Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charlie Kirschner
and PG Distributed Proofreaders
AND OTHER STORIES
AUTHOR OF "THE FOOTPRINT, AND OTHER STORIES," ETC.
_TO ELSIE, PATSIE, AND KATE_
_I had thought to sit in the ruler's chair,
But three pretty girls are sitting there--
Elsie, Patsie, and Kate.
I had thought to lord it with eyes of gray,
I had thought to be master, and have_ my _way;
But six blue eyes vote_: nay, nay, nay!
_Elsie, Patsie, and Kate.
Of Petticoats three I am sore afraid,
(Though Kate's is more like a candle-shade),
Elsie, Patsie, and Kate.
And I must confess (with shame) to you
That time there was when Petticoats two
Were enough to govern me through and through,
Elsie, Patsie, and Kate.
Oh Patsie, third of a bullying crew,
And Elsie, and Kate, be it known to you--
To Elsie, Patsie, and Kate,
That Elsie_ alone _was strong enough
To smother a motion, or call a bluff,
Or any small pitiful atom thereof--
Elsie, Patsie, and Kate.
So, though I've renounced that ruler's part
To which I was born (as is writ in my heart),
Elsie, Patsie, and Kate,
Though I do what I'm told (yes, you_ know _I do)
And am made to write stories (and sell them, too).
Still--I wish to God I had more like you,
Elsie, Patsie, and Kate_.
BAR HARBOR, _August_, 1910.
Certain persons have told me (for nothing) that "White Muscats of
Alexandria" resembles a tale in the Arabian Nights. And so it does.
Most damningly. And this is printed in the hope of saving other
_The Spread Eagle
One More Martyr
White Muscats of Alexandria
Without a Lawyer
The "Monitor" and the "Merrimac"
On the Spot; or, The Idler's House-Party_
THE SPREAD EAGLE
In his extreme youth the adulation of all with whom he came in contact
was not a cross to Fitzhugh Williams. It was the fear of expatriation
that darkened his soul. From the age of five to the age of fourteen he
was dragged about Europe by the hair of his head. I use his own
subsequent expression. His father wanted him to be a good American; his
mother wanted him to be a polite American, And to be polite, in her
mind, was to be at home in French and German, to speak English (or
American) with the accent of no particular locality, to know famous
pictures when you saw them, and, if little, to be bosom friends with
little dukes and duchesses and counts of the Empire, to play in the
gravel gardens of St. Germain, to know French history, and to have for
exercise the mild English variations of American games--cricket instead
of base-ball; instead of football, Rugby, or, in winter, lugeing above
Montreux. To luge upon a sled you sit like a timid, sheltered girl, and
hold the ropes in your hand as if you were playing horse, and descend
inclines; whereas, as Fitzhugh Williams well knew, in America rich boys
and poor take their hills head first, lying upon the democratic turn.
It wasn't always Switzerland in winter. Now and again it was Nice or
Cannes. And there you were taught by a canny Scot to hit a golf ball
cunningly from a pinch of sand. But you blushed with shame the while,
for in America at that time golf had not yet become a manly game, the
maker young of men as good as dead, the talk of cabinets But there was
lawn tennis also, which you might play without losing caste "at home,"
Fitzhugh Williams never used that term but with the one meaning. He
would say, for instance, to the little Duchess of Popinjay--or one just
as good--having kissed her to make up for having pushed her into her
ancestral pond, "Now I am going to the house," meaning Perth House, that
Mrs. Williams had taken for the season. But if he had said, "Now I am
going home," the little Duchess would have known that he was going to
sail away in a great ship to a strange, topsy-turvy land known in her
set as "the States," a kind of deep well from which people hoist gold in
buckets, surrounded by Indians. Home did not mean even his father's
house. Let Fitzhugh Williams but catch sight of the long, white shore of
Long Island, or the Brooklyn Bridge, or the amazing Liberty, and the
word fluttered up from his heart even if he spoke it not. Ay, let him
but see the Fire Island light-ship alone upon the deep, and up leaped
the word, or the sensation, which was the same thing.
One Fourth of July they were in Paris (you go to Paris for tea-gowns to
wear grouse-shooting in Scotland), and when his valet, scraping and
bowing, informed Fitzhugh Williams, aged nine, that it was time to get
up, and tub, and go forth in a white sailor suit, and be of the world
worldly, Fitzhugh declined. A greater personage was summoned--Aloys,
"the maid of madame," a ravishing creature--to whom you and I, good
Americans though we are, could have refused nothing. But Fitzhugh would
not come out of his feather-bed. And when madame herself came, looking
like a princess even at that early hour, he only pulled the bedclothes a
little higher with an air of finality.
"Are you sick, Fitzhugh?"
"Why won't you get up?"
His mother at least was entitled to an explanation.
"I won't get up," said he, "because I'm an American."
"But, my dear, it's the glorious Fourth. All good Americans are up."
"All good Americans," said Fitzhugh, "are at home letting off
"Still," said his mother, "I think I'd get up if I were you. It's lovely
out. Not hot."
"I won't get up," said Fitzhugh, "because it's the Fourth, because I'm
an American, and because I have nothing but English clothes to put on."
His mother, who was the best sort in the world, though obstinate about
bringing-up, and much the prettiest woman, sat down on the bed and
laughed till the tears came to her eyes. Fitzhugh laughed, too. His mind
being made up, it was pleasanter to laugh than to sulk.
"But," said his mother, "what's the difference? Your pajamas are
Fitzhugh's beautiful brown eyes sparkled with mischief.
"What!" exclaimed his mother. "You wretched boy, do you mean to tell me
that you haven't your pajamas on?"
Fitzhugh giggled, having worsted his mother in argument, and pushed down
the bedclothes a few inches, disclosing the neck and shoulders of that
satiny American suit in which he had been born.
Mrs. Williams surrendered at once.
"My dear," she exclaimed, "if you feel so strongly about it I will send
your man out at once to buy you some French things. They were our
allies, you know."
"Thank you, mamma," said Fitz, "and if you'll give me the pad and pencil
on the table I'll write to granny."
Thus compromise was met with compromise, as is right. Fitz wrote a very
short letter to granny, and drew a very long picture of crossing the
Delaware, with Nathan Hale being hanged from a gallows on the bank; and
Mrs. Williams sent Benton for clothes, and wrote out a cable to her
husband, a daily cable being the one thing that he who loved others to
have a good time was wont to exact "Dear Jim," ran the cable, at I
forget what the rates were then per word, "I wish you were here. It's
bright and beautiful; not too hot. Fitz would not get up and put on
English clothes, being too patriotic. You will run over soon if you can,
won't you, if only for a minute," etc., etc.
I know one thing of which the reader has not as yet got an inkling, The
Williamses were rich. They were rich, passing knowledge, passing belief.
Sums of which you and I dream in moments of supreme excitement would not
have paid one of Mrs. Williams's cable bills; would not have supported
Granny Williams's hot-houses and Angora cat farm through a late spring
frost. James Williams and his father before him were as magnets where
money was concerned. And it is a fact of family history that once James,
returning from a walk in the mud, found a dime sticking to the heel of
his right boot.
Fitzhugh was the heir of all this, and that was why it was necessary for
him to be superior in other ways as well. But Europeanize him as she
would, he remained the son of his fathers. French history was drummed
in through his ears by learned tutors, and could be made for the next
few days to come out of his mouth. But he absorbed American history
through the back of his head, even when there was none about to be
absorbed, and that came out often, I am afraid, when people didn't
especially want it to. Neither could any amount of aristocratic training
and association turn the blood in his veins blue. If one had taken the
trouble to look at a specimen of it under a microscope I believe one
would have discovered a resemblance between the corpuscles thereof and
the eagles that are the tails of coins; and the color of it was
red--bright red. And this was proven, that time when little Lord Percy
Pumps ran at Fitz, head down like a Barbadoes nigger, and butted him in
the nose. The Honorable Fifi Grey, about whom the quarrel arose, was
witness to the color of that which flowed from the aforementioned nose;
and witness also to the fact that during the ensuing cataclysm no blood
whatever, neither blue nor red, came from Lord Percy Pumps--nothing but
howls. But, alas! we may not now call upon the Honorable Fifi Grey for
testimony. She is no longer the Honorable Fifi. Quite the reverse. I had
her pointed out to me last summer (she is Lady Khorset now), and my
informant wriggled with pleasure and said, "Now, there _is_ somebody."
"You mean that slim hedge-fence in lavender?" I asked.
"By jove, yes!" said he. "That's Lady Khorset, the wickedest woman in
London, with the possible exception of Lady Virginia Pure--the
Bicyclyste, you know."
I did know. Had I not that very morning seen in a Piccadilly window a
photograph of almost all of her?
Fortunately for Fitzhugh Williams's health and sanity, little children
are pretty much the same all the world over, dwelling in the noble
democracy of mumps, measles, and whooping-cough. Little newsboys, tiny
grandees, infinitesimal sons of coachmen, picayune archdukes,
honorableines, marquisettes, they are all pretty much alike under their
skins. And so are their sisters. Naturally your free-born American child
despises a nation that does not fight with its fists. But he changes his
mind when some lusty French child of his own size has given him a good
beating in fair fight. And the English games have their beauties (I dare
say), and we do know that they can fight--or can make the Irish and the
Scots fight for them, which is just as good. And it isn't race and blue
blood that keeps little Lady Clara Vere de Vere's stockings from coming
down. It's garters. And _they_ don't always do it. Point the finger of
scorn at little Archibald Jamison Purdue Fitzwilliams Updyke
Wrennfeather, who will be Duke of Chepstow one day; for only last night
his lordship's noble mother rubbed his hollow chest with goose grease
and tied a red flannel round his neck, and this morning his gerfalcon
nose is running, as the British would have run at Waterloo had not
"would-to-God-Blücher-would-come" come up.
Peace, little bootblack; others bite their nails. See yonder night
garment laid out for the heir of a kingdom. It is of Canton flannel, a
plain, homely thing, in one piece, buttoning ignominiously down the
back, and having no apertures for the august hands and feet to come
through. In vain the little king-to-be may mumble the Canton flannel
with his mouth. He cannot bite his royal nails; and, hush! in the next
crib a princess asleep. Why that cruel, tight cap down over her ears?
It's because she _will_ double them forward and lie on them, so that if
something isn't done about it they will stick straight out.
So Fitzhugh Williams was brought up among and by children, fashionable
children, if you like. Snobs, many of them, but children all the same.
Some good, some bad, some rough, some gentle, some loving and faithful
with whom he is friends to this day, some loving and not faithful.
