Read CHAPTER VII - SOME SMOLDERINGS of The Tinder-Box, free online book, by Maria Thompson Daviess, on ReadCentral.com.

I’m a failure!  Yes, Jane, I am!

Polk Hayes is an up-to-date, bright man of the world, with lots of brains and I should say about the average masculine nature, and a great deal more than the average amount of human charm.  However, he has got no more brains than I have, has had really fewer advantages, and it ought to be easy for me to hold my own against him.  But I am about to fail on him.

For the last two weeks he has been constantly with Nell and has got her in a dreamy state that shows in her face and every movement of her slim body.  And yet I know without the shadow of a doubt that he is just biding his time to try me out and get me on his own terms.  My heart aches for Nell, and I just couldn’t see him murder her girlhood, and it will amount to that if he involves her heart any more than it is.  I made up my mind to have it out with him and accordingly let him come and sit on my side steps with me late yesterday afternoon, when I have avoided being alone with him for a month.

“Polk,” I asked him suddenly without giving him time to get the situation into his own hands, skilled in their woman-handling, “do you intend to marry Nell or just plain break her heart for the fun you get out of it?”

His dangerous eyes smoldered back at me for a long minute before he answered me: 

“Men don’t break women’s hearts, Evelina.”

“I think you are right,” I answered slowly, “they do just wring and distort them and deform them for life.  But I intend to see that Nell’s has no such torturous operation performed on it if I can appeal to you or convince her.”

“When you argue with Nell be sure and don’t tell her just exactly the things you have done to me all this summer through, Evelina.” he answered coolly.

“What do you mean?” I demanded, positively cold with a kind of astonished fear.

“I mean that I have never offered Nell one half of the torture you have offered me, every day since you came home, with your damned affectionate friendliness.  When I laugh, you answer it before it gets articulate, and when I gloom, you are as sympathetic as sympathy itself.  I have held your hand and kissed it, instituting and not quenching a raging thirst thereby, as you are experienced enough to know.  You have made yourself everything for me that is responsive and desirable and beautiful and worthy and have put me back every time I have reached out to grasp you.  You don’t want me, you don’t want to marry me at all, you just want excitement.  You are as cold as ice that grinds and generates fire.  Very well, you don’t have to take me and I’ll get what I can from Nell and others.”

“Oh, Polk, how could you have misunderstood me like this?” I moaned from the depths of an almost broken heart.  But as I moaned I understood I understood!

I’m doing it all wrong!  I had the most beautiful human love for him in my heart and he thought it was all dastardly, cold coquetting.  An awful spark has been struck out of the flint.  I’m not worthy to experiment with this dreadful man-and-woman question.  I just laid my head down on my arms, resting on my knees and cowered at Polk’s feet.

“Don’t Evelina, I didn’t mean it.” he said quickly in a shaken voice.  But he did!

I couldn’t answer him and as I sat still and prayed in my heart for some words to come that would do away with the horror I heard Sallie’s voice from my front walk, and she and Mr. Haley, each carrying a sleeping twin, came around the corner of the porch.

That interruption was a direct answer to prayer, for God knew that I just must have time to think before having this out with Polk.  I sometimes feel ashamed of the catastrophes I have to pray quick about, but what would I do if I couldn’t?

I don’t know how I got through the rest of this evening, but I did I pray for sleep.  Amen!

Watching the seasons follow each other in the Harpeth Valley gives me the agony of a dumb poet, who can feel though not sing.

It was spring when I came down here four months ago, a young, tender, mist-veiled, lilac-scented spring that nestled firmly in your heart and made it ache with sweetness that you hardly understood yourself.

But before I knew it the young darling, with her curls and buds and apple-blooms had gone and summer was rioting over the gardens and fields and hills, rich, lush colored, radiant, redolent, gorgeous, rose-scented and pulsing with a life that made me breathless.  Even the roads along the valley were bordered with flowers that the sun had wooed to the swooning point.

But this week, early as it is, there has been a hint of autumn in the air, and a haze is beginning to creep over the whole world, especially in the early mornings, which are so dew-gemmed that they seem to be hinting a warning of the near coming of frost and snow.

