John and Anna sat on the kitchen door step looking out on a dirty alley. It might just as truthfully be said that they sat in the doorway of the parlor or bedroom, for it was all of these; the only room for the housing of four people – two children and their parents.
Anna was eleven years old; John was "four going on five." Their bodies were round as suckling pigs, and their cheeks, red as the red, red rose. They laughed often. If you would know what glee-producing power lies in a kitchen door step and a filthy alley, ask your own little Peggy, for there is a knowledge that dims as experience widens.
Just inside the door was a mother; her cheeks were redder still; eyes and chest were caverns. A hundred months of coughing had ploughed a hundred furrows on face and hands. Omnipotent, that cough had changed a landscape of brook and meadow for one of ash and tin cans; it had transformed a cushion of thick, green grass into a greasy kitchen step; it had, ten years
before, removed husband, wife and baby from a village tailor shop to a tiny half-supporting farm. But there were vegetables and fruit the year round besides a cow and pig, so the baby thrived; and a second baby grew and prospered. The cough grew, too, and prospered with the jubilation of such coughs. Its latest malevolence had been to whisper of a miracle to be performed by a free dispensary and a San Francisco alley.
Besides the kitchen door step and kitchen, there was a shop door step and shop – the other half of this two-room shack. On the shop door were letters, maimed but not halt–for they ran; bumped right into each other. Yet, if the passerby could mentally wedge in the necessary hyphens, he might make the legend read:
"Cleaning and Repairing Neatly Done."
At night Cleaning and Repairing vacated and Jack Warner took possession. The pressing bench he labeled "bed" and spoke of the space as "lodgings." A teamster without a team, his business was less wearing than that of others in his life. Nevertheless, his weekly dollar was all that kept a roof over the heads of husband, wife and two children. Cleaning and Repairing, when it did knock on the lettered door barely brought unbuttered bread for four.
One month after locating in the San Francisco alley the cough ceased and the worn-out mother rested. Nothing was changed.
Two children sat on the door step and there were still three at the table.
A few weeks and the father went – a cut while ripping a begrimed garment and a tired man rested. Nothing was changed.
Two children sat on the kitchen door step and there were yet three to sit at the table, for Jack Warner brought in bread and meat which Anna cooked in childish fashion.
One night John and Anna were awakened; Jack Warner was crawling into bed with them; he was cold, he said. It was an easy after matter, by threats, to bind to secrecy two children who had no one to tell.
Two children continued to sit on a kitchen door step, but they talked in whispers. When they heard Jack Warner coming home to supper they got up quickly and went inside. Anna's eyes took on a furtive look as she cooked the meat, while John's wide open and terrified were ever fixed upon the man. At the end of seven months a public school teacher heard of Anna as a child who ought to be in school, and she called. Through her, Miss Alice Duncan of the Associated Charities was informed that there were two motherless children living alone in a shanty and she called. The following day, Miss Duncan, with a co-worker and a policeman, took the children away.
In course of time Miss Duncan drew out the whole story of their lives. What Anna did not tell concerning Jack Warner, Miss Duncan saw implied, and by direct questioning learned all. But Jack Warner, the criminal, could not be found.
John was placed in an orphanage, but Miss Duncan determined that Anna should have a home in a good and loving family where she would be enwrapped by the influences especially fitted to her need. Miss Duncan's mind went out to Mrs. Miller, a woman of wealth both in dollars and heart. Other homes and women were considered, but always her thoughts, like a glad homing pigeon, winged toward the angelic soul, who, though having two idolized sorts of her own, had found room in her motherhood for a young criminal, because Judge Earle had said that the boy had good stuff in him and would make a useful citizen, if he were given a chance.
Mrs. Miller had a little daughter about Anna's age and if she would but take this heart-starved girl into her household of purity, love and light, as she had taken Philip Norder, Miss Duncan foresaw a cultured, magnificent womanhood blossoming for the child. Success meant such stupendous results that she would risk nothing by hurry. Not till the furtive look should have fled from Anna's eyes; not till ringing laughter should return to the spiritless voice; not till they had made several thoughtful visits to a childrens' outfitting department would she venture with the child to Mrs. Miller.
So the days grew into weeks; the weeks into months; and still Miss Duncan's home sheltered Anna. When the child first entered the house, Miss Duncan had a small bed placed close against her own and regularly she tucked the little girl into her nest, and kissed her good night. One night she woke to find Anna sitting bolt upright in the dark. Anna explained that she had heard someone trying to open the door. Knowing what the child feared, Miss Duncan assured her that no one could get in and that the noise was on the street. Always afterward when Miss Duncan heard her restless in the night, she reached out her hand, which was eagerly clasped by a smaller one.
Hats off to you, Alice Duncan! and if there are any plums awarded in the next world, you'll get a handful.
At last one day did actually find them ringing Mrs. Miller's door bell. Very kindly the hostess took Anna's hand and very lovingly she called her own little Mary to show her dolls to the small visitor.
The children away, delicately, even cautiously, Miss Duncan stated her errand, but no detail of Anna's life would she omit. Full of tears were Mrs. Miller's eyes when the story was done; in her face shone pity, sympathy and – repulsion.
When she could reply she did.
"Miss Duncan, I couldn't."
Then she added, "Not for every dollar I possess, would I have Mary know that such a hideous thing could occur in this wide, beautiful world."
Miss Duncan's tears were in her voice. " It is a wide world, but not all beautiful." She choked and could not go on for a moment, then she continued: "Mrs. Miller, I am positive that nothing but force could induce the child to speak of it. People. most of all, children, do not roll as a sweet morsel under their tongues, that which is a terror to them."
"I couldn't risk it, Miss Duncan, I couldn't risk it," replied Mrs. Miller, wiping her eyes.
"You have taken Philip Norder into your home," returned Miss Duncan, gently insistent.
"That is different," answered Mrs. Miller.
"May he not instruct your sons in the tricks and skill of criminals?" quietly argued Miss Duncan, though already she read defeat.
"Oh, I hope not! I cannot believe he would so betray our confidence in him. But it is different, Miss Duncan; my Mary is a girl! "
"In the whole natural world it is not different," said Miss Duncan, the tears having reached her eyes.
"We have made it different by an artificial sentiment and we are being punished for it; but our sufferings have just begun; a cataclysm awaits us–nature's way of throwing down man-made walls, and directly, or through those we love, in unavailing travail, we shall learn the truth!"
"Miss Duncan, you speak like a prophet," said Mrs. Miller gently. "I can only hope that you may prove to be a false one."
"I lay no claim to super-knowledge," answered Alice Duncan, also gently, "but I meet this 'difference,' as you term it, so constantly in my work. The uplifting hand of men to men, the helping hand extended by women to men, but neither reached out to women, that I have come to see the handwriting on the wall."
"Miss Duncan our purse is yours for any needs of the child."
Alice Duncan rose, thanking her, and Mrs. Miller sought the children.
Oh, Agnes Miller, put to your nostrils the hand with which you clasped the child's; is there not the smell of death upon it?
Out on the street the full bitterness of her failure flooded Alice Duncan's soul. Neither Mrs. Miller's purse, nor any number of purses could buy the one great need of the child walking blithely by her side; for Anna had spent the rosiest hour of her life and was pouring into Miss Duncan's unhearing ears descriptions of mamma dolls and papa dolls, baby dolls, soldier dolls, crying dolls, sleeping dolls and wide-awake dolls.
A long month passed before Miss could calmly contemplate a second choice. Then she bethought her of Mrs. Brown, a wealthy widow in poor health, who, with a daughter full of years, lived in a large house without servants – Japanese help coming by the day as needed. It would be a chilly atmosphere for a live rosy child – but it would be safe!
So Mrs. Brown's door bell was rung and Mrs. Brown was willing to try Anna, who was to go to school and do light tasks mornings and evenings.
A dungeon, called a basement, and three stories were the bounds of the house. The receiving room, drawing-room, and music room, with their pictures, statuary, piano, Indian baskets, bright rugs and shining floors were fairyland to Anna.
The never-used dining-room attracted her also, for a shelf running entirely around it held upright plates and saucers covered with flowers, pictures, and gilding, while cups and jugs as pretty hung beneath. Anna thought she never should have time to look at them all – but she did.
A narrow passage led from china painting to kitchen. Here was one window, one table and one chair; the etchings on the wall were from smoking fats. The bedroom opening off would be Anna's. The back yard–Anna's yard–was walled in by a fifteen-foot tight board fence, of color, gray; that there might be harmony, the kitchen and bedroom floors had been painted gray; and gray were the ashes in the stove. Cinderella, your aesthetic soul has been saved !
On the second floor to the far-removed front slept Mrs. Brown and her daughter, full of years. So Anna lay down to cozy rest each night-vacancy in front of her, vacancy above her, vacancy below and a dogless yard behind. Sleep-conducing thoughts of the big, dark basement lulled her. The kitchen clock sang a lullaby, with stroke twice as loud as in daylight, while stealthy footsteps moved about the back yard. At any rate, it was the same thing, for when you expect footsteps, you do not listen for windblown leaves. However, soon or late, the most frightened child will fall off to sleep and those hours of oblivion to the Terror, together with the pleasant ones at school saved her.
Every morning the daughter full of years made coffee and mush and carried them upstairs where she breakfasted with her mother. Cinderella ate in the kitchen. Breakfast over, it was Anna's privilege to take a very soft cloth and, lifting carefully one of the beautiful plates upon the unending shelf in the never-used dining-room, wipe gently from it any dust, real or imaginary, thereon; the space upon the shelf was to be caressed in the same manner, after which the plate must be lovingly returned to its resting place. This enlivening exercise was to be repeated with the next plate and then the next ad infinitum, after which followed the manicuring of the saucers. She was instructed that when these, also, should have been put back to bed between clean sheets, she should beat Columbus by a second cycle with the cups and jugs, and as she could massage but a limited number before school time she calculated that if she should live a thousand years she could never hope to see them all freshly shampooed upon the same day. Thus Anna surpassed the most hoary philosopher in a concrete knowledge of eternity. Having been solemnly warned that a crack in a china landscape would constitute a felony, she always approached the crockery department with a cheerful shiver. At half past eight, Red Riding Hood took her lunch basket and started off to school, where she forgot the wolf till four o'clock. On her return to her boudoir in gray, she prepared such articles for dinner as the full-of-years daughter directed. When these were cooked, each carried a tray full upstairs, where mother and daughter dined. Anna ate in her own suite. After dinner she washed the dishes–dinner and breakfast–went down into the creaking basement for fuel, swept the mauve floor, also, the yard of neutral tint. She didn't feed the cat, because there wasn't any – how she wished there was. The laundry was sent out of the house, but Anna was expected to wash and iron her own clothes on Saturdays, also the handkerchiefs of Mrs. Brown and her adult daughter, also their aprons and towels and stockings. When these were all flirting with her from the line, she turned her back upon them to scrub the one chair, the one table and the one window. Then she assumed a devotional attitude, but it was merely to wash up the dove-colored floor. Next she hosed the cement yard, brought fuel from the dungeon and prepared vegetables for dinner. That meal over, dishwashing was in order. If, after this, time hung heavy and daylight lasted it was understood that she would always be allowed, reverently, with cloth in hand, to approach the china counter.
On Sundays Anna sat with Mrs. Brown while the full-of-years daughter went to church. Upstairs were the same bright rugs and shining floors. Very slippery they were, too, as Anna had once found to her cost by spilling a tray. The Sunday custom was a cold midday dinner, after which, the dishes being washed, Anna was allowed the remainder of the day to amuse herself. To this end, she regularly seated herself on the kitchen door step and studied color– gray.
If only John had been sitting there, too, she knew they would have laughed and laughed ask Peggy for the why.
One day Miss Brown said: "Anna, I bought three dozen clothespins just before you came and one is missing. Do you know anything about it? "
Anna grew red, but made no reply.
"Why don't you answer me?" Still no reply.
"If you know where it is, I want you to get it at once."
Anna hung her head, but slowly rose. Miss Brown decided to follow her. Evidently the child was light fingered, and where the clothespin lay hidden, might be other articles of value.
Anna entered her bedroom; Miss Brown was at her heels. Anna approached her bed – Miss Brown a close second. Anna reached her hand under the one little pillow. Ah, the spoons that were probably lying side by side with that stolen clothespin! Anna drew out the clothespin wrapped about with a handkerchief – it was a doll.
Once upon a time–a long time after the clothespin disaster, after miles and miles around the china orbit, after Sundays and Sundays and Sundays of amusement on the kitchen door step – on a Saturday morning, Anna started out to the grocery for a pint of milk. She had the exact change–she was always given the exact change. At the corner she paused to look at Mt. Tamalpais and the Bay. Tamalpais had on her spring dress–such a pretty, clean dress. The Sleeping Maiden lay in her lap, looking straight up to the sky with the sun shining strong in her eyes. As Anna looked a great longing to see Miss Duncan came over her. Many, many times during the gray months at Mrs. Brown's she had longed for Miss Duncan and the little bed close to the hand she could touch when the footsteps came. To-day she longed harder than ever. Tamalpais was Miss Duncan and herself the Sleeping Maiden. When at last she turned away, the nickel rattled in the pitcher. She stopped. A great temptation smiled. She looked about her stealthily–the old look that Miss Duncan had worked so hard to efface. A rose bush close to the street and an untenanted house seemed to please her mightily. Hurriedly she put the pitcher behind the bush and then walked quickly to the grocery.
