W. D. HOWELLS
"The Rise of Silas Lapham"
"April Hopes" etc.
After the death of Judge Kilburn his daughter came back to America. They
had been eleven winters in Rome always meaning to return but staying on
from year to year as people do who have nothing definite to call them
home. Toward the last Miss Kilburn tacitly gave up the expectation of
getting her father away though they both continued to say that they were
going to take passage as soon as the weather was settled in the spring.
At the date they had talked of for sailing he was lying in the Protestant
cemetery and she was trying to gather herself together and adjust her
life to his loss. This would have been easier with a younger person for
she had been her father's pet so long and then had taken care of his
helplessness with a devotion which was finally so motherly that it was
like losing at once a parent and a child when he died and she remained
with the habit of giving herself when there was no longer any one to
receive the sacrifice. He had married late and in her thirty-first year he
was seventy-eight; but the disparity of their ages increasing toward the
end through his infirmities had not loosened for her the ties of custom
and affection that bound them; she had seen him grow more and more fitfully
cognisant of what they had been to each other since her mother's death
while she grew the more tender and fond with him. People who came to
condole with her seemed not to understand this or else they thought it
would help her to bear up if they treated her bereavement as a relief from
hopeless anxiety. They were all surprised when she told them she still
meant to go home.
"Why my dear" said one old lady who had been away from America twenty
years "_this_ is home! You've lived in this apartment longer now
than the oldest inhabitant has lived in most American towns. What are you
talking about? Do you mean that you are going back to Washington?"
"Oh no. We were merely staying on in Washington from force of habit after
father gave up practice. I think we shall go back to the old homestead
where we used to spend our summers ever since I can remember."
"And where is that?" the old lady asked with the sharpness which people
believe must somehow be good for a broken spirit.
"It's in the interior of Massachusetts--you wouldn't know it: a place
"No I certainly shouldn't" said the old lady with superiority. "Why
Hatboro' of all the ridiculous reasons?"
"It was one of the first places where they began to make straw hats; it was
a nickname at first and then they adopted it. The old name was Dorchester
Farms. Father fought the change but it was of no use; the people wouldn't
have it Farms after the place began to grow; and by that time they had got
used to Hatboro'. Besides I don't see how it's any worse than Hatfield in
"It's very American."
"Oh it's American. We have Boxboro' too you know in Massachusetts."
"And you are going from Rome to Hatboro' Mass." said the old lady trying
to present the idea in the strongest light by abbreviating the name of the
"Yes" said Miss Kilburn. "It will be a change but not so much of a change
as you would think. It was father's wish to go back."
"Ah my _dear_!" cried the old lady. "You're letting that weigh with
you I see. Don't do it! If it wasn't wise don't you suppose that the last
thing he could wish you to do would be to sacrifice yourself to a sick whim
The kindness expressed in the words touched Annie Kilburn. She had a
certain beauty of feature; she was near-sighted; but her eyes were brown
and soft her lips red and full; her dark hair grew low and played in
little wisps and rings on her temples where her complexion was clearest;
the bold contour of her face with its decided chin and the rather large
salient nose was like her father's; it was this probably that gave an
impression of strength with a wistful qualification. She was at that time
rather thin and it could have been seen that she would be handsomer when
her frame had rounded out in fulfilment of its generous design. She opened
her lips to speak but shut them again in an effort at self-control before
"But I really wish to do it. At this moment I would rather be in Hatboro'
than in Rome."
"Oh very well" said the old lady gathering herself up as one does from
throwing away one's sympathy upon an unworthy object; "if you really
"I know that it must seem preposterous and--and almost ungrateful that I
should think of going back when I might just as well stay. Why I've a
great many more friends here than I have there; I suppose I shall be almost
a stranger when I get there and there's no comparison in congeniality; and
yet I feel that I must go back. I can't tell you why. But I have a longing;
I feel that I must try to be of some use in the world--try to do some
good--and in Hatboro' I think I shall know how." She put on her glasses
and looked at the old lady as if she might attempt an explanation but as
if a clearer vision of the veteran worldling discouraged her she did not
make the effort.
"_Oh_!" said the old lady. "If you want to be of use and do good--"
She stopped as if then there were no more to be said by a sensible person.
"And shall you be going soon?" she asked. The idea seemed to suggest her
own departure and she rose after speaking.
"Just as soon as possible" answered Miss Kilburn. Words take on a colour
of something more than their explicit meaning from the mood in which they
are spoken: Miss Kilburn had a sense of hurrying her visitor away and the
old lady had a sense of being turned out-of-doors that the preparations
for the homeward voyage might begin instantly.
