Part 1 out of 2
This etext was prepared by Judy Boss, Omaha, NE
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PAGE LINE ORIGINAL CHANGED TO
156 1 where as were as
156 4 mouth mouth.
165 5 Wedgwood Wedgewood
166 9 Wedgwood Wedgewood
167 6 surperfluous superfluous
172 11 every ever
173 17 Bogg Boggs
THE SHAPE OF FEAR
And Other Ghostly Tales
ELIA WILKINSON PEATTIE
THE SHAPE OF FEAR
ON THE NORTHERN ICE
THEIR DEAR LITTLE GHOST
A SPECTRAL COLLIE
THE HOUSE THAT WAS NOT
STORY OF AN OBSTINATE CORPSE
A CHILD OF THE RAIN
THE ROOM OF THE EVIL THOUGHT
STORY OF THE VANISHING PATIENT
THE PIANO NEXT DOOR
AN ASTRAL ONION
FROM THE LOOM OF THE DEAD
A GRAMMATICAL GHOST
THE SHAPE OF FEAR
TIM O'CONNOR -- who was de-
scended from the O'Conors with
one N -- started life as a poet
and an enthusiast. His mother
had designed him for the priesthood, and at
the age of fifteen, most of his verses had an
ecclesiastical tinge, but, somehow or other,
he got into the newspaper business instead,
and became a pessimistic gentleman, with a
literary style of great beauty and an income
of modest proportions. He fell in with men
who talked of art for art's sake, -- though
what right they had to speak of art at all
nobody knew, -- and little by little his view
of life and love became more or less pro-
fane. He met a woman who sucked his
heart's blood, and he knew it and made no
protest; nay, to the great amusement of the
fellows who talked of art for art's sake, he
went the length of marrying her. He could
not in decency explain that he had the tra-
ditions of fine gentlemen behind him and
so had to do as he did, because his friends
might not have understood. He laughed at
the days when he had thought of the priest-
hood, blushed when he ran across any of
those tender and exquisite old verses he had
written in his youth, and became addicted
to absinthe and other less peculiar drinks,
and to gaming a little to escape a madness
As the years went by he avoided, with
more and more scorn, that part of the world
which he denominated Philistine, and con-
sorted only with the fellows who flocked about
Jim O'Malley's saloon. He was pleased with
solitude, or with these convivial wits, and with
not very much else beside. Jim O'Malley
was a sort of Irish poem, set to inspiring
measure. He was, in fact, a Hibernian
Mæcenas, who knew better than to put bad
whiskey before a man of talent, or tell a trite
tale in the presence of a wit. The recountal
of his disquisitions on politics and other cur-
rent matters had enabled no less than three
men to acquire national reputations; and a
number of wretches, having gone the way of
men who talk of art for art's sake, and dying
in foreign lands, or hospitals, or asylums,
having no one else to be homesick for, had
been homesick for Jim O'Malley, and wept
for the sound of his voice and the grasp of
his hearty hand.
When Tim O'Connor turned his back upon
most of the things he was born to and took
up with the life which he consistently lived
till the unspeakable end, he was unable to
get rid of certain peculiarities. For example,
in spite of all his debauchery, he continued
to look like the Beloved Apostle. Notwith-
standing abject friendships he wrote limpid
and noble English. Purity seemed to dog his
heels, no matter how violently he attempted
to escape from her. He was never so drunk
that he was not an exquisite, and even his
creditors, who had become inured to his
deceptions, confessed it was a privilege to
meet so perfect a gentleman. The creature
who held him in bondage, body and soul,
actually came to love him for his gentleness,
and for some quality which baffled her, and
made her ache with a strange longing which
she could not define. Not that she ever de-
fined anything, poor little beast! She had
skin the color of pale gold, and yellow eyes
with brown lights in them, and great plaits
of straw-colored hair. About her lips was a
fatal and sensuous smile, which, when it got
hold of a man's imagination, would not let
it go, but held to it, and mocked it till the
day of his death. She was the incarnation
of the Eternal Feminine, with all the wifeli-
ness and the maternity left out -- she was
ancient, yet ever young, and familiar as joy
or tears or sin.
She took good care of Tim in some ways:
fed him well, nursed him back to reason after
a period of hard drinking, saw that he put
on overshoes when the walks were wet, and
looked after his money. She even prized
his brain, for she discovered that it was a
delicate little machine which produced gold.
By association with him and his friends, she
learned that a number of apparently useless
things had value in the eyes of certain con-
venient fools, and so she treasured the auto-
graphs of distinguished persons who wrote to
him -- autographs which he disdainfully tossed
in the waste basket. She was careful with
presentation copies from authors, and she
went the length of urging Tim to write a
book himself. But at that he balked.
"Write a book!" he cried to her, his gen-
tle face suddenly white with passion. "Who
am I to commit such a profanation?"
She didn't know what he meant, but she
had a theory that it was dangerous to excite
him, and so she sat up till midnight to cook
a chop for him when he came home that night.
He preferred to have her sitting up for him,
and he wanted every electric light in their
apartments turned to the full. If, by any
chance, they returned together to a dark
house, he would not enter till she touched the
button in the hall, and illuminated the room.
Or if it so happened that the lights were
turned off in the night time, and he awoke to
find himself in darkness, he shrieked till the
woman came running to his relief, and, with
derisive laughter, turned them on again. But
when she found that after these frights he lay
trembling and white in his bed, she began to
be alarmed for the clever, gold-making little
machine, and to renew her assiduities, and to
horde more tenaciously than ever, those valu-
able curios on which she some day expected to
realize when he was out of the way, and no
longer in a position to object to their barter.
O'Connor's idiosyncrasy of fear was a
source of much amusement among the boys
at the office where he worked. They made
open sport of it, and yet, recognizing him
for a sensitive plant, and granting that genius
was entitled to whimsicalities, it was their
custom when they called for him after work
hours, to permit him to reach the lighted cor-
ridor before they turned out the gas over his
desk. This, they reasoned, was but a slight
service to perform for the most enchanting
beggar in the world.
"Dear fellow," said Rick Dodson, who
loved him, "is it the Devil you expect to see?
And if so, why are you averse? Surely the
Devil is not such a bad old chap."
"You haven't found him so?"
"Tim, by heaven, you know, you ought to
explain to me. A citizen of the world and
a student of its purlieus, like myself, ought to
know what there is to know! Now you're a
man of sense, in spite of a few bad habits --
such as myself, for example. Is this fad of
yours madness? -- which would be quite to
your credit, -- for gadzooks, I like a lunatic!
Or is it the complaint of a man who has gath-
ered too much data on the subject of Old
Rye? Or is it, as I suspect, something more
occult, and therefore more interesting?"
"Rick, boy," said Tim, "you're too -- in-
quiring!" And he turned to his desk with a
look of delicate hauteur.
It was the very next night that these two
tippling pessimists spent together talking about
certain disgruntled but immortal gentlemen,
who, having said their say and made the world
quite uncomfortable, had now journeyed on
to inquire into the nothingness which they
postulated. The dawn was breaking in the
muggy east; the bottles were empty, the cigars
burnt out. Tim turned toward his friend with
a sharp breaking of sociable silence.
"Rick," he said, "do you know that Fear
has a Shape?"
