THE BACILLUS OF BEAUTY
THE BACILLUS OF BEAUTY
Book I: _The Broken Chrysalis:_
I. THE METAMORPHOSIS
II. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD
III. THE HORNETS' NEST
IV. THE GODDESS AND THE MOB
V. A HIGH-CLASS CONCERT
Book II: _The Birth of the Butterfly:_
I. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL MOMENT
II. A SUNDAY-SCHOOL LESSON
III. THE QUEST OF KNOWLEDGE
IV. GIRL BACHELOR AND BIOLOGIST
V. THE FINDING OF THE BACILLUS
VI. THE GREAT CHANGE
VII. THE COMING OF THE LOVER
Book III: _The Joy of the Sunshine:_
II. A LOOKING OVER BY THE PACK
III. SNARLING AT THE COUNCIL ROCK
IV. IN THE INTERESTS OF MUSIC
V. A PLAGUE OF REPORTERS
VI. LOVE IS NOTHING
VII. LOVE IS ALL
VIII. A LITTLE BELATED EARL
BOOK IV: _The Bruising of the Wings:_
I. THE KISS THAT LIED
II. THE IRONY OF LIFE
III. THE SUDDENNESS OF DEATH
IV. SOME REMARKS ABOUT CATS
V. THE LOVE OF LORD STRATHAY
VI. LITTLE BROWN PARTRIDGES
VII. LETTERS AND SCIENCE
VIII. A CHAPERON ON A CATTLE TRAIN
IX. A BURST OF SUNLIGHT
X. PLIGHTED TROTH
BOOK V: _The End of the Beginning:_
I. THE DEEDS OF THE FARM
II. CADGE'S ASSIGNMENT
THE BROKEN CHRYSALIS.
_(From the Shorthand Notes of John Burke.)_
THE BACILLUS OF BEAUTY
NEW YORK Sunday Dec. 16.
I am going to set down as calmly and fully as I can a plain statement of
all that has happened since I came to New York.
I shall not trim details nor soften the facts to humour my own amazement
nor try to explain the marvel that I do not pretend to understand.
I begin at the beginning--at the plunge into fairy tale and miracle that I
made after living twenty-five years of baldest prose when I met Helen
Why I had dragged her to school on a sled when she was a child. I watched
her grow up. For years I saw her nearly every day at the State University
in the West that already seems so unreal so far away I loved her.
Man I knew her face better than I knew my own! Yet when I met her here--
when I saw my promised wife who had kissed me good-by only last June--I
did not recognise her. I looked full into her great eyes and thought she
was a stranger; hesitated even when she called my name. It's a miracle! Or
a lie or a wild dream; or I am going crazy. The thing will not be
believed. And yet it's true.
This is my calmness! If I could but think it might be a tremendous blunder
out of which I would sometime wake into verity! But there has been no
mistake; I have not been dreaming unless I am dreaming now.
As distinctly as I see the ugly street below I remember everything that
has befallen me since my train pulled into Jersey City last Thursday
morning. I remember as one does who is served by sharpened senses. Only
once in a fellow's lifetime can he look upon New York for the first time--
and to me New York meant Helen. Everything was vividly impressed upon my
I crossed the Cortlandt Street ferry and walked up Broadway wondering
what Helen would say if I called before breakfast. I could scarcely wait.
I stopped in front of St. Paul's Church gaping up at a twenty-six story
building opposite; a monstrous shaft with a gouge out of its south side as
if lightning had rived off a sliver. I went over to it and saw that I had
come to Ann Street where Barnum's museum used to stand. The Post Office
the City Hall the restaurant where I ate breakfast studying upon the
wall the bible texts and signs bidding me watch my hat and overcoat; the
_Tribune_ building just as it looks on the almanac cover--all these
made an instant deep impression. Not in the least like a dream.
By the statue of Horace Greeley I stood a moment irresolute. I knew that
before I could reach her Helen would have left her rooms for Barnard
College; breakfast had been a mistake. Then I noticed that Nassau Street
was just opposite; and in spite of my impatience to be at her door I
constrained myself to look up Judge Baker.
Between its Babel towers narrow Nassau Street was like a canyon. The
pavements were wet for folks had just finished washing windows though it
was eight o'clock in the forenoon. Bicycles zipped past and from somewhere
north a freshet of people flooded the sidewalk and roadway.
