At the Foot of the Rainbow
Gene Stratton-Porter. A Little Story of
Her Life and Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
(Copyright 1916, by Doubleday, Page & Company)
I. THE RAT-CATCHERS OF THE WABASH . . . . . . . . . . . .
II. RUBEN O'KHAYAM AND THE MILK PAIL. . . . . . . . . . . .
III. THE FIFTY COONS OF THE CANOPER. . . . . . . . . . . . .
IV. WHEN THE KINGFISHER AND THE BLACK BASS CAME HOME. . . .
V. WHEN THE RAINBOW SET ITS ARCH IN THE SKY. . . . . . . .
VI. THE HEART OF MARY MALONE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
VII. THE APPLE OF DISCORD BECOMES A JOINTED ROD. . . . . . .
VIII. WHEN THE BLACK BASS STRUCK. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
IX. WHEN JIMMY MALONE CAME TO CONFESSION. . . . . . . . . .
X. DANNIE'S RENUNCIATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
XI. THE POT OF GOLD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A LITTLE STORY OF HER LIFE AND WORK
FOR several years Doubleday, Page & Company have been receiving
repeated requests for information about the life and books of Gene
Stratton-Porter. Her fascinating nature work with bird, flower, and
moth, and the natural wonders of the Limberlost Swamp, made famous
as the scene of her nature romances, all have stirred much
curiosity among readers everywhere.
Mrs. Porter did not possess what has been called "an aptitude for
personal publicity." Indeed, up to the present, she has discouraged
quite successfully any attempt to stress the personal note. It is
practically impossible, however, to do the kind of work she has
done--to make genuine contributions to natural science by her
wonderful field work among birds, insects, and flowers, and then,
through her romances, to bring several hundred thousands of people
to love and understand nature in a way they never did before--
without arousing a legitimate interest in her own history, her
ideals, her methods of work, and all that underlies the structure
of her unusual achievement.
Her publishers have felt the pressure of this growing interest and
it was at their request that she furnished the data for a biographical
sketch that was to be written of her. But when this actually came
to hand, the present compiler found that the author had told a story
so much more interesting than anything he could write of her, that
it became merely a question of how little need be added.
The following pages are therefore adapted from what might be styled
the personal record of Gene Stratton-Porter. This will account for
the very intimate picture of family life in the Middle West for
some years following the Civil War.
Mark Stratton, the father of Gene Stratton-Porter, described his
wife, at the time of their marriage, as a "ninety-pound bit of pink
porcelain, pink as a wild rose, plump as a partridge, having a big
rope of bright brown hair, never ill a day in her life, and bearing
the loveliest name ever given a woman--Mary." he further added that
"God fashioned her heart to be gracious, her body to be the mother
of children, and as her especial gift of Grace, he put Flower Magic
into her fingers." Mary Stratton was the mother of twelve lusty
babies, all of whom she reared past eight years of age, losing two
a little over that, through an attack of scarlet fever with
whooping cough; too ugly a combination for even such a wonderful
mother as she. With this brood on her hands she found time to keep
an immaculate house, to set a table renowned in her part of the
state, to entertain with unfailing hospitality all who came to her
door, to beautify her home with such means as she could command, to
embroider and fashion clothing by hand for her children; but her
great gift was conceded by all to be the making of things to grow.
At that she was wonderful. She started dainty little vines and
climbing plants from tiny seeds she found in rice and coffee.
Rooted things she soaked in water, rolled in fine sand, planted
according to habit, and they almost never failed to justify her
expectations. She even grew trees and shrubs from slips and
cuttings no one else would have thought of trying to cultivate, her
last resort being to cut a slip diagonally, insert the lower end in
a small potato, and plant as if rooted. And it nearly always grew!
There is a shaft of white stone standing at her head in a cemetery
that belonged to her on a corner of her husband's land; but to Mrs.
Porter's mind her mother's real monument is a cedar of Lebanon
which she set in the manner described above. The cedar tops the
brow of a little hill crossing the grounds. She carried two slips
from Ohio, where they were given to her by a man who had brought
the trees as tiny things from the holy Land. She planted both in
this way, one in her dooryard and one in her cemetery. The tree
on the hill stands thirty feet tall now, topping all others, and
has a trunk two feet in circumference.
Mrs. Porter's mother was of Dutch extraction, and like all Dutch
women she worked her special magic with bulbs, which she favoured
above other flowers. Tulips, daffodils, star flowers, lilies,
dahlias, little bright hyacinths, that she called "blue bells,"
dearly loved. From these she distilled exquisite perfume by putting
clusters, & time of perfect bloom, in bowls lined with freshly
made, unsalted butter, covering them closely, and cutting the few
drops of extract thus obtained with alcohol. "She could do more
different things," says the author, "and finish them all in a
greater degree of perfection than any other woman I have ever
known. If I were limited to one adjective in describing her,
`capable' would be the word."
The author's father was descended from a long line of ancestors of
British blood. he was named for, and traced his origin to, that
first Mark Stratton who lived in New York, married the famous
beauty, Anne Hutchinson, and settled on Stratton Island, afterward
corrupted to Staten, according to family tradition. From that point
back for generations across the sea he followed his line to the
family of Strattons of which the Earl of Northbrooke is the present
head. To his British traditions and the customs of his family, Mark
Stratton clung with rigid tenacity, never swerving from his course
a particle under the influence of environment or association. All
his ideas were clear-cut; no man could influence him against his
better judgment. He believed in God, in courtesy, in honour, and
cleanliness, in beauty, and in education. He used to say that he
would rather see a child of his the author of a book of which he
could be proud, than on the throne of England, which was the
strongest way he knew to express himself. His very first earnings
he spent for a book; when other men rested, he read; all his life
he was a student of extraordinarily tenacious memory. He especially
loved history: Rollands, Wilson's Outlines, Hume, Macauley,
Gibbon, Prescott, and Bancroft, he could quote from all of them
paragraphs at a time contrasting the views of different writers on
a given event, and remembering dates with unfailing accuracy. "He
could repeat the entire Bible," says Mrs. Stratton-Porter, "giving
chapters and verses, save the books of Generations; these he said
`were a waste of gray matter to learn.' I never knew him to fail in
telling where any verse quoted to him was to be found in the Bible."
And she adds: "I was almost afraid to make these statements, although
there are many living who can corroborate them, until John Muir
published the story of his boyhood days, and in it I found the
history of such rearing as was my father's, told of as the customary
thing among the children of Muir's time; and I have referred many
inquirers as to whether this feat were possible, to the Muir book."
All his life, with no thought of fatigue or of inconvenience to
himself, Mark Stratton travelled miles uncounted to share what he
had learned with those less fortunately situated, by delivering
sermons, lectures, talks on civic improvement and politics. To him
the love of God could be shown so genuinely in no other way as in
the love of his fellowmen. He worshipped beauty: beautiful faces,
souls, hearts, beautiful landscapes, trees, animals, flowers. He
loved colour: rich, bright colour, and every variation down to the
faintest shadings. He was especially fond of red, and the author
carefully keeps a cardinal silk handkerchief that he was carrying
when stricken with apoplexy at the age of seventy-eight. "It was so
like him," she comments, "to have that scrap of vivid colour in
pocket. He never was too busy to fertilize a flower bed or to dig
holes for the setting of a tree or bush. A word constantly on his
lips was `tidy.' It applied equally to a woman, a house, a field,
or a barn lot. He had a streak of genius in his make-up: the
genius of large appreciation. Over inspired Biblical passages, over
great books, over sunlit landscapes, over a white violet abloom in
deep shade, over a heroic deed of man, I have seen his brow light
up, his eyes shine."
Mrs. Porter tells us that her father was constantly reading aloud
to his children and to visitors descriptions of the great deeds of
men. Two "hair-raisers" she especially remembers with increased
heart-beats to this day were the story of John Maynard, who piloted
a burning boat to safety while he slowly roasted at the wheel. She
says the old thrill comes back when she recalls the inflection of
her father's voice as he would cry in imitation of the captain:
"John Maynard!" and then give the reply. "Aye, aye, sir!"
until it sank to a mere gasp: favourite was the story of Clemanthe,
and her lover's immortal answer to her question: "Shall we meet again?"
To this mother at forty-six, and this father at fifty, each at
intellectual top-notch, every faculty having been stirred for years
by the dire stress of Civil War, and the period immediately
following, the author was born. From childhood she recalls
"thinking things which she felt should be saved," and frequently
tugging at her mother's skirts and begging her to "set down" what
the child considered stories and poems. Most of these were some big
fact in nature that thrilled her, usually expressed in Biblical
terms; for the Bible was read twice a day before the family and
helpers, and an average of three services were attended on Sunday.
Mrs. Porter says that her first all-alone effort was printed in
wabbly letters on the fly-leaf of an old grammar. It was entitled:
"Ode to the Moon." "Not," she comments, "that I
had an idea what an
`ode' was, other than that I had heard it discussed in the
family together with different forms of poetic expression. The
spelling must have been by proxy: but I did know the words I used,
what they meant, and the idea I was trying to convey.
"No other farm was ever quite so lovely as the one on which I was
born after this father and mother had spent twenty-five years
beautifying it," says the author. It was called "hopewell"
the home of some of her father's British ancestors. The natural
location was perfect, the land rolling and hilly, with several
flowing springs and little streams crossing it in three directions,
while plenty of forest still remained. The days of pioneer
struggles were past. The roads were smooth and level as floors, the
house and barn commodious; the family rode abroad in a double
carriage trimmed in patent leather, drawn by a matched team of gray
horses, and sometimes the father "speeded a little" for the delight
of the children. "We had comfortable clothing," says Mrs. Porter,
"and were getting our joy from life without that pinch of anxiety
which must have existed in the beginning, although I know that
father and mother always held steady, and took a large measure of
joy from life in passing."
Her mother's health, which always had been perfect, broke about the
time of the author's first remembrance due to typhoid fever
contracted after nursing three of her children through it. She
lived for several years, but with continual suffering, amounting at
times to positive torture.
So it happened, that led by impulse and aided by an escape from the
training given her sisters, instead of "sitting on a cushion and
sewing a fine seam"--the threads of the fabric had to be counted
and just so many allowed to each stitch!--this youngest child of
a numerous household spent her waking hours with the wild. She
followed her father and the boys afield, and when tired out slept
on their coats in fence corners, often awaking with shy creatures
peering into her face. She wandered where she pleased, amusing
herself with birds, flowers, insects, and plays she invented. "By
the day," writes the author, "I trotted from one object which
attracted me to another, singing a little song of made-up phrases
about everything I saw while I waded catching fish, chasing
butterflies over clover fields, or following a bird with a hair in
its beak; much of the time I carried the inevitable baby for a
woman-child, frequently improvised from an ear of corn in the silk,
wrapped in catalpa leaf blankets."
She had a corner of the garden under a big Bartlett pear tree for
her very own, and each spring she began by planting radishes and
lettuce when the gardening was done; and before these had time to
sprout she set the same beds full of spring flowers, and so
followed out the season. She made special pets of the birds,
locating nest after nest, and immediately projecting herself
into the daily life of the occupants. "No one," she says, "ever
taught me more than that the birds were useful, a gift of God for
our protection from insect pests on fruit and crops; and a gift of
Grace in their beauty and music, things to be rigidly protected.
From this cue I evolved the idea myself that I must be extremely
careful, for had not my father tied a 'kerchief over my mouth when
he lifted me for a peep into the nest of the humming-bird, and did
he not walk softly and whisper when he approached the spot? So I
stepped lightly, made no noise, and watched until I knew what a
mother bird fed her young before I began dropping bugs, worms, crumbs,
and fruit into little red mouths that opened at my tap on the nest
quite as readily as at the touch of the feet of the mother bird."
In the nature of this child of the out-of-doors there ran a fibre
of care for wild things. It was instinct with her to go slowly, to
touch lightly, to deal lovingly with every living thing: flower,
moth, bird, or animal. She never gathered great handfuls of frail
wild flowers, carried them an hour and threw them away. If she
picked any, she took only a few, mostly to lay on her mother's
pillow--for she had a habit of drawing comfort from a cinnamon pink
or a trillium laid where its delicate fragrance reached her with
every breath. "I am quite sure," Mrs. Porter writes, "that
in my life, in picking flowers, dragged up the plant by the roots,
as I frequently saw other people do. I was taught from infancy to
cut a bloom I wanted. My regular habit was to lift one plant of
each kind, especially if it were a species new to me, and set it in
my wild-flower garden."
To the birds and flowers the child added moths and butterflies,
because she saw them so frequently, the brilliance of colour in
yard and garden attracting more than could be found elsewhere. So
she grew with the wild, loving, studying, giving all her time. "I
fed butterflies sweetened water and rose leaves inside the screen
of a cellar window," Mrs. Porter tells us; "doctored all the sick
and wounded birds and animals the men brought me from afield; made
pets of the baby squirrels and rabbits they carried in for my
amusement; collected wild flowers; and as I grew older, gathered
arrow points and goose quills for sale in Fort Wayne. So I had the
first money I ever earned."
Her father and mother had strong artistic tendencies, although they
would have scoffed at the idea themselves, yet the manner in which
they laid off their fields, the home they built, the growing things
they preserved, the way they planted, the life they led, all go to
prove exactly that thing. Their bush--and vine-covered fences crept
around the acres they owned in a strip of gaudy colour; their
orchard lay in a valley, a square of apple trees in the centre
widely bordered by peach, so that it appeared at bloom time like a
great pink-bordered white blanket on the face of earth. Swale they
might have drained, and would not, made sheets of blue flag,
marigold and buttercups. From the home you could not look in any
direction without seeing a picture of beauty.
"Last spring," the author writes in a recent letter, "I
with my mind fully made up to buy that land at any reasonable
price, restore it to the exact condition in which I knew it as a
child, and finish my life there. I found that the house had been
burned, killing all the big trees set by my mother's hands
immediately surrounding it. The hills were shorn and ploughed down,
filling and obliterating the creeks and springs. Most of the forest
had been cut, and stood in corn. My old catalpa in the fence corner
beside the road and the Bartlett pear under which I had my
wild-flower garden were all that was left of the dooryard, while a
few gnarled apple trees remained of the orchard, which had been
reset in another place. The garden had been moved, also the lanes;
the one creek remaining out of three crossed the meadow at the foot
of the orchard. It flowed a sickly current over a dredged bed
between bare, straight banks. The whole place seemed worse than a
dilapidated graveyard to me. All my love and ten times the money I
had at command never could have put back the face of nature as I
knew it on that land."
As a child the author had very few books, only three of her own
outside of school books. "The markets did not afford the miracles
common with the children of today," she adds. "Books are now so
numerous, so cheap, and so bewildering in colour and make-up, that
I sometimes think our children are losing their perspective and
caring for none of them as I loved my few plain little ones filled
with short story and poem, almost no illustration. I had a treasure
house in the school books of my elders, especially the McGuffey
series of Readers from One to Six. For pictures I was driven to the
Bible, dictionary, historical works read by my father, agricultural
papers, and medical books about cattle and sheep.
"Near the time of my mother's passing we moved from hopewell to
city of Wabash in order that she might have constant medical
attention, and the younger children better opportunities for
schooling. Here we had magazines and more books in which I was
interested. The one volume in which my heart was enwrapt was a
collection of masterpieces of fiction belonging to my eldest
sister. It contained `Paul and Virginia,' `Undine,' `Picciola,' `The
Vicar of Wakefield,' `Pilgrim's Progress,' and several others I
soon learned by heart, and the reading and rereading of those
exquisitely expressed and conceived stories may have done much in
forming high conceptions of what really constitutes literature and
in furthering the lofty ideals instilled by my parents. One of
these stories formed the basis of my first publicly recognized
Reared by people who constantly pointed out every natural beauty,
using it wherever possible to drive home a precept, the child lived
out-of-doors with the wild almost entirely. If she reported
promptly three times a day when the bell rang at meal time, with
enough clothing to constitute a decent covering, nothing more was
asked until the Sabbath. To be taken from such freedom, her feet
shod, her body restricted by as much clothing as ever had been worn
on Sunday, shut up in a schoolroom, and set to droning over books,
most of which she detested, was the worst punishment ever inflicted
upon her she declares. She hated mathematics in any form and spent
all her time on natural science, language, and literature. "Friday
afternoon," writes Mrs. Porter, "was always taken up with an
exercise called `rhetoricals,' a misnomer as a rule, but let that
pass. Each week pupils of one of the four years furnished
entertainment for the assembled high school and faculty. Our
subjects were always assigned, and we cordially disliked them. This
particular day I was to have a paper on `Mathematical Law.'
"I put off the work until my paper had been called for several
times, and so came to Thursday night with excuses and not a line.
I was told to bring my work the next morning without fail. I went
home in hot anger. Why in all this beautiful world, would they not
allow me to do something I could do, and let any one of four
members of my class who revelled in mathematics do my subject? That
evening I was distracted. `I can't do a paper on mathematics, and
I won't!' I said stoutly; `but I'll do such a paper on a subject I
can write about as will open their foolish eyes and make them see
how wrong they are.'"
Before me on the table lay the book I loved, the most wonderful
story in which was `Picciola' by Saintine. Instantly I began to
write. Breathlessly I wrote for hours. I exceeded our limit ten
times over. The poor Italian Count, the victim of political
offences, shut by Napoleon from the wonderful grounds, mansion, and
life that were his, restricted to the bare prison walls of
Fenestrella, deprived of books and writing material, his one
interest in life became a sprout of green, sprung, no doubt, from
a seed dropped by a passing bird, between the stone flagging of the
prison yard before his window. With him I had watched over it
through all the years since I first had access to the book; with
him I had prayed for it. I had broken into a cold sweat of fear
when the jailer first menaced it; I had hated the wind that bent it
roughly, and implored the sun. I had sung a paean of joy at its
budding, and worshipped in awe before its thirty perfect blossoms.
The Count had named it `Picciola'--the little one--to me also it was
a personal possession. That night we lived the life of our `little
one' over again, the Count and I, and never were our anxieties and
our joys more poignant.
"Next morning," says Mrs. Porter, "I dared my crowd to
see how long
they could remain on the grounds, and yet reach the assembly room
before the last toll of the bell. This scheme worked. Coming in so
late the principal opened exercises without remembering my paper.
Again, at noon, I was as late as I dared be, and I escaped until
near the close of the exercises, through which I sat in cold fear.
When my name was reached at last the principal looked at me
inquiringly and then announced my inspiring mathematical subject.
I arose, walked to the front, and made my best bow. Then I said:
`I waited until yesterday because I knew absolutely nothing about my
subject'--the audience laughed--`and I could find nothing either
here or in the library at home, so last night I reviewed Saintine's
"Then instantly I began to read. I was almost paralyzed at my
audacity, and with each word I expected to hear a terse little
interruption. Imagine my amazement when I heard at the end of the
first page: `Wait a minute!' Of course I waited, and the principal
left the room. A moment later she reappeared accompanied by the
superintendent of the city schools. `Begin again,' she said.
`Take your time.'
"I was too amazed to speak. Then thought came in a rush. My paper
was good. It was as good as I had believed it. It was better than
I had known. I did go on! We took that assembly room and the corps
of teachers into our confidence, the Count and I, and told them all
that was in our hearts about a little flower that sprang between
the paving stones of a prison yard. The Count and I were free
spirits. From the book I had learned that. He got into political
trouble through it, and I had got into mathematical trouble, and we
told our troubles. One instant the room was in laughter, the next
the boys bowed their heads, and the girls who had forgotten their
handkerchiefs cried in their aprons. For almost sixteen big
foolscap pages I held them, and I was eager to go on and tell them
more about it when I reached the last line. Never again was a
subject forced upon me."
After this incident of her schooldays, what had been inclination
before was aroused to determination and the child neglected her
lessons to write. A volume of crude verse fashioned after the metre
of Meredith's "Lucile," a romantic book in rhyme, and two novels
were the fruits of this youthful ardour. Through the sickness and
death of a sister, the author missed the last three months of
school, but, she remarks, "unlike my schoolmates, I studied harder
after leaving school than ever before and in a manner that did me
real good. The most that can be said of what education I have is
that it is the very best kind in the world for me; the only
possible kind that would not ruin a person of my inclinations. The
others of my family had been to college; I always have been too
thankful for words that circumstances intervened which saved my
brain from being run through a groove in company with dozens of
others of widely different tastes and mentality. What small measure
of success I have had has come through preserving my individual
point of view, method of expression, and following in after life the
Spartan regulations of my girlhood home. Whatever I have been able to
do, has been done through the line of education my father saw fit to
give me, and through his and my mother's methods of rearing me.
"My mother went out too soon to know, and my father never saw one
of the books; but he knew I was boiling and bubbling like a yeast
jar in July over some literary work, and if I timidly slipped to
him with a composition, or a faulty poem, he saw good in it, and
made suggestions for its betterment. When I wanted to express
something in colour, he went to an artist, sketched a design for an
easel, personally superintended the carpenter who built it, and
provided tuition. On that same easel I painted the water colours
for `Moths of the Limberlost,' and one of the most poignant regrets
of my life is that he was not there to see them, and to know that
the easel which he built through his faith in me was finally used
in illustrating a book.
"If I thought it was music through which I could express myself,
paid for lessons and detected hidden ability that should be
developed. Through the days of struggle he stood fast; firm in his
belief in me. He was half the battle. It was he who demanded a
physical standard that developed strength to endure the rigours of
scientific field and darkroom work, and the building of ten books
in ten years, five of which were on nature subjects, having my own
illustrations, and five novels, literally teeming with natural
history, true to nature. It was he who demanded of me from birth
the finishing of any task I attempted and who taught me to
cultivate patience to watch and wait, even years, if necessary, to
find and secure material I wanted. It was he who daily lived before
me the life of exactly such a man as I portrayed in `The
Harvester,' and who constantly used every atom of brain and body
power to help and to encourage all men to do the same."
Marriage, a home of her own, and a daughter for a time filled the
author's hands, but never her whole heart and brain. The book fever
lay dormant a while, and then it became a compelling influence. It
dominated the life she lived, the cabin she designed for their
home, and the books she read. When her daughter was old enough to
go to school, Mrs. Porter's time came. Speaking of this period, she
says: "I could not afford a maid, but I was very strong, vital to
the marrow, and I knew how to manage life to make it meet my needs,
thanks to even the small amount I had seen of my mother. I kept a
cabin of fourteen rooms, and kept it immaculate. I made most of my
daughter's clothes, I kept a conservatory in which there bloomed
from three to six hundred bulbs every winter, tended a house of
canaries and linnets, and cooked and washed dishes besides three
times a day. In my spare time (mark the word, there was time to
spare else the books never would have been written and the pictures
made) I mastered photography to such a degree that the
manufacturers of one of our finest brands of print paper once sent
the manager of their factory to me to learn how I handled it. He
frankly said that they could obtain no such results with it as I
did. He wanted to see my darkroom, examine my paraphernalia, and
have me tell him exactly how I worked. As I was using the family
bathroom for a darkroom and washing negatives and prints on turkey
platters in the kitchen, I was rather put to it when it came to
giving an exhibition. It was scarcely my fault if men could not
handle the paper they manufactured so that it produced the results
that I obtained, so I said I thought the difference might lie in
the chemical properties of the water, and sent this man on his way
satisfied. Possibly it did. But I have a shrewd suspicion it lay in
high-grade plates, a careful exposure, judicious development, with
self-compounded chemicals straight from the factory, and C. P. I
think plates swabbed with wet cotton before development,
intensified if of short exposure, and thoroughly swabbed again
before drying, had much to do with it; and paper handled in the
same painstaking manner had more. I have hundreds of negatives in
my closet made twelve years ago, in perfect condition for printing
from to-day, and I never have lost a plate through fog from
imperfect development and hasty washing; so my little mother's rule
of `whatsoever thy hands find to do, do it with thy might,' held
good in photography."
Thus had Mrs. Porter made time to study and to write, and editors
began to accept what she sent them with little if any changes. She
began by sending photographic and natural history hints to
~Recreation, and with the first installment was asked to take
charge of the department and furnish material each month for which
she was to be paid at current prices in high-grade photographic
material. We can form some idea of the work she did under this
arrangement from the fact that she had over one thousand dollars'
worth of equipment at the end of the first year. The second year
she increased this by five hundred, and then accepted a place on
the natural history staff of ~Outing, working closely with Mr.
Casper Whitney. After a year of this helpful experience Mrs. Porter
began to turn her attention to what she calls "nature studies sugar
coated with fiction." Mixing some childhood fact with a large
degree of grown-up fiction, she wrote a little story entitled
"Laddie, the Princess, and the Pie."
"I was abnormally sensitive," says the author, "about
accomplish any given thing and failing. I had been taught in my
home that it was black disgrace to undertake anything and fail. My
husband owned a drug and book store that carried magazines, and it
was not possible to conduct departments in any of them and not have
it known; but only a few people in our locality read these
publications, none of them were interested in nature photography,
or natural science, so what I was trying to do was not realized
even by my own family.
"With them I was much more timid than with the neighbours. Least
all did I want to fail before my man Person and my daughter and our
respective families; so I worked in secret, sent in my material,
and kept as quiet about it as possible. On ~Outing I had graduated
from the camera department to an illustrated article each month,
and as this kept up the year round, and few illustrations could be
made in winter, it meant that I must secure enough photographs of
wild life in summer to last during the part of the year when few
were to be had.
"Every fair day I spent afield, and my little black horse and load
of cameras, ropes, and ladders became a familiar sight to the
country folk of the Limberlost, in Rainbow Bottom, the Canoper, on
the banks of the Wabash, in woods and thickets and beside the
roads; but few people understood what I was trying to do, none of
them what it would mean were I to succeed. Being so afraid of
failure and the inevitable ridicule in a community where I was
already severly criticised on account of my ideas of housekeeping,
dress, and social customs, I purposely kept everything I did as
quiet as possible. It had to be known that I was interested in
everything afield, and making pictures; also that I was writing
field sketches for nature publications, but little was thought
of it, save as one more, peculiarity, in me. So when my little
story was finished I went to our store and looked over the
magazines. I chose one to which we did not subscribe, having an
attractive cover, good type, and paper, and on the back of an old
envelope, behind the counter, I scribbled: Perriton Maxwell, 116
Nassau Street, New York, and sent my story on its way.
"Then I took a bold step, the first in my self-emancipation. Money
was beginning to come in, and I had some in my purse of my very own
that I had earned when no one even knew I was working. I argued that
if I kept my family so comfortable that they missed nothing from
their usual routine, it was my right to do what I could toward
furthering my personal ambitions in what time I could save from my
housework. And until I could earn enough to hire capable people to
take my place, I held rigidly to that rule. I who waded morass,
fought quicksands, crept, worked from ladders high in air, and
crossed water on improvised rafts without a tremor, slipped with
many misgivings into the postoffice and rented a box for myself, so
that if I met with failure my husband and the men in the bank need
not know what I had attempted. That was early May; all summer I
waited. I had heard that it required a long time for an editor to
read and to pass on matter sent him; but my waiting did seem out of
all reason. I was too busy keeping my cabin and doing field work to
repine; but I decided in my own mind that Mr. Maxwell was a `mean
old thing' to throw away my story and keep the return postage.
Besides, I was deeply chagrined, for I had thought quite well of my
effort myself, and this seemed to prove that I did not know even
the first principles of what would be considered an interesting story.
"Then one day in September I went into our store on an errand and
the manager said to me: `I read your story in the ~Metropolitan
last night. It was great! Did you ever write any fiction before?'
"My head whirled, but I had learned to keep my own counsels, so
said as lightly as I could, while my heart beat until I feared he
could hear it: `No. Just a simple little thing! Have you any spare
copies? My sister might want one.'
"He supplied me, so I hurried home, and shutting myself in the
library, I sat down to look my first attempt at fiction in the
face. I quite agreed with the manager that it was `great.' Then I
wrote Mr. Maxwell a note telling him that I had seen my story in
his magazine, and saying that I was glad he liked it enough to use
it. I had not known a letter could reach New York and bring a reply
so quickly as his answer came. It was a letter that warmed the deep
of my heart. Mr. Maxwell wrote that he liked my story very much, but
the office boy had lost or destroyed my address with the wrappings,
so after waiting a reasonable length of time to hear from me, he
had illustrated it the best he could, and printed it. He wrote that
so many people had spoken to him of a new, fresh note in it, that
he wished me to consider doing him another in a similar vein for a
Christmas leader and he enclosed my very first check for fiction.
"So I wrote: `How Laddie and the Princess Spelled Down at the
Christmas Bee.' Mr. Maxwell was pleased to accept that also, with
what I considered high praise, and to ask me to furnish the
illustrations. He specified that he wanted a frontispiece, head and
tail pieces, and six or seven other illustrations. Counting out the
time for his letter to reach me, and the material to return, I was
left with just ~one day in which to secure the pictures. They had
to be of people costumed in the time of the early seventies and I
was short of print paper and chemicals. First, I telephoned to Fort
Wayne for the material I wanted to be sent without fail on the
afternoon train. Then I drove to the homes of the people I wished
to use for subjects and made appointments for sittings, and
ransacked the cabin for costumes. The letter came on the eight A.M.
train. At ten o'clock I was photographing Colonel Lupton beside
my dining-room fireplace for the father in the story. At eleven I
was dressing and posing Miss Lizzie Huart for the princess. At
twelve I was picturing in one of my bed rooms a child who served
finely for Little Sister, and an hour later the same child in a
cemetery three miles in the country where I used mounted
butterflies from my cases, and potted plants carried from my
conservatory, for a graveyard scene. The time was early November,
but God granted sunshine that day, and short focus blurred the
background. At four o'clock I was at the schoolhouse, and in the
best-lighted room with five or six models, I was working on the
spelling bee scenes. By six I was in the darkroom developing and
drying these plates, every one of which was good enough to use. I
did my best work with printing-out paper, but I was compelled to
use a developing paper in this extremity, because it could be
worked with much more speed, dried a little between blotters, and
mounted. At three o'clock in the morning I was typing the
quotations for the pictures, at four the parcel stood in the hall
for the six o'clock train, and I realized that I wanted a drink,
food, and sleep, for I had not stopped a second for anything from
the time of reading Mr. Maxwell's letter until his order was ready
to mail. For the following ten years I was equally prompt in doing
all work I undertook, whether pictures or manuscript, without a
thought of consideration for self; and I disappointed the confident
expectations of my nearest and dearest by remaining sane, normal, and
almost without exception the healthiest woman they knew."
This story and its pictures were much praised, and in the following
year the author was asked for several stories, and even used bird
pictures and natural history sketches, quite an innovation for a
magazine at that time. With this encouragement she wrote and
illustrated a short story of about ten thousand words, and sent it
to the Century. Richard Watson Gilder advised Mrs. Porter to
enlarge it to book size, which she did. This book is "The
Cardinal." Following Mr. Gilder's advice, she recast the tale and,
stating with the mangled body of a cardinal some marksman had left
in the road she was travelling, in a fervour of love for the birds
and indignation at the hunter, she told the Cardinal's life
history in these pages.
The story was promptly accepted and the book was published with
very beautiful half-tones, and cardinal buckram cover.
Incidentally, neither the author's husband nor daughter had the
slightest idea she was attempting to write a book until work had
progressed to that stage where she could not make a legal contract
without her husband's signature. During the ten years of its life
this book has gone through eight different editions, varying in
form and make-up from the birds in exquisite colour, as colour work
advanced and became feasible, to a binding of beautiful red
morocco, a number of editions of differing design intervening. One
was tried in gray binding, the colour of the female cardinal, with
the red male used as an inset. Another was woodsgreen with the red
male, and another red with a wild rose design stamped in. There is a
British edition published by Hodder and Stoughton. All of these had
the author's own illustrations which authorities agree are the
most complete studies of the home life and relations of a pair of
birds ever published.
The story of these illustrations in "The Cardinal" and how
author got them will be a revelation to most readers. Mrs. Porter
set out to make this the most complete set of bird illustrations
ever secured, in an effort to awaken people to the wonder and
beauty and value of the birds. She had worked around half a dozen
nests for two years and had carried a lemon tree from her
conservatory to the location of one nest, buried the tub, and
introduced the branches among those the birds used in approaching
their home that she might secure proper illustrations for the
opening chapter, which was placed in the South. When the complete
bird series was finished, the difficult work over, and there
remained only a few characteristic Wabash River studies of flowers,
vines, and bushes for chapter tail pieces to be secured, the author
"met her Jonah," and her escape was little short of a miracle.
After a particularly strenuous spring afield, one teeming day in
early August she spent the morning in the river bottom beside the
Wabash. A heavy rain followed by August sun soon had her dripping
while she made several studies of wild morning glories, but she was
particularly careful to wrap up and drive slowly going home, so
that she would not chill. In the afternoon the author went to the
river northeast of town to secure mallow pictures for another
chapter, and after working in burning sun on the river bank until
exhausted, she several times waded the river to examine bushes on
the opposite bank. On the way home she had a severe chill, and for
the following three weeks lay twisted in the convulsions of
congestion, insensible most of the time. Skilled doctors and nurses
did their best, which they admitted would have availed nothing if the
patient had not had a constitution without a flaw upon which to work.
"This is the history," said Mrs. Porter, "of one little
among the pictures. There were about thirty others, none so
strenuous, but none easy, each having a living, fighting history
for me. If I were to give in detail the story of the two years'
work required to secure the set of bird studies illustrating `The
Cardinal,' it would make a much larger book than the life of the bird."
"The Cardinal" was published in June of 1903. On the 20th
October, 1904, "Freckles" appeared. Mrs. Porter had been delving
afield with all her heart and strength for several years, and in
the course of her work had spent every other day for three months
in the Limberlost swamp, making a series of studies of the nest of
a black vulture. Early in her married life she had met a Scotch
lumberman, who told her of the swamp and of securing fine timber
there for Canadian shipbuilders, and later when she had moved to
within less than a mile of its northern boundary, she met a man who
was buying curly maple, black walnut, golden oak, wild cherry, and
other wood extremely valuable for a big furniture factory in Grand
Rapids. There was one particular woman, of all those the author
worked among, who exercised herself most concerning her. She never
failed to come out if she saw her driving down the lane to the
woods, and caution her to be careful. If she felt that Mrs. Porter
had become interested and forgotten that it was long past meal
time, she would send out food and water or buttermilk to refresh
her. She had her family posted, and if any of them saw a bird with
a straw or a hair in its beak, they followed until they found its
location. It was her husband who drove the stake and ploughed
around the killdeer nest in the cornfield to save it for the
author; and he did many other acts of kindness without
understanding exactly what he was doing or why. "Merely that I
wanted certain things was enough for those people," writes Mrs.
Porter. "Without question they helped me in every way their big
hearts could suggest to them, because they loved to be kind, and to
be generous was natural with them. The woman was busy keeping house
and mothering a big brood, and every living creature that came her
way, besides. She took me in, and I put her soul, body, red head,
and all, into Sarah Duncan. The lumber and furniture man I combined
in McLean. Freckles was a composite of certain ideals and my own
field experiences, merged with those of Mr. Bob Burdette Black,
who, at the expense of much time and careful work, had done more
for me than any other ten men afield. The Angel was an idealized
picture of my daughter.
