Up The Coulee





A STORY OF WISCONSIN



"Keep the main-travelled road up the coulee-it's the second house

after crossin' the crick."



THE ride from Milwaukee to the Mississippi is a fine ride at any

time, superb in summer. To lean back in a reclining chair and

whirl away in a breezy July day, past lakes, groves of oak, past

fields of barley being reaped, past hayfields, where the heavy grass

is toppling before the swift sickle, is a panorama of delight, a road

full of delicious surprises, where down a sudden vista lakes open,

or a distant wooded hill looms darkly blue, or swift streams,

foaming deep down the solid rock, send whiffs of cool breezes in

at the window.



It has majesty, breadth. The farming has nothing apparently petty

about it. All seems vigorous, youthful, and prosperous. Mr.

Howard McLane in his chair let his newspaper fall on his lap and

gazed out upon it with dreaming eyes. It had a certain mysterious

glamour to him; the lakes were cooler and brighter to his eye, the

greens fresher, and the grain more golden than to anyone else, for

he was coming back to it all after an absence of ten years. It was,

besides, his West. He still took pride in being a Western man.



His mind all day flew ahead of the train to the little town far on

toward the Mississippi, where he had spent his boyhood and youth.

As the train passed the Wisconsin River, with its curiously carved

cliffs, its cold, dark, swift-swirling water eating slowly under

cedar-clothed banks, Howard began to feel curious little

movements of the heart, like a lover as he nears his sweetheart.



The hills changed in character, growing more intimately

recognizable. They rose higher as the train left the ridge and

passed down into the Black River valley, and specifically into the

La Crosse valley. They ceased to have any hint of upheavals of

rock, and became simply parts of the ancient level left standing

after the water had practically given up its postglacial, scooping

action.



It was about six o'clock as he caught sight of the dear broken line

of hills on which his baby eyes had looked thirty-five years ago. A

few minutes later and the train drew up at the grimy little station

set in at the hillside, and, giving him just time to leap off, plunged

on again toward the West. Howard felt a ridiculous weakness in

his legs as he stepped out upon the broiling hot splintery planks of

the station and faced the few idlers lounging about. He simply

stood and gazed with the same intensity and absorption one of the

idlers might show standing before the Brooklyn Bridge.



The town caught and held his eyes first. How poor and dull and

sleepy and squalid it seemed! The one main street ended at the

hillside at his left and stretched away to the north, between two

rows of the usual village stores, unrelieved by a tree or a touch of

beauty. An unpaved street, drab-colored, miserable, rotting

wooden buildings, with the inevitable battlements-the same, only

worse, was the town.



The same, only more beautiful still, was the majestic amphitheater

of green wooded hills that circled the horizon, and toward which

he lifted his eyes. He thrilled at the sight.



"Glorious!" he cried involuntarily.



Accustomed to the White Mountains, to the Allghenies, he had

wondered if these hills would retain their old-time charm. They

did. He took off his hat to them as he stood there. Richly wooded,

with gently sloping green sides, rising to massive square or

rounded tops with dim vistas, they glowed down upon the squalid

town, gracious, lofty in their greeting, immortal in their vivid and

delicate beauty.



He was a goodly figure of a man as he stood there beside his

valise. Portly, erect, handsomely dressed, and with something

unusually winning in his brown mustache and blue eyes,

something scholarly suggested by the pinch-nose glasses,

something strong in the repose of the head. He smiled as he saw

how unchanged was the grouping of the old loafers on the salt

barrels and nail kegs. He recognized most of them-a little dirtier, a

little more bent, and a little grayer.



They sat in the same attitudes, spat tobacco with the same calm

delight, and joked each other, breaking into short and sudden fits

of laughter, and pounded each other on the back, just as when he

was a student at the La Crosse Seminary and going to and fro daily

on the train.



They ruminated on him as he passed, speculating in a perfectly

audible way upon his business.



"Looks like a drummer."



"No, he ain't no drummer. See them Boston glasses?"



"That's so. Guess he's a teacher."



"Looks like a moneyed cuss."



"Bos'n, I guess."



He knew the one who spoke last-Freeme Cole, a man who was the

fighting wonder of Howard's boyhood, now degenerated into a

stoop-shouldered, faded, garrulous, and quarrelsome old man. Yet

there was something epic in the old man's stories, something

enthralling in the dramatic power of recital.



Over by the blacksmith shop the usual game of quaits" was in

progress, and the drug clerk on the corner was chasing a crony

with the squirt pump, with which he was about to wash the

windows. A few teams stood ankle-deep in the mud, tied to the

fantastically gnawed pine pillars of the wooden awnings. A man

on a load of hay was "jawing" with the attendant of the platform

scales, who stood below, pad and pencil in hand.



"Hit 'im! hit 'im! Jump off and knock 'im!" suggested a bystander,

jovially.



Howard knew the voice.



"Talk's cheap. Takes money t' buy whiskey," he said when the man

on the load repeated his threat of getting off and whipping the

scalesman.



"You're William McTurg," Howard said, coming up to him.



"I am, sir," replied the soft-voiced giant turning and looking down

on the stranger with an amused twinkle in his deep brown eyes. He

stood as erect as an Indian, though his hair and beard were white.



"I'm Howard McLane."



"Ye begin t' look it," said McTurg, removing his right hand from

his pocket. "How are yeh?"



"I'm first-rate. How's Mother and Grant?"



"Saw 'im plowing corn as I came down. Guess he's all right. Want

a boost?"



"Well, yes. Are you down with a team?"



"Yep. 'Bout goin' home. Climb right in. That's my rig, right there,"

nodding at a sleek bay colt hitched in a covered buggy. "Heave y'r

grip under the seat."



They climbed into the seat after William had lowered the buggy

top and unhitched the horse from the post. The loafers were mildly

curious. Guessed Bill had got hooked onto by a lightnin'-rod

peddler, or somethin' o' that kind.



"Want to go by river, or 'round by the hills?"



"Hills, I guess."



The whole matter began to seem trivial, as if he had only been

away for a month or two.



William McTurg was a man little given to talk. Even the coming

back of a nephew did not cause any flow of questions or

reminiscences. They rode in silence. He sat a little bent forward,

the lines held carelessly in his hands, his great leonine head

swaying to and fro with the movement of the buggy.



As they passed familiar spots, the younger man broke the silence

with a question.



"That's old man McElvaine's place, ain't it?"



"Old man living?"



"I guess he is. Husk more corn 'n any man he c'n hire."



On the edge of the village they passed an open lot on the left,

marked with circus rings of different eras.



"There's the old ball ground. Do they have circuses on it just the

same as ever?"



"Just the same."



"What fun that field calls up! The games of ball we used to have!

Do you play yet?"



"Sometimes. Can't stoop so well as I used to." He smiled a little.

"Too much fat."



It all swept back upon Howard in a flood of names and faces and

sights and sounds; something sweet and stirring somehow, though

it had little of esthetic charm at the time. They were passing along

lanes now, between superb fields of corn, wherein plowmen were

at work. Kingbirds flew from post to post ahead of them; the

insects called from the grass. The valley slowly outspread below

them. The workmen in the fields were "turning out" for the night;

they all had a word of chaff with McTurg.