My garden has grown into a perfect riot of blooms, but for the last two weeks queer slugs have begun to eat the tender buds that are forming for October blooming, and I have been mourning over it by day and by night and to everybody who will listen.

Aunt Augusta insists that the only thing to do is to get up with the first crack of dawn and carefully search out each slug, remove it and destroy it.  She says if this is done for a week they will be exterminated.

I carefully explained it all to Jasper and when I came down to breakfast he was coming in with three queer green things, also with an injured air of having been kept up all night.  I didn’t feel equal to making him go on with the combat and ignored the question for two days until I saw all the buds on my largest Nerón done for in one night.

I have always been able to get up at the break of day to go sketching it was at daybreak that I made my sketch in the Defleury gardens that captured the French art eye enough to get me my Salon mention.  If I could get up to splash water-colors at that hour, I surely could rush to the protection of my own roses, so I went to bed with gray dawn on my mind and the shutters wide open so the first light would get full in my eyes.

I am glad that it was a good bright ray that woke me and partly dazzled me, for the sight I had, after I had been kneeling down in the rose bed for fifteen minutes, was something of a shock to me, though no reason in the world why it should have been.  I can’t remember that I ever speculated as to whether the Crag wore pajamas or not, and I don’t see that I should have been surprised that he did instead of the night shirt of our common ancestry.

He came around the side of the house out of the sun-shot mist and was half way down the garden path before I saw him or he saw me, and I must say that his unconcern under the circumstances was rather remarkable.

He was attired in a light blue silk pajama jacket that was open at the throat and half way down his broad breast.  He had on his usual gray trousers, but tag’s of blue trailed out and ruffled around his bare ankles, and across his bare heels that protruded from his slippers.  His hair was in heavy tousled black curls all over his head and his gray eyes were positively mysterious with interrupted dreams.  In one hand he carried a tin can and in the other a small pointed stick, which looked murderously fitted for the extermination of the marauders.

I was positively nervous over the prospect of his embarrassment when he should catch sight of me, but there was none.

“Eve!” he exclaimed, with surprise, and a ray of pure delight drove away the dreams in his eyes.  Nobody in the wide world calls me Eve but just the Crag, and he does it in a queer, still way when he is surprised to see me, or glad, or sorry, or moved with any kind of sudden emotion.

And queer as it is I have to positively control the desire to answer him with the correlated title Adam!

“I forgot to tell you yesterday that I was coming over to get the slugs for you, dear,” he said as he came down the row of roses next to mine, squatted opposite to where I was kneeling by the bushy, suffering Nerón and began to examine the under side of each leaf carefully.  He was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in the early light with his great chest bare and the blue of the pajamas melting into the bronze of his throat and calling out the gray in his eyes.  I had to force myself into being gardener rather than artist, as we laughed together over the glass bowl and silver spoon I had brought out for the undoing of the slugs.  Some day I’m going to paint him like that!

I found out about the pajamas from questioning Aunt Martha discreetly.  They seemed so incongruous in relation to the usual old Henry Clay coat and stock collar, that I had to know the reason why.  Mrs. Hargrove’s son was a very worldly man, she says, and wore them.  It comforts her to make them for the Crag to wear in memoriam.  He wears the collars Cousin Martha makes him with her own fingers after the pattern she made his father’s by, for the same reason, and lets Cousin Jasmine cut his hair because she always cut her father’s, Colonel Horton’s, until his death.  That accounts for the ante-bellum curls and the irregular tags in the back.  I almost laughed when Cousin Martha was telling me, but I remembered how a glow rose in my heart when I saw that he still had Father’s little old Confederate comrade tailor cut his coats on the same pattern on which he had cut Father’s, since the days of reconstruction.  Sometimes it startles me to find that with all my emancipation I am very like other women.

But I wonder what I would do if Sallie attired him in any of the late Henry’s wearing apparel?

“What do you suppose is the why of such useless things as slugs?” I speculated to stop that thought off sharp as we crawled down the row together, he searching one side of each bush and I the other.

“Well, they brought on this nice companionable hunt for them, didn’t they?” he asked, looking over into my eyes with a laugh.

“I wanted to see you early this morning anyway,” he hastily resumed.  “Sallie and the Dominie sat talking to you so late last night that I didn’t feel it was fair to come across after they left.  But I wanted you so I could hardly get to sleep, and I was just half awake from a dream of you, when I came into the garden.”

“My evenings don’t belong to anybody, if you need them, Jamie, and you don’t have to be told that,” I answered crossly when I thought what a grand time I might have been having talking about real things with the Crag, instead of wrestling with Polk’s romantics or Sallie’s and Mr. Haley’s gush.

“Go on and tell me all about it, while I crawl after you like a worm myself,” I snapped still further.

“Well, here goes!  In the City Council meeting last night your Uncle Peter told us about the plans that they have made up at Bolivar for entertaining the C. & G. Commission, and the gloom of Polk and Lee, Ned and the rest of them could have easily been cut in blocks and used for cold storage purposes.  They are just all down and out about it and no fight left.  Of course, they all lose by the bond issue, but I can’t see that it is bad enough to knock them all out like this.  I got up in mighty wrath and and I have got myself into one job.  My eloquence landed me right into one large hole, and I am reaching out for a hand from you.”

“Here it is,” and I reached over and left a smear of loam across the back of his hand, while I brought away a brown circle around my wrist that the responsive grasp of his fingers left.  “Do you want me single-handed to get the bluff line chosen?”

“Not quite, but almost,” he answered with another laugh.  “You would if you tried.  I haven’t a doubt.  Do you remember the talk we had the other night about its seeming inhospitable of you not to invite the other gentlemen in the Commission over to see you when you invite Hall and his father?  And you know you had partly planned some sort of entertainment for the whole bunch.  You had the right idea at the right place, as you always do.  As you said, we don’t want Bolivar to see us with what looks like a grouch on us at their good fortune, and I think that as the Commission are all to be here as the guests of a private citizen, Glendale ought to entertain them publicly.  There is no hope to get the line for us, but I would like those men at least to see what the beauty of that bluff road would be.  The line across the river runs through the only ugly part of the valley, and while I know in the balance between dollars and scenery, scenery will go down and out, still it would be good for them to see it and at least get a vision of what might have been, to haunt them when they take their first trip through the swamps across the country there.  Now, as you are to have them anyway, I want to have the whole town entertain the whole Commission and Bolivar with what is classically called among us a barbecue-rally, the countryside to be invited.  Bolivar is going to give them a banquet, to be as near like what the Bolivarians imagine they have in New York as possible, and Mrs. Doctor Henderson is to give them a pink tea reception to which carefully chosen présentables, like you and me, are to be invited.  You remember that circus day in July? a rally will be like that or more so.  What do you think?”

“Oh, I think you are a genius to think about it,” I gasped, as I sat down on a very cruet Killarney branch and just as quickly sat up again, receiving comforting expressions of sympathy from across the bush, to which I paid no heed.  “Those blase city men will go crazy about it.  We can have the barbecue up on the bluff, where we have always had it for the political rallies, and a fish-fry and the country people in their wagons with children tumbling all over everything and and you will make a great speech with all of us looking on and being proud of you, because nobody in New York or beyond can do as well.  We can invite a lot of people up from the City and over from Bolivar and Hillsboro and Providence to hear you tell them all about Tennessee while things are cooking and ”

“This rally is to show off Glendale not the Crag,” he interrupted me with a quizzical laugh.

Now, how did he know I called him the Crag in my heart?  I suppose I did it to his face and never knew.  I seem to think right out loud when I am with him and feel out loud, too.  I ignored his levity, that was out of place when he saw how my brain was beginning to work well and rapidly.

“You mean, don’t you, Jamie, that you want to get Glendale past this place that is humiliating swimming with her head up?” I asked softly past a rose that drooped against my cheek.

Perfectly justifiable tears came to my lashes as I thought what a humiliation it all was to him and the rest of them, to be passed by an opportunity like that and left to die in their gray moldiness off the main line of life shelved.