"Could you tell me where Miss Duncan lives? " she asked the grocer. " Miss Alice Duncan? Oh, yes."
He opened the city directory and wrote down the address for her.
"What car do you take? " "Take the Jackson car and transfer to Kearny."
The Jackson car! She would never dare take that, it passed right by Mrs. Brown's house!
Trembling, she questioned further: "Can't you get to Miss Duncan's house by any car but the Jackson? "
The grocer laughed. "I think you might. Try the Sacramento, California, Geary, Sutter, Ellis, Turk and then some, but the Jackson is the nearest for you."
"What is the next nearest after Jackson? "
Several blissful months with Miss Duncan; and though no word criticizing the Browns was ever uttered before the child, in her heart Alice Duncan wondered that the girl had not come screaming to her that first terrifying night.
Miss Duncan's health was failing and she must leave the city for a long rest, so once more she set to work to find a "home" for Anna, to whom environment became increasingly important as childhood was left behind.
All hope of obtaining the care so much needed by the girl, and the love of which she was so worthy, had long since been abandoned by Miss Duncan. She must be content if the affiliations were sound. She found a little more.
The Merrills lived in a top story flat; had an old Chinese servant and a two-year-old baby. It would be Anna's work to attend the baby out of schoolhours. The baby worked her redemption by removing, once and for all, the temptation to steal a clothespin. Very soon Baby Frank loved this other fellow's sister better than he loved his mother–as is the way of sons. He was no feather weight and Anna was always tired out by bed time, but she had a snug little bed in the nursery and slept like a log for there was no empty basement, no vacant upstairs, no dark back yard leering in at her window and baby Frank's bed touched hers.
After a few months of Anna's willing spirit, Mrs. Merrill decided that she and the girl could "manage it alone," though which one was to be alone did not then appear. Ah Wah went down the two flights of stairs with his pay, his pig tail and disgust. Mrs. Merrill sat down in a rocker with pencil and paper to figure out the number of extra hats and suits Wah's salary would afford her.
It was arranged that Anna should, after school each day, prepare the vegetables, set the table for dinner and then take care of Baby Frank while Mrs. Merrill did the rest. Sometimes Mrs. Merrill found it necessary to do some shopping after school, at which time she assured Anna: "I'll be back in time to get dinner, but if I should be a little late, just put the roast in the oven and start the vegetables cooking–sometimes the cars are stalled, you know."
How those cars acted! From three to four nights a week and all day Saturday they balked.
In course of time, cook, nurse and laundress came to cost only the board and clothes of a school girl.
On Sundays, Anna was allowed to go out from two o'clock till five, after which she remained with Baby Frank, while Mr. and Mrs. Merrill went down town to a French dinner and finished out the evening at the theatre or by a trip across the Bay to Mrs. Merrill's mother.
On one of these Sunday evenings Anna had a birthday party for herself to which Baby Frank was invited. Mrs. Merrill had allowed her to make a cake and given her fourteen candles for it. The party ate every slice of the cake, then picked up some pieces which had fallen to the floor and swallowed them and lastly raked together the crumbs on the table and consumed them–and never got sick at all.
There was no place that lured Anna like Golden Gate Park. The lovely walks; the beautiful flowers; the music; and very often schoolmates. The Sunday following the birthday party found her in the Park sitting on a bench near the merry-go-round. People passed her – in dozens, half dozens, triplets and single.
One single was a boy about sixteen years of age. He noticed Anna, hesitated, then somewhat timidly approached her bench and seated himself at the extreme end from her. He was a beautiful boy–and so thought Anna. She was a very sweet-faced girl – and he had eyes to see. After a lengthy silence he said in a low voice, "Do you like that?" pointing to the merry-go-round.
"Yes," from Anna, also in a low tone.
"Will you? " he asked.
"Yes," said she.
Arrived at the whirling pleasure, he helped her into a seat, then got in beside her. Several times, as they flew around and around, their shoulders touched as they were jostled together, and through their bodies passed a thrill such as neither had ever before felt. Each looked at the other for explanation but neither spoke. When they had ridden their money's worth, the boy paid another fare and on they circled. And yet another fare he paid. Finally they alighted and without comment walked away together. By flower beds, by people sitting, by people riding, over rustic bridges, past the deer, up a knell, down an incline, where to aid her he extended his hand, which meeting hers sent again that glad, mysterious thrill through them both. At the music stand they sat down and listened silently. After listening for–well they could not have told you whether it was a minute or a year; at any rate, there did come a time when they arose and walked again; past people they did not see, by birds they did not hear. They communed with each other but did not talk. There came a time–no, time did not exist. Well, at last Anna came out of her trance and asked what o'clock it was. The boy took out his watch and held it for her to see. Her face went white.
"Six o'clock! " she gasped.
"What difference does that make? " he asked anxiously.
"Oh, hurry, hurry! " she, running.
He followed her lead to a street car which they boarded sitting outside, shoulder to shoulder, as in the ever-to-be-loved merry-go-round. The happy thrill came, too, though fear tried to thrust it out.
"Why must you hurry so?" asked the boy gently.
"They were going with a party of friends to a down-town dinner, and oh, I shall be late! "
"Who are 'they'?" he inquired, in the same gentle manner.
"Mr. and Mrs. Merrill."
"Your parents? "
"Oh, no, I live there and assist Mrs. Merrill. My parents are dead."
"Ah, you are more sorrowful than I!" he said pityingly. " My mother is dead, but I have a father, the best father in all the countries of the world. I would not say that if your father were alive," he apologized.
Suddenly the car stopped. As suddenly it changed its mind and started on; then capriciously rested again. After a time the conductor sat down resignedly. After another time some passengers got off and walked and after a third time the face of the motorman took on a look of infinite peace.
Anna was four miles from home. To get there afoot, would be to face a lost cause as certainly as not to get there at all. Locked and unlocked her fingers in nervous misery; deeper and deeper grew the red in her cheeks; brighter and brighter the blue of her eyes till the gazing boy wondered when she would reach the maximum of her prettiness.
Sometime the car resumed its way – it nearly always does. Sometime they reached the Merrill's door bell, but it was sulky – it would not answer. Again it was pulled; still it pouted.
"They have gone and taken the baby! " All the red dashed out of her cheeks.
"Why should they not take their baby?" asked the perplexed boy.
Once and once only before had Anna spoiled a Sunday evening for the Merrills by getting home late; and the sting of the tongue feminine and the force brutal of the masculine had left an impression of value as the tongues intended. Nothing short of a trip to Paradise could have caused her to forget again – but that was just the journey she had made.
Every line of her dress, and the ribbons on her hair kept rhythmical quiver with her limbs as she tried to tell the boy that having been disappointed in their plans, they had gone across the Bay to Mrs. Merrill's mother where they might remain all night.
"And they have locked me out! "
"Perhaps they have left the key under the door mat," suggested he.
No, it was not there. He looked in the step corners; it was not in them. He hunted for a possible nail; no nail.
"Oh, they are very angry," said the shaking girl.
"This is not cause for great anger," said the boy gravely.
" But they had reserved a whole table and I heard them say each plate was to cost five dollars in advance, so Mr. Merrill will lose ten dollars! " explained Anna.
"Pooh! What is ten dollars? "
Anna looked at him in wonder. Then being bankrupt in words and overstocked in tears she produced the latter.
"Why do you care so much, do you love them? " he asked.
She quieted a moment. "I love the baby."
" If you do not love them why do you so much mind their displeasure?"
Again she looked at him, again she wondered.
"Did they pay you a large salary? " he continued.
Such a stupendous idea must be seen clearly. She wiped her eyes.
"They did not pay me any money. Yes, they did too. They gave me some money. I had ten cents for car fare every Sunday, but the rest of my pay was board and clothes."
For the first time the boy turned his eyes to her apparel. He saw a neatly made muslin dress, a pretty straw hat, a pair of well-fitting shoes. He estimated the whole cost to be a couple of dollars; but he was only a boy and he was mistaken–it would have footed up double that amount.
It was growing dark; the street lights were on; a passing policeman gave them a searching look.
"Come," said the boy, "I will take you to your friends."
"I have no friends."
" No friends in all this big city?" questioned he, puzzled.
" I did have one," explained the girl, " but she had to go away for a rest."
"Perhaps you have acquaintances across the Bay? "
Anna shook her head. A helpless look stole into the boy s face, but rallying, he said: " I know one man here; rather a good old fellow; he will be able to tell me where you can be comfortable for the night. I am a stranger, myself, in San Francisco."
When they reached the one man the boy knew, the whole city lay between them and the deaf door bell.