The dangers that he ran were not from the foreign children with whom
he played, fought, loved, and dreamed dreams; but from foreign
customs, foreign ways of doing things, foreign comfort, foreign
take-the-world-easiness, and all. For they _do_ live well abroad; they
do have amusing things to do. They eat well, drink well, smoke well, are
better waited on than we are and have more time. So Fitzhugh was in
danger of these things which have hurt the Americanism of more than one
American to the death, but he ran the dangerous gauntlet and came out at
the other end unscathed--into the open.
He could rattle off French and German like a native; he could imitate an
Englishman's intonation to perfection; and yet he came to manhood with
his own honest Ohio accent untouched. And where had he learned it? Not
in Ohio, surely. He had been about as much in Ohio as I have in the
moon. It was in his red blood, I suppose, to speak as the men of his
family spoke--less so, for his vocabulary was bigger, but plainly,
straightly, honestly, and with some regard for the way in which words
are spelled. So speak the men who are the backbone of liberty, each with
the honest accent that he is born to. Don't you suppose that Washington
himself held forth in the molten, golden tones of Virginia? Do you think
Adams said _bought_ and _caught_? He said _bot_ and _cot_. Did Lincoln
use the broad A at Gettysburg? I think that in the words he there spoke
the A's were narrow as heaven's gate. I think some of them struck
against the base of his nose before they came out to strengthen the
hearts of men, to rejoice God, and to thunder forever down the ages.
It is, of course, more elegant to speak as we New Yorkers do. Everybody
knows that. And I should advise all men to cultivate the accent and
intonation--all men who are at leisure to perfect themselves. But
honesty compels me to state that there has never been a truly great
American who spoke any speech but his own--except that superlatively
great Philadelphian, Benjamin Franklin--of Boston. He didn't talk
Philadelphianese. And you may cotton to that!
We must go back to the Fourth of July. When Benton returned with the
French clothes Fitzhugh Williams rose from his downy couch and bathed in
cold water. He was even an eager bather in France, rejoicing in the
feeling of superiority and stoicism which accompanied the pang and pain
of it. But in England, where everybody bathed--or at any rate had water
in their rooms and splashed and said ah! ah! and oh! oh!--he regarded
the morning bath as commonplace, and had often to be bribed into it.
He now had Benton in to rub his back dry, and to hand him his clothes in
sequence; it being his mother's notion that to be truly polite a man
must be helpless in these matters and dependent. And when he had on his
undershirt and his outer shirt and his stockings, he sat down to his
breakfast of chocolate and rolls and Rillet de Tours, which the butler
had just brought; and afterward brushed his teeth, finished dressing,
and ordered Benton to call a fiacre. But finding his mother's victoria
at the door he dismissed the hack, and talked stable matters with
Cunningham, the coachman, and Fontenoy, the tiger, until his mother
came--one of these lovely, trailing visions that are rare even in Paris,
though common enough, I dare say, in paradise.
They drove first of all to Gaston Rennette's gallery, where Fitz
celebrated the glorious Fourth with a real duelling pistol and real
bullets, aiming at a life-size sheet-iron man, who, like a correct,
courteous, and courageous opponent, never moved. And all the way to the
gallery and all the way back there was here and there an American flag,
as is customary in Paris on the Fourth. And to these Fitz, standing up
in the victoria, dipped and waved his hat. While he was shooting, his
mother took a "little turn" and then came back to fetch him; a stout man
in a blue blouse accompanying him to the curb, tossing his hands
heavenward, rolling up his eyes, and explaining to madame what a "genius
at the shoot was the little mister," and had averaged upon the "mister
of iron" one "fatal blow" in every five. Madame "invited" the stout man
to a five-franc piece for himself and she smiled, and he smiled, and
bowed off backward directly into a passing pedestrian, who cried out
upon the "sacred name of a rooster." And everybody laughed, including
Cunningham, whose face from much shaving looked as if a laugh must crack
it; and so the glorious Fourth was begun.
But the next event upon the programme was less provocative of pure joy
in the heart of Fitz.
"You don't remember the Burtons, do you, Fitz?" asked his mother.
"No," said he.
"Well," she said, "Mrs. Burton was a school-mate of mine, Elizabeth
Proctor, and I've just learned that she is at the d'Orient with her
daughter. The father died, you know--"
"I know _now_" interrupted Fitz with a grin.
He liked to correct his mother's English habit of "you-knowing" people
who didn't know.
"And I really think I must call and try to do something for them."
"The d'Orient," said Fitz, "is where they have the elevator that you
work yourself. Billy Molineux and I got caught in it between the third
and fourth floors."
"Well," said his mother, "would you mind very much if we drove to the
d'Orient now and called on the Burtons?"
Fitz said that he would mind _very_ much, but as he made no more
reasonable objection Mrs. Williams gave the order to Cunningham, and not
long after they stopped before the d'Orient in the Rue Daunou, and
Fontenoy flashed in with Mrs. and Master Williams's cards, and came out
after an interval and stationed himself stiffly near the step of the
victoria. This meant that Mrs. Burton was at home, as we say, or, "at
herself," as the French have it. If he had leaped nimbly to his seat
beside Cunningham on the box it would have meant that Mrs. Burton was
not "at herself."
So once more Mrs. Williams became a lovely, trailing figure out of the
seventh heaven, and Fitz, stoical but bored, followed her into the
court-yard of the hotel. Here were little iron tables and chairs, four
symmetrical flower-beds containing white gravel, four palm-trees in
tubs, their leaves much speckled with coal smuts; a French family at
breakfast (the stout father had unbuttoned his white waistcoat); and in
a corner by herself an American child sitting upon one of the
puff-seated iron chairs, one leg under her, one leg, long, thin, and
black, swinging free, and across her lap a copy of a fashion paper.
On perceiving Mrs. Williams the child at once came forward, and dropped
the most charming little courtesy imaginable.
"How do you do?" she said. "Poor, dear mamma isn't a bit well. But I
said that she would see you, Mrs. Williams. She said yesterday that she
wanted so much to see you."
In the event Mrs. Williams went up three flights in the elevator that
you worked yourself; only on this occasion the proprietor, hastily
slipping into his frock-coat and high hat (you could see him at it
through the office window), worked it for her. And Fitz remained with
the gloomy prospect of being entertained by little Miss Burton.
She was younger than Fitz by two years and older by ten--a serene,
knowing, beautiful child. When Fitz proposed that they sit in the
victoria, as softer than the iron chairs, she called him a funny boy,
but she assented. And as they went she tossed aside her fashion paper,
remarking, "_You_ wouldn't care for that."
When they had settled down into the soft, leather cushions of the
victoria she sighed luxuriously and said:
"This _is_ nice! I wish--" and broke off short.
"What?" asked Fitz.
"Oh," she said, "that the horses would start, and take us all over Paris
and back, and everybody would see us go by, and envy us. But mamma and
I," she said, "are devoted to fiacres--not smart, are they?"
"I don't mind," said Fitz, "if they go where I tell 'em to, and don't
set up a row over the _pourboire_."
"Still," said she, "it must be nice to have carriages and things. We
used to have. Only I can hardly remember. Mamma says I have a dreadfully
"How long have you been abroad?" Fitz asked.
"Dear me," she said, "ever so long. I don't remember."
"Won't it be fun," said Fitz, "to go home?"
"America?" She hesitated. "Mamma says it's all so crude and rude. I
"Don't you remember America!" exclaimed Fitz, much horrified.
"Not clearly," she admitted.
"I guess you never saw Cleveland, Ohio, then," said Fitz, "'n' Euclid
Avenue, 'n' Wade Park, 'n' the cannons in the square, 'n' the
breakwater, 'n' never eat Silverthorn's potatoes at Rocky River, 'n'
never went to a picnic at Tinker's Creek, 'n' never saw Little Mountain
'n' the viaduct."
"You are quite right," said little Miss Burton, "I never did."
"When I grow up," said Fitz in a glow of enthusiasm, "I'm going to live
in America 'n' have a tower on my house with a flagpole, 'n' a cannon to
let off every sunset and sunrise."
"I shouldn't like that," said she, "if I were sleeping in the house at
"I shouldn't be sleeping," said Fitz; "I'd be up early every morning to
let the cannon off."
"I remember Newport a little," she said. "I'd live there if I were you.
Newport is very smart for America, mamma says. We're going to Newport
when I grow up. I'm sure it will be nicer if you are there."
Fitz thought this very likely, but was too modest to say so.
"If I ever go to Newport," he said, "it will be as captain of a cup
"I heard your mother call you Fitz," said little Miss Burton. "Is that
your name, or do you have them?"
"F-i-t-z-h-u-g-h," said Fitz, "is my name."
"Any middle name?"
"That's smarter," said she. "I haven't either."
"What _is_ your name?" asked Fitz, trying to feign interest.
"Evelyn," said she, "but my intimate friends call me Eve."
"Huh!" said Fitz grossly, "Eve ate the apple first."
"Yes," sighed Eve, "and gave Adam the core. Nowadays, I heard mamma say
to Count Grassi, it's the other way 'round."
"My father says," said Fitz, "that Eve ought to of been spanked."
Certain memories reddened Eve; but the natural curiosity to compare
experiences got the better of her maiden reticence upon so delicate a
subject. She lowered her voice.
"Do you yell?" she asked. "I do. It frightens them if you yell."
"I was never spanked" said Fitz. "When I'm naughty mamma writes to papa,
and he writes to me, and says he's sorry to hear that I haven't yet
learned to be a gentleman, and a man of the world, and an American.
That's worse than being spanked."
"Oh, dear!" said Eve, "I don't mind what people say; that's just water
on a duck's back; but what they do is with slippers--"
"And," cried Fitz, elated with his own humor, "it isn't on the
"Are you yourself to-day," asked Miss Eve, her eyes filling, "or are you
just unusually horrid?"
"Here--I say--don't blub," said Fitz, in real alarm. And, knowing the
power of money to soothe, he pulled a twenty-franc gold piece from his
pocket and himself opened and closed one of her tiny hands upon it.
The child's easy tears dried at once.
"Really--truly?--ought I?" she exclaimed.
"You bet!" said Fitz, all his beautiful foreign culture to the fore.
"You just keep that and surprise yourself with a present next time you
"Maybe mamma won't like me to," she doubted. And then, with devilish
wisdom, "I think mamma will scold me first--and let me forget to give it
back afterward. Thank you, Fitz. I could kiss you!"
"Fire away," said Fitz sullenly. He was used to little girls, and liked
to kiss them, but he did not like them to kiss him. She didn't, however.
