Part 6 out of 8
have come to understand each other better, but he is still
disappointed in me. I'm afraid I don't count for much as a
business man, you see; and, besides, Grandfather can never quite
forget that I am the son of what he calls a Portygee play actor."
Mrs. Ellis looked at him earnestly. "He's forgettin' it better
every day, Albert," she said. "I do declare I never believed
Capt'n Lote Snow could forget it the way he's doin'. And you--
well, you've forgot a whole lot, too. Memory's a good thing, the
land knows," she added, sagely, "but a nice healthy forgetery is
worth consider'ble--some times and in some cases."
Issachar Price's comments on his fellow employee's decision to
become a soldier were pointed. Issy was disgusted.
"For thunder sakes, Al," he demanded, "'tain't true that you've
enlisted to go to war and fight them Germans, is it?"
Albert smiled. "I guess it is, Issy," he replied.
"Well, by crimus!"
"Somebody had to go, you see, Is."
"Well, by crimustee!"
"What's the matter, Issy? Don't you approve?"
"Approve! No, by crimus, I don't approve! I think it's a divil of
a note, that's what I think."
"WHY? Who's goin' to do the work in this office while you're gone?
Labe and me, that's who; and I'll do the heft of it. Slavin'
myself half to death as 'tis and now-- Oh, by crimustee! This war
is a darned nuisance. It hadn't ought to be allowed. There'd
ought to be a law against it."
But of all the interviews which followed Albert's decision the most
surprising and that which he was the least likely to forget was his
interview with Laban Keeler. It took place on the evening of the
third day following the announcement of his intention to enlist.
All that day, and indeed for several days, Albert had noted in the
little bookkeeper certain symptoms, familiar symptoms they were and
from experience the young man knew what they portended. Laban was
very nervous, his fingers twitched as he wrote, occasionally he
rose from his chair and walked up and down the room, he ran his
hand through his scanty hair, he was inclined to be irritable--that
is, irritable for him. Albert had noted the symptoms and was
sorry. Captain Zelotes noted them and frowned and pulled his
"Al," he said to his grandson, "if you can put off goin' up to
enlist for a little spell, a few days, I wish you would. Labe's
gettin' ready to go on one of his vacations."
Albert nodded. "I'm afraid he is," he said.
"Oh, it's as sartin as two and two makes four. I've lived with him
too many years not to know the signs. And I did hope," he added,
regretfully, "that maybe he was tryin' to break off. It's been a
good long spell, an extry long spell, since he had his last spree.
Ah hum! it's a pity a good man should have that weak spot in him,
ain't it? But if you could hang around a few more days, while the
vacation's goin' on, I'd appreciate it, Al. I kind of hate to be
left here alone with nobody but Issachar to lean on. Issy's a good
deal like a post in some ways, especially in the makeup of his
head, but he's too ricketty to lean on for any length of time."
That evening Albert went to the post-office for the mail. On his
way back as he passed the dark corner by the now closed and
shuttered moving-picture theater he was hailed in a whisper.
"Al," said a voice, "Al."
Albert turned and peered into the deep shadow of the theater
doorway. In the summer this doorway was a blaze of light and
gaiety; now it was cold and bleak and black enough. From the
shadow a small figure emerged on tiptoe.
"Al," whispered Mr. Keeler. "That's you, ain't it? Yes, yes--yes,
yes, yes--I thought 'twas, I thought so."
Albert was surprised. For one thing it was most unusual to see the
little bookkeeper abroad after nine-thirty. His usual evening
procedure, when not on a vacation, was to call upon Rachel Ellis at
the Snow place for an hour or so and then to return to his room
over Simond's shoe store, which room he had occupied ever since the
building was erected.
There he read, so people said, until eleven sharp, when his lamp was
extinguished. During or at the beginning of the vacation periods he
usually departed for some unknown destination, destinations which,
apparently, varied. He had been seen, hopelessly intoxicated, in
Bayport, in Ostable, in Boston, once in Providence. When he
returned he never seemed to remember exactly where he had been.
And, as most people were fond of and pitied him, few questions were
"Why, Labe!" exclaimed Albert. "Is that you? What's the matter?"
"Busy, are you, Al?" queried Laban. "In a hurry, eh? Are you? In
a hurry, Al, eh?"
"Why no, not especially."
"Could you--could you spare me two or three minutes? Two or three
minutes--yes, yes? Come up to my room, could you--could you, Al?"
"Yes indeed. But what is it, Labe?"
"I want to talk. Want to talk, I do. Yes, yes, yes. Saw you go
by and I've been waitin' for you. Waitin'--yes, I have--yes."
He seized his assistant by the arm and led him across the road
toward the shoe store. Albert felt the hand on his arm tremble
"Are you cold, Labe?" he asked. "What makes you shiver so?"
"Eh? Cold? No, I ain't cold--no, no, no. Come, Al, come."
Albert sniffed suspiciously, but no odor of alcohol rewarded the
sniff. Neither was there any perfume of peppermint, Mr. Keeler's
transparent camouflage at a vacation's beginning. And Laban was
not humming the refrain glorifying his "darling hanky-panky."
Apparently he had not yet embarked upon the spree which Captain
Lote had pronounced imminent. But why did he behave so queerly?
"I ain't the way you think, Al," declared the little man, divining
his thought. "I'm just kind of shaky and nervous, that's all.
That's all, that's all, that's all. Yes, yes. Come, come! COME!"
The last "come" burst from him in an agony of impatience. Albert
hastened up the narrow stairs, Laban leading the way. The latter
fumbled with a key, his companion heard it rattling against the
keyhole plate. Then the door opened. There was a lamp, its wick
turned low, burning upon the table in the room. Mr. Keeler turned
it up, making a trembly job of the turning. Albert looked about
him; he had never been in that room before.
It was a small room and there was not much furniture in it. And it
was a neat room, for the room of an old bachelor who was his own
chambermaid. Most things seemed to have places where they belonged
and most of them appeared to be in those places. What impressed
Albert even more was the number of books. There were books
everywhere, in the cheap bookcase, on the pine shelf between the
windows, piled in the corners, heaped on the table beside the lamp.
They were worn and shabby volumes for the most part, some with but
half a cover remaining, some with none. He picked up one of the
latter. It was Locke on The Human Understanding; and next it, to
his astonishment, was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Mr. Keeler looked over his shoulder and, for an instant, the
whimsical smile which was characteristic of him curved his lip.
"Philosophy, Al," he observed. "If Locke don't suit you try the
'mad hatter' feller. I get consider'ble comfort out of the hatter,
myself. Do you remember when the mouse was tellin' the story about
the three sisters that lived in the well? He said they lived on
everything that began with M. Alice says 'Why with an M?' And the
hatter, or the March hare, I forget which 'twas, says prompt, 'Why
not?' . . . Yes, yes, why not? that's what he said. . . . There's
some philosophy in that, Al. Why does a hen go across the road?
Why not? Why is Labe Keeler a disgrace to all his friends and the
town he lives in? Why not? . . . Eh? . . . Yes, yes. That's it--
He smiled again, but there was bitterness and not humor in the
smile. Albert put a hand on his shoulder.
"Why, Labe," he asked, in concern, "what is it?"
Laban turned away.
"Don't mind, me, Al," he said, hurriedly. "I mean don't mind if I
act funny. I'm--I'm kind of--of-- Oh, good Lord A'mighty, DON'T
look at me like that! . . . I beg your pardon, Al. I didn't mean
to bark like a dog at you. No, I didn't--no, no. Forgive me, will
you? Will you, Al, eh?"
"Of course I will. But what is the matter, Labe? Sit down and
tell me about it."
Instead of sitting the little bookkeeper began to walk up and down.
"Don't mind me, Al," he said, hurriedly. "Don't mind me. Let me
go my own gait. My own gait--yes, yes. You see, Al, I--I'm tryin'
to enlist, same as you're goin' to do, and--and MY fight's begun
already. Yes indeed--yes, yes--it has so."
Albert was more astonished than ever. There was no smell of
alcohol, and Keeler had declared that he had not been drinking;
"You're going to ENLIST?" repeated Albert. "YOU? Why, Labe, what--"
Laban laughed nervously. "Not to kill the Kaiser," he replied.
"No, no, not that--not exactly. I'd like to, only I wouldn't be
much help that way. But--but Al, I--I want to do somethin'. I--
I'd like to try to show--I'd like to be an American, a decent
American, and the best way to begin, seems to me, is to try and be
a man, a decent man. Eh? You understand, I--I-- Oh, Lord, what a
mess I am makin' of this! I--I-- Al," turning and desperately
waving his hands, "I'm goin' to try to swear off. Will you help
Albert's answer was enthusiastic. "You bet I will!" he exclaimed.
Keeler smiled pathetically.
"It's goin' to be some job, I cal'late," he said. "Some job, yes,
yes. But I'm goin' to try it, Al. I read in the papers 'tother
day that America needed every man. Then you enlisted, Al,--or
you're goin' to enlist. It set me to thinkin' I'd try to enlist,
too. For the duration of the war, eh? Yes, yes."
"Good for you, Labe! Bully!"
Laban held up a protesting hand. "Don't hurrah yet, Al," he said.
"This ain't the first time I've tried it. I've swore off a dozen
times in the last fifteen years. I've promised Rachel and broke
the promise over and over again. Broke my promise to her, the best
woman in the world. Shows what I am, what sort I am, don't it, Al?
Yes, it does,--yes, yes. And she's stuck by me, too, Lord knows
why. Last time I broke it I said I'd never promise her again. Bad
enough to be a common drunk without bein' a liar--yes, yes. But
this is a little different. Seems to me--seems so."
He began his pacing up and down again.
"Seems different, somehow," he went on. "Seems like a new chance.
I want to do somethin' for Uncle Sam. I--I'd like to try and
enlist for the duration of the war--swear off for that long,
anyhow. Then, maybe, I'd be able to keep on for life, you know--
duration of Labe Keeler, eh? Yes, yes, yes. But I could begin for
just the war, couldn't I? Maybe, 'twould fool me into thinkin'
that was easier."
"Of course, Labe. It's a good idea."
"Maybe; and maybe it's a fool one. But I'm goin' to try it. I AM
tryin' it, have been all day."
He paused, drew a shaking hand across his forehead and then asked,
"Al, will you help me? I asked you up here hopin' you would. Will
you, Al, eh? Will you?"