“That is one of my prayers, to get past humiliations, swimming with my head up,” I added softly, though I blushed from my toes to my top curl at the necessity that had called out the prayer the last time.  It’s awful on a woman to feel herself growing up stiff and sturdy by a man’s side and then to get sight of a gourd-vine tangling itself up between them.  I’m the dryad out of one of my own twin oaks down by the gate, and I want the other twin to be

I wonder if his eyes really look to other women like deep gray pools that you can look deeper and deeper into and never seem to get to the bottom, no matter if the look does seem to last forever and you feel yourself blushing and wanting to take your eyes away, or if it is just I that get so drowned in them!

“You’ve a gallant stroke, Evelina,” he said softly, as I at last gained possession of my own sight.  “And here I am with a hand out to you for assistance in carrying out your own plan that seems to be just the thing to ”

“Say, Cousin James.  Aunt Marfy says for you to come home to breakfast right away.  Mis’ Hargrove won’t let nobody begin until you says the blessing, and Cousin Jasmine have got the headache from waiting for her coffee.  What do you want to fool with Evelina this time of day for anyway?” And with the delivery of which message and reproof Henrietta stood on the edge of the path looking down upon us with great and scornful interest.

“You’ve got on your night shirt and haven’t combed your hair or washed your face,” she continued sternly.  “There’ll be hell to pay with all the breakfast getting cold, and I’m empty down to my feet.  Come on, quick!”

“Henrietta,” I said, sternly, as I rose to my feet, “I’ve asked you once not to say ugly words like that.”

“I’ll go make the lightning toilet, Henrietta.  Do run like a good girl and ask Mrs. Hargrove to let Cousin Jasmine have her cup of coffee right away.  I’ll be there before the rest are dead from hunger,” and Cousin James skilfully interrupted the threatened feminine clash as he emptied my glass bowl into his tin can and stuck the sharp stick in the ground for future reference.  Even Henrietta’s pointed allusion to his toilet had not in the least ruffled his equanimity or brought a shade of consciousness to his face.

“Mis’ Hargrove said that the Bible said not for any woman to say a blessing at any table or at any place that anybody can hear her, when Cousin Marfy wanted to be polite to the Lord by saying just a little one and go on before we was all too hungry,” answered Henrietta, in her most scornfully tolerant voice.  “If women eat out loud before everybody why can’t they pray their thank-you out loud like any man?”

“Answer her, Evelina,” laughed Cousin James, as he hurried down the walk away from us.

“Henrietta,” I asked, in a calmly argumentative tone of voice as she and I walked up the path to the house, “didn’t Mr. Haley talk to you just yesterday and tell you how wicked it is for you to use use such strong words as you do?”

Mr. Haley had told me just a few days ago that he and Aunt Augusta had agreed to open their campaign of reform on Henrietta by a pastoral lecture from him, to be followed strongly by a neighborly one from her.

“No, he never did any such thing,” answered Henrietta, promptly and what Henrietta says is always the truth, because she isn’t afraid of anybody or anything enough to tell a lie –­“he just telled me over and over in a whole lot of words how I ought to love and be good to Sallie.  If I was to love Sallie that kind of way, he said, I would be so busy I couldn’t do none of the things Sallie don’t like to do herself and makes me do.  ’Stid er saying, ’my precious mother, I love you and want to be good because you want me to,’ about every hour, I had better wipe the twins’ noses, and wash the dirt often them, and light Aunt Dilsie’s phthisic pipe, and get things upstairs for Sallie and Miss Jasmine and everybody when they are downstairs.  I’m too busy, I am, to be so religious.  And I’m too hungry to talk any more about it.”  With which she departed.

I sank on the side steps and laughed until a busy old bumble-bee came down from a late honeysuckle blossom and buzzed around to see what it was all about.  Henrietta’s statement of the case was a graphic and just one.  Sallie has got a tendril around Henrietta which grows by the day.  Poor tot, she does have a hard and hardening time and how can I lecture her for swearing?

