PHŒBE began disturbing the peace before she was born. The news of her anticipated arrival was nothing short of a cataclysm. Brother Elhannon Stout and Sister Dosia, his wife, had lived for twenty years in the Quaker community without having added to its population; and now, when they were regarded as venerables, they produced an offspring. The chagrin of the village was nothing, however, compared to their own when they found that the little son, for whom they had prayed these twenty years and whom they had already dedicated to the service of God, turned out to be a lusty little daughter.

In time they became reconciled; but not so Phœebe. With each succeeding year she felt and looked more and more like a mistake. Her bullet head seemed to call for a cap instead of a beribboned hat; her muscular legs demanded the freedom of trousers instead of the confinement of skirts. When she spoke, her deep voice and her short, abrupt sentences gave yet further evidence that Nature had blundered.

The first intimation that she had a grievance had come when she was a year old. A neighbor brought a boy baby to call, and in the baby’s hand was a ball. Without hesitation Phœbe flung away the rag-doll which she held and laid forcible hands on the ball. In vain did the two mothers strive to arbitrate the matter. The boy went home with the doll, and Phœbe remained in triumphant possession of the ball.

The habit of going after what she wanted grew with her years. By the time she was six, she had reduced her parents to such a state of subjugation that they trembled at each new ultimatum, and hoped, at most, for a compromise.

‘I want a vest,’ she announced one evening at the supper table.

‘Vests are for little boys,’ said Brother Elhannon.

‘They shan’t have ’em all,’ said Phœbe belligerently. ‘I can have one too; can’t I, mother?’

‘I’ll get thee a pretty sash,’ suggested Sister Dosia.

’I won’t wear it!’ cried Phœbe. ‘I want a vest with pockets. Why can’t I have a vest?’

Sister Dosia tried to divert her by serving her a third saucer of ice-cream.

‘The child’s shaking with cold now,’ remonstrated Brother Elhannon. ‘I’ll put her chair by the fire, the while she eats it.’

‘I would n’t be cold if I had on a vest,’ wailed Phœbe, between mouthfuls.

The next day she appeared at the livery stable at the corner, her father’s gray vest buttoned over her dress.

‘Hullo,Phœbe!’said Mr. McAllister, a squint-eyed old Scotchman; ‘where did ye get yer weskit?’

‘Out of the wardrobe. See my pockets?’

‘Ye’ll be wearing pants some day,’ said Mr. McAllister.

‘Whose?’ she asked hopefully.

‘Yer husband’s, most like!’ said Mr. McAllister, with a chuckle.

Like Timothy of old, Phœbe was brought up in the fear of the Lord and was well instructed in Holy Scripture. Next to the Bible, the book that played the most important part in her education was an oblong volume of worn yellow calfskin, on which was printed ‘Rules of Discipline, 1849.’

Brother Elhannon had been brought up on it, and he considered the result sufficiently satisfactory to repeat the experiment with Phœbe.

Strange to say, Phœbe took kindly to many of the old Quaker precepts. She was perfectly willing to ‘refrain from adorning her person’; she greatly approved the passage which advised that ‘Friends exercise plainness of speech, and not baulk their testimony by cowardly compromise’; it suited her mightily not to ‘ bow her body by way of salutation’; and, above all, she enjoyed the duty enjoined of ‘passing righteous judgment upon all.’

Calling offenders to task became her favorite occupation. The moment she learned a new Scriptural injunction, she insisted that those about her live up to it.

‘Jimmy Sands would n’t turn the other cheek when I slapped him!’ she complained indignantly to her father. ‘I told him it was in the Bible. He’ll go to hell — that’s where he’ll go; and I’m glad of it!’

Once, when she was taken to the Sewing Society, she almost created a riot. After a long period of watchful waiting she announced in triumph: —

‘Ever’ single one of thee has broke the Ten Commandments! Miss Meeker took the name of the Lord thy God in vain, and Mrs. Burke stole Miss May’s spool of thread when she was n’t looking, and Mrs. Wilson coveted ever’ single thing that was her neighbor’s; and ma, she bore false witness against her neighbor when she said the Gills never did wash their windows!’

Her terrifying honesty and directness became a scandal to the town. Transgressors trembled in her presence. Not even the cloth of the ministry was exempt from criticism. A Methodist minister, visiting her school, allowed his imagination a free rein in depicting the domestic life of Santa Claus. Phœbe, sitting in hypnotized absorption on the front bench, suddenly lifted her deep voice and demanded sternly:—

‘Is that the truth? Or is it a lie?’