"I dedicated the book to my husband, Mr. Charles Darwin Porter,
several reasons, the chiefest being that he deserved it. When word
was brought me by lumbermen of the nest of the Black Vulture in the
Limberlost, I hastened to tell my husband the wonderful story of
the big black bird, the downy white baby, the pale blue egg, and to
beg back a rashly made promise not to work in the Limberlost. Being
a natural history enthusiast himself, he agreed that I must go; but
he qualified the assent with the proviso that no one less careful
of me than he, might accompany me there. His business had forced
him to allow me to work alone, with hired guides or the help of
oilmen and farmers elsewhere; but a Limberlost trip at that time
was not to be joked about. It had not been shorn, branded, and
tamed. There were most excellent reasons why I should not go there.
Much of it was impenetrable. Only a few trees had been taken out;
oilmen were just invading it. In its physical aspect it was a
treacherous swamp and quagmire filled with every plant, animal, and
human danger known in the worst of such locations in the Central States.
"A rod inside the swamp on a road leading to an oil well we mired
to the carriage hubs. I shielded my camera in my arms and before we
reached the well I thought the conveyance would be torn to pieces
and the horse stalled. At the well we started on foot, Mr. Porter
in kneeboots, I in waist-high waders. The time was late June; we
forced our way between steaming, fetid pools, through swarms of
gnats, flies, mosquitoes, poisonous insects, keeping a sharp watch
for rattlesnakes. We sank ankle deep at every step, and logs we
thought solid broke under us. Our progress was a steady succession
of prying and pulling each other to the surface. Our clothing was
wringing wet, and the exposed parts of our bodies lumpy with bites
and stings. My husband found the tree, cleared the opening to the
great prostrate log, traversed its unspeakable odours for nearly
forty feet to its farthest recess, and brought the baby and egg to
the light in his leaf-lined hat.
"We could endure the location only by dipping napkins in deodorant
and binding them over our mouths and nostrils. Every third day for
almost three months we made this trip, until Little Chicken was
able to take wing. Of course we soon made a road to the tree, grew
accustomed to the disagreeable features of the swamp and
contemptuously familiar with its dangers, so that I worked anywhere
in it I chose with other assistance; but no trip was so hard and
disagreeable as the first. Mr. Porter insisted upon finishing the
Little Chicken series, so that `deserve' is a poor word for any
honour that might accrue to him for his part in the book."
This was the nucleus of the book, but the story itself originated
from the fact that one day, while leaving the swamp, a big feather
with a shaft over twenty inches long came spinning and swirling
earthward and fell in the author's path. Instantly she looked
upward to locate the bird, which from the size and formation of the
quill could have been nothing but an eagle; her eyes, well trained
and fairly keen though they were, could not see the bird, which
must have been soaring above range. Familiar with the life of the
vulture family, the author changed the bird from which the feather
fell to that described in "Freckles." Mrs. Porter had the old
at that time practically untouched, and all its traditions to work
upon and stores of natural history material. This falling feather
began the book which in a few days she had definitely planned and
in six months completely written. Her title for it was "The Falling
Feather," that tangible thing which came drifting down from Nowhere,
just as the boy came, and she has always regretted the change to
"Freckles." John Murray publishes a British edition of this book
which is even better liked in Ireland and Scotland than in England.
As "The Cardinal" was published originally not by Doubleday,
& Company, but by another firm, the author had talked over with the
latter house the scheme of "Freckles" and it had been agreed to
publish the story as soon as Mrs. Porter was ready. How the book
finally came to Doubleday, Page & Company she recounts as follows:
"By the time `Freckles' was finished, I had exercised my woman's
prerogative and `changed my mind'; so I sent the manuscript to
Doubleday, Page & Company, who accepted it. They liked it well
enough to take a special interest in it and to bring it out with
greater expense than it was at all customary to put upon a novel at
that time; and this in face of the fact that they had repeatedly
warned me that the nature work in it would kill fully half its
chances with the public. Mr. F. N. Doubleday, stating on a trip to
the Bahamas, remarked that he would like to take a manuscript with
him to read, and the office force decided to put `Freckles' into
his grip. The story of the plucky young chap won his way to the
heart of the publishers, under a silk cotton tree, 'neath bright
southern skies, and made such a friend of him that through the
years of its book-life it has been the object of Special attention.
Mr. George Doran gave me a photograph which Mr. horace MacFarland made
of Mr. Doubleday during this reading of the Mss. of `Freckles'
which is especially interesting."
That more than 2,000,000 readers have found pleasure and profit in
Mrs. Porter's books is a cause for particular gratification. These
stories all have, as a fundamental reason of their existence, the
author's great love of nature. To have imparted this love to
others--to have inspired many hundreds of thousands to look for the
first time with seeing eyes at the pageant of the out-of-doors--is
a satisfaction that must endure. For the part of the publishers,
they began their business by issuing "Nature Books" at a time
the sale of such works was problematical. As their tastes and
inclinations were along the same lines which Mrs. Porter loved to follow,
it gave them great pleasure to be associated with her books which opened
the eyes of so great a public to new and worthy fields of enjoyment.
The history of "Freckles" is unique. The publishers had inserted
marginal drawings on many pages, but these, instead of attracting
attention to the nature charm of the book, seemed to have exactly
a contrary effect. The public wanted a novel. The illustrations
made it appear to be a nature book, and it required three long slow
years for "Freckles" to pass from hand to hand and prove that
really was a novel between the covers, but that it was a story that
took its own time and wound slowly toward its end, stopping its
leisurely course for bird, flower, lichen face, blue sky, perfumed
wind, and the closest intimacies of the daily life of common folk.
Ten years have wrought a great change in the sentiment against
nature work and the interest in it. Thousands who then looked upon
the world with unobserving eyes are now straining every nerve to
accumulate enough to be able to end life where they may have bird,
flower, and tree for daily companions.
Mrs. Porter's account of the advice she received at this time is
particularly interesting. Three editors who read "Freckles" before
it was published offered to produce it, but all of them expressed
precisely the same opinion: "The book will never sell well as it
is. If you want to live from the proceeds of your work, if you want
to sell even moderately, you must ~cut out the nature stuff." "Now
to put in the nature stuff," continues the author, "was the express
purpose for which the book had been written. I had had one year's
experience with `The Song of the Cardinal,' frankly a nature book,
and from the start I realized that I never could reach the
audience I wanted with a book on nature alone. To spend time
writing a book based wholly upon human passion and its outworking
I would not. So I compromised on a book into which I put all the
nature work that came naturally within its scope, and seasoned it
with little bits of imagination and straight copy from the lives of
men and women I had known intimately, folk who lived in a simple,
common way with which I was familiar. So I said to my publishers:
`I will write the books exactly as they take shape in my mind. You
publish them. I know they will sell enough that you will not lose.
If I do not make over six hundred dollars on a book I shall never
utter a complaint. Make up my work as I think it should be and
leave it to the people as to what kind of book they will take into
their hearts and homes.' I altered `Freckles' slightly, but from
that time on we worked on this agreement.
"My years of nature work have not been without considerable insight
into human nature, as well," continues Mrs. Porter. "I know its
failings, its inborn tendencies, its weaknesses, its failures, its
depth of crime; and the people who feel called upon to spend their
time analyzing, digging into, and uncovering these sources of
depravity have that privilege, more's the pity! If I had my way
about it, this is a privilege no one could have in books intended
for indiscriminate circulation. I stand squarely for book
censorship, and I firmly believe that with a few more years of
such books, as half a dozen I could mention, public opinion will
demand this very thing. My life has been fortunate in one glad
way: I have lived mostly in the country and worked in the woods.
For every bad man and woman I have ever known, I have met, lived
with, and am intimately acquainted with an overwhelming number of
thoroughly clean and decent people who still believe in God and
cherish high ideals, and it is ~upon the lives of these that _I_
base what _I_ write. To contend that this does not produce a picture
true to life is idiocy. It does. It produces a picture true to ideal
life; to the best that good men and good women can do at level best.
"I care very little for the magazine or newspaper critics who
proclaim that there is no such thing as a moral man, and that my
pictures of life are sentimental and idealized. They are! And I
glory in them! They are straight, living pictures from the lives of
men and women of morals, honour, and loving kindness. They form
`idealized pictures of life' because they are copies from life where
it touches religion, chastity, love, home, and hope of heaven
ultimately. None of these roads leads to publicity and the divorce
court. They all end in the shelter and seclusion of a home.
"Such a big majority of book critics and authors have begun to
teach, whether they really believe it or not, that no book is true
to life unless it is true to the worst in life, that the idea has
infected even the women."
In 1906, having seen a few of Mrs. Porter's studies of bird life,
Mr. Edward Bok telegraphed the author asking to meet him in
Chicago. She had a big portfolio of fine prints from plates for
which she had gone to the last extremity of painstaking care, and
the result was an order from Mr. Bok for a six months' series in
the Ladies' Home Journal of the author's best bird studies
accompanied by descriptions of how she secured them. This material
was later put in book form under the title, "What I Have Done with
Birds," and is regarded as authoritative on the subject of bird
photography and bird life, for in truth it covers every phase of the
life of the birds described, and contains much of other nature subjects.
By this time Mrs. Porter had made a contract with her publishers to
alternate her books. She agreed to do a nature book for love, and
then, by way of compromise, a piece of nature work spiced with
enough fiction to tempt her class of readers. In this way she hoped
that they would absorb enough of the nature work while reading the
fiction to send them afield, and at the same time keep in their
minds her picture of what she considers the only life worth living.
She was still assured that only a straight novel would "pay,"
she was living, meeting all her expenses, giving her family many
luxuries, and saving a little sum for a rainy day she foresaw on
her horoscope. To be comfortably clothed and fed, to have time and
tools for her work, is all she ever has asked of life.
Among Mrs. Porter's readers "At the Foot of the Rainbow" stands
perhaps the author's strongest piece of fiction.
In August of 1909 two books on which the author had been working
for years culminated at the same time: a nature novel, and a
straight nature book. The novel was, in a way, a continuation of
"Freckles," filled as usual with wood lore, but more concerned
moths than birds. Mrs. Porter had been finding and picturing
exquisite big night flyers during several years of field work among
the birds, and from what she could have readily done with them she
saw how it would be possible for a girl rightly constituted and
environed to make a living, and a good one, at such work. So was
conceived "A Girl of the Limberlost." "This comes fairly
my idea of a good book," she writes. "No possible harm can be
any one in reading it. The book can, and does, present a hundred
pictures that will draw any reader in closer touch with nature and
the Almighty, my primal object in each line I write. The human side
of the book is as close a character study as I am capable of
making. I regard the character of Mrs. Comstock as the best
thought-out and the cleanest-cut study of human nature I have so
far been able to do. Perhaps the best justification of my idea of
this book came to me recently when I received an application from
the President for permission to translate it into Arabic, as the
first book to be used in an effort to introduce our methods of
nature study into the College of Cairo."
Hodder and Stoughton of London published the British edition
of this work.
At the same time that "A Girl of the Limberlost" was published
there appeared the book called "Birds of the Bible." This volume
took shape slowly. The author made a long search for each bird
mentioned in the Bible, how often, where, why; each quotation
concerning it in the whole book, every abstract reference, why
made, by whom, and what it meant. Then slowly dawned the sane and
true things said of birds in the Bible compared with the amazing
statements of Aristotle, Aristophanes, Pliny, and other writers of
about the same period in pagan nations. This led to a search for
the dawn of bird history and for the very first pictures preserved
of them. On this book the author expended more work than on any
other she has ever written.
In 1911 two more books for which Mrs. Porter had gathered material
for long periods came to a conclusion on the same date: "Music of
the Wild" and "The Harvester." The latter of these was a
novel; the other a frank nature book, filled with all outdoors--a
special study of the sounds one hears in fields and forests, and
photographic reproductions of the musicians and their instruments.
The idea of "The Harvester" was suggested to the author by
editor who wanted a magazine article, with human interest in it,
about the ginseng diggers in her part of the country. Mr. Porter
had bought ginseng for years for a drug store he owned; there were
several people he knew still gathering it for market, and growing
it was becoming a good business all over the country. Mrs. Porter
learned from the United States Pharmacopaeia and from various other
sources that the drug was used mostly by the Chinese, and with a
wholly mistaken idea of its properties. The strongest thing any
medical work will say for ginseng is that it is "~a very mild and
soothing drug." It seems that the Chinese buy and use it in
enormous quantities, in the belief that it is a remedy for almost
every disease to which humanity is heir; that it will prolong life,
and that it is a wonderful stimulant. Ancient medical works make
this statement, laying special emphasis upon its stimulating
qualities. The drug does none of these things. Instead of being a
stimulant, it comes closer to a sedative. This investigation set
the author on the search for other herbs that now are or might be
grown as an occupation. Then came the idea of a man who should grow
these drugs professionally, and of the sick girl healed by them.
"I could have gone to work and started a drug farm myself," remarks
Mrs. Porter, "with exactly the same profit and success as the
Harvester. I wrote primarily to state that to my personal
knowledge, clean, loving men still exist in this world, and that no
man is forced to endure the grind of city life if he wills
otherwise. Any one who likes, with even such simple means as herbs
he can dig from fence corners, may start a drug farm that in a
short time will yield him delightful work and independence. _I_
wrote the book as _I_ thought it should be written, to prove my
points and establish my contentions. I think it did. Men the globe
around promptly wrote me that they always had observed the moral
code; others that the subject never in all their lives had been
presented to them from my point of view, but now that it had been,
they would change and do what they could to influence all men to do
Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton publish a British edition of "The
Harvester," there is an edition in Scandinavian, it was running
serially in a German magazine, but for a time at least the German
and French editions that were arranged will be stopped by this war,
as there was a French edition of "The Song of the Cardinal."
After a short rest, the author began putting into shape a book for
which she had been compiling material since the beginning of field
work. From the first study she made of an exquisite big night moth,
Mrs. Porter used every opportunity to secure more and
representative studies of each family in her territory, and
eventually found the work so fascinating that she began hunting
cocoons and raising caterpillars in order to secure life histories
and make illustrations with fidelity to life. "It seems," comments
the author, "that scientists and lepidopterists from the beginning
have had no hesitation in describing and using mounted moth and
butterfly specimens for book text and illustration, despite the
fact that their colours fade rapidly, that the wings are always in
unnatural positions, and the bodies shrivelled. I would quite as
soon accept the mummy of any particular member of the Rameses
family as a fair representation of the living man, as a mounted
moth for a live one."
When she failed to secure the moth she wanted in a living and
perfect specimen for her studies, the author set out to raise one,
making photographic studies from the eggs through the entire life
process. There was one June during which she scarcely slept for
more than a few hours of daytime the entire month. She turned her
bedroom into a hatchery, where were stored the most precious
cocoons; and if she lay down at night it was with those she thought
would produce moths before morning on her pillow, where she could
not fail to hear them emerging. At the first sound she would be up
with notebook in hand, and by dawn, busy with cameras. Then she
would be forced to hurry to the darkroom and develop her plates in
order to be sure that she had a perfect likeness, before releasing
the specimen, for she did release all she produced except one pair
of each kind, never having sold a moth, personally. Often where the
markings were wonderful and complicated, as soon as the wings were
fully developed Mrs. Porter copied the living specimen in water
colours for her illustrations, frequently making several copies in
order to be sure that she laid on the colour enough brighter than
her subject so that when it died it would be exactly the same shade.
"Never in all my life," writes the author, "have I had
exquisite joy in work as I had in painting the illustrations for
this volume of `Moths of the Limberlost.' Colour work had advanced
to such a stage that I knew from the beautiful reproductions in
Arthur Rackham's `Rheingold and Valkyrie' and several other books
on the market, that time so spent would not be lost. Mr. Doubleday
had assured me personally that I might count on exact reproduction,
and such details of type and paper as I chose to select. I used the
easel made for me when a girl, under the supervision of my father,
and I threw my whole heart into the work of copying each line and
delicate shading on those wonderful wings, `all diamonded with panes
of quaint device, innumerable stains and splendid dyes,' as one
poet describes them. There were times, when in working a mist of
colour over another background, I cut a brush down to three hairs.
Some of these illustrations I sent back six and seven times, to be
worked over before the illustration plates were exact duplicates of
the originals, and my heart ached for the engravers, who must have
had Job-like patience; but it did not ache enough to stop me until
I felt the reproduction exact. This book tells its own story of
long and patient waiting for a specimen, of watching, of
disappointments, and triumphs. I love it especially among my book
children because it represents my highest ideals in the making of
a nature book, and I can take any skeptic afield and prove the
truth of the natural history it contains."
In August of 1913 the author's novel "Laddie" was published
York, London, Sydney and Toronto simultaneously. This book contains
the same mixture of romance and nature interest as the others, and
is modelled on the same plan of introducing nature objects peculiar
to the location, and characters, many of whom are from life,
typical of the locality at a given period. The first thing many
critics said of it was that "no such people ever existed, and no
such life was ever lived." In reply to this the author said: "Of
truth, the home I described in this book I knew to the last grain
of wood in the doors, and I painted, it with absolute accuracy; and
many of the people I described I knew more intimately than I ever
have known any others. ~Taken as a whole it represents a perfectly
faithful picture of home life, in a family who were reared and
educated exactly as this book indicates. There was such a man as
Laddie, and he was as much bigger and better than my description of
him as a real thing is always better than its presentment. The only
difference, barring the nature work, between my books and those of
many other writers, is that I prefer to describe and to perpetuate
the ~best I have known in life; whereas many authors seem to feel
that they have no hope of achieving a high literary standing unless
they delve in and reproduce the ~worst.
"To deny that wrong and pitiful things exist in life is folly,
to believe that these things are made better by promiscuous
discussion at the hands of writers who ~fail to prove by their
books that their viewpoint is either right, clean, or helpful, is
close to insanity. If there is to be any error on either side in a
book, then God knows it is far better that it should be upon the
side of pure sentiment and high ideals than upon that of a too
loose discussion of subjects which often open to a large part of
the world their first knowledge of such forms of sin, profligate
expenditure, and waste of life's best opportunities. There is one
great beauty in idealized romance: reading it can make no one worse
than he is, while it may help thousands to a cleaner life and
higher inspiration than they ever before have known."
Mrs. Porter has written ten books, and it is not out of place here
to express her attitude toward them. Each was written, she says,
from her heart's best impulses. They are as clean and helpful as
she knew how to make them, as beautiful and interesting. She has
never spared herself in the least degree, mind or body, when it
came to giving her best, and she has never considered money in
relation to what she was writing.
During the hard work and exposure of those early years, during
rainy days and many nights in the darkroom, she went straight ahead
with field work, sending around the globe for books and delving to
secure material for such books as "Birds of the Bible," "Music
the Wild," and "Moths of the Limberlost." Every day devoted
work was "commercially" lost, as publishers did not fail to tell
her. But that was the work she could do, and do with exceeding joy.
She could do it better pictorially, on account of her lifelong
knowledge of living things afield, than any other woman had as yet
had the strength and nerve to do it. It was work in which she
gloried, and she persisted. "Had I been working for money,"
comments the author, "not one of these nature books ever would have
been written, or an illustration made."
When the public had discovered her and given generous approval to
"A Girl of the Limberlost," when "The Harvester" had
new record, that would have been the time for the author to prove
her commercialism by dropping nature work, and plunging headlong
into books it would pay to write, and for which many publishers
were offering alluring sums. Mrs. Porter's answer was the issuing
of such books as "Music of the Wild" and "Moths of the Limberlost."
No argument is necessary. Mr. Edward Shuman, formerly critic of the
Chicago Record-Herald, was impressed by this method of work and
pointed it out in a review. It appealed to Mr. Shuman, when "Moths
of the Limberlost" came in for review, following the tremendous
success of "The Harvester," that had the author been working for
money, she could have written half a dozen more "Harvesters" while
putting seven years of field work, on a scientific subject, into a
personally illustrated work.
In an interesting passage dealing with her books, Mrs. Porter
writes: "I have done three times the work on my books of fiction
that I see other writers putting into a novel, in order to make all
natural history allusions accurate and to write them in such
fashion that they will meet with the commendation of high schools,
colleges, and universities using what I write as text books, and
for the homes that place them in their libraries. I am perfectly
willing to let time and the hearts of the people set my work in its
ultimate place. I have no delusions concerning it.
"To my way of thinking and working the greatest service a piece
fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of
life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows
him where he can be a gentler, saner, cleaner, kindlier man, it is
a wonder-working book. If it opens his eyes to one beauty in nature
he never saw for himself, and leads him one step toward the God of
the Universe, it is a beneficial book, for one step into the
miracles of nature leads to that long walk, the glories of which so
strengthen even a boy who thinks he is dying, that he faces his
struggle like a gladiator."
During the past ten years thousands of people have sent the author
word that through her books they have been led afield and to their
first realization of the beauties of nature her mail brings an
average of ten such letters a day, mostly from students, teachers,
and professional people of our largest cities. It can probably be
said in all truth of her nature books and nature novels, that in
the past ten years they have sent more people afield than all the
scientific writings of the same period. That is a big statement,
but it is very likely pretty close to the truth. Mrs. Porter has
been asked by two London and one Edinburgh publishers for the
privilege of bringing out complete sets of her nature books, but as
yet she has not felt ready to do this.
In bringing this sketch of Gene Stratton-Porter to a close it will
be interesting to quote the author's own words describing the
Limberlost Swamp, its gradual disappearance under the encroachments
of business, and her removal to a new field even richer in natural
beauties. She says: "In the beginning of the end a great swamp
region lay in northeastern Indiana. Its head was in what is now
Noble and DeKalb counties; its body in Allen and Wells, and its
feet in southern Adams and northern Jay The Limberlost lies at the
foot and was, when I settled near it, ~exactly as described in my
books. The process of dismantling it was told in, Freckles, to
start with, carried on in `A Girl of the Limberlost,' and finished
in `Moths of the Limberlost.' Now it has so completely fallen prey
to commercialism through the devastation of lumbermen, oilmen, and
farmers, that I have been forced to move my working territory and
build a new cabin about seventy miles north, at the head of the
swamp in Noble county, where there are many lakes, miles of
unbroken marsh, and a far greater wealth of plant and animal life
than existed during my time in the southern part. At the north end
every bird that frequents the Central States is to be found. Here
grow in profusion many orchids, fringed gentians, cardinal flowers,
turtle heads, starry campions, purple gerardias, and grass of
Parnassus. In one season I have located here almost every flower
named in the botanies as native to these regions and several that
I can find in no book in my library.
"But this change of territory involves the purchase of fifteen
acres of forest and orchard land, on a lake shore in marsh country.
It means the building of a permanent, all-year-round home, which
will provide the comforts of life for my family and furnish a
workshop consisting of a library, a photographic darkroom and
negative closet, and a printing room for me. I could live in such
a home as I could provide on the income from my nature work alone;
but when my working grounds were cleared, drained and ploughed up,
literally wiped from the face of the earth, I never could have
moved to new country had it not been for the earnings of the
novels, which I now spend, and always have spent, in great part
~upon my nature work. Based on this plan of work and life I have
written ten books, and `please God I live so long,' I shall write
ten more. Possibly every one of them will be located in northern
Indiana. Each one will be filled with all the field and woods
legitimately falling to its location and peopled with the best men
and women I have known."
THE RAT-CATCHERS OF THE WABASH
"Hey, you swate-scented little heart-warmer!" cried Jimmy
as he lifted his tenth trap, weighted with a struggling muskrat,
from the Wabash. "Varmint you may be to all the rist of creation,
but you mane a night at Casey's to me."
Jimmy whistled softly as he reset the trap. For the moment he
forgot that he was five miles from home, that it was a mile farther
to the end of his line at the lower curve of Horseshoe Bend, that
his feet and fingers were almost freezing, and that every rat of
the ten now in the bag on his back had made him thirstier. He
shivered as the cold wind sweeping the curves of the river struck
him; but when an unusually heavy gust dropped the ice and snow from
a branch above him on the back of his head, he laughed, as he ducked
and cried: "Kape your snowballing till the Fourth of July, will you!"
"Chick-a-dee-dee-dee!" remarked a tiny gray bird on the tree
him. Jimmy glanced up. "Chickie, Chickie, Chickie," he said. "I
can't till by your dress whether you are a hin or a rooster. But I
can till by your employmint that you are working for grub. Have to
hustle lively for every worm you find, don't you, Chickie? Now me,
I'm hustlin' lively for a drink, and I be domn if it seems
nicessary with a whole river of drinkin' stuff flowin' right under
me feet. But the old Wabash ain't runnin "wine and milk and honey"
not by the jug-full. It seems to be compounded of aquil parts of
mud, crude ile, and rain water. If 'twas only runnin' Melwood, be
gorry, Chickie, you'd see a mermaid named Jimmy Malone sittin' on
the Kingfisher Stump, combin' its auburn hair with a breeze, and
scoopin' whiskey down its gullet with its tail fin. No, hold on,
Chickie, you wouldn't either. I'm too flat-chisted for a mermaid,
and I'd have no time to lave off gurglin' for the hair-combin' act,
which, Chickie, to me notion is as issential to a mermaid as the
curves. I'd be a sucker, the biggest sucker in the Gar-hole,
Chickie bird. I'd be an all-day sucker, be gobs; yis, and an all-
night sucker, too. Come to think of it, Chickie, be domn if I'd be
a sucker at all. Look at the mouths of thim! Puckered up with a
drawstring! Oh, Hell on the Wabash, Chickie, think of Jimmy Malone
lyin' at the bottom of a river flowin' with Melwood, and a
puckerin'-string mouth! Wouldn't that break the heart of you? I
know what I'd be. I'd be the Black Bass of Horseshoe Bend, Chickie,
and I'd locate just below the shoals headin' up stream, and I'd
hold me mouth wide open till I paralyzed me jaws so I couldn't shut
thim. I'd just let the pure stuff wash over me gills constant,
world without end. Good-by, Chickie. Hope you got your grub, and
pretty soon I'll have enough drink to make me feel like I was the
Bass for one night, anyway."
Jimmy hurried to his next trap, which was empty, but the one after
that contained a rat, and there were footprints in the snow.
"That's where the porrage-heart of the Scotchman comes in," said
Jimmy, as he held up the rat by one foot, and gave it a sharp rap
over the head with the trap to make sure it was dead. "Dannie could
no more hear a rat fast in one of me traps and not come over and
put it out of its misery, than he could dance a hornpipe. And him
only sicond hand from hornpipe land, too! But his feet's like lead.
Poor Dannie! He gets just about half the rats I do. He niver did
Jimmy's gay face clouded for an instant. The twinkle faded from his
eyes, and a look of unrest swept into them. He muttered something,
and catching up his bag, shoved in the rat. As he reset the trap,
a big crow dropped from branch to branch on a sycamore above him,
and his back scarcely was turned before it alighted on the ice, and
ravenously picked at three drops of blood purpling there.
Away down the ice-sheeted river led Dannie's trail, showing plainly
across the snow blanket. The wind raved through the trees, and
around the curves of the river. The dark earth of the banks peeping
from under overhanging ice and snow, looked like the entrance to
deep mysterious caves. Jimmy's superstitious soul readily peopled
them with goblins and devils. He shuddered, and began to talk aloud
to cheer himself. "Elivin muskrat skins, times fifteen cints
apiece, one dollar sixty-five. That will buy more than I can hold.
Hagginy! Won't I be takin' one long fine gurgle of the pure stuff!
And there's the boys! I might do the grand for once. One on me for
the house! And I might pay something on my back score, but first
I'll drink till I swell like a poisoned pup. And I ought to get
Mary that milk pail she's been kickin' for this last month. Women
and cows are always kickin'! If the blarsted cow hadn't kicked a
hole in the pail, there'd be no need of Mary kicking for a new one.
But dough is dubious soldering. Mary says it's bad enough on the
dish pan, but it positively ain't hilthy about the milk pail, and
she is right. We ought to have a new pail. I guess I'll get it
first, and fill up on what's left. One for a quarter will do. And
I've several traps yet, I may get a few more rats."
The virtuous resolve to buy a milk pail before he quenched the
thirst which burned him, so elated Jimmy with good opinion of
himself that he began whistling gayly as he strode toward his next
trap. And by that token, Dannie Macnoun, resetting an empty trap a
quarter of a mile below, knew that Jimmy was coming, and that as
usual luck was with him. Catching his blood and water dripping bag,
Dannie dodged a rotten branch that came crashing down under the
weight of its icy load, and stepping out on the river, he pulled on
his patched wool-lined mittens as he waited for Jimmy.
"How many, Dannie?" called Jimmy from afar.
"Seven," answered Dannie. "What for ye?"
"Elivin," replied Jimmy, with a bit of unconscious swagger.
havin' poor luck to-day."
"How mony wad satisfy ye?" asked Dannie sarcastically.
"Ain't got time to figure that," answered Jimmy, working in
double shuffle as he walked. "Thrash around a little, Dannie. It
will warm you up."
"I am no cauld," answered Dannie.
"No cauld!" imitated Jimmy. "No cauld! Come to observe
I do detect symptoms of sunstroke in the ridness of your face, and
the whiteness about your mouth; but the frost on your neck scarf,
and the icicles fistooned around the tail of your coat, tell a
"Dannie, you remind me of the baptizin' of Pete Cox last winter.
Pete's nothin' but skin and bone, and he niver had a square meal in
his life to warm him. It took pushin' and pullin' to get him in the
water, and a scum froze over while he was under. Pete came up
shakin' like the feeder on a thrashin' machine, and whin he could
spake at all, `Bless Jasus,' says he, `I'm jist as wa-wa-warm as I
wa-wa-want to be.' So are you, Dannie, but there's a difference in
how warm folks want to be. For meself, now, I could aisily bear a
little more hate."
"It's honest, I'm no cauld," insisted Dannie; and he might
added that if Jimmy would not fill his system with Casey's poisons,
that degree of cold would not chill and pinch him either. But being
Dannie, he neither thought nor said it.
`"Why, I'm frozen to me sowl!" cried Jimmy, as he changed the
bag to his other hand, and beat the empty one against his leg."
Say, Dannie, where do you think the Kingfisher is wintering?"
"And the Black Bass," answered Dannie. "Where do ye suppose
Black Bass is noo?"
"Strange you should mintion the Black Bass," said Jimmy. "I
just havin' a little talk about him with a frind of mine named
Chickie-dom, no, Chickie-dee, who works a grub stake back there.
The Bass might be lyin' in the river bed right under our feet.
Don't you remimber the time whin I put on three big cut-worms, and
skittered thim beyond the log that lays across here, and he lept
from the water till we both saw him the best we ever did, and
nothin' but my old rotten line ever saved him? Or he might be where
it slumps off just below the Kingfisher stump. But I know where he
is all right. He's down in the Gar-hole, and he'll come back here
spawning time, and chase minnows when the Kingfisher comes home.
But, Dannie, where the nation do you suppose the Kingfisher is?"
"No' so far away as ye might think," replied Dannie. "Doc
told me that coming on the train frae Indianapolis on the fifteenth
of December, he saw one fly across a little pond juist below
Winchester. I believe they go south slowly, as the cold drives
them, and stop near as they can find guid fishing. Dinna that stump
look lonely wi'out him?"
"And sound lonely without the Bass slashing around! I am going
that Bass this summer if I don't do a thing but fish!" vowed Jimmy.
"I'll surely have a try at him," answered Dannie, with a twinkle
his gray eyes. "We've caught most everything else in the Wabash, and
our reputation fra taking guid fish is ahead of any one on the river,
except the Kingfisher. Why the Diel dinna one of us haul out that Bass?"
"Ain't I just told you that I am going to hook him this summer?"
"Dinna ye hear me mention that I intended to take a try at him
questioned Dannie. "Have ye forgotten that I know how to fish?"
"'Nough breeze to-day without starting a Highlander," interposed
Jimmy hastily. "I believe I hear a rat in my next trap. That will
make me twilve, and it's good and glad of it I am for I've to walk
to town when my line is reset. There's something Mary wants."
"If Mary wants ye to go to town, why dinna ye leave me to finish
your traps, and start now?" asked Dannie. "It's getting dark,
if ye are so late ye canna see the drifts, ye never can cut across
the fields; fra the snow is piled waist high, and it's a mile
farther by the road."
"I got to skin my rats first, or I'll be havin' to ask credit
again," replied Jimmy.
"That's easy," answered Dannie." Turn your rats over
to me richt
noo. I'll give ye market price fra them in cash."
"But the skinnin' of them," objected Jimmy for decency sake,
his eyes were beginning to shine and his fingers to tremble.
"Never ye mind about that," retorted Dannie. " I like
to take my
time to it, and fix them up nice. Elivin, did ye say?"
"Elivin," answered Jimmy, breaking into a jig, supposedly
his feet warm, in reality because he could not stand quietly while
Dannie pulled off his mittens, got out and unstrapped his wallet,
and carefully counted out the money. "Is that all ye need?" he
For an instant Jimmy hesitated. Missing a chance to get even a few
cents more meant a little shorter time at Casey's. "That's enough,
I think," he said. "I wish I'd staid out of matrimony, and then
maybe I could iver have a cint of me own. You ought to be glad you
haven't a woman to consume ivery penny you earn before it reaches
your pockets, Dannie Micnoun."
"I hae never seen Mary consume much but calico and food,"
"Oh, it ain't so much what a woman really spinds," said Jimmy,
peevishly, as he shoved the money into his pocket, and pulled on
"It's what you know she would spind if she had the chance."
"I dinna think ye'll break up on that," laughed Dannie.
And that was what Jimmy wanted. So long as he could set Dannie
laughing, he could mold him.
"No, but I'll break down," lamented Jimmy in sore self-pity,
remembered the quarter sacred to the purchase of the milk pail.
"Ye go on, and hurry," urged Dannie. "If ye dinna start
seven, I'll be combing the drifts fra ye before morning."
"Anything I can do for you?" asked Jimmy, tightening his old
"Yes," answered Dannie. "Do your errand and start straight
your teeth are chattering noo. A little more exposure, and the
rheumatism will be grinding ye again. Ye will hurry, Jimmy?"
"Sure!" cried Jimmy, ducking under a snow slide, and breaking
a whistle as he turned toward the road.
Dannie's gaze followed Jimmy's retreating figure until he climbed
the bank, and was lost in the woods, and the light in his eyes was
the light of love. He glanced at the sky, and hurried down the
river. First across to Jimmy's side to gather his rats and reset
his traps, then to his own. But luck seemed to have turned, for all
the rest of Dannie's were full, and all of Jimmy's were empty. But
as he was gone, it was not necessary for Dannie to slip across and
fill them, as was his custom when they worked together. He would
divide the rats at skinning time, so that Jimmy would have just
twice as many as he, because Jimmy had a wife to support. The last
trap of the line lay a little below the curve of Horseshoe Bend,
and there Dannie twisted the tops of the bags together, climbed the
bank, and struck across Rainbow Bottom. He settled his load to his
shoulders, and glanced ahead to choose the shortest route. He
stopped suddenly with a quick intake of breath.
"God!" he cried reverently. "Hoo beautifu' are Thy works."
