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Chapter 3 A SMALL DINNER AT MRS. OWEN'S

  • Professor Kelton announced that he had not finished his errands in town, an_egged to be excused from the drive which Mrs. Owen had planned.
  • "Very well, Andrew. Then I shall take your Sylvia for a longer drive than _hould expect you to survive. We'll go out and see how the wheat looks."
  • In this new environment Sylvia was aware that despite his efforts to appea_ay her grandfather was not himself. She was quite sure that he had no_xpected to spend the afternoon downtown, and she wondered what was troublin_im. The novelty of the drive, however, quickly won her to the best o_pirits. Mrs. Owen appeared ready for this adventure with her tall figur_rapped in a linen "duster." Her hat was a practical affair of straw, unadorned save by a black ribbon. As she drew on her gloves in the _porte- cochère_ the old coachman held the heads of two horses that were hitched to _mart road wagon. When her gloves had been adjusted, Mrs. Owen surveyed th_orses critically.
  • "Lift Pete's forefoot—the off one, Joe," she commanded, stepping down into th_sphalt court. "Um,—that's just what I thought. That new blacksmith knows hi_usiness. That shoe's on straight. That other man never did know anything. Al_ight, Sylvia."
  • Mrs. Owen explained as the trim sorrels stepped off smartly toward the nort_hat they were Estabrook stock and that she had raised them herself on he_entucky farm, which she declared Sylvia must visit some day. It was ver_leasant to be driving in this way under a high blue sky, beside a woman whos_ays and interests were so unusual. The spirited team held Mrs. Owen'_ttention, but she never allowed the conversation to flag. Several times a_hey crossed car lines it seemed to Sylvia that they missed being struck onl_y perilously narrow margins. When they reached the creek they paused on th_ridge to allow the sorrels to rest, and Mrs. Owen indicated with her whip th_ine of the new boulevard and recounted the history of the region.
  • At the State Fair grounds Mrs. Owen drove in, explaining that she wanted t_ee what they were doing to the track. Sylvia noticed that the employees the_assed grinned at Mrs. Owen as though she were a familiar acquaintance, an_he superintendent came up and discussed horses and the track changes wit_rs. Owen in a strange vocabulary. He listened respectfully to what Mrs. Owe_aid and was impressed, Sylvia thought, by her opinions. She referred to othe_racks at Lexington and Louisville as though they were, of course, somethin_hat everybody knew about. The sun was hot, but Mrs. Owen did not seem to min_he heat a particle. The superintendent looked the sorrels over carefully; they had taken no end of ribbons at fairs and horse shows. Here was a team, Mrs. Owen announced, that she was not afraid to show in Madison Square Garde_gainst any competitors in its class; and the superintendent admitted that th_stabrooks were a fine stock. He nodded and kept repeating "You're right," or
  • "you're mighty right," to everything the old lady said. It seemed to Sylvi_hat nobody would be likely to question or gainsay any opinions Mrs. Owe_ight advance on the subject of horses. She glanced over her shoulder as the_ere driving back toward the gate and saw the superintendent looking afte_hem.
  • "He's watching the team, ain't he, Sylvia? I thought I'd touch up his envy _ittle. That man," continued Mrs. Owen, "really knows a horse from a_lephant. He's been trying to buy this team; but he hasn't bid up high enoug_et. It tickles me to think that some of those rich fellows down in New Yor_ill pay me a good price when I send 'em down there to the show. They nee_orking; you can't do much with horses in town; the asphalt plays smash wit_heir feet. There's a good stretch of pike out here and I'll show you wha_his team can do."
  • This promised demonstration was the least bit terrifying to Sylvia. He_nowledge of horses was the slightest, and in reading of horse races she ha_ot imagined that there could be such a thrill in speeding along a stretch o_ood road behind a pair of registered roadsters, the flower of the Estabroo_tock, driven by so intrepid and skillful a whip as Mrs. Sally Owen.
  • "I guess that mile would worry the boys some," observed Mrs. Owen wit_atisfaction as she brought the team to a walk.
  • This was wholly cryptic to Sylvia, but she was glad that Mrs. Owen was no_isappointed. As they loitered in a long shady lane Mrs. Owen made it possibl_or Sylvia to talk of herself. Sally Owen was a wise woman, who was considere_ little rough and peculiar by some of her townspeople, chiefly those late_omers who did not understand the conditions of life that had made such _haracter possible; but none had ever questioned her kindness of heart. And i_pite of her frank, direct way of speech she was not deficient in tact. Sall_wen had an active curiosity, but it was of the healthy sort that wastes n_ime on trifling matters. She was curious about Sylvia, for Sylvia was _ittle different from the young girls she knew. Quite naturally she wa_omparing the slim, dark-eyed girl at her side with Marian Bassett. Marian wa_ltogether obvious; whereas Mrs. Owen felt the barriers of reserve in Sylvia.
  • Sylvia embodied questions in the Kelton family history that she could no_nswer, though she had known Andrew Kelton all his life, and remembered diml_is only daughter, who had unaccountably vanished.
  • "Where do you go to school, Sylvia?" she asked.
  • "I don't go to school,—not to a real school,—but grandfather teaches me; h_as always taught me."
  • "And you are now about—how old?"
  • "Sixteen in October. I've been talking to grandfather about going to college."
  • "They do send girls to college nowadays, don't they! We're beginning to hav_ome of these college women in our town here. I know some of 'em. Let's see.
  • What they say against colleges for women is that the girls who go there lear_oo much, so that men are afraid to marry 'em. I wonder how that is? Bu_hat's in favor of college, I think; don't you?"
  • Mrs. Owen answered her own question with a laugh; and having opened th_ubject she went on to disclose her opinions further.
  • "I guess I'm too old to be one of these new women we're hearing so much about.
  • Even farming's got to be a science, and it keeps me hustling to learn what th_ew words mean in the agricultural papers. I belong to a generation of wome_ho know how to sew rag carpets and make quilts and stir soft soap in an iro_ettle and darn socks; and I can still cure a ham better than any Chicag_actory does it," she added, raking a fly from the back of the "off" sorre_ith a neat turn of the whip. "And I reckon I make 'em pay full price for m_orn. Well, well; so you're headed for college."
  • "I hope so," said Sylvia; "then after that I'm going to teach."
  • "Poor pay and hard work. I know lots of teachers; they're always havin_ervous prostration. But you look healthy."
  • "Oh, I'm strong enough," replied Sylvia. "I think I should like teaching."
  • "Marian was at Miss Waring's school last winter and I couldn't see what sh_as interested in much but chasing to matinées. Are you crazy about theatres?"
  • "Why, I've never been to one," Sylvia confessed.
  • "You're just as well off. Actors ain't what they used to be. When you sa_dwin Booth in 'Hamlet' or Jefferson in 'Rip,' you saw acting. I haven't bee_n any theatre since I saw Jefferson in the 'Rivals' the last time he cam_ound. There used to be a stock company at the Metropolitan about war-tim_hat beat any of these new actor folks. I'd rather see a good circus any tim_han one of these singing pieces. Sassafras tea and a circus every spring; _lways take both."
  • Sylvia found these views on the drama wholly edifying. Circuses and sassafra_ea were within the range of her experience, and finding that she had struck _oint of contact, Mrs. Owen expressed her pity for any child that did no_njoy a round of sassafras tea every spring. Sassafras in the spring, and _ew doses of quinine in the fall, to eliminate the summer's possibl_ccumulation of malaria, were all the medicine that any good Hoosier needed, Mrs. Owen averred.
  • "I'm for all this new science, you understand that," Mrs. Owen continued. "_ood deal of it does seem to me mighty funny, but when they tell me to boi_rinking-water to kill the bugs in it, and show me pictures of the bugs the_ake with the microscope, I don't snort just because my grandfather didn'_now about those things and lived to be eighty-two and then died from bein_icked by a colt. I go into the kitchen and I say to Eliza, 'Bile the water, Liza; bile it twice.' That's the kind of a new woman I am. But let's see; w_ere speaking of Marian."
  • "I liked her very much; she's very nice and ever so interesting," said Sylvia.
  • "Bless you, she's nice enough and pretty enough; but about this colleg_usiness. I always say that if it ain't in a colt the trainer can't put i_here. My niece—that's Mrs. Bassett, Marian's mother—wants Marian to be a_ntellectual woman,—the kind that reads papers on the poets before literar_lubs. Mrs. Bassett runs a woman's club in Fraserville and she's one of th_ights in the Federation. They got me up to Fraserville to speak to their clu_ few years ago. It's one of these solemn clubs women have; awful literary an_ever get nearer home than Doctor Johnson, who was nothing but a fat loafe_nyhow. I told 'em they'd better let me off; but they would have it and so _ent up and talked on ensilage. It was fall and I thought ensilage wa_easonable and they ought to know about it if they didn't. And they didn't, all right."
  • Sylvia had been staring straight ahead across the backs of the team; she wa_onscious suddenly that Mrs. Owen was looking at her fixedly, with mirt_indling in her shrewd old eyes. Sylvia had no idea what ensilage was, but sh_new it must be something amusing or Mrs. Owen would not have laughed s_eartily.
  • "It was a good joke, wasn't it—talking to a literary club about silos. I told
  • 'em I'd come back and read my little piece on 'Winter Feeding,' but the_aven't called me yet."
  • They had driven across to Meridian Street, and Mrs. Owen sent the horses int_own at a comfortable trot. They traversed the new residential are_haracterized by larger grounds and a higher average of architecture.
  • "That's Edward Thatcher's new house—the biggest one. They say it's easier t_ay for a castle like that out here than it is to keep a cook so far away fro_ashington Street. I let go of ten acres right here in the eighties; we use_o think the town would stop at the creek," Mrs. Owen explained, and the_nnounced the dictum: "Keep land; mortgage if you got to, but never sell; that's my motto."
  • It was nearly six when they reached home, and dinner was appointed for seven.
  • Mrs. Owen drove directly into the barn and gave minute instructions as to th_ubbing-down and feeding of the horses. In addressing the negroes she imitate_heir own manner of speech. Sylvia had noticed that Mrs. Owen did not alway_ronounce words in the same way, but such variations are marked among ou_outhwestern people, particularly where, as in Mrs. Owen's case, they hav_ived on both sides of the Ohio River. Sometimes she said "hoss,"
  • unmistakably; and here, and again when she said "bile" for "boil," it wa_bviously with humorous intention. Except in long speeches she did not drawl; at times she spoke rapidly, snapping off sentences abruptly. Her fashion o_eferring to herself in the third person struck Sylvia as most amusing.
  • "Look here, you Joe, it's a nice way to treat yo' Mis' Sally, turning out tha_agon with the dash all scratched. Don' you think I'm blind and can't tel_hen you boys dig a broom into a varnished buggy! Next time I catch yo' doin_hat I'll send you down to Greene County to plow co'n and yo'll not go to an_ore fancy hoss shows with me."
  • As she followed Mrs. Owen into the house Sylvia thought she heard suppresse_uffawing in the stable. Mrs. Owen must have heard it too.
  • "A worthless lot," she muttered; "I'm going to clean 'em all out some day an_ry the Irish"; but Mrs. Sally Owen had often made this threat without havin_he slightest intention of carrying it into effect.
  • Professor Kelton had just reached the house, and he seemed so hot and tire_hat Sylvia was struck with pity for him. He insisted, however, that he wa_erfectly well, but admitted that his errands had proved to be more vexatiou_han he had expected.
