LIFE AT HIGH TIDE
LIFE AT HIGH TIDE
William Dean Howells and Henry Mills Alden
THE IMMEDIATE JEWEL ........ MARGARET DELAND
"AND ANGELS CAME ........... ANNE O'HAGAN
KEEPERS OF A CHARGE ........ GRACE ELLERY CHANNING
A WORKING BASIS ............ ABBY MEGUIRE ROACH
THE GLASS DOOR ............. MARY TRACY EARLE
ELIZABETH AND DAVIE ........ MURIEL CAMPBELL DYAR
BARNEY DOON BRAGGART ...... PHILIP VERRILL MIGHELS
THE REPARATION ............. EMERY POTTLE
THE YEARLY TRIBUTE ......... ROSINA HUBLEY EMMET
A MATTER OF RIVALRY ........ OCTAVE THANET
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.
Thus the poet--and poetry of the old order at least always waiting
upon great events has found in the high-tide flotations of masterful
heroes to fortune themes most flatteringly responsive to its own high
The writer of fiction has no such afflatus no such high pitch of
life as to outward circumstance in his representation of it as
the poet has; and therefore his may seem to the academic critic the
lesser art--but it is nearer to the realities of common human existence.
He deals with plain men and women and the un-majestic moments of their
"Life at High Tide"--the title selected for this little volume of
short stories and having a real significance for each of them which
the reader may find out for himself--does not reflect the poet's
meaning and least of all its easy optimism. In every one of these
stories is presented a critical moment in one individual life--
sometimes as in "The Glass Door" and in "Elizabeth and Davie"
in two lives; but it leads not to or away from fortune--it simply
discloses character; also in situations like those so vividly
depicted in "Keepers of a Charge" and "A Yearly Tribute" the tense
strain of modern circumstance. In all these real instances there are
luminous points of idealism--of an idealism implicit but translucent.
The authors here represented have won exceptional distinction as
short-story writers and the examples given of their work not only are
typical of the best periodical fiction of a very recent period--all
of them having been published within five years--but illustrate
the distinctive features as unprecedented in quality as they are
diversified in character which mark the extreme advance in this
field of literature.
H. M. A.
THE IMMEDIATE JEWEL
BY MARGARET DELAND
"_Good name in man and woman dear my lord
Is_ the immediate jewel of their souls."
When James Graham carpenter enlisted it was with the assurance that
if he lost his life his grateful country would provide for his widow.
He did lose it and Mrs. Graham received in exchange for a husband
and his small earnings the sum of $12 a month. But when you own your
own very little house with a dooryard for chickens (and such stray
dogs and cats as quarter themselves upon you) and enough grass for a
cow and a friendly neighbor to remember your potato-barrel why you
can get along--somehow. In Lizzie Graham's case nobody knew just how
because she was not one of the confidential kind. But certainly there
were days in winter when the house was chilly and months when fresh
meat was unknown and years when a new dress was not thought of. This
state of things is not remarkable taken in connection with an income
of $144 a year and a New England village where people all do their
own work so that a woman has no chance to hire out.
All the same Mrs. Graham was not an object of charity. Had she been
that she would have been promptly sent to the Poor Farm. No sentimental
consideration of a grateful country would have moved Jonesville to
philanthropy; it sent its paupers to the Poor Farm with prompt common
When Jonesville's old school-teacher Mr. Nathaniel May came wandering
back from the great world quite penniless almost blind and with a
faint mist across his pleasant mind Jonesville saw nothing for him
but the Poor Farm.... Nathaniel had been away from home for many years;
rumors came back occasionally that he was going to make his fortune
by some patent and Jonesville said that if he did it would be a good
thing for the town for Nathaniel wasn't one to forget his friends.
"He'll give us a library" said Jonesville grinning; "Nat was a great
un for books." However Jonesville was still without its library when
one August day the stage dropped a gentle forlorn figure at the door
of Dyer's Hotel.
"I'm Nat May" he said; "well it's good to get home!"
He brought with him as the sum of his possessions a dilapidated
leather hand-bag full of strange wheels and little reflectors and
small scratched lenses; the poor clothes upon his back; and
twenty-four cents in his pocket. He walked hesitatingly with one
hand outstretched to feel his way for he was nearly blind; but he
recognized old friends by their voices and was full of simple joy
at meeting them.
"I have a very wonderful invention" he said in his eager voice his
blind eyes wide and luminous; "and very valuable. But I have not been
financially successful so far. I shall be of course. But in the
city no one seemed willing to wait for payment for my board so the
authorities advised me to come home; and in fact assisted me to do
so. But when I finish my invention I shall have ample means."
Jonesville lounging on the porch of Dyer's Hotel grinned and said
"That's all right Nat; you'll be a rich man one of these days!" And
then it tapped its forehead significantly and whispered "Too bad!"
and added (with ill-concealed pleasure at finding new misfortune to
talk about) that the Selectmen had told Mr. Dean the superintendent
that he could call at Dyer's Hotel--to which Nathaniel peacefully
and pennilessly had drifted--and take him out to the Farm.
"Sam Dyer says he'll keep him till next week" Mrs. Butterfield told
Lizzie Graham; "but course he can't just let him set down at the
hotel for the rest of his natural life. And Nat May would do it
"I believe he would" Lizzie Graham admitted; "he was always kind of
simple that way willin' to take and willin' to give. Don't you mind
how he used to be always sharin' anything he had? James used to say
Nat never knowed his own things belonged to him."
"Folks like that don't never get rich" Mrs. Butterfield said; "but
there! you like 'em."
The two women were walking down a stony hillside each with a lard-pail
full of blueberries. It was a hot August afternoon; a northwest wind
harsh and dry tore fiercely across the scrub-pines and twinkling
birches of the sun-baked pastures. Lizzie Graham held on to her
sun-bonnet and stopped in a scrap of shade under a meagre oak to
"My! I don't like wind" she said laughing.
"Let's set down a while" Mrs. Butterfield suggested.
"I'd just as leaves" Lizzie said and took off her blue sunbonnet and
fanned herself. She was a pretty woman still though she was nearly
fifty; her hair was russet red and blew about her forehead in little
curls; her eyes brown like a brook in shady places and kind. It was
a mild face but not weak. Below them the valley shimmered in the
heat; the grass was hot and brittle underfoot; popples bent and twisted
in a scorching wind and a soft dark glitter of movement ran through
the pines on the opposite hillside.
"The Farm ain't got a mite of shade round it" Lizzie said; "just sets
there at the crossroads and bakes."
"You was always great for trees" Mrs. Butterfield said; "your house
is too dark for my taste. If I was you I'd cut down that biggest
"Cut it down! Well I suppose you'll laugh but them trees are real
kind o' friends. There! I knowed you'd laugh; but I wouldn't cut down
a tree any more 'an I'd--I don't know what!"
"They do darken."
"Some. But only in summer; and then you want 'em to. And the Poor Farm
ain't got a scrap of shade!--I wonder if he feels it bein' sent there?"
"I ain't seen him but Josh told me he was terrible broke up over it.
Told me he just set and wrung his hands when Hiram Wells told him he'd
got to go. Josh said it was real pitiful. But what can you do? He's
'bout blind; and he ain't just right either."
"How ain't he just right?"
"Well you know Nathaniel was always one of the dreamin' kind; a real
good man but he wa'n't like folks."
"And if you remember he was all the time inventin' things. Well now
he's got set that he can invent a machine so as you can see the dead.
I mean spirits. Well of course he's crazy. Josh says he's crazy as a
bluefish. But what's troublin' him now is that he can't finish his
machine. He says that if he goes to the Farm what with him bein'
blindish and not able to do for himself that his glasses and
wheels--and dear knows what all that he's got for ghost-seein'--will
get all smashed up. An' I guess he's 'bout right. They're terrible
crowded Mis' Dean says. Nat allows that if he could stay at Dyer's
or some place a couple of months where he could work quiet he'd
make so much money that he'd pay his board ten times over. Crazy. But
then I can't help bein' sorry for him. Some folks don't mind the
troubles of crazy folks but I don't know why they ain't as hard to
bear as sensible folks' troubles."
"Harder maybe" Lizzie said.
"Josh said he just set and wrung his hands together and he says to
Hiram Wells he says 'Gimme a month--and I'll finish it. For the
sake' he says 'of the blessed dead.' Gave you goose-flesh Josh
"You can see that he believes in his machine."