"And so has my nose!"
"You asked me the other night what I
feared. Holy father, I make my confession
to you. What I fear is Fear."
"That's because you've drunk too much --
or not enough.
"'Come, fill the cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your winter garment of repentance fling --'"
"My costume then would be too nebulous
for this weather, dear boy. But it's true what
I was saying. I am afraid of ghosts."
"For an agnostic that seems a bit --"
"Agnostic! Yes, so completely an agnostic
that I do not even know that I do not know!
God, man, do you mean you have no ghosts
-- no -- no things which shape themselves?
Why, there are things I have done --"
"Don't think of them, my boy! See,
'night's candles are burnt out, and jocund
day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain
Tim looked about him with a sickly smile.
He looked behind him and there was nothing
there; stared at the blank window, where the
smoky dawn showed its offensive face, and
there was nothing there. He pushed away
the moist hair from his haggard face -- that
face which would look like the blessed St.
John, and leaned heavily back in his chair.
"'Yon light is not daylight, I know it, I,'"
he murmured drowsily, "'it is some meteor
which the sun exhales, to be to thee this
The words floated off in languid nothing-
ness, and he slept. Dodson arose preparatory
to stretching himself on his couch. But first
he bent over his friend with a sense of tragic
"Damned by the skin of his teeth!" he mut-
tered. "A little more, and he would have
gone right, and the Devil would have lost a
good fellow. As it is" -- he smiled with his
usual conceited delight in his own sayings,
even when they were uttered in soliloquy -- "he
is merely one of those splendid gentlemen one
will meet with in hell." Then Dodson had a
momentary nostalgia for goodness himself,
but he soon overcame it, and stretching him-
self on his sofa, he, too, slept.
That night he and O'Connor went together
to hear "Faust" sung, and returning to the
office, Dodson prepared to write his criti-
cism. Except for the distant clatter of tele-
graph instruments, or the peremptory cries of
"copy" from an upper room, the office was
still. Dodson wrote and smoked his inter-
minable cigarettes; O' Connor rested his head
in his hands on the desk, and sat in perfect
silence. He did not know when Dodson fin-
ished, or when, arising, and absent-mindedly
extinguishing the lights, he moved to the
door with his copy in his hands. Dodson
gathered up the hats and coats as he passed
them where they lay on a chair, and called:
"It is done, Tim. Come, let's get out of
There was no answer, and he thought Tim
was following, but after he had handed his
criticism to the city editor, he saw he was
still alone, and returned to the room for his
friend. He advanced no further than the
doorway, for, as he stood in the dusky cor-
ridor and looked within the darkened room,
he saw before his friend a Shape, white, of
perfect loveliness, divinely delicate and pure
and ethereal, which seemed as the embodi-
ment of all goodness. From it came a soft
radiance and a perfume softer than the wind
when "it breathes upon a bank of violets
stealing and giving odor." Staring at it,
with eyes immovable, sat his friend.
It was strange that at sight of a thing so
unspeakably fair, a coldness like that which
comes from the jewel-blue lips of a Muir
crevasse should have fallen upon Dodson, or
that it was only by summoning all the man-
hood that was left in him, that he was able
to restore light to the room, and to rush to
his friend. When he reached poor Tim he
was stone-still with paralysis. They took
him home to the woman, who nursed him out
of that attack -- and later on worried him into
When he was able to sit up and jeer at
things a little again, and help himself to the
quail the woman broiled for him, Dodson,
sitting beside him, said:
"Did you call that little exhibition of yours
legerdemain, Tim, you sweep? Or are you
really the Devil's bairn?"
"It was the Shape of Fear," said Tim, quite
"But it seemed mild as mother's milk."
"It was compounded of the good I might
have done. It is that which I fear."
He would explain no more. Later -- many
months later -- he died patiently and sweetly
in the madhouse, praying for rest. The little
beast with the yellow eyes had high mass cele-
brated for him, which, all things considered,
was almost as pathetic as it was amusing.
Dodson was in Vienna when he heard of it.
"Sa, sa!" cried he. "I wish it wasn't so
dark in the tomb! What do you suppose Tim
is looking at?"
As for Jim O'Malley, he was with diffi-
culty kept from illuminating the grave with
ON THE NORTHERN ICE
THE winter nights up at Sault Ste.
Marie are as white and luminous as
the Milky Way. The silence which
rests upon the solitude appears to
be white also. Even sound has been included
in Nature's arrestment, for, indeed, save the
still white frost, all things seem to be oblit-
erated. The stars have a poignant brightness,
but they belong to heaven and not to earth,
and between their immeasurable height and
the still ice rolls the ebon ether in vast, liquid
In such a place it is difficult to believe that
the world is actually peopled. It seems as if
it might be the dark of the day after Cain
killed Abel, and as if all of humanity's re-
mainder was huddled in affright away from
the awful spaciousness of Creation.
The night Ralph Hagadorn started out for
Echo Bay -- bent on a pleasant duty -- he
laughed to himself, and said that he did not
at all object to being the only man in the
world, so long as the world remained as un-
speakably beautiful as it was when he buckled
on his skates and shot away into the solitude.
He was bent on reaching his best friend in
time to act as groomsman, and business had
delayed him till time was at its briefest. So
he journeyed by night and journeyed alone,
and when the tang of the frost got at his
blood, he felt as a spirited horse feels when it
gets free of bit and bridle. The ice was as
glass, his skates were keen, his frame fit, and
his venture to his taste! So he laughed, and
cut through the air as a sharp stone cleaves the
water. He could hear the whistling of the
air as he cleft it.
As he went on and on in the black stillness,
he began to have fancies. He imagined him-
self enormously tall -- a great Viking of the
Northland, hastening over icy fiords to his love.
And that reminded him that he had a love
-- though, indeed, that thought was always
present with him as a background for other
thoughts. To be sure, he had not told her
that she was his love, for he had seen her only
a few times, and the auspicious occasion had
not yet presented itself. She lived at Echo
Bay also, and was to be the maid of honor to
his friend's bride -- which was one more
reason why he skated almost as swiftly as the
wind, and why, now and then, he let out a
shout of exultation.
The one cloud that crossed Hagadorn's sun
of expectancy was the knowledge that Marie
Beaujeu's father had money, and that Marie
lived in a house with two stories to it, and
wore otter skin about her throat and little
satin-lined mink boots on her feet when she
went sledding. Moreover, in the locket in
which she treasured a bit of her dead mother's
hair, there was a black pearl as big as a pea.
These things made it difficult -- perhaps im-
possible -- for Ralph Hagadorn to say more
than, "I love you." But that much he meant
to say though he were scourged with chagrin
for his temerity.
This determination grew upon him as he
swept along the ice under the starlight.
Venus made a glowing path toward the west
and seemed eager to reassure him. He was
sorry he could not skim down that avenue of
light which flowed from the love-star, but he
was forced to turn his back upon it and face
the black northeast.
It came to him with a shock that he was
not alone. His eyelashes were frosted and
his eyeballs blurred with the cold, so at first
he thought it might be an illusion. But when
he had rubbed his eyes hard, he made sure
that not very far in front of him was a long
white skater in fluttering garments who sped
over the ice as fast as ever werewolf went.
He called aloud, but there was no answer.
