Things as They Are

EARLY one morning the wagonload of Dolliver children went by Kate Gayley’s on their way to school, those in the back seat weeping, those in the middle seat seriously cheerful, those on the front seat whooping their joys to the young morn. There were nine of them, and they always went by in that way.

In their prefiguring of worldly success and failure, to ride on the back seat was to be out of favor with fortune, downtrodden by the heel of injustice, shorn of authority and importance. To ride on the front seat was glory, and hence happiness. The middle seat was a place where triumph and regret were balanced to a calm. There, too, was security of tenure. Conservative Dollivers, who disliked extremes, might hold a middle seat indefinitely, but the Dolliver parents saw to it that those who held the front seat yesterday held the back seat to-day. Mr. Dolliver worked that part of the Gayley lands which had fallen to Katherine Gayley’s brother, John Gayley. John Gayley lived on the Angevine property that had come to him with his wife. It lay a half mile down the road, which dropped from billowy hill to hill. On either side of the road the bobolinks sang over the meadows, over the buttercups and clover ; and down it the Dolliver wagonload of vaunting precedence, conservative content, and disgraced obscurity, passed clamoring. Katherine worked among her flower beds where, mainly, brilliant and hardy but scentless perennials grew. The sound of the clamor died away from her ears. The Dolliver wagon always went by in that way, but there are critical times when an incident and a mood make electric connections.

Twenty years back Katherine and John Gayley, and Leonora and Leo Angevine, used to drive in one wagon to the same clapboarded schoolhouse in the village. The emphatic Gayleys and the mild Angevines had been prosperous in neighboring homesteads for some generations. Both homesteads were occupied now by the Gayley name. Leo Angevine was a student and naturalist, a teacher of botany in a distant college, and long absent from the old place. John and Nora Gayley sent their own wagonload of children to the clapboarded schoolhouse. Katherine still ruled her own meadows and farms, her cattle and farm lands, her sufficient kingdom. Wherein is good fortune, if not where the mind is like a clear sky, the will like a strong wind, the body healthy as the soil which the plough heaves over in the sunlight ?

When the Dolliver children were gone by, she thought of that former wagonload bearing schoolward the blustering John, herself decisive, the meek-eyed Nora, the absent-minded Leo. From this point her mind traveled forward in time and mood. Presently the state of it seemed to her uncomfortable. Some hours passed. She planted and transplanted, but more and more the garden beds looked distressed, unsatisfied, discordant.

Finally she sat up and examined her state of mind.

It is true that, properly speaking, life is a three-seated wagon. It rolls along with the sound of happy shouts and the sound of weeping. All who know its fullness know to-morrows of hope, and tomorrows of foreboding. If one were privileged by fortune to abide in the exact centre of the hub of her wheel instead of on the rim, avoiding those exhilarating risings, those dismal falls, he might notice that his motion in that place was a simple rotation of himself upon himself, and that this rotation, by centrifugal force, produced in the centre of himself a curious vacuum which nature appeared to abhor. Or, in Dolliver terms, if one always sits in the middle seat, and observes the varieties of life to front and rear, one’s fate seems by contrast to have a certain monotony about it. It promises nothing but the continuance of itself. An all-powerful parentage has arranged that hopes and forebodings shall trumpet and flute in the ears of grief behind and pleasure before, whereas no such trumpetings and flutings tremble about the seat of rational conservatism. When a woman of thirty, therefore, has her years behind her of an unstirred surface, and a wagonload of Dollivers comes by, it may happen to arouse considerations agreeing with considerations already aroused.

Katherine got up suddenly from the turf, strode out through the gate and down the road toward the Angevine farmhouse. The black-and-white bobolinks sang and exulted over the buttercups, and under the buttercups their demure brown mates sat on the nests. Not one brown bobolink came up from her seclusion to demand her share in the breadth of the world. She cuddled low in company with her eggs and instincts, and enjoyed her admiration of the ecstatic singer, who sang : “Chee, chee! In respect to bobolinks I am one of the lords of creation, though my mate is necessary, and I make a point of noticing her, and the way she admires me is much to her credit, besides proving what I remarked at first, don’t you think ? Spink, spank, spink.”

