Part 3 out of 7
and said that the country was going to the dogs, because the rich were
getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. The editor of the
_Advance_ disputed this, and the postmaster intervened to ask if Rapp,
Senior, had seen what our exports of wheat and cotton were lately. Rapp,
Senior, said he didn't care anything about that--it was the interests he
was down on. Herman Vielhaber, melding eighty kings, said it was a good
rich-man's country, but also a good poor-man's country, because where
could you find one half as good--not in all Europe--and he now laid down
forty jacks, which he huskily called "yacks."
Dave Cowan greeted the company and seated himself at a vacant table.
"Pull up a chair, Buzzer, and we'll drink to the life force--old
electricity or something."
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur, and seated himself.
Minna left the pinochle game to attend upon them. She was plump and
pink-faced, with thick yellow hair neatly done. A broad white apron
protected her dress of light blue.
"A stein of Pilsener, Minna," said Dave, "and for the boy, let's see.
How would you like, a nice cold bottle of pop, Doctor?"
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur. "Strawberry pop."
Herman looked up from his game, though in the midst of warm utterance in
his native tongue at the immediate perverse fall of the cards.
"I guess you git the young one a big glass milk, mamma--yes? Better than
pop for young ones. Pop is belly wash."
"Yes, ma'am," said Wilbur to Minna, though he would have preferred the
pop by reason of its colour and its vivacious prickling; and you could
have milk at home.
"And I tell you, Minna," said Dave. "Bread and butter and cheese, lots
of it, rye bread and pumpernickel and Schweitzerkase and some pickles
and radishes, _nicht wahr_?"
"Yes," said Minna, "all!" and moved on to the bar. But Dave detained
She stopped and turned back to him.
"_Sprechen sie Deutsch_, Minna?"
"_Ja_--yes--why not? I should think I do. I always could. Why couldn't
She went on her mission, grumbling pettishly. Why shouldn't she speak
her own language? What did the man think? He must be a joker!
"Mamma!" Herman called again. "Git also the young one some that _apfel
kuchen_. You make it awful good."
"Yes," called Minna from the bar. "I git it. For why wouldn't I speak my
own language, I like to know?"
Dave Cowan's jest was smouldering faintly within her. She returned
presently with the stein of beer and a glass of milk, and went, still
muttering, for the food that had been commanded. She returned with this,
setting bread and butter and cheese before them, and a blue plate whose
extensive area was all but covered with apple cake, but now she no
longer muttered in bewilderment. She confronted the jester, hands upon
hips, her doll eyes shining with triumph.
"Hah! Now, mister, I ask you something good like you ask me. You git
ready! _Sprechen sie English_?"
Dave Cowan affected to be overcome with confusion, while Minna laughed
loud and long at her sally. Herman laughed with her, his head back and
huge red beard lifted from his chest.
"She got you that time, mister!" he called to Dave. "Mamma's a bright
one, give her a minute so she gits herself on the spot!"
"_Ja! Sprechen sie English_?" taunted Minna again, for a second relish
of her repartee. Effusively, in her triumph, she patted the cheek of the
Wilbur twin. "_Ja_! I could easy enough give your poppa as good like he
sent, yes? _Sprechen sie English, nicht wahr_?"
Again her bulk trembled with honest mirth, and while this endured she
went to the ice box and brought a bone for Frank, the dog. Frank fell
upon it with noisy gurgles.
Dave Cowan affected further confusion at each repetition of Minna's
stinging retort; acted it so convincingly that the victor at length
relented and brought a plate of cookies to the table.
"I show you who is it should be foolish in the head!" she told him
"You got me, Minna--I admit it."
The victim pretended to be downcast, and ate his bread and cheese
dejectedly. Minna went to another table to tell over the choice bit.
The Wilbur twin ate bread and cheese and looked with interest about the
room. The tables and woodwork were dark, the walls and ceiling also low
in tone. But there were some fine decorative notes that stood brightly
out. On one wall was a lovely gold-framed picture in which a young woman
of great beauty held back a sumptuous curtain revealing a castle on the
Rhine set above a sunny terrace of grapevines. On the opposite wall was
a richly coloured picture of a superb brewery. It was many stories in
height; smoke issued from its chimneys, and before it stood a large
truck to which were hitched two splendid horses. The truck was being
loaded with the brewery's enlivening product. The brewery was red, the
truck yellow, the horses gray, and the workmen were clad in blue, and
above all was a flawless sky of blue. It was a spirited picture, and the
Wilbur twin was instantly enamoured of it. He wished he might have seen
this yesterday, when he was rich. Maybe Mr. Vielhaber would have sold
it. He thought regretfully of Winona's delight at receiving the
beautiful thing to hang on the wall of the parlour, a fit companion
piece to the lion picture. But he had spent his money, and this lovely
thing could never be Winona's.
Discussion of world affairs still went forward between Rapp, Senior, and
the _Advance_ editor. Even in that day the cost of living was said to be
excessive, and Rapp, Senior, though accounting for its rise by the
iniquity of the interests, submitted that the cost of women's finery was
what kept the world poor.
"It's women's tomfool dressing keeps us all down. Look what they pay for
their silks and satins and kickshaws and silly furbelows! That's where
the bulk of our money goes: bonnets and high-heeled slippers and fancy
cloaks. Take the money spent for women's foolish truck and see what
you'd have!" Rapp, Senior, gazed about him, looking for contradiction.
"He's right," said Dave Cowan. "He's got the truth of it. But, my Lord!
Did you ever think what women would be without all that stuff? Look what
it does for 'em! Would you have 'em look like us? Would you have a
beautiful woman wear a cheap suit of clothes like Rapp's got on, and a
hat bought two years ago? Not in a thousand years! We dress 'em up that
way because we like 'em that way."
Rapp, Senior, dusted the lapel of his coat, tugged at his waistcoat to
straighten it, and closely regarded a hat that he had supposed beyond
"That's all right," he said, "but look where it gets us!"
Presently the discussion ended--Rapp, Senior, still on the note of
pessimism and in the fell clutch of the interests--for the debaters must
go blamelessly home to their suppers. Only the mayor remained at his
game with Herman, his gray, shaven old face bent above his cards while
he muttered at them resentfully. Dave Cowan ate his bread and cheese
with relish and invoked another stein of beer from Minna, who
vindictively flung her jest at him again as she brought it.
The Wilbur twin had eaten his apple cake and was now eating the cookies,
taking care to drop no crumbs on the sanded floor. After many cookies
dusk fell and he heard the church bells ring for evening worship. But no
one heeded them. The game drew to an excited finish, while Dave Cowan,
his pipe lighted, mused absently and from time to time quoted bits of
verse softly to himself:
Enchanted ports we, too, shall touch;
Cadiz or Cameroon--
The game ended with an explosion of rage from the mayor. The cards had
continued perverse for him. He pushed his soft black hat back from his
rumpled crest of gray hair and commanded Minna Vielhaber to break a
municipal ordinance which had received his official sanction. Herman
cheerily combed his red beard and scoffed at his late opponent.
"It makes dark," Minna reminded him. "You should have light."
Herman lighted two lamps suspended above the tables. Then he addressed
the Wilbur twin, now skillfully prolonging the last of his cookies.
"Well, young one, you like your bread and cheese and milk and cookies
and apfel kuchen, so? Well, I tell you--come here. I show you something
He went to the front room, where the bar was, and the Wilbur twin
expectantly followed. He had learned that these good people produced all
manner of delights. But this was nothing to eat. The light from the
lamps shone over the partition between back room and front, and there in
a spacious cage beside the wall was a monkey, a small, sad-eyed creature
with an aged, wrinkled face all but human. He crouched in a corner and
had been piling wisps of straw upon his reverend head.
"Gee, gosh!" exclaimed the Wilbur twin, for he had expected nothing so
rare as this.
The monkey at sight of Herman became animated, leaping again and again
the length of the cage and thrusting between its bars a hairy forearm
and a little, pinkish, human hand.
"You like him, hey?" said Herman.
"Gee, gosh!" again exclaimed the Wilbur twin in sheer delight.
"It's Emil his name is," said Herman. "You want out, Emil, hey?"
He unclasped the catch of a door, and Emil leaped to the crook of his
arm, where he nestled, one hand securely grasping a fold of Herman's
"Ouch, now, don't pull them whiskers!" warned Herman. "See how he knows
his good friend! But he shake hands like a gentleman. Emil, shake hands
nicely with this young one." The monkey timidly extended a paw and the
entranced Wilbur shook it. "Come," said Herman. "I let you give him
They went to the back room, Emil still stoutly grasping the beard of his
"Now," said Herman, "you give him a nice fat banana. Mamma, give the
young one a banana to give to Emil."
The banana was brought and the Wilbur twin cautiously extended it. Emil,
at sight of the fruit, chattered madly and tried to leap for it. He
appeared to believe that this strange being meant to deprive him of it.
He snatched it when it was thrust nearer, still regarding the boy with
dark suspicion. Then he deftly peeled the fruit and hurriedly ate it, as
if one could not be--with strangers about--too sure of one's supper.
The monkey moved Dave Cowan to lecture again upon the mysteries of
"About three hundred million years difference between those two," he
said, indicating Herman and his pet with a wave of the calabash. "And
it's no good asking whether it's worth while, because we have to go on
and on. That little beast is your second cousin, Herman."
"I got a Cousin Emil in the old country," said Minna, "but he ain't
lookin' like this last time I seen him. I guess you're foolish in the
"He came out of the forest and learned to stand up, to walk without
using his hands, and he got a thumb, and pretty soon he was able to be a
small-town mayor or run a nice decent saloon and argue about politics."
"Hah, that's a good one!" said Herman. "You hear what he says, Emil?"
The beast looked up from his banana, regarding them from eyes
"See?" said Dave. "That's the life force, and for a minute it's
conscious that it's only a monkey."
They became silent under Emil's gaze of acute pathos--human life aware
of its present frustration. Then suddenly Emil became once more an
animated and hungry monkey with no care but for his food.
"There," said Dave. "I ask you, isn't that the way we do? Don't we stop
to think sometimes and get way down, and then don't we feel hungry and
forget it all and go to eating?"
"Sure, Emil is sensible just like us," said Minna.
"But there's some catch about the whole thing," said Dave. "Say, Doc,
what do you think life is, anyway?"
Purdy scanned the monkey with shrewd eyes, and grinned.
"I only know what it is physiologically," he said. "Physiologically,
life is a constant force rhythmically overcoming a constant resistance."
"Pretty good," said Dave, treasuring the phrase. "The catch must be
right there--it always does overcome the constant resistance."
"When it can't in one plant," said Purdy, "it dismantles it and builds
another, making improvements from time to time."
"Think what it's had to do," said Dave, "to build Herman from a simple,
unimproved plant like Emil! Herman's a great improvement on Emil."
"My Herman has got a soul," said Minna, stoutly--"monkeys ain't."
Dave Cowan and Purdy exchanged a tolerant smile. They were above arguing
that outworn thesis. Dave turned to his son.
"Anyway, Buzzer, if you ever get discouraged, remember we were all like
that once, and cheer up. Remember your ancestry goes straight back to
one of those, and still back of that--"
"To the single cell of protoplasm," said Purdy.
"Beyond that," said Dave, "to star dust."
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
"Foolish in the head," said Minna. "You think you know things better
than the reverent what preaches at the Lutheran church! He could easy
enough tell you what you come from. My family was in Bavaria more than
two hundred years, and was not any monkeys."
"Maybe Emil he got a soul, too, like a human," remarked Herman.
"You bet he has," said Dave Cowan, firmly--"just like a human."
"You put him to bed," directed Minna. "He listen to such talk and go
foolish also in the head."
The Wilbur twin watched Emil put to bed, then followed his father out
into the quiet, starlit streets. He was living over again an eventful
afternoon. They reached the Penniman porch without further talk. Dave
Cowan sat with his guitar in the judge's chair and lazily sounded chords
and little fragments of melody. After a time the Pennimans and the Merle
twin came from church. The Wilbur twin excitedly sought Winona, having
much to tell her. He drew her beside him into the hammock, and was too
eager for more than a moment's dismay when she discovered his bare feet,
though he had meant to put on shoes and stockings again before she saw
"Barefooted on Sunday!" said Winona in tones of prim horror.
"It was so hot," he pleaded; "but listen," and he rushed headlong into
His father knew gypsies, and had been to Chicago and Omaha and--and
Cadiz and Cameroon--and he was sorry for Miss Juliana Whipple because
she was a small-towner and no one had ever kissed her since her mother
died; and if ever gypsies did carry him off he didn't want any one to
worry about him or try to get him back; and the Vielhabers were very
nice people that kept a nice saloon; and Mrs. Vielhaber had given him
lots of apple cake that was almost like an apple pie, but without any
top on it; and they had a lovely picture that would look well beside the
lion picture, but it would probably cost too much money; and they had a
monkey, a German monkey, that was just like a little old man; and once,
thousands of years ago, when the Bible was going on, we were all monkeys
and lived in trees, but a constant force made us stand and walk like
To Winona this was a shocking narrative, and she wished to tell Dave
Cowan that he was having a wretched influence upon the boy, but Dave was
now singing "In the Gloaming," and she knew he would merely call her
Madame la Marquise, the toast of all the court, or something else
unsuitable to a Sabbath evening. She tried to convey to the Wilbur twin
that sitting in a low drinking saloon at any time was an evil thing.
"Anyway," said he, protestingly, "you say I should always learn
something, and I learned about us coming up from the monkeys."
"Why, Wilbur Cowan! How awful! Have you forgotten everything you ever
learned at Sunday-school?"
"But I saw the monkey," he persisted, "and my father said so, and Doctor
Purdy said so."
"Even so," she warned him, "even if we did come up from the lower
orders, the less said about it the better."
He had regarded his putative descent without prejudice; he was sorry
that Winona should find scandal in it.
"Well," he remarked to relieve her, "anyway, there's some catch in it.
My father said so."
Wilber Cowan went off to bed, only a little concerned by this new-found
flaw in his ancestry. He would have thought it more important could he
have known that this same Cowan ancestry was under analysis at the
Whipple New Place.
There the three existing male Whipples sat about a long,
magazine-littered table in the library and smoked and thought and at
long intervals favoured one another with fragmentary speech. Gideon sat
erect in his chair or stood before the fireplace, now banked with ferns;
black-clad, tall and thin and straight in the comely pleasance of his
sixty years, his face smoothly shaven, his cheekbones jutting above
depressed cheeks that fell to his narrow, pointed chin, his blue eyes
crackling far under the brow, high and narrow and shaded with ruffling
gray hair, still plenteous. His ordinary aspect was severe, almost
saturnine; but he was wont to destroy this effect with his thin-lipped
smile that broke winningly over small white teeth and surprisingly
hinted an alert young man behind these flickering shadows of age. When
he sat he sat gracefully erect; when he stood to face the other two, or
paced the length of the table, he stood straight or moved with supple
joints. He was smoking a cigar with fastidious relish, and seemed to
commune more with it than with his son or his brother. Beside Sharon
Whipple his dress seemed foppish.
Sharon, the round, stout man, two years younger than Gideon, had the
same blue eyes, but they looked from a face plump, florid, vivacious.
There was a hint of the choleric in his glance. His hair had been
lighter than Gideon's, and though now not so plentiful, had grayed less
noticeably. His fairer skin was bedizened with freckles; and when with
a blunt thumb he pushed up the outer ends of his heavy eye-brows or
cocked the thumb at a speaker whose views he did not share, it could be
seen that he was the most aggressive of the three men. Sharon
notoriously lost his temper. Gideon had never been known to lose his.
Sharon smoked and lolled carelessly in a Morris chair, one short, stout
arm laid along its side, the other carelessly wielding the cigar,
heedless of falling ashes. Beside the careful Gideon he looked rustic.
Harvey D., son of Gideon, worriedly paced the length of the room. His
eyes were large behind thick glasses. He smoked a cigarette gingerly,
not inhaling its smoke, but ridding himself of it in little puffs of
distaste. His brown beard was neatly trimmed, and above it shone his
forehead, pale and beautifully modelled under the carefully parted,
already thinning, hair that was arranged in something almost like
ringlets on either side. He was neat-faced. Of the three men he carried
the Whipple nose most gracefully. His figure was slight, not so tall as
his father's, and he was garbed in a more dapper fashion. He wore an
expertly fitted frock coat of black, gray trousers faintly striped, a
pearl-gray cravat skewered by a pear-headed pin, and his small feet were
incased in shoes of patent leather. He was arrayed as befitted a Whipple
who had become a banker.
Gideon, his father, achieved something of a dapper effect in an
old-fashioned manner, but no observer would have read him for a banker;
while Sharon, even on a Sunday evening, in loose tweeds and stout boots,
was but a country gentleman who thought little about dress, so that one
would not have guessed him a banker--rather the sort that makes banking
a career of profit.
Careful Harvey D., holding a cigarette carefully between slender white
fingers, dressed with studious attention, neatly bearded, with shining
hair curled flatly above his pale, wide forehead, was the one to look
out from behind a grille and appraise credits. He never acted hastily,
and was finding more worry in this moment than ever his years of banking
had cost him. He walked now to an ash tray and fastidiously trimmed the
end of his cigarette. With the look of worry he regarded his father, now
before the fireplace after the manner of one enjoying its warmth, and
his Uncle Sharon, who was brushing cigar ash from his rumpled waistcoat
to the rug below.
"It's no light thing to do," said Harvey D. in his precise syllables.
The others smoked as if unhearing. Harvey D. walked to the opposite wall
and straightened a picture, The Reading of Homer, shifting its frame
precisely one half an inch.
"It is overchancy." This from Gideon after a long silence.
Harvey D. paused in his walk, regarded the floor in front of him
critically, and stooped to pick up a tiny scrap of paper, which he
brought to the table and laid ceremoniously in the ash tray.
"Overchancy," he repeated.
"Everything overchancy," said Sharon Whipple after another silence,
waving his cigar largely at life. "She's a self-headed little tike," he
added a moment later.
Harvey D. here made loose-wristed gestures meaning despair, after which
he detected and put in its proper place a burned match beside Sharon's
"A bright boy enough!" said Gideon after another silence, during which
Harvey D. had twice paced the length of the room, taking care to bring
each of his patent-leather toes precisely across the repeated pattern in
"Other one got the gumption, though," said Sharon.
"Oh, gumption!" said Harvey D., as if this were no rare gift. All three
smoked again for a pregnant interval.
"Has good points," offered Gideon. "Got all the points, in fact. Good
build, good skin, good teeth, good eyes and wide between; nice manners,
polite, lively mind."
"Other one got the gumption," mumbled Sharon, stubbornly. They ignored
"Head on him for affairs, too," said Harvey D. He went to a far corner
of the room and changed the position of an immense upholstered chair so
that it was equidistant from each wall. "Other one--hear he took all his
silver and spent it foolishly--must have been eight or nine
dollars--this one wanted to save it. Got some idea about the value of
"Don't like to see it show too young," submitted Sharon.
"Can't show too young," declared Harvey D.
"Can't it?" asked Sharon, mildly.
"Bright little chap--no denying that," said Gideon. "Bright as a new
penny, smart as a whip. Talks right. Other chap mumbles."
"Got the gumption, though." Thus Sharon once more.
Long silences intervened after each speech in this dialogue.
"Head's good," said Harvey D. "One of those long heads like father's.
Other one's head is round."
"My own head is round." This was Sharon. His tone was plaintive.
"Of course neither of them has a nose," said Gideon.
He meant that neither of the twins had a nose in the Whipple sense, but
no comment on this lack seemed to be required. It would be unfair to
expect a true nose in any but born Whipples.
Gideon Whipple from before the fireplace swayed forward on his toes and
waved his half-smoked cigar.
"The long and short of it is--the Whipple stock has run low. We're dying
"Got to have new blood, that's sure," said Sharon. "Build it up again."
"I'd often thought of adopting," said Harvey D., "in the last two
years," he carefully added.
"This youngster," said Gideon; "of course we should never have heard of
him but for Pat's mad adventure, starting off with God only knows what
visions in her little head."
"She'd have gone, too," said Sharon, dusting ashes from his waistcoat to
the rug. "Self-headed!"
"She demands a brother," resumed Gideon, "and the family sorely needs
she should have one, and this youngster seems eligible, and so--" He
waved his cigar.
"There really doesn't seem any other way," said Harvey D. at the table,
putting a disordered pile of magazines into neat alignment.
"What about pedigree?" demanded Sharon. "Any one traced him back?"
"I believe _his_ father is here," said Harvey D.
"I know him," said Sharon. "A mad, swearing, confident fellow, reckless,
vagrant-like. A printer by trade. Looks healthy enough. Don't seem
blemished. But what about his father?"
"Is the boy's mother known?" asked Harvey D.
"Easy to find out," said Gideon. "Ask Sarah Marwick," and he went to the
wall and pushed a button. "Sarah knows the history of every one,
scandalous and otherwise."
Sarah Marwick came presently to the door, an austere spinster in black
gown and white apron. Her nose, though not Whipple in any degree, was
still eminent in a way of its own, and her lips shut beneath it in a
straight line. She waited.
"Sarah," said Gideon, "do you know a person named Cowan? David Cowan, I
believe it is."
Sarah's mien of professional reserve melted.
"Do I know Dave Cowan?" she challenged. "Do I know him? I'd know his
hide in a tanyard."
"That would seem sufficient," remarked Gideon.
"A harum-scarum good-for-nothing--no harm in him. A great talker--make
you think black is white if you listen. Don't stay here much--in and
out, no one knows where to. Says the Center is slow. What do you think
of that? I guess we're fast enough for most folks."
"What about his father?" said the stock-breeding Sharon. "Know anything
about who he was?"
"Lord, yes! Everybody round here used to know old Matthew Cowan. Lived
up in Geneseo, where Dave was born, but used to come round here
preaching. Queer old customer with a big head. He wasn't a regular
preacher; he just took it up, being a carpenter by trade--like our Lord
Jesus, he used to say in his preaching. He had some outlandish kind of
religion that didn't take much. He said the world was coming to an end
on a certain day, and folks had better prepare for it, but it didn't end
when he said it would; and he went back to carpentering week-days and
preaching on the Lord's Day; and one time he fell off a roof and hit on
his head, and after that he was outlandisher than ever, and they had to
look after him. He never did get right again. They said he died writing
a telegram to our Lord on the wall of his room. This Dave Cowan, he
argued about religion with the Reverend Mallet right up in the post
office one day. He'll argue about anything! He's audacious!"
"But the father was all right till he had the fall?" asked Harvey D. "I
mean he was healthy and all that?"
"Oh, healthy enough--big, strong old codger. He used to say he could
cradle four acres of grain in a day when he was a boy on a farm, or
split and lay up three hundred and fifty rails. Strong enough."
"And this David Cowan, his son--he married someone from here?"
"Her that was Effie Freeman and her mother was a Penniman, cousin to old
Judge Penniman. A sweet, lovely little thing, Effie was, too, just as
nice as you'd want to meet, and so--"
"Healthy?" demanded Sharon.
"Healthy enough till she had them twins. Always puny after that. Took to
her bed and passed on when they was four. Dropped off the tree of life
like an overfruited branch, you might say. Winona and Mis' Penniman been
mothers to the twins ever since."
"The record seems to be fairly clear," said Gideon.
"If he hasn't inherited that queer streak for religion," said Harvey D.,
foreseeing a possible inharmony with what Rapp, Senior, would have
called the interests.
"Thank you, Sarah--we were just asking," said Gideon.
"You're welcome," said Sarah, withdrawing. She threw them a last bit
over her shoulder. "That Dave Cowan's an awful reader--reads library
books and everything. Some say he knows more than the editor of the
They waited until they heard a door swing to upon Sarah.
"Other has the gumption," said Sharon. But this was going in a circle.
Gideon and Harvey D. ignored it as having already been answered.
"Well," said Harvey D., "I suppose we should call it settled."
"Overchancy," said Gideon, "but so would any boy be. This one is an
excellent prospect, sound as a nut, bright, well-mannered."
"He made an excellent impression on me after church to-day," said Harvey
D. "Quite refined."
"Re-fined," said Sharon, "is something any one can get to be. It's
manners you learn." But again he was ignored.
"Something clean and manly about him," said Harvey D. "I should like
him--like him for my son."
"Has it occurred to either of you," asked Gideon, "that this absurd
father will have to be consulted in such a matter?"
"But naturally!" said Harvey D. "An arrangement would have to be made
"But has it occurred to you," persisted Gideon, "that he might be absurd
enough not to want one of his children taken over by strangers?"
"Strangers?" said Harvey D. in mild surprise, as if Whipples could with
any justice be thus described.
Gideon, however, was able to reason upon this.
"He might seem both at first, I dare say; but we can make plain to him
the advantages the boy would enjoy. I imagine they would appeal to him.
I imagine he would consent readily."
"Oh, but of course," said Harvey D. "The father is a nobody, and the
boy, left to himself, would probably become another nobody, without
training, without education, without advantages. The father would know
[Illustration: "'I CAN ALWAYS FIND A LITTLE TIME FOR BANKERS. I NEVER
KEPT ONE WAITING YET AND I WON'T BEGIN NOW.'"]
"Perhaps he doesn't even know he is a nobody," suggested Sharon.
"I think we can persuade him," said Harvey D., for once not meaning
precisely what his words would seem to mean.
"I hope so," said Gideon, "Pat will be pleased."
"I shall like to have a son," said Harvey D., frankly wistful.
"Other one has the gumption," said Sharon, casting a final rain of cigar
ash upon the abused rug at his feet.
"The sands of the Whipple family were running out--we renew them," said
The ensuing week was marked for the Cowan-Penniman household by
sensational developments. To Dave Cowan on Monday morning, standing at
his case in the _Advance_ office, nimbly filling his stick with type,
following the loosely written copy turned in by Sam Pickering, the
editor, had portentously come a messenger from the First National Bank
to know if Mr. Cowan could find it convenient that day to give Harvey D.
Whipple a few moments of his time. Dave's business life had hitherto not
included any contact with bankers; he had simply never been in a bank.
The message left him not a little disturbed.
The messenger, Julius Farrow, a bookkeeper, could answer no questions.
He knew only that Harvey D. had been very polite about it, and if Dave
couldn't find it convenient to-day he was to say when he might find it
convenient to have a conference. Dave felt relieved at hearing the word
"conference." A mere summons to a strange place like a bank might be
sinister, but a polite invitation to a conference at his convenience was
different. He put down his half-filled stick. He had been at work on the
_Advance_ locals for the Wednesday paper, two and three-line items to
tell of the trivial going and coming of nobodies which he was wont to
set up with an accompaniment of satirical comment on small-town
activities. He had broken off in the midst of perpetuating in brevier
type the circumstance that Adelia May Simsbury was home from normal
school over Sunday to visit her parents, Rufus G. Simsbury and wife,
north of town.
"I'll go with you," Dave told Julius Farrow. "I can always find a little
time for bankers. I never kept one waiting yet, and I won't begin now.
Ask any of em--they'll tell you I come when called."
Julius looked puzzled, but offered no comment. Dave doffed his green
eye-shade and his apron of striped ticking, hastily dampened his hands
in the tin washbasin and wiped them on a roller towel rich in historic
associations. He spent a moment upon his hair before a small, wavy, and
diagonally cracked mirror, put on his blue cutaway coat and his derby
hat and called, "Back in five minutes, Sam," casually into the open door
of another room, where Sam Pickering wrestled with a fearless editorial
on the need of better street lighting. It seemed to Dave that five
minutes would amply suffice for any talk a banker might be needing with
In the back office of the First National Bank he was presently ensconced
at a shining table of mahogany across from Harvey D. Whipple and his
father--the dubious trousers and worn shoes hidden beneath the table so
that visibly he was all but well dressed.
"Smoke?" asked Gideon, and proffered an open cigar case.
"Thanks," said Dave, "I'll smoke it later."
He placed a cigar in the upper left-hand pocket of the eminently plaid
waistcoat from whence already protruded the handle of a toothbrush and a
fountain pen. He preened his moustache, smoothed his hair, waited.
Harvey D. coughed in a promising manner, set a wire basket of papers
square with the corners of the table, and began.
"We have been thinking, Mr. Cowan, my father and I--you see--"
He talked on, but without appeasing Dave's curiosity. Something about
Dave's having boys, he gathered, and about the Whipples not having them;
but it occurred to Dave again and again as Harvey wandered on that this
was a discrepancy not in his power to correct. Once a monstrous
suspicion startled him--this conference, so called, was shaping into
nothing less than a proposal on behalf of the person he had so
carelessly saluted the day before. It was terrifying; he grew cold with
pure fright. But that was like some women--once show them a little
attention, they expected everything!
Gideon Whipple mercifully broke in while Harvey D. floundered upon an
inconclusive period. Gideon was not nervous, and saw little need for
strategy with this rather vagabondish fellow.
"In short, Mr. Cowan, my son offers to adopt that boy of yours--make him
his own son in name--and opportunities and advantages--his own son."
So it was only that! Dave drew a long, pleasant breath and wiped his
brow. Then he took a pencil from the table and began to draw squares and
triangles and diamond patterns upon a pad of soft paper that lay at
"Well--I don't know." His eyes followed the pencil point. Nor did he
know until it presently developed that the desired adoption was of the
Merle twin. He had supposed, without debate, that they would be meaning
the other. "You mean Merle," he said at last on some leading of
"To be sure!" said Harvey D., as if there could have been no question of
"Oh, him!" said Dave--there was relief in his tone. "You're sure you
"But of course!" said Harvey D., brightening.
"All right," said Dave. He felt they were taking the wrong twin, but he
felt also that he must not let them see this--they might then want the
other. "All right, I'll agree to that. He's a bright boy; it ought to be
a good thing for him."
"Ought to be!" quoted Harvey D. with humorous warmth. "But, of course,
it will be! You realize what it will mean for him--advantages,
opportunities, education, travel, family, a future!--the Whipple
estate--but, of course, we feel that under our training he will be a
credit to us. He will be one of us--a Whipple in name and in fact."
Dave Cowan ceased to draw angled designs on his pad; he now drew
circles, ovals, ellipses, things fluent with curves.
"All right," he said, "I'm willing, I want to do the best I can for the
boy. I'm glad you feel he's the right one for you. Of course the other
boy--well, they're twins, but he's different."
"We are certain you will never regret it," said Harvey D., warmly.
"We feel that you are wise to agree," said Gideon. "So then--"
"Papers to sign?" said Dave.
"Our lawyer will have them to-morrow," said Harvey D.
"Good!" said Dave.
He was presently back at his case, embalming for posterity the knowledge
that Grandma Milledge was able to be out again these sunny days after a
hard tussle with her old enemy sciatica. But before passing to the next
item he took Gideon's choice cigar from the upper waistcoat pocket,
crumpled it, rubbed it to fine bits between the palms of his hands, and
filled the calabash pipe with its debris. As he smoked he looked out the
window that gave on River Street. Across the way was the yellow brick
structure of the bank he had just left. He was seeing a future president
of that sound institution, Merle Whipple, born Cowan. He was glad they
hadn't wanted the other one. The other one would want to be something
more interesting surely than a small-town bank president. Have him learn
a good loose trade and see the world--get into real life! But they'd had
him going for a minute--when the only meaning he could get from Harvey
D.'s roundabout talk was that the old girl of yesterday had
misunderstood his attentions. That would have been a nice fix to find
himself in! But Merle was off his mind; he would become a real Whipple
and some day be the head of the family. Funny thing for a Cowan to fall
into! He turned to his dusty case and set up the next item on his yellow
"Rumour hath it that Sandy Seaver's Sunday trips out of town mean
business, and that a certain bright resident of Geneseo will shortly
become Mrs. Sandy."
He paused again. All at once it seemed to him that the Whipples had been
hasty. They would get to thinking the thing over and drop it; never
mention it to him again. Well, he was willing to let it drop. He
wouldn't mention it again if they didn't. He would tell no one.