With a train of thought started by Henrietta I sat at my solitary breakfast in a deeply contemplative mood.  Life was going to press hard on Henrietta.  And reared in the fossilized atmosphere of Widegables, which tried to draw all its six separate feminine breaths as one with a lone, supporting man, how was she to develop the biceps of strength of mind and soul, as well as body, to meet the conditions she was likely to have to meet?  Still her coming tussle with Aunt Augusta would be a tonic at least.  I was just breaking a last muffin and beginning to smile when I saw a delegation coming down the street and turning into my front gate; I rose to meet it with distinction.

Aunt Augusta marched at the head and Nell and Caroline were on each side of her, while Sallie and Mamie Hall brought up the rear, walking more deliberately and each carrying a baby, comparing some sort of white tags of sewing.  Cousin Martha was crossing the Road in their wake with her knitting bag and palm leaf fan.

One thing I am proud of having accomplished this summer is the establishing of friendly relations with Aunt Augusta.  I made up my mind that she probably needed to have some of my affection ladled out to her more than anybody in Glendale, and I worked on all the volatile fear and resentment and dislike I had ever had for her all my life, and I have succeeded in liquefying it into a genuine liking for the martial old personality.  If Aunt Augusta had been a man she would have probably led a regiment up San Juan Hill, died in the trenches, and covered herself and family with glory.  She is the newest woman in the Harpeth Valley, and though sixty years old, she is lineally Sallie Carruthers’s own granddaughter.

“Evelina,” she began, as soon as she had martialed her forces into rocking-chairs, though she had Jasper bring her the stiffest and straightest-backed one in the house, “I have collected as many women as I had time to, and have come up here to tell you, and them, that the men in Glendale are so lacking in sense and judgment that the time has come for women to stand forth and assume the responsibility of them and Glendale in general.  As the wife of the poor decrepit Mayor, I appoint myself chairman of the meeting pro tem and ask you to take the first minutes.  If disgrace is threatening us we must at least face it in an orderly and parliamentary way.  And I ”

“Oh, Mrs. Shelby, is it is it smallpox?” and as Sallie spoke she hugged up the Puppy baby, who happened to be the twin in her arms, so that she bubbled and giggled, mistaking her embraces for those of frolicsome affection.

Mamie turned pale and held her baby tight and I could see that she was having light spasms of alarm, one for each one of the children and one for Ned.

“Smallpox, fiddlesticks I said disgrace, Sallie Carruthers, and the worst kind of disgrace municipal disgrace.”  And as Aunt Augusta named the plague that was to come upon us, she looked as if she expected it to wilt us all into sear and dried leaves.  And in point of fact, we all did rustle.

“Tell us about it,” said Nell, with sparkling eyes and sitting up in her low rocker as straight as Aunt Augusta did in her uncompromising seat.  The rest of them just looked helpless and undecided as to whether to be relieved or not.

“Yes, municipal disgrace threatens the town, and the women must rise in their strength and avert it,” she declaimed majestically with her dark eyes snapping.

“Yesterday afternoon James Hardin, who is the only patriotic male in Glendale, put before the Town Council a most reasonable and pride-bestirring proposition originated by Evelina Shelby, one of Glendale’s leading citizens, though a woman.  She wants to offer the far-famed hospitality of Glendale which is the oldest and most aristocratic town in the Harpeth Valley, except perhaps Hillsboro, and which is not in the class with a vulgarly rich, modern place like Bolivar, that has a soap-factory and streetcars, and was a mud-hole in the landscape when the first Shelby built this very house, to the Commission of magnates who are to come down about the railroad lines that are to be laid near us.  James agrees with her and urges that it is fitting and dignified that, when they are through with their vulgar trafficking over at insignificant Bolivar, they be asked to partake of real southern hospitality at its fountain head, especially as Evelina is obliged to invite two of them as personal friends.  Do you not see it in that light?” And Aunt Augusta looked at us with the martial mien of a general commanding his army for a campaign.

