deep, gruff tones of an angry
man's voice mingled with the girl's further squeals and unintelligible
Azalea Adair rose without surprise or emotion and disappeared. For two
minutes I heard the hoarse rumble of the man's voice; then something
like an oath and a slight scuffle, and she returned calmly to her chair.
"This is a roomy house," she said, "and I have a tenant for part of it.
I am sorry to have to rescind my invitation to tea. It was impossible
to get the kind I always use at the store. Perhaps to-morrow, Mr. Baker
will be able to supply me."
I was sure that Impy had not had time to leave the house. I inquired
concerning street-car lines and took my leave. After I was well on
my way I remembered that I had not learned Azalea Adair's name. But
to-morrow would do.
That same day I started in on the course of iniquity that this
uneventful city forced upon me. I was in the town only two days, but
in that time I managed to lie shamelessly by telegraph, and to be an
accomplice--after the fact, if that is the correct legal term--to a
As I rounded the corner nearest my hotel the Afrite coachman of the
polychromatic, nonpareil coat seized me, swung open the dungeony door of
his peripatetic sarcophagus, flirted his feather duster and began his
ritual: "Step right in, boss. Carriage is clean--jus' got back from a
funeral. Fifty cents to any--"
And then he knew me and grinned broadly. "'Scuse me, boss; you is de
gen'l'man what rid out with me dis mawnin'. Thank you kindly, suh."
"I am going out to 861 again to-morrow afternoon at three," said I,
"and if you will be here, I'll let you drive me. So you know Miss
Adair?" I concluded, thinking of my dollar bill.
"I belonged to her father, Judge Adair, suh," he replied.
"I judge that she is pretty poor," I said. "She hasn't much money to
speak of, has she?"
For an instant I looked again at the fierce countenance of King
Cettiwayo, and then he changed back to an extortionate old Negro hack
"She ain't gwine to starve, suh," he said slowly. "She has reso'ces,
suh; she has reso'ces."
"I shall pay you fifty cents for the trip," said I.
"Dat is puffeckly correct, suh," he answered humbly. "I jus' _had_ to
have dat two dollars dis mawnin', boss."
I went to the hotel and lied by electricity. I wired the magazine: "A.
Adair holds out for eight cents a word."
The answer that came back was: "Give it to her quick you duffer."
Just before dinner "Major" Wentworth Caswell bore down upon me with the
greetings of a long-lost friend. I have seen few men whom I have so
instantaneously hated, and of whom it was so difficult to be rid. I was
standing at the bar when he invaded me; therefore I could not wave the
white ribbon in his face. I would have paid gladly for the drinks,
hoping, thereby, to escape another; but he was one of those despicable,
roaring, advertising bibbers who must have brass bands and fireworks
attend upon every cent that they waste in their follies.
With an air of producing millions he drew two one-dollar bills from a
pocket and dashed one of them upon the bar. I looked once more at the
dollar bill with the upper right-hand corner missing, torn through the
middle, and patched with a strip of blue tissue paper. It was my dollar
bill again. It could have been no other.
I went up to my room. The drizzle and the monotony of a dreary,
eventless Southern town had made me tired and listless. I remember that
just before I went to bed I mentally disposed of the mysterious dollar
bill (which might have formed the clew to a tremendously fine detective
story of San Francisco) by saying to myself sleepily: "Seems as if a
lot of people here own stock in the Hack-Driver's Trust. Pays dividends
promptly, too. Wonder if--" Then I fell asleep.
King Cettiwayo was at his post the next day, and rattled my bones over
the stones out to 861. He was to wait and rattle me back again when I
Azalea Adair looked paler and cleaner and frailer than she had looked
on the day before. After she had signed the contract at eight cents per
word she grew still paler and began to slip out of her chair. Without
much trouble I managed to get her up on the antediluvian horsehair sofa
and then I ran out to the sidewalk and yelled to the coffee-colored
Pirate to bring a doctor. With a wisdom that I had not expected in him,
he abandoned his team and struck off up the street afoot, realizing the
value of speed. In ten minutes he returned with a grave, gray-haired
and capable man of medicine. In a few words (worth much less than eight
cents each) I explained to him my presence in the hollow house of
mystery. He bowed with stately understanding, and turned to the old
"Uncle Cęsar," he said calmly, "Run up to my house and ask Miss Lucy to
give you a cream pitcher full of fresh milk and half a tumbler of port
wine. And hurry back. Don't drive--run. I want you to get back sometime
It occurred to me that Dr. Merriman also felt a distrust as to the
speeding powers of the land-pirate's steeds. After Uncle Cęsar was
gone, lumberingly, but swiftly, up the street, the doctor looked me
over with great politeness and as much careful calculation until he
had decided that I might do.
"It is only a case of insufficient nutrition," he said. "In other words,
the result of poverty, pride, and starvation. Mrs. Caswell has many
devoted friends who would be glad to aid her, but she will accept
nothing except from that old Negro, Uncle Cęsar, who was once owned by
"Mrs. Caswell!" said I, in surprise. And then I looked at the contract
and saw that she had signed it "Azalea Adair Caswell."
"I thought she was Miss Adair," I said.
"Married to a drunken, worthless loafer, sir," said the doctor. "It
is said that he robs her even of the small sums that her old servant
contributes toward her support."
When the milk and wine had been brought the doctor soon revived Azalea
Adair. She sat up and talked of the beauty of the autumn leaves that
were then in season, and their height of color. She referred lightly to
her fainting seizure as the outcome of an old palpitation of the heart.
Impy fanned her as she lay on the sofa. The doctor was due elsewhere,
and I followed him to the door. I told him that it was within my power
and intentions to make a reasonable advance of money to Azalea Adair on
future contributions to the magazine, and he seemed pleased.
"By the way," he said, "perhaps you would like to know that you have had
royalty for a coachman. Old Cęsar's grandfather was a king in Congo.
Cęsar himself has royal ways, as you may have observed."
As the doctor was moving off I heard Uncle Cęsar's voice inside: "Did
he get bofe of dem two dollars from you, Mis' Zalea?"
"Yes, Cęsar," I heard Azalea Adair answer weakly. And then I went in
and concluded business negotiations with our contributor. I assumed the
responsibility of advancing fifty dollars, putting it as a necessary
formality in binding our bargain. And then Uncle Cęsar drove me back
to the hotel.
Here ends all of the story as far as I can testify as a witness. The
rest must be only bare statements of facts.
At about six o'clock I went out for a stroll. Uncle Cęsar was at his
corner. He threw open the door of his carriage, flourished his duster
and began his depressing formula: "Step right in, suh. Fifty cents to
anywhere in the city--hack's puffickly clean, suh--jus' got back from a
And then he recognized me. I think his eyesight was getting bad. His
coat had taken on a few more faded shades of color, the twine strings
were more frayed and ragged, the last remaining button--the button of
yellow horn--was gone. A motley descendant of kings was Uncle Cęsar!
About two hours later I saw an excited crowd besieging the front of
a drug store. In a desert where nothing happens this was manna; so I
wedged my way inside. On an extemporized couch of empty boxes and chairs
was stretched the mortal corporeality of Major Wentworth Caswell. A
doctor was testing him for the immortal ingredient. His decision was
that it was conspicuous by its absence.
The erstwhile Major had been found dead on a dark street and brought by
curious and ennuied citizens to the drug store. The late human being had
been engaged in terrific battle--the details showed that. Loafer and
reprobate though he had been, he had been also a warrior. But he had
lost. His hands were yet clinched so tightly that his fingers would not
be opened. The gentle citizens who had know him stood about and searched
their vocabularies to find some good words, if it were possible, to
speak of him. One kind-looking man said, after much thought: "When 'Cas'
was about fo'teen he was one of the best spellers in school."
While I stood there the fingers of the right hand of "the man that was"
which hung down the side of a white pine box, relaxed, and dropped
something at my feet. I covered it with one foot quietly, and a little
later on I picked it up and pocketed it. I reasoned that in his last
struggle his hand must have seized that object unwittingly and held it
in a death grip.
At the hotel that night the main topic of conversation, with the
possible exceptions of politics and prohibition, was the demise of Major
Caswell. I heard one man say to a group of listeners:
"In my opinion, gentlemen, Caswell was murdered by some of these
no-account niggers for his money. He had fifty dollars this afternoon
which he showed to several gentlemen in the hotel. When he was found
the money was not on his person."
I left the city the next morning at nine, and as the train was crossing
the bridge over the Cumberland River I took out of my pocket a yellow
horn overcoat button the size of a fifty-cent piece, with frayed ends
of coarse twine hanging from it, and cast it out of the window into the
slow, muddy waters below.
_I wonder what's doing in Buffalo!_
PSYCHE AND THE PSKYSCRAPER
If you are a philosopher you can do this thing: you can go to the top
of a high building, look down upon your fellow-men 300 feet below, and
despise them as insects. Like the irresponsible black waterbugs on
summer ponds, they crawl and circle and hustle about idiotically without
aim or purpose. They do not even move with the admirable intelligence
of ants, for ants always know when they are going home. The ant is of
a lowly station, but he will often reach home and get his slippers on
while you are left at your elevated station.