Many times after the preparations began and many times after they were
ended Miss Kilburn faltered in doubt of her decision; and if there had
been any will stronger than her own to oppose it she might have reversed
it and stayed in Rome. All the way home there was a strain of misgiving
in her satisfaction at doing what she believed to be for the best and the
first sight of her native land gave her a shock of emotion which was not
unmixed joy. She felt forlorn among people who were coming home with all
sorts of high expectations while she only had high intentions.
These dated back a good many years; in fact they dated back to the time
when the first flush of her unthinking girlhood was over and she began
to question herself as to the life she was living. It was a very pleasant
life ostensibly. Her father had been elected from the bench to Congress
and had kept his title and his repute as a lawyer through several terms
in the House before he settled down to the practice of his profession
in the courts at Washington where he made a good deal of money. They
passed from boarding to house-keeping in the easy Washington way after
their impermanent Congressional years and divided their time between
a comfortable little place in Nevada Circle and the old homestead in
Hatboro'. He was fond of Washington and robustly content with the world
as he found it there and elsewhere. If his daughter's compunctions came to
her through him it must have been from some remoter ancestry; he was not
apparently characterised by their transmission and probably she derived
them from her mother who died when she was a little girl and of whom she
had no recollection. Till he began to break after they went abroad he
had his own way in everything; but as men grow old or infirm they fall
into subjection to their womenkind; their rude wills yield in the suppler
insistence of the feminine purpose; they take the colour of the feminine
moods and emotions; the cycle of life completes itself where it began in
helpless dependence upon the sex; and Rufus Kilburn did not escape the
common lot. He was often complaining and unlovely as aged and ailing men
must be; perhaps he was usually so; but he had moments when he recognised
the beauty of his daughter's aspiration with a spiritual sympathy which
showed that he must always have had an intellectual perception of it.
He expressed with rhetorical largeness and looseness the longing which
was not very definite in her own heart and mingled with it a strain of
homesickness poignantly simple and direct for the places the scenes the
persons the things of his early days. As he failed more and more his
homesickness was for natural aspects which had wholly ceased to exist
through modern changes and improvements and for people long since dead
whom he could find only in an illusion of that environment in some other
world. In the pathos of this situation it was easy for his daughter to keep
him ignorant of the passionate rebellion against her own ideals in which
she sometimes surprised herself. When he died all counter-currents were
lost in the tidal revulsion of feeling which swept her to the fulfilment
of what she hoped was deepest and strongest in her nature with shame for
what she hoped was shallowest till that moment of repulsion in which she
saw the thickly roofed and many towered hills of Boston grow up out of the
She had always regarded her soul as the battlefield of two opposite
principles the good and the bad the high and the low. God made her she
thought and He alone; He made everything that she was; but she would not
have said that He made the evil in her. Yet her belief did not admit the
existence of Creative Evil; and so she said to herself that she herself
was that evil and she must struggle against herself; she must question
whatever she strongly wished because she strongly wished it. It was not
logical; she did not push her postulates to their obvious conclusions; and
there was apt to be the same kind of break between her conclusions and her
actions as between her reasons and her conclusions. She acted impulsively
and from a force which she could not analyse. She indulged reveries so
vivid that they seemed to weaken and exhaust her for the grapple with
realities; the recollection of them abashed her in the presence of facts.
With all this it must not be supposed that she was morbidly introspective.
Her life had been apparently a life of cheerful acquiescence in worldly
conditions; it had been in some measure a life of fashion or at least
of society. It had not been without the interests of other girls' lives
by any means; she had sometimes had fancies flirtations but she did not
think she had been really in love and she had refused some offers of
marriage for that reason.
The industry of making straw hats began at Hatboro' as many other
industries have begun in New England with no great local advantages but
simply because its founder happened to live there and to believe that it
would pay. There was a railroad and labour of the sort he wanted was cheap
and abundant in the village and the outlying farms. In time the work came
to be done more and more by machinery and to be gathered into large shops.
The buildings increased in size and number; the single line of the railroad
was multiplied into four and in the region of the tracks several large
ugly windowy wooden bulks grew up for shoe shops; a stocking factory
followed; yet this business activity did not warp the old village from its
picturesqueness or quiet. The railroad tracks crossed its main street; but
the shops were all on one side of them with the work-people's cottages
and boarding-houses and on the other were the simple square roomy old
mansions with their white paint and their green blinds varied by the
modern colour and carpentry of French-roofed villas. The old houses stood
quite close to the street with a strip of narrow door-yard before them;
the new ones affected a certain depth of lawn over which their owners
personally pushed a clucking hand-mower in the summer evenings after tea.
The fences had been taken away from the new houses in the taste of some
of the Boston suburbs; they generally remained before the old ones whose
inmates resented the ragged effect that their absence gave the street. The
irregularity had hitherto been of an orderly and harmonious kind such as
naturally follows the growth of a country road into a village thoroughfare.