Over the western wall of the circling amphitheater the sun was

setting. A few scattering clouds were drifting on the west wind,

their shadows sliding down the green and purple slopes. The

dazzling sunlight flamed along the luscious velvety grass, and shot

amid the rounded, distant purple peaks, and streamed in bars of

gold and crimson across the blue mist of the narrower upper

coulee.



The heart of the young man swelled' with pleasure almost like

pain, and the eyes of the silent older man took on a far-off,

dreaming look, as he gazed at the scene which had repeated itself a

thousand times in his life, but of whose beauty he never spoke.



Far down to the left was the break in the wall through which the

river ran on its way to join the Mississippi. As they climbed slowly

among the hills, the valley they had left grew still more beautiful,

as the squalor of the little town was hid by the dusk of distance.

Both men were silent for a long time. Howard knew the

peculiarities of his companion too well to make any remarks or ask

any questions, and besides it was a genuine pleasure to ride with

one who could feel that silence was the only speech amid such

splendors.



Once they passed a little brook singing in a mourn-fully sweet way

its eternal song over its pebbles. It called back to Howard the days

when he and Grant, his younger brother, had fished in this little

brook for trout, with trousers rolled above the knee and wrecks of

hats upon their heads.



"Any trout left?" he asked.



"Not many. Little fellers." Finding the silence broken, William

asked the first question since he met Howard. "Le's see: you're a

show feller now? B'long to a troupe?"



"Yes, yes; I'm an actor."



"Pay much?"



"Pretty well."



That seemed to end William's curiosity about the matter.



"Ah, there's our old house, ain't it?" Howard broke out, pointing to

one of the houses farther up the coulee. "It'll be a surprise to them,

won't it?"



"Yep; only they don't live there."



"What! They don't!"



"Who does?"



"Dutchman."



Howard was silent for some moments. "Who lives on the Dunlap

place?"



"'Nother Dutchman."



"Where's Grant living, anyhow?"



"Farther up the conlee."



"Well, then I'd better get out here, hadn't I?"



"Oh, I'll drive yeh up."



"No, I'd rather walk."



The sun had set, and the coulee was getting dusk when Howard got

out of McTurg's carriage and set off up the winding lane toward

his brother's house. He walked slowly to absorb the coolness and

fragrance and color of the hour. The katydids sang a rhythmic song

of welcome to him. Fireflies were in the grass. A whippoorwill in

the deep of the wood was calling weirdly, and an occasional night

hawk, flying high, gave his grating shriek, or hollow boom,

suggestive and resounding.



He had been wonderfully successful, and yet had carried into his

success as a dramatic author as well as actor a certain puritanism

that made him a paradox to his fellows. He was one of those actors

who are always in luck, and the best of it was he kept and made

use of his luck. Jovial as he appeared, he was inflexible as granite

against drink and tobacco. He retained through it all a certain

freshness of enjoyment that made him one of the best companions

in the profession; and now as he walked on, the hour and the place

appealed to him with great power. It seemed to sweep away the

life that came between.



How close it all was to him, after all! In his restless life,

surrounded by the giare of electric lights, painted canvas, hot

colors, creak of machinery, mock trees, stones, and brooks, he had

not lost but gained appreciation for the coolness, quiet and low

tones, the shyness of the wood and field.



In the farmhouse ahead of him a light was shining as he peered

ahead, and his heart gave another painful movement. His brother

was awaiting him there, and his mother, whom he had not seen for

ten years and who had grown unable to write. And when Grant

wrote, which had been more and more seldom of late, his letters

had been cold and curt.



He began to feel that in the pleasure and excitement of his life he

had grown away from his mother and brother. Each summer he

had said, "Well, now I'll go home this year sure." But a new play to

be produced, or a yachting trip, or a tour of Europe, had put the

homecoming off; and now it was with a distinct consciousness of

neglect of duty that he walked up to the fence and looked into the

yard, where William had told him his brother lived.



It was humble enough-a small white house, story-and-a-half

structure, with a wing, set in the midst of a few locust trees; a

small drab-colored barn, with a sagging ridge pole; a barnyard full

of mud, in which a few cows were standing, fighting the flies and

waiting to be milked. An old man was pumping water at the well;

the pigs were squealing from a pen nearby; a child was crying.



Instantly the beautiful, peaceful valley was forgotten. A sickening

chill struck into Howard's soul as he looked at it all. In the dim

light he could see a figure milking a cow. Leaving his valise at the

gate, he entered and walked up to the old man, who had finished

pumping and was about to go to feed the hogs.



"Good evening," Howard began. "Does Mr. Grant McLane live

here?"



"Yes, sir, he does. He's right over there milkin'."



"I'll go over there an-"



"Don't b'lieve I would. It's darn muddy over there. It's been turrible

rainy. He'll be done in a minute, any-way."



"Very well; I'll wait."



As he waited, he could hear a woman's fretful voice, and the

impatient jerk and jar of kitchen things, indicative of ill temper or

worry. The longer he stood absorbing this farm scene, with all its

sordidness, dullness, triviality, and its endless drudgeries, the

lower his heart sank. All the joy of the homecoming was gone,

when the figure arose from the cow and approached the gate, and

put the pail of milk down on the platform by the pump.



"Good evening," said Howard out of the dusk.



Grant stared a moment. "Good. evening."



Howard knew the voice, though it was older and deeper and more

sullen. "Don't you know me, Grant? I am Howard.



The man approached him, gazing intently at his face. "You are?"

after a pause. "Well, I'm glad to see yeh, but I can't shake hands.

That damned cow had laid down in the mud."



They stood and looked at each other. Howard's cuffs, collar, and

shirt, alien in their elegance, showed through the dusk, and a glint

of light shot out from the jewel of his necktie, as the light from the

house caught it at the right angle. As they gazed in silence at each

other, Howard divined something of the hard, bitter feeling which

came into Grant's heart as he stood there, ragged, ankle-deep in

muck, his sleeves rolled up, a shapeless old straw hat on his head.



The gleam of Howard's white hands angered him. When he spoke,

it was in a hard, gruff tone, full of rebellion.



"Well, go in the house and set down. I'll be in soon's I strain the

milk and wash the dirt off my hands."



"But Mother-"



"She's 'round somewhere. Just knock on the door under the porch

'round there."



Howard went slowly around the corner of the house, past a vilely

smelling rain barrel, toward the west. A gray-haired woman was

sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, her hands in her lap, her

eyes fixed on the faintly yellow sky, against which the hills stood

dim purple silhouettes and the locust trees were etched as fine as

lace. There was sorrow, resignation, and a sort of dumb despair in

her attitude.



Howard stood, his throat swelling till it seemed as if he would

suffocate. This was his mother-the woman who bore him, the

being who had taken her life in her hand for him; and he, in his

excited and pleasurable life, had neglected her!



He stepped into the faint light before her. She turned and looked at

him without fear. "Mother!" he said. She uttered one little,

breathing, gasping cry, called his name, rose, and stood still. He

bounded up the steps and took her in his arms.



"Mother! Dear old Mother!"



