Read AN ADVENTURE IN ALTRURIA of Stories That End Well, free online book, by Octave Thanet, on

The story came to me through my friend, Mrs. Katherine Biff. Mrs. Biff is a widow. Her profession I will not slight her beautiful art by a lesser word is that of cook. She cooks for my cousin, Elinor, and it was during one of Elinor’s absences in Europe that Mrs. Biff had her experience in Altruria, as the supply for Miss Mercedes Van Arden. It was highly interesting, I think.

She gave me the episode herself; because, in the first place, I am Elinor’s own cousin (like the rest of the world, she loves Elinor) and in the second place, she knows that I appreciate her conversation. Assuredly I do value Katy’s freehand sketches of life. She is a shrewd observer. Often while she talks I recall Stevenson’s description of another: “She is not to be deceived nor think a mystery solved when it is repeated.”

Katy is an American by birth, but Celtic by race and by nature; a widow to whom children never were granted, but who out of her savings has helped educate and settle half a dozen of her nieces and nephews. Katy’s married life was brief and not happy. The late Biff was a handsome man who never let other people’s comforts or rights interfere with his own pleasure. Nevertheless, when he was killed in a saloon brawl she did not grudge him many carriages for his last journey (she who believes in simple funerals. “When I give free rides, I’ll give ’em while I’m alive and can hear folks say ‘Thank you!’” says she), and she has erected a neat stone to his memory.

It was three years after his death that Mrs. Biff came to Elinor, with whom she has lived since.

Elinor, one may say, bequeathed her to the Van Ardens. At least she suggested them importunately to Katy. To me she explained, “Katy is a maternal soul, and she can’t help taking care of Mercy Van Arden, who is a stray angel in a wicked world and thinks she is a socialist.”

We are conservative, peaceful, mid-Westerners in our town, and the only socialists belong to a class that we do not meet nor recognize save by their names in the papers published preliminary to fiery addresses delivered at not very reputable tavern halls. Therefore, to have a cultivated socialist, a young lady of wealth, who regarded her fortune as a “trust,” come to live among us was exciting. Her aunt, from whom she had recently inherited her fortune, was well known to us, being a large property owner in the town. She, the late aunt, was not in the least a socialist; on the contrary, we esteemed her a particularly shrewd and merciless adept at a bargain. She had a will of her own; and considering that Miss Mercedes had borne the yoke for ten years, it was generally considered that she had earned her legacy.

Under all these conditions of interest, I admit I was glad enough to see Katy Biff’s decent black hat approaching the side door the day after her entrance into the Van Arden family circle.

“Well, Miss Patsy,” she began, “I guess you know she’s queer; I thought I knew most of the brands of wine and women, as old Judge Howells used to say, but this one beats me! I came ’round to the yard she’s hired the Bateman place, furnished, you know, while the Batemans are towering in Canada, she and her sister, who’s a doctor lady. I hope the doctor’ll be a kinder balance wheel, but she’s got a chore!

“As I was saying, I came ’round the yard, aiming for the kitchen door, when I heard somebody calling, and there she was opening the front door to Nellie Small. Don’t you remember Nellie Small? She was the Batemans’ waitress for three months poor young things and smashed a lot of their nice wedding presents, the other girl told me. She’s the kind that always looks so fine and never dusts the hind legs of the table. I wasn’t none too pleased at the sight of her, but Miss Van Arden, she was awful polite; took us both right into the parlor and made us set down. I got worried thinking she’d mistook, and I hesitate a minute and then I says:

“’Miss Van Arden, I was going ’round to the kitchen door; I’ve come to see about the cook’s place.’

“‘I know,’ says she right quick, with a little lift of her pretty brown head. ‘I know,’ says she, ‘you’re Mrs. Biff, and you,’ says she, smiling so pretty on that Nellie trash, ‘you’re Miss Small.’

“‘I am,’ says Nellie, tossing her head.

“So then she begins; and from that beginning, and calling us in that way, you can imagine how she went on. She explained that while she was a poor girl at her aunty’s she read a lovely book about an imaginary country called Altruria; and that the gentleman who wrote it didn’t think we could do that way in this country; she supposed we couldn’t, but she was going to try, and she hoped we would like her and help her. She didn’t know much about housekeeping; she had helped her aunty, but it was writing letters and doing errands and dusting brac-a-brac (and she laughed); the only things she knew how to do right well was to dust and to polish jewelry and make tea. But she hoped to learn; and she had got all the machinery she could think of; there was an electric washer and an ironing machine, and a dishwashing machine, and bread and cake machines, and we ought not to need to work more than eight hours a day. She didn’t believe really in more than six hours a day, but at first maybe we wouldn’t mind eight.

“I could see that Nellie drinking it all in, getting more topping every minute.

“‘Miss Van Arden,’ says she, ’how about evenings? I’m used to having all my evenings.’

“‘I ain’t, madam,’ says I, ’not if there’s dinner company. And I know well enough Nellie ain’t, neither.’

“‘I I could have dinner in the middle of the day,’ says Miss Van Arden real pitiful, ’if it weren’t that my sister comes in tired at night and likes a hot meal; but I’ve got a fireless stove, and it might be cooked and left in the fireless stove and we could wait on ourselves.’

“‘I guess that’ll be satisfactory,’ says Nellie, dipping her head and smiling a haughty smile, while I was quivering to git a word in Miss Van Arden’s ear. But, of course, there was no chance. And Miss Van Arden, she went on to say that she didn’t eat meat herself, but her sister liked to have it, so ’

“‘I have to have meat myself,’ hops in that Nellie.

“‘Oh, of course,’ Miss Van Arden said; she didn’t dictate to others, but personally she didn’t eat meat; but she didn’t need any special vegetable dishes made for her.

“’You shall have ’em if you want ’em, ma’am,’ says I; then, ’and I guess the cook will have something to say about the kitchen table; I ain’t never much on meat myself.’ I guess that was one for miss!

“‘Oh, thank you,’ says Miss Van Arden real grateful she’s jest as sweet’s they make ’em, Miss Patsy. Then she looked very timidly at Nellie and the color came into her face.

“’I should like to have you take your meals with me if if I were alone,’ she stammers, ’but my sister we have so little time together we’ll try not to make much waiting ’ She got into a kind of mess of stammers, when I cut in and told her that we much preferred to eat in our own pantry, which was big enough for a dining-room.

“Well, you can guess, Miss Patsy, that about this time I was wishing myself well out of it all, for I’ve lived with notional folks before, and folks who wanted to make friends of their help, and what I like with strangers is to have them keep their side of the fence and I’ll keep mine; I ain’t seeking any patronage from nobody, and I got too much self-respect not to be respectful. But I’d promised Mrs. Caines; so I simply told what wages I wanted, and I made ’em reasonable, too. But Nellie my! she named a sum two dollars a week more’n she ever’d got and four dollars more’n she was worth; and for hatred of meddling I sat still and let that poor little sweet Babe in the Woods agree to it. But I miss my guess if I have to put up with Nellie long!

“So we was engaged. Not a word about any day’s work in the week or when she has sweeping done (she said she’d do the dusting herself and she’s wise, with Nellie ’round) or when she had bakings or anything; only that she’d have a laundress come in three days (eight hours a day) and do all our washing. We got a room apiece, but we haven’t got a bathroom like at Mrs. Caines’, so she told us we could have the guest bathroom. My! but I wish you’d heard her; and she’s just the prettiest thing in the world and wears the prettiest clothes. Her clothes is all that gives me hope of her! She said she embroidered her shirt-waist herself; and I guess if she can sit up and take that amount of notice, she’s got the makings of sense in her!

“She said could I come that day. I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’

“‘You needn’t call me that,’ says she; ’I don’t care for those little distinctions.’

“‘If you please, ma’am,’ I says, kind but firm, ’they’re fitting and proper and I prefer it, ma’am.’

“Well, Miss Patsy, I got my first dinner yesterday. I even made the salad, which belongs to the waitress, but I couldn’t risk Nellie Small’s ideas of French dressing yet! Miss Patsy, she set her own plate at table.

“‘Now,’ says I, ’let’s talk plain United States a minute. Whether that poor, innercent, looney lady craves our company or not, she ain’t going to git it. When I’m cooking a dinner I ain’t dressed up for company. I want my meals in peace, and you ought to want yours; they got their own gossip, same’s us; and whatever Miss Van Arden might be willing to do, the doctor’ll want to have her sister and her friends to herself without you and me butting in; just as I want my meals to myself without them!’

“Nellie told me she was just as good as them; and I said I wasn’t the one that had to decide that; goodness was something only the Lord Almighty got the scales for weighing exact, but I’d bet money, if it came to sheer, imbecile cleanness of heart and willingness to sacrifice herself for any old thing, that Miss Van Arden could give us both a long start and then beat us! But I guessed we’d leave that part out. Sich things was just business. We got to take the world’s we found it. So she said she wouldn’t take the plate off. I said I wasn’t proud; wherefore I took it off myself, and she didn’t put no more on, and the sisters had their meal in peace. She come when the buzzer called her and waited fairly well she’s bright enough when she wants to be.

“Doctor? Oh, she’s a horse of another color. She’s ten years older’n her sister and ain’t seen much of her since their parents died and Miss Mercy went to live with her aunty, and she seems to set a good deal by her and be puzzled by her, too. She’s got a good appetite and knows good food. I can git along with her all right. But I mistrust that Nellie, being so half baked, we’ll get our trouble soon! We’ve a colored man looks out for the furnace and beats the rugs and tends to the yard and does chores; he seems a decent sort of man. I got a rise out of Nellie ’bout him, though. She was just boiling and sissing when I remarked, ’You think everybody’s as good as everybody else, so I expect you won’t mind having Amos set down with us.’ Why, she flew into fifty pieces. ‘Eat with a nigger!’ she screamed.

“Of course, I was only fooling, and he was glad enough to get a good meal in the laundry; he’s a real nice, sensible man. But my lady was off, not so much as putting the dishes in the washing machine. Marched off with her young man, who’s on strike; so he’s underfoot most of the time. That kind makes me tired!”

Naturally, after this conversation with Katy I agreed with my sister that it would be interesting to call; and we planned an early day. It was, however, even earlier than our plans.

My chamber (at my sister’s house, where I was visiting) is on the side near the Bateman house; and it happened to be I who first discovered the smoke volleying out of the Bateman furnace chimney, followed by a roaring spout of flame. I knew Katy had gone to our little up-town grocery, for I had seen her on the way; and I made all haste across the lawn, with all our ice-cream salt. The fire really was easily dealt with. By the time the firemen arrived (summoned by Nellie), all was over save the shouting, as they say in the political reports. Amos and Nellie were still calling “Fire!” Katy arrived a good second to the hose cart, breathless with running, but all her wits in good order.

“Long’s you’ve put out the fire, Miss Patsey, I’ll put out the fire department,” said she; “they’re the only danger. Miss Mercy, you open all the windows; let’s git rid of the smoke. Nellie, what you carrying your clothes out for?”

Mercedes quite won our hearts by her docility and the quiet way she obeyed. Perhaps it was in recognition that Katy became her tower of refuge when the cause of the fire appeared. It was no less than Amos. He had been hired without any heartless prying into recommendations, on the ideal Altrurian ground of Need. He was asked, to be sure, could he run a furnace, and with the optimism of the African replied that he reckoned he could. He did not add that he had never tried to run one before. Doubtless it was natural that he should not discover the meaning of the cunning chains going through the floors; and when dampers increase the draft if shut and diminish it if open, who can wonder that Amos should artlessly shut everything in sight including the registers? Natural laws did the rest.

Amos was very patient, almost tearful. He said he didn’t know whatever Sally would do when he come home outen a job; Sally be’n so satisfied befo’ but he didn’t cast no blame on nobody. Sally, it came out later, was ill.

“Is it anything infectious?” demanded Mercedes’ sister, the doctor, who by this time was on the scene.

“I dunno, ma’am; I reckon ’tis,” deprecated Amos. “Hit’s a right new baby, come a week ago, an’ she ain’t got up yit.”

Then it was while Nellie glibly proposed a new man, a man of assured efficiency, two years janitor of a “flat,” and the brother of a friend; and Mercedes Van Arden had only bewildered compassion to justify her desire to forgive the culprit; and Doctor Van Arden frowned, that Katy spoke the word of power.

“Doctor,” said she, “Amos mayn’t know much about the furnace, but he’s a decent, honest man that found my ten cents out on the steps and gave it to me; and I know how to run furnaces, and I’ll learn him. What’s more, I can burn up all the coal, and not smoke up the house or the neighborhood. And one good thing if Amos can’t run a furnace, he knows it now, anyhow; there’s many a janitor man’s been smoking up flats for years ain’t found out that yet. Doctor, I’ll answer for Amos if you ladies will keep him.”

Amos was kept. I fancied that Mercedes was almost as grateful as he.

