9 LINWOOD STREET
A CHRISTMAS STORY
A gray morning, the deck wet, the iron all beaded with frost, all the longshoremen in heavy pea-jackets or cardigans, the whole ship in a bustle, and the favored first-class passengers just leaving.
One sad-looking Irish girl stands with her knit hood already spotted with the rime, and you cannot tell whether those are tears which hang from her black eyelashes or whether the fog is beginning to freeze there. What you see is that the poor thing looks right and left and up the pier and down the pier, and that in the whole crowd—they all seem so selfish—she sees nobody. Hundreds of people going and coming, pushing and hauling, and Nora's big brother is not there, as he promised to be and should be.
Mrs. Ohstrom, the motherly Swedish woman, who has four children and ten tin cups and a great bed and five trunks and a fatuous, feckless husband makes time, between cousins and uncles and custom-house men and sharpers, to run up every now and then to say that Nora must not cry, that she must be easy, that she has spoken to the master and the master has said they are three hours earlier than they were expected. And all this was so kindly meant and so kindly said that poor Nora brushed the tears away, if they were tears, and thanked her, though she did not understand one word that dear Mrs. Ohstrom said to her. What is language, or what are words, after all?
And the bright-buttoned, daintily dressed little ship's doctor, whom poor Nora hardly knew in his shore finery,—he made time to stop and tell her that the ship was too early, and that she must not worry. Father, was it, she was waiting for? "Oh, brother! Oh, he will be sure to be here! Better sit down. Here is a chair. Don't cry. I am afraid you had no breakfast. Take this orange. It will cheer you up. I shall see you again."
Alas! the little doctor was swept away and forgot Nora for a week, and she "was left lamenting."
For one hour went by, and two, and three. The Swedish woman went, and the doctor went, and the girl could see the captain go, and the mate that gave them their orders every morning. The custom-house people began to go. The cabs and other carriages for the gentry had gone long before.
And poor Nora was left lamenting.
Then was it that that queer Salvation Army girl, with a coal-scuttle for a bonnet, came up again. She had smiled pleasantly two or three times before, and had asked Nora to eat a bun. Poor Nora broke down and cried heartily this time. But the other was patient and kind, and said just what the others had said. Only she did not go away. And she had the sense to ask if Nora knew where the brother lived.
"Why, of course I do, miss. See, here is the paper."
And the little soldier lass read it: "99 Linwood Street, Boston."
"My poor child, what a pity you did not let us see it before!"
Alas and alas! Nora's box was of the biggest. But the army lass flinched at nothing.
An immense wagon, with two giant horses, loaded with the most extraordinary chests which have been seen since the days of the Vikings. Piled on the top were many feather-beds, and on the top of the feather-beds a Scandinavian matron. With Mike, the good-natured teamster, who was at once captain and pilot of this craft, the army lass had easily made her treaty, when he was told the story. He was to carry Nora and her outfit to the Linwood Street house after he had taken these Swedes to theirs. "And indade it will not be farr, miss. There 's a shorrt cut behind Egan's, if indade he did not put up a tinimint house since I was that way." And with new explanations to Nora that all was right, that indeed it was better this way than it would have been had her brother been called from his work, she was lifted, without much consent of her own, to the driver's seat, and her precious "box" was so placed that she could rest her little feet upon it.
Nora had proudly confided to the friendly lass the assurance that she had money, had even shown a crisp $2 bill which had been sent to her for exigencies.
But when the lass made the contract with Mike Dermott, the good fellow said he should take Nora and her box for the love of County Cork. "Indade, indade, I don't take money from the like of her."
And so they started, with the Swedish men walking on one side of the cart with their rifles, keeping a good lookout for buffaloes and red Indians and grizzly bears, as men landing in a new country which they were to civilize. More sailing for there was the ferry to cross to old Boston. Much waiting, for there was a broken-down coal-wagon in Salutation Alley. Long conference between Nora and Mike, in which he did all the talking and she all the listening, as to home rule and Mr. McCarthy, and what O'Brien thought of this, and what Cunniff thought of that. Then an occasional question came in Swedish from the matron above their heads, and was followed by a reply in Celtic English from Mike, each wholly ignorant of the views or wishes of the others. And occasionally the escort of riflemen, after some particular attack of chaff, in words which they fortunately did not understand, looked up to their matron, controller, and director, exchanged words with her, and then studied the pavement again for tracks of buffalo. A long hour of all this, the stone and brick of the city giving way to green trees between the houses as they come to Dorchester.
Poor Nora looks right and looks left, hoping to meet her big brother. She begins to think she shall remember him. Everybody else looks so different from Fermoy that he must look like home.
But there is no brother.
There is at last a joyful cry as the Swedish matron and the riflemen recognize familiar faces. And Mike smiles gladly, and brings round the stout bays with a twitch, so that the end of the cart comes square to the sidewalk. Somebody produces a step-ladder, and the Swedish matron, with her bird-cage in her hand, descends in triumph. Much kissing, much shaking of hands, much thanking of God, more or less reverent. Then the cords are cut, beds flung down, the giant boxes lifted, the sons of Anak only know how. The money covenanted for is produced and paid, and Mike mounts lightly to Nora's side.
"And now, Nora, my child, wherr is the paper? For in two minutes we 'll soon be therr, now that this rubbish is landed."
And he read on the precious paper, "John McLaughlin, 99 Linwood Street."
Strange to say, the paper said just what it had said two hours before.
"And now, my dear child, we will be therr in ten minutes, if only we can cross back of Egan's."
And although they could not cross back of Egan's, for Egan had put up a "tinimint" house since Mike had passed that way, yet in ten minutes Linwood Street had been found. No. 99 at last revealed itself, between Nos. 7 and 2,—a great six-story wooden tinder-box, with clothes-lines mysterious behind, open doors in front, long passages running through, three doors on each side of a passage, and the wondering heads of eleven women who belonged to five different races and spoke in six different languages appearing from their eleven windows, as Mike and Nora and the two bays all stopped at one and the same moment at the door.
Mike was already anxious about his time, for he was to be at the custom-house an hour away or more at eleven sharp. But he selected a certain Widow Flynn from the eleven white-capped women; he explained to her briefly that John McLaughlin was to be found; he told Nora for the thirty-seventh time that all was right and that she must not cry; he looked at his watch again, rather anxiously, mounted his box, and drove swiftly away.
He was the one thread which bound Nora to this world. And this thread broke before her eyes.
Mrs. Flynn affected to be cheerful. But she was not cheerful. Mrs. Flynn was a prominent person in her sodality. And well she knew that if any John McLaughlin in those parts were expecting any sister from home, she should know him and where he lived. Well she knew, also, that John McLaughlin, the mason, was born in Glasgow; that John McLaughlin, who is on the city work, had all his family around him, and, most distinct of all, she knew that no McLaughlin, sisterless or many-sistered, lived in this beehive which she lived in, though it were 99 Linwood Street. Into her own cell of that beehive, however, she took poor, sad, desolate Nora. Into the hallway she bade the loafing neighbor boys bring Nora's trunk; in a language Nora could hardly understand she explained to her that all would be well as soon as the policeman passed by. She sent Mary Murphy, who happened to be at home from school, for a pint of milk, and so compelled Nora to drink a cup of tea and to eat a biscuit and a dropped egg, while they waited for the policeman.
Of course he knew of seven John McLaughlins. He even went to the drug-store and looked in the Boston Directory to find that there were there the names of sixty-one more. But not one of them lived in Linwood Street, as they all knew already. All the same Nora was charged not to cry, to drink more tea and eat more bread and butter. The "cop" said he would look in on three of the Johns whom he knew, and intelligent boys now returning from school were sent to the homes of the other four to interrogate them as to any expected sister. Within an hour, now nearly one o'clock, answers were received from all the seven. No one of them expected chick or child from Fermoy.
But the "cop" had a suggestion to make. His pocket list of names of streets revealed another Linwood Street—in Roxbury; not this one in Dorchester. Be it known to unlearned readers, who in snug shelter in Montana follow along this little tale, that Roxbury and Dorchester are both parts of that large municipality called Boston. Though no John McLaughlin was in the directory for 99 Linwood Street, Roxbury, was not that the objective? Poor Nora was questioned as to Roxbury. She was sure she never heard of it.
But the clue was too good to be lost, and the authority of the friendly "cop" was too great to be resisted. He telephoned to the central office that Nora McLaughlin, just from Ireland, had been found, in a fashion, but that no one knew where to put her. Then he stopped a milkman from Braintree, who delivered afternoon milk for invalids.
Was he not going through Roxbury?
Of course he was.
Would he not take this lost child to 99 Linwood Street?
Of course he would. Milkmen, from their profession, have hearts warm toward children.
Well, if he were to take her, he had better take her trunk too.
To which illogical proposal the milkman acceded—on the afternoon route there is so much less milk to take than there is in the morning.
So Nora was lifted into the milk-wagon. In tears she kissed good Mrs. Flynn. The boys and girls assembled to bid her good-by, and even she had a hope for a few moments that her troubles were at an end.
At 99 Linwood Street, Roxbury, they were preparing for the Review Club.
The Review Club met once a fortnight at half-past two o'clock at the house of one or another of the members. They first arranged the little details of the business. Then the hostess read, or made some one read, the scraps which seemed most worthy in the reviews and magazines of the last issues, and at four the husbands and brothers and neighbors generally dropped in, and there was afternoon tea.
"You are sure you have cream enough, Ellen?"
"Oh, yes, mum."
"All kinds of tea, you know, that which the Chinese gentlemen sent, and be sure of the chocolate for Mrs. Bunce."
"Indeed yes, mum."
"And let me know just before you bring up the hot water." Doorbell rings. "There is Mrs. Walter now!"
No, it wasn't Mrs. Walter. She came three minutes after. But before she came, Howells, the milkman, had lifted Nora from her seat. As the snow fell fast on the doorsteps, he carried her carefully up to the door, and even by the time Ellen answered the bell he had the heavy chest, dragging it over the snow by the stout rope at one end.
Ellen was amazed to find this group instead of Mrs. Walter. She called her mistress, who heard Howells's realistic story with amazement, not to say amusement.
"You poor dear child!" she cried at once. "Come in where it is dry! John McLaughlin? No, indeed! Who can John McLaughlin be? Ellen, what is Mike's last name?"
Mike was the choreman, who made the furnace fire and kept the sidewalk.
"Mike's name, mum? I don't know, mum. Mary will know, mum."
And for the moment Ellen disappeared to find Mary.
"Never mind, never mind. Come in, you poor child. You are very good to bring her, Mr. Howells, very good indeed. We will take care of her. Is it going to storm?"
Mr. Howells thought it was going to storm, and turned to go away. At that moment Mrs. Walter arrived, the first comer of the Review Club. And Nora's new hostess had to turn to her guests, while Ellen in the last cares for the afternoon table had to comfort Nora by spasms. It was left for Margaret the chambermaid to pump out—or to screw out, as you choose—the details of the story from the poor frightened waif, who seemed more astray than ever.
John McLaughlin? No. Nobody knew anything about him. The last choreman was named McManus, but he went to Ottawa three years ago!
And while the different facts and doubts were canvassed in the kitchen, upstairs they settled the Bulgarian question, the origin of the natives of Tasmania, and the last questions about realism.
Only the mind of the lady of the house returned again and again to questions as to the present residence of John McLaughlin.
For in spite of the gathering snow and the prospect of more, the members of the Review Club had followed fast on Mrs. Walters and gathered in full force.
The hostess, though somewhat preoccupied, was courteous and ready.
Only the functions of the club, as they went forward, would be occasionally interrupted. Thus she would read aloud "as in her private duty bound"—
"'The peasantry were excited, but were held in check by promises from Stambuloff. The emissaries of the Czar—'
"Mrs. Goodspeed, would you mind reading on? Here is the place. I see my postman pass the window."
And so, moving quickly to the front door, she interviewed the faithful Harrington, dressed, heaven knows why, in Confederate uniform of gray. For Harrington had served his four years on the loyal side. Four times a day did Harrington with his letter-bag renew the connection of this household with the world and other worlds.
"Dear Mr. Harrington, I thought you could tell us. Here is a girl named Nora McLaughlin, and here is her trunk, both left at the door by the milkman, and we do not know anything about where she belongs."
"Insufficient address?" asked Harrington, professionally.
"Exactly. All she knows is that her brother is named John."
"A great many of them are," said Harrington, already writing on his memorandum book, and in his memory fixing the fact that a large, two-legged living parcel, insufficiently addressed, had been left at the wrong door for John McLaughlin; also a trunk, too large for delivery by the penny post.
"I will tell the other men, and if I was you I would send to the police."
"Would you mind telling the first officer you meet? I hate to send my girls out." And so she returned to Bulgaria.
But Bulgaria was ended, and Mrs. Conover handed her an article on "Antarctic Discovery." She was again reading:—
"Under these circumstances Captain Wilkes, who had collected a boatload of stones from the front of the glacier," when she gave back the "Forum" to Mrs. Conover. "Would you mind going on just a minute? " she said, and ran out to meet the icecream man. So soon as he had left his tins she said,—
"Mr. Fridge, would you mind stopping at the Dudley School as you go home and telling Miss Lougee that there is a lost girl here?" etc.
Good Mr. Fridge was most eager to help, and the hostess returned, took the book again and read on with "the temperature, as they observed it, was 99 degrees C.; but, as the alcohol in their tins was frozen at the moment, there seemed reason to suspect the correctness of this observation."
And a shiver passed over the Review Club.
Thus far the powers of confusion and error seemed to have been triumphant over poor Nora, or such was the success of that power who uses these agencies, if the reader prefer to personify him.
But the time had come to turn his left flank and to attack his forces in the rear, for the postman now took the field,—that is to say, Harrington, good fellow, finished his third delivery, four good miles and nine- tenths of a furlong, snow two inches deep, three, four, six, before he was done, and then returned to his branch office to report.
"Two-legged parcel; insufficient address; 99 Linwood Street! Jim, what ever come to that letter that went to 99 Linwood Street with insufficient address six weeks ago?"
"Linwood Street? Insufficient address? Foreign letter? Why, of course, you know, went back to the central office."
"I guess it did," said Harrington, grimly; "so I must go there too."
This meant that after Harrington had gone his rounds again on delivery route No. 6, four more miles and nine- tenths more of a furlong, 313 doorbells and only 73 slit boxes, snow now ranging from 6 inches to 12 on the sidewalks, and breast-deep where there was a chance for drifting, when all this was well done, so that Harrington had no more duties to Uncle Sam, he could take Nora McLaughlin's work in hand, and thus defeat the prince of evil.
To the central office by a horse-car. Blocked once or twice, but well at the office at 7.30 in the evening.
Christmas work heavy, so the whole home staff is on duty. That is well. Enemy of souls loses one point there.
Blind-letter clerks all here. Insufficient-delivery men both here. Chief of returned bureau here. All summoned to the foreign office as Harrington tells his story. Indexes produced, ledgers, journals, day-books, and private passbooks. John McLaughlin's biography followed out on 67 of the different avatars in which his personality has been manifested under that name. False trail here—clue breaks there—scent fails here, but at last—a joyful cry from Will Search:—
"Here you are! Insufficient address. November 1. Queenstown letter—'Linwood, to John McLaughlin. Try Dorchester. Try Roxbury. Try East Boston. Try Somerville'— and there it stops, and was not returned."
In these words great light fell over the eager circle. Not because Somerville is the seat of an insane hospital. No! But because it is not in the Boston Directory.
If you please, Somerville is an independent city, and so, unless John McLaughlin worked in Boston, if he lived in Somerville, he would not be in the Boston Directory.
Not much! Somerville has its own seven John McLaughlins besides those Boston ones.
"I say, Harry, Tom, Dick—somebody fetch Somerville Directory!"
Dick flew and returned with the book.
"Here you be! 'John McLaughlin, laborer, 99 Linwood Street!
Satan's forces tremble, and as the different officers return to their desks "even the ranks of Tuscany" in that well-bred office "can scarce forbear to cheer."
As for Harrington, he bids good-by, wraps his tartan around him, and is out in the snow again. Where Linwood Street is he "knows no more than the dead." But somebody will know.
Somerville car. Draw of bridge open. Man falls into the river and has to be rescued. Draw closes. Snow- drift at Margin Street. Shovels. Drift open. Centre of Somerville. Apothecary's shop open. "Please, where is Linwood Street?"
"Take your second left, cross three or four streets, turn to the right by the water-pipe, take the third right, go down hill by the schoolhouse and take second left, and you come out at 11 Linwood Street."
All which Harrington does. He experiences one continual burst of joy that his route does not take him through these detours daily. But his professional experience is good for him. We have no need to describe his false turns. Even aniseed would have been useless in that snow. At last, just as the Somerville bells ring for nine o'clock, Harrington also rings triumphant at the door of the little five-roomed cottage, where his lantern has already revealed the magic number 99.
Ring! as for a gilt-edged special delivery! Door thrown open by a solid man with curly red hair, unshaven since Sunday, in his shirtsleeves and with kerosene lamp in his hand.
"Are you John McLaughlin?"
"Indade I am; the same."
"And where's your sister Nora?"
The good fellow, who had been stern before, broke down. "And indade I was saying to Ellen it's an awful night for 'em all in the gale off the coast in the ship. The holy Virgin and the good God take care of 'em!"
"They have taken care of them," said Harrington, reverently. "The ship is safe in dock, and your sister Nora is in Roxbury, at 99 Linwood Street!"
And a broad grin lighted his face as he spoke the words.
There was joy in every bed and at every door of the five rooms. Then John hastily donned coat, cardigan, and ulster. He persuaded Harrington to drink a cup of red- hot tea which was brewing on the stove. While the good fellow did so, and ate a St. Anne's bun, which Mrs. McLaughlin produced in triumph, John was persuading Hermann Gross, the expressman next door, to put the gray into a light pung he had for special delivery. By the time Harrington went to the door two lanterns were flitting about in the snow-piled yard behind the two houses.
Harrington assisted in yoking the gray. In five minutes he and John were defying the gale as they sped across the silent bridge, bound south to Roxbury. Poor little Nora was asleep in the parlor on the sofa. She had begged and begged that she need not be put to bed, and by her side her protector sat reading about the antarctic. But of a sudden Harrington reappeared.
Is it Santa Claus?
Indeed it is! Beard, hat, coat, all white with snow!
And Santa Claus has come for the best present he will deliver that evening!
Dear little Nora is wrapped in sealskins and other skins, mauds and astrakhan rugs. She has a hot brick at her feet, and Pompey, the dog, is made to lie over them, so John McLaughlin No. 68 takes her in triumph to 99 Linwood Street.
That was a Christmas to be remembered! And Christmas morning, after church, the Brothers of St. Patrick, which was the men's society, and the Sodality of St. Anne's, which was the women's, determined on a great Twelfth- night feast to celebrate Nora's return.
It was to show "how these brethren love one another."
They proposed to take the rink. People didn't use it for skating in winter as much as in summer.
Nora was to receive, with John McLaughlin and his wife to assist. The other 74 John McLaughlins were to act as ushers.
The Salvation Army came first, led by the lass who found Michael.
Procession No. 2 was Mike and the teamsters who "don't take nothing for such as she."
Third, in special horse-cars, which went through from Dorchester to Somerville by a vermilion edict from the West End Company, the eleven families of that No. 99. They stopped in Roxbury to pick up Ellen and the hostess of the Review Club.
Fourth, all the patrolmen who had helped and all who tried to help, led by "cop" No. 47.
Fifth, all the school children who had told the story and had made inquiries.
Sixth, the man who made the Somerville Directory.
Seventh and last, in two barouches, Harrington and the chiefs of staff at the general post-office. And the boys asked Father McElroy to make a speech to all just before the dancing began.
And he said: "The lost sheep was never lost. She thought she was lost in the wilderness, but she was at home, for she was met by the Christmas greeting of the world into which the dear Lord was born!"
NOTE.—It may interest the reader to know that the important part of this story is true.
I have a little circle of friends, among all my other friends quite distinct, though of them. They are four men and four women; the husbands more in love with their wives than on the days when they married them, and the wives with their husbands. These people live for the good of the world, to a fair extent, but much, very much, of their lives is passed together. Perhaps the happiest period they ever knew was when, in different subordinate capacities, they were all on the staff of the same magazine. Then they met daily at the office, lunched together perforce, and could make arrangements for the evening. But, to say true, things differ little with them now, though that magazine long since took wings and went to a better world.
Their names are Felix and Fausta Carter, Frederic and Mary Ingham, George and Anna Haliburton, George and Julia Hackmatack.
I get the children's names wrong to their faces— except that in general their name is Legion, for they are many—so I will not attempt them here.
These people live in very different houses, with very different "advantages," as the world says. Haliburton has grown very rich in the rag and paper business, rich enough to discard rag money and believe in gold. He even spits at silver, which I am glad to get when I can. Frederic Ingham will never be rich. His regular income consists in his half-pay as a retired brevet officer in the patriot service of Garibaldi of the year 1859. For the rest, he invested his money in the Brick Moon, and, as I need hardly add, insured his life in the late Continental Insurance Company. But the Inghams find just as much in life as the Haliburtons, and Anna Haliburton consults Polly Ingham about the shade of a flounce just as readily and as eagerly as Polly consults her about the children's dentistry. They are all very fond of each other.
They get a great deal out of life, these eight, partly because they are so closely allied together. Just two whist-parties, you see; or, if they go to ride, they just fill two carriages. Eight is such a good number— makes such a nice dinner-party. Perhaps they see a little too much of each other. That we shall never know.
They got a great deal of life, and yet they were not satisfied. They found that out very queerly. They have not many standards. Ingham does take the "Spectator;" Hackmatack condescends to read the "Evening Post;" Haliburton, who used to be in the insurance business, and keeps his old extravagant habits, reads the "Advertiser" and the "Transcript;" all of them have the "Christian Union," and all of them buy "Harper's Weekly." Every separate week of their lives they buy of the boys, instead of subscribing; they think they may not want the next number, but they always do. Not one of them has read the "Nation" for five years, for they like to keep good-natured. In fact, they do not take much stock in the general organs of opinion, and the standard books you find about are scandalously few. The Bible, Shakespeare, John Milton; Polly has Dante; Julia has "Barclay's Apology," with ever so many marks in it; one George has "Owen Felltham," and the other is strong on Marcus Aurelius. Well, no matter about these separate things; the uniform books besides those I named, in different editions but in every house, are the "Arabian Nights" and "Robinson Crusoe." Hackmatack has the priceless first edition. Haliburton has Grandville's (the English Grandville). Ingham has a proof copy of the Stothard. Carter has a good copy of the Cruikshank.
If you ask me which of these four I should like best, I should say as the Laureate did when they gave him his choice of two kinds of cake, "Both's as good as one."
Well, "Robinson Crusoe" being their lay gospel and creed, not to say epistle and psalter, it was not queer that one night, when the election had gone awfully, and the men were as blue as that little porcelain Osiris of mine yonder, who is so blue that he cannot stand on his feet—it was not queer, I say, that they turned instinctively to "Robinson Crusoe" for relief.
Now, Robinson Crusoe was once in a very bad box indeed, and to comfort himself as well as he could, and to set the good against the evil, that he might have something to distinguish his case from worse, he stated impartially, like debtor and creditor, the comforts and miseries, thus:—
I am cast upon a horrible But I am alive, and not desolate island, void of all drowned as all my hope of recovery. ship's company were.
I am singled out and separated, But I am singled out, as it were, from all the world, to too, from the ship's crew be miserable. to be spared from death.
And so the debtor and creditor account goes on.
Julia Hackmatack read this aloud to them—the whole of it—and they agreed, as Robinson says, not so much for their posterity as to keep their thoughts from daily poring on their trials, that for each family they would make such a balance. What might not come of it? Perhaps a partial nay, perhaps a perfect cure!
So they determined that on the instant they would go to work, and two in the smoking-room, two in the dining- room, two in George's study, and two in the parlor, they should in the next halfhour make up their lists of good and evil. Here are the results:—
FREDERIC AND MARY INGHAM.
We have three nice boys But the door-bell rings all and three nice girls. the time.
We have enough to eat, But the coal bill is awful, drink, and wear. and the Larrabee furnace has given out. The firm that made it has gone up, and no castings can be got to mend it.
We have more books than But our friends borrow our we can read, and do not care books, and only return odd to read many newspapers. volumes.
We have many very dear But we are behindhand 143 friends—enough. names on our lists of calls.
We have health in our But the children may be family. sick. The Lowndes children are.
We seem to be of some But Mrs. Hogarth has left use in the world. Fred $200 for the poor, and he is afraid he shall spend it wrong.
The country has gone to the dogs.
GEORGE AND ANNA HALIBURTON.
We have a nice home in You cannot give a cup of town, and one in Sharon, and coffee to a beggar but he sends a sea-shore place at Little five hundred million tramps to Gau, and we have friends the door. enough to fill them.
We have some of the nicest A great many people call children in the world. whose names we have forgotten.
We have enough to do, and We have to give a party to not too much. all our acquaintance every year, which is horrid.
Business is good enough, We do not do anything we though complaining. want to do, and we do a great deal that we do not want to do. George had added, "And there is no health in us." But Anna marked that out as wicked.
The children are all well. People vote as if they were possessed.
GEORGE AND JULIA HACKMATACK
We have eight splendid The plumbers' work always children. gives way at the wrong time, and the plumbers' bills are awful.
We have money enough, The furnace will not heat the though we know what to do house unless the wind is at the with more. southwest. None of the chimneys draw well.
George will not have to go We hate the Kydd School. to Bahia next year. The master drinks and the first assistant lies. But we live in that district; so the boys have to go there.
Tom got through with scarlet Lucy said "commence" yesterday, fever without being deaf. Jane said "gent," Walter said "Bully for you," and Alice said "nobby." And what is coming we do not know.
Dr. Witherspoon has accepted How long any man can live the presidency of Tiberias under this government I do College in Alaska. not know.
FELIX AND FAUSTA CARTER
Governments are stronger But as the children grow every year. Money goes farther bigger, their clothes cost than it did. more.
All the boys are good and But the children get no well. So are the girls. good at school, except They are splendid children. measles, whooping-cough, and scarlet fever.
Old Mr. Porter died last But the gas-meter lies; week, and Felix gets promotion and the gas company wants to in the office. have it lie.
The lost volume of Fichte But the Athenaeum is always was left on the door-step last calling in its books to examine night by some one who rang the them, and making us say where bell and ran away. It is rather Mr. Fred Curtis's books are. wet, but when it is bound will As if we cared. look nicely.
The mistress of the Arbella But our drains smell School is dead. awfully, though the Board of Health says they do not.
We have to go to evening parties among our friends, or seem stuck up. We hate to go, and wish there were none. We had rather come here.
The increasing worthlessness of the franchise.
With these papers they gathered all in the study just as the clock struck nine, and, in good old Boston fashion, Silas was bringing in some hot oysters. They ate the oysters, which were good—trust Anna for that— and then the women read the papers, while the smoking men smoked and pondered.
They all recognized the gravity of the situation. Still, as Julia said, they felt better already. It was like having the doctor come: you knew the worst, and could make ready for it.
They did not discuss the statements much. They had discussed them too much in severalty. They did agree that they should be left to Felix to report upon the next evening. He was, so to speak, to post them, to strike out from each side the quantities which could be eliminated, and leave the equations so simplified that the eight might determine what they should do about it— indeed, what they could do about it.
The visitors put on their "things"—how strange that that word should once have meant "parliaments!"—kissed good-by so far as they were womanly, and went home. George Haliburton screwed down the gas, and they went to bed.
STRIKING THE BALANCE
The next night they went to see Warren at the Museum. That probably helped them. After the play they met by appointment at the Carters'. Felix read his
1. NUMBER.—There are twenty-one reasons for congratulation, twenty-four for regret. But of the twenty-four, four are the same; namely, the cursed political prospect of the country. Counting that as one only, there are twenty-one on each side.
2. EVIL.—The twenty-one evils may be classified thus: political, 1; social, 12; physical, 5; terrors, 3.
All the physical evils would be relieved by living in a temperate climate, instead of this abomination, which is not a climate, to which our ancestors were sold by the cupidity of the Dutch.
The political evil would be ended by leaving the jurisdiction of the United States.
The social evils, which are a majority of all, would be reduced by residence in any place where there were not so many people.
The terrors properly belong to all the classes. In a decent climate, in a country not governed by its vices, and a community not crowded, the three terrors would be materially abated, if not put to an end.
How they discussed it now! Talk? I think so! They all talked awhile, and no one listened. But they had to stop when Phenice brought in the Welsh rare-bit (good before bed, but a little indigestible, unless your conscience is stainless), and Felix then put in a word.
"Now I tell you, this is not nonsense. Why not do what Winslow and Standish and those fellows thought they were doing when they sailed? Why not go to a climate like France, with milder winters and cooler summers than here? You want some winter, you want some summer."
"I hate centipedes and scorpions," said Anna.
"There's no need of them. There's a place in Mexico, not a hundred miles from the sea, where you can have your temperature just as you like."
"No, it is not stuff at all," said poor Felix, eagerly. "I do not mean just one spot. But you live in this valley, you know. If you find it is growing hot, you move about a quarter of a mile to another place higher up. If you find that hot, why you have another house a little higher. Don't you see? Then, when winter comes, you move down."
"Are there many people there?" asked Haliburton; "and do they make many calls?"
"There are a good many people, but they are a gentle set. They never quarrel. They are a little too high up for the revolutions, and there is something tranquillizing about the place; they seldom die, none are sick, need no aguardiente, do what the head of the village tells them to do—only he never has any occasion to tell them. They never make calls."
"I like that," said Ingham. That patriarchal system is the true system of government."
"Where is this place?" said Anna, incredulously.
"I have been trying to remember all day, but I can't. It is in Mexico, I know. It is on this side of Mexico. It tells all about it in an old 'Harper'—oh, a good many years ago—but I never bound mine; there are always one or two missing every year. I asked Fausta to look for it, but she was busy. I thought," continued poor Felix, a little crestfallen, "one of you might remember."
No, nobody remembered; and nobody felt much like going to the public library to look, on Carter's rather vague indications. In fact, it was a suggestion of Haliburton's that proved more popular.
Haliburton said he had not laid in his coal. They all said the same. "Now," said he, "the coal of this crowd for this winter will cost a thousand dollars, if you add in the kindling and the matches, and patching the furnace pots and sweeping the chimneys."
To this they agreed.
"It is now Wednesday. Let us start Saturday for Memphis, take a cheap boat to New Orleans, go thence to Vera Cruz by steamer, explore the ground, buy the houses if we like, and return by the time we can do without fires next spring. Our board will cost less than it would here, for it is there the beef comes from. And the thousand dollars will pay the fares both ways."
The women, with one voice, cried, "And the children?"
"Oh yes," cried the eager adventurer. "I had forgotten the children. Well, they are all well, are they not?"
Yes; all were well.
"Then we will take them with us as far as Yellow Springs, in Ohio, and leave them for the fall and winter terms at Antioch College. They will be enough better taught than they are at the Kydd School, and they will get no scarlet fever. Nobody is ever sick there. They will be better cared for than my children are when they are left to me, and they will be seven hundred miles nearer to us than if they were here. The little ones can go to the Model School, the middling ones to the Academy, and the oldest can go to college. How many are there, Felix?"
Felix said there were twenty-nine.
"Well," said the arithmetical George, "it is the cheapest place I ever knew. Why, their Seniors get along for three hundred dollars a year, and squeeze more out of life than I do out of twenty thousand. The little ones won't cost at that rate. A hundred and fifty dollars for twenty-nine children; how much is that, Polly?"
"Forty-three hundred and fifty dollars, of course," said she.
"I thought so. Well, don't you see, we shall save that in wages to these servants we are boarding here, of whom there are eleven, who cost us, say, six dollars a week; that is, sixty-six dollars for twenty weeks is thirteen hundred and twenty dollars. We won't buy any clothes, but live on the old ones, and make the children wear their big brothers' and sisters'. There's a saving of thirty-seven hundred dollars for thirty-seven of us. Why, we shall make money! I tell you what, if you'll do it, I'll pay all the bills till we come home. If you like, you shall then each pay me three-quarters of your last winter's accounts, and I'll charge any difference to profit and loss. But I shall make by the bargain."
The women doubted if they could be ready. But it proved they could. Still they did not start Saturday; they started Monday, in two palace-cars. They left the children, all delighted with the change, at Antioch on Wednesday—a little tempted to spend the winter there themselves; but, this temptation well resisted, they sped on to Mexico.
Such a tranquil three days on the Mississippi, which was as an autumn flood, and revealed himself as indeed King of Waters! Such delightful three days in hospitable New Orleans! Might it not be possible to tarry even here? "No," cried the inexorable George. "We have put our hand to the plough. Who will turn back?" Two days of abject wretchedness on the Gulf of Mexico. "Why were we born? Why did we not die before we left solid land?" And then the light-house at Vera Cruz.
"Lo, land! and all was well."
What a splendid city! Why had nobody told them of this queen on the sea-shore? Red and white towers, cupolas, battlements! It was all like a story-book. When they landed, to be sure, it was not quite so big a place as they had fancied from all this show; but for this they did not care. To land—that was enough. Had they landed on a sand-spit, they would have been in heaven. No more swaying to and fro as they lay in bed, no more stumbling to and fro as they walked. They refused the amazed Mexicans who wanted them to ride to the hotel. To walk steadily was in itself a luxury.
And then it was not long before the men had selected the little caravan of horses and mules which were to carry them on their expedition of discovery. Some valley of paradise, where a man could change his climate from midwinter to midsummer by a journey of a mile. Did the consul happen to have heard of any such valley?
Had he heard of them? He had heard of fifty. He had not, indeed, heard of much else. How could he help hearing of them?
Could the consul, then, recommend one or two valleys which might be for sale? Or was it, perhaps, impossible to buy a foothold in such an Eden?
For sale! There was nothing in the country, so far as the friend knew to whom the consul presented them, which was not for sale. Anywhere in Queretaro; or why should they not go to the Baxio? No; that was too flat and too far off. There were pretty places round Xalapa. Oh, plenty of plantations for sale. But they need not go so far. Anywhere on the rise of Chiquihiti.
Was the friend quite sure that there were no plumbers in the regions he named?
"Never a plumber in Mexico."
Any life-insurance men?
"Not one." The prudent friend did not add, "Risk too high."
Were the public schools graded schools or district schools?
"Not a public school in six provinces."
Would the neighbors be offended if we do not call?
"Cut your throats if you did."
Did the friend think there would be many tramps?
The friend seemed more doubtful here, but suggested that the occasional use of a six-shooter reduced the number, and gave a certain reputation to the premises where it was employed which diminished much tramping afterward, and said that the law did not object to this method.
They returned to a dinner of fish, for which Vera Cruz is celebrated. "If what the man says be true," said Ingham, "we must be very near heaven."
It was now in November. Oh, the glory of that ride, as they left Vera Cruz and through a wilderness of color jogged slowly on to their new paradise!
"Through Eden four glad couples took their way."
Higher and higher. This wonder and that. Not a blade of grass such as they ever saw before, not a chirping cricket such as they ever heard before; a hundred bright-winged birds, and not one that they had ever seen before. Higher and higher. Trees, skies, clouds, flowers, beasts, birds, insects, all new and all lovely.
The final purchase was of one small plantation, with a house large enough for a little army, yet without a stair. Oranges, lemons, pomegranates, mangoes, bananas, pine-apples, coffee, sugar—what did not ripen in those perennial gardens? Half a mile above there were two smaller houses belonging to the same estate; half a mile above, another was purchased easily. This was too cold to stay in in November, but in June and July and August the temperature would be sixty-six, without change.
They sent back the mules. A telegram from Vera Cruz brought from Boston, in fifteen days, the best books in the world, the best piano in the world, a few boxes of colors for the artists, a few reams of paper, and a few dozen of pencils for the men. And then began four months of blessed life. Never a gas-bill nor a water-leak, never a crack in the furnace nor a man to put in coal, never a request to speak for the benefit of the Fenians, never the necessity of attending at a primary meeting. The ladies found in their walks these gentle Mexican children, simple, happy, civil, and with the strange idea that the object for which life is given is that men may live. They came home with new wealth untold every day— of ipomoea, convolvulus, passion-flowers, and orchids. The gentlemen brought back every day a new species, even a new genus,—a new illustration of evolution, or a new mystery to be accounted for by the law of natural selection. Night was all sleep; day was all life. Digestion waited upon appetite; appetite waited upon exercise; exercise waited upon study; study waited upon conversation; conversation waited upon love. Could it be that November was over? Can life run by so fast? Can it be that Christmas has come? Can we let life go by so fast? Is it possible that it is the end of January? We cannot let life go so fast. Really, is this St. Valentine's Day! When ever did life go so fast?
And with the 1st of March the mules were ordered, and they moved to the next higher level. The men and women walked. And there, on the grade of a new climate, they began on a new botany, on new discoveries, and happy life found new forms as they began again.
So sped April and so sped May. Life had its battles,—oh yes, because it was life. But they were not the pettiest of battles. They were not the battles of prisoners shut up, to keep out the weather, in cells fifteen feet square. They fought, if they fought, with God's air in their veins, and God's warm sunshine around them, and God's blue sky above them. So they did what they could, as they wrote and read and drew and painted, as they walked and ran and swam and rode and drove, as they encouraged this peon boy and taught that peon girl, smoothed this old woman's pillow and listened to that old man's story, as they analyzed these wonderful flowers, as they tasted these wonderful fruits, as they climbed these wonderful mountains, or, at night, as they pointed the telescope through this cloudless and stainless sky.
With all their might they lived. And they were so many, and there were so many round them to whom their coming was a new life, that they lived in love, and every day drank in of the infinite elixir.
But June came. The mules are sent for again. Again they walked a quarter of a mile. And here in the little whitewashed cottage, with only a selection from the books below, with two guitars and a flute in place of the piano,—here they made ready for three weeks of June. Only three weeks; for on the 29th was the Commencement at Antioch, and Jane and Walter and Florence were to take their degrees. There would need five days from Vera Cruz to reach them. And so this summer was to be spent in the North with them, before October should bring all the children and the parents to the land of the open sky. Three busy weeks between the 1st and the 22d, in which all the pictures must be finished, Ingham's novel must be revised, Haliburton's articles completed, the new invention for measuring power must be gauged and tested, the dried flowers must be mounted and packed, the preserved fruits must be divided for the Northern friends. Three happy weeks of life eventful, but life without crowding, and, above all, without interruption. "Think of it," cried Felix, as they took their last walk among the lava crags, the door-bell has not rung all this last winter.'"
"'This happy old king On his gate he did swing, Because there was never a door-bell to ring.'"
This was Julia's impromptu reply.
So came one more journey. Why can we not go and come without this musty steamer, these odious smells, this food for dogs, and this surge—ah, how remorseless!—of the cruel sea?
But even this will end. Once more the Stars and Stripes! A land of furnaces and of waterpipes, a land of beggars and of caucuses, a land of gas-meters and of liars, a land of pasteboard and of cards, a land of etiquettes and of bad spelling, but still their country! A land of telegraphs, which told in an instant, as they landed on the levee, that all the twenty-nine were well, and begged them to be at the college on Tuesday evening, so as to see "Much Ado about Nothing." For at Antioch they act a play the night before Commencement. A land of Pullman's palace-cars. And lo! they secured sections 5 and 6, 7 and 8, in the "Mayflower." Just time to kiss the baby of one friend, and to give a basket of guavas to another, and then whir for Cincinnati and Xenia and Yellow Springs!
How beautiful were the live-oaks and the magnolias! How fresh the green of the cotton! How black the faces of the little negroes, and how beyond dispute the perfume of the baked peanuts at the stations where sometimes they had to stop for wood and water! Even the heavy pile of smoke above Cincinnati was golden with the hopes of a new-born day as they rushed up to the Ohio River, and as they crossed it. And then, the land of happy homes! It was Kapnist who said to me that the most favored places in the world were the larger villages in Ohio. He had gone everywhere, too. Xenia, and a perfect breakfast at the station, then the towers of Antioch, then the twenty-nine children waving their handkerchiefs as the train rushes in!
How much there was to tell, to show, to ask for, and to see! How much pleasure they gave with their cochineal, their mangoes, their bananas, their hat-bands for the boys, and their fans for the girls! Yes; and how much more they took from nutbrown faces, from smiles beaming from ear to ear, from the boy so tall that he looked down upon his father, from the girl so womanly that you asked if her mother were not masquerading. "You rascal Ozro, you do not pretend that those trousers were made for you? Why, my boy, you disgrace the family." "I hope not, papa; I had ninety-eight in the botany examination, passed with honors in Greek, and we beat the Buckeye Club to nothing in the return match yesterday." "You did, you little beggar?" the proud papa replied. "You ran all the better, I suppose, because you had nothing to trip you." And so on, and so on. The children did not live in paradise, perhaps, but this seems very like the kingdom come!
And after commencements and the president's party, up to the Yellow Springs platform came two unusual palaces, specially engaged. And one was named the "Valparaiso," and the other, as it happened, the "Bethlehem." And they took all the children, and by good luck Mrs. Tucker was going also, and three or four of the college girls, and they took them. So there were forty-two in all. And they sped and sped, without change of cars, save as Bethlehem visited Paradise and Paradise visited Bethlehem, till they came to New Salem, which is the station men buy tickets for when they would go to the beach below Quonochontaug, where the eight and the twenty-nine were to make their summer home before the final emigration.
They do not live at Quonochontaug, but to that post- office are their letters sent. They live in a hamlet of their own, known to the neighbors as the Little Gau. Four large houses, whitewashed without and within, with deep piazzas all around, the roofs of which join the roofs of the houses themselves, and run up on all sides to one point above the centre. In each house a hall some twenty feet by fifty, and in the hall,—what is not in the hall?—maybe a piano, maybe a fish-rod, maybe a rifle or a telescope, a volume of sermons or a volume of songs, a spinning-wheel, or a guitar, or a battledore. You might ask widely for what you needed, for study or for play, and you would find it, though it were a deep divan of Osiat or a chibouque from Stamboul—you would find it in one of these simple whitewashed halls.
Little Gau is so near the sea-shore that every day they go down to the beach to bathe, and the beach is so near the Gulf Stream that the swim is—well, perfection. Still, the first day the ladies would not swim. They had the trunks to open, they said, and the closets to arrange. And the four men and the fourteen boys went to that bath of baths alone. And as Felix, the cynic grumbler, ran races naked on the beach with his boy and the boy beat him, even Felix was heard to say, "How little man needs here below to be perfectly happy!"
And at the Little Gau they spent the months from the Fourth of July to the 13th of October—two great days in history—getting ready for Mexico. New sewing-machines were bought, and the fall of the stream from the lake was taught to run the treadles. No end of clothing was got ready for a country which needs none; no end of memoranda made for the last purchases; no end of lists of books prepared, which they could read in that land of leisure. And on the 14th of October, with a passing sigh, they bade good-by to boats and dogs and cows and horses and neighbors and beaches—almost to sun and moon, which had smiled on so much happiness, and went back to Boston to make the last bargains, to pay the last bills, and to say the last good-byes.
After one day of bill-paying and house-advertising and farewelling, they met at Ingham's to "tell their times." And Julia told of her farewell call on dear Mrs. Blake.
"The saint!" said she; "she does not see as well as she did. But it was just lovely there. There was the great bronze Japanese stork, which seemed so friendly, and the great vases, and her flowers as fresh as ever, and her books everywhere. She found something for Tom and Maud to play with, just as she used to for Ben and Horace. And we sat and talked of Mexico and Antioch and everything. I asked her if her eyes troubled her, and I was delighted because it seems they do not trouble her at all. She told all about Swampscott and her grandchildren. I asked her if the dust never troubled them on Gladstone Street, but she says it does not at all; and she told all about her son's family in Hong- Kong. I asked her if the failure of Rupee & Lac annoyed them, and she said not at all, and I was so glad, for I had been so afraid for them; and then she told about how much they were enjoying Macaulay. Then I asked her if the new anvil factory on the other side of the street did not trouble her, and she said not at all. And when I said, 'How can that be?' she said, 'Why, Julia dear, we do not let these things trouble us, don't you see. If I were you, I would not let such things trouble me.'"
George Haliburton laid down his knife as Julia told the story. "Do you remember Rabia at Mecca? Yes, they all remembered Rabia at Mecca:—
"Oh heart, weak follower of the weak, That thou shouldst traverse land and sea; In this far place that God to seek Who long ago had come to thee!"
"Why should we not stay here, and not let these things trouble us?"
Why not, indeed?
And they stayed.
A CHRISTMAS STORY
Mr. Starr rose very early that day. The sun was not up. Yet, certainly, it was too light to strike a match. Ah, Mr. Starr, a match may be an economy!
So it was that when, as always, the keys jingled out from his trousers pockets upon the floor, and the money as well, one cent rolled under the bureau unseen by Mr. Starr. He went down to his work now, after he had gathered up the rest of the money and the keys, and answered yesterday's letters.
Then, of course, he could loiter over his breakfast.
But not too long. Clara, his wife, was in good spirits, and the boys were very jolly, but Mr. Starr, all the same, did the duty next his hand. He "kissed her good-by," and started down-town. Edgar stopped, him to ask for fifty cents for his lunch; the postman wanted fifteen for an underpaid parcel; Susan, the maid, asked for ten for some extra milk; and then he kissed his hand to the parlor window, and was off.
No! He was not off.
For Clara threw up the window and waved her lily hand. Mr. Starr ran back to the door. She flung it open.
"My dear John, here is your best coat. That coat you have on has a frayed button. I saw it yesterday, and I cannot bear to have you wear it at the Board."
"Dear Clara, what a saint you are!" One more kiss, and Mr. Starr departed.
And loyally he did the duty next his hand. He stopped and signed the sewerage petition; he looked in on poor Colt and said a cheerful word to him; he bade Woolley, the fruit man, send a barrel of Nonesuches to old Mrs. Cowen; he was on time at the Board meeting, took the chair, and they changed the constitution. He looked in at the office and told Mr. Freemantle he should be late, but that he would look at the letters when he came back, and then, ho! for East Boston!
If only you knew, dear readers, that to East Boston you must go by a ferry-boat, as if it were named Greenbush, or Brooklyn, or Camden.
As Mr. Starr took the street car after he had crossed the ferry, to go into the unknown parts of East Boston, he did notice that he gave the conductor his last ticket. But what of that? "End of the route" came, and he girded his loins, trudged over to the pottery he was in search of, found it at last, found the foreman and gave his orders, and then, through mud unspeakable, waded back to the street car. He was the only passenger. No wonder! The only wonder was that there was a car.
"Ticket, sir," said the conductor, after half a mile.
MR. STARR (SMILING). I have no ticket, but you may sell me a dollar's worth. (FEELS FOR POCKETBOOK.) Hello! I have not my pocketbook; changed my coat.
CONDUCTOR (SAVAGELY). They generally has changed their coats.
MR. STARR (WITH DIGNITY, OFFERING A FIVE-CENT NICKEL). There's your fare, man.
CONDUCTOR. That won't do, mud-hopper. Fare's six cents.
MR. STARR (WELL REMEMBERING THE CENT, WHICH IS, ALAS UNDER THE BUREAU, AND GROVELLING FOR IT IN BOTH POCKETS). I have a cent somewhere.
CONDUCTOR (STOPPING CAR AND RETURNING FIVE-CENT PIECE). We've had enough of you tramps who change your coats and cannot find your pennies. You step off—and step off mighty quick.
Mr. Starr declines; when they come to Maverick Square he will report the man to the superintendent, who knows him well. Slight scuffle. Mr. Starr resists. Conductor calls driver. Mr. Starr is ejected. Coat torn badly and hat thrown into mud. Car departs.
(MUDDY STREET IN EAST BOSTON. Mr. STARR, WIPING HIS HAT WITH HIS HANDKERCHIEF, SOLUS.)
MR. STARR. If only Clara had not been so anxious about the Board meeting! (EYES FIVE-CENT PIECE.) Where can that penny be? (SEARCHES IN POCKETS, IS SEARCHING WHEN—) (ENTER R. H. U. E. SPAN OF WILD HORSES, SWIFTLY DRAGGING A CARRYALL. IN THE CARRYALL TWO CHILDREN SCREAMING. SPEED OF HORSES, 2.41.)
MR. STARR. Under the present circumstances life is worthless, or nearly so. Let me bravely throw it away!
(RUSHES UPON THE SPAN. CATCHES EACH HORSE BY THE BIT, AND BY SHEER WEIGHT CONTROLS THEM. HORSES ON THEIR METTLE; Mr. Starr ON HIS. ENTER, RUNNING, JOHN CRADOCK.)
JOHN CRADOCK. Whoa, whoa! Ha! they stop. How can I thank you, my man? You have saved my children's lives.
MR. STARR (STILL HOLDING BITS). You had better take the reins.
John Cradock mounts the seat, seizes reins, but is eager to reward the poor, tattered wretch at their heads. Passes reins to right hand, and with left feels for a half eagle, which he throws, with grateful words, to Mr. Starr. Mr. Starr leaves the plunging horses, and they rush toward Prescott Street. (EXEUNT JOHN CRADOCK, HORSES AND CHILDREN.)
Half amused, half ashamed, Mr. Starr picks up the coin, which he also supposes to be half an eagle.
It proves to be a bright penny, just from the mint.
Mr. Starr lays it with delight upon the five-cent nickel. (ENTER A STREET CAR, L. H. L. E. Mr. STARR WAVES HIS HAND WITH DIGNITY, AND ENTERS CAR. PAYS HIS FARE, SIX CENTS, AS HE PASSES CONDUCTOR.)
In fifteen minutes they are at Maverick Square. Mr. Starr stops the car at the office of Siemens & Bessemer, and enters. Meets his friend Fothergill.
FOTHERGILL. Bless me, Starr, you are covered with mud! Pottery, eh? Runaway horse, eh? No matter; we are just in time to see Wendell off. William, take Mr. Starr's hat to be pressed. Put on this light overcoat, Starr. Here is my tweed cap. Now, jump in, and we will go to the "Samaria" to bid Wendell good-by.
And indeed they both found Wendell. Mr. Starr bade him good-by, and advised him a little about the man be was to see in Dresden. He met Herr Birnebaum, and talked with him a little about the chemistry of enamels. Oddly enough, Fonseca was there, the attache, the same whom Clara had taken to drive at Bethlehem. Mr. Starr talked a little Spanish with him. Then they were all rung onshore.
TABLEAU: DEPARTING STEAMER. CROWD WAVES HANDKERCHIEFS.
SCENE III CHRISTMAS—THE END
At Mr. Starr's Christmas dinner, beside their cousins from Harvard College and their second cousins from Wellesley College and their third cousins from Bradford Academy, they had young Clifford, the head book-keeper. As he came in, joining the party on their way home from church, he showed Mr. Starr a large parcel.
"It's the 'Alaska's' mail, and I thought you might like to see it."
"Ah, well!" said Mr. Starr, "it is Christmas, and I think the letters can wait, at least till after dinner."
And a jolly dinner it was. Turkey for those who wished, and goose for those who chose goose. And when the Washington pie and the Marlborough pudding came, the squash, the mince, the cranberry-tart, and the blazing plum-pudding, then the children were put through their genealogical catechism.
"Will, who is your mother's father's mother's father?"
"Lucy Pico, sir!" and then great shouting. Then was it that Mr. Starr told the story which the reader has read in scene one,—of the perils which may come when a man has not a penny. He did not speak hastily, nor cast reproach on Clara for her care of the button. Over that part of the story he threw a cautious veil. But to boys and girls he pointed a terrible lesson of the value of one penny.
"How dangerous, papa, to drop it into a box for the heathen!"
But little Tom found this talk tiresome, and asked leave to slip away, teasing Clifford as he went about some postage-stamps Clifford had promised him.
"Go bring the parcel I left on the hall table, and your papa will give you some Spanish stamps."
So the boy brought the mail.
"What in the world is this?" cried Mr. Starr, as he cut open the great envelope; and more and more amazed he was as he ran down the lines:—
"'Much Esteemed and Respected Senor, Don JOHN STARR, Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece:
"'SENOR,—It is with true yet inexpressible satisfaction that I write this private note, that I may be the first of your friends in Madrid to say to you that the order for your creation as a Knight Companion of the much esteemed and truly venerable Order of the Golden Fleece passed the seals of the Chancellerie yesterday. His Majesty is pleased to say that your views on the pacification of Porto Rico coincide precisely with his own; that the hands of the government will be strengthened as with the force of giants when he communicates them to the very excellent and much honored governor of the island, and that, as a mark of his confidence, he has the pleasure of sending to you the cordon of the order, and of asking your acceptance.'
"My dear Lady Dulcinea del Toboso, that is what came to you when that Cradock man threw a cent into the mud for me."
"But, papa, what are the other letters?"
"Oh, yes, what are they? Here is English; it's from Wendell. H'm—h'm—h'm. Shortpassage. Worcestershire— h'm—Wedgewood—h'm—Staffordshire—h'm. Why, Clara, George, listen:
"'I suppose you will not be surprised when I say that your suggestion made on the deck of the 'Samaria,' as to oxalate of strontium, was received with surprise by Herr Fernow and Herr Klee. But such is the respect in which suggestions from America are now held, that they ordered a trial at once in the Royal kilns, the result of which are memoranda A and B, enclosed. They are so much delighted with these results that they have formed a syndicate with the Winkels, of Potsdam, and the Schonhoffs, of Berlin, to undertake the manufacture in Germany; and I am instructed to ask you whether you will accept a round sum, say 150,000 marks, for the German patent, or join them, say as a partner, with twenty per cent of stock in their adventure.'
"I think so," said Mr. Starr. "That is what the bright penny comes to at compound interest. Let us try Birnebaum's letter."
"'GOTTFRIEED BIRNEBAUM to JOHN STARR:
"'MY HONORED SIR,—I am at a loss to express to you the satisfaction with which I write. The eminently practical suggestions which you made to me so kindly and freely, as we parted, have, indeed, also proved themselves undoubtedly to be of even the first import. It has to me been also, indeed, of the very first pleasure to communicate them, as I said indeed, to the first director in charge at the works at Sevres, as I passed through Paris, and now yet again, with equal precision also and readiness, to the Herr first fabricant at Dresden. Your statement regarding the action of the oxides of gold, in combination with the tungstate of bdellium, has more than in practice verified itself. I am requested by the authorities at Dresden to ask the acceptance, by your accomplished and highly respected lady, of a dinner-set of their recent manufacture, in token small of their appreciation, renewed daily, of your contribution so valuable to the resources of tint and color in their rooms of design; and M. Foudroyant, of Sevres, tells me also, by telegraph of to-day, that to the same much esteemed and highly distinguished lady he has shipped by the 'San Laurent' a tea-service, made to the order of the Empress of China, and delayed only by the untoward state of hostilities, greatly to be regretted, on the Annamite frontier.'"
Mr. Starr read this long-winded letter with astonishment.
"Well, Dulcinea, you will be able to give a dinner- party to the King of Spain when he comes to visit you at Toboso.
"So much for Brother Cradock's penny."
"Dear John, till I die I will never be afraid to call you back when your buttons are tattered."
"And for me," said little Jack, "I will go now and look under the bureau for the lost cent, and will have it for my own."
(ENTER SERVANTS, R. H. L. E., I WITH THE DRESDEN CHINA.
THEY MEET OTHER SERVANTS, L. H. L. E., WITH THE SEVRES CHINA.)
THANKSGIVING AT THE POLLS
A THANKSGIVING STORY
Frederick Dane was on his way towards what he called his home. His home, alas, was but an indifferent attic in one of the southern suburbs of Boston. He had been walking; but he was now standing still, at the well-known corner of Massachusetts and Columbus Avenues.
As often happens, Frederick Dane had an opportunity to wait at this corner a quarter of an hour. As he looked around him on the silent houses, he could not but observe the polling-booth, which a watchful city government had placed in the street, a few days before, in preparation for the election which was to take place three weeks afterward. Dane is of an inquiring temper, and seeing that the polling-booth had a door and the door had a keyhole, he tried in the keyhole a steel key which he had picked up in Dock Square the day before. Almost to his surprise, the key governed the lock at once, and he found himself able to walk in.
He left the door wide open, and the gaslight streaming in revealed to him the aspect of the cells arranged for Australian voting. The rails were all in their places, and the election might take place the very next day. It instantly occurred to Dane that he might save the five cents which otherwise he would have given to his masters of the street railway, and be the next morning three miles nearer his work, if he spent the night in the polling-cabin. He looked around for a minute or two, and found some large rolls of street posters, which had been left there by some disappointed canvasser the year before, and which had accompanied one cell of the cabin in its travels. Dane is a prompt man, and, in a minute more, he had locked the door behind him, had struck a wax taper which he had in his cigar-box, had rolled the paper roll out on the floor, to serve as a pillow. In five minutes more, covered with his heavy coat, he lay on the floor, sleeping as soundly as he had slept the year before, when he found himself on the lee side of an iceberg under Peary's command.
This is perhaps unnecessary detail, by way of saying that this is the beginning of the arrangement which a city, not very intelligent, will make in the next century for unsettled people, whose own houses are not agreeable to them. There exist in Boston at this moment three or four hundred of the polling-booths,—nice little houses, enough better than most of the peasantry of most of Europe ever lived in. They are, alas, generally packed up in lavender and laid away for ten months of the year. But in the twentieth century we shall send them down to the shores of islands and other places where people like to spend the summer, and we shall utilize them, not for the few hours of an election only, but all the year round. This will not then be called "Nationalism," it will be called "Democracy;" and that is a very good name when it is applied to a very good thing.
Dane was an old soldier and an old seaman. He was not troubled by disagreeable dreams, and in the morning, when the street-cars began to travel, he was awaked a little after sunrise, by their clatter on the corner. He felt well satisfied with the success of his experiment, and began on a forecast, which the reader shall follow for a few weeks, which he thought, and thought rightly, would tend to his own convenience, possibly to that of his friends.
Dane telegraphed down to the office that he should be detained an hour that morning, went out to his home of the day before at Ashmont, paid his landlady her scot, brought in with him his little possessions in a valise to the office, and did not appear at his new home until after nightfall.
He was then able to establish himself on the basis which proved convenient afterwards, and which it is worth while to explain to a world which is not too well housed. The city had provided three or four chairs there, a stove, and two tables. Dane had little literature, but, as he was in the literary line himself, he did not care for this so much; men who write books are not commonly eager to read books which are worse than their own. At a nine-cent window of a neighboring tinman's he was able to buy himself the few little necessities which he wanted for housekeeping. And not to detain the reader too long upon merely fleshly arrangements, in the course of a couple of hours of Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening, he had fitted up his convenient if not pretty bower with all that man requires. It was easy to buy a mince pie or a cream cake, or a bit of boiled ham or roast chicken, according as payday was near or distant. One is glad to have a tablecloth. But if one have a large poster warning people, a year before, that they should vote the Prohibition ticket, one's conscience is not wounded if this poster, ink down, takes the place which a tablecloth would have taken under other circumstances. If there is not much crockery to use, there is but little to wash. And, in short, as well trained a man of the world as Dane had made himself thoroughly comfortable in his new quarters before the week was over.
At the beginning Frederick's views were purely personal, or, as the preachers say, selfish. Here was an empty house, three miles nearer his work than his hired attic was, and he had taken possession. But conscience always asserts itself, and it was not long before he felt that he ought to extend the benefits of this new discovery of his somewhat further. It really was a satisfaction to what the pulpits call a "felt want" when as he came through Massachusetts Avenue on Thursday evening, he met a boy and a girl, neither of them more than ten years old, crying on the sidewalk. Dane is sympathetic and fond of children. He stopped the little brats, and satisfied himself that neither had had any supper. He could not understand a word of the language in which they spoke, nor could they understand him. But kindness needs little spoken language; and accordingly Frederick led them along to his cabin, and after waiting, as he always did, a minute or two, to be sure that no one was in sight, he unlocked the door, and brought in his little companions.
It was clear enough that the children were such waifs and strays that nothing surprised them, and they readily accepted the modest hospitalities of the position. Like all masculine housekeepers, Frederick had provided three times as much food as he needed for his own physical wants, so that it was not difficult to make these children happy with the pieces of mince pie and lemon pie and cream cake and eclairs which were left from his unknown festivals of the day before. Poor little things, they were both cold and tired, and, before half an hour was over, they were snugly asleep on and under a pile of Prohibition posters.
Fortunately for Frederick Dane, for the nine years before he joined Peary, he had lived in the city of Bagdad. He had there served as the English interpreter for the Caliph of that city. The Caliph did most of his business at night, and was in the habit of taking Mr. Dane with him on his evening excursions. In this way Mr. Dane had made the somewhat intimate acquaintance of Mr. Jaffrey, the private secretary of the Caliph; and he had indeed in his own employment for some time, a wide-awake black man, of the name of Mezrour, who, for his "other place," was engaged as a servant in the Caliph's household. Dane was thus not unfamiliar with the methods of unexpected evening visits; and it was fortunate for him that he was so. The little children whom he had picked up, explained to him, by pantomime which would have made the fortune of a ballet-girl, that they were much more comfortable in their new home than they had been in any other, and that they had no wish to leave it. But by various temptations addressed to them, in the form of barley horses and dogs, and sticks of barber's candy, Dane, who was of a romantic and enterprising disposition, persuaded them to take him to some of their former haunts.
These were mostly at the North End of Boston, and he soon found that he needed all his recollections of Bagdad for the purpose of conducting any conversation with any of the people they knew best. In a way, however, with a little broken Arabic, a little broken Hebrew, a great deal of broken China, and many gesticulations, he made acquaintance with two of their compatriots, who had, as it seemed, crossed the ocean with them in the same steerage. That is to say, they either had or had not; but for many months Mr. Dane was unable to discover which. Such as they were, however, they had been sleeping on the outside of the upper attic of the house in Salutation Alley where these children had lodged, or not lodged, as the case might be, during the last few days. When Mr. Dane saw what were called their lodgings, he did not wonder that they had accepted pot- luck with him.
It is necessary to explain all this, that the reader may understand why, on the first night after the arrival of these two children, the population of the polling- booth was enlarged by the presence of these two Hebrew compatriots. And, without further mystery, it may be as well to state that all four were from a village about nine hundred and twenty-three miles north of Odessa, in the southern part of Russia. They had emigrated in a compulsory manner from that province, first on account of the utter failure of anything to eat there; second, on account of a prejudice which the natives of that country had contracted against the Hebrew race.
The two North End friends of little Ezra and Sarah readily accepted the invitation of the two children to join in the College Settlement at the corner of the two avenues. The rules of the institution proved attractive, and before a second week was well advanced ten light excelsior mattresses were regularly rolled up every morning as the different inmates went to their duties; while, as evening closed in, eight cheerful companions told stories around the hospitable board.
It is no part of this little tale to follow, with Mr. Stevenson's magic, or with that of the Arabian Nights, the fortunes from day to day of the little circle. Enough that men of Hebrew race do not prove lazy anywhere. Dane, certainly, gave them no bad example. The children were at once entered in a neighboring school, where they showed the quickness of their race. They had the advantage, when the week closed and began, that they could attend the Sabbath school provided for them by the Hebrews on Saturday and the several Sunday- schools of the Parker Memorial, the Berkeley Temple, and the other churches of the neighborhood. The day before the election, Frederick Dane asked Oleg and Vladimir to help him in bringing up some short boards, which they laid on the trusses in the roof above them. On the little attic thus prepared, they stored their mattresses and other personal effects before the great election of that year began. They had no intention of interfering, even by a cup of cold coffee, with the great wave of righteous indignation which, on that particular day of that particular year, "swept away, as by a great cosmic tidal flood, the pretences and ambitions, etc., etc., etc." These words are cited from Frederick Dane's editorial of the next morning, and were in fact used by him or by some of his friends, without variations, in all the cosmic changes of the elections of the next six years.
But so soon as this election was well over, the country and the city settled down, with what Ransom used to call "amazin'" readiness to the new order, such as it was. Only the people who "take up the streets" detached more men than ever to spoil the pavement. For now a city election was approaching. And it might be that the pavers and ditchers and shovellers and curbstone men and asphalt makers should vote wrong. Dane and his settlement were well aware that after this election they would all have to move out from their comfortable quarters. But, while they were in, they determined to prepare for a fit Thanksgiving to God, and the country which makes provision so generous for those in need. It is not every country, indeed, which provides four hundred empty houses, every autumn, for the convenience of any unlodged night-editor with a skeleton key, who comes along.
He explained to his companions that a great festival was near. They heard this with joy. He explained that no work would be done that day,—not in any cigar-shop or sweating-room. This also pleased them. He then, at some length, explained the necessity of the sacrifice of turkeys on the occasion. He told briefly how Josselyn and the fathers shot them as they passed through the sky. But he explained that now we shoot them, as one makes money, not directly but indirectly. We shoot our turkeys, say, at shooting-galleries. All this proved intelligible, and Frederick had no fear for turkeys.
As for Sarah and Ezra, he found that at Ezra's boys' club and at Sarah's girls' club, and each of her Sabbath- school classes and Sunday-school classes, and at each of his, it had been explained that on the day before Thanksgiving they must come with baskets to places named, and carry home a Thanksgiving dinner.
These announcements were hailed with satisfaction by all to whom Dane addressed them. Everything in the country was as strange to them as it would have been to an old friend of mine, an inhabitant of the planet Mars. And they accepted the custom of this holiday among the rest. Oddly enough, it proved that one or two of them were first-rate shots, and, by attendance at different shooting-galleries, they brought in more than a turkey apiece, as Governor Bradford's men did in 1621. Many of them were at work in large factories, where it was the custom of the house to give a roasted turkey and a pan of cranberry sauce to each person who had been on the pay-list for three months. One or two of them were errand men in the market, and it was the practice of the wholesale dealers there, who at this season become to a certain extent retailers, to encourage these errand men by presenting to each of them a turkey, which was promised in advance. As for Dane himself, the proprietors of his journal always presented a turkey to each man on their staff. And in looking forward to his Thanksgiving at the polls, he had expected to provide a twenty-two pound gobbler which a friend in Vermont was keeping for him. It may readily be imagined, then, that, when the day before Thanksgiving came, he was more oppressed by an embarrassment of riches than by any difficulty on the debtor side of his account. He had twelve people to feed, himself included. There were the two children, their eight friends, and a young Frenchman from Paris who, like all persons of that nationality who are six months in this country, had found many enemies here. Dane had invited him to dinner. He had arranged that there should be plates or saucers enough for each person to have two. And now there was to be a chicken- pie from Obed Shalom, some mince pies and Marlborough pies from the Union for Christian Work, a turkey at each end of the board; and he found he should have left over, after the largest computation for the appetites of the visitors, twenty-three pies of different structure, five dishes of cranberry sauce, three or four boxes of raisins, two or three drums of figs, two roasted geese and eleven turkeys. He counted all the turkeys as roasted, because he had the promise of the keeper of the Montgomery House that he would roast for him all the birds that were brought in to him before nine o'clock on Thanksgiving morning.
Having stated all this on a list carefully written, first in the English language and second in the language of the Hebrews, Frederick called his fellow- lodgers together earlier than usual on the evening before Thanksgiving Day. He explained to them, in the patois which they used together, that it would be indecent for them to carry this supply of food farther than next Monday for their own purposes. He told them that the occasion was one of exuberant thanksgiving to the God of heaven. He showed them that they all had great reason for thanksgiving. And, in short, he made three heads of a discourse which might have been expanded by the most eloquent preacher in Boston the next day, and would have well covered the twenty- five minutes which the regulation would have required for a sermon. He then said that, as they had been favored with much more than they could use for their own appetites, they must look up those who were not so well off as themselves.
He was well pleased by finding that he was understood, and what he said was received with applause in the various forms in which Southern Russia applauds on such occasions. As for the two children, their eyes were wide open, and their mouths, and they looked their wonder.
Frederick then proposed that two of their number should volunteer to open a rival establishment at the polling-booth at the corner of Gates Street and Burgoyne Street, and that the company should on the next day invite guests enough to make another table of twelve. He proposed that the same course should be taken at the corner of Shapleigh and Bowditch Streets, and yet again at the booth which is at the corner of Curtis Avenue and Quincy Street. And he said that, as time would press upon them, they had better arrange to carry a part at least of the stores to these places that evening. To this there was a general assent. The company sat down to a hasty tea, administered much as the Israelites took their last meal in Egypt; for every man had on his long frieze coat and his heavy boots, and they were eager for the active work of Thanksgiving. For each the stewards packed two turkeys in a basket, filled in as far as they could with other stores, and Frederick headed his procession.
It was then that he was to learn, for the first time, that he was not the only person in Boston.
It was then that he found out that the revelation made to one man is frequently made to many.
He found out that he was as wise as the next fellow, but was no wiser; was as good as the next fellow, but was no better; and that, in short, he had no special patent upon his own undertaking,
The little procession soon arrived at the corner of Shapleigh and Bowditch Streets. Whoever had made the locks on the doors of the houses had been content to use the same pattern for all. It proved, therefore, that the key of No. 237 answered for No. 238, and it was not necessary to open the door with the "Jimmy" which Simeon had under his ulster.
But on the other hand, to Frederick's amazement, as he threw the door open, he found a lighted room and a long table around which sat twelve men, guised or disguised in much the same way as those whom he had brought with him. A few moments showed that another leader of the people had discovered this vacant home a few weeks before, and had established there another settlement of the un-homed. As it proved, this gentleman was a Mashpee Indian. He was, in fact, the member of the House of Representatives from the town of Mashpee for the next winter. Arriving in Boston to look for lodgings, he, not unnaturally, met with a Mohawk, two Dacotahs, and a Cherokee, who, for various errands, had come north and east. A similarity of color, not to say of racial relations, had established a warm friendship among the five, and they had brought together gradually twelve gentlemen of copper color, who had been residing in this polling-booth since the second day after the general election. Their fortune had not been unlike that of Frederick and his friends, and at this moment they were discussing the methods by which they might distribute several brace of ducks which had been sent up from Mashpee, a haunch of venison which had come down from above Machias, and some wild turkeys which had arrived by express from the St. Regis Indians of Northern New York. At the moment of the arrival of our friends, they were sending out two of their number to find how they might best distribute thus their extra provender.
These two gladly joined in the little procession, and all went together to the corner of Quincy Street and Curtis Avenue. There a similar revelation was made, only there was some difficulty at first in any real mutual understanding. For here they met a dozen, more or less, of French Canadians. These gentlemen had left their wives and their children in the province of Quebec, and, finding themselves in Boston, had taken possession of the polling-booth, where they were living much more comfortably than they would have lived at home. They too had been well provided for Thanksgiving, both by their friends at home and by their employers, and had been questioning as to the distribution which they could make of their supplies. Reinforced by four of their number, the delegation in search of hungry people was increased to fourteen in number, and with a certain curiosity, it must be confessed, they went together to try their respective keys on No. 311.
Opening this without so much as knocking at the door to know if here they might not provide the "annex" or "tender" which they wished to establish, they found, it must be confessed without any amazement or amusement, a company of Italians under the charge of one Antonio Fero, who had also worked out the problem of cheap lodgings, and had established themselves for some weeks here. These men also had been touched, either by some priest's voice or other divine word, with a sense of the duties of the occasion, and were just looking round to know where they might spread their second table. Five of them joined the fourteen, and the whole company, after a rapid conversation, agreed that they would try No. 277 on the other side of the Avenue. And here their fortunes changed.
For here it proved that the "cops" on that beat, finding nights growing somewhat cold, and that there was no provision made by the police commissioners for a club- room for gentlemen of their profession, had themselves arranged in the polling-booth a convenient place for the reading of the evening newspapers and for conference on their mutual affairs. These "cops" were unmarried men, and did not much know where was the home in which the governor requested them to spend their Thanksgiving. They had therefore determined to spread their own table in their club-room, and this evening had been making preparations for a picnic feast there at midnight on Thanksgiving Day, when they should be relieved from their more pressing duties. They also had found the liberality of each member of the force had brought in more than would be requisite, and were considering the same subject which had oppressed the consciences of the leaders of the other bands.
No one ever knew who made the great suggestion, but it is probable that it was one of these officials, well acquainted with the charter of the city of Boston and with its constitution and by-laws, who offered the proposal which was adopted. In the jealousy of the fierce democracy of Boston in the year 1820, when the present city charter was made, it reserved for itself permission to open Faneuil Hall at any time for a public meeting. It proves now that whenever fifty citizens unite to ask for the use of the hall for such a meeting, it must be given to them. At the time of which we are reading the mayor had to preside at every such meeting. At the "Cops'" club it was highly determined that the names of fifty citizens should at once be obtained, and that the Cradle of Liberty should be secured for the general Thanksgiving.
It was wisely resolved that no public notice should be given of this in the journals. It was well known that that many-eyed Argus called the press is very apt not to interfere with that which is none of its business.
And thus it happened that, when Thanksgiving Day came, the worthy janitor of Faneuil Hall sent down his assistant to open it, and that the assistant, who meant to dine at home, found a good-natured friend from the country who took the keys and lighted the gas in his place. Before the sun had set, Frederick Dane and Antonio Fero and Michael Chevalier and the Honorable Mr. Walk-in-the-Water and Eben Kartschoff arrived with an express-wagon driven by a stepson of P. Nolan. There is no difficulty at Faneuil Hall in bringing out a few trestles and as many boards as one wants for tables, for Faneuil Hall is a place given to hospitality. And so, before six o'clock, the hour assigned for the extemporized dinner, the tables were set with turkeys, with geese, with venison, with mallards and plover, with quail and partridges, with cranberry and squash, and with dishes of Russia and Italy and Greece and Bohemia, such as have no names. The Greeks brought fruits, the Indians brought venison, the Italians brought red wine, the French brought walnuts and chestnuts, and the good God sent a blessing. Almost every man found up either a wife or a sweetheart or a daughter or a niece to come with him, and the feast went on to the small hours of Friday. The Mayor came down on time, and being an accomplished man, addressed them in English, in Latin, in Greek, in Hebrew, and in Tuscan. And it is to be hoped that they understood him.
But no record has ever been made of the feast in any account-book on this side the line. Yet there are those who have seen it, or something like it, with the eye of faith. And when, a hundred years hence, some antiquary reads this story in a number of the "Omaha Intelligencer," which has escaped the detrition of the thirty-six thousand days and nights, he will say,—
"Why, this was the beginning of what we do now! Only these people seem to have taken care of strangers only one month in the twelve. Why did they not welcome all strangers in like manner, until they had made them feel at home? These people, once a year, seem to have fed the hungry. Would it not have been simpler for them to provide that no man should ever be hungry? These people certainly thanked God to some purpose once a year; how happy is the nation which has learned to thank Him always!"
THE SURVIVOR'S STORY
Fortunately we were with our wives.
It is in general an excellent custom, as I will explain if opportunity is given.
First, you are thus sure of good company.
For four mortal hours we had ground along, and stopped and waited and started again, in the drifts between Westfield and Springfield. We had shrieked out our woes by the voices of five engines. Brave men had dug. Patient men had sat inside and waited for the results of the digging. At last, in triumph, at eleven and three quarters, as they say in "Cinderella," we entered the Springfield station.
It was Christmas Eve!
Leaving the train to its devices, Blatchford and his wife (her name was Sarah), and I with mine (her name was Phebe), walked quickly with our little sacks out of the station, ploughed and waded along the white street, not to the Massasoit—no, but to the old Eagle and Star, which was still standing, and was a favorite with us youngsters. Good waffles, maple syrup ad lib., such fixings of other sorts as we preferred, and some liberty. The amount of liberty in absolutely first-class hotels is but small. A drowsy boy waked, and turned up the gas. Blatchford entered our names on the register, and cried at once, "By George, Wolfgang is here, and Dick! What luck!" for Dick and Wolfgang also travel with their wives. The boy explained that they had come up the river in the New Haven train, were only nine hours behind time, had arrived at ten, and had just finished supper and gone to bed. We ordered rare beefsteak, waffles, dip-toast, omelettes with kidneys, and omelettes without; we toasted our feet at the open fire in the parlor; we ate the supper when it was ready; and we also went to bed; rejoicing that we had home with us, having travelled with our wives; and that we could keep our Merry Christmas here. If only Wolfgang and Dick and their wives would join us, all would be well. (Wolfgang's wife was named Bertha, and Dick's was named Hosanna,—a name I have never met with elsewhere.)