In the silence, almost painful, which followed, an angry woman's

voice could be heard inside: "I don't care. I am't goin' to wear

myself out fer him. He c'n eat out here with us, or else-"



Mrs. McLane began speaking. "Oh, I've longed to see yeh, Howard.

I was afraid you wouldn't come till-too late."



"What do you mean, Mother? Ain't you well?"



"I don't seem to be able to do much now 'cept sit around and knit a

little. I tried to pick some berries the other day, and I got so dizzy I

had to give it up."



"You mustn't work. You needn't work. Why didn't you write to me

how you were?" Howard asked in an agony of remorse.



"Well, we felt as if you probably had all you could do to take care

of yourself."



"Are you married, Howard?"



"No, Mother; and there ain't any excuse for me-not a bit," he said,

dropping back into her colloquialisms."I'm ashamed when I think

of how long it's been since I saw you. I could have come."



"It don't matter now," she interrupted gently. "It's the way things

go. Our boys grow up and leave us."



"Well, come in to supper," said Grant's ungracious voice from the

doorway. "Come, Mother."



Mrs. McLane moved with difficulty. Howard sprang to her aid, and

leaning on his arm she went through the little sitting room, which

was unlighted, out into the kitchen, where the supper table stood

near the cookstove.



"How, this is my wife," said Grant in a cold, peculiar tone.



Howard bowed toward a remarkably handsome young woman, on

whose forehead was a scowl, which did not change as she looked

at him and the old lady.



"Set down, anywhere," was the young woman's cordial invitation.



Howard sat down next to his mother, and facing the wife, who had

a small, fretful child in her arms. At Howard's left was the old

man, Lewis. The supper was spread upon a gay-colored oilcloth,

and consisted of a pan of milk, set in the midst, with bowls at each

plate. Beside the pan was a dipper and a large plate of bread, and

at one end of the table was a dish of fine honey.



A boy of about fourteen leaned upon the table, his bent shoulders

making him look like an old man. His hickory shirt, like that of

Grant, was still wet with sweat, and discolored here and there with

grease, or green from grass. His hair, freshly wet and combed,

was smoothed away from his face, and shone in the light of the

kerosene lamp. As he ate, he stared at Howard, as if he would

make an inventory of each thread of the visitor's clothing.



"Did I look like that at his age?" thought Howard.



"You see we live jest about the same's ever," said Grant as they

began eating, speaking with a grim, almost challenging inflection.



The two brothers studied each other curiously, as they talked of

neighborhood scenes. Howard seemed incredibly elegant and

handsome to them all, with his rich, soft clothing, his spotless

linen, and his exquisite enunciation and ease of speech. He had

always been "smooth-spoken," and he had become "elegantly

persuasive," as his friends said of him, and it was a large factor in

his success.



Every detail of the kitchen, the heat, the flies buzzing aloft, the

poor furniture, the dress of the people-all smote him like the lash

of a wire whip. His brother was a man of great character. He could

see that now. His deep-set, gray eyes and rugged face showed at

thirty a man of great natural ability. He had more of the Scotch in

his face than Howard, and he looked much older.



He was dressed, like the old man and the boy, in a checked shirt

without vest. His suspenders, once gay-colored, had given most of

their color to his shirt, and had marked irregular broad bands of

pink and brown and green over his shoulders. His hair was

uncombed, merely pushed away from his face. He wore a

mustache only, though his face was covered with a week's growth

of beard. His face was rather gaunt and was brown as leather.



Howard could not eat much. He was disturbed by his mother's

strange silence and oppression, and sickened by the long-drawn

gasps with. which the old man ate his bread and milk, and by the

way the boy ate. He had his knife gripped tightly in his fist,

knuckles up, and was scooping honey upon his bread.



The baby, having ceased to be afraid, was curious, gazing silently

at the stranger.



"Hello, little one! Come and see your uncle. Eh? 'Course 'e will,"

cooed Howard in the attempt to escape the depressing atmosphere.

The little one listened to his inflections as a kitten does, and at last

lifted its arms in sign of surrender.



The mother's face cleared up a little. "I declare, she wants to go to

you."



"'Course she does. Dogs and kittens always come to me when I call

'em. Why shouldn't my own niece come?"



He took the little one and began walking up and down the kitchen

with her, while she pulled at his beard and nose. "I ought to have

you, my lady, in my new comedy. You'd bring down the house."



"You don't mean to say you put babies on the stage, Howard," said

his mother in surprise.



"Oh, yes. Domestic comedy must have a baby these days."



"Well, that's another way of makin' a livin', sure," said Grant. The

baby had cleared the atmosphere a little. "I s'pose you fellers make

a pile of money."



"Sometimes we make a thousand a week; oftener we don't."



"A thousand dollars!" They all stared.



"A thousand dollars sometimes, and then lose it all the next week

in another town. The dramatic business is a good deal like

gambling-you take your chances."



"I wish you weren't in it, Howard. I don't like to have my son-"



"I wish I was in somethin' that paid better'n farmin'. Anything

under God's heavens is better'n farmin'," said Grant.



"No, I ain't laid up much," Howard went on, as if explaining why

he hadn't helped them. "Costs me a good deal to live, and I need

about ten thousand dollars lee-way to work on. I've made a good

living, but I-I ain't made any money."



Grant looked at him, darkly meditative.



Howard went on:



"How'd ye come to sell the old farm? I was in hopes-"



"How'd we come to sell it?" said Grant with terrible bitterness.

"We had something on it that didn't leave anything to sell. You

probably don't remember anything about it, but there was a

mortgage on it that eat us up in just four years by the almanac.

'Most killed Mother to leave it. We wrote to you for money, but I

don't s'pose you remember that."



"No, you didn't."



"Yes, I did."



"When was it? I don't-why, it's-I never received it. It must have

been that summer I went with Rob Mannmg to Europe." Howard

put the baby down and faced his brother. "Why, Grant, you didn't

think I refused to help?"



"Well, it locked that way. We never heard a word from yeh all

summer, and when y' did write, it was all about yerself 'n plays 'n

things we didn't know anything about. I swore to God I'd never

write to you again, and I won't."



"But, good heavens! I never got it."



"Suppose you didn't. You might of known we were poor as Job's

off-ox. Everybody is that earns a living. We fellers on the farm

have to earn a livin' for ourselves and you fellers that don't work. I

don't blame yeh. I'd do it if I could."



"Grant, don't talk so! Howard didn't realize-"



"I tell yeh I don't blame 'im. Only I don't want him to come the

brotherly business over me, after livin' as he has-that's all." There

was a bitter accusation in the man's voice.



Howard leaped to his feet, his face twitching. "By God, I'll go back

tomorrow morning!" he threatened.



"Go, an' be damned! I don't care what yeh do," Grant growled,

rising and going out.



"Boys," called the mother, piteously, "it's terrible to see you

quarrel."



"But I'm not to blame, Mother," cried Howard in a sickness that

made him white as chalk. "The man is a savage. I came home to

help you all, not to quarrel."



"Grant's got one o' his fits on," said the young wife, speaking for

the first time. "Don't pay any attention to him. He'll be all right in

the morning."



"If it wasn't for you, Mother, I'd leave now and never see that

savage again."



He lashed himself up and down in the room, in horrible disgust

and hate of his brother and of this home in his heart. He

remembered his tender anticipations of the homecoming with a

kind of self-pity and disgust. This was his greeting!



He went to bed, to toss about on the hard, straw-filled mattress in

the stuffy little best room. Tossing, writhing under the bludgeoning

of his brother's accusing inflections, a dozen times he said, with a

half-articulate snarl:



"He can go to hell! I'll not try to do anything more for him. I don't

care if he is my brother; he has no right to jump on me like that.

On the night of my return, too. My God! he is a brute, a savage!"



He thought of the presents in his trunk and valise which he couldn't

show to him that night, after what had been said. He had intended

to have such a happy evening of it, such a tender reunion! It was to

be so bright and cheery!



In the midst of his cursings, his hot indignation, would come

visions of himself in his own modest rooms. He seemed to be

yawning and stretching in his beautiful bed, the sun shining in, his

books, foils, pictures around him, to say good morning and tempt

him to rise, while the squat little clock on the mantel struck eleven

warningly.



He could see the olive walls, the unique copper-and-crimson

arabesque frieze (his own selection), and the delicate draperies; an

open grate full of glowing coals, to temper the sea winds; and in

the midst of it, between a landscape by Enneking and an Indian in

a canoe in a canyon, by Brush, he saw a somber landscape by a

master greater than Millet, a melancholy subject, treated with

pitiless fidelity.



A farm in the valley! Over the mountains swept jagged, gray,

angry, sprawling clouds, sending a freezing, thin drizzle of rain, as

they passed, upon a man following a plow. The horses had a sullen

and weary look, and their manes and tails streamed sidewise in the

blast. The plowman clad in a ragged gray coat, with uncouth,

muddy boots upon his feet, walked with his head inclined t~ ward

the sleet, to shield his face from the cold and sting of it. The soil

rolled away, black and sticky and with a dull sheen upon it.

Nearby, a boy with tears on his cheeks was watching cattle, a dog

seated near, his back to the gale.



As he looked at this picture, his heart softened. He looked down at

the sleeve of his soft and fleecy nightshirt, at his white, rounded

arm, muscular yet fine as a woman's, and when he looked for the

picture it was gone. Then came again the assertive odor of stagnant

air, laden with camphor; he felt the springless bed under him, and

caught dimly a few soap-advertising lithographs on the walls. He

thought of his brother, in his still more in-hospitable bedroom,

disturbed by the child, condemned to rise at five o'clock and begin

another day's pitiless labor. His heart shrank and quivered, and the

tears started to his eyes.



"I forgive him, poor fellow! He's not to blame."



II



HE woke, however, with a dull, languid pulse and an oppressive

melancholy on his heart. He looked around the little room, clean

enough, but oh, how poor! how barren! Cold plaster walls, a cheap

washstand, a wash set of three pieces, with a blue band around

each; the windows, rectangular, and fitted with fantastic green

shades.



Outside he could hear the bees humming. Chickens were merrily

moving about. Cowbells far up the road were sounding irregularly.

A jay came by and yelled an insolent reveille, and Howard sat up.

He could hear nothing in the house but the rattle of pans on the

back side of the kitchen. He looked at his watch and saw it was

half-past seven. His brother was in the field by this time, after

milking, currying the horses, and eating breakfast

-had been at work two hours and a half.



He dressed himself hurriedly in a neglige shirt with a windsor

scad, light-colored, serviceable trousers with a belt, russet shoes,

and a tennis hat-a knockabout costume, he considered. His mother,

good soul, thought it a special suit put on for her benefit and

admired it through her glasses.



He kissed her with a bright smile, nodded at Laura the young wife,

and tossed the baby, all in a breath, and with the manner, as he

himself saw, of the returned captain in the war dramas of the day.



"Been to breakfast?" He frowned reproachfully. "Why didn't you

call me? I wanted to get up, just as I used to, at sunrise."



"We thought you was tired, and so we didn't-"



"Tired! Just wait till you see me help Grant pitch hay or

something. Hasn't finished his haying, has he?"



'No, I guess not. He will today if it don't rain again."



"Well, breakfast is all ready-Howard," said Laura, hesitating a little

on his name. -



"Good! I am ready for it. Bacon and eggs, as I'm a jay! Just what I

was wanting. I was saying to myself. 'Now if they'll only get bacon

and eggs and hot biscuits and honey-' Oh, say, mother, I heard the

bees humming this morning; same noise they used to make when I

was a boy, exactly. must be the same bees. Hey, you young rascal!

come here and have some breakfast with your uncle."



"I never saw her take to anyone so quick," Laura smiled. Howard

noticed her in particular for the first time. She had on a clean

calico dress and a gingham apron, and she looked strong and fresh

and handsome. Her head was intellectual, her eyes full of power.

She seemed anxious to remove the impression of her unpleasant

looks and words the night before. Indeed, it would have been hard

to resist Howard's sunny good nature.



The baby laughed and crowed. The old mother could not take her

dim eyes off the face of her son, but sat smiling at him as he ate

and rattled on. When he rose from the table at last, after eating

heartily and praising it all, he said with a smile:



"Well, now I'll just telephone down to the express and have my

trunk brought up. I've got a few little things in there you'll enjoy

seeing. But this fellow," indicating the baby, "I didn't take into

account. But never mind; Uncle Howard make that all right."



"You ain't goin' to lay it up agin Grant, be you, my son?" Mrs.

McLane faltered as they went out into the best room.



"Of course not! He didn't mean it. Now, can't you send word down

and have my trunk brought up? Or shall I have to walk down?"



"I guess I'll see somebody goin' down," said Laura.



"All right. Now for the hayfield," he smiled and went out into the

glorious morning.



The circling hills the same, yet not the same as at night. A cooler,

tenderer, more subdued cloak of color u~ on them. Far down the

valley a cool, deep, impalpable, blue mist lay, under which one

divined the river Ian, under its elms and basswoods and wild

grapevines. On the shaven slopes of the hills cattle and sheep were

feeding, their cries and bells coming to the ear with a sweet

suggestiveness. There was something immemorial in the sunny

slopes dotted with red and brown and gray cattle.



Walking toward the haymakers, Howard felt a twinge of pain and

distrust. Would he ignore it all and smile-



He stopped short. He had not seen Grant smile in so long-he

couldn't quite see him smiling. He had been cold and bitter for

years. When he came up to them, Grant was pitching on; the old

man was loading, and the boy was raking after.



"Good morning," Howard cried cheerily. The old man nodded, the

boy stared. Grant growled something, with-out looking up. These

"finical" things of saying good morning and good night are not

much practiced in such homes as Grant McLane's.



"Need some help? I'm ready to take a hand. Got on my regimentals

this morning."



Grant looked at him a moment.



"You look like it."



"Gimme a hold on that fork, and I'll show you. I'm not so soft as I

look, now you bet."



He laid hold upon the fork in Grant's hands, who r~ leased it

sullenly and stood back sneering. Howard struck the fork into the

pile in the old way, threw his left hand to the end of the polished

handle, brought it down into the hollow of his thigh, and laid out

his strength till the handle bent like a bow. "Oop she rises!" he

called laughingly, as the whole pile began slowly to rise, and

finally rolled upon the high load.



"Oh, I ain't forgot how to do it," he laughed as he looked around at

the boy, who was studying the jacket and hat with a devouring

gaze.



Grant was studying him too, but not in admiration.



"I shouldn't say you had," said the old man, tugging at the forkful.



'Mighty funny to come out here and do a little of this. But if you

had to come here and do it all the while, you wouldn't look so

white and soft in the hands," Grant said as they moved on to

another pile. "Give me that fork. You'll be spoiling your fine

clothes."



"Oh, these don't matter. They're made for this kind of thing."



"Oh, are they? I guess I'll dress in that kind of a rig. What did that

shirt cost? I need one."



"Six dollars a pair; but then it's old."



"And them pants," he pursued; "they cost six dollars, too, didn't

they?"



Howard's face darkened. He saw his brother's purpose. He resented

it. "They cost fifteen dollars, if you want to know, and the shoes

cost six-fifty. This ring on my cravat cost sixty dollars, and the suit

I had on last night cost eighty-five. My suits are made by

Breckstein, on Fifth Avenue and Twentieth Street, if you want to

patronize him," he ended brutally, spurred on by the sneer in his

brother's eyes. "I'll introduce you."



"Good idea," said Grant with a forced, mocking smile. "I need just

such a get up for haying and corn plowing. Singular I never

thought of it. Now my pants cost eighty-five cents, s'penders

fifteen, hat twenty, shoes one-fifty; stockin's I don't bother about."



He had his brother at a disadvantage, and he grew fluent and

caustic as he went on, almost changing places with Howard, who

took the rake out of the boy's hands and followed, raking up the

scatterings.



"Singular we fellers here are discontented and mulish, am't it?

Singular we don't believe your letters when you write, sayin', 'I just

about make a live of it'? Singular we think the country's goin' to

hell, we fellers, in a two dollar suit, wadin' around in the mud or

sweatin' around in the hayfield, while you fellers lay around New

York and smoke and wear good clothes and toady to millionaires?"



Howard threw down the rake and folded his arms. 'My God! you're

enough to make a man forget the same mother bore us!"



"I guess it wouldn't take much to make you forget that. You ain't

put much thought on me nor her for ten years."



The old man cackled, the boy grinned, and Howard, sick and weak

with anger and sorrow, turned away and walked down toward the

brook. He had tried once more to get near his brother and had

failed. O God! how miserably, pitiably! The hot blood gushed all

over him as he thought of the shame and disgrace of it.



He, a man associating with poets, artists, sought after by brilliant

women, accustomed to deference even from such people, to be

sneered at, outfaced, shamed, shoved aside, by a man in a stained

hickory shirt and patched overalls, and that man his brother! He

lay down on the bright grass, with the sheep all around him, and

writhed and groaned with the agony and despair of it.



And worst of all, underneath it was a consciousness that Grant was

right in distrusting him. He had neglected him; he had said, "I

guess they're getting along all right." He had put them behind him

when the invitation to spend summer on the Mediterranean or in

the Adirondacks came.



"What can I do? What can I do?" he groaned.



The sheep nibbled the grass near him, the jays called pertly,

"Shame, shame," a quail piped somewhere on the hillside, and the

brook sung a soft, soothing melody that took away at last the sharp

edge of his pain, and he sat up and gazed down the valley, bright

with the sun and apparently filled with happy and prosperous

people.



Suddenly a thought seized him. He stood up so suddenly the sheep

fled in affright. He leaped the brook, crossed the flat, and began

searching in the bushes on the hillside. "Hurrah!" he said with a

smile.



He had found an old road which he used to travel when a boy-a

road that skirted the edge of the valley, now grown up to brush, but



still passable for footmen. As he ran lightly along down the

beautiful path, under oaks and hickories, past masses of poison

ivy, under hanging grapevines, through clumps of splendid

hazelnut bushes loaded with great sticky, rough, green burrs, his

heart threw off part of its load.



How it all came back to him! How many days, when



Up The Coulee



73



the autumn sun burned the frost off the bushes, had he gathered

hazelnuts here with his boy and girl friends-Hugh and Shelley

McTurg, Rome Sawyer, Orrin McIlvaine, and the rest! What had

become of them all? How he had forgotten them!



This thought stopped him again, and he fell into a deep muse,

leaning against an oak tree and gazing into the vast fleckless space

above. The thrilling, inscrutable mystery of life fell upon him like

a blinding light. Why was he living in the crush and thunder and

mental unrest of a great city, while his companions, seemingly his

equal, in powers, were milking cows, making butter, and growing

corn and wheat in the silence and drear monotony of the farm?



His boyish sweethearts! Their names came back to his ear now

with a dull, sweet sound as of faint bells. He saw their faces, their

pink sunbonnets tipped back upon their necks, their brown ankles

flying with the swift action of the scurrying partridge. His eyes

softened; he took off his hat. The sound of the wind and the leaves

moved him almost to tears.



A woodpecker gave a shrill, high-keyed, sustained cry, "Ki, ki, ki!"

and he started from his reverie, the dapples of sun and shade

falling upon his lithe figure as he hurried on down the path.



He came at last to a field of corn that tan to the very wall of a large

weather-beaten house, the sight of which made his breathing

quicker. It was the place where he was born. The mystery of his

life began there. In the branches of those poplar and hickory trees

he had swung and sung in the rushing breeze, fearless as a squirrel

Here was the brook where, like a larger Kildee, he with Grant had

waded after crawfish, or had stolen upon some wary trout,

rough-cut pole in hand.



Seeing someone in the garden, he went down along the corn row

through the rustling ranks of green leaves. An old woman was

picking berries, a squat and shapeless figure.



"Good morning," he called cheerily.



"Morgen," she said, looklng up at him with a startled and very red

face. She was German in every line of her body.



"Ich bin Herr McLane," he said after a pause.



"So?" she replied with a questioning inflection.



"Yah; ich bin Herr Grant's bruder."



"Ach, So!" she said with a downward inflection. "Ich no spick

Inglish. No spick Inglis."



"Ich bin durstig," he said. Leaving her pans, she went with him to

the house, which was what he wanted to see.



"Ich bin hier geboren."



"Ach, so!" She recognized the little bit of sentiment, and said

some sentences m German whose general meaning was sympathy.

She took him to the cool cellar where the spring had been trained

to run into' a tank containing pans of cream and milk, she gave him

a cool draught from a large tin cup, and then at his request they

went upstairs. The house was the same, but somehow seemed cold

and empty. It was clean and sweet, but it had so little evidence of

being lived in. The old part, which was built of logs, was used as

best room, and modeled after the best rooms of the neighboring

Yankee homes, only it was emptier, without the cabinet organ and

the rag carpet and the chromoes.



The old fireplace was bricked up and plastered-the fireplace beside

which in the far-off days he had lain on winter nights, to hear his

uncles tell tales of hunting, or to hear them play the violin, great

dreaming giants that they were.



The old woman went out and left him sitting there, the center of a

swarm of memories coming and going like so many ghostly birds

and butterflies.



A curious heartache and listlessness, a nerveless mood came on

him. What was it worth, anyhow-success? Struggle, strife,

trampling on someone else. His play crowding out some other poor

fellow's hope. The hawk eats the partridge, the partridge eats the

flies and bugs, the bugs eat each other, and the hawk, when he in

his turn is shot by man. So, in the world of business, the life of one

man seemed to him to be drawn from the life of another man, each

success to spring from other failures.



He was like a man from whom all motives had been withdrawn.

He was sick, sick to the heart. Oh, to be a boy again! An ignorant

baby, pleased with a block and string, with no knowledge and no

care of the great un-known! To lay his head again on his mother's

bosom and rest! To watch the flames on the hearth!



Why not? Was not that the very thing to do? To buy back the old

farm? It would cripple him a little for the next season, but he could

do it. Think of it! To see his mother back in the old home, with the

fireplace restored, the old furniture in the sitting room around her,

and fine new things in the parlor!



His spirits rose again. Grant couldn't stand out when he brought to

him a deed of the farm. Surely his debt would be canceled when he

had seen them all back in the wide old kitchen. He began to plan

and to dream. He went to the windows and looked out on the yard

to see how much it had changed.



He'd build a new barn and buy them a new carriage. His heart

glowed again, and his lips softened into their usual feminine

grace-lips a little full and falling easily into curves.



The old German woman came in at length, bringing some cakes

and a bowl of milk, smiling broadly and hospitably as she waddled

forward.



"Ach! Goot!" he said, smacking his lips over the pleasant draught.



"Wo ist ihre goot mann?" he inquired, ready for business.



III



WHEN Grant came in at noon, Mrs. McLane met him at the door

with a tender smile on her face.



"Where's Howard, Grant?"



"I don't know," he replied in a tone that implied "I don't care."



The dim eyes clouded with quick tears.



"Ain't you seen him?"



"Not since nine o'clock."



"Where d'you think he is?"



"I tell yeh I don't know. He'll take care of himself; don't worry."



He flung off his hat and plunged into the wash basin. His shirt was

wet with sweat and covered with dust of the hay and fragments of

leaves. He splashed his burning face with the water, paying no

further attention to his mother. She spoke again, very gently, in

reproof:



"Grant, why do you stand out against Howard so?"



"I don't stand out against him," he replied harshly, pausing with the

towel in his hands. His eyes were hard and piercing. "But if he

expects me to gush over his coming back, he's fooled, that's all.

He's left us to paddle our own canoe all this while, and, so far as

I'm concerned, he can leave us alone hereafter. He looked out for

his precious hide mighty well, and now he comes back here to play

big gun and pat us on the head. I don't propose to let him come that

over me."



Mrs. McLane knew too well the temper of her son to say any more,

but she inquired about Howard of the old hired man.



"He went off down the valley. He 'n' Grant had s'm words, and he

pulled out down toward the old farm. That's the last I see of 'im."



Laura took Howard's part at the table. "Pity you can't be decent,"

she said, brutally direct as usuaL "You treat Howard as if he was

a-a-I do' know what."



"wrn you let me alone?"



"No, I won't. If you think I'm going to set by an' agree to your

bullyraggin' him, you're mistaken. It's a shame! You're mad 'cause

he's succeeded and you ain't. He ain't to blame for his brains. If you

and I'd had any, we'd 'a' succeeded, too. It ain't our fault and it ain't

his; so what's the use?"



There was a look came into Grant's face that the wife knew. It

meant bitter and terrible silence. He ate his dinner without another

word.



It was beginning to cloud up. A thin, whitish, 'all-pervasive vapor

which meant rain was dimming the sky, and be forced his hands to

their utmost during the afternoon in order to get most of the down

hay in before the rain came. He was pitching hay up into the barn

when Howard came by just before one o'clock.



It was windless there. The sun fell through the white mist with

undiminished fury, and the fragrant hay sent up a breath that was

hot as an oven draught. Grant was a powerful man, and there was

something majestic in his action as he rolled the huge flakes of hay

through the door. The sweat poured from his face like rain, and he

was forced to draw his dripping sleeve across his face to clear

away the blinding sweat that poured into his eyes.



Howard stood and looked at him in silence, remembering how

often he had worked there in that furnace heat, his muscles

quivering, cold chills running over his flesh, red shadows dancing

before his eyes.



His mother met him at the door anxiously, but smiled as she saw

his pleasant face and cheerful eyes.



"You're a little late, m' son."



Howard spent most of the afternoon sitting with his mother on the

porch, or under the trees, lying sprawled out like a boy, resting at

times with sweet forgetfulness of the whole world, but feeling a

dull pain whenever he remembered the stern, silent man pitching

hay in the hot sun on the torrid side of the barn.



His mother did not say anything about the quarrel; she feared to

reopen it. She talked mainly of old times in a gentle monotone of

reminiscence, while he listened, looking up into her patient face.



The heat slowly lessened as the sun sank down toward the dun

clouds rising like a more distant and majestic line of mountains

beyond the western hills. The sound of cowbells came irregularly

to the ear, and the voices and sounds of the haying fields had a

jocund, thrilling effect on the ear of the city dweller.



He was very tender. Everything conspired to make him simple,

direct, and honest.



"Mother, if you'll only forgive me for staying away so long, I'll

surely come to see you every summer."



She had nothing to forgive. She was so glad to have him there at

her feet-her great, handsome, successful boy! She could only love

him and enjoy him every moment of the precious days. If Grant

would only reconcile himself to Howard! That was the great thorn

in her flesh.



Howard told her how he had succeeded.



"It was luck, Mother. First I met Cooke, and he introduced me to

Jake Saulsman of Chicago. Jake asked me to go to New York with

him, and-I don't know why-took a fancy to me some way. He

introduced me to a lot of the fellows in New York, and they all

helped me along. I did nothing to merit it. Everybody helps me.

Anybody can succeed in that way."



The doting mother thought it not at all strange that they all helped

him.



At the supper table Grant was gloomily silent, ignoring Howard

completely. Mrs. McLane sat and grieved silently, not daring to

say

a word in protest. Laura and the baby tried to amuse Howard, and

under cover of their talk the meal was eaten.



The boy fascinated Howard. He "sawed wood" with a rapidity and

uninterruptedness which gave alarm. He had the air of coaling up

for a long voyage.



"At that age," Howard thought, "I must have gripped my knife in

my right hand so, and poured my tea into my saucer so. I must

have buttered and bit into a huge slice of bread just so, and chewed

at it with a smacking sound in just that way. I must have gone to

the length of scooping up honey with my knife blade."



It was magically, mystically beautiful over all this squalor and toil

and bitterness, from five till seven-a moving hour. Again the

falling sun streamed in broad banners across the valleys; again the

blue mist lay far down the coulee over the river; the cattle called

from the hills in the moistening, sonorous air; the bells came in a

pleasant tangle of sound; the air pulsed with the deepening chorus

of katydids and other nocturnal singers.



Sweet and deep as the very springs of his life was all this to the

soul of the elder brother; but in the midst of it, the younger man, in

ill-smelling clothes and great boots that chafed his feet, went out

to milk the. cows-on whose legs the flies and mosquitoes

swarmed, bloated with blood-to sit by the hot side of the cow and

be lashed with her tall as she tried frantically to keep the savage

insects from eating her raw.