He shaped his hands and trumpeted through
them, but the silence was as before -- it was
complete. So then he gave chase, setting his
teeth hard and putting a tension on his firm
young muscles. But go however he would,
the white skater went faster. After a time,
as he glanced at the cold gleam of the north
star, he perceived that he was being led from
his direct path. For a moment he hesitated,
wondering if he would not better keep to his
road, but his weird companion seemed to
draw him on irresistibly, and finding it sweet
to follow, he followed.
Of course it came to him more than once
in that strange pursuit, that the white skater
was no earthly guide. Up in those latitudes
men see curious things when the hoar frost is
on the earth. Hagadorn's own father -- to
hark no further than that for an instance!
-- who lived up there with the Lake Superior
Indians, and worked in the copper mines, had
welcomed a woman at his hut one bitter
night, who was gone by morning, leaving wolf
tracks on the snow! Yes, it was so, and John
Fontanelle, the half-breed, could tell you
about it any day -- if he were alive. (Alack,
the snow where the wolf tracks were, is melted
Well, Hagadorn followed the white skater
all the night, and when the ice flushed pink
at dawn, and arrows of lovely light shot up into
the cold heavens, she was gone, and Haga-
dorn was at his destination. The sun climbed
arrogantly up to his place above all other
things, and as Hagadorn took off his skates
and glanced carelessly lakeward, he beheld a
great wind-rift in the ice, and the waves
showing blue and hungry between white fields.
Had he rushed along his intended path,
watching the stars to guide him, his glance
turned upward, all his body at magnificent
momentum, he must certainly have gone into
that cold grave.
How wonderful that it had been sweet to
follow the white skater, and that he followed!
His heart beat hard as he hurried to his
friend's house. But he encountered no wed-
ding furore. His friend met him as men
meet in houses of mourning.
"Is this your wedding face?" cried Haga-
dorn. "Why, man, starved as I am, I look
more like a bridegroom than you!"
"There's no wedding to-day!"
"No wedding! Why, you're not --"
"Marie Beaujeu died last night --"
"Died last night. She had been skating
in the afternoon, and she came home chilled
and wandering in her mind, as if the frost
had got in it somehow. She grew worse and
worse, and all the time she talked of you."
"We wondered what it meant. No one
knew you were lovers."
"I didn't know it myself; more's the pity.
At least, I didn't know --"
"She said you were on the ice, and that
you didn't know about the big breaking-up,
and she cried to us that the wind was off shore
and the rift widening. She cried over and
over again that you could come in by the old
French creek if you only knew --"
"I came in that way."
"But how did you come to do that? It's
out of the path. We thought perhaps --"
But Hagadorn broke in with his story and
told him all as it had come to pass.
That day they watched beside the maiden,
who lay with tapers at her head and at her
feet, and in the little church the bride who
might have been at her wedding said prayers
for her friend. They buried Marie Beaujeu
in her bridesmaid white, and Hagadorn was
before the altar with her, as he had intended
from the first! Then at midnight the lovers
who were to wed whispered their vows in the
gloom of the cold church, and walked together
through the snow to lay their bridal wreaths
upon a grave.
Three nights later, Hagadorn skated back
again to his home. They wanted him to go
by sunlight, but he had his way, and went
when Venus made her bright path on the ice.
The truth was, he had hoped for the com-
panionship of the white skater. But he did
not have it. His only companion was the
wind. The only voice he heard was the bay-
ing of a wolf on the north shore. The world
was as empty and as white as if God had just
created it, and the sun had not yet colored
nor man defiled it.
THEIR DEAR LITTLE GHOST
THE first time one looked at Els-
beth, one was not prepossessed.
She was thin and brown, her nose
turned slightly upward, her toes
went in just a perceptible degree, and her
hair was perfectly straight. But when one
looked longer, one perceived that she was a
charming little creature. The straight hair
was as fine as silk, and hung in funny little
braids down her back; there was not a flaw
in her soft brown skin, and her mouth was
tender and shapely. But her particular charm
lay in a look which she habitually had, of
seeming to know curious things -- such as it
is not allotted to ordinary persons to know.
One felt tempted to say to her:
"What are these beautiful things which
you know, and of which others are ignorant?
What is it you see with those wise and pel-
lucid eyes? Why is it that everybody loves
Elsbeth was my little godchild, and I knew
her better than I knew any other child in the
world. But still I could not truthfully say
that I was familiar with her, for to me her
spirit was like a fair and fragrant road in the
midst of which I might walk in peace and
joy, but where I was continually to discover
something new. The last time I saw her
quite well and strong was over in the woods
where she had gone with her two little
brothers and her nurse to pass the hottest
weeks of summer. I followed her, foolish old
creature that I was, just to be near her, for I
needed to dwell where the sweet aroma of her
life could reach me.
One morning when I came from my room,
limping a little, because I am not so young as
I used to be, and the lake wind works havoc
with me, my little godchild came dancing to
"Come with me and I'll show you my
places, my places, my places!"
Miriam, when she chanted by the Red Sea
might have been more exultant, but she could
not have been more bewitching. Of course
I knew what "places" were, because I had
once been a little girl myself, but unless you
are acquainted with the real meaning of
"places," it would be useless to try to ex-
plain. Either you know "places" or you do
not -- just as you understand the meaning of
poetry or you do not. There are things in
the world which cannot be taught.
Elsbeth's two tiny brothers were present,
and I took one by each hand and followed
her. No sooner had we got out of doors in
the woods than a sort of mystery fell upon
the world and upon us. We were cautioned
to move silently, and we did so, avoiding the
crunching of dry twigs.
"The fairies hate noise," whispered my
little godchild, her eyes narrowing like a
"I must get my wand first thing I do," she
said in an awed undertone. "It is useless to
try to do anything without a wand."
The tiny boys were profoundly impressed,
and, indeed, so was I. I felt that at last, I
should, if I behaved properly, see the fairies,
which had hitherto avoided my materialistic
gaze. It was an enchanting moment, for
there appeared, just then, to be nothing
commonplace about life.
There was a swale near by, and into
this the little girl plunged. I could see her
red straw hat bobbing about among the
tall rushes, and I wondered if there were
"Do you think there are snakes?" I asked
one of the tiny boys.
"If there are," he said with conviction,
"they won't dare hurt her."
He convinced me. I feared no more.
Presently Elsbeth came out of the swale. In
her hand was a brown "cattail," perfectly
full and round. She carried it as queens
carry their sceptres -- the beautiful queens we
dream of in our youth.
"Come," she commanded, and waved the
sceptre in a fine manner. So we followed,
each tiny boy gripping my hand tight. We
were all three a trifle awed. Elsbeth led us
into a dark underbrush. The branches, as
they flew back in our faces, left them wet
with dew. A wee path, made by the girl's
dear feet, guided our footsteps. Perfumes
of elderberry and wild cucumber scented the
air. A bird, frightened from its nest, made
frantic cries above our heads. The under-
brush thickened. Presently the gloom of the
hemlocks was over us, and in the midst of
the shadowy green a tulip tree flaunted its
leaves. Waves boomed and broke upon the
shore below. There was a growing dampness
as we went on, treading very lightly. A little
green snake ran coquettishly from us. A fat
and glossy squirrel chattered at us from a safe
height, stroking his whiskers with a com-
At length we reached the "place." It was
a circle of velvet grass, bright as the first
blades of spring, delicate as fine sea-ferns.
