Eve's Apples: The Story of an Abandoned Orchard

I

ONE mild day in February Mr. Ward and I drove Bird from Clintonville to the orchard, followed by a wagon at which I was continually glancing back with pride, for on it were heaped, not only my precious pruning tools, but a beautiful secondhand cookstove, a bed and a cot, two chairs, and enough provisions, I thought, to last months.

Mr. Ward was a kindly old gentleman whom I had met in Clintonville and who had known my mother’s family for a generation or two. He owned orchards in a county farther south, and was wise in horticulture. When I had left my orchard in December he had offered to go back there with me later on and teach me to prune.

It was one of those days, neither winter nor spring, when Nature seems to be attending strictly and secretly to her own affairs — like the preliminary tuning of the orchestra which so fills the heart of a music lover with delicious anticipation. Later, tight red buds like fairy drums will sound in noiseless music from the stark black oaks, and in the sacred symphony of spring the creeping earth-bound vines will sing through such tiny throats that you are overcome with wonder that they should draw breath from the cold ground through such fragile, transparent stems.

In a silence too precious to be lightly broken we drove the nine miles, and as we neared the orchard there came the cheerful tap-tap of a hammer. There was my carpenter, all in brown corduroys, pounding on the roof of my own house.

To my bitter disappointment, the house seemed to be unfinished. The carpenter ran down the ladder and told me that the weather had been ‘agin him,’ that he had had other work to finish; and, in a burst of candor, with a disarming smile he added, ‘To tell the God’s truth, I did n’t think you’d come back anyway.’

The little unfinished house had two rooms below and two above. There was, half completed, a great outside rock chimney — the rock from my own land; the hooded windows, as yet without panes, were pretty; and some day, I thought, there might be money enough for porches and climbing roses. Now, the windows were boarded, the partitions were but lathed, and there was a ladder for a stairway. The kitchen chimney at least was finished, and the carpenter set up the little cookstove and we moved in. Mr. Ward said that as the weather was so mild he would remain awhile in spite of conditions.

To my dismay, there was no fuel provided. When I had gone away in December a very poor man had agreed to cut wood from my land and have it ready for use on my return, but the carpenter revealed the fact that I had bitterly offended Mr. Sanders. At Christmas I had sent his children some simple gifts, addressing their father in the accompanying letter as ‘My dear Mr. Sanders.’ The carpenter told me that the man said he knew ‘what was due his wife’ and refused to cut wood for so bold a woman. Ever after Mr. Sanders was called ‘my dear’ in the neighborhood, and shortly afterward he became demented — though I never attributed the poor man’s misfortune to my ignorance of manners and customs. But the carpenter went on to say that in my absence two Dutch boys had bought the forty acres west of the orchard and had built a house for fifty dollars, and as they subsisted almost entirely on rabbits from my orchard he thought they might cut wood for me, and would walk over and ask them.

In the afternoon Hans came. He was a second-generation German, stocky and blond, with steady, secretive blue eyes. He laid about him in the most promising way, and the wood piled high at the south door. Steadily too, but not greedily, he ate at supper. I think I have never seen anyone consume so much food so quietly and so persistently. (Later he told me that that night he cooked his own supper after my slight meal.)

The carpenter brought some men to help him finish the house and the chimney, and Mr. Ward and I pruned merrily in the orchard every day. At dawn the carpