The Project Gutenberg EBook of Three Lives, by Gertrude Stein
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Title: Three Lives
Stories of The Good Anna, Melanctha and The Gentle Lena
Author: Gertrude Stein
Release Date: March 18, 2005 [EBook #15408]
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THREE LIVES ***
Produced by S.R.Ellison, Suzanne Shell, and the Online Distributed
_Stories of The Good Anna, Melanctha and The Gentle Lena_
_Donc je suis malheureux et ce n'est ni ma faute ni celle de
[Footnote 1: Therefore I am unhappy and it is neither my fault
nor that of life.]
The Good Anna 1
The Gentle Lena 142
THE GOOD ANNA
The tradesmen of Bridgepoint learned to dread the sound of "Miss
Mathilda", for with that name the good Anna always conquered.
The strictest of the one price stores found that they could give
things for a little less, when the good Anna had fully said that "Miss
Mathilda" could not pay so much and that she could buy it cheaper "by
Lindheims was Anna's favorite store, for there they had bargain days,
when flour and sugar were sold for a quarter of a cent less for a
pound, and there the heads of the departments were all her friends and
always managed to give her the bargain prices, even on other days.
Anna led an arduous and troubled life.
Anna managed the whole little house for Miss Mathilda. It was a funny
little house, one of a whole row of all the same kind that made a
close pile like a row of dominoes that a child knocks over, for they
were built along a street which at this point came down a steep hill.
They were funny little houses, two stories high, with red brick fronts
and long white steps.
This one little house was always very full with Miss Mathilda, an
under servant, stray dogs and cats and Anna's voice that scolded,
managed, grumbled all day long.
"Sallie! can't I leave you alone a minute but you must run to the door
to see the butcher boy come down the street and there is Miss Mathilda
calling for her shoes. Can I do everything while you go around always
thinking about nothing at all? If I ain't after you every minute you
would be forgetting all, the time, and I take all this pains, and when
you come to me you was as ragged as a buzzard and as dirty as a dog.
Go and find Miss Mathilda her shoes where you put them this morning."
"Peter!",--her voice rose higher,--"Peter!",--Peter was the youngest
and the favorite dog,--"Peter, if you don't leave Baby alone,"--Baby
was an old, blind terrier that Anna had loved for many years,--"Peter
if you don't leave Baby alone, I take a rawhide to you, you bad dog."
The good Anna had high ideals for canine chastity and discipline. The
three regular dogs, the three that always lived with Anna, Peter and
old Baby, and the fluffy little Rags, who was always jumping up into
the air just to show that he was happy, together with the transients,
the many stray ones that Anna always kept until she found them homes,
were all under strict orders never to be bad one with the other.
A sad disgrace did once happen in the family. A little transient
terrier for whom Anna had found a home suddenly produced a crop of
pups. The new owners were certain that this Foxy had known no dog
since she was in their care. The good Anna held to it stoutly that her
Peter and her Rags were guiltless, and she made her statement with so
much heat that Foxy's owners were at last convinced that these results
were due to their neglect.
"You bad dog," Anna said to Peter that night, "you bad dog."
"Peter was the father of those pups," the good Anna explained to Miss
Mathilda, "and they look just like him too, and poor little Foxy,
they were so big that she could hardly have them, but Miss Mathilda, I
would never let those people know that Peter was so bad."
Periods of evil thinking came very regularly to Peter and to Rags and
to the visitors within their gates. At such times Anna would be
very busy and scold hard, and then too she always took great care to
seclude the bad dogs from each other whenever she had to leave the
house. Sometimes just to see how good it was that she had made them,
Anna would leave the room a little while and leave them all together,
and then she would suddenly come back. Back would slink all the
wicked-minded dogs at the sound of her hand upon the knob, and then
they would sit desolate in their corners like a lot of disappointed
children whose stolen sugar has been taken from them.
Innocent blind old Baby was the only one who preserved the dignity
becoming in a dog.
You see that Anna led an arduous and troubled life.
The good Anna was a small, spare, german woman, at this time about
forty years of age. Her face was worn, her cheeks were thin, her mouth
drawn and firm, and her light blue eyes were very bright. Sometimes
they were full of lightning and sometimes full of humor, but they were
always sharp and clear.
Her voice was a pleasant one, when she told the histories of bad Peter
and of Baby and of little Rags. Her voice was a high and piercing one
when she called to the teamsters and to the other wicked men, what
she wanted that should come to them, when she saw them beat a horse or
kick a dog. She did not belong to any society that could stop them
and she told them so most frankly, but her strained voice and her
glittering eyes, and her queer piercing german english first made them
afraid and then ashamed. They all knew too, that all the policemen
on the beat were her friends. These always respected and obeyed
Miss Annie, as they called her, and promptly attended to all of her
For five years Anna managed the little house for Miss Mathilda. In
these five years there were four different under servants.
The one that came first was a pretty, cheerful irish girl. Anna took
her with a doubting mind. Lizzie was an obedient, happy servant, and
Anna began to have a little faith. This was not for long. The pretty,
cheerful Lizzie disappeared one day without her notice and with all
her baggage and returned no more.
This pretty, cheerful Lizzie was succeeded by a melancholy Molly.
Molly was born in America, of german parents. All her people had been
long dead or gone away. Molly had always been alone. She was a tall,
dark, sallow, thin-haired creature, and she was always troubled with
a cough, and she had a bad temper, and always said ugly dreadful swear
Anna found all this very hard to bear, but she kept Molly a long time
out of kindness. The kitchen was constantly a battle-ground. Anna
scolded and Molly swore strange oaths, and then Miss Mathilda would
shut her door hard to show that she could hear it all.
At last Anna had to give it up. "Please Miss Mathilda won't you speak
to Molly," Anna said, "I can't do a thing with her. I scold her, and
she don't seem to hear and then she swears so that she scares me. She
loves you Miss Mathilda, and you scold her please once."
"But Anna," cried poor Miss Mathilda, "I don't want to," and that
large, cheerful, but faint hearted woman looked all aghast at such a
prospect. "But you must, please Miss Mathilda!" Anna said.
Miss Mathilda never wanted to do any scolding. "But you must please
Miss Mathilda," Anna said.
Miss Mathilda every day put off the scolding, hoping always that Anna
would learn to manage Molly better. It never did get better and at
last Miss Mathilda saw that the scolding simply had to be.
It was agreed between the good Anna and her Miss Mathilda that Anna
should be away when Molly would be scolded. The next evening that it
was Anna's evening out, Miss Mathilda faced her task and went down
into the kitchen.
Molly was sitting in the little kitchen leaning her elbows on the
table. She was a tall, thin, sallow girl, aged twenty-three, by nature
slatternly and careless but trained by Anna into superficial neatness.
Her drab striped cotton dress and gray black checked apron increased
the length and sadness of her melancholy figure. "Oh, Lord!" groaned
Miss Mathilda to herself as she approached her.
"Molly, I want to speak to you about your behaviour to Anna!", here
Molly dropped her head still lower on her arms and began to cry.
"Oh! Oh!" groaned Miss Mathilda.
"It's all Miss Annie's fault, all of it," Molly said at last, in a
trembling voice, "I do my best."
"I know Anna is often hard to please," began Miss Mathilda, with a
twinge of mischief, and then she sobered herself to her task, "but
you must remember, Molly, she means it for your good and she is really
very kind to you."
"I don't want her kindness," Molly cried, "I wish you would tell me
what to do, Miss Mathilda, and then I would be all right. I hate Miss
"This will never do Molly," Miss Mathilda said sternly, in her
deepest, firmest tones, "Anna is the head of the kitchen and you must
either obey her or leave."
"I don't want to leave you," whimpered melancholy Molly. "Well Molly
then try and do better," answered Miss Mathilda, keeping a good stern
front, and backing quickly from the kitchen.
"Oh! Oh!" groaned Miss Mathilda, as she went back up the stairs.
Miss Mathilda's attempt to make peace between the constantly
contending women in the kitchen had no real effect. They were very
soon as bitter as before.
At last it was decided that Molly was to go away. Molly went away to
work in a factory in the town, and she went to live with an old woman
in the slums, a very bad old woman Anna said.
Anna was never easy in her mind about the fate of Molly. Sometimes she
would see or hear of her. Molly was not well, her cough was worse, and
the old woman really was a bad one.
After a year of this unwholesome life, Molly was completely broken
down. Anna then again took her in charge. She brought her from her
work and from the woman where she lived, and put her in a hospital to
stay till she was well. She found a place for her as nursemaid to a
little girl out in the country, and Molly was at last established and
Molly had had, at first, no regular successor. In a few months it was
going to be the summer and Miss Mathilda would be gone away, and old
Katie would do very well to come in every day and help Anna with her
Old Katy was a heavy, ugly, short and rough old german woman, with a
strange distorted german-english all her own. Anna was worn out now
with her attempt to make the younger generation do all that it should
and rough old Katy never answered back, and never wanted her own
way. No scolding or abuse could make its mark on her uncouth and aged
peasant hide. She said her "Yes, Miss Annie," when an answer had to
come, and that was always all that she could say.
"Old Katy is just a rough old woman, Miss Mathilda," Anna said, "but
I think I keep her here with me. She can work and she don't give me
trouble like I had with Molly all the time."
Anna always had a humorous sense from this old Katy's twisted peasant
english, from the roughness on her tongue of buzzing s's and from the
queer ways of her brutish servile humor. Anna could not let old Katy
serve at table--old Katy was too coarsely made from natural earth for
that--and so Anna had all this to do herself and that she never liked,
but even then this simple rough old creature was pleasanter to her
than any of the upstart young.
Life went on very smoothly now in these few months before the summer
came. Miss Mathilda every summer went away across the ocean to be gone
for several months. When she went away this summer old Katy was so
sorry, and on the day that Miss Mathilda went, old Katy cried hard
for many hours. An earthy, uncouth, servile peasant creature old Katy
surely was. She stood there on the white stone steps of the little red
brick house, with her bony, square dull head with its thin, tanned,
toughened skin and its sparse and kinky grizzled hair, and her strong,
squat figure a little overmade on the right side, clothed in her blue
striped cotton dress, all clean and always washed but rough and harsh
to see--and she stayed there on the steps till Anna brought her in,
blubbering, her apron to her face, and making queer guttural broken
When Miss Mathilda early in the fall came to her house again old Katy
was not there.
"I never thought old Katy would act so Miss Mathilda," Anna said,
"when she was so sorry when you went away, and I gave her full wages
all the summer, but they are all alike Miss Mathilda, there isn't one
of them that's fit to trust. You know how Katy said she liked you,
Miss Mathilda, and went on about it when you went away and then she
was so good and worked all right until the middle of the summer, when
I got sick, and then she went away and left me all alone and took a
place out in the country, where they gave her some more money. She
didn't say a word, Miss Mathilda, she just went off and left me there
alone when I was sick after that awful hot summer that we had, and
after all we done for her when she had no place to go, and all summer
I gave her better things to eat than I had for myself. Miss Mathilda,
there isn't one of them has any sense of what's the right way for a
girl to do, not one of them."
Old Katy was never heard from any more.
No under servant was decided upon now for several months. Many came
and many went, and none of them would do. At last Anna heard of
Sallie was the oldest girl in a family of eleven and Sallie was just
sixteen years old. From Sallie down they came always littler and
littler in her family, and all of them were always out at work
excepting only the few littlest of them all.
Sallie was a pretty blonde and smiling german girl, and stupid and a
little silly. The littler they came in her family the brighter they
all were. The brightest of them all was a little girl of ten. She did
a good day's work washing dishes for a man and wife in a saloon, and
she earned a fair day's wage, and then there was one littler still.
She only worked for half the day. She did the house work for a
bachelor doctor. She did it all, all of the housework and received
each week her eight cents for her wage. Anna was always indignant when
she told that story.
"I think he ought to give her ten cents Miss Mathilda any way. Eight
cents is so mean when she does all his work and she is such a bright
little thing too, not stupid like our Sallie. Sallie would never learn
to do a thing if I didn't scold her all the time, but Sallie is a good
girl, and I take care and she will do all right."
Sallie was a good, obedient german child. She never answered Anna
back, no more did Peter, old Baby and little Rags and so though
always Anna's voice was sharply raised in strong rebuke and worn
expostulation, they were a happy family all there together in the
Anna was a mother now to Sallie, a good incessant german mother who
watched and scolded hard to keep the girl from any evil step. Sallie's
temptations and transgressions were much like those of naughty Peter
and jolly little Rags, and Anna took the same way to keep all three
from doing what was bad.
Sallie's chief badness besides forgetting all the time and never
washing her hands clean to serve at table, was the butcher boy.
He was an unattractive youth enough, that butcher boy. Suspicion began
to close in around Sallie that she spent the evenings when Anna was
away, in company with this bad boy.
"Sallie is such a pretty girl, Miss Mathilda," Anna said, "and she is
so dumb and silly, and she puts on that red waist, and she crinkles
up her hair with irons so I have to laugh, and then I tell her if she
only washed her hands clean it would be better than all that fixing
all the time, but you can't do a thing with the young girls nowadays
Miss Mathilda. Sallie is a good girl but I got to watch her all the
Suspicion closed in around Sallie more and more, that she spent Anna's
evenings out with this boy sitting in the kitchen. One early morning
Anna's voice was sharply raised.
"Sallie this ain't the same banana that I brought home yesterday, for
Miss Mathilda, for her breakfast, and you was out early in the street
this morning, what was you doing there?"
"Nothing, Miss Annie, I just went out to see, that's all and that's
the same banana, 'deed it is Miss Annie."
"Sallie, how can you say so and after all I do for you, and Miss
Mathilda is so good to you. I never brought home no bananas yesterday
with specks on it like that. I know better, it was that boy was here
last night and ate it while I was away, and you was out to get another
this morning. I don't want no lying Sallie."
Sallie was stout in her defence but then she gave it up and she said
it was the boy who snatched it as he ran away at the sound of Anna's
key opening the outside door. "But I will never let him in again, Miss
Annie, 'deed I won't," said Sallie.
And now it was all peaceful for some weeks and then Sallie with
fatuous simplicity began on certain evenings to resume her bright red
waist, her bits of jewels and her crinkly hair.
One pleasant evening in the early spring, Miss Mathilda was standing
on the steps beside the open door, feeling cheerful in the pleasant,
gentle night. Anna came down the street, returning from her evening
out. "Don't shut the door, please, Miss Mathilda," Anna said in a low
voice, "I don't want Sallie to know I'm home."
Anna went softly through the house and reached the kitchen door. At
the sound of her hand upon the knob there was a wild scramble and
a bang, and then Sallie sitting there alone when Anna came into the
room, but, alas, the butcher boy forgot his overcoat in his escape.
You see that Anna led an arduous and troubled life.
Anna had her troubles, too, with Miss Mathilda. "And I slave and slave
to save the money and you go out and spend it all on foolishness,"
the good Anna would complain when her mistress, a large and careless
woman, would come home with a bit of porcelain, a new etching and
sometimes even an oil painting on her arm.
"But Anna," argued Miss Mathilda, "if you didn't save this money,
don't you see I could not buy these things," and then Anna would
soften and look pleased until she learned the price, and then wringing
her hands, "Oh, Miss Mathilda, Miss Mathilda," she would cry, "and you
gave all that money out for that, when you need a dress to go out in
so bad." "Well, perhaps I will get one for myself next year, Anna,"
Miss Mathilda would cheerfully concede. "If we live till then Miss
Mathilda, I see that you do," Anna would then answer darkly.
Anna had great pride in the knowledge and possessions of her cherished
Miss Mathilda, but she did not like her careless way of wearing always
her old clothes. "You can't go out to dinner in that dress, Miss
Mathilda," she would say, standing firmly before the outside door,
"You got to go and put on your new dress you always look so nice in."
"But Anna, there isn't time." "Yes there is, I go up and help you fix
it, please Miss Mathilda you can't go out to dinner in that dress and
next year if we live till then, I make you get a new hat, too. It's a
shame Miss Mathilda to go out like that."
The poor mistress sighed and had to yield. It suited her cheerful,
lazy temper to be always without care but sometimes it was a burden
to endure, for so often she had it all to do again unless she made a
rapid dash out of the door before Anna had a chance to see.
Life was very easy always for this large and lazy Miss Mathilda, with
the good Anna to watch and care for her and all her clothes and goods.
But, alas, this world of ours is after all much what it should be and
cheerful Miss Mathilda had her troubles too with Anna.
It was pleasant that everything for one was done, but annoying often
that what one wanted most just then, one could not have when one
had foolishly demanded and not suggested one's desire. And then Miss
Mathilda loved to go out on joyous, country tramps when, stretching
free and far with cheerful comrades, over rolling hills and
cornfields, glorious in the setting sun, and dogwood white and shining
underneath the moon and clear stars over head, and brilliant air and
tingling blood, it was hard to have to think of Anna's anger at the
late return, though Miss Mathilda had begged that there might be no
hot supper cooked that night. And then when all the happy crew of
Miss Mathilda and her friends, tired with fullness of good health and
burning winds and glowing sunshine in the eyes, stiffened and justly
worn and wholly ripe for pleasant food and gentle content, were all
come together to the little house--it was hard for all that tired crew
who loved the good things Anna made to eat, to come to the closed
door and wonder there if it was Anna's evening in or out, and then the
others must wait shivering on their tired feet, while Miss Mathilda
softened Anna's heart, or if Anna was well out, boldly ordered
youthful Sallie to feed all the hungry lot.
Such things were sometimes hard to bear and often grievously did
Miss Mathilda feel herself a rebel with the cheerful Lizzies, the
melancholy Mollies, the rough old Katies and the stupid Sallies.
Miss Mathilda had other troubles too, with the good Anna. Miss
Mathilda had to save her Anna from the many friends, who in the kindly
fashion of the poor, used up her savings and then gave her promises in
place of payments.
The good Anna had many curious friends that she had found in the
twenty years that she had lived in Bridgepoint, and Miss Mathilda
would often have to save her from them all.
THE LIFE OF THE GOOD ANNA
Anna Federner, this good Anna, was of solid lower middle-class south
When she was seventeen years old she went to service in a bourgeois
family, in the large city near her native town, but she did not stay
there long. One day her mistress offered her maid--that was Anna--to
a friend, to see her home. Anna felt herself to be a servant, not a
maid, and so she promptly left the place.
Anna had always a firm old world sense of what was the right way for a
girl to do.
No argument could bring her to sit an evening in the empty parlour,
although the smell of paint when they were fixing up the kitchen made
her very sick, and tired as she always was, she never would sit down
during the long talks she held with Miss Mathilda. A girl was a girl
and should act always like a girl, both as to giving all respect and
as to what she had to eat.
A little time after she left this service, Anna and her mother made
the voyage to America. They came second-class, but it was for them a
long and dreary journey. The mother was already ill with consumption.
They landed in a pleasant town in the far South and there the mother
Anna was now alone and she made her way to Bridgepoint where an older
half brother was already settled. This brother was a heavy, lumbering,
good natured german man, full of the infirmity that comes of excess of
He was a baker and married and fairly well to do.
Anna liked her brother well enough but was never in any way dependent
When she arrived in Bridgepoint, she took service with Miss Mary
Miss Mary Wadsmith was a large, fair, helpless woman, burdened with
the care of two young children. They had been left her by her brother
and his wife who had died within a few months of each other.
Anna soon had the household altogether in her charge.
Anna found her place with large, abundant women, for such were always
lazy, careless or all helpless, and so the burden of their lives could
fall on Anna, and give her just content. Anna's superiors must be
always these large helpless women, or be men, for none others could
give themselves to be made so comfortable and free.
Anna had no strong natural feeling to love children, as she had to
love cats and dogs, and a large mistress. She never became deeply fond
of Edgar and Jane Wadsmith. She naturally preferred the boy, for boys
love always better to be done for and made comfortable and full of
eating, while in the little girl she had to meet the feminine, the
subtle opposition, showing so early always in a young girl's nature.
For the summer, the Wadsmiths had a pleasant house out in the country,
and the winter months they spent in hotel apartments in the city.
Gradually it came to Anna to take the whole direction of their
movements, to make all the decisions as to their journeyings to and
fro, and for the arranging of the places where they were to live.
Anna had been with Miss Mary for three years, when little Jane began
to raise her strength in opposition. Jane was a neat, pleasant little
girl, pretty and sweet with a young girl's charm, and with two blonde
braids carefully plaited down her back.
Miss Mary, like her Anna, had no strong natural feeling to love
children, but she was fond of these two young ones of her blood, and
yielded docilely to the stronger power in the really pleasing little
girl. Anna always preferred the rougher handling of the boy, while
Miss Mary found the gentle force and the sweet domination of the girl
to please her better.
In a spring when all the preparations for the moving had been made,
Miss Mary and Jane went together to the country home, and Anna, after
finishing up the city matters was to follow them in a few days with
Edgar, whose vacation had not yet begun.
Many times during the preparations for this summer, Jane had met Anna
with sharp resistance, in opposition to her ways. It was simple for
little Jane to give unpleasant orders, not from herself but from Miss
Mary, large, docile, helpless Miss Mary Wadsmith who could never think
out any orders to give Anna from herself.
Anna's eyes grew slowly sharper, harder, and her lower teeth thrust a
little forward and pressing strongly up, framed always more slowly the
"Yes, Miss Jane," to the quick, "Oh Anna! Miss Mary says she wants you
to do it so!"
On the day of their migration, Miss Mary had been already put into the
carriage. "Oh, Anna!" cried little Jane running back into the house,
"Miss Mary says that you are to bring along the blue dressings out of
her room and mine." Anna's body stiffened, "We never use them in the
summer, Miss Jane," she said thickly. "Yes Anna, but Miss Mary thinks
it would be nice, and she told me to tell you not to forget, good-by!"
and the little girl skipped lightly down the steps into the carriage
and they drove away.
Anna stood still on the steps, her eyes hard and sharp and shining,
and her body and her face stiff with resentment. And then she went
into the house, giving the door a shattering slam.
Anna was very hard to live with in those next three days. Even Baby,
the new puppy, the pride of Anna's heart, a present from her friend
the widow, Mrs. Lehntman--even this pretty little black and tan felt
the heat of Anna's scorching flame. And Edgar, who had looked forward
to these days, to be for him filled full of freedom and of things to
eat--he could not rest a moment in Anna's bitter sight.
On the third day, Anna and Edgar went to the Wadsmith country home.
The blue dressings out of the two rooms remained behind.
All the way, Edgar sat in front with the colored man and drove. It was
an early spring day in the South. The fields and woods were heavy from
the soaking rains. The horses dragged the carriage slowly over the
long road, sticky with brown clay and rough with masses of stones
thrown here and there to be broken and trodden into place by passing
teams. Over and through the soaking earth was the feathery new spring
growth of little flowers, of young leaves and of ferns. The tree tops
were all bright with reds and yellows, with brilliant gleaming whites
and gorgeous greens. All the lower air was full of the damp haze
rising from heavy soaking water on the earth, mingled with a warm and
pleasant smell from the blue smoke of the spring fires in all the open
fields. And above all this was the clear, upper air, and the songs of
birds and the joy of sunshine and of lengthening days.
The languor and the stir, the warmth and weight and the strong feel
of life from the deep centres of the earth that comes always with the
early, soaking spring, when it is not answered with an active fervent
joy, gives always anger, irritation and unrest.
To Anna alone there in the carriage, drawing always nearer to the
struggle with her mistress, the warmth, the slowness, the jolting over
stones, the steaming from the horses, the cries of men and animals and
birds, and the new life all round about were simply maddening. "Baby!
if you don't lie still, I think I kill you. I can't stand it any more
At this time Anna, about twenty-seven years of age, was not yet all
thin and worn. The sharp bony edges and corners of her head and face
were still rounded out with flesh, but already the temper and the
humor showed sharply in her clean blue eyes, and the thinning was
begun about the lower jaw, that was so often strained with the upward
pressure of resolve.
To-day, alone there in the carriage, she was all stiff and yet all
trembling with the sore effort of decision and revolt.
As the carriage turned into the Wadsmith gate, little Jane ran out to
see. She just looked at Anna's face; she did not say a word about blue
Anna got down from the carriage with little Baby in her arms. She took
out all the goods that she had brought and the carriage drove away.
Anna left everything on the porch, and went in to where Miss Mary
Wadsmith was sitting by the fire.
Miss Mary was sitting in a large armchair by the fire. All the nooks
and crannies of the chair were filled full of her soft and spreading
body. She was dressed in a black satin morning gown, the sleeves,
great monster things, were heavy with the mass of her soft flesh.
She sat there always, large, helpless, gentle. She had a fair, soft,
regular, good-looking face, with pleasant, empty, grey-blue eyes, and
heavy sleepy lids.
Behind Miss Mary was the little Jane, nervous and jerky with
excitement as she saw Anna come into the room.
"Miss Mary," Anna began. She had stopped just within the door, her
body and her face stiff with repression, her teeth closed hard and the
white lights flashing sharply in the pale, clean blue of her eyes.
Her bearing was full of the strange coquetry of anger and of fear,
the stiffness, the bridling, the suggestive movement underneath the
rigidness of forced control, all the queer ways the passions have to
show themselves all one.
"Miss Mary," the words came slowly with thick utterance and with
jerks, but always firm and strong. "Miss Mary, I can't stand it
any more like this. When you tell me anything to do, I do it. I do
everything I can and you know I work myself sick for you. The blue
dressings in your room makes too much work to have for summer. Miss
Jane don't know what work is. If you want to do things like that I go
Anna stopped still. Her words had not the strength of meaning
they were meant to have, but the power in the mood of Anna's soul
frightened and awed Miss Mary through and through.
Like in all large and helpless women, Miss Mary's heart beat weakly in
the soft and helpless mass it had to govern. Little Jane's excitements
had already tried her strength. Now she grew pale and fainted quite
"Miss Mary!" cried Anna running to her mistress and supporting all her
helpless weight back in the chair. Little Jane, distracted, flew about
as Anna ordered, bringing smelling salts and brandy and vinegar and
water and chafing poor Miss Mary's wrists.
Miss Mary slowly opened her mild eyes. Anna sent the weeping little
Jane out of the room. She herself managed to get Miss Mary quiet on
There was never a word more said about blue dressings.
Anna had conquered, and a few days later little Jane gave her a green
parrot to make peace.
For six more years little Jane and Anna lived in the same house. They
were careful and respectful to each other to the end.
Anna liked the parrot very well. She was fond of cats too and of
horses, but best of all animals she loved the dog and best of all
dogs, little Baby, the first gift from her friend, the widow Mrs.
The widow Mrs. Lehntman was the romance in Anna's life.
Anna met her first at the house of her half brother, the baker, who
had known the late Mr. Lehntman, a small grocer, very well.
Mrs. Lehntman had been for many years a midwife. Since her husband's
death she had herself and two young children to support.
Mrs. Lehntman was a good looking woman. She had a plump well rounded
body, clear olive skin, bright dark eyes and crisp black curling
hair. She was pleasant, magnetic, efficient and good. She was very
attractive, very generous and very amiable.
She was a few years older than our good Anna, who was soon entirely
subdued by her magnetic, sympathetic charm.
Mrs. Lehntman in her work loved best to deliver young girls who were
in trouble. She would take these into her own house and care for them
in secret, till they could guiltlessly go home or back to work, and
then slowly pay her the money for their care. And so through this new
friend Anna led a wider and more entertaining life, and often she used
up her savings in helping Mrs. Lehntman through those times when she
was giving very much more than she got.
It was through Mrs. Lehntman that Anna met Dr. Shonjen who employed
her when at last it had to be that she must go away from her Miss Mary
During the last years with her Miss Mary, Anna's health was very bad,
as indeed it always was from that time on until the end of her strong
Anna was a medium sized, thin, hard working, worrying woman.
She had always had bad headaches and now they came more often and more
Her face grew thin, more bony and more worn, her skin stained itself
pale yellow, as it does with working sickly women, and the clear blue
of her eyes went pale.
Her back troubled her a good deal, too. She was always tired at her
work and her temper grew more difficult and fretful.
Miss Mary Wadsmith often tried to make Anna see a little to herself,
and get a doctor, and the little Jane, now blossoming into a pretty,
sweet young woman, did her best to make Anna do things for her good.
Anna was stubborn always to Miss Jane, and fearful of interference
in her ways. Miss Mary Wadsmith's mild advice she easily could always
Mrs. Lehntman was the only one who had any power over Anna. She
induced her to let Dr. Shonjen take her in his care.
No one but a Dr. Shonjen could have brought a good and german Anna
first to stop her work and then submit herself to operation, but he
knew so well how to deal with german and poor people. Cheery, jovial,
hearty, full of jokes that made much fun and yet were full of simple
common sense and reasoning courage, he could persuade even a good Anna
to do things that were for her own good.
Edgar had now been for some years away from home, first at a school
and then at work to prepare himself to be a civil engineer. Miss Mary
and Jane promised to take a trip for all the time that Anna was away,
and so there would be no need for Anna's work, nor for a new girl to
take Anna's place.
Anna's mind was thus a little set at rest. She gave herself to Mrs.
Lehntman and the doctor to do what they thought best to make her well
Anna endured the operation very well, and was patient, almost docile,
in the slow recovery of her working strength. But when she was once
more at work for her Miss Mary Wadsmith, all the good effect of these
several months of rest were soon worked and worried well away.
For all the rest of her strong working life Anna was never really
well. She had bad headaches all the time and she was always thin and
She worked away her appetite, her health and strength, and always for
the sake of those who begged her not to work so hard. To her thinking,
in her stubborn, faithful, german soul, this was the right way for a
girl to do.
Anna's life with Miss Mary Wadsmith was now drawing to an end.
Miss Jane, now altogether a young lady, had come out into the world.
Soon she would become engaged and then be married, and then perhaps
Miss Mary Wadsmith would make her home with her.
In such a household Anna was certain that she would never take a
place. Miss Jane was always careful and respectful and very good to
Anna, but never could Anna be a girl in a household where Miss Jane
would be the head. This much was very certain in her mind, and so
these last two years with her Miss Mary were not as happy as before.
The change came very soon.
Miss Jane became engaged and in a few months was to marry a man from
out of town, from Curden, an hour's railway ride from Bridgepoint.
Poor Miss Mary Wadsmith did not know the strong resolve Anna had made
to live apart from her when this new household should be formed. Anna
found it very hard to speak to her Miss Mary of this change.
The preparations for the wedding went on day and night.
Anna worked and sewed hard to make it all go well.
Miss Mary was much fluttered, but content and happy with Anna to make
everything so easy for them all.
Anna worked so all the time to drown her sorrow and her conscience
too, for somehow it was not right to leave Miss Mary so. But what else
could she do? She could not live as her Miss Mary's girl, in a house
where Miss Jane would be the head.
The wedding day grew always nearer. At last it came and passed.
The young people went on their wedding trip, and Anna and Miss Mary
were left behind to pack up all the things.
Even yet poor Anna had not had the strength to tell Miss Mary her
resolve, but now it had to be.
Anna every spare minute ran to her friend Mrs. Lehntman for comfort
and advice. She begged her friend to be with her when she told the
news to Miss Mary.
Perhaps if Mrs. Lehntman had not been in Bridgepoint, Anna would have
tried to live in the new house. Mrs. Lehntman did not urge her to this
thing nor even give her this advice, but feeling for Mrs. Lehntman as
she did made even faithful Anna not quite so strong in her dependence
on Miss Mary's need as she would otherwise have been.
Remember, Mrs. Lehntman was the romance in Anna's life.
All the packing was now done and in a few days Miss Mary was to go to
the new house, where the young people were ready for her coming.
At last Anna had to speak.
Mrs. Lehntman agreed to go with her and help to make the matter clear
to poor Miss Mary.
The two women came together to Miss Mary Wadsmith sitting placid by
the fire in the empty living room. Miss Mary had seen Mrs. Lehntman
many times before, and so her coming in with Anna raised no suspicion
in her mind.
It was very hard for the two women to begin.
It must be very gently done, this telling to Miss Mary of the change.
She must not be shocked by suddenness or with excitement.
Anna was all stiff, and inside all a quiver with shame, anxiety
and grief. Even courageous Mrs. Lehntman, efficient, impulsive and
complacent as she was and not deeply concerned in the event, felt
awkward, abashed and almost guilty in that large, mild, helpless
presence. And at her side to make her feel the power of it all, was
the intense conviction of poor Anna, struggling to be unfeeling, self
righteous and suppressed.
"Miss Mary"--with Anna when things had to come they came always sharp
and short--"Miss Mary, Mrs. Lehntman has come here with me, so I can
tell you about not staying with you there in Curden. Of course I go
help you to get settled and then I think I come back and stay right
here in Bridgepoint. You know my brother he is here and all his
family, and I think it would be not right to go away from them so far,
and you know you don't want me now so much Miss Mary when you are all
together there in Curden."
Miss Mary Wadsmith was puzzled. She did not understand what Anna meant
by what she said.
"Why Anna of course you can come to see your brother whenever you
like to, and I will always pay your fare. I thought you understood all
about that, and we will be very glad to have your nieces come to stay
with you as often as they like. There will always be room enough in a
big house like Mr. Goldthwaite's."
It was now for Mrs. Lehntman to begin her work.
"Miss Wadsmith does not understand just what you mean Anna," she
began. "Miss Wadsmith, Anna feels how good and kind you are, and she
talks about it all the time, and what you do for her in every way you
can, and she is very grateful and never would want to go away from
you, only she thinks it would be better now that Mrs. Goldthwaite
has this big new house and will want to manage it in her own way,
she thinks perhaps it would be better if Mrs. Goldthwaite had all new
servants with her to begin with, and not a girl like Anna who knew her
when she was a little girl. That is what Anna feels about it now, and
she asked me and I said to her that I thought it would be better for
you all and you knew she liked you so much and that you were so good
to her, and you would understand how she thought it would be better
in the new house if she stayed on here in Bridgepoint, anyway for a
little while until Mrs. Goldthwaite was used to her new house. Isn't
that it Anna that you wanted Miss Wadsmith to know?"
"Oh Anna," Miss Mary Wadsmith said it slowly and in a grieved tone of
surprise that was very hard for the good Anna to endure, "Oh Anna,
I didn't think that you would ever want to leave me after all these
"Miss Mary!" it came in one tense jerky burst, "Miss Mary it's only
working under Miss Jane now would make me leave you so. I know how
good you are and I work myself sick for you and for Mr. Edgar and for
Miss Jane too, only Miss Jane she will want everything different from
like the way we always did, and you know Miss Mary I can't have Miss
Jane watching at me all the time, and every minute something new. Miss
Mary, it would be very bad and Miss Jane don't really want me to come
with you to the new house, I know that all the time. Please Miss Mary
don't feel bad about it or think I ever want to go away from you if I
could do things right for you the way they ought to be."
Poor Miss Mary. Struggling was not a thing for her to do. Anna would
surely yield if she would struggle, but struggling was too much work
and too much worry for peaceful Miss Mary to endure. If Anna would do
so she must. Poor Miss Mary Wadsmith sighed, looked wistfully at Anna
and then gave it up.
"You must do as you think best Anna," she said at last letting all of
her soft self sink back into the chair. "I am very sorry and so I am
sure will be Miss Jane when she hears what you have thought it best to
do. It was very good of Mrs. Lehntman to come with you and I am sure
she does it for your good. I suppose you want to go out a little now.
Come back in an hour Anna and help me go to bed." Miss Mary closed her
eyes and rested still and placid by the fire.
The two women went away.
This was the end of Anna's service with Miss Mary Wadsmith, and soon
her new life taking care of Dr. Shonjen was begun.
Keeping house for a jovial bachelor doctor gave new elements of
understanding to Anna's maiden german mind. Her habits were as firm
fixed as before, but it always was with Anna that things that had been
done once with her enjoyment and consent could always happen any
time again, such as her getting up at any hour of the night to make
a supper and cook hot chops and chicken fry for Dr. Shonjen and his
Anna loved to work for men, for they could eat so much and with such
joy. And when they were warm and full, they were content, and let her
do whatever she thought best. Not that Anna's conscience ever slept,
for neither with interference or without would she strain less to keep
on saving every cent and working every hour of the day. But truly she
loved it best when she could scold. Now it was not only other girls
and the colored man, and dogs, and cats, and horses and her parrot,
but her cheery master, jolly Dr. Shonjen, whom she could guide and
constantly rebuke to his own good.
The doctor really loved her scoldings as she loved his wickednesses
and his merry joking ways.
These days were happy days with Anna.
Her freakish humor now first showed itself, her sense of fun in
the queer ways that people had, that made her later find delight in
brutish servile Katy, in Sally's silly ways and in the badness of
Peter and of Rags. She loved to make sport with the skeletons the
doctor had, to make them move and make strange noises till the negro
boy shook in his shoes and his eyes rolled white in his agony of fear.
Then Anna would tell these histories to her doctor. Her worn, thin,
lined, determined face would form for itself new and humorous creases,
and her pale blue eyes would kindle with humour and with joy as her
doctor burst into his hearty laugh. And the good Anna full of the
coquetry of pleasing would bridle with her angular, thin, spinster
body, straining her stories and herself to please.
These early days with jovial Dr. Shonjen were very happy days with the
All of Anna's spare hours in these early days she spent with her
friend, the widow Mrs. Lehntman. Mrs. Lehntman lived with her two
children in a small house in the same part of the town as Dr. Shonjen.
The older of these two children was a girl named Julia and was now
about thirteen years of age. This Julia Lehntman was an unattractive
girl enough, harsh featured, dull and stubborn as had been her heavy
german father. Mrs. Lehntman did not trouble much with her, but gave
her always all she wanted that she had, and let the girl do as she
liked. This was not from indifference or dislike on the part of Mrs.
Lehntman, it was just her usual way.
Her second child was a boy, two years younger than his sister, a
bright, pleasant, cheery fellow, who too, did what he liked with his
money and his time. All this was so with Mrs. Lehntman because she
had so much in her head and in her house that clamoured for her
concentration and her time.
This slackness and neglect in the running of the house, and the
indifference in this mother for the training of her young was very
hard for our good Anna to endure. Of course she did her best to scold,
to save for Mrs. Lehntman, and to put things in their place the way
they ought to be.
Even in the early days when Anna was first won by the glamour of
Mrs. Lehntman's brilliancy and charm, she had been uneasy in Mrs.
Lehntman's house with a need of putting things to rights. Now that the
two children growing up were of more importance in the house, and now
that long acquaintance had brushed the dazzle out of Anna's eyes, she
began to struggle to make things go here as she thought was right.
She watched and scolded hard these days to make young Julia do the way
she should. Not that Julia Lehntman was pleasant in the good Anna's
sight, but it must never be that a young girl growing up should have
no one to make her learn to do things right.
The boy was easier to scold, for scoldings never sank in very deep,
and indeed he liked them very well for they brought with them new
things to eat, and lively teasing, and good jokes.
Julia, the girl, grew very sullen with it all, and very often won her
point, for after all Miss Annie was no relative of hers and had no
business coming there and making trouble all the time. Appealing to
the mother was no use. It was wonderful how Mrs. Lehntman could listen
and not hear, could answer and yet not decide, could say and do what
she was asked and yet leave things as they were before.
One day it got almost too bad for even Anna's friendship to bear out.
"Well, Julia, is your mamma out?" Anna asked, one Sunday summer
afternoon, as she came into the Lehntman house.
Anna looked very well this day. She was always careful in her dress
and sparing of new clothes. She made herself always fulfill her own
ideal of how a girl should look when she took her Sundays out. Anna
knew so well the kind of ugliness appropriate to each rank in life.
It was interesting to see how when she bought things for Miss Wadsmith
and later for her cherished Miss Mathilda and always entirely from her
own taste and often as cheaply as she bought things for her friends
or for herself, that on the one hand she chose the things having the
right air for a member of the upper class, and for the others always
the things having the awkward ugliness that we call Dutch. She knew
the best thing in each kind, and she never in the course of her strong
life compromised her sense of what was the right thing for a girl to
On this bright summer Sunday afternoon she came to the Lehntmans',
much dressed up in her new, brick red, silk waist trimmed with broad
black beaded braid, a dark cloth skirt and a new stiff, shiny, black
straw hat, trimmed with colored ribbons and a bird. She had on new
gloves, and a feather boa about her neck.
Her spare, thin, awkward body and her worn, pale yellow face though
lit up now with the pleasant summer sun made a queer discord with the
brightness of her clothes.
She came to the Lehntman house, where she had not been for several
days, and opening the door that is always left unlatched in the houses
of the lower middle class in the pleasant cities of the South, she
found Julia in the family sitting-room alone.
"Well, Julia, where is your mamma?" Anna asked. "Ma is out but come
in, Miss Annie, and look at our new brother." "What you talk so
foolish for Julia," said Anna sitting down. "I ain't talkin' foolish,
Miss Annie. Didn't you know mamma has just adopted a cute, nice little
baby boy?" "You talk so crazy, Julia, you ought to know better than
to say such things." Julia turned sullen. "All right Miss Annie,
you don't need to believe what I say, but the little baby is in the
kitchen and ma will tell you herself when she comes in."
It sounded most fantastic, but Julia had an air of truth and Mrs.
Lehntman was capable of doing stranger things. Anna was disturbed.
"What you mean Julia," she said. "I don't mean nothin' Miss Annie,
you don't believe the baby is in there, well you can go and see it for
Anna went into the kitchen. A baby was there all right enough, and a
lusty little boy he seemed. He was very tight asleep in a basket that
stood in the corner by the open door.
"You mean your mamma is just letting him stay here a little while,"
Anna said to Julia who had followed her into the kitchen to see Miss
Annie get real mad. "No that ain't it Miss Annie. The mother was that
girl, Lily that came from Bishop's place out in the country, and she
don't want no children, and ma liked the little boy so much, she said
she'd keep him here and adopt him for her own child."
Anna, for once, was fairly dumb with astonishment and rage. The front
"There's ma now," cried Julia in an uneasy triumph, for she was not
quite certain in her mind which side of the question she was on.
"There's ma now, and you can ask her for yourself if I ain't told you
Mrs. Lehntman came into the kitchen where they were. She was bland,
impersonal and pleasant, as it was her wont to be. Still to-day,
through this her usual manner that gave her such success in her
practice as a midwife, there shone an uneasy consciousness of guilt,
for like all who had to do with the good Anna, Mrs. Lehntman dreaded
her firm character, her vigorous judgments and the bitter fervour of
It had been plain to see in the six years these women were together,
how Anna gradually had come to lead. Not really lead, of course, for
Mrs. Lehntman never could be led, she was so very devious in her ways;
but Anna had come to have direction whenever she could learn what Mrs.
Lehntman meant to do before the deed was done. Now it was hard to
tell which would win out. Mrs. Lehntman had her unhearing mind and her
happy way of giving a pleasant well diffused attention, and then she
had it on her side that, after all, this thing was already done.
Anna was, as usual, determined for the right. She was stiff and pale
with her anger and her fear, and nervous, and all a tremble as was her
usual way when a bitter fight was near.
Mrs. Lehntman was easy and pleasant as she came into the room. Anna
was stiff and silent and very white.
"We haven't seen you for a long time, Anna," Mrs. Lehntman cordially
began. "I was just gettin' worried thinking you was sick. My! but it's
a hot day to-day. Come into the sittin'-room, Anna, and Julia will
make us some ice tea."
Anna followed Mrs. Lehntman into the other room in a stiff silence,
and when there she did not, as invited, take a chair.
As always with Anna when a thing had to come it came very short and
sharp. She found it hard to breathe just now, and every word came with
"Mrs. Lehntman, it ain't true what Julia said about your taking that
Lily's boy to keep. I told Julia when she told me she was crazy to
Anna's real excitements stopped her breath, and made her words come
sharp and with a jerk. Mrs. Lehntman's feelings spread her breath, and
made her words come slow, but more pleasant and more easy even than
"Why Anna," she began, "don't you see Lily couldn't keep her boy for
she is working at the Bishops' now, and he is such a cute dear little
chap, and you know how fond I am of little fellers, and I thought it
would be nice for Julia and for Willie to have a little brother. You
know Julia always loves to play with babies, and I have to be away
so much, and Willie he is running in the streets every minute all the
time, and you see a baby would be sort of nice company for Julia,
and you know you are always saying Anna, Julia should not be on the
streets so much and the baby will be so good to keep her in."
Anna was every minute paler with indignation and with heat.
"Mrs. Lehntman, I don't see what business it is for you to take
another baby for your own, when you can't do what's right by Julia and
Willie you got here already. There's Julia, nobody tells her a thing
when I ain't here, and who is going to tell her now how to do things
for that baby? She ain't got no sense what's the right way to do with
children, and you out all the time, and you ain't got no time for your
own neither, and now you want to be takin' up with strangers. I know
you was careless, Mrs. Lehntman, but I didn't think that you could
do this so. No, Mrs. Lehntman, it ain't your duty to take up with no
others, when you got two children of your own, that got to get along
just any way they can, and you know you ain't got any too much money
all the time, and you are all so careless here and spend it all the
time, and Julia and Willie growin' big. It ain't right, Mrs. Lehntman,
to do so."
This was as bad as it could be. Anna had never spoken her mind so to
her friend before. Now it was too harsh for Mrs. Lehntman to allow
herself to really hear. If she really took the meaning in these words
she could never ask Anna to come into her house again, and she
liked Anna very well, and was used to depend on her savings and her
strength. And then too Mrs. Lehntman could not really take in harsh
ideas. She was too well diffused to catch the feel of any sharp firm
Now she managed to understand all this in a way that made it easy for
her to say, "Why, Anna, I think you feel too bad about seeing what the
children are doing every minute in the day. Julia and Willie are real
good, and they play with all the nicest children in the square. If
you had some, all your own, Anna, you'd see it don't do no harm to let
them do a little as they like, and Julia likes this baby so, and sweet
dear little boy, it would be so kind of bad to send him to a 'sylum
now, you know it would Anna, when you like children so yourself,
and are so good to my Willie all the time. No indeed Anna, it's easy
enough to say I should send this poor, cute little boy to a 'sylum
when I could keep him here so nice, but you know Anna, you wouldn't
like to do it yourself, now you really know you wouldn't, Anna, though
you talk to me so hard.--My, it's hot to-day, what you doin' with that
ice tea in there Julia, when Miss Annie is waiting all this time for
Julia brought in the ice tea. She was so excited with the talk she had
been hearing from the kitchen, that she slopped it on the plate out of
the glasses a good deal. But she was safe, for Anna felt this trouble
so deep down that she did not even see those awkward, bony hands,
adorned today with a new ring, those stupid, foolish hands that always
did things the wrong way.
"Here Miss Annie," Julia said, "Here, Miss Annie, is your glass of
tea, I know you like it good and strong."
"No, Julia, I don't want no ice tea here. Your mamma ain't able to
afford now using her money upon ice tea for her friends. It ain't
right she should now any more. I go out now to see Mrs. Drehten. She
does all she can, and she is sick now working so hard taking care of
her own children. I go there now. Good by Mrs. Lehntman, I hope you
don't get no bad luck doin' what it ain't right for you to do."
"My, Miss Annie is real mad now," Julia said, as the house shook, as
the good Anna shut the outside door with a concentrated shattering
It was some months now that Anna had been intimate with Mrs. Drehten.
Mrs. Drehten had had a tumor and had come to Dr. Shonjen to be
treated. During the course of her visits there, she and Anna had
learned to like each other very well. There was no fever in this
friendship, it was just the interchange of two hard working, worrying
women, the one large and motherly, with the pleasant, patient, soft,
worn, tolerant face, that comes with a german husband to obey, and
seven solid girls and boys to bear and rear, and the other was our
good Anna with her spinster body, her firm jaw, her humorous, light,
clean eyes and her lined, worn, thin, pale yellow face.
Mrs. Drehten lived a patient, homely, hard-working life. Her husband
an honest, decent man enough, was a brewer, and somewhat given to over
drinking, and so he was often surly and stingy and unpleasant.
The family of seven children was made up of four stalwart, cheery,
filial sons, and three hard working obedient simple daughters.
It was a family life the good Anna very much approved and also she
was much liked by them all. With a german woman's feeling for the
masterhood in men, she was docile to the surly father and rarely
rubbed him the wrong way. To the large, worn, patient, sickly mother
she was a sympathetic listener, wise in council and most efficient in
her help. The young ones too, liked her very well. The sons teased her
all the time and roared with boisterous pleasure when she gave them
back sharp hits. The girls were all so good that her scoldings here
were only in the shape of good advice, sweetened with new trimmings
for their hats, and ribbons, and sometimes on their birthdays, bits of
It was here that Anna came for comfort after her grievous stroke at
her friend the widow, Mrs. Lehntman. Not that Anna would tell Mrs.
Drehten of this trouble. She could never lay bare the wound that came
to her through this idealised affection. Her affair with Mrs. Lehntman
was too sacred and too grievous ever to be told. But here in this
large household, in busy movement and variety in strife, she could
silence the uneasiness and pain of her own wound.
The Drehtens lived out in the country in one of the wooden, ugly
houses that lie in groups outside of our large cities.
The father and the sons all had their work here making beer, and the
mother and her girls scoured and sewed and cooked.
On Sundays they were all washed very clean, and smelling of kitchen
soap. The sons, in their Sunday clothes, loafed around the house or in
the village, and on special days went on picnics with their girls. The
daughters in their awkward, colored finery went to church most of the
day and then walking with their friends.
They always came together for their supper, where Anna always was most
welcome, the jolly Sunday evening supper that german people love.
Here Anna and the boys gave it to each other in sharp hits and hearty
boisterous laughter, the girls made things for them to eat, and waited
on them all, the mother loved all her children all the time, and
the father joined in with his occasional unpleasant word that made a
bitter feeling but which they had all learned to pass as if it were
It was to the comfort of this house that Anna came that Sunday summer
afternoon, after she had left Mrs. Lehntman and her careless ways.
The Drehten house was open all about. No one was there but Mrs.
Drehten resting in her rocking chair, out in the pleasant, scented,
Anna had had a hot walk from the cars.
She went into the kitchen for a cooling drink, and then came out and
sat down on the steps near Mrs. Drehten.
Anna's anger had changed. A sadness had come to her. Now with the
patient, friendly, gentle mother talk of Mrs. Drehten, this sadness
changed to resignation and to rest.
As the evening came on the young ones dropped in one by one. Soon the
merry Sunday evening supper was begun.
It had not been all comfort for our Anna, these months of knowing
Mrs. Drehten. It had made trouble for her with the family of her half
brother, the fat baker.
Her half brother, the fat baker, was a queer kind of a man. He was a
huge, unwieldy creature, all puffed out all over, and no longer able
to walk much, with his enormous body and the big, swollen, bursted
veins in his great legs. He did not try to walk much now. He sat
around his place, leaning on his great thick stick, and watching his
workmen at their work.
On holidays, and sometimes of a Sunday, he went out in his bakery
wagon. He went then to each customer he had and gave them each a
large, sweet, raisined loaf of caky bread. At every house with many
groans and gasps he would descend his heavy weight out of the wagon,
his good featured, black haired, flat, good natured face shining with
oily perspiration, with pride in labor and with generous kindness.
Up each stoop he hobbled with the help of his big stick, and into the
nearest chair in the kitchen or in the parlour, as the fashion of the
house demanded, and there he sat and puffed, and then presented to the
mistress or the cook the raisined german loaf his boy supplied him.
Anna had never been a customer of his. She had always lived in another
part of the town, but he never left her out in these bakery progresses
of his, and always with his own hand he gave her her festive loaf.
Anna liked her half brother well enough. She never knew him really
well, for he rarely talked at all and least of all to women, but
he seemed to her, honest, and good and kind, and he never tried to
interfere in Anna's ways. And then Anna liked the loaves of raisined
bread, for in the summer she and the second girl could live on them,
and not be buying bread with the household money all the time.
But things were not so simple with our Anna, with the other members of
her half brother's house.
Her half brother's family was made up of himself, his wife, and their
Anna never liked her brother's wife.
The youngest of the two daughters was named after her aunt Anna.
Anna never liked her half brother's wife. This woman had been very
good to Anna, never interfering in her ways, always glad to see her
and to make her visits pleasant, but she had not found favour in our
good Anna's sight.
Anna had too, no real affection for her nieces. She never scolded
them or tried to guide them for their good. Anna never criticised or
interfered in the running of her half brother's house.
Mrs. Federner was a good looking, prosperous woman, a little harsh and
cold within her soul perhaps, but trying always to be pleasant, good
and kind. Her daughters were well trained, quiet, obedient, well
dressed girls, and yet our good Anna loved them not, nor their mother,
nor any of their ways.
It was in this house that Anna had first met her friend, the widow,
The Federners had never seemed to feel it wrong in Anna, her devotion
to this friend and her care of her and of her children. Mrs. Lehntman
and Anna and her feelings were all somehow too big for their attack.
But Mrs. Federner had the mind and tongue that blacken things. Not
really to blacken black, of course, but just to roughen and to rub on
a little smut. She could somehow make even the face of the Almighty
seem pimply and a little coarse, and so she always did this with her
friends, though not with the intent to interfere.
This was really true with Mrs. Lehntman that Mrs. Federner did not
mean to interfere, but Anna's friendship with the Drehtens was a very
Why should Mrs. Drehten, that poor common working wife of a man who
worked for others in a brewery and who always drank too much, and was
not like a thrifty, decent german man, why should that Mrs. Drehten
and her ugly, awkward daughters be getting presents from her husband's
sister all the time, and her husband always so good to Anna, and one
of the girls having her name too, and those Drehtens all strangers to
her and never going to come to any good? It was not right for Anna to
Mrs. Federner knew better than to say such things straight out to her
husband's fiery, stubborn sister, but she lost no chance to let Anna
feel and see what they all thought.
It was easy to blacken all the Drehtens, their poverty, the husband's
drinking, the four big sons carrying on and always lazy, the awkward,
ugly daughters dressing up with Anna's help and trying to look so
fine, and the poor, weak, hard-working sickly mother, so easy to
degrade with large dosings of contemptuous pity.
Anna could not do much with these attacks for Mrs. Federner always
ended with, "And you so good to them Anna all the time. I don't see
how they could get along at all if you didn't help them all the time,
but you are so good Anna, and got such a feeling heart, just like your
brother, that you give anything away you got to anybody that will ask
you for it, and that's shameless enough to take it when they ain't no
relatives of yours. Poor Mrs. Drehten, she is a good woman. Poor thing
it must be awful hard for her to have to take things from strangers
all the time, and her husband spending it on drink. I was saying to
Mrs. Lehntman, Anna, only yesterday, how I never was so sorry for any
one as Mrs. Drehten, and how good it was for you to help them all the
All this meant a gold watch and chain to her god daughter for her
birthday, the next month, and a new silk umbrella for the elder
sister. Poor Anna, and she did not love them very much, these
relatives of hers, and they were the only kin she had.
Mrs. Lehntman never joined in, in these attacks. Mrs. Lehntman was
diffuse and careless in her ways, but she never worked such things for
her own ends, and she was too sure of Anna to be jealous of her other
All this time Anna was leading her happy life with Dr. Shonjen.
She had every day her busy time. She cooked and saved and sewed and
scrubbed and scolded. And every night she had her happy time, in
seeing her Doctor like the fine things she bought so cheap and cooked
so good for him to eat. And then he would listen and laugh so loud, as
she told him stories of what had happened on that day.
The Doctor, too, liked it better all the time and several times in
these five years he had of his own motion raised her wages.
Anna was content with what she had and grateful for all her doctor did
So Anna's serving and her giving life went on, each with its varied
pleasures and its pains.
The adopting of the little boy did not put an end to Anna's friendship
for the widow Mrs. Lehntman. Neither the good Anna nor the careless
Mrs. Lehntman would give each other up excepting for the gravest
Mrs. Lehntman was the only romance Anna ever knew. A certain magnetic
brilliancy in person and in manner made Mrs. Lehntman a woman other
women loved. Then, too, she was generous and good and honest, though
she was so careless always in her ways. And then she trusted Anna and
liked her better than any of her other friends, and Anna always felt
this very much.
No, Anna could not give up Mrs. Lehntman, and soon she was busier than
before making Julia do things right for little Johnny.
And now new schemes were working strong in Mrs. Lehntman's head, and
Anna must listen to her plans and help her make them work.
Mrs. Lehntman always loved best in her work to deliver young girls who
were in trouble. She would keep these in her house until they could go
to their homes or to their work, and slowly pay her back the money for
Anna had always helped her friend to do this thing, for like all the
good women of the decent poor, she felt it hard that girls should
not be helped, not girls that were really bad of course, these she
condemned and hated in her heart and with her tongue, but honest,
decent, good, hard working, foolish girls who were in trouble.
For such as these Anna always liked to give her money and her
Now Mrs. Lehntman thought that it would pay to take a big house for
herself to take in girls and to do everything in a big way.
Anna did not like this plan.
Anna was never daring in her ways. Save and you will have the money
you have saved, was all that she could know.
Not that the good Anna had it so.
She saved and saved and always saved, and then here and there, to this
friend and to that, to one in her trouble and to the other in her joy,
in sickness, death, and weddings, or to make young people happy, it
always went, the hard earned money she had saved.
Anna could not clearly see how Mrs. Lehntman could make a big house
pay. In the small house where she had these girls, it did not pay, and
in a big house there was so much more that she would spend.
Such things were hard for the good Anna to very clearly see. One day
she came into the Lehntman house. "Anna," Mrs. Lehntman said, "you
know that nice big house on the next corner that we saw to rent. I
took it for a year just yesterday. I paid a little down you know so I
could have it sure all right and now you fix it up just like you want.
I let you do just what you like with it."
Anna knew that it was now too late. However, "But Mrs. Lehntman you
said you would not take another house, you said so just last week. Oh,
Mrs. Lehntman I didn't think that you would do this so!"
Anna knew so well it was too late.
"I know, Anna, but it was such a good house, just right you know and
someone else was there to see, and you know you said it suited very
well, and if I didn't take it the others said they would, and I wanted
to ask you only there wasn't time, and really Anna, I don't need much
help, it will go so well I know. I just need a little to begin and
to fix up with and that's all Anna that I need, and I know it will go
awful well. You wait Anna and you'll see, and I let you fix it up just
like you want, and you will make it look so nice, you got such sense
in all these things. It will be a good place. You see Anna if I ain't
right in what I say."
Of course Anna gave the money for this thing though she could not
believe that it was best. No, it was very bad. Mrs. Lehntman could
never make it pay and it would cost so much to keep. But what could
our poor Anna do? Remember Mrs. Lehntman was the only romance Anna
Anna's strength in her control of what was done in Mrs. Lehntman's
house, was not now what it had been before that Lily's little Johnny
came. That thing had been for Anna a defeat. There had been no
fighting to a finish but Mrs. Lehntman had very surely won.
Mrs. Lehntman needed Anna just as much as Anna needed Mrs. Lehntman,
but Mrs. Lehntman was more ready to risk Anna's loss, and so the good
Anna grew always weaker in her power to control.
In friendship, power always has its downward curve. One's strength to
manage rises always higher until there comes a time one does not win,
and though one may not really lose, still from the time that victory
is not sure, one's power slowly ceases to be strong. It is only in a
close tie such as marriage, that influence can mount and grow always
stronger with the years and never meet with a decline. It can only
happen so when there is no way to escape.
Friendship goes by favour. There is always danger of a break or of a
stronger power coming in between. Influence can only be a steady march
when one can surely never break away.
Anna wanted Mrs. Lehntman very much and Mrs. Lehntman needed Anna, but
there were always other ways to do and if Anna had once given up she
might do so again, so why should Mrs. Lehntman have real fear?
No, while the good Anna did not come to open fight she had been
stronger. Now Mrs. Lehntman could always hold out longer. She knew
too, that Anna had a feeling heart. Anna could never stop doing all
she could for any one that really needed help. Poor Anna had no power
to say no.
And then, too, Mrs. Lehntman was the only romance Anna ever knew.
Romance is the ideal in one's life and it is very lonely living with
So the good Anna gave all her savings for this place, although she
knew that this was not the right way for her friend to do.
For some time now they were all very busy fixing up the house. It
swallowed all Anna's savings fixing up this house, for when Anna once
began to make it nice, she could not leave it be until it was as good
as for the purpose it should be.
Somehow it was Anna now that really took the interest in the house.
Mrs. Lehntman, now the thing was done seemed very lifeless, without
interest in the house, uneasy in her mind and restless in her ways,
and more diffuse even than before in her attention. She was good and
kind to all the people in her house, and let them do whatever they
Anna did not fail to see that Mrs. Lehntman had something on her mind
that was all new. What was it that disturbed Mrs. Lehntman so? She
kept on saying it was all in Anna's head. She had no trouble now at
all. Everybody was so good and it was all so nice in the new house.
But surely there was something here that was all wrong.
Anna heard a good deal of all this from her half brother's wife, the
hard speaking Mrs. Federner.
Through the fog of dust and work and furnishing in the new house, and
through the disturbed mind of Mrs. Lehntman, and with the dark hints
of Mrs. Federner, there loomed up to Anna's sight a man, a new doctor
that Mrs. Lehntman knew.
Anna had never met the man but she heard of him very often now. Not
from her friend, the widow Mrs. Lehntman. Anna knew that Mrs. Lehntman
made of him a mystery that Anna had not the strength just then to
vigorously break down.
Mrs. Federner gave always dark suggestions and unpleasant hints. Even
good Mrs. Drehten talked of it.
Mrs. Lehntman never spoke of the new doctor more than she could help.
This was most mysterious and unpleasant and very hard for our good
Anna to endure.
Anna's troubles came all of them at once.
Here in Mrs. Lehntman's house loomed up dismal and forbidding, a
mysterious, perhaps an evil man. In Dr. Shonjen's house were beginning
signs of interest in the doctor in a woman.
This, too, Mrs. Federner often told to the poor Anna. The doctor
surely would be married soon, he liked so much now to go to Mr.
Weingartner's house where there was a daughter who loved Doctor,
In these days the living room in her half brother's house was Anna's
torture chamber. And worst of all there was so much reason for her
half sister's words. The Doctor certainly did look like marriage and
Mrs. Lehntman acted very queer.
Poor Anna. Dark were these days and much she had to suffer.
The Doctor's trouble came to a head the first. It was true Doctor was
engaged and to be married soon. He told Anna so himself.
What was the good Anna now to do? Dr. Shonjen wanted her of course to
stay. Anna was so sad with all these troubles. She knew here in the
Doctor's house it would be bad when he was married, but she had not
the strength now to be firm and go away. She said at last that she
would try and stay.
Doctor got married now very soon. Anna made the house all beautiful
and clean and she really hoped that she might stay. But this was not
Mrs. Shonjen was a proud, unpleasant woman. She wanted constant
service and attention and never even a thank you to a servant. Soon
all Doctor's old people went away. Anna went to Doctor and explained.
She told him what all the servants thought of his new wife. Anna bade
him a sad farewell and went away.
Anna was now most uncertain what to do. She could go to Curden to her
Miss Mary Wadsmith who always wrote how much she needed Anna, but Anna
still dreaded Miss Jane's interfering ways. Then too, she could not
yet go away from Bridgepoint and from Mrs. Lehntman, unpleasant as it
always was now over there.
Through one of Doctor's friends Anna heard of Miss Mathilda. Anna was
very doubtful about working for a Miss Mathilda. She did not think it
would be good working for a woman anymore. She had found it very good
with Miss Mary but she did not think that many women would be so.
Most women were interfering in their ways.
Anna heard that Miss Mathilda was a great big woman, not so big
perhaps as her Miss Mary, still she was big, and the good Anna liked
them better so. She did not like them thin and small and active and
always looking in and always prying.
Anna could not make up her mind what was the best thing now for her
to do. She could sew and this way make a living, but she did not like
such business very well.
Mrs. Lehntman urged the place with Miss Mathilda. She was sure Anna
would find it better so. The good Anna did not know.
"Well Anna," Mrs. Lehntman said, "I tell you what we do. I go with you
to that woman that tells fortunes, perhaps she tell us something that
will show us what is the best way for you now to do."
It was very bad to go to a woman who tells fortunes. Anna was of
strong South German Catholic religion and the german priests in the
churches always said that it was very bad to do things so. But what
else now could the good Anna do? She was so mixed and bothered in her
mind, and troubled with this life that was all wrong, though she did
try so hard to do the best she knew. "All right, Mrs. Lehntman," Anna
said at last, "I think I go there now with you."
This woman who told fortunes was a medium. She had a house in the
lower quarter of the town. Mrs. Lehntman and the good Anna went to
The medium opened the door for them herself. She was a loose made,
dusty, dowdy woman with a persuading, conscious and embracing manner
and very greasy hair.
The woman let them come into the house.
The street door opened straight into the parlor, as is the way in the
small houses of the south. The parlor had a thick and flowered carpet
on the floor. The room was full of dirty things all made by hand. Some
hung upon the wall, some were on the seats and over backs of chairs
and some on tables and on those what-nots that poor people love. And
everywhere were little things that break. Many of these little things
were broken and the place was stuffy and not clean.
No medium uses her parlor for her work. It is always in her eating
room that she has her trances.
The eating room in all these houses is the living room in winter. It
has a round table in the centre covered with a decorated woolen cloth,
that has soaked in the grease of many dinners, for though it should be
always taken off, it is easier to spread the cloth upon it than change
it for the blanket deadener that one owns. The upholstered chairs are
dark and worn, and dirty. The carpet has grown dingy with the food
that's fallen from the table, the dirt that's scraped from off the
shoes, and the dust that settles with the ages. The sombre greenish
colored paper on the walls has been smoked a dismal dirty grey, and
all pervading is the smell of soup made out of onions and fat chunks
The medium brought Mrs. Lehntman and our Anna into this eating room,
after she had found out what it was they wanted. They all three sat
around the table and then the medium went into her trance.
The medium first closed her eyes and then they opened very wide and
lifeless. She took a number of deep breaths, choked several times and
swallowed very hard. She waved her hand back every now and then, and
she began to speak in a monotonous slow, even tone.
"I see--I see--don't crowd so on me,--I see--I see--too many
forms--don't crowd so on me--I see--I see--you are thinking of
something--you don't know whether you want to do it now. I see--I
see--don't crowd so on me--I see--I see--you are not sure,--I see--I
see--a house with trees around it,--it is dark--it is evening--I
see--I see--you go in the house--I see--I see you come out--it will
be all right--you go and do it--do what you are not certain about--it
will come out all right--it is best and you should do it now."
She stopped, she made deep gulps, her eyes rolled back into her head,
she swallowed hard and then she was her former dingy and bland self
"Did you get what you wanted that the spirit should tell you?" the
woman asked. Mrs. Lehntman answered yes, it was just what her
friend had wanted so bad to know. Anna was uneasy in this house with
superstition, with fear of her good priest, and with disgust at all
the dirt and grease, but she was most content for now she knew what it
was best for her to do.
Anna paid the woman for her work and then they came away.
"There Anna didn't I tell you how it would all be? You see the spirit
says so too. You must take the place with Miss Mathilda, that is what
I told you was the best thing for you to do. We go out and see her
where she lives to-night. Ain't you glad, Anna, that I took you to
this place, so you know now what you will do?"
Mrs. Lehntman and Anna went that evening to see Miss Mathilda. Miss
Mathilda was staying with a friend who lived in a house that did have
trees about. Miss Mathilda was not there herself to talk with Anna.
If it had not been that it was evening, and so dark, and that this
house had trees all round about, and that Anna found herself going in
and coming out just as the woman that day said that she would do, had
it not all been just as the medium said, the good Anna would never
have taken the place with Miss Mathilda.
Anna did not see Miss Mathilda and she did not like the friend who
acted in her place.
This friend was a dark, sweet, gentle little mother woman, very easy
to be pleased in her own work and very good to servants, but she felt
that acting for her young friend, the careless Miss Mathilda, she must
be very careful to examine well and see that all was right and that
Anna would surely do the best she knew. She asked Anna all about her
ways and her intentions and how much she would spend, and how often
she went out and whether she could wash and cook and sew.
The good Anna set her teeth fast to endure and would hardly answer
anything at all. Mrs. Lehntman made it all go fairly well.
The good Anna was all worked up with her resentment, and Miss
Mathilda's friend did not think that she would do.
However, Miss Mathilda was willing to begin and as for Anna, she knew
that the medium said it must be so. Mrs. Lehntman, too, was sure, and
said she knew that this was the best thing for Anna now to do. So Anna
sent word at last to Miss Mathilda, that if she wanted her, she would
try if it would do.
So Anna began a new life taking care of Miss Mathilda.
Anna fixed up the little red brick house where Miss Mathilda was going
to live and made it very pleasant, clean and nice. She brought over
her dog, Baby, and her parrot. She hired Lizzie for a second girl to
be with her and soon they were all content. All except the parrot, for
Miss Mathilda did not like its scream. Baby was all right but not the
parrot. But then Anna never really loved the parrot, and so she gave
it to the Drehten girls to keep.
Before Anna could really rest content with Miss Mathilda, she had to
tell her good german priest what it was that she had done, and how
very bad it was that she had been and how she would never do so again.
Anna really did believe with all her might. It was her fortune never
to live with people who had any faith, but then that never worried
Anna. She prayed for them always as she should, and she was very sure
that they were good. The doctor loved to tease her with his doubts and
Miss Mathilda liked to do so too, but with the tolerant spirit of her
church, Anna never thought that such things were bad for them to do.
Anna found it hard to always know just why it was that things went
wrong. Sometimes her glasses broke and then she knew that she had not
done her duty by the church, just in the way that she should do.
Sometimes she was so hard at work that she would not go to mass.
Something always happened then. Anna's temper grew irritable and her
ways uncertain and distraught. Everybody suffered and then her glasses
broke. That was always very bad because they cost so much to fix.
Still in a way it always ended Anna's troubles, because she knew then
that all this was because she had been bad. As long as she could scold
it might be just the bad ways of all the thoughtless careless world,
but when her glasses broke that made it clear. That meant that it was
she herself who had been bad.
No, it was no use for Anna not to do the way she should, for things
always then went wrong and finally cost money to make whole, and this
was the hardest thing for the good Anna to endure.
Anna almost always did her duty. She made confession and her mission
whenever it was right. Of course she did not tell the father when
she deceived people for their good, or when she wanted them to give
something for a little less.
When Anna told such histories to her doctor and later to her cherished
Miss Mathilda, her eyes were always full of humor and enjoyment as she
explained that she had said it so, and now she would not have to tell
the father for she had not really made a sin.
But going to a fortune teller Anna knew was really bad. That had to be
told to the father just as it was and penance had then to be done.
Anna did this and now her new life was well begun, making Miss
Mathilda and the rest do just the way they should.
Yes, taking care of Miss Mathilda were the happiest days of all the
good Anna's strong hard working life.
With Miss Mathilda Anna did it all. The clothes, the house, the hats,
what she should wear and when and what was always best for her to do.
There was nothing Miss Mathilda would not let Anna manage, and only be
too glad if she would do.
Anna scolded and cooked and sewed and saved so well, that Miss
Mathilda had so much to spend, that it kept Anna still busier scolding
all the time about the things she bought, that made so much work for
Anna and the other girl to do. But for all the scolding, Anna was
proud almost to bursting of her cherished Miss Mathilda with all her
knowledge and her great possessions, and the good Anna was always
telling of it all to everybody that she knew.
Yes these were the happiest days of all her life with Anna, even
though with her friends there were great sorrows. But these sorrows
did not hurt the good Anna now, as they had done in the years that
Miss Mathilda was not a romance in the good Anna's life, but Anna gave
her so much strong affection that it almost filled her life as full.
It was well for the good Anna that her life with Miss Mathilda was so
happy, for now in these days, Mrs. Lehntman went altogether bad. The
doctor she had learned to know, was too certainly an evil as well as
a mysterious man, and he had power over the widow and midwife, Mrs.
Anna never saw Mrs. Lehntman at all now any more.
Mrs. Lehntman had borrowed some more money and had given Anna a note
then for it all, and after that Anna never saw her any more. Anna now
stopped altogether going to the Lehntmans'. Julia, the tall, gawky,
good, blonde, stupid daughter, came often to see Anna, but she could
tell little of her mother.
It certainly did look very much as if Mrs. Lehntman had now gone
altogether bad. This was a great grief to the good Anna, but not so
great a grief as it would have been had not Miss Mathilda meant so
much to her now.
Mrs. Lehntman went from bad to worse. The doctor, the mysterious and
evil man, got into trouble doing things that were not right to do.
Mrs. Lehntman was mixed up in this affair.
It was just as bad as it could be, but they managed, both the doctor
and Mrs. Lehntman, finally to come out safe.
Everybody was so sorry about Mrs. Lehntman. She had been really a good
woman before she met this doctor, and even now she certainly had not
been really bad.
For several years now Anna never even saw her friend.
But Anna always found new people to befriend, people who, in the
kindly fashion of the poor, used up her savings and then gave promises
in place of payments. Anna never really thought that these people
would be good, but when they did not do the way they should, and when
they did not pay her back the money she had loaned, and never seemed
the better for her care, then Anna would grow bitter with the world.
No, none of them had any sense of what was the right way for them to
do. So Anna would repeat in her despair.
The poor are generous with their things. They give always what they
have, but with them to give or to receive brings with it no feeling
that they owe the giver for the gift.
Even a thrifty german Anna was ready to give all that she had saved,
and so not be sure that she would have enough to take care of herself
if she fell sick, or for old age, when she could not work. Save and
you will have the money you have saved was true only for the day of
saving, even for a thrifty german Anna. There was no certain way to
have it for old age, for the taking care of what is saved can never be
relied on, for it must always be in strangers' hands in a bank or in
investments by a friend.
And so when any day one might need life and help from others of the
working poor, there was no way a woman who had a little saved could
say them no.
So the good Anna gave her all to friends and strangers, to children,
dogs and cats, to anything that asked or seemed to need her care.
It was in this way that Anna came to help the barber and his wife who
lived around the corner, and who somehow could never make ends meet.
They worked hard, were thrifty, had no vices, but the barber was one
of them who never can make money. Whoever owed him money did not pay.
Whenever he had a chance at a good job he fell sick and could not
take it. It was never his own fault that he had trouble, but he never
seemed to make things come out right.
His wife was a blonde, thin, pale, german little woman, who bore her
children very hard, and worked too soon, and then till she was sick.
She too, always had things that went wrong.
They both needed constant help and patience, and the good Anna gave
both to them all the time.
Another woman who needed help from the good Anna, was one who was in
trouble from being good to others.
This woman's husband's brother, who was very good, worked in a shop
where there was a Bohemian, who was getting sick with consumption.
This man got so much worse he could not do his work, but he was not
so sick that he could stay in a hospital. So this woman had him living
there with her. He was not a nice man, nor was he thankful for all the
woman did for him. He was cross to her two children and made a great
mess always in her house. The doctor said he must have many things to
eat, and the woman and the brother of the husband got them for him.
There was no friendship, no affection, no liking even for the man
this woman cared for, no claim of common country or of kin, but in the
kindly fashion of the poor this woman gave her all and made her house
a nasty place, and for a man who was not even grateful for the gift.
Then, of course, the woman herself got into trouble. Her husband's
brother was now married. Her husband lost his job. She did not have
the money for the rent. It was the good Anna's savings that were
So it went on. Sometimes a little girl, sometimes a big one was in
trouble and Anna heard of them and helped them to find places.
Stray dogs and cats Anna always kept until she found them homes. She
was always careful to learn whether these people would be good to
Out of the whole collection of stray creatures, it was the young Peter
and the jolly little Rags, Anna could not find it in her heart to
part with. These became part of the household of the good Anna's Miss
Peter was a very useless creature, a foolish, silly, cherished,
coward male. It was wild to see him rush up and down in the back yard,
barking and bouncing at the wall, when there was some dog out beyond,
but when the very littlest one there was got inside of the fence and
only looked at Peter, Peter would retire to his Anna and blot himself
out between her skirts.
When Peter was left downstairs alone, he howled. "I am all alone," he
wailed, and then the good Anna would have to come and fetch him up.
Once when Anna stayed a few nights in a house not far away, she had to
carry Peter all the way, for Peter was afraid when he found himself on
the street outside his house. Peter was a good sized creature and he
sat there and he howled, and the good Anna carried him all the way
in her own arms. He was a coward was this Peter, but he had kindly,
gentle eyes and a pretty collie head, and his fur was very thick and
white and nice when he was washed. And then Peter never strayed away,
and he looked out of his nice eyes and he liked it when you rubbed
him down, and he forgot you when you went away, and he barked whenever
there was any noise.
When he was a little pup he had one night been put into the yard and
that was all of his origin she knew. The good Anna loved him well and
spoiled him as a good german mother always does her son.
Little Rags was very different in his nature. He was a lively creature
made out of ends of things, all fluffy and dust color, and he was
always bounding up into the air and darting all about over and then
under silly Peter and often straight into solemn fat, blind, sleepy
Baby, and then in a wild rush after some stray cat.
Rags was a pleasant, jolly little fellow. The good Anna liked him
very well, but never with her strength as she loved her good looking
coward, foolish young man, Peter.
Baby was the dog of her past life and she held Anna with old ties of
past affection. Peter was the spoiled, good looking young man, of her
middle age, and Rags was always something of a toy. She liked him but
he never struck in very deep. Rags had strayed in somehow one day and
then when no home for him was quickly found, he had just stayed right
It was a very happy family there all together in the kitchen, the good
Anna and Sally and old Baby and young Peter and the jolly little Rags.
The parrot had passed out of Anna's life. She had really never loved
the parrot and now she hardly thought to ask for him, even when she
visited the Drehtens.
Mrs. Drehten was the friend Anna always went to, for her Sundays. She
did not get advice from Mrs. Drehten as she used to from the widow,
Mrs. Lehntman, for Mrs. Drehten was a mild, worn, unaggressive
nature that never cared to influence or to lead. But they could mourn
together for the world these two worn, working german women, for its
sadness and its wicked ways of doing. Mrs. Drehten knew so well what
one could suffer.
Things did not go well in these days with the Drehtens. The children
were all good, but the father with his temper and his spending kept
everything from being what it should.
Poor Mrs. Drehten still had trouble with her tumor. She could hardly
do any work now any more. Mrs. Drehten was a large, worn, patient
german woman, with a soft face, lined, yellow brown in color and the
look that comes from a german husband to obey, and many solid girls
and boys to bear and rear, and from being always on one's feet and
never having any troubles cured.
Mrs. Drehten was always getting worse, and now the doctor thought it
would be best to take the tumor out.
It was no longer Dr. Shonjen who treated Mrs. Drehten. They all went
now to a good old german doctor they all knew.
"You see, Miss Mathilda," Anna said, "All the old german patients
don't go no more now to Doctor. I stayed with him just so long as
I could stand it, but now he is moved away up town too far for poor
people, and his wife, she holds her head up so and always is spending
so much money just for show, and so he can't take right care of us
poor people any more. Poor man, he has got always to be thinking about
making money now. I am awful sorry about Doctor, Miss Mathilda, but
he neglected Mrs. Drehten shameful when she had her trouble, so now I
never see him any more. Doctor Herman is a good, plain, german doctor
and he would never do things so, and Miss Mathilda, Mrs. Drehten is
coming in to-morrow to see you before she goes to the hospital for her
operation. She could not go comfortable till she had seen you first to
see what you would say."
All Anna's friends reverenced the good Anna's cherished Miss Mathilda.
How could they not do so and still remain friends with the good Anna?
Miss Mathilda rarely really saw them but they were always sending
flowers and words of admiration through her Anna. Every now and then
Anna would bring one of them to Miss Mathilda for advice.
It is wonderful how poor people love to take advice from people who
are friendly and above them, from people who read in books and who are
Miss Mathilda saw Mrs. Drehten and told her she was glad that she was
going to the hospital for operation for that surely would be best, and
so good Mrs. Drehten's mind was set at rest.
Mrs. Drehten's tumor came out very well. Mrs. Drehten was afterwards
never really well, but she could do her work a little better, and be
on her feet and yet not get so tired.
And so Anna's life went on, taking care of Miss Mathilda and all her
clothes and goods, and being good to every one that asked or seemed to
need her help.
Now, slowly, Anna began to make it up with Mrs. Lehntman. They could
never be as they had been before. Mrs, Lehntman could never be again
the romance in the good Anna's life, but they could be friends again,
and Anna could help all the Lehntmans in their need. This slowly came
Mrs. Lehntman had now left the evil and mysterious man who had been
the cause of all her trouble. She had given up, too, the new big
house that she had taken. Since her trouble her practice had been
very quiet. Still she managed to do fairly well. She began to talk of
paying the good Anna. This, however, had not gotten very far.
Anna saw Mrs. Lehntman a good deal now. Mrs. Lehntman's crisp, black,
curly hair had gotten streaked with gray. Her dark, full, good looking
face had lost its firm outline, gone flabby and a little worn. She had
grown stouter and her clothes did not look very nice. She was as bland
as ever in her ways, and as diffuse as always in her attention, but
through it all there was uneasiness and fear and uncertainty lest some
danger might be near.
She never said a word of her past life to the good Anna, but it was
very plain to see that her experience had not left her easy, nor yet
It had been hard for this good woman, for Mrs. Lehntman was really a
good woman, it had been a very hard thing for this german woman to do
what everybody knew and thought was wrong. Mrs. Lehntman was strong
and she had courage, but it had been very hard to bear. Even the
good Anna did not speak to her with freedom. There always remained a
mystery and a depression in Mrs. Lehntman's affair.
And now the blonde, foolish, awkward daughter, Julia was in trouble.
During the years the mother gave her no attention, Julia kept company
with a young fellow who was a clerk somewhere in a store down in the
city. He was a decent, dull young fellow, who did not make much money
and could never save it for he had an old mother he supported. He
and Julia had been keeping company for several years and now it was
needful that they should be married. But then how could they marry?
He did not make enough to start them and to keep on supporting his old
mother too. Julia was not used to working much and she said, and she
was stubborn, that she would not live with Charley's dirty, cross, old
mother. Mrs. Lehntman had no money. She was just beginning to get on
her feet. It was of course, the good Anna's savings that were handy.
However it paid Anna to bring about this marriage, paid her in
scoldings and in managing the dull, long, awkward Julia, and her good,
patient, stupid Charley. Anna loved to buy things cheap, and fix up a
Julia and Charley were soon married and things went pretty well with
them. Anna did not approve their slack, expensive ways of doing.
"No Miss Mathilda," she would say, "The young people nowadays have no
sense for saving and putting money by so they will have something to
use when they need it. There's Julia and her Charley. I went in there
the other day, Miss Mathilda, and they had a new table with a marble
top and on it they had a grand new plush album. 'Where you get that
album?' I asked Julia. 'Oh, Charley he gave it to me for my birthday,'
she said, and I asked her if it was paid for and she said not all
yet but it would be soon. Now I ask you what business have they Miss
Mathilda, when they ain't paid for anything they got already, what
business have they to be buying new things for her birthdays. Julia
she don't do no work, she just sits around and thinks how she can
spend the money, and Charley he never puts one cent by. I never see
anything like the people nowadays Miss Mathilda, they don't seem to
have any sense of being careful about money. Julia and Charley when
they have any children they won't have nothing to bring them up with
right. I said that to Julia, Miss Mathilda, when she showed me those
silly things that Charley bought her, and she just said in her silly,
giggling way, perhaps they won't have any children. I told her she
ought to be ashamed of talking so, but I don't know, Miss Mathilda,
the young people nowadays have no sense at all of what's the right
way for them to do, and perhaps its better if they don't have any
children, and then Miss Mathilda you know there is Mrs. Lehntman. You
know she regular adopted little Johnny just so she could pay out some
more money just as if she didn't have trouble enough taking care of
her own children. No Miss Mathilda, I never see how people can do
things so. People don't seem to have no sense of right or wrong or
anything these days Miss Mathilda, they are just careless and thinking
always of themselves and how they can always have a happy time. No,
Miss Mathilda I don't see how people can go on and do things so."
The good Anna could not understand the careless and bad ways of all
the world and always she grew bitter with it all. No, not one of them
had any sense of what was the right way for them to do.
Anna's past life was now drawing to an end. Her old blind dog, Baby,
was sick and like to die. Baby had been the first gift from her friend
the widow, Mrs. Lehntman in the old days when Anna had been with Miss
Mary Wadsmith, and when these two women had first come together.
Through all the years of change, Baby had stayed with the good Anna,
growing old and fat and blind and lazy. Baby had been active and a
ratter when she was young, but that was so long ago it was forgotten,
and for many years now Baby had wanted only her warm basket and her
Anna in her active life found need of others, of Peter and the funny
little Rags, but always Baby was the eldest and held her with the ties
of old affection. Anna was harsh when the young ones tried to keep
poor Baby out and use her basket. Baby had been blind now for some
years as dogs get, when they are no longer active. She got weak and
fat and breathless and she could not even stand long any more. Anna
had always to see that she got her dinner and that the young active
ones did not deprive her.
Baby did not die with a real sickness. She just got older and more
blind and coughed and then more quiet, and then slowly one bright
summer's day she died.
There is nothing more dreary than old age in animals. Somehow it is
all wrong that they should have grey hair and withered skin, and blind
old eyes, and decayed and useless teeth. An old man or an old woman
almost always has some tie that seems to bind them to the younger,
realer life. They have children or the remembrance of old duties, but
a dog that's old and so cut off from all its world of struggle, is
like a dreary, deathless Struldbrug, the dreary dragger on of death
And so one day old Baby died. It was dreary, more than sad, for the
good Anna. She did not want the poor old beast to linger with its
weary age, and blind old eyes and dismal shaking cough, but this death
left Anna very empty. She had the foolish young man Peter, and the
jolly little Rags for comfort, but Baby had been the only one that
The good Anna wanted a real graveyard for her Baby, but this could not
be in a Christian country, and so Anna all alone took her old friend
done up in decent wrappings and put her into the ground in some quiet
place that Anna knew of.
The good Anna did not weep for poor old Baby. Nay, she had not time
even to feel lonely, for with the good Anna it was sorrow upon sorrow.
She was now no longer to keep house for Miss Mathilda.
When Anna had first come to Miss Mathilda she had known that it might
only be for a few years, for Miss Mathilda was given to much wandering
and often changed her home, and found new places where she went to
live. The good Anna did not then think much about this, for when she
first went to Miss Mathilda she had not thought that she would like
it and so she had not worried about staying. Then in those happy years
that they had been together, Anna had made herself forget it. This
last year when she knew that it was coming she had tried hard to think
it would not happen.
"We won't talk about it now Miss Mathilda, perhaps we all be dead by
then," she would say when Miss Mathilda tried to talk it over. Or, "If
we live till then Miss Mathilda, perhaps you will be staying on right
No, the good Anna could not talk as if this thing were real, it was
too weary to be once more left with strangers.
Both the good Anna and her cherished Miss Mathilda tried hard to think
that this would not really happen. Anna made missions and all kinds of
things to keep her Miss Mathilda and Miss Mathilda thought out all the
ways to see if the good Anna could not go with her, but neither the
missions nor the plans had much success. Miss Mathilda would go, and
she was going far away to a new country where Anna could not live, for
she would be too lonesome.
There was nothing that these two could do but part. Perhaps we all be
dead by then, the good Anna would repeat, but even that did not really
happen. If we all live till then Miss Mathilda, came out truer. They
all did live till then, all except poor old blind Baby, and they
simply had to part.
Poor Anna and poor Miss Mathilda. They could not look at each other
that last day. Anna could not keep herself busy working. She just went
in and out and sometimes scolded.
Anna could not make up her mind what she should do now for her future.
She said that she would for a while keep this little red brick house
that they had lived in. Perhaps she might just take in a few boarders.
She did not know, she would write about it later and tell it all to
The dreary day dragged out and then all was ready and Miss Mathilda
left to take her train. Anna stood strained and pale and dry eyed
on the white stone steps of the little red brick house that they had
lived in. The last thing Miss Mathilda heard was the good Anna bidding
foolish Peter say good bye and be sure to remember Miss Mathilda.
THE DEATH OF THE GOOD ANNA
Every one who had known of Miss Mathilda wanted the good Anna now to
take a place with them, for they all knew how well Anna could take
care of people and all their clothes and goods. Anna too could always
go to Curden to Miss Mary Wadsmith, but none of all these ways seemed
very good to Anna.
It was not now any longer that she wanted to stay near Mrs. Lehntman.
There was no one now that made anything important, but Anna was
certain that she did not want to take a place where she would be
under some new people. No one could ever be for Anna as had been her
cherished Miss Mathilda. No one could ever again so freely let her do
it all. It would be better Anna thought in her strong strained weary
body, it would be better just to keep on there in the little red
brick house that was all furnished, and make a living taking in some
boarders. Miss Mathilda had let her have the things, so it would not
cost any money to begin. She could perhaps manage to live on so. She
could do all the work and do everything as she thought best, and she
was too weary with the changes to do more than she just had to, to
keep living. So she stayed on in the house where they had lived, and
she found some men, she would not take in women, who took her rooms
and who were her boarders.
Things soon with Anna began to be less dreary. She was very popular
with her few boarders. They loved her scoldings and the good things
she made for them to eat. They made good jokes and laughed loud and
always did whatever Anna wanted, and soon the good Anna got so that
she liked it very well. Not that she did not always long for Miss
Mathilda. She hoped and waited and was very certain that sometime,
in one year or in another Miss Mathilda would come back, and then of
course would want her, and then she could take all good care of her
Anna kept all Miss Mathilda's things in the best order. The boarders
were well scolded if they ever made a scratch on Miss Mathilda's
Some of the boarders were hearty good south german fellows and Anna
always made them go to mass. One boarder was a lusty german student
who was studying in Bridgepoint to be a doctor. He was Anna's special
favourite and she scolded him as she used to her old doctor so that he
always would be good. Then, too, this cheery fellow always sang when
he was washing, and that was what Miss Mathilda always used to do.
Anna's heart grew warm again with this young fellow who seemed to
bring back to her everything she needed.
And so Anna's life in these days was not all unhappy. She worked and
scolded, she had her stray dogs and cats and people, who all asked and
seemed to need her care, and she had hearty german fellows who loved
her scoldings and ate so much of the good things that she knew so well
the way to make.
No, the good Anna's life in these days was not all unhappy. She did
not see her old friends much, she was too busy, but once in a great
while she took a Sunday afternoon and went to see good Mrs. Drehten.
The only trouble was that Anna hardly made a living. She charged so
little for her board and gave her people such good things to eat, that
she could only just make both ends meet. The good german priest to
whom she always told her troubles tried to make her have the boarders
pay a little higher, and Miss Mathilda always in her letters urged her
to this thing, but the good Anna somehow could not do it. Her boarders
were nice men but she knew they did not have much money, and then she
could not raise on those who had been with her and she could not ask
the new ones to pay higher, when those who were already there were
paying just what they had paid before. So Anna let it go just as she
had begun it. She worked and worked all day and thought all night how
she could save, and with all the work she just managed to keep living.
She could not make enough to lay any money by.
Anna got so little money that she had all the work to do herself. She
could not pay even the little Sally enough to keep her with her.
Not having little Sally nor having any one else working with her, made
it very hard for Anna ever to go out, for she never thought that
it was right to leave a house all empty. Once in a great while of a
Sunday, Sally who was now working in a factory would come and stay
in the house for the good Anna, who would then go out and spend the
afternoon with Mrs. Drehten.
No, Anna did not see her old friends much any more. She went sometimes
to see her half brother and his wife and her nieces, and they always
came to her on her birthdays to give presents, and her half brother
never left her out of his festive raisined bread giving progresses.
But these relatives of hers had never meant very much to the good
Anna. Anna always did her duty by them all, and she liked her half
brother very well and the loaves of raisined bread that he supplied
her were most welcome now, and Anna always gave her god daughter and
her sister handsome presents, but no one in this family had ever made
a way inside to Anna's feelings.
Mrs. Lehntman she saw very rarely. It is hard to build up new on
an old friendship when in that friendship there has been bitter
disillusion. They did their best, both these women to be friends, but
they were never able to again touch one another nearly. There were too
many things between them that they could not speak of, things that
had never been explained nor yet forgiven. The good Anna still did her
best for foolish Julia and still every now and then saw Mrs. Lehntman,
but this family had now lost all its real hold on Anna.
Mrs. Drehten was now the best friend that Anna knew. Here there was
never any more than the mingling of their sorrows. They talked over
all the time the best way for Mrs. Drehten now to do; poor Mrs.
Drehten who with her chief trouble, her bad husband, had really now no
way that she could do. She just had to work and to be patient and to
love her children and be very quiet. She always had a soothing mother
influence on the good Anna who with her irritable, strained, worn-out
body would come and sit by Mrs. Drehten and talk all her troubles
Of all the friends that the good Anna had had in these twenty years
in Bridgepoint, the good father and patient Mrs. Drehten were the
only ones that were now near to Anna and with whom she could talk her
Anna worked, and thought, and saved, and scolded, and took care of all
the boarders, and of Peter and of Rags, and all the others. There was
never any end to Anna's effort and she grew always more tired, more
pale yellow, and in her face more thin and worn and worried. Sometimes
she went farther in not being well, and then she went to see Dr.
Herman who had operated on good Mrs. Drehten.
The things that Anna really needed were to rest sometimes and eat more
so that she could get stronger, but these were the last things that
Anna could bring herself to do. Anna could never take a rest. She must
work hard through the summer as well as through the winter, else she
could never make both ends meet. The doctor gave her medicines to make
her stronger but these did not seem to do much good.
Anna grew always more tired, her headaches came oftener and harder,
and she was now almost always feeling very sick. She could not sleep
much in the night. The dogs with their noises disturbed her and
everything in her body seemed to pain her.
The doctor and the good father tried often to make her give herself
more care. Mrs. Drehten told her that she surely would not get well
unless for a little while she would stop working. Anna would then
promise to take care, to rest in bed a little longer and to eat more
so that she would get stronger, but really how could Anna eat when she
always did the cooking and was so tired of it all, before it was half
ready for the table?
Anna's only friendship now was with good Mrs. Drehten who was too
gentle and too patient to make a stubborn faithful german Anna ever do
the way she should, in the things that were for her own good.
Anna grew worse all through this second winter. When the summer came
the doctor said that she simply could not live on so. He said she must
go to his hospital and there he would operate upon her. She would then
be well and strong and able to work hard all next winter.
Anna for some time would not listen. She could not do this so, for
she had her house all furnished and she simply could not let it go. At
last a woman came and said she would take care of Anna's boarders and
then Anna said that she was prepared to go.
Anna went to the hospital for her operation. Mrs. Drehten was herself
not well but she came into the city, so that some friend would be
with the good Anna. Together, then, they went to this place where the
doctor had done so well by Mrs. Drehten.
In a few days they had Anna ready. Then they did the operation, and
then the good Anna with her strong, strained, worn-out body died.
Mrs. Drehten sent word of her death to Miss Mathilda.
"Dear Miss Mathilda," wrote Mrs. Drehten, "Miss Annie died in the
hospital yesterday after a hard operation. She was talking about you
and Doctor and Miss Mary Wadsmith all the time. She said she hoped
you would take Peter and the little Rags to keep when you came back
to America to live. I will keep them for you here Miss Mathilda. Miss
Annie died easy, Miss Mathilda, and sent you her love."
EACH ONE AS SHE MAY
Rose Johnson made it very hard to bring her baby to its birth.
Melanctha Herbert who was Rose Johnson's friend, did everything that
any woman could. She tended Rose, and she was patient, submissive,
soothing, and untiring, while the sullen, childish, cowardly, black
Rosie grumbled and fussed and howled and made herself to be an
abomination and like a simple beast.
The child though it was healthy after it was born, did not live
long. Rose Johnson was careless and negligent and selfish, and when
Melanctha had to leave for a few days, the baby died. Rose Johnson had
liked the baby well enough and perhaps she just forgot it for awhile,
anyway the child was dead and Rose and Sam her husband were very sorry
but then these things came so often in the negro world in Bridgepoint,
that they neither of them thought about it very long.
Rose Johnson and Melanctha Herbert had been friends now for some
years. Rose had lately married Sam Johnson a decent honest kindly
fellow, a deck hand on a coasting steamer.
Melanctha Herbert had not yet been really married.
Rose Johnson was a real black, tall, well built, sullen, stupid,
childlike, good looking negress. She laughed when she was happy and
grumbled and was sullen with everything that troubled.
Rose Johnson was a real black negress but she had been brought up
quite like their own child by white folks.
Rose laughed when she was happy but she had not the wide, abandoned
laughter that makes the warm broad glow of negro sunshine. Rose was
never joyous with the earth-born, boundless joy of negroes. Hers was
just ordinary, any sort of woman laughter.
Rose Johnson was careless and was lazy, but she had been brought up by
white folks and she needed decent comfort. Her white training had
only made for habits, not for nature. Rose had the simple, promiscuous
immorality of the black people.
Rose Johnson and Melanctha Herbert like many of the twos with women
were a curious pair to be such friends.
Melanctha Herbert was a graceful, pale yellow, intelligent, attractive
negress. She had not been raised like Rose by white folks but then she
had been half made with real white blood.
She and Rose Johnson were both of the better sort of negroes, there,
"No, I ain't no common nigger," said Rose Johnson, "for I was raised
by white folks, and Melanctha she is so bright and learned so much
in school, she ain't no common nigger either, though she ain't got no
husband to be married to like I am to Sam Johnson."
Why did the subtle, intelligent, attractive, half white girl Melanctha
Herbert love and do for and demean herself in service to this coarse,
decent, sullen, ordinary, black childish Rose, and why was this
unmoral, promiscuous, shiftless Rose married, and that's not so common
either, to a good man of the negroes, while Melanctha with her white
blood and attraction and her desire for a right position had not yet
been really married.
Sometimes the thought of how all her world was made, filled the
complex, desiring Melanctha with despair. She wondered, often, how she
could go on living when she was so blue.
Melanctha told Rose one day how a woman whom she knew had killed
herself because she was so blue. Melanctha said, sometimes, she
thought this was the best thing for her herself to do.
Rose Johnson did not see it the least bit that way.
"I don't see Melanctha why you should talk like you would kill
yourself just because you're blue. I'd never kill myself Melanctha
just 'cause I was blue. I'd maybe kill somebody else Melanctha
'cause I was blue, but I'd never kill myself. If I ever killed myself
Melanctha it'd be by accident, and if I ever killed myself by accident
Melanctha, I'd be awful sorry."
Rose Johnson and Melanctha Herbert had first met, one night, at
church. Rose Johnson did not care much for religion. She had not
enough emotion to be really roused by a revival. Melanctha Herbert had
not come yet to know how to use religion. She was still too complex
with desire. However, the two of them in negro fashion went very often
to the negro church, along with all their friends, and they slowly
came to know each other very well.
Rose Johnson had been raised not as a servant but quite like their own
child by white folks. Her mother who had died when Rose was still
a baby, had been a trusted servant in the family. Rose was a cute,
attractive, good looking little black girl and these people had no
children of their own and so they kept Rose in their house.
As Rose grew older she drifted from her white folks back to the
colored people, and she gradually no longer lived in the old house.
Then it happened that these people went away to some other town to
live, and somehow Rose stayed behind in Bridgepoint. Her white folks
left a little money to take care of Rose, and this money she got every
Rose now in the easy fashion of the poor lived with one woman in her
house, and then for no reason went and lived with some other woman
in her house. All this time, too, Rose kept company, and was engaged,
first to this colored man and then to that, and always she made sure
she was engaged, for Rose had strong the sense of proper conduct.
"No, I ain't no common nigger just to go around with any man, nor you
Melanctha shouldn't neither," she said one day when she was telling
the complex and less sure Melanctha what was the right way for her to
do. "No Melanctha, I ain't no common nigger to do so, for I was raised
by white folks. You know very well Melanctha that I'se always been
engaged to them."
And so Rose lived on, always comfortable and rather decent and very
lazy and very well content.
After she had lived some time this way, Rose thought it would be nice
and very good in her position to get regularly really married. She had
lately met Sam Johnson somewhere, and she liked him and she knew he
was a good man, and then he had a place where he worked every day
and got good wages. Sam Johnson liked Rose very well and he was quite
ready to be married. One day they had a grand real wedding and were
married. Then with Melanctha Herbert's help to do the sewing and the
nicer work, they furnished comfortably a little red brick house. Sam
then went back to his work as deck hand on a coasting steamer, and
Rose stayed home in her house and sat and bragged to all her friends
how nice it was to be married really to a husband.
Life went on very smoothly with them all the year. Rose was lazy
but not dirty and Sam was careful but not fussy, and then there was
Melanctha to come in every day and help to keep things neat.
When Rose's baby was coming to be born, Rose came to stay in the
house where Melanctha Herbert lived just then, with a big good natured
colored woman who did washing.
Rose went there to stay, so that she might have the doctor from the
hospital near by to help her have the baby, and then, too, Melanctha
could attend to her while she was sick.
Here the baby was born, and here it died, and then Rose went back to
her house again with Sam.
Melanctha Herbert had not made her life all simple like Rose Johnson.
Melanctha had not found it easy with herself to make her wants and
what she had, agree.
Melanctha Herbert was always losing what she had in wanting all the
things she saw. Melanctha was always being left when she was not
Melanctha Herbert always loved too hard and much too often. She was
always full with mystery and subtle movements and denials and vague
distrusts and complicated disillusions. Then Melanctha would be sudden
and impulsive and unbounded in some faith, and then she would suffer
and be strong in her repression.
Melanctha Herbert was always seeking rest and quiet, and always she
could only find new ways to be in trouble.
Melanctha wondered often how it was she did not kill herself when she
was so blue. Often she thought this would be really the best way for
her to do.
Melanctha Herbert had been raised to be religious, by her mother.
Melanctha had not liked her mother very well. This mother, 'Mis'
Herbert, as her neighbors called her, had been a sweet appearing and
dignified and pleasant, pale yellow, colored woman. 'Mis' Herbert had
always been a little wandering and mysterious and uncertain in her
Melanctha was pale yellow and mysterious and a little pleasant like
her mother, but the real power in Melanctha's nature came through her
robust and unpleasant and very unendurable black father.
Melanctha's father only used to come to where Melanctha and her mother
lived, once in a while.
It was many years now that Melanctha had not heard or seen or known of
anything her father did.
Melanctha Herbert almost always hated her black father, but she loved
very well the power in herself that came through him. And so her
feeling was really closer to her black coarse father, than her feeling
had ever been toward her pale yellow, sweet-appearing mother. The
things she had in her of her mother never made her feel respect.
Melanctha Herbert had not loved herself in childhood. All of her youth
was bitter to remember.
Melanctha had not loved her father and her mother and they had found
it very troublesome to have her.
Melanctha's mother and her father had been regularly married.
Melanctha's father was a big black virile negro. He only came once
in a while to where Melanctha and her mother lived, but always that
pleasant, sweet-appearing, pale yellow woman, mysterious and uncertain
and wandering in her ways, was close in sympathy and thinking to her
big black virile husband.
James Herbert was a common, decent enough, colored workman, brutal and
rough to his one daughter, but then she was a most disturbing child to
The young Melanctha did not love her father and her mother, and she
had a break neck courage, and a tongue that could be very nasty. Then,
too, Melanctha went to school and was very quick in all the learning,
and she knew very well how to use this knowledge to annoy her parents
who knew nothing.
Melanctha Herbert had always had a break neck courage. Melanctha
always loved to be with horses; she loved to do wild things, to ride
the horses and to break and tame them.
Melanctha, when she was a little girl, had had a good chance to live
with horses. Near where Melanctha and her mother lived was the stable
of the Bishops, a rich family who always had fine horses.
John, the Bishops' coachman, liked Melanctha very well and he always
let her do anything she wanted with the horses. John was a decent,
vigorous mulatto with a prosperous house and wife and children.
Melanctha Herbert was older than any of his children. She was now a
well grown girl of twelve and just beginning as a woman.
James Herbert, Melanctha's father, knew this John, the Bishops'
coachman very well.
One day James Herbert came to where his wife and daughter lived, and
he was furious.
"Where's that Melanctha girl of yours," he said fiercely, "if she is
to the Bishops' stables again, with that man John, I swear I kill her.
Why don't you see to that girl better you, you're her mother."
James Herbert was a powerful, loose built, hard handed, black, angry
negro. Herbert never was a joyous negro. Even when he drank with other
men, and he did that very, often, he was never really joyous. In the
days when he had been most young and free and open, he had never
had the wide abandoned laughter that gives the broad glow to negro
His daughter, Melanctha Herbert, later always made a hard forced
laughter. She was only strong and sweet and in her nature when she was
really deep in trouble, when she was fighting so with all she really
had, that she did not use her laughter. This was always true of poor
Melanctha who was always so certain that she hated trouble. Melanctha
Herbert was always seeking peace and quiet, and she could always only
find new ways to get excited.
James Herbert was often a very angry negro. He was fierce and serious,
and he was very certain that he often had good reason to be angry with
Melanctha, who knew so well how to be nasty, and to use her learning
with a father who knew nothing.
James Herbert often drank with John, the Bishops' coachman. John in
his good nature sometimes tried to soften Herbert's feeling toward
Melanctha. Not that Melanctha ever complained to John of her home life
or her father. It was never Melanctha's way, even in the midst of
her worst trouble to complain to any one of what happened to her, but
nevertheless somehow every one who knew Melanctha always knew how much
she suffered. It was only while one really loved Melanctha that one
understood how to forgive her, that she never once complained nor
looked unhappy, and was always handsome and in spirits, and yet one
always knew how much she suffered.
The father, James Herbert, never told his troubles either, and he was
so fierce and serious that no one ever thought of asking.
'Mis' Herbert as her neighbors called her was never heard even
to speak of her husband or her daughter. She was always pleasant,
sweet-appearing, mysterious and uncertain, and a little wandering in
The Herberts were a silent family with their troubles, but somehow
every one who knew them always knew everything that happened.
The morning of one day when in the evening Herbert and the coachman
John were to meet to drink together, Melanctha had to come to the
stable joyous and in the very best of humors. Her good friend John on
this morning felt very firmly how good and sweet she was and how very
much she suffered.
John was a very decent colored coachman. When he thought about
Melanctha it was as if she were the eldest of his children. Really
he felt very strongly the power in her of a woman. John's wife always
liked Melanctha and she always did all she could to make things
pleasant. And Melanctha all her life loved and respected kind and good
and considerate people. Melanctha always loved and wanted peace and
gentleness and goodness and all her life for herself poor Melanctha
could only find new ways to be in trouble.
This evening after John and Herbert had drunk awhile together, the
good John began to tell the father what a fine girl he had for a
daughter. Perhaps the good John had been drinking a good deal of
liquor, perhaps there was a gleam of something softer than the feeling
of a friendly elder in the way John then spoke of Melanctha. There had
been a good deal of drinking and John certainly that very morning had
felt strongly Melanctha's power as a woman. James Herbert was always
a fierce, suspicious, serious negro, and drinking never made him feel
more open. He looked very black and evil as he sat and listened while
John grew more and more admiring as he talked half to himself, half to
the father, of the virtues and the sweetness of Melanctha.
Suddenly between them there came a moment filled full with strong
black curses, and then sharp razors flashed in the black hands, that
held them flung backward in the negro fashion, and then for some
minutes there was fierce slashing.
John was a decent, pleasant, good natured, light brown negro, but he
knew how to use a razor to do bloody slashing.
When the two men were pulled apart by the other negroes who were in
the room drinking, John had not been much wounded but James Herbert
had gotten one good strong cut that went from-his right shoulder down
across the front of his whole body. Razor fighting does not wound very
deeply, but it makes a cut that looks most nasty, for it is so very
Herbert was held by the other negroes until he was cleaned and
plastered, and then he was put to bed to sleep off his drink and
The next day he came to where his wife and daughter lived and he was
"Where's that Melanctha, of yours?" he said to his wife, when he saw
her. "If she is to the Bishops' stables now with that yellow John, I
swear I kill her. A nice way she is going for a decent daughter. Why
don't you see to that girl better you, ain't you her mother!"
Melanctha Herbert had always been old in all her ways and she knew
very early how to use her power as a woman, and yet Melanctha with all
her inborn intense wisdom was really very ignorant of evil. Melanctha
had not yet come to understand what they meant, the things she so
often heard around her, and which were just beginning to stir strongly
Now when her father began fiercely to assail her, she did not really
know what it was that he was so furious to force from her. In every
way that he could think of in his anger, he tried to make her say
a thing she did not really know. She held out and never answered
anything he asked her, for Melanctha had a breakneck courage and she
just then badly hated her black father.
When the excitement was all over, Melanctha began to know her power,
the power she had so often felt stirring within her and which she now
knew she could use to make her stronger.
James Herbert did not win this fight with his daughter. After awhile
he forgot it as he soon forgot John and the cut of his sharp razor.
Melanctha almost forgot to hate her father, in her strong interest in
the power she now knew she had within her.
Melanctha did not care much now, any longer, to see John or his wife
or even the fine horses. This life was too quiet and accustomed and no
longer stirred her to any interest or excitement.
Melanctha now really was beginning as a woman. She was ready, and she
began to search in the streets and in dark corners to discover men and
to learn their natures and their various ways of working.
In these next years Melanctha learned many ways that lead to wisdom.
She learned the ways, and dimly in the distance she saw wisdom. These
years of learning led very straight to trouble for Melanctha, though
in these years Melanctha never did or meant anything that was really
Girls who are brought up with care and watching can always find
moments to escape into the world, where they may learn the ways that
lead to wisdom. For a girl raised like Melanctha Herbert, such escape
was always very simple. Often she was alone, sometimes she was with a
fellow seeker, and she strayed and stood, sometimes by railroad yards,
sometimes on the docks or around new buildings where many men were
working. Then when the darkness covered everything all over, she would
begin to learn to know this man or that. She would advance, they would
respond, and then she would withdraw a little, dimly, and always she
did not know what it was that really held her. Sometimes she would
almost go over, and then the strength in her of not really knowing,
would stop the average man in his endeavor. It was a strange
experience of ignorance and power and desire. Melanctha did not know
what it was that she so badly wanted. She was afraid, and yet she did
not understand that here she really was a coward.
Boys had never meant much to Melanctha. They had always been too
young to content her. Melanctha had a strong respect for any kind of
successful power. It was this that always kept Melanctha nearer, in
her feeling toward her virile and unendurable black father, than she
ever was in her feeling for her pale yellow, sweet-appearing mother.
The things she had in her of her mother, never made her feel respect.
In these young days, it was only men that for Melanctha held anything
there was of knowledge and power. It was not from men however that
Melanctha learned to really understand this power.
From the time that Melanctha was twelve until she was sixteen she
wandered, always seeking but never more than very dimly seeing wisdom.
All this time Melanctha went on with her school learning; she went to
school rather longer than do most of the colored children.
Melanctha's wanderings after wisdom she always had to do in secret and
by snatches, for her mother was then still living and 'Mis' Herbert
always did some watching, and Melanctha with all her hard courage
dreaded that there should be much telling to her father, who came now
quite often to where Melanctha lived with her mother.
In these days Melanctha talked and stood and walked with many kinds of
men, but she did not learn to know any of them very deeply. They all
supposed her to have world knowledge and experience. They, believing
that she knew all, told her nothing, and thinking that she was
deciding with them, asked for nothing, and so though Melanctha
wandered widely, she was really very safe with all the wandering.
It was a very wonderful experience this safety of Melanctha in these
days of her attempted learning. Melanctha herself did not feel the
wonder, she only knew that for her it all had no real value.
Melanctha all her life was very keen in her sense for real experience.
She knew she was not getting what she so badly wanted, but with all
her break neck courage Melanctha here was a coward, and so she could
not learn to really understand.
Melanctha liked to wander, and to stand by the railroad yard, and
watch the men and the engines and the switches and everything that was
busy there, working. Railroad yards are a ceaseless fascination. They
satisfy every kind of nature. For the lazy man whose blood flows very
slowly, it is a steady soothing world of motion which supplies him
with the sense of a strong moving power. He need not work and yet he
has it very deeply; he has it even better than the man who works in
it or owns it. Then for natures that like to feel emotion without the
trouble of having any suffering, it is very nice to get the swelling
in the throat, and the fullness, and the heart beats, and all the
flutter of excitement that comes as one watches the people come and
go, and hears the engine pound and give a long drawn whistle. For a
child watching through a hole in the fence above the yard, it is a
wonder world of mystery and movement. The child loves all the noise,
and then it loves the silence of the wind that comes before the full
rush of the pounding train, that bursts out from the tunnel where it
lost itself and all its noise in darkness, and the child loves all the
smoke, that sometimes comes in rings, and always puffs with fire and
For Melanctha the yard was full of the excitement of many men, and
perhaps a free and whirling future.
Melanctha came here very often and watched the men and all the things
that were so busy working. The men always had time for, "Hullo sis,
do you want to sit on my engine," and, "Hullo, that's a pretty lookin'
yaller girl, do you want to come and see him cookin."
All the colored porters liked Melanctha. They often told her exciting
things that had happened; how in the West they went through big
tunnels where there was no air to breathe, and then out and winding
around edges of great canyons on thin high spindling trestles, and
sometimes cars, and sometimes whole trains fell from the narrow
bridges, and always up from the dark places death and all kinds of
queer devils looked up and laughed in their faces. And then they would
tell how sometimes when the train went pounding down steep slippery
mountains, great rocks would racket and roll down around them, and
sometimes would smash in the car and kill men; and as the porters told
these stories their round, black, shining faces would grow solemn,
and their color would go grey beneath the greasy black, and their eyes
would roll white in the fear and wonder of the things they could scare
themselves by telling.
There was one, big, serious, melancholy, light brown porter who often
told Melanctha stories, for he liked the way she had of listening with
intelligence and sympathetic feeling, when he told how the white men
in the far South tried to kill him because he made one of them who was
drunk and called him a damned nigger, and who refused to pay money for
his chair to a nigger, get off the train between stations. And then
this porter had to give up going to that part of the Southern country,
for all the white men swore that if he ever came there again they
would surely kill him.
Melanctha liked this serious, melancholy light brown negro very
well, and all her life Melanctha wanted and respected gentleness
and goodness, and this man always gave her good advice and serious
kindness, and Melanctha felt such things very deeply, but she could
never let them help her or affect her to change the ways that always
made her keep herself in trouble.
Melanctha spent many of the last hours of the daylight with the
porters and with other men who worked hard, but when darkness came it
was always different. Then Melanctha would find herself with the,
for her, gentlemanly classes. A clerk, or a young express agent would
begin to know her, and they would stand, or perhaps, walk a little
Melanctha always made herself escape but often it was with an effort.
She did not know what it was that she so badly wanted, but with all
her courage Melanctha here was a coward, and so she could not learn to
Melanctha and some man would stand in the evening and would talk
together. Sometimes Melanctha would be with another girl and then it
was much easier to stay or to escape, for then they could make way for
themselves together, and by throwing words and laughter to each other,
could keep a man from getting too strong in his attention.
But when Melanctha was alone, and she was so, very often, she would
sometimes come very near to making a long step on the road that leads
to wisdom. Some man would learn a good deal about her in the talk,
never altogether truly, for Melanctha all her life did not know how to
tell a story wholly. She always, and yet not with intention, managed
to leave out big pieces which make a story very different, for when it
came to what had happened and what she had said and what it was that
she had really done, Melanctha never could remember right. The man
would sometimes come a little nearer, would detain her, would hold
her arm or make his jokes a little clearer, and then Melanctha would
always make herself escape. The man thinking that she really had world
wisdom would not make his meaning clear, and believing that she was
deciding with him he never went so fast that he could stop her when at
last she made herself escape.
And so Melanctha wandered on the edge of wisdom. "Say, Sis, why don't
you when you come here stay a little longer?" they would all ask
her, and they would hold her for an answer, and she would laugh,
and sometimes she did stay longer, but always just in time she made
Melanctha Herbert wanted very much to know and yet she feared the
knowledge. As she grew older she often stayed a good deal longer,
and sometimes it was almost a balanced struggle, but she always made
Next to the railroad yard it was the shipping docks that Melanctha
loved best when she wandered. Often she was alone, sometimes she was
with some better kind of black girl, and she would stand a long time
and watch the men working at unloading, and see the steamers do their
coaling, and she would listen with full feeling to the yowling of the
free swinging negroes, as they ran, with their powerful loose jointed
bodies and their childish savage yelling, pushing, carrying, pulling
great loads from the ships to the warehouses.
The men would call out, "Say, Sis, look out or we'll come and catch
yer," or "Hi, there, you yaller girl, come here and we'll take you
sailin'." And then, too, Melanctha would learn to know some of the
serious foreign sailors who told her all sorts of wonders, and a cook
would sometimes take her and her friends over a ship and show where he
made his messes and where the men slept, and where the shops were, and
how everything was made by themselves, right there, on ship board.
Melanctha loved to see these dark and smelly places. She always loved
to watch and talk and listen with men who worked hard. But it was
never from these rougher people that Melanctha tried to learn the ways
that lead to wisdom. In the daylight she always liked to talk with
rough men and to listen to their lives and about their work and their
various ways of doing, but when the darkness covered everything all
over, Melanctha would meet, and stand, and talk with a clerk or a
young shipping agent who had seen her watching, and so it was that she
would try to learn to understand.
And then Melanctha was fond of watching men work on new buildings. She
loved to see them hoisting, digging, sawing and stone cutting. Here,
too, in the daylight, she always learned to know the common workmen.
"Heh, Sis, look out or that rock will fall on you and smash you all
up into little pieces. Do you think you would make a nice jelly?" And
then they would all laugh and feel that their jokes were very funny.
And "Say, you pretty yaller girl, would it scare you bad to stand up
here on top where I be? See if you've got grit and come up here where
I can hold you. All you got to do is to sit still on that there rock
that they're just hoistin', and then when you get here I'll hold you
tight, don't you be scared Sis."
Sometimes Melanctha would do some of these things that had much
danger, and always with such men, she showed her power and her break
neck courage. Once she slipped and fell from a high place. A workman
caught her and so she was not killed, but her left arm was badly
All the men crowded around her. They admired her boldness in doing and
in bearing pain when her arm was broken. They all went along with
her with great respect to the doctor, and then they took her home in
triumph and all of them were bragging about her not squealing.
James Herbert was home where his wife lived, that day. He was furious
when he saw the workmen and Melanctha. He drove the men away with
curses so that they were all very nearly fighting, and he would not
let a doctor come in to attend Melanctha. "Why don't you see to that
girl better, you, you're her mother."
James Herbert did not fight things out now any more with his daughter.
He feared her tongue, and her school learning, and the way she had
of saying things that were very nasty to a brutal black man who
knew nothing. And Melanctha just then hated him very badly in her
And so this was the way Melanctha lived the four years of her
beginning as a woman. And many things happened to Melanctha, but she
knew very well that none of them had led her on to the right way, that
certain way that was to lead her to world wisdom.
Melanctha Herbert was sixteen when she first met Jane Harden. Jane was
a negress, but she was so white that hardly any one could guess it.
Jane had had a good deal of education. She had been two years at a
colored college. She had had to leave because of her bad conduct. She
taught Melanctha many things. She taught her how to go the ways that
lead to wisdom.
Jane Harden was at this time twenty-three years old and she had
had much experience. She was very much attracted by Melanctha, and
Melanctha was very proud that this Jane would let her know her.
Jane Harden was not afraid to understand. Melanctha who had strong the
sense for real experience, knew that here was a woman who had learned
Jane Harden had many bad habits. She drank a great deal, and she
wandered widely. She was safe though now, when she wanted to be safe,
in this wandering.
Melanctha Herbert soon always wandered with her. Melanctha tried the
drinking and some of the other habits, but she did not find that she
cared very much to do them. But every day she grew stronger in her
desire to really understand.
It was now no longer, even in the daylight, the rougher men that these
two learned to know in their wanderings, and for Melanctha the better
classes were now a little higher. It was no longer express agents
and clerks that she learned to know, but men in business, commercial
travelers, and even men above these, and Jane and she would talk and
walk and laugh and escape from them all very often. It was still the
same, the knowing of them and the always just escaping, only now for
Melanctha somehow it was different, for though it was always the same
thing that happened it had a different flavor, for now Melanctha was
with a woman who had wisdom, and dimly she began to see what it was
that she should understand.
It was not from the men that Melanctha learned her wisdom. It
was always Jane Harden herself who was making Melanctha begin to
Jane was a roughened woman. She had power and she liked to use it, she
had much white blood and that made her see clear, she liked drinking
and that made her reckless. Her white blood was strong in her and
she had grit and endurance and a vital courage. She was always game,
however much she was in trouble. She liked Melanctha Herbert for the
things that she had like her, and then Melanctha was young, and
she had sweetness, and a way of listening with intelligence and
sympathetic interest, to the stories that Jane Harden often told out
of her experience.
Jane grew always fonder of Melanctha. Soon they began to wander,
more to be together than to see men and learn their various ways of
working. Then they began not to wander, and Melanctha would spend long
hours with Jane in her room, sitting at her feet and listening to her
stories, and feeling her strength and the power of her affection, and
slowly she began to see clear before her one certain way that would be
sure to lead to wisdom.
Before the end came, the end of the two years in which Melanctha spent
all her time when she was not at school or in her home, with Jane
Harden, before these two years were finished, Melanctha had come to
see very clear, and she had come to be very certain, what it is that
gives the world its wisdom.
Jane Harden always had a little money and she had a room in the lower
part of the town. Jane had once taught in a colored school. She
had had to leave that too on account of her bad conduct. It was her
drinking that always made all the trouble for her, for that can never
be really covered over.
Jane's drinking was always growing worse upon her. Melanctha had tried
to do the drinking but it had no real attraction for her.
In the first year, between Jane Harden and Melanctha Herbert, Jane had
been much the stronger. Jane loved Melanctha and she found her always
intelligent and brave and sweet and docile, and Jane meant to, and
before the year was over she had taught Melanctha what it is that
gives many people in the world their wisdom.
Jane had many ways in which to do this teaching. She told Melanctha
many things. She loved Melanctha hard and made Melanctha feel it
very deeply. She would be with other people and with men and with
Melanctha, and she would make Melanctha understand what everybody
wanted, and what one did with power when one had it.
Melanctha sat at Jane's feet for many hours in these days and felt
Jane's wisdom. She learned to love Jane and to have this feeling very
deeply. She learned a little in these days to know joy, and she was
taught too how very keenly she could suffer. It was very different
this suffering from that Melanctha sometimes had from her mother and
from her very unendurable black father. Then she was fighting and
she could be strong and valiant in her suffering, but here with Jane
Harden she was longing and she bent and pleaded with her suffering.
It was a very tumultuous, very mingled year, this time for Melanctha,
but she certainly did begin to really understand.
In every way she got it from Jane Harden. There was nothing good or
bad in doing, feeling, thinking or in talking, that Jane spared her.
Sometimes the lesson came almost too strong for Melanctha, but
somehow she always managed to endure it and so slowly, but always with
increasing strength and feeling, Melanctha began to really understand.
Then slowly, between them, it began to be all different. Slowly now
between them, it was Melanctha Herbert, who was stronger. Slowly now
they began to drift apart from one another.
Melanctha Herbert never really lost her sense that it was Jane Harden
who had taught her, but Jane did many things that Melanctha now no
longer needed. And then, too, Melanctha never could remember right
when it came to what she had done and what had happened. Melanctha now
sometimes quarreled with Jane, and they no longer went about together,
and sometimes Melanctha really forgot how much she owed to Jane
Melanctha began now to feel that she had always had world wisdom. She
really knew of course, that it was Jane who had taught her, but all
that began to be covered over by the trouble between them, that was
now always getting stronger.
Jane Harden was a roughened woman. Once she had been very strong, but
now she was weakened in all her kinds of strength by her drinking.
Melanctha had tried the drinking but it had had no real attraction for
Jane's strong and roughened nature and her drinking made it always
harder for her to forgive Melanctha, that now Melanctha did not really
need her any longer. Now it was Melanctha who was stronger and it was
Jane who was dependent on her.
Melanctha was now come to be about eighteen years old. She was a
graceful, pale yellow, good looking, intelligent, attractive negress,
a little mysterious sometimes in her ways, and always good and
pleasant, and always ready to do things for people.
Melanctha from now on saw very little of Jane Harden. Jane did not
like that very well and sometimes she abused Melanctha, but her
drinking soon covered everything all over.
It was not in Melanctha's nature to really lose her sense for Jane
Harden. Melanctha all her life was ready to help Jane out in any of
her trouble, and later, when Jane really went to pieces, Melanctha
always did all that she could to help her.
But Melanctha Herbert was ready now herself to do teaching. Melanctha
could do anything now that she wanted. Melanctha knew now what
Melanctha had learned how she might stay a little longer; she had
learned that she must decide when she wanted really to stay longer,
and she had learned how when she wanted to, she could escape.
And so Melanctha began once more to wander. It was all now for her
very different. It was never rougher men now that she talked to, and
she did not care much now to know white men of the, for her, very
better classes. It was now something realler that Melanctha wanted,
something that would move her very deeply, something that would fill
her fully with the wisdom that was planted now within her, and that
she wanted badly, should really wholly fill her.
Melanctha these days wandered very widely. She was always alone now
when she wandered. Melanctha did not need help now to know, or to stay
longer, or when she wanted, to escape.
Melanctha tried a great many men, in these days before she was really
suited. It was almost a year that she wandered and then she met with
a young mulatto. He was a doctor who had just begun to practice. He
would most likely do well in the future, but it was not this that
concerned Melanctha. She found him good and strong and gentle and very
intellectual, and all her life Melanctha liked and wanted good and
considerate people, and then too he did not at first believe in
Melanctha. He held off and did not know what it was that Melanctha
wanted. Melanctha came to want him very badly. They began to know each
other better. Things began to be very strong between them. Melanctha
wanted him so badly that now she never wandered. She just gave herself
to this experience.
Melanctha Herbert was now, all alone, in Bridgepoint. She lived now
with this colored woman and now with that one, and she sewed, and
sometimes she taught a little in a colored school as substitute for
some teacher. Melanctha had now no home nor any regular employment.
Life was just commencing for Melanctha. She had youth and had learned
wisdom, and she was graceful and pale yellow and very pleasant, and
always ready to do things for people, and she was mysterious in her
ways and that only made belief in her more fervent.
During the year before she met Jefferson Campbell, Melanctha had tried
many kinds of men but they had none of them interested Melanctha very
deeply. She met them, she was much with them, she left them, she would
think perhaps this next time it would be more exciting, and always
she found that for her it all had no real meaning. She could now do
everything she wanted, she knew now everything that everybody wanted,
and yet it all had no excitement for her. With these men, she knew
she could learn nothing. She wanted some one that could teach her very
deeply and now at last she was sure that she had found him, yes she
really had it, before she had thought to look if in this man she would
During this year 'Mis' Herbert as her neighbors called her,
Melanctha's pale yellow mother was very sick, and in this year she
Melanctha's father during these last years did not come very often to
the house where his wife lived and Melanctha. Melanctha was not
sure that her father was now any longer here in Bridgepoint. It
was Melanctha who was very good now to her mother. It was always
Melanctha's way to be good to any one in trouble.
Melanctha took good care of her mother. She did everything that any
woman could, she tended and soothed and helped her pale yellow mother,
and she worked hard in every way to take care of her, and make her
dying easy. But Melanctha did not in these days like her mother any
better, and her mother never cared much for this daughter who was
always a hard child to manage, and who had a tongue that always could
be very nasty.
Melanctha did everything that any woman could, and at last her mother
died, and Melanctha had her buried. Melanctha's father was not heard
from, and Melanctha in all her life after, never saw or heard or knew
of anything that her father did.
It was the young doctor, Jefferson Campbell, who helped Melanctha
toward the end, to take care of her sick mother. Jefferson Campbell
had often before seen Melanctha Herbert, but he had never liked her
very well, and he had never believed that she was any good. He had
heard something about how she wandered. He knew a little too of Jane
Harden, and he was sure that this Melanctha Herbert, who was her
friend and who wandered, would never come to any good.
Dr. Jefferson Campbell was a serious, earnest, good young joyous
doctor. He liked to take care of everybody and he loved his own
colored people. He always found life very easy did Jeff Campbell, and
everybody liked to have him with them. He was so good and sympathetic,
and he was so earnest and so joyous. He sang when he was happy, and he
laughed, and his was the free abandoned laughter that gives the warm
broad glow to negro sunshine.
Jeff Campbell had never yet in his life had real trouble. Jefferson's
father was a good, kind, serious, religious man. He was a very steady,
very intelligent, and very dignified, light brown, grey haired negro.
He was a butler and he had worked for the Campbell family many years,
and his father and his mother before him had been in the service of
this family as free people.
Jefferson Campbell's father and his mother had of course been
regularly married. Jefferson's mother was a sweet, little, pale brown,
gentle woman who reverenced and obeyed her good husband, and who
worshipped and admired and loved hard her-good, earnest, cheery, hard
working doctor boy who was her only child.
Jeff Campbell had been raised religious by his people but religion had
never interested Jeff very much. Jefferson was very good. He loved
his people and he never hurt them, and he always did everything they
wanted and that he could to please them, but he really loved best
science and experimenting and to learn things, and he early wanted
to be a doctor, and he was always very interested in the life of the
The Campbell family had been very good to him and had helped him
on with his ambition. Jefferson studied hard, he went to a colored
college, and then he learnt to be a doctor.
It was now two or three years, that he had started in to practice.
Everybody liked Jeff Campbell, he was so strong and kindly and
cheerful and understanding, and he laughed so with pure joy, and he
always liked to help all his own colored people.
Dr. Jeff knew all about Jane Harden. He had taken care of her in some
of her bad trouble. He knew about Melanctha too, though until her
mother was taken sick he had never met her. Then he was called in to
help Melanctha to take care of her sick mother. Dr. Campbell did not
like Melanctha's ways and he did not think that she would ever come to
Dr. Campbell had taken care of Jane Harden in some of her bad trouble.
Jane sometimes had abused Melanctha to him. What right had that
Melanctha Herbert who owed everything to her, Jane Harden, what
right had a girl like that to go away to other men and leave her,
but Melanctha Herbert never had any sense of how to act to anybody.
Melanctha had a good mind, Jane never denied her that, but she never
used it to do anything decent with it. But what could you expect when
Melanctha had such a brute of a black nigger father, and Melanctha was
always abusing her father and yet she was just like him, and really
she admired him so much and he never had any sense of what he owed to
anybody, and Melanctha was just like him and she was proud of it too,
and it made Jane so tired to hear Melanctha talk all the time as if
she wasn't. Jane Harden hated people who had good minds and didn't use
them, and Melanctha always had that weakness, and wanting to keep in
with people, and never really saying that she wanted to be like her
father, and it was so silly of Melanctha to abuse her father, when she
was so much like him and she really liked it. No, Jane Harden had no
use for Melanctha. Oh yes, Melanctha always came around to be good to
her. Melanctha was always sure to do that. She never really went away
and left one. She didn't use her mind enough to do things straight out
like that. Melanctha Herbert had a good mind, Jane never denied that
to her, but she never wanted to see or hear about Melanctha Herbert
any more, and she wished Melanctha wouldn't come in any more to see
her. She didn't hate her, but she didn't want to hear about her father
and all that talk Melanctha always made, and that just meant nothing
to her. Jane Harden was very tired of all that now. She didn't have
any use now any more for Melanctha, and if Dr. Campbell saw her he
better tell her Jane didn't want to see her, and she could take her
talk to somebody else, who was ready to believe her. And then Jane
Harden would drop away and forget Melanctha and all her life before,
and then she would begin to drink and so she would cover everything
Jeff Campbell heard all this very often, but it did not interest him
very deeply. He felt no desire to know more of this Melanctha. He
heard her, once, talking to another girl outside of the house, when
he was paying a visit to Jane Harden. He did not see much in the talk
that he heard her do. He did not see much in the things Jane Harden
said when she abused Melanctha to him. He was more interested in Jane
herself than in anything he heard about Melanctha. He knew Jane Harden
had a good mind, and she had had power, and she could really have
done things, and now this drinking covered everything all over. Jeff
Campbell was always very sorry when he had to see it. Jane Harden was
a roughened woman, and yet Jeff found a great many strong good things
in her, that still made him like her.
Jeff Campbell did everything he could for Jane Harden. He did not care
much to hear about Melanctha. He had no feeling, much, about her. He
did not find that he took any interest in her. Jane Harden was so much
a stronger woman, and Jane really had had a good mind, and she had
used it to do things with it, before this drinking business had taken
such a hold upon her.
Dr. Campbell was helping Melanctha Herbert to take care of her sick
mother. He saw Melanctha now for long times and very often, and
they sometimes talked a good deal together, but Melanctha never said
anything to him about Jane Harden. She never talked to him about
anything that was not just general matters, or about medicine, or
to tell him funny stories. She asked him many questions and always
listened very well to all he told her, and she always remembered
everything she heard him say about doctoring, and she always
remembered everything that she had learned from all the others.
Jeff Campbell never found that all this talk interested him very
deeply. He did not find that he liked Melanctha when he saw her so
much, any better. He never found that he thought much about Melanctha.
He never found that he believed much in her having a good mind, like
Jane Harden. He found he liked Jane Harden always better, and that he
wished very much that she had never begun that bad drinking.
Melanctha Herbert's mother was now always getting sicker. Melanctha
really did everything that any woman could. Melanctha's mother never
liked her daughter any better. She never said much, did 'Mis' Herbert,
but anybody could see that she did not think much of this daughter.
Dr. Campbell now often had to stay a long time to take care of 'Mis'
Herbert. One day 'Mis' Herbert was much sicker and Dr. Campbell
thought that this night, she would surely die. He came back late to
the house, as he had said he would, to sit up and watch 'Mis' Herbert,
and to help Melanctha, if she should need anybody to be with her.
Melanctha Herbert and Jeff Campbell sat up all that night together.
'Mis' Herbert did not die. The next day she was a little better.
This house where Melanctha had always lived with her mother was a
little red brick, two story house. They had not much furniture to fill
it and some of the windows were broken and not mended. Melanctha did
not have much money to use now on the house, but with a colored woman,
who was their neighbor and good natured and who had always helped
them, Melanctha managed to take care of her mother and to keep the
house fairly clean and neat.
Melanctha's mother was in bed in a room upstairs, and the steps from
below led right up into it. There were just two rooms on this upstairs
floor. Melanctha and Dr. Campbell sat down on the steps, that night
they watched together, so that they could hear and see Melanctha's
mother and yet the light would be shaded, and they could sit and
read, if they wanted to, and talk low some, and yet not disturb 'Mis'
Dr. Campbell was always very fond of reading. Dr. Campbell had not
brought a book with him that night. He had just forgotten it. He had
meant to put something in his pocket to read, so that he could amuse
himself, while he was sitting there and watching. When he was through
with taking care of 'Mis' Herbert, he came and sat down on the steps
just above where Melanctha was sitting. He spoke about how he had
forgotten to bring his book with him. Melanctha said there were some
old papers in the house, perhaps Dr. Campbell could find something in
them that would help pass the time for a while for him. All right,
Dr. Campbell said, that would be better than just sitting there
with nothing. Dr. Campbell began to read through the old papers that
Melanctha gave him. When anything amused him in them, he read it out
to Melanctha. Melanctha was now pretty silent, with him. Dr. Campbell
began to feel a little, about how she responded to him. Dr. Campbell
began to see a little that perhaps Melanctha had a good mind. Dr.
