Part 2 out of 7
nearer almost to touch her arm,--"and feel the round little earth
turning with us. We always think the sun drops down away from us, but
it stays still. Now remember your astronomy and feel the earth turn.
See--you can actually _see_ it move--whirling along like a child's ball
because it can't help itself, and then there's the other motion around
the sun, and the other, the rushing of everything through space, and
who knows how many others, and yet we plan our futures and think we
shall do finely this way or that, and always forget that we're taken
along in spite of ourselves. Sometimes I think I shall give up trying;
and then I see later that even that feeling was one of the unknown
motions that I couldn't control. The only thing we know is that we are
moved in spite of ourselves, so what is the use of bothering about how
many ways, or where they shall fetch us?"
"Ah, Miss Khayyam, I've often read your father's verses."
"No relation whatever; we're the same person--he was I."
"But don't forget you can see the earth moving by a rising as well as
by a setting star, by watching a sun rise--"
"A rising star if you wish," she said, smiling once more with perfect
candour and friendliness.
They turned to go back in the quick-coming mountain dusk.
As they started downward she sang from the "Persian Garden," and he
blended his voice with hers:
"Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went."
"With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reaped--'
I came like Water and like Wind I go.'"
"I shall look forward to seeing you--and your mother and sister?--in
New York," she said, when they parted, "and I am sure I shall have more
to say when we're better known to each other."
"If you were the one woman before, if the thought of you was more than
the substance of any other to me,--you must know how it will be now,
when the dream has come true. It's no small thing for your best dream
to come true."
"Dear me! haven't we been sentimental and philosophic? I'm never like
this at home, I assure you. I've really been thoughtful."
From up the cañon came the sound of a puffing locomotive that presently
steamed by them with its three dingy little coaches, and, after a stop
for water and the throwing of a switch, pushed back to connect with the
The others of the party crowded out on to the rear platform as Percival
helped Miss Milbrey up the steps. Uncle Peter had evidently been
chatting with Shepler, for as they came out the old man was saying,
"'Get action' is my motto. Do things. Don't fritter. Be something and
be it good and hard. Get action early and often."
Shepler nodded. "But men like us are apt to be unreasonable with the
young. We expect them to have their own vigour and our wisdom, and the
infirmities of neither."
The good-byes were hastily said, and the little train rattled down the
cañon. Miss Milbrey stood in the door of the car, and Percival watched
her while the glistening rails that seemed to be pushing her away
narrowed in perspective. She stood motionless and inscrutable to the
last, but still looking steadily toward him--almost wistfully, it
seemed to him once.
"Well," he said cheerfully to Uncle Peter.
"You know, son, I don't like to cuss, but except one or two of them
folks I'd sooner live in the middle kittle of hell than in the place
that turns 'em out. They rile me--that talk about 'people in the
humbler walks of life.' Of course I _am_ humble, but then, son, if you
come right down to it, as the feller said, I ain't so _damned_ humble!"
Three Letters, Private and Confidential
From Mr. Percival Bines to Miss Psyche Bines, Montana City.
On car at Skiplap, Tuesday Night.
Dear Sis:--When you kept nagging me about "Who is the girl?" and I said
you could search me, you wouldn't have it that way. But, honestly,
until this morning I didn't know her myself. Now that I can put you
next, here goes.
One night last March, after I'd come back from the other side, I
happened into a little theatre on Broadway where a burlesque was
running. It's a rowdy little place--a music hall--but nice people go
there because, though it's stuffy, it's kept decent.
_She_ was in a box with two men--one old and one young--and an older
woman. As soon as I saw her she had me lashed to the mast in a high
sea, with the great salt waves dashing over me. I never took much stock
in the tales about its happening at first sight, but they're as
matter-of-fact as market reports. Soon as I looked at her it seemed to
me I'd known her always. I was sure we knew each other better than any
two people between the Battery and Yonkers, and that I wasn't acting
sociable to sit down there away from her and pretend we were Strangers
Yet. Actually, it rattled me so I had to take the full count. If I
hadn't been wedged in between a couple of people that filled all the
space, and then some, it isn't any twenty to one that I wouldn't have
gone right up to her and asked her what she meant by cutting me. I was
udgy enough for it. But I kept looking and after awhile I was able to
sit up and ask what hit me.
She was dressed in something black and kind of shiny and wore a big
black hat fussed up with little red roses, and her face did more things
to me in a minute than all the rest I've ever seen. It was _full_ of
little kissy places. Her lips were very red and her teeth were very
white, and I couldn't tell about her eyes. But she was bred up to the
last notch, I could see that.
Well, I watched her through the tobacco smoke until the last curtain
fell. They were putting on wraps for a minute or so, and I noticed that
the young fellow in the party, who'd been drinking all through the
show, wasn't a bit too steady to do an act on the high-wire. They left
the box and came down the stairs and I bunched into the crowd and let
myself ooze out with them, wondering if I'd ever see her again.
I fetched up at an exit on the side street, and there they were
directly in front of me. I just naturally drifted to one side and
continued my little private corner in crude rubber. It was drizzling in
a beastly way, the street was full of carriages, numbers were being
called, cab-drivers were insulting each other hoarsely, people dashing
out to see if their carriages weren't coming--everything in a whirl of
drizzle and dark and yells, with the horses' hoofs on the pavement
sounding like castanets. The two older people got into a carriage and
were driven off, while she and the young fellow waited for theirs. I
could see then that he was good and soused. He was the same lad they
throw on the screen when the "Old Homestead" Quartet sings "Where Is My
Wandering Boy To-night?" I could see she was annoyed and a little
worried, because he was past taking notice.
The man kept yelling the number of their carriage from time to time,
while the others he'd called were driving up--it was 249 if any one
ever tries to worm it out of you--and then I saw from her face that 249
had wriggled pretty near to the curb, but was still kept away by
another carriage. She said something to the drunken cub and started to
reach the carriage by going out into the street behind the one in its
way. At the same time their carriage started forward, and the
inebriate, instead of going with her, started the other way to meet it,
and so, there she was alone on the slippery pavement in this muddle of
prancing horses and yelling terriers. If you can get any bets that I
was more than two seconds getting out there to her, take them all, and
give better than track odds if necessary. Then I guess she got rattled,
for when I would have led her back to the curb she made a dash the
other way and all but slipped under a team of bays that were just
aching to claw the roses off her hat. I saw she was helpless and
"turned around," so I just naturally grabbed her and she was so
frightened by this time that she grabbed me, and the result was that I
carried her to the sidewalk and set her down. Their carriage still
stood there with little Georgie Rumlets screaming to the driver to go
on. I had her inside in a jiffy, and they were off. Not a word about
"My Preserver!" though, of course, with the fright and noise and her
mortification, that was natural.
After that, you can believe it or not, she was the girl. And I never
dreamed of seeing her any place but New York again.
Well, this morning when I came up from below at the mine _she_ was
standing there as if she had been waiting for me. She is Miss Avice
Milbrey, of New York. Her father and mother--fine people, the real
thing, I judge--were with her, members of a party Rulon Shepler has
with him on his car. They've been here all day; went through the mine;
had lunch with them, and later a walk with _her_, they leaving at 5.30
for the East. We got on fairly well, considering. She is a wonder, if
anybody cross-examines you. She is about your height, I should judge,
about five feet four, though not so plump as you; still her look of
slenderness is deceptive. She's one of the build that aren't so big as
they look, nor yet so small as they look. Thoroughbred is the word for
her, style and action, as the horse people say, perfect. The poise of
her head, her mettlesome manner, her walk, show that she's been bred up
like a Derby winner. Her face is the one all the aristocrats are copied
from, finely cut nose, chin firm but dainty, lips just delicately full
and the reddest ever, and her colour when she has any a rose-pink. I
don't know that I can give you her eyes. You only see first that
they're deep and clear, but as near as anything they are the warm
slatish lavender blue you see in the little fall asters. She has so
much hair it makes her head look small, a sort of light chestnut, with
warmish streaks in it. Transparent is another word for her. You can
look right through her--eyes and skin are so clear. Her nature too is
the frank, open kind, "step in and examine our stock; no trouble to
show goods" and all that, and she is so beautifully unconscious of her
beauty that it goes double. At times she gave me a queer little
impression of being older at the game than I am, though she can't be a
day over twenty, but I guess that's because she's been around in
society so much. Probably she'd be called the typical New York girl, if
you wanted to talk talky talk.
Now I've told you everything, except that the people all asked kindly
after you, especially her mother and a Mrs. Drelmer, who's a four-horse
team all by herself. Oh, yes! No, I can't remember very well; some kind
of a brown walking skirt, short, and high boots and one of those blue
striped shirt-waists, the squeezy looking kind, and when we went to
walk, a red plaid golf cape; and for general all-around dearness--say,
the other entries would all turn green and have to be withdrawn. If any
one thinks this thing is going to end here you make a book on it right
away; take all you can get. Little Willie Lushlets was her brother--a
lovely boy if you get to talking reckless. With love to Lady
Abercrombie, and trusting, my dear Countess, to have the pleasure of
meeting you at Henley a fortnight hence, I remain,
Most cordially yours,
E. MALVERN DEVYR ST. TREVORS,
_Bart. & Notary Public._
_From Mrs. Joseph Drelmer to the Hon. Cecil G. H. Mauburn, New York._
EN ROUTE, August 28th.
MY DEAR MAUBURN:--Ever hear of the tribe of Bines? If not, you need to.
The father, immensely wealthy, died a bit ago, leaving a widow and two
children, one of the latter being a marriageable daughter in more than
the merely technical sense. There is also a grandfather, now a little
descended into the vale of years, who, they tell me, has almost as many
dollars as you or I would know what to do with, a queer old chap who
lounges about the mountains and looks as if he might have anything but
money. We met the son and the old man at one of their mines yesterday.
They have a private car as large as Shepler's and even more sybaritic,
and they'd been making a tour of inspection over their properties. They
lunched with us. Knowing the Milbreys, you will divine the warmth of
their behaviour toward the son. It was too funny at first. Avice was
the only one to suspect at once that he was the very considerable
personage he is, and so she promptly sequestered him, with a skill born
of her long practice, in the depths of the earth, somewhere near China,
I fancy. Her dear parents were furious. Dressed as one of the miners
they took him to be an employee. The whole party, taking the cue from
outraged parenthood, treated him icily when he emerged from one of
those subterranean galleries with that tender sprig of girlishness.
That is, we were icy until, on the way up, he remaining in the depths,
Avice's dear mother began to rebuke the thoughtless minx for her
indiscretion of strolling through the earth with a working person. Then
Avice, sweet chatterbox, with joyful malice revealed that the young
man, whose name none of us had caught, was Bines, and that he owned the
mine we were in, and she didn't know how many others, nor did she
believe he knew himself. You should have felt the temperature rise. It
went up faster than we were going.