The only person except Mr. McAllister whom she admitted to her intimacy was Miss Vermiger, a spinster of sixty, who kept a small notion-store and knew how to stuff animals.

Miss Vermiger was large and taciturn, and her chief fascination for Phœbe was her incipient moustache. Phœbe had secret ambitions in that line herself; but frequent applications of lather and subsequent shaving with a paper-cutter had as yet produced no results.


When Phœbe was ten, the entire course of her life was changed by the arrival in town of Claudie Morton. The first time she saw him he was on his grandmother’s porch next door, playing paper dolls with two little girls. Dolls of any kind were abhorrent to Phœbe, but she could at least knock the sawdust ones around a bit, and had on one occasion derived some satisfaction from burning a flaxen-haired wax heroine at the stake for a witch. But how an intelligent human being, and a boy at that, could extract pleasure from paper dolls, was beyond her comprehension.

Her own occupation of the moment was tattooing her legs with indelible ink. It was a most congenial task, and at any other time would have absorbed her entire attention. But to-day her glance frequently wandered to the porch next door.

Her contempt for the newcomer was equaled only by her curiosity. She had never before seen a boy rigged out in white from head to foot; she had never seen one with curly yellow hair that rayed out like a golden halo. Phœbe’s own architecture was pure Doric. There were no Corinthian flourishes on her capital. Her hair was dark and straight, and at the present moment held firmly back by a stocking top.

The design she was so laboriously working on her fat leg consisted of two clasped hands over the word ‘Singapore.’ She had n’t the faintest idea what it signified, but it was an exact copy of what she had seen on the arm of the sailor who came to Miss Vermiger to have a parrot stuffed. It was very hard to do, for she had to sit on one foot, and twist the other at an awkward angle.

But her chief difficulty was Claudie. When he moved, she moved; when he got up, she had to get up, too, to see what he was doing; when he laughed, she made a blot.

At last, disgusted with herself and her achievement, she pulled up her stocking and, flinging her utensils behind the storm door, swaggered out of the gate. Nobody noticed her, so she called out in taunting tones: —

‘Look at the babies playing paper dolls!’

The sally was greeted with dignified and crushing silence, and Phœbe changed her attack from the general to the personal.

‘Who is the new girl?’ she asked.

The boy’s round blue eyes were lifted, with the gentle patience of one who meets an old insult.

‘I am not a girl,’ he said. ‘My name is Claudie Morton, and I’m a boy.’

Phœbe’s critical glance measured him from crown to toe with withering contempt; but the verbal shaft she was about to let fly remained unspoken. Something in the appealing eyes lifted to hers reminded her of her kitten when the dogs were after it. Good sportsmanship forbade her engaging in combat with a weaker foe. Reluctantly she moved on, pursuing her gloomy way down the street.

At the corner she spied Jimmy Curtis and Bud Horner, playing marbles. Her interest in life revived. But when she hurled herself between them and dropped on an experienced knee, she was greeted with a volley of protests.

‘Naw! We ain’t going to play with you, Phœbe Stout! You win all our marbles! ’

‘I’ll give thee back the alleys!’ pleaded Phœbe eagerly.

They were firm. Professionals were barred front their game, and further argument was useless.

Phœbe trudged down the maplebordered streets, and in her soul rebellion raged. Why had n’t she been born a boy? Why could n’t she stand around the livery stable, or sit on a barrel of oil down on the wharf, and listen to the sailors tell funny yarns? Why had n’t she been named something that could be shortened to ‘Joe’ or ‘Bert,’ instead of that silly name of Phœbe?

One by one all avenues of escape from boredom were being closed to her. She was not even permitted to read books of adventure. The Book of Discipline clearly stated that ‘No Friends should suffer romance, play-books, or other vain and idle pamphlets in their homes.'

At the drug store, in the public square, Phœbe paused aimlessly, and looked in the window, where Black Jack, all-day suckers, and stick peppermint were interspersed with toothbrushes, combs, and hot-water bags.

‘Come on in, Phœbe!’ called one of the three giggly young ladies seated within at the soda fountain; ‘what on earth have you got on your head?’

‘The same thing thee has on thy leg,’ announced Phœbe defiantly.

‘But why do you want your hair to lie down?’

‘For the same reason thee wants thine to stick out like a porcupine.’

A peal of laughter greeted this retort; and even the white-coated clerk detached his attention from lemonorange-strawberry-chocolate-and-vanilla, to join in the town’s favorite pastime of baiting Phœbe Stout.

‘Say, Phœbe,’ he said, ‘these girls are jealous of you. Why don’t you put on some of their frills and feathers and cut ’em out?’

‘I’m no Daughter of Zion,’ said Phœbe.

‘Daughter of Zion? What’s the child babbling about?’

‘If thee read thy Bible, thee would not have to ask.’

‘What does the Bible say?’ demanded one of the girls, with a wink.

Phœbe rammed her hands in her pockets and, standing with feet far apart, recited in a loud tone: —

‘The Daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet.’

And having thus spoken, Phœbe extended her tongue as far as Nature permitted, and strode out of the store, slamming the screen door violently behind her.

She was still hot with resentment when old Mrs. Morton stopped her.

‘Wait a moment, dear,’ wheezed the old lady; ‘I want to ask a small favor of you.’

‘I hope it is n’t coffee,’ said Phœbe. ‘The last time thee borrowed some, thee sent us back chicory.’

‘You foolish child!’ said Mrs. Morton. ‘I don’t want to borrow anything. I want you to take my grandson to school to-morrow. He’s never been to a public school, and he’s timid about starting in.'

A small favor, indeed! Phœbe stood aghast at the prospect. Introducing that pink-and-white cherub into the rough-and-tumble of the fifth grade was like leading a lamb into a bull-pit. She foresaw the jeers, the taunts, the fisticuff encounters which were bound to ensue if she undertook the charge. But for some reason, wholly unknown to herself, she accepted the responsibility.

For the next three months Phœbe’s life was an active one. She was Claudie’s champion, his private policeman, his militant guardian angel. The taunts that were hurled at him were met by a return volley of invectives from her. Satisfaction was immediately demanded for any insult; and as Phœbe was the largest child in the school, and knew how to use her fists as well as her tongue, Claudie was soon beyond the danger of persecution.

With his dawning sense of security, he began to pluck up courage, and to make a few feeble efforts to assert himself.

But with his first venture in independence, he discovered the price one pays for patronage. Phœbe discouraged every effort on his part to throw off her imperial domination.

The only time Claudie breathed the air of freedom was on Sundays. Then he went with his grandmother to the Unitarian Church, while Phœbe went to the Meeting House.

‘I like Sundays better’n any other day,’ he declared on one occasion.

‘That’s as should be,’ said Phœbe complacently; ‘only if thee had been brought up right, thee would say First Day instead of Sunday. Sunday is the name given by the heathen in honor of an idol.’

‘I don’t care what you call it,’said Claudie, ‘so long as I don’t have to go to school.’

Phœbe little guessed from this innocent statement the real reason for Claudie’s predilection for the Sabbath. In the pew next the Mortons’ sat a little girl who wore a velvet bonnet of forget-me-not blue, beneath the brim of which dangled six golden curls. When Claudie peeked at her, she looked coyly out of the window; but when Claudie looked out of the window, she peeked at him.

Once, in an excess of boldness, he put a piece of chocolate on the seat between them and shoved it toward her with a shy forefinger. She had treated this audacity on the part of a total stranger with the indifference it deserved. But when Claudie sat down after the second prayer the chocolate was gone.

Of this clandestine affair Phœbe remained in ignorance. Serene in the belief that she owned Claudie, body and soul, she continued to exercise her benevolent despotism. The fact that he no longer needed her protection in no way affected her suzerainty.

During the Christmas holidays the younger element of the town was thrown into great excitement by the announcement that Mrs. Morton was going to give Claudie a birthday party. The news had an immediate effect on Claudie’s social standing. The boys became propitiatory and the girls ingratiating. Three children whom he did not know sent him Christmas cards.

To Phœbe alone the prospect of the party brought no thrill. She had been taught that ‘ balls, horse-races, and play-houses were nurseries of sin.’ She disapproved of the party, and she disapproved even more of Claudie’s grandmother for giving it.

‘But this is not a ball, Phœbe,’ explained her mother. ‘ ’T is merely a friendly gathering of little children to celebrate a neighbor’s birthday. Thee must not be overstrict in the interpretation of thy duty.’

‘I shan’t go,’ said Phœbe stubbornly.

But when the day came, and the bustle of preparation was at its height, she changed her mind. The thought of Claudie exposed to feminine blandishments, when she was not present, was more than she could endure. Her red merino dress was pressed for the occasion, and Sister Dosia took her uptown and bought a pair of new boots with round-toed patent tips, and a round comb to hold her hair back.

