A Chapter Devoted to the Proposition
that All Mankind Are Born of Woman
He began by suddenly filling the air
with canary birds; they flew and chirped and fluttered
about her head, until, bewildered, she shrank back,
almost frightened at the golden hurricane.
To reassure her he began doing incredible
things with the big silver hoops, forming chains and
linked figures under her amazed eyes, although each
hoop seemed solid and without a break in its polished
circumference. Then, one by one, he tossed the
rings up and they vanished in mid-air before her very
“How did you do that?” she cried, enchanted.
He laughed and produced the big, white
Persian cats, changed them into kittens, then into
birds and butterflies, and finally into a bowl full
of big, staring goldfish. Then he picked up a
ladle, dipped out the fish, carefully fried them over
an electric lamp, dumped them from the smoking frying
pan back into the water, where they quietly swam off
again, goggling their eyes in astonishment.
“That,” said the girl, excitedly, “is
“Isn’t it?” he said,
delighted as a boy at her praise. “What
card will you choose?”
And he handed her a pack.
“The ace of hearts, if you please.”
“Draw it from the pack.”
“Any card?” she inquired.
“Oh! how on earth did you make me draw the ace
“Hold it tightly,” he warned her.
She clutched it in her pretty fingers.
“Are you sure you hold it?” he asked.
She looked and found that it was the
queen of diamonds she held so tightly; but, looking
again to reassure herself, she was astonished to find
that the card was the jack of clubs. “Tear
it up,” he said. She tore it into small
“Throw them into the air!”
She obeyed, and almost cried out to
see them take fire in mid-air and float away in ashy
Face flushed, eyes brilliant, she
turned to him, hanging on his every movement, every
Before her rapt eyes the multicolored
mice danced jigs on slack wires, then were carefully
rolled up into little balls of paper which immediately
began to swell until each was as big as a football.
These burst open, and out of each football of white
paper came kittens, turtles, snakes, chickens, ducks,
and finally two white rabbits with silly pink eyes
that began gravely waltzing round and round the room.
“Please stand up and shake your skirts,”
She rose hastily and obeyed; a rain
of silver coins fell, then gold, then banknotes, littering
the floor. Then precious stones began to drop
about her; she shook them from her hair, her collar,
her neck; she clenched her hands in nervous amazement,
but inside each tight little fist she felt something,
and opening her fingers she fairly showered the floor
“Can’t you save one for
me?” he asked. “I really need it.”
But when again she looked for the glittering heap
at her feet, it was gone; and, search as she might,
not one coin, not one gem remained.
Glancing up in dismay she found herself
in a perfect storm of white butterflies no,
they were red no, green!
“Is there anything in this world
you desire?” he asked her.
“A a glass of water ”
She was already holding it in her
hands, and she cried out in amazement, spilling the
brimming glass; but no water fell, only a rain of little
“I can’t can’t drink
this can I?” she faltered.
“With perfect safety,” he smiled, and
she tasted it.
“Taste it again,” he said.
She tried it; it was lemonade.
It was ginger ale.
She stared at the glass, frothing
with ice-cream soda; there was a long silver spoon
in it, too.
Enchanted, she lay back, savoring her ice, shyly watching
He went on gayly doing uncanny or
charming things; her eyes were tired, dazzled, but
not too weary to watch him, though she scarcely followed
the marvelous objects that appeared and vanished and
glittered and flamed under his ceaselessly busy hands.
She did notice with a shudder the
appearance of an owl that sat for a while on his shoulder
and then turned into a big fur muff which was all
right as long as he held it, but walked away on four
legs when he tossed it to the floor.
A shower of brilliant things followed
like shooting stars; two or three rose trees grew,
budded, and bloomed before her eyes; and he laid the
fresh, sweet blossoms in her hands. They turned
to violets later, but that did not matter; nothing
mattered any longer as long as she could lie there
and gaze at him the most splendid man her
maiden eyes had ever unclosed upon.
About two thousand yards of brilliant
ribbons suddenly fell from the ceiling; she looked
at him with something perilously close to a sigh.
Out of an old hat he produced a cage full of parrots;
every parrot repeated her first name decorously, monotonously,
until packed back into the hat and stuffed into a
box which was then set on fire.
Her heart was pretty full now; for
she was only eighteen and she had been considering
his poverty. So when in due time the box burned
out and from the black and charred debris the
parrots stepped triumphantly forth, gravely repeating
her name in unison; and when she saw that the entertainment
was at an end, she rose, setting her ice-cream soda
upon a table, and, although the glass instantly changed
into a teapot, she walked straight up to him and held
out her hand.
“I’ve had a perfectly
lovely time,” she said. “And I want
to say to you that I have been thinking of several
things, and one is that it is perfectly ridiculous
for you to be poor.”
“It is rather ridiculous,”
he admitted, surprised. “Isn’t it!
