Part 2 out of 7
"You heard what I said--you big liar, liar, liar!"
"You take that back!"
Here the newcomer flourished clinched fists and began to prance. The
Wilbur twin crouched, but was otherwise motionless. The newcomer
continued to prance alarmingly and to wield his arms as if against an
invisible opponent. Secretly he had no mind to combat. His real purpose
became presently clear. It was to intimidate and confuse until he should
be near enough the desired delicacy to snatch it and run. He was an
excellent runner. His opponent perceived this--the evil glance of desire
and intention under all the flourish of arms. Something had to be done.
Without warning he leaped upon the invader and bore him to earth. There
he punched, jabbed, gouged, and scratched as they writhed together. A
moment of this and the prostrate foe was heard to scream with the utmost
sincerity. The Wilbur twin was startled, but did not relax his hold.
"You let me up from here!" the foe was then heard to cry.
The Wilbur twin watchfully rose from his mount, breathing heavily. He
seized his cap and drew it tightly over dishevelled locks.
"I guess that'll teach you a good lesson!" he warned when he had breath
The vanquished Hun got to his feet, one hand over an eye. He was
abundantly blemished and his nose bled. His sense of dignity had been
outraged and his head hurt.
"You get the hell and gone out of here!" shouted the Wilbur twin, quite
as if he did own the town.
"I must say! Cursing and swearing!" shrilled the Merle twin, but none
The repulsed enemy went slowly to the corner of the alley. Here he
turned to recover a moment of dignity.
"You just wait till I catch you out some day!" he roared back with
gestures meant to terrify. But this was his last flash. He went on his
way, one hand still to the blighted eye.
Now it developed that the two boys who had waited the Hun had profited
cunningly by the brawl. They had approached at its beginning--a fight
was anybody's to watch--they had applauded its denouement with shrill
and hearty cries, and they now felicitated the victor.
"Aw, that old Tod McNeil thinks he can fight!" said one, and laughed in
"I bet this kid could lick him any day in the week!" observed his
This boy, it was now seen, led a dog on a rope, a half-grown dog that
would one day be large. He was now heavily clad in silken wool of richly
mixed colours--brown, yellow, and bluish gray--and his eyes were still
the pale blue of puppyhood.
Both newcomers had learned the unwisdom of abrupt methods of approaching
this wealthy group. They conducted themselves with modesty; they were
polite, even servile, saying much in praise of the warrior twin. The one
with the dog revealed genius for this sort of thing, and insisted on
feeling the warrior's muscle. The flexed bicep appeared to leave him
aghast at its hardness and immensity. He insisted that his companion
should feel it, too.
"Have some bologna?" asked the warrior. He would doubtless have pressed
bologna now on Tod McNeil had that social cull stayed by.
"Oh!" said the belated guests, surprised at the presence of bologna
They uttered profuse thanks for sizable segments of the now diminished
circle. It was then that the Wilbur twin took pleased notice of the dog.
He was a responsive animal, grateful for notice from any one. Receiving
a morsel of the bologna he instantly engulfed it and overwhelmed the
giver with rough but hearty attentions.
"Knows me already," said the now infatuated Wilbur.
"Sure he does!" agreed the calculating owner. "He's a smart dog. He's
the smartest dog ever I see, and I seen a good many dogs round this
"Have some more bologna," said Wilbur.
"Thanks," said the dog owner, "just a mite."
The dog, receiving another bit, gave further signs of knowing the donor.
No cynic was present to intimate that the animal would instantly know
any giver of bologna.
"What's his name?" demanded Wilbur.
The owner hesitated. He had very casually acquired the animal but a few
hours before; he now attached no value to him, and was minded to be rid
of him, nor had the dog to his knowledge any name whatever.
"His name is Frank," he said, his imagination being slow to start.
"Here, Frank! Here, Frank!" called Wilbur, and the dog leaped for more
"See, he knows his name all right," observed the owner, pridefully.
"I bet you wouldn't sell him for anything," suggested Wilbur.
"Sell good old Frank?" The owner was painfully shocked. "No, I couldn't
hardly do that," he said more gently. "He's too valuable. My little
sister just worships him."
The other guests were bored at this hint of commerce. They had no wish
to see good money spent for a dog that no one could eat.
"He don't look to me like so much of a dog," remarked one of these. "He
looks silly to me."
The owner stared at the speaker unpleasantly.
"Oh, he does, does he? I guess that shows what you know about dogs. If
you knew so much about 'em like you say I guess you'd know this kind
always does look that way. It's--it's the way they look," he floundered,
briefly, but recovered. "That's how you can tell 'em," he concluded.
The Wilbur twin was further impressed, though he had not thought the dog
looked silly at all.
"I'll give you a quarter for him," he declared bluntly.
There was a sensation among the guests. Some of them made noises to show
that they would regard this as a waste of money. But the owner was firm.
"Huh! I bet they ain't money enough in this whole crowd to buy that dog,
even if I was goin' to sell him!"
The wishful Wilbur jingled coins in both pockets.
"I guess he wouldn't be much of a fighting dog," he said.
"Fight!" exploded the owner. "You talk about fight! Say, that's all he
is--just a fighter! He eats 'em alive, that's all he does--eats 'em!"
This was for some of them not easy at once to believe, for the dog's
expression was one of simpering amiability. The owner seemed to perceive
this discrepancy. "He looks peaceful, but you git him mad once, that's
all! He's that kind--you got to git him mad first." This sounded
reasonable, at least to the dog's warmest admirer.
"Yes, sir," continued the owner, "you'll be goin' along the street with
"George who?" demanded a skeptical guest.
For a moment the owner was disconcerted.
"Well, Frank is his right name, only my little sister calls him George
sometimes, and I get mixed. Anyway, you'll be goin' along the street
with Frank and another dog'll come up and he's afraid of Frank and mebbe
he'll just kind of clear his throat or something on account of feeling
nervous and not meaning anything, but Frank'll think he's growling, and
that settles it. Eats 'em alive! I seen some horrible sights, I want to
"Give you thirty-five cents for him," said the impressed Wilbur.
"For that there dog?" exploded the owner--"thirty-five cents?" He let it
be seen that this jesting was in poor taste.
"I guess he wouldn't be much of a watchdog."
"Watchdog! Say, that mutt watches all the time, day and night! You let a
burglar come sneaking in, or a tramp or someone--wow! Grabs 'em by the
throat, that's all!"
"Fifty cents!" cried the snared Cowan twin. Something told the owner
this would be the last raise.
"Let's see the money!"
He saw it, and the prodigy, Frank, sometimes called George by the
owner's little sister, had a new master. The Wilbur twin tingled through
all his being when the end of the rope leash was placed in his hand.
A tradesman now descried them from the rear door of his shop. He saw
smoke from the relighted pennygrabs and noted the mound of excelsior.
"Hi, there!" he called, harshly. "Beat it outa there! What you want to
do--set the whole town afire?"
Of course nothing of this sort had occurred to them, but only Merle
answered very politely, "No, sir!" The others merely moved off, holding
the question silly. Wilbur Cowan stalked ahead with his purchase.
"I hate just terrible to part with him," said the dog's late owner.
"Come on to Solly Gumble's," said Wilbur, significantly. He must do
something to heal this hurt.
The mob followed gleefully. The Wilbur twin was hoping they would meet
no other dog. He didn't want good old Frank to eat another dog right on
Back in Solly Gumble's he bought lavishly for his eight guests. The
guests were ideal; none of them spoke of having to leave early, though
the day was drawing in. And none of the guests noted that the almost
continuous stream of small coin flowing to the Gumble till came now but
from one pocket of the host. Yet hardly a guest but could eat from
either hand as he chose. It was a scene of Babylonian profligacy--even
the late owner of Frank joined in the revel full-spiritedly, and it
endured to a certain moment of icy realization, suffered by the host. It
came when Solly Gumble, in the midst of much serving, bethought him of
the blue jay.
"I managed to save him for you," he told the Wilbur twin, and reached
down the treasure. With a cloth he dusted the feathers and tenderly
wiped the eyes. "A first-class animal for fifty cents," he said--"and
durable. He'll last a lifetime if you be careful of him--keep him in the
parlour just to be pretty."
The munching revellers gathered about with interest. There seemed no
limit to the daring of this prodigal. Then there came upon the Wilbur
twin a moment of sinister calculation. A hand sank swiftly into a pocket
and brought up a scant few nickels and pennies. Amid a thickening
silence he counted these remaining coins.
Then in deadly tones he declared to Solly Gumble, "I only got
forty-eight cents left!"
"Oh, my! I must say! Spent all his money!" shrilled the Merle twin on a
note of triumph that was yet bitter.
"Spent all his money!" echoed the shocked courtiers, and looked upon him
coldly. Some of them withdrew across the store and in low tones
pretended to discuss the merits of articles in another show case.
"I guess you couldn't let me have him for forty-eight cents," said the
Wilbur twin hopelessly.
Solly Gumble removed his skullcap, fluffed his scanty ring of curls, and
drew on the cap again. His manner was judicial but not repellent.
"Mebbe I could--mebbe I couldn't," he said. "You sure you ain't got two
cents more in that other pocket, hey?"
The Wilbur twin searched, but it was the most arid of formalities.
"No, sir; I spent it all."
"Spent all his money!" remarked the dog seller with a kind of pitying
contempt, and drew off toward the door. Two more of the courtiers
followed as unerringly as if trained in palaces. Solly Gumble bent above
"Well, now, you young man, you listen to me. You been a right good
customer, treating all your little friends so grand, so I tell you
straight--you take that fine bird for forty-eight cents. Not to many
would I come down, but to you--yes."
Wilbur Cowan, overcome, mumbled his thanks. He was alone at the counter
now, Merle having joined the withdrawn courtiers.
"I'm a fair trader," said Solly Gumble. "I can take--I give. Here now!"
And amazingly he extended to the penniless wreck a large and golden
orange, perhaps one of the largest oranges ever grown.
The recipient was again overcome. He blushed as he thanked this
open-handed tradesman. Then with his blue jay, his orange, his dog, he
turned away. Now he first became aware of the changed attitude of his
late dependents. It did not distress him. It seemed wholly natural, this
icy withdrawal of their fellowship. Why should they push about him any
longer? He was, instead, rather concerned to defend his spendthrift
"Spent all his money!" came a barbed jeer from the Merle twin.
The ruined one stalked by him with dignity, having remembered a fine
speech he had once heard his father make.
"Oh, well," he said, lightly, "easy come, easy go!"
The Merle twin still bore the album and the potent invigorator that was
to make a new man of Judge Penniman. His impoverished brother carried
the blue jay, looking alert and lifelike in the open, the mammoth
orange, gift for Mrs. Penniman--he had nearly forgotten her--and
tenderly he led the dog, Frank. Not to have all his money again would
he have parted with his treasures and the memory of supreme delights.
Not for all his squandered fortune would he have bartered Frank, the
dog. Frank capered at his side, ever and again looking up brightly at
his new master. Never had so much attention been shown him. Never before
had he been confined by a leash, as if he were a desirable dog.
Opposite the Mansion House, Newbern's chief hotel, Frank gave signal
proof of his intelligence. From across River Street he had been espied
by Boodles, the Mansion House dog, a creature of dusty, pinkish white,
of short neck and wide jaws, of a clouded but still definite bull
ancestry. Boodles was a dog about town, wearing many scars of combat, a
swashbuckler of a dog, rough-mannered, raffish; if not actually
quarrelsome, at least highly sensitive where his honour was concerned.
He made it a point to know every dog in town, and as he rose from a
sitting posture, where he had been taking the air before his inn, it
could be observed that Frank was new to him--certainly new and perhaps
objectionable. He stepped lightly halfway across the now empty street
and stopped for a further look. He seemed to be saying, "Maybe it ain't
a dog, after all." But the closer look and a lifted nose wrinkling into
the breeze set him right. He left for a still closer look at what was
unquestionably a dog.
The Wilbur twin became concerned for Boodles. He regarded him highly.
But he knew that Boodles was a fighter, and Frank ate them up. He
commanded Boodles to go back, but though he had slowed his pace and now
halted a dozen feet from Frank, the cannibal, Boodles showed that he was
not going back until he had some better reason. Violence of the
cruellest sort seemed forward. But perhaps Frank might be won from his
"You, Frank, be quiet, sir!" ordered Wilbur, though Frank had not been
unquiet. "Be still, sir!" he added, and threatened his pet with an open
palm. But Frank had attention only for Boodles, who now approached,
little recking his fate. The clash was at hand.
"Be still, sir!" again commanded Wilbur in anguished tones, whereupon
the obedient Frank tumbled to lie upon his back, four limp legs in air,
turning his head to simper up at Boodles, who stood inquiringly above
him. Boodles then sniffed an amiable contempt and ran back to his hotel.
Frank strained at his leash to follow. His proud owner thought there
could be few dogs in all the world so biddable as this.
The twins went on. Merle was watching his chance to recover that
spiritual supremacy over the other that had been his until the accident
of wealth had wrenched it from him.
"You'll catch it for keeping us out so late," he warned--"and cursing
and fighting and spending all your money!"
The other scarce heard him. He walked through shining clouds far above
an earth where one catches it.
The Penniman house, white, with green blinds, is set back from the
maple-and-elm-shaded street, guarded by a white picket fence. Between
the house and gate a green lawn was crossed by a gravelled walk, with
borders of phlox; beyond the borders, on either side, were flowering
shrubs, and at equal distances from the walk, circular beds of scarlet
tulips and yellow daffodils. Detached from the Penniman house, but still
in the same yard, was a smaller, one-storied house, also white, with
green blinds, tenanted by Dave Cowan and his twins, who--in Newbern
vernacular--mealed with Mrs. Penniman. It had been the Cowan home when
Dave married the Penniman cousin who had borne the twins. There was a
path worn in the grass between the two houses.
On the Penniman front porch the judge was throned in a wicker chair. He
was a nobly fronted old gentleman, with imposing head, bald at the top
but tastefully hung with pale, fluffy side curls. His face was wide and
full, smoothly shaven, his cheeks pink, his eyes a pure, pale blue. He
was clad in a rumpled linen suit the trousers of which were drawn well
up his plump legs above white socks and low black shoes, broad and loose
fitting. As the shadows had lengthened and the day cooled he abandoned a
palm-leaf fan he had been languidly waving. His face at the moment
glowed with animation, for he played over the deciding game in that
day's match at checkers by which, at the harness shop, he had vanquished
an acclaimed rival from over Higgston way. The fellow had been skilled
beyond the average, but supremacy was still with the Newbern champion.
So absorbed was he, achieving again that last bit of strategy by which
he had gained the place to capture two men and reach the enemy's king
row, that his soft-stepping daughter, who had come from the house, had
to address him twice.
"Have you had a good day, father?"
The judge was momentarily confused. He had to recall that his
invalidism, not his checker prowess, was in question. He regained his
presence of mind; he coughed feebly, reaching a hand tenderly back to a
point between his shoulder blades.
"Not one of my real bad days, Winona. I can't really say I've suffered.
Stuff that other cushion in back of me, will you? I got a new pain kind
of in this left shoulder--neuralgia, mebbe. But my sciatica ain't
troubled me--not too much."
Winona adjusted the cushion.
"You're so patient, father!"
"I try to be, Winona," which was simple truth.
A sufferer for years, debarred by obscure ailments from active
participation in our industrial strife, the judge, often for days at a
time, would not complain unless pressed to--quite as if he had forgotten
his pains. The best doctors disagreed about his case, none of them able
to say precisely what his maladies were. True, one city doctor, a
visiting friend of the Pennimans' family physician, had once gone
carefully over him, punching, prodding, listening, to announce that
nothing ailed the invalid; which showed, as the judge had said to his
face, that he was nothing but an impudent young squirt. He had never
revealed this parody of a diagnosis to his anxious family, who always
believed the city doctor had found something deadly that might at any
time carry off the patient sufferer.
The judge was also bitter about Christian Science, and could easily be
led to expose its falsity. He would wittily say it wasn't Christian and
wasn't science; merely the chuckleheadedness of a lot of women. This
because a local adept of the cult had told him, and--what was
worse--told Mrs. Penniman and Winona, that if he didn't quit thinking
he was an invalid pretty soon he would really have something the matter
And he had incurred another offensive diagnosis: Old Doc Purdy, the
medical examiner, whose sworn testimony had years before procured the
judge his pension as a Civil War veteran, became brutal about it. Said
Purdy: "I had to think up some things that would get the old cuss his
money and dummed if he didn't take it all serious and think he did have
The judge had been obliged to abandon all thoughts of a career. Years
before he had been Newbern's justice of the peace, until a gang of
political tricksters defeated the sovereign will of the people. And
perhaps he would again have accepted political honours, but none had
been offered him. Still, the family was prosperous. For in addition to
the pension, Mrs. Penniman kept a neat card in one of the front windows
promising "Plain and Fancy Dressmaking Done Here," and Winona now taught
Having adjusted the cushion, Winona paused before the cage of a parrot
on a stand at the end of the porch. The bird sidled over to her on stiff
legs, cocked upon her a leering, yellow eye and said in wheedling tones,
"Pretty girl, pretty girl!" But then it harshly screeched, "Ha, ha, ha,
ha, ha!" This laughter was discordant, cynical, derisive, as if the bird
relished a tasteless jest.
Winona went to the hammock and resumed an open book. Its title was
"Matthew Arnold--How to Know Him." She was getting up in Matthew Arnold
for a paper. Winona at twenty was old before she should have been. She
was small and dark, with a thin nose and pinched features. Her dark
hair, wound close to her small head, was pretty enough, and her dark
eyes were good, but she seemed to carry almost the years of her mother.
She was an earnest girl, severe in thought, concerned about her culture,
seeking to subdue a nature which she profoundly distrusted to an ideal
she would have described as one of elegance and refinement. The dress
she wore was one of her best--for an exemplary young man would call
that evening, bringing his choice silver flute upon which he would play
justly if not brilliantly to Winona's piano accompaniment--but it was
dull of tint, one of her mother's plain, not fancy, creations. Still
Winona felt it was daring, because the collar was low and sported a
fichu of lace. This troubled her, even as she renewed the earnest effort
to know Matthew Arnold. She doubtfully fingered at her throat a tiny
chain that supported a tiny pendant. She slipped the thing under the
neck of her waist. She feared that with her low neck--she thought of it
as low--the bauble would be flashy.
Mrs. Penniman came from the kitchen and sat on the porch steps. She was
much like Winona, except that certain professional touches of colour at
waist, neck, and wrists made her appear, in spirit at least, the younger
woman. There were times when Winona suffered herself to doubt her
mother's seriousness; times when the woman appeared a slave to levity.
She would laugh at things Winona considered no laughing matters, and her
sympathy with her ailing husband had come to be callous and matter of
fact, almost perfunctory. She longed, moreover, to do fancy dressmaking
for her child; and there was the matter of the silk stockings. The
Christmas before the too downright Dave Cowan, in a low spirit of
banter, had gifted Winona with these. They were of tan silk, and Dave
had challenged her to wear them for the good of her soul.
Winona had been quite unpleasantly shocked at Dave's indelicacy, but her
mother had been frivolous throughout the affair. Her mother said, too,
that she would like to wear silk stockings at all times. But Winona--she
spoke of the gift as hose--put the sinister things away at the bottom of
her third bureau drawer. Once, indeed, she had nearly nerved herself to
a public appearance in them, knowing that perfectly good women often did
this. That had been the day she was to read her paper on Early Greek
Sculpture at the Entre Nous Club. She had put them on with her new tan
pumps, but the effect had been too daring. She felt the ogling eyes.
The stockings had gone back to the third bureau drawer--to the
bottom--and never had her ankles flashed a silken challenge to a public
that might misunderstand.
Yet--and this it was that was making Winona old before her time--always
in her secret heart of hearts she did long abjectly to wear silk
stockings--all manner of sinful silken trifles. Evil yearnings like this
would sweep her. But she took them to be fruits of a natural depravity
that good women must fight. Thus far she had triumphed.
Mrs. Penniman now wielded the palm-leaf fan. She eyed her husband with
an almost hardened glance, then ran a professional eye over the lines of
Winona. Her head moved with quick little birdlike turnings. Her dark
hair was less orderly than Winona's, and--from her kitchen work--two
spots of colour burned high on her cheeks.
"Your locket's slipped inside your waist," she said, not dreaming that
Winona had in shame brought this about.
Winona, who would have been shamed again to explain this, withdrew the
bauble. The fond mother now observed the book above which her daughter
bent, twisting her neck to follow the title.
"Is it interesting?" she asked; and then: "The way to know a man--cook
Her daughter winced, suffering a swift picture of her too-light mother,
cooking for Mr. Arnold.
"I should think you'd pick out a good novel to read," went on her
mother. "That last one I got from the library--it's about a beautiful
woman that counted the world well lost for love."
Winona murmured indistinctly.
"She didn't--she didn't stop at anything," added the mother, brightly.
"I don't care! The Reverend Mallett himself said that novels should be
read for an understanding of life--ever novels with a wholesome sex
interest. The very words he said!"
"Mother, Mother!" protested Winona with a quick glance at her father.
She doubted if any sex interest could be wholesome; and surely, with
both sexes present, the less said about such things the better. To her
relief the perilous topic was abandoned.
"I suppose you both heard the big news today."