Katherine snorted with disgust. Presently she swung through the gateway of the Angevine farm.

Nora Gayley was at work by the window, where the length of the road was in sight, down to the village in the hazy valley. She began conversation as Katherine entered, and her subject was John.

“He’s gone to town, but he’s coming back soon. He thinks the children are not doing well at school, and he means to tell the teacher so.”

“Humph! What are you ripping that dress for ?”

“John thinks it ought to hang fuller.”

“Humph!”

Nora flowed on peacefully with her “John thinks,” and “John says.”

“But Leo is going to raise bees,” she said, “and has some new kind of hives, and John says he may do very well.”

“ When is Leo coming ?”

“Why, Kate! John went up yesterday to tell you Leo was to come last night, and about his giving up teaching in the college.”

“Humph! So he did.”

“Yes, but Leo has n’t decided where to keep the beehives yet, and John thinks ” —

“For goodness’ sake, Nora, don’t say ‘ John thinks.’ You think, don’t you ?”

“Why, yes.”

“And what you think, John says sooner or later, does n’t he ? Say so, then! John thinks no more than a June bug.”

“Why, Kate!”

“You talk as if you wanted to be sponged out and rewritten ‘John’ with a squeaky slate pencil. You think the children are not doing well, and John has gone to tell the school-teacher he thinks so. You thought your dress ought to hang fuller, and got John to say so. Humph ! Leo will put his beehives wherever he’s argued out they ought to be, and I hope he ’ll get stung.”

“Perhaps he will,” said Nora placidly. “He thinks it won’t be so distracting as teaching at the college. John thinks he ’ll be a very good bee farmer. Leo says he likes to look at industry, and he says bees are more industrious than college students, quite a little.”

The noises which had been occurring now and then in the next room for some minutes, stumblings and bumpings, now ended in a clatter of falling tins.

“It’s Leo coming in,” went on Nora, snipping with her scissors. “He’ll come in when he has picked up the pans.”

And presently he came and stood in the doorway, looking at them with meditative eyes, as if he might intend to enter when he had come to a right conclusion about the contents of the room. His light blue eyes resembled Nora’s, but with a quietness even more mild, persistent, and abstracted than hers. He had a long brown beard, a high, pale forehead, and hair thin about the temples. His manner and expression were not so much grave as reflective and candid, with the candor of the scholar, the even-paced truthfulness which is not so much a moral victory as a condition of the mind. When he spoke, it seemed not for effect on the hearer, but as a simple indication of mental processes. One knew him at sight to be capable of unlimited silence or unlimited speech, each being but a condition of the mind. He stood still in the doorway because the contents of the room seemed problematic to him.

‘Don’t look at me as if I were a bug! ” said Katherine impatiently.

“ In what way do you want to be looked at ? ” he asked after a silence.

“Like a woman, of course.”

Leo thought it over, and decided to come in, and came like one to whom walking was but incidental to the progress of an argument. He drifted into a chair in front of Katherine.

“ Of course everything should be looked at as it is,” he said, “and it follows that you must be looked at as a woman. But I don’t know that I see what follows from that.”

“Nothing follows.”

“ Why, something must follow, I should think. Now there may be subdivisions of ways of looking at women. Bees, for instance, can be looked at in respect to their stings, or their social organization, or the honey they extract from flowers, or in respect to” —

“Humph!” said Katherine. “You’re worse than ever. Where are you going to put your beehives ?”

“Here is John,” said Nora. “John says they ought to be next the garden. John thinks” —

“Bother John!”

— “Or,” continued Leo, undisturbed, “in respect to their further relations to flowers. For until late years the real relations of bees to melliferous flowers was not understood by naturalists, but in point of fact the function of bees toward flowers is that of a kind of matrimonial agency, the honey being merely the bees’ profit or commission from the agency.”

“Nora!” cried John Gayley, coming in, a florid man with a booming voice. “ That school-teacher is a fool! Pshaw! ”

“ Show me your beehives,” said Katherine to Leo, springing up. “She’ll put butter all over him now, and it makes me sick.”

She dashed through and out into the garden, which under Nora’s tending hands always seemed to grow to more even results than her own. Leo drifted after her, and in the wake of his musings, murmuring to himself, and coming up with her, continued, murmuring and musing: —

“Now there is a book called The Loves of the Plants, but hardly scientific, and I don’t remember by whom. But certainly this is observable, that to most flowers there are affinitive flowers of another sex, and that the bees are communicators between them. On the other hand, these bees themselves have an austere social organization that condemns to sexless labor all the females but one, in every hive. Now, and finally, if we consider human society, again the case is clear. Therefore I think that your suggestion is a good one, Katherine, very cogent, very much to the point. Looked at as we are, we are a man and a woman. Simply that. Why, then, should n’t we be married ? In point of fact, ought n’t we to be married, you and I ?”

“What!”

“Because you are right. The case is very clear. First, you are to be looked at as a woman, I as a man, for everything is to be looked at as it is. But you must be mistaken in thinking that nothing follows. The function of the scientist is to ascertain the fact, of the practitioner to adapt his method to the fact ascertained. I am going to apply my knowledge of facts and natural laws to the practical production of the honey of bees. Success is demonstrated to follow. But these same natural laws coexist in human society. Approaching the problem and applying the laws in the same manner, it follows, secondly” —

Katherine seized him by the arm, and shook him.

“Leo Angevine, did you or did n’t you ask me to marry you ?”

“Yes — Yes, I did. At least, I was going to in a minute.”

“Well, then, I say, No! Do you understand ?”

“Yes,” said Leo slowly, “and no. I understand in a sense. In another sense ”—

“I mean it, too!”

“I would n’t exaggerate it.”

“Don’t you do it again!”

“Oh!”

He paused again, and thought this over.

“I had n’t thought of that, but perhaps another time would do better. I think it would. I think you ’re quite right again. Quite right.”

“Humph!”

Katherine walked away furiously, up the hill road to her own house, paying no attention to the bobolinks.

Early the following morning, she answered a knocking at the side door. Leo stood without, his back to the door, contemplating a team of horses in the driveway and a hay cart piled high with the glass-windowed boxes of his beehives. Katherine looked at his back a moment, and said sharply, “Well?”

“I think I’ll put the beehives at the back of your garden,” he said, turning slowly, “instead of back of Nora’s.”

“Oh, you do!”

“Yes. My idea is that, if people are so placed as naturally to see much of each other, they will become accustomed to it. Then after a while they will become agreeably accustomed to it, provided they are suited to each other. Natural laws as a rule operate gradually. I think probably the rule applies here. If the bees are here, I shall be hereabout much of the day, and naturally you will be interested to come out, and in that way we shall fall into the habit of talking together. It is remarkable, Katherine. Both of your suggestions, first, as to how you ought to be looked at, and second, that I had better speak about our marriage at another time, were both remarkable suggestions, both thoughtful, very much” —

“I said nothing of the kind!”

— “Much to the point. Oh!” — He looked surprised, and searched his memory — “Did n’t you? I remember the words, but I thought you said something about doing it again, or not doing it again. It’s of no importance. Now, my theory is that probably, when you think we are well accustomed to each other, you’ll make a third suggestion, namely, that the time is come to take up the matter again. In that way it won’t be necessary for me to keep it on my mind, but merely to wait till you” —

“You’ll wait a long while.”

“Till you suggest it. Why, not necessarily long, I should think. Natural laws ” —

“Take those beehives away!” cried Katherine. “I won’t have them here.” She slammed the door in his face, and sat down on the other side of the room with a firm expression.

She heard the noise of creaking wheels. She started, hesitated a moment, then crossed to the window. The gleam of compunction in her mind changed to indignant amazement. He was not driving back to the highroad, but on past the barns, and around to the rear of the garden.

“Humph!” she said, and sat down again.

Leo unloaded his beehives, and was busy about them the better part of an hour. At the end of that time he came by again, and knocked at the door, and opened it.

“I did n’t tell you the entire truth, Katherine,” he said. “One of my reasons for placing the beehives there was that there is no white clover below, but it is very plenty in your meadows. Now, white clover is particularly good for the spring honey. Consequently ” —

“Go away!” cried Katherine. “Shut the door! I don’t care where you put your beehives.”