Man, then, to the housetopped philosopher, appears to be but a creeping,
contemptible beetle. Brokers, poets, millionaires, bootblacks, beauties,
hod-carriers and politicians become little black specks dodging bigger
black specks in streets no wider than your thumb.
From this high view the city itself becomes degraded to an
unintelligible mass of distorted buildings and impossible perspectives;
the revered ocean is a duck pond; the earth itself a lost golf ball. All
the minutiae of life are gone. The philosopher gazes into the infinite
heavens above him, and allows his soul to expand to the influence of
his new view. He feels that he is the heir to Eternity and the child of
Time. Space, too, should be his by the right of his immortal heritage,
and he thrills at the thought that some day his kind shall traverse
those mysterious aerial roads between planet and planet. The tiny world
beneath his feet upon which this towering structure of steel rests as a
speck of dust upon a Himalayan mountain--it is but one of a countless
number of such whirling atoms. What are the ambitions, the achievements,
the paltry conquests and loves of those restless black insects below
compared with the serene and awful immensity of the universe that lies
above and around their insignificant city?
It is guaranteed that the philosopher will have these thoughts. They
have been expressly compiled from the philosophies of the world and set
down with the proper interrogation point at the end of them to represent
the invariable musings of deep thinkers on high places. And when the
philosopher takes the elevator down his mind is broader, his heart is at
peace, and his conception of the cosmogony of creation is as wide as the
buckle of Orion's summer belt.
But if your name happened to be Daisy, and you worked in an Eighth
Avenue candy store and lived in a little cold hall bedroom, five feet
by eight, and earned $6 per week, and ate ten-cent lunches and were
nineteen years old, and got up at 6.30 and worked till 9, and never had
studied philosophy, maybe things wouldn't look that way to you from the
top of a skyscraper.
Two sighed for the hand of Daisy, the unphilosophical. One was Joe, who
kept the smallest store in New York. It was about the size of a tool-box
of the D. P. W., and was stuck like a swallow's nest against a corner
of a down-town skyscraper. Its stock consisted of fruit, candies,
newspapers, song books, cigarettes, and lemonade in season. When stern
winter shook his congealed locks and Joe had to move himself and the
fruit inside, there was exactly room in the store for the proprietor,
his wares, a stove the size of a vinegar cruet, and one customer.
Joe was not of the nation that keeps us forever in a furore with fugues
and fruit. He was a capable American youth who was laying by money, and
wanted Daisy to help him spend it. Three times he had asked her.
"I got money saved up, Daisy," was his love song; "and you know how bad
I want you. That store of mine ain't very big, but--"
"Oh, ain't it?" would be the antiphony of the unphilosophical one. "Why,
I heard Wanamaker's was trying to get you to sublet part of your floor
space to them for next year."
Daisy passed Joe's corner every morning and evening.
"Hello, Two-by-Four!" was her usual greeting. "Seems to me your store
looks emptier. You must have sold a pack of chewing gum."
"Ain't much room in here, sure," Joe would answer, with his slow grin,
"except for you, Daise. Me and the store are waitin' for you whenever
you'll take us. Don't you think you might before long?"
"Store!"--a fine scorn was expressed by Daisy's uptilted nose--"sardine
box! Waitin' for me, you say? Gee! you'd have to throw out about a
hundred pounds of candy before I could get inside of it, Joe."
"I wouldn't mind an even swap like that," said Joe, complimentary.
Daisy's existence was limited in every way. She had to walk sideways
between the counter and the shelves in the candy store. In her own hall
bedroom coziness had been carried close to cohesiveness. The walls were
so near to one another that the paper on them made a perfect Babel of
noise. She could light the gas with one hand and close the door with the
other without taking her eyes off the reflection of her brown pompadour
in the mirror. She had Joe's picture in a gilt frame on the dresser, and
sometimes--but her next thought would always be of Joe's funny little
store tacked like a soap box to the corner of that great building, and
away would go her sentiment in a breeze of laughter.
Daisy's other suitor followed Joe by several months. He came to board
in the house where she lived. His name was Dabster, and he was a
philosopher. Though young, attainments stood out upon him like
continental labels on a Passaic (N. J.) suit-case. Knowledge he had
kidnapped from cyclopedias and handbooks of useful information; but as
for wisdom, when she passed he was left sniffling in the road without
so much as the number of her motor car. He could and would tell you the
proportion of water and muscle-making properties of peas and veal, the
shortest verse in the Bible, the number of pounds of shingle nails
required to fasten 256 shingles laid four inches to the weather, the
population of Kankakee, Ill., the theories of Spinoza, the name of Mr.
H. McKay Twombly's second hall footman, the length of the Hoosac Tunnel,
the best time to set a hen, the salary of the railway post-office
messenger between Driftwood and Red Bank Furnace, Pa., and the number
of bones in the foreleg of a cat.
The weight of learning was no handicap to Dabster. His statistics were
the sprigs of parsley with which he garnished the feast of small talk
that he would set before you if he conceived that to be your taste. And
again he used them as breastworks in foraging at the boardinghouse.
Firing at you a volley of figures concerning the weight of a lineal
foot of bar-iron 5 x 2 3/4 inches, and the average annual rainfall at
Fort Snelling, Minn., he would transfix with his fork the best piece of
chicken on the dish while you were trying to rally sufficiently to ask
him weakly why does a hen cross the road.
Thus, brightly armed, and further equipped with a measure of good looks,
of a hair-oily, shopping-district-at-three-in-the-afternoon kind, it
seems that Joe, of the Lilliputian emporium, had a rival worthy of his
steel. But Joe carried no steel. There wouldn't have been room in his
store to draw it if he had.
One Saturday afternoon, about four o'clock, Daisy and Mr. Dabster
stopped before Joe's booth. Dabster wore a silk hat, and--well, Daisy
was a woman, and that hat had no chance to get back in its box until Joe
had seen it. A stick of pineapple chewing gum was the ostensible object
of the call. Joe supplied it through the open side of his store. He did
not pale or falter at sight of the hat.
"Mr. Dabster's going to take me on top of the building to observe the
view," said Daisy, after she had introduced her admirers. "I never was
on a skyscraper. I guess it must be awfully nice and funny up there."
"H'm!" said Joe.
"The panorama," said Mr. Dabster, "exposed to the gaze from the top of
a lofty building is not only sublime, but instructive. Miss Daisy has
a decided pleasure in store for her."
"It's windy up there, too, as well as here," said Joe. "Are you dressed
warm enough, Daise?"
"Sure thing! I'm all lined," said Daisy, smiling slyly at his clouded
brow. "You look just like a mummy in a case, Joe. Ain't you just put in
an invoice of a pint of peanuts or another apple? Your stock looks awful
Daisy giggled at her favorite joke; and Joe had to smile with her.
"Your quarters are somewhat limited, Mr.--er--er," remarked Dabster,
"in comparison with the size of this building. I understand the area
of its side to be about 340 by 100 feet. That would make you occupy
a proportionate space as if half of Beloochistan were placed upon a
territory as large as the United States east of the Rocky Mountains,
with the Province of Ontario and Belgium added."
"Is that so, sport?" said Joe, genially. "You are Weisenheimer on
figures, all right. How many square pounds of baled hay do you think
a jackass could eat if he stopped brayin' long enough to keep still a
minute and five eighths?"
A few minutes later Daisy and Mr. Dabster stepped from an elevator to
the top floor of the skyscraper. Then up a short, steep stairway and out
upon the roof. Dabster led her to the parapet so she could look down at
the black dots moving in the street below.
"What are they?" she asked, trembling. She had never been on a height
like this before.
And then Dabster must needs play the philosopher on the tower, and
conduct her soul forth to meet the immensity of space.
"Bipeds," he said, solemnly. "See what they become even at the small
elevation of 340 feet--mere crawling insects going to and fro at
"Oh, they ain't anything of the kind," exclaimed Daisy,
suddenly--"they're folks! I saw an automobile. Oh, gee! are we that
"Walk over this way," said Dabster.
He showed her the great city lying like an orderly array of toys far
below, starred here and there, early as it was, by the first beacon
lights of the winter afternoon. And then the bay and sea to the south
and east vanishing mysteriously into the sky.
"I don't like it," declared Daisy, with troubled blue eyes. "Say we go
But the philosopher was not to be denied his opportunity. He would let
her behold the grandeur of his mind, the half-nelson he had on the
infinite, and the memory he had for statistics. And then she would
nevermore be content to buy chewing gum at the smallest store in New
York. And so he began to prate of the smallness of human affairs, and
how that even so slight a removal from earth made man and his works look
like one tenth part of a dollar thrice computed. And that one should
consider the sidereal system and the maxims of Epictetus and be
"You don't carry me with you," said Daisy. "Say, I think it's awful to
be up so high that folks look like fleas. One of them we saw might have
been Joe. Why, Jiminy! we might as well be in New Jersey! Say, I'm
afraid up here!"
The philosopher smiled fatuously.
"The earth," said he, "is itself only as a grain of wheat in space. Look
Daisy gazed upward apprehensively. The short day was spent and the stars
were coming out above.
"Yonder star," said Dabster, "is Venus, the evening star. She is
66,000,000 miles from the sun."