Albert could not understand how he could possibly help another man
keep the pledge, but his promise was eagerly given.
"Certainly, Labe," he said.
"Thanks . . . thank you, Al. . . . And now will you do something
for me--a favor?"
"Gladly. What is it?"
Laban did not answer at once. He appeared to be on the point of
doing so, but to be struggling either to find words or to overcome
a tremendous reluctance. When he did speak the words came in a
"Go down stairs," he cried. "Down those stairs you came up. At
the foot of 'em, in a kind of cupboard place, under 'em, there's--
there probably is a jug, a full jug. It was due to come by express
to-day and I cal'late it did, cal'late Jim Young fetched it down
this afternoon. I--I could have looked for myself and seen if
'twas there," he added, after a momentary hesitation, "but--but I
didn't dare to. I was afraid I'd--I'd--"
"All right, Labe. I understand. What do you want me to do with it
if it is there?"
"I want you--I want you to--to--" The little bookkeeper seemed to
be fighting another internal battle between inclination and
resolution. The latter won, for he finished with, "I want you to
take it out back of the buildin' and--and empty it. That's what I
want you to do, empty it, Al, every drop. . . . And, for the
Almighty's sake, go quick," he ordered, desperately, "or I'll tell
you not to before you start. Go!"
Albert went. He fumbled in the cupboard under the stairs, found
the jug--a large one and heavy--and hastened out into the night
with it in his hands. Behind the shoe store, amid a heap of old
packing boxes and other rubbish, he emptied it. The process was
rather lengthy and decidedly fragrant. As a finish he smashed the
jug with a stone. Then he climbed the stairs again.
Laban was waiting for him, drops of perspiration upon his forehead.
"Was--was it there?" he demanded.
"Yes, yes. 'Twas there, eh? And did you--did you--?"
"Yes, I did, jug and all."
"Thank you, Al . . . thank you . . . I--I've been trying to muster
up spunk enough to do it myself, but--but I swan I couldn't. I
didn't dast to go nigh it . . . I'm a fine specimen, ain't I,
now?" he added, with a twisted smile. "Some coward, eh? Yes, yes.
Albert, realizing a little of the fight the man was making, was
affected by it. "You're a brick, Labe," he declared, heartily.
"And as for being a coward-- Well, if I am half as brave when my
turn comes I shall be satisfied."
Laban shook his head. "I don't know how scared I'd be of a German
bombshell," he said, "but I'm everlastin' sure I wouldn't run from
it for fear of runnin' towards it, and that's how I felt about that
jug. . . . Yes, yes, yes. I did so . . . I'm much obliged to
you, Al. I shan't forget it--no, no. I cal'late you can trot
along home now, if you want to. I'm pretty safe--for to-night,
anyhow. Guess likely the new recruit won't desert afore morning."
But Albert, watching him intently, refused to go.
"I'm going to stay for a while, Labe," he said. "I'm not a bit
sleepy, really. Let's have a smoke and talk together. That is, of
course, unless you want to go to bed."
Mr. Keeler smiled his twisted smile. "I ain't crazy to," he said.
"The way I feel now I'd get to sleep about week after next. But I
hadn't ought to keep you up, Al."
"Rubbish! I'm not sleepy, I tell you. Sit down. Have a cigar.
Now what shall we talk about? How would books do? What have you
been reading lately, Labe?"
They smoked and talked books until nearly two. Then Laban insisted
upon his guest departing. "I'm all right, Al" he declared,
earnestly. "I am honest--yes, yes, I am. I'll go to sleep like a
lamb, yes indeed."
"You'll be at the office in the morning, won't you, Labe?"
The little bookkeeper nodded. "I'll be there," he said. "Got to
answer roll call the first mornin' after enlistment. Yes, yes.
I'll be there, Al."
He was there, but he did not look as if his indulgence in the lamb-
like sleep had been excessive. He was so pale and haggard that his
assistant was alarmed.
"You're not sick, are you, Labe?" he asked, anxiously. Laban shook
"No," he said. "No, I ain't sick. Been doin' picket duty up and
down the room since half past three, that's all. Um-hm, that's
all. Say, Al, if General what's-his-name--er--von Hindenburg--is
any harder scrapper than old Field Marshal Barleycorn he's a pretty
tough one. Say, Al, you didn't say anything about--about my--er--
enlistin' to Cap'n Lote, did you? I meant to ask you not to."
"I didn't, Labe. I thought you might want it kept a secret."
"Um-hm. Better keep it in the ranks until we know how this first--
er--skirmish is comin' out. Yes, yes. Better keep it that way.
All day he stuck manfully at his task and that evening, immediately
after supper, Albert went to the room over the shoe store, found
him there and insisted upon his coming over to call upon Rachel.
He had not intended doing so.
"You see, Al," he explained, "I'm--I'm kind of--er--shaky and
Rachel will be worried, I'm afraid. She knows me pretty well and
she'll cal'late I'm just gettin' ready to--to bust loose again."
Albert interrupted. "No, she won't, Laban," he said. "We'll show
her that you're not."
"You won't say anything to her about my--er--enlistin', Al? Don't.
No, no. I've promised her too many times--and broke the promises.
If anything should come of this fight of mine I'd rather she'd find
it out for herself. Better to surprise her than to disapp'int her.
Yes, yes, lots better."
Albert promised not to tell Rachel and so Laban made his call.
When it was over the young man walked home with him and the pair
sat and talked until after midnight, just as on the previous night.
The following evening it was much the same, except that, as Mr.
Keeler pronounced himself more than usually "shaky" and expressed a
desire to "keep movin'," they walked half way to Orham and back
before parting. By the end of the week Laban declared the fight
won--for the time.
"You've pulled me through the fust tussle, Al," he said. "I shan't
desert now, not till the next break-out, anyhow. I cal'late it'll
get me harder than ever then. Harder than ever--yes, yes. And you
won't be here to help me, neither."
"Never mind; I shall be thinking of you, Labe. And I know you're
going to win. I feel it in my bones."
"Um-hm. . . . Yes, yes, yes. . . In your bones, eh? Well, MY
bones don't seem to feel much, except rheumatics once in a while.
I hope yours are better prophets, but I wouldn't want to bet too
high on it. No, I wouldn't--no, no. However, we'll do our best,
and they say angels can't do any more--though they'd probably do it
in a different way . . . some different. . . . Um-hm. . . . Yes,
Two letters came to Albert before that week ended. The first was
from Madeline. He had written her of his intention to enlist and
this was her reply. The letter had evidently been smuggled past
the censor, for it contained much which Mrs. Fosdick would have
blue-penciled. Its contents were a blend of praise and blame, of
exaltation and depression. He was a hero, and so brave, and she
was so proud of him. It was wonderful his daring to go, and just
what she would have expected of her hero. If only she might see
him in his uniform. So many of the fellows she knew had enlisted.
They were wonderfully brave, too, although of course nothing like
as wonderful as her own etcetera, etcetera. She had seen some of
THEM in their uniforms and they were PERFECTLY SPLENDID. But they
were officers, or they were going to be. Why wasn't he going to be
an officer? It was so much nicer to be an officer. And if he were
one he might not have to go away to fight nearly so soon. Officers
stayed here longer and studied, you know. Mother had said
something about "a common private," and she did not like it. But
never mind, she would be just as proud no matter what he was. And
she should dream of him and think of him always and always. And
perhaps he might be so brave and wonderful that he would be given
one of those war crosses, the Croix de Guerre or something. She
was sure he would. But oh, no matter what happened, he must not go
where it was TOO dangerous. Suppose he should be wounded. Oh,
suppose, SUPPOSE he should be killed. What would she do then?
What would become of her? MUST he go, after all? Couldn't he stay
at home and study or something, for a while, you know? She should
be so lonely after he was gone. And so frightened and so anxious.
And he wouldn't forget her, would he, no matter where he went?
Because she never, never, never would forget him for a moment. And
he must write every day. And--
The letter was fourteen pages long.
The other letter was a surprise. It was from Helen. The Reverend
Mr. Kendall had been told of Albert's intended enlistment and had
written his daughter.
So you are going into the war, Albert (she wrote). I am not
surprised because I expected you would do just that. It is what
all of us would like to do, I'm sure, and you were always anxious
to go, even before the United States came in. So I am writing this
merely to congratulate you and to wish you the very best of good
luck. Father says you are not going to try for a commission but
intend enlisting as a private. I suppose that is because you think
you may get to the actual fighting sooner. I think I understand
and appreciate that feeling too, but are you sure it is the best
plan? You want to be of the greatest service to the country and
with your education and brains-- This ISN'T flattery, because it
is true--don't you think you might help more if you were in command
of men? Of course I don't know, being only a girl, but I have been
wondering. No doubt you know best and probably it is settled
before this; at any rate, please don't think that I intend butting
in. "Butting in" is not at all a proper expression for a
schoolmarm to use but it is a relief to be human occasionally.
Whatever you do I am sure will be the right thing and I know all
your friends are going to be very, very proud of you. I shall hear
of you through the people at home, I know, and I shall be anxious
to hear. I don't know what I shall do to help the cause, but I
hope to do something. A musket is prohibitive to females but the
knitting needle is ours and I CAN handle that, if I do say it. And
I MAY go in for Red Cross work altogether. But I don't count much,
and you men do, and this is your day. Please, for the sake of your
grandparents and all your friends, don't take unnecessary chances.
I can see your face as you read that and think that I am a silly
idiot. I'm not and I mean what I say. You see I know YOU and I
know you will not be content to do the ordinary thing. We want you
to distinguish yourself, but also we want you to come back whole
and sound, if it is possible. We shall think of you a great deal.
And please, in the midst of the excitement of the BIG work you are
doing, don't forget us home folk, including your friend,
Albert's feelings when he read this letter were divided. He
enjoyed hearing from Helen. The letter was just like herself,
sensible and good-humored and friendly. There were no hysterics in
it and no heroics but he knew that no one except his grandparents
and Rachel and Laban--and, of course, his own Madeline--would think
of him oftener or be more anxious for his safety and welfare than
Helen. He was glad she was his friend, very glad. But he almost
wished she had not written. He felt a bit guilty at having
received the letter. He was pretty sure that Madeline would not
like the idea. He was tempted to say nothing concerning it in his
next letter to his affianced, but that seemed underhanded and
cowardly, so he told her. And in her next letter to him Madeline
made no reference at all to Helen or her epistle, so he knew she
was displeased. And he was miserable in consequence.