Campbell was not sure yet that she had a good mind, but he began to
think a little that perhaps she might have one.
Jefferson Campbell always liked to talk to everybody about the things
he worked at and about his thinking about what he could do for the
colored people. Melanctha Herbert never thought about these things the
way that he did. Melanctha had never said much to Dr. Campbell about
what she thought about them. Melanctha did not feel the same as he did
about being good and regular in life, and not having excitements
all the time, which was the way that Jefferson Campbell wanted that
everybody should be, so that everybody would be wise and yet be happy.
Melanctha always had strong the sense for real experience. Melanctha
Herbert did not think much of this way of coming to real wisdom.
Dr. Campbell soon got through with his reading, in the old newspapers,
and then somehow he began to talk along about the things he was
always thinking. Dr. Campbell said he wanted to work so that he could
understand what troubled people, and not to just have excitements, and
he believed you ought to love your father and your mother and to be
regular in all your life, and not to be always wanting new things and
excitements, and to always know where you were, and what you wanted,
and to always tell everything just as you meant it. That's the only
kind of life he knew or believed in, Jeff Campbell repeated. "No I
ain't got any use for all the time being in excitements and wanting to
have all kinds of experience all the time. I got plenty of experience
just living regular and quiet and with my family, and doing my work,
and taking care of people, and trying to understand it. I don't
believe much in this running around business and I. don't want to see
the colored people do it. I am a colored man and I ain't sorry, and I
want to see the colored people like what is good and what I want
them to have, and that's to live regular and work hard and understand
things, and that's enough to keep any decent man excited." Jeff
Campbell spoke now with some anger. Not to Melanctha, he did not think
of her at all when he was talking. It was the life he wanted that he
spoke to, and the way he wanted things to be with the colored people.
But Melanctha Herbert had listened to him say all this. She knew he
meant it, but it did not mean much to her, and she was sure some day
he would find out, that it was not all, of real wisdom. Melanctha
knew very well what it was to have real wisdom. "But how about Jane
Harden?" said Melanctha to Jeff Campbell, "seems to me Dr. Campbell
you find her to have something in her, and you go there very often,
and you talk to her much more than you do to the nice girls that stay
at home with their people, the kind you say you are really wanting. It
don't seem to me Dr. Campbell, that what you say and what you do seem
to have much to do with each other. And about your being so good Dr.
Campbell," went on Melanctha, "You don't care about going to church
much yourself, and yet you always are saying you believe so much in
things like that, for people. It seems to me, Dr. Campbell you want
to have a good time just like all us others, and then you just keep
on saying that it's right to be good and you ought not to have
excitements, and yet you really don't want to do it Dr. Campbell, no
more than me or Jane Harden. No, Dr. Campbell, it certainly does seem
to me you don't know very well yourself, what you mean, when you are
Jefferson had been talking right along, the way he always did when he
got started, and now Melanctha's answer only made him talk a little
harder. He laughed a little, too, but very low, so as not to disturb
'Mis' Herbert who was sleeping very nicely, and he looked brightly at
Melanctha to enjoy her, and then he settled himself down to answer.
"Yes," he began, "it certainly does sound a little like I didn't
know very well what I do mean, when you put it like that to me, Miss
Melanctha, but that's just because you don't understand enough about
what I meant, by what I was just saying to you. I don't say, never,
I don't want to know all kinds of people, Miss Melanctha, and I don't
say there ain't many kinds of people, and I don't say ever, that I
don't find some like Jane Harden very good to know and talk to, but
it's the strong things I like in Jane Harden, not all her excitements.
I don't admire the bad things she does, Miss Melanctha, but Jane
Harden is a strong woman and I always respect that in her. No I know
you don't believe what I say, Miss Melanctha, but I mean it, and it's
all just because you don't understand it when I say it. And as for
religion, that just ain't my way of being good, Miss Melanctha, but
it's a good way for many people to be good and regular in their way
of living, and if they believe it, it helps them to be good, and if
they're honest in it, I like to see them have it. No, what I don't
like, Miss Melanctha, is this what I see so much with the colored
people, their always wanting new things just to get excited."
Jefferson Campbell here stopped himself in this talking. Melanctha
Herbert did not make any answer. They both sat there very quiet.
Jeff Campbell then began again on the old papers. He sat there on the
steps just above where Melanctha was sitting, and he went on with his
reading, and his head went moving up and down, and sometimes he was
reading, and sometimes he was thinking about all the things he wanted
to be doing, and then he would rub the back of his dark hand over
his mouth, and in between he would be frowning with his thinking, and
sometimes he would be rubbing his head hard to help his thinking. And
Melanctha just sat still and watched the lamp burning, and sometimes
she turned it down a little, when the wind caught it and it would
begin to get to smoking.
And so Jeff Campbell and Melanctha Herbert sat there on the steps,
very quiet, a long time, and they didn't seem to think much, that they
were together. They sat there so, for about an hour, and then it came
to Jefferson very slowly and as a strong feeling that he was sitting
there on the steps, alone, with Melanctha. He did not know if
Melanctha Herbert was feeling very much about their being there alone
together. Jefferson began to wonder about it a little. Slowly he felt
that surely they must both have this feeling. It was so important that
he knew that she must have it. They both sat there, very quiet, a long
At last Jefferson began to talk about how the lamp was smelling.
Jefferson began to explain what it is that makes a lamp get to
smelling. Melanctha let him talk. She did not answer, and then he
stopped in his talking. Soon Melanctha began to sit up straighter and
then she started in to question.
"About what you was just saying Dr. Campbell about living regular and
all that, I certainly don't understand what you meant by what you was
just saying. You ain't a bit like good people Dr. Campbell, like
the good people you are always saying are just like you. I know good
people Dr. Campbell, and you ain't a bit like men who are good and
got religion. You are just as free and easy as any man can be Dr.
Campbell, and you always like to be with Jane Harden, and she is a
pretty bad one and you don't look down on her and you never tell her
she is a bad one. I know you like her just like a friend Dr. Campbell,
and so I certainly don't understand just what it is you mean by all
that you was just saying to me. I know you mean honest Dr. Campbell,
and I am always trying to believe you, but I can't say as I see just
what you mean when you say you want to be good and real pious, because
I am very certain Dr. Campbell that you ain't that kind of a man at
all, and you ain't never ashamed to be with queer folks Dr. Campbell,
and you seem to be thinking what you are doing is just like what you
are always saying, and Dr. Campbell, I certainly don't just see what
you mean by what you say."
Dr. Campbell almost laughed loud enough to wake 'Mis' Herbert. He did
enjoy the way Melanctha said these things to him. He began to feel
very strongly about it that perhaps Melanctha really had a good mind.
He was very free now in his laughing, but not so as to make Melanctha
angry. He was very friendly with her in his laughing, and then he
made his face get serious, and he rubbed his head to help him in his
"I know Miss Melanctha" he began, "It ain't very easy for you to
understand what I was meaning by what I was just saying to you, and
perhaps some of the good people I like so wouldn't think very much,
any more than you do, Miss Melanctha, about the ways I have to be
good. But that's no matter Miss Melanctha. What I mean Miss Melanctha
by what I was just saying to you is, that I don't, no, never, believe
in doing things just to get excited. You see Miss Melanctha I mean the
way so many of the colored people do it. Instead of just working hard
and caring about their working and living regular with their families
and saving up all their money, so they will have some to bring up
their children better, instead of living regular and doing like that
and getting all their new ways from just decent living, the colored
people just keep running around and perhaps drinking and doing
everything bad they can ever think of, and not just because they like
all those bad things that they are always doing, but only just because
they want to get excited. No Miss Melanctha, you see I am a colored
man myself and I ain't sorry, and I want to see the colored people
being good and careful and always honest and living always just
as regular as can be, and I am sure Miss Melanctha, that that way
everybody can have a good time, and be happy and keep right and be
busy, and not always have to be doing bad things for new ways to get
excited. Yes Miss Melanctha, I certainly do like everything to be
good, and quiet, and I certainly do think that is the best way for all
us colored people. No, Miss Melanctha too, I don't mean this except
only just the way I say it. I ain't got any other meaning Miss
Melanctha, and it's that what I mean when I am saying about being
really good. It ain't Miss Melanctha to be pious and not liking every
kind of people, and I don't say ever Miss Melanctha that when other
kind of people come regular into your life you shouldn't want to know
them always. What I mean Miss Melanctha by what I am always saying
is, you shouldn't try to know everybody just to run around and get
excited. It's that kind of way of doing that I hate so always Miss
Melanctha, and that is so bad for all us colored people. I don't know
as you understand now any better what I mean by what I was just saying
to you. But you certainly do know now Miss Melanctha, that I always
mean it what I say when I am talking."
"Yes I certainly do understand you when you talk so Dr. Campbell.
I certainly do understand now what you mean by what you was always
saying to me. I certainly do understand Dr. Campbell that you mean you
don't believe it's right to love anybody." "Why sure no, yes I do Miss
Melanctha, I certainly do believe strong in loving, and in being good
to everybody, and trying to understand what they all need, to help
them." "Oh I know all about that way of doing Dr. Campbell, but that
certainly ain't the kind of love I mean when I am talking. I mean
real, strong, hot love Dr. Campbell, that makes you do anything for
somebody that loves you." "I don't know much about that kind of
love yet Miss Melanctha. You see it's this way with me always Miss
Melanctha. I am always so busy with my thinking about my work I am
doing and so I don't have time for just fooling, and then too, you see
Miss Melanctha, I really certainly don't ever like to get excited, and
that kind of loving hard does seem always to mean just getting all the
time excited. That certainly is what I always think from what I see of
them that have it bad Miss Melanctha, and that certainly would never
suit a man like me. You see Miss Melanctha I am a very quiet kind of
fellow, and I believe in a quiet life for all the colored people. No
Miss Melanctha I certainly never have mixed myself up in that kind of
"Yes I certainly do see that very clear Dr. Campbell," said Melanctha,
"I see that's certainly what it is always made me not know right about
you and that's certainly what it is that makes you really mean what
you was always saying. You certainly are just too scared Dr. Campbell
to really feel things way down in you. All you are always wanting Dr.
Campbell, is just to talk about being good, and to play with people
just to have a good time, and yet always to certainly keep yourself
out of trouble. It don't seem to me Dr. Campbell that I admire that
way to do things very much. It certainly ain't really to me being very
good. It certainly ain't any more to me Dr. Campbell, but that you
certainly are awful scared about really feeling things way down in
you, and that's certainly the only way Dr. Campbell I can see that you
can mean, by what it is that you are always saying to me."
"I don't know about that Miss Melanctha, I certainly don't think I
can't feel things very deep in me, though I do say I certainly do like
to have things nice and quiet, but I don't see harm in keeping out of
danger Miss Melanctha, when a man knows he certainly don't want to get
killed in it, and I don't know anything that's more awful dangerous
Miss Melanctha than being strong in love with somebody. I don't
mind sickness or real trouble Miss Melanctha, and I don't want to be
talking about what I can do in real trouble, but you know something
about that Miss Melanctha, but I certainly don't see much in mixing up
just to get excited, in that awful kind of danger. No Miss Melanctha
I certainly do only know just two kinds of ways of loving. One kind of
loving seems to me, is like one has a good quiet feeling in a family
when one does his work, and is always living good and being regular,
and then the other way of loving is just like having it like any
animal that's low in the streets together, and that don't seem to me
very good Miss Melanctha, though I don't say ever that it's not all
right when anybody likes it, and that's all the kinds of love I know
Miss Melanctha, and I certainly don't care very much to get mixed up
in that kind of a way just to be in trouble."
Jefferson stopped and Melanctha thought a little.
"That certainly does explain to me Dr. Campbell what I been thinking
about you this long time. I certainly did wonder how you could be so
live, and knowing everything, and everybody, and talking so big always
about everything, and everybody always liking you so much, and you
always looking as if you was thinking, and yet you really was
never knowing about anybody and certainly not being really very
understanding. It certainly is all Dr. Campbell because you is so
afraid you will be losing being good so easy, and it certainly do seem
to me Dr. Campbell that it certainly don't amount to very much that
kind of goodness."
"Perhaps you are right Miss Melanctha," Jefferson answered. "I don't
say never, perhaps you ain't right Miss Melanctha. Perhaps I ought
to know more about such ways Miss Melanctha. Perhaps it would help me
some, taking care of the colored people, Miss Melanctha. I don't say,
no, never, but perhaps I could learn a whole lot about women the right
way, if I had a real good teacher."
'Mis' Herbert just then stirred a little in her sleep. Melanctha went
up the steps to the bed to attend her. Dr. Campbell got up too and
went to help her. 'Mis' Herbert woke up and was a little better. Now
it was morning and Dr. Campbell gave his directions to Melanctha, and
then left her.
Melanctha Herbert all her life long, loved and wanted good, kind
and considerate people. Jefferson Campbell was all the things that
Melanctha had ever wanted. Jefferson was a strong, well built, good
looking, cheery, intelligent and good mulatto. And then at first he
had not cared to know Melanctha, and when he did begin to know her
he had not liked her very well, and he had not thought that she would
ever come to any good. And then Jefferson Campbell was so very gentle.
Jefferson never did some things like other men, things that now were
beginning to be ugly, for Melanctha. And then too Jefferson Campbell
did not seem to know very well what it was that Melanctha really
wanted, and all this was making Melanctha feel his power with her
always getting stronger.
Dr. Campbell came in every day to see 'Mis' Herbert. 'Mis' Herbert,
after that night they watched together, did get a little better, but
'Mis' Herbert was really very sick, and soon it was pretty sure that
she would have to die. Melanctha certainly did everything, all the
time, that any woman could. Jefferson never thought much better of
Melanctha while she did it. It was not her being good, he wanted to
find in her. He knew very well Jane Harden was right, when she said
Melanctha was always being good to everybody but that that did not
make Melanctha any better for her. Then too, 'Mis' Herbert never
liked Melanctha any better, even on the last day of her living, and so
Jefferson really never thought much of Melanctha's always being good
to her mother.
Jefferson and Melanctha now saw each other, very often. They now
always liked to be with each other, and they always now had a good
time when they talked to one another. They, mostly in their talking to
each other, still just talked about outside things and what they were
thinking. Except just in little moments, and not those very often,
they never said anything about their feeling. Sometimes Melanctha
would tease Jefferson a little just to show she had not forgotten, but
mostly she listened to his talking, for Jefferson still always liked
to talk along about the things he believed in. Melanctha was liking
Jefferson Campbell better every day, and Jefferson was beginning to
know that Melanctha certainly had a good mind, and he was beginning
to feel a little her real sweetness. Not in her being good to 'Mis'
Herbert, that never seemed to Jefferson to mean much in her, but there
was a strong kind of sweetness in Melanctha's nature that Jefferson
began now to feel when he was with her.
'Mis' Herbert was now always getting sicker. One night again Dr.
Campbell felt very certain that before it was morning she would surely
die. Dr. Campbell said he would come back to help Melanctha watch her,
and to do anything he could to make 'Mis' Herbert's dying more easy
for her. Dr. Campbell came back that evening, after he was through
with his other patients, and then he made 'Mis' Herbert easy, and
then he came and sat down on the steps just above where Melanctha was
sitting with the lamp, and looking very tired. Dr. Campbell was pretty
tired too, and they both sat there very quiet.
"You look awful tired to-night, Dr. Campbell," Melanctha said at last,
with her voice low and very gentle, "Don't you want to go lie down and
sleep a little? You're always being much too good to everybody, Dr.
Campbell. I like to have you stay here watching to-night with me, but
it don't seem right you ought to stay here when you got so much always
to do for everybody. You are certainly very kind to come back, Dr.
Campbell, but I can certainly get along to-night without you. I can
get help next door sure if I need it. You just go 'long home to bed,
Dr. Campbell. You certainly do look as if you need it."
Jefferson was silent for some time, and always he was looking very
gently at Melanctha.
"I certainly never did think, Miss Melanctha, I would find you to be
so sweet and thinking, with me." "Dr. Campbell" said Melanctha, still
more gentle, "I certainly never did think that you would ever feel it
good to like me. I certainly never did think you would want to see for
yourself if I had sweet ways in me."
They both sat there very tired, very gentle, very quiet, a long time.
At last Melanctha in a low, even tone began to talk to Jefferson
"You are certainly a very good man, Dr. Campbell, I certainly do feel
that more every day I see you. Dr. Campbell, I sure do want to be
friends with a good man like you, now I know you. You certainly, Dr.
Campbell, never do things like other men, that's always ugly for me.
Tell me true, Dr. Campbell, how you feel about being always friends
with me. I certainly do know, Dr. Campbell, you are a good man, and if
you say you will be friends with me, you certainly never will go back
on me, the way so many kinds of them do to every girl they ever get
to like them. Tell me for true, Dr. Campbell, will you be friends with
"Why, Miss Melanctha," said Campbell slowly, "why you see I just can't
say that right out that way to you. Why sure you know Miss Melanctha,
I will be very glad if it comes by and by that we are always
friends together, but you see, Miss Melanctha, I certainly am a very
slow-minded quiet kind of fellow though I do say quick things all the
time to everybody, and when I certainly do want to mean it what I am
saying to you, I can't say things like that right out to everybody
till I know really more for certain all about you, and how I like you,
and what I really mean to do better for you. You certainly do see what
I mean, Miss Melanctha." "I certainly do admire you for talking honest
to me, Jeff Campbell," said Melanctha. "Oh, I am always honest,
Miss Melanctha. It's easy enough for me always to be honest, Miss
Melanctha. All I got to do is always just to say right out what I am
thinking. I certainly never have got any real reason for not saying it
right out like that to anybody."
They sat together, very silent. "I certainly do wonder, Miss
Melanctha," at last began Jeff Campbell, "I certainly do wonder, if
we know very right, you and me, what each other is really thinking.
I certainly do wonder, Miss Melanctha, if we know at all really what
each other means by what we are always saying." "That certainly do
mean, by what you say, that you think I am a bad one, Jeff Campbell,"
flashed out Melanctha. "Why no, Miss Melanctha, why sure I don't mean
any thing like that at all, by what I am saying to you. You know well
as I do, Miss Melanctha, I think better of you every day I see you,
and I like to talk with you all the time now, Miss Melanctha, and I
certainly do think we both like it very well when we are together,
and it seems to me always more, you are very good and sweet always
to everybody. It only is, I am really so slow-minded in my ways, Miss
Melanctha, for all I talk so quick to everybody, and I don't like to
say to you what I don't know for very sure, and I certainly don't know
for sure I know just all what you mean by what you are always saying
to me. And you see, Miss Melanctha, that's what makes me say what I
was just saying to you when you asked me."
"I certainly do thank you again for being honest to me, Dr. Campbell,"
said Melanctha. "I guess I leave you now, Dr. Campbell. I think I go
in the other room and rest a little. I leave you here, so perhaps if I
ain't here you will maybe sleep and rest yourself a little. Good night
now, Dr. Campbell, I call you if I need you later to help me, Dr.
Campbell, I hope you rest well, Dr. Campbell."
Jeff Campbell, when Melanctha left him, sat there and he was very
quiet and just wondered. He did not know very well just what Melanctha
meant by what she was always saying to him. He did not know very well
how much he really knew about Melanctha Herbert. He wondered if he
should go on being so much all the time with her. He began to think
about what he should do now with her. Jefferson Campbell was a man who
liked everybody and many people liked very much to be with him.
Women liked him, he was so strong, and good, and understanding, and
innocent, and firm, and gentle. Sometimes they seemed to want very
much he should be with them. When they got so, they always had made
Campbell very tired. Sometimes he would play a little with them,
but he never had had any strong feeling for them. Now with Melanctha
Herbert everything seemed different. Jefferson was not sure that he
knew here just what he wanted. He was not sure he knew just what
it was that Melanctha wanted. He knew if it was only play, with
Melanctha, that he did not want to do it. But he remembered always
how she had told him he never knew how to feel things very deeply.
He remembered how she told him he was afraid to let himself ever know
real feeling, and then too, most of all to him, she had told him
he was not very understanding. That always troubled Jefferson very
keenly, he wanted very badly to be really understanding. If Jefferson
only knew better just what Melanctha meant by what she said. Jefferson
always had thought he knew something about women. Now he found that
really he knew nothing. He did not know the least bit about Melanctha.
He did not know what it was right that he should do about it. He
wondered if it was just a little play that they were doing. If it was
a play he did not want to go on playing, but if it was really that he
was not very understanding, and that with Melanctha Herbert he could
learn to really understand, then he was very certain he did not want
to be a coward. It was very hard for him to know what he wanted. He
thought and thought, and always he did not seem to know any better
what he wanted. At last he gave up this thinking. He felt sure it was
only play with Melanctha. "No, I certainly won't go on fooling with
her any more this way," he said at last out loud to himself, when he
was through with this thinking. "I certainly will stop fooling, and
begin to go on with my thinking about my work and what's the matter
with people like 'Mis' Herbert," and Jefferson took out his book
from his pocket, and drew near to the lamp, and began with some hard
Jefferson sat there for about an hour reading, and he had really
forgotten all about his trouble with Melanctha's meaning. Then 'Mis'
Herbert had some trouble with her breathing. She woke up and was
gasping. Dr. Campbell went to her and gave her something that would
help her. Melanctha came out from the other room and did things as he
told her. They together made 'Mis' Herbert more comfortable and easy,
and soon she was again in her deep sleep.
Dr. Campbell went back to the steps where he had been sitting.
Melanctha came and stood a little while beside him, and then she sat
down and watched him reading. By and by they began with their talking.
Jeff Campbell began to feel that perhaps it was all different. Perhaps
it was not just play, with Melanctha. Anyway he liked it very well
that she was with him. He began to tell her about the book he was just
Melanctha was very intelligent always in her questions. Jefferson knew
now very well that she had a good mind. They were having a very good
time, talking there together. And then they began again to get quiet.
"It certainly was very good in you to come back and talk to me Miss
Melanctha," Jefferson said at last to her, for now he was almost
certain, it was no game she was playing. Melanctha really was a good
woman, and she had a good mind, and she had a real, strong sweetness,
and she could surely really teach him. "Oh I always like to talk to
you Dr. Campbell" said Melanctha, "And then you was only just honest
to me, and I always like it when a man is really honest to me." Then
they were again very silent, sitting there together, with the lamp
between them, that was always smoking. Melanctha began to lean a
little more toward Dr. Campbell, where he was sitting, and then
she took his hand between her two and pressed it hard, but she said
nothing to him. She let it go then and leaned a little nearer to him.
Jefferson moved a little but did not do anything in answer. At last,
"Well," said Melanctha sharply to him. "I was just thinking" began Dr.
Campbell slowly, "I was just wondering," he was beginning to get ready
to go on with his talking. "Don't you ever stop with your thinking
long enough ever to have any feeling Jeff Campbell," said Melanctha a
little sadly. "I don't know," said Jeff Campbell slowly, "I don't know
Miss Melanctha much about that. No, I don't stop thinking much Miss
Melanctha and if I can't ever feel without stopping thinking, I
certainly am very much afraid Miss Melanctha that I never will do
much with that kind of feeling. Sure you ain't worried Miss Melanctha,
about my really not feeling very much all the time. I certainly do
think I feel some, Miss Melanctha, even though I always do it without
ever knowing how to stop with my thinking." "I am certainly afraid I
don't think much of your kind of feeling Dr. Campbell." "Why I think
you certainly are wrong Miss Melanctha I certainly do think I feel as
much for you Miss Melanctha, as you ever feel about me, sure I do. I
don't think you know me right when you talk like that to me. Tell
me just straight out how much do you care about me, Miss Melanctha."
"Care about you Jeff Campbell," said Melanctha slowly. "I certainly do
care for you Jeff Campbell less than you are always thinking and much
more than you are ever knowing."
Jeff Campbell paused on this, and he was silent with the power of
Melanctha's meaning. They sat there together very silent, a long time.
"Well Jeff Campbell," said Melanctha. "Oh," said Dr. Campbell and he
moved himself a little, and then they were very silent a long time.
"Haven't you got nothing to say to me Jeff Campbell?" said Melanctha.
"Why yes, what was it we were just saying about to one another. You
see Miss Melanctha I am a very quiet, slow minded kind of fellow, and
I am never sure I know just exactly what you mean by all that you are
always saying to me. But I do like you very much Miss Melanctha and I
am very sure you got very good things in you all the time. You sure
do believe what I am saying to you Miss Melanctha." "Yes I believe it
when you say it to me, Jeff Campbell," said Melanctha, and then she
was silent and there was much sadness in it. "I guess I go in and
lie down again Dr. Campbell," said Melanctha. "Don't go leave me Miss
Melanctha," said Jeff Campbell quickly. "Why not, what you want of me
Jeff Campbell?" said Melanctha. "Why," said Jeff Campbell slowly, "I
just want to go on talking with you. I certainly do like talking about
all kinds of things with you. You certainly know that all right, Miss
Melanctha." "I guess I go lie down again and leave you here with your
thinking," said Melanctha gently. "I certainly am very tired to night
Dr. Campbell. Good night I hope you rest well Dr. Campbell." Melanctha
stooped over him, where he was sitting, to say this good night, and
then, very quick and sudden, she kissed him and then, very quick
again, she went away and left him.
Dr. Campbell sat there very quiet, with only a little thinking and
sometimes a beginning feeling, and he was alone until it began to be
morning, and then he went, and Melanctha helped him, and he made 'Mis'
Herbert more easy in her dying. 'Mis' Herbert lingered on till about
ten o'clock the next morning, and then slowly and without much
pain she died away. Jeff Campbell staid till the last moment, with
Melanctha, to make her mother's dying easy for her. When it was over
he sent in the colored woman from next door to help Melanctha fix
things, and then he went away to take care of his other patients. He
came back very soon to Melanctha. He helped her to have a funeral for
her mother. Melanctha then went to live with the good natured woman,
who had been her neighbor. Melanctha still saw Jeff Campbell very
often. Things began to be very strong between them.
Melanctha now never wandered, unless she was with Jeff Campbell.
Sometimes she and he wandered a good deal together. Jeff Campbell
had not got over his way of talking to her all the time about all the
things he was always thinking. Melanctha never talked much, now, when
they were together. Sometimes Jeff Campbell teased her about her
not talking to him. "I certainly did think Melanctha you was a great
talker from the way Jane Harden and everybody said things to me, and
from the way I heard you talk so much when I first met you. Tell me
true Melanctha, why don't you talk more now to me, perhaps it is
I talk so much I don't give you any chance to say things to me, or
perhaps it is you hear me talk so much you don't think so much now of
a whole lot of talking. Tell me honest Melanctha, why don't you talk
more to me." "You know very well Jeff Campbell," said Melanctha "You
certainly do know very well Jeff, you don't think really much, of my
talking. You think a whole lot more about everything than I do Jeff,
and you don't care much what I got to say about it. You know that's
true what I am saying Jeff, if you want to be real honest, the way you
always are when I like you so much." Jeff laughed and looked fondly
at her. "I don't say ever I know, you ain't right, when you say things
like that to me, Melanctha. You see you always like to be talking just
what you think everybody wants to be hearing from you, and when you
are like that, Melanctha, honest, I certainly don't care very much to
hear you, but sometimes you say something that is what you are really
thinking, and then I like a whole lot to hear you talking." Melanctha
smiled, with her strong sweetness, on him, and she felt her power
very deeply. "I certainly never do talk very much when I like anybody
really, Jeff. You see, Jeff, it ain't much use to talk about what a
woman is really feeling in her. You see all that, Jeff, better, by and
by, when you get to really feeling. You won't be so ready then always
with your talking. You see, Jeff, if it don't come true what I am
saying." "I don't ever say you ain't always right, Melanctha," said
Jeff Campbell. "Perhaps what I call my thinking ain't really so very
understanding. I don't say, no never now any more, you ain't right,
Melanctha, when you really say things to me. Perhaps I see it all to
be very different when I come to really see what you mean by what you
are always saying to me." "You is very sweet and good to me always,
Jeff Campbell," said Melanctha. "'Deed I certainly am not good to
you, Melanctha. Don't I bother you all the time with my talking, but
I really do like you a whole lot, Melanctha." "And I like you, Jeff
Campbell, and you certainly are mother, and father, and brother, and
sister, and child and everything, always to me. I can't say much about
how good you been to me, Jeff Campbell, I never knew any man who was
good and didn't do things ugly, before I met you to take care of me,
Jeff Campbell. Good-by, Jeff, come see me to-morrow, when you get
through with your working." "Sure Melanctha, you know that already,"
said Jeff Campbell, and then he went away and left her.
These months had been an uncertain time for Jeff Campbell. He never
knew how much he really knew about Melanctha. He saw her now for long
times and very often. He was beginning always more and more to like
her. But he did not seem to himself to know very much about her. He
was beginning to feel he could almost trust the goodness in her. But
then, always, really, he was not very sure about her. Melanctha always
had ways that made him feel uncertain with her, and yet he was so
near, in his feeling for her. He now never thought about all this in
real words any more. He was always letting it fight itself out in
him. He was now never taking any part in this fighting that was always
going on inside him.
Jeff always loved now to be with Melanctha and yet he always hated to
go to her. Somehow he was always afraid when he was to go to her,
and yet he had made himself very certain that here he would not be a
coward. He never felt any of this being afraid, when he was with her.
Then they always were very true, and near to one another. But always
when he was going to her, Jeff would like anything that could happen
that would keep him a little longer from her.
It was a very uncertain time, all these months, for Jeff Campbell. He
did not know very well what it was that he really wanted. He was very
certain that he did not know very well what it was that Melanctha
wanted. Jeff Campbell had always all his life loved to be with people,
and he had loved all his life always to be thinking, but he was still
only a great boy, was Jeff Campbell, and he had never before had any
of this funny kind of feeling. Now, this evening, when he was free
to go and see Melanctha, he talked to anybody he could find who would
detain him, and so it was very late when at last he came to the house
where Melanctha was waiting to receive him.
Jeff came in to where Melanctha was waiting for him, and he took off
his hat and heavy coat, and then drew up a chair and sat down by the
fire. It was very cold that night, and Jeff sat there, and rubbed
his hands and tried to warm them. He had only said "How do you do" to
Melanctha, he had not yet begun to talk to her. Melanctha sat there,
by the fire, very quiet. The heat gave a pretty pink glow to her pale
yellow and attractive face. Melanctha sat in a low chair, her hands,
with their long, fluttering fingers, always ready to show her strong
feeling, were lying quiet in her lap. Melanctha was very tired with
her waiting for Jeff Campbell. She sat there very quiet and just
watching. Jeff was a robust, dark, healthy, cheery negro. His hands
were firm and kindly and unimpassioned. He touched women always with
his big hands, like a brother. He always had a warm broad glow, like
southern sunshine. He never had anything mysterious in him. He
was open, he was pleasant, he was cheery, and always he wanted,
as Melanctha once had wanted, always now he too wanted really to
Jeff sat there this evening in his chair and was silent a long time,
warming himself with the pleasant fire. He did not look at Melanctha
who was watching. He sat there and just looked into the fire. At first
his dark, open face was smiling, and he was rubbing the back of his
black-brown hand over his mouth to help him in his smiling. Then he
was thinking, and he frowned and rubbed his head hard, to help him in
his thinking. Then he smiled again, but now his smiling was not very
pleasant. His smile was now wavering on the edge of scorning. His
smile changed more and more, and then he had a look as if he were
deeply down, all disgusted. Now his face was darker, and he was bitter
in his smiling, and he began, without looking from the fire, to talk
to Melanctha, who was now very tense with her watching.
"Melanctha Herbert", began Jeff Campbell, "I certainly after all this
time I know you, I certainly do know little, real about you. You see,
Melanctha, it's like this way with me"; Jeff was frowning, with his
thinking and looking very hard into the fire, "You see it's just this
way, with me now, Melanctha. Sometimes you seem like one kind of a
girl to me, and sometimes you are like a girl that is all different
to me, and the two kinds of girls is certainly very different to each
other, and I can't see any way they seem to have much to do, to be
together in you. They certainly don't seem to be made much like as if
they could have anything really to do with each other. Sometimes you
are a girl to me I certainly never would be trusting, and you got a
laugh then so hard, it just rattles, and you got ways so bad, I can't
believe you mean them hardly, and yet all that I just been saying is
certainly you one way I often see you, and it's what your mother and
Jane Harden always found you, and it's what makes me hate so, to come
near you. And then certainly sometimes, Melanctha, you certainly is
all a different creature, and sometimes then there comes out in you
what is certainly a thing, like a real beauty. I certainly, Melanctha,
never can tell just how it is that it comes so lovely. Seems to me
when it comes it's got a real sweetness, that is more wonderful than a
pure flower, and a gentleness, that is more tender than the sunshine,
and a kindness, that makes one feel like summer, and then a way
to know, that makes everything all over, and all that, and it does
certainly seem to be real for the little while it's lasting, for the
little while that I can surely see it, and it gives me to feel like I
certainly had got real religion. And then when I got rich with such
a feeling, comes all that other girl, and then that seems more likely
that that is really you what's honest, and then I certainly do get
awful afraid to come to you, and I certainly never do feel I could be
very trusting with you. And then I certainly don't know anything at
all about you, and I certainly don't know which is a real Melanctha
Herbert, and I certainly don't feel no longer, I ever want to talk to
you. Tell me honest, Melanctha, which is the way that is you really,
when you are alone, and real, and all honest. Tell me, Melanctha, for
I certainly do want to know it."
Melanctha did not make him any answer, and Jeff, without looking
at her, after a little while, went on with his talking. "And then,
Melanctha, sometimes you certainly do seem sort of cruel, and not to
care about people being hurt or in trouble, something so hard about
you it makes me sometimes real nervous, sometimes somehow like
you always, like your being, with 'Mis' Herbert. You sure did do
everything that any woman could, Melanctha, I certainly never did see
anybody do things any better, and yet, I don't know how to say just
what I mean, Melanctha, but there was something awful hard about your
feeling, so different from the way I'm always used to see good people
feeling, and so it was the way Jane Harden and 'Mis' Herbert talked
when they felt strong to talk about you, and yet, Melanctha, somehow
I feel so really near to you, and you certainly have got an awful
wonderful, strong kind of sweetness. I certainly would like to know
for sure, Melanctha, whether I got really anything to be afraid for. I
certainly did think once, Melanctha, I knew something about all kinds
of women. I certainly know now really, how I don't know anything sure
at all about you, Melanctha, though I been with you so long, and so
many times for whole hours with you, and I like so awful much to
be with you, and I can always say anything I am thinking to you. I
certainly do awful wish, Melanctha, I really was more understanding. I
certainly do that same, Melanctha."
Jeff stopped now and looked harder than before into the fire. His face
changed from his thinking back into that look that was so like as if
he was all through and through him, disgusted with what he had been
thinking. He sat there a long time, very quiet, and then slowly,
somehow, it came strongly to him that Melanctha Herbert, there
beside him, was trembling and feeling it all to be very bitter. "Why,
Melanctha," cried Jeff Campbell, and he got up and put his arm around
her like a brother. "I stood it just so long as I could bear it,
Jeff," sobbed Melanctha, and then she gave herself away, to her
misery, "I was awful ready, Jeff, to let you say anything you liked
that gave you any pleasure. You could say all about me what you
wanted, Jeff, and I would try to stand it, so as you would be sure to
be liking it, Jeff, but you was too cruel to me. When you do that kind
of seeing how much you can make a woman suffer, you ought to give her
a little rest, once sometimes, Jeff. They can't any of us stand it so
for always, Jeff. I certainly did stand it just as long as I could,
so you would like it, but I,--oh Jeff, you went on too long to-night
Jeff. I couldn't stand it not a minute longer the way you was doing
of it, Jeff. When you want to be seeing how the way a woman is really
made of, Jeff, you shouldn't never be so cruel, never to be thinking
how much she can stand, the strong way you always do it, Jeff." "Why,
Melanctha," cried Jeff Campbell, in his horror, and then he was very
tender to her, and like a good, strong, gentle brother in his soothing
of her, "Why Melanctha dear, I certainly don't now see what it is you
mean by what you was just saying to me. Why Melanctha, you poor little
girl, you certainly never did believe I ever knew I was giving you
real suffering. Why, Melanctha, how could you ever like me if you
thought I ever could be so like a red Indian?" "I didn't just know,
Jeff," and Melanctha nestled to him, "I certainly never did know just
what it was you wanted to be doing with me, but I certainly wanted
you should do anything you liked, you wanted, to make me more
understanding for you. I tried awful hard to stand it, Jeff, so as you
could do anything you wanted with me." "Good Lord and Jesus Christ,
Melanctha!" cried Jeff Campbell. "I certainly never can know anything
about you real, Melanctha, you poor little girl," and Jeff drew her
closer to him, "But I certainly do admire and trust you a whole lot
now, Melanctha. I certainly do, for I certainly never did think I was
hurting you at all, Melanctha, by the things I always been saying to
you. Melanctha, you poor little, sweet, trembling baby now, be good,
Melanctha. I certainly can't ever tell you how awful sorry I am to
hurt you so, Melanctha. I do anything I can to show you how I
never did mean to hurt you, Melanctha." "I know, I know," murmured
Melanctha, clinging to him. "I know you are a good man, Jeff. I always
know that, no matter how much you can hurt me." "I sure don't see how
you can think so, Melanctha, if you certainly did think I was trying
so hard just to hurt you." "Hush, you are only a great big boy, Jeff
Campbell, and you don't know nothing yet about real hurting," said
Melanctha, smiling up through her crying, at him. "You see, Jeff,
I never knew anybody I could know real well and yet keep on always
respecting, till I came to know you real well, Jeff." "I sure don't
understand that very well, Melanctha. I ain't a bit better than just
lots of others of the colored people. You certainly have been unlucky
with the kind you met before me, that's all, Melanctha. I certainly
ain't very good, Melanctha." "Hush, Jeff, you don't know nothing
at all about what you are," said Melanctha. "Perhaps you are right,
Melanctha. I don't say ever any more, you ain't right, when you say
things to me, Melanctha," and Jefferson sighed, and then he smiled,
and then they were quiet a long time together, and then after some
more kindness, it was late, and then Jeff left her.
Jeff Campbell, all these months, had never told his good mother
anything about Melanctha Herbert. Somehow he always kept his seeing
her so much now, to himself. Melanctha too had never had any of her
other friends meet him. They always acted together, these two, as if
their being so much together was a secret, but really there was no
one who would have made it any harder for them. Jeff Campbell did not
really know how it had happened that they were so secret. He did not
know if it was what Melanctha wanted. Jeff had never spoken to her
at all about it. It just seemed as if it were well understood between
them that nobody should know that they were so much together. It
was as if it were agreed between them, that they should be alone by
themselves always, and so they would work out together what they meant
by what they were always saying to each other.
Jefferson often spoke to Melanctha about his good mother. He never
said anything about whether Melanctha would want to meet her.
Jefferson never quite understood why all this had happened so, in
secret. He never really knew what it was that Melanctha really wanted.
In all these ways he just, by his nature, did, what he sort of felt
Melanctha wanted. And so they continued to be alone and much together,
and now it had come to be the spring time, and now they had all
out-doors to wander.
They had many days now when they were very happy. Jeff every day found
that he really liked Melanctha better. Now surely he was beginning to
have real, deep feeling in him. And still he loved to talk himself out
to Melanctha, and he loved to tell her how good it all was to him, and
how he always loved to be with her, and to tell her always all about
it. One day, now Jeff arranged, that Sunday they would go out and have
a happy, long day in the bright fields, and they would be all day just
alone together. The day before, Jeff was called in to see Jane Harden.
Jane Harden was very sick almost all day and Jeff Campbell did
everything he could to make her better. After a while Jane became more
easy and then she began to talk to Jeff about Melanctha. Jane did not
know how much Jeff was now seeing of Melanctha. Jane these days never
saw Melanctha. Jane began to talk of the time when she first knew
Melanctha. Jane began to tell how in these days Melanctha had very
little understanding. She was young then and she had a good mind. Jane
Harden never would say Melanctha never had a good mind, but in those
days Melanctha certainly had not been very understanding. Jane began
to explain to Jeff Campbell how in every way, she Jane, had taught
Melanctha. Jane then began to explain how eager Melanctha always had
been for all that kind of learning. Jane Harden began to tell how they
had wandered. Jane began to tell how Melanctha once had loved her,
Jane Harden. Jane began to tell Jeff of all the bad ways Melanctha had
used with her. Jane began to tell all she knew of the way Melanctha
had gone on, after she had left her. Jane began to tell all about the
different men, white ones and blacks, Melanctha never was particular
about things like that, Jane Harden said in passing, not that
Melanctha was a bad one, and she had a good mind, Jane Harden never
would say that she hadn't, but Melanctha always liked to use all the
understanding ways that Jane had taught her, and so she wanted to know
everything, always, that they knew how to teach her.
Jane was beginning to make Jeff Campbell see much clearer. Jane Harden
did not know what it was that she was really doing with all this
talking. Jane did not know what Jeff was feeling. Jane was always
honest when she was talking, and now it just happened she had started
talking about her old times with Melanctha Herbert. Jeff understood
very well that it was all true what Jane was saying. Jeff Campbell was
beginning now to see very clearly. He was beginning to feel very sick
inside him. He knew now many things Melanctha had not yet taught
him. He felt very sick and his heart was very heavy, and Melanctha
certainly did seem very ugly to him. Jeff was at last beginning to
know what it was to have deep feeling. He took care a little longer of
Jane Harden, and then he went to his other patients, and then he went
home to his room, and he sat down and at last he had stopped thinking.
He was very sick and his heart was very heavy in him. He was very
tired and all the world was very dreary to him, and he knew very well
now at last, he was really feeling. He knew it now from the way it
hurt him. He knew very well that now at last he was beginning to
really have understanding. The next day he had arranged to spend, long
and happy, all alone in the spring fields with Melanctha, wandering.
He wrote her a note and said he could not go, he had a sick patient
and would have to stay home with him. For three days after, he made no
sign to Melanctha. He was very sick all these days, and his heart
was very heavy in him, and he knew very well that now at last he had
learned what it was to have deep feeling.
At last one day he got a letter from Melanctha. "I certainly don't
rightly understand what you are doing now to me Jeff Campbell," wrote
Melanctha Herbert. "I certainly don't rightly understand Jeff Campbell
why you ain't all these days been near me, but I certainly do suppose
it's just another one of the queer kind of ways you have to be good,
and repenting of yourself all of a sudden. I certainly don't say to
you Jeff Campbell I admire very much the way you take to be good Jeff
Campbell. I am sorry Dr. Campbell, but I certainly am afraid I
can't stand it no more from you the way you have been just acting. I
certainly can't stand it any more the way you act when you have been
as if you thought I was always good enough for anybody to have with
them, and then you act as if I was a bad one and you always just
despise me. I certainly am afraid Dr. Campbell I can't stand it any
more like that. I certainly can't stand it any more the way you are
always changing. I certainly am afraid Dr. Campbell you ain't man
enough to deserve to have anybody care so much to be always with you.
I certainly am awful afraid Dr. Campbell I don't ever any more want
to really see you. Good-by Dr. Campbell I wish you always to be real
Jeff Campbell sat in his room, very quiet, a long time, after he got
through reading this letter. He sat very still and first he was very
angry. As if he, too, did not know very badly what it was to suffer
keenly. As if he had not been very strong to stay with Melanctha when
he never knew what it was that she really wanted. He knew he was very
right to be angry, he knew he really had not been a coward. He knew
Melanctha had done many things it was very hard for him to forgive
her. He knew very well he had done his best to be kind, and to
trust her, and to be loyal to her, and now;--and then Jeff suddenly
remembered how one night Melanctha had been so strong to suffer, and
he felt come back to him the sweetness in her, and then Jeff knew that
really, he always forgave her, and that really, it all was that he was
so sorry he had hurt her, and he wanted to go straight away and be a
comfort to her. Jeff knew very well, that what Jane Harden had told
him about Melanctha and her bad ways, had been a true story, and yet
he wanted very badly to be with Melanctha. Perhaps she could teach
him to really understand it better. Perhaps she could teach him how it
could be all true, and yet how he could be right to believe in her and
to trust her.