The dwellings were placed nearer or further from the sidewalk as their
builders fancied and the elms that met in a low arch above the street had
an illusive symmetry in the perspective; they were really set at uneven
intervals and in a line that wavered capriciously in and out. The street
itself lounged and curved along widening and contracting like a river
and then suddenly lost itself over the brow of an upland which formed a
natural boundary of the village. Beyond this was South Hatboro' a group of
cottages built by city people who had lately come in--idlers and invalids
the former for the cool summer and the latter for the dry winter. At
chance intervals in the old village new side streets branched from the
thoroughfare to the right and the left and here and there a Queen Anne
cottage showed its chimneys and gables on them. The roadway under the
elms that kept it dark and cool with their hovering shade and swept the
wagon-tops with their pendulous boughs at places was unpaved; but the
sidewalks were asphalted to the last dwelling in every direction and they
were promptly broken out in winter by the public snow-plough.
Miss Kilburn saw them in the spring when their usefulness was least
apparent and she did not know whether to praise the spirit of progress
which showed itself in them as well as in other things at Hatboro'. She
had come prepared to have misgivings but she had promised herself to be
just; she thought she could bear the old ugliness if not the new. Some
of the new things however were not so ugly; the young station-master
was handsome in his railroad uniform and pleasanter to the eye than the
veteran baggage-master incongruous in his stiff silk cap and his shirt
sleeves and spectacles. The station itself one of Richardson's massive
and low with red-tiled spreading veranda roofs impressed her with
its fitness and strengthened her for her encounter with the business
architecture of Hatboro' which was of the florid ambitious New York type
prevalent with every American town in the early stages of its prosperity.
The buildings were of pink brick faced with granite and supported in the
first story by columns of painted iron; flat-roofed blocks looked down over
the low-wooden structures of earlier Hatboro' and a large hotel had pushed
back the old-time tavern and planted itself flush upon the sidewalk. But
the stores seemed very good as she glanced at them from her carriage
and their show-windows were tastefully arranged; the apothecary's had an
interior of glittering neatness unsurpassed by an Italian apothecary's; and
the provision-man's besides its symmetrical array of pendent sides and
quarters indoors had banks of fruit and vegetables without and a large
aquarium with a spraying fountain in its window.
Bolton the farmer who had always taken care of the Kilburn place came
to meet her at the station and drive her home. Miss Kilburn had bidden
him drive slowly so that she could see all the changes and she noticed
the new town-hall with which she could find no fault; the Baptist and
Methodist churches were the same as of old; the Unitarian church seemed to
have shrunk as if the architecture had sympathised with its dwindling body
of worshippers; just beyond it was the village green with the soldiers'
monument and the tall white-painted flag-pole and the four small brass
cannon threatening the points of the compass at its base.
"Stop a moment Mr. Bolton" said Miss Kilburn; and she put her head quite
out of the carriage and stared at the figure on the monument.
It was strange that the first misgiving she could really make sure of
concerning Hatboro' should relate to this figure which she herself was
mainly responsible for placing there. When the money was subscribed and
voted for the statue the committee wrote out to her at Rome as one who
would naturally feel an interest in getting something fit and economical
for them. She accepted the trust with zeal and pleasure; but she overruled
their simple notion of an American volunteer at rest with his hands folded
on the muzzle of his gun as intolerably hackneyed and commonplace. Her
conscience she said would not let her add another recruit to the regiment
of stone soldiers standing about in that posture on the tops of pedestals
all over the country; and so instead of going to an Italian statuary with
her fellow-townsmen's letter and getting him to make the figure they
wanted she doubled the money and gave the commission to a young girl
from Kansas who had come out to develop at Rome the genius recognised
at Topeka. They decided together that it would be best to have something
ideal and the sculptor promptly imagined and rapidly executed a design
for a winged Victory poising on the summit of a white marble shaft and
clasping its hands under its chin in expression of the grief that mingled
with the popular exultation. Miss Kilburn had her doubts while the work
went on but she silenced them with the theory that when the figure was in
position it would be all right.
Now that she saw it in position she wished to ask Mr. Bolton what was
thought of it but she could not nerve herself to the question. He remained
silent and she felt that he was sorry for her. "Oh may I be very humble;
may I be helped to be very humble!" she prayed under her breath. It
seemed as if she could not take her eyes from the figure; it was such a
modern such an American shape so youthfully inadequate so simple so
sophisticated so like a young lady in society indecorously exposed for
a _tableau vivant_. She wondered if the people in Hatboro' felt all
this about it; if they realised how its involuntary frivolity insulted the
solemn memory of the slain.
"Drive on please" she said gently.
Bolton pulled the reins and as the horses started he pointed with his whip
to a church at the other side of the green. "That's the new Orthodox
church" he explained.
