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If you want to find out whether it's something you can set to a Sunday-school tune, you just try it! Make some experiments with it! You see—it has cost me a lot, and I didn't like to see it mixed up with something that people sleep over on Sunday mornings. If you want to know anything more about it than I've told you, you may have to discover it for yourself. And you'll be surprised! And when you get it—the sixth one—and I can promise you it won't be an easy thing to do—you'll be"—Hannah waited and groped, with questing eyes, for the right word, and failing to find it, she lamely fell back on what she had said before— "you'll be surprised!
IT was the hottest summer anybody could recall. In the country the corn parched in its husks, the wheat curled up and gladly died.
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Little was left stirring in the whole Mid-West but raucous political clamour and an unprecedented pest of grasshoppers. The only comfortable place in the house was the basement. Marcia had said she wished she, too, could think of something important to do down there, and Paul had absently replied that there was plenty to be done, all right, if she had anything constructive to suggest. But he had not specified the nature of his dilemma or confided the objective of his relentless labour.
Had the Wards been penniless they might have contrived to borrow enough money to rent a cottage at some near-by lake, as they had always done in the days of their heart-breaking insolvency.
Now that they were for the first time in their married life thanks to Hannah out of the wood financially, it seemed imprudent to incur this unnecessary expense. Their other reason for remaining in town during the summer vacation was Paul's intense application to his new project. He was inventing something again—something that was under construction in the basement, where he toiled for the greater part of every day with a zeal at once amazing and pathetic, for it was absurd to hope that a professor of English Literature could accomplish very much with a plumber's wrench.
Even he, serious as he was over it, had ventured a little joke about the novelty of converting the lamp of learning into an acetylene torch. Paul Ward had matured perceptibly in the past six months. It was a new and comforting sensation to be free of bill-collectors. The nervous flicker of the parasitical smile that had ineffectually draped his chagrin and foreboding was no longer in evidence. And when he had occasion to answer the telephone, you would have thought him another person than the half-frightened, half-furtive apologizer and time-beggar who had abased himself before the raw impudence of brassy whippersnappers in the credit departments of the stores and the utilities.
That's what we want to know. And let me tell you sumpin more! That was all over now and Paul was showing the effects of his emancipation. Whatever satisfaction Hannah had experienced in her successful management of the household's business affairs, her greatest happiness was derived from the splendid flowering of Paul's disencumbered personality.
Of course she enjoyed watching the beautiful Marcia's achievement of radiance and poise, but the more spectacular change had occurred in the spirit of Paul. Hannah had grown to like him with an honest affection so disarmingly forthright in its protectiveness that Marcia, observing it, was moved rather to gratitude than jealousy. It delighted Hannah to see the gradual straightening of Paul's broad shoulders which gave him the effect of added height, the new pick-up to his words that had disposed of the old indecisive drawl. She had been amused a little, too, over his boyish glee in discovering how much more value there was in the same old dollar, now that his credit had been restored.
First of May we will take up the other. Then we are going to ask Mr Chalmers for fresh wallpaper in the bedroom, repairs on the front steps, and a complete overhauling of the furnace. When, in May, they were on an even keel, Mr Chalmers came in breezily one afternoon to have them go through the usual formalities of renewing their lease.
Hannah was invited to participate in the interview. We need some repairs, she said. The front steps were falling down. The upstairs rooms required new paper. The furnace was wasteful and must have a heavier fire-pot and new grates. But Mr Chalmers drew a long face. He was barely paying his way on this property. If he made these repairs, he would have to increase the rent. At least twelve per cent, I should say. Mr Chalmers was amazed. He even chuckled a little over the utter ludicrousness of Hannah's remark.
The property was worth thirteen thousand dollars! And there were the frightful taxes! This house is assessed at fifty-eight hundred dollars. I know what taxes you pay. Paul following her shortly after. It's a pretty tough hide, but we don't want to raise a blister. You go back and tell him we're moving on the last day of August. And if he says he has another family anxious to take it—which is, of course, the first thing he will think of to use as a club—you tell him to go ahead and let the other people have it.