Jeff sat down and began his answer to her. "Dear Melanctha," Jeff
wrote to her. "I certainly don't think you got it all just right in
the letter, I just been reading, that you just wrote me. I certainly
don't think you are just fair or very understanding to all I have
to suffer to keep straight on to really always to believe in you and
trust you. I certainly don't think you always are fair to remember
right how hard it is for a man, who thinks like I was always thinking,
not to think you do things very bad very often. I certainly don't
think, Melanctha, I ain't right when I was so angry when I got your
letter to me. I know very well, Melanctha, that with you, I never have
been a coward. I find it very hard, and I never said it any different,
it is hard to me to be understanding, and to know really what it is
you wanted, and what it is you are meaning by what you are always
saying to me. I don't say ever, it ain't very hard for you to be
standing that I ain't very quick to be following whichever way that
you are always leading. You know very well, Melanctha, it hurts me
very bad and way inside me when I have to hurt you, but I always got
to be real honest with you. There ain't no other way for me to be,
with you, and I know very well it hurts me too, a whole lot, when
I can't follow so quick as you would have me. I don't like to be a
coward to you, Melanctha, and I don't like to say what I ain't meaning
to you. And if you don't want me to do things honest, Melanctha, why
I can't ever talk to you, and you are right when you say, you never
again want to see me, but if you got any real sense of what I always
been feeling with you, and if you got any right sense, Melanctha, of
how hard I been trying to think and to feel right for you, I will be
very glad to come and see you, and to begin again with you. I don't
say anything now, Melanctha, about how bad I been this week, since
I saw you, Melanctha. It don't ever do any good to talk such things
over. All I know is I do my best, Melanctha, to you, and I don't say,
no, never, I can do any different than just to be honest and come as
fast as I think it's right for me to be going in the ways you teach
me to be really understanding. So don't talk any more foolishness,
Melanctha, about my always changing. I don't change, never, and I got
to do what I think is right and honest to me, and I never told you
any different, and you always knew it very well that I always would do
just so. If you like me to come and see you to-morrow, and go out with
you, I will be very glad to, Melanctha. Let me know right away, what
it is you want me to be doing for you, Melanctha.
Very truly yours,
"Please come to me, Jeff." Melanctha wrote back for her answer. Jeff
went very slowly to Melanctha, glad as he was, still to be going to
her. Melanctha came, very quick, to meet him, when she saw him
from where she had been watching for him. They went into the house
together. They were very glad to be together. They were very good to
"I certainly did think, Melanctha, this time almost really, you never
did want me to come to you at all any more to see you," said Jeff
Campbell to her, when they had begun again with their talking to each
other. "You certainly did make me think, perhaps really this time,
Melanctha, it was all over, my being with you ever, and I was very
mad, and very sorry, too, Melanctha."
"Well you certainly was very bad to me, Jeff Campbell," said
"I certainly never do say any more you ain't always right, Melanctha,"
Jeff answered and he was very ready now with cheerful laughing, "I
certainly never do say that any more, Melanctha, if I know it, but
still, really, Melanctha, honest, I think perhaps I wasn't real bad to
you any more than you just needed from me."
Jeff held Melanctha in his arms and kissed her. He sighed then and was
very silent with her. "Well, Melanctha," he said at last, with some
more laughing, "well, Melanctha, any way you can't say ever it ain't,
if we are ever friends good and really, you can't say, no, never, but
that we certainly have worked right hard to get both of us together
for it, so we shall sure deserve it then, if we can ever really get
it." "We certainly have worked real hard, Jeff, I can't say that ain't
all right the way you say it," said Melanctha. "I certainly never
can deny it, Jeff, when I feel so worn with all the trouble you been
making for me, you bad boy, Jeff," and then Melanctha smiled and then
she sighed, and then she was very silent with him.
At last Jeff was to go away. They stood there on the steps for a long
time trying to say good-by to each other. At last Jeff made himself
really say it. At last he made himself, that he went down the steps
and went away.
On the next Sunday they arranged, they were to have the long happy day
of wandering that they had lost last time by Jane Harden's talking.
Not that Melanctha Herbert had heard yet of Jane Harden's talking.
Jeff saw Melanctha every day now. Jeff was a little uncertain all this
time inside him, for he had never yet told to Melanctha what it was
that had so nearly made him really want to leave her. Jeff knew that
for him, it was not right he should not tell her. He knew they could
only have real peace between them when he had been honest, and had
really told her. On this long Sunday Jeff was certain that he would
really tell her.
They were very happy all that day in their wandering. They had taken
things along to eat together. They sat in the bright fields and they
were happy, they wandered in the woods and they were happy. Jeff
always loved in this way to wander. Jeff always loved to watch
everything as it was growing, and he loved all the colors in the trees
and on the ground, and the little, new, bright colored bugs he found
in the moist ground and in the grass he loved to lie on and in which
he was always so busy searching. Jeff loved everything that moved and
that was still, and that had color, and beauty, and real being.
Jeff loved very much this day while they were wandering. He almost
forgot that he had any trouble with him still inside him. Jeff loved
to be there with Melanctha Herbert. She was always so sympathetic to
him for the way she listened to everything he found and told her, the
way she felt his joy in all this being, the way she never said she
wanted anything different from the way they had it. It was certainly a
busy and a happy day, this their first long day of really wandering.
Later they were tired, and Melanctha sat down on the ground, and Jeff
threw himself his full length beside her. Jeff lay there, very quiet,
and then he pressed her hand and kissed it and murmured to her, "You
certainly are very good to me, Melanctha." Melanctha felt it very deep
and did not answer. Jeff lay there a long time, looking up above
him. He was counting all the little leaves he saw above him. He was
following all the little clouds with his eyes as they sailed past him.
He watched all the birds that flew high beyond him, and all the time
Jeff knew he must tell to Melanctha what it was he knew now, that
which Jane Harden, just a week ago, had told him. He knew very well
that for him it was certain that he had to say it. It was hard, but
for Jeff Campbell the only way to lose it was to say it, the only way
to know Melanctha really, was to tell her all the struggle he had
made to know her, to tell her so she could help him to understand his
trouble better, to help him so that never again he could have any way
to doubt her.
Jeff lay there a long time, very quiet, always looking up above him,
and yet feeling very close now to Melanctha. At last he turned a
little toward her, took her hands closer in his to make him feel it
stronger, and then very slowly, for the words came very hard for him,
slowly he began his talk to her.
"Melanctha," began Jeff, very slowly, "Melanctha, it ain't right I
shouldn't tell you why I went away last week and almost never got the
chance again to see you. Jane Harden was sick, and I went in to take
care of her. She began to tell everything she ever knew about you. She
didn't know how well now I know you. I didn't tell her not to go
on talking. I listened while she told me everything about you. I
certainly found it very hard with what she told me. I know she was
talking truth in everything she said about you. I knew you had been
free in your ways, Melanctha, I knew you liked to get excitement the
way I always hate to see the colored people take it. I didn't
know, till I heard Jane Harden say it, you had done things so bad,
Melanctha. When Jane Harden told me, I got very sick, Melanctha. I
couldn't bear hardly, to think, perhaps I was just another like them
to you, Melanctha. I was wrong not to trust you perhaps, Melanctha,
but it did make things very ugly to me. I try to be honest to you,
Melanctha, the way you say you really want it from me."
Melanctha drew her hands from Jeff Campbell. She sat there, and there
was deep scorn in her anger.
"If you wasn't all through just selfish and nothing else, Jeff
Campbell, you would take care you wouldn't have to tell me things like
this, Jeff Campbell."
Jeff was silent a little, and he waited before he gave his answer. It
was not the power of Melanctha's words that held him, for, for them,
he had his answer, it was the power of the mood that filled Melanctha,
and for that he had no answer. At last he broke through this awe, with
his slow fighting resolution, and he began to give his answer.
"I don't say ever, Melanctha," he began, "it wouldn't have been more
right for me to stop Jane Harden in her talking and to come to you to
have you tell me what you were when I never knew you. I don't say it,
no never to you, that that would not have been the right way for me
to do, Melanctha. But I certainly am without any kind of doubting, I
certainly do know for sure, I had a good right to know about what you
were and your ways and your trying to use your understanding, every
kind of way you could to get your learning. I certainly did have a
right to know things like that about you, Melanctha. I don't say it
ever, Melanctha, and I say it very often, I don't say ever I shouldn't
have stopped Jane Harden in her talking and come to you and asked you
yourself to tell me all about it, but I guess I wanted to keep myself
from how much it would hurt me more, to have you yourself say it to
me. Perhaps it was I wanted to keep you from having it hurt you so
much more, having you to have to tell it to me. I don't know, I don't
say it was to help you from being hurt most, or to help me. Perhaps I
was a coward to let Jane Harden tell me 'stead of coming straight
to you, to have you tell me, but I certainly am sure, Melanctha, I
certainly had a right to know such things about you. I don't say it
ever, ever, Melanctha, I hadn't the just right to know those things
about you." Melanctha laughed her harsh laugh. "You needn't have been
under no kind of worry, Jeff Campbell, about whether you should have
asked me. You could have asked, it wouldn't have hurt nothing. I
certainly never would have told you nothing." "I am not so sure of
that, Melanctha," said Jeff Campbell. "I certainly do think you would
have told me. I certainly do think I could make you feel it right to
tell me. I certainly do think all I did wrong was to let Jane Harden
tell me. I certainly do know I never did wrong, to learn what she told
me. I certainly know very well, Melanctha, if I had come here to you,
you would have told it all to me, Melanctha."
He was silent, and this struggle lay there, strong, between them.
It was a struggle, sure to be going on always between them. It was a
struggle that was as sure always to be going on between them, as their
minds and hearts always were to have different ways of working.
At last Melanctha took his hand, leaned over him and kissed him. "I
sure am very fond of you, Jeff Campbell," Melanctha whispered to him.
Now for a little time there was not any kind of trouble between Jeff
Campbell and Melanctha Herbert. They were always together now for long
times, and very often. They got much joy now, both of them, from being
all the time together.
It was summer now, and they had warm sunshine to wander. It was summer
now, and Jeff Campbell had more time to wander, for colored people
never get sick so much in the summer. It was summer now, and there was
a lovely silence everywhere, and all the noises, too, that they heard
around them were lovely ones, and added to the joy, in these warm
days, they loved so much to be together.
They talked some to each other in these days, did Jeff Campbell and
Melanctha Herbert, but always in these days their talking more and
more was like it always is with real lovers. Jeff did not talk so
much now about what he before always had been thinking. Sometimes Jeff
would be, as if he was just waking from himself to be with Melanctha,
and then he would find he had been really all the long time with her,
and he had really never needed to be doing any thinking.
It was sometimes pure joy Jeff would be talking to Melanctha, in these
warm days he loved so much to wander with her. Sometimes Jeff would
lose all himself in a strong feeling. Very often now, and always with
more joy in his feeling, he would find himself, he did not know how or
what it was he had been thinking. And Melanctha always loved very well
to make him feel it. She always now laughed a little at him, and went
back a little in him to his before, always thinking, and she teased
him with his always now being so good with her in his feeling, and
then she would so well and freely, and with her pure, strong ways of
reaching, she would give him all the love she knew now very well, how
much he always wanted to be sure he really had it.
And Jeff took it straight now, and he loved it, and he felt, strong,
the joy of all this being, and it swelled out full inside him, and he
poured it all out back to her in freedom, in tender kindness, and in
joy, and in gentle brother fondling. And Melanctha loved him for it
always, her Jeff Campbell now, who never did things ugly, for her,
like all the men she always knew before always had been doing to
her. And they loved it always, more and more, together, with this new
feeling they had now, in these long summer days so warm; they, always
together now, just these two so dear, more and more to each other
always, and the summer evenings when they wandered, and the noises in
the full streets, and the music of the organs, and the dancing, and
the warm smell of the people, and of dogs and of the horses, and
all the joy of the strong, sweet pungent, dirty, moist, warm negro
Every day now, Jeff seemed to be coming nearer, to be really loving.
Every day now, Melanctha poured it all out to him, with more freedom.
Every day now, they seemed to be having more and more, both together,
of this strong, right feeling. More and more every day now they seemed
to know more really, what it was each other one was always feeling.
More and more now every day Jeff found in himself, he felt more
trusting. More and more every day now, he did not think anything in
words about what he was always doing. Every day now more and more
Melanctha would let out to Jeff her real, strong feeling.
One day there had been much joy between them, more than they ever yet
had had with their new feeling. All the day they had lost themselves
in warm wandering. Now they were lying there and resting, with a
green, bright, light-flecked world around them.
What was it that now really happened to them? What was it that
Melanctha did, that made everything get all ugly for them? What was it
that Melanctha felt then, that made Jeff remember all the feeling he
had had in him when Jane Harden told him how Melanctha had learned
to be so very understanding? Jeff did not know how it was that it had
happened to him. It was all green, and warm, and very lovely to him,
and now Melanctha somehow had made it all so ugly for him. What was it
Melanctha was now doing with him? What was it he used to be thinking
was the right way for him and all the colored people to be always
trying to make it right, the way they should be always living? Why was
Melanctha Herbert now all so ugly for him?
Melanctha Herbert somehow had made him feel deeply just then, what
very more it was that she wanted from him. Jeff Campbell now felt
in him what everybody always had needed to make them really
understanding, to him. Jeff felt a strong disgust inside him; not for
Melanctha herself, to him, not for himself really, in him, not for
what it was that everybody wanted, in them; he only had disgust
because he never could know really in him, what it was he wanted, to
be really right in understanding, for him, he only had disgust because
he never could know really what it was really right to him to be
always doing, in the things he had before believed in, the things he
before had believed in for himself and for all the colored people, the
living regular, and the never wanting to be always having new things,
just to keep on, always being in excitements. All the old thinking now
came up very strong inside him. He sort of turned away then, and threw
Melanctha from him.
Jeff never, even now, knew what it was that moved him. He never, even
now, was ever sure, he really knew what Melanctha was, when she was
real herself, and honest. He thought he knew, and then there came to
him some moment, just like this one, when she really woke him up to
be strong in him. Then he really knew he could know nothing. He knew
then, he never could know what it was she really wanted with him. He
knew then he never could know really what it was he felt inside him.
It was all so mixed up inside him. All he knew was he wanted very
badly Melanctha should be there beside him, and he wanted very badly,
too, always to throw her from him. What was it really that Melanctha
wanted with him? What was it really, he, Jeff Campbell, wanted she
should give him? "I certainly did think now," Jeff Campbell groaned
inside him, "I certainly did think now I really was knowing all right,
what I wanted. I certainly did really think now I was knowing how to
be trusting with Melanctha. I certainly did think it was like that now
with me sure, after all I've been through all this time with her. And
now I certainly do know I don't know anything that's very real about
her. Oh the good Lord help and keep me!" and Jeff groaned hard inside
him, and he buried his face deep in the green grass underneath him,
and Melanctha Herbert was very silent there beside him.
Then Jeff turned to look and see her. She was lying very still there
by him, and the bitter water on her face was biting. Jeff was so
very sorry then, all over and inside him, the way he always was when
Melanctha had been deep hurt by him. "I didn't mean to be so bad
again to you, Melanctha, dear one," and he was very tender to her.
"I certainly didn't never mean to go to be so bad to you, Melanctha,
darling. I certainly don't know, Melanctha, darling, what it is makes
me act so to you sometimes, when I certainly ain't meaning anything
like I want to hurt you. I certainly don't mean to be so bad,
Melanctha, only it comes so quick on me before I know what I am
acting to you. I certainly am all sorry, hard, to be so bad to you,
Melanctha, darling." "I suppose, Jeff," said Melanctha, very low and
bitter, "I suppose you are always thinking, Jeff, somebody had ought
to be ashamed with us two together, and you certainly do think you
don't see any way to it, Jeff, for me to be feeling that way ever, so
you certainly don't see any way to it, only to do it just so often
for me. That certainly is the way always with you, Jeff Campbell, if
I understand you right the way you are always acting to me. That
certainly is right the way I am saying it to you now, Jeff Campbell.
You certainly didn't anyway trust me now no more, did you, when you
just acted so bad to me. I certainly am right the way I say it Jeff
now to you. I certainly am right when I ask you for it now, to tell me
what I ask you, about not trusting me more then again, Jeff, just like
you never really knew me. You certainly never did trust me just then,
Jeff, you hear me?" "Yes, Melanctha," Jeff answered slowly. Melanctha
paused. "I guess I certainly never can forgive you this time, Jeff
Campbell," she said firmly. Jeff paused too, and thought a little. "I
certainly am afraid you never can no more now again, Melanctha," he
They lay there very quiet now a long time, each one thinking very hard
on their own trouble. At last Jeff began again to tell Melanctha
what it was he was always thinking with her. "I certainly do know,
Melanctha, you certainly now don't want any more to be hearing me
just talking, but you see, Melanctha, really, it's just like this way
always with me. You see, Melanctha, its like this way now all the time
with me. You remember, Melanctha, what I was once telling to you, when
I didn't know you very long together, about how I certainly never did
know more than just two kinds of ways of living, one way the way it is
good to be in families and the other kind of way, like animals are all
the time just with each other, and how I didn't ever like that last
kind of way much for any of the colored people. You see Melanctha,
it's like this way with me. I got a new feeling now, you been teaching
to me, just like I told you once, just like a new religion to me,
and I see perhaps what really loving is like, like really having
everything together, new things, little pieces all different, like
I always before been thinking was bad to be having, all go together
like, to make one good big feeling. You see, Melanctha, it's certainly
like that you make me been seeing, like I never know before any way
there was of all kinds of loving to come together to make one way
really truly lovely. I see that now, sometimes, the way you certainly
been teaching me, Melanctha, really, and then I love you those times,
Melanctha, like a real religion, and then it comes over me all sudden,
I don't know anything real about you Melanctha, dear one, and then it
comes over me sudden, perhaps I certainly am wrong now, thinking all
this way so lovely, and not thinking now any more the old way I always
before was always thinking, about what was the right way for me, to
live regular and all the colored people, and then I think, perhaps,
Melanctha you are really just a bad one, and I think, perhaps I
certainly am doing it so because I just am too anxious to be just
having all the time excitements, like I don't ever like really to be
doing when I know it, and then I always get so bad to you, Melanctha,
and I can't help it with myself then, never, for I want to be always
right really in the ways, I have to do them. I certainly do very badly
want to be right, Melanctha, the only way I know is right Melanctha
really, and I don't know any way, Melanctha, to find out really,
whether my old way, the way I always used to be thinking, or the new
way, you make so like a real religion to me sometimes, Melanctha,
which way certainly is the real right way for me to be always
thinking, and then I certainly am awful good and sorry, Melanctha, I
always give you so much trouble, hurting you with the bad ways I am
acting. Can't you help me to any way, to make it all straight for me,
Melanctha, so I know right and real what it is I should be acting. You
see, Melanctha, I don't want always to be a coward with you, if I
only could know certain what was the right way for me to be acting.
I certainly am real sure, Melanctha, that would be the way I would be
acting, if I only knew it sure for certain now, Melanctha. Can't you
help me any way to find out real and true, Melanctha, dear one. I
certainly do badly want to know always, the way I should be acting."
"No, Jeff, dear, I certainly can't help you much in that kind of
trouble you are always having. All I can do now, Jeff, is to just keep
certainly with my believing you are good always, Jeff, and though you
certainly do hurt me bad, I always got strong faith in you, Jeff, more
in you certainly, than you seem to be having in your acting to me,
always so bad, Jeff."
"You certainly are very good to me, Melanctha, dear one," Jeff said,
after a long, tender silence. "You certainly are very good to me,
Melanctha, darling, and me so bad to you always, in my acting. Do you
love me good, and right, Melanctha, always?" "Always and always,
you be sure of that now you have me. Oh you Jeff, you always be so
stupid." "I certainly never can say now you ain't right, when you say
that to me so, Melanctha," Jeff answered. "Oh, Jeff dear, I love you
always, you know that now, all right, for certain. If you don't
know it right now, Jeff, really, I prove it to you now, for good and
always." And they lay there a long time in their loving, and then Jeff
began again with his happy free enjoying.
"I sure am a good boy to be learning all the time the right way you
are teaching me, Melanctha, darling," began Jeff Campbell, laughing,
"You can't say no, never, I ain't a good scholar for you to be
teaching now, Melanctha, and I am always so ready to come to you
every day, and never playing hooky ever from you. You can't say ever,
Melanctha, now can you, I ain't a real good boy to be always studying
to be learning to be real bright, just like my teacher. You can't say
ever to me, I ain't a good boy to you now, Melanctha." "Not near so
good, Jeff Campbell, as such a good, patient kind of teacher, like
me, who never teaches any ways it ain't good her scholars should be
knowing, ought to be really having, Jeff, you hear me? I certainly
don't think I am right for you, to be forgiving always, when you are
so bad, and I so patient, with all this hard teaching always." "But
you do forgive me always, sure, Melanctha, always?" "Always and
always, you be sure Jeff, and I certainly am afraid I never can stop
with my forgiving, you always are going to be so bad to me, and I
always going to have to be so good with my forgiving." "Oh! Oh!" cried
Jeff Campbell, laughing, "I ain't going to be so bad for always, sure
I ain't, Melanctha, my own darling. And sure you do forgive me really,
and sure you love me true and really, sure, Melanctha?" "Sure, sure,
Jeff, boy, sure now and always, sure now you believe me, sure you
do, Jeff, always." "I sure hope I does, with all my heart, Melanctha,
darling." "I sure do that same, Jeff, dear boy, now you really know
what it is to be loving, and I prove it to you now so, Jeff, you never
can be forgetting. You see now, Jeff, good and certain, what I always
before been saying to you, Jeff, now." "Yes, Melanctha, darling,"
murmured Jeff, and he was very happy in it, and so the two of them now
in the warm air of the sultry, southern, negro sunshine, lay there for
a long time just resting.
And now for a real long time there was no open trouble any more
between Jeff Campbell and Melanctha Herbert. Then it came that Jeff
knew he could not say out any more, what it was he wanted, he could
not say out any more, what it was, he wanted to know about, what
Melanctha sometimes now, when she was tired with being all the time so
much excited, when Jeff would talk a long time to her about what was
right for them both to be always doing, would be, as if she gave way
in her head, and lost herself in a bad feeling. Sometimes when they
had been strong in their loving, and Jeff would have rise inside him
some strange feeling, and Melanctha felt it in him as it would soon be
coming, she would lose herself then in this bad feeling that made her
head act as if she never knew what it was they were doing. And slowly
now, Jeff soon always came to be feeling that his Melanctha would be
hurt very much in her head in the ways he never liked to think of, if
she would ever now again have to listen to his trouble, when he was
telling about what it was he still was wanting to make things for
himself really understanding.
Now Jeff began to have always a strong feeling that Melanctha could no
longer stand it, with all her bad suffering, to let him fight out with
himself what was right for him to be doing. Now he felt he must not,
when she was there with him, keep on, with this kind of fighting that
was always going on inside him. Jeff Campbell never knew yet, what he
thought was the right way, for himself and for all the colored people
to be living. Jeff was coming always each time closer to be really
understanding, but now Melanctha was so bad in her suffering with him,
that he knew she could not any longer have him with her while he was
always showing that he never really yet was sure what it was, the
right way, for them to be really loving.
Jeff saw now he had to go so fast, so that Melanctha never would have
to wait any to get from him always all that she ever wanted. He never
could be honest now, he never could be now, any more, trying to be
really understanding, for always every moment now he felt it to be
a strong thing in him, how very much it was Melanctha Herbert always
Jeff did not know very well these days, what it was, was really
happening to him. All he knew every now and then, when they were
getting strong to get excited, the way they used to when he gave his
feeling out so that he could be always honest, that Melanctha somehow
never seemed to hear him, she just looked at him and looked as if
her head hurt with him, and then Jeff had to keep himself from being
honest, and he had to go so fast, and to do everything Melanctha ever
wanted from him.
Jeff did not like it very well these days, in his true feeling. He
knew now very well Melanctha was not strong enough inside her to stand
any more of his slow way of doing. And yet now he knew he was not
honest in his feeling. Now he always had to show more to Melanctha
than he was ever feeling. Now she made him go so fast, and he knew it
was not real with his feeling, and yet he could not make her suffer so
any more because he always was so slow with his feeling.
It was very hard for Jeff Campbell to make all this way of doing,
right, inside him. If Jeff Campbell could not be straight out, and
real honest, he never could be very strong inside him. Now Melanctha,
with her making him feel, always, how good she was and how very much
she suffered in him, made him always go so fast then, he could not be
strong then, to feel things out straight then inside him. Always now
when he was with her, he was being more, than he could already yet,
be feeling for her. Always now, with her, he had something inside him
always holding in him, always now, with her, he was far ahead of his
Jeff Campbell never knew very well these days what it was that was
going on inside him. All he knew was, he was uneasy now always to be
with Melanctha. All he knew was, that he was always uneasy when he
was with Melanctha, not the way he used to be from just not being very
understanding, but now, because he never could be honest with her,
because he was now always feeling her strong suffering, in her,
because he knew now he was having a straight, good feeling with her,
but she went so fast, and he was so slow to her; Jeff knew his right
feeling never got a chance to show itself as strong, to her.
All this was always getting harder for Jeff Campbell. He was very
proud to hold himself to be strong, was Jeff Campbell. He was very
tender not to hurt Melanctha, when he knew she would be sure to feel
it badly in her head a long time after, he hated that he could not now
be honest with her, he wanted to stay away to work it out all alone,
without her, he was afraid she would feel it to suffer, if he kept
away now from her. He was uneasy always, with her, he was uneasy when
he thought about her, he knew now he had a good, straight, strong
feeling of right loving for her, and yet now he never could use it to
be good and honest with her.
Jeff Campbell did not know, these days, anything he could do to
make it better for her. He did not know anything he could do, to set
himself really right in his acting and his thinking toward her. She
pulled him so fast with her, and he did not dare to hurt her, and he
could not come right, so fast, the way she always needed he should be
doing it now, for her.
These days were not very joyful ones now any more, to Jeff Campbell,
with Melanctha. He did not think it out to himself now, in words,
about her. He did not know enough, what was his real trouble, with
Sometimes now and again with them, and with all this trouble for a
little while well forgotten by him, Jeff, and Melanctha with him,
would be very happy in a strong, sweet loving. Sometimes then,
Jeff would find himself to be soaring very high in his true loving.
Sometimes Jeff would find them, in his loving, his soul swelling out
full inside him. Always Jeff felt now in himself, deep feeling.
Always now Jeff had to go so much faster than was real with his
feeling. Yet always Jeff knew how he had a right, strong feeling.
Always now when Jeff was wondering, it was Melanctha he was doubting,
in the loving. Now he would often ask her, was she real now to him, in
her loving. He would ask her often, feeling something queer about it
all inside him, though yet he was never really strong in his doubting,
and always Melanctha would answer to him, "Yes Jeff, sure, you know
it, always," and always Jeff felt a doubt now, in her loving.
Always now Jeff felt in himself, deep loving. Always now he did not
know really, if Melanctha was true in her loving.
All these days Jeff was uncertain in him, and he was uneasy about
which way he should act so as not to be wrong and put them both into
bad trouble. Always now he was, as if he must feel deep into Melanctha
to see if it was real loving he would find she now had in her, and
always he would stop himself, with her, for always he was afraid now
that he might badly hurt her.
Always now he liked it better when he was detained when he had to go
and see her. Always now he never liked to go to be with her, although
he never wanted really, not to be always with her. Always now he
never felt really at ease with her, even when they were good friends
together. Always now he felt, with her, he could not be really honest
to her. And Jeff never could be happy with her when he could not feel
strong to tell all his feeling to her. Always now every day he found
it harder to make the time pass, with her, and not let his feeling
come so that he would quarrel with her.
And so one evening, late, he was to go to her. He waited a little
long, before he went to her. He was afraid, in himself, to-night, he
would surely hurt her. He never wanted to go when he might quarrel
Melanctha sat there looking very angry, when he came in to her. Jeff
took off his hat and coat and then sat down by the fire with her.
"If you come in much later to me just now, Jeff Campbell, I certainly
never would have seen you no more never to speak to you, 'thout your
apologising real humble to me." "Apologising Melanctha," and Jeff
laughed and was scornful to her, "Apologising, Melanctha, I ain't
proud that kind of way, Melanctha, I don't mind apologising to you,
Melanctha, all I mind, Melanctha is to be doing of things wrong, to
you." "That's easy, to say things that way, Jeff to me. But you never
was very proud Jeff, to be courageous to me." "I don't know about that
Melanctha. I got courage to say some things hard, when I mean them, to
you." "Oh, yes, Jeff, I know all about that, Jeff, to me. But I mean
real courage, to run around and not care nothing about what happens,
and always to be game in any kind of trouble. That's what I mean
by real courage, to me, Jeff, if you want to know it." "Oh, yes,
Melanctha, I know all that kind of courage. I see plenty of it all
the time with some kinds of colored men and with some girls like you
Melanctha, and Jane Harden. I know all about how you are always making
a fuss to be proud because you don't holler so much when you run in to
where you ain't got any business to be, and so you get hurt, the way
you ought to. And then, you kind of people are very brave then, sure,
with all your kinds of suffering, but the way I see it, going round
with all my patients, that kind of courage makes all kind of trouble,
for them who ain't so noble with their courage, and then they got it,
always to be bearing it, when the end comes, to be hurt the hardest.
It's like running around and being game to spend all your money
always, and then a man's wife and children are the ones do all the
starving and they don't ever get a name for being brave, and they
don't ever want to be doing all that suffering, and they got to stand
it and say nothing. That's the way I see it a good deal now with all
that kind of braveness in some of the colored people. They always make
a lot of noise to show they are so brave not to holler, when they got
so much suffering they always bring all on themselves, just by
doing things they got no business to be doing. I don't say, never,
Melanctha, they ain't got good courage not to holler, but I never did
see much in looking for that kind of trouble just to show you ain't
going to holler. No its all right being brave every day, just living
regular and not having new ways all the time just to get excitements,
the way I hate to see it in all the colored people. No I don't see
much, Melanctha, in being brave just to get it good, where you've
got no business. I ain't ashamed Melanctha, right here to tell you, I
ain't ashamed ever to say I ain't got no longing to be brave, just
to go around and look for trouble." "Yes that's just like you always,
Jeff, you never understand things right, the way you are always
feeling in you. You ain't got no way to understand right, how it
depends what way somebody goes to look for new things, the way it
makes it right for them to get excited."
"No Melanctha, I certainly never do say I understand much anybody's
got a right to think they won't have real bad trouble, if they go and
look hard where they are certain sure to find it. No Melanctha, it
certainly does sound very pretty all this talking about danger and
being game and never hollering, and all that way of talking, but when
two men are just fighting, the strong man mostly gets on top with
doing good hard pounding, and the man that's getting all that
pounding, he mostly never likes it so far as I have been able yet to
see it, and I don't see much difference what kind of noble way they
are made of when they ain't got any kind of business to get together
there to be fighting. That certainly is the only way I ever see it
happen right, Melanctha, whenever I happen to be anywhere I can be
"That's because you never can see anything that ain't just so simple,
Jeff, with everybody, the way you always think it. It do make all
the difference the kind of way anybody is made to do things game Jeff
"Maybe Melanctha, I certainly never say no you ain't right, Melanctha.
I just been telling it to you all straight, Melanctha, the way I
always see it. Perhaps if you run around where you ain't got any
business, and you stand up very straight and say, I am so brave,
nothing can ever ever hurt me, maybe nothing will ever hurt you then
Melanctha. I never have seen it do so. I never can say truly any
differently to you Melanctha, but I always am ready to be learning
from you, Melanctha. And perhaps when somebody cuts into you real
hard, with a brick he is throwing, perhaps you never will do any
hollering then, Melanctha. I certainly don't ever say no, Melanctha,
to you, I only say that ain't the way yet I ever see it happen when I
had a chance to be there looking."
They sat there together, quiet by the fire, and they did not seem to
feel very loving.
"I certainly do wonder," Melanctha said dreamily, at last breaking
into their long unloving silence. "I certainly do wonder why always it
happens to me I care for anybody who ain't no ways good enough for me
ever to be thinking to respect him."
Jeff looked at Melanctha. Jeff got up then and walked a little up and
down the room, and then he came back, and his face was set and dark
and he was very quiet to her.
"Oh dear, Jeff, sure, why you look so solemn now to me. Sure Jeff I
never am meaning anything real by what I just been saying. What was I
just been saying Jeff to you. I only certainly was just thinking how
everything always was just happening to me."
Jeff Campbell sat very still and dark, and made no answer.
"Seems to me, Jeff you might be good to me a little to-night when my
head hurts so, and I am so tired with all the hard work I have been
doing, thinking, and I always got so many things to be a trouble to
me, living like I do with nobody ever who can help me. Seems to me
you might be good to me Jeff to-night, and not get angry, every little
thing I am ever saying to you."
"I certainly would not get angry ever with you, Melanctha, just
because you say things to me. But now I certainly been thinking you
really mean what you have been just then saying to me." "But you say
all the time to me Jeff, you ain't no ways good enough in your loving
to me, you certainly say to me all the time you ain't no ways good
or understanding to me." "That certainly is what I say to you always,
just the way I feel it to you Melanctha always, and I got it right in
me to say it, and I have got a right in me to be very strong and feel
it, and to be always sure to believe it, but it ain't right for you
Melanctha to feel it. When you feel it so Melanctha, it does certainly
make everything all wrong with our loving. It makes it so I certainly
never can bear to have it."
They sat there then a long time by the fire, very silent, and not
loving, and never looking to each other for it. Melanctha was moving
and twitching herself and very nervous with it. Jeff was heavy and
sullen and dark and very serious in it.
"Oh why can't you forget I said it to you Jeff now, and I certainly am
so tired, and my head and all now with it."
Jeff stirred, "All right Melanctha, don't you go make yourself sick
now in your head, feeling so bad with it," and Jeff made himself do
it, and he was a patient doctor again now with Melanctha when he felt
her really having her head hurt with it. "It's all right now Melanctha
darling, sure it is now I tell you. You just lie down now a little,
dear one, and I sit here by the fire and just read awhile and just
watch with you so I will be here ready, if you need me to give you
something to help you resting." And then Jeff was a good doctor to
her, and very sweet and tender with her, and Melanctha loved him to be
there to help her, and then Melanctha fell asleep a little, and Jeff
waited there beside her until he saw she was really sleeping, and then
he went back and sat down by the fire.
And Jeff tried to begin again with his thinking, and he could not
make it come clear to himself, with all his thinking, and he felt
everything all thick and heavy and bad, now inside him, everything
that he could not understand right, with all the hard work he made,
with his thinking. And then he moved himself a little, and took a book
to forget his thinking, and then as always, he loved it when he was
reading, and then very soon he was deep in his reading, and so he
forgot now for a little while that he never could seem to be very
And so Jeff forgot himself for awhile in his reading, and Melanctha
was sleeping. And then Melanctha woke up and she was screaming. "Oh,
Jeff, I thought you gone away for always from me. Oh, Jeff, never now
go away no more from me. Oh, Jeff, sure, sure, always be just so good
There was a weight in Jeff Campbell from now on, always with him, that
he could never lift out from him, to feel easy. He always was trying
not to have it in him and he always was trying not to let Melanctha
feel it, with him, but it was always there inside him. Now Jeff
Campbell always was serious, and dark, and heavy, and sullen, and he
would often sit a long time with Melanctha without moving.
"You certainly never have forgiven to me, what I said to you that
night, Jeff, now have you?" Melanctha asked him after a long silence,
late one evening with him. "It ain't ever with me a question like
forgiving, Melanctha, I got in me. It's just only what you are feeling
for me, makes any difference to me. I ain't ever seen anything since
in you, makes me think you didn't mean it right, what you said about
not thinking now any more I was good, to make it right for you to be
really caring so very much to love me."
"I certainly never did see no man like you, Jeff. You always wanting
to have it all clear out in words always, what everybody is always
feeling. I certainly don't see a reason, why I should always be
explaining to you what I mean by what I am just saying. And you ain't
got no feeling ever for me, to ask me what I meant, by what I was
saying when I was so tired, that night. I never know anything right I
was saying." "But you don't ever tell me now, Melanctha, so I really
hear you say it, you don't mean it the same way, the way you said it
to me." "Oh Jeff, you so stupid always to me and always just bothering
with your always asking to me. And I don't never any way remember ever
anything I been saying to you, and I am always my head, so it hurts
me it half kills me, and my heart jumps so, sometimes I think I die
so when it hurts me, and I am so blue always, I think sometimes I take
something to just kill me, and I got so much to bother thinking always
and doing, and I got so much to worry, and all that, and then you come
and ask me what I mean by what I was just saying to you. I certainly
don't know, Jeff, when you ask me. Seems to me, Jeff, sometimes you
might have some kind of a right feeling to be careful to me." "You
ain't got no right Melanctha Herbert," flashed out Jeff through his
dark, frowning anger, "you certainly ain't got no right always to be
using your being hurt and being sick, and having pain, like a weapon,
so as to make me do things it ain't never right for me to be doing for
you. You certainly ain't got no right to be always holding your pain
out to show me." "What do you mean by them words, Jeff Campbell." "I
certainly do mean them just like I am saying them, Melanctha. You
act always, like I been responsible all myself for all our loving one
another. And if its anything anyway that ever hurts you, you act like
as if it was me made you just begin it all with me. I ain't no coward,
you hear me, Melanctha? I never put my trouble back on anybody,
thinking that they made me. I certainly am right ready always,
Melanctha, you certainly had ought to know me, to stand all my own
trouble for me, but I tell you straight now, the way I think it
Melanctha, I ain't going to be as if I was the reason why you wanted
to be loving, and to be suffering so now with me." "But ain't you
certainly ought to be feeling it so, to be right, Jeff Campbell. Did I
ever do anything but just let you do everything you wanted to me. Did
I ever try to make you be loving to me. Did I ever do nothing except
just sit there ready to endure your loving with me. But I certainly
never, Jeff Campbell, did make any kind of way as if I wanted really
to be having you for me."
Jeff stared at Melanctha. "So that's the way you say it when you are
thinking right about it all, Melanctha. Well I certainly ain't got
a word to say ever to you any more, Melanctha, if that's the way its
straight out to you now, Melanctha." And Jeff almost laughed out to
her, and he turned to take his hat and coat, and go away now forever
Melanctha dropped her head on her arms, and she trembled all over and
inside her. Jeff stopped a little and looked very sadly at her. Jeff
could not so quickly make it right for himself, to leave her.
"Oh, I certainly shall go crazy now, I certainly know that," Melanctha
moaned as she sat there, all fallen and miserable and weak together.
Jeff came and took her in his arms, and held her. Jeff was very good
then to her, but they neither of them felt inside all right, as they
once did, to be together.
From now on, Jeff had real torment in him.
Was it true what Melanctha had said that night to him? Was it true
that he was the one had made all this trouble for them? Was it true,
he was the only one, who always had had wrong ways in him? Waking or
sleeping Jeff now always had this torment going on inside him.
Jeff did not know now any more, what to feel within him. He did not
know how to begin thinking out this trouble that must always now be
bad inside him. He just felt a confused struggle and resentment always
in him, a knowing, no, Melanctha was not right in what she had said
that night to him, and then a feeling, perhaps he always had been
wrong in the way he never could be understanding. And then would come
strong to him, a sense of the deep sweetness in Melanctha's loving and
a hating the cold slow way he always had to feel things in him.
Always Jeff knew, sure, Melanctha was wrong in what she had said that
night to him, but always Melanctha had had deep feeling with him,
always he was poor and slow in the only way he knew how to have any
feeling. Jeff knew Melanctha was wrong, and yet he always had a deep
doubt in him. What could he know, who had such slow feeling in him?
What could he ever know, who always had to find his way with just
thinking. What could he know, who had to be taught such a long time to
learn about what was really loving? Jeff now always had this torment
Melanctha was now always making him feel her way, strong whenever she
was with him. Did she go on to do it just to show him, did she do it
so now because she was no longer loving, did she do it so because that
was her way to make him be really loving. Jeff never did know how it
was that it all happened so to him.
Melanctha acted now the way she had said it always had been with them.
Now it was always Jeff who had to do the asking. Now it was always
Jeff who had to ask when would be the next time he should come to see
her. Now always she was good and patient to him, and now always she
was kind and loving with him, and always Jeff felt it was, that she
was good to give him anything he ever asked or wanted, but never now
any more for her own sake to make her happy in him. Now she did these
things, as if it was just to please her Jeff Campbell who needed she
should now have kindness for him. Always now he was the beggar, with
them. Always now Melanctha gave it, not of her need, but from her
bounty to him. Always now Jeff found it getting harder for him.
Sometimes Jeff wanted to tear things away from before him, always
now he wanted to fight things and be angry with them, and always now
Melanctha was so patient to him.
Now, deep inside him, there was always a doubt with Jeff, of
Melanctha's loving. It was not a doubt yet to make him really
doubting, for with that, Jeff never could be really loving, but always
now he knew that something, and that not in him, something was wrong
with their loving. Jeff Campbell could not know any right way to think
out what was inside Melanctha with her loving, he could not use any
way now to reach inside her to find if she was true in her loving, but
now something had gone wrong between them, and now he never felt sure
in him, the way once she had made him, that now at last he really had
got to be understanding.
Melanctha was too many for him. He was helpless to find out the way
she really felt now for him. Often Jeff would ask her, did she really
love him. Always she said, "Yes Jeff, sure, you know that," and now
instead of a full sweet strong love with it, Jeff only felt a patient,
kind endurance in it.
Jeff did not know. If he was right in such a feeling, he certainly
never any more did want to have Melanctha Herbert with him. Jeff
Campbell hated badly to think Melanctha never would give him love,
just for his sake, and not because she needed it herself, to be with
him. Such a way of loving would be very hard for Jeff to be enduring.
"Jeff what makes you act so funny to me. Jeff you certainly now are
jealous to me. Sure Jeff, now I don't see ever why you be so foolish
to look so to me." "Don't you ever think I can be jealous of anybody
ever Melanctha, you hear me. It's just, you certainly don't ever
understand me. It's just this way with me always now Melanctha. You
love me, and I don't care anything what you do or what you ever been
to anybody. You don't love me, then I don't care any more about what
you ever do or what you ever be to anybody. But I never want you to be
being good Melanctha to me, when it ain't your loving makes you need
it. I certainly don't ever want to be having any of your kind of
kindness to me. If you don't love me, I can stand it. All I never want
to have is your being good to me from kindness. If you don't love
me, then you and I certainly do quit right here Melanctha, all strong
feeling, to be always living to each other. It certainly never
is anybody I ever am thinking about when I am thinking with you
Melanctha, darling. That's the true way I am telling you Melanctha,
always. It's only your loving me ever gives me anything to bother me
Melanctha, so all you got to do, if you don't really love me, is just
certainly to say so to me. I won't bother you more then than I can
help to keep from it Melanctha. You certainly need never to be in
any worry, never, about me Melanctha. You just tell me straight out
Melanctha, real, the way you feel it. I certainly can stand it all
right, I tell you true Melanctha. And I never will care to know why or
nothing Melanctha. Loving is just living Melanctha to me, and if you
don't really feel it now Melanctha to me, there ain't ever nothing
between us then Melanctha, is there? That's straight and honest just
the way I always feel it to you now Melanctha. Oh Melanctha, darling,
do you love me? Oh Melanctha, please, please, tell me honest, tell me,
do you really love me?"
"Oh you so stupid Jeff boy, of course I always love you. Always and
always Jeff and I always just so good to you. Oh you so stupid Jeff
and don't know when you got it good with me. Oh dear, Jeff I certainly
am so tired Jeff to-night, don't you go be a bother to me. Yes I love
you Jeff, how often you want me to tell you. Oh you so stupid Jeff,
but yes I love you. Now I won't say it no more now tonight Jeff, you
hear me. You just be good Jeff now to me or else I certainly get awful
angry with you. Yes I love you, sure, Jeff, though you don't any way
deserve it from me. Yes, yes I love you. Yes Jeff I say it till I
certainly am very sleepy. Yes I love you now Jeff, and you certainly
must stop asking me to tell you. Oh you great silly boy Jeff Campbell,
sure I love you, oh you silly stupid, my own boy Jeff Campbell. Yes
I love you and I certainly never won't say it one more time to-night
Jeff, now you hear me."
Yes Jeff Campbell heard her, and he tried hard to believe her. He did
not really doubt her but somehow it was wrong now, the way Melanctha
said it. Jeff always now felt baffled with Melanctha. Something, he
knew, was not right now in her. Something in her always now was making
stronger the torment that was tearing every minute at the joy he once
always had had with her.
Always now Jeff wondered did Melanctha love him. Always now he was
wondering, was Melanctha right when she said, it was he had made all
their beginning. Was Melanctha right when she said, it was he had the
real responsibility for all the trouble they had and still were having
now between them. If she was right, what a brute he always had been in
his acting. If she was right, how good she had been to endure the
pain he had made so bad so often for her. But no, surely she had made
herself to bear it, for her own sake, not for his to make him happy.
Surely he was not so twisted in all his long thinking. Surely he
could remember right what it was had happened every day in their long
loving. Surely he was not so poor a coward as Melanctha always seemed
to be thinking. Surely, surely, and then the torment would get worse
every minute in him.
One night Jeff Campbell was lying in his bed with his thinking, and
night after night now he could not do any sleeping for his thinking.
Tonight suddenly he sat up in his bed, and it all came clear to him,
and he pounded his pillow with his fist, and he almost shouted out
alone there to him, "I ain't a brute the way Melanctha has been
saying. Its all wrong the way I been worried thinking. We did begin
fair, each not for the other but for ourselves, what we were wanting.
Melanctha Herbert did it just like I did it, because she liked it bad
enough to want to stand it. It's all wrong in me to think it any way
except the way we really did it. I certainly don't know now whether
she is now real and true in her loving. I ain't got any way ever to
find out if she is real and true now always to me. All I know is I
didn't ever make her to begin to be with me. Melanctha has got
to stand for her own trouble, just like I got to stand for my own
trouble. Each man has got to do it for himself when he is in real
trouble. Melanctha, she certainly don't remember right when she says
I made her begin and then I made her trouble. No by God, I ain't
no coward nor a brute either ever to her. I been the way I felt
it honest, and that certainly is all about it now between us, and
everybody always has just got to stand for their own trouble. I
certainly am right this time the way I see it." And Jeff lay down
now, at last in comfort, and he slept, and he was free from his long
"You know Melanctha," Jeff Campbell began, the next time he was alone
to talk a long time to Melanctha. "You know Melanctha, sometimes I
think a whole lot about what you like to say so much about being game
and never doing any hollering. Seems to me Melanctha, I certainly
don't understand right what you mean by not hollering. Seems to me
it certainly ain't only what comes right away when one is hit, that
counts to be brave to be bearing, but all that comes later from your
getting sick from the shock of being hurt once in a fight, and
all that, and all the being taken care of for years after, and the
suffering of your family, and all that, you certainly must stand and
not holler, to be certainly really brave the way I understand it."
"What you mean Jeff by your talking." "I mean, seems to me really not
to holler, is to be strong not to show you ever have been hurt. Seems
to me, to get your head hurt from your trouble and to show it, ain't
certainly no braver than to say, oh, oh, how bad you hurt me, please
don't hurt me mister. It just certainly seems to me, like many people
think themselves so game just to stand what we all of us always just
got to be standing, and everybody stands it, and we don't certainly
none of us like it, and yet we don't ever most of us think we are so
much being game, just because we got to stand it."
"I know what you mean now by what you are saying to me now Jeff
Campbell. You make a fuss now to me, because I certainly just have
stopped standing everything you like to be always doing so cruel to
me. But that's just the way always with you Jeff Campbell, if you want
to know it. You ain't got no kind of right feeling for all I always
been forgiving to you." "I said it once for fun, Melanctha, but now I
certainly do mean it, you think you got a right to go where you got
no business, and you say, I am so brave nothing can hurt me, and then
something, like always, it happens to hurt you, and you show your hurt
always so everybody can see it, and you say, I am so brave nothing did
hurt me except he certainly didn't have any right to, and see how
bad I suffer, but you never hear me make a holler, though certainly
anybody got any feeling, to see me suffer, would certainly never touch
me except to take good care of me. Sometimes I certainly don't rightly
see Melanctha, how much more game that is than just the ordinary kind
of holler." "No, Jeff Campbell, and made the way you is you certainly
ain't likely ever to be much more understanding." "No, Melanctha, nor
you neither. You think always, you are the only one who ever can do
any way to really suffer." "Well, and ain't I certainly always been
the only person knows how to bear it. No, Jeff Campbell, I certainly
be glad to love anybody really worthy, but I made so, I never seem
to be able in this world to find him." "No, and your kind of way of
thinking, you certainly Melanctha never going to any way be able ever
to be finding of him. Can't you understand Melanctha, ever, how no man
certainly ever really can hold your love for long times together.
You certainly Melanctha, you ain't got down deep loyal feeling, true
inside you, and when you ain't just that moment quick with feeling,
then you certainly ain't ever got anything more there to keep you.
You see Melanctha, it certainly is this way with you, it is, that
you ain't ever got any way to remember right what you been doing, or
anybody else that has been feeling with you. You certainly Melanctha,
never can remember right, when it comes what you have done and what
you think happens to you." "It certainly is all easy for you Jeff
Campbell to be talking. You remember right, because you don't remember
nothing till you get home with your thinking everything all over, but
I certainly don't think much ever of that kind of way of remembering
right, Jeff Campbell. I certainly do call it remembering right Jeff
Campbell, to remember right just when it happens to you, so you have a
right kind of feeling not to act the way you always been doing to me,
and then you go home Jeff Campbell, and you begin with your thinking,
and then it certainly is very easy for you to be good and forgiving
with it. No, that ain't to me, the way of remembering Jeff Campbell,
not as I can see it not to make people always suffer, waiting for you
certainly to get to do it. Seems to me like Jeff Campbell, I never
could feel so like a man was low and to be scorning of him, like that
day in the summer, when you threw me off just because you got one of
those fits of your remembering. No, Jeff Campbell, its real feeling
every moment when its needed, that certainly does seem to me like real
remembering. And that way, certainly, you don't never know nothing
like what should be right Jeff Campbell. No Jeff, it's me that always
certainly has had to bear it with you. It's always me that certainly
has had to suffer, while you go home to remember. No you certainly
ain't got no sense yet Jeff, what you need to make you really feeling.
No, it certainly is me Jeff Campbell, that always has got to be
remembering for us both, always. That's what's the true way with us
Jeff Campbell, if you want to know what it is I am always thinking."
"You is certainly real modest Melanctha, when you do this kind of
talking, you sure is Melanctha," said Jeff Campbell laughing. "I
think sometimes Melanctha I am certainly awful conceited, when I think
sometimes I am all out doors, and I think I certainly am so bright,
and better than most everybody I ever got anything now to do with, but
when I hear you talk this way Melanctha, I certainly do think I am a
real modest kind of fellow." "Modest!" said Melanctha, angry, "Modest,
that certainly is a queer thing for you Jeff to be calling yourself
even when you are laughing." "Well it certainly does depend a whole
lot what you are thinking with," said Jeff Campbell. "I never did use
to think I was so much on being real modest Melanctha, but now I know
really I am, when I hear you talking. I see all the time there are
many people living just as good as I am, though they are a little
different to me. Now with you Melanctha if I understand you right what
you are talking, you don't think that way of no other one that you are
ever knowing." "I certainly could be real modest too, Jeff Campbell,"
said Melanctha, "If I could meet somebody once I could keep right
on respecting when I got so I was really knowing with them. But I
certainly never met anybody like that yet, Jeff Campbell, if you want
to know it." "No, Melanctha, and with the way you got of thinking,
it certainly don't look like as if you ever will Melanctha, with your
never remembering anything only what you just then are feeling in you,
and you not understanding what any one else is ever feeling, if they
don't holler just the way you are doing. No Melanctha, I certainly
don't see any ways you are likely ever to meet one, so good as you are
always thinking you be." "No, Jeff Campbell, it certainly ain't
that way with me at all the way you say it. It's because I am always
knowing what it is I am wanting, when I get it. I certainly don't
never have to wait till I have it, and then throw away what I got in
me, and then come back and say, that's a mistake I just been making,
it ain't that never at all like I understood it, I want to have, bad,
what I didn't think it was I wanted. It's that way of knowing right
what I am wanting, makes me feel nobody can come right with me, when I
am feeling things, Jeff Campbell. I certainly do say Jeff Campbell, I
certainly don't think much of the way you always do it, always never
knowing what it is you are ever really wanting and everybody always
got to suffer. No Jeff, I don't certainly think there is much doubting
which is better and the stronger with us two, Jeff Campbell."
"As you will, Melanctha Herbert," cried Jeff Campbell, and he rose up,
and he thundered out a black oath, and he was fierce to leave her now
forever, and then with the same movement, he took her in his arms and
"What a silly goose boy you are, Jeff Campbell," Melanctha whispered
to him fondly.
"Oh yes," said Jeff, very dreary. "I never could keep really mad with
anybody, not when I was a little boy and playing. I used most to cry
sometimes, I couldn't get real mad and keep on a long time with
it, the way everybody always did it. It's certainly no use to me
Melanctha, I certainly can't ever keep mad with you Melanctha, my dear
one. But don't you ever be thinking it's because I think you right
in what you been just saying to me. I don't Melanctha really think it
that way, honest, though I certainly can't get mad the way I ought to.
No Melanctha, little girl, really truly, you ain't right the way you
think it. I certainly do know that Melanctha, honest. You certainly
don't do me right Melanctha, the way you say you are thinking.
Good-bye Melanctha, though you certainly is my own little girl for
always." And then they were very good a little to each other, and then
Jeff went away for that evening, from her.
Melanctha had begun now once more to wander. Melanctha did not yet
always wander, but a little now she needed to begin to look for
others. Now Melanctha Herbert began again to be with some of the
better kind of black girls, and with them she sometimes wandered.
Melanctha had not yet come again to need to be alone, when she
Jeff Campbell did not know that Melanctha had begun again to wander.
All Jeff knew, was that now he could not be so often with her.
Jeff never knew how it had come to happen to him, but now he never
thought to go to see Melanctha Herbert, until he had before, asked
her if she could be going to have time then to have him with her. Then
Melanctha would think a little, and then she would say to him, "Let me
see Jeff, to-morrow, you was just saying to me. I certainly am awful
busy you know Jeff just now. It certainly does seem to me this week
Jeff, I can't anyways fix it. Sure I want to see you soon Jeff. I
certainly Jeff got to do a little more now, I been giving so much
time, when I had no business, just to be with you when you asked me.
Now I guess Jeff, I certainly can't see you no more this week Jeff,
the way I got to do things." "All right Melanctha," Jeff would answer
and he would be very angry. "I want to come only just certainly as
you want me now Melanctha." "Now Jeff you know I certainly can't be
neglecting always to be with everybody just to see you. You come see
me next week Tuesday Jeff, you hear me. I don't think Jeff I certainly
be so busy, Tuesday." Jeff Campbell would then go away and leave her,
and he would be hurt and very angry, for it was hard for a man with a
great pride in himself, like Jeff Campbell, to feel himself no better
than a beggar. And yet he always came as she said he should, on the
day she had fixed for him, and always Jeff Campbell was not sure
yet that he really understood what it was Melanctha wanted. Always
Melanctha said to him, yes she loved him, sure he knew that. Always
Melanctha said to him, she certainly did love him just the same as
always, only sure he knew now she certainly did seem to be right busy
with all she certainly now had to be doing.
Jeff never knew what Melanctha had to do now, that made her always
be so busy, but Jeff Campbell never cared to ask Melanctha such a
question. Besides Jeff knew Melanctha Herbert would never, in such a
matter, give him any kind of a real answer. Jeff did not know whether
it was that Melanctha did not know how to give a simple answer. And
then how could he, Jeff, know what was important to her. Jeff Campbell
always felt strongly in him, he had no right to interfere with
Melanctha in any practical kind of a matter. There they had always,
never asked each other any kind of question. There they had felt
always in each other, not any right to take care of one another. And
Jeff Campbell now felt less than he had ever, any right to claim to
know what Melanctha thought it right that she should do in any of her
ways of living. All Jeff felt a right in himself to question, was her
Jeff learned every day now, more and more, how much it was that he
could really suffer. Sometimes it hurt so in him, when he was alone,
it would force some slow tears from him. But every day, now that Jeff
Campbell, knew more how it could hurt him, he lost his feeling of deep
awe that he once always had had for Melanctha's feeling. Suffering was
not so much after all, thought Jeff Campbell, if even he could feel it
so it hurt him. It hurt him bad, just the way he knew he once had hurt
Melanctha, and yet he too could have it and not make any kind of a
loud holler with it.
In tender hearted natures, those that mostly never feel strong
passion, suffering often comes to make them harder. When these do not
know in themselves what it is to suffer, suffering is then very awful
to them and they badly want to help everyone who ever has to suffer,
and they have a deep reverence for anybody who knows really how to
always surfer. But when it comes to them to really suffer, they soon
begin to lose their fear and tenderness and wonder. Why it isn't so
very much to suffer, when even I can bear to do it. It isn't very
pleasant to be having all the time, to stand it, but they are not so
much wiser after all, all the others just because they know too how to
Passionate natures who have always made themselves, to suffer, that is
all the kind of people who have emotions that come to them as sharp as
a sensation, they always get more tender-hearted when they suffer, and
it always does them good to suffer. Tender-hearted, unpassionate, and
comfortable natures always get much harder when they suffer, for
so they lose the fear and reverence and wonder they once had for
everybody who ever has to suffer, for now they know themselves what it
is to suffer and it is not so awful any longer to them when they know
too, just as well as all the others, how to have it.
And so it came in these days to Jeff Campbell. Jeff knew now always,
way inside him, what it is to really suffer, and now every day with
it, he knew how to understand Melanctha better. Jeff Campbell still
loved Melanctha Herbert and he still had a real trust in her and
he still had a little hope that some day they would once more get
together, but slowly, every day, this hope in him would keep growing
always weaker. They still were a good deal of time together, but now
they never any more were really trusting with each other. In the days
when they used to be together, Jeff had felt he did not know much what
was inside Melanctha, but he knew very well, how very deep always was
his trust in her; now he knew Melanctha Herbert better, but now he
never felt a deep trust in her. Now Jeff never could be really honest
with her. He never doubted yet, that she was steady only to him, but
somehow he could not believe much really in Melanctha's loving.
Melanctha Herbert was a little angry now when Jeff asked her, "I never
give nobody before Jeff, ever more than one chance with me, and I
certainly been giving you most a hundred Jeff, you hear me." "And why
shouldn't you Melanctha, give me a million, if you really love me!"
Jeff flashed out very angry. "I certainly don't know as you deserve
that anyways from me, Jeff Campbell." "It ain't deserving, I am ever
talking about to you Melanctha. Its loving, and if you are really
loving to me you won't certainly never any ways call them chances."
"Deed Jeff, you certainly are getting awful wise Jeff now, ain't you,
to me." "No I ain't Melanctha, and I ain't jealous either to you. I
just am doubting from the way you are always acting to me." "Oh yes
Jeff, that's what they all say, the same way, when they certainly got
jealousy all through them. You ain't got no cause to be jealous with
me Jeff, and I am awful tired of all this talking now, you hear me."
Jeff Campbell never asked Melanctha any more if she loved him. Now
things were always getting worse between them. Now Jeff was always
very silent with Melanctha. Now Jeff never wanted to be honest to her,
and now Jeff never had much to say to her.
Now when they were together, it was Melanctha always did most of the
talking. Now she often had other girls there with her. Melanctha was
always kind to Jeff Campbell but she never seemed to need to be alone
now with him. She always treated Jeff, like her best friend, and she
always spoke so to him and yet she never seemed now to very often want
to see him.
Every day it was getting harder for Jeff Campbell. It was as if now,
when he had learned to really love Melanctha, she did not need any
more to have him. Jeff began to know this very well inside him.
Jeff Campbell did not know yet that Melanctha had begun again to
wander. Jeff was not very quick to suspect Melanctha. All Jeff knew
was, that he did not trust her to be now really loving to him.
Jeff was no longer now in any doubt inside him. He knew very well now
he really loved Melanctha. He knew now very well she was not any more
a real religion to him. Jeff Campbell knew very well too now inside
him, he did not really want Melanctha, now if he could no longer
trust her, though he loved her hard and really knew now what it was to
Every day Melanctha Herbert was less and less near to him. She always
was very pleasant in her talk and to be with him, but somehow now it
never was any comfort to him.
Melanctha Herbert now always had a lot of friends around her. Jeff
Campbell never wanted to be with them. Now Melanctha began to find
it, she said it often to him, always harder to arrange to be alone now
with him. Sometimes she would be late for him. Then Jeff always would
try to be patient in his waiting, for Jeff Campbell knew very well how
to remember, and he knew it was only right that he should now endure
this from her.
Then Melanctha began to manage often not to see him, and once she went
away when she had promised to be there to meet him.
Then Jeff Campbell was really filled up with his anger. Now he knew
he could never really want her. Now he knew he never any more could
really trust her.
Jeff Campbell never knew why Melanctha had not come to meet him.
Jeff had heard a little talking now, about how Melanctha Herbert had
commenced once more to wander. Jeff Campbell still sometimes saw Jane
Harden, who always needed a doctor to be often there to help her. Jane
Harden always knew very well what happened to Melanctha. Jeff Campbell
never would talk to Jane Harden anything about Melanctha. Jeff was
always loyal to Melanctha. Jeff never let Jane Harden say much to him
about Melanctha, though he never let her know that now he loved her.
But somehow Jeff did know now about Melanctha, and he knew about some
men that Melanctha met with Rose Johnson very often.
Jeff Campbell would not let himself really doubt Melanctha, but Jeff
began to know now very well, he did not want her. Melanctha Herbert
did not love him ever, Jeff knew it now, the way he once had thought
that she could feel it. Once she had been greater for him than he had
thought he could ever know how to feel it. Now Jeff had come to where
he could understand Melanctha Herbert. Jeff was not bitter to her
because she could not really love him, he was bitter only that he had
let himself have a real illusion in him. He was a little bitter too,
that he had lost now, what he had always felt real in the world, that
had made it for him always full of beauty, and now he had not got this
new religion really, and he had lost what he before had to know what
was good and had real beauty.
Jeff Campbell was so angry now in him, because he had begged Melanctha
always to be honest to him. Jeff could stand it in her not to love
him, he could not stand it in her not to be honest to him.
Jeff Campbell went home from where Melanctha had not met him, and he
was sore and full of anger in him.
Jeff Campbell could not be sure what to do, to make it right inside
him. Surely he must be strong now and cast this loving from him,
and yet, was he sure he now had real wisdom in him. Was he sure that
Melanctha Herbert never had had a real deep loving for him. Was he
sure Melanctha Herbert never had deserved a reverence from him. Always
now Jeff had this torment in him, but always now he felt more that
Melanctha never had real greatness for him.
Jeff waited to see if Melanctha would send any word to him. Melanctha
Herbert never sent a line to him.
At last Jeff wrote his letter to Melanctha. "Dear Melanctha, I
certainly do know you ain't been any way sick this last week when you
never met me right the way you promised, and never sent me any word to
say why you acted a way you certainly never could think was the right
way you should do it to me. Jane Harden said she saw you that day and
you went out walking with some people you like now to be with. Don't
be misunderstanding me now any more Melanctha. I love you now because
that's my slow way to learn what you been teaching, but I know now
you certainly never had what seems to me real kind of feeling. I don't
love you Melanctha any more now like a real religion, because now I
know you are just made like all us others. I know now no man can
ever really hold you because no man can ever be real to trust in you,
because you mean right Melanctha, but you never can remember, and
so you certainly never have got any way to be honest. So please you
understand me right now Melanctha, it never is I don't know how to
love you. I do know now how to love you, Melanctha, really. You sure
do know that, Melanctha, in me. You certainly always can trust me. And
so now Melanctha, I can say to you certainly real honest with you, I
am better than you are in my right kind of feeling. And so Melanctha,
I don't never any more want to be a trouble to you. You certainly make
me see things Melanctha, I never any other way could be knowing. You
been very good and patient to me, when I was certainly below you in my
right feeling. I certainly never have been near so good and patient
to you every any way Melanctha, I certainly know that Melanctha. But
Melanctha, with me, it certainly is, always to be good together, two
people certainly must be thinking each one as good as the other, to be
really loving right Melanctha. And it certainly must never be any kind
of feeling, of one only taking, and one only just giving, Melanctha,
to me. I know you certainly don't really ever understand me now
Melanctha, but that's no matter. I certainly do know what I am feeling
now with you real Melanctha. And so good-bye now for good Melanctha. I
say I can never ever really trust you real Melanctha, that's only just
certainly from your way of not being ever equal in your feeling to
anybody real, Melanctha, and your way never to know right how to
remember. Many ways I really trust you deep Melanctha, and I certainly
do feel deep all the good sweetness you certainly got real in you
Melanctha. Its only just in your loving me Melanctha. You never can be
equal to me and that way I certainly never can bear any more to have
it. And so now Melanctha, I always be your friend, if you need me, and
now we never see each other any more to talk to."
And then Jeff Campbell thought and thought, and he could never make
any way for him now, to see it different, and so at last he sent this
letter to Melanctha.
And now surely it was all over in Jeff Campbell. Surely now he never
any more could know Melanctha. And yet, perhaps Melanctha really loved
him. And then she would know how much it hurt him never any more, any
way, to see her, and perhaps she would write a line to tell him.
But that was a foolish way for Jeff ever to be thinking. Of course
Melanctha never would write a word to him. It was all over now for
always, everything between them, and Jeff felt it a real relief to
For many days now Jeff Campbell only felt it as a relief in him. Jeff
was all locked up and quiet now inside him. It was all settling down
heavy in him, and these days when it was sinking so deep in him, it
was only the rest and quiet of not fighting that he could really feel
inside him. Jeff Campbell could not think now, or feel anything else
in him. He had no beauty nor any goodness to see around him. It was a
dull, pleasant kind of quiet he now had inside him. Jeff almost began
to love this dull quiet in him, for it was more nearly being free for
him than anything he had known in him since Melanctha Herbert first
had moved him. He did not find it a real rest yet for him, he had
not really conquered what had been working so long in him, he had not
learned to see beauty and real goodness yet in what had happened to
him, but it was rest even if he was sodden now all through him. Jeff
Campbell liked it very well, not to have fighting always going on
And so Jeff went on every day, and he was quiet, and he began again to
watch himself in his working; and he did not see any beauty now around
him, and it was dull and heavy always now inside him, and yet he was
content to have gone so far in keeping steady to what he knew was the
right way for him to come back to, to be regular, and see beauty in
every kind of quiet way of living, the way he had always wanted it for
himself and for all the colored people. He knew he had lost the sense
he once had of joy all through him, but he could work, and perhaps he
would bring some real belief back into him about the beauty that he
could not now any more see around him.
And so Jeff Campbell went on with his working, and he staid home every
evening, and he began again with his reading, and he did not do much
talking, and he did not seem to himself to have any kind of feeling.
And one day Jeff thought perhaps he really was forgetting, one day he
thought he could soon come back and be happy in his old way of regular
and quiet living.
Jeff Campbell had never talked to any one of what had been going on
inside him. Jeff Campbell liked to talk and he was honest, but it
never came out from him, anything he was ever really feeling, it
only came out from him, what it was that he was always thinking. Jeff
Campbell always was very proud to hide what he was really feeling.
Always he blushed hot to think things he had been feeling. Only to
Melanctha Herbert, had it ever come to him, to tell what it was that
he was feeling.
And so Jeff Campbell went on with this dull and sodden, heavy, quiet
always in him, and he never seemed to be able to have any feeling.
Only sometimes he shivered hot with shame when he remembered some
things he once had been feeling. And then one day it all woke up, and
was sharp in him.
Dr. Campbell was just then staying long times with a sick man who
might soon be dying. One day the sick man was resting. Dr. Campbell
went to the window to look out a little, while he was waiting. It
was very early now in the southern springtime. The trees were just
beginning to get the little zigzag crinkles in them, which the young
buds always give them. The air was soft and moist and pleasant to
them. The earth was wet and rich and smelling for them. The birds were
making sharp fresh noises all around them. The wind was very gentle
and yet urgent to them. And the buds and the long earthworms, and the
negroes, and all the kinds of children, were coming out every minute
farther into the new spring, watery, southern sunshine.
Jeff Campbell too began to feel a little his old joy inside him. The
sodden quiet began to break up in him. He leaned far out of the window
to mix it all up with him. His heart went sharp and then it almost
stopped inside him. Was it Melanctha Herbert he had just seen passing
by him? Was it Melanctha, or was it just some other girl, who made him
feel so bad inside him? Well, it was no matter, Melanctha was there
in the world around him, he did certainly always know that in him.
Melanctha Herbert was always in the same town with him, and he could
never any more feel her near him. What a fool he was to throw her from
him. Did he know she did not really love him. Suppose Melanctha was
now suffering through him. Suppose she really would be glad to see
him. And did anything else he did, really mean anything now to him?
What a fool he was to cast her from him. And yet did Melanctha Herbert
want him, was she honest to him, had Melanctha ever loved him, and
did Melanctha now suffer by him? Oh! Oh! Oh! and the bitter water once
more rose up in him.
All that long day, with the warm moist young spring stirring in him,
Jeff Campbell worked, and thought, and beat his breast, and wandered,
and spoke aloud, and was silent, and was certain, and then in doubt
and then keen to surely feel, and then all sodden in him; and he
walked, and he sometimes ran fast to lose himself in his rushing, and
he bit his nails to pain and bleeding, and he tore his hair so that he
could be sure he was really feeling, and he never could know what it
was right, he now should be doing. And then late that night he wrote
it all out to Melanctha Herbert, and he made himself quickly send it
without giving himself any time to change it.
"It has come to me strong to-day Melanctha, perhaps I am wrong the
way I now am thinking. Perhaps you do want me badly to be with you.
Perhaps I have hurt you once again the way I used to. I certainly
Melanctha, if I ever think that really, I certainly do want bad not
to be wrong now ever any more to you. If you do feel the way to-day it
came to me strong maybe you are feeling, then say so Melanctha to me,
and I come again to see you. If not, don't say anything any more ever
to me. I don't want ever to be bad to you Melanctha, really. I never
want ever to be a bother to you. I never can stand it to think I am
wrong; really, thinking you don't want me to come to you. Tell me
Melanctha, tell me honest to me, shall I come now any more to see
you." "Yes" came the answer from Melanctha, "I be home Jeff to-night
to see you."
Jeff Campbell went that evening late to see Melanctha Herbert. As Jeff
came nearer to her, he doubted that he wanted really to be with her,
he felt that he did not know what it was he now wanted from her. Jeff
Campbell knew very well now, way inside him, that they could never
talk their trouble out between them. What was it Jeff wanted now to
tell Melanctha Herbert? What was it that Jeff Campbell now could tell
her? Surely he never now could learn to trust her. Surely Jeff knew
very well all that Melanctha always had inside her. And yet it was
awful, never any more to see her.
Jeff Campbell went in to Melanctha, and he kissed her, and he held
her, and then he went away from her and he stood still and looked at
her. "Well Jeff!" "Yes Melanctha!" "Jeff what was it made you act so
to me?" "You know very well Melanctha, it's always I am thinking you
don't love me, and you are acting to me good out of kindness, and then
Melanctha you certainly never did say anything to me why you never
came to meet me, as you certainly did promise to me you would that day
I never saw you!" "Jeff don't you really know for certain, I always
love you?" "No Melanctha, deed I don't know it in me. Deed and certain
sure Melanctha, if I only know that in me, I certainly never would
give you any bother." "Jeff, I certainly do love you more seems to
me always, you certainly had ought to feel that in you." "Sure
Melanctha?" "Sure Jeff boy, you know that." "But then Melanctha why
did you act so to me?" "Oh Jeff you certainly been such a bother to
me. I just had to go away that day Jeff, and I certainly didn't
mean not to tell you, and then that letter you wrote came to me and
something happened to me. I don't know right what it was Jeff, I just
kind of fainted, and what could I do Jeff, you said you certainly
never any more wanted to come and see me!" "And no matter Melanctha,
even if you knew, it was just killing me to act so to you, you never
would have said nothing to me?" "No of course, how could I Jeff when
you wrote that way to me. I know how you was feeling Jeff to me, but
I certainly couldn't say nothing to you." "Well Melanctha, I certainly
know I am right proud too in me, but I certainly never could act so to
you Melanctha, if I ever knew any way at all you ever really loved me.
No Melanctha darling, you and me certainly don't feel much the same
way ever. Any way Melanctha, I certainly do love you true Melanctha."
"And I love you too Jeff, even though you don't never certainly seem
to believe me." "No I certainly don't any way believe you Melanctha,
even when you say it to me. I don't know Melanctha how, but sure I
certainly do trust you, only I don't believe now ever in your really
being loving to me. I certainly do know you trust me always Melanctha,
only somehow it ain't ever all right to me. I certainly don't know any
way otherwise Melanctha, how I can say it to you." "Well I certainly
can't help you no ways any more Jeff Campbell, though you certainly
say it right when you say I trust you Jeff now always. You certainly
is the best man Jeff Campbell, I ever can know, to me. I never been
anyways thinking it can be ever different to me." "Well you trust me
then Melanctha, and I certainly love you Melanctha, and seems like
to me Melanctha, you and me had ought to be a little better than we
certainly ever are doing now to be together. You certainly do think
that way, too, Melanctha to me. But may be you do really love me. Tell
me, please, real honest now Melanctha darling, tell me so I really
always know it in me, do you really truly love me?" "Oh you stupid,
stupid boy, Jeff Campbell. Love you, what do you think makes me
always to forgive you. If I certainly didn't always love you Jeff,
I certainly never would let you be always being all the time such a
bother to me the way you certainly Jeff always are to me. Now don't
you dass ever any more say words like that ever to me. You hear me now
Jeff, or I do something real bad sometime, so I really hurt you. Now
Jeff you just be good to me. You know Jeff how bad I need it, now you
should always be good to me!"
Jeff Campbell could not make an answer to Melanctha. What was it he
should now say to her? What words could help him to make their feeling
any better? Jeff Campbell knew that he had learned to love deeply,
that, he always knew very well now in him, Melanctha had learned to
be strong to be always trusting, that he knew too now inside him, but
Melanctha did not really love him, that he felt always too strong for
him. That fact always was there in him, and it always thrust itself
firm, between them. And so this talk did not make things really better
Jeff Campbell was never any more a torment to Melanctha, he was only
silent to her. Jeff often saw Melanctha and he was very friendly with
her and he never any more was a bother to her. Jeff never any more now
had much chance to be loving with her. Melanctha never was alone now
when he saw her.
Melanctha Herbert had just been getting thick in her trouble with Jeff
Campbell, when she went to that church where she first met Rose, who
later was married regularly to Sam Johnson. Rose was a good-looking,
better kind of black girl, and had been brought up quite like their
own child by white folks. Rose was living now with colored people.
Rose was staying just then with a colored woman, who had known 'Mis'
Herbert and her black husband and this girl Melanctha.
Rose soon got to like Melanctha Herbert and Melanctha now always
wanted to be with Rose, whenever she could do it. Melanctha Herbert
always was doing everything for Rose that she could think of that Rose
ever wanted. Rose always liked to be with nice people who would do
things for her. Rose had strong common sense and she was lazy. Rose
liked Melanctha Herbert, she had such kind of fine ways in her. Then,
too, Rose had it in her to be sorry for the subtle, sweet-natured,
docile, intelligent Melanctha Herbert who always was so blue
sometimes, and always had had so much trouble. Then, too, Rose could
scold Melanctha, for Melanctha Herbert never could know how to keep
herself from trouble, and Rose was always strong to keep straight,
with her simple selfish wisdom.
But why did the subtle, intelligent, attractive, half white girl
Melanctha Herbert, with her sweetness and her power and her wisdom,
demean herself to do for and to flatter and to be scolded, by this
lazy, stupid, ordinary, selfish black girl. This was a queer thing in
And so now in these new spring days, it was with Rose that Melanctha
began again to wander. Rose always knew very well in herself what was
the right way to do when you wandered. Rose knew very well, she was
not just any common kind of black girl, for she had been raised by
white folks, and Rose always saw to it that she was engaged to him
when she had any one man with whom she ever always wandered. Rose
always had strong in her the sense for proper conduct. Rose always was
telling the complex and less sure Melanctha, what was the right way
she should do when she wandered.
Rose never knew much about Jeff Campbell with Melanctha Herbert. Rose
had not known about Melanctha Herbert when she had been almost all her
time with Dr. Campbell.
Jeff Campbell did not like Rose when he saw her with Melanctha. Jeff
would never, when he could help it, meet her. Rose did not think much
about Dr. Campbell. Melanctha never talked much about him to her. He
was not important now to be with her.
Rose did not like Melanctha's old friend Jane Harden when she saw her.
Jane despised Rose for an ordinary, stupid, sullen black girl. Jane
could not see what Melanctha could find in that black girl, to endure
her. It made Jane sick to see her. But then Melanctha had a good mind,
but she certainly never did care much to really use it. Jane Harden
now really never cared any more to see Melanctha, though Melanctha
still always tried to be good to her. And Rose, she hated that stuck
up, mean speaking, nasty, drunk thing, Jane Harden. Rose did not see
how Melanctha could bear to ever see her, but Melanctha always was so
good to everybody, she never would know how to act to people the way
they deserved that she should do it.
Rose did not know much about Melanctha, and Jeff Campbell and Jane
Harden. All Rose knew about Melanctha was her old life with her mother
and her father. Rose was always glad to be good to poor Melanctha, who
had had such an awful time with her mother and her father, and now she
was alone and had nobody who could help her. "He was a awful black man
to you Melanctha, I like to get my hands on him so he certainly could
feel it. I just would Melanctha, now you hear me."
Perhaps it was this simple faith and simple anger and simple moral way
of doing in Rose, that Melanctha now found such a comfort to her. Rose
was selfish and was stupid and was lazy, but she was decent and knew
always what was the right way she should do, and what she wanted, and
she certainly did admire how bright was her friend Melanctha Herbert,
and she certainly did feel how very much it was she always suffered
and she scolded her to keep her from more trouble, and she never was
angry when she found some of the different ways Melanctha Herbert
sometimes had to do it.
And so always Rose and Melanctha were more and more together, and Jeff
Campbell could now hardly ever any more be alone with Melanctha.
Once Jeff had to go away to another town to see a sick man. "When I
come back Monday Melanctha, I come Monday evening to see you. You be
home alone once Melanctha to see me." "Sure Jeff, I be glad to see
When Jeff Campbell came to his house on Monday there was a note
there from Melanctha. Could Jeff come day after to-morrow, Wednesday?
Melanctha was so sorry she had to go out that evening. She was awful
sorry and she hoped Jeff would not be angry.
Jeff was angry and he swore a little, and then he laughed, and then he
sighed. "Poor Melanctha, she don't know any way to be real honest, but
no matter, I sure do love her and I be good if only she will let me."
Jeff Campbell went Wednesday night to see Melanctha. Jeff Campbell
took her in his arms and kissed her. "I certainly am awful sorry not
to see you Jeff Monday, the way I promised, but I just couldn't Jeff,
no way I could fix it." Jeff looked at her and then he laughed a
little at her. "You want me to believe that really now Melanctha. All
right I believe it if you want me to Melanctha. I certainly be good to
you to-night the way you like it. I believe you certainly did want
to see me Melanctha, and there was no way you could fix it." "Oh Jeff
dear," said Melanctha, "I sure was wrong to act so to you. It's awful
hard for me ever to say it to you, I have been wrong in my acting to
you, but I certainly was bad this time Jeff to you. It do certainly
come hard to me to say it Jeff, but I certainly was wrong to go away
from you the way I did it. Only you always certainly been so bad Jeff,
and such a bother to me, and making everything always so hard for me,
and I certainly got some way to do it to make it come back sometimes
to you. You bad boy Jeff, now you hear me, and this certainly is the
first time Jeff I ever yet said it to anybody, I ever been wrong,
Jeff, you hear me!" "All right Melanctha, I sure do forgive you,
cause it's certainly the first time I ever heard you say you ever did
anything wrong the way you shouldn't," and Jeff Campbell laughed and
kissed her, and Melanctha laughed and loved him, and they really were
happy now for a little time together.
And now they were very happy in each other and then they were silent
and then they became a little sadder and then they were very quiet
once more with each other.
"Yes I certainly do love you Jeff!" Melanctha said and she was very
dreamy. "Sure, Melanctha." "Yes Jeff sure, but not the way you are now
ever thinking. I love you more and more seems to me Jeff always, and
I certainly do trust you more and more always to me when I know you. I
do love you Jeff, sure yes, but not the kind of way of loving you
are ever thinking it now Jeff with me. I ain't got certainly no hot
passion any more now in me. You certainly have killed all that kind of
feeling now Jeff in me. You certainly do know that Jeff, now the way I
am always, when I am loving with you. You certainly do know that Jeff,
and that's the way you certainly do like it now in me. You certainly
don't mind now Jeff, to hear me say this to you."
Jeff Campbell was hurt so that it almost killed him. Yes he certainly
did know now what it was to have real hot love in him, and yet
Melanctha certainly was right, he did not deserve she should ever give
it to him. "All right Melanctha I ain't ever kicking. I always will
give you certainly always everything you want that I got in me. I take
anything you want now to give me. I don't say never Melanctha it don't
hurt me, but I certainly don't say ever Melanctha it ought ever to be
any different to me." And the bitter tears rose up in Jeff Campbell,
and they came and choked his voice to be silent, and he held himself
hard to keep from breaking.
"Good-night Melanctha," and Jeff was very humble to her. "Goodnight
Jeff, I certainly never did mean any way to hurt you. I do love you,
sure Jeff every day more and more, all the time I know you." "I
know Melanctha, I know, it's never nothing to me. You can't help it,
anybody ever the way they are feeling. It's all right now Melanctha,
you believe me, good-night now Melanctha, I got now to leave you,
good-by Melanctha, sure don't look so worried to me, sure Melanctha
I come again soon to see you." And then Jeff stumbled down the steps,
and he went away fast to leave her.
And now the pain came hard and harder in Jeff Campbell, and he
groaned, and it hurt him so, he could not bear it. And the tears came,
and his heart beat, and he was hot and worn and bitter in him.
Now Jeff knew very well what it was to love Melanctha. Now Jeff
Campbell knew he was really understanding. Now Jeff knew what it was
to be good to Melanctha. Now Jeff was good to her always.
Slowly Jeff felt it a comfort in him to have it hurt so, and to be
good to Melanctha always. Now there was no way Melanctha ever had had
to bear things from him, worse than he now had it in him. Now Jeff was
strong inside him. Now with all the pain there was peace in him. Now
he knew he was understanding, now he knew he had a hot love in him,
and he was good always to Melanctha Herbert who was the one had made
him have it. Now he knew he could be good, and not cry out for help
to her to teach him how to bear it. Every day Jeff felt himself more a
strong man, the way he once had thought was his real self, the way he
knew it. Now Jeff Campbell had real wisdom in him, and it did not make
him bitter when it hurt him, for Jeff knew now all through him that he
was really strong to bear it.
And so now Jeff Campbell could see Melanctha often, and he was
patient, and always very friendly to her, and every day Jeff Campbell
understood Melanctha Herbert better. And always Jeff saw Melanctha
could not love him the way he needed she should do it. Melanctha
Herbert had no way she ever really could remember.
And now Jeff knew there was a man Melanctha met very often, and
perhaps she wanted to try to have this man to be good, for her. Jeff
Campbell never saw the man Melanctha Herbert perhaps now wanted. Jeff
Campbell only knew very well that there was one. Then there was Rose
that Melanctha now always had with her when she wandered.
Jeff Campbell was very quiet to Melanctha. He said to her, now he
thought he did not want to come any more especially to see her. When
they met, he always would be glad to see her, but now he never would
go anywhere any more to meet her. Sure he knew she always would have
a deep love in him for her. Sure she knew that. "Yes Jeff, I always
trust you Jeff, I certainly do know that all right." Jeff Campbell
said, all right he never could say anything to reproach her. She knew
always that he really had learned all through him how to love her.
"Yes, Jeff, I certainly do know that." She knew now she could always
trust him. Jeff always would be loyal to her though now she never was
any more to him like a religion, but he never could forget the real
sweetness in her. That Jeff must remember always, though now he never
can trust her to be really loving to any man for always, she never did
have any way she ever could remember. If she ever needed anybody to be
good to her, Jeff Campbell always would do anything he could to help
her. He never can forget the things she taught him so he could be
really understanding, but he never any more wants to see her. He be
like a brother to her always, when she needs it, and he always will be
a good friend to her. Jeff Campbell certainly was sorry never any
more to see her, but it was good that they now knew each other really.
"Good-bye Jeff you always been very good always to me." "Good-bye
Melanctha you know you always can trust yourself to me." "Yes, I know,
I know Jeff, really." "I certainly got to go now Melanctha, from you.
I go this time, Melanctha really," and Jeff Campbell went away and
this time he never looked back to her. This time Jeff Campbell just
broke away and left her.
Jeff Campbell loved to think now he was strong again to be quiet, and
to live regular, and to do everything the way he wanted it to be right
for himself and all the colored people. Jeff went away for a little
while to another town to work there, and he worked hard, and he was
very sad inside him, and sometimes the tears would rise up in him, and
then he would work hard, and then he would begin once more to see
some beauty in the world around him. Jeff had behaved right and he had
learned to have a real love in him. That was very good to have inside
Jeff Campbell never could forget the sweetness in Melanctha Herbert,
and he was always very friendly to her, but they never any more came
close to one another. More and more Jeff Campbell and Melanctha fell
away from all knowing of each other, but Jeff never could forget
Melanctha. Jeff never could forget the real sweetness she had in her,
but Jeff never any more had the sense of a real religion for her. Jeff
always had strong in him the meaning of all the new kind of beauty
Melanctha Herbert once had shown him, and always more and more it
helped him with his working for himself and for all the colored
Melanctha Herbert, now that she was all through with Jeff Campbell,
was free to be with Rose and the new men she met now.
Rose was always now with Melanctha Herbert. Rose never found any way
to get excited. Rose always was telling Melanctha Herbert the right
way she should do, so that she would not always be in trouble. But
Melanctha Herbert could not help it, always she would find new ways to
Melanctha was all ready now to find new ways to be in trouble. And
yet Melanctha Herbert never wanted not to do right. Always Melanctha
Herbert wanted peace and quiet, and always she could only find new
ways to get excited.
"Melanctha," Rose would say to her, "Melanctha, I certainly have got
to tell you, you ain't right to act so with that kind of feller. You
better just had stick to black men now, Melanctha, you hear me what I
tell you, just the way you always see me do it. They're real bad men,
now I tell you Melanctha true, and you better had hear to me. I been
raised by real nice kind of white folks, Melanctha, and I certainly
knows awful well, soon as ever I can see 'em acting, what is a white
man will act decent to you and the kind it ain't never no good to a
colored girl to ever go with. Now you know real Melanctha how I always
mean right good to you, and you ain't got no way like me Melanctha,
what was raised by white folks, to know right what is the way you
should be acting with men. I don't never want to see you have bad
trouble come hard to you now Melanctha, and so you just hear to me
now Melanctha, what I tell you, for I knows it. I don't say never
certainly to you Melanctha, you never had ought to have nothing to
do ever with no white men, though it ain't never to me Melanctha, the
best kind of a way a colored girl can have to be acting, no I never
do say to you Melanctha, you hadn't never ought to be with white men,
though it ain't never the way I feel it ever real, right for a decent
colored girl to be always doing, but not never Melanctha, now you hear
me, no not never no kind of white men like you been with always now
Melanctha when I see you. You just hear to me Melanctha, you certainly
had ought to hear to me Melanctha, I say it just like I knows it awful
well, Melanctha, and I knows you don't know no better, Melanctha, how
to act so, the ways I seen it with them kind of white fellers, them as
never can know what to do right by a decent girl they have ever got to
be with them. Now you hear to me Melanctha, what I tell you."
And so it was Melanctha Herbert found new ways to be in trouble.
But it was not very bad this trouble, for these white men Rose never
wanted she should be with, never meant very much to Melanctha. It was
only that she liked it to be with them, and they knew all about fine
horses, and it was just good to Melanctha, now a little, to feel real
reckless with them. But mostly it was Rose and other better kind of
colored girls and colored men with whom Melanctha Herbert now always
It was summer now and the colored people came out into the sunshine,
full blown with the flowers. And they shone in the streets and in the
fields with their warm joy, and they glistened in their black heat,
and they flung themselves free in their wide abandonment of shouting
It was very pleasant in some ways, the life Melanctha Herbert now led
with Rose and all the others. It was not always that Rose had to scold
There was not anybody of all these colored people, excepting only
Rose, who ever meant much to Melanctha Herbert. But they all liked
Melanctha, and the men all liked to see her do things, she was so game
always to do anything anybody ever could do, and then she was good and
sweet to do anything anybody ever wanted from her.
These were pleasant days then, in the hot southern negro sunshine,
with many simple jokes and always wide abandonment of laughter. "Just
look at that Melanctha there a running. Don't she just go like a bird
when she is flying. Hey Melanctha there, I come and catch you, hey
Melanctha, I put salt on your tail to catch you," and then the man
would try to catch her, and he would fall full on the earth and roll
in an agony of wide-mouthed shouting laughter. And this was the kind
of way Rose always liked to have Melanctha do it, to be engaged to
him, and to have a good warm nigger time with colored men, not to go
about with that kind of white man, never could know how to act right,
to any decent kind of girl they could ever get to be with them.
Rose, always more and more, liked Melanctha Herbert better. Rose often
had to scold Melanctha Herbert, but that only made her like Melanctha
better. And then Melanctha always listened to her, and always acted
every way she could to please her. And then Rose was so sorry for
Melanctha, when she was so blue sometimes, and wanted somebody should
come and kill her.
And Melanctha Herbert clung to Rose in the hope that Rose could
save her. Melanctha felt the power of Rose's selfish, decent kind of
nature. It was so solid, simple, certain to her. Melanctha clung to
Rose, she loved to have her scold her, she always wanted to be with
her. She always felt a solid safety in her; Rose always was, in her
way, very good to let Melanctha be loving to her. Melanctha never had
any way she could really be a trouble to her. Melanctha never had any
way that she could ever get real power, to come close inside to her.
