Part 2 out of 2
my sight before I do the thing I want to do!
Such a terrible thing! Send some one to me
quick, children, children! Send some one
They fled with feet shod with fear, and
their mother came, and Grandma Hanscom
sank down and clung about her skirts and
"Tie me, Miranda. Make me fast to the
bed or the wall. Get some one to watch me.
For I want to do an awful thing!"
They put the trembling old creature in bed,
and she raved there all the night long and
cried out to be held, and to be kept from
doing the fearful thing, whatever it was -- for
she never said what it was.
The next morning some one suggested tak-
ing her in the sitting-room where she would
be with the family. So they laid her on the
sofa, hemmed around with cushions, and
before long she was her quiet self again,
though exhausted, naturally, with the tumult
of the previous night. Now and then, as the
children played about her, a shadow crept
over her face -- a shadow as of cold remem-
brance -- and then the perplexed tears
When she seemed as well as ever they put
her back in her room. But though the fire
glowed and the lamp burned, as soon as ever
she was alone they heard her shrill cries ring-
ing to them that the Evil Thought had come
again. So Hal, who was home from col-
lege, carried her up to his room, which
she seemed to like very well. Then he went
down to have a smoke before grandma's
The next morning he was absent from break-
fast. They thought he might have gone for
an early walk, and waited for him a few min-
utes. Then his sister went to the room that
looked upon the larches, and found him
dressed and pacing the floor with a face set
and stern. He had not been in bed at all,
as she saw at once. His eyes were bloodshot,
his face stricken as if with old age or sin or
-- but she could not make it out. When he
saw her he sank in a chair and covered his
face with his hands, and between the trembling
fingers she could see drops of perspiration on
"Hal!" she cried, "Hal, what is it?"
But for answer he threw his arms about the
little table and clung to it, and looked at her
with tortured eyes, in which she fancied she
saw a gleam of hate. She ran, screaming,
from the room, and her father came and went
up to him and laid his hands on the boy's
shoulders. And then a fearful thing hap-
pened. All the family saw it. There could
be no mistake. Hal's hands found their way
with frantic eagerness toward his father's
throat as if they would choke him, and the
look in his eyes was so like a madman's that
his father raised his fist and felled him as he
used to fell men years before in the college
fights, and then dragged him into the sitting-
room and wept over him.
By evening, however, Hal was all right, and
the family said it must have been a fever, --
perhaps from overstudy, -- at which Hal cov-
ertly smiled. But his father was still too
anxious about him to let him out of his sight,
so he put him on a cot in his room, and thus
it chanced that the mother and Grace con-
cluded to sleep together downstairs.
The two women made a sort of festival of
it, and drank little cups of chocolate before
the fire, and undid and brushed their brown
braids, and smiled at each other, understand-
ingly, with that sweet intuitive sympathy
which women have, and Grace told her
mother a number of things which she had
been waiting for just such an auspicious oc-
casion to confide.
But the larches were noisy and cried out
with wild voices, and the flame of the fire
grew blue and swirled about in the draught
sinuously, so that a chill crept upon the two.
Something cold appeared to envelop them --
such a chill as pleasure voyagers feel when
a berg steals beyond Newfoundland and
glows blue and threatening upon their ocean
Then came something else which was not
cold, but hot as the flames of hell -- and they
saw red, and stared at each other with mad-
dened eyes, and then ran together from the
room and clasped in close embrace safe
beyond the fatal place, and thanked God
they had not done the thing that they dared
not speak of -- the thing which suddenly came
to them to do.
So they called it the room of the Evil
Thought. They could not account for it.
They avoided the thought of it, being healthy
and happy folk. But none entered it more.
The door was locked.
One day, Hal, reading the paper, came
across a paragraph concerning the young min-
ister who had once lived there, and who had
thought and written there and so influenced
the lives of those about him that they remem-
bered him even while they disapproved.
"He cut a man's throat on board ship for
Australia," said he, "and then he cut his own,
without fatal effect -- and jumped overboard,
and so ended it. What a strange thing!"
Then they all looked at one another with
subtle looks, and a shadow fell upon them
and stayed the blood at their hearts.
The next week the room of the Evil Thought
was pulled down to make way for a pansy bed,
which is quite gay and innocent, and blooms
all the better because the larches, with their
eternal murmuring, have been laid low and
carted away to the sawmill.
STORY OF THE VANISHING PATIENT
THERE had always been strange
stories about the house, but it
was a sensible, comfortable sort
of a neighborhood, and people
took pains to say to one another that there
was nothing in these tales -- of course not!
Absolutely nothing! How could there be?
It was a matter of common remark, however,
that considering the amount of money the
Nethertons had spent on the place, it was
curious they lived there so little. They were
nearly always away, -- up North in the sum-
mer and down South in the winter, and over
to Paris or London now and then, -- and when
they did come home it was only to entertain
a number of guests from the city. The place
was either plunged in gloom or gayety. The
old gardener who kept house by himself in
the cottage at the back of the yard had things
much his own way by far the greater part of
Dr. Block and his wife lived next door to
the Nethertons, and he and his wife, who
were so absurd as to be very happy in each
other's company, had the benefit of the beau-
tiful yard. They walked there mornings when
the leaves were silvered with dew, and even-
ings they sat beside the lily pond and listened
for the whip-poor-will. The doctor's wife
moved her room over to that side of the
house which commanded a view of the yard,
and thus made the honeysuckles and laurel
and clematis and all the masses of tossing
greenery her own. Sitting there day after
day with her sewing, she speculated about the
mystery which hung impalpably yet undeniably
over the house.
It happened one night when she and her
husband had gone to their room, and were
congratulating themselves on the fact that he
had no very sick patients and was likely to
enjoy a good night's rest, that a ring came at
"If it's any one wanting you to leave
home," warned his wife, "you must tell them
you are all worn out. You've been disturbed
every night this week, and it's too much!"
The young physician went downstairs. At
the door stood a man whom he had never
"My wife is lying very ill next door," said
the stranger, "so ill that I fear she will not
live till morning. Will you please come to
her at once?"
"Next door?" cried the physician. "I
didn't know the Nethertons were home!"
"Please hasten," begged the man. "I must
go back to her. Follow as quickly as you
The doctor went back upstairs to complete
"How absurd," protested his wife when she
heard the story. "There is no one at the
Nethertons'. I sit where I can see the front
door, and no one can enter without my know-
ing it, and I have been sewing by the window
all day. If there were any one in the house,
the gardener would have the porch lantern
lighted. It is some plot. Some one has
designs on you. You must not go."
But he went. As he left the room his wife
placed a revolver in his pocket.
The great porch of the mansion was dark,
but the physician made out that the door was
open, and he entered. A feeble light came
from the bronze lamp at the turn of the stairs,
and by it he found his way, his feet sinking
noiselessly in the rich carpets. At the head
of the stairs the man met him. The doctor
thought himself a tall man, but the stranger
topped him by half a head. He motioned
the physician to follow him, and the two went
down the hall to the front room. The place
was flushed with a rose-colored glow from
several lamps. On a silken couch, in the
midst of pillows, lay a woman dying with
consumption. She was like a lily, white,
shapely, graceful, with feeble yet charming
movements. She looked at the doctor ap-
pealingly, then, seeing in his eyes the in-
voluntary verdict that her hour was at hand,
she turned toward her companion with a
glance of anguish. Dr. Block asked a few
questions. The man answered them, the
woman remaining silent. The physician ad-
ministered something stimulating, and then
wrote a prescription which he placed on the
"The drug store is closed to-night," he
said, "and I fear the druggist has gone home.
You can have the prescription filled the first
thing in the morning, and I will be over
After that, there was no reason why he
should not have gone home. Yet, oddly
enough, he preferred to stay. Nor was it
professional anxiety that prompted this delay.
He longed to watch those mysterious per-
sons, who, almost oblivious of his presence,
were speaking their mortal farewells in their
glances, which were impassioned and of un-
He sat as if fascinated. He watched the
glitter of rings on the woman's long, white
hands, he noted the waving of light hair
about her temples, he observed the details of
her gown of soft white silk which fell about
her in voluminous folds. Now and then the
man gave her of the stimulant which the doc-
tor had provided; sometimes he bathed her
face with water. Once he paced the floor
for a moment till a motion of her hand
After a time, feeling that it would be more
sensible and considerate of him to leave, the
doctor made his way home. His wife was
awake, impatient to hear of his experiences.
She listened to his tale in silence, and when
he had finished she turned her face to the
wall and made no comment.
"You seem to be ill, my dear," he said.
"You have a chill. You are shivering."
"I have no chill," she replied sharply.
"But I -- well, you may leave the light
The next morning before breakfast the doc-
tor crossed the dewy sward to the Netherton
house. The front door was locked, and no
one answered to his repeated ringings. The
old gardener chanced to be cutting the grass
near at hand, and he came running up.
"What you ringin' that door-bell for, doc-
tor?" said he. "The folks ain't come home
yet. There ain't nobody there."
"Yes, there is, Jim. I was called here last
night. A man came for me to attend his
wife. They must both have fallen asleep that
the bell is not answered. I wouldn't be sur-
prised to find her dead, as a matter of fact.
She was a desperately sick woman. Perhaps
she is dead and something has happened to
him. You have the key to the door, Jim.
Let me in."
But the old man was shaking in every limb,
and refused to do as he was bid.
"Don't you never go in there, doctor,"
whispered he, with chattering teeth. "Don't
you go for to 'tend no one. You jus' come
tell me when you sent for that way. No, I
ain't goin' in, doctor, nohow. It ain't part
of my duties to go in. That's been stipulated
by Mr. Netherton. It's my business to look
after the garden."
Argument was useless. Dr. Block took the
bunch of keys from the old man's pocket and
himself unlocked the front door and entered.
He mounted the steps and made his way to
the upper room. There was no evidence of
occupancy. The place was silent, and, so far
as living creature went, vacant. The dust lay
over everything. It covered the delicate
damask of the sofa where he had seen the
dying woman. It rested on the pillows. The
place smelled musty and evil, as if it had not
been used for a long time. The lamps of the
room held not a drop of oil.
But on the mantel-shelf was the prescrip-
tion which the doctor had written the night
before. He read it, folded it, and put it in
As he locked the outside door the old gar-
dener came running to him.
"Don't you never go up there again, will
you?" he pleaded, "not unless you see all the
Nethertons home and I come for you myself.
You won't, doctor?"
"No," said the doctor.
When he told his wife she kissed him, and
"Next time when I tell you to stay at home,
you must stay!"
THE PIANO NEXT DOOR
BABETTE had gone away for the
summer; the furniture was in its
summer linens; the curtains were
down, and Babette's husband, John
Boyce, was alone in the house. It was the
first year of his marriage, and he missed
Babette. But then, as he often said to him-
self, he ought never to have married her. He
did it from pure selfishness, and because he
was determined to possess the most illusive,
tantalizing, elegant, and utterly unmoral little
creature that the sun shone upon. He wanted
her because she reminded him of birds, and
flowers, and summer winds, and other exqui-
site things created for the delectation of
mankind. He neither expected nor desired
her to think. He had half-frightened her into
marrying him, had taken her to a poor man's
home, provided her with no society such as
she had been accustomed to, and he had no
reasonable cause of complaint when she
answered the call of summer and flitted away,
like a butterfly in the morning sunshine, to
the place where the flowers grew.
He wrote to her every evening, sitting in
the stifling, ugly house, and poured out his
soul as if it were a libation to a goddess.
She sometimes answered by telegraph, some-
times by a perfumed note. He schooled him-
self not to feel hurt. Why should Babette
write? Does a goldfinch indict epistles; or
a humming-bird study composition; or a
glancing, red-scaled fish in summer shallows
consider the meaning of words?
He knew at the beginning what Babette was
-- guessed her limitations -- trembled when
he buttoned her tiny glove -- kissed her dainty
slipper when he found it in the closet after
she was gone -- thrilled at the sound of her
laugh, or the memory of it! That was all.
A mere case of love. He was in bonds.
Babette was not. Therefore he was in the
city, working overhours to pay for Babette's
pretty follies down at the seaside. It was
quite right and proper. He was a grub in
the furrow; she a lark in the blue. Those
had always been and always must be their
Having attained a mood of philosophic
calm, in which he was prepared to spend his
evenings alone -- as became a grub -- and to
await with dignified patience the return of
his wife, it was in the nature of an inconsist-
ency that he should have walked the floor of
the dull little drawing-room like a lion in
cage. It did not seem in keeping with the
position of superior serenity which he had
assumed, that, reading Babette's notes, he
should have raged with jealousy, or that, in
the loneliness of his unkempt chamber, he
should have stretched out arms of longing.
Even if Babette had been present, she would
only have smiled her gay little smile and co-
quetted with him. She could not understand.
He had known, of course, from the first mo-
ment, that she could not understand! And
so, why the ache, ache, ache of the heart!
Or WAS it the heart, or the brain, or the
Sometimes, when the evenings were so hot
that he could not endure the close air of the
house, he sat on the narrow, dusty front porch
and looked about him at his neighbors. The
street had once been smart and aspiring, but
it had fallen into decay and dejection. Pale
young men, with flurried-looking wives, seemed
to Boyce to occupy most of the houses. Some-
times three or four couples would live in one
house. Most of these appeared to be child-
less. The women made a pretence at fashion-
able dressing, and wore their hair elaborately
in fashions which somehow suggested board-
ing-houses to Boyce, though he could not
have told why. Every house in the block
needed fresh paint. Lacking this renovation,
the householders tried to make up for it by
a display of lace curtains which, at every
window, swayed in the smoke-weighted breeze.
Strips of carpeting were laid down the front
steps of the houses where the communities of
young couples lived, and here, evenings, the
inmates of the houses gathered, committing
mild extravagances such as the treating of each
other to ginger ale, or beer, or ice-cream.
Boyce watched these tawdry makeshifts at
sociability with bitterness and loathing. He
wondered how he could have been such a
fool as to bring his exquisite Babette to this
neighborhood. How could he expect that
she would return to him? It was not reason-
able. He ought to go down on his knees
with gratitude that she even condescended to
Sitting one night till late, -- so late that the
fashionable young wives with their husbands
had retired from the strips of stair carpeting,
-- and raging at the loneliness which ate at
his heart like a cancer, he heard, softly creep-
ing through the windows of the house adjoin-
ing his own, the sound of comfortable mel-
It breathed upon his ear like a spirit of
consolation, speaking of peace, of love which
needs no reward save its own sweetness, of
aspiration which looks forever beyond the
thing of the hour to find attainment in that
which is eternal. So insidiously did it whis-
per these things, so delicately did the simple
and perfect melodies creep upon the spirit --
that Boyce felt no resentment, but from the
first listened as one who listens to learn, or
as one who, fainting on the hot road, hears, far
in the ferny deeps below, the gurgle of a spring.
Then came harmonies more intricate: fair
fabrics of woven sound, in the midst of which
gleamed golden threads of joy; a tapestry of
sound, multi-tinted, gallant with story and
achievement, and beautiful things. Boyce,
sitting on his absurd piazza, with his knees
jambed against the balustrade, and his chair
back against the dun-colored wall of his
house, seemed to be walking in the cathedral
of the redwood forest, with blue above him,
a vast hymn in his ears, pungent perfume in
his nostrils, and mighty shafts of trees lifting
themselves to heaven, proud and erect as pure
men before their Judge. He stood on a
mountain at sunrise, and saw the marvels of
the amethystine clouds below his feet, heard
an eternal and white silence, such as broods
among the everlasting snows, and saw an eagle
winging for the sun. He was in a city, and
away from him, diverging like the spokes of
a wheel, ran thronging streets, and to his sense
came the beat, beat, beat of the city's heart.
He saw the golden alchemy of a chosen race;
saw greed transmitted to progress; saw that
which had enslaved men, work at last to their
liberation; heard the roar of mighty mills,
and on the streets all the peoples of earth
walking with common purpose, in fealty and
understanding. And then, from the swelling
of this concourse of great sounds, came a
diminuendo, calm as philosophy, and from
Boyce sat still for a long time, listening to
the echoes which this music had awakened
in his soul. He retired, at length, content,
but determined that upon the morrow he
would watch -- the day being Sunday -- for
the musician who had so moved and taught
He arose early, therefore, and having pre-
pared his own simple breakfast of fruit and
coffee, took his station by the window to
watch for the man. For he felt convinced
that the exposition he had heard was that of
a masculine mind. The long, hot hours of
the morning went by, but the front door
of the house next to his did not open.
"These artists sleep late," he complained.
Still he watched. He was too much afraid
of losing him to go out for dinner. By three
in the afternoon he had grown impatient. He
went to the house next door and rang the
bell. There was no response. He thun-
dered another appeal. An old woman with
a cloth about her head answered the door.
She was very deaf, and Boyce had difficulty
in making himself understood.
"The family is in the country," was all she
would say. "The family will not be home
"But there is some one living here?"
"_I_ live here," she said with dignity, put-
ting back a wisp of dirty gray hair behind
her ear. "It is my house. I sublet to the
But the old creature was not communica-
"The family that lives here," she said.
"Then who plays the piano in this house?"
roared Boyce. "Do you?"
He thought a shade of pallor showed itself
on her ash-colored cheeks. Yet she smiled a
little at the idea of her playing.
"There is no piano," she said, and she put
an enigmatical emphasis to the words.
"Nonsense," cried Boyce, indignantly. "I
heard a piano being played in this very house
for hours last night!"
"You may enter," said the old woman,
with an accent more vicious than hospitable.
Boyce almost burst into the drawing-room.
It was a dusty and forbidding place, with ugly
furniture and gaudy walls. No piano nor any
other musical instrument stood in it. The
intruder turned an angry and baffled face to
the old woman, who was smiling with ill-
"I shall see the other rooms," he an-
nounced. The old woman did not appear to
be surprised at his impertinence.
"As you please," she said.
So, with the hobbling creature, with her
bandaged head, for a guide, he explored every
room of the house, which being identical with
his own, he could do without fear of leaving
any apartment unentered. But no piano did
"Explain," roared Boyce at length, turning
upon the leering old hag beside him. "Ex-
plain! For surely I heard music more beau-
tiful than I can tell."
"I know nothing," she said. "But it is
true I once had a lodger who rented the
front room, and that he played upon the
piano. I am poor at hearing, but he must
have played well, for all the neighbors used
to come in front of the house to listen, and
sometimes they applauded him, and some-
times they were still. I could tell by
watching their hands. Sometimes little chil-
dren came and danced. Other times young
men and women came and listened. But the
young man died. The neighbors were angry.
They came to look at him and said he had
starved to death. It was no fault of mine.
I sold his piano to pay his funeral ex-
penses -- and it took every cent to pay for
them too, I'd have you know. But since
then, sometimes -- still, it must be non-
sense, for I never heard it -- folks say that he
plays the piano in my room. It has kept me
out of the letting of it more than once. But
the family doesn't seem to mind -- the family
that lives here, you know. They will be back
in September. Yes."
Boyce left her nodding her thanks at what
he had placed in her hand, and went home to
write it all to Babette -- Babette who would
laugh so merrily when she read it!
AN ASTRAL ONION
WHEN Tig Braddock came to Nora
Finnegan he was red-headed and
freckled, and, truth to tell, he re-
mained with these features to the
end of his life -- a life prolonged by a lucky,
if somewhat improbable, incident, as you shall
Tig had shuffled off his parents as saurians,
of some sorts, do their skins. During the
temporary absence from home of his mother,
who was at the bridewell, and the more ex-
tended vacation of his father, who, like Vil-
lon, loved the open road and the life of it,
Tig, who was not a well-domesticated animal,
wandered away. The humane society never
heard of him, the neighbors did not miss
him, and the law took no cognizance of this
detached citizen -- this lost pleiad. Tig
would have sunk into that melancholy which
is attendant upon hunger, -- the only form of
despair which babyhood knows, -- if he had
not wandered across the path of Nora Finne-
gan. Now Nora shone with steady brightness
in her orbit, and no sooner had Tig entered
her atmosphere, than he was warmed and com-
forted. Hunger could not live where Nora
was. The basement room where she kept
house was redolent with savory smells; and
in the stove in her front room -- which was
also her bedroom -- there was a bright fire
glowing when fire was needed.
Nora went out washing for a living. But
she was not a poor washerwoman. Not at all.
She was a washerwoman triumphant. She
had perfect health, an enormous frame, an
abounding enthusiasm for life, and a rich
abundance of professional pride. She be-
lieved herself to be the best washer of white
clothes she had ever had the pleasure of
knowing, and the value placed upon her ser-
vices, and her long connection with certain
families with large weekly washings, bore out
this estimate of herself -- an estimate which
she never endeavored to conceal.
Nora had buried two husbands without being
unduly depressed by the fact. The first hus-
band had been a disappointment, and Nora
winked at Providence when an accident in a
tunnel carried him off -- that is to say, carried
the husband off. The second husband was
not so much of a disappointment as a sur-
prise. He developed ability of a literary
order, and wrote songs which sold and made
him a small fortune. Then he ran away with
another woman. The woman spent his fort-
une, drove him to dissipation, and when he
was dying he came back to Nora, who re-
ceived him cordially, attended him to the
end, and cheered his last hours by singing
his own songs to him. Then she raised a
headstone recounting his virtues, which were
quite numerous, and refraining from any
reference to those peculiarities which had
caused him to be such a surprise.
Only one actual chagrin had ever nibbled
at the sound heart of Nora Finnegan -- a
cruel chagrin, with long, white teeth, such
as rodents have! She had never held a child
to her breast, nor laughed in its eyes; never
bathed the pink form of a little son or
daughter; never felt a tugging of tiny hands
at her voluminous calico skirts! Nora had
burnt many candles before the statue of the
blessed Virgin without remedying this deplor-
able condition. She had sent up unavailing
prayers -- she had, at times, wept hot tears of
longing and loneliness. Sometimes in her
sleep she dreamed that a wee form, warm and
exquisitely soft, was pressed against her firm
body, and that a hand with tiniest pink nails
crept within her bosom. But as she reached
out to snatch this delicious little creature
closer, she woke to realize a barren woman's
grief, and turned herself in anguish on her
So when Tig came along, accompanied by
two curs, who had faithfully followed him
from his home, and when she learned the
details of his story, she took him in, curs
and all, and, having bathed the three of
them, made them part and parcel of her
home. This was after the demise of the
second husband, and at a time when Nora
felt that she had done all a woman could be
expected to do for Hymen.
Tig was a preposterous baby. The curs
were preposterous curs. Nora had always
been afflicted with a surplus amount of
laughter -- laughter which had difficulty in
attaching itself to anything, owing to the
lack of the really comic in the surroundings
of the poor. But with a red-headed and
freckled baby boy and two trick dogs in the
house, she found a good and sufficient excuse
for her hilarity, and would have torn the
cave where echo lies with her mirth, had that
cave not been at such an immeasurable dis-
tance from the crowded neighborhood where
At the age of four Tig went to free kinder-
garten; at the age of six he was in school,
and made three grades the first year and two
the next. At fifteen he was graduated from
the high school and went to work as errand
boy in a newspaper office, with the fixed de-
termination to make a journalist of himself.
Nora was a trifle worried about his morals
when she discovered his intellect, but as time
went on, and Tig showed no devotion for any
woman save herself, and no consciousness
that there were such things as bad boys or
saloons in the world, she began to have con-
fidence. All of his earnings were brought to
her. Every holiday was spent with her. He
told her his secrets and his aspirations. He
admitted that he expected to become a great
man, and, though he had not quite decided
upon the nature of his career, -- saving, of
course, the makeshift of journalism, -- it
was not unlikely that he would elect to be a
novelist like -- well, probably like Thackeray.
Hope, always a charming creature, put on
her most alluring smiles for Tig, and he
made her his mistress, and feasted on the
light of her eyes. Moreover, he was chap-
eroned, so to speak, by Nora Finnegan, who
listened to every line Tig wrote, and made a
mighty applause, and filled him up with good
Irish stew, many colored as the coat of Joseph,
and pungent with the inimitable perfume of
"the rose of the cellar." Nora Finnegan
understood the onion, and used it lovingly.
She perceived the difference between the use
and abuse of this pleasant and obvious friend
of hungry man, and employed it with enthu-
siasm, but discretion. Thus it came about
that whoever ate of her dinners, found the
meals of other cooks strangely lacking in
savor, and remembered with regret the soups
and stews, the broiled steaks, and stuffed
chickens of the woman who appreciated the
When Nora Finnegan came home with a
cold one day, she took it in such a jocular
fashion that Tig felt not the least concern
about her, and when, two days later, she died
of pneumonia, he almost thought, at first,
that it must be one of her jokes. She had
departed with decision, such as had charac-
terized every act of her life, and had made as
little trouble for others as possible. When
she was dead the community had the oppor-
tunity of discovering the number of her
friends. Miserable children with faces
which revealed two generations of hunger,
homeless boys with vicious countenances,
miserable wrecks of humanity, women with
bloated faces, came to weep over Nora's bier,
and to lay a flower there, and to scuttle away,
more abjectly lonely than even sin could make
them. If the cats and the dogs, the sparrows
and horses to which she had shown kindness,
could also have attended her funeral, the
procession would have been, from a point of
numbers, one of the most imposing the city
had ever known. Tig used up all their sav-
ings to bury her, and the next week, by some
peculiar fatality, he had a falling out with the
night editor of his paper, and was discharged.
This sank deep into his sensitive soul, and
he swore he would be an underling no longer
-- which foolish resolution was directly trace-
able to his hair, the color of which, it will be
recollected, was red.
Not being an underling, he was obliged to
make himself into something else, and he
recurred passionately to his old idea of be-
coming a novelist. He settled down in
Nora's basement rooms, went to work on a
battered type-writer, did his own cooking,
and occasionally pawned something to keep
him in food. The environment was calcu-
lated to further impress him with the idea of
A certain magazine offered an alluring prize
for a short story, and Tig wrote one, and
rewrote it, making alterations, revisions, an-
notations, and interlineations which would
have reflected credit upon Honoré Balzac
himself. Then he wrought all together, with
splendid brevity and dramatic force, -- Tig's
own words, -- and mailed the same. He was
convinced he would get the prize. He was
just as much convinced of it as Nora Finne-
gan would have been if she had been with
So he went about doing more fiction, tak-
ing no especial care of himself, and wrapt in
rosy dreams, which, not being warm enough
for the weather, permitted him to come down
with rheumatic fever.
He lay alone in his room and suffered such
torments as the condemned and rheumatic
know, depending on one of Nora's former
friends to come in twice a day and keep up
the fire for him. This friend was aged ten,
and looked like a sparrow who had been in
a cyclone, but somewhere inside his bones
was a wit which had spelled out devotion.
He found fuel for the cracked stove, some-
how or other. He brought it in a dirty sack
which he carried on his back, and he kept
warmth in Tig's miserable body. Moreover,
he found food of a sort -- cold, horrible bits
often, and Tig wept when he saw them,
remembering the meals Nora had served
Tig was getting better, though he was con-
scious of a weak heart and a lamenting
stomach, when, to his amazement, the Spar-
row ceased to visit him. Not for a moment
did Tig suspect desertion. He knew that
only something in the nature of an act of
Providence, as the insurance companies would
designate it, could keep the little bundle of
bones away from him. As the days went by,
he became convinced of it, for no Sparrow
came, and no coal lay upon the hearth. The
basement window fortunately looked toward
the south, and the pale April sunshine was
beginning to make itself felt, so that the tem-
perature of the room was not unbearable. But
Tig languished; sank, sank, day by day, and
was kept alive only by the conviction that the
letter announcing the award of the thousand-
dollar prize would presently come to him.
One night he reached a place, where, for
hunger and dejection, his mind wandered,
and he seemed to be complaining all night
to Nora of his woes. When the chill dawn
came, with chittering of little birds on the
dirty pavement, and an agitation of the
scrawny willow "pussies," he was not able
to lift his hand to his head. The window
before his sight was but "a glimmering
square." He said to himself that the end
must be at hand. Yet it was cruel, cruel,
with fame and fortune so near! If only he
had some food, he might summon strength to
rally -- just for a little while! Impossible that
he should die! And yet without food there
was no choice.
Dreaming so of Nora's dinners, thinking
how one spoonful of a stew such as she often
compounded would now be his salvation, he
became conscious of the presence of a strong
perfume in the room. It was so familiar that
it seemed like a sub-consciousness, yet he
found no name for this friendly odor for a
bewildered minute or two. Little by little,
however, it grew upon him, that it was the
onion -- that fragrant and kindly bulb which
had attained its apotheosis in the cuisine of
Nora Finnegan of sacred memory. He opened
his languid eyes, to see if, mayhap, the plant
had not attained some more palpable mate-
Behold, it was so! Before him, in a brown
earthen dish, -- a most familiar dish, -- was an
onion, pearly white, in placid seas of gravy,
smoking and delectable. With unexpected
strength he raised himself, and reached for
the dish, which floated before him in a halo
made by its own steam. It moved toward
him, offered a spoon to his hand, and as he
ate he heard about the room the rustle of
Nora Finnegan's starched skirts, and now and
then a faint, faint echo of her old-time laugh
-- such an echo as one may find of the sea in
the heart of a shell.
The noble bulb disappeared little by little
before his voracity, and in contentment
greater than virtue can give, he sank back
upon his pillow and slept.
Two hours later the postman knocked at the
door, and receiving no answer, forced his
way in. Tig, half awake, saw him enter with
no surprise. He felt no surprise when he put
a letter in his hand bearing the name of the
magazine to which he had sent his short story.
He was not even surprised, when, tearing it
open with suddenly alert hands, he found
within the check for the first prize -- the
check he had expected.
All that day, as the April sunlight spread
itself upon his floor, he felt his strength grow.
Late in the afternoon the Sparrow came back,
paler, and more bony than ever, and sank,
breathing hard, upon the floor, with his sack
"I've been sick," he said, trying to smile.
"Terrible sick, but I come as soon as I could."
"Build up the fire," cried Tig, in a voice
so strong it made the Sparrow start as if a
stone had struck him. "Build up the fire,
and forget you are sick. For, by the shade of
Nora Finnegan, you shall be hungry no more!"
FROM THE LOOM OF THE DEAD
WHEN Urda Bjarnason tells a tale all
the men stop their talking to lis-
ten, for they know her to be wise
with the wisdom of the old people,
and that she has more learning than can be
got even from the great schools at Reykjavik.
She is especially prized by them here in this
new country where the Icelandmen are settled
-- this America, so new in letters, where the
people speak foolishly and write unthinking
books. So the men who know that it is given
to the mothers of earth to be very wise, stop
their six part singing, or their jangles about
the free-thinkers, and give attentive ear when
Urda Bjarnason lights her pipe and begins her
She is very old. Her daughters and sons
are all dead, but her granddaughter, who is
most respectable, and the cousin of a phy-
sician, says that Urda is twenty-four and a
hundred, and there are others who say that
she is older still. She watches all that the
Iceland people do in the new land; she knows
about the building of the five villages on the
North Dakota plain, and of the founding of
the churches and the schools, and the tilling
of the wheat farms. She notes with sus-
picion the actions of the women who bring
home webs of cloth from the store, instead of
spinning them as their mothers did before
them; and she shakes her head at the wives
who run to the village grocery store every
fortnight, imitating the wasteful American
women, who throw butter in the fire faster
than it can be turned from the churn.
She watches yet other things. All winter
long the white snows reach across the gently
rolling plains as far as the eye can behold.
In the morning she sees them tinted pink at
the east; at noon she notes golden lights
flashing across them; when the sky is gray --
which is not often -- she notes that they grow
as ashen as a face with the death shadow on it.
Sometimes they glitter with silver-like tips of
ocean waves. But at these things she looks
only casually. It is when the blue shadows
dance on the snow that she leaves her corner
behind the iron stove, and stands before the
window, resting her two hands on the stout
bar of her cane, and gazing out across the
waste with eyes which age has restored after
four decades of decrepitude.
The young Icelandmen say:
"Mother, it is the clouds hurrying across
the sky that make the dance of the shadows."
"There are no clouds," she replies, and
points to the jewel-like blue of the arching
"It is the drifting air," explains Fridrik
Halldersson, he who has been in the North-
ern seas. "As the wind buffets the air, it
looks blue against the white of the snow.
'Tis the air that makes the dancing shadows."
But Urda shakes her head, and points with
her dried finger, and those who stand beside
her see figures moving, and airy shapes, and
contortions of strange things, such as are seen
in a beryl stone.
"But Urda Bjarnason," says Ingeborg Chris-
tianson, the pert young wife with the blue-
eyed twins, "why is it we see these things
only when we stand beside you and you help
us to the sight?"
"Because," says the mother, with a steel-
blue flash of her old eyes, "having eyes ye
will not see!" Then the men laugh. They
like to hear Ingeborg worsted. For did she
not jilt two men from Gardar, and one from
Mountain, and another from Winnipeg?
Not even Ingeborg can deny that Mother
Urda tells true things.
"To-day," says Urda, standing by the little
window and watching the dance of the shadows,
"a child breathed thrice on a farm at the
West, and then it died."
The next week at the church gathering,
when all the sledges stopped at the house of
Urda's granddaughter, they said it was so --
that John Christianson's wife Margaret never
heard the voice of her son, but that he
breathed thrice in his nurse's arms and died.
"Three sledges run over the snow toward
Milton," says Urda; "all are laden with wheat,
and in one is a stranger. He has with him
a strange engine, but its purpose I do not
Six hours later the drivers of three empty
sledges stop at the house.
"We have been to Milton with wheat," they
say, "and Christian Johnson here, carried a
photographer from St. Paul."
Now it stands to reason that the farmers
like to amuse themselves through the silent
and white winters. And they prefer above all
things to talk or to listen, as has been the
fashion of their race for a thousand years.
Among all the story-tellers there is none like
Urda, for she is the daughter and the grand-
daughter and the great-granddaughter of story-
tellers. It is given to her to talk, as it is
given to John Thorlaksson to sing -- he who
sings so as his sledge flies over the snow at
night, that the people come out in the bitter
air from their doors to listen, and the dogs
put up their noses and howl, not liking music.
In the little cabin of Peter Christianson, the
husband of Urda's granddaughter, it some-
times happens that twenty men will gather
about the stove. They hang their bear-skin
coats on the wall, put their fur gauntlets
underneath the stove, where they will keep
warm, and then stretch their stout, felt-covered
legs to the wood fire. The room is fetid;
the coffee steams eternally on the stove; and
from her chair in the warmest corner Urda
speaks out to the listening men, who shake
their heads with joy as they hear the pure old
Icelandic flow in sweet rhythm from between
her lips. Among the many, many tales she
tells is that of the dead weaver, and she tells
it in the simplest language in all the world --
language so simple that even great scholars
could find no simpler, and the children
crawling on the floor can understand.
"Jon and Loa lived with their father and
mother far to the north of the Island of Fire,
and when the children looked from their win-
dows they saw only wild scaurs and jagged
lava rocks, and a distant, deep gleam of the
sea. They caught the shine of the sea through
an eye-shaped opening in the rocks, and all
the long night of winter it gleamed up at them,
like the eye of a dead witch. But when it
sparkled and began to laugh, the children
danced about the hut and sang, for they knew
the bright summer time was at hand. Then
their father fished, and their mother was gay.
But it is true that even in the winter and the
darkness they were happy, for they made fish-
ing nets and baskets and cloth together, --
Jon and Loa and their father and mother, --
and the children were taught to read in the
books, and were told the sagas, and given
instruction in the part singing.
"They did not know there was such a thing
as sorrow in the world, for no one had ever
mentioned it to them. But one day their
mother died. Then they had to learn how to
keep the fire on the hearth, and to smoke the
fish, and make the black coffee. And also
they had to learn how to live when there is
sorrow at the heart.
"They wept together at night for lack of
their mother's kisses, and in the morning they
were loath to rise because they could not see
her face. The dead cold eye of the sea
watching them from among the lava rocks
made them afraid, so they hung a shawl over
the window to keep it out. And the house,
try as they would, did not look clean and
cheerful as it had used to do when their
mother sang and worked about it.
"One day, when a mist rested over the eye
of the sea, like that which one beholds on
the eyes of the blind, a greater sorrow came
to them, for a stepmother crossed the thres-
hold. She looked at Jon and Loa, and made
complaint to their father that they were still
very small and not likely to be of much use.
After that they had to rise earlier than ever,
and to work as only those who have their
growth should work, till their hearts cracked
for weariness and shame. They had not
much to eat, for their stepmother said she
would trust to the gratitude of no other
woman's child, and that she believed in lay-
ing up against old age. So she put the few
coins that came to the house in a strong box,
and bought little food. Neither did she buy
the children clothes, though those which their
dear mother had made for them were so worn
that the warp stood apart from the woof, and
there were holes at the elbows and little
warmth to be found in them anywhere.
"Moreover, the quilts on their beds were
too short for their growing length, so that
at night either their purple feet or their
thin shoulders were uncovered, and they
wept for the cold, and in the morning, when
they crept into the larger room to build
the fire, they were so stiff they could not
stand straight, and there was pain at their
"The wife scolded all the time, and her
brow was like a storm sweeping down from
the Northwest. There was no peace to be
had in the house. The children might not
repeat to each other the sagas their mother
had taught them, nor try their part singing,
nor make little doll cradles of rushes. Always
they had to work, always they were scolded,
always their clothes grew thinner.
"'Stepmother,' cried Loa one day, -- she
whom her mother had called the little bird,
-- 'we are a-cold because of our rags. Our
mother would have woven blue cloth for us
and made it into garments.'
"'Your mother is where she will weave no
cloth!' said the stepmother, and she laughed
"All in the cold and still of that night, the
stepmother wakened, and she knew not why.
She sat up in her bed, and knew not why.
She knew not why, and she looked into the
room, and there, by the light of a burning
fish's tail -- 'twas such a light the folk used in
those days -- was a woman, weaving. She had
no loom, and shuttle she had none. All with
her hands she wove a wondrous cloth. Stoop-
ing and bending, rising and swaying with
motions beautiful as those the Northern
Lights make in a midwinter sky, she wove a
cloth. The warp was blue and mystical to
see, the woof was white, and shone with its
whiteness, so that of all the webs the step-
mother had ever seen, she had seen none like
"Yet the sight delighted her not, for beyond
the drifting web, and beyond the weaver she
saw the room and furniture -- aye, saw them
through the body of the weaver and the drift-
ing of the cloth. Then she knew -- as the
haunted are made to know -- that 'twas the
mother of the children come to show her she
could still weave cloth. The heart of the
stepmother was cold as ice, yet she could not
move to waken her husband at her side, for
her hands were as fixed as if they were
crossed on her dead breast. The voice in her
was silent, and her tongue stood to the roof
of her mouth.