But his misery did not last long. The happenings which followed
crowded it from his mind, and from Madeline's also, for that
matter. One morning, having told no one except his grandfather
of his intention, he took the morning train to Boston. When he
returned the next day he was Uncle Sam's man, sworn in and
accepted. He had passed the physical examination with flying
colors and the recruiting officers expressed themselves as being
glad to get him. He was home for but one day leave, then he must
go to stay. He had debated the question of going in for a
commission, but those were the early days of our participation in
the war and a Plattsburg training or at least some sort of military
education was almost an essential. He did not want to wait; as he
had told his grandfather, he wanted to fight. So he enlisted as a
And when the brief leave was over he took the train for Boston,
no longer Alberto Miguel Carlos Speranza, South Harniss's Beau
Brummel, poet and Portygee, but Private Speranza, U.S.A. The
farewells were brief and no one cried--much. His grandmother
hugged and kissed him, Rachel looked very much as if she wanted to.
Laban and Issachar shook hands with him.
"Good luck to you, boy," said Mr. Keeler. "All the luck there is."
"Same to you, old man," replied Albert. Then, in a lower tone, he
added, "We'll fight it out together, eh?"
"We'll try. Yes, yes. We'll try. So long, Al."
Issachar struck the reassuring note. "Don't fret about things in
the office," he said. "I'll look out for 'em long's I keep my
"Be sure and keep that, Issy."
"You bet you! Only thing that's liable to break it down is over-
Captain Zelotes said very little. "Write us when you can, Al," he
said. "And come home whenever you get leave."
"You may be sure of that, Grandfather. And after I get to camp
perhaps you can come and see me."
"Maybe so. Will if I can. . . . Well, Al, I . . . I. . . . Good
luck to you, son."
"Thank you, Grandfather."
They shook hands. Each looked as if there was more he would have
liked to say but found the saying hard. Then the engine bell rang
and the hands fell apart. The little group on the station platform
watched the train disappear. Mrs. Snow and Rachel wiped their eyes
with their handkerchiefs. Captain Zelotes gently patted his wife's
"The team's waitin', Mother," he said. "Labe'll drive you and
"But--but ain't you comin', too, Zelotes?" faltered Olive. Her
husband shook his head.
"Not now, Mother," he answered. "Got to go back to the office."
He stood for an instant looking at the faint smear of smoke above
the curve in the track. Then, without another word, he strode off
in the direction of Z. Snow and Co.'s buildings. Issachar Price
"Crimus," he whispered to Laban, as the latter passed him on the
way to where Jessamine, the Snow horse, was tied, "the old man
takes it cool, don't he! I kind of imagined he'd be sort of shook
up by Al's goin' off to war, but he don't seem to feel it a mite."
Keeler looked at him in wonder. Then he drew a long breath.
"Is," he said, slowly, "it is a mighty good thing for the Seven
Wise Men of Greece that they ain't alive now."
It was Issachar's turn to stare. "Eh?" he queried. "The Seven
Wise Men of Which? Good thing for 'em they ain't alive? What kind
of talk's that? Why is it a good thing?"
Laban spoke over his shoulder. "Because," he drawled, "if they was
alive now they'd be so jealous of you they'd commit suicide. Yes,
they would. . . . Yes, yes."
With which enigmatical remark he left Mr. Price and turned his
attention to the tethered Jessamine.
And then began a new period, a new life at the Snow place and in
the office of Z. Snow and Co. Or, rather, life in the old house
and at the lumber and hardware office slumped back into the groove
in which it had run before the opera singer's son was summoned
from the New York school to the home and into the lives of his
grandparents. Three people instead of four sat down at the breakfast
table and at dinner and at supper. Captain Zelotes walked alone to
and from the office. Olive Snow no longer baked and iced large
chocolate layer cakes because a certain inmate of her household was
so fond of them. Rachel Ellis discussed Foul Play and Robert
Penfold with no one. The house was emptier, more old-fashioned and
behind the times, more lonely--surprisingly empty and behind the
times and lonely.
The daily mails became matters of intense interest and expectation.
Albert wrote regularly and of course well and entertainingly. He
described the life at the camp where he and the other recruits were
training, a camp vastly different from the enormous military towns
built later on for housing and training the drafted men. He liked
the life pretty well, he wrote, although it was hard and a fellow
had precious little opportunity to be lazy. Mistakes, too, were
unprofitable for the maker. Captain Lote's eye twinkled when he
Later on he wrote that he had been made a corporal and his
grandmother, to whom a major general and a corporal were of equal
rank, rejoiced much both at home and in church after meeting was
over and friends came to hear the news. Mrs. Ellis declared
herself not surprised. It was the Robert Penfold in him coming
out, so she said.
A month or two later one of Albert's letters contained an
interesting item of news. In the little spare time which military
life afforded him he continued to write verse and stories. Now a
New York publisher, not one of the most prominent but a reputable
and enterprising one, had written him suggesting the collecting of
his poems and their publication in book form. The poet himself
was, naturally, elated.
"Isn't it splendid!" he wrote. "The best part of it, of course, is
that he asked to publish, I did not ask him. Please send me my
scrapbook and all loose manuscript. When the book will come out
I'm sure I don't know. In fact it may never come out, we have not
gotten as far as terms and contracts yet, but I feel we shall.
Send the scrapbook and manuscript right away, PLEASE."
They were sent. In his next letter Albert was still enthusiastic.
"I have been looking over my stuff," he wrote, "and some of it is
pretty good, if you don't mind my saying so. Tell Grandfather that
when this book of mine is out and selling I may be able to show him
that poetry making isn't a pauper's job, after all. Of course I
don't know how much it will sell--perhaps not more than five or ten
thousand at first--but even at ten thousand at, say, twenty-five
cents royalty each, would be twenty-five hundred dollars, and
that's something. Why, Ben Hur, the novel, you know, has sold a
million, I believe."
Mrs. Snow and Rachel were duly impressed by this prophecy of
affluence, but Captain Zelotes still played the skeptic.
"A million at twenty-five cents a piece!" exclaimed Olive. "Why,
Zelotes, that's--that's an awful sight of money."
Mental arithmetic failing her, she set to work with a pencil and
paper and after a strenuous struggle triumphantly announced that it
came to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
"My soul and body!" she cried. "Two hundred and fifty thousand
DOLLARS! My SOUL, Zelotes! Suppose--only suppose Albert's book
brought him in as much as that!"
Her husband shook his head. "I can't, Olive," he said, without
looking up from his newspaper. "My supposer wouldn't stand the
"But it might, Zelotes, it MIGHT. Suppose it did, what would you
The captain regarded her over the top of the Transcript. "I
shouldn't say a word, Olive," he answered, solemnly. "I should be
down sick by the time it got up as far as a thousand, and anything
past two thousand you could use to buy my tombstone with. . . .
There, there, Mother," he added, noticing the hurt look on her
face, "don't feel bad. I'm only jokin'. One of these days Al's
goin' to make a nice, comf'table livin' sellin' lumber and hardware
right here in South Harniss. I can SEE that money in the offin'.
All this million or two that's comin' from poetry and such is out
of sight in the fog. It may be there but--humph! well, I KNOW
where Z. Snow and Co. is located."
Olive was not entirely placated. "I must say I think you're awful
discouragin' to the poor boy, Zelotes," she said. Her husband put
down his paper.
"No, no, I ain't, Mother," he replied, earnestly. "At least I
don't mean to be. Way I look at it, this poetry-makin' and writin'
yarns and that sort of stuff is just part of the youngster's--er--
growin' up, as you might say. Give him time he'll grow out of it,
same as I cal'late he will out of this girl business, this--er--
Madel--humph--er--ahem. . . . Looks like a good day to-morrow,
He pulled up suddenly, and with considerable confusion. He had
kept the news of his grandson's infatuation and engagement even
from his wife. No one in South Harniss knew of it, no one except
the captain. Helen Kendall knew, but she was in Boston.
Rachel Ellis picked up the half knitted Red Cross mitten in her
lap. "Well, I don't know whether he's right or you are, Cap'n
Lote," she said, with a sigh, "but this I do know--I wish this
awful war was over and he was back home again."
That remark ended the conversation. Olive resumed her own knitting,
seeing it but indistinctly. Her husband did not continue his
newspaper reading. Instead he rose and, saying something about
cal'latin' he would go for a little walk before turning in, went out
into the yard.
But the war did not end, it went on; so too did the enlisting and
training. In the early summer Albert came home for a two days'
leave. He was broader and straighter and browner. His uniform
became him and, more than ever, the eyes of South Harniss's
youthful femininity, native or imported, followed him as he walked
the village streets. But the glances were not returned, not in
kind, that is. The new Fosdick home, although completed, was not
occupied. Mrs. Fosdick had, that summer, decided that her duties
as mover in goodness knows how many war work activities prevented
her taking her "usual summer rest." Instead she and Madeline
occupied a rented villa at Greenwich, Connecticut, coming into town
for meetings of all sorts. Captain Zelotes had his own suspicions
as to whether war work alone was the cause of the Fosdicks'
shunning of what was to have been their summer home, but he kept
those suspicions to himself. Albert may have suspected also, but
he, too, said nothing. The censored correspondence between
Greenwich and the training camp traveled regularly, and South
Harniss damsels looked and longed in vain. He saw them, he bowed
to them, he even addressed them pleasantly and charmingly, but to
him they were merely incidents in his walks to and from the post-
office. In his mind's eye he saw but one, and she, alas, was not
present in the flesh.
Then he returned to the camp where, later on, Captain Zelotes and
Olive visited him. As they came away the captain and his grandson
exchanged a few significant words.
"It is likely to be almost any time, Grandfather," said Albert,
quietly. "They are beginning to send them now, as you know by the
papers, and we have had the tip that our turn will be soon. So--"
Captain Lote grasped the significance of the uncompleted sentence.
"I see, Al," he answered, "I see. Well, boy, I--I-- Good luck."
"Good luck, Grandfather."
That was all, that and one more handclasp. Our Anglo-Saxon
inheritance descends upon us in times like these. The captain was
silent for most of the ride to the railroad station.