Mrs. Penniman spoke ingenuously, but it was downright lying--no less.
She supposed they had not heard the big news. She was certain they had
not. Winona was attentive. Her mother's business of plain and fancy
dressmaking did not a little to make the acoustics of Newbern superior.
From her clients she gleaned the freshest chronicles of Newbern's social
life, many being such as one might safely repeat; many more, Winona
uncomfortably recalled, the sort no good woman would let go any further.
She hoped the imminent disclosure would not be of the latter class, yet
suddenly she wished to hear it even if it were. She affected to turn
with reluctance from her budding acquaintanceship with Matthew Arnold.
"It's the twins," began her mother with a look of pleased horror. "You
couldn't guess in all day what they've been up to."
"You may be sure Wilbur was the one to blame," put in Winona, quick to
defend the one most responsive to her lessons in faith, morals,
"Ought to be soundly trounced," declared the judge. "That's what I
"This is the worst yet," continued Mrs. Penniman.
She liked the suspense she had created. With an unerring gift for oral
narrative, she toyed with this. She must first tell how she got it.
"You know that georgette waist Mrs. Ed Seaver is having?"
"Have they done something awful?" Winona demanded. "I perfectly well
know it wasn't Merle's fault."
"Well, Mrs. Seaver came in about four o'clock for her final fitting,
and what do you think?"
"For mercy's sake!" pleaded Winona.
"And Ed Seaver had been to the barber shop to have his hair cut--he
always gets it cut the fifteenth of each month--well, he found out all
about it from Don Paley, that they'd had to send for to come to the
Whipple New Place to cut it neatly off after the way it had been sawed
off rough, and she told me word for word. Well, it's unbelievable, and
every one saying something ought to be done about it--you just never
would be able to guess!"
Winona snapped shut the volume so rich in promise and leaned forward to
face her mother desperately. Mrs. Penniman here coughed in a refined and
artificial manner as a final preliminary. The parrot instantly coughed
in the same manner, and--seeming to like it--again became Mrs. Penniman
in a series of mild, throaty preliminary coughs, as if it would
presently begin to tell something almost too good. The real tale had to
be suspended again for this.
"Well," resumed Mrs. Penniman, feeling that the last value had been
extracted from mere suspense, "anyway, it seems that this morning poor
little Patricia Whipple was going by the old graveyard, and the twins
jumped out and knocked her down and dragged her in there away from the
road and simply tore every stitch of clothes off her back and made her
dress up in Wilbur's clothes----"
"There!" gasped the horrified Winona. "Didn't I say it would be Wilbur?"
"And then what did they do but cut off her braid with a knife!"
"Wilbur's knife--Merle hasn't any."
"And the Lord knows what the little fiends would have done next, but
Juliana Whipple happened to be passing, and heard the poor child's
screams and took her away from them."
"That dreadful, dreadful Wilbur!" cried Winona.
"Reform school," spoke the judge, as if he uttered it from the bench.
"But something queer," went on Mrs. Penniman. "Juliana took the twins
home in the pony cart, with Wilbur wearing Patricia's dress--it's a
plaid gingham I made myself--and someone gave him a lot of money and let
him go, and they didn't give Merle any because Ed Seaver saw them on
River Street, and Wilbur had it all. And what did Patricia Whipple say
to Don Paley but that she was going to have one of the twins for her
brother, because no one else would get her a brother, and so she must.
But what would she want one of those little cutthroats for? That's what
"Merle is not a cutthroat," said Winona with tightening lips. "He never
will be a cutthroat." She left all manner of permissible suspicions
about his brother.
"Well, it just beat me!" confessed her mother. "Maybe they've been
reading Wild West stories."
"Wilbur, perhaps," insisted Winona. "Merle is already very choice in his
"A puzzle, anyway--why, there they come!"
And the manner of their coming brought more bewilderment to the house of
Penniman. For the criminal Wilbur did not come shamed and slinking, but
with rather an uplift. Behind him gloomily trod the Merle twin. Even at
a distance he was disapproving, accusatory, put upon. It was to be seen
that he washed his hands of the evil.
"Whatever in the world--" began Mrs. Penniman, for Wilbur in the hollow
of his arm bore a forked branch upon which seemed to perch in all
confidence a free bird of the wilds.
"A stuffed bird!" said the peering Winona, and dispelled this illusion.
The twins entered the gate. Midway up the gravelled walk Wilbur Cowan
began a gurgling oration.
"I bet nobody can guess what I brought! Yes, sir--a beautiful present
for every one--that will make a new man of poor old Judge Penniman, and
this lovely orange--that's for Mrs. Penniman--and I bet Winona can't
guess what's wrapped up in this box for her--it's the most beautiful
album, and this first-class animal for my father, and it'll last a
lifetime if he takes care of it good; and I got me a dog to watch the
house." Breathless he paused.
"Spent all his money!" intoned Merle. "And he bought me this knife,
He displayed it, but merely as a count in the indictment for criminal
extravagance. He had gone to the hammock to sit by Winona. He needed
her. He had been too long unconsidered.
The sputtering gift-bringer bestowed the orange upon Mrs. Penniman, the
album upon Winona, and the invigorator upon the now embarrassed judge.
"Thank you, Wilbur, dear!" Mrs. Penniman was first to recover her poise.
"Thanks ever so much," echoed Winona, doubtfully.
She must first know that he had come by this money righteously. The
judge adjusted spectacles to read the label on his gift.
"Thank you, my boy. The stuff may give me temporary relief."
He had felt affronted that any one could suppose one bottle of anything
would make a new man of him; and--inconsistently enough--affronted that
any one should suppose he needed to be made a new man of. He had not
liked the phrase at all.
"And now perhaps you will tell us----" began Winona, her lips again
tightening. But the Wilbur twin could not yet be brought down to mere
"This is an awful fighting dog," he was saying. "He's called Frank, and
he eats them up. Yes, sir, he nearly et up that old Boodles dog just
now. He would of if I hadn't stopped him. He minds awful well."
"Spent all _our_ money!" declaimed Merle in a public-school voice, using
"our" for the first time since his defeat of the morning. Certain of
Winona's support, it had again become their money. "And cursing,
swearing, fighting, smoking!"
"Oh, Wilbur!" exclaimed the shocked Winona; yet there was dismay more
than rebuke in her tone, for she had brought the album to view. "If
you've been a bad boy perhaps I should not accept this lovely gift from
you. Remember--we don't yet know how you obtained all this money."
"Ho! I earned that money good! That old fat Mr. Whipple said I earned it
good. He said he wouldn't of done what I done----"
"--wouldn't of did what I did for twice the money."
"And what was it you did?"
Winona spoke gently, as a friend. But Wilbur rubbed one bare foot
against and over the other. He was not going to tell that shameful
thing, even to these people.
"Oh, I didn't do much of anything," he muttered.
"But what was it?"
The judge interrupted.
"It says half a wineglassful before meals. Daughter, will you bring me
The Pennimans kept a wineglass. The judge found a corkscrew attached to
the bottle, and sipped his draft under the absorbed regard of the group.
"It feels like it might give some temporary relief," he admitted,
savoring the last drops.
"You go right down to the drug store and look at that picture; you'll
see then what it'll do for you," urged the donor.
"What else did the Whipples say to you?" wheedled Winona.
The Wilbur twin again hung embarrassed.
"Well--well, there's a cruel stepmother, but now she wasn't cruel to me.
She said I was a nice boy, and gave me back my pants."
"Gave you back--"
Winona enacted surprise.
"I had to have my pants, didn't I? I couldn't go out without any, could
I? And she took me to a pantry and give me a big hunk of cake with
raisins in it, and a big slice of apple pie, and a big glass of milk."
"I must say! And she never gave me a thing!" Merle's bitterness grew.
"And she kissed me twice, and--and said I was a nice boy."
"You already said that," reminded the injured brother.
"And she didn't act cruel to me once, even if she is a stepmother."
"But how did you come to be without your----"
Wilbur was again reprieved from her grilling. The Penniman cat, Mouser,
a tawny, tigerish beast, had leaped to the porch. With set eyes and
quivering tail it advanced crouchingly, one slow step at a time,
noiseless, sinister. Only when poised for its final spring upon the
helpless prey was it seen that Mouser stalked the blue jay on its perch.
Wilbur, with a cry of alarm, snatched the treasure from peril. Mouser
leaped to the porch railing to lick her lips in an evil manner.
"You will, will you?" Wilbur stormed at her. Yet he was pleased, too,
for Mouser's attempt was testimony to the bird's merit. "She thought it
was real," he said, proudly.
"But how did you come to have your clothes----" began Winona sweetly
once more, and again the twin was saved from shuffling answers.
The dog, Frank, sniffing up timidly at Mouser on the porch rail,
displeased her. From her perch she leaned down to curse him hissingly,
with arched back and swollen tail, a potent forearm with drawn claws
curving forward in menace.
"You will, will you?" demanded Wilbur again, freeing his legs from the
leash in which the dismayed dog had entwined them.
Frank now fell on his back with limp paws in air and simpered girlishly
up at his envenomed critic on the railing.
"We got to keep that old cat out the way. He eats 'em up--that's all he
does, eats 'em! It's a good thing I was here to make him mind me."
"But how did you come to have your clothes----" resumed Winona.
This time it was Dave Cowan who thwarted her with a blithe hail from
the gate. Winona gave it up. Merle had been striving to tell her what
she wished to know. Later she would let him.
* * * * *
Dave swaggered up the walk, a gay and gallant figure in his blue cutaway
coat, his waistcoat of most legible plaid, fit ground for the watch
chain of heavy golden links. He wore a derby hat and a fuming calabash
pipe, removing both for a courtly bow to the ladies. His yellow hair had
been plastered low on his brow, to be swept back each side of the part
in a gracious curve; his thick yellow moustache curled jauntily upward,
to show white teeth as he smiled. At first glance he was smartly
apparelled, but below the waist Dave always diminished rapidly in
elegance. His trousers were of another pattern from the coat, not too
accurate of fit, and could have been pressed to advantage, while the
once superb yellow shoes were tarnished and sadly worn. The man was
richly and variously scented. There were the basic and permanent aromas
of printer's ink and pipe tobacco; above these like a mist were the rare
unguents lately applied by Don Paley, the barber, and a spicy odour of
strong drink. As was not unusual on a Saturday night, Dave would have
passed some relaxing moments at the liquor saloon of Herman Vielhaber.
"I hope I see you well, duchess!"
This was for Mrs. Penniman, and caused her to bridle as she fancied a
saluted duchess might. It was the humour of Dave to suppose this lady a
peeress of the old regime, one who had led far too gay a life and, come
now to a dishonoured old age, was yet cynical and unrepentant. Winona
also he affected to believe an ornament of the old noblesse, a creature
of maddening beauty, but without heart, so that despairing suitors slew
themselves for her. His debased fancy would at times further have it
that Judge Penniman was Louis XVIII, though at this moment, observing
that the ladies were preoccupied with one of his sons, he paused by the
invalid and expertly from a corner of his mouth whispered the coarse
words, "Hello, Old Flapdoodle!" From some remnant of sex loyalty he
would not address the sufferer thus when his womenfolk could overhear,
but the judge could never be sure of the jester's discretion. Besides,
Dave was from day to day earnestly tutoring the parrot to say the base
words, and the judge knew that Polly, once master of them, would use no
discretion whatever. He glared at Dave Cowan in hearty but silent rage.
Dave turned from him to kneel at the feet of Winona.
"'A book of verses underneath the bow--'" he began.
Winona shuddered. She knew what was coming; dreadful, licentious stuff
from a so-called poet--far, far different from dear Tennyson, thought
Winona--who sang the joys of profligacy. Winona turned from the
"What? Repulsed again? Ah, well, there's always the river! Duchess, bear
witness, 'twas her coldness drove me to the rash act--she with her
beauty that maddens all be-holders!"
Winona was shocked, yet not unpleasantly, at these monstrous
implications. She dreaded to have him begin--and yet she would have him.
She tried to sign to him now that matters were to the fore too grave for
clumsy fooling, but he only took the book from her hand to read its
"'Matthew Arnold--How to Know Him,'" he read. "Ah, yes! Ah, yes! But is
he worth knowing?"
"Oh!" exclaimed Winona, wincing.
"No respect for God or man," mumbled the judge, meaning that a creature
capable of calling him Old Flapdoodle could be expected to ask if
Matthew Arnold were worth knowing.
The Wilbur twin here thrust the blue jay upon his father with cordial
words. Dave professed to be entranced with the gift. It appeared that he
had always longed for a stuffed blue jay. He curled a finger to it and
called, "Tweet! Tweet!" a bit of comedy poignantly relished by the donor
of the bird.
His father now ceremoniously conducted Mrs. Penniman to what he spoke
of as the banqueting hall. He made almost a minuet of their progress.
Under one arm he carried his bird to place it on the table, where later
during the meal he would convulse the Wilbur twin by affecting to feed
it bits of bread. Winona still hungered for details of the day's
tragedy, but Dave must talk of other things. He talked far too much, the
judge believed. He had just made the invalid uncomfortable by disclosing
that the Ajax Invigorator had an alcoholic content of at least
fifty-five per cent. He said that for this reason it would afford
temporary relief to almost any one. He added that it would be cheap
stuff, and harmful, and that if a man wished to drink he ought to go
straight to Vielhaber's, where they kept an excellent line of Ajax
Invigorators and sold them under their right names. The judge said
"Stuff and nonsense" to this, but the ladies believed, for despite his
levity Dave Cowan knew things. He read books and saw the world. Only the
Wilbur twin still had faith in the invigorator. He had seen the picture.
You couldn't get round that picture.
Having made the judge uncomfortable, Dave rendered Winona so by a brief
lecture upon organic evolution, with the blue jay as his text. He said
it had taken four hundred and fifty million years for man to progress
thus far from the blue-jay stage--if you could call it progress, the
superiority of man's brain to the jay's being still inconsiderable.
Winona was uncomfortable, because she had never been able to persuade
herself that we had come up from the animals, and in any event it was
not talk for the ears of innocent children. She was relieved when the
speaker strayed into the comparatively blameless field of astronomy,
telling of suns so vast that our own sun became to them but a pin point
of light, and of other worlds out in space peopled with beings like Mrs.
Penniman and Winona and the judge, though even here Winona felt that the
lecturer was too daring. The Bible said nothing about these other worlds
out in space. But then Dave had once, in the post office, argued against
religion itself in the most daring manner, with none other than the
It was not until the meal ended and they were again on the porch in the
summer dusk that Winona made any progress in her criminal
investigations. There, while Dave Cowan played his guitar and sang
sentimental ballads to Mrs. Penniman--these being among the supposed
infirmities of the profligate duchess--Winona drew the twins aside and
managed to gain a blurred impression of the day's tremendous events. She
never did have the thing clearly. The Merle twin was eager to tell too
much, the other determined to tell too little. But the affair had
plainly been less nefarious than reported by Don Paley to Ed Seaver. The
twins persisted in ignoring the social aspects of their adventure. To
them it was a thing of pure finance.
Winona had to give it up at last, for Lyman Teaford came with his flute
in its black case. Dave Cowan finished "In the Gloaming," brazenly,
though it was not thought music by either Lyman or Winona, who would
presently dash into the "Poet and Peasant" overture. The twins begged to
be let to see Lyman assemble his flute, and Dave overlooked the process
with them. Lyman deftly joined the various sections of shining metal.
"He looks like a plumber," said Dave. The twins giggled, but Winona
"No respect for God or man," mumbled the judge from his wicker chair.
In the Penniman home it was not merely Sunday morning; it was Sabbath
morning. Throughout the house a subdued bustling, decorous and solemn; a
hushed, religious hurry of preparation for church. In the bathroom Judge
Penniman shaved his marbled countenance with tender solicitude, fitting
himself to adorn a sanctuary. In other rooms Mrs. Penniman and Winona
arrayed themselves in choice raiment for behoof of the godly; in each
were hurried steppings, as from closet to mirror; shrill whisperings of
silken drapery as it fell into place. In the parlour the Merle twin sat
reading an instructive book. With unfailing rectitude he had been the
first to don Sabbath garments, and now lacked merely his shoes, which
were being burnished by his brother in the more informal atmosphere of
the woodshed, to which the Sabbath strain of preparation did not
It was the Wilbur twin's weekly task to do the shoes of himself and
brother and those of the judge. No one could have told precisely why the
task fell to him, and he had never thought to question. The thing simply
was. Probably Winona, asked to wrestle with the problem, would have
urged that Merle was always the first one dressed, and should not be
expected to submit his Sunday suit to the hazards of this toil. She
would have added, perhaps, that anyway it was more suitable work for
Wilbur, the latter being of a rougher spiritual texture. Also, Merle
could be trusted to behave himself in the Penniman parlour, not touching
the many bibelots there displayed, or disarranging the furniture, while
the Wilbur twin would not only touch and disarrange, but pry into and
handle and climb and altogether demoralize. In all the parlour there
was but one object for which he had a seemly respect--the vast painting
of a recumbent lion behind bars. It was not an ordinary picture, such as
may be seen in galleries, for the bars guarding the fierce beast were
real bars set into the frame, a splendid conceit that the Wilbur twin
never tired of regarding. If you were alone in the sacred room you could
go right up to the frame and feel the actual bars and put your hand
thrillingly through them to touch the painted king of the jungle. But
the Merle twin could sit alone in the presence of this prized art
treasure and never think of touching it. He would sit quietly and read
his instructive book and not occasion the absent Winona any anxiety.
Wherefore the Wilbur twin each Sabbath morning in the woodshed polished
three pairs of shoes, and not uncheerfully. He would, in truth, much
rather be there at his task than compelled to sit in the parlour with
his brother present to tell if he put inquiring fingers into the lion's
He had finished the shoes of his brother and himself, not taking too
much pains about the heels, and now laboured at the more considerable
footgear of the judge. The judge's shoes were not only broad, but of a
surface abounding in hills and valleys. As Dave Cowan said, the judge's
feet were lumpy. But the Wilbur twin was conscientious here, and the
judge's heels would be as resplendent as the undulating toes. The task
had been appreciably delayed by Frank, the dog, who, with a quaint
relish for shoe blacking, had licked a superb polish from one shoe while
the other was under treatment. His new owner did not rebuke him. He
conceived that Frank had intelligently wished to aid in the work, and
applauded him even while securing the shined shoes from his further
But one pagan marred this chastened Sabbath harmony of preparation. In
the little house Dave Cowan lolled lordly in a disordered bed, smoked
his calabash pipe beside a disordered breakfast tray, fetched him by the
Wilbur twin, and luxuriated in the merely Sunday--and not
Sabbath--edition of a city paper shrieking with black headlines and
spectacular with coloured pictures; a pleasing record of crimes and
disasters and secrets of the boudoir, the festal diversions of the
opulent, the minor secrets of astronomy, woman's attire, baseball, high
art, and facial creams. As a high priest of the most liberal of all
arts, Dave scanned the noisy pages with a cynical and professional eye,
knowing that none of the stuff had acquired any dignity or power to
coerce human belief until mere typesetters like himself had crystallized
it. Not for Dave Cowan was the printed word of sacred authority. He had
set up too much copy. But he was pleased, nevertheless, thus to while
and doze away a beautiful Sabbath morning that other people made rather
a trial of.
Having finished the last of the judge's shoes, the Wilbur twin took them
and the shoes of Merle to their owners, then hastened with his own to
the little house where he must dress in his own Sunday clothes, wash his
hands with due care--they would be doubtingly inspected by Winona--and
put soap on his hair to make it lie down. Merle's hair would lie
politely as combed, but his own hair owned no master but soap. Lacking
this, it stood out and up in wicked disorder--like the hair of a rowdy,
The rebellious stuff was at last plastered deceitfully to his skull as
if a mere brush had smoothed it, and with a final survey, to assure
himself that he had forgotten none of those niceties of the toilet that
Winona would insist upon, he took his new straw hat and went again to
the Penniman house. For the moment he was in flawless order, as neat, as
compactly and accurately accoutred as the Merle twin, to whom this
effect came without effort. But it would be so only for a few fleeting
moments. He mournfully knew this, and so did Winona. Within five blocks
from home and still five blocks from the edifice of worship, while Merle
appeared as one born to Sunday clothes and shined shoes and a new hat,
the Wilbur twin would be one to whom Sabbath finery was exotic and
unwelcome. The flawless lustre of his shoes would be dulled, even though
he walked sedately the safe sidewalk; his broad collar and blue
polka-dotted cravat would be awry, one stocking would be down, his
jacket yawning, all his magnificence seeming unconquerably alien. Winona
did him the justice to recognize that this disarray was due to no
wilfulness of its victim. He was helpless against a malign current of
He held himself stiff in the parlour until the Pennimans came rustling
down the stairway. He could exult in a long look at the benignant lion
back of real bars, but, of course, he could not now reach up to touch
the bars. It would do something to his clothes, even if the watchful and
upright Merle had not been there to report a transgression of the rules.
Merle also stood waiting, his hat nicely in one hand.
The judge descended the stairs, monumental in black frock coat, gray
trousers, and the lately polished shoes that were like shining relief
maps of a hill country. He carried a lustrous silk hat, which he now
paused to make more lustrous, his fingers clutching a sleeve of his coat
and pulling it down to make a brush. The hat was the only item of the
judge's regal attire of which the Wilbur twin was honestly envious--it
was so beautiful, so splendid, so remote. He had never even dared to
touch it. He could have been left alone in the room with it, and still
would have surveyed it in all respect from a proper distance.