By the time we reached the surface the two Milbreys wore looks that
would have made the angel of peace and good-will look full of hatred
and distrust. Nothing would satisfy them but that we wait to thank the
young Croesus for his courtesy. I waited because I remembered the
daughter, and Oldaker and the Angstead twins waited out of decency. And
when the genius of the mine appeared from out his golden catacombs we
fell upon him in desperate kindness.
Later in the day I learned from him that he expects to bring his mother
and sister to New York this fall, and that they mean to make their home
there hereafter. Of course that means that the girl has notions of
marriage. What made me think so quickly of her is that in San
Francisco, at a theatre last winter, she was pointed out to me, and
while I do you not the injustice of supposing it would make the least
difference to you, she is rather a beauty, you'll find; figure fullish,
yellow hair, and a good-natured, well-featured, pleasing sort of face;
a bit rococo in manner, I suspect; a little too San Francisco, as so
many of these Western beauties are, but you'd not mind that, and a year
in New York will tone her down anyway.
Now if your dear uncle will only confer a lasting benefit upon the
world and his title upon you, by paying the only debt he is ever liable
to pay, I am persuaded you could be the man here. I know nothing of how
the fortune was left, nor of its extent, except that it's said to be
stiffish, and out here that means a big, round sum. The reason I write
promptly is that you may not go out of the country just now. That sweet
little Milbrey chit--really, Avice is far too old now for ingenue
parts--has not only grappled the son with hooks of steel, but from
remarks the good mother dropped concerning the fine qualities of her
son, she means to convert the daughter's _dot_ into Milbrey prestige,
also. What a glorious double stroke it would be, after all their years
of trying. However, with your title, even in prospective, Fred Milbrey
is no rival for you to fear, providing you are on the ground as soon as
he, which is why I wish you to stay in New York.
I am indeed gratified that you have broken off whatever affair there
may have been between you and that music-hall person. Really, you know,
though they talk so about us, a young man can't mess about with that
sort of thing in New York as he can in London. So I'm glad she's gone
back, and as she is in no position to harm you I should pay no
attention to her threats. What under heaven did the creature expect?
Why _should_ she have wanted to marry you?
I shall see you probably in another fortnight.
You know that Milbrey girl must get her effrontery direct from where
they make it. She pretended that at first she took young Bines for what
we all took him, an employee of the mine. You can almost catch them
winking at each other, when she tells it, and dear mamma with such
beautiful resignation, says, "My Avice is _so_ impulsively democratic."
Dear Avice, you know, is really quite as impulsive as the steel bridge
our train has just rattled over. Sincerely,
JOSEPHINE PRESTON DRELMER.
_From Miss Avice Milbrey to Mrs. Cornelia Van Geist, New York._
Mütterchen, dearest, I feel like that green hunter you had to sell last
spring--the one that would go at a fence with the most perfect display
of serious intentions, and then balk and bolt when it came to jumping.
Can it be that I, who have been trained from the cradle to the idea of
marrying for money, will bolt the gate after all the expense and pains
lavished upon my education to this end; after the years spent in
learning how to enchant, subdue, and exploit the most useful of all
animals, and the most agreeable, barring a few? And yet, right when I'm
the fittest--twenty-four years old, knowing all my good points and just
how to coerce the most admiration for each, able nicely to calculate
the exact disturbing effect of the _ensemble_ upon any poor male, and
feeling confident of my excessively eligible _parti_ when I decide for
him--in this situation, striven for so earnestly, I feel like bolting
the bars. How my trainer and jockey would weep tears of rage and
despair if they guessed it!
There, there--I know your shrewd grey eyes are crackling with curiosity
and, you want to know what it's all about, whether to scold me or
mother me, and will I please omit the _entrées_ and get to the roast
mutton. But you dear, dear old aunt, you, there is more vagueness than
detail, and I know I'll strain your patience before I've done. But, to
relieve your mind, nothing at all has really happened. After all, it's
mostly a _troublesome state of mind_, that I shall doubtless find gone
when we reach Jersey City,--and in two ways this Western trip is
responsible for it. Do you know the journey itself has been
fascinating. Too bad so many of us cross the ocean twenty times before
we know anything of this country. We loiter in Paris, do the stupid
German watering-places, the Norway fjords, down to Italy for the
museums, see the _chateaux_ of the Loire, or do the English
race-tracks, thinking we're 'mused; and all the time out here where the
sun goes down is an intensely interesting and beautiful country of our
own that we overlook. You know I'd never before been even as far as
Chicago. Now for the first time I can appreciate lots of those things
in Whitman, that--
"I think heroic deeds were all conceived in the open air, and free
poems, also. Now I see the secret of making the best persons: It is
to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth."
I mayn't have quoted correctly, but you know the sort of thing I mean,
that sounds so _breezy_ and _stimulating_. And they've helped me
understand the immensity of the landscapes and the ideas out here, the
big, throbbing, rough young life, and under it all, as Whitman says, "a
meaning--Democracy, _American_ Democracy." Really it's been
interesting, _the jolliest time of my life,_ and it's got me all
unsettled. More than once in watching some scene typical of the region,
the plain, busy, earnest people, I've actually thrilled to think that
this was _my country_--felt that queer little tickling tingle that
locates your spine for you. I'm sure there's no _ennui_ here. Some one
said the other day, "_Ennui_ is a disease that comes from living on
other people's money." I said no, that I'd often had as fine an attack
as if I'd been left a billion, that _ennui_ is when you don't know what
to do next and wouldn't do it if you did. Well, here they always _do_
know what to do next, and as one of them told me, "_We always get up
early the day before to do it_."
Auntie, dear, the trip has made me _more restless and dissatisfied_
than ever. It makes me want to _do_ something--to _risk_ something, to
want to _want_ something more than I've ever learned to want.
That's one reason I'm acting badly. The other will interest you more.
It's no less a reason than _the athletic young Bayard_ who cheated
those cab-horses of their prey that night Fred didn't drink all the
Scotch whiskey in New York. Our meeting, and the mater's treatment of
him before she discovered who he was, are too delicious to write. I
must wait to tell you.
It is enough to say that now I heard his name it recalled nothing to
me, and I took him from his dress to be a _workingman_ in the mine we
visiting, though from his speech and manner of a gentleman, someone in
authority. Dear, he was _so_ dear and so Westernly breezy and
progressive and enterprising and so _appallingly candid_. I've been the
"one woman", the "unknown but remembered ideal" since that encounter.
Of course, that was to be said, but strangely enough he meant it. He
was actually and unaffectedly making love to me. He's not so large or
tall, but quick and springy, and muscled like a panther. He's not
beautiful either but pleasant to look at, one of those broad
high-cheeked faces one sees so much in the West, with the funniest
quick yellowish grey eyes and the most disreputable moustache I ever
saw, yellow and ragged, If he must eat it, I wish he would _eat it off
even_ clear across. And he's likely to talk the most execrable slang,
or to quote Browning. But he was making real love, and you know I'm not
used to that. I'm accustomed to go my pace before sharply calculating
eyes, to show if I'm worth the _asking price_. But here was real love
being made off down in the earth (we'd run away from the others because
I _liked him at once_). I don't mind telling you he moved me, partly
because I had wondered about him from that night, and partly because of
all I had come to feel about this new place and the new people, and
because he seemed such a fine, active specimen of Western manhood. I
won't tell you all the wild, lawless thoughts that scurried and
_sneaked_ through my mind--they don't matter now--for all at once it
came out that he was the only son of that wealthy Bines who died awhile
ago--you remember the name was mentioned that night at your house when
they were discussing the exodus of Western millionaires to New York;
some one named the father as one who liked coming to New York to
dissipate occasionally, but who was still rooted in the soil where his
There was the son before me, just _an ordinary man of millions_, after
all--and my little toy balloon of romance that I'd been floating so
gaily on a string of sentiment was pricked to nothing in an instant. I
felt my nostrils expand with the excitement of the chase, and
thereafter I was my _coldly professional self_. If that young man has
not now a high estimate of my charms of person and mind, then have my
ways forgot their cunning and I be no longer the daughter of Margaret
Milbrey, _née_ van Schoule.
But, Mütterchen, now comes the disgraceful part. I'm afraid of myself,
even in spite of our affairs being so bad. Dad has doubtless told you
something must be done very soon, and I seem to be the only one to do
it. And yet I am shying at the gate. This trip has unsettled me, I tell
you, letting me, among other things, see my old self. Before I always
rather liked the idea of marriage, that is, after I'd been out a couple
of years--not too well, but well enough--and now some way I rebel, not
from scruples, but from pure selfishness. I'm beginning to find that I
want to _enjoy myself_ and to find, further, that I'm not indisposed to
_take chances_--as they say out here. Will you understand, I wonder?
And do women who sell themselves ever find any real pleasure in the
bargain? The most eloquent examples, the ones that sell themselves to
_many men,_ lead wretched lives. But does the woman who sells herself
to _but one_ enjoy life any more? She's surely as bad, from any
standpoint of morals, and I imagine sometimes she is less happy. At any
rate, she has less _freedom_ and more _obligations_ under her contract.
You see I am philosophising pretty coldly. Now be _horrified_ if you
I am selfish by good right, though. "Haven't we spent all our surplus
in keeping you up for a good marriage?" says the mater, meaning by a
good marriage that I shall bring enough money into the family to _"keep
up its traditions."_ I am, in other words, an investment from which
they expect large returns. I told her I hoped she could trace her
selfishness to its source as clearly as I could mine, and as for the
family traditions, Fred was preserving those in an excellent medium.
Which was very ugly in me, and I cried afterwards and told her how
sorry I was.
Are you shocked by my cold calculations? Well, I am trying to let you
understand me, and I--
"...have no time to waste In patching fig-leaves for the naked truth."
I am cursed not only with consistent feminine longings and desires,
but, in spite of my training and the examples around me, with a
disinclination to be wholly vicious. Awhile ago marriage meant only
more luxury and less worry about money. I never gave any thought to the
husband, certainly never concerned myself with any notions of duty or
obligation toward him. The girls I know are taught painstakingly how to
get a husband, but nothing of how to be a wife. The husband in my case
was to be an inconvenience, but doubtless an amusing one. For all his
oppression, if there were that, and even for _the mere offence of his
existence,_ I should wreak my spite merrily on his vulgar dollars.
But you are saying that I like the present eligible. That's the
trouble. I like him so well I haven't the heart to marry him. When I
was twenty I could have loved him devotedly, I believe. Now something
seems to be gone, some freshness or fondness. I can still love--I know
it only too well night and day--but it must be a different kind of man.