Then followed a long, significant interval during which there were
no letters from the young soldier. After this a short reassuring
cablegram from "Somewhere in France." "Safe. Well," it read and
Olive Snow carried it about with her, in the bosom of her gown, all
that afternoon and put it upon retiring on her bureau top so that
she might see it the first thing in the morning.
Another long interval, then letters, the reassuring but so
tantalizingly unsatisfactory letters we American families were,
just at that time, beginning to receive. Reading the newspapers
now had a personal interest, a terrifying, dreadful interest. Then
the packing and sending of holiday boxes, over the contents of
which Olive and Rachel spent much careful planning and anxious
preparation. Then another interval of more letters, letters which
hinted vaguely at big things just ahead.
Then no letter for more than a month.
And then, one noon, as Captain Zelotes returned to his desk after
the walk from home and dinner, Laban Keeler came in and stood
beside that desk.
The captain, looking up, saw the little bookkeeper's face. "What
is it, Labe?" he asked, sharply.
Laban held a yellow envelope in his hand.
"It came while you were gone to dinner, Cap'n," he said. "Ben
Kelley fetched it from the telegraph office himself. He--he said
he didn't hardly want to take it to the house. He cal'lated you'd
better have it here, to read to yourself, fust. That's what he
said--yes, yes--that's what 'twas, Cap'n."
Slowly Captain Zelotes extended his hand for the envelope. He did
not take his eyes from the bookkeeper's face.
"Ben--Ben, he told me what was in it, Cap'n Lote," faltered Laban.
"I--I don't know what to say to you, I don't--no, no."
Without a word the captain took the envelope from Keeler's fingers,
and tore it open. He read the words upon the form within.
Laban leaned forward.
"For the Lord sakes, Lote Snow," he cried, in a burst of agony,
"why couldn't it have been some darn good-for-nothin' like me
instead--instead of him? Oh, my God A'mighty, what a world this
is! WHAT a world!"
Still Captain Zelotes said nothing. His eyes were fixed upon the
yellow sheet of paper on the desk before him. After a long minute
"Well," he said, very slowly, "well, Labe, there goes--there goes
Z. Snow and Company."
The telegram from the War Department was brief, as all such
telegrams were perforce obliged to be. The Secretary of War,
through his representative, regretted to inform Captain Zelotes
Snow that Sergeant Albert Speranza had been killed in action upon a
certain day. It was enough, however--for the time quite enough.
It was not until later that the little group of South Harniss
recovered sufficiently from the stunning effect of those few words
to think of seeking particulars. Albert was dead; what did it
matter, then, to know how he died?
Olive bore the shock surprisingly well. Her husband's fears for
her seemed quite unnecessary. The Captain, knowing how she had
idolized her daughter's boy, had dreaded the effect which the news
might have upon her. She was broken down by it, it is true, but
she was quiet and brave--astonishingly, wonderfully quiet and
brave. And it was she, rather than her husband, who played the
part of the comforter in those black hours.
"He's gone, Zelotes," she said. "It don't seem possible, I know,
but he's gone. And he died doin' his duty, same as he would have
wanted to die if he'd known 'twas comin', poor boy. So--so we must
do ours, I suppose, and bear up under it the very best we can. It
won't be very long, Zelotes," she added. "We're both gettin' old."
Captain Lote made no reply. He was standing by the window of the
sitting-room looking out into the wet backyard across which the
wind-driven rain was beating in stormy gusts.
"We must be brave, Zelotes," whispered Olive, tremulously. "He'd
want us to be and we MUST be."
He put his arm about her in a sudden heat of admiration. "I'd be
ashamed not to be after seein' you, Mother," he exclaimed.
He went out to the barn a few moments later and Rachel, entering
the sitting-room, found Olive crumpled down in the big rocker in an
agony of grief.
"Oh, don't, Mrs. Snow, don't," she begged, the tears streaming down
her own cheeks. "You mustn't give way to it like this; you mustn't."
"I know it, I know it," she admitted, chokingly, wiping her eyes
with a soaked handkerchief. "I shan't, Rachel, only this once, I
promise you. You see I can't. I just can't on Zelotes's account.
I've got to bear up for his sake."
The housekeeper was surprised and a little indignant.
"For his sake!" she repeated. "For mercy sakes why for his sake?
Is it any worse for him than 'tis for you."
"Oh, yes, yes, lots worse. He won't say much, of course, bein'
Zelotes Snow, but you and I know how he's planned, especially these
last years, and how he's begun to count on--on Albert. . . . No,
no, I ain't goin' to cry, Rachel, I ain't--I WON'T--but sayin' his
name, you know, kind of--"
"I know, I know. Land sakes, DON'T I know! Ain't I doin' it
"Course you are, Rachel. But we mustn't when Zelotes is around.
We women, we--well, times like these women HAVE to keep up. What
would become of the men if we didn't?"
So she and Rachel "kept up" in public and when the captain was
present, and he for his part made no show of grief nor asked for
pity. He was silent, talked little and to the callers who came
either at the house or office was uncomplaining.
"He died like a man," he told the Reverend Mr. Kendall when the
latter called. "He took his chance, knowin' what that meant--"
"He was glad to take it," interrupted the minister. "Proud and
glad to take it."
"Sartin. Why not? Wouldn't you or I have been glad to take ours,
if we could?"
"Well, Captain Snow, I am glad to find you so resigned."
Captain Zelotes looked at him. "Resigned?" he repeated. "What do
you mean by resigned? Not to sit around and whimper is one thing--
any decent man or woman ought to be able to do that in these days;
but if by bein' resigned you mean I'm contented to have it so--
well, you're mistaken, that's all."
Only on one occasion, and then to Laban Keeler, did he open his
shell sufficiently to give a glimpse of what was inside. Laban
entered the inner office that morning to find his employer sitting
in the desk chair, both hands jammed in his trousers' pockets and
his gaze fixed, apparently, upon the row of pigeon-holes. When the
bookkeeper spoke to him he seemed to wake from a dream, for he
started and looked up.
"Cap'n Lote," began Keeler, "I'm sorry to bother you, but that last
carload of pine was--"
Captain Zelotes waved his hand, brushing the carload of pine out of
"Labe," he said, slowly, "did it seem to you that I was too hard on
Laban did not understand. "Hard on him?" he repeated. "I don't
know's I just get--"
"Hard on Al. Did it seem to you as if I was a little too much of
the bucko mate to the boy? Did I drive him too hard? Was I
The answer was prompt. "No, Cap'n Lote," replied Keeler.
"You mean that? . . . Um-hm. . . . Well, sometimes seems as if I
might have been. You see, Labe, when he first come I-- Well, I
cal'late I was consider'ble prejudiced against him. Account of his
father, you understand."
"Sartin. Sure. I understand."
"It took me a good while to get reconciled to the Portygee streak
in him. It chafed me consider'ble to think there was a foreign
streak in our family. The Snows have been straight Yankee for a
good long while. . . . Fact is, I--I never got really reconciled
to it. I kept bein' fearful all the time that that streak, his
father's streak, would break out in him. It never did, except of
course in his poetry and that sort of foolishness, but I was always
scared 'twould, you see. And now--now that this has happened I--I
kind of fret for fear that I may have let my notions get ahead of
my fair play. You think I did give the boy a square deal, Labe?"
"Sure thing, Cap'n."
"I'm glad of that. . . . And--and you cal'late he wasn't--wasn't
too prejudiced against me? I don't mean along at first, I mean
this last year or two."
Laban hesitated. He wished his answer to be not an overstatement,
but the exact truth.
"I think," he said, with emphasis, "that Al was comin' to understand
you better every day he lived, Cap'n. Yes, and to think more and
more of you, too. He was gettin' older, for one thing--older, more
of a man--yes, yes."
Captain Zelotes smiled sadly. "He was more boy than man by a good
deal yet," he observed. "Well, Labe, he's gone and I'm just
beginnin' to realize how much of life for me has gone along with
him. He'd been doin' better here in the office for the last two or
three years, seemed to be catchin' on to business better. Didn't
you think so, Labe?"
"Sartin. Yes indeed. Fust-rate, fust-rate."
"No, not first-rate. He was a long ways from a business man yet,
but I did think he was doin' a lot better. I could begin to see
him pilotin' this craft after I was called ashore. Now he's gone
and . . . well, I don't see much use in my fightin' to keep it
afloat. I'm gettin' along in years--and what's the use?"
It was the first time Laban had ever heard Captain Zelotes refer to
himself as an old man. It shocked him into sharp expostulation.
"Nonsense!" he exclaimed. "You ain't old enough for the scrap heap
by a big stretch. And besides, he made his fight, didn't he? He
didn't quit, Al didn't, and he wouldn't want us to. No sir-ee, he
wouldn't! No, sir, no! . . . I--I hope you'll excuse me, Cap'n
Lote. I--declare it must seem to you as if I was talkin' pretty
fresh. I swan I'm sorry. I am so . . . sorry; yes, yes, I be."
The captain was not offended. He waved the apologies aside.
"So you think it's worth while my fightin' it out, do you, Labe?"
he asked, reflectively.
"I--I think it's what you ought to do anyhow, whether it's worth
while or not. The whole world's fightin'. Uncle Sam's fightin'.
Al was fightin'. You're fightin'. I'm fightin'. It's a darn
sight easier to quit, a darn sight, but--but Al didn't quit. And--
and we mustn't--not if we can help it," he added, drawing a hand
across his forehead.
His agitation seemed to surprise Captain Zelotes. "So all hands
are fightin', are they, Labe," he observed. "Well, I presume
likely there's some truth in that. What's your particular fight,
The little bookkeeper looked at him for an instant before replying.
The captain's question was kindly asked, but there was, or so Laban
imagined, the faintest trace of sarcasm in its tone. That trace
decided him. He leaned across the desk.
"My particular fight?" he repeated. "You--you want to know what
'tis, Cap'n Lote? All right, all right, I'll tell you."
And without waiting for further questioning and with, for him,
surprisingly few repetitions, he told of his "enlistment" to fight
John Barleycorn for the duration of the war. Captain Zelotes
listened to the very end in silence. Laban mopped his forehead
with a hand which shook much as it had done during the interview
with Albert in the room above the shoe store.
"There--there," he declared, in conclusion, "that's my fight, Cap'n
Lote. Al and I, we--we kind of went into it together, as you might
say, though his enlistin' was consider'ble more heroic than mine--
yes indeed, I should say so . . . yes, yes, yes. But I'm fightin'
too . . . er . . . I'm fightin' too."
Captain Zelotes pulled his beard.
"How's the fight goin', Labe?" he asked, quietly.
"Well--well, it's kind of--kind of spotty, as you might say.
There's spots when I get along fairly smooth and others when--well,
when it's pretty rough goin'. I've had four hard spots since Al
went away, but there's two that was the hardest. One was along
Christmas and New Year time; you know I 'most generally had one of
my--er--spells along about then. And t'other is just now; I mean
since we got word about--about Al. I don't suppose likely you
surmised it, Cap'n, but--but I'd come to think a lot of that boy--
yes, I had. Seems funny to you, I don't doubt, but it's so. And
since the word come, you know--I--I--well, I've had some fight,
some fight. I--I don't cal'late I've slept more'n four hours in
the last four nights--not more'n that, no. Walkin' helps me most,
seems so. Last night I walked to West Orham."
"To West Orham! You WALKED there? Last NIGHT?"
"Um-hm. Long's I can keep walkin' I--I seem to part way forget--to
forget the stuff, you know. When I'm alone in my room I go 'most
crazy--pretty nigh loony. . . . But there! I don't know why I got
to talkin' like this to you, Cap'n Lote. You've got your troubles
"Hold on, Labe. Does Rachel know about your fight?"
"No. No, no. Course she must notice how long I've been--been
straight, but I haven't told her. I want to be sure I'm goin' to
win before I tell her. She's been disappointed times enough
before, poor woman. . . . There, Cap'n Lote, don't let's talk
about it any more. Please don't get the notion that I'm askin' for
pity or anything like that. And don't think I'm comparin' what I
call my fight to the real one like Al's. There's nothin' much
heroic about me, eh? No, no, I guess not. Tell that to look at
Captain Zelotes rose and laid his big hand on his bookkeeper's
"Don't you believe it, Labe," he said. "I'm proud of you. . . .
And, I declare, I'm ashamed of myself. . . . Humph! . . . Well,
to-night you come home with me and have supper at the house."
"Now, now, Cap'n Lote--"
"You do as I tell you. After supper, if there's any walkin' to be
done--if you take a notion to frog it to Orham or San Francisco or
somewheres--maybe I'll go with you. Walkin' may be good for my
fight, too; you can't tell till you try. . . . There, don't argue,
Labe. I'm skipper of this craft yet and you'll obey my orders;
The day following the receipt of the fateful telegram the captain
wrote a brief note to Fletcher Fosdick. A day or two later he
received a reply. Fosdick's letter was kindly and deeply
sympathetic. He had been greatly shocked and grieved by the news.
Young Speranza seemed to me, (he wrote) in my one short interview
with him, to be a fine young fellow. Madeline, poor girl, is
almost frantic. She will recover by and by, recovery is easier at
her age, but it will be very, very hard for you and Mrs. Snow. You
and I little thought when we discussed the problem of our young
people that it would be solved in this way. To you and your wife
my sincerest sympathy. When you hear particulars concerning your
grandson's death, please write me. Madeline is anxious to know and
keeps asking for them. Mrs. Fosdick is too much concerned with her
daughter's health to write just now, but she joins me in sympathetic
Captain Zelotes took Mrs. Fosdick's sympathy with a grain of salt.
When he showed this letter to his wife he, for the first time, told
her of the engagement, explaining that his previous silence had
been due to Albert's request that the affair be kept a secret for
the present. Olive, even in the depth of her sorrow, was greatly
impressed by the grandeur of the alliance.
"Just think, Zelotes," she exclaimed, "the Fosdick girl--and our
Albert engaged to marry her! Why, the Fosdicks are awful rich,
everybody says so. Mrs. Fosdick is head of I don't know how many
societies and clubs and things in New York; her name is in the
paper almost every day, so another New York woman told me at Red
Cross meetin' last summer. And Mr. Fosdick has been in politics,
way up in politics."
"Um-hm. Well, he's reformed lately, I understand, so we mustn't
hold that against him."
"Why, Zelotes, what DO you mean? How can you talk so? Just think
what it would have meant to have our Albert marry a girl like
The captain put his arm about her and gently patted her shoulder.
"There, there, Mother," he said, gently, "don't let that part of it
"But, Zelotes," tearfully, "I don't understand. It would have been
such a great thing for Albert."
"Would it? Well, maybe. Anyhow, there's no use worryin' about it
now. It's done with--ended and done with . . . same as a good many
other plans that's been made in the world."
"Zelotes, don't speak like that, dear, so discouraged. It makes me
feel worse than ever to hear you. And--and he wouldn't want you
to, I'm sure."
"Wouldn't he? No, I cal'late you're right, Mother. We'll try not
Other letters came, including one from Helen. It was not long.
Mrs. Snow was a little inclined to feel hurt at its brevity. Her
husband, however, did not share this feeling.
"Have you read it carefully, Mother?" he asked.
"Of course I have, Zelotes. What do you mean?"
"I mean--well, I tell you, Mother, I've read it three time. The
first time I was like you; seemed to me as good a friend of Al and
of us as Helen Kendall ought to have written more than that. The
second time I read it I begun to wonder if--if--"
"If what, Zelotes?"
"Oh, nothin', Mother, nothin'. She says she's comin' to see us
just as soon as she can get away for a day or two. She'll come,
and when she does I cal'late both you and I are goin' to be
"But why didn't she WRITE more, Zelotes? That's what I can't
Captain Zelotes tugged at his beard reflectively. "When I wrote
Fosdick the other day," he said, "I couldn't write more than a
couple of pages. I was too upset to do it. I couldn't, that's
"Yes, but you are Albert's grandfather."
"I know. And Helen's always . . . But there, Mother, don't you
worry about Helen Kendall. I've known her since she was born,
pretty nigh, and _I_ tell you she's all RIGHT."
Fosdick, in his letter, had asked for particulars concerning
Albert's death. Those particulars were slow in coming. Captain
Zelotes wrote at once to the War Department, but received little
satisfaction. The Department would inform him as soon as it
obtained the information. The name of Sergeant Albert Speranza had
been cabled as one of a list of fatalities, that was all.
"And to think," as Rachel Ellis put it, "that we never knew that
he'd been made a sergeant until after he was gone. He never had
time to write it, I expect likely, poor boy."
The first bit of additional information was furnished by the press.
A correspondent of one of the Boston dailies sent a brief dispatch
to his paper describing the fighting at a certain point on the
Allied front. A small detachment of American troops had taken
part, with the French, in an attack on a village held by the enemy.
The enthusiastic reporter declared it to be one of the smartest
little actions in which our soldiers had so far taken part and was
eloquent concerning the bravery and dash of his fellow countrymen.
"They proved themselves," he went on, "and French officers with
whom I have talked are enthusiastic. Our losses, considering the
number engaged, are said to be heavy. Among those reported as
killed is Sergeant Albert Speranza, a Massachusetts boy whom
American readers will remember as a writer of poetry and magazine
fiction. Sergeant Speranza is said to have led his company in the
capture of the village and to have acted with distinguished
bravery." The editor of the Boston paper who first read this
dispatch turned to his associate at the next desk.
"Speranza? . . . Speranza?" he said aloud. "Say, Jim, wasn't it
Albert Speranza who wrote that corking poem we published after the
Lusitania was sunk?"
Jim looked up. "Yes," he said. "He has written a lot of pretty
good stuff since, too. Why?"
"He's just been killed in action over there, so Conway says in this
"So? . . . Humph! . . . Any particulars?"
"Not yet. 'Distinguished bravery,' according to Conway. Couldn't
we have something done in the way of a Sunday special? He was a
"We might. We haven't a photograph, have we? If we haven't,
perhaps we can get one."
The photograph was obtained--bribery and corruption of the Orham
photographer--and, accompanied by a reprint of the Lusitania poem,
appeared in the "Magazine Section" of the Sunday newspaper. With
these also appeared a short notice of the young poet's death in the
service of his country.
That was the beginning. At the middle of that week Conway sent
another dispatch. The editor who received it took it into the
office of the Sunday editor.
"Say," he said, "here are more particulars about that young chap
Speranza, the one we printed the special about last Sunday. He
must have been a corker. When his lieutenant was put out of
business by a shrapnel this Speranza chap rallied the men and
jammed 'em through the Huns like a hot knife through butter.
Killed the German officer and took three prisoners all by himself.
Carried his wounded lieutenant to the rear on his shoulders, too.
Then he went back into the ruins to get another wounded man and was
blown to slivers by a hand grenade. He's been cited in orders and
will probably be decorated by the French--that is, his memory will
be. Pretty good for a poet, I'd say. No 'lilies and languors'
about that, eh?"
The Sunday editor nodded approval.
"Great stuff!" he exclaimed. "Let me have that dispatch, will you,
when you've finished. I've just discovered that this young
Speranza's father was Speranza, the opera baritone. You remember
him? And his mother was the daughter of a Cape Cod sea captain.
How's that? Spain, Cape Cod, opera, poetry and the Croix de
Guerre. And have you looked at the young fellow's photograph?
Combination of Adonis and 'Romeo, where art thou.' I've had no
less than twenty letters about him and his poetry already. Next
Sunday we'll have a special "as is." Where can I get hold of a lot
of his poems?"
The "special as was" occupied an entire page. A reporter had
visited South Harniss and had taken photographs of the Snow place
and some of its occupants. Captain Zelotes had refused to pose,
but there was a view of the building and yards of "Z. Snow and Co."
with the picturesque figure of Mr. Issachar Price tastefully draped
against a pile of boards in the right foreground. Issy had been a
find for the reporter; he supplied the latter with every fact
concerning Albert which he could remember and some that he invented
on the spur of the moment. According to Issy, Albert was "a fine,
fust-class young feller. Him and me was like brothers, as you
might say. When he got into trouble, or was undecided or anything,
he'd come to me for advice and I always gave it to him. Land, yes!
I always give to Albert. No matter how busy I was I always stopped
work to help HIM out." The reporter added that Mr. Price stopped
work even while speaking of it.
The special attracted the notice of other newspaper editors. This
skirmish in which Albert had taken so gallant part was among the
first in which our soldiers had participated. So the story was
copied and recopied. The tale of the death of the young poet, the
"happy warrior," as some writer called him, was spread from the
Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Gulf. And just at
this psychological moment the New York publisher brought out the
long deferred volume. The Lances of Dawn, Being the Collected
Poems of Albert M. C. Speranza, such was its title.