"Oh is it?" asked Miss Kilburn. "It's very handsome I'm sure." She was
not sensible of admiring the large Romanesque pile very much though it
was certainly not bad but she remembered that Bolton was a member of the
Orthodox church and she was grateful to him for not saying anything about
the soldiers' monument.
"We sold the old buildin' to the Catholics and they moved it down ont' the
Miss Kilburn caught the glimmer of a cross where he beckoned through the
flutter of the foliage.
"They had to razee the steeple some to git their cross on" he added;
and then he showed her the high-school building as they passed and the
Episcopal chapel of blameless church-warden's Gothic half hidden by its
Japanese ivy under a branching elm on another side street.
"Yes" she said "that was built before we went abroad."
"I disremember" he said absently. He let the horses walk on the soft
darkly shaded road where the wheels made a pleasant grinding sound and
set himself sidewise on his front seat so as to talk to Miss Kilburn more
at his ease.
"I d'know" he began after clearing his throat with a conscious air "as
you know we'd got a new minister to our church."
"No I hadn't heard of it" said Miss Kilburn with her mind full of the
monument still. "But I might have heard and forgotten it" she added. "I
was very much taken up toward the last before I left Rome."
"Well come to think" said Bolton; "I don't know's you'd had time to
heard. He hain't been here a great while."
"Is he--satisfactory?" asked Miss Kilburn feeling how far from
satisfactory the Victory was and formulating an explanatory apology to the
committee in her mind.
"Oh yes he's satisfactory enough as far forth as that goes. He's
talented and he's right up with the times. Yes he's progressive. I guess
they got pretty tired of Mr. Rogers even before he died; and they kept the
supply a-goin' till--all was blue before they could settle on anybody. In
fact they couldn't seem to agree on anybody till Mr. Peck come."
Miss Kilburn had got as far in her tacit interview with the committee as
to have offered to replace at her own expense the Victory with a Volunteer
and she seemed to be listening to Bolton with rapt attention.
"Well it's like this" continued the farmer. "He's progressive in his
idees 'n' at the same time he's spiritual-minded; and so I guess he suits
pretty well all round. Of course you can't suit everybody. There's always
got to be a dog in the manger it don't matter where you go. But if anybody
was to ask me I should say Mr. Peck suited. Yes I don't know but what I
Miss Kilburn instantaneously closed her transaction with the committee
removed the Victory and had the Volunteer unveiled with appropriate
ceremonies opened with prayer by the Rev. Mr. Peck.
"Peck?" she said. "Did you tell me his name was Peck?"
"Yes ma'am; Rev. Julius W. Peck. He's from down Penobscotport way in
Maine. I guess he's all right."
Miss Kilburn did not reply. Her mind had been taken off the monument for
the moment by her dislike for the name of the new minister and the Victory
had seized the opportunity to get back.
Bolton sighed deeply and continued in a strain whose diffusiveness at last
became perceptible to Miss Kilburn through her own humiliation. "There's
some in every community that's bound to complain I don't care what you do
to accommodate 'em; and what I done I done as much to stop their clack as
anything and give him the right sort of a start off an' I guess I did.
But Mis' Bolton she didn't know but what you'd look at it in the light of a
libbutty and I didn't know but what you _would_ think I no business
to done it."
He seemed to be addressing a question to her but she only replied with a
dazed frown and Bolton was obliged to go on.
"I didn't let him room in your part of the house; that is to say not sleep
there; but I thought as you was comin' home and I better be airin' it up
some anyway I might as well let him set in the old Judge's room. If you
think it was more than I had a right to do I'm willin' to pay for it. Git
up!" Bolton turned fully round toward his horses to hide the workings of
emotion in his face and shook the reins like a desperate man.
"What _are_ you talking about Mr. Bolton?" cried Miss Kilburn.
"_Whom_ are you talking about?"
Bolton answered with a kind of violence "Mr. Peck; I took him to board
"You took him to board?"
"Yes. I know it wa'n't just accordin' to the letter o' the law and the old
Judge was always pootty p'tic'lah. But I've took care of the place goin'
on twenty years now and I hain't never had a chick nor a child in it
before. The child" he continued partly turning his face round again and
beginning to look Miss Kilburn in the eye "wa'n't one to touch anything
anyway and we kep' her in our part all the while; Mis' Bolton she couldn't
seem to let her out of her sight she got so fond of her and she used to
follow me round among the hosses like a kitten. I declare I _miss_
Bolton's face the colour of one of the lean ploughed fields of Hatboro'
and deeply furrowed lighted up with real feeling which he tried to make
go as far in the work of reconciling Miss Kilburn as if it had been
"But I don't understand" she said. "What child are you talking about?"
"Was he married?" she asked with displeasure she did not know why.
"Well yes he _had_ been" answered Bolton. "But she'd be'n in the
asylum ever since the child was born."
"Oh" said Miss Kilburn with relief; and she fell back upon the seat from
which she had started forward.