Down a steep little hill and up another--both thronged past belief--and in
a great marble maze of lawyers' offices I found the sign of Baker &
The boy who alone represented the firm said that I might have to wait some
minutes and turned me loose to browse in the big high-ceiled outer room
or library of the place where I am to work. After the dim corridors it was
a blaze of light. On all sides were massive bookshelves; the doorways gave
glimpses of other rooms fine with rugs and pictures and heavy desks
different enough from the plain fittings of the country lawyers' workshops
I had known. The carpet sank under my feet as I went to the window.
I stood looking at the Jersey hills blue and fair in the distance and
dreaming of Helen who was to bless and crown my good fortune when I
heard a step at the door and a young man came in--a tall blonde supple
fellow not much older than I. Then the Judge appeared ponderous slow of
tread immaculate of dress; the same unless his iron-gray locks have
retreated yet farther from his wall of a brow that I have remembered him
"Burke!" he said "I am glad to see you. Welcome to New York and to this
office my boy!"
The grasp of his big warm hand was as good as the words and the eyes
beneath his heavy gray brows were full of kindness as holding both my
hands in his he drew me toward the young man who had preceded him. With a
winning smile the latter turned.
"Hynes" said the Judge with a heartiness that made one forget his formal
manner "you have heard me speak of Burke's father the boyhood companion
with whom when the finny tribes were eager I sometimes strayed from the
strait and narrow path that led to school. Burke Hynes is the sportsman
here--our tiger-slayer. He beards in their lairs those Tammany ornaments
of the bench whom the flippant term 'necessity Judges' because of their
slender acquaintance with the law."
"Glad to see you Burke" said Hynes as dutifully we laughed together at
the time-honoured jest.
I knew from the look of him that he was a good fellow and he had an
honest grip; though out where I come from we might call him a dude. All
New Yorkers seem to dress pretty well.
Presently Managing Clerk Crosby came and Mr. Magoun as lean brusque and
mosquito-like as his partner is elephantine; and after a few words with
them I was called into the Judge's private room where a great lump rose
in my throat when I tried and miserably failed to thank him for all his
"Consider if it pleases you" he said to put me quite at my ease "that
I have proposed our arrangement not so much on your own account as
because I loved your father and must rely upon his son. It brings back my
youth to speak his name--your name Johnny Burke!"
Yes I remember the words I remember the tremour in the kind voice and
the mist of unshed tears through which he looked at me. I'm not dreaming;
sometimes I wish I were almost.
When I left the Judge of course I pasted right up to Union Square though
I felt sure that Helen would be at college. No. 2 proved to be a dingy
brick building with wigs and armour and old uniforms and grimy pictures in
the windows and above them the signs of a "dental parlour" and a school
for theatrical dancing.
It seemed an odd place in which to look for Nelly but I pounded up the
worn stairs--dressmakers' advertisements on every riser--until I reached
the top floor where a meal-bag of a woman whose head was tied up in a
coloured handkerchief confronted me with dustpan and broom.
"I'm the new leddy scrubwoman and not afther knowin' th' names av th'
tinants" she said "but av ut's a gir-rul ye're seekin' sure they's two
av thim in there an' both out I'm thinkin'."
I pushed a note for Nelly under the door she indicated--it bore the cards
of "Miss Helen Winship" and "Miss Kathryn Reid"--and hurried away to look
up this gem of a hall bedroom where I am writing; you could wear it on a
watch chain but I pay $3 a week for it. The landlady would board me for
$8 but regular dinners at restaurants are only twenty-five cents; good
too. And anybody can breakfast for fifteen.
Then I went back to Union Square where I hung about looking at the
statues. Once I walked as far as Tammany Hall and rushed back again to
watch Helen's door. Finally I sat down on a bench from which I could see
her windows; and there in the brief December sunlight with the little
oasis around me green even in winter and the roar of Dead Man's Curve
just far enough away I suppose I spent almost the happiest moments of my
I was looking at Nelly's picture taken in cap and gown just before she
graduated last June. My Nelly! Nelly as she used to be before this strange
thing happened; eager-eyed thin with over-study and rapid growth. Nelly
whose bright face swept by so many lights and shadows of expression
sensitive to so many shifting moods I loved and yearned for. Nearly six
months we'd been apart but at last I had followed to New York to claim
her. As I sat smiling at the dream pictures the dear face evoked my brain
was busy with thoughts of the new home we would together build. I'd hoard
every penny I planned; I'd walk to save car-fare practice all
Wasn't that a face at her window?
