Part 7 out of 7
"Red! Him? Humph!" Sharon here named an equally well-known primary
colour--not red. Wilbur protested.
"You don't get him," persisted the old man. "Listen, now! He cast off
the family like your father said he would. Couldn't accept another cent
of Whipple money. Going to work with his bare hands. Dressed up for it
like a hunter in one of these powder advertisements. All he needed was a
shotgun and a setter dog with his tail up. And everybody in the house
worried he'd starve to death. Of course no one thought he'd work--that
was one of his threats they didn't take seriously. But they promised to
sit tight, each and all, and bring him to time the sooner.
"Well, he didn't come to time. We learned he was getting money from some
place. He still had it. So I begun to get my suspicions up. Last night I
got the bunch together, Gid and Harvey D. and Ella and Juliana, and I
taxed 'em with duplicity, and every last one of 'em was guilty as
paint--every goshed last one! Every one sending him fat checks
unbeknownst to the others. Even Juliana! I never did suspect her. 'I did
it because it's all a romance to him,' says she. 'I wanted him to go his
way, whatever it was, and find it bright.'
"Wha'd you think of that from a girl of forty-eight or so that can
tinker a mowing machine as good as you can? I ask you! Of course I'd
suspected the rest. A set of mushheads. Maybe they didn't look shamed
when I exposed 'em! Each one had pictured the poor boy down there alone,
undergoing hardship with his toiling workers or whatever you call 'em,
and, of course, I thought so myself."
"How much did you send him?" demanded Wilbur, suddenly.
"Not half as much as the others," returned Sharon in indignant triumph.
"If they'd just set tight like they promised and let me do the little I
"You were going to sit tight, too, weren't you?"
"Well, of course, that was different. Of course I was willing to shell
out a few dollars now and then if he was going to be up against it for a
square meal. After all, he was Whipple by name. Of course he ain't got
Whipple stuff in him. That young man's talk always did have kind of a
nutty flavour. You come right down to it, he ain't a Whipple in hide nor
hair. Why, say, he ain't even two and seventy-five-hundredths per cent.
Sharon had cunningly gone away from his own failure to sit tight. He was
proving flexible-minded here, as on the links.
They were silent, looking out over the spread of Home Farm. The red
house still shimmered in the heat waves. The tall trees about it hung
motionless. The click of the reaper in the south forty sounded like a
"Put the fear of God into him," said Sharon at last. "Let him know them
checks have gosh all truly stopped."
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
"Now drive on and we'll look the house over. The last tenant let it run
down. But I'll fix it right for you. Why, like as not you'll be having a
missis and young ones of your own there some day."
"I might; you can't tell."
"Well, I wish they was going to be Whipple stock. Ours is running down.
I don't look for any prize-winners from your brother; he'll likely marry
that widow, or something, that wants to save America like Russia has
been. And Juliana, I guess she wasn't ever frivolous enough for
marriage. And that Pat--she'll pick out one of them boys with a head
like a seal, that knows all the new dances and what fork to use. Trust
her! Not that she didn't show Whipple stuff over there. But she's a
rattlepate in peacetime."
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
He left a train at the Grand Central Station in New York early the
following evening. He had the address of Merle's apartment on lower
Fifth Avenue, and made his way there on foot through streets crowded
with the war's backwash. Men in uniform were plentiful, and he was many
times hailed by them. Though out of uniform himself, they seemed to
identify him with ease. Something in his walk, the slant of his
shoulders, and the lean, browned, watchful face--the eyes set for wider
horizons than a mere street--served to mark him as one of them.
The apartment of Merle proved to be in the first block above Washington
Square. While he scanned doors for the number he was seized and turned
about by a playful creature in uniform.
"Well, Buck Cowan, you old son of a gun!"
"Gee, gosh, Stevie! How's the boy?"
They shook hands, moving to the curb where they could talk.
"What's the idea?" demanded ex-Private Cowan. "Why this dead part of
town for so many of the boys?"
Service men were constantly sauntering by them or chatting in little
groups at the curb.
"She's dead, right now," Steve told him, "but she'll wake up pronto.
Listen, Buck, we got the tip! A lot of them fur-faced boys that hurl the
merry bombs are goin' to pull off a red-flag sashay up the Avenoo. Get
it? Goin' to set America free!"
"I get it!" said Wilbur.
"Dirty work at the crossroads," added Steve.
"Say, Steve, hold it for twenty minutes, can't you? I got to see a man
down here. Be good; don't hurt any one till I get back."
"Do my best," said Steve, "but they're down there in the Square now
stackin' up drive impedimenta and such, red banners, and so forth,
tuning up to warble the hymn to free Russia. Hurry if you want to join
out with us!"
"I'll do that little thing, Steve. See you again." He passed on, making
a way through the jostling throng of soldiers and civilians. "Just my
luck," he muttered. "I hope the kid isn't in." Never before had he
thought of his brother as "the kid."
He passed presently through swinging glass doors, and in a hallway was
told by a profusely buttoned youth in spectacles that Mr. Whipple was
out. It was not known when he would be in. His movements were uncertain.
"He might be in or he might be out," said the boy.
He was back in the street, edging through the crowd, his head up,
searching for the eager face of Steve Kennedy, late his sergeant.
Halfway up the next block he found him pausing to roll a cigarette.
Steve was a scant five feet, and he was telling a private who was a
scant six feet that there would be dirty work at the crossroads--when
the fur-faces started.
"We're too far away," suggested Wilbur. "If they start from the Square
they'll be mussed up before they get here. You can't expect people
farther down to save 'em just for you. Where's your tactics, Steve?"
They worked slowly back down the Avenue. It was nine o'clock now, and
the street was fairly free of vehicles. The night was clear and the
street lights brought alert, lean profiles into sharp relief, faces of
men in uniform sauntering carelessly or chatting in little groups at the
curb. A few unseeing policemen, also sauntering carelessly, were to be
"Heard a fur-face speak last night," said Steve. "It's a long story,
mates, but it seems this is one rotten Government and everybody knows it
but a few cops. If someone would only call off the cops and let the
fur-faces run it we might have a regular country."
From the Square singing was now heard.
"Oh, boy!" murmured the tall private, dreamily; "am I glad I'm here?"
Stretching a long neck to peer toward the Square, he called in warm,
urgent tones: "Oh, come on, you reds--come on, red!"
They came on. Out from the Square issued a valiant double line of
marchers, men and women, their voices raised in the Internationale. At
their head, bearing aloft a scarlet banner of protest, strode a
commanding figure in corduroys, head up, his feet stepping a martial
"I choose that general," said the tall private, and licked his lips.
"Not if I get him first," shouted Steve, and sprang from the walk into
But ex-Private Cowan was ahead of them both. He had not waited for
speech. A crowd from each side of the Avenue had surged into the roadway
to greet the procession. The banner bearer was seen to hesitate, to lose
step, but was urged from the rear by other banner bearers. He came on
again. Once more he stepped martially. The Internationale swelled in
volume. The crowd, instead of opening a way, condensed more solidly
about the advance. There were jeers and shoving. The head of the line
again wavered. Wilbur Cowan had jostled a way toward this leader. He
lost no time in going into action. But the pushing crowd impaired his
aim, and it was only a glancing blow that met the jaw of the corduroyed
The standard toppled forward from his grasp, and its late bearer turned
quickly aside. As he turned Wilbur Cowan reached forward to close a hand
about the corduroy collar. Then he pulled. The standard bearer came back
easily to a sitting posture on the asphalt. The crowd was close in,
noisily depriving other bearers of their standards. The Internationale
had become blurred and discordant, like a bad phonograph record. The
parade still came to break and flow about the obstruction.
Wilbur Cowan jerked his prize up and whirled him about. He contemplated
further atrocities. But the pallid face of his brother was now revealed
"Look out there!" he warned the crowd, and a way was opened.
He drew back on the corduroy collar, then sent it forward with a mighty
shove. His captive shot through the opening, fell again to the pavement,
but was up and off before those nearest him could devise further
entertainment. Among other accomplishments Merle had been noted in
college for his swiftness of foot. He ran well, heading for the north,
skillfully avoiding those on the outskirts of the crowd who would have
tackled him. Wilbur Cowan watched him out of sight, beyond the area of
combat. Then he worked his own way from it and stood to watch the
further disintegration of the now leaderless parade.
The tumult died, the crowd melted away. Policemen became officious. From
areaways up and down the Avenue forms emerged furtively, walked
discreetly to corners and skurried down side streets. Here and there a
crimson banner flecked the asphalt. Steve and the tall private issued
from the last scrimmage, breathing hard.
"Nothing to it!" said the tall private. "Only I skun my knuckles."
"I was aimin' a wallop at that general," complained Steve, "but
something blew him right out of my hand. Come on up to Madison Avenoo. I
heard they was goin' to save America up there, too."
"Can't," said Wilbur. "Got to see a man."
"Well, so long, Buck!"
He waved to them as they joined the northward moving crowd.
"Gee, gosh!" he said.
* * * * *
"No, sir; Mr. Whipple hasn't come in yet. He just sent word he wouldn't
be back at all to-night," said the spectacled hall boy. But his manner
was so little ingenuous that once again the hand of Wilbur Cowan closed
itself eloquently about the collar of a jacket.
"Get into that elevator and let me out at his floor."
"You let me alone!" said the hall boy. "I was going to."
He knocked a third time before he could hear a faint call. He opened the
door. Beyond a dim entrance hall the light fell upon his brother seated
at a desk, frowning intently at work before him. The visible half of him
was no longer in corduroy. It was incased in a smoking jacket of
velvet, and his neck was conventionally clad in collar and cravat. The
latter had been hastily tied.
"Why, Wilbur, old man!" cried Merle in pleased surprise. He half rose
from the desk, revealing that below the waist he was still corduroy or
proletarian. Along his left jaw was a contusion as from a glancing blow.
He was still breathing harder than most men do who spend quiet evenings
Wilbur advanced into the room, but paused before reaching the desk. It
was an invitingly furnished room of cushioned couches, paintings,
tapestries, soft chairs, warmly toned rugs. The desk at which Merle
toiled was ornate and shining. Ex-Private Cowan felt a sudden revulsion.
He was back, knee-deep in trench bilge, tortured in all his being,
looking at death from behind a sandbag. Vividly he recalled why he had
endured that torture.
"You're all out of condition," he announced in even tones to Merle. "A
little sprint like that shouldn't get your wind."
Merle's look of sunny welcome faded to one of chagrin. He fell back in
his chair. He was annoyed.
"You saw that disgraceful outbreak, then?"
"I was in luck to-night."
"Did you see that drunken rowdy strike at me, and then try to get me
down where he and those other brutes could kick me?"
Wilbur's stare was cool. He was feeling the icy muck about his numbed
"I was the one that struck at you. Too many elbows in the way and I
flubbed it." He noted his brother start and stiffen in his chair. "And I
didn't try to get you down. When I saw it was you I got you up and shot
you out where you could run--if you wanted to. And I wasn't drunk, and
I'm not a rowdy."
Merle gazed with horror upon the apparently uncontrite fratricide. Twice
he essayed to speak before he found the words.
"Do you think that was a brave thing to do?"
"No--but useful. I've been brave a lot of times where it didn't do as
much good as that."
"Useful!" breathed Merle, scathingly. "Useful to brutalize a lot of
brave souls who merely sought--" he broke off with a new sense of
outrage. "And not a policeman there to do his duty!" he finished
Wilbur Cowan sat in a carven chair near a corner of the beautiful desk,
hitching it forward to rest his arms on the desk's top. He was newly
appraising this white-faced brother.
"Whining!" he suddenly snapped. "Get up and boast that you're outlaws,
going to keel the Government off its pins. Then you get the gaff, and
the first thing you do is whine for help from that same Government! You
say it's rotten, but you expect it to watch over you while you knock it
down. If you're going to be an outlaw, take an outlaw's chance. Don't
squeal when you get caught. You say the rules are rotten, then you fall
back on them. What kind of sportsmanship is that?"
Wearily but with a tolerant smile Merle pushed back the fallen lock with
one white hand.
"What could you understand of all this?" he asked, gently. "We merely
claim the right of free speech."
"And use it to tell other people to upset the Government! That crowd
to-night did what you tell your people to do--went against the rules.
But you can't take your own medicine. A fine bunch of spoiled children
you are! Been spoiled by too easy a Government at that!" He broke off to
study Merle again. "You're pasty, out of condition," he repeated,
Again his brother's intolerant smile.
"You have all the cant of the reactionary," he retorted, again gently.
"It's the spirit of intolerance one finds everywhere. You can't expect
one of my--" he hesitated, showing a slight impatience. "I've been too
long where they are thinking," he said.
"Aren't you people intolerant? You want to break all the rules, and
those same rules have made us a pretty good big country."
"Ah, yes, a big country--big! We can always boast of our size, can't we?
I dare say you believe its bigness is a sign of our merit." Merle had
recovered his poise. He was at home in satire. "Besides, I've broken no
rules, as you call them."
"Oh, I'll bet you haven't! You'd be careful not to. I see that much. But
you try to get smaller children to. I'd have more patience with you if
you'd taken a chance yourself."
"Patience with me--you?" Merle relished this. His laugh was sincere.
"You--would have more patience with--me!" But his irony went for little
with a man still at the front.
"Sure! If only you'd smashed a few rules yourself. Take that girl and
her partner they arrested the other day. They don't whine. They're
behind the bars, but still cussing the Government. You've got to respect
fighters like that Liebknecht the Germans killed, and that Rosa
What's-Her-Name. They were game. But you people, you try to put on all
their airs without taking their chances. That's why you make me so
tired--always keeping your martyr's halo polished and handy where you
can slip it out of a pocket when you get just what you've been asking
"You're not too subtle, are you? But then one could hardly expect
Merle was again almost annoyed.
"Subtle be jiggered! Do you think you people are subtle? About as subtle
as a ton of bricks. All your talk in that magazine about this being a
land of the dollar, no ideals, no spirituality, a land of
money-grubbers--all that other stuff! Say, I want to tell you this is
the least money-grubbing land there is! You people would know that if
you had any subtlety. Maybe you did know it. We went into that scrap for
an ideal, and we're the only country that did. France might have gone
for an ideal, but France had to fight, anyway.
"England? Do you think England went in only to save poor little
Belgium? She herself was the next dish on the bill of fare. But we went
in out of general damfoolishness--for an ideal--this country you said
didn't have any. We don't care about money--less than any of those
people. Watch a Frenchman count his coppers, or an Englishman that
carries his in a change purse and talks about pounds but really thinks
in shillings. We carry our money loose and throw it away.
"If this country had been what your sniveling little magazine called it
we'd never have gone into that fight. You're not even subtle enough to
know that much. We knew it would cost like hell, but we knew it was a
great thing to do. Not another nation on earth would have gone in for
that reason. That's the trouble with you poor little shut-ins; you
decide the country hasn't any ideals because someone runs a stockyard
out in Chicago or a foundry in Pittsburgh. God help you people if you'd
had your way about the war! The Germans would be taking that nonsense
out of you by this time. And to think you had me kind of ashamed when I
went over! I thought you knew something then." He concluded on a note
Merle had grown visibly impatient.
"My dear fellow, really! Your point of view is interesting enough, even
if all too common. You are true to type, but so crude a type--so crude!"
"Sure, I'm crude! The country itself is crude, I guess. But it takes a
crude country to have ideals--ideals with guts. Your type isn't crude, I
suppose, but it hasn't any ideals, either."
"No ideals! No ideals! Ah, but that's the best thing you've said!"
He laughed masterfully, waving aside the monstrous accusation.
"Well, maybe it is the best thing I've said. You haven't any ideals that
would get any action out of you. You might tear down a house, but you'd
never build one. No two of you could agree on a plan. Every one of you
is too conceited about himself. If you had the guts to upset the
Government to-morrow you'd be fighting among yourselves before night,
and you'd have a chief or a king over you the next day, just as surely
as they got one in Russia. It'll take them a hundred years over there to
get back to as good a government as we have right now.
"You folks haven't any ideals except to show yourselves off. That's my
private opinion. The way you used to tell me I didn't have any form in
golf. You people are all gesture; you can get up on a platform and take
perfect practice swings at a government, but you can't hit the ball. You
used to take bully practice swings at golf, but you couldn't hit the
ball because you didn't have any ideal. You were a good shadow golfer,
like a shadow boxer that can hit dandy blows when he's hitting at
nothing. Shadow stuff, shadow ideals, shadow thinkers--that's what you
people are--spoiled children pretending you're deep thinkers."
Merle turned wearily to a sheaf of papers at his hand.
"You'll see one day," he said, quietly, "and it won't be a far day.
Nothing now, not even the brute force of your type, can retard the sweep
of the revolution. The wave is shaping, the crest is formed. Six months
from now--a year at most----"
He gestured with a hand ominously.
Wilbur briefly considered this prophecy.
"Oh, I know things look exciting here, but why wouldn't they after the
turnover they've had? And I know there's grafting and profiteering and
high prices and rotten spots in the Government, but why not? That's
another trouble with you people: you seem to think that some form of
government will be perfect. You seem to expect a perfect government from
imperfect human beings."
"Ah," broke in Merle, "I recognize that! That's some of the dear old
Dave Cowan talk."
"Well, don't turn it down just on that account. Sometimes he isn't so
crazy. He sees through you people. He knows you would take all you
could get in this world just as quick as the rest of us. He knows that
Merle waved it aside.
"Six months from now--a year at the most! A thrill of freedom has run
through the people!"
Wilbur had relaxed in his chair. He spoke more lightly, scanning the
face of his brother with veiled curiosity.
"By the way, speaking of revolutions, there's been kind of a one at
Newbern; kind of a family revolution. A little one, but plenty of kick
in it. They want you to come back and be a good boy. That's really what
I came down here to say for them. Will you come back with me?"
Merle drew himself up--injured.
"Go back! Back to what? When my work is here, my heart, my life? I've
let you talk because you're my brother. And you're so naively honest in
your talk about our wonderful country and its idealism and the
contemptible defects of a few of us who have the long vision! But I've
let you talk, and now I must tell you that I am with this cause to the
end. I can't expect your sympathy, or the sympathy of my people back
there, but I must go my own way without it, fight my own battle--"
He was interrupted in a tone he did not like.
"Sympathy from the folks back there? Say, what do you mean--sympathy?
Did I tell you what this revolution back there was all about? Did I tell
you they've shut down on you?"
"You didn't! I still don't get your meaning."
"You cast them off, didn't you?"
"Oh!" A white hand deprecated this. "That's Sharon Whipple talk--his
famous brand of horse humour. Surely, you won't say he's too subtle!"
"Well, anyway, you said you couldn't accept anything more from them when
you left; you were going to work with your hands, and so forth. You
weren't going to take any more of their tainted money."
"I've no doubt dear old Sharon would put it as delicately as that."
"Well, did you work with your hands? Have you had to be a toiler?"
"Oh, naturally I had resources! But might I ask"--Merle said it with
chill dignity--"may I inquire just what relation this might have----"
"You won't have resources any longer."
"Eh?" Merle this time did not wave. He stared stonily at his informant.
"That was the revolution. They called each other down and found that
every last one of them had been sending you money, each thinking he was
the only one and no one wanting you to starve. Even your dear old Sharon
Whipple kicked in every month. No wonder I didn't find you in a
"Preposterous!" expostulated Merle.
"Wasn't it? Anyway, they all got mad at each other, and then they all
got mad at you; then they swore an oath or something." He paused
impressively. "No more checks!"
"Preposterous!" Merle again murmured.
"But kind of plausible, wasn't it? Sharon wasn't any madder than the
others when they found each other out. Mrs. Harvey D. is the only one
they think they can't trust now. They're going to watch that woman's
funds. Say, anything she gets through the lines to you--won't keep you
"Poor Mother Ella!" murmured Merle, his gaze remotely upon the woman.
"She has always been so fond of me."
"They're all fond of you, for that matter, I think they're fonder of you
than if you'd been born there. But still they're rank Bolsheviks right
now. They confiscated your estates."
"I didn't need you to tell me they're fond of me," retorted Merle with
recovered spirit. He sighed. "They must have missed me horribly this
last year." There was contrition in his tone. "I suppose I should have
taken time to think of that, but you'll never know how my work here has
engrossed me. I suppose one always does sacrifice to ideals. Still, I
owed them something--I should have remembered that." He closed on a note
"Well, you better go back with me. They'll be mighty glad to see you."
"We can make that eleven-forty-eight if we hurry," he said. "I'll have
to change a few things."
He bustled cheerily into a bedroom. As he moved about there he whistled
Ten minutes later he emerged with bag, hat, and stick. The last item of
corduroy had vanished from his apparel. He was quietly dressed, as an
exploiter of the masses or a mechanic. He set the bag on the desk, and
going to a window peered from behind the curtain into the street.
"Some of those rowdies are still prowling about," he said, "but there
are cabs directly across the street."
He pulled the soft hat well down over his brow.
Wilbur had sat motionless in his chair while the dressing went on. He
got up now.
"Listen!" he said. "If you hear back home of my telling people you're a
dangerous radical, don't be worried. Even the Cowans have some family
pride. And don't worry about the prowling rowdies out there. I'll get
you across the street to a cab. Give me the bag."
As they crossed the street, Merle--at his brother's elbow--somewhat
jauntily whistled, with fair accuracy, not the "Marseillaise," but an
innocent popular ballad. Nor did he step aside for a torn strip of red
cloth lying in their way.
The next morning Wilbur found the Penniman household in turmoil. The
spirit of an outraged Judge Penniman pervaded it darkly, and his wife
wept as she flurried noisily about the kitchen. Neither of them would
regard him until he enforced their notice. The judge, indignantly
fanning himself in the wicker porch chair, put him off with vague black
mutters about Winona. The girl had gone from bad to worse. But his
skirts were clean. The mother was the one to blame. He'd talked all he
Then Wilbur, in the disordered kitchen, put himself squarely in the way
of the teary mother. He commanded details. The distraught woman, hair
tumbling from beneath a cap set rakishly to one side, vigorously stirred
yellow dough in an earthen mixing dish.
"Stop this nonsense!" he gruffly ordered.
Mrs. Penniman abandoned the long spoon and made a pitiful effort to dry
her eyes with an insufficient apron.
"Winona!" she sobbed. "Telegram--coming home tomorrow--nothing cooked
up--trying to make chocolate cake--"
"Why take it so hard? You knew the blow had to fall some time."
Mrs. Penniman broke down again.
"It's not a joke!" she sobbed. Then with terrific
"Winona Penniman married?"
The stricken mother opened swimming eyes at him, nodding hopelessly.
"Why, the little son of a gun!" said Wilbur, admiringly. "I didn't think
she'd be so reckless!"
"I'm so glad!" whimpered the mother.
She seized the spoon and the bowl. Judge Penniman hovered at the open
door of the kitchen.
"I told her what would happen!" he stormed. "She'll listen to me next
time! Always the way in this house!"
Mrs. Penniman relapsed.
"We don't know the party. Don't know him from Adam. She don't even sign
her right name."
Wilbur left the house of mourning and went out to the barn, where all
that day he worked at the Can, fretting it at last into a decent
Dave Cowan that night became gay and tasteless on hearing the news. He
did what he could to fan the judge's resentment. He said it was
probably, knowing Winona's ways, that she had wed a dissolute French
nobleman, impoverished of all but his title. He hoped for the best, but
he had always known that the girl was a light-minded baggage. He
wondered how she could ever justify her course to Matthew Arnold if the
need rose. He said the old house would now be turned into a saloon, or
salong, as the French call it. He wished to be told if the right to be
addressed as Madame la Marquise could compensate the child for those
things of simple but enduring worth she had cast aside. He somewhat
cheered Mrs. Penniman, but left the judge puffing with scorn.
* * * * *
Wilbur Cowan met the noon train next day. The Can rattled far too much
for its size, but it went. Then from the train issued Winona, bedecked
in alien gauds and fur-belows, her keen little face radiant under a
Paris trifle of brown velvet, her small feet active--under a skirt whose
scant length would once have appalled her--in brown suede pumps and
stockings notoriously of silken texture. Her quick eyes darting along
the platform to where Wilbur stood, she rushed to embrace him.
"Where's the other one?" he demanded.
Astoundingly she tripped back to the still emptying car and led forward
none other than Edward--Spike--Brennon. He was in the uniform of a
private and his eyes were hidden by dark glasses. Wilbur fell upon him.
Spike's left arm went up expertly to guard his face from the rush, but
came down when he recognized his assailant. Wilbur turned again to
"But where's he?" he asked. "Where's the main squeeze?"
Winona looked proudly at Spike Brennon.
"I'm him," said Spike.
"He's him," said Winona, and laid an arm protectingly across his
"You wild little son of a gun!" He stared incredulously at the bride,
then kissed her. "You should say 'he's he,' not 'he's him,'" he told
"Lay off that stuff!" ordered Winona.
"You come on home to trouble," directed Wilbur. He guided Spike to the
"It's like one of these dreams," said Spike above the rattle of the Can.
"How a pretty thing like her could look twice at me!"
Winona held up a gloved hand to engage the driver's eye. Then she
"Say," said Spike, "this is some car! When I get into one now'days I
like to hear it go. I been in some lately you could hardly tell you
The front of the house was vacant when the Can laboured to the gate,
though the curtain of a second-floor front might have been seen to move.
Winona led her husband up the gravelled walk.
"It's lovely," she told him, "this home of mine and yours. Here you go
between borders all in bloom, phlox and peonies, and there are pansies
and some early dahlias, and there's a yellow rosebush out."
"It smells beautiful," said Spike. He sniffed the air on each side.
"Sit here," said Winona, nor in the flush of the moment was she
conscious of the enormity of what she did. She put Spike into a chair
that had for a score of years been sacred to the person of her invalid
father. Then she turned to greet her mother. Mrs. Penniman, arrayed in
fancy dress-making, was still damp-eyed but joyous.
"Your son, mother," said Winona. "Don't try to get up, Spike."
Mrs. Penniman bent over to kiss him. Spike's left went up accurately.
"He's so nervous," explained Winona, "ever since that French general
sneaked up and kissed him on both cheeks when he pinned that medal on
"Mercy!" exclaimed Mrs. Penniman.
"For distinguished service beyond the line of duty," added the young
"I was so happy when I got your wire," sputtered her mother. "Of course,
I was flustered just at first--so sudden and all."
"In the Army we do things suddenly," said Winona.
Heavy steps sounded within, and the judge paused at the open door. He
was arrayed as for the Sabbath, a portentous figure in frock coat and
gray trousers. A heavy scent of moth balls had preceded him.
"What's that new one I get?" asked Spike, sniffing curiously.
Winona pecked at her father's marbled cheeks, then led him to the chair.
"Father, this is my husband."
"How do you do, sir?" began the judge, heavily.
Spike's left forearm shielded his face, while his right hand went to
meet the judge's.
"It's all right, Spike. No one else is going to kiss you."
"Spike?" queried the judge, uncertainly.
"It's a sort of nickname for him," explained Winona.
She drew her mother through the doorway and they became murmurous in the
"This here is a peach of a chair," said Spike.
The judge started painfully. Until this moment he had not detected the
"Wouldn't you prefer this nice hammock?" he politely urged.
"No, thanks," replied Spike, firmly. "This chair kind of fits my frame."
Wilbur Cowan, standing farther along the porch, winked at Spike before
"Say, ain't you French?" demanded the judge with a sudden qualm.
He had taken no stock in that fool talk of Dave Cowan's about a French
nobleman; still, you never could tell. He had thought it as well to be
dressed for it should he be required to meet even impoverished nobility.
"Hell, no!" said Spike. "Irish!" He moved uneasily in the chair. "Excuse
me," he added.
"Oh!" said the judge, regretting the superior comfort of his linen suit.
He eyed the chair with covetous glance. "Well, I hope everything's all
for the best," he said, doubtfully.
"How beautiful it smells!" said Spike, sniffing away from the moth balls
toward the rosebush. "Everything's beautiful, and this peach of a chair
and all. What gets me--how a beautiful girl like she is could ever take
a second look at me."
The judge regarded him sharply, with a new attention to the hidden eyes.
"Say, are you blind?" he asked.
"Blind as a bat! Can't see my hand before my face."
The horrified judge stalked to the door.
"You hear that?" he called in, but only the parrot heeded him.
"Flapdoodle, Flapdoodle, Flapdoodle!" it screeched.
Winona and her mother came to the door. They had been absent for a brief
"What she could ever see in me," Spike was repeating--"a pretty girl
"Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" screamed
Its concluding laugh was evil with irony. Winona sped to the cage,
regarding her old pet with dismay. She glanced back at Spike.
"Smart birdie, all right, all right," called Spike. "He knows her."
"Pretty girl, pretty girl!" Again came the derisive guffaw.
Never had Polly's sarcasm been so biting. Winona turned a murderous
glance from it and looked uneasily back at her man.
"Dinner's on," called Mrs. Penniman.
"I'm having one of my bad days," groaned the judge. "Don't feel as if I
could eat a mouthful."
But he was merely insuring that he could be the first to leave the table
plausibly. He intended that the apparent misunderstanding about the
wicker chair should have been but a thing of the moment, quickly past
"Why, what's the trouble with you, Father?" asked Winona in the tone of
one actually seeking information.
The judge shot her a hurt look. It was no way to address an invalid of
"Chow, Spike," said Wilbur, and would have guided him, but Winona was
lightly before him.
Dave Cowan followed them from the little house.
"Present me to His Highness," said he, after kneeling to kiss the hand
* * * * *
The mid-afternoon hours beheld Spike Brennon again strangely occupying
the wicker porch chair. He even wielded the judge's very own palm-leaf
fan as he sat silent, sniffing at intervals toward the yellow rose. Once
he was seen to be moving his hand, with outspread fingers, before his
Winona had maneuvered her father from the chair, nor had she the grace
to veil her subterfuge after she lured him to the back of the house. She
merely again had wished to know what, in plain terms, his ailment was;
what, for that matter, had been the trouble with him for twenty years.
The judge fell speechless with dismay.
"You eat well and you sleep well, and you're well nourished" went on the
daughter, remorseless all at once.
"Little you know," began the judge at last.
"But I shall know, Father. Remember, I've learned things. I'm going to
take you in hand. I may even have to be severe with you but all for your
She spoke with icy conviction. There was a new, cold gleam in her prying
eyes. The judge suffered genuinely.
"I should think you had learned things!" he protested, miserably. "For
one thing, miss, that skirt ain't a respectable garment."
Winona slid one foot toward him.
"Pooh! Don't be silly!" Never before had Winona poohed her father.
"Cigarette fiend, too," accused the judge.
"My husband got me to stop."
"Strong drink," added the judge.
"Pooh!" again breathed Winona. "A little nip of something when you're
"You talking that way!" admonished the twice-poohed parent. "You that
was always so----"
"I'm not it any longer." She did a dance step toward the front door, but
called back to him: "Spike's set his heart on that chair. You'll have to
find something else for yourself."
"'Twon't always be so," retorted the judge, stung beyond reason at the
careless finality of her last words. "You wait--wait till the revolution
sweeps you high and mighty people out of your places! Wait till the
workers take over their rights--you wait!"
But Winona had not waited. She had gone to confer on Wilbur Cowan a few
precious drops of that which had caused her father to put upon her the
stigma of alcoholic intemperance.
"It's real genuine dandelion wine," she told him. "One of the nurses
got it for me when we left the boat in Boston. Her own mother made it,
and she gave me the recipe, and it isn't a bit of trouble. I'm going
after dandelions to-morrow, Spike and I. Of course we'll have to be
secret about it."
In the sacred precincts of the Penniman parlour Wilbur Cowan raised the
wineglass to his lips and tasted doubtingly. After a second considering
sip he announced--"They can't arrest you for that."
Winona looked a little relieved, but more than a little disappointed.
"I thought it had a kick," she mourned.
"Here's to you and him, anyway! Didn't I always tell you he was one good
"He's all of that," said Winona, and tossed off her own glass of what
she sincerely hoped was not a permitted beverage.
"You've come on," said Wilbur.
"I haven't started," said Winona.
* * * * *
Later that afternoon Winona sat in her own room in close consultation
with Juliana Whipple. Miss Whipple, driving her own car as no other
Whipple could have driven it, had hastened to felicitate the bride.
Tall, gaunt, a little stooped now, her weathered face aglow, she had
ascended the steps to greet the couple. Spike's tenancy of the chair had
been made doubly secure by Winona on the step at his feet.
Juliana embraced Winona and took one of Spike's knotted hands to press
warmly between both her own. Then Winona had dragged her to privacy, and
their talk had now come to a point.
"It's that--that parrot!" exploded Winona, desperately. "I never used to
notice, but you know--that senseless gabble, 'pretty girl, pretty girl,'
and then the thing laughs like a fiend. It would be all right if he
wouldn't laugh. You might think he meant it. And poor Spike is so
sensitive; he gets things you wouldn't think he'd get. That awful bird
might set him to thinking. Now he believes I'm pretty. In spite of
everything I've said to him, he believes it. Well, I'm not going to have
that bird putting any other notion into his mind, not if I have to--"
She broke off, but murder was in her tone.
"I see," said Miss Whipple. "You're right, of course--only you are
pretty, Winona. I never used to think--think about it, I mean, but
you've changed. You needn't be afraid of any parrot."
Winona patted the hand of Miss Whipple, an able hand suggesting that of
Spike in its texture and solidity.
"That's ever so nice of you, but I know all about myself. Spike's eyes
are gone, but that bird is going, too."
"Why not let me take the poor old thing?" said Juliana. "It can say
'pretty girl' to me and laugh its head off if it wants." She hung a
moment on this, searching Winona's face with clear eyes. "I have no
blind husband," she finished.
"You're a dear," said Winona.
"I'm so glad for you," said Juliana.
"I must guard him in so many ways," confided Winona. "He's happy
now--he's forgotten for the moment. But sometimes it comes back on him
terribly--what he is, you know. I've seen him over there lose
control--want to kill himself. He says he can't help such times. It will
seem to him that someone has shut him in a dark room and he must break
down its walls--break out into the light. He would try to break the
walls down--like a caged beast. It wasn't pretty. And I'm his eyes and
all his life, and no old bird is ever going to set him thinking I'm not
perfectly beautiful. That's the plain truth. I may lie about it myself
to him pretty soon. I might as well. He only thinks I'm being flirty
when I deny it. Oh, I know I've changed! Sometimes it seems to me now as
if I used to be--well, almost prudish."
"My dear, he knows better than you do, much better, how beautiful you
are. But you're right about the bird. I'll take him gladly." She
reflected a moment. "There's a fine place for the cage in my room--on my
"You dear!" said Winona. "Of course I couldn't have killed it."
Downstairs ten minutes later Winona, the light of filial devotion in her
eyes, was explaining to her father that she was giving the parrot away
because she had noticed that it annoyed him.
The judge beamed gratitude.
"Why, it's right thoughtful of you, Winona. It does annoy me, kind of.
That miserable Dave Cowan's taught it some new rigmarole--no meaning to
it, but bothersome when you want to be quiet."
Even in the days of her white innocence Winona Penniman had not been
above doing a thing for one reason while advancing another less
personal. She had always been a strange girl.
Juliana took leave of Spike.
"You have a lovely wife," she told him. "It isn't going to be too hard
for you, this life."
"Watch us!" said Winona. "I'll make his life more beautiful than I am."
Her hand fluttered to his shoulder.
"Oh, me? I'll be all right," said Spike.
"And thank you for this wonderful bird," said Juliana.
She lifted the cage from its table and went slowly toward the gate. The
parrot divined that dirty work was afoot, but it had led a peaceful life
and its repertoire comprised no call of alarm.
"Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl!" it shrieked. Then followed its
harshest laugh of scorn.
Juliana did not quicken her pace to the car; she finished the little
journey in all dignity, and placed her burden in the tonneau.
"Pretty girl, pretty girl!" screamed the dismayed bird. The laugh was
long and eloquent of derision.
Dave Cowan reached the Penniman gate, pausing a moment to watch the car
leave. Juliana shot him one swift glance while the parrot laughed.
"Who was that live-looking old girl?" he demanded as he came up the
steps. "Oh!" he said when Winona told him.
He glanced sympathetically after the car. A block away it had slowed to
turn a corner. The parrot's ironic laughter came back to them.
"Yes, I remember her," said Dave, musingly. He was glad to recall that
he had once shown the woman a little attention.
Of all humans cumbering the earth Dave Cowan thought farmers the most
pitiable. To this tireless-winged bird of passage farming was not a
loose trade, and the news that his son was pledged to agrarian pursuits
shocked him. To be mewed up for life on a few acres of land!
"It was the land tricked us first," admonished Dave. "There we were,
footloose and free, and some fool went and planted a patch of ground.
Then he stayed like a fool to see what would happen. Pretty soon he
fenced the patch to keep out prehistoric animals. First thing he knew he
was fond of it. Of course he had to stay there--he couldn't take if off
with him. That's how man was tricked. Most he could ever hope after that
was to be a small-towner. You may think you can own land and still be
free, but you can't. Before you know it you have that home feeling.
Never owned a foot of it! That's all that saved me."
Dave frowned at his son hopefully, as one saved might regard one who
still might be.
"I'm not owning any land," suggested his son.
"No; but it's tricky stuff. You get round it, working at it, nursing
it--pretty soon you'll want to own some, then you're dished. It's the
first step that counts. After that you may crave to get out and see
places, but you can't; you have to plant the hay and the corn. You to
fool round those Whipple farms--I don't care if it is a big job with big
money--it's playing with fire. Pretty soon you'll be as tight-fixed to a
patch of soil as any yap that ever blew out the gas in a city hotel.
You'll stick there and raise hogs _en masse_ for free people that can
take a trip when they happen to feel like it." Dave had but lately
learned _en masse_ and was glad to find a use for it. He spoke with the
untroubled detachment of one saved, who could return at will to the glad
life of nomady. "You, with the good loose trades you know! Do you want
to take root in this hole like a willow branch that someone shoves into
the ground? Don't you ever want to move--on and on and on?"
His son at the time had denied stoutly that he felt this urge. Now,
after a week of his new work, he would have been less positive. It was a
Sunday afternoon, and he sprawled face down on the farther shaded slope
of West Hill, confessing a lively fear that he might take root like the
willow. Late in that first week the old cry had begun to ring in his
ears--Where do we go from here?--bringing the cold perception that he
would not go anywhere from here.
Through all his early years in Newbern he had not once felt the
wander-bidding; never, as Dave Cowan put it, had he been itchy-footed
for the road. Then, with the war, he had crept up to look over the top
of the world, and now, unaccountably, in the midst of work he had looked
forward to with real pleasure, his whole body was tingling for new
It seemed to be so with a dozen of the boys he had come back with. Some
of these were writing to him, wanting him to come here, to come there;
to go on and on with them to inviting places they knew--and on again
from there! Mining in South America, lumbering in the Northwest,
ranching in the Southwest; one of his mates would be a sailor, and one
would be with a circus. Something within him beyond reason goaded him to
be up and off. He felt his hold slipping; his mind floated in an ecstasy
His first days at the Home Farm had been good-enough days. Sharon
Whipple had told him a modern farmer must first be a mechanic, and he
was already that--and no one had shot at him. But the novelty of
approaching good machine-gun cover without apprehension had worn off.
"Ain't getting cold feet, are you?" asked Sharon one day, observing him
hang idly above an abused tractor with the far-off look in his eyes.
"Nothing like that," he had protested almost too warmly. "No, sir; I'll
slog on right here."
Now for the first time in all their years of association he saw an
immense gulf between himself and Sharon Whipple. Sharon was an old man,
turning to look back as he went down a narrow way into a hidden valley.
But he--Wilbur Cowan--was climbing a long slope into new light. How
could they touch? How could this old man hold him to become another old
man on the same soil--when he could be up and off, a happy world romper
like his father before him?
"Funny, funny, funny!" he said aloud, and lazily rolled over to stare
into blue space.
Probably it was quite as funny out there. The people like himself on
those other worlds would be the sport of confusing impulses, in the long
run obeying some deeper instinct whose source was in the parent star
dust, wandering or taking root in their own strange soils. But why not
wander when the object of it all was so obscure, so apparently trivial?
Enough others would submit to rule from the hidden source, take root
like the willow--mate! That was another chain upon them. Women held them
back from wandering. That was how they were tricked into the deadly home
feeling his father warned him of.
"Funny, funny, funny!" he said again.
From an inner pocket he drew a sheet of note paper worn almost through
at the fold, stained with the ooze of trenches and his own sweat. It had
come deviously to him in the front line a month after his meeting with
Patricia Whipple. In that time the strange verse had still run in his
mind--a crown of stars, and under her feet the moon! The tumult of
fighting had seemed to fix it there. He had rested on the memory of her
and become fearless of death. But the time had changed so tremendously.
He could hardly recall the verse, hardly recall that he had faced death
or the strange girl.
"Wilbur, dear," he read, "I am still holding you. Are you me? What do
you guess? Do you guess we were a couple of homesick ninnies, tired and
weak and too combustible? Or do you guess it meant something about us
finding each other out all in one second, like a flash of something? Do
you guess we were frazzled up to the limit and not braced to hold back
or anything, the way civilized people do? I mean, will we be the same
back home? If we will be, how funny! We shall have to find out, shan't
we? But let's be sporty, and give the thing a chance to be true if it
can. That's fair enough, isn't it? What I mean, let's not shatter its
morale by some poky chance meeting with a lot of people round, whom it
is none of their business what you and I do or don't do. That would be
fierce, would it not? So much might depend.
"Anyway, here's what: The first night I am home--your intelligence
department must find out the day, because I'm not going to write to you
again if I never see you, I feel so unmaidenly--I shall be at our stile
leading out to West Hill. You remember it--above the place where those
splendid gypsies camped when we were such a funny little boy and girl.
The first night as soon as I can sneak out from my proud family. You
come there. We'll know!"
* * * * *
"Funny, funny, funny--the whole game!" he said.
He lost himself in a lazy wonder if it could be true. He didn't know.
Once she had persisted terribly in his eyes; now she had faded. Her
figure before the broken church was blurred.
Sharon Whipple found him the next afternoon teaching two new men the use
and abuse of a tractor, and plainly bored by his task. Sharon seized the
moment to talk pungently about the good old times when a farm hand
didn't have to know how to disable a tractor, or anything much, and
would work fourteen hours a day for thirty dollars a month and his keep.
He named the wage of the two pupils in a tone of disgruntled awe that
piqued them pleasantly but did not otherwise impress. When they had
gone their expensive ways he turned to Wilbur.
"Did you get over to that dry-fork place to-day?"
"No; too busy here with these highbinders."
He spoke wearily, above a ripening suspicion that he would not much
longer be annoyed in this manner. A new letter had that morning come
from the intending adventurer into South America.
"I'll bet you've had a time with this new help," said Sharon.
"I've put three men at work over on that clearing, though."
"I'll get over there myself with you to-morrow; no, not tomorrow--next
day after. That girl of ours gets in to-morrow noon. Have to be there,
"She trotted a smart mile over there. Everybody says so. Family tickled
to death about her. Me, too, of course."
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.
When the old man had gone he looked out over the yellowing fields with a
frank distaste for the level immensity. Suddenly there rang in his ears
the harsh singing of many men: "Where do we go from here, boys, where do
we go from here?" Old Sharon was rooted in the soil; dying there. But he
was still free. He could wire Leach Belding he was starting--and start.
* * * * *
About eight o'clock the following night he parked the Can beside the
ridge road, and for the first time in his proud career of ownership
cursed its infirmities. It was competent, but no car for a tryst one
might not wish to advertise. When its clamour had been stilled he waited
some moments, feeling that a startled countryside must rush to the spot.
Yet no one came, so at last he went furtively through the thinned grove
and about clumps of hazel brush, feeling his way, stepping softly,
crouching low, until he could make out the stile where it broke the
lines of the fence. The night was clear and the stile was cleanly
outlined by starlight. Beyond the fence was a shadowed mass, first a
clump of trees, the outbuildings of the Whipple New Place, the house
itself. There were lights at the back, and once voices came to him, then
the thin shatter of glass on stone, followed by laughs from two
dissonant throats. He stood under a tall pine, listening, but no other
sound came. After a while he sat at the foot of the tree. Crickets
chirped and a bat circled through the night. The scent of the pine from
its day-long baking was sharp in his nostrils. His back tired against
the tree, and he eased himself to the cooled grass, face down, his hands
crossed under his chin. He could look up now and see the stile against
He waited. He had expected to wait. The little night sounds that
composed the night's silence, his own stillness, his intent watching,
put him back to nights when silence was ominous. Once he found he had
stopped breathing to listen to the breathing of the men on each side of
him. He was waiting for the word, and felt for a rifle. He had to rise
to shake off this oppression. On his feet he laughed softly, being again
in Newbern on a fool's mission. He lay down hands under his chin, but
again the silent watching beset him with the old oppression. He must be
still and strain his eyes ahead. Presently the word would come, or he
would feel the touch of a groping foe. He half dozed at last from the
memory of that other endless fatigue. He came to himself with a start
and raised his head to scan the stile. The darkness had thickened but
the two posts at the ends of the fence were still outlined. He watched
After a long time the east began to lighten; a deepening glow rimmed
West Hill, picking out in silver the trees along its edge. If she meant
to come she must come soon, he thought, but the rising moon distinctly
showed the bare stile. She had written a long time ago. She was
notoriously a rattlepate. Of course she would have forgotten. Then for
a moment his straining eyes were puzzled. His gaze had not shifted even
for an instant, yet the post at the left of the stile had unaccountably
thickened. He considered it a trick of the advancing moonshine, and
looked more intently. It was motionless, like the other post, yet it had
thickened. Then he saw it was taller, but still it did not move. It
could be no one. Mildly curious, he crept forward to make the post seem
right in this confusing new glamour. But it broadened as he neared it,
and still was taller than its neighbour, its lines not so sharp.
He rose to his feet, with a dry laugh at his own credulity, taking some
slow steps forward, expecting each stride to resolve the post to its
true dimensions. He was within a dozen feet of it before he saw it could
not be a post--anyway, not the same post. His scalp crept into minute
wrinkles at the back of his head. He knew the feeling--fear! But, as in
other times, he could not make his feet go back. Two other steps and he
saw she must be there. She had not stirred, but the rising light caught
her wan face and a pale glint of eyes.
All at once his fear was greater--greater than any he had known in
battle. His feet dragged protestingly, but he forced them on. He wanted
her to speak or move to break that tension of fear. But not until he
reached out stiffening fingers to touch her did she stir. Then she gave
a little whispered cry and all at once it was no longer moonlight for
him, but full day. A girl in nurse's cap and a faded, much laundered
dress of light blue stood before a battered church, beside a timbered
breach in its gray stone wall. He was holding her.
The song was coming to him, harsh and full throated from many men:
"Where do we go from here, boys, where do we go from here?"
"We don't go anywhere from here," he heard himself say in anger. They
were the only words he had spoken.
The girl was shaking as she had shaken back at that church; uttering
little shapeless cries from a throat that by turns fluttered and
tightened. One clenched hand was fiercely thumping his shoulder. They
were on strange land, as if they had the crust of the moon itself
beneath their feet. They seemed to know it had been true.
* * * * *
They were sitting on a log in shadow. He rose and stepped into the
light, facing his watch to the moon, now gone so high it had paled from
gold to silver. He went to her again.
"Do you know it's nearly one?"
"It must be that--I suppose so."
"Shouldn't you be going?"
She leaned forward, shoulders drooping, a huddled bit of black in the
loose cloak she wore. He waited. At length she drew her shoulders up
with a quick intake of breath. She held this a moment, her chin lifted.
"There, now I've decided," she said.
"I'm not going back."
"Not going through any more fuss. I'm too tired. It seemed as if I'd
never get here, never get out of that dreadful place, never get out of
Paris, never get out of Brest, never get off the boat, never get home!
I'm too tired for any more never gets. I'm not going to have talking and
planning and arguments and tearful relatives forever and a day more. See
if I do! I'm here, and I'm not going to break it again. I'm not going
He reached down to pat her hand with a humouring air.
"Where will you go?"
"That's up to you."
"But what can I----"
"I'm going where you go. I tell you I'm too tired to have any talk."
He sat down beside her.
"Yes, you're a tired child," he told her.
She detected the humoring inflection.
"None of that! I'm tired, but I'm stubborn. I'm not going back. I'm
supposed to be sleeping soundly in my little bed. In the morning, before
I'm supposed to be up, I'll issue a communique from--any old place; or
tell 'em face to face. I won't mind that a little bit after everything's
over. It's telling what's going to be and listening to talk about it
that I won't have. I'm not up to it. Now you talk!"
"You're tired. Are you too tired to know your own mind?"
"No; just too tired to argue with it, fight it; and I'm free, white, and
twenty-one; and I've read about the self-determination of small
"Say, aren't you afraid?"
"Don't be silly! Of course I'm afraid! What is that about perfect love
casting out fear?--don't believe it! I'm scared to death--truly!"
"Go back till to-morrow."
"I won't! I've gone over all that."
"All right! Shove off!"
He led her to the ambushed Can, whose blemishes became all too apparent
in the merciless light of the moon.
"What a lot of wound chevrons it has!" she exclaimed.
"Well, I didn't expect anything like this. I could have got----"
"It looks like a permanent casualty. Will it go?"
"It goes for me. You're sure you don't think it's better to----"
"On your way!" she gayly ordered, but her voice caught, and she clung to
him a moment before entering the car. "No; I'm not weakening--don't you
think it! But let me rest a second."
She was in the car, again wearily gay. The Can hideously broke the
"Home, James!" she commanded.
* * * * *
Dawn found the car at rest on the verge of a hill with a wide-sweeping
view over and beyond the county seat of Newbern County. Patricia slept
within the fold of his arm. At least half of the slow forty miles she
had slept against his shoulder in spite of the car's resounding
progress over a country road. Once in the darkness she had wakened long
enough to tell him not to go away.
The rising sun lighted the town of Halton below them, and sent level
rays across a wide expanse of farmland beyond it, flat meadows and
rolling upland. White mist shrouded the winding trail of a creek. It was
the kind of landscape he had viewed yesterday with a rising distaste;
land that had tricked people from their right to wander; to go places on
a train when they would.
He brought his eyes back from the treacherous vista and turned them down
to the face of the sleeping girl. A pale scarf was wound about her head,
and he could see but little beyond it but the tip of her nose, a few
scattered, minute freckles on one cheek. She was limp, one bare hand
falling inertly over the edge of the seat between them. He looked out
again at the checkerboard of farms. He, too, had been tricked.
"But what a fine trick!" he said aloud. "No wonder it works!"
He dozed himself presently, nodding till his forward-pitching head would
waken him. Afterward he heard Spike saying: "So dark you can't see your
hand before your face." He came awake. His head was on Patricia's
shoulder, her arm supporting him.
"You must have gone to sleep and let the car stop," she told him. He
stared sleepily, believing it. "But I want my breakfast," she reminded
him. He sat up, winking the sleep from his eyes, shaking it from his
"Of course," he said.
He looked again out over the land to which an old device had inveigled
him. A breeze had come with the dawn, stirring the grain fields into
long ripples. At the roadside was the tossing silver of birch leaves.
"This is one whale of a day for us two, isn't it?" he demanded.
"You said it!" she told him.
"Breakfast and a license and--"
"You know it!" she declared.
"More than ever! It's a wonder and a wild desire, but it scares me
stiff--you're so strange."
"You know, it isn't too late."
She began to thump him with a clenched fist up between his shoulders.
"Carry on!" she ordered. "There isn't a slacker in the whole car!"
* * * * *
A few hours later, in the dining room of the Whipple New Place, Gideon,
Harvey D., and Merle Whipple were breakfasting. To them entered Sharon
Whipple from his earlier breakfast, ruddy, fresh-shaven, bubbling.
"On my way to the Home Farm," he explained, "but I had to drop in for a
look at the girl by daylight. She seemed too peaked last night."
"Pat's still sleeping," said her father over his egg cup.
"That's good! I guess a rest was all she needed. Beats all, girls
nowadays seem to be made of wire rope. You take that one--"
A telephone bell rang in the hall beyond, and Merle Whipple went to it.
"Hello, hello! Whipple New Place--Merle Whipple speaking." He listened,
standing in the doorway to turn a puzzled face to the group about the
table. "Hello! Who--who?" His bewilderment was apparent. "But it's Pat
talking," he said, "over long distance."
"Calling from her room upstairs to fool you," warned Sharon. "Don't I
know her flummididdles?"
But the look of bewilderment on Merle's face had become a look of pure
fright. He raised a hand sternly to Sharon.
"Once more," he called, hoarsely, and again listened with widening eyes.
He lifted his face to the group, the receiver still at his ear. "She
says--good heaven! She says, 'I've gone A.W.O.L., and now I'm safe and
married--I'm married to Wilbur Cowan.'" He uttered his brother's name
in the tone of a shocked true Whipple.
"Good heaven!" echoed Harvey D.
"I'm blest!" said Gideon.
"I snum to goodness!" said the dazed Sharon. "The darned skeesicks!"
Merle still listened. Again he raised a now potent hand.
"She says she doesn't know how she came to do it, except that he put a
comether on her."
He hung up the receiver and fell into a chair before the table that held
"Scissors and white aprons!" said Sharon. "Of all things you wouldn't
Merle stood before the group with a tragic face.
"It's hard, Father, but she says it's done. I suppose--I suppose we'll
have to make the best of it."
Hereupon Sharon Whipple's eyes began to blink rapidly, his jaw dropped,
and he slid forward in his chair to writhe in a spasm of what might be
weirdly silent laughter. His face was purple, convulsed, but no sound
came from his moving lips. The others regarded him with alarm.
"Not a stroke?" cried Harvey D., and ran to his side. As he sought to
loosen Sharon's collar the old man waved him off and became happily
"Oh, oh!" he gasped. "That Merle boy has brightened my whole day!"
"Perhaps you may see something to laugh at," he said, icily.
Sharon controlled his seizure. Pointing his eyebrows severely, he cocked
a presumably loaded thumb at Merle.
"Let me tell you, young man, the best this family can make of that
marriage will be a darned good best. Could you think of a better
best--say, now?" Merle turned impatiently from the mocker.
"Blest if I can--on the spur of the moment!" said Gideon.
Harvey D. looked almost sharply at the exigent Merle.
"Pat's twenty-five and knows her own mind better than we do," he said.
"I never knew it at all!" said Gideon.
"It's almost a distinct relief," resumed Harvey D. "As I think of it I
like it." He went to straighten the painting of an opened watermelon
beside a copper kettle, that hung above the sideboard. "He's a fine
young chap." He looked again at Merle, fixing knife and fork in a juster
alignment on his plate. "I dare say we needed him in the family."
* * * * *
Late the following afternoon Sharon triumphantly brought his car to a
stop before the gateway leading up to the red farmhouse. The front door
proving unresponsive, he puffed about to the rear. He found a perturbed
Patricia Cowan, in cap and apron, tidying the big kitchen. Her he
"This kitchen--" began the new mistress.
"So he put a comether on you!"
"Absolutely--when I wasn't looking!"
"Put one on me, too," said Sharon; "years ago."
"This kitchen," began Patricia again, "is an unsanitary outrage. It
needs a thousand things done to it. We'd never have put up with this in
the Army. That sink there"--she pointed it out--"must have something of
a carbolic nature straight off."
"I know, I know!" Sharon was placating. "I'm going to put everything
right for you."
"New paint for all the woodwork--white."
"Sure thing--as white as you want it."
"And blue velours curtains for the big room. I always dreamed I'd have a
house with blue velours curtains."
"Sure, sure! Anything you want you order."
"And that fireplace in the big room--I burned some trash there this
morning, and it simply won't inhale."
"Never did," said Sharon. "We'll run the chimney up higher. Anything
"Oh, lots! I've a long list somewhere."
"I bet you have! But it's a good old house; don't build 'em like this
any more; not a nail in it; sound as a nut. Say, miss, did you know
there was high old times in this house about seventy-three years ago?
Fact! They thought I wasn't going to pull through. I was over two days
old before it looked like I'd come round. Say, I learned to walk out in
that side yard. That reminds me--" Sharon hesitated in mild
embarrassment--"there's a place between them two wings--make a bully
place for a sun room; spoil the architecture, mebbe, but who cares? Sun
room--big place to play round in--play room, or anything like that."
Patricia had been searching among a stack of newspapers, but she had
caught "sun room."
"Stunning!" she said. "We need another big place right now, or when my
things get here."
"Need it more later, I guess."
But Patricia had found her paper.
"Oh, here's something I put aside to ask you about! I want you to
understand I'm going to be all the help I can here. This advertisement
says 'Raise Belgian hares,' because meat is so high. Do you know--do
people really make millions at it, and could I do the work?"
Sharon was shaking his head.
"You could if you didn't have something else to do. And I suppose they
sell for money, though I never did hear tell of a Belgian-hare
millionaire. Heard of all other kinds, but not him. But you look here,
young woman, I hope there'll be other things not sold by the pound
that'll keep you from rabbit raising. This family's depending a lot on
you. Didn't you hear my speech about that fine sun room?"
"Will you please not bother me at a time like this?" scolded Patricia.
"Now out with you--he's outside somewhere! And can't you ever in the
world for five minutes get mere Whipples out of your mind?" She actively
waved him on from the open door.
Sharon passed through a grape arbour, turning beyond it to study the
site of the sun room. All in a moment he built and peopled it. How he
hoped they would be coming along to play in there; at least three before
he was too old to play with them. He saw them now; saw them, moreover,
upon the flimsiest of promises, all superbly gifted with the Whipple
nose. Then he went hopefully off toward the stables. He came upon Wilbur
Cowan inspecting a new reaper under one of the sheds. This time the old
man feigned no pounding of the boy's back--made no pretense that he did
not hug him.
"I'm so glad, so glad, so almighty glad!" he said as they stood apart.
He did not speak with his wonted exuberance, saying the words very
quietly. But Sharon had not to be noisy to sound sincere.
"Thanks," said Wilbur. "Of course I couldn't be sure how her people
"Stuff!" said Sharon. "All tickled to death but one near-Whipple and
he's only annoyed. But you've been my boy--in my fool mind I always had
you for my boy, when you was little and when you went to war. You could
of known that, and that was enough for you to know. Of course I never
did think of you and Pat. That was too gosh-all perfect. Of course I
called her a rattlepate, but she was my girl as much as you was my boy."
The old eyes shone mistily upon Wilbur, then roved to the site of his
dream before he continued.
"Me? I'm getting on--and on. Right fast, too. But you--you and that fine
girl--why, you two are a new morning in a new world, so fresh and young
and proud of each other, the way you are!" He hesitated, his eyes coming
back. "Only thing I hope for now--before I get bedfast or
something--say, take a look at the space between them south wings--stand
over this way a mite." Sharon now built there, with the warmest
implications, a perfect sun room. "That'll be one grand place," he
affirmed of his work when all was done.
"Yes, it sounds good," replied Wilbur.
"Oh, a grand place, big as outdoors, getting any sun there is--great
for winter, great for rainy days!" Wistfully he searched the other's
face. "You know, Buck, a grand place to--play in, or anything like
"Yes, sir," said Wilbur.