"Oh he's just as sure as he's alive!"
"But why can't he finish it at the Farm? I guess Mis' Dean would give
him a closet to keep it in."
"Closet? Mercy! He's got it all spread out on a table in his room at
the hotel. Them loafers go up and look at it and bust right out
laughin'. Josh says it's all little wheels and lookin'-glasses and
they got to be balanced just so. Mis' Dean ain't got a spot he could
have for ten minutes at a time."
They were silent for a few minutes and then Lizzie Graham said: "Does
he feel bad at bein' a pauper? The Mays was always respectable. Old
Mis' May was real proud."
Mrs. Butterfield ruminated: "Well he don't like it course. But he
said (you know he's crazy)--'I am nothin'' he says 'and my pride is
less than nothin'. But for the sake of the poor Dead grant me time'
he says. Ain't it pitiful? Almost makes you feel like lettin' him
wait. But what's the use?"
Lizzie Graham nodded. "But there's people would pay money for one of
them machines--if it worked."
"That's what he said; he said he'd make a pile of money. But he didn't
care about that except then he could pay board to Dyer if Dyer'd let
"An' won't he?"
"No; and I don't see as he has any call to any more 'an you or me."
Lizzie Graham plucked at the dry grass at her side. "That's so.
'Tain't one person's chore more 'an another's. But--there! If this
wa'n't Jonesville I believe I'd let him stay with me till he finishes
up his machine."
"Why Lizzie Graham!" cried Mrs. Butterfield "what you talkin' about?
You couldn't do it--you. You ain't got to spare in the first place.
And anyway him an unmarried man and you a widow woman! Besides
he'll never finish it."
Lizzie's face reddened angrily. "Guess I could have a visitor as well
"Oh I didn't mean you wouldn't be a good provider" Mrs. Butterfield
said turning red herself. "I meant folks would talk."
"Folks could find something better to talk about" Lizzie said;
"Jonesville is just nothin' but a nest o' real mean lyin' gossip!"
"Well that's so" Mrs. Butterfield agreed placidly.
Lizzie Graham put on her sunbonnet. "Better be gettin' along" she
Mrs. Butterfield rose ponderously. "And they'd say you was a
spiritualist too; they'd say you took him to get his ghost-machine
"That's just what I would do" the other answered sharply. "I ain't a
mite of a spiritualist and I don't believe in ghosts; but I believe
in bein' kind."
"I believe in keepin' a good name" Mrs. Butterfield said dryly.
They went on down the windy pasture slope in silence; the mullein
candles blossomed shoulder-high and from underfoot came the warm
aromatic scent of sweet-fern. Once they stopped for some more
blueberries with a desultory word about the heat; then they picked
their way around juniper-bushes and over great knees of granite hot
and slippery and through low sweet thickets of bay. At the foot of
the hill the shadows were stretching across the road and the wind was
"My ain't the shade good?" Lizzie said when they stopped under her
great elm; "I couldn't bear to live where there wa'n't trees."
"There's always shade on one side or another of the Poor Farm
anyway" Mrs. Butterfield said "'cept at noon. And then he could set
indoors. It won't be anything so bad Lizzie. Now don't you get to
worryin' 'bout him;--I know you Lizzie Graham!" she ended her eyes
Lizzie took off her sunbonnet again and fanned herself; she looked at
her old neighbor anxiously.
"Say now Mis' Butterfield honest: do you think folks would talk?"
"If you took Nat in and kep' him? Course they would! You know they
would; you know this here town. And no wonder they'd talk. You're a
nice-appearin' woman Lizzie yet. No; I ain't one to flatter; you
_be_. And ain't he a man? and a likely man too for all he's
crazy. Course they'd talk! Now Lizzie don't you get to figgerin' on
this. It's just like you! How many cats have you got on your hands
now? I bet you're feedin' that lame dog yet."
Mrs. Graham laughed but would not say.
"Nat will get along at the Farm real good after he gets used to it"
Mrs. Butterfield went on coaxingly; "Dean ain't hard. And Mis' Dean's
many a time told me what a good table they set."
"'Tain't the victuals that would trouble Nat May."
"Well Lizzie now you promise me you won't think anything more about
him visitin' you?" Mrs. Butterfield looked at her anxiously.
"I guess Jonesville knows me after I've lived here all my life!"
Lizzie said evasively.
"Knows you?" Mrs. Butterfield said; "what's that got to do with it?
You know Jonesville; that's more to the point."
"It's a mean place!" Lizzie said angrily.
"I'm not sayin' it ain't" Mrs. Butterfield agreed. "Well Lizzie
you're good but you ain't real sensible" she ended affectionately.
Lizzie laughed and swung her gate shut. She stood leaning on it a
minute looking after Mrs. Butterfield laboriously climbing the hill
until the road between its walls of rusty hazel-bushes and its fringe
of joepye-weed and goldenrod turned to the left and the stout kindly
figure disappeared. The great elm moved softly overhead and Lizzie
glanced up through its branches all hung with feathery twigs at the
deep August sky.
"Jonesville's never talked about _me_!" she said to herself
proudly. "I mayn't be wealthy but I got a good name. Course it
wouldn't do to take Nat; but my! ain't it a poor planet where you
can't do a kind act?"
Nathaniel May sat in his darkness brooding over his machine. Since it
had been definitely arranged that he was to go to the Poor Farm he
did not care how soon he went; there was no need he told Dyer to
keep him for the few days which had been promised.
"I had thought" he said patiently "that some one would take me in
and help me finish my machine--for the certain profit that I could
promise them. But nobody seems to believe in me" he ended.
"Oh folks believe in you all right Mr. May" Dyer told him; "but
they don't believe in your machine. See?"
Nathaniel's face darkened. "Blind--blind!" he said.
"How did it come on you?" Dyer asked sympathetically.
"I was not speaking of myself" Nathaniel told him hopelessly.
There was really no doubt that the poor gentle mind had staggered
under the weight of hope; but it was hardly more than a deepening of
old vagueness an intensity of absorbed thought upon unpractical
things. The line between sanity and insanity is sometimes a very faint
one; no one can quite dare to say just when it has been crossed. But
this mild creature had crossed it somewhere in the beginning of his
certainty that he was going to give the world the means of seeing the
unseen. That this great gift should be flung into oblivion all for
the want as he believed of a little time broke his poor heart. When
Lizzie Graham came to see him she found him sitting in his twilight
his elbows on his knees his head in his long thin hands. On one
hollow cheek there was a glistening wet streak. He put up a forlornly
trembling hand and wiped it away when he heard her voice.
"Yes; yes I do recognize it ma'am" he said; "I can tell voices
better than I used to be able to tell faces. You are Jim Graham's
wife? Yes; yes Lizzie Graham. Have you heard about me Lizzie? I am
not going to finish my machine. I am to be sent to the Farm."
"Yes I heard" she said.
They were in the big bare office of the hotel. The August sunshine
lay dim upon the dingy window-panes; the walls stained by years of
smoke and grime were hidden by yellowing advertisements of reapers
and horse liniments; in the centre was a dirty iron stove. A poor
gaunt room but a haven to Nathaniel May awaiting the end of hope.
"I heard" Lizzie Graham said; she leaned forward and stroked his
hand. "But maybe you can finish it at the Farm Nathaniel?"
"No" he said sadly; "no; I know what it's like at the Farm. There is
no room there for anything but bodies. No time for anything but
"How long would it take you to put it together?" she asked; and Dyer
who was lounging across his counter shook his head at her warningly.
"There ain't nothin' to it Mrs. Graham" he said under his breath;
"he's--" He tapped his forehead significantly.
"Oh man!" Nathaniel cried out passionately "you don't know what you
say! Are the souls of the departed 'nothing'? I have it in my
hand--right here in my hand Lizzie Graham--to give the world the gift
of sight. And they won't give me a crust of bread and a roof over my
head till I can offer it to them!"
"Couldn't somebody put it together for you?" she asked the tears in
her eyes. "I would try Nathaniel;--you could explain it to me; I
could come and see you every day and you could tell me."
His face brightened into a smile. "No kind woman. Only I can do it. I
can't see very clearly but there is a glimmer of light enough to get
it together. But it would take at least two months; at least two
months. The doctor said the light would last perhaps three months.
Then I shall be blind. But if I could give eyes to the blind world
before I go into the dark what matter? What matter I say?" he cried