At half-past seven she sat in solitary state in the Mortons’ parlor, waiting for the party to begin. Claudie was having the finishing touches put on his toilet, and presently emerged, resplendent in black velvet and wide lace collar. Even the stoical Phœbe experienced a thrill of admiration. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes shining with excitement, and he stepped about in his silver buckled pumps with the air of a courtier.

‘There’s a hole in thy stocking,’ said Phœbe, in a vain attempt to nip his growing bud of vanity.

The effort was wasted. In the warm rays of flattery that enfolded him with the arrival of the other guests, her chilling criticism was forgotten.

‘Does n’t he look cute?’ — ‘Did you ever see such coloring on a boy?’ — ‘Has n’t he the most perfect manners?’

Phœbe sat upright against the wall, her hands extended upon her merino knees, her booted feet firmly together, in the posture of a cold impersonal Ramesside. Only her eyes moved, taking in the fluttering, beribboned little girls, the giggling boys, and the voluble chaperons. Never did one chair hold so much concentrated disapproval.

In vain did the hostess endeavor to engage her in the festivities. Not even when the refreshments were served did she lend encouragement to what seemed to her a wicked and foolish pastime.

‘Why Phœbe Stout!’ cried Mrs. Morton, spying her untouched plate, ‘don’t you like ice-cream?’

‘Not when it’s got salt in it,’said Phœbe,

After supper boredom gave place to a much more poignant emotion. From her point of vantage she had been noting with growing uneasiness the attention Claudie was bestowing on a strange little girl in a blue tulle dress, whose golden curls bobbed up and down when she danced. Every time the couple circled past her, she heard someone say: —

‘Did you ever see anything cuter than those children?’ or ‘Don’t they dance perfectly together?'

The flood of Phœbe’s wrath rose to the danger-mark. Never once during all those interminable hours had Claudie so much as looked at her. The fact that no other masculine eye had strayed in her direction was a matter of total indifference to her, but the defection of Claudie was more than she could endure.

When the man with the saxophone announced that the next number would be ‘Ladies’ Choice,’ Phœbe saw the golden-curled fairy making straight for Claudie. At that moment she became a cave woman! Bolting from her chair, she plunged into the circle of dancers, and sweeping everyone out of her path, seized Claudie by the arm that was in the very act of encircling a blue-clad waist. With bold dexterity she swung him out of the maiden’s arms and into the hall, where she thrust him savagely into the dark corner under the stairs.

‘Claudie Morton!’ she breathed hoarsely, ‘thee shan’t dance with that little silly all the time. She’s got no sense.’

‘She’s the prettiest girl at the party,’ pouted Claudie, in indignant protest.

‘Pretty! Pouf! Little wax doll! What’s her name?’

‘Amy,’ said Claudie, lingering over the vowels.

‘She’s nothing but a baby. What does thee like about her?’

Claudie gave an involuntary glance at Phœbe’s head.

‘I — I — like her curls,’ he faltered.

The immitigable law, that a woman’s desire to attract is roused by a disregard of her charms, was immediately manifest.

‘Claudie,’ whispered Phœbe in unnaturally chastened tones, ‘thee does n’t like her any better than me?’

‘N-no,’ said Claudie loyally; ‘I guess I don’t.’

At that critical moment Grandmother Morton swooped down on them, and led Claudie back into the spotlight.

Phœbe brooded for a while alone in her corner; then, seeing a chance to escape, slipped out the back door and, in spite of her best dress and her new shoes, climbed over the side fence and went home.

All the next morning she went about the house very low in her mind. Sister Dosia confided to Brother Elhannon that she thought it was a case for physic.

But the barometer rose when Claudie came over after lunch to announce that his grandmother had given him a pony and a cart for a birthday present.

‘ An’ she says you are to teach me to drive!' he added excitedly; ‘will you come now?’

For the next hour Phœbe was supremely happy. Round and round the square she drove, showering verbal instruction on her pupil, but refusing to let him have the reins except for a few moments at a time.

When the novelty of the proceeding wore off, Claudie began to get restless. He fidgeted and sulked because Phœbe would not let him drive, and was actually threatening to get out and go home, when he spied a flounced petticoat at the end of the block.

‘Amy!’ he shrieked, ‘come see my new pony! Come go riding with us.’

Phoebe’s impulse was to apply the whip to the pony; but she magnanimously drew rein instead, and allowed the small girl to climb into the cart.

‘I’ll sit on the back seat with her,’ cried Claudie eagerly, suiting the action to the word.

Phœbe stared straight ahead of her and said nothing. She still drove round and round the square, but the zest: of the adventure had departed. The whip had lost its jaunty angle, and the reins were no longer held aloft with professional pride.