“It would be nice,” answered Mamie, as she turned little Ned over on his stomach across her knee and began to sway him and trot him at the same time, which was his signal to get off into a nap.  “But Ned said last night that he had lost so much in the bond subscription, that he didn’t feel like spending any more money for an entertainment, that wouldn’t do one bit of good about the taxes or bonds or anything.  The baby was beginning to fret, so I don’t think I understood it exactly.”

“I don’t think you did,” answered Aunt Augusta, witheringly, “That is not the point at all, and ”

“But Mr. Greenfield said last night, while he was discussing it with Father, that it would do no good whatever and probably be an embarrassment to the Commission, our putting in a pitiful bid like that.  He ” but Caroline got no further with the feminine echo of her masculine opinion-former.

“Peter Shelby put that objection much more picturesquely than Lee Greenfield,” Aunt Augusta snapped.  “He said that licking those men’s hands would turn his stomach, after swallowing that bond issue.  However, all this has nothing to do with the case.  I am trying to ”

“Polk said last night that he thought it would be much more spectacular for all the good looking women in town to go when we are invited to Mrs. Henderson’s tea for the big bugs, and dazzle ’em so that it would at least put Glendale on the map,” said Nell, with spirit.  “He made me so mad that I ”

“Mr. Haley thinks that we should be very careful not to feel malice or envy towards Bolivar, but to rejoice at their good fortune in getting both roads and the shops, even if it does mean a loss to us.  What is material wealth in this world anyway when we can depend so on ” Sallie’s expression was so beautifully silly and like the Dominie’s, that it was all that I could do not to give vent to an unworthy shout.  Nell saw it as I did and I felt her smother a giggle.

But before Aunt Augusta could get her breath to put the crux of the matter straight before her feminine tribunal, Aunt Martha beat her to it as she placidly rocked back and forth knitting lace for a petticoat for Henrietta.

“Of course, Glendale doesn’t really care about the railroad; in fact, we would much rather not have our seclusion broken in upon, especially as they might choose the route they have prospected” with a glance at Sallie “but it is to show them our friendliness, more Bolivar than the actual Commission, and our desire to rejoice with them in their good fortune.  It would be very mean spirited of us to ignore them and not assist them in entertaining their guests, especially as some of them must be invited.  We’ve never been in such an attitude as that to Bolivar!”

“Exactly, Martha,” answered Aunt Augusta with relief.  “The thought of proud old Glendale putting herself in an attitude of municipal sulks towards common Bolivar seemed an unbearable disgrace to me.  Didn’t we invite them up for a great fish-fry on the river when they opened that odious soap factory, and ask them to let us help take care of some of their delegates when they had the Methodist Conference?  They sent one of the two bishops to you, you remember, Martha, and I am sure your entertainment of him was so lavish that he went home ill.  No man said us nay in the exercising our right of religious hospitality, why should they in our civic?  We must not allow the town to put us in such an attitude!  Must Not!  It was for this that I called this meeting at Evelina’s, as she was the one to propose this public-spirited and creditable plan.”

“But what shall we do if they don’t want to have it?” asked Mamie.

“I have asked, when did the men of Glendale begin to dictate to the women as to whom they should offer their hospitality?” answered Aunt Augusta, as she arose to her feet.  “Are we free women, and have we, or have we not, command of our own storerooms and our own servants and our own time and strength?”

And as I looked up at the tall, fierce, white-haired old dame of high degree, daughter of the women of the Colonies and the women of the Wilderness days, I got exactly the same sensation I had when I saw the Goddess of Liberty loom up out of the mist as I sailed into the harbor of my own land from a foreign one.  And what I was feeling I knew every woman present was feeling in a greater or less degree, except perhaps Sallie, for her face was a puzzle of sore amazement and a pleading desire for further sleep.

“Have we or have we not?” Aunt Augusta again demanded, and just then a most wonderful thing happened!

Jane stood in our midst!

Oh, Jane, you were a miracle to me, but I must go on writing about it all calmly for the sake of the Five!

I made a mad rush from my rocker to throw myself into her arms, but she stopped me with one glance of her cold, official eye that quelled me, and stood attention before Aunt Augusta.