The sunlight, falling down the shaft between
the hemlocks, flooded it with a softened light
and made the forest round about look like
deep purple velvet. My little godchild stood
in the midst and raised her wand impressively.
"This is my place," she said, with a sort of
wonderful gladness in her tone. "This is
where I come to the fairy balls. Do you see
"See what?" whispered one tiny boy.
There was a silence. The older boy pulled
at my skirt.
"Do YOU see them?" he asked, his voice
trembling with expectancy.
"Indeed," I said, "I fear I am too old and
wicked to see fairies, and yet -- are their hats
"They are," laughed my little girl. "Their
hats are red, and as small -- as small!" She
held up the pearly nail of her wee finger to
give us the correct idea.
"And their shoes are very pointed at the
"Oh, very pointed!"
"And their garments are green?"
"As green as grass."
"And they blow little horns?"
"The sweetest little horns!"
"I think I see them," I cried.
"We think we see them too," said the tiny
boys, laughing in perfect glee.
"And you hear their horns, don't you?" my
little godchild asked somewhat anxiously.
"Don't we hear their horns?" I asked the
"We think we hear their horns," they cried.
"Don't you think we do?"
"It must be we do," I said. "Aren't we
very, very happy?"
We all laughed softly. Then we kissed
each other and Elsbeth led us out, her wand
high in the air.
And so my feet found the lost path to
The next day I was called to the Pacific
coast, and duty kept me there till well into
December. A few days before the date set
for my return to my home, a letter came from
"Our little girl is gone into the Unknown,"
she wrote -- "that Unknown in which she
seemed to be forever trying to pry. We knew
she was going, and we told her. She was
quite brave, but she begged us to try some
way to keep her till after Christmas. 'My
presents are not finished yet,' she made moan.
'And I did so want to see what I was going
to have. You can't have a very happy Christ-
mas without me, I should think. Can you
arrange to keep me somehow till after then?'
We could not 'arrange' either with God in
heaven or science upon earth, and she is
She was only my little godchild, and I am
an old maid, with no business fretting over
children, but it seemed as if the medium of
light and beauty had been taken from me.
Through this crystal soul I had perceived
whatever was loveliest. However, what was,
was! I returned to my home and took up a
course of Egyptian history, and determined to
concern myself with nothing this side the
Her mother has told me how, on Christmas
eve, as usual, she and Elsbeth's father filled
the stockings of the little ones, and hung
them, where they had always hung, by the fire-
place. They had little heart for the task,
but they had been prodigal that year in
their expenditures, and had heaped upon the
two tiny boys all the treasures they thought
would appeal to them. They asked them-
selves how they could have been so insane
previously as to exercise economy at Christ-
mas time, and what they meant by not getting
Elsbeth the autoharp she had asked for the
"And now --" began her father, thinking
of harps. But he could not complete this
sentence, of course, and the two went on pas-
sionately and almost angrily with their task.
There were two stockings and two piles of
toys. Two stockings only, and only two piles
of toys! Two is very little!
They went away and left the darkened
room, and after a time they slept -- after a
long time. Perhaps that was about the time
the tiny boys awoke, and, putting on their
little dressing gowns and bed slippers, made
a dash for the room where the Christmas
things were always placed. The older one
carried a candle which gave out a feeble
light. The other followed behind through the
silent house. They were very impatient and
eager, but when they reached the door of the
sitting-room they stopped, for they saw that
another child was before them.
It was a delicate little creature, sitting in
her white night gown, with two rumpled
funny braids falling down her back, and she
seemed to be weeping. As they watched, she
arose, and putting out one slender finger as
a child does when she counts, she made sure
over and over again -- three sad times -- that
there were only two stockings and two piles
of toys! Only those and no more.
The little figure looked so familiar that the
boys started toward it, but just then, putting
up her arm and bowing her face in it, as
Elsbeth had been used to do when she wept
or was offended, the little thing glided away
and went out. That's what the boys said.
It went out as a candle goes out.
They ran and woke their parents with the
tale, and all the house was searched in a
wonderment, and disbelief, and hope, and
tumult! But nothing was found. For nights
they watched. But there was only the silent
house. Only the empty rooms. They told
the boys they must have been mistaken. But
the boys shook their heads.
"We know our Elsbeth," said they. "It
was our Elsbeth, cryin' 'cause she hadn't no
stockin' an' no toys, and we would have given
her all ours, only she went out -- jus' went
The next Christmas I helped with the little
festival. It was none of my affair, but I asked
to help, and they let me, and when we were
all through there were three stockings and
three piles of toys, and in the largest one was
all the things that I could think of that my
dear child would love. I locked the boys'
chamber that night, and I slept on the divan
in the parlor off the sitting-room. I slept but
little, and the night was very still -- so wind-
less and white and still that I think I must
have heard the slightest noise. Yet I heard
none. Had I been in my grave I think my
ears would not have remained more unsaluted.
Yet when daylight came and I went to un-
lock the boys' bedchamber door, I saw that
the stocking and all the treasures which I had
bought for my little godchild were gone.
There was not a vestige of them remaining!
Of course we told the boys nothing. As
for me, after dinner I went home and buried
myself once more in my history, and so inter-
ested was I that midnight came without my
knowing it. I should not have looked up at
all, I suppose, to become aware of the time,
had it not been for a faint, sweet sound as of
a child striking a stringed instrument. It
was so delicate and remote that I hardly
heard it, but so joyous and tender that I
could not but listen, and when I heard it a
second time it seemed as if I caught the echo
of a child's laugh. At first I was puzzled.
Then I remembered the little autoharp I had
placed among the other things in that pile of
vanished toys. I said aloud:
"Farewell, dear little ghost. Go rest.
Rest in joy, dear little ghost. Farewell,
That was years ago, but there has been
silence since. Elsbeth was always an obe-
dient little thing.
A SPECTRAL COLLIE
WILLIAM PERCY CECIL happened
to be a younger son, so he left home
-- which was England -- and went
to Kansas to ranch it. Thousands
of younger sons do the same, only their des-
tination is not invariably Kansas.
An agent at Wichita picked out Cecil's
farm for him and sent the deeds over to Eng-
land before Cecil left. He said there was a
house on the place. So Cecil's mother fitted
him out for America just as she had fitted
out another superfluous boy for Africa, and
parted from him with an heroic front and big
agonies of mother-ache which she kept to
The boy bore up the way a man of his
blood ought, but when he went out to the
kennel to see Nita, his collie, he went to
pieces somehow, and rolled on the grass with
her in his arms and wept like a booby. But
the remarkable part of it was that Nita wept
too, big, hot dog tears which her master
wiped away. When he went off she howled
like a hungry baby, and had to be switched
before she would give any one a night's sleep.
When Cecil got over on his Kansas place
he fitted up the shack as cosily as he could,
and learned how to fry bacon and make soda
biscuits. Incidentally, he did farming, and
sunk a heap of money, finding out how not
to do things. Meantime, the Americans
laughed at him, and were inclined to turn
the cold shoulder, and his compatriots, of
whom there were a number in the county,
did not prove to his liking. They consoled
themselves for their exiled state in fashions
not in keeping with Cecil's traditions. His
homesickness went deeper than theirs, per-
haps, and American whiskey could not make
up for the loss of his English home, nor flir-
tations with the gay American village girls
quite compensate him for the loss of his
English mother. So he kept to himself and
had nostalgia as some men have consumption.
At length the loneliness got so bad that he
had to see some living thing from home, or
make a flunk of it and go back like a cry
baby. He had a stiff pride still, though he
sobbed himself to sleep more than one night,
as many a pioneer has done before him. So
he wrote home for Nita, the collie, and got
word that she would be sent. Arrangements
were made for her care all along the line, and
she was properly boxed and shipped.
As the time drew near for her arrival, Cecil
could hardly eat. He was too excited to
apply himself to anything. The day of her
expected arrival he actually got up at five
o'clock to clean the house and make it look
as fine as possible for her inspection. Then
he hitched up and drove fifteen miles to get
her. The train pulled out just before he
reached the station, so Nita in her box was
waiting for him on the platform. He could
see her in a queer way, as one sees the purple
centre of a revolving circle of light; for, to
tell the truth, with the long ride in the morn-
ing sun, and the beating of his heart, Cecil
was only about half-conscious of anything.
He wanted to yell, but he didn't. He kept
himself in hand and lifted up the sliding
side of the box and called to Nita, and she
But it wasn't the man who fainted, though
he might have done so, being crazy home-
sick as he was, and half-fed and overworked
while he was yet soft from an easy life. No,
it was the dog! She looked at her master's
face, gave one cry of inexpressible joy, and
fell over in a real feminine sort of a faint,
and had to be brought to like any other lady,
with camphor and water and a few drops of
spirit down her throat. Then Cecil got up
on the wagon seat, and she sat beside him
with her head on his arm, and they rode home
in absolute silence, each feeling too much for
speech. After they reached home, however,
Cecil showed her all over the place, and she
barked out her ideas in glad sociability.
After that Cecil and Nita were inseparable.
She walked beside him all day when he was
out with the cultivator, or when he was mow-
ing or reaping. She ate beside him at table
and slept across his feet at night. Evenings
when he looked over the Graphic from
home, or read the books his mother sent him,
that he might keep in touch with the world,
Nita was beside him, patient, but jealous.
Then, when he threw his book or paper down
and took her on his knee and looked into her
pretty eyes, or frolicked with her, she fairly
laughed with delight.
In short, she was faithful with that faith of
which only a dog is capable -- that unques-
tioning faith to which even the most loving
women never quite attain.
However, Fate was annoyed at this perfect
friendship. It didn't give her enough to do,
and Fate is a restless thing with a horrible
appetite for variety. So poor Nita died one
day mysteriously, and gave her last look to
Cecil as a matter of course; and he held her
paws till the last moment, as a stanch friend
should, and laid her away decently in a
pine box in the cornfield, where he could be
shielded from public view if he chose to go
there now and then and sit beside her grave.
He went to bed very lonely, indeed, the
first night. The shack seemed to him to be
removed endless miles from the other habi-
tations of men. He seemed cut off from the
world, and ached to hear the cheerful little
barks which Nita had been in the habit of
giving him by way of good night. Her ami-
able eye with its friendly light was missing,
the gay wag of her tail was gone; all her
ridiculous ways, at which he was never tired
of laughing, were things of the past.
He lay down, busy with these thoughts,
yet so habituated to Nita's presence, that
when her weight rested upon his feet, as
usual, he felt no surprise. But after a mo-
ment it came to him that as she was dead the
weight he felt upon his feet could not be
hers. And yet, there it was, warm and com-
fortable, cuddling down in the familiar way.
He actually sat up and put his hand down
to the foot of the bed to discover what was
there. But there was nothing there, save
the weight. And that stayed with him that
night and many nights after.
It happened that Cecil was a fool, as men
will be when they are young, and he worked
too hard, and didn't take proper care of him-
self; and so it came about that he fell sick
with a low fever. He struggled around for a
few days, trying to work it off, but one morn-
ing he awoke only to the consciousness of
absurd dreams. He seemed to be on the sea,
sailing for home, and the boat was tossing
and pitching in a weary circle, and could
make no headway. His heart was burning
with impatience, but the boat went round and
round in that endless circle till he shrieked
out with agony.
The next neighbors were the Taylors, who
lived two miles and a half away. They were
awakened that morning by the howling of a
dog before their door. It was a hideous
sound and would give them no peace. So
Charlie Taylor got up and opened the door,
discovering there an excited little collie.
"Why, Tom," he called, "I thought Cecil's
collie was dead!"
"She is," called back Tom.
"No, she ain't neither, for here she is,
shakin' like an aspin, and a beggin' me to
go with her. Come out, Tom, and see."
It was Nita, no denying, and the men, per-
plexed, followed her to Cecil's shack, where
they found him babbling.
But that was the last of her. Cecil said he
never felt her on his feet again. She had
performed her final service for him, he said.
The neighbors tried to laugh at the story at
first, but they knew the Taylors wouldn't take
the trouble to lie, and as for Cecil, no one
would have ventured to chaff him.
THE HOUSE THAT WAS NOT
BART FLEMING took his bride out
to his ranch on the plains when she
was but seventeen years old, and the
two set up housekeeping in three
hundred and twenty acres of corn and rye.
Off toward the west there was an unbroken
sea of tossing corn at that time of the year
when the bride came out, and as her sewing
window was on the side of the house which
faced the sunset, she passed a good part of
each day looking into that great rustling mass,
breathing in its succulent odors and listening
to its sibilant melody. It was her picture
gallery, her opera, her spectacle, and, being
sensible, -- or perhaps, being merely happy,
-- she made the most of it.
When harvesting time came and the corn
was cut, she had much entertainment in dis-
covering what lay beyond. The town was
east, and it chanced that she had never rid-
den west. So, when the rolling hills of this
newly beholden land lifted themselves for her
contemplation, and the harvest sun, all in an
angry and sanguinary glow sank in the veiled
horizon, and at noon a scarf of golden vapor
wavered up and down along the earth line, it
was as if a new world had been made for
her. Sometimes, at the coming of a storm,
a whip-lash of purple cloud, full of electric
agility, snapped along the western horizon.
"Oh, you'll see a lot of queer things on
these here plains," her husband said when
she spoke to him of these phenomena. "I
guess what you see is the wind."
"The wind!" cried Flora. "You can't see
the wind, Bart."
"Now look here, Flora," returned Bart, with
benevolent emphasis, "you're a smart one,
but you don't know all I know about this here
country. I've lived here three mortal years,
waitin' for you to git up out of your mother's
arms and come out to keep me company,
and I know what there is to know. Some
things out here is queer -- so queer folks
wouldn't believe 'em unless they saw. An'
some's so pig-headed they don't believe their
own eyes. As for th' wind, if you lay down
flat and squint toward th' west, you can see
it blowin' along near th' ground, like a big
ribbon; an' sometimes it's th' color of air,
an' sometimes it's silver an' gold, an' some-
times, when a storm is comin', it's purple."
"If you got so tired looking at the wind,
why didn't you marry some other girl, Bart,
instead of waiting for me?"
Flora was more interested in the first part
of Bart's speech than in the last.
"Oh, come on!" protested Bart, and he
picked her up in his arms and jumped her
toward the ceiling of the low shack as if she
were a little girl -- but then, to be sure, she
wasn't much more.
Of all the things Flora saw when the corn
was cut down, nothing interested her so much
as a low cottage, something like her own,
which lay away in the distance. She could
not guess how far it might be, because dis-
tances are deceiving out there, where the alti-
tude is high and the air is as clear as one of
those mystic balls of glass in which the sallow
mystics of India see the moving shadows of
She had not known there were neighbors
so near, and she wondered for several days
about them before she ventured to say any-
thing to Bart on the subject. Indeed, for
some reason which she did not attempt to ex-
plain to herself, she felt shy about broaching
the matter. Perhaps Bart did not want her
to know the people. The thought came to
her, as naughty thoughts will come, even to
the best of persons, that some handsome
young men might be "baching" it out there
by themselves, and Bart didn't wish her to
make their acquaintance. Bart had flattered
her so much that she had actually begun to
think herself beautiful, though as a matter of
fact she was only a nice little girl with a lot
of reddish-brown hair, and a bright pair of
reddish-brown eyes in a white face.
"Bart," she ventured one evening, as the
sun, at its fiercest, rushed toward the great
black hollow of the west, "who lives over
there in that shack?"
She turned away from the window where
she had been looking at the incarnadined
disk, and she thought she saw Bart turn pale.
But then, her eyes were so blurred with the
glory she had been gazing at, that she might
easily have been mistaken.
"I say, Bart, why don't you speak? If
there's any one around to associate with, I
should think you'd let me have the benefit
of their company. It isn't as funny as you
think, staying here alone days and days."
"You ain't gettin' homesick, be you, sweet-
heart?" cried Bart, putting his arms around
her. "You ain't gettin' tired of my society,
It took some time to answer this question
in a satisfactory manner, but at length Flora
was able to return to her original topic.
"But the shack, Bart! Who lives there,
"I'm not acquainted with 'em," said Bart,
sharply. "Ain't them biscuits done, Flora?"
Then, of course, she grew obstinate.
"Those biscuits will never be done, Bart,
till I know about that house, and why you
never spoke of it, and why nobody ever comes
down the road from there. Some one lives
there I know, for in the mornings and at night
I see the smoke coming out of the chimney."
"Do you now?" cried Bart, opening his
eyes and looking at her with unfeigned inter-
est. "Well, do you know, sometimes I've
fancied I seen that too?"
"Well, why not," cried Flora, in half anger.
"Why shouldn't you?"
"See here, Flora, take them biscuits out an'
listen to me. There ain't no house there.
Hello! I didn't know you'd go for to drop the
biscuits. Wait, I'll help you pick 'em up.
By cracky, they're hot, ain't they? What you
puttin' a towel over 'em for? Well, you set
down here on my knee, so. Now you look
over at that there house. You see it, don't
yeh? Well, it ain't there! No! I saw it the
first week I was out here. I was jus' half
dyin', thinkin' of you an' wonderin' why you
didn't write. That was the time you was mad
at me. So I rode over there one day -- lookin'
up company, so t' speak -- and there wa'n't no
house there. I spent all one Sunday lookin'
for it. Then I spoke to Jim Geary about it.
He laughed an' got a little white about th'
gills, an' he said he guessed I'd have to look
a good while before I found it. He said that
there shack was an ole joke."
"Why -- what --"
"Well, this here is th' story he tol' me.
He said a man an' his wife come out here t'
live an' put up that there little place. An'
she was young, you know, an' kind o' skeery,
and she got lonesome. It worked on her an'
worked on her, an' one day she up an' killed
the baby an' her husband an' herself. Th'
folks found 'em and buried 'em right there
on their own ground. Well, about two weeks
after that, th' house was burned down. Don't
know how. Tramps, maybe. Anyhow, it
burned. At least, I guess it burned!"
"You guess it burned!"
"Well, it ain't there, you know."
"But if it burned the ashes are there."
"All right, girlie, they're there then. Now
let's have tea."
This they proceeded to do, and were happy
and cheerful all evening, but that didn't keep
Flora from rising at the first flush of dawn and
stealing out of the house. She looked away
over west as she went to the barn and there,
dark and firm against the horizon, stood the
little house against the pellucid sky of morn-
ing. She got on Ginger's back -- Ginger
being her own yellow broncho -- and set off at
a hard pace for the house. It didn't appear
to come any nearer, but the objects which had
seemed to be beside it came closer into view,
and Flora pressed on, with her mind steeled
for anything. But as she approached the
poplar windbreak which stood to the north
of the house, the little shack waned like a
shadow before her. It faded and dimmed
before her eyes.
She slapped Ginger's flanks and kept him
going, and she at last got him up to the spot.
But there was nothing there. The bunch grass
grew tall and rank and in the midst of it lay
a baby's shoe. Flora thought of picking it
up, but something cold in her veins withheld
her. Then she grew angry, and set Ginger's
head toward the place and tried to drive him
over it. But the yellow broncho gave one
snort of fear, gathered himself in a bunch,
and then, all tense, leaping muscles, made
for home as only a broncho can.
STORY OF AN OBSTINATE CORPSE
VIRGIL HOYT is a photographer's
assistant up at St. Paul, and enjoys
his work without being consumed
by it. He has been in search of the
picturesque all over the West and hundreds
of miles to the north, in Canada, and can
speak three or four Indian dialects and put a
canoe through the rapids. That is to say,
he is a man of adventure, and no dreamer.
He can fight well and shoot better, and swim
so as to put up a winning race with the Ind-
ian boys, and he can sit in the saddle all day
and not worry about it to-morrow.
Wherever he goes, he carries a camera.
"The world," Hoyt is in the habit of say-
ing to those who sit with him when he smokes
his pipe, "was created in six days to be pho-
tographed. Man -- and particularly woman --
was made for the same purpose. Clouds are
not made to give moisture nor trees to cast
shade. They have been created in order to
give the camera obscura something to do."
In short, Virgil Hoyt's view of the world
is whimsical, and he likes to be bothered
neither with the disagreeable nor the mysteri-
ous. That is the reason he loathes and detests
going to a house of mourning to photograph
a corpse. The bad taste of it offends him,
but above all, he doesn't like the necessity of
shouldering, even for a few moments, a part
of the burden of sorrow which belongs to
some one else. He dislikes sorrow, and
would willingly canoe five hundred miles up
the cold Canadian rivers to get rid of it.
Nevertheless, as assistant photographer, it is
often his duty to do this very kind of thing.
Not long ago he was sent for by a rich Jew-
ish family to photograph the remains of the
mother, who had just died. He was put out,
but he was only an assistant, and he went.
He was taken to the front parlor, where the
dead woman lay in her coffin. It was evident
to him that there was some excitement in the
household, and that a discussion was going on.
But Hoyt said to himself that it didn't con-
cern him, and he therefore paid no attention
The daughter wanted the coffin turned on
end in order that the corpse might face the
camera properly, but Hoyt said he could over-
come the recumbent attitude and make it ap-
pear that the face was taken in the position
it would naturally hold in life, and so they
went out and left him alone with the dead.
The face of the deceased was a strong and
positive one, such as may often be seen among
Jewish matrons. Hoyt regarded it with some
admiration, thinking to himself that she was a
woman who had known what she wanted, and
who, once having made up her mind, would
prove immovable. Such a character appealed
to Hoyt. He reflected that he might have
married if only he could have found a woman
with strength of character sufficient to disagree
with him. There was a strand of hair out of
place on the dead woman's brow, and he
gently pushed it back. A bud lifted its head
too high from among the roses on her breast
and spoiled the contour of the chin, so he
broke it off. He remembered these things
later with keen distinctness, and that his hand
touched her chill face two or three times in
the making of his arrangements.
Then he took the impression, and left the
He was busy at the time with some railroad
work, and several days passed before he found
opportunity to develop the plates. He took
them from the bath in which they had lain
with a number of others, and went energeti-
cally to work upon them, whistling some very
saucy songs he had learned of the guide in
the Red River country, and trying to forget
that the face which was presently to appear
was that of a dead woman. He had used
three plates as a precaution against accident,
and they came up well. But as they devel-
oped, he became aware of the existence of
something in the photograph which had not
been apparent to his eye in the subject. He
was irritated, and without attempting to face
the mystery, he made a few prints and laid
them aside, ardently hoping that by some
chance they would never be called for.
However, as luck would have it, -- and
Hoyt's luck never had been good, -- his em-
ployer asked one day what had become of
those photographs. Hoyt tried to evade
making an answer, but the effort was futile,
and he had to get out the finished prints and
exhibit them. The older man sat staring at
them a long time.
"Hoyt," he said, "you're a young man, and
very likely you have never seen anything like
this before. But I have. Not exactly the same
thing, perhaps, but similar phenomena have
come my way a number of times since I went in
the business, and I want to tell you there are
things in heaven and earth not dreamt of --"
"Oh, I know all that tommy-rot," cried
Hoyt, angrily, "but when anything happens I
want to know the reason why and how it is
"All right," answered his employer, "then
you might explain why and how the sun rises."
But he humored the young man sufficiently
to examine with him the baths in which the
plates were submerged, and the plates them-
selves. All was as it should be; but the mys-
tery was there, and could not be done away
Hoyt hoped against hope that the friends
of the dead woman would somehow forget
about the photographs; but the idea was un-
reasonable, and one day, as a matter of
course, the daughter appeared and asked to
see the pictures of her mother.
"Well, to tell the truth," stammered Hoyt,
"they didn't come out quite -- quite as well
as we could wish."
"But let me see them," persisted the lady.
"I'd like to look at them anyhow."
"Well, now," said Hoyt, trying to be
soothing, as he believed it was always best
to be with women, -- to tell the truth he was
an ignoramus where women were concerned,
-- "I think it would be better if you didn't
look at them. There are reasons why --"
he ambled on like this, stupid man that he
was, till the lady naturally insisted upon see-
ing the pictures without a moment's delay.
So poor Hoyt brought them out and placed
them in her hand, and then ran for the water
pitcher, and had to be at the bother of bath-
ing her forehead to keep her from fainting.
For what the lady saw was this: Over face
and flowers and the head of the coffin fell a
thick veil, the edges of which touched the
floor in some places. It covered the feat-
ures so well that not a hint of them was
"There was nothing over mother's face!"
cried the lady at length.
"Not a thing," acquiesced Hoyt. "I
know, because I had occasion to touch her
face just before I took the picture. I put
some of her hair back from her brow."
"What does it mean, then?" asked the
"You know better than I. There is no ex-
planation in science. Perhaps there is some
in -- in psychology."
"Well," said the young woman, stammer-
ing a little and coloring, "mother was a good
woman, but she always wanted her own way,
and she always had it, too."
"And she never would have her picture
taken. She didn't admire her own appear-
ance. She said no one should ever see a
picture of her."
"So?" said Hoyt, meditatively. "Well,
she's kept her word, hasn't she?"
The two stood looking at the photographs
for a time. Then Hoyt pointed to the open
blaze in the grate.
"Throw them in," he commanded. "Don't
let your father see them -- don't keep them
yourself. They wouldn't be agreeable things
"That's true enough," admitted the lady.
And she threw them in the fire. Then Vir-
gil Hoyt brought out the plates and broke
them before her eyes.
And that was the end of it -- except that
Hoyt sometimes tells the story to those who
sit beside him when his pipe is lighted.
A CHILD OF THE RAIN
IT was the night that Mona Meeks,
the dressmaker, told him she
didn't love him. He couldn't
believe it at first, because he had
so long been accustomed to the idea that she
did, and no matter how rough the weather or
how irascible the passengers, he felt a song
in his heart as he punched transfers, and rang
his bell punch, and signalled the driver when
to let people off and on.
Now, suddenly, with no reason except a
woman's, she had changed her mind. He
dropped in to see her at five o'clock, just
before time for the night shift, and to give
her two red apples he had been saving for her.
She looked at the apples as if they were in-
visible and she could not see them, and stand-
ing in her disorderly little dressmaking parlor,
with its cuttings and scraps and litter of fab-
rics, she said:
"It is no use, John. I shall have to work
here like this all my life -- work here alone.
For I don't love you, John. No, I don't. I
thought I did, but it is a mistake."
"You mean it?" asked John, bringing up
the words in a great gasp.
"Yes," she said, white and trembling and
putting out her hands as if to beg for his
mercy. And then -- big, lumbering fool --
he turned around and strode down the stairs
and stood at the corner in the beating rain
waiting for his car. It came along at length,
spluttering on the wet rails and spitting out
blue fire, and he took his shift after a
gruff "Good night" to Johnson, the man he
He was glad the rain was bitter cold and
drove in his face fiercely. He rejoiced at
the cruelty of the wind, and when it hustled
pedestrians before it, lashing them, twisting
their clothes, and threatening their equilib-
rium, he felt amused. He was pleased at
the chill in his bones and at the hunger that
tortured him. At least, at first he thought it
was hunger till he remembered that he had
just eaten. The hours passed confusedly.
He had no consciousness of time. But it
must have been late, -- near midnight, --
judging by the fact that there were few per-
sons visible anywhere in the black storm,
when he noticed a little figure sitting at the
far end of the car. He had not seen the
child when she got on, but all was so curious
and wild to him that evening -- he himself
seemed to himself the most curious and the
wildest of all things -- that it was not surpris-
ing that he should not have observed the little
She was wrapped in a coat so much too
large that it had become frayed at the bottom
from dragging on the pavement. Her hair
hung in unkempt stringiness about her bent
shoulders, and her feet were covered with
old arctics, many sizes too big, from which
the soles hung loose.
Beside the little figure was a chest of dark
wood, with curiously wrought hasps. From
this depended a stout strap by which it could
be carried over the shoulders. John Billings
stared in, fascinated by the poor little thing
with its head sadly drooping upon its breast,
its thin blue hands relaxed upon its lap, and
its whole attitude so suggestive of hunger,
loneliness, and fatigue, that he made up his
mind he would collect no fare from it.
"It will need its nickel for breakfast," he
said to himself. "The company can stand
this for once. Or, come to think of it, I
might celebrate my hard luck. Here's to the
brotherhood of failures!" And he took a
nickel from one pocket of his great-coat and
dropped it in another, ringing his bell punch
to record the transfer.
The car plunged along in the darkness, and
the rain beat more viciously than ever in his
face. The night was full of the rushing sound
of the storm. Owing to some change of tem-
perature the glass of the car became obscured
so that the young conductor could no longer
see the little figure distinctly, and he grew
anxious about the child.
"I wonder if it's all right," he said to him-
self. "I never saw living creature sit so still."
He opened the car door, intending to speak
with the child, but just then something went
wrong with the lights. There was a blue and
green flickering, then darkness, a sudden halt-
ing of the car, and a great sweep of wind and
rain in at the door. When, after a moment,
light and motion reasserted themselves, and
Billings had got the door together, he turned
to look at the little passenger. But the car
It was a fact. There was no child there --
not even moisture on the seat where she had
"Bill," said he, going to the front door and
addressing the driver, "what became of that
little kid in the old cloak?"
"I didn't see no kid," said Bill, crossly.
"For Gawd's sake, close the door, John, and
git that draught off my back."
"Draught!" said John, indignantly, "where's
"You've left the hind door open," growled
Bill, and John saw him shivering as a blast
struck him and ruffled the fur on his bear-skin
coat. But the door was not open, and yet
John had to admit to himself that the car
seemed filled with wind and a strange
However, it didn't matter. Nothing mat-
tered! Still, it was as well no doubt to look
under the seats just to make sure no little
crouching figure was there, and so he did.
But there was nothing. In fact, John said to
himself, he seemed to be getting expert in
finding nothing where there ought to be some-
He might have stayed in the car, for there
was no likelihood of more passengers that
evening, but somehow he preferred going out
where the rain could drench him and the
wind pommel him. How horribly tired he
was! If there were only some still place away
from the blare of the city where a man could
lie down and listen to the sound of the sea
or the storm -- or if one could grow suddenly
old and get through with the bother of living
-- or if --
The car gave a sudden lurch as it rounded
a curve, and for a moment it seemed to be
a mere chance whether Conductor Billings
would stay on his platform or go off under
those fire-spitting wheels. He caught in-
stinctively at his brake, saved himself, and
stood still for a moment, panting.
"I must have dozed," he said to himself.
Just then, dimly, through the blurred win-
dow, he saw again the little figure of the
child, its head on its breast as before, its
blue hands lying in its lap and the curious
box beside it. John Billings felt a coldness
beyond the coldness of the night run through
his blood. Then, with a half-stifled cry, he
threw back the door, and made a desperate
spring at the corner where the eerie thing
And he touched the green carpeting on the
seat, which was quite dry and warm, as if no
dripping, miserable little wretch had ever
He rushed to the front door.
"Bill," he roared, "I want to know about
"The same kid! The wet one with the old
coat and the box with iron hasps! The one
that's been sitting here in the car!"
Bill turned his surly face to confront the
"You've been drinking, you fool," said he.
"Fust thing you know you'll be reported."
The conductor said not a word. He went
slowly and weakly back to his post and stood
there the rest of the way leaning against the
end of the car for support. Once or twice
"The poor little brat!" And again he
said, "So you didn't love me after all!"
He never knew how he reached home, but
he sank to sleep as dying men sink to death.
All the same, being a hearty young man, he
was on duty again next day but one, and
again the night was rainy and cold.
It was the last run, and the car was spin-
ning along at its limit, when there came a
sudden soft shock. John Billings knew what
that meant. He had felt something of the
kind once before. He turned sick for a
moment, and held on to the brake. Then
he summoned his courage and went around
to the side of the car, which had stopped.
Bill, the driver, was before him, and had a
limp little figure in his arms, and was carry-
ing it to the gaslight. John gave one look
"It's the same kid, Bill! The one I told
True as truth were the ragged coat dangling
from the pitiful body, the little blue hands,
the thin shoulders, the stringy hair, the big
arctics on the feet. And in the road not far
off was the curious chest of dark wood with
"She ran under the car deliberate!" cried
Bill. "I yelled to her, but she looked at me
and ran straight on!"
He was white in spite of his weather-beaten
"I guess you wasn't drunk last night after
all, John," said he.
"You -- you are sure the kid is -- is there?"
"Not so damned sure!" said Bill.
But a few minutes later it was taken away
in a patrol wagon, and with it the little box
with iron hasps.
THE ROOM OF THE EVIL THOUGHT
THEY called it the room of the Evil
Thought. It was really the pleas-
antest room in the house, and
when the place had been used as
the rectory, was the minister's study. It
looked out on a mournful clump of larches,
such as may often be seen in the old-fash-
ioned yards in Michigan, and these threw a
tender gloom over the apartment.
There was a wide fireplace in the room,
and it had been the young minister's habit
to sit there hours and hours, staring ahead of
him at the fire, and smoking moodily. The
replenishing of the fire and of his pipe, it
was said, would afford him occupation all
the day long, and that was how it came about
that his parochial duties were neglected so
that, little by little, the people became dis-
satisfied with him, though he was an eloquent
young man, who could send his congregation
away drunk on his influence. However, the
calmer pulsed among his parish began to
whisper that it was indeed the influence of
the young minister and not that of the Holy
Ghost which they felt, and it was finally
decided that neither animal magnetism nor
hypnotism were good substitutes for religion.
And so they let him go.
The new rector moved into a smart brick
house on the other side of the church, and
gave receptions and dinner parties, and was
punctilious about making his calls. The
people therefore liked him very much -- so
much that they raised the debt on the church
and bought a chime of bells, in their enthu-
siasm. Every one was lighter of heart than
under the ministration of the previous rector.
A burden appeared to be lifted from the com-
munity. True, there were a few who con-
fessed the new man did not give them the
food for thought which the old one had done,
but, then, the former rector had made them
uncomfortable! He had not only made them
conscious of the sins of which they were
already guilty, but also of those for which
they had the latent capacity. A strange and
fatal man, whom women loved to their sor-
row, and whom simple men could not under-
stand! It was generally agreed that the parish
was well rid of him.
"He was a genius," said the people in
commiseration. The word was an uncom-
plimentary epithet with them.
When the Hanscoms moved in the house
which had been the old rectory, they gave
Grandma Hanscom the room with the fire-
place. Grandma was well pleased. The
roaring fire warmed her heart as well as her
chill old body, and she wept with weak joy
when she looked at the larches, because they
reminded her of the house she had lived in
when she was first married. All the forenoon
of the first day she was busy putting things
away in bureau drawers and closets, but by
afternoon she was ready to sit down in her
high-backed rocker and enjoy the comforts of
She nodded a bit before the fire, as she
usually did after luncheon, and then she
awoke with an awful start and sat staring
before her with such a look in her gentle,
filmy old eyes as had never been there before.
She did not move, except to rock slightly,
and the Thought grew and grew till her face
was disguised as by some hideous mask of
By and by the children came pounding at
"Oh, grandma, let us in, please. We
want to see your new room, and mamma
gave us some ginger cookies on a plate, and
we want to give some to you."
The door gave way under their assaults, and
the three little ones stood peeping in, wait-
ing for permission to enter. But it did not
seem to be their grandma -- their own dear
grandma -- who arose and tottered toward
them in fierce haste, crying:
"Away, away! Out of my sight! Out of