The ice-covered Wabash circled Rainbow Bottom like a broad white
frame, and inside it was a perfect picture wrought in crystal white
and snow shadows. The blanket on the earth lay smoothly in even
places, rose with knolls, fell with valleys, curved over prostrate
logs, heaped in mounds where bushes grew thickly, and piled high in
drifts where the wind blew free. In the shelter of the bottom the
wind had not stripped the trees of their loads as it had those
along the river. The willows, maples, and soft woods bent almost to
earth with their shining burden; but the stout, stiffly upstanding
trees, the oaks, elms, and cottonwoods defied the elements to bow
their proud heads. While the three mighty trunks of the great
sycamore in the middle looked white as the snow, and dwarfed its
companions as it never had in summer; its wide-spreading branches
were sharply cut against the blue background, and they tossed their
frosted balls in the face of Heaven. The giant of Rainbow Bottom
might be broken, but it never would bend. Every clambering vine,
every weed and dried leaf wore a coat of lace-webbed frostwork. The
wind swept a mist of tiny crystals through the air, and from the
shelter of the deep woods across the river a Cardinal whistled gayly.
The bird of Good Cheer, whistling no doubt on an empty crop, made
Dannie think of Jimmy, and his unfailing fountain of mirth. Dear
Jimmy! Would he ever take life seriously? How good he was to tramp
to town and back after five miles on the ice. He thought of Mary
with almost a touch of impatience. What did the woman want that was
so necessary as to send a man to town after a day on the ice? Jimmy
would be dog tired when he got home. Dannie decided to hurry, and
do the feeding and get in the wood before he began to skin the rats.
He found walking uncertain. He plunged into unsuspected hollows,
and waded drifts, so that he was panting when he reached the lane.
From there he caught the gray curl of smoke against the sky from
one of two log cabins side by side at the top of the embankment, and
he almost ran toward them. Mary might think they were late at the
traps, and be out doing the feeding, and it would be cold for a woman.
On reaching his own door, he dropped the rat bags inside, and then
hurried to the yard of the other cabin. He gathered a big load of
wood in his arms, and stamping the snow from his feet, called
"Open!" at the door. Dannie stepped inside and filled the empty
With smiling eyes he turned to Mary, as he brushed the snow and
moss from his sleeves.
"Nothing but luck to-day," he said. "Jimmy took elivin
frae his traps before he started to town, and I got five more that
are his, and I hae eight o' my own."
Mary looked such a dream to Dannie, standing there all pink and
warm and tidy in her fresh blue dress, that he blinked and smiled,
"What did Jimmy go to town for?" she asked.
"Whatever it was ye wanted," answered Dannie.
"What was it I wanted?" persisted Mary.
"He dinna tell me," replied Dannie, and the smile wavered.
"Me, either," said Mary, and she stooped and picked up her
Dannie went out and gently closed the door. He stood for a second
on the step, forcing himself to take an inventory of the work.
There were the chickens to feed, and the cows to milk, feed, and
water. Both the teams must be fed and bedded, a fire in his own
house made, and two dozen rats skinned, and the skins put to
stretch and cure. And at the end of it all, instead of a bed and
rest, there was every probability that he must drive to town after
Jimmy; for Jimmy could get helpless enough to freeze in a drift on
a dollar sixty-five.
"Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy!" muttered Dannie." I wish ye wadna."
And he was
not thinking of himself, but of the eyes of the woman inside.
So Dannie did all the work, and cooked his supper, because he never
ate in Jimmy's cabin when Jimmy was not there. Then he skinned
rats, and watched the clock, because if Jimmy did not come by
eleven, it meant he must drive to town and bring him home. No
wonder Jimmy chilled at the trapping when he kept his blood on fire
with whiskey. At half-past ten, Dannie, with scarcely half the rats
finished, went out into the storm and hitched to the single buggy.
Then he tapped at Mary Malone's door, quite softly, so that he
would not disturb her if she had gone to bed. She was not sleeping,
however, and the loneliness of her slight figure, as she stood with
the lighted room behind her, struck Dannie forcibly, so that his
voice trembled with pity as he said: "Mary, I've run out o' my
curing compound juist in the midst of skinning the finest bunch o'
rats we've taken frae the traps this winter. I am going to drive to
town fra some more before the stores close, and we will be back in
less than an hour. I thought I'd tell ye, so if ye wanted me ye wad
know why I dinna answer. Ye winna be afraid, will ye?"
"No," replied Mary, " I won't be afraid."
"Bolt the doors, and pile on plenty of wood to keep ye warm,"
Dannie as he turned away.
Just for a minute Mary stared out into the storm. Then a gust of
wind nearly swept her from her feet, and she pushed the door shut,
and slid the heavy bolt into place. For a little while she leaned
and listened to the storm outside. She was a clean, neat, beautiful
Irish woman. Her eyes were wide and blue, her cheeks pink, and her
hair black and softly curling about her face and neck. The room in
which she stood was neat as its keeper. The walls were whitewashed,
and covered with prints, pictures, and some small tanned skins.
Dried grasses and flowers filled the vases on the mantle. The floor
was neatly carpeted with a striped rag carpet, and in the big open
fireplace a wood fire roared. In an opposite corner stood a modern
cooking stove, the pipe passing through a hole in the wall, and a
door led into a sleeping room beyond.
As her eyes swept the room they rested finally on a framed
lithograph of the Virgin, with the Infant in her arms. Slowly Mary
advanced, her gaze fast on the serene pictured face of the mother
clasping her child. Before it she stood staring. Suddenly her
breast began to heave, and the big tears brimmed from her eyes and
slid down her cheeks.
"Since you look so wise, why don't you tell me why?" she demanded.
"Oh, if you have any mercy, tell me why!"
Then before the steady look in the calm eyes, she hastily made the
sign of the cross, and slipping to the floor, she laid her head on
a chair, and sobbed aloud.
RUBEN O'KHAYAM AND THE MILK PAIL
JIMMY MALONE, carrying a shinning tin milk pail, stepped into
Casey's saloon and closed the door behind him.
"E' much as wine has played the Infidel,
And robbed me of my robe of Honor--well,
I wonder what the Vinters buy
One-half so precious as the stuff they sell."
Jimmy stared at the back of a man leaning against the bar, and
gazing lovingly at a glass of red wine, as he recited in mellow,
swinging tones. Gripping the milk pail, Jimmy advanced a step. The
man stuck a thumb in the belt of his Norfolk jacket, and the verses
"The grape that can with logic absolute
The two and seventy jarring sects confute:
The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice
Life's leaden metal into Gold transmute."
Jimmy's mouth fell open, and he slowly nodded indorsement of the
sentiment. The man lifted his glass.
"Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Yesterday this Day's Madness did prepare;
To-morrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go nor where."
Jimmy set the milk pail on the bar and faced the man.
"'Fore God, that's the only sensible word I ever heard on my side
of the quistion in all me life. And to think that it should come
from the mouth of a man wearing such a Go-to-Hell coat!"
Jimmy shoved the milk pail in front of the stranger. "In the name
of humanity, impty yourself of that," he said. "Fill me pail
with the stuff and let me take it home to Mary. She's always got
the bist of the argumint, but I'm thinkin' that would cork her. You
won't?" questioned Jimmy resentfully. "Kape it to yoursilf,
thin, like you did your wine." He shoved the bucket toward the
barkeeper, and emptied his pocket on the bar. "There, Casey, you
be the Sovereign Alchemist, and transmute that metal into Melwood
pretty quick, for I've not wet me whistle in three days, and the
belly of me is filled with burnin' autumn leaves. Gimme a loving
cup, and come on boys, this is on me while it lasts."
The barkeeper swept the coin into the till, picked up the bucket,
and started back toward a beer keg.
"Oh, no you don't!" cried Jimmy. "Come back here and
`leaden metal,' and then be transmutin' it into whiskey straight,
the purest gold you got. You don't drown out a three-days' thirst
with beer. You ought to give me 'most two quarts for that."
The barkeeper was wise. He knew that what Jimmy started would go on
with men who could pay, and he filled the order generously.
Jimmy picked up the pail. He dipped a small glass in the liquor,
and held near an ounce aloft.
"I wonder what the Vinters buy
One-half so precious as the stuff they sell?"
he quoted. "Down goes!" and he emptied the glass at a draft.
walked to the group at the stove, and began dipping a drink for each.
When Jimmy came to a gray-haired man, with a high forehead and an
intellectual face, he whispered: "Take your full time, Cap. Who's
the rhymin' inkybator?"
"Thread man, Boston," mouthed the Captain, as he reached for
glass with trembling fingers. Jimmy held on. "Do you know that
stuff he's giving off?" The Captain nodded, and rose to his feet.
He always declared he could feel it farther if he drank standing.
"What's his name?" whispered Jimmy, releasing the glass. "Rubaiyat,
Omar Khayyam," panted the Captain, and was lost. Jimmy finished
the round of his friends, and then approached the bar.
His voice was softening. "Mister Ruben O'Khayam," he said,
private opinion that ye nade lace-trimmed pantalettes and a sash to
complate your costume, but barrin' clothes, I'm entangled in the
thrid of your discourse. Bein' a Boston man meself, it appeals to
me, that I detict the refinemint of the East in yer voice. Now
these, me frinds, that I've just been tratin', are men of these
parts; but we of the middle East don't set up to equal the culture
of the extreme East. So, Mr. O'Khayam, solely for the benefit you
might be to us, I'm askin' you to join me and me frinds in the
momenchous initiation of me new milk pail."
Jimmy lifted a brimming glass, and offered it to the Thread Man.
"Do you transmute?" he asked. Now if the Boston man had looked
Jimmy in the eye, and said "I do," this book would not have been
written. But he did not. He looked at the milk pail, and the glass,
which had passed through the hands of a dozen men in a little
country saloon away out in the wilds of Indiana, and said: "I do
not care to partake of further refreshment; if I can be of
intellectual benefit, I might remain for a time."
For a flash Jimmy lifted the five feet ten of his height to six;
but in another he shrank below normal. What appeared to the Thread
Man to be a humble, deferential seeker after wisdom, led him to one
of the chairs around the big coal base burner. But the boys who
knew Jimmy were watching the whites of his eyes, as they drank the
second round. At this stage Jimmy was on velvet. How long he
remained there depended on the depth of Melwood in the milk pail
between his knees. He smiled winningly on the Thread Man.
"Ye know, Mister O'Khayam," he said, "at the present
time you are
located in one of the wooliest parts of the wild East. I don't
suppose anything woolier could be found on the plains of Nebraska
where I am reliably informed they've stuck up a pole and labeled it
the cinter of the United States. Being a thousand miles closer that
pole than you are in Boston, naturally we come by that distance
closer to the great wool industry. Most of our wool here grows on
our tongues, and we shear it by this transmutin' process, concerning
which you have discoursed so beautiful. But barrin' the shearin' of
our wool, we are the mildest, most sheepish fellows you could imagine.
I don't reckon now there is a man among us who could be induced to
blat or to butt, under the most tryin' circumstances. My Mary's got
a little lamb, and all the rist of the boys are lambs. But all the
lambs are waned, and clusterin' round the milk pail. Ain't that
touchin'? Come on, now, Ruben, ile up and edify us some more!"
"On what point do you seek enlightenment?" inquired the Thread
Jimmy stretched his long legs, and spat against the stove in pure delight.
"Oh, you might loosen up on the work of a man," he suggested.
"These lambs of Casey's fold may larn things from you to help thim
in the striss of life. Now here's Jones, for instance, he's holdin'
togither a gang of sixty gibbering Atalyans; any wan of thim would
cut his throat and skip in the night for a dollar, but he kapes the
beast in thim under, and they're gettin' out gravel for the bed of
a railway. Bingham there is oil. He's punchin' the earth full of
wan thousand foot holes, and sendin' off two hundred quarts of
nitroglycerine at the bottom of them, and pumpin' the accumulation
across continents to furnish folks light and hate. York here is
runnin' a field railway between Bluffton and Celina, so that I can
get to the river and the resurvoir to fish without walkin'. Haines
is bossin' a crew of forty Canadians and he's takin' the timber
from the woods hereabouts, and sending it to be made into boats to
carry stuff across sea. Meself, and me partner, Dannie Micnoun, are
the lady-likest lambs in the bunch. We grow grub to feed folks in
summer and trap for skins to cover 'em in winter. Corn is our great
commodity. Plowin' and hoein' it in summer, and huskin' it in the
fall is sich lamb-like work. But don't mintion it in the same brith
with tendin' our four dozen fur traps on a twenty-below-zero day.
Freezing hands and fate, and fallin' into air bubbles, and building
fires to thaw out our frozen grub. Now here among us poor little,
transmutin', lambs you come, a raging lion, ripresentin' the
cultour and rayfinement of the far East. By the pleats on your
breast you show us the style. By the thrid case in your hand you
furnish us material so that our women can tuck their petticoats so
fancy, and by the book in your head you teach us your sooperiority.
By the same token, I wish I had that book in me head, for I could
just squelch Dannie and Mary with it complate. Say, Mister
O'Khayam, next time you come this way bring me a copy. I'm
wantin' it bad. I got what you gave off all secure, but I take it
there's more. No man goin' at that clip could shut off with thim
few lines. Do you know the rist?"
The Thread Man knew the most of it, and although he was very
uncomfortable, he did not know just how to get away, so he recited
it. The milk pail was empty now, and Jimmy had almost forgotten
that it was a milk pail, and seemed inclined to resent the fact
that it had gone empty. He beat time on the bottom of it, and
frequently interrupted the Thread Man to repeat a couplet which
particularly suited him. By and by he got to his feet and began
stepping off a slow dance to a sing-song repetition of lines that
sounded musical to him, all the time marking the measures
vigorously on the pail. When he tired of a couplet, he pounded the
pail over the bar, stove, or chairs in encore, until the Thread Man
could think up another to which he could dance.
"Wine! Wine! Wine! Red Wine!
The Nightingale cried to the rose,"
chanted Jimmy, thumping the pail in time, and stepping off the
measures with feet that scarcely seemed to touch the floor. He
flung his hat to the barkeeper, and his coat on a chair, ruffled
his fingers through his thick auburn hair, and holding the pail
under one arm, he paused, panting for breath and begging for more.
The Thread Man sat on the edge of his chair, and the eyes he
fastened on Jimmy were beginning to fill with interest.
"Come fill the Cup and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-Garment of Repentance fling.
The bird of time has but a little way to flutter
And the bird is on the wing."
Smash came the milk pail across the bar. "Hooray!" shouted
"Besht yet!" Bang! Bang! He was off." Bird ish on the wing,"
chanted, and his feet flew. "Come fill the cup, and in the firesh
of spring--Firesh of Spring, Bird ish on the Wing!" Between the
music of the milk pail, the brogue of the panted verses, and the
grace of Jimmy's flying feet, the Thread Man was almost prostrate. It
suddenly came to him that here might be a chance to have a great time.
"More!" gasped Jimmy. "Me some more!" The Thread
Man wiped his eyes.
"Wether the cup with sweet or bitter run,
The wine of life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The leaves of life keep falling one by one."
Away went Jimmy.
"Swate or bitter run,
Laves of life kape falling one by one."
Bang! Bang! sounded a new improvision on the sadly battered pail,
and to a new step Jimmy flashed back and forth the length of the
saloon. At last he paused to rest a second. "One more! Just one
more!" he begged.
"A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A jug of wine, a Loaf of Bread and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness.
Oh, wilderness were Paradise enough!"
Jimmy's head dropped an instant. His feet slowly shuffled in
improvising a new step, and then he moved away, thumping the milk
pail and chanting:
"A couple of fish poles underneath a tree,
A bottle of Rye and Dannie beside me
A fishing in the Wabash.
Were the Wabash Paradise? ~Hully Gee!
"Tired out, he dropped across a chair facing the back and folded
his arms. He regained breath to ask the Thread Man: "Did you iver
have a frind?"
He had reached the confidential stage.
The Boston man was struggling to regain his dignity. He retained
the impression that at the wildest of the dance he had yelled and
patted time for Jimmy.
"I hope I have a host of friends," he said, settling his pleated
"Damn hosht!" said Jimmy. "Jisht in way. Now I got one
frind, hosht all
by himself. Be here pretty soon now. Alwaysh comesh nights like thish."
"Comes here?" inquired the Thread Man. "Am I to meet
"Yesh, comesh here. Comesh after me. Comesh like the clock
sthriking twelve. Don't he, boys?" inquired Jimmy. "But he ain't
no interesting character. Jisht common man, Dannie is. Honest man.
Never told a lie in his life. Yesh, he did, too. I forgot. He liesh
for me. Jish liesh and liesh. Liesh to Mary. Tells her any old
liesh to keep me out of schrape. You ever have frind hish up and
drive ten milesh for you night like thish, and liesh to get you out
"I never needed any one to lie and get me out of a scrape,"
answered the Thread Man.
Jimmy sat straight and solemnly batted his eyes. "Gee! You musht
misshed mosht the fun!" he said. "Me, I ain't ever misshed any.
Always in schrape. But Dannie getsh me out. Good old Dannie. Jish
like dog. Take care me all me life. See? Old folks come on same
boat. Women get thick. Shettle beside. Build cabinsh together. Work
together, and domn if they didn't get shmall pox and die together.
Left me and Dannie. So we work together jish shame, and we
fallsh in love with the shame girl. Dannie too slow. I got her."
Jimmy wiped away great tears.
"How did you get her, Jimmy?" asked a man who remembered a
"How the nation did I get her?" Jimmy scratched his head,
appealed to the Thread Man. "Dannie besht man. Milesh besht man!
Never lie--'cept for me. Never drink--'cept for me. Alwaysh save his
money--'cept for me. Milesh besht man! Isn't he besht man, Spooley?"
"Ain't it true that you served Dannie a mean little trick?"
the man who remembered.
Jimmy wasn't quite drunk enough, and the violent exercise of the
dance somewhat sobered him. He glared at the man. "Whatsh you
talkin' about?" he demanded.
"I'm just asking you," said the man, "why, if you played
with Dannie about the girl, you never have had the face to go to
confession since you married her."
"Alwaysh send my wife," said Jimmy grandly. "Domsh any
can't confiss enough for two!"
Then he hitched his chair closer to the Thread Man, and grew more
confidential. "Shee here," he said. "Firsht I see your pleated
coat, didn't like. But head's all right. Great head! Sthuck on
frillsh there! Want to be let in on something? Got enough city,
clubsh, an' all that? Want to taste real thing? Lesh go coon
huntin'. Theysh tree down Canoper, jish short pleashant walk, got
fify coons in it! Nobody knowsh the tree but me, shee? Been good to
ush boys. Sat on same kind of chairs we do. Educate ush up lot.
Know mosht that poetry till I die, shee? `Wonner wash vinters buy,
halfsh precious ash sthuff shell,' shee? I got it! Let you in on
real thing. Take grand big coon skinch back to Boston with you.
Ringsh on tail. Make wife fine muff, or fur trimmingsh. Good to
till boysh at club about, shee?"
"Are you asking me to go on a coon hunt with you?" demanded
Thread Man. "When? Where?"
"Corshally invited," answered Jimmy. "To-morrow night.
Show you plashe. Bill Duke's dogs. My gunsh. Moonsh shinin'. Dogs
howlin'. Shnow flying! Fify coonsh rollin' out one hole! Shoot all
dead! Take your pick! Tan skin for you myself! Roaring big firesh
warm by. Bag finesh sandwiches ever tasted. Milk pail pure gold
drink. No stop, slop out going over bridge. Take jug. Big jug. Toss
her up an' let her gurgle. Dogsh bark. Fire pop. Guns bang. Fifty
coons drop. Boysh all go. Want to get more education. Takes culture
to get woolsh off. Shay, will you go? "
"I wouldn't miss it for a thousand dollars," said the Thread
"But what will I say to my house for being a day late?"
"Shay gotter grip," suggested Jimmy. "Never too late
grip. Will you all go, boysh?"
There were not three men in the saloon who knew of a tree that had
contained a coon that winter, but Jimmy was Jimmy, and to be
trusted for an expedition of that sort; and all of them agreed to
be at the saloon ready for the hunt at nine o'clock the next night.
The Thread Man felt that he was going to see Life. He immediately
invited the boys to the bar to drink to the success of the hunt.
"You shoot own coon yourself," offered the magnanimous Jimmy.
may carrysh my gunsh, take first shot. First shot to Missher
O'Khayam, boysh, 'member that. Shay, can you hit anything? Take a
try now." Jimmy reached behind him, and shoved a big revolver into
the hand of the Thread Man. "Whersh target?" he demanded.
As he turned from the bar, the milk pail which he still carried
under his arm caught on an iron rod. Jimmy gave it a jerk, and
ripped the rim from the bottom. "Thish do," he said. "Splendid
marksh. Shinesh jish like coon's eyesh in torch light."
He carried the pail to the back wall and hung it over a nail. The
nail was straight, and the pail flaring. The pail fell. Jimmy
kicked it across the room, and then gathered it up, and drove a dent
in it with his heel that would hold over the nail. Then he went back
to the Thread Man." Theresh mark, Ruben. Blash away!" he said.
The Boston man hesitated. "Whatsh the matter? Cansh shoot off
nothing but your mouth?" demanded Jimmy. He caught the revolver and
fired three shots so rapidly that the sounds came almost as one.
Two bullets pierced the bottom of the pail, and the other the side
as it fell.
The door opened, and with the rush of cold air Jimmy gave just one
glance toward it, and slid the revolver into his pocket, reached
for his hat, and started in the direction of his coat. "Glad to see
you, Micnoun," he said. "If you are goingsh home, I'll jish ride
out with you. Good night, boysh. Don't forgetsh the coon hunt," and
Jimmy was gone.
A minute later the door opened again, and this time a man of nearly
forty stepped inside. He had a manly form, and a manly face, was
above the average in looks, and spoke with a slight Scotch accent.
"Do any of ye boys happen to know what it was Jimmy had with him
when he came in here?"
A roar of laughter greeted the query. The Thread Man picked up the
pail. As he handed it to Dannie, he said: "Mr. Malone said he was
initiating a new milk pail, but I am afraid he has overdone the job."
"Thank ye," said Dannie, and taking the battered thing, he
into the night.
Jimmy was asleep when he reached the buggy. Dannie had long since
found it convenient to have no fence about his dooryard. He drove
to the door, dragged Jimmy from the buggy, and stabled the horse.
By hard work he removed Jimmy's coat and boots, laid him across the
bed, and covered him. Then he grimly looked at the light in the
next cabin. "Why doesna she go to bed?" he said. He summoned
courage, and crossing the space between the two buildings, he
tapped on the window. "It's me, Mary," he called. "The skins
only half done, and Jimmy is going to help me finish. He will come
over in the morning. Ye go to bed. Ye needna be afraid. We will
hear ye if ye even snore." There was no answer, but by a movement
in the cabin Dannie knew that Mary was still dressed and waiting.
He started back, but for an instant, heedless of the scurrying snow
and biting cold, he faced the sky.
"I wonder if ye have na found a glib tongue and light feet the
least part o' matrimony," he said. "Why in God's name couldna
have married me? I'd like to know why."
As he closed the door, the cold air roused Jimmy.
"Dannie," he said, "donsh forget the milk pail. All 'niciate
THE FIFTY COONS OF THE CANOPER
NEAR noon of the next day, Jimmy opened his eyes and stretched
himself on Dannie's bed. It did not occur to him that he was
sprawled across it in such a fashion that if Dannie had any sleep
that night, he had taken it on chairs before the fireplace. At
first Jimmy decided that he had a head on him, and would turn over
and go back where he came from. Then he thought of the coon hunt,
and sitting on the edge of the bed he laughed, as he looked about
for his boots.
"I am glad ye are feeling so fine," said Dannie at the door,
relieved voice. "I had a notion that ye wad be crosser than a
badger when ye came to."
Jimmy laughed on.
"What's the fun?" inquired Dannie.
Jimmy thought hard a minute. Here was one instance where the truth
would serve better than any invention, so he virtuously told Dannie
all about it. Dannie thought of the lonely little woman next door,
"But, Jimmy!" he cried, "ye canna be gone all nicht again.
too lonely fra Mary, and there's always a chance I might sleep
sound and wadna hear if she should be sick or need ye."
"Then she can just yell louder, or come after you, or get well,
I am going, see? He was a thrid peddler in a dinky little pleated
coat, Dannie. He laid up against the counter with his feet crossed
at a dancing-girl angle. But I will say for him that he was running
at the mouth with the finest flow of language I iver heard. I
learned a lot of it, and Cap knows the stuff, and I'm goin' to have
him get you the book. But, Dannie, he wouldn't drink with us, but
he stayed to iducate us up a little. That little spool man, Dannie,
iducatin' Jones of the gravel gang, and Bingham of the Standard,
and York of the 'lectric railway, and Haines of the timber gang,
not to mintion the champeen rat-catcher of the Wabash."
Jimmy hugged himself, and rocked on the edge of the bed.
"Oh, I can just see it, Dannie," he cried. "I can just
see it now!
I was pretty drunk, but I wasn't too drunk to think of it, and it
came to me sudden like."
Dannie stared at Jimmy wide-eyed, while he explained the details,
and then he too began to laugh, and the longer he laughed the
funnier it grew.
"I've got to start," said Jimmy. "I've an awful afternoon's
I must find him some rubber boots. He's to have the inestimable
privilege of carryin' me gun, Dannie, and have the first shot at
the coons, fifty, I'm thinkin' I said. And if I don't put some
frills on his cute little coat! Oh, Dannie, it will break the heart
of me if he don't wear that pleated coat!"
Dannie wiped his eyes.
"Come on to the kitchen," he said, "I've something ready
fra ye to
eat. Wash, while I dish it."
"I wish to Heaven you were a woman, Dannie," said Jimmy. "A
could fall in love with you, and marry you with some satisfaction.
Crimminy, but I'm hungry!"
Jimmy ate greedily, and Dannie stepped about setting the cabin to
rights. It lacked many feminine touches that distinguished Jimmy's
as the abode of a woman; but it was neat and clean, and there
seemed to be a place where everything belonged.
"Now, I'm off," said Jimmy, rising. "I'll take your gun,
ain't goin' to see Mary till I get back."
"Oh, Jimmy, dinna do that!" pleaded Dannie. I want my gun.
get your own, and tell her where ye are going and what ye are going
to do. She'd feel less lonely."
"I know how she would feel better than you do," retorted Jimmy.
am not going. If you won't give me your gun, I'll borrow one; or
have all my fun spoiled."
Dannie took down the shining gun and passed it over. Jimmy
instantly relented. He smiled an old boyish smile, that always
caught Dannie in his softest spot.
"You are the bist frind I have on earth, Dannie," he said
winsomely. "You are a man worth tying to. By gum, there's ~nothing
I wouldn't do for you! Now go on, like the good fellow you are, and
fix it up with Mary."
So Dannie started for the wood pile. In summer he could stand
outside and speak through the screen. In winter he had to enter the
cabin for errands like this, and as Jimmy's wood box was as heavily
weighted on his mind as his own, there was nothing unnatural in his
stamping snow on Jimmy's back stoop, and calling." Open!" to Mary
any hour of the day he happened to be passing the wood pile.
He stood at a distance, and patiently waited until a gray and black
nut-hatch that foraged on the wood covered all the new territory
discovered by the last disturbance of the pile. From loosened bark
Dannie watched the bird take several good-sized white worms and a
few dormant ants. As it flew away he gathered an armload of wood.
He was very careful to clean his feet on the stoop, place the wood
without tearing the neat covering of wall paper, and brush from his
coat the snow and moss so that it fell in the box. He had heard
Mary tell the careless Jimmy to do all these things, and Dannie
knew that they saved her work. There was a whiteness on her face
that morning that startled him, and long after the last particle of
moss was cleaned from his sleeve he bent over the box trying to get
something said. The cleaning took such a length of time that the
glint of a smile crept into the grave eyes of the woman, and the
grim line of her lips softened.
"Don't be feeling so badly about it, Dannie," she said. "I
told you when you went after him last night that he would go back as
soon as he wakened to-day. I know he is gone. I watched him lave."
Dannie brushed the other sleeve, on which there had been nothing at
the start, and answered: "Noo, dinna ye misjudge him, Mary. He's
goin' to a coon hunt to-nicht. Dinna ye see him take my gun?"
This evidence so bolstered Dannie that he faced Mary with confidence.
"There's a traveling man frae Boston in town, Mary, and he was
edifying the boys a little, and Jimmy dinna like it. He's going to
show him a little country sport to-nicht to edify him."
Dannie outlined the plan of Jimmy's campaign. Despite disapproval,
and a sore heart, Mary Malone had to smile--perhaps as much over
Dannie's eagerness in telling what was contemplated as anything.
"Why don't you take Jimmy's gun and go yoursilf?" she asked.
"You haven't had a day off since fishing was over."
"But I have the work to do," replied Dannie, "and I couldna
leave--" He broke off abruptly, but the woman supplied the word.
"Why can't you lave me, if Jimmy can? I'm not afraid. The snow
the cold will furnish me protiction to-night. There'll be no one to
fear. Why should you do Jimmy's work, and miss the sport, to guard
the thing he holds so lightly?"
The red flushed Dannie's cheeks. Mary never before had spoken like
that. He had to say something for Jimmy quickly, and quickness was
not his forte. His lips opened, but nothing came; for as Jimmy had
boasted, Dannie never lied, except for him, and at those times he
had careful preparation before he faced Mary. Now, he was overtaken
unawares. He looked so boyish in his confusion, the mother in
Mary's heart was touched.
"I'll till you what we'll do, Dannie," she said. "You
stock, and get in wood enough so that things won't be frazin'
here; and then you hitch up and I'll go with you to town, and stay
all night with Mrs. Dolan. You can put the horse in my sister's
stable, and whin you and Jimmy get back, you'll be tired enough
that you'll be glad to ride home. A visit with Katie will be good
for me; I have been blue the last few days, and I can see you are
just aching to go with the boys. Isn't that a fine plan?"
"I should say that is a guid plan," answered the delighted
Anything to save Mary another night alone was good, and then--that
coon hunt did sound alluring.
And that was how it happened that at nine o'clock that night, just
as arrangements were being completed at Casey's, Dannie Macnoun
stepped into the group and said to the astonished. Jimmy. "Mary
wanted to come to her sister's over nicht, so I fixed everything,
and I'm going to the coon hunt, too, if you boys want me."
The crowd closed around Dannie, patted his back and cheered him, and
he was introduced to Mister O'Khayam, of Boston, who tried to drown
the clamor enough to tell what his name really was, "in case of
accident"; but he couldn't be heard for Jimmy yelling that a good
old Irish name like O'Khayam couldn't be beat in case of anything.
And Dannie took a hasty glance at the Thread Man, to see if he wore
that hated pleated coat, which lay at the bottom of Jimmy's anger.
Then they started. Casey's wife was to be left in charge of the
saloon, and the Thread Man half angered Casey by a whispered
conversation with her in a corner. Jimmy cut his crowd as low as he
possibly could, but it numbered fifteen men, and no one counted the
dogs. Jimmy led the way, the Thread Man beside him, and the crowd
followed. The walking would be best to follow the railroad to the
Canoper, and also they could cross the railroad bridge over the
river and save quite a distance.
Jimmy helped the Thread Man into a borrowed overcoat and mittens,
and loaded him with a twelve-pound gun, and they started. Jimmy
carried a torch, and as torch bearer he was a rank failure, for he
had a careless way of turning it and flashing it into people's
faces that compelled them to jump to save themselves. Where the
track lay clear and straight ahead the torch seemed to light it
like day; but in dark places it was suddenly lowered or wavering
somewhere else. It was through this carelessness of Jimmy's that at
the first cattle-guard north of the village the torch flickered
backward, ostensibly to locate Dannie, and the Thread Man went
crashing down between the iron bars, and across the gun. Instantly
Jimmy sprawled on top of him, and the next two men followed suit.
The torch plowed into the snow and went out, and the yells of Jimmy
alarmed the adjoining village.
He was hurt the worst of all, and the busiest getting in marching
order again. "Howly smoke!" he panted. "I was havin' the
me life, and plum forgot that cow-kitcher. Thought it was a quarter
of a mile away yet. And liked to killed meself with me
carelessness. But that's always the way in true sport. You got to
take the knocks with the fun." No one asked the Thread Man if he
was hurt, and he did not like to seem unmanly by mentioning a
skinned shin, when Jimmy Malone seemed to have bursted most of his
inside; so he shouldered his gun and limped along, now slightly in
the rear of Jimmy. The river bridge was a serious matter with its
icy coat, and danger of specials, and the torches suddenly flashed
out from all sides; and the Thread Man gave thanks for Dannie
Macnoun, who reached him a steady hand across the ties. The walk
was three miles, and the railroad lay at from twenty to thirty feet
elevation along the river and through the bottom land. The Boston
man would have been thankful for the light, but as the last man
stepped from the ties of the bridge all the torches went out save
one. Jimmy explained they simply had to save them so that they could
see where the coon fell when they began to shake the coon tree.
Just beside the water tank, and where the embankment was twenty
feet sheer, Jimmy was cautioning the Boston man to look out, when
the hunter next behind him gave a wild yell and plunged into his
back. Jimmy's grab for him seemed more a push than a pull, and the
three rolled to the bottom, and half way across the flooded ditch.
The ditch was frozen over, but they were shaken, and smothered in
snow. The whole howling party came streaming down the embankment.
Dannie held aloft his torch and discovered Jimmy lying face down in
a drift, making no effort to rise, and the Thread Man feebly tugging
at him and imploring some one to come and help get Malone out. Then
Dannie slunk behind the others and yelled until he was tired.
By and by Jimmy allowed himself to be dragged out.
"Who the thunder was that come buttin' into us?" he blustered.
"I don't allow no man to butt into me when I'm on an imbankmint.
Send the fool back here till I kill him."
The Thread Man was pulling at Jimmy's arm. "Don't mind, Jimmy,"
gasped. "It was an accident! The man slipped. This is an awful
place. I will be glad when we reach the woods. I'll feel safer with
ground that's holding up trees under my feet. Come on, now! Are we
not almost there? Should we not keep quiet from now on? Will we
not alarm the coons?"
"Sure," said Jimmy. "Boys, don't hollo so much. Every
will be scared out of its hollow!"
"Amazing!" said the Thread Man. "How clever! Came on
the spur of
the moment. I must remember that to tel the Club. Do not hollo.
Scare the coon out of its hollow!"
"Oh, I do miles of things like that," said Jimmy dryly, "and
I have to do thim before the spur of the moment; because our
moments go so domn fast out here mighty few of thim have time to
grow their spurs before they are gone. Here's where we turn. Now,
boys, they've been trying to get this biler across the tracks here,
and they've broke the ice. The water in this ditch is three feet
deep and freezing cold. They've stuck getting the biler over, but
I wonder if we can't cross on it, and hit the wood beyond. Maybe we
can walk it."
Jimmy set a foot on the ice-covered boiler, howled, and fell back
on the men behind him. "Jimminy crickets, we niver can do that!"
he yelled. "It's a glare of ice and roundin'. Let's crawl through
it! The rist of you can get through if I can. We'd better take off
our overcoats, to make us smaller. We can roll thim into a bundle,
and the last man can pull it through behind him."
Jimmy threw off his coat and entered the wrecked oil engine. He
knew how to hobble through on his toes, but the pleated coat of the
Boston man, who tried to pass through by stooping, got almost all
Jimmy had in store for it. Jimmy came out all right with a shout.
The Thread Man did not step half so far, and landed knee deep in
the icy oil-covered slush of the ditch. That threw him off his
balance, and Jimmy let him sink one arm in the pool, and then
grabbed him, and scooped oil on his back with the other hand as he
pulled. During the excitement and struggles of Jimmy and the Thread Man,
the rest of the party jumped the ditch and gathered about, rubbing
soot and oil on the Boston man, and he did not see how they crossed.