He is so very young and reverent and tender, and in a way so
unsophisticated. He is so afraid of me, for all his pretence of
Is it because I must be taken by sheer force? I'll not be surprised if
it is. Do we not in our secret soul of souls nourish this beatitude:
"Blessed is the man who _destroys all barriers"?_ Florence Akemit said
as much one day, and Florence, poor soul, knows something of the
matter. Do we not sit defiantly behind the barriers, insolently
challenging--threatening capital punishment for any assault, relaxing
not one severity, yet falling meek and submissive and glad, to the man
who brutally and honestly beats them down, and _destroys them utterly?_
So many fail by merely beating them down. Of course if an _untidy
litter_ is left we make a row. We reconstruct the barrier and that
particular assailant is thenceforth deprived of a combatant's rights.
What a dear you are that I can say these things to you! Were girls so
frank in your time?
Well, my knight of the "golden cross" (_joke; laughter and loud
applause, and cries of "Go on!"_) has a little, much indeed, of the
impetuous in him, but, alas! not enough. He has a pretty talent for it,
but no genius. If I were married to him to-morrow, as surely as I am a
woman I should be made to inflict pain upon him the next day, with an
insane stress to show him, perhaps, I was not the ideal woman he had
thought me--perhaps out of a jealousy of that very ideal I had
inspired--rational creatures, aren't we?--beg pardon--not we, then, but
I. Now he, being a real likable man of a man, can I do that--for money?
Do I want the money _badly enough?_ Would I not even rather be
penniless with the man who coerced every great passion and littlest
impulse, body and soul--_perhaps with a very hateful insolence of power
over me?_ Do you know, I suspect sometimes that I've been trained down
too fine, as to my nerves, I mean. I doubt if it's safe to pamper and
trim and stimulate and refine a woman in that hothouse atmosphere--at
least _if she's a healthy woman_. She's too apt sometime to break her
gait, get the bit of tradition between her teeth, and then let her
impulses run away with her.
Oh, Mütterchen, I am so sick and sore, and yet filled with a strange
new zest for this old puzzle of life. Will I ever be the same again?
This man is going to ask me to marry him the moment I am ready for him
to. Shall I be kind enough to tell him no, or shall I steel myself to
go in and hurt him--_make him writhe?_
And yet do you know what he gave me while I was with him? I wonder if
women feel it commonly? It was a desire for _motherhood_--a curiously
vivid and very definite longing--entirely irrespective of him, you
understand, although he inspired it. Without loving him or being at all
moved toward him, he made me sheerly _want_ to be a mother! Or is it
only that men we don't love make us feel motherly?
Am I wholly irrational and selfish and bad, or what am I? I know you'll
love me, whatever it is, and I wish now I could snuggle on that soft,
cushiony shoulder of yours and go to sleep.
Can anything be more pitiful than "a fine old family" afflicted with
_dry-rot_ like ours? I'm always amused when I read about the suffering
in the tenements. The real anguish is up in the homes like ours. We
have _to do without so very many more things,_ and mere hunger and cold
are easy compared to the suffering we feel.
Perhaps when I'm back to that struggle for appearances, I'll relent and
"barter my charms" as the old novels used to say, sanely and decently
like a well brought-up New York girl--_with certain reservations,_ to a
man who can support the family in the style to which it wants to become
accustomed. Yet there may be a way out. There is a Bines daughter, for
example, and mamma, who never does one half where she can as well do
two, will marry her to Fred if she can. On the other hand, Joe Drelmer
was putting in words for young Mauburn, who will be Lord Casselthorpe
when his disreputable old uncle dies.
She hasn't yet spent what she got for introducing the Canovass prince
to that oldest Elarton girl, so if she secures this prize for Mauburn,
she'll be comfortable for a couple of more years. Perhaps I could turn
my hand to something like that. I know the ropes as well as she does.
There, it _is_ a punishment of a letter, isn't it, dear? But I've known
_every bad place in it,_ and I've religiously put in your "Come, come,
child!" every time it belonged, so you've not still to scold me, for
which be comforted a little; and give me only a few words of cheerful
approval if your conscience will let you. I need that, after all, more
than advice. Look for us in a week. With a bear-hug for you,
P.S. Is it true that Ned Ristine and his wife have fixed it up and are
together again since his return? Not that I'm interested especially,
but I chanced to hear it gossiped the other day here on the car.
Indeed, I hope you know _how thoroughly I detest that man_!
The Price of Averting a Scandal
As the train resumed speed after stopping at a station, Grant, the
porter, came back to the observation room of the Bines car with a
telegram for Uncle Peter. The old man read it and for a time mused
himself into seeming oblivion. Across the car, near by, Percival
lounged in a wicker arm-chair and stared cheerfully out into the
gathering night. He, too, was musing, his thoughts keeping pleasantly
in time with the rhythmic click of the wheels over the rail-joints.
After a day in the open air he was growing sleepy.
Uncle Peter aroused him by making his way back to the desk, the
roll-top of which he lifted with a sudden rattle. He called to
Percival. Sitting down at the desk he read the telegram again and
handed it to the young man, who read:
"Party will try to make good; no bluff. Won't compromise inside limit
set. Have seen paper and wish another interview before following
original instructions. Party will wait forty-eight hours before acting.
Where can you be seen? Wire office to-night.
"TAFE & COPLEN."
The young man looked up with mild interest. Uncle Peter was writing on
a telegraph blank.
"TAFE & COPLEN, Butte, Montana.
"Due Butte 7.30 A.M. to-morrow. Join me on car nought sixteen, go to
To the porter who answered his ring he handed the message to be put off
at the first stop.
"But what's it all about?" asked Percival, seeing by Uncle Peter's
manner that he was expected to show concern.
Uncle Peter closed the desk, lighted one of his best cigars, and
dropped into a capacious chair. The young man seated himself opposite.
"Well, son, it's a matter I cal'lated first off to handle myself, but
it looks now as if you better be in on it. I don't know just how much
you knew about your pa's ways, but, anyhow, you wouldn't play him to
grade much higher above standard than the run of 'em out here that has
had things comin' too easy for 'em. He was all right, Dan'l J. was. God
knows I ain't discountin' the comfort I've always took in him. He'd
stand acid all right, at any stage of the game. Don't forget that about
The young man reflected.
"The worst story I ever heard of pa was about the time he wanted to
draw twenty thousand dollars from the bank in Tacoma. They telegraphed
the Butte National to wire his description, and the answer was 'tall
"Well, son, his periodicals wa'n't all. Seems as if this crowd has a
way fur women, and they generally get the gaff because they're so
blamed easy. You don't hear of them Eastern big men gettin' it so
often, but I've seen enough of 'em to know it ain't because they're any
straighter. They're jest a little keener on business propositions. They
draw a fine sight when it comes to splittin' pennies, while men out
here like your pa is lavish and careless. You know about lots of the
"There's Sooley Pentz, good-hearted a man as ever sacked ore, and
plenty long-headed enough for the place he's bought in the Senate, but
Sooley is restless until he's bought up one end of every town he goes
into, from Eden plumb over to Washington, D. C.,--and 'tain't ever the
Sunday-school end Sooley buys either. If he was makin' two million a
month instead of one Sooley'd grieve himself to death because they
don't make that five-dollar kind of wine fast enough.
"Then there was Seth Larby. We're jest gettin' to the details of Seth's
expense account after he found the Lucky Cuss. I see the courts have
decided against the widow and children, and so they'll have to worry
off about five or six millions for the poor lady he duped so
outrageously--with a checker on the chips.
"As fur old Nate Kranil, a lawyer from Cheyenne was tellin' me his
numerous widows by courtesy was goin' to form an association and share
his leavin's pro raty. Said they'd all got kind of acquainted and made
up their minds they was such a reg'lar band of wolves that none of 'em
was able to do any of the others in the long run, so they'd divide
"Then there was Dave Kisber, and--"
"Never mind any more--" Percival broke in. "Do you mean that my father
was mixed up like those old Indians?"
"Looks now as if he was. That telegram from Coplen is concernin' of a
lady--a party that was with him when he died. The press report sent out
that the young and beautiful Mrs. Bines was with her husband, and was
prostrated with grief. Your ma and Pishy was up to Steamin' Springs at
the time, and I kep' it from them all right."
"But _how_ was he entangled?--to what extent?"
"That's what we'll get more light on in the morning. She made a play
right after the will was filed fur probate, and I told Coplen to see
jest what grounds she had, and I'd settle myself if she really had any
and wa'n't unreasonable."
"It's just a question of blackmail, isn't it? What did you offer?"
"Well, she has a slew of letters--gettin' them is a matter of sentiment
and keepin' the thing quiet. Then she claims to have a will made last
December and duly witnessed, givin' her the One Girl outright, and a
million cash. So you can see she ain't anything ordinary. I told Coplen
to offer her a million cash for everything rather'n have any fuss. I
was goin' to fix it up myself and keep quiet about it."
"And this telegram looks as if she wanted to fight."
"Well, mebbe that and mebbe it means that she knows we _don't_ want to
fight considerable more than a million dollars' worth."
"How much do you think she'll hold out for?"
"Can't tell; you don't know how big pills she's been smokin'."
"But, damn it all, that's robbery!"
"Yes--but it's her deal. You remember when Billy Brue was playin'
seven-up with a stranger in the Two-Hump saloon over to Eden, and
Chiddie Fogle the bartender called him up front and whispered that he'd
jest seen the feller turn a jack from the bottom. 'Well,' says Billie,
looking kind of reprovin' at Chiddie, 'it was _his deal,_ wa'n't it?'
Now it's sure this blond party's deal, and we better reckon ahead a
mite before we start any roughhouse with her. You're due to find out if
you hadn't better let her turn her jack and trust to gettin' even on
your deal. You got a claim staked out in New York, and a scandal like
this might handicap you in workin' it. And 'tain't as if hushin' her up
was something we couldn't well afford. And think of how it would
torment your ma to know of them doin's, and how 'twould shame Pish in
company. Of course, rob'ry is rob'ry, but mebbe it's our play to be
sporty like Billy Brue was."
"Pretty bad, isn't it? I never suspected pa was in anything of this
"Well, I knew Dan'l J. purty well, and I spleened against some of his
ways, but that's done fur. Now the folks out in this part of the
country have come to expect it from a man like him. They don't mind so
much. But them New York folks--well, I thought mebbe you'd like to take
a clean bill of health when you settle in that centre of culture and
enlightenment,--and remember your ma and Pish."
"Of course the exposure would mean a lot of cheap notoriety--"
"Well, and not so all-fired cheap at that, even if we beat. I've heard
that lawyers are threatenin' to stop this thing of workin' entirely fur
their health. There's that to weigh up."
"But I hate to be done."
"Well, wouldn't you be worse done if you let a matter of money, when
you're reekin' with it, keep you from protectin' your pa's name? Do you
want folks to snicker when they read that 'lovin' husband and father'
business on his gravestone? My! I guess that young woman and her folks
we met the other day'd be tickled to death to think they knew you after
they'd read one of them Sunday newspaper stories with pictures of us
all, and an extry fine one of the millionaire's dupe, basely enticed
from her poor but honest millinery business in Spokane."
"Well, let's see what Coplen has to say in the morning. If it can be
settled within reason I suppose we better give up."
"That's my view now, and the estate bein' left as simply as it was, we
can make in the payments unbeknownst to the folks."
They said good-night, and Percival went off to dream that a cab-horse
of mammoth size was threatening to eat Miss Milbrey unless he drove it
to Spokane Falls and bought two million millinery shops.
When he was jolted to consciousness they were in the switching yard at
Butte, and the car was being coupled to the rear of the train made up
for Montana City. He took advantage of the stop to shave. By the time
he was dressed they were under way again, steaming out past the big
smelters that palled the sky with heavy black smoke.
At the breakfast-table he found Uncle Peter and Coplen.
"I'm inclined," said the lawyer, as Percival peeled a peach, "to agree
with your grandfather. This woman--if I may use the term--is one of the
nerviest leg-pullers you're ever likely to strike."
"Lord! I should hope so," said Percival, with hearty emphasis.
"She studied your father and she knew him better than any of us, I
judge. She certainly knew he was liable to go at any time, in exactly
the way he did go. Why, she even had a doctor down from 'Frisco to
Monterey when they were there about a year ago--introduced him as an
old friend and had him stay around three days--just to give her a
private professional opinion on his chances. As to this will, the
signature is undoubtedly genuine, but my judgment is she procured it in
some way on a blank sheet of paper and had the will written above on
sheets like it. As it conforms to the real will word for word,
excepting the bequests to her, she must have had access to that before
having this one written. Of course that helps to make it look as if the
testator had changed his mind only as to the one legatee--makes it look
plausible and genuine. The witnesses were of course parties to the
fraud, but I seriously question our ability to prove there was fraud.
We think they procured a copy of the will we kept in our safe at Butte
through the clerk that Tafe fired awhile back because of his drinking
habits and because he was generally suspicious of him. Of course that's
"But can't we fight it?" demanded Percival, hungrily attacking the
crisp, brown little trout.
"Well, if we allowed it to come to a contest, we might expose the whole
thing, and then again we might not. I tell you she's clever. She's
shown it at every step. Now then, if you do fight," and the lawyer
bristled, as if his fighting spirit were not too far under the control
of his experience-born caution, "why, you have litigation that's bound
to last for years, and it would be pretty expensive. I admit the case
is tempting to a lawyer, but in the end you don't know what you'll get,
especially with this woman. Why, do you know she's already, we've
found, made up to two different judges that might be interested in any
litigation she'd have, and she's cultivating others. The role of
Joseph," he continued, "has never, to the best of my belief, been
gracefully played in the world's history, and you may have noticed that
the members of the Montana judiciary seem to be particularly awkward in
their essays at it. In the end, then, you'll be out a lot of money even
if you win. On the other hand, you have a chance to settle it for good
and all, getting back everything--excepting the will, which, of course,
we couldn't touch or even concede the existence of, but which would, if
such an instrument _were_ extant, be destroyed in the presence of a
witness whose integrity I could rely upon--well--as upon my own. The
letters which she has, and which I have seen, are also such as would
tend to substantiate her claims and make the large bequests to her seem
plausible--and they're also such letters as--I should infer--the family
would rather wish not to be made public, as they would be if it came to
"Jest what I told him," remarked Uncle Peter.
"What she'll hold out for I don't know, but I'd suggest this, that I
meet her attorney and put the case exactly as I've found it out as to
the will, letting them suspect, perhaps, that we have admissions of
some sort from Hornby, the clerk, that might damage them. Then I can
put it that, while we have no doubt of our ability to dispose of the
will, we do wish to avoid the scandal that would ensue upon a
publication of the letters they hold and the exposure of her relations
with the testator, and that upon this purely sentimental ground we are
willing to be bled to a reasonable extent. The One Girl is a valuable
mine, but my opinion is she'll be glad to get two million if we seem
reluctant to pay that much."
With that gusto of breakfast-appetite which arouses the envy of persons
whose alimentation is not what it used to be, Percival had devoured
ruddy peaches and purple grapes, trout that had breasted their swift
native currents that very morning, crisp little curls of bacon, muffins
that were mere flecks of golden foam, honey with the sweetness of a
thousand fragrant blossoms, and coffee that was oily with richness. For
a time he had seemed to make no headway against his hill-born appetite.
The lawyer, who had broken his fast with a strip of dry toast and a cup
of weak tea, had watched him with unfeigned and reminiscent interest.
Grant, who stood watchful to replenish his plate, and whose pleasure it
was to see him eat, regarded him with eyes fairly dewy from sympathy.
To A. L. Jackson, the cook, on a trip for hot muffins, he observed, "He
eats jes' like th' ole man. I suttin'y do love t' see that boy behave
when he got his fresh moral appetite on him. He suttin'y do ca'y
hisse'f mighty handsome."
With Coplen's final recommendation to settle Percival concluded his
meal, and after surveying with fondly pleasant regret the devastation
he had wrought, he leaned back in his chair and lighted a cigar. He was
no longer in a mood to counsel fight, even though he disliked to
"You know," he reminded Uncle Peter, "what that editorial in the Rock
Rip _Champion_ said about me when we were over there: 'We opine that
the Junior Bines will become a warm piece of human force if he isn't
ground-sluiced too early in the game.' Well--and here I'm
ground-sluiced the first rattle out of the box."
But the lawyer went over the case again point by point, and Percival
finally authorised him to make the best settlement possible. He cared
as little for the money as Uncle Peter did, large sum though it was.
And then his mother and sister would be spared a great humiliation, and
his own standing where most he prized it would not be jeopardised.
"Settle the best you can," was his final direction to Coplen. The
lawyer left them at the next station to wait for a train back to Butte.
How Uncle Peter Bines Once Cut Loose
As the train moved on after leaving Coplen, Percival fell to thinking
of the type of man his father had been.
"Uncle Peter," he said, suddenly, "they don't _all_ cut loose, do they?
Now _you_ never did?"
"Yes, I did, son. I yanked away from all the hitchin' straps of decency
when I first struck it, jest like all the rest of 'em. Oh, I was an
Indian in my time--a reg'ler measly hop-pickin' Siwash at that.
"You don't know, of course, what livin' out in the open on bacon and
beans does fur a healthy man's cravin's. He gets so he has visions day
and night of high-livin'--nice broiled steaks with plenty of fat on
'em, and 'specially cake and preserves and pies like mother used to
make--fat, juicy mince pies that would assay at least eight hundred
dollars a ton in raisins alone, say nothing of the baser metals. He
sees the crimp around the edges made with a fork, and the picture of a
leaf pricked in the middle to vent the steam, and he gets to smellin'
'em when they're pulled smokin' hot out of the oven. And frosted cake,
the layer kind--about five layers, with stratas of jelly and custard
and figs and raisins and whatever it might be. I saw 'em fur years,
with a big cuttin' out to show the cross-section.
"But a man that has to work by the day fur enough to take him through
the prospectin' season can't blow any of his dust on frivolous things
like pie. The hard-workin' plain food is the kind he has to tote, and I
never heard of pie bein' in anybody's grub-stake either.
"Well, fur two or three years at a time the nearest I'd ever get to
them dainties would be a piece of sour-dough bread baked on a
stove-lid. But whenever I was in the big camps I'd always go look into
the bake-shop windows and just gloat.--'rubber' they call it now'days.
My! but they would be beautiful. Son, if I could 'a' been guaranteed
that kind of a heaven, some of them times, I'd 'a' become the hottest
kind of a Christian zealot, I'll tell you that. That spell of gloatin'
was what I always looked forward to when I was lyin' out nights.
"Well, the time before I made the strike I outfitted in Grand Bar. The
bake-joint there was jest a mortal aggravation. Sakes! but it did
torment a body so! It was kep' by a Chink, and the star play in the
window was a kind of two-story cake with frostin' all over the
place--on top and down the sides, and on the bottom fur all I knew, it
looked that rich. And it had cocoanut mixed in with it. Say, now, that
concrete looked fit to pave the streets of the New Jerusalem with--and
a hunk was cut out, jest like I'd always dream of so much--showin' a
cross-section of rich yellow cake and a fruity-lookin' fillin' that
jest made a man want to give up.
"I was there three days, and every day I'd stop in front of that window
and jest naturally hone fur a slice of that vision. The Chink was
standin' in the door the first day.
"'Six doll's,' he says, kind of enticin' me.
"He might as well 'a' said six thousand. I shook my head.
"Next day I was there again, yearnin'. The Chink see me and come out.
"'One doll' li'l piece", he says.
"I says, 'No, you slant-eyed heathen,' or some such name as that. But
when you're looking fur tests of character, son, don't let that one
hide away from you. I'd play that fur the heftiest moral courage _I've_
ever showed, anyway.
"The third day it was gone and a lemon pie was there, all with nice
kind of brownish snow on top. I was on my way out then, pushin' the
mule. I took one lingerin' last look and felt proud of myself when I
saw the hump in the pack made by my bag of beans.
"'That-like flummery food's no kind of diet to be trackin' up pay-rock
on,' I says to kind of cheer myself.
"Four weeks later I struck it. And six weeks after that I had things in
shape so't I was able to leave. I was nearer to other places 'twas
bigger, but I made fur Grand Bar, lettin' on't I wanted to see about a
claim there. I'd 'a' felt foolish to have anyone know jest why I was
makin' the trip.
"On the way I got to havin' night-mares, 'fear that Chink would be
gone. I knew if he was I'd go down to my grave with something comin' to
me because I'd never found jest that identical cake I'd been famishin'
"When I got up front of the window, you can believe it or not, but that
Chink was jest settin' down another like it. Now you know how that
Monte Cristo carried on after he'd proved up. Well, I got into his
class, all right. I walked in past a counter where the Chink had
crullers and gingerbread and a lot of low-grade stuff like that, and I
set down to a little table with this here marble oil-cloth on it.
"'Bring her back,' I says, kind of tremblin', and pointin' to the
"The Chink pattered up and come back with a little slab of it on a tin
plate. I jest let it set there.
"'Bring it all,' I says; 'I want the hull ball of wax.'
"'Six doll's,' he says, kind of cautious.
"I pulled out my buckskin pouch. 'Bring her back and take it out of
that,' I says--'when I get through,' I says.
"He grinned and hurried back with it. Well, son, nothing had ever
tasted so good to me, and I ain't say'n' that wa'n't the biggest worth
of all my money't I ever got. I'd been trainin' fur that cake fur
twenty odd year, and proddin' my imagination up fur the last ten weeks.
"I et that all, and I et another one with jelly, and a bunch of little
round ones with frostin' and raisins, and a bottle of brandied peaches,
and about a dozen cream puffs, and half a lemon pie with frostin' on
top, and four or five Charlotte rushes. The Chink had learned to make
'em all in 'Frisco.