D. Porwancher had a jeweller's shop on the ground floor. Above, lived Mrs. Lacey, described by him as a lady with a kind heart, who would not see the girl go shelterless for the night. He accompanied the boy and girl upstairs and stated the case. Mrs. Lacey rose splendidly to the occasion. She would give up her bedroom-parlor for the night and sleep on the wash bench in the laundry-kitchen, herself. Mrs. Lacey insisted that she lived in a four-room apartment. And didn't she? When the folding bed folded wasn't there a parlor. When it unfolded "sure and it's a bedroom." Likewise, when the potatoes were cooking wasn't the back room a kitchen; and when the wash board went "rub-a-dub-dub" wasn't it proof of a laundry ?
By the time everybody had become acquainted it was so early that it was the next day, and the boy asked Mrs. Lacey if she could accommodate him also, for the night.
Mrs. Lacey gave him a look; up her bed to sleep on a board. Did he want the board, too? She was speechless. She was also wrinkled. She was fifty years old and looked sixty. She had drudged in other people's kitchens till she married – she had drudged in her own ever since. To kitchen drudgery had been added the bearing and nursing of a dozen children. Eventually, the mother and drudge became the wage earner – over a washtub; the drunken husband had grown tired and gone, no one knew where. The children, too, were gone, most of them dead, and the living with nothing to spare. So she was still drudging. She had, as D. Porwancher said, a kind heart–out of no other sort can a satisfactory drudge be made. She had also easy morals – for others. Out of her long and unvaried experience, she had evolved a philosophy–for others. It was: "Don't work; there's nothing in it."
The boy stood waiting her reply. It came.
" The lady is either your sister or your wife. Ye call take the sofy and she, the bed," and with royal tread she passed to the wash bench. They looked at each other – the boy and the girl.
" It is nearly morning and I am not sleepy; I will sit in the hall till daylight," said he.
"No, we call both sit up, and this sofa is more comfortable than the hall stairs," said the girl.
They talked; he told her he had become acquainted with D. Porwancher through the boys – the University boys, he explained. D. Porwancher accommodated them on the side–literally, in the back room. It was pretty generally known at the "U" that he would supply cash on any article of value, and he had the reputation of being honest and easy in the matter of time.
D. Porwancher had lost his family twenty years before and cared only, so he said, to make a living for himself and Girt. Girt was a dog. The boy continued to talk. He was attending the University at Berkeley; he had been there but a month; he had never been in the United States before; he was an Hawaiian; his father had come up the Pacific with him and got him settled in apartments with another student–Carl Stoft. His own name was Ralph Young.
Very tired was the girl and his voice began to sound far off. When finally, her head tipped forward, he guided it to his shoulder and felt a delicious sense of protecting strength.
But he, too, was tireder than he knew, and his own head drooped toward hers and both slept babes in the woods.
Next day, constituting himself and Mrs. Lacey a Committee on Ways and Means, a meeting was called in the Laundry-Kitchen Department where Ralph transacted much business–but none at Berkeley.
The building occupied by D. Porwancher and Mrs. Lacey, though new, had a history. It covered every square inch of a tiny oblong of ground which cut a chunk out of a magnificent corner lot. For a decade the owner of the oblong had held it at a prohibitive price to the corner lot owners whose land it defaced. The corner owners in turn demanded half the money in the U. S. Mint before they would sell to the city for municipal purposes.
Jimmie Bates had done business in the city for ten years. Jimmie Bates had waited fifteen years to marry one of three capable sisters who lived in a distant county. He was thirty-eight, she, thirty-five.
A bedridden mother and a debtridden farm had held the three sisters loyally together. At last a great idea was born to Jimmie. He took the ferry and showed his scheme to the three sisters. He would lease the oblong and put up a building to be operated by the three sisters as a Business Woman's Dining Room with Home Cooking, while the upper floor would be their residence. He planned yet further in his heart but of that he said nothing. The three capable sisters agreed, and provided with their own hands home cooking that was really home cooked. They threw open the wide front door. A passing stenographer strayed in; then a milliner or two, and finally the best kind of advertising began to tell–free advertising. How they came for the home cooking that was really home cooked ! Women doctors, women lawyers, women journalists, women brokers, women dentists, women notaries public!
One day the mother died. Jimmie gave a concealed sigh of relief. Two months later, the eldest capable sister went to her eternal rest-over-work and typhoid. The two remaining sisters went back to the old home. Jimmie tried to sublet. It was easy. Many jealous eyes had noted the money-making business of the sisters. They, too, would gather wealth from hungry business women. By the most effective advertising in the world-failure to deliver the goods–there was no trade in a month. Jimmie turned the key in the wide front door. The key remained turned. A boy was paid to stay in the building at night–he slept elsewhere. Jimmie chanced upon Mrs. Lacey and gave her two rooms rent free in exchange for her services in showing the other rooms to would-be tenants–who never called. Jimmie reduced the rent. Then he reduced it again. At the second reduction, D. Porwancher took the ground floor and put in half-length partitions. He transacted business in front and kept house in the back with Girt. Later three front rooms above stairs were taken for business offices requiring elegant furniture but no accompanying manager. A boy, prematurely experienced and immaturely developed, remained in the rooms from 9 A. M. to 4 P. M·; if callers arrived he telephoned somewhere and a "manager" came promptly in response, though rarely the same one twice.