Jimmy continued to rub oil and soot into the hated coat industriously.
The dogs leaped the ditch, and the instant they struck the woods
broke away baying over fresh tracks. The men yelled like mad.
Jimmy struggled into his overcoat, and helped the almost insane
Boston man into his and then they hurried after the dogs.
The scent was so new and clear the dogs simply raged. The Thread
Man was wild, Jimmy was wilder, and the thirteen contributed all
they could for laughing. Dannie forgot to be ashamed of himself and
followed the example of the crowd. Deeper and deeper into the wild,
swampy Canoper led the chase. With a man on either side to guide
him into the deepest holes and to shove him into bushy thickets,
the skinned, soot-covered, oil-coated Boston man toiled and
sweated. He had no time to think, the excitement was so intense. He
scrambled out of each pitfall set for him, and plunged into the
next with such uncomplaining bravery that Dannie very shortly grew
ashamed, and crowding up beside him he took the heavy gun and tried
to protect him all he could without falling under the eye of Jimmy,
who was keeping close watch on the Boston man.
Wild yelling told that the dogs had treed, and with shaking fingers
the Thread Man pulled off the big mittens he wore and tried to lift
the gun. Jimmy flashed a torch, and sure enough, in the top of a
medium hickory tree, the light was reflected in streams from the
big shining eyes of a coon. "Treed!" yelled Jimmy frantically."
Treed! and big as an elephant. Company's first shot. Here, Mister
O'Khayam, here's a good place to stand. Gee, what luck! Coon in
sight first thing, and Mellen's food coon at that! Shoot, Mister
The Thread Man lifted the wavering gun, but it was no use.
"Tell you what, Ruben," said Jimmy. "You are too tired
straight. Let's take a rist, and ate our lunch. Then we'll cut down
the tree and let the dogs get cooney. That way there won't be any
shot marks in his skin. What do you say? Is that a good plan?"
They all said that was the proper course, so they built a fire, and
placed the Thread Man where he could see the gleaming eyes of the
frightened coon, and where all of them could feast on his soot and
oil-covered face. Then they opened the bag and passed the sandwiches.
"I really am hungry," said the weary Thread Man, biting into
with great relish. His jaws moved once or twice experimentally, and
then he lifted his handkerchief to his lips.
"I wish 'twas as big as me head," said Jimmy, taking a great
and then he began to curse uproariously.
"What ails the things?" inquired Dannie, ejecting a mouthful.
then all of them began to spit birdshot, and started an inquest
simultaneously. Jimmy raged. He swore some enemy had secured the
bag and mined the feast; but the boys who knew him laughed until it
seemed the Thread Man must suspect. He indignantly declared it was
a dirty trick. By the light of the fire he knelt and tried to free
one of the sandwiches from its sprinkling of birdshot, so that it
would be fit for poor Jimmy, who had worked so hard to lead them
there and tree the coon. For the first time Jimmy looked thoughtful.
But the sight of the Thread Man was too much for him, and a second
later he was thrusting an ax into the hands accustomed to handling
a thread case. Then he led the way to the tree, and began chopping
at the green hickory. It was slow work, and soon the perspiration
streamed. Jimmy pulled off his coat and threw it aside. He assisted
the Thread Man out of his and tossed it behind him. The coat
alighted in the fire, and was badly scorched before it was rescued.
But the Thread Man was game. Fifty times that night it had been
said that he was to have the first coon, of course he should work
for it. So with the ax with which Casey chopped ice for his
refrigerator, the Boston man banged against the hickory, and swore
to himself because he could not make the chips fly as Jimmy did.
"Iverybody clear out!" cried Jimmy. "Number one is coming
the coffee sack ready. Baste cooney over the head and shove him in
before the dogs tear the skin. We want a dandy big pelt out of this!"
There was a crack, and the tree fell with a crash. All the Boston
man could see was that from a tumbled pile of branches, dogs, and
men, some one at last stepped back, gripping a sack, and cried:
"Got it all right, and it's a buster."
"Now for the other forty-nine!" shouted Jimmy, straining into
"Come on, boys, we must secure a coon for every one," cried
Thread Man, heartily as any member of the party might have said it.
But the rest of the boys suddenly grew tired. They did not want any
coons, and after some persuasion the party agreed to go back to
Casey's to warm up. The Thread Man got into his scorched, besooted,
oil-smeared coat, and the overcoat which had been loaned him, and
shouldered the gun. Jimmy hesitated. But Dannie came up to the Boston
man and said: "There's a place in my shoulder that gun juist fits,
and it's lonesome without it. Pass it over." Only the sorely bruised
and strained Thread Man knew how glad he was to let it go.
It was Dannie, too, who whispered to the Thread Man to keep close
behind him; and when the party trudged back to Casey's it was so
surprising how much better he knew the way going back than Jimmy had
known it coming out, that the Thread Man did remark about it. But
Jimmy explained that after one had been out a few hours their eyes
became accustomed to the darkness and they could see better. That was
reasonable, for the Thread Man knew it was true in his own experience.
So they got back to Casey's, and found a long table set, and a
steaming big oyster supper ready for them; and that explained the
Thread Man's conference with Mrs. Casey. He took the head of the
table, with his back to the wall, and placed Jimmy on his right and
Dannie on his left. Mrs. Casey had furnished soap and towels, and
at least part of the Boston man's face was clean. The oysters were
fine, and well cooked. The Thread Man recited more of the wonderful
poem for Dannie's benefit, and told jokes and stories. They laughed
until they were so weak they could only pound the table to indicate
how funny it was. And at the close, just as they were making a
movement to rise, Casey proposed that he bring in the coon, and let
all of them get a good look at their night's work. The Thread Man
applauded, and Casey brought in the bag and shook it bottom up over
the floor. Therefrom there issued a poor, frightened, maltreated
little pet coon of Mrs. Casey's, and it dexterously ran up Casey's
trouser leg and hid its nose in his collar, its chain dragging behind.
And that was so funny the boys doubled over the table, and laughed
and screamed until a sudden movement brought them to their senses.
The Thread Man was on his feet, and his eyes were no laughing
matter. He gripped his chair back, and leaned toward Jimmy. "You
walked me into that cattle-guard on purpose!" he cried.
"You led me into that boiler, and fixed the oil at the end!"
"You mauled me all over the woods, and loaded those sandwiches
yourself, and sored me for a week trying to chop down a tree with
a pet coon chained in it! You----! You----! What had I done to you?"
"You wouldn't drink with me, and I didn't like the domned, dinky,
little pleated coat you wore," answered Jimmy.
One instant amazement held sway on the Thread Man's face; the
next, "And damned if I like yours!" he cried, and catching up
bowl half filled with broth he flung it squarely into Jimmy's face.
Jimmy, with a great oath, sprang at the Boston man. But once in his
life Dannie was quick. For the only time on record he was ahead of
Jimmy, and he caught the uplifted fist in a grip that Jimmy's use
of whiskey and suffering from rheumatism had made his master.
"Steady--Jimmy, wait a minute," panted Dannie. "This
mon is na even
wi' ye yet. When every muscle in your body is strained, and every
inch of it bruised, and ye are daubed wi' soot, and bedraggled in
oil, and he's made ye the laughin' stock fra strangers by the hour,
ye will be juist even, and ready to talk to him. Every minute of
the nicht he's proved himself a mon, and right now he's showed he's
na coward. It's up to ye, Jimmy. Do it royal. Be as much of a mon
as he is. Say ye are sorry!"
One tense instant the two friends faced each other.
Then Jimmy's fist unclenched, and his arms dropped. Dannie stepped
back, trying to breathe lightly, and it was between Jimmy and the
"I am sorry," said Jimmy. "I carried my objictions to
too far. If you'll let me, I'll clean you up. If you'll take it,
I'll raise you the price of a new coat, but I'll be domn if I'll
hilp put such a man as you are into another of the fiminine ginder."
The Thread Man laughed, and shook Jimmy's hand; and then Jimmy
proved why every one liked him by turning to Dannie and taking his hand.
"Thank you, Dannie," he said. "You sure hilped me to mesilf
If I'd hit him, I couldn't have hild up me head in the morning."
WHEN THE KINGFISHER AND THE BLACK BASS CAME HOME
CRIMMINY, but you are slow." Jimmy made the statement, not as one
voices a newly discovered fact, but as one iterates a time-worn
truism. He sat on a girder of the Limberlost bridge, and scraped
the black muck from his boots in a little heap. Then he twisted a
stick into the top of his rat sack, preparatory to his walk home.
The ice had broken on the river, and now the partners had to
separate at the bridge, each following his own line of traps to the
last one, and return to the bridge so that Jimmy could cross to
reach home. Jimmy was always waiting, after the river opened, and
it was a remarkable fact to him that as soon as the ice was gone
his luck failed him. This evening the bag at his feet proved by its
bulk that it contained just about one-half the rats Dannie carried.
"I must set my traps in my own way," answered Dannie calmly.
I stuck them into the water ony way and went on, so would the rats.
A trap is no a trap unless it is concealed."
"That's it! Go on and give me a sarmon!" urged Jimmy derisively.
"Who's got the bulk of the rats all winter? The truth is that my
side of the river is the best catching in the extrame cold, and you
get the most after the thaws begin to come. The rats seem to have
a lot of burrows and shift around among thim. One time I'm ahead,
and the nixt day they go to you: But it don't mane that you are any
better ~trapper than I am. I only got siven to-night. That's a
sweet day's work for a whole man. Fifteen cints apace for sivin
rats. I've a big notion to cut the rat business, and compete with
Rocky in ile."
Dannie laughed. "Let's hurry home, and get the skinning over before
nicht," he said. "I think the days are growing a little longer.
seem to scent spring in the air to-day."
Jimmy looked at Dannie's mud-covered, wet clothing, his blood-
stained mittens and coat back, and the dripping bag he had rested
on the bridge. "I've got some music in me head, and some action in
me feet," he said, "but I guess God forgot to put much sintimint
into me heart. The breath of spring niver got so strong with me that
I could smell it above a bag of muskrats and me trappin' clothes."
He arose, swung his bag to his shoulder, and together they left the
bridge, and struck the road leading to Rainbow Bottom. It was
late February. The air was raw,and the walking heavy. Jimmy saw
little around him, and there was little Dannie did not see. To him,
his farm, the river, and the cabins in Rainbow Bottom meant all
there was of life, for all he loved on earth was there. But loafing
in town on rainy days, when Dannie sat with a book; hearing the
talk at Casey's, at the hotel, and on the streets, had given Jimmy
different views of life, and made his lot seem paltry compared with
that of men who had greater possessions. On days when Jimmy's luck
was bad, or when a fever of thirst burned him, he usually
discoursed on some sort of intangible experience that men had,
which he called "seeing life." His rat bag was unusually light
night, and in a vague way he connected it with the breaking up of
the ice. When the river lay solid he usually carried home just
twice the rats Dannie had, and as he had patronized Dannie all his
life, it fretted Jimmy to be behind even one day at the traps.
"Be Jasus, I get tired of this!" he said. "Always and
same thing. I kape goin' this trail so much that I've got a
speakin' acquaintance with meself. Some of these days I'm goin' to
take a trip, and have a little change. I'd like to see Chicago,
and as far west as the middle, anyway."
"Well, ye canna go," said Dannie. "Ye mind the time when
married, and I thought I'd be best away, and packed my trunk? When
ye and Mary caught me, ye got mad as fire, and she cried, and I had
to stay. Just ye try going, and I'll get mad, and Mary will cry,
and ye will stay at home, juist like I did."
There was a fear deep in Dannie's soul that some day Jimmy would
fulfill this long-time threat of his. "I dinna think there is ony
place in all the world so guid as the place ye own," Dannie said
earnestly. "I dinna care a penny what anybody else has, probably
they have what they want. What _I_ want is the land that my feyther
owned before me, and the house that my mither kept. And they'll
have to show me the place they call Eden before I'll give up that
it beats Rainbow Bottom--Summer, Autumn, or Winter. I dinna give
twa hoops fra the palaces men rig up, or the thing they call
`landscape gardening'. When did men ever compete with the work of God?
All the men that have peopled the earth since time began could have
their brains rolled into one, and he would stand helpless before
the anatomy of one of the rats in these bags. The thing God does is
guid enough fra me."
"Why don't you take a short cut to the matin'-house?" inquired
"Because I wad have nothing to say when I got there," retorted
Dannie. "I've a meetin'-house of my ain, and it juist suits me; and
I've a God, too, and whether He is spirit or essence, He suits me.
I dinna want to be held to sharper account than He faces me up to,
when I hold communion with mesel'. I dinna want any better meetin'-
house than Rainbow Bottom. I dinna care for better talkin' than the
`tongues in the trees'; sounder preachin' than the `sermons in
the stones'; finer readin' than the books in the river; no, nor
better music than the choir o' the birds, each singin' in its ain
way fit to burst its leetle throat about the mate it won, the nest
they built, and the babies they are raising. That's what I call the
music o' God, spontaneous, and the soul o' joy. Give it me every
time compared with notes frae a book. And all the fine places that
the wealth o' men ever evolved winna begin to compare with the work
o' God, and I've got that around me every day."
"But I want to see life," wailed Jimmy.
"Then open your eyes, mon, fra the love o' mercy, open your eyes!
There's life sailing over your heid in that flock o' crows going
home fra the night. Why dinna ye, or some other mon, fly like that?
There's living roots, and seeds, and insects, and worms by the
million wherever ye are setting foot. Why dinna ye creep into the
earth and sleep through the winter, and renew your life with the
spring? The trouble with ye, Jimmy, is that ye've always followed
your heels. If ye'd stayed by the books, as I begged ye, there now
would be that in your heid that would teach ye that the old story
of the Rainbow is true. There is a pot of gold, of the purest gold
ever smelted, at its foot, and we've been born, and own a good
living richt there. An' the gold is there; that I know, wealth to
shame any bilious millionaire, and both of us missing the pot when
we hold the location. Ye've the first chance, mon, fra in your life
is the great prize mine will forever lack. I canna get to the
bottom of the pot, but I'm going to come close to it as I can; and
as for ye, empty it! Take it all! It's yours! It's fra the mon who
finds it, and we own the location."
"Aha! We own the location," repeated Jimmy. "I should
say we do!
Behold our hotbed of riches! I often lay awake nights thinkin'
about my attachmint to the place.
"How dear to me heart are the scanes of me childhood,
Fondly gaze on the cabin where I'm doomed to dwell,
Those chicken-coop, thim pig-pen, these highly piled-wood
Around which I've always raised Hell."
Jimmy turned in at his own gate, while Dannie passed to the cabin
beyond. He entered, set the dripping rat bag in a tub, raked open
the buried fire and threw on a log. He always ate at Jimmy's when
Jimmy was at home, so there was no supper to get. He went out to
the barn, wading mud ankle deep, fed and bedded his horses, and
then went over to Jimmy's barn, and completed his work up to milking.
Jimmy came out with the pail, and a very large hole in the bottom of
it was covered with dried dough. Jimmy looked at it disapprovingly.
"I bought a new milk pail the other night. I know I did,"
"Mary was kicking for one a month ago, and I went after it the night
I met Ruben O'Khayam. Now what the nation did I do with that pail?"
"I have wondered mysel'," answered Dannie, as he leaned over
lifted a strange looking object from a barrel. "This is what ye
brought home, Jimmy."
Jimmy stared at the shining, battered, bullet-punctured pail in
amazement. Slowly he turned it over and around, and then he lifted
bewildered eyes to Dannie.
"Are you foolin'?" he asked. "Did I bring that thing
home in that shape?"
"Honest!" said Dannie.
"I remember buyin' it," said Jimmy slowly. "I remember
to it like grim death, for it was the wan excuse I had for goin',
but I don't just know how--!" Slowly he revolved the pail, and then
he rolled over in the hay and laughed until he was tired. Then he
sat up and wiped his eyes. "Great day! What a lot of fun I must
have had before I got that milk pail into that shape," he said.
"Domned if I don't go straight to town and buy another one; yes,
bedad! I'll buy two!"
In the meantime Dannie milked, fed and watered the cattle, and
Jimmy picked up the pail of milk and carried it to the house.
Dannie came by the wood pile and brought in a heavy load. Then they
washed, and sat down to supper.
"Seems to me you look unusually perky," said Jimmy to his
"Had any good news?"
"Splendid!" said Mary. "I am so glad! And I don't belave
two stupids know!"
"You niver can tell by lookin' at me what I know," said Jimmy.
"Whin I look the wisest I know the least. Whin I look like a fool,
I'm thinkin' like a philosopher."
"Give it up," said Dannie promptly. You would not catch him
anything it would make Mary's eyes shine to tell.
"Sap is running!" announced Mary.
"The Divil you say!" cried Jimmy.
"It is!" beamed Mary. "It will be full in three days.
notice how green the maples are? I took a little walk down to the
bottom to-day. I niver in all my life was so tired of winter, and
the first thing I saw was that wet look on the maples, and on the
low land, where they are sheltered and yet get the sun, several of
them are oozing!"
"Grand!" cried Dannie. "Jimmy, we must peel those rats
in a hurry,
and then clean the spiles, and see how mony new ones we will need.
To-morrow we must come frae the traps early and look up our troughs."
"Oh, for pity sake, don't pile up work enough to kill a horse,"
cried Jimmy. "Ain't you ever happy unless you are workin'?"
"Yes," said Dannie. "Sometimes I find a book that suits
sometimes the fish bite, and sometimes it's in the air."
"Git the condinser" said Jimmy. "And that reminds me,
smelled spring in the air to-day."
"Well, what if he did?" questioned Mary. "I can always
smell it. A
little later, when the sap begins to run in all the trees, and the
buds swell, and the ice breaks up, and the wild geese go over, I
always scent spring; and when the catkins bloom, then it comes strong,
and I just love it. Spring is my happiest time. I have more news, too!"
"Don't spring so much at wance!" cried Jimmy, "you'll
spoil my appetite."
"I guess there's no danger," replied Mary.
"There is," said Jimmy. "At laste in the fore siction.
Frinch, and manes atin'. `Tite' is Irish, and manes drinkin'.
Appetite manes atin' and drinkin' togither. `Tite' manes drinkin'
without atin', see?"
"I was just goin' to mintion it meself," said Mary, "it's
come in strong. There's no danger of anybody spoilin' your drinkin',
if they could interfere with your atin'. You guess, Dannie."
"The dominick hen is setting," ventured Dannie, and Mary's
showed that he had blundered on the truth.
"She is," affirmed Mary, pouring the tea, "but it is
real mane of
you to guess it, when I've so few new things to tell. She has been
setting two days, and she went over fifteen fresh eggs to-day. In
just twinty-one days I will have fiftane the cunningest little
chickens you ever saw, and there is more yet. I found the nest of
the gray goose, and there are three big eggs in it, all buried in
feathers. She must have stripped her breast almost bare to cover
them. And I'm the happiest I've been all winter. I hate the long,
lonely, shut-in time. I am going on a delightful spree. I shall
help boil down sugar-water and make maple syrup. I shall set hins,
and geese, and turkeys. I shall make soap, and clane house, and
plant seed, and all my flowers will bloom again. Goody for summer;
it can't come too soon to suit me."
"Lord! I don't see what there is in any of those things,"
Jimmy. "I've got just one sign of spring that interests me. If you
want to see me caper, somebody mention to me the first rattle of
the Kingfisher. Whin he comes home, and house cleans in his tunnel
in the embankment, and takes possession of his stump in the river,
the nixt day the Black Bass locates in the deep water below the
shoals. ~Thin you can count me in. There is where business begins
for Jimmy boy. I am going to have that Bass this summer, if I don't
plant an acre of corn."
"I bet you that's the truth!" said Mary, so quickly that both
"Ahem!" said Dannie. "Then I will have to do my plowing
heidlicht, so I can fish as much as ye do in the day time. I hereby
make, enact, and enforce a law that neither of us is to fish in the
Bass hole when the other is not there to fish also. That is the
only fair way. I've as much richt to him as ye have."
"Of course!" said Mary. "That is a fair way. Make that
a rule, and
kape it. If you both fish at once, it's got to be a fair catch for
the one that lands it; but whoever catches it, _I_ shall ate it, so
it don't much matter to me."
"You ate it!" howled Jimnmy. "I guess not. Not a taste
fish, when he's teased me for years? He's as big as a whale. If
Jonah had had the good fortune of falling in the Wabash, and being
swallowed by the Black Bass, he could have ridden from Peru to
Terre Haute, and suffered no inconvanience makin' a landin'. Siven
pounds he'll weigh by the steelyard I'll wager you."
"Five, Jimmy, five," corrected Dannie.
"Siven!" shouted Jimmy. " Ain't I hooked him repeated?
Ain't I seen him
broadside? I wonder if thim domn lines of mine have gone and rotted."
He left his supper, carrying his chair, and standing on it he
began rummaging the top shelf of the cupboard for his box of
tackle. He knocked a bottle from the shelf, but caught it in
mid-air with a dexterous sweep.
"Spirits are movin'," cried Jimmy, as he restored the camphor
its place. He carried the box to the window, and became so deeply
engrossed in its contents that he did not notice when Dannie picked
up his rat bag and told him to come on and help skin their day's
catch. Mary tried to send him, and he was going in a minute, but
the minute stretched and stretched, and both of them were surprised
when the door opened and Dannie entered with an armload of spiles,
and the rat-skinning was all over. So Jimmy went on unwinding
lines, and sharpening hooks, and talking fish; while Dannie and
Mary cleaned the spiles, and figured on how many new elders must be
cut and prepared for more on the morrow; and planned the sugar making.
When it was bedtime, and Dannie had gone an Jimmy and Mary closed
their cabin for the night, Mary stepped to the window that looked
on Dannie's home to see if his light was burning. It was, and
clear in its rays stood Dannie, stripping yard after yard of fine
line through his fingers, and carefully examining it. Jimmy came
and stood beside her as she wondered.
"Why, the domn son of the Rainbow," he cried, "if he
his fish lines!"
The next day Mary Malone was rejoicing when the men returned from
trapping, and gathering and cleaning the sugar-water troughs. There
had been a robin at the well.
"Kape your eye on, Mary" advised Jimmy. "If she ain't
from this time on, she'll be settin' hins in snowdrifts, and
pouring biling water on the daffodils to sprout them."
On the first of March, five killdeers flew over in a flock, and a
half hour later one straggler crying piteously followed in their wake.
"Oh, the mane things!" almost sobbed Mary. "Why don't
they wait for it?"
She stood by a big kettle of boiling syrup at the sugar camp,
almost helpless in Jimmy's boots and Dannie's great coat. Jimmy cut
and carried wood, and Dannie hauled sap. All the woods were stirred
by the smell of the curling smoke and the odor of the boiling sap,
fine as the fragrance of flowers. Bright-eyed deer mice peeped at
her from under old logs, the chickadees, nuthatches, and jays
started an investigating committee to learn if anything interesting
to them was occurring. One gayly-dressed little sapsucker hammered
a tree near by and scolded vigorously.
"Right you are!" said Mary. "It's a pity you're not big
drive us from the woods, for into one kittle goes enough sap to
last you a lifetime."
The squirrels were sure it was an intrusion, and raced among the
branches overhead, barking loud defiance. At night the three rode
home on the sled, with the syrup jugs beside them, and Mary's apron
was filled with big green rolls of pungent woolly-dog moss.
Jimmy built the fires, Dannie fed the stock, and Mary cooked the
supper. When it was over, while the men warmed chilled feet and
fingers by the fire, Mary poured some syrup into a kettle, and just
as it "sugared off" she dipped streams of the amber sweetness
cups of water. All of them ate it like big children, and oh, but it
was good! Two days more of the same work ended sugar making, but
for the next three days Dannie gathered the rapidly diminishing sap
for the vinegar barrel.
Then there were more hens ready to set, water must be poured hourly
into the ash hopper to start the flow of lye for soap making, and
the smoke house must be gotten ready to cure the hams and pickled
meats, so that they would keep during warm weather. The bluebells
were pushing through the sod in a race with the Easter and star
flowers. One morning Mary aroused Jimmy with a pull at his arm.
"Jimmy, Jimmy," she cried. "Wake up!"
"Do you mane, wake up, or get up?" asked Jimmy sleepily.
"Both," cried Mary. "The larks are here!"
A little later Jimmy shouted from the back door to the barn:
"Dannie, do you hear the larks?"
"Ye bet I do," answered Dannie. "Heard ane goin' over
nicht. How long is it now till the Kingfisher comes?"
"Just a little while," said Jimmy. "If only these March
would let up 'stid of down! He can't come until he can fish, you
know. He's got to have crabs and minnies to live on."
A few days later the green hylas began to pipe in the swamps, the
bullfrogs drummed among the pools in the bottom, the doves cooed in
the thickets, and the breath of spring was in the nostrils of all
creation, for the wind was heavy with the pungent odor of catkin
pollen. The spring flowers were two inches high. The peonies and
rhubarb were pushing bright yellow and red cones through the earth.
The old gander, leading his flock along the Wabash, had hailed
passing flocks bound northward until he was hoarse; and the Brahma
rooster had threshed the yellow dorkin until he took refuge under
the pig pen, and dare not stick out his unprotected head.
The doors had stood open at supper time, and Dannie staid up late,
mending and oiling the harness. Jimmy sat by cleaning his gun, for
to his mortification he had that day missed killing a crow which
stole from the ash hopper the egg with which Mary tested the
strength of the lye. In a basket behind the kitchen stove fifteen
newly hatched yellow chickens, with brown stripes on their backs,
were peeping and nestling; and on wing the killdeers cried half the
night. At two o'clock in the morning came a tap on the Malone's
"Dannie?" questioned Mary, half startled.
"Tell Jimmy!" cried Dannie's breathless voice outside. "Tell
the Kingfisher has juist struck the river!"
Jimmy sat straight up in bed.
"Then glory be!" he cried. "To-morrow the Black Bass
WHEN THE RAINBOW SET ITS ARCH IN THE SKY
WHERE did Jimmy go?" asked Mary.
Jimmy had been up in time to feed the chickens and carry in the
milk, but he disappeared shortly after breakfast.
Dannie almost blushed as he answered: "He went to take a peep at
the river. It's going down fast. When it gets into its regular
channel, spawning will be over and the fish will come back to their
old places. We figure that the Black Bass will be home to-day."
"When you go digging for bait," said Mary, "I wonder
if the two of
you could make it convanient to spade an onion bed. If I had it
spaded I could stick the sets mesilf."
"Now, that amna fair, Mary," said Dannie. "We never went
till the garden was made, and the crops at least wouldna suffer.
We'll make the beds, of course, juist as soon as they can be
spaded, and plant the seed, too."
"I want to plant the seeds mesilf," said Mary.
"And we dinna want ye should," replied Dannie. "All we
want ye to
do, is to boss."
"But I'm going to do the planting mesilf," Mary was emphatic.
will be good for me to be in the sunshine, and I do enjoy working
in the dirt, so that for a little while I'm happy."
"If ye want to put the onions in the highest place, I should think
I could spade ane bed now, and enough fra lettuce and radishes."
Dannie went after a spade, and Mary Malone laughed softly as she
saw that he also carried an old tin can. He tested the earth in
several places, and then called to her:" All right, Mary! Ground
in prime shape. Turns up dry and mellow. We will have the garden
started in no time."
He had spaded but a minute when Mary saw him run past the window,
leap the fence, and go hurrying down the path to the river. She
went to the door. At the head of the lane stood Jimmy, waving his
hat, and the fresh morning air carried his cry clearly: " Gee,
Dannie! Come hear him splash!"
Just why that cry, and the sight of Dannie Macnoun racing toward
the river, his spade lying on the upturned earth of her scarcely
begun onion bed, should have made her angry, it would be hard to
explain. He had no tackle or bait, and reason easily could have
told her that he would return shortly, and finish anything she
wanted done; but when was a lonely, disappointed woman ever
She set the dish water on the stove, wiped her hands on her apron,
and walking to the garden, picked up the spade and began turning
great pieces of earth. She had never done rough farm work, such as
women all about her did; she had little exercise during the long,
cold winter, and the first half dozen spadefuls tired her until the
tears of self-pity rolled.
"I wish there was a turtle as big as a wash tub in the river"
sobbed, "and I wish it would eat that old Black Bass to the last
scale. And I'm going to take the shotgun, and go over to the
embankment, and poke it into the tunnel, and blow the old Kingfisher
through into the cornfield. Then maybe Dannie won't go off too and
leave me. I want this onion bed spaded right away, so I do."
"Drop that! Idjit! What you doing?" yelled Jimmy.
"Mary, ye goose!" panted Dannie, as he came hurrying across
yard. "Wha' do ye mean? Ye knew I'd be back in a minute! Jimmy
juist called me to hear the Bass splash. I was comin' back. Mary,
this amna fair."
Dannie took the spade from her hand, and Mary fled sobbing to the house.
"What's the row?" demanded Jimmy of the suffering Dannie.
"I'd juist started spadin' this onion bed," explained Dannie.
course, she thought we were going to stay all day."
"With no poles, and no bait, and no grub? She didn't think any
a domn thing," said Jimmy. "You don't know women! She just got
the place where it's her time to spill brine, and raise a rumpus
about something, and aisy brathin' would start her. Just let her
bawl it out, and thin--we'll get something dacent for dinner."
Dannie turned a spadeful of earth and broke it open, and Jimmy
squatted by the can, and began picking out the angle worms.
"I see where we dinna fish much this summer," said Dannie,
waited. "And where we fish close home when we do, and where all
the work is done before we go."
"Aha, borrow me rose-colored specks!" cried Jimmy. "I
anything but what I've always seen. I'll come and go as I please,
and Mary can do the same. I don't throw no `jeminy fit' every time
a woman acts the fool a little, and if you'd lived with one fiftane
years you wouldn't either. Of course we'll make the garden. Wish to
goodness it was a beer garden! Wouldn't I like to plant a lot of
hop seed and see rows of little green beer bottles humpin' up the
dirt. Oh, my! What all does she want done?"
Dannie turned another spadeful of earth and studied the premises,
while Jimmy gathered the worms.
"Palins all on the fence?" asked Dannie.
"Yep," said Jimmy.
"Well, the yard is to be raked."
"The flooer beds spaded."
"Stones around the peonies, phlox, and hollyhocks raised and manure
worked in. All the trees must be pruned, the bushes and vines
trimmed, and the gooseberries, currants, and raspberries thinned.
The strawberry bed must be fixed up, and the rhubarb and asparagus
spaded around and manured. This whole garden must be made----"
"And the road swept, and the gate sandpapered, and the barn
whitewashed! Return to grazing, Nebuchadnezzar," said Jimmy. "We
do what's raisonable, and then we go fishin'. See?"
Three beds spaded, squared, and ready for seeding lay in the warm
spring sunshine before noon. Jimmy raked the yard, and Dannie
trimmed the gooseberries. Then he wheeled a barrel of swamp loam
for a flower bed by the cabin wall, and listened intently between
each shovelful he threw. He could not hear a sound. What was more,
he could not bear it. He went to Jimmy.
"Say, Jimmy," he said. "Dinna ye have to gae in fra a
"House or town?" inquired Jimmy sweetly.
"The house!" exploded Dannie. "I dinna hear a sound yet.
Ye gae in
fra a drink, and tell Mary I want to know where she'd like the new
flooer bed she's been talking about."
Jimmy leaned the rake against a tree, and started.
"And Jimmy," said Dannie. "If she's quit crying, ask
her what was
the matter. I want to know."
Jimmy vanished. Presently he passed Dannie where he worked.
"Come on," whispered Jimmy.
The bewildered Dannie followed. Jimmy passed the wood pile, and pig
pen, and slunk around behind the barn, where he leaned against the
logs and held his sides. Dannie stared at him.
"She says," wheezed Jimmy, "that she guesses ~she wanted
to go and
hear the Bass splash, too!"
Dannie's mouth fell open, and then closed with a snap.
"Us fra the fool killer!" he said. "Ye dinna let her
see ye laugh?"
"Let her see me laugh!" cried Jimmy." Let her see me
laugh! I told
her she wasn't to go for a few days yet, because we were sawin' the
Kingfisher's stump up into a rustic sate for her, and we were goin'
to carry her out to it, and she was to sit there and sew, and
umpire the fishin', and whichiver bait she told the Bass to take,
that one of us would be gettin' it. And she was pleased as
anything, me lad, and now it's up to us to rig up some sort of a
dacint sate, and tag a woman along half the time. You thick-tongued
descindint of a bagpipe baboon, what did you sind me in there for?"
"Maybe a little of it will tire her," groaned Dannie.
"It will if she undertakes to follow me," Jimmy said. "I
where horse-weeds grow giraffe high."
Then they went back to work, and presently many savory odors began
to steal from the cabin. Whereat Jimmy looked at Dannie, and winked
an `I-told-you-so' wink. A garden grows fast under the hands of two
strong men really working, and by the time the first slice of
sugar-cured ham from the smoke house for that season struck the
sizzling skillet, and Mary very meekly called from the back door to
know if one of them wanted to dig a little horse radish, the garden
was almost ready for planting. Then they went into the cabin and ate fragrant,
thick slices of juicy fried ham, seasoned with horse radish;
fried eggs, freckled with the ham fat in which they were cooked;
fluffy mashed potatoes, with a little well of melted butter in the
center of the mound overflowing the sides; raisin pie, soda biscuit,
and their own maple syrup.
"Ohumahoh!" said Jimmy. "I don't know as I hanker for
city life so
much as I sometimes think I do. What do you suppose the adulterated
stuff we read about in papers tastes like?"
"I've often wondered," answered Dannie. "Look at some
of the hogs
and cattle that we see shipped from here to city markets. The
folks that sell them would starve before they'd eat a bit o' them,
yet somebody eats them, and what do ye suppose maple syrup made
from hickory bark and brown sugar tastes like?"
"And cold-storage eggs, and cotton-seed butter, and even horse
radish half turnip," added Mary. "Bate up the cream a little before
you put it in your coffee, or it will be in lumps. Whin the cattle
are on clover it raises so thick."
Jimmy speared a piece of salt-rising bread crust soaked in ham
gravy made with cream, and said: "I wish I could bring that Thrid
Man home with me to one meal of the real thing nixt time he strikes
town. I belave he would injoy it. May I, Mary?"
Mary's face flushed slightly. "Depends on whin he comes, she said.
"Of course, if I am cleaning house, or busy with something I can't
"Sure!" cried Jimmy. "I'd ask you before I brought him,
want him to have something spicial. Some of this ham, and horse
radish, and maple syrup to begin with, and thin your fried spring
chicken and your stewed squirrel is a drame, Mary. Nobody iver
makes turtle soup half so rich as yours, and your green peas in
cream, and asparagus on toast is a rivilation--don't you rimimber
'twas Father Michael that said it? I ought to be able to find
mushrooms in a few weeks, and I can taste your rhubarb pie over
from last year. Gee! But I wish he'd come in strawberrying! Berries
from the vines, butter in the crust, crame you have to bate to make
it smooth--talk about shortcake!"
"What's wrong wi' cherry cobbler?" asked Dannie.
"Or blackberry pie?"
"Or greens cooked wi' bacon?"
"Or chicken pie?"
"Or catfish, rolled in cornmeal and fried in ham fat?"
"Or guineas stewed in cream, with hard-boiled eggs in the gravy?"
