by Miriam Michelson
A Few of Irene's Fathers"]
THE MADIGANS BY MIRIAM MICHELSON
AUTHOR OF IN THE BISHOP'S CARRIAGE
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY ORSON LOWELL
NEW YORK THE CENTURY CO. 1904
Copyright, 1904, by The Century Co.
Published October, 1904
The DeVinne Press
A PAGAN AND A
A MERRY, MERRY
THE ANCESTRY OF
THE LAST STRAW
KATE: A PRETENSE
CECILIA THE PHARISEE
I, Cecilia Morgan Madigan, being of sound mind and in
purfect bodily health, and residing in Virginia City,
Nevada, do hereby on this first day of April solemnly
1. That I will be Number 1 this next month at school.
2. That I will be pachient with Papa, and try to stand
3. That I will set Bepyes, and Fom too, even if she is
Irene's partnera good example.
4. That I will not once this next month pinch Aunt
Anne's sensative plantno matter what she does to me.
5. That I will dust the back legs of the piano even when
Mrs. Pemberton isn't expected.
6. That I will help Kate controll her temper, and not
mock and aggravate her when she sulks.
7. That I will be a little mother to Frank and teach her
to grow up and be a creddit to the famly.
8. That I will not steal candy out of Kate's
pocketwithout first begging her very hard to give me
9. That I will practice The Gazelle fathfully every
solatary day. And give up reading on the sly while I
play 5-finger exercises.
10. That I will try to bear with Irene. That I will do
all I can not to fight with herbut she is a selfish
devvil who is always in the wrong.
And all this I solemnly promise myself without being
coersed in any way, of my own free will, without let or
hidrance, because I want to be good.
Cecilia Morgan Madigan (called Sissy
Aged 11 last birthday.
P.S. And I feel sure I can do it all, God helping me,
except Number 10which is the hardest.
* * * * *
Sissy, who had been sitting writing only half dressed, folded the
paper reverently, put it to her lips for lack of a seal, and then
buttoned it firmly inside her corset waist.
She felt so virtuous already that the carrying out of her intentions
seemed really supererogatory. When she went to Irene to have her button
her dress in the back, she had such a sensation of holiness, such a
consciousness of a forbearing, pure, and gentle spirit, that her
sister's malicious pretense of ignoring her presence appeared to her
nothing less than sacrilege.
Ain't you going to button me, Split? she demanded, indignant that
her enemy, whom she was going to treat with Christ-like charity, should
successfully try her temper before the ink was dry on her own promise
to keep the peace.
Ask me pretty, grinned Split, whose nickname honored a gymnastic
feat which no other Madigan, however athletic, could accomplish half so
successfully as the second. Say 'please.'
I won't do anything of the sort. You know you've got to do it, and
you've no right to expect me to say 'please' every time. You don't do
it yourself, you hateful thing!
Why don't you cry?
Because I won't for youbecause you can't make mebecause
Because you are crying in spite of yourself! Because anybody can
make you cry, cry-baby!
Sissy's hands flew up to her breast. It was a recognized gesture
with her, a physical holding of herself together in the last minute
that preceded her temperamental flying to pieces.
Split retreated cautiously, clearing the deck herself for action.
But no first gun was fired in that engagement. A crackling of the
document hidden over the spot where she thought her heart was came like
a warning note to Sissy. She struggled against it a moment; then her
hands fell. Meekly she turned her back upon her tormentor, and in a
voice of such exquisite holiness as to be almost unearthly, she said:
Split dear, will you please button me?
A look of outraged astonishment at the unheard-of endearment came
over Irene's face. The Madigans regarded demonstrative affection as
pure affectation at its best; at its worst it was little short of
'Split dear?' mocked Irene as soon as she recovered. Yes, dear.
Turn around, dear. Stand straight, dear. Wait a minute, dear
Sissy stood in silence, biting her tongue that she might not speak.
She was so occupied with the desire to keep Number 10 of her compact
with herself that she did not notice how long it was before Irene
really began to button her waist. She did note, though, that she began
at the bottom, a proceeding Split fancied merely because it drove her
junior nearly frantic. She buttoned with maddening slowness up to the
middle, when she capriciously left this point and recommenced at the
'That settles Number 10,' said Sissy, grimly"]
Mentally Sissy followed the operation. It was almost complete when
through the little gap purposely left open Split deftly introduced a
providentially flattened piece of ice from the window-sill, giving her
victim a little shake that sent the ice slipping smoothly down her
squirming body, but escaping before Sissy could turn and rend her.
That settles Number 10, said Sissy, grimly, to herself, while she
danced with discomfort. I'll kill her if I get a chancethat's what
I'll do. I'll get even, or my name's not Sis Madigan.
She hurried back into her room, which the twins shared, and stood in
damp martyrdom while Bessie's butter-fingers crept with miserable
slowness up and down. She suffered so from Bessie's ineptness that,
despite the requirements of Number 3 of her code, she tore herself
violently from her and turned her back imploringly to Florence. But Fom
was a partizan of Split's, and it was against all the ethics of Madigan
warfare to aid and comfort the enemy. When Sissy, chastened, returned
to Bep's ministrations, the blonde one of the twins was so hurt and
offended by the implication of awkwardnessa point upon which she was
as vulnerable as she was sensitivethat Sissy slapped them both before
she went at last for relief to Aunt Anne.
This was fatal, as she knew it would be.
I shall tell your father about Irene, her aunt said, looking up
from the coffee she was sipping as she lay in bed reading a French
book. But it's just as well, for I told you yesterday that that dress
was too dirty to wear another day. Change it now
Oh, Aunt Anne, it's late already
You'll change that dress, Sissy, or you won't go to school.
I won't! It's too late. I'll be late. That means one credit off,
and this month I'm going A remembrance of her lofty intentions came
suddenly to Sissy. All the world seemed bent on compelling her to
Cecilia! commanded Miss Madigan.
You've disturbed my reading enough this morning. If you say another
Oh, Aunt Anne
Go over to the wall, Cecilia, and stand with your back to me for
With a fiendish light in her eyea light of such desperate
satisfaction as betokened one gladly driven to commit the unforgivable
Sissy moved toward the sensitive-plant in the window.
Not there! That poor plant seems to suffer sympathetically with
your badness. Stand over by the bureau.
Sissy obeyed. Her rage at being made ridiculous, her sense of
outrage that a perfectionist like herself should suffer punishment,
added to her knowledge of the flight of time on school mornings,
strangled her into dumbness. But she clasped the paper in her breast as
a drowning man might a spar from the wreck. At least Number 4 was
intact. She had been mercifully spared the fracture of this one of her
She was standing with her nose pressed firmly against the green
wall-paper, her back laid open as by a surgical operation, and a towel,
which her aunt had forced into the aperture for drying purposes,
dangling down behind, when Kate, passing the door on her way to
breakfast, glanced in.
Her sputtering, quickly stifled screech of laughter sent Sissy
spinning about as a bull does when the banderilla is planted in his
quivering flesh. She looked at the doorway; it was empty, but she heard
scurrying footsteps without. Kate was on her way to tell the others.
She looked at Aunt Anne. That severe lady had dropped her book and,
seized by the contagion, was shaking with silent laughter.
Not a word did Sissy say. Her expression of disgust,disgust that a
grown-up should be so silly as to see something funny in absolutely
nothing; disgust that her aunt should so weaken the effect of her own
discipline,reinforced by the green smudge on her nose, rubbed off the
wall-paper, finished Miss Madigan. The lady no longer attempted to
conceal the disgraceful fact that she was laughing. She gave an audible
gurgle, and began to wipe the tears of enjoyment from her eyes.
In that moment the iron entered into Sissy Madigan's soul. She
turned again to the wall, and taking a pin which had fastened the bow
of ribbon at her throat, she pricked slowly but relentlessly in the
loose wall-paper this legend:
After which she felt relieved, and, the five minutes being up, left
the room with such uncompromising hauteur, still splashed with green on
the nose, still split open down the back, with the towel's fringe
dangling in dignity behind, that her aunt again exploded.
Left the room with such uncompromising hauteur ... that
her aunt again exploded"]
The fact that she had irretrievably lost one credit through
tardiness set Sissy's lips in a tight line of determination to guard
jealously every one of the ninety-and-nine left to her.
At recess she remained at her desk studying her geography with an
intensity of purpose that made her rivals' hearts quake. She sat at the
teacher's desklifted to this almost regal eminence by his fondness
for her petulant ways as well as because of that quality of leadership
which made Sissy her fellows' spokeswoman. Hers was the privilege of
using the master's pencils, sharpened to a fineness that made neatness
a dissipation instead of a task. It was she, of course, who originated
the decorative style of arithmetic-paper much in vogue, on which each
example was penned off in an inclosure fenced by alternating vertical
and horizontal double hyphens.
But a queer, conscientious sense of the responsibilities of power
and place modified Sissy's rapturous delight in her position, so that
she kept it despite a fiercely jealous class-spirit developed by a
strict credit-system, by the emulative temper which the rarefied
atmosphere of the little mining town fostered, and by a young master
just out of college who looked upon his teaching as a temporary
adventure, much as a Japanese gentleman regards domestic service.
It was in her capacity of class representative that the master had
consulted Sissy upon the limits to be observed in the forthcoming
public oral examination in geography. And she had enlightened him as to
what would be considered quite fair. This treaty, into which she
entered with the seriousness of an ambassador to an unfriendly power
arranging a settlement of a disputed question, had a character so
sacred in her eyes that its violation by the master in the course of
the afternoon came upon her like a blow.
Cecilia Madigan, asked the master, what is the highest mountain
in the world?
Sissy rose. The imposing array of visitors in school faded out of
her horizon. All she could see was the eyes of her schoolmates turned
in accusatory horror upon her. They suspected her of betraying them; of
using her elevated position to hand down untrustworthy information.
Please, Mr. Garvan, she said in tones more of sorrow than of
anger, skilfully showing her knowledge of the answer while denying his
right to it, that question isn't on the map of Africa.
'Please, Mr. Garvan,' she said"]
A flush of annoyance mounted to the young master's forehead. Out of
the corner of her eye Sissy saw the preliminary twitch of the corners
of his lips that served the class for a danger-signal.
What is the highest mountain, Cecilia? he repeated sternly.
Sissy stood a moment looking at him. All that she might not sayher
contempt for pledge-breakers, her shocked hero-worship now forever a
thing of the past, her outraged school-girl's affectionshe shot
straight at the master from her angry eyes.
Then she sat down.
I don't know, she said.
He looked up from his book, incredulous. Ten credits out of one
hundred gone at one fell swoopten of Sissy Madigan's credits, for
which she fought so gallantly and which she cherished so jealously when
she once had them in her possession.
Idon'tknow, repeated Sissy, disdainfully.
The master passed the question. But as he put it to the next girl,
Sissy put another question, with her eyes, to the same girl.
Are you a scab? her steady gaze challenged. Are you going to
benefit by what a mate suffers for principle's sake? Are you a coward
who doesn't dare to stand up for your class? Anddo you know what
you'll get from me if you are?
Idon'tknow, faltered the girl.
A glory of triumph shot over Sissy's face. It leaped like a sunrise
from peak to peak in a mountain-range of obstinacy. I don't knowI
don't knowI don't knowthe shibboleth of the strikers' cause went
down the line. The master was shamed in public by the banner pupils of
his school. He writhed, but he put the question steadily to every girl
till he came to Irene, last in the line.
What is the highest mountain in the world? he asked, perfunctorily
But, to his amazement, she rose, and, looking out of the window up
to the mountain to the skirts of which the town clung, she answered:
Sissy's savage joy followed so quickly upon her horror at her own
sister's defection that the closing of school left her in a trembling
storm of emotions. In the dressing-room, where the girls were putting
on their hats, she marched up to Irene, followed by her wrathful
adherents and feeling like an avenging Brutus.
You're a sneak, Split Madigan! You're a coward, andand a stupid
coward. You don't know enough to betray your class and get the benefit
of it, but you'd rather be mean than get credits, anyway. Nobody can
count on you. Changeable Silk, that's what you arechanging color all
the time, never standing firm! I hate you! Changeable Silk! Changeable
Changeable Silk! Changeable Silk! chanted her following.
The little dressing-room rang with the cry of the mob, so filled
with significance by the tone in which it was uttered that Irene paled
But only for a moment. The Madigans never lacked courage long. That
fierce internecine strife waged by the clan in the old house high on
the side of the hill made a Madigan quick and resolute.
Stupid yourself, Sissy! My answer made him madder than your not
Sissy looked at her searchingly. Butdid you she wavered.
Of course I did! Who's the stupid now? Do you s'pose I didn't know
What?what? Sissy repeated as her sister hesitated.
Irene turned up her nose insultingly. I don'tknow, she mocked,
and beat a successful retreat.
* * * * *
Francis Madigan dined in a long room, the only man at a table with
seven women ranging in years from four to forty-four. The accumulation
of girls in his family was so wanton an outrage upon his desires that
he rather rejoiced in the completeness of the infliction as an
He needed a grievance as a shield against which others' grievances
might be shattered. And in default of a more tangible one, he cited his
heavily be-daughtered house. It was at dinner-time that he always
seemed to realize the extent of his disaster. As he took his place at
the head, his wrathful eye swept from Frances in her high chair, up
along the line, past the twins, through Cecilia, Irene, and Kate, till
it lighted upon Miss Madigan's good-humored, placid face. His sister's
placidity was an ever-present offense to the father of the
Madigans,the most irascible of unsuccessful men,and the snort with
which he finished the inspection and took up the carving-knife had
become a classic in Madigan annals long before Sissy brought down the
house at the age of eight by imitating it one evening in his absence.
Some of the Madigans"]
But to-night a most painful and ostentatious respect marked Sissy's
manner to her parent. She stood markedly,while the others scrambled
into their chairs and Wong, the Chinese servant, sped about placing
everything on the table at once,waiting for her father to be seated.
She was still waiting politely when his eye lighted upon her. Sit
down, Cecilia! he roared; what d' ye want, gaping there?
Sissy sat down. So holy was she that she did not resent (openly) the
low, delighted giggle Irene gave. She began to be politely attentive to
Dusie, her father's pet canary, though she loathed the spoiled little
thing that hopped about the table helping itself.
Madigan had a way of telling himself, in his rare moments of
introspection, that the tenderness he might have lavished upon a son he
spent upon the male offspring of more fortunate genera than man. The
big Newfoundland and the great cat came to meals regularly. They shared
Madigan's affection with the birds (whose cage, big as a dog's house,
he had himself nailed up against the side of the wall), that broke into
a maddening din of song, excited by the rival clatter of young Madigans
Protected by this shrill symphony from the sound of his daughters'
voices, Madigan fed his dog, his cat, and his favorite canary, and with
his head upon one hand, in token of his abiding disgust with the human,
daughterful world, ate quickly with the other.
This pose was the signal that freed the feminine Madigan tongue.
Usually they all broke into conversation at once; but on this evening
there seemed to be some agreement which held them mute till Irene
I am glad to see you be so patient with papa, Sissy, she said
His third daughter glanced apprehensively at Madigan. But her father
had retired within his shell, and nothing but a cataclysm could reach
Why she said, puzzled, whyI
Promise me that you'll try to stand him, urged Split, joyously.
And that you'll help me control my temper, and not mock and
aggravate me when I sulk, chanted Kate.
Sissy dropped her knife and fork, and her hands flew to her bosom,
not in wrath, but in terror. The crackling testament was gone!
Try to bear with me, won't you, Sis, even if I am a devil? grinned
And set us a good example, Sissy, piped the twins.
Be a yittle muvver to Fwank, lisped the baby, prompted by a big
And don't steal candy out of my pocket, will you, Cecilia Morgan?
begged her oldest sister.
Sissy sprang into the air, as though lifted bodily by the taunts of
these ungrateful beneficiaries of her good intentions.
Sit down, you ox! came in thundering tones from the head of the
When one was called an ox among the Madigans the culprit invariably
subsided, however the epithet might tend to make her sisters rejoice.
But Sissy had borne too much in that one dayalways keeping in mind
the perfect sanctity with which she had begun it.
With an inarticulate explanation that was at once a sob, a
complaint, and a trembling defiance, she pushed back her chair and fled
to her room. Here she sobbed in peace and plenty; sobbed till tears
became a luxury to be produced by a conscious effort of the will. It
had always been a grief to Sissy that she could never cry enough.
Split, now, could weep vocally and by the hour, but all too soon for
Sissy the wells of her own sorrow ran dry.
Yet tears had ever a chastening effect upon the third of the
Madigans. In due time she rose, washed her face, and combed back her
hair and braided it in a tight plait that stuck out at an aggressive
angle on the side; unaided she could never get it to depend properly
from the middle. This heightened the feeling of utter peacefulness, of
remorse washed clean, besides putting her upon such a spiritual
elevation as enabled her to meet her world with composure, though
bitter experience told her how long a joke lasted among the Madigans.
She fell upon her knees at last beside her bed. No Madigan of this
generation had been taught to pray, an aggressive skepticismthe
tangent of excessive youthful religiosityhaving made the girls'
father an outspoken foe to religious exercise. But to Sissy's
emotional, self-conscious soul the necessity for worded prayer came
quick now and imperative.
O Lord, she pleaded aloud, help me to keep 'em alleven Number
10in spite of Split and the devil. Help
She heard the door open behind her.
The Rest of the Madigans"]
With a bound she was in bed, fully dressed as she was; and pulling
the covers tight up to her neck, she waited, to all intents and
purposes fast asleep.
You little fool! said Madigan, with a hint of laughter in his
heavy voice and laying a not ungentle hand on her blazing cheeks. D'
ye think I care if you want to kneel and kotow like other idiots? If
you're that kindand I suppose you are, being a womanpray and
It was the nearest thing to a paternal benediction that had ever
come to Sissy, but she was too wary a small actress to be moved by it
out of her rôle. Nor did her father wait to note the effect of his
words. His heavy step passed on and out of her room into his own, and
the door slammed between them.
In a moment Sissy was up; in another moment she had torn off her
clothes, blown out her candle, and jumped back into bed. She was almost
asleep when the twins came in, but she feigned the deepest of slumbers
when Bessie pushed a crackling piece of paper under her pillow, though
her fingers closed greedily about it as soon as the room was quiet
She knew what it washer precious compact with herself, that loyal
little Bep had recaptured from the enemy. She lay there, lulled by its
presence; and slowly, slowly she was dropping off into real slumber
when a sharply agonizing thought, an inescapable mental pin-prick,
roused her. It was Number 9. She had not touched the piano during the
whole of that strenuous day.
She withdrew her fingers reproachfully from the insistent reminder
of virtuous intention, and resolutely she turned her back on it and
tried to pretend herself to sleep. But every broken section of her
treaty had a voice, and above them all clamored the call of Number 9
that it was not yet too late.
When Sissy rose wearily at last and draped the Mexican quilt about
her, the house was quiet. All youthful Madigans were abed, and the
older ones were in secure seclusion.
It was a small Saint Cecilia, with a short, stiff braid standing out
from one side of her head, and utterly without musical enthusiasm, that
sat down in the darkness at the old square piano. La Gazelle was out
of the question, for she had no lamp and she did not yet know the
trills and runs of her new piece by heart. But the five-finger
exercises and the scales that it had been her custom to run over
slightingly while she read from a paper novel by the Duchess open in
front of her musicthis much of an atonement was still within her
With her bare foot on the soft pedal, that none might hear her,
Sissy played. It was dark and very quiet; the hush-hush of the
throbbing mines filled the night and stilled it. At times her heart
stood still for fear that she might be discovered; at other times the
longing for a sensational uncovering of her belated and extraordinary
goodness seized her, and her naked foot slipped from the cold pedal
only to be hurriedly replaced before the jangle of the keys could
How long she practised, and whether she redeemed herself and Number
9, Sissy never knew, for she fell asleep at last over the keys and was
waked by a hoarse scream and a wild cry of De debbil! De debbil!
It was Wong, the Chinaman, who had but one name for all things
supernatural. Coming home from Chinatown, he was passing the glass door
near which the piano stood when he saw the slender figure in its
trailing white drapery bowed over the keys.
Sissy looked up, sleep still bewildering her, and yet awake enough
to be fearful of consequences. She tore open the door and sped after
the Chinaman to enlighten him, but her pursuit only confirmed Wong's
conception of that mission of malice which is devil's work on earth. A
terrified howl burst from him. There was only one being on earth of
whom he stood in greater awe than the thing he fancied he was fleeing
from; that one, logically, must be greater than It. Taking his very
life in his hand, he doubled, darted past the shivering Thing, flew on
through the open door, and made straight for the master's room.
For Sissy there was nothing to do but to follow.
I wanted to be good, she wailed, unnerved, when Aunt Anne had her
by the shoulder and was catechizing her in the presence of a
nightgowned multitude of excited Madigans.
But succor came from an unexpected quarter. Let the child alone,
Anne, growled Madigan, adjusting the segment of the leg of woolen
underwear which he wore for a nightcap; and seizing Sissy in his arms,
he bore her off to bed.
Papa's pet! Papa's baby! mouthed Irene, under her breath, as she
danced tauntingly along behind his back.
Seizing Sissy in his arms, he bore her off to bed"]
And Sissy, outraged in all the dignity of her eleven years at being
carried like a child, but unspeakably happy in her father's favor,
looked over his shoulder with a sheepish, smiling, sleepy face,
murmuring, Sour grapes, Split, sour grapes!
Afterward, encouraged by the darkness and the strangeness of being
laid in bed from her father's arms, Sissy held him a moment by her
When men make promises on paper that they can't keep, father, she
whispered, what do they do?
Oh, go to sleep, child! They become bankrupt, I suppose.
Andand what becomes of the paper?
What do you know or care about such things? Will you go to sleep
If you had any bankrupt's paper, she pleaded, catching hold of his
hand as he turned to leave her, what would you do with itplease,
Why, tear it up, you goose.
With a jump, Sissy was bolt upright in bed and holding up a
fluttering, much-folded sheet, an almost incredulous joy in her eager
Take mine and pretend I was bankruptpleaseoh, please!
To Madigan all children, his own particularly, were such
unaccountable beings that a vagary more or less could not more
hopelessly perplex his misunderstanding of them. With a Tut! tut! of
impatience, he took the paper from her and tore it twice across.
A long sigh of relief came from Sissy as the bits fluttered to the
floor. You're such a nice father! she murmured happily, and fell
asleep, a blissful bankrupt instead of a Pharisee.
A PAGAN AND A PURITAN
The morning was warm and young; Mount Davidson's side was golden
with sunflowers. On the long front piazza Mr. Madigan's canaries, in
their mammoth cage, were like to burst their throats for joy in the
promise of summer. Irene, every lithe muscle a-play, was hanging by her
knees on the swinging-bar, her tawny hair sweeping the woodshed floor
as she swung.
Split, I say!
The tone was commandingsuch a tone as Sissy dared assume only on
Saturday mornings, when her elder sister's necessities delivered Irene
the Oppressor into her hands.
In the very exhilaration of effortthe use of her muscles was joy
to herSplit paused to wish that the house might fall on Sissy; that
she might suddenly become dumb; that the key to the piano might be
lostanything that would avert her own impending doom.
But none of these things happened; they never did happen, no matter
how passionately the second of the Madigans longed for them on the last
day of the week.
Splityou know very well you hear me, the voice cried, coming
Split burst into song. She was a merry, merry Zingara, she declared
in sweet, strong cadence, with a boisterous chorus of tra-la-las that
rivaled the canaries'; and the louder she sang, the faster she swung,
so that she was really half deaf and wholly giddy when she felt Sissy's
hand on her ankle.
Oh, is that you, Sissy? she asked, sweetly surprised, peering out
from under her bushy mane.
Yes, it's me, Sissy! Cecilia's small, round face was stern. And
you've heard me from the very first, and if you want any
Shall I show you how to skin the cat, Sis? Irene interrupted
hastily, pulling herself up with a jerk.
But Sissy was fat and had none of her sister's wiry agility. She
declined; her mind was attuned to other issues just then, and her soul
was a-quiver with malicious, anticipatory glee; for this was the day of
Split's music lesson, and her teacher was none other than Sissy
So, if you want it, the younger sister's voice rose threateningly,
you've got to come now.
Let's leave it till the afternoon. Split's voice came from
somewhere in the midst of her evolutions.
Will you come? demanded Sissy peremptorily. Once!
How could Split answer? Her mouth was tight shut; she was pulling
herself up inch by inch, slowly, slowly, till her chin should rest upon
Will you come? Twice!
Split's face was purple, and there was an agonized prayer for delay
in her eyes.
Will you come? Thirdand la-ast Sissy prolonged the note
quaveringly. It was not her intention to provoke her victim beyond
endurance. These lessons, which gave her the whip-hand over the doughty
and invincible Split, were far too precious to her.
And la-ast, she repeated inexorably.
With a thud Irene dropped to the floor. Leaving all her
light-heartedness behind in the dusk of the shed, where the trapeze
still swung, she followed, a sullen captive; while Cecilia, gloating
like the despot she was, led the way.
We'll begin with the piece, said Split, eagerly, seating herself
before the piano.
No; scales and exercises first, declared Sissy, firmly. Sit
farther back, Split, and keep your wrist up.
Split moved the stool a millionth of an inch. Why, oh, why had she
quarreled with Professor Trask? If some one had only told her that her
own rebellion would mean the substitution of Cecilia for herself as his
pupil, and another opportunity for that apt young perfectionist to
outrank her senior!
With a rattling verve, and a dime on each wrist, which Professor
Cecilia had placed there to effect a divorce between finger and arm
movement, Irene attacked her scales and exercises. She loathed
five-finger exercises. So did the talented but lazy Sissy, who knew
well from experience what torture would most try her victim's soul.
Split merely wanted to play well, to outplay Cecilia, to be independent
of her and play her own accompaniments.
Lift your fingers, Split. You must raise your wrist, came in an
easy tone of command. Repeat that, please. Again. There goes the dime
again! If you'd keep your wrist steady, it wouldn't fall off. No;
you're playing altogether too fast. Slowly! slow-ly! Bad fingering! bad
fingering! Wretched! Wait, I'll mark it for you.
With her nicely pointed long pencil, Sissy, a martinet for technic,
assumed all the airs of her own professor and prepared to explain the
No, you don't! Irene's hand shot out from the keys to the
sheet-music, scattering the dimes; her wide-spread fingers covered the
spot Sissy contemplated adorning with prettily made figures.
Don't what? asked Sissy.
Oh, Miss Innocence! Don't be so affected, that's what! Don't put on
so many airs! Don't pretend you know it all, Sis Madigan!
Why, Split! Do you s'pose I want to put the fingering down?
You do; but you sha'n't! exclaimed Split, savagely.
All I want to do is to help you, said Sissy, with well-bred
Well, don't show off, then.
Split withdrew her hand, and the lesson proceeded.
I'll play your piece for you first, Split, to show you how it ought
to go. Sissy rose, her calico rustling, to change the professorial
chair for the stool of the demonstrator.
But Split sat like a rock.
Professor Trask always does, Split.
There was an abused note in Sissy's voice that deceived her sister.
In the perennial game of bluff these two played, each was alert to
detect a weakness in the other; and Irene thought she had found one
now. Ignoring her professor, she placed In Sweet Dreams on the rack
before her, and gaily and loudly, and very badly, began to play.
Sissy rose majestically. Her correct ear was outraged, her small
mouth was shut tight. Without a word she resigned her post and made for
the door. She had quite reached it before Split capitulated.
Play it, then, you mean thing, she cried, flouncing off the stool,
if it's going to do you any good!
Sissy hardened. She had a way of becoming adamant on rare occasions
that really struck terror to Split's facile soul, which resented a
grudge promptly and as promptly forgot all about it.
I don't care to play it, said Sissy, loftily.
WellI want you tonow.
'Play it, then, you mean thing,' she cried, ... 'if
it's going to do you any good!']
But I don't want to.
Ain't you going to give me my lesson, then? demanded Split,
hoarsely. I thought you were so anxious to help me!
Sissy was mute. Hers was a strong position, she felt.
D' ye expect me to get down on my knees? Irene's wrathful voice
rose, and her unstable temper rocked threateningly. A Madigan would
willingly have been flayed alive rather than apologize in so many
I don't expect anything at all, remarked Sissy, coldly.
Well, you'd better expect, forwith a swift motion that cut off
her sister's retreat and put her own back to the dooryou'll play
that piece before you go out of this room.
Without a word Sissy plumped down on the floor. Unconcernedly she
pulled her jackstones out of her pocket, and soon their regular
click-clock and the deft thump of her small, fat fist was all that was
heard in the room.
It always seemed to Split that the last occasion of a disagreement
between herself and the sister nearest to her in years, and furthest
from her in temperament, was the most intolerable. Never in her life,
she thought, had she so longed to murder Sissy as at this minute.
SheSplithad no time to waste besieging the impregnable fortress of
Sissy's mulishness, when the hardening process had really set in. There
never was time enough on Saturdays to do half what one planned, and
to-day was the day of Crosby Pemberton's party, besides.
And still Split remained at the door, and still Sissy played
jackstones. Twice there were skirmishes between besieger and
besiegedonce when Split crept upon Sissy and, with a quick thrust of
her slim, straight leg, disarranged an elaborate scheme for putting
horses in the stable, and once when there was a strategic sortie from
Sissy, which failed to catch the enemy napping.
It was Split who finally yielded, as, with rage in her heart, she
had known from the very beginning would be the case. But no Madigan
ever laid down her arms and surrendered formally.
Split threw open the door with a bang. Go out, then, miss! go out!
Calmly and skilfully Sissy finished the devil on a stump, the last
of those ornamental additions the complexities of which appeal to
experts in the game; then she gathered up her beloved jackstones and
got to her feet. But dignity forbade that she should leave the room
just when her foe had ordered her to go. So she ignored the invitation,
and going to the piano, sat down in an ostentatiously correct position,
requiring many adjustments and readjustments, and began to play The
She played prettily, did this young person, who seemed to Split
specially designed to infuriate her. And to-day she played with
expression, soft-pedaling and lingering upon certain passages in a way
which the Madigans considered shameless.
Oh, the affected thing! Just listen to her! How she does put on!
sneered Split to the world at large.
Sissy's lips opened, then closed tightly. She had almost answered,
for no Madigan may be accused of sentimentality and live unavenged.
Only a moment, though, was she at a loss. Then calmly, prettily, she
glided into Split's own particular piece. She knew this would draw
blood. And it did.
You sha'n't play it now! You sha'n't! Split cried, her
ungovernable temper aroused. She dashed impetuously for the piano and
tore the sheet of music from the rack.
It was the thing for which she had suffered so many lessons; for
which she had sat feeling like a mean-spirited imbecile with Sissy's
impertinent finger under her wrist, while all outdoors was calling to
her; for which she had forborne often and often during the week, only
to be more thoroughly bullied on Saturdays. Yet she tore it across and
recklessly trampled it underfoot. Then with her hands over her ears,
lest she hear the imperturbable and maddeningly excellent Sissy play
In Sweet Dreams without the notes, Split fled.
Sissy played on till the very last bar; she had an idea that Split
might be ambushed out in the hall. But when she got to the end and
heard no sound from there, she decided that the enemy was indeed
vanquished, and she rose to close the piano. As she did so she got a
view of an elegantly stout and very upright lady coming up the front
steps, with a fair, pale boy by her side.
'Go and shake hands properly, like a little gentleman,'
bullied Mrs. Pemberton"]
With an agility commendable in one so round, Sissy dropped beneath
the piano, and, whipping off her apron, proceeded to wipe the dust from
the back legs of the instrument with it. This done, she rammed the
apron up between the wall and the piano, and was seated, breathless,
but with a bit of very dirty white embroidery in her hands, when the
Ah, Cecilia, busy as usual, she said in an important, throaty
Yes, Mrs. Pemberton, said Sissy, softly.
You see, Crosby, that even a child may make use of spare moments.
Why don't you say how-d'-ye-do to Cecilia? Where're your manners?
demanded the lady.
Yes, 'm. How-do, Sissy? asked the boy, uncomfortably. He was a
very prim child, immaculately dressed, his smooth hair plastered neatly
down over his forehead; and he sat bolt upright on the edge of his
chair, for he knew well his mother's views about lounging.
Go and shake hands properly, like a little gentleman, bullied Mrs.
With a sickly smile Crosby walked over to Sissy and grasped her
hand. He let it go with an Ouch! that made Mrs. Pemberton turn
majestically and glare at him.
I'm so sorry I stuck you, Crosby, said Sissy, softly, smoothing
out her embroidery. I forgot there was a needle in my work.
Crosby looked at her; he knew just how sorry she was.
The thing to say, Crosby, thundered his mama, is, 'Not at all,
not at all, Cecilia!'
Not at allnot at all, Cecilia, squeaked the boy, his thin voice
like a faint echo of his mother's heavy contralto.
Sissy yearned to beat him; she always did. That she did not
invariably yield to her desire to express her resentment of so awfully
mothered a person, was due solely to a sentiment of chivalry: he was so
weak and so devoted to herself, and it took some courage to be devoted
I'm ashamed of my son! thundered Mrs. Pemberton.
Yes, Sissy knew that formula. She had heard the announcement first
one memorable day at school when she led a revolt against the mastera
revolt which only the girls of her clique were expected to indorse. But
Crosby, either because he was so accustomed to playing with girls that
he considered himself one of them, or because of that dogged devotion
which even so stern a puritan as Sissy could not sufficiently
discourage, had taken the cue from her lips. He, too, had failed
publicly and vicariously, in the very presence of his lion-hearted,
bull-voiced mother, and sat a white-faced criminal awaiting execution,
when Mrs. Pemberton, rising in her voluminous black silk skirts, like
an outraged and peppery hen, stood a moment speechless with wrath, and
then broke forth with her denunciation before the whole school,
visitors and all. Mr. Garvan, she had exclaimed in a deep voice all
a-tremble, I am ashamed of my son! and sailed majestically from the
room. Crosby's action had really touched Sissy at the time, though,
like the diplomat she was, she had promptly disowned it.
But to-day Mrs. Pemberton's shame did not too much affect her
offspring, who sat, not quite so upright now, squeezing the blood from
the finger that Sissy's needle had pricked.
Let me look at your embroidery, Cecilia, said the lady,
Sissy rose and brought it to her. Before Crosby she tried not to
show it, but this little Madigan was really suffering in her perfect
soul: she embroidered so badly, and knew it so well.
H'm! Mrs. Pemberton drew off her glove. Make your stitches even,
and keep your work cleanlike thislike thissee?
Sissy saw. Under the firm, big, white hand the strawberry leaves and
blossoms sprang up and flourished. Mrs. Pemberton loved to embroider;
her voice was almost gentle when she painted on linen with her needle,
and then only did she forget to bully her boy.
Perhaps you will play for us, Cecilia, if I do a bit of your work
Sissy knew it was coming. Mrs. Pemberton always asked her to play,
and playing for company was pure show-off from a Madigan point of view.
Split would hear and taunt her with it later, she knew. But though she
scorned the servile and downtrodden Crosby, Sissy, no more than he,
dared disobey that grenadier, his mother. She took her seat at the
piano, opened a Beethoven that Mrs. Pemberton had given her the last
Christmas, under the impression that she was fostering a taste for the
classical, and, with a revengeful little hand that couldn't reach the
octaves, she began to murder the Funeral March.
Just as the performer let her hands fall upon the last somber chord
(her puritanical soul enjoying the double dissipation of pretending to
herself while she afflicted others), she lifted her eyes to the mirror
over the piano and saw Irene out in the hall. In the mirror their eyes
met, and the mockery in Irene's was unmistakable as Sissy rose,
agitated, caught in the very act of showing off, convicted of being
Very pretty; very pretty, indeed! said Mrs. Pemberton,
absent-mindedly. Now play another little waltz.
Aunt Anne says, Mrs. Pemberton, put in Irene, entering, will you
come to her room?
Mrs. Pemberton rose, her deft hands still calling forth the
perfection of fruit from the stubborn linen soil upon which Sissy could
make nothing grow, and sailed across the hall. Crosby immediately
jumped from his chair.
I say, Sissy, he cried, I know an awful swell way to cut
Sissy looked at him. For all her sins (and in a hidden corner of her
heart that she rarely looked into, she knew herself for the hypocrite
she was, despite all her self-righteous pretense) this girl-boy's
devotion was her punishment. She did not envy Split her successes; in
fact, she often disapproved the methods by which they were attained.
Her pride would permit her neither to make such conquests, nor to enjoy
them when they were made; but she cursed her fate that Crosby Pemberton
had fallen to her share. For the love of a really bad boy Sissy felt
she could have sacrificed muchfor a fellow quite out of the pale, a
bold, wicked pirate of a boy who would say Darn, and even smoke a
cigarette; a daredevil, whose people could do nothing with him; a
fellow with a swagger and a droop to his eyelid and something
deliciously sinister in his lean, firm jaw and saucy black eyea boy
like Jack Cody, for instance, for whom a whole world of short-skirted
femininity divided itself naturally into two classes: just girlsand
Split Madigan. But that a forthright, practical, severe person like
herself should be made ridiculous by Crosby's worship, and that Split,
her arch-enemy, should be there to hear her adorer make his sexless
declaration, was too much! Even a Madigan could not bear up under it.
When Sissy looked from Miss Crosby (as the very girls who played with
him called him) to Split, there were tears of rage trembling in her
But, with a generosity suspiciously unlike her, Split ignored the
signal of distress. What time this afternoon will the party begin,
Crosby? she asked.
Oh, two o'clock. But you'll come early, won't youSissy?
Sissy did not answer. She was waiting to see what Split's next move
I don't know that I can go, said Split, gently. I haven't any
glovesunlesswon't you ask father for some, Sissy?
There was a prompt refusal upon Sissy's lips, but she did not utter
it; the Pembertons' visit had given the enemy too much material with
which to regale her fellow-Madigans at the dinner-table in the evening.
Sissy looked questioningly into Split's eyes, and silently the bargain
was struck: to so much refraining from ridicule in public on the part
of one, a certain indebtedness which the other might discharge by
facing Francis Madigan with a demand for money. It was hard, but Sissy
shut her teeth and got to her feet.
Can I come with you, Sissy? asked Crosby, following her to the
door. If you'll let me have your tissue-paper and the scissors, I'll
Sissy's hands flew to her breast. I wishI wish you'd never speak
to me again! she exclaimed, and Crosby dodged as though he were
apprehensive that she might beat him.
It's so kind of you to go the very minute I ask, giggled Split,
But Sissy shut the door behind her on Crosby's woeful face and
Split's radiantly happy one, and went to her fate.
* * * * *
Of the design and construction of which he was quite
Francis Madigan's room was his castle. It was his castle and his
workshop and his boudoir, his kitchen, his library, and his pantry in
one. The laxness of the family housekeeping had led him to distrust all
hands and heads but his own. Everything that he wanted, or that he
might want in the near future, he kept under his eyes, within reach of
his hands, where none might borrow or lose or destroy. In order to
provide for the needs which grew and changed daily, he fitted up rude
shelf above shelf, till the corners of the room were transformed into
rough bric-à-brac stands. Mr. Madigan had the unsuccessful man's pride
in trifling successes in amateur carpentering, in husbandry of any sort
unrelated to the real issues of his life; and every tool he needed for
the exercise of his skill he kept under lock and key. He believed in,
he trusted no Madigan. He had been known to lend his penknife to Sissy,
but that was when she was ailing long ago. He laid in supplies as
though he had inside information of a famine near at hand; and his
pipes and his great cans of tobacco were piled up with his cards and
his books on the table where he played solitaire all day and read half
the night. The sweets he liked occasionally, and the day's provision of
fruit (for he ate fruit only and at this time looked upon a vegetarian
as a coarse creature who belonged to a dead era), were packed in a
small home-made pantry of the design and construction of which he was
quite vain. His bed swathed in sheets; his blankets sewed securely
together, as though he feared they might escape; a device all his own
of great wooden wedges raising the lower end of the mattress so that
his feet were on a level with his pillowed head; the chest of little
drawers which his daughters called father's hobby, nailed high on the
wall and filled with all sorts of odds and ends, the detritus and
possible repair-material of years of housekeepingall this Sissy took
in with the unseeing eyes one has for the familiar.
She did not expect her father's room to be like any one else's;
neither did she look for an easy and successful termination to her
quest. Sometimes she got what she asked for, but she asked for little.
And to-day Francis Madigan had been tinkering at the old house,
hammering here and patching there, a process that specially tried his
temper, being a threatening indication of change, which he resented by
declaring that everything goes to the devil.
Father, began Sissy, carefully, as she met his inquiring eye, do
you approve of dancing?
He looked up from his cards. What nonsense are you talking now?
Because Irene and I have a good chance to practise
Wellpractise, he growled.
Shall we? All right. It's Crosby's party, you know. He's thirteen
to-day. It's his party. His mother's giving it for him at Cooper's
Hall. And there'll be dancing and
Yes, agreed Sissy, sweetly. But we'll go if you say so. I won't
need any dress, and she hurried on as he raised his head
belligerently, neither will Irene. Isn't that lucky? My brown will do,
though the over-skirt does jump up when I dance and show the red sham
What are you bothering me about, then? he demanded indignantly,
throwing down his cards.
Gloves, she said gently. Then quickly, before he could speak,
That's all. They don't cost very much. Or, I'll tell you,her voice
grew suddenly most cheerful, as though she had made a discovery that
must delight him,we can wear mitts. I don't mindand neither will
Split. Just a pair of blue lace ones for her and pink for me, oror
her voice wavered, but she was ready to pay the price, just blue ones
for Split, father.
He put his hand in his pocket. Why not just pink ones for Sissy?
he asked almost good-naturedly.
Sissy shook her head, but the red rushed to her cheeks. She had won!
Are you sure you need them? he asked cautiously in the very act of
Sure! Sure! she cried, throwing her arms gratefully about his neck
before she danced to the door.
But you're going, too? he called after her. All right, then. Make
Irene behave. She's an oxthat girl.
An ox, of course, interpreted variously according to Madigan's mood
and the correlating circumstances, signified this time an indiscreet,
pleasure-mad child. Sissy understood, and she blushed for her sister.
In fact, she was always blushing for her sister. She considered it to
be her duty formally and officially to disavow her senior. So
reprehensible did she feel Split's conduct to be that some one must
blush for it; and as blushing was not Split's forte, Sissy did it for
And she really did it very well, with an assumption of chagrin that
could not fail to call attention subtly to the contrast between the
sisters. When Split failed in her lessons with a completeness, a
sensational ostentation that was shocking to Sissy, that Number 1
scholar blushed gently, and, discreetly lowering her head, became
absorbed in her work. After school, when Split was being kept in and
disciplined (a process which never failed effectually to discipline the
hardy individual who attempted it), when she wept and stormed and raged
and threw caution to the winds as only tempestuous Split could, then
was Sissy's attitude a marvel of disapproving rectitude. She had a
great deal of dignity, had Sissy, and the picture of holiness that she
presented as, with her books on her arm, she walked past the desk where
the sobbing sinner's head lay with tumbled curls and bloated face, came
as near as anything could to quench the passion of tears in which
Split's tempers culminated. On such occasions the infuriated Split was
wont, for just a moment, to conquer the half-hysterical sobs that
threatened to choke her as well as inundate the world, and make a face
at Saint Cecilia as she passed holily by. But Cecilia was a Madigan
always, as well as a saint temporarily, and her eyes were turned
prudently away just then, as though she were already studiously
pondering to-morrow's lesson.
But Sissy blushed her most perfect disapproval when she played
chaperon to her elder sister. It was a position for which she felt
herself peculiarly fitted, even without the semi-official commission
she helda position which so conscientious a person could not regard
in the light of a sinecure.
As she danced only the more sedate dances, because of that obtrusive
tendency of the red sham to her skirt, Sissy was able to chaperon her
senior all the more effectively at Crosby Pemberton's party. Irene
danced like a thing whose vocation is motion. She was a twig in a
rain-storm, a butterfly seeking sweets, a humming-bird whose wing beat
the air with a very rhapsody of rhythm. She was on the floor with the
first note Professor Trask struck, and she danced down the side of the
little hall, when the waltz was over and all the other couples had
seated themselves, as though the meter of the music had bewitched her
feet and they might nevermore walk soberly.
Splitdon't! It was the shocked voice of her young chaperon.
Sissydon't! mocked the mutinous Split.
Even after she took the seat beside Sissy, her heels were lifted and
the toes of her slippers were beating time. She sat there chattering to
a group of boys buzzing about her, upon whom her high spirits had the
effect that dance-music had upon herself.
You're the prettiest girl I've seen since I left the city, Irene,
patronizingly whispered the boy lately from San Francisco, whose
metropolitan elegances had dazzled the eyes of the mountain maidens.
I wonder how many girls Will Morrow's said that to this afternoon!
came like a sarcastic douche from Sissy, who conceived it to be a
chaperon's duty to take the conceit out of citified chaps.
Young Morrow turned to find a small woman in brown eying him
Wellwell, I never said it to you, anyway, he retorted gallantly.
Good reason why. You knew I wouldn't believe you, Sissy declared,
floundering in her anger.
Neither would anybody else.
The Belle of the Afternoon"]
Why? Because you said it? Didn't know you had such a reputation.
Sissy was recovering. Never mind, Split, she added, heavily sarcastic
and assuming a comforting air that maddened Irene, who desired nothing
more than to impress her new suitor with the elegant gentility of her
manner, her family's, and all that was hers. Just to have a boy from
the city even pretend to think you're good-looking is worth living for.
Boys know so muchin the city! she concluded witheringly.
Mr. Morrow from San Francisco looked bewildered. He had merely paid
what he considered a very dashing compliment to one girl, when lo! the
other overwhelmed him with her contempt. He turned for consolation to
I'll show you how they dance the two-step in the city, he said,
holding out his hand as the music began again.
But he had reckoned without that stern censor of sisterly manners,
Cecilia Madigan; that loyal Comstocker who resented the implication of
her town's inferiority, quite independent of the fact that the insult
was not addressed to her but to one who, apparently, welcomed it.
I think I'll go home now, Split, she remarked carelessly, rising.
A sudden blight fell upon the belle of the afternoon. When Sissy
went, go she must, too; this was the sole rule of conduct Francis
Madigan had devised for the guidance of his most headstrong daughter.
Oh, Sissynot till after supper! she pleaded piteously.
II've got some studying to do for the examination Monday,
explained the exemplary member of Mr. Garvan's class and society at
Just wait till this one dance is over! Coaxing was not Split
Madigan's forte; she was accustomed to demand.
But it was just that one dance that Sissy, the pure and patriotic,
could not countenance.
A quick flash of fury lighted Irene's eye. To be bossed publicly and
before Mr. Will Morrow of San Francisco! In her heart she swore to be
avenged; yet she dropped Mr. Morrow's hand and shook her head to all
his pleadings, as she followed her ruthless tyrant across the floor to
the little dressing-room.
But as the sisters emerged from the dressing-room door, Crosby
Pemberton and his cousin Fred stopped them.
You're not going home, Split? begged Fred. I've been looking
everywhere for you. Oh, come and dance just this one with me!
Sissy's going, said Split, the lilting of the music stirring her
pulses and lifting her feet, despite the unmusical rage she was in,
and I've got to go, too.
Won't you staywon't you wait just for this one, Sissy? begged
Whycertainly, acquiesced the gentle Sissy.
Split gasped with amazement. But she wasted no time, throwing off
her jacket with a quick twist of her wrist. Later she might fathom the
tortuosities of her tyrant's mind. All she knew now was that she might
dance. With whom was a small matter to Split Madigan.
Sissy watched her dance away, delight and malice in her eye. She was
watching till Mr. Morrow from the city should behold her revenge. But
Crosby did not know this, and he had plans of his own.
Come and play a game over in the corner, just till this dance's
over, won't you, Sissy?
What kind of a game? she demanded, following him mechanically.
Oh, a new game. It's lots of fun. I'll show you.
Sissy consented. She could play a gameand she knew she was clever
at all gameswithout fear of betrayal from that red sham which she had
been fiercely sitting upon half the afternoon.
Before long, her emulative spirit got her so interested in this
particular game that she forgot not only the sham skirt but the sham
pretense upon which she had bullied Irene. And she played so well that
there was only one forfeit against her name, though Crosby, who had
named himself treasurer, held half the bangle bracelets and pins and
handkerchiefs of the little circle as evidence of dereliction in
He called her name first, as he stood with her little turquoise ring
in his hand and an odd light in his eye that might have enlightened
her; but she was looking toward the door, where the young gentleman
from San Francisco, in a Byronic pose, was staring gloomily at Irene
dancing with a rival, and so joying in the dance that she had forgotten
all about him.
Open your mouth and shut your eyes,
And I'll give you something to make you wise,
chanted Crosby, holding out the ring and beckoning to her.
Closing her eyes upon the spectacle of Mr. Morrow's suffering, Sissy
opened a mouth about which the malicious smile still lingered.
Crosby hesitated a moment. He was very much afraid of her, but as
she stood, docile and innocent, before him, with her eyes shut and her
tiny red mouth open, he could not fancy consequences nearly so well as
he could picture the thing his wish painted.
In a moment he had realized it, and Sissy, overwhelmed by
astonishment, dumb and impotent with the audacity of the unexpected,
felt his arms close about her and his greedy lips upon hers.
Oh, the rage and shame of the proper Sissy! Her mouth fell shut and
her eyes flew open. And then, if she could, she would have closed them
forever; for, before her in the sudden silence, towering above the
triumphant and unrepentant Crosby, stood Mrs. Pemberton, a portentous
figure of shocked matronly disapproval. And she promptly placed the
blame where mothers of sons have placed it since the first similar
impropriety was discovered.
Cecilia! she cried in that velvety bass that echoed through the
roomCecilia Madigan, youteaching my son a vulgar kissing
gameyou, the good one! Oh, you deceitful little thing!
A MERRY, MERRY ZINGARA
It had been Crosby Pemberton's custom to climb the steps that led to
Madigan's every Wednesday afternoon at four, with his music neatly done
up in a roll, on his way to play duets with Sissy.
On the Wednesday that followed his birthday partythe mere mention
of which, after the lapse of four days, was enough to send Sissy into
hystericsthat young lady was seated in the parlor, ready for her
guest. She was ready for him in all the senses a Madigan knew how to
infuse into that frame of mind. She intended to make him as miserable
as she herself had been ever since that disgraceful episode in which
she had so innocently played the victim's part. She would show the
betrayer of trust no mercynone. She would accept no apology. She
would trample upon his excuses and tear them limb from limb. She would
show him her scorn and detestation and make him feel how everlastingly
unforgivable his offense was; then she would send him forth forever
from the house, and dare him to so much as speak to her at school.
She pictured him going down the stairs for the last time, utterly
wretched, broken, despised, condemned. And in order to make the picture
more real, she glanced out of the window. Suddenly her hands flew in
terror to her breast, and all her plans for vengeance were left hanging
in mid-air; for it was not Crosby's trim little figure that was
climbing the steps, but the stately solidity of Mrs. Pemberton herself.
In her extremity, Sissy did not even stop to look at the back legs
of the piano; she sped across the room and made a flying leap through
the low west window. Mrs. Pemberton, glancing in through the open door
as she rang the bell, got a glimpse of two plump disappearing legs, but
when she and Miss Madigan entered, there was no trace of Sissy except
her jackstones. They stumbled over these, lying scattered on the floor,
where she had been sitting waiting for Crosby and concocting schemes of
I come to explain said Mrs. Pemberton, stiffly and a bit out of
breath, seating herself with a rigidity of backbone that would have
justified Sissy's bestowal upon her of the nickname Mrs. Ramrod, if she
could have seen it. But Sissy, lying attentive beneath the open window,
could not see; she could only hear. I am here to tell you, Miss
Madigan, why Crosby did not come to-day to play duets.
Dear me! didn't he come? asked Miss Madigan, absently. He isn't
sick, is he? Irene complains of headache and backache, and she's so
languid she let Sissy get the wish-boneI call it the bone of
contentionat dinner yesterday without a struggle. I'm half afraid
she'll not be able to sing to-night at Professor Trask's concert; but
perhaps it's only that she danced too much at Crosby's party. She al
It's about thatabout the party that I wanted to speak to you,
interrupted Mrs. Pemberton, severely.
Yes? Such a lovely party, the girls say! I'm sure, Mrs. Pemberton,
Did they tell you whatoccurred?
Miss Madigan blinked reflectively. Her acquaintance with the stately
and wealthy Mrs. Warren Pemberton was her most prized social
connection. What could have occurred?
Why, of course, of course! she laughed after a bit, pleasantly,
still trying to remember what the girls had gossiped about.
Delightful, wasn't it?
Mrs. Pemberton lifted her plumed head with a slow and terrible
solemnity. De-lightful, Miss Madigan, de-lightful!
The smile vanished from Miss Madigan's face. I hope, dear Mrs.
Pemberton, that the girls did nothing thatthatThey're such madcaps,
and their father never will
Miss Madigan's distress touched her august visitor. I trust this,
she said significantly, will be a lesson to Mr. Madigan.
Whatwhat will? If there's a lesson for Madigan, let him have it
direct, Mrs. Pemberton.
Lying flat on her stomach beneath the window, Sissy heard her
father's voice come clanging harshly on the lighter-timbred dialogue.
Cautiously she raised herself on her elbow and let a single eye peer
through the curtain at the group within. There, with his paint-pot in
his hand, his brush and his pipe in the other, his unique nightcap
rakishly on one side and drawn over his white head to protect it from
the paint, Madigan stood in his overalls and heavy shirthis
Michelangelo costume, Kate had called it. He had been regilding an old
mirror in his room, and having some gilt left at the bottom of his can,
he was going about the house in search of tarnished articles of virtue.
Oh, Francis! exclaimed his sister.
Why, how do you do, Mr. Madigan? said Mrs. Pemberton, bravely,
putting out her hand. I did not know you were within hearing.
Or you wouldn't have offered the lesson? Well, give it to me, now
that I am here. No, I won't shake hands; mine are all sticky with
gilt. He rested his elbow on his hip and stood at ease.
A savage delight at this outrage upon gentility in Mrs. Ramrod's
very presence possessed that red republican Sissy. She giggled within
herself, Madigan's attitude, his streaked and gilded face, his
confident voice, showed such delightful indifference to the effect his
unconventional attire must have upon this Priestess of Form.
I must beg your pardon, Mr. Madigan, said that lady, in her most
official tone, for using the expression I did. The matter I wished to
bring to Miss Madigan's attentionand to yours, now that you are
hereconcerns one of your daughters. I should have come to tell you of
it before, as was my duty, as I would wish any mother to do for me were
it my daughter; but I have been busy helping the Misses Bryne-Stivers
and Professor Trask with this concert for to-night. This must be my
apology for the delay. For speakingfor telling you what I have to
tell, no mother could apologize.
H'm! Madigan cleared his throat threateningly, and out in the
sage-brush Sissy shook with apprehension. She knew that preliminary
bugle-call to battle.
I assure you, my dear Mrs. Pemberton, we can have only the kindest
feelings for any one who will take an interest in those motherless
Let Mrs. Pemberton go on, Anne, interrupted Madigan, harshly.
Just what is it, ma'am? Out with it.
Mrs. Pemberton rose, rustling her heavy silks.
Merely, Mr. Madigan, that with my own eyes I saw your daughter take
part in a vulgar kissing gamethe only occurrence of any kind that
marred the perfect propriety of my son's birthday party.
There was a long silence inside. Sissy, without, her heart beating
so loud that she was afraid it might drown all other sounds, heard,
despite it, Aunt Anne's gasp of horror, the tinkle of the jet on Mrs.
Pemberton's heavy gown, the squeaking of her father's paint-spotted
slippers as he shifted his weight.
Finally it came. That ox! exclaimed Madigan, in a rage.
Mrs. Pemberton moved in majesty toward the door. My son, she said
slowly, chivalrously tries to take the blame from her and insists that
he proposed the game himself. But I know Crosby to be incapable of such
H'm! Yes. So do I, assented Madigan.
Miss Madigan turned to her brother, and in a voice that suggested
long years of martyrdom, said: You will send her to the convent now,
Francis? You positively must now. I really admire you for the way you
have discharged a most unpleasant duty, Mrs. Pemberton. For years I've
insisted that Irene must
Irene? Yes, if it had been Irene, one could expect it, remarked
Mrs. Pemberton, funereally.
But it wasn'tit couldn't be
It was Cecilia. Mrs. Pemberton's grief-stricken tones conveyed all
the disappointment she felt.
Cecilia, on her quaking knees, now peering through the window, saw a
quick change come over her father's dread countenance. It smoothed, it
wrinkled, it twitched, and his shoulders began to shake silently.
No! Sissy? he exclaimed, with an appreciative chuckle, which made
that young perfectionist outside feel seasick, as though the hillside
had swelled up beneath her. And who was the boy, might I ask?
It wasMrs. Pemberton paused to mark both her shocked surprise at
Mr. Madigan's reception of the news, as well as the further enormity
involved in its completionmy son Crosby.
No! Ha! ha! ha! Madigan's rare laugh rang out.
Mechanically Sissy turned down her thumb to mark the number of times
she had heard it, since Split and she had made a wager on it. Inwardly,
though, she was nauseated by the thought that she was being laughed at.
As nearly destitute as a Madigan could be of humor, she would so much
rather have been flayed alive, she thought in the depths of her
puritanical soul, than suffer ridicule.
Crosbyeh? Madigan was recovering. Congratulate him for me. I
didn't know the little milksop had it in him. You ought to thank Sissy,
ma'am, for proving that he is not really stuffed with sawdust. Where is
Lying flat, her blushing face buried in the sage-brush, was Sissy at
that moment, while Mrs. Ramrod rustled out of the room, precisely as
she had done the day Crosby failed in the public oral examination in
geography, Miss Madigan hurrying placatingly after.
But outside Sissy wept and would not be comforted. Her purist's
pride was wounded; her prudish maiden's modesty was outragedthat her
own father should believe it of her! And she must not open the subject
or try to alter his opinion, for fear of the ridicule which seared her
* * * * *
A taste for the ethereally symbolic had not strongly manifested
itself in Virginia City, yet under Professor Trask's direction The
Cantata of the Flowers had been in active rehearsal for weeks. The
professor relied upon the school-children for chorus material, and upon
the Madigans to fill those lieutenancies without which the spectacular
features of his production must be a failurethis last as a matter of
course. For there were many Madigans, and those of them that were not
leaders by instinct had developed leadership through force of
environment, a natural desire to bully others being not the least
important by-product of being bullied. Besides, the reputation they had
of being talented the professor knew to be almost as efficacious in
lending children self-confidence as talent itself.
Kate, therefore, who could not sing a note, but who was grace
embodied, led a chorus of Poppies, whose red tissue-paper garments
creaked and rustled as they swayed, waving their star-tipped wands and
chanting Breathe we now our charmed fragrance.
Florence and Bessie, whom the curse of being twins linked like
galley-slaves, were Heather-bells in a childish chorus which piped
forth the information We are the Heather-bells: list to our song, but
which was almost ruined by their common desire to get away from each
other and lead in two different directions.
She was pronounced a 'regular little love' by the Misses
Quite self-possessed (even if she was very much off key), Sissy, who
was the best speaker in her class, warbled her part of a
sanctimonious little duet in which Heliotrope and Mignonette voiced the
'Tis not in beauty alone we may find
Purity, goodness, and wisdom combined
Even small Frances, most self-conscious of Madigans, in a costume so
inadequate that Bep's doll would have been scandalized at the idea of
wearing it, posed and attitudinized as a Dewdrop. She was pronounced a
regular little love by the Misses Bryne-Stivers, whom the Madigans
had nicknamed the Misses Blind-Staggersa resentful play upon their
hyphenated name, as well as a delicate reference to their blue goggles
that might have served as blinkers.
For Irene, though, as the unquestioned possessor of a voice, a solo
had been interpolated. She was to repeat, for the first time on the
professional stage, that renowned success in The Zingara which school
exhibitions had made famous.
Just before the time came for Split to sing, Sissy was hovering
about the prima donna in the dressing-room. As Miss Heliotrope she wore
the dark-purple gown which Aunt Anne had made over from her own
wardrobe. (Being Comstock-born, Sissy knew no flower intimately, and
could easily be imposed upon as to their habits and colors.) Above it
her round little dark face looked almost sallow, in spite of the
excited red that flamed in her cheeks.
The atmosphere of a theater was like wine to the Madigans. The smell
of escaping gas in the dark was, in itself, enough to transport them by
association of ideas out of the workaday world; and emotion due to a
dramatic situation was the one evidence of sensibility they permitted
Yet Sissy, who was tying the ribbons on Split's tambourine, looked
in vain for a reflection of that fever of delight which possessed
herself. Split was cross. She was languid. She was dull. She did not
seem to enjoy even the pair of slippers she was pulling on. They had
been given to Sissy by Henrietta Blind-Staggers, and their newness and
beauty had tempted the poor Zingara. But if Sissy had not felt that the
family fortunes were at stake, as she always did in the matter of a
public appearance, she would never have made so generous an offer of
her cherished property.
But they seem awful tight, Split, she suggested.
They're nothing of the sort, snapped Split, wincing as she rose to
I don't see how you're going to dance in them.
Will you just leave that to me, Miss Cecilia Morgan Madigan, and
mind your own business?
'I don't see how you're going to dance in them']
Deeply offended, Sissy withdrew. No one called her Cecilia Morgan
Madigan who did not want to wound her to the soul and remind her of an
incident it were more generous to forget. She went out to the wings and
stood there looking upon the stage and Professor Trask, who, as the
Recluse, was gowned in mysterious flowing black, while he chanted Here
would I rest in a hollow bass. But Sissy was worried. Not even being
behind the scenes could still her apprehensions about Split. She longed
to confide in some fellow-Madigan, but Kate was on the other side of
the stage, and to all her winks and beckonings turned an uninterested
back. Then, all at once, sooner than she expected, the Recluse
departed, the scenes shifted; there, alone on the stage, looking white
in the glare of the footlights, was a bedizened, big-eyed, panting
little Zingara, and the syncopated prelude began.
Sissy's fingers thrummed it sympathetically upon her knee, but
Trask, who was playing the accompaniment behind the scenes, had put an
unfamiliar accent upon the notes. Out on the stage the Zingara was
beating her tambourine sadly out of time and was longing, with a
panicky fear, for the familiar touch of Sissy's hand upon the piano.
The notes came like a warning signal. The Zingara's throat was
parched, her feet ached excruciatingly merely from carrying her
weighthow, oh, how was she going to dance?
The last note prolonged itself into a summons. The Zingara's eye,
turning from the faces that danced before her, sent appealing glances
to the wings, where Sissy yearned toward her, all rivalry drowned in a
mothering anxiety for her success.
'I'm amer-ry, meh-hi-ri-yZin-ga-ra!' wailed Split, trying to
get her breath. 'From agold-e-enclime I come!'
Sissy's hands flew to her breast, then with a wild gesture up over
her ears, and she fled back to the dressing-room. Split the
redoubtable, Split the invincible, the impudent, ready, pugnacious
Split had stage-fright! The world rocked beneath Sissy's feet. Time
stopped, and all the world stood agape witnessing a Madigan's failure!
It seemed to the third of them that she could never bear to lift her
head again and meet a Comstocker's eye and see there that shameful
record against the family. But she scrambled quickly to her feet when
Irene came running in, The Zingara all unsung.
Irene's face was white and her eyes glittered. Sissy did not dare
meet them, for, to a Madigan, to put a shame in words or looks was to
double and triple it. She did not dare to condole; she had no heart to
accuse. So she bent down again, ostensibly to tie her shoe, in order to
give the furious little Zingara time to recover and to begin to
undress. She heard the tambourine's tingling clatter as it was cast to
the floor. She looked anywhere but at her sister, but she heard buttons
give and buttonholes rend, and bowed her head to the storm.
I must say, she remarked in a scornfully careless tone when the
silence became oppressive, that Trask plays funny accompaniments. And
she lifted her head, fancying herself rather clever in finding a
She ducked immediately, but not in time. One of her own
slippers,oh, the irony of things!torn off and thrown by Split's
impatient hand, struck her in the face.
Sissy's cheek flamed. Did you do that on purpose, Split Madigan?
Split Madigan had not done it on purpose, for the reason mainly that
it had not occurred to her. But now that it was done, it was not in her
present fury against all the world to disclaim intention to insult so
small a part of it. Glad of an excuse to outrage some one, any
one,and, even then, preferably Sissy,to make her sister share some
of that hurt and sting and smart that burned within herself, she met
Sissy's eye maliciously, triumphantly, significantly.
Sissy gasped. She took the slipper in her hand and made for her
enemy. She intended, she believed, to ram her own best Sunday slipper
down Split Madigan's throat! And she got quite close before she could
have been made to believe that anything on earth or anywhere else could
alter her intention. But a little thing did; merely the sound of voices
outside the door and a swift, piteous change of expression in that
defiant face opposite.
Sissy dropped the slipper and flew to the door. She had a
glimpsewhich she pretended not to have seenof the Merry Zingara
crumbling in a passion of regretful sobs to the floor. Then she was
standing outside, her back to the closed door, a determined, fat little
Horatius in purple, with two red cheeks,one, indeed, redder than the
other where the slipper had struck,vowing to hold the bridge against
all comers, so that Split might mourn in peace.
* * * * *
'But is she very sick?']
But is she very sick? came the eager question.
Wellpretty sick, said the doctor, gravely.
Not very? Sissy's voice fell disappointedly. She opened the door
for him and stood at the head of the steps as he prepared cautiously to
You don't want your sister to be dangerously ill, do you? Dr.
Murchison demanded sharply, turning upon her.
N-no, said Sissy.
Well, see that you don't squabble with her. Your aunt ought to have
sent for me five days ago, instead of which she lets a sick, nervous,
half-crazy child dance and sing on the stage. All poppycock!
Can I help you down the first step, doctor? asked Sissy,
She was so thankful for his words. No onenot even a Madigan,
accustomed to be held strictly accountablecould be to blame for a
failure if she had been ill at the time. The family was almost
rehabilitated, it seemed to Sissy.
The doctor's dim old eyes looked curiously at her. I believe you've
got some deviltry in your head, Sissy. Now, you mind me and let your
sister alone. There! I'm all right now. I can go all right the rest of
the way when I'm once started down your infernal stairs. I ought to
charge your father double rates for risking my old bones on them. Yes,
it's all right now. It's only the first step that bothers me. It's
always the first step that costseh, Sissy?
She looked blankly up at him.
He bent down and patted her head. See here, he said, I'll bet
you've got more sense than you want us to believe.
Sissy blushed. It was a tardy tribute, she felt, but as welcome as
it was deserved.
With a lot of common sense and a physique like yours, you ought to
make a good nurse. Take care of your sister, he added almost
appealingly, divided between his knowledge of how poor a nurse Miss
Madigan was and how impossible it was to tell this to her niece.
She'll be cross and irritable andeven worse than usual, he said,
with a grim smile that recognized the battle-ground upon which the
Madigans spent their lives; and this recognition made him seem more
human to them than any other adult. But you just treat her like a
teething baby. She's got a hard row to hoe, that poor, bad Split. She
must sleep, and you understand herLord! Lord! the care these queer
little devils need! he muttered, shaking his shoulders as he went on
down the steps, as though physically to throw off responsibility.
Sissy turned and went back into the house. It was a queer house, she
thought. To her alert impressibility, the sickness and apprehension it
inclosed were something tangible. She could taste the odors of the
sick-room. She could feel the weight of the odd stillness that filled
it. The sharpness of sound when it did come, the strangeness of
suppressed excitement, the unfamiliar place with Split's quick figure
missing, the loneliness of being without her, the boredom of lacking a
playmate or a fighting-mateit all affected Sissy as the prelude of a
drama the end of which has something terrifyingly fascinating in it. It
must be wonderful to die, thought Sissy, with a swift, satisfying
vision of pretty young deathherself in white and the mysterious
glamour of the silent sleep. Poor Sissy, who had never been ill!
Split, with shorn head and with wide-open eyes and hard, flushed
cheeks, lay tossing on the big bed in the room off the parlor, which
had seldom been used since Frances was born there. Mother's bed the
Madigans always called it, and they crept into it when ailing, as
though it still held something of the old curative magic for childish
aches, though all but Kate had forgotten the mother's face as it was
before she lay down there the last time. Split had a big hot silver
dollar in one hand,Francis Madigan's way of recognizing and
sympathizing with a child's illness,and in the other an undivided
orange, evidence enough of an extraordinary occasion in the Madigan
household. But she was not waking. She was not sleeping. She was not
dreaming. She knew that Sissy had come in and had squatted on the floor
with Bep and Fom, playing dolls, probably. Yet she felt that numb,
gradual, terrifying enlargement of her fingertips, of her limbs, of her
tongue, her body, her head, that she had been told again and again was
mere fancy. With a self-control that was unlike her, an unnatural
product of her unnatural state, she locked her jaws together that she
might not scream this once. And in the eery stillness that followed the
effort, which had made her ears buzz and her temples throb, she heard
quite sanely Florence's denial of some charge her twin had brought
I didn't do any such thing, she whispered.
You did, said Bep.
Cross your heart to die?
The scream burst from Irene thennot the cry of delirium, but a
sharp, terrified, if inarticulate, call for help. If there was one
thing Split did respect, it was that Reaper whose name she could never
hear without a quick indrawn breath. Yetin her heartshe knew that,
though others might fall at the touch of that fearful scythe, she,
Split Madigan, as fleet of limb as a coyote and as sound of heart as a
young pine-cone, could never, never die; that the world could never be
when her quick red blood should be quiet and her mountain-bred lungs
should be stilled.
With a bound Sissy pushed the twins out of the door. She was at the
bedside when Miss Madigan entered.
Go outside, Sissy! she commanded. Can't you see you're exciting
her? Isn't it hard enough for me to take care of her when she's so
cross? She's not to be excited. She's to be kept quiet. There, there,
Ireneit's only fancy, I tell you! Look at your fingers; they're
thinner, littler than they ever were. Look at Sissy's; see how much
bigger they are.
Irene lifted her fingers that had caught Sissy's. She looked from
her own fevered hand to Sissy's dimpled one and was comforted. But her
hold on her old enemy did not relax. She had something tangible now to
reassure her; something that spoke to her in her own language. Her eyes
closed, her tense little hand dropped wearily, but she held Sissy fast.
When she thought her patient was asleep, Miss Madigan tried to open
her fingers, but, with something of her old waywardness, Irene
resisted. And Sissy, with an old-fashioned nod of advice, motioned her
aunt to let things be. She curled herself up on a corner of the bed,
andit being quite safe, no other Madigan being present but this
unnatural one lying prone, half conscious, half dazedshe put her
other hand over the one that held hers, and sat there quietly waiting.
The minutes came to seem like hours, but Sissy sat motionless and
Miss Madigan left the room. Presently an eery humming came from Split's
lips. Then, mechanically, Sissy's fingers picked out on the spread the
simple little melody Split sang as in a dream.
Play it, the sick girl whispered, pushing away the hand she had
Sissy jumped as though she had been discovered indulging in gross
and inexcusable sentimentality. She looked down at Split with a
puzzled, sheepish smile, wondering how long it had been since her
sister had come into the real world out of that fantastic one where
marvelous things might happen.
Play it! repeated Split, fretfully.
Sissy rose and walked softly into the front room. She fancied if she
took a long time, yet appeared about to obey, Split would forget her
desire and, left alone in the silence, would fall asleep. She opened
the piano softly and pulled out the stool. Then leisurely she pretended
to arrange the light and the piano-cover.
Split, quieted by her apparent compliance, lay back with a sigh of
content. Her mind, whose very apprehension of the delirium had excluded
other thoughts, dwelt now restfully upon the combination of easy mental
effort and soothing melody her piece meant to her. Besides, she was
ordering her junior about, using her illness as a club to beat down
remonstrance. Split was really on the way to being herself again.
After a bit she found that she was almost dozing off, and waked with
an indignant start to see Sissy stealing softly out of the room.
Where are you going? she demanded. Why don't you play it when I
tell you to?
For an instant Sissy rebelled. Then she looked at the passionate
little figure sitting tensely upright, at the white fever-circle about
the dry lips, at the short hair and the unnaturally bright, angry eyes.
She went back to the piano, sat down, and with her foot on the soft
pedal, that Aunt Anne might not hear, she began to play.
The melody was simple and light, with a little break in its
sweetness. Sissy's touch was childlike, but her impressionable
temperament, quickened by the strangeness of that dark room behind her,
overflowed into the melody her fingers brought out. The accompanying
bass was rhythmic, and the nervous, fevered child found mental and
physical occupation in letting the fingers of her left hand pick out
its detail upon the pillow which she had lately thrown in a passion
against the wall because it had been so hot and she so miserably
Sissy had begun the second part, the changing bass of which had been
poor Split's pons asinorum. It was the part to which Sissy had
always given a dramatic touchpartly because, it being simpler music
than she was accustomed to, she could safely do so, and partly because
it irritated Irene, to whom the most forthright interpretation was
difficult. Her foot slipped now, through force of habit, upon the hard
pedal, and in a moment she heard the whirring of Aunt Anne's skirts.
Sissy, are you crazy, you she heard behind her, and then there
came a sudden, an unaccountable stop.
Sissy turned. Behind and above Miss Madigan towered tall old Dr.
Murchison. He had come back, as usual, up the long flight of steps, for
his forgotten spectacles. One of his hands was clapped with
good-humored firmness over the lady's mouth; the other was pointing to
Split, sleeping like a Madigan again, while over Aunt Anne's head the
doctor nodded and bobbed encouragingly to Sissy, like a benignant
musical conductor deprived of the use of his arms.
Sissy turned again to the piano. It was a beautiful opportunity for
her to affect disgust with the situation; to register a silent, but
expressive, exception to being compelled to entertain Irene; and to
pose, not only before her aunt but before the doctor, too, as a very
important personage, whose services were in urgent demand, and who
yielded under protest. But as a matter of fact she was too happy. There
was no misconceiving the light that illumined the doctor's round, rosy
face. Something her undisciplined, childish imagination had been
coquetting with, as an untried experience, though never admitting its
full, dread significance, was carried out of her horizon by the shining
look of success in old Murchison's face; something that shook her
strong little body with a long shiver, as she realized, in the second
when she could almost feel the lift of its dark wings taking flight,
the thing that might have been.
So Sissy played In Sweet Dreams with expression.
* * * * *
Later she played it, and over and over again, with the salt tears
trickling down her nose and splashing on the keys; played it with
tired, fat fingers and a rebellious, burning heart. But this was during
Split's convalescencea reign of terror for the whole household; for
to the natural taste she possessed for bullying, Split Madigan then
added the whims and caprices of the invalid, who uses her weaknesses as
a cat of a hundred tails with which to scourge her victims into
She was loath to get well, this tyrannical, hot-tempered,
short-haired Zingara, who led her people such a merry dance, and she
left the self-indulgent land of convalescence and the bed in the big
back room with regret.
It was an early-morning rite practised by the twins, its performance
hidden from everybody but each other, to see whether Dr. Murchison's
prophecy had come true.
There were once two little girlstwins, began the old doctor,
significantly, the day Bep and Fom were vaccinated, after battling
desperately against precedence, in the doctor's very office. Now all
twins love each other dearly.
The twins looked at him pityingly. To be so old and so ignorant!
Yes, they do, he insisted. Everybody knows they're fonder of each
other than the closest sisters.
Bep glanced at Fom and Fom looked at Bep; there was something almost
Chinese in the irony of their eyes; they knew just how fond of each
other sisters can be! But they politely suppressed their incredulous
Well, resumed the old doctor, realizing how lacking in conviction
his comparison might seem to a Madigan, well, these twins were the
exception: they did not love each other.
There was an interested movement from Bep.
They hated each other.
Fom looked up eagerly; there was something human about such a tale.
She felt her respect for Dr. Murchison reviving.
They fought from morning till night. There was never a moment's
peace when the two were together. Each was so jealous of the other that
she would rather do without, herself, than share with her twin. It was
The twins leaned forward, charmed.
The doctor looked over his spectacles at them; there was no
mistaking the effect he had produced. Everybody warned them that
unless they stopped squabbling, something dreadful would happen to
them. But they never believed it till one day
The twins held their breath. Dr. Murchison went to the library and
took out a book. He knew the value of a dramatic pause.
till one day they waked up in the morning and found that they
werestuckfasttogetherfor life! Everything the dark one had she
just had to share with her twin. And everywhere she went her lazy
blonde sister had to go, too. People made up a terrible name for them.
They called themhe lowered his voice to the apologetic tone one has
for not quite proper subjectsthe 'Siamese Twins,' andif you don't
believe me, here's their picture! With a quick movement he opened the
book before them.
The twins' faces went gray; in that second they even looked alike,
so tense were both with the same emotion. Instinctively they made a
swift motion, a dumb prayer for sympathy, toward each other; then as
swiftly shuddered apart as though temporary contact might become
But as the months went by and they remained mercifully unattached
(though battling still in their double capacity of Madigans and twins),
they almost outgrew their credulity; yet still, on occasions, observed
the morning ceremony of self-inspection.
In fact, though, nothing held them in peace together except sleep,
when nature must have reunited them in dreams; for, no matter in what
positions they were relatively when they closed their eyes, morning
found their arms about each other, their breath intermingled, their
little bodies intercurved like well-packed sardines.
On their birthday morningthe twins were born on ChristmasFom
waked very early, alarmed to find Bep's arm about her. She never
remembered in the morning that at night her last hazy thought had been
to reach for it, pull down the sleeve of its nightgown, and cuddle
close to her twin. She threw it from her now with unusual violence,
and, sitting up in bed, slipped off her gown that she might closely
examine her right sidethe side that had been nearest Bep.
The blonde twin woke while this process was going on, and its dread
significance shook the haze of slumber from her eyes. She, too, slipped
her gown from her shoulders and, shivering with the cold, passed an
apprehensive hand along her left ribs.
Do you? she whispered.
N-no. I don't think so. II dreamed that it was there, though. Do
An assenting shudder shook Bep's body.
Whereoh, where? I don't believe it! cried Fom. You're just a
'fraid-cat trying to frighten me.
Bep pointed to her side. There it was unmistakablya round
A wail escaped Florence. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! she cried, what in
the world shall we do?
Bep did not answer. She sat stupefied, staring at the evidence of
If it's commenced on you, it's bound to commence on me before long.
I wonderhow fast it grows?
Bep shook her head. It wasn't there when I went to sleep.
If it grows on you toward me, and on me toward you that quick, why,
in a weekwe'll bestuck fastwon't we?
Bep nodded miserably.
Some morning, mourned Fom, wriggling unhappily, we'll wake and
it'll be all done. You'll just have to study hard, Bessie Madigan, and
be in my class in school; I won't go back into the mixed primaryI
just won't! Oh, Bep, why will you put your arm around me at night?
I don't. I always go to sleep with my back to you. You know I do.
And in the morning, the first thing I know you're flinging my arm off.
I believe you pull my arm over you yourself. I believe you want to get
stuck together and be Chemise Twins! Bep scolded tearfully, with her
usual ill luck with unfamiliar words.
There was a sorrow-smitten pause.
I say, Beppy, the termination was a sign of sudden good humor in
Fom, didn't you tumble down yesterday when you and Bombey Forrest were
driving the Grayson kids round the block in your relay race?
The light of hope leaped up in Bessie's eyes. Could it be that?
Of course it could; it is, you silly!
I'm not a silly. You were scared yourself, retorted the blonde
twin, relieved but pugnacious.
Pooh! I only pretended, to frighten you, jeered Fom.
Not much you didn't. I ain't anybody's dope.
Anybody's dope, answered Bep, uncertainly; she knew how little
words were to be trusted.
What's 'dope'? demanded Florence.
Whywhat Kate said yesterday.
An enjoying giggle came from Sissy's bed. She had waked. Dupe, you goosydupe! she chuckled.
Yah! Yah! sneered Fom, happy in her twin's discomfiture.
Bep blushed with mortification. Don't you trophy over me, Fom
Madigan! she cried wrathfully.
Sissy's giggle became a shout of laughter, and straightway she
sallied forth, benightgowned as she was, to carry the news of Bep's
latest to the Madiganswhile Bep, aware that she had Partingtoned
again, without knowing just how, cried furiously after her: I didn't
say it! I didn't!
Bep's talent was dear to the Madigans. They seized upon each blunder
she made, and held it up, shrinking and bare, under the light of their
laughter-loving eyes. They ridiculed it interminably, and were
unflaggingly entertained by it, repeating it for the edification of
each new-comer so often and so faithfully that from conscious mimicry
they turned to use of it without quotation-marks, till, insensibly, at
last it was received into their vocabularywhich fact, by the way,
made the Madigan dialect at times difficult for strangers to master.
For instance, the rare rainy days in Nevada were always glummy
among Madigans, because the blonde twin had once been so affected by
their gloom that she spelled it that way. An over-credulous person was
a sucher since the day she had written it so. Jack Cody lived in the
vikinty of their house, because Bep Partington had so decreed. Don't
greed had become a classic since the day Aunt Anne issued her infamous
ukase, compelling that twin who (wilfully speculating upon her sister's
envy) kept goodies to the last to divide said last precious morsel with
the gloating other. And the Madigan who (taking base advantage of the
fact that Bep was at an age when to bite into a hard red winter apple
was to leave a shaky tooth behind) obligingly took the first bite, but
made that bite include nearly half the applethat rapacious betrayer
of confiding helplessness deserved to be called a harpy. But she
wasn't; she was known as a regular harper!
The Madigans trooped back into the twins' room in a body to trophy
over Bep, whose double misfortune it was not only to be a Partington,
but to strenuously deny her kinship with the family of that name.
Bessie Madigan could not be got to admit that she had ever misused a
word. And though the expressions she coined became part of Madigan
history, though each piece was stamped undeniably by poor Bep her
awkward mark, she never ceased insisting that they were counterfeit,
issued for the express purpose of discrediting her well-known
familiarity with elegant English.
Yet she it was who had first miscalled her shadow a shabby; who
had asked to be merinded to merember, like her absent-minded Aunt
Anne; and who had unconsciously parodied Split's passionate rendering
of a line of the old song, I feel his presence near into I feel his
It was rarely that the Madigans could keep peace among themselves
long enough to make an onslaught in a body. But when they did, the lone
victim of their attack knew better than to struggle against her fate.
Poor Bep, her protests borne down, all her old sins of diction raked up
and, joined to the new ones, marshaled against her, became sulky. She
turned her back upon the enemy and retreated to a corner to find out
what Santa Claus and her own particular patron saint had to offer for
the double celebration.
There was a dictionary from Katean added insult. But, to
compensate, there was a whole orange from Aunt Anne, a bag of Chinese
nuts from Wong, and from Split and Sissy (a separate donation from
each) an undivided half-interest in the white kitten known as Spitfire.
When she had summed up the gifts of the gods to herself, Bep's eyes
turned quickly to Fom's pile.
There was an assortment of hair-ribbons, more or less the worse for
wear, from Kate, whose braids were coiled around her head these days.
(Bep didn't envy her twin these, for the excellent reason that a
back-comb was all that was necessary to keep her short blonde hair in
order.) Then there was, from Sissy, a pen-wiper, whose cruelly twisted
shape was a reflection of that needlewoman's agonies in its
composition; upon it were embroidered figures and colors of things
never seen on sea or land. (Fom might have that.) From Splitbut Bep
knew, of course, what there was from Split. Every year regularly, since
the second of the Madigans had put away childish things, she had
bestowed upon her faithful retainer her favorite doll Dora,the large
one, with waxen head and dark-brown tresses,only to take it back at
the first symptom of revolt, for a caprice, or merely to feel her
power. She was an Indian giver, was Split. (Fom might have Dora, Bep
said to herself, as long as she could keep her.)
But then Fom, too, had a large, fair, yellow orange and a bag of
strange candies from Chinatown. As to these ...
The twins must be pardoned, but circumstances had soured them. They
had been cheated out of either a birthday or a Christmasthey had not
decided which was the crueler wrong, so had not yet adopted and
proclaimed their grievance. Besides this sorrow, each, by an
interfering and unprovoked intrusion, had defrauded the other of the
child's inalienable right to the center of the stage at least once a
year. And when one remembers how crowded was the Madigan stage with
jealous performers, any actor at all desirous of an opportunity must
sympathize with them.
It was not etiquette for the twins to remember each other's birthday
with a gift, one reason being that they were incapable of such a piece
of hypocrisy. Another was that it would have seemed too like the rigid
reciprocity of the Misses Blind-Staggers, whom it had been their custom
to parody since the day they had been invited down to the cottage to
see those ladies' strictly mutual Christmas presents. They played From
Maude to Etta and From Etta to Maude, as they called it; Fom handing
to Bep, with great ceremony, a shoe, a stocking, or any other thing
traveling in pairs, with the legend From Maude to Etta, and receiving
in return the mate of said shoe or stocking, From Etta to Maude.
As for Francis Madigan, his daughters appreciated the fact that a
girl's birthday could be looked upon only as a day of wrath and
mourning; it came to be considered delicate, therefore, to mention the
matter in his presence. Christmas, of course, was nonsensea blanket
term of disapproval behind which no one peered for reasons for its
On Miss Madigan anniversaries acted as a stimulant to an already
sufficiently fecund pen. They awakened in her that sense of
responsibility for her nieces' future, which nothing but an
exceptionally heartrending letter of appeal for financial assistance
for them could put comfortably to sleep again.
* * * * *
Out in the woodshed a disemboweled chest of drawers had been turned
into an apartment-house for dolls. All the dolls that had dwelt in the
Madigan family since Kate's babyhood (with the exception of Split's
Dora, whom Fom, according to the preordained penchant of mothers, loved
best because for her sake she suffered most) had descended to the
On the top floor Mrs. Guy St. Gerald Clair lived with her husband
and an only daughter. Mrs. Clair was an elegant matron, quite new, a
small blonde who could turn her head. Florence's skilful fingers kept
this lady most beautifully gowned. And Splitwhose favorite of the
small-fry dolls she had once beenstill remembered her fondly, and
passed over to Fom the most wonderful patches. These she got from Jack
Cody, the washerwoman's son, who bribed his mother by promises of good
conduct to beg samples of their gowns from her aristocratic patrons.
Mr. Guy St. Gerald Clair was an unfortunate gentleman, tall,
low-spirited, loose-jointed, with fixed blue eyes and knobby black
hair. His melancholy, Bep was assured, was due to two thingsthe
superiority of his wife in the matter of a movable head, and the
impossibility of ever getting a pair of trousers that would come near
to him in the seat and stay away from him at the ankle. Fom's theorya
hypothesis that enraged Bepwas that Mrs. Guy St. Gerald was the
wealthy member of the family, and that her husband basely envied her
her good fortune. She had a way, had Fom, of carrying on imaginary
conversations with Mr. Clair upholding this idea, which made her twin
long to rend her, and the doll too, limb from limb.
Ah, Mr. Clair! Yes, thank you. Mrs. Clair not in?... I'm sorry.
Gone off to Newport, has she, to sell her marble palace? What about the
one on Fifth Avenue?... You don't say! Making it bigger? Well, well!
And made a million in stocks, too. How delightful! You wish that you
had some moneyyes, I suppose
He does not! He does not! The interruption came fiercely from Bep.
You talk to your own doll and leave mine alone.
Pouf! If you're afraid he'll tell me how poor he is
He ain't poor.
What does he wear such trousers for, then? Tell me that!
Bep looked unutterable things at her twin. Just you make men's
clothes for a while, Fom Madigan, and see how 't is yourself! she
Put Mrs. Clair in men's clothes? demanded Fom, purposely
misunderstanding. I'd like to see myself! The very richest lady in New
York in men's clotheswhy, you could get arrested for that!
I'll change began Bep, quickly.
No, thank you. You couldn't suit Mrs. Clair. She's that particular
about her things!
Well, just the same, I won't make men's clothes any more. Bep
rolled her head threateningly.
Going to let Mr. Clair go naked? inquired Fom, pleasantly. He'll
have to be sent to the poorhouse, then.
He sha'n't! He'll go to bed sick first, and then Mrs. Clair'll just
have to stay home in an old wrapper and nurse him.
No; she'll take Anita and go off to the country.... Are you so
sick, Mr. Clair? began Fom, while her slower twin danced with
apprehension of the outcome of this one-sided dialogue. I'm awful
sorry. Smallpox? Oh, how dreadful! And that's why Mrs. Clair and Anita
'T ain't! 'T ain't smallpox! 'T ain't! 'T ain't! 'T ain't! Bep
hopped about on one foot in her excitement.
How do you know? asked Fom, calmly. Are you the doctor?
The doctor lived in the flat below. He was a ready-dressed
gentleman, still stylish if a bit seedy, and his large family
overflowed down into the next two shelves. He was summoned.
I have called you, doctor,began Fom.
I've sent for you, doctor,interrupted Bep.
Well! exclaimed Fom, stiffly, I think you might be polite enough
to let Mrs. Clair speak to the doctor about her own husband.
What's she going to say? demanded Bep.
How should I know? asked Fom, airily; and then, hurrying on, while
she made Mrs. Clair bow low before the ready-made physician, I am Mrs.
Clair, doctor, the rich Mrs. Guy St. Gerald Clair who has all the
It's no such thing! It's no such thing! shrieked Bep.
Well, Miss Florence Madigan! exclaimed Mrs. Clair by proxy, if
your sister Bessie ain't the rudest!
I'll smash her if she says that again! came in a bellow from Bep.
You touch my doll! Daringly Fom placed Mrs. Clair within tempting
distance of Bep's hand.
Welljust you let her say it again!
I don't need to. She's told me, so now I know it.
You may go down-stairs again, doctor. It's a mistake, said Bep,
addressing the medical man. (The twins always tried to keep up
appearances before their dolls.) Mr. Clairthe awfully rich Mr. Guy
St. Gerald Clairis not sick at all. But you can send your bill to him
anyway, he won't care. It must have been some poor relation of Mrs.
Clair'sshe didn't have a dress to her name before she married, you
Ohoh! Bessie Madigan!
Well, she didn't, said Bep, stoutly.
I'll bet youI'll bet you a shut-up. There! Cautious Fom rarely
hazarded so great a stake; but she felt that the occasion demanded
All right; I'll leave it to Sissy. It was from Sissy that Bep had
inherited Mr. Clair. She would know.
Laying down stiff all-china Anita Clair, whose shoes she was
painting red to match her sash, Bep followed her twin into the house.
But the omnivorous Sissy was reading The Boys of Englanda thing
Sissy loved to do; for it was a magazine not permitted to enter Mrs.
Pemberton's immaculate house, a recommendation in itself, and, besides,
Split, to whom Jack Cody had loaned it, was doubtless looking all over
for it at this very moment. Lying luxuriously flat upon the floor and
eating chocolate, Sissy had just got to that part where Jack Harkaway
with one flash of Abu Hadji's ruby-incrusted simitar decapitated the
unfortunate Arab, and Dick Lightheart, seizing the bewitching Haidee,
had mounted his horsewhen the belligerent twins found her.
Now, let me say it, began Fom.
No; you won't ask it fair.... Sissy, tell me, wasn't Mr.
Tralalala! sang Fom, shrilly, drowning Bep's voice.
Say! Sissy looked up. Her cheeks were flaming with excitement, for
any bit of print, however crude, had the power to move her as reality
could not. At eleven she shivered and glowed over pseudo-sentiment,
while a tragedy in the minewhose tall chimneys she could see from her
windowwas as intangibly distant and irrelevant as weekly statistics
of the superintendent's mining reports.
Her juniors harkened respectfully; but neither would permit the
other to ask the question, for fear of its revealing the nature of the
answer hoped for. So they withdrew for a period, returning with the
following query, which Bep allowed Fom to put, so sure was she of the
Did or did not Mrs. Clair ever have a dress before she married Mr.
To this the oracle gave answer:
She did not, for how could she, she being Mr. Clair's second wife;
his first, an accomplished lady, but all-solid china, having fallen
from the top story of the apartment-house and smashed herself into
bits, and the widower having himself accompanied Sissy and Split to the
shop to select her successor, whose first gown was, of course, a heavy
Bep heaved a deep sigh of content. She ran back to the woodshed so
relieved that, although she had won a valuable shut-up, she did not
care to trophy in her victory. Fom followed. But her grief for Mrs.
Clair was bitterer even than her own disappointment.
I want the Smith twins, she said stiffly, when they got back to
the dolls' sky-scraper. And Bep understood.
The Smith twins were an invention of technical Fom's that had become
an institution with herself and her playmate. Two tiny china dolls
dressed in baby long clothes (the better to hide the fact that they
were legless), the one with pink, the other with a blue sash, were
brought up from the lowest story, where broken-nosed Mrs. Smith lived
with her family of cripples.
They were dolls of bad omen, these two, but following instead of
prophesying a storm. When it became absolutely necessary for one
Madigan twin to be mad at the other, and yet that the business of
playing be uninterrupted, the Smith twins invariably made their
appearance. They were supposed to save one's dignity; in reality, they
lent piquancy to games and rendered making up delightful.
Occasionally Bep and Fom did disown each other and adopt a chum from
the outside world. One Beulah, known as Bombey, Forrest was always
ready obligingly to serve either or both of them in the capacity of
dearest friend. But other playmates were tame after being accustomed to
a Madigan; and each twin was so jealously afraid of the other's having
a good time without her that she spent most of the period of
estrangement trying to spy out what the other and her interloping
companion were doing.
The Smith twins were easier.
Tell Bep, said Florence to the pink-sashed small Smith, that I
think she's a nasty mean thing, and Mrs. Clair'll never forgive her.
Tell Fom, returned Bep, with spirit, putting the blue-sashed Smith
baby in her pocket as a sort of emergency battery, so that the wires of
communication might be set up at any time between her twin and herself,
that I don't care a 'article for what she thinks. And Mrs. Clair's
nothing but a beggar. I wonder that Mr. Clair married her!
The war was on.
* * * * *
Down on the dump, that fascinating mountain of soft, glittering
waste rock, the godless twins went to dig on Christmas afternoon. The
mining operations were elaborate that they projected there,
particularly after Jack Cody's brother Peter joined them. While Peter
was rigging up windlasses with pieced-out cord, Fom, with a couple of
tin cups purloined from Wong's kitchen, brought up the rock, piling it
in miniature dumps at the mouth of their shaft. Bep's awkward fingers
could be trusted only with the preliminary scooping out of the ground
where a new shaft was to be sunk.
Tell Fom, she said to the blue-sashed Smith twin in her pocket,
that I want the scooper; my hands are all sore.
Tell Bep, returned Fom, quickly, that she can't have it till Pete
an' I get through running our drift.
The excuse did not seem legitimate to Bep, whose grimy hands ached
to the fingertips from being used as both pick and shovel. She made a
dart for the scoopera heavy china cup which had been smashed in so
fortunate a manner as to be ideally fitted for emptying ore by hand.
But Fom was slim, and quick as a cat. She threw herself bodily upon
both scooper and pickthe latter an old fork with but one tine left.
Bep promptly threw herself on top of her twin, while Peter, a laconic
lad, calmly set himself to rehabilitating the hind wheel of a battered
tin toy express which served as a dump-cart.
Little folks shouldn't quarrel, suddenly said a slow voice above
the struggling arms and legs of the twins.
Fom looked up, still pressing her body hard against the tools in
dispute, while Bep got to her feet, red-faced and panting. We're not
quarreling, said Florence, calmly.
Superintendent Warren Pemberton, still in his oilskins from a trip
down the mine, looked down at her and gasped. He did not know the
Madigan brunette twin, and actually thought she was lying. But Fom was
never known to lie; she only pettifogged.
You're not quarreling!
Didn't I see you with my own eyes? he demanded, piqued.
People don't see people quarreling, said Fom, didactically. They
Oh, that's it! Well, didn't I hear
No, you didn't; for we're mad and don't speak to each other.
But you're not quarreling?
Nope, repeated Fom, stoutly, we're not.
Mr. Pemberton shook his head helplessly. What are you doing?
I'm running a driftFom misunderstood the drift of his
questionfrom the Silver King to the Diamond Heart, and the earth
keeps coming down. Then Bep tries to make it harder by grabbing for the
Why don't you timber? suggested Pemberton, gravely.
'Cause I don't have to, answered Fom, quite as seriously.
Oh, you don't! Pemberton, a man with no sense of humor, had been
unusually expansive; but he shrank angrily into himself now, as though
from a cold douche. It took some time for one to get accustomed to
Fom's way of instructing authorities upon the subjects which they were
supposed to know most about.
No, that's silly, remarked Fom, superbly. If the ground's sticky
enough, and you're not butter-fingered,with an insulting glance at
Bep,you can manage all right.
But I'm not butter-fingered and I always timber. Warren Pemberton
was a slow man, but a dogged one; the elusiveness of this pert child
That's 'cause you don't know any better, came from the expert, who
had returned to her task, the excited flourishes of her uplifted legs
betraying its difficulties.
You're a little fool! declared the superintendent. Do you know
who I am? My name's Pemberton, and I
Why don't you make your wife leave Crosby alone, then? demanded
Fom, without seeming much impressed.
Warren Pemberton looked down upon her little body with an expression
that made Bep wonder why he refrained from stamping upon it.
You don't think Mrs. Pemberton knows her business, either? His
ruddy, full face looked apoplectic.
Nope. Sissy says if she was Crosby she'd run away to sea. And she's
going to put him up to it, too, if
But Bep, frightened by the growing anger in the great man's face,
interposed. Shall I shut her up for you, Mr. Pemberton? she asked.
Whatwhat d' ye say? I wish to God you would, or that somebody
Fom, said Bep, authoritatively, shut up!
Fom jumped to her feet. There was appeal, wrath, rebellion in her
crimson face. She opened her lips as if to protest.
Shut up, Fom, repeated Bep, distinctly. I said shut up.
There came a deadly silence. Pemberton, in the act of stalking
ill-temperedly away, turned bewildered to regard the miracle.
Say, asked Peter Cody, driven to speech by curiosity. Say, Fom,
do you let your sister boss you like that? I thought you was twins.
Fom looked appealingly at Bep. If Bep would but explain the nature
of a shut-upits power of suddenly depriving one of speech; of making
one temporarily dumb in the very midst of a sentence, at the bidding of
the winner of a wager, whenever, wherever the caprice to collect the
debt of honor occurred to her!
But Bep, after accompanying Mr. Pemberton a few steps, striving to
untell him what Fom had betrayed, turned her attention again to mining
matters. She knew well what Fom's eyes begged, but hid her head in the
Silver King, whence a subterranean giggle came, revealing her enjoyment
of the situation.
Fom's stormy eyes filled and the Silver King and the Diamond Heart
jigged back and forth till the tears splashed down and cleared her
Hocry-baby! called Peter Cody. Peter was one of those gallant
gentlemen who are never afraid of a playmate when some one else has
demonstrated that he can be downed.
At the taunt, a revengeful passion seized Fom, standing therea
lingual Samson shorn of her tongue, two dirty channels plowed down her
cheeks by her tears. Deliberately lifting her foot, she brought it
down, stamping with all her might again and again.
The soft, loosely packed earth slid smoothly down. The Diamond Heart
caved in completely, the almost finished connecting tunnel was a wreck,
and the still rolling, moist gravel swept over Bep's head, filling up
the Silver King clear to the surface.
By the time Peter had realized their utter ruin, and Bep had shaken
the particles of sand and gravel from her hair and ears and throat, Fom
was nowhere in sight.
Let's kill her, suggested Bep.
Shall we? asked Peter, with an air of stern justice.
They debated the question, fully realizing the make-believe of it,
yet taking pleasure in at least the mention of revenge.
Suddenly Bep gave a cry of triumph and picked up something from the
What is it? asked Peter.
It's Fom's doll. It must have dropped out of her pocket when she
was digging and sassing Mr. Pemberton. We'll play there's been an
accident,a cave in the mine,and the doll'll be buried alive down
there. Wouldn't Fom howl?
She rolled up her sleeve and thrust a round arm far down in the
clean, moist gravel, leaving the poor Smith twin in the murderous
depths of the Silver King. Then both set to work. Poor Fom, half-way
down the dump, beside the mysterious flush of seething, boiling,
foaming waste water, whose tide went low or high with the breathing of
the great mine, heard a laugh or a whistle now and then; and a
miserable feeling of loneliness oppressed her. But she lay there
sobbing quietly, while on top the valiant rescuers emptied the mines,
carried on conversations with the entombed men, and at last, with a
fine pretense of amazement and grief, discovered the dead miner.
Reverently he was borne to the surface, Bep holding the bucket steady
while Peter wound the cord. And then they buried the unfortunate man.
There was an imposing funeral, and the three-wheeled dump-cart was
filled with imaginary mourners. At the grave hymns were sung by Bep,
when she could be spared from mourner's duties, and a prayer by Peter
concluded the impressive services.
It had been Fom's intention to lie there half-way down the dump till
she died of hungerwhen Bep would be sorry for her cruel treatment.
The self-pitying tears were in Florence's eyes as she thought out the
details of Bep's grief, and the unanimous reprobation of the family for
the bad blonde twin. But she grew hungrier and hungrier, and at last
resolved to go home to lunch.
First, though, she would see how much damage she had done in her
short-lived anger, for her heart was sore when she thought how proud
they two had been of their mines. She scrambled to the top. There was
the new shaft, the Tomboy, almost completed. The Diamond Heart was in
working order. Peter's dexterous fingers had triumphed over the
shifting rock, and he had modestly taken a hint as to timbering from
Warren Pemberton. The tunnel was an accomplished fact, while over the
frail hoisting-works of the Silver King a tiny flaga corner torn from
Bep's handkerchieffluttered at half-mast.
THE ANCESTRY OF IRENE
In her heart Irene was confident that, though among the Madigans,
she was not of them. The color of her hair, the shape of her nose, the
tempestuousness of her disposition, the difficulty she experienced in
fitting her restless and encroaching nature into what was merely one of
a number of jealously frontiered interstices in a large familyall
this forbade tame acceptance on her part of so ordinary and humble an
origin as Francis Madigan's fatherhood connoted.
No, she said firmly to herself the day she and Florence were
see-sawing in front of the woodshed after school, he's only just my
foster-father; that's all.
How this foster-fathershe loved the term, it sounded so
delightfully haughtyhad obtained possession of one whose birthright
would place her in a station so far above his own, she had not decided.
But she was convinced that, although poor and peculiar and incapable of
comprehending the temperament and necessities of the nobly born, he
was, in his limited way, a worthy fellow. And she had long ago resolved
that when her real father came for her, she would bend graciously and
forgivingly down from her seat in the carriage, to say good-by to poor
Thank you very, very much, Mr. Madigan, she would sweetly say,
for all your care. My father, the Count, will never forget what you
have done for his only child. As for myself, I promise you that I will
have an eye upon your little girls. I am sure his Grace the Duke will
gladly do anything for them that I recommend. I am very much interested
in little Florence, and shall certainly come for her some day in my
golden chariot to take her to my castle for a visit, because she is
such a well-behaved child and knew me, in her childish way, for a noble
lady in disguise. Cecilia? Which one is that? Oh, the one her sisters
call Sissy! She needs disciplining sadly, Mr. Madigan, sadly. Much as
he loves me, my father, the Prince, would not care to have me know
heras she is now. But she will improve, if you will be very, very
strict with her. Good-by! Good-by, all! No, I shall not forget you. Be
good and obey your aunty. Good-by!
The milk-white steeds would fly down the steep, narrow, unpaved
streets. On each side would stand the miners, bowing, hat in hand,
hurrahing for the great Emperor and his beautiful daughtershe who had
so strangely lived among them under the name of Split Madigan. They
would speak, realizing now, of certain royal traits they had always
noted in herher haughty spirit that never brooked an insult, her
independence, her utter fearlessness, the reckless bravery of a long
line of kings, andand even that very disinclination for study which
they had stupidly fancied indicated that Sissy Madigan was her
superior! What would Princess Irene want with vulgar fractions, a
common denominator, and such low subjects?
What makes you wrinkle up your nose that way, Split? Florence's
voice broke in complainingly on her sister's reverie. She glanced up
the incline of the see-saw to the height whence Irene looked down,
physically as well as socially, upon her faithful retainer and the
straggling little town.
Irene did not answer. She was busy dreaming, and her dreams were of
the turned-up-nose variety.
Don't, Split! It makes you look like awhat Sissy just now called
you. The smaller sister's eyes fell, as though seeking corroboration
from the middle of the board, where Sissy had been so lately acting as
candle-sticklately, for the incident had ended (no game being
enticing enough to hold these two long in an unnatural state of
neutrality) in Split's washing Sissy's face vigorously in the snow, and
Sissy's calling her elder sister nothing but an old Indian! as she
ran weeping into the house with the familiar parting threat to get even
before bedtime. No Madigan could bear that the sun should set on her
wrath; she preferred that all scores should be paid off, so that the
slate might be clean for to-morrow's reckonings.
Fom, said her big sister, slowly, when she was quite ready to
speak, I think you'd better call me 'Irene.' You'd feel gladder about
it when I'm gone.
Where? At this minute it was Fom's turn to be dangerously high,
and she wriggled to the uttermost end of the plank to counterbalance
her sister's weight.
She glanced up the incline of the see-saw to the height
whence Irene looked down"]
A mysterious smile overspread Irene's face. It became broadly
triumphant as she rose presently on the short end of the board, her
arms daringly outspread, her toes upturned in front of her, her agile
body well balanced, her spirit exulting in the sense of danger without
and superiority within.
When? asked Florence, with that amiable readiness to consider a
question unasked, so becoming to the vassal. When are you going?
To-nightmaybe. Her own words startled Irene. She loved to play
upon Fom's fears, but she had not really intended committing herself so
far. He may call for me to-night, she added, with qualifying
Yes, my father. I must be ready at any time, you know.
Fom looked alarmed. She had heard long ago and in strict confidence
about Split's lofty parentage. She had even accepted drafts upon her
future, rendering services which were unusual in a Madigan fag, with
the understanding that when the Princess Split should come into her
own, she would richly repay. But she had never before heard her speak
so positively or set a time when their relationship must cease.
A feeling of utter loneliness came over Split's faithful ally. She
saw the balance of power in the Madigan oligarchy rudely disturbed. She
beheld, in a swift, dread vision, the undisputed supremacy of the party
of Sissy. Dismay entered her soul and shook her body, for with the
brunette of the twins emotion and action were synonymous. Oh, don't
go, Split! she begged, squirming unhappily at her end of the plank.
High up in the air, Split smiled superbly. There was noblesse
oblige in that smile; also the strong teasing tincture which no
Madigan could resist using, even upon her closest ally.
Oh, Splito-o-oh, Split! wailed Fom, forgetting in her wriggling
misery how close she already was to the end of the plank.
A crash and a bump and a squeal told it to her all at once. She had
slid clear off, getting an instantaneous effect of her haughty sister
unsupported at a dizzy eminence, before Split came bumping down to
earth, the see-saw giving that regal head a parting, stunning tap as
the long end finally settled down and the short one went up to stay.
It was never in the ethics of Madigan warfare to explain the
inexplicable. Florence was on her feet, flying as though for her very
life, before Split, shaken down from her dreams, quite realized what
had happened. And she was still sitting as she had fallen when Jim, the
Indian, came for the sawbuck.
Jim limped, his eyes were sore and watery, and it took him two weeks
to conquer the Madigan woodpile, which any other Piute in town could
have leveled in half the time.
Him fall, eh? he asked, dismantling the see-saw with that careful
leisureliness that accounted for the Chinaman Wong's contempt for
Not him; her, Jim.
Split possessed a passion for imparting knowledge, of which she had
little, and which was hard for her to attain.
She no got little gal like you teach her Inglis, he said, gently
Not she, Jim; he. How old is your little girl? Split
remembered that a genteel interest in the lower classes is becoming to
He just big like you, Jim responded mournfully, drawing the back
of his brown hand across his nose. But he all gone.
Dead? Split crossed her legs uneasily as she squatted, and lowered
her voice reverently.
He no dead, Jim said, lifting the sawbuck and easing it on his
shoulder. One Washoe squaw steal himlittle papoose, nice little
papoose. Much whitelike you, missy. So white, squaw say no sure
Take him down Tluckee valley. Take him 'way. Jim see squaw one day
long time 'goWashoe Lakeshoot ducks. Heap shoot squaw. He die, but
he say white Faginia man got papoose.
Jim! It was the faintest echo of the first terrified exclamation.
Come Faginia, look papoose. No find. Chop wood long time. Heap
hogadynot much dinner. Nice papoosewhite, like you.
Jim paused. He expected sympathy, but he hoped for dinner. When he
saw he was to get neither, he hunched his lame hip; scratched his head,
balanced the sawbuck, and shuffled away.
Too overcome to move, Split sat looking after him. Her father! This,
then, was her father! She was dazed, helpless, too overwhelmed even to
be unhappy yet.
There came a shrill call for her from Kate, and Split, with
unaccustomed meekness, staggered obediently to her feet. What was left
for her but to be a slave, she said stonily to herself. She was an
Indian likelike her father! And Sissy had noticed the resemblance
that very afternoon!
It's the bell, Split, explained Kate, who was reading The Spanish
Gypsy in the low, hall-like library.
She had begun to read the book for the reason that no one in her
class at school had read itusually a compelling reason for the eldest
of the Madigans; but the poetic beauty, the extravagance of the
romance, had whirled the girl away from her pretentious pose, and she
was finishing it now because she could not help it; chained to it, it
seemed to her, till she should know the end.
Shall I go? asked Split, humbly, looking up at her sister.
Kate looked up, too surprised by her sister's docility to do
anything but nod. She had anticipated a battle, a ring at the door-bell
being the signal for a flying wedge of Madigans tearing through the
hall, with inquisitive Irene at its apexexcept when she was asked to
The sisters' eyes met: those of the elder, in her thin, dark,
flushed face, hazy with romantic happiness; those of the younger bright
with romantic suffering, demanding a share of that felicity which
transfigured her senior.
What're you reading, anyway, Kate? she asked.
As well tap the bung of a cask and ask what it holds. Kate began
'Father, your child is ready! She will not
Forsake her kindred: she will brave all scorn
Sooner than scorn herself. Let Spaniards all,
Christians, Jews, Moors, shoot out the lip and say,
Lo, the first hero in a tribe of thieves!
Is it not written so of them? They, too,
Were slaves, lost, wandering, sunk beneath a curse,
Till Moses, Christ, and Mahomet were born,
Till beings lonely in their greatness lived,
And lived to save their people.'
It poured from Kate's lips, the story of the lady Fedalma and her
Gipsy father, a stream of winy romance, a sugared impossibility
preserved in the very spirits of poetry.
Again the old bell jangled, and again. Kate was glutted, drunk with
the sound of the verbal music that had been chorusing behind her lips;
while for Irene every word seemed charged with the significance of
special revelation. The light seemed to leap from her sister's eyes to
kindle a conflagration in her own.
Read it againthat partKate! Read it! she cried.
And Kate, not a bit loath, turned the page and repeated:
'Lay the young eagle in what nest you will,
The cry and swoop of eagles overhead
Vibrate prophetic in its kindred frame,
And make it spread its wings and poise itself
For the eagle's flight.'
Split breathed again, a full, deep breath of satisfaction. An
Indianshe, Split Madigan? Perhaps; but an Indian princess, then, with
a mission as great, glorious, and impossible as Fedalma's own.
When at last she did turn mechanically to answer the bell, she saw
that Sissy had anticipated her and was showing old Professor Trask into
the parlor. Ordinarily Irene loved to listen at the door while Sissy's
lesson was in progress; for Trask was a nervous, disappointed wreck,
whose idea of teaching music seemed to be to make his pupils as much
like himself as harried youth can be like worried age. But on this
great day the joy of hearing the perfect Sissy rated had not the
smallest place in her enemy's thoughts. A poet's words had lifted Irene
in an instant from child hell to heaven, had fired her imagination, had
rekindled her pride, had given back her dreams.
Reality was not altogether so pleasant, she found, when she went
into the kitchen, skirmished with the Chinese cook for Jim's dinner,
and went out to the woodpile to give it to him herself.
She did not wait to see him eat itshe was not poet enough for
that; and, that impersonal, composite father, her tribe, was calling
Pulling on her hood and jacket, with her mittens dangling from a red
tape on each side, she flew out and down the long, rickety stairs which
a former senator from Nevada had built up the mountain's side, when he
planned for his home a magnificent view of the mountains and desert off
toward the east.
Split did not look at either, though they shone, the one like a
billowy moonlit sea, the other like a lake of silver, because of the
snow that covered them. She half ran, half slid down the hilly street
till she came to a box-like miner's cabin, where Jane Cody, the
washerwoman, lived with her son. In front of it she halted and called
For this same Jack was her own, her discovery, her possession, who
acknowledged her thrall and was proud of it.
But the green shutters over the one window remained fast, and the
door tight closed.
Jack? There was a suggestion of incredulity in Split's voice.
'I want youcome!' the Indian princess announced"]
The whistles burst forth in a medley of throaty roars (it was
five-o'clock mining-time"), but the bird-like whistle of Jack was
Jack Cody! Split stamped her high arctics in the snow.
The door was opened a little, and a round black head was cautiously
I want youcome! the Indian princess announced. And get your
I can't, replied the head.
But I want you.
The head wagged dolefully.
The head hung down.
The head's negative was sorrowful but determined.
If you don't tell me I'llnever speak to you again 's long as I
live, Jack Cody!
The head stretched out its long neck and sent an agonized glance
Tell meright now! she commanded.
Wellshe's took my clothes with her, wailed the head, and jerked
itself within, while the door was slammed behind it.
Split walked up the stoop.
Jack, she called, her mouth at the keyhole, who took 'em? Your
mother? Why? But she can't keep you in that way. Never mind. What
have you got on?
The door was opened an inch or two, and the head started to look
out. But at sight of Split so near it withdrew in such turtle-like
alarm that she laughed aloud.
What're you laughing at? growled the boy.
What's that you got on? said she.
Mymy mother's wrapper.
A peal of laughter burst from the Indian princess. But it ceased
suddenly. For the door was thrown open with such violence that it made
Jane Cody's wax flowers shake apprehensively under their glass bell,
and a figure stalked out such as might haunt a dreamlong, gaunt,
awkward, inescapably boyish, yet absurdly feminine, now that the dark
calico wrapper flapped at its big, awkward heels and bound and hindered
its long legs.
Split looked from the heavily shod feet to the round, short-shaven
black head, and a premonitory giggle shook her.
Don't you laughdon't you dare laugh at me! Don't you, Splitwill
you? The phrases burst from him, a threat at the beginning, an appeal
at the end.
No, said Split, choking a bit; no, I won't. You don't look
very she gulpedvery funny, Jack. And it's getting so dark that
nobody'd knowreally they wouldn't.
Get your sled quick, the big, long one, the leg-breaker, and take
me downI'll tell you where. Get it, won't you?
In this, thislike this? Jack faltered.
It's so important, Jack. Please! It's always you that asks me,
The boy threw his hands out with a gesture that strained the narrow
garment he wore almost to bursting. He began to talk, to argue, to
plead; then suddenly he yielded, and turned and ran, a grotesque,
long-legged shape, toward the back of the house.
When he whistled, Split joined him, and together they plowed their
way through the high snow to the beaten-down street beyond. At the top
of the hill, Split sat down well to the front of the low,
rakish-looking leg-breaker. Behind her the boy, hitching up his skirts,
threw himself with one knee bent beneath him, and, with a skilful
ruddering of the other long, untrousered leg, started the sled.
They had coasted only half a blockVirginia City runs
downhillwhen they heard the shrill yelp of the Comstock boy on the
trail of his prey. As Jack stopped the sled a swift volley of snowballs
from a cross-street struck the figure of a tall, timid, stooping man in
an old-fashioned cape, such as no Comstock boy had ever seen on
It's Professor Trask, breathed Irene, keen delight in persecution
lending to her aggressive, bright face that savage sharpness of feature
which Sissy Madigan called Indian. Don't you wish you hadn't got that
dress on, Jack? she asked, as the tall, black mark for a good shot
still stood hesitating to cross the polished, steep street, down which
many sleds had slipped for days past. You could get him every time,
Despite the ignoble garment that cramped it, the boy's breast
swelled with pride in his lady's approval.
You could just fire one at him from here, anyway, suggested Irene,
adaptable as her sex is to contemporary standards and customs.
Ye-es, said the boy, hesitating; but he's such a poor old luny.
Split turned her imperial little hooded head questioningly.
They had coasted only half a block"]
He isreally luny, said the boy, apologetically. Since his
little girl wandered away one day from home and never came back, he
gets spells, you know. He was telling ma one day when she went over to
do his washing. Butbut I will land one on him if you want, Split.
But Split had suddenly pivoted clear around and sat now facing him,
an eager, mittened hand staying his hard, skilful, obedient fingers,
already making the snowball.
Howhow old would that little girl be, Jack? she gasped.
Why, 'bout twelvethirteen. Why?
And what would be the color of her hair?
Red, I s'pose, like his; notnot like yoursSplit, he added
shyly, glancing at the brown fire of the curls that escaped from her
But Irene was no longer listening. She was looking over to the other
side of the street, where that shrinking, pitiable old figure in its
threadbare neatness trembled; not daring to seek safety across the
dangerously smooth street, nor daring to remain exposed here, where it
ducked ridiculously every now and then to avoid the whizzing balls that
sang about it.
Irene breathed hard. A coward for a father, a scarecrow, a butt for
a gang of miners' boys! This, this was her father! Why, even crippled
old Jim, the wood-chopper, seen in retrospect and haloed by
copper-colored dreams of romantic rehabilitationeven Jim seemed
But she did not hesitate, any more than Fedalma did. She, too, knew
a daughter's dutyto a hitherto unknown, just-discovered father. A
merely ordinary, every-day parent like Francis Madigan was, as a matter
of course, the common enemy, and no self-respecting Madigan would waste
the poetry of filial feeling upon any one so realistic.
You wait for me here, Jack, she said, with unhesitating reliance
upon his obedience.
Where're you going? I thought you were in a hurry to get down to
She did not hear him. She had spun off the sled, and with the
sure-footed speed of the hill-child she was crossing the street.
Old Trask, his short-sighted eyes blinking beneath his twitching,
bushy red eyebrows, looked down as upon a miracle when a red-mittened
hand caught his and he heard a confident voicethe clear voice
children use to enlighten the stupidity of adults:
I'll help you across; take my hand.
He leaned down, failing to recognize her. Children had no identity
to him. They were merely brats, he used to say, unless they happened to
have some musical aptitude. But he accepted her aid, his battered old
hat rocking excitedly upon his high bony forehead, as he ducked and
turned and shivered at the oncoming balls. Bad boysbad boys! he
ejaculated. Boys are the devil!
Yes, agreed Split, craftily. Girls are best. Your little girl,
nowfather she began softly.
Ehwhat? he exclaimed. Who's your father? My respects to him.
I have no father, she answered softly. A plan had sprung full-born
from her quick brain. She would win this erratic father back to memory
of his former life and her place in itsomewhat as did one Lucy
Manette, a favorite heroine of Split's that Sissy had read about and
told her of. That would be a fine thing to doalmost as fine, and
requiring the center of the stage as much, as rehabilitating the Red
I have no father, she murmured, if you won't be mine.
What? What? No! Trask was across now and brushing the snowy traces
of battle from his queer old cape. No; I don't want any children. I
had one oncea daughter.
Split's heart beat fast.
She was a brat, with the temper of a little fiend, and no
earabsolutely nonefor music; played like an elephant.
How terribly confirmatory!
And whatwhat became of her? whispered Split.
She ran away two years ago and
I said two, didn't I? demanded the old professor, irascibly.
Disgusted, Split turned her back on him. Why, two years ago Sissy
had first called her an Indian; how right she had been! Two years ago
she, Split, was making over all her dolls to Fom. Two years ago she had
already discovered Jack Cody's fleet strength, his wonderful aptness at
making swift sleds, in which her reckless spirit reveled, his
mastership of other boys of his gang, andher mastery of him.
She turned and beckoned to him. His sweet whistle rang out in answer
like a vocal salute, and in a moment she was seated again in front of
him, with that deft, tail-like left leg of his steering them down, down
over cross-street, through teams and sleighs and unwary pedestrians;
past the miners coming off shift; past the lamplighter making his
rounds in the crisp, clear cold of the evening; past the heavy-laden
squaws, with their bowed heads, their papooses on their backs, their
weary arms bearing home the spoils of a hard day's work, and the
sore-eyed yellow dogs trudging, too, wearily and dejectedly at their
heels, toward the rest of the wickiup and the acrid warmth of the
In short, swift sentences, as they hurdled over artificially raised
obstructions, or slid along the firm-packed snow, or grated on the
muddy cross-streets, Princess Split told her planwith reservations.
She was not prepared to admit to so humble a worshiper the secret of
her birth, but the magnanimous self-sacrifice of a beautiful nature,
the heroine concealed beneath a frivolous exteriorthese she was
willing Jack Cody should suspect and admire.
We'll lift them up, you and I, Jack. I'm going 'toto be the angel
of a homeless tribe,' or something like that, she quoted, as it grew
darker and the sled slowed down a bit, where the slant of the
hill-street became gentler and she need not hold on tight. You'll be
their general and I their princess. You'll teach them to be fine
soldiers, so that the people in town will be afraid of them and have to
give them back their landsand the mines, too. They're theirs, and
they shall have them and be millionaires. And, of course, so will we.
We'll own all the stocks and brokers' offices, and after a few years,
when they're quite civilized, we'll come up to town to live. We'll take
Bob Graves's 'Castle' andJack! Ah!
A long scream burst from her. Never in her life had Split Madigan
screamed like that. For an incredibly fleet instant she actually saw
above her head a struggling horse's hoofs. In the next, her
calico-wrappered knight had thrown himself and his lady out into the
great drifts on the side. Split felt the cold fleeciness of new-fallen
snow on her face, down her neck, up her sleeves. She was smothered,
drowned in it, when with another tug the boy whirled her to her feet,
and swaying unsteadily, she looked up into the face of the man whose
horses had so nearly crushed her life out.
It was her fathershe knew it was. Else why had fate so strangely
thrown them together? Yes, this was her true father. No other girl's
father could have so handsome a fur coat as that reaching from the tips
of this very tall man's ears to his heels. No other could have a sleigh
so fine, and silver-belled horses fit for a king. No other could have
such bright brown eyes beneath heavy sandy brows, such red, red cheeks,
and so long and silver-white a beard which the sun could still betray
into confession of its youthful ruddiness. What if he did have, too, a
brogue so soft, so wheedling that men had long called him Slippery
Split waked with a humiliating start from her lesser, less genteel
dreams. Of course this bonanza king driving up from the mine was her
real father, and she a bonanza princess, happier, more fortunate than a
merely political one; for princesses have to live in Europe, where
Madigans cannot see and envy them.
With the mien of one who has come at last into her own, Split
accepted his invitation to carry her up to town, and, with a facetious
twinkle in his eyes that added to his likeness to a stately Santa Claus
(though his was not a reputation for benevolence), he lifted her and
set her down under the silky fur rugs.
Split nestled back in perfect content: at last she was fitly placed.
Hitch on behind, Jack, she cried patronizingly, and the bonanza
king's sleigh went up the hill with its queer freight: queer, for this
was that one of them whose strength was subtlety, whose forte was
guile, whose left hand knew not the charitable acts of his rightand
neither did the right, for that matter.
Thoroughly sophisticated are Comstock children as to the character
of the masters of their masters, and Split Madigan knew how foreign to
this man's nature a lovable action was. All the more, then, she valued
the distinction which chancefatehad made hers. And all the more did
a something fierce and lawless and proud in herself leap to recognize
the tyrant in him. Kings should be above law, as princesses were, was
Split's creed; else why be kings and princesses?
An' where would ye be a-goin' to, down this part o' the world so
late? she heard the unctuous voice above her inquire.
Split was silent. That the daughter of a bonanza king should have
fancied for a moment that Indian Jim could be her father!
An' who's the gyurl with yethe witch ye call Jack?
'T isn't a girl. That virility which Split's wild nature respected
and admired forbade her denying the boy his sex. It's a
King Sammy laughed. His was rich, strong laughter, and men who heard
it on C Street (they had reached the main thoroughfare now, so fleet
were these kingly horses of Split's father) knew itand knew, too,
what poor, mean thoughts lay behind it.
An' this Cody, he said, turning his handsome head to look down at
the boy on his sled behind. CodyCody, now, he continued, with
royalty's marvelous memory, your father killed in the Ophireh? Time
of the fire on the 1800yesyes! An' I was goin' to give him a point
that very day. Wellwell!
Ye did! The boy looked up resentful, and met those smiling, crafty
No! An' he sold short? Too bad! Too bad! I thought sure that stock
was goin' down. My, the bad man that told me it was! I hope he didn't
lose? he chuckled.
All we had, said the boy.
Tuttuttut! What a pity! Haven't I always said it's wicked to
deal in stocks! The king shook his sorrowful old head, then turned to
the princess beside him. An' it's out for a ride ye'd be,
sweetheartin' on the sly, eh?
He's not! I was not! Split's cheeks grew hotter. He was her
father, this splendid, handsome king, yet never had she felt for poor
Francis Madigan what she felt now for the man beside her.
I was going down forfor a reason, she stammered.
To be sure! To be sure! chuckled his old Majesty. An' ye've told
your father an' mother ye were goin', no doubt.
No, Ididn't. Icouldn't.
Coorse not; coorse not, but ye
Let me out! cried Split.
The sneer in his voice had set her aflame. She rose in the sleigh,
cast off the furs, and, stamping like a fury, tried to seize the reins.
Ho! Ho! The old monarch's bowed broad shoulders shook with
laughter as he caught her trembling hands and held them. What a little
spitfire! A divvle of a temper ye've got, my dear. Cody, now, does he
like gyurls with such a temper?
Will you let me out? Her voice was hoarse with anger.
Can't ye wait till we get t' a crossin', ye little termagant?
Nono! She tore her hands from him, and, with a quick, lithe leap
from the low sleigh, landed, a bit dazed, in the snow banked high on
the side of the street.
Uncle Sammy stared after her a moment. Then he remembered the boy
Hithere! he cried, looking over his shoulder as he reached for
his whip. Git!
But Cody had the street-boy's quickness. All he had to do was to let
go the end of rope he held, and the leg-breaker slipped smoothly back,
while the king's runnered chariot shot ahead, drawn by the flying
horses on whose backs the whip had descended.
Ugh! shivered Split, as she made her way out of the drift. It's
cold, Jack. Let's run.
Together they hauled the leg-breaker up the hill, parting at the
snow-caked, wandering flights of steps, which seemed weary and worn
with their endless task of climbing the mountain to Madigan's door.
Irene mounted them quickly. She was cold, and it had grown very dark
and late; so late that the lamp shone out from the dining-room, warning
her that it must be dangerously near to dinner-time. She had reached
the last flight when Sissy came flying out along the porch to meet her.
Splitssh! she cautioned, with a friendliness that surprised
Split, who remembered how well she had washed that round, innocent face
in the snow only a few hours agothe face of Sissy, the unforgiving.
Dinner's ready, she went on, but father isn't down yet. Go round the
back way, and you can get in without his knowing how late you are.
Split did not budge. The sight of Sissy had made her a Madigan
again, prepared for any emergency the appearance of her arch-enemy
might portend. What are you up to? she demanded suspiciously.
Oh! Sissy turned haughtily on her heel. If you want to go in and
But Split did not want to catch it. Her day's experience had made
her content to bear the eccentricities of her humble foster-father, but
she was by no means anxious to be the instrument that should provoke a
characteristic expression of them.
She slipped around the back way, passing through Wong's big kitchen,
the heat and odors of which were grateful messages of cheer to her
chilled little body. She flew up-stairs and tore off her wet clothing,
and was out in the hall, buttoning hastily as she walked, when the
In some previous existence Split Madigan must have been a most
intelligent horse in some metropolitan fire department. It was her
instinct still to run at the sound of the bell; every other Madigan,
therefore, delighted in preventing that impulse's gratification. But
this time Bessie came hurriedly to meet her and even speed her on her
'Oh, you needn't glare at me!' exclaimed Bep"]
Quickit's your father, Split! she cried.
Split looked at her. She trusted Bep no more than she did Sissy,
whose lieutenant the blonde twin was.
Oh, you needn't glare at me! exclaimed Bep, her guilty conscience
sensitive to accusation by implication. Fom told me all you told her
about him. She was 'fraid you were coming after her for letting you
fall off the see-saw, and she told me the whole thing. She said you
expected him to-nightdon't you?
Howdo you know it'smy father that's at the door? demanded
Split, all the warier of the enemy because of her acquaintance with her
Why! Bep opened clear, china-blue eyes, as shallow and baffling as
bits of porcelain. Hasn't he been here once for you already, while you
Split turned and ran down the hall. In the minute this took she had
lived through a long, heart-breaking, childish regretregret for the
familiar, apprehension of the unknown. It was so warm and snug in this
Madigan house; she seemed so to belong there. Why must that unknown
parent come to claim her just now, when her spirit was still sorely
vexed with the failings of the various fathers she had borne with in
one short afternoon!
She got to the top of the staircase that led down to the front door,
when she saw that some one had preceded her. It was Madigan, who was on
his way down to dinner; poor old Madigan, with his slippered, slow, but
positive tread, his straight, assertive back expressing indignation, as
it always did when his door-bell was rung. Oh, that familiar old back!
Something swelled in Split's throat and held her choking, as she
grasped the banister and gazed yearningly down upon him. For a moment
she had the idea of flying down past him to save him from what was
coming. But it was too late; already he had his hand on the door-knob.
Did he know who it was for whom he was opening his door? Split gasped.
Did he anticipate what was coming? Some one ought to tell himto break
it to himto
But evidently Split herself could not have done this, for in almost
the identical moment that Madigan resentfully threw open the door, a
stream of water was dashed into his astonished face.
From her point of vantage on the stairway Split saw a paralyzed
Sissy, the empty pitcher in her guilty hand, the grin of satisfaction
frozen on her panic-stricken round face; while, before she fled, her
eyes shot one quick, hunted glance over Madigan's dripping head to the
joyous enemy above.
And Split was joyous. Her explosive laugh pealed out in the second
before fear of her father stifled it. So this was how Sissy had planned
to get even; so this was the plot behind Bep's baffling blue eyes! And
only the accident of Madigan's going to the door had saved Splitand
confounded her enemy.
Oh, it was good to be a Madigan! Standing there dry and triumphant,
Split hugged herselfher very own selfher individuality, which at
this minute she would not have changed for anything the world had to
offer. To be a Madigan, one's birthright to laugh and do battle with
one's peers; and to win, sometimes through strength, sometimes through
guile, sometimes through sheer luckbut to win!
THE LAST STRAW
Young as she was, Frances Madigan had known a great sorrow. She
remembered (or fancied she did, having heard the circumstance so often
related) how Francis Madigan had seized and confiscated her cradle as
soon as her sex had been avowed.
It's too bad, Madigan! was the form in which Dr. Murchison had
made the announcement of her birth.
It's the last strawthat's what it is, Madigan answered grimly,
bearing the cradle out to the woodshed. There he chopped it to pieces,
as though defying a perverse destiny to send him another daughter.
With tears running down her cheeks, Frances had witnessed the
pathetic sightor, if she had not, she believed she had; which was
quite as effective in her narrative of the occurrence.
And he took my cwadle, Frank was accustomed to relate, with an
abused sniff to punctuate each phrase, and he chopped it wif the
hatchet all in little bits o' pieces.
How big, Frank? Sissy liked to ask.
Teeny-weeny bitslittle as that, Frank whined, still in
character, and showing a small finger-nail. And
And then what did you do? prompted Sissy.
Frank stamped her foot. The cynical tone of the question grated upon
an artistic temperament at the crucial moment when it was composing and
acting at the same time. Don't you say it, Sissy Madigan! she cried
petulantly. I can say it myself. And thenturning to Maude
Bryne-Stivers, to whom she was telling the touching incident, with a
resumption of her first manner, and her most heartrending toneand
then I looked first at my cwadle and then at my father, and I
cwiedand cwiedand cwiedand
One is limited at four and is apt to strive for emphasis by the
simple method of repetition. Frank always cwied and cwied till some
interruption came to the rescue and furnished a climax.
You dear little lump of sugar! cried Miss Bryne-Stivers at the
proper moment, lifting the chubby mourner off her feet and out of her
pose at the same time.
And Frank, seated on the lady's lap, was content with her effect.
It was a small matter, anyway, with Frank Madiganthe loss of a
pose or two; she had so many. A parody of parodies was the smallest
Madigan, and her jokes were the shadows of shades of jokes handed down
ready-made to her. Yet she was convinced that they were good; otherwise
the Madigans would not have laughed at them long before she adopted
She herself was a victimas was the gentleman after whom she was
namedof a surplusage of femininity about the house. All female
children are mothers before they are girls, the earliest sex-tendency
having a scientific precedence over others; and the Madigans played
with their smallest sister bodily, as with a doll whose mechanism
presented more possibilities than that of any mechanical toy they had
seenin some other child's possession. Later they were charmedif but
for a whileby the field her mentality provided for experimental work.
There were times when Frances Madigan had a mother for every day in the
week; there were days when she had no mother at all; and there were
occasions when she was adopted as a whole, and for a stated time, by
some Madigan with a theory, which was tried upon her with all the
remorselessness of a faddist before she was given over as completely to
Thus Sissy had taken possession of her and made of her, in the short
time her enthusiasm lasted, a visible replica of that which Sissy tried
to delude herself into thinking was her own character. In those days
she cut poor Frank's curls off and plastered the child's hair down in a
strong-minded fashion. She insisted upon her disciple's pronouncing
clearly and distinctly. She inaugurated a régime of practical common
sense, small rewards and severe punishments, and taught Frank how to
count. But not to spell; for Sissy had introduced the fashion among
Madigans of spelling out the word which was the key-note of a
sentencea proceeding that exasperated Frank. Don't you let her have
any c-a-n-d-y; Aunt Anne says 't ain't good for her, was a sample of
the abuses that drove Frank nearly mad with curiosity and indignation.
But finally Sissy joined the Salvation Army with her protégée
(religion had all the attraction of the impliedly forbidden to the
Madigans), and was discovered by Francis Madigan one evening on C
Street, putting up a fluent prayer in a nasal tremoloan excellent
imitation of the semi-hysterical falsetto of the bonneted enthusiast
who had preceded her.
Madigan looked from Sissyher hypocritical eyes upcast, while her
soul was ravished by the whispered comment upon her precocity, to which
she lent an encouraging earto Frank, kneeling angelically beside her.
Something in himself, his enthusiastic, emotional, long-forgotten,
youthful self, felt the tug of sympathy at the sight, and, after his
first irritated start, he stood there behind the watching crowd with no
thought of interference.
You can thank your stars, you unco guid lassie, he said within
himself, his sarcastic eyes on Sissy's holy face, that you've not a
more religious and more conventional man for a father. 'T is one like
that would yank you out of your play-acting preaching, or my name's not
He did not know that the exclamation had been uttered aloud. Their
father was unaware of the habit; but his daughters knew well that
stentorian clearing of the throat which served for a warning that he
was about to speak, and also a notification that he had spoken and
would permit no difference of opinion. In the midst of her
religio-dramatic ecstasy, Sissy heard that sound behind her, and jumped
to her feet as though brought painfully back to a sorrowing, sinful
And he tooked her, said Frances later, in relating the affair to
an eager audience of Madigans, and he whipped her awful!
With his whole hand? asked Bep, feeling it to be the partizan's
duty to doubt.
Uh-huh! The small fabricator nodded her head in slow and awful
That shows, Frank Madigan! said Bep, scornfully turning her back.
He never whips with more than two fingers.
And yet it was the confident belief of the Madigans that if it had
been anybody but Sissy, that somebody would have been eaten alive!
* * * * *
It was Split who next adopted the Last Straw. Under her tutelage
Frank learned to climb her sister's body and stand upright and fearless
on her shoulders. She was also initiated into the great game of fats,
which the Madigans played winter evenings on the crumb-cloth in the
dining-room; said crumb-cloth being printed in large squares of red and
white, one of which was chalked off for the ring.
Frank's induction into the game led to a grand battle between Split
and Sissy, the latter contending that the baby's fingers could not
properly handle and shoot the marbles. But Sissy ought to have known
better than to make such a point, as the Madigans had a peculiar way of
playing fats, for which Frankbeing a Madiganwas as fitted by nature
as any of her seniors.
It consisted, first, in hauling out the big box of marbles, in which
the booty won by the whole family was keptthe Madigans were gamblers,
of course, as was everything born on the Comstock. Second, in a
desperate controversy as to how the marbles were to be divided. Third,
in a compromise, which necessitated that a complete count be made of
every marble in the boxand the Madigans' unfeminine skill made this a
question of handling hundreds of them, of suspiciously watching one
another, of losing and of finding; and it all took time. Fourth, a
decision as to handicaps. Fifth, a heated discussion of the relative
values of puries, pottries, agates, crystals, and 'dobies. Sixth, a
fiery attack from Sissy on Split's lucky taw. Seventh, the falling
asleep of Frank squarely over the ring. And eighth, the sending of the
whole tribe to bed by Aunt Annethe entire evening having been taken up
with arranging an order of business, and not a stroke of business
But the Split sphere of influence over the disputed territory of
Frances was considerably circumscribed by the affair of the stagecoach.
It stooda dusty, lumbering vehicle that made daily trips down from
the mountain to the small towns in the cañonupon a raised platform in
front of Baldy Bob's. Baldy Bob, who departed with it the first thing
in the morning and returned late in the afternoon, hauled it each day
up on to the platform, intending to get out the hose and wash it
offafter dinner when he came back from downtown. But he never came
back till time to hitch up and start down the cañon again. So the old
coach was left high and dry, while the sun went down behind Mount
Davidson and the brightest stars in all the world shone out from a
black-blue firmament unmarred by the smallest haze.
Till Split discovered it.
To Split, who had never traveled by any means other than her own
lithe limbs and Jack Cody's sled, the coach's big, low, dusty body, its
heavy high wheels, its dusky interior smelling of heated leather and
twig-scented, summer-sunned country dust, were romance incarnate. It
meant voyaging to her, this coach: strange sights, queer peoples, the
sea that she had never seen, the rippling of rivers she had never
heard, the smell of pasture-land, of pine forests, of lake-dipped
willows, of flowersvalleys full of flowers, like those that bloomed
in Mrs. Pemberton's garden, but unlike those enchanted blossoms in not
being irrevocably attached to the bush on which they grew, and
unguarded by any Mrs. Ramrod, whose most gracious act was to hold up a
rose on its stalk between forefinger and thumb and permit a
flower-hungry girl to bend down and sniff it. On the same principle,
Mrs. Ramrod showed her preserves, but she never bestowed a rose
for keeps, nor did it ever seem to occur to her that one might want a
taste of that which made her glass jars so temptingly beautiful.
Split took a dare the first time she mounted Baldy Bob's coach.
She climbed up to the driver's high seat in front with as much hidden
trepidation but as unhesitatingly as she would have plunged down a
shaft, to show Sissy, who was a coward, how brave her sister was.
But after she got up there, Sissy faded out of the world. In Baldy
Bob's coach Split was seized with Wanderlust. She sat erect and
still up there in front, her hands clasped in her lap, her shining eyes
averted from the motionless tongue below and fixed on the unrolling
landscapes of the world; on plains and valleys, on villages nestling in
trees and flying past, on great rolling fields of grainperhaps a
smooth, light, continuous sort of sage-brush, wrinkling in the wind as
the sunflowers seem to when one looks up at the mountain from the
Yet with the advent of Frances into this strange game of rapt
silences there came a change. Frank's imagination did not tempt her
abroad strange countries for to see; she merely wanted to ride down and
off the platform.
Make it go, Split, she begged, with a trust in her big sister's
capacity that Split would have perished rather than admit to be
Will you hold on tight? she asked Frances.
The child nodded, grasping the dashboard firmly. With the ease of
long practice, Split got to the big wheel and leaped to the ground. She
had noticed the big stone which Baldy Bob had slipped in front of the
hind wheel, and she fancied it was part of the reason why the
stagecoach could not be moved.
She was mistaken: it was the whole reason. And when Split had pushed
and tugged and kicked with all her strength, laying herself flat at
last and bracing her toes against the other wheel to get a leverage,
her first feeling when she saw the coach move above her head was of
delight at the unexpected. Her second was of unmixed terror; for,
gaining an impetus from its descent on the inclined plane that led from
the platform, the coach rattled briskly down Sutton Avenue, headed for
the cañon, with Frank clutching the dashboard and laughing aloud in
Split Madigan had always fancied she could run. She never knew how
impotent human fleetness is till she saw that lumbering coach go
plunging swiftly and more swiftly away from her, across B Street, and
tearing down the next hill with a speed that made her puny efforts
Baldy Bob, emerging from the saloon on the corner with that
feverishly distorted view of the world due to never going back home
after dinner downtown, saw his coach come down upon him as if to demand
the washing so long promised. If it had been morning, he would have
been properly afraid of getting in the way of the monster let loose.
But in the evening Bob was accustomed to the occurrence of peculiar
things. So he ranat that time of day he could run better than
walkout to the middle of the street, threw up his arms, and called
hoarsely upon the mad thing to stop.
It didfor a moment, when it came in contact with his body; but it
was long enough for its course to be deflected from the steep hill
below and turned northward down the comparatively level cross street.
When Bob picked himself up and followed, he found a thin,
white-faced, red-haired girl running swiftly beside him. Later he
accompanied her and the plucky little Frank (still smiling and
chuckling over her fine ride) up the hill to the home of Mr. Francis
Madigan, where he demanded damagesboth personal and mechanical.
And fa-ther tooked her in his own room, Frank said with shuddering
unction, as she told the tale, and she's in there yet!
* * * * *
It was Fom who awakened a sense of the beautiful in Frank. She and
Bep were continually playing London Bridge, in the course of which it
became necessary to demand:
Which would you rather have (that means, like best): a diamond
horse covered with stars, or a golden cradle with red silk pillows?
Sentiment and the sad experience of her babyhood always prompted
Frank to choose the cradle, of course. After which, her preference
promptly became of no importance whatever; the whole beautiful business
was put aside, and she was bidden to get behind Fom. She discovered
later that whether she preferred diamonds and stars to gold and red
silk, it was all the same: she invariably had to get behind one twin or
the other, clasp her tightly about the waist, and pulland pulltill
the whole universe gave way and she plumped down on the ground with a
big twin falling on top of her.
But there was another phase of the beautiful which was far more
satisfactory to Frank, while it lasted. Fom discovered it one day when
Split took Dora away from her, just because the brunette twin preferred
her lunch to the burned potatoes Split had baked in the back yard when
they were playing emigrants. It was then, in the depths of her grief,
that the inspiration came to her.
Shall Fom make you look awful pretty, Frank? she asked, in the
form which children suppose wheedles babies most successfully.
Frank didn't know; she was suspicious of the hollowness of the
beautiful and the inutility of choosing. Besides, she was making dolls'
biscuit just then from a piece of dough Wong had given her, cutting out
each individual bun with Aunt Anne's thimble.
But Florence coaxed and threatened and bribed, and when Francis
Madigan got home that night to dinner, he found his big porch covered
with children gathered from blocks around. Each held in his or her hand
one pin or morethe price of admission to the show. (Fom was a most
thrifty and businesslike Madigan.) And the show, which he as well as
they saw in the interval between the opening of his front door and its
swift closing, was Frances's plump, naked body draped in a sheet,
posing, with uplifted arms and an uncertain, apprehensive smile, on a
tottering draped pedestal, which fell with a crash when Fom, who was
crouched behind steadying it, beheld her father's face.
And he tooked her, with bated breath Frank repeated the monotonous
refrain of her saga, and he made her thwow evewypinshe'd madeout
the fwont window!
* * * * *
As a Madigan, Frances should have been above fear. She wasexcept
of the tank in the back room up-stairs. Its gurglings and chucklings
were more than mortal four-years-old could bear at night in the dark,
particularly after Bep had taught her to be superstitious.
Bep's nature was spongy with a capacity for saturation. She took in
every new child fad and folly. She believed in a multiplicity of
remedies, and was ready to try a new oneon somebody elsewhenever
the occasion offered. When Frank got the whooping-cough, and used to
march around the dining-room table, stamping in her paroxysms of
coughing and of speechless anger at the Madigans who followed mimicking
her, Bep decided that she would try the latest cure she had heard of.
So she wandered down to the gas-works one day, Frank's hand in hers, to
give her patient the benefit of breathing the heavily charged
atmosphere down there.
How-do, Mrs. Grayson? she greeted the gas-man's wife amiably, as
she opened the kitchen door.
Mrs. Grayson, her babies leaving her side to cluster interestedly
around Frank, replied that she and the children were well; that the
epidemic of whooping-cough had not reached them because they lived so
far out of town.
Yes, assented Bep, politely; and then, the smell of gas is so
good for whooping-cough. That keeps 'em well. And that's why I brought
Frank down here.
Mrs. Grayson's excitable motherhood took alarm. I never heard, she
said quickly, that breathing in coal-tar smells kept off
No, neither did I, though p'r'aps it does. But it curesI know
You don't mean to say Mrs. Grayson flew like a terrified hen for
her chicks, lifting two by an arm each clear from the ground and
hustling the third into the kitchen before her.
Yep, she's got it, said Bep, proudly. And Frank, feeling called
upon to be interesting, burst into a convulsive corroboration of the
You nasty little minx! exclaimed Mrs. Grayson, as she shut the
door in Bep's face.
What's 'minx'? Frank asked her sister, as they toiled up toward
Oh, it's a wild animal, answered Bep, readily; but she don't know
how to say it. She's going to have bad luck, though; anybody can tell
that by the way she walked under that ladder. I shouldn't be a bit
surprised if every last one of her children gets the whooping-cough!
And Frank felt sorry for the Graysons. For she was sure that Bep
knew whereof she spoke. She knew the laws of the superstitious country
in which she dwelt, did Bep: a country where if you sing before you
eat, you're bound to cry before you sleep; where, if you put your
corset-waist on wrong side out, and are hardy enough to change it, you
deserve what you're likely to get; where no sane girl will tempt
Providence by walking on a crack; where, if you lose something, you
have only to spit in the palm of your hand,if you're dowered in the
matter of saliva,strike the tiny pool sharply, and say:
Spit, spit, spider!
If you show me where my pencil is
I'll give you a keg of cider!
Then note the direction which the escaping particles of saliva take,
and there you are! or, rather, there it isthe lost article.
Or there it ought to be, unless you have been guilty of some
inexcusable act, such as omitting to wish at the very instant a star is
falling, or the first time you taste each new fruit in season, or if
you have forgotten to say:
Star light, star bright,
First star I've seen to-night,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish to-night!
It was Bep who taught Frank to count white horses; to pick up a pin
when its head was turned toward her, to let it lie when it pointed the
other way; to bite the tea-grounds left in a cup, and declare gravely,
if soft, that a female visitor might be expected, and, if hard, a male;
never to cut friendship by giving or accepting a knife, a pinindeed,
anything sharp; and never, by any chance, to tempt the devil of bad
luck by going out of a house by a different door than that by which she
The versatile Frank was most teachable. When Bep was collecting
bows, Frances would obligingly bow and bob for her minutes at a time,
like a Chinese mandarin, or like some small priestess observing a
solemn rite. What the Bad Luck was, the terrible alternative of all
these precautions, poor Frank could form no idea. But she had come to
associate it with the babbling tank, which seemed at night, when all
was still, to be gurgling, Bad LuckBad Luck! threateningly at her.
Then she would go over her conduct during the day, carefully
scrutinizing her every action that might have given this chuckling Bad
Luck a hold over her.
Not a crack had been stepped on that she could remember; not a pin
picked up that should have been let lie; not
The scream that burst from Frances one Sunday night during this
self-catechism brought Madigan and all the family to her bedside.
What is itwhat is it, child? demanded her father.
And Frank repeated like a Maeterlinck or a bobolink, holding up a
shaking small hand whose nails Aunt Anne had trimmed that very morning:
Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday the best day of all.
Thursday for cwosses,
Fwiday for losses
Saturday no day at all.
And better the child had never been bawn
That pared its nails on a Sunday mawn!
And fa-ther tooked Bep, remarked Frank the next day, the light of
desire fulfilled in her eye, and he said 'You ox!' and smacked her wif
* * * * *
Miss Madigan, who was a congenital sentimentalist, her tendency
confirmed by a long course of novel-reading, would have loved a female
Fauntleroy, and hoped to find it in each of her brother's children in
turnonly to be bitterly disappointed when they came to an expressing
It occurred to her once to satisfy her maternal cravingsso
perversely left ungratified amid much material that lacked
motheringwith an imported angel-child. She chose Bombey Forrest's
three-year-old brother for the purpose; a small manikin manufactured
according to recipe by his mother, whom he had been taught to call
Dear-rust in imitation of his pernicious progenitor; whose curls were
as long, whose trousers were as short, whose collars were as big, whose
sashes were as flaunting as feminine folly could make them.
The Madigans hailed his advent with delight the night he was loaned
to their aunt, in their mistaken glee fancying his visit was to
themselves. Miss Madigan soon undeceived them. At table he sat next to
that devoted lady, who heaped the choicest bits upon his plate of a
menu which had been ordered solely with regard to infantile tastes.
Afterward this maiden lady (whose genius for mothering cruel fate had
condemned to waste its sweetness upon half a dozen mere Madigans) built
card houses for her borrowed baby, read him the nursery rhymes that
Sissy used to tell to Frances, confiscated Fom's Dora for his pleasure,
and Split's book of interiors made of illustrated advertisements of
furniture, which she had cut out and arranged tastefully upon a
tissue-paper background. She dangled her old-fashioned enameled watch
before his jaded eyes, and even permitted him to hold Dusie, the
canary, who pecked furiously at the presuming hand that detained her.
At this the borrowed baby set up a howl of alarm, whereupon he was
given Sissy's jackstonesnot altogether to that young lady's sorrow,
for at that moment Split was collecting a cruel pinch or bestowing a
stinging slap for every point in the game she had just won.
To the bathing of the child Miss Madigan gave her personal
attention, while Kate waited for the tub, into which it was her nightly
task to coax Frances. Then, when her charge was ready for bed, the
devoted aunt of other children sat rocking the borrowed baby softly
till he fell asleep. The whole household hushed that night when Baby
Fauntleroy Forrest's eyelids fell. An indignant lot of young Madigans
were hustled off to bed that his slumbers might not be disturbed; and
yet the moment Miss Madigan laid him, with infinite care and a
sentimental smile, in her own bed, his eyes flew open, like the
disordered orbs of a wax doll that has forgotten it was made to open
its eyes when in a vertical position and keep them shut when placed
horizontally. He saw a strange face bending over him, and he howled
Miss Madigan tried to comfort him, babbling fondest baby-talk in
I yant to go home! wailed Aunt Anne's Fauntleroy.
Why, no; he didn't want to go home, the lady to whom he had been
loaned assured him. Mama was asleep and daddy was asleep and Bombey was
asleep and the pussy was
I yant to go home! bellowed the borrowed baby.
But how could he go home? the lady, a bit impatiently, demanded.
Wasn't he all undressed? Did he want to go through the streets all
undressedfie, fie, for shame!
I yant to go home! screamed Fauntleroy Forrest.
SissyIrenesome one come here and amuse this child! called Aunt
Anne, at her wits' end. Fauntleroy was black in the face from holding
his breath, and his borrower was nervously exhausted by the tension of
a day spent in attendance upon the lovely child.
A troop of nightgowned Madigans came joyously in. For the
edification of Fauntleroy, sitting up wide-eyed now in Aunt Anne's big
bed, the tears still on his cheeks, the Madigans made monkeys of
themselves till he dropped off asleep at last, when they were dismissed
by a frazzled maiden lady, who was left looking at the small thing
lying in her bed as at some strange animal whose waking she dreaded.
In the middle of the night and again toward morning the Madigans
heard Fauntleroy's frightened scream, and chuckled like the depraved
young things they were. But when Francis Madigan got up and, candle in
hand, his queer nightcap tumbling over his left eye, and his gaunt
shadow covering the wall and wavering over the ceiling, came to demand
of Miss Madigan what in thousand devils was the matter, the borrowed
baby was thrown into convulsions; while Don, the big Newfoundland,
awakened by the din, burst into hoarse barks that the mountains echoed
and reëchoed. After this it seemed best to Aunt Anne to sit up in bed
for the rest of the night, making shadow-pictures on the wall for
Miss Madigan's high color had faded the next morning. Accustomed to
unbroken sleep, she had not rested half an hour the whole night. It
seemed that Fauntleroy Forrest was in the habit of lying across his bed
instead of along it, and he had so terrorized the poor lady that she
had not dared to move him, when he did fall asleep toward morning and
she felt his toes digging into her ribs, lest he wake.
Hurry with your breakfast, Sissy, she said faintly, sipping her
tea, so that you can take him home before school.
Don't yant to go home! whimpered the baby, whom the morning light
and the presence of many small Madigans had reassured.
He could stay and play with Frank, couldn't he, Aunt Anne?
suggested Sissy, sweetly.
Miss Madigan's look spoke volumes.
Yes, yes, cried Fauntleroy. Don't yant to go home!
His papa would be lonesome, Miss Madigan told him, archly; and his
mama would be lonesome, and Bombey
Don't yant to go home! wept the baby.
There! There!... Take him, Frank, into my room and amuse
himanything, only don't let him cry! exclaimed Miss Madigan. I'm
going into Kate's room to lie down. I'm exhausted and
Did Fauntleroy disturb you, Aunt Anne? asked Kate,
But Miss Madigan hurried away. She was so unnerved she feared that
she might weep. But, after nearly half an hour's trying, she found she
was too tired to sleep, after all, and rising wearily, she went back to
her room for the book she had been reading.
The sight that met her eyes, as she opened the door, completed her
undoing. There was Fauntleroy, with an uncomprehending grin on his
cherubic face, pinching each separate leaf of her cherished
sensitive-plant. Evidently the borrowed baby did not exactly understand
the desperately funny quality of the act, but he knew it must be the
funniest thing in the world, for the Madigans were writhing grotesquely
in the unbounded merriment it caused.
With a cry, Miss Madigan flew forward and sharply slapped the
destructive baby hands.
I yant to go home! screamed Fauntleroy.
Yes; and I want you to go, too, Miss Madigan declared, incensed.
Get his things, Sissy, this minute.
But I want him to play wif, whimpered Frank. She was not so slow
but that she could learn the lesson Fauntleroy's success taught.
Miss Madigan looked at her a moment. Oh, you do! she ejaculated
sarcastically. You haven't sisters enoughyou want more noise and
confusion in this house!
The wise Madigans looked from her to one another and merely thought
things. There was sadly little of the angel child about them. Their
intuition was keen enough to penetrate their aunt's secret wishes and
tastes, and they were occasionally tempted, for the spoils to be gotten
out of it, to play up to that lady's ideals. But Aunt Anne was
considered almost too easy by the Madigans, whom honor restricted to
those foemen worthy of their steel. Frances was the only one who could,
without losing caste, cater to her aunt's well-known and deeply
She did for a time, and it was from Miss Madigan that she learned
her famous accomplishment. It was sung, or rather droned, and it went
Intoxicated by success, Frank sang this subtle ditty one day for
Francis Madigan. He listened to it with that puzzled expression which
his children's vagaries brought to his lined, stern face.
Who taught you that nonsense, Frances? he demanded sternly when
she had finished.
Frank began to whimper. This was not the effect she had intended to
Who told you to say that gibberish? her father repeated angrily.
Frank stammered the answer.
And he tooked her she began her account of the incident
Oh, you awful little liar! interrupted a chorus of Madigans.
And Frank laughed with them. How she would have completed the
sentence, if she had been permitted, she herself did not know.
A READY LETTER-WRITER
Split threw herself with a bump against Miss Madigan's door. It
remained unansweringly closed.
Where's Aunt Anne? she asked Sissy, whom she had nearly walked
over as she sat playing jackstones in the hall.
Sissy looked up. Assuming a rigidly erect position and
scholastically correct finger-movement, she mimicked her aunt at her
desk so faithfully that Split could almost see the close-lined pages of
Miss Madigan's ornate handwriting on the carpet where her disrespectful
niece pretended to trace it.
Scribbling, huh? Split asked.
Split shrugged her shoulders impatiently. She had intended to ask a
favor of Aunt Anne, but she knew how useless it would be now. So she
pushed past Sissy, entered the room softly, and returned with a
long-trained grenadine skirt.
Sissy's round eyes opened enviously. Did she say you could have
it? she asked.
A muffled sound which could be variously interpreted came from
Split, who was throwing the skirt over her head.
Did she? persisted Sissy, putting her jackstones in her pocket and
But Irene was doubling fold after fold of the skirt in front to
shorten it; behind her the train billowed with an elegance that sent
ecstatic thrills through her and a passion of envy through her sister.
Is she writing yet? Sissy asked at length.
Irene nodded. She was cinching her sash tight about the waist, so
that her trained skirt might not come off in the ardor of playing
lady. When Sissy disappeared, and reappeared with her aunt's
claret-colored poplin, Split was catching up her train with a grace
that was simply ravishing as she rustled away.
What'll you say to herafterward? called Sissy after her,
prudently facing the future, even in the height of delight induced by
feeling ruffles about her feet.
A train meant domesticity and dignity to Sissy. In
Split it bred and fostered a spirit of coquetry"]
Pouf! A train meant domesticity and dignity to Sissy. In Split it
bred and fostered a spirit of coquetry; she believed herself to be very
French in long skirts. I'll just say she said 'Yes' when I asked her.
She never knows what she says when she's writing.
Sissy nodded understandingly, and rustled in a most ladylike manner
after her senior. The twins saw the two beautiful creatures swishing
down the front steps, bound for the street to show their glory and feel
the peacock's delight in dragging his tail in the dust.
Did she say you could have 'em? they shrieked.
And Sissy responded with that quick imitative gesture that signified
With a light on their faces such as the Goths might have worn when
pillaging Rome, the twins made for the treasure-house. A few moments
later they rustled gorgeously down the steps, followed by Frances,
wearing her aunt's embroidered red flannel petticoat. Unfortunately,
Frank's heels caught in this, as she too strutted worldward, and down
she fell, bumping from step to step, gaining momentum as she bumped,
and threatening to roll clear down to Taylor Street, and so on down,
down into the cañon, if she had not bumped safely at last into the
twins. They, hearing her coming, had turned their backs and joined
hands, and catching hold of the shaky banister on each side, presented
a natural bulwark beyond which Frances and her bumps and shrieks might
And through it all Miss Madigan wrote.
* * * * *
Miss Madigan was writing letters. Indeed, Miss Madigan was always
writing letters. In any emergency she might be trusted to concoct a
long and literary epistle, which she rephrased, edited, and copied till
she felt all an author's satisfaction.
For the Madigans' Aunt Anne was afflicted with cacoëthes
scribendi, and was never so happy as when there was a letter to be
writtenexcept when she was actually writing it. But the heartlessness
of the merely literary was very far indeed from Miss Madigan's ideal.
She had the happiness to believe that, besides being very beautiful,
her letters were most usefulin fact, indispensable. When everything
else failed she wrote a letter. When that failed she wrote another.
A Malthusian consequence of her epistolary fertility, it might be
feared, would be the necessary exhaustion of correspondents. But Miss
Madigan's was a soul above the inevitable, as well as a pen divorced
from the practical. On those occasions when the future of her nieces
pressed itself questioningly upon that lady's mind she met the threat
by declaring firmly to herself that she would do her duty to those
motherless children. It happened that her duty was her pleasure. It
was her dissipation to sufferon paper. In letters she enjoyed being
miserable. No relative, therefore, however distant, no acquaintance,
however slight, was exempt from this epistolary plague. To take the
darkest view, most genteelly expressed; to make the most forthright and
pitiful appeal in a ladylike and polished phrase; to picture the
inevitable and speedy alternative if her plea were disregarded; and
then to sign herself, With a thousand apologies, and the assurance
that only the extreme need of some one's doing something for poor
Francis's children would bring me to trouble you again,this was Miss
Madigan's vice. And she was as intemperate in yielding to it as only
the viciously good can be.
A rebuff, absolute silence, even the return of her letter unopened,
produced in her not the slightest diminution of faith in the power of
her pen. Invariably when she mailed a letter she was so struck by her
own summing up of the situation that she felt there could not be the
smallest doubt of a favorable response. He who read it must be
convinced. If he was not, why, there was but one thing to dowrite to
him again. If not to him, to another. And the Madigans were a prolific
family, its members widely scattered and differentiatedan ideal
clientele for a ready letter-writer.
So Miss Madigan wrote. Her wardrobe was pillaged, her privacy
violated, yet she knew it not, or knew it only as one is aware of the
buzzing of gnats when he rides his hobby through a cloud of them.
But there came an interruption which she was compelled to heed.
Anne, I say!
Miss Madigan's busy pen paused. It seemed to her that there was
unusual irritation in her brother's irascible voice. Was it possible
that he had knocked before, or was there
The door opened in answer to her call, and Madigan stalked in. At
sight of the open letter he held, Miss Madigan hastily covered the one
she was writing.
Stamping ... in a frenzy"]
Perhaps, said her brother, suppressed rage vibrating in his voice,
it may be a change for you to read letters. Read that! He
threw the page on the desk before her, banging his knuckles upon it in
an excess of fury.
She took up the letter, a pretty rosy pink dyeing her cheeks (she
was one of those old maids whose exquisitely delicate complexions
retain a babylike freshness) as her eyes met the expression:
Anne was always a sot where her pen was concerned. The
habit's growing on her; she can evidently no more
resist it than Miles could the bottle.
It must be from Nora Madigan, she exclaimed, recognizing the
Yes, it is from Nora, and it incloses one of your own. There it
He threw down before the ready letter-writer a composition which had
cost her much labor, the thought of many days, upon which she had based
unnumbered hopes and built air-castles galore, none of which, to do the
poor lady justice, was intended directly for her own habitation.
She took the letter and spread it out carefully before her; these
epistolary children of hers were tenderly dear to Miss Madigan. Her eye
caught a phrase here and there that appeared to be singularly
felicitous. This one, for instance:
Poor Francis, of course, knows nothing about this
letter. I am writing to you, my dear cousin, relying as
much upon your discretion as upon your generosity.
Or this one:
And Ceciliashe is really talented, though a commonplace
creature like myself can hardly give you an idea in just
Or this one:
As to Irene, apart from her voice, which is really
exceptional, she is Francis over againFrancis as he
was, a high-spirited, reckless, devil-may-care fellow,
winning and tyrannical, as we all remember him in the
old days when the world was young.
Or even this:
I am afraid Kate will have to teach school, young as
she is. I can't tell you how I dread the long years of
drudgery I see before this slender, spirited childshe
is little more than that. Think, Miles, of these
motherless children growing up in this wretched hole
without the smallest advantage, and, if you can, help
them; or get some one else to. Couldn't you take Kate
into your own family? I'm sure she'd marry well, and
Nora wouldn't be troubled with her long. She's really
very pretty. Or couldn't you send me a little something
to spend on clothes for her? Or couldn't Nora be
persuaded to send her
Well, thundered Madigan, standing over her, it must be pretty
familiar to you. Suppose you read what Nora says.
Miss Madigan put her own letter away with a sigh. It was really
unaccountable that Miles could have resisted it.
Miles passed away six weeks ago,
she read aloud in an awed voice.
He had been ailing all spring. This letter, which came
a fortnight since, I opened, of course, and return it
to you that you may be made aware (if you are not
already) of the demands Anne makes upon comparative
For myself, I regret very much that your affairs are in
such a bad state. Anne says that there are six of your
children, all girls; but that can't be trueshe always
loved to exaggerate miseries; it must be that her
writing is so illegible that
Miss Madigan's voice rebelled. She could read aloud adverse opinions
upon her common sense, her judgment, or her pride, but to impugn her
penmanship was to commit the unforgivable.
I think Nora is distinctly insulting, she declared.
No! Madigan laughed wrathfully. Do you, now? Why, what has she
said? Only that you're a beggar, and I'm a coward as well as a beggar,
because I don't dare to beg in my own name.
Does she say that? exclaimed the literal Miss Madigan, shocked.
Where? Her eyes sought the letter again.
'Where'! Thousand devils'where'! Madigan tore it from her and
threw it to the floor, stamping upon it in a frenzy.
Sighing, Miss Madigan leaned her head on her hand. It was hard
enough to find one's most hopeful appeal wasted, without Francis's
flying into such a rage.
A silence followed.
Look here, Anne,Madigan's voice was manifestly struggling to be
calm,you must quit this infernal letter-writing. How could you write
to Miles Madigan for charity, knowing that he cheated me out of my
share of the Tomboy? Half the mine was mine. You know that, and yet you
I fail to see, responded Miss Madigan, with dignity, why I should
not write to my own relatives; why I should not try, for my nieces'
sake, to knit close again the raveled ties which your eccentricities
In order to get a box of old duds sent clear from Ireland!
Has Nora sent a box? asked Miss Madigan, eager as a child. You
see, my letter did touch her, in spite of herself. And they won't be
old duds. They'll be handsome garments, Francis, just the thing for the
girls' winter wardrobe. Now that Nora's in mourning
With a crash that sent Miss Madigan's sensitive-plant rolling from
its stand to the floor, Madigan banged the door behind him as he fled.
Miss Madigan flew to the rescue, and she had begun to scoop up the
scattered earth when her eye lighted upon a line at the end of Nora's
As you know, Miles had only a life-interest in the
estate. At his death everything went to Miles Morgan.
Perhaps Anne would do well to apply to him. The little
matter of her never having seen him would not, of
course, stand in her way.
Of course not. Why should it? Miss Madigan asked herself.
She knelt down upon the floor in the midst of the debris and took
from her pocket the letter that Miles Madigan had never read. With the
slightest change, the recopying of the first page or so, why could
Miss Madigan sat down at her desk. In a moment the steady, slow,
studied pace of her pen was all that was heard in the disordered room,
where the sensitive-plant lay half uprooted on the floor.
* * * * *
The Madigans were up and out. All A Street was alive with tales of
them. In a cloud of dust due to their sweeping trains, they had swooped
down like the gay Hieland folk they were, and captured the admiration
and imitation of the slower, prosaic Lowlander.
They had not intended to go so far, accoutred as they were; but the
attention they attracted first challenged, then seduced the vain things
farther and farther, till they threw caution to the winds (and a
boisterous Washoe zephyr was abroad) and sallied shamelessly forth. In
their immediate train they carried Jack Cody, clothed and in his right
sex, and Bombey Forrest, beating her drum. Crosby Pemberton slunk
unrecognized in the rear.
Madigan banged the door behind him as he fled"]
In the van was Sissy victrix. She had cut her adorer dead, dead,
dead, and she now felt that resultant reckless uplift of spirits which
is the feminine corollary to demonstration of power (preferably unjust
and tyrannical) over the other sex.
Let's try to see the walking-match, she suggested to Split.
How can we, with all that tagging after us?
With a sweeping gesture to the rear, Split indicated the trained
twins and Frances holding up her torn petticoat. Frank was bruised but
beaming; in fact, she had never felt so much a Madigan, for she had
never before been out on a raid.
Let 'em tag, cried Sissy, gaily; her blood was up, and she knew no
Down a clay-bank, into a vacant lot strewn with tin cans, slid the
Madigans. Their trains hampered them, and, once started, only speed
could save them. But they were not Comstockers and Madigans for
nothing. Jack Cody, who had arrived first on the field, caught each
whirling, dwarf-like figure as it came flying down, holding it a moment
to steady it before he put it aside in order to receive the next female
Sissy was the last, and Cody, by way of flourish to mark the
conclusion of his labors, lifted Split's little sister, train and all,
as he caught her, with a whoop of satisfaction.
His whoop was cut short abruptly, and he set her down, his ears
tingling. For Sissy, outraged in her sense of dignity as well as in the
offish prudery that characterized her, declined to accept patronage as
anybody's little sister, and boxed his ears as well as she could in the
short time given to her.
Cody looked at her. It was really the first time he had regarded her
as an unrelated individual. Ye know what a boy does when a girl
strikes him, he threatened, a laughing glitter in his bold black eye
that made Sissy's heart jump.
But she held herself very primly, and the masking puritan in her
voice quelled him. If he's a cowardyes, she responded haughtily,
The boy looked after her as he joined Split. She's funnyyour
sister, he said lamely.
WhoSissy? Oh, she's always cranky, said Irene, with Madigan
candor when a relative was criticized.
They hurried on. The barn-like opera-house is built uphill, like all
buildings on Virginia City's cross-streets, and it seems to burrow into
as well as climb the hill. In the rear, on the side where its boards
were unpainted and unplaned, certain knots had been converted into
knot-holes by the initiated.
Sissy was already on her knees, her eye glued to one of these
apertures. All she could see was a short curve of empty seats, a man's
shoulder and another's hat, a long space, and then the passing of a
neat, long pair of women's gaiters unhidden by skirts, and soon after
the nervous following of a smaller pair of women's ties.
Why, she said, with a deep blush, fixing one eye upon the company,
while the other blinked from the strain put upon it, they're women!
It's a women's walking-match.
Sure, said Cody, without withdrawing his attention for a moment
from the view inside. The big, long feet belong to the one they call
La Tourtillotte. She's French. The German one's Von Hagen.
I think it's a shame, gasped Sissy. Let's go home, Split.
Split, at her own particular knot-hole, affected not to hear. But
Crosby Pemberton, perched in the elbow of some long scantlings bracing
the building, took heart at Sissy's words.
It isn't respectable, Sissy, he called to her. No ladies go. Your
aunt wouldn't like it.
This was fatal. At his voice Sissy hardened, and with a gulp of
disgust she resolutely turned her attention to her knot-hole. In fact,
as Crosby reiterated his advice, she felt called upon more
spectacularly to ignore it, and seeing a more commanding and spacious
knot-hole farther up, she mounted upon a big dry-goods box, and from
there seated herself in a lone poplar, the apple of the proprietor's
This was better, and in a sense it was also worse; for Sissy could
plainly see La Tourtillotte, a gaunt, businesslike creature in short
rainy-day skirt and sweater, her long, thin arms going like
pump-handles, her dark, tense face set upon a goal which seemed ever to
flee before her as her weary feet carried her slowly and still more
slowly around the circular track.
Despite her shocked sense of propriety,and the lawless young
Madigans had very strict ideas as to the conventions for adults,the
ardor of the struggle, the uncertainty of the issue, seized upon Sissy.
She heard a swift call from Irene, some distance below, and was vaguely
aware that the company, skirted and otherwise, was beating a retreat.
But the smaller of the two contestants, on the other side of the
knot-hole, had just come within the field of Sissy's rude lens. It was
pitiable to see the haggard look on the German woman's plump face, the
childish breakdown imminent behind the woman's staring eyes that met
the bored glance of the male spectators doggedly, though her stout
little body was still being carried resolutely, sluggishly, painfully
Sissy's hands flew to her breast. Something hurt her there, cried
out to her, threatened her. She was furious with rage and choked with
sympathetic sobs. She wanted to hurt somebody, and Jack Cody's
insistent whistle, which kept sounding the retreat, so irritated and
confused her that she fancied it was he that she would have liked to
beat, as a representative of his cruel sex. But when she looked down,
at last awake to the world on this side of the knot-hole, she saw
Crosby Pemberton on the box at her feet, and knew who it was that she
longed to punish for his own sins and every other man's.
Quickquick, Sissy! He's coming! he cried, tugging at her skirt.
Who? Go 'way! Sissy stamped viciously, as she stood clinging to a
limb; yet in that very instant she had seen that all the Madigans and
their train had fled, save this poor servitor at her feet.
Jan Lallyoh, hurry!
Around the corner of the opera-house came a short-legged, bald
little German, so stout and so loosely put together that, as he ran,
his jelly-like flesh shook as though it was about to break the loose
bag of skin that held it. It was Lally's opera-house, and Lally was
come to catch trespassers in the act of seeing without paying.
Sissy's heart jumped to her throat. In the course of their
maraudings, the Madigans were not unaccustomed to a stern-chase and a
lively one, yet now it seemed to her that strategy was the watchword.
Perched high up in the tree, hidden by its foliage, who would notice
herif only Crosby would go away!
But Crosby would not budge. He begged, he implored, he became
confused in trying to explain to her her danger, and at last burst into
bitter tears as he felt Lally's fat, moist hand upon his collar, and
saw a hereafter peopled with wrathful motherly faces in various stages
of disgust and despair.
You come vid me. I gif you to Riddle. He lock you oop, you bat
A suppressed giggle of pleasure, at the thought of neat little
Crosby in the hands of the constable, shook Sissy, perched snugly like
a malicious little bird in the tree. It served him right, she said to
herself gleefully, ascribing the basest motives to Crosby, as one loves
to do when one's friends are not in good standing with one's self. He
had had no business to hang around and point the way to her
Oh, I say, Jan, let me off! begged Crosby, white with terror of
the jailand his lady mother. I'll never peek again, sure I won't!
Nu! You come vid me. And you, too!
Sissy looked down. Was it possible there was another laggard whom
she had not seen?
I sayyou, too! bellowed Lally. Vill you come now?
In the very certainty of security a sudden panic fell upon Sissy. If
she only dared to move, to reassure herself! Of course it couldn't mean
She felt a sudden tug that almost dislodged her. You t'ink I don't
seehuh? shouted the perspiring Teuton below. What for you leave dis
trail hang down denhey? And he tugged again.
With a sickly remnant of dignity Sissy stepped down and out. She had
forgotten her trainthe train that had been at once her pride and her
WeI was playing lady, she explained, trembling.
Oop a treehuh? Peeking t'rough knot-holesyes? A fine lady! I
A glow of defiance came to Sissy's cheeks. I don't care, she
cried, stamping her foot as she stood enthroned on the dry-goods box,
her train about her. It's a nasty, cruel show, anyway, and you
couldn't hire me to come and see it. You ought to be ashamed, Mr.
Lally! How'd you like it if your wife was staggering along in there
without sleeping or eating for six days?
Mr. Jan Lally's purple face looked as though it had been slapped.
What had Mrs. Lally, with all her babies and busy housekeeping, to do
with business? He was so astonished and perplexed by the sudden
onslaught that the wriggling Crosby managed to slip out of his grasp,
and got to a safe distance before Lally realized it.
Nu! he grunted. I cou'n't hire youno? Vell, you come mitout
hire. I show you.
Sissy felt herself lifted down without ceremony and dragged off. Her
round face was white, her heart was beating like the stamps at the
Chollar pan-mill. Yet her train trailed after her still in mock
dignity. So did Crosby, at a respectful distance, fearing to follow,
yet, though helpless, incapable of desertion. But at the entrance to
the opera-house the door was shut in his face.
Sissy and her captor entered. The stage had been built out over the
pit, and in the very first row of the dress-circle, the rim of which
was the boundary of the contestants' suffering feet, Jan Lally sat
down, with Sissy at his side.
Ah, to sit in the front row of the dress-circle! To feel the
opulence of one's enviable position, as well as the artistic delight of
being properly placed where one could miss nothing, while the brass
band outside the opera-house played its third and last quick, jubilant
invitation to pleasureso tantalizing to the outsider, so gratifying
to the fortunate one within!
Many and many a time had Sissy Madigan waited, during first and
second bands, for some miracle to set her where she now sat! Many a
time had the third selection been played, the players with their
instruments filed into Paradise, and the poor Madigan peri remained
But now Cecilia hung her head, shamed by being caught; shamed by
punishment; shamed trebly by the fact that, apart from those poor
sexless, half-maddened machines tottering feverishly around and forever
around, she, Sissy Madigan, the proud, the pure, the proper, was the
one thing womanly in the house!
It was not a full house by any means, and only the men immediately
next to her seemed aware of her presence. Yet, with a consciousness
that seared her soul and humbled the pride of the childish prude as
with a stain upon her purity, Sissy felt the compounded, composite gaze
of man upon woman out of place. It withered, it scorched, it stung her.
But finally Von Hagen, the little German woman, going the round of
her maddening treadmill, reached the spot where Sissy sat. The sight of
a child there, of a bare, bowed, neat little head in the midst of that
inclosure of men's cold eyes, seemed to be the last touch needed to
overthrow her tottering reason. She stopped, swaying from the
unaccustomed cessation of motion, and held out her arms, smiling
vacantly and babbling baby-talk in German as though to a dearly loved
little Mädchen of her own.
Swift horror piled on Sissy. She had never looked into eyes from
which sense had fled, and the sight stamped itself upon her brain with
terrible vividness as food for future nightmares. So frightened was she
that she was not aware of Jan Lally's relaxed hold upon her arm, which
ached from the tight grip he had had upon it. But when the overtaxed
body of the German woman fell in a heap almost at her feet, fright
became action in Sissy. She flew past old Jan (his one concern now
being for his walking-match), past the knees of the staring men, up the
interminable center aisle, her poor train switching behind her as she
stumbled, yet ran on, so absorbed by her suffering that she was unaware
of the attention her queer little figure attracted, till she was out at
last in the free air.
* * * * *
Well, punish me! she said, when she found Aunt Anne waiting for
her at the head of the long steps fifteen minutes later.
It was a good deal for a Madiganthe nearest they ever got to
mea culpa: they were not Christians.
* * * * *
Sissy's arrival was hailed by a populous nightgowned world, sent,
like herself, supperless for its sins to the purgatory of early
bedtime. Split came stealing in from the other room, bringing Frank
along that she might not cry and betray her elder sister's movementsa
successful sort of blackmail the youngest Madigan often practised. And
later, Kate, looking most conventional and full-dressed in this
nightgowned society, brought succor for the starving. They munched
chocolate and camped comfortably, three on each bed, while Sissy told
her adventures. When she came to the description of Von Hagen's fall,
though still shuddering at the memory, she acted the incident so
dramatically that Frances set up a howl, which was, however, most
fortunately drowned by the ringing of the front-door bell.
Split started to answer it, but her nightgowned state gave her
pause. Perhaps father'll go, she suggested.
Kate shook her head. He didn't come to dinner; he's been shut up in
his room all day.
What's the matter? asked Sissy. An old look, that washed all the
self-satisfaction from her round face, came over it now.
Kate shrugged her shoulders. Something he and Aunt Anne talked
about to-day, she answered, as she went out into the hall with the air
of a martyr.
Sissy looked owlishly after her. Though Francis Madigan rarely ate
anything that was prepared for the family dinner, she could remember
the rare times when he had absented himself from it, and feel again the
usually ignored undercurrent of the realities upon which their young
lives flowed full and free.
But things happened too quickly at the Madigans', and to be
preoccupied to the exclusion of one's sisters was one of the forms of
affectation not to be tolerated. Split threw a pillow at her head, and
the fight was in progress when Kate called for volunteers to bring in a
big box from Ireland, left by a drayman who was fiercely resentful of
the extraordinary approach to the Madigan house.
Like a lot of white-robed Lilliputians, they tugged and hauled till
they got it into the parlor. But when they had lighted the tall,
old-fashioned lamp that they called the lighthouse they were
disgusted to find that the box was addressed to Miss Madigan, Virginia
City, Nevada, California, U. S. A.
Some people don't know anything about geography, sniffed Sissy.
Well, Kate had been thinking,I'm Miss Madigan.
Whoophooray! The shout came from the twins. They were off into
the kitchen for Wong's hatchet, and when they pressed it obligingly
into Kate's hand, that young lady saw no way but to make use of it.
Girlsit's clothes! she exclaimed, her starved femininity
reveling in the quantity of material before her.
Boys' clothes, said Split, holding up a full-kneed pair of
knickerbockers and a belted jacket. Well! With a philosophical grin,
she began to put them on.
And ladies' clothes! cried Sissy, dragging forth a long black
cape. 'Here would I rest,' she chanted, draping it about her and
lugubriously mimicking Professor Trask as the Recluse in The Cantata
of the Flowers.
Let's do it! Let's sing 'The Flowers,' cried Irene, shaking
herself into some Irish boy's jacket.
Not much! Sissy planted herself against the door, as though
physical compulsion had been threatened.
Oh, yes, Sissy, begged Fom. Bep and I can sing the Heliotrope and
Mignonette. Frank can be a Poppy, and we can double up and
I'll be the Rose, put in Kate, quickly. She had a much-feathered
hat on her head and a crocheted lace shawl about her shoulders.
'Here would I rest,' she chanted"]
I'll be the Rose. Split, corrupted by her body's boyish
environment, stretched her legs apart defiantly. You can't sing it;
you know you can't, Kate. You never could get up to G. If I'm not the
Oh, well, said Kate, drawing on a pair of soiled, long light
gloves she had pulled out of the box, I'll be the Lily, then. Come on,
I won't, said Sissy, almost weeping. She knew she would. I won't
be the Recluse! I won't be the Recluse every time, just because you two
are so greedy and
You know, said Kate, smothering a giggle, but not very
successfully, no one can do it as well as you.
And it's really a very important part, and the very first solo,
chuckled Irene. Else why did Professor Trask take it himself?
If it's so important, put in Sissy, grasping at a straw, you'd
better take it yourself. Why must I always take a man's part? And I
can't sing, anyway.
Why, Sissy! Split's tone was flattery incarnate, but the irony in
her eye made her junior dance.
You know I can't, she sniffled.
But my voice and Split's go so well together in the Rose and Lily
duet, said Kate, putting the book of the cantata upon the piano-rack
and opening it persuasively.
You promise me every time, wailed the downtrodden Recluse,
reluctantly moving forward, that I won't have to be it the next time.
Well, you won't next time, said Kate, generously. Will she,
Well, I won't sing it this time, declared Sissy, seating herself
at the piano, yet making a last stand at the very guns.
But Kate and Irene burst forth in the opening chorus with all the
verve in the world. The Madigans never scorned expression when it was
understood that they were acting. And the twins, still pulling stage
properties out of the box, and even Frances, fantastically decorated
with a torn Irish lace fichu over the bifurcated, footed white garment
she still wore o' nights, joined joyfully in:
'We are the flowers,
The fair young flowers,
That come at the voice of spring'
It was a familiar old Madigan joke, always greeted with a shriek of
laughter, to shout out the two notes of the accompaniment that
punctuated the musical phrases. Its observance now put even Sissy in
good humor, so that when the time came for the Recluse to make his
appearance, she left the piano, and stalking miserably about with the
preliminary cough with which the unfortunate Professor Trask was
afflicted, she sang her doleful recitative.
The Madigans were never literalists. They were of the
impressionistic school, which requires of the audience, as well as of
the artist, high imaginative powers. And here the audience of one
moment was the actor of the next, whose duty it was not to mind too
closely the letter that killeth, but to mimic irreverently, to
exaggerate, to make of themselves caricatures of the mannerisms of
others, to nickname, to seize upon every peculiarity with their quick,
observant, cruel young eyes and paint it in flesh-and-blood cartoons.
Thus, when the Rose, that gentle flower in which a thorn is oft
concealed, sang her duet with the Nightingale (Sissy trilling weakly
on the piano, while Frank fluted her fingers affectedly as she had seen
it done that memorable night) it was done in the hollow, throaty tones
of the elder Miss Blind-Staggers, who had created the rôle; while the
Lily sang through her nose, which she wiped every now and then in a
manner unmistakably that of Henrietta Blind-Staggers.
The Cantata of the Flowers was never brought to a glorious
completion by the Madigans, even though they skipped uninteresting and
difficult parts, and, like the early Elizabethans, permitted no
intermission between acts. It was very often laughed to death. At times
it became a saturnalia of extravagant action, and it frequently ended
in a free fight, when the Rose and the Lily hinted too openly at the
Recluse's incurable tendency to sing off key. But that night it might
have dragged its saccharine length of melody to the coronation of the
Rose and a quick curtain if Miss Madigan had not walked right into the
thick of it.
Golly! gasped Sissy, while Irene dodged behind Kate, who quickly
turned down the lamp, and a hush fell upon the rest.
But Miss Madigan had been writing, or rather rewriting, letters. She
had completely forgotten the heinous offense of the afternoon.
Will you mail a letter for me, Sissy, the first thing in the
morning? she asked, still preoccupied. Why are you in the dark?
We're just going to bed, remarked Sissy, with soothing demureness,
taking the envelope from her aunt's hand and falling in with her mood,
as one does with the mentally afflicted.
When Miss Madigan, fatigued with the labor of composition, had gone
back to her room, Kate turned up the light again. Same thing, I
s'pose? she asked. Circumstances-letterhuh?
I s'pose so. 'T ain't sealed, said Sissy, with resignation. But
she always forgets to seal 'em. Then, suddenly inspired, she caught up
Professor Trask's pencil lying on the piano, and on the vacant
half-page at the end of Miss Madigan's letter she wrote in her best
Youwhoever you areneedn't bother to answer this.
None of us Madigans wants your help or annybody else's.
It 't only that Aunt Anne's got the scribbles, and
we'll thank you to mind your own buisness.
She read her composition to the startled but, on the whole,
approving Madigans, sealed the letter, and was ready for bed.
They were all scampering through the long hall playing leap-froga
specialty of Split's which her present costume facilitatedwhen
Francis Madigan, candle in hand, came out of his room on his usual tour
of nightly inspection. His short-sighted eyes fell upon Irene, a
pretty, lithe, wavy-haired boy, before she and the twins bolted.
What boy have you got there? he demanded. Send him home.
Kate took Frances up in her arms and covered the retreat; she knew
how much the better part of valor was discretion.
Sissy remained standing, looking up at him. When she was alone with
her father she was conscious of her poor little barren favoriteship,
though she dared not impose upon it. In the candle-light his harsh,
rugged features stood out marked with lines of suffering.
It's all right, father, she said, with a quick choice of the
lesser irritation for him. He'll goright away. Good night.
Good night, child.
But she walked a step or two with him, slipping her hand at last
into his, and pressing it tenderly.
Isanything the matter, father? she whispered.
She walked a step or two with him"]
He threw back his head as though some one had struck him. It was not
difficult to guess from whom the Madigans had inherited their fanatical
desire to conceal emotion.
Sissy was terrified at what she had done, yet the vague trouble lay
quivering before her, though still unnamed, in his working face.
FatherI'm sorry, she sobbed.
He pushed her from him, but gently, and she crept into her bed and
pulled the clothes over her head, that the twins might not hear her
THE MARTYRDOM OF MAN
With a shrill whistle of recognition, Jack Cody ran down the hill to
meet Split toiling up.
The air is like ethereal champagne in Virginia City, and on a late
summer's evening, after the sun's honeyed freshness has been strained
through miles of it, it has a quality that makes playing outdoors
Split, though, had not been playing. There was business on hand and
she had been downtown to buy eggs for the picnic, with the usual
result. She had never yet succeeded in bringing home an unbroken dozen,
nor did she ever hope to; but she was really out of temper at the
extraordinary dampness of the paper bag, to which her two hands adhered
stickily. She walked slowly upward, holding the eggs far in front of
her like a votive offering to the culinary gods, unconscious of the
betraying yellow streaks that beaded her blue gingham apron.
Where you been, Split? asked Cody, by way of an easy opening.
Down to the grocery. Mrs. Pemberton's not laying decently these
Sissy's gray hen, you know. Sissy called her that 'cause she's so
stuck-up and thinks she's better than any other hen in the yard.
Besides, she's got only one chicken, and bosses him for all the world
Cody nodded. What time you going to start in the morning? Six?
Uh-huh. Split dared not lift her eyes from the sticky trail that
exuded from her.
Sure? the boy demanded.
Sureif only father don't keep us so long to-night that we can't
get ready. We've got to be martyred to-night, she added gloomily.
Cody looked his resentment and sympathy. Delicacy and the fear of
betraying some social disability on his own part of which he was
unawaresome neglect of training which might be considered essential
in well-regulated familiesforbade his inquiring precisely what the
process was. To him martyring meant some queer rite whose main and
malicious purpose it was to keep Split indoors of an evening when the
high mountain twilight was going to be long, long; and when the moon
that followed it would be so brilliant that one might read by its
lightif he weren't too wise, and too fond of hide-and-seekout in
the silver-flooded streets made vocal by childish cries.
But it can't last the whole evening? he asked appealingly, as she
prepared to mount the steps, always accompanied by the silent yellow
witness of her passing.
She shook her head hopelessly, sniffing in a manner that showed
plainly how little reliance she placed upon the generosity and judgment
of adults. And Cody walked away, haunted by the tormenting vision of
Split flying before him through the moonlit night: the only girl in
town who had any originality about choosing hiding-places, or who could
make a race worth while.
The family was assembled when Split reached the library and sat
down, rebelliously sullen, beside Sissy. That young woman, though, wore
an expression of purified patience, a submissive willingness to kiss
the rod, that was eminently appropriate, however infuriating to the
junior Madigans. But Sissy had known that it was coming. She could have
foretold the martyrdom; all the signs of yesterday prophesied it, and
she was reconciled.
It followed invariably that after the rare occasions when the
pitiful curtain of his egotism had been blown aside by some chance
breeze of destiny, and Francis Madigan had stood for a moment face to
face with himself and his shirked responsibilities, he made the
spasmodic effort to fulfil his paternal obligations, which the Madigans
had learned to call their martyring. He took from his library the
book which had been most to him, which he had read all his life: for
inspiration when he had been young and hopeful, for philosophy now that
he was old and a failure. He was sincere in offering to his children
the fruit of a great mind with comments by one that was sympathetic,
able if not deep, and genuinely eager, for the moment, to share its
But the sight of all this helpless though secretly critical
womanhood disposed attentively about him invariably, through
association of ideas, brought to his mind every similar and abortive
attempt he had made in this direction. When he opened the book to read
aloud to them, he was always irritated, with that deep-seated
irascibility which has its foundation in self-discontent, however
externals may influence or add to it.
Whatever Francis Madigan might have been, he was never intended for
a pedagogue. His impatience of stupidity, his irritation at the slow,
stumbling steps of immaturity, not to speak of his lack of judgment in
his selection and his determination to persevere in reading aloud from
the book of his choice, if he had to ram undigested wisdom whole into
the mental stomachs of his offspringall this would have deterred a
less obstinate man. But Madigan, who had become a bully through
weakness (forced to domineer unsuccessfully in his home by the
conquering softness of his sister's disposition), had the bully's
despairing consciousness of being in the wrong at the very moment of
superficial victory; of being powerless in the very act of imposing
himself upon his poor little women-folk; of recognizing the fact that,
although he might lead them to the fountain of knowledge, he was unable
to make them drink; and yet not daring to hesitate in his bullying, for
fear that he might do nothing at all if he did not do this.
Now that his conscience was quickened, Madigan insisted to himself
that the culture of his daughters' minds must be attended to. So he
read aloud from The Martyrdom of Man; and enjoyed the sound of his
voicethe irresistible accents of the cultured Irishmana pleasure
which the world shared with him; but not a martyred world of small
women, over whose heads the long-sounding, musical periods of the
poet-historian rolled, dropping only an occasional light shower of
intelligence upon the untilled minds below.
We will begin where we left off the last time, Madigan said
harshly. He remembered how long it had been since last time, and how
much his audience had had time to forget. Where was that? Were any of
you interested enough to remember?
Miss Madigan looked up from her work, like an amiable but very silly
hen who pretends to make a mental effort, yet, unfortunately, has
nothing to make that effort with. Kate, with the consciousness that she
was really the only one of Madigan's children capable of following the
line of the historian's thought, flushed guiltily. Irene sat like a
prisoner, looking out into the balmy evening. She could hear cries of
Free home! Free home! from down yonder in the paradise of the
streets, in Crosby Pemberton's voice. Even Crosby, whose unnatural
mother was the only lady of Split's acquaintance who was prejudiced
against playing in the streetseven Crosby was out. While she
It was the fall of Carthage, wasn't it, father? asked Sissy,
If a glance from Split could have slain, Sissy had been dead. It was
not the Madigan policy to encourage Francis Madigan in his belief that
the seeds he sought to sow fell on fertile soil. If they had to be
martyred in one sense, they declined to be in another. Besides, they
knew and detested Sissy's hypocritical desire to show off.
It was, indeed, Cecilia, said Madigan, with a pathetic softening
of his whole being. 'Tis a fine, stirring, terrible picture the
historian gives us of the doomed city. Ahem!... 'And then, as if the
birds of the air had carried the news, it became known all over
northern Africa that Carthage was about to fall. And then, from the
dark and dismal corners of the land, from the wasted frontiers of the
desert, from the snowy lairs and caverns of the Atlas, there came
creeping and crawling to the coast the most abject of the human
raceblack, naked, withered beings, their bodies covered with red
paint, their hair cut in strange fashions, their language composed of
muttering and whistling sounds. By day they prowled around the camp,
and fought with the dogs for the offal and the bones. If they found a
skin, they roasted it on ashes, and danced around it in glee, wriggling
their bodies and uttering abominable cries. When the feast was over,
they cowered together on their hams, and fixed their gloating eyes upon
the city, and expanded their blubber-lips and showed their white fangs.
A piercing scream came from Frances.
Thousand devils! Madigan burst forth, enraged at the interruption.
It was only that Bep and Fom, in the midst of a finger conversation
carried on politely with a deaf-and-dumb alphabet, had had their
attention attracted by the ghastly word-picture made so vivid by their
father's voice. So, wearying of the innocuous desuetude of things, it
occurred to them to present for Frank's entertainment a bodily
representation of what the words meant to their minds. Safe in the
obscurity of the table-cloth's circular shadow, down on the floor they
wriggled, they prowled, they cowered and gloated and expanded their
blubber-lips and showed their fangs. If they did not utter abominable
cries, it was only because that particular detail was not needed to
send the smallest Madigan into hysterics.
Leave the room! cried Madigan. Leave the room, you ox! looking
wrathfully, but generally, down at the disturbance.
And three small Madigans, feeling that they had paid a small price
for freedom, crept and crawled to the doorthe most abject of the
Madigan race till they were fairly outside, when they became the most
'At last,' went on Madigan, a lingering growl of resentment in his
voice, 'the day came. The harbor walls were carried by assault and the
Roman soldiers passed into'
Father, interrupted Sissy, with the exasperating air of one who
knows how soothing she is (like many a talented person, she was
irretrievably ruined by her first success and she felt very
intelligent)father, in what part of Rome was Carthage?
Behind her father's back Split mouthed a threat of vengeance and
shook her fist at the interested Sissy for wilfully prolonging the
session. But at Madigan's snort of disgust, the Indian profile of
Split, below its bushy crown of red, shone out malevolently. She did
not know what Sissy had done; she knew only that she had done
Sissy met her glance, and returned it with dignity. I didn't mean
that, father, you know, she said priggishly. I meant, of course, in
what part of Carthage was Rome.
Oh, you did! Madigan's smile was not pleasant.
Ye-es, said Sissy, uncertainly.
Well, said Madigan, explosively, Rome was in the same part of
Carthage as Carthage was of Rome.
His jaw was set now, and his glowing dark eyes beneath their white
shaggy brows as he sought his place in the book were not encouraging.
But the enigmatic character of his response was not enough for Sissy,
dazed, yet greedy for glory. She glanced from Split, in whose ear Kate
was whispering something that seemed vastly to delight her, to her
father, who had begun to read again.
I don't remember, father, please, she said as he paused a moment
to clear his throat. What part was that?
A sputtering giggle broke from Split. It was unlucky, for it turned
Madigan's wrath upon her.
Outside! he commanded, pointing to the door. Outside, you ox!...
'Six days passed thus,' the reading began again. (In almost the
moment the door had closed behind her, Split could be heard flying down
the outside steps two at a time. That he was sorely tried, Madigan's
voice showed plainly, and his shrunken audience looked apprehensively
at one another). 'Six days passed thus and only the citadel was left.
It was a steep rock in the middle of the town; a temple of the god of
healing crowned the summit.' The god of healing, Cecilia, he put in,
with a contempt that mantled the perfectionist's check with a resentful
red, means that particular deity
A soft little snore came from Miss Madigan. Her head had fallen to
one side, and the lamp-light shone on her soft, pretty, high-colored
face, placid in its repose as a baby's.
In the moment that Madigan paused and looked at her, Sissy's hand
sought Kate's in terror. But the reader controlled himself with an
effort, remembering possibly that, after all, it was not his sister but
his daughters he was educating.
'The rock was covered with people,' he went on, skipping the
explanation he had intended giving to Sissy. And he read on for some
minutes without interruption, becoming more and more interested himself
in the vivid picture as it unrolled, and half declaiming it in his
enthusiasm, with a verve that accounted for Sissy's successful
rendition of The Polish Boy at school entertainments. 'The trumpets
sounded,' he sang out. 'The soldiers, clashing their bucklers with
their swords and uttering the war-cry Alala! Alala! advanced
Mercy me! exclaimed Miss Madigan, waked by his realistic shout,
and blinking her bright little eyes to accustom them to the light.
Anne, said Madigan, tensely, if you are not interested, youare
not obliged to listen, of course. But it would be morecivil to
Not interested? she repeated, with gentle surprise, as she took up
her crocheting again. Why, it's very interestingmost interesting;
don't you find it so, Kate?
'A man dressed in purple rushed out of the temple with an
olive-branch in his hand,' Madigan began again, all the ardor gone
from his voice. 'This was Hasdrubal, the commander-in-chief, and the
Robespierre of the Reign of Terror. His'
Missy Katewant chocolatepicnic Wong stood open-mouthed in
the doorway. Consciousness of having interrupted the master, as well as
amazement at beholding him out of his own room after dinner, was too
much for him.
What do you want, Wong? demanded Madigan, harshly.
Nottingoh, notting, murmured Wong, deprecatingly. One picnic,
sabe, t'-malla morning.
IreneI mean CeciliaThousand devils!Kate, stormed Madigan, in
his rage forgetting his daughter's precise appellation, go out into
the kitchen and give your orders. If you had the least grain of common
sense you'd know that the first duty of a housekeeper is to have some
system about her work; to do things at the right time and not to
interrupt the evening's entertainment. He gulped a bit at this, though
Kate's dropped lids quickly hid the ironical gleam in her eye. Well,
why don't you goand stay? You might as well, or you'll forget
something else and interrupt us again.
A desire to make herself look very numerous, intelligent, and
appreciative possessed Sissy as the door closed on her big sister. She
was in the familiar frame of mind in which she disapproved of her
sisters, yet she was terrified lest, if she gave him time, her father
might draw the same inference that she had.
Perhaps you'll let me read aloud for a while, father. Mr. Garvan
often has me read things to the class, she suggested quickly, when she
saw he was about to close the book.
Madigan hesitated. A succession of infuriating trifles had beat upon
his temper till it was worn thin. But Sissy's outstretched hand
conquered merely by suggestion. He put the book before her, pointed to
the place, got to his feet, and began pacing to and fro.
'Carthage burned seventeen days before it was entirely consumed,'
read Sissy. 'Then the plow was passed over the soil to put an end in
legal form to the existence of the city. House might never be built,
corn might never be sown, upon the ground where it had stood.'
She read well, did Sissy, as she did most things. Little by little
Madigan's sharp, quick steps became less and less the bodily expression
of exasperated nerves, and tuned themselves to the meter of that
pretty, childish voice, intelligently giving utterance to the
thoughtful philosophy that had always soothed him. It lost some of its
familiarity and gained a new charm, coming from that small, round mouth
which had an almost faultless instinct for pronunciation. A feeble germ
of fatherly pride began to sprout beneath the soil upon which the
child's intelligent reading fell like a warm, spring rain.
One moment, Cecilia. Madigan stopped in his walk, lifting an
apologetic hand to excuse the interruption. You read just now of 'the
Britons of Cornwall gathering on high places and straining their eyes
toward the west; the ships which had brought them beads and purple
cloth would come again no more.' Now, to what does that refer?
Sissy's hands flew to her breast; and before she had time to
conceal, to pretend, to affect, he had seen the blank expression of her
face. You see, she had been merely reading; not thinking. The sound of
her own voice had drowned the sense. To read intelligently a thing the
comprehension of which was far over her head was the utmost this
eleven-year-old could do. She had not the vaguest idea what she had
been reading. It was all a blank!
Madigan stood petrified; and the last little martyred ox, stuffing
her apron into her mouth, that she might not weep aloud, hurried from
A moment longer Madigan stood. Then he looked at Miss Madigan. That
lady's placid face had not changed a particle. She sat crocheting what
she called a fascinator, her white bone needle moving harmoniously in
and out of the blue wool. Had she heard a word that had been read? Her
brother knew better than to ask. Did it make the least difference to
her whether he read from The Martyrdom of Man or not?
Madigan shut the book with a bang. The martyring, boomerang that
it had proved, was over.
* * * * *
The world seems new-born every summer morning in Virginia City. This
little mining-town, dry, sterile, and unlovely, and built at an absurd
angle up the mountain, is the poor relation of her fortunate cousins of
the high Alps; yet shares with them their birthrightan open,
boundless breadth of view, an endless depth of unpolluted, sparkling
air, the fresh, shining virginity of the new-created.
It was the sense of a nature-miracle, and the desire to penetrate
still farther and higher into the crystalline sky that crowned it,
which sent the Madigans every summer toiling up Mount Davidson. They
did not know it, but yearly the Wanderlust seized them, and as
all things in Virginia point one way, they followed that
They were spared the usual struggle with Frances (who, after being
coaxed, bribed, threatened, and bullied, had at last annually to be run
away from), for the reason that Frank had not slept well after the
martyring, and was still dreaming of creeping, crawling things with
blubber-lips and gloating eyes when, in the pellucid dawn, Jack Cody
found the Madigans waiting, in clean calicoes, perched on their
The sun was barely over the top of Sugar Loaf, and the town,
scantily shrubberied (for water costs as many dollars in Virginia as
there are weeks in the year), lay sleeping in soft chill shadow below
them, looking oddly picturesque and strange in the unfamiliar light.
Say, said Cody, I think I see that Pemberton kid coming up
Taylor. Is he coming along?
No, said Sissy, promptly.
Yes, said Split, firmly.
Well, I didn't ask him, from Sissy, with a haughty air of
saying the last word. The Madigans were quite accustomed to being
social arbiters in their own small world.
Well, I did, remarked Split, easily.
A pugnacious red overshot Sissy's face. Crosby was her property, to
browbeat and maltreat as seemed best to her. She felt that Irene's
interference in a matter that was purely personal was unwarranted as it
He always has such good cream-tarts, explained Split.
Well, he can have 'em and keep 'em, declared Sissy, savagely,
turning her back as Crosby yodeled a greeting and waved his hat gaily
Cody grinned. I think that kid better stay at home. It won't be
much picnic for him, will it, Sissy?
Sissy sniffed. He's Split's company, she said loftily. She'll
make things pleasant for him.
But Crosby, glad to be among the enticing Madigans at any price, and
innocently joying in the picnic spirit that possessed him, came
whooping to his fate.
Say, he said eagerly, putting down his basket with the air of one
who has a good story to tell, do you know, I almost got caught this
morning. Ma said I wasn't to go, but I bet I wouldn't stay at home. So
I told Delia to put up my lunch last night, and to put in a lot of
those cream-tarts you like, Sissyyou used to like, Sissy....
But Sissy, actuated by a delicate desire not to interfere in the
slightest with Split's plans for the entertainment of her guest, was
deep in conversation with Jack Cody. Crosby's jaw fell. He saw her give
her round tin lunch-bucketthe one he had so often carried to school
for herto Cody, to sling with his own upon a leather strap. And as he
watched her start up the ravine carrying one end of the strap, and the
washerwoman's boy the other, he wondered passionately within himself at
the faithlessness and ingratitude of women.
Wasn't it enough to have a reckoning with Madam Pemberton at the end
of his day, without having that precious time utterly spoiled? He felt
like turning back. Sissy knew well that there could be no picnic for
him within the pale of her displeasure. The mountain air might be never
so sweet with the wild sage perfuming it; the sun striping the shadowy
town below with bloody bands might be never so promising; the
mountain's peak, soft and deceitfully near, might be never so
temptingwith Sissy chattering gaily in advance, ostentatiously
ignorant of his very existence, the glory was cut out of Crosby's morn.
It seemed, too, to him that he had never been so fond of her. His
mother's disapproval of this Madigan since a certain episode (to avenge
which cruel Sissy's thirst could never be slaked) had put the last
touch to his devotion. That matron's pleasure in their intercourse
hitherto had been the one drawback to his delight in it. In his eyes,
his inamorata walked now with the crown of the forbidden upon her
haughty little head; and that Crosby was more of a natural boy than his
effeminate tastes indicated is proven by the fact that he loved Sissy
far more for this than for being the good one his mother had once
thought and proclaimed her.
At the sluice-box which circles Mount Davidson, bringing the purest
of water from a mountain lake, the party halted and was joined by other
brave mountaineers, big and little; the latter in calico skirts, and
shirts and knickerbockers. Bombey Forrest was the only one who came
under neither of these heads. She was a slender slip of a girl whose
mother, to the scandal of conventional folk, believed that for the
first decade or so of child-life the boy's costume is fitter than the
girl's. So Bombey wore a knickerbockered sailor-suit with a broad
collar and white braid; wore it with a bit of a conscious air, yet with
that grace which long use and habit lend; with piquancy, too, for she
was the least masculine of girls in mind and manner, and her delicate
face with its golden curls bloomed like a flower on a strange stalk,
above the assertive masculinity of her attire.
It was to Bombey that Crosby Pemberton turned for solace. (Split had
promptly deserted him for Kate, whom she suspected of a contemptible
desire to cut loose from the Madigans as children, and join the older
members of the party.) He had not had the courage to forgo the picnic,
though he knew his mistress well enough to be sure that by the end of
the day he would realize that that course would have been the least
painful. He carried Bombey's basket, like the little gentleman he was;
not in the division-of-labor fashion, from which Cody's and Sissy's
jangling buckets extracted a sort of cow-bell music as they ran merrily
along, far in advance.
Cody spied the two below when he and Sissy sat down to rest on a
huge boulder. Jack never knew how to treat Bombey Forrest, always
feeling that the most decent thing to do was not to look at her.
Despite his own bitter and recurring experiences (which, one might
fancy, would have made him tender to the vicissitudes of sex as
warranted by clothing), something in him felt outraged and resentful at
the sight of her.
Look at the girl-boy and the boy-girl! he sneered. See how they
poke along. They'll never get to the top.
Sissy's shoes were hot and dusty. The strong odor of sage-brush was
in her nostrils. Her skirt was torn, and the short-stemmed
desert-lilies she held in a moist hand were wilted. But she was happy,
for she was outdoing, she was pretending, and she was punishing. The
only thing that detracted from her pleasure was to be obliged to concur
in Cody's opinion. That roused her perversity. She loved to lead or to
opposenot to agree.
Let's go on, she said imperiously. What are you stopping for?
As the sun climbed higher, the mountain's top got farther and
farther away. But Cody, who had scaled not only its summit, but the
flagpole that tipped it, knew its habit of piling one small hill up
behind the other, as though, like a grotesque Gulliver playing a
practical joke, it delighted in fatiguing and disappointing the
Liliputians that swarmed up from its base. Crosby and Bombey and the
twins, with the Misses Blind-Staggers,blinder than ever to-day for
the glare on their blue goggles,had yielded long since. They were
camping patiently in a ravine far below, where a tiny spring hinted at
dining-room conveniences. The rest of the party, with Irene revenging
herself upon Kate's disloyalty by sticking like a burr to that young
lady (whom, Split thought, Mr. Garvan was treating altogether too much
like a young lady), was close on the vanguard's heels. And Sissy and
Cody, panting now, but toiling doggedly on, had reached the cool little
cup-shaped hollow in the cone where the snow lies.
From here to the top was but a few minutes' run. Cody was all for
halting and snow-balling the party as it came up, but Sissy was too
exhausted to stop now.
We'll rest at the top of the hill, she decided impatiently, and
hurried him on, both a bit out of temper.
No beauty of winding river and peaceful valley checkered with fields
of grain, no low-lying gardens and climbing forests, reward the scaler
of the heights behind the Comstockonly the bare little brown town far
down, digging tenacious heels into the mountain's side and propped up
with spindle-shanked foothold, the great white inverted cones of steam
rising from the mines, the naked and scarred majesty of the gray
mountains all about, the desert gleaming like a lake in the east, and
Washoe Lake gleaming like a desert in the west.
Yet Sissy held her breath. Something in the still purity of the air,
the savage grandeur of the mountains, the great arch of liquid blue
above her, caught and held her impressionable spirit. She stretched out
her handsa small, petticoated Balboato the world she had
discovered. Itit makes you want to scream, she stammered.
Booh! It was a yell from Cody, delivered full in her ear. If you
want to scream, darn it, scream! was his practical advice as he spat
out the sunflower-seeds he had been chewing and prepared to climb the
Sissy stood looking at him, the color flooding her face. And as he
noted her expression, the boy suddenly remembered that he did not like
Split's sister. But his mild memory of distaste was as nothing to the
disgust that possessed Sissy. In her ecstasy she had unwittingly lifted
a corner of the lid that she kept tight over her emotions. Logically,
she hated the unimpressed and profane witness of the phenomenon.
She turned her back on him, refusing even to look at his progress up
the high pole. She would not see when, at its top, small as a fly at
the point of a pencil, he waved his hat and, ululating brassily, gave
vent to the desire to be noisily vocal which had clutched Sissy's
throat into silence. At luncheon, she found a spot that was farthest
from him; and when he and Split tore noisily down the mountain's side
on the way back, she submitted rather to be outdone than to join a
party of which he was one.
Crosby Pemberton, bracing himself for the derision he expected from
her, was delighted to see her come sliding down alone to the ravine,
where the successful ones paused to take up the rest of the party. Her
solitary state encouraged him, and he sought her where she sat knocking
the sand out of her shoe.
Sissy, he said softly, holding out a peace-offering, I saved some
cream-puffs for you.
But the ruthless Sissy was not to be so easily placated. You mean
for Split, don't you? she said, scarcely looking at him, and
diligently lacing her shoe. She asked you to come, you know. I
With the look of a wounded dove, Crosby turned, and Sissy saw Irene
a moment later, her teeth gluttonously closed over one of Delia's
biggest puffs, a heart-breaking amount of filling gushing over her
cheeks and chin.
But to do without for the sake of principle was ever rapture to the
purist. Sissy placed the pangs of desire to the credit side of Crosby's
account; this was only one thing more she owed her victim. In fact, as
the party started on, so engaged was she in inventing and perfecting
tortures for him that she followed the procession on its unusual detour
without demur. It was only when it was too late that she saw Bullion
Ravine ahead of her, and the swaying high trestle over which the flume
Split's malicious face as that most sure-footed of Madigans touched
the first plank made Sissy realize the test to which she was to be put.
Her terror of giddy heights was treated as an absurd affectation by the
steady-headed Madigans, and as such requiring discipline, which, with
truly sisterly foresight, Split had provided. She ran across now with
the joy of a thing that feels itself flying. Jack Cody turned a
handspring in the very middle; and the sight so nauseated Sissy that
she had to stand aside and let those immediately behind her pass first.
Yet she dared not remain till the last, for a panicky picture in her
mind showed her to herself paralyzed forever on the brink. As she put
her foot on the first board, beneath which she could hear the running
water chuckling and gurgling as it ran, she swore to herself that she
would not look down. And, indeed, she did keep her eyes on Crosby
Pemberton's straw hat, as he walked some distance in front of her. But
the moment his foot touched the ground on the other side, the light
structure, relieved of his weight, changed its rhythmic swaying, which
had measured the steady strength of his step. Its rebound, exaggerated
by Sissy's tense nerves, seemed sickeningly high; its fall ghastly low.
Swung there from mountain to mountain, its slender supports looked
frail as a spider's woof, and seemed to tremble with every gasping
breath she drew. In spite of herself, her eye caught the silvery
glitter of the thread of water far below in the stony bed of the nearly
It was all over with Sissy. Trembling with terror, she sat down,
clutching the edge of the board beneath her, the world swimming away
before her shut eyes, just as it did when one looked too long through a
knot-hole at the flowing race in the flume beneath.
Irene's giggle came faintly to her; she was too terrified to resent
it. The murmur of voices that called her name, encouragingly,
warningly, angrily, was not so loud as the chuckling of the water in
the box which seemed to hurry her senses away. She lived through years
of agony, in which she found herself wishing that she could only fall
and end it. Then she felt the trestle bound beneath her, and she was
waked by the touch of Crosby's hand.
Get up! he said in a tone of command that reminded her of that
grenadier his mother.
She opened her eyes and saw that his face was white, but the glitter
of determination in his eyes was so new and curious that it held her
attention for the moment necessary to give her strength to obey. He
almost pulled her to her feet, and then half dragged, half ran with her
across. Yet within ten feet of the end, the trembling of his hand had
communicated itself to her whole body. She watched the drops of
perspiration fall from his pale face and, fascinated, followed them
down with her eyes. Then wrenching her hand from his, she almost fell
down again. It seemed to her her head swayed back and forth with such
force as might bear her whole body with it, and she squatted down,
It was a most humiliating finish to an exciting adventure, for when
he strove to compel her again to rise, Crosby found that terror is
contagious. He himself dared not stand. He squatted down in front of
her, and on all fours the two crawled toward the bank. Sissy could have
kissed the earth when her hands touched it.
But it took her some time to recover. The sympathetic fussing of the
Misses Bryne-Stivers she endured as in a dream. She even permitted Mr.
Garvan to take her hand and help her walk for a time. But when they
reached the first house and had turned down Taylor Street, she was so
thoroughly herself that she contrived to let the rest pass her, and she
rested till Crosby came up. She was walking beside him, with a sudden
flattering kindness that almost turned his head, when he looked in the
direction in which her eyes were fixed, and saw his mother in her
phaeton pull up and beckon to him.
He looked shyly at Sissy. He would have given much to be told that
this forgiveness was not to be merely temporary, like others that had
preceded it whenever Mrs. Pemberton might see and disapprove; that he
was no longer to be flouted and scorned when there was nobody but Sissy
herself to be glad of it.
The shadow of the guillotine is over you! said Sissy, in a
bombastic whisper addressed to Mrs. Pembertona comforting formula the
Madigans had invented to still their envy of those who rode in
carriages. But her smiling face, when it turned toward Crosby, had no
threat in it.
Relieved, forgiven, reinstated,for there was a promise without
words in his tyrant's good humor,Crosby laughed out gaily. At that
moment he had no more fear for Madam Pemberton than for the invoked
S' long, Sissy, he cried, waving his basket to her as he went, a
young aristocrat, to meet his fate.
That night Sissy said her prayers in a rush. She wanted to give her
undivided attention to plans of revenge on Split.
KATE: A PRETENSE
The lesser Madigans meant to stand no nonsense from Kate. Other
girls' big sisters had been known to assume superiority as their skirts
lengthened, and to imply an esoteric something in their experience
which younger sisters could not comprehend, and privileges which they
might not share. But for them, the Madigans, though they were
graciously willing to count Kate out of such outdoor sports as were
incompatible with lengthened skirts, she might come no pretense of
young-ladyhood over them. They were on the watch for the smallest
affectation, the least sentimentality; and as for beaus per sejust
let Kate try it!
Kate did, being human, a Comstock girl when girls were in a
delightful minority, and a Madigan. But, realizing the argus-eyed watch
put upon her, and the forthright methods of her sister Madigans, she
tried it secretly.
To be sure, there was old Westlake,he was at least thirty-five
years oldwhose intentions were quite apparent. He came up to play
whist at the house whenever he was in town, upon which occasions Kate
was always his partner; and he scolded her with the same proprietary
freedom for leading a sneak suit as Francis Madigan did his sistera
lady who was never known to know what was trumps, and who smiled and
blinked and blushed and made the same mistakes over and over again with
a complacency that Madigan's fiercest thumps upon the table could not
But the Madigans forgave Kate her Westlake, for the pleasure she
took in guying him, and the loyal frankness with which she let them
into all the moves of the game. He was The Avalanche to her and to
them, because of his avoirdupois, his slow movements, and the
imperviousness to a joke with which he was credited; because he could
not take in all the little infinity of homely facetiæ in which the
Madigans lived and had their being. Besides, it was pleasant and
exciting, being leagued with Kate against Aunt Anne, who was known to
have positively had the indecency to speak openly upon the subject, and
in favor of it, to her oldest niece!
Fly, the Avalanche is upon you! was Sissy's dramatic way of
warning her big sister that her suitor had been spied by the outpost
coming up the steps.
And on such occasions Kate could slip out of the side door and be
safely inside the Misses Blind-Staggers's sitting-room by the time
Westlake's heavy step made the porch shakeand Sissy, toowith
laughter. But this was before she went to open the door.
Is your sister at home? old Westlake asked confidently.
Which oneIrene? Yes, she's home. Sissy's small round face was
simplicity and candor incarnate.
No, said old Westlake, uncomfortably. He had seen shrewdness once
or twice behind the eyes where innocence now dwelt, and he only half
trusted this demure, blank-faced child. I mean your sister Katherine.
Oh! Cecilia exclaimed, in gentle surprise. Oh, no, sir, she's
Old Westlake fancied he heard a mocking indeed that followed. In
fact, an echo that had the queer effect of making him hear double
seemed to accompany all his words. It came from the portières, which
were suspiciously bulky, and shook as though something more than the
wind moved them.
And how soon will she be home? he asked.
Kate? You mean Kate? Oh, I really do not know. Sissy pronounced
her words with pedantic carea permissible thing among Madigans when
adults were to be guyed.
Old Westlake (he was rather a handsome old fellow, with his regular
features, his blond mustache, and prominent blue eyes) fidgeted
uneasily. There must be some way, he felt, of moderating this
half-chilly, half-critical atmosphere on the part of the smaller
Madigans. But children were riddles to him, and the solutions his small
experience offered were either too simple or too complex.
She can't be intending to spend the whole day out? he asked,
conscious that he presented a ridiculous figure to the childish gray
eyes lifted to his.
No, I don't suppose she can, agreed Sissy. Won't you come in?
He followed her hesitatingly into the parlor and sat down, his eyes
fixed upon the portières over the front windows, which still appeared
to be strangely agitated.
Youdo you think it will be worth whilemy waiting? he asked
helplessly, as Cecilia was modestly about to withdraw.
She looked up at him with the bland look of intelligence which it
takes a clever child to counterfeit.
Worth while waiting for Kate? she asked in accents half puzzled,
Old Westlake blushed to the roots of his close-cropped fair hair. He
fancied he heard a muffled gurgle behind the portières that wasn't
Ohyou mean, is she likely to come home soon? added Sissy,
gravely, eying his discomfiture. I really do not know.
Is Miss Madigan in? asked the desperate man.
Why, do you call her that? I told you she was out.
No; you told me Katherine was out. Is she in? he asked eagerly.
Sissy stared at him stupidly. He returned her stare contemplatively.
He yearned to bribe her, but he didn't dare. She looked too old to be
bought, too young to understand; yet he was sure she was neither.
Katherine, Kate, and Miss Madigan are out, said Sissy,
didactically. So are Kitty, Kathleen, and even Kathythat's her
latest; she wrote it that way in Henrietta Bryne-Stivers's
The visitor looked bewildered. I asked you whether your aunt is
in, he said, with some impatience.
I beg your pardon, retorted Sissy, ceremoniously. No Madigan
begged pardon unless intending to be doubly offensive thereafter. You
asked me whether my sister was in.
Isyourauntin? demanded Westlake, with insulting clearness.
Please. Westlake bit the word out, promising himself that his
first post-nuptial act would be to shake this small sister-in-law well
for her impertinence.
And this was the pathos, as well as the absurdity of old
Westlakehe was so confident.
But he was not so confident that he did not long for an ally. And
when Split stepped out from behind the portières, with a barefaced
pretense of having just come through the long French window from the
porch, he straightway invited her to go to the circus that evening with
him and Kate.
There happened to be two sties on Split's left eye just then, and a
third on the upper eyelid of the right one. But this, of course, was no
reason for discouraging the overtures of a poor old man like Westlake,
who, it appeared to Split, had some virtues, after all.
That evening Sissy, who was playing holey down on Taylor (a famous
button-string had Sissy, as token of her prowess; it had a sample of
almost every buttoned frock worn in Virginia for the past ten years),
watched the three as they set out for the tent far down at the foot of
the hill. And three things occurred to her, as she stood looking after
them, Bombey Forrest waiting vainly, meanwhile, for her to shoot:
First, that if his desire was to propitiate the clan, old Westlake had
selected the wrong Madigan: Split being not nearly so tenacious an
enemy nor so loyal a friend as herself. Second, that that same Split
looked like a silly with the white handkerchief bound over her left
eye, and her right one swollen and teary. She wondered, did Sissy, that
they should take such a fright with them. And thirdly, the censor of
the family sins made a mental note to the effect that Kate Madigan was
putting on altogether too many airs as she pulled on her gloves; there
was an inexcusable self-consciousness about her manner toward the
Avalanche; and as for old Westlake himself, he was clearly taking
advantage of Split's blindness and casting such glances at that giddy
Kate as she, Sissy, would certainly not have toleratedif she had been
invited to go to the circus. If only she had!
It must not be supposed that the esthetic side of life for the
Madigans was represented wholly by women's walking-matches and the
circus. There was also the Tridentata.
Of course the Tridentatathe name was supposed to have something to
do with sage-brushwas very select. Naturally, for it had had its
origin in Mrs. Pemberton's strenuous estheticism and double
parlorspossessions of which few Comstockers could boast. But after
the infant literary society had learned to stand alone, it adopted
migratory habits, meeting now at the Misses Bryne-Stivers's cottage,
now at Mrs. Forrest's over-furnished rooms, and occasionally even at
There was at least room enough at the Madigans; it was the one
particular in which they were never stinted. The long, shabby parlor
had sufficient seating-capacity, even if the chairs were not all,
strictly speaking, presentable.
Shall I bring in the Versiye fotoy? asked Split on one of the
occasions when the meeting of the Tridentata necessitated a real
house-cleaning in which the full corps of Madigans took part.
The Versailles fauteuil, Irene, replied Miss Madigan,
doubtfully, is not reliable. If I wasn't sure that Mrs. Pemberton, who
has seen the real ones, would be sure to ask where it is, I'd keep it
out; for the last time she came so near sitting on it while I was
reading my paper on 'Home-keeping' that I got so nervous I left out all
that part about the housewife's duty being, above all, to make a
spiritual home: to diffuse about herself a home atmosphere, so that
wherever she sat, wherever two or three gathered about her, there was
the Sanctuary of the Church of Home, so to speak. And
Then you want me to bring it in? Split had too much to do to
listen to Tridentata culture. Her humble office was merely to make
ready for the literary feast and modest bodily refreshment to come.
It was one of the contradictions of Split's natureher intense
occasional domesticity and the practical good sense that marked her
home economies. She rose now, basin in hand. Her sleeves were rolled
up, her bushy hair, a troublesome half-length now, was bound up in a
towel. She had been scrubbing and polishing the zinc under the stove,
and she was as happy as she was executive. She flew about trilling The
Zingara, with a smudge on her chin and a big kitchen-apron tied about
her waist, looking like a dirty little slavey; yet putting the mark of
her thoroughness upon everything she touched and Miss Madigan
The big rug from your room is to go over the hole by the window?
she asked perfunctorily, being half-way through the hall at the time.
Oh, I'm so glad you remembered it, said Miss Madigan. Mrs.
Forrest tripped in that hole the last time. I thought it was
exceedingly impolite of her to call attention to it that way,
Shall I turn the couch-cover? demanded Split.
I don't see how you can, said Miss Madigan, helplessly. It's worn
on the other side.
But with a tug Split had drawn it off, pillows and all, and she flew
up-stairs, carrying Kate in her wake to help her pull down a portière
which she intended transforming into a couch-cover.
Things sentient as well as material were accustomed to doing double
duty at the Madigans' on Tridentata nights. When Francis Madigan,
forewarned that his bell would often be rung that evening, but that he
was not expected to resent the insult, had retreated to his castle and
pulled up the drawbridge behind him, the slavey, with Sissy as
assistant, became doorkeeper, and, later, butler. Critics, of course,
these two were ex officio; and from their station out in the chilly
hall, they listened to and mocked at the literary program, which Miss
Madigan had entitled, A Night of All Nations.
The opening duet between Maude and Henrietta Bryne-Stivers they had
heard before. Few people in Virginia, indeed, had not.
Trash! Sissy pronounced it in Professor Trask's best manner.
The reading from Sodom's Ende, in the original, by the traveled
Mrs. Pemberton, was fiercely resented by her audience outside the
gates. It always made a Madigan furious to hear a foreign tongue; for,
apart from the affectation of strange pronunciations, the deliberate
mouthing of words (and you couldn't make Sissy Madigan believe that
Mrs. Ramrod understood half of what she was reading in that guttural,
heavy tongue), there was the impugnment of other people's lack of
The critical paper on Daudet that followed was read by Miss
Henrietta Bryne-Stivers. While it was in progress the two Madigans out
in the hall each read an imaginary paper on the same topic, finishing
with that identical courtesy which Henrietta had imported from Miss
Jessup's school in the city. But Split tripped Sissy as she was bowing
over low, and she fell, as softly as she could, to the floor. Miss
Madigan looked out with a Ssh! Sissy cast off all blame in virtuous
dumb-show, and in the pause the two heard Dr. Murchison's voice as
Henrietta passed him and the door, on her triumphant way back to her
Allow me to compliment you, Miss Henrietta, said the old doctor,
pleasantly excited by so youthful a lady's literary discrimination.
You are really fond of Daudet, then?
Henrietta blushed. Oh, no, indeed, doctor! she said deprecatingly.
At Miss Jessup's we girls were not permitted to read him, you know.
Ah, I see, murmured the doctor. Only to write about him?
Miss Jessup thought it was morefitting, with the French authors,
So it is, agreed Murchison, dryly. So it is. The excellent Miss
Jessupshow well they know!
He's guying her, chuckled Sissy, making a mental vow to read
Daudet or die in the attempt. And she doesn't know it.
Hush! came from Split.
In a tenor a bit foggy, but effectively sympathetic, old Westlake
was singing, Oh, would that we two were maying!
Sissy put her eye to the crack of the door, and Split, watching her,
saw her round face grow red and indignant.
What is it? she whispered, squirming till she too had an eye glued
to the crack.
Look! exclaimed Sissy, disgustedly.
Straight in their line of vision sat Kate, and upon her old
Westlake's eyes were ardently fixed as he sang.
It'sit's not decent, declared Sissy, wrathfully.
He does look like a calf. Split grinned. Kate looked very pretty
in that white cashmere embroidered in red rosebuds, which had been made
over from the box from Ireland, Split said to Sissy, and so was
deserving of forgiveness, she hinted; for when one had a new frock
Sissy, the sensible, snorted unbelievingly. What gown had ever
But I'll get even with him, she said, stealing on tiptoe down the
hall. Just you watch!
Split, her nose in the crack of the door, watched. The Avalanche had
finished his first verse and begun the second, when Sissy appeared in
the parlor, very modest and retiring, walking behind chairs and
effacing herself with an ostentation that could not but attract all
eyes. She stopped at Miss Madigan's chair, asked a question,which
Split knew well was utterly irrelevant and immaterial,and received an
answer in Aunt Anne's company manner: a compound of sweetness and
flustered inattention which no one could mimic better than Sissy
Then she withdrew, slowly and by a tortuous route which brought her
just beside him at the moment Westlake stopped singing. Without a word,
yet with a gracious instinct for the momentary confusion in which the
performer found himself, his seat having been taken while he sang,
Cecilia pulled out another from the wall and moved it slightly toward
The little attention was offered so naturally, with such engaging
demureness, that Mrs. Pembertonwhom the social amenities in children
ever delightedalmost loved Sissy Madigan at that moment. So, by the
way, did Split, out in the hall, her eye at the crack of the door, her
feet lifting alternately with anticipative rapture. For it was the
Versailles fauteuil that Sissy had so sweetly selected for old
Westlake. And when the big fellow came down to earth with a crash,
rising red and confused from the debris, Sissy was already out in the
hall. She arrived at the crack in time to see Kate stuff her
handkerchief into her mouth and hurry to the window, her shoulders
shaking, while Miss Madigan flew to the rescue.
It took a recitation in Italian by Mrs. Forrest to rob Sissy
Madigan, judge and executioner, of her complacency after this. Then
Aunt Anne recited The Bairnies Cuddle Doon charmingly, as she always
did, but most Hibernianly, with that clean accent that makes
Irish-English the prettiest tongue in the world. After which she
received with smiling complacency the compliments of Mrs. Forrest, who
told her that an ideal mother had been lost to the world in her.
Outside, two cynics listened with a bored air. They felt that they
required a stimulant after this, so they made a hurried visit to the
dining-room, thereby escaping Mr. Garvan's reading of Father Phil's
Collection. But when Henrietta Bryne-Stivers delivered Blow, Bugle,
Blow, changing from speaking voice to the sung chorus with a composure
that was really shameless, the critics out in the hall received that
insulting shock which novelty inflicts upon the provincial, which is
the childish, mind. They revenged themselves in their own way, mouthing
and attitudinizing, caricaturing every pose which Miss Henrietta had
been taught, by the instructor of Delsarte at Miss Jessup's, was grace.
They were caught in the midst of their saturnalia of ridicule by Kate,
who promptly exploded at their uncouth, dumb merriment.
Aunt Anne wants you, Sissy, she said when she got her breath.
In an instant Sissy was sobered. It wasn't possible that she was to
be sent to bed before supper! To be a waiter was the height of
happiness for Sissy.
It's because of the Versiye fotoy, giggled Split, as she ran off
to the dining-room.
It isn't, is it? whispered Sissy to Kate. And Kate shook her head
reassuringly, and waved her in. She couldn't answer audibly, for Dr.
Murchison was tuning up his sweet old violin, while Maude Bryne-Stivers
offered to accompany him on the piano.
But Murchison knew too much of the manners and methods of Jessup's
Seminary, as revealed by its showiest pupil.
Thank you, thank you, Miss Maude, but this is a very old-fashioned
and a very simple entertainment I'm going to give. Just the things that
I play to myself when I'm weary of listening to humanity tell of its
ills and achesthe egotist! Then I look down into the beautifully
clean inside of my fiddle, its good old mechanism without a flaw, and
listen to the things it has to tell.... Thank you, just the same, Miss
Maude; this is not a theme worthy of your brilliant rendition, but, as
I said, a simple, old-fashioned playing of the fiddle. I'll supply the
old-fashioned part, and Sissy here can do the simple accompaniment, if
If she would! Sissy was so gaspingly happy and proud that she forgot
even to pretend that she wasn't. Seating herself, she let her trembling
fingers sink into the opening chord, while the old doctor's bow sought
the strains of Kathleen Mavourneen, of Annie Laurie, the Blue
Bells of Scotland, and Rose Marie.
The unspoken sympathy that existed between these two flowed now from
the bow to Sissy's fingers, and made a harmony as pretty as was the
sight of the old man and the happy child looking up at him. Sissy
Madigan was conscious that the doctor knew heralmost; that,
nevertheless, she occupied a place quite unique in his heart. And she
loved passionately to be loved, this hypocrite of a Madigan, who jeered
and jibed at any demonstration of affection. A sense of being utterly
at harmony with the world possessed her now; the fact that she was
showing off was far, far in the background of her consciousness, when
all at once she happened to glance out through the hall door.
She had left it ajar behind her, expecting Kate to follow her in.
But Kate, evidently, had not followed. She stood out there alone with
Mr. Garvan, her arms behind her, her slender figure drawn up beneath
the swinging hall lamp, her pert little head, circled by the braids she
wore coiled clear around it when she wanted to be very grown-up,
upturned to the master, her every feature stamped with coquetry.
Sissy shut her lips firmlyand the wrong note she struck marred the
doctor's finale. It was evident that Kate Madigan needed looking after.
* * * * *
She did; and yet no one but Kate and those she experimented upon
could help her to find herself.
A wilful Madigan, intoxicated with her first taste of a new
pleasure, was Kate. She had outgrown her short skirts with regret; she
was preparing to make them still longer with delight. She had the
maturity of her motherless and quasi-fatherless state to add to the
natural precocity of the mining-town girl, and of the eldest sister who
has been pushed out of her childhood by the press of numbers behind
her. And yet the wine of romance kept her almost babyishly young. She
had a way of proclaiming the fact that she read everything her father
did. (Madigan, marooned by his misfortunes in the most picturesque
setting, where men were living the most picturesque lives, turned his
back upon it all and found the action his dull days were denied in the
elder Dumas.) By this Kate intended to show how proud and unrestrained
a Madigan was; hoped, too, perhaps, that there might attach a bitthe
least bitof suggestive license to the phrase. And all the while she
was pitiably unconscious of how innocuous the old romanticist's tales
of adventure may be, read in translation, by the light of such purity
and innocence as hers.
But she was pert, was Kate, and piquant; she presumed upon her
youth, upon her age. She was a child when you expected her to be a
woman, and a woman where you looked for the child. No dream of romance
was romantic enough to hold her fickle soul constant to itto satisfy
the hopes of her heart. Every man she met was a prince; yet was he,
too, bare and poor and mean compared with The Man to come. The child in
her was gauche and crude, sitting in judgmentas cynical, as critical
a spectator as Sissy herselfupon the very hopes the woman awakened.
In her eyes the flash of coquetry was succeeded by the blank, childish
irony which denied the emotion hardly passed. She loved to shock
pretense, yet she was the most absurd and innocent of pretenders, for
the terms in which convention speaks were Greek to her. She was
masterful, being a Madigan, and daring and impertinent. A creature
utterly impatient of forms, with a boy-like chivalry, revealing how
incomplete the work of sex was yet, for the woman misunderstoodwhom
she, in her crude purity, understood least of all. This was Kate,
ready, at fifteen, to battle single-handed with windmills, with
world-old problems, with world-young prejudices; to burn intolerance to
ashes in the white flame of her brave young innocence; to cry aloud the
word that older, wiser cowards whisper or stifle in their hearts; to
make no compromise; to know that black is black and white is white; to
be unforgiving, as only cruel young inexperience can be; to flame at a
wrong and glow at its righting; and yet to have her contradictions
cased in a body of such vivid grace, a mind leavened by humor, and a
heart of such sweetness as made her the irresistibly lovable Pretense
Pretending to be a child, to annoy her Aunt Anne; pretending to be a
woman, to infuriate her younger sisters; pretending to be a saint,
pretending to be a sinner; pretending to scorn the world, yet quaffing
its first sweet draughts of individual power and experience with
full-opened throat; pretending to be mannishdriven to that extremity
by the super-femininity of Henrietta Bryne-Stivers; pretending to be
frivolous, to shock rigid Mrs. Pemberton; pretending to be a
blue-stocking with a passion for the solid and heavy in literature;
pretending to be a Spartan who must rise at dawn and, after a plunge in
ice-cold mountain water, climb, with only big Don, the Newfoundland,
for company, up to the sluice-box; there to pretend she was an esthete
to whom the sunrise, while she communed alone with nature, revealed
things invisible to the world below.
But Reality's day came. Miss Madigan went out into the future, sent
thither by her auntly sense of responsibility, and brought it back with
her. It led them straight to Warren Pemberton's office, and Pretense
fled like a shy shadow before the sun when Reality looked at her
through Pemberton's cold, dull eyes.
Miss Madigan, Mr. Pemberton. My niece Kate, was the lady's
introduction as they entered.
The red-faced, heavy little man, too important a personage to be
expected to contribute socially to the life of the town, had been
looking at Miss Madigan as though he knew he ought to remember having
met her. She wanted something, of course. Everybody wanted something
from Warren Pemberton, King Sammy's viceroy, in charge of his mining
interests and his political plantations. But he brightened at the
formula, recollecting having heard it before from the same lady's lips,
and promptly placed her in the category of small political favors.
I remember you, Miss Madiganof course, he stammered. Remember
the little girl, too. Crosby's flame, eh?
Kate flushed, struck dumb with the insult, and her black-gray eyes
gleamed handsomely with anger. After getting herself up in her most
mature fashion to be mistaken for Sissy!
Why, Mr. Pemberton, exclaimed Miss Madigan, flustered by
propinquity to greatness, this is Kate, the Miss Madigan whofor
Oh, excuse me. Pemberton sat rubbing his chin and silently
blinking at the Miss Madigan for whom his influence had been invoked.
She felt he was weighing her youth and inexperience against the thing
that had been asked for her. And the Madigan in her fiercely resented
it; was tempted to confirm his doubts by a saucy flippancy that would
relieve her impatience of a false position. But there was that other
Madigan in her to be reckoned with, that new one, on the reverse of
whose shining, romantic shield a plain, dull, tenacious sense of duty
was slowly spelling itself into legibility.
Kate's really very clever, Mr. Pemberton, said Kate's aunt,
tactfully; and the girl's teeth clicked together, in her effort to
control her irritation. And in some ways she is much older than her
years. She will graduate, you know, this year at the head of her class;
she passed first in the examination, and really, in a family where
there are so many girls
Yes, yes, I know, interrupted the great man. You told me all
about that, and I
And you've had time to realize just how extraordinary a creature I
am and how pitiful a case ours is! Am I too brilliant altogether to be
wasted on school-teaching? Wrath tingled in Kate's voice. She heard
Miss Madigan's gasp of horror, and could imagine the fishy
disconsolateness of her expression. And she saw the red-faced little
man opposite her start, as at the injection of a foreign tongue into
Ehwhat? Oh, yes, he said dully. I meanno. It'll beit's all
Oh, Mr. Pemberton, how can I thank you! Miss Madigan clasped her
Yes; I spoke to Forrest yesterday, andand, of course, Murchison's
willing, went on the little man, gravely. But there's no vacancy just
now, so they'll arrange to appoint substitutes. It's the way they do in
cities, I understand. And Miss Cecilia here will be
My name, Mr. Pemberton, is Kate!
And Kate's exceedingly grateful. Miss Madigan gazed amazed at her
niece; she didn't look grateful.
Not at all; not at all, murmured Pemberton, feeling for his papers
helplessly. I'm so busy
Itis good of you, stammered Kate, rising. I amvery much
obliged to you. She held out a hand to him that was cold to the
fingertips. All at once she felt so old, so young, so niched forever in
a somber, gray life, so settled, so bound up by small formalities, so
miserably unlike a Madigan!
* * * * *
Yet the Madigan in Kate waked with a defiant brightness when the
first call came that took her temporarily over the threshold of the new
life. She left her own school-room, where her rôle was as congenial and
irresponsible as Sissy's, with an air of importance that roused envy in
her mates' hearts.
The very pretense rallied her, excited her, inspired her to continue
to pretend after she had left her audience behind her. And though she
entered the lower class-room, of which she was to have charge for a
day, with a terrified feeling of being thrown to the lions, she faced
the undisciplined mob that licked its lips in anticipation of a feast
on raw young substitute with a flash in her eye that promised battle
And she did make a hit at the beginning, thanks to her sister and
present pupil, Bessie, who was invariably late to school.
To Bep, the aspect of her own sister in a position of authority was
the hugest absurdity, and when the blonde twin sauntered in, tardy, as
usual, she joined the class as one of the lions. She intended to give
Kate distinctly to understand that she was mixed primary pupil first
and a Madigan afterward; that the substitute might expect no mercy from
her on the pitiful plea of relationship.
Bep's attitude was very Madigan; the only drawback to it was that it
left out of the reckoning the fact that she had a Madigan to deal with.
Elizabeth Madigan, said the substitute, in the clear, high, formal
tone that, in itself, was sufficient to sever all bonds of kinship,
where is your excuse for being late?
Bep's blue eyes blinked. The impudence of Kate to talk that way to
I ain't got any. Miss Walker never
Miss Walker isn't teaching to-day, remarked the substitute, in the
patient tone which the enlightened have for dullness. She is ill and I
am teacher here. Where is your excuse?
Bep felt the silence grow around her. She saw the whole school drop
its mirth and its employments to watch this duel between Madigans.
Why, you know very well, Kate Madigan she began hotly.
A sharp ring on the bell at the teacher's desk cut Bep's eloquence
short. If you have anything to say to me, little girl, you will
address me as Miss Madigan.
The audacity of it struck Bep dumb. Call that slim girl Miss
Madigan? She'd like to see herself!
You will go home, Elizabeth, the substitute continued,
unconcernedly making her way to the blackboard as though this
life-and-death affair were a mere incident in her many duties, and
bring me back a written excuse for your tardiness.
Bep set her teeth. You know I had to go an errand for Aunt Anne;
you saw me yourself, she muttered.
A written excuse, I said.
I can't get any. Yet Bep rose. She felt the ground slipping from
Then I am sorry to say, remarked the substitute, firmly, that I
shall not be able to have you in my class to-day. Leave the room,
Bessie.... Now, children, the first thing to do in subtraction
Bessie walked slowly up the aisle and toward the door. With the
prospect of a double disciplining, at home and at school, too, she
dared not rebel. Yet wrath smoldered within her. She came to where the
substitute stood at the board, calmly explaining the process of
borrowing, and the resolution to regard her as an undeserving
stranger was tempered by Bep's desire to inflict an intimate, personal
I wouldn't be so afflicted as you, she growled under her breath,
like a small Mrs. Partington, misapplying her big word in her wrath,
for all the world. And I'll get even!
A gleam of quite unofficial laughter lit the substitute's eye. You
mean 'affected,' my little girl, not 'afflicted,' she said clearly,
pausing pedagogically, chalk in hand. Look up the difference in your
dictionary, and if you can't understand, come to me and I'll explain it
to youafter you bring your excuse.
And Bep brought her excuse. The substitute, her cheeks glowing with
excitement, yet calm-voiced and pretending valiantly, saw the door open
nearly an hour later, and a hand thrust through waving an envelop, as
though it were a lightning-rod that might attract the storm of her
wrath away from the one who carried it.
Gravely, even encouragingly, Miss Kate Madigan read a prayer from
Miss Anne Madigan that the teacher would kindly excuse the tardiness of
Elizabeth, her niece. She placed it on file religiously, like a
confirmed devotee to red tape, and resumed her lesson to the baby
class, with a matter-of-course air that completed the routing of Bep.
But there was still another relative in the mixed primaryFrances.
For half a day the smallest of Madigans was supposed to be doing
kindergarten work, with a mild infusion of the practical in the shape
It did not occur to this young lady to try to disown the substitute.
On the contrary, she was exceedingly proud of her proprietary interest
in the teacher. She leaned her plump hand upon that august person's
knee in all the easy charm of intimacy when the baby class gathered
about her, and was so intoxicated by reflected glory that she forgot
the two letters of the alphabet she was supposed to know.
There was one thing no Madigannot even Katecould pretend to: to
be patient was beyond them all, talented as they were.
It's 'B,' Frank! the substitute cried, in her exasperation
forgetting the dignified demeanor she had adopted. Say 'B,' 'B,' you
In that terrible moment Frank realized that there were drawbacks to
being too well acquainted with the teacher. Her eyes filled with tears
of chagrin. 'B, B, you stupid!' she sobbed.
And a quick, clear laugh from the substitute completed the
demoralization of the mixed primary. It was not, strictly speaking, in
order when Mr. Garvan visited it.
* * * * *
Oh, to be out of school, at the end of that first day of adulthood!
To be unwatched, to be free, to be little and young, if that pleased
one! To walk up the hill and along the main street, and then, just as
one was about to turn the corner prosaically and mount still
higherthen to come face to face with a creature so elegant, so
visibly dressed, that no gambler in town could outshine him. By sheer
good luck, to have been introduced to this dandy in one's capacity of
teacher of the mixed primary that very morning, when he had been given
permission by Mr. Garvan to make an announcement at the school
concerning special privileges granted school-children at the
high-class minstrel performance given at Lally's Opera House. To be
unhampered now by the timidities of office, and ready to pick up the
gage of coquetry his saucy glance threw down. And so, after the
smallest second's hesitation,the woman in one stifling both the
child's and the substitute's hesitation,to allow the gaudy stranger
to walk beside one the length of C Street. And though the sidewalk was
crowded, for stocks were up, and one had to wriggle one's way through
the people packed tight in front of the brokers' offices, yet, in the
very teeth of the townsfolk, to joy shamelessly in flirtation with this
gorgeous, shining, flattering strangera social outlaw, as well as a
bird of passage, the very disrepute of whose profession made temptation
more subtly sweet!
* * * * *
Split, whispered Sissy, her voice muffled with shame,it was a
week later,Kate walked with a minstrel! What shall we do?
Did she? Who told on herMrs. Ramrod? Well, added Split, out of
the depths of experience, it must have been that day she substituted.
OLD MOTHER GIBSON
Imprisoned in skirts, Jack Cody was awaiting his mother and relief,
when there came a knock at the door, and a voice distinctly not Jane
I beg your pardon, I'm sure, but your town's so jolly dark, I
believe I've lost my way. I'm looking forMy word, what's that!
A parabola of light had suddenly shot out athwart the soft black
night. It seemed to come from the hill to the left, and it was
accompanied by the tinkle of shattered glass.
It's the Madigans. Jack's voice was wistful and his gaze was
turned longingly upward.
Madigans! exclaimed the stranger, looking in amazement from the
boyish face surmounting a shapeless woman's gown to the thing it
watched so yearninglya light flaring brightly on the hill, a lot of
small dancing figures silhouetted blackly against it, the smell of
coal-oil, and the shrill excited laughter of children.
Upon my soul, yours is a strange country, the man went
onstranger even than it looks. How in the world did you know that I
was looking for the Madigans?
Are you? asked the boy, dully. His body might be down in Jane
Cody's cabin, but his soul was up aloft there where the Madigans held
Yes, I am, answered the stranger, his eyes fixed upon the odd
figure before him.
Well, there they are, the boy said, pointing upward to the
grotesque dancing shadows.
Eh?I beg your pardon, II don't understand. Just what has
happened? asked the stranger.
Nothin', said Jack. The lamp gets tipped over when they're
playing Old Mother Gibson, and they just throw it out so's not to set
the house afire.
Every night? asked the man, in the polite tone strangers adopt in
striving to fathom a local mystery.
Nope, said the boy, in a matter-of-fact tone. They can't play it
every night; sometimes their aunt won't let 'em.
You appear to know them. There was a smile hidden beneath the
voice; but Jack was thinking, not of the questioner, indistinguishable
in the darkness, but of the mad carnival up yonder on the hill.
Yep. That's Split, he said. That oneseewith the bushy lot of
hair, singing and cake-walking in front. She can do a cake-walk
better'n any nigger I ever see.
That's Frank, the babythe one that's screamin' so. You can tell
her squeals; they're laughin' ones, you know.
I suppose I ought to know. Anyway, I'm glad to be told.
Over on the side there, where there's a kind of blotch, is the
twins; they must be fighting. Don, the dog, 's mixed up in it somehow.
My word! exclaimed the man, softly, to himself.
That's Kate dancing round on the porch, and the one standing
high-like, right next to the fire, with her arms up stiff, as if she
was running the whole show, sort ofof
A priestess, say, invocating the Goddess of Kerosene!
Huh?Well, that's Sissy.
Oh, is it? Tell meis she niceSissy?
What? asked the boy, so surprised that he withdrew his attention
from on high and stared out at the man on the door-step.
There came a laugh out of the darkness. It is an odd question, but
then everything is so odd out here, I half hoped you wouldn't notice
it. But you do know them, evidently. I wonderdo you mind going up
there with me and showing me the way?
But his last question had suddenly recalled to Jack Cody the reason
why he wasn't at that moment one of the dancing black figures on the
hill. The boy looked from his mother's wrapper to the man's face,
growing more distinct now, out on the door-step, and the amused
expression he saw there his sore egotism attributed to a personal
cause. So he promptly slammed the door in the man's face.
There was an instant's pause out in the blackness, made denser now
that the candle's light from the cabin was cut off; then a short,
Miles, old chap, the young man was saying to himself, as he turned
cautiously to jump from the stoop and mount the hill, this is Bedlam
you've fallen intothis mad little mining-town ten thousand miles off
in a brand-new corner of the world, all hills and characters! Now, what
might be the sex of that animal you were talking to? And what in the
name of peace are these Madigans? Are they the ones you're lookSteps,
as I value my immortal soul! he exclaimed, rubbing his shin where he
had struck against the wandering Madigan stairway. It would not have
surprised me, now, if I had had to climb that hill on my hands and
knees, and stand on my head when I got to the door, to knock at it with
* * * * *
Miss Madigan's demeanor was beautiful to see. Just a bitoh, the
least bit of I-told-you-so in her manner, but also a generous
willingness to postpone the acceptance of apologies due to one long
misunderstood, and to take for granted the family's obligation.
The estate must be worth at least ten thousand a year, she
confided in her delighted perturbation to Frances, as she curled her
hair. And Frank looked up at her, soulful and uncomprehending, and a
bit cross-eyed, for the curl dangling down over her nose. He'll marry
Kate, of courseI had no idea he was so young. He'll just be the
savior of the whole family. It's a providence,Miles Madigan's dying
when he did,and wasn't it fortunate that Nora sent my letter back?...
You will be good at the table, Frances, and show cousin Miles how
nicely you can use your fork?... He is practically a cousin.... Have
you washed your hands?
Hm-mm, murmured Frank, mendaciously. And then, as Aunt Anne
appeared to doubt her word, Just you ask God if I haven't, she
suggested solemnly, carefully putting her hands behind her.
But Miss Madigan had no time to put questions to so distant an
authority. She had Wong to placateWong with his wash-day face on,
grim, ill-tempered, hurried, defying the world to put even the smallest
additional burden on his shoulders on Monday. And Miles Morgan just
arrived from Ireland!
And Francis talking to him in the library, in that distant,
watchful, uncompromising way of his, that was just as likely as not to
send the young man off in a huff.
One needn't insult a man just because he's rich and a relative!
Miss Madigan's exclamation was uttered aloud unconsciously, so excited
was she. It ended with a gasp, as Sissy collided with her on the way
from peeking through the half-open library door at her father and his
It was the bedroom, Kate's and Irene's, that Sissy was bound for;
for there, in solemn conclave, the junior Madigans were assembled,
waiting for their scout's report.
He's bigbut not so big as the Avalanche, she began the moment
she had shut the door behind her and faced the questioning eyes that
commanded her to stand and deliver. He's straight, too, but not so
poker-stiff as Mrs. Ramrod. He's got a big haw-haw voice, and scrubs
every word he says with a tooth-brush before he says it. His hands are
as whiteas white; and they're cleaner than Crosby Pemberton's. He's
got a tan shirt on, plaited in front, and every time Aunt Anne moves
he's up like a jumping-jack till she gets sat down again. He says 'My
word!' and 'in the States'like that. He's got a mustache the color of
your hair, Split, a scrubby, stiffy little mustache. His eyes are
little twinkling things, and I believe she paused in her indictment
to give the criminal the benefit of the doubtI do believe he had
gloves on when he first came! I won't be sure; but, anyway, I hate
A gratified sigh rose from the Madigans assembled. It was good to
have definite information, to know that this Miles Morgan was hatable.
For the Madigans loved to hate any one who could put them under
obligationswhen they did not spend their very souls in a passion of
gratitude to him. But for this interloping, distant relative from
foreign shores they were prepared. They were ready to outrage him, to
throw his patronage in his teeth, if he dared offer it, to out-Madigan
the Madigans, if that were necessary; to disgust him and satisfy their
pride, wounded by the insolence of his prosperity. Yes, it was good to
hear Sissy's frank declaration of war. For war was as the breath of the
Madigans' nostrils. They knew themselves there, and, though they might
have trusted Sissy, they had feared for a moment that her report might
not be all they had hoped.
We'll show him, said Split.
A patronizing, affected Irishman! snorted Sissy, informally now
that her official duties were ended.
He thinks he'll come out here and run the whole family, said Fom,
And show off how rich he is, and turn up his nose at things, said
Bep, and boss us. I'd like to see him try it!
And be shocked at what we don't know, and what we do do, and what
we haven't seen and learned. I dare him just to say 'abroad' to me!
cried Kate, with a flash in her eye.
A chorus of groans went up from the indignant assemblage.
Aunt Anne, put in Frank, a bit puzzled, says he's the savior of
the fam'ly. What's a
The savior of the family! The savior! mocked Sissy, genuflecting
sarcastically. The savior of the family will have you sent to a
convent, Split, 'where young ladies are taught to behave properly.' The
savior'll get a nursemaid for you, Frank, and you'll have to go about
always holding her hand and wearing socks in the English style that'll
show your bare, naked legs and
I won't! I won't! Tears of terror stood in Frank's eyes.
The savior'll put a stop, Fom, to yourKate Madigan, are you
changing your dress? Sissy's voice fell suddenly, and she put the
question in a calm, magisterial tone that sent every eye in the room on
a query toward the eldest Madigan.
Kate turned at bay. She had slipped off her waist, and the red was
flushing her long throat and small, spirited face. Well, miss, suppose
I am? she demanded hotly.
She always changes her dress for dinner, you know, came in a
sarcastic sneer from Split. She wants to show our dear cousin how
swell we are. We all wear low-necked rigs, and father has his
Shall I bring you the curling-iron, Kathy? mocked Sissy.
Don't you want a rose for your hair, Kathleen?
Or a ribbon here and there, as Mrs. Ramrod says, Kitty?
Aunt Anne says, said Frank, feeling that this was some sort of
game and that her turn had come, he's going to mawwy you. Is he,
The white cashmere with the red-embroidered rosebuds slipped from
Kate's hand. All innocent of malicious intent, Frank's shot had scored.
The cry of the Pack that leaped about her could not touch Kate after
this. She was frozen in by maidenly prudery, by childish
self-consciousness, by Madigan perversity. When the bell rang she went
in to dinner in her old pink gingham, her head high, her lips set, her
She's got 'em, Sissy whispered to Split.
Yep, that's the sulks all right, Split nodded.
This is Kate. Miss Madigan, brave in her new purple gown with the
lace collar at her throat, shot a reproachful glance at the unadorned
young lady of the house. Your cousin, Miles Morgan, Kate.
Howd' ye do? Kate said coldly, ignoring his outstretched hand and
passing on to her seat, where she began busily to serve the butter.
The savior of the family looked after her, interested. Though guilty
of every count in Sissy's indictment, he was not accustomed to being
overlooked by such very young ladies.
And this is Irene, said Miss Madigan, a tremor in her voice; she,
too, knew now that Kate had 'em. This one is Cecilia; the twins,
Bessie and Florence; and Frances, the baby.
The savior of the family glanced along the line of five blank faces,
and felt the perfunctory touch of five small, slippery hands with
nothing more human about their clasp than the childish masks above
I say, how do you tell one another apart? he asked, with a sudden
gleam in his eye, as they passed him and slid into their places.
A dozen pitying eyes looked coldly at him; half a dozen small mouths
curved disdainfully. His remark seemed to make them more than ever like
Miss Madigan dropped the soup-ladle in her confusion. To that
experienced lady there was something ominous about so unbroken a union
of Madigans; she remembered with sorrow the few times any subject had
found them unanimous.
But Madigan came in just then, took his seat at the head, looked
mechanically for the banished dog and the cat, and Dusie, chirping
madly in her cage to attract his attention to the fact of her cruel and
unusual imprisonment. He cleared his throat and took up the carverand
immediately Miles Morgan was conscious of an unbending of the small
Madigansa cuddling together, so to speak, and a swift interchange of
You haven't given me an opportunity to explain, Miss Madigan he
began, in the pause during which Madigan carved strenuously.
'Aunt Anne,' if you please, my dear boy, urged Miss Madigan,
warmly. The relationship's distant, but now that you are with us we
can have no ceremony out here in the wilds.
Oh, thank you. The savior, turning toward her, saw the fattest
little Madigan nudge her red-haired neighbor savagely. She was
evidently angry at something. It's good of you to take me in like
this. What I want to say is that the train was late crawling crookedly
up and around the mountains. I had no idea of arriving in the evening
and coming in upon you this way. But when I got here, the town looked
so savage, don't you know, sodrearand desolate andand flimsy, I
got a bit home-sickthere! The thought of all you people, my own
people, housed somewhere in the spraddling town, called to me. I
positively couldn't wait till morning. You'll forgive meAunt Anne?
A suppressed gurgle came from a blonde Madigan on the other side of
the table, choking over her soup at this endearment. A brunette just
her height spoke rapidly to her and persuasively, but to no avail.
Alarming sounds came from the victim till presently a very dignified,
small fat person rose from her seat, made her way to the nearly
suffocated blonde, gave her a thump between the shoulder-blades that
brought tears of another variety to the sufferer's eyes, and walked
composedly back to her seat.
How can you be so rough, Sissy! Aunt Anne exclaimed in an agitated
AhSissy! The savior leaned forward, looking across with a smile
in his eye that might have melted any heart save so savage a Madigan's.
So you are Sissy.
My name, said that young person, meeting his smiling eye coldly,
But your friends call you Sissy?
Yes, my friends do, admitted the perfectionist, with an accent
that was supposed to be crushing.
And you sign yourself so in your letters? he went on pleasantly.
Yes; your informal little notes, you know.
Sissy laid down her spoon. A sudden distaste for eating, for living,
for breathing had come upon her. She had forgotten her postscript to
that unhappy letter; it was all so long ago, and Aunt Anne's letters
never had had a sequel! But before her now the savior's head seemed to
bob up and down sickeningly, while a voice cried in her ears so loud
she fancied the whole table must hear it:
Youwhoever you areneedn't bother to answer this.
None of us Madigans wants your help or annybody else's.
It's only that Aunt Anne's got the scribbles, and we'll
thank you to mind your own business.
The savior threw back his head in a quite boyish way and laughed
aloud as he watched her face.
A cold rage seized Sissy. To be laughed at before the whole table!
She hated him; she knew she hated him!
I don't understand, said Madigan, feeling called upon to say
something that was not vituperative at his own dinner-table. You could
never have seen a note of Sissy's, Mr. Morgan?
Never. The savior lied like a gentleman.
But he was mistaken if he supposed that he had placated Cecilia. She
would not even meet his eyes, those eyes that twinkled so enjoyingly.
The savior tried Irene.
You and I have hair the same color, he said genially. I hope your
temper isn't like mine, too.
I hope not, she answered stiffly.
He laughed again, that big, amused laugh. Split's eyes shot fire.
Evidently the Madigans were funnier than they knew.
Now, I wonder, he said, would that be a compliment or a
Irene is trying and succeeding better every day in gaining
self-control, interposed Aunt Anne, with hasty amiability. To discuss
Irene's temper in committee of the whole, like thatthe temerity of
the man! Won't you have some more mutton? she pressed. It's
wash-day, you know, and it's just a pick-up dinner; but we're so glad
to have you, if you'll excuse
The apology's due from me, you know, he interrupted. And the good
fortune's mine, too. Fancy me dining the evening of my arrival at that
brick barn they call the hotel down yonder! It will be hard enough when
I really have to live there.
You do not surely expect began Madigan, pausing over his
To live 'out West'? Will you let me tell you how it happened, Mr.
Madigan? There isn't much to itjust this: Miles Madigan, as you
knowdo you know?was not the man to leave much behind him. Not that
he'd deliberately wrong a fellow, poor old chap, butwelloh, you
understand! Well, when his solicitors got through subtracting and
dividing and subdividing, the heirone Miles Morgan, bred to do
nothing, and with a talent for that profession, I must admitfound
himself poor, with just enough to live on. The ten thousand a year
hadjust slipped through Miles Madigan's fingers.
Oh! Miss Madigan's voice was sympathizing, disappointed.
Thenit was Frank's clear treble; she hadn't understood much, but
she knew what poor meant: a Madigan learned that earlythen you're
not going to mawwy Kate?
Kate went white, while Miss Madigan's delicate face flushed purple,
and Split pinched Sissy's arm, in her excitement, till that young woman
Francesoutside! stormed Madigan.
Oh, Mr. Madiganplease! deprecated the savior, holding out his
arms to the whimpering Frances, who jumped into them as to a refuge.
No, little girl, he said, bending down to reassure her, I'm going to
marry Sissy; that's why I came out here.
A gasp of relief parted Kate's trembling lips. She was very near
being fond of the detested savior in that moment, in her gratitude to
him for not having looked at her.
But oh, the disdain of Sissy! It was such a very poor joke, in her
opinion. Her round little face with its dots for features looked so
sour and supercilious, as she passed the savior with averted eyes on
her way out of the dining-room,the children were withdrawing
now,that he could not resist putting out a hand to stop her.
You will have me, Sissy? he begged with a laugh. Think of a man
coming clear out here with so little encouragement as I had. Such
devotion might appeal to a heart of stone!
His enemy stood with downcast eyes, the red slowly mounting to the
smoothed-back brown hair.
Sissy's Number One in her class, ventured Frank, as a
I'm not! flamed forth Sissy. I never was, oror if I was it was
Why, Sissy! interjected Miss Madigan, grieved.
Of a mistake of some sort, suggested the savior, soothingly.
Well, I suppose I could marry a girl that was only Number Two.
I'm never Number Twonever! I'm NumberTwenty! Sissy's eyes were
raised for a moment to hisa revelation of the insulted dignity
seething within her.
Oh, well, a Number Twenty wife is good enough; but we'd have to
live in Ireland, I suppose, said the savior, philosophically.
A passion of wrath at his dullness filled the clever Sissy, and she
sought for a moment before she found the weapon to hurt him.
In Ireland, you know, she said, as deliberately as she could for
fear of breaking into tears before she had delivered the insult, the
pigs live in the parlor, andand the children have no place to sleep
Oh! The savior was stunned for an instant, but he recovered. No,
I didn't know. But in Nevada, I'm told, the Indians eat Irishmen alive,
and those that are left are shot down by white desperados on C Street
every day just at noon! We couldn't live here, could we?
Sissy gasped. She opened her lips as if to speak, but closed them
again, and suddenly, in the instant's pause, there came an irresistible
giggle from Split, already out in the hall.
Sissy's hands flew to her breast. She shook off her suitor's
detaining hand and bolted.
I couldn't help it, the savior said to Madigan, who was looking at
him with that perplexed frown which the manifestation of his children's
eccentricities so often brought to his face. She is delightful. What
jolly times we'll have getting acquainted! How fortunate you are, Mr.
Madigan, to have these
Madigan threw up his head, a challenge in his eye. Was he even to be
congratulated upon his misfortunes?
I always said, the savior went on, with a chuckle,in fact, I
began to say it before I got into knickerbockers,that I intended to
be the father of a family numbering at least a 'baker's dozzen.' I
believe I had a vague notion that by means of superabundance of
paternity I could atone to myself for my lack of other family ties. I
was always so beastly alone. Yet no oneMiles Madigan least of
allsaw the pathos of my lot. 'He's young and unencumbered,' he said
of me toward the last when he was reminded of how little he had left
for me. 'He'll get along. Besides, there's that wildcat mine out in the
States; I'm leaving him that.'
Madigan's pipe fell to the floor; he had been filling it for his
after-dinner smoke. You've got the Tomboy! he exclaimed.
That interests you? Morgan asked.
Kate, who picked up the pipe and handed it to her father, as she
passed, the last of the line of young Madigans on the way out, saw how
Francis Madigan's hand shook. Mechanically she paused and listened.
II was swindled out of my share of that mine, he said harshly.
Miles Madigan knew that in fairness half of it was mine. I found it. I
worked for it. I put aside all other opportunities to devote myself to
developing it. I sacrificed my children and my business to it. I gave
up the best years of my life to it. I bore disappointment and poverty
because of it. I was at the end of my tether when Miles Madigan went
into it with me; and yet when I saw he was bent on freezing me out of
it, IIBut after he got it he didn't know what to do with it. He
left it to be worked and himself fleeced by strangers. Butit killed
my wife, and left me, after all those years of litigation, an
embittered, beggared, broken man!
And so it's but fairto Kate, shivering at the revelation in her
father's voice, Miles Morgan's words seemed like soothing musicit's
but fair that you and I should handle the thing togetherwhat there is
of it, Mr. Madigan, he added hastily, as Madigan was about to speak;
and he leaned forward, holding out his hand boyishly. There may not be
much, but I can get English capital to develop it, at a sacrifice of
half its value now, and its possibilities. So that will leave only
quarter shares for each of us. I may be offering you only a lot of work
and a disappointment at the end. But the thing seemed worth enough to
me, 'way over on the other side, to come out here and look into it
myself. And one thing that made it seem so was the desperate battle you
had fought to keep it. I hopedI hoped you'd like me well enough, when
we got to know each other, to help me with your experience,
andfrankly, to help yourself in helping me. I had no intention of
saying all this to-night, butallow me, Cousin Kate.
He had dropped Madigan's hand after a hearty squeeze, and was
standing holding open the door for Kate to pass.
It was a glorified Kate, for, lo, the veil of ill humor had fallen;
a treacherous Kate, Sissy would have said, for she shone out now, warm
and sparkling, upon the man who had had the discrimination to let a
brood of small Madigans pass without special attention, yet who jumped
to his feet when the young-lady daughter of the house made her exit,
and stood looking after her till Madigan hauled him off to the library
to talk about the Tomboy.
* * * * *
That certain contentment which followed after an unusually good
dinner, when the world and the Madigans were young together, had
inspired Old Mother Gibson. The original couplet, with which all
Madigans are familiar, is not strictly quotable; it was not invented,
but adopted, by them. And it served merely to give a name to the game,
which was half a war-dance, half a cake-walk, accompanied by chanted
couplets composed by each performer in turn; said couplets being
necessarily original and relevant locally. The accompanimentan easy
change of chordswas played on the piano colla voce. And no one
minded in the least a foot, more or less, at the end of a verse. The
joke was the thing with the Madigans, and the impromptu rhyme that
brought down the house was the one that hit hardest.
For Old Mother Gibson was a satire, a pasquinade, a flesh-and-blood
libel done in rhyme, of wildest license both as to form and matter, and
set to musicto be discharged full at the head of the victim. It began
in an orderly way, every Madigan in her turn playing both parts of
victim and cartoonist. But it degenerated into an open and shameless
mimicry of Aunt Anne, of Francis Madigan, of the school-master, Mrs.
Ramrod, the Misses Blind-Staggers, Professor Trask, Dr. Murchison,
Wong, Indian Jim, and, finally, each of the other's tenderest
follytill a living caricature too true or too cutting precipitated an
appeal to arms, and the Lighthouse, which was always in the way, was
tipped over in the mêlée, and had to be thrown out of the window, there
to burn itself into darkness innocuously.
Old Mother Gibson was given by a full cast the night of the savior's
arrival. Though Jane Cody had been merciless, Jack, tempted beyond his
powers of resistance by the sounds of revelry upon the hill, was
stalking about in melancholy masquerade among its personnel. Bombey
Forrest, her delicate head looking like a surprised sunflower upon its
masculine stalk, had come in, and Crosby Pemberton, looking as much out
of place in his immaculate linen and small Tuxedo as either of these,
was joyous at being among Madigans again.
You might have heardif you'd stood out on the piazza looking in,
and happened to have the key to the riddlea hint in verse of every
Madigan escapade, of every Madigan failing, of all the Madigan jokes,
on Old Mother Gibson nights. You would have seen even Kateyoung-lady
Kate, who had once substituted in a schooljoin in this mad revel,
with an appetite for fun that showed how much of a child she still was.
An impressionable young Irishman, who had come out upon the piazza
to smoke a cigar and think himself back into his usual poise after a
day full of new experiences, had his attention attracted by the
strumming on the piano; and glancing in through the open window, he saw
a slender, graceful girl, her dark head rising lightly from the sailor
collar of a pink gingham blouse. She was balancing lightly as she
walked, keeping time to the rhythm, and followed by a procession of
children in single file. (A belief in the efficacy of motion to
stimulate one's power of improvisation made Old Mother Gibson the
liveliest of games.) And arriving at the center of the stage, she
delivered herself in a singsong of the following:
Old Mother Gibson, be on your best behavior,
Or you'll surely fail to satisfy the savior.
It didn't seem a very funny or apposite ditty to Miles Morgan, but,
to judge by its effect upon those within, it was exquisitely witty. The
whole company doubled up with laughter. It giggled till its collective
sides must have ached; then it slowly and gaspingly subsided. When it
had quieted down, the piano began again, and a red-headed Madigan,
intoxicated by the music, the license of the time, and the excitement
accompanying creative work, danced a fantastic pas seul, as she
flew about in the Mother Gibson merry-go-round.
Old Mother Gibson's savior was a dandy
He thought he'd buy the Madigans with a stick of candy!
sang Split, and the parlor yelled itself hoarse with uproarious
The fat little girl at the piano began to play, and stopped several
times, that she might wipe the tears of laughter from her eyes and get
her breath. At last, with a squaring of her shoulders and a stiffening
of backbone that seemed queerly familiar to Morgan, watching outside,
she half drawled, half sang, with an unmistakable accent:
Old Mother Gibson was angry at the Fates;
My word! They sent the savior 'way out to the States!
A sudden enlightenment came to Miles Morgan. For a moment the red
flamed up in his cheek, and if Split could have seen his face she might
have fancied that some imp had caught her likeness, when her temper had
got beyond her control, and set it on this man's body.
The impudent little beggars! Morgan cried furiously. My word! He
stopped, remembering the use to which his favorite exclamation had been
put. But what a saucy lot! He was laughing before he had finished
wording his thought.
He was interested now, and listened with a grin to Fom's declaration
Old Mother Gibson ought to 've known better
Then to come in answer to Aunt Anne's letter.
He saw even Frank strutting in the ring, though she was capable only
of a repetition of the classic phrase with which each couplet began.
And he laughed with the rest at Bep,poor, unready Bep, set as by a
musical time-lock and bound to go off,getting slower and slower in
motion as well as utterance, the accompaniment retarding
sympathetically as the critical moment approached when she must be
delivered of her rhyme.
Old Mother Gibson, why do you
she began her singsong. No, no! Wait. I know another. 'T ain't
fair, she stammered in a prose parenthesis.
Old Mother Gibson had a
Stop laughing, now; wait a minute. You don't give me a chance,
Sissy. You play faster for me than for anybody else! You do it
a-purpose, too, just 'cause you know it's easy to bluster me.
Bep stopped suddenly, for through the glass doors came the subject
of her lay. He had a finger to his lips as he glanced at Sissy's
backa hint that the rest of the company seized delightedly. And when
the music began again, he was not ashamed to make this contribution:
Old Mother Gibson, take pity on a cousin
Left to the tender mercies of the other half-dozen!
At first the accompanist, accustomed to the rodomontade of voice as
well as gesture of the excited performers, was not aware of the
interloper. When she finally spun around and saw the savior singing in
the midst of his libelers, she let him finish the couplet
unaccompanied, and sat, a fat, shocked statue glued to the piano-stool,
staring at him.
It was absurd of him, but there was something in Old Mother Gibson,
as the Madigans sang and played her, that turned the soberest of heads.
And the savior's forte was not in being staid. He fell upon his knee
Forgive me, O Sissy, for not being a Madigan, he begged, and
receive me into the fold!
She looked down at him, self-conscious, embarrassed; yet the hidden
sentimentality of her nature was appealed to by the masculine young
face turned half laughing, half seriously, to her.
Are you sure, she asked shyly, that you're not one already?
* * * * *
It is of record that one evening during that summer when the old
Tomboy mine was reopened, a young Irishman newly arrived on the
Comstock escorted down to Fitzmeier'swhere, everybody knows, there is
ice-cream to be hadsix girls of assorted ages, one boy, and two young
persons whose garments belied their sex. Yet they all seemed rampantly
happy and quite unashamed.