"That meal set me back $34.75. When I went out I noticed the plain
sponge cakes and fruit cakes and dried-apple pies--things that had been
out of my reach fur twenty years, and--My! but they did look common and
unappetisin'. I kind of shivered at the sight of 'em.
"I ordered another one of the big cakes and two more lemon pies fur the
"Fur four days I led a life of what they call 'unbridled
licentiousness' while that Chink pandered to me. I never was any hand
fur drink, but I cut loose in that fancy-food joint, now I tell you.
"The fifth day I begun to taper off. I begun to have a suspicion the
stuff was made of sawdust with plasty of Paris fur frostin'. The sixth
day I was sure it was sawdust, and my shameful debauch comes to an end
right there. I remembered the story about the feller that cal'lated his
chickens wouldn't tell any different, so he fed 'em sawdust instead of
corn-meal, and by-and-bye a settin' of eggs hatched out--twelve of the
chickens had wooden legs and the thirteenth was a woodpecker. Say, I
felt so much like two cords of four-foot stove wood that it made me
plumb nervous to ketch sight of a saw-buck.
"It took jest three weeks fur me to get right inside again. My, but
meat victuals and all like that did taste mighty scrumptious when I
could handle 'em again.
"After that when I'd been out in the hills fur a season I'd get that
hankerin' back, and when I come in I'd have a little frosted-cake orgy
now and then. But I kep' myself purty well in hand. I never overdone it
like that again, fur you see I'd learned something. First off, there
was the appetite. I soon see the gist of my fun had been the _wantin'_
the stuff, the appetite fur it, and if you nursed an appetite along and
deluded it with promises it would stay by you like one of them meachin'
yellow dogs. But as soon as you tried to do the good-fairy act by it,
and give it all it hankered fur, you killed it off, and then you
wouldn't be entertained by it no more, and kep' stirred up and busy.
"And so I layed out to nurse my appetite, and aggravate it by never
givin' it quite all it wanted. When I was in the hills after a day's
tramp I'd let it have its fling on such delicacies as I could turn out
of the fryin'-pan myself, but when I got in again I'd begin to act
bossy with it. It's _wantin'_ reasonably that keeps folks alive, I
reckon. The mis-a-blest folks I've ever saw was them that had killed
all their wants by overfeedin' 'em.
"Then again, son, in this world of human failin's there ain't anything
ever _can_ be as pure and blameless and satisfyin' as the stuff in a
bake-shop window looks like it is. Don't ever furget that. It's jest
too good to be true. And in the next place--pastry's good in its way,
but the best you can ever get is what's made fur you at home--I'm
talkin' about a lot of things now that you don't probably know any too
much about. Sometimes the boys out in the hills spends their time
dreamin' fur other things besides pies and cakes, but that system of
mine holds good all through the deal--you can play it from soda to hock
and not lose out. And that's why I'm outlastin' a lot of the boys and
still gettin' my fun out of the game.
"It's a good system fur you, son, while you're learnin' to use your
head. Your pa played it at first, then he cut loose. And you need it
worse'n ever he did, if I got you sized up right. He touched me on one
side, and touched you on the other. But you can last longer if you jest
keep the system in mind a little. Remember what I say about the window
Percival had listened to the old man's story with proper amusement, and
to the didactics with that feeling inevitable to youth which says
secretly, as it affects to listen to one whom it does not wish to
wound, "Yes, yes, I know, but you were living in another day, long ago,
and you are not _me!_"
He went over to the desk and began to scribble a name on the pad of
"If a man really loves one woman he'll behave all right," he observed
to Uncle Peter.
"Oh, I ain't preachin' like some do. Havin' a good time is all right;
it's the only thing, I reckon, sometimes, that justifies the misery of
livin'. But cuttin' loose is bad jedgment. A man wakes up to find that
his natural promptin's has cold-decked him. If I smoked the best
see-gars now all the time, purty soon I'd get so't I wouldn't
appreciate 'em. That's why I always keep some of these out-door
free-burners on hand. One of them now and then makes the others taste
The young man had become deaf to the musical old voice.
He was writing:
"MY DEAR MISS MILBREY:--I send you the first and only poem I ever
wrote. I may of course be a prejudiced critic, but it seems to me to
possess in abundance those graces of metre, rhyme, high thought in
poetic form, and perfection of finish which the critics unite in
demanding. To be honest with you--and why should I conceal that conceit
which every artist is said secretly to feel in his own production?--I
have encountered no other poem in our noble tongue which has so moved
and captivated me.
"It is but fair to warn you that this is only the first of a volume of
similar poems which I contemplate writing. And as the theme appears now
to be inexhaustible, I am not sure that I can see any limit to the
number of volumes I shall be compelled to issue. Pray accept this
author's copy with his best and hopefullest wishes. One other copy has
been sent to the book reviewer of the Arcady _Lyre,_ in the hope that
he, at least, will have the wit to perceive in it that ultimate and
ideal perfection for which the humbler bards have hitherto striven in
"Sincerely and seriously yours,
"P. PERCIVAL BINES"
Thus ran the exalted poem on a sheet of note-paper:
Avice Milbrey, Avice Milbrey, Avice Milbrey,
Avice Milbrey, Avice Milbrey, Avice Milbrey,
Avice Milbrey, Avice Milbrey,
Avice Milbrey, Avice Milbrey,
Avice Milbrey, Avice Milbrey, Avice Milbrey.
And ninety-eight thousand other verses quite like it."
Plans for the Journey East
Until late in the afternoon they rode through a land that was bleak and
barren of all grace or cheer. The dull browns and greys of the
landscape were unrelieved by any green or freshness save close by the
banks of an occasional stream. The vivid blue of a cloudless sky served
only to light up its desolation to greater disadvantage. It was a grim
unsmiling land, hard to like.
"This may be God's own country," said Percival once, looking out over a
stretch of grey sage-brush to a mass of red sandstone jutting up, high,
sharp, and ragged, in the distance--"but it looks to me as if He got
tired of it Himself and gave up before it was half finished."
"A man has to work here a few years to love it," said Uncle Peter,
As they left the car at Montana City in the early dusk, that thriving
metropolis had never seemed so unattractive to Percival; so rough, new,
garish, and wanting so many of the softening charms of the East.
Through the wide, unpaved streets, lined with their low wooden
buildings, they drove to the Bines mansion, a landmark in the oldest
and most fashionable part of the town. For such distinctions are made
in Western towns as soon as the first two shanties are built. The Bines
house had been a monument to new wealth from the earliest days of the
town, which was a fairly decent antiquity for the region. But the house
and the town grated harshly now upon the young man. He burned with a
fever of haste to be off toward the East--over the far rim of hills,
and the farther higher mountain range, to a land that had warmed
genially under three hundred years of civilised occupancy--where people
had lived and fraternised long enough to create the atmosphere he
craved so ardently.
While Chinese Wung lighted the hall gas and busied himself with their
hats and bags, Psyche Bines came down the stairs to greet them. Never
had her youthful freshness so appealed to her brother. The black gown
she wore emphasised her blond beauty. As to give her the aspect of
mourning one might have tried as reasonably to hide the radiance of the
earth in springtime with that trifling pall.
Her brother kissed her with more than his usual warmth. Here was one to
feel what he felt, to sympathise warmly with all those new yearnings
that were to take him out of the crude West. She wanted, for his own
reasons, all that he wanted. She understood him; and she was his ally
against the aged and narrow man who would have held them to life in
that physical and social desert.
"Well, sis, here we are!" he began. "How fine you're looking! And how
is Mrs. Throckmorton? Give her my love and ask her if she can be ready
to start for the effete East in twenty minutes."
It was his habit to affect that he constantly forgot his mother's name.
He had discovered years before that he was sometimes able thus to
puzzle her momentarily.
"Why, Percival!" exclaimed this excellent lady, coming hurriedly from
the kitchen regions, "I haven't a thing packed. Twenty minutes!
Goodness! I do declare!"
It was an infirmity of Mrs. Bines that she was unable to take otherwise
than literally whatever might be said to her; an infirmity known and
played upon relentlessly by her son.
"Oh, well!" he exclaimed, with a show of irritation. "I suppose we'll
be delayed then. That's like a woman. Never ready on time. Probably we
can't start now till after dinner. Now hurry! You know that boat leaves
the dock for Tonsilitis at 8.23--I hope you won't be seasick."
"Boat--dock--" Mrs. Bines stopped to convince herself beyond a
certainty that no dock nor boat could be within many hundred miles of
her by any possible chance.
"Never mind," said Psyche; "give ma half an hour's notice and she can
start for any old place."
"Can't she though!" and Percival, seizing his astounded mother, waltzed
with her down the hall, leaving her at the far end with profusely
polite assurances that he would bring her immediately a lemon-ice, an
ice-pick, and a cold roast turkey with pink stockings on.
"Never mind, Mrs. Cartwright," he called back to her--"oh, beg
pardon--Bines? yes, yes, to be sure--well, never mind, Mrs. Brennings.
We'll give you time to put your gloves and a bottle of horse-radish and
a nail-file and hammer into that neat travelling-bag of yours.
"Now let me go up and get clean again. That lovely alkali dust has
worked clear into my bearings so I'm liable to have a hot box just as
we get the line open ninety miles ahead."
At dinner and afterwards the new West and the old aligned themselves
into hostile camps, as of yore. The young people chatted with lively
interest of the coming change, of the New York people who had visited
the mine, of the attractions and advantages of life in New York.
Uncle Peter, though he had long since recognised his cause as lost,
remained doggedly inimical to the migration. The home was being broken
up and he was depressed.
"Anyhow, you'll soon be back," he warned them. "You won't like it a
mite. I tried it myself thirty years ago. I'll jest camp here until you
do come back. My! but you'll be glad to get here again."
"Why not have Billy Brue come stay with you," suggested Mrs. Bines, who
was hurting herself with pictures of the old man's loneliness, "in case
you should want a plaster on your back or some nutmeg tea brewed, or
anything? That Wung is so trifling."
"Maybe I might," replied the old man, "but Billy Brue ain't exactly
broke to a shack like this. I know just what he'd do all his spare
time; he'd set down to that new-fangled horseless piano and play it to
Uncle Peter meant the new automatic piano in the parlour. As far as the
new cabinet was from the what-not this modern bit of mechanism was from
the old cottage organ--the latter with its "Casket of Household
Melodies" and the former with its perforated paper repertoire of "The
World's Best Music," ranging without prejudice from Beethoven's Fifth
Symphony to "I Never Did Like a Nigger Nohow," by a composer who shall
be unnamed on this page.
"And Uncle Peter won't have any one to bother him when he makes a
litter with all those old plans and estimates and maps of his," said
Psyche; "you'll be able to do a lot more work, Uncle Peter, this
"Yes, only I ain't got any more work to do than I ever had, and I
always managed to do that, no matter how you did clean up after me and
mix up my papers. I'm like old Nigger Pomeroy. He was doin' a job of
whitewashin' one day, and he had an old whitewash brush with most of
the hair gone out of it. I says to him, 'Pomeroy, why don't you get you
a new brush? you could do twice as much work.' And Pomeroy says,
'That's right, Mr. Bines, but the trouble is I ain't got twice as much
work to do.' So don't you folks get out on _my_ account," he concluded,
"And you know we shall be in mourning," said Psyche to her brother.
"I've thought of that. We can't do any entertaining, except of the most
informal kind, and we can't go out, except very informally; but, then,
you know, there aren't many people that have us on their lists, and
while we're keeping quiet we shall have a chance to get acquainted a
"I hear they do have dreadful times with help in New York," said Mrs.
"Don't let that bother you, ma," her son reassured her. "We'll go to
the Hightower Hotel, first. You remember you and pa were there when it
first opened. It's twice as large now, and we'll take a suite, have our
meals served privately, our own servants provided by the hotel, and you
won't have a thing to worry you. We'll be snug there for the winter.
Then for the summer we'll go to Newport, and when we come back from
there we'll take a house. Meantime, after we've looked around a bit,
we'll build, maybe up on one of those fine corners east of the Park."
"I almost dread it," his mother rejoined. "I never _did_ see how they
kept track of all the help in that hotel, and if it's twice as
monstrous now, however _do_ they do it--and have the beds all made
every day and the meals always on time?"
"And you can _get_ meals there," said Percival.
"I've been needing a broiled lobster all summer--and now the oysters
will be due--fine fat Buzzard's Bays--and oyster crabs."
"He ain't been able to touch a morsel out here," observed Uncle Peter,
with a palpably false air of concern. "I got all worried up about him,
barely peckin' at a crumb or two."
"I never could learn to eat those oysters out of their shells," Mrs.
Bines confessed. "They taste so much better out of the can. Once we had
them raw and on two of mine were those horrid little green crabs,
actually squirming. I was going to send them back, but your pa laughed
and ate them himself--ate them alive and kicking."
"And terrapin!" exclaimed Percival, with anticipatory relish.
"That terrapin stew does taste kind of good," his mother admitted,
"but, land's sakes! it has so many little bits of bones in it I always
get nervous eating it. It makes me feel as if all my teeth was coming
"You'll soon learn all those things, ma," said her daughter--"and not
to talk to the waiters, and everything like that. She always asks them
how much they earn, and if they have a family, and how many children,
and if any of them are sick, you know," she explained to Percival.
"And I s'pose you ain't much of a hand fur smokin' cigarettes, are you,
ma?" inquired Uncle Peter, casually.
"Me!" exclaimed Mrs. Bines, in horror; "I never smoked one of the nasty
little things in my life."
"Son," said the old man to Percival, reproachfully, "is that any way to
treat your own mother? Here she's had all this summer to learn
cigarette smokin', and you ain't put her at it--all that time wasted,
when you _know_ she's got to learn. Get her one now so she can light
"Why, Uncle Peter Bines, how absurd!" exclaimed his granddaughter.
"Well, them ladies smoked the other day, and they was some of the
reg'ler original van Vanvans. You don't want your poor ma kep' out of
the game, do you? Goin' to let her set around and toy with the coppers,
or maybe keep cases now and then, are you? Or, you goin' to get her a
stack of every colour and let her play with you? Pish, now, havin' been
to a 'Frisco seminary--she can pick it up, prob'ly in no time; but ma
ought to have practice here at home, so she can find out what brand she
likes best. Now, Marthy, them Turkish cigarettes, in a nice silver box
with some naked ladies painted on the outside, and your own monogram
'M.B.' in gold letters on every cigarette--"
"Don't let him scare you, ma," Percival interrupted. "You'll get into
the game all right, and I'll see that you have a good time."
"Only I hope the First M.E. Church of Montana City never hears of her
outrageous cuttin's-up," said Uncle Peter, as if to himself. "They'd
have her up and church her, sure--smokin' cigarettes with her gold
monogram on, at _her_ age!" "And of course we must go to the Episcopal
church there," said Psyche. "I think those Episcopal ministers are just
the smartest looking men ever. So swell looking, and anyway it's the
only church the right sort of people go to. We must be awfully high
church, too. It's the very best way to know nice people."
"I s'pose if every day'd be Sunday by-and-bye, like the old song says,
it'd be easier fur you, wouldn't it?" asked the old man. "You and Petie
would be 401 and 402 in jest no time at all."
Uncle Peter continued to be perversely frivolous about the most
exclusive metropolitan society in the world. But Uncle Peter was a
crabbed old man, lingering past his generation, and the young people
made generous allowance for his infirmities.
"Only there's one thing," said his sister to Percival, when later they
were alone, "we must be careful about ma; she _will_ persist in making
such dreadful breaks, in spite of everything I can do. In San Francisco
last June, just before we went to Steaming Springs, there was one hot
day, and of course everybody was complaining. Mrs. Beale remarked that
it wasn't the heat that bothered us so, but the humidity. It was so
damp, you know. Ma spoke right up so everybody could hear her, and
said, 'Yes; isn't the humidity dreadful? Why, it's just running off me
from every pore!'"
The Argonauts Return to the Rising Sun
It was mid-October. The two saddle-horses and a team for carriage use
had been shipped ahead. In the private car the little party was
beginning its own journey Eastward. From the rear platform they had
watched the tall figure of Uncle Peter Bines standing in the bright
autumn sun, aloof from the band of kerchief-waving friends, the droop
of his head and shoulders showing the dejection he felt at seeing them
go. He had resisted all entreaties to accompany them.
His last injunction to Percival had been to marry early.
"I know your stock and I know _you_" he said; "and you got no call to
be rangin' them pastures without a brand. You never was meant fur a
maverick. Only don't let the first woman that comes ridin' herd get her
iron on you. No man knows much about the critters, of course, but I've
noticed a few things in my time. You pick one that's full-chested,
that's got a fairish-sized nose, and that likes cats. The full chest
means she's healthy, the nose means she ain't finicky, and likin' cats
means she's kind and honest and unselfish. Ever notice some women when
a cat's around? They pretend to like 'em and say 'Nice kitty!' but you
can see they're viewin' 'em with bitter hate and suspicion. If they
have to stroke 'em they do it plenty gingerly and you can see 'em
shudderin' inside like. It means they're catty themselves. But when one
grabs a cat up as if she was goin' to eat it and cuddles it in her neck
and talks baby-talk to it, you play her fur bein' sound and true. Pass
up the others, son.
"And speakin' of the fair sex," he added, as he and Percival were alone
for a moment, "that enterprisin' lady we settled with is goin' to do
one thing you'll approve of.
"She's goin'," he continued, in answer to Percival's look of inquiry,
"to take her bank-roll to New York. She says it's the only place fur
folks with money, jest like you say. She tells Coplen that there wa'n't
any fit society out here at all,--no advantages fur a lady of capacity
and ambitions. I reckon she's goin' to be 403 all right."
"Seems to me she did pretty well here; I don't see any kicks due her."
"Yes, but she's like all the rest. The West was good enough to make her
money in, but the East gets her when spendin' time comes."
As the train started he swung himself off with a sad little "Be good to
"Thank the Lord we're under way at last!" cried Percival, fervently,
when the group at the station had been shut from view. "Isn't it just
heavenly!" exclaimed his sister.
"Think of having all of New York you want--being at home there--and not
having to look forward to this desolation of a place."
Mrs. Bines was neither depressed nor elated. She was maintaining that
calm level of submission to fate which had been her lifelong habit. The
journey and the new life were to be undertaken because they formed for
her the line of least resistance along which all energy must flow. Had
her children elected to camp for the remainder of their days in the
centre of the desert of Gobi, she would have faced that life with as
little sense of personal concern and with no more misgivings.
Down out of the maze of hills the train wound; and then by easy grades
after two days of travel down off the great plateau to where the plains
of Nebraska lay away to a far horizon in brown billows of withered
Then came the crossing of the sullen, sluggish Missouri, that highway
of an earlier day to the great Northwest; and after that the better
wooded and better settled lands of Iowa and Illinois.
"Now we're getting where Christians live," said Percival, with warm
"Why, Percival," exclaimed his mother, reprovingly, "do you mean to say
there aren't any Christians in Montana City? How you talk! There are
lots of good Christian people there, though I must say I have my doubts
about that new Christian Science church they started last spring." "The
term, Mrs. Thorndike, was used in its social rather than its
theological significance," replied her son, urbanely. "Far be it from
me to impugn the religion of that community of which we are ceasing to
be integers at the pleasing rate of sixty miles an hour. God knows they
need their faith in a different kind of land hereafter!"
And even Mrs. Bines was not without a sense of quiet and rest induced
by the gentler contours of the landscape through which they now sped.
"The country here does seem a lot cosier," she admitted.
The hills rolled away amiably and reassuringly; the wooded slopes in
their gay colouring of autumn invited confidence. Here were no
forbidding stretches of the grey alkali desert, no grim bare mountains,
no solitude of desolation. It was a kind land, fat with riches. The
shorn yellow fields, the capacious red barns, the well-conditioned
homes, all told eloquently of peace and plenty. So, too, did the
villages--those lively little clearing-houses for immense farming
districts. To the adventurer from New York they seem always new and
crude. To our travellers from a newer, cruder region they were actually
aesthetic in their suggestions of an old and well-established
In due time they were rattling over a tangled maze of switches, dodging
interminable processions of freight-cars, barely missing crowded
passenger trains whose bells struck clear and then flatted as the
trains flew by; defiling by narrow water-ways, crowded with small
shipping; winding through streets lined with high, gloomy warehouses,
amid the clang and clatter, the strangely-sounding bells and whistles
of a thousand industries, each sending up its just contribution of
black smoke to the pall that lay always spread above; and steaming at
last into a great roomy shed where all was system, and where the big
engine trembled and panted as if in relief at having run in safety a
gantlet so hazardous.
"Anyway, I'd rather live in Montana City than Chicago," ventured Mrs.
"Whatever pride you may feel in your discernment, Mrs. Cadwallader, is
amply justified," replied her son, performing before the amazed lady a
bow that indicated the lowest depths of slavish deference.
"I am now," he continued, "going out to pace the floor of this
locomotive-boudoir for a few exhilarating breaths of smoke, and pretend
to myself that I've got to live in Chicago for ever. A little
discipline like that is salutary to keep one from forgetting the great
blessing which a merciful Providence has conferred upon one."