"Oh, stop!" cried the delighted Mary. "It makes me dead
thinkin' how I'll iver be cookin' all you'll want. Sure, have him
come, and both of you can pick out the things you like the best,
and I'll fix thim for him. Pure, fresh stuff might be a trate to a
city man. When Dolan took sister Katie to New York with him, his
boss sent them to a five-dollar-a-day house, and they thought they
was some up. By the third day poor Katie was cryin' for a square
male. She couldn't touch the butter, the eggs made her sick, and
the cold-storage meat and chicken never got nearer her stomach than
her nose. So she just ate fish, because they were fresh, and she
ate, and she ate, till if you mintion New York to poor Katie she
turns pale, and tastes fish. She vows and declares that she feeds
her chickens and hogs better food twice a day than people fed her
in New York."
"I'll bet my new milk pail the grub we eat ivery day would be a
trate that would raise him," said Jimmy. "Provided his taste ain't
so depraved with saltpeter and chalk he don't know fresh, pure food
whin he tastes it. I understand some of the victims really don't."
"Your new milk pail?" questioned Mary.
"That's what!" said Jimmy." The next time I go to town
I'm goin' to
get you two."
"But I only need one," protested Mary. "Instead of two,
get me a
new dishpan. Mine leaks, and smears the stove and table."
"Be Gorry!" sighed Jimmy. "There goes me tongue, lettin'
me in for
it again. I'll look over the skins, and if any of thim are ripe,
I'll get you a milk pail and a dishpan the nixt time I go to town.
And, by gee! If that dandy big coon hide I got last fall looks
good, I'm going to comb it up, and work the skin fine, and send it
to the Thrid Man, with me complimints. I don't feel right about him
yet. Wonder what his name railly is, and where he lives, or whether
I killed him complate."
"Any dry goods man in town can tell ye," said Dannie.
"Ask the clerk in the hotel," suggested Mary.
"You've said it," cried Jimmy. "That's the stuff! And
I can find
out whin he will be here again."
Two hours more they faithfully worked on the garden, and then Jimmy
began to grow restless.
"Ah, go on!" cried Mary. "You have done all that is needed
now, and more too. There won't any fish bite to-day, but you can
have the pleasure of stringin' thim poor sufferin' worms on a hook
and soaking thim in the river."
"`Sufferin' worms!' Sufferin' Job!" cried Jimmy. "What
nixt? Go on,
Dannie, get your pole!"
Dannie went. As he came back Jimmy was sprinkling a thin layer of earth
over the bait in the can. "Why not come along, Mary?" he suggested."
I'm not done planting my seeds," she answered. "I'll be tired
I am, and I thought that place wasn't fixed for me yet."
"We can't fix that till a little later," said Jimmy. "We
where it's going to be grassy and shady yet, and the wood is too
wet to fix a sate."
"Any kind of a sate will do," said Mary. "I guess you
try to make one out of the Kingfisher stump. If you take it out it
may change the pool and drive away the Bass."
"Sure!" cried Jimmy. "What a head you've got! We'll have
some other stump for a sate."
"I don't want to go until it gets dry under foot, and warmer"
Mary. "You boys go on. I'll till you whin I am riddy to go."
"There!" said Jimmy, when well on the way to the river. "What
I tell you? Won't go if she has the chance! Jist wants to be ~asked."
"I dinna pretend to know women," said Dannie gravely. "But
whatever Mary does is all richt with me."
"So I've obsarved," remarked Jimmy. "Now, how will we
get at this
fishin' to be parfectly fair?"
"Tell ye what I think," said Dannie. "I think we ought
to pick out
the twa best places about the Black Bass pool, and ye take ane fra
yours and I'll take the ither fra mine, and then we'll each fish
from his own place."
"Nothing fair about that," answered Jimmy. "You might
to strike the bed where he lays most, and be gettin' bites all the
time, and me none; or I might strike it and you be left out. And
thin there's days whin the wind has to do, and the light. We ought
to change places ivery hour."
"There's nothing fair in that either," broke in Dannie. "I
have him tolled up to my place, and juist be feedin' him my bait,
and here you'd come along and prove by your watch that my time was
up, and take him when I had him all ready to bite."
"That's so for you!" hurried in Jimmy. "I'll be hanged
if I'd leave
a place by the watch whin I had a strike!"
"Me either," said Dannie. "'Tis past human nature to
ask it. I'll
tell ye what we'll do. We'll go to work and rig up a sort of a
bridge where it's so narrow and shallow, juist above Kingfisher
shoals, and then we'll toss up fra sides. Then each will keep to
his side. With a decent pole either of us can throw across the
pool, and both of us can fish as we please. Then each fellow can
pick his bait, and cast or fish deep as he thinks best. What d'ye
say to that?"
"I don't see how anything could be fairer than that," said
"I don't want to fish for anything but the Bass. I'm goin' back and
get our rubber boots, and you be rollin' logs, and we'll build that
crossing right now."
"All richt," said Dannie.
So they laid aside their poles and tackle, and Dannie rolled logs
and gathered material for the bridge, while Jimmy went back after
their boots. Then both of them entered the water and began clearing
away drift and laying the foundations. As the first log of the
crossing lifted above the water Dannie paused.
"How about the Kingfisher?" he asked. "Winna this scare
"Not if he ain't a domn fool," said Jimmy; "and if he
is, let him go!"
"Seems like the river would no be juist richt without him,"
Dannie, breaking off a spice limb and nibbling the fragrant buds.
"Let's only use what we bare need to get across. And where will we
fix fra Mary?"
"Oh, git out!" said Jimmy. "I ain't goin' to fool with
"Well, we best fix a place. Then we can tell her we fixed it, and
it's all ready."
"Sure!" cried Jimmy. "You are catchin' it from your neighbor.
her a place is all fixed and watin', and you couldn't drag her here
with a team of oxen. Till her you are ~going to fix it soon, and
she'll come to see if you've done it, if she has to be carried on
So they selected a spot that they thought would be all right for
Mary, and not close enough to disturb the Bass and the Kingfisher,
rolled two logs, and fished a board that had been carried by a
freshet from the water and laid it across them, and decided that
would have to serve until they could do better.
Then they sat astride the board, Dannie drew out a coin, and they
tossed it to see which was heads and tails. Dannie won heads. Then
they tossed to see which bank was heads or tails, and the right,
which was on Rainbow side, came heads. So Jimmy was to use the
bridge. Then they went home, and began the night work. The first
thing Jimmy espied was the barrel containing the milk pail. He
fished out the pail, and while Dannie fed the stock, shoveled
manure, and milked, Jimmy pounded out the dents, closed the bullet
holes, emptied the bait into it, half filled it with mellow earth,
and went to Mary for some corn meal to sprinkle on the top to feed
At four o'clock the next morning, Dannie was up feeding, milking,
scraping plows, and setting bolts. After breakfast they piled their
implements on a mudboat, which Dannie drove, while Jimmy rode one
of his team, and led the other, and opened the gates. They began on
Dannie's field, because it was closest, and for the next two weeks,
unless it were too rainy to work, they plowed, harrowed, lined off,
and planted the seed.
The blackbirds followed along the furrows picking up grubs, the
crows cawed from high tree tops, the bluebirds twittered about
hollow stumps and fence rails, the wood thrushes sang out their
souls in the thickets across the river, and the King Cardinal of
Rainbow Bottom whistled to split his throat from the giant
sycamore. Tender greens were showing along the river and in the
fields, and the purple of red-bud mingled with the white of wild
plum all along the Wabash.
The sunny side of the hill that sloped down to Rainbow Bottom was
a mass of spring beauties, anemones, and violets; thread-like ramps
rose rank to the scent among them, and round ginger leaves were
thrusting their folded heads through the mold. The Kingfisher was
cleaning his house and fishing from his favorite stump in the
river, while near him, at the fall of every luckless worm that
missed its hold on a blossom-whitened thorn tree, came the splash
of the great Black Bass. Every morning the Bass took a trip around
Horseshoe Bend food hunting, and the small fry raced for life
before his big, shear-like jaws. During the heat of noon he lay in
the deep pool below the stump, and rested; but when evening came he
set out in search of supper, and frequently he felt so good that he
leaped clear of the water, and fell back with a splash that threw
shining spray about him, or lashed out with his tail and sent
widening circles of waves rolling from his lurking place. Then the
Kingfisher rattled with all his might, and flew for the tunnel in
Some of these days the air was still, the earth warmed in the
golden sunshine, and murmured a low song of sleepy content. Some
days the wind raised, whirling dead leaves before it, and covering
the earth with drifts of plum, cherry, and apple bloom, like late
falling snow. Then great black clouds came sweeping across the sky,
and massed above Rainbow Bottom. The lightning flashed as if the
heavens were being cracked open, and the rolling thunder sent
terror to the hearts of man and beast. When the birds flew for
shelter, Dannie and Jimmy unhitched their horses, and raced for the
stables to escape the storm, and to be with Mary, whom electricity
They would sit on the little front porch, and watch the greedy
earth drink the downpour. They could almost see the grass and
flowers grow. When the clouds scattered, the thunder grew fainter;
and the sun shone again between light sprinkles of rain. Then a
great, glittering rainbow set its arch in the sky, and it planted
one of its feet in Horseshoe Bend, and the other so far away they
could not even guess where.
If it rained lightly, in a little while Dannie and Jimmy could go
back to their work afield. If the downpour was heavy, and made
plowing impossible, they pulled weeds, and hoed in the garden.
Dannie discoursed on the wholesome freshness of the earth, and
Jimmy ever waited a chance to twist his words, and ring in a laugh
on him. He usually found it. Sometimes, after a rain, they took
their bait cans, and rods, and went down to the river to fish.
If one could not go, the other religiously refrained from casting
bait into the pool where the Black Bass lay. Once, when they were
fishing together, the Bass rose to a white moth, skittered over the
surface by Dannie late in the evening, and twice Jimmy had strikes
which he averred had taken the arm almost off him, but neither really
had the Bass on his hook. They kept to their own land, and fished
when they pleased, for game laws and wardens were unknown to them.
Truth to tell, neither of them really hoped to get the Bass before
fall. The water was too high in the spring. Minnows were plentiful,
and as Jimmy said, "It seemed as if the domn plum tree just rained
caterpillars." So they bided their time, and the signs prohibiting
trespass on all sides of their land were many and emphatic, and
Mary had instructions to ring the dinner bell if she caught sight
of any strangers.
The days grew longer, and the sun was insistent. Untold miles they
trudged back and forth across their land, guiding their horses,
jerked about with plows, their feet weighted with the damp,
clinging earth, and their clothing pasted to their wet bodies.
Jimmy was growing restless. Never in all his life had he worked so
faithfully as that spring, and never had his visits to Casey's so
told on him. No matter where they started, or how hard they worked,
Dannie was across the middle of the field, and helping Jimmy before
the finish. It was always Dannie who plowed on, while Jimmy rode to
town for the missing bolt or buckle, and he generally rolled from
his horse into a fence corner, and slept the remainder of the day
on his return.
The work and heat were beginning to tire him, and his trips to
Casey's had been much less frequent than he desired. He grew to
feel that between them Dannie and Mary were driving him, and a
desire to balk at slight cause, gathered in his breast. He
deliberately tied his team in a fence corner, lay down, and fell
asleep. The clanging of the supper bell aroused him. He opened his
eyes, and as he rose, found that Dannie had been to the barn, and
brought a horse blanket to cover him. Well as he knew anything,
Jimmy knew that he had no business sleeping in fence corners so
early in the season. With candor he would have admitted to himself
that a part of his brittle temper came from aching bones and
rheumatic twinges. Some way, the sight of Dannie swinging across
the field, looking as fresh as in the early morning, and the fact
that he had carried a blanket to cover him, and the further fact
that he was wild for drink, and could think of no excuse on earth
for going to town, brought him to a fighting crisis.
Dannie turned his horses at Jimmy's feet.
"Come on, Jimmy, supper bell has rung," he cried. "We
mustn't keep Mary
waiting. She wants us to help her plant the sweet potatoes to-nicht."
Jimmy rose, and his joints almost creaked. The pain angered him. He
leaned forward and glared at Dannie.
"Is there one minute of the day whin you ain't thinkin' about my
wife?" he demanded, oh, so slowly, and so ugly!
Dannie met his hateful gaze squarely. "Na a minute," he answered,
"excepting when I am thinking about ye."
"The Hell you say!" exploded the astonished Jimmy.
Dannie stepped out of the furrow, and came closer. "See here, Jimmy
Malone," he said. "Ye ain't forgot the nicht when I told ye I
loved Mary, with all my heart, and that I'd never love another
woman. I sent ye to tell her fra me, and to ask if I might come to
her. And ye brought me her answer. It's na your fault that she
preferred ye. Everybody did. But it ~is your fault that I've stayed
on here. I tried to go, and ye wouldna let me. So for fifteen
years, ye have lain with the woman I love, and I have lain alone in
a few rods of ye. If that ain't Man-Hell, try some other on me, and
see if it will touch me! I sent ye to tell her that I loved her;
have I ever sent ye to tell her that I've quit? I should think
you'd know, by this time, that I'm na quitter. Love her! Why, I
love her till I can see her standin' plain before me, when I know
she's a mile away. Love her! Why, I can smell her any place I am,
sweeter than any flower I ever held to my face. Love her! Till the
day I dee I'll love her. But it ain't any fault of yours, and if
ye've come to the place where I worry ye, that's the place where I
go, as I wanted to on the same day ye brought Mary to Rainbow Bottom."
Jimmy's gray jaws fell open. Jimmy's sullen eyes cleared. He caught
Dannie by the arm.
"For the love of Hivin, what did I say, Dannie?" he panted.
have been half asleep. Go! You go! You leave Rainbow Bottom! Thin,
by God, I go too! I won't stay here without you, not a day. If I
had to take my choice between you, I'd give up Mary before I'd give
up the best frind I iver had. Go! I guess not, unless I go with
you! She can go to----"
"Jimmy! Jimmy!" cautioned Dannie.
"I mane ivery domn word of it," said Jimmy. "I think
more of you,
than I iver did of any woman."
Dannie drew a deep breath. "Then why in the name of God did ye
~say that thing to me? I have na betrayed your trust in me, not
ever, Jimmy, and ye know it. What's the matter with ye?"
Jimmy heaved a deep sigh, and rubbed his hands across his hot,
angry face. "Oh, I'm just so domn sore!" he said. "Some days
about wild. Things haven't come out like I thought they would."
"Jimmy, if ye are in trouble, why do ye na tell me? Canna I help
ye? Have'nt I always helped ye if I could?"
"Yes, you have," said Jimmy. "Always, been a thousand
good to me. But you can't help here. I'm up agin it alone, but put
this in your pipe, and smoke it good and brown, if you go, I go. I
don't stay here without you."
"Then it's up to ye na to make it impossible for me to stay,"
Dannie. "After this, I'll try to be carefu'. I've had no guard on
my lips. I've said whatever came into my heid."
The supper bell clanged sharply a second time.
"That manes more Hivin on the Wabash," said Jimmy. "Wish
I had a
bracer before I face it."
"How long has it been, Jimmy?" asked Dannie.
"Etarnity!" replied Jimmy briefly.
Dannie stood thinking, and then light broke. Jimmy was always short
of money in summer. When trapping was over, and before any crops
were ready, he was usually out of funds. Dannie hesitated, and then
he said, "Would a small loan be what ye need, Jimmy?"
Jimmy's eyes gleamed. "It would put new life into me," he
"Forgive me, Dannie. I am almost crazy."
Dannie handed over a coin, and after supper Jimmy went to town.
Then Dannie saw his mistake. He had purchased peace for himself,
but what about Mary?
THE HEART OF MARY MALONE
"This is the job that was done with the reaper,
If we hustle we can do it ourselves,
Thus securing to us a little cheaper,
The bread and pie upon our pantry shelves.
Eat this wheat, by and by,
On this beautiful Wabash shore,
Drink this rye, by and by,
Eat and drink on this beautiful shore."
SO sang Jimmy as he drove through the wheat, oats and rye
accompanied by the clacking machinery. Dannie stopped stacking
sheaves to mop his warm, perspiring face and to listen. Jimmy
always with an eye to the effect he was producing immediately broke
into wilder parody:
"Drive this mower, a little slower,
On this beautiful Wabash shore,
Cuttin' wheat to buy our meat,
Cuttin' oats, to buy our coats,
Also pants, if we get the chance.
By and by, we'll cut the rye,
But I bet my hat I drink that, I drink that.
Drive this mower a little slower,
In this wheat, in this wheat, by and by."
The larks scolded, fluttering over head, for at times the reaper
overtook their belated broods. The bobolinks danced and chattered
on stumps and fences, in an agony of suspense, when their nests
were approached, and cried pitifully if they were destroyed. The
chewinks flashed from the ground to the fences and trees, and back,
crying "Che-wink?" "Che-wee!" to each other, in such
that they appeared to be in danger of flirting off their long tails.
The quail ran about the shorn fields, and excitedly called from fence
riders to draw their flocks into the security of Rainbow Bottom.
Frightened hares bounded through the wheat, and if the cruel blade
sheared into their nests, Dannie gathered the wounded and helpless
of the scattered broods in his hat, and carried them to Mary.
Then came threshing, which was a busy time, but after that,
through the long hot days of late July and August, there was little
to do afield, and fishing was impossible. Dannie grubbed fence
corners, mended fences, chopped and corded wood for winter, and in
spare time read his books. For the most part Jimmy kept close to
Dannie. Jimmy's temper never had been so variable. Dannie was
greatly troubled, for despite Jimmy's protests of devotion, he
flared at a word, and sometimes at no word at all. The only thing
in which he really seemed interested was the coon skin he was
dressing to send to Boston. Over that he worked by the hour,
sometimes with earnest face, and sometimes he raised his head, and
let out a whoop that almost frightened Mary. At such times he was
sure to go on and give her some new detail of the hunt for the
fifty coons, that he had forgotten to tell her before.
He had been to the hotel, and learned the Thread Man's name and
address, and found that he did not come regularly, and no one knew
when to expect him; so when he had combed and brushed the fur to
its finest point, and worked the skin until it was velvet soft, and
bleached it until it was muslin white, he made it into a neat
package and sent it with his compliments to the Boston man. After
he had waited for a week, he began going to town every day to the
post office for the letter he expected, and coming home much worse
for a visit to Casey's. Since plowing time he had asked Dannie for
money as he wanted it, telling him to keep an account, and he would
pay him in the fall. He seemed to forget or not to know how fast
his bills grew.
Then came a week in August when the heat invaded even the cool
retreat along the river. Out on the highway passing wheels rolled
back the dust like water, and raised it in clouds after them. The
rag weeds hung wilted heads along the road. The goldenrod and
purple ironwort were dust-colored and dust-choked. The trees were
thirsty, and their leaves shriveling. The river bed was bare its
width in places, and while the Kingfisher made merry with his
family, and rattled, feasting from Abram Johnson's to the Gar-hole,
the Black Bass sought its deep pool, and lay still. It was a rare
thing to hear it splash in those days.
The prickly heat burned until the souls of men were tried. Mary
slipped listlessly about or lay much of the time on a couch beside
a window, where a breath of air stirred. Despite the good beginning
he had made in the spring, Jimmy slumped with the heat and
exposures he had risked, and was hard to live with.
Dannie was not having a good time himself. Since Jimmy's wedding,
life had been all grind to Dannie, but he kept his reason, accepted
his lot, and ground his grist with patience and such cheer as few
men could have summoned to the aid of so poor a cause. Had there
been any one to notice it, Dannie was tired and heat-ridden also,
but as always, Dannie sank self, and labored uncomplainingly with
Jimmy's problems. On a burning August morning Dannie went to
breakfast, and found Mary white and nervous, little prepared to
eat, and no sign of Jimmy.
"Jimmy sleeping?" he asked.
"I don't know where Jimmy is," Mary answered coldly.
"Since when?" asked Dannie, gulping coffee, and taking hasty
he had begun his breakfast supposing that Jimmy would come presently.
"He left as soon as you went home last night," she said, "and
has not come back yet."
Dannie did not know what to say. Loyal to the bone to Jimmy, loving
each hair on the head of Mary Malone, and she worn and neglected;
the problem was heartbreaking in any solution he attempted, and he
felt none too well himself. He arose hastily, muttering something
about getting the work done. He brought in wood and water, and
asked if there was anything more he could do.
"Sure!" said Mary, in a calm, even voice. "Go to the
shovel manure for Jimmy Malone, and do all the work he shirks,
before you do anything for yoursilf."
Dannie always had admitted that he did not understand women, but he
understood a plain danger signal, and he almost ran from the cabin.
In the fear that Mary might think he had heeded her hasty words, he
went to his own barn first, just to show her that he did not do
Jimmy's work. The flies and mosquitoes were so bad he kept his
horses stabled through the day, and turned them to pasture at
night. So their stalls were to be cleaned, and he set to work. When
he had finished his own barn, as he had nothing else to do, he went
on to Jimmy's. He had finished the stalls, and was sweeping when he
heard a sound at the back door, and turning saw Jimmy clinging to
the casing, unable to stand longer. Dannie sprang to him, and
helped him inside. Jimmy sank to the floor. Dannie caught up
several empty grain sacks, folded them, and pushed them under
Jimmy's head for a pillow.
"Dannish, didsh shay y'r nash'nal flowerish wash shisle?"
"Yes," said Dannie, lifting the heavy auburn head to smooth
folds from the sacks.
"Whysh like me?"
"I dinna," answered Dannie wearily.
"Awful jagsh on," murmured Jimmy, sighed heavily, and was
clothing was torn and dust-covered, his face was purple and
bloated, and his hair was dusty and disordered. He was a repulsive
sight. As Dannie straightened Jimmy's limbs he thought he heard a
step. He lifted his head and leaned forward to listen.
"Dannie Micnoun?" called the same even, cold voice he had
breakfast. "Have you left me, too?"
Dannie sprang for a manger. He caught a great armload of hay, and
threw it over Jimmy. He gave one hurried toss to scatter it, for
Mary was in the barn. As he turned to interpose his body between
her and the manger, which partially screened Jimmy, his heart
sickened. He was too late. She hid seen. Frightened to the soul, he
stared at her. She came a step closer, and with her foot gave a
hand of Jimmy's that lay exposed a contemptuous shove.
"You didn't get him complately covered," she said. "How
you had him here?"
Dannie was frightened into speech. "Na a minute, Mary; he juist
came in when I heard ye. I was trying to spare ye."
"Him, you mane," she said, in that same strange voice. "I
give him money, and he has a bottle, and he's been here all night."
"Mary," said Dannie, "that's na true. I have furnished
He'd mortgage the farm, or do something worse if I didna; but I
dinna ~where he has been all nicht, and in trying to cover him, my
only thought was to save ye pain."
"And whin you let him spind money you know you'll never get back,
and loaf while you do his work, and when you lie mountain high,
times without number, who is it for?"
Then fifteen years' restraint slid from Dannie like a cloak, and in
torture of his soul his slow tongue outran all its previous history.
"Ye!" he shouted. "It's fra Jimmy, too, but ye first.
first!" Mary began to tremble. Her white cheeks burned red. Her
figure straightened, and her hands clenched.
"On the cross! Will you swear it?" she cried.
"On the sacred body of Jesus Himself, if I could face Him,"
answered Dannie. "anything! Everything is fra ye first, Mary!"
"Then why?" she panted between gasps for breath. "Tell
me why? If
you have cared for me enough to stay here all these years and see
that I had the bist tratemint you could get for me, why didn't you
care for me enough more to save me this? Oh, Dannie, tell me why?"
And then she shook with strangled sobs until she scarce could stand
alone. Dannie Macnoun cleared the space between them and took her
in his arms. Her trembling hands clung to him, her head dropped on
his breast, and the perfume of her hair in his nostrils drove him
mad. Then the tense bulk of her body struck against him, and horror
filled his soul. One second he held her, the next, Jimmy smothering
under the hay, threw up an arm, and called like a petulant child,
"Dannie! Make shun quit shinish my fashe!"
And Dannie awoke to the realization that Mary was another man's,
and that man, one who trusted him completely. The problem was so
much too big for poor Dannie that reason kindly slipped a cog. He
broke from the grasp of the woman, fled through the back door, and
took to the woods.
He ran as if fiends were after him, and he ran and ran. And when he
could run no longer, he walked, but he went on. Just on and on. He
crossed forests and fields, orchards and highways, streams and
rivers, deep woods and swamps, and on, and on he went. He felt
nothing, and saw nothing, and thought nothing, save to go on,
always on. In the dark he stumbled on and through the day he
staggered on, and he stopped for nothing, save at times to lift
water to his parched lips.
The bushes took his hat, the thorns ripped his shirt, the water
soaked his shoes and they spread and his feet came through and the
stones cut them until they bled. Leaves and twigs stuck in his
hair, and his eyes grew bloodshot, his lips and tongue swollen, and
when he could go no further on his feet, he crawled on his knees,
until at last he pitched forward on his face and lay still. The
tumult was over and Mother Nature set to work to see about
Dannie was so badly damaged, soul, heart, and body, that she never
would have been equal to the task, but another woman happened that
way and she helped. Dannie was carried to a house and a doctor
dressed his hurts. When the physician got down to first principles, and
found a big, white-bodied, fine-faced Scotchman in the heart of the
wreck, he was amazed. A wild man, but not a whiskey bloat. A crazy man,
but not a maniac. He stood long beside Dannie as he lay unconscious.
"I'll take oath that man has wronged no one," he said. "What
the name of God has some woman been doing to him?"
He took money from Dannie's wallet and bought clothing to replace
the rags he had burned. He filled Dannie with nourishment, and told
the woman who found him that when he awoke, if he did not remember,
to tell him that his name was Dannie Macnoun, and that he lived in
Rainbow Bottom, Adams County. Because just at that time Dannie was
halfway across the state.
A day later he awoke, in a strange room and among strange faces. He
took up life exactly where he left off. And in his ears, as he
remembered his flight, rang the awful cry uttered by Mary Malone,
and not until then did there come to Dannie the realization that
she had been driven to seek him for help, because her woman's hour
was upon her. Cold fear froze Dannie's soul.
He went back by railway and walked the train most of the way. He
dropped from the cars at the water tank and struck across country,
and again he ran. But this time it was no headlong flight. Straight
as a homing bird went Dannie with all speed, toward the foot of the
Rainbow and Mary Malone.
The Kingfisher sped rattling down the river when Dannie came
crashing along the bank.
"Oh, God, let her be alive!" prayed Dannie as he leaned panting
against a tree for an instant, because he was very close now and
sickeningly afraid. Then he ran on. In a minute it would be over.
At the next turn he could see the cabins. As he dashed along, Jimmy
Malone rose from a log and faced him. A white Jimmy, with black-
ringed eyes and shaking hands.
"Where the Hell have you been?" Jimmy demanded.
"Is she dead?" cried Dannie."
The doctor is talking scare," said Jimmy. "But I don't scare
easy. She's never been sick in her life, and she has lived through
it twice before, why should she die now? Of course the kid is dead
again," he added angrily.
Dannie shut his eyes and stood still. He had helped plant star-
flowers on two tiny cross-marked mounds at Five Mile Hill. Now,
there were three. Jimmy had worn out her love for him, that was
plain. "Why should she die now?" To Dannie it seemed that
question should have been, "Why should she live?"
Jimmy eyed him belligerently. "Why in the name of sinse did you
out whin I was off me pins?" he growled. "Of course I don't blame
you for cutting that kind of a party, me for the woods, all right, but
what I can't see is why you couldn't have gone for the doctor and
waited until I'd slept it off before you wint."
"I dinna know she was sick," answered Dannie. "I deserve
ony ane can say to me, and it's all my fault if she dees, but this
ane thing ye got to say ye know richt noo, Jimmy. Ye got to say ye
know that I dinna understand Mary was sick when I went."
"Sure! I've said that all the time," agreed Jimmy. "But
don't understand is, ~why you went! I guess she thinks it was her
fault. I came out here to try to study it out. The nurse-woman,
domn pretty girl, says if you don't get back before midnight, it's
all up. You're just on time, Dannie. The talk in the house is that
she'll wink out if you don't prove to her that she didn't drive you
away. She is about crazy over it. What did she do to you?"
"Nothing!" exclaimed Dannie." She was so deathly sick
what she was doing. I can see it noo, but I dinna understand then."
"That's all right," said Jimmy. "She didn't! She kapes
and over "What did I do? You hustle in and fix it up with her. I'm
getting tired of all this racket."
All Dannie heard was that he was to go to Mary. He went up the
lane, across the garden, and stepped in at the back door. Beside
the table stood a comely young woman, dressed in blue and white
stripes. She was doing something with eggs and milk. She glanced at
Dannie, and finished filling a glass. As she held it to the light,
"Is your name Macnoun?" she inquired.
"Yes," said Dannie.
"Dannie Macnoun?" she asked.
"Yes," said Dannie.
"Then you are the medicine needed here just now," she said,
that were the most natural statement in the world. "Mrs. Malone
seems to have an idea that she offended you, and drove you from
home, just prior to her illness, and as she has been very sick, she
is in no condition to bear other trouble. You understand?"
"Do ye understand that I couldna have gone if I had known she was
ill?" asked Dannie in turn.
"From what she has said in delirium I have been sure of that,"
replied the nurse. "It seems you have been the stay of the family
for years. I have a very high opinion of you, Mr. Macnoun. Wait
until I speak to her."
The nurse vanished, presently returned, and as Dannie passed
through the door, she closed it after him, and he stood still,
trying to see in the dim light. That great snowy stretch, that must
be the bed. That tumbled dark circle, that must be Mary's hair.
That dead white thing beneath it, that must be Mary's face. Those
burning lights, flaming on him, those must be Mary's eyes. Dannie
stepped softly across the room, and bent over the bed. He tried
hard to speak naturally.
"Mary" he said, "oh, Mary, I dinna know ye were ill!
me, I dinna realize ye were suffering pain."
She smiled faintly, and her lips moved. Dannie bent lower.
"Promise," she panted. "Promise you will stay now."
Her hand fumbled at her breast, and then she slipped on the white
cover a little black cross. Dannie knew what she meant. He laid his
hand on the emblem precious to her, and said softly, "I swear I
never will leave ye again, Mary Malone."
A great light swept into her face, and she smiled happily.
"Now ye," said Dannie. He slipped the cross into her hand.
after me," he said. "I promise I will get well, Dannie."
"I promise I will get well, Dannie, if I can," said Mary.
"Na," said Dannie. "That winna do. Repeat what I said,
it is on the cross. Life hasna been richt for ye, Mary, but if ye
will get well, before the Lord in some way we will make it happier.
Ye will get well?"
"I promise I will get well, Dannie," said Mary Malone, and
softly left the room.
Outside he said to the nurse, "What can I do?"
She told him everything of which she could think that would be of benefit.
"Now tell me all ye know of what happened," commanded Dannie.
"After you left," said the nurse, "she was in labor,
and she could
not waken her husband, and she grew frightened and screamed. There
were men passing out on the road. They heard her, and came to see
what was the matter."
"Strangers?" shuddered Dannie, with dry lips.
"No, neighbors. One man went for the nearest woman, and the other
drove to town for a doctor. They had help here almost as soon as
you could. But, of course, the shock was a very dreadful thing, and
the heat of the past few weeks has been enervating."
"Ane thing more," questioned Dannie. "Why do her children
"I don't know about the others," answered the nurse. "This
simply couldn't be made to breathe. It was a strange thing. It was
a fine big baby, a boy, and it seemed perfect, but we couldn't save
it. I never worked harder. They told me she had lost two others,
and we tried everything of which we could think. It just seemed as
if it had grown a lump of flesh, with no vital spark in it."
Dannie turned, went out of the door, and back along the lane to the
river where he had left Jimmy. "`A lump of flesh with na vital
spark in it,'" he kept repeating. "I dinna but that is the secret.
She is almost numb with misery. All these days when she's been
without hope, and these awful nichts, when she's watched and feared
alone, she has no wished to perpetuate him in children who might be
like him, and so at their coming the `vital spark' is na in them.
Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy, have ye Mary's happiness and those three little
graves to answer for?"
He found Jimmy asleep where he had left him. Dannie shook him
awake. "I want to talk with ye," he said.
Jimmy sat up, and looked into Dannie's face. He had a complaint on
his lips but it died there. He tried to apologize. "I am almost
dead for sleep," he said. "There has been no rest for anyone here.
What do you think?"
"I think she will live," said Dannie dryly. "In spite
of your neglect,
and my cowardice, I think she will live to suffer more frae us."
Jimmy's mouth opened, but for once no sound issued. The drops of
perspiration raised on his forehead.
Dannie sat down, and staring at him Jimmy saw that there were
patches of white hair at his temples that had been brown a week
before; his colorless face was sunken almost to the bone, and there
was a peculiar twist about his mouth. Jimmy's heart weighed heavily,
his tongue stood still, and he was afraid to the marrow in his bones.
"I think she will live," repeated Dannie. "And about
the suffering more,
we will face that like men, and see what can be done about it. This
makes three little graves on the hill, Jimmy, what do they mean to ye?"
"Domn bad luck," said Jimmy promptly.
"Nothing more?" asked Dannie. "Na responsibility at all.
the father of those children. Have ye never been to the doctor, and
asked why ye lost them?"
"No, I haven't," said Jimmy.
"That is ane thing we will do now," said Dannie, "and
then we will
do more, much more."
"What are you driving at?" asked Jimmy.
"The secret of Mary's heart," said Dannie.
The cold sweat ran from the pores of Jimmy's body. He licked his
dry lips, and pulled his hat over his eyes, that he might watch
Dannie from under the brim.
"We are twa big, strong men," said Dannie. "For fifteen
have lived here wi' Mary. The night ye married her, the licht of
happiness went out for me. But I shut my mouth, and shouldered my
burden, and went on with my best foot first; because if she had na
refused me, I should have married her, and then ye would have been
the one to suffer. If she had chosen me, I should have married her,
juist as ye did. Oh, I've never forgotten that! So I have na been
a happy mon, Jimmy. We winna go into that any further, we've been
over it once. It seems to be a form of torture especially designed
fra me, though at times I must confess, it seems rough, and I canna
see why, but we'll cut that off with this: life has been Hell's
hottest sweat-box fra me these fifteen years."
Jimmy groaned aloud. Dannie's keen gray eyes seemed boring into the
soul of the man before him, as he went on.
"Now how about ye? Ye got the girl ye wanted. Ye own a guid farm
that would make ye a living, and save ye money every year. Ye have
done juist what ye pleased, and as far as I could, I have helped
ye. I've had my eye on ye pretty close, Jimmy, and if ~ye are a
happy mon, I dinna but I'm content as I am. What's your trouble?
Did ye find ye dinna love Mary after ye won her? Did ye murder
your mither or blacken your soul with some deadly sin? Mon! If I
had in my life what ye every day neglect and torture, Heaven would
come doon, and locate at the foot of the Rainbow fra me. But, ye
are no happy, Jimmy. Let's get at the root of the matter. While ye
are unhappy, Mary will be also. We are responsible to God for her,
and between us, she is empty armed, near to death, and almost dumb
with misery. I have juist sworn to her on the cross she loves that
if she will make ane more effort, and get well, we will make her
happy. Now, how are we going to do it?"
Another great groan burst from Jimmy, and he shivered as if with a chill.
