THE ROMANCE OF A MAN ON FOOT
By Holman Day
IN THE DUST OF THE LONG HIGHWAY
The man who called himself Walker Farr plodded down the dusty stretches of a country road.
He moved leisurely. He neither slouched like a vagabond nor did he swing with a stride which indicated that he had aim in life or destination in mind. When he came under arching elms he plucked his worn cap from his head and stuffed it into a coat pocket which already bulged bulkily against his flank. He gazed to right and left upon the glories of a sun-bathed June morning and strolled bareheaded along the aisle of a temple of the great Out-of-Doors.
He was young and stalwart and sunburnt.
A big, gray automobile squawked curt warning behind him and then swept past and on its way, kicking dust upon him from its whirring wheels.
He gave the car only an indifferent glance, but, as he walked on, he was conscious that out of the blur of impressions the memory of a girl's profile lingered.
A farmer-man who had come to the end of a row in a field near the highway fence leaned on his hoe-handle and squinted against the sun at the face of the passer-by. Then the farmer shifted his gaze to the stranger's clothing and scowled. The face was the countenance of a man who was somebody; the clothing was the road-worn garb of a vagrant.
"Here, you!" called the farmer.
"I hear you," said the man who called himself Walker Farr, smiling and putting subtle insolence into the smile.
"Do you want a job?"
"Have you got a job?"
"What is it?"
"Chopping down well-holes that have been turned inside out by a cyclone."
The man in the highway flashed a wonderful smile at the farmer and passed on. The farmer blinked and then he scowled more savagely. He climbed the fence and followed, carrying his hoe.
"Look here, you! There ain't no such business."
"Send for me next time you have a well turned wrong side out and I'll prove it."
"You're a tramp."
Farr sauntered on.
"You're a tramp, and here's what we are doing to tramps in this county right now!"
Beyond them in the highway men were delving with shovels and hacking with mattocks. The men wore blue drilling overalls, obtrusively new, and their faces were pasty pale.
"We have taken 'em out of jail and put 'em doing honest work," said the farmer. He pointed to guards who were marching to and fro with rifles in the hook of their arms. "Here's where you belong. I'm a constable of this town. I arrest you."
The young man halted. His smile became provokingly compassionate as he stared down at the nickel badge the farmer was tapping.
"So you represent the law, do you?" inquired Farr.
"It's too bad you don't know more about the law, then. I have neither solicited alms, trespassed on private property, begged food, nor committed crime in your little kingdom, my good and great three-tailed bashaw. Here is a coin to clear the law." He exhibited a silver piece. "I am sorry I cannot remain here and help you mend your ways—they seem to need it!"
He went on past the sullen gang of pick and shovel, treading the middle of the broad turnpike.
"Ain't that a tramp?" asked one of the guards.
"I don't know what he is," confessed the farmer.
The man who called himself Farr turned a corner and came upon the same automobile which had overtaken and passed him, contemptuously kicking its dust over him, a few minutes before he arrived at the farmer's fence.
A rear tire was flat and a young man who was smartly attired in gray was smacking gloved hands together and cursing the lumps of a jail-bird-built road and the guilty negligence of a garage-man who had forgotten to put a lift-jack back into the kit. Two women stood beside the car and looked upon the young man's helplessness.
"Enter tortoise, second scene of the ancient drama, 'The Tortoise and the Hare,'" Walter Farr informed himself.
His amused brown eyes noted the young man was obviously flabby.
"Here, you! Help me prop up this axle," commanded the charioteer.
"You do not need help," suggested Farr. "You need somebody who can do the whole job."
The glance he gave the young man, up and down, conveyed his full meaning.
"Well, I must say that's saucy talk from a hobo," declared one of the women.
"Mother!" warned the third member of the party.
Farr turned his cynical gaze from the older woman to the younger—from the bleached hair and rouged lips to a fresh, pure, and vivid loveliness. He saw her profile once more.
"No one has remembered to say 'please' yet," the girl informed him, meeting his gaze. "I say it, sir!"
He bowed and went straight to the roadside and picked up a bit of plank on which his searching eyes rested.
He gave it into the gloved hands of the car's owner, he slipped off his own sun-faded coat and rolled the sleeves of his flannel shirt above his elbows, and then, with shoulder thrusting up; and arms straining, he heaved the car high enough so that the flabby gentleman could set the prop under the axle. And when the gentleman began to dust his gloves and to search for spots on his gray immaculateness, Farr dug tools from the box and proceeded to the work of replacing the tire.
The girl stood near him and regarded him with interest. He looked up when he had the opportunity and found her eyes studying him. She was entirely frank in her gaze. There was nothing in her eyes except the earnestness of a scrutiny which was satisfying curiosity.
When the work was done the owner offered money.
Farr refused with curt decisiveness.
"Well, have a drink?" invited the debtor.
"I do not use liquor."
The autoist emptied his cigar-case into his hand and offered the cigars to Farr, who had just tugged on his coat.
"I do not smoke, sir."
It was not declination with humility; the manner of the man of the road contained a hint that anybody who drank or smoked was no better than he should be. The girl studied him with renewed interest.
"Don't stand there and try to put anything over on me," advised the man in gray, showing resentment. "What can I do for you?"
"You might thank the man, Richard," declared the girl, tartly. She turned to Farr.
"He seems to have forgotten 'thank you' as he forgot 'please.' May I make amends? We thank you!"
"And now I am in your debt," said the rover. He bowed and walked on.
When the car passed him the girl turned and gave him a long look. He waved his hand. The dust-cloud closed in between them.
"Kat Kilgour! That's a tramp! I'm amazed!" said the elder woman, observing the look and the salute.
"Yes, this world is full of surprises," agreed the girl, sweetly.
"But your own eyes told you that he was a tramp."
"There isn't any doubt of it, is there, if you used your eyes?" demanded their escort.
"We'll consider that the eyes have it—and let the matter drop," said the girl—and her tone was not sweet.
The man of the keen brown eyes and the faded garb fared on.
He plucked a rose from a wayside bush and carried the flower in his hand.
"Your sister just passed this way," he informed the rose in whimsical fashion. "I don't suppose you and I will ever catch up with her. I go very slowly, but you may journey along with me."
A HOME-MADE KNIGHT-ERRANT
The wayfarer who called himself Farr came down the long hill and turned the corner of the highway where the alders crowded to the banks of the narrow brook; they whispered to one another as the breeze fluttered their leaves. He drank there, bending and scooping the water in his palm. He bathed the rose and stroked its wilted petals.
"Too bad, little one!" he said. "The long road is a killing proposition, and I'm afraid I had no business inviting you to go with me. Your sister must be a long way ahead of us."
The rocks were cool where the alders cast shade, and he sat there for a little while, watching the drift of tiny flotsam down the eddying current and observing the skipper-bugs skating over the still shallows on their spraddled legs.
There was a pleasant hush all about. The bubbling ecstasy of a bobolink floated above the grasses of a meadow, and near at hand a wren hopped about in the alders and chirped dozy notes. Peace and restfulness brooded. The man at the brook leaned low and thrust his head into the water and then rose and shook the drops from his thick thatch of brown hair. He did it with a sort of canine wriggle and smiled at the thought which came to him.
"A stray dog!" he muttered. "Of as much account—and he'd better forget the sister of the rose. Here's a good place to put imagination to sleep—here's a place where all is asleep."
He went on around the curtain of the alders.
There was a big old-fashioned house near at hand. Its walls were weather-worn, its yard was not tidy. The faded curtains at the windows hung crookedly. The glass of the panes was dirty. The entire aspect of the place indicated that there was no woman's hand to make it home. It was commonplace and uninteresting.
But the front door was flung open suddenly with a screech of rusty hinges.
Then came backing out of the doorway a very old man—a bent and wrinkled old man with long white hair which trailed down from under a broad-brimmed hat. He was dragging a coffin, single-handed. The free end of the solemn box bumped down the wooden steps with a hollow clatter that suggested emptiness. There was a woodpile at one side of the yard. The old man tugged the casket over the litter of chips and dropped the end. He wrenched an ax from its cleft in a chopping-block and caved in the top of the coffin with the first blow.
The man Farr, observing from the road, saw that the casket was empty. The old man continued to bash and batter.
The wayfarer, before the destruction was begun, had time to note that the coffin was a remarkably fine specimen of cabinet-maker's work. There were various sorts of wood inlaid with care, and the fretwork along its sides had been jig-sawed with much pains spent in detail, and the pilasters were turned with art. But the old man battered at all this excellence with savageness. It was evident that he was not merely providing kindling-wood—he was expending fury.
It was an affair that demanded undivided attention from the observer in the road; but a man came around the corner of the house just then and Farr promptly gave over his interest in the aged chopper.
The new arrival was clothed cap-a-pie in armor.
He stood quietly at a little distance and gazed from under his vizor on the energetic old man at the woodpile.
Farr noted that the armor was obviously home-made. The helmet, though burnished and adorned with a horse's tail, had the unmistakable outlines of a copper kettle. The cuirass could not disguise its obligation to certain parts of an air-tight stove. But the ensemble was peculiarly striking and the man in the road took a quick glance around at the New England landscape in order to assure himself that he was still where he supposed he was.
Farr went to the fence and folded his arms on the top.
The old man, resting a moment, seemed to feel that intent regard from behind and, without turning his body, hooked his narrow and bony chin over his shoulder and swapped a long stare with the stranger.
"Well," inquired the venerable chopper, "what is on thy mind, sir?" His tone was sour.
"Seeing that the question is direct and remembering that age deserves the truth, I'll say that I was thinking that this seems to be an ideal location for a private lunatic-asylum, and that guests are allowed to enjoy themselves."