"I'll walk a bit with you," said his sister, donning her jacket and a
"Lest my remarks have seemed indeterminate, madam," sternly continued
Percival at the door of the car, "permit me to add that if Chicago were
heaven I should at once enter upon a life of crime. Do not affect to
misunderstand me, I beg of you. I should leave no avenue of salvation
open to my precious soul. I should incur no risk of being numbered
among the saved. I should be _b-a-d_, and I should sit up nights to
invent new ways of evil. If I had any leisure left from being as wicked
as I could be, I should devote it to teaching those I loved how to
become abandoned. I should doubtless issue a pamphlet, 'How to Merit
Perdition Without a Master. Learn to be Wicked in your Own Home in Ten
Lessons. Instructions Sent Securely Sealed from Observation. Thousands
of Testimonials from the Most Accomplished Reprobates of the Day.' I
trust Mrs. Llewellen Leffingwell-Thompson, that you will never again so
far forget yourself as to utter that word 'Chicago' in my presence. If
you feel that you must give way to the evil impulse, go off by yourself
and utter the name behind the protection of closed doors--where this
innocent girl cannot hear you. Come, sister. Otherwise I may behave in
a manner to be regretted in my calmer moments. Let us leave the woman
alone, now. Besides, I've got to go out and help the hands make up that
New York train. You never can tell. Some horrible accident might happen
to delay us here thirty minutes. Cheer up, ma; it's always darkest just
before leaving Chicago, you know."
Thus flippantly do some of the younger sons of men blaspheme this
metropolis of the mid-West--a city the creation of which is, by many
persons of discrimination, held to be the chief romance and abiding
miracle of the nineteenth century. Let us rejoice that one such
partisan was now at hand to stem the torrent of abuse. As Percival held
back the door for his sister to pass out, a stout little ruddy-faced
man with trim grey sidewhiskers came quickly up the steps and barred
their way with cheery aggressiveness.
"Ah! Mr. Higbee--well, well!" exclaimed Percival, cordially.
"Thought it might be some of you folks when I saw the car," said
Higbee, shaking hands all around.
"And Mrs. Bines, too! and the girl, looking like a Delaware peach when
the crop's 'failed.' How's everybody, and how long you going to be in
the good old town?"
"Ah! we were just speaking of Chicago as you came in," said Percival,
blandly. "_Isn't_ she a great old town, though--a wonder!"
"My boy," said Higbee, in low, solemn tones that came straight from his
heart, "she gets greater every day you live. You can see her at it,
fairly. How long since you been here?"
"I came through last June, you know, after I left your yacht at
"Yes, yes; to be sure; so you did--poor Daniel J.--but say, you
wouldn't know the town now if you haven't seen it since then. Why, I
run over from New York every thirty days or so and she grows out of my
ken every time, like a five-year-old boy. Say, I've got Mrs. Higbee up
in the New York sleeper, but if you're going to be here a spell we'll
stop a few days longer and I'll drive you around--what say?--packing
houses--Lake Shore Drive--Lincoln Park--"
He waited, glowing confidently, as one submitting irresistible
Percival beamed upon him with moist eyes.
"By Jove, Mr. Higbee! that's clever of you--it's royal! Sis and I would
like nothing better--but you see my poor mother here is almost down
with nervous prostration and we've got to hurry her to New York without
an hour's delay to consult a specialist. We're afraid"--he glanced
anxiously at the astounded Mrs. Bines, and lowered his voice--"we're
afraid she may not be with us long."
"Why, Percival," began Mrs. Bines, dazedly, "you was just saying--"
"Now don't fly all to pieces, ma!--take it easy--you're with friends,
be sure of that. You needn't beg us to go on. You know we wouldn't
think of stopping when it may mean life or death to you. You see just
the way she is," he continued to the sympathetic Higbee--"we're afraid
she may collapse any moment. So we must wait for another time; but I'll
tell you what you do; go get Mrs. Higbee and your traps and come let us
put you up to New York. We've got lots of room--run along now--and
we'll have some of that ham, 'the kind you have always bought,' for
lunch. A.L. Jackson is a miserable cook, too, if I don't know the
truth." Gently urging Higbee through the door, he stifled a systematic
inquiry into the details of Mrs. Bines's affliction.
"Come along quick! I'll go help you and we'll have Mrs. Higbee back
before the train starts."
"Do you know," Mrs. Bines thoughtfully observed to her daughter, "I
sometimes mistrust Percival ain't just right in his head; you remember
he did have a bad fall on it when he was two years and five months
old--two years, five months, and eighteen days. The way he carries on
right before folks' faces! That time I went through the asylum at Butte
there was a young man kept going on with the same outlandish rigmarole
just like Percival. The idea of Percival telling me to eat a lemon-ice
with an ice-pick, and 'Oh, why don't the flesh-brushes wear nice,
proper clothes-brushes!' and be sure and hammer my nails good and hard
after I get them manicured. And back home he was always wanting to know
where the meat-augers were, saying he'd just bought nine hundred new
ones and he'd have to order a ton more if they were all lost. I don't
believe there is such a thing as a meat-auger. I don't know what on
earth a body could do with one. And that other young man," she
concluded, significantly, "they had him in a little bit of a room with
an iron-barred door to it like a prison-cell."
Mr. Higbee Communicates Some Valuable Information
The Higbees were presently at home in the Bines car. Mrs. Higbee was a
pleasant, bustling, plump little woman, sparkling-eyed and sprightly.
Prominent in her manner was a helpless little confession of inadequacy
to her ambitions that made her personality engaging. To be energetic
and friendly, and deeply absorbed in people who were bold and
confident, was her attitude.
She began bubbling at once to Mrs. Bines and Psyche of the latest
fashions for mourners. Crepe was more swagger than ever before, both as
trimming and for entire costumes.
"House gowns, my dear, and dinner gowns, made entirely of crepe in the
Princesse style, will exactly suit your daughter--and on the dinner
gowns she can wear a trimming of that dull jet passementerie."
From gowns she went naturally to the difficulty of knowing whom to meet
in a city like New York--and how to meet them--and the watchfulness
required to keep daughter Millie from becoming entangled with leading
theatrical gentlemen. Amid Percival's lamentations that he must so soon
leave Chicago, the train moved slowly out of the big shed to search in
the interwoven puzzle of tracks for one that led to the East.
As they left the centre of the city Higbee drew Percival to one of the
broad side windows.
"Pull up your chair and sit here a minute," he said, with a mysterious
little air of importance. "There's a thing this train's going to pass
right along here that I want you to look at. Maybe you've seen better
ones, of course--and then again--"
It proved to be a sign some twenty feet high and a whole block long.
Emblazoned upon its broad surface was "Higbee's Hams." At one end and
towering another ten feet or so above the mammoth letters was a
white-capped and aproned chef abandoning his mercurial French
temperament to an utter frenzy of delight over a "Higbee's Ham" which
had apparently just been vouchsafed to him by an invisible benefactor.
"There, now!" exclaimed Higbee; "what do you call that--I want to
"Great! Magnificent!" cried Percival, with the automatic and ready
hypocrisy of a sympathetic nature. "That certainly is great."
"Notice the size of it?" queried Higbee, when they had flitted by.
"_Did_ I!" exclaimed the young man, reproachfully.
"We went by pretty fast--you couldn't see it well. I tell you the way
they're allowed to run trains so fast right here in this crowded city
is an outrage. I'm blamed if I don't have my lawyer take it up with the
Board of Aldermen--slaughtering people on their tracks right and
left--you'd think these railroad companies owned the earth--But that
sign, now. Did you notice you could read every letter in the label on
that ham? You wouldn't think it was a hundred yards back from the
track, would you? Why, that label by actual measure is six feet, four
inches across--and yet it looks as small--and everything all in the
right proportion, it's wonderful. It's what I call art," he concluded,
in a slightly dogmatic tone.
"Of course it's art," Percival agreed; "er--all--hand-painted, I
"Sure! that painting alone, letters and all, cost four hundred and
fifty dollars. I've just had it put up. I've been after that place for
years, but it was held on a long lease by Max, the Square Tailor--you
know. You probably remember the sign he had there--'Peerless Pants Worn
by Chicago's Best Dressers' with a man in his shirt sleeves looking at
a new pair. Well, finally, I got a chance to buy those two back lots,
and that give me the site, and there she is, all finished and up.
That's partly what I come on this time to see about. How'd you like the
wording of that sign?"
"Fine--simple and effective," replied Percival.
"That's it--simple and effective. It goes right to the point and it
don't slop over beyond any, after it gets there. We studied a good deal
over that sign. The other man, the tailor, had too many words for the
board space. My advertisin' man wanted it to be, first, 'Higbee's Hams,
That's All.' But, I don't know--for so big a space that seemed to me
kind of--well--kind of flippant and undignified. Then I got it down to
'Eat Higbee's Hams.' That seemed short enough--but after studying it, I
says, What's the use of saying 'eat'? No one would think, I says, that
a ham is to paper the walls with or to stuff sofa-cushions with--so off
comes 'eat' as being superfluous, and leaving it simple and
"By the way," said Percival, when they were sitting together again,
later in the day, "where is Henry, now?"
"That's the other thing took me back this time--the new sign and
getting Hank started. Henry is now working ten hours a day out to the
packinghouse. After a year of that, he'll be taken into the office and
his hours will be cut down to eight. Eight hours a day will seem like
sinful idleness to Henry by that time."
Percival whistled in amazement.
"I thought you'd be surprised. But the short of it is, Henry found
himself facing work or starvation. He didn't want to starve a little
bit, and he finally concluded he'd rather work for his dad than any one
"You see Henry was doing the Rake's Progress act there in New
York--being a gilded youth and such like. Now being a gilded youth and
'a well-known man about town' is something that wants to be done in
moderation, and Henry didn't seem to know the meaning of the word. I
put up something like a hundred and eighty thousand dollars for Hank's
gilding last year. Not that I grudged him the money, but it wasn't
doing him any good. He was making a monkey of himself with it, Henry
was. A good bit of that hundred and eighty went into a comic opera
company that was one of the worst I ever _did_ see. Henry had no
judgment. He was _too_ easy. Well, along this summer he was on the
point of making a break that would--well, I says to him, says I, 'Hank,
I'm no penny-squeezer; I like good stretchy legs myself,' I says; 'I
like to see them elastic so they'll give a plenty when they're pulled;
but,' I says, 'if you take that step,' I says, 'if you declare
yourself, then the rubber in your legs,' I says, 'will just naturally
snap; you'll find you've overplayed the tension,' I says, 'and there
won't be any more stretch left in them.'
"The secret is, Hank was being chased by a whole family of
wolves--that's the gist of it--fortune-hunters--with tushes like the
ravening lion in Afric's gloomy jungle. They were not only cold, stone
broke, mind you, but hyenas into the bargain--the father and the mother
and the girl, too.
"They'd got their minds made up to marry the girl to a good wad of
money--and they'll do it, too, sooner or later, because she's a corker
for looks, all right--and they'd all made a dead set for Hank; so,
quick as I saw how it was, I says, 'Here,' I says, 'is where I save my
son and heir from a passel of butchers,' I says, 'before they have him
scalded and dressed and hung up outside the shop for the holiday
trade,' I says, 'with the red paper rosettes stuck in Henry's chest,' I
"Are the New York girls so designing?" asked Percival.