"Let us look ourselves in the face," Dannie went on, "and
we lack. What can we do fra her? What will bring a song to her
lips, licht to her beautiful eyes, love to her heart, and a living
child to her arms? Wake up, mon! By God, if ye dinna set to work
with me and solve this problem, I'll shake a solution out of ye!
What I must suffer is my own, but what's the matter with ye, and
why, when she loved and married ye, are ye breakin' Mary's heart?
Answer me, mon!"
Dannie reached over and snatched the hat from Jimmy's forehead, and
stared at an inert heap. Jimmy lay senseless, and he looked like
death. Dannie rushed down to the water with the hat, and splashed
drops into Jimmy's face until he gasped for breath. When he
recovered a little, he shrank from Dannie, and began to sob, as if
he were a sick ten-year-old child.
"I knew you'd go back on me, Dannie," he wavered. "I've
only frind I've got, and I wish I was dead."
"I havena gone back on ye," persisted Dannie, bathing Jimmy's
face. "Life means nothing to me, save as I can use it fra Mary, and
fra ye. Be quiet, and sit up here, and help me work this thing out.
Why are ye a discontented mon, always wishing fra any place save
home? Why do ye spend all ye earn foolishly, so that ye are always
hard up, when ye might have affluence? Why does Mary lose her
children, and why does she noo wish she had na married ye?"
"Who said she wished she hadn't married me?" cried Jimmy.
"Do ye mean to say ye think she doesn't?" blazed Dannie.
"I ain't said anything!" exclaimed Jimmy.
"Na, and I seem to have damn poor luck gettin' ye ~to say anything.
I dinna ask fra tears, nor faintin' like a woman. Be a mon, and let
me into the secret of this muddle. There is a secret, and ye know
it. What is it? Why are ye breaking the heart o' Mary Malone?
Answer me, or 'fore God I'll wring the answer fra your body!"
And Jimmy keeled over again. This time he was gone so far that
Dannie was frightened into a panic, and called the doctor coming up
the lane to Jimmy before he had time to see Mary. The doctor soon
brought Jimmy around, prescribed quiet and sleep; talked about
heart trouble developing, and symptoms of tremens, and Dannie
poured on water, and gritted his teeth. And it ended by Jimmy being
helped to Dannie's cabin, undressed, and put into bed, and then
Dannie went over to see what he could do for the nurse. She looked
at him searchingly.
"Mr. Macnoun, when were you last asleep?" she asked.
"I forget," answered Dannie."
When did you last have a good hot meal?"
"I dinna know," replied Dannie."
Drink that," said the nurse, handing him the bowl of broth she
carried, and going back to the stove for another. "When I have
finished making Mrs. Malone comfortable, I'm going to get you
something to eat, and you are going to eat it. Then you are going
to lie down on that cot where I can call you if I need you, and
sleep six hours, and then you're going to wake up and watch by this
door while I sleep my six. Even nurses must have some rest, you know."
"Ye first," said Dannie. "I'll be all richt when I get
ye mention it, I believe I am almost mad with hunger."
The nurse handed him another bowl of broth. "Just drink that, and
drink slowly," she said, as she left the room.
Dannie could hear her speaking softly to Mary, and then all was
quiet, and the girl came out and closed the door. She deftly
prepared food for Dannie, and he ate all she would allow him, and
begged for more; but she firmly told him her hands were full now,
and she had no one to depend on but him to watch after the turn of
the night. So Dannie lay down on the cot. He had barely touched it
when he thought of Jimmy, so he got up quietly and started home. He
had almost reached his back door when it opened, and Jimmy came
out. Dannie paused, amazed at Jimmy's wild face and staring eyes.
"Don't you begin your cursed gibberish again," cried Jimmy,
of him. "I'm burning in all the tortures of fire now, and I'll
have a drink if I smash down Casey's and steal it."
Dannie jumped for him, and Jimmy evaded him and fled. Dannie
started after. He had reached the barn before he began to think.
"I depend on you," the nurse had said. "Jimmy, wait!"
"Jimmy, have ye any money?" Jimmy was running along the path toward
town. Dannie stopped. He stood staring after Jimmy for a second,
and then he deliberately turned, went back, and lay down on the
cot, where the nurse expected to find him when she wanted him to
watch by the door of Mary Malone.
THE APPLE OF DISCORD BECOMES A JOINTED ROD
WHAT do you think about fishing, Dannie?" asked Jimmy Malone.
There was a licht frost last nicht," said Dannie. "It begins
look that way. I should think a week more, especially if there
should come a guid rain."
Jimmy looked disappointed. His last trip to town had ended in a
sodden week in the barn, and at Dannie's cabin. For the first time
he had carried whiskey home with him. He had insisted on Dannie
drinking with him, and wanted to fight when he would not. He
addressed the bottle, and Dannie, as the Sovereign Alchemist by
turns, and "transmuted the leaden metal of life into pure gold"
a glorious drunk, until his craving was satisfied. Then he came
back to work and reason one morning, and by the time Mary was about
enough to notice him, he was Jimmy at his level best, and doing
more than he had in years to try to interest and please her.
Mary had fully recovered, and appeared as strong as she ever had
been, but there was a noticeable change in her. She talked and
laughed with a gayety that seemed forced, and in the midst of it
her tongue turned bitter, and Jimmy and Dannie fled before it.
The gray hairs multiplied on Dannie's head with rapidity. He had
gone to the doctor, and to Mary's sister, and learned nothing more
than the nurse could tell him. Dannie was willing to undertake
anything in the world for Mary, but just how to furnish the "vital
spark," to an unborn babe, was too big a problem for him. And Jimmy
Malone was growing to be another. Heretofore, Dannie had borne the
brunt of the work, and all of the worry. He had let Jimmy feel that
his was the guiding hand. Jimmy's plans were followed whenever it
was possible, and when it was not, Dannie started Jimmy's way, and
gradually worked around to his own. But, there never had been a
time between them, when things really came to a crisis, and Dannie
took the lead, and said matters must go a certain way, that Jimmy
had not acceded. In reality, Dannie always had been master.
Now he was not. Where he lost control he did not know. He had tried
several times to return to the subject of how to bring back
happiness to Mary, and Jimmy immediately developed symptoms of
another attack of heart disease, a tendency to start for town, or
openly defied him by walking away. Yet, Jimmy stuck to him closer
than he ever had, and absolutely refused to go anywhere, or to do
the smallest piece of work alone. Sometimes he grew sullen and
morose when he was not drinking, and that was very unlike the gay
Jimmy. Sometimes he grew wildly hilarious, as if he were bound to
make such a racket that he could hear no sound save his own voice.
So long as he stayed at home, helped with the work, and made an
effort to please Mary, Dannie hoped for the best, but his hopes
never grew so bright that they shut out an awful fear that was
beginning to loom in the future. But he tried in every way to
encourage Jimmy, and help him in the struggle he did not
understand, so when he saw that Jimmy was disappointed about the
fishing, he suggested that he should go alone.
"I guess not!" said Jimmy. "I'd rather go to confission
than to go
alone. What's the fun of fishin' alone? All the fun there is to
fishin' is to watch the other fellow's eyes when you pull in a big
one, and try to hide yours from him when he gets it. I guess not!
What have we got to do?"
"Finish cutting the corn, and get in the pumpkins before there
comes frost enough to hurt them."
"Well, Come along!" said Jimmy. "Let's get it over. I'm
begin fishing for that Bass the morning after the first black
frost, if I do go alone. I mean it!"
"But ye said--" began Dannie.
"Hagginy!" cried Jimmy. "What a lot of time you've wasted
you've been kaping account of all the things I've said. Haven't you
learned by this time that I lie twice to the truth once?"
Dannie laughed. "Dinna say such things, Jimmy. I hate to hear ye.
Of course, I know about the fifty coons of the Canoper, and things
like that; honest, I dinna believe ye can help it. But na man need
lie about a serious matter, and when he knows he is deceiving
another who trusts him." Jimmy became so white that he felt the
color receding, and turned to hide his face. "Of course, about
those fifty coons noo, what was the harm in that? Nobody believed
it. That wasna deceiving any ane."
"Yes, but it was," answered Jimmy. "The Boston man belaved
I guiss he hasn't forgiven me, if he did take my hand, and drink
with me. You know I haven't had a word from him about that coon
skin. I worked awful hard on that skin. Some way, I tried to make
it say to him again that I was sorry for that night's work.
Sometimes I am a fraid I killed the fellow."
"O-ho!" scoffed Dannie. "Men ain't so easy killed. I
about it, too, and I'll tell ye what I think. I think he goes on
long trips, and only gets home every four or five months. The
package would have to wait. His folks wouldna try to send it after
him. He was a monly fellow, all richt, and ye will hear fra him yet."
"I'd like to," said Jimmy, absently, beating across his palm
spray of goldenrod he had broken. "Just a line to tell me that he
don't bear malice."
"Ye will get it," said Dannie. "Have a little patience.
your greatest fault, Jimmy. Ye never did have ony patience."
"For God's sake, don't begin on me faults again," snapped
"I reckon I know me faults about as well as the nixt fellow. I'm so
domn full of faults that I've thought a lot lately about fillin'
up, and takin' a sleep on the railroad."
A new fear wrung Dannie's soul. "Ye never would, Jimmy," he
"Sure not!" cried Jimmy. "I'm no good Catholic livin',
but if it
come to dyin', bedad I niver could face it without first confissin'
to the praste, and that would give the game away. Let's cut out
dyin', and cut corn!"
"That's richt," agreed Dannie. "And let's work like men,
fish fra a week or so, before ice and trapping time comes again.
I'll wager I can beat ye the first row."
"Bate!" scoffed Jimmy. "Bate! With them club-footed fingers
yours? You couldn't bate an egg. Just watch me! If you are enough
of a watch to keep your hands runnin' at the same time."
Jimmy worked feverishly for an hour, and then he straightened and
looked about him. On the left lay the river, its shores bordered
with trees and bushes. Behind them was deep wood. Before them lay
their open fields, sloping down to the bottom, the cabins on one
side, and the kingfisher embankment on the other. There was a smoky
haze in the air. As always the blackbirds clamored along the river.
Some crows followed the workers at a distance, hunting for grains
of corn, and over in the woods, a chewink scratched and rustled
among the deep leaves as it searched for grubs. From time to time
a flock of quail arose before them with a whirr and scattered down
the fields, reassembling later at the call of their leader, from a
rider of the snake fence, which inclosed the field.
"Bob, Bob White," whistled Dannie.
"Bob, Bob White," answered the quail.
"I got my eye on that fellow," said Jimmy. "When he gets
larger, I'm going after him."
"Seems an awful pity to kill him," said Dannie. "People
the lark, but I vow I'd miss the quail most if they were both gone.
They are getting scarce."
"Well, I didn't say I was going to kill the whole flock,"
Jimmy. "I was just going to kill a few for Mary, and if I don't,
somebody else will."
"Mary dinna need onything better than ane of her own fried
chickens," said Dannie. "And its no true about hunters. We've
river on ane side, and the bluff on the other. If we keep up our
fishing signs, and add hunting to them, and juist shut the other
fellows out, the birds will come here like everything wild gathers
in National Park, out West. Ye bet things know where they are taken
care of, well enough."
Jimmy snipped a spray of purple ironwort with his corn-cutter, and
stuck it through his suspender buckle. "I think that would be more
fun than killin' them. If you're a dacint shot, and your gun is
clane" (Jimmy remembered the crow that had escaped with the eggs
at soap-making), "you pretty well know you're goin' to bring down
anything you aim at. But it would be a dandy joke to shell a little
corn as we husk it, and toll all the quail into Rainbow Bottom, and
then kape the other fellows out. Bedad! Let's do it."
Jimmy addressed the quail:
"Quailie, quailie on the fince,
We think your singin's just imminse.
Stay right here, and live with us,
And the fellow that shoots you will strike a fuss."
"We can protect them all richt enough," laughed Dannie. "And
the snow comes we can feed Cardinals like cheekens. Wish when we
threshed, we'd saved a few sheaves of wheat. They do that in
Germany, ye know. The last sheaf of the harvest they put up on a
long pole at Christmas, as a thank-offering to the birds fra their
care of the crops. My father often told of it."
"That would be great," said Jimmy. "Now look how domn
slow you are!
Why didn't you mintion it at harvest? I'd like things comin' for me
to take care of them. Gee! Makes me feel important just to think
about it. Next year we'll do it, sure. They'd be a lot of company.
A man could work in this field to-day, with all the flowers around
him, and the colors of the leaves like a garden, and a lot of birds
talkin' to him, and not feel afraid of being alone."
"Afraid?" quoted Dannie, in amazement.
For an instant Jimmy looked startled. Then his love of proving his
point arose. "Yes, afraid!" he repeated stubbornly. "Afraid
being away from the sound of a human voice, because whin you are,
the voices of the black divils of conscience come twistin' up from
the ground in a little wiry whisper, and moanin' among the trees,
and whistlin' in the wind, and rollin' in the thunder, and above
all in the dark they screech, and shout, and roar,`We're after you,
Jimmy Malone! We've almost got you, Jimmy Malone! You're going to
burn in Hell, Jimmy Malone!'"
Jimmy leaned toward Dannie, and began in a low voice, but he grew
so excited as he tried to picture the thing that he ended in a
scream, and even then Dannie's horrified eyes failed to recall him.
Jimmy straightened, stared wildly behind him, and over the open,
hazy field, where flowers bloomed, and birds called, and the long
rows of shocks stood unconscious auditors of the strange scene. He
lifted his hat, and wiped the perspiration from his dripping face
with the sleeve of his shirt, and as he raised his arm, the corn-
cutter flashed in the light.
"My God, it's awful, Dannie! It's so awful, I can't begin to tell
Dannie's face was ashen. "Jimmy, dear auld fellow," he said,
long has this been going on?"
"A million years," said Jimmy, shifting the corn-cutter to
that held his hat, that he might moisten his fingers with saliva
and rub it across his parched lips.
"Jimmy, dear," Dannie's hand was on Jimmy's sleeve. "Have
to town in the nicht, or anything like that lately?"
"No, Dannie, dear, I ain't," sneered Jimmy, setting his hat
back of his head and testing the corn-cutter with his thumb. "This
ain't Casey's, me lad. I've no more call there, at this minute,
than you have."
"It is Casey's, juist the same," said Dannie bitterly. "Dinna
know the end of this sort of thing?"
"No, bedad, I don't!" said Jimmy. "If I knew any way
to ind it,
you can bet I've had enough. I'd ind it quick enough, if I knew
how. But the railroad wouldn't be the ind. That would just be the
beginnin'. Keep close to me, Dannie, and talk, for mercy sake,
talk! Do you think we could finish the corn by noon?"
"Let's try!" said Dannie, as he squared his shoulders to adjust
them to his new load. "Then we'll get in the pumpkins this
afternoon, and bury the potatoes, and the cabbage and turnips, and
then we're aboot fixed fra winter."
"We must take one day, and gather our nuts," suggested Jimmy,
struggling to make his voice sound natural, "and you forgot the
apples. We must bury thim too."
"That's so," said Dannie, "and when that's over, we'll
left to do but catch the Bass, and say farewell to the Kingfisher."
"I've already told you that I would relave you of all
responsibility about the Bass," said Jimmy, "and when I do, you
won't need trouble to make your adieus to the Kingfisher of the
Wabash. He'll be one bird that won't be migrating this winter."
Dannie tried to laugh. "I'd like fall as much as any season of
year," he said, "if it wasna for winter coming next."
"I thought you liked winter, and the trampin' in the white woods,
and trappin', and the long evenings with a book."
"I do," said Dannie. "I must have been thinkin' of Mary.
last winter so. Of course, I had to go home when ye were away, and
the nichts were so long, and so cold, and mony of them alone. I
wonder if we canna arrange fra one of her sister's girls to stay
with her this winter?"
"What's the matter with me?" asked Jimmy.
"Nothing, if only ye'd stay," answered Dannie.
"All I'll be out of nights, you could put in one eye," said
"I went last winter, and before, because whin they clamored too
loud, I could be drivin' out the divils that way, for a while, and
you always came for me, but even that won't be stopping it now. I
wouldn't stick my head out alone after dark, not if I was dying!"
"Jimmy, ye never felt that way before," said Dannie. "Tell
what happened this summer to start ye."
"I've done a domn sight of faleing that you didn't know anything
about," answered Jimmy. "I could work it off at Casey's for a
while, but this summer things sort of came to a head, and I saw
meself for fair, and before God, Dannie, I didn't like me looks."
"Well, then, I like your looks," said Dannie. "Ye are
company I ever was in. Ye are the only mon I ever knew that I cared
fra, and I care fra ye so much, I havna the way to tell ye how
much. You're possessed with a damn fool idea, Jimmy, and ye got to
shake it off. Such a great-hearted, big mon as ye! I winna have
it! There's the dinner bell, and richt glad I am of it!"
That afternoon when pumpkin gathering was over and Jimmy had
invited Mary out to separate the "punk" from the pumpkins, there
was a wagon-load of good ones above what they would need for their
use. Dannie proposed to take them to town and sell them. To his
amazement Jimmy refused to go along.
"I told you this morning that Casey wasn't calling me at prisent,"
said, "and whin I am not called I'd best not answer. I have promised
Mary to top the onions and bury the cilery, and murder the bates."
"Do what wi' the beets?" inquired the puzzled Dannie.
"Kill thim! Kill thim stone dead. I'm too tinder-hearted to be
burying anything but a dead bate, Dannie. That's a thousand years
old, but laugh, like I knew you would, old Ramphirinkus! No, thank
you, I don't go to town!"
Then Dannie was scared. "He's going to be dreadfully seek or go
mad," he said.
So he drove to the village, sold the pumpkins, filled Mary's order
for groceries, and then went to the doctor, and told him of Jimmy's
"It is the drink," said that worthy disciple of Esculapius.
drink! In time it makes a fool sodden and a bright man mad. Few men
have sufficient brains to go crazy. Jimmy has. He must stop the drink."
On the street, Dannie encountered Father Michael. The priest
stopped him to shake hands."
How's Mary Malone?" he asked.
"She is quite well noo," answered Dannie, "but she is
na happy. I
live so close, and see so much, I know. I've thought of ye lately.
I have thought of coming to see ye. I'm na of your religion, but
Mary is, and what suits her is guid enough for me. I've tried to
think of everything under the sun that might help, and among other
things I've thought of ye. Jimmy was confirmed in your church, and
he was more or less regular up to his marriage."
"Less, Mr. Macnoun, much less!" said the priest. "Since,
all. Why do you ask?"
"He is sick," said Dannie. "He drinks a guid deal. He
reckless about sleeping on the ground, and noo, if ye will make
this confidential?"-- the priest nodded-- "he is talking aboot
sleeping on the railroad, and he's having delusions. There are
devils after him. He is the finest fellow ye ever knew, Father
Michael. We've been friends all our lives. Ye have had much
experience with men, and it ought to count fra something. From all
ye know, and what I've told ye, could his trouble be cured as the
The priest did a queer thing. "You know him as no living man,
Dannie," he said. "What do you think?"
Dannie's big hands slowly opened and closed. Then he fell to
polishing the nails of one hand on the palm of the other. At last
he answered, "If ye'd asked me that this time last year, I'd have
said `it's the drink,' at a jump. But times this summer, this
morning, for instance, when he hadna a drop in three weeks, and
dinna want ane, when he could have Come wi' me to town, and
wouldna, and there were devils calling him from the ground, and the
trees, and the sky, out in the open cornfield, it looked bad."
The priest's eyes were boring into Dannie's sick face. "How did
look?" he asked briefly.
"It looked," said Dannie, and his voice dropped to a whisper,
looked like he might carry a damned ugly secret, that it would be
better fra him if ye, at least, knew."
"And the nature of that secret?"
Dannie shook his head. "Couldna give a guess at it! Known him all
his life. My only friend. Always been togither. Square a mon as God
ever made. There's na fault in him, if he'd let drink alone. Got
more faith in him than any ane I ever knew. I wouldna trust mon on
God's footstool, if I had to lose faith in Jimmy. Come to think of
it, that `secret' business is all old woman's scare. The drink is
telling on him. If only he could be cured of that awful weakness,
all heaven would come down and settle in Rainbow Bottom."
They shook hands and parted without Dannie realizing that he had
told all he knew and learned nothing. Then he entered the post
office for the weekly mail. He called for Malone's papers also, and
with them came a slip from the express office notifying Jimmy that
there was a package for him. Dannie went to see if they would let
him have it, and as Jimmy lived in the country, and as he and
Dannie were known to be partners, he was allowed to sign the book,
and carry away a long, slender, wooden box, with a Boston tag. The
Thread Man had sent Jimmy a present, and from the appearance of the
box, Dannie made up his mind that it was a cane.
Straightway he drove home at a scandalous rate of speed, and on the
way, he dressed Jimmy in a broadcloth suit, patent leathers, and a
silk hat. Then he took him to a gold cure, where he learned to
abhor whiskey in a week, and then to the priest, to whom he
confessed that he had lied about the number of coons in the
Canoper. And so peace brooded in Rainbow Bottom, and all of them
were happy again. For with the passing of summer, Dannie had
learned that heretofore there had been happiness of a sort, for
them, and that if they could all get back to the old footing it
would be well, or at least far better than it was at present. With
Mary's tongue dripping gall, and her sweet face souring, and Jimmy
hearing devils, no wonder poor Dannie overheated his team in a race
to carry a package that promised to furnish some diversion.
Jimmy and Mary heard the racket, and standing on the celery hill,
they saw Dannie come clattering up the lane, and as he saw them, he
stood in the wagon, and waved the package over his head.
Jimmy straightened with a flourish, stuck the spade in the celery
hill, and descended with great deliberation. "I mintioned to Dannie
this morning," he said "that it was about time I was hearin' from
the Thrid Man."
"Oh! Do you suppose it is something from Boston?" the eagerness
in Mary's voice made it sound almost girlish again.
"Hunt the hatchet!" hissed Jimmy, and walked very leisurely
into the cabin.
Dannie was visibly excited as he entered. "I think ye have heard
from the Thread Mon," he said, handing Jimmy the package.
Jimmy took it, and examined it carefully. He never before in his life
had an express package, the contents of which he did not know. It
behooved him to get all there was out of the pride and the joy of it.
Mary laid down the hatchet so close that it touched Jimmy's hand,
to remind him. "Now what do you suppose he has sent you?" she
inquired eagerly, her hand straying toward the packages.
Jimmy tested the box. "It don't weigh much," he said, "but
end of it's the heaviest."
He set the hatchet in a tiny crack, and with one rip, stripped off
the cover. Inside lay a long, brown leather case, with small
buckles, and in one end a little leather case, flat on one side,
rounding on the other, and it, too, fastened with a buckle. Jimmy
caught sight of a paper book folded in the bottom of the box, as he
lifted the case. With trembling fingers he unfastened the buckles,
the whole thing unrolled, and disclosed a case of leather, sewn in
four divisions, from top to bottom, and from the largest of these
protruded a shining object. Jimmy caught this, and began to draw,
and the shine began to lengthen.
"Just what I thought!" exclaimed Dannie. "He's sent ye
a fine cane."
"A hint to kape out of the small of his back the nixt time he goes
promenadin' on a cow-kitcher! The divil!" exploded Jimmy.
His quick eyes had caught a word on the cover of the little book in
the bottom of the box.
"A cane! A cane! Look at that, will ye?" He flashed six inches
grooved silvery handle before their faces, and three feet of
shining black steel, scarcely thicker than a lead pencil. "Cane!"
he cried scornfully. Then he picked up the box, and opening it drew
out a little machine that shone like a silver watch, and setting it
against the handle, slipped a small slide over each end, and it
held firmly, and shone bravely.
"Oh, Jimmy, what is it?" cried Mary.
"Me cane!" answered Jimmy. "Me new cane from Boston.
hear Dannie sayin' what it was? This little arrangemint is my
cicly-meter, like they put on wheels, and buggies now, to tell how
far you've traveled. The way this works, I just tie this silk thrid
to me door knob and off I walks, it a reeling out behind, and whin
I turn back it takes up as I come, and whin I get home I take the
yardstick and measure me string, and be the same token, it tells me
how far I've traveled." As he talked he drew out another shining
length and added it to the first, and then another and a last, fine
as a wheat straw. "These last jints I'm adding," he explained
Mary, "are so that if I have me cane whin I'm riding I can stritch
it out and touch up me horses with it. And betimes, if I should
iver break me old cane fish pole, I could take this down to the
river, and there, the books call it `whipping the water.' See!
Cane, be Jasus! It's the Jim-dandiest little fishing rod anybody in
these parts iver set eyes on. Lord! What a beauty!"
He turned to Dannie and shook the shining, slender thing before
his envious eyes.
"Who gets the Black Bass now?" he triumphed in tones of utter
There is no use in taking time to explain to any fisherman who has
read thus far that Dannie, the patient; Dannie, the long-suffering,
felt abused. How would you feel yourself?
"The Thread Man might have sent twa," was his thought. "The
decent treatment he got that nicht was frae me, and if I'd let
Jimmy hit him, he'd gone through the wall. But there never is
anything fra me!"
And that was true. There never was.
Aloud he said, "Dinna bother to hunt the steelyards, Mary. We winna
weigh it until he brings it home."
"Yes, and by gum, I'll bring it with this! Look, here is a picture
of a man in a boat, pullin' in a whale with a pole just like this,"
"Yes," said Dannie. "That's what it's made for. A boat
water. If ye are going to fish wi' that thing along the river we'll
have to cut doon all the trees, and that will dry up the water.
That's na for river fishing."
Jimmy was intently studying the book. Mary tried to take the rod
from his hand.
"Let be!" he cried, hanging on. "You'll break it!"
"I guess steel don't break so easy," she said aggrievedly.
wanted to `heft' it."
"Light as a feather," boasted Jimmy. "Fish all day and
tire a man at all. Done--unjoint it and put it in its case, and not
go dragging up everything along the bank like a living stump-puller.
This book says this line will bear twinty pounds pressure, and
sometimes it's takin' an hour to tire out a fish, if it's a fighter.
I bet you the Black Bass is a fighter, from what we know of him."
"Ye can watch me land him and see what ye think about it,"
Jimmy held the book with one hand and lightly waved the rod with
the other, in a way that would have developed nerves in an Indian.
He laughed absently.
"With me shootin' bait all over his pool with.this?" he asked.
"I guess not!"
"But you can't fish for the Bass with that, Jimmy Malone,"
Mary hotly. "You agreed to fish fair for the Bass, and it wouldn't
be fair for you to use that, whin Dannie only has his old cane
pole. Dannie, get you a steel pole, too," she begged.
"If Jimmy is going to fish with that, there will be all the more
in taking the Bass from him with the pole I have," answered Dannie.
"You keep out," cried Jimmy angrily to Mary. "It was
bargain. He made it himself. Each man was to fish surface or deep,
and with his own pole and bait. I guess this ~is my pole, ain't it?"
"Yes," said Mary. "But it wasn't yours whin you made
agreemint. You very well know Dannie expected you to fish with the
same kind of pole and bait that he did; didn't you, Dannie?"
"Yes," said Dannie, "I did. Because I never dreamed of
any other. But since he has it, I think he's in his rights if he
fishes with it. I dinna care. In the first place he will only scare
the Bass away from him with the racket that reel will make, and in
the second, if he tries to land it with that thing, he will smash
it, and lose the fish. There's a longhandled net to land things
with that goes with those rods. He'd better sent ye one. Now you'll
have to jump into the river and land a fish by hand if ye hook it."
"That's true!" cried Mary. "Here's one in a picture."
She had snatched the book from Jimmy. He snatched it back.
"Be careful, you'll tear that!" he cried. "I was just
going to say
that I would get some fine wire or mosquito bar and make one."
Dannie's fingers were itching to take the rod, if only for an
instant. He looked at it longingly. But Jimmy was impervious. He
whipped it softly about and eagerly read from the book.
"Tells here about a man takin' a fish that weighed forty pounds
with a pole just like this," he announced. "Scat! Jumpin'
Jehosophat! What do you think of that!"
"Couldn't you fish turn about with it?" inquired Mary.
"Na, we couldna fish turn about with it," answered Dannie.
that pole. Jimmy would throw a fit if anybody else touched it. And
he's welcome to it. He never in this world will catch the Black
Bass with it. If I only had some way to put juist fifteen feet more
line on my pole, I'd show him how to take the Bass to-morrow. The
way we always have come to lose it is with too short lines. We have
to try to land it before it's tired out and it's strong enough to
break and tear away. It must have ragged jaws and a dozen pieces of
line hanging to it, fra both of us have hooked it time and again.
When it strikes me, if I only could give it fifteen feet more line,
I could land it."
"Can't you fix some way?" asked Mary.
"I'll try," answered Dannie.
"And in the manetime, I'd just be givin' it twinty off me dandy
little reel, and away goes me with Mr. Bass," said Jimmy. "I must
take it to town and have its picture took to sind the Thrid Man."
And that was the last straw. Dannie had given up being allowed to
touch the rod, and was on his way to unhitch his team and do the
evening work. The day had been trying and just for the moment he
forgot everything save that his longing fingers had not touched
that beautiful little fishing rod.
"The Boston man forgot another thing," he said. "The
shindys 'round with those things in pictures, wears a damn, dinky,
little pleated coat!"
WHEN THE BLACK BASS STRUCK
"Lots of fish down in the brook,
All you need is a rod, and a line, and a hook,"
HUMMED Jimmy, still lovingly fingering his possessions.
"Did Dannie iver say a thing like that to you before?" asked
"Oh, he's dead sore," explained Jimmy. "He thinks he
had a jinted rod, too."
"And so he had," replied Mary. "You said yoursilf that
have killed that man if Dannie hadn't showed you that you were wrong."
"You must think stuff like this is got at the tin-cint store,"
"Oh, no I don't!" said Mary. "I expect it cost three
or four dollars."
"Three or four dollars," sneered Jimmy. "All the sinse
a woman has!
Feast your eyes on this book and rade that just this little reel
alone cost fifteen, and there's no telling what the rod is worth.
Why it's turned right out of pure steel, same as if it were wood.
Look for yoursilf."
"Thanks, no! I'm afraid to touch it," said Mary.
"Oh, you are sore too!" laughed Jimmy. "With all that
money in it,
I should think you could see why I wouldn't want it broke."
"You've sat there and whipped it around for an hour. Would it break
for me or Dannie to do the same thing? If it had been his, you'd have
had a worm on it and been down to the river trying it for him by now."
"Worm!" scoffed Jimmy. "A worm! That's a good one! Idjit!
fish with worms with a jinted rod."
"Well what do you fish with? Humming birds?"
"No. You fish with--" Jimmy stopped and eyed Mary dubiously.
fish with a lot of things," he continued. "Some of thim come in
little books and they look like moths, and some like snake-faders,
and some of them are buck-tail and bits of tin, painted to look
shiny. Once there was a man in town who had a minnie made of rubber
and all painted up just like life. There were hooks on its head,
and on its back, and its belly, and its tail, so's that if a fish
snapped at it anywhere it got hooked."
"I should say so!" exclaimed Mary. "It's no fair way
to fish, to use
more than one hook. You might just as well take a net and wade in
and seine out the fish as to take a lot of hooks and rake thim out."
"Well, who's going to take a lot of hooks and rake thim out?"
"I didn't say anybody was. I was just saying it wouldn't be fair
the fish if they did."
"Course I wouldn't fish with no riggin' like that, when Dannie
has one old hook. Whin we fish for the Bass, I won't use but one
hook either. All the same, I'm going to have some of those fancy
baits. I'm going to get Jim Skeels at the drug store to order thim
for me. I know just how you do," said Jimmy flourishing the rod.
"You put on your bait and quite a heavy sinker, and you wind it up
to the ind of your rod, and thin you stand up in your boat----"
"Stand up in your boat!"
"I wish you'd let me finish!--or on the bank, and you take this
little whipper-snapper, and you touch the spot on the reel that
relases the thrid, and you give the rod a little toss, aisy as
throwin' away chips, and off maybe fifty feet your bait hits the water,
`spat!' and `snap!' goes Mr. Bass, and `stick!' goes the hook. See?"
"What I see is that if you want to fish that way in the Wabash,
you'll have to wait until the dredge goes through and they make a
canal out of it; for be the time you'd throwed fifty feet, and your
fish had run another fifty, there'd be just one hundred snags, and
logs, and stumps between you; one for every foot of the way. It
must look pretty on deep water, where it can be done right, but I
bet anything that if you go to fooling with that on our river,
Dannie gets the Bass."
"Not much, Dannie don't `gets the Bass,'" said Jimmy confidently.
"Just you come out here and let me show you how this works. Now you
see, I put me sinker on the ind of the thrid, no hook of course,
for practice, and I touch this little spring here, and give me
little rod a whip and away goes me bait, slick as grase. Mr. Bass
is layin' in thim bass weeds right out there, foreninst the pie-
plant bed, and the bait strikes the water at the idge, see! and
`snap,' he takes it and sails off slow, to swally it at leisure.
Here's where I don't pull a morsel. Jist let him rin and swally,
and whin me line is well out and he has me bait all digistid,
`yank,' I give him the round-up, and ~thin, the fun begins. He leps
clear of the water and I see he's tin pound. If he rins from me, I
give him rope, and if he rins to, I dig in, workin' me little
machane for dear life to take up the thrid before it slacks. Whin
he sees me, he makes a dash back, and I just got to relase me line
and let him go, because he'd bust this little silk thrid all to
thunder if I tried to force him onpleasant to his intintions, and
so we kape it up until he's plum wore out and comes a promenadin'
up to me boat, bank I mane, and I scoops him in, and that's sport,
Mary! That's ~man's fishin'! Now watch! He's in thim bass weeds
before the pie-plant, like I said, and I'm here on the bank, and I
~think he's there, so I give me little jinted rod a whip and a
Jimmy gave the rod a whip and a swing. The sinker shot in air,
struck the limb of an apple tree and wound a dozen times around it.
Jimmy said things and Mary giggled. She also noticed that Dannie
had stopped work and was standing in the barn door watching
intently. Jimmy climbed the tree, unwound the line and tried again.
"I didn't notice that domn apple limb stickin' out there,"
said. "Now you watch! Right out there among the bass weeds
foreninst the pie-plant"
To avoid another limb, Jimmy aimed too low and the sinker shot
under the well platform not ten feet from him.
"Lucky you didn't get fast in the bass weeds," said Mary as
Jimmy reeled in.
"Will, I got to get me range," explained Jimmy. "This
Jimmy swung too high. The spring slipped from under his unaccustomed
thumb. The sinker shot above and behind him and became entangled in
the eaves, while yards of the fine silk line flew off the spinning
reel and dropped in tangled masses at his feet, and in an effort to
do something Jimmy reversed the reel and it wound back on tangles
and all until it became completely clogged. Mary had sat down on
the back steps to watch the exhibition. Now, she stood up to laugh.
"And ~that's just what will happen to you at the river," she
"While you are foolin' with that thing, which ain't for rivers,
and which you don't know beans about handlin', Dannie will haul in
the Bass, and serve you right, too!"
"Mary," said Jimmy, "I niver struck ye in all me life,
but if ye
don't go in the house, and shut up, I'll knock the head off ye!"