"Fudge!" said Daisy, with a brief flash of spirit, "where do you think
I come from--Brooklyn? Susie Price, in our store--her brother sent her
a ticket to go to San Francisco--that's only three thousand miles."
The philosopher smiled indulgently.
"Our world," he said, "is 91,000,000 miles from the sun. There are
eighteen stars of the first magnitude that are 211,000 times further
from us than the sun is. If one of them should be extinguished it would
be three years before we would see its light go out. There are six
thousand stars of the sixth magnitude. It takes thirty-six years for the
light of one of them to reach the earth. With an eighteen-foot telescope
we can see 43,000,000 stars, including those of the thirteenth
magnitude, whose light takes 2,700 years to reach us. Each of these
"You're lyin'," cried Daisy, angrily. "You're tryin' to scare me. And
you have; I want to go down!"
She stamped her foot.
"Arcturus--" began the philosopher, soothingly, but he was interrupted
by a demonstration out of the vastness of the nature that he was
endeavoring to portray with his memory instead of his heart. For to the
heart-expounder of nature the stars were set in the firmament expressly
to give soft light to lovers wandering happily beneath them; and if you
stand tiptoe some September night with your sweetheart on your arm you
can almost touch them with your hand. Three years for their light to
reach us, indeed!
Out of the west leaped a meteor, lighting the roof of the skyscraper
almost to midday. Its fiery parabola was limned against the sky toward
the east. It hissed as it went, and Daisy screamed.
"Take me down," she cried, vehemently, "you--you mental arithmetic!"
Dabster got her to the elevator, and inside of it. She was wild-eyed,
and she shuddered when the express made its debilitating drop.
Outside the revolving door of the skyscraper the philosopher lost her.
She vanished; and he stood, bewildered, without figures or statistics
to aid him.
Joe had a lull in trade, and by squirming among his stock succeeded in
lighting a cigarette and getting one cold foot against the attenuated
The door was burst open, and Daisy, laughing, crying, scattering fruit
and candies, tumbled into his arms.
"Oh, Joe, I've been up on the skyscraper. Ain't it cozy and warm and
homelike in here! I'm ready for you, Joe, whenever you want me."
A BIRD OF BAGDAD
Without a doubt much of the spirit and genius of the Caliph Harun Al
Rashid descended to the Margrave August Michael von Paulsen Quigg.
Quigg's restaurant is in Fourth Avenue--that street that the city seems
to have forgotten in its growth. Fourth Avenue--born and bred in the
Bowery--staggers northward full of good resolutions.
Where it crosses Fourteenth Street it struts for a brief moment proudly
in the glare of the museums and cheap theatres. It may yet become a fit
mate for its high-born sister boulevard to the west, or its roaring,
polyglot, broad-waisted cousin to the east. It passes Union Square; and
here the hoofs of the dray horses seem to thunder in unison, recalling
the tread of marching hosts--Hooray! But now come the silent and
terrible mountains--buildings square as forts, high as the clouds,
shutting out the sky, where thousands of slaves bend over desks all day.
On the ground floors are only little fruit shops and laundries and book
shops, where you see copies of "Littell's Living Age" and G. W. M.
Reynold's novels in the windows. And next--poor Fourth Avenue!--the
street glides into a mediaeval solitude. On each side are shops devoted
Let us say it is night. Men in rusty armor stand in the windows and
menace the hurrying cars with raised, rusty iron gauntlets. Hauberks and
helms, blunderbusses, Cromwellian breastplates, matchlocks, creeses, and
the swords and daggers of an army of dead-and-gone gallants gleam dully
in the ghostly light. Here and there from a corner saloon (lit with
Jack-o'-lanterns or phosphorus), stagger forth shuddering, home-bound
citizens, nerved by the tankards within to their fearsome journey adown
that eldrich avenue lined with the bloodstained weapons of the fighting
dead. What street could live inclosed by these mortuary relics, and trod
by these spectral citizens in whose sunken hearts scarce one good whoop
or tra-la-la remained?
Not Fourth Avenue. Not after the tinsel but enlivening glories of the
Little Rialto--not after the echoing drum-beats of Union Square. There
need be no tears, ladies and gentlemen; 'tis but the suicide of a
street. With a shriek and a crash Fourth Avenue dives headlong into the
tunnel at Thirty-fourth and is never seen again.
Near the sad scene of the thoroughfare's dissolution stood the modest
restaurant of Quigg. It stands there yet if you care to view its
crumbling red-brick front, its show window heaped with oranges,
tomatoes, layer cakes, pies, canned asparagus--its papier-māché lobster
and two Maltese kittens asleep on a bunch of lettuce--if you care to
sit at one of the little tables upon whose cloth has been traced in the
yellowest of coffee stains the trail of the Japanese advance--to sit
there with one eye on your umbrella and the other upon the bogus bottle
from which you drop the counterfeit sauce foisted upon us by the cursed
charlatan who assumes to be our dear old lord and friend, the "Nobleman
Quigg's title came through his mother. One of her ancestors was a
Margravine of Saxony. His father was a Tammany brave. On account of
the dilution of his heredity he found that he could neither become
a reigning potentate nor get a job in the City Hall. So he opened a
restaurant. He was a man full of thought and reading. The business gave
him a living, though he gave it little attention. One side of his house
bequeathed to him a poetic and romantic adventure. The other gave him
the restless spirit that made him seek adventure. By day he was Quigg,
the restaurateur. By night he was the Margrave--the Caliph--the Prince
of Bohemia--going about the city in search of the odd, the mysterious,
the inexplicable, the recondite.
One night at 9, at which hour the restaurant closed, Quigg set forth
upon his quest. There was a mingling of the foreign, the military and
the artistic in his appearance as he buttoned his coat high up under his
short-trimmed brown and gray beard and turned westward toward the more
central life conduits of the city. In his pocket he had stored an
assortment of cards, written upon, without which he never stirred out of
doors. Each of those cards was good at his own restaurant for its face
value. Some called simply for a bowl of soup or sandwiches and coffee;
others entitled their bearer to one, two, three or more days of full
meals; a few were for single regular meals; a very few were, in effect,
meal tickets good for a week.
Of riches and power Margrave Quigg had none; but he had a Caliph's
heart--it may be forgiven him if his head fell short of the measure of
Harun Al Rashid's. Perhaps some of the gold pieces in Bagdad had put
less warmth and hope into the complainants among the bazaars than had
Quigg's beef stew among the fishermen and one-eyed calenders of
Continuing his progress in search of romance to divert him, or of
distress that he might aid, Quigg became aware of a fast-gathering crowd
that whooped and fought and eddied at a corner of Broadway and the
crosstown street that he was traversing. Hurrying to the spot he beheld
a young man of an exceedingly melancholy and preoccupied demeanor
engaged in the pastime of casting silver money from his pockets in the
middle of the street. With each motion of the generous one's hand the
crowd huddled upon the falling largesse with yells of joy. Traffic was
suspended. A policeman in the centre of the mob stooped often to the
ground as he urged the blockaders to move on.
The Margrave saw at a glance that here was food for his hunger after
knowledge concerning abnormal working of the human heart. He made his
way swiftly to the young man's side and took his arm. "Come with me at
once," he said, in the low but commanding voice that his waiters had
learned to fear.
"Pinched," remarked the young man, looking up at him with expressionless
eyes. "Pinched by a painless dentist. Take me away, flatty, and give me
gas. Some lay eggs and some lay none. When is a hen?"
Still deeply seized by some inward grief, but tractable, he allowed
Quigg to lead him away and down the street to a little park.
There, seated on a bench, he upon whom a corner of the great Caliph's
mantle has descended, spake with kindness and discretion, seeking to
know what evil had come upon the other, disturbing his soul and driving
him to such ill-considered and ruinous waste of his substance and
"I was doing the Monte Cristo act as adapted by Pompton, N. J., wasn't
I?" asked the young man.
"You were throwing small coins into the street for the people to
scramble after," said the Margrave.
"That's it. You buy all the beer you can hold, and then you throw
chicken feed to-- Oh, curse that word chicken, and hens, feathers,
roosters, eggs, and everything connected with it!"
"Young sir," said the Margrave kindly, but with dignity, "though I do
not ask your confidence, I invite it. I know the world and I know
humanity. Man is my study, though I do not eye him as the scientist
eyes a beetle or as the philanthropist gazes at the objects of his
bounty--through a veil of theory and ignorance. It is my pleasure
and distraction to interest myself in the peculiar and complicated
misfortunes that life in a great city visits upon my fellow-men. You may
be familiar with the history of that glorious and immortal ruler, the
Caliph Harun Al Rashid, whose wise and beneficent excursions among his
people in the city of Bagdad secured him the privilege of relieving so
much of their distress. In my humble way I walk in his footsteps. I seek
for romance and adventure in city streets--not in ruined castles or in
crumbling palaces. To me the greatest marvels of magic are those that
take place in men's hearts when acted upon by the furious and diverse
forces of a crowded population. In your strange behavior this evening
I fancy a story lurks. I read in your act something deeper than the
wanton wastefulness of a spendthrift. I observe in your countenance the
certain traces of consuming grief or despair. I repeat--I invite your
confidence. I am not without some power to alleviate and advise. Will
you not trust me?"
"Gee, how you talk!" exclaimed the young man, a gleam of admiration
supplanting for a moment the dull sadness of his eyes. "You've got the
Astor Library skinned to a synopsis of preceding chapters. I mind that
old Turk you speak of. I read 'The Arabian Nights' when I was a kid. He
was a kind of Bill Devery and Charlie Schwab rolled into one. But, say,
you might wave enchanted dishrags and make copper bottles smoke up coon
giants all night without ever touching me. My case won't yield to that
kind of treatment."
"If I could hear your story," said the Margrave, with his lofty, serious
"I'll spiel it in about nine words," said the young man, with a deep
sigh, "but I don't think you can help me any. Unless you're a peach at
guessing it's back to the Bosphorus for you on your magic linoleum."
THE STORY OF THE YOUNG MAN AND THE HARNESS MAKER'S RIDDLE
"I work in Hildebrant's saddle and harness shop down in Grant Street.
I've worked there five years. I get $18 a week. That's enough to marry
on, ain't it? Well, I'm not going to get married. Old Hildebrant is
one of these funny Dutchmen--you know the kind--always getting off bum
jokes. He's got about a million riddles and things that he faked from
Rogers Brothers' great-grandfather. Bill Watson works there, too. Me and
Bill have to stand for them chestnuts day after day. Why do we do it?
Well, jobs ain't to be picked off every Anheuser bush-- And then there's
"What? The old man's daughter. Comes in the shop every day. About
nineteen, and the picture of the blonde that sits on the palisades of
the Rhine and charms the clam-diggers into the surf. Hair the color of
straw matting, and eyes as black and shiny as the best harness
blacking--think of that!
"Me? well, it's either me or Bill Watson. She treats us both equal. Bill
is all to the psychopathic about her; and me?--well, you saw me plating
the roadbed of the Great Maroon Way with silver to-night. That was on
account of Laura. I was spiflicated, Your Highness, and I wot not of
what I wouldst.
"How? Why, old Hildebrandt says to me and Bill this afternoon: 'Boys,
one riddle have I for you gehabt haben. A young man who cannot riddles
antworten, he is not so good by business for ein family to provide--is
not that--hein?' And he hands us a riddle--a conundrum, some calls
it--and he chuckles interiorly and gives both of us till to-morrow
morning to work out the answer to it. And he says whichever of us
guesses the repartee end of it goes to his house o' Wednesday night to
his daughter's birthday party. And it means Laura for whichever of us
goes, for she's naturally aching for a husband, and it's either me or
Bill Watson, for old Hildebrant likes us both, and wants her to marry
somebody that'll carry on the business after he's stitched his last pair
"The riddle? Why, it was this: 'What kind of a hen lays the longest?
Think of that! What kind of a hen lays the longest? Ain't it like a
Dutchman to risk a man's happiness on a fool proposition like that?
Now, what's the use? What I don't know about hens would fill several
incubators. You say you're giving imitations of the old Arab guy that
gave away--libraries in Bagdad. Well, now, can you whistle up a fairy
that'll solve this hen query, or not?"
When the young man ceased the Margrave arose and paced to and fro by the
park bench for several minutes. Finally he sat again, and said, in grave
and impressive tones:
"I must confess, sir, that during the eight years that I have spent in
search of adventure and in relieving distress I have never encountered
a more interesting or a more perplexing case. I fear that I have
overlooked hens in my researches and observations. As to their
habits, their times and manner of laying, their many varieties and
cross-breedings, their span of life, their--"
"Oh, don't make an Ibsen drama of it!" interrupted the young man,
flippantly. "Riddles--especially old Hildebrant's riddles--don't have
to be worked out seriously. They are light themes such as Sim Ford and
Harry Thurston Peck like to handle. But, somehow, I can't strike just
the answer. Bill Watson may, and he may not. To-morrow will tell. Well,
Your Majesty, I'm glad anyhow that you butted in and whiled the time
away. I guess Mr. Al Rashid himself would have bounced back if one of
his constituents had conducted him up against this riddle. I'll say good
night. Peace fo' yours, and what-you-may-call-its of Allah."
The Margrave, still with a gloomy air, held out his hand.
"I cannot express my regret," he said, sadly. "Never before have I
found myself unable to assist in some way. 'What kind of a hen lays the
longest? It is a baffling problem. There is a hen, I believe, called
the Plymouth Rock that--"
"Cut it out," said the young man. "The Caliph trade is a mighty serious
one. I don't suppose you'd even see anything funny in a preacher's
defense of John D. Rockefeller. Well, good night, Your Nibs."
From habit the Margrave began to fumble in his pockets. He drew forth
a card and handed it to the young man.
"Do me the favor to accept this, anyhow," he said. "The time may come
when it might be of use to you."
"Thanks!" said the young man, pocketing it carelessly. "My name is
* * * * * *
Shame to him who would hint that the reader's interest shall altogether
pursue the Margrave August Michael von Paulsen Quigg. I am indeed astray
if my hand fail in keeping the way where my peruser's heart would
follow. Then let us, on the morrow, peep quickly in at the door of
Hildebrant, harness maker.
Hildebrant's 200 pounds reposed on a bench, silver-buckling a raw
Bill Watson came in first.
"Vell," said Hildebrant, shaking all over with the vile conceit of the
joke-maker, "haf you guessed him? 'Vat kind of a hen lays der longest?'"
"Er--why, I think so," said Bill, rubbing a servile chin. "I think so,
Mr. Hildebrant--the one that lives the longest-- Is that right?"
"Nein!" said Hildebrant, shaking his head violently. "You haf not
guessed der answer."
Bill passed on and donned a bed-tick apron and bachelorhood.
In came the young man of the Arabian Night's fiasco--pale, melancholy,
"Vell," said Hildebrant, "haf you guessed him? 'Vat kind of a hen lays
Simmons regarded him with dull savagery in his eye. Should he curse this
mountain of pernicious humor--curse him and die? Why should-- But there
Dogged, speechless, he thrust his hands into his coat pockets and stood.
His hand encountered the strange touch of the Margrave's card. He drew
it out and looked at it, as men about to be hanged look at a crawling
fly. There was written on it in Quigg's bold, round hand: "Good for one
roast chicken to bearer."
Simmons looked up with a flashing eye.
"A dead one!" said he.
"Goot!" roared Hildebrant, rocking the table with giant glee. "Dot is
right! You gome at mine house at 8 o'clock to der party."
COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON
There are no more Christmas stories to write. Fiction is exhausted;
and newspaper items, the next best, are manufactured by clever young
journalists who have married early and have an engagingly pessimistic
view of life. Therefore, for seasonable diversion, we are reduced
to very questionable sources--facts and philosophy. We will begin
with--whichever you choose to call it.
Children are pestilential little animals with which we have to cope
under a bewildering variety of conditions. Especially when childish
sorrows overwhelm them are we put to our wits' end. We exhaust our
paltry store of consolation; and then beat them, sobbing, to sleep. Then
we grovel in the dust of a million years, and ask God why. Thus we call
out of the rat-trap. As for the children, no one understands them except
old maids, hunchbacks, and shepherd dogs.
Now comes the facts in the case of the Rag-Doll, the Tatterdemalion,
and the Twenty-fifth of December.
On the tenth of that month the Child of the Millionaire lost her
rag-doll. There were many servants in the Millionaire's palace on the
Hudson, and these ransacked the house and grounds, but without finding
the lost treasure. The child was a girl of five, and one of those
perverse little beasts that often wound the sensibilities of wealthy
parents by fixing their affections upon some vulgar, inexpensive toy
instead of upon diamond-studded automobiles and pony phaetons.
The Child grieved sorely and truly, a thing inexplicable to the
Millionaire, to whom the rag-doll market was about as interesting as Bay
State Gas; and to the Lady, the Child's mother, who was all form--that
is, nearly all, as you shall see.
The Child cried inconsolably, and grew hollow-eyed, knock-kneed,
spindling, and corykilverty in many other respects. The Millionaire
smiled and tapped his coffers confidently. The pick of the output of
the French and German toymakers was rushed by special delivery to the
mansion; but Rachel refused to be comforted. She was weeping for her
rag child, and was for a high protective tariff against all foreign
foolishness. Then doctors with the finest bedside manners and
stop-watches were called in. One by one they chattered futilely about
peptomanganate of iron and sea voyages and hypophosphites until their
stop-watches showed that Bill Rendered was under the wire for show or
place. Then, as men, they advised that the rag-doll be found as soon
as possible and restored to its mourning parent. The Child sniffed at
therapeutics, chewed a thumb, and wailed for her Betsy. And all this
time cablegrams were coming from Santa Claus saying that he would soon
be here and enjoining us to show a true Christian spirit and let up on
the pool-rooms and tontine policies and platoon systems long enough to
give him a welcome. Everywhere the spirit of Christmas was diffusing
itself. The banks were refusing loans, the pawn-brokers had doubled
their gang of helpers, people bumped your shins on the streets with red
sleds, Thomas and Jeremiah bubbled before you on the bars while you
waited on one foot, holly-wreaths of hospitality were hung in windows of
the stores, they who had 'em were getting their furs. You hardly knew
which was the best bet in balls--three, high, moth, or snow. It was no
time at which to lose the rag-doll or your heart.