She caught his hand with the one of hers that was not clutching the gold
piece, and squeezed it quickly and let it go. Something in this must
have touched and made appeal to the manly heart. For Fitz said, averting
his beautiful eyes:
"You're a funny little pill, aren't you?"
The tiger sprang to the victoria step from loafing in front of a
jeweller's window, and stiffened into a statue of himself. Madame
"Take Evelyn to the lift, Fitz," said she. But first she kissed Evelyn,
and said that she was going to send for her soon, for a spree with Fitz.
They passed through the court-yard, Fitz carrying his hat like a
gentleman and a man of the world, and into the dark passage that led to
the famous elevator.
"Your mother's smart," said Eve.
"Can't you think of anything but how smart people are?"
"When I'm grown up," she said, "and am smart myself I'll think of other
things, I dare say."
"Can you work the lift yourself? Hadn't I better take you up?"
"Oh, no," she said, and held out her hand.
They shook, she firmly, he with the flabby, diffident clasp of childhood
and old age.
"You're a funny kid," said Fitz.
"You're rather a dear," said Eve.
She entered the elevator, closed the door, and disappeared upward, at
the pace of a very footsore and weary snail.
Mrs. Burton was much cheered by Mrs. Williams's visit, as who that
struggles is not by the notice of the rich and the mighty?
"My dear," she said, when Eve entered, "she is so charming, so natural;
she has promised to give a tea for me, and to present me to some of her
friends. I hope you like the boy--Fitz--Fritz--whatever his name is. It
would be so nice if you were to be friends."
"He _is_ nice," said Eve, "ever so nice--but _so_ dull."
"What did you talk about?" asked Mrs. Burton,
"Really," said Eve, aged seven, "I forget."
Mrs. Burton had made a failure of her own life.
She had married a man who subsequently had been so foolish as to lose
his money--or most of it.
Eve, who had ever a short memory, does not remember the catastrophe. She
was three at the time of it. She was in the nursery when the blow fell,
and presently her mother came in looking very distracted and wild, and
caught the little girl's face between her hands, and looked into it, and
turned it this way and that, and passed the little girl's beautiful
brown hair through her fingers, and then began to speak violently.
"You sha'n't be shabby," she said. "I will make a great beauty of you.
You've got the beauty. You shall ride in your carriage, even if I work
my hands to the bone. They've bowled me over. But I'm not dead yet.
Elizabeth Burton shall have her day. You wait. I'll make the world dance
for you." Then she went into violent hysterics.
There was a little money left. Mrs. Burton took Evelyn to Europe, and
began to teach her the long litany of success:
Money is God;
We praise thee, etc.,
a very long, somewhat truthful, and truly degraded litany. She taught
her that it isn't handsome is as handsome does, but the boots and
shoes, after all. She taught her that a girl must dress beautifully to
be beautiful, that she must learn all the world's ways and secrets, and
at the same time appear in speech and manner like a child of Nature,
like a newly opened rose. And she taught her to love her country
"America, my dear, is the one place where a girl can marry enough money
to live somewhere else. Or, if her husband is tied to his affairs, it is
the one place where she can get the most for his money--not as we get
the most for ours, for we couldn't live two minutes on our income in
America--but where the most people will bow the lowest to her because
she is rich; where she will be the most courted and the most envied."
The two mammas worked along similar lines, but for different reasons.
Mrs. Burton strove to make Eve ornamental so that she might acquire
millions; Mrs. Williams strove to Anglicize and Europeanize her son so
that he might ornament those which were already his. Those little spread
eagles, the corpuscles in his blood, folded their wings a trifle as he
grew older, and weren't always so ready to scream and boast; but they
remained eagles, and no amount of Eton and Oxford could turn them into
little unicorns or lions. You may wonder why Fitz's father, a strong,
sane man, permitted such attempts at denationalization upon his son and
heir. Fitz so wondered--once. So wrote. And was answered thus:
... If you're any good it will all come out in the wash. If you aren't
any good it doesn't matter whether your mother makes an Englishman out
of you or a Mandarin. When you come of age you'll be your own man;
that's been the bargain between your mother and me. That will be the
time for you to decide whether to be governed or to help govern. I am
not afraid for you. I never have been.
So Mrs. Williams was not successful on the whole in her attempts to make
a cosmopolitan of Fitz. And that was just enough, because the attempts
were those of an amateur. She had lived a furiously active life of
pleasure; she had made an unassailable place for herself in the best
European society, as at home. She had not even become estranged from her
husband. They were always crossing the ocean to see each other, "if only
for a minute or two," as she used to say, and when Fitz was at school
she spent much of her time in America; and Fitz's short vacations were
wild sprees with his father and mother, come over for the purpose. Mr.
Williams would take an immense country house for a few weeks, with
shooting and riding and all sorts of games thrown in, and have Fitz's
friends by the dozen. But, like as not, Mr. Williams would leave in the
middle of it, as fast as trains and steamers could carry him, home to
his affairs. And even the little English boys missed him sorely, since
he was much kinder to them, as a rule, than their own fathers were, and
had always too many sovereigns in his pocket for his own comfort.
But Mrs. Burton's attempts to make a charming cosmopolitan of Eve met
with the greater success that they deserved. They were the efforts of a
professional, one who had staked life or death, so to speak, on the
result. Where Mrs. Williams amused herself and achieved small victories,
Mrs. Burton fought and achieved great conquests. She saved money out of
her thin income, money for the great days to come when Eve was to be
presented to society at Newport; and she slaved and toiled grimly and
with far-seeing genius. Eve's speaking voice was, perhaps, Mrs. Burton's
and her own greatest triumph. It was Ellen Terry's youngest, freshest
voice over again, but with the naïvest little ghost of a French accent;
and she didn't seem so much to project a phrase at you by the locutory
muscles as to smile it to you.
Mrs. Burton had, of course, her moments of despair about Eve. But these
were mostly confined to that despairing period when most girls are
nothing but arms and wrists and gawkiness and shyness; when their clear,
bright complexions turn muddy, and they want to enter convents. Eve at
this period in her life was unusually trying and nondescript. She
announced that if she ever married it would be for love alone, but that
she did not intend to marry. She would train to be a cholera nurse or a
bubonic plague nurse--anything, in short, that was most calculated to
drive poor Mrs. Burton frantic. And she grew the longest, thinnest pair
of legs and arms in Europe; and her hair seemed to lose its wonderful
lustre; and her skin, upon which Mrs. Burton had banked so much, became
colorless and opaque and a little blotched around the chin. And she was
so nervous and overgrown that she would throw you a whole fit of
hysterics during piano lessons; and she prayed so long night and morning
that her bony knees developed callouses; and when she didn't have a cold
in her head she was getting over one or catching another.
During this period in Eve's life the children met for the second time.
It was in Vienna. This time Mrs. Burton, as having been longer in
residence, called upon Mrs. Williams, taking Eve with her, after
hesitation. Poor Eve! The graceful, gracious courtesy of her babyhood
was now a performance of which a stork must have felt ashamed; she
pitched into a table (while trying to make herself small) and sent a
pitcher of lemonade crashing to the ground. And then burst into tears
that threatened to become laughter mixed with howls.
At this moment Fitz, having been sent for to "do the polite," entered.
He shook hands at once with Mrs. Burton, whom he had never seen before,
and turned to see how Eve, whom he vaguely remembered, was coming on.
And there she was--nothing left of his vague memory but the immense
eyes. Even these were not clear and bright, but red in the whites and
disordered with tears. For the rest (Fitz made the mental comparison
himself) she reminded him of a silly baby camel that he had seen in the
zoo, that had six inches of body, six feet of legs, and the most bashful
Mrs. Burton, you may be sure, did not lose the start that Fitz gave
before he went forward and shook hands with Eve. But she misinterpreted
it. She said to herself (all the while saying other things aloud to Mrs.
Williams): "If he had only seen her a year ago, even a boy of his age
would have been struck by her, and would have remembered her. But now!
Now, he'll never forget her. And I don't blame him. She's so ugly that
he was frightened."
But that was not why Fitz had started. The poor, gawky, long-legged,
tearful, frightened, overgrown, wretched girl had not struck him as
ugly; she had struck him as the most pathetic and to-be-pitied object
that he had ever seen. I do not account for this. I state it. Had she
been pretty and self-possessed he would have left the room presently on
some excuse, but now he stayed--not attracted, but troubled and sorry
and eager to put her at her ease. So he would have turned aside to help
a gutter cat that had been run over and hurt, though he would have
passed the proudest, fluffiest Angora in Christendom with no more than a
glance. He began to talk to her in his plainest, straightest, honestest
Ohioan. It always came out strongest when he was most moved. His
mother's sharp ears heard the A's, how they narrowed in his mouth, and
smote every now and then with a homely tang against the base of his
nose. "Just like his father," she thought, "when some one's in trouble."
And she had a sudden twinge of nostalgia.
Fitz lured Eve to a far corner and showed her a set of wonderful carved
chess-men that he had bought that morning; and photographs of his
friends at Eton, and of the school, and of some of the masters. He
talked very earnestly and elaborately about these dull matters, and
passed by the opportunities which her first embarrassed replies offered
for the repartee of youth. And he who was most impatient of restraint
and simple occupations talked and behaved like a dull, simple, kindly
old gentleman. His method may not have left Eve with a dazzling
impression of him; she could not know that he was not himself, but all
at once a deliberate artist seeking to soothe and to make easy.
Eve did not enjoy that call; she enjoyed nothing in those days but
prayer and despair; but she got to the end of it without any more tears
and crashes. And she said to her mother afterward that young Williams
seemed a nice boy--but so dull. Well, they were quits. She had seemed
dull enough to Fitz. A sick cat may touch your heart, but does not
furnish you with lively companionship. Fitz was heartily glad when the
Burtons had gone. He had worked very hard to make things possible for
that absurd baby camel.
"You may call her an absurd baby camel," said his mother, "but it's my
opinion that she is going to be a very great beauty."
"_She!"_ exclaimed Fitz, thinking that the ugliness of Eve might have
unhinged his mother's beauty-loving mind.
"Oh," said his mother, "she's at an age now--poor child! But don't you
remember how the bones of her face--"
"I am trying to forget," said Fitz with a tremendous shudder for the
Fitz did not take a degree at Oxford. He left in the middle of his last
term, leaving many friends behind. He stood well, and had been in no
especial difficulty of mischief, and why he left was a mystery. The
truth of the matter is that he had been planning for ten years to leave
Oxford in the very middle of his last term. For upon that date fell his
twenty-first birthday, when he was to be his own man. He spent a few
hours in his mother's house in London. And, of course, she tried to make
him go back and finish, and was very much upset, for her. But Fitz
"If it were Yale, or Princeton, or Harvard, or Berkeley, or Squedunk,"
he said, "I would stick it out. But a degree from Oxford isn't worth six
weeks of home."
"But aren't you going to wait till I can go with you?"
"If you'll go with me to-night you shall have my state-room, and I'll
sleep on the coal. But if you can't go till to-morrow, mother mine, I
will not wait. I have cabled my father," said he, "to meet me at
"Your poor, busy father," she said, "will hardly feel like running on
from Cleveland to meet a boy who is coming home without a degree."
"My father," said Fitz, "will be at quarantine. He will come out in a
tug. And he will arrange to take me off and put me ashore before the
others. If the ship is anywhere near on schedule my father and I will be
in time to see a ball game at the Polo Grounds."
Something in the young man's honest face and voice aroused an answering
enthusiasm in his mother's heart.
"Oh, Fitz," she said, "if I could possibly manage it I would go with
you. Tell your father that I am sailing next week. I won't cable.
Perhaps he'll be surprised and pleased."
"I _know_ he will," said Fitz, and he folded his mother in his arms and
rumpled her hair on one side and then on the other.
* * * * *
Those who beheld, and who, because of the wealth of the principal
personages, took notice of the meeting between Fitz and his father, say
that Fitz touched his father's cheek with his lips as naturally and
unaffectedly as if he had been three years old, that a handshake between
the two men accompanied this salute, and that Williams senior was heard
to remark that it had looked like rain early in the morning, but that
now it didn't, and that he had a couple of seats for the ball game. What
he really said was inside, neither audible nor visible upon his
smooth-shaven, care-wrinkled face. It was an outcry of the heart, so
joyous as to resemble grief.
There was a young and pretty widow on that ship who had made much of
Fitz on the way out and had pretended that she understood him. She
thought that she had made an impression, and that, whatever happened, he
would not forget her. But when he rushed up, his face all joyous, to say
good-by, her heart sank. And she told her friends afterward that there
was a certain irresistible, orphan-like appeal about that young
Williams, and that she had felt like a mother toward him. But this was
not till very much later. At first she used to shut herself up in her
room and cry her eyes out.
They lunched at an uptown hotel and afterward, smoking big cigars, they
drove to a hatter's and bought straw hats, being very critical of each
other's fit and choice.
Then they hurried up to the Polo Grounds, and when it began to get
exciting in the fifth inning, Fitz felt his father pressing something
into his hand. Without taking his eyes from Wagsniff, who was at the
bat, Fitz put that something into his mouth and began to chew. The two
brothers--for that is the high relationship achieved sometimes in
America, and in America alone, between father and son--thrust their new
straw hats upon the backs of their round heads, humped themselves
forward, and rested with their elbows on their knees and watched--no,
that is your foreigner's attitude toward a contest--they _played_
I cannot leave them thus without telling the reader that they survived
the almost fatal ninth, when, with the score 3-2 against, two out and a
man on first, Wagsniff came once more to the bat and, swinging cunningly
at the very first ball pitched to him by the famous Mr. Blatherton,
lifted it over the centrefielder's head and trotted around the bases
and, grinning like a Hallowe'en pumpkin, came romping home.
At dinner that night Williams senior said suddenly:
"Fitz, what you do want to do?"
A stranger would have thought that Fitz was being asked to choose
between a theatre and a roof-garden, but Fitz knew that an entirely
different question was involved in those casually spoken words. He was
being asked off-hand to state off-hand what he was going to do with his
young life. But he had his answer waiting.
"I want to see the world," he said.
Williams senior, as a rule, thought things out in his own mind and did
not press for explanations. But on the present occasion he asked:
Fitz smiled very youthfully and winningly.
"I've seen some of it," he said, "right side up. Now I want to have a
look upside-down. If I go into something of yours--as myself--I don't
get a show. I'm marked. The other clerks would swipe to me, and the
heads would credit me with brains before I showed whether I had any or
not. I want you to get me a job in Wall Street--under any other name
than my own--except Percy"--they both laughed--"your first name and
mamma's maiden name would do--James Holden. And nobody here knows me by
sight, I've been abroad so much; and it seems to me I'd get an honest
point of view and find out if I was any good or not, and if I could get
myself liked for myself or not."
"Well," said his father; "well, that's an idea, anyhow."
"I've had valets and carriages and luxuries all my life," said Fitz. "I
think I like them. But I don't _know_--do I? I've never tried the other
thing. I'm sure I don't want to be an underpaid clerk always. But I am
sure I want to try it on for a while."
"I was planning," said his father, "to take a car and run about the
country with you and show you all the different enterprises that I'm
interested in. I thought you'd make a choice, find something you liked,
and go into it for a starter. If you're any good you can go pretty far
with me pulling for you. You don't like that idea?"
"Not for now," said Fitz. "I like mine better."
"Do you want to live on what you earn?"
"If I can stand it."
"You'll be started with ten dollars a week, say. Can you do it?"
"What did grandpa start on?" asked Fitz.
"His board, two suits of clothes, and twenty-four dollars a year," said
William senior with a proud ring in his voice.
"I began at the bottom, too. That was the old-fashioned idea. Father
was rich then. But he wanted me to show that I was some good."
"Did grandpa pull for you, or did you have to find yourself?"
"Well," said the father diffidently, "I had a natural taste for
business. But," and he smiled at his son, "I shouldn't live on what you
earn, if I were you. You needn't spend much, but have a good time out of
hours. You'll find yourself working side by side with other sons of rich
men. And you can bet your bottom dollar _they_ don't live on what they
can earn. Unless you make a display of downright wealth you'll be judged
on your merits. That's what you're driving at, isn't it?"
So they compromised on that point; and the next morning they went
downtown and called upon Mr. Merriman, the great banker. He and Williams
had been in many deals together, and on one historic occasion had
supported prices and loaned so much ready money on easy terms as to
avert a panic.
"John," said Williams senior, "my son Fitz."
"Well, sir," said Merriman, only his eyes smiling, "you don't look like
"I'm not," said Fitz stoutly.
"In that case," said Merriman, "what can I do for you?"
"I want to be called James Holden," said Fitz, "and to have a job in
Merriman listened to the reasons with interest and amusement. Then he
turned to Williams senior. "May I drive him?" he asked grimly.
"If you can," said Fitz's father. And he laughed.
Finally, it was arranged that, in his own way, Fitz was to see the
Fitz's experiment in finding himself and getting himself liked for
himself alone was a great failure. He had not been in Mr. Merriman's
employ two hours before he found that he disliked long sums in addition,
and had made friends with Wilson Carrol, who worked next to him. Indeed,
Fitz made friends with everybody in the office inside of two weeks, and
was responsible for a great deal of whispering and hanging out of back
windows for a puff of smoke. Nobody but Mr. Merriman knew who he was,
where he came from, or what his prospects were. Everybody liked him--for
himself. Rich or poor, it must have been the same. His idea that
character, if he had it, would tell in the long run proved erroneous. It
told right away.
Wilson Carrol and half a dozen other clerks in the office were the sons
of rich men, put to work because of the old-fashioned idea that
everybody ought to work, and at the same time pampered, according to the
modern idea, with comfortable allowances over and beyond their pay.
With one or other of these young men for companion, and presently for
friend, Fitz began to lead the agreeable summer life of New York's
well-to-do youth. He allowed himself enough money to keep his end up,
but did not allow himself any especial extravagances or luxuries. He
played his part well, appearing less well off than Carrol, and more so
than young Prout, with whom he got into much mischief in the office.
Whatever these young gentlemen had to spend they were always hard up.
Fitz did likewise. If you dined gloriously at Sherry's and had a box at
the play you made up for it the next night by a chop at Smith's and a
cooling ride in a ferry-boat, say to Staten Island and back. Saturday
you got off early and went to Long Island or Westchester for tennis and
a swim, and lived till Monday in a luxurious house belonging to a
fellow-clerk's father, or were put up at the nearest country club.
Downtown that summer there was nothing exciting going on. The market
stood still upon very small transactions, and there was no real work for
any one but the book-keepers. The more Fitz saw of the science of
addition the less he thought of it, but he did what he had to do (no
more) and drew his pay every Saturday with pride. Once, there being a
convenient legal holiday to fatten the week-end, he went to Newport with
Carrol and got himself so much liked by all the Carrol family that he
received and accepted an invitation to spend his long holiday with them.
He and Carrol had arranged with the powers to take their two weeks off
at the same time--from the fifteenth to the end of August. And during
business hours they kept their heads pretty close together and did much
plotting and planning in whispers.
But Mrs. Carrol herself was to have a finger in that vacation. The
presence in her house of two presentable young men was an excellent
excuse for paying off dinner debts and giving a lawn party and a ball.
Even at Newport there are never enough men to go round, and with two
whole ones for a basis much may be done. The very night of their arrival
they "ran into" a dinner-party, as Carrol expressed it. It was a large
dinner; and the young men, having got to skylarking over their dressing
(contrary to Mrs. Carrol's explicit orders) descended to a drawing-room
already full of people. Carrol knew them all, even the famous new
beauty; but Fitz--or James Holden, rather--had, except for the Carrols,
but a nodding acquaintance with one or two of the men. He felt shy, and
blushed very becomingly while trying to explain to Mrs. Carrol how he
and Wilson happened to be so unfortunate as to be late.
"Well," she said, "I'm not going to punish you this time. You are to
take Miss Burton in."
"Which is Miss Burton?" asked Fitz, on whose memory at the moment the
name made no impression.
"Do you see seven or eight men in the corner," she said, "who look as if
they were surrounding a punch-bowl?"
"Miss Burton is the punch-bowl?" he asked.
"All those men want to take her in," said Mrs. Carrol, "and you're going
to make them all very jealous."
Dinner was announced, and Mrs. Carrol, with Fitz in tow, swept down upon
the group of men. It parted reluctantly and disclosed, lolling happily
in a deep chair, the most beautiful girl in the world. She came to her
feet in the quickest, prettiest way imaginable, and spoke to Mrs. Carrol
in the young Ellen Terry voice, with its little ghost of a French
accent. Fitz did not hear what she said or what Mrs. Carrol answered. He
only knew that his heart was thumping against his ribs, and that a
moment later he was being introduced as Mr. Holden, and that Eve did not
know him from Adam.
Presently she laid the tips of her fingers on his arm, and they were
going in to dinner.
"I think Mrs. Carrol's a dear," said Fitz, "to give me you to take in
and to sit next to. I always wanted people to like me, but now all the
men hate me. I can feel it in the small of my back, and I like it. Do
you know how you feel in spring--the day the first crocuses come out?
That's the way it makes me feel."
She turned her great, smiling eyes upon him and laughed. The laugh died
away. His young, merry face had a grim, resolved look. So his father
looked at critical times.
"I thought you were joking--rather feebly," she said.
"I don't know," said he, "that I shall ever joke again."
"You make your mind up very quickly," she said.
"The men of my family all do," he said. "But it isn't my mind that's
Something of the girl's stately and exquisite poise forsook her. Her
eyes wore a hunted look for a moment. She even felt obliged to laugh to
cover her confusion.
"It's my heart," said Fitz. "I saw you--and that is all there is to it."
"Aren't you in something of a hurry?" she asked, her eyes twinkling. She
had felt for a moment like a soldier surprised without weapons. But now,
once more, she felt herself armed _cap à pie_.
"I've got to be," said Fitz. "I'm a bank clerk on a two weeks' vacation,
of which the first day is gone."
She was sorry that he was a bank clerk; it had a poor and meagre sound.
It was not for him that she had been trained. She had been made to slave
for herself, and was to make a "continental" marriage with the highest
bidder. Eve's heart had been pretty well schooled out of her, and yet,
before dinner came to an end, she found herself wishing that among the
high bidders might be one very young, like the man at her side, with
eyes as honest, and who, to express admiration, beat about no bushes.
Later, when they said good-by, Fitz said:
"It would be good for me to see you to-morrow."
And she said:
"Would it be good for _me_?" and laughed.
"Yes," he said firmly, "it would."
"Why?" she asked.
"To-morrow at four," said Fitz, "I shall come for you and take you
around the Cliff Walk and tell you."
She made no promise. But the next day, when Fitz called at the cottage
which Mrs. Burton, by scraping and saving these many years, had managed
to take for the season, Eve was at home--and she was alone.
Newport, as a whole, was busy preparing for the national lawn-tennis
championship. There was a prince to be pampered and entertained, and
every night, from the door of some great house or other, a strip of red
carpet protruded, covered by an awning, and the coming and going of
smart carriages on Bellevue Avenue seemed double that of the week
before. But the affair between James Holden--who was nobody knew who,
and came from nobody knew exactly where--and Newport's reigning beauty
held the real centre of the stage.
Beautiful though Eve was, natural and unaffected though she seemed,
people had but to glance at Mrs. Burton's old, hard, humorless, at once
anxious and triumphant face to know that the girl, willing or not, was a
victim prepared for sacrifice. Confessedly poor, obviously extravagant
and luxury-loving, even the rich men who wanted to marry her knew that
Eve must consider purses more than hearts. And they held themselves
cynically off and allowed what was known as "Holden's pipe-dream" to run
its course. It amused those who wanted Eve, those who thought they did,
and all those who loved a spectacle. "He will go back to his desk
presently," said the cynics, "and that will be the end of that." The
hero of the pipe-dream thought this at times himself. Well, if it turned
out that way Eve was not worth having. He believed that she had a heart,
that if her heart were touched she would fling her interests to the
winds and obey its dictates.
What Eve thought during the first few days of Holden's pipe-dream is not
clearly known. She must have been greatly taken with him, or she would
not have allowed him to interfere with her plans for personal
advancement and aggrandizement, to make a monopoly of her society, and
to run his head so violently into a stone wall. After the first few
days, when she realized that she liked to be with him better than with
any one she had ever known, she probably thought--or to that
effect--"I'll just pretend a little--and have it to remember." But she
found herself lying awake at night, wishing that he was rich; and later,
not even wishing, just lying awake and suffering. She had made up her
mind some time since to accept Darius O'Connell before the end of the
season. He had a prodigious fortune, good habits, and a kind Irish way
with him. And she still told herself that it must be O'Connell, and she
lay awake and thought about Fitz and suffered.
Mrs. Burton alone hadn't a kind thought or word for him. Her face
hardened at the mere mention of his name, and sometimes, when she saw a
certain expression that came oftener and oftener into Eve's face, that
callous which served her for a heart turned harder than Nature had made
it, and she saw all her schemes and all her long labors demolished like
a house of cards. Even if Eve flung Fitz aside like an old glove, as
inevitably she must, still Mrs. Burton's schemes would wear a tinge of
failure. The girl had shown that the heart was not entirely educated
out of her, and was frightening her mother. Even if things went no
further, here was partial failure. She had intended to make an
inevitably rising force of Eve, and here at the very outset were
lassitude and a glance aside at false gods.
Fitz was stubbornly resolved to win Eve on his merits or not to win her
at all. He had but to tell her his real name, or his father's, to turn
the balance of the hesitation and doubt; but that, he told himself,
would never, never do. She must turn aside from her training, love him
for himself, and believe, if only for a few hours, that she had thrown
herself away upon poverty and mediocrity, and be happy in it; or else
she must pass him by, and sweep on up the broad, cold stairway of her
own and her mother's ambitions.
But Fitz wanted her so much that he felt he must die if he lost her. And
sometimes he was tempted to tell her of his millions and take her for
better or worse. But he would never know then if she cared for him or
not; he would never know then if she had a real heart and was worth the
having. So he resisted, and his young face had, at times, a grim,
careworn look; and between hope and fear his spirits fell away and he
felt tired and old. People thought of him as an absurd boy in the most
desperate throes of puppy love, and certain ones felt grateful to Eve
Burton for showing them so pretty a bit of sport. Even those very
agreeable people, the Carrols, were disgusted with Fitz, as are all
good people when a guest of the house makes a solemn goose of himself.
But Fitz was not in the least ridiculous to himself, which was
important; and he was not ridiculous to Eve, which was more
Then, one morning, the whole affair began to look serious even to a
scoffing and cynical world. Darius O'Connell was missed at the Casino
and in the Reading-room; the evening papers announced that he had sailed
for Europe. And Miss Burton, far from appearing anxious or unhappy about
this, had never looked so beautiful or so serene. Some said that
O'Connell had made up his mind that the game was not worth the candle;
others, that he had proposed and had been "sent packing." Among these
latter was Mrs. Burton herself, and it will never be known what words of
abuse she poured upon Eve. If Mrs. Burton deserved punishment she was
receiving all that she deserved. Sick-headaches, despair, a vain, empty
life with its last hopes melting away. Eve--her Eve--her beautiful
daughter had a heart! That was the sum of Mrs. Burton's punishment. For
a while she resisted her fate and fought against it, and then collapsed,
bitter, broken, and old.
But what looked even more serious than O'Connell's removing himself was
the fact that during the match which was to decide the lawn-tennis
championship Eve and her bank clerk did not appear in the Casino
grounds. Here were met all the happy people, in society and all the
unhappy people--even Mrs. Burton's ashen face was noted among those
present--but the reigning belle and her young man were not in the seats
that they had occupied during the preceding days of the tournament; and
people pointed out those empty seats to each other, and smiled and
lifted their eyebrows; and young Tombs, who had been making furious love
to one of the Blackwell twins--for the third tournament in five
years--sighed and whispered to her: "Dolly, did you ever in your life
see two empty seats sitting so close to each other?"
Meanwhile, Fitz and the beauty were strolling along the Cliff Walk in
the bright sunshine, with the cool Atlantic breeze in their faces,
between lawns and gardens on the one side and dancing blue waves upon
the other. Fitz looked pale and careworn. But Eve looked ecstatic. This
was because poor Fitz, on the one hand, was still in the misery of doubt
and uncertainty, and because Eve, on the other, had suddenly made up her
mind and knew almost exactly what was going to happen.
The Cliff Walk belongs to the public, and here and there meanders
irritatingly over some very exclusive millionaire's front lawn. A few
such, unable to endure the sight of strangers, have caused this walk,
where it crosses their properties, to be sunk so that from the windows
of their houses neither the walk itself nor persons walking upon it
can be seen.
Fitz and the beauty were approaching one of these "ha-ha's" into which
the path dipped steeply and from which it rose steeply upon the farther
side. On the left was a blank wall of granite blocks, on the right only
a few thousand miles of blind ocean. It may have been a distant view of
this particular "ha-ha" that had made up Eve's mind for her, for she had
a strong dramatic sense. Or it may have been that her heart alone had
made up her mind, and that the secluded depths of the "ha-ha" had
nothing to do with the matter.
"Jim," she said as they began to descend into the place, "life's only a
moment out of eternity, isn't it?"
"Only a moment, Eve," he said, "a little longer for some than for
"If it's only a moment," she said as they reached the bottom of the
decline, and could only be seen by the blind granite wall and the blind
ocean, "I think it ought to be complete."
"Why, Eve!" he said, his voice breaking and choking. "Honestly?... My
Eve!... Mine!... Look at me.... Is it true?... Are you sure?... Why,
she's sure!... My darling's sure ... all sure."
* * * * *
Later he said: "And you don't care about money, and you've got the
biggest, sweetest heart in all the world. And it's mine, and
"I can't seem to see anything in any direction," she said, "beyond you."
* * * * *
Later they had to separate, only to meet again at a dinner. Before they
went in they had a word together in a corner.
"I _told_ you," said Fitz, "that my father would understand, and you
said he wouldn't. But he did; his answer came while I was dressing. I
telegraphed: 'I have seen the world,' and the answer was: 'Put a fence
She smiled with delight.
"Eve," he said, "everybody knows that you've taken me. It's in our
faces, I suppose. And they are saying that you are a goose to throw
yourself away on a bank clerk."
"Do you think I care?" she said.
"I know you don't," he said, "but I can't help thanking you for holding
your head so high and looking so happy and so proud."
"Wouldn't you be proud," she said, "to have been brought up to think
that you had no heart, and then to find that, in spite of everything,
you had one that could jump and thump, and love and long, and make
poverty look like paradise?"
"I know what you mean, a little," he said. "Your mother tried to make
you into an Article; my mother tried to make an Englishman of me. And
instead, you turned into an angel, and I was never anything but a
"Do you know," she said, "I can't help feeling a little sorry for poor
"Then," said he, "put your left hand behind your back." She felt him
slide a heavy ring upon her engagement finger. "Show her that, and tell
her that it isn't glass."
Eve couldn't keep from just one covert glance at her ring. The sight of
it almost took her breath away.
Dinner was announced.
"I am frightened," she said; "have I given myself to a djinn?"
"My Eve doesn't know whom she's given herself to," he whispered.
"I don't believe I do," she said.
"You don't," said he.
An immense pride in his father's wealth and his own suddenly surged in
Fitz. He could give her all those things that she had renounced for his
sake, and more, too. But he did not tell her at that time.
The great ruby on the slim hand flashed its message about the festive
board. Some of the best-bred ladies in the land threatened to become
pop-eyed from looking at it.
Mrs. Blackwell, mother of the twins, whispered to Montgomery Stairs:
"That Holden boy seems to have more to him than I had fancied."
But young Tombs whispered to Dolly Blackwell, to whom he had just become
engaged for the third (and last) time in five years: "She isn't thinking
about the ring.... Look at her.... She's listening to music."
* * * * *
Montgomery Stairs (who is not altogether reliable) claims to have seen
Mrs. Burton within five minutes of her learning who her son-in-law-to-be
really was. For, of course, this came out presently and made a profound
sensation. He claims to have seen--from a convenient eyrie--Mrs. Burton
rush out into the little garden behind her cottage; he claims that all
of a sudden she leaped into the air and turned a double somersault, and
that immediately after she ran up and down the paths on her hands; that
then she stood upon her head for nearly five minutes; and that finally
she flung herself down and rolled over and over in a bed of heliotrope.
But then, as is well known, Montgomery Stairs, in the good American
phrase, was one of those who "also ran."
Darius O'Connell sent a cable to Eve from Paris (from Maxim's, I am
afraid, late at night). He said: "Heartiest congratulations and best
wishes. You can fool some of the best people some of the time, but,
thank God, you can't fool all of the best people all of the time." Eve
and Fitz never knew just what he meant.
They spent part of their honeymoon in Cleveland, and every afternoon Eve
sat between Fitz and his father, leaning forward, her elbows on her
knees, and was taught painstakingly, as the crowning gift of those two
simple hearts, to play the game.
There must be one word more. There are people to this day who say that
Eve knew from the beginning who "James Holden" was, and that she played
her cards accordingly. In view of this I fling all caution to the wind,
and in spite of the cold fear that is upon me of being sued for libel, I
tell these ladies--_people_, I mean--that they lie in their teeth.
"On the contrary," said Gardiner, "lightning very often strikes twice in
the same place, and often three times. The so-called all-wise Providence
is still in the experimental stage. My grandmother, for instance,
presented my grandfather with fifteen children: seven live sons and
eight dead daughters. That's when the lightning had fun with itself. And
when the epidemic of ophthalmia broke out in the Straits Settlements,
what class of people do you suppose developed the highest percentage of
total loss of sight in one or both eyes?--why the inmates of the big
asylum for the deaf and dumb in Singapore: twenty per cent of those poor
stricken souls went stone blind. Then what do you think the lightning
did? Set the blooming asylum on fire and burned it to the ground. And
then, I dare say, the elements retired to some region of waste, off in
space somewhere, and sat down and thundered with laughter. But it wasn't
through with the deaf and dumb, and blind, and roofless even then. It
was decided by government, which is the next most irresponsible
instrument to lightning, to transfer the late inmates of the asylum to
a remantled barrack in the salubrious Ceylon hills; and they were put
aboard a ram-shackle, single-screw steamer named the _Nerissa_. She was
"Coast of Java--in '80, wasn't it?" said Pedder, who has read nothing
but dictionaries and books of black-and-white facts and statistics in
the course of a long life otherwise entirely devoted to misdirected
efforts to defeat Colonel Bogey at golf.
"It was," said Gardiner, "and the lightning was very busy striking. It
drowned off every member of the crew who had any sense of decency; and
of the deaf and dumb passengers selected to be washed ashore a pair who
were also blind. Those saved came to land at a jungly stretch of coast,
dented by a slow-running creek. The crew called the place Quickstep
Inlet because of the panicky and inhuman haste in which they left it."
"Why inhuman?" asked Ludlow.
"Because," said Gardiner, "they only gave about one look at their two
comrades in misfortune who were deaf, and dumb, and blind, and decided
that it was impracticable to attempt to take them along. I suppose they
were right. I suppose it _would_ have been the devil's own job. The
really nasty part was that the crew made a secret of it, and when some
of them, having passed through the Scylla and Charybdis of fright and
fever, and foul water, and wild beasts, reached a settlement they didn't
say a word about the two unfortunates who had been deliberately
"How was it found out then?" Pedder asked.
"Years and years afterward by the ravings in liquor of one of the crew,
and by certain things that I'd like to tell you if you'd be interested."
"Go on," said Ludlow.
"The important thing," said Gardiner, "is that the pair were
deserted--not why they were deserted, or how it was found out that they
had been. And one thing--speaking of lightning and Providence--is very
important. If the pair hadn't been blind, if the asylum hadn't been
burned, if the _Nerissa_ hadn't been wrecked, and if the crew hadn't
deserted them--they would never in this world have had an opportunity to
lift to their lips the cup of human happiness and drink it off.
"The man did not know that he had been deserted. He vaguely understood
that there had been a shipwreck and that he had been washed
ashore--alone, he thought. When he got hungry he began to crawl round
and round with his hands in front of his face feeling for something to
eat, trying and approving of one handful of leaves and spitting out
another. But thirst began to torment him, and then, all of a sudden, he
went souse into the creek that there emptied into the sea. That way of
life went on for several days. And all the while, the woman, just as she
had come ashore, was keeping life going similarly--crawling about,
always near the creek, crossing the beach at low tide to the mud flats
and rooting among the mollusks, and stuffing herself with any kind of
sea-growth that tasted good enough. The two were probably often within a
few feet of each other; and they might have lived out their lives that
way without either of them ever having the least idea that he or she was
not the only human being in that part of the world. But something--pure
accident or some subtle instinct--brought them together. The man was out
crawling with one hand before his face--so was the woman. Their hands
met, and clinched. They remained thus, and trembling, for a long time.
From that time until the day of their death, years and years later, they
never for so much as one moment lost contact with each other.
"Daily they crawled or walked with infinite slowness, hand in hand, or
the arm of one about the waist of the other--neither knowing the look,
the age, the religion or even the color of the other. But I know, from
the only person fitted to judge, that they loved each other tremendously
and spotlessly--these two poor souls alone in that continuous,
soundless, sightless, expressionless night. I know because their baby,
when he grew up, and got away from that place, and learned white man's
"He left Quickstep Inlet when he was about fifteen years old, naked as
the day he was born; ignorant of everything--who he was or what he was,
or that the world contained anything similar to him. It was some
restless spirit of exploration that smoulders I suppose, in every human
heart, that compelled him to leave the few hundred acres of shore and
wood that were familiar to him. He carried with him upon his bold
journey a roll of bark, resembling birch-bark, upon which he had
scratched with a sharp shell the most meaningless-looking lines, curves,
spirals and gyrations that you can imagine. He will have that roll in
his possession now, I expect, for even when I knew him--when he was
twenty years old, and could talk English pretty nimbly, he could hardly
bear to be separated from it--or, if he let you take one of the sheets
in your hands, he would watch you as a dog watches the person that is
about to give him his dinner. But he ran very little risk of having it
stolen. Nobody wanted it.
"He must have been a gentle savage, with all sorts of decent inherited
instincts, for when I knew him he had already taken kindly to
civilization. At first, of course, they had a bad time with him; they
couldn't talk to him, and when, quite naturally and nonchalantly he
would start in to do the most outrageous things, they had to teach him
better, literally by force. If Pedder weren't such an old stickler for
propriety, I could go more into detail. You needn't look offended, Ped,
you know you are very easily shocked, and that you make it unpleasant
for everybody. He was taken on by the English consul at Teerak, who was
a good fellow, and clothed, and taught to speak English, and, as a
beginning, to work in the garden. Indoor work seemed to have almost the
effect of nauseating him; and houses and closed doors threw him at first
into frenzies of fear, and always made him miserable. It was apparent in
his face, but more in his way of putting up his fists when in doubt,
that he wasn't Dutch nor German nor French. He was probably English,
they thought, but he might have been American, and so they had an
orthodox christening and named him Jonathan Bull. Of course, after he
got the trick of speech, they found out, by putting two and two
together, just about who and what he was; and that he was of English
parentage. But, of course, they had to let the name stand.
"The first thing, he told me, that ever came to him in the way of a
thought was that he was different from his parents--that they couldn't
see, nor hear, nor make a noise as he could. He could remember sitting
comfortably in the mud at low tide and being convulsed with laughter at
his mother's efforts to find a fat mussel that was within a few inches
of her hand. He said that within a small radius his parents had made
paths, by constant peregrinations in search of food, that had become so
familiar to them that they could move hither and thither, hand in hand,
with considerable precision and alacrity. It was one of his earliest
mischievous instincts to place obstacles in those paths, and take a
humorous view of the consequent tumbles.
"The only intercourse that he could have with his parents was, of
course, by sense of touch. And he told me that, whenever they could
catch him, they would kiss him and fondle him. But he didn't like to be
caressed, especially in the daytime. It was different at night when one
became nervous and afraid; then he used to let himself be caught; and he
said that he used to hold hands with his mother until he went to sleep
and that when he awoke it was to find that the clasp still held. It was
a long time before he realized that what to him were whimsical pranks,
were in the nature of tragedies to his parents. If he put a
stumbling-block in one of their paths, it upset the whole fabric of
their daily life, made them feel, I suppose, that they were losing such
faculties as they possessed: memory and the sense of touch--and they
would be obliged either to walk with infinite slowness, or actually to
crawl. And it was long before he realized that things which were
perfectly simple and easy for him, were frightfully difficult for them;
and he said that his first recollection of a tender and gentle feeling
was once when--heaven only knows how--his parents found a nest with eggs
in it--and brought these eggs to him. He realized then something of what
a prize these eggs must have seemed to them--for he had often scrambled
into trees and glutted himself with eggs, whereas, so far as he could
recollect, his parents had never had any at all. He began from that time
on to collect choice tidbits for _them_; and wondered why he had not
done so before. And they rewarded him with caresses and kisses; I
suppose his real reward was his own virtue. Anyway, though very
gradually at first, instinct taught him to be a good son to them.
"The lessons that he learned of life were, first of all, from his
parents, who were always near at hand for study; second, from birds and
animals, there being a pool not far up the creek where even tigers
sometimes came to drink; from occasional monkeys; but mostly, of course,
by intuition and introspection.