"I wouldn't be advisin' you to," she said. "Dannie is
Jimmy glanced toward the barn in time to see Dannie's shaking
shoulders as he turned from the door. With unexpected patience, he
firmly closed his lips and went after a ladder. By the time he had
the sinker loose and the line untangled, supper was ready. By the
time he had mastered the reel, and could land the sinker accurately
in front of various imaginary beds of bass weeds, Dannie had
finished the night work in both stables and gone home. But his back
door stood open and therefrom there protruded the point of a long,
heavy cane fish pole. By the light of a lamp on his table, Dannie
could be seen working with pincers and a ball of wire.
"I wonder what he thinks he can do?" said Jimmy.
"I suppose he is trying to fix some way to get that fifteen feet
more line he needs," replied Mary.
When they went to bed the light still burned and the broad
shoulders of Dannie bent over the pole. Mary had fallen asleep, but
she was awakened by Jimmy slipping from the bed. He went to the
window and looked toward Dannie's cabin. Then he left the bedroom
and she could hear him crossing to the back window of the next
room. Then came a smothered laugh and he softly called her. She
went to him.
Dannie's figure stood out clear and strong in the moonlight, in his
wood-yard. His black outline looked unusually powerful in the
silvery whiteness surrounding it.
He held his fishing pole in both hands and swept a circle about him
that would have required considerable space on Lake Michigan, and
made a cast toward the barn. The line ran out smoothly and evenly,
and through the gloom Mary saw Jimmy's figure straighten and his
lips close in surprise. Then Dannie began taking in line. That
process was so slow, Jimmy doubled up and laughed again.
"Be lookin' at that, will ye?" he heaved. "What does
the domn fool
think the Black Bass will be doin' while he is takin' in line on
that young windlass?"
"There'd be no room on the river to do that," answered Mary
serenely. "Dannie wouldn't be so foolish as to try. All he wants
now is to see if his line will run, and it will. Whin he gets to
the river, he'll swing his bait where he wants it with his pole,
like he always does, and whin the Bass strikes he'll give it the
extra fifteen feet more line he said he needed, and thin he'll have
a pole and line with which he can land it."
"Not on your life he won't!" said Jimmy.
He opened the back door and stepped out just as Dannie raised the
"Hey, you! Quit raisin' Cain out there!" yelled Jimmy. "I
get some sleep."
Across the night, tinged neither with chagrin nor rancor, boomed
the big voice of Dannie.
"Believe I have my extra line fixed so it works all right,"
said. "Awful sorry if I waked you. Thought I was quiet."
"How much did you make off that?" inquired Mary.
"Two points," answered Jimmy. "Found out that Dannie
ain't sore at
me any longer and that you are."
Next morning was no sort of angler's weather, but the afternoon
gave promise of being good fishing by the morrow. Dannie worked
about the farms, preparing for winter; Jimmy worked with him until
mid-afternoon, then he hailed a boy passing, and they went away
together. At supper time Jimmy had not returned. Mary came to where
"Where's Jimmy?" she asked.
"I dinna, know" said Dannie. "He went away a while ago
boy, I didna notice who."
"And he didn't tell you where he was going?"
"And he didn't take either of his fish poles?"
Mary's lips thinned to a mere line. "Then it's Casey's," she
and turned away.
Dannie was silent. Presently Mary came back.
"If Jimmy don't come till morning," she asked, "or comes
that he can't fish, will you go without him?"
"To-morrow was the day we agreed on," answered Dannie.
"Will you go without him?" persisted Mary.
"What would ~he do if it were me?" asked Dannie.
"When have you iver done to Jimmy Malone what he would do if he
"Is there any reason why ye na want me to land the Black Bass,
"There is a particular reason why I don't want your living with
Jimmy to make you like him," answered Mary. "My timper is being
wined, and I can see where it's beginning to show on you. Whativer
you do, don't do what he would."
"Dinna be hard on him, Mary. He doesna think," urged Dannie.
"You niver said twer words. He don't think. He niver thought about
anybody in his life except himself, and he niver will."
"Maybe he didna go to town!"
"Maybe the sun won't rise in the morning, and it will always be
dark after this! Come in and get your supper."
"I'd best pick up something to eat at home," said Dannie.
"I have some good food cooked, and it's a pity to be throwin' it
away. What's the use? You've done a long day's work, more for us
than yoursilf, as usual; come along and get your supper."
Dannie went, and as he was washing at the back door, Jimmy came
through the barn, and up the walk. He was fresh, and in fine
spirits, and where ever he had been, it was a sure thing that it
was nowhere near Casey's.
"Where have you been?" asked Mary wonderingly.
"Robbin' graves," answered Jimmy promptly. "I needed
a few stiffs
in me business so I just went out to Five Mile and got them."
"What are ye going to do with them, Jimmy?" chuckled Dannie.
"Use thim for Bass bait! Now rattle, old snake!" replied Jimmy.
After supper Dannie went to the barn for the shovel to dig worms
for bait, and noticed that Jimmy's rubber waders hanging on the
wall were covered almost to the top with fresh mud and water
stains, and Dannie's wonder grew.
Early the next morning they started for the river. As usual Jimmy
led the way. He proudly carried his new rod. Dannie followed with
a basket of lunch Mary had insisted on packing, his big cane pole,
a can of worms, and a shovel, in case they ran out of bait.
Dannie had recovered his temper, and was just great-hearted, big
Dannie again. He talked about the south wind, and shivered with the
frost, and listened for the splash of the Bass. Jimmy had little to
say. He seemed to be thinking deeply. No doubt he felt in his soul
that they should settle the question of who landed the Bass with
the same rods they had used when the contest was proposed, and that
was not all.
When they came to the temporary bridge, Jimmy started across it,
and Dannie called to him to wait, he was forgetting his worms.
"I don't want any worms," answered Jimmy briefly. He walked
Dannie stood staring after him, for he did not understand that.
Then he went slowly to his side of the river, and deposited his
load under a tree where it would be out of the way.
He lay down his pole, took a rude wooden spool of heavy fish cord
from his pocket, and passed the line through the loop next the
handle and so on the length of the rod to the point. Then he wired
on a sharp bass hook, and wound the wire far up the doubled line.
As he worked, he kept an eye on Jimmy. He was doing practically the
same thing. But just as Dannie had fastened on a light lead to
carry his line, a souse in the river opposite attracted his
attention. Jimmy hauled from the water a minnow bucket, and opening
it, took out a live minnow, and placed it on his hook. "Riddy,"
called, as he resank the bucket, and stood on the bank, holding his
line in his fingers, and watching the minnow play at his feet.
The fact that Dannie was a Scotchman, and unusually slow and
patient, did not alter the fact that he was just a common human
being. The lump that rose in his throat was so big, and so hard, he
did not try to swallow it. He hurried back into Rainbow Bottom. The
first log he came across he kicked over, and grovelling in the
rotten wood and loose earth with his hands, he brought up a half
dozen bluish-white grubs. He tore up the ground for the length of
the log, and then he went to others, cramming the worms and dirt
with them into his pockets. When he had enough, he went back, and
with extreme care placed three of them on his hook. He tried to see
how Jimmy was going to fish, but he could not tell.
So Dannie decided that he would cast in the morning, fish deep at
noon, and cast again toward evening.
He rose, turned to the river, and lifted his rod. As he stood
looking over the channel, and the pool where the Bass homed, the
Kingfisher came rattling down the river, and as if in answer to its
cry, the Black Bass gave a leap, that sent the water flying.
"Ready!" cried Dannie, swinging his pole over the water.
As the word left his lips, "whizz," Jimmy's minnow landed
middle of the circles widening about the rise of the Bass. There
was a rush and a snap, and Dannie saw the jaws of the big fellow
close within an inch of the minnow, and he swam after it for a
yard, as Jimmy slowly reeled in. Dannie waited a second, and then
softly dropped his grubs on the water just before where he figured
the Bass would be. He could hear Jimmy smothering oaths. Dannie
said something himself as his untouched bait neared the bank. He
lifted it, swung it out, and slowly trailed it in again. "Spat!"
came Jimmy's minnow almost at his feet, and again the Bass leaped
for it. Again he missed. As the minnow reeled away the second time,
Dannie swung his grubs higher, and struck the water "Spat," as
minnow had done. "Snap," went the Bass. One instant the line
strained, the next the hook came up stripped clean of bait.
Then Dannie and Jimmy really went at it, and they were strangers.
Not a word of friendly banter crossed the river. They cast until
the Bass grew suspicious, and would not rise to the bait; then they
fished deep. Then they cast again. If Jimmy fell into trouble with
his reel, Dannie had the honesty to stop fishing until it worked
again, but he spent the time burrowing for grubs until his hands
resembled the claws of an animal. Sometimes they sat, and still-
fished. Sometimes, they warily slipped along the bank, trailing bait
a few inches under water. Then they would cast and skitter by turns.
The Kingfisher struck his stump, and tilted on again. His mate, and
their family of six followed in his lead, so that their rattle was
almost constant. A fussy little red-eyed vireo asked questions,
first of Jimmy, and then crossing the river besieged Dannie, but
neither of the stern-faced fishermen paid it any heed. The
blackbirds swung on the rushes, and talked over the season. As
always, a few crows cawed above the deep woods, and the chewinks
threshed about among the dry leaves. A band of larks were gathering
for migration, and the frosty air was vibrant with their calls to
Killdeers were circling above them in flocks. A half dozen robins
gathered over a wild grapevine, and chirped cheerfully, as they
pecked at the frosted fruit. At times, the pointed nose of a
muskrat wove its way across the river, leaving a shining ripple in
its wake. In the deep woods squirrels barked and chattered. Frost-
loosened crimson leaves came whirling down, settling in a bright
blanket that covered the water several feet from the bank, and
unfortunate bees that had fallen into the river struggled
frantically to gain a footing on them. Water beetles shot over the
surface in small shining parties, and schools of tiny minnows
played along the banks. Once a black ant assassinated an enemy on
Dannie's shoe, by creeping up behind it and puncturing its abdomen.
Noon came, and neither of the fishermen spoke or moved from their
work. The lunch Mary had prepared with such care they had
forgotten. A little after noon, Dannie got another strike, deep
fishing. Mid-afternoon found them still even, and patiently
fishing. Then it was not so long until supper time, and the air was
steadily growing colder. The south wind had veered to the west, and
signs of a black frost were in the air. About this time the larks
arose as with one accord, and with a whirr of wings that proved how
large the flock was, they sailed straight south.
Jimmy hauled his minnow bucket from the river, poured the water
from it, and picked his last minnow, a dead one, from the grass.
Dannie was watching him, and rightly guessed that he would fish
deep. So Dannie scooped the remaining dirt from his pockets, and
found three grubs. He placed them on his hook, lightened his
sinker, and prepared to skitter once more.
Jimmy dropped his minnow beside the Kingfisher stump, and let it
sink. Dannie hit the water at the base of the stump, where it had
not been disturbed for a long time, a sharp "Spat," with his worms.
Something seized his bait, and was gone. Dannie planted his feet
firmly, squared his jaws, gripped his rod, and loosened his line. As
his eye followed it, he saw to his amazement that Jimmy's line was
sailing off down the river beside his, and heard the reel singing.
Dannie was soon close to the end of his line. He threw his weight
into a jerk enough to have torn the head from a fish, and down the
river the Black Bass leaped clear of the water, doubled, and with
a mighty shake tried to throw the hook from his mouth.
"Got him fast, by God!" screamed Jimmy in triumph.
Straight toward them rushed the fish. Jimmy reeled wildly; Dannie
gathered in his line by yard lengths, and grasped it with the hand
that held the rod. Near them the Bass leaped again, and sped back
down the river. Jimmy's reel sang, and Dannie's line jerked through
his fingers. Back came the fish. Again Dannie gathered in line, and
Jimmy reeled frantically. Then Dannie, relying on the strength of
his line thought he could land the fish, and steadily drew it
toward him. Jimmy's reel began to sing louder, and his line
followed Dannie's. Instantly Jimmy went wild.
"Stop pullin' me little silk thrid!" he yelled. "I've
got the Black
Bass hooked fast as a rock, and your domn clothes line is sawin'
across me. Cut there! Cut that domn rope! Quick!"
"He's mine, and I'll land him!" roared Dannie. "Cut yoursel',
let me get my fish!"
So it happened, that when Mary Malone, tired of waiting for the
boys to come, and anxious as to the day's outcome, slipped down to
the Wabash to see what they were doing, she heard sounds that
almost paralyzed her. Shaking with fear, she ran toward the river,
and paused at a little thicket behind Dannie.
Jimmy danced and raged on the opposite bank. "Cut!" he yelled.
"Cut that domn cable, and let me Bass loose! Cut your line, I say!"
Dannie stood with his feet planted wide apart, and his jaws set. He
drew his line steadily toward him, and Jimmy's followed. "Ye see!"
exulted Dannie. "Ye're across me. The Bass is mine! Reel out your
line till I land him, if ye dinna want it broken."
"If you don't cut your domn line, I will!" raved Jimmy.
"Cut nothin'!" cried Dannie. "Let's see ye try to touch
Into the river went Jimmy; splash went Dannie from his bank. He was
nearer the tangled lines, but the water was deepest on his side,
and the mud of the bed held his feet. Jimmy reached the crossed
lines, knife in hand, by the time Dannie was there.
"Will you cut?" cried Jimmy.
"Na!" bellowed Dannie. "I've give up every damn thing
to ye all my
life, but I'll no give up the Black Bass. He's mine, and I'll land him!"
Jimmy made a lunge for the lines. Dannie swung his pole backward
drawing them his way. Jimmy slashed again. Dannie dropped his pole,
and with a sweep, caught the twisted lines in his fingers.
"Noo, let's see ye cut my line! Babby!" he jeered.
Jimmy's fist flew straight, and the blood streamed from Dannie's
nose. Dannie dropped the lines, and straightened. "You--" he
panted. "You--" And no other words came.
If Jimmy had been possessed of any small particle of reason, he
lost it at the sight of blood on Dannie's face.
"You're a domn fish thief!" he screamed.
"Ye lie!" breathed Dannie, but his hand did not lift.
"You are a coward! You're afraid to strike like a man! Hit me!
don't dare hit me!"
"Ye lie!" repeated Dannie.
"You're a dog!" panted Jimmy. "I've used you to wait
on me all me life!"
"~That's the God's truth!" cried Dannie. But he made no movement
strike. Jimmy leaned forward with a distorted, insane face.
"That time you sint me to Mary for you, I lied to her, and married
her meself. ~Now, will you fight like a man?"
Dannie made a spring, and Jimmy crumpled up in his grasp.
"Noo, I will choke the miserable tongue out of your heid, and twist
the heid off your body, and tear the body to mince-meat," raved
Dannie, and he promptly began the job.
With one awful effort Jimmy tore the gripping hands from his throat
a little. "Lie!" he gasped. "It's all a lie!"
"It's the truth! Before God it's the truth!" Mary Malone tried
scream behind them. "It's the truth! It's the truth!" And her
told her that she was making no sound as with dry lips she mouthed it
over and over. And then she fainted, and sank down in the bushes.
Dannie's hands relaxed a little, he lifted the weight of Jimmy's
body by his throat, and set him on his feet. "I'll give ye juist
ane chance," he said. "~Is that the truth?"
Jimmy's awful eyes were bulging from his head, his hands were
clawing at Dannie's on his throat, and his swollen lips repeated it
over and over as breath came, "It's a lie! It's a lie!"
"I think so myself," said Dannie. "Ye never would have
have known that I'd find out some day, and on that day, I'd kill ye
as I would a copperhead."
"A lie!" panted Jimmy.
"Then ~why did ye tell it?" And Dannie's fingers threatened
renew their grip.
"I thought if I could make you strike back," gasped Jimmy,
hittin' you wouldn't same so bad."
Then Dannie's hands relaxed. "Oh, Jimmy! Jimmy!" he cried.
there ever any other mon like ye?"
Then he remembered the cause of their trouble.
"But, I'm everlastingly damned," Dannie went on, "if
I'll gi'e up
the Black Bass to ye, unless it's on your line. Get yourself up
there on your bank!"
The shove he gave Jimmy almost upset him, and Jimmy waded back, and
as he climbed the bank, Dannie was behind him. After him he dragged
a tangled mass of lines and poles, and at the last up the bank, and
on the grass, two big fish; one, the great Black Bass of Horseshoe
Bend; and the other nearly as large, a channel catfish;
undoubtedly, one of those which had escaped into the Wabash in an
overflow of the Celina reservoir that spring.
"~Noo, I'll cut," said Dannie. "Keep your eye on me sharp.
cut my line at the end o' my pole." He snipped the line in two.
"Noo watch," he cautioned," I dinna want contra deection
He picked up the Bass, and taking the line by which it was fast at
its mouth, he slowly drew it through his fingers. The wiry silk
line slipped away, and the heavy cord whipped out free.
"Is this my line?" asked Dannie, holding it up.
"Is the Black Bass my fish? Speak up!" cried Dannie, dangling
fish from the line.
"It's yours," admitted Jimmy.
"Then I'll be damned if I dinna do what I please wi' my own!"
Dannie. With trembling fingers he extracted the hook, and dropped
it. He took the gasping big fish in both hands, and tested its
weight. "Almost seex," he said. "Michty near seex!"
And he tossed
the Black Bass back into the Wabash.
Then he stooped, and gathered up his pole and line.
With one foot he kicked the catfish, the tangled silk line, and the
jointed rod, toward Jimmy. "Take your fish!" he said. He turned
plunged into the river, recrossed it as he came, gathered up the
dinner pail and shovel, passed Mary Malone, a tumbled heap in the
bushes, and started toward his cabin.
The Black Bass struck the water with a splash, and sank to the mud
of the bottom, where he lay joyfully soaking his dry gills, parched
tongue, and glazed eyes. He scooped water with his tail, and poured
it over his torn jaw. And then he said to his progeny, "Children,
let this be a warning to you. Never rise to but one grub at a time.
Three is too good to be true! There is always a stinger in their
midst." And the Black Bass ruefully shook his sore head and scooped
WHEN JIMMY MALONE CAME TO CONFESSION
DANNIE never before had known such anger as possessed him when he
trudged homeward across Rainbow Bottom. His brain whirled in a
tumult of conflicting passions, and his heart pained worse than his
swelling face. In one instant the knowledge that Jimmy had struck
him, possessed him with a desire to turn back and do murder. In the
next, a sense of profound scorn for the cowardly lie which had
driven him to the rage that kills encompassed him, and then in a
surge came compassion for Jimmy, at the remberence of the excuse he
had offered for saying that thing. How childish! But how like
Jimmy! What was the use in trying to deal with him as if he were a
man? A great spoiled, selfish baby was all he ever would be.
The fallen leaves rustled about Dannie's feet. The blackbirds above
him in chattering debate discussed migration. A stiff breeze swept
the fields, topped the embankment, and rushed down circling about
Dannie, and setting his teeth chattering, for he was almost as wet
as if he had been completely immersed. As the chill struck in, from
force of habit he thought of Jimmy. If he was ever going to learn
how to take care of himself, a man past thirty-five should know.
Would he come home and put on dry clothing? But when had Jimmy
taken care of himself? Dannie felt that he should go back, bring
him home, and make him dress quickly.
A sharp pain shot across Dannie's swollen face. His lips shut
firmly. No! Jimmy had struck him. And Jimmy was in the wrong. The
fish was his, and he had a right to it. No man living would have
given it up to Jimmy, after he had changed poles. And slipped away
with a boy and gotten those minnows, too! And wouldn't offer him
even one. Much good they had done him. Caught a catfish on a dead
one! Wonder if he would take the catfish to town and have its
picture taken! Mighty fine fish, too, that channel cat! If it
hadn't been for the Black Bass, they would have wondered and
exclaimed over it, and carefully weighed it, and commented on the
gamy fight it made. Just the same he was glad, that he landed the
Bass. And he got it fairly. If Jimmy's old catfish mixed up with
his line, he could not help that. He baited, hooked, played, and
landed the Bass all right, and without any minnows either.
When he reached the top of the hill he realized that he was going
to look back. In spite of Jimmy's selfishness, in spite of the
blow, in spite of the ugly lie, Jimmy had been his lifelong
partner, and his only friend, and stiffen his neck as he would,
Dannie felt his head turning. He deliberately swung his fish pole
into the bushes, and when it caught, as he knew it would, he set
down his load, and turned as if to release it. Not a sight of Jimmy
anywhere! Dannie started on.
"We are after you, Jimmy Malone!"
A thin, little, wiry thread of a cry, that seemed to come twisting
as if wrung from the chill air about him, whispered in his ear, and
Dannie jumped, dropped his load, and ran for the river. He couldn't
see a sign of Jimmy. He hurried over the shaky little bridge they
had built. The catfish lay gasping on the grass, the case and
jointed rod lay on a log, but Jimmy was gone.
Dannie gave the catfish a shove that sent it well into the river,
and ran for the shoals at the lower curve of Horseshoe Bend. The
tracks of Jimmy's crossing were plain, and after him hurried
Dannie. He ran up the hill, and as he reached the top he saw Jimmy
climb on a wagon out on the road. Dannie called, but the farmer
touched up his horses and trotted away without hearing him. "The
fool! To ride!" thought Dannie. "Noo he will chill to the bone!".
Dannie cut across the fields to the lane and gathered up his load.
With the knowledge that Jimmy had started for town came the thought
of Mary. What was he going to say to her? He would have to make a
clean breast of it, and he did not like the showing. In fact, he
simply could not make a clean breast of it. Tell her? He could not
tell her. He would lie to her once more, this one time for himself.
He would tell her he fell in the river to account for his wet
clothing and bruised face, and wait until Jimmy came home and see
what he told her.
He went to the cabin and tapped at the door; there was no answer,
so he opened it and set the lunch basket inside. Then he hurried
home, built a fire, bathed, and put on dry clothing. He wondered
where Mary was. He was ravenously hungry now. He did all the
evening work, and as she still did not come, he concluded that she
had gone to town, and that Jimmy knew she was there. Of course,
that was it! Jimmy could get dry clothing of his brother-in-law.
To be sure, Mary had gone to town. That was why Jimmy went.
And he was right. Mary had gone to town. When sense slowly returned
to her she sat up in the bushes and stared about her. Then she
arose and looked toward the river. The men were gone. Mary guessed
the situation rightly. They were too much of river men to drown in
a few feet of water; they scarcely would kill each other. They had
fought, and Dannie had gone home, and Jimmy to the consolation of
Casey's. ~Where should she go? Mary Malone's lips set in a firm line.
"It's the truth! It's the truth!" she panted over and over,
that there was no one to hear, she found that she could say it
quite plainly. As the sense of her outraged womanhood swept over her
she grew almost delirious. "I hope you killed him, Dannie Micnoun,"
she raved. "I hope you killed him, for if you didn't, I will. Oh! Oh!"
She was almost suffocating with rage. The only thing clear to her
was that she never again would live an hour with Jimmy Malone. He
might have gone home. Probably he did go for dry clothing. She
would go to her sister. She hurried across the bottom, with wavering
knees she climbed the embankment, then skirting the fields, she
half walked, half ran to the village, and selecting back streets
and alleys, tumbled, half distracted, into the home of her sister.
"Holy Vargin!" screamed Katy Dolan. "Whativer do be ailin'
"Jimmy! Jimmy!" sobbed the shivering Mary.
"I knew it! I knew it! I've ixpicted it for years!" cried
"They've had a fight----"
"Just what I looked for! I always told you they were too thick
"And Jimmy told Dannie he'd lied to me and married me himsilf----"
"He did! I saw him do it!" screamed Katy.
"And Dannie tried to kill him----"
"I hope to Hivin he got it done, for if any man iver naded killin'!
A carpse named Jimmy Malone would a looked good to me any time
these fiftane years. I always said----"
"And he took it back----"
"Just like the rid divil! I knew he'd do it! And of course that
mutton-head of a Dannie Micnoun belaved him, whativer he said"
"Of course he did!"
"I knew it! Didn't I say so first?"
"And I tried to scrame and me tongue stuck----"
"Sure! You poor lamb! My tongue always sticks! Just what I ixpicted!"
"And me head just went round and I keeled over in the bushes----"
"I've told Dolan a thousand times! I knew it! It's no news to me!"
"And whin I came to, they were gone, and I don't know where, and
don't care! But I won't go back! I won't go back! I'll not live
with him another day. Oh, Katy! Think how you'd feel if some one
had siparated you and Dolan before you'd iver been togither!"
Katie Dolan gathered her sister into her arms. "You poor lamb,"
wailed. "I've known ivery word of this for fiftane years, and if
I'd had the laste idea 'twas so, I'd a busted Jimmy Malone to
smithereens before it iver happened!"
"I won't go back! I won't go back!" raved Mary.
"I guess you won't go back," cried Katy, patting every available
spot on Mary, or making dashes at her own eyes to stop the flow of
tears. "I guess you won't go back! You'll stay right here with me.
I've always wanted you! I always said I'd love to have you! I've
told thim from the start there was something wrong out there! I've
ixpicted you ivry day for years, and I niver was so surprised in
all me life as whin you came! Now, don't you shed another tear. The
Lord knows this is enough, for anybody. None at all would be too
many for Jimmy Malone. You get right into bid, and I'll make you a
cup of rid-pipper tay to take the chill out of you. And if Jimmy
Malone comes around this house I'll lav him out with the poker, and
if Dannie Micnoun comes saft-saddering after him I'll stritch him
out too; yis, and if Dolan's got anything to say, he can take his
midicine like the rist. The min are all of a pace anyhow! I've
always said it! If I wouldn't like to get me fingers on that
haythen; never goin' to confission, spindin' ivrything on himself
you naded for dacent livin'! Lit him come! Just lit him come!"
Thus forestalled with knowledge, and overwhelmed with kindness,
Mary Malone cuddled up in bed and sobbed herself to sleep, and Katy
Dolan assured her, as long as she was conscious, that she always
had known it, and if Jimmy Malone came near, she had the poker ready.
Dannie did the evening work. When he milked he drank most of it,
but that only made him hungrier, so he ate the lunch he had brought
back from the river, as he sat before a roaring fire. His heart
warmed with his body. Irresponsible Jimmy always had aroused
something of the paternal instinct in Dannie. Some one had to be
responsible, so Dannie had been. Some way he felt responsible now.
With another man like himself, it would have been man to man, but he
always had spoiled Jimmy; now who was to blame that he was spoiled?
Dannie was very tired, his face throbbed and ached painfully, and
it was a sight to see. His bed never had looked so inviting, and
never had the chance to sleep been further away. With a sigh, he
buttoned his coat, twisted an old scarf around his neck, and
started for the barn. There was going to be a black frost. The cold
seemed to pierce him. He hitched to the single buggy, and drove to
town. He went to Casey's, and asked for Jimmy.
"He isn't here," said Casey."
Has he been here?" asked Dannie.
Casey hesitated, and then blurted out, "He said you wasn't his
keeper, and if you came after him, to tell you to go to Hell."
Then Dannie was sure that Jimmy was in the back room, drying his
clothing. So he drove to Mrs. Dolan's, and asked if Mary were there
for the night. Mrs. Dolan said she was, and she was going to stay,
and he might tell Jimmy Malone that he need not come near them,
unless he wanted his head laid open. She shut the door forcibly.
Dannie waited until Casey closed at eleven, and to his astonishment
Jimmy was not among the men who came out. That meant that he had
drank lightly after all, slipped from the back door, and gone
home. And yet, would he do it, after what he had said about being
afraid? If he had not drank heavily, he would not go into the night
alone, when he had been afraid in the daytime. Dannie climbed from
the buggy once more, and patiently searched the alley and the
street leading to the footpath across farms. No Jimmy. Then Dannie
drove home, stabled his horse, and tried Jimmy's back door. It was
unlocked. If Jimmy were there, he probably would be lying across
the bed in his clothing, and Dannie knew that Mary was in town. He
made a light, and cautiously entered the sleeping room, intending
to undress and cover Jimmy, but Jimmy was not there.
Dannie's mouth fell open. He put out the light, and stood on the
back steps. The frost had settled in a silver sheen over the roofs
of the barns and the sheds, and a scum of ice had frozen over a tub
of drippings at the well. Dannie was bitterly cold. He went home,
and hunted out his winter overcoat, lighted his lantern, picked up
a heavy cudgel in the corner, and started to town on foot over the
path that lay across the fields. He followed it to Casey's back
door. He went to Mrs. Dolan's again, but everything was black and
silent there. There had been evening trains. He thought of Jimmy's
frequent threat to go away. He dismissed that thought grimly. There
had been no talk of going away lately, and he knew that Jimmy had
little money. Dannie started for home, and for a rod on either side
he searched the path. As he came to the back of the barns, he rated
himself for not thinking of them first. He searched both of them,
and all around them, and then wholly tired, and greatly disgusted,
he went home and to bed. He decided that Jimmy ~had gone to Mrs.
Dolan's and that kindly woman had relented and taken him in. Of
course that was where he was.
Dannie was up early in the morning. He wanted to have the work done
before Mary and Jimmy came home. He fed the stock, milked, built a
fire, and began cleaning the stables. As he wheeled the first
barrow of manure to the heap, he noticed a rooster giving danger
signals behind the straw-stack. At the second load it was still
there, and Dannie went to see what alarmed it.
Jimmy lay behind the stack, where he had fallen face down, and as
Dannie tried to lift him he saw that he would have to cut him
loose, for he had frozen fast in the muck of the barnyard. He had
pitched forward among the rough cattle and horse tracks and fallen
within a few feet of the entrance to a deep hollow eaten out of the
straw by the cattle. Had he reached that shelter he would have been
warm enough and safe for the night.
Horrified, Dannie whipped out his knife, cut Jimmy's clothing loose
and carried him to his bed. He covered him, and hitching up drove
at top speed for a doctor. He sent the physician ahead and then
rushed to Mrs. Dolan's. She saw him drive up and came to the door.
"Send Mary home and ye come too," Dannie called before she
to speak. "Jimmy lay oot all last nicht, and I'm afraid he's dead."
Mrs. Dolan hurried in and repeated the message to Mary. She sat
speechless while her sister bustled about putting on her wraps.
"I ain't goin'," she said shortly. "If I got sight of
kill him if he wasn't dead."
"Oh, yis you are goin'," said Katy Dolan. "If he's dead,
it will save you being hanged for killing him. Get on these things
of mine and hurry. You got to go for decency sake; and kape a still
tongue in your head. Dannie Micnoun is waiting for us."
Together they went out and climbed into the carriage. Mary said
nothing, but Dannie was too miserable to notice.
"You didn't find him thin, last night?" asked Mrs. Dolan.
"Na!" shivered Dannie. "I was in town twice. I hunted
nicht. At last I made sure you had taken him in and I went to bed.
It was three o'clock then. I must have passed often, wi'in a few
yards of him."
"Where was he?" asked Katy.
"Behind the straw-stack," replied Dannie.
"Do you think he will die?"
"Dee!" cried Dannie. "Jimmy dee! Oh, my God! We mauna
Mrs. Dolan took a furtive peep at Mary, who, dry-eyed and white,
was staring straight ahead. She was trembling and very pale, but if
Katy Dolan knew anything she knew that her sister's face was
unforgiving and she did not in the least blame her.
Dannie reached home as soon as the horse could take them, and under
the doctor's directions all of them began work. Mary did what she
was told, but she did it deliberately, and if Dannie had taken time
to notice her he would have seen anything but his idea of a woman
facing death for any one she ever had loved. Mary's hurt went so
deep, Mrs. Dolan had trouble to keep it covered. Some of the
neighbors said Mary was cold-hearted, and some of them that she was
stupefied with grief.
Without stopping for food or sleep, Dannie nursed Jimmy. He rubbed,
he bathed, he poulticed, he badgered the doctor and cursed his
inability to do some good. To every one except Dannie, Jimmy's case
was hopeless from the first. He developed double pneumonia in its
worst form and he was in no condition to endure it in the lightest.
His labored breathing could be heard all over the cabin, and he
could speak only in gasps. On the third day he seemed a little
better, and when Dannie asked what he could do for him, "Father
Michael," Jimmy panted, and clung to Dannie's hand.
Dannie sent a man and remained with Jimmy. He made no offer to go
when the priest came.
"This is probably in the nature of a last confession," said
Michael to Dannie, "I shall have to ask you to leave us alone."
Dannie felt the hand that clung to him relax, and the perspiration
broke on his temples. "Shall I go, Jimmy?" he asked.
Jimmy nodded. Dannie arose heavily and left the room. He sat down
outside the door and rested his head in his hands.
The priest stood beside Jimmy. "The doctor tells me it is
difficult for you to speak," he said, "I will help you all I can.
I will ask questions and you need only assent with your head or
hand. Do you wish the last sacrament administered, Jimmy Malone?"
The sweat rolled off Jimmy's brow. He assented.
"Do you wish to make final confession?"
A great groan shook Jimmy. The priest remembered a gay, laughing
boy, flinging back a shock of auburn hair, his feet twinkling in the
lead of the dance. Here was ruin to make the heart of compassion
ache. The Father bent and clasped the hand of Jimmy firmly. The
question he asked was between Jimmy Malone and his God. The answer
almost strangled him.
"Can you confess that mortal sin, Jimmy?" asked the priest.
The drops on Jimmy's face merged in one bath of agony. His hands
clenched and his breath seemed to go no lower than his throat.
"Lied--Dannie," he rattled. "Sip-rate him--and Mary."
"Are you trying to confess that you betrayed a confidence of Dannie
Macnoun and married the girl who belonged to him, yourself?"
His horrified eyes hung on the priest's face and saw it turn cold
and stern. Always the thing he had done had tormented him; but not
until the past summer had he begun to realize the depth of it, and
it had almost unseated his reason. But not until now had come
fullest appreciation, and Jimmy read it in the eyes filled with
repulsion above him.
"And with that sin on your soul, you ask the last sacrament and
seal of forgiveness! You have not wronged God and the Holy Catholic
Church as you have this man, with whom you have lived for years,
while you possessed his rightful wife. Now he is here, in deathless
devotion, fighting to save you. You may confess to him. If he will
forgive you, God and the Church will ratify it, and set the seal on
your brow. If not, you die unshriven! I will call Dannie Macnoun."
One gurgling howl broke from the swollen lips of Jimmy.
As Dannie entered the room, the priest spoke a few words to him,
stepped out and closed the door. Dannie hurried to Jimmy's side.
"He said ye wanted to tell me something," said Dannie. "What
it? Do you want me to do anything for you?"
Suddenly Jimmy struggled to a sitting posture. His popping eyes almost
burst from their sockets as he clutched Dannie with both hands. The
perspiration poured in little streams down his dreadful face.
"Mary," the next word was lost in a strangled gasp. Then came
"yours" and then a queer rattle. Something seemed to give way.
"The Divils!" he shrieked. "The Divils have got me!"
Snap! his heart failed, and Jimmy Malone went out to face his
record, unforgiven by man, and unshriven by priest.
SO they stretched Jimmy's length on Five Mile Hill beside the three
babies that had lacked the "vital spark." Mary went to the Dolans
for the winter and Dannie was left, sole occupant of Rainbow
Bottom. Because so much fruit and food that would freeze were
stored there, he was even asked to live in Jimmy's cabin.