If Doctor Watson's investigating friend had been called in to solve this
mysterious disappearance he might have observed on the Millionaire's
wall a copy of "The Vampire." That would have quickly suggested, by
induction, "A rag and a bone and a hank of hair." "Flip," a Scotch
terrier, next to the rag-doll in the Child's heart, frisked through the
halls. The hank of hair! Aha! X, the unfound quantity, represented the
rag-doll. But, the bone? Well, when dogs find bones they--Done! It were
an easy and a fruitful task to examine Flip's forefeet. Look, Watson!
Earth--dried earth between the toes. Of course, the dog--but Sherlock
was not there. Therefore it devolves. But topography and architecture
The Millionaire's palace occupied a lordly space. In front of it was a
lawn close-mowed as a South Ireland man's face two days after a shave.
At one side of it, and fronting on another street was a pleasaunce
trimmed to a leaf, and the garage and stables. The Scotch pup had
ravished the rag-doll from the nursery, dragged it to a corner of
the lawn, dug a hole, and buried it after the manner of careless
undertakers. There you have the mystery solved, and no checks to write
for the hypodermical wizard or fi'-pun notes to toss to the sergeant.
Then let's get down to the heart of the thing, tiresome readers--the
Christmas heart of the thing.
Fuzzy was drunk--not riotously or helplessly or loquaciously, as you or
I might get, but decently, appropriately, and inoffensively, as becomes
a gentleman down on his luck.
Fuzzy was a soldier of misfortune. The road, the haystack, the
park bench, the kitchen door, the bitter round of eleemosynary
beds-with-shower-bath-attachment, the petty pickings and ignobly
garnered largesse of great cities--these formed the chapters of his
Fuzzy walked toward the river, down the street that bounded one side of
the Millionaire's house and grounds. He saw a leg of Betsy, the lost
rag-doll, protruding, like the clue to a Lilliputian murder mystery,
from its untimely grave in a corner of the fence. He dragged forth the
maltreated infant, tucked it under his arm, and went on his way crooning
a road song of his brethren that no doll that has been brought up to the
sheltered life should hear. Well for Betsy that she had no ears. And
well that she had no eyes save unseeing circles of black; for the faces
of Fuzzy and the Scotch terrier were those of brothers, and the heart of
no rag-doll could withstand twice to become the prey of such fearsome
Though you may not know it, Grogan's saloon stands near the river and
near the foot of the street down which Fuzzy traveled. In Grogan's,
Christmas cheer was already rampant.
Fuzzy entered with his doll. He fancied that as a mummer at the feast of
Saturn he might earn a few drops from the wassail cup.
He set Betsy on the bar and addressed her loudly and humorously,
seasoning his speech with exaggerated compliments and endearments, as
one entertaining his lady friend. The loafers and bibbers around caught
the farce of it, and roared. The bartender gave Fuzzy a drink. Oh, many
of us carry rag-dolls.
"One for the lady?" suggested Fuzzy impudently, and tucked another
contribution to Art beneath his waistcoat.
He began to see possibilities in Betsy. His first-night had been a
success. Visions of a vaudeville circuit about town dawned upon him.
In a group near the stove sat "Pigeon" McCarthy, Black Riley, and
"One-ear" Mike, well and unfavorably known in the tough shoestring
district that blackened the left bank of the river. They passed a
newspaper back and forth among themselves. The item that each solid and
blunt forefinger pointed out was an advertisement headed "One Hundred
Dollars Reward." To earn it one must return the rag-doll lost, strayed,
or stolen from the Millionaire's mansion. It seemed that grief still
ravaged, unchecked, in the bosom of the too faithful Child. Flip, the
terrier, capered and shook his absurd whisker before her, powerless to
distract. She wailed for her Betsy in the faces of walking, talking,
mama-ing, and eye-closing French Mabelles and Violettes. The
advertisement was a last resort.
Black Riley came from behind the stove and approached Fuzzy in his
one-sided parabolic way.
The Christmas mummer, flushed with success, had tucked Betsy under his
arm, and was about to depart to the filling of impromptu dates
"Say, 'Bo," said Black Riley to him, "where did you cop out dat doll?"
"This doll?" asked Fuzzy, touching Betsy with his forefinger to be sure
that she was the one referred to. Why, this doll was presented to me by
the Emperor of Beloochistan. I have seven hundred others in my country
home in Newport. This doll--"
"Cheese the funny business," said Riley. "You swiped it or picked it up
at de house on de hill where--but never mind dat. You want to take fifty
cents for de rags, and take it quick. Me brother's kid at home might be
wantin' to play wid it. Hey--what?"
He produced the coin.
Fuzzy laughed a gurgling, insolent, alcoholic laugh in his face. Go to
the office of Sarah Bernhardt's manager and propose to him that she be
released from a night's performance to entertain the Tackytown Lyceum
and Literary Coterie. You will hear the duplicate of Fuzzy's laugh.
Black Riley gauged Fuzzy quickly with his blueberry eye as a wrestler
does. His hand was itching to play the Roman and wrest the rag Sabine
from the extemporaneous merry-andrew who was entertaining an angel
unaware. But he refrained. Fuzzy was fat and solid and big. Three inches
of well-nourished corporeity, defended from the winter winds by dingy
linen, intervened between his vest and trousers. Countless small,
circular wrinkles running around his coat-sleeves and knees guaranteed
the quality of his bone and muscle. His small, blue eyes, bathed in the
moisture of altruism and wooziness, looked upon you kindly, yet without
abashment. He was whiskerly, whiskyly, fleshily formidable. So, Black
"Wot'll you take for it, den?" he asked.
"Money," said Fuzzy, with husky firmness, "cannot buy her."
He was intoxicated with the artist's first sweet cup of attainment.
To set a faded-blue, earth-stained rag-doll on a bar, to hold mimic
converse with it, and to find his heart leaping with the sense of
plaudits earned and his throat scorching with free libations poured in
his honor--could base coin buy him from such achievements? You will
perceive that Fuzzy had the temperament.
Fuzzy walked out with the gait of a trained sea-lion in search of other
cafés to conquer.
Though the dusk of twilight was hardly yet apparent, lights were
beginning to spangle the city like pop-corn bursting in a deep skillet.
Christmas Eve, impatiently expected, was peeping over the brink of the
hour. Millions had prepared for its celebration. Towns would be painted
red. You, yourself, have heard the horns and dodged the capers of the
"Pigeon" McCarthy, Black Riley, and "One-ear" Mike held a hasty converse
outside Grogan's. They were narrow-chested, pallid striplings, not
fighters in the open, but more dangerous in their ways of warfare than
the most terrible of Turks. Fuzzy, in a pitched battle, could have eaten
the three of them. In a go-as-you-please encounter he was already
They overtook him just as he and Betsy were entering Costigan's Casino.
They deflected him, and shoved the newspaper under his nose. Fuzzy could
"Boys," said he, "you are certainly damn true friends. Give me a week to
think it over."
The soul of a real artist is quenched with difficulty.
The boys carefully pointed out to him that advertisements were soulless,
and that the deficiencies of the day might not be supplied by the
"A cool hundred," said Fuzzy thoughtfully and mushily.
"Boys," said he, "you are true friends. I'll go up and claim the reward.
The show business is not what it used to be."
Night was falling more surely. The three tagged at his sides to the foot
of the rise on which stood the Millionaire's house. There Fuzzy turned
upon them acrimoniously.
"You are a pack of putty-faced beagle-hounds," he roared. "Go away."
They went away--a little way.
In "Pigeon" McCarthy's pocket was a section of one-inch gas-pipe eight
inches long. In one end of it and in the middle of it was a lead plug.
One-half of it was packed tight with solder. Black Riley carried a
slung-shot, being a conventional thug. "One-ear" Mike relied upon a
pair of brass knucks--an heirloom in the family.
"Why fetch and carry," said Black Riley, "when some one will do it for
ye? Let him bring it out to us. Hey--what?"
"We can chuck him in the river," said "Pigeon" McCarthy, "with a stone
tied to his feet."
"Youse guys make me tired," said "One-ear" Mike sadly. "Ain't progress
ever appealed to none of yez? Sprinkle a little gasoline on 'im, and
drop 'im on the Drive--well?"
Fuzzy entered the Millionaire's gate and zigzagged toward the softly
glowing entrance of the mansion. The three goblins came up to the gate
and lingered--one on each side of it, one beyond the roadway. They
fingered their cold metal and leather, confident.
Fuzzy rang the door-bell, smiling foolishly and dreamily. An atavistic
instinct prompted him to reach for the button of his right glove. But he
wore no gloves; so his left hand dropped, embarrassed.
The particular menial whose duty it was to open doors to silks and laces
shied at first sight of Fuzzy. But a second glance took in his passport,
his card of admission, his surety of welcome--the lost rag-doll of the
daughter of the house dangling under his arm.
Fuzzy was admitted into a great hall, dim with the glow from unseen
lights. The hireling went away and returned with a maid and the Child.