I reached the top landing again three steps at a time; but the voice that
said "Come!" was not Helen's and the figure that turned from pulling at
the shades was short and rolypoly and crowned by flaming red hair.
"Miss Winship?" said the voice as its owner seated herself at a big
table. "Can't imagine what's keeping her. Are you the John Burke I've
heard so much about? And--perhaps Helen has written to you of Kitty Reid?"
Without waiting for a reply she bent over the table scratching with a
knife at a sheet of bold drawings of bears.
"You won't mind my keeping right on?" she queried briskly lifting a rosy
freckled face. "This is the animal page of the Sunday _Star_ and
Cadge is in a hurry for it to do the obbligato."
I suppose I must have looked the puzzlement I felt for she added
"The text you know; a little cool rill of it to trickle down through the
page like a fine thin strain of music that--that helps out the song--tee-
e-e-um; tee-e-e-um--" She lifted her arm sawing with a long ruler at a
violin of air--"but you don't have to listen unless you wish--to the
obbligato you know."
"Doesn't the writer think the pictures the unobtrusive embroidery of the
violin and the writing the magic melody one cannot choose but hear?"
I thought that rather neat for my first day in New York but the shrewd
blue eyes opened wide at the heresy.
"Why no; of course Cadge knows it's the pictures that count; everybody
A writing-table jutted into the room from a second window backing against
Miss Reid's. On its flap lay German volumes on biology and a little
treatise in English about "Advanced Methods of Imbedding Sectioning and
Staining." The window ledge held a vase of willow and alder twigs whose
buds appeared to be swelling. Beside it was a glass of water in which
seeds were sprouting on a floating island of cotton wool.
"Admiring Helen's forest?" came the voice from the desk. "I'm afraid
there's only second growth timber left; she carried away the great
redwoods and all the giants of the wilderness this morning. Are you
interested in zoology? Sometimes since I have been living with Helen I
have wished more than anything else to find out What is protoplasm? Do
you happen to know?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Neither does Helen--nor any one else."
Miss Reid's merry ways are infectious. I'm glad Helen is rooming with a
The place was shabby enough with cracked and broken ceiling marred
woodwork and stained wall paper; but etchings foreign photographs
sketches put up with thumb tacks and bright hangings made it odd and
attractive. On a low couch piled with cushions lay Helen's mandolin and a
banjo. A plaster cast of some queer animal roosted on the mantel craning
its neck down towards the fireplace.
"That's the Notre Dame devil" Miss Reid said following my glance; "the
other is the Lincoln Cathedral devil." She nodded at a wide-mouthed imp
clawing at a door-top. "Don't you just adore gargoyles?"
"Yes; that is--very much" I stammered wandering back to Helen's desk.
And then I heard quick steps outside. They reached the door and paused. I
looked up eagerly. "There's Helen now" said Miss Reid; "or else Cadge."
A tall girl burst into the room dropping an armful of books and sprang
to Miss Reid.
"Kitty! Kitty!" she cried in a voice of wonderful music. "Two camera
fiends! One in front of the college the other by the elevated station;
waiting for me to pass I do believe! And such crowds! They followed me!
Look! Look! Down in the Square!"
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD.
Both girls ran to the window. Miss Reid laughed teasingly. "I see nobody--
or all the world; it's much the same" she said; "but you have a caller."
I rose from behind the desk with some confused trivial thought that I
ought to have spent part of the afternoon getting my hair cut.
I had had but a glimpse of the new comer in her flight across the floor; I
knew she had scarlet lips and shining eyes; that youth and joy and
unimagined beauty had entered with her like a burst of sunlight and
flooded the room. I felt rather than saw that she had turned from the
window and was looking at me curiously at first then smiling. Her smile
had bewildered me when she opened the door; it was a soft flashing light
that shone from her face and blessed the air. She seemed surrounded by an
But she--how could this wonderful girl know me?--she surely was smiling!