We can't move now, Hannah. I've some very important experiments to do here. I've often wondered. Maybe you have, too. This will be a good way to find out. If it happens that we are to stay, we can be encouraged to hope that—". It's just trying the thing a little to see how much it weighs.
If it's too flimsy to stand a simple test like this, maybe you'd better not spend any more time on it. You go back and tell Mr Chalmers we're moving out. We mustn't argue, or quarrel, or haggle, or go to battle with anyone—including, of course, Mr Chalmers. You can't afford to make the improvements, and we can't afford a higher rent. So—we will be moving, end of August. Mr Chalmers was astounded, wounded, admonitory. They would have trouble finding another place. Houses were scarce. It was always expensive to move. But Professor Ward gently mumbled that this would be their own look-out.
I certainly don't want you fine people to be put to a lot of inconvenience. Just what is it that you've got to have? The lease was signed half an hour later. Hannah had suggested that the specifications for improvements should be drawn up and signed too; the front steps, the furnace, the wallpaper, a new porcelain sink, repair of the hot-water machine, kalsomining in the kitchen, and new screens upstairs.
Mr Chalmers boisterously disdained the thought that he wasn't trusting them. At the front door he tarried, and, jerking a fat thumb over his shoulder towards the general direction of the disappearing Hannah, he growled, "Who is that lady? They both chuckled a little, and Paul went back to his work, pausing in the kitchen to say, "You got more out of that chap than you had planned on, didn't you?
The Silly Adventures of Shloppy the Plop & Edmund the Cat, Book 2
If you simply refuse to fight, you get what's coming to you, maybe not right away, but in time. Once in a while it's hard to do, but you'll find it pays. Here we were refused the wallpaper and the new steps and the furnace, and we admitted we were licked. After that we got it all handed to us, plus the hot-water thing, the kitchen paint, the screens, and the new sink. The sink I really hadn't counted on, Mr Ward," she confided. How could you? She straightened, with both fists deep in the dough, and facing him squarely, said, "I ought to make you sign a paper too.
He knew what she meant. They had had several brisk arguments recently. About the rug, for instance. It had suddenly occurred to him that the living-room rug was shabby. Without consulting Marcia's taste or Hannah's budget, he had dropped in at a department store and bought an atrociously ugly magenta rug.
That rug! First one you saw, I expect. You should have had Mrs Ward along. But he did. It wasn't a week before he had appeared in a new grey suit, despite Hannah's injunctions that there mustn't be any further spending that month. Privately Hannah forgave him for getting the new clothes. They had set back his clock five years. There was also a new red tie and a grey felt hat.
He was stunning. So was the bill. Hannah didn't want to scold, but they were such an improvident pair. Mrs Ward never bought anything for herself, but she was for ever making suggestions for unnecessary expenditure on the table. I'm afraid Mr Ward will tire of it. We're running a little behind, this month. Can't I, Daddy? Why can't I? Paul reluctantly tugged his eyes away from the mechanism he was working on, and said absently, "What y' got there? Oh—you're a Bull Moose, are you?
Wallie set the gaudy little cap at a rakish angle and hopped up and down, shouting gleefully, "I'm a Bulmus! I'm a Bulmus! The lad went sniffling up the stairs and for some minutes could be heard shrilly badgering Hannah. Then the racket subsided, indicating that some sort of agreement had been arrived at. The incident really amounted to nothing, but it excited Paul's curiosity to the extent that he presently found himself wanting a drink of water. National politics had never given him much concern, but he had to admit to himself that this was a bit different.
There was a good deal of the sporting in it. But we're university, you know, and the large majority of the regents are standpatters. I've been reading that in the papers. You can go to the ballot-box in November and do whatever you like.
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But when your little boy romps up and down the street with a campaign cap on, there's nothing very private about that, is there? But isn't this just a brawl among rival cliques? We may as well keep out of it, don't you think? But you can't make me believe that anything good can come of organizations that scream at the people and call each other bad names and try to drown out every calm word with a big noise.