After this for a time matters went on in a sufficiently prosaic and satisfactory manner. We put both of the sisters up in the Monday Club and the doctor consented to talk to the club on the “Smoke Nuisance” at our meeting in which we discussed that bane of the housekeeper, under the startling caption, “The City of Dreadful Night.” We asked Mercedes to embody her own Social Creed in a fifteen-minute paper; but she pleaded almost with tears that she was simply a student who had not studied enough to know, only to feel; and she blushed deeply. So she was reprieved. Meanwhile the doctor (who had been quietly working up a practise in our town for six years) began to be seen at the bedsides of divers prominent ladies.

Several of us asked the sisters to luncheon, to dinner and to bridge parties. In return, the sisters entertained the club at tea, a function whereat Katy covered herself with glory, and Nellie graciously consented to pass plates and listen and break two heavy Colonial goblets Nellie was slim and light on her feet, but she surely had a heavy hand.

Katy came over to borrow our monkey wrench the next morning because Nellie and the friend whom she had recommended to assist in waiting, had contrived to loosen a water faucet. She was brimming with criticisms of this last helper, as well as of Nellie.

“Did she stay to help wash dishes?” Thus she let her suppressed disgust explode. “Well, I should say! And got extry pay for staying, too, and had her young man in for supper afterward; and the things she gave him to carry away, the fancy candies with bow-knots on them, and the cakes with roses, and the marionglasyes! And when I spoke up to her she claimed Miss Mercy told her to and there’s no saying, maybe she did! Her young man’s on strike; he’s at the locomotive works; she claims he gits four-fifty a day and he’s striking for more, I expect; he’s been on strike six weeks now, and he comes here to meals four times a week and eats well, Miss Mercy said, ‘Make him welcome,’ so I do; but I own to you, Miss Patsy, something I feel real bad about. That young Mr. Gordon, it’s his pa is president of the works; he’s a real nice young man jest out of Harvard College, and he met Miss Mercy in Chicago and went ’round a lot with her, and I made up my mind and Nellie made up hers and she ain’t a fool, Nellie, for all she’s so flighty that they were going to make a match of it; but Nellie got Miss Mercy to promise she’d go speak to old Mr. Gordon about the strike; Miss Mercy’s got a awful lot of stock herself, in the works; and I dunno the rights of it, but I’m sure those young things had words! It’s a bitter black shame, too, it is, dragging that poor child in! Doctor don’t like it any more than I do. And poor little Miss Mercy, she’s scared to death; but that won’t stop her; the more it hurts, the more she is sure she had ought to do it.”

I didn’t think little Miss Van Arden could move old Mr. Gordon’s convictions; but it was true that she was the largest individual stockholder in the works, and hence she might make trouble with the wavering minds, certainly trouble enough to irritate the president, who was a sterling, but not always a patient man.

“They want to run the works as a closed shop, don’t they?” I asked.

“Jest that. Miss Mercy, if she is a reforming lady, she ain’t arrergant like most sich; and she asked me what I thought about the strike. She got my opinion of it cold. ‘There’s strikes and strikes,’ says I. ’Strikes for higher wages may be right or wrong, as depends, but a strike for the right to keep every other man but your gang out of a job is bound to be wrong. I ain’t no sympathy with any kind of closed shops, whether the bosses close ’em to union men, or the union men close ’em to everybody ‘cept themselves.’”

The next day I saw the little Socialist’s white, miserable face go by my window with Katy’s solid cheer at her elbow. She had agreed to see Mr. Gordon first before she appeared at the board meetting, and (as Katy put it) “poured coal oil on the fire to put it out.” Of course, there was a useless journey. Mr. Gordon felt moved to utter certain pet opinions of his own regarding the ease of making mischief when ignorant people interfered in business. If it was any comfort to her to know that she was giving him an infernal lot of trouble she could take it all right; but he had to do right according to his own conscience, and not hers, and he wished her good-morning. Very limp and dejected she departed.

“‘The worst of it is,’ she says to me, Katy related, ’the worst of all is, while I believe he ought to do what the men want rather than keep up the strike, I don’t really feel sure they ought to want him to do it. It’s so hard on the outside men.’ Oh, she’s got some sense straying about her, though it’s mainly lost to view. But I do wish she could make it up with her beau. He ain’t been ’round for a week; and when folks ain’t got a meat diet they can’t stand the strain of being crossed in love!”

Even Katy’s Celtic loyalty was staggered the next week. She came over on a perfectly needless borrowing errand to tell me.