"The poet who writes of milking the cows does it from the

hammock, looking on," Howard soliloquized as he watched the old

man Lewis racing around the filthy yard after one of the young

heifers that had kicked over the pail in her agony with the flies and

was unwilling to stand still and be eaten alive.



"So, so! you beast!" roared the old man as he finally cornered the

shrinking, nearly frantic creature.



"Don't you want to look at the garden?" asked Mrs. McLane of

Howard; and they went out among the vegetables and berries.



The bees were coming home heavily laden and crawling slowly

into the hives. The level, red light streamed through the trees,

blazed along the grass, and lighted a few old-fashioned flowers

into

red ai~d gold flame. It was beautiful, and Howard looked at it

through his half-shut eyes as the painters do, and turned away with

a sigh at the sound of blows where the wet and grimy men were

assailing the frantic cows.



"There's Wesley with your trunk," Mrs. McLane said, recalling him

to himself.



Wesley helped him carry the trunk in and waved off thanks.



"Oh, that's all right," he said; and Howard knew the Western man

too well to press the matter of pay.



As he went in an hour later and stood by the trunk, the dull ache

came back into his heart. How he had failed! It seemed like a bitter

mockery now to show his gifts.



Grant had come in from his work, and with his feet released from

his chafing boots, in his wet shirt and milk-splashed overalls, sat at

the kitchen table reading a newspaper which he held close to a

small kerosene lamp. He paid no attention to anyone. His attitude,

Curiously like his father's, was perfectly definite to Howard. It

meant that from that time forward there were to be no words of

any sort between them. It meant that they were no longer brothers,

not even acquaintances. "How inexorable that face!" thought

Howard.



He turned sick with disgust and despair, and would have closed his

trunk without showing any of the presents, only for the childish

expectancy of his mother and Laura.



"Here's something for you, Mother," he said, assuming a cheerful

voice as he took a fold of fine silk from the trunk and held it up.

"All the way from Paris."



He laid it on his mother's lap and stooped and kissed her, and then

turned hastily away to hide the tears that came to his own eyes as

he saw her keen pleasure.



"And here's a parasol for Laura. I don't know how I came to have

that in here. And here's General Grant's autobiography for his

namesake," he said with an effort at carelessness, and waited to

hear Grant rise.



"Grant, won't you come in?" asked his mother quiveringly.



Grant did not reply nor move. Laura took the handsome volumes

out and laid them beside him on the table. He simply pushed them

to one side and went on with his reading.



Again that horrible anger swept hot as flame over Howard. He

could have cursed him. His hands shook as he handed out other

presents to his mother and Laura and the baby. He tried to joke.



"I didn't know how old the baby was, so she'll have to grow to

some of these things."



But the pleasure was all gone for him and for the rest. His heart

swelled almost to a feeling of pain as he looked at his mother.

There she sat with the presents in her lap. The shining silk came

too late for her. It threw into appalling relief her age, her poverty,

her work-weary frame. "My God!" he almost cried aloud, "how

little it would have taken to lighten her life!"



Upon this moment, when it seemed as if he could endure no more,

came the smooth voice of William McTurg:



"Hello, folkses!"



"Hello, Uncle Bill! Come in."



"That's what we came for," laughed a woman's voice.



"Is that you, Rose?" asked Laura.



"It's me-Rose," replied the laughing girl as she bounced into the

room and greeted everybody in a breathless sort of way.





"You don't mean little Rosy?"



"Big Rosy now," said William.



Howard looked at the handsome girl and smiled, saying in a nasal

sort of tone, "Wal, wal! Rosy, how you've growed since I saw

yeh!"



"Oh, look at all this purple and fine linen! Am I left out?"



Rose was a large girl of twenty-five or thereabouts, and was called

an old maid. She radiated good nature from every line of her

buxom self. Her black eyes were full of drollery, and she was on

the best of terms with Howard at once. She had been a teacher, but

that did not prevent her from assuming a peculiar directness of

speech. Of course they talked about old friends.



"Where's Rachel?" Howard inquired. Her smile faded away.



"Shellie married Orrin Mcllvaine. They're way out in Dakota.

Shellie's havin' a hard row of stumps."



There was a little silence.



"And Tommy?"



"Gone West. Most all the boys have gone West. That's the reason

there's so many old maids."



"You don't mean to say-"



"I don't need to say-I'm an old maid. Lots of the girls are."



"It don't pay to marry these days."



"Are you married?"



"Not yet." His eyes lighted up again in a humorous way.



"Not yet! That's good! That's the way old maids all talk."



"You don't mean to tell me that no young fellow comes prowling

around-"



"Oh, a young Dutchrnan or Norwegian once in a while. Nobody

that counts. Fact is, we're getting like Boston-four women to one

man; and when you consider that we're getting more particular

each year, the outlook is-well, it's dreadful!"



"It certainly is."



"Marriage is a failure these days for most of us. We can't live on

the farm, and can't get a living in the city, and there we are." She

laid her hand on his arm. "I declare, Howard, you're the same boy

you used to be. I ain't a bit afraid of you, for all your success."



"And you're the same girl? No, I can't say that. It seems to me

you've grown more than I have-I don't mean physically, I mean

mentally," he explained as he saw her smile in the defensive way a

fleshy girl has, alert to ward off a joke.



They were in the midst of talk, Howard telling one of his funny

stories, when a wagon clattered up to the door and merry voices

called loudly:



"Whoa, there, Sampson!"



"Hullo, the house!"



Rose looked at her father with a smile in her black eyes exactly

like his. They went to the door.



"Hullo! What's wanted?"



"Grant McLane live here?"



"Yup. Right here."



A moment later there came a laughing, chatting squad of women

to the door. Mrs. McLane and Laura stared at each other in

amazement. Grant went outdoors.



Rose stood at the door as if she were hostess.



"Come in, Nettie. Glad to see yeh-glad to see yeh! Mrs. Mcllvaine,

come right in! Take a seat. Make yerself to home, do! And Mrs.

Peavey! Wal, I never! This must be a surprise party. Well, I swan!

How many more o' ye air they?"



All was confusion, merriment, handshakings as Rose introduced

them in her roguish way.



"Folks, this is Mr. Howard McLane of New York. He's an actor,

but it hain't spoiled him a bit as I can see. How, this is Nettie

Mcllvaine-Wilson that was."



Howard shook hands with Nettie, a tall, plain girl with prominent

teeth.



"This is Ma Mcllvaine."



"She looks just the same," said. Howard, shaking her hand and

feeling how hard and work-worn it was.



And so amid bustle, chatter, and invitations "to lay off y'r things

an' stay awhile," the women got disposed about the room at last

Those that had rocking chairs rocked vigorously to and fro to hide

their embarrassment. They all talked in loud voices.



Howard felt nervous under this furtive scrutiny. He wished his

clothes didn't look so confoundedly dressy. Why didn't he have

sense enough to go and buy a fifteen-dollar suit of diagonals for

everyday wear.



Rose was the life of the party. Her tongue rattled on m the most

delightful way.



"It's all Rose an' Bill's doin's," Mrs. Mcllvaine explained. "They

told us to come over an' pick up anybody we see on the road. So

we did."