They're all doing that, which means that they're all wrong. If any one of them was right, it wouldn't have to be done that way. Suppose a group of people who actually knew their theories of government were right and just, and disliked racket, were to sit with folded hands and permit the noise-makers to run the country anyhow they pleased, would you say that was very patriotic? Perhaps you know exactly what it means. I don't. But I do know this: whenever you hear a great lot of noise—bands playing, rockets shooting, and fat men yelling through megaphones, you want to look out, for they're trying to put something over on you.
I claim that anybody who really is right and honest can live his whole lifetime without ever raising his voice above the tone of ordinary conversation. When the Truth begins to screech and whack the desk with its fist, it always makes me think of Little Red Ridinghood's long-eared grandmother. I'll say that for you. You're always for non-resistance. She knew he was teasing her, but ignored his spoofing and carried on as if their talk was wholly serious.
You can't blame them much. Nobody should be expected to take much interest in a kind of power whose name begins with 'Non'. Paul took a turn up and down the little kitchen before replying. It's a dreadfully silly theory. It might seem to work once in a blue moon, but you'd soon be utterly crushed out if you tried to apply it as a principle in business or politics. It's a pretty thought, especially for the people who haven't very much, like you and me.
And perhaps it will all come to pass sometime, but not now; somewhere, but not here. It isn't practical. Or, if I am, someone else had better accuse me of it besides you. Fancy you calling me impractical! It wasn't often that Hannah let herself go in this manner. Customarily her remarks to Paul were phrased in terms of the respect due him as her superior. Occasionally they waived the conventions, by common consent, and indulged in some man-to-man talk. Paul quite liked it.
But I believe that after all the big noises are over, and the pushers and slappers and pounders have mauled one another to a pulp, the meek will inherit the—whatever is left to inherit. But if this idea of waiting in quietness and hope until the things we really ought to have are put into our hands"—there was a momentary pause during which her grey eyes widened and travelled past him as she tried to attach words to her thoughts—"if this idea really has the sort of stuff in it to make it win in the long run, I believe it must have enough soundness in it to work pretty well now for the people who think it's true.
My own experiments with it don't amount to much, because I have so little to lose if it doesn't work for me. Men think of themselves as successful if they have lots of things. Women are always thinking of success as something that makes them admired and liked as persons. That's natural. You watch two small children playing at make-believe. Along comes a stylish woman on a thoroughbred horse. The boys say, 'That's mine!
And as long as they live, he is always saying 'Mine! But women are always tinkering with their faces, trying to make themselves over into something more beautiful, because it's a woman's self, after all, that she sets the most store by. A man doesn't try to prettify himself very much, or make himself over to look different. He wants to be important for owning something rather than being something I'm afraid I'm not saying this very well But, seeing that's the way we're made, it must be pretty hard for a man to let go his grip on things.
I've often wondered if farmers didn't hate to bury their good corn and wheat in the dirt when it was always a gamble how much they'd get back. This soft theory that invites a second slap in the face, and hands over its overcoat to the extortioner who has already taken one's coat—it's really too silly to be talked about seriously by rational people. I'm rather surprised that you do it, Hannah.
You're so sensible on most matters. But I object to your saying that the people who hold to this idea haven't any courage. If you ever try it out, you'll find that it's something the nervous and easily scared had better keep away from. It calls for a kind of reckless bravery that isn't necessary in a fight. When you fight there's a lot of excitement, and even if you're getting the worst of it, you at least can be hitting back. They say a pestered worm will do that.
But just to sit still and take it, believing that if you do you will come out of the mess better off than if you had fought—well, that isn't easy to do. If you want to make fun of it because it's foolhardy, I shan't contradict you. But if you say it's cowardly, then I'm afraid you don't understand But you'd better let me make this cake How's your new toy coming along to-day?
I say"—he added, with a perplexed scowl—"what makes you think I expect to operate this machine in the basement? That's just my workshop, you know. Because the weather's hot.