"A fake," said Mrs. Lacey, "and a whole gang workin' it."
Between these offices and Mrs. Lacey's four-roomed apartment was a large empty room with alcoe and wardrobe closet. Three spacious windows looked joyously out over the vacant corner lot. Long would the sunshine pour into those windows undimmed by nearby building. Gloriously it rolled in as Mrs. Lacey showed the room to Ralph, while informing him that it could be had for a song. Ralph produced the song and Mrs. Lacey delivered the room. The furnishings would take several songs, but Ralph obligated himself to procure them. Here Anna was to remain comfortably till they could see better things for her. To her, Ralph explained somewhat.
"I can get whatever I wish but it will require a little calculation. You see, it's this way. Father limits me only in cash. He arranged with my banker to introduce me personally to every business house in Berkeley and as many reputable firms in Oakland and San Francisco as I might desire and any bills coming from them signed by me will be paid by the banker; all bills to be sent later to my father. If I want to go to the theatre, I don't pay for my ticket, but sign for the price of it and that is sent to the bank. If I paid five dollars per ticket and took a dozen friends, father wouldn't care, and yet he allows me only twenty dollars a week which is to be used for board, lodgings and other current expenses. When those are paid there is nothing left to harm myself with. I think father is terribly afraid I might be led into gambling. Being already established in rooms in Berkeley, a bill for furniture could not reasonably be sent to father, but I'll think it out."
How he thought it out Anna did not learn for several days, but on the very next one a great load came for the sunshine room.
On Wednesday, Ralph thought he had better make a showing in his classes, so it was not till Thursday that he and Anna and a Japanese boy set about arranging the big, airy room. School saw him no more for a week. The Jap cleaned the room and Ralph applied a wide border of stain around the floor. Shades went up at the windows and creamy lace curtains, a great central rug was laid, the white and gold bed and bureau were placed in the alcove, the white and gold clock set on a shelf, a lounge with a score of silk cushions, a wide arm-chair, a low rocker, a book-case, a center table and a six-foot wall mirror were arranged as Anna directed, and a half-dozen pictures were hung at her dictation. When she wondered out loud how he could have thought of so many pretty things, Ralph confessed that he just turned the whole question over to an outfitter telling him to provide everything necessary for a lady's comfort, limited only by the dimensions of the room.
" The pictures I chose myself," he stated with some pride. They were water colors and engravings of landscape and ocean.
"The book-case I left empty that you might fill it with such books as you may wish."
When the room was all ready for occupancy it occurred to them that they had assumed that Anna would live on air. One corner was immediately labeled "Dining Room," portieres hung across it, and a shelf, gas plate, table and dishes put within. Then all three, Anna and Ralph and Mrs. Lacey seated themselves to decide the ponderous problem of groceries. With list in hand Ralph went to the nearest store and in an hour the Dining Room was piled high with packages, tins and bags, smelling of sugar and spice and everything nice.
Mrs. Lacey looked on in delight and kindly said that if Anna ever wanted to "roast anything " she was welcome to her laundry-kitchen stove.
All being settled Mrs. Lacey got Ralph to one side to remark that he ought to send for Anna's trunk as she would need her good clothes to match her " foine " room.
Ralph was grateful for the hint and asked if she would accompany Anna for necessary purchases.
"That I will," she answered heartily.
When he inquired the sum of money needed she said, " Well suits do be dirt cheap just now," and she thought that a hundred dollars would cover a comfortable outfitting.
With the requisite money she and Anna made the delightful tour of hat, suit and lingerie shops while Ralph went back to school to try to buckle on the sober, brown harness of study, after having pranced about in green fields for a whole week without so much as a head stall.
The Sunday following, Ralph came over and he and Anna went out to Golden Gate Park. Sitting on the green grass he told her how he did " think it out."
"Carl Stoft and I occupy, together, a suite of rooms at Berkeley, as I told you that first time we met. Unlike me, Carl pays his own bills, and his lather is rather liberal. I frankly told him that I was writing my father for money, but that I was hard up against it till it should arrive. He asked me how much would keep me afloat and gave me his check on the bank for the amount.
