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By Alice Brown
ILLUSTRATIONS BY F. C. YOHN
BARSHALL BRUCE and his workers of a degree only less humble than
wife, Janie, lived in a flat in- her own. She was affronted by the city geniously contrived to be hot summer, tired of prolonged care, and she in summer and, by a defec- could but think of a circle in an ingeniously
tive system of heating, very contrived inferno where lost spirits suffered We cold in winter. They had not only the torture of their own habitat but perched there for three years during the that of the outcry from the one below. In a weaving of their fortunes, sometimes hila- street not far away a talking machine riously intent on the uncouth advantages started on its interminable jargon, chiming of the place, overlooking, as it did, a corner in terrifying commentary with her own of life far removed from their own, except mental lamentations. She would not have in anxious work and vagueness in regard to been surprised if the talking machine had the next month's rent. That was like hay- broken suddenly into Brocken cries. ing an uncomfortable seat at a dreary real- Proofs of a modest story long ago paid istic play. Or again when the fount of hope for and the proceeds eaten up, lay on the got choked and ceased temporarily to bub- table before her, ready to be stamped and ble, they recoiled from the tawdriness of it mailed, and she knew Marshall, in the all, and wondered whether it would not front room, was poring over the last of his have been better for Marshall to keep his masterly series, a more exacting task, and professional post in the little academy, and therefore to be carried on in the fractionally for Janie to go on teaching literature under less torrid portion of the house. Janie alhim, rather than to vault the cruel barbed ways insisted that she preferred the kitchen wire into journalism, there to throw and be for her work because it seemed more seoverthrown.
cluded, and Marshall innocently agreed. On this July evening, the flat was feeling He had not even known how she had held the heat. Janie sat in the kitchen com- her breath and guarded him through the manding the court where her neighbors had year when he was getting his material for settled themselves for prolonged hours of this set of magazine articles on Elisha Porunreserved revel, challenging their own son, the bogy of all commercial circles, exjaded inner forces to counteract the atmos- ecrated by thousands who had served him pheric enemy without. They laughed loudly and then gone under when they attempted at intervals, in momentary uplift when to seek out the sources of the golden flood some one of them, Janie knew through for which they dug the channel. There was previous observation, made a foray upon a to be no overflow, they found. The drops neighboring drug store, and returned with were all to run swiftly to one hoard. So the dishes of ice cream the mind shuddered to articles, now appearing, had proved. They contemplate. She knew exactly how they were in effect an attack on Porson, his methlooked, the men coatless, the women slat- ods and his personal integrity, and through ternly in lingerie waists profusely trellised him, an onslaught upon modern business. with a “letting-in” of cheap lace, and the Marshall, when he had been asked to children, innocent of the dictum that boys ride forth for the slaying of Porson, had and girls should be in retreat by the time it felt a high commercial triumph of his own, is dark under the table, alternating the wail and with that the righteous valor of the of fretfulness with the shriek of an unlovely knight-errant. Janie had known he was mirth. This was not one of the times when the man commissioned to do a big deed. Janie could regard them all joyously as a That first flame of eagerness had lighted picture of life, or warmly as a part of the her through three-quarters of the task. great family wherein they seemed to be What Marshall felt about it now, what imVOL. XLV.-19
mediate force was hurrying him, she did monopoly of sackcloth and ashes, and we not know. Of one thing she was sure: he will hie us from your crumbling ruins to thought with her of the tangible reward if other jobs.” He was fantastically gesticthe articles ultimately “made good.” For ulating over the sink where, in a moment, they were lifting an obscure magazine to an he proposed to let the water run through amazing circulation, and the publishers the filter preparatory to a cooling draught, were just men. They would double and when he turned to her for a responsive treble what he had been promised in ad- glance. He noted her pallor, the dark cirvance, and that would mean a move from cles on her cheek, and sprang to her with the flat overlooking the court, even a month dismay. “Why, old girl," said he, "you're in England benignly beckoning them, and, done up." most of all, more work. But of these pallia- Tears were squeezing themselves out tions to the task Janie was not thinking to- under her dropped eyelids. night as she leaned back in her chair, one “Yes,” she said, “I've known myself to arm lying along the table, her fingers hold- be ruggeder. Don't hug me here, Marsh. ing the pen. She was thinking of life itself, The court'll see us. There! I told you. the web embroidered by figures, Porson Hear them yell. Come off into the den, and these uncouth creatures in the court, and we can talk.” though it looked less to her like a fabric H is arm about her they did go, and in than it sometimes did, a fabric stirred by a the den, littered still with his cast-off manubattling wind so that the figures themselves script, he turned the light up to see if she moved purposely. It was in some manner really looked as alarmingly bad as he feared. alive, though formless, a savage power bent She was on the sofa now, her head thrown on ruin.
back against her lifted arms. He took his Marshall, in the other room, pushed back own chair and watched her, a frown behis chair, and she came to herself with an tween his anxious eyes. In a minute she instant call upon her every-day look of laughed. watchful sympathy. She was on guard, "I'll tell you what it is, Marsh,” she said. ready to do him service from filling his pen “It's Porson. This is his revenge.” or pipe to speeding off on desperate forag- “You've got too tired over him. You've ing flights for the material he might sud- let down, now the race is over. Take it as denly lack. She heard his slippered feet I do. Don't say, what a devil of a time along the corridor, and then saw him be- we've had with him. Say, we've done with fore her, strong, flushed, splendid to her him.” gaze with the distinctions she loved in him: “I feel as if we never should be done with the kind gray eyes set wide apart, the warm him." She opened her eyes heavily for a hair tumbling over his forehead and his moment, and closed them again because comprehensive look of youth and power. they had fallen on his completed work. Tired as he was, he looked for the moment Something had to remind her at every turn instinct with triumph.
of Elisha Porson, the adversary of mankind “Well,” said he, “it's done."
as she had grown to think him, and so her “Done!” The echo was not interroga- adversary also. But with her husband's tive. It seemed rather a wondering com- anxious eyes upon her she was bound ment on such a fact.
to help him. “Don't you find yourself He began a tattoo on the oven of the gas crushed by all this investigation, Marsh?" stove, and she noted idly how fine his hand she asked. “Somehow sapped-depleted ? " was, used to athletic tasks and fitted to hold He was frowning at the effort to underthe pen.
stand. “They'll set it up at once,” she said lan- “No,” he said at once. “I feel as a lawguidly.
yer does after he's won a nasty case. He “Yes. I shall have the proof this week. hasn't enjoyed the evidence, but it's means Then we've done with Porson—done with to an end. It buys conviction. It serves him, done with him. Vale, Elisha Porson! justice. And for him it spells triumph." Avaunt! Get out! You have served your “I can't think of the triumph just this turn. The tale of your iniquities is com- minute. I'm certain we've learned things plete, and it now remains for you to get the we wish we hadn't known.”
“Nonsense! The things are. If they tending money and making it breed. The exist, why not know them?"
men that fought him—they're the same " It seems as if what we call business is a kind, only they didn't win.” fight-a terrible fight, too terrible to look “The fierce light that beats upon a finanon at.”
cier,” remarked Marshall. "It is.” The man's confirming dictum But she was moving him. He might came quick and sharp on the heels of her stave her off, yet he, too, felt a decent recoil wavering commentary.
after the bad company they had been keep"I feel as if money were evil.”
ing. He, too, was morally jaded, though he “So the preacher says,” Marshall echoed would not own it. He, as became a man, gayly, “the root of all evil-or is it the love was taking “the world but as the world,” of it? I bet we could use a pocketful of it, and yet his longings clove to the green hills allee samee."
of peace. His homesick eyes could not dis"Do you know what Porson has made cern them in the distance. The world me see?"
seemed suddenly turned into a great indus“He's made me see a number of things. trial battlefield where homely virtues were One is, that he'll be the better for a taste of trodden out under the foot of the merbrimstone. I could wish he'd had it years cenaries hired to fight for some Napoleon
no more greedy than they, but more mas"He's made the world hideous.” terful. “Oh, come, Janie! not the world." “We've got our punishment for med
“Yes, the world, because it wants to get dling with him,” said Janie bitterly. on. And we shall be just like him the min- “We've painted a portrait, and the picute we begin to fight for money to lift us ture's going to stay with us. It's hanging above other people-well, the people out right here on our wall. You see it. I see there." She did not need to indicate the it. The eyes follow us, even when we court, even with a glance. The discord of aren't looking at it.” acclamation was floating toward them “Don't," said Marshall involuntarily. through the flat, and both of them thought “Oh, it's a true portrait. I own that. absently that it was hailing a new consign- We've caught the exact likeness—of a man ment of ice-cream. “I'm convinced that who isn't a man any more. He's a horribly Porson hasn't one decent humane impulse intelligent force. He can make me believe left."
all the other men that copy him and fight “Well, if he has, I've failed to spot it. him are hideous forces, too. We shall be, However, let's be charitable. Let's say he Marsh, if we try to keep on our feet in this never had any to begin with.”
awful scramble and rush. Why, I don't “He can't have been a monster. Re- dare to wish we could go to Europe or even member, he supported his mother— " move out of here, because it means fighting
“From that date,'” Marshall quoted for money- " rhetorically, “the date of his obtaining a The bell in the hall rang with a jarring position in the shoe-store, his mother ceased dissonance. Janie started to her feet, and sewing for a living, and young Elisha sup- Marshall threw down his paper knife and ported her in a modest way, always better- went to the tube. ing with his rising fortunes.””
“Yes,” she heard him say. “Who is it? “That's it,” said Janie. “He was hu- Come up. Four flights.” man to start with, but now he's made him- Almost immediately he had returned to self into a machine. It goes whirling over her and arrested her flight to the dark back the green grass of the world, cutting off parlor where, remembering her disarray, heads."
she was betaking herself. His face itself “Can't put that in," said Marshall, who stopped her. It was blazing, with what had cocked his head with an air of listening emotion she could not yet tell, wonder, pertoward business ends. “Too flowery!” haps bitterness, an ironic gayety. His hand
“And the worst of it is, he's made me see was heavy on her wrist. he's not an exception. He's only note- “Who do you think it is ?” he asked worthy because he's got more brain than rapidly. the others-more of that hideous power of She shook her head.
ous ones of mastery about his eyes and “Elisha Porson?”
mouth, and the man himself as he footed it He nodded, the sparkling commentary of down town in the morning, his only walk his face intensifying.
for the day before his task of incubating “The fool!” he breathed.
the eggs of riches and fighting off the others Slow, rather cautious steps were nearing who would steal his nest. She and Maron the stairs.
shall had worked so long over that compos“What have I told you about the clever- ite portrait that Porson's features had acest of men ? Take them out of their own quired for them an exaggerated significance, grooves and they go to pieces. He knows and now that he had walked into their very leather, he knows the market; but here he presence, her heart beat hard at the thought is walking straight into my mouth to lie that, despite hospitable honor, they might down in it.”
enrich the image by one line more. He laid “What does he want, Marsh?" she whis- his battered hat on the table, the tile that pered. All her own acumen had deserted figured invariably in the caricatures of him, her. She asked the question as simply as and passed a knotted hand wearily through a child.
his thin hair with the gesture fitted to locks “Want?" Marshall repeated savagely. that had begun by being thick. He started A terrible anticipatory triumph was in his a little, and lifted his head alertly. look. “He's read the first number, perhaps “Who's in there?” he asked, pointing a the second, and he wants to buy me off - thumb at the back room. the fool!”
“My wife," said Marshall, at once. The steps halted at the door. Janie fled "I prefer to see you alone,” Porson aninto the back room and sank on a chair. nounced, with the air of one who is accusShe was effectually awakened, as if by a tomed to getting what he asks for. It was piercing call from some emergency. It was not the full, noble note of command. His reasonable to her, as to her husband, that high querulous voice would never compass Porson should want to bribe them, and that. It bespoke rather the habit of a even that he should innocently try it. She dominance necessary and tedious. saw her husband with the hoard of gold At once Janie, from no considered im laid open before him, and knew proudly he pulse except as the result of the directness would refuse to look.
of her own nature, bent always on the Marshall threw open the door.
straightest path, rose and came forward “Come in, Mr. Porson," she heard into the circle of light. Marshall got up him say.
and with a somewhat accented courtesy to Then the door closed and the varying mark his tenderness for her and insure her steps, Porson's shuffling slightly as those of against rebuff, drew forward a chair. She an old man not very painstakingly shod, stood still in the illuminated radius, a small and her husband's decisive, as if all his figure, her pale golden hair drooping about youth and scorn of paltering found expres- her childlike face, and looked at Porson, sion there, came in together.
half with an inevitable aversion and half “Sit here," said Marshall, again abrupt- appealingly because she wanted very much ly, and took his own place at the desk. to stay. Porson regarded her for a moment,
The gas, whether by Marshall's inten- not, Marshall angrily noted, as if he saw tion or not shone full on Porson's face, and her distinctive charm, but as if she were a Janie, bending forward there in the dark, figure in the path. He got up then, as if by trembled at it, seeing it with an added sig- an afterthought, not grudgingly, but benificance in the light of her own home. She cause he seemed to be remembering that had studied his portrait in its various rising to greet a woman was a custom mysstages of development, the boy in the teriously decreed, and one that, leading to daguerreotype, with the inconsequent unknown ends, he might not neglect. mouth and smooth hair, the youth begin- “How do you do?” he conceded, in his ning to show the peering shrewdness of his rasping voice. But he looked at Marshall later years as he realized where accumula- immediately with the unaltered requiretion might place him, the middle-aged man ment that the figure should be removed. with the mean lines of greed and the rigor- “My wife is my literary partner," said
"I'll tell you what it is, Marsh," she said. “It's Porson. This is his revenge."- Page 178.
Marshall, answering the glance. “She movement of the hands. “Well! well! helps me collect my material and pro- But”-he raised the discordant voice a nounces on the stuff. It's as much her little—“this interview is confidential.” work as mine.”
“Certainly,” said Janie, with dignity. Janie, who knew him so well, read in his “That is understood.” air, rather than his voice, the uneasiness of She withdrew again into her solitude of thinking it would be incalculable disap- the back room and sat there in a palpitating pointment if Porson should refuse the gauge intentness. thrown down and say he would not speak “I don't know," Marshall was saying at all. She took the matter into her own obstinately. “I don't know whether it's hands.
confidential. It depends on the sort of “I'll go out, Marshall,” she said quickly. thing you've got to say.” “Mr. Porson won't mind my being in the Porson stopped him by another of those next room, even if I do hear. Our flat is so rather uncertain gestures of the hands that, tiny,” she explained to the visitor, with an wavering as they were, certainly had the unwilling smile—it came before she had effect of power. He leaned forward in his time to think how she hated Porson—“we chair now and let the dramatic hands drop hear from one end of it to the other.” between his knees, while he reflected.
At that Porson turned his small eyes on “You—” he began slowly, “you've her and seemed, for purposes of his own, printed two numbers.” to estimate and accept her.
“Yes,” said Marshall. “Well! well!” he said, with an impatient There was an ugly frown between his Vol. XLV.-20