‘See here, Claudie Morton,’ she said sharply when the giggling intimacy on the back seat was no longer to be tolerated, ‘if thee is going to learn to drive, thee’d better come on and do it.’

‘I don’t want to learn everything to-day,’protested Claudie, audaciously balancing one of Amy’s curls on his forefinger.

‘Yes thee do, too! Climb right over here into the driver’s seat. Here! Take the reins. Now let’s see what thee can do.’

Being much better fitted by nature to toy with the tangles of Neæra’s hair than to fill the more strenuous duties of Phœbus Apollo, Claudie reluctantly obeyed. Nervous over his new responsibility, he jerked the reins recklessly and fidgeted — in the end, disastrously — with the whip.

’Hold him in a bit,’ warned Phœbe, ‘and stop flourishing that whip. Look out there! Be careful!’

The advice came too late. The pony, taking advantage of the feeble hold on the lines, bolted into a side street and, finding himself unchecked, broke into a run.

Amy, clinging to the back seat, screamed with fear: —

‘Stop him, Phœbe! Stop him! Claudie can’t hold him. His hands are too little! You take the reins, Phœbe O Phœbe! Phœbe!’

But Phoebe, her eyes shining, her mouth set, gripped the side of the cart and did nothing.

Claudie, blanched with terror, looked at her beseechingly.

‘He’s running away!’ he almost sobbed. ‘I can’t hold him.’

‘Yes, thee can,’ said Phœbe with savage firmness. ‘Thee’s got to. Grip tight. That’s it. Hold on. Pull harder! Saw the reins!’

‘Help him!’ screamed Amy hysterically. ‘ He’s afraid! He’s going to cry! ’

‘No, he’s not!’ shouted Phœbe. ‘He’s going to stop the pony. Pull harder on the right! That’s it. Brace thy feet. Harder! Pull, Claudie, pull!’

And Claudie pulled.

Never before in his pampered life had he been called upon to act for himself. Every muscle in his body seemed to be strained to the breakingpoint. His arms felt as if they were dragging from their sockets. The world was a flying chaos. From behind him came Amy’s anguished shrieks, and from beside him came that dominant voice, which bade him pull.

After what seemed hours of anguish, the tension lessened suddenly, and he opened his eyes.

The pony had stopped, shaken and trembling, in front of the drug store, and an excited group of people had already assembled. Amy was lifted, sobbing, from the bottom of the cart, and Phœbe was plied with questions.

‘Why did n’t you help him? Why did n’t you stop the pony?'

‘Because I knew he could stop him himself!’ Phœbe cried exultantly. ‘I never touched the lines once. And he never had drove before, had thee, Claudie? And the little old silly on the back seat kept saying he could n’t stop him. I knew he could. Show ’em thy hands, Claudie! All skinned on the inside. But he’s got nerve, and his muscle ’ll grow all right. I’ll bet he’s going to drive the pony home; ain’t thee Claudie?’

The unwitting hero, still dazed and trembling, gave one look at his hands. Inclination prompted him to follow Amy’s ignominious example and fling himself into the nearest pair of comforting arms. But Phœbe’s words had stirred some latent germ of manhood in him. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he squared his shoulders and said with a touch of bravado: —

‘Sure I’m going to drive him home. I guess this here has learned him he can’t fool with me.’

When they were around the corner, Phœbe laid firm hands on the reins.

‘ I think I '11 drive the rest of the way,’ she announced.

But Claudie’s grip tightened, and an entirely new expression came into his eyes.

‘No, you won’t,’ he said firmly, shaking her hand off his wrist. ‘ It takes a boy to drive this here pony.’

Never before did the turning of a worm produce so surprising an effect. Phœbe noted the square set of his jaw, and the firm grip of his skinned hands on the reins. Then she subsided meekly beside him, and pondered many things in her mind.

That night, when Brother Elhannon and Sister Dosia were raising their voices in a nocturnal duet, their young daughter stood before her small dressing-table, engaged in performing a most worldly rite. In one hand she held a heated piece of carbon pipe, and in the other a wisp of burnt hair. Never did a more ardent devotee make burnt offering, and never did sweeter incense rise to Venus than the acrid smell of those scorched locks.

On each temple the iron had left an arid spot, but in the centre of her forehead lay an unmistakable curl. And as Phœbe looked at herself in the mirror, she tossed her head, ever so slightly, and smiled. On the far-off horizon of her being, a new light was breaking. It was the dawn of femininity in Phœbe!