Hannah nodded, winked rather disquietingly, resumed her dignity, and remarked, "Well, be that as it may, I think you've got a good idea there, Mr Ward. It was the first time she had expressed herself seriously about his mysterious job in the cellar. He paused, en route to the door, and said, "You mean that? I've thought so all along. You just said that the biggest idea I have is too silly to talk about.
So—I can say almost anything now without upsetting you. Well—I can tell you this much: it will be a whole lot easier for you to invent that new refrigerator—". Hannah touched the tips of her fingers to her puckered lips, and whispered, "I won't tell anybody. But—as I was saying—it will be much easier for you to make this— P-s-s-t!
Now if you want any blueberry cake, you'd better get out of my way. Regularly every other Thursday, rain or shine, Hannah left immediately after the breakfast work was finished and did not return until late in the evening. This had been her custom for months, beginning about the time Marcia was up and resuming her usual activities after the arrival of little Sally. They had made no secret of what Hannah had meant to them during Marcia's absence in the hospital and the longer period of her convalescence at home. Hannah had been everything—cook, nurse, housekeeper, treasurer, purchasing agent, attorney, anchor, propeller, and pilot, all rolled into one.
Indeed, it was through those days that she quietly assumed the complete management of the Ward family's affairs, handling them with such ease and skill that they were quite content to permit it. Sometimes they explained again to each other how they had happened to lean so heavily on Hannah, implying that if it hadn't been for Marcia's six weeks off duty they would never have come to rely on their maid for advice about everything.
It never occurred to the Wards to question the woman's right to keep her own counsel in regard to the use she made of these bi-weekly days off, but there was no denying the curiosity they felt. Marcia had ingenuously opened the way for any confidence Hannah might wish to extend, several times elaborately setting up conversational machinery well adapted to this purpose, devices which the intended victim examined with an exasperating leisureliness before turning away.
Sometimes, after Hannah had quietly nibbled all the bait off a particularly attractive lure and drifted nonchalantly out of reach, Marcia found herself wondering whether the canny creature might not have laughed about it a little in private. It wasn't always easy to tell, from the expression on Hannah's face, whether she was serious or spoofing. On the third occasion of her late arrival home after having been gone since early morning, they were still up and reading in the living-room as she passed through.
And Paul had lowered his book as if to say he would be glad to hear all about it. Hannah had smiled, nodded graciously enough, and said, "Thanks, Mrs Ward We will be having buckwheat cakes in the morning. After that, Marcia quite gave up hinting. It was simply taken for granted that the inexplicable Hannah, who had discouraged all inquiries about her past and this particular feature of her present, would disappear on alternate Thursdays as completely as if the earth had swallowed her up.
She permitted herself no extravagances—had nothing to be extravagant with, indeed—but when spring came Hannah had found a very becoming little hat and had made a light coat on Marcia's machine. They were surprised to see how pretty she was in her new outfit, in striking contrast to her pathetic dowdiness in the old plush coat and the frighteningly ugly hat of the winter. There was something very attractive about Hannah.
She was shapely and carried herself with a confident air. The casual passer-by wouldn't have picked her for the role in which she was cast. It would be natural enough if, on these unexplained excursions, she met some man friend. Marcia often wondered if this were not so, out of her imagination fabricating long stories which never had a very happy ending, for they couldn't spare Hannah now, even to serve the interests of a delayed romance. Once, when a kitchen conversation had drifted into the vicinity of matrimony in general, Marcia had said, half playfully, but alert to the effect of it, "You'll be married yourself, some day, Hannah"—which earned the non-committal rejoinder, "Think so, Mrs Ward?
The fact was that Hannah, in that brief pause before replying, had impulsively considered saying, "What makes you think I haven't been married? There was nothing discreditable about it, but it was painful to remember. And Hannah was not in the market for pity. Sometimes she entertained misgivings over her own calm indifference to Marcia's friendly curiosity.
Perhaps, if an occasion had invited it, she might have been able to tell Paul. He would have said, "That's tough, Hannah"—after which he would appear to have forgotten all about it. But Marcia would be bringing it up and wishing something might be done about it. So—Hannah's days off remained a mystery, and after a few months all inquisitiveness on the subject subsided. If she didn't want to tell them where she went, surely it was her right to keep her affairs a secret.
Only once had there been any variation of her routine. Late one Thursday night in August she had called up to say it would be difficult for her to return until Sunday. She offered no explanations either then or afterwards. On Sunday night, Paul decided, rather impulsively, to take the ten-forty that night for Chicago and spend the next day in the refrigeration department at Armour's. When the train thundered in, screeching to an impatient stop, Paul walked past the day coaches towards his Pullman.
Among the disembarking passengers he recognized Hannah.
It was quite plain that she had been crying, for her eyes were red and swollen. It was dismaying, almost frightening, to see the well-poised Hannah in this state. She seemed on the point of hurrying away, though their eyes had met. Apparently thinking better of it, she paused, nodded, and tried a not very successful smile. He studied her face anxiously for an instant and she averted her swimming eyes. Impetuously taking her arm, he said, "Hannah—is there anything I can do? She shook her head, gratefully pressed her fingers against the hand he had laid on her arm, and murmured, "Thank you, Mr Ward.
MARCIA experienced no disappointment and expressed no surprise when Paul bluntly announced, late one Sunday night in November, that he was now definitely done with mechanical inventions; that he would never again—so help him—fritter away precious time trying to do something for which he had neither training nor talent; that he wasn't cut out for any such business and had been a blithering idiot ever to have thought he was.
Having long since arrived at this conclusion herself, Marcia drew a discreetly inaudible sigh of satisfaction and privately hoped her husband might remain faithful to this resolve, though her relief was disturbingly conditioned by the mounting threat that Paul already bore in his bonnet the larva for another bee which might turn out to be as time-destroying and unproductive as any of its futile predecessors. The signs were unmistakable. During his hours at home he was restless, remotely inattentive, moody, sure symptoms that the embryonic idea—whatever it was—had passed through most of its metamorphoses and could be counted upon to begin buzzing at almost any time now.
It was clear that the decision he had just declared was in response both to a push and a pull. As for the push, he had made no substantial progress on his affair in the basement for quite two months, in spite of the fact that he had doggedly continued to spend his days there almost to the very moment of the university's re-opening in mid-September. His zeal had gradually ebbed as the momentum previously generated by his ecstatic hope declined through the successive stages of a katabasis which had reduced it from the stratosphere of hysterical hallelujahs to the more modest level of sanguine expectations, after which it had stepped down through a period of mere wistful hankering to fretful day-dreams featuring the prospect of some accidental discovery—popping up out of nowhere—to reward his patient toil.
But no miraculous discovery had popped. No amiable angel had suggested a gas at once non-inflammable and non-poisonous which might be used in the compressor, and no fairy's wand had pointed to an airtight joint between a stationary and a moving part in the machine that now lay neglected on his work-bench. As for the pull, a distraction had arrived in the form of an unexpected invitation to read a paper at the first monthly round-up of the University Club.
It pleased Paul to have been thus honoured. Seeing he was chiefly concerned vocationally with the life and works of the late or early, rather Edmund Spenser—for had he not won his doctorate at Columbia with a thesis on The Shepheardes Calendar? The assignment to display one's wit and wisdom before the bored and brittle membership of the University Club was always taken very seriously, not only by the younger fry on the faculty who hoped to win the favourable attention of their critical overlords, but by these grizzled oldsters themselves who, though they were practically guaranteed a glutton's helping of applause because of their influential seniority, nevertheless considered these exacting occasions worth an extra effort and prepared for them with a cleverness and cunning out of all proportion to their activities in the class-room where it was considered unprofessional to be interesting.
