« AnkstesnisTęsti »
in the past.
forty-six years old, a hardware merchant. might have sat for a picture of MethuseSharp in the shop, niggardly at home, lah. Tall, but much bent by rheumaprosaic, he had one dream-of a day when tism, he was merely skin and bone, with his wife would make them wealthy by a the slightest fringe around his bulging stage career.
skull, with even his long, frayed beard A thin, languid woman, showing traces and mandarin-like mustaches beginning to of a doll-like prettiness, at forty she still come out. His large, watery eyes, always enjoyed complete self-satisfaction. Since dilated, gave him a wildish look, which girlhood the heroine of countless amateur was not abated by his smile, resembling a theatricals, she had not yet abandoned grimace of pain, so little, apparently, had Juliet and Ophelia to the next generation. he found cause to use his laughing muscles Her ash-blonde hair, indeed, recommended her as the ideal ingénue. She pleased no At one time or another he had studied less in velvets, than in rags so long as an medicine and law, taught a rural school, unhappy destiny was attached to them. edited a backwoods journal, preached theHer voice, though inaudible from the osophy. Now at last, after many false town-hall gallery, was the very organ to
starts in life, he had found his true vocaexpress best-one judged from the ap- tion. He was writing a book, "destined plause--a suffering innocence. She had to thunder down the corridors of time,” at home a scrap-book full of clippings entitled, “A Proof of the Soul's Transmifrom the "Zenasville Recorder" about her gration, by One Who Remembers His
” triumphs: the first were as yellow as saf- Previous Existences." fron from old age, while all would have A glance at the chapter-headings inbeen in tatters if poring over them could formed one that Dr. Numble had been, have worn them out.
in the thirteenth century, St. Louis of Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia, with France; in the Roman Empire, Antoninus a flaring lamp, explored the cellar for re- Pius ; in the Homeric Age, Prince Nestor ; freshments. Those cobwebby jugs, that and, in those days when Atlantis still leaped into the light all unexpectedly, stood above the waves, a monarch of inwere full of raspberry-shrub and cider. expressible magnificence and wisdom, Those crocks, left stranded on a trestle called Yama the Great. Yet it was diffiwhen the darkness ebbed from round cult to get much rhyme or reason from them, held apple-butter and pickled wal- Dr. Numble's maunderings about his prenuts. All at once, on a shelf a phalanx of vious existences; one might be hearing of jelly-glasses sprang forth glittering. And the seventh crusade, and take no more here, when one lifted away some inverted than forty winks, and wake up at the siege dish-pans, weighed down with flat-irons, of Troy! the lamp illuminated mince-pies, brown, Nevertheless, his visits pleased Mr. flaky, oozing rich syrups.
Goodchild. Names, fragments of fables, At their return to the studio, a cry classic episodes, that became dry and of pleasure sounded. Mr. Goodchild dusty at the doctor's touch, Aurelius, by darted forward to relieve his daughters aid of his imagination, made splendidly of their burdens. Mr. Inchkin, without alive again. Perhaps he was transported relinquishing the rocking-chair that he into that nebulous epoch when every tree had occupied at their departure, rubbed contained its supernatural inmate and evhis hands together. And Dr. Numble, if ery stream its murmuring voice, when the he was of the party, usually ventured, sight of brazen shields first sent the goatwith a cackle that ended in a fit of cough- legged people a-scamper into hiding, when ing:
mortals were likely to meet, in the deep “I hope you girls have picked out some- woods, personages of majestic stature and thing soft enough to suit store-teeth.” unearthly beauty-maybe a pale huntress
Dr. Numble, though only seventy-nine, with an insupportable gaze, or a tall
warrior moving like a shaft of sunlight glance grotesque in ultra-fashionable hats through the green, a proud lady and gowns, who had been photographed brushing the moss with golden robes, or on the terraces of race-tracks or the lawns another still, slow-smiling, dewy-eyed, of country clubs, among a crowd of men with a loose girdle and doves futtering fastidiously dressed.
In the same way round her hair. After the pedagogue had they became familiar with the estates of croaked good night and shuffled home- persons socially in prominence, with ward on his cane, Aurelius, pausing in the steam-yachts that bore some to far-off darkened studio, would often think: pleasures. "Poor old fellow! How little of those Then cities beyond the sea appeared in things he really sees! How I could write the zenith of their dreams, like those batof them!”
tlements that massed clouds form at sunWho knew but that he would some day
Paris was there, all roseate, and a when he found time?
sombrous London ; St. Petersburg showed Besides photography, piano-tuning, por- snowy roofs and crosses, Seville warm catrait-making, and inventing, a hundred thedral towers rising out of orangepetty tasks continually put off his leisure. groves; Athens seemed an apex of pale, When pictures had to be rehung, rugs broken pillars, and Rome a mammoth beaten, wardrobes moved, or carpets tomb of golden brown. swept, Aurelius came running at his These visions all faded presently in a daughters' call. Moreover, he had a fa- pall of coal-smoke, and the sky-line was mous eye for driving nails, could outdo filled again with soot-stained factory chima carpenter in a slap-dash job, and no burst
neys. water-pipe could squirt so far as to dismay At times, toward sundown, the girls, him. There was little household damage moved by the need at least of momentary short of that resulting from a fire or an change, penetrated into the country. The earthquake that the father could not re- harsh air was scented with an indefinite pair "for the time being."
new fragrance. The fields, though still The long struggle against shabbiness bare of verdure, had a softer look than had taught that family many stratagems. usual. Under dun-colored thickets arbuWhat solemn consultations had they not tus was in bud. held about the disguise of an old dress! All at once each felt an unaccountable With what cunning had they not ripped expectancy of joy. apart, turned, dyed, assembled in new "Spring will soon be here now!" combinations, materials of which all their “That 's right; spring will soon be here friends must have been weary! The now!” hoary furs that had started as white fox They spoke of the coming of the birds, and found their final shade as lynx ! the nest-building, the tiny eggs so deliThose hats, their pliant foundations cately tinted and bespeckled, the little weathering all kinds of winds from clover- Aedglings; but meanwhile their eyes grew scented to sleet-laden! And the inherited
wistful. They envied those feathered gewgaws, -brooches, bracelets, necklaces, passengers who sought all skies at will, -cut-jet, gold-washed, inlaid with scraps and found their mates so simply. So they of nacre, worn on gala-days for lack of fell to talking about love and lovers, for better trinkets, and with the hope that them a discussion as nearly theoretical as some one might appreciate them “as an- if concerning riches and the wealthy. tiques"!
Euphrosyne, her features set, declared : Echoes from the great world of luxury "I love children. I know I 'd make a and fashion thrilled the sisters to the good mother. Yet here I am with not a heart. They examined in metropolitan chance in sight at twenty-five. I don't journals the likenesses of women who bore think it 's the way the world was meant aristocratic names, who seemed at first
Thallie, her sky-blue eyes fixed on the just after the street-lamp had been lighted horizon, quoted with a grimace:
in the lane, a postman blew his whistle “ 'Sister Anne, Sister Anne, what do at their door. you see?' 'I see a cloud of dust'-it is the A registered letter! grocer's wagon! The days of chivalry The father spread out in bewilderment promised something better on a walk like some sheets of paper; the daughters clusthis. “As the three fair sisters wended tered round. All read the type-written their way across the moor, they descried sentences together. At first none could in the distance a glitter of armor, a com- grasp their meaning. motion of pennants. Three gentle knights, Jabez Outwall was dead. Though siSir Gawain, Sir Uwain, and Sir Lancelot lent for thirty years, he had finally outdu Lac-'"
lived his rancor. He had willed Aurelius Agiaia, lifting her pale-fringed eyelids, a fortune of a hundred thousand dollars. sent at the others a swift glance of envy Suddenly the room seemed full of as she retorted :
light. When the girls gazed at one an"Twenty and twenty-five!
other, they saw the familiar faces changed realize that I 'm almost thirty years old ? by rapture. They were rich! They were Sometimes, when I really stop to think, free! The wide world lay before them! it seems as if I can't stand it another hour. Ibsen's Nora spoke the truth when she
CHAPTER II said we all have a right to live our lives.
A SHIP OF DREAMS SETS FORTH INTO One of these days it 'll be too much for
UNKNOWN SEAS me to bear, and I 'll just up and go, as many a woman has, and found everything "Good-by, old home!" she wanted, because she was n't afraid to It was Aurelius, standing hat in hand strike out for it like a man.”
one sunny afternoon in April at the The others did not reply. Their trou- studio door, while from afar, from the bled faces confessed that they, too, had roadway before the house, came faintly dreamed at times of some such rebellion the voices of his daughters imploring him against fate.
to hurry. They returned in silence through the "Hurry!" So it had been ever since twilight. Familiar landmarks loomed Aglaia had thought of obtaining at the round them; lights twinkled ahead in Bank of Zenasville a loan on their legacy, well-known constellations. Maple Lane which the law would not deliver to them appeared, its sparse illumination diluted for a year. “Hurry!" Each day in Zenasby the evening mist, above which the ville had seemed to steal from the three homely gables seemed to hover like simu- Graces some of the freedom, the happiness, lacra of real dwellings, all ready to dis- the fame they saw at last within their solve as do the edifices that the mind reach. Amid the scramble of packing, the builds up in sleep. But at close approach excited planning, the last rounds of duties once more they proved all too real -- the suddenly grown irksome, that urgence had same old surroundings, the symbols of echoed through the house almost as if life captivity! At the gateway the sisters itself depended on the family's quick heard their father chopping wood.
exodus. Mr. Goodchild, dropping his ax upon The trunks were gone; the girls were the kitchen porch, hurried forward climbing into the surrey from the liverythrough the house to feast his eyes on stable. Youth, with the portals of the futheir freshened cheeks.
ture thrown wide open, does not pause "Home again! And a fine, bracing to look back, pensive, on the past, as did walk, I 'll warrant!"
Aurelius in this last moment at the studio They regained their smiles.
door. One evening toward the end of April, Standing there, he remembered with tenderness all his peaceful days of labor, "Don't forget, if you meet any of those all his moments of exalted hope, even all big theatrical managers in New York, if his hours of disillusion. Through many you spot a proper opening for Selinayears this homely life had seemed to him And if you need her clippings from the merely the preparation for another, finer, 'Zenasville Recorder'—" and more ample; yet now he wondered if “But in our week's stay in New York the new delights would equal those of the I shall hardly make many intimate ramshackle studio.
friends." "Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!"
"Well, then, in Europe." And with They greeted his appearance on the an accent of envy, “If Bernhardt and door-step with excited beckonings, sure those foreign actresses can come to the they would miss the train, and finding the United States !" thought of one more night in Zenasville A sound of coughing made them turn unbearable. But Aurelius, knowing there their heads. Along the station platform was time to spare, very slowly shut into Dr. Numble was approaching, shuffling that little hallway the odors of the old on his cane, his brow covered with dissofas, lambrequins, and carpets, which tended veins, his wild smile distorted by embalmed for him a remembrance reach- his exertions. ing back beyond the recollection of his "You walked all this way to see us children.
off!” At last he seated himself in the surrey,
"Heu! heu! heu! That 's nothing. beside the driver. The wheels turned, I'd forgotten to tell you—” He pulled and then, indeed, the girls looked back Aurelius forward by the coat-lapel, nodand waved their gloved hands at the shut- ded portentously, dilated his watery eyes, tered windows, but gaily, exultantly. and wheezed, “I wanted to say, you must "Good-by! Good-by!"
particularly look in, while on your travAnd the yellowish house front, the roof els, at the site of Troy. Schuchardt's with its loosened shingles, the broken book will direct you. I'd bestow it on picket-fence, were lost behind the gradual you as a parting gift, but, it seems, I sold alinement of the maple-trees.
it recently. However, think of me when They reached the suburban station, you view the Scamander still flowing, and where the express-train for New York the hot and cold springs, and the hollows was scheduled to stop. On the platform by the shore where we made our camp. Ira and Selina Inchkin were waiting to And where we took the soldan's standard. bid them still another farewell. The But, no; that was when I was St. Louis small hardware merchant, stiff-backed and of France.” And staring before him vasolemn, presented self-consciously a box of cantly, he muttered in despondent tones, candy from the chemist's shop, tied with "If I, like you, could see those places in a tinsel cord. His wife had brought a this incarnation ! Perhaps my magnum bunch of jonquils, which she apportioned opus would be the fuller for it. Perhaps nervously among the girls.