Howard winced a little at her familiarity of tone. He couldn't help

it for the life of him.



"Well, I wanted to come tonight because I'm going away next

week, and I wanted to see how he'd act at a surprise party again,"

Rose explained.



"Married, I s'pose," said Mrs. Mcllvaine abruptly.



"No, not yet."



"Good land! Why, y' Inns' be thirty-five, How. Must a dis'p'inted y'r

mam not to have a young 'un to call 'er granny."



The men came clumping in, talking about haying and horses.

Some of the older ones Howard knew and greeted, but the younger

ones were mainly too much changed. They were all very ill at ease.

Most of them were in compromise dress-something lying between

working "rig" and Sunday dress. Most of them had on clean shirts

and paper collars, and wore their Sunday coats (thick woolen

garments) over rough trousers. All of them crossed their legs at

once, and most of them sought the wall and leaned back

perilously~upon the hind legs of their chairs, eyeing Howard

slowly.



For the first few minutes the presents were the subjects of

conversation. The women especially spent a good deal of talk upon

them.



Howard found himself forced to taking the initiative, so he

inquired about the crops and about the farms.



"I see you don't plow the hills as we used to. And reap'. What a job

it ust to be. It makes the hills more beautiful to have them covered

with smooth grass and cattle."



There was only dead silence to this touching upon the idea of

beauty.



"I s'pose it pays reasonably."



"Not enough to kill," said one of the younger men. "You c'n see

that by the houses we live in-that is, most of us. A few that came in

early an' got land cheap, like Mcllvaine, here-he got a lift that the

rest of us can't get."



"I'm a free trader, myself," said one young fellow, blushing and

looking away as Howard turned and said cheerily:



"So'm I."



The rest semed to feel that this was a tabooed subject

-a subject to be talked out of doors, where one could prance about

and yell and do justice to it.



Grant sat silently in the kitchen doorway, not saying a word, not

looking at his. brother.



"Well, I don't never use hot vinegar for mine," Mrs. Mcllvaine was

heard to say. "I jest use hot water, an' I rinse 'em out good, and set

'em bottom-side up in the sun. I do' know but what hot vinegar

would be more cleansin'."



Rose had the younger folks in a giggle with a droll telling of a joke

on herself.



"How'd y' stop 'em from laffin'?"



"I let 'em laugh. Oh, my school is a disgrace-so one director says.

But I like to see children laugh. It broadens their cheeks."



"Yes, that's all handwork." Laura was showing the baby's Sunday

clothes.



"Goodness Peter! How do you find time to do so much?"



"I take time."



Howard, being the lion of the evening, tried his best to be

agreeable. He kept near his mother, because it afforded her so

much pride and satisfaction, and because he was obliged to keep

away from Grant, who had begun to talk to the men. Howard

tall~ed mainly about their affairs, but still was forced more and

more into talking of life in the city. As he told of the theater and

the concerts, a sudden change fell upon them; they grew sober, and

he felt deep down in the hearts of these people a melancholy

which was expressed only elusively with little tones or sighs. Their

gaiety was fitful.



They were hungry for the world, for art-these young people.

Discontented and yet hardly daring to acknowledge it; indeed, few

of them could have made definite statement of their

dissatisfaction. The older people felt it less. They practically said,

with a sigh of pathetic resignation:



"Well, I don't expect ever to see these things now.."



A casual observer would have said, "What a pleasant bucolic-this

little surprise party of welcome!" But Howard with his native ear

and eye had no such pleasing illusion. He knew too well these

suggestions of despair and bitterness. He knew that, like the smile

of the slave, this cheerfulness was self-defense; deep down was

another self.



Seeing Grant talking with a group of men over by the kitchen door,

he crossed over slowly and stood listening. Wesley Cosgrove-a

tall, rawboned young fellow with a grave, almost tragic face-was

saying:



"Of course I ain't. Who is? A man that's satisfied to live as we do is

a fool."



"The worst of it is," said Grant without seeing Howard, a man can't

get out of it during his lifetime, and l don't know that he'll have any

chance in the next-the speculator'll be there ahead of us."



The rest laughed, but Grant went on grily:



"Ten years ago Wes, here, could have got land in Dakota pretty

easy, but now it's about all a feller's life's worth to try it. I tell you

things seem shuttin' down on us fellers."



"Plenty o' land to rent?" suggested someone.



"Yes, in terms that skin a man alive. More than that, farmin' ain't

so free a life as it used to be. This cattle-raisin' and butter-makin'

makes a nigger of a man. Binds him right down to the grindstone,

and he gets nothin' out of it-that's what rubs it in. He simply

wallers around in the manure for somebody else. I'd like to know

what a man's life is worth who lives as we do? How much higher is

it than the lives the niggers used to live?"



These brutally bald words made Howard thrill witb emotion like

some great tragic poem. A silence fell on the group.



"That's the God's truth, Grant," said young Cosgrove after a pause.



"A man like me is helpless," Grant was saying. "Just like a fly in a

pan of molasses. There ain't any escape for him. The more he tears

around, the more liable he is to rip his legs off."



"What can he do?"



The men listened in silence.



"Oh, come, don't talk politics all night!" cried Rose, breaking in.

"Come, let's have a dance. Where's that fiddle?"



"Fiddle!" cried Howard, glad of a chance to laugh. "Well, now!

Bring out that fiddle. Is it William's?"



"Yes, Pap's old fiddle."



"Oh, gosh! he don't want to hear me play," pr~ tested William.

"He's heard s' many fiddlers."



"Fiddlers! I've heard a thousand violinists, but not fiddlers. Come,

give us 'Honest John.'"



William took the fiddle in his work-calloused and crooked hands

and began tuning it. The group at the kitchen door turned to listen,

their faces lighting up a little. Rose tried to get a set on the floor.



"Oh, good land!" said some. "We're all tuckered out. What makes

you so anxious?"



"She wants a chance to dance with the New Yorker."



"That's it exactly," Rose admitted.



"Wal, if you'd churned and mopped and cooked for hayin' hands as

I have today, you wouldn't be so full o' nonsense."



"Oh, bother! Life's short. Come quick, get Bettie out. Come, Wes,

never mind your hobbyhorse."



By incredible exertion she got a set on the floor, and William got

the fiddle in tune. Howard looked across at Wesley, and thought

the change in him splendidly dramatic. His face had lighted up into

a kind of deprecating, boyish smile. Rose could do anything with

him.



William played some of the old tunes that had a thou-sand

associated memories in Howard's brain, memories of harvest

moons, of melon feasts, and of clear, cold winter nights. As he

danced, his eyes filled with a tender, luminous light. He came

closer to them all than he had been able to do before. Grant had

gone out into the kitchen.



After two or three sets had been danced, the company took seats

and could not be stirred again. So Laura and Rose disappeared for

a few moments, and returning, served strawberries and cream,

which she "just happened to have in the house."



And then William played again. His fingers, now grown more

supple, brought out clearer, firmer tones. As he played, silence fell

on these people. The magic of music sobered every face; the

women looked older and more careworn, the men slouched

sullenly in their chairs or leaned back against the wall.



It seemed to Howard as if the spirit of tragedy had entered this

house. Music had always been William's unconscious exp





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