"He noticed that birds and animals all had the use of sight and hearing,
and were able to make sounds; and his own forest-trained senses soon
perceived different meanings, and even shades of meaning in certain of
these sounds. The larger animals were not, of course, constantly under
observation, and from tigers, for instance, he learned only the main
principles of tiger-talk--a kind of singsong snuffling purr that means
'get out of the way'; the cringing whine that means the tiger is very
sorry for himself; and two or three of the full-throated roars: the one
expressing rage, the one expressing fear, and the one expressing pained
astonishment. But into the vocabularies of birds he penetrated
"One day, when I had got to know Jonathan rather well, he surprised me
by saying, 'the minute I got the idea, I talked all day long, but it was
years before I thought of writing down what I said, instead of plain
trying to remember. At first, when I'd say something that I wanted to
remember, I'd have to coax my head into remembering the place where I
had said it, near which tree, or which stone on the beach, what had
happened to make me think of saying it, and then, more often than not, I
could repeat it word for word,' Then he showed me the sheets of bark
with the scratches and scrawls and gyrations on them. 'It isn't spelled
writing,' he explained, 'or what they call picture writing. I don't
believe it has enough general principles for me to be able to explain it
as a system, though it has a sort of system to it. If it's like
anything, I think it must be like the way they write down music. It
would be, wouldn't it? Because beasts don't talk with words, they talk
with sounds, and I copycatted my language from beasts and birds,'
"I asked him what the writing on the bark was all about. He said, and he
blushed, as every young author, and most old ones, should, that the
writing was just more or less nothing--all about different kinds of
things. So I pointed specifically to the top of one sheet, and said,
'begin there and tell me what that's about.' 'If I began there,' he
said, 'I'd have to go backward; that's the finish of--oh!' he literally
threw himself on my mercy with the most ingenuous blushing face. 'Oh,'
he said, 'I suppose _you'd_ call them poems.' I, of course, had my
doubts of that; but I kept countenance, and said, 'well, what's that one
about?' He looked puzzled for a moment, and then he smiled. 'Why,' he
said, 'I suppose it's about me, about the way I felt one day, I suppose;
but if I tried to say it into English it would just sound damn foolish;
but, perhaps, you'd sooner hear it in my own language. It's better,
because, after all, you can't turn sounds into words, can you?' 'Go
ahead,' I said.
"His hands, holding the sheet of bark shook a little with embarrassment,
and he was very red in the face; and before he could begin--I suppose
you would call it _reading_--he had to wet his lips two or three times.
I expected, of course, to hear the usual grunts and minor guttural
sounds of the usual very primitive dialect. But Jonathan's own
particular patent language was not that sort of thing at all. He began
with the faintest, and most distinct rustling of leaves--I can't imagine
how he made the sound at all. It seemed to come from somewhere between
the back of his throat and his lips, and to have nothing to do with his
tongue or vocal cords. It lasted for, perhaps, half a minute; dying out,
fainter and fainter and finer and finer into complete silence. Then,
from the distant point where the rustling had last been heard, there
came the softest little throaty whistle, three times repeated; then, for
two good minutes without seeming to draw breath, the young man burst
into peal after peal of the sweetest, clearest, highest, swiftest
whistling that you can possibly imagine. I don't know how he did it--he
didn't even purse or move his lips--they were barely parted, in a kind
of plaintive, sad little smile--and the notes came out; that was all. Of
course I can't tell you what the thing meant word for word or sound for
sound; but, in general, it said youth, youth and spring: and I tell you
it had those compositions of Mendelssohn, and Grieg, and Sinding lashed
to the mast. Well, the leaves rustled again, a little lower in the
scale, I think, but wouldn't swear to it, and the first little soft
throaty whistle was twice repeated--and there was a little, tiny whisper
of a human moan. And that was the end of that poem.
"I made him read to me from his bark sheets until he was tired out. And
the next day I was at him again early, and the next. Suppose you were
living in a jumping-off place, bored to death, and blowing yourself
every fifth or sixth day to a brand new crop of prickly heat; and wanted
to go away, and couldn't because you had to sit around until a fat
Dutchman made up his mind about a concession; and suppose the only book
in the place was on the uses of and manufacture and by-products of the
royal palm, written in a beastly language called Tamil, which you only
knew enough of to ask for tea and toast at four o'clock in the morning,
and were usually understood to mean soda biscuits and a dish of buffalo
milk. And suppose that then you came across the complete works of
Shakespeare--and that you had never read them--or the Odyssey and that
you had never read that--or, better, suppose that there was a Steinway
piano in your sitting-room, and that one day the boy who worked the
punka for you dropped the rope and sat down at the piano and played
Beethoven from beginning to end--as Rubenstein would have played
him--and suppose you had never heard a note of Beethoven before. It was
like that--listening to the works of Jonathan Bull."
Gardiner paused, as if considering very carefully what he should say.
"No!" he said presently, "I'm _not_ overdoing it. My judgment of
Jonathan Bull is no longer a sudden enthusiasm, as the natural effort of
a man to make his own discoveries seem more important to his friends
than they deserve. He _is_ one of the giants. Think of it: he had made,
on an impulse of out and out creation, the most expressive of all
languages, so far as mere sound goes; and as if that were not enough, he
had gone ahead and composed in that language incomparable lyrics. The
meanings were in the sounds. You couldn't mistake them. Have you ever
heard a tiger roar--full steam ahead? There was one piece that began
suddenly with a kind of terrible, obsessing, strong purring that shook
the walls of the room and that went into a series of the most terrible
tiger roars and ended with the nightmare screams of a child. I have
never been so frightened in my life. And there was a snake song, a soft,
wavy, piano, _pianissimo_ effect, all malignant stealth and horror, and
running through it were the guileless and insistently hungry twitterings
of baby birds in the nest. But there were comical pieces, too, in which
ludicrous adventures befell unsophisticated monkeys; and there was a
whole series of spring-fever songs--some of them just rotten and
nervous, and some of them sad and yearning--and some of them--I don't
know just how to put it--well, some of them you might say were not
exactly fit to print. One thing he read me--it was very
short--consisted of hoarse, inarticulate, broken groans--I couldn't make
out what it meant at all. And I was very curious to know, because it
seemed to move Jonathan himself much more than anything else of his.
"'You know,' he explained to me, 'my father and mother couldn't make any
sound at all--oh, yes--they could clap their hands together and make a
sound that way--but I mean with their voices--they hadn't any
voices--sometimes their lips smacked and made a noise over eating, or
kissing; but they couldn't make sounds in their throats. Well, when my
mother died--just think, she couldn't make my father understand that she
was sick; and I couldn't. I tried every way. He didn't know that she was
leaving him--I'm glad you can't see that poor blind face of her's,
turned to father's blind face and trying to tell him good-by--I see it,
almost all the time,' he said. 'You know they were always touching--I
can't remember a single second in all those years when they weren't at
least holding hands. She went in the night. My father was asleep with
one arm over and about her. As she got colder and colder it waked him.
And he understood. Then he began to make those dumb, helpless groans,
like that piece I just read you--the nearest he got to speaking. He sat
on the ground and held her in his arms all the rest of the night, and
all the next day, and the next night--I couldn't make him let go, and
every little while he went into those dreadful, dumb groanings. You
don't get brought up in the jungle without knowing death when you see
it, and what dead things do. The second night, about midnight, the news
of my mother's death began to get about; and horrible, hunchbacked
beasts that I had never seen or dreamed of before began to slink about
among the trees, and peer out, and snuffle, and complain--and suddenly
laugh just like men. And I was so frightened of them, and of the night
anyway, that every now and then I'd go into a regular screaming fit, and
that would drive them away and keep them quiet for a time, but pretty
soon I'd hear their cautious steps, way off, drawing closer and closer,
and then the things would begin to snuffle, and complain, and laugh
again--they had disgusting, black dogfaces, and one came very close, and
I could see the water running out of its mouth. But when dawn began to
break they drew farther and farther away, until you could only hear
them--now and then.
"'My father looked very white and ill, as was natural enough; but his
face now had a peaceful, contented expression. I didn't understand at
first that he, in his turn, was dying. But it wasn't of a broken heart,
as you might suppose, or anything like that; he had gnawed his left
wrist until he got the arteries open; and he was bleeding to death.
"'Once a big dead fish was washed up on the beach--it was when I was
quite a little boy--but I remembered how, after a day or two, even my
parents had no trouble in finding it, and I remembered how my father had
scooped a hole in the sand and buried it. So I scooped a great deep hole
in the sand, very deep until water began to trickle into it. And I had
sense enough, when it came to filling up the hole, to put in lots of big
stones, the biggest I could roll in. And I'm strong. I stayed on--for
about six months, getting lonelier and lonelier--and then spring came. I
think that was really what started me. I still go almost crazy every
spring--anyway I got to this place, and found people.'"
* * * * *
"What's he doing now?" asked Pedder.
"He's trying," said Gardiner, "to do it in English. Of course it seems
impossible that he should succeed. But then it was absolutely impossible
for Shakespeare to do what he did with the English language, wasn't it?
And yet he did it."
"But--" said Pedder.
"Ped," said Gardiner, "we don't control the lightnings; and you never
can tell where they are going to strike next--or when."
Ludlow flushed a little, and did not look at his friends.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful," he said, "to be loved and to be in love the
way his father and mother were. Maybe they were the ones that really
heard and saw, and--sang. We admire the lily, but we owe her to the
loves of the blind rain for the deaf and the dumb earth...."
Nobody spoke for some moments. It had been the only allusion that Ludlow
had made in years and years to that which had left him a lonely and a
"I wonder," Pedder mused, "how it ever occurred to a blind, deaf mute
that severing his wrist with his teeth would induce death?"
Gardiner shrugged his shoulders.
"It is always interesting," he said, "to know just which part of a
story--if any--is thought worthy of consideration by a given
Mary Rex was more particularly _my_ nurse, for my sister Ellen, a
thoughtful, dependable child of eight, was her own mistress in
This was in the days when we got our servants from neighborhood
families; before the Swedish and Irish invasion had made servants of us
in turn. Mary was the youngest of an ancestored county family. Her
great-grandfather had fought in the Revolution, as you might know by the
great flint-lock musket over the Rexes' fireplace. A brother of his had
formed part of a British square at Waterloo; and if Mary's own father
had not lost his right hand at Gettysburg he would never have let his
children go out to service. Poor soul, he bore the whole of his
afflictions, those to his body and those to his pride, with a dignity
not often seen in these degenerate days. He was by trade a blacksmith,
and it was for that reason, I suppose, that Providence, who loves a
little joke, elected for amputation his right hand rather than one or
both of his feet. Since, even in these degenerate days, many a footless
blacksmith makes an honest living.
Mary was a smart, comely, upstanding young woman. Even my father, a
dismal sceptic anent human frailty, said that he would freely trust her
around the farthest corner in Christendom. And I gathered from the talk
of my elders and betters that Mary was very pretty. People said it was a
real joy to see a creature so young, so smiling, so pink and white, so
graciously happy--in those degenerate days. I myself can see now that
she must have been very pretty indeed. Her eyes, for instance, so blue
in the blue, so white in the white, can't have changed at all--unless,
perhaps, the shadows deep within the blue are deeper than they were when
she was a girl. But even to-day you would have to travel far to see
another middle-aged woman so smooth of forehead, so cleanly-cut of
feature, so generally comely.