“Madam President,” she said in her grandest parliamentary voice, “it was by accident that I interrupted the proceedings of what I take to be an official meeting.  Have I your permission to withdraw?  I am Miss Shelby’s guest, Miss Mathers, and I can easily await her greetings until the adjournment of this body.”

Oh, Jane, and my arms just hungry for you!

“Madam,” answered Aunt Augusta, in her grandest manner and a voice so filled with cordiality that I hardly knew it, “it is the pleasure of the chair to interrupt proceedings and to welcome you.  Evelina, introduce us all!”

It was all just glorious!  I never saw anybody get a more lovely ovation than Jane did from my friends, for they had all heard about her, read with awe clippings I showed them about her speeches and were about ready for her.

Sallie kissed her on both cheeks, Mamie laid the baby in her arms with a devout expression, and Nell clung to her with the rapture of the newly proselyted in her face.  Aunt Martha made her welcome in her dearest manner and Caroline beamed on her with the return of a lot of the fire and spirit of the youth that hanging on the doled-out affections of Lee Greenfield had starved in her.

And it was characteristic of Jane and her methods that it took much less time than it takes me to write it, for her to get all the greetings over with, explain that she had sent me a letter telling me that she was coming that must have gone astray, get everybody named and ticketed in her mind, and get us all back to business.

Aunt Augusta explained the situation to her with so much feeling and eloquence that she swept us all off our feet, and when she was ready to put the question again to us as to our willingness to embark on our defiance of our fellow-townsmen, the answer of enthusiastic acquiescence was ready for her.

“Of course, as none of you have any official municipal status, the invitation will have to be given informally, in a social way, to the Commission through Miss Shelby’s friend, Mr. Richard Hall,” said Jane, when Aunt Augusta had called on her to give us her opinion of the situation in general and the mode of procedure.  “We find it best in all women-questions of the present, to do things in a perfectly legal and parliamentary way.”

“Must we tell them about it or not?” asked Mamie, in a wavering voice, looking up devoutly at Jane, who had held young Ned against the stiff white linen shirt of her traveling dress just as comfortably as if he were her own seventh.

“Did they consult you before deciding to refuse your suggestion?” asked Jane, calmly and thoughtfully.

“They did not,” trumpeted Aunt Augusta.

“Then wouldn’t it be the most regular way to proceed to get an acceptance of the invitation from the Commission and then extend them one to be present?” pronounced Jane, coolly, seemingly totally unconscious that she was exploding; a bomb shell.

“It would, and we will consider it so settled,” answered Aunt Augusta, dominatingly.

This quick and revolutionary decision gave me a shock.  I could see that a woman doesn’t like to feel that there is a stick of dynamite between her and a man, when she puts her head down under his chin or her cheek to his, but advanced women must suffer that.  Still I’m glad that the Crag is on our side of the fence.  I felt sorry for Mamie and Caroline and Sallie looked a tragedy.

In fact, a shade of depression was about to steal over the spirits of the meeting when Aunt Augusta luckily called for the discussion of plans for the rally.

Feeding other human beings is the natural, instituted, physiological, pathological, metaphysical, and spiritual outlet for a woman’s nature, and that is why she is so happy when she gets out her family receipt book for a called rehearsal for the functioning of her hospitality.  The revolution went home happy and excited over the martialing of their flesh pots.

I’m glad Jane is asleep across the hall to-night.  If I had had to shoulder all this outbreak by myself I would have compromised by instituting a campaign of wheedling, the like of which this town never suffered before, and then when this glorious rally was finally pulled off, the cajoled masculine population would have fairly swelled with pride over having done it!

Of course, by every known test of conduct and economics, their attitude in the matter is entirely right.  Men work to all given points in straight, clear-cut, logical lines only to find women at the point of results waiting for them, with unforeseen culminations, which would have been impossible to them.

And I am also glad the Crag is partly responsible for starting, or at least unconsciously aiding, this scheme in high finance of mine; and he is also in reality the silent sponsor for this unhatched revolution.  I am deeply contented to go to sleep with that comforting; thought tucked under my pillow.