The Stove


    "THEY'LL bring her," said Mrs. Trescott, dubiously. Her cousin, the

painter, the bewildered father of the angel child, had written to say that

if they were asked, he and his wife would come to the Trescotts for the

Christmas holidays. But he had not officially stated that the angel child

would form part of the expedition. "But of course they'll bring her," said

Mrs. Trescott to her husband.

    The doctor assented. "Yes, they'll have to bring her. They wouldn't dare

leave New York at her mercy."

    "Well," sighed Mrs. Trescott, after a pause, "the neighbors will be

pleased. When they see her they'll immediately lock up their children for


    "Anyhow," said Trescott, "the devastation of the Margate twins was

complete. She can't do that particular thing again. I shall be interested to

note what form her energy will take this time."

    "Oh yes! that's it!" cried the wife. "You'll be interested. You've hit

it exactly. You'll be interested to note what form her energy will take this

time. And then, when the real crisis comes, you'll put on your hat and walk

out of the house and leave me to straighten things out. This is not a

scientific question; this is a practical matter."

    "Well, as a practical man, I advocate chaining her out in the stable,"

answered the doctor.

    When Jimmie Trescott was told that his old flame was again to appear, he

remained calm. In fact, time had so mended his youthful heart that it was a

regular apple of oblivion and peace. Her image in his thought was as the

track of a bird on deep snow -- it was an impression, but it did not concern

the depths. However, he did what befitted his state. He went out and bragged

in the street: "My cousin is comin' next week from New York." . . ."My

cousin is comin' to-morrow f'om New York."

    "Girl or boy?" said the populace, bluntly; but, when enlightened, they

speedily cried, "Oh, we remember her!" They were charmed, for they thought

of her as an outlaw, and they surmised that she could lead them into a very

ecstasy of sin. They thought of her as a brave bandit, because they had been

whipped for various pranks into which she had led them. When Jimmie made his

declaration, they fell into a state of pleased and shuddering expectancy.

    Mrs. Trescott pronounced her point of view: "The child is a nice child,

if only Caroline had some sense. But she hasn't. And Willis is like a wax

figure. I don't see what can be done, unless -- unless you simply go to

Willis and put the whole thing right at him." Then, for purposes of

indication, she improvised a speech: "Look here, Willis, you've got a little

daughter, haven't you? But, confound it, man, she is not the only girl child

ever brought into the sunlight. There are a lot of children. Children are an

ordinary phenomenon. In China they drown girl babies. If you wish to submit

to this frightful impostor and tyrant, that is all very well, but why in the

name of humanity do you make us submit to it?"

    Doctor Trescott laughed. "I wouldn't dare say it to him."

    "Anyhow," said Mrs. Trescott, determinedly, "that is what you should say to him."

    "It wouldn't do the slightest good. It would only make him very angry,

and I would lay myself perfectly open to a suggestion that I had better

attend to my own affairs with more rigor." "Well, I suppose you are right,"

Mrs. Trescott again said. "Why don't you speak to Caroline?" asked the

doctor, humorously.

    "Speak to Caroline! Why, I wouldn't for the world! She'd fly through the

roof. She'd snap my head off! Speak to Caroline! You must be mad!"

    One afternoon the doctor went to await his visitors on the platform of

the railway station. He was thoughtfully smiling. For some quaint reason he

was convinced that he was to be treated to a quick manifestation of little

Cora's peculiar and interesting powers. And yet, when the train paused at

the station, there appeared to him only a pretty little girl in a fur-lined

hood, and with her nose reddening from the sudden cold, and -- attended

respectfully by her parents. He smiled again, reflecting that he had

comically exaggerated the dangers of dear little Cora. It amused his

philosophy to note that he had really been perturbed.

    As the big sleigh sped homeward there was a sudden shrill outcry from

the angel child: "Oh, mamma! mamma! They've forgotten my stove!"

    "Hush, dear; hush!" said the mother. "It's all right." "Oh, but, mamma,

they've forgotten my stove!"

    The doctor thrust his chin suddenly out of his top-coat collar. "Stove?"

he said. "Stove? What stove?"

    "Oh, just a toy of the child's," explained the mother. "She's grown so

fond of it, she loves it so, that if we didn't take it everywhere with her

she'd suffer dreadfully. So we always bring it."

    "Oh!" said the doctor. He pictured a little tin trinket. But when the

stove was really unmasked, it turned out to be an affair of cast iron, as

big as a portmanteau, and, as the stage people say, practicable. There was

some trouble that evening when came the hour of children's bedtime. Little

Cora burst into a wild declaration that she could not retire for the night

unless the stove was carried up stairs and placed at her bedside. While the

mother was trying to dissuade the child, the Trescotts held their peace and

gazed with awe. The incident closed when the lamb-eyed father gathered the

stove in his arms and preceded the angel child to her chamber.

    In the morning, Trescott was standing with his back to the dining-room

fire, awaiting breakfast, when he heard a noise of descending guests.

Presently the door opened, and the party entered in regular order. First

came the angel child, then the cooing mother, and last the great painter

with his arms full of the stove. He deposited it gently in a corner, and

sighed. Trescott wore a wide grin.

    "What are you carting that thing all over the house for?" he said,

brutally. "Why don't you put it some place where she can play with it, and

leave it there?"

    The mother rebuked him with a look. "Well, if it gives her pleasure,

Ned?" she expostulated, softly. "If it makes the child happy to have the

stove with her, why shouldn't she have it?" "Just so," said the doctor, with


    Jimmie's idea was the roaring fireplace in the cabin of the lone

mountaineer. At first he was not able to admire a girl's stove built on

well-known domestic lines. He eyed it and thought it was very pretty, but it

did not move him immediately. But a certain respect grew to an interest, and

he became the angel child's accomplice. And even if he had not had an

interest grow upon him, he was certain to have been implicated sooner or

later, because of the imperious way of little Cora, who made a serf of him

in a few swift sentences. Together they carried the stove out into the

desolate garden and squatted it in the snow. Jimmie's snug little muscles

had been pitted against the sheer nervous vigor of this little golden-haired

girl, and he had not won great honors. When the mind blazed inside the small

body, the angel child was pure force. She began to speak: "Now, Jim, get

some paper. Get some wood -- little sticks at first. Now we want a match.

You got a match? Well, go get a match. Get some more wood. Hurry up, now!

No. No! I'll light it my own self. You get some more wood. There! Isn't that

splendid? You get a whole lot of wood an' pile it up here by the stove. An'

now what'll we cook? We must have somethin' to cook, you know, else it ain't

like the real."

    "Potatoes," said Jimmie, at once.

    The day was clear, cold, bright. An icy wind sped from over the waters

of the lake. A grown person would hardly have been abroad save on compulsion

of a kind, and yet, when they were called to luncheon, the two little

simpletons protested with great cries.


    The ladies of Whilomville were somewhat given to the pagan habit of tea

parties. When a tea party was to befall a certain house one could read it in

the manner of the prospective hostess, who for some previous days would go

about twitching this and twisting that, and dusting here and polishing

there; the ordinary habits of the household began then to disagree with her,

and her unfortunate husband and children fled to the lengths of their

tethers. Then there was a hush. Then there was a tea party. On the fatal

afternoon a small picked company of latent enemies would meet. There would

be a fanfare of affectionate greetings, during which everybody would measure

to an inch the importance of what everybody else was wearing. Those who wore

old dresses would wish then that they had not come; and those who saw that,

in the company, they were well clad, would be pleased or exalted, or filled

with the joys of cruelty. Then they had tea, which was a habit and a delight

with none of them, their usual beverage being coffee with milk.

    Usually the party jerked horribly in the beginning, while the hostess

strove and pulled and pushed to make its progress smooth. Then suddenly it

would be off like the wind, eight, fifteen, or twenty-five tongues

clattering, with a noise of a few penny whistles. Then the hostess had

nothing to do but to look glad, and see that everybody had enough tea and

cake. When the door was closed behind the last guest, the hostess would

usually drop into a chair and say: "Thank Heaven! They're gone!" There would

be no malice in this expression. It simply would be that, womanlike, she had

flung herself headlong at the accomplishment of a pleasure which she could

not even define, and at the end she felt only weariness.

    The value and beauty, or oddity, of the teacups was another element

which entered largely into the spirit of these terrible enterprises. The

quality of the tea was an element which did not enter at all. Uniformly it

was rather bad. But the cups! Some of the more ambitious people aspired to

have cups each of a different pattern, possessing, in fact, the sole

similarity that with their odd curves and dips of form they each resembled

anything but a teacup. Others of the more ambitious aspired to a quite

severe and godly "set," which, when viewed, appalled one with its austere

and rigid family resemblances, and made one desire to ask the hostess if the

teapot was not the father of all the little cups, and at the same time

protesting gallantly that such a young and charming cream-jug surely could

not be their mother.

    But of course the serious part is that these collections so differed in

style and the obvious amount paid for them that nobody could be happy. The

poorer ones envied; the richer ones feared; the poorer ones continually

striving to overtake the leaders; the leaders always with their heads turned

back to hear overtaking footsteps. And none of these things here written did

they know. Instead of seeing that they were very stupid, they thought they

were very fine. And they gave and took heart-bruises -- fierce deep

heart-bruises -- under the clear impression that of such kind of rubbish was

the kingdom of nice people. The characteristics of outsiders of course

emerged in shreds from these tea parties, and it is doubtful if the

characteristics of insiders escaped entirely. In fact, these tea parties

were in the large way the result of a conspiracy of certain unenlightened

people to make life still more uncomfortable.

    Mrs. Trescott was in the circle of tea-fighters largely through a sort

of artificial necessity -- a necessity, in short, which she had herself

created in a spirit of femininity.

    When the painter and his family came for the holidays, Mrs. Trescott had

for some time been feeling that it was her turn to give a tea party, and she

was resolved upon it now that she was reenforced by the beautiful wife of

the painter, whose charms would make all the other women feel badly. And

Mrs. Trescott further resolved that the affair should be notable in more

than one way. The painter's wife suggested that, as an innovation, they give

the people good tea; but Mrs. Trescott shook her head; she was quite sure they would not like it.

    It was an impressive gathering. A few came to see if they could not find

out the faults of the painter's wife, and these, added to those who would

have attended even without that attractive prospect, swelled the company to

a number quite large for Whilomville. There were the usual preliminary

jolts, and then suddenly the tea party was in full swing, and looked like an

unprecedented success.

    Mrs. Trescott exchanged a glance with the painter's wife. They felt

proud and superior. This tea party was almost perfection.


    Jimmie and the angel child, after being oppressed by innumerable

admonitions to behave correctly during the afternoon, succeeded in reaching

the garden, where the stove awaited them. They were enjoying themselves

grandly, when snow began to fall so heavily that it gradually dampened their

ardor as well as extinguished the fire in the stove. They stood ruefully

until the angel child devised the plan of carrying the stove into the

stable, and there, safe from the storm, to continue the festivities. But

they were met at the door of the stable by Peter Washington. "What you

'bout, Jim?"

    "Now -- it's snowin' so hard, we thought we'd take the stove into the


    "An' have er fiah in it? No, seh! G'w'on 'way f'm heh! -- g'w'on! Don'

'low no sech foolishin' round yer. No, seh!" "Well, we ain't goin' to hurt

your old stable, are we?" asked Jimmie ironically.

    "Dat you ain't, Jim! Not so long's I keep my two eyes right plumb squaah

pinted at ol' Jim. No, seh!" Peter began to chuckle in derision.

    The two vagabonds stood before him while he informed them of their

iniquities as well as their absurdities, and further made clear his own

masterly grasp of the spirit of their devices. Nothing affects children so

much as rhetoric. It may not involve any definite presentation of

common-sense, but if it is picturesque they surrender decently to its

influence. Peter was by all means a rhetorician, and it was not long before

the two children had dismally succumbed to him. They went away.

    Depositing the stove in the snow, they straightened to look at each

other. It did not enter either head to relinquish the idea of continuing the

game. But the situation seemed invulnerable. The angel child went on a

scouting tour. Presently she returned, flying. "I know! Let's have it in the

cellar! In the cellar! Oh, it'll be lovely!"

    The outer door of the cellar was open, and they proceeded down some

steps with their treasure. There was plenty of light; the cellar was

high-walled, warm, and dry. They named it an ideal place. Two huge

cylindrical furnaces were humming away, one at either end. Overhead the

beams detonated with the different emotions which agitated the tea party.

    Jimmie worked like a stoker, and soon there was a fine bright fire in

the stove. The fuel was of small brittle sticks which did not make a great

deal of smoke.

    "Now what'll we cook?" cried little Cora. "What'll we cook, Jim? We must

have something to cook, you know."

    "Potatoes?" said Jimmie.

    But the angel child made a scornful gesture. "No. I've cooked 'bout a

million potatoes, I guess. Potatoes aren't nice any more."

    Jimmie's mind was all said and done when the question of potatoes had

been passed, and he looked weakly at his companion.

    "Haven't you got any turnips in your house?" she inquired,

contemptuously. "In my house we have turnips." "Oh, turnips!" exclaimed

Jimmie, immensely relieved to find that the honor of his family was safe.

"Turnips? Oh, bushels an' bushels an' bushels! Out in the shed."

    "Well, go an' get a whole lot," commanded the angel child. "Go an' get a

whole lot. Grea' big ones. We always have grea' big ones."

    Jimmie went to the shed and kicked gently at a company of turnips which

the frost had amalgamated. He made three journeys to and from the cellar,

carrying always the very largest types from his father's store. Four of them

filled the oven of little Cora's stove. This fact did not please her, so

they placed three rows of turnips on the hot top. Then the angel child,

profoundly moved by an inspiration, suddenly cried out,

    "Oh, Jimmie, let's play we're keepin' a hotel, an' have got to cook for

'bout a thousand people, an' those two furnaces will be the ovens, an' I'll

be the chief cook -- "

    "No; I want to be chief cook some of the time," interrupted Jimmie.

    "No; I'll be chief cook my own self. You must be my 'sistant. Now, I'll

prepare 'em -- see? An' then you put 'em in the ovens. Get the shovel. We'll

play that's the pan. I'll fix 'em, an' then you put 'em in the oven. Hold it

still now."

    Jim held the coal-shovel while little Cora, with a frown of importance,

arranged turnips in rows upon it. She patted each one daintily, and then

backed away to view it, with her head critically sideways.

    "There!" she shouted at last. "That'll do, I guess. Put 'em in the


    Jimmie marched with his shovelful of turnips to one of the furnaces. The

door was already open, and he slid the shovel in upon the red coals.

    "Come on," cried little Cora. "I've got another batch nearly ready."

    "But what am I goin' to do with these?" asked Jimmie. "There ain't only

one shovel."

    "Leave 'm in there," retorted the girl, passionately. "Leave 'm in

there, an' then play you're comin' with another pan. 'Tain't right to stand

there an' hold the pan, you goose."

    So Jimmie expelled all his turnips from his shovel out upon the furnace

fire, and returned obediently for another batch. "These are puddings,"

yelled the angel child, gleefully. "Dozens an' dozens of puddings for the

thousand people at our grea' big hotel."


    At the first alarm the painter had fled to the doctor's office, where he

hid his face behind a book and pretended that he did not hear the noise of

feminine revelling. When the doctor came from a round of calls, he too

retreated upon the office, and the men consoled each other as well as they

were able. Once Mrs. Trescott dashed in to say delightedly that her tea

party was not only the success of the season, but it was probably the very

nicest tea party that had ever been held in Whilomville. After vainly

beseeching them to return with her, she dashed away again, her face bright

with happiness.

    The doctor and the painter remained for a long time in silence, Trescott

tapping reflectively upon the window-pane. Finally he turned to the painter,

and sniffing, said: "What is that, Willis? Don't you smell something?"

    The painter also sniffed. "Why, yes! It's like -- it's like turnips."

    "Turnips? No; it can't be."

    "Well, it's very much like it."

    The puzzled doctor opened the door into the hall, and at first it

appeared that he was going to give back two paces. A result of frizzling

turnips, which was almost as tangible as mist, had blown in upon his face

and made him gasp. "Good God! Willis, what can this be?" he cried.

    "Whee!" said the painter. "It's awful, isn't it?"

    The doctor made his way hurriedly to his wife, but before he could speak

with her he had to endure the business of greeting a score of women. Then he

whispered, "Out in the hall there's an awful -- "

    But at that moment it came to them on the wings of a sudden draught. The

solemn odor of burning turnips rolled in like a sea-fog, and fell upon that

dainty, perfumed tea party. It was almost a personality; if some unbidden

and extremely odious guest had entered the room, theeffect would have been much the same. The sprightly talk stopped with a jolt, and people looked at each other. Then a few brave and considerate persons made the usual attempt to talk away as if nothing had happened. They all looked at their hostess, who wore an air of stupefaction.

    The odor of burning turnips grew and grew. To Trescott it seemed to make

a noise. He thought he could hear the dull roar of this outrage. Under some

circumstances he might have been able to take the situation from a point of

view of comedy, but the agony of his wife was too acute, and, for him, too

visible. She was saying: "Yes, we saw the play the last time we were in New

York. I liked it very much. That scene in the second act -- the gloomy

church, you know, and all that -- and the organ playing -- and then when the

four singing little girls came in -- " But Trescott comprehended that she

did not know if she was talking of a play or a parachute.

    He had not been in the room twenty seconds before his brow suddenly

flushed with an angry inspiration. He left the room hastily, leaving behind

him an incoherent phrase of apology, and charged upon his office, where he

found the painter somnolent.

    "Willis!" he cried, sternly, come with me. It's that damn kid of yours!"

    The painter was immediately agitated. He always seemed to feel more than

any one else in the world the peculiar ability of his child to create

resounding excitement, but he seemed always to exhibit his feelings very

late. He arose hastily, and hurried after Trescott to the top of the inside

cellar stairway. Trescott motioned him to pause, and for an instant they


    "Hurry up, Jim," cried the busy little Cora. "Here's another whole batch

of lovely puddings. Hurry up now, an' put 'em in the oven."

    Trescott looked at the painter; the painter groaned. Then they appeared

violently in the middle of the great kitchen of the hotel with a thousand people in it. "Jimmie, go up stairs!" said Trescott, and then he turned to watch the painter deal with the angel child.

    With some imitation of wrath, the painter stalked to his daughter's side

and grasped her by the arm.

    Oh, papa! papa!" she screamed, "You're pinching me! You're pinching me!

You're pinching me, papa!"

    At first the painter had seemed resolved to keep his grip, but suddenly

he let go her arm in a panic. "I've hurt her," he said, turning to Trescott.

    Trescott had swiftly done much toward the obliteration of the hotel

kitchen, but he looked up now and spoke, after a short period of reflection.

"You've hurt her, have you? Well, hurt her again. Spank her!" he cried,

enthusiastically. "Spank her, confound you, man! She needs it. Here's your

chance. Spank her, and spank her good. Spank her!"

    The painter naturally wavered over this incendiary proposition, but at

last, in one supreme burst of daring, he shut his eyes and again grabbed his

precious offspring.

    The spanking was lamentably the work of a perfect bungler. It couldn't

have hurt at all; but the angel child raised to heaven a loud, clear soprano

howl that expressed the last word in even mediaeval anguish. Soon the

painter was aghast. "Stop it, darling! I didn't mean -- I didn't mean to --

to hurt you so much, you know." He danced nervously. Trescott sat on a box,

and devilishly smiled.

    But the pasture-call of suffering motherhood came down to them, and a

moment later a splendid apparition appeared on the cellar stairs. She

understood the scene at a glance. "Willis! What have you been doing?"

    Trescott sat on his box, the painter guiltily moved from foot to foot,

and the angel child advanced to her mother with arms outstretched, making a

piteous wail of amazed and pained pride that would have moved Peter the

Great. Regardless of her frock, the panting mother knelt on the stone floor

and took her child to her bosom, and looked, then, bitterly, scornfully, at

the cowering father and husband.

    The painter, for his part, at once looked reproachfully at Trescott, as

if to say: "There! You see?"

    Trescott arose and extended his hands in a quiet but magnificent gesture

of despair and weariness. He seemed about to say something classic, and,

quite instinctively, they waited. The stillness was deep, and the wait was

longer than a moment. "Well," he said, "we can't live in the cellar. Let's

go up stairs."