The doll was restored to the mourning one. She clasped her lost darling
to her breast; and then, with the inordinate selfishness and candor of
childhood, stamped her foot and whined hatred and fear of the odious
being who had rescued her from the depths of sorrow and despair. Fuzzy
wriggled himself into an ingratiatory attitude and essayed the idiotic
smile and blattering small talk that is supposed to charm the budding
intellect of the young. The Child bawled, and was dragged away, hugging
her Betsy close.
There came the Secretary, pale, poised, polished, gliding in pumps, and
worshipping pomp and ceremony. He counted out into Fuzzy's hand ten
ten-dollar bills; then dropped his eye upon the door, transferred it to
James, its custodian, indicated the obnoxious earner of the reward with
the other, and allowed his pumps to waft him away to secretarial
James gathered Fuzzy with his own commanding optic and swept him as far
as the front door.
When the money touched fuzzy's dingy palm his first instinct was to take
to his heels; but a second thought restrained him from that blunder
of etiquette. It was his; it had been given him. It--and, oh, what an
elysium it opened to the gaze of his mind's eye! He had tumbled to the
foot of the ladder; he was hungry, homeless, friendless, ragged, cold,
drifting; and he held in his hand the key to a paradise of the mud-honey
that he craved. The fairy doll had waved a wand with her rag-stuffed
hand; and now wherever he might go the enchanted palaces with shining
foot-rests and magic red fluids in gleaming glassware would be open to
He followed James to the door.
He paused there as the flunky drew open the great mahogany portal for
him to pass into the vestibule.
Beyond the wrought-iron gates in the dark highway Black Riley and his
two pals casually strolled, fingering under their coats the inevitably
fatal weapons that were to make the reward of the rag-doll theirs.
Fuzzy stopped at the Millionaire's door and bethought himself. Like
little sprigs of mistletoe on a dead tree, certain living green thoughts
and memories began to decorate his confused mind. He was quite drunk,
mind you, and the present was beginning to fade. Those wreaths and
festoons of holly with their scarlet berries making the great hall
gay--where had he seen such things before? Somewhere he had known
polished floors and odors of fresh flowers in winter, and--and some one
was singing a song in the house that he thought he had heard before.
Some one singing and playing a harp. Of course, it was Christmas--Fuzzy
though he must have been pretty drunk to have overlooked that.
And then he went out of the present, and there came back to him out of
some impossible, vanished, and irrevocable past a little, pure-white,
transient, forgotten ghost--the spirit of _noblesse oblige_. Upon a
gentleman certain things devolve.
James opened the outer door. A stream of light went down the graveled
walk to the iron gate. Black Riley, McCarthy, and "One-ear" Mike saw,
and carelessly drew their sinister cordon closer about the gate.
With a more imperious gesture than James's master had ever used or could
ever use, Fuzzy compelled the menial to close the door. Upon a gentleman
certain things devolve. Especially at the Christmas season.
"It is cust--customary," he said to James, the flustered, "when a
gentleman calls on Christmas Eve to pass the compliments of the season
with the lady of the house. You und'stand? I shall not move shtep till
I pass compl'ments season with lady the house. Und'stand?"
There was an argument. James lost. Fuzzy raised his voice and sent it
through the house unpleasantly. I did not say he was a gentleman. He was
simply a tramp being visited by a ghost.
A sterling silver bell rang. James went back to answer it, leaving Fuzzy
in the hall. James explained somewhere to some one.
Then he came and conducted Fuzzy into the library.
The lady entered a moment later. She was more beautiful and holy than
any picture that Fuzzy had seen. She smiled, and said something about a
doll. Fuzzy didn't understand that; he remembered nothing about a doll.
A footman brought in two small glasses of sparkling wine on a stamped
sterling-silver waiter. The Lady took one. The other was handed to
As his fingers closed on the slender glass stem his disabilities dropped
from him for one brief moment. He straightened himself; and Time, so
disobliging to most of us, turned backward to accommodate Fuzzy.
Forgotten Christmas ghosts whiter than the false beards of the most
opulent Kris Kringle were rising in the fumes of Grogan's whisky. What
had the Millionaire's mansion to do with a long, wainscoted Virginia
hall, where the riders were grouped around a silver punch-bowl, drinking
the ancient toast of the House? And why should the patter of the cab
horses' hoofs on the frozen street be in any wise related to the sound
of the saddled hunters stamping under the shelter of the west veranda?
And what had Fuzzy to do with any of it?
The Lady, looking at him over her glass, let her condescending smile
fade away like a false dawn. Her eyes turned serious. She saw something
beneath the rags and Scotch terrier whiskers that she did not
understand. But it did not matter.
Fuzzy lifted his glass and smiled vacantly.
"P-pardon, lady," he said, "but couldn't leave without exchangin'
comp'ments sheason with lady th' house. 'Gainst princ'ples gen'leman do
And then he began the ancient salutation that was a tradition in the
House when men wore lace ruffles and powder.
"The blessings of another year--"
Fuzzy's memory failed him. The Lady prompted:
"--Be upon this hearth."
"--The guest--" stammered Fuzzy.
"--And upon her who--" continued the Lady, with a leading smile.
"Oh, cut it out," said Fuzzy, ill-manneredly. "I can't remember. Drink
Fuzzy had shot his arrow. They drank. The Lady smiled again the smile of
her caste. James enveloped and re-conducted him toward the front door.
The harp music still softly drifted through the house.
Outside, Black Riley breathed on his cold hands and hugged the gate.
"I wonder," said the Lady to herself, musing, "who--but there were so
many who came. I wonder whether memory is a curse or a blessing to them
after they have fallen so low."
Fuzzy and his escort were nearly at the door. The Lady called: "James!"
James stalked back obsequiously, leaving Fuzzy waiting unsteadily, with
his brief spark of the divine fire gone.
Outside, Black Riley stamped his cold feet and got a firmer grip on his
section of gas-pipe.
"You will conduct this gentleman," said the lady, "Downstairs. Then tell
Louis to get out the Mercedes and take him to whatever place he wishes
A NIGHT IN NEW ARABIA
The great city of Bagdad-on-the-Subway is caliph-ridden. Its palaces,
bazaars, khans, and byways are thronged with Al Rashids in divers
disguises, seeking diversion and victims for their unbridled generosity.
You can scarcely find a poor beggar whom they are willing to let enjoy
his spoils unsuccored, nor a wrecked unfortunate upon whom they will not
reshower the means of fresh misfortune. You will hardly find anywhere a
hungry one who has not had the opportunity to tighten his belt in gift
libraries, nor a poor pundit who has not blushed at the holiday basket
of celery-crowned turkey forced resoundingly through his door by the
So then, fearfully through the Harun-haunted streets creep the one-eyed
calenders, the Little Hunchback and the Barber's Sixth Brother, hoping
to escape the ministrations of the roving horde of caliphoid sultans.
Entertainment for many Arabian nights might be had from the histories
of those who have escaped the largesse of the army of Commanders of the
Faithful. Until dawn you might sit on the enchanted rug and listen to
such stories as are told of the powerful genie Roc-Ef-El-Er who sent the
Forty Thieves to soak up the oil plant of Ali Baba; of the good Caliph
Kar-Neg-Ghe, who gave away palaces; of the Seven Voyages of Sailbad, the
Sinner, who frequented wooden excursion steamers among the islands; of
the Fisherman and the Bottle; of the Barmecides' Boarding house; of
Aladdin's rise to wealth by means of his Wonderful Gas-meter.
But now, there being ten sultans to one Sheherazade, she is held too
valuable to be in fear of the bowstring. In consequence the art of
narrative languishes. And, as the lesser caliphs are hunting the happy
poor and the resigned unfortunate from cover to cover in order to heap
upon them strange mercies and mysterious benefits, too often comes the
report from Arabian headquarters that the captive refused "to talk."
This reticence, then, in the actors who perform the sad comedies of
their philanthropy-scourged world, must, in a degree, account for the
shortcomings of this painfully gleaned tale, which shall be called
THE STORY OF THE CALIPH WHO ALLEVIATED HIS CONSCIENCE
Old Jacob Spraggins mixed for himself some Scotch and lithia water
at his $1,200 oak sideboard. Inspiration must have resulted from its
imbibition, for immediately afterward he struck the quartered oak
soundly with his fist and shouted to the empty dining room:
"By the coke ovens of hell, it must be that ten thousand dollars! If
I can get that squared, it'll do the trick."
Thus, by the commonest artifice of the trade, having gained your
interest, the action of the story will now be suspended, leaving you
grumpily to consider a sort of dull biography beginning fifteen years
When old Jacob was young Jacob he was a breaker boy in a Pennsylvania
coal mine. I don't know what a breaker boy is; but his occupation seems
to be standing by a coal dump with a wan look and a dinner-pail to have
his picture taken for magazine articles. Anyhow, Jacob was one. But,
instead of dying of overwork at nine, and leaving his helpless parents
and brothers at the mercy of the union strikers' reserve fund, he
hitched up his galluses, put a dollar or two in a side proposition now
and then, and at forty-five was worth $20,000,000.
There now! it's over. Hardly had time to yawn, did you? I've seen
biographies that--but let us dissemble.
I want you to consider Jacob Spraggins, Esq., after he had arrived at
the seventh stage of his career. The stages meant are, first, humble
origin; second, deserved promotion; third, stockholder; fourth,
capitalist; fifth, trust magnate; sixth, rich malefactor; seventh,
caliph; eighth, _x_. The eighth stage shall be left to the higher
At fifty-five Jacob retired from active business. The income of a
czar was still rolling in on him from coal, iron, real estate, oil,
railroads, manufactories, and corporations, but none of it touched
Jacob's hands in a raw state. It was a sterilized increment, carefully
cleaned and dusted and fumigated until it arrived at its ultimate stage
of untainted, spotless checks in the white fingers of his private
secretary. Jacob built a three-million-dollar palace on a corner lot
fronting on Nabob Avenue, city of New Bagdad, and began to feel the
mantle of the late H. A. Rashid descending upon him. Eventually Jacob
slipped the mantle under his collar, tied it in a neat four-in-hand, and
became a licensed harrier of our Mesopotamian proletariat.
When a man's income becomes so large that the butcher actually sends
him the kind of steak he orders, he begins to think about his soul's
salvation. Now, the various stages or classes of rich men must not be
forgotten. The capitalist can tell you to a dollar the amount of his
wealth. The trust magnate "estimates" it. The rich malefactor hands you
a cigar and denies that he has bought the P. D. & Q. The caliph merely
smiles and talks about Hammerstein and the musical lasses. There is a
record of tremendous altercation at breakfast in a "Where-to-Dine-Well"
tavern between a magnate and his wife, the rift within the loot being
that the wife calculated their fortune at a figure $3,000,000 higher
than did her future _divorcé_. Oh, well, I, myself, heard a similar
quarrel between a man and his wife because he found fifty cents less in
his pockets than he thought he had. After all, we are all human--Count
Tolstoi, R. Fitzsimmons, Peter Pan, and the rest of us.
Don't lose heart because the story seems to be degenerating into a sort
of moral essay for intellectual readers.
There will be dialogue and stage business pretty soon.
When Jacob first began to compare the eyes of needles with the camels
in the Zoo he decided upon organized charity. He had his secretary send
a check for one million to the Universal Benevolent Association of the
Globe. You may have looked down through a grating in front of a decayed
warehouse for a nickel that you had dropped through. But that is neither
here nor there. The Association acknowledged receipt of his favor of
the 24th ult. with enclosure as stated. Separated by a double line, but
still mighty close to the matter under the caption of "Oddities of the
Day's News" in an evening paper, Jacob Spraggins read that one "Jasper
Spargyous" had "donated $100,000 to the U. B. A. of G." A camel may have
a stomach for each day in the week; but I dare not venture to accord him
whiskers, for fear of the Great Displeasure at Washington; but if he
have whiskers, surely not one of them will seem to have been inserted in
the eye of a needle by that effort of that rich man to enter the K. of
H. The right is reserved to reject any and all bids; signed, S. Peter,
secretary and gatekeeper.
Next, Jacob selected the best endowed college he could scare up and
presented it with a $200,000 laboratory. The college did not maintain
a scientific course, but it accepted the money and built an elaborate
lavatory instead, which was no diversion of funds so far as Jacob ever
The faculty met and invited Jacob to come over and take his A B C
degree. Before sending the invitation they smiled, cut out the C, added
the proper punctuation marks, and all was well.
While walking on the campus before being capped and gowned, Jacob saw
two professors strolling nearby. Their voices, long adapted to indoor
acoustics, undesignedly reached his ear.
"There goes the latest _chevalier d'industrie_," said one of them, "to
buy a sleeping powder from us. He gets his degree to-morrow."
"_In foro conscientię_," said the other. "Let's 'eave 'arf a brick at
Jacob ignored the Latin, but the brick pleasantry was not too hard for
him. There was no mandragora in the honorary draught of learning that he
had bought. That was before the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act.
Jacob wearied of philanthropy on a large scale.
"If I could see folks made happier," he said to himself--"If I could see
'em myself and hear 'em express their gratitude for what I done for 'em
it would make me feel better. This donatin' funds to institutions and
societies is about as satisfactory as dropping money into a broken slot
So Jacob followed his nose, which led him through unswept streets to the
homes of the poorest.
"The very thing!" said Jacob. "I will charter two river steamboats, pack
them full of these unfortunate children and--say ten thousand dolls and
drums and a thousand freezers of ice cream, and give them a delightful
outing up the Sound. The sea breezes on that trip ought to blow the
taint off some of this money that keeps coming in faster than I can work
it off my mind."
Jacob must have leaked some of his benevolent intentions, for an immense
person with a bald face and a mouth that looked as if it ought to have a
"Drop Letters Here" sign over it hooked a finger around him and set him
in a space between a barber's pole and a stack of ash cans. Words came
out of the post-office slit--smooth, husky words with gloves on 'em, but
sounding as if they might turn to bare knuckles any moment.
"Say, Sport, do you know where you are at? Well, dis is Mike O'Grady's
district you're buttin' into--see? Mike's got de stomach-ache privilege
for every kid in dis neighborhood--see? And if dere's any picnics or red
balloons to be dealt out here, Mike's money pays for 'em--see? Don't
you butt in, or something'll be handed to you. Youse d---- settlers and
reformers with your social ologies and your millionaire detectives have
got dis district in a hell of a fix, anyhow. With your college students
and professors rough-housing de soda-water stands and dem rubber-neck
coaches fillin' de streets, de folks down here are 'fraid to go out of
de houses. Now, you leave 'em to Mike. Dey belongs to him, and he knows
how to handle 'em. Keep on your own side of de town. Are you some wiser
now, uncle, or do you want to scrap wit' Mike O'Grady for de Santa Claus
belt in dis district?"
Clearly, that spot in the moral vineyard was preempted. So Caliph
Spraggins menaced no more the people in the bazaars of the East Side.
To keep down his growing surplus he doubled his donations to organized
charity, presented the Y. M. C. A. of his native town with a $10,000
collection of butterflies, and sent a check to the famine sufferers
in China big enough to buy new emerald eyes and diamond-filled teeth
for all their gods. But none of these charitable acts seemed to bring
peace to the caliph's heart. He tried to get a personal note into his
benefactions by tipping bellboys and waiters $10 and $20 bills. He got
well snickered at and derided for that by the minions who accept with
respect gratuities commensurate to the service performed. He sought out
an ambitious and talented but poor young woman, and bought for her the
star part in a new comedy. He might have gotten rid of $50,000 more of
his cumbersome money in this philanthropy if he had not neglected to
write letters to her. But she lost the suit for lack of evidence, while
his capital still kept piling up, and his _optikos needleorum
camelibus_--or rich man's disease--was unrelieved.
In Caliph Spraggins's $3,000,000 home lived his sister Henrietta, who
used to cook for the coal miners in a twenty-five-cent eating house in
Coketown, Pa., and who now would have offered John Mitchell only two
fingers of her hand to shake. And his daughter Celia, nineteen, back
from boarding-school and from being polished off by private instructors
in the restaurant languages and those études and things.
Celia is the heroine. Lest the artist's delineation of her charms
on this very page humbug your fancy, take from me her authorized
description. She was a nice-looking, awkward, loud, rather bashful,
brown-haired girl, with a sallow complexion, bright eyes, and a
perpetual smile. She had a wholesome, Spraggins-inherited love for plain
food, loose clothing, and the society of the lower classes. She had too
much health and youth to feel the burden of wealth. She had a wide mouth
that kept the peppermint-pepsin tablets rattling like hail from the
slot-machine wherever she went, and she could whistle hornpipes. Keep
this picture in mind; and let the artist do his worst.
Celia looked out of her window one day and gave her heart to the
grocer's young man. The receiver thereof was at that moment engaged
in conceding immortality to his horse and calling down upon him the
ultimate fate of the wicked; so he did not notice the transfer. A horse
should stand still when you are lifting a crate of strictly new-laid
eggs out of the wagon.
Young lady reader, you would have liked that grocer's young man
yourself. But you wouldn't have given him your heart, because you are
saving it for a riding-master, or a shoe-manufacturer with a torpid
liver, or something quiet but rich in gray tweeds at Palm Beach. Oh, I
know about it. So I am glad the grocer's young man was for Celia, and
not for you.
The grocer's young man was slim and straight and as confident and easy
in his movements as the man in the back of the magazines who wears the
new frictionless roller suspenders. He wore a gray bicycle cap on the
back of his head, and his hair was straw-colored and curly, and his
sunburned face looked like one that smiled a good deal when he was not
preaching the doctrine of everlasting punishment to delivery-wagon
horses. He slung imported A1 fancy groceries about as though they were
only the stuff he delivered at boarding-houses; and when he picked up
his whip, your mind instantly recalled Mr. Tackett and his air with the
Tradesmen delivered their goods at a side gate at the rear of the house.