And no need of it at all. Your father made a
fortune for my father. All you have to do is
to let my father make a fortune for you.”
“Is that all?” he asked, laughing.
“Of course. Why did you not tell him so?
Have you seen him?”
“No,” he said gravely.
“I saw others I did not care to try any
“Will you now?”
He shook his head.
“Then I will.”
he said quietly. Her hand still lay in his; she
looked up at him; her eyes were starry bright and
a little moist.
“I simply can’t stand this,” she
said, steadying her voice.
“Your your distress ”
She choked; her sensitive mouth trembled.
“Good Heavens!” he breathed; “do
she stammered. “You saved my life with a
laugh! You face st-starvation with a laugh!
Your father made mine! Care? Yes, I care!”
But she had bent her head; a bright
tear fell, spangling his polished shoes; the pulsating
seconds passed; he laid his other hand above both of
hers which he held, and stood silent, stunned, scarcely
daring to understand.
Nor was it here he could understand
or even hope his instinct held him stupid
and silent. Presently he released her hands.
She said “Good-by” calmly
enough; he followed her to the door and opened it,
watching her pass through the hall to her own door.
And there she paused and looked back; and he found
himself beside her again.
“Only,” she began, “only
don’t do all those beautiful magic things for
any anybody else will you?
I wish to have have them all for myself to
share them with no one ”
He held her hands imprisoned again.
“I will never do one of those things for anybody
but you,” he said unsteadily.
“Truly?” Her face caught fire.
“But how how, then, can you can ”
“I don’t care what happens
to me!” he said. To look at him nobody would
have thought him young enough to say that sort of thing.
“I care,” she said, releasing
her hands and stepping back into her studio.
For a moment her lovely, daring face
swam before his eyes; then, in the next moment, she
was in his arms, crying her eyes out against his shoulder,
his lips pressed to her bright hair.
And that was all right in its way,
too; madder things have happened in our times; but
nothing madder ever happened than a large, bald gentleman
who came up the stairs in a series of bounces and planted
his legs apart and tightened his pudgy grip upon his
malacca walking stick, and confronted them with distended
eyes and waistband.
In vigorous but incoherent English
he begged to know whether this scene was part of an
education in art.
“Papah,” she said calmly,
“you are just in time. Go into the studio
and I’ll come in one moment.”
Then giving her lover both hands and
looking at him with all her soul in her young eyes:
“I love you; I’ll marry you. And if
there’s trouble” she smiled
upon her frantic father “if there
is trouble I will follow you about the country exhibiting
green mice ”
“What!” thundered her father.
“Green mice,” she repeated
with an adorable smile at her lover “unless
my father finds a necessity for you in his business with
a view to partnership. And I’m going to
let you arrange that together. Good-by.”
And she entered her studio, closing
the door behind her, leaving the two men confronting
one another in the entry.
For one so young she had much wisdom
and excellent taste; and listening, she heard her
father explode in one lusty Saxon word. He always
said it when beaten; it was the beginning of the end,
and the end of the sweetest beginning that ever dawned
on earth for a maid since the first sunbeam stole
So she sat down on her little camp
stool before her easel and picked up a hand glass;
and, sitting there, carefully removed all traces of
tears from her wet and lovely eyes with the cambric
hem of her painting apron.
Mr. Carr, “am I to understand that the only thing
you can do for a living is to go about with a troupe
of trained mice?”
“I’ve invented a machine,”
observed the young man, modestly. “It ought
to be worth millions if you’d care
to finance it.”
“The idea is utterly repugnant
to me!” shouted her father.
The young man reddened. “If
you wouldn’t mind examining it ”
He drew from his pocket a small, delicately contrived
bit of clockwork. “This is the machine ”
“I don’t want to see it!”
“You have seen it.
Do you mind sitting down a moment? Be careful
of that kitten! Kindly take this chair.
Thank you. Now, if you would be good enough to
listen for ten minutes ”
“I don’t want to be good enough!
Do you hear!”
“Yes, I hear,” said young
Destyn, patiently. “And as I was going to
explain, the earth is circumscribed by wireless currents
of electricity ”
“I dammit, sir ”
“But those are not the only
invisible currents that are ceaselessly flowing around
our globe!” pursued the young man, calmly.
“Do you see this machine?”
“No, I don’t!” snarled the other.
“Then ” And,
leaning closer, William Augustus Destyn whispered into
Bushwyck Carr’s fat, red ear.
“You can’t prove it!”
Ethelinda had dried her eyes.
Every few minutes she glanced anxiously at the little
French clock over her easel.
“What on earth can they be doing?”
she murmured. And when the long hour struck she
arose with resolution and knocked at the door.
“Come in,” said her father,
irritably, “but don’t interrupt. William
and I are engaged in a very important business transaction.”