The Dollivers ceased going by in their wagon, three - seated and symbolic, to school. The summer vacation was come. A new sound arose in Katherine’s garden, “the murmur of innumerable bees.” These, traveling with dusty thighs from clover to clover, — busy carriers to St. Valentine, postal express to amorous plants, go-betweens to vegetable affinities, proxies to wedded flowers, workers to ends they knew not of, — bore back to their storehouses the wages of their fragrant service. Poor laboring bees, victims of the iron policy of the hive! How eagerly they pushed their blunt faces into the red-and-white tufts of clover! Early in the morning the low drowsy humming began, and reached the height of vibrating energy in the heats of noon, dying away as the twilight crept upward from the valley.

Leo’s double row of glass-windowed hives stretched from corner to corner of the garden, and increased as new swarms broke away, colonies sent out from too populous mother cities. He went among them with the slow movements of a temperament contented with nature’s gradual ways. When your bees are new to their boxes, you must tarry their settling, and when they are settled you must tarry their waxen architecture, their queen bee’s deliberate processes, their travels and returns innumerable. Then you must tarry the growth of the young in the cells, the new swarms, the queen’s nuptials, and all the customs of the hives. Still tarrying, so you harvest your honey. So tarrying moves the bee farmer, and him, deliberate, the bees never sting. So nature moves, whom the student observes and the sage interprets; and the lover sets his pace to nature’s pace, and has her analogies on his side, who resolves:

“ Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
And call upon my soul within the house.”

Seeing that his soul has gone within, he encamps without, prepared for varieties of weather, and above all prepared to tarry.

It was Leo’s custom, in passing the side door daily, to open it, and standing there, to discourse of whatever was in his mind. Impatience was not normal to him. He began to observe symptoms of it in himself, and thought them singular.

“Katherine,” he said at last, “have you noticed the effect our companionship has had on you ? It seems to me it ought to be evident now.”

“Has n’t had any effect.”

Leo turned the statement over and examined it.

“Why, I don’t understand why it hasn’t. But that explains why you’ve made no more suggestions about our marriage. Now, the effect on me began to be noticeable some time ago. First: whenever we happened some day to omit this conversation there seemed to me to be a hiatus. A hiatus is an omission which obscures the meaning of the text, in this case, of the day’s events. Any such day looked to me rather foolish and futile. Even my interest in bees was very much lessened on that day. This was the phenomenon of your absence. Next, I turned to the things taking place in my consciousness whenever I saw you. If anything, they were more singular still. Sometimes they might be described as a great number of minute expansions and explosions, something like boiling water. At other times there was a sense of compression, at other times of emptiness, at others of a slight chill ranging from the back of the head to the small of the back, at others of giddiness, or again, of elation.”

“How long have you been carrying on inside in this ridiculous way ?”

Katherine’s indignation seemed to be genuine, but almost too violent. Leo wondered why she should resent it so directly.

“I noticed the hiatus on the twentyfifth of June. The analogy to boiling water occurred to me on July fifth. The chill I noticed on the seventh, the giddiness on the sixteenth, and so on.”

Katherine was silent.

“I put them all down in my notebook. I wish,” he said, turning in the doorway to go, “I wish, Katherine, you would make careful note of your sensations when they appear, and describe them to me;” and he went away.

“I just won’t,” said Katherine to herself.

“Love,” said Leo, moving about among his beehives, “ is like a bee, which is born with a sting at one end, but for the honey at the other end has far to seek.”

“It is like a swarm of bees,” he said an hour later, “a nervous somewhat with a queen bee in the middle.”

At the end of the morning he climbed the garden fence, and entered these analogies in his notebook, together with the following quadratic equation:—

“ L. A. + K. G. = infinity.

L. A. — K. G. = merely a bee farmer, Eheu!

Adding these, we have

2 L. A. = infinity + a bee farmer. Hence it is proved that

He who falls in love doubles his personality. — ”

He looked dreamily over the muttering hives, at the mown meadows, the pastures dappled with flowers, the green woods, the village far away in the hazy valley.

“Love is like summer,” he said, and entered this final analogy in his notebook: “which makes the earth pleasant to look at.”