The grocer's wagon came about ten in the morning. For three days Celia
watched the driver when he came, finding something new each time to
admire in the lofty and almost contemptuous way he had of tossing around
the choicest gifts of Pomona, Ceres, and the canning factories. Then she
To be explicit, Annette McCorkle, the second housemaid who deserves a
paragraph herself. Annette Fletcherized large numbers of romantic novels
which she obtained at a free public library branch (donated by one of
the biggest caliphs in the business). She was Celia's side-kicker and
chum, though Aunt Henrietta didn't know it, you may hazard a bean or
"Oh, canary-bird seed!" exclaimed Annette. "Ain't it a corkin'
situation? You a heiress, and fallin' in love with him on sight! He's a
sweet boy, too, and above his business. But he ain't susceptible like
the common run of grocer's assistants. He never pays no attention to
"He will to me," said Celia.
"Riches--" began Annette, unsheathing the not unjustifiable feminine
"Oh, you're not so beautiful," said Celia, with her wide, disarming
smile. "Neither am I; but he sha'n't know that there's any money mixed
up with my looks, such as they are. That's fair. Now, I want you to lend
me one of your caps and an apron, Annette."
"Oh, marshmallows!" cried Annette. "I see. Ain't it lovely? It's just
like 'Lurline, the Left-Handed; or, A Buttonhole Maker's Wrongs.' I'll
bet he'll turn out to be a count."
There was a long hallway (or "passageway," as they call it in the land
of the Colonels) with one side latticed, running along the rear of the
house. The grocer's young man went through this to deliver his goods.
One morning he passed a girl in there with shining eyes, sallow
complexion, and wide, smiling mouth, wearing a maid's cap and apron. But
as he was cumbered with a basket of Early Drumhead lettuce and Trophy
tomatoes and three bunches of asparagus and six bottles of the most
expensive Queen olives, he saw no more than that she was one of the
But on his way out he came up behind her, and she was whistling
"Fisher's Hornpipe" so loudly and clearly that all the piccolos in the
world should have disjointed themselves and crept into their cases for
The grocer's young man stopped and pushed back his cap until it hung on
his collar button behind.
"That's out o' sight, Kid," said he.
"My name is Celia, if you please," said the whistler, dazzling him with
a three-inch smile.
That's all right. I'm Thomas McLeod. What part of the house do you work
"I'm the--the second parlor maid."
"Do you know the 'Falling Waters'?"
"No," said Celia, "we don't know anybody. We got rich too quick--that
is, Mr. Spraggins did."
"I'll make you acquainted," said Thomas McLeod. "It's a strathspey--the
first cousin to a hornpipe."
If Celia's whistling put the piccolos out of commission, Thomas McLeod's
surely made the biggest flutes hunt their holes. He could actually
When he stopped Celia was ready to jump into his delivery wagon and ride
with him clear to the end of the pier and on to the ferry-boat of the
"I'll be around to-morrow at 10:15," said Thomas, "with some spinach and
a case of carbonic."
"I'll practice that what-you-may-call-it," said Celia. "I can whistle a
The processes of courtship are personal, and do not belong to general
literature. They should be chronicled in detail only in advertisements
of iron tonics and in the secret by-laws of the Woman's Auxiliary of
the Ancient Order of the Rat Trap. But genteel writing may contain a
description of certain stages of its progress without intruding upon
the province of the X-ray or of park policemen.
A day came when Thomas McLeod and Celia lingered at the end of the
"Sixteen a week isn't much," said Thomas, letting his cap rest on his
Celia looked through the lattice-work and whistled a dead march.
Shopping with Aunt Henrietta the day before, she had paid that much for
a dozen handkerchiefs.
"Maybe I'll get a raise next month," said Thomas. "I'll be around
to-morrow at the same time with a bag of flour and the laundry soap."
"All right," said Celia. "Annette's married cousin pays only $20 a month
for a flat in the Bronx."
Never for a moment did she count on the Spraggins money. She knew Aunt
Henrietta's invincible pride of caste and pa's mightiness as a Colossus
of cash, and she understood that if she chose Thomas she and her
grocer's young man might go whistle for a living.
Another day came, Thomas violating the dignity of Nabob Avenue with
"The Devil's Dream," whistled keenly between his teeth.
"Raised to eighteen a week yesterday," he said. "Been pricing flats
around Morningside. You want to start untying those apron strings and
unpinning that cap, old girl."
"Oh, Tommy!" said Celia, with her broadest smile. "Won't that be enough?
I got Betty to show me how to make a cottage pudding. I guess we could
call it a flat pudding if we wanted to."
"And tell no lie," said Thomas.
"And I can sweep and polish and dust--of course, a parlor maid learns
that. And we could whistle duets of evenings."
"The old man said he'd raise me to twenty at Christmas if Bryan couldn't
think of any harder name to call a Republican than a 'postponer,'" said
the grocer's young man.
"I can sew," said Celia; "and I know that you must make the gas
company's man show his badge when he comes to look at the meter; and I
know how to put up quince jam and window curtains."
"Bully! you're all right, Cele. Yes, I believe we can pull it off on
As he was jumping into the wagon the second parlor maid braved discovery
by running swiftly to the gate.
"And, oh, Tommy, I forgot," she called, softly. "I believe I could make
"Forget it," said Thomas decisively.
"And another thing," she continued. "Sliced cucumbers at night will
drive away cockroaches."
"And sleep, too, you bet," said Mr. McLeod. "Yes, I believe if I have a
delivery to make on the West Side this afternoon I'll look in at a
furniture store I know over there."
It was just as the wagon dashed away that old Jacob Spraggins struck
the sideboard with his fist and made the mysterious remark about
ten thousand dollars that you perhaps remember. Which justifies the
reflection that some stories, as well as life, and puppies thrown into
wells, move around in circles. Painfully but briefly we must shed light
on Jacob's words.
The foundation of his fortune was made when he was twenty. A poor
coal-digger (ever hear of a rich one?) had saved a dollar or two and
bought a small tract of land on a hillside on which he tried to raise
corn. Not a nubbin. Jacob, whose nose was a divining-rod, told him there
was a vein of coal beneath. He bought the land from the miner for $125
and sold it a month afterward for $10,000. Luckily the miner had enough
left of his sale money to drink himself into a black coat opening in the
back, as soon as he heard the news.
And so, for forty years afterward, we find Jacob illuminated with the
sudden thought that if he could make restitution of this sum of money
to the heirs or assigns of the unlucky miner, respite and Nepenthe might
And now must come swift action, for we have here some four thousand
words and not a tear shed and never a pistol, joke, safe, nor bottle
Old Jacob hired a dozen private detectives to find the heirs, if any
existed, of the old miner, Hugh McLeod.
Get the point? Of course I know as well as you do that Thomas is going
to be the heir. I might have concealed the name; but why always hold
back your mystery till the end? I say, let it come near the middle so
people can stop reading there if they want to.
After the detectives had trailed false clues about three thousand
dollars--I mean miles--they cornered Thomas at the grocery and got his
confession that Hugh McLeod had been his grandfather, and that there
were no other heirs. They arranged a meeting for him and old Jacob one
morning in one of their offices.
Jacob liked the young man very much. He liked the way he looked straight
at him when he talked, and the way he threw his bicycle cap over the top
of a rose-colored vase on the centre-table.
There was a slight flaw in Jacob's system of restitution. He did not
consider that the act, to be perfect, should include confession. So he
represented himself to be the agent of the purchaser of the land who had
sent him to refund the sale price for the ease of his conscience.
"Well, sir," said Thomas, "this sounds to me like an illustrated
post-card from South Boston with 'We're having a good time here' written
on it. I don't know the game. Is this ten thousand dollars money, or do
I have to save so many coupons to get it?"
Old Jacob counted out to him twenty five-hundred-dollar bills.
That was better, he thought, than a check. Thomas put them thoughtfully
into his pocket.
"Grandfather's best thanks," he said, "to the party who sends it."
Jacob talked on, asking him about his work, how he spent his leisure
time, and what his ambitions were. The more he saw and heard of Thomas,
the better he liked him. He had not met many young men in Bagdad so
frank and wholesome.
"I would like to have you visit my house," he said. "I might help you in
investing or laying out your money. I am a very wealthy man. I have a
daughter about grown, and I would like for you to know her. There are
not many young men I would care to have call on her."
"I'm obliged," said Thomas. "I'm not much at making calls. It's
generally the side entrance for mine. And, besides, I'm engaged to a
girl that has the Delaware peach crop killed in the blossom. She's a
parlor maid in a house where I deliver goods. She won't be working
there much longer, though. Say, don't forget to give your friend my
grandfather's best regards. You'll excuse me now; my wagon's outside
with a lot of green stuff that's got to be delivered. See you again,
At eleven Thomas delivered some bunches of parsley and lettuce at the
Spraggins mansion. Thomas was only twenty-two; so, as he came back,
he took out the handful of five-hundred-dollar bills and waved them
carelessly. Annette took a pair of eyes as big as creamed onion to the
"I told you he was a count," she said, after relating. "He never would
carry on with me."
"But you say he showed money," said the cook.
"Hundreds of thousands," said Annette. "Carried around loose in his
pockets. And he never would look at me."
"It was paid to me to-day," Thomas was explaining to Celia outside. "It
came from my grandfather's estate. Say, Cele, what's the use of waiting
now? I'm going to quit the job to-night. Why can't we get married next