Melanctha was always very humble to her. Melanctha was always ready to
do anything Rose wanted from her. Melanctha needed badly to have
Rose always willing to let Melanctha cling to her. Rose was a simple,
sullen, selfish, black girl, but she had a solid power in her. Rose
had strong the sense of decent conduct, she had strong the sense of
decent comfort. Rose always knew very well what it was she wanted, and
she knew very well what was the right way to do to get everything she
wanted, and she never had any kind of trouble to perplex her. And so
the subtle intelligent attractive half white girl Melanctha Herbert
loved and did for, and demeaned herself in service to this coarse,
decent, sullen, ordinary, black, childish Rose and now this unmoral
promiscuous shiftless Rose was to be married to a good man of the
negroes, while Melanctha Herbert with her white blood and attraction
and her desire for a right position was perhaps never to be really
regularly married. Sometimes the thought of how all her world was
made filled the complex, desiring Melanctha with despair. She wondered
often how she could go on living when she was so blue. Sometimes
Melanctha thought she would just kill herself, for sometimes she
thought this would be really the best thing for her to do.
Rose was now to be married to a decent good man of the negroes. His
name was Sam Johnson, and he worked as a deck-hand on a coasting
steamer, and he was very steady, and he got good wages.
Rose first met Sam Johnson at church, the same place where she had met
Melanctha Herbert. Rose liked Sam when she saw him, she knew he was a
good man and worked hard and got good wages, and Rose thought it
would be very nice and very good now in her position to get really,
Sam Johnson liked Rose very well and he always was ready to do
anything she wanted. Sam was a tall, square shouldered, decent, a
serious, straightforward, simple, kindly, colored workman. They got
on very well together, Sam and Rose, when they were married. Rose
was lazy, but not dirty, and Sam was careful but not fussy. Sam was
a kindly, simple, earnest, steady workman, and Rose had good
common decent sense in her, of how to live regular, and not to have
excitements, and to be saving so you could be always sure to have
money, so as to have everything you wanted.
It was not very long that Rose knew Sam Johnson, before they were
regularly married. Sometimes Sam went into the country with all the
other young church people, and then he would be a great deal with Rose
and with her Melanctha Herbert. Sam did not care much about Melanctha
Herbert. He liked Rose's ways of doing, always better. Melanctha's
mystery had no charm for Sam ever. Sam wanted a nice little house to
come to when he was tired from his working, and a little baby all his
own he could be good to. Sam Johnson was ready to marry as soon as
ever Rose wanted he should do it. And so Sam Johnson and Rose one
day had a grand real wedding and were married. Then they furnished
completely, a little red brick house and then Sam went back to his
work as deck hand on a coasting steamer.
Rose had often talked to Sam about how good Melanctha was and how much
she always suffered. Sam Johnson never really cared about Melanctha
Herbert, but he always did almost everything Rose ever wanted, and
he was a gentle, kindly creature, and so he was very good to Rose's
friend Melanctha. Melanctha Herbert knew very well Sam did not like
her, and so she was very quiet, and always let Rose do the talking for
her. She only was very good to always help Rose, and to do anything
she ever wanted from her, and to be very good and listen and be quiet
whenever Sam had anything to say to her. Melanctha liked Sam Johnson,
and all her life Melanctha loved and wanted good and kind and
considerate people, and always Melanctha loved and wanted people to be
gentle to her, and always she wanted to be regular, and to have peace
and quiet in her, and always Melanctha could only find new ways to be
in trouble. And Melanctha needed badly to have Rose, to believe her,
and to let her cling to her. Rose was the only steady thing Melanctha
had to cling to and so Melanctha demeaned herself to be like a
servant, to wait on, and always to be scolded, by this ordinary,
sullen, black, stupid, childish woman.
Rose was always telling Sam he must be good to poor Melanctha. "You
know Sam," Rose said very often to him, "You certainly had ought to be
very good to poor Melanctha, she always do have so much trouble with
her. You know Sam how I told you she had such a bad time always with
that father, and he was awful mean to her always that awful black man,
and he never took no kind of care ever to her, and he never helped her
when her mother died so hard, that poor Melanctha. Melanctha's ma you
know Sam, always was just real religious. One day Melanctha was real
little, and she heard her ma say to her pa, it was awful sad to her,
Melanctha had not been the one the Lord had took from them stead of
the little brother who was dead in the house there from fever. That
hurt Melanctha awful when she heard her ma say it. She never could
feel it right, and I don't no ways blame Melanctha, Sam, for not
feeling better to her ma always after, though Melanctha, just like
always she is, always was real good to her ma after, when she was so
sick, and died so hard, and nobody never to help Melanctha do it, and
she just all alone to do everything without no help come to her no
way, and that ugly awful black man she have for a father never all the
time come near her. But that's always the way Melanctha is just doing
Sam, the way I been telling to you. She always is being just so good
to everybody and nobody ever there to thank her for it. I never did
see nobody ever Sam, have such bad luck, seems to me always with them,
like that poor Melanctha always has it, and she always so good with
it, and never no murmur in her, and never no complaining from her, and
just never saying nothing with it. You be real good to her Sam, now
you hear me, now you and me is married right together. He certainly
was an awful black man to her Sam, that father she had, acting always
just like a brute to her and she so game and never to tell anybody how
it hurt her. And she so sweet and good always to do anything anybody
ever can be wanting. I don't see Sam how some men can be to act so
awful. I told you Sam, how once Melanctha broke her arm bad and she
was so sick and it hurt her awful and he never would let no doctor
come near to her and he do some things so awful to her, she don't
never want to tell nobody how bad he hurt her. That's just the way Sam
with Melanctha always, you never can know how bad it is, it hurts
her. You hear me Sam, you always be real good to her now you and me is
married right to each other."
And so Rose and Sam Johnson were regularly married, and Rose sat at
home and bragged to all her friends how nice it was to be married
really to a husband.
Rose did not have Melanctha to live with her, now Rose was married.
Melanctha was with Rose almost as much as ever but it was a little
different now their being together.
Rose Johnson never asked Melanctha to live with her in the house, now
Rose was married. Rose liked to have Melanctha come all the time to
help her, Rose liked Melanctha to be almost always with her, but Rose
was shrewd in her simple selfish nature, she did not ever think to ask
Melanctha to live with her.
Rose was hard headed, she was decent, and she always knew what it was
she needed. Rose needed Melanctha to be with her, she liked to have
her help her, the quick, good Melanctha to do for the slow, lazy,
selfish, black girl, but Rose could have Melanctha to do for her and
she did not need her to live with her.
Sam never asked Rose why she did not have her. Sam always took what
Rose wanted should be done for Melanctha, as the right way he should
act toward her.
It could never come to Melanctha to ask Rose to let her. It never
could come to Melanctha to think that Rose would ask her. It would
never ever come to Melanctha to want it, if Rose should ask her, but
Melanctha would have done it for the safety she always felt when she
was near her. Melanctha Herbert wanted badly to be safe now, but this
living with her, that, Rose would never give her. Rose had strong
the sense for decent comfort, Rose had strong the sense for proper
conduct, Rose had strong the sense to get straight always what she
wanted, and she always knew what was the best thing she needed, and
always Rose got what she wanted.
And so Rose had Melanctha Herbert always there to help her, and she
sat and was lazy and she bragged and she complained a little and she
told Melanctha how she ought to do, to get good what she wanted like
she Rose always did it, and always Melanctha was doing everything Rose
ever needed. "Don't you bother so, doing that Melanctha, I do it or
Sam when he comes home to help me. Sure you don't mind lifting it
Melanctha? You is very good Melanctha to do it, and when you go out
Melanctha, you stop and get some rice to bring me to-morrow when you
come in. Sure you won't forget Melanctha. I never see anybody like
you Melanctha to always do things so nice for me." And then Melanctha
would do some more for Rose, and then very late Melanctha would go
home to the colored woman where she lived now.
And so though Melanctha still was so much with Rose Johnson, she had
times when she could not stay there. Melanctha now could not really
cling there. Rose had Sam, and Melanctha more and more lost the hold
she had had there.
Melanctha Herbert began to feel she must begin again to look and see
if she could find what it was she had always wanted. Now Rose Johnson
could no longer help her.
And so Melanctha Herbert began once more to wander and with men Rose
never thought it was right she should be with.
One day Melanctha had been very busy with the different kinds of ways
she wandered. It was a pleasant late afternoon at the end of a long
summer. Melanctha was walking along, and she was free and excited.
Melanctha had just parted from a white man and she had a bunch of
flowers he had left with her. A young buck, a mulatto, passed by and
snatched them from her. "It certainly is real sweet in you sister, to
be giving me them pretty flowers," he said to her.
"I don't see no way it can make them sweeter to have with you," said
Melanctha. "What one man gives, another man had certainly just as much
good right to be taking." "Keep your old flowers then, I certainly
don't never want to have them." Melanctha Herbert laughed at him and
took them. "No, I didn't nohow think you really did want to have them.
Thank you kindly mister, for them. I certainly always do admire to see
a man always so kind of real polite to people." The man laughed, "You
ain't nobody's fool I can say for you, but you certainly are a damned
pretty kind of girl, now I look at you. Want men to be polite to you?
All right, I can love you, that's real polite now, want to see me try
it." "I certainly ain't got no time this evening just only left to
thank you. I certainly got to be real busy now, but I certainly
always will admire to see you." The man tried to catch and stop her,
Melanctha Herbert laughed and dodged so that he could not touch her.
Melanctha went quickly down a side street near her and so the man for
that time lost her.
For some days Melanctha did not see any more of her mulatto. One day
Melanctha was with a white man and they saw him. The white man stopped
to speak to him. Afterwards Melanctha left the white man and she then
soon met him. Melanctha stopped to talk to him. Melanctha Herbert soon
began to like him.
Jem Richards, the new man Melanctha had begun to know now, was a
dashing kind of fellow, who had to do with fine horses and with
racing. Sometimes Jem Richards would be betting and would be good and
lucky, and be making lots of money. Sometimes Jem would be betting
badly, and then he would not be having any money.
Jem Richards was a straight man. Jem Richards always knew that by and
by he would win again and pay it, and so Jem mostly did win again, and
then he always paid it.
Jem Richards was a man other men always trusted. Men gave him money
when he lost all his, for they all knew Jem Richards would win again,
and when he did win they knew, and they were right, that he would pay
Melanctha Herbert all her life had always loved to be with horses.
Melanctha liked it that Jem knew all about fine horses. He was a
reckless man was Jem Richards. He knew how to win out, and always all
her life, Melanctha Herbert loved successful power.
Melanctha Herbert always liked Jem Richards better. Things soon began
to be very strong between them.
Jem was more game even than Melanctha. Jem always had known what
it was to have real wisdom. Jem had always all his life been
Jem Richards made Melanctha Herbert come fast with him. He never gave
her any time with waiting. Soon Melanctha always had Jem with her.
Melanctha did not want anything better. Now in Jem Richards, Melanctha
found everything she had ever needed to content her.
Melanctha was now less and less with Rose Johnson. Rose did not think
much of the way Melanctha now was going. Jem Richards was all right,
only Melanctha never had no sense of the right kind of way she should
be doing. Rose often was telling Sam now, she did not like the fast
way Melanctha was going. Rose told it to Sam, and to all the girls and
men, when she saw them. But Rose was nothing just then to Melanctha.
Melanctha Herbert now only needed Jem Richards to be with her.
And things were always getting stronger between Jem Richards and
Melanctha Herbert. Jem Richards began to talk now as if he wanted to
get married to her. Jem was deep in his love now for her. And as for
Melanctha, Jem was all the world now to her. And so Jem gave her a
ring, like white folks, to show he was engaged to her, and would by
and by be married to her. And Melanctha was filled full with joy to
have Jem so good to her.
Melanctha always loved to go with Jem to the races. Jem had been lucky
lately with his betting, and he had a swell turn-out to drive in, and
Melanctha looked very handsome there beside him.
Melanctha was very proud to have Jem Richards want her. Melanctha
loved it the way Jem knew how to do it. Melanctha loved Jem and
loved that he should want her. She loved it too, that he wanted to be
married to her. Jem Richards was a straight decent man, whom other
men always looked up to and trusted. Melanctha needed badly a man to
Melanctha's joy made her foolish. Melanctha told everybody about how
Jem Richards, that swell man who owned all those fine horses and was
so game, nothing ever scared him, was engaged to be married to her,
and that was the ring he gave her.
Melanctha let out her joy very often to Rose Johnson. Melanctha had
begun again now to go there.
Melanctha's love for Jem made her foolish. Melanctha had to have some
one always now to talk to and so she went often to Rose Johnson.
Melanctha put all herself into Jem Richards. She was mad and foolish
in the joy she had there.
Rose never liked the way Melanctha did it. "No Sam I don't say never
Melanctha ain't engaged to Jem Richards the way she always says it,
and Jem he is all right for that kind of man he is, though he do think
himself so smart and like he owns the earth and everything he can get
with it, and he sure gave Melanctha a ring like he really meant he
should be married right soon with it, only Sam, I don't ever like it
the way Melanctha is going. When she is engaged to him Sam, she ain't
not right to take on so excited. That ain't no decent kind of a way a
girl ever should be acting. There ain't no kind of a man going stand
that, not like I knows men Sam, and I sure does know them. I knows
them white and I knows them colored, for I was raised by white folks,
and they don't none of them like a girl to act so. That's all right to
be so when you is just only loving, but it ain't no ways right to be
acting so when you is engaged to him, and when he says, all right he
get really regularly married to you. You see Sam I am right like I am
always and I knows it. Jem Richards, he ain't going to the last to get
real married, not if I knows it right, the way Melanctha now is acting
to him. Rings or anything ain't nothing to them, and they don't never
do no good for them, when a girl acts foolish like Melanctha always
now is acting. I certainly will be right sorry Sam, if Melanctha has
real bad trouble come now to her, but I certainly don't no ways like
it Sam the kind of way Melanctha is acting to him. I don't never say
nothing to her Sam. I just listens to what she is saying always, and
I thinks it out like I am telling to you Sam but I don't never say
nothing no more now to Melanctha. Melanctha didn't say nothing to me
about that Jem Richards till she was all like finished with him, and
I never did like it Sam, much, the way she was acting, not coming
here never when she first ran with those men and met him. And I didn't
never say nothing to her, Sam, about it, and it ain't nothing ever to
me, only I don't never no more want to say nothing to her, so I just
listens to what she got to tell like she wants it. No Sam, I don't
never want to say nothing to her. Melanctha just got to go her own
way, not as I want to see her have bad trouble ever come hard to her,
only it ain't in me never Sam, after Melanctha did so, ever to say
nothing more to her how she should be acting. You just see Sam like I
tell you, what way Jem Richards will act to her, you see Sam I just am
right like I always am when I knows it."
Melanctha Herbert never thought she could ever again be in trouble.
Melanctha's joy had made her foolish.
And now Jem Richards had some bad trouble with his betting. Melanctha
sometimes felt now when she was with him that there was something
wrong inside him. Melanctha knew he had had trouble with his betting
but Melanctha never felt that that could make any difference to them.
Melanctha once had told Jem, sure he knew she always would love to be
with him, if he was in jail or only just a beggar. Now Melanctha
said to him, "Sure you know Jem that it don't never make any kind of
difference you're having any kind of trouble, you just try me Jem and
be game, don't look so worried to me. Jem sure I know you love me like
I love you always, and its all I ever could be wanting Jem to me, just
your wanting me always to be with you. I get married Jem to you
soon ever as you can want me, if you once say it Jem to me. It ain't
nothing to me ever, anything like having any money Jem, why you look
so worried to me."
Melanctha Herbert's love had surely made her mad and foolish. She
thrust it always deep into Jem Richards and now that he had trouble
with his betting, Jem had no way that he ever wanted to be made to
feel it. Jem Richards never could want to marry any girl while he had
trouble. That was no way a man like him should do it. Melanctha's love
had made her mad and foolish, she should be silent now and let him do
it. Jem Richards was not a kind of man to want a woman to be strong to
him, when he was in trouble with his betting. That was not the kind of
a time when a man like him needed to have it.
Melanctha needed so badly to have it, this love which she had always
wanted, she did not know what she should do to save it. Melanctha saw
now, Jem Richards always had something wrong inside him. Melanctha
soon dared not ask him. Jem was busy now, he had to sell things and
see men to raise money. Jem could not meet Melanctha now so often.
It was lucky for Melanctha Herbert that Rose Johnson was coming now to
have her baby. It had always been understood between them, Rose should
come and stay then in the house where Melanctha lived with an old
colored woman, so that Rose could have the Doctor from the hospital
near by to help her, and Melanctha there to take care of her the way
Melanctha always used to do it.
Melanctha was very good now to Rose Johnson. Melanctha did everything
that any woman could, she tended Rose, and she was patient,
submissive, soothing and untiring, while the sullen, childish,
cowardly, black Rosie grumbled, and fussed, and howled, and made
herself to be an abomination and like a simple beast.
All this time Melanctha was always being every now and then with Jem
Richards. Melanctha was beginning to be stronger with Jem Richards.
Melanctha was never so strong and sweet and in her nature as when she
was deep in trouble, when she was fighting so with all she had, she
could not do any foolish thing with her nature.
Always now Melanctha Herbert came back again to be nearer to Rose
Johnson. Always now Melanctha would tell all about her troubles to
Rose Johnson. Rose had begun now a little again to advise her.
Melanctha always told Rose now about the talks she had with Jem
Richards, talks where they neither of them liked very well what the
other one was saying. Melanctha did not know what it was Jem Richards
wanted. All Melanctha knew was, he did not like it when she wanted to
be good friends and get really married, and then when Melanctha would
say, "all right, I never wear your ring no more Jem, we ain't not any
more to meet ever like we ever going to get really regular married,"
then Jem did not like it either. What was it Jem Richards really
Melanctha stopped wearing Jem's ring on her finger. Poor Melanctha,
she wore it on a string she tied around her neck so that she could
always feel it, but Melanctha was strong now with Jem Richards, and he
never saw it. And sometimes Jem seemed to be awful sorry for it, and
sometimes he seemed kind of glad of it. Melanctha never could make out
really what it was Jem Richards wanted.
There was no other woman yet to Jem, that Melanctha knew, and so she
always trusted that Jem would come back to her, deep in his love, the
way once he had had it and had made all the world like she once had
never believed anybody could really make it. But Jem Richards was more
game than Melanctha Herbert. He knew how to fight to win out, better.
Melanctha really had already lost it, in not keeping quiet and waiting
for Jem to do it.
Jem Richards was not yet having better luck in his betting. He never
before had had such a long time without some good coming to him in
his betting. Sometimes Jem talked as if he wanted to go off on a trip
somewhere and try some other place for luck with his betting. Jem
Richards never talked as if he wanted to take Melanctha with him.
And so Melanctha sometimes was really trusting, and sometimes she was
all sick inside her with her doubting. What was it Jem really wanted
to do with her? He did not have any other woman, in that Melanctha
could be really trusting, and when she said no to him, no she never
would come near him, now he did not want to have her, then Jem would
change and swear, yes sure he did want her, now and always right here
near him, but he never now any more said he wanted to be married soon
to her. But then Jem Richards never would marry a girl, he said that
very often, when he was in this kind of trouble, and now he did not
see any way he could get out of his trouble. But Melanctha ought to
wear his ring, sure she knew he never had loved any kind of woman like
he loved her. Melanctha would wear the ring a little while, and then
they would have some more trouble, and then she would say to him, no
she certainly never would any more wear anything he gave her, and then
she would wear it on the string so nobody could see it but she could
always feel it on her.
Poor Melanctha, surely her love had made her mad and foolish.
And now Melanctha needed always more and more to be with Rose Johnson,
and Rose had commenced again to advise her, but Rose could not help
her. There was no way now that anybody could advise her. The time when
Melanctha could have changed it with Jem Richards was now all past
for her. Rose knew it, and Melanctha too, she knew it, and it almost
killed her to let herself believe it.
The only comfort Melanctha ever had now was waiting on Rose till
she was so tired she could hardly stand it. Always Melanctha did
everything Rose ever wanted. Sam Johnson began now to be very gentle
and a little tender to Melanctha. She was so good to Rose and Sam was
so glad to have her there to help Rose and to do things and to be a
comfort to her.
Rose had a hard time to bring her baby to its birth and Melanctha did
everything that any woman could.
The baby though it was healthy after it was born did not live long.
Rose Johnson was careless and negligent and selfish and when Melanctha
had to leave for a few days the baby died. Rose Johnson had liked her
baby well enough and perhaps she just forgot it for a while, anyway
the child was dead and Rose and Sam were very sorry, but then these
things came so often in the negro world in Bridgepoint that they
neither of them thought about it very long. When Rose had become
strong again she went back to her house with Sam. And Sam Johnson was
always now very gentle and kind and good to Melanctha who had been so
good to Rose in her bad trouble.
Melanctha Herbert's troubles with Jem Richards were never getting any
better. Jem always now had less and less time to be with her. When
Jem was with Melanctha now he was good enough to her. Jem Richards was
worried with his betting. Never since Jem had first begun to make a
living had he ever had so much trouble for such a long time together
with his betting. Jem Richards was good enough now to Melanctha but he
had not much strength to give her. Melanctha could never any more now
make him quarrel with her. Melanctha never now could complain of his
treatment of her, for surely, he said it always by his actions to her,
surely she must know how a man was when he had trouble on his mind
with trying to make things go a little better.
Sometimes Jem and Melanctha had long talks when they neither of
them liked very well what the other one was saying, but mostly now
Melanctha could not make Jem Richards quarrel with her, and more and
more, Melanctha could not find any way to make it right to blame him
for the trouble she now always had inside her. Jem was good to her,
and she knew, for he told her, that he had trouble all the time now
with his betting. Melanctha knew very well that for her it was all
wrong inside Jem Richards, but Melanctha had now no way that she could
really reach him.
Things between Melanctha and Jem Richards were now never getting any
better. Melanctha now more and more needed to be with Rose Johnson.
Rose still liked to have Melanctha come to her house and do things
for her, and Rose liked to grumble to her and to scold her and to tell
Melanctha what was the way Melanctha always should be doing so
she could make things come out better and not always be so much in
trouble. Sam Johnson in these days was always very good and gentle to
Melanctha. Sam was now beginning to be very sorry for her.
Jem Richards never made things any better for Melanctha. Often Jem
would talk so as to make Melanctha almost certain that he never any
more wanted to have her. Then Melanctha would get very blue, and she
would say to Rose, sure she would kill herself, for that certainly now
was the best way she could do.
Rose Johnson never saw it the least bit that way. "I don't see
Melanctha why you should talk like you would kill yourself just
because you're blue. I'd never kill myself Melanctha cause I was blue.
I'd maybe kill somebody else but I'd never kill myself. If I ever
killed myself, Melanctha it'd be by accident and if I ever killed
myself by accident, Melanctha, I'd be awful sorry. And that certainly
is the way you should feel it Melanctha, now you hear me, not just
talking foolish like you always do. It certainly is only your way just
always being foolish makes you all that trouble to come to you always
now, Melanctha, and I certainly right well knows that. You certainly
never can learn no way Melanctha ever with all I certainly been
telling to you, ever since I know you good, that it ain't never no way
like you do always is the right way you be acting ever and talking,
the way I certainly always have seen you do so Melanctha always. I
certainly am right Melanctha about them ways you have to do it, and
I knows it; but you certainly never can noways learn to act right
Melanctha, I certainly do know that, I certainly do my best Melanctha
to help you with it only you certainly never do act right Melanctha,
not to nobody ever, I can see it. You never act right by me Melanctha
no more than by everybody. I never say nothing to you Melanctha when
you do so, for I certainly never do like it when I just got to say it
to you, but you just certainly done with that Jem Richards you always
say wanted real bad to be married to you, just like I always said to
Sam you certainly was going to do it. And I certainly am real kind of
sorry like for you Melanctha, but you certainly had ought to have come
to see me to talk to you, when you first was engaged to him so I could
show you, and now you got all this trouble come to you Melanctha
like I certainly know you always catch it. It certainly ain't never
Melanctha I ain't real sorry to see trouble come so hard to you, but
I certainly can see Melanctha it all is always just the way you always
be having it in you not never to do right. And now you always talk
like you just kill yourself because you are so blue, that certainly
never is Melanctha, no kind of a way for any decent kind of a girl to
Rose had begun to be strong now to scold Melanctha and she was
impatient very often with her, but Rose could now never any more be a
help to her. Melanctha Herbert never could know now what it was right
she should do. Melanctha always wanted to have Jem Richards with her
and now he never seemed to want her, and what could Melanctha do.
Surely she was right now when she said she would just kill herself,
for that was the only way now she could do.
Sam Johnson always, more and more, was good and gentle to Melanctha.
Poor Melanctha, she was so good and sweet to do anything anybody ever
wanted, and Melanctha always liked it if she could have peace and
quiet, and always she could only find new ways to be in trouble. Sam
often said this now to Rose about Melanctha.
"I certainly don't never want Sam to say bad things about Melanctha,
for she certainly always do have most awful kind of trouble come hard
to her, but I never can say I like it real right Sam the way Melanctha
always has to do it. Its now just the same with her like it is always
she has got to do it, now the way she is with that Jem Richards. He
certainly now don't never want to have her but Melanctha she ain't got
no right kind of spirit. No Sam I don't never like the way any more
Melanctha is acting to him, and then Sam, she ain't never real right
honest, the way she always should do it. She certainly just don't kind
of never Sam tell right what way she is doing with it. I don't never
like to say nothing Sam no more to her about the way she always has
to be acting. She always say, yes all right Rose, I do the way you say
it, and then Sam she don't never noways do it. She certainly is right
sweet and good, Sam, is Melanctha, nobody ever can hear me say she
ain't always ready to do things for everybody anyway she ever can see
to do it, only Sam some ways she never does act real right ever, and
some ways, Sam, she ain't ever real honest with it. And Sam sometimes
I hear awful kind of things she been doing, some girls know about her
how she does it, and sometimes they tell me what kind of ways she
has to do it, and Sam it certainly do seem to me like more and more I
certainly am awful afraid Melanctha never will come to any good.
And then Sam, sometimes, you hear it, she always talk like she kill
herself all the time she is so blue, and Sam that certainly never is
no kind of way any decent girl ever had ought to do. You see Sam, how
I am right like I always is when I knows it. You just be careful, Sam,
now you hear me, you be careful Sam sure, I tell you, Melanctha more
and more I see her I certainly do feel Melanctha no way is really
honest. You be careful, Sam now, like I tell you, for I knows it, now
you hear to me, Sam, what I tell you, for I certainly always is right,
Sam, when I knows it."
At first Sam tried a little to defend Melanctha, and Sam always was
good and gentle to her, and Sam liked the ways Melanctha had to be
quiet to him, and to always listen as if she was learning, when she
was there and heard him talking, and then Sam liked the sweet way she
always did everything so nicely for him; but Sam never liked to fight
with anybody ever, and surely Rose knew best about Melanctha and
anyway Sam never did really care much about Melanctha. Her mystery
never had had any interest for him. Sam liked it that she was sweet
to him and that she always did everything Rose ever wanted that she
should be doing. But Melanctha never would be important to him. All
Sam ever wanted was to have a little house and to live regular and to
work hard and to come home to his dinner, when he was tired with his
working and by and by he wanted to have some children all his own to
be good to, and so Sam was real sorry for Melanctha, she was so good
and so sweet always to them, and Jem Richards was a bad man to behave
so to her, but that was always the way a girl got it when she liked
that kind of fast fellow. Anyhow Melanctha was Rose's friend, and Sam
never cared to have anything to do with the kind of trouble always
came to women, when they wanted to have men, who never could know how
to behave good and steady to their women.
And so Sam never said much to Rose about Melanctha. Sam was always
very gentle to her, but now he began less and less to see her. Soon
Melanctha never came any more to the house to see Rose and Sam never
asked Rose anything about her.
Melanctha Herbert was beginning now to come less and less to the house
to be with Rose Johnson. This was because Rose seemed always less and
less now to want her, and Rose would not let Melanctha now do things
for her. Melanctha was always humble to her and Melanctha always
wanted in every way she could to do things for her. Rose said no,
she guessed she do that herself like she likes to have it better.
Melanctha is real good to stay so long to help her, but Rose guessed
perhaps Melanctha better go home now, Rose don't need nobody to help
her now, she is feeling real strong, not like just after she had all
that trouble with the baby, and then Sam, when he comes home for his
dinner he likes it when Rose is all alone there just to give him his
dinner. Sam always is so tired now, like he always is in the summer,
so many people always on the steamer, and they make so much work so
Sam is real tired now, and he likes just to eat his dinner and never
have people in the house to be a trouble to him.
Each day Rose treated Melanctha more and more as if she never wanted
Melanctha any more to come there to the house to see her. Melanctha
dared not ask Rose why she acted in this way to her. Melanctha badly
needed to have Rose always there to save her. Melanctha wanted badly
to cling to her and Rose had always been so solid for her. Melanctha
did not dare to ask Rose if she now no longer wanted her to come and
Melanctha now never any more had Sam to be gentle to her. Rose always
sent Melanctha away from her before it was time for Sam to come home
to her. One day Melanctha had stayed a little longer, for Rose
that day had been good to let Melanctha begin to do things for her.
Melanctha then left her and Melanctha met Sam Johnson who stopped a
minute to speak kindly to her.
The next day Rose Johnson would not let Melanctha come in to her. Rose
stood on the steps, and there she told Melanctha what she thought now
"I guess Melanctha it certainly ain't no ways right for you to come
here no more just to see me. I certainly don't Melanctha no ways like
to be a trouble to you. I certainly think Melanctha I get along better
now when I don't have nobody like you are, always here to help me, and
Sam he do so good now with his working, he pay a little girl something
to come every day to help me. I certainly do think Melanctha I don't
never want you no more to come here just to see me." "Why Rose, what
I ever done to you, I certainly don't think you is right Rose to be so
bad now to me." "I certainly don't no ways Melanctha Herbert think you
got any right ever to be complaining the way I been acting to you. I
certainly never do think Melanctha Herbert, you hear me, nobody
ever been more patient to you than I always been to like you, only
Melanctha, I hear more things now so awful bad about you, everybody
always is telling to me what kind of a way you always have been doing
so much, and me always so good to you, and you never no ways, knowing
how to be honest to me. No Melanctha it ain't ever in me, not to want
you to have good luck come to you, and I like it real well Melanctha
when you some time learn how to act the way it is decent and right
for a girl to be doing, but I don't no ways ever like it the kind of
things everybody tell me now about you. No Melanctha, I can't never
any more trust you. I certainly am real sorry to have never any more
to see you, but there ain't no other way, I ever can be acting to
you. That's all I ever got any more to say to you now Melanctha." "But
Rose, deed; I certainly don't know, no more than the dead, nothing I
ever done to make you act so to me. Anybody say anything bad about
me Rose, to you, they just a pack of liars to you, they certainly
is Rose, I tell you true. I certainly never done nothing I ever been
ashamed to tell you. Why you act so bad to me Rose. Sam he certainly
don't think ever like you do, and Rose I always do everything I can,
you ever want me to do for you." "It ain't never no use standing there
talking, Melanctha Herbert. I just can tell it to you, and Sam, he
don't know nothing about women ever the way they can be acting. I
certainly am very sorry Melanctha, to have to act so now to you, but I
certainly can't do no other way with you, when you do things always so
bad, and everybody is talking so about you. It ain't no use to you
to stand there and say it different to me Melanctha. I certainly am
always right Melanctha Herbert, the way I certainly always have been
when I knows it, to you. No Melanctha, it just is, you never can have
no kind of a way to act right, the way a decent girl has to do, and I
done my best always to be telling it to you Melanctha Herbert, but it
don't never do no good to tell nobody how to act right; they certainly
never can learn when they ain't got no sense right to know it, and you
never have no sense right Melanctha to be honest, and I ain't never
wishing no harm to you ever Melanctha Herbert, only I don't never want
any more to see you come here. I just say to you now, like I always
been saying to you, you don't know never the right way, any kind of
decent girl has to be acting, and so Melanctha Herbert, me and Sam, we
don't never any more want you to be setting your foot in my house
here Melanctha Herbert, I just tell you. And so you just go along now,
Melanctha Herbert, you hear me, and I don't never wish no harm to come
Rose Johnson went into her house and closed the door behind her.
Melanctha stood like one dazed, she did not know how to bear this blow
that almost killed her. Slowly then Melanctha went away without even
turning to look behind her.
Melanctha Herbert was all sore and bruised inside her. Melanctha had
needed Rose always to believe her, Melanctha needed Rose always to let
her cling to her, Melanctha wanted badly to have somebody who could
make her always feel a little safe inside her, and now Rose had sent
her from her. Melanctha wanted Rose more than she had ever wanted all
the others. Rose always was so simple, solid, decent, for her. And now
Rose had cast her from her. Melanctha was lost, and all the world went
whirling in a mad weary dance around her.
Melanctha Herbert never had any strength alone ever to feel safe
inside her. And now Rose Johnson had cast her from her, and Melanctha
could never any more be near her. Melanctha Herbert knew now, way
inside her, that she was lost, and nothing any more could ever help
Melanctha went that night to meet Jem Richards who had promised to be
at the old place to meet her. Jem Richards was absent in his manner to
her. By and by he began to talk to her, about the trip he was going
to take soon, to see if he could get some luck back in his betting.
Melanctha trembled, was Jem too now going to leave her. Jem Richards
talked some more then to her, about the bad luck he always had now,
and how he needed to go away to see if he could make it come out any
Then Jem stopped, and then he looked straight at Melanctha.
"Tell me Melanctha right and true, you don't care really nothing more
about me now Melanctha," he said to her.
"Why you ask me that, Jem Richards," said Melanctha.
"Why I ask you that Melanctha, God Almighty, because I just don't give
a damn now for you any more Melanctha. That the reason I was asking."
Melanctha never could have for this an answer. Jem Richards waited and
then he went away and left her.
Melanctha Herbert never again saw Jem Richards. Melanctha never again
saw Rose Johnson, and it was hard to Melanctha never any more to see
her. Rose Johnson had worked in to be the deepest of all Melanctha's
"No, I don't never see Melanctha Herbert no more now," Rose would say
to anybody who asked her about Melanctha. "No, Melanctha she never
comes here no more now, after we had all that trouble with her acting
so bad with them kind of men she liked so much to be with. She don't
never come to no good Melanctha Herbert don't, and me and Sam don't
want no more to see her. She didn't do right ever the way I told her.
Melanctha just wouldn't, and I always said it to her, if she don't be
more kind of careful, the way she always had to be acting, I never
did want no more she should come here in my house no more to see me. I
ain't no ways ever against any girl having any kind of a way, to have
a good time like she wants it, but not that kind of a way Melanctha
always had to do it. I expect some day Melanctha kill herself, when
she act so bad like she do always, and then she got so awful blue.
Melanctha always says that's the only way she ever can think it a easy
way for her to do. No, I always am real sorry for Melanctha, she never
was no just common kind of nigger, but she don't never know not with
all the time I always was telling it to her, no she never no way could
learn, what was the right way she should do. I certainly don't never
want no kind of harm to come bad to Melanctha, but I certainly do
think she will most kill herself some time, the way she always say it
would be easy way for her to do. I never see nobody ever could be so
But Melanctha Herbert never really killed herself because she was so
blue, though often she thought this would be really the best way for
her to do. Melanctha never killed herself, she only got a bad fever
and went into the hospital where they took good care of her and cured
When Melanctha was well again, she took a place and began to work
and to live regular. Then Melanctha got very sick again; she began to
cough and sweat and be so weak she could not stand to do her work.
Melanctha went back to the hospital, and there the Doctor told her she
had the consumption, and before long she would surely die. They sent
her where she would be taken care of, a home for poor consumptives,
and there Melanctha stayed until she died.
THE GENTLE LENA
Lena was patient, gentle, sweet and german. She had been a servant for
four years and had liked it very well.
Lena had been brought from Germany to Bridgepoint by a cousin and had
been in the same place there for four years.
This place Lena had found very good. There was a pleasant, unexacting
mistress and her children, and they all liked Lena very well.
There was a cook there who scolded Lena a great deal but Lena's german
patience held no suffering and the good incessant woman really only
scolded so for Lena's good.
Lena's german voice when she knocked and called the family in the
morning was as awakening, as soothing, and as appealing, as a delicate
soft breeze in midday, summer. She stood in the hallway every morning
a long time in her unexpectant and unsuffering german patience calling
to the young ones to get up. She would call and wait a long time and
then call again, always even, gentle, patient, while the young ones
fell back often into that precious, tense, last bit of sleeping that
gives a strength of joyous vigor in the young, over them that have
come to the readiness of middle age, in their awakening.
Lena had good hard work all morning, and on the pleasant, sunny
afternoons she was sent out into the park to sit and watch the little
two year old girl baby of the family.
The other girls, all them that make the pleasant, lazy crowd, that
watch the children in the sunny afternoons out in the park, all liked
the simple, gentle, german Lena very well. They all, too, liked very
well to tease her, for it was so easy to make her mixed and troubled,
and all helpless, for she could never learn to know just what the
other quicker girls meant by the queer things they said.
The two or three of these girls, the ones that Lena always sat with,
always worked together to confuse her. Still it was pleasant, all this
life for Lena.
The little girl fell down sometimes and cried, and then Lena had to
soothe her. When the little girl would drop her hat, Lena had to pick
it up and hold it. When the little girl was bad and threw away her
playthings, Lena told her she could not have them and took them from
her to hold until the little girl should need them.
It was all a peaceful life for Lena, almost as peaceful as a pleasant
leisure. The other girls, of course, did tease her, but then that only
made a gentle stir within her.
Lena was a brown and pleasant creature, brown as blonde races
often have them brown, brown, not with the yellow or the red or the
chocolate brown of sun burned countries, but brown with the clear
color laid flat on the light toned skin beneath, the plain, spare
brown that makes it right to have been made with hazel eyes, and not
too abundant straight, brown hair, hair that only later deepens itself
into brown from the straw yellow of a german childhood.
Lena had the flat chest, straight back and forward falling shoulders
of the patient and enduring working woman, though her body was now
still in its milder girlhood and work had not yet made these lines too
The rarer feeling that there was with Lena, showed in all the even
quiet of her body movements, but in all it was the strongest in the
patient, old-world ignorance, and earth made pureness of her brown,
flat, soft featured face. Lena had eyebrows that were a wondrous
thickness. They were black, and spread, and very cool, with their dark
color and their beauty, and beneath them were her hazel eyes, simple
and human, with the earth patience of the working, gentle, german
Yes it was all a peaceful life for Lena. The other girls, of course,
did tease her, but then that only made a gentle stir within her.
"What you got on your finger Lena," Mary, one of the girls she always
sat with, one day asked her. Mary was good natured, quick, intelligent
Lena had just picked up the fancy paper made accordion that the little
girl had dropped beside her, and was making it squeak sadly as she
pulled it with her brown, strong, awkward finger.
"Why, what is it, Mary, paint?" said Lena, putting her finger to her
mouth to taste the dirt spot.
"That's awful poison Lena, don't you know?" said Mary, "that green
paint that you just tasted."
Lena had sucked a good deal of the green paint from her finger. She
stopped and looked hard at the finger. She did not know just how much
Mary meant by what she said.
"Ain't it poison, Nellie, that green paint, that Lena sucked just
now," said Mary. "Sure it is Lena, its real poison, I ain't foolin'
this time anyhow."
Lena was a little troubled. She looked hard at her finger where the
paint was, and she wondered if she had really sucked it.
It was still a little wet on the edges and she rubbed it off a long
time on the inside of her dress, and in between she wondered and
looked at the finger and thought, was it really poison that she had
"Ain't it too bad, Nellie, Lena should have sucked that," Mary said.
Nellie smiled and did not answer. Nellie was dark and thin, and looked
Italian. She had a big mass of black hair that she wore high up on her
head, and that made her face look very fine.
Nellie always smiled and did not say much, and then she would look at
Lena to perplex her.
And so they all three sat with their little charges in the pleasant
sunshine a long time. And Lena would often look at her finger and
wonder if it was really poison that she had just tasted and then she
would rub her finger on her dress a little harder.
Mary laughed at her and teased her and Nellie smiled a little and
looked queerly at her.
Then it came time, for it was growing cooler, for them to drag
together the little ones, who had begun to wander, and to take each
one back to its own mother. And Lena never knew for certain whether it
was really poison, that green stuff that she had tasted.
During these four years of service, Lena always spent her Sundays out
at the house of her aunt, who had brought her four years before to
This aunt, who had brought Lena, four years before, to Bridgepoint,
was a hard, ambitious, well meaning, german woman. Her husband was a
grocer in the town, and they were very well to do. Mrs. Haydon, Lena's
aunt, had two daughters who were just beginning as young ladies,
and she had a little boy who was not honest and who was very hard to
Mrs. Haydon was a short, stout, hard built, german woman. She always
hit the ground very firmly and compactly as she walked. Mrs. Haydon
was all a compact and well hardened mass, even to her face, reddish
and darkened from its early blonde, with its hearty, shiny cheeks, and
doubled chin well covered over with the up roll from her short, square
The two daughters, who were fourteen and fifteen, looked like
unkneaded, unformed mounds of flesh beside her.
The elder girl, Mathilda, was blonde, and slow, and simple, and quite
fat. The younger, Bertha, who was almost as tall as her sister, was
dark, and quicker, and she was heavy, too, but not really fat.
These two girls the mother had brought up very firmly. They were well
taught for their position. They were always both well dressed, in the
same kinds of hats and dresses, as is becoming in two german sisters.
The mother liked to have them dressed in red. Their best clothes were
red dresses, made of good heavy cloth, and strongly trimmed with braid
of a glistening black. They had stiff, red felt hats, trimmed with
black velvet ribbon, and a bird. The mother dressed matronly, in a
bonnet and in black, always sat between her two big daughters, firm,
directing, and repressed.
The only weak spot in this good german woman's conduct was the way she
spoiled her boy, who was not honest and who was very hard to manage.
The father of this family was a decent, quiet, heavy, and
uninterfering german man. He tried to cure the boy of his bad ways,
and make him honest, but the mother could not make herself let the
father manage, and so the boy was brought up very badly.
Mrs. Haydon's girls were now only just beginning as young ladies, and
so to get her niece, Lena, married, was just then the most important
thing that Mrs. Haydon had to do.
Mrs. Haydon had four years before gone to Germany to see her parents,
and had taken the girls with her. This visit had been for Mrs. Haydon
most successful, though her children had not liked it very well.
Mrs. Haydon was a good and generous woman, and she patronized her
parents grandly, and all the cousins who came from all about to see
her. Mrs. Haydon's people were of the middling class of farmers. They
were not peasants, and they lived in a town of some pretension, but
it all seemed very poor and smelly to Mrs. Haydon's american born
Mrs. Haydon liked it all. It was familiar, and then here she was so
wealthy and important. She listened and decided, and advised all of
her relations how to do things better. She arranged their present and
their future for them, and showed them how in the past they had been
wrong in all their methods.
Mrs. Haydon's only trouble was with her two daughters, whom she could
not make behave well to her parents. The two girls were very nasty to
all their numerous relations. Their mother could hardly make them kiss
their grandparents, and every day the girls would get a scolding. But
then Mrs. Haydon was so very busy that she did not have time to really
manage her stubborn daughters.
These hard working, earth-rough german cousins were to these american
born children, ugly and dirty, and as far below them as were italian
or negro workmen, and they could not see how their mother could ever
bear to touch them, and then all the women dressed so funny, and were
worked all rough and different.
The two girls stuck up their noses at them all, and always talked in
English to each other about how they hated all these people and how
they wished their mother would not do so. The girls could talk some
German, but they never chose to use it.
It was her eldest brother's family that most interested Mrs. Haydon.
Here there were eight children, and out of the eight, five of them
Mrs. Haydon thought it would be a fine thing to take one of these
girls back with her to Bridgepoint and get her well started. Everybody
liked that she should do so and they were all willing that it should
Lena was the second girl in her large family. She was at this time
just seventeen years old. Lena was not an important daughter in the
family. She was always sort of dreamy and not there. She worked hard
and went very regularly at it, but even good work never seemed to
bring her near.
Lena's age just suited Mrs. Haydon's purpose. Lena could first go
out to service, and learn how to do things, and then, when she was a
little older, Mrs. Haydon could get her a good husband. And then Lena
was so still and docile, she would never want to do things her own
way. And then, too, Mrs. Haydon, with all her hardness had wisdom, and
she could feel the rarer strain there was in Lena.
Lena was willing to go with Mrs. Haydon. Lena did not like her german
life very well. It was not the hard work but the roughness that
disturbed her. The people were not gentle, and the men when they were
glad were very boisterous, and would lay hold of her and roughly tease
her. They were good people enough around her, but it was all harsh and
dreary for her.
Lena did not really know that she did not like it. She did not know
that she was always dreamy and not there. She did not think whether it
would be different for her away off there in Bridgepoint. Mrs. Haydon
took her and got her different kinds of dresses, and then took her
with them to the steamer. Lena did not really know what it was that
had happened to her.
Mrs. Haydon, and her daughters, and Lena traveled second class on the
steamer. Mrs. Haydon's daughters hated that their mother should take
Lena. They hated to have a cousin, who was to them, little better than
a nigger, and then everybody on the steamer there would see her. Mrs.