"Is Higbee's ham good to eat?" replied Higbee, oracularly.
"So," he continued, "when I made up my mind to put my foot down I just
casually mentioned to the old lady--say, she's got an eye that would
make liquid air shiver--that cold blue like an army overcoat--well, I
mentioned to her that Henry was a spendthrift and that he wasn't ever
going to get another cent from me that he didn't earn just the same as
if he wasn't any relation of mine. I made it plain, you bet; she found
just where little Henry-boy stood with his kind-hearted, liberal old
"Say, maybe Henry wasn't in cold storage with the whole family from
that moment. I see those fellows in the laboratories are puttering
around just now trying to get the absolute zero of temperature--say,
Henry got it, and he don't know a thing about chemistry.
"Then I jounced Hank. I proceeded to let him know he was up against
it--right close up against it, so you couldn't see daylight between
'em. 'You're twenty-five,' I says, 'and you play the best game of pool,
I'm told, of any of the chappies in that Father-Made-the-Money club you
got into,' I says; 'but I've looked it up,' I says, 'and there ain't
really what you could call any great future for a pool champion,' I
says, 'and if you're ever going to learn anything else, it's time you
was at it,' I says. 'Now you go back home and tell the manager to set
you to work,' I says, 'and your wages won't be big enough to make you
interesting to any skirt-dancer, either,' I says. 'And you make a study
of the hog from the ground up. Exhaust his possibilities just like your
father done, and make a man of yourself, and then sometime,' I says,
'you'll be able to give good medicine to a cub of your own when he
"And how did poor Henry take all that?"
"Well, Hank squealed at first like he was getting the knife; but
finally when he see he was up against it, and especially when he see
how this girl and her family throwed him down the elevator-shaft from
the tenth story, why, he come around beautifully. He's really got
sense, though he doesn't look it--Henry has--though Lord knows I didn't
pull him up a bit too quick. But he come out and went to work like I
told him. It's the greatest thing ever happened to him. He ain't so
fat-headed as he was, already. Henry'll be a man before his dad's
through with him."
"But weren't the young people disappointed?" asked Percival; "weren't
they in love with each other?"
"In _love?_" In an effort to express scorn adequately Mr. Higbee came
perilously near to snorting. "What do you suppose a girl like that
cares for love? She was dead in love with the nice long yellow-backs
that I've piled up because the public knows good ham when they taste
it. As for being in love with Henry or with any man--say, young fellow,
you've got something to learn about those New York girls. And this one,
especially. Why, it's been known for the three years we've been there
that she's simply hunting night and day for a rich husband. She tries
for 'em all as fast as they get in line."
"Henry was unlucky in finding that kind. They're not all like
that--those New York girls are not," and he had the air of being able
if he chose to name one or two luminous exceptions.
"Silas," called Mrs. Higbee, "are you telling Mr. Bines about our Henry
and that Milbrey girl?"
"Yep," answered Higbee, "I told him."
"About what girl?--what was her name?" asked Percival, in a lower tone.
"Milbrey's that family's name--Horace Milbrey--"
"Why," Percival interrupted, somewhat awkwardly, "I know the
family--the young lady--we met the family out in Montana a few weeks
"Sure enough--they were in Chicago and had dinner with us on their way
out." "I remember Mr. Milbrey spoke of what fine claret you gave him."
"Yes, and I wasn't stingy with ice, either, the way those New York
people always are. Why, at that fellow's house he gives you that claret
wine as warm as soup.
"But as for that girl," he added, "say, she'd marry me in a minute if I
wasn't tied up with the little lady over there. Of course she'd rather
marry a sub-treasury; she's got about that much heart in
her--cold-blooded as a German carp. She'd marry me--she'd marry _you_,
if you was the best thing in sight. But say, if you was broke, she'd
have about as much use for you as Chicago's got for St. Louis."
Some Light With a Few Side-lights
The real spring in New York comes when blundering nature has painted
the outer wilderness for autumn. What is called "spring" in the city by
unreflecting users of the word is a tame, insipid season yawning into
not more than half-wakefulness at best. The trees in the gas-poisoned
soil are slow in their greening, the grass has but a pallid city
vitality, and the rows of gaudy tulips set out primly about the
fountains in the squares are palpably forced and alien.
For the sumptuous blending and flaunt of colour, the spontaneous
awakening of warm, throbbing new life, and all those inspiring miracles
of regeneration which are performed elsewhere in April and May, the
city-pent must wait until mid-October.
This is the spring of the city's year. There be those to hint
captiously that they find it an affair of false seeming; that the
gorgeous colouring is a mere trick of shop-window cunning; that the
time is juiceless and devoid of all but the specious delights of
surface. Yet these, perhaps, are unduly imaginative for a world where
any satisfaction is held by a tenure precarious at best. And even these
carpers, be they never so analytical, can at least find no lack of
springtime fervour in the eager throngs that pass entranced before the
window show. They, the free-swinging, quick-moving men and women--the
best dressed of all throngs in this young world--sun-browned,
sun-enlivened, recreated to a fine mettle for enjoyment by their months
of mountain or ocean sport--these are, indeed, the ones for whom this
afterspring is made to bloom. And, since they find it to be a shifting
miracle of perfections, how are they to be quarrelled with?
In the big polished windows waxen effigies of fine ladies, gracefully
patient, display the latest dinner-gown from Paris, or the creamiest of
be-ribboned tea-gowns. Or they pose in attitudes of polite adieux and
greeting, all but smothered in a king's ransom of sable and ermine. Or,
to the other extreme, they complacently permit themselves to be
observed in the intimate revelations of Parisian lingerie, with its
misty froth of embroideries, its fine-spun webs of foamy lace.
In another window, behold a sprightly and enlivening ballet of shapely
silken hosiery, fitting its sculptured models to perfection, ranging in
tints from the first tender green of spring foliage to the rose-pink of
the spring sun's after-glow.
A few steps beyond we may study a window where the waxen ladies have
been dismembered. Yet a second glance shows the retained portions to be
all that woman herself considers important when she tries on the
bird-toque or the picture hat, or the gauze confection for afternoons.
The satisfied smiles of these waxen counterfeits show them to have been
amply recompensed, with the headgear, for their physical
But if these terraces of colour and grace that line the sides of this
narrow spring valley be said to contain only the dry husks of
adornment, surely there may be found others more technically
Here in this broad window, foregathered in a congress of colours
designed to appetise, are the ripe fruits of every clime and every
season: the Southern pomegranate beside the hardy Northern apple,
scarlet and yellow; the early strawberry and the late ruddy peach; figs
from the Orient and pines from the Antilles; dates from Tunis and tawny
persimmons from Japan; misty sea-green grapes and those from the
hothouse--tasteless, it is true, but so lordly in their girth, and
royal purple; portly golden oranges and fat plums; pears of mellow
blondness and pink-skinned apricots. Here at least is the veritable
stuff and essence of spring with all its attending aromas--of more
integrity, perhaps, than the same colourings simulated by the
confectioner's craft, in the near-by window-display of impossible
And still more of this belated spring will gladden the eye in the
florist's window. In June the florist's shop is a poor place,
sedulously to be shunned. Nothing of note blooms there then. The
florist himself is patently ashamed of himself. The burden of
sustaining his traditions he puts upon a few dejected shrubs called
"hardy perennials" that have to labour the year around. All summer it
is as if the place feared to compete with nature when colour and grace
flower so cheaply on every southern hillside. But now its glories bloom
anew, and its superiority over nature becomes again manifest. Now it
assembles the blossoms of a whole long year to bewilder and allure. Its
windows are shaded glens, vine-embowered, where spring, summer, and
autumn blend in all their regal and diverse abundance; and the closing
door of the shop fans out odours as from a thousand Persian gardens.
But spring is not all of life, nor what at once chiefly concerns us.
There are people to be noted: a little series of more or less related
phenomena to be observed.
One of the people, a young man, stands conveniently before this same
florist's window, at that hour when the sun briefly flushes this narrow
canon of Broadway from wall to wall.
He had loitered along the lively highway an hour or more, his nerves
tingling responsively to all its stimuli. And now he mused as he stared
at the tangled tracery of ferns against the high bank of wine-red
autumn foliage, the royal cluster of white chrysanthemums and the big
jar of American Beauties.
He had looked forward to this moment, too--when he should enter that
same door and order at least an armful of those same haughty roses sent
to an address his memory cherished. Yet now, the time having come, the
zest for the feat was gone. It would be done; it were ungraceful not to
do it, after certain expressions; but it would be done with no heart
because of the certain knowledge that no one--at least no one to be
desired--could possibly care for him, or consider him even with
interest for anything but his money--the same kind of money Higbee made
by purveying hams--"and she wouldn't care in the least whether it was
mine or Higbee's, so there was a lot of it."
Yet he stepped in and ordered the roses, nor did the florist once
suspect that so lavish a buyer of flowers could be a prey to emotions
of corroding cynicism toward the person for whom they were meant.
From the florist's he returned directly to the hotel to find his mother
and Psyche making homelike the suite to which they had been assigned. A
maid was unpacking trunks under his sister's supervision. Mrs. Bines
was in converse with a person of authoritative manner regarding the
service to be supplied them. Two maids would be required, and madame
would of course wish a butler--
Mrs. Bines looked helplessly at her son who had just entered.
"I think--we've--we've always did our own buttling," she faltered.
The person was politely interested.
"I'll attend to these things, ma," said Percival, rather suddenly.
"Yes, we'll want a butler and the two maids, and see that the butler
knows his business, please, and--here--take this, and see that we're
properly looked after, will you?"
As the bill bore a large "C" on its face, and the person was rather a
gentleman anyway, this unfortunate essay at irregular conjugation never
fell into a certain class of anecdotes which Mrs. Bines's best friends
could now and then bring themselves to relate of her.
But other matters are forward. We may next overtake two people who
loiter on this bracing October day down a leaf-strewn aisle in Central
"You," said the girl of the pair, "least of all men can accuse me of
"You are cold to me now."
"But look, think--what did I offer--you've had my trust,--everything I
could bring myself to give you. Look what I would have sacrificed at
your call. Think how I waited and longed for that call."
"You know how helpless I was."
"Yes, if you wanted more than my bare self. I should have been
helpless, too, if I had wanted more than--than you."
"It would have been folly--madness--that way."
"Folly--madness? Do you remember the 'Sonnet of Revolt' you sent me?
Sit on this bench; I wish to say it over to you, very slowly; I want
you to hear it while you keep your later attitude in mind.
"Life--what is life? To do without avail The decent ordered tasks of
every day: Talk with the sober: join the solemn play: Tell for the
hundredth time the self-same tale Told by our grandsires in the
self-same vale Where the sun sets with even, level ray, And nights,
eternally the same, make way For hueless dawns, intolerably pale--'"
"But I know the verse."
"No; hear it out;--hear what you sent me: