LITTLE JIM was, for the time, engine Number 36, and he was making the run between Syracuse and Rochester. He was fourteen minutes behind time, and the throttle was wide open. In consequence, when he swung around the curve at the flower-bed, a wheel of his cart destroyed a peony. Number 36 slowed down at once and looked guiltily at his father, who was mowing the lawn. The doctor had his back to this accident, and he continued to pace slowly to and fro, pushing the mower.
Jim dropped the tongue of the cart. He looked at his father and at the broken flower. Finally he went to the peony and tried to stand it on its pins, resuscitated, but the spine of it was hurt, and it would only hang limply from his hand. Jim could do no reparation. He looked again toward his father.
He went on to the lawn, very slowly, and kicking wretchedly at the turf. Presently his father came along with the whirring machine, while the sweet new grass blades spun from the knives. In a low voice, Jim said, "Pa!"
The doctor was shaving this lawn as if it were a priest's chin. All during the season he had worked at it in the coolness and peace of the evenings after supper. Even in the shadow of the cherry-trees the grass was strong and healthy. Jim raised his voice a trifle. "Pa!"
The doctor paused, and with the howl of the machine no longer occupying the sense, one could hear the robins in the cherry-trees arranging their affairs. Jim's hands were behind his back, and sometimes his fingers clasped and unclasped. Again he said, "Pa!" The child's fresh and rosy lip was lowered.
The doctor stared down at his son, thrusting his head forward and frowning attentively. "What is it, Jimmie?"
"Pa!" repeated the child at length. Then he raised his finger and pointed at the flower-bed. "There!"
"What?" said the doctor, frowning more. "What is it, Jim?"
After a period of silence, during which the child may have undergone a severe mental tumult, he raised his finger and repeated his former word -- "There!" The father had respected this silence with perfect courtesy.
Afterward his glance carefully followed the direction indicated by the child's finger, but he could see nothing which explained to him. "I don't understand what you mean, Jimmie," he said.
It seemed that the importance of the whole thing had taken away the boy's vocabulary. He could only reiterate, "There!"
The doctor mused upon the situation, but he could make nothing of it. At last he said, "Come, show me."
Together they crossed the lawn toward the flower-bed. At some yards from the broken peony Jimmie began to leg. "There!" The word came almost breathlessly.
"Where?" said the doctor.
Jimmie kicked at the grass. "There!" he replied.
The doctor was obliged to go forward alone. After some trouble he found the subject of the incident, the broken flower. Turning then, he saw the child lurking at the rear and scanning his countenance.
The father reflected. After a time he said, "Jimmie, come here." With an infinite modesty of demeanor the child came forward. "Jimmie, how did this happen?"
The child answered, "Now -- I was
playin' train -- and -- now -- I runned
"You were doing what?"
"I was playin' train."
The father reflected again. "Well,
Jimmie," he said, slowly, "I guess you
had better not play train any more today.
Do you think you had better?"
"No, sir," said Jimmie.
During the delivery of the judgment the
child had not faced his father,
and afterward he went away, with his head
lowered, shuffling his feet.
It was apparent from Jimmie's manner that
he felt some kind of desire to
efface himself. He went down to the stable.
Henry Johnson, the negro who cared for the doctor's horses, was sponging the buggy. He grinned fraternally when he saw Jimmie coming. These two were pals. In regard to almost everything in life they seemed to have minds precisely alike. Of course there were points of emphatic divergence. For instance, it was plain from Henry's talk that he was a very handsome negro, and he was known to be a light, a weight, and an eminence in the suburb of the town, where lived the larger number of the negroes, and obviously this glory was over Jimmie's horizon; but he vaguely appreciated it and paid deference to Henry for it mainly because Henry appreciated it and deferred to himself. However, on all points of conduct as related to the doctor, who was the moon, they were in complete but unexpressed understanding. Whenever Jimmie became the victim of an eclipse he went to the stable to solace himself with Henry's crimes. Henry, with the elasticity of his race, could usually provide a sin to place himself on a footing with the disgraced one.
Perhaps he would remember that he had forgotten to put the hitching strap in
the back of the buggy on some recent occasion, and had been reprimanded by
the doctor. Then these two would commune subtly and without words concerning
their moon, holding themselves sympathetically as people who had committed
similar treasons. On the other hand, Henry would sometimes choose to
absolutely repudiate this idea, and when Jimmie appeared in his shame would
bully him most virtuously, preaching with assurance the precepts of the
doctor's creed, and pointing out to Jimmie all his abominations. Jimmie did
not discover that this was odious in his comrade. He accepted it and lived
in its shadow with humility, merely trying to conciliate the saintly Henry
with acts of deference. Won by this attitude, Henry would sometimes allow
the child to enjoy the felicity of squeezing the sponge over a buggy-wheel,
even when Jimmie was still gory from unspeakable
Whenever Henry dwelt for a time in sackcloth, Jimmie did not patronize
him at all. This was a justice of his age, his condition. He did not know.
Besides, Henry could drive a horse, and Jimmie had a full sense of this
sublimity. Henry personally conducted the moon during the splendid journeys
through the country roads, where farms spread on all sides, with sheep,
cows, and other marvels abounding.
"Hello, Jim!" said Henry, poising his sponge. Water was dripping from the
buggy. Sometimes the horses in the stalls stamped thunderingly on the pine
floor. There was an atmosphere of hay and
For a minute Jimmie refused to take an interest in anything. He was very
downcast. He could not even feel the wonders of wagon-washing. Henry, while
at his work, narrowly observed him.
"Your pop done wallop yer, didn't
he?" he said at last.
"No," said Jimmie, defensively;
After this casual remark Henry continued his labor, with a scowl of
occupation. Presently he said: "I done tol' yer many's th' time not to go
a-foolin' an' a-projjeckin' with them flowers. Yer pop don' like it nohow."
As a matter of fact, Henry had never mentioned
flowers to the boy.
Jimmie preserved a gloomy silence, so Henry began to use seductive wiles
in this affair of washing a wagon. It was not until he began to spin a wheel
on the tree, and the sprinkling water flew everywhere, that the boy was
visibly moved. He had been seated on the sill of the carriage-house door,
but at the beginning of this ceremony he arose and circled toward the buggy,
with an interest that slowly consumed the
remembrance of a late disgrace.
Johnson could then display all the dignity of a man whose duty it was to
protect Jimmie from a splashing. "Look out, boy! look out! You done gwi'
spile yer pants. I raikon your mommer don't 'low this foolishness, she know
it. I ain't gwi' have you round yere spilin' yer pants, an' have Mis'
Trescott light on me pressen'ly. 'Deed I
He spoke with an air of great irritation, but he was not annoyed at all.
This tone was merely a part of his importance. In reality he was always
delighted to have the child there to witness the business of the stable. For
one thing, Jimmie was invariably overcome with reverence when he was told
how beautifully a harness was polished or a horse groomed. Henry explained
each detail of this kind with unction, procuring great joy from the child's
After Johnson had taken his supper in the kitchen, he went to his loft in
the carriage-house and dressed himself with much care. No belle of a court
circle could bestow more mind on a toilet than did Johnson. On second
thought, he was more like a priest arraying himself for some parade of the
church. As he emerged from his room and sauntered down the carriage drive,
no one would have suspected him of ever having
washed a buggy.
"No one would have suspected him
of ever having washed a buggy."
It was not altogether a matter of the lavender trousers, nor yet the
straw hat with its bright silk band. The change was somewhere far in the
interior of Henry. But there was no cake-walk hyperbole in it. He was simply
a quiet, well-bred gentleman of position, wealth, and other necessary
achievements out for an evening stroll, and he had never washed a wagon in
In the morning, when in his working-clothes, he had met a friend --
"Hello, Pete!" "Hello, Henry!" Now, in his effulgence, he encountered this
same friend. His bow was not at all haughty. If it expressed anything, it
expressed consummate generosity -- "Good-evenin', Misteh Washington." Pete,
who was very dirty, being at work in a potato-patch, responded in a mixture
of abasement and appreciation -- "Good-evenin',
The shimmering blue of the electric arc-lamps was strong in the main
street of the town. At numerous points it was conquered by the orange glare
of the outnumbering gas-lights in the windows of shops. Through this radiant
lane moved a crowd, which culminated in a throng before the post-office,
awaiting the distribution of the evening mails. Occasionally there came into
it a shrill electric street-car, the motor singing like a cageful of
grasshoppers, and possessing a great gong that clanged forth both warnings
and simple noise. At the little theatre, which was a varnish and red-plush
miniature of one of the famous New York theatres, a company of strollers was
to play East Lynne. The young men of the town were mainly gathered at the
corners, in distinctive groups, which expressed various shades and lines of
chumship, and had little to do with any social gradations. There they
discussed everything with critical insight, passing the whole town in review
as it swarmed in the street. When the gongs of the electric cars ceased for
a moment to harry the ears, there could be heard the sound of the feet of
the leisurely crowd on the blue-stone pavement, and it was like the peaceful
evening lashing at the shore of a lake. At the foot of the hill, where two
lines of maples sentinelled the way, an electric lamp glowed high among the
embowering branches, and made most wonderful shadow-etchings on the road
When Johnson appeared amid the throng a member of one of the profane
groups at a corner instantly telegraphed news of this extraordinary arrival
to his companions. They hailed him. "Hello, Henry! Going to walk for a cake
"Ain't he smooth?"
"Why, you've got that cake right
in your pocket, Henry!"
"Throw out your chest a little more."
Henry was not ruffled in any way by these quiet admonitions and
compliments. In reply he laughed a supremely good-natured, chuckling laugh,
which nevertheless expressed an underground
complacency of superior metal.
Young Griscom, the lawyer, was just emerging from Reifsnyder's barber
shop, rubbing his chin contentedly. On the steps he dropped his hand and
looked with wide eyes into the crowd. Suddenly he bolted back into the shop.
"Wow!" he cried to the parliament; "you ought to see the coon that's
Reifsnyder and his assistant instantly poised their razors high and
turned toward the window. Two belathered heads reared from the chairs. The
electric shine in the street caused an effect like water to them who looked
through the glass from the yellow glamour of Reifsnyder's shop. In fact, the
people without resembled the inhabitants of a great aquarium that here had a
square pane in it. Presently into this frame swam the graceful form of Henry
"Chee!" said Reifsnyder. He and his assistant with one accord threw their
obligations to the winds, and leaving their lathered victims helpless,
advanced to the window. "Ain't he a
taisy?" said Reifsnyder, marvelling.
But the man in the first chair, with a grievance in his mind, had found a
weapon. "Why, that's only Henry Johnson, you blamed idiots! Come on now,
Reif, and shave me. What do you think I am
-- a mummy?"
Reifsnyder turned, in a great excitement. "I bait you any money that vas
not Henry Johnson! Henry Johnson! Rats!" The scorn put into this last word
made it an explosion. "That man vas a Pullman-car porter or someding. How
could that be Henry Johnson?" he demanded,
turbulently. "You vas crazy."
The man in the first chair faced the barber in a storm of indignation.
"Didn't I give him those lavender trousers?"
And young Griscom, who had remained attentively at the window, said:
"Yes, I guess that was Henry. It looked
"Oh, vell," said Reifsnyder, returning to his business, "if you think so!
Oh, vell!" He implied that he was submitting
for the sake of amiability.
Finally the man in the second chair, mumbling from a mouth made timid by
adjacent lather, said: "That was Henry Johnson all right. Why, he always
dresses like that when he wants to make a front! He's the biggest dude in
town -- anybody knows that."
"Chinger!" said Reifsnyder.
Henry was not at all oblivious of the wake of wondering ejaculation that
streamed out behind him. On other occasions he had reaped this same joy, and
he always had an eye for the demonstration. With a face beaming with
happiness he turned away from the scene of his victories into a narrow side
street, where the electric light still hung high, but only to exhibit a row
of tumble-down houses leaning together like
The saffron Miss Bella Farragut, in a calico frock, had been crouched on
the front stoop, gossiping at long range, but she espied her approaching
caller at a distance. She dashed around the corner of the house, galloping
like a horse. Henry saw it all, but he preserved the polite demeanor of a
guest when a waiter spills claret down his cuff. In this awkward situation
he was simply perfect.
The duty of receiving Mr. Johnson fell upon Mrs. Farragut, because Bella,
in another room, was scrambling wildly into her best gown. The fat old woman
met him with a great ivory smile, sweeping back with the door, and bowing
low. "Walk in, Misteh Johnson, walk in. How is you dis ebenin', Misteh
Johnson -- how is you?"
Henry's face showed like a reflector as he bowed and bowed, bending
almost from his head to his ankles. "Good-evenin', Mis' Fa'gut;
good-evenin'. How is you dis evenin'? Is
all you' folks well, Mis' Fa'gut?"
After a great deal of kowtow, they were planted in two chairs opposite
each other in the living-room. Here they exchanged the most tremendous
civilities, until Miss Bella swept into the room, when there was more kowtow on all sides, and a smiling show of teeth that
was like an illumination.
The cooking-stove was of course in this drawing-room, and on the fire was
some kind of a long-winded stew. Mrs. Farragut was obliged to arise and
attend to it from time to time. Also young Sim came in and went to bed on
his pallet in the corner. But to all these domesticities the three
maintained an absolute dumbness. They bowed and smiled and ignored and
imitated until a late hour, and if they had been the occupants of the most
gorgeous salon in the world they could not have been more like three
After Henry had gone, Bella, who encouraged herself in the appropriation
of phrases, said, "Oh, ma, isn't he
A Saturday evening was a sign always for a larger crowd to parade the
thoroughfare. In summer the band played until ten o'clock in the little
park. Most of the young men of the town affected to be superior to this
band, even to despise it; but in the still and fragrant evenings they
invariably turned out in force, because the girls were sure to attend this
concert, strolling slowly over the grass, linked closely in pairs, or
preferably in threes, in the curious public dependence upon one another
which was their inheritance. There was no particular social aspect to this
gathering, save that group regarded group with interest, but mainly in
silence. Perhaps one girl would nudge another girl and suddenly say, "Look!
there goes Gertie Hodgson and her sister!" And they would appear to regard
this as an event of importance.
On a particular evening a rather large company of young men were gathered
on the sidewalk that edged the park. They remained thus beyond the borders
of the festivities because of their dignity, which would not exactly allow
them to appear in anything which was so much fun for the younger lads. These
latter were careering madly through the crowd, precipitating minor accidents
from time to time, but usually fleeing like mist swept by the wind before
retribution could lay its hands upon them.
The band played a waltz which involved a gift of prominence to the bass
horn, and one of the young men on the sidewalk said that the music reminded
him of the new engines on the hill pumping water into the reservoir. A
similarity of this kind was not inconceivable, but the young man did not say
it because he disliked the band's playing. He said it because it was
fashionable to say that manner of thing concerning the band. However, over
in the stand, Billie Harris, who played the snare-drum, was always
surrounded by a throng of boys, who adored
his every whack.
After the mails from New York and Rochester had been finally distributed,
the crowd from the post-office added to the mass already in the park. The
wind waved the leaves of the maples, and, high in the air, the blue-burning
globes of the arc lamps caused the wonderful traceries of leaf shadows on
the ground. When the light fell upon the upturned face of a girl, it caused
it to glow with a wonderful pallor. A policeman came suddenly from the
darkness and chased a gang of obstreperous little boys. They hooted him from
a distance. The leader of the band had some of the mannerisms of the great
musicians, and during a period of silence the crowd smiled when they saw him
raise his hand to his brow, stroke it sentimentally, and glance upward with
a look of poetic anguish. In the shivering light, which gave to the park an
effect like a great vaulted hall, the throng swarmed with a gentle murmur of
dresses switching the turf, and with a steady
hum of voices.
Suddenly, without preliminary bars, there arose from afar the great
hoarse roar of a factory whistle. It raised and swelled to a sinister note,
and then it sang on the night wind one long call that held the crowd in the
park immovable, speechless. The band-master had been about to vehemently let
fall his hand to start the band on a thundering career through a popular
march, but, smitten by this giant voice from the night, his hand dropped
slowly to his knee, and, his mouth agape, he looked at his men in silence.
The cry died away to a wail, and then to stillness. It released the muscles
of the company of young men on the sidewalk, who had been like statues,
posed eagerly, lithely,
their ears turned. And then they wheeled upon each other simultaneously,
and, in a single explosion, they shouted,
Again the sound swelled in the night and roared its long ominous cry, and
as it died away the crowd of young men wheeled upon each other and, in
chorus, yelled, "Two!"
There was a moment of breathless waiting. Then they bawled, "Second
district!" In a flash the company of indolent and cynical young men had
vanished like a snowball disrupted by dynamite.
Jake Rogers was the first man to reach the home of Tuscarora Hose Company
Number Six. He had wrenched his key from his pocket as he tore down the
street, and he jumped at the spring-lock like a demon. As the doors flew
back before his hands he leaped and kicked the wedges from a pair of wheels,
loosened a tongue from its clasp, and in the glare of the electric light
which the town placed before each of his hose-houses the next comers beheld
the spectacle of Jake Rogers bent like hickory in the manfulness of his
pulling, and the heavy cart was moving slowly towards the doors. Four men
joined him at the time, and as they swung with the cart out into the street,
dark figures sped towards them from the ponderous shadows back of the
electric lamps. Some set up the inevitable
question, "What district?"
"Second," was replied to them in a compact howl. Tuscarora Hose Company
Number Six swept on a perilous wheel into Niagara Avenue, and as the men,
attached to the cart by the rope which had been paid out from the windlass
under the tongue, pulled madly in their fervor and abandon, the gong under
the axle clanged incitingly. And sometimes the same cry was heard, "What
On a grade Johnnie Thorpe fell, and exercising a singular muscular
ability, rolled out in time from the track of the on-coming wheel, and
arose, dishevelled and aggrieved, casting a look of mournful disenchantment
upon the black crowd that poured after the machine. The cart seemed to be
the apex of a dark wave that was whirling as if it had been a broken dam.
Back of the lad were stretches of
lawn, and in that direction front doors were banged by men who hoarsely
shouted out into the clamorous avenue, "What
At one of these houses a woman came to the door bearing a lamp, shielding
her face from its rays with her hands. Across the cropped grass the avenue
represented to her a kind of black torrent, upon which, nevertheless, fled
numerous miraculous figures upon bicycles. She did not know that the
towering light at the corner was continuing
its nightly whine.
Suddenly a little boy somersaulted around the corner of the house as if
he had been projected down a flight of stairs by a catapultian boot. He
halted himself in front of the house by dint of a rather extraordinary
evolution with his legs. "Oh, ma,"
he gasped, "can I go? Can I, ma?"
She straightened with the coldness of the exterior mother-judgment,
although the hand that held the lamp trembled slightly. "No, Willie; you had
better come to bed."
Instantly he began to buck and fume like a mustang. "Oh, ma," he cried,
contorting himself -- "oh, ma, can't I go? Please, ma, can't I go? Can't I
"It's half past nine now, Willie."
He ended by wailing out a compromise: "Well, just down to the corner, ma?
Just down to the corner?"
From the avenue came the sound of rushing men who wildly shouted.
Somebody had grappled the bell-rope in the Methodist church, and now over
the town rang this solemn and terrible voice, speaking from the clouds.
Moved from its peaceful business, this bell gained a new spirit in the
portentous night, and it swung the heart to and fro, up and down, with each
peal of it.
"Just down to the corner, ma?"
"Willie, it's half past nine now."
The outlines of the house of Dr. Trescott had faded quietly into the
evening, hiding a shape such as we call Queen Anne against the pall of the
blackened sky. The neighborhood was at this time so quiet, and seemed so
devoid of obstructions, that Hannigan's dog thought it a good opportunity to
prowl in forbidden precincts, and so came and pawed Trescott's lawn,
growling, and considering himself a formidable beast. Later, Peter
Washington strolled past the house and whistled, but there was no dim light
shining from Henry's loft, and presently Peter went his way. The rays from
the street, creeping in silvery waves over the grass, caused the row of
shrubs along the drive to throw a clear,
A wisp of smoke came from one of the windows at the end of the house and
drifted quietly into the branches of a cherry-tree. Its companions followed
it in slowly increasing numbers, and finally there was a current controlled
by invisible banks which poured into the fruit-laden boughs of the
cherry-tree. It was no more to be noted than if a troop of dim and silent
gray monkeys had been climbing a grape-vine
into the clouds.
After a moment the window brightened as if the four panes of it had been
stained with blood, and a quick ear might have been led to imagine the
fire-imps calling and calling, clan joining clan, gathering to the colors.
From the street, however, the house maintained its dark quiet, insisting to
a passer-by that it was the safe dwelling of people who chose to retire
early to tranquil dreams. No one could have heard this low droning of the
Suddenly the panes of the red window tinkled and crashed to the ground,
and at other windows there suddenly reared other flames, like bloody
spectres at the apertures of a haunted house. This outbreak had been well
planned, as if by professional revolutionists.
A man's voice suddenly shouted: "Fire! Fire! Fire!" Hannigan had flung
his pipe frenziedly from him because his lungs demanded room. He tumbled
down from his perch, swung over the fence, and ran shouting towards the
front door of the Trescotts'. Then he hammered on the door, using his fists
as if they were mallets. Mrs. Trescott instantly came to one of the windows
on the second floor. Afterwards she knew she had been about to say, "The
doctor is not at home, but if you will leave your name, I will let him know
as soon as he comes."
Hannigan's bawling was for a minute incoherent, but she understood that
it was not about croup.
"What?" she said, raising the
"Your house is on fire! You're all ablaze! Move quick if -- " His cries
resounding in the street as if it were a cave of echoes. Many feet pattered
swiftly on the stones. There was one man who ran with an almost fabulous
speed. He wore lavender trousers. A straw hat with a bright silk band was
held half crumpled in his hand.
As Henry reached the front door, Hannigan had just broken the lock with a
kick. A thick cloud of smoke poured over them, and Henry, ducking his head,
rushed into it. From Hannigan's clamor he knew only one thing, but it turned
him blue with horror. In the hall a lick of flame had found the cord that
supported "Signing the Declaration." The engraving slumped suddenly down at
one end, and then dropped to the floor, where it burst with the sound of a
bomb. The fire was already roaring like a
winter wind among the pines.
At the head of the stairs Mrs. Trescott was waving her arms as if they
were two reeds. "Jimmie! Save Jimmie!" she screamed in Henry's face. He
plunged past her and disappeared, taking the long-familiar routes among
these upper chambers, where he had once held office as a sort of second
Hannigan had followed him up the stairs, and grappled the arm of the
maniacal woman there. His face was black with rage. "You must come down," he
She would only scream at him in reply: "Jimmie! Jimmie! Save Jimmie!" But
he dragged her forth while she babbled at
As they swung out into the open air a man ran across the lawn, and
seizing a shutter, pulled it from its hinges and flung it far out upon the
grass. Then he frantically attacked the other shutters one by one. It was a
kind of temporary insanity.
"Here, you," howled Hannigan,
"hold Mrs. Trescott -- And stop -- "
The news had been telegraphed by a twist of the wrist of a neighbor who
had gone to the fire-box at the corner, and the time when Hannigan and his
charge struggled out of the house was the time when the whistle roared its
hoarse night call, smiting the crowd in the park, causing the leader of the
band, who was about to order the first triumphal clang of a military march,
to let his hand drop slowly to his knees.
Henry pawed awkwardly through the smoke in the upper halls. He had
attempted to guide himself by the walls, but they were too hot. The paper
was crimpling, and he expected at any moment to have a flame burst from
under his hands.
He did not call very loud, as if in fear that the humming flames below
would overhear him.
"Jimmie! Oh, Jimmie!"
Stumbling and panting, he speedily reached the entrance to Jimmie's room
and flung open the door. The little chamber had no smoke in it at all. It
was faintly illumined by a beautiful rosy light reflected circuitously from
the flames that were consuming the house. The boy had apparently just been
aroused by the noise. He sat in his bed, his lips apart, his eyes wide,
while upon his little white-robed figure played caressingly the light from
the fire. As the door flew open he had before him this apparition of his
pal, a terror-stricken negro, all tousled and with wool scorching, who
leaped upon him and bore him up in a blanket as if the whole affair were a
case of kidnapping by a dreadful robber chief. Without waiting to go through
the usual short but complete process of wrinkling up his face, Jimmie let
out a gorgeous bawl, which resembled the expression of a calf's deepest
terror. As Johnson, bearing him, reeled into the smoke of the hall, he flung
his arms about his neck and buried his face in the blanket. He called twice
in muffled tones: "Mam-ma! Mam-ma!"
When Johnson came to the top of the stairs with his burden, he took a
quick step backwards. Through the smoke that rolled to him he could see that
the lower hall was all ablaze. He cried out then in a howl that resembled
Jimmie's former achievement. His legs gained a frightful faculty of bending
sideways. Swinging about precariously on these reedy legs, he made his way
back slowly, back along the upper hall. From the way of him then, he had
given up almost all idea of escaping from the burning house, and with it the
desire. He was submitting, submitting because of his fathers, bending his
mind in a most perfect slavery to this conflagration.
He now clutched Jimmie as unconsciously as when, running toward the
house, he had clutched the hat with the bright
Suddenly he remembered a little private staircase which led from a
bedroom to an apartment which the doctor had fitted up as a laboratory and
work-house, where he used some of his leisure, and also hours when he might
have been sleeping, in devoting himself to experiments which came in the way
of his study and interest.
When Johnson recalled this stairway the submission to the blaze departed
instantly. He had been perfectly familiar with it, but his confusion had
destroyed the memory of it.
In his sudden momentary apathy there had been little that resembled fear,
but now, as a way of safety came to him, the old frantic terror caught him.
He was no longer creature to the flames, and he was afraid of the battle
with them. It was a singular and swift set of alternations in which he
feared twice without submission, and submitted
once without fear.
"Jimmie!" he wailed, as he staggered on his way. He wished this little
inanimate body at his breast to participate in his tremblings. But the child
had lain limp and still during these headlong charges and countercharges,
and no sign came from him.
Johnson passed through two rooms and came to the head of the stairs. As
he opened the door great billows of smoke poured out, but gripping Jimmie
closer, he plunged down through them. All manner of odors assailed him
during this flight. They seemed to be alive with envy, hatred, and malice.
At the entrance to the laboratory he confronted a strange spectacle. The
room was like a garden in the region where might be burning flowers. Flames
of violet, crimson, green, blue, orange, and purple were blooming
everywhere. There was one blaze that was precisely the hue of a delicate
coral. In another place was a mass that lay merely in phosphorescent
inaction like a pile of emeralds. But all these marvels were to be seen
dimly through clouds of heaving, turning,
Johnson halted for a moment on the threshold. He cried out again in the
negro wail that had in it the sadness of the swamps. Then he rushed across
the room. An orange-colored flame leaped like a panther at the lavender
trousers. This animal bit deeply into Johnson. There was an explosion at one
side, and suddenly before him there reared a delicate, trembling sapphire
shape like a fairy lady. With a quiet smile she blocked his path and doomed
him and Jimmie. Johnson shrieked, and then ducked in the manner of his race
in fights. He aimed to pass under the left
guard of the sapphire
lady. But she was swifter than eagles, and her talons caught in him as he
plunged past her. Bowing his head as if his neck had been struck, Johnson
lurched forward, twisting this way and that way. He fell on his back. The
still form in the blanket flung from his arms, rolled to the edge of the
floor and beneath the window.
Johnson had fallen with his head at the base of an old-fashioned desk.
There was a row of jars upon the top of this desk. For the most part, they
were silent amid this rioting, but there was one which seemed to hold a
scintillant and writhing serpent.
Suddenly the glass splintered, and a ruby-red snakelike thing poured its
thick length out upon the top of the old desk. It coiled and hesitated, and
then began to swim a languorous way down the mahogany slant. At the angle it
waved its sizzling molten head to and fro over the closed eyes of the man
beneath it. Then, in a moment, with mystic impulse, it moved again, and the
red snake flowed directly down into Johnson's
Afterwards the trail of this creature seemed to reek, and amid flames and
low explosions drops like red-hot jewels pattered softly down it at
Suddenly all roads led to Dr. Trescott's. The whole town flowed toward
one point. Chippeway Hose Company Number One toiled desperately up Bridge
Street Hill even as the Tuscaroras came in an impetuous sweep down Niagara
Avenue. Meanwhile the machine of the hook-and-ladder experts from across the
creek was spinning on its way. The chief of the fire department had been
playing poker in the rear room of Whiteley's cigar-store, but at the first
breath of the alarm he sprang through the door like a man escaping with the
In Whilomville, on these occasions, there was always a number of people
who instantly turned their attention to the bells in the churches and
school-houses. The bells not only emphasized the alarm, but it was the habit
to send these sounds rolling across the sky in a stirring brazen uproar
until the flames were practically vanquished. There was also a kind of
rivalry as to which bell should be made to produce the greatest din. Even
the Valley Church, four miles away among the farms, had heard the voices of
its brethren, and immediately added a quaint
Doctor Trescott had been driving homeward, slowly smoking a cigar, and
feeling glad that this last case was now in complete obedience to him, like
a wild animal that he had subdued, when he heard the long whistle, and
chirped to his horse
under the unlicensed but perfectly distinct impression that a fire had
broken out in Oakhurst, a new and rather high-flying suburb of the town
which was at least two miles from his own home. But in the second blast and
in the ensuing silence he read the designation of his own district. He was
then only a few blocks from his house. He took out the whip and laid it
lightly on the mare. Surprised and frightened at this extraordinary action,
she leaped forward, and as the reins straightened like steel bands, the
doctor leaned backward a trifle. When the mare whirled him up to the closed
gate he was wondering whose house could be afire. The man who had rung the
signal-box yelled something at him, but he already knew. He left the mare to
In front of his door was a maniacal woman in a wrapper. "Ned!" she
screamed at sight of him. "Jimmie! Save
Trescott had grown hard and chill.
"Where?" he said. "Where?"
Mrs. Trescott's voice began to bubble. "Up -- up -- up -- " She pointed
at the second-story windows.
Hannigan was already shouting: "Don't go in that way! You can't go in
Trescott ran around the corner of the house and disappeared from them. He
knew from the view he had taken of the main hall that it would be impossible
to ascend from there. His hopes were fastened now to the stairway which led
from the laboratory. The door which opened from this room out upon the lawn
was fastened with a bolt and lock, but he kicked close to the lock and then
close to the bolt. The door with a loud crash flew back. The doctor recoiled
from the roll of smoke, and then bending low, he stepped into the garden of
burning flowers. On the floor his stinging eyes could make out a form in a
smouldering blanket near the window. Then, as he carried his son toward the
door, he saw that the whole lawn seemed now alive with men and boys, the
leaders in the great charge that the whole town was making. They seized him
and his burden, and overpowered him in wet
blankets and water.
But Hannigan was howling: "Johnson is in there yet! Henry Johnson is in
there yet! He went in after the kid! Johnson
is in there yet!"
These cries penetrated to the sleepy senses of Trescott, and he struggled
with his captors, swearing unknown to him and to them, all the deep
blasphemies of his medical-student days. He arose to his feet and went again
toward the door of the laboratory. They endeavored to restrain him, although
they were much affrighted at him.
But a young man who was a brakeman on the railway, and lived in one of
the rear streets near the Trescotts, had gone into the laboratory and
brought forth a thing which he laid on the
There were hoarse commands from in front of the house. "Turn on your water,
Five!" "Let 'er go, One!" The gathering crowd swayed this way and that way.
The flames, towering high, cast a wild red light on their faces. There came
the clangor of a gong from along some adjacent street. The crowd exclaimed
at it. "Here comes Number Three!" "That's Three a-comin'!" A panting and
irregular mob dashed into view, dragging a hose-cart. A cry of exultation
arose from the little boys. "Here's Three!" The lads welcomed Never-Die Hose
Company Number Three as if it was composed of a chariot dragged by a band of
gods. The perspiring citizens flung themselves into the fray. The boys
danced in impish joy at the displays of prowess. They acclaimed the approach
of Number Two. They welcomed Number Four with cheers. They were so deeply
moved by this whole affair that they bitterly guyed the late appearance of
the hook and ladder company, whose heavy apparatus had almost stalled them
on the Bridge Street hill. The lads hated and feared a fire, of course. They
did not particularly want to have anybody's house burn, but still it was
fine to see the gathering of the companies, and amid a great noise to watch
their heroes perform all manner of prodigies.
They were divided into parties over the worth of different companies, and
supported their creeds with no small violence. For instance, in that part of
the little city where Number Four had its home it would be most daring for a
boy to contend the superiority of any other company. Likewise, in another
quarter, when a strange boy was asked which fire company was the best in
Whilomville, he was expected to answer "Number One." Feuds, which the boys
forgot and remembered according to chance or the importance of some recent
event, existed all through the town.
They did not care much for John Shipley, the chief of the department. It
was true that he went to a fire with the speed of a falling angel, but when
there he invariably lapsed into a certain still mood, which was almost a
preoccupation, moving leisurely around the burning structure and surveying
it, puffing meanwhile at a cigar. This quiet man, who even when life was in
danger seldom raised his voice, was not much to their fancy. Now old Sykes
Huntington, when he was chief, used to bellow continually like a bull and
gesticulate in a sort of delirium. He was much finer as a spectacle than
this Shipley, who viewed a fire with the same steadiness that he viewed a
raise in a large jackpot. The greater number of the boys could never
understand why the members of these companies persisted in re-electing
Shipley, although they often pretended to understand it, because "My father
says" was a very formidable phrase in argument, and the fathers seemed
almost unanimous in advocating Shipley.
At this time there was considerable discussion as to which company had
gotten the first stream of water on the fire. Most of the boys claimed that
Number Five owned that distinction, but there was a determined minority who
contended for Number One. Boys who were the blood adherents of other
companies were obliged to choose between the two on this occasion, and the
talk waxed warm.
But a great rumor went among the crowds. It was told with hushed voices.
Afterward a reverent silence fell even upon the boys. Jimmie Trescott and
Henry Johnson had been burned to death, and Dr. Trescott himself had been
most savagely hurt. The crowd did not even feel the police pushing at them.
They raised their eyes, shining now with
awe, toward the high flames.
The man who had information was at his best. In low tones he described
the whole affair. "That was the kid's room -- in the corner there. He had
measles or somethin', and this coon -- Johnson -- was a-settin' up with 'im,
and Johnson got sleepy or somethin' and upset the lamp, and the doctor he
was down in his office, and he came running up, and they all got burned
together till they dragged 'em out."
Another man, always preserved for the deliverance of the final judgment,
was saying: "Oh, they'll die sure. Burned to flinders. No chance. Hull lot
of 'em. Anybody can see." The crowd concentrated its gaze still more closely
upon these flags of fire which waved joyfully against the black sky. The
bells of the town were clashing unceasingly.
A little procession moved across the lawn and toward the street. There
were three cots, borne by twelve of the firemen. The police moved sternly,
but it needed no effort of theirs to open a lane for this slow corte'ge. The
men who bore the cots were well known to the crowd, but in this solemn
parade during the ringing of the bells and the shouting, and with the red glare upon the sky, they seemed utterly foreign, and Whilomville paid them a deep respect. Each man in this stretcher party had gained a reflected majesty. They were
footmen to death, and the crowd made subtle obeisance to this august dignity
derived from three prospective graves. One woman turned away with a shriek
at sight of the covered body on the first stretcher, and people faced her
suddenly in silent and mournful indignation. Otherwise there was barely a
sound as these twelve important men with measured tread carried their
burdens through the throng.
The little boys no longer discussed the merits of the different fire
companies. For the greater part they had been routed. Only the more
courageous viewed closely the three figures
veiled in yellow blankets.
Old Judge Denning Hagenthorpe, who lived nearly opposite the Trescotts,
had thrown his door wide open to receive the afflicted family. When it was
publicly learned that the doctor and his son and the negro were still alive,
it required a specially detailed policeman to prevent people from scaling
the front porch and interviewing these sorely wounded. One old lady appeared
with a miraculous poultice, and she quoted most damning scripture to the
officer when he said that she could not pass him. Throughout the night some
lads old enough to be given privileges or to compel them from their mothers
remained vigilantly upon the kerb in anticipation of a death or some such
event. The reporter of the Morning Tribune rode thither on his bicycle every
hour until three o'clock.
Six of the ten doctors in Whilomville attended at Judge Hagenthorpe's
Almost at once they were able to know that Trescott's burns were not
vitally important. The child would possibly be scarred badly, but his life
was undoubtedly safe. As for the negro Henry Johnson, he could not live. His
body was frightfully seared, but more than that, he now had no face. His
face had simply been burned away.
Trescott was always asking news of the two other patients. In the morning
he seemed fresh and strong, so they told him that Johnson was doomed. They
then saw him stir on the bed, and sprang quickly to see if the bandages
needed readjusting. In the sudden glance he threw from one to another he
impressed them as being both leonine and
The morning paper announced the death of Henry Johnson. It contained a
long interview with Edward J. Hannigan, in which the latter described in
full the performance of Johnson at the fire. There was also an editorial
built from all the best words in the vocabulary of the staff. The town
halted in its accustomed road of thought, and turned a reverent attention to
the memory of this hostler. In the breasts of many people was the regret
that they had not known enough to give him a hand and a lift when he was
alive, and they judged themselves stupid
and ungenerous for this failure.
The name of Henry Johnson became suddenly the title of a saint to the
little boys. The one who thought of it first could, by quoting it in an
argument, at once overthrow his antagonist, whether it applied to the
subject or whether it did not.
Nigger, nigger, never die,
Black face and shiny eye.
Boys who had called this odious couplet in the rear of Johnson's march
buried the fact at the bottom of their hearts.
Later in the day Miss Bella Farragut, of No. 7 Watermelon Alley,
announced that she had been engaged to marry
Mr. Henry Johnson.
The old judge had a cane with an ivory head. He could never think at his
best until he was leaning slightly on this stick and smoothing the white top
with slow movements of his hands. It was also to him a kind of narcotic. If
by any chance he mislaid it, he grew at once very irritable, and was likely
to speak sharply to his sister, whose mental incapacity he had patiently
endured for thirty years in the old mansion on Ontario Street. She was not
at all aware of her brother's opinion of her endowments, and so it might be
said that the judge had successfully dissembled for more than a quarter of a
century, only risking the truth at the times
when his cane was lost.
On a particular day the judge sat in his arm-chair on the porch. The
sunshine sprinkled through the lilac-bushes
and poured great coins on the boards. The sparrows disputed in
the trees that lined the pavements. The judge mused deeply, while
his hands gently caressed the ivory head of his cane.
Finally he arose and entered the house, his brow still furrowed in a
thoughtful frown. His stick thumped solemnly in regular beats. On the second
floor he entered a room where Dr. Trescott was working about the bedside of
Henry Johnson. The bandages on the negro's head allowed only one thing to
appear, an eye, which unwinkingly stared at the judge. The latter spoke to
Trescott on the condition of the patient. Afterward he evidently had
something further to say, but he seemed to be kept from it by the scrutiny
of the unwinking eye, at which he furtively
glanced from time to time.
When Jimmie Trescott was sufficiently recovered, his mother had taken him
to pay a visit to his grandparents in Connecticut. The doctor had remained
to take care of his patients, but as a matter of truth he spent most of his
time at Judge Hagenthorpe's house, where lay Henry Johnson. Here he slept
and ate almost every meal in the long nights
and days of his vigil.
At dinner, and away from the magic of the unwinking eye, the judge said,
suddenly, "Trescott, do you think it is -- " As Trescott paused expectantly,
the judge fingered his knife. He said, thoughtfully, "No one wants to
advance such ideas, but somehow I think that
that poor fellow ought to die."
There was in Trescott's face at once a look of recognition, as if in this
tangent of the judge he saw an old problem. He merely sighed and answered,
"Who knows?" The words were spoken in a deep tone that gave them an elusive
kind of significance.
The judge retreated to the cold manner of the bench. "Perhaps we may not
talk with propriety of this kind of action, but I am induced to say that you
are performing a questionable charity in preserving this negro's life. As
near as I can understand, he will hereafter be a monster, a perfect monster,
and probably with an affected brain. No man can observe you as I have
observed you and not know that it was a matter of conscience with you, but I
am afraid, my friend, that it is one of the blunders of virtue." The judge
had delivered his views with his habitual oratory. The last three words he
spoke with a particular emphasis, as if the
phrase was his discovery.
The doctor made a weary gesture. "He
saved my boy's life."
"Yes," said the judge, swiftly
-- "yes, I know!"
"And what am I to do?" said Trescott, his eyes suddenly lighting like an
outburst from smouldering peat. "What am I to do? He gave himself for -- for
Jimmie. What am I to do for him?"
The judge abased himself completely before these words. He lowered his
eyes for a moment. He picked at his cucumbers.
Presently he braced himself straightly in his chair. "He will be your
creation, you understand. He is purely your creation. Nature has very
evidently given him up. He is dead. You are restoring him to life. You are
making him, and he will be a monster, and
with no mind."
"He will be what you like, judge," cried Trescott, in sudden, polite
fury. "He will be anything, but, by
God! he saved my boy."
The judge interrupted in a voice trembling with emotion: "Trescott!
Trescott! Don't I know?"
Trescott had subsided to a sullen mood. "Yes, you know," he answered,
acidly; "but you don't know all about your own boy being saved from death."
This was a perfectly childish allusion to the judge's bachelorhood. Trescott
knew that the remark was infantile, but he seemed to take desperate delight
But it passed the judge completely. It
was not his spot.
"I am puzzled," said he, in
profound thought. "I don't know what to say."
Trescott had become repentant. "Don't think I don't appreciate what you
say, judge. But -- "
"Of course!" responded the judge,
quickly. "Of course."
"It -- " began Trescott.
"Of course," said the judge.
In silence they resumed their dinner.
"Well," said the judge, ultimately, "it is hard for a man to know what to
"It is," said the doctor, fervidly.
There was another silence. It was broken
by the judge:
"Look here, Trescott; I don't want
you to think -- "
"No, certainly not," answered the
"Well, I don't want you to think I would say anything to -- It was only
that I thought that I might be able to suggest to you that -- perhaps -- the
affair was a little dubious."
With an appearance of suddenly disclosing his real mental perturbation,
the doctor said: "Well, what would you do? Would you kill him?" he asked,
abruptly and sternly.
"Trescott, you fool," said the
old man, gently.
"Oh, well, I know, judge, but then -- " He turned red, and spoke with new
violence: "Say, he saved my boy -- do
you see? He saved my boy."
"You bet he did," cried the judge, with enthusiasm. "You bet he did." And
they remained for a time gazing at each other, their faces illuminated with
memories of a certain deed.
After another silence, the judge said, "It is hard for a man to know what
Late one evening Trescott, returning from a professional call, paused his
buggy at the Hagenthorpe gate. He tied the mare to the old tin-covered post,
and entered the house. Ultimately he appeared with a companion -- a man who
walked slowly and carefully, as if he were learning. He was wrapped to the
heels in an old-fashioned ulster. They entered
the buggy and drove away.
After a silence only broken by the swift and musical humming of the
wheels on the smooth road, Trescott spoke. "Henry," he said, "I've got you a
home here with old Alek Williams. You will have everything you want to eat
and a good place to sleep, and I hope you will get along there all right. I
will pay all your expenses, and come to see you as often as I can. If you
don't get along, I want you to let me know as soon as possible, and then we
will do what we can to make it better."
The dark figure at the doctor's side answered with a cheerful laugh.
"These buggy wheels don' look like I
washed 'em yesterday, docteh," he said.
Trescott hesitated for a moment, and then went on insistently, "I am
taking you to Alek Williams, Henry, and I
The figure chuckled again. "No, 'deed! No, seh! Alek Williams don' know a
hoss! 'Deed he don't. He don' know a hoss from a pig." The laugh that
followed was like the rattle of pebbles.
Trescott turned and looked sternly and coldly at the dim form in the
gloom from the buggy-top. "Henry," he said, "I didn't say anything about
horses. I was saying -- "
"Hoss? Hoss?" said the quavering voice from these near shadows. "Hoss?
'Deed I don' know all erbout a hoss! 'Deed I don't." There was a satirical
At the end of three miles the mare slackened and the doctor leaned
forward, peering, while holding tight reins. The wheels of the buggy bumped
often over out-cropping bowlders. A window shone forth, a simple square of
topaz on a great black hill-side. Four dogs charged the buggy with ferocity,
and when it did not promptly retreat, they circled courageously around the
flanks, baying. A door opened near the window in the hill-side, and a man
came and stood on a beach of yellow light.
"Yah! yah! You Roveh! You Susie!
Come yah! Come yah this minit!"
Trescott called across the dark sea of
grass, "Hello, Alek!"
"Come down here and show me where
The man plunged from the beach into the surf, and Trescott could then
only trace his course by the fervid and polite ejaculations of a host who
was somewhere approaching. Presently Williams took the mare by the head, and
uttering cries of welcome and scolding the swarming dogs, led the equipage
toward the lights. When they halted at the door and Trescott was climbing
out, Williams cried, "Will she stand,
"She'll stand all right, but you better hold her for a minute. Now,
Henry." The doctor turned and held both arms to the dark figure. It crawled
to him painfully like a man going down a ladder. Williams took the mare away
to be tied to a little tree, and when he returned he found them awaiting him
in the gloom beyond the rays from the door.
He burst out then like a siphon pressed by a nervous thumb. "Hennery!
Hennery, ma ol' frien'. Well, if I ain' glade.
If I ain' glade!"
Trescott had taken the silent shape by the arm and led it forward into
the full revelation of the light. "Well, now, Alek, you can take Henry and put him to
bed, and in the morning I will -- "
Near the end of this sentence old Williams had come front to front with
Johnson. He gasped for a second, and then yelled the yell of a man stabbed
in the heart.
For a fraction of a moment Trescott seemed to be looking for epithets.
Then he roared: "You old black chump! You old black -- Shut up! Shut up! Do
Williams obeyed instantly in the matter of his screams, but he continued
in a lowered voice: "Ma Lode amassy!
Who'd ever think? Ma Lode amassy!"
Trescott spoke again in the manner of
a commander of a battalion. "Alek!"
The old negro again surrendered, but to himself he repeated in a whisper,
"Ma Lode!" He was aghast and trembling.
As these three points of widening shadows approached the golden doorway a
hale old negress appeared there, bowing. "Good-evenin', docteh!
Good-evenin'! Come in! come in!" She had evidently just retired from a
tempestuous struggle to place the room in order, but she was now bowing
rapidly. She made the effort of a person
"Don't trouble yourself, Mary," said Trescott, entering. "I've brought
Henry for you to take care of, and all you've got to do is to carry out what
I tell you." Learning that he was not followed, he faced the door, and said,
"Come in, Henry."
Johnson entered. "Whee!" shrieked Mrs. Williams. She almost achieved a
back somersault. Six young members of the tribe of Williams made
simultaneous plunge for a position behind the stove, and formed a wailing
"You know very well that you and your family lived usually on less than
three dollars a week, and now that Doctor Trescott pays you five dollars a
week for Johnson's board, you live like millionaires. You haven't done a
stroke of work since Johnson began to board with you -- everybody knows that
-- and so what are you kicking about?"
The judge sat in his chair on the porch, fondling his cane, and gazing
down at old Williams, who stood under the lilac-bushes. "Yes, I know,
jedge," said the negro, wagging his head in a puzzled manner. "'Tain't like
as if I didn't 'preciate what the docteh done, but -- but -- well, yeh see,
jedge," he added, gaining a new impetus, "it's -- it's hard wuk. This ol'
man nev' did wuk so hard. Lode, no."
"Don't talk such nonsense, Alek," spoke the judge, sharply. "You have
never really worked in your life -- anyhow enough to support a family of
sparrows, and now when you are in a more prosperous condition than ever
before, you come around talking like an old
The negro began to scratch his head. "Yeh see, jedge," he said at last,
"my ol' 'ooman she cain't 'ceive no
lady callahs, nohow."
"Hang lady callers!" said the judge, irascibly. "If you have flour in the
barrel and meat in the pot, your wife can get along without receiving lady
callers, can't she?"
"But they won't come ainyhow, jedge," replied Williams, with an air of
still deeper stupefaction. "Noner ma wife's frien's ner noner ma frien's'll
come near ma res'dence."
"Well, let them stay home if they
are such silly people."
The old negro seemed to be seeking a way to elude this argument, but
evidently finding none, he was about to shuffle meekly off. He halted,
however. "Jedge," said he, "ma
ol' 'ooman's near driv' abstracted."
"Your old woman is an idiot,"
responded the judge.
Williams came very close and peered solemnly through a branch of lilac.
"Jedge," he whispered, "the
"What about them?"
Dropping his voice to funereal depths, Williams said, "They -- they
"Can't eat!" scoffed the judge, loudly. "Can't eat! You must think I am
as big an old fool as you are. Can't eat -- the little rascals! What's to
prevent them from eating?"
In answer, Williams said, with mournful emphasis, "Hennery." Moved with a
kind of satisfaction at his tragic use of the name, he remained staring at
the judge for a sign of its effect.
The judge made a gesture of irritation. "Come, now, you old scoundrel,
don't beat around the bush any more. What are you up to? What do you want?
Speak out like a man, and don't give me any more of this tiresome
"I ain't er-beatin' round 'bout nuffin, jedge," replied Williams,
indignantly. "No, seh; I say whatter
got to say right out. 'Deed I do."
"Well, say it, then."
"Jedge," began the negro, taking off his hat and switching his knee with
it, "Lode knows I'd do jes 'bout as much fer five dollehs er week as ainy
cul'd man, but -- but this yere business is awful, jedge. I raikon 'ain't
been no sleep in -- in my house sence docteh
done fetch 'im."
"Well, what do you propose to do
Williams lifted his eyes from the ground and gazed off through the trees.
"Raikon I got good appetite, an' sleep jes like er dog, but he -- he's done
broke me all up. 'Tain't no good, nohow. I wake up in the night; I hear 'im,
mebbe, er-whimperin' an' er-whimperin', an' I sneak an' I sneak until I try
th' do' to see if he locked in. An' he keep me er-puzzlin' an' er-quakin'
all night long. Don't know how 'll do in th' winter. Can't let 'im out where
th' chillen is. He'll done freeze where he is now." Williams spoke these
sentences as if he were talking to himself. After a silence of deep
reflection he continued: "Folks go round sayin' he ain't Hennery Johnson at
all. They say he's er devil!"
"What?" cried the judge.
"Yesseh," repeated Williams in tones of injury, as if his veracity had
been challenged. "Yesseh. I'm er-tellin' it to yeh straight, jedge. Plenty
cul'd people folks up my way say it is a
"Well, you don't think so yourself,
"No. 'Tain't no devil. It's Hennery
"Well, then, what is the matter with you? You don't care what a lot of
foolish people say. Go on 'tending to your business, and pay no attention to
such idle nonsense."
"'Tis nonsense, jedge; but he looks
like er devil."
"What do you care what he looks like?"
demanded the judge.
"Ma rent is two dollehs and er half
er month," said Williams, slowly.
"It might just as well be ten thousand dollars a month," responded the
judge. "You never pay it, anyhow."
"Then, anoth' thing," continued Williams, in his reflective tone. "If he
was all right in his haid I could stan' it; but, jedge, he's crazier 'n er
loon. Then when he looks like er devil, an' done skears all ma frien's away,
an' ma chillens cain't eat, an' ma ole 'ooman jes raisin' Cain all the time,
an' ma rent two dollehs an' er half er month, an' him not right in his haid,
it seems like five dollehs er week -- "
The judge's stick came down sharply and suddenly upon the floor of the
porch. "There," he said, "I
thought that was what you were driving at."
Williams began swinging his head from side to side in the strange racial
mannerism. "Now hol' on a minnet, jedge," he said, defensively. "'Tain't
like as if I didn't 'preciate what the docteh done. 'Tain't that. Docteh
Trescott is er kind man, an' 'tain't like as if I didn't 'preciate what he
done; but -- but -- "
"But what? You are getting painful, Alek. Now tell me this: did you ever
have five dollars a week regularly before
in your life?"
Williams at once drew himself up with great dignity, but in the pause
after that question he drooped gradually to another attitude. In the end he
answered, heroically: "No, jedge, I 'ain't. An' 'tain't like as if I was
er-sayin' five dollehs wasn't er lot er money for a man like me. But, jedge,
what er man oughter git fer this kinder wuk is er salary. Yesseh, jedge," he
repeated, with a great impressive gesture; "fer this kinder wuk er man
oughter git er Salary." He laid a terrible
emphasis upon the final word.
The judge laughed. "I know Dr. Trescott's mind concerning this affair,
Alek; and if you are dissatisfied with your boarder, he is quite ready to
move him to some other place; so, if you care to leave word with me that you
are tired of the arrangement and wish it changed, he will come and take
Williams scratched his head again in deep perplexity. "Five dollehs is er
big price fer bo'd, but 'tain't no big price fer the bo'd of er crazy man,"
he said, finally.
"What do you think you ought to get?"
asked the judge.
"Well," answered Alek, in the manner of one deep in a balancing of the
scales, "he looks like er devil, an' done skears e'rybody, an' ma chillens
cain't eat, an' I cain't sleep, an' he ain't
right in his haid, an' -- "
"You told me all those things."
After scratching his wool, and beating his knee with his hat, and gazing
off through the trees and down at the ground, Williams said, as he kicked
nervously at the gravel, "Well, jedge,
I think it is wuth -- " He stuttered.
"Six dollehs," answered Williams,
in a desperate outburst.
The judge lay back in his great arm-chair and went through all the
motions of a man laughing heartily, but he made no sound save a slight
cough. Williams had been watching him with
"Well," said the judge, "do
you call six dollars a salary?"
"No, seh," promptly responded Williams. "'Tain't a salary. No, 'deed!
'Tain't a salary." He looked with some anger upon the man who questioned his
intelligence in this way.
"Well, supposing your children can't
"I -- "
"And supposing he looks like a devil? And supposing all those things
continue? Would you be satisfied with six
dollars a week?"
Recollections seemed to throng in Williams's mind at these
interrogations, and he answered dubiously. "Of co'se a man who ain't right
in his haid, an' looks like er devil -- But six dollehs -- " After these two
attempts at a sentence Williams suddenly appeared as an orator, with a great
shiny palm waving in the air. "I tell yeh, jedge, six dollehs is six
dollehs, but if I git six dollehs for bo'ding Hennery Johnson, I uhns it! I
"I don't doubt that you earn six dollars for every week's work you do,"
said the judge.
"Well, if I bo'd Hennery Johnson fer six dollehs a week, I uhns it! I
uhns it!" cried Williams, wildly.
Reifsnyder's assistant had gone to his supper, and the owner of the shop
was trying to placate four men who wished to be shaved at once. Reifsnyder
was very garrulous -- a fact which made him rather remarkable among barbers,
who, as a class, are austerely speechless, having been taught silence by the
hammering reiteration of a tradition. It is the customers who talk in the
As Reifsnyder waved his razor down the cheek of a man in the chair, he
turned often to cool the impatience of the others with pleasant talk, which
they did not particularly heed.
"Oh, he should have let him die," said Bainbridge, a railway engineer,
finally replying to one of the barber's orations. "Shut up, Reif, and go on
with your business!"
Instead, Reifsnyder paused shaving entirely, and turned to front the
speaker. "Let him die?" he demanded. "How vas that? How can you let a man
"By letting him die, you chump," said the engineer. The others laughed a
little, and Reifsnyder turned at once to his work, sullenly, as a man
overwhelmed by the derision of numbers.
"How vas that?" he grumbled later. "How can you let a man die when he vas
done so much for you?"
"'When he vas done so much for you?'" repeated Bainbridge. "You better
shave some people. How vas that? Maybe this
ain't a barber shop?"
A man hitherto silent now said, "If I had been the doctor, I would have
done the same thing."
"Of course," said Reifsnyder. "Any man vould do it. Any man that vas not
like you, you -- old -- flint-hearted -- fish." He had sought the final
words with painful care, and he delivered the collection triumphantly at
Bainbridge. The engineer laughed.
The man in the chair now lifted himself higher, while Reifsnyder began an
elaborate ceremony of anointing and combing his hair. Now free to join
comfortably in the talk, the man said: "They say he is the most terrible
thing in the world. Young Johnnie Bernard -- that drives the grocery wagon
-- saw him up at Alek Williams's shanty, and he says he couldn't eat
anything for two days."
"Chee!" said Reifsnyder.
"Well, what makes him so terrible?"
"Because he hasn't got any face," replied the barber and the engineer in
"Hasn't got any face?" repeated the man. "How can he do without any
face!" "He has no face in the front of his head, In the place where his face
ought to grow."
Bainbridge sang these lines pathetically as he arose and hung his hat on
a hook. The man in the chair was about to abdicate in his favor. "Get a gait
on you now," he said to Reifsnyder.
"I go out at 7.31."
As the barber foamed the lather on the cheeks of the engineer he seemed
to be thinking heavily. Then suddenly he burst out. "How would you like to
be with no face?" he cried to the assemblage.
"Oh, if I had to have a face like
yours -- " answered one customer.
Bainbridge's voice came from a sea of lather. "You're kicking because if
losing faces becomes popular, you'd have
to go out of business."
"I don't think it will become so
much popular," said Reifsnyder.
"Not if it's got to be taken off in the way his was taken off," said
another man. "I'd rather keep mine,
if you don't mind."
"I guess so!" cried the barber.
The shaving of Bainbridge had arrived at a time of comparative liberty
for him. "I wonder what the doctor says to himself?" he observed. "He may be
sorry he made him live."
"It was the only thing he could do," replied a man. The others seemed to
agree with him.
"Supposing you were in his place," said one, "and Johnson had saved your
kid. What would you do?"
"Of course! You would do anything on earth for him. You'd take all the
trouble in the world for him. And spend your last dollar on him. Well,
"I wonder how it feels to be without any face?" said Reifsnyder,
The man who had previously spoken, feeling that he had expressed himself
well, repeated the whole thing. "You would do anything on earth for him.
You'd take all the trouble in the world for him. And spend your last dollar
on him. Well, then?"
"No, but look," said Reifsnyder;
"supposing you don't got a face!"
As soon as Williams was hidden from the view of the old judge he began to
gesture and talk to himself. An elation had evidently penetrated to his
vitals, and caused him to dilate as if he had been filled with gas. He
snapped his fingers in the air, and whistled fragments of triumphal music.
At times, in his progress toward his shanty, he indulged in a shuffling
movement that was really a dance. It was to be learned from the intermediate
monologue that he had emerged from his trials laurelled and proud. He was
the unconquerable Alexander Williams. Nothing could exceed the bold
self-reliance of his manner. His kingly stride, his heroic song, the
derisive flourish of his hands -- all betokened a man who had successfully
defied the world.
On his way he saw Zeke Paterson coming to town. They hailed each other at
a distance of fifty yards.
"How do, Broth' Paterson?"
"How do, Broth' Williams?"
They were both deacons.
"Is you' folks well, Broth' Paterson?"
"Middlin', middlin'. How's you' folks,
Neither of them had slowed his pace in the smallest degree. They had
simply begun this talk when a considerable space separated them, continued
it as they passed, and added polite questions as they drifted steadily
apart. Williams's mind seemed to be a balloon. He had been so inflated that
he had not noticed that Paterson had definitely shied into the dry ditch as
they came to the point of ordinary contact.
Afterward, as he went a lonely way, he burst out again in song and
pantomimic celebration of his estate. His
feet moved in prancing steps.
When he came in sight of his cabin, the fields were bathed in a blue
dusk, and the light in the window was pale. Cavorting and gesticulating, he
gazed joyfully for some moments upon this light. Then suddenly another idea
seemed to attack his mind, and he stopped, with an air of being suddenly
dampened. In the end he approached his home as if it were the fortress of an
Some dogs disputed his advance for a loud moment, and then discovering
their lord, slunk away embarrassed. His reproaches were addressed to them in
Arriving at the door, he pushed it open with the timidity of a new thief.
He thrust his head cautiously sideways, and his eyes met the eyes of his
wife, who sat by the table, the lamp-light defining a half of her face.
"Sh!" he said, uselessly. His glance
travelled swiftly to the
"If I git six dollehs for bo'ding
Hennery Johnson, I uhns it!"
inner door which shielded the one bed-chamber. The pickaninnies, strewn upon
the floor of the living-room, were softly snoring. After a hearty meal they
had promptly dispersed themselves about the place and gone to sleep. "Sh!"
said Williams again to his motionless and silent wife. He had allowed only
his head to appear. His wife, with one hand upon the edge of the table and
the other at her knee, was regarding him with wide eyes and parted lips as
if he were a spectre. She looked to be one who was living in terror, and
even the familiar face at the door had thrilled her because it had come
Williams broke the tense silence. "Is he all right?" he whispered, waving
his eyes toward the inner door. Following his glance timorously, his wife
nodded, and in a low tone answered,
"I raikon he's done gone t'sleep."
Williams then slunk noiselessly across
He lifted a chair, and with infinite care placed it so that it faced the
dreaded inner door. His wife moved slightly, so as to also squarely face it.
A silence came upon them in which they seemed to be waiting for a calamity,
pealing and deadly.
Williams finally coughed behind his hand. His wife started, and looked
upon him in alarm. "'Pears like he done gwine keep quiet ter-night," he
breathed. They continually pointed their speech and their looks at the inner
door, paying it the homage due to a corpse or a phantom. Another long
stillness followed this sentence. Their eyes shone white and wide. A wagon
rattled down the distant road. From their chairs they looked at the window,
and the effect of the light in the cabin was a presentation of an intensely
black and solemn night. The old woman adopted the attitude used always in
church at funerals. At times she seemed to be upon the point of breaking out
"He mighty quiet ter-night," whispered Williams. "Was he good ter-day?"
For answer his wife raised her eyes to the ceiling in the supplication of
Job. Williams moved restlessly. Finally he tip-toed to the door. He knelt
slowly and without a sound, and placed his ear near the key-hole. Hearing a
noise behind him, he turned quickly. His
wife was staring at him aghast. She stood in front of the stove,
and her arms were spread out in the natural movement to protect
all her sleeping ducklings.
But Williams arose without having touched the door. "I raikon he
er-sleep," he said, fingering his wool. He debated with himself for some
time. During this interval his wife remained, a great fat statue of a mother
shielding her children.
It was plain that his mind was swept suddenly by a wave of temerity. With
a sounding step he moved toward the door. His fingers were almost upon the
knob when he swiftly ducked and dodged away, clapping his hands to the back
of his head. It was as if the portal had threatened him. There was a little
tumult near the stove, where Mrs. Williams's desperate retreat had involved
her feet with the prostrate children.
After the panic Williams bore traces of a feeling of shame. He returned
to the charge. He firmly grasped the knob with his left hand, and with his
other hand turned the key in the lock. He pushed the door, and as it swung
portentously open he sprang nimbly to one side like the fearful slave
liberating the lion. Near the stove a group had formed, the terror-stricken
mother with her arms stretched, and the aroused children clinging frenziedly
to her skirts.
The light streamed after the swinging door, and disclosed a room six feet
one way and six feet the other way. It was small enough to enable the
radiance to lay it plain. Williams peered warily around the corner made by
Suddenly he advanced, retired, and advanced again with a howl. His
palsied family had expected him to spring backward, and at his howl they
heaped themselves wondrously. But Williams simply stood in the little room
emitting his howls before an open window. "He's gone! He's gone! He's gone!"
His eye and his hand had speedily proved the fact. He had even thrown open a
Presently he came flying out. He grabbed his hat, and hurled the outer
door back upon its hinges. Then he tumbled headlong into the night. He was
yelling: "Docteh Trescott! Docteh Trescott!" He ran wildly through the
fields, and galloped in the direction of town. He continued to call to
Trescott as if the latter was within easy hearing. It was as if Trescott was
poised in the contemplative sky over the running negro, and could heed this
reaching voice -- "Docteh Trescott!"
In the cabin, Mrs. Williams, supported by relays from the battalion of
children, stood quaking watch until the truth of daylight came as a
re-enforcement and made them arrogant, strutting, swashbuckler children, and
a mother who proclaimed her illimitable courage.
Theresa Page was giving a party. It was the outcome of a long series of
arguments addressed to her mother, which had been overheard in part by her
father. He had at last said five words, "Oh, let her have it." The mother
had then gladly capitulated.
Theresa had written nineteen invitations, and distributed them at recess
to her schoolmates. Later her mother had composed five large cakes, and
still later a vast amount of lemonade.
So the nine little girls and the ten little boys sat quite primly in the
dining-room, while Theresa and her mother plied them with cake and lemonade,
and also with ice-cream. This primness sat now quite strangely upon them. It
was owing to the presence of Mrs. Page. Previously in the parlor alone with
their games they had overturned a chair; the boys had let more or less of
their hoodlum spirit shine forth. But when circumstances could be possibly
magnified to warrant it, the girls made the boys victims of an insufferable
pride, snubbing them mercilessly. So in the dining-room they resembled a
class at Sunday-school, if it were not for the subterranean smiles,
gestures, rebuffs, and poutings which stamped the affair as a children's
Two little girls of this subdued gathering were planted in a settle with
their backs to the broad window. They were beaming lovingly upon each other
with an effect of scorning the boys.
Hearing a noise behind her at the window, one little girl turned to face
it. Instantly she screamed and sprang away, covering her face with her
hands. "What was it? What was it?" cried every one in a roar. Some slight
movement of the eyes of the weeping and shuddering child informed the
company that she had been frightened by an appearance at the window. At once
they all faced the imperturbable window, and for a moment there
was a silence. An astute lad made an immediate census of the other lads. The
prank of slipping out and looming spectrally at a window was too venerable.
But the little boys were all present and
As they recovered their minds they uttered warlike cries, and through a
side-door sallied rapidly out against the terror. They vied with each other
None wished particularly to encounter a dragon in the darkness of the
garden, but there could be no faltering when the fair ones in the
dining-room were present. Calling to each other in stern voices, they went
dragooning over the lawn, attacking the shadows with ferocity, but still
with the caution of reasonable beings. They found, however, nothing new to
the peace of the night. Of course there was a lad who told a great lie. He
described a grim figure, bending low and slinking off along the fence. He
gave a number of details, rendering his lie more splendid by a repetition of
certain forms which he recalled from romances. For instance, he insisted
that he had heard the creature emit a hollow
Inside the house the little girl who had raised the alarm was still
shuddering and weeping. With the utmost difficulty was she brought to a
state approximating calmness by Mrs. Page. Then she wanted to go home at
Page entered the house at this time. He had exiled himself until he
concluded that this children's party was finished and gone. He was obliged
to escort the little girl home because she screamed again when they opened
the door and she saw the night.
She was not coherent even to her mother. Was it a man? She didn't know.
It was simply a thing, a dreadful thing.
In Watermelon Alley the Farraguts were spending their evening as usual on
the little rickety porch. Sometimes they howled gossip to other people on
other rickety porches. The thin wail of a baby arose from a near house. A
man had a terrific altercation with his wife, to which the alley paid no
attention at all.
There appeared suddenly before the Farraguts a monster making a low and
sweeping bow. There was an instant's pause, and then occurred something that
resembled the effect of an upheaval of the earth's surface. The old woman
hurled herself backward with a dreadful cry. Young Sim had been perched
gracefully on a railing. At sight of the monster he simply fell over it to
the ground. He made no sound, his eyes stuck out, his nerveless hands tried
to grapple the rail to prevent a tumble, and then he vanished. Bella,
blubbering, and with her hair suddenly and mysteriously dishevelled, was
crawling on her hands and knees fearsomely
up the steps.
Standing before this wreck of a family gathering, the monster continued
to bow. It even raised a deprecatory claw. "Don' make no botheration 'bout
me, Miss Fa'gut," it said, politely. "No, 'deed. I jes drap in ter ax if yer
well this evenin', Miss Fa'gut. Don' make no botheration. No, 'deed. I gwine
ax you to go to er daince with me, Miss Fa'gut. I ax you if I can have the
magnifercent gratitude of you' company on
that 'casion, Miss Fa'gut."
The girl cast a miserable glance behind her. She was still crawling away.
On the ground beside the porch young Sim raised a strange bleat, which
expressed both his fright and his lack of wind. Presently the monster, with
a fashionable amble, ascended the steps after
She grovelled in a corner of the room as the creature took a chair. It
seated itself very elegantly on the edge. It held an old cap in both hands.
"Don' make no botheration, Miss Fa'gut. Don' make no botherations. No,
'deed. I jes drap in ter ax you if you won' do me the proud of acceptin' ma
humble invitation to er daince, Miss Fa'gut."
She shielded her eyes with her arms and tried to crawl past it, but the
genial monster blocked the way. "I jes drap in ter ax you 'bout er daince,
Miss Fa'gut. I ax you if I kin have the magnifercent gratitude of you'
company on that 'casion, Miss Fa'gut."
In a last outbreak of despair, the girl, shuddering and wailing, threw
herself face downward on the floor, while the monster sat on the edge of the
chair gabbling courteous invitations, and holding the old hat daintily to
At the back of the house, Mrs. Farragut, who was of enormous weight, and
who for eight years had done little more than sit in an arm-chair and
describe her various ailments, had with speed and agility scaled a high
The black mass in the middle of Trescott's property was hardly allowed to
cool before the builders were at work on another house. It had sprung upward
at a fabulous rate. It was like a magical composition born of the ashes. The
doctor's office was the first part to be
completed, and he had already moved in his new books and instruments
Trescott sat before his desk when the chief of police arrived. "Well, we
found him," said the latter.
"Did you?" cried the doctor.
"Shambling around the streets at daylight this morning. I'll be blamed if
I can figure on where he passed the night."
"Where is he now?"
"Oh, we jugged him. I didn't know what else to do with him. That's what I
want you to tell me. Of course we can't keep him. No charge could be made,
"I'll come down and get him."
The official grinned retrospectively. "Must say he had a fine career
while he was out. First thing he did was to break up a children's party at
Page's. Then he went to Watermelon Alley. Whoo! He stampeded the whole
outfit. Men, women, and children running pell-mell, and yelling. They say
one old woman broke her leg, or something, shinning over a fence. Then he
went right out on the main street, and an Irish girl threw a fit, and there
was a sort of riot. He began to run, and a big crowd chased him, firing
rocks. But he gave them the slip somehow down there by the foundry and in
the railroad yard. We looked for him all
night, but couldn't find him."
"Was he hurt any? Did anybody hit
him with a stone?"
"Guess there isn't much of him to hurt any more, is there? Guess he's
been hurt up to the limit. No. They never touched him. Of course nobody
really wanted to hit him, but you know how a crowd gets. It's like -- it's
like -- "
"Yes, I know."
For a moment the chief of the police looked reflectively at the floor.
Then he spoke hesitatingly. "You know Jake Winter's little girl was the one
that he scared at the party. She is pretty
sick, they say."
"Is she? Why, they didn't call me.
I always attend the Winter family."
"No? Didn't they?" asked the chief, slowly. "Well -- you know -- Winter
is -- well, Winter has gone clean crazy over this business. He wanted -- he
wanted to have you arrested."
"Have me arrested? The idiot! What in the name of wonder could he have me
"Of course. He is a fool. I told him to keep his trap shut. But then you
know how he'll go all over town yapping about the thing. I thought I'd
better tip you."
"Oh, he is of no consequence; but then, of course, I'm obliged to you,
"That's all right. Well, you'll be down to-night and take him out, eh?
You'll get a good welcome from the jailer. He don't like his job for a cent.
He says you can have your man whenever you want him. He's got no use for
"But what is this business of Winter's
about having me arrested?"
"Oh, it's a lot of chin about your having no right to allow this -- this
-- this man to be at large. But I told him to tend to his own business. Only
I thought I'd better let you know. And I might as well say right now,
doctor, that there is a good deal of talk about this thing. If I were you,
I'd come to the jail pretty late at night, because there is likely to be a
crowd around the door, and I'd bring a -- er -- mask, or some kind of a
Martha Goodwin was single, and well along into the thin years. She lived
with her married sister in Whilomville. She performed nearly all the
house-work in exchange for the privilege of existence. Every one tacitly
recognized her labor as a form of penance for the early end of her
betrothed, who had died of small-pox, which
he had not caught from her.
But despite the strenuous and unceasing workaday of her life, she was a
woman of great mind. She had adamantine opinions upon the situation in
Armenia, the condition of women in China, the flirtation between Mrs.
Minster of Niagara Avenue and young Griscom, the conflict in the Bible class
of the Baptist Sunday-school, the duty of the United States toward the Cuban
insurgents, and many other colossal matters. Her fullest experience of
violence was gained on an occasion when she had seen a hound clubbed, but in
the plan which she had made for the reform of the world she advocated
drastic measures. For instance, she contended that all the Turks should be
pushed into the sea and drowned, and that Mrs. Minster and young Griscom
should be hanged side by side on twin gallows. In fact, this woman of peace,
who had seen only peace, argued constantly for a creed of illimitable
ferocity. She was invulnerable on these questions, because eventually she
overrode all opponents with a sniff. This sniff was an active force. It was
to her antagonists like a bang over the head, and none was known to recover
from this expression of exalted contempt. It left them windless and
conquered. They never again came forward as candidates for suppression. And
Martha walked her kitchen with a stern brow, an invincible being like
Nevertheless her acquaintances, from the pain of their defeats, had been
long in secret revolt. It was in no wise a conspiracy, because they did not
care to state their open rebellion, but nevertheless it was understood that
any woman who could not coincide with one of Martha's contentions was
entitled to the support of others in the small circle. It amounted to an
arrangement by which all were required to disbelieve any theory for which
Martha fought. This, however, did not prevent them from speaking of her mind
with profound respect.
Two people bore the brunt of her ability. Her sister Kate was visibly
afraid of her, while Carrie Dungen sailed across from her kitchen to sit
respectfully at Martha's feet and learn the business of the world. To be
sure, afterwards, under another sun, she always laughed at Martha and
pretended to deride her ideas, but in the presence of the sovereign she
always remained silent or admiring. Kate, the sister, was of no consequence
at all. Her principal delusion was that she did all the work in the upstairs
rooms of the house, while Martha did it downstairs. The truth was seen only
by the husband, who treated Martha with a kindness that was half banter,
half deference. Martha herself had no suspicion that she was the only pillar
of the domestic edifice. The situation was without definitions. Martha made
definitions, but she devoted them entirely to the Armenians and Griscom and
the Chinese and other subjects. Her dreams, which in early days had been of
love of meadows and the shade of trees, of the face of a man, were now
involved otherwise, and they were companioned in the kitchen curiously,
Cuba, the hot-water kettle, Armenia, the washing of the dishes, and the
whole thing being jumbled. In regard to social misdemeanors, she who was
simply the mausoleum of a dead passion was probably the most savage critic
in town. This unknown woman, hidden in a kitchen as in a well, was sure to
have a considerable effect of the one kind or the other in the life of the
town. Every time it moved a yard, she had personally contributed an inch.
She could hammer so stoutly upon the door of a proposition that it would
break from its hinges and fall upon her, but at any rate it moved. She was
an engine, and the fact that she did not know that she was an engine
contributed largely to the effect. One reason that she was formidable was
that she did not even imagine that she was formidable. She remained a weak,
innocent, and pig-headed creature, who alone would defy the universe if she
thought the universe merited this proceeding.
One day Carrie Dungen came across from her kitchen with speed. She had a
great deal of grist. "Oh," she cried, "Henry Johnson got away from where
they was keeping him, and came to town last night, and scared everybody
almost to death."
Martha was shining a dish-pan, polishing madly. No reasonable person
could see cause for this operation, because the pan already glistened like
silver. "Well!" she ejaculated. She imparted to the word a deep meaning.
"This, my prophecy, has come to pass."
It was a habit.
The overplus of information was choking Carrie. Before she could go on
she was obliged to struggle for a moment. "And, oh, little Sadie Winter is
awful sick, and they say Jake Winter was around this morning trying to get
Doctor Trescott arrested. And poor old Mrs. Farragut sprained her ankle in
trying to climb a fence. And there's a crowd around the jail all the time.
They put Henry in jail because they didn't know what else to do with him, I
guess. They say he is perfectly terrible."
Martha finally released the dish-pan and confronted the headlong speaker.
"Well!" she said again, poising a great brown rag. Kate had heard the
excited new-comer, and drifted down from the novel in her room. She was a
shivery little woman. Her shoulder-blades seemed to be two panes of ice, for
she was constantly shrugging and shrugging. "Serves him right if he was to
lose all his patients," she said suddenly, in bloodthirsty tones. She
snipped her words out as if her lips were
"Well, he's likely to," shouted Carrie Dungen. "Don't a lot of people say
that they won't have him any more? If you're sick and nervous, Doctor
Trescott would scare the life out of you, wouldn't he? He would me. I'd keep
Martha, stalking to and fro, sometimes surveyed the two other women with
a contemplative frown.
After the return from Connecticut, little Jimmie was at first much afraid
of the monster who lived in the room over the carriage-house. He could not
identify it in any way. Gradually, however, his fear dwindled under the
influence of a weird fascination. He sidled into closer and closer relations
One time the monster was seated on a box behind the stable basking in the
rays of the afternoon sun. A heavy crêpe
veil was swathed about its head.
Little Jimmie and many companions came around the corner of the stable.
They were all in what was popularly known as the baby class, and
consequently escaped from school a half-hour before the other children. They
halted abruptly at sight of the figure on the box. Jimmie waved his hand
with the air of a proprietor.
"There he is," he said.
"O-o-o!" murmured all the little boys -- "o-o-o!" They shrank back, and
grouped according to courage or experience, as at the sound the monster
slowly turned its head. Jimmie had remained in the van alone. "Don't be
afraid! I won't let him hurt you," he
"Huh!" they replied, contemptuously.
"We ain't afraid."
Jimmie seemed to reap all the joys of the owner and exhibitor of one of
the world's marvels, while his audience remained at a distance -- awed and
entranced, fearful and envious.
One of them addressed Jimmie gloomily. "Bet you dassent walk right up to
him." He was an older boy than Jimmie, and habitually oppressed him to a
small degree. This new social elevation of the smaller lad probably seemed
revolutionary to him.
"Huh!" said Jimmie, with deep scorn. "Dassent I? Dassent I, hey? Dassent
The group was immensely excited. It turned its eyes upon the boy that
Jimmie addressed. "No, you dassent," he said, stolidly, facing a moral
defeat. He could see that Jimmie was resolved. "No, you dassent," he
"Ho!" cried Jimmie. "You
just watch! -- you just watch!"
Amid a silence he turned and marched toward the monster. But possibly the
palpable wariness of his companions had an effect upon him that weighed more
than his previous experience, for suddenly, when near to the monster, he
halted dubiously. But his playmates immediately uttered a derisive shout,
and it seemed to force him forward. He went to the monster and laid his hand
delicately on its shoulder. "Hello, Henry," he said, in a voice that
trembled a trifle. The monster was crooning a weird line of negro melody
that was scarcely more than a thread of sound, and it paid no heed to the
Jimmie strutted back to his companions. They acclaimed him and hooted his
opponent. Amidst this clamor the larger boy with difficulty preserved a
"I dassent, dassent I?" said Jimmie to him. "Now, you're so smart, let's
see you do it!"
This challenge brought forth renewed taunts from the others. The larger
boy puffed out his cheeks. "Well, I ain't afraid," he explained, sullenly.
He had made a mistake in diplomacy, and now his small enemies were tumbling
his prestige all about his ears. They crowed like roosters and bleated like
lambs, and made many other noises which were supposed to bury him in
ridicule and dishonor. "Well, I ain't afraid," he continued to explain
through the din.
Jimmie, the hero of the mob, was pitiless. "You ain't afraid, hey?" he
sneered. "If you ain't afraid, go do
"Well, I would if I wanted to," the other retorted. His eyes wore an
expression of profound misery, but he preserved steadily other portions of a
pot-valiant air. He suddenly faced one of his persecutors. "If you're so
smart, why don't you go do it?" This persecutor sank promptly through the
group to the rear. The incident gave the badgered one a breathing-spell, and
for a moment even turned the derision in another direction. He took
advantage of his interval. "I'll do it if anybody else will," he announced,
swaggering to and fro.
Candidates for the adventure did not come forward. To defend themselves
from this counter-charge, the other boys again set up their crowing and
bleating. For a while they would hear nothing from him. Each time he opened
his lips their chorus of noises made oratory impossible. But at last he was
able to repeat that he would volunteer to dare as much in the affair as any
"Well, you go first," they shouted.
But Jimmie intervened to once more lead the populace against the large
boy. "You're mighty brave, ain't you?" he said to him. "You dared me to do
it, and I did -- didn't I? Now who's afraid?" The others cheered this view
loudly, and they instantly resumed the baiting
of the large boy.
He shamefacedly scratched his left shin with his right foot. "Well, I
ain't afraid." He cast an eye at the monster. "Well, I ain't afraid." With a
glare of hatred at his squalling tormentors, he finally announced a grim
intention. "Well, I'll do it, then,
since you're so fresh. Now!"
The mob subsided as with a formidable countenance he turned toward the
impassive figure on the box. The advance was also a regular progression from
high daring to craven hesitation. At last, when some yards from the monster,
the lad came to a full halt, as if he had encountered a stone wall. The
observant little boys in the distance promptly hooted. Stung again by these
cries, the lad sneaked two yards forward. He was crouched like a young cat
ready for a backward spring. The crowd at the rear, beginning to respect
this display, uttered some encouraging cries. Suddenly the lad gathered
himself together, made a white and desperate rush forward, touched the
monster's shoulder with a far-outstretched finger, and sped away, while his
laughter rang out wild, shrill, and exultant.
The crowd of boys reverenced him at once, and began to throng into his
camp, and look at him, and be his admirers. Jimmie was discomfited for a
moment, but he and the larger boy, without agreement or word of any kind,
seemed to recognize a truce, and they swiftly combined and began to parade
before the others.
"Why, it's just as easy as nothing," puffed the larger boy. "Ain't it,
"Course," blew Jimmie. "Why,
it's as e-e-easy."
They were people of another class. If they had been decorated for courage
on twelve battle-fields, they could not have made the other boys more
ashamed of the situation.
Meanwhile they condescended to explain the emotions of the excursion,
expressing unqualified contempt for any one who could hang back. "Why, it
ain't nothin'. He won't do nothin' to you," they told the others, in tones
One of the very smallest boys in the party showed signs of a wistful
desire to distinguish himself, and they turned their attention to him,
pushing at his shoulders while he swung away from them, and hesitated
dreamily. He was eventually induced to make furtive expedition, but it was
only for a few yards. Then he paused, motionless, gazing with open mouth.
The vociferous entreaties of Jimmie and the
large boy had no power over him.
Mrs. Hannigan had come out on her back porch with a pail of water. From
this coign she had a view of the secluded portion of the Trescott grounds
that was behind the stable. She perceived the group of boys, and the monster
on the box. She shaded her eyes with her hand to benefit her vision. She
screeched then as if she was being murdered. "Eddie! Eddie! You come home
Her son querulously demanded, "Aw,
"You come home this minute. Do you
The other boys seemed to think this visitation upon one of their number
required them to preserve for a time the hang-dog air of a collection of
culprits, and they remained in guilty silence until the little Hannigan,
wrathfully protesting, was pushed through the door of his home. Mrs.
Hannigan cast a piercing glance over the group, stared with a bitter face at
the Trescott house, as if this new and handsome edifice was insulting her,
and then followed her son.
There was wavering in the party. An inroad by one mother always caused
them to carefully sweep the horizon to see if there were more coming. "This
is my yard," said Jimmie, proudly. "We
don't have to go home."
The monster on the box had turned his black crêpe countenance toward the
sky, and was waving its arms in time to a religious chant. "Look at him now," cried a little boy. They turned, and were transfixed by the solemnity and mystery of the indefinable gestures. The wail of the melody was mournful and slow. They drew back. It seemed to spellbind them with the power of a funeral. They were so absorbed that they did not hear the doctor's buggy drive up to the stable. Trescott got out, tied his horse, and approached the group. Jimmie saw him first, and at his
look of dismay the others wheeled.
"What's all this, Jimmie?" asked
Trescott, in surprise.
The lad advanced to the front of his companions, halted, and said
nothing. Trescott's face gloomed slightly
as he scanned the scene.
"What were you doing, Jimmie?"
"We was playin'," answered Jimmie,
"Playing at what?"
Trescott looked gravely at the other boys, and asked them to please go
home. They proceeded to the street much in the manner of frustrated and
revealed assassins. The crime of trespass on another boy's place was still a
crime when they had only accepted the other boy's cordial invitation, and
they were used to being sent out of all manner of gardens upon the sudden
appearance of a father or a mother. Jimmie had wretchedly watched the
departure of his companions. It involved the loss of his position as a lad
who controlled the privileges of his father's grounds, but then he knew that
in the beginning he had no right to ask so
many boys to be his guests.
Once on the sidewalk, however, they speedily forgot their shame as
trespassers, and the large boy launched forth in a description of his
success in the late trial of courage. As they went rapidly up the street,
the little boy, who had made the furtive expedition cried out confidently
from the rear, "Yes, and I went almost
up to him, didn't I, Willie?"
The large boy crushed him in a few words. "Huh!" he scoffed. "You only
went a little way. I went clear up to him."
The pace of the other boys was so manly that the tiny thing had to trot,
and he remained at the rear, getting entangled in their legs in his attempts
to reach the front rank and become of some importance, dodging this way and
that way, and always piping out his little
claim to glory.
"By-the-way, Grace," said Trescott, looking into the dining-room from his
office door, "I wish you would send
Jimmie to me before school-time."
When Jimmie came, he advanced so quietly that Trescott did not at first
note him. "Oh," he said, wheeling
from a cabinet, "here you are, young man."
Trescott dropped into his chair and tapped the desk with a thoughtful
finger. "Jimmie, what were you doing in the back garden yesterday -- you and
the other boys -- to Henry?"
"We weren't doing anything, pa."
Trescott looked sternly into the raised eyes of his son. "Are you sure
you were not annoying him in any way? Now
what were you doing, exactly?"
"Why, we -- why, we -- now -- Willie Dalzel said I dassent go right up to
him, and I did; and then he did; and then -- the other boys were 'fraid; and
then -- you comed."
Trescott groaned deeply. His countenance was so clouded in sorrow that
the lad, bewildered by the mystery of it, burst suddenly forth in dismal
lamentations. "There, there. Don't cry, Jim," said Trescott, going round the
desk. "Only -- " He sat in a great leather reading-chair, and took the boy
on his knee. "Only I want to explain
to you -- "
After Jimmie had gone to school, and as Trescott was about to start on
his round of morning calls, a message arrived from Doctor Moser. It set
forth that the latter's sister was dying in the old homestead, twenty miles
away up the valley, and asked Trescott to care for his patients for the day
at least. There was also in the envelope a little history of each case and
of what had already been done. Trescott replied to the messenger that he
would gladly assent to the arrangement.
He noted that the first name on Moser's list was Winter, but this did not
seem to strike him as an important fact. When its turn came, he rang the
Winter bell. "Good-morning, Mrs. Winter," he said, cheerfully, as the door
was opened. "Doctor Moser has been obliged to leave town to-day, and he has
asked me to come in his stead. How is the
little girl this morning?"
Mrs. Winter had regarded him in stony surprise. At last she said: "Come
in! I'll see my husband." She bolted into the house. Trescott entered the
hall, and turned to the left into the sitting-room.
Presently Winter shuffled through the door. His eyes flashed toward
Trescott. He did not betray any desire to advance far into the room. "What
do you want?" he said.
"What do I want? What do I want?" repeated Trescott, lifting his head
suddenly. He had heard an utterly new challenge
in the night of the jungle.
"Yes, that's what I want to know,"
snapped Winter. "What do you want?"
Trescott was silent for a moment. He consulted Moser's memoranda. "I see
that your little girl's case is a trifle serious," he remarked. "I would
advise you to call a physician soon. I will leave you a copy of Doctor
Moser's record to give to any one you may call." He paused to transcribe the
record on a page of his note-book. Tearing out the leaf, he extended it to
Winter as he moved toward the door. The latter shrunk against the wall. His
head was hanging as he reached for the paper. This caused him to grasp air,
and so Trescott simply let the paper flutter
to the feet of the other man.
"Good-morning," said Trescott from the hall. This placid retreat seemed
to suddenly arouse Winter to ferocity. It was as if he had then recalled all
the truths, which he had formulated to hurl at Trescott. So he followed him
into the hall, and down the hall to the door, and through the door to the
porch, barking in fiery rage from a respectful distance. As Trescott
imperturbably turned the mare's head down the road, Winter stood on the
porch, still yelping. He was like a little
"Have you heard the news?" cried Carrie Dungen, as she sped toward
Martha's kitchen. "Have you heard the news?" Her eyes were shining with
"No," answered Martha's sister Kate, bending forward eagerly. "What was
it? What was it?"
Carrie appeared triumphantly in the open door. "Oh, there's been an awful
scene between Doctor Trescott and Jake Winter. I never thought that Jake
Winter had any pluck at all, but this morning he told the doctor just what
he thought of him."
"Well, what did he think of him?"
"Oh, he called him everything. Mrs. Howarth heard it through her front
blinds. It was terrible, she says. It's all over town now. Everybody knows
"Didn't the doctor answer back?"
"No! Mrs. Howarth -- she says he never said a word. He just walked down
to his buggy and got in, and drove off as co-o-o-l. But Jake gave him jinks,
by all accounts."
"But what did he say?" cried Kate, shrill and excited. She was evidently
at some kind of a feast.
"Oh, he told him that Sadie had never been well since that night Henry
Johnson frightened her at Theresa Page's party, and he held him responsible,
and how dared he cross his threshold -- and
-- and -- and -- "
"And what?" said Martha.
"Did he swear at him?" said
Kate, in fearsome glee.
"No -- not much. He did swear at him a little, but not more than a man
does anyhow when he is real mad, Mrs. Howarth
"O-oh!" breathed Kate. "And
did he call him any names?"
Martha, at her work, had been for a time in deep thought. She now
interrupted the others. "It don't seem as if Sadie Winter had been sick
since that time Henry Johnson got loose. She's been to school almost the
whole time since then, hasn't she?"
They combined upon her in immediate indignation. "School? School? I
should say not. Don't think for a moment.
Martha wheeled from the sink. She held an iron spoon, and it seemed as if
she was going to attack them. "Sadie Winter has passed here many a morning
since then carrying her school-bag. Where
was she going? To a wedding?"
The others, long accustomed to a mental
tyranny, speedily surrendered.
"Did she?" stammered Kate. "I
never saw her."
Carrie Dungen made a weak gesture.
"If I had been Doctor Trescott," exclaimed Martha, loudly, "I'd have
knocked that miserable Jake Winter's head
Kate and Carrie, exchanging glances, made an alliance in the air. "I
don't see why you say that, Martha," replied Carrie, with considerable
boldness, gaining support and sympathy from Kate's smile. "I don't see how
anybody can be blamed for getting angry when their little girl gets almost
scared to death and gets sick from it, and all that. Besides, everybody says
"Oh, I don't care what everybody
says," said Martha.
"Well, you can't go against the whole town," answered Carrie, in sudden
"No, Martha, you can't go against the whole town," piped Kate, following
her leader rapidly.
"'The whole town,'" cried Martha. "I'd like to know what you call 'the
whole town.' Do you call these silly people who are scared of Henry Johnson
'the whole town'?"
"Why, Martha," said Carrie, in a reasoning tone, "you talk as if you
wouldn't be scared of him!"
"No more would I," retorted
"O-oh, Martha, how you talk!" said Kate. "Why, the idea! Everybody's
afraid of him."
Carrie was grinning. "You've never seen him, have you?" she asked,
"No," admitted Martha.
"Well, then, how do you know that
you wouldn't be scared?"
Martha confronted her. "Have you ever seen him? No? Well, then, how do
you know you would be scared?"
The allied forces broke out in chorus: "But, Martha, everybody says so.
Everybody says so."
"Everybody says what?"
"Everybody that's seen him say they were frightened almost to death.
'Tisn't only women, but it's men too. It's
Martha wagged her head solemnly. "I'd
try not to be afraid of him."
"But supposing you could not help
it?" said Kate.
"Yes, and look here," cried Carrie. "I'll tell you another thing. The
Hannigans are going to move out of the house
"On account of him?" demanded
Carrie nodded. "Mrs. Hannigan says
"Well, of all things!" ejaculated Martha. "Going to move, eh? You don't
say so! Where they going to move to?"
"Down on Orchard Avenue."
"Well, of all things! Nice house?"
"I don't know about that. I haven't heard. But there's lots of nice
houses on Orchard."
"Yes, but they're all taken," said Kate. "There isn't a vacant house on
"Oh yes, there is," said Martha.
"The old Hampstead house is vacant."
"Oh, of course," said Kate. "But then I don't believe Mrs. Hannigan would
like it there. I wonder where they can be
going to move to?"
"I'm sure I don't know," sighed Martha. "It must be to some place we
don't know about."
"Well," said Carrie Dungen, after a general reflective silence, "it's
easy enough to find out, anyhow."
"Who knows -- around here?"
"Why, Mrs. Smith, and there she is in her garden," said Carrie, jumping
to her feet. As she dashed out of the door, Kate and Martha crowded at the
window. Carrie's voice rang out from near the steps. "Mrs. Smith! Mrs.
Smith! Do you know where the Hannigans are
going to move to?"
The autumn smote the leaves, and the trees of Whilomville were panoplied
in crimson and yellow. The winds grew stronger, and in the melancholy purple
of the nights the home shine of a window became a finer thing. The little
boys, watching the sear and sorrowful leaves drifting down from the maples,
dreamed of the near time when they could heap bushels in the streets and
burn them during the abrupt evenings.
Three men walked down the Niagara Avenue. As they approached Judge
Hagenthorpe's house he came down his walk to meet them in the manner of one
who has been waiting.
"Are you ready, judge?" one
"All ready," he answered.
The four then walked to Trescott's house. He received them in his office,
where he had been reading. He seemed surprised at this visit of four very
active and influential citizens, but he had
nothing to say of it.
After they were all seated, Trescott looked expectantly from one face to
another. There was a little silence. It was broken by John Twelve, the
wholesale grocer, who was worth $400,000, and reported to be worth over a
"Well, doctor," he said, with a short laugh, "I suppose we might as well
admit at once that we've come to interfere in something which is none of our
"Why, what is it?" asked Trescott, again looking from one face to
another. He seemed to appeal particularly to Judge Hagenthorpe, but the old
man had his chin lowered musingly to his
cane, and would not look at him.
"It's about what nobody talks of -- much," said Twelve. "It's about Henry
Trescott squared himself in his chair.
"Yes?" he said.
Having delivered himself of the title, Twelve seemed to become more easy.
"Yes," he answered, blandly, "we
wanted to talk to you about it."
"Yes?" said Trescott.
Twelve abruptly advanced on the main attack. "Now see here, Trescott, we
like you, and we have come to talk right out about this business. It may be
none of our affairs and all that, and as for me, I don't mind if you tell me
so; but I am not going to keep quiet and see you ruin yourself. And that's
how we all feel."
"I am not ruining myself," answered
"No, maybe you are not exactly ruining yourself," said Twelve, slowly,
"but you are doing yourself a great deal of harm. You have changed from
being the leading doctor in town to about the last one. It is mainly because
there are always a large number of people who are very thoughtless fools, of
course, but then that doesn't change the
A man who had not heretofore spoken said,
solemnly, "It's the women."
"Well, what I want to say is this," resumed Twelve: "Even if there are a
lot of fools in the world, we can't see any reason why you should ruin
yourself by opposing them. You can't teach
them anything, you know."
"I am not trying to teach them anything." Trescott smiled wearily. "I --
It is a matter of -- well -- "
"And there are a good many of us that admire you for it immensely,"
interrupted Twelve; "but that isn't going to change the minds of all those
"It's the women," stated the
advocate of this view again.
"Well, what I want to say is this," said Twelve. "We want you to get out
of this trouble and strike your old gait again. You are simply killing your
practice through your infernal pig-headedness. Now this thing is out of the
ordinary, but there must be ways to -- to beat the game somehow, you see. So
we've talked it over -- about a dozen of us -- and, as I say, if you want to
tell us to mind our own business, why, go ahead; but we've talked it over,
and we've come to the conclusion that the only way to do is to get Johnson a
place somewhere off up the valley, and --
Trescott wearily gestured. "You don't
know, my friend. Everybody is so afraid of him, they can't even give him
good care. Nobody can attend to him as I
"But I have a little no-good farm up beyond Clarence Mountain that I was
going to give to Henry," cried Twelve, aggrieved. "And if you -- and if you
-- if you -- through your house burning down, or anything -- why, all the
boys were prepared to take him right off
your hands, and -- and -- "
Trescott arose and went to the window. He turned his back upon them. They
sat waiting in silence. When he returned he kept his face in the shadow.
"No, John Twelve," he said, "it
can't be done."
There was another stillness. Suddenly
a man stirred on his chair.
"Well, then, a public institution
-- " he began.
"No," said Trescott; "public institutions are all very good, but he is
not going to one."
In the background of the group old Judge Hagenthorpe was thoughtfully
smoothing the polished ivory head of his
Trescott loudly stamped the snow from his feet and shook the flakes from
his shoulders. When he entered the house he went at once to the dining-room,
and then to the sitting-room. Jimmie was there, reading painfully in a large
book concerning giraffes and tigers and crocodiles.
"Where is your mother, Jimmie?"
"I don't know, pa," answered
the boy. "I think she is upstairs."
Trescott went to the foot of the stairs and called, but there came no
answer. Seeing that the door of the little drawing-room was open, he
entered. The room was bathed in the half-light that came from the four dull
panes of mica in the front of the great stove. As his eyes grew used to the
shadows he saw his wife curled in an arm-chair. He went to her. "Why,
Grace," he said, "didn't you hear
me calling you?"
She made no answer, and as he bent over the chair he heard her trying to
smother a sob in the cushion.
"Grace!" he cried. "You're
She raised her face. "I've got a
headache, a dreadful headache, Ned."
"A headache?" he repeated, in
surprise and incredulity.
He pulled a chair close to hers. Later, as he cast his eye over the zone
of light shed by the dull red panes, he saw that a low table had been drawn
close to the stove, and that it was burdened with many small cups and plates
of uncut tea-cake. He remembered that the day was Wednesday, and that his
wife received on Wednesdays.
"Who was here to-day, Gracie?"
From his shoulder there came a mumble,
"Was she -- um," he said. "Why
-- didn't Anna Hagenthorpe come over?"
The mumble from his shoulder continued,
"She wasn't well enough."
Glancing down at the cups, Trescott mechanically counted them. There were
fifteen of them. "There, there,"
he said. "Don't cry, Grace. Don't cry."
The wind was whining round the house, and the snow beat aslant upon the
windows. Sometimes the coal in the stove settled with a crumbling sound, and
the four panes of mica flashed a sudden new crimson. As he sat holding her
head on his shoulder, Trescott found himself occasionally trying to count
the cups. There were fifteen of them.