She was coming towards me. She was putting out her hands. That glorious
voice was speaking.
"John! Is it you? I'm so glad!" it said.
Had I read about her? Had I seen her picture? Had Helen described her in a
letter? Was she Cadge? No; not altogether a stranger; somewhere before I
had seen--or dreamed--
"John" she persisted. "Why didn't you write? I thought you were coming
next week. Did you plan to surprise me?"
Miss Reid must have made a mistake I felt; I must explain that I was
waiting for Helen. But I could not speak; I could only gape choking and
giddy. I did not speak when the bright vision seemed to take the hands I
had not offered. I could feel the blood beat in my neck. I could not
think; and yet I knew that a real woman stood before me albeit unlike all
the other women that ever lived in the world; and that something surprised
and perplexed her. The smile still curved her lips; I felt myself grin in
"What is the matter?" the radiant stranger persisted. "You act as if--"
The smile grew sunnier; it rippled to a laugh that was merriment set to
"John! John Burke!" she said giving my hands a little impatient shake
just as Nelly used to do. "It isn't possible! Don't you--why you goose!
Don't you know me?"
Of course! I had known her from the beginning! A man couldn't be in the
same room with Nelly Winship and feel just as if she were any other girl.
But she was not Helen at all--that radiant impossibility! And yet she was.
Or she said so and my heart agreed. But when I would have drawn her to
me she stepped back in lovely confusion with a fluttered question:--
"How long have you been here John?"
That voice! Sweet fresh; full of exquisite cadences such as one might
hear in dreams and ever after yearn for--from the first it had baffled me
more than the beautiful face. It was not Helen's. What a blunder!
I gazed at her still giddy. Who was she? I could not trust the astounding
recognition. She returned the look bending towards me seeking as
eagerly I saw with confused wonderment to read my thought as I to fathom
hers. Then as some half knowledge grew to certainty the light of her
beauty became a glory; she seemed transfigured by a mighty joy such as no
other woman could ever have felt.
An instant she stood motionless the sunshine of her eyes still on me.
Then drawing a long breath she turned away pulling the pins out of her
feathered hat with hands that trembled.
I watched the process with the strained attention one gives at crucial
moments to nothings. I laughed out of sheer inanity; every pulse in my
body was throbbing. She lifted the hat from her shining head. She put it
down. She unfastened her coat. In a minute she would turn again and I
should once more see that face imbued with light and fire. I waited for
"I'm sure of it!" she cried wheeling about of a sudden with a laugh like
caressing music and confronting me again. "You didn't know me John; did
"Why didn't I know you?" I gasped. "Why are you glad I don't know you?
What does it all mean Helen?"
Instead of answering she laughed again. It was the happiest joy-song in
the world. A mirthful goddess might have trilled it--a laugh like sunshine
and flowers and chasing cloud shadows on waving grass.
"Helen Winship stop it! Stop this masquerade!" I shouted not knowing
what I did.
"But I--I'm afraid I can't John."
The glorious face brimmed with mischief. In vain the Woman Perfect
struggled to subdue her mirth to penitence.
"I--I'm so glad to see you John. Won't you--won't you sit down and let
Kitty give you some tea?"
Tea! At that moment!
Clattering little blue and white cups and saucers Miss Reid recalled
herself to my remembrance. I had forgotten that she was in the room. I
suspect that she dared not lift her head for fear I might see the laughter
in her eyes.
"I've made it extra strong Mr. Burke" she managed to say "because I'm
starting for the _Star_ office to find the photo-engravers routing
the noses and toeses off all my best beastesses."
"Kitty thinks all photo-engravers the embodiment of original sin" said
the Shining One. "They clip her bears' claws."
"Well" returned Miss Reid making a flat parcel of her drawings "this is
the den of Beauty and the beasts and the beasts must be worthy of Beauty.
Mr. Burke don't you know from what county of fairyland Helen hails? Is
she the Maiden Snow-white--but no; see her blush--or the Princess Marvel?
And if she's Cinderella can't we have a peep at the fairy godmother?
Cadge will call her nothing but 'H. the M.'--short for 'Helen the
Magnificent.' And--and--oh isn't she!"