But if there was one thing in the world that I had formed no conclusions
upon at the age of six it was female loveliness. To cuddle against a
gentle mother when bogies were about had nothing whatsoever to do with
that gentle mother's personal appearance. To strike valiantly at Mary's
face when the hot water and the scrubbing-brush were going had nothing
to do with the prettiness thereof. Nor did I consider my sister the less
presentable by a black eye given and taken in the game of Little John
and Robin Hood upon a log in the Baychester woods. And indeed I have
been told, and believe it to be a fact, that the beauty before whom
swelled my very earliest tides of affection was a pug-nosed,
snaggle-toothed, freckled-faced tomboy, who if she had been but a jot
uglier might have been exhibited to advantage in a dime museum. Peace,
old agitations, peace!
Everybody knew the Rexes, as in any part of the world, for many years
stable, everybody knows everybody else. In Westchester, before great
strips of woodland and water became Pelham Bay Park, before the Swedes
came, and the Irish, and the Italians, and the Germans--in other words,
before land boomed--there had always been an amiable and
uninjunctionable stability. Families had lived, for well or ill, in the
same houses for years and years. So long had the portraits hung in the
rich men's houses that if you moved them it was to disclose a
brightly-fresh rectangle upon the wall behind. The box in the poor man's
yard had been tended by the poor man's great-grand female relatives.
Ours was a vicinage of memory and proper pride. We would no more have
thought of inquiring into the morals of this public house or that than
of expunging the sun from the heavens. They had always been there.
There was a man who left his wife and little children to fight against
King George. He could think of but one thing to protect them against
vagrant soldiers of either side, and that was to carve upon certain
boards (which he nailed to the trees here and there along the boundaries
of his farm):
BEWARR OF THE BOOLE DOGGES
When I was a child one of these signs still remained--at the left, just
beyond Pelham Bridge. And people used to laugh and point at the great
trees and say that because of the sign the British had never dared to
trespass and cut down the timber. Now the man had never owned a Boole
Dogge, nor had any of his descendants. I doubt if there was ever one on
the premises, unless latterly, perhaps, there has been a French bulldog
or so let out of a passing automobile to enjoy a few moments of
unconventional liberty. But the bluff had always held good. As my mother
used to say: "I know--but then there _may_ be a bulldog now." And that
farm was always out of bounds. I relate this for two reasons--to show
how stable and conservative a neighborhood was ours, and because on that
very farm, and chosen for the very reason which I have related, stood
the hollow oak which is to play its majestic part in this modest
The apple orchards of the Boole Dogge Farm ran southerly to a hickory
wood, the hickory wood to an oak wood, the oak wood to thick scrub of
all sorts, the scrub to the sedge, and the sedge to the salt mud at low
tide, and at high to the bassy waters themselves of inmost Pelham Bay.
On the right was the long, black trestle of the Harlem River Branch
Railroad, on the left the long-curved ironwork of Pelham Bridge. And the
farm, promontoried with its woods and thick cover between these
boundaries and more woods to the north, was an overgrown, run-down,
desolate, lonely, deserted old place. Had it not been for the old sign
that said "Bewarr," it must have been a great playground for
children--for their picnics, and their hide-and-seeks, and their games
at Indians. But the ferocious animals imagined by the old Revolutionary
were as efficacious against trespassers as a cordon of police. And I
remember to this day, I can feel still, the very-thrill of that wild
surmise with which I followed Mary and my sister over the stone wall and
into those forbidden and forbidding acres for the first time. But that
It was my sister who told me that Mary was engaged to be married. But I
had noticed for some days how the neighbors went out of their way to
accost her upon our walks; to banter her kindly, to shake hands with
her, to wag their heads and look chin-chucks even if they gave none. Her
face wore a beautiful mantling red for hours at a time. And instead of
being made more sedate by her responsible and settling prospects she
shed the half of her years, which were not many, and became the most
delightful romp, a furious runner of races, swiftest of pursuers at tag,
most subtle and sudden of hiders and poppers out, and full to the arch,
scarlet brim of loud, clear laughter.
It was late spring now, lilacs in all the dooryards, all the houses
being cleaned inside out, and they were to be married in the fall. They
had picked the little house on the outskirts of Skinnertown not far from
the Tory oak, in which they were to live. And often we made it the end
of an excursion, and played at games devised by Mary to improve the
appearance of the little yard. We gathered up in emulation old, broken
china and bottles, and made them into a heap at the back; we cleared the
yard of brush and dead wood, and pulled up weeds by the hundred-weight,
and set out a wild rose or two and more valuable, if less lovely, plants
that people gave Mary out of real gardens.
Will Braddish, a painter by trade, met us one day with brushes and a
great bucket of white paint, and, while he and Mary sat upon the
doorstep talking in low tones or directing in high, Ellen and I made
shift to paint the little picket-fence until it was white as new snow.
At odd times Braddish himself painted the little house (it was all of
old-fashioned, long shingles) inside and out, and a friend of his got up
on the roof with mortar and a trowel, and pointed-up the brick chimney;
and my father and Mr. Sturtevant contributed a load of beautiful, sleek,
rich pasture sod and the labor to lay it; so that by midsummer the
little domain was the spickest, spannest little dream of a home in the
whole county. The young couple bought furniture, and received gifts of
furniture, prints, an A1 range, a tiny, shiny, desirable thing; and the
whole world and all things in it smiled them in the face. Braddish, as
you will have guessed, was a prosperous young man. He was popular, too,
and of good habits. People said only against him that he was impulsive
and had sudden fits of the devil's own temper, but that he recovered
from these in a twinkling and before anything came of them. And even the
merest child could see that he thought the world of Mary. I have seen
him show her little attentions such as my sister retailed me of
personages in fairy stories and chivalric histories. Once when there was
a puddle to cross he made a causeway of his coat, like another Raleigh,
and Mary crossed upon it, like one in a trance of tender happiness,
oblivious of the fact that she might easily have gone around and saved
the coat. His skin and his eyes were almost as clear as Mary's own, and
he had a bold, dashing, independent way with him.
But it wasn't often that Braddish could get free of his manifold
occupations: his painting contracts and his political engagements. He
was by way of growing very influential in local politics, and people
predicted an unstintedly successful life for him. He was considered
unusually clever and able. His manners were superior to his station, and
he had done a deal of heterogeneous reading. But, of course, whenever it
was possible he was with Mary and helped her out with looking after
Ellen and me. My mother, who was very timid about tramps, looked upon
these occasions as in the nature of real blessings. There was nowhere in
the countryside that we children might not safely venture with Will
Braddish strolling behind. He loved children--he really did, a rare,
rare thing--and he was big, and courageous, and strong, and quick. He
was very tactful, too, on these excursions and talked a good part of the
time for the three of us, instead of for Mary alone. Nice, honest talk
it was, too, with just enough robbers, and highwaymen, and lions, and
Indians to give it spice. But all the adventures through which he passed
us were open and honest. How the noble heroes _did_ get on in life, and
how the wicked villains did catch it!
I remember once we were returning home past the Boole Dogge Farm, and
Braddish, wiping his brow, for it was cruelly hot, seated himself as
bold as could be on the boundary wall. The conversation had been upon
robbers, and how they always, always got caught.
"It doesn't matter," Braddish said, "where they hide. Take this old
farm. It's the best hiding-place in this end of the county--woods, and
marshes, and old wells, and bushes, and hollows--"
We asked him in much awe if he had ever actually set foot on the place.
"Yes, indeed," he said; "when I was a boy I knew every inch of it; I was
always hunting and trapping, and looking for arrowheads. And that was
the best country. Once I spent a night in the woods yonder. The bridge
was open to let a tugboat through and got stuck so they couldn't shut
it, and there was no way back to Westchester except over the railroad
trestle, and my father had said that I could go anywhere I pleased
except on that trestle. And so here I was caught, and it came on to
blither and blow, and I found an oak tree, all hollow like a little
house, and I crept in and fell asleep and never woke till daylight. My
father said next time I could come home by the trestle, or he'd know the
"But," said I, "weren't you afraid the bulldogs would get you?"
"Now, if they'd said bull-terriers," he said, "I might have had my
doubts, but a bulldog's no more dangerous than a toadfish. He's like my
old grandma. What teeth he has don't meet. And besides," he said, "there
weren't any bulldogs on that farm. And I don't believe there ever were.
Now, I'm not sure, sonny," he said, "but you climb up here--"
I climbed upon the wall, and he held me so that I should not fall.
"Do you see," said he, "way down yonder over the tops of the trees a
dead limb sticking up?"
I saw it finally.
"Well," he said, "I'd stake something that that's a part of the old
hollow oak. Shall we go and see?"
But Mary told him that the farm was out of bounds. And he thought a
moment, and then swung his legs over the wall.
"I won't be two minutes," he said. "I'd like to see if I'm right--it's
fifteen years ago--" And he strode off across the forbidden farm to the
woods. When he came back he said that he had been right, and that
nothing had changed much. He tossed me a flint arrowhead that he had
picked up--he was always finding things, and we went on again.
When we got to the middle of Pelham Bridge we all stopped and leaned
against the railing and looked down into the swift, swirling current.
Braddish tore an old envelop into little pieces and dropped them
overboard by pairs, so that we might see which would beat the other to a
But the shadows began to grow long now and presently Braddish had to
leave us to attend a meeting in Westchester, and I remember how he
turned and waved, just before the Boulevard dips to the causeway, and
how Mary recollected something that she had meant to say and ran after
him a little way calling, and he did not hear. And she came back
laughing, and red in the face, and breathing quick.
Two days later my father, who had started for the early train, came
driving back to the house as if he had missed it. But he said, no, and
his face was very grave--he had heard a piece of news that greatly
concerned Mary, and he had come back to tell her. He went into the study
with my mother, and presently they sent for Mary and she went in
A few minutes later, through the closed door, Ellen and I heard a
sudden, wailing cry.
Poor Braddish, it seems, in one of his ungovernable tempers had shot a
man to death, and fled away no one knew whither.
The man killed was named Hagan. He was a red-faced, hard-drinking brute,
not without sharp wits and a following--or better, a heeling. There had
been bad blood between him and Braddish for some time over political
differences of opinion and advancement. But into these Hagan had carried
a circumstantial, if degenerate, imagination that had grown into and
worried Braddish's peace of mind like a cancer. Details of the actual