"After a time the wraith of the dead
mother moved toward her -- the wraith of the
weaver moved her way -- and round and about
her body was wound the shining cloth.
Wherever it touched the body of the step-
mother, it was as hateful to her as the touch
of a monster out of sea-slime, so that her flesh
crept away from it, and her senses swooned.
"In the early morning she awoke to the
voices of the children, whispering in the
inner room as they dressed with half-frozen
fingers. Still about her was the hateful, beau-
tiful web, filling her soul with loathing and
with fear. She thought she saw the task set
for her, and when the children crept in to
light the fire -- very purple and thin were
their little bodies, and the rags hung from
them -- she arose and held out the shining
cloth, and cried:
"'Here is the web your mother wove for
you. I will make it into garments!' But
even as she spoke the cloth faded and fell
into nothingness, and the children cried:
"'Stepmother, you have the fever!'
"'Stepmother, what makes the strange light
in the room?'
"That day the stepmother was too weak to
rise from her bed, and the children thought
she must be going to die, for she did not
scold as they cleared the house and braided
their baskets, and she did not frown at them,
but looked at them with wistful eyes.
"By fall of night she was as weary as if she
had wept all the day, and so she slept. But
again she was awakened and knew not why.
And again she sat up in her bed and knew
not why. And again, not knowing why, she
looked and saw a woman weaving cloth. All
that had happened the night before happened
this night. Then, when the morning came,
and the children crept in shivering from their
beds, she arose and dressed herself, and from
her strong box she took coins, and bade her
husband go with her to the town.
"So that night a web of cloth, woven by
one of the best weavers in all Iceland, was in
the house; and on the beds of the children
were blankets of lamb's wool, soft to the touch
and fair to the eye. After that the children
slept warm and were at peace; for now, when
they told the sagas their mother had taught
them, or tried their part songs as they sat
together on their bench, the stepmother was
silent. For she feared to chide, lest she
should wake at night, not knowing why, and
see the mother's wraith."
A GRAMMATICAL GHOST
THERE was only one possible ob-
jection to the drawing-room, and
that was the occasional presence
of Miss Carew; and only one pos-
sible objection to Miss Carew. And that was,
that she was dead.
She had been dead twenty years, as a matter
of fact and record, and to the last of her life
sacredly preserved the treasures and traditions
of her family, a family bound up -- as it is
quite unnecessary to explain to any one in
good society -- with all that is most venerable
and heroic in the history of the Republic.
Miss Carew never relaxed the proverbial hos-
pitality of her house, even when she remained
its sole representative. She continued to
preside at her table with dignity and state,
and to set an example of excessive modesty
and gentle decorum to a generation of restless
It is not likely that having lived a life of
such irreproachable gentility as this, Miss
Carew would have the bad taste to die in any
way not pleasant to mention in fastidious
society. She could be trusted to the last, not
to outrage those friends who quoted her as
an exemplar of propriety. She died very un-
obtrusively of an affection of the heart, one
June morning, while trimming her rose trellis,
and her lavender-colored print was not even
rumpled when she fell, nor were more than
the tips of her little bronze slippers visible.
"Isn't it dreadful," said the Philadelphians,
"that the property should go to a very, very
distant cousin in Iowa or somewhere else on
the frontier, about whom nobody knows any-
thing at all?"
The Carew treasures were packed in boxes
and sent away into the Iowa wilderness; the
Carew traditions were preserved by the His-
torical Society; the Carew property, standing
in one of the most umbrageous and aristo-
cratic suburbs of Philadelphia, was rented to
all manner of folk -- anybody who had money
enough to pay the rental -- and society entered
its doors no more.
But at last, after twenty years, and when all
save the oldest Philadelphians had forgotten
Miss Lydia Carew, the very, very distant
cousin appeared. He was quite in the prime
of life, and so agreeable and unassuming that
nothing could be urged against him save his
patronymic, which, being Boggs, did not
commend itself to the euphemists. With him
were two maiden sisters, ladies of excellent
taste and manners, who restored the Carew
china to its ancient cabinets, and replaced
the Carew pictures upon the walls, with ad-
ditions not out of keeping with the elegance
of these heirlooms. Society, with a magna-
nimity almost dramatic, overlooked the name
of Boggs -- and called.
All was well. At least, to an outsider all
seemed to be well. But, in truth, there was
a certain distress in the old mansion, and in
the hearts of the well-behaved Misses Boggs.
It came about most unexpectedly. The sis-
ters had been sitting upstairs, looking out at
the beautiful grounds of the old place, and
marvelling at the violets, which lifted their
heads from every possible cranny about the
house, and talking over the cordiality which
they had been receiving by those upon whom
they had no claim, and they were filled with
amiable satisfaction. Life looked attractive.
They had often been grateful to Miss Lydia
Carew for leaving their brother her fortune.
Now they felt even more grateful to her. She
had left them a Social Position -- one, which
even after twenty years of desuetude, was fit
They descended the stairs together, with
arms clasped about each other's waists, and as
they did so presented a placid and pleasing
sight. They entered their drawing-room with
the intention of brewing a cup of tea, and
drinking it in calm sociability in the twilight.
But as they entered the room they became
aware of the presence of a lady, who was
already seated at their tea-table, regarding
their old Wedgewood with the air of a con-
There were a number of peculiarities about
this intruder. To begin with, she was hatless,
quite as if she were a habitué of the house,
and was costumed in a prim lilac-colored
lawn of the style of two decades past. But
a greater peculiarity was the resemblance
this lady bore to a faded daguerrotype. If
looked at one way, she was perfectly discern-
ible; if looked at another, she went out in a
sort of blur. Notwithstanding this compara-
tive invisibility, she exhaled a delicate per-
fume of sweet lavender, very pleasing to the
nostrils of the Misses Boggs, who stood look-
ing at her in gentle and unprotesting surprise.
"I beg your pardon," began Miss Pru-
dence, the younger of the Misses Boggs,
But at this moment the Daguerrotype be-
came a blur, and Miss Prudence found her-
self addressing space. The Misses Boggs
were irritated. They had never encountered
any mysteries in Iowa. They began an im-
patient search behind doors and portières,
and even under sofas, though it was quite
absurd to suppose that a lady recognizing
the merits of the Carew Wedgewood would
so far forget herself as to crawl under a
When they had given up all hope of dis-
covering the intruder, they saw her standing
at the far end of the drawing-room critically
examining a water-color marine. The elder
Miss Boggs started toward her with stern
decision, but the little Daguerrotype turned
with a shadowy smile, became a blur and an
Miss Boggs looked at Miss Prudence Boggs.
"If there were ghosts," she said, "this
would be one."