Indeed, this sentiment which exalted the dignity of dullness was so generally accepted that any sparkling pedagogue whose lectures proved entertaining enough to require the migration of his classes to a more spacious hall was covertly referred to as "a boundah". On all other words containing r, the faculty—mostly Western-tongued—bore down on this guttural with the savagery of a bulldog disturbed at his dinner, but when any one of them classified an ambitious colleague whose happy bons mots had won acclaim on the campus, it was customary to call him "a boundah", probably out of respect for the word's more frequent British usage.
And it was to ensure against being reviled with the unpleasant designation which lacked an r that many a professor, who might have enjoyed the exercise of an adroit and piquant wit, abstained from it in his class-room as he avoided oysters in months similarly distinguished. This inhibition made it all the more imperative that when a faculty man was invited to speak before his peers at the University Club, where he was at liberty to let himself go in the indulgence of button-popping persiflage, he must take pains to do a good job.
It was just as important for him to be funny on such occasions as to be unfunny while engaged in quenching the undergraduate thirst for knowledge. Well-to-do alumni, booked as sacrificial victims to the endowment fund or the projected stadium, were sometimes asked to attend these functions; and, recalling with what glassy eyes and distended throats they had swallowed one prodigious yawn after another while lounging in their chairs utterly stupefied by the apathetic mumble of these learned men, were now amazed that so much effulgence could be radiated from stars commonly supposed by them to be extinct.
Sensitive to the peculiar nature of his task, Paul had turned to the composition of his essay with a concentration that had driven what was left of his hope for the home manufacture of ice into an eclipse not only total, but probably permanent. He enjoyed banter and relished repartee, but it had not previously occurred to him in digging up the bones of Spenser that he might strike a mine of merriment. It was a new and stimulating sensation. Night after night he sat at Marcia's desk in the living-room, chuckling over neatly tipped-up phrases which, he felt, should be good for a genial haw-haw.
Occasionally he broke forth into open laughter at some delicious bit which might even evoke an appreciative hear-hear! He imagined he heard the eminent satirist Wembel condescending to say, after adjournment, "That was jolly good, Ward. You'll be doing a book on Spenser, some time.
Put me down for one. To-night, having sat for some minutes meditatively tapping his front teeth with the top of his pen, Paul slowly pushed back his chair, regarded Marcia as an object of great interest and, clearing his throat, solemnly abjured invention—his recent invention in particular and all inventions in general.
It wasn't his job. He would never attempt it again. After all, you could hardly have expected—" Marcia had tried to put just the right degree of approval into her remarks, knowing that if she joined too heartily in his own pooh-poohing of his experiment he was likely to attempt a defence of them. And fearing she had already begun a comment which might involve her in an argument, she dropped it suddenly, en route, as being a bit too hot to hold, and gave herself to a diligent recovery of a lost stitch in the sweater she was knitting for Wallie.
Marcia could see it coming—the new idea! It was galloping towards her with harness a-jingle and hoofs a-pounding and red nostrils distended. Always when Paul was about to plunge into some fresh adventure, he thus gave her due notice. With the unfocused, opalescent eye of the enraptured he would begin—after an impressive pause, "Do you know—Marcia—".
Nobody has ever done a Spenser for popular consumption. I doubt if more than one out of a hundred knew who he was. I should think a book on Spenser frankly intended for literary workers might do better. It can't be done. Suppose I keep on doing what I'm doing. Suppose I do it a little better every year. When I'm fifty my salary will have been increased by a few hundreds; granted. But Marcia, darling, there's so much we want to do that can never be done unless I make some money—much more money than my position will ever provide. By the way"—he chuckled a little to signify that this needn't be taken too seriously, but his eyes showed he could easily be serious enough about it if given the slightest encouragement—"I looked in at the railway station to-day and picked up some cruise literature.
We've just got to do it, some day! You've always been so keen on it. I understand that's done, sometimes, if the book is sure-fire. Well—if that came to pass, we could—" He broke off to do a little mental arithmetic. We should know by the middle of June.