I could remember better.” She wore the gray silk dress, inde- "And maybe," Selina Inchkin was murstructible, apparently, that she always muring, "we see you now for the last donned for ceremonial occasions, that time? You 'll find so many more interlent to her thin figure the peculiarity of esting spots off there.” She made the gesa past decade. Her hat-a home-made ture of Cordelia expressing a pathetic confection, also frankly out of style-did resignation. “Anyway, Frossie must send not shade the fact that Juliet by her me every book she writes, and Thallie the would never recreate suggestions of a girl- notices of each picture she shows in the ish love. But Ira Inchkin, tiptoe in his Salon, and Aglaia the clippings about all baggy business suit, was whispering ear
her débuts in grand opera.” nestly in Mr. Goodchild's ear:
“Of course we'll write you many, many letters!” Thallie protested, her eyes neath Aowerlike electric lamps, by a suave moist, filled with pity for these poor mulatto in a white-duck coat. They ate friends who had to end their lives in Ze- little; they talked in monosyllables; they nasville.
were awed by this passage from one world "Of course,
course," Euphrosyne assented into another. But at the end of their requietly.
past the same thought suddenly occurred Aglaia, though smiling sympathetically, to all-how amazed their neighbors
promised nothing. She reached out her would be if each of them, from force of slender hand to fasten three buttons on habit, caught up some plates and started the back of Thallie's waist. One came for the kitchen. So, after all, they ended
. loose in her fingers; she put it in her their evening meal, as usual, with a good purse.
laugh. A stir ran along the platform; a faint Again in their seats, staring out through quivering disturbed the air; one saw the the black window-panes, the sisters wonNew York express, the engine rapidly ex- dered what fate was preparing for them panding beneath a ball of thick, white far off in the darkness, beyond the unsmoke that mushroomed like the vapors traveled leagues of land and sea. In what of a volcano. The train rushed past, , form, after what adventures, would reroaring, as if it were not going to stop at nown and love appear to them? But all! But at last the long cars rumbled to fate allowed their souls no clearer vision a standstill; brakemen descended from than the night allowed their eyes: the futhe vestibules; ahead, the familiar, bat- ture still benevolently veiled both their imtered trunks, the heirlooms, which had pending griefs and joys. That night one not been used for thirty years, disappeared and all lay long awake, the tremor of the into the baggage-car.
speeding train matched by the persistent And now the fumbling handclasps, the agitation of their nerves. kisses falling amiss, the haphazard, inco- Next morning Euphrosyne promptly herent farewell of persons bewildered by raised the window-shade beside her pila strange activity. The four adventurers low. The early sunshine revealed a city's crowded the vestibule of their car, which suburbs, to her imagination almost for
, glided faster, faster, faster. They saw eign-looking their old friends dwindling, Mr. Inchkin “Girls!” waving his conservative farewell, Selina In the upper berth Aglaia stirred; bewildly Auttering a handkerchief, Dr. side Frossie, Thalia woke with a low Numble leaning forward on his cane,
gasp. grimace no longer even vaguely sugges- ‘Are we wrecked ?” tive of a sinile. Some sheds whirled past, "Smashed into splinters, Goosey ! then cottages, then fields, and Zenasville Look!” was gone.
Cheek by cheek, their faces Alushed by In the sleeping-car, surrounded by sleep, their thick braids hanging down plush upholstery and glistening woods about their necks, the two sisters peered that seemed to prefigure the luxurious fu- out the window at the passing streets. ture, the Goodchild family gazed at one
"If it should be New York already!" another with startled eyes.
"Then where are the sky-scrapers?”' “So we 're off !”
“There." "To think we 're really off at last!" "Bah! Only eight stories high?"
Amid their incredulity there lurked a "Oh, the dear little marble door-steps sort of apprehension, as if this good for- all in a row!” tune were beyond their just deserts, and "It 's Philadelphia," announced Eucould not last.
phrosyne. Dinner-time came round. They went But two hours later they were in New in to a meal of several courses, served, be- York. A taxicab bore them recklessly