“Did you see it, ma’am? Being my afternoon out, I wasn’t there. Did you see that woman tumble down on our grass and herself run out with Amos and Mrs. Kane?” (Mrs. Kane was the laundress, who acted also as scrubwoman once a week, Nellie’s health not being equal to the weekly cleaning required in a tidy household.) “Did you see it? I began to sniff the minute I struck the hall. My word! I knowed it. Then I begun to hear the groans ’O-o-ah! O-o-ah!’ mumbling, grumbling kind of groans I didn’t need anything more to get next to that situation, no, ma’am. Mrs. Kane come tumbling down-stairs. You know her, Miss Patsy, Tim Kane’s widow, a fair-to-middling laundress and next door to a fool about everything else. Jest the kind that gits a good husband like Timothy and then fools away the money he leaves her and has to come on the wash tub. Down-stairs she comes wild! The poor woman, they’d seen her fall outside, and Miss Mercy and she’d taken her in on a mattress with Amos to help; Amos wanted to call the amberlance, but Miss Mercy said no, they’d take her to the police; so they three took the poor creature into the house. And ‘Oh, hear her groan!’ I said, yes, she was easy to hear. I guess Amos felt all right; but you know niggers are biddable, and whatever they think, the creatures do like they’re told.

“Well, I walked up-stairs. She was there in the guest chamber on one of the twin beds with the flowery card, ‘Sleep gently in this quiet room,’ etcetery, over the towsledest head and sech skirts! She’d been having a time for sure. Herself had put a wet ice bandage on the woman’s head and a hot-water bag to her feet, and she was a-laying her hands, her own pretty, soft, little, white, trembling hands, to her awful shoes, but says I:

“‘You stop! Don’t you tech her!’

“‘I must,’ says she; ‘they’re soaked.’

“‘Don’t you see what’s the matter of her?’ say I. ‘She’s dead drunk!’

“I reckoned she’d deny it. Not a bit. ‘I suppose so,’ says she; ’that’s why I wouldn’t let them call the amberlance.’

“‘And do you mean to keep her here?’ says I. ‘That drunken rubbish?’

“Well, she does; she was awful sorry for the trouble to us, but the woman fell down at her door, and she was in dire misery, and Miss Mercy she felt she had got to take her in. My word, Miss Patsy, I had to shet my teeth a minute to keep back my feelings, but every word I said was: ’I guess you better move that other bed out and then you can burn this one!’ Heavens, I ain’t going to describe the next hour till the doctor come. Now, she’s laying comfortable in the doctor’s gown, in that nice clean bed, and I’ve made her chicken broth and mustard plasters and everything else for her comfort.

“When the doctor come, she said, ‘This goes the limit,’ and then she bit off the rest and swallered it and said, ‘We’ll have to scrub her.’ And we did with washing powder and scouring soap. I hope it hurt, but I’m ’fraid it didn’t.”

“How does Nellie take it?”

The sorely tried Mrs. Biff grinned. “’Tis that keeps me from quite sinking; she is most dretful horrified and vowing she’s going to leave.”

However, Nellie did not go; it was the castaway whom they had succored who awoke in her right mind before any one was stirring the next morning, clothed herself, for lack of her own rags (which were airing in the back yard), in a decent brown dress, cloak and hat of the doctor’s from the guest-room closet, put on the doctor’s large, serviceable boots, and gathering the loose silver and three one-dollar banknotes left in Katy’s cash box, otherwise her “cup” from the pantry shelf, departed into the unknown nether world from whence she came.

“And a mercy she didn’t murder us in our beds!” opined Nellie; “maybe she will yet!”

Nellie’s prophecy appeared less grotesque the following week when her young man, Phil, by Christian name I did not come to know his surname discovered at the police station or the engine house (he frequenting both places in his wealth of leisure) that the castaway had escaped from a quarantined house full of smallpox, in a little hamlet near by. Here was a situation! Nellie vowed she wouldn’t sleep a wink were she Mrs. Kane or Amos, particularly Amos, because colored folk took naturally to smallpox.

Amos only grinned; but Mrs. Kane was palpably nervous and began inquiring into symptoms of what Nellie termed “the dread disease.”

Presently she was feeling them faithfully. And Katy shrugged the shoulder of scorn. But scorn turned into consternation by Monday, for an agitated neighbor came to the front door to announce that Mrs. Kane was sick in bed with an awful fever and broke out terrible, and would the doctor please step over there.