Mrs. Penniman came next, rustling in black silk and under a flowered hat
that Winona secretly felt to be quite too girlish. Then Winona from the
door of her room above called to the twins, and they ascended the
stairway for a last rite before the start for church, the bestowal of
perfume upon each. Winona stood in the door of her room, as each Sunday
she stood at this crisis, the cut-glass perfume bottle in hand. The
twins solemnly approached her, and upon the white handkerchief of each
she briefly inverted the bottle. The scent enveloped them delectably as
the handkerchiefs were replaced in the upper left pockets, folded
corners protruding correctly. As Wilbur turned away Winona swiftly
moistened a finger tip in the precious stuff and drew it across the
pale brow of Merle. It was a furtive tribute to his inherent social
Winona, in her own silk--not black, but hardly less severe--and in a hat
less girlish than her mother's, rustled down the stairs after them.
Speech was brief and low-toned among the elders, as befitted the high
moment. The twins were solemnly silent. Amid the funereal gloom, broken
only by a hushed word or two from Winona or her mother, the judge
completed his fond stroking of the luminous hat, raised it slowly, and
with both hands adjusted it to his pale curls. Then he took up his
gold-headed ebony cane and stepped from the dusk of the parlour into the
light of day, walking uprightly in the pride of fine raiment and
conscious dignity. Mrs. Penniman walked at his side, not unconscious
herself of the impressive mien of her consort.
Followed Winona and Merle, the latter bearing her hymn book and at some
pains keeping step with his companion. Behind them trailed the Wilbur
twin, resolving, as was his weekly rule, to keep himself neat through
church and Sunday-school--yet knowing in his heart it could not be done.
Already he could feel his hair stiffening as the coating of soap dried
upon it. Pretty soon the shining surface would crack and disorder ensue.
What was the use? As he walked carefully now he inhaled rich scent from
the group--Winona's perfume combining but somehow not blending with a
pungent, almost vivid, aroma of moth balls from the judge's frock coat.
They met or passed other family groups, stiffly armoured for the weekly
penance to a bewildering puzzle of mortality. Ceremonious greetings were
exchanged with these. The day was bright and the world all fair, but
there could be no levity, no social small talk, while this grim business
was on. They reached the white house of worship, impressive under its
heaven-pointing steeple, and passed within its portals, stepping softly
to the accompaniment of those silken whisperings, with now and again the
high squeak of new boots whose wearers, profaning the stillness, would
appear self-conscious and annoyed, though as if silently protesting
that they were blameless.
Thus began an hour of acute mental distress for the Wilbur twin. He sat
tightly between Mrs. Penniman and the judge. There was no free movement
possible. He couldn't even juggle one foot backward and forward without
correction. The nervous energy thus suppressed rushed to all the surface
of his body and made his skin tingle maddeningly. He felt each hair on
his head as it broke away from the confining soap. Something was inside
his collar, and he couldn't reach for it; there was a poignant itching
between his shoulder blades, and this could receive no proper treatment.
He boiled with dumb, helpless rage, having to fight this wicked unrest.
He never doubted its wickedness, and considered himself forever shut out
from those rewards that would fall to the righteous who loved church and
could sit still there without jiggling or writhing or twisting or
He was a little diverted from his tortures by the arrival of the
Whipples. From the Penniman pew he could glance across to a side pew and
observe a line of repeated Whipple noses, upon which for some moments he
was enabled to speculate forgetfully. Once--years ago, it seemed to
him--he had heard talk of the Whipple nose. This one had the Whipple
nose, or that one did not have the Whipple nose; and it had then been
his understanding that the Whipple family possessed but one nose in
common; sometimes one Whipple had it; then another Whipple would have
it. At the time this had seemed curious, but in no way anomalous. He had
readily pictured a Whipple nose being worn now by one and now by another
of this family. He had visualized it as something that could be handed
about. Later had come the disappointing realization that each Whipple
had a complete nose at all times for his very own; that the phrase by
which he had been misled denoted merely the possession of a certain
build of nose by Whipples.
But even this simple phenomenon offered some distraction from his
present miseries. He could glance along the line of Whipple noses and
observe that they were, indeed, of a markedly similar pattern. It was,
as one might say, a standardized nose, raised by careful selection
through past generations of Whipples to the highest point of efficiency;
for ages yet to come the demands of environment, howsoever capricious,
would probably dictate no change in its structural details. It sufficed.
It was, moreover, a nose of good lines, according to conventional
canons. It was shapely, and from its high bridge jutted forward with
rather a noble sweep of line to the thin, curved nostrils. The high
bridge was perhaps the detail that distinguished it from most good
noses. It seemed to begin to be a nose almost from the base of the brow.
In a world of all Whipple noses this family would have been remarked for
its beauty. In one of less than Whipple noses--with other less claimant
designs widely popularized--it might be said that the Whipple face would
be noted rather for distinction than beauty.
In oblique profile the Wilbur twin could glance across the fronts in
turn of Harvey D. Whipple, of Gideon Whipple, his father; of Sharon
Whipple, his uncle; and of Juliana Whipple, sole offspring of Sharon.
The noses were alike. One had but to look at Miss Juliana to know that
in simple justice this should have been otherwise. She might have kept a
Whipple nose--Whipple in all essentials--without too pressing an
insistence upon bulk. But it had not been so. Her nose was as utterly
Whipple as any. They might have been interchanged without detection.
The Wilbur twin stared and speculated upon and mildly enjoyed this
display, until a species of hypnotism overtook him, a mercifully
deadening inertia that made him slumberous and almost happy. He could
keep still at last, and be free from the correcting hand of Mrs.
Penniman or the warning prod of the judge's elbow. He dozed in a smother
of applied godliness. He was delighted presently to note with an
awakening start that the sermon was well under way. He heard no word of
this. He knew only that a frowning old gentleman stood in a high place
and scolded about something. The Wilbur twin had no notion what his
grievance might be; was sensible only of his heated aspect, his activity
in gesture, and the rhythm of his phrases.
This influence again benumbed him to forgetfulness, so that during the
final prayer he was dramatizing a scene in which three large and savage
dogs leaped upon Frank and Frank destroyed them--ate them up. And when
he stood at last for the doxology one of his feet had veritably gone to
sleep, the one that had been cramped back under the seat, so that he
stumbled and drew unwelcome attention to himself while the foot tingled
The ever-tractable Merle had been attentive to the sermon, had sung
beautifully, and was still immaculate of garb, while the Wilbur twin
emerged from the ordeal in rank disorder, seeming to have survived a
scuffle in which efforts had been made to wrench away his Sunday clothes
and to choke him with his collar and cravat. And the coating of soap had
played his hair false. It stood out behind and stood up in front, not
with any system, but merely here and there.
"You are a perfect sight," muttered Winona to him. "I don't see how you
do it." But neither did the offender.
With a graciously relaxed tension the freed congregation made a
leisurely progress to the doors of the church; many lingered here in
groups for greetings and light exchanges. It was here that the Penniman
group coalesced with the Whipple group, a circumstance that the trailing
Wilbur noted with alarm. The families did not commonly affiliate, and
the circumstance boded ominously. It could surely not be without
purpose. The Wilbur twin's alarm was that the Whipple family had
regretted its prodigality of the day before and was about to demand its
money back. He lurked in the shadowy doorway.
The Whipples were surrounding Merle with every sign of interest. They
shook hands with him. They seemed to appraise him as if he were
something choice on exhibition at a fair. Harvey D. was showing the most
interest, bending above the exhibit in apparently light converse. But
the Wilbur twin knew all about Harvey D. He was the banker and wore a
beard. He was to be seen on week days as one passed the First National
Bank, looking out through slender bars--exactly as the Penniman lion
did--upon a world that wanted money, but couldn't have it without some
good reason. He had not been present when the Whipple money was so
thoughtlessly loosened, and he would be just the man to make a fuss
about it now. He would want to take it back and put it behind those bars
in the bank where no one could get it. But he couldn't ever have it
back, because it was spent. Still, he might do something with the
The Wilbur twin slunk farther into friendly shadows, and not until the
groups separated and the four Whipples were in their waiting carriage
did he venture into the revealing sunlight. But no one paid him any
attention. The judge and Mrs. Penniman walked up the shaded street, for
the Sunday dinner must be prepared. Winona and the Merle twin, both
flushed from the recent social episode, turned back to the church to
meet and ignore him.
"Fortune knocks once at every one's door," Winona was mysteriously
The Wilbur twin knew this well enough. The day before it had knocked at
his door and found him in.
There was still Sunday-school to be endured, but he did not regard this
as altogether odious. It was not so smothering. The atmosphere was less
strained. One's personality could come a bit to the front without
incurring penalties, and one met one's own kind on a social
plane--subject to discipline, it was true, but still mildly enjoyable.
It was his custom to linger here until the classes gathered, but to-day
the Whipple pony cart was driven up by the Whipple stepmother and the
girl with her hair cut off. Apparently no one made these two go to
church, but they had come to Sunday-school. And the Wilbur twin fled
within at sight of them. The pony cart, vehicle in which he had been
made a public mock, was now a sickening sight to him.
Sunday-school was even less of a trial to him than usual. The twins
were in the class of Winona, and Winona taught her class to-day with
unwonted unction; but the Wilbur twin was pestered with few questions
about the lesson. She rather singled Merle out and made him an
instructive example to the rest of the class, asking Wilbur but twice,
and then in sheerly perfunctory routine: "And what great lesson should
we learn from this?"
Neither time did he know what great lesson we should learn from this,
and stammered his ignorance pitiably, but Winona, in the throes of some
mysterious prepossession, forgot to reprove him, and merely allowed the
more gifted Merle to purvey the desired information. So the Wilbur twin
was practically free to wriggle on his hard chair, to exchange noiseless
greetings with acquaintances in other classes, and to watch Lyman
Teaford, the superintendent, draw a pleasing cartoon of the lesson with
coloured chalk on a black-board, consisting chiefly of a rising yellow
sun with red rays, which was the sun of divine forgiveness Once the
Wilbur twin caught the eye of the Whipple girl--whose bonnet hid her
cropped hair--and she surprisingly winked at him. He did not wink back.
Even to his liberal mind, it did not seem right to wink in a
When at last they all sang "Bringing in the Sheaves," and were ably
dismissed by Lyman Teaford, who could be as solemn here as he was gay in
a parlour with his flute, Winona took the Merle twin across the room to
greet the Whipple stepmother and the Whipple girl. Wilbur regarded the
scene from afar. Winona seemed to be showing off the Merle twin, causing
him to display all his perfect manners, including a bow lately acquired.