"I will have thee to understand that I have sat for thirty long years at the head of the Friends' meeting in this town and never has it been said that my wits are cracked. Furthermore, this is none of thy affair. Move on."
Farr merely shifted his feet and took an easier pose at the fence.
"Feeling as I do, it will not trouble me much to come over there and take a chop or two at thee," warned the old man.
"I didn't know that Quakers ever allowed their feelings to get so highly spiced."
"Along with thee, tramp!"
"You see, my dear sir," drawled the man in the road, "I am out in search of peace of mind. If I should go on my way without understanding what this means my itching curiosity would never allow me another good night's sleep. A word from you to soothe curiosity, and then I go!"
"Thee has seen me knocking into pieces a coffin. Is there anything strange in seeing me knock into pieces a coffin I have made with my own hands?"
"No, sir. That is quite within your rights. But why? From what little I saw of it it seemed to me to be a mighty fine piece of work."
"It was," stated the old man, a bit mollified. "Walnut with bird's-eye maple inlaid."
"May I ask if it was made for anybody who died lately?"
"I made it for myself—I have had it by me for twenty years! Seeing that thee must stick thy nose into my business!" His tone was pettish and he stooped down and began to toss splinters and broken boards upon the woodpile.
"Then I suppose it was—er—sort of out of date," suggested Farr, blandly.
"I see thee is minded to tease me—the world is full of fools." He straightened as best he could, propping hands on his hips, and divided angry gaze between the man at the fence and the armored figure. "I am not going to die—I have decided to stay alive. I have a fool on my hands."
"Father, I think thee had better choose thy words a bit better in the presence of a stranger," advised the man in armor.
"Can't thee see that he is a fool?" demanded the old man.
"I don't think I want to venture an opinion, sir. I'll simply say that your son's choice of a summer suit seems a little peculiar. But, of course, every man to his liking!"
The old man walked down to the fence. He was crooked at the waist and his legs were hooked with the curves of age, but he strode along with brisk vigor. His gaze was as sharp as a gimlet, though the puckered lids were cocked over his eyes with the effect of little tents whose flaps were partly closed. He put his face close to Farr's.
"Thee is as cheeky as a crow and as prying as a magpie and I venture to say thee is a roving scamp. But I may as well talk to thee as to anybody."
With armor rattling and squeaking, the son started toward them.
"I do not care to have thee talk about me, father," he warned.
Farr noted that the son had eyes as keen and as gray as those of the elder. The armored citizen was sturdy and of middle age and the face under the vizor revealed intelligence and self-possession.
The father paid no heed to the son.
"Has thee traveled around the world much?"
"Thee has met many men?"
"Many and of all sorts and conditions."
"Then I want to ask thee what thee thinks of the good wit of a man who declares that he will go forth into the world, faring here and there, to try to do good to all men, to try to settle the troubles between men, free of all price?"
Farr turned gaze from the father to the earnest countenance of the son, and then stared again into the searching eyes of the old man. Prolonged and embarrassed silence followed.
"Thy looks speak louder than words," declared the father. "Thy eyes say it—he is a fool."
"It may be as well not to say so with thy tongue," advised the son. "I might not be as patient with a stranger as I am with my father. He is wholly practical, without imagination, and so I excuse him."
"I offer no comments," said Walker Farr with a frank smile which won an answering flicker from the face under the vizor. "I do not understand."
"I would not expect a vagabond to understand anything or to be brave enough to say what he thinks," piped the father. He turned on his son. "Here's a scalawag of a tramp. Go along with him and be another such."
"I may be a peripatetic philosopher, for all you know," said Farr, teasingly. "There are knights in fustian as well as knights in armor."
"I think thee is of more account than thy clothing indicates," stated the son, regarding the stranger keenly. "And thee carries a rose in thy hand. Little things tell much."
Farr put the flower into his pocket. "Don't fool yourself about me," he said, roughly.
"Thy speech has betrayed thee," insisted the other.
"I have met crib-crackers who were college men—and pocket dictionaries are cheap. And so good day to you, gentlemen."
"Wait one moment!" appealed the man in armor. His face softened when he approached his father.
"We have talked much and there is no more to say to each other now. I have served here patiently many years. If I leave thee for a little while there is old Ben to wait and tend. And I will come back after I have done my duty."
"I will stay alive so that I can bail thee out of prison," his father informed him, sourly. "Go on, thou fool; learn thy lesson! The world is all right as it is; it will cuff the ears of meddlers. But go on!"
"I would rather thee would show another spirit at parting—but have it thy way," returned the son, with Quaker repression of all emotions. He came forth from the gate.
"I am going thy road," he informed Farr, "because all ways are alike to me. I would be pleased to talk with one who has journeyed. Thee may have good counsel for me. May I walk with thee?"
The wayfarer opened his mouth and closed it suddenly on a half-spoken and indignant refusal of this honor. He pursed his lips and his thick brows drew together in a frown. Then, as if in spite of himself, he began to smile.
"I will be no burden to thee," pleaded the home-made knight. "I have had my armor for a long time and have practised walking in it."
"But why the tin suit?" expostulated Farr.
"I will explain as we walk."
"Well, come along!" blurted the wayfarer. "Nothing more can happen to me, anyway."
"So thee has found one of thy own kind to follow about in the world?" inquired the father, tauntingly. "Feathers on the head and rattles in the hand! Cockahoops and fiddle-de-lorums! Thee'll be back soon with thy folly cured after I have bailed thee from the calaboose! Then thee'll stick to thy forge and be sensible!"
Farr noted a small shop by the roadside as they started off.
"My father is a good man, but practical—wholly practical," said his new comrade of the ways. "From my good mother I derive imagination. My life has not been happy here. But work has helped."
He pointed to the shop. Over the main door a faded, weather-worn sign advertised "Eastup Chick & Son, Blacksmiths." On the gable was a newer sign heralding "Jared Chick & Father, Inventors."
"I am Jared Chick, my friend."
He talked slowly, pausing to pick words, phrasing with the carefulness of the man of method, talking as those persons talk who have read many books and use their tongue but seldom. Farr found much quaintness in the solemn man's discourse.
"My father put my name on the sign when I was young, and it pleased me. I put his name on the other sign when he was old and it did not please him, though I have insisted that he must share in all credit which comes to me. But my father does not possess imagination. I am sorry he lost his temper to-day and broke up his coffin. Not that I approved of having it in the house all these years, but he was very proud of it. He made it soon after my mother died. I think, now that he has destroyed it, he will live many years longer. He is very strong-minded."
"I'm glad to have my suspicions confirmed," said Farr.
"He was extremely angry when his eldest brother died at eighty. He stood over him in the last moments and made us all very uncomfortable by telling Uncle Joachim that there was no need of his dying—that if he would only show a little Chick spunk he could stay alive just as well as not and would not go fushing out just when he was most needed in the Friends' meeting."
"Considering that the old fellow was eighty and probably felt like quitting, seems as if your father was rubbing it in just a little."
"Perhaps he was a mite harsh, but there is another side of it. There were only three of us left of the Friends' society to go to the old meeting-house on First Day so that it might not be said that after one hundred years we had allowed the society of the fathers to perish in our town. Thee may have noted that my father and I still use the plain language, keeping up the ways of the founders. My father sat at the head of the meeting, my Uncle Joachim was next to him on the facing seat. I am the only worshiper. I am not fitted to be a minister. My father, when Joachim died, had no one with whom to exchange the hand-shake at the end of the meeting."
"And now he's losing his congregation?"
"Yes, my friend, and so my father blames me for going, just as he blamed Uncle Joachim for dying. He has the meeting much at heart."
"What will he do for a crowd after you go away?"
"He will continue to sit at the head of the meeting, sir."
There was silence between them for some time. The blacksmith clanked on his way sturdily.
"He will still sit at the head of the meeting! Only a little fire is left there, sir, but he will not allow it to go out as long as he is alive to blow the bellows of devotion."
"Look here, Brother Chick," demanded Farr. "I don't want to be prying or impertinent, but what's your idea?"
"I'm not ashamed of anything I'm going to do. Even though it is a very strange plan, as the world would look at it, I'm not ashamed of it. A very few words will tell you: I'm going out among men and spread the gospel of mercy and forbearance, teach the lessons of peace, urge men to forgive instead of fight—showing them that courts of law are more often the devil's playground than the abode of real justice. I have worked hard, I have read many books, I have stored information in my mind, I have laid up money enough. You behold my armor—I have wrought at it patiently for a long time."
"Expect to have 'em throw things at you?"
But the blacksmith, replying, gave no sign that he resented this brusque humor.
"It is well known that it is hard to attract the attention of the world from its own affairs. For instance, if I had stood in the yard to-day, dressed as a plain man, thee would have passed on thy way—providing father had been chopping up kindling-wood instead of a coffin. If I had stopped thee and started to explain my views thee would have paid little attention to me. Isn't that so?"
"Well, then, thee have my theory and know my plan and have noted how it has worked," said Mr. Chick.
"I don't want to discourage you in a good thing, but how long do you think a policeman would let you stand on a street corner?"
"I shall find places where I can deliver my message without offending."
"There's another point—a rather delicate point to consider, Brother Chick. There are plenty of persons who are a bit dull when they are examining a man's motives, but who think they are almighty smart in detecting a man's mental failings; when somebody does anything they wouldn't do they say he's crazy."
The blacksmith turned his serene face and smiled at Farr.
"I appeal to thy good judgment, sir. Would thee, after talking with me, even if I do wear iron outside my wool garments, send me to an asylum?"
"No," acknowledged Farr, "I don't believe I would send you to an asylum."
"Thank thee! I believe thee can speak quite generally for the average man."
"But the armor scheme—it's a little risky, Friend Chick."
"But it has been the trade-mark of unselfishness ever since the days of the Crusaders," declared Mr. Chick. "Why shouldn't its significance be revived in these modern times? At any rate," he added, with Yankee shrewdness, "it's necessary to give the world quite a jump these days before it will stop, look, and listen."
"Some advertising concern will make you an offer that will pull you into camp your second day out, if you're not careful. You've certainly got a good idea of the business."
"I am sincere. I am not trifling. I have pondered on this for a long time. I shall be misjudged—but I shall not be afraid!"
The two marched on, side by side, and Walker Farr, piecing in his mind, from the scraps he had heard, the entire history of the Chick family, indulged the whim of Jared and forgot for a moment the grotesque figure presented by his companion.
"No, I am not afraid!" repeated the new apostle of world harmony.
But it became promptly apparent that Mr. Chick could not communicate his intrepidity to other creatures.
Around the bend of the road came a sleepy horse, stubbing his hoofs into the dust, dragging a wagon in which rode a farmer and his wife.
The horse became wide awake at sight of Mr. Chick.
With head up, eyes goggling, nostrils dilating, and mane erect, the animal stopped short on straddled legs. Then he snorted, whirled, took the wagon around in a circle on two wheels in spite of the farmer's endeavors, and made off in the opposite direction, the driver pulling hard on the reins, hands above his head, elbows akimbo.
"It occurs to me, Friend Chick," said his companion, after the outfit had disappeared, "that in planning this pilgrimage of yours you have failed to take everything into account. If that farmer-man and his wife pile into the ditch and break their necks, then all your general mediating in other quarters will hardly make up for the damage you have caused right here."
"The world is full of problems," sighed the man in armor. "There seems to be a hitch to about everything!"
After a few moments the farmer came pelting into sight on foot.
"What in the name of bald-headed Nicodemus do you call yourself, and what are you trying to do?" he shouted. "It's only by luck and chance and because the webbin's held that me and my wife ain't laying stiff and stark in the ditch."
"I am sorry," said friend Chick with dignity.
"Get a hoss used to bicycles, flying-machines, red whizzers and blue devils, and then along comes something else that ain't laid down in the back of the Old Farmer's Almanick! You there, the one that ain't crazy, what's this thing you're teaming round?" the farmer demanded, addressing Farr.
"In this case I am not my brother's keeper," stated the young man.
"Well, where is his keeper, then? He needs one." He walked around Chick and rudely rapped his whip-butt on the breastplate. "If I wasn't afraid of spraining a toe I'd boot you from here to hackenny, you old two-legged cook-stove!"
"If there has been damage done, I'll pay for it."
"There isn't any damage and I'm not looking for anybody's money. But there will be damage unless you get out of this highway. If you're in sight when I drive my hoss past here again I'll lick you, even if I have to use blasting-powder and a can-opener to get you out of that suit."
Jared Chick went apart into the bushes and Farr accompanied him.
"This is a rather vulgar and discouraging adventure for high ideals to run into so soon," averred the younger man.
"I am not discouraged."
"I'm afraid you'll be even more greatly misunderstood."
"I don't expect silly old horses to understand me. My appeal is to men."
Farr sniffed scornfully. "You'd better let men alone," he advised.
"The world needs pure unselfishness," insisted Chick.
"The purer it is the more it is misunderstood. I have tested the matter. I know."
"Then you yourself would not go forth into the world and do good to men, without calculation and without price?"
"I don't think I would," declared Farr, dryly. "And I am so little interested in the matter that I think you'll have to excuse me from further talk about it. You have just had one illustration in a crude way of how the world misunderstands anything that's out of the ordinary."
"Have you any advice to give me?"
"Not a word. I'm not even able to give myself sensible counsel. Good day to you!"
"Then you do not care for my company longer on the way?"
"I do not. Excuse my bluntness, but these are parlous times for wayfarers and I cannot afford to have a tin can tied to me as I go about."
"And you are absolutely selfish?" called Chick.
"I think so," replied Farr from the highway, getting into his stride. "When I see you again I expect you'll be wondering why you ever were altruistic. That will be the case, providing you wear that armor any longer."
Jared Chick from behind his bush called, appealingly, "But I fear I shall never see thee again and I have some questions to ask of thee!"
"Oh, I promise to look you up somewhere in the world. If you keep on wearing that suit it will be easy to find you."
The man in armor leaned against a tree and pondered.
"A strange young man, and callous and selfish. But there is truly something under his shell. I would relish putting some questions to him."
Then Jared Chick plunked an ash staff from a pile of hoop-poles left by a chopper and went on his way along shaded woodland paths, avoiding the main highroad. He decided that it would be better to go by the roundabout way and show himself on the streets of town instead of on a rural turnpike where countrified horses did not take kindly to a real knight-errant.
"It was a good place back there for sleeping," reflected Walker Farr, remembering the brook, singing over the stones, the whispering alders, the old-fashioned house, and the somnolent landscape. "That man who has been living there until the day of his emigration has certainly been asleep for a long time and is sleeping soundly now; he is having a wonderful dream. The nightmare will begin shortly and he will wake up."
After a time Farr came into a village, a hamlet of small houses which toed the crack of a single street. It was near the hour of noon and from the open windows of kitchens drifted scents of the dinners which the women were preparing. All the men of the place seemed to be afield; only women were in sight here and there at back doors, pinning freshly washed garments on lines, beating dust from rugs, or, seen through the windows, were bustling about the forenoon tasks set for patient household slaves in gingham.
At one back door, his back comfortably set against a folded clothes-reel, was a greasily fat tramp, gobbling a hand-out lunch which a housewife had given to him.
Under a little hill where the road dipped at the edge of the hamlet here sounded clink of steel on rock, suggesting that men labored there with trowel and drill. There was complaining creaking of cordage—the arm of a derrick sliced a slow arc across the blue sky of June.
The fat tramp held up his empty plate and whined a request and the hand of a woman emerged from a close-by window and placed something in the dish.
Farr slowed his steps and looked at the tramp, and a woman in a yard near by stared over the top of a sheet which she was pinning on the line and scowled at the new arrival.
"I wonder if I'm considered as the Damon of that Pythias?" Farr asked himself, smiling into her frown. "But Damon is nomad spelled backward! I wish I dared to ask her for a piece of that pie cooling on the sill."
Just then, over the clink of metal under the hill, above wail of straining pulley, rose the screech of a man in agony, the raucous male squall whose timbre is more hideous than the death-cry of swine.
Then came a man running from the valley under the hill.
"It's your husband, Mrs. Jose," he panted, turning in at the house where the fat tramp ate with his back against the clothes-reel. "You better go! I'll telephone for a doctor."
She ran, white-faced, gasping cries. Other women ran. The spirit of helpfulness and curiosity to know what had happened set wings on the heels of the little community. The messenger telephoned and followed them.
The fat tramp set down his plate and glanced to right and left and all about. Then he shuffled into the deserted house and after a brief stay hastened out with his pockets crammed and bearing garments in his arms; he scuttled away with sagging trot across the fields.
Farr saw him go and did not pursue.
"Yonder goes the spirit of the age," he told himself, with sardonic twisting of his lips. "When Opportunity knocks, knock Opportunity down. Embrace Opportunity, but be sure it's with the strangle hold. The directors of a robbed railroad make a more dignified getaway than that porcine pedestrian is making—but it's the same as far as the stockholders are concerned."
He went on slowly toward the hollow under the hill.
The procession met him—a limp man, moaning, borne in the arms of his sweating mates, women trotting alongside and crossing the road, to and fro, like frightened hens—clucking sympathy.
Farr found a half-finished stone bridge under the hill. A paunchy boss with underset jaw and overhanging upper lip was profanely urging his helpers back to their jobs.
"Fifteen minutes before knock-off time—fifteen minutes! You can't help that man by standing around and doing his grunting for him. Get busy!"
The men lifted their tools slowly and sullenly.
"It's hell what can happen when you're fifteen days behind on a contract, with county commissioners waiting and anxious to grab off a penalty," declared the boss, to nobody in particular. "One man bunged, and four to lug him home, and the rest of the crew taking a sympathetic vacation!"
Farr, sauntering, swung off the highway down the lane leading to the temporary bridge.
"Here, you long-horned steer, want a job?" called the contractor from his rostrum on the granite block.
"No, my Sussex shote, I do not!"
"Damnation! You dare to call me names, you hobo?"
"Yes," returned Farr, quite simply.
"Well, quit it. I need men here. You're husky. Two dollars a day, even if you're not a regular mason."
He drawled both the affirmative and the negative and there was something subtly insolent in his tone—something that aroused more ire than a cruder retort would have accomplished. He turned his back on the cursing man and went on down to the bridge. He waited there for a time and watched the drift of foam on the fretted waters. The steady burbling of the stream made him oblivious to other sounds and he did not hear the two men approach. They leaped on him and seized him. One of his captors was the paunchy man, and his hands were heavy and his fingers gripped viciously.
"No wonder you wouldn't work! You're making your living in an easier way."
"What is the occasion of this effusive welcome to your city?" asked Farr.
The man who held one of the captive's arms was panting. He had run at top speed from the house to which he and his mates had borne the injured man.
"You thief! You sneak! Eat a man's grub, his hard-earned grub, and steal when his wife's back is turned!"
"Of all dirty work this job is the worst," declared the big man.
"She gave you all you could stuff into yourself, you loafer. You ransacked when her back was turned. You even stole her husband's Sunday suit. Where is it?"
"I saw a fat tramp running away into the woods," returned Farr, quietly. "He was carrying articles in his arms."
"You're the only tramp in sight around here," insisted the contractor. "Where did you hide the plunder?"
"She said she fed a tramp. She left him at the back door. You're the sneak," indorsed the panting emissary.
"If you will take me back to the house you may get some new light on the affair," suggested their captive. "You need not drag me there. I'll go with much pleasure."
The mistress of the despoiled home, red of eyes, hurrying from her sink with a cold compress in her trembling hands, viewed Farr from her back door.
"That isn't the man. I never saw him before. Oh, he is in awful pain. Why doesn't that doctor get here? But there doesn't seem to be anything broken. He took my pocketbook, too, with two dollars and twenty-seven cents in it. And it's every cent of money we've got by us. And it may be weeks before he can go to work again. Troubles don't come singly. That mis'able, fat, greasy thief! After I had fed him—even gave him pie!"
"As I told you, gentlemen, it was a fat tramp. I saw him run away into the woods."
"If you call yourself a man why didn't you chase him?" inquired the contractor, with disgust.
"I took no interest in his affairs—no interest whatever," stated Farr, with languid tone.
"You don't care much what happens to anybody else, you hog!"
"My interest in other persons is very limited."
"You'll stand by and see one of your kind run away with the property of poor folks, will you? You meet him later and get your whack?" asked the big man.
"No," said Farr, mildly. He directed compelling gaze into the eyes of his detractor. "And you do not think so yourself."
"Perhaps not. But you're worse. You have just said it. You're a selfish renegade!"
"Peculiarly selfish, hard, and unfeeling."
"And wouldn't turn your hand over to do a good turn for anybody?"
"I don't think so."
"I'll tell you what I think I'll do—I'll detail four of my men to ride you out of this town on a rail."
"I wouldn't call them off their jobs if I were you! I overheard you say that you are short of time and men. By the way, you offered me a job. I'll take it."
The contractor blinked and hesitated.
"If after a half-day you find I'm not worth the money I'll pass on and you'll have a half-day's work free."
"Get on to the job, then."
Through the open door Farr could see the woman of the house wringing cloths at the sink.
He stepped to the door and addressed her. "Madame, will you take a boarder? I'm going to do your husband's work on the job yonder. I will pay liberally. In your present difficulties the money may help. I'll be small trouble."
"We need the money terribly," she said, after pondering. "Yes, I will take you. In the face you do not look like a tramp!"
"I thank you," said Farr. "If you will give me some food in my hands I'll take myself out of your way."
That afternoon Jared Chick came over the hill where the trowels clinked and the great derrick complained with its pulleys. He carried his armor on his back.
He stopped and watched for some time his former companion of the road, who was sweating over his man's toil.
"May I have sixty seconds off to speak with that man yonder?" Farr asked the contractor. "It partly concerns your business."
The big man nodded surly assent.
"Thee sees I have taken off the armor for a time. I will wear it in the city where horses and people are not so silly. What is thee doing here?"
"I have no time to talk about myself, Friend Chick. I want to ask you if you are still of the same mind about your mission?"
"Then throw down that hardware and come to work on this job. A man has been hurt here—his wife is in need. Earn some money and give it to them."
"But my mission concerns the world—the wide world."
"Real selfishness's chief excuse! Here's something ready to your hand. Will you do it?"
"But thee told me thee would not go forth and do good!"
"No matter about me. I am not a professional knight-errant! Will you do this?"
"Ten seconds more!" warned the boss.
"I cannot change my plans so suddenly," protested Chick.
"A knight-errant should not have plans! My time is up and I have work. Good-by, Friend Chick!"
The young man went back to his task and the Quaker passed on, muttering reaffirmation of his own high aims.
"And how could I expect a vagrant to understand?" he asked himself.
The vagrant toiled two weeks at his heavy task and when the man Jose was about again the volunteer slipped away without farewell.
He left on the table of his under-the-eaves bedroom in the Jose house all the pay he received for his work, to the last penny.
"He wasn't what he seemed to be," ran the burden of Mrs. Jose's various disquisitions on this strange guest. "He ate his vittles and asked no questions, and was out from underfoot, and was always willing to set up with my husband and give me a snippet of rest and a wink of sleep; and he read out of little books all the time—he had 'em stuffed into his pockets. And there needn't anybody tell me! He left all his pay on the table, every cent of it, and stole away without waiting for no thanks from nobody!"
FARR, THE FAT TRAMP, AND A SUIT OF CLOTHES
On a balmy forenoon a jovial-appearing old gentleman went jogging out of the mill city of Marion and along a country road in his two-wheeled chaise. He sat erect and he was tall above the average of men, and he was very neat in his attire.
"I wish," he mused, "that the men who could really appreciate a good outfit of clothing and could use the same properly were not so infernally touchy. As it is, cranky human nature drives me out on an expedition like this—and I'm afraid I am just as cranky as the rest of 'em, otherwise I wouldn't be doing this!"
The old gentleman hummed a song under his breath and slapped his reins against the flanks of the plodding horse to keep time. He came into a piece of woodland. He seemed to take cheery and fresh interest in this place. He poked his rubicund face out from the shadow of the chaise's canopy and peered to right and to left. There was a smile in his puckery eyes. When there were trees ahead of him, trees behind him, and trees all about he pulled his old horse to a standstill.
He listened, squinted quizzically through the glass of his chaise's rear curtain, and then climbed down. From a box at the rear of the vehicle he secured various articles of clothing and draped them over his arm. There was a frock-coat, not too badly worn, trousers in good repair, waistcoat, and a shirt. He also took out of the box a pair of shoes and a hat. With this load he went to the roadside and began to rig out a fence-post. When the garments were hung on it and the broad-brimmed, black, slouch-hat had been jauntily set on top of the post, anybody could see that the old gentleman was thus disposing of some of his own extra clothing. He was wearing a similar hat and a frock-coat, himself, and the decorated post took on a bizarre and slouchy resemblance to its decorator.
He went back to the chaise and found a nickel alarm-clock in the box. He wound this up carefully and propped it on a rail of the fence near the clothing.
Before he could escape from the vicinity of the exhibit and get into his chaise a wagon came rattling around the bend of the road. There were firkins and jars in the rear of this wagon and the driver was plainly a farmer-man.
He pulled up short and then saluted the old gentleman with a stab of forefinger at his hat-brim.
"Any trouble, Judge?" he inquired, affably.
"None at all," replied the old gentleman, edging away from the fully garbed fence-post.
"Airing 'em out, hey?" A jab of the forefinger toward the garments.
"No, leaving them out."
All at once the old gentleman appeared to remember something else. He took off his hat and produced a placard. He straightened it and stuck it into a crack in a fence-rail. Its legend was "Help Yourself."
"You're giving them clothes away, are you, Judge Peterson?"
"I am leaving them here for any one who chooses to take them. Do you want first pick, Jolson?"
"Not me! I ain't taking charity hand-me-downs from any man, Judge. If it's a polite question, why are you giving away your duds this way?"
"I think you have just answered that question, Jolson. I offered you these clothes. Your nose went into the air. Other men have acted in the same way in the past when I have offered to give a fellow a good suit. I don't want to hurt other folks' feelings. I don't want to have my own feelings hurt. So, let any man help himself when no one is looking."
"I'll take the alarm-clock, if you say so," volunteered Jolson. "It'll help to rout me out of bed at milking-time."
"No, you cannot have the clock, Jolson. I have tinkered it so that it will purr a little every half-hour. It will call attention to the clothes. You see, a good many men rush through life without looking to right or left, and so they miss a lot of opportunities."
Jolson clucked to his horse and rattled away down the road, muttering sour remarks.
The old gentleman, with the air of a man who has satisfied his philanthropic ambitions, climbed into his chaise and followed the farmer.
The brisk breeze flirted the tails of the frock-coat and the trousers legs tried out a modest little gig as if some of the jocose spirit of the old gentleman had remained with the garments he had discarded.
There were several passers before another half-hour had elapsed.
The trousers kicked out quite hilariously when a young couple drove by in a buggy. The girl was pretty, and companionship with her might have suited even a judge's garments. But the young man and the girl were quite absorbed in each other, and the trousers kicked and the frock-coat flirted ineffectually.
A peddler's cart passed very slowly, but the driver did not look up from a paper filled with figures.
There were others to whom the judge's garments offered themselves mutely, but no one glanced that way and the clock was discreetly silent. The breeze died down and the trousers and the coat hung with a sort of homeless, homesick, and wistful air. One might have thought they were trying to conceal themselves when the next person appeared, so still were they. He was not an inviting person—not such a new lord and master as a judge's garments might be expected to welcome.
He was grossly fat and his own trousers were lashed about his bulging waist with a frayed belt; his coat was sun-faded, a greasy Scotch cap was pulled over to one side on his head with the peak hauled down upon his ear, and he scuffed along in boots that were disreputable. Surely, a most unseemly and unwholesome character to be wrapped in the habiliments of a judge! But just then, with that cursed inappropriateness of inanimate things, the clock jangled its alarm.
The tramp—there was no mistaking that gait and that general air of the vagrant—snapped himself about, located the noise, stared at the post, and then hurried to it. He made sure that there was no one in sight. He scooped all into his arms, climbed the fence and trotted into the woods. He kept looking behind him as if he feared pursuit. It was plain from his disturbed demeanor that he was much perplexed and was chased by the uncomfortable thought that he was stealing this property. He bestowed so much attention behind him that he paid but little attention to what was ahead of him, and so he ran down into a little bowl of a valley among the trees and stopped short there, for he had come upon a man.
It was the man who called himself Walker Farr.
The man was kneeling beside a tiny fire, toasting bread on the end of a beech twig. He held the twig in one hand and an open book in the other. He looked up without changing his position when the tramp came charging down the hillside.
He had wide-open, brown eyes, this man in the hollow. The eyes were not merely wide open on account of surprise at this irruption—one could see that they were naturally that way—keenly observant eyes. He had hair as brown as his eyes; his cap was on the ground beside him.
But the tramp was not taking account of the attractions of this stranger; he was more interested in searching for flaws.
He had been frightened at first sight of the man—for the tramp had the timidity of his kind; now he began to feel cheered. This stranger in the hollow had not been shaved recently, his clothing was unkempt, his shoes bore the marks of a long hike. He was cooking in the open—plain indication of the nomad.
"Well, I say, bo," chaffed the tramp, shifting from fright to high spirit with the hysteria of weak natures. "I'm sure glad to see one of the good old sort. I didn't know what I was dropping in on when I fell down that hill. But it's all right, hey? I'm on the road. My name is Boston Fat, and my monacker is a bean-pot."
The brown eyes moved slowly from the grinning face to the garments heaped in the man's arms. They were cold and critical eyes and there was no humor in them.
"I do not do business during my lunch-hours, my man. I do not desire to change tailors just yet and I do not buy stolen property."
His chilliness did not dampen the other's good nature.
"Oh, that's all right, old top. I'm no thief. These clothes were hung on a fence-post just above here on the road. I reckon they were only waiting for first-comer."
He dropped the shoes, cocked the hat on his head, and began to fumble the garments. The placard dropped out of the folds of the coat and the man at the fire craned his neck and read aloud: "Help Yourself."
"Oh, that's what the paper says, hey? I never learned to read any of the modern languages," confided Boston Fat. "I was too much taken up with the dead ones at Harvard. Well, comrade, now you can see for yourself that I didn't steal this mess of moth-food. There was the sign right on it saying, 'Help Yourself.' It was there, even if I couldn't read it. Instinck told me them clothes was for me. I took 'em and came in here."
He shook out the garments one by one and hung them on a bush, chattering his comments. He set the ticking clock on a stump.
The man at the fire slipped a piece of meat between two slabs of toasted bread and began to eat. He still held the open book in his hand but his eyes were watching the tramp.
The vagrant was orally appraising his find, exhibiting the wisdom of one who has begged garments at back doors for the purposes of peddling them to second-hand shops.
"A moucher," observed the man at the fire. He continued aloud, evidently and sardonically exercising his vocabulary, plainly enjoying the amazement he provoked by his style of language. "The spirit of a stray cat at midnight, the tastes of the prowling hyena! The fat thief I saw running away into the woods! When such as these began to take to the road, knight-errantry vanished from the face of the earth. The varlets borrowed the grand idea of care-free itinerancy and debased it, as waiters borrow a gentleman's evening dress for their menial uniform, and drunken coachmen wear the same head-gear that a duke wears to a wedding! Why prove evolution by searching for a man with a tail? The performances of human nature must convince any thinking man that we have descended from apes!"
The astonished tramp stared for a short time at this person who employed such peculiar language—then mumbled an oath and shook his head.
He began to try on the frock-coat, paying scant attention to the other's monologue. The coat was a ludicrous misfit; it would not meet over the bulging belly; its tails dragged on the fat man's heels.
"If I happened to stand handy by when a Kansas cyclone ripped the insides out of a clothing-store only the boys' sizes would drop in the same county with me," grumbled the tramp, working his arms out of the sleeves.
"The coat was plainly built for a gentleman," stated the man at the fire. "Therefore it is of no value to you."
Boston Fat surveyed the stranger with a vicious glint in his little eyes, as a pig might stare at a man who had struck it across the snout.
"Good afternoon, perfesser," he sneered.
"Why 'professor,' my frayed and frowsled Falstaff?"
"There you go with it—showing yourself up out of your own mouth! Words a yard long—words that would break a decent man's teeth! You're one of these college dudes out on the road getting stuff to write into a book. I've heard about your kind. And that kind is getting too thick and plenty and you're putting slush all over the real profesh. Quit it and go back to college. Don't use me for your book."
This was reciprocation of derogatory sentiment with a vengeance!
The man at the fire sat back on his haunches. He finished chewing his mouthful, regarding the tramp with a languid stare that traveled from crown of his head to tip of his battered shoe.
"The only thing about a book that you would be good for," he said, "would be for use in a volume of this sort." He tapped the book in his palm. "Your anatomy could supply the binding. It is bound in pigskin."
The tramp squealed an oath in the falsetto voice that the weak and the flabby possess and took one step forward. The man at the fire came to his feet and stood erect. He was tall, and the brown eyes talked for him better than threats or bluster. The vagrant shifted his gaze from those eyes and backed away.
"If I hadn't been penned in a pie-belt jail all winter up North, and all the strength starved out of me," he whined, "you wouldn't call me a pig and get away with it."
"A person who forces himself into the presence of a gentleman who is dining mustn't expect compliments," stated the stranger.
"You ain't a tramp—not a real one," snarled Boston Fat.
Farr's eyes glistened; he smiled; he continued to play on this ignoramus his satiric pranks of mystifying language:
"More of your lack of acuteness, my fat friend. Because I do not patter the flash lingo with you, you appear to take me for a college professor in disguise. You are not a real tramp. You are a bum, a loafer, a yeg. You never traveled more than two hundred miles away from Hoboken—the capital city of hoboes. Have you ever hit the sage-brush trail, hiked the milk-and-honey route from Ogden through the Mormon country, decked the Overland Express, beaten the blind baggage on the Millionaires' Flier? Hey?"
The sullen vagrant blinked stupidly.
"Or have you made the prairie run on the truss of a Wagner freight, or thrown a stone at the Fox Train crew, or beaten the face off the Katy Shack when he tried to pitch you off a gondola-car?"
"I don't know what you're chewing about," sneered the fat man.
"Probably not, for you are not a true man of the road. You disgrace the name of nomad, you sully an ancient profession. I'll venture to say you don't know who Ishmael was."
"Who said I did?"
"Not I, because I'm not a flatterer. I am going to follow the example of the man who cast pearls before swine—I'm going to cast you a pearl from one of my own poems. You may listen. It will pass your ears, that's all. You cannot contaminate it by taking it in, so I repeat it for my own entertainment, to refresh my memory:
"Of the morrow we take no heed, no care infests the day; Some hand-out gump and a train to jump, a grip on the rods, and away! To the game of grab for gold we give no thought or care. We own with you the arch of blue—our share of God's fresh air. One coin to clear the law, a section of rubber hose. To soften the chafe of a freight-car's truss, our portion of cast-off clothes, And the big wide world is ours—a title made good by right— By mankind's deed to the nomad breed with the taint of the Ishmaelite. Some from the wastes of the sage-brush, some from the orange land, Some from God's own country, dusty and tattered and tanned. Why are we? It's idle to tell you—you'd never understand. To and fro We come and go. Old Father Ishmael's band."
He leaned back and laughed in the tramp's puzzled face.
"Well, what's the answer?" scoffed Boston Fat.
The other man talked on, humor in his eyes, plainly enjoying this verbal skylarking.
"I'm afraid I cannot waste time and breath on you in an attempt to answer the riddle of the ages, to explain the wanderlust that sent forth the tribes from the Aryan bowl of the birth of the races, my corpulent bean-pot. Your blank eyes and your flattened skull suggest a discouraging incapacity for information."
"I don't know what you're gabbing abut. But there's one thing I do know. I'll tip 'em off at the next insane-asylum I come to that I met you headed north." The tramp gathered the articles of clothing from the bushes and got down on his knees and began to fold them.
The man of the brown eyes stepped forward, laid down his little book, picked up the frock-coat and pulled it on, the fat man squealing expostulation. With serene disregard of this protest Farr buttoned the coat, smoothed it down, and then straightened his shoulders.
"You may see that it was built for a gentleman and that it fits a gentleman, friend pork-barrel."
"You shuck it off and pass it over, that's what you do," yelped the tramp. "It's my coat."
"It was perfectly apparent that it was not your coat when you tried it on."
"I tell you I found it hanging on a fence-post just above here."
"That was merely by accident, and you should have passed on and left the garments for one whose frame was fitted to wear them. You illustrate the curse of modern society. Men are so filled with the greed of getting that they grab misfits simply out of passion for possessing."
"I've stood your slurs ever since I got here, but I'll be jobeefed if I'll stand for your swiping my property."
The man of the brown eyes smiled. His whole demeanor showed that he was more than ever hugely enjoying his own verbosity—the florid language which was both maddening and mystifying the tramp.
"Further evidence of your mean nature: a gentleman resents an insult that steals away his character much more quickly than he resents an act that steals mere property. In that little book which I have just laid down Shakespeare speaks trenchantly on that matter: 'Who steals my purse steals trash . . . but he that filches from me my good name robs me . . . and makes me poor indeed.'"
The tramp gave over his work of folding, and awkwardly and cumbersomely got upon his feet.
"You take off that coat and hand it over. It's mine—I found it. I can stand a crazy man's gab, but when any one tries to do me out of what's my own I'll fight."
"May I ask what you're going to do with these garments of a gentleman which have fallen into your hands by accident?"
"I'm going to cash 'em in at the nearest second-hand shop, that's just what I'm going to do."
"Just as you sold the Sunday suit you stole from a poor man! My friend, I was insulted that day on account of you. You owe me something!"
Just then the alarm-clock purred a brief signal.
Up to that time the air of the man with the brown eyes had been that of banter, of impish desire to harry and confuse by stilted language the ignorant stranger who had come blundering upon him.
He stared at the clock, looked down upon the frock-coat, and then surveyed the other articles of clothing. He scowled as if he had suddenly begun to reflect. Seriousness smoldered in the brown eyes. That tinkling touch of metal against metal seemed to change his mood in astonishing fashion.
"Ah, it may be morning again, O my soul!" he cried with such tense feeling in his voice that the tramp surveyed him with gaping mouth and bulging eyes, as one stares at a person suddenly become mad.
"I will talk to you though you will not understand! Once upon a time the world was ruled by men who were ruled by omens. Man was then not so wise in his own conceit. His own soul was nearer the soul of things. He was not a mere gob of bumptiousness covered with the shell of cocksureness. He was willing to be informed. He sought the omens of true nature—he allowed Fate to guide him. He was not a pig running against the goad of circumstances, unheeding the upflung arms of Fortune, waving him toward the right path. He was simpler—he was truer. He felt that he was a part of nature instead of being boss of nature. Well, I have got nearer to true nature since I have been in the open. I am in contact with the soul of things. I am no longer insulated. I am not reformed, I am simply ready once again to grab Opportunity. So you think I am crazy, do you?"
"They had a gink in a padded cell in the jail where I was last winter and he didn't take on much worse'n you," stated the tramp.
"As a brainless observer you may be quite right. I may be a lunatic. I feel much like one just now. It is lunacy to go climbing back to a level in society from which I have been kicked. But as I knelt there by that little fire, before you came, yearning sprang up in me—and I had thought all that sort of yearning was dead in me. A moment later came habiliments of a gentleman, borne in the arms of a wretch who could not wear them. There came Opportunity. Then the jangle of that clock signaled Opportunity—and there was a throb in me as though my sleeping soul had rolled and blinked at the sunlight of hope and had murmured, 'It's morning again.' Such are omens, when one is ready to heed."
He set his teeth, clenched his fists, and by expression and attitude showed that he had arrived at a decision of moment. He walked close to the tramp. "I will admit, Friend Belly-brains, that you came upon Opportunity before I did this day. But tell me again, are you to make no further use of said Opportunity than to run to an old-clothes shop and exchange for a few pennies that which will help to make a man?"
"They are mine and I'm going to sell 'em," retorted the sullen vagrant.
"I am sorry because you have no wit—no power to understand. Otherwise you would gladly lay these garments in my hands and bid me Godspeed. You don't understand at all, do you?"
"Look here, are you trying to frisk me for these duds?"
"It's all a waste of breath to explain to you that Providence meant these things for me. You are not acute enough to understand close reasoning. I could not show you that, for the sake of a few coins, which would do you only that harm which would come from their value in cheap whisky or beer, you might be wrecking the future of a soul that is awake. I simply tell you that I shall keep the clothing for myself. Perhaps you can understand that plain statement!" The brown eyes became resolute and piercing. "Even if I had money I would not pay you for these garments. Money does such as you no good; it may bring you trouble. My dear Boston Fat, I cannot afford to let you prejudice my future, which, so instinct tells me, is wrapped up in those poor things of wool and warp." He snapped a finger into his palm and extended his hand. "Give me that hat and then pass on about your business."
The tramp backed away. His little blinking eyes expressed both fear and rebelliousness. More than ever did he resemble a pig at bay. The black hat, set on top of his greasy cap and topping with its respectability his disreputable general outfit, added a bizarre touch to the scene between the two men.
"You think now that you are the injured party," calmly pursued the man of the brown eyes. "You haven't intelligence enough to take my own case into account. You are injured because you are losing a few coins—but I may be injured in all that gives life its flavor if I do not grasp this opportunity." Both raillery and earnestness dropped out of his tones. He became merely matter-of-fact. "I'll make it plain. Trot along about your business, fat one, or I shall proceed to pound the face off you and then kick you a few rods on your happy way. You deserve it as a thief—I worked two weeks as a stone-mason on your account. Do you get me?"
For answer the infuriated vagrant rushed at him and kicked.
With one hand the stranger plucked the hat from the tramp's head and sailed it to a place of safety. With the other hand he grabbed the attacker's ankle before the foot hit him and with a jerk he laid the tramp on his back.
The victim fell so helplessly that the concussion knocked the breath and a groan out of him.
The man of the brown eyes had moved languidly and had talked languidly till then. When he grabbed the foot he moved with a sort of steel-trap efficiency and quickness. He promptly straddled his victim, seated himself on the protruding abdomen, and began to beat the man's face. He battered the flabby cheeks and punched his fists into the pulpy neck. He ground his knees against the fat flanks and redoubled his blows when the tramp struggled. After the squalling falsetto had implored for a long time, the assailant at last gave over the exercise.
"Are you licked?" he asked.
"Yes," whined the tramp.
"You have stolen—in most dirty style. I whipped you for that job. Now will you stay licked for some time?"
"You'll go on about your own business, will you, without any more foolish talk about those garments?"
"Are you sorry you stole from that good woman who fed you?"
The man of the brown eyes swung himself off his prostrate victim, as a rider dismounts from a horse, and the tramp sat up, moaning and patting his purple face.
"I never had no luck, never," he blubbered. "I was kicked out of jail before the weather got warmed up, I was thrown in last fall just when the Indian summer was beginning. When other fellows get hand-outs of pie I get cold potatoes and bannock bread. I have to walk when other fellows ride. I'm too fat for the trucks and they can always see me on the blind baggage. I'll keep on walking. I never had no luck in all my life."
He rolled upon his hands and knees and then stood up. He started away, wholly cowed, whining like a quill-pig, bewailing his luck.
"Luck!" the man of the brown eyes shouted after him in a tone which expressed anger and regret. "What do you know about luck, you animated lard-pail? A thing like you is in luck when he is in jail where there is no workshop. Better luck than that is too good for you. Hold on one minute! Turn around and look at me."
The tramp obeyed. The stranger pounded one of those hard fists on his own breast.
"I say look at me! No matter what I was once! But to-day you found me cooking bacon over three sticks and ready to fight for another man's cast-off clothes. And in between whiles I have hiked every path that the hobo knows between the oceans. Now jog on and think that over and keep your jaw shut on luck! I say jog on! Don't look back. Forget that you ever saw me."
He waved angry gesture and took two steps as though to enforce his command with his fists.
The tramp jogged on at a brisk pace. He hurried to the highway and set out on his shuffling pilgrimage, rubbing his aching face and muttering to himself.
THE GIRL WHO GUARDED HER LIPS
The brown eyes of the victor watched the tramp out of sight and for some moments surveyed the nick in the undergrowth where the fellow had disappeared.
There was no anger in the eyes. There had been none while their possessor had been pummeling the wretch. He had beaten the man up in a calm, methodical and perfectly business-like manner.
When at last he turned and looked at the clothing he smiled whimsically.
"The perambulating pork-barrel thinks I am crazy," he mused, looking at the frock-coat. He had stripped that garment from his shoulders and had tossed it on a bush when he had decided on combat. "If I should stop to argue the matter with myself just now I should find myself flattering his good judgment. I have robbed a poor devil for a whim. Thank God, I went at it brutally and frankly. There was no 'high finance' sneak-thieving about that job. I sent him away with his face smarting. They sent me away with my soul black-and-blue."
He gathered the garments, picked up the shoes, put the hat on top of the pile on his arm, and went farther into the woods, following the course of a tiny stream of water. This stream led him to a pool. It was tree-bordered, it was a center gem in a dim alcove in the forest, it was as secret as a private chamber. The pool was glassy, for the winds were still in the tree-tops.
The man laid down his burden. He stripped off his own well-worn coat and shirt, and secured a razor and stick of soap from the scattered articles he dumped from the coat pocket. He kneeled on the brink of the pool, leaned over and shaved himself carefully, using the glassy surface as a mirror. Then he put off his other clothing, the mean garments of a vagrant, and plunged into the pool.
When he came forth from the water and dried himself with his discarded shirt, he revealed himself to the birds whom his splashings had attracted to the branches above the pool. If the birds' twitterings were comments on his appearance, they must have been admiring comments. The man's skin was white and he was lithe and tense and muscular. Breeding showed in him as it shows in the muscles and conformation of a race-horse. When he was dried he threw down the makeshift towel and combed his shock of brown hair with his fingers. Now that the bristle of beard was off his face he looked younger.
From the pile of clothing he selected his outfit, garment by garment. The jovial humor of the judge had provided complete equipment for a man. In the breast pockets of the frock-coat there were a clean collar, a necktie, and a freshly laundered handkerchief.
By the time he had finished his dressing the pool was still and glassy once more. He flirted out the handkerchief, holding it by one corner, and swept the soft fabric around and around the crown of the black hat.
He carefully set the hat on his head and leaned over the pool and took an interested peep at himself.
"You are a fool in this matter," he informed the reflection. "And I wonder why you are determined to persist in the folly. The man Chick's tin suit cannot bring as much trouble to him as this garb of respectability may bring to you. For no man can step up to that poor Quaker and touch his shoulder and say—"
He broke off. He began to search through his discarded garments and to stow his few possessions into the pockets of his new attire.
"All folly!" ran his thoughts. "I am consumed with it all of a sudden. I have ranted to a tramp. Now I rant at myself. I am sloughing the rags that have protected me. All folly!"
His searching fingers, groping to the deepest corner of a pocket, found the crumbling fragments of a dried rose. He narrowed his eyes and surveyed it as it lay in his palm, and then made as if to toss it into the pool. But he checked the gesture. He set his chin in his hands and communed aloud with himself after the fashion of those who hold aloof from mankind:
"Folly, little sister! I may as well be truthful! Two dark eyes which gave me the first honest, unafraid, and frank gaze I've had from a maid in two years, two red lips which said 'Please' and 'Thank you'! A flash of a glance behind her which called me, even if she did not mean it as a call—and so, on I fare in a lunatic's dream. Own up! I have dreamed that some day I will see her again. And down in the depths of me stirs that impulse of the male which makes the peacock spread his feathers and silly man perk in front of a mirror. Why not give in to the sense of heredity once in a while even though it means beating up a tramp and making myself more of a mark for human eyes?"
He rolled the old clothes into a bundle and stuffed them under the roots of a tree. Then he strolled away leisurely, and when he as in the wider stretches of the wood where the light was better he pulled a small book from his pocket and read as he walked.
The volume was Sartor Resartus. His eyes happened to find this passage and he smiled as he read:
All visible things are emblems. Hence clothes, as despicable as we think them, are so unspeakably significant. Clothes, from the King's mantle downward, are emblematic not of want only but of a manifold cunning victory over want. Men are properly said to be clothed with authority, clothed with beauty, with curses and the like. It is written, the Heavens and the Earth shall fade away like a vesture; which indeed they are: the time vesture of the Eternal. Whatsoever sensibly exists, whatsoever represents spirit to spirit, is properly a clothing, a suit of raiment, put on for a season and to be laid off. Thus in this one pregnant subject of clothes, rightly understood, is included all that men have thought, dreamed, done, and been; the whole Eternal Universe and what it holds is but clothing; and the essence of all science lies in the Philosophy of Clothes.
From time to time he looked down upon himself complacently.
When he came near a glade in the wood he heard the chatter of the voices of a merry party and he saw picnickers, men and women, gathered about hampers. Automobiles were parked at a little distance, and he made a detour to avoid the scene.
He emerged upon an animated tableau of modern nymph and modish satyr in a close-by forest aisle. The girl was flushed and disheveled and was resisting a young man who had pushed aside her veil and was kissing her with ardor. She beat him back with her gloved hands and eluded him, but he caught her to him with more of rough passion than tender affection.
"We are engaged to be married," he insisted. "Why shouldn't I kiss you? Don't be a prude!"
She thrust her protesting palms against him and set her arms rigidly and held her head away, not with coyness, but with indignation and fierce rebellion.
"I love you! My God, can't you understand?" he gasped. "I can't keep my hands off you. You can't handle a man as you're trying to handle me. I must have some affection from you!"
"Richard! I'll not endure this! I am insulted!"
"My kisses an insult? I'm no ice-water lover. You set me crazy. I can't help myself."
She wrenched herself from his grasp and faced him, her face filled with outraged fury.
Farr had started to leave the scene. He stopped. The girl was the girl of the red lips and the dark eyes.
"Don't touch me!" she cried. "The only promise you have had from me, Richard, is the one my mother has fairly forced from me. I am trying honestly to like you. I will please my mother and you if I can."
"That's a devil of a thing to say to a man who loves you as I do," he declared, with anger.
"That is all I can say just now. But if you use me again as you would pull and haul a girl of the streets, I'll despise you. I give you warning."
"What sort of books have you been reading, Kate?" he asked, sarcastically. "Where did you get your idea of what love-making is? They don't sing serenades under windows these days. They don't kiss finger-tips and write mush poems. I am going to tell you a few things you ought to know, as a girl engaged to be married."
Farr stood close by them and in plain sight, but their absorption in their struggle had left them attention only for each other. He knew that if he started away while they were talking his presence would be promptly noted and undoubtedly misjudged.
He set his finger between the leaves of his book and took his hat in his hand.
"Your pardon!" he pleaded. "I stumbled here quite by accident. Please suspend conversation on private matters until I can walk out of earshot."
He stared straight into the eyes of the girl and once more received from her that frank and wondering gaze which had touched him so strangely when he had seen her first on the broad highway. His face was white under the tan. His hands trembled as he replaced his hat. In his heart he was saying farewell to her and his eyes expressed some of his emotion.
"You may take your own time, sir," said the girl. "This gentleman and I have finished our conversation." She passed Farr, looking him up and down with increasing curiosity and dawning recognition, and when her escort called to her impatiently, she caught her skirts around her and ran toward the glade where the others of the party were chattering over their hampers.
The lover started away slowly and sullenly on her trail, with only a glance at this blundering stranger.
"No, they do not sing serenades under windows any more—nor has the stone age returned with its love-making manners," remarked Farr, his lips trembling and his emotion still in his eyes. "There are some manners which ware worse, however, than knocking maidens down with clubs."
The other man snapped himself around on his heels.
"Damn you, you're that fresh hobo! I don't forget a man who shoots off low-down sneers at me. Here! You come back here! I want to ask a few questions, my man."
Farr continued on his way, opening his book.
"If I ever see you again—" blustered the lover.
"I sincerely hope that will never happen," remarked the stranger, without turning his head. "Instinct of the purely animal sort tells me that if our paths cross in this life it will be very bad for one or the other."
When Farr was in the highway he fumbled in his pocket and found the withered rose. He tossed it away among the roadside bushes.
But after he had gone on his way for some distance he retraced his steps and hunted in the bushes for a long time on his hands and knees until he found the poor little keepsake.
He put it carefully into the deepest pocket he could find in his newly acquired habiliments and trudged on down the world.
A MAN ON FOOT AND A MAN IN HIS CHARIOT
A blatant orator, haranguing passionately, attracted two new auditors.
A tall young man sauntered to the edge of the little group in the square and listened with a smile which indicated cynical half-interest.
An automobile halted on the opposite side of the group. A big man sat alone in the tonneau.
He began to scowl as he listened.
The young man continued to smile.
The big man was plainly a personality. He was cool and crisp in summer flannels—as immaculate as the accoutrements of his car.
In face and physique the young man was plainly not of that herd near which he stood.
His glance crossed that of the man in the car; he met the scowl with his smile.
Like a kiln open to the hot glare from a brassy sky or an oven where the July caloric blazed like a blast from the open mouth of a retort—such that day seemed Moosac Square in the heart of the cotton-mill city. High buildings closed in its treeless, ill-paved, dirty area. The air, made blistering by the torch of the sun, beat back and forth between the buildings in shimmering waves.
In the center of the square the blatant orator balanced himself on a stone trough which was arid and dust-choked. He harangued the group of unkempt men; sweating, blinking, apathetic men; slouchy men; men who were ticketed in attire and demeanor with all the squalid marks of idlers, vagrants, and the unemployed.
The man on the trough was of the ilk of the men who surrounded him. His face was flaming with the heat and with his vocal efforts. Perspiration streamed into his eyes, his voice was hoarse with shouting, but he had the natural eloquence of the demagogue. He was delivering the creed of the propaganda of rebellious poverty, the complaints of the dissatisfied, the demands of the idle agitators. He spiked his diatribe with threats flavored by anarchy. He pointed to policemen who had taken refuge in strips of shade which had been cast grudgingly by the high buildings. He reminded his hearers that those policemen had just driven them out of the tree-shaded parks. There the selfish rich folks were loafing under the trees. Poor folks were herded down the street and were forced to hold this meeting in that Gehenna, so he averred.
The man in the automobile muttered impatient words. Then he shouted, breaking in on the impassioned anathema which the orator addressed to the rich: "Stop lying to these men—stirring them up. The parks are for the people. You can go there—all you men can go there—if you'll go without making a disturbance."
"If men in these days open their mouths to speak for their human rights it's a disturbance," retorted the demagogue. "If we go up to the park and sit there and tremble like rabbits you rich men will let us stay there—perhaps! But we don't have as many rights there as the rabbits, for the rabbits are allowed to step on the grass."
"You've got to obey the law like other citizens—you will not be allowed to disturb decent and respectable people. You and men like you must stop putting foolish notions in the heads of loafers in this city."
"Then put something into our mouths—give us food. Why are we loafers?"
"Because you won't go to work. I'll give every able-bodied man here all the work he wants. Apply at the office of the Consolidated Water Company—now."
"What's the work?" inquired a man in the crowd.
"Digging trenches for water-pipes. How many men want that work? Hold up hands."
"It ain't work for human beings in this weather," snarled the man who had inquired. No hands were raised.
"That's your style!" blazed the big man. The policemen had sauntered into the square and their presence was reassuring. He stood up and began to lecture them.
"And them's the kind of lord dukes that's running this country to-day—own it and run it," growled a slouchy fellow who stood near the tall young man. "They ain't willing to give a poor man a show."
"He has just offered you a show—all of you," stated the young man.
"Yes, a Guinea job for white men."
"You're picking a poor excuse for being a loafer, my friend."
"Who says I'm a loafer?"
The young man shot out his hands and grasped the fellow's elbow and hand. The arm was flabby, the palm was soft. He doubled back the fingers and exhibited the palm to the crowd.
"I don't find any labor medals here, men. Is there anybody in the crowd who can show some?" He released the struggling, cursing captive.
"What's labor medals?" inquired a bystander.
The big man was still denouncing them from his car, but the group paid little attention now.
"Callous spots in the place where a working-man ought to wear them. And that place isn't on the tongue."
"Are you sneering at us because we can't get a job?"
"You're a loafer yourself, and anybody can see it," declared another.
The young man raised his arms, showing them his palms.
"I carry a few labor medals," he returned, curtly.
"Why ain't you on your job? The lord dukes won't give you one?"
"When I work and where I work is my own business, so long as I don't beg food at back doors."
They had crowded around him and menaced him with murmurings and glowering gaze.
"I should say so," he replied, giving them an indifferent going-over with his cold eyes. "You carry all the marks."
Then he shouldered his way out from among them, displaying the air of one who found further discourse unprofitable.
He strolled leisurely in the direction of the big man in the car. The crowd he had left stared after him without presuming to voice taunt or reply; there was something compelling about him.
As Farr approached the automobile its owner stopped talking and stared at the tall stranger with some apprehension. Then the big man beckoned unobtrusively to a policeman. It was evident that Farr was not of the same sort as the ruck of men from among whom he had just emerged, nevertheless he had come from among them. The lordly man in the car had observed him moving in the group, for Farr had loomed above the heads of the others; what he had been saying to the malcontents the big man had not been able to hear, but he guessed.
"Some sort of sneak has been stirring up the fools in this city lately," the aristocrat informed the officer who came promptly to the side of the car. "Who is this fellow coming?"
"I never saw him before, Colonel Dodd."
"Stand by! He is going to tackle me and make a grand-stand play in front of his gang. His clothes give him away—a loafing demagogue!"
But the tall man did not pause at the car or even glance at the dignitary who occupied it. He seemed to have lost all interest in the occasion. He yawned as he passed the automobile and started away across the square.
"Here, you! You big chap!" called Colonel Dodd, promptly emboldened.
Farr halted and turned, his countenance showing mild inquiry.
"What do you mean by coming into a peaceable city and stirring up labor troubles?"
"Have I done so?"
"You have just been mixing and mingling with those men, talking to them. I know your kind."
"Ah, a gentleman of keen discernment!"
"I have seen you before—you fellows with long-tailed coats and short-horned ideas. We don't want your kind in this city!"
"I seem to have made a prompt sensation without trying to do so," returned Farr, meekly. "I have been in your city less than fifteen minutes, sir!"
"You're a traveling labor-agitator, aren't you?"
"But I just saw you circulating among those men. Your rig-out shows your character!"
"You mean these garments I wear?"
"Certainly! A frock-coat helps out your pose before an ignorant public."
"He stole that coat from me," squeaked a fat man, standing at a little distance, scrubbing a torn sleeve over his grimy, sweat-streaked face. "He picked it fair off'n my back. I have follered him to show him up as a robber and a fake. That's so help me!"
Riotous laughter from all the listeners followed that declaration; a glance at the tubby tramp and survey of the tall young man whose contours fitted the garments made the fat man's assertion seem like a huge joke.
"I can prove it!" squalled the vagrant.
"Beat it! Get out of this city!" commanded a policeman. "If you don't we'll have you on the rock-pile. What ye mean by such guff?" He flourished his stick and the tramp hurried away.
"It's no use," he whined. "Grab and bluff! Him what can do it best always wins. That's the way the world goes!"
"When I took these clothes off the back of my vanishing friend I felt that they would make a change in my life," stated Farr, with a smile which provoked more laughter. "But I did not dream that they would bring me such prominence in so short a time." He bowed to the man in the car.
But Colonel Dodd was angry and insistent and did not join in the merriment.
"I say you are a labor-agitator. Any man who won't go to work himself has no right to be stirring up other workers against their own interests. You may as well own up to me, my man. These men standing around here know what you are—you have been talking with them. Outside of stirring trouble, you don't work, do you?"
"Oh yes, my lord!"
There was smiling mockery in the tone, almost insolence. He seemed to be willing to display to the rich man the same lack of respect he had displayed to the poor men who stood near and listened to this colloquy.
"Oh, you do?" Colonel Dodd raised his voice. "Listen sharp, my men! Do you want to be led around by the noses by a man who doesn't work? This gentleman is going to tell us what his job is!" He sneered when he said it.
"I am an assiduous toiler in my profession, your excellency. I am surprised that as an employer you do not recognize a real worker when you see one."
This tone of raillery and this stilted manner of speech promptly caught the fancy of the throng. The men crowded more closely and the orator on the trough was silent.
"What do you work at?"
"I am an architect, your gracious highness."
"Less of that insolence in the way of names, my friend! An architect, eh? Well, what did you ever build?"
"I laid out Dream Avenue in the boom city of Expectation and built on that thoroughfare a magnificent row of castles in the air. If you had a bit more imagination I might try to sell you something in my line. But it is useless, I see! Farewell!"
He swept off his broad-brimmed hat with a deep bow, backed away a few steps, and bowed again and went on his way. The crowd guffawed. This baiting of the city's labor magnate had most agreeably scratched their itching sense of resentment.
"I don't know who that josher is, but I hate to lose him out of town," confided the orator on the trough to those near him.
"I never saw that fellow before, but I'll pinch him if you say so, Colonel Dodd," volunteered the policeman. "Do you make complaint?"
"No," snapped the colonel, glowering on the broad back which was swinging across the square in retreat. He told his chauffeur to drive on.
When the car passed Farr the colonel flicked cigar ashes which alighted in a spray of dust on the sleeve of the frock-coat.
"Bah!" said the colonel, shooting the young man a scowl.
Farr gave in return a smile, but it was not a particularly genial smile.
The young man went on his way leisurely; by his gait, by his frequent and somewhat prolonged pauses at shop windows, by his indifferent starings at traffic and pedestrians, it was plain that he had little of moment on his mind.
He bought a penny glass of water at a corner kiosk.
"Do you mind telling me," he asked the vender, "Who is Colonel Dodd of this city? I am a stranger and I have just overheard the name."
The man grinned. "If it wasn't for Colonel Symonds Dodd I wouldn't be making much of a living here, selling spring-water. He is president of the Consolidated."
"And that means?"
"Why, it means that he is boss of the water trust that owns the system in this city and in all the other cities and towns of this state. And they pump all of their water out of the rivers because the lakes are so far off, and nobody drinks that water unless he has to or don't know any better. Colonel Dodd? Why, he bosses the whole state, they tell me."
"I gathered that he was important," said the young man, and walked on.
He was held up in the passing crowd at a street corner for a few moments because a parade of some half-dozen automobiles whirled past. The cars were decorated with banners, and the wild flowers and other spoil of forest and field in the arms of the ladies indicated that this was a party returning from a picnic in the suburbs.
"Would you mind telling me," asked Farr of the policeman who was guarding the corner, "who that young man is—the one there in the gray automobile?"
"With the bleached blonde and the pretty girl?" asked the officer. "Oh, that's Colonel Dodd's nephew—Dicky Dodd. Of course you know who the colonel is."
"Yes," said Farr. He opened his mouth to ask another question, for the policeman seemed to be of the obliging sort. Then he closed his lips resolutely and marched along.
"What's the use?" he muttered. "Two dark eyes and a red mouth—and I am almost forgetting how to be a philosopher."
Farther down the city thoroughfare he met one who had claimed to be a philosopher. It was Jared Chick, stalking along the sidewalk in his home-made armor. He held a box of stove-polish in one hand and a brush in the other, and as he strolled he was giving his corselet and such parts of the armor as he could handily reach a glossy coat—a gleaming and burnished surface. On his helmet in place of a crest Knight Chick bore aloft a metal banneret inscribed, "Invincible Stove Polish."
"And the mission?" asked Farr, halting his quondam companion, who had been too intent upon his business to pay heed to passers.
"I find thee changed, and no doubt thee, too, finds me changed," sighed Mr. Chick.
The mouth of an alley between high buildings afforded a retreat and the breeze blew there fitfully, and Mr. Chick stepped to that oasis of shade in the glare of sunshine.
"I have been obliged to modify my mission in some degree. I must confess that to thee," he said. "This is a strange and wicked world."
"Didn't you know it before you gave up a good blacksmith business to go out in the hot sun and suffer torment, all for nothing?"
"It is very hard work," acknowledged Chick, showing his flushed and streaming face under his vizor. "If I were not used to the fires of the forge I think I would fall down and die. But I must keep on."
"But you are simply an advertising-sign."
"I have modified my mission. I have not given up, however. I will tell thee! I found a man beside the way—a man who had been drinking strong waters and whose pockets had been turned wrong side out. So I took him to a tavern and I sat with him through the night, and nursed him when he suffered, and revealed my mission when he awoke. 'I am out to do good to all men,' I told him, and he searched through his pockets with blasphemy, and he said that I had done him—and he haled me before the court, and the judge said that no man could publicly profess such disinterestedness and escape suspicion, because people in these days are all looking for the main chance. So he did not believe me and he sentenced me to the jail. But a good Samaritan interceded for me and took me from behind the bars, and now in the spirit of gratitude I am repaying him; he makes and sells this stove-polish."
"That man is evidently shrewd in business and a good advertiser," commented Farr.
"I find that I get along much better in the world," asserted the knight-errant. "Now that I carry an advertising-sign my armor attracts no rude mobs. I can go abroad and do good to a foolish world; I can use the stipend my good benefactor allows to me for my work and I can help poor folks here and there. Therefore, I am content with my modified mission. Is thee more at peace with the world?"
"I ought to be, after hearing you say that you are contented," said Farr, with irony.
"Thee has manifestly improved thy condition, so I observe."
"It often happens in this world, Friend Chick, that the sleeker we are on the outside, the more ragged we are within. I think I'll move on. I might say something to jar your sense of sublime content. I'd be sorry to do that. Real contentment is a rare thing and must be handled very carefully."
"I fear thee loves thyself too much," chided the Quaker. "Affection for somebody might make thee happy, my friend."
Farr choked back the comment that occurred to him in regard to love and walked away.
THE RAKE WHICH GROPED IN DARK WATERS
The afternoon was waning, but the hot bowl of the sky seemed to shut down over the city more closely.
Farr held to the shaded sides of the streets, and yearned for a patch of green and a tree and its shade.
At last he came into a section of the city where vast mills, one succeeding another in rows which vanished in the distance, clacked their everlasting staccato of hurrying looms, venting clamor from the thousands of open windows. A canal of slow-moving, turbid water intersected the city and fed its quota of power to each mill. The fenced bank of the canal was green; and elms, languid in the fierce heat, gave shade here and there with wilted leaves. The masses of brick which inclosed the toilers within the mills puffed off tremulous heat-waves and suggested that humanity must be baking in those gigantic ovens.