So the season crept on, from the time of mown hay to the time of tasseled corn and the yellowing of the oat fields.

On a certain morning Katherine heard a clamoring in the road, and looking from the trellises of her bean vines, saw the Dolliver children passing in their wagon. School time was come again. “Humph,” she said, and picked bean pods the faster.

Yellow butterflies fluttered about the vines. Beyond the garden fence Leo was taking neat squares of honey from the hives, and packing them in separate tiers. The noisy Dollivers were gone by.

“ Hope you ’re satisfied, Kate Gayley! ” she went on, indignantly talking to herself. “Been sprawling over all three seats these two months, have n’t you ? Like it, don’t you! Been carrying on inside you like a teakettle. Been having cold prickles in your back hair. Been feeling empty one minute and giddy the next, same as another fool. Humph! Leo Angevine, too! He’s obstinate, I’ll say that for him.”

“Kate.” Leo looked over the fence. He held one of the box hives under his arm, and around his head buzzed its interested populace. Some clung to his beard and hair, after their confiding familiar habits with him.

“Kate, I’ve been consulting authorities on the subject of this experience of ours.”

“Ours! ”

— “And either it has never been treated adequately, or there never was one precisely like mine.”

“What’s the matter now ?”

“Did you ever know of any authorities on the subject who described it as like eating molasses on pickles ?”

“No!” said Katherine violently. “I never did! It is n’t!”

Her speech seemed to admit some direct experience, but he did not notice the admission, or did not comment on it.

“Yes, it is. I thought of different tasting things, and selected molasses and pickles. Then I tried them together, and found it to be so.”

“ Humph! Did you like it ? ”

“It was interesting,” he said thoughtfully, “but it was a taste that seemed to require too great a readjustment of one’s point of view. No, on the whole, I don’t think I liked it.”

He turned away. Katherine went on picking beans.

“Molasses and pickles!”

She felt depressed. Leo and his sensations ! Humph! But it was depressing to think he might begin not to like his sensations.

“Kate! ” This voice came from the direction of the house. John Gayley strode down the walk. “Kate, I’ve got something to say.”

“You mean Nora’s been thinking. What does she think ?”

John stood among the beans, and rubbed dubiously his chin, which was large, red, round, and tending to repetition.

“Well,” he said at last, “that’s so. You think Nora leads me by the nose. So she does. I know it sometimes, but mostly I forget it. It’s a good thing. She married me before I knew what she was up to. My stars! What would have become of me if she had n’t? What’s the use ? That’s what I’ve got to say. What’s the use ? Why don’t you hitch up ? Nora and I are all right, all right. So ’ll you be, all right. We fit each other like a buckle and a strap. So’ll you.”

John was thunderous with emphasis.

“Oh! Nora thinks that, does she ?”

“ Why, she leads me by the nose. That’s the Angevine of it. So’ll Leo do with you.”

“He will, will he ?”

“Sometimes I know it, but mostly I forget it. So’ll you. That’s the Gayley of it.”

“I won’t either!”

“And it’s a good thing all round, a good thing. What’s the use ? That’s what I ’ve got to say. What’s the use ? ”

But Katherine was gone. She seemed to leave a fiery wake behind her, like the tail of a comet. She burst through the garden gate, and out among the beehives.

“Leo Angevine! Take your beehives and go home! Oh! ” she screamed, “ I’m stung! Oh! I’m stung again!”

At the corner of the garden stood an arbor shelter of grapevines, thick and green, with entrances within and without the garden. Thither Katherine fled from the bees, and Leo followed. Thither John Gayley tiptoed, with expression extravagant, feet lifted extravagantly high, and peered through the leaves. Katherine’s bare arm was extended. Leo held it and applied dabs of mud.

She was stating her mind with emphasis: “Humph! I don’t like being in love. It hurts!”

“That I’ve observed also.”

“It’s always either way up or way down.”

“I have noted that, too.”

“It catches like measles.”

“Oh! why, I had n’t thought of it’s being contagious. And yet, why not?”

“Well, perhaps we’ll like it, when we ’re used to it.”

There was a pause. Leo said,—

“Those are very cogent suggestions, Katherine, very much to the point.”

John Gayley tiptoed away extravagantly.