Albert Young, at Hilo Bay received Ralph's letter:–
"DEAR DAD:-the dearest in the whole world, I am writing to ask for money. I have every personal need supplied plentifully, extravagantly, but you will admit, I think, that you do keep me short on cash. I want to do something fine for a friend–a friend in need–and there are some things that can't decently be done on credit. I give you my word that this matter is honorable in every sense."
A cablegram replied:–
"Am cabling banker to place one thousand dollars at your command; would just as soon make it ten thousand if it would not injure you. It's all right Laddie, only don't deceive me. I couldn't hear that."
Delighted, Ralph showed it to Anna who little guessed that those few words had cost the price of a pretty dress.
Albert Young's first child was to he a boy, to learn, side by side with him, to handle his great interests in the land of the big moon. It was a girl. The girl died. Not for four years did hope spring anew. Then a child came. It was a girl. This babe lived and seemed to be the last, for seven years passed before the dreamed of, the prayed for, arrived.
The boy had come! The beautiful boy! The boy who grew more beautiful! The boy, who at six years rode his pony like the wind or a Hawaiian; the speed is the same. Who at ten years could swim and dive like a fish or a Hawaiian; they are peers. Who mastered mathematics as most children do their readers. Who at sixteen had become an invaluable aid in the gigantic enterprises of his father. Yet, Albert Young, holding his hand hard against his own heart, had sent that boy afar–to get the best that learning could give. When Ralph was eight years old, Albert Young stumbled upon a diamond in the streets of Honolulu – and knew it to be a diamond. Hermann Burckhardt was only twenty-eight years old when he consented to accompany Albert Young to Hilo Bay as tutor to Ralph and had named a salary so modest that Albert Young doubled it. Hermann Burckhardt was in the islands to study their geologic formation, so he said, but the only excursions he was ever known to make were in the company of his pupil for the latter's instruction. Ralph's books were wing, fin, blossom and stone; his class room, all out doors. When Hermann Burckhardt had been at Hilo Bay for four years he gave Albert Young two day's notice of his departure.
Albert Young replied: "Hermann Burckhardt, a hundred thousand dollars are yours if you will remain four years longer with my boy."
Two days later an inter-island boat carried Hermann Burckhardt to Honolulu and a Pacific steamer took him thence. Whatever the barriers which had corralled him on Hawaii, the bars were then down and he sprang through the opening. Was his name Hermann Burckhardt? They never knew.
It was the fourth Sunday since Ralph and Anna had tried to be sociable with the untalkative door bell and Ralph had come over from Berkeley, They were going out to the beach. Anna wore dark blue suit and hat which she and Mrs. Lacey had selected.
They boarded a car and chattered till it reached Sutro Station. They left the car and chattered on till they reached the beach. They strolled on the sand, they bought peanuts, they climbed Sutro Heights, they stood on the parapet and looked out over the ship-specked ocean, and when the sun had swelled and dimmed, they entered a town-bound car and chattered all the way back to Anna's room where they had tea and sandwiches and then all the glory faded out of their sky – Ralph had to leave to catch the ferry.
Wednesday he came over with tickets for the theatre.
" Oh, what a large picture! " exclaimed Anna. It was the beautiful landscape on the stage curtain. "And such a lovely frame, just electric lights!" she went on to Ralph's wonderment, for he had yet to learn that, except in God's free gallery she had seen nor stage nor play.
" The ceiling's almost as pretty as the sky at night – it's blue just like it, and it's all spangled with electric lights that are brighter than the stars, only there aren't so many," she prattled on.
The boy looked at her, joying in her joy, though he could not understand it.
"Oh, it's a fairy story!" This when the white-plumed caps of the men and the spangled silks of the women came into view.
Hours later they had supper to the music of an orchestra, a car ride home, a little chatting in Anna's room – then Ralph must get back to Berkeley. He glanced at the white and gold clock, took out his watch and estimated: " Seven minutes to catch the last ferry; time needed, twenty; can't be caught.''
He replaced his watch and fished in his other pockets for gold and silver.
" Five cents for car fare in the morning," he announced triumphantly, "ten cents for ferry transportation," holding up the proof, " and ten cents left for lodgings."
Then he laughed, " Me for Mrs. Lacey's washbench."
"Oh, no! It's nearly morning," said Anna as once before. "We can both sit up and this room is more comfortable than the kitchen."
But it was different. Then she was sorrowful and he sorry. Now they were both happy, happy, happy!