by Zona Gale
I. THE SIDE DOOR
II. THE DÉBUT
IV. COVERS FOR
V. THE SHADOW OF
GOOD THINGS TO
VII. THE BIG
IX. “NOT AS THE
XII. OF THE SKY
XIII. TOP FLOOR
XIV. AN EPILOGUE
XV. THE TEA
XVI. WHAT IS
THAT IN THINE
XVII. PUT ON THY
XVIII. IN THE
XX. THE HIDINGS
BY ZONA GALE
AUTHOR OF THE LOVES OF PELLEAS AND ETTARRE
NEW YORK THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1908
All rights reserved
Copyright, 1908, By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1908.
Norwood Press J. S. Cushing Co.Berwick &Smith Co. Norwood,
To EDITH, HARRIET, AND MUSA AND THE TWO FOR WHOM IT COMES TOO LATE
GEORGIA AND HELEN THIS BOOK IS LOVINGLY INSCRIBED
Friendship Village is not known to me, nor are any of its people,
save in the comradeship which I offer here. But I commend for occupancy
a sweeter place. For us here the long Caledonia hills, the four
rhythmic spans of the bridge, the nearer river, the island where the
first birds buildthese teach our windows the quiet and the
opportunity of the home town, among the home people. To those who
have such a bond to cherish I commend the little real home towns, their
kindly, brooding companionship, their doors to an efficiency as
intimate as that of fairy fingers. If there were shrines to these
things, we would seek them. The urgency is to recognize shrines.
Portage, Wisconsin, September, 1908.
Certain of the following chapters have appeared in The Outlook,
The Broadway Magazine, The Delineator, Everybody's, and Harper's
Monthly Magazine. Thanks are due to the editors for their courteous
permission to reprint these chapters.
I. THE SIDE DOOR
It is as if Friendship Village were to say:
There is no help for it. A telephone line, antique oak chairs,
kitchen cabinets, a new doctor, and the like are upon us. But we shall
be mediæval directlywe and our improvements. Really, we are so now,
if you know how to look.
And are we not so? We are one long street, rambling from sun to sun,
inheriting traits of the parent country roads which we unite. And we
are cross streets, members of the same family, properly imitative,
proving our ancestorship in a primeval genius for trees, or bursting
out in inexplicable weaknesses of Court-House, Engine-House, Town Hall,
and Telephone Office. Ultimately our stock dwindles out in a
slaughter-yard and a few detached houses of milkmen. The cemetery is
delicately put behind us, under a hill. There is nothing mediæval in
all this, one would say. But then see how we wear our rue:
When one of us telephones, she will scrupulously ask for the number,
not the name, for it says so at the top of every page. Give me
one-one, she will put it, with an impersonality as fine as if she were
calling for four figures. And Central will answer:
Well, I just saw Mis' Holcomb go 'crost the street. I'll call you,
if you want, when she comes back.
Or, I don't think you better ring the Helmans' just now. They were
awake 'most all night with one o' Mis' Helman's attacks.
Or, Doctor June's invited to Mis' Sykes's for tea. Shall I give him
to you there?
The telephone is modern enough. But in our use of it is there not a
flavour as of an Elder Time, to be caught by Them of Many Years from
Now? And already we may catch this flavour, as our Britain
great-great-lady grandmothers, and more, may have been conscious of the
old fashion of sitting in bowers. If only they were conscious like
that! To be sure of it would be to touch their hands in the margins of
the ballad books.
Or we telephone to the Livery Barn and Boarding Stable for the
little blacks, celebrated for their self-control in encounters with the
Proudfits' motor-car. The stable-boy answers that the little blacks are
at the funeral. And after he has gone off to ask his employer what is
in then, the employer, who in his unofficial moments is our neighbour,
our church choir bass, our landlord even, comes and tells us that,
after all, we may have the little blacks, and he himself brings them
round at once,the same little blacks that we meant all along. And
when, quite naturally, we wonder at the boy's version, we learn: Oh,
why, the blacks was standin' just acrost the street, waitin' at the
church door, hitched to the hearse. I took 'em out an' put in the bays.
I says to myself: 'The corp won't care.' Someway the Proudfits' car
and the stable telephone must themselves have slipped from modernity to
old fashion before that incident shall quite come into its own.
So it is with certain of our domestic ways. For example, Mis'
Postmaster Sykesin Friendship Village every woman assumes for given
name the employment of her husbandhas some fine modern china and much
solid silver in extremely good taste, so much, indeed, that she is wont
to confess to having cleaned forty, or sixty, or seventy-five
piecesseventy-five pieces of solid silver have I cleaned this
morning. You can say what you want to, nice things are a rill
care. Yetsurely this is the proper conjunctionMis' Sykes is
currently reported to rise in the night preceding the days of her house
cleaning, and to take her carpets out in the back yard, and there
softly to sweep and sweep them so that, at their official cleaning next
day, the neighbours may witness how little dirt is whipped out on the
line. Ought she not to have old-fashioned silver and egg-shell china
and drop-leaf mahogany to fit the practice? Instead of daisy and
wild-rose patterns in solid, and art curtains, and mission chairs,
and a white-enamelled refrigerator, and a gas range.
We have the latest funeral equipment,black broadcloth-covered
supports, a coffin carriage for up-and-down the aisles, natural palms
to order, and the pulleys to let them down slow; and yet our
individual funeral capacity has been such that we can tell what every
woman who has died in Friendship for years has done without: Mis'
Grocer Stew, her of all folks, had done without new-style flat-irons;
Mis' Worth had used the bread pan to wash dishes in; Mis' Jeweller
Spraguethe first Mis' Spraguehad had only six bread and
butter knives, her that could get wholesale too.... And we have little
maid-servants who answer our bells in caps and trays, so to say; but
this savour of jestership is authentic, for any one of them is likely
to do as of late did Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss's maid,answer,
at dinner-with-guests, that there were no more mashed potatoes, or
else, there won't be any left to warm up for your breakfasts. ...
And though we have our daily newspaper, receiving Associated Press
service, yet, as Mis' Amanda Toplady observed, it is only very
lately that they have mentioned in the Daily the birth of a
child, or anything that had anything of a tang to it.
We put new wine in old bottles, but also we use new bottles to hold
our old wine. For, consider the name of our main street: is this Main
or Clark or Cook or Grand Street, according to the register of the main
streets of towns? Instead, for its half-mile of village life, the Plank
Road, macadamized and arc-lighted, is called Daphne Street. Daphne
Street! I love to wonder why. Did our dear Doctor June's father name it
when he set the five hundred elms and oaks which glorify us? Or did
Daphne herself take this way on the day of her flight, so that when
they came to draught the town, they recognized that it was
Daphne Street, and so were spared the trouble of naming it? Or did the
Future anonymously toss us back the suggestion, thrifty of some day of
her own when she might remember us and say, Daphne Street!
Already some of us smile with a secret nod at something when we direct
a stranger, You will find the Telegraph and Cable Office two blocks
down, on Daphne Street. The Commercial Travellers' House, the Abigail
Arnold Home Bakery, the Post-office and Armoury are in the same block
on Daphne Street. Or, The Electric Light Office is at the corner of
Dunn and Daphne. It is not wonderful that Daphne herself, foreseeing
these things, did not stay, but lifted her laurels somewhat nearer
Tempe,although there are those of us who like to fancy that she is
here all the time in our Daphne-street magic: the fire bell, the tulip
beds, and the twilight bonfires. For how else, in all reason, has the
Of late a new doctor has appearedone may say, has abounded: a
surgeon who, such is his zeal, will almost perform an operation over
the telephone and, we have come somewhat cynically to believe, would
prefer doing so to not operating at all. As Calliope Marsh puts it:
He is great on operations, that little doctor. Let him go into any
house, an' some o' the family, seems though, has to be operated on,
usually inside o' twelve hours. It'll get so that as soon as he strikes
the front porch, they'll commence sterilizin' water. I donno but
some'll go an' put on the tea-kettle if they even see him drive past.
Why within twelve hours, we wonder when we hear the edict?
Why never fourteen hours, or six? How does it happen that no matter at
what stage of the malady the new doctor is called, the patient always
has to be operated on within twelve hours? Is it that everybody has a
bunch and goes about not knowing it until he appears? Or is he a kind
of basanite for bunches, and do they come out on us at the sight of
him? There are those of us who almost hesitate to take his hand,
fearing that he will fix us with his eye, point somewhere about, and
tell us, Within twelve hours, if you want your life your own.
But in spite of his skill and his modernity, in our midst there persist
those who, in a scientific night, would die rather than risk our
Thus the New shoulders the Old, and our transition is still swift
enough to be a spectacle, as was its earlier phase which gave over our
Middle West to cabins and plough horses, with a tendency away from
wigwams and bob-whites. And in this local warfare between Old and New a
chief figure is Calliope Marshwho just said that about the new
doctor. She is a little rosy wrinkled creature officiallythough no
other than officiallypertaining to sixty years; mender of lace,
seller of extracts, and music teacher, but of the three she thinks of
the last as her true vocation. (I come honestly by that, she says.
You know my father before me was rill musical. I was babtized Calliope
because a circus with one come through the town the day't I was born.)
And with her, too, the grafting of to-morrow upon yesterday is
unconscious; or only momentarily conscious, as when she phrased it:
Land, land, I like New as well as anybody. But I want it should be
put in the Old kind o' gentle, like an i-dee in your mind, an'
not sudden, like a bullet in your brain.
In her acceptance of innovations Calliope symbolizes the fine
Friendship tendency to scientific procedure, to the penetration of the
unknown through the known, the explication of mystery by natural law.
And when to the bright-figured paper and pictures of her little sitting
room she had added a print of the Mona Lisa, she observed:
She sort o' lifts me up, like somethin' I've thought of, myself.
But I don't see any sense in raisin' a question about what her smile
means. I told the agent so. 'Whenever I set for my photograph,' I says
to him, 'I always have that same silly smile on my face.'
With us all the Friendship idea prevails: we accept what Progress
sends, but we regard it in our own fashion. Our improvements, like our
entertainments, our funerals, our holidays, and our very loves, are but
Friendship Village exponents of the modern spirit. Perhaps, in a
tenderer significance than she meant, Calliope characterized us when
This town is more like a back door than a frontor, givin' it full
credit, anyhow, it's no more'n a side door, with no vines.
For indeed, we are a kind of middle door to experience, minus the
fuss of official arriving and, too, without the old odours of the
kitchen savoury beds; but having, instead, a serene side-door
existence, partaking of both electric bells and of neighbours with
shawls pinned over their heads.
Only at one point Calliope was wrong. There are vines, with tendrils
and flowers and many birds.
II. THE DÉBUT
Mrs. Ricker, washens, scrubben, work by the day or Our, as the
sign of her own lettering announced, had come into a little fortune by
the death of her first husband, Al Kitton, early divorced and late
repentant. Just before my arrival in Friendship she had bought a
respectable frame house in the heart of the village,for a village
will have a heart instead of having a boulevard,and with her daughter
Emerel she had set up a modest establishment with Ingrain carpets and
parlour pieces, and a bit of grass in front. Thus Emerel Kittonwe, in
our simple, penultimate way, called it Kittenbecame a kind of
heiress. She had been christened Emma Ella, but her mother, of her love
of order, had tidied the name to Emerel, and Friendship had adopted the
form, perhaps as having about it something pleasing and jewel-like.
Though Emerel was in the thirties at the time of her inheritance, she
was still pretty, shy, conformable; and yet there was no disguising
that she was nearly a spinster when, as soon as the white house was
settled, Mrs. Ricker issued invitations to her daughter's coming-out
You aRe Invite
Comen Out Recep
Next wenesday Night at eigt
At Her Home
Emma Ella Kitton
Mrs. Ricker and Kitton
the invitations said, and the Pa was divined to imply Please
It's Kitton's money an' it's his daughter. I hed to hev him in it
somehow, Mrs. Ricker explained her double signature. You see, she
added, up till now I ain't never been situate' so's Emerel could
come out. I've always wanted to give her things, too, but 't seems like
when I've tried, everything's shook its fist at me. It ain't too late.
Emerel looks just like she did fifteen years ago, don't she?
It was at once observed that if Emerel shared her mother's
enthusiasm for the project, she did not betray it. But then no one knew
much about Emerel save that she was engaged, and had been so for some
years, to big Abe Daniel, the Methodist tenor, a circumstance wholly
unconsidered in the scheme of her début.
Quite simply and with happy pride, Mrs. Ricker and Kitton issued her
invitations to every one in the village who had ever employed her. And
the village was divided against itself.
How can we? Mis' Postmaster Sykes demanded, I ask you. There's
things to omit an' there's things to observe. We should be The Laughing
The Laughing Stock, variously echoed her followers.
On the other hand:
Land, o' course we'll all go, Mis' Amanda Toplady comfortably
settled it, an' take Emerel a deboo present, civilized. The dear
And to that many of us gladly assented, Timothy, big Amanda's little
husband, going so far as to add:
I do vum, the Sykeses feels the post-office like it was that much
A day later Timothy's opinion seemed, he thought, to be verified.
Mis' Postmaster Sykes issued written invites to an evening party, hot
supper and like that, as Friendship communicated it, to be given on
the very night of Emerel's début.
Friendship was shaken. Never in the history of the village had two
social affairs been set for the same hour. Indeed, more than one
hostess had postponed an impending tea-party or thimble party or
afternoon coffee or five o'clock supper on hearing that another was
planned for the same day. And now, when there were those of us anxious
to do something nice for hard-working little Mrs. Ricker, the Sykeses
had deliberately sought the forbidden ground. And Society dare not deny
Mis' Sykes, for besides being who she was (She's the leader in
Friendship if they is a leader, we said, emphatically implying
that there was none), she kept two maids,little young thing and a
rill hired girl,entertained above the most, put out her sewing
and wore, we kept in the back of our minds, a bar pin, solid, with
four solitaires in it. And, Oh, you know, Calliope Marsh admitted
to me later, Mis' Sykes is rilly a great society woman. They isn't
anybody's funeral that she don't get to ride to the cemet'ry.
Mrs. Ricker and Kitton accepted the situation with fine philosophy.
Of course, she said, the whole town can dance to the Sykeses'
fiddlin' if they want. But it's a pretty pass if they do let anybody
step in before me that's washed for 'em an' cleaned their houses years
My own course was pleasantly simple. Mrs. Ricker and Kitton had
included me on her list, accredited, no doubt, because a few weeks
earlier she had helped me to settle my belongings in Oldmoxon house,
and since then had twice swept for me, and was to come in a day or two
to do so again. As I had instantly accepted her invitation, I had no
choice when Mis' Sykes's written invite came, even though when it
arrived Mis' Sykes herself was calling on me.
Well said, she observed, when she saw a neighbour's little girl,
her temporary servitor, coming up my walk with the invitations in a
paper bag to be kept clean, I meant to get my call made on you before
your invite got here. I hope you'll overlook taking us both together.
I've meant to call on you before, but I declare it looked like a
mountain to me to get started out. Don't you find your calls a rill
But Mis' Sykes's visit was, she confessed, Errand as well as Call.
The Friendship Married Ladies' Cemetery Improvement Sodality, she
told me, as she rose to go, is to our wits' end to get up a new
entertainment. We want to give something, and we want it should be rill
new and spicey, but of course it has to be pretty quiet, owing to the
Causethe Dead, so. It bars us from home-talent evenings or festivals
or like that. And the minute I saw the inside o' your house it come to
me: of course you know your house is differ'nt from Friendship. If I'd
been shot out of a gun into it, I wouldn't 'a' sensed I was in
Friendship at all. You've got nice things, all carved an' hard to dust.
The Oldmoxons use' to do a lot o' entertainin', an' everybody remembers
it, an' the house has been shut quite some time. Well, now, you've been
ask' to join the Sodality. An' if you was to announce an Evening
Benefit for it, here in your home, the whole town'd come out to it
hot-foot. We're owin' Zittelhof on Eph Cadoza's coffin yet, an' I
shouldn't wonder an' that one evening would pay him all off and,
same time, get you rill well acquainted. Don't you think it's a nice
As I had come to Friendship chiefly to get away from everywhere, I
thought that I had never heard such a bad plan. But inasmuch as I was
obliged to refuse outright one invitation of my visitor's, about the
other I weakly temporized and promised to let her know. And she went
away, deploring my hasty acceptance of Mrs. Ricker and Kitton,
although, How could you tell? she strove to excuse me. A person
coming to a strange town so, of course they accept all their
invitations good faith. And then her signing her name that way might
mislead you. It gives a rill sensation of a hyphen. But still, the
spellingafter all you'd ought
She looked at me with tardy suspicion.
Some geniuses can't spell very well, you know, I defended my
That's so, she admitted brightly; I see you're literary.
The next morning the other principal, Mrs. Ricker and Kitton,
arrived to keep her engagement with me. She was a little woman,
suggesting wire, which gave and sprang when she moved, and paper, which
crackled when she laughed. Her speech was all independence, confidence,
self-possession; but in her silences I have seldom seen so wistful a
face as hers.
In response to my question:
Oh, Mrs. Ricker and Kitton said brightly, everything's goin'
fine. I s'pose the town's still decidin' between us, but up to now I
ain't had but one regrets that can't comethat's Mis' Stew. She wrote
it was on account o' domestic affliction, an' I hadn't heard what, so I
went right down. 'Seems nobody had diedshe ain't much of any family,
anyway. But she'd wrote her letter out of a letter book, an' the only
one she could find regrettin' an invite give domestic affliction for
the reason. She said she didn't know a letter like that hed to be true,
an' I don't know as it does, either.
She stood silent for a moment, searching my face.
Look-a-here, she said; they's somethin' I thought of. Mebbe
you've heard of it bein' done in the City somewheres. Do you s'pose
folks'd be willin' to send Emerel's an' my funeral flowers to the
comin' out party instead?
Funeral...? I doubted.
Grave flowers, she explained. You know, they're a perfect waste
so far's the General Dead is concerned. An' land knows, the fam'ly
don't sense 'em much more. Anyway, Emerel an' I ain't got any fam'ly.
An' if folks'd be willin' to send us what flowers they would send us if
we died now, then they'd do us some good. We'll never want 'em
more'n we do now, dead or alive. 'Least, I won't. Emerel, she don't
seem to care. But do you think it'd be all right if I was to mention it
My desire to have this happen I did my best not to confuse with a
disinterested opinion. But indeed Mrs. Ricker and Kitton was seldom in
need of an opinion, as was proved that night by the appearance of this
notice in the Friendship Daily:
All that would give flowers when dead please send same anyhow
not expected to send same if we do die afterwards.
MRS. RICKER AND KITTON.
All of Friendship society which intended to accept Mis' Sykes's
invitation hastened with relieved eagerness to follow with flowers its
regrets to the comen out recep. For every one was genuinely attached
to the little laundress and interested in her welfareup to the point
of sacrificing social interests in the eyes of the Sykeses. Friendship
gardens were rich with Autumn, cosmos and salvia and opulent asters,
and on the morning of the two parties this store of sweetness was
rifled for the débutante. By noon Mrs. Ricker and Kitton was saying in
awe, Nobody in Friendship ever had this many flowers, dead, or alive,
or rich. And although some of us grieved that Mis' Postmaster Sykes
had shown what she named her good-will by ordering from the town a
pillow of white carnations (but with no wording"), Mrs. Ricker and
Kitton received even this suggestive token with simple-hearted delight.
It'll look lovely on the lamp shelf, she observed. I've often
planned how nice my parlour'd trim up for a funeral.
In the preparation for the two events, the one unconcerned and
unconsulted appeared to be the débutante herself. We never said
Emerel's party; we all said Mis' Ricker's party. We knew that Mrs.
Ricker and Kitton was putting painstaking care on Emerel's coming-out
dress, which was to be a surprise, but otherwise Emerel was seldom even
mentioned in connection with her début. And whenever we saw her, it was
as Friendship had seen her for two years,walking quietly with Abe
Daniel, her betrothed.
It's doin' things kind o' backwards, Calliope Marsh said, engaged
first an' comin' out in society afterwards. But I donno as it's any
more backwards than ridin' to the cemet'ry feet first. What's what all
depends on what you agree on for What. If it ain't your soul you mean
about, she added cryptically.
The Topladys and others of us who united to uphold Emerel, and
especially to uphold Emerel's mother, could not but realize that the
majority of Friendship society had regretted to decline the début
party, and had been pleased to accept the hospitality of the Postmaster
Sykeses. I dare say that this may have been partly why, in the usual
self-indulgence of challenge, I put on my prettiest frock for the party
and prepared to set out somewhat early, hoping for the amusement of
sharing in the finishing touches. But as I was leaving my house
Calliope Marsh arrived, buttoned tightly in her best gray henrietta,
her cheeks hot with some intense excitement.
Well, she said without preface, they've done it. Emerel Kitton's
married. She's just married Abe at the parsonage to get out o' bein'
debooed. They've gone to take the train now.
No one could fail to see what this would mean to Mrs. Ricker and
Kitton, and, rather than the newly married Emerel, it was she who
absorbed our speculation.
Mis' Ricker just slimpsed, Calliope told me. I says to her: 'Look
here, Mis' Ricker, don't you go givin' in. Your kitchen's a sight with
the good things o' your handthink o' that,' I told her; 'think how
you mortgaged your very funeral for to-night, an' brace yourself up,'
An' she says, awful pitiful: 'I can't, Calliope,' she says. ''T
seems like this slips the pins right out. They ain't nothin' to deboo
with now, anyway,' she told me. 'How can I?'
Oh, poor Mrs. Ricker! I exclaimed.
Calliope looked at me intently.
Well, she said, that's what I run in about. You're a stranger
just fresh come here. You ain't met folks much yet. An' Mis' Sykes,
she's just crazy to get a-hold o' you an' your house for the Sodality.
An' the only thing I could think of for Mis' Rickerwell, would you
stand up with Mis' Ricker to-night an' shake all their hands? An' sort
o' leave her deboo for you, you might say?
I think that I loved Calliope for this even before she understood my
assent. But she added something which puzzled me.
If I was you, she observed, I'd do somethin' else to-night, too.
You could do itor I could do it for you. You don't expect to let Mis'
Sykes hev the Sodality here, do you?
I might have had it here, I said impulsively, if she had not done
this to poor little Mrs. Ricker.
Wouldwould you give me the lief to say that? Calliope asked
I had no objection in the world to any one knowing my opinion of
Mis' Postmaster Sykes's proceeding,one of her preposterousnesses,
Calliope called it,and I said so, and set off for Mrs. Ricker's,
while Calliope herself flew somewhere else on some last mission. And,
Mis' Sykes'd ought to be showed, she called to me over-shoulder.
That woman's got a sinful pride. She'd wear fur in August to prove she
could afford to hev moths!
The Ricker parlour was a garden which sloped gently, as a garden
should, for the house was old and the parlour floor sagged toward the
entrance so that the front of the organ was propped on wooden blocks.
The room was bedizened with flowers, in dishes, tins, and gallon jars,
so that it seemed some way an alien thing, like a prune horse. On the
lamp shelf was the huge white carnation pillow, across which the
hostess had inscribed welcom, in stems.
Within ten minutes of the appointed hour all those who had been
pleased to accept were in the rooms, and Mrs. Ricker and Kitton and I,
standing among the funeral flowers, received the guests while Calliope,
hovering at the door, gave the key with: Ain't you heard? Emerel's a
bride instead of a debbytant. Ain't it a rill joke? Married to-night
an' we're here to celebrate. Throw off your things. Then she
hopelessly involved them in a presentation to me, and between us we
contrived to elide Mrs. Ricker and Kitton from all save her perfunctory
office, until her voice and lips ceased their trembling. Poor little
hostess, in her starched lawn which had seemed to her adequate for her
unpretentious rôle of mother! All her humour and independence and
self-possession had left her, and in their stead, on what was to have
been her great night, had settled only the immemorial wistfulness.
Although I did not then foresee it, the guests that evening were
destined to point me to many meanings, like sketches in the note-book
of a patient Pen. I am fond of remembering them as I saw them first:
the Topladys, that great Mis' Amanda, ponderous, majestic, and
suggesting black grosgrain, her beaming way of whole-hearted approval
not quite masking the critical, house-wife glances which she
continually cast; and little Timothy, her husband, who, in company,
went quite out of his head and could think of nothing to say save
Blisterin' Benson, what I think is this: ain't everything movin' off
nice? Dear Doctor June, pastor emeritus of Friendship, since he was so
identified with all the village interests that not many could tell from
what church he had retired. (At each of the three Friendship churches
he rented a pew, and contributed impartially to their beneficences;
and, seems to me the Lord would of, he sometimes apologized for
this.) Photographer Jimmy Sturgis, who stood about with one eye shut,
and who drove the 'bus, took charge of the mail-bags, conducted a
photograph gallery, and painted portraits. (The Dead From Photos a
specialty, was tacked on the risers of the stairs leading to his
studio.) And Mis' Photographer Sturgis, who was an invalid and very,
very seldom got out. (Not, I was to learn, an invalid because of ill
health, but by nature. She was an invalid as other people are blond or
brunette, and no more to be said about it.) Miss Liddy Ember, the
village seamstress, and her beautiful sister Ellen, who was not quite
right, and whom Miss Liddy took about and treated like a child until
the times when Ellen come herself again, and then she quite
overshadowed in personality little busy Miss Liddy. Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, and Eppleby Holcomb, and the Other
Holcombs; Mis' Doctor Helman, the Gekerjecks, who kept the drug
store, and scented the world with musk and essences. (Musk on one
handkerchief and some kind o' flower scent on your other one, Mis'
Gekerjeck was wont to say, then you can suit everybody, say who who
will.)These and the others Mrs. Ricker and Kitton and I received,
standing before the white carnation pillow. And I, who had come to
Friendship to get away from everywhere, found myself the one to whom
they did honour, as they were to have honoured Emerel.
When the hour for supper came, Mrs. Ricker and Kitton excused
herself because she must see to gettin' it on to the plates, and Mis'
Toplady, Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, Calliope, and I handed. We
had all lent silver and dishesindeed, save at Mis' Sykes's (and of
course at the Proudfits' of Proudfit estate), there is rarely a
Friendship party at which the pantries of the guests are not
represented, an arrangement seeming almost to hold in anticipation
certain social and political ideals. (If the telephone yields us an
invitation from those whom we know best, we always answer: Thank you.
I will. What do you want me to send over? Is there such a
matter-of-course federation on any boulevard?) And after the guests had
been served and the talk had been resumed, we four who had handed sat
down, with Mrs. Ricker and Kitton, at meat, at a corner of the kitchen
Everything tastes like so much chips to me when I hev company,
anyhow, the hostess said sadly, but to-night it's got the regular
salt-pork taste. When I'm nervous or got delegates or comin' down with
anything, I always taste salt pork.
Well, everything's all of a whirl to me, Calliope confessed, an'
I should think your brains, Mis' Ricker, 'd be fair rarin' 'round in
Who didn't eat what? Mrs. Ricker and Kitton asked listlessly. I
meant to keep track when the plates come out, but I didn't. Did they
all take a-hold rill good?
They wa'n't any mincin' 't I see, Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss assured her. Everything you had was
lovely, an' everybody made 'way with all they got.
We might have kept indefinitely on at these fascinating comparisons,
but some unaccountable stir and bustle and rise of talk in the other
rooms persuaded our attention. (Can they be goin' home? cried
that great Mis' Amanda Toplady. If they are, I'll go bail Timothy
Toplady started it. And, I bet they've broke the finger bowl, Mrs.
Ricker and Kitton prophesied darkly.) And then we all went in to see
what had happened, but it was what none of us could possibly have
forecast: Crowding in the parlour, overflowing into the sitting room,
still entering from the porch, were Postmaster and Mis' Postmaster
Sykes and all their guests.
It was quite as if Wishes had gathered head and spirited them there.
I remember the white little face of Mrs. Ricker and Kitton, luminously
gratified to the point of triumph; and Mis' Sykes's brisk and cordial
No reason why we shouldn't go to two receptions in an evening, like
they do in the City, Mis' Ricker, is they? And the aplomb of the
hostess's self-respecting, corrective An' Kitton. 'Count of Al
bein' so thoughtful in death. And then to my amazement Mis' Postmaster
Sykes turned to me and held out both hands.
I am so glad, she said, almost in the rhythm of
certain exhausts, that you've decided to hev Sodality at your house.
You must just let me take a-hold of it for you and run it. And
I'm going to propose your name the very next meeting we hev, can't I?
* * * * *
I walked home with Calliope when we had left Mrs. Ricker and Kitton,
tired but triumphant. (Land, the hostess said, now it's turned out
so nice, I donno but I'm rill pleased Emerel's married. I'd hate to
think o' borrowin' all them things over again for a weddin'.) And in
the dark street Calliope said to me:
You see what I done, I guess. I told you Mis' Sykes was reg'lar
up-in-arms about usin' your housethough I think the rill reason is
she wants to get upstairs in it. You know how some are. So I marched
myself up there before the party, an' I told her you wasn't goin' to
hev Sodality sole because you thought she'd been so mean to Mis'
Ricker. An' I give her to understand sharp off 't she'd better do what
she did do if she wanted you in the Sodality at all. 'An',' s'I, 'I
donno what she'll think o' you anyway, not knowin' enough to go to two
companies in one evenin', like the City, even if one is your own.' She
see reason. You know, Mis' Sykes an' I are kind o' connections, but you
can make even your relations see sense if you go at 'em right. I
donno, Calliope ended doubtfully, but I done wrong. An' yet I feel
good friends with my backbone too, like I'd done right!
And it was so that having come to Friendship Village to get away
from everywhere, I yet found myself abruptly launched in its society,
committed to its Sodality, and, best of all, friends with Calliope
III. NOBODY SICK, NOBODY POOR
Two days before Thanksgiving the air was already filled with white
turkey feathers, and I stood at a window and watched until the
loneliness of my still house seemed like something pointing a mocking
finger at me. When I could bear it no longer I went out in the snow,
and through the soft drifts I fought my way up the Plank Road toward
I had almost passed the little bundled figure before I recognized
Calliope. She was walking in the middle of the road, as in Friendship
we all walk in winter; and neither of us had umbrellas. I think that I
distrust people who put up umbrellas on a country road in a fall of
Instead of inquiring perfunctorily how I did, she greeted me with a
fragment of what she had been thinkingwhich is always as if one were
to open a door of his mind to you instead of signing you greeting from
a closed window.
I just been tellin' myself, she looked up to say without preface,
that if I could see one more good old-fashion' Thanksgivin', life'd
sort o' smooth out. An' land knows, it needs some smoothin' out for
With this I remember that it was as if my own loneliness spoke for
me. At my reply Calliope looked at me quicklyas if I, too, had opened
Sometimes Thanksgivin' is some like seein' the sun shine
when you're feelin' rill rainy yourself, she said thoughtfully.
She held out her blue-mittened hand and let the flakes fall on it in
stars and coronets.
I wonder, she asked evenly, if you'd help me get up a
Thanksgivin' dinner for a few poor sick folks here in Friendship?
In order to keep my self-respect, I recall that I was as ungracious
as possible. I think I said that the day meant so little to me that I
was willing to do anything to avoid spending it alone. A statement
which seems to me now not to bristle with logic.
That's nice of you, Calliope replied genially. Then she hesitated,
looking down Daphne Street, which the Plank Road had become, toward
certain white houses. There were the homes of Mis' Mayor Uppers, Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, and the Liberty sisters,all substantial
dignified houses, typical of the simple prosperity of the countryside.
The only trouble, she added simply, is that in Friendship I don't
know of a soul rill sick, nor a soul what you might call poor.
At this I laughed, unwillingly enough. Dear Calliope! Here indeed
was a drawback to her project.
Honestly, she said reflectively, Friendship can't seem to do
anything like any other town. When the new minister come here, he give
out he was goin' to do settlement work. An' his second week in the
place he come to me with a reg'lar hang-dog look. 'What kind of a town
is this?' he says to me, disgusted. 'They ain't nobody sick in it an'
they ain't nobody poor!' I guess he could 'a' got along without the
poormost of us can. But we mostly like to hev a few sick to carry the
flowers off our house plants to, an' now an' then a tumbler o' jell.
An' yet I've known weeks at a time when they wasn't a soul rill flat
down sick in Friendship. It's so now. An' that's hard, when you're
young an' enthusiastic, like the minister.
But where are you going to find your guests then, Calliope? I
Well, she said brightly, I was just plannin' as you come up with
me. An' I says to myself: 'God give me to live in a little bit of a
place where we've all got enough to get along on, an' Thanksgivin'
finds us all in health. It looks like He'd afflicted us by lettin' us
hev nobody to do for.' An' then it come to me that if we was to get up
the dinner,with all the misery an' hunger they is in the world,God
in His goodness would let some of it come our way to be fed. 'In the
wilderness a cedar,' you knowas Liddy Ember an' I was always tellin'
each other when we kep' shop together. An' so to-day I said to myself
I'd go to work an' get up the dinner an' trust there'd be eaters for
Why, Calliope, I said, Calliope!
I ain't got much to do with, myself, she added apologetically;
the most I've got in my sullar, I guess, is a gallon jar o' watermelon
pickles. I could give that. You don't think it sounds
irreverentconnectin' God with a big dinner, so? she asked anxiously.
And, at my reply:
Well, then, she said briskly, let's step in an' see a few folks
that might be able to tell us of somebody to do for. Let's ask Mis'
Mayor Uppers an' Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, an' the Liberty
Because I was lonely and idle, and because I dreaded inexpressibly
going back to my still house, I went with her. Her ways were a kind of
entertainment, and I remember that I believed my leisure to be
We turned first toward the big shuttered house of Mis' Mayor Uppers,
to whom, although her husband had been a year ago removed from office,
discredited, and had not since been seen in Friendship, we yet gave her
old proud title, as if she had been Former Lady Mayoress. For the
present mayor, Authority Hubblethwaite, was, as Calliope said,
I watched Mis' Uppers in some curiosity while Calliope explained
that she was planning a dinner for the poor and sick,the lame and
the sick that's comfortable enough off to eat,and could she suggest
some poor and sick to ask? Mis' Uppers was like a vinegar cruet of
mine, slim and tall, with a little grotesquely puckered face for a
stopper, as if the whole known world were sour.
I'm sure, she said humbly, it's a nice i-dea. But I declare, I'm
put to it to suggest. We ain't got nobody sick nor nobody poor in
Friendship, you know.
Don't you know of anybody kind o' hard up? Or somebody that, if
they ain't down sick, feels sort o' spindlin'? Calliope asked
Mis' Uppers thought, rocking a little and running a pin in and out
of a fold of her skirt.
No, she said at length, I don't know a soul. I think the church'd
give a good deal if a real poor family'd come here to do for. Since the
Cadozas went, we ain't known which way to look for poor. Mis' Ricker
gettin' her fortune so puts her beyond the wolf. An' Peleg Bemus, you
can't get him to take anything. No, I don't know of anybody real
An' nobody sick? Calliope pressed her wistfully.
Well, there's Mis' Crawford, admitted Mis' Uppers; she had a
spell o' lumbago two weeks ago, but I see her pass the house to-day.
Mis' Brady was laid up with toothache, too, but the Daily last
night said she'd had it out. An' Mis' Doctor Helman did have one o' her
stomach attacks this week, an' Elzabella got out her dyin' dishes an'
her dyin' linen from the still-roomyou know how Mis' Doctor always
brings out her nice things when she's sick, so't if she should die an'
the neighbours come in, it'd all be shipshape. But she got better this
time an' helped put 'em back. I declare it's hard to get up anything in
the charity line here.
Calliope sat smiling a little, and I knew that it was because of her
secret certainty that some o' the hunger would come her way, to be
I can't help thinkin', she said quietly, that we'll find
somebody. An' I tell you what: if we do, can I count on you to help
Mis' Mayor Uppers flushed with quick pleasure.
Me, Calliope? she said. And I remembered that they had told me how
the Friendship Married Ladies' Cemetery Improvement Sodality had been
unable to tempt Mis' Uppers to a single meeting since the mayor ran
away. Oh, but I couldn't though, she said wistfully.
No need to go to the table if you don't want, Calliope told her.
Just bake up somethin' for us an' bring it over. Make a couple o' your
cherry piesdid you get hold of any cherries to put up this year?
Well, a couple o' your cherry pies an' a batch o' your nice drop sponge
cakes, she directed. Could you?
Mis' Mayor Uppers looked up with a kind of light in her eyes.
Why, yes, she said, I could, I guess. I'll bake 'em Thanksgivin'
mornin'. II was wonderin' how I'd put in the day.
When we stepped out in the snow again, Calliope's face was shining.
Sometimes now, when my faith is weak in any good thing, I remember her
look that November morning. But all that I thought then was how I was
being entertained that lonely day.
The dear Liberty sisters were next, Lucy and Viny and Libbie
Liberty. We went to the side door,there were houses in Friendship
whose front doors we tacitly understood that we were never expected to
use,and we found the sisters down cellar, with shawls over their
heads, feeding their hens through the cellar window, opening on the
glassed-in coop under the porch.
In Friendship it is a point of etiquette for a morning caller never
to interrupt the employment of a hostess. So we obeyed the summons of
the Liberty sisters to come right down; and we sat on a firkin and an
inverted tub while Calliope told her plan and the hens fought for
My grief! said Libbie Liberty, tartly, where you goin' to get
your sick an' poor?
Mis' Viny, balancing on the window ledge to reach for eggs, looked
back at us.
Friendship's so comfortable that way, she said, I don't see how
you can get up much of anything.
And little Miss Lucy, kneeling on the floor of the cellar to measure
more feed, said without looking up:
You know, since mother died we ain't never done anything for
holidays. Nowe can't seem to want to think about Thanksgiving or
Christmas or like that.
They all turned their grave lined faces toward us.
We want to let the holidays just slip by without noticin', Miss
Viny told us. Seems like it hurts less that way.
Libbie Liberty smiled wanly.
Don't you know, she said, when you hold your hand still in hot
water, you don't feel how hot the water really is? But when you move
around in it some, it begins to burn you. Well, when we let
Thanksgiving an' Christmas alone, it ain't so bad. But when we start to
move around in 'em
Her voice faltered and stopped.
We miss mother terrible, Miss Lucy said simply.
Calliope put her blue mitten to her mouth, but her eyes she might
not hide, and they were soft with sympathy.
I knowI know, she said. I remember the first Christmas after my
mother diedI ached like the toothache all over me, an' I couldn't
bear to open my presents. Nor the next year I couldn't eitherI
couldn't open my presents with any heart. But Calliope hesitated,
that second year, she said, I found somethin' I could do. I saw I
could fix up little things for other folks an' take some comfort in it.
Like mother would of.
She was silent for a moment, looking thoughtfully at the three
lonely figures in the dark cellar of their house.
Your mother, she said abruptly, stuffed the turkey for a year ago
the last harvest home.
Yes, they said.
Look here, said Calliope; if I can get some poor folks
together,or even one poor folk, or hungry,will you three
come over to my house an' stuff the turkey? The wayI can't help
thinkin' the way your mother would of, if she'd been here. An' then,
Calliope went on briskly, could you bring some fresh eggs an' make a
pan o' custard over to my house? An' mebbe one o' you'd stir up a
sunshine cake. You must know how to make your mother's sunshine cake?
There was another silence in the cellar when Calliope had done, and
for a minute I wondered if, after all, she had not failed, and if the
bleeding of the three hearts might be so stanched. It was not
self-reliant Libbie Liberty who spoke first; it was gentle Miss Lucy.
I guess, she said, I could, if we all do it. I know mother would
Yes, Miss Viny nodded, mother would of.
Libbie Liberty stood for a moment with compressed lips.
It seems like not payin' respect to mother, she began; and then
shook her head. It ain't that, she said; it's only missin' her when
we begin to step around the kitchen, bakin' up for a holiday.
I knowI know, Calliope said again. That's why I said for you to
come over in my kitchen. You come over there an' stir up the sunshine
cake, too, an' bake it in my oven, so's we can hev it et hot. Will you
And after a little time they consented. If Calliope found any sick
or poor, they would do that.
We ain't gettin' many i-dees for guests, Calliope said, as we
reached the street, but we're gettin' helpers, anyway. An' some
Then we went to the house of Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Blisscalled so, of course, to distinguish her
from the Other Holcombs.
Don't you be shocked at her, Calliope warned me, as we closed Mis'
Holcomb's gate behind us; she's dreadful diff'r'nt an' bitter since
Abigail was married last month. She's got hold o' some kind of a
Persian book, in a decorated cover, from the City; an' now she says
your soul is like when you look in a lookin'-glassthat there ain't
really nothin' there. An' that the world's some wind an' the rest
water, an' they ain't no God only your own breathoh, poor Mis'
Holcomb! said Calliope. I guess she ain't rill balanced. But we ought
to go to see her. We always consult Mis' Holcomb about everything.
Poor Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss! I can see her now in her
comfortable dining room, where she sat cleaning her old silver, her
thin, veined hands as fragile as her grandmother's spoons.
Of course, you don't know, she said, when Calliope had unfolded
her plans, how useless it all seems to me. What's the useI keep
sayin' to myself now'-days; what's the use? You put so much pains on
somethin', an' then it goes off an' leaves you. Mebbe it dies, an'
everything's all wasted. There ain't anything to tie to. It's like
lookin' in a glass all the while. It's seemin', it ain't bein'. We
ain't certain o' nothin' but our breath, an' when that goes, what hev
you got? What's the use o' plannin' Thanksgivin' for anybody?
Well, if you're hungry, it's kind o' nice to get fed up, said
Calliope, crisply. Don't you know a soul that's hungry, Mame Bliss?
She shook her head.
No, she said, I don't. Nor nobody sick in body.
Nobody sick in body, Calliope repeated absently.
Soul-sick an' soul-hungry you can't feed up, Mis' Holcomb added.
I donno, said Calliope, thoughtfully, I donno but you can.
No, Mis' Holcomb went on; your soul's like yourself in the glass:
they ain't anything there.
I donno, Calliope said again; some mornin's when I wake up with
the sun shinin' in, I can feel my soul in me just as plain as plain.
Mis' Holcomb sighed.
Life looks dreadful footless to me, she said.
Well, said Calliope, sometimes life is some like hearin'
firecrackers go off when you don't feel up to shootin' 'em yourself.
When I'm like that, I always think if I'd go out an' buy a bunch or
two, an' get somebody to give me a match, I could see more sense to
things. Look here, Mame Bliss; if I get hold o' any folks to give the
dinner for, will you help me some?
Yes, Mis' Holcomb assented half-heartedly, I'll help you. I ain't
nobody much in family, now Abigail's done what she has. They's only
Eppleby, an' he won't be home Thanksg'vin this year. So I ain't nothin'
else to do.
That's the i-dee, said Calliope, heartily; if everything's
foolish, it's just as foolish doin' nothin' as doin' somethin'. Will
you bring over a kettleful o' boiled potatoes to my house Thanksgivin'
noon? An' mash 'em an' whip 'em in my kitchen? I'll hev the milk to put
in. Youyou don't cook as much as some, do you, Mame?
Did Calliope ask her that purposely? I am almost sure that she did.
Mis' Holcomb's neck stiffened a little.
I guess I can cook a thing or two beside mash' potatoes, she said,
and thought for a minute. How'd you like a pan o' 'scalloped oysters
an' some baked macaroni with plenty o' cheese? she demanded.
Sounds like it'd go down awful easy, admitted Calliope, smiling.
It's just what we need to carry the dinner off full sail, she added
Well, I ain't nothin' else to do an' I'll make 'em, Mis' Holcomb
promised. Only it beats me who you can find to do for. If you don't
get anybody, let me know before I order the oysters.
Calliope stood up, her little wrinkled face aglow; and I wondered at
You just go ahead an' order your oysters, she said. That dinner's
goin' to come off Thanksgivin' noon at twelve o'clock. An' you be there
to help feed the hungry, Mame.
When we were on the street again, Calliope looked at me with her way
of shy eagerness.
Could you hev the dinner up to your house, she asked me, if I do
every bit o' the work?
Why, Calliope, I said, amazed at her persistence, have it there,
of course. But you haven't any guests yet.
She nodded at me through the falling flakes.
You say you ain't got much to be thankful for, she said, so I
thought mebbe you'd put in the time that way. Don't you worry about
folks to eat the dinner. I'll tell Mis' Holcomb an' the others to come
to your housean I'll get the food an' the folks. Don't you worry! An'
I'll bring my watermelon pickles an' a bowl o' cream for Mis' Holcomb's
potatoes, an' I'll furnish the turkeya big one. The rest of us'll get
the dinner in your kitchen Thanksgivin' mornin'. My! she said, seems
though life's smoothin' out fer me a'ready. Good-byit's 'most noon.
She hurried up Daphne Street in the snow, and I turned toward my
lonely house. But I remember that I was planning how I would make my
table pretty, and how I would add a delicacy or two from the City for
this strange holiday feast. And I found myself hurrying to look over
certain long-disused linen and silver, and to see whether my
Cloth-o'-Gold rose might be counted on to bloom by Thursday noon.
IV. COVERS FOR SEVEN
We'll set the table for seven folks, said Calliope, at my house on
Seven! I echoed. But where in the world did you ever find seven,
I found 'em, she answered. I knew I could find hungry folks to do
for if I tried, an' I found 'em. You'll see. I sha'n't say another
word. They'll be here by twelve, sharp. Did the turkey come?
Yes, the turkey had come, and almost as she spoke the dear Liberty
sisters arrived to dress and stuff it, and to make ready the pan of
custard, and to stir up the sunshine cake. I could guess how the
pleasant bustle in my kitchen would hurt them by its holiday air, and I
carried them off to see my Cloth-o'-Gold rose which had opened in the
night, to the very crimson heart of it. And I told them of the seven
guests whom, after all, Calliope had actually contrived to marshal to
her dinner. And in the midst of our almost gay speculation on this,
they went at their share of the task.
The three moved about their offices gravely at first, Libbie Liberty
keeping her back to us as she worked, Miss Viny scrupulously intent on
the delicate clatter of the egg-beater, Miss Lucy with eyes downcast on
the sage she rolled. I noted how Calliope made little excuses to pass
near each of them, with now a touch of the hand and now a pat on a
shoulder, and all the while she talked briskly of ways and means and
recipes, and should there be onions in the dressing or should there not
be? We took a vote on this and were about to chop the onions in when
Mis' Holcomb's little maid arrived at my kitchen door with a bowl of
oysters which Mis' Holcomb had had left from the 'scallop, an' wouldn't
we like 'em in the stuffin'? Roast turkey stuffed with oysters! I saw
Libbie Liberty's eyes brighten so delightedly that I brought out a jar
of seedless raisins and another of preserved cherries to add to the
custard, and then a bag of sweet almonds to be blanched and split for
the cake o' sunshine. Surely, one of us said, the seven guests could be
preparing for their Thanksgiving dinner with no more zest than we were
putting into that dinner for their sakes.
Seven guests! we said over and again. Calliope, how did you do
it? When everybody says there's nobody in Friendship that's either sick
Nobody sick, nobody poor! Calliope exclaimed, piling a dish with
watermelon pickles. Land, you might think that was the town motto.
Well, the town don't know everything. Don't you ask me so many
Before eleven o'clock Mis' Mayor Uppers tapped at my back door, with
two deep-dish cherry pies in a basket, and a row of her delicate,
feathery sponge cakes and a jar of pineapple and pie-plant preserves
to chink in. She drew a deep breath and stood looking about the
Throw off your things an' help, Mis' Uppers, Calliope admonished
her, one hand on the cellar door. I'm just goin' down for some sweet
potatoes Mis' Holcomb sent over this morning, an' you might get 'em
ready, if you will. We ain't goin' to let you off now, spite of what
you've done for us.
So Mis' Mayor Uppers hung up her shawl and washed the sweet
potatoes. And my kitchen was fragrant with spices and flavourings and
an odorous oven, and there was no end of savoury business to be at. I
found myself glad of the interest of these others in the day and glad
of the stirring in my lonely house. Even if their bustle could not
lessen my own loneliness, it was pleasant, I said to myself, to see
them quicken with interest; and the whole affair entertained my
infinite leisure. After all, I was not required to be thankful. I
merely loaned my house, cosey in its glittering drifts of turkey
feathers, and the day was no more and no less to me than before, though
I own that I did feel more than an amused interest in Calliope's
guests. Whom, in Friendship, had she found to do for, I detected
myself speculating with real interest as in the dining room, with one
and another to help me, I made ready my table. My prettiest dishes and
silver, the Cloth-o'-Gold rose, and my yellow-shaded candles made
little auxiliary welcomes. Whoever Calliope's guests were, we would do
them honour and give them the best we had. And in the midst of all came
from the City the box with my gift of hothouse fruit and a rosebud for
Calliope! I cried, as I went back to the kitchen, Calliope, it's
nearly twelve now. Tell us who the guests are, or we won't finish
Calliope laughed and shook her head and opened the door for Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, who entered, followed by her little maid,
both laden with good things.
I prepared for seven, Mis' Holcomb said. That was the word you
sent mebut where you got your seven sick an' poor in Friendship beats
me. I'll stay an' help for a whilebut to me it all seems like so much
We worked with a will that last half-hour, and the spirit of the
kitchen came upon them all. I watched them, amused and pleased at Mis'
Mayor Uppers's flushed anxiety over the sweet potatoes, at Libbie
Liberty furiously basting the turkey, and at Miss Lucy exclaiming with
delight as she unwrapped the rosebuds from their moss. But I think that
Mis' Holcomb pleased me most, for with the utensils of housewifery in
her hands she seemed utterly to have forgotten that there is no use in
anything at all. This was not wonderful in the presence of such a
feathery cream of mashed potatoes and such aromatic coffee as she made.
There was something to tie to. Those were real, at any rate, and
beyond all seeming.
Just before twelve Calliope caught off her apron and pulled down her
Now, she said, I'm going to welcome the guests. I cancan't I?
she begged me. Everything's all ready but putting on. I won't need to
come out here again; when I ring the bell on the sideboard, dish it up
an' bring it in, all togetherturkey ahead an' vegetables followin'.
Mis' Holcomb, you help 'em, won't you? An' then you can leave if you
want. Talk about an old-fashion' Thanksgivin'. My!
Who has she got? Libbie Liberty burst out, basting the
turkey. I declare, I'm nervous as a witch, I'm so curious!
And then the clock struck twelve, and a minute after we heard
Calliope tinkle a silvery summons on the call-bell.
I remember that it was Mis' Holcomb herselfto whom nothing
matteredwho rather lost her head as we served our feast, and who was
about putting in dishes both her oysters and her macaroni instead of
carrying in the fair, brown, smoking bake pans. But at last we were
readyMis' Holcomb at our head with the turkey, the others following
with both hands filled, and I with the coffee-pot. As they gave the
signal to start, somethingit may have been the mystery before us, or
the good things about us, or the mere look of the Thanksgiving snow on
the window-sillsseemed to catch at the hearts of them all, and they
laughed a little, almost joyously, those five for whom joy had seemed
done, and I found myself laughing too.
So we six filed into the dining room to serve whomever Calliope had
found to do for. I wonder that I had not guessed before. There stood
Calliope at the foot of the table, with its lighted candles and its
Cloth-o'-Gold rose, and the other six chairs were quite vacant.
Sit down! Calliope cried to us, with tears and laughter in her
voice. Sit down, all six of you. Don't you see? Didn't you know? Ain't
we soul-sick an' soul-hungry, all of us? An' I tell you, this is goin'
to do our souls goodan' our stomachs too!
Nobody dropped anything, even in the flood of our amazement. We
managed to get our savoury burden on the table, and some way we found
ourselves in the chairsI at the head of my table where Calliope led
me. And we all talked at once, exclaiming and questioning, with sudden
thanksgiving in our hearts that in the world such things may be.
I was hungry an' sick, Calliope was telling, for an old-fashion'
Thanksgivin'or anything that'd smooth life out some. But I says to
myself, 'It looks like God had afflicted us by not givin' us anybody to
do for.' An' then I started out to find some poor an' some sickan'
each one o' you knows what I found. An' I ask' myself before I got home
that day, 'Why not them an' me?' There's lots o' kinds o' things to do
on Thanksgivin' Day. Are you ever goin' to forgive me?
I think that we all answered at once. But what we all meant was what
Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss said, as she sat flushed and smiling
behind the coffee-cups:
I declare, I feel something like I ain't felt since I don't know
And Calliope nodded at her.
I guess that's your soul, Mame Bliss, she said. You can always
feel it if you go to work an' act as if you got one. I'll take my
V. THE SHADOW OF GOOD THINGS TO COME
The Friendship accommodation reaches the village from the City at
six o'clock at night, and we call the train the Dick Dasher, because
Dick Dasher is its engineer. We come out on the Dick Dasher and we
go in on the Through; but the Through is a kind of institution, like
marriage, while the Dick Dasher is a thing more intimate, like one's
wedding. It was one winter night on the latter that I hardly heeded
what I overheard.
The Lord will provide, Delia, Doctor June was saying.
I ain't sure, came a piping answer, as they is any Lord. An'
don't you tell anybody 'bout seein' me on this train. I'm goin' on
Thy footfall is a silver thing,
I said over to the beat of the wheels, but the words that I said
over were more insistent than the words that I heard. I was watching
the eyes of a motor-car carrying threads of streaming light, moving
near the track, swifter than the train. It belonged, as I divined, to
the Proudfits of Friendship, and it was carrying Madame Proudfit and
her daughter Clementina, after a day of shopping and visiting in the
town. And when I saw them returning home in this airy fashion,as if
they were the soul and I in the stuffy Dick Dasher were the body,I
renewed a certain distaste for them, since in their lives these
Proudfits seemed goblin-like, with no interest in any save their own
picturesque flittings. But while I shrugged at myself for judging them
and held firmly to my own opinion, as one will do, I was conscious all
the time of the gray minister in the aisle of the rocking coach,
holding clasped in both hands his big carpet-bag without handles. Over
it I saw him looking down in grieved consternation at the little woman
huddled in the rush seat.
No Lord! he said, no Lord! Why, Delia More! You might as well say
there ain't no life in your own bones.
So they isn't, she answered him grimly. They keep on a-goin' just
to spite me.
Delia MoreDe-lia More, the wheels beat out, and it was as
if I had heard the name often. Already I had noticed the woman. She had
a kind of youth, like that of Calliope, who had journeyed in town on
the Through that morning and who had somewhat mysteriously asked me not
to say that she had gone away. But Calliope's persistent youthfulness
gives her a claim upon one, while on this woman whom Doctor June
perplexedly regarded, her stifled youth imposed a forlorn aloofness,
made the more pathetic by her prettiness.
No one but the doctor himself was preparing to leave the train at
Friendship. He balanced in the aisle alone, while the few occupants of
the car sat without speakingmen dozing, children padding on the
panes, a woman twisting her thin hair tight and high. Doctor June
looked at those nearest to be sure of their tired self-absorption, but
as for me, who sat very near, I think he had long ago decided that I
kept my own thoughts and no others, since sometimes I had forgotten to
give him back a greeting. So it was in a fancied security which I was
loath to be violating, that he opened his great carpet-bag and took out
a book to lay on the girl's knee.
Open it, he commanded her.
I saw the contour of her face tightened by her swiftly set lips as
Point your finger, he went on peremptorily. She must have obeyed,
for in a kind of unwilling eagerness she bent over the page, and the
doctor stooped, and together in the blurring light of the kerosene lamp
in the roof of the coach they made out something.
... the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the
very image of the things ... I unwillingly caught, and yet not wholly
unwillingly either. And though I watched, as if much depended upon it,
the great motor-car of the Proudfits vanishing before us into the dark,
I could not forbear to glance at the doctor, who was nodding, his kind
face quickening. But the girl lifted her eyes and laughed with
I don't take any stock, she said, and within me it was as if
something answered to her bitterness.
Nono. Mebbe not, Doctor June commented with perfect
cheerfulness. Some folks take fresh air, and some folks like to stay
shut up tight. But'the shadow of good things to come.' I'd take that
much stock if I was you, Delia.
As he laid the book back in his bag, the train was jolting across
the switches beside the gas house, and the lights of Friendship were
all about the track.
Why don't you get off? he reiterated, in his tone a descending
scale of simple hospitality. Come to our house and stop a spell. Come
for tea, he added; I happen to know we're goin' to hev hot
griddle-cakes an' sausage gravy.
She shook her head sharply and in silence.
Doctor June stood for a moment meditatively looking down at her.
There's a friend of yours at our house to-day, for all day, he
I ain't any friends, replied the girl, obstinately, without you
mean use' to be. An' I don't know if I had then, either.
Yes. Yes, you have, Delia, said Doctor June, kindly. He was
asking about you last time he was herekind of indirect.
Who? she demanded, but it was as if something within her
wrung the question from her against her will.
Abel Halsey, Doctor June told her, Abel Halsey. Remember him?
Instead of answering she looked out the window at the Friendship
Depot platform, and:
Ain't he a big minister in the City? I barely heard her ask.
No, said Doctor June; dear me, no. Abel's still gypsyin' it off
in the hills. I expect he's out there by the depot with the busses now,
come to meet me in his buggy. Better let him take us all home to
griddle-cakes, Delia? he pressed her wistfully.
I couldn't, she said briefly. And, as he put out his hand
silently, Don't you let any_body know't you saw me! she charged
When he was gone, and the train was slackening in the station, she
moved close to the window. If I had been lonely.... I must have caught
a certain cheer in the look of the station and in the magnificent,
cosmic leisure of the idlers: in Photographer Jimmy Sturgis, in his
leather coat, with one eye shut, stamping a foot and waiting for the
mail-bag; in old Tillie, known up and down the world for her waffles,
and perpetually peering out between shelves of plants and wax fruit set
across the window of the eating-house; in Peleg Bemus, wood-cutter,
stumping about the platform on his wooden leg, wearing modestly the
prestige he had won by his flute-playing and by his advantage of New
York experiencea janitor in the far east, he was, Timothy Toplady
had once told me; in Timothy Toplady himself, who always meets the
trains, but for no reason unless to say an amazed and
reproachfulBlisterin' Benson! not a soul wants off here; and in
Abel Halsey, that itinerant preacher, of whom Doctor June had spoken.
Abel was a man of grace, Bible-taught, passioning for service, but
within him his gentle soul burned to travel, and his white horse, Major
Mary, and his road wagon and his route to the door of many a country
church were the sole satisfactions of his wanderlust; and next to these
was his delight to be at a railway station when any train arrived,
savouring the moment of some silent familiarity with distance. I
delighted in them all, and that night, as I looked, I wondered how it
would seem to me if I were returning to it after many years; and I
could imagine how my heart would ache.
As the train moved on, the girl whom Doctor June had called Delia
More turned her head, manifestly to follow for a little way each
vanishing light and figure; and as the conductor came through the car
and she spoke to him, I saw that she was in a tingle of excitement.
You sure, she asked, that you stop to the canal draw?
Uh? said the conductor, and when he comprehended, Every time, he
said, every time. You be ready when she whistles. He hesitated,
manifestly in some curiosity. They ain't a house in a mile f'om there,
though, he told her.
I know that, she gave back crisply.
When I heard her speaking of the canal draw, I found myself
wondering; for a woman is not above wonder. There, where the trains
stopped just perceptibly I myself was wont to leave them for the sake
of the mile walk on the quiet highroad to my house. That, too, though
it chanced to be night, for I am not afraid. But I wondered the more
because other women do fear, and also because mine was the only house
between the canal draw and Friendship Village; and manifestly the
shortest way to reach the village would have been to alight at the
station. But I held my peace, for the affairs of others should be to
those others an efficient disguise; and moreover, the greater part of
one's wonder is wont to come to naught.
Yet, as I seemed to follow this woman out upon the snow and the
train kept impersonally on across the meadows, I could not but see that
her bags were many and looked heavy, and twice she set them down to
rearrange. I think a ghost of the road could have done no less than ask
to help her. And I did this with an abruptness of which I am unwilling
master, though indeed I had no need to assume impatience, for I saw
that my quiet walk was spoiled.
When I spoke to her, she started and shrank away; but there was an
austerity in the lonely white road and in the country silence which
must have chilled a woman like her; and her bags were many and seemed
Much obliged to you, she said indistinctly. I'd just as li've you
should take the basket, if you want.
So I lifted the basket and trudged beside her, hoping very much that
she would not talk. For though for my own comfort I would walk far to
avoid treading on a nest, or a worm, or a magenta flower (and I loathe
magenta), yet I am often blameful enough to wound through the sheerest
bungling those who talk to me when I would rather be silent.
The night was one clinging to the way of Autumn, and as yet with no
Winter hinting. The air was mild and dry, and the sky was starry. I am
not ashamed that on a quiet highroad on a starry night I love to be
silent, and even to forget concerns of my own which seem pressing in
the publicity of the sun; but I am ashamed, I own, to have been called
to myself that night by a little choking breath of haste.
I can't goso fast, my companion said humbly; you might
jestset the basket down anywheres. I can
But I think that she can hardly have heard my apology, for she stood
where she had halted, staring away from me. We were opposite the
cemetery lying in its fence of field stone and whitewashed rails.
O my soul, my soul! I heard her say. I'd forgot the graveyard, or
I couldn't never 'a' come this way.
At that she went on, her feet quickening, as I thought, without her
will; and she kept her face turned to me, so that it should be away
from that whitewashed fence. And now because of the wound she had shown
me, I walked a little apart in the middle of the road for my attempt at
sympathy. So we came to the summit of the hill, and there the dark
suddenly yielded up the distance. The lamps of the village began to
signal, lights dotted the fields and gathered in a cosey blur in the
valley, and half a mile to westward the headlight that marked the big
Toplady barn and the little Toplady house shone out as if some one over
there were saying something.
You live here in Friendship? the girl demanded abruptly.
I could show her my house a little way before us.
Ever go inside the graveyard? she asked.
Sometimes I do go there, and at that answer she walked nearer to me
and spoke eagerly.
Air all the tombstones standin' up straight, do you know? she
said. Hev any o' their headstones fell down on 'em?
This I could answer too, definitely enough; for Friendship Cemetery,
by the vigilance of the Married Ladies' Cemetery Improvement Sodality,
is kept in no less scrupulous order than the Friendship parlours.
Well, that's a relief, she said; I couldn't get it out o' my
head. Then, because she seemed of those on whom silence lays a certain
imaginary demand, My mother an' father an' sister's buried there, she
explained. They're in there. They all died when I was gone. An' I got
the notion that their headstones had tipped over on to 'em. Or Aunt
Cornie More's, maybe.
Aunt Cornie More. I knew that name, for they had told me about her
in Friendship, so that her name, and that of the Oldmoxons, in whose
former house I lived, and many others were like folk whom one passes
often and remembers. I had been told how Aunt Cornie More had made her
own shroud from her crocheted parlour curtains, lest these fall to a
later wife of her octogenarian husband; and how as she lay in her
coffin the curtain's shell-stitch parrot come right acrost her chest.
This woman beside me had called her Aunt Cornie More. And then I
remembered the name which Doctor June had spoken on the train and the
wheels had measured.
Delia More! I said, involuntarily, and regretted it as soon as I
had spoken. But, indeed, it was as if some legend woman of the place
walked suddenly beside me, like the quick.
Who in Friendship had not heard the name, and who, save one who
keeps her own thoughts and forgets to give back greeting, would not on
the instant have remembered it? Delia More's stepsister, Jennie
Crapwell, had been betrothed to a carpenter of Friendship, and he was
at work on their house when, a month before the wedding-day, Delia and
that young carpenter had run away. Who in Friendship could not tell
that story? But before I had made an end of murmuring something
I might 'a' known they hadn't done talkin' yet, Delia More said
bitterly. They say it was like that when Calliope Marsh's beau run off
with somebody else,for ten years the town et it for cake. Well, they
ain't any of 'em goin' to get a look at me. I don't give anybody the
chance to show me the cold shoulder. You can tell 'em I was here if you
want. They can scare the children with it.
I won't tell, I said.
She looked at me.
Well, I can't help it if you do, she returned. I'm glad enough to
speak to somebody, gettin' back so. It's fourteen year. An' I was fair
body-sick to see the place again.
At this she asked about Friendship folk, and I answered as best I
might, though of what she inquired I knew little, and what I did know
was footless enough for human comfort. As to the Topladys, for example,
I had no knowledge of that one who had earned his money in bricks and
had later married a foreigner; but I knew Mis' Amanda, that she had
hands dimpled like a baby giant's, and that she carried a blue parasol
all winter to keep the sun from her eyes. I could not tell whether
Liddy Ember had been able to afford skilled treatment for her poor,
queer, pretty little sister, but I knew that Ellen Ember, with her
crown of bright hair, went about Friendship streets singing aloud, and
leaping up to catch at the low branches of the curb elms, and that she
was as picturesque as a beautiful grotesque on a page of sober text. I
had not learned where the Oldmoxons had moved, but I knew of them that
they had left me a huge fireplace in every room of my house. I could
have repeated little about Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, save that
her black week-day cloak was lined with wine broadcloth, and that she
wore it wrong side outward for best. And of whether Abigail Arnold's
children had turned out well or ill, I was profoundly ignorant; but I
remembered that she had caused a loaf of bread to be carved on the
monument of her husband, the home baker. And so on. But these were not
matters of which I could talk to the hungry woman beside me.
Then, to my amazement, when I mentioned the Proudfits,those great
and rich Proudfits whose motor had raced by our train,Delia More
would have none of them.
I do' want to hear about 'em, she said. I know about 'em. I use'
to play with Miss Clementina an' Miss Linda when we were little things.
I use' to live with the Proudfits then, an' go to school. They were
good to metime an' time again they've told me their home was mine,
too. But nowit wouldn't be the same. I know 'em. They always
were cruel proud an' cruel pious. Mis' Proudfit, she use' to set up
goodness an' worship it like a little god.
This judgment startled me, and yet to its import I secretly
assented. For though I barely had their acquaintance, Madame Proudfit
and her daughter Clementina were thorns to me too, so that I had had no
pleasure in giving them back their greetings. Perhaps it was that they
alone in Friendship sounded for me a note of other daysbut whatever
it was, they were thorns to me; and I remember how, once more,
something within me seemed to answer to this woman's bitterness.
None the less, since of the Proudfits I could give her some fragment
of account, I did so, to forge for Delia More what link I might between
her present and her past. And it was knowledge which all Friendship
You knew, I said, that Miss Linda does not come here now, because
she married against the wish of her family.
Delia More looked up at me. But though I saw that now she softened
somewhat, I had no relish for giving to her anything of the sad romance
of beautiful Linda Proudfit (as they said) and the poor young clerk of
nobody knew where, who, a dozen years before, had fled away together
into the storm.
Then there is Calliope Marsh, I ventured, to turn my thought not
less than hers. But Delia More did not answer, and at this I was
puzzled, for I think that Calliope has lived in Friendship since the
beginning, when she and Liddy Ember were partners in their little
modiste shop. You will recall Calliope? I pressed the matter.
And at that, Yes. Oh, yes, she said, and would say no more. And
because Calliope had forbidden me, I did not mention that I had seen
her on the train that morning, and that she was absent from Friendship,
but it grieved me that this stranger should be indifferent to anything
I would have passed my own gate, because the basket was heavy and
because I knew that the girl was crying. But she remembered how I had
shown her my house, and there she detained me and caught at her basket,
in haste to be gone. So I, who feel upon me a weak necessity to do a
bidding, watched her go down the still road; yet I could not let her go
away quite like that, and before I had meant to do so I called to her.
Delia More! I saidas familiarly as if she had been some other
expression of myself.
I saw her stop, but I did not go forward. I lifted my voice a
little, for by the distance between us I was less ill at ease than I am
in the usual personalities of comfort.
I heard that on the train, I said then awkwardly,and I was the
more awkward that I was not persuaded of any reason in my words,that
about 'the shadow of good things to come.' Maybe it meant something.
Delia More's thin, high-pitched voice came back to me, expressing
all my unvoiced doubt.
Tisn't like, she said. I never take any stock.
Then I looked at my dark house in a kind of consternation lest it
had heard me trying to give comfort, for within those walls I had
sometimes spoken almost as this woman spoke. But it occurred to me that
even the drowned should throw immaterial ropes to any who struggle in
It will not be necessary, I hope, to say that I followed Delia More
that night from no faintest wish to know what might happen to her. For
I have a weak desire for peace of mind, and I would rather have
forgotten her story. I followed because the quiet highroad was so
profoundly lonely, and the country silence is ambiguous, and I cannot
bear to think of a woman abroad alone in the dark. I cannot bear to
think of myself abroad alone in the dark, though I go quite without
fear; but certain other women have fear, and this one was crying. I
kept well behind her, and as soon as she reached the village, I meant
to lose sight of her and return, for a village is guardian enough. But
when we had passed the bleak meadow of the slaughter-house and the
wide, wet-smelling wood yard and had reached the first cottage on
Daphne Street, I was startled to see her unlatch that cottage gate and
enter the yard. And I was suddenly sadly apprehensive, for the cottage
was the home of Calliope, who that morning had left the village and had
asked me to say nothing about it. What if this poor creature had fled
to Calliope for sanctuary, only to find locked doors? So I waited in
the shadow of a warehouse like a bandit; and I raged at the thought of
having possibly to harbour this stranger among the books of my quiet
Then suddenly I saw a light shining brightly in Calliope Marsh's
cottage, and some one wearing a hat came swiftly and drew down a shade.
On the instant the matter was clear to me, who have a genius for
certain ways of a busybody. Calliope must have known that this poor
girl was coming; Calliope's warning to me to keep silence must have
been a way of protection to her. And here to Calliope's cottage Delia
More had come creeping, whom all Friendship would hold in righteous
distaste. But I alone of all Friendship knew that she was here, fair
body-sick to see the place again.
I turned back to the highroad, pretending great wrath that I should
be so keen over the doings of any, and that my walk should have been
spoiled because of her. But there are times when wrath is difficult.
And do what I would, there came some singing in my blood, and like a
busybody, I found myself standing still in the road fashioning a plan.
It was as if Time and the Hour were my allies, for at once I was
aware of a cutter driven smartly from the village, and I recognized the
Topladys' sorrel. At my signal the cutter drew up beside me, and it
held Timothy Toplady on his way home from the station. I asked him what
o'clock it was, and when he had found a match to light his huge silver
Blisterin' Benson! he said ruefully, it's ha'-past six, an' me
late with the chores again. I'm hauled an' sawed if it hain't always
ha' past six. They don't seem to be no times in between.
Mr. Toplady, I said boldly, let us get up a surprise party on
Calliope Marshyou and Mrs. Toplady and me.
I had learned that he was loath to oppose a suggestion and that he
always preferred to agree, but I had not hoped for enthusiasm.
That's the i-dea, said Timothy, heartily. I do admire a
surprise. But what I think is this, he added, when'll we hev it?
To-night, I proposed boldly.
Whew! Timothy whistled. Sudden for Generaleh? Suits mesuits
me. Better drive out home with me an' break it to Amanda, he cried.
I smiled as I sat beside him, noting that his enthusiasm was very
like relief. For if any one was present, he well knew that his
masterful Amanda would say nothing of his tardiness. And so it was, for
as we entered the kitchen she entirely overlooked her husband in her
amazement at seeing me.
Forevermore! that great Amanda said, turning from her stove of
savoury skillets; ain't you the stranger? Timothy says only to-day,
speakin' o' you, 'She ain't ben here for a week,' s'e. 'Week!' s'I;
'it's goin' on two.' I'm a great hand to keep track. Throw off
At that I began to feel her influence. Mis' Toplady is so huge and
capable that her mere presence will modify my judgments; and instantly
I fell wondering if I was not, after all, come on a fool's errand. She
is like Athena. For I can think about Athena well enough, but if I were
really to stand before her, I am certain that the project in which I
implored her help would be sunk in my sudden sense of Olympus.
Not the less, I made my somewhat remarkable proposal with some show
of assurance, and I should have counted on Mis' Toplady's sympathy,
which ripens at less than a sigh. In Friendship you but mention a
possible charity, visit, or new church carpet, and the enthusiasm will
react on the possibility, and the thing be done. It is the spirit of
the West, the pioneer blood in the veins of her children, expressing
itself (since there are of late no forests to conquer) in terms of love
of any initiative. We love a project as an older world would approve
the civilizing reasons for that project. Mis' Amanda plunged into the
processes of the party much as she would have felled a tree. It warmed
my heart to hear her.
We'd ought to hev a hot supperwhat victuals'll we take? she
said. Land, yes, oysters, o' course, an' we'll all chip in an' take
plenty-enough crackers. We might as well carry dishes from here, so's
to be sure an' hev what we want to use. At Mis' Doctor Helman's
su'prise we run 'way short o' spoons, an' Elder Woodruff finally went
out in the hall an' drank his broth, an' hid his bowl in the entry.
Mis' Helman found it, an' knew it by the nick. That reminds mewho'll
Mrs. Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, said I, promptly, and Abigail
Arnold, and Doctor June, and Abel Halsey.
An' the Proudfits, Mis' Amanda went on.
Suppose, said I, with high courage, that we do not ask the
Proudfits at all?
Mis' Amanda threw up her giant hands.
Not ask the Proudfits? she said. Why, my land a' livin', the
minister hardly has church in the church without the Proudfits get an
Calliope mends their fine lace for them, I reminded her, feeling
guilty. They wouldn't care to come, Mrs. Amanda, would they?
But of course I was remembering Delia More's But nowI know
'em. They worship goodness like a little god. And that night I was not
minded to have them about, for it might befall that it would be
necessary to understand other things as well.
Miss Linda would 'a' cared to, said Mis' Amanda, thoughtfully,
but I donno, myself, about Mis' Proudfit an' Miss Clementinafor
So bold an innovation as the Proudfits' omission, however, moved
Timothy Toplady to doubt.
They might not come, he said, frowning and looking sidewise, but
what I think is this, will they like bein' left out?
His masterful Amanda instantly took the other side.
Land, Timothy! she said, you be one!
I have heard her say that to him again and again, and always in a
tone so skilfully admiring that he looked almost gratified. And we
mentioned the Proudfits no more.
So Calliope Marsh's surprise party came about. When supper was over,
the table was left setting, while pickles and cookies and conserve
were packed in baskets; and presently the Topladys and I were stealing
about the village inviting to festivity. I love to remember how swiftly
Daphne Street took on an air of the untoward. Kitchens were left dark,
unaccustomed lights flashed in upper chambers, some went scurrying for
oysters before the post-office store should be closed, and some spread
the news, eager to share in the holiday importance. I love to remember
our certainty, so reasonably established, that they would all join us
as infallibly as children will join in jollity. No one refused, no one
hesitated; and when, at eight o'clock, the Topladys and I reached the
rendezvous in the Engine-House entry, every one was there before
ussave only, of course, the Proudfits.
Where's the Proudfits? Ain't we goin' to wait for the Proudfits?
asked more than one; and some one had seen the Proudfit motor come
flashing through the town from the Plank Road, empty. At all of which I
kept a guilty silence; and I had by then not a little guilt to bear,
since I was becoming every moment more doubtful of my undertaking. For
at heart these people are the kindly of earth, and yet they are prone,
as Delia More had said of the Proudfits, to worship goodness like a
little god, nor do they commonly broaden their allegiance without
distinguished precedent. And how were we to secure this?
Every one was therethe little gray Doctor June, flitting about as
quietly as a moth, and all those of whom Delia More had asked me: Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, wearing her cloak wine broadcloth side out
to honour the occasion; Abigail Arnold, with a huge basket of
gingerbread and jumbles from her home bakery; Photographer Jimmy
Sturgis, and even Mis' Sturgis, in a faint aroma of caraway which she
nibbled incessantly; Liddy Ember, and poor Ellen, wearing her
magnificent hair like a coronet, and standing wistfully about, with her
hand, palm outward, persistently covering her mouth; and Abel Halsey,
who was to leave at midnight for a lonely cross-country ride into the
hills. And as they stood, gossiping and eager, the women bird-observant
of one another's toilettes, I own myself to have felt like an alien
among them, remembering how I alone knew that Calliope Marsh was not
even in the village.
Very softly we lifted the latch of Calliope's gate and trooped in
her little dark yard.
Blisterin' Benson! Timothy Toplady whispered, ef the house hain't
pocket-dark, front and back. What ef she's went in the country?
Shh! whispered his great Amanda, masterfully. It's the shades
down. I'm nervous as a witch. My land! if the front door ain't open a
Though there are no locked doors in Friendship, I had feared that
Calliope's cottage door would now be barred, and that Delia More would
answer no formal summons. At sight of the unguarded entrance I had a
sick fear that she had in some way heard of our coming and fled away,
leaving the door ajar in her haste. But when we had footed softly
across the porch and peered in the dark passage, we saw at its farther
end a crack of light.
Might as well step ri' down to the dinin' roomthat's where she
sets, Mis' Amanda said in her whisper, which is gigantic too.
The passage smelled of the oilcloth on the floor and of a rubber
waterproof which I brushed. And I shrank back beside the waterproof and
let the others go on. For, after all, to that woman within I was a
stranger, and these were her friends of old time. So it was Mis' Amanda
who opened the dining-room door.
I could see that the room was cheery with a red-shaded hanging-lamp,
and shelves of plants, and a glowing fire in the great range. A table
was covered with red cotton and laid with dishes. Also, there was the
fragrance of toast, so that one wished to enter. And in a rocking-chair
sat Delia More. She stared up in a kind of terror at the open door, and
then turned shrinkingly to some one who sat beside her. But at that one
beside her I looked and looked again, for her rich fur cloak had fallen
where she had let it fall; and there, sitting with Delia More's hand in
hers, was that great Madame Proudfit of the Proudfit estate.
For the land! Mis' Amanda said. For the land....
But she was not looking at Madame Proudfit. And hardly seeing her,
as I could guess, that great Mis' Amanda went forward, holding out her
Delia More! she cried, Delia More!
I saw Abel Halsey's pale, luminous face as he pushed past Timothy
and strode within and crossed to her; and I remember Abigail Arnold and
Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, and how they followed Abel with
little sharp cries which must have been a kind of music. And with them
went Ellen Ember, as if, secretly, she were wiser than we knew. And
while the others blocked the passage or crowded into the room,
according to the nature which was theirs, some one came from the
cellarway and paused, smiling, on the threshold. And it was Miss
Clementina Proudfit, with eggs in her hands.
Wait! I heard Delia's sharp, piping voice then; wait!
She rose, one thin little hand pressed tensely along her cheek. But
the other hand Madame Proudfit held in both her own as she, too, rose
beside her. And with them Abel stood, facing the rest.
O, Abel HalseyAbel Halsey ... Delia said, an' Mame Blissnor
you, Abigail, don't you, any of you, come in yet. I got somethin' to
But shake hands first, Delia, cried Abel Halsey, and Delia looked
up at him, in her face a sudden, incredulous thankfulness which flushed
it, brow and cheek, and won it to a way of beauty. But she did not give
him her hand. And before she could speak again Miss Clementina put down
the eggs, and, with some little stir of silk, she took a step or two
steps toward us.
Ah, she said, let us not wait for anythingit has been so long
since we have met! Delia has just told mother and me all about these
yearsand you don't know how splendid we think she has been and how
brave in great trouble. Come in, everybody, and let's make her welcome
Madame Proudfit said nothing, but she nodded and smiled at Delia
More, and it seemed to me that in the Proudfits' way with Delia, their
beautiful Linda had won a kind of presence with them after all. And in
the moment's hush the toast, propped on a fork before the coals in the
range, suddenly blazed up in blue flame at the crust.
Somebody save the toast! cried Clementina and smiled very
They needed no more. Timothy Toplady sprang at the toast, and
already Abel Halsey and Doctor June were shaking Delia's hand; and Mis'
Amanda, throwing her shawl back over her shoulders from its pin at her
throat, enveloped Delia in her giant arms. And the others came pushing
forward, on their faces the smiles which, however they had faltered in
the passage seeking a precedent, I make bold to guess bodied forth the
gentle, hesitant spirit which informed them.
As for me, I waited without, even after the others had entered. And
as I lingered, the outer door was pushed open to admit some late comer
who whisked down the passage and stood in the dining-room doorway. It
Delia More! she cried; didn't I tell you how it'd be if you'd
only let 'em know? An' Mis' Proudfit, you here? I been worried to death
on account o' forgettin' to take home your cream lace waist I mended.
Madame Proudfit's voice lowered the high key of the others talking
We drove over to get it, Calliope, she said. And here we found
our Delia More.
* * * * *
At eleven o'clock that night, as I sat writing a letter in which the
spirit of what had come to pass must have breathedas a spirit will
breatheCalliope Marsh tapped at my door; and she had a little basket.
Here, she said, I brought you this. It's some o' everything we
hed. An'I'm obliged for my s'prise, she added, squeezing my hand in
the darkness. I surmised first thing, most, when Delia described you.
No; land, no!Delia don't suspicion you got it up. She don't think of
it bein' anybody but just Godan' I donno's 'twas. An' that's what
Abel thinkswa'n't Abel splendid? You know 'bout Abelan' Delia? You
know he use' tohe wanted tothat is, he was inoh, well, no. Of
course you wouldn't know. Well, Delia don't suspicion youbut she said
I should tell you something. 'You tell her,' she says to me, 'you tell
her I say I guess I take stock now,' she says; 'tell her that: I guess
I take stock now.'
At this my heart leaped up so that I hardly know what I said in
Delia's out here now, Calliope called from the dark steps. The
Proudfits brought us. Delia's goin' home with 'emto stay.
Thus I saw the eyes of the Proudfits' motor, with the threads of
streaming light, about to go skimming from my gate. And in that kindly
security was Delia More.
Calliope, I cried after her because I could not help it, tell
Delia More I take stock, too!
VII. THE BIG WIND
Of Abel Halsey, that young itinerant preacher, I learned more on a
December day when Autumn seemed to have come back to find whether she
had left anything. Calliope and I were resting from a racing walk up
the hillside, where the squat brick Leading Church of Friendship
overlooks the valley pastures and the village. Calliope walks like a
girl, and with our haste and the keen air, her wrinkled cheeks were as
rosy as youth.
Don't it seem like some days don't belong to any month, but just
whim along, doin' as they please? Calliope said. Months that might be
snowin' an' blowin' the expression off our face hev days when they sort
o' show summer hid inside, secret an' holy. That's the way with lots o'
things, ain't it? That's the way, she added thoughtfully, Abel feels
about the Lord, I guess. Abel Halsey,you know.
They had told me how Abel, long ordained a minister of God, had
steadfastly refused to be installed a pastor of any church. He was a
devout man, but the love of far places was upon him, and he lived what
Friendship called a-gypsyin' off in the hills, now to visit a sick
man, now to preach in a country schoolhouse, now to marry, or bury, or
help with the threshing. These lonely rides among the hills and his
custom of watching a train come in or rush by out of the distance were
his ways of voyaging. Perhaps, too, his little skill at the organ gave
him, now and then, an hour resembling a journey. But in his first youth
he had meant to go away in earnestfar away, to the City or some other
city. Also, though Calliope did not speak of it again, and I think that
the others kept a loyal silence because of my strangerhood, I had
known, since the home coming of Delia More, that Abel Halsey had once
had another dream.
You wasn't here when the new church was built, Calliope said,
looking up at the building proudly. That was the time I mean about
Abel. You know, before it was built we'd hed church in the hall over
the Gekerjeck's drug store; an' because it was his hall, Hiram
Gekerjeck, he just about run the church,picked out the wall paper,
left the stair door open Sundays so's he could get the church heat,
till the whole service smelt o' ether, an' finally hed church
announcements printed as a gift, but with a line about a patent
medicine o' his set fine along at the bottom. He said that was no
differ'nt than advertisin' the printin'-offices that way, like they do.
But it was that move made Abel Halseyhim an' Timothy Toplady and
Eppleby Holcomb an' Postmaster Sykes, the three elders, set to to build
a church. An' they done it too. An' to them four I declare it seemed
like the buildin' was a body waitin' for its soul to be born. From the
minute the sod was scraped off they watched every stick that went into
it. An' by November it was all done an' plastered an' waitin' its
pewsan' it was a-goin' to be dedicated with special doin'smusic
from off, an' strange ministers, an' Reverend Arthur Bliss from the
City. I guess Abel an' the elders hed tacked printed invites to half
the barns in the county.
I rec'lect it was o' Wednesday, the one next before the dedication,
an' windy-cold an' wintry. I'd been havin' a walk that day, an' 'long
about five o'clock, right about where we are, I'd stood watchin' the
sunset over the Pump pasture there, till I was chilled through. The
smoke was rollin' out o' the church chimney because they was dryin' the
plaster, an' I run in there to get my hands warm an' see how the
plaster was doin'. An' inside was the three elders, walkin' 'round,
layin' a finger on a sash or a postthe kind o' odd, knowledgeable way
men has with new buildin's. The Ladies' Aid had got the floor
broom-clean, an' the lamp-chandelier filled an' ready; an' the foreign
pipe-organ that the Proudfits had sent from Europe was in an' in
workin' order, little lookin'-glass over the keyboard an' all. It
seemed rill home-like, with the two big stoves a-goin', an' the floor
back of 'em piled up with the chunks Peleg Bemus had sawed for nothin'.
Everything was all redded up, waitin' for the pews.
Timothy Toplady was puttin' out his middle finger stiff here an'
there on the plaster.
'It's dry as a bone,' he says, 'but what I say is this, le's us
leave a fire burn here all night, so's to be sure. I'd hate like death
to hev the whole congregation catchin' cold an' takin' Hiram
I rec'lect Eppleby Holcomb looked up sort o' dreamyEppleby always
goes round like he'd swallowed his last night's sleep.
'The house o' God,' he says over; 'ain't that curious? Nothin'
about it to indicate it's the house o' God but the shapeno more'n's
if 'twas a buildin' where the Holy Spirit never come near. An' yet
right here in this place we'll mebbe feel the big wind an' speak with
''T seems like,' says Postmaster Sykes, thoughtful, ''t seems like
we'd ought to hev a little meetin' o' thanks here o' Sat'day
nightlittle informal praise meetin' or somethin.'
Timothy shakes his head decided.
'Silas Sykes, what you talkin'?' he says. 'Why, the church ain't
dedicated yet. A house o' God,' s'e, 'can't be used for no purpose
whatsoever without it's been dedicated.'
'So it can'tso it can't,' says the postmaster, apologetic,
knowin' he was in politics an' that the brethren was watchin' him, cat
to mouse, for slips.
'I s'pose that's so,' says Eppleby, doubtful. But he's one o' them
that sort o' ducks under situations to see if they're alike on both
sides, an' if they ain't, he up an' questions 'em. Timothy, though, he
was differ'nt. Timothy was always goin' on about constituted authority,
an' to him the thing was the thing, even if it was another thing.
'That's right,' he insists, his lips disappearin' with certainty.
'I s'pose we hadn't reely ought even to come in here an' stan' 'round,
like we are.'
He looks sidlin' over towards me, warmin' my hands rill secular by
the church stove. An' I felt like I'd been spoke up for when somebody
says from the door:
'You better just bar out the carpenters o' this world, friends, an'
done with it!'
It was Abel Halsey, standin' in the entry, lookin' as handsome as
the law allows. An' I see he happened to be there because the Through
was about due,that's the one that don't stop here,an' you can
always get a good view of it from this slope. You know Abel never
misses watchin' a fast train go 'long, if he can help himself.
'What's the i-dea?' Abel says. 'How can you pray at all in closets
an' places that ain't been dedicated? I shouldn't think they'd be holy
'That,' says the postmaster, sure o' support, 'ain't the question.'
'I thought it couldn't be,' says Abel, amiable. 'Well, what is the
question? Whether prayer is prayer, no matter where you're prayin'?'
'Oh, no,' says Eppleby Holcomb, soothin', 'it ain't that.'
'I thought it couldn't be that,' says Abel. 'Is it whether the Lord
is in dedicated spots an' nowheres else?'
'Abel Halsey,' Timothy tarts up, 'you needn't to be sacrilegious.'
'But,' says Abel, 'the question is, whether you're
sacrilegious to deny a prayer-meetin' or any other good use to the
church or to any other place, dedicated or not. Well, Timothy, I think
Timothy clears his throat an' dabs at the palm of his hand with his
other front finger. But before he could lay down eternal law, we sort
o' heard, almost before we knew we heard, folks hurryin' past out here
on the frozen ground. An' they was shoutin', like questions, an'
a-shoutin' further off. We looked out, an' I can remember how the whole
slope up from the village there was black with folks.
We run outside, an' I know I kep' close by Abel Halsey. An' I got
hold o' what had happened when somebody yelled an answer to his askin'.
You probably heard all about that part. It was the day the Through
Express went off the track down there in the cut beyond the Pump
We run with the rest of 'em, me keepin' close to Abel, I guess
because he's got a way with him that makes you think he'd know what to
do no matter what. But when he was two-thirds o' the way acrost the
pasture, he stops short an' grabs at my sleeve.
'Look here,' he says, 'you can't go down there. You mustn't do it.
We donno what'll be. You stay here,' he says; 'you set there under the
You kind o' haf to mind Abel. It's sort o' grained in that
man to hev folks disciple after him. I made him promise he'd motion
from the fence if he see I could help any, an' then I se' down under
that big tree down there. I was tremblin' some, I know. It always seems
like wrecks are somethin' that happen in other states an' in the dark.
But when one's on ground that you know like a book an' was brought up
on,when it's in the daylight, right by a pasture you've been acrost
always an' where you've walked the ties,well, I s'pose it's the same
feelin' as when a man you know cuts up a state's prison caper; seem's
like he can't of, because you knew him.
Half the men o' Friendship run by me, seems though. The whole
town'd been rousted up while we was in the church talkin' heresy. An'
up on the high place on the road there I see Zittelhof's undertaking
wagon, with the sunset showin' on its nickel rails. But not a woman run
past me. Ain't it funny how it's men that go to danger of rail an' fire
an' waterbut when it's nothin' but birth an' dyin' natural, then it's
for women to be there.
When I'd got about ready to fly away, waitin' so, I see Abel at the
fence. An' he didn't motion to me, but he swung over the top an' come
acrost the stubble, an' I see he hed somethin' in his arms. I run to
meet him, an' he run too, crooked, his feet turnin' over with him some
in the hard ground. The sky made his face sort o' bright; an' I see
he'd got a child in his arms.
He didn't give her to me. He stood her down side o' mea little
thing of five years old, or six, with thick, straight hair an' big
'Is she hurt, Abel?' I says.
'No, she ain't hurt none,' he answers me, 'an' they's about
seventeen more of 'em, her age, an' they ain't hurt, either. Their
coach was standin' up on its legs all right. But the man they was with,
he's stone dead. Hit on the head, somehow. An',' Abel says, 'I'm goin'
to throw 'em all over the fence to you.'
The little girl jus' kep' still. An' when we took her by each hand,
an' run back toward the fence with her, her feet hardly touchin' the
ground, she kep' up without a word, like all to once she'd found out
this is a world where the upside-down is consider'ble in use. An' I
waited with her, over there this side the cut, hearin' 'em farther down
rippin' off fence rails so's to let through what they hed to carry.
Time after time Abel come scramblin' up the sand-bank, bringin' 'em
two 't oncelittle girls they was, all about the age o' the first one,
none of 'em with hats or cloaks on; an' I took 'em in my arms an' set
'em down, an' took 'em in my arms an' set 'em down, till I was fair
movin' in a dream. They belonged, I see by their dress, to some kind of
a home for the homeless, an' I judged the man was takin' 'em
somewheres, him that Abel said'd been killed. Some'd reach out their
arms to me over the fencean' some was afraid an' hung back, but
some'd just cling to me an' not want to be set down. I can remember
them the best.
Abel, when he come with the last ones, he off with his coat like I
with my ulster, an' as well as we could we wrapped four or five of 'em
upone that was sickly, an' one little delicate blonde, an' a little
lame girl, an' the onethe others called her Mitsythat'd come over
the fence first. An' by then half of 'em was beginnin' to cry some. An'
the wind was like so many knives.
'Where shall we take 'em to, Abel?' I says, beside myself.
'Take 'em?' he says. 'Take 'em into the church! Quick as you can.
This wind is like death. Stay with 'em till I come.'
Somehow or other I got 'em acrost that pasture. When I look at the
Pump pasture now, in afternoon like this, or in Spring with vi'lets, or
when a circus show's there, it don't seem to me it could 'a' been the
same place. I kep' 'em together the best I couldsome of 'em beggin'
for 'Mr. MiddieMr. Middie,' the man, I judged, that was dead. An'
finally we got up here in the road, an' it was like the end o' pain to
be able to fling open the church door an' marshal 'em through the entry
into that great, big, warm room, with the two fires roarin'.
I got 'em 'round the nearest stove an' rubbed their little hands
an' tried not to scare 'em to death with wantin' to love 'em; an' all
the while, bad as I felt for 'em, I was glad an' glad that it was me
that could be there with 'em. They was twenty,when I come to count
'em so's to keep track,twenty little girls with short, thick hair, or
soft, short curls, an' every one with something baby-like left to 'em.
An' when we set on the floor round the stove, the coals shone through
the big open draft into their faces, an' they looked over their
shoulders to the dark creepin' up the room, an' they come closer 'round
mean' the closest-up ones snuggled.
Well, o' course that was at first, when they was some dazed. But as
fast as their blue little hands was warm an' pink again, one or two of
'em begun to whimper, natural an' human, an' up with their arm to their
face, an' then begun to cry right out, an' some more joined in, an' the
rest pipes up, askin' for Mr. Middie. An' I thought, 'Sp'osin' they
all cried an' what if Abel Halsey stayed away hours.' I donno. I
done my best too. Mebbe it's because I'm use' to children with my heart
an' not with my ways. Anyhow, most of 'em was cryin' prime when Abel
finally got there.
When he come in, I see Abel's face was white an' dusty, an' he had
his other coat off an' gone too, an' his shirt-sleeves was some tore.
But he comes runnin' up to them cryin' children an' I wish't you could
'a' seen his smileAbel's smile was always kind o' like his soul
growin' out of his face, rill thrifty.
'Why, you little kiddies!' s'e, 'cryin' when you're all nice an'
warm! Le's see now,' he says grave. 'Anybody here know how to play
Drop-the-handkerchief? If you do,' he tells 'em, 'stand up quick!'
They scrambled 'round like they was beetles an' you'd took up the
stone. They was all up in a minute, an' stopped cryin', too. With that
he catches my handkerchief out o' my hand an' flutters it over his head
an' runs to the middle o' the room.
'Come on!' he says. 'Hold o' handsevery one o' you hold o' hands.
I'm goin' to drop the handkerchief, an' you'd better hurry up.'
That was talk they knew. They was after him in a secunt an' tears
forgot,them poor little things,laughin' an' hold o' hands, an'
dancin' in a chain, an' standin' in a ring. An' when he hed 'em like
that, an' still, Abel begun runnin' 'round to drop the handkerchief;
an' then he turns to me.
'Only two killed, thank God,' he says as he run; 'the conductor an'
M-i-d-d-l-e-t-o-n,' he spells it, an' motions to the children with the
handkerchief so's I'd know who Middleton was. 'An' not a scrap o' paper
on him,' he goes on, 'to tell what home he brought the children from or
where he's goin' with 'em. Their mileage was punched to the Citybut
we don't know where they belong there, an' the conductor bein' gone
too. The poor fellow that had 'em in charge never knew what hurt him.
Hit from overhead, he was, an' his skull crushed....'
It was so dark in the church by then we could hardly see, but the
children could keep track o' the white handkerchief. He let it fall
behind the little girl he'd brought me first,Mitsy,an' she catches
it up an' sort o' squeaks with the fun an' runs after him. An' while he
doubles an' turns,
'They've telegraphed ahead,' he says, 'to two or three places in
the City. But even if we hear right off, we can't get 'em out o'
Friendship to-night. They'll hev to stay here. The Commercial
Travellers' Hotel an' the Depot House has both got all they can do
forsome of 'em hurt pretty bad. They couldn't either hotel take 'em
Then he lets Mitsy catch him an' he ups with her on his shoulder
an' run with her on his back, his face lookin' out o' her blue, striped
'We'll hev to house 'em right here in the church,' he says.
'Here?' says I; 'here in the church?'
'You know Friendship,' he says, hoppin' along. 'Not half a dozen
houses could take in more'n two extry, even if we hed the time to
canvass. An' we ain't the time. They want their s-u-p-p-e-r
right now,' he spells it out, an' lit out nimble when Mitsy dropped the
handkerchief back o' the little blond girl. Then he let the little
blond girl catch them, and he took her on his shoulders too, an' they
was both shoutin' so 't he hed to make little circles out to get where
I could hear him.
'I've seen Zittelhof,' he told me. 'He was down there with his
wagon. He'll bring up enough little canvas cots from the store. An' I
thought mebbe you'd go down to the village an' pick up some stuff
they'll needbedding an' things. An' get the women here with some
supper. Come on now,' he calls out to 'em; 'everybody in a procession
He led 'em off with
'King William was King James's son,'
an' he sings back to me, for the secunt line,
'Go now, go quick, I bet they're starved!'
So I got into my coat, tryin' to think where I should go to be sure
o' not wastin' time talkin'. Lots o' folks in this world is willin',
but mighty few can be quick.
I knew right off, though, where I'd find somebody to help. The
Friendship Married Ladies' Cemetery Improvement Sodality was meetin'
that afternoon with Mis' Toplady, an' I could cut acrost their
pasture Calliope nodded toward the little Toplady house and the big
Toplady barnan' that's what I done. An' when I got near enough to
the house to tell, I see by the light in the parlour that they was
still there. An' I know when I got into the room, full as I was o' news
o' them little children an' the wreck an' the two killed an' all them
that was hurtthere was the Sodality settlin' whether the lamb's wool
comforter for the bazaar should be tied with pink for daintiness or
brown for durability.
'Dainty!' says I, when I got my breath. 'They's sides to
life makes me want to pinch that word right out o' the dictionary same
as I would a bug,' I says.
That was funny, too,Calliope added thoughtfully, because I like
that word, speakin' o' food an' ways to do things. But some folks get
to livin' the word same's if it was the law.
I guess they thought I was crazy, she went on, but I wasn't long
makin' 'em understand. An' I tell you, the way they took it made me
love 'em all. If you want to love folks, just you get in some kind o'
respectable trouble in Friendship, an' you'll see so much lovableness
that the trouble'll kind o' spindle out an' leave nothin' but the love
doin' business. My land, the Sodality went at the situation head first,
like it was somethin' to get acrost before dark. An' so it was.
I remember Mis' Photographer Sturgis: 'There!' she says, 'most
cryin'. 'If ever I take only a pint o' milk, I'm sure as sure to want
more before the day's out. None of us is on good terms with each
other's milkman. Where we goin' to get the milk,' she says, 'for
them poor little things?'
'Where?' says Mis' Topladyyou know how big an' comfortable an'
settled she is'Where? Well, you needn't to think o' where. I
expect the Jersey won't be milked till I go an' milk her,' she says,
'but she gives six quarts, nights, right along now, an' sometimes
seven. Now about the bread.'
Mis' Postmaster Sykes use' to set sponge twice a week, an' she
offered five loaves out o' her six baked that day. Mis' Holcomb had two
loaves o' brown bread an' a crock o' sour cream cookies. An' Libbie
Liberty bursts out that they'd got up their courage an' killed an'
boiled two o' their chickens the day before an' none o' the girls'd
been able to touch a mouthful, bein' they'd raised the hens from egg to
axe. Libbie said she'd bring the whole kettle along, an' it could be
het on the church stove an' made soup of. So it went on, down to even
Liddy Ember, that was my partner an' silly poor, an' in about four
minutes everything was provided for, beddin' an' all.
Mis' Toplady had flew upstairs, gettin' out the linen, an' she was
comin' down the front stairs with her arms full o' sheets an' pillow
slips when through the front door walks Timothy Toplady, come in all
excited an' lookin' every which way. Seems he'd barked his elbow in the
rescue work an' laid off for liniment.
'Oh, Timothy,' says his wife, 'them poor little children. We've
been plannin' it all out.'
'Who's goin' to take 'em in?' says Timothy, tryin' to roll up his
overcoat sleeve for fear the Sodality'd be put to the blush if he got
to his elbow any other way.
'They're all warm in the church,' Mis' Toplady says; 'we're goin'
to leave 'em there. Zittelhof's goin' to take up canvas cots. We're
gettin' the bedding together,' she told him.
Timothy looked up, sort o' wild an' glazed.
'Canvas cots,' s'e, 'in the house o' the Lord?'
'Why, Timothy,' says his wife, helpless, 'it's all warm there now,
an' we don't know what else. We thought we'd carry up their supper to
'Supper,' says Timothy, 'in the house o' the Lord?'
Then Mis' Toplady spunks up some.
'Why, yes,' she says; 'I'm goin' to milk the Jersey an' take up the
Timothy waves his barked arm in the air.
'Never!' s'e. 'Never. We elders'll never consent to that, not in
At that we all stood around sort o' pinned to the air. This hadn't
occurred to nobody. But his wife was back at him, rill crispy.
'Timothy Toplady,' s'she, 'they use churches for horspitals an'
refuges,' she says.
'They do,' says Timothy, solemn, 'they do, in necessity, an' war,
an' siege. But here's the whole o' Friendship Village to take these
children in, an' it's sacrilege to use the house o' God for any purpose
whatever while it's waitin' its dedication. It's stealin', he says,
'from the Lord Most High.'
I never see anybody more het up. We all tried to tell him. Nobody
in Friendship has a warm spare room in winter, without it's the
Proudfits, an' they was in Europe an' their house locked. Mebbe six of
us, we counted up afterwards, could 'a' took in two children to sleep
in a cold room, or one child to sleep with some one o' the family. But
as Abel said, where was the time to canvass round? An' what could we do
with the other little things? But Timothy wouldn't listen to nothin'.
'Amanda,' s'e in a married voice, 'what I say is this, I forbid you
to carry a drop o' Jersey milk or any other kind o' milk up to that
With that he was out the front door an' liniment forgot.
Mis' Sykes spatted her hands.
'He'll find Silas Sykes an' Eppleby,' she says to Mis' Holcomb.
'Quick. Le's us get our hands on my bread an' your cookies. Them poor
little things'way past their supper hour.'
'An' none of 'em got mothers,' says Mis' Sturgis, 'just left 'round
with lockets on, I sp'ose, an' wrecked an' hungry....'
'An' one o' 'em lame,' Mame Holcomb puts in, down on her knees
tryin' to sort out her overshoes. The Sodality never could tell its own
Well, they scattered so quick it made you think o' mulberry leaves,
some years, in the first frostan' I was left alone with Mis' Toplady.
'Here,' she says to me then, all squintin' with firmness, 'you take
along all the linen an' comfortables you can lug. Timothy didn't
mention them. An' leave the rest to me.'
I went over that in my mind while I stumbled along back to the
church, loaded down. But I couldn't make much out of it. I knew Timothy
Toplady: that he was meek till he turned an' then it was look out. An'
I knew, too, that Timothy could run Silas Sykes, the postmaster's
political strength, like you've noticed, makin' him kind o' wobbled in
his own judgment of other things. I didn't know how Eppleby Holcomb'd
beit might turn out to be one o' the things he'd up an' question,
civilized, but I wa'n't sure. Anyhow, the cream cookies an' the two
loaves wasn't so vital as them five loaves o' bread.
When I got back to the church, here it was all lit up. Abel had lit
the chandelier on a secular scene! Bless 'em, it surely was secular,
though, accordin' to my lights, it was some sacred too. Six or seven of
the little things was buildin' a palace out o' the split wood, with the
little lame girl for queen. The little blonde an' the one that was rill
delicate lookin' had gone to sleep by the stove on Abel's overcoat.
Mitsy, she run from somewheres an' grabbed my hand. An' Abel had the
rest over by the other stove tellin' 'em stories. I heard him say
dragon, an' blue velvet, an' golden hair.
I hadn't more'n got inside the door before Zittelhof's wagon come
with the cots. An' Mis' Zittelhof was with him, her arms full o'
bedclothes she'd gathered up around from folks. I never said a word to
Abel about the trouble with Timothy. I donno if Abel rilly heard us
come in, he was so excited about his dragon. An' Mis' Zittelhof an' I
began makin' up the cots. On the first one I laid the two babies that
was asleep on the floor. They never woke up. Their little cheeks was
warm an' pink, an' one of 'em had some tears on it. When I see that, I
clear forgot the church wasn't dedicated, an' I thanked God they was
there, safe an' by a good fire, with somebody 'tendin' to 'em.
The bed-makin' an' the story-tellin' an' the palace-buildin' went
on, an' I kep' gettin' exciteder every minute. When the door opened, I
couldn't tell which was in my mouth, my heart or my tongue. But it was
only Libbie Liberty with the big iron kettle o' chicken broth an' a
basket o' cups an' spoons. She se' down the kettle on the stove an'
stirred up the fire under it, an' it was no time before the whole
church begun to smell savoury as a kitchen. An' then in walks Mis'
Holcomb with her brown bread an' cream cookies. An' we fair jumped up
an' down when Mis' Sykes come breathin' in the door with them five
loaves o' wheat bread safe, an' butter to match.
Still, we was without milk. There wasn't a sign o' Mis'
Toplady. An' any minute Timothy might get there with Silas in tow. Mis'
Sykes was nervous as a witch over it, an' it was her proposed we set
the children up on the cots an' begin' feedin' 'em right away. I run
down the room to tell Abel, an' then I hed to tell him why we'd
Abel laughs a little when he heard about it.
'Dear old Timothy,' he says, 'servin' his God accordin' to the
dictates of his own notions. Wait a minute till I release the
When he said that, I was afraid he must be telling a worldly story
with royalty in. An' I begun to get troubled myself. But I heard him
end it: 'So the Princess found her kingdom because she learnt to love
every living thing. She saved the lives of the hare an' the goldfinch.
An' don't you ever let any living thing suffer one minute and maybe
you'll find out some of the things the Princess knew.' An', royalty or
not, I felt all right about Abel's story-telling after that.
Then we all brisked round an' begun settin' the children up on the
cotstwo or three to a cot, with one of us to wait on 'em. An' both
the little sleepy ones woke up, too. An' when we sliced an' spread the
bread an' dished the hot chicken broth an' see how hungry they all
seemed, I declare if one of us could feel wicked. The little things'd
begun to talk some by then, an' they chatted soft an' looked up at us,
an' that little Mitsyshe'd got so she'd kiss me every time I'd ask
her. An' I was perfectly shameless. I donno's the poor little thing got
enough to eat. But sometimes when things go blueI like to think about
that. I guess we was all the same. Our principal feelin' was how dear
they was, an' to hurry up before Timothy Toplady got there, an' how we
wish't we hed more milk.
Then all of a sudden while we was flyin' round, I happened to go
past the front door, an' I heard a noise in the entry. I thought o'
Timothy an' Silas, comin' with sheriffs an' firearms an' I didn't know
whatSilas havin' politics back of him, so; an' I rec'lect I planned,
wild an' contradictory, first about callin' an instantaneous
congregational meetin' to decide which was right, an' then about
telegraphin' to the City for constituted authority to do as we was
doin', an' then about Abel fightin' Timothy an' Silas both, if it come
I got hold o' Mis' Sykes an' Mame Holcomb, an' told 'em quiet.
'Somethin's the matter outside there,' I says to 'em, kind o' warnin',
'an' I thought you two'd ought to know it.' An' we all three come
'round by the entry door, careless, an listened. An' the noise kep' up,
kind o' soft an' obstinate, an' we couldn't make it out.
'We'd best go out there an' see,' says Mis' Sykes, low; 'the dear
land knows what men will do.'
So we watched our chance an' slipped outan' I guess, for all our
high ways, we was all three wonderin' inside, was we rilly doin' right.
You know your doubts come thick when there's a noise in the entry. But
Mis' Sykes acted as brave as two, an' it was her shut the door to
An' there, right by that stone just outside the entry o' the
church, set Mis' Timothy Toplady, milkin' her Jersey cow.
We could just see her, dim, by the light o' the transom. She was on
the secunt pail, an' that was two-thirds full. She hed her back toward
us, an' she didn't hear us. She set all wrapped up in a shawl, a basket
o' cups side of her, an' the Jersey standin' there, quiet an' demure.
An' beyond, in the cut an' movin' acrost the Pump pasture, it was thick
But before we three'd hed time to burst out like we wanted to, we
sort o' scrooched back again. Because on the other side o' the cow we
heard Timothy Toplady's voice. He'd just got there, some breathless,
an' with him, we see, was Eppleby.
'Amanda,' says Timothy, 'what in the Dominion o' Canady air you
'I shouldn't think you would know,' says Mis' Toplady, short. 'You
don't do enough of it.'
She hed him there. Timothy always will go down to the Dick
Dasher an' shirk the chores.
'Amanda,' says Timothy, 'you've disobeyed me flat-footed.'
'No such thing,' s'she, milkin' away like mad for fear he'd use
force; 'I ain't carried a drop o' milk here. I've drove it,' she says.
'Milkin' in the church,' he says.
'No, sir,' says Amanda, back at him; 'I'm outside on the sod, an'
you know it.'
An' then my hopes sort o' riz, because I thought I heard Eppleby
Holcomb laugh softsort of a half-an'-half chuckle. Like he'd looked
under the situation an' see it wasn't alike on both sides. An' 't the
same time Mis' Toplady, she changed her way, an',
'Timothy,' s'she, 'you hungry?'
'I'm nigh starved,' says Timothy. 'It must be eight o'clock,' s'e,
'but I ain't the heart to think o' that.'
'No,' s'she, 'so you ain't. Not with them poor babies in there
hungrier'n you be an' nowheres to go.'
With that she got done milkin' an' stood up an' picked up her two
pailswe could smell the sweet, warm milk from where we was.
'Timothy,' s'she, 'the worst sacrilege that's done in this
world is when folks turns their backs on any little bit of a chance
that the Lord gives 'em to do good in, like He told 'em. Who was it,
I'd like to know, said, Suffer little children? Who was it said,
Feed my lambs? No when or where about that. Just do it.
An' no occasion to hem an' haw about it, either. The least you can do
for your share in this, as I see it, is to keep your silence and drive
the cow back home. The oven's full o' bake' sweet potatoes an' they
must be just nearin' done.'
I see Timothy start to wave his arms an' I donno what he would 'a'
said if it hadn't been settled for 'im. For then, like it was right out
o' the sky, the church organ begun to play soft. For a minute we all
looked up, like the Shepherds must of when the voices of the night told
'em the spirit o' God was in the world, born in a little child. It was
Abel,I knew right away it was Abel,an' he was just gentlin' round
soft on the keys, kind o' like he was askin' a blessin' an' rockin' a
cradle an' doin' all the little nice things music can. An' with that
Mis' Sykes, she throws open the church door.
I'll never forget how it looked insideall warm an' lamp-lit an'
with them little things bein' fed an' chatterin' soft. An' up in the
loft set Abel, playin' away on the foreign organ before it'd been
dedicated. An' then he begun singin' lowan' there's somethin' about
Abel 't you just haf to listen, whatever he says or does. Even
Timothy hed to listenthough I think he was some struck dumb, too, an'
that kep' him controlled for a minutelike it will. An' Abel sung:
'The Lord is my ShepherdI shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,
He leadeth meHe leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul....'
An' at the first line, before we'd rilly sensed what it was he
said, every one o' them little children in the midst o' their supper
slips off the edge o' the cots an' kneeled down there on the bare
floor, just like they'd been told to. Oh, wasn't it wonderful? An' yet
it wasn'tit wasn't. We found out, when folks come for 'em the next
mornin', it was the children's prayer that they sung every day o' their
lives at their Good Shepherd's Orphans' Homesoft an' out o' tune an'
with all their little hearts, just as they went ahead an' sung it with
Abel, clear to the end. I guess they didn't know everybody don't kneel
down all over the world when they hear the Twenty-third Psalm.
Abel seen 'em in the little lookin'-glass over the keyboard. An'
when he'd got done he set there perfectly still with his head down. An'
Mis' Sykes an' Mis' Holcomb an' Eppleby an' I bowed our heads too, out
there in the entry. An' so, after a minute, did Timothy. I couldn't
help peekin' to see.
An' then, when the children was all a-rustlin' up, Mis' Toplady she
jus' hands her two pails o' milk over to Timothy.
'You take 'em in,' she says to him, her eyes swimmin'. 'I've come
off without my handkerchief.'
Timothy looks round him, kind o' helpless, but Eppleby stood there
an' pats him on the arm.
'Go ingo in, brother,' Eppleby says gentle. 'I guess the church's
been dedicated. I feel like we'd heard the big windan' I guess,
mebbe, the Pentecostal tongues.'
An' Timothyhe's an awful tender-hearted man in spite o' bein' so
notionalTimothy just went on in with the milk, without sayin'
anything. An' Eppleby side of him. An' we 'most shut the door on Silas
Sykes, comin' tearin' up on account o' Timothy leavin' him urgent word
to come, without explainin' why. An' when Silas see the inside o' the
church, all lit up an' chicken supper for the children an' the other
two elders there with the milk, he just rubs his hands an' beams like
he see his secunt term. I donno's it'd ever enter Silas Sykes's head't
there was anything wrong with anything, providin' somebody wasn't
snappin' him up for it. I guess it's like that in politics.
We took the milk around an', bake' sweet potatoes forgot, Timothy
stood up by the stove, between Eppleby an' Silas, an' watched usan'
the Jersey must 'a' picked her way home alone. An' Abel, he just set
there to the organ, gentlin' 'round soft on the keys so it made me
think o' God movin' on the face o' the waters. An' movin' on the face
of everything else too, dedicated or not. It was like we'd felt the big
wind, same as Eppleby said. An' somethin' in it kind o' hid, secret an'
VIII. THE GRANDMA LADIES
Two weeks before Christmas Friendship was thrown into a state of
holiday delight. Mrs. Proudfit and her daughter, Miss Clementina,
issued invitations to a reception to be given on Christmas Eve at
Proudfit House, on Friendship Hill. The Proudfits, who had rarely
entertained since Miss Linda went away, lived in Europe and New York
and spent little time in the village, but, for all that, they remained
citizens in absence, and Friendship always wrote out invitations for
them whenever it gave companies. The invitations the postmaster duly
forwarded to some Manhattan bank, though I think the village had a
secret conviction that these were never receivedsent out wild to a
bank in the City, so. However, now that old courtesies were to be so
magnificently returned, every one believed and felt a greater respect
for the whole financial world.
The invitations enclosed the card of Mrs. Nita Ordway, and the name
sounded for me a note of other days when, before my coming to
Friendship Village, we two had, in the town, belonged to one happy
circle of friends.
I thought at first mebbe the card'd got shoved in the envelope by
mistake, said Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss. I know once I got a
Christmas book from a cousin o' mine in the City, an' a strange man's
card fell out o' the leaves. I sent the card right straight back to
her, an' Cousin Jane seemed rill cut up, so I made up my mind I'd lay
low about this card. But I hear everybody's got 'em. I s'pose it's a
sign that it's some Mis' Ordway's party tooonly not enough hers to
get her name on the invite. Mebbe she chipped in on the expenses. Give
a third, like enough.
However that was, Friendship looked on the Christmas party as on
some unexpected door about to open in its path, and it woke in the
morning conscious of expectation before it could remember what to
expect. Proudfit House! A Christmas party! It touched every one as
might some giant Santa Claus, for grown-ups, with a pack of
heart's-ease on his back.
When Mrs. Ordway arrived in the village, the excitement mounted.
Mrs. Nita Ordway was the first exquisitely beautiful woman of the great
world whom Friendship had ever seenbeautiful like in the pictures of
when noted folks was young, the village breathlessly summed her up. To
be sure, when she and her little daughter, Viola, rode out in the
Proudfits' motor, nobody in the street appeared to look at them. But
Friendship knew when they rode, and when they walked, and what they
wore, and when they returned.
It was a happiness to me to see Mrs. Ordway again, and I sat often
with her in the music room at Proudfit House and listened to her
glorious voice in just the songs that I love. Sometimes she would send
for her little Viola, so that I might sit with the child in my arms,
for she was one of those rare children who will let you love them.
I like be made some 'tention to, Viola sometimes said shyly. She
was not afraid, and she would stay with me hour-long, as if she loved
to be loved. She was like a little come-a-purpose spirit, to let one
A day or two after the invitations had been received, I was in my
guest room going over my Christmas list. Just before Christmas I
delight in the look of a guest room, for then the bed is spread with a
brave array of pretty things, and when one arranges and wraps them, the
stitches of rose and blue on flowered fabrics, the flutter of crisp
ribbons, and the breath of sachets make one glad. I was lingering at my
task when I heard some one below, and I recognized her voice.
Calliope! I called gladly from the stairs, and bade her come up to
Calliope is one of the women in whose presence one can wrap one's
Christmas gifts. She came into the room, bringing a breath of Winter,
and she laid aside her tan ulster and her round straw hat, and
straightway sat down on the rug by the open fire.
Well said! she cried contentedly, a grate fire upstairs! It's one
of the things that never seems real to me, like a tower on a house. I'd
as soon think o' havin' a grate fire up a tree an' settin' there, as in
my chamber. Anyway, when it comes Winter, upstairs in Friendship is
just a place where you go after something in the bureau draw' an' come
down again as quick as you can. I s'pose you got an invite to the
Yes, I said, and you will go, Calliope?
But instead of answering me:
My land! she said, think of it! A party like that, an' not a
low-necked waist in town, nor a swallow-tail! An' only two weeks to do
anything in, an' only Liddy Ember for dressmaker, an' it takes her two
weeks to make a dress. I guess Mis' Postmaster Sykes has got her. They
say she read her invite in the post-office with one hand an' snapped up
that tobacco-brown net in the post-office store window with the other,
an' out an' up to Liddy's an' hired her before she was up from the
breakfast table. So she gets the town new dress. Mis' Sykes is terrible
What will you wear, Calliope? I asked.
MeI never wear anything but henriettas, she said. I think the
plainer-faced you are, the simpler you'd ought to be dressed. I use' to
fix up terrible ruffled, but when I see I was reg'lar plain-faced I
stuck to henriettas, mostly gray
Calliope, I said resolutely, you don't mean you're not going to
the Proudfit party?
She clasped her hands and held them, palms outward, over her mouth,
and her eyes twinkled above them.
No, sir, she said, I can't go. You'll laugh at me! she defended.
Don't you tell! she warned. And finally she told me.
Day before yesterday, she said, I went into the City. An' I come
out on the trolley. An' I donno what possessed me,I ain't done it for
months,but when we crossed the start of the Plank Road, I got off an'
went up an' visited the Old Ladies' Home. You know I've always
thought, she broke off, well, you know I ain't a rill lot to do
with, an' I always had an i-dee that mebbe sometime, when I got older,
I nodded, and she went on.
Well, I walked around among 'em up therecanary birds an' plants
an' footstoolsan' the whole thing fixed up so cheerful that it's
pitiful. Red wall-paper an' flowered curtains an' such, all fair
yellin' at you, 'We're cheerfulcheerfulcheerful!' till I like to
run. An' it come over me, bein' so near Christmas an' all, what would
they do on Christmas? So I asked a woman in a navy-blue dress, seein'
she flipped around like she was the flag o' the place.
'The south corridor,' she answers,them's the highest
payinCalliope threw in, 'chipped in an' got up a tree, an' there's
gifts for all,' s'she. 'The west corridor'them's the local city
ones'all has friends to take 'em away for the day. The east
corridor'they're from farther away an' middlin' well-to-do'all has
boxes comin' to 'em from off. But the north corridor,' s'she, scowlin'
some, 'is rather a trial to us.'
An' I was waitin' for that. The north corridor is all charity old
ladies, paid for out o' the fund; an' the president o' the home has
just died, an' the secretary's in the old country on a pleasure trip,
an' the board's in a row over the policy o' the home, an' the navy-blue
matron dassent act, an' altogether it looked like the north corridor
was goin' to get a regular mid-week Wednesday instead of a Christmas.
An' I up an' ast' her to take me down to see 'em.
It was easy to see what Calliope had done, I thought: she had
promised to spend Christmas Eve over there in the north corridor,
They was nine of 'em, she went on, nice old grandma ladies, with
hands that looked like they'd ought to 'a' been tyin' little aprons an'
cuttin' out cookies an' squeezin' somebody else's hand. There they set,
with the wall-paper doin' its cheerfulest, loud as an insult,one of
'em with lots o' white hair, one of 'em singin' a little, some of 'em
tryin' to sew or knit some. My land! said Calliope, when we think of
'em sittin' up an' down the worldwith their arms all emptyan'
Christmas comin' onain't it a wonderWell, I stayed 'round an'
talked to 'em, she went on, while the navy-blue lady whisked her
starched skirts some. She seemed too busy 'tendin' to 'em to give 'em
much attention. An' they looked rill pleased when I talked to 'em about
their patchwork an' knittin', an' did they get the sun all day, an'
didn't the canary sort o' shave somethin' off'n the human ear-drum, on
his tiptop notes? An' when I said that, Grandma Hollyher with lots o'
'I donno but it does,' she says, 'but I don't mind; I'm so thankful
to see somethin' around that's little an' young.'
That sort o' landed in my heart. It's just what I'd been thinkin'
'Little, young things,' s'I, sort o' careless, 'make a lot o'
racket, you know.'
At that old Mis' Burney pipes upher that brought up her
daughter's children an' her son-in-law married again an' turned her
'I use' to think so,' she says quiet; 'the noise o' the children
use' to bother me terrible. When they reely got to goin' I use' to
think I couldn't stand it, my head hurt me so. But now,' s'she, 'I get
to thinkin' sometimes I wouldn't mind a horse-fiddle if some of 'em
'They're lots o' company, the little things,' says old Mis'
Norrisshe'd kep' mislayin' her teeth an' the navy-blue lady had took
'em away from her that day for to teach her, so I couldn't hardly
understand what she said. 'Mine was named Ellen an' Nancy,' I made out.
'Some o' you remember my Sam,'Mis' Ailing speaks up then, an' she
begun windin' up her yarn an' never noticed she was ravellin' out her
mitten,'he was an alderman,' she was goin' on, but old Mis' Winslow
cuts in on her:
'It don't matter what he was when he was man-grown,' s'she.
'Man-grown can get along themselves. It's when they're little bits o'
ones,' she says.
'Little!' says Grandma Holly. 'Is it little you mean? Well, my
Amy's two little feet use' to be swallowed up in my handso,' she
says, shuttin' her hand over to show us.
Well, so they went on. I give you my word I stood there sort o'
grippin' up on my elbows. I'd always known it was solike you do know
things are so. But somehow when you come to feel they're so,
that's another thing. And I was feelin' this in my throat 'bout as big
as an orange. I'd thought their hands looked like they'd ought to be
tyin' up little aprons, but I never thought o' the hands bein' rill
lonesome to do the tyin', an' thinkin' about it, too. An' now I
understood 'em like I see 'em for the first time, rill face to face.
Somehow, we ain't any too apt to look at people that way, said
Calliope. You see how I mean it.
Then comes the navy-blue woman an' says it's time for their hot
milk, an' they all looked up, kind o' hopeful. An' I see that the
navy-blue one had got 'em trained into the i-dee that hot milk was an
event. She didn't like to hev 'em talk much about the past, she told
me, when she see what we was speakin' of, because it gener'lly made
some of 'em cry, an' the i-dee was to keep the spirit of the home
bright an' cheerful. 'So I see,' s'I, dry. An' there was Christmas
comin' on, an' nothin' to break the general cheerfulness but hot milk.
Well, Calliope said, I s'pose you'll think I'm terrible foolish, but
I couldn't help what I done
I don't wonder at it, said I, warmly; you promised to spend
Christmas Eve with them and read aloud to them, didn't you, Calliope?
No! Calliope cried; I didn't do that. I should think they'd be
sick to death o' bein' read aloud to. I should think they'd be sick to
death bein' cheered up by their surroundin's. NoI invited the whole
nine of 'em to come over an' spend Christmas Eve with me.
Calliope! I cried, but how
I know it, she exclaimed, I know it. But they're all well an'
hardy. The charity corridor ain't expected in the infirmary much. An'
Jimmy Sturgis is goin' to bring 'em over free in the closed 'busI'll
fill it with hot bricks an' hot flat-irons an' bed-quilts. An' my land!
you'd ought to see 'em when I ask' 'em. I don't s'pose they'd had an
invite out in years. The navy-blue lady looked like I'd nipped a
mountain off'n her shoulders, too. An' now, said Calliope, what on
top o' this earth will I do with 'em when I get 'em here?
What indeed? I left my task and sat by her on the rug before the
fire, and we talked it over. But all the while we talked, I could see
that she was keeping something backsome plan of which she was
I ain't no money to spend, you know, she said, an' I won't let
anybody else spend any for me, for this. Folks has plans enough o'
their own without mine. But I kep' sayin' to myself, all the way home
when my knees give down at the i-dee of what I was goin' to do:
'Calliope, the Lord says, Give. An' He meant you to give,
same's those that hev got. He didn't say, Everybody give but Calliope,
an' she ain't got much, so she'd ought to be let off. He said,
Give.' An' He didn't mention all nice things, same's I'd like to
give, an' most everybody does give she nodded toward my bed, brave
with its Christmas array. He didn't mention givin' things at
all. An' so, said Calliope, I thought o' somethin' else.
She sat with brooding eyes on the fire, her hands clasped about her
The Lord Christ, said Calliope, didn't hev nothin' of His own.
An' yet He just give an' give an' give. An' somehow I got the i
-dee, she finished, glancing up at me shyly, that mebbe Christmas
ain't really all in your stocking foot, after all. I ain't much to
spend, and mebbe that sounds some like sour grapes. But it seems like a
good many beautiful things is free to all, an' that they's ways to do.
Well, I've thought of a way
Calliope, I said, tell me what you have really planned for the
old-lady party. You have planned?
Well, yes, she said, I hev. But mebbe you'll think it ain't
anything. First I thought o' tea, an' thin bread-an'-butter
sandwichesit seems some like a party when you get your bread thin.
An' I've got apples in the house we could roast, an' corn to pop over
the kitchen fire. But then I come to a stop. For I ain't nothin' else,
an' I've spent every cent I can spend a'ready. But yet I did
want to show 'em somethin' lovelyan' differ'nt from what they see,
so's it'd seem as if somebody cared, an' as if they'd been in
Christmas, too. An' all of a sudden it come to me, why not invite
in a few little children o' somebody's here in Friendship? So's them
old grandma ladies
She shook her head and turned away.
I expec', she said, you think I'm terrible foolish. But wouldn't
that be givin', don't you think? Would that be anything?
I have planned, as will fall to us all, many happy ways of keeping
festival; but I think that never, even in days when I myself was
happiest, have I so delighted in any event as in this of Calliope's
proposing. And when at last she had gone, and the dusk had fallen and I
lighted candles and went back to my pleasant task, some way the
stitches of pink and blue on flowered fabrics, the flutter of crisp
ribbons, and the breath of the sachets were not greatly in my thoughts;
and that which made me glad was a certain shining in the room, but this
was not of candle-light, or firelight, or winter starlight.
With the days the plans for the Proudfit partyor rather the plans
of the Proudfit guestswent merrily forward. It was, they said, like
in the Oldmoxon days, when the house in which I was now living had
been the Friendship fairyland. Some take their parties solemnly, some
joyously, some feverishly; but Friendship takes them vitally, as it
takes a project or the breath of being. Like the rest of the world, the
village sank Christmas in festivity. It could not see Christmas for the
Speculation was the delight of meetings, and every one conspired in
terms of toilettes.
Likely, said Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, Mis' Banker
Mason'll wear her black-an'-white foulard. Them foulards are wonderful
durableyou can't muss 'em. She got hers when Gramma Mason first hurt
her back, so's if anything happened she'd be part mournin', an' if
anything didn't, she'd have a nice dress to wear out places. Ain't it
real convenient,white standin' for both companies an' the tomb, so?
And Mis' Photographer Sturgis has the best of it, bein' an invalid,
till a party comes up, said Libbie Liberty. She gets plenty enough
food sent in, an' flowers, an' such things, an' she's got nails hung
full o' what I call sympathy clo'es, to wear durin' sympathy calls. But
when it comes to a real what you might say dress-up dress, I guess
she'll hev to be took worse with her side an' stay in the house.
Abigail Arnold contributed:
Seems Mis' Doctor Helman had a whole wine silk dress put away with
her dyin' things. She always thought it sounded terrible fine to hear
about the dead havin' dress-pattern after dress-pattern laid away that
hadn't never been made up. So she'd got together the one, but now she
an' Elzabella are goin' to work an' make it up. I guess Mis' Helman
thinks her stomach is so much better 't mebbe she'll be spared till
after the holidays when the sales begin.
Even Liddy Ember had promised to go and to take Ellen, and Ellen
went up and down the winter streets singing sane little songs about the
party, save on days when she come herself again, and then she
planned, as wildly as anybody, what she meant to wear. And Liddy, whose
dream had always been to do reg'lar city dress-makin', with helpers
an' plates an' furnish the findin's at the shop, and whose lot instead
had been to cut and fit just the durable kind, was blithely at work
night and day on Mis' Postmaster Sykes's tobacco-brown net. We
understood that there were to be brown velvet butterflies stitched down
the skirt, and if her Lady Washington geranium flowered in time,Mis'
Sykes was said to lay bread and milk nightly about the roots to
encourage it,she was to wear the blossom in her hair. (She'll be
gettin' herself talked about, wearin' a wreath o' flowers on her head,
so, said some.) But then, Mis' Sykes was recognized to be one that
picks her own steps.
Mis' Sykes always dresses for company accordin' to the way she gets
her invite, Calliope observed. A telephone invite, she goes in
somethin' she'd wear home afternoons. Word o' mouth at the front door,
she wears what she wears on Sundays. Written invites, she rags out in
her rill best dress, for parties. But engraved, Calliope
mounted to her climax, a bran' new dress an' a wreath in her hair is
the least she'll stop at.
But I think that, in the wish to do honour to so distinguished an
occasion, the temper of Mis' Sykes, and perhaps of Ellen Ember too, was
the secret temper of all the village.
IX. NOT AS THE WORLD GIVETH
I daresay that excitement followed excitement when news of
Calliope's party got abroad. But of this I knew little, for I spent
those next days at the Proudfits' with Nita Ordway and little Viola,
and though I thought often of Calliope, I chanced not to see her again
until the holidays were almost upon us. In the late afternoon, two days
before Christmas, I dropped in at her cottage to learn how pleasantly
the plans for her party matured.
To my amazement I found her all dejection.
Why, Calliope, I said, can't the grandma ladies come, after all?
Yes, they could come; they were coming.
You are never sorry you asked them? I pressed her.
No. Oh, no; she was glad she had asked them.
Something is wrong, though, I said sadlythinking what a blessed
thing it is to be so joyous a spirit that one's dejections are bound to
be taken seriously.
Well, said Calliope, then, it's the children. No it ain't, it's
Friendship. The town's about as broad as a broom straw an' most as
deep. Anything differ'nt scares 'em like something wore out'd ought to.
Friendship's got an i-dee that Christmas begins in a stocking an' ends
off in a candle. It thinks the rest o' the days are reg'lar,
self-respecting days, but it looks on Christmas like an extry thing,
thrown in to please 'em. It acts as if the rest o' the year was plain
cake an' the holidays was the frostin' to be et, an' everybody grab the
best themselves, give or take.
Calliope! I criedfor this was as if the moon had objected to the
Oh, I know I'd ought not to, she said sadly; but don't folks act
as if time was give to 'em to run around wild with, as best suits 'em?
Three hundred an' 'leven days a year to use for themselves, an' Sundays
an' Christmas an' Thanksgivin' to give away looks to me a rill fair
division. But, no. Some folks act like Sundays an' holidays was not
only the frostin', but the nuts an' candy an' ice-cream o' things
their ice-cream, to eat an' pass to their own, an' scrape the
And then came the heart of the matter.
'T seems, said Calliope, there's that children's Christmas tree
at the new minister's on Christmas Eve. But that ain't till ha'-past
seven, an' I done my best to hev some o' the children stop in here on
their way, for my little party. An' with one set o' lungs their
mas says no, they'd get mussed for the tree if they do. I offered to
hev 'em bring their white dresses pinned in papers, an' we'd dress 'em
hereI think the grandma ladies'd like that. But their mas says no,
pinned in papers'd take the starch out an' their hair'd get all over
their heads. An' some o' the mothers says indignant: 'Old ladies from
the poorhouse end o' the homewell, I should think not! Children is
very easy to take things. If you'd hed young o' your own, you'd think
more, Calliope,' they says witherin'.
Her little wrinkled hands were trembling at the enormity.
I donno, she added, but I was foolish to try it. But I did want
to get a-hold o' somethin' beautiful for them old ladies to see. An',
my mind, they ain't much so rilly lovely as little young children,
together in a room.
But, Calliope, I said in distress, isn't there even one child you
No, sir, she said. Not a one. I been everywhere. You know they
ain't any poor in Friendship. We're all comfortable enough off to be
But wouldn't you think, I said, at Christmas time
Yes, you would, Calliope said, you would. You'd think Christmas'd
make everything kind o' softened up an' differ'nt. Every time I look at
the holly myself, I feel like I'd just shook hands with somebody
None the lessfor Calliope had drunk deep of the wine of doing and
she never gave up any projectat four o'clock on the day before
Christmas I saw the closed 'bus driven by Jimmy Sturgis fare briskly
past my house on its way to the start of the Plank Road, to the Old
Ladies' Home. Within, I knew, were quilts and hot stones of Calliope's
providing; and Jimmy had hung the 'bus windows with cedar, and two
little flags fluttered from the door. It all had a merry, holiday air
as Jimmy shook the lines and drew on swiftly through the snow to those
wistful nine guests, who at last were to be in Christmas, too.
If they can't do nothin' else, Calliope had said, they can talk
over old times, without hot milk interferin'. But I wish, an' I
wishseem's though there'd ought always to be a child around on Star
o' Bethlehem night, don't it?
I dined alone that Star of Bethlehem night, and to dine alone under
Christmas candles is never a cheerful business. The Proudfit car was to
come for me soon after eight, and at eight I stood waiting at the
window of my little living room, saying to myself that if I were to
drop from the air to a deserted country road, I should be certain that
it was Christmas Eve. You can tell Christmas Eve anywhere, like a
sugar-plum, with your eyes shut. It is not the lighted houses, or the
close-curtained windows behind which Christmas trees are fruiting; nor
yet, in Friendship, will it be the post-office store or the home bakery
windows, gay with Christmas trappings. But there is in the world a
subdued note of joyful preparation, as if some spirit whom one never
may see face to face had on this night a gift of perceptible life. And
in spite of my loneliness, my heart upleaped to the note of a distant
sleigh-bell jingling an air of Home, going Home, Christmas Eve and
Then, when the big Proudfit car came flashing to my door, I had a
sweet surprise. For from it, through the snowy dark, came running a
little fairy thing, and Viola Ordway danced to my door with her mother,
muffled in furs.
We've been close in the house all day, Mrs. Ordway cried, and now
we've run away to get you. Come!
As for me, I took Viola in my arms and lifted her to my hall table
and caught off her cloak and hood. I can never resist doing this to a
child. I love to see the little warm, plump body in its fine white
linen emerge rose-wise, from the calyx cloak; and I love that shy first
gesture, whatever it may be, of a child so emerging. The turning about,
the freeing of soft hair from the neck, the smoothing down of the
frock, the half-abashed upward look. Viola did more. She laid one hand
on my cheek and held it so, looking at me quite gravely, as if that
were some secret sign of brotherhood in the unknown, which she
remembered and I, alas! had forgotten. But I perfectly remembered how
to kiss her. If only, I thought, all the empty arms could know a Viola.
If only all the empty arms, up and down the world, could know a Viola
even just at Christmas time. If only
Over the top of Viola's head I looked across at Nita Ordway, and a
sudden joyous purpose lighted all the air about meas a joyous purpose
will. Oh, if onlyAnd then I heard myself pouring out a marvellous
jumble of sound and senselessness.
Nita! I cried, you are not a Friendship Village mother! You are
not afraid. Viola is not going to the new minister's Christmas tree.
Oh, don't you see? It's still earlysurely we have time! The grandma
ladies must see Viola!
I remember how Nita Ordway laughed, and her answer made me love her
the moreas is the way of some answers.
I don't catch itI don't, she said, but it sounds delicious. All
courage, and old ladies, and ample time for everything! If I said, 'Of
course,' would that do?
Already I was tying Viola's hood, and next to taking off a child's
hood I love putting one onsurely every one will have noticed how
their mouths bud up for kissing. While we sped along the Plank Road
toward Calliope's cottage, I poured out the story of who were at her
house that night, and why, and all that had befallen. In a moment the
great car, devouring its own path of light, set us down at Calliope's
gate, and Calliope herself, trim in her gray henrietta, her wrinkled
face flushed and shining, came at our summons. And I pushed Viola in
before uslittle fairy thing in a fluff of white wraps and white furs.
Look, Calliope! I cried.
Calliope looked down at her, and I think she can hardly have seen
Mrs. Ordway and me at all. She smote her hands softly together.
Oh, she said, if it isn't! Oha child for Star o' Bethlehem
night, after all!
She dropped to her knees before Viola, touching the little girl's
hand almost shyly. There was in Calliope's face when she looked at any
child a kind of nakedness of the woman's soul; and she, who was so
deft, was curiously awkward in such a presence.
They're out there in the dinin' room, she whispered, settin'
round the cook stove. I saw they felt some better out there. Le's us
leave her go out alone by herself, just the way she is.
And that was what we did. We said something to Viola softly about
the poor grandma ladies, with no little girl to love, and then
Calliope opened the door and let her through.
We peeped for a moment at the lamp-lit crack. The dining room was
warm and bright, its table covered with red cotton and set with
tea-cups, shelves of plants blooming across the windows, cedar green on
the walls. The odour of pop-corn was in the air, and above an open
griddle hole apples bobbed on strings tied to the stove-pipe wing. And
there about the cooking range, with its cheery opened hearth,
Calliope's Christmas guests were gathered.
They were exquisitely neat and trim, in black and brown cloth
dresses, with a brooch, or a white apron, or a geranium from a window
plant worn for festival. I recognized Grandma Holly, with her soft
white hair, and I thought I could tell which were Mis' Ailing and Mis'
Burney and Mis' Norris. And the faces of them all, the gentle, the
grief-marked, even the querulous, were grown kindly with the knowledge
that somebody had cared about their Christmas.
The child went toward them as simply as if they had been friends.
They looked at her with some murmuring of surprise, and at one another
questioningly. Viola went straight to the knee of Grandma Holly, who
'At lady tied my hood too tight, she referred unflatteringly to
me, p'eas do it off.
Grandma Holly looked down over her spectacles, and up at the other
grandma ladies, and back to Viola. The others gathered nearer, hitching
forward rocking-chairs, rising to peer over shouldersbreathlessly,
with a manner of fearing to touch her. But because of the little
uplifted face, waiting, Grandma Holly must needs untie the white hood
and reveal all the shining of the child's hair.
Nen do my toat off, Viola gravely directed.
At that Grandma Holly crooned some single indistinguishable syllable
in her throat, and then off came the cloak. The little warm, plump body
in its fine linen emerged, rose-wise, and Viola smoothed down her
frock, and freed her hair from her neck, and glanced up shyly. By the
stir and flutter among them I understood that they were feeling just as
I feel when a little hood and cloak come off.
Viola stood still for a minute.
I like be made some 'tention to, she suggested gently.
Ahand they understood. How they understood! Grandma Holly swept
the little girl in her arms, and I know how the others closed about
them with smiles and vague unimportant words. Viola sat quietly and
happily, like a little come-a-purpose spirit to let them pretend. And
it was with them all as if something long pent up went free.
Calliope left the door and turned toward us.
Seems like my throat couldn't stand it, she said, ... and it
seemed to me, as we three sat together in the dim little parlor, that
Nita Ordway must cherish Viola for us allfor the grandma ladies and
Calliope and me.
Half an hour later we three went out to the dining room. Viola ran
to her mother when she entered. Nita took her in her arms and sat
beside the stove, her cloak slipping from her shoulders, the soft peach
tints of her gown shot through with shining lines and the light caught
in her collar of gems. I did want to get a-hold o' somethin' beautiful
for them old ladies to see, Calliope had said.
Oh, said Grandma Holly, and she laid her brown hand on Viola's
hand, ain't she dear an' little an' young?
I wish't she'd talk some, begged old Mis' Norris.
Ain't she good, though, the little thing? Mis' Ailing said. Look
at how still she sets. Not wigglin' 'round same as some. It was just
that way with Sam when he was smallhe'd set by the hour an' leave me
A little bent creature, whose name I never learned, sat patting
Seems like I'd gone back years, we heard her say.
Grandma Holly held up one half-closed hand.
Like that, she told them, my Amy's feet was so little I could
hold 'em like that, an' I see hers is the same way. She's wonderful
like Amy was, her age.
I cannot recall half the sweet, trivial things that they said. But I
remember how they told us stories of their own babies, and we laughed
with them over treasured sayings of long-ago lips, or grieved with them
over silences, or rejoiced at glad things that had been. Regardless of
the Proudfit party, we let them talk as they would, and remember. Then
of her own accord Nita Ordway hummed some haunting air, and sang one of
the songs that we all lovedthe grandma ladies and Calliope and I. It
was a sleepy song, whose words I have forgotten, but it was in a kind
of universal tongue which I think that no one can possibly mistake. And
out of the lullaby came all the little spirits, freed in babyhood or
man-grown, and stood at the knees of the grandma ladies, so that I
was afraid that they could not bear it.
When the song was done, Viola suddenly sat up very straight.
I got a litty box, she announced, an' I had a parasol. An' once a
boy div me a new nail. An' once I didn' feel berry well, but now I am.
Their laughter was like a caress. Before it was done, we heard a
stamping without, and there was Jimmy Sturgis, with a spray of holly in
his old felt hat and the closed 'bus at the door.
We helped Calliope to get their wraps and to fill the 'bus with hot
stones from the oven and with many quilts, and we made ready a basket
of pop-corn and apples and of the cedar hung around the little room.
They stood about us to say good-by, or to tell us some last bit of the
news of their long-past youthdear, wrinkled faces framed in broad
lines of bonnet or hood, and smiling, every one.
This gray shawl I got on me is the very one I used to wrap Amy in
to carry her through the cold hall, said Grandma Holly. My
land-a-livin'! seems's if I'd been with her to-night, over again!
Their way of thanks lay among stumbling words and vague repetitions,
but there was a kind of glory in their grateful faces, and one always
Merry Prismas, gramma ladies! Viola cried shrilly at the 'bus
door, and within they laughed like mothers as they answered. And Jimmy
Sturgis cracked his whip, and the sleigh-bells jingled.
Nita Ordway and Viola and I stood for a moment with Calliope at her
Come! we begged her, now go with us. We are all late together.
There is no reason why you should not go with us to the Christmas
But Calliope shook her head.
I'm ever so much obliged to you, she said, but oh, I couldn't.
I've hed too rilly a Christmas to come down to a party anywheres.
* * * * *
When Nita and Viola and I reached Proudfit House, the guests were
all assembled, but we knew that Mrs. Proudfit and Miss Clementina would
be the first to forgive us when they understood.
The big colonial home was bright with scarlet-shaded candles and
holly-hung walls; there was mistletoe on the sconces, and in the great
hall there were tuneful strings. On the landing of the stairs stood
Mrs. Proudfit and Miss Clementina, charmingly pretty in their delicate
frocks, and wholly gay and gracious. (They seem lively like in
pictures where folks don't make a loud sound a-talkin', said
Friendship. I s'pose it's somethin' you learn in the City.) And
Friendship wore its loyalty like a mantle. Twelve years had passed, and
yet one and another said under breath and sighed, If only Miss Linda
could 'a' been here, too.
All Friendship Village was there, save Abel Halsey, who was at the
Good Shepherd's Home Christmas tree in the City, and, perhaps one would
say, Delia More, who had begged to be allowed to help in the kitchen
an' be there that way. Even Peleg Bemus was in his place in the
orchestra, sitting with closed eyes, playing his flute, and keeping
audible time with his wooden leg,quite as he did when he played his
flute at night, on Friendship streets. And there was Mis' Postmaster
Sykes, in the tobacco-brown net, with butterflies stitched down the
skirt and the Lady Washington geranium in her hairand forever near
her went little Miss Liddy Ember with an almost passionate creative
pride in the gown of her hand, so that she would murmur her patron an
occasional warning: Mis' Sykes, throw back your shoulders, you hev to,
to bring out the real set o' the basque; or, Don't forget you want to
give a little hitch to the back when you stand up, Mis' Sykes. And to
one and another Liddy said proudly, I declare if I didn't get that
skirt with the butterflies just like a magazine cover. And there, too,
was Ellen Ember, wearing a white book muslin and a rosy nubia that
had been her mother's; and Ellen's face was uplifted, and of pale
distinction under the bronze glory of her hair, but all that evening
she smiled and sang and wondered, in utter absence of the spirit.
(Oh, poor Miss Liddy said, I do so want Ellen to come herself before
supper. She won't remember a thing she eats, an' she don't have much
that's tasty an' good. It'll be just like she missed the whole thing,
in spite of all the chore o' comin'.) And there were Mis' Doctor
Helman in her new wine silk; Mis' Banker Mason in the black-and-white
foulard designed to grace a festival or to respect a tomb; Mis'
Sturgis, in a put-away dress that was a surprise to every one; Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, and Eppleby, and the Other Holcombs;
Abigail Arnold, the Gekerjecks, Mis' Toplady and Timothy, even Mis'
Mayor Uppersno one was forgotten. Andsave poor Ellenevery one was
aglow with the sweet satisfaction of having sent abroad a brave array
of pretty things, with stitches of rose and blue on flowered fabrics,
with the flutter of ribbons, and the breath of sachets, and with many a
gift of substance to those less generously endowed. To them all the
delight of the season was in the gifts of their hands and in the
night's merry-making, and in the joy of keeping holiday. Here, as
Calliope had said, Christmas, begun in a stocking, was ending in a
And yet it was Star of Bethlehem night, the night of Him who didn't
mention givin' things at all.
Calliope and I were talking over the Proudfit party, as I had grown
to like to talk over most things with her, when I said something of two
of the guests whom I did not remember before to have seen: a little man
of shy gravity and an extremely pretty girl who, if she looked at any
one but him, did so quite undetected.
That's Eb Goodnight, Calliope replied, him of the new-born spine.
Wasn't it like the Proudfits to ask them?
And, at my question:
Some folks, Calliope said, has got spines and some folks hasn't.
But what I say is, nobody can tell which is which. Because now and then
the soft-spine' kind just hardens up all in a minute same as steel. So
when I meet a stranger that sort o' sops along through life, limp and
floppy, I never judge him. I just say, 'You look some like a loose
shutter, but mebbe you can fair bang the house down, if you rilly get
to blowin'.' It was that way with Eb Goodnight.
I donno how it is other places. But I've noticed with us here in
Friendshipan' I've grown to the town from short dresses to
bein'-careful-what-I-eatI've often noticed't when folks seems not to
have any backbone to speak of, or even when they go 'round sort o'
crazythey's usually some other reason, like enough. Sensitive or sick
or lonesome, or like that. It was so with Eban' it was so with
Elspie. Elspie, though, was interestin' on account o' bein' not only a
little crazy, but rill pretty besides. But Eb, he was the kind that a
sign-board is more interestin' than. An' yet
With that she paused, looking down some way of her own thought. I
knew Calliope's an' yet. It splendidly conceded the entire converse
of her argument.
Eb come here to Friendship, she went on, less public than Elspie
did. Elspie come official, as an inmate o' the county house. Eb, he
sort o' crep' in town, like he crep' everywhere else. He introduced
himself to me through sellin' needles. He walked in on me an' a
two-weeks ironin' one mornin' with, 'Lemme present myself as Ebenezer
Goodnight, sewin' needles, knittin' needles, crochet hooks an' shuttles
an' anything o' that,' an' down he set an' never opened his mouth about
his needles again. Eb was real delicate, for an agent. He just talked
all the time about Friendship an' himself. 'The whol' blame' town's
kin,' s'e; 'I never see such a place. Every_body's kin, only just
me. Air you,' he ask' me wistful, 'cousin' of 'em all, too?'
'Mis' Sprague that's dead was connected up with me by marriage an'
Mis' Sykes is my mother's secunt cousin,' I owned up.'
'That's it again,' s'e, sighin'. 'I'm the odd number, dum it,' he
Well, an' he hed sort of an odd-number way about him, too. He went
along the street like he didn't belong. I donno if you know what I
mean, but he was always takin' in the tops o' buildin's an' lookin' at
the roads an' behavin' like he noticedthe way you don't when you live
in a town. Yes, Ebenezer Goodnight went around like he see things for
the first time. An' somehow he never could join in. When he walked up
to a flock o' men, he stood side of 'em, an' not with 'em. An'
he shook hands sort o' loose an' temporary like he meant somethin'
else. An' he just couldn't bear not to agree with you. If he let out't
the sky was blue an' you said, No, pink, he'd work around till he'd
dyed his sky pink, too. That man would agree to things he never
heard of. Let Peleg Bemus be tellin' one o' his eastern janitor
adventures, an' Eb'd set an' agree with him, past noddin' an' up to
words, all about elevators an' Ferris boats an' Eyetalians an' things
he'd never laid look to. He seemed to hev a spine made mostly o'
molasses. An' sometimes I think your spine's your soul.
Eb hed been lonelyin' 'round the village a month or so when Sum
Merriman, that run the big rival business to the post-office store, an'
was fire chief besides, took him an' his peddler's pack into the dry
goods endan' Eb was tickled. He went down first mornin' in his best
clo'es, a-wearin' both collar an' cuffs. But when somebody remarked on
the clo'es, he didn't hev backbone enough to keep on wearin' 'emhe
slimpsed right back to his peddler duds an' done his best to please.
An' he did pleasehe made a rill first-rate merchant clear up till
June o' the year. An' then Sum Merriman, his employer, he went to work
Sum died a Tuesday, an', bein' it never rains but it pours, an'
piles peelin's on ashes, or whatever it is they say, it was the Tuesday
that the poorhouse burnt downjust like it knew the fire chief was
gone. The poorhouse use' to be across the track, beyond the cemetery
an' quite near my house. An' the night it burnt I was settin' on the
side stoop without anything over my head, just smellin' in the air,
when I see a little pinky look on the sky beyond the track. It wasn't
moon-time, an' they wa'n't nothin' to bonfire that time o' year, an' I
set still, pretendin' it was rose-bushes makin' a ladder an' buildin' a
way of escape by night. It was such a nice evenin' you couldn't imagine
anything rilly happenin' bad. But all at once I heard the fire-engine
bell poundin' away like all possessedan' then runnin' feet, like when
they's an accident. I got to the gate just as somebody come rushin'
past, an' I piped up what was the matter. 'Poorhouse's afire,' s'e.
'Poorhouse,' s'I. 'My land!' An' I out the gate an' run alongside of
him, an' he sort o' slowed down for me, courteous.
Then I noticed it was Eb Goodnightlonelier'n ever now that his
employer hed died that day. I'd never see Eb hustle that much before,
an' the thought went through my head, kind o' wonderin', that he was
runnin' as if the fire was a real relation o' his an' he was sent for.
'Know anything else about it?' I ask' him, keepin' up. 'Not much,' s'e,
'but I guess it's got such a head-start the whol' thing'll go like a
shell.' An' when we got to the top o' the bank on the other side o' the
track, we see it was that waythe poorhouse'd got such a head-start
burnin' that nothin' could save it, though Timothy Toplady, that was
town marshal an' chairman o' the county board, an' Silas Sykes an'
Eppleby Holcomb, that was managers o' the poorhouse, an' some more,
went puffin' past us, yellin', 'Put it outrun fer waterwhy don't
you do suthin'?'an' like that, most beside theirselves.
'Them poor critturs,' says I, 'oh, my, them poor critturs in the
home'for there must 'a' ben twenty o' the county charges all
quartered in the buildin'. An' when we come to the foot o' the
poorhouse hill, land, land, I never see such Bedlam.
The fire had started so soon after dusk that the inmates was all up
yet. An' they was half of 'em huddled in a bunch by the side-yard stile
an' half of 'em runnin' 'round wild as anything. The whol' place looked
like when you hev a bad dream. It made me weak in my knees, an' I was
winded anyway with runnin', an' I stopped an' leant up against a tree,
an' Eb, he stopped too, takin' bearin's. An' there I was, plump against
Elspie, standin' holdin' her arms 'round the tree trunk an' shiverin'
'Elspie,' s'I, 'why, you poor child.'
'No need to rub that in,' s'she, tart. It's the one word the
county charges gets sensitive aboutan' Eb, he seemed to sense that,
an' he ask' her, hasty, how the fire started. He called her 'Miss,'
too, an' I judged that 'Miss' was one o' them poultice words to her.
'I donno,' s'she, 'but don't it look cheerful? The yard's
all lit up nice, like fer comp'ny,' she says, rill pleased.
It sort o' uncovered my nerves to hear her so unconcerned. I never
hed understood hernone of us hed. She was from outside the state, but
her uncle, Job Ore, was on our county board an' he got her into our
poorhouselike you can when you're in politics. Then he up an' died
an' went home to be buried, an' there she was on our hands. She wa'n't
rill crazywe understood't she hadn't ben crazy at all up to the time
her mother died. Then she hadn't no one to go to an' she got queer, an'
the poorhouse uncle stepped in; an' when he died, he died in debt, so
his death wa'n't no use to her. She was thirty odd, but awful little
an' slim an' scairt-lookin', an' quite pretty, I allus thought; an' I
never see a thing wrong with her till she was so unconcerned about the
'Elspie,' s'I, stern, 'ain't you no feelin',' s'I, 'for the loss o'
the only home you've got to your back?'
'Oh, I donno,' s'she, an' I could see her smilin' in that bright
light, 'oh, I donno. It'll be some place to come to, afterwards. When I
go out walkin',' s'she, 'I ain't no place to head for. I sort o' circle
'round an' come back. I ain't even a grave to visit,' s'she, 'an' it'll
be kind o' cosey to come up here on the hill an' set down by the
asheslike they belonged.'
I know I heard Eb Goodnight laugh, kind o' cracked an' enjoyable,
an' I took some shame to him for makin' fun o' the poor girl.
'She's goin' clear out o' her head,' thinks I, 'an' you'd better
get her home with you, short off.' So I put my arm around her,
persuadish, an' I says: 'Elspie,' I says, 'you come on to my house now
for a spell,' I says. But Eb, he steps in, prompter'n I ever knew
himI'd never heard him do a thing decisive an' sudden excep' sneeze,
an' them he always done his best to swallow. 'I'll take her to your
house,' he says to me; 'you go on up there to them women. I won't be no
use up there,' he says. An' that was reasonable enough, on account o'
Eb not bein' the decisive kind, for fires an' such.
So Eb he went off, takin' Elspie to my house, an' I went on up the
hill, where Timothy Toplady and Silas Sykes an' Eppleby was rushin'
round, wild an' sudden, herdin' the inmates here an' there, vague an'
energetic. I didn't do much better, an' I done worse too, because I
burned my left wrist, long an' deep. When I got home with it, Eb was
settin' on the front stoop with Elspie, an' when he heard about the
wrist, he come in an' done the lightin' up. An' Elspie, she fair
'Where do you keep your rags?' s'she, brisk.
'In that flour chest I don't use,' I says, 'in the shed.'
My land! she was back in a minute with a soft piece o' linen an'
the black oil off the clock shelf that I hadn't told her where it was,
an' she bound up my wrist like she'd created that burn an' understood
it up an' down.
'Now you get into the bed,' she says, 'without workin' the rag off.
I'm all right,' s'she. 'I can lock up. I like hevin' it to do,' she
But Eb puts in, kind o' eager:
'Lemme lock up the shedit's dark as a hat out there an' you might
sprain over your ankle,' he says awkward. An' so he done the lockin'
up, an' it come over me he liked hevin' that little householdy thing to
do. An' then he went off homethat is, to where he stopped an' hated
Well, the poorhouse burnt clear to the ground, an' the inmates hed
to be quartered 'round in Friendship anyhow that night, an' nex' day I
never see Friendship so upset. I never see the village roust itself so
sudden, either. Timothy an' the managers was up an' doin' before
breakfast next mornin', an' no wonder. Timothy Toplady, he had three
old women to his farm. Silas Sykes, he'd took in Foolish Henzie an'
another old man for his. An' Eppleby Holcomb, in his frenzy he'd took
in five, an' Mame was near a lunatic with havin' 'em to do for.
An' all three men bein' at the head o' the burned buildin', they danced
'round lively makin' provision, an' they sent telegrams, wild an'
reckless, without countin' the words. An' before noon it was settled't
the poorhouse in Alice County, nearest us, should take in the inmates
temporary. We was eatin' dinner when Timothy an' Silas come in to tell
Elspie. I wished Eppleby had come to tell her. Eppleby does everything
like he was company, an' not like he owned it.
Eb was hevin' dinner with us too. He'd been scallopin' in an' out
o' the house all the forenoon, an' I'd ask' him to set down an' hev a
bite. But when he done even that, he done it kind of alien. Peleg
Bemus, playin' his flute walkin' along the streets nights, like he
does, seems more a rill citizen than Eb use' to, eatin' his dinner.
Elspie, she'd got the whol' dinnershe was a rill good cook, an' that
su'prised me as much as her dressin' my wrist the night before. She'd
pampered me shameful all that mornin' too, an' I'd let herwhen you've
lived alone so long, it's kind o' nice to hev a person fussin' here an'
there, an' Elspie seemed to love takin' care o' somebody. I declare, it
seemed as if she done some things for me just for the sake o' doin'
'emshe was that kind. Timothy an' Silas wouldn't hev any dinner,it
was a boiled piece, too,bein' as dinners o' their own was gettin'
cold. But they set up against the edge o' the room so's we could be
'Elspie,' says Timothy, 'you must be ready to go sharp seven
o'clock Friday mornin'.'
'Go where?' says Elspie. She hed on a black-an'-white stripe o'
mine, an' her cheeks were some pink from standin' over the cook stove,
an' she looked rill pretty.
Timothy, he hesitated. But,
'To the Alice County poorhouse,' says Silas, blunt. Silas Sykes is
a man that always says 'bloody' an' 'devil' an' 'coffin' right out
instead o' 'bandaged' an' 'the Evil One,' an' 'casket.'
'Oh!' says Elspie. 'Oh, ...' an' sort o' sunk down an' covered her
mouth with her wrist an' looked at us over it.
'The twenty o' you'll take the Dick Dasher,' says Timothy, then,
'an' it'll be a nice train ride for ye,' he says, some like an
undertaker makin' small talk. But he see how Elspie took it, an' so he
slid off the subjec' an' turned to Eb.
'Little too early to know who's goin' to take the Merriman store,
ain't it?' s'he, cheerful. Timothy ain't so everlastin' cheerful,
either, but he always hearties himself all over when he talks, like he
was a bell or a whistle an' he hed it to do.
Eb, he dropped his knife on the floor.
'Yes, yes,' he says flurried, 'yes, it is' like he was rushin' to
cover an' a 'yes' to agree was his best protection.
'Oh, well, it ain't so early either,' Silas cuts in, noddin'
'No, no,' Eb agrees immediate, 'I donno's 'tis so very early, after
'I'm thinkin' o' takin' the store over myself,' says Silas Sykes,
tippin' his head back an' rubbin' thoughtful under his whiskers. 'It'd
be a good idee to buy it in, an' no mistake,'
'Yes,' says Eb, noddin', 'yes. Yes, so't would be.'
'I donno's I'd do it, Silas, if I was you,' says Timothy, frownin'
judicial. 'Ain't you gettin' some stiff to take up with a new
business?' But Timothy is one o' them little pink men, an' you can't
take his frowns much to heart.
'No,' says Eb, shakin' his head. 'No. No, I donno's I would take it
either, Mr. Sykes.'
I was goin' to say somethin' about the wind blowin' now east, now
west, an' the human spine makin' a bad weathercock, but I held on, an'
pretty soon Timothy an' Silas went out.
'Seven o'clock Friday A.M., now!' says Silas, playful, over his
shoulder to Elspie. But Elspie didn't answer. She was just sittin'
there, still an' quiet, an' she didn't eat another thing.
That afternoon she slipped out o' the house somewheres. She didn't
hev a hatwhat few things she did hev hed been burnt. She went off
without any hat an' stayed most all the afternoon. I didn't worry,
though, because I thought I knew where she'd gone. But I wouldn't 'a'
asked her,I'd as soon slap anybody as quiz 'em,an' besides I knew't
somebody'd tell me if I kep' still. Friendship'll tell you everything
you want to know, if you lay low long enough. An' sure as the world,
'bout five o'clock in come Mis' Postmaster Sykes, lookin' troubled.
Folks always looks that way when they come to interfere. Seems't she'd
just walked past the poorhouse ruins, an' she'd see Elspie settin'
there side of 'em, all alone
'singin',' says Mis' Sykes, impressive,like the evil was
in the music,'sittin' there singin', like she was all possessed. An'
I come up behind her an' plumped out at her to know what she was
a-doin'. An' she says: I'm makin' a call,just like that; I'm
makin' a call, s'she, smilin', an' not another word to be got out of
her. 'An',' says Mis' Sykes, 'let me tell you, I scud down that
hill, one goose pimple.'
'Let her alone,' says I, philosophic. 'Leave her be.'
But inside I ached like the toothache for the poor thingfor
Elspie. An' I says to her, when she come home:
'Elspie,' I says, 'why don't you go out 'round some an' see folks
here in the village? The minister's wife'd be rill glad to hev you
come,' I says.
'Oh, I hate to hev 'em sit thinkin' about me in behind their eyes,'
'What?' says I, blank.
'It comes out through their eyes,' she says. 'They keep thinkin':
Poor, poor, poor Elspie. If they was somebody dead't I could go to
see,' she told me, smilin', 'I'd do that. A grave can't poor
you,' she told me, 'an' everybody that's company to you does.'
'Well!' says I, an' couldn't, in logic, say no more.
That evenin' Eb come in an' set down on the edge of a chair,
experimental, like he was testin' the cane.
'Miss Cally,' s'e, when Elspie was out o' the room, 'you goin' t'
let her go with them folks to the Alice County poorhouse?'
I guess I dissembulated some under my eyelidsbein' I see t' Eb's
mind was givin' itself little lurches.
'Well,' s'I, 'I don't see what that's wise I can do besides.'
He mulled that rill thorough, seein' to the back o' one hand with
'Would you take her to board an' me pay for her board?' s'e, like
he'd sneezed the i-dea an' couldn't help it comin'.
'Goodness!' s'I, neutral.
Eb sighed, like he'd got my refusalEb was one o' the kind that
always thinks, if it clouds up, 't the sun is down on 'em personally.
'Oh,' s'I, bold an' swift, 'you great big ridiculous man!'
An' I'm blest if he didn't agree to that.
'I know I'm ridiculous,' s'he, noddin', sad. 'I know I'm that, Miss
'Well, I didn't mean it that way,' s'I, reticentan' said no more,
with the exception of what I'd rilly meant.
'Why under the canopy,' I ask' him, for a hint, 'don't you take the
Sum Merriman store, an' run it, an' live on your feet? I ain't any
patience with a man,' s'I, 'that lives on his toes. Stomp some, why
don't you, an' buy that store?'
An' his answer su'prised me.
'I did ask Mis' Fire Chief fer the refusal of it,' he said. 'I ask'
her when I took my flowers to Sum, to-daythey was wild flowers I'd
picked myself,' he threw in, so's I wouldn't think spendthrift of him.
'An' I'm to let her know this week, for sure.'
'Glory, glory, glory,' s'I, under my breathlike I'd seen a rill
live soul, standin' far off on a hill somewheres, drawin' cuts to see
whether it should come an' belong to Eb, or whether it shouldn't.
All that evenin' Eb an' Elspie an' I set by the cook stove,
talkin', an' they seemed to be plenty to talk about, an' the air in the
room was easy to get through with what you hed to sayit was that kind
of an evenin'. Eb was pretty quiet, though, excep' when he piped up to
agree. 'Gettin' little too hot here, ain't it?' I know I said once; an'
Eb see right off he was roasted an' he spried 'round the draughts like
mad. An' a little bit afterwards I says, with malice the fourth
thought: 'I can feel my shoulders some chilly,' I saysan' he acted
fair chatterin'-toothed himself, an' went off headfirst for the
woodpile. I noticed that, an' laughed to myself, kind o' pityin'. But
Elspie, she never noticed. An' when it come time to lock up, I 'tended
to my wrist an' let them two do the lockin'. They seemed to like toI
could tell that. An' Elspie, she let Eb out the front door herself,
like they was rill folks.
Nex' day I was gettin' ready for Sum Merriman's funeral,it was to
be at one o'clock,when Elspie come in my room, sort o' shyin' up to
'Miss Cally,' 's'she, 'do you think the mourners'd take it wrong if
I's to go to the funeral?'
'Why, no, Elspie,' I says, su'prised; 'only what do you want to go
for?' I ask' her.
'Oh, I donno,' s'she. 'I'd like to go an' I'd like to ride to the
graveyard. I've watched the funerals through the poorhouse fence. An'
I'd kind o' like to be one o' the followers, for onceall lookin'
friendly an' together so, in a line.'
'Go with me then, child,' I says. An' she done so.
Bein' summer, the funeral flowers was perfectly beautiful. They was
a rill hothouse box from the Proudfits; an' a anchor an' two crosses
an' a red geranium lantern; an' a fruit piece made o' straw flowers
from the other merchants; an' seven pillows, good-sized, an' with all
different wordin', an' so on. The mound at the side o' the grave was
piled knee-high, an' Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, I heard, said it seemed
like Sum was less dead than almost anybody 't'd died in Friendship,
bein' the grave kind o' spoke up, friendly, when you see the flowers.
She went home rill cheerful from the funeral an' was able to help get
the supper for the out-o'-town relations, a thing no widow ever thinks
of, anyway till the next daythough Sum was her second husband, so it
was a little different than most.
Well, a few of us waited 'round the cemetery afterwards to fix the
flowers on the top o' the sod, an' Elspie, she waited with mefussin'
quiet with one thing an' another. Eb, he waited too, standin' 'round.
An' when it come time for us women to lay the set pieces on, I see
Elspie an' Eb walkin' off toward the top o' the cemetery hill. It's a
pretty view from there, lookin' down the slope toward the Old Part,
where nobody remembered much who was buried, an' it's a rill popular
walk. I liked seein' 'em go 'long togethersome way, lookin' at 'em,
Elspie so pretty an' Eb so kind o' gentle, you could 'a' thought they
was rill folks, her sane an' him with a spine. I slipped off an'
left 'em, the cemetery bein' so near my house, an' Eb walked home with
her. 'Poor things,' I thought, 'if he does go back to peddlin'
an' she has to go to the Alice County poorhouse, I'll give 'em
this funeral afternoon for a bright spot, anyhow.'
But I'd just about decided that Elspie wa'n't to go to Alice
County. I hadn't looked the i-dee in the face an' thought about
it, very financial. But I ain't sure you get your best lights when you
do that. I'd just sort o' decided on it out o' pure shame for the
shabby trick o' not doin' so. I hadn't said anything about it to
Timothy or Silas or any o' the rest, because I didn't hev the strength
to go through the arguin' agony. When the Dick Dasher had pulled out
without her, final, I judged they'd be easier to manage. An' that
evenin' I told Elspiejust to sort o' clamp myself to myself;
an' I fair never see anybody so happy as she was. It made me ashamed o'
myself for not doin' different everything I done.
I was up early that Friday mornin', because I judged't when Elspie
wasn't to the train some o' them in charge'd come tearin' to my house
to find out why. I hadn't called Elspie, an' I s'posed she was asleep
in the other bedroom. I was washin' up my breakfast dishes quiet, so's
not to disturb her, when I heard somebody come on to the front stoop
like they'd been sent for.
'There,' thinks I, 'just as I expected. It's one o' the managers.'
But it wa'n't a manager. When I'd got to the front door, lo an' the
hold! there standin' on the steps, wild an' white, was the widow o' the
day before's funeralMis' Fire Chief Merriman, lookin' like the grave
hed spoke up. She'd got up early to go alone to the cemetery, an',
my house bein' the nearest, she'd come rushin' back to me with her
'Cally!' s'she, from almost before she laid eyes on me, 'Cally!
Somebody's stole every last one o' the flowers off'n Sum's grave.
An' the ribbins.'
She was fair beside herself, bein' as the loss hed piled up on a
long sickness o' Sum's, an' a big doctor's bill consequent, an' she
nervous anyhow, an' a good deal o' the ribbin tyin' the stems was silk,
'I'll hev out the marshal,' s'she, wild. 'I'll send for Timothy.
They can't hev got far with 'em. I'll know,' s'she, defiant, 'whether
they's anything to the law or whether they ain't.'
I hed her take some strong coffee from breakfast, an' I got her,
after some more fumin's an' fustin's, to walk back to the cemetery with
me, till we give a look around. I do as many quick-moved things as
some, but I allus try, first, to give a look around.
'An' another thing,' s'I to her, as we set out, 'are you sure, Mis'
Fire Chief, that you got to the right grave? The first visit, so,' I
says, 'an' not bein' accustomed to bein' a widow, lately, an' all, you
might 'a' got mixed in the lots.'
While she was disclaimin' this I looked up an' see, hangin' round
the road, was Eb. He seemed some sheepish when he see me, an' he said,
hasty, that he'd just got there, an' it come over me like a flash't
he'd come to see Elspie off. An' I marched a-past him without hardly a
We wasn't mor'n out o' the house when we heard a shout, an' there
come Silas an' Timothy, tearin' along full tilt in the store delivery
wagon, wavin' their arms.
'It's ElspieElspie!' they yelled, when they was in hearin'. 'She
ain't to the depot. She'll be left. Where is she?'
I hadn't counted on their comin' before the train left, but I
thought I see my way clear. An' when they come up to us, I spoke to
'She's in the house, asleep,' s'I, 'an' what's more, in that house
she's goin' to stay as long as she wants. But,' s'I, without waitin'
for 'em to bu'st out, 'there's more important business than that afoot
for the marshal;' an' then I told 'em about Sum Merriman's flowers.
'An',' s'I, 'you'd better come an' see about that nowan' let Eppleby
an' the others take down the inmates, an' you go after 'em on the 8.05.
It ain't often,' s'I, crafty, 'that we get a thief in Friendship.'
I hed Timothy Toplady there, an' he knew it. He's rill sensitive
about the small number o' arrests he's made in the village in his term.
He excited up about it in a minute.
'Blisterin' Benson!' he says, 'ain't this what they call vandalism?
Look at it right here in our midst like a city!' says he, fiercean'
showin' through some gleeful.
'Why, sir,' says Silas Sykes, 'mebbe it's them human goals.
Mebbe they've dug Sum up,' he says, 'an mebbe' But I hushed him up.
Silas Sykes always grabs on to his thoughts an' throws 'em out, dressed
or undressed. He ain't a bit o' reserve. Not a thought of his head that
he don't part with. If he had hands on his forehead, you could tell
what time he isI think you could, anyway.
Well, it was rill easy to manage 'em, they bein' men an'
susceptible to fascinations o' lawin' it over somethin'. An' we all got
into the delivery wagon, an' Eb, he come too, sittin' in back,
listenin' an' noddin', his feet hangin' over the box informal.
I allus remember how the cemetery looked that mornin'. It was the
tag end o' Junean' in June cemeteries seems like somewheres else. The
Sodality hed been tryin' to get a new iron fence, but they hadn't made
out then, an' they ain't made out nowan' the old whitewashed fence
an' the field stone wall was fair pink with wild roses, an' the
mulberry tree was alive with birds, an' the grass layin' down with dew,
an' the white gravestones set around, placid an' quiet, like other kind
o' folks that we don't know about. Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, she went
right through the wet grass, cross lots an' round graves, holdin' up
her mournin' an' showin' blue beneathkind o' secular, like her
thinkin' about the all-silk ribbin at such a time. Sure enough, she
knew her way to the lot all right. An' there was the new grave, all
sodered green, an' not a sprig nor a stitch to honour it.
'Now!' says Mis' Merriman, rill triumphant.
'Land, land!' s'I, seein' how it rilly was.
Timothy an' Silas, they both pitched in an' talked at once an' bent
down, technical, lookin' for tracks. But Eb, he just begun seemin'
peculiaran' then he slipped off somewheres, though we never missed
him, till, in a minute, he come runnin' back.
'Come here!' he says. 'Come on over here a little ways,' he told
us, an' not knowin' anything better to do we turned an' went after him,
wonderin' what on the earth was the matter with him an' ready to
believe 'most anything.
Eb led us past the vault where Obe Toplady, Timothy's father, lays
in a stone box you can see through the grating tiptoe; an' round by the
sample cement coffin that sets where the drives meet for advertisin'
purposes, an' you go by wonderin' whose it'll be, an' so on over toward
the Old Part o' the cemetery, down the slope of the hill where
everybody's forgot who's who or where they rest, an' no names, so. But
it's always blue with violets in Maylike Somebody remembered, anyhow.
When we got to the top o' the hill, we all looked down the slope,
shinin' with dew an' sunniness, an' little flowers runnin' in the
grass, thick as thick, till at the foot o' the hill they fair made a
garden,a garden about the size of a grave, knee-deep with flowers.
From where we stood we could see 'emhothouse roses an' straw flowers,
an' set pieces, an' a lot o' pillows, an' ribbins layin' out on the
grass. An' there, side of 'em, broodin' over 'em lovin', set Elspie,
that I'd thought was in my house asleep.
Mis' Fire Chief, she wasn't one to hesitate. She was over the hill
in a minute, the blue edge o' petticoat bannerin' behind.
'Up-un my word,' s'she, like a cut, 'if this ain't a pretty
note. What under the sun are you doin' sittin' there, Elspie, with
Elspie looked up an' see her, an' see us streamin' toward her over
'They ain't your flowers, are they?' s'she, quiet. 'They're the
dead's. I was a-goin' to take 'em back in a minute or two, anyway, an'
I'll take 'em back now.'
She got up, simple an' natural, an' picked up the fruit piece an'
one o' the pillows, an' started up the hill.
'Well, I nev-er,' says Mis' Merriman; 'the very bare brazenness.
Ain't you goin' to tell me what you're doin' here with the
flowers you say is the dead's, an' I'm sure what was Sum's is mine an'
the dead's the same'
She begun to cry a little, an' with that Elspie looks up at her,
'I didn't mean to make you cry,' she says. 'I didn't mean you
should know anything about it. I come early to do itI thought you
'Do what?' says Mis' Merriman, rill snappish.
Elspie looks around at us then as if she first rilly took us in.
An' when she sees Eb an' me standin' together, she give us a little
smilean' she sort o' answered to us two.
'Why,' she says, 'I ain't got anybody, anywheres here, dead or
alive, that belongs. The dead is all other folks's dead, an' the
livin' is all other folks's folks. An' when I see all the graves down
here that they don't nobody know who's they are, I thought mebbe one of
'em wouldn't careif I kind ofadopted it.'
At that she sort o' searched into Mis' Merriman's face, an' then
Elspie's head went down, like she hed to excuse herself.
'I thought,' she said, 'they must be so deadan' no names on 'em
an' allan' their live folks all dead too by nownobody'd care much.
I thought of it yesterday when we was walkin' down here,' she said,
'an' I picked out the graveit's the littlest one here. An'
then when we come back past where the funeral was, an' I see them
flowersseemed like I hed to see how 'twould be to put 'em on my
grave, that I'd took over. So I come early an' done it. But I was goin'
to lay 'em right back where they belongI truly was.'
I guess none of us hed the least i-dea what to say. We just
stood there plain tuckered in the part of us that senses things. All,
that is, but one of us. An' that one was Eb Goodnight.
I can see Eb now, how he just walked out o' the line of us standin'
there, starin', an' he goes right up to Elspie an' he looks her in the
'You're lonesome,' s'he, kind o' wonderin'. 'You're lonesome. Likeother folks.'
An' all to once Eb took a-hold o' her elbownot loose an'
temporary like he shook hands, but firm an' four-cornered; an' when he
spoke it was like his voice hed been starched an' ironed.
'Mis' Fire Chief,' s'he, lookin' round at her, 'I's to let you know
this week whether I'd take over the store. Well, yes,' he says, 'if
you'll give me the time on it we mentioned, I'll take it over. An' if
Elspie'll marry me an' let me belong to her, an' her to me.'
'Marry you?' says Elspie, understandin' how he'd rilly spoke to
Eb straightened himself up, an' his eyes was bright an' keen as the
edge o' somethin'.
'Yes, you,' he says gentle. 'An' me.'
An' then she looked at him like he was lookin' at her. An' it come
to me how it'd been with them two since the night they'd locked up my
house together. An' I felt all hushed up, like the weddin' was
But Timothy an' Silas, they wa'n't feelin' so hushed.
'Look a-here!' says Timothy Toplady, all pent up. 'She ain't
discharged from the county house yet.'
'I don't care a dum,' says Eb, an' I must say I respected
him for the 'dum'that once.
'Look a-here,' says Silas, without a bit o' delicacy. 'She ain't
responsible. She ain't'
'She is too,' Eb cut him short. 'She's just as responsible as
anybody can be when they're lonesome enough to die. I ought 'a'
know that. Shut up, Silas Sykes,' says Eb, all het up. 'You've just et
a hot breakfast your wife hed ready for you. You don't know what you're
An' then Eb sort o' swep' us all up in the dust-pan.
'No more words about it,' s'he, 'an' I don't care what any one o'
you saysMis' Cally nor none o' you. So you might just as well
say less. Tell 'em, Elspie!'
She looked up at him, smilin' a little, an' he turned toward her,
like we wasn't there. An' I nudged Mis' Merriman an' made a move, an'
she turns right away, like she'd fair forgot the funeral flowers. An'
Timothy an' Silas actually followed us, but talkin' away a good
deallike men will.
None of us looked back from the top o' the hill, though I will own
I would 'a' loved to. An' about up there I heard Silas say:
'Oh, well. I am gettin' kind o' old an' some stiff to take a
new business on myself.'
An' Timothy, he adds absent: 'I don't s'pose, when you come right
down to it, as Alice County'll rilly care a whoop.'
An' Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, she wipes up her eyes, an', 'It does
seem like courtin' with Sum's flowers,' she says, sighin', 'but I'm
rill glad for Eb.'
An' Eb not bein' there to agree with her, I says to myself, lookin'
at the mornin' sun on the cemetery an' thinkin' o' them two back there
among the baskets an' set piecesI says, low to myself:
'Oh, glory, glory, glory.'
For I tell you, when you see a livin' soul born in somebody's eyes,
it makes you feel pretty sure you can hev one o' your own, if you try.
XII. OF THE SKY AND SOME ROSEMARY
When the Friendship Married Ladies' Cemetery Improvement Sodality
had its Evening Benefit at my house, Delia More came to help in the
kitchen. She steadfastly refused to be a guest. I'd love bein' 'round
there, she said, over the stove, or that way. But I can'tcan't
be companyyet. When I think of it, it's like a high swing.
So she stayed in the kitchen, and it was characteristic of
Friendship that when its women learned that she was there, they all
wenteither deliberately or for a drink of waterto speak with her.
And they all did learn that she was there. Who you got in the
kitchen? was a part of the small talk from guest to hostess. The men
stayed in the other part of the house, Doctor June and Eppleby
Holcomb sending by me some cordial word to Delia. I think that they
cannot do these things anywhere else with such beautiful delicacy.
When my other guests had taken leave, Calliope stayed to help in the
search for Mis' Postmaster Sykes's pickle fork and two of Mis' Helman's
napkins (the latter marked with L because the store had been out of
papier-maché H's, and it didn't matter what letter so long as you
knew it meant you) and all the other borrowed articles whose mislaying
made any Sodality gathering a kind of panic. Moreover, Calliope had
been helping and we, and Delia, had been far too busy to taste supper.
We would have said that the true life of the evening was done
instead of just beginning. But when we entered the kitchen, we found
Delia More serving the supper on an end of the baking table, while
warming his hands at the range stood Abel Halsey.
I came in across the track, from the hills, Abel explained to me.
I didn't know you had doings till I tied and blanketedan' I came on
in anyhow, back way. I'm in luck too. I haven't had supper.
We four sat down in that homely cheer, and before us was the
Sodality's exquisite cookery. It was good to have Abel there. Since my
coming to Friendship I had seen him often, and my wonder at him had
deepened. He was alive to the finger-tips and by nature equipped to
conquer through sheer mentality, but he seemed deliberately to have
fore-gone the prizes for the tasks of the lower places. Not only so,
but he who understood all fine things seemed to regard his tastes as
naïveté, and to have won away from them, as if he had set above all
wisdom and subtlety the unquenchable spirit which he knew. And withal
he was so merry, so human, so big, and so good-looking. Handsome as
Calvert Oldmoxon, the older ones in Friendship were accustomed to
say,save Calliope, whom I had never heard say that,but I myself, if
I had not had my simile already selected, would have said as Abel
Halsey. If a god were human, I think that Abel would have been very
like a god. And to this opinion his experiences were continually
That night, for example, he was in the merriest humour, and told us
a tale of how, that day, the sky had fallen. There had been down on the
Pump pasture, deep fog, white and thick and folded in, and above him
blue sky, when he had emerged on the Hill Road and driven on with his
eyes shut. (When I need an adventure, he said, I just trot old Major
Mary with my eyes shut. Courting death isn't half as costly as they
think it is.) And when he had opened his eyes, the sky was gone, and
everything was white and thick and folded in and fabulous. Obviously,
as he convinced us, the sky had fallen. But he had driven on through it
and in it, and had found it, as I recall his account, to be made of
inextinguishable dreams. These, Abel ran on, are on the other side of
the sky for anybody who claims them, and our sandwiches were, above all
sandwiches, delicious. He was so merry that Calliope and I, by a nod or
a smile of understanding, played our rôle of merely, so to say, proving
that the films were rightfor you may have an inspired conversational
photographer, but unless you are properly prepared chemically he can
get no pictures. As Calliope had said of her evening with Eb and
Elspie, the air in the room was easy to get through with what you had
to sayit was that kind of evening. Sometimes I wonder if an hour
like that is real time; or is it, instead, a kind of chronometrical
fairy, having no real existence on the dial, but only in essence.
As I think of it now the hour, if it was an hour, was simply a
background for Delia More. For it was not only Calliope and I who
responded to Abel's light-hearted talk, but, little by little, it was
Delia too. Perhaps it was that faint spark in herfanned to life on
the night of her coming home, so that she took stockwhich we now
divined faintly quickening to Abel's humour, his wisdom, even his
fancies. Save in her bitterness, on that first night, I had not heard
her laugh; and it was as if something were set free. I could not help
looking at her, but that did not matter, for she did not see me. She
was listening to Abel with an almost childish delight in her face; and
in her eyes was the look of one in a place before unvisited.
Some while after we had moved away from the table and sat together
about the cooking range, we heard the questioning horn of a motor. We
knew that it would belong to the Proudfits, since for us in Friendship
there exists no other motor, and moreover this one was standing at my
gate. Abel went out there and came back to tell us that the car had
been in town to fetch the Proudfits' lawyer, and that Madame Proudfit
had kindly sent it for Delia and spoilt everything, he added frankly.
As he said that, Abel looked at her, and I saw that a dream may persist
through personality itself. As I have said, if a god were human, Abel
would have been like a god; and in nothing more so than in this
understanding of the immortalities.
Calliope stood up and caught, and held, my eyes in passing.
Let's you and Abel and I take Delia home in the automobile, she
said; there ain't anything so good for folks as fresh air.
I brought a warm wrap for Delia, a crimson cloak of mine which, so
to say, drew a line about her, defining her prettiness; and in the
starlight we set off along the snowless Plank Road, Delia and Abel and
I in the tonneau of the machine, and I silent. It had befallen
strangely that over this road Delia More and I should be faring in the
Proudfits' car, and beside her Abel Halsey as if, for such as he and
she, a dream may, just possibly, come back.
See, she said to Abel, the sky has gone back up again.
Yes, Abel assented, one of the things even the sky can't do is to
change the way things are.
Oh, I know, I know ... said Delia More.
I want you to feel that, said Abel, gently. Things are the way
things are, and no use trying to leave them out of it. Besides, you
need them. They're foundation. Then you build, and build better. That's
all there is to it, Delia.
She was silent, and Abel sat looking up at the stars.
All there is to it except what I said about the other side of the
sky, he said. And then me. I'll help.
From my thought of these two I remember that I drifted on to some
consideration of myself, for their presence opened old paths where were
in durance things that did their best to escape, and were disquieting.
I thought also of Calliope, of whose story I had heard a little from
one and another. And it seemed to me that possibly Delia More's
laughter and her wistfulness summed us all up.
When we drew up at the entrance to Proudfit House we all alighted,
Calliope and Abel and I to walk home. But while we were saying good
night to Delia, the door opened and Clementina Proudfit stood against
the light. The car was to wait, she said, to take Mr. Baring, the
lawyer, to the midnight train. And then, as she saw her:
Calliope! she cried, I never wanted anybody so much. Come in and
make Mr. Baring a cup of your good coffeeyou will, Calliope? Mother
and I will be with him for half an hour yet. Come, all of you, and help
We went in, lingering for a moment by the drawing-room fire while
Miss Clementina went below stairs; and I noted how, in that room
colourful and of fair proportion, Abel Halsey in his shabby clothes
moved as simply as if the splendour were not there. He stood looking
down at Delia, in her white dress, the crimson cloak catching the
firelight; while Calliope and I, before a length of Beauvais tapestry,
talked with spirit about both tapestry and coffee-making. (My
grandmother use' to crochet faces an' figgers in her afaghans, too,
Calliope commented, an' when I looked at 'em they use' to make me feel
kind o' mad. But with these, I don't care at all.) And when Miss
Now, Calliope said to me, you come with me an' help about the
coffee, will you? An' Delia, you an' Abel stay here. Nothin' will put
me out o' my head so quicknothin'as too many flyin' 'round
the kitchen when I'm tryin' to do work.
We went downstairs, and Miss Clementina rejoined her mother and the
lawyer in the library, and Delia and Abel were left alone together in
the firelight. If I had been a dream, and had been intending to come
back at all, I think that I must have come then.
Pray, why don't you? said Calliope to me almost savagely on
the kitchen stairs.
The coffee-making was a slow process and a silent one. Calliope and
I were both absorbed in what had so wonderfully come about: That Delia
More, who was dead, was alive again; or rather, that her spirit,
patient within her through all the years of its loneliness, was coming
forth at the sound of Abel's voice. We were alone in the kitchen, and
when the coffee was over the flame, we stood at the window looking out
on the black kitchen gardens. There lay the yellow reflection of the
room, with that unreality of all window-mirrored rooms, so that if one
might walk within them one would almost certainly wear one's self with
Ain't it like somethin' bright was in the inside o' the garden,
Calliope put it, just the way I told you Abel feels about everything?
That they's something inside, hid, kind of secret an' holylike the
dreams he said was in the sky. I guess mebbe he's believed that about
Delia all these years. An' now he's bringin' it out. Oh, she said,
the kitchen is where you can tell about things best. Seems to me
you'd ought to know somethin' about Delia an' Abel.
And I wanted to hear.
Abel see Delia first, Calliope told me then, to the Rummage Sale
that the Cemetery Auxiliary, that the Sodality use' to be, give. That
is to say, they didn't give it, as it turned outthey just
had it, you might say. Abel was twenty-five or so, an' he'd just
come here fresh ordained a minister. We found he wa'n't the kind to
stop short on, Be good yourself an' then a crown. No, but he just went
after the folks that was livin' along, moral an' step-pickin', an' he
says to us, 'What you sittin' down here for, enjoyin' yourselves bein'
moral? Get out an' help the rest o' the world,' he says. But everybody
liked him in spite o' that, an' he was goin' to be installed minister
in our church.
Then the Rummage Sale come on an' he met Delia. Delia was eighteen
an' just back from visitin' in the City, with her veil a new way, an' I
never see prettier. She was goin' to take charge o' the odd waists
table, an' Abel was runnin' 'round helpin'Abel wa'n't the white-cuff
kind, like some, but he always pitched in an' stirred up whatever was
a-stewin'. He come bringin' in an armful o' old shoes somebody'd
fetched down, an' just as she was beginnin' on the odd waists, sortin'
'em over, he met Delia. I remember she looks up at him from under that
veil an' from over a red basque she'd picked off the pile, an', 'Mr.
Halsey,' she says, 'I've a notion to buy this myself an' be savin'.'
That took AbelDelia was so pretty an' fluffy that hearin' her talk
savin' was about like seein' a butterfly washin' out its own wings.
'Do,' says he, 'the red is beautiful on you,' s'e, shovin' the blame
off on to the red. An' when he got done with the shoes he come over to
help on the waists tooI was lookin' over the child sizes, next table,
an' I see the whole business.
I will say their talk was wonderful pretty. It run on sort o' easy,
slippin' along over little laughs an' no hard work to keep it goin'.
Abel had a nice way o' cuttin' his words out sharplike they was made
o' somethin' with sizin' on the back an' stayed where he put 'em. An'
his laugh would sort o' clamp down soft on a joke an' make it double
funny. An' Delia, she was right back at him, give for take, an' though
she was rill genial, she was shy. An' come to think of it, Abel was
just as full o' his fancyin's then as he is now.
'Old clothes,' he says to her, 'always seems to me sort o'
'Haunted?' I know she asks him, wonderin'.
'All steeped in what folks have been when they've wore 'em,' s'e,
'an' givin' it out again.'
'Oh ...' Delia says, 'I never thought o' that before.'
An' she see what he meant, too. Delia wa'n't one to get up little
wavy notions like that, but she could see 'em when told. An' neither
was she one to do one way instead of another by just her own willin'
it, but if somebody pointed things out to her, then she'd see how, an'
do the right. An' I think Abel understood that about herthat her soul
was sort o' packed down in her an' would hev to be loosened gentle,
before it could speak. Like Peleg Bemus says about his flute, Calliope
said, smiling, that they's something packed deep down in it that can't
say things it knows.
'Clothes folks wear, rooms they live in, things they usethey all
get like the folks that use 'em,' Abel says, layin' black with black
an' white with white, on to the waist table. 'It makes us want to step
careful, don't it?' s'e. 'I think,' s'e, simple, 'your
dressesan' ribbinsan' your veilmust go about doin' pleasant
things without you.'
'Oh, no,' says Delia, demure, 'I ain't near good enough, Mr.
Halsey; you mustn't think that,' she saysan' right while he was
lookin' gentle an' clerical an' ready to help her, she dimples out all
over her face. 'Besides,' she says, 'I ain't enough dresses to spare
away from me for that. I ain't but about two!' s'she. An' when a girl
is all rose pink and sky blue and dainty neat, a man loves to hear her
brag how few dresses she's got, an' Abel wa'n't the exception.
'Same as a lily,' says he; 'they only have one dress. Now,
what else shall I do?'
Well, at sharp nine the Cemetery Auxiliary come to order, Mis'
Sykes presidin', like she always does when it's time for a hush. The
doors was to open to the general public at ten o'clock, an' the i
-dee was to hev the Auxiliary get the pick o' the goods first, payin'
the reg'lar, set, marked price. An' just as they was ready to begin
pickin', up arrove the Proudfit pony cart with a great big box o'
stuff, sent to the sale. Land, land, Mis' Sykes from the chair an' the
others the same, they just makes one swoopan' begun selectin'; an' in
less than a jiffy if they hadn't selected up every one o' the Proudfit
articles themselves. It was natural enough. The things was worth
havin'pretty curtains, an' trimmin's not much wore, an' some
millinery an' dresses with the new hardly off. An' the Auxiliary paid
the price they would 'a' asked anybody else. They was anxious, but they
That just seemed to get their hand in. Next, they fell to on the
other tables an' begun buyin' from them. They was lots o' things that
most anybody would 'a' been glad to hev that the owners had sent down
sheer through bein' sick o' seein' 'em aroundlike you willan'
couldn't be thrown away 'count o' conscience, but could be give to a
cause an' conscience not notice. We had quite fun buyin', tooknowin'
they was each other's, an' no hard feelin'only good spirits an'
pleased with each other's taste. Everybody knew who'd sent what, an'
everybody hed bought it for some not so high-minded use as it hed hed
before, an' kep' their dignity that way. Front-stair carpet was bought
to go down on back stairs, sittin' room lamp for chamber lamp, kitchen
stove-pipe for wash room stove-pipe, an' so on, an' the clothes to make
rag rugsso they give out. The things kep' on an' on bein' snapped up
hot-cake quick, an' the crowd beginnin' to gather outside, waitin' to
get in, made 'em sort o' lose their heads an' begin buyin' sole because
things was cheapbird-cages, a machine cover, odd table-leaves, an'
like that. The Society was rill large then, an' what happened might 'a'
been expected. When ten o'clock come an' it was time to open the door,
the Rummage Sale was over, an' the Auxiliary hed bought the whole thing
We never thought folks might be anyways mad about itbut I tell
you, they was. They hed been seein' us through the glass, like they was
caged in front o' bargain day. An' when Mis' Toplady, fair beamin',
unlocks the door an' tells 'em the sale was through with an' a rill
success, they acted some het up. But Mis' Toplady, she bristles back at
'em. 'I'm sure,' s'she, 'nobody wants you to die an' be buried in a
nice, neat, up-to-date, kep'-up cemet'ry if you don't want to.'
An' o' course she hed 'em there.
Well, it was that performance o' the Auxiliary's that rilly brought
Delia an' Abel together. It seemed to strike Abel awful funny, an'
Delia, lookin' at it with him, she see the funny too. They laughed a
good deal, an' they seemed to sort o' understand each other through
laughin', like you will. Delia bought the red waist, an' Abel walked
home with heran' by that time Abel, with his half-scriptural,
half-boy, half-lover way that he couldn't help, was just on the craggy
edge o' fallin' in love with her. But I b'lieve it wa'n't love, just
ordinary. It was more like Abel, in his zeal for reddin' up the world,
see that he could do for Delia what nobody else could doan' her for
him. An' that both of 'em workin' together could do more through
knowin' each other was near. That's the way,' Calliope said shyly,
'lovin' always ought to be, my notion. An' when it ain't, things is
likely to get all wrong. Sometimesometime,' she said, 'you'll hear
about mean' how things with me went all wrong. An' I want you to
remember, no matter how much it don't seem my faultthat that's why
they did go wrongan' no other. I was too crude selfish to sense what
love is. I didn't knowI didn't know. An' so with lots o' folks.
I've often thought that Delia an' Abel meetin' at a Rummage Sale
was like all the rest of it. There was just a lot o' rubbish lumberin'
up the whole situation. Things wasn't happy for Delia to homeher
mother, Mis' Crapwell, had married again to a man that kep' throwin'
out about hevin' to be support to Delia; an' her stepsister, Jennie
Crapwell, was sickly an' self-seekin' an' engaged all to once. An' the
young carpenter that Jennie was goin' to marry, he was the black-eyed,
hither-an'-yon kind, an' crazier over Delia from the first than he ever
was over Jennie. Delia, she was shy about not havin' much
educationMis' Proudfit hed wanted to send her off to school, an' Mis'
Crapwell wouldn't hear to itan' Abel kep' talkin' that he was goin'
to hev a big church in the City some day, an' I guess that scairt Delia
some, an' Jennie kep' frettin' an' houndin' her, one way an' another,
an' a-callin' her 'parson's wife'ain't it awful the power them
pin-pricky things has if we let 'em? An' Delia wa'n't the kind to know
how to do right by her own willin'. An' so all to once we woke up one
mornin', an' she'd done what she'd done, an' no help for it.
It was only a month after Delia an' Abel had met that Delia went
away, an' Abel hadn't been installed yet. An' when Delia done that,
Abel just settled into bein' somebody else. He seemed to want to go off
in the hills an' be by himself, an' most o' the time he done so. But
there was grace for him even in that: Abel see the hill folks, how they
didn't hev any churches nor not anything else much, an' he just set to
work on 'em, quiet an' still. He'd wanted to go away an' travel, but
the chance never come. An' it seemed, then on, he didn't want even to
hear o' the City, an' when his chances there come, he never took 'em.
An' Abel's been 'round here with the hill folks the fourteen years
since, an' never pastor of any churchbut he got the blessedness,
after all, an' I guess the chance to do better service than any other
way. You can see how he's broad an' gentle an' tender an' strong, but
you don't know what he does for folksan' that's the best. An'
yethis soul must be sort o' packed away too, to what it would 'a'
been if things had 'a' gone differ'nt ... packed away an' tryin' to say
somethin'. An' now Delia's come back I b'lieve Abel knows that, an' I
b'lieve he sees the soul in her needin' him too, just like it did all
that timewaitin' to be loosened, gentle, before it can speak; an'
meanin' things it can't say, like Peleg's flute. Oh, don't it seem like
the dreams Abel said he found up in the sky had ought to be let
It did seem as if, for the two up there in the drawing-room, this
dream might, just possibly, come back.
But then you never can tell for sure about the sky, can you? said
* * * * *
Coffee was served in the library where Madame Proudfit and Miss
Clementina had been in consultation with their lawyer. We were all
rather silent as Madame Proudfit sat at the urn and the lawyer handed
our cups down some long avenue of his abstraction. And now everything
seemed to me a kind of setting for Delia and Abel, and Calliope kept
looking at them as if, before her eyes, things might come right. So, I
own, did I, though in the Proudfit library it was usually difficult to
fix my attention on what passed; for it was in that room that Linda
Proudfit's portrait hung, and the beautiful eyes seemed always trying
to tell one what the weary absence meant. But I thought again that this
daughter of the house had won a kind of presence there, because of
Madame Proudfit's tender mother-care of Delia More.
Yet it was to this care that Calliope and I owed a present defeat;
for when we were leave-taking,
We shall sail, then, the moment we can get passage, Madame
Proudfit observed to her lawyer, providing that Clementina can
arrange. Delia, she added, Clementina and I find to-night that we
must sail immediately for Europe, for six months or so. And we want to
carry you off with us.
Madame Proudfit and Miss Clementina and Delia were standing with us
outside the threshold, where the outdoors had met us like something
that had been waiting. There, with the light from the hall falling but
dimly, I saw in Abel's face only the glow of his simple joy that this
good thing had come to Deliathough, indeed, that very joy told much
besides. And it was in his face when he bade Delia good night and,
since he was expected somewhere among the hills for days to come, gave
her God-speed. But we four fell momentarily silent, as if we meant
things which we might not speak. It was almost a relief to hear tapping
on the sidewalk the wooden leg of Peleg Bemus, while a familiar, thin
little stream of melody from his flute made its way about.
Doesn't it seem as if Peleg were trying to tell one something?
said Madame Proudfit, lightly, as we went away.
And down on the gravel of the drive Calliope demanded passionately
of Abel and me:
Oh, don't some things make you want to pull the sky down an'
wrap up in it!
But at this Abel laughed a little.
It's easier to pull down just the dreams, he said.
XIII. TOP FLOOR BACK
One morning a few weeks after the Proudfits had left, I was sitting
beside Calliope's cooking range, watching her at her baking, when the
wooden leg of Peleg Bemus thumped across the threshold, and without
ceremony he came in from the shed and stood by the fire, warming his
axe handle. But Peleg's intrusions were never imputed to him. As I have
said, his gifts and experiences had given him a certain authority.
Perhaps, too, he reflected a kind of institutional dignity from his
sign, which read:
P. Bemus: Retail Saw Miller
At the moment of his entrance Calliope was talking of Emerel Kitton,
now Mrs. Abe Daniel:
There's them two, she said, seems to hev married because they
both use a good deal o' salt't least they ain't much else they're
alike in. An' Emerel is just one-half workin' her head off for him.
Little nervous thing she iswhen I heard she was down with nervous
prostration two years ago, I says, 'Land, land,' I says, 'but ain't she
always had it?' They's a strain o' good blood in that girl,Al
Kitton was New England,but they don't none of it flow up through her
head. She's great on sacrificin', but she don't sacrifice judicious. If
folks is goin' to sacrifice, I think they'd ought to do it
conscientious, the kind in the Bible, same as Abraham an' like that.
Peleg Bemus rubbed one hand up and down his axe handle.
I reckon you can't always tell, Miss Marsh, he said meditatively.
I once knowed a man that done some sacrificin' that ain't called by
that name when it gets into the newspapers. He turned to me, with a
manner of pointing at me with his head, You been in New York, he
said; ain't you ever heard o' Mr. LonewayMr. John Loneway?
I was sorry that I could not answer yes. He was so expectant that
I had the sensation of having failed him.
Him an' I lived in the same building in East Fourteenth Street
there, he said. That is to say, he lived top floor back and I was
janitor. That was a good many years ago, but whenever I get an
introduction to anybody that's been in New York, I allus take an
interest. I'd like to know whatever become of him.
He scrupulously waited for our question, and then sat down beside
the oven door and laid his axe across his knees.
It was that hard winter, he told us, about a dozen years ago. I'd
hev to figger out just what year, but most anybody on the East Side can
tell you. Coal was clear up an' soarin', an' vittles was tooeverybody
howlin' hard times, an' the Winter just commenced. Make things worse,
some philanthropist had put up two model tenements in the block we was
in, an' property alongside had shot up in value accordin' an' lugged
rents with it. Everybody in my buildin' 'most was rowin' about it.
But John Loneway, he wasn't rowin'. I met him on the stairs one
mornin' early an' I says, 'Beg pardon, sir,' I says, 'but you ain't
meanin' to make no change?' I ask him. He looks at me kind o' dazedhe
was a wonderful clean-muscled little chap, with a crisscross o' veins
on each temple an' big brown eyes back in his head. 'No,' he says.
'Change? I can't move. My wife's sick,' he says. That was news to me.
I'd met her a couple o' times in the hallpale little mite, hardly big
as a baby, but pleasant-spoken, an' with a way o' dressin' herself in
shabby clo'es that made the other women in the house look like bundles
tied up careless. But she didn't go out muchthey had only been in the
house a couple o' weeks or so. 'Sick, is she?' I says. 'Too bad,' I
says. 'Anything I can do?' I ask him. He stopped on the nex' step an'
looked back at me. 'Got a wife?' he says. 'No,' says I, 'I ain't, sir.
But they ain't never challenged my vote on 'count o' that, sirno
offence,' I says to him respectful. 'All right,' he says, noddin' at
me. 'I just thought mebbe she'd look in now and then. I'm gone all
day,' he added, an' went off like he'd forgot me.
I thought about the little thing all that mornin'layin' all alone
up there in that room that wa'n't no bigger'n a coal-bin. It's bad
enough to be sick anywheres, but it's like havin' both legs in a trap
to be sick in New York. Towards noon I went into one o' the
flatsfirst floor front it waswith the kindlin' barrel, an' I give
the woman to understand they was somebody sick in the house. She was a
great big creatur' that I'd never see excep' in red calico, an' I
always thought she looked some like a tomato ketchup bottle, with her
apron for the label. She says, when I told her, 'You see if she wants
anything,' she says. 'I can't climb all them stairs,' she answers me.
Well, that afternoon I went down an' hunted up a rusty sleigh-bell
I'd seen in the basement, an' I rubbed it up an' tied a string to it,
an' 'long in the evenin' I went upstairs an' rapped at Mr. Loneway's
'I called,' I says, 'to ask after your wife, if I might.'
'If you might,' he says after me. 'I thank the Lord you're somebody
that will. Come in,' he told me.
They had two rooms. In one he was cookin' somethin' on a smelly
oil-stove. In the other was his wife; but that room was all neat an'
nicecurtains looped back, carpet an' all that. She was half up on
pillows, an' she had a black waist on, an' her hair pushed straight
back, an' she was burnin' up with the fever.
'Set down an' talk to her,' he says to me, 'while I get the dinner,
will you? I've got to go out for the milk.'
I did set down, feelin' some like a sawhorse in church. If she
hadn't been so durn little, seems though I could 'a' talked with her,
but I ketched sight of her hand on the quilt, an'law! it wa'n't no
bigger'n a butternut. She done the best thing she could do an' set me
'Mr. Bemus,' she says, first offeverybody else called me
Peleg'Mr. Bemus,' she says, 'I wonder if you'd mind takin' an old
newspaperthere's one somewheres aroundan' stuffin' in the cracks of
this window an' stop its rattlin'?'
I laid my sleigh-bell down an' done as she says; an' while I fussed
with the window, that seems though all Printin' House Square couldn't
stuff up, she talked on, chipper as a squirrel, all about the buildin',
an' who lived where, an' how many kids they was, an' wouldn't it be
nice if they had an elevator like the model tenement we was payin' rent
for, an' so on. I'd never 'a' dreamt she was sick if I hadn't looked
'round a time or two at her poor, burnin'-up face. Then bime-by he
brought the supper in, an' when he went to lift her up, she just
naturally laid back an' fainted. But she was all right again in a
minute, brave as two, an' she was like a child when she see what he'd
brought hera big platter for a tray, with milk-toast an' an apple an'
five cents' worth o' dates. She done her best to eat, too, and praised
him up, an' the poor soul hung over her, watchin' every mouthful,
feedin' her, coaxin' her, lookin' like nothin' more'n a boy himself.
When I couldn't stand it no longer, I took an' jingled the sleigh-bell.
'I'm a-goin',' I says, 'to hang this outside the door here, an' run
this nice long string through the transom. An' to-morrow,' I says,
'when you want anything, just you pull the string a time or two, an'
I'll be somewheres around.'
She clapped her hands, her eyes shinin'.
'Oh, goodey!' she says. 'Now I won't be alone. Ain't it
nice,' she says, 'that there ain't no glass in the transom? If we lived
in the model tenement, we couldn't do that,' she says, laughin' some.
An' that young fellow, he followed me to the door an' just
naturally shook hands with me, same's though I'd been his kind. Then he
followed me on out into the hall.
'We had a little boy,' he says to me low, 'an' it died four months
ago yesterday, when it was six days old. She ain't ever been well
since,' he says, kind of as if he wanted to tell somebody. But I didn't
know what to say, an' so I found fault with the kerosene lamp in the
hall, an' went on down.
Nex' day I knew the doctor come again. An' 'way 'long in the
afternoon I was a-tinkerin' with the stair rail when I heard the
sleigh-bell ring. I run up, an' she was settin' up, in the black
waistbut I thought her eyes was shiney with somethin' that wasn't the
feversort of a scared excitement.
'Mr. Bemus,' she says, 'I want you to do somethin' for me,' she
says, 'an' not tell anybody. Will you?'
'Why, yes,' I says, 'I will, Mis' Loneway,' I says. 'What is it?' I
'There's a baby somewheres downstairs,' she says. 'I hear it cryin'
sometimes. An' I want you to get it an' bring it up here.'
That was a queer thing to ask, because kids isn't soothin' to the
sick. But I went off downstairs to the first floor front. The kid she
meant belonged to the Tomato Ketchup woman. I knew they had one because
it howled different times an', I judge, pounded its head on the floor
some when it was maddest. It was the only real little one in the
buildin'the others was all the tonguey age. I told what I wanted.
'For the land!' says Tomato Ketchup, 'I never see such nerve. Take
my baby into a sick room? Not if I know it. I s'pose you just come out
o' there? Well, don't you stay here, bringin' diseases. A hospital's
the true place fer the sick,' she says.
I went back to Mis' Loneway, an' I guess I lied some. I said the
kid was sickhad the croup, I thought, an' she'd hev to wait. Her face
fell, but she said 'all right an' please not to say nothin',' an' then
I went out an' done my best to borrow a kid for her. I ask' all over
the neighbourhood, an' not a woman but looked on me for a cradle
snatcherthought I wanted to abduct her child away from her. Bime-by I
even told one woman what I wanted it for.
'My!' she says, 'if she ain't got one, she's got one less mouth to
feed. Tell her to thank her stars.'
After that I used to look into Mis' Loneway's frequent. The women
on the same floor was quite decent to her, but they worked all day, an'
mostly didn't get home till after her husband did. I found out
somethin' about him, too. He was clerk in a big commission house 'way
down-town, an' his salary, as near as I could make out, was about what
mine was, an' they wa'n't no estimatin' that by the cord at all. But I
never heard a word out'n him about their not havin' much. He kep' on
makin' milk toast an' bringin' in one piece o' fruit at a time an' once
in a while a little meat. An' all the time anybody could see she wa'n't
gettin' no better. I knew she wa'n't gettin' enough to eat, an' I knew
he knew it, too. An' one night the doctor he outs with the truth.
Mr. Loneway an' I was sittin' in the kitchen while the doctor was
in the other room with her. I went there evenin's all the time by
thenthe young fellow seemed to like to hev me. We was keepin' warm
over the oil-stove because the real stove was in her room, an' the
doctor come in an' stood over him.
'My lad,' he says gentle, 'there ain't half as much use o' my
comin' here as there is o' her gettin' strengthenin' food. She's got to
hev beef brothcer'alsfresh this an' fresh that'he went on to tell
him, 'an' plenty of it,' he says. 'An' if we can make her strength hold
out, I think,' he wound up, 'that we can save her. But she's gettin'
weaker every day for lack o' food. Can you do anything more?' he ask'
I expected to see young Mr. Loneway go all to pieces at this,
because I knew as it was he didn't ride in the street-car, he was
pinchin' so to pay the doctor. But he sorter set up sudden an' squared
his shoulders, an' he looked up an' says:
'Yes!' he says. 'I've been thinkin' that to-night,' he says. 'An'
I've hed a way to some good luck, you might call itan' now I guess
she can hev everything she wants,' he told him; an' he laughed some
when he said it.
That sort o' amazed me. I hadn't heard him sayin' anything about
any excruciatin' luck, an' his face hadn't been the face of a man on
the brink of a bonanza. I wondered why he hadn't told her about this
luck o' his, but I kep' quiet an' watched to see if he was bluffin'.
I was cleanin' the walk off when he come home nex' night. Sure
enough, there was his arms laid full o' bundles. An' his faceit done
me good to see it.
'Come on up an' help get dinner,' he yelled out, like a kid, an' I
thought I actually seen him smilin'.
Soon's I could I went upstairs, an' they wa'n't nothin' that man
hadn't brought. They was everything the doctor had said, an' green
things, an' a whol' basket o' fruit an' two bottles o' port, an' more
things besides. They was lots o' fixin's, too, that there wa'n't a mite
o' nourishment infor he wa'n't no more practical nor
medicinal'n a wood-tick. But I knew how he felt.
'Don't tell her,' he says. 'Don't tell her,' he says to me, hoppin'
'round the kitchen like a buzz-saw. 'I want to surprise her.'
You can bet he did, tooif you'll overlook the liberty. When he
was all ready, he made me go in ahead.
'To-ot!' says I, genial-likethey treated me jus' like one
of 'em. 'To-ot! Lookey-at!'
He set the big white platter down on the bed, an' when she see all
the stuff,white grapes, mind you, an' fresh tomatoes, an' a glass for
the wine,she just grabs his hand an' holds it up to her throat, an'
'Jack! Oh, Jack!' she says,she called him that when she was
pleased,'how did you? How did you?'
'Never you mind,' he says, kissin' her an' lookin' as though he was
goin' to bu'st out himself, 'never you ask. It's time I had some luck,
ain't it? Like other men?'
She was touchin' things here an' there, liftin' up the grapes an'
lookin' at 'empoor little soul had lived on milk toast an' dates an'
a apple now an' then for two weeks to my knowledge. But when he said
that, she stopped an' looked at him, scared.
'John!' she says, 'you ain't'
He laughed at that.
'Gamblin'?' he says. 'Nonever you fear.' I had thought o' that
myself, only I didn't quite see when he'd had the chance since night
before when the doctor told him. 'It's all owin' to the office,' he
says to her, 'an' now you eatlemme see you eat, Linda,' he says, an'
that seemed to be food enough for him. He didn't half touch a thing.
'Eat all you want,' he says, 'an', Peleg, poke up the fire. There's
half a ton o' coal comin' to-morrow. An' we're goin' to have this
every day,' he told her.
Land o' love! how happy she was! She made me eat some grapes, an'
she sent a bunch to the woman on the same floor, because she'd brought
her an orange six weeks before; an' then she begs Mr. Loneway to get an
extry candle out of the top dresser draw'. An' when that was lit up she
whispers to him, and he goes out an' fetches from somewheres a guitar
with more'n half the strings left on; an' she set up an' picked away on
'em, an' we all three sung, though I can't carry a tune no more'n what
I can carry a white oak tree trunk.
'Oh,' she says, 'I'm a-goin' to get well now. Oh,' she says, 'ain't
it heaven to be rich again?'
Noyou can say she'd ought to 'a' made him tell her where he got
the money. But she trusted him, an' she'd been a-livin' on milk toast
an' dates for so long that I can pretty well see how she took it all as
what's-his-name took the wild honey, without askin' the Lord whose make
it was. Besides, she was sick. An' milk toast an' dates'd reconcile me
to 'most any change for the better.
It got so then that I went upstairs every noon an' fixed up her
lunch for her, an' one day she done what I'd been dreadin'. 'Mr.
Bemus,' she says, 'that baby must be over the croup now. Won't
youwon't you take it down this orange an' see if you can't bring it
up here awhile?'
I went down, but, law!where was the use? The Ketchup woman grabs
up her kid an' fair threw the orange at me. 'You don't know what
disease you're bringin' in here,' she saysshe had a voice like them
gasoline wood-cutters. I see she'd took to heart some o' the
model-tenement social-evenin' lectures on bugs an' worms in diseases. I
carried the orange out and give it to a kid in the ar'y, so's Mis'
Loneway'd be makin' somebody some pleasure, anyhow. An' then I went
back upstairs an' told her the kid was worse. Seems the croup had
turned into cholery infantum.
'Why,' she says, 'I mus' send it down somethin' nice an' hot
to-night,' an' so she did, and I slips it back in the Loneway kitchen
unbeknownst. She wa'n't so very medicinal, either, bless her heart!
'Tell me about that baby,' she says to me one noon. 'What's its
name? Does it like to hev its mother love it?' she ask me.
I knew the truth to be that it didn't let anybody do anything day
or night within sight or sound of it, an' it looked to me like an imp
o' the dark. But I fixed up a tol'able description, an' left out the
freckles an' the temper, an' told her it was fat an' well an' a boy.
That seemed to satisfy her. Its name, though, sort o' stumped me. The
Tomato Ketchup called it mostly 'you-come-back-here-you-little-ape.' I
heard that every day. So I said, just to piece out my information, that
I thought its name might be April. That seemed to take her fancy, an'
after that she was always askin' me how little April wasbut not when
Mr. Loneway was in hearin'. I see well enough she didn't want he should
know that she was grievin' none.
All the time kep' comin', every night, another armful o' good
things. Land! that man he bought everything. Seems though he couldn't
buy enough. Every night the big platter was heaped up an' runnin' over
with everything under the sun, an' she was like another girl. I s'pose
the things give her strength, but I reck'n the cheer helped most. She
had the surprise to look forward to all day, an' there was plenty o'
light, evenin's; an' the stove, that was drove red-hot. The doctor kep'
sayin' she was better, too, an' everything seemed lookin' right up.
Seems queer I didn't suspect from the first something was wrong.
Seems though I ought to 'a' known money didn't grow out o' green wood
the way he was pretendin'. It wasn't two weeks before he takes me down
to the basement one night when he comes home, an' he owns up.
'Peleg,' he says, 'I've got to tell somebody, an' God knows maybe
it'll be you that'll hev to tell her. I've stole fifty-four dollars out
o' the tray in the retail department,' says he, 'an' to-day they found
me out. They wasn't no fuss made. Lovett, the assistant cashier, is the
only one that knows. He took me aside quiet,' Mr. Loneway says, 'an' I
made a clean breast. I said what I took it for. He's a married man
himself, an' he told me if I'd make it up in three days, he'd fix it
so's nobody should know. The cashier's off for a week. In three days
he's comin' back. But they might as well ask me to make up fifty-four
hundred. I've got enough to keep on these three days so's she won't
know,' he says, 'an' after that'
He hunched out his arms, an' I'll never forget his face.
I says, 'Mr. Loneway, sir,' I says, 'chuck it. Tell her the whole
thing an' give 'em back what you got left, an' do your best.'
He turned on me like a crazy man.
'Don't talk to me like that,' he says fierce. 'You don't know what
you're sayin',' he says. 'No man does till he has this happen to him.
The judge on the bench that'll send me to jail for it, he won't know
what he's judgin'. My Godmy God!' he says, leanin' up against
the door o' the furnace room, 'to see her sick like thisan'
needin' thingswhen she give herself to me to take care of!'
Course there wa'n't no talkin' to him. An' the nex' night an' the
nex' he come home bringin' her truck just the same. Once he even hed
her a bunch o' pinks. Seems though he was doin' the worst he could.
The pinks come at the end of the second day of the three days the
assistant cashier had give him to pay the money back in. An' two things
happened that night. I was in the kitchen helpin' him wash up the
dishes while the doctor was in the room with Mis' Loneway. An' when the
doctor come out o' there into the kitchen, he shuts the door. I see
right off somethin' was the matter. He took Mr. Loneway off to the back
window, an' I rattled 'round with the dishes an' took on not to notice.
Up until when the doctor goes outan' then I felt Mr. Loneway's grip
on my arm. I looked at him, an' I knew. She wasn't goin' to get well.
He just lopped down on the chair like so much sawdust, an' put his face
down in his arm, the way a schoolboy doesan' I swan he wa'n't much
more'n a schoolboy, either. I s'pose if ever hell is in a man's
heart,an' we mostly all see it there sometime, even if we don't feel
it,why, there was hell in his then.
All of a sudden there was a rap on the hall door. He never moved,
an' so I went. I whistled, I rec'lect, so's she shouldn't suspect
nothin' from our not goin' in where she was right off. An' a
messenger-boy was out there in the passage with a letter for Mr.
I took it in to him. He turned himself around an' opened it, though
I don't believe he knew half what he was doin'. An' what do you guess
come tumblin' out o' that envelope? Fifty-four dollars in bills. Not a
word with 'em.
Then he broke down. 'It's Lovett,' he says, 'it's Lovett's done
thisthe assistant cashier. Maybe he's told some o' the other fellows
at the desks next, an' they helped. They knew about her bein' sick. An'
they can't none of 'em afford it,' he says, an' that seemed to cut him
up worst of all. 'I'll give it back to him,' he says resolute. 'I can't
take it from 'em, Peleg.'
I says, 'Hush up, Mr. Loneway, sir,' I says. 'You got to think o'
her. Take it,' I told him, 'an' thank God it ain't as bad as it was.
Who knows,' I ask' him, 'but what the doctor might turn out wrong?'
Pretty soon I got him to pull himself together some, an' I shoved
him into the other room, an' I went with him, an' talked on like an
idiot so nobody'd suspectI didn't hev no idea what.
She was settin' up in the same black waist, with a newspaper hung
acrost the head o' the iron bed to keep the draught out. All of a
'John!' says she.
He went close by the bed.
'Is everything goin' on good?' she ask' him.
'Everything,' he told her right off.
'Splendid, John?' she ask' him, pullin' his hand up by her cheek.
'Splendid, Linda,' he says after her.
'We got a little money ahead?' she goes on.
'Bless me, if he didn't do just what I had time to be afraid of. He
hauls out them fifty-four dollars an' showed her.
She claps her hands like a child.
'Oh, goodey!' she says; 'I'm so glad. I'm so glad. Now I can
tell you,' she says to him.
He took her in his arms an' kneeled down by the bed, an' I tried to
slip out, but she called me back. So I stayed, like an' axe in the
'John,' she says to him, 'do you know what Aunt Nita told me before
I was married? You must always look the prettiest you know how, Aunt
Nita says,' she tells him, 'for your husband. Because you must always
be prettier for him than anybody else is. An', oh, dearest,' she says,
'you know I'd 'a' looked my best for you if I couldbut I never
hadan' it wasn't your fault!' she cries out, 'but things didn't go
right. It wasn't anybody's fault. OnlyI wanted to look nice
for you. An' since I've been sick,' she says, 'it's made me wretched,
wretched to think I didn't hev nothin' to put on but this black
waistthis homely old black waist. You never liked me to wear black,'
I rec'lect she says to him, 'an' it killed me to thinkif anything
should happenyou'd be rememberin' me like this. You think you'd
remember me the way I was when I was wellbut you wouldn't,' she says
earnest; 'people never, never do. You'd remember me here like I look
now. Ohan' so I thoughtif there was ever so little money we could
sparewon't you get me somethin'somethin' so's you could remember me
better? Somethin' to wear these few days,' she says.
He breaks down then an' cries, with his face in her pillow.
'Don'twhy, don't!' she says to him; 'if there wasn't any money,
you might cryonly then I wouldn't never hev told you. But
nowto-morrowyou can go an' buy me a little dressing-sacquethe
kind they have in the windows on Broadway. Oh, Jack!' she says,
'is it wicked an' foolish for me to want you to remember me as nice as
you can? It ain'tit ain't!' she says.
Then I give out. I felt like a handful o' wet sawdust that's been
squeezed. I slid out an' downstairs, an' I guess I chopped wood near
all night. The Tomato Ketchup's husband he pounded the floor for me to
shut up, an' I told himthough I never was what you might call a
impudent janitorthat if he thought he could chop it up any more soft,
he'd better engage in it. But then the kid woke up, too, an' yelled
some, an' I's afraid she'd hear it an' remember, an' so I quit.
Nex' mornin' I laid for Mr. Loneway in the hall.
'Sir,' I says to him when he come down to go out, 'you won't do
nothin' foolish?' I ask' him.
'Mind your business,' he says, his face like a patch o' poplar
I was in an' out o' their flat all day, an' I could see't Mis'
Loneway she's happy as a lark. But I knew pretty well what was comin'.
Mind you, this was the third day.
That night I hed things goin' in the kitchen an' the kettle on, an'
I's hesitatin' whether to put two eggs in the omelet or three, when he
comes home. He laid a eternal lot o' stuff on the kitchen table,
without one word, an' went in where she was. I heard paper rustlin',
an' then I heard her voicean' it wasn't no cryin', lemme say. An' so
I says to myself, 'Well,' I says, 'she might as well hev a four-egg
omelet, because it'll be the last.' I knew if they's to arrest him she
wouldn't never live the day out. So I goes on with the omelet, an' when
he come out where I was, I just told him if he'd cut open the
grapefruit I hed ever'thing else ready. An' then he quit lookin'
defiant, an' he calmed down some; an' pretty soon we took in the
She was sittin' up in front of her two pillows, pretty as a
picture. An' she was in one o' the things I ain't ever see outside a
store window. Lord! it was all the colour o' roses, with craped-up
stuff like the bark on a tree, an' rows an' rows o' lace, an' long,
flappy ribbon. She was allus pretty, but she looked like an angel in
that. An' I says to myself then, I says: 'If a woman knows she
looks like that in them things, an' if she loves somebody an', livin'
or dead, wants to look like that for him, I want to know who's to blame
her? I ain'tPeleg Bemus, he ain't.' Mis' Loneway was as pretty as I
ever see, not barrin' the stage. An' she was laughin', an' her cheeks
was pink-like, an' she says,
'Oh, Mr. Bemus,' she says, 'I feel like a queen,' she says, 'an'
you must stay for dinner.'
I never seen Mr. Loneway gayer. He was full o' fun an' funny
sayin's, an' his face had even lost its chalky look an' he'd got some
colour, an' he laughed with her an' he made love to herdurned if it
wasn't enough to keep a woman out o' the grave to be worshipped the way
that man worshipped her. An' when she ask' for the guitar, I carried
out the platter, an' I stayed an' straightened things some in the
kitchen. An' all the while I could hear 'em singin' soft an' laughin'
together ... an' all the while I knew what was double sure to come.
Well, in about an hour it did come. I was waitin' for it. Fact, I
had filled up the coffee-pot expectin' it. An' when I heard the men
comin' up the stairs I takes the coffee an' what rolls there was left
an' I meets 'em in the hall, on the landing. They was two of
'emconstables, or somethin'with a warrant for his arrest.
'Gentlemen,' says I, openin' the coffee-pot careless so's the smell
could get out an' circ'late'gentlemen, he's up there in that room.
There's only these one stairs, an' the only manhole's right here over
your heads, so's you can watch that. You rec'lect that there ain't a
roof on that side o' the house. Now, I'm a lonely beggar, an' I wish't
you'd let me invite you to a cup o' hot coffee an' a hot buttered roll
or two, right over there in that hall window. You can keep your eye
peeled towards that door all the while,' I reminds 'em.
Well, it was a bitter night, an' them two was flesh an' blood. They
'lowed that if he hadn't been there they'd 'a' had to wait for him,
anyway, so they finally set down. An' I doled 'em out the coffee. I
'lowed I could keep 'em an hour if I knew myself. Nobody could 'a' done
any different, with her an' him settin' up there singin' an' no manner
o' doubt but what it was for the last time.
I'd be'n 'round consid'able in my time an' I knew quite a batch o'
stories. I let 'em have 'em all, an' poured the coffee down 'em. They
was willin' enoughit wa'n't cold in the halls to what it was outside,
an' the coffee was boilin' hot. An' if anybody wants to blame me,
they'd hev to see her first, all fluffed up same as a kitten in that
pink jacket-thing, afore I'd give 'em a word o' hearin'.
In the midst of it all I heard the Tomato Ketchup's kid yell. I
remembered that this'd be my last chanst fer her to see the kid
when she could get any happiness out of it. I didn't think twiceI
just filled up the cups o' them two, an' then I sails downstairs, two
at a time, an' opened the door o' first floor front without rappin'.
The kid was there in its little nightgown, howlin' fer fair because it
had be'n left alone with its boy brother. The Tomato Ketchup an' her
husband was to a wake. I picked up the kid, rolled it in a blanket,
grabbed brother by the arm, an' started up the stairs.
'Is the house on f-f-fire?' says the boy brother.
'Yes,' says I, 'it is. An' we're goin' upstairs to hunt up a
fire-escape,' I told him.
At the top o' the stairs I sets him down on the floor an' promises
him an orange, an' then I opens the door, with the kid on my arm. It
had stopped yellin' by then, an' it was settin' up straight, with its
eyes all round an' its cheeks all pinked-up with havin' just woke up,
an' it looked awful cute, in spite of its mother. Mis' Loneway was
leanin' back, laughin', an' tellin' him what they was goin' to do the
minute she got well; but when she see the baby she drops her husband's
hand and sorter screams out, weak, an' holds out her arms. Mr. Loneway,
he hardly heard me go in, I reckonleastwise, he looks at me clean
through me without seein' I was there. An' she hugs the kiddie up in
her arms an' looks at me over the top of its head as much as to say she
understood an' thanked me.
'Its ma is went off,' I told 'em apologetic, 'an' I thought maybe
you'd look after it awhile,' I told 'em.
Then I went out an' put oranges all around the boy brother on the
hall floor, an' I hustled back downstairs.
'Gentlemen,' says I, brisk, 'I've got two dollars too much,' says
Ian' I reck'n the cracks in them walls must 'a' winked at the notion.
'What do you say to a game o' dice on the bread-plate?' I ask' 'em.
Well, one way an' another I kep' them two there for two hours. An'
then, when the game was out, I knew I couldn't do nothin' else. So I
stood up an' told 'em I'd go up an' let Mr. Loneway know they was
therealong o' his wife bein' sick an' hadn't ought to be scared.
I started up the stairs, feelin' like lead. Little more'n halfway
up I heard a little noise. I looked up, an' I see the boy brother
a-comin', leakin' orange-peel, with the kid slung over his shoulder,
sleepin'. I looked on past him, an' the door o' Mr. Loneway's sittin'
room was open, an' I see Mr. Loneway standin' in the middle o' the
floor. I must 'a' stopped still, because something stumbled up against
me from the back, an' the two constables was there, comin' close behind
me. I could hear one of 'em breathin'.
Then I went on up, an' somehow I knew there wasn't nothin' more to
wait for. When we got to the top I see inside the room, an' she was
layin' back on her pillow, all still an' quiet. An' the little new pink
jacket never moved nor stirred, for there wa'n't no breath.
Mr. Loneway, he come acrost the floor towards us.
'Come in,' he says. 'Come right in,' he told usan' I see him
XIV. AN EPILOGUE
When Peleg had gone back to the woodshed, Calliope slipped away too.
I sat beside the fire, listening to the fine, measured fall of Peleg's
axeso much more vital with the spirit of music than his flute;
looking at Calliope's brown earthen baking dishesso much purer in
line than the village bric-a-brac; thinking of Peleg's story and of the
life that beat within it as life does not beat in the unaided letter of
the law. But chiefly I thought of Linda Loneway. Linda Loneway. I made
a picture of her name.
So, Calliope having come from above stairs where I had heard her
moving about as if in some search, I think that I recognized, even
before I lifted my eyes to it, the photograph which she gave me. It was
as if the name had heard me, and had come.
It's Linda, Calliope said. It's Linda Proudfit. An' I'm certain,
certain sure it's the Linda that Peleg knew.
Surely not, Calliope, I saidobedient to some law.
Calliope nodded, with closed eyes, in simple certainty.
I know it was her that Peleg meant about, she said. I
thought of it first when he said about her looksan' her husband a
clerkan' he said he called her Linda. An' then when he got to where
she mentioned Aunt Nitathat's what her an' Clementina always calls
Mis' Ordway, though she ain't by rightsoh, it isit is....
Calliope sat down on the floor before me, cherishing the picture.
And all natural doubts of the possibility, all apparent denial in the
real name of Linda Proudfit's poor young husband were for us both
presently overborne by something which seemed viewlessly witnessing to
But little Linda, Calliope said, to think o' her. To think o'
herlike Peleg said. Why, I hardly ever see her excep' in all
silk, or imported kinds. None of us did. I hardly ever 'see her
walkit was horses and carriages and dance in a ballroom till I wonder
she remembered how to walk at all. Everything with her was cut good,
an' kid, an' handwork, an' like thatthe same way the Proudfits is
now. But yet she wasn't a bit like Mis' Proudfit an' Clementina.
They're both sweet an' rule-lovin' an' ladies born, but Calliope
hesitated, they's somethin' they ain't. An' Linda was.
Calliope looked about the room, seeking a way to tell me. And her
eyes fell on the flame on her cooking-stove hearth.
Linda had a little somethin' in her that lit her up, she said.
She didn't say much of anything that other folks don't say, but
somehow she meant the words farther in. In where the light was, an'
words mean differ'nt an' better. I use' to think I didn't believe that
what she saw or heard or read was exactly like what her mother an'
Clementina an' most folks see an' hear an' read. Somehow, she got the
inside out o' things, an' drew it in like breathin', an' lit it up, an'
lived it more. I donno's you know what I'm talkin' about. But Mis'
Proudfit an' Clementina don't do that way. They're dear an' good an'
generous, an' lots gentler than they was before Linda left 'eman' yet
they just wear things' an' invite folks in an' see Europe an' keep up
their French an' serve God, an' never get any of it rill lit up. But
Linda, she knew. An' she use' to be lonesome. I know she didI
know she did.
I use' to look at her an' wish an' wish I wa'n't who I am, so's I
could a' let her know I knew too. I use' to go to mend her lace an'
sell orris root to heran' Madame Proudfit an' Clementina would be
there, buyin' an' livin' on the outside, judicious an' refined an' rill
right about everything; but when Linda come in, she sort o' reached
somewheres, deep, or up, or out, or like that, an' got somethin' that
meant it all instead o' gnawin' its way through words. It was like
other folks was the recipe an' Linda was the rill dish. They was the
way to be, but she was the one that was.
Well, then one year, when she come home from off to school, this
young clerk followed her. I only see 'em together oncehe only stayed
a day an' had his terrible time with Jason Proudfit an' everybody knew
itbut even with seein' 'em that once, I knew about him. I don't care
who he was or what he was worthhe was lit up, too. I donno why he was
a clerk nor anything of himexcep' that the lit kind ain't always the
money-makersbut he could talk to her her way. An' when I see the four
of 'em drive up in front of the post-office the day he come, Mis'
Proudfit an' Clementina talkin' all soft an' interested an' regular
about the foreign postage stamps they was buyin', an' Linda an' him
sittin' there with foreign lands fair livin' in their eyesI knew how
it would be. An' so it was. They went off, Linda with only the clothes
she was wearin' an' none of her stone rings or like that with her. An'
see what it all donesee what it done. Jason Proudfit, he wouldn't
forgive 'em nor wouldn't hear a word from 'em, though they say Mis'
Linda wrote, at first, an' more than once. An' then when he died two
years or so afterwards, an' Mis' Proudfit tried everywherethey wa'n't
no trace. An' no wonder, with a differ'nt name so's nobody should find
out how poor they wasan' deathan' like enough prison....
Calliope stood up, and in the pause Peleg's axe went rhythmically
I'm goin' to be sure, she said. I hate tobut o' course I've got
to be rill certain, in words.
She went out to the shed, taking with her the photograph, and closed
the door. Peleg's axe ceased. And when she came back, she said nothing
at all for a little, and the axe did not go on.
We mustn't tell Mis' Proudfityet, she put it, presently, not
till we can think. I donno's we ever can tell her. The dyin'an' the
disgracean' the other namean' the hurt about Linda's needin'
things ... Peleg thinks not tell her, too.
At least, I said, we can wait, for a little. Until they come
I listened while, her task long disregarded, Calliope fitted
together the dates and the meagre facts she knew, and made the sad
tally complete. Then she laid the picture by and stood staring at the
It ain't enough, she said, bein'lit upain't enough for folks,
is it? Not without they're some made out o' iron, too, to hold itlike
stoves. An' yet
She looked at me with one of her infrequent, passionate doubtings in
if Mis' Proudfit an' Clementina had just of been lit too, she
She got no farther, though I think it was not the opening of the
door by Peleg Bemus that interrupted her. Peleg did not come in. He
said something of the snow on his shoes, and spoke through the door's
I'm a-goin to quit work for to-day, Mis' Marsh, he told her.
Seems like I'm too dead tired to chop.
XV. THE TEA PARTY
As spring came on, and I found myself fairly identified with the
life of Friendship,or, at any rate, more one of us, as they
said,I suggested to Calliope something which had been for some time
pleasantly in my mind: might I, I asked one day, give a tea for her?
A tea! she repeated. For me? You know they give me a
benefit once in the basement of the Court House. But a private tea, for
And when she understood that this was what I meant,
Oh, she said earnestly, I'd be so glad to come. An' you an' I can
know the tea is for meif you rilly mean itbut it won't do to say it
so'd it'd get out around. Oh, no, it won't. Not one o' the rest'll come
near if you give it for menor if you give it for
anybody. Mis' Proudfit, now, she tried to give a noon lunch on St.
Patrick's day for Mis' Postmaster Sykes, an' the folks she ask' to it
got together an' sent in their regrets. 'We're just as good as Mis'
Postmaster Sykes,' they give out to everybody, 'an' we don't bow down
to her like that.' So Mis' Proudfit she calls it a Shamrock Party an'
give it a day later. An' every one of 'em went. It won't do to say it's
So I contented myself with planning to seat Calliope at the foot of
my table, and I found a kind of happiness in her child-like content,
though only we two knew that the occasion would do her honour. If Delia
had been available we would have told her, but Delia was still in
Europe, and would not return until June.
Calliope was quite radiant when, on the afternoon of the tea, she
arrived in advance of the others. She was wearing her best gray
henrietta, and I noted that she had changed her cameo ring from her
first to her third finger. (First-finger rings seem to me more
everyday, she had once said to me, but third-finger I always think
looks real dressy.) She was carrying a small parcel.
You didn't ask to borrow anything, she said shyly; I didn't know
how you'd feel about that, a stranger so. An' we all got togetheryour
company, you knowan' found out you hadn't borrowed anything from any
of us, an' we thought maybe you hesitated. So we made up I should bring
my spoons. They was mother's, an' they're thin as weddin' ringsan'
solid. Any time you want to give a company you're welcome to 'em.
When I had laid the delicate old silver in its place, I found
Calliope standing in the middle of my living-room, looking frankly
about on my simple furnishings, her eyes lingering here and there
Bein' in your house, she said, is like bein' somewheres else. I
don't know if you know what I mean? Most o' the time I'm where I
belongjust common. But now an' thenlike a holiday when we're
dressed up an' sittin' 'roundI feel differ'nt an' special. It
was the way I felt when they give the William Shakespeare supper in the
library an' had it lit up in the evenin' so differ'ntlike bein'
somewheres else. It'll be that way on Market Square next month when the
Carnival comes. I guess that's why I'm a extract agent, she added,
laughing a little. When I set an' smell the spices I could think it
wasn't me I feel so special. An' I feel that way nowI do' know
if you know what I mean
She looked at me, measuring my ability to comprehend, and
brightening at my nod.
Well, most o' Friendship wouldn't understand, she said. To them
vanilla smells like corn-starch pudding an' no more. An' that reminds
me, she added slowly, you know Friendship well enough by this time,
don't you, to find we're apt to say things here this afternoon?
Say things? I repeated, puzzling.
We won't mean to, she hastened loyally to add; I ain't talkin'
about us, you know, she explained anxiously, I just want to warn you
so's you won't be hurt. I guess I notice such things more'n most. We
won't mean to offend youbut I thought you'd ought to know ahead. An'
bein' as it's part my tea, I thought it was kind o' my place to tell
She was touching the matter delicately, almost tenderly, and not
more, as I saw, with a wish to spare me than with a wish to apologize
in advance for the others, to explain away some real or fancied
You know, she said, we ain't never had anybody to, what you might
say, tell us what we can an' what we can't say. So we just naturally
say whatever comes into our heads. An' then when we get it said, we see
often that it ain't what we meantan' that it's apt to hurt folks or
put us in a bad light, or somethin'. But some don't even see thatsome
go right ahead sayin' the hurt things an' never know it is a
hurt. I don't know if you've noticed what I mean, Calliope said, but
you will to-night. An' I didn't want you should be hurt or should think
hard of them that says 'em.
But how, I wondered, as my guests assembled, could one think hard
of any one in Friendship, and especially of the little circle to which
I belonged: My dear Mis' Amanda Toplady, Mis' Photographer Sturgis,
Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, who, since our Thanksgiving, seemed,
as Calliope put it, to have got good with the universe again; the
Liberty sisters, for that day once more persuaded from their seclusion,
and Mis' Postmaster Sykes, with, we sometimes said, some right to hev
her peculiarities if ever anybody hed it. Of them all the Friendship
phrase of approval had frequently been spoken: That this one, or that,
was at heart, one o' the most all-round capable women we've
I had hoped to have one more guestMrs. Merriman, wife of the late
chief of the Friendship fire department. But I had promptly received
her regrets, owing to affliction in the family, though the fire chief
had died two years and more before.
But it's her black, Calliope had explained to me sympathetically;
she can't afford to throw away her best dress, made mournin' style,
with crape ornaments. As long as that lasts good, she'll hev to stay
home from places. I see she's just had new crape cuffs put on, an' that
means another six months at the least. An' she won't go to parties
wearin' widow weeds. Mis' Fire Chief Merriman is very delicate.
My guests, save Calliope, all arrived together and greeted me, I
observed, with a manner of marked surprise. Afterward, when I wondered,
Calliope explained simply that it was not usual for a hostess to meet
her guests at the door. Of course, they're usually right in the midst
o' gettin' the supper when the company comes, she said.
My prettiest dishes and silver were to do honour to those whom I had
bidden; and boughs of my Flowering-currant filled my little hall and
curved above the line of sight at table, where the candle shades lent
deeper yellows. I delighted in the manner of formality with which they
took their places, as if some forgotten ceremonial of ancient courts
were still in their veins, when a banquet was not a thing to be entered
Quite in ignorance of the Japanese custom of sipping tea while the
first course is arriving, it is our habit in Friendship to inaugurate
supper by seeing the tea poured. In deference to this ceremony a hush
fell immediately we were seated, and this was in courtesy to me, who
must inquire how each would take her tea. I think that this
conversation never greatly varied, as:
Mrs. Toplady? I said at once, the rest being understood.
Cream and sugar, if you please, said that great Amanda
heartily, or milk if it's milk. I take the tea for the trimmin's.
Then a little stir of laughter and a straying comment or two about,
say, the length of days at that time of year, and:
Just milk, please. I always say I don't think tea would hurt
anybody if they'd leave the sugar alone. But then, I've got a very
I want mine plain tea, thank you. My husband takes milk and the
boys like sugar, but I like the taste of the tea.
At which, from Libbie Liberty: Oh, Mis' Holcomb just says that to
make out she's strong-minded. Plain tea an' plain coffee's regular
woman's rights fare, Mis' Holcomb! And then, after more laughter and
Mis' Holcomb's blushes, they awaited:
Not any at all, thank you. No, I like the tea, but the tea don't
like me. My mother was the same way. She never could drink it. No, not
any for me, though I must say I should dearly love a cup.
Just a little tea and the rest hot water. Dear me, I shouldn't go
to sleep till to-morrow night if I was to drink a cup as strong
as that. Noa little more water, please. I s'pose I can send it back
for more if it's still too strong?
Laviny just wants the canister pointed in her direction, an' she
thinks she's had her tea. Lucy don't dare take any. Three lumps for me,
please. I like mine surup.
Oh, said Calliope, milk if there's any left in the pitcher. An'
if there ain't, send it down clear. I like it most any way. Ain't it
queer about the differ'nce in folks' tastes in their tea and coffee?
That was the signal for the talk to begin with anecdotes of how
various relatives, quick and passed, had loved to take their tea. No
one ever broached a real topic until this introduction had had its way.
To do so would have been an indelicacy, like familiar speech among
those in the ceremony of a first meeting.
Thus I began to see that in spite of Calliope's distress at the ways
of us in Friendship, a matchless delicacy was among its people a
dominant note. Not the delicacy born of convention, not that sometimes
bred in the crudest by urban standards, but a finer courtesy that will
spare the conscious stab which convention allows. It was, if I may say
so, a savoir faire of the heart instead of the head. But we had
hardly entered upon the hour before the ground for Calliope's warning
There! she herself bridged a pause with her ready little laugh, I
knew somebody'd pass me somethin' while I was saltin' my potato. My
brother, older, always said that at home. 'I never salt my potato,' he
use' to say, 'without somebody passes me somethin'.
Next instant her eyes flew to my face in a kind of horror, for:
We've noticed that at our house, too, Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss observed, vigorously using a salt-shaker,
but then I always believe, myself, in havin' everything properly
seasoned in the kitchen before it comes on to the table.
See! Calliope signalled me fleetly.
But no one else, and certainly not Mis' Holcomb herself, perceived
the surface of things vexed by a ripple.
Well, now, said that great Mis' Amanda Toplady heartily, that
is so about saltin' your potato. I know it now, but I never thought
of it right out before. Lots o' things are true that you don't think of
right out. Now I come to put my mind on it, I know at our house if I
cut up a big plate o' bread we don't eat up half of it; but just as
sure as I don't, I hev to get up from the table an' go get more bread.
I knowwe often speak of that! and So my husband says, chimed
Mis' Holcomb and Mis' Sturgis.
Seems as if I'd noticed that, too, Calliope said brightly.
Whereupon: My part, Miss Lucy Liberty contributed shyly, I always
like to see a great big plate of good, big slices o' bread come on to
the table. Looks like the crock was full, she added, laughing heartily
to cover her really pretty shyness, an' like you wouldn't run out.
Calliope's glance at me was still more distressed, for my table
showed no bread at all, and my maid was at that moment handing rolls
the size of a walnut. But for the others the moment passed undisturbed.
I've never noticed in particular about the bread, observed Mis'
Sykes,she had great magnetism, for when she spoke an instant hush
fell,but what I have noticedMis' Sykes was very original
and usually disregarded the experiences of others,is that if I don't
make a list of my washing when it goes, something is pretty sure to get
lost. But let me make a list, an' even the dust-cloths'll come back
Everybody had noticed that. Even Libbie Liberty assented, and
exchanged with her sister a smile of domestic memories.
An' every single piece has got my initial in the corner, too, Mis'
Sykes added; I wouldn't hev a piece o' linen in the house without my
initial on. It don't seem to me rill refined not to.
Calliope's look was almost one of anguish. My hemstitched damask
napkins bear no saving initial in a corner. But no one else would, I
was certain, connect that circumstance, even if it was observed, with
what Mis' Sykes had said.
It's too bad Mis' Fire Chief Merriman wouldn't come to-day,
Calliope hastily turned the topic. She can't seem to get used to
things again, since Sum died.
She didn't do this way for her first husband that died in the city,
I heard, volunteered Mis' Sturgis. Why, I heard she went out there, right after the first year.
That's easy explained, said Mis' Sykes, positively.
Wasn't she fond of him? asked Mis' Holcomb. She seems real
clingin', like she would be fond o' most any one.
Oh, yes, she was fond of him, declared Mis' Sykes. Why, he was a
professional man, you know. But then he died ten years ago, durin'
tight skirts. Naturally, being a widow then wasn't what it is now. She
couldn't cut her skirt over to any advantagea bell skirt is a bell
skirt. An' they went out the very next year. When she got new cloth for
the flare skirts, she got colours. But the Fire Chief died right at the
height o' the full skirts. She's kep' cuttin' over an' cuttin' over,
an' by the looks o' the Spring plates she can keep right on at it. She
really can't afford to go out o' mournin'. I don't blame her a
She told me the other day, remarked Libbie Liberty, that she was
real homesick for some company food. She said she'd been ask' in to eat
with this family an' that, most hospitable but very plain. An' seems
though she couldn't wait for a company lay-out.
She won't go anywheres in her crape, Mis' Sykes turned to me,
supplementing Calliope's former information. She's a very superior
woman,she graduated in Oils in the city,an' she's fitted for any
society, say where who will. We always say about her that
nobody's so delicate as Mis' Fire Chief Merriman.
She don't take strangers in very ready, anyway, Mis' Holcomb
explained to me. She belongs to what you might call the old school.
She's very sensitive to every_thing.
The moment came when I had unintentionally produced a hush by
serving a salad unknown in Friendship. When almost at once I perceived
what I had done, I confess that I looked at Calliope in a kind of dread
lest this too were a faux pas, and I took refuge in some
question about the coming Carnival. But my attention was challenged by
my maid, who was in the doorway announcing a visitor.
Company, ma'am, she said.
And when I had bidden her to ask that I be excused for a little:
Please, ma'am, she said, she says she has to see you now.
And when I suggested the lady's card:
Oh, it's Mis' Fire Chief Merriman, the maid imparted easily.
Mis' Fire Chief Merriman! exclaimed every one at table. Well
forevermore! Speakin' of angels! She must 'a' forgot the tea was
In my living-room, in her smartly freshened spring toilet of
mourning, Mis' Fire Chief Merriman rose to greet me. She was very tall
and slight, and her face was curiously like an oblong yellow brooch
which fastened her gown at the throat.
My dear friend, she said, I felt, after your kind invitation,
that I must pay my respects during your tea. Afterwards wouldn't
be the same. It's a tea, and there couldn't be lanterns an' bunting or
anything o' the sort. So I felt I could come in.
You are very good, I murmured, and in some perplexity, as she
resumed her seat, I sat down also. Mis' Merriman sought in the pocket
of her petticoat for a black-bordered handkerchief.
When you're in mourning so, she observed, folks forget you. They
don't really forget you, either. But they get used to missing you
places, an' they don't always remember to miss you. I did appreciate
your inviting me to-day so. Because I'm just as fond of meeting my
friends as I was before the chief died.
And when I had made an end of murmuring something:
Really, she went on placidly, it ought to be the custom to go out
in society when you're in mourning if you never did any other time. You
need distraction then if you ever needed it in your life. An' the chief
would 'a' been the first to feel that too. He was very partial to going
out in company.
And when I had made an end of murmuring something else:
You were very thoughtful to give me an invitation for this
afternoon, she said. An' I felt that I must stop in an' tell you so,
even if I couldn't attend.
Serenely she spread her black crape fan and swayed it. In the
dining-room my guests proceeded with their lonely salad toward a
probable lonely dessert. At thought of that dessert and of that salad,
a suggestion, partly impulsive and partly flavoured with some faint
reminiscence, at once besieged me, and in it I divined a solution of
Mrs. Merriman, I said eagerly, may I send you in a cup of
strawberry ice? I've some early strawberries from the city.
She turned on me her great dark eyes, with their flat curve of
shadow accenting her sadness.
I'm sure you are very kind, she said simply. An' I should be
pleased, I'm sure.
I rose, hesitating, longing to say what I had in mind.
I'd really like your opinion, I said, on rather a new salad I'm
trying. Now would you not
A salad? Mis' Merriman repeated. The chief, she said
reflectively, was very partial to all green salads. I don't think men
usually care for them the way he did.
Dear Mrs. Merriman, said I at this, a cup of bouillon and a bit
of chicken breast and a drop of creamed cauliflower
Oh, she murmured, really, I couldn't think
And when I had made my cordial insistence she looked up at me for a
moment solemnly, over her crape fan. I thought that her eyes with that
flat, underlying curve of shadow were as if tears were native to them.
Her grief and the usages of grief had made of her some one other than
her first self, some one circumscribed, wary of living.
Oh, she said wistfully, I ain't had anything like that since I
went into mourning. If you don't think it would be disrespectful to
I am certain that it would not be so, I assured her, and construed
her doubting silence as capitulation.
So I filled a tray with all the dainties of our little feast, and my
maid carried it to her where she sat, and then to us at table served
dessert. And my strange party went forward with seven guests in my
dining-room and one mourner at supper in my living-room.
How very, very delicate! said Mis' Postmaster Sykes, in an
emphatic whisper. Mis' Fire Chief Merriman is a very superior woman,
an' she always does the delicate thing.
And now as I met Calliope's eyes I saw that the dear little woman
was looking at me with a manner of unmistakable pride. In spite of her
warning to me and what she thought had been its justification during
the supper, here was an occasion to reveal to me a delicacy unequalled.
Thereafter, in deference to my mourning guest in the next room, we
all dropped our voices and talked virtually in whispers. And when at
last we rose from the table, complete silence had come upon us.
Then, the tray not having yet been brought from that other room, I
confess to having found myself somewhat uncertain how to treat a
situation so out of my experience. But the kind heart of my dear Mis'
Amanda Toplady was the dictator.
Now, she whispered, tip-toeing, we must all go in an' speak to
her. Poor womanshe don't call anywheres, an' she stays in mournin' so
long folks have kind o' dropped off goin' to see her. Let's walk in an'
be rill nice to her.
Mis' Fire Chief Merriman sat as I had left her, and the tray was
before her on my writing-table. She looked up gravely and greeted them
all, one by one, without rising. We sat about her in a circle and spoke
to her gently on subjects decently allied to her grief: on the coming
meeting of the Cemetery Improvement Sodality; on the new styles in
mourning; on the deaths in Friendship during the winter; and on two
cases of typhoid fever recently developed in the town. (The Fire Chief
had died of walking typo.) And Mis' Merriman, gravely partaking of
strawberry ice and cake and bonbons, listened and replied and, with the
last morsel, rose to take her leave.
It was then that my unlucky star shone effulgent. For, as she was
shaking hands all round:
Oh, Mrs. Merriman, I said, with the gentlest intent, would you
care to come out to see my dining-room? My Flowering-currant was very
early this year
To my horrified amazement Mis' Fire Chief Merriman lifted her
black-bordered handkerchief to her face and broke into subdued sobbing.
Suddenly I understood that all the others were looking at me in a kind
of reproachful astonishment. My bewilderment, mounting for an instant,
was precipitately overthrown by the sobbing woman's words.
Oh, Mis' Merriman said indistinctly, I'm much obliged to you, I'm
sure. But how can you think I would? I haven't looked at lanterns an'
bunting an' such things since the Fire Chief died. I don't know how I'm
ever going to stand the Carnival!
In deep distress I apologized, and found myself adrift upon a sea of
uncharted classifications. Here were niceties of distinction which
escaped my ruder vision, trained to the mere interchange of signals in
smooth sailing or straight tempest, on open water. But I knew with
grief that I had given her painthat was clear enough; and in my
confusion and wish to make amends, I caught up from their jar on the
hall table my Flowering-currant boughs and thrust them in her hands.
Ah, I begged breathlessly, at all events, take these!
On which she drew away from me and shook her head and fairly fled
down the path, her floating crape brushing the mother bushes of my
offending offering. And I was helplessly aware that sympathetic silence
had fallen on the others and that the sympathy was not for me.
But what on earth was the matter? I entreated my guests.
It was that great Mis' Amanda Toplady who slipped her arm about me
When we've got any dead belongin' to us, she said, we always
carry all the flowers we get to the gravean', of course, we don't
feel we can carry them that's been used for a company. It's the
same with Mis' Fire Chief. An' she can't bear even to see flowers an'
things that's fixed for a company, either. Of course, that's her
Mis' Sykes took my hands.
You come here so lately, she said, you naturally wouldn't know
what's what in these things, here in Friendship. An' then, of course,
Mis' Fire Chief Merriman is very, very delicate.
Calliope linked her arm in mine.
Don't you mind, she whispered; we're all liable to our mistakes.
* * * * *
Half an hour after tea my guests took leave.
I enjoyed myself so much, said Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss;
you look tired out. I hope it ain't been too much for you.
Entertainin' is a real job, said Mis' Sturgis, but you do it
almost as if you liked it. I enjoyed myself so much.
I'll give bail you're glad it's over, said Libbie Liberty,
sympathetically, even if it did go off nice. I enjoyed myself ever so
Ever so much, murmured Miss Lucy, laughing heartily.
Good night. Everything was lovely. I enjoyed myself very much,
Mis' Postmaster Sykes told me. And, she said, you'll hear from me
very, very soon in return for this.
Now don't you overdo, reddin' up to-night, advised my dear Mis'
Amanda Toplady. Just pick up the silver an' rense it off, an' let the
dishes set till mornin', I say. I did enjoy myself so
Good-by, Calliope whispered in the hall. Oh, it was beautiful. I
never felt so special. Thank youthank you. An'you won't mind
those things we said at the supper table?
Oh, Calliope, I murmured miserably, I've forgotten all about
I went out to the veranda with her. At the foot of the steps the
others had paused in consultation. Hesitating, they looked up at me,
and Mis' Sykes became their spokesman.
If I was you, she said gently, I wouldn't feel too cut up over
that slip o' yours to Mis' Merriman. She'd ought not to see blunders
where they wasn't any meant. It'd ought to be the heart that counts,
I say. Good-by. We enjoyed ourselves very, very much!
They went down the path between blossoming bushes, in the late
afternoon sun. And as Calliope followed,
That's so about the heart, ain't it? she said brightly.
XVI. WHAT IS THAT IN THINE HAND?
Busy, busy, busy, busy all the day. Busy, busy, busy. And busy ...
There goes Ellen Ember, crazy again, we said, when we heard that
cry of hers, not unmelodious nor loud, echoing along Friendship
Then we usually ran to the windows and peered at her. Sometimes her
long hair would be unbound on her shoulders, sometimes her little
figure would be leaping lightly up as she caught at the lowest boughs
of the curb elms, and sometimes her hand would be moving swiftly back
and forth above her heart.
If your heart is broken, she had explained to many, you can lace
it together with 'Busy, busy, busy ...' Sing it and see! Or mebbe your
heart is all of a piece?
Once, when I had gone to Miss Liddy's house, I had found Ellen in a
skirt fashioned of an old plaid shawl of her father's, her bare
shoulders wound in the rosy nubia that had been her mother's, and she
was dancing in the dining-room, with surprising grace, as Pierrette
might have danced in Carnival, and singing, in a sweet, piping voice,
an incongruous little song:
O Day of wind and laughter,
A goddess born are you,
Whose eyes are in the morning
I made that up, she had explained, or I guess mebbe I remembered
it from deep in my skull. I like the feel of it in my mouth when I
speak the words.
I used to think that Miss Liddy was really a less useful citizen
than Ellen. For though Miss Liddy worked painstakingly at her
dressmaking, and even dreamed over it little partial dreams, Ellen, mad
or sane, made a garden, and threw little nosegays over our fences, and
exercised a certain presence, latent in the rest of us, which made us
momentarily gentle and in awe of our own sanity.
When, one spring morning, a week before the Friendship Carnival, she
passed down Daphne Street with her plaintive, musical Busy, busy, busy
... Doctor June and the young Reverend Arthur Bliss sat on Doctor
June's screened-in porch discussing a deficit in the Good Shepherd's
Orphans' Home fund for the fiscal year. Ever since the wreck of the
Through, Friendship had contributed to the support of the Home,having
first understood then that the Home was its patient pensioner,and now
it was almost like a compliment that we had been appealed to for help.
Doctor June listened with serene patience to what his visitor would
Tension, said the Reverend Arthur Bliss, squaring his splendid
young shoulders, tension. Warfare. We, as a church, are enormously
equipped. We haveshall we say?the helmets of our intelligence and
the swords of our wills. Why, the joy of the fight ought to be to us
like that of a strong man ready to do battle, oughtn't itoughtn't
Doctor June, his straight white hair outlining his plump pink face,
nodded; but one would have said that it was rather less at the Reverend
Arthur than at his Van Houtii spiræa, which nodded back at him.
My young friend, said Doctor June, will you forgive me for saying
that it is fairly amazing to me how the church of God continues to use
the terms of barbarism? We talk of the peace that passeth
understanding, and yet we keep on employing metaphors of blood-red war.
What does the modern church want of a helmet and a sword, if I may ask?
The Christian life is an eternal warfare against the forces of sin,
is it not? asked the Reverend Arthur Bliss in surprise.
Let me suggest, said Doctor June, that all good life is an
eternal surrender to the forces of good. There's a difference.
The visitor from the city smiled very reverently.
I see, sir, he said, that you are one of those wonderful
non-combatants. You are by nature sanctifiedand that I can well
I am by nature a miserable old sinner, rejoined the doctor,
warmly. Oftenoften I would enjoy a fine round Elizabethan oathnote
how that single adjective condones my poor taste. But I hold that good
is inflowing and that it possesses whom it may possess. If a man is too
busy fighting, it may pass him by.
But surely, sir, said the young clergyman, you agree with me that
a man wins his way into the kingdom of light by both a staff and a
You will perhaps forgive me for agreeing with nothing of the sort,
said the doctor, mildly; I hold that a man takes his way to the light
by grasping whatever the Lord puts in his handa hammer, a rope, a
penand grasping it hard.
But the ungiftedwhat of the ungifted? cried the Reverend Arthur
In this sense, there are none, said Doctor June, briefly.
Busy, busy, busy all the day. Busy, busy, busy ... sounded
suddenly from the street in Ellen's thin soprano. Doctor June looked
down at her, his expression scarcely changing, because it was always
serenely soft. But the young clergyman saw with amazement the strange
little figure with her unbound hair and her arms high and swaying, and
as she took some steps of her dance before the gate, he questioned his
host with uplifted brows.
A little mad, the doctor said, nodding, like us all. She sings in
the streets of a glad morning, and dances now and then. We take ours
out in tangential opinions. It is nearly the same thing.
The young clergyman's face lighted responsively at this, and then he
deferentially clinched his argument.
There is a case in point, said he. That poor creature therewhat
has the Lord put in her hand?
Doctor June looked thoughtful.
Nothing, he declared, for any fight. But I'm not sure that she
isn't made to be a leaven. The kingdom of God works like a leaven, you
know, my dear young friend. Not like a dum-dum bullet.
Butthat poor creature. A leaven? doubted the Reverend Arthur
I shouldn't wonder, said Doctor June, I shouldn't wonder. I'm not
so sure as I used to be that I can recognize leaven at first sight.
Ah, that's it! cried his guest. But a soldier, now, is a
Then they smiled their lack of acquiescence, and went back to the
figures for the fiscal year.
An hour later Doctor June stood alone on his garden walk, aimlessly
poking about among his slips. He had done what he always did, following
close on the heels of his well-established resolution never to do it
again. He had pledged himself to try to raise one hundred dollars in
Friendship for a pet philanthropy.
It's a kind of dissipation with me, he said, helplessly, and
wandered down to his gate. If I read an article about the Congo Free
State or Women in India, it acts on me like brandy. I go off my head
and give away my substance, and involve innocent people. But then, of
course, this is different. It is always different.
Then he heard Ellen's little song again. Busy, busy, busy ... she
sang, and came round the corner from the town, catching at the lowest
branches of the curb elms and laughing a little. At Doctor June's gate
she halted and shook some lilacs at him.
Here, she said, put some on your coat for a patch on your heart
so's the break won't show. Ain't the Lord made the sun shine down this
morning? Did you know there's a Carnival comin' to town?
Like enough, Ellen, said Doctor June. Like enough.
Is one, she persisted. They said about it in the
Post-OfficeI heard 'em. Dancin', an' parrots, an' jumpin' dogs.
He stood looking at her thoughtfully as she arranged her flowers,
singing under breath.
Ellen, he said, will you tell Miss Liddy a few of us are going to
meet here in my yard to-morrow afternoon, to talk over some
money-raising? And ask her to come?
I will, Ellen sang it, I will an' I will. Did you mean me to
come, too? she broke off wistfully.
My stars, yes! said Doctor June. You're going to come early and
help me, aren't you? I took that for granted.
Here's your lilacs, said Ellen, tossing him a nosegay. I'll tell
Liddy while she's eatin'. Liddy don't like me to talk much when she's
workin'. But when she eats I can talk, an' I'll tell her then.
She went on, singing, and Doctor June shook his head.
I don't know but Mr. Bliss is right, he said, though I hope I can
keep my doubts to myself and not brag about 'em, just to be the style.
But it does look as if poor Ellen Ember came into the world
empty-handed. As if the Lord didn't give her much of anything to work
Summons to a meeting to talk over money-raising is, in Friendship,
like the call to festivity in a different life. The cause never greatly
matters. Interests appear eclectically to range from ice to coral. For
let the news get about that there is to be a bazaar for China, a home
bakery sale for the missionary station at Trebizond, or a Japanese tea
for the Friendship cemetery fund, and we all sew or bake or lend dishes
or sell tickets with the same infinity of zeal. The enterprise in hand
absorbs our sense of the ultimate object; as when, after three days of
hand-to-hand battle to wrest money for the freedmen from the patrons of
a Kirmess at the old roller-skating rink, dear Mis' Amanda, secretary
and door-tender, handed over our $64.85 with the wondering question:
What do they mean by Freegman, anyway? What country is it they live
It was no marvel that Doctor June's garden was filled, that yellow
afternoon, with many eager for action. Some of us knew that there was
an Orphans' Home fund deficit; but more of us knew only that we were to
talk over some money-raising. I remember how, from the garden seat
against the spiræa, the doctor faced us, all scattered about the
antlered walk and its triangle of green, erect on golden oak and bright
velvet chairs from within doors. And when he had told us of the
shortage to which we were party, instantly the talk emptied into
channels of possible pop-corn social, chicken-pie supper, rummage sale,
art and loan exhibit, Old Settlers' Entertainment, and so on. After
which Doctor June rose, and stood touching thoughtfully at the leaves
which grew nearest, while he essayed to turn our minds from
chicken-pot-pie-part-veal, and bib-aprons, to the eternal verities.
My friends, he said, isn't there a better way? Let us, this time,
give of our hearts' love to the little children of God, instead of
buying pies and freezing ice cream in His name.
There was, of course, an instant's hush in the garden. We were not
used to paradoxes, and we felt as concave images must feel when they
first look upon the world. It was as amazing as if we had been told
that God grieves with us instead of afflicting us, as we held.
None of us has much money to give, Doctor June went on; let us
take the way that lies nearest our hand, and make a little money. God
never permitted any normal human creature to come into His world
unprovided with some means of making it better. Only, let us get
outside our bazaar and chicken-pie faculties. Now what can we each do?
We sat still for a little, tentatively murmuring; and then Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss stood up by the sweet-alyssum urn.
Speakin' of what we can do, she said, doin' ain't easy. Not when
you're well along in years. Your ways seem to stiffen up some. When I
was a girl, I could 'a' been quite an elocutionist if I could 'a' had
lessons. I had a reg'lar born sense o' givin' gestures. But I never
took. An' now I declare I don't know of anything I could do. It's the
same way, I guess, with quite a number of us.
Mis' Postmaster Sykes was in the arm-chair, and she sat still,
I could do some o' my embroidery, she observed, but it's quite
expensive stuff, an' I don't know whether it would sell rill well here
in Friendship. I'd be 'most afraid to risk. An' I don't do enough
cookin', myself, to what-you-might-say know how, any more.
Same with my sewing, observed Mis' Doctor Helman; I put it all
out now. I don't know as I could sew up a seam. That's the trouble,
hiring everything done so.
Those who did not hire everything done preserved a respectful
silence. And Doctor June looked up in the elm trees.
The Lord, he said, spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. The
Lord said unto Moses, 'What is that in thine hand?' Moses had, you
remember, nothing but a rod in his hand. But it was enough to let the
people know that God had been with himthat the Lord had appeared unto
him. Suppose the glory of the Lord, here in the garden, should ask us
now, as it does ask, 'What is that in thine hand?' What have we got?
There was silence again, and we looked at one another doubtfully.
Land, Doctor! said Libbie Liberty then, I been tryin' for two
years to earn a new parlour carpet, an' I ain't had nothin' in my hand
to earn with. So I keep on sayin' I like an old Brussels
carpetthey're so easy to sweep.
My! said Abigail Arnold, I declare, I'd be real put to it to try
to make extry money. 'Bout the only thing the Lord seems to 'a' put in
my hand is time. I've got oodles o' that, layin' 'round loose.
Mis' Photographer Sturgis was in the big garden chair, wrapped in a
shawl, her feet on an inverted flower-pot.
I'm tryin' to think, she said, looking sidewise at the ground. I
donno's I know how I could earn a cent, convenient. It ain't real easy
for women to earn. I think mebbe the Lord meant the men to be the
Mis' Amanda Toplady's voice rolled out, deep and comfortable, like a
Well said! she remarked. I'm drove to death all day. If anybody's
to ask me what I got in my hand, I declare I guess I'd say, rill
reverent: Dear Lord, I've got my hands full, an' that's about all I
So we went on, saying much or little as was our nature, but we were
all agreed that we were virtually helplessfor Calliope was out of
town that week, and not present to shame us.
What's in my hands? said grim Miss Liddy Ember, finally, in her
thin falsetto. Well, I ain't got any rill, what-you-might-call hands.
I just got kind o' cat's paws for my three meals a day an' my rent.
Then, by her sister's side, Ellen Ember stood up. We had hardly
noticed her, sitting there quietly playing with some of the doctor's
flowers. But now we saw that she had hurriedly twisted her splendid
hair about her head, and by this we understood that she was herself
again. We had seen her come to herself like this on the street, and
then she would go hurrying home, the tears running down her face in
shame for her unbound hair and her singing and dancing. Her cheeks were
flushed and her eyes were shining as she rose now, and she looked
appealingly pretty, one hand, palm outward, half hiding her trembling
mouth. By her soft eyes, too, we knew that she was herself again.
You all know, she began, and dare not trust herself. You all know
... she said once more, and we understood what she would say. What
can I do? she cried to us. What is there I can do? I ain't got
anything but my craziness! Oh, it seems like I ain't much, an'
so I'd ought to do all the more.
To soothe her, we took our woman's way of all talking at once. And
then Doctor June called out cheerily that he felt the way Ellen did,
that he wasn't a real Moses, for what had heDoctor Junein his hand,
and didn't we all know there was no money in pills? And then he told us
how the Reverend Arthur Bliss was to be in town again on Wednesday of
the next week, and would we not all think the matter over quietly, and
meet with them on that evening, for cakes and tea?
As many of you as can, he said, come with a plan to earn a
dollar, and tell how you mean to do it. Ellen, you and I'll preside at
the meeting, and hear what the rest say, and keep real still ourselves,
like proper officers.
But Ellen Ember would not be comforted. She stood with that one
hand, palm outward, pressed against her lips, looking at us with big,
I ain't got nothin' but my craziness, you know, she said over. And
then, as she was going through the gateway, she turned to Doctor June.
Why, Wednesday's the first night o' the Carnival! she cried. You
set the dollar meetin' on the first night o' the Carnival!
My stars! cried Doctor June, gravely. And I might have been
selling pills on the grounds!
* * * * *
All Friendship Village loves a Carnival. Once the word meant to me a
Florentine fiesta day, with a feast of colour, and of many
little fine things, real, like laughter. Now when I say carnival I
mean the painted eruption by night from the market square of some town
like Friendship, when lines broaden and waver grotesquely, when the
mirth is in great silhouettes and Colour goes unmasked.
I always make my way to such a place, for it holds for me the wonder
of the untoward; as will a strolling Italian plodding past my house at
night with his big, silent bear; or the spectacle of the huge, faded
red ice-wagon, with powerful horses and rattling chains and tongs, and
giants in blue denim atop the crystal; or the strange, copper world
that dissolves in the fluid of certain sunsets. And that Wednesday
night, a week later, on my way to the dollar meeting at Doctor
June's, I turned toward the Friendship Carnival with some vestige of my
youth clinging to the hem of things.
I gave my attention to them all: The pop-corn wagon, an aristocratic
affair that looked like a hearse; the little painted canaries and
love-birds, so out of place and patient that I thought they must have
souls to form as well as we; the sad little live monkey, incessantly
dodging white balls thrown at him by certain immortals (who, when they
hit him, got pipes); and the giant who flung Look! Look! Look! Look!
through a megaphone, while a good little dog toiled up a ladder and
then stood at the ladder's top in a silence that was all nice reticence
and dignity. Also, the huge Saxon fellow who, at the portal of the
Arabian Court of Art and Regular Café Restaurant, sang a love-song
through a megaphoneTenderly, dearest, I breathe thy sweet name, he
hallooed, with his free hand beckoning the crowd to the Court of Art.
And then I saw the Lyric Dance Arcade and Indian Palace of Asiatic
Mystery. And I found myself close to the platform, listening to the cry
of a man in gilt knickerbockers.
Ladies! Gentlemen! All! he summoned. Never in the history of the
show business has there been anything resemblin' this. Come
herehereherehere! See Zorah, queen of the West and princess of
the East, who is about to begin one of her most sublimely sensational
dances. See her, see her, you may never again see her! Graceful,
glittering, genteel. Graceful, glittering, gen-te-e-e-l. I am telling
you about Zorah, queen of the West and princess of the East, in her
ancient Asiatic dance, the most up-to-date little act in the entire
show business to-day. Here she is, waiting for youyouyou. Everybody
that's got the dime!
Until he ceased, I had hardly noticed Zorah herself, standing in the
canvas portico. The woman had, I then observed, a kind of appealing
prettiness and a genuineness of pose. She was looking out on the crowd
with the usual manner of simulated shyness, but to the shyness was
given conviction by an uplifted hand, palm outward, hiding her mouth. I
noted her small, stained face, her splendid unbound hairand then a
certain resemblance caught at my heart. And I saw that she was wearing
a skirt made of a man's plaid shawl, and about her shoulders was a
rosy, old-fashioned nubia. Her face and throat were stained, and so
were her thin little armsbut I knew her.
The performance, as the man had said, was about to begin, and
already he was giving Zorah her signal to go within. Somehow I bought a
ticket and hurried into the tent. The seats were sparingly occupied,
and I saw, as I would have guessed, no one whom I knew in the eager,
stamping little audience. In their midst I lost the slim figure that
had preceded me, until she mounted the platform and swept before the
footlights a stately courtesy.
And there, in the smoky little tent, Ellen Ember began to dance,
with her quite surprising graceas Pierrette might have danced in
Carnival. It was the charming, faery measure which she had danced for
me in Miss Liddy's dining-room; and as she had sung to me then, so now,
in a sweet piping voice, she sang her incongruous little song:
O Day of wind and laughter,
A goddess born are you,
Whose eyes are in the morning
The slumbrous noon your body is,
Your feet are the shadow's flight,
But the immortal soul of you
It seemed to me that I sat for hours in that hot little place, cut
off from the world, watching. Again and again, to the brass blare of
some hoiden tune, she set the words of the lyric that she liked the
feel of, and she danced on and on. And when at last the music
shattered off, and she ceased, and ran behind a screening canvas,
somehow I made my way forward through the crowd that was clapping hands
and calling her back, and I gained the place where she stood.
When I asked her to come with me, she nodded and smiled, with
unseeing eyes, and assented quite simply, and then suddenly sat down
before the lifted tent flap.
But I must wait for my money, she said. That's what I came
formy money. They thought I'd never earn my dollar, but I have.
At this I understood. And now I marvel how I talked at all to the
man in gilt knickerbockers who arrived and haggled over the whole
Zorah, he explained, the sure-enough Zorah, had took down sick in
the last place they made, an' they'd had to leave her behind. An' when
he told about it down town that morning, this little piece here had up
an' offered. Somethin' had to be donehe left it to me if they didn't.
He felt his duty to the amusement park public, him. So he had closed
with her for a dollar for three fifteen-minute turnshe give two
shillings a turn, on the usual, but she'd hung out stout for the even
money. An' she'd danced her three, odd but satisfactory. You could hand
'em queer things in the show business, if you only dressed the part.
Yes, sure, here was the dollar. Be on hand to-morrow night? No?
Sufferin' snakes, but was we goin' to leave him shipwrecked?
Finally I got her away, and skirted the market-place with her
dancing at my side, shaking her silver dollar in her shut palms and
Busy, busy, busy all the day. An' then I earned my dollar, my
dollarthey never thought I'd earn my dollar ...
I remember, as we struck into the unlighted block where Miss Liddy's
house stood, that I was struggling hard for my own serenity, so that
for a moment I did not observe that Ellen stopped beside me. But I knew
that she fell silent, and when I turned I saw her there on the dark
walk hurriedly twisting her splendid hair about her head. And by that
and by her silence I understood that she was suddenly herself, and of
her own mind, as we say.
On this, Ellen! said I quickly, how fine of you to have earned
your Orphans' Home dollar so soon. But you have beaten us all!
She had contrived to fasten her hair, and I saw her touching
tentatively the folds of her strange dress. And so I made her know what
she had done, as gently as I might, and with all praise I stilled her
dismay and shame. And last I led her, as I was determined that I would
do, past Miss Liddy's dark little house and on to the home of Doctor
I think that I would not have dared take Ellen, just as she was, in
her plaid skirt and her rosy nubia, into that black and brown
henrietta-cloth assembly, if I had remembered that there was to be a
stranger present. But this, in the events of the hour, I had quite
forgotten. I remembered as I entered the room and came face to face
with the Reverend Arthur Bliss, talking of the figures for the fiscal
and the deficit, he was saying, ought to be made up by us who
are so well equipped to do it. With Paul, let us fight the good
fightof every day. This is to-day's fight. Now let us talk over our
Doctor June looked thoughtfully at his young guest, and in the older
face was a brooding tenderness, like the tenderness of the father who
longs to hold the child in quiet, in his arms.
Yes, said Doctor June, 'fighting' is one name for it. I am
tempted to say that 'drudgery' is another name. Errantry, ministry,
service, or whatever. It all comes to the same thing: 'What is that in
thine hand?' Well, now, who of us is first?
I think, said I then, that Ellen Ember is first.
She would have shrunk back from the doorway to the passage, but I
put my arm about her, and then I told them. And when I had done, I
remember how she threw up that pathetic hand of hers, palm outward, and
this time it was over her eyes.
I'm a disgrace to all of you! she said, sobbing, an' to the whole
Good Shepherd's Home. But I guess anyhow it's all the way I had. Seems
like I ain't got nothin' in the world but my craziness!
There was silence for a moment, that rich silence which flowers in
the heart. And then great Mis' Amanda Toplady spoke out, in her deep
voice which now she some way contrived to keep firm.
Well said! she cried. I come here to say I'd give a dollar
outright to get red o' the whole thing, rather'n to fuss. But now I
ain't goin' to stop at a dollar. Seems like a dollar for me wouldn't be
moral. I'm goin' to sell some strawberry plantswhy, we got
hundreds of 'em to spare. I can do it by turnin' my hand over. An' I
expec' the Lord meant you should turn your hand over to find out what's
in it, anyway.
I think that then we tried our woman's way of all talking at once,
but I remember how the shrill voice of Abigail Arnold, of the home
bakery, rose above the others:
Cream puffs! she cried. I got a rush demand for my cream puffs
every Sat'day, an' I ain't been makin' 'em sole-because I hate to run
after the milk an' set it. An' I was goin' to get out o' this by givin'
fifty cents out o' the bakery till. An' me with my hands full o' cream
Henshens is what mine is, Libbie Liberty was saying. My grief,
I got both hands full o' hens. I wouldn't sell 'em because I can't bear
to hev any of 'em killedthey're tame as a bag o' feathers, all of
'em. I guess I ben settin' the hens o' my hand over against the heathen
an' the orphans. An' now I'm goin' to sell spring chickens....
Mis' Sturgis in the rocking-chair was waving a corner of her shawl.
C-canaries! she cried. I can rise canary-birds an' sell 'em a
dollar apiece in the city. I m-meant to slide out account o' my health,
but it was just because I hate to muss 'round b-boilin' eggs for the
little ones. I'll raise a couple or twomebbe more.
My good land! came Miss Liddy Ember's piping falsetto; to think
o' my sittin' up, hesitatin', when new dresses just falls off the ends
o' my fingers. An' me in my right mind, too.
Dear Doctor June stood up among us, his face shining.
Bless us, he said. Didn't I have some spiræa in my hand right
while I stood talking to you the other afternoon in my garden? And
haven't I got some tricolored Barbary varieties of chrysanthemums, and
some hardy roses and one thing and another to make men marvel? And
can't I sell 'em in the city at a pretty profit? What I've got in my
hand is seeds and slipsI see that plain enough. And my stars, out
Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, Mis' Mayor Uppers, even Mis'
Postmaster Sykesah, they all knew what to do, knew it as if somebody
had been saying it over and over, and as if they now first listened.
But Ellen Ember sat crying, her face buried in her hands. And I
think that she cannot have understood, even when Doctor June touched
her hair and said something of the little leaven which leaveneth the
Last, the Reverend Arthur Bliss arose, and there was a sudden hush
among us, for it was as if a new spirit shone in his strong young face.
Dear friends, he said, dear friends ... And then, Lord God, he
prayed abruptly, show me what is that in my handthy tool where I had
looked for my sword!
XVII. PUT ON THY BEAUTIFUL GARMENTS
I donno, Calliope said, as, on her return, we talked about Ellen
Ember, I guess I kind o' believe in craziness.
Calliope's laugh often made me think of a bluebird's note, which is
to say, of the laughter of a child. Bluebirds are the little children
among birds, as robins are the men, house-wrens the women, scarlet
tanagers the unrealities and humming-birds the fairies.
Only, Calliope added, I do say you'd ought to hev some sort o'
leadin' strap even to craziness, an' that I ain't got an' never had. I
guess folks thinks I'm rill lunar when I take the notion. Only thing
comforts me, they don't know how lunar I rilly can be.
Then she told me about 'Leven.
A shroud, to look rill nice, Calliope said, ought to be made as
much as you can like a dressbarrin' t' you can't fit it. Mis' Toplady
an' Mis' Holcomb an' I made Jennie Crapwell's shroudit was white mull
and a little narrow lace edge on a rill life-like collar. We finished
it the noon o' the day after Jennie died,you know Jennie was Delia's
stepsister that they'd run away froman' I brought it over to my house
an' pressed it an' laid it on the back bedroom bedthe room I don't
use excep' for company an' hang my clean dresses in the closet of.
In the afternoon I went up to the City on a few little funeral
urrants,a crape veil for Jennie's mother an' like that,you know
Jennie died first. We wasn't goin' to dress her till the next
mornin'her mother wanted we should leave her till then in her little
pink sacque she'd wore, an' the soft lavender cloth they use now spread
over her careless. An' we wanted to, too, because sence Mis' Jeweler
Sprague died nobody could do up the Dead's hair, an' Jennie wa'n't the
Mis' Sprague, she'd hed a rill gift that way. She always done
folks' hair when they died an' she always got it like lifeshe owned
up how, after she begun doin' it so much, she used to set in church an'
in gatherin's and find herself lookin' at the backs of heads to see if
they was two puffs or three, an' whether the twist was under to left or
over to rightso's she'd know, if the time come. But none of us could
get Jennie's to look right. We studied her pictures an' all too, but
best we could do we got it all drawed back, abnormal.
I was 'most all the afternoon in the City, an' it was pretty
warma hot April followin' on a raw March. I stood waitin' for the six
o'clock car an', my grief, I was tired. My feet ached like night in
preservin' time. An' I was thinkin' how like a dunce we are to live a
life made up mostly of urrants an' feetache followin'. Yet,
after all, the right sort o' urrants an' like that is lifean',
if they do ache, 'tain't like your feet was your soul. Well, an' just
before the car come, up arrove the girl.
I guess she was towards thirty, but she seemed even older, 'count
o' bein' large an' middlin' knowin'. First I see her was a check
gingham sleeve reachin' out an' she was elbowed up clost by me. 'Say,'
she says, 'couldn't you gimme a nickel? I'm starved hollow.' She didn't
look it specialexcep' as thin, homely folks always looks sort o'
hungry. An' she was homelykind o' coarse made, more like a shed than
a dwellin' house. Her dress an' little flappy cape hed the looks o'
bein' held on by her shoulders alone, an' her hands was midnight dirty.
I was feelin' just tired enough to snap her up.
'A nickel!' s'I, crisp, 'give you a nickel! An' what you willin' to
She looked sort o' surprised an' foolish an' her mouth open.
'Huh?' s'she, intelligent as the back o' somethin'.
'You,' I says, 'are some bigger an' some stronger'n me. What you
goin' to give me?'
Well, sir, the way she dropped her arms down sort o' hit at me, it
was so kitten helpless. I took that in rather than her silly, sort o'
'I can't do nothin',' she told mean' all to once I saw how it
was, an' that that was what ailed her. I didn't stop to think no more'n
as if I didn't hev a brain to my name. 'Well,' I says, 'I'll give you a
nickel. Leastways, I'll spend one on you. You take this car,' I says,
'an' come on over to Friendship with me. An' we'll see.'
She come without a word, like goin' or stayin' was all of a piece
to her, an' her relations all dead. When I got her on the car I begun
to see what a fool thing I'd done, seemin'ly. An' yet, I donno. I
wouldn't 'a' left a month-old baby there on the corner. I'd 'a' bed
to 'a' done for that, like you doI s'pose to keep the world goin'.
An' that woman was just as helpless as a month-old. Some are. I s'pose
likely, Calliope said thoughtfully, we got more door-steps than we
think, if we get 'em all located.
When we got to my house I pumped her a pitcher o' water an' pointed
to the back bedroom door. 'First thing,' s'I, blunt, 'clean up'bein'
as I was too tired to be very delicate. 'An',' s'I, 'you'll see a clean
wrapper in the closet. Put it on.' Then I went to spread
supperwarmed-up potatoes an' bread an' butter an' pickles an' sauce
an' some cocoanut layer cake. It looked rill good, with the linen
clean, though common.
I donno how I done it, excep' I was so ramfeezled. But I clear
forgot Jennie Crapwell's shroud, layin' ready on the back bedroom bed.
An' land, land, when the woman come out, if she didn't hev it on.
I tell you, when I see her come walkin' out towards the supper
table with them fresh-ironed ruffles framin' in her face, I felt sort
o' kitterin'-headedlike my i-dees had fell over each other to get
away from me. The shroud fit her pretty good, too, barrin' it was a
mite long-skirted. An' somehow, it give her a look almost like dignity.
Come to think of it, I donno but a shroud does become most folkslike
they was rilly well-dressed at last.
She come an' set down to table, quiet as you pleasean' differ'nt.
Your clothes don't make you, by any means, but they just do sort o' hem
your edges, or rhyme the ends of you, or give a nice, even bake to your
crustI donno. They do somethin'. An' the shroud hed done it to that
girl. She looked rill leaved out.
How she did eat. It give me some excuse not to say anything to her
till she was through with the first violence. I did try to say grace,
but she says: 'Who you speakin' to? Me?' An' I didn't let on. I thought
I wouldn't start in on her moral manners. I just set still an' kep'
thinkin': You poor thing. Why, you poor thing. You're nothin' but a
piece o' God's work that wants doin' overlike a back yard or a poor
piece o' road or a rubbish place, or sim'lar. An' this tidyin' up is
what we're for, as I see itonly some of us lays a-holt of our own
settin' rooms an' butt'ry cupboards an' sullars an' cleans away on
them for dear life, over an' over, an' forgets the rest. I ain't
objectin' to good housekeepin' at all, but what I say is: Get your
dust-rag big enough to wipe up somethin' besides your own dust. The
Lord, He's a-housekeepin' too.
So, with that i-dee, I got above the shroud an' I begun on the
woman some like she was my kitchen closet in the spring o' the year.
'What's your name?' s'I.
'Leaven,' s'I, 'like the Bible?'
'Whyoh, 'leven',' s'I, 'that ain't a name at all. That's a
'I know it,' s'she, indiffer'nt, 'that was me. I was the 'leventh,
an' they'd run out a'ready.'
'For the land,' s'I, simple.
An' that just about summed her up. They seemed to 'a' run out o'
everything, time she come.
She hadn't been taught a thing but eat an' drink. Them was her only
arts. Excep' for one thing: When I ask' her what she could do, if any,
she says like she had on the street corner:
'I can't do nothin'. I donno no work.'
'You think it over,' s'I. She had rill capable handsthem odd,
undressed-lookin' handsI donno if you know what I mean?
'Well,' s'she, sort o' sheepish, 'I can comb hair. Ma was allus
sick an' me an' Big Lilshe's the same floorcombed her hair for her.
But I could do it nicest.'
Wan't that a curious happenin'an' Jennie Crapwell layin' dead
with her hair drawn tight back because none of us could do it up human?
'Could you when dead?' s'I. 'I mean when them that has the hair
An' with that the girl turns pallor white.
'Oh ...' s'she, 'I ain't never touched the dead. But,' s'she, sort
o' defiant at somethin', 'I could do it, I guess, if you want I
Kind o' like a handle stickin' out from what would 'a' been her
character, if she'd hed one, that was, I thought. An', too, I see what
it'd mean to her if she knew she was wearin' a shroud, casual as
But when I told her about Jennie Crapwell, an' how they had a good
picture, City-made, of her side head, she took it quite calm.
'I'll try it,' she says, bein' as she'd done her ma's hair layin'
down, though livin'. 'Big Lil always helps dress 'Em,' she says, 'an'
guess I could do Their hair.'
I got right up from the supper table an' took 'Leven over to
Crapwell's without waitin' for the dishes. But early as I was, the rest
was there before me. I guess they was full ten to Crapwell's when we
got there, an' 'Leven an' I, we walked into the sittin'-room right in
the midst of 'emthat is, of what wasn't clearin' table or doin'
dishes or sweepin' upstairs. Mis' Timothy Toplady an' Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss was the group nearest the dooran' the
both of 'em reco'nized that shroud the minute they clamped their eyes
on it. But me, bein' back o' 'Leven, I laid my front finger on to my
shut lips with a motion that must 'a' been armies with banners. An'
they see me an' kep' still, sudden an' all pent up.
'This,' s'I, 'is a friend o' mine. She's goin' to do up Jennie's
hair from her City photograph.'
Then I hustled 'Leven into the parlour where Jennie was layin'
under the soft lavender cloth. Nobody was in there but a few flowers,
sent early. An' it was a west window an' open, an' the sky all
sunsetlike the End. 'Leven hung back, but I took her by the hand an'
we went an' looked down at Jennie in that nice, gentlin', after-supper
light'Leven in Jennie's shroud an' neither of 'em knew it.
An' all out o' the air somethin' says to me, Nownowlike
it will when you get so's you listen. I always think it's like the Lord
had pressed His bell somewheres for help in His housekeepin'oh,
because how He needs it!
So I says, ''Leven, you never see anybody dead before. What's the
differ'nce between her an' you?'
'She can't move,' 'Leven says, starin' down.
'Yes, sir,' s'I, 'that's it. She's through doin' the things she was
born to do, an' you ain't.'
With that 'Leven looks at me.
'I can't do nothin',' she says again.
'Why, then,' says I, brisk, 'you're as good as dead, an' we'd best
bury you, too. What do you think the Lord wants you 'round for?'
An' she didn't say nothin', only stood fingerin' the shroud she
'Here,' s'I, then, 'is the comb. Here is Jennie's picture. The pins
is in her hair. Take it down an' do it over. There's somethin'
to do an' ease her mother about Jennie not lookin' natural.'
An' with that I marched myself out an' shut the door.
Mis' Toplady an' Mis' Holcomb was high-eyebrows on the other side
of it, an' they come at me like tick lookin' for tock.
'Well,' s'I, 'it is Jennie's shroud she's wearin'. But I
guess we'll hev to bury 'Leven in it to get it underground. I
won't tell her.'
I give 'em to understand as much as I wanted they should know,not
includin' exactly how I met 'Leven. An' we consulted, vague an'
emphatic, like women will. There wasn't time to make another one an' do
it up an' all. An' anyway, I was bound not to let the poor thing know
what she'd done. The others hated to, tooI donno if you'll know how
we felt? I donno but mebbe you sense things like that better when you
live in a little town.
'Well said!' Mis' Amanda bursts out after a while, 'I'm reg'lar put
to it. I can scare up an excuse, or a meal, or a church entertainment
on as short notice as any, but I declare if I ever trumped up a shroud.
An' you know an' I know,' she says, 'poor Jennie'd be the livin' last
to want to take it off'n the poor girl.'
'An',' s'I, 'even if I should give her somethin' else to put on in
the mornin', an' sly this into the coffin on Jennie, I donno's I'd want
to. The shroud,' s'I, ''s been wore.'
Mis' Holcomb sort o' kipperedsome like a shiver.
'I donno what it is about its bein' wore first,' s'she, 'but I
guess it ain't so much what it is as what it ain't. Or sim'lar.'
An' I knew what she meant. I've noticed that, often.
In the end we done what I'd favoured from the beginnin': We ask'
Mis' Crapwell if we couldn't bury Jennie in her white mull.
'A shroud,' says Mis' Crapwell, grievin', 'made by a
dressmaker with buttons?'
'It's the part o' Jennie that wore it before that'll wear it now,'
I says, reasonable, 'an' her soul never was buttoned into it anyways.
An' it won't be now.'
An' after a while we made her see it, an' that was the first
regular dress ever wore to a buryin' in Friendship, by the one that was
I'll never forget when 'Leven come out o' that room, after she'd
got through. We all went inMis' Crapwell an' Mis' Toplady an' Mis'
Holcomb an' I, an' some more. An' I took 'Leven back in with me. An' as
soon as I see Jennie I see it was Jennie come backhair just as
natural as if it was church Sunday mornin' an' her in her pew. We all
knew it was so, an' we all said so, an' Mis' Crapwell, she just out
cryin' like she'd broke her heart. An' when the first of it was over,
she went acrost to 'Leven, an' 'Oh,' s'she, 'you've give her back to
me. You give her back. God bless you!' she says to her. An' when I
looked at 'Leven, I see the 'Huh?' look wasn't there at all. But they
was a little somethin' on her face like she was proud, an' didn't quite
want to show italong of her features or complexion or somethin' never
havin' had it spread on 'em before.
Nex' mornin' o' course 'Leven put on the shroud again. I must say
it give me the creeps to see her wearin' it, even if it did look like
everybody's dresses. I donno what it is about such things, but they
make somethin' scrunch inside o' you. Like when they got a new
babtismal dish for the church, an' the minister's sister took the old
one for a cake dish.
S'I, to 'Leven, after breakfast:
We're goin' to line Jennie's grave this mornin'. I guess you'd like
to go with us, wouldn't you?'
But I see her face with the old look, like the back o' somethin', or
like you'd rubbed down the page when the ink was wet, an' had blurred
the whole thing unreadable. An' I judged that, like enough, she knew
nothin' whatever about grave-linin', done civilized.
'I mean, I thought mebbe you'd like to help us some,' I says.
'I would!' s'she, at that, rill ready an' quick. An' it come to me
't she knew now what help meant. She'd learnt it the night
before from Jennie's motherlike she'd learnt to answer a bell when
Somebody pressed it. Only, o' course she never guessed Who it was
ringin' itlike you don't at first.
So I made up my mind I'd take her to the cemet'ry. We done the work
up first, an' 'Leven spried 'round for me, wipin' the dishes with the
wipin' cloth in a bunch, an' settin' 'em up wrong places. An' I did hev
to go in the butt'ry an' laugh to see her sweep up. She swep' up some
like her broom was a branch an' the wind a-switchin' it.
Mis' Toplady an' Mis' Holcomb stopped by for us, with the white
cotton cloth an' the tacks, an' by nine o'clock we was over to the
cemet'ry. The grave was all dug an' lined with nice pine boards, an'
the dirt piled 'longside, an' the boards for coverin' an' the spades
layin' near. Zittelhof was just leavin', havin' got in his pulley
things to lower 'em. Zittelhof's rill up to date. Him an' Mink, the
barber, keep runnin' each other to see who can get the most citified
things. No sooner'd Zittelhof get his pulleys than Mink, he put in
shower-baths. An' when Mink bought a buzz fan, Zittelhof sent for the
lavender cloth to spread over 'em before the coffin comes. It makes it
rill nice for Friendship.
'Who's goin to get down in?' says Mis' Toplady, shakin' out the
Mis' Toplady always use' to be the one, but she can't do that any
more since she got so heavy. An' Mis' Holcomb's rheumatism was bad that
day an' the grave middlin' damp, so it was for me to do. An' all of a
sudden I says:
''Leven, you just get down in there, will you? An' we'll tell you
'In the grave?' says 'Leven.
I guess I'm some firm-mannered, just by takin' things for granted,
an' I says, noddin':
'Yes. You're the lightest on your feet,' I saysan' I sort o'
shoved at her, bird to young, an' she jumped down in, not bein' able to
'Here,' s'I, flingin' her an end o' cloth, 'tack it 'round smooth
to them boards.'
'Mother o' God,' says she, swallowin' in her breath.
But she done it. She knelt down there in the grave, her poor,
frowzy head showin,' an' she tacked away like we told her to, an' she
never said another word. Mis' Toplady an' Mis' Holcomb didn't say
nothin', either, only looked at me mother-knowin'. Them twoMis'
Toplady more'n anybody in Friendship, acts like bein' useful is bein'
alive an' nothin' else is. They see what I was doin', well enoughonly
I donno's they'd 'a' called it what I did, 'bout the Lord's
housekeepin' an all. An' I knew I couldn't gentle 'Leven into the i
-dee, but I judged I could shock it into hersame as her an' the Big
Lil kind have to hev. Some folks you hev to shoot i-dees at,
muzzle to brain.
I donno if you've took it in that when you're in a grave, or 'round
one, your talk sort o' veers that way? Ours did. Mis' Banker Mason's
baby had just died in March, an' the choir'd made an awful scandal,
breakin' down in the fifth verse of 'One poor flower has drooped and
faded.' They'd stood 'em in a half circle where they could look right
down on the little thing. An' when the choir got to
But we feel no thought of sadness
For our friend is happy now,
She has knelt in heartfelt gladness
Where the holy angels bow,
they just naturally broke down an' cried, every one of 'em. An' then
the little coffin was some to blame, tooit was sort of a little Lord
Fauntleroy coffin, with a broad white puff around, an' most anybody
would a' cried when they looked in it, even empty. But Doctor June, he
just stood up calm, like his soul was his body, an' he begun to pray
like God was there in the parlour, Him feelin' as bad as we, an' not
doin' the child's death Himself at all, like we'd been taughtbut
sorrowin' with us, for some o' His housekeepin' gone wrong. An' by the
time Banker an' Mis' Mason got in the close' carriage an' took the
little thing's casket on their kneesyou know we do that here, not
havin' any white hearsewhy, we was all feelin' like God Almighty was
hand in hand in sorrow with us. An' it's never left me since. I know He
We talked that over while 'Leven tacked the evergreen on the white
cloth. An' I know Mis' Toplady says she'd stayed with Mis' Banker Mason
so much since then that she felt God had sort o' singled herMis'
Topladyout, to give her a chanst to do His work o' comfortin'. 'I've
just let my house go,' s'she, 'an' I've got the grace to see it don't
matter if I have.' Mis' Toplady ain't one o' them turtle women that
their houses is shells on 'em, burden to back. She's more the bird
kindneat little nest under, an' wings to be used every day,
somewheres in the blue.
So 'Leven done all Jennie Crapwell's grave. She must 'a been down
in it an hour. An' when she got through, an' looked up at us from down
in the green, an' wearin' Jennie's shroud an' all, I just put out my
hands, to help her up, an' I thought, almost like prayin': 'Oh, raise
up, you Dead, an' come forthcome forth.' Sort o' like Lazarus. An' I
know I wasn't sacrilegious from what happened; for when Mis' Toplady
an' Miss Holcomb come up to 'Leven an' says, rill warm, how well she'd
done it an' how much obliged they was, I see that little look on the
girl's face again likeoh, like she'd wrote somethin' on the blurry
page, somethin' you could read.
Jennie was buried that afternoon at sharp three. It was a sad
funeral, 'count o' Jennie's trouble, an' all. But it was a rill big
funeral an' nicely conducted, if I do say that done the managin'. Mis'
Postmaster Sykes seated the guestsain't she the kind that always
seems to be one to stand in the hall at funerals with her hat off, to
consult about chairs an' where shall the minister lay his Bible, an'
who'd ought to be invited to set next the bier? An' she always takes
charge o' the flowers. Mis' Sykes can tell you who sent what flowers to
who for years back, an the wordin' on the pillows. She's got a rill
gift that way. But I done the managin' behind the scenes, an' it went
off rill well, an' I got the minister to drop a flower on Jennie's
coffin instead of a pinch o' dirt. An' one chair I did see to: right in
the bay, near Jennie, I set 'LevenI guess with just a kind of a blind
feelin' that I wanted to get her near. Near the flowers or the
singin' or what the minister said or,oh, near the mystery an' God
speakin' from the dead, like He does. Anyway, I shoved her into the bay
window back o' the casket, an' there I left her in behind a looped-back
Nottinghamsettin' in Jennie's shroud an' didn't either of 'em know
It was a queer chapter for Doctor June to read, some saidbut I
guess holy things often is queer, only we're better cut out to see
queer than holy. Anyway, his voice went all mellow and gentle, boomin'
out soft an' in his throat, all over the house. It was that about ...
Calliope quoted piecemeal:
'Awake, awake, put on thy strength ... put on thy beautiful
garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city ... shake thyself from the dust,
arise and sit down ... loose thyself from the bonds of thy neck, O
captive daughter of Zion ... how beautiful upon the mountains are the
feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that
bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith
unto Zion: Thy God reigneth! Break forth into joy, sing together ...
depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing ...
be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord....'
Sometimes a thing you've heard always will come at you sudden, like
a star had fell on your very head. It was that way with me that day.
'Put on thy beautiful garments ...' I says over, 'Put 'em onput 'em
on!' An' all the while I was seein' to the supper for the crowd that
was goin' to be theretrain relations an' allI kep' thinkin' that
over like a song'Put 'em onput 'em onput 'em on!' An' it was in
me yet, like a song had come to life there, when they'd all gone to the
cemetery'Leven with 'eman' I'd got through straightenin' the
chairsor rather crookedin' 'em some into loops from funeral
linesan' slipped over to my house, back way. For I ain't sunk so low
as to be that sympathetic that I'll stay to supper after the funeral
just because I've helped at it. There's a time to mourn an' there's a
time to eat, an' you better do one with the bereaved an' slip home to
your own butt'ry shelf for the other, I say.
I was just goin' through the side yard to my house when I see 'em
comin' back from the cemetery, an' I waited a little, lookin' to see
what was sproutin' in the flower-bed. It was a beautiful, beautiful
evenin'when I think of it it seems I can breathe it in yet. It was
'most sunset, an' it was like the West was a big, blue bowl with eggs
beat up in it, yolks an' whites, some gold an' some feathery. But the
bowl wa'n't big enough, an' it had spilled over an' flooded the whole
world yellowish, or all floatin' shinin' in the air. It was like the
world had done the way the Bible saidput on its beautiful garments. I
was thinkin' that when 'Leven come in the front gate. She was walkin'
fast, an' lookin' up, not down. Her cheeks was some pink, an' the light
made the shroud all pinkey, an' she looked rill nice. An' I marched
straight up to her, feelin' like I was swimmin' in that lovely light:
''Leven,' I says, ''Levenit's like the whole world was made over
to-night, ain't it?'
'Yes,' says shean' not 'Huh?' at all.
'Seems like another world than when we met on the street corner,
don't it?' I says.
'Yes,' she says again, noddin'an' I thought how she'd stood there
on the sidewalk, hungry an' her hands all black, an' believin' she
couldn't do anything at all. An' it seemed like I hed sort o' scrabbled
her up an' held her over a precipice, an' said to her: 'See the dead.
Look at yourself. Come forthcome forth! Clean updo somethin' to
help, anything, if it's only tackin' on evergreens an' doin' the Dead's
hair up becomin'' oh, I s'pose, rilly, I was sayin' to her: 'Put on
thy beautiful garments. Awake. Put on thy strength.' Only it come out
some differ'nt from me than it come from Isaiah.
I took a-hold of her handquite clean by the second day's washin',
though I ain't much given to the same (not meanin' second day's
washin's). I didn't know quite what I was goin' to say, but just then I
looked up Daphne Street, an' I see 'em all sprinkled along comin' from
the funeralneighbours an' friends an' just folksan' most of 'em
livin' in Friendship peaceful an'barrin' slopoversdoin' the level
best they could. Not all of 'em hearin' the Bell, you understand, nor
knowin' it by name if they did hear. But in little ways, an' because it
was secunt nature, just helpin', helpin', helpin' ... Mis'
Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss, Liddy Ember, Abagail Arnold an' her
husband, that was alive then, hurryin' to open the home bakery to catch
the funeral trade on the funeral's way back, Amanda an' Timothy Toplady
rattlin' by in the wagon an' 'most likely scrappin' over the new
springs ... an' all of 'em salt good at heart.
''Leven,' I says, out o' the fulness o' the lump in my throat,
'stay here with us. Find somethin' honest you can do, an' stay here an'
do it. Mebbe,' I told her, 'you could start dressin' the Dead's hair.
An' help us,' I says, 'help us.'
She looked up in my eyes quick, an' my heart stood still. An' then
it sunk down an' down.
'I want to go back ...' she says, 'I want to go back ...' but I'm
glad to remember that even for a minute I didn't doubt God's position,
because I remember thinkin' swift that if Him an' I had failed it
wasn't for no inscrutable reason o' His, but He was feelin' just as bad
over it as I was, an' worse.... 'I want to go back,' 'Leven finished
up, 'an' get Big Lil, too.'
Oh, an' I tell you the song in me just crowded the rest o' me out
of existence. I felt like a psalm o' David, bein' sung. I hadn't
dreamed she'd be like thatI hadn't dreamed it. Why, some folks,
Christian an' in a pew, never come to the part o' their lives where
they want to go back an' get a Big Lil, too.
We stood there a little while, an' I talked to her some, though I
declare I couldn't tell you what I said. You can'twhen the psalm
feelin' comes. But we stood out there sort o' occupyin' April, till
after the big blue bowl o' feathery eggs had been popped in the big
black oven, an' it was rill dark.
I forgot all about the shroud till we stepped in the house an' lit
up, an' I see it. An' then it was like the song in me gettin' words,
an' it come to me what it all was: How it rilly hadn't been Jennie's
funeral so much as it had been 'Leven'sthe 'Leven that was. But I
didn't tell herI never told her. An' she wore that shroud for most
two years, mornin's, about her work.
Calliope smiled a little, with her way of coming back to the moment
from the four great horizons.
Land, she said, sometimes I think I'll make some shrouds an'
starch 'em up rill good, an' take 'em to the City an' offer to folks.
An' say: Here. Diedie. You've got to, some part o' you, before you
can awake an' put on your beautiful garments an' your strength. I told
you, you know, she added, I guess sometimes I kind o' believe in
XVIII. IN THE WILDERNESS A CEDAR
In answer to my summons Liddy Ember appeared before me one morning
and outspread a Vienna book of coloured fashion-plates.
Dressmakin' 'd be a real drudgery for me, she said, if it wasn't
for havin' the colour plates an' makin' what I can to look like 'em.
Sometimes I get a collar or a cuff that seems almost like the picture.
There's always somethin' in the way of a cedar, she added blithely.
A cedar? I repeated.
She nodded, her plain face lighting. That's what Calliope use' to
call 'em, she explained; 'I will plant in the wilderness the cedar,'
you knowin the Bible. And I did recall the phrase on Calliope's
lips, as if it were the theme of her.
From this one and that one, and now and then from her herself, I had
heard something of Calliope's love story. Indeed, all Friendship knew
it and spoke of it with no possibility of gossip or speculation, but
with a kind of genius for consideration. I did not know, however, that
it was of this that Liddy meant to speak, for she began her story far
afield, with some talk of Oldmoxon house, in which I lived, and of its
Right here in this house is mixed up in it, she said; I been
thinkin' about it all the way up. Not very many have lived here in the
Oldmoxon house, and the folks that lived here the year I mean come so
quiet nobody knew it until they was herean' that ain't easy to do in
Friendship. First we knew they was in an' housekeepin'. Their accounts
was in the name of a Mis' Morgan. We see her now an' then on the
streettrim an' elderly an' no airs excep' she wouldn't open up a
conversation an' she wouldn't return her calls. 'Most everybody called
on her inside the two weeks, but the woman was never home an' she never
paid any attention. She didn't seem to have no men folks, an' she
settled her bills with checks, like she didn't have any ready money.
Little by little we all dropped her, which she ought to of expected.
Even when it got around that there was sickness in the house, nobody
went near, we feelin' as if we knew as good as the best what dignity
But Calliope didn't feel the same about it. Calliope hardly ever
felt the same about anything. That is, if it meant feelin' mean. She
was a woman that worked, like me, but yet she was wonderful differ'nt.
That was when we had our shop together in the house where we lived with
the boyI'll come to him in a minute or two. Besides lace-makin',
Calliope had a piano an' taught in the fittin'-roomthat was the same
as the dinin'-room. Six scholars took. Sometimes I think it was her
knowin' music that made her differ'nt.
We two was sittin' on our porch that night in the first dark. I
know a full moon was up back o' the hollyhocks an' makin' its odd
little shadows up an' down the yard, an' we could smell the savoury
bed. 'Every time I breathe in, somethin' pleasant seems goin' on inside
my head,' I rec'lect Calliope's sayin'. But most o' the time we was
still an' set watchin' the house on the corner where the New People
lived. They had a hard French name an' so we kep' on callin' 'em just
the 'New People.' He was youngish an' she was younger an'she wasn't
goin' out anywheres that summer. She was settin' on the porch that
night waitin' for him to come home. Before it got dark we'd noticed she
had on a pretty white dress an' a flower or two. It seemed sort o'
nicethat bein' so, an' her waitin' there dressed so pretty.
An' we sort o' set there waitin' for him, toolike you will, you know.
The boy was in the bed. He wa'n't no relation of Calliope's if
you're as strict as some, but accordin' to my idea he was closer than
thatcloser than kin. He was the grandchild of the man Calliope had
been goin' to marry forty-some years before, when she was twenty-odd.
Calvert Oldmoxon he wasborn an' bred up in this very house. He was
quite well off an'barrin' he was always heathen selfishit was a
splendid match for Calliope, but I never see a girl care so next to
nothin' about that. She was sheer crazy about him, an' he seemed just
as much so about her. An' then when everything was readyCalliope's
dress done an' layin' on their best-room bed, the minister stayin' home
from conference to perform the ceremony, even the white cake madeoff
goes Calvert Oldmoxon with Martha Boughton, a little high-fly that had
just moved to town. A new girl can marry anything she wants in
Friendship if she does it quick. So Calliope had to put up from Martha
Boughton with just what Jennie Crapwell had to take from Delia, more'n
twenty-five years afterwards.
It was near thirty years before we see either of 'em again. Then,
just a little before I'm tellin' you about, a strange woman come here
to town one night with a little boy; an' she goes to the hotel, sick,
an' sends for Calliope. An' when Calliope gets to the hotel the woman
was about breathin' her last. An' it was Mis' OldmoxonMartha
Boughton, if you please, an' dyin' on the trip she'd made to ask
Calliope to forgive her for what she done.
An' Calliope forgive her, but I don't imagine Calliope was thinkin'
much about her at the time. Hangin' round the bed was a little boythe
livin', breathin' image of Calvert Oldmoxon himself. Calliope was
mad-daft over children anyway, though she was always kind o' shy o'
showin' it, like a good many women are that ain't married. I've seen
her pick one up an' gentle it close to her, but let anybody besides me
come in the room an' see her an' she'd turn a regular guilt-red.
Calliope never was one to let on. But I s'pose seein' that little boy
there at the hotel look so much like him was kind o'
unbalancin'. So what does she do when Mis' Oldmoxon was cryin' about
forgiveness but up an' ask her what was goin' to be done with the boy
after she was dead. Calliope would be one to bring the word 'dead'
right out, too, an' let the room ring with itthough that ain't the
custom in society. Now'days they lie everybody 'way into the grave,
givin' 'em to understand that their recovery is certain, till there
must be a lots o' dumfounded dead, shot into the next worldyou might
say unbeknownst. But Calliope wasn't mincin' matters. An' when it come
out that the dyin' woman hadn't seen Calvert Oldmoxon for thirty years
an' didn't know where he was, an' that the child was an orphan an'
would go to collateral kin or some such folks, Calliope plumps out to
her to give her the child. The forgiveness Calliope sort o' took for
grantedlike you will as you get older. An' Mis' Oldmoxon seemed real
willin' she should have him. So when Calliope come home from the
funeralshe'd rode alone with the little boy for mournersshe just
went to work an' lived for that child.
'In the wilderness the cedar, Liddy,' she says to me. 'More than
one of 'em. I've had 'em right along. My music scholars an' my
lace-makin' customers an' all. An', Liddy,' she says to me sort o' shy,
'ain't you noticed,' she says, 'how many neighbours we've had move in
an out that's had children? So many o' the little things right around
us! Seems like they'd almost been born to me when they come acrost the
street, so. An' I've always thought o' thatIn the wilderness the
cedar"' she says, 'an' they's always somethin' to be a cedar for me,
'Well,' says I, sort o' sceptical, 'mebbe that's because you always
plant 'em,' I says. 'I think it means that, too,' I told her. An' I
knew well enough Calliope was one to plant her cedars herself. Cedars
o' comfort, you know.
I've seen a good many kinds o' mother-loveyou do when you go
round to houses like I do. But I never see anything like Calliope.
Seems though she breathed that child for air. She always was one to
pretend to herself, an' I knew well enough she'd figured it out as if
this was their child that might 'a' been, long ago. She sort o'
played motherlike you will; an' she lived her play. He was a real
sweet little fellow, too. He was one o' them big-eyed kind that don't
laugh easy, an' he was well-spoken, an' wonderful self-settled for a
child o' seven. He was always findin' time for you when you thought he
was doin' somethin' elseslidin' up to you an' puttin' up his hand in
yours when you thought he was playin' or asleep. An' that was what he
done that night when we set on the porchcomes slippin' out of his
little bed an' sets down between us on the top step, in his little
'Calvert, honey,' Calliope says, 'you must run back an' play
dreams. Mother wants you to.'
She'd taught him to call her mothershe'd had him about six months
thenan' some thought that was queer to do, seein' Calliope was her
age an' all. But I thought it was wonderful right.
'I did play,' he says to herhe had a nice little way o' pressin'
down hard with his voice on one word an' lettin' the next run off his
tongue'I did play dreams,' I rec'lect he says; 'I dreamed 'bout
robbers. Ain't robbers distinct?' he says.
I didn't know what he meant till Calliope laughs an' says, 'Oh,
distinctly extinct!' I remembered it by the way the words kind o'
By then he was lookin' up to the starshis little mind always lit
here an' there, like a grasshopper.
'How can heaven begin,' he says, 'till everybody gets there?'
Yes, he was a dear little chap. I like to think about him. An' I
know when he says that, Calliope just put her arms around him, an' her
head down, an' set sort o' rockin' back an' forth. An' she says:
'Oh, but I think it begins when we don't know.'
After a while she took him back to bed, little round face lookin'
over her shoulder an' big, wide-apart, lonesome eyes an' little sort o'
crooked frown, for all the world like the other Calvert Oldmoxon. Just
as she come out an' set down again, we heard the click o' the gate
acrost at the corner house where the New People lived, an' it was the
New Husband got home. We see his wife's white dress get up to meet him,
an' they went in the house together, an' we see 'em standin' by the
lamp, lookin' at things. Seems though the whole night was sort
All of a sudden Calliope unties her apron.
'Let's dress up,' she says.
'Dress up!' I says, laughin' some. 'Why, it must be goin' on
half-past eight,' I told her.
'I don't care if it is,' she says; 'I'm goin' to dress up. It seems
as though I must.'
She went inside, an' I followed her. Calliope an' I hadn't no men
folks to dress for, but, bein' dressmakers an' lace folks, we had good
things to wear. She put on the best thin dress she hada gray
book-muslin; an' I took down a black lawn o' mine. It was such a
beautiful night that I 'most knew what she meant. Sometimes you can't
do much but fit yourself in the scenery. But I always thought Calliope
fit in no matter what she had on. She was so little an' rosy, an' she
always kep' her head up like she was singin'.
'Now what?' I says. For when you dress up, you can't set home. An'
then she says slowan' you could 'a' knocked me over while I
'I've been thinkin',' she says, 'that we ought to go up to Oldmoxon
house an see that sick person.'
'Calliope!' I says, 'for the land. You don't want to be refused
'I don't know as I do an' I don't know but I do,' she answers me.
'I feel like I wanted to be doin' somethin'.'
With that she out in the kitchen an' begins to fill a basket.
Calliope's music didn't prevent her cookin' good, as it does some. She
put in I don't know what all good, an' she had me pick some hollyhocks
to take along. An' before I knew it, I was out on Daphne Street in the
moonlight headin' for Oldmoxon house here that no foot in Friendship
had stepped or set inside of in 'most six months.
'They won't let us in,' I says, pos'tive.
'Well,' Calliope says, 'seems though I'd like to walk up there a
night like this, anyway.'
An' I wasn't the one to stop her, bein' I sort o' guessed that what
started her off was the New People. Those two livin' so near
bylookin' forward to what they was lookin' forward toso soon after
the boy had come to Calliope, an' all, had took hold of her terrible.
She'd spent hours handmakin' the little baby-bonnet she was goin' to
give 'em. An' then mebbe it was the night some, too, that made her want
to come up around this housebecause you could 'most 'a' cut the
moonlight with a knife.
They wa'n't any light in the big hall here when we rung the bell,
but they lit up an' let us in. Yes, they actually let us in. Mis'
Morgan come to the door herself.
'Come right in,' she says, cordial. 'Come right upstairs.'
Calliope says somethin' about our bein' glad they could see us.
'Oh,' says Mis' Morgan, 'I had orders quite a while ago to let in
whoever asked. An' you're the first,' she says. 'You're the first.'
An' then it come to us that this Mis' Morgan we'd all been tryin'
to call on was only what you might name the housekeeper. An' so it
turned out she was.
The whole upper hall was dark, like puttin' a black skirt on over
your head. But the room we went in was cheerful, with a fire burnin'
up. Only it was awful littered upold newspapers layin' round, used
glasses settin' here an' there, water-pitcher empty, an' the
lamp-chimney was smoked up, even. The woman said somethin' about us an'
went out an' left us with somebody settin' in a big chair by the fire,
sick an' wrapped up. An' when we looked over there, Calliope an' I
stopped still. It was a man.
If it'd been me, I'd 'a' turned round an' got out. But Calliope was
as brave as two, an' she spoke up.
'This must be the invalid,' she says, cheerful. 'We hope we see you
at the best.'
The man stirs some an' looks over at us kind o' eagerhe was
oldish, an' the firelight bein' in his eyes, he couldn't see us.
'It isn't anybody to see me, is it?' he asks.
At that Calliope steps forwardI remember how she looked in her
pretty gray dress with some light thing over her head, an' her starched
white skirts was rustlin' along under, soundin' so genteel she seemed
to me like strangers do. When he see her, the man made to get up, but
he was too weak for it.
'Why, yes,' she answers him, 'if you're well enough to see
An' at that the man put his hands on his knees an' leaned sort o'
'Calliope!' he says.
It was him, sure enoughCalvert Oldmoxon. Same big, wide-apart,
lonesome eyes an' kind o' crooked frown. His hair was gray, an' so was
his pointed beard, an' he was crool thin. But I'd 'a' known him
Calliope, she just stood still. But when he reached out his hand,
his lips parted some like a child's an' his eyes lookin' up at her, she
went an' stood near him, by the table, an' she set her basket there an'
leaned down on the handle, like her strength was gone.
'I never knew it was you here,' she says. 'Nobody knows,' she told
'No,' he says, 'I've done my best they shouldn't know. Up till I
got sick. Since thenIwanted folks,' he says.
I kep' back by the door, an' I couldn't take my eyes off of him. He
was older than Calliope, but he had a young air. Like you don't have
when you stay in Friendship. An' he seemed to know how to be easy, sick
as he was. An' that ain't like Friendship, either. He an' Calliope had
growed opposite ways, seems though.
'I'll go now,' says Calliope, not lookin' at him. 'I brought up
some things I baked. I didn't know but they'd taste good to whoever was
With that he covers one hand over his eyes.
'No,' he says, 'no, no, Calliopedon't go yet. It's you I come
here to Friendship to see,' he told her.
'What could you have to say to me?' asks Calliopedry as a bone in
her voice, but I see her eyes wasn't so dry. Leastwise, it may not have
been her eyes, but it was her look.
Then he straightens up some. He was still good-lookin'. When you
was with him it use' to be that you sort o' wanted to stayan' it
seemed the same way now. He was that kind.
'Don't you think,' he says to heran' it was like he was humble,
but it was like he was proud, too'don't you think,' he says, 'that I
ever dreamed you could forgive me. I knew better than that,' he told
her. 'It's what you must think o' me that's kep' me from sayin' to you
what I come here to say. But I'll tell you now,' he says, 'I'm sick an'
alone an' done for. An' what I come to see you aboutis the boy.'
'The boy,' Calliope says over, not understandin'; 'the boy.'
'My God, yes,' says he. 'He's all I've got left in the world.
CalliopeI need the boy. I need him!'
I rec'lect Calliope puttin' back that light thing from her head
like it smothered her. He laid back in his chair for a minute, white
an' still. An' then he saysonly of course his words didn't sound the
way mine do:
'I robbed your life, Cally, an' I robbed my own. As soon as I knew
it an' couldn't bear it any longer, I went away alonean' I've lived
alone all exceptin' since the little boy come. His mother, my son's
wife, died; an' I all but brought him up. I loved him as I never loved
anybodybut you,' he says, simple. 'But when his father died, of
course I hadn't any claim on the little fellow, I felt, when I'd been
away from the rest so long. She took him with her. An' when I
knew she'd left him here I couldn't have kep' away,' he says, 'I
couldn't. He's all I've got left in the world. I all but brought him
up. I must have him, Callydon't you see I must have him?' he says.
Calliope looks down at him, wonderful calm an' still.
'You've had your own child,' she told him slow; 'you've had a real
life. I'm just gettin' to minesince I had the boy.'
'But, good God,' he says, starin' up at her, 'you're a woman. An'
one child is the same as another to you, so be that it ain't your own.'
Calliope looked almost as if he had struck at her, though he'd only
spoke a kind o' general male idea, an' he couldn't help bein' a
male. An' she says back at him:
'But you're a man. An' bein' alive is one thing to you an' another
thing to me. Never let any man forget that,' she says, like I never
heard her speak before.
Then I see the tears shinin' on his face. He was terrible weak. He
slips down in his chair an' sets starin' at the fire, his hands hangin'
limp over the arms like there wasn't none of him left. His face looked
tired to death, an' yet there was that somethin' about him like you
didn't want to leave him. I see Calliope lookin' at himan' all of a
sudden it come to me that if I'd 'a' loved him as she use' to, I'd 'a'
walked over there an' then, an' sort o' gentled his hair, no matter
But Calliope, she turned sharp away from him an' begun lookin'
around the room, like she see it for the first timesmoky
lamp-chimney, old newspapers layin' 'round, used-up glasses, an' such
like. The room was one o' the kind when they ain't no women or
children. An' then, when she see all that, pretty soon she looked back
at him, layin' sick in his chair, alone an' done for, like he said. An'
I see her take her arms in her hands an' kind o' rock.
'Ain't the little fellow a care to you, Cally?' he says then,
She went over towards him, an' I see her pick up his pillow an'
smooth it some an' make to fix it better.
'Yes,' she says then, 'you're right. He is a care. An' he's your
grandchild. You must take him with you just as soon as you're well
enough,' she says.
He broke clear down then, an' he caught her hands an' laid his face
on 'em. She stood wonderful calm, lookin' down at himan' lookin'. An'
I laid the hollyhocks down on the rug or anywheres, an' somehow I got
out o' the room an' down the stairs. An' I set there in the lower hall
She come herself in a minute. The big outside door was standin'
open, an' when I heard her step on the stairs I went on ahead out to
the porch, feelin' kind o' strangelike you will. But when Calliope
come up to me she was just the same as she always was, an' I might 'a'
known she would be. She isn't easy to understandshe's differ'ntbut
when you once get to expectin' folks to be differ'nt, you can depend on
'em some that way, too.
The moon was noon-high by then an' filterin' down through the
leaves wonderful soft, an' things was stillI remember thinkin' it was
like the hushin'-up before a bride comes in, but there wasn't any
When we come to our housejust as we begun to smell the savoury
bed clear out there on the walkwe heard something ... a little bit of
a noise that I couldn't put a name to, first. But, bless you, Calliope
could. She stopped short by the gate an' stood lookin' acrost the road
to the corner house where the New People lived. It was late for
Friendship, but upstairs in that house a lamp was burnin'. An' that
room was where the little noise come froma little new cry.
'Oh, Liddy,' Calliope saysher head up like she was singin''Oh,
Liddythe New People have got their little child.'
An' I see, though of course she didn't anywheres near realize it
then, that she was plantin' herself another cedar.
After all, it was as if I had first been told about refraction and
then had been shown a rainbow. For presently Calliope herself said
something to me of her having been twenty. One would as lief have
broken the reticence of a rainbow as that of Calliope, but rainbows are
not always reticent. I have known them suggest infinite things.
In June she spent a fortnight with me at Oldmoxon house, and I
wanted never to let her go. Often our talk was as irrelevant to patency
as are wings. That day I had been telling her some splendid
inconsequent dream of mine. It had to do with an affair of a
wheelbarrow of roses, which I was tying on my trees in the garden
directly the original blossoms fell off.
Calliope nodded in entire acceptance.
But that wasn't so queer as my dream, she said. My dream about
myselfI mean my rill, true regular self, she added, with a manner of
I think that we all dream our real, true, regular selves, only we do
not dream us until we come true. I said something of this to Calliope;
and then she told me.
It was when I was twenty, she said, an' it was a little while
afterwell, things wasn't so very happy for me. But first thing I must
tell you about the picture. We didn't have so very many pictures. But
in my room used to be an old steel engraving of a poet, a man walkin'
'round under some kind o' trees in blossom. He had a beautiful face an'
a look on it like he see heaven. I use' to look at the picture an' look
at it, an' when I did, it seemed almost like I was off somewheres else.
Then one night I had my dream. I thought I was walkin' down a long
road, green an' shady an' quite wide, an' fields around an' no folks. I
know I was hurryin'oh, I was in such a hurry to see somebody, seems
though, somebody I was goin' to see when I got to the end o' the road.
An' I was so happydid you ever dream o' being happy, I mean if you
wasn't so very happy in rill life? It puts you in mind o' havin' a pain
in your side an' then gettin' in one big, deep breath when the pain
don't hurt. In rill life I was lonesome, an' I hated Friendship an' I
wanted to get awayto go to the City to take music, or go anywheres
else. I never had any what you might call rill pleasure excep' walkin'
in the Depot Woods. That was a gully grove beyond the railroad track,
an' I use' to like to sit in there some, by myself. I wasn't ever rill
happy, though, them days, but in the dreamoh, I was happy, like on a
nice mornin', only more so.
Calliope looked at me fleetingly, as if she were measuring my
ability to understand.
The funny part of it was, she said, that in the dream I wasn't
me at all. Not me, as you know me. I thought somehow I was
that poet in my picture, the man in the steel engravin' with a look
like he see heaven. An' it didn't seem strange to me, but just like it
had always been so. I thought I rilly was that poet that I'd looked at
in the picture all my life. But then I guess after all that part wasn't
so funny as the rest of it. For down at the end o' the road somebody
was waitin' for me under trees all in blossom, like the picture, too.
It was a girl, standin' there. An' I thought I looked at herI, the
poet, you knowan' I see that the girl was me, Calliope Marsh, lookin'
just like I looked every day, natural as anything. Like you see
yourself in the glass.
I know I wasn't su'prised at all. We met like we was friends, both
livin' here in the village, an' we walked down the road together like
it had always been that way. An' we talkedlike you do when you're
with them you'd rather be with than anybody else. I thought we was
goin' somewhere to see somebody, an' we talked about that:
'Will They be home, do you think?' I says.
An' the girl that was me says: 'Oh, yes. They'll be home. They're
always home,' she told me. An' we both felt pleased, like when you're
An' thenoh, Calliope cried, I wish I could remember what we
said. I wish I could remember. I know it was something that seemed
beautiful, an' the words come all soft. It was like bein' born again,
somewheres else. An' we knew just exactly what each other meant, an'
that was best of all.
She hesitated, seeking to explain that to me.
When I was twenty, she said, I use' to want to talk about things
that wasn't commonly mentioned here in FriendshipI mean, well, like
little things I'd read about noted people an' what they said an'
donean' like that. But when you brought 'em up in the conversation,
folks always thought you was tryin' to show off. An' if you quoted a
verse o' poetry in company, my land, there was a hush like you'd swore.
So gradually I'd got to keepin' still about such things. But in that
dream we talked an' talkedsaid things about old noted folks right out
an' told about 'em without beginnin' it 'I happened to read the other
day.' An' I know I mentioned the sun on the leaves an' the way the
clouds looked, right out, too, without bein' afraid the girl that was
me would think I was affected. An' I said little things aboutoh, like
about goblins in the wood an' figgers in the smoke, without bein'
scared that mothers would hear of it an' not let their children come to
see me. An' then I made up things an' saidthings I was always wantin'
to saylike about expectin' to meet Summer walkin' down the road, an'
so on: things that if I'd said so's they'd got out around Friendship,
folks would 'a' thought I was queer an' not to be trusted to bring up
their mail from town. I said all those kind o' things, like I was
really born to talk what I thought about. An' the girl that was me
understood what I meant. An' we laughed a good dealoh, how we laughed
together. That was 'most the best of all.
Well, the dream dwindled off, like they will. An' when I woke up, I
was nothin' but Calliope Marsh, livin' in Friendship where folks cut a
loaf o' bread on a baker's headstone just because he was a
baker. Rill life didn't get any better, an' I was more an' more
lonesome in Friendship. Somehow, nobody here in town rilly matched me.
They all knew what I said well enough, but when I spoke to 'em about
what was rill interestin' to me, seemed like their minds didn't
click, with that good little feelin' o' rilly takin' it in. My i
-dees didn't seem to fit, quite ball an' socket, into nobody's mind, but
just to slide along over. And as to their i-deesI rec'lect
thinkin' that the three R's meant to 'em Relations, Recipes, an' the
Remains. Yes, all I did have, you might say, was my walks out in the
Depot Woods. An' times like when Elder Jacob Sykesthat was Silas's
fathersaid in church that God come down to be Moses's undertaker, I
run off there to the woods feelin' all sick an' skinned in soul, an' it
sort o' seemed like the gully understood. An' still, you can't be
friends when they's only one of you. It's like tryin' to hold a
dust-pan an' sweep the dirt in at the same time. It can't be donenot
thorough. An' so settin' out there I used to take a book an' hunt up
nice little things an' learn different verses, in the hopes that if
that dream should come back, I could have 'em to telltell 'em,
you know, to the girl that was me. Because it hed got so by then that
it seemed to me I was actually more that poet than I was Calliope
Marsh. An' so it went along till the day I met himthe man, the poet.
The man! I said. But do you mean the manthe poetthe
one that was you?
Calliope nodded confidently.
Yes, she said, in her delicate excitement, I do. Oh, I'll tell
you an' you'll see for yourself it must 'a' been him. It was one early
afternoon towards the end o' summer, an' I knew him in a minute. I'd
gone up to the depot to mail a postal on the Through, an' he got off
the train an' went into the Telegraph Office. An' the train pulled out
an' left himit was down to the end o' the platform before he come
out. He didn't act, though, as if the train's leavin' him was much of
anything to notice. He just went up an' commenced talkin' to the
baggageman, Bill. But Bill couldn't understand himBill was sort o'
crusted over the mindyou had to say things over an' over again to
him, an' even then he 'most always took it different from what you
meant. So I suppose that was why the man left him an' come towards me.
When I looked up in his face I stood still on the platform. He was
young. An' he had soft hair, an' his face was beautiful, like he see
heaven. It wasn't to say he was exactly like my picture,
Calliope said slowly. For instance, I think the man at the depot had a
beard, an' the poet in my picture didn't. But it was more his look, you
might say. It wasn't like any look I'd ever seen on anybody in
Friendship. His hands were kind o' slim an' wanderin', an' he carried a
book like it was his only baggage. An' he had a waywell, like what he
happened to be doin' wasn't all day to him. Like he was partly there,
but mostly somewheres else, where everything was better.
'Perhaps this lady will know,' he saysan' it wasn't the way most
of 'em talks here in Friendship, you understand'I've been askin' the
luggageman there,' he says, an' he was smilin' almost like a laugh at
what he thought I was goin' to answer, 'I've been askin' the luggageman
there, if he knows of a wood near the station that I shall be likely to
find haunted at this hour. I've to wait for the 4.20, an' it's a bad
time of day for a haunted wood, I'm afraid. The luggageman didn't seem
An' then all at once I knewI knew. Why, don't you see, Calliope
cried, I had to know! That was just the way we'd talked in my
dreamkind of jokin' an' yet meanin' somethin', tooso's you felt all
lifted up an' out o' the ordinary. An' then I knew who he was an' I see
how everything was. Why, the girl that was me an' that was lonesome
there in Friendship wasn't me, very much. Me bein' Calliope
Marsh was the chance part, an' didn't count. But things was rilly the
way I'd dreamed o' their bein.' Somehow, I had another self. An' I had
dreamed o' bein' that self. An' there he stood, on the Friendship depot
Calliope looked at me wistfully.
You don't think I sound crazy, do you? she asked.
And at my answer:
Well, she said, brightening, that was how it was. An' it was like
there hadn't been any first time an' like there wouldn't be any end.
Like they was things bigger than timean' lots nicer than life. An' I
spoke up like I'd always known him.
'Why, yes,' I says to him simple, 'you must mean the Depot Woods,'
I said. 'They're always kind o' haunted to me. I guess the little folks
that come in the en-gine smoke live in there,' I told him, smilin'
because I was so glad.
I remember how su'prised he looked an' how his face lit up, like he
was hearin' English in a heathen land.
'Upon my word,' he says, still only half believin' in me. 'An' do
you go there often?' he ask' me. 'An' I daresay the little smoke folk
talk to you, now?' he says.
'I go 'most every day,' I told him, 'but we don't say very much. I
guess they talk an' I listen,' I says.
An' then the funny part about his askin' Bill for a haunted wood
come over me.
'Bill!' I says. 'Did you actually ask Bill that?'
Oh, an' how we laughedhow we laughed. Just the way the dream had
been. It seemedit seemed such a sort o' special comical,
Calliope said, an' not like a Sodality laugh. 'Seems though I'd always
laughed at one set o' things all my lifemy everyday life. An' this
was a new recipe for Laugh, flavoured different, an' baked in a quick
oven, an' et hot.
Well, we walked down the road together, like it had always been
that way. An' we talkedlike you do when you're with them you'd rather
be with than anybody else. An' he ask' me, grave as grave, about the
little smoke folks.
'Will They be home, do you think?' he says.
An' I says: 'Oh, yes. I know They will. They're always home.'
An' we both felt pleased, like when you're sure.
We went to walk in the Depot Woods. I remember how much he made me
talkmore than I'd ever talked before, excep' in the dream. I know I
told him the little stories I'd read about noted people, an' I said
over some o' the verses I'd learned an' liked the sound ofI
remembered 'em all for him, an' he listened an' heard 'em all just the
way I'd said 'em. That was ithe heard it all just the way I said it.
An' I mentioned the sun on the leaves an' the way the clouds looked,
right outan' I knew he didn't think I was affected. An' I made up
things an' said, toothings that was always comin' in my head an' that
I was always wantin' to say. An' he'd laugh almost before I was
throughoh, it was like heaven to have him laugh an' not just say,
'What on earth are you talkin', Calliope Marsh?' like I'd heard.
An' he kep' sayin', 'I know, I know,' like he knew what I meant better
than anything else in the world. Then he read to me out o' the book he
had an' he told mebeautiful things. Some of 'em I rememberI've
remembered always. Some of 'em I forgot till I come on 'em, now an'
then, in bookslong afterwards; an' then it was like somebody dead
spoke up. I'm always thankful to get hold o' other people's books an'
see if mebbe I won't find somethin' else he said. But a good many o'
the things I s'pose I clear forgot, an' I won't know 'em again till in
the next life. Like I forgot what we said in the dream, till they're
both all mixed up an' shinin'.
We talked till 'most time for the 4.20 train. An' when it got
towards four o'clock, I told him about my dream. It seemed like he
ought to know, somehow. An' I told him how I dreamed I was him.
'You don't look like the one I dreamed I was,' I told him, 'but,
oh, you talk the samean' you pretend, an' you laugh, an' you seem the
same. An' your face looks different from folks here in Friendship, just
like his, an' it seems somehow like you saw things besides with your
eyes,' I told him, 'like the poet in my picture. So I know it's youit
must be you,' I says.
He looked at me so queer an' sudden an' long.
'I'm a poet, too,' he said, 'if it comes to that. A very bad one,
you knowbut a kind of poet.'
An' then of course I was certain sure.
When he understood all about it, I remember how he looked at me.
An' he says:
'Well, an' who knows? Who knows?'
He sat a long time without sayin' anything. But I wasn't unhappy,
even when he seemed so sad. I couldn't be, because it was so much to
know what I knew.
'If I can,' he says to me on the depot platform, 'dead or alive,
I'll come back some day to see you. But meanwhile you must forget me.
Only the dreamkeep the dream,' he says.
I tried to dream it again, Calliope told me, but I never could.
An' dead or alive, he's never been back, all these years. I don't even
know his namean' I remembered afterwards he hadn't asked me mine. But
I guess all that is the chance part, an' it don't really count. Out o'
the dream I've been, you might say, caught, tied up an' couldn't get
out,just me, like you know me,with a big unhappiness, an' like
that. But in the dream I dreamed myself true. An' then God let me meet
myself, just that once, there in the Depot Woods, to show me it's all
right, an' that they's things that's bigger than time an' lots nicer
Calliope sat silent, with her way of sighing and looking by; and it
was as if she had suggested to me delicate things, as a rainbow will
XX. THE HIDINGS OF POWER
I divined the birches, blurred gray and white against the fog-bound
cedars. In the haze the airy trunks, because of their imminence, bore
the reality of thought, but the sterner green sank in the distance to
the faint avail of speech. It was well to be walking on the Plank Road
toward seven o'clock of a June morning, in a mist which might yield
fellowship in the same ease with which it breathed on distinctions.
Abel had told how, on that winter way of his among the hills, the
sky has fallen in the fog and had surrendered to him a fellowship of
dreams. But in Friendship Village, as I had often thought, there are
dreams for every one; how should it be otherwise to us faring up and
down Daphne Street (where Daphne's feet have been)? And yet that
morning on the Plank Road where, if the fancy seized her to walk in
beauty, our lady of the laurels might be met at any moment, her power
seemed to me to be as frail as wings, and I thought that it would not
greatly matter if I were to meet her.
As if my thought of Abel Halsey had brought him, the beat of hoofs
won toward me from the village; and presently Major Mary overtook me,
and there was Abel, driving with his eyes shut. I hailed him, laughed
at him, let him pick me up, and we went on through door after door of
the fog, with now a lintel of boughs and now a wall of wild roses.
Abel, I remember saying abruptly, dreams are not enough.
No, he replied, as simply as if we had been talking of it, dreams
are just one of the sources of power ... but doing is enough.
I said weaklyperhaps because it was a morning of chill and fog,
when a woman may feel her forlornest, look her plainest, know herself
for dust: But thenwhat about everybody's heart?
Don't you know? Abel asked, and even after those months in
Friendship Village I did not know.
... use it up making some little corner betterbetterbetter by
the width of a hand... said Abel. As I could do, he added after a
moment, if I could get my chapel in the hills. Do you know, I've
written to Mrs. Proudfit about it at last. I couldn't help itI
couldn't help it!
We came to the rise of the hill, where, but for the fog, we might
have looked back on the village, already long astir. To the left,
within its line of field stone and whitewashed rails and wild roses,
the cemetery lay, like another way of speech. A little before us the
mist hid the tracks, but we heard the whistle of the Fast Mail, coming
in from the end of the earth.
Ah, well, I want some wild roses, said Isince a woman may always
take certain refuges from life.
I'm coming back about noon, Abel told me; I'll bring you a
He drew up Major Mary, and we sat silent, watching for the train.
And the Something which found in Abel its unfailing channel came
companioning us, and caught me up so that I longed unspeakably to be
about the Business which Abel and Calliope followed, and followed
before all else.
But when I would have said more, I noted on Abel's face some
surprise, and then I myself felt it. For the Fast Mail from the East,
having as usual come roaring through Friendship station with but an
instant's stop, was now slowing at the draw. Through the thick white we
perceived it motionless for a breath, and then we heard it beat away
I wonder now, remembering, how I can have known with such singing
confidence what was in store for me. It is certain that I did know,
even though in the mist I saw no one alight. But as if at a summons I
bade Abel let me descend, and somehow I gave him good-by; and I recall
that I cried back to him:
Abel! You said the sky can fall and give one dreams.
Yes, he answered. Dreams to use in one's corner.
But I knew then and I know now that Abel's dreams flowed in his
blood, and that when he gave them to his corner of the world he gave
from his own veins; and I think that the world is the richer for that.
When he had gone I stood still in the road, waiting. I distinguished
a lintel of elms, a wall of wild roses; I heard a brave little bird
twittering impatient matins, and the sound of nearing footsteps in the
road. And then a voice in the mist said my name.
There in the fog on the Plank Road we met as if there had come a
clearness everywherewe two, between whom lay that year since my
coming to Friendship. Only, now that he was with me, I observed that
the traitor year had slipped away as if it had never been, and had left
us two alone in a place so sightly that at last I recognized my own
happiness. And I understoodand this way of understanding leaves one a
breathless beingthat his happiness was there too.
And yet it was only: You.... But what an adventure to meet you
here! And from him: Me. Here. Please, may we go to your house? I
haven't had an indication of breakfast. At which we laughed
somewhat, with my, How absurdly like you not to have had breakfast,
and his, How very shabby of you to feel superior because you happen to
have had your coffee. So we moved back down the road with the clear
little space in the fog following, following....
A kind of passion for detail seized on us both.
He said: You're wearing brown. I've never seen you wear brownI'm
sure I haven't. Have I?
My fur coat was brown, I escaped into the subject, but then that
No, he agreed, fur isn't a colour. Fur is just fur. No, I've
never seen you in brown.
How did they let you off at the draw? How did you know about
getting off at the draw? I demanded.
You said something of your getting off therein that one letter,
You said something about getting off there on a night when you left
the train with a girl who was coming home to the villageyou know the
letter? he broke off, I think it was that letter that finally gave me
courage to come. Because in that I saw in you something new
andunderstanding. Well, and I remembered about the draw. I always
meant to get off there, when I came.
You always meant ... but then how did you make them stop?
I told the man I had to, and then he had to, too. There were four
others who got off and went across the tracks, but we are not obliged
to consider them.
From that, I said, I would think it is you, if I didn't
know it couldn't possibly be!
Then I hurried into some recital about the Topladys, whose big barn
and little house were lined faintly out as if something were making
them feel hushed; and about Friendship, hidden in the valley as if it
were suddenly of lesser importhow strange that these things should be
there as they were an hour ago. And so we came to Oldmoxon House and
went up the walk in silence save that, at the steps, How long shall I
tell them to boil your eggs? I asked desperately, to still the quite
ridiculous singing of the known world. But then the singing took one
voice, a voice whose firmness made it almost hard, save that deep
within it something was beating....
You know, said the voice simply, if I come in now, I come to
stay. You do know?
You come to breakfast.... I tried it.
I come to stay.
I come to stay.
I rather hoped to affirm something gracious, and masterful of
myselfnot to say of him; but suddenly that whole lonely year was back
again, most of it in my throat. And though I gave up saying anything at
all, I cannot have been unintelligible. Indeed, I know that I was not
unintelligible, for when, in a little while, Calliope, who was still
with me, opened my front door and emerged briskly to the veranda, she
seems to have understood in a minute.
Well said! Calliope cried, and made a little swoop down from the
threshold and stood before us, one hand in mine and one outstretched
for his; I knew, as soon as I woke up this morning, I felt special. I
thought it was my soul, sittin' up in my chest, an' wantin' me to spry
round with it some, like it does. But I guess now it was this. Oh,
this! she said. Oh, I sp'ose I'd rilly ought to hev an introduction
before I jump up an' down, hadn't I?
No need in the world, Calliope, he told her; come on. I'll jump,
And that was an added joythat he had read and re-read that one
Friendship letter of mine, written on the night of Delia More's return,
until it was as if he, too, knew Calliope. But before all things was
the wonder of the justice and the grace which had made the letter of
that night, when I, too, took stock, yield such return.
It was Calliope who led the way indoors at last, and he and I who
followed like her guests. From the edges of consciousness I finally
drew some discernment of the place of coffee and rolls in a beneficent
universe, and presently we three sat at his breakfast table. And not
until then did Calliope remember her other news.
Land, land, she said, I like to forgot. Who do you s'pose I had a
telephone from just before you come? Delia. She'd just got home this
morning on the Fast Mail. An' the Proudfits'll be here, noon train.
Delia indeed had come on the same glorified train that Abel and I
had seen stop at the draw, only she had alighted at Friendship station
and had hurried up to the Proudfits' to make ready for their
home-coming. And since those whom we know best never come to Friendship
without a welcome, it was instantly incumbent on us all to be what
Calliope called up in arms an' flyin' round.
As soon as we were alone:
I've planned noon lunch for 'em, Calliope told me; I'm goin' to
see to the meatleg o' lamb, sissin' hot, an' a big bowl o' mint. Mis'
Holcomb's got to freeze a freezer o' her lemon iceshe gets it smooth
as a mud pie. Mis' Toplady, she'll come in on the baked stuffraised
rolls an' a big devil's food. An'I'd kind o' meant to look to you for
the salad, but I s'pose you won't want to bother now.... And when I
had hastened to assume the salad, Well, I am glad, she owned,
with a relieved sigh. The Proudfit salads they can't a soul tell what
ingredients is in 'em, chew high though we may. I know you know about
them queer organs an' canned sea reptiles they use now in cookin'. I've
come to the solemn conclusion I ain't studied physiology an' the animal
sciences close enough myself to make a rill up-to-date salad.
Before noon we were all at Proudfit Houseto which I had taken care
to leave word for Abel to follow meand we were letting in the sun,
making ready the table, filling the vases with garden roses; and in the
library Calliope laid a fire in case they get chilly, travellin' so,
she said, but I think rather it was in longing somehow to summon a
secret agency to that place where Linda Proudfit's portrait hung. For
we had long been agreed that, as soon as she was at home again, Linda's
mother must be told all that we knew of Linda. Thus, to Calliope and
me, the time held a tragic meaning beneath the exterior of our simple
cheer. But the time held many meanings, as a time will hold them; and
the Voice of its new meaning said to me, as we all waited on the
Proudfit veranda with its vines and its climbing rose and its
I marvel, I marvel at your bad taste. How can you leave the
dear place and the dear people for me?
I love to recall the bustle of that arriving and how, as the motor
came up the drive, Mis' Holcomb-that-was-Mame-Bliss and Mis' Amanda ran
down on the gravel and waved their aprons; and how Mis' Postmaster
Sykes and Mis' Mayor Uppers and Mis' Photographer Sturgis, having heard
the machine pass their doors, had issued forth and followed it and
arrived at the Proudfits' with:
I was right in the midst of a basque, cuttin' over an old lining,
but I told Liddy Ember: 'You rip on. I've got to run over.'
Excuse my looks. Well said! Back!
And, Got here, did you? My, my, all tired out, I expect. Well,
mebbe you think we won't feel relieved to see the house open again an'
folks in it flyin' round. An' you look as natural as the first
thunder-storm in the spring o' the year!
And, Every day for two weeks, Mis' Sturgis said, I've said to
Jimmy: 'Proudfits back?' 'No, sir,' s'he, 'not back yet.' An' so it
went. Could you sleep any on the sleeper?
Then Calliope and Mis' Toplady and Mis' Holcomb and the three
newcomers hurried all but abreast to the kitchen to see what they
could find; and when Mis' Proudfit and Miss Clementina and Delia More
had taken their places at the burdened table, we all sat about the edge
of the roomno one would share in the feast, every one having to get
right backand asked of the journey, and gave news of Friendship
Village in the long absence. I love to remember it all, but I think
that I love best to remember their delicate acceptance of what that day
had brought to me. Of this no one said a word, nor did they ask me
anything, or seem to observe, far less to wonder. But when they passed
me, one and another and another squeezed my hand or patted my arm or
gave me their unwonted dear.
What gentlefolk they are, my stranger said.
Noon lunch was finished, and I had seen Calliope go with Madame
Proudfit to the library and close the door, and we were all gathered in
the hall, where Miss Clementina had opened a trunk and was showing us
some pretty things, when some one else crossed the veranda and appeared
in the doorway. And there was Abel, come with my wild roses.
I do not think, however, that it can have occurred to Abel that I
was in the room. Nor that any of the others were there, intent on the
pretty things of Miss Clementina's trunk. But, his face shining, he
went straight to Delia More; and he laid my roses in her arms, looking
at her the while with a look which was like a passionate recognition of
one not met for many years.
I have said nothing of Delia More as she seemed to me that day of
her return, for indeed I do not well know how to tell of her. But as he
looked at her, it was all in Abel's eyes. I do not know whether it was
that her spirit having been long packed down in her, as Calliope had
said, was at last loosed by the mysterious ministry of distance and the
touch of far places, or whether, over there nearer Tempe, she had held
converse with Daphne herself, who, for the sake of the Friendship bond
between them, had taken for her own all that was wild and strange in
the girl's nature. But this I know: that Delia More had come back among
us a new creature, simple, gentle, humble as before, and yet somehow
quickened, invested with the dignity of personality which, long ago,
she had lost. And now she stood looking at Abel as he was looking at
Delia! he said, and took her hand, and, I brought you some wild
roses to tell you we're glad you're back, said he, disposing of my
hedge spoils as coolly as if I were not.
That's nice of you, Abel, she replied simply, but it's nicer to
think you came.
Why, Abel said, you couldn't have kept me away. You couldn't have
kept me away, Delia.
He could not have done looking at her. And even after we had closed
in before them and had gone on with our talk about the tray of the
trunk, I think that we were all conscious, as one is conscious of a
light in the room, that to Delia and Abel had come again the immemorial
When the library door opened and Madame Proudfit and Calliope came
out, a little hush fell upon us, even though none but I knew what that
interval held for Linda's mother. Her face was tranquilindeed, I
think it was almost as if its ancient fear had forever left it and had
given place to the blessed relief of mere sorrow. She stood for a
momentlooking at them all, and looking, as if she were thankful for
their presence. Then she saw Abel and held out both hands.
Abel! she said, Abel! I had your letter in Lucerne. I meant to
talk it over with youbut now I know, I know. You shall have your
little chapel in the hills. We will build it togetheryou and Ifor
But then, because Abel turned joyously and naturally to Delia to
share with her the tidings, Madame Proudfit looked at Delia too, and
saw her eyes. And,
You and Delia and I, she added gently.
On which, with the kindliest intent, the happiness of us all
overflowed in speech about the common-place, the trivial, the
irrelevant, and we all fell talking at once there in the hall, and told
one another things which we knew perfectly already, and we listened,
nodding, and laughed a great deal at nothing in the worldsave that
life is good.
* * * * *
We three walked home together in the afternoon sunshinethe man
who, through all this time in Friendship, had been dear, and Calliope
and I. I thought that Daphne Street had never looked so beautiful. The
tulip beds on the lawns had been re-filled for summer, a touch of
bonfire smoke hung in the air, Eppleby Holcomb was mending his picket
gate, and over many magic thresholds of the cool walks were lintels of
the boughs. Down town Abigail Arnold was laying cream puffs in the home
bakery window; at the Helmans' Mis' Doctor Helman, wound in a shawl and
a fascinator, was training her matrimony vine; the Liberty sisters had
let out their chickens and, posted in a great triangle, were keeping
them well within Liberty lawn confines; Doctor June was working in his
garden and he waved his hat at us like a boy. (It's a year ago now
they give him his benefit, Calliope remembered; ice-cream an'
strawberries an' cake. An' every soul that come in he treated, one
after another. An' when they got hold of him an' told him what that was
doin' to the benefit box, he wanted to know whose benefit it was,
anyway. An' he kep' on treatin' folks up to the last spoonful o' cream.
He said he never had such a good time since he was born. I donno but he
showed us how to give a benefit, too.)
We were crossing the lawn to Oldmoxon House when I said to Calliope
what it had been decided that day that I should say:
Calliope, I asked, could you be ready in a month or two to leave
Friendship for good, and come to us in town, and live with us for
She looked up at one and the other of us, with her little
You're makin' fun o' me, she said.
But when we had explained that we were wholly serious, she stopped
and leaned against one of the great trees before the house; and it was
at Oldmoxon House rather than at us that she looked as she answered:
I couldn't, she said quickly, and with a manner of breathlessness,
I couldn't. You know how I've wanted to leave Friendship, too, you
know that. An' I want to yet, as far as wantin' goes. But wantin' to
mustn't be enough to make you do things.
She stood, her head held up as if she were singing, as Liddy Ember
had said of her, her arms tightly folded, her cheeks flushing with her
fear that we would not understand.
Oh, she said, you knowyou know how I've always wanted
nice things. Wanted 'em so it hurt. Not just from likin' 'em, either,
but because some way I thought I could be more, do more,
live up to my biggest best if I could only get where things was kind of
educated an'gentle. But every time I tried to go, somethin' come
uplike it will, to shove you hard down into the place you was. Then I
thoughtyou know 'bout that, I guessI thought I was goin' to live
here in Oldmoxon House, an' hev a life like other women hev. An' when
that wasn't to be, I thought mebbe it was because God see I wasn't fit
for it, an' I set to work on myself to make me as good as I knewan' I
worked an' worked, like life was nothin' but me, an' I was nothin' but
a cake, to get a good bake on an' die without bein' too much dough to
me. An' then all to once I see that couldn't be the only thing He
meant. It didn't seem like He could 'a' made me sole in order to save
me from hell. An' I begun to see He must 'a' made me to help in some
great, big hid plan or other of His. An' quick as I knew that an' begun
wantin' to help, He begun showin' me when to. That's how I mean what I
said about the Bell. Times like Elspie, or 'Leven, or like that, I can
hear it just as plain as plainthe Bell, callin' me to help Him.
She looked hard at us, and, I donno if you know what I'm talkin'
about she doubted; but, at our answer,
Well, she added, they's somethin' else. It's somethin' almost
like what you've gotyou twoan' like what Delia an' Abel have got.
Lately, I don't need to hear the Bell any more. I know 'bout it
without. It's almost like I am the Bell. Don't you see, it's
come to be my power, just like love will be your power, if you rilly
understand. An' herehere I know how. I've grown to Friendship, an'
here I know what's what. An' if I went away now, where things is gentle
an' like in books, I wouldn't know how to be any rill use. I can be
the Bell herehere I can have my power. In town I expect I couldn't be
anything but just cake againbakin' myself rill good, or even gettin'
frosted; but mebbe not helpin'. An' I couldn't risk thatI couldn't
risk it. It looks to me like helpin' is what I'm for.
I think, as she said, Calliope was become the Bell; and at that
moment she rang to us the call of sovereign clearness. This was the
life that she and Abel followed, and followed before all else, and
there lay the hiding of their power. Just like love will be your
power, she had said.
When she had gone before us into the housethat was to have been
her housewe two stood looking along the sunny Plank Road toward
Daphne Street. And in the light lifting of the bonfire smoke it seemed
to me that there moved a spiritnot Daphne, but another; one who walks
less in beauty than in service; not our lady of the laurels, but our
lady of the thorns.