A SAPPHO OF GREEN SPRINGS
A SAPPHO OF GREEN SPRINGS
"Come in" said the editor.
The door of the editorial room of the "Excelsior Magazine" began to
creak painfully under the hesitating pressure of an uncertain and
unfamiliar hand. This continued until with a start of irritation
the editor faced directly about throwing his leg over the arm of
his chair with a certain youthful dexterity. With one hand
gripping its back the other still grasping a proof-slip and his
pencil in his mouth he stared at the intruder.
The stranger despite his hesitating entrance did not seem in the
least disconcerted. He was a tall man looking even taller by
reason of the long formless overcoat he wore known as a "duster"
and by a long straight beard that depended from his chin which he
combed with two reflective fingers as he contemplated the editor.
The red dust which still lay in the creases of his garment and in
the curves of his soft felt hat and left a dusty circle like a
precipitated halo around his feet proclaimed him if not a
countryman a recent inland importation by coach. "Busy?" he said
in a grave but pleasant voice. "I kin wait. Don't mind ME. Go
The editor indicated a chair with his disengaged hand and plunged
again into his proof-slips. The stranger surveyed the scant
furniture and appointments of the office with a look of grave
curiosity and then taking a chair fixed an earnest penetrating
gaze on the editor's profile. The editor felt it and without
looking up said--
"Well go on."
"But you're busy. I kin wait."
"I shall not be less busy this morning. I can listen."
"I want you to give me the name of a certain person who writes in
The editor's eye glanced at the second right-hand drawer of his
desk. It did not contain the names of his contributors but what
in the traditions of his office was accepted as an equivalent--a
revolver. He had never yet presented either to an inquirer. But
he laid aside his proofs and with a slight darkening of his
youthful discontented face said "What do you want to know for?"
The question was so evidently unexpected that the stranger's face
colored slightly and he hesitated. The editor meanwhile without
taking his eyes from the man mentally ran over the contents of the
last magazine. They had been of a singularly peaceful character.
There seemed to be nothing to justify homicide on his part or the
stranger's. Yet there was no knowing and his questioner's bucolic
appearance by no means precluded an assault. Indeed it had been a
legend of the office that a predecessor had suffered vicariously
from a geological hammer covertly introduced into a scientific
controversy by an irate professor.
"As we make ourselves responsible for the conduct of the magazine"
continued the young editor with mature severity "we do not give
up the names of our contributors. If you do not agree with their
"But I DO" said the stranger with his former composure "and I
reckon that's why I want to know who wrote those verses called
'Underbrush' signed 'White Violet' in your last number. They're
The editor flushed slightly and glanced instinctively around for
any unexpected witness of his ludicrous mistake. The fear of
ridicule was uppermost in his mind and he was more relieved at his
mistake not being overheard than at its groundlessness.
"The verses ARE pretty" he said recovering himself with a
critical air "and I am glad you like them. But even then you
know I could not give you the lady's name without her permission.
I will write to her and ask it if you like."
The actual fact was that the verses had been sent to him
anonymously from a remote village in the Coast Range--the address
being the post-office and the signature initials.
The stranger looked disturbed. "Then she ain't about here
anywhere?" he said with a vague gesture. "She don't belong to
The young editor beamed with tolerant superiority: "No I am sorry
"I should like to have got to see her and kinder asked her a few
questions" continued the stranger with the same reflective
seriousness. "You see it wasn't just the rhymin' o' them verses--
and they kinder sing themselves to ye don't they?--it wasn't the
chyce o' words--and I reckon they allus hit the idee in the centre
shot every time--it wasn't the idees and moral she sort o' drew
out o' what she was tellin'--but it was the straight thing
"The truth?" repeated the editor.
"Yes sir. I've bin there. I've seen all that she's seen in the
brush--the little flicks and checkers o' light and shadder down in
the brown dust that you wonder how it ever got through the dark of
the woods and that allus seems to slip away like a snake or a
lizard if you grope. I've heard all that she's heard there--the
creepin' the sighin' and the whisperin' through the bracken and
the ground-vines of all that lives there."
"You seem to be a poet yourself" said the editor with a
"I'm a lumberman up in Mendocino" returned the stranger with
sublime naivete. "Got a mill there. You see sightin' standin'
timber and selectin' from the gen'ral show of the trees in the
ground and the lay of roots hez sorter made me take notice." He
paused. "Then" he added somewhat despondingly "you don't know
who she is?"
"No" said the editor reflectively; "not even if it is really a
WOMAN who writes."
"Well you see 'White Violet' may as well be the nom de plume of a
man as of a woman especially if adopted for the purpose of
mystification. The handwriting I remember WAS more boyish than
"No" returned the stranger doggedly "it wasn't no MAN. There's
ideas and words there that only come from a woman: baby-talk to the
birds you know and a kind of fearsome keer of bugs and creepin'
things that don't come to a man who wears boots and trousers.
Well" he added with a return to his previous air of resigned
disappointment "I suppose you don't even know what she's like?"
"No" responded the editor cheerfully. Then following an idea
suggested by the odd mingling of sentiment and shrewd perception in
the man before him he added: "Probably not at all like anything
you imagine. She may be a mother with three or four children; or
an old maid who keeps a boarding-house; or a wrinkled school-
mistress; or a chit of a school-girl. I've had some fair verses
from a red-haired girl of fourteen at the Seminary" he concluded
with professional coolness.
The stranger regarded him with the naive wonder of an inexperienced
man. Having paid this tribute to his superior knowledge he