“And all the clothes in the suds!” sighed Katy. “But that’s nothing. Poor Miss Mercy! she’s almost out of her mind; she says that she’s to blame; she’s brought smallpox on that innocent woman, and most like she’ll die; and if she hadn’t been so wicked and headstrong and had listened to her friend (she didn’t name nobody, but I know she means young Gordon) and her sister, it wouldn’t have happened; she hadn’t even helped the woman who fetched the smallpox; she’d only tempted her to crime! And what should she say to poor Mrs. Bateman? Nobody wanted to rent her home to be a pest-house. And she’d set the house afire by hiring an ignorant man Oh, she was a wicked girl! Her aunty often told her she was a fool, and oh, why hadn’t she believed her and not tried to do things too big for her senseless head? And she’s been fairly crying her eyes out. The poor, sweet, humble-minded little thing!”

Poor little Mercy! But I was to pity her much more during the succeeding ten minutes. Amos came out to the barberry hedge to tell our cook that Miss Mercy was in bed and he ’lowed she’d smallpox. He was off in pursuit of the doctor, who was at Mrs. Kane’s who’d got a fearful bad case. Hardly was Amos out of sight than Nellie, in her cheap imitation of the latest fashion of big hat, dashed out of the gate after the street car. So do rats desert the sinking ship, I thought. Straightway I went over to the house. Katy herself answered the bell. She was in two minds about ejecting me by force, but she softened when I recalled to her how recently I had been vaccinated.

“Well, Miss Patsy, that’s so,” she admitted, “and besides, I ain’t absolutely sure ’tis smallpox. But she’d a kinder chill and I wouldn’t let her come down-stairs. Say, you don’t happen to have seen Nellie anywhere?”

When I told her, she drew a long sigh. We were standing at the side door, where a great Norway fir shakes its blue-green shadows.

“’Tis like her,” said Katy bitterly, “and only yesterday Miss Mercy gave her sech a pretty waist. And now she’s run off and Miss Mercy’s got the smallpox mebbe. Well, I dunno as it’s as dangerous as Alterruria, and mebbe one will cure the other Oh, say! Look, Miss Patsy!”

I looked. They came in a kind of rush with the flutter of brilliant autumn leaves, swirling around the house corner Nellie and young Ralph Gordon. Nellie’s cheeks were blazing, but young Gordon looked white and stern.

“Why, Nellie Small, ain’t you run away?” cried Katy.

Before Nellie could retort, the young gentleman took the limelight.

“Where is Miss Mercy?” he demanded in that tone of voice which the novelists call “tense;” “I must say a few words to her. You can let me say them through the door, if you wish, Mrs. Biff.”

Katy hardly considered; her eyes shone into his masterful face. She turned on her heel and he followed her. Instantly Nellie’s excitement found burning words: “I heard her, Miss McFarlin! She thinks I ran away! Me! Well, I know she has a mean opinion of me, but I didn’t expect she’d be that unjust. I’m jest as fond of Miss Mercy as she is; I only sprinted down the street to ketch her young man, because I know they had a misunderstanding, and I was sure, no matter how mad he was, the minute I told him, he’d come a-running, and whether they let her see him or not, it would cheer her up a whole lot to know he tried. And as for Mrs. Biff’s pitying Miss Mercy and finding fault with her, I can tell you she’s made me believe things Mrs. Biff nor nobody else could if she offered me the kingdom of heaven and a chromo! I never believed before rich folks could be like her. I don’t know what that Altrury of hers is, but if she believes in it I’m going to; and so is Phil, and he’s going to make them stop the strike, too; and it’s a whole lot because of what she’s said and what I’ve said ’bout her. It is, for fair!”

Thereupon Nellie burst into tears, and disappeared behind the kitchen lattice.

Later, some hours later, I had a chance to tell Katy. But it was then no news to her. She shook her philosophic head. “‘Lightning and grace,’ Biff used to say, ’you can’t noways bet on, for there’s no manner of knowing where they’ll strike.’ Now that Nellie, she fairly bu’st into Miss Mercy’s room, me being busy seeing Mr. Gordon safe outer the house; and I expected to find she’d riz Miss Mercy’s temperature; but she’d most cured her instid; and Miss Mercy she set up and laffed out loud. And she ain’t got smallpox, neither, not a bit; no more’n that ijit Sallie Kane, who’s down with German measles and nothing wuss. I guess we was all more scared than hurt. But it beats all about Nellie well, I want to be fair to all, she’s been doing the sweeping better for a good while. All I say is, if Alterruria can convert Nellie Small there must be something decent in Alterruria.”

“I wish it might convert all of us a little,” said I. “I’m afraid I’m not enlightened enough to desire entire conversion; it would demand a new incarnation!”