"If there were ghosts," said Miss Prudence
Boggs, "this would be the ghost of Lydia
The twilight was settling into blackness, and
Miss Boggs nervously lit the gas while Miss
Prudence ran for other tea-cups, preferring,
for reasons superfluous to mention, not to
drink out of the Carew china that evening.
The next day, on taking up her embroidery
frame, Miss Boggs found a number of old-
fashioned cross-stitches added to her Ken-
sington. Prudence, she knew, would never
have degraded herself by taking a cross-stitch,
and the parlor-maid was above taking such a
liberty. Miss Boggs mentioned the incident
that night at a dinner given by an ancient
friend of the Carews.
"Oh, that's the work of Lydia Carew, with-
out a doubt!" cried the hostess. "She visits
every new family that moves to the house, but
she never remains more than a week or two
with any one."
"It must be that she disapproves of them,"
suggested Miss Boggs.
"I think that's it," said the hostess. "She
doesn't like their china, or their fiction."
"I hope she'll disapprove of us," added
The hostess belonged to a very old Philadel-
phian family, and she shook her head.
"I should say it was a compliment for even
the ghost of Miss Lydia Carew to approve of
one," she said severely.
The next morning, when the sisters entered
their drawing-room there were numerous evi-
dences of an occupant during their absence.
The sofa pillows had been rearranged so that
the effect of their grouping was less bizarre
than that favored by the Western women; a
horrid little Buddhist idol with its eyes fixed
on its abdomen, had been chastely hidden
behind a Dresden shepherdess, as unfit for
the scrutiny of polite eyes; and on the table
where Miss Prudence did work in water colors,
after the fashion of the impressionists, lay a
prim and impossible composition representing
a moss-rose and a number of heartsease, col-
ored with that caution which modest spinster
artists instinctively exercise.
"Oh, there's no doubt it's the work of Miss
Lydia Carew," said Miss Prudence, contemptu-
ously. "There's no mistaking the drawing of
that rigid little rose. Don't you remember
those wreaths and bouquets framed, among the
pictures we got when the Carew pictures were
sent to us? I gave some of them to an orphan
asylum and burned up the rest."
"Hush!" cried Miss Boggs, involuntarily.
"If she heard you, it would hurt her feelings
terribly. Of course, I mean --" and she
blushed. "It might hurt her feelings --
but how perfectly ridiculous! It's impos-
Miss Prudence held up the sketch of the
"THAT may be impossible in an artistic
sense, but it is a palpable thing."
"Bosh!" cried Miss Boggs.
"But," protested Miss Prudence, "how do
you explain it?"
"I don't," said Miss Boggs, and left the
That evening the sisters made a point of
being in the drawing-room before the dusk
came on, and of lighting the gas at the first
hint of twilight. They didn't believe in Miss
Lydia Carew -- but still they meant to be
beforehand with her. They talked with un-
wonted vivacity and in a louder tone than was
their custom. But as they drank their tea
even their utmost verbosity could not make
them oblivious to the fact that the perfume of
sweet lavender was stealing insidiously through
the room. They tacitly refused to recognize
this odor and all that it indicated, when sud-
denly, with a sharp crash, one of the old
Carew tea-cups fell from the tea-table to the
floor and was broken. The disaster was fol-
lowed by what sounded like a sigh of pain and
"I didn't suppose Miss Lydia Carew would
ever be as awkward as that," cried the younger
Miss Boggs, petulantly.
"Prudence," said her sister with a stern
accent, "please try not to be a fool. You
brushed the cup off with the sleeve of your
"Your theory wouldn't be so bad," said Miss
Prudence, half laughing and half crying, "if
there were any sleeves to my dress, but, as you
see, there aren't," and then Miss Prudence
had something as near hysterics as a healthy
young woman from the West can have.
"I wouldn't think such a perfect lady as
Lydia Carew," she ejaculated between her
sobs, "would make herself so disagreeable!
You may talk about good-breeding all you
please, but I call such intrusion exceedingly
bad taste. I have a horrible idea that she
likes us and means to stay with us. She left
those other people because she did not approve
of their habits or their grammar. It would be
just our luck to please her."
"Well, I like your egotism," said Miss
However, the view Miss Prudence took of
the case appeared to be the right one. Time
went by and Miss Lydia Carew still remained.
When the ladies entered their drawing-room
they would see the little lady-like Daguerro-
type revolving itself into a blur before one of
the family portraits. Or they noticed that
the yellow sofa cushion, toward which she
appeared to feel a peculiar antipathy, had
been dropped behind the sofa upon the floor,
or that one of Jane Austen's novels, which
none of the family ever read, had been re-
moved from the book shelves and left open
upon the table.
"I cannot become reconciled to it," com-
plained Miss Boggs to Miss Prudence. "I
wish we had remained in Iowa where we
belong. Of course I don't believe in the
thing! No sensible person would. But still
I cannot become reconciled."
But their liberation was to come, and in a
most unexpected manner.
A relative by marriage visited them from
the West. He was a friendly man and had
much to say, so he talked all through dinner,
and afterward followed the ladies to the draw-
ing-room to finish his gossip. The gas in the
room was turned very low, and as they entered
Miss Prudence caught sight of Miss Carew, in
company attire, sitting in upright propriety
in a stiff-backed chair at the extremity of the
Miss Prudence had a sudden idea.
"We will not turn up the gas," she said,
with an emphasis intended to convey private
information to her sister. "It will be more
agreeable to sit here and talk in this soft
Neither her brother nor the man from the
West made any objection. Miss Boggs and
Miss Prudence, clasping each other's hands,
divided their attention between their corporeal
and their incorporeal guests. Miss Boggs was
confident that her sister had an idea, and was
willing to await its development. As the guest
from Iowa spoke, Miss Carew bent a politely
attentive ear to what he said.
"Ever since Richards took sick that time,"
he said briskly, "it seemed like he shed all
responsibility." (The Misses Boggs saw the
Daguerrotype put up her shadowy head with
a movement of doubt and apprehension.)
"The fact of the matter was, Richards didn't
seem to scarcely get on the way he might have
been expected to." (At this conscienceless
split to the infinitive and misplacing of the
preposition, Miss Carew arose trembling per-
ceptibly.) "I saw it wasn't no use for him to
count on a quick recovery --"
The Misses Boggs lost the rest of the sen-
tence, for at the utterance of the double nega-
tive Miss Lydia Carew had flashed out, not in
a blur, but with mortal haste, as when life
goes out at a pistol shot!
The man from the West wondered why Miss
Prudence should have cried at so pathetic a
part of his story:
And their brother was amazed to see Miss Boggs
kiss Miss Prudence with passion and energy.
It was the end. Miss Carew returned no more.