Meanwhile, or, rather, within the week when the Lances of Dawn
flashed upon the public, Captain Zelotes received a letter from the
captain of Albert's regiment in France. It was not a long letter,
for the captain was a busy man, but it was the kindly, sympathetic
letter of one who was, literally, that well-advertised combination,
an officer and a gentleman. It told of Albert's promotion to the
rank of sergeant, "a promotion which, had the boy been spared,
would, I am sure, have been the forerunner of others." It told of
that last fight, the struggle for the village, of Sergeant
Speranza's coolness and daring and of his rush back into the throat
of death to save a wounded comrade.
The men tell me they tried to stop him (wrote the captain). He was
himself slightly wounded, he had just brought Lieutenant Stacey
back to safety and the enemy at that moment was again advancing
through the village. But he insisted upon going. The man he was
trying to rescue was a private in his company and the pair were
great friends. So he started back alone, although several followed
him a moment later. They saw him enter the ruined cottage where
his friend lay. Then a party of the enemy appeared at the corner
and flung grenades. The entire side of the cottage which he had
just entered was blown in and the Germans passed on over it,
causing our men to fall back temporarily. We retook the place
within half an hour. Private Kelly's body--it was Private Kelly
whom Sergeant Speranza was attempting to rescue--was found and
another, badly disfigured, which was at first supposed to be that
of your grandson. But this body was subsequently identified as
that of a private named Hamlin who was killed when the enemy first
charged. Sergeant Speranza's body is still missing, but is thought
to be buried beneath the ruins of the cottage. These ruins were
subsequently blown into further chaos by a high explosive shell.
Then followed more expressions of regret and sympathy and
confirmation of the report concerning citation and the war cross.
Captain Lote read the letter at first alone in his private office.
Then he brought it home and gave it to his wife to read. Afterward
he read it aloud to Mrs. Ellis and to Laban, who was making his
usual call in the Snow kitchen.
When the reading was ended Labe was the first to speak. His eyes
"Godfreys!" he exclaimed. Godfreys, Cap'n Lote!"
The captain seemed to understand.
"You're right, Labe," he said. "The boy's made us proud of
him. . . . Prouder than some of us are of ourselves, I cal'late,"
he added, rising and moving toward the door.
"Sho, sho, Cap'n, you mustn't feel that way. No, no."
"Humph! . . . Labe, I presume likely if I was a pious man, one of
the old-fashioned kind of pious, and believed the Almighty went out
of his way to get square with any human bein' that made a mistake
or didn't do the right thing--if I believed that I might figger all
this was a sort of special judgment on me for my prejudices, eh?"
Mr. Keeler was much disturbed.
"Nonsense, nonsense, Cap'n Lote!" he protested. "You ain't fair to
yourself. You never treated Al anyhow but just honest and fair and
square. If he was here now instead of layin' dead over there in
France, poor feller, he'd say so, too. Yes, he would. Course he
The captain made no reply, but walked from the room. Laban turned
to Mrs. Ellis.
"The old man broods over that," he said. "I wish. . . . Eh?
What's the matter, Rachel? What are you lookin' at me like that
The housekeeper was leaning forward in her chair, her cheeks
flushed and her hands clenched.
"How do you know he's dead?" she asked, in a mysterious whisper.
"Eh? How do I know who's dead?"
"Albert. How do you know he's dead?"
Laban stared at her.
"How do I know he's DEAD!" he repeated. "How do I know--"
"Yes, yes, yes," impatiently; "that's what I said. Don't run it
over three or four times more. How do you know Albert's dead?"
"Why, Rachel, what kind of talk's that? I know he's dead because
the newspapers say so, and the War Department folks say so, and
this cap'n man in France that was right there at the time, HE says
so. All hands say so--yes, yes. So don't--"
"Sh! I don't care if they all say so ten times over. How do they
KNOW? They ain't found him dead, have they? The report from the
War Department folks was sent when they thought that other body was
Albert's. Now they know that wasn't him. Where is he?"
"Why, under the ruins of that cottage. 'Twas all blown to pieces
and most likely--"
"Um-hm. There you are! 'Most likely!' Well, I ain't satisfied
with most likelys. I want to KNOW."
"Laban Keeler, until they find his body I shan't believe Albert's
"But, Rachel, you mustn't try to deceive yourself that way. Don't
"No, I don't see. Labe, when Robert Penfold was lost and gone for
all them months all hands thought he was dead, didn't they? But he
wasn't; he was on that island lost in the middle of all creation.
What's to hinder Albert bein' took prisoner by those Germans? They
came back to that cottage place after Albert was left there, the
cap'n says so in that letter Cap'n Lote just read. What's to
hinder their carryin' Al off with 'em? Eh? What's to hinder?"
"Why--why, nothin', I suppose, in one way. But nine chances out of
"That leaves one chance, don't it. I ain't goin' to give up that
chance for--for my boy. I--I-- Oh, Labe, I did think SO much of
"I know, Rachel, I know. Don't cry any more than you can help.
And if it helps you any to make believe--I mean to keep on hopin'
he's alive somewheres--why, do it. It won't do any harm, I
suppose. Only I wouldn't hint such a thing to Cap'n Lote or
"Of course not," indignantly. "I ain't quite a fool, I hope. . . .
And I presume likely you're right, Laban. The poor boy is dead,
probably. But I--I'm goin' to hope he isn't, anyhow, just to get
what comfort I can from it. And Robert Penfold did come back, you
For some time Laban found himself, against all reason, asking the
very question Rachel had asked: Did they actually KNOW that Albert
was dead? But as the months passed and no news came he ceased to
ask it. Whenever he mentioned the subject to the housekeeper her
invariable reply was: "But they haven't found his body, have
they?" She would not give up that tenth chance. As she seemed to
find some comfort in it he did not attempt to convince her of its
And, meanwhile The Lances of Dawn, Being the Collected Poems of
Albert M. C. Speranza was making a mild sensation. The critics
were surprisingly kind to it. The story of the young author's
recent and romantic death, of his gallantry, his handsome features
displayed in newspapers everywhere, all these helped toward the
generous welcome accorded the little volume. If the verses were
not inspired--why, they were at least entertaining and pleasant.
And youth, high-hearted youth sang on every page. So the reviewers
were kind and forbearing to the poems themselves, and, for the sake
of the dead soldier-poet, were often enthusiastic. The book sold,
for a volume of poems it sold very well indeed.
At the Snow place in South Harniss pride and tears mingled. Olive
read the verses over and over again, and wept as she read. Rachel
Ellis learned many of them by heart, but she, too, wept as she
recited them to herself or to Laban. In the little bookkeeper's
room above Simond's shoe store The Lances of Dawn lay under the
lamp upon the center table as before a shrine. Captain Zelotes
read the verses. Also he read all the newspaper notices which,
sent to the family by Helen Kendall, were promptly held before his
eyes by Olive and Rachel. He read the publisher's advertisements,
he read the reviews. And the more he read the more puzzled and
bewildered he became.
"I can't understand it, Laban," he confided in deep distress to Mr.
Keeler. "I give in I don't know anything at all about this. I'm
clean off soundin's. If all this newspaper stuff is so Albert was
right all the time and I was plumb wrong. Here's this feller,"
picking up a clipping from the desk, "callin' him a genius and 'a
gifted youth' and the land knows what. And every day or so I get a
letter from somebody I never heard of tellin' me what a comfort to
'em those poetry pieces of his are. I don't understand it, Labe.
It worries me. If all this is true then--then I was all wrong. I
tried to keep him from makin' up poetry, Labe--TRIED to, I did. If
what these folks say is so somethin' ought to be done to me. I--I--
by thunder, I don't know's I hadn't ought to be hung! . . . And
yet--and yet, I did what I thought was right and did it for the
boy's sake . . . And--and even now I--I ain't sartin I was wrong.
But if I wasn't wrong then this is . . . Oh, I don't know, I don't
And not only in South Harniss were there changes of heart. In New
York City and at Greenwich where Mrs. Fosdick was more than ever
busy with war work, there were changes. When the newspaper
accounts of young Speranza's heroic death were first published the
lady paid little attention to them. Her daughter needed all her
care just then--all the care, that is, which she could spare from
her duties as president of this society and corresponding secretary
of that. If her feelings upon hearing the news could have been
analyzed it is probable that their larger proportion would have
been a huge sense of relief. THAT problem was solved, at all
events. She was sorry for poor Madeline, of course, but the dear
child was but a child and would recover.
But as with more and more intensity the limelight of publicity was
turned upon Albert Speranza's life and death and writing, the wife
of the Honorable Fletcher Fosdick could not but be impressed. As
head of several so-called literary societies, societies rather
neglected since the outbreak of hostilities, she had made it her
business to hunt literary lions. Recently it was true that
military lions--Major Vermicelli of the Roumanian light cavalry,
or Private Drinkwater of the Tank Corps--were more in demand than
Tagores, but, as Mrs. Fosdick read of Sergeant Speranza's perils
and poems, it could not help occurring to her that here was a lion
both literary and martial. Decidedly she had not approved of her
daughter's engagement to that lion, but now the said lion was dead,
which rendered him a perfectly harmless yet not the less fascinating
animal. And then appeared The Lances of Dawn and Mrs. Fosdick's
friends among the elect began to read and talk about it.
It was then that the change came. Those friends, one by one,
individuals judiciously chosen, were told in strict confidence of
poor Madeline's romantic love affair and its tragic ending. These
individuals, chosen judiciously as has been stated, whispered, also
in strict confidence, the tale to other friends and acquaintances.
Mrs. Fosdick began to receive condolences on her daughter's account
and on her own. Soon she began to speak publicly of "My poor, dear
daughter's dead fiance. Such a loss to American literature. Sheer
genius. Have you read the article in the Timepiece? Madeline,
poor girl, is heartbroken, naturally, but very proud, even in the
midst of her grief. So are we all, I assure you."
She quoted liberally from The Lances of Dawn. A copy specially
bound, lay upon her library table. Albert's photograph in uniform,
obtained from the Snows by Mr. Fosdick, who wrote for it at his
wife's request, stood beside it. To callers and sister war workers
Mrs. Fosdick gave details of the hero's genius, his bravery, his
devotion to her daughter. It was all so romantic and pleasantly
self-advertising--and perfectly safe.