The Wilbur twin felt no slight in this. He was glad enough to be left
out of Winona's manoeuvres, for he saw that they were manoeuvres and
that Winona was acting from some large purpose. Unless it wanted its
money back, the Whipple family had no meaning for him; it was merely
people with the Whipple nose, though, of course, the stepmother did not
have this. He paused only to wonder if the girl would have it when she
grew up--she now boasted but the rudiments of any nose whatsoever--and
dismissed the tribe from his mind.
He waited for Winona and Merle a block up the street from the church.
Winona was silent with importance, preoccupied, grave, and yet uplifted.
Not until they reached the Penniman gate did she issue from this
abstraction to ask the Wilbur twin rather severely what lesson he had
learned from the morning sermon. The Wilbur twin, with immense
difficulty, brought her to believe that he had not heard a word of the
sermon. This was especially incredible, because it had dealt with the
parable of the prodigal son who spent all his substance in riotous
living. One would have thought, said Winona, that this lesson would have
come home to one who had so lately followed the same bad course, and she
sought now to enlighten the offender.
"And he had to eat with the pigs when his money was all gone," Merle
submitted in an effort to aid Winona.
But the Wilbur twin's perverse mind merely ran to the picture of fatted
calf, though without relish--he did not like fat meat.
It was good to be back in a human atmosphere once more, where he could
hear his father's quips. The Penniman Sunday dinner was based notably on
chicken, as were all other Sunday dinners in Newbern, and his father,
when he entered the house, was already beginning the gayety by pledging
Mrs. Penniman in a wineglass of the Ajax Invigorator. He called it ruby
liquor and said that, taken in moderation, it would harm no one, though
he estimated that as few as three glasses would cause people to climb
trees like a monkey.
The Wilbur twin was puzzled by this and would have preferred that his
present be devoted solely to making a new man of Judge Penniman, but he
laughed loyally with his father, and rejoiced when Mrs. Penniman, in the
character of the abandoned duchess, put her own lips to the glass at his
father's urging. The judge did not enter into this spirit of foolery,
resenting, indeed, that a sound medicinal compound should be thus
impugned. And Winona was even more severe. Not for her to-day were jests
about Madame la Marquise and her heart of adamant. Dave Cowan tried a
few of these without result.
Winona was still silent with importance, or spoke cryptically, and she
lavished upon the Merle twin such attention as she could give from her
own mysterious calculations. One might have gathered that she was
beholding the Merle twin in some high new light. The Wilbur twin ate
silently and as unobtrusively as he could, for table manners were
especially watched by Winona on Sunday. Not until the blackberry pie did
he break into speech, and even then, it appeared, not with the utmost
felicity. His information that these here blackberries had been picked
off the grave of some old Jonas Whipple up in the burying ground caused
him to be regarded coldly by more than one of those about the table; and
Winona wished to be told how many times she had asked him not to say
"these here." Of course he couldn't tell her.
Dinner over, it appeared that Winona would take Merle with her to call
upon poor old Mrs. Dodwell, who had been bedridden for twenty years, but
was so patient with it all. She loved to have Merle sit by her bedside
of a Sunday and tell of the morning's sermon. They would also take her a
custard. The Wilbur twin was not invited upon this excursion, but his
father winked at him when it was mentioned and he was happy. He could in
no manner have edified the afflicted Mrs. Dodwell, and the wink meant
that he would go with his father for a walk over the hills--perhaps to
the gypsy camp. So he winked back at his father, being no longer in
Sunday-school, and was impatient to be off.
In the little house he watched from a window until Winona and Merle had
gone on their errand of mercy--Merle carrying nicely the bowl of custard
swathed in a napkin--and thereupon heartily divested himself of shoes
and stockings. Winona, for some reason she could never make apparent to
him, believed that boys could not decently go barefoot on the Lord's
Day. He did not wish to affront her, but neither would he wear shoes
and stockings with no one to make him. His bare feet rejoiced at the
cool touch of the grass as he waited in the front yard for his father.
He would have liked to change his Sunday clothes for the old ones of a
better feel, but this even he felt would be going too far. You had to
draw the line somewhere.
His father came out, lighting his calabash pipe. He wore a tweed cap now
in place of the formal derby, but he was otherwise attired as on the
previous evening, in the blue coal and vivid waistcoat, the inferior
trousers, and the undesirable shoes. As they went down the street under
shading elms the dog, Frank, capered at the end of his taut leash.
They went up Fair Street to reach the wooded hills beyond the town. The
street was still and vacant. The neat white houses with green blinds set
back in their flowered yards would be at this hour sheltering people who
had eaten heavily of chicken for dinner and now dozed away its benign
effects. Even song birds had stilled their pipings, and made but brief
flights through the sultry air.
Dave Cowan sauntered through the silence in a glow of genial tolerance
for the small town, for Dave knew cities. In Newbern he was but a merry
transient; indeed, in all those strange cities he went off to he was but
a transient. So frequent his flittings, none could claim him for its
own. He had the air of being in the world itself, but a transient, a
cheerful and observant explorer finding entertainment in the manners and
customs of a curious tribe, its foibles, conceits, and quaint standards
of value--since the most of them curiously adhered to one spot even
though the round earth invited them to wander.
Sometimes Dave lingered in Newbern--to the benefit of the _Weekly
Advance_--for as long as three months. Sometimes he declared he would
stay but a day and stayed long; sometimes he declared he would stay a
long time and stayed but a day. He was a creature happily pliant to the
rule of all his whims. He never bothered to know why he dropped into
Newbern, nor bothered to know why he left. On some morning like other
mornings, without plan, he would know he was going and go, stirred by
some vagrant longing for a strange city--and it was so easy to go. He
was unencumbered with belongings. He had no troublesome packing to do,
and took not even the smallest of bags in his farings forth. Unlike the
twins, Dave had no Sunday clothes. What clothes he had he wore, very
sensibly, it seemed to him. He had but to go on and on, equipped with
his union card and his printer's steel rule, the sole machinery of his
trade, and where he would linger he was welcome, for as long as he chose
and at a wage ample for his few needs, to embalm the doings of a queer
world in type. Little wonder he should always obey the wander-bidding.
They passed a place where the head of the clan, having dined, had been
overtaken with lethargy and in a hammock on his porch was asleep in a
public and noisy manner.
"Small-town stuff!" murmured Dave, amiably contemptuous.
The Wilbur twin could never understand why his father called Newbern a
small town. They came to the end of Fair Street, where the white houses
dwindled into open country. The road led away from the river and climbed
the gentle slope of West Hill. The Wilbur twin had climbed that slope
the day before under auspices that he now recalled with disgust. Beyond,
at the top of the hill, its chimneys lifted above the trees and its red
walls showing warmly through the cool green of its shading foliage, was
the Whipple New Place. To the left, across the western end of the little
town and capping another hill, was the Whipple Old Place, where dwelt
Sharon Whipple and his daughter, Juliana. The walls of the Whipple Old
Place were more weathered, of a duller red. The two places looked down
upon the town quite as castles of old looked down upon their
"I was right inside that house yesterday," said the Wilbur twin,
pointing to the Whipple New Place and boasting a little--he would not
have to reveal the dreadful details of his entry. "Right inside of it,"
he added to make sure that his father would get all his importance. But
the father seemed not enough impressed.
"You'll probably go into better houses than that some day," he merely
said, and added: "You learn a good trade like mine and you can always go
anywhere; always make your good money and be more independent than
Whipples or even kings in their palaces. Remember that, Sputterboy."
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
His father never addressed the Merle twin by any but his rightful name,
nor did he ever address the other by the one the dead mother had affixed
to him, miscalling him by a number of titles, among which were
Sputterboy, Gig, Doctor, and Bill.
Before ascending quite to the Whipple New Place they left the dusty road
for a path that led over a lawnlike stretch of upland, starred with
buttercups and tiny anemones, and inhabited by a colony of gophers that
instantly engaged Frank, the dog, now free of his leash, in futile
dashes. They stood erect, with languidly drooped paws, until he was too
near; then they were inexplicably not there. Frank at length divined
that they unfairly achieved these disappearances by descending into
caverns beneath the surface of the earth. At first, with frantic claws
and eager squeals, he tore at the entrances to these until the prey
appeared at exits farther on, only to repeat the disappearance when
dashed at. Frank presently saw the chase to be hopeless. It was no good
digging for something that wouldn't be there.
"There's life for you, Doctor," said Dave Cowan. "Life has to live on
life, humans same as dogs. Life is something that keeps tearing itself
down and building itself up again; everybody killing something else and
eating it. Do you understand that?"
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur, believing he did. Dogs killed gophers if they
caught them, and human beings killed chickens for Sunday dinners.
"Humans are the best killers of all," said Dave. "That's the reason
they came up from monkeys, and got civilized so they wear neckties and
have religion and post offices and all such."
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
They climbed to a green height and reclined on the cool sward in the
shade of a beech tree. Here they could pick out the winding of the quick
little river between its green banks far below, and look across the
roofs of slumbrous Newbern. The Wilbur twin could almost pick out the
Penniman house. Then he looked up, and low in the sky he surprisingly
beheld the moon, an orb of pale bronze dulled from its night shine.
Never before had he seen the moon by day. He had supposed it was in the
sky only at night. So his father lectured now on astronomy and the
cosmos. It seemed that the moon was always there, or about there, a
lonesome old thing, because there was no life on it. Dave spoke
learnedly, for his Sunday paper had devoted a page to something of this
"Everything is electricity or something," said Dave, "and it crackles
and works on itself until it makes star dust, and it shakes this
together till it makes lumps, and they float round, and pretty soon
they're big lumps like the moon and like this little ball of star dust
we're riding on--and there are millions of them out there all round and
about, some a million times bigger than this little one, and they all
whirl and whirl, the little ones whirling round the big ones and the big
ones whirling round still bigger ones, dancing and swinging and going
off to some place that no one knows anything about; and some are old and
have lost their people; and some are too young to have any people yet;
but millions like this one have people, and on some they are a million
years older than we are, and know everything that it'll take us a
million years to find out; but even they haven't begun to really know
anything--compared with what they don't know. They'll have to go on
forever finding out things about what it all means. Do you understand
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
"Do you understand how people like us get on these whirling lumps?"
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
"How do they?"
"No, sir," said Wilbur.
"Well, it's simple enough. This star dust shakes together, and pretty
soon some of it gets to be one chemical and some of it gets to be
another, like water and salt and lime and phosphorus and stuff like
that, and it gets together in little combinations and it makes little
animals, so little you couldn't see them, and they get together and make
bigger animals, and pretty soon they have brains and stomachs--and there
you are. This electricity or something that shook the star dust together
and made the chemicals, and shook the chemicals together and made the
animals--well, it's fierce stuff. It wants to find out all about itself.
It keeps making animals with bigger brains all the time, so it can
examine itself and write books about itself--but the animals have to be
good killers, or something else kills them. This electricity that makes
'em don't care which kills which. It knows the best killer will have the
best brain in the long run; that's all it cares about. It's a good
sporty scheme, all right. Do you understand that, Doctor?"
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
"Everything's got a fair chance to kill; this power shows no favours to
anything. If gophers could kill dogs it would rather have gophers; when
microbes kill us it will rather have microbes than people. It just wants
a winner and don't care a snap which it is."
"Of course, now, you hear human people swell and brag and strut round
about how they are different from the animals and have something they
call a soul that the animals haven't got, but that's just the natural
conceit of this electricity or something before it has found out much
about itself. Not different from the animals, you ain't. This tree I'm
leaning against is your second or third cousin. Only difference, you
can walk and talk and see. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur. "Couldn't we go up to the gypsy camp now?"
Dave refilled the calabash pipe, lighted it, and held the match while it
"That fire came from the sun," he said. "We're only burning matches
ourselves--burning with a little fire from the sun. Pretty soon it
"It's just over this next hill, and they got circus wagons and a fire
where they cook their dinners, right outdoors, and fighting roosters,
and tell your fortune."
"Of course I don't say I know it all yet. There's a catch in it I
haven't figured out. But I'm right as far as I've gone. You can't go
wrong if you take the facts and stay by 'em and don't read books that
leave the facts to one side, like most books do."
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur, "and they sleep inside their wagons and I wish
we had a wagon like that and drove round the country and lived in it."
"All right," said his father. "Stir your stumps."
They followed the path that led up over another little hill winding
through clumps of hazel brush and a sparse growth of oak and beech. From
the summit of this they could see the gypsy camp below them, in an open
glade by the roadside. It was as the Wilbur twin had said: there were
gayly-painted wagons--houses on wheels--and a campfire and tethered
horses and the lolling gypsies themselves. About the outskirts loafed a
dozen or so of the less socially eligible of Newbern. Above a fire at
the camp centre a kettle simmered on its pothook, being stirred at this
moment by a brown and aged crone in frivolous-patterned calico, who wore
gold hoops in her ears and bangles at her neck and bracelets of silver
on her arms--bejewelled, indeed, most unbecomingly for a person of her
The Wilbur twin would have lingered on the edge of the glade with other
local visitors, a mere silent observer of this delightful life; he had
not dreamed of being accepted as a social equal by such exalted beings.
But his father stalked boldly through the outer ring of spectators to
the camp's centre and genially hailed the aged woman, who, on first
looking up from her cookery, held out a withered palm for the silver
that should buy him secrets of his future.
But Dave Cowan merely preened his beautiful yellow moustache at her and
said, "How's business, Mother?" Whereupon she saw that Dave was not a
villager to be wheedled by her patter. She recognized him, indeed, as
belonging like herself to the freemasonry of them that know men and
cities, and she spoke to him as one human to another.
"Business been pretty rotten here," she said as she stirred the kettle's
contents. "Oh, we made two-three pretty good horse trades--nothing much.
We go on to a bigger town to-morrow."
A male gypsy in corduroy trousers and scarlet sash and calico shirt open
on his brown throat came to the fire now, and the Wilbur twin admiringly
noted that his father greeted this rare being, too, as an equal. The
gypsy held beneath an arm a trim young gamecock feathered in rich browns
and reds, with a hint of black, and armed with needle-pointed spurs. He
stroked the neck of the bird and sat on his haunches with Dave before
the fire to discuss affairs of the road; for he, too, divined at a
glance that Dave was here but a gypsy transient, even though he spoke a
The Wilbur twin sat also on his haunches before the fire, and thrilled
with pride as his father spoke easily of distant strange cities that the
gypsies also knew; cities of the North where summer found them, and
cities of the South to which they fared in winter. He had always been
proud of his father, but never so proud as now, when he sat there
talking to real gypsies as if they were no greater than any one. He was
quite ashamed when the gypsies' dog, a gaunt, hungry-looking beast,
narrowly escaped being eaten up by his own dog. But Frank, at the sheer
verge of a deplorable offense, implicitly obeyed his master's command
and forbore to destroy the gypsy mongrel. Again he flopped to his back
at the interested approach of the other dog, held four limp paws aloft,
and simpered at the stranger.
Other gypsies, male and female, came to the group about the fire, and
lively chatter ensued, a continuous flashing of white teeth and shaking
of golden ear hoops and rattling of silver bracelets. The Wilbur twin
fondly noted that his father knew every city the gypsies knew, and even
told them the advantages of some to which they had not penetrated. He
gathered this much of the talk, though much was beyond him. He kept
close to his father's side when the latter took his leave of these new
friends. He wanted these people to realize that he belonged to the
important strange gentleman who had for a moment come so knowingly among
As they climbed out of the sheltering glade he was alive with a new
design. Gypsies notoriously carried off desirable children; this was
common knowledge in Newbern Center. So why wouldn't they carry off him,
especially if he were right round there where they could find him
easily? He saw himself and his dog forcibly conveyed away with the
caravan--though he would not really resist--to a strange and charming
life beyond the very farthest hills. He did not confide this to his
father, but he looked back often. They followed a path and were soon on
a bare ridge above the camp.
Dave Cowan was already talking of other things, seeming not to have been
ever so little impressed with his reception by these wondrous people,
but he had won a new measure of his son's respect. Wilbur would have
lingered here where they could still observe through the lower trees the
group about the campfire, but Dave Cowan seemed to have had enough of
gypsies for the moment, and sauntered on up the ridge, across an alder
swale and out on a parklike space to rest against a fence that bounded a
pasture belonging to the Whipple New Place. Across this pasture, in
which the fat sorrel pony grazed and from which it regarded them from
time to time, there was another grove of beech and walnut and hickory,
and beyond this dimly loomed the red bulk of the Whipple house and
outbuildings. There was a stile through the fence at the point where
they reached it, and Dave Cowan idly lolled by this while the Wilbur
twin sprawled in the scented grass at his feet. He well knew he should
not be on the ground in his Sunday clothes. On the other hand, if the
gypsies stole him they would not be so fussy as Winona about his
clothes. None of them seemed to have Sunday clothes.
He again broached the suggestion about a gypsy wagon for himself and his
father--and Frank, the dog--in which they could go far away, seeing all
those strange cities and cooking their dinner over campfires. His father
seemed to consider this not wholly impracticable, but there were certain
disadvantages of the life, and there were really better ways. It seems
you could be a gypsy in all essentials, and still live in houses like
less adventurous people.
"Trouble with them, they got no trade," said the wise Dave, "and out in
all kinds of weather, and small-town constables telling them to move on,
and all such. You learn a good loose trade, then you can go where you
want to." A loose trade seemed to be one that you could work at any
place; they always wanted you if you knew a loose trade like the
printer's--or, "Now you take barbering," said Dave. "There's a good
loose trade. A barber never has to look for work; he can go into any new
town and always find his job. I don't know but what I'd just as soon be
a barber as a printer. Some ways I might like it better. You don't have
as much time to yourself, of course, but you meet a lot of men you
wouldn't meet otherwise; most of 'em fools to be sure, but some of 'em
wise that you can get new thoughts from. It's a cleaner trade than
typesetting and fussing round a small-town print shop. Maybe you'll
learn to be a good barber; then you can have just as good a time as
those gypsies, going about from time to time and seeing the world."
"Yes, sir," said the Wilbur twin, "and cutting people's hair with
clippers like Don Paley clipped mine with."
"New York, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Omaha, Kansas City, Denver, San
Antone," murmured Dave, and there was unction in his tone as he recited
these advantages of a loose trade--"any place you like the looks of, or
places you've read about that sound good--just going along with your
little kit of razors, and not having to small-town it except when you
want a bit of quiet."
They heard voices back of them. Dave turned about and Wilbur rose from
the grass. Across the pasture came the girl, Patricia Whipple, followed
at a little distance by Juliana. The latter was no longer in church
garb, but in a gray tweed skirt, white blouse, and a soft straw hat with
a flopping brim. There was a black ribbon about the hat and her stout
shoes were of tan leather. The girl was bare-headed, and Don Paley's
repair of yesterday's damage was noticeable. She came at a quickening
pace, while Juliana followed slowly. Juliana looked severe and
formidable. Never had her nose looked more the Whipple nose then when
she observed Dave Cowan and his son at the stile. Yet she smiled
humorously when she recognized the boy, and allowed the humour to reach
his father when she glanced at him. Dave and Miss Juliana had never been
formally presented. Dave had seen Juliana, but Juliana had had until
this moment no sight of Dave, for though there was in Newbern no social
prejudice against a craftsman, and Dave might have moved in its highest
circles, he had chosen to consort with the frankly ineligible. He lifted
his cap in a flourishing salute as Juliana and Patricia came through the
"And how are you to-day, my young friend?" asked Juliana of Wilbur in
her calm, deep voice.
The Wilbur twin said, "Very well, I thank you," striving instinctively
to make his own voice as deep as Juliana's.
The girl winked at him brazenly as they passed on.
"Gypsies!" she called, exultantly, and Juliana swept him with a tolerant
Dave Cowan watched them along the path to the ridge above the camp. Here
they paused in most intelligible pantomime. Patricia Whipple wished to
descend to the very heart of the camp, while Juliana could be seen
informing the child that they were near enough. To make this definite
she sat upon the bole of a felled oak beside the path while Patricia
jiggled up and down in eloquent objection to the untimely halt. Dave
read the scene and caressed his thick moustache with practiced thumb and
finger. His glance was sympathetic.
"The poor old maid!" he murmured. "All that Whipple money, and she has
to be just a small-towner! Say, I bet no one has ever kissed that old
girl since her mother died! None of these small-town hicks would ever
have the nerve to. Yes, sir; any one's got a right to be sorry for that
dame. If she had a little enterprise she'd branch out from here and meet
a few people."
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur. "But that girl wants to go down to the camp."
This was plain. Patricia still danced, while Juliana remained firmly
"I could go take her down," he continued.
"Why don't you?" said his father, again stroking the golden moustache in
sympathy for the unconscious Juliana.
So it befell that the Wilbur twin shyly approached the group by the
felled tree, and the watching father saw the two children, after a
moment's hesitancy on the part of Juliana, disappear from view over the
crest of the ridge. Dave continued to loll by the stile and to watch the
waiting Juliana, thinking of gypsies and the pure joy of wandering. He
began to repeat some verses he had lately happened upon, murmuring them
to a little mass of white clouds far off against the blue of the summer
sky, where the pale bronze moon lonesomely hung. He liked the words and
the moon and gypsies joyously foot-loose, and he again grew sympathetic
for Juliana's small-town plight. He felt a large pagan tolerance for
those warped souls pent in small towns.
After twenty minutes of this he faintly heard a call from Juliana, sent
after the children below her. He saw her stand to beckon commandingly
and watch to see if she were obeyed. Then she turned and came slowly
back up the path that would lead to the stile. Again Dave absently
murmured his verses. Juliana approached the stile, walking briskly now.
She was halted by surprising speech from this rather cheaply debonair
creature who looked so nearly like a gentleman and yet so plainly was
"Wanted to be off with 'em, didn't you?" Dave was saying brightly; "off
and over the edge of the world, all foot-loose and free as wind, going
over strange roads and lying by night under the stars."
"What?" demanded Juliana sharply.
She studied the fellow's face for the first time. He was preening his
yellow moustache and flashing a challenge to her from half-shut eyes.
"Small-towners bound to feel it," he continued, unconscious of any
sharpness in Juliana's "What!" "They want to be off and over the edge of
things, but they don't dare--haven't the nerve. You'd like to, but you
don't dare. You know you don't!"
Juliana almost smiled. The fellow's face, as she paused beside him at
the stile, was set with sheer impudence, yet this was not wholly
unattractive. And amazingly he now broke into verse:
We, too, shall steal upon the spring
With amber sails flown wide;
Shall drop, some day, behind the moon,
Borne on a star-blue tide.
He indicated the present moon with flourishing grace as he named it.
Juliana did not gasp, but it might have been a gasp in one less than a
Whipple. But the troubadour was not to be daunted. Juliana didn't know
Dave Cowan as cities knew him.
Enchanted ports we, too, shall touch;
Cadiz or Cameroon;
Nor other pilot need beside
A magic wisp of moon.
Again he gracefully indicated our lunar satellite, and again Juliana
"Of course, you felt it all, watching those people. I don't blame you
for feeling wild."
Juliana lifted one of her stout tan boots toward the stile, and Dave
with doffed cap extended a hand to assist her through. Juliana, dazed
beyond a Whipple calm for almost the first time in her thirty years,
found her own hand perforce upon his.
"You poor thing!" concluded Dave with a swift glance to the ridge where
the children had not yet appeared.
Then amazingly he enfolded the figure of the woman in his arms and upon
her cold, appalled lips he imprinted a swift but accurate kiss.
"There, poor thing!" he murmured.
He lavished one look upon the still frozen Juliana, replaced the cap
upon his yellow hair, once more preened his moustache at her, and turned
away to meet the oncoming children. And in his glance Juliana retained
still the wit to read a gay, cherishing pity. As he turned away she sank
limply against the fence, her first sensation being all of wonder that
she had not cried out at this monstrous assault. And very clearly she
knew at once that she had not cried out or made any protest because,
though monstrous, it was even more absurd. A seasoned sense of humour
had not failed.
The guilty man swaggered on to meet the children, not looking back. For
him the incident was closed. Juliana, a hand supporting her capable
chin, steadily regarded his swaying shoulders and the yellow hair
beneath his cap. In her nostrils was the scent of printer's ink and pipe
tobacco. She reflectively rubbed her chin, for it had been stung with a
day-old beard that pricked like a nettle. Now she was recalling another
woodland adventure of a dozen years before here in this same forest.
Dave Cowan had been wrong when he said that no one had kissed her since
her mother died. Once on a winter's day, when she was sixteen, she had
crossed here, bundled in a red cloak and hood, and a woodchopper, a
merry, laughing foreigner who spoke no English, had hailed her gayly,
and she had stopped and gayly tried to understand him, and knew only
that he was telling her she was beautiful. She at least had thought it
was that, and was certain of it when he had seized and kissed her,
laughing joyously the while. She had not told any one of that, but she
had never forgotten. And now this curious creature, whom she had not
supposed to be gallantly inclined--unshaven, smelling of printer's ink
"I'm coming on!" said Juliana aloud, and laughed rather grimly.
She watched her prankling blade meet the children and go off down the
ridge with his son, still not looking back. She thought it queer he did
not look back at her just once. She soothed her chin again, sniffing the
Patricia Whipple came leaping up the path, excited with an imminent
question. She halted before the still-reflective Juliana and went at
once to the root of her matter.
"Cousin Juliana, what did that funny man kiss you for?"
This time Juliana in truth did gasp. There was no suppressing it.
"Patricia Whipple--and did that boy see it, too?"
"No, he was too far behind me. But I did. I saw it. I was looking right
at you, and that funny man--all at once he grabbed you round your waist
"Patricia, dear, listen! We must promise never to say anything about
it--never to anybody in the world--won't we, dear?"
"Oh, I won't tell if you don't want me to, but what----"
"You promise me--never to tell a soul!"
"Of course! I promise--cross my heart and hope to die--but what did he
do it for?"
Juliana tried humorous evasion.
"Men, my dear, are often tempted by women to such lengths--tempted
beyond their strength. Your question isn't worded with all the tact in
the world. Is it so strange that a man should want to kiss me?"
"Well, I don't know"--Patricia became judicial, scanning the now flushed
countenance of Juliana--"I don't see why not. But what did he do it
"My dear, you'll be honest with me, and never tell; so I'll be honest
with you. I don't know--I really don't know. But I have an awful
suspicion that the creature meant to be kind to me."
"He looks like a kind man. And he's the father of the boy that I wore
his clothes yesterday when I was running away, and the father of that
other boy that was with him and that I'm going to have one of for my
very own brother, because Harvey D. and grandpa said something of that
kind would have to be done, so what relation will that make us to this
man that was so kind to you?"
"None whatever," said Juliana, shortly. "And never forget your promise
not to tell. Come, we must go back."
They went on through the pasture. The shadows had lengthened and the
moon already glowed a warmer bronze. Juliana glanced at it and murmured
"What is it?" asked Patricia.
"Nothing," said Juliana. But she had been asking herself: "I wonder
where he gets his verses?"
Her hand went again to her chin.
Dave Cowan went down the ridge to the road, disregarding his gypsy
friends. He trod the earth with a ruffling bravado. The Wilbur twin
lingered as far behind as he dared, loitering provocatively in the sight
of the child stealers. If they meant to do anything about it now was
their chance. But no violence was offered him, and presently, far beyond
the camp where the fire still burned, he was forced to conclude that
they could not mean to carry him off. Certainly they were neglecting a
prize who had persistently flaunted himself at them. They notably lacked
Down over the grassy slope of West Hill they went, the boy still well in
the rear; you never could tell what might happen; and so came to Fair
Street across shadows that lay long to the east. Newbern was still
slumberous. Smoke issued from a chimney here and there, but mostly the
town would partake of a cold supper. The boy came beside his father,
with Frank, the dog, again on his leash of frayed rope. Dave Cowan was
reciting to himself:
Enchanted ports we, too, shall touch;
Cadiz or Cameroon--
Then he became conscious of the silent boy at his side, stepping
noiselessly with bare feet.
"Life is funny," said Dave.
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
"Of course there's a catch in it somewhere."
"That old girl back there, that old maid, she'll have to small-town it
all her life. I feel sorry for her, I do."
But the sorrowing father now began to whistle cheerfully. His grief had
not overborne him. A man who would call Judge Penniman Old Flapdoodle
and question the worth of Matthew Arnold's acquaintance was not to be
long downcast at the plight of one woman. And he had done what man could
They came to River Street, the street of shops, deserted and sleeping
back of drawn curtains. Only the shop of Solly Gumble seemed to be open
for trade. This was but seeming, however, for another establishment near
by, though sealed and curtained as to front, suffered its rear portal to
yawn most hospitably. This was the place of business of Herman
Vielhaber, and its street sign concisely said, "Lager Bier Saloon."
Dave Cowan turned into the alley just beyond Solly Gumble's, then up
another alley that led back of the closed shops, and so came to the back
door of this refectory. It stood open, and from the cool and shadowy
interior came a sourish smell of malt liquors and the hum of voices.
They entered and were in Herman Vielhaber's pleasant back room, with
sanded floor and a few round tables, at which sat half a dozen men
consuming beer from stone mugs or the pale wine of Herman's country from
Herman was a law-abiding citizen. Out of deference to a sacred and
long-established American custom he sealed the front of his saloon on
the Sabbath; out of deference to another American custom, equally long
established, equally sacred, he received his Sabbath clientele at the
rear--except for a brief morning interval when he and Minna, his wife,
attended service at the Lutheran church. Herman's perhaps not too subtle
mind had never solved this problem of American morals--why his beverages
should be seemly to drink on all days of the week, yet on one of them
seemly but if taken behind shut doors and shielding curtains. But he
adhered conscientiously to the American rule. His Lutheran pastor had
once, in an effort to clear up the puzzle, explained to him that the
Continental Sunday would never do at all in this land of his choice; but
it left Herman still muddled, because fixed unalterably in his mind was
a conviction that the Continental Sunday was the best of all Sundays.
Nor was there anything the least clandestine in this backdoor trade of
Herman's on the Sabbath. One had but to know the path to his door, and
at this moment Newbern's mayor, old Doctor Purdy, sat at one of Herman's
tables and sipped from a stone mug of beer and played a game of pinochle
with stout, red-bearded Herman himself, overlooked by Minna, who had
brought them their drink.
This was another thing about Herman's place that Newbern understood in
time. When he had begun business some dozen years before, and it was
known that Minna came downstairs from their living rooms above the
saloon and helped to serve his patrons, the scandal was high. It was
supposed that only a woman without character could, for any purpose
whatever, enter a saloon. But Herman had made it plain that into the
sort of saloon he conducted any woman, however exalted, could freely
enter. If they chose not to, that was their affair. And Minna had in
time recovered a reputation so nearly lost at first news of her service
Herman, indeed, ran a place of distinction, or at least of tone. He did
sell the stronger drinks, it is true, but he sold them judiciously, and
much preferred to sell the milder ones. He knew his patrons, and would
stubbornly not sell drink, even beer or wine, to one he suspected of
abusing the stuff. As for rowdyism, it was known far and wide about
Newbern that if you wanted to get thrown out of Herman's quick you had
only to start some rough stuff, or even talk raw. It was said he juggled
you out the door like you were an empty beer keg. Down by the riverside
was another saloon for that sort of thing, kept by Pegleg McCarron, who
would sell whisky to any one that could buy, liked rough stuff and with
his crutch would participate in it.
When Herman decided that a customer was spending too much money for
drink, that customer had to go to Pegleg's if he bought more. And now
the mayor at the little table connived at a flagrant breach of the law
he had sworn to uphold, quaffing beer from his mug and melding a hundred
aces as casually as if it were a week-day.
The other men at the little tables were also of the substantial
citizenry of Newbern, including the postmaster, the editor of the
_Advance_, and Rapp, Senior, of Rapp Brothers, Jewellery. The last two
were arguing politics and the country's welfare. Rapp, Senior, believed