  • "What kind of a time have you been having?" he asked as they went upstair_ogether.
  • "Oh, the finest in the world! I'm sure I've learned a lot to-day—a great man_hings I never dreamed about before."
  • "Horses?"
  • "I never knew before that there was anything to know about horses; but Mrs.
  • Owen knows all about them. And that team we drove behind is wonderful; the_ove together perfectly and go like lightning when you want them to."
  • "Well, I'm glad you've enjoyed yourself. You'd better put on your whit_ress,—you brought one, didn't you? There will be company at dinner."
  • "Don't you scare that child about company, Andrew," said Mrs. Owen, coming u_ehind them with the linen duster flung over her arm. "If you haven't an_hite dress, Sylvia, that blue one's perfectly good and proper."
  • She followed Sylvia to her room, continuing to reassure her. She even shoo_ut the gown, exclaiming, "Well, well" (Sylvia didn't know why), and went ou_bruptly, instructing Sylvia to ring for the maid if she needed help.
  • There were three other guests for dinner, and they were unlike any othe_eople that Sylvia had known. She was introduced first to Admiral Martin, _etired officer of the Navy, who, having remained in the service of hi_ountry to the retiring age, had just come home to live in the capital of hi_ative state. He was short and thick and talked in a deep, growling voic_xactly as admirals should. The suns and winds of many seas had burned an_cored his face, and a stubby mustache gave him a belligerent aspect. H_opped his brow with a tremendous handkerchief and when Mrs. Owen introduce_ylvia as Professor Kelton's granddaughter he glared fiercely.
  • "Well, I declare, Andy, your granddaughter; well, I declare." He held Sylvia'_and a moment and peered into her face. "I remember your mother very well.
  • Andy, I recall distinctly that you and your wife were at Old Point in abou_he winter of '69 and your daughter was with you. So this is you_randdaughter? Well, I declare; I wish she was mine."
  • "I'm glad to see you, Sylvia," said Mrs. Martin, a shy, white-haired littl_oman. "I remember that winter at Old Point. I was waiting for my husban_here. You look like your mother. It's really a very striking resemblance. W_ere all so fond of Edna."
  • This was the first time that any one except her grandfather had ever spoken t_ylvia of her mother, and the words of these strangers thrilled her strangel_nd caused the tears to shine suddenly in her eyes. It was all over in _oment, for Mrs. Martin, seeing Sylvia's trembling lips, changed the subjec_uickly.
  • The last guest was just entering,—a tall trapper-like man who crossed the roo_o Mrs. Owen with a long, curious stride. He had shaken hands with Professo_elton, and Mrs. Owen introduced him to the Martins, who by reason of thei_ong absences had never met him before.
  • "Mr. Ware, this is Sylvia Garrison," said Mrs. Owen.
  • Sylvia was given then as later to quick appraisements, and she liked th_everend John Ware on the instant. He did not look or act or talk in the leas_ike a minister. He was very dark, and his mustache was only faintly sprinkle_ith gray. His hair still showed black at a distance, though he was sixty- five. He had been, sometime earlier, the pastor of the First Congregationa_hurch, but after a sojourn in other fields had retired to live among his ol_arishioners in the city which had loved him best. It had been said of him i_he days of his pastorate that he drew the largest congregations and th_mallest collections of any preacher the community had ever known. But War_as curiously unmindful of criticism. He had fished and hunted, he ha_reached charity and kindness, and when there was an unknown tramp to bury o_ome unfortunate girl had yielded to despair, he had officiated at th_uneral, and, if need be, ridden to the cemetery on the hearse.
  • "I'm Mrs. Owen's neighbor, you know," he explained to Sylvia. "My family hav_one for the summer; I'm hanging on here till my Indian sends me a postal tha_he fishing is right on the Nipigon. Nothing like getting off the trai_omewhere and being met by an Indian with a paddle on his shoulder. You ca_earn a lot from an Indian."
  • There were candles and flowers on the round table, and the dishes and silve_ere Mrs. Owen's "company best," which was very good indeed. The admiral an_rofessor Kelton sat at Mrs. Owen's right and left, and Sylvia found hersel_etween the minister and the admiral. The talk was at once brisk and general.
  • The admiral's voice boomed out tremendously and when he laughed the glasse_ingled. Every one was in the best of spirits and Sylvia was relieved to fin_hat her grandfather was enjoying himself immensely. The admiral's joke_arked back to old times, when he and Kelton were at the Naval Academy, or t_heir adventures in the war. It was odd to hear Mrs. Owen and the admira_alling her grandfather "Andrew" and "Andy"; no one else had ever done that; and both men addressed Mrs. Owen as "Sally." At a moment when Sylvia had begu_o feel the least bit awkward at being the only silent member of the company, the minister spoke to her. He had seemed at first glance a stoical person; bu_is deep-set, brown eyes were bright with good humor.
  • "These old sea dogs made a lot of history. I suppose you know a good dea_bout the sea from your grandfather."
  • "Yes; but I've never seen the sea."
  • "I've crossed it once or twice and tramped England and Scotland. I wanted t_ee Burns's country and the house at Chelsea where Carlyle smoked his pipe.
  • But I like our home folks best."
  • "Mr. Ware," growled the admiral, "a man told me the other day that you'_erved in the Army. I wish I'd had a chaplain like you in the Navy; I migh_ave been a different man."
  • Mrs. Owen glanced at Ware with a twinkle in her eyes.
  • "Afraid I'm going to be discovered," he remarked to Sylvia as he buttered _it of bread.
  • "Well, what part of the Army did you serve in?" demanded the admiral.
  • "Captain, Fifth New York Cavalry," replied the minister quietly, shrugging hi_houlders.
  • "Captain! You were a fighting man?" the admiral boomed.
  • "Sort of one. We had a good deal of fun one way or another. Four years of it.
  • Didn't begin fighting the Devil till afterward. How are things at the college, Doctor Kelton?"
  • Ware thus characteristically turned the conversation from himself. It wa_vident that he did not care to discuss his military experiences; in a momen_hey were talking politics, in which he seemed greatly interested.
  • "We've kept bosses out of this state pretty well," Professor Kelton wa_aying, "but I can see one or two gentlemen on both sides of the fence tryin_o play that game. I don't believe the people of Indiana will submit to it.
  • The bosses need big cities to prey on and we aren't big enough for them t_ork in and hide in. We all live in the open and we're mostly seasone_merican stock who won't be driven like a lot of foreign cattle. This cit_sn't a country town any longer, but it's still American. I don't know of an_oss here."
  • "Well, Sally, how about Mort Bassett?" asked the admiral. "I hope you don'_ind my speaking of him."
  • "Not in the slightest," Mrs. Owen replied. "The fact that Morton Basset_arried my niece doesn't make it necessary for me to approve of all h_oes—and I don't. When I get a chance I give him the best licks I can. He's _emocrat, but I'm not; neither am I a Republican. They're all just as crooke_s a dog's hind leg. I gave up when they beat Tilden out of the presidency.
  • Why, if I'd been Samuel Tilden I'd have moved into the White House and dared
  • 'em to throw me out. The Democratic Party never did have any gumption!" sh_oncluded vigorously.
  • "A sound idea, Sally," grumbled the admiral, "but it's not new."
  • "Bassett isn't a bad fellow," remarked Ware. "You can hardly call him a bos_n the usual sense of the term."
  • "Personally, he's certainly very agreeable," said Mrs. Martin. "You remember, Mrs. Owen, I visited your niece the last time I was home and I never saw a ma_ore devoted to his family than Mr. Bassett."
  • "There's no complaint about that," Mrs. Owen assented. "And Morton's a ver_ntelligent man, too; you might even call him a student. I've been sorry tha_e didn't keep to the law; but he's a moneymaker, and he's in politics as _art of his business."
  • "I've wondered," said Professor Kelton, "just what he's aiming at. Most o_hese men are ambitious to go high. He's a state senator, but there's not muc_n that. He must see bigger game in the future. I don't know him myself; bu_rom what you hear of him he must be a man of force. Weak men don't dominat_olitical parties."
  • "This political game looks mighty queer to me," the admiral remarked. "I'v_ever voted in my life, but I guess I'll try it now they've put me on th_helf. Do you vote, Mr. Ware?"
  • "Oh, yes! I'm one of these sentimentalists who tries to vote for the best man.
  • Naturally no man I ever vote for is elected."
  • "If I voted I should want to see the man first," Mrs. Owen averred. "I shoul_sk him how much he expected to make out of the job."
  • "You'd be a tartar in politics, Sally," said the admiral. "The Governor tol_e the other day that when he hears that you're coming to the State House t_alk about the Woman's Reformatory,—or whatever it is you're trustee of,—h_rawls under the table. He says they were going to cut down the Reformatory'_ppropriation last winter, but that you went to the legislature and gave a_xample of lobbying that made the tough old railroad campaigners green wit_nvy."
  • "I reckon I did! I told the members of that committee that if they cut tha_ppropriation I'd go into their counties and spend every cent I've go_ighting 'em if they ever ran for office again. Joshua, fill the glasses."
  • Sylvia was anxious to know the rest of the story.
  • "I hope they gave you the money, Mrs. Owen," she said.
  • Did they give it to me? Why, child, they raised it twenty thousand dollars! _ad to hold 'em down. Then Morton Bassett pulled it through the senate for me.
  • I told him if he didn't I'd cut his acquaintance."
  • "There's Ed Thatcher, too, if we're restricted to the Democratic camp," th_inister was saying. "Thatcher has a fortune to use if he ever wants to tr_or something big in politics, which doesn't seem likely."
  • "He has a family that can spend his money," said Mrs. Martin. "What would h_ant with an office anyway? The governorship would bore him to death."
  • "It might tickle him to go to the senate, particularly if he had a score t_lean up in connection with it," remarked Ware.
  • "Just what do you mean by that?" asked the admiral.
  • "Well," Ware replied, "he and Bassett are as thick as thieves just now i_usiness operations. If some day it came about that they didn't get on s_ell,—if Bassett tried to drop him as they say he has sometimes dropped me_hen he didn't have any more use for them,—then Thatcher's sporting bloo_ight assert itself. I should be sorry for Bassett if that time came."
  • "Edward Thatcher knows a horse," interposed Mrs. Owen. "I like Edwar_hatcher."
  • "I've fished with Bassett," said the minister. "A good fisherman ought to mak_ good politician; there's a lot, I guess, in knowing just how to bait th_ook, or where to drop the fly, and how to play your fish. And Bassett is _an of surprising tastes. He's a book collector,—rare editions and fin_indings and that sort of thing."
  • "Is it possible! The newspapers that abuse him never mention those things, o_ourse," said Mrs. Martin.
  • A brief restraint fell upon the company, as they realized suddenly that the_ere discussing the husband of their hostess's niece, whom the oppositio_ress declared to be the most vicious character that had ever appeared in th_ublic life of the state. The minister had spoken well of him; the others di_ot know him, or spoke cautiously; and Mrs. Owen herself seemed, during Ware'_ast speech, to be a trifle restless. She addressed some irrelevant remark t_he admiral as they rose and adjourned to the long side veranda where the me_ighted cigars.
  • "I think I like this corner best," remarked Ware when the others had dispose_hemselves. "Miss Sylvia, won't you sit by me?" She watched his face as th_atch flamed to his cigar. It was deep-lined and rugged, with high chee_ones, that showed plainly when he shut his jaws. It occurred to Sylvia tha_ut for his mustache his face would have been almost typically Indian. She ha_een somewhere a photograph of a Sioux chief whose austere countenance wa_ery like the minister's. Ware did not fit into any of her preconceived idea_f the clerical office. Dr. Wandless, the retired president of Madiso_ollege, was a minister, and any one would have known it, for the fact wa_roclaimed by his dress and manner; he might, in the most casual meeting o_he campus, have raised his hands in benediction without doing anything at al_xtraordinary. Ware belonged to a strikingly different order, and Sylvia di_ot understand him. He had been a soldier; and Sylvia could not imagine Dr.
  • Wandless in a cavalry charge. Ware flung the match-stick away and settle_imself comfortably into his chair. The others were talking amongst themselve_f old times, and Sylvia experienced a sense of ease and security in th_inister's company.
  • "Those people across there are talking of the Hoosiers that used to be, an_bout the good folks who came into the wilderness and made Indiana _ommonwealth. I'm a pilgrim and a stranger comparatively speaking. I'm not _oosier; are you?"
  • "No, Mr. Ware; I was born in New York City."
  • "Ho! I might have known there was some sort of tie between us. I was born i_ew York myself—'way up in the Adirondack country. You've heard of Old Joh_rown? My father's farm was only an hour's march from Brown's place. I used t_ee the old man, and it wasn't my fault I wasn't mixed up in some of hi_crapes. Father caught me and took me home—didn't see any reason why I shoul_o off and get killed with a crazy man. Didn't know Brown was going to b_mmortal."
  • "There must have been a good many people that didn't know it," Sylvi_esponded.
  • She hoped that Ware would talk of himself and of the war; but in a moment hi_houghts took a new direction.
  • "Stars are fine to-night. It's a comfort to know they're up there all th_ime. Know Matthew Arnold's poems? He says 'With joy the stars perform thei_hining.' I like that. When I'm off camping the best fun of it is lying b_unning water at night and looking at the stars. Odd, though, I never knew th_ames of many of them; wouldn't know any if it weren't for the dippers,—no_ure of them as it is. There's the North Star over there. Suppose you_randfather knows 'em all."
  • "I think he does," replied Sylvia. "He still lectures about them sometimes."
  • "Wonder what that is, just across the farthest tip of that maple? It'_amiliar, but I can't name it."
  • "That," said Sylvia, "is Cassiopeia."
  • "So? How many constellations do you know?"
  • Sylvia was silent a moment. She was not sure that it was polite to disclos_er knowledge of the subject to a man who had just confessed his ignorance.
  • She decided that anything beyond the most modest admission would b_nbecoming.
  • "I know several, or I think I do. This is June. That's the North Star over th_oint of that tree, as you said, and above it is Ursa Minor, and winding i_nd out between it and the Big Dipper is Draco. Then to the east, higher up, are Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila. And in the west—"
  • She paused, feeling that she had satisfied the amenities of conversation wit_his gentleman who had so frankly stated his lack of knowledge.
  • Ware struck his knee with his hand and chuckled.
  • "I should say you do know a few! You've mentioned some I've always wanted t_et acquainted with. Now go back to Cygnus, the Swan. I like the name of tha_ne; I must be sure to remember it."
  • Politeness certainly demanded that Sylvia should answer; and now that th_inister plied her with questions, her own interest was aroused, and she le_im back and forth across the starry lanes, describing in the most artles_ashion her own method of remembering the names and positions of th_onstellations. As their range of vision on the veranda was circumscribed, Ware suggested that they step down upon the lawn to get a wider sweep, a mov_hich attracted the attention of the others.
  • "Sylvia, be careful of the wet. Josephus just moved the sprinkler and tha_round is soaked."
  • "Don't call attention to our feet; our heads are in the stars," answered Ware.
  • "I must tell the Indian boys on the Nipigon about this," he said to Sylvia a_hey returned to the veranda. "I didn't know anybody knew as much as you do.
  • You make me ashamed of myself."
  • "You needn't be," laughed Sylvia. "Very likely most that I've told you i_rong. I'm glad grandfather didn't hear me."
  • The admiral and Professor Kelton were launched upon a fresh exchange o_eminiscences and the return of Ware and Sylvia did not disturb them. I_eemed, however, that Ware was a famous story-teller, and when he had lighte_ fresh cigar he recounted a number of adventures, speaking in his habitual, dry, matter-of-fact tone, and with curious unexpected turns of phrase.
  • Conversation in Indiana seems to drift into story-telling inevitably. Joh_are once read a paper before the Indianapolis Literary Club to prove tha_his Hoosier trait was derived from the South. He drew a species of ellipsoi_f which the Ohio River was the axis, sketching his line to include th_issouri of Mark Twain, the Illinois of Lincoln, the Indiana of Eggleston an_iley, and the Kentucky that so generously endowed these younge_ommonwealths. North of the Ohio the anecdotal genius diminished, he declared, as one moved toward the Great Lakes into a region where there had been a_nfusion of population from New England and the Middle States. He suggeste_hat the early pioneers, having few books and no newspapers, had cultivate_he art of story-telling for their own entertainment and that the soldier_eturning from the Civil War had developed it further. Having made this not_f his thesis I hasten to run away from it. Let others, prone to interminabl_ebate, tear it to pieces if they must. This kind of social intercourse, wit_ts intimate talk, the references to famous public characters, as though the_ere only human beings after all, the anecdotal interchange, was wholly nove_o Sylvia. She thought Ware's stories much droller than the admiral's, an_uite as good as her grandfather's, which was a great concession.
  • The minister was beginning a new story. He knocked the ashes from his ciga_nd threw out his arms with one of his odd, jerky gestures.
  • "There's a good deal of fun in living in the woods. Up in the Adirondack_here was a lot for the boys to do when I was a youngster. I liked winte_etter than summer; school was in winter, but when you had the fun of fightin_ig drifts to get to it you didn't mind getting licked after you got there.
  • The silence of night in the woods, when the snow is deep, the wind still, an_he moon at full, is the solemnest thing in the world. Not really of thi_orld, I guess. Sometimes you can hear a bough break under the weight of snow, with a report like a cannon. The only thing finer than winter is spring. _on't mean lilac time; but before that, the very earliest hint of the break- up. Used to seem that there was something wild in me that wanted to be on th_arch before there was a bud in sight. I'm a Northern animal some way; born i_ecember; always feel better in winter. I used to watch for the northwar_light of the game fowl—wanted to go with the birds. Too bad they're killin_hem all off. Wild geese are getting mighty scarce; geese always intereste_e. I once shot a gander in a Kankakee marsh that had an Eskimo arrow in it_reast. A friend of mine, distinguished ethnologist, verified that; said h_new the tribe that made arrows of that pattern. But I was going to say tha_ne night,—must have been when I was fourteen,—I had some fun with a bear … "
  • Sylvia did not hear the rest of the story. She had been sitting in the shado_f the porch, with her lips apart, listening, wondering, during this prelude.
  • Ware's references to the North woods had touched lightly some dim memory o_er own; somewhere she had seen moon-flooded, snowy woodlands where silenc_ay upon the world as soft as moonlight itself. The picture drawn by th_inister had been vivid enough; for a moment her own memory of a simila_inter landscape seemed equally clear; but she realized with impatience tha_t faded quickly and became dim and illusory, like a scene in an ill-lighte_teropticon. To-night she felt that a barrier lay between her and those year_f her life that antedated her coming to her grandfather's house by th_ollege. It troubled her, as such mirages of memory trouble all of us; bu_are finished his story, and amid the laughter that followed Mrs. Martin rose.
  • "Late hours, Sylvia," said Professor Kelton when they were alone. "It's nearl_leven o'clock and time to turn in."