Summer came again, the summer of 1918. The newspapers now were
gravely personal reading to millions of Americans. Our new army
was trying its metal on the French front and with the British
against the vaunted Hindenburg Line. The transports were carrying
thousands on every trip to join those already "over there." In
South Harniss and in Greenwich and New York, as in every town and
city, the ordinary summer vacations and playtime occupations were
forgotten or neglected and war charities and war labors took their
place. Other soldiers than Sergeant Speranza were the newspaper
heroes now, other books than The Lances of Dawn talked about.
As on the previous summer the new Fosdick cottage was not occupied
by its owners. Mrs. Fosdick was absorbed by her multitudinous war
duties and her husband was at Washington giving his counsel and
labor to the cause. Captain Zelotes bought to his last spare
dollar of each successive issue of Liberty Bonds, and gave that
dollar to the Red Cross or the Y. M. C. A.; Laban and Rachel did
likewise. Even Issachar Price bought Thrift Stamps and exhibited
them to anyone who would stop long enough to look.
"By crimus," declared Issy, "I'm makin' myself poor helpin' out the
gov'ment, but let 'er go and darn the Kaiser, that's my motto. But
they ain't all like me. I was down to the drug store yesterday and
old man Burgess had the cheek to tell me I owed him for some cigars
I bought--er--last fall, seems to me 'twas. I turned right around
and looked at him--'I've got my opinion,' says I, 'of a man that
thinks of cigars and such luxuries when the country needs every
cent. What have you got that gov'ment poster stuck up on your wall
for?' says I. 'Read it,' I says. 'It says' '"Save! Save!
Save!"' don't it? All right. That's what I'M doin'. I AM
savin'.' Then when he was thinkin' of somethin' to answer back I
walked right out and left him. Yes sir, by crimustee, I left him
right where he stood!"
August came; September--the Hindenburg Line was broken. Each day
the triumphant headlines in the papers were big and black and also,
alas, the casualty lists on the inside pages long and longer. Then
October. The armistice was signed. It was the end. The Allied
world went wild, cheered, danced, celebrated. Then it sat back,
thinking, thanking God, solemnly trying to realize that the killing
days, the frightful days of waiting and awful anxiety, were over.
And early in November another telegram came to the office of Z.
Snow and Co. This time it came, not from the War Department
direct, but from the Boston headquarters of the American Red Cross.
And this time, just as on the day when the other fateful telegram
came, Laban Keeler was the first of the office regulars to learn
its contents. Ben Kelley himself brought this message, just as he
had brought that telling of Albert Speranza's death. And the
usually stolid Ben was greatly excited. He strode straight from
the door to the bookkeeper's desk.
"Is the old man in, Labe?" he whispered, jerking his head toward
the private office, the door of which happened to be shut.
Laban looked at him over his spectacles. "Cap'n Lote, you mean?"
he asked. "Yes, he's in. But he don't want to be disturbed--no,
no. Goin' to write a couple of important letters, he said.
Important ones. . . . Um-hm. What is it, Ben? Anything I can do
Kelley did not answer that question. Instead he took a telegram
from his pocket.
"Read it, Labe," he whispered. "Read it. It's the darndest news--
the--the darnedest good news ever you heard in your life. It don't
seem as if it could he, but, by time, I guess 'tis. Anyhow, it's
from the Red Cross folks and they'd ought to know."
Laban stared at the telegram. It was not in the usual envelope;
Kelley had been too anxious to bring it to its destination to
bother with an envelope.
"Read it," commanded the operator again. "See if you think Cap'n
Lote ought to have it broke easy to him or--or what? Read it, I
tell you. Lord sakes, it's no secret! I hollered it right out
loud when it come in over the wire and the gang at the depot heard
it. They know it and it'll be all over town in ten minutes. READ
Keeler read the telegram. His florid cheeks turned pale.
"Good Lord above!" he exclaimed, under his breath.
"Eh? I bet you! Shall I take it to the cap'n? Eh? What do you
"Wait. . . . Wait . . . I--I-- My soul! My soul! Why . . .
It's--it's true. . . . And Rachel always said . . . Why, she was
right . . . I . . ."
From without came the sound of running feet and a series of yells.
"Labe! Labe!" shrieked Issy. "Oh, my crimus! . . . Labe!"
He burst into the office, his eyes and mouth wide open and his
hands waving wildly.
"Labe! Labe!" he shouted again. "Have you heard it? Have you?
It's true, too. He's alive! He's alive! He's alive!"
Laban sprang from his stool. "Shut up, Is!" he commanded. "Shut
up! Hold on! Don't--"
"But he's alive, I tell you! He ain't dead! He ain't never been
dead! Oh, my crimus! . . . Hey, Cap'n Lote! HE'S ALIVE!"
Captain Zelotes was standing in the doorway of the private office.
The noise had aroused him from his letter writing.
"Who's alive? What's the matter with you this time, Is?" he
"Shut up, Issy," ordered Laban, seizing the frantic Mr. Price by
the collar. "Be still! Wait a minute."
"Be still? What do I want to be still for? I cal'late Cap'n
Lote'll holler some, too, when he hears. He's alive, Cap'n Lote, I
tell ye. Let go of me, Labe Keeler! He's alive!"
"Who's alive? What is it? Labe, YOU answer me. Who's alive?"
Laban's thoughts were still in a whirl. He was still shaking from
the news the telegraph operator had brought. Rachel Ellis was at
that moment in his mind and he answered as she might have done.
"Er--er--Robert Penfold," he said.
"Robert PENFOLD! What--"
Issachar could hold in no longer.
"Robert Penfold nawthin'!" he shouted. "Who in thunder's he?
'Tain't Robert Penfold nor Robert Penholder neither. It's Al
Speranza, that's who 'tis. He ain't killed, Cap'n Lote. He's
alive and he's been alive all the time."
Kelley stepped forward.
"Looks as if 'twas so, Cap'n Snow," he said. "Here's the telegram
from the Red Cross."
There was nothing miraculous about it. That is to say, it was no
more of a miracle than hundreds of similar cases in the World War.
The papers of those years were constantly printing stories of men
over whose supposed graves funeral sermons had been preached, to
whose heirs insurance payments had been made, in whose memory
grateful communities had made speeches and delivered eulogiums--
the papers were telling of instance after instance of those men
being discovered alive and in the flesh, as casuals in some French
hospital or as inmates of German prison camps.
Rachel Ellis had asked what was to hinder Albert's having been
taken prisoner by the Germans and carried off by them. As a matter
of fact nothing had hindered and that was exactly what had
happened. Sergeant Speranza, wounded by machine gun fire and again
by the explosion of the grenade, was found in the ruins of the
cottage when the detachment of the enemy captured it. He was
conscious and able to speak, so instead of being bayonetted was
carried to the rear where he might be questioned concerning the
American forces. The questioning was most unsatisfactory to the
Prussian officers who conducted it. Albert fainted, recovered
consciousness and fainted again. So at last the Yankee swine was
left to die or get well and his Prussian interrogators went about
other business, the business of escaping capture themselves. But
when they retreated the few prisoners, mostly wounded men, were
taken with them.
Albert's recollections of the next few days were hazy and very
doubtful. Pain, pain and more pain. Hours and hours--they seemed
like years--of jolting over rough roads. Pawing-over by a fat,
bearded surgeon, who may not have been intentionally brutal, but
quite as likely may. A great desire to die, punctuated by
occasional feeble spurts of wishing to live. Then more surgical
man-handling, more jolting--in freight cars this time--a slow,
miserable recovery, nurses who hated their patients and treated
them as if they did, then, a prison camp, a German prison camp.
Then horrors and starvation and brutality lasting many months.
He was wandering in that misty land between this world and the next
when, the armistice having been signed, an American Red Cross
representative found him. In the interval between fits of delirium
he told this man his name and regiment and, later, the name of his
grandparents. When it seemed sure that he was to recover the Red
Cross representative cabled the facts to this country. And, still
later, those facts, or the all-important fact that Sergeant Albert
M. C. Speranza was not dead but alive, came by telegraph to Captain
Zelotes Snow of South Harniss. And, two months after that, Captain
Zelotes himself, standing on the wharf in Boston and peering up at
a crowded deck above him, saw the face of his grandson, that face
which he had never expected to see again, looking eagerly down upon
A few more weeks and it was over. The brief interval of camp life
and the mustering out were things of the past. Captain Lote and
Albert, seated in the train, were on their way down the Cape, bound
home. Home! The word had a significance now which it never had
Albert drew a long breath. "By George!" he exclaimed. "By George,
Grandfather, this looks good to me!"
It might not have looked as good to another person. It was
raining, the long stretches of salt marsh were windswept and brown
and bleak. In the distance Cape Cod Bay showed gray and white
against a leaden sky. The drops ran down the dingy car windows.
Captain Zelotes understood, however. He nodded.
"It used to look good to me when I was bound home after a v'yage,"
he observed. "Well, son, I cal'late your grandma and Rachel are up
to the depot by this time waitin' for you. We ain't due for pretty
nigh an hour yet, but I'd be willin' to bet they're there."
Albert smiled. "My, I do want to see them!" he said.
"Shouldn't wonder a mite if they wanted to see you, boy. Well, I'm
kind of glad I shooed that reception committee out of the way. I
presumed likely you'd rather have your first day home to yourself--
"I should say so! Newspaper reporters are a lot of mighty good
fellows, but I hope I never see another one. . . . That's rather
ungrateful, I know," he added, with a smile, "but I mean it--just
He had some excuse for meaning it. The death of Albert Speranza,
poet and warrior, had made a newspaper sensation. His resurrection
and return furnished material for another. Captain Zelotes was not
the only person to meet the transport at the pier; a delegation of
reporters was there also. Photographs of Sergeant Speranza
appeared once more in print. This time, however, they were
snapshots showing him in uniform, likenesses of a still handsome,
but less boyish young man, thinner, a scar upon his right cheek,
and the look in his eyes more serious, and infinitely older, the
look of one who had borne much and seen more. The reporters found
it difficult to get a story from the returned hero. He seemed to
shun the limelight and to be almost unduly modest and retiring,
which was of itself, had they but known it, a transformation
sufficiently marvelous to have warranted a special "Sunday
"Will not talk about himself," so one writer headed his article.
