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