We could have made our boat reservations. Then we could plan to sail early in July for at least a two-months' trip. Hannah would look after the children. You know that. I'll show you. Look—sail to Southampton, up to London same day. Think what it would all mean to me; literary shrines in London, Stratford. Think what it would mean to me to be able to ramble about in old East Smithfield—where Spenser was born, you know, and of course we should want to see Cambridge where he went to school.
Think of it, Marcia, three centuries and an half ago! It would certainly do me a lot of good in my work," he added, hopeful that this practical feature of the trip might stimulate Marcia's interest to the point where she would forget to be prudent. I'll keep the house as quiet as I can while you're working. We'll plan on it! Dream of a lifetime! You better have a little chat with Hannah. Tell her what we're going to do. Let's make a little secret of it—and not tell anybody. That's the way to succeed.
You tell her what we have in mind, and see if she doesn't think it a good idea. It was not a good idea, at all. Flushed with plaudits—for the speech at the University Club was a distinct success—Paul gave himself to the new book with a devotion that deserved a high reward. Impatient to take off a trial balance on his account with fame and fortune, he asked permission of a publisher to send on the first half of his work that was about the middle of February and having had a favourable response he posted the manuscript, after which it was difficult to write, his nervous eagerness for a reply from the East having distracted his attention.
In this pitiful state of anxiety he waited for six weeks, at first regarding the postman as an angel of light who would one day bring him a certificate to the new freedom, but eventually coming to consider the chap as a venomously unscrupulous churl. One day a letter came, on April 1st it was, as if to add a neat touch of derision to the casual unconcern with which the publisher doubted whether a work of this sort could expect to be commercially practical.
It was a heavy blow, and Paul was in poor condition to meet it, for his wanton day-dreaming over the favourable reply he had so blandly anticipated had already dulled his capacity for earnest work. Marcia had sensed this danger, one day saying to him, playfully, but with conviction, "You'd better stop spending that money now—and carry on with the book. Unable to reconcile himself to the catastrophe, he girded up his loins after a week of heavy sulking, revised the early part of his manuscript and sent it off again to another publisher. It was easy enough to understand how the judgment of one house might not coincide with another.
Had not Ben-Hur knocked about the country for a whole year before it found a firm far-sighted enough to appreciate its merit? The next rejection was more prompt and more briefly stated.
They were grateful for his courtesy in wanting them to see his book, but it did not fit into their publication programme. After that, the manuscript journeyed to three more publishers, the last of whom replied, "We have examined so much of the work as you have sent us—" Ah—perhaps that was the trouble, thought Paul. They didn't want to pass on a mere fragment of a book.
He would complete it! And he did complete it by working zealously all summer, autumn, and into early winter. It was sent the rounds of the front-rank publishers. Not until the next May did Paul decide that he had added another failure to the rather formidable array of defeats which had terminated the various projects of recent years. He did not trust himself to talk much about it to Marcia; and she, aware how deep was his hurt, and herself devastated with pity for him, tried to beguile his attention from this latest and most painful of his disillusions.
Foster, who had charge of the University Extension lectures, asked him one day if he would like to go out, occasionally, to near-by towns for evening addresses. There was a small fee attached to these excursions—averaging about twenty dollars. Paul assented, and in February he was sent out twice, once to Milburn and again to Deshler, where he was quite royally entertained and his lectures were handsomely received, especially in Deshler, the local paper covering his appearance with a flattering column that put more lime in his spine than anything that had ever happened to him.
Marcia was rejoiced at his expansive mood. That night, after he had read the account of his triumph at Deshler for the dozenth time he had not realized until now to what extent he had covered himself with glory on that occasion , he sat gazing at the ceiling for a long time, and then, in the awed huskiness of one making an astounding discovery, he said, "Do you know—Marcia—". She put down The Woman Thou Gavest Me, which everybody was talking about, and gave him her full attention, thinking she knew what was on his mind.
I've had a little taste of it now and I know I could do it. I mean to ask Foster to-morrow how one breaks into this game. They can't very well pay you less than fifty dollars a day and you are booked for a five-day week all summer. Expenses very small. Country towns mostly. Short jumps. Not much paid out for travel.