* * * * *
Nor did he speak of it until the following evening, after the Whipples
had surprisingly not only mentioned it again but had operated in the
little bank office, under the supervision of Squire Culbreth, a simple
mechanism of the law which left him the legal father of but one son.
Then he went to astonish the Pennimans with his news, only to find that
Winona had secretively nursed it even longer than he had. Mrs. Penniman
had also been told of the probability of this great event, but,
nevertheless, wept gently when Dave certified to her its irrevocable
consummation. Only Judge Penniman remained to be startled; and he, being
irritated that others had enjoyed a foreknowledge guiltily withheld from
him, chose to pretend that he, too, had been mysteriously enlightened.
He had, he said, seen the thing coming. He became at the supper table a
creature of gnawing and baffled curiosity which he must hide by boasting
an intimate acquaintance with Whipple motives and intentions. He
intimated that but for his advice and counsel the great event might not
have come about. The initiative had been his, though certain other
people might claim the credit. Of course he hadn't wanted to talk about
it before. He guessed he could keep a close mouth as well as the next
The Merle twin at this momentous meal sat as one enthroned, receiving
tribute from fawning subjects. His name was already Merle Whipple, and
he was going to have a pony to ride, and he would come sometimes to see
them. His cordial tolerance of them quite overcame Mrs. Penniman again.
She had to feign an errand to the kitchen stove, and came back dropping
the edge of her apron from her eyes. Winona was exalted; she felt that
her careful training of the child had raised him to this eminence, and
she rejoiced in it as a tribute to her capacity. Her labours had been
richly rewarded. Dave Cowan alone seemed not to be enough impressed by
the honours heaped upon his son. He jestingly spoke of him as a crown
prince. He said if you really had to stay in a small town you might as
well be adopted by the Whipples as any one else.
The Wilbur twin was abashed and puzzled. The detail most impressing him
seemed to be that, having no longer a brother, he would cease to be a
twin. His life long he had been made intensely conscious of being a
twin--he was one of a pair--and now suddenly, he gathered, he was
something whole and complete in himself. He demanded assurance on this
"Then I'm not going to be a twin any longer? I mean, I'm not going to be
one of a twins? It won't change my name, too, will it?"
His father enlightened him.
"No, there's still a couple of Cowans left to keep the name going. We
won't have to be small-towners unless we want to," he added.
He suspected that the Wilbur twin felt slighted and hurt at being passed
over, and would be needing comfort. But it appeared that the severed
twin felt nothing of that sort. He was merely curious--not wounded or
"I wouldn't want to change to a new name," he declared. "I'd forget and
go back to the old one."
He wanted to add that maybe his new dog would not know him under another
name, but he was afraid of being laughed at for that.
"Merle never forgets," said Winona. "He will be a shining credit to his
new name." She helped the chosen one to more jelly, which he accepted
amiably. "And he will be a lovely little brother to Patricia Whipple,"
she fondly added.
This left the Wilbur twin cold. He would like to have a pony, but he
would not wish to be Patricia Whipple's brother. He now recalled her
unpleasantly. She was a difficult person.
"Give Merle another bit of the steak, Mother," urged Judge Penniman.
The judge had begun to dwell upon his own new importance. This thing
made him by law a connection of the Whipple family, didn't it? He, Rufus
Tyler Penniman, had become at least a partial Whipple. He reflected
pleasantly upon the consequences.
"Will he go home to-night?" suddenly demanded the Wilbur twin, pointing
at his brother so there should be no mistake. The Merle twin seemed
already a stranger to him.
"Not to-night, dear, but in a few days, I would suppose." It sent Mrs.
Penniman to the stove again.
"I don't just know when I will go," said the Merle twin, surveying a
replenished plate. "But I guess I'll give you back that knife you bought
me; I probably won't need it up there. I'll probably have plenty of
better knives than that knife."
The Wilbur twin questioned this, but hid his doubt. Surely there could
be few better knives in the whole world than one with a thing to dig
stones out of horses' feet. Anyway, he would be glad to have it, and was
glad the promise had been made before witnesses.
After supper on the porch Dave Cowan in the hammock picked chords and
scraps of melody from his guitar, quite as if nothing had happened.
Judge Penniman, in his wicker chair, continued to muse upon certain
pleasant contingencies of this new situation. It had occurred to him
that Dave Cowan himself would be even more a Whipple than any Penniman,
and would enjoy superior advantages inevitably rising from this
"That family will naturally want to do something for you, too, Dave," he
said at last.
"Do something for me?" Dave's fingers hung waiting above the strings.
"Why not? You're the boy's father, ain't you? Facts is facts, no matter
what the law says. You're his absolute progenitor, ain't you? Well, you
living here in the same town, they'll naturally want you to be somebody,
"Oh!" Dave struck the waiting chord. "Well, I am somebody, ain't I?"
The judge waved this aside with a fat, deprecating hand.
"Oh, in that way! Of course, everybody's somebody--every living,
breathing soul. But what I'm getting at--they'll naturally try to make
something out of you, instead of just being kind of a no-account tramp
"Ha! Is that so, old small-towner?"
"Shouldn't wonder if they'd want to take you into the bank,
mebbe--cashier or something, or manage one of the farms or factories, or
set you up in business of some kind. You might git to be president of
the First National."
"They might make you a director, too, I suppose."
"Well, you can snicker, but stranger things have happened."
The judge reflected, seeing himself truly a bank director, wearing his
silk hat and frock coat every day--perhaps playing checkers with Harvey
D. in the back office at quiet moments. Bank directing would surely be a
suitable occupation for an invalid. Dave muted the vibrant strings with
"Listen, Old Flapdoodle! I wouldn't tie myself up in this one-horse
bunch of hovels, not if they'd give me the bank and all the money in it
and all the Whipple farms and throw in the post office and the jail and
the depot. Get that?"
"Ho! Sour grapes!" returned the judge, stung to a biting wit by the
coarse form of address. But Dave played music above the taunt.
* * * * *
Nevertheless, he was not wholly surprised the following day when,
politely invited to another conference at the bank, old Gideon Whipple,
alone there, put the matter of his future somewhat after the manner of
Judge Penniman, though far less crudely. Old Gideon sat across the
table from him, and after Dave had put a cigar in his upper left-hand
waistcoat pocket he became considerate but pointed.
"My son and I have been talking, Mr. Cowan, and we agree that something
is due you as the boy's father. We want to show you every
consideration--show it liberally. You seem to have led rather an--shall
we say an unsettled life up to this time? Not that it's anything to be
criticised; you follow your own tastes, as every man should. But it
occurred to us that you might care to feel more settled in some stable
occupation where you could look forward to a solid future--all that sort
Dave nodded, waiting, trying to word the talk the old man and his son
would have had about him. Harvey Whipple would have been troubled at the
near presence of the father of his new son as a mere journeyman printer.
Undoubtedly the two would have used the phrase the judge had used--they
would want him to make something of himself.
"So we've felt," went on Gideon, "that you might care to engage in some
business here in Newbern--establish yourself, soundly and prosperously,
as it were, so that your son, though maturing under different
circumstances, would yet feel a pride in your standing in the community.
Of course, this is tentative--I'm sounding you, only. You may have quite
other ideas. You may have laid out an entirely different future for
yourself in some other field. But I wanted to let you know that we stand
ready to finance liberally any business you would care to engage in,
either here or elsewhere. It isn't that we are crudely offering you
money. I wish you to understand that. But we offer you help, both in
money and counsel and influence. In the event of your caring to
establish yourself here, we would see that your foundation was
substantial. I think that says what I wanted to say."
During much of this Dave Cowan had been musing in a lively manner upon
the other's supposition that he should have laid out a future for
himself. He was amused at the notion. Of course he had laid out a
future, but not the sort a Whipple would lay out. He was already living
his future and found it good. Yet he felt the genuine good will of the
old man, and sought words to reject his offer gracefully. He must not
put it so bluntly as he had to Judge Penniman. The old man would not be
able to understand that no bribe within human reach would tempt him to
remain in Newbern Center; nor did he wish to be established on a sound
basis anywhere else. He did not wish to be established at all.
"I'm much obliged," he said at last, "but I guess I won't trouble you
and your son in any way. You see, I kind of like to live round and see
things and go places--I don't know that I can explain it exactly."
"We have even thought you might like to acquire the journal on which you
are now employed," said Gideon. "We understand it can be bought; we
stand ready to purchase it and make it over to you."
"Any country newspaper can always be bought any time," said Dave. "Their
owners always want to sell, and it's mighty kind of you and your son,
but--well, I just couldn't settle down to be a country editor. I'd go
crazy," he confessed in a sudden burst of frankness, and beaming upon
Gideon; "I'd as soon be shut in jail."
"Or anything else you might think of," said Gideon, cordially, "not
necessarily in this town."
"Well, I'd rather not; I guess I'm not one to have responsibilities; I
wouldn't have an easy minute spending your money. I wouldn't ever be
able to feel free with it, not the way I feel with my own. I guess I
just better kind of go my own way; I like to work when I want to and
stop when I want to, and no one having any right to ask me what I quit
for and why don't I keep on and make something of myself. I guess it's
no good your trying to help me in any way. Of course I appreciate it and
all that. It was kindly thought of by you. But--I hope my boy will be a
credit to you just the same."
The conference closed upon this. Dave left it feeling that he had eased
his refusal into soft, ambiguous phrases; but old Gideon, reporting to
Harvey D., said: "That chap hates a small town. What he really wanted to
tell me was that he wouldn't settle down here for all the money in the
world. He really laughed at me inside for offering him the chance. He
pities us for having to stay here, I do believe. And he wouldn't talk of
taking money for any enterprise elsewhere, either. He's either
independent or shiftless--both, maybe. He said," Gideon laughed
noiselessly, "he said he wouldn't ever be able to feel free with our
money the way he does with his own."
* * * * *
The Whipples, it proved, would be in no indecent haste to remove their
new member from his humbler environment. On Wednesday it was conveyed to
Winona that they would come for Merle in a few days, which left the
Penniman household and the twins variously concerned as to the precise
meaning of this phrase. It sounded elastic. But on Thursday Winona was
able to announce that the day would be Saturday. They would come for
Merle Saturday afternoon. She had been told this distinctly by Mrs.
Harvey D. Though her informant had set no hour, Winona thought it would
be three o'clock. She believed the importance of the affair demanded the
setting of an exact hour, and there was something about three o'clock
that commended itself to her. From this moment the atmosphere of the
Penniman house was increasingly strained. There were preparations. The
slender wardrobe of the crown prince of the Whipple dynasty was put in
perfect order, and two items newly added to it by the direction of Dave
Cowan. The boy must have a new hat and new shoes. The judge pointed out
to the prodigal father that these purchases should rightly be made with
Whipple money. Dave needn't buy shoes and hats for Merle Whipple any
more than he need buy them for any other Whipple, but Dave had
stubbornly squandered his own money. His boy wasn't going up to the big
house like a ragamuffin.
It came to the Wilbur twin that these days until Saturday were like the
days intervening in a house of death until the funeral. He became
increasingly shy and uncomfortable. It seemed to him that his brother
had passed on, as they said, his mortal remains to be disposed of on
Saturday at three o'clock. Having led a good life he would go to heaven,
where he would have a pony and a thousand knives if he wanted them. The
strain in the house, the excitement of Winona, the periodic, furtive
weeping of Mrs. Penniman, the detached, uplifted manner of the chief
figure, all confirmed him in this impression. Even Judge Penniman, who
had been wont to speak of "them twins," now spoke of "that boy," meaning
but the Wilbur twin.
By two o'clock of the momentous Saturday afternoon the tension was at
its highest. Merle, dressed in his Sunday clothes, trod squeakily in the
new shoes, which were button shoes surpassing in elegance any he had
hitherto worn. As Dave Cowan had remarked, they were as good shoes as
Whipple money would ever buy him. And the new hat, firm of line and rich
in texture, a hat such as no boy could possibly wear except on Sunday,
unless he were a very rich boy, reposed on the centre table in the
parlour. Winona, flushed and tightly dressed, nervously altered the
arrangement of chairs in the parlour, or remembered some belonging of
the deceased that should go into the suitcase containing his freshly
starched blouses. Mrs. Penniman, also flushed and tightly dressed,
affected to busy herself likewise with minor preparations for the
departure, but this chiefly afforded her opportunities for quiet weeping
in secluded corners. After these moments of relief she would become
elaborately cheerful, as if the occasion were festal. Even the judge
grew nervous with anticipation. In his frock coat and striped gray
trousers he walked heavily from room to room, comparing the clock with
his watch, forgetting that he was not supposed to walk freely except
with acute suffering. Merle chattered blithely about how he would come
back to see them, with unfortunate effects upon Mrs. Penniman.
The Wilbur twin knew this atmosphere. When little Georgie Finkboner had
died a few months before, had he not been taken to the house of mourning
and compelled to stay through a distressing funeral? It was like that
now, and he was uncomfortable beyond endurance. Twice Winona had
reminded him that he must go and put on his own Sunday clothes--nothing
less than this would be thought suitable. He had said he would, but had
dawdled skillfully and was still unfitly in bare feet and the shabby
garments of a weekday. He knew definitely now that he was not going to
be present at this terrible ceremony.
He had no doubt there would be a ceremony--all the Whipples arriving in
their own Sunday clothes, maybe the preacher coming with them; and they
would sit silently in the parlour the way they did at the Finkboner
house, and maybe the preacher would talk, and maybe they would sing or
pray or something, and then they would take Merle away. He was not to be
blamed for this happily inaccurate picture; he was justified by the
behaviour of Winona and her mother. And he was not going to be there! He
wouldn't exactly run away; he felt a morbid wish to watch the thing if
he could be apart from it; but he was going to be apart. He remembered
too well the scene at the Finkboner house--and the smell of tuberoses.
Winona had unaccustomed flowers in the parlour now--not tuberoses, but
almost as bad. Until a quarter to three he expertly shuffled and dawdled
and evaded. Then Winona took a stand with him.
"Wilbur Cowan, go at once and dress yourself properly! Do you expect to
appear before the Whipples that way?"
He vanished in a flurry of seeming obedience. He went openly through the
front door of the little house into the side yard, but paused not until
he reached its back door, where he stood waiting. When he guessed he had
been there fifteen minutes he prepared to change his lurking place.
Winona would be coming for him. He stepped out and looked round the
corner of the little house, feeling inconsequently the thrill of a
scout among hostile red Indians as described in a favoured romance.
The lawn between the little house and the big house was free of
searchers. He drew a long breath and made a swift dash to further
obscurity in the lee of the Penniman woodshed. He skirted the end of
this structure and peered about its corner, estimating the distance to
the side door. But this was risky; it would bring him in view of a
kitchen window whence some busybody might observe him. But there was an
open window above him giving entrance to the woodshed. He leaped to
catch its sill and clambered up to look in. The woodshed was vacant of
Pennimans, and its shadowy silence promised security. He dropped from
the window ledge. There was no floor beneath, so that the drop was
greater than he had counted on. He fell among loose kindling wood with
more noise than he would have desired, quickly rose, stumbled in the
dusk against a bucket half filled with whitewash, and sprawled again
into a pile of soft coal.
"Gee, gosh!" he muttered, heartily, as he rose a second time.
Both the well-spread pallor of the whitewash and the sable sprinkling of
coal dust put him beyond any chance of a felicitous public appearance.
But he was safe in a dusky corner. He remained there, breathing heavily.
At last he heard Winona call him from the Penniman porch. Twice she
called; then he knew she would be crossing to the little house to know
what detained him. He heard her call again--knew that she would be
searching the four rooms over there. She wouldn't think of the woodshed.
He sat there a long while, steadily regarding the closed screen door
that led to the kitchen, ready to mingle deceptively with the coal
should any one appear.
At last he heard a bustle within the house. There were hurried steppings
to and fro by Winona and her mother, the heavy tread of the judge, a
murmur of high voices. The Whipples must have come, and every one would
be at the front of the house. He crept from his corner, climbed to the
floor from where it had been opened for wood and coal, and went softly
to the kitchen door. He listened a moment through the screen, then
entered and went noiselessly up the back stairs. Coming to the head of
the front stairway, he listened again. There were other voices in front,
and he shrank to the wall. He gathered that only the Whipple stepmother
and Patricia had come--no other Whipples, no preacher. It might not have
been so bad. Still he didn't want to be there.
They were at the front door now, headed for the parlour. Someone paused
at the foot of the stairs, and in quick alarm he darted along the hall
and into an open door. He was in the neat bedroom of Winona,
shortbreathed, made doubly nervous by boards that had creaked under his
tread. He stood listening. They were in the parlour, a babble of voices
coming up to him; excited voices, but not funeral voices. His eyes roved
the chamber of Winona, where everything was precisely in its place. He
mapped out a dive under her bed if steps came up the stairs. He heard
now the piping voice of Patricia Whipple.
"It's like in the book about Ben Blunt that was adopted by a kind old
gentleman and went up from rags to riches."
This for some reason seemed to cause laughter below.
He heard, from Winona: "Do try a piece of Mother's cake. Merle, dear,
give Mrs. Whipple a plate and napkin."
Cake! Certainly nothing like cake for this occasion had been intimated
to him! They hadn't had cake at the Finkboners. Things might have been
different, but they had kept still about cake. He listened intently,
hearing laughing references to Merle in his new home. Then once more
Winona came to the front door and called him.
"Wilbur--Wil-bur-r-r! Where can that child be!" he heard her demand. She
went to the back of the house and more faintly he heard her again call
his name--"Wilbur, Wil-bur-r-r!" Then, with discernible impatience, more
shortly, "Wilbur Cowan!" He was intently regarding a printed placard
that hung on the wall beside Winona's bureau. It read:
A gentleman makes no noise; a lady is serene.--Emerson.
He remained silent. He was not going to make any noise. At length he
could hear preparations for departure.
"Merle, dear, your hat is on the piano--Mother, hand him his hat--I'll
bring his suitcase."
"Well, I'll be sure to come back to see you all some day."
"Yes, now don't forget us--no, we mustn't let him do that."
They were out on the porch, going down the walk. The listener stepped
lightly to a window and became also a watcher. Ahead walked Patricia
Whipple and her new brother. The stepmother and Mrs. Penniman followed.
Then came Winona with the suitcase, which was of wicker. Judge Penniman
lumbered ponderously behind. At the hitching post in front was the pony
cart and the fat pony of sickening memory. Merle was politely helping
the step-mother to the driver's seat. It was over. But the watcher
suddenly recalled something.
In swift silence, descending the stairs, he entered the parlour. On a
stand beneath the powerful picture of the lion behind real bars was a
frosted cake of rare beauty. Three pieces were gone and two more were
cut. On top of each piece was the half of a walnut meat. He tenderly
seized one of these and stole through the deserted house, through
kitchen and woodshed, out to the free air again. Back of the woodshed he
sat down on the hard bare ground, his back to its wall, looking into the
garden where Judge Penniman, in the intervals of his suffering, raised a
few vegetables. It was safe seclusion for the pleasant task in hand. He
gloated rapturously over the cake, eating first the half of the walnut
meat, which he carefully removed. But he thought it didn't taste right.
He now regarded the cake itself uncertainly. It was surely perfect
cake. He broke a fragment from the thin edge and tasted it almost
fearfully. It wasn't going right. He persisted with a larger fragment,
but upon this he was like to choke; his mouth was dry and curiously no
place for even the choicest cake. He wondered about it in something like
panic, staring at it in puzzled consternation. There was the choice
thing and he couldn't eat it. Then he became aware that his eyes were
hot, the lids burning; and there came a choking, even though he no
longer had any cake in his mouth. Suddenly he knew that he couldn't eat
the cake because he had lost his brother--his brother who had passed on.
He gulped alarmingly as the full knowledge overwhelmed him. He was
wishing that Merle had kept the knife, even if it wasn't such a good
knife, so he would have something to remember him by. Now he would have
nothing. He, Wilbur, would always remember Merle, even if he was no
longer a twin, but Merle would surely forget him. He had passed on.
Over by the little house he heard the bark of Frank, the dog. Frank's
voice was changing, and his bark was now a promising baritone. His owner
tried to whistle, but made poor work of this, so he called, "Here,
Frank! Here, Frank!" reckless of betraying his own whereabouts. His
voice was not clear, it still choked, but it carried; Frank came
bounding to him. He had a dog left, anyway--a good fighting dog. His
eyes still burned, but they were no longer dry, and his gulps were
periodic, threatening a catastrophe of the most dreadful sort.
Frank, the dog, swallowed the cake hungrily, eating it with a terrible
ease, as he was wont to eat enemy dogs.
Midsummer faded into late summer, and Dave Cowan was still small-towning
it. To the uninformed he might have seemed a staff, fixed and permanent,
to Sam Pickering and the Newbern Center _Advance_. But Sam was not
uninformed. He was wise in Dave's ways; he knew the longer Dave stayed
the more casually would he flit; an hour's warning and the _Advance_
would be needing a printer. So Sam became aware on a day in early
September that he would be wise to have a substitute ready. He knew the
signs. Dave would become abstracted, stand longer and oftener at the
window overlooking the slow life of Newbern. His mind would already be
off and away. Then on an afternoon he would tell Sam that he must see a
man in Seattle, and if Sam had taken forethought there would be a new
printer at the case next day. The present sojourn of Dave's had been
longer than any Sam Pickering could remember, for the reason, it seemed,
that Dave had been interested in teaching his remaining son a good loose
Directly after the apotheosis of Merle his brother had been taken to the
_Advance_ office where, perched upon a high stool, his bare legs
intricately entwined among its rungs, he had been taught the surface
mysteries of typesetting. At first he was merely let to set up quads in
his stick, though putting leads between the lines and learning the use
of his steel rule. Then he was taught the location of the boxes in the
case and was allowed to set real type. By the time Sam Pickering noted
the moving signs in Dave the boy was struggling with copy and winning
his father's praise for his aptitude. True, he too often neglected to
reach to the upper case for capital letters, and the galley proofs of
his takes were not as clean as they should have been, but he was
learning. His father said so.
Every Wednesday he earned a real quarter by sitting against the wall
back of the hand press and inking the forms while his father ran off the
edition. This was better fun than typesetting. Before you was a long
roller on two other long rollers, and at your right hand was a small
roller with which you picked up ink from a stone, rolling it across and
across with a spirited crackle; then you ran the small roller the length
of the long roller; then you turned a crank that revolved the two lower
rollers, thus distributing the ink evenly over the upper one. After that
you ran the upper roller out over the two forms of type on the press
Dave Cowan, across the press, the sleeves of his pink-striped shirt
rolled to his elbows, then let down a frame in which he had fixed a
virgin sheet of paper, ran the bed of the press back under a weighted
shelf, and pulled a mighty lever to make the imprint. Wilbur had heard
the phrase "power of the press." He conceived that this was what the
phrase meant--this pulling of the lever. Surmounting the framework of
the press was a bronze eagle with wings out-spread for flight. His
father told him, the first day of his service, that this bird would flap
its wings and scream three times when the last paper was run off. This
would be the signal for Terry Stamper, the devil, to go across to
Vielhaber's and fetch a pail of beer. Wilbur had waited for this
phenomenon, only to believe, after repeated disappointments, that it was
one of his father's jokes, though it was true that Terry Stamper brought
the beer, which was drunk by Dave and Terry and Sam Pickering. Sam had
been folding the printed papers, while Terry Stamper operated a machine
that left upon each the name of a subscriber, dropping them into a
clothes basket, which he later conveyed to the post office. Wilbur
enjoyed this work, running the long roller across the forms after each
impression, spotting himself and his clothes with ink. After he had
learned some more he would be a printer's devil like Terry, and fetch
the beer and run the job press and do other interesting things. There
was a little thrill for him in knowing you could say devil in this
connection without having people think you were using a bad word.
But Dave's time had come. He "yearned over the skyline, where the
strange roads go down," though he put it more sharply to Sam Pickering
one late afternoon:
"Well, Sam, I feel itchy-footed."
"I knew it," said Sam. "When are you leaving?"
"No train out till the six-fifty-eight."
And Sam knew he would be meaning the six-fifty-eight of that same day.
He never meant the day after, or the day after that.
That evening Dave sauntered down to the depot, accompanied by his son.
There was no strained air of expectancy about him, and no tedious
management of bags. He might have been seeking merely the refreshment of
watching the six-fifty-eight come in and go out, as did a dozen or so of
the more leisured class of Newbern. When the train came he greeted the
conductor by his Christian name, and chatted with his son until it
started. Then he stepped casually aboard and surrendered himself to its
will. He had wanted suddenly to go somewhere on a train, and now he was
going. "Got to see a man in San Diego," he had told the boy. "I'll drop
back some of these days."
"Maybe you'll see the gypsies again," said Wilbur a bit wistfully.
But he was not cast down by his father's going; that was a thing that
happened or not, like bad weather. He had learned this about his father.
And pretty soon, after he went to school a little more and learned to
spell better, to use punctuation marks the way the copy said, and
capital letters even if you did have to reach for them, he, too, could
swing onto the smoking car of the six-fifty-eight--after she had really
started--and go off where gypsies went, and people that had learned good
There was a new printer at the case in the _Advance_ office the
following morning, one of those who constantly drifted in and out of
that exciting nowhere into which they so lightly disappeared by whim; a
gaunt, silent man, almost wholly deaf, who stood in Dave Cowan's place
and set type with machine-like accuracy or distributed it with
loose-fingered nimbleness, seizing many types at a time and scattering
them to their boxes with the apparent abandon of a sower strewing seed.
He, too, was but a transient, wherever he might be found, but he had no
talk of the outland where gypsies were, and to Wilbur he proved to be of
no human interest, so that the boy neglected the dusty office for the
more attractive out-of-doors, though still inking the forms for the
Wednesday edition, because a quarter is a good thing to have.
When Terry Stamper brought the pail of beer now the new printer drank
abundantly of the frothy stuff, and for a time glowed gently with a
suggestive radiance, as if he, too, were almost moved to tell of strange
cities; but he never did. Nor did he talk instructively about the
beginnings of life and how humans were but slightly advanced simians. He
would continue to set type, silent and detached, until an evening when
he would want to go somewhere on a train--and go. He did not smoke, but
he chewed tobacco; and Wilbur, the apprentice, desiring to do all things
that printers did, strove to emulate him in this interesting vice; but
it proved to offer only the weakest of appeals, so he presently
abandoned the effort--especially after Winona had detected him with the
stuff in his mouth, striving to spit like an elderly printer. Winona was
horrified. Smoking was bad enough!
Winona was even opposed to his becoming a printer. Those advantages of
the craft extolled by Dave Cowan were precisely what Winona deemed
undesirable. A boy should rather be studious and of good habits and
learn to write a good hand so that he could become a bookkeeper, perhaps
even in the First National Bank itself--and always stay in one place.
Winona disapproved of gypsies and all their ways. Gypsies were rolling
stones. She strove to entice the better nature of Wilbur with moral
placards bearing printed bits from the best authors. She gave him an
entire calendar with an uplifting sentiment on each leaf. One paying
proper attention could scarcely have lived the year of that calendar
without being improved. Unfortunately, Wilbur Cowan never in the least
cared to know what day in the month it was, and whole weeks of these
homilies went unread. Winona was watchful, however, and fertile of
resource. Aforetime she had devoted her efforts chiefly to Merle as
being the better worth saving. Now that she had indeed saved him, made
and uplifted him beyond human expectation, she redoubled her attentions
to his less responsive, less plastic brother. Almost fiercely she was
bent upon making him the moral perfectionist she had made Merle.
As one of the means to this end she regaled him often with tales of his
brother's social and moral refulgence under his new name. The severance
of Merle from his former environment had been complete. Not yet had he
come back to see them. But Winona from church and Sunday-school brought
weekly reports of his progress in the esteem of the family which he now
adorned. Harvey D. Whipple was proud of his new son; had already come to
feel a real fatherhood for him, and could deny him nothing. He was such
a son as Harvey D. had hoped to have. Old Gideon Whipple, too, was proud
of his new grandson. The stepmother, for whom Fate had been circumvented
by this device of adoption, looked up to the boy and rejoiced in her
roundabout motherhood, and Miss Murtree declared that he was a perfect
little gentleman. Also, by her account, he was studious, with a natural
fondness for the best in literature, and betrayed signs of an intellect
such as, in her confidentially imparted opinion, the Whipple family,
neither in root nor branch, had yet revealed. Patricia, the sister, had
abandoned all intention of running away from home to obtain the right
sort of companionship.
Winona meant to pique and inspire Wilbur to new endeavour with these
tales, which, for a good purpose, she took the liberty of embellishing
where they seemed to invite it--as how the Whipples were often heard to
wish that the other twin had been as good and well-mannered a boy as
Merle--who did not use tobacco in any form--so they might have adopted
him, too. Winona was perhaps never to understand that Wilbur could not
picture himself as despised and rejected. His assertion that he had not
wished to be adopted by any Whipples she put down to envious bravado.
Had he not from afar on more than one occasion beheld his brother riding
the prophesied pony? But he would have felt embarrassed at meeting his
brother now face to face. He liked to see him at a distance, on the
wonderful pony, or being driven in the cart with other Whipples, and he
felt a great pride that he should have been thus exalted. But he was
shyly determined to have no contact with this splendid being.
When school began in the fall he was again constrained to the halls of
learning. He would have preferred not to go to school, finding the free
outer life of superior interest; but he couldn't learn the good loose
trade without improving his knowledge of the printed word--though he had
not been warned that printers must be informed about fractions, or even
long division--but Winona being his teacher it was impracticable to be
absent on private affairs even for a day without annoying consequences.
During the long summer every day but Sunday had been a Saturday in all
essentials; now, though the hillsides blazed with autumn colour, ripe
nuts were dropping, the mornings sparkled a frosty invitation, and there
was a provocative tang of brush fires in the keen air, he must earn his
Saturdays, and might even of these earn but one in a long week. Sunday,
to be sure, had the advantage of no school, but it had the disadvantage
of church attendance, where one fell sleepy while the minister scolded;
and Sunday afternoon, even if one might fare abroad, was clouded by
reminders of the imminent Monday morning. It was rather a relief when
snow came to shroud the affable woods, bringing such cold that one might
as well be in a schoolroom as any place; when, as Winona put down in
her journal, the vale of Newbern was "locked in winter's icy embrace,"
and poor old Judge Penniman was compelled to while away the long
forenoons with his feet on a stock of wood in the kitchen oven.
From Dave Cowan came picture postcards addressed to his son,
gay-coloured scenes of street life or public buildings, and on these
Dave had written, "Having a good time, hope you are the same." One of
them portrayed a scene of revelry by night, and was entitled Sans Souci
Dance Hall, Denver, Colorado. Winona bribed this away from the recipient
with money. She wished Dave would use better judgment--choose the
picture of some good church or a public library.
The Whipple family, including its latest recruit, continued remote.
Wilbur would happily observe his one-time brother, muffled in robes of
fur, glide swiftly past in a sleigh of curved beauty, drawn by horses
that showered music along the roadway from a hundred golden bells, but
there were no direct encounters save with old Sharon Whipple. Sharon,
even before winter came, had formed a habit of stopping to speak to
Wilbur, pulling up the long-striding, gaunt roan horse and the buggy
which his weight caused to sag on one side to ask the boy idle
questions. Throughout the winter he continued these attentions, and
once, on a day sparkling with new snow, he took the rejected twin into a
cutter, enveloped him in the buffalo robe, and gave him a joyous ride
out over West Hill along the icy road that wound through the sleeping,
still woods. They were silent for the most of this drive.
"You don't talk much," said Sharon when the roan slowed for the ascent
of West Hill and the music of the bells became only a silver murmur of
chords. The boy was silent, even at this, for while he was trying to
think of a suitable answer, trying to think what Winona would have him
reply, Sharon flicked the roan and the music came loud again. There was
no more talk until Sharon pulled up in the village, the boy being too
shy to volunteer any speech while this splendid hospitality endured.
"Have a good time?" demanded Sharon at parting.
Wilbur tried earnestly to remember that he should reply in Winona's
formula, "I have had a delightful time and thank you so much for asking
me," but he stared at Sharon, muffled in a great fur coat and cap,
holding the taut lines with enormous driving gloves, and could only say
"Fine!" after which he stopped, merely looking his thanks.
"Good!" said Sharon, and touching the outer tips of his frosted eyebrows
with a huge gloved thumb he clicked to the roan and was off to a
sprinkle of bell chimes.
Wilbur resolved not to tell Winona of this ride, because he would have
to confess that he had awkwardly forgotten to say the proper words at
the end. Merle would not have forgotten. Probably Mr. Sharon Whipple,
having found him wanting in polish, would never speak to him again. But
Sharon did, for a week later, when Wilbur passed him where he had
stopped the cutter in River Street, the old man not only hailed him, but
called him Buck. From his hearty manner of calling, "Hello, there,
Buck!" it seemed that he had decided to overlook the past.
* * * * *
The advent of the following summer was marked by two events of
importance; Mouser, the Penniman cat, after being repeatedly foiled
throughout the winter, had gained access to the little house on a day
when windows and doors were open for cleaning, stalked the immobile blue
jay, and falling upon his prey had rent the choice bird limb from limb,
scattering over a wide space wings, feathers, cotton, and twisted wire.
Mouser had apparently found it beyond belief that so beautiful a bird
should not be toothsome in any single part. But the discoverer of this
sacrilege was not horrified as he would have been a year before. He had
even the breadth of mind to feel an honest sympathy for poor Mouser, who
had come upon arsenic where it could not by any known law of Nature have
been apprehended, and who for two days remained beneath the woodshed
sick unto death, and was not his old self for weeks thereafter. Wilbur
was growing up.
Soon after this the other notable event transpired. Frank, the dog,
became the proud but worried mother of five puppies, all multicoloured
like himself. It is these ordeals that mature the soul, and it was an
older Wilbur who went again to the _Advance_ office to learn the loose
trade, as his father had written him from New Orleans that he must be
sure to do. He had increased his knowledge of convention in the use of
capital letters, and that summer, as a day's work, he set up a column of
leaded long primer which won him the difficult praise of Sam Pickering.
Sam wrote a notice of the performance and printed it in the
_Advance_--the budding craftsman feeling a double glow when he sat this
up, too. The item predicted that Wilbur Cowan, son of our fellow
townsman, Dave Cowan, would soon become one of the swiftest of
This summer he not only inked the forms on Wednesday, but he was
permitted to operate the job press. You stood before this and turned a
large wheel at the left to start it, after which you kept it going with
one foot on a treadle. Then rhythmically the press opened wide its maw
and you took out the printed card or small bill and put in another
before the jaws closed down. It was especially thrilling, because if you
should keep your hand in there until the jaws closed you wouldn't have
it any longer.
But there was disquieting news about the loose trade he intended to
follow. A new printer brought this. He was the second since the deaf one
of the year before, the latter on an hour's notice having taken the
six-fifty-eight for Florida one night in early winter--like one of the
idle rich, Sam Pickering said. The new printer, a sour, bald one of
middle age, reported bitterly that hand composition was getting to be no
good nowadays; you had to learn the linotype, a machine that was taking
the bread out of the mouths of honest typesetters. He had beheld one of
these heinous mechanisms operated in a city office--by a slip of a girl
that wouldn't know how to hold a real stick in her hand--and things had
come to a pretty pass. It was an intricate machine, with thousands of
parts, far more than seemed at all necessary. If you weren't right about
machinery, and too old to learn new tricks, what were you going to do?
Get sent to the printer's home, that was all! The new printer drank
heavily to assuage his gloom, even to a degree that caused Herman
Vielhaber to decline his custom, so that he must lean the gloomy hours
away on the bar of Pegleg McCarron, where they didn't mind such things.
Sam Pickering warned him that if this kept on there would no longer be
jobs for hand compositors, even in country printing offices; that he,
for one, would probably solve his own labour problem by installing a
machine and running it himself. But the sad printer refused to be warned
and went from bad to worse.
Wilbur Cowan partook of this pessimism about the craft, and wondered if
his father had heard the news. If it had ceased to be important that a
bright boy should set up a column of long primer, leaded, in a day, he
might as well learn some other loose trade in which they couldn't invent
a machine to take the bread out of your mouth. It was that summer he
spent many forenoons on the steps of the ice wagon driven by his good
friend, Bill Bardin. Bill said you made good-enough money delivering
ice, and it was pleasant on a hot morning to rumble along the streets on
the back steps of the covered wagon, cooled by the great blocks of ice
still in its sawdust.
When they came to a house that took only twenty-five pounds Bill would
let him carry it in with the tongs--unless it was one where Bill, a
knightly person, chanced to sustain more or less social relations with
the bondmaid. And you could chip off pieces of ice to hold in your
mouth, or cool your bare feet in the cold wet sawdust; and you didn't
have to be anywhere at a certain hour, but could just loaf along, giving
people their ice when you happened to get there. He wondered, indeed, if
delivering ice were not as loose a trade as typesetting had been, and
whether his father would approve of it. It was pleasanter than sitting
in a dusty printing office, and the smells were less obtrusive. Also,
Bill Bardin went about bareheaded and clad above the waist only in a
sleeveless jersey that was tight across his broad chest and gave his big
arms free play. He chewed tobacco, too, like a printer, but cautioned
his young helper against this habit in early youth. He said if indulged
in at too tender an age it turned your blood to water and you died in
great suffering. Wilbur longed for the return of his father, so he could
tell him about the typesetting machine and about this other good loose
trade that had opened so opportunely.
And there were other trades--seemingly loose enough--in which one drove
the most delightful wagons, and which endured the year round and not, as
with the ice trade, merely for the summer. There was, for example,
driving an express wagon. Afternoons, when the ice chests of Newbern had
been replenished and Bill Bardin disappeared in the more obscure
interests of his craft, Wilbur would often ride with Rufus Paulding,
Newbern's express agent. Rufus drove one excellent horse to a smart
green wagon, and brought packages from the depot, which he delivered
about the town. Being a companionable sort, he was not averse to Wilbur
Cowan's company on his cushioned seat. It was not as cool work as
delivering ice, and lacked a certain dash of romance present in the
other trade, but it was lively and interesting in its own way,
especially when Rufus would remain on his seat and let him carry
packages in to people with a book for them to sign.
And there was the dray, driven by Trimble Cushman, drawn by two proud
black horses of great strength. This trade was a sort of elder, heavier
brother of the express trade, conveying huge cases of merchandise from
the freight depot to the shops of the town. Progress was slower here
than with the express wagon, or even the ice wagon; you had to do lots
of backing, with much stern calling to the big horses, and often it took
a long time to ease the big boxes to the sidewalk--time and grunting
exclamations. Still it was not unattractive to the dilettante, and he
rode beside Trimble with profit to his knowledge of men and affairs.
But better than all, for a good loose trade involving the direction of
horses, was driving the bus from the Mansion House to the depot. The
majestic yellow vehicle with its cushioned, lavishly decorated interior,
its thronelike seat above the world, was an exciting affair, even when
it rested in the stable yard. When the horses were hitched to it, and
Starling Tucker from the high seat with whip and reins directed its
swift progress, with rattles and rumbles like a real circus wagon, it
was thrilling indeed. This summer marked the first admission of Wilbur
to an intimacy with the privileged driver which entitled him to mount
dizzily to the high seat and rattle off to trains. He had patiently
courted Starling Tucker in the office of the Mansion House livery
stable, sitting by him in silent admiration while he discoursed
learnedly of men and horses, helping to hitch up the dappled grays to
the bus, fetching his whip, holding his gloves, until it became a matter
of course that he should mount to the high seat with him.
This seemed really to be the best of all loose trades. On that high
seat, one hand grasping an iron railing at the side, sitting by
grim-faced Starling Tucker in his battered hat, who drove carelessly
with one hand and tugged at his long red moustache with the other, it
was pleasantly appalling to reflect that he might be at any moment
dashed to pieces on the road below; to remember that Starling himself,
the daily associate of horses and a man of high adventure, had once
fallen from this very seat and broken bones--the most natural kind of
accident, Starling averred, though gossip had blamed it on Pegleg
McCarron's whisky. Not only was it delectable to ride in the high place,
to watch trains come and go, to carry your load of travellers back to
the Mansion House, but there were interludes of relaxation when you
could sit about in the office of the stables and listen to agreeable
talk from the choice spirits of abundant leisure, with whom work seemed
to be a tribal taboo, daily assembled there. The flow of anecdote was
often of a pungent quality, and the amateur learned some words and
phrases that would have caused Winona acute distress; but he learned
about men and horses and dogs, and enlarged his knowledge of Newbern's
inner life, having peculiar angles of his own upon it from his other
contacts with its needs for ice and express packages and crates of
His father had once said barbering was a good loose trade that enabled
one to go freely about the world, but the boy had definitely eliminated
this from the list of possible crafts, owing to unfortunate experiences
with none other than Judge Penniman, for the judge cut his hair. At
spaced intervals through the year Winona would give the order and the
judge would complainingly make his preparations. The victim was taken to
the woodshed and perched on a box which was set on a chair. The judge
swathed him with one of Mrs. Penniman's aprons, crowding folds of it
inside his neckband. Then with stern orders to hold his head still the
rite was consummated with a pair of shears commandeered from plain and
fancy dressmaking. Loath himself to begin the work, the judge always
came to feel, as it progressed, a fussy pride in his artistry; a pride
never in the least justified by results. To Wilbur, after these ordeals,
his own mirrored head was a strange and fearsome apparition, the ears
appearing to have been too carelessly affixed and the scanty remainder
of his hair left in furrows, with pallid scalp showing through. And
there were always hairs down his neck, despite the apron. Barbering was
not for him--not when you could drive a bus to all trains, or even a
There were also street encounters that summer with old Sharon Whipple,
who called the boy Buck and jocularly asked him what he was doing to
make a man of himself, and whom he would vote for at the next election.
One sunny morning, while Wilbur on River Street weighed the possible
attractions of the livery-stable office against the immediate certainty
of some pleasant hours with Rufus Paulding, off to the depot to get a
load of express packages for people, Sharon in his sagging buggy pulled
up to the curb before him and told him to jump in if he wanted a ride.
So he had jumped in without further debate.
Sharon's plump figure was loosely clad in gray, and his whimsical eyes
twinkled under a wide-brimmed hat of soft straw. He paused to light a
cigar after the boy was at his side--the buggy continuing to sag as
before--then he pushed up the ends of his eyebrows with the blunt thumb,
clicked to the long-striding roan, and they were off at a telling trot.
Out over West Hill they went, leaving a thick fog of summer dust in
their wake, and on through cool woods to a ridge from which the valley
opened, revealing a broad checker-board of ripening grain fields.
"Got to make three of my farms," volunteered Sharon after a silent
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur, which seemed enough for them both until the
first of the farms was reached.
Sharon there descended, passing the reins to a proud Wilbur, for talk
with his tenant on the steps of the yellow frame farmhouse. Sharon bent
his thick round leg to raise a foot to a rustic seat, and upon the
cushion thus provided made figures in a notebook. After a time of this,
while Wilbur excitingly held the roan horse, made nervous by a hive of
bees against the whitewashed fence, he came back to the buggy--which
sagged from habit even when disburdened of its owner--and they drove to
another farm--a red brick farmhouse, this time, with yellow roses
climbing its front. Here Sharon tarried longer in consultation. Wilbur
staunchly held the roan, listened to the high-keyed drone of a reaper in
a neighbouring field, and watched the old man make more figures in his
black notebook. He liked this one of the Whipples pretty well. He was
less talkative than Bill Bardin, and his speech was less picturesque
than Starling Tucker's or even Trimble Cushman's, who would often
threaten to do interesting and horrible things to his big dray horses
when they didn't back properly; but Wilbur felt at ease with Sharon,
even if he didn't say much or say it in startling words.
When Sharon had done his business the farmer came to lead the roan to
the barn, and Sharon, taking a pasteboard box from the back of the
buggy, beckoned Wilbur to follow him. They went round the red farmhouse,
along a grassy path carelessly bordered with flowers that grew as they
would, and at the back came to a little white spring house in which were
many pans of milk on shelves, and a big churn. The interior was cool and
dim, and a stream of clear water trickled along a passage in the cement
floor. They sat on a bench, and Sharon opened his box to produce an
astonishing number of sandwiches wrapped in tissue paper, a generous
oblong of yellow cheese, and some segments of brown cake splendidly
enriched with raisins.
"Pitch in!" said Sharon.
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur, and did so with an admirable restraint, such as
Winona would have applauded, nibbling politely at one of the sandwiches.
"Ain't you got your health?" demanded the observant Sharon, capably
engulfing half a sandwich.
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
"Eat like it then."
So the boy became less conscious of his manners, and ate like it, to
Sharon's apparent satisfaction. Midway in the destruction of the
sandwiches the old man drew from the churn a tin cup of what proved to
be buttermilk. His guest had not learned to like this, so for him he
procured another cup, and brought it brimming with sweet milk which he
had daringly taken from one of the many pans, quite as if he were at
home in the place.
"Milk's good for you," said Sharon.
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
"A regular food, as much as anything you want to name."
"Yes, sir." The boy agreed wholly, without wishing to name anything in
disparagement of milk.
They ate the sandwiches and cheese, and upon the guest was conferred the
cake. There were three pieces, and he managed the first swiftly, but was
compelled to linger on the second, even with the lubricating help of
another cup of milk.
"Bring it along," directed the host. So it was brought along to the
buggy, one piece in course of consumption and one carried to be eaten at
superb leisure as the fed roan carried them down the hot road to still
They drove back to Newbern in the late afternoon, still largely silent,
though there was a little talk at the close on stretches of hill where
the roan would consent to slacken his pace.
"What you think of him?" Sharon demanded, nodding obliquely at the roan.
"He's got good hocks and feet--good head and shoulders, too," said the
"He has that," affirmed Sharon. "Know horses?"
He faltered, but suddenly warmed to talk and betrayed an intimate
knowledge of every prominent horse in Newbern. He knew Charley and Dick,
the big dray horses; and Dexter, who drew the express wagon; he knew Bob
and George, who hauled the ice wagon; he knew the driving horses in the
Mansion stables by name and point, and especially the two dapple grays
that drew the bus. Not for nothing had he listened to the wise talk in
the stable office, or sat at the feet of Starling Tucker, who knew
horses so well he called them hawses. It was the first time he had
talked to Sharon forgetfully. Sharon nodded his head from time to time,
and the boy presently became shy at the consciousness that he had talked
a great deal.
Then Sharon spoke of rumours that the new horseless carriage would soon
do away with horses. He didn't believe the rumours, and he spoke
scornfully of the new machines as contraptions. Still he had seen some
specimens in Buffalo, and they might have something in them. They might
be used in time in place of horse-drawn busses and ice wagons and drays.
Wilbur was chilled by this prediction. He had more than half meant to
drive horses to one of these useful affairs, but what if they were to be
run by machinery? Linotypes to spoil typesetting by hand, and now
horseless carriages to stop driving horses! He wondered if it would be
any use to learn any trade. He would have liked to ask Sharon, but
"Well, it's an age of progress," said Sharon at last. "We got to expect
Wilbur was at home on this topic. He became what Winona would have
"We can't stop change," he said in his father's manner. "First, there
was star dust, and electricity or something made it into the earth; and
some water and chemicals made life out of this electricity or
"Hey?" said the startled Sharon, but the story of creation continued.
"And there was just little animals first, but they got to be bigger,
because they had to change; and pretty soon they become monkeys, and
then they changed some more, and stood up on their hind feet, and so
they got to be human beings like us--because--because they had to
change," he concluded, lucidly.
"My shining stars!" breathed Sharon.
"And they lost their tails and got so they would wear neckties and have
post offices and depots and religions," added the historian in a final
flash of memory.
"Well, I'll be switched!" said Sharon.
"It's electricity or something," explained the lecturer. "My father said
"Oh!" said Sharon.
"But he says there's a catch in it somewhere."
"I should think there was," said Sharon. "By gracious goodness, I should
think there was a catch in it somewhere! But you understand the whole
thing as easy as crack a nut, don't you?"
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
"Giddap there!" said Sharon.
Wilbur did not tell Winona of this day's encounter with an authentic
Whipple. He would have done so but for the dollar that Sharon absently
bestowed upon him from a crumple of bills when he left the buggy at the
entrance to Whipple Old Place. Winona, he instantly knew, would counsel
him to save the dollar, and he did not wish to save it. As fast as his
bare feet--with a stone bruise on one heel--would carry him he sped to
Solly Gumble's. Yet not with wholly selfish intent. A section of plug
tobacco, charmingly named Peach and Honey, was purchased for a quarter
as a gift to Bill Bardin of the ice wagon. Another quarter secured three
pale-brown cigars, with gay bands about their middles, to be lavished
upon the hero, Starling Tucker.
The colourful years sped. At fifteen Wilbur Cowan, suddenly alive to
this quick way of time, was looking back to the days of his heedless
youth. That long aisle of years seemed unending, but it narrowed in
perspective until earlier experiences were but queerly dissolving
shapes, wavering of outline, dimly discerned, piquant or sad in the
mind, but elusive when he would try to fix them.
On a shining, full-starred night he stood before the little house in the
Penniman side yard and bade farewell to this youth. A long time he gazed
into the arched splendour above. He had never noticed that the stars
were so many and so bright; and they were always there, by day as well
as by night, so his father said. Many of them, on the same veracious
authority, were peopled; some with people who were yet but monkeys like
the Vielhaber's Emil; some with people now come to be human like
himself; others with ineffable beings who had progressed in measureless
periods of time beyond any human development that even Dave Cowan could
The aging boy felt suddenly friendly with all those distant worlds, glad
they were there, so almost sociably near. On more than one of them,
perhaps far off in that white streak they called the Milky Way, there
must be boys like himself, learning useful things about life, to read
good books and all about machinery, and have good habits, and so forth.
Surely on one of those far worlds there was at least one boy like
himself, who was being a boy for the last time and would to-morrow be a
man. For Wilbur Cowan, beneath this starry welter of creation--of worlds
to be or in being, or lifeless hulks that had been worlds and were
outworn--was on this June night uplifted to face the parting of the
ways. His last day had been lived as a boy with publicly bare feet.
No more would he feel the soft run of new grass beneath his soles, or
longer need beware the chance nail or sharp stone in the way. On the
morrow, presumably to be a day inviting to bare feet as had all the
other days of his summers, remembered and forgotten, he would, when he
rose, put on stockings and stout shoes; and he would put them on world
without end through all the new mornings of his life, howsoever urgently
with their clement airs they might solicit the older mode. It was a
solemn thing to reflect upon, under a glittering heaven that held, or
not, those who might feel with him the bigness of the moment. He
suffered a vision of the new shoes, stiffly formidable, side by side at
the foot of his bed in the little house. It left him feeling all his
And he would wear long trousers! With tolerant amusement he saw himself
as of old, barefoot, bare-legged, the knee pants buttoned to the calico
blouse. It was all over. He scanned the stars a last time, dimly feeling
that the least curious of their inhabitants would be aware of this
Perhaps on one of those blinking orbs people with a proper concern for
other world events would be saying to one another: "Yes, he's grown up
now. Didn't you hear the big news? Why, to-morrow he's going to begin
driving a truck for Trimble Cushman--got a job for the whole summer."
If the announcement startled less than great news should, the speaker
could surely produce a sensation by adding: "The first automobile truck
in Newbern Center."
And how had this immature being, capable out-of-doors boy though he was,
come to be so exalted above his fellows? Sam Pickering's linotype had
first revealed his gift for machinery. For Sam had installed a linotype,
and Wilbur Cowan had patiently mastered its distracting intricacies.
Dave Cowan had informally reappeared one day, still attired with
decreasing elegance below the waist--his cloth-topped shoes but little
more than distressing memories--and announced that he was now an able
operator of this wondrous machine; and the harried editor of the
_Advance_, stung to enterprise by flitting wastrels who tarried at his
case only long enough to learn the name of the next town, had sought
relief in machinery, even if it did take bread from the mouths of honest
typesetters. Their lack of preference as to where they earned there
bread, their insouciant flights from town to town without notice, had
made Sam brutal. He had ceased to care whether they had bread or not. So
Dave for a summer had brought him surcease from help worries.
The cynical journeyman printer of the moment, on a day when Dave tried
out the new machine, had stood by and said she might set type but she
certainly couldn't justify it, because it took a human to do that, and
how would a paper look with unevenly ending lines? When Dave, seated
before the thing, proved that she uncannily could justify the lines of
type before casting them in metal, the dismayed printer had shuddered at
the mystery of it.
Dave Cowan seized the moment to point out to his admiring son and other
bystanders that it was all the working of evolution. If you couldn't
change when your environment demanded it Nature scrapped you. Hand
compositors would have to learn to set type by machinery or go down in
the struggle for existence. Survival of the fittest--that was it. The
doubting printer was not there to profit by this lecture. Though it was
but five o'clock, he was down on the depot platform moodily waiting for