Gertie Kendrick, with a brand-new ring upon her engagement finger,
sniffed as she read that headline to Sam Thatcher, who had
purchased the ring. "Al Speranza won't talk about himself!"
exclaimed Gertie. "Well, it's the FIRST time, then. No wonder
they put it in the paper."
But Albert would not talk, claiming that he had done nothing worth
talking about, except to get himself taken prisoner in almost his
first engagement. "Go and ask some of the other fellows aboard
here," he urged. "They have been all through it." As he would not
talk the newspaper men were obliged to talk for him, which they did
by describing his appearance and his manner, and by rehashing the
story of the fight in the French village. Also, of course, they
republished some of his verses. The Lances of Dawn appeared in a
special edition in honor of its author's reappearance on this
"Yes sir," continued Captain Zelotes, "the reception committee was
consider'ble disappointed. They'd have met you with the Orham band
if they'd had their way. I told 'em you'd heard all the band music
you wanted in camp, I guessed likely, and you'd rather come home
quiet. There was goin' to be some speeches, too, but I had them
"Um-hm. I had a notion you wouldn't hanker for speeches. If you
do Issy'll make one for you 'most any time. Ever since you got
into the papers Issy's been swellin' up like a hot pop-over with
pride because you and he was what he calls chummies. All last
summer Issachar spent his evenin's hangin' around the hotel waitin'
for the next boarder to mention your name. Sure as one did Is was
ready for him. 'Know him?' he'd sing out. 'Did I know Al
Speranza? ME? Well, now say!--' And so on, long as the feller
would listen. I asked him once if he ever told any of 'em how you
ducked him with the bucket of water. He didn't think I knew about
that and it kind of surprised him, I judged."
Albert smiled. "Laban told you about it, I suppose," he said.
"What a kid trick that was, wasn't it?"
The captain turned his head and regarded him for an instant. The
old twinkle was in his eye when he spoke.
"Wouldn't do a thing like that now, Al, I presume likely?" he said.
"Feel a good deal older now, eh?"
Albert's answer was seriously given.
"Sometimes I feel at least a hundred and fifty," he replied.
"Humph! . . . Well, I wouldn't feel like that. If you're a
hundred and fifty I must be a little older than Methuselah was in
his last years. I'm feelin' younger to-day, younger than I have
for quite a spell. Yes, for quite a spell."
His grandson put a hand on his knee. "Good for you, Grandfather,"
he said. "Now tell me more about Labe. Do you know I think the
old chap's sticking by his pledge is the bulliest thing I've heard
since I've been home."
So they talked of Laban and of Rachel and of South Harniss
happenings until the train drew up at the platform of that station.
And upon that platform stepped Albert to feel his grandmother's
arms about him and her voice, tremulous with happiness, at his ear.
And behind her loomed Mrs. Ellis, her ample face a combination of
smiles and tears, "all sunshine and fair weather down below but
rainin' steady up aloft," as Captain Lote described it afterwards.
And behind her, like a foothill in the shadow of a mountain, was
Laban. And behind Laban-- No, that is a mistake--in front of
Laban and beside Laban and in front of and beside everyone else
when opportunity presented was Issachar. And Issachar's expression
and bearings were wonderful to see. A stranger, and there were
several strangers amid the group at the station, might have gained
the impression that Mr. Price, with of course a very little help
from the Almighty, was responsible for everything.
"Why, Issy!" exclaimed Albert, when they shook hands. "You're
here, too, eh?"
Mr. Price's already protuberant chest swelled still further. His
reply had the calmness of finality.
"Yes, sir," said Issy, "I'm here. 'Who's goin' to look out for Z.
Snow and Co. if all hands walks out and leaves 'em?' Labe says. 'I
don't know,' says I, 'and I don't care. I'm goin' to that depot to
meet Al Speranzy and if Z. Snow and Co. goes to pot while I'm gone
I can't help it. I have sacrificed,' I says, 'and I stand ready to
sacrifice pretty nigh everything for my business, but there's
limits and this is one of 'em. I'm goin' acrost to that depot to
meet him,' says I, 'and don't you try to stop me, Labe Keeler.'"
"Great stuff, Is!" said Albert, with a laugh. "What did Labe say
"What was there for him to say? He could see I meant it. Course
he hove out some of his cheap talk, but it didn't amount to
nothin'. Asked if I wan't goin' to put up a sign sayin' when I'd
be back, so's to ease the customers' minds. 'I don't know when
I'll be back,' I says. 'All right,' says he, 'put that on the
sign. That'll ease 'em still more.' Just cheap talk 'twas. He
thinks he's funny, but I don't pay no attention to him."
Others came to shake hands and voice a welcome. The formal
reception, that with the band, had been called off at Captain
Zelotes's request, but the informal one was, in spite of the rain,
which was now much less heavy, quite a sizable gathering.
The Reverend Mr. Kendall held his hand for a long time and talked
much, it seemed to Albert that he had aged greatly since they last
met. He wandered a bit in his remarks and repeated himself several
"The poor old gentleman's failin' a good deal, Albert," said Mrs.
Snow, as they drove home together, he and his grandparents, three
on the seat of the buggy behind Jessamine. "His sermons are pretty
tiresome nowadays, but we put up with 'em because he's been with us
so long. . . . Ain't you squeezed 'most to death, Albert? You two
big men and me all mashed together on this narrow seat. It's lucky
I'm small. Zelotes ought to get a two-seated carriage, but he
"Next thing I get, Mother," observed the captain, "will be an
automobile. I'll stick to the old mare here as long as she's able
to navigate, but when she has to be hauled out of commission I'm
goin' to buy a car. I believe I'm pretty nigh the last man in this
county to drive a horse, as 'tis. Makes me feel like what Sol
Dadgett calls a cracked teapot--a 'genuine antique.' One of these
city women will be collectin' me some of these days. Better look
Olive sighed happily. "It does me good to hear you joke again,
Zelotes," she said. "He didn't joke much, Albert, while--when we
Albert interrupted in time to prevent the threatened shower.
"So Mr. Kendall is not well," he said. "I'm very sorry to hear
"Of course you would be. You and he used to be so friendly when
Helen was home. Oh, speakin' of Helen, she IS comin' home in a
fortni't or three weeks, so I hear. She's goin' to give up her
teachin' and come back to be company for her father. I suppose she
realizes he needs her, but it must be a big sacrifice for her,
givin' up the good position she's got now. She's such a smart girl
and such a nice one. Why, she came to see us after the news came--
the bad news--and she was so kind and so good. I don't know what
we should have done without her. Zelotes says so too, don't you,
Her husband did not answer. Instead he said: "Well, there's home,
Al. Rachel's there ahead of us and dinner's on the way, judgin' by
the smoke from the kitchen chimney. How does the old place look to
Albert merely shook his head and drew a long breath, but his
grandparents seemed to be quite satisfied.
There were letters and telegrams awaiting him on the table in the
sitting-room. Two of the letters were postmarked from a town on
the Florida coast. The telegram also was from that same town.
"_I_ had one of those things," observed Captain Zelotes, alluding
to the telegram. "Fosdick sent me one of those long ones, night-
letters I believe they call 'em. He wants me to tell you that Mrs.
Fosdick is better and that they cal'late to be in New York before
very long and shall expect you there. Of course you knew that, Al,
but I presume likely the main idea of the telegram was to help say,
'Welcome home' to you, that's all."
Albert nodded. Madeline and her mother had been in Florida all
winter. Mrs. Fosdick's health was not good. She declared that her
nerves had given way under her frightful responsibilities during
the war. There was, although it seems almost sacrilege to make
such a statement, a certain similarity between Mrs. Fletcher
Fosdick and Issachar Price. The telegram was, as his grandfather
surmised, an expression of welcome and of regret that the senders
could not be there to share in the reception. The two letters
which accompanied it he put in his pocket to read later on, when
alone. Somehow he felt that the first hours in the old house
belonged exclusively to his grandparents. Everything else, even
Madeline's letters, must take second place for that period.
Dinner was, to say the least, an ample meal. Rachel and Olive had,
as Captain Lote said, "laid themselves out" on that dinner. It
began well and continued well and ended best of all, for the
dessert was one of which Albert was especially fond. They kept
pressing him to eat until Laban, who was an invited guest, was
moved to comment.
"Humph!" observed Mr. Keeler. "I knew 'twas the reg'lar program to
kill the fatted calf when the prodigal got home, but I see now it's
the proper caper to fat up the prodigal to take the critter's place.
No, no, Rachel, I'd like fust-rate to eat another bushel or so to
please you, but somethin'--that still, small voice we're always
readin' about, or somethin'--seems to tell me 'twouldn't be good
jedgment. . . . Um-hm. . . . 'Twouldn't be good jedgment. . . .
Cal'late it's right, too. . . . Yes, yes, yes."
"Now, Cap'n Lote," he added, as they rose from the table, "you stay
right to home here for the rest of the day. I'll hustle back to
the office and see if Issy's importance has bust his b'iler for
him. So-long, Al. See you pretty soon. Got some things to talk
about, you and I have. . . . Yes, yes."
Later, when Rachel was in the kitchen with the dishes, Olive left
the sitting room and reappeared with triumph written large upon her
face. In one hand she held a mysterious envelope and in the other
a book. Albert recognized that book. It was his own, The Lances
of Dawn. It was no novelty to him. When first the outside world
and he had reopened communication, copies of that book had been
sent him. His publisher had sent them, Madeline had sent them, his
grandparents had sent them, comrades had sent them, nurses and
doctors and newspaper men had brought them. No, The Lances of Dawn
was not a novelty to its author. But he wondered what was in the
Mrs. Snow enlightened him. "You sit right down now, Albert," she
said. "Sit right down and listen because I've got somethin' to
tell you. Yes, and somethin' to show you, too. Here! Stop now,
Zelotes! You can't run away. You've got to sit down and look on
and listen, too."
Captain Zelotes smiled resignedly. There was, or so it seemed to
his grandson, an odd expression on his face. He looked pleased,
but not altogether pleased. However, he obeyed his wife's orders
"Stop, look and listen," he observed. "Mother, you sound like a
railroad crossin'. All right, here I am. Al, the society of 'What
did I tell you' is goin' to have a meetin'."
His wife nodded. "Well," she said, triumphantly, "what DID I tell
you? Wasn't I right?"