Dannie began the winter stolidly. All day long and as far as he
could find anything to do in the night, he worked. He mended
everything about both farms, rebuilt all the fences and as a never-
failing resource, he cut wood. He cut so much that he began to
realize that it would get too dry and the burning of it would
become extravagant, so he stopped that and began making some
changes he had long contemplated. During fur time he set his line
of traps on his side of the river and on the other he religiously
But he divided the proceeds from the skins exactly in half, no
matter whose traps caught them, and with Jimmy's share of the money
he started a bank account for Mary. As he could not use all of them
he sold Jimmy's horses, cattle and pigs. With half the stock gone
he needed only half the hay and grain stored for feeding. He
disposed of the chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese that Mary
wanted sold, and placed the money to her credit. He sent her a
beautiful little red bank book and an explanation of all these
transactions by Dolan. Mary threw the book across the room because
she wanted Dannie to keep her money himself, and then cried herself
to sleep that night, because Dannie had sent the book instead of
bringing it. But when she fully understood the transactions and
realized that if she chose she could spend several hundred dollars,
she grew very proud of that book.
About the empty cabins and the barns, working on the farms, wading
the mud and water of the river bank, or tingling with cold on the
ice went two Dannies. The one a dull, listless man, mechanically
forcing a tired, overworked body to action, and the other a self-
"I am responsible for the whole thing," he told himself many
a day. "I always humored Jimmy. I always took the muddy side of
the road, and the big end of the log, and the hard part of the
work, and filled his traps wi' rats from my own; why in God's name
did I let the Deil o' stubbornness in me drive him to his death.
noo? Why didna I let him have the Black Bass? Why didna I make him
come home and put on dry clothes? I killed him, juist as sure as if
I'd taken an ax and broken his heid."
Through every minute of the exposure of winter outdoors and the
torment of it inside, Dannie tortured himself. Of Mary he seldom
thought at all. She was safe with her sister, and although Dannie
did not know when or how it happened, he awoke one day to the
realization that he had renounced her. He had killed Jimmy; he
could not take his wife and his farm. And Dannie was so numb with
long-suffering, that he did not much care. There come times when
troubles pile so deep that the edge of human feeling is dulled.
He would take care of Mary, yes, she was as much Jimmy's as his
farm, but he did not want her for himself now. If he had to kill
his only friend, he would not complete his downfall by trying to
win his wife. So through that winter Mary got very little
consideration in the remorseful soul of Dannie, and Jimmy grew, as
the dead grow, by leaps and bounds, until by spring Dannie had him
When winter broke, Dannie had his future well mapped out. And that
future was devotion to Jimmy's memory, with no more of Mary in it
than was possible to keep out. He told himself that he was glad she
was away and he did not care to have her return. Deep in his soul
he harbored the feeling that he had killed Jimmy to make himself
look victor in her eyes in such a small matter as taking a fish.
And deeper yet a feeling that, everything considered, still she
might mourn Jimmy more than she did.
So Dannie definitely settled that he always would live alone on the
farms. Mary should remain with her sister, and at his death,
everything should be hers. The night he finally reached that
decision, the Kingfisher came home. Dannie heard his rattle of
exultation as he struck the embankment and the suffering man turned
his face to the wall and sobbed aloud, so that for a little time he
stifled Jimmy's dying gasps that in wakeful night hours sounded in
his ears. Early the next morning he drove through the village on
his way to the county seat, with a load of grain. Dolan saw him and
running home he told Mary. "He will be gone all day. Now is your
chance!" he said.
Mary sprang to her feet, "Hurry!" she panted, "hurry!"
An hour later a loaded wagon, a man and three women drew up before
the cabins in Rainbow Bottom. Mary, her sister, Dolan, and a scrub
woman entered. Mary pointed out the objects which she wished
removed, and Dolan carried them out. They took up the carpets,
swept down the walls, and washed the windows. They hung pictures,
prints, and lithographs, and curtained the windows in dainty white.
They covered the floors with bright carpets, and placed new
ornaments on the mantle, and comfortable furniture in the rooms.
There was a white iron bed, and several rocking chairs, and a shelf
across the window filled with potted hyacinths in bloom. Among them
stood a glass bowl, containing three wonderful little gold fish,
and from the top casing hung a brass cage, from which a green
linnet sang an exultant song.
You should have seen Mary Malone! When everything was finished, she
was changed the most of all. She was so sure of Dannie, that while
the winter had brought annoyance that he did not come, it really
had been one long, glorious rest. She laughed and sang, and grew
younger with every passing day. As youth surged back, with it
returned roundness of form, freshness of face, and that bred the
desire to be daintily dressed. So of pretty light fabrics she made
many summer dresses, for wear mourning she would not.
When calmness returned to Mary, she had told the Dolans the whole
story." Now do you ixpict me to grieve for the man?" she asked."
Fiftane years with him, through his lying tongue, whin by ivery
right of our souls and our bodies, Dannie Micnoun and I belanged to
each other. Mourn for him! I'm glad he's dead! Glad! Glad! If he
had not died, I should have killed him, if Dannie did not! It was
a happy thing that he died. His death saved me mortal sin. I'm
glad, I tell you, and I do not forgive him, and I niver will, and
I hope he will burn----"
Katy Dolan clapped her hand over Mary's mouth. "For the love of
marcy, don't say that!" she cried." You will have to confiss it,
and you'd be ashamed to face the praste."
"I would not," cried Mary. "Father Michael knows I'm
ordinary woman, he don't ixpict me to be an angel." But she left
the sentence unfinished.
After Mary's cabin was arranged to her satisfaction, they attacked
Dannie's; emptying it, cleaning it completely, and refurnishing it
from the best of the things that had been in both. Then Mary added
some new touches. A comfortable big chair was placed by his fire,
new books on his mantle, a flower in his window, and new covers on
his bed. While the women worked, Dolan raked the yards, and
freshened matters outside as best he could. When everything they
had planned to do was accomplished, the wagon, loaded with the ugly
old things Mary despised, drove back to the village, and she, with
little Tilly Dolan for company, remained.
Mary was tense with excitement. All the woman in her had yearned
for these few pretty things she wanted for her home throughout the
years that she had been compelled to live in crude, ugly
surroundings; because every cent above plainest clothing and food,
went for drink for Jimmy, and treats for his friends. Now she
danced and sang, and flew about trying a chair here, and another
there, to get the best effect. Every little while she slipped into
her bedroom, stood before a real dresser, and pulled out its trays
to make sure that her fresh, light dresses were really there. She
shook out the dainty curtains repeatedly, watered the flowers, and
fed the fish when they did not need it. She babbled incessantly to
the green linnet, which with swollen throat rejoiced with her, and
occasionally she looked in the mirror.
She lighted the fire, and put food to cook. She covered a new
table, with a new cloth, and set it with new dishes, and placed a
jar of her flowers in the center. What a supper she did cook! When
she had waited until she was near crazed with nervousness, she
heard the wagon coming up the lane. Peeping from the window, she
saw Dannie stop the horses short, and sit staring at the cabins,
and she realized that smoke would be curling from the chimney, and
the flowers and curtains would change the shining windows outside.
She trembled with excitement, and than a great yearning seized her,
as he slowly drove closer, for his brown hair was almost white, and
the lines on his face seemed indelibly stamped. And then hot anger
shook her. Fifteen years of her life wrecked, and look at Dannie!
That was Jimmy Malone's work.
Over and over, throughout the winter, she had planned this home-
coming as a surprise to Dannie. Book-fine were the things she
intended to say to him. When he opened the door, and stared at her
and about the altered room, she swiftly went to him, and took the
bundles he carried from his arms.
"Hurry up, and unhitch, Dannie," she said. "Your supper
And Dannie turned and stolidly walked back to his team, without
uttering a word.
"Uncle Dannie!" cried a child's voice. "Please let me
ride to the
barn with you!"
A winsome little maid came rushing to Dannie, threw her arms about
his neck, and hugged him tight, as he stooped to lift her. Her
yellow curls were against his cheek, and her breath was flower-
sweet in his face.
"Why didn't you kiss Aunt Mary?" she demanded." Daddy
kisses mammy when he comes from all day gone. Aunt Mary's worked so
hard to please you. And Daddie worked, and mammy worked, and
another woman. You are pleased, ain't you, Uncle Dannie?"
"Who told ye to call me Uncle?" asked Dannie, with unsteady
"She did!" announced the little woman, flourishing the whip
direction of the cabin. Dannie climbed down to unhitch. "You are
goin' to be my Uncle, ain't you, as soon as it's a little over a
year, so folks won't talk?"
"Who told ye that?" panted Dannie, hiding behind a horse.
"Nobody told me! Mammy just ~said it to Daddy, and I heard,"
answered the little maid. "And I'm glad of it, and so are all of us
glad. Mammy said she'd just love to come here now, whin things
would be like white folks. Mammy said Aunt Mary had suffered a lot
more'n her share. Say, you won't make her suffer any more, will you?"
"No," moaned Dannie, and staggered into the barn with the
He leaned against a stall, and shut his eyes. He could see the
bright room, plainer than ever, and that little singing bird
sounded loud as any thunder in his ears. And whether closed or
open, he could see Mary, never in all her life so beautiful, never
so sweet; flesh and blood Mary, in a dainty dress, with the
shining, unafraid eyes of girlhood. It was that thing which struck
Dannie first, and hit him hardest. Mary was a careless girl again.
When before had he seen her with neither trouble, anxiety or, worse
yet, ~fear, in her beautiful eyes?
And she had come to stay. She would not have refurnished her cabin
otherwise. Dannie took hold of the manger with both hands, because
his sinking knees needed bracing.
"Dannie," called Mary's voice in the doorway, "has my
showed any signs of setting yet?"
"She's been over twa weeks," answered Dannie. "She's
in that barrel
there in the corner."
Mary entered the barn, removed the prop, lowered the board, and
kneeling, stroked the hen, and talked softly to her. She slipped a
hand under the hen, and lifted her to see the eggs. Dannie staring
at Mary noted closer the fresh, cleared skin, the glossy hair, the
delicately colored cheeks, and the plumpness of the bare arms. One
little wisp of curl lay against the curve of her neck, just where
it showed rose-pink, and looked honey sweet. And in one great
surge, the repressed stream of passion in the strong man broke, and
Dannie swayed against his horse. His tongue stuck to the roof of
his mouth, and he caught at the harness to steady himself, while he
strove to grow accustomed to the fact that Hell had opened in a new
form for him. The old heart hunger for Mary Malone was back in
stronger force than ever before; and because of him Jimmy lay
stretched on Five Mile Hill.
"Dannie, you are just fine!" said Mary. " I've been almost
get home, because I thought iverything would be ruined, and instid
of that it's all ixactly the way I do it. Do hurry, and get riddy
for supper. Oh, it's so good to be home again! I want to make
garden, and fix my flowers, and get some little chickens and
turkeys into my fingers."
"I have to go home, and wash, and spruce up a bit, for ladies,"
said Dannie, leaving the barn.
Mary made no reply, and it came to him that she expected it.
"Damned if I will!" he said, as he started home. "If she
come here, and force herself on me, she can, but she canna mak' me"
Just then Dannie stepped in his door, and slowly gazed about him.
In a way his home was as completely transformed as hers. He washed
his face and hands, and started for a better coat. His sleeping
room shone with clean windows, curtained in snowy white. A freshly
ironed suit of underclothing and a shirt lay on his bed. Dannie
stared at them.
"She think's I'll tog up in them, and come courtin'" he growled.
"I'll show her if I do! I winna touch them!"
To prove that he would not, Dannie caught them up in a wad, and
threw them into a corner. That showed a clean sheet, fresh pillow,
and new covers, invitingly spread back. Dannie turned as white as
the pillow at which he stared.
"That's a damn plain insinuation that I'm to get into ye,"
to the bed, "and go on living here. I dinna know as that child's
jabber counts. For all I know, Mary may already have picked out
some town dude to bring here and farm out on me, and they'll live
with the bird cage. and I can go on climbin' into ye alone."
Here was a new thought. Mary might mean only kindness to him again,
as she had sent word by Jimmy she meant years ago. He might lose
her for the second time. And again a wave of desire struck Dannie,
and left him staggering.
"Ain't you comin', Uncle Dannie?" called the child's voice
the back door.
"What's your name, little lass?" inquired Dannie.
"Tilly," answered the little girl promptly.
Well, Tilly, ye go tell your Aunt Mary I have been in an eelevator
handlin' grain, and I'm covered wi' fine dust and chaff that sticks
me. I canna come until I've had a bath, and put on clean clothing.
Tell her to go ahead."
The child vanished. In a second she was back. "She said she won't
do it, and take all the time you want. But I wish you'd hurry, for
she won't let me either."
Dannie hurried. But the hasty bath and the fresh clothing felt so
good he was in a softened mood when he approached Mary's door
again. Tilly was waiting on the step, and ran to meet him. Tilly
was a dream. Almost, Dannie understood why Mary had brought her.
Tilly led him to the table, and pulled back a chair for him, and he
lifted her into hers, and as Mary set dish after dish of food on
the table, Tilly filled in every pause that threatened to grow
awkward with her chatter. Dannie had been a very lonely man, and he
did love Mary's cooking. Until then he had not realized how sore a
trial six months of his own had been.
"If I was a praying mon, I'd ask a blessing, and thank God fra
food," said Dannie.
"What's the matter with me?" asked Mary.
"I have never yet found anything," answered Dannie. "And
thank ye fra everything. I believe I'm most thankful of all fra the
clean clothes and the clean bed. I'm afraid I was neglectin'
"Will, you'll not be neglected any more," said Mary. "Things
turned over a new leaf here. For all you give, you get some return,
after this. We are going to do business in a businesslike way, and
divide even. I liked that bank account, pretty will, Dannie. Thank
you, for that. And don't think I spint all of it. I didn't spind a
hundred dollars all togither. Not the price of one horse! But it
made me so happy I could fly. Home again, and the things I've
always wanted, and nothing to fear. Oh, Dannie, you don't know what
it manes to a woman to be always afraid! My heart is almost jumping
out of my body, just with pure joy that the old fear is gone."
"I know what it means to a mon to be afraid," said Dannie.
vividly before him loomed the awful, distorted, dying face of Jimmy.
Mary guessed, and her bright face clouded.
"Some day, Dannie, we must have a little talk," she said,
clear up a few things neither of us understand. 'Til thin we will
just farm, and be partners, and be as happy as iver we can. I don't
know as you mean to, but if you do, I warn you right now that you
need niver mintion the name of Jimmy Malone to me again, for any reason."
Dannie left the cabin abruptly.
"Now you gone and made him mad!" reproached Tilly.
During the past winter Mary had lived with other married people for
the first time, and she had imbibed some of Mrs. Dolan's philosophy.
"Whin he smells the biscuit I mane to make for breakfast, he'll
glad again," she said, and he did.
But first he went home, and tried to learn where he stood. ~Was he
truly responsible for Jimmy's death? Yes. If he had acted like a
man, he could have saved Jimmy. He was responsible. Did he want to
marry Mary? Did he? Dannie reached empty arms to empty space, and
groaned aloud. Would she marry him? Well, now, would she? After
years of neglect and sorrow, Dannie knew that Mary had learned to
prefer him to Jimmy. But almost any man would have been preferable
to a woman, to Jimmy. Jimmy was distinctly a man's man. A jolly
good fellow, but he would not deny himself anything, no matter what
it cost his wife, and he had been very hard to live with. Dannie
admitted that. So Mary had come to prefer him to Jimmy, that was
sure; but it was not a question between him and Jimmy, now. It was
between him, and any marriageable man that Mary might fancy.
He had grown old, and gray, and wrinkled, though he was under
forty. Mary had grown round, and young, and he had never seen her
looking so beautiful. Surely she would want a man now as young, and
as fresh as herself; and she might want to live in town after a
while, if she grew tired of the country. Could he remember Jimmy's
dreadful death, realize that he was responsible for it, and make
love to his wife? No, she was sacred to Jimmy. Could he live beside
her, and lose her to another man for the second time? No, she
belonged to him. It was almost daybreak when Dannie remembered the
fresh bed, and lay down for a few hours' rest.
But there was no rest for Dannie, and after tossing about until
dawn he began his work. When he carried the milk into the cabin,
and smelled the biscuit, he fulfilled Mary's prophecy, got glad
again, and came to breakfast. Then he went about his work. But as
the day wore on, he repeatedly heard the voice of the woman and the
child, combining in a chorus of laughter. From the little front
porch, the green bird warbled and trilled. Neighbors who had heard
of her return came up the lane to welcome a happy Mary Malone. The
dead dreariness of winter melted before the spring sun, and in
Dannie's veins the warm blood swept up, as the sap flooded the
trees, and in spite of himself he grew gladder and yet gladder.
He now knew how he had missed Mary. How he had loathed that empty,
silent cabin. How remorse and heart hunger had gnawed at his
vitals, and he decided that he would go on just as Mary had said,
and let things drift; and when she was ready to have the talk with
him she had mentioned, he would hear what she had to say. And as he
thought over these things, he caught himself watching for furrows
that Jimmy was not making on the other side of the field. He tried
to talk to the robins and blackbirds instead of Jimmy, but they were
not such good company. And when the day was over, he tried not to be
glad that he was going to the shining eyes of Mary Malone, a good
supper, and a clean bed, and it was not in the heart of man to do it.
The summer wore on, autumn came, and the year Tilly had spoken of
was over. Dannie went his way, doing the work of two men, thinking
of everything, planning for everything, and he was all the heart of
Mary Malone could desire, save her lover. By little Mary pieced it
out. Dannie never mentioned fishing; he had lost his love for the
river. She knew that he frequently took walks to Five Mile Hill.
His devotion to Jimmy's memory was unswerving. And at last it came
to her, that in death as in life, Jimmy Malone was separating them.
She began to realize that there might be things she did not know.
What had Jimmy told the priest? Why had Father Michael refused to
confess Jimmy until he sent Dannie to him? What had passed between
them? If it was what she had thought all year, why did it not free
Dannie to her? If there was something more, what was it?
Surely Dannie loved her. Much as he had cared for Jimmy, he had
vowed that everything was for her first. She was eager to be his
wife, and something bound him. One day, she decided to ask him. The
next, she shrank in burning confusion, for when Jimmy Malone had
asked for her love, she had admitted to him that she loved Dannie,
and Jimmy had told her that it was no use, Dannie did not care for
girls, and that he had said he wished she would not thrust herself
upon him. On the strength of that statement Mary married Jimmy
inside five weeks, and spent years in bitter repentance.
That was the thing which held her now. If Dannie knew what she did,
and did not care to marry her, how could she mention it? Mary
began to grow pale, and lose sleep, and Dannie said the heat of the
summer had tired her, and suggested that she go to Mrs. Dolan's for
a weeks rest. The fact that he was willing, and possibly anxious to
send her away for a whole week, angered Mary. She went.
THE POT OF GOLD
MARY had not been in the Dolan home an hour until Katy knew all she
could tell of her trouble. Mrs. Dolan was practical. "Go to see
Father Michael," she said. "What's he for but to hilp us. Go ask
him what Jimmy told him. Till him how you feel and what you know.
He can till you what Dannie knows and thin you will understand
where you are at."
Mary was on the way before Mrs. Dolan fully finished. She went to
the priest's residence and asked his housekeeper to inquire if he
would see her. He would, and Mary entered his presence strangely
calm and self-possessed. This was the last fight she knew of that
she could make for happiness, and if she lost, happiness was over
for her. She had need of all her wit and she knew it. Father
Michael began laughing as he shook hands.
"Now look here, Mary," he said, "I've been expecting
you. I warn you
before you begin that I cannot sanction your marriage to a Protestant."
"Oh, but I'm going to convart him!" cried Mary so quickly
priest laughed harder than ever.
"So that's the lay of the land!" he chuckled. "Well,
guarantee that, I'll give in. When shall I read the banns?"
"Not until we get Dannie's consint," answered Mary, and for
first her voice wavered.
Father Michael looked his surprise. "Tut! Tut!" he said. "And
"Dannie is the finest man that will ever live in this world,"
Mary, "but he don't want to marry me."
"To my certain knowledge Dannie has loved you all your life,"
Michael. "He wants nothing here or hereafter as he wants to marry you."
"Thin why don't he till me so?" sobbed Mary, burying her burning
face in her hands.
"Has he said nothing to you?" gravely inquired the priest.
"No, he hasn't and I don't belave he intinds to," answered
wiping her eyes and trying to be composed. "There is something about
Jimmy that is holding him back. Mrs. Dolan thought you'd help me."
"What do you want me to do, Mary?" asked Father Michael.
"Two things," answered Mary promptly. "I want you to
tell me what
Jimmy confissed to you before he died, and then I want you to talk
to Dannie and show him that he is free from any promise that Jimmy
might have got out of him. Will you?"
"A dying confession--" began the priest.
"Yes, but I know--" broke in Mary. "I saw them fight,
and I heard
Jimmy till Dannie that he'd lied to him to separate us, but he
turned right around and took it back and I knew Dannie belaved him
thin; but he can't after Jimmy confissed it again to both of you."
"What do you mean by `saw them fight?'" Father Michael was
toward Mary anxiously.
Mary told him.
"Then that is the explanation to the whole thing," said the
"Dannie did believe Jimmy when he took it back, and he died before
could repeat to Dannie what he had told me. And I have had the feeling
that Dannie thought himself in a way to blame for Jimmy's death."
"He was not! Oh, he was not!" cried Mary Malone. "Didn't
there with them all those years? Dannie always was good as gold to
Jimmy. It was shameful the way Jimmy imposed on him, and spint his
money, and took me from him. It was shameful! Shameful!"
"Be calm! Be calm!" cautioned Father Michael. "I agree
with you. I
am only trying to arrive at Dannie's point of view. He well might
feel that he was responsible, if after humoring Jimmy like a child
all his life, he at last lost his temper and dealt with him as if
he were a man. If that is the case, he is of honor so fine, that he
would hesitate to speak to you, no matter what he suffered. And
then it is clear to me that he does not understand how Jimmy
separated you in the first place."
"And lied me into marrying him, whin I told him over and over how
I loved Dannie. Jimmy Malone took iverything I had to give, and he
left me alone for fiftane years, with my three little dead babies,
that died because I'd no heart to desire life for thim, and he took
my youth, and he took my womanhood, and he took my man--" Mary
arose in primitive rage. "You naden't bother!" she said. "I'm
straight to Dannie meself."
"Don't!" said Father Michael softly. "Don't do that,
Mary! It isn't
the accepted way. There is a better! Let him come to you."
"But he won't come! He don't know! He's in Jimmy's grip tighter
death than he was in life." Mary began to sob again.
"He will come," said Father Michael. "Be calm! Wait a
child. After all these years, don't spoil a love that has been
almost unequaled in holiness and beauty, by anger at the dead. Let
me go to Dannie. We are good friends. I can tell him Jimmy made a
confession to me, that he was trying to repeat to him, when
punishment, far more awful than anything you have suffered,
overtook him. Always remember, Mary, he died unshriven!" Mary began
to shiver. "Your suffering is over," continued the priest. "You
have many good years yet that you may spend with Dannie; God will
give you living children, I am sure. Think of the years Jimmy's
secret has hounded and driven him! Think of the penalty he must pay
before he gets a glimpse of paradise, if he be not eternally lost!"
"I have!" exclaimed Mary. "And it is nothing to the fact
took Dannie from me, and yet kept him in my home while he possessed
me himsilf for years. May he burn----"
"Mary! Let that suffice!" cried the priest. "He will!
now is, shall I go to Dannie?"
"Will you till him just what Jimmy told you? Will you till him
I have loved him always?"
"Yes," said Father Michael.
"Will you go now?"
"I cannot! I have work. I will come early in the morning."
"You will till him ivirything?" she repeated.
"I will," promised Father Michael.
Mary went back to Mrs. Dolan's comforted. She was anxious to return
home at once, but at last consented to spend the day. Now that she
was sure Dannie did not know the truth, her heart warmed toward
him. She was anxious to comfort and help him in the long struggle
which she saw that he must have endured. By late afternoon she
could bear it no longer and started back to Rainbow Bottom in time
to prepare supper.
For the first hour after Mary had gone Dannie whistled to keep up
his courage. By the second he had no courage to keep. By the third
he was indulging in the worst fit of despondency he ever had known.
He had told her to stay a week. A week! It would be an eternity!
There alone again! Could he bear it? He got through to mid-
afternoon some way, and then in jealous fear and foreboding he
became almost frantic. One way or the other, this thing must be
settled. Fiercer raged the storm within him and at last toward
evening it became unendurable.
At its height the curling smoke from the chimney told him that Mary
had come home. An unreasoning joy seized him. He went to the barn
and listened. He could hear her moving about preparing supper. As
he watched she came to the well for water and before she returned
to the cabin she stood looking over the fields as if trying to
locate him. Dannie's blood ran hotly and his pulses were leaping.
"Go to her! Go to her now!" demanded passion, struggling to break
leash. "You killed Jimmy! You murdered your friend!" cried
conscience, with unyielding insistence. Poor Dannie gave one last
glance at Mary, and then turned, and for the second time he ran
from her as if pursued by demons. But this time he went straight to
Five Mile Hill, and the grave of Jimmy Malone.
He sat down on it, and within a few feet of Jimmy's bones, Dannie
took his tired head in his hands, and tried to think, and for the
life of him, he could think but two things. That he had killed
Jimmy, and that to live longer without Mary would kill him. Hour
after hour he fought with his lifelong love for Jimmy and his
lifelong love for Mary. Night came on, the frost bit, the wind
chilled, and the little brown owls screeched among the gravestones,
and Dannie battled on. Morning came, the sun arose, and shone on
Dannie, sitting numb with drawn face and bleeding heart.
Mary prepared a fine supper the night before, and patiently waited,
and when Dannie did not come, she concluded that he had gone to
town, without knowing that she had returned. Tilly grew sleepy, so
she put the child to bed, and presently she went herself. Father
Michael would make everything right in the morning. But in the
morning Dannie was not there, and had not been. Mary became
alarmed. She was very nervous by the time Father Michael arrived.
He decided to go to the nearest neighbor, and ask when Dannie had
been seen last. As he turned from the lane into the road a man of
that neighborhood was passing on his wagon, and the priest hailed
him, and asked if he knew where Dannie Macnoun was.
"Back in Five Mile Hill, a man with his head on his knees, is a-
settin' on the grave of Jimmy Malone, and I allow that would be
Dannie Macnoun, the damn fool!" he said.
Father Michael went back to the cabin, and told Mary he had learned
where Dannie was, and to have no uneasiness, and he would go to see
"And first of all you'll tell him how Jimmy lied to him?"
"I will!" said the priest.
He entered the cemetery, and walked slowly to the grave of Jimmy
Malone. Dannie lifted his head, and stared at him.
"I saw you," said Father Michael, "and I came in to speak
He took Dannie's hand. "You are here at this hour to my surprise."
"I dinna know that ye should be surprised at my comin' to sit by
Jimmy at ony time," coldly replied Dannie. "He was my only friend
in life, and another mon so fine I'll never know. I often come here."
The priest shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and then
he sat down on a grave near Dannie. "For a year I have been
waiting to talk with you," he said.
Dannie wiped his face, and lifting his hat, ran his fingers through
his hair, as if to arouse himself. His eyes were dull and
listless." I am afraid I am no fit to talk sensibly," he said.
am much troubled. Some other time----"
"Could you tell me your trouble?" asked Father Michael.
Dannie shook his head.
"I have known Mary Malone all her life," said the priest softly,
"and been her confessor. I have known Jimmy Malone all his life, and
heard his dying confession. I know what it was he was trying to
tell you when he died. Think again!"
Dannie Macnoun stood up. He looked at the priest intently. "Did
come here purposely to find me?"
"What do ye want?"
"To clear your mind of all trouble, and fill your heart with love,
and great peace, and rest. Our Heavenly Father knows that you need
peace of heart, and rest, Dannie."
"To fill my heart wi' peace, ye will have to prove to me that I'm
no responsible fra the death of Jimmy Malone; and to give it rest,
ye will have to prove to me that I'm free to marry his wife. Ye can
do neither of those things."
"I can do both," said the priest calmly. "My son, that
is what I
came to do."
Dannie's face grew whiter and whiter, as the blood receded, and his
big hands gripped at his sides.
"Aye, but ye canna!" he cried desperately. "Ye canna!"
"I can," said the priest. "Listen to me! Did Jimmy get
all said to you?"
"He said, `Mary,' then he choked on the next word, then he gasped
out `yours,' and it was over."
"Have you any idea what he was trying to tell you?"
"Na!" answered Dannie. "He was mortal sick, and half
and I paid little heed. If he lived, he would tell me when he was
better. If he died, nothing mattered, fra I was responsible, and
better friend mon never had. There was nothing on earth Jimmy would
na have done for me. He was so big hearted, so generous! My God,
how I have missed him! How I have missed him!"
"Your faith in Jimmy is strong," ventured the bewildered priest,
for he did not see his way.
Dannie lifted his head. The sunshine was warming him, and his
thoughts were beginning to clear.
"My faith in Jimmy Malone is so strong," he said, "that
if I lost
it, I never should trust another living mon. He had his faults to
others, I admit that, but he never had ony to me. He was my friend,
and above my life I loved him. I wad gladly have died to save him."
"And yet you say you are responsible for his death!"
"Let me tell ye!" cried Dannie eagerly, and began on the story
priest wanted to hear from him. As he finished Father Michael's
"What folly!" he said, "that a man of your intelligence
torture yourself with the thought of responsibility in a case like
that. Any one would have claimed the fish in those circumstances.
Priest that I am, I would have had it, even if I fought for it. Any
man would! And as for what followed, it was bound to come! He was
a tortured man, and a broken one. If he had not lain out that
night, he would a few nights later. It was not in your power to
save him. No man can be saved from himself, Dannie. Did what he
said make no impression on you?"
"Enough that I would have killed him with my naked hands if he
na taken it back. Of course he had to retract! If I believed that
of Jimmy, after the life we lived together, I would curse God and
mon, and break fra the woods, and live and dee there alone."
"Then what was he trying to tell you when he died?" asked
"To take care of Mary, I judge."
"Not to marry her; and take her for your own?"
Dannie began to tremble.
"Remember, I talked with him first," said Father Michael,
what he confessed to me, he knew was final. He died before he could
talk to you, but I think it is time to tell you what he wanted to
say. He--he--was trying--trying to tell you, that there was nothing
but love in his heart for you. That he did not in any way blame you.
That--that Mary was yours. That you were free to take her. That----"
"What!" cried Dannie wildly. "Are ye sure? Oh, my God!"
"Perfectly sure!" answered Father Michael. "Jimmy knew
how long and
faithfully you had loved Mary, and she had loved you----"
"Mary had loved me? Carefu', mon! Are ye sure?"
"I know," said Father Michael convincingly. "I give you
word, I know, and Jimmy knew, and was altogether willing. He loved
you deeply, as he could love any one, Dannie, and he blamed you for
nothing at all. The only thing that would have brought Jimmy any
comfort in dying, was to know that you would end your life with
Mary, and not hate his memory."
"Hate!" cried Dannie. "Hate! Father Michael, if ye have
tell me that Jimmy na held me responsible fra his death, and was
willing fra me to have Mary, your face looks like the face of God
to me!" Dannie gripped the priest's hand. "Are ye sure? Are ye
sure, mon?" He almost lifted Father Michael from the ground.
"I tell you, I know! Go and be happy!"
"Some ither day I will try to thank ye," said Dannie, turning
"Noo, I'm in a little of a hurry." He was half way to the gate
when he turned back. "Does Mary know this?" he asked.
"She does," said the priest. "You are one good man, Dannie,
be happy, and may the blessing of God go with you."
Dannie lifted his hat.
"And Jimmy, too," he said, "put Jimmy in, Father Michael."
"May the peace of God rest the troubled soul of Jimmy Malone,"
Father Michael, and not being a Catholic, Dannie did not know that
from the blessing for which he asked.
He hurried away with the brightness of dawn on his lined face,
which looked almost boyish under his whitening hair.
Mary Malone was at the window, and turmoil and bitterness were
beginning to burn in her heart again. Maybe the priest had not
found Dannie. Maybe he was not coming. Maybe a thousand things.
Then he ~was coming. Coming straight and sure. Coming across the
fields, and leaping fences at a bound. Coming with such speed and
force as comes the strong man, fifteen years denied. Mary's heart
began to jar, and thump, and waves of happiness surged over her.
And then she saw that look of dawn, of serene delight on the face
of the man, and she stood aghast. Dannie threw wide the door, and
crossed her threshold with outstretched arms.
"Is it true?" he panted. "That thing Father Michael told
it true? Will ye be mine, Mary Malone? At last will you be mine?
Oh, my girl, is the beautiful thing that the priest told me true?"
"~The beautiful thing that the priest told him!"
Mary Malone swung a chair before her, and stepped back. "Wait!"
cried sharply. "There must be some mistake. Till me ixactly what
Father Michael told you?"
"He told me that Jimmy na held me responsible fra his death. That
he loved me when he died. That he was willing I should have ye! Oh,
Mary, wasna that splendid of him. Wasna he a grand mon? Mary, come
to me. Say that it's true! Tell me, if ye love me."
Mary Malone stared wide-eyed at Dannie, and gasped for breath.
Dannie came closer. At last he had found his tongue. "Fra the love
of mercy, if ye are comin' to me, come noo "Mary" he begged."
arms will split if they dinna get round ye soon, dear. Jimmy told
ye fra me, sixteen years ago, how I loved ye, and he told me when
he came back how sorry ye were fra me, and he--he almost cried when
he told me. I never saw a mon feel so. Grand old Jimmy! No other
mon like him!"
Mary drew back in desperation.
"You see here, Dannie Micnoun!" she screamed. "You see
"I do," broke in Dannie. "I'm lookin'! All I ever saw,
or see now,
or shall see till I dee is `here,' when `here' is ye, Mary Malone.
Oh! If a woman ever could understand what passion means to a mon!
If ye knew what I have suffered through all these years, you'd end
it, Mary Malone."
Mary gave the chair a shove. "Come here, Dannie," she said.
cleared the space between them. Mary set her hands against his
breast. "One minute," she panted. "Just one! I have loved
me life, me man. I niver loved any one but you. I niver wanted any
one but you. I niver hoped for any Hivin better than I knew I'd
find in your arms. There was a mistake. There was an awful mistake,
when I married Jimmy. I'm not tillin' you now, and I niver will,
but you must realize that! Do you understand me?"
"Hardly," breathed Dannie. "Hardly!"
"Will, you can take your time if you want to think it out, because
that's all I'll iver till you. There was a horrible mistake. It was
~you I loved, and wanted to marry. Now bend down to me, Dannie
Micnoun, because I'm going to take your head on me breast and kiss
your dear face until I'm tired," said Mary Malone.
An hour later Father Michael came leisurely down the lane, and the
peace of God was with him.
A radiant Mary went out to meet him.
"You didn't till him!" she cried accusingly. "You didn't
The priest laid a hand on her head.
"Mary, the greatest thing in the whole world is self-sacrifice,"
said. "The pot at the foot of the rainbow is just now running over
with the pure gold of perfect contentment. But had you and I done
such a dreadful thing as to destroy the confidence of a good man in
his friend, your heart never could know such joy as it now knows in
this sacrifice of yours; and no such blessed, shining light could
illumine your face. That is what I wanted to see. I said to myself
as I came along, `She will try, but she will learn, as I did, that
she cannot look in his eyes and undeceive him. And when she becomes
reconciled, her face will be so good to see.' And it is. You did
not tell him either, Mary Malone!"