Haydon's daughters said things like this to their mother, but she
never stopped to hear them, and the girls did not dare to make their
meaning very clear. And so they could only go on hating Lena hard,
together. They could not stop her from going back with them to
Lena was very sick on the voyage. She thought, surely before it was
over that she would die. She was so sick she could not even wish that
she had not started. She could not eat, she could not moan, she was
just blank and scared, and sure that every minute she would die. She
could not hold herself in, nor help herself in her trouble. She just
staid where she had been put, pale, and scared, and weak, and sick,
and sure that she was going to die.
Mathilda and Bertha Haydon had no trouble from having Lena for a
cousin on the voyage, until the last day that they were on the ship,
and by that time they had made their friends and could explain.
Mrs. Haydon went down every day to Lena, gave her things to make her
better, held her head when it was needful, and generally was good and
did her duty by her.
Poor Lena had no power to be strong in such trouble. She did not know
how to yield to her sickness nor endure. She lost all her little sense
of being in her suffering. She was so scared, and then at her best,
Lena, who was patient, sweet and quiet, had not self-control, nor any
Poor Lena was so scared and weak, and every minute she was sure that
she would die.
After Lena was on land again a little while, she forgot all her bad
suffering. Mrs. Haydon got her the good place, with the pleasant
unexacting mistress, and her children, and Lena began to learn some
English and soon was very happy and content.
All her Sundays out Lena spent at Mrs. Haydon's house. Lena would have
liked much better to spend her Sundays with the girls she always sat
with, and who often asked her, and who teased her and made a
gentle stir within her, but it never came to Lena's unexpectant and
unsuffering german nature to do something different from what was
expected of her, just because she would like it that way better. Mrs.
Haydon had said that Lena was to come to her house every other Sunday,
and so Lena always went there.
Mrs. Haydon was the only one of her family who took any interest in
Lena. Mr. Haydon did not think much of her. She was his wife's cousin
and he was good to her, but she was for him stupid, and a little
simple, and very dull, and sure some day to need help and to be in
trouble. All young poor relations, who were brought from Germany to
Bridgepoint were sure, before long, to need help and to be in trouble.
The little Haydon boy was always very nasty to her. He was a hard
child for any one to manage, and his mother spoiled him very badly.
Mrs. Haydon's daughters as they grew older did not learn to like Lena
any better. Lena never knew that she did not like them either. She
did not know that she was only happy with the other quicker girls, she
always sat with in the park, and who laughed at her and always teased
Mathilda Haydon, the simple, fat, blonde, older daughter felt very
badly that she had to say that this was her cousin Lena, this Lena who
was little better for her than a nigger. Mathilda was an overgrown,
slow, flabby, blonde, stupid, fat girl, just beginning as a woman;
thick in her speech and dull and simple in her mind, and very jealous
of all her family and of other girls, and proud that she could have
good dresses and new hats and learn music, and hating very badly to
have a cousin who was a common servant. And then Mathilda remembered
very strongly that dirty nasty place that Lena came from and that
Mathilda had so turned up her nose at, and where she had been made
so angry because her mother scolded her and liked all those rough
Then, too, Mathilda would get very mad when her mother had Lena at
their parties, and when she talked about how good Lena was, to certain
german mothers in whose sons, perhaps, Mrs. Haydon might find Lena a
good husband. All this would make the dull, blonde, fat Mathilda very
angry: Sometimes she would get so angry that she would, in her thick,
slow way, and with jealous anger blazing in her light blue eyes, tell
her mother that she did not see how she could like that nasty Lena;
and then her mother would scold Mathilda, and tell her that she knew
her cousin Lena was poor and Mathilda must be good to poor people.
Mathilda Haydon did not like relations to be poor. She told all her
girl friends what she thought of Lena, and so the girls would never
talk to Lena at Mrs. Haydon's parties. But Lena in her unsuffering
and unexpectant patience never really knew that she was slighted. When
Mathilda was with her girls in the street or in the park and would see
Lena, she always turned up her nose and barely nodded to her, and then
she would tell her friends how funny her mother was to take care of
people like that Lena, and how, back in Germany, all Lena's people
lived just like pigs.
The younger daughter, the dark, large, but not fat, Bertha Haydon, who
was very quick in her mind, and in her ways, and who was the favorite
with her father, did not like Lena, either. She did not like her
because for her Lena was a fool and so stupid, and she would let those
Irish and Italian girls laugh at her and tease her, and everybody
always made fun of Lena, and Lena never got mad, or even had sense
enough to know that they were all making an awful fool of her.
Bertha Haydon hated people to be fools. Her father, too, thought Lena
was a fool, and so neither the father nor the daughter ever paid
any attention to Lena, although she came to their house every other
Lena did not know how all the Haydons felt. She came to her aunt's
house all her Sunday afternoons that she had out, because Mrs. Haydon
had told her she must do so. In the same way Lena always saved all of
her wages. She never thought of any way to spend it. The german cook,
the good woman who always scolded Lena, helped her to put it in the
bank each month, as soon as she got it. Sometimes before it got into
the bank to be taken care of, somebody would ask Lena for it. The
little Haydon boy sometimes asked and would get it, and sometimes some
of the girls, the ones Lena always sat with, needed some more money;
but the german cook, who always scolded Lena, saw to it that this did
not happen very often. When it did happen she would scold Lena very
sharply, and for the next few months she would not let Lena touch her
wages, but put it in the bank for her on the same day that Lena got
So Lena always saved her wages, for she never thought to spend them,
and she always went to her aunt's house for her Sundays because she
did not know that she could do anything different.
Mrs. Haydon felt more and more every year that she had done right to
bring Lena back with her, for it was all coming out just as she had
expected. Lena was good and never wanted her own way, she was learning
English, and saving all her wages, and soon Mrs. Haydon would get her
a good husband.
All these four years Mrs. Haydon was busy looking around among all the
german people that she knew for the right man to be Lena's husband,
and now at last she was quite decided.
The man Mrs. Haydon wanted for Lena was a young german-american
tailor, who worked with his father. He was good and all the family
were very saving, and Mrs. Haydon was sure that this would be just
right for Lena, and then too, this young tailor always did whatever
his father and his mother wanted.
This old german tailor and his wife, the father and the mother of
Herman Kreder, who was to marry Lena Mainz, were very thrifty, careful
people. Herman was the only child they had left with them, and he
always did everything they wanted. Herman was now twenty-eight years
old, but he had never stopped being scolded and directed by his father
and his mother. And now they wanted to see him married.
Herman Kreder did not care much to get married. He was a gentle soul
and a little fearful. He had a sullen temper, too. He was obedient to
his father and his mother. He always did his work well. He often went
out on Saturday nights and on Sundays, with other men. He liked it
with them but he never became really joyous. He liked to be with men
and he hated to have women with them. He was obedient to his mother,
but he did not care much to get married.
Mrs. Haydon and the elder Kreders had often talked the marriage over.
They all three liked it very well. Lena would do anything that Mrs.
Haydon wanted, and Herman was always obedient in everything to his
father and his mother. Both Lena and Herman were saving and good
workers and neither of them ever wanted their own way.
The elder Kreders, everybody knew, had saved up all their money, and
they were hard, good german people, and Mrs. Haydon was sure that with
these people Lena would never be in any trouble. Mr. Haydon would not
say anything about it. He knew old Kreder had a lot of money and owned
some good houses, and he did not care what his wife did with that
simple, stupid Lena, so long as she would be sure never to need help
or to be in trouble.
Lena did not care much to get married. She liked her life very well
where she was working. She did not think much about Herman Kreder. She
thought he was a good man and she always found him very quiet. Neither
of them ever spoke much to the other. Lena did not care much just then
about getting married.
Mrs. Haydon spoke to Lena about it very often. Lena never answered
anything at all. Mrs. Haydon thought, perhaps Lena did not like Herman
Kreder. Mrs. Haydon could not believe that any girl not even Lena,
really had no feeling about getting married.
Mrs. Haydon spoke to Lena very often about Herman. Mrs. Haydon
sometimes got very angry with Lena. She was afraid that Lena, for
once, was going to be stubborn, now when it was all fixed right for
her to be married.
"Why you stand there so stupid, why don't you answer, Lena," said Mrs.
Haydon one Sunday, at the end of a long talking that she was giving
Lena about Herman Kreder, and about Lena's getting married to him.
"Yes ma'am," said Lena, and then Mrs. Haydon was furious with this
stupid Lena. "Why don't you answer with some sense, Lena, when I ask
you if you don't like Herman Kreder. You stand there so stupid and
don't answer just like you ain't heard a word what I been saying to
you. I never see anybody like you, Lena. If you going to burst out at
all, why don't you burst out sudden instead of standing there so silly
and don't answer. And here I am so good to you, and find you a good
husband so you can have a place to live in all your own. Answer me,
Lena, don't you like Herman Kreder? He is a fine young fellow, almost
too good for you, Lena, when you stand there so stupid and don't make
no answer. There ain't many poor girls that get the chance you got now
to get married."
"Why, I do anything you say, Aunt Mathilda. Yes, I like him. He don't
say much to me, but I guess he is a good man, and I do anything you
say for me to do."
"Well then Lena, why you stand there so silly all the time and not
answer when I asked you."
"I didn't hear you say you wanted I should say anything to you. I
didn't know you wanted me to say nothing. I do whatever you tell me
it's right for me to do. I marry Herman Kreder, if you want me."
And so for Lena Mainz the match was made.
Old Mrs. Kreder did not discuss the matter with her Herman. She never
thought that she needed to talk such things over with him. She just
told him about getting married to Lena Mainz who was a good worker and
very saving and never wanted her own way, and Herman made his usual
little grunt in answer to her.
Mrs. Kreder and Mrs. Haydon fixed the day and made all the
arrangements for the wedding and invited everybody who ought to be
there to see them married.
In three months Lena Mainz and Herman Kreder were to be married.
Mrs. Haydon attended to Lena's getting all the things that she needed.
Lena had to help a good deal with the sewing. Lena did not sew very
well. Mrs. Haydon scolded because Lena did not do it better, but then
she was very good to Lena, and she hired a girl to come and help her.
Lena still stayed on with her pleasant mistress, but she spent all her
evenings and her Sundays with her aunt and all the sewing.
Mrs. Haydon got Lena some nice dresses. Lena liked that very well.
Lena liked having new hats even better, and Mrs. Haydon had some made
for her by a real milliner who made them very pretty.
Lena was nervous these days, but she did not think much about getting
married. She did not know really what it was, that, which was always
Lena liked the place where she was with the pleasant mistress and the
good cook, who always scolded, and she liked the girls she always sat
with. She did not ask if she would like being married any better. She
always did whatever her aunt said and expected, but she was always
nervous when she saw the Kreders with their Herman. She was excited
and she liked her new hats, and everybody teased her and every day her
marrying was coming nearer, and yet she did not really know what it
was, this that was about to happen to her.
Herman Kreder knew more what it meant to be married and he did not
like it very well. He did not like to see girls and he did not want
to have to have one always near him. Herman always did everything that
his father and his mother wanted and now they wanted that he should be
Herman had a sullen temper; he was gentle and he never said much. He
liked to go out with other men, but he never wanted that there should
be any women with them. The men all teased him about getting married.
Herman did not mind the teasing but he did not like very well the
getting married and having a girl always with him.
Three days before the wedding day, Herman went away to the country to
be gone over Sunday. He and Lena were to be married Tuesday afternoon.
When the day came Herman had not been seen or heard from.
The old Kreder couple had not worried much about it. Herman always did
everything they wanted and he would surely come back in time to get
married. But when Monday night came, and there was no Herman, they
went to Mrs. Haydon to tell her what had happened.
Mrs. Haydon got very much excited. It was hard enough to work so as
to get everything all ready, and then to have that silly Herman go off
that way, so no one could tell what was going to happen. Here was Lena
and everything all ready, and now they would have to make the wedding
later so that they would know that Herman would be sure to be there.
Mrs. Haydon was very much excited, and then she could not say much to
the old Kreder couple. She did not want to make them angry, for she
wanted very badly now that Lena should be married to their Herman.
At last it was decided that the wedding should be put off a week
longer. Old Mr. Kreder would go to New York to find Herman, for it was
very likely that Herman had gone there to his married sister.
Mrs. Haydon sent word around, about waiting until a week from that
Tuesday, to everybody that had been invited, and then Tuesday morning
she sent for Lena to come down to see her.
Mrs. Haydon was very angry with poor Lena when she saw her. She
scolded her hard because she was so foolish, and now Herman had gone
off and nobody could tell where he had gone to, and all because Lena
always was so dumb and silly. And Mrs. Haydon was just like a mother
to her, and Lena always stood there so stupid and did not answer what
anybody asked her, and Herman was so silly too, and now his father
had to go and find him. Mrs. Haydon did not think that any old people
should be good to their children. Their children always were so
thankless, and never paid any attention, and older people were always
doing things for their good. Did Lena think it gave Mrs. Haydon any
pleasure, to work so hard to make Lena happy, and get her a good
husband, and then Lena was so thankless and never did anything that
anybody wanted. It was a lesson to poor Mrs. Haydon not to do things
any more for anybody. Let everybody take care of themselves and never
come to her with any troubles; she knew better now than to meddle to
make other people happy. It just made trouble for her and her husband
did not like it. He always said she was too good, and nobody ever
thanked her for it, and there Lena was always standing stupid and not
answering anything anybody wanted. Lena could always talk enough to
those silly girls she liked so much, and always sat with, but who
never did anything for her except to take away her money, and here was
her aunt who tried so hard and was so good to her and treated her just
like one of her own children and Lena stood there, and never made any
answer and never tried to please her aunt, or to do anything that her
aunt wanted. "No, it ain't no use your standin' there and cryin',
now, Lena. Its too late now to care about that Herman. You should have
cared some before, and then you wouldn't have to stand and cry now,
and be a disappointment to me, and then I get scolded by my husband
for taking care of everybody, and nobody ever thankful. I am glad you
got the sense to feel sorry now, Lena, anyway, and I try to do what
I can to help you out in your trouble, only you don't deserve to have
anybody take any trouble for you. But perhaps you know better next
time. You go home now and take care you don't spoil your clothes and
that new hat, you had no business to be wearin' that this morning, but
you ain't got no sense at all, Lena. I never in my life see anybody be
Mrs. Haydon stopped and poor Lena stood there in her hat, all trimmed
with pretty flowers, and the tears coming out of her eyes, and Lena
did not know what it was that she had done, only she was not going to
be married and it was a disgrace for a girl to be left by a man on the
very day she was to be married.
Lena went home all alone, and cried in the street car.
Poor Lena cried very hard all alone in the street car. She almost
spoiled her new hat with her hitting it against the window in her
crying. Then she remembered that she must not do so.
The conductor was a kind man and he was very sorry when he saw her
crying. "Don't feel so bad, you get another feller, you are such a
nice girl," he said to make her cheerful. "But Aunt Mathilda said now,
I never get married," poor Lena sobbed out for her answer. "Why you
really got trouble like that," said the conductor, "I just said that
now to josh you. I didn't ever think you really was left by a feller.
He must be a stupid feller. But don't you worry, he wasn't much good
if he could go away and leave you, lookin' to be such a nice girl. You
just tell all your trouble to me, and I help you." The car was empty
and the conductor sat down beside her to put his arm around her, and
to be a comfort to her. Lena suddenly remembered where she was, and if
she did things like that her aunt would scold her. She moved away from
the man into the corner. He laughed, "Don't be scared," he said, "I
wasn't going to hurt you. But you just keep up your spirit. You are a
real nice girl, and you'll be sure to get a real good husband. Don't
you let nobody fool you. You're all right and I don't want to scare
The conductor went back to his platform to help a passenger get on
the car. All the time Lena stayed in the street car, he would come
in every little while and reassure her, about her not to feel so bad
about a man who hadn't no more sense than to go away and leave her.
She'd be sure yet to get a good man, she needn't be so worried, he
frequently assured her.
He chatted with the other passenger who had just come in, a very well
dressed old man, and then with another who came in later, a good sort
of a working man, and then another who came in, a nice lady, and he
told them all about Lena's having trouble, and it was too bad there
were men who treated a poor girl so badly. And everybody in the car
was sorry for poor Lena and the workman tried to cheer her, and the
old man looked sharply at her, and said she looked like a good girl,
but she ought to be more careful and not to be so careless, and things
like that would not happen to her, and the nice lady went and sat
beside her and Lena liked it, though she shrank away from being near
So Lena was feeling a little better when she got off the car, and the
conductor helped her, and he called out to her, "You be sure you keep
up a good heart now. He wasn't no good that feller and you were lucky
for to lose him. You'll get a real man yet, one that will be better
for you. Don't you be worried, you're a real nice girl as I ever see
in such trouble," and the conductor shook his head and went back into
his car to talk it over with the other passengers he had there.
The german cook, who always scolded Lena, was very angry when she
heard the story. She never did think Mrs. Haydon would do so much for
Lena, though she was always talking so grand about what she could
do for everybody. The good german cook always had been a little
distrustful of her. People who always thought they were so much never
did really do things right for anybody. Not that Mrs. Haydon wasn't
a good woman. Mrs. Haydon was a real, good, german woman, and she
did really mean to do well by her niece Lena. The cook knew that
very well, and she had always said so, and she always had liked and
respected Mrs. Haydon, who always acted very proper to her, and Lena
was so backward, when there was a man to talk to, Mrs. Haydon did have
hard work when she tried to marry Lena. Mrs. Haydon was a good woman,
only she did talk sometimes too grand. Perhaps this trouble would
make her see it wasn't always so easy to do, to make everybody do
everything just like she wanted. The cook was very sorry now for Mrs.
Haydon. All this must be such a disappointment, and such a worry to
her, and she really had always been very good to Lena. But Lena had
better go and put on her other clothes and stop all that crying. That
wouldn't do nothing now to help her, and if Lena would be a good girl,
and just be real patient, her aunt would make it all come out right
yet for her. "I just tell Mrs. Aldrich, Lena, you stay here yet a
little longer. You know she is always so good to you, Lena, and I know
she let you, and I tell her all about that stupid Herman Kreder. I got
no patience, Lena, with anybody who can be so stupid. You just stop
now with your crying, Lena, and take off them good clothes and put
them away so you don't spoil them when you need them, and you can help
me with the dishes and everything will come off better for you. You
see if I ain't right by what I tell you. You just stop crying now Lena
quick, or else I scold you."
Lena still choked a little and was very miserable inside her but she
did everything just as the cook told her.
The girls Lena always sat with were very sorry to see her look so sad
with her trouble. Mary the Irish girl sometimes got very angry with
her. Mary was always very hot when she talked to Lena's aunt Mathilda,
who thought she was so grand, and had such stupid, stuck up daughters.
Mary wouldn't be a fat fool like that ugly tempered Mathilda Haydon,
not for anything anybody could ever give her. How Lena could keep on
going there so much when they all always acted as if she was just dirt
to them, Mary never could see. But Lena never had any sense of how she
should make people stand round for her, and that was always all the
trouble with her. And poor Lena, she was so stupid to be sorry for
losing that gawky fool who didn't ever know what he wanted and just
said "ja" to his mamma and his papa, like a baby, and was scared to
look at a girl straight, and then sneaked away the last day like as
if somebody was going to do something to him. Disgrace, Lena talking
about disgrace! It was a disgrace for a girl to be seen with the likes
of him, let alone to be married to him. But that poor Lena, she never
did know how to show herself off for what she was really. Disgrace to
have him go away and leave her. Mary would just like to get a chance
to show him. If Lena wasn't worth fifteen like Herman Kreder, Mary
would just eat her own head all up. It was a good riddance Lena had of
that Herman Kreder and his stingy, dirty parents, and if Lena didn't
stop crying about it,--Mary would just naturally despise her.
Poor Lena, she knew very well how Mary meant it all, this she was
always saying to her. But Lena was very miserable inside her. She felt
the disgrace it was for a decent german girl that a man should go away
and leave her. Lena knew very well that her aunt was right when she
said the way Herman had acted to her was a disgrace to everyone that
knew her. Mary and Nellie and the other girls she always sat with were
always very good to Lena but that did not make her trouble any better.
It was a disgrace the way Lena had been left, to any decent family,
and that could never be made any different to her.
And so the slow days wore on, and Lena never saw her Aunt Mathilda. At
last on Sunday she got word by a boy to go and see her aunt Mathilda.
Lena's heart beat quick for she was very nervous now with all this
that had happened to her. She went just as quickly as she could to see
her Aunt Mathilda.
Mrs. Haydon quick, as soon as she saw Lena, began to scold her for
keeping her aunt waiting so long for her, and for not coming in all
the week to see her, to see if her aunt should need her, and so her
aunt had to send a boy to tell her. But it was easy, even for Lena,
to see that her aunt was not really angry with her. It wasn't Lena's
fault, went on Mrs. Haydon, that everything was going to happen all
right for her. Mrs. Haydon was very tired taking all this trouble
for her, and when Lena couldn't even take trouble to come and see
her aunt, to see if she needed anything to tell her. But Mrs. Haydon
really never minded things like that when she could do things for
anybody. She was tired now, all the trouble she had been taking to
make things right for Lena, but perhaps now Lena heard it she would
learn a little to be thankful to her. "You get all ready to be married
Tuesday, Lena, you hear me," said Mrs. Haydon to her. "You come here
Tuesday morning and I have everything all ready for you. You wear your
new dress I got you, and your hat with all them flowers on it, and
you be very careful coming you don't get your things all dirty, you so
careless all the time, Lena, and not thinking, and you act sometimes
you never got no head at all on you. You go home now, and you tell
your Mrs. Aldrich that you leave her Tuesday. Don't you go forgetting
now, Lena, anything I ever told you what you should do to be careful.
You be a good girl, now Lena. You get married Tuesday to Herman
Kreder." And that was all Lena ever knew of what had happened all this
week to Herman Kreder. Lena forgot there was anything to know about
it. She was really to be married Tuesday, and her Aunt Mathilda said
she was a good girl, and now there was no disgrace left upon her.
Lena now fell back into the way she always had of being always dreamy
and not there, the way she always had been, except for the few days
she was so excited, because she had been left by a man the very day
she was to have been married. Lena was a little nervous all these last
days, but she did not think much about what it meant for her to be
Herman Kreder was not so content about it. He was quiet and was sullen
and he knew he could not help it. He knew now he just had to let
himself get married. It was not that Herman did not like Lena Mainz.
She was as good as any other girl could be for him. She was a little
better perhaps than other girls he saw, she was so very quiet, but
Herman did not like to always have to have a girl around him. Herman
had always done everything that his mother and his father wanted. His
father had found him in New York, where Herman had gone to be with his
Herman's father when he had found him coaxed Herman a long time and
went on whole days with his complaining to him, always troubled but
gentle and quite patient with him, and always he was worrying to
Herman about what was the right way his boy Herman should always do,
always whatever it was his mother ever wanted from him, and always
Herman never made him any answer.
Old Mr. Kreder kept on saying to him, he did not see how Herman could
think now, it could be any different. When you make a bargain you just
got to stick right to it, that was the only way old Mr. Kreder could
ever see it, and saying you would get married to a girl and she got
everything all ready, that was a bargain just like one you make in
business and Herman he had made it, and now Herman he would just have
to do it, old Mr. Kreder didn't see there was any other way a good boy
like his Herman had, to do it. And then too that Lena Mainz was such
a nice girl and Herman hadn't ought to really give his father so much
trouble and make him pay out all that money, to come all the way to
New York just to find him, and they both lose all that time from their
working, when all Herman had to do was just to stand up, for an hour,
and then he would be all right married, and it would be all over for
him, and then everything at home would never be any different to him.
And his father went on; there was his poor mother saying always how
her Herman always did everything before she ever wanted, and now just
because he got notions in him, and wanted to show people how he could
be stubborn, he was making all this trouble for her, and making them
pay all that money just to run around and find him. "You got no idea
Herman, how bad mama is feeling about the way you been acting Herman,"
said old Mr. Kreder to him. "She says she never can understand how
you can be so thankless Herman. It hurts her very much you been so
stubborn, and she find you such a nice girl for you, like Lena Mainz
who is always just so quiet and always saves up all her wages, and she
never wanting her own way at all like some girls are always all the
time to have it, and you mama trying so hard, just so you could be
comfortable Herman to be married, and then you act so stubborn Herman.
You like all young people Herman, you think only about yourself, and
what you are just wanting, and your mama she is thinking only what is
good for you to have, for you in the future. Do you think your mama
wants to have a girl around to be a bother, for herself, Herman. Its
just for you Herman she is always thinking, and she talks always about
how happy she will be, when she sees her Herman married to a nice
girl, and then when she fixed it all up so good for you, so it never
would be any bother to you, just the way she wanted you should like
it, and you say yes all right, I do it, and then you go away like this
and act stubborn, and make all this trouble everybody to take for you,
and we spend money, and I got to travel all round to find you. You
come home now with me Herman and get married, and I tell your mama she
better not say anything to you about how much it cost me to come all
the way to look for you--Hey Herman," said his father coaxing, "Hey,
you come home now and get married. All you got to do Herman is just to
stand up for an hour Herman, and then you don't never to have any more
bother to it--Hey Herman!--you come home with me to-morrow and get
married. Hey Herman."
Herman's married sister liked her brother Herman, and she had always
tried to help him, when there was anything she knew he wanted. She
liked it that he was so good and always did everything that their
father and their mother wanted, but still she wished it could be that
he could have more his own way, if there was anything he ever wanted.
But now she thought Herman with his girl was very funny. She wanted
that Herman should be married. She thought it would do him lots of
good to get married. She laughed at Herman when she heard the story.
Until his father came to find him, she did not know why it was Herman
had come just then to New York to see her. When she heard the story
she laughed a good deal at her brother Herman and teased him a good
deal about his running away, because he didn't want to have a girl to
be all the time around him.
Herman's married sister liked her brother Herman, and she did not want
him not to like to be with women. He was good, her brother Herman, and
it would surely do him good to get married. It would make him stand up
for himself stronger. Herman's sister always laughed at him and always
she would try to reassure him. "Such a nice man as my brother Herman
acting like as if he was afraid of women. Why the girls all like a man
like you Herman, if you didn't always run away when you saw them. It
do you good really Herman to get married, and then you got somebody
you can boss around when you want to. It do you good Herman to get
married, you see if you don't like it, when you really done it. You
go along home now with papa, Herman and get married to that Lena. You
don't know how nice you like it Herman when you try once how you can
do it. You just don't be afraid of nothing, Herman. You good enough
for any girl to marry, Herman. Any girl be glad to have a man like you
to be always with them Herman. You just go along home with papa and
try it what I say, Herman. Oh you so funny Herman, when you sit there,
and then run away and leave your girl behind you. I know she is crying
like anything Herman for to lose you. Don't be bad to her Herman.
You go along home with papa now and get married Herman. I'd be awful
ashamed Herman, to really have a brother didn't have spirit enough
to get married, when a girl is just dying for to have him. You always
like me to be with you Herman. I don't see why you say you don't
want a girl to be all the time around you. You always been good to me
Herman, and I know you always be good to that Lena, and you soon feel
just like as if she had always been there with you. Don't act like as
if you wasn't a nice strong man, Herman. Really I laugh at you Herman,
but you know I like awful well to see you real happy. You go home and
get married to that Lena, Herman. She is a real pretty girl and real
nice and good and quiet and she make my brother Herman very happy. You
just stop your fussing now with Herman, papa. He go with you to-morrow
papa, and you see he like it so much to be married, he make everybody
laugh just to see him be so happy. Really truly, that's the way
it will be with you Herman. You just listen to me what I tell you
Herman." And so his sister laughed at him and reassured him, and his
father kept on telling what the mother always said about her Herman,
and he coaxed him and Herman never said anything in answer, and his
sister packed his things up and was very cheerful with him, and she
kissed him, and then she laughed and then she kissed him, and his
father went and bought the tickets for the train, and at last late on
Sunday he brought Herman back to Bridgepoint with him.
It was always very hard to keep Mrs. Kreder from saying what she
thought, to her Herman, but her daughter had written her a letter, so
as to warn her not to say anything about what he had been doing, to
him, and her husband came in with Herman and said, "Here we are come
home mama, Herman and me, and we are very tired it was so crowded
coming," and then he whispered to her. "You be good to Herman, mama,
he didn't mean to make us so much trouble," and so old Mrs. Kreder,
held in what she felt was so strong in her to say to her Herman. She
just said very stiffly to him, "I'm glad to see you come home to-day,
Herman." Then she went to arrange it all with Mrs. Haydon.
Herman was now again just like he always had been, sullen and very
good, and very quiet, and always ready to do whatever his mother and
his father wanted. Tuesday morning came, Herman got his new clothes
on and went with his father and his mother to stand up for an hour and
get married. Lena was there in her new dress, and her hat with all
the pretty flowers, and she was very nervous for now she knew she was
really very soon to be married. Mrs. Haydon had everything all ready.
Everybody was there just as they should be and very soon Herman Kreder
and Lena Mainz were married.
When everything was really over, they went back to the Kreder house
together. They were all now to live together, Lena and Herman and
the old father and the old mother, in the house where Mr. Kreder had
worked so many years as a tailor, with his son Herman always there to
Irish Mary had often said to Lena she never did see how Lena could
ever want to have anything to do with Herman Kreder and his dirty
stingy parents. The old Kreders were to an Irish nature, a stingy,
dirty couple. They had not the free-hearted, thoughtless, fighting,
mud bespattered, ragged, peat-smoked cabin dirt that irish Mary knew
and could forgive and love. Theirs was the german dirt of saving, of
being dowdy and loose and foul in your clothes so as to save them and
yourself in washing, having your hair greasy to save it in the soap
and drying, having your clothes dirty, not in freedom, but because so
it was cheaper, keeping the house close and smelly because so it cost
less to get it heated, living so poorly not only so as to save money
but so they should never even know themselves that they had it,
working all the time not only because from their nature they just had
to and because it made them money but also that they never could be
put in any way to make them spend their money.
This was the place Lena now had for her home and to her it was very
different than it could be for an irish Mary. She too was german and
was thrifty, though she was always so dreamy and not there. Lena was
always careful with things and she always saved her money, for that
was the only way she knew how to do it. She never had taken care of
her own money and she never had thought how to use it.
Lena Mainz had been, before she was Mrs. Herman Kreder, always clean
and decent in her clothes and in her person, but it was not because
she ever thought about it or really needed so to have it, it was the
way her people did in the german country where she came from, and her
Aunt Mathilda and the good german cook who always scolded, had kept
her on and made her, with their scoldings, always more careful to keep
clean and to wash real often. But there was no deep need in all this
for Lena and so, though Lena did not like the old Kreders, though she
really did not know that, she did not think about their being stingy
Herman Kreder was cleaner than the old people, just because it was his
nature to keep cleaner, but he was used to his mother and his father,
and he never thought that they should keep things cleaner. And Herman
too always saved all his money, except for that little beer he drank
when he went out with other men of an evening the way he always liked
to do it, and he never thought of any other way to spend it. His
father had always kept all the money for them and he always was doing
business with it. And then too Herman really had no money, for he
always had worked for his father, and his father had never thought to
And so they began all four to live in the Kreder house together, and
Lena began soon with it to look careless and a little dirty, and to be
more lifeless with it, and nobody ever noticed much what Lena wanted,
and she never really knew herself what she needed.
The only real trouble that came to Lena with their living all four
there together, was the way old Mrs. Kreder scolded. Lena had always
been used to being scolded, but this scolding of old Mrs. Kreder was
very different from the way she ever before had had to endure it.
Herman, now he was married to her, really liked Lena very well. He did
not care very much about her but she never was a bother to him being
there around him, only when his mother worried and was nasty to them
because Lena was so careless, and did not know how to save things
right for them with their eating, and all the other ways with money,
that the old woman had to save it.
Herman Kreder had always done everything his mother and his father
wanted but he did not really love his parents very deeply. With Herman
it was always only that he hated to have any struggle. It was all
always all right with him when he could just go along and do the same
thing over every day with his working, and not to hear things, and not
to have people make him listen to their anger. And now his marriage,
and he just knew it would, was making trouble for him. It made him
hear more what his mother was always saying, with her scolding. He had
to really hear it now because Lena was there, and she was so scared
and dull always when she heard it. Herman knew very well with his
mother, it was all right if one ate very little and worked hard all
day and did not hear her when she scolded, the way Herman always had
done before they were so foolish about his getting married and having
a girl there to be all the time around him, and now he had to help her
so the girl could learn too, not to hear it when his mother scolded,
and not to look so scared, and not to eat much, and always to be sure
to save it.
Herman really did not know very well what he could do to help Lena
to understand it. He could never answer his mother back to help Lena,
that never would make things any better for her, and he never could
feel in himself any way to comfort Lena, to make her strong not to
hear his mother, in all the awful ways she always scolded. It just
worried Herman to have it like that all the time around him. Herman
did not know much about how a man could make a struggle with a mother,
to do much to keep her quiet, and indeed Herman never knew much how to
make a struggle against anyone who really wanted to have anything very
badly. Herman all his life never wanted anything so badly, that he
would really make a struggle against any one to get it. Herman all his
life only wanted to live regular and quiet, and not talk much and to
do the same way every day like every other with his working. And now
his mother had made him get married to this Lena and now with his
mother making all that scolding, he had all this trouble and this
worry always on him.
Mrs. Haydon did not see Lena now very often. She had not lost her
interest in her niece Lena, but Lena could not come much to her house
to see her, it would not be right, now Lena was a married woman.
And then too Mrs. Haydon had her hands full just then with her two
daughters, for she was getting them ready to find them good husbands,
and then too her own husband now worried her very often about her
always spoiling that boy of hers, so he would be sure to turn out no
good and be a disgrace to a german family, and all because his mother
always spoiled him. All these things were very worrying now to Mrs.
Haydon, but still she wanted to be good to Lena, though she could not
see her very often. She only saw her when Mrs. Haydon went to call
on Mrs. Kreder or when Mrs. Kreder came to see Mrs. Haydon, and that
never could be very often. Then too these days Mrs. Haydon could not
scold Lena, Mrs. Kreder was always there with her, and it would not be
right to scold Lena, when Mrs. Kreder was there, who had now the real
right to do it. And so her aunt always said nice things now to Lena,
and though Mrs. Haydon sometimes was a little worried when she saw
Lena looking sad and not careful, she did not have time just then to
really worry much about it.
Lena now never any more saw the girls she always used to sit with. She
had no way now to see them and it was not in Lena's nature to search
out ways to see them, nor did she now ever think much of the days when
she had been used to see them. They never any of them had come to the
Kreder house to see her. Not even Irish Mary had ever thought to come
to see her. Lena had been soon forgotten by them. They had soon passed
away from Lena and now Lena never thought any more that she had ever
The only one of her old friends who tried to know what Lena liked and
what she needed, and who always made Lena come to see her, was the
good german cook who had always scolded. She now scolded Lena hard for
letting herself go so, and going out when she was looking so untidy.
"I know you going to have a baby Lena, but that's no way for you to be
looking. I am ashamed most to see you come and sit here in my kitchen,
looking so sloppy and like you never used to Lena. I never see anybody
like you Lena. Herman is very good to you, you always say so, and he
don't treat you bad even though you don't deserve to have anybody good
to you, you so careless all the time, Lena, letting yourself go like
you never had anybody tell you what was the right way you should know
how to be looking. No, Lena, I don't see no reason you should let
yourself go so and look so untidy Lena, so I am ashamed to see you sit
there looking so ugly, Lena. No Lena that ain't no way ever I see a
woman make things come out better, letting herself go so every way and
crying all the time like as if you had real trouble. I never wanted to
see you marry Herman Kreder, Lena, I knew what you got to stand with
that old woman always, and that old man, he is so stingy too and he
don't say things out but he ain't any better in his heart than his
wife with her bad ways, I know that Lena, I know they don't hardly
give you enough to eat, Lena, I am real sorry for you Lena, you know
that Lena, but that ain't any way to be going round so untidy Lena,
even if you have got all that trouble. You never see me do like that
Lena, though sometimes I got a headache so I can't see to stand to
be working hardly, and nothing comes right with all my cooking, but I
always see Lena, I look decent. That's the only way a german girl can
make things come out right Lena. You hear me what I am saying to you
Lena. Now you eat something nice Lena, I got it all ready for you, and
you wash up and be careful Lena and the baby will come all right to
you, and then I make your Aunt Mathilda see that you live in a house
soon all alone with Herman and your baby, and then everything go
better for you. You hear me what I say to you Lena. Now don't let me
ever see you come looking like this any more Lena, and you just stop
with that always crying. You ain't got no reason to be sitting there
now with all that crying, I never see anybody have trouble it did them
any good to do the way you are doing, Lena. You hear me Lena. You go
home now and you be good the way I tell you Lena, and I see what I can
do. I make your Aunt Mathilda make old Mrs. Kreder let you be till you
get your baby all right. Now don't you be scared and so silly Lena. I
don't like to see you act so Lena when really you got a nice man and
so many things really any girl should be grateful to be having. Now
you go home Lena to-day and you do the way I say, to you, and I see
what I can do to help you."
"Yes Mrs. Aldrich" said the good german woman to her mistress later,
"Yes Mrs. Aldrich that's the way it is with them girls when they want
so to get married. They don't know when they got it good Mrs. Aldrich.
They never know what it is they're really wanting when they got it,
Mrs. Aldrich. There's that poor Lena, she just been here crying and
looking so careless so I scold her, but that was no good that marrying
for that poor Lena, Mrs. Aldrich. She do look so pale and sad now Mrs.
Aldrich, it just break my heart to see her. She was a good girl was
Lena, Mrs. Aldrich, and I never had no trouble with her like I got
with so many young girls nowadays, Mrs. Aldrich, and I never see any
girl any better to work right than our Lena, and now she got to stand
it all the time with that old woman Mrs. Kreder. My! Mrs. Aldrich, she
is a bad old woman to her. I never see Mrs. Aldrich how old people can
be so bad to young girls and not have no kind of patience with them.
If Lena could only live with her Herman, he ain't so bad the way men
are, Mrs. Aldrich, but he is just the way always his mother wants him,
he ain't got no spirit in him, and so I don't really see no help for
that poor Lena. I know her aunt, Mrs. Haydon, meant it all right for
her Mrs. Aldrich, but poor Lena, it would be better for her if her
Herman had stayed there in New York that time he went away to leave
her. I don't like it the way Lena is looking now, Mrs. Aldrich. She
looks like as if she don't have no life left in her hardly, Mrs.
Aldrich, she just drags around and looks so dirty and after all the
pains I always took to teach her and to keep her nice in her ways and
looking. It don't do no good to them, for them girls to get married
Mrs. Aldrich, they are much better when they only know it, to stay in
a good place when they got it, and keep on regular with their working.
I don't like it the way Lena looks now Mrs. Aldrich. I wish I knew
some way to help that poor Lena, Mrs. Aldrich, but she she is a bad
old woman, that old Mrs. Kreder, Herman's mother. I speak to Mrs.
Haydon real soon, Mrs. Aldrich, I see what we can do now to help that
These were really bad days for poor Lena. Herman always was real
good to her and now he even sometimes tried to stop his mother from
scolding Lena. "She ain't well now mama, you let her be now you hear
me. You tell me what it is you want she should be doing, I tell her. I
see she does it right just the way you want it mama. You let be, I say
now mama, with that always scolding Lena. You let be, I say now, you
wait till she is feeling better." Herman was getting really strong
to struggle, for he could see that Lena with that baby working hard
inside her, really could not stand it any longer with his mother and
the awful ways she always scolded.
It was a new feeling Herman now had inside him that made him feel he
was strong to make a struggle. It was new for Herman Kreder really to
be wanting something, but Herman wanted strongly now to be a father,
and he wanted badly that his baby should be a boy and healthy, Herman
never had cared really very much about his father and his mother,
though always, all his life, he had done everything just as they
wanted, and he had never really cared much about his wife, Lena,
though he always had been very good to her, and had always tried to
keep his mother off her, with the awful way she always scolded, but to
be really a father of a little baby, that feeling took hold of Herman
very deeply. He was almost ready, so as to save his baby from all
trouble, to really make a strong struggle with his mother and with his
father, too, if he would not help him to control his mother.
Sometimes Herman even went to Mrs. Haydon to talk all this trouble
over. They decided then together, it was better to wait there all four
together for the baby, and Herman could make Mrs. Kreder stop a little
with her scolding, and then when Lena was a little stronger, Herman
should have his own house for her, next door to his father, so he
could always be there to help him in his working, but so they could
eat and sleep in a house where the old woman could not control them
and they could not hear her awful scolding.
And so things went on, the same way, a little longer. Poor Lena was
not feeling any joy to have a baby. She was scared the way she had
been when she was so sick on the water. She was scared now every time
when anything would hurt her. She was scared and still and lifeless,
and sure that every minute she would die. Lena had no power to be
strong in this kind of trouble, she could only sit still and be
scared, and dull, and lifeless, and sure that every minute she would
Before very long, Lena had her baby. He was a good, healthy little
boy, the baby. Herman cared very much to have the baby. When Lena was
a little stronger he took a house next door to the old couple, so he
and his own family could eat and sleep and do the way they wanted.
This did not seem to make much change now for Lena. She was just the
same as when she was waiting with her baby. She just dragged around
and was careless with her clothes and all lifeless, and she acted
always and lived on just as if she had no feeling. She always did
everything regular with the work, the way she always had had to do it,
but she never got back any spirit in her. Herman was always good and
kind, and always helped her with her working. He did everything he
knew to help her. He always did all the active new things in the house
and for the baby. Lena did what she had to do the way she always had
been taught it. She always just kept going now with her working, and
she was always careless, and dirty, and a little dazed, and lifeless.
Lena never got any better in herself of this way of being that she had
had ever since she had been married.
Mrs. Haydon never saw any more of her niece, Lena. Mrs. Haydon had now
so much trouble with her own house, and her daughters getting married,
and her boy, who was growing up, and who always was getting so much
worse to manage. She knew she had done right by Lena. Herman Kreder
was a good man, she would be glad to get one so good, sometimes,
for her own daughters, and now they had a home to live in together,
separate from the old people, who had made their trouble for them.
Mrs. Haydon felt she had done very well by her niece, Lena, and she
never thought now she needed any more to go and see her. Lena would do
very well now without her aunt to trouble herself any more about her.
The good german cook who had always scolded, still tried to do her
duty like a mother to poor Lena. It was very hard now to do right by
Lena. Lena never seemed to hear now what anyone was saying to her.
Herman was always doing everything he could to help her. Herman
always, when he was home, took good care of the baby. Herman loved
to take care of his baby. Lena never thought to take him out or to do
anything she didn't have to.
The good cook sometimes made Lena come to see her. Lena would come
with her baby and sit there in the kitchen, and watch the good woman
cooking, and listen to her sometimes a little, the way she used to,
while the good german woman scolded her for going around looking so
careless when now she had no trouble, and sitting there so dull, and
always being just so thankless. Sometimes Lena would wake up a little
and get back into her face her old, gentle, patient, and unsuffering
sweetness, but mostly Lena did not seem to hear much when the good
german woman scolded. Lena always liked it when Mrs. Aldrich her good
mistress spoke to her kindly, and then Lena would seem to go back
and feel herself to be like she was when she had been in service.
But mostly Lena just lived along and was careless in her clothes, and
dull, and lifeless.
By and by Lena had two more little babies. Lena was not so much scared
now when she had the babies. She did not seem to notice very much
when they hurt her, and she never seemed to feel very much now about
anything that happened to her.
They were very nice babies, all these three that Lena had, and Herman
took good care of them always. Herman never really cared much about
his wife, Lena. The only things Herman ever really cared for were his
babies. Herman always was very good to his children. He always had a
gentle, tender way when he held them. He learned to be very handy with
them. He spent all the time he was not working, with them. By and by
he began to work all day in his own home so that he could have his
children always in the same room with him.
Lena always was more and more lifeless and Herman now mostly never
thought about her. He more and more took all the care of their three
children. He saw to their eating right and their washing, and he
dressed them every morning, and he taught them the right way to do
things, and he put them to their sleeping, and he was now always every
minute with them. Then there was to come to them, a fourth baby. Lena
went to the hospital near by to have the baby. Lena seemed to be going
to have much trouble with it. When the baby was come out at last, it
was like its mother lifeless. While it was coming, Lena had grown very
pale and sicker. When it was all over Lena had died, too, and nobody
knew just how it had happened to her.
The good german cook who had always scolded Lena, and had always to
the last day tried to help her, was the only one who ever missed
her. She remembered how nice Lena had looked all the time she was
in service with her, and how her voice had been so gentle and
sweet-sounding, and how she always was a good girl, and how she never
had to have any trouble with her, the way she always had with all the
other girls who had been taken into the house to help her. The good
cook sometimes spoke so of Lena when she had time to have a talk with
Mrs. Aldrich, and this was all the remembering there now ever was of
Herman Kreder now always lived very happy, very gentle, very quiet,
very well content alone with his three children. He never had a woman
any more to be all the time around him. He always did all his own
work in his house, when he was through every day with the work he was
always doing for his father. Herman always was alone, and he always
worked alone, until his little ones were big enough to help him.
Herman Kreder was very well content now and he always lived very
regular and peaceful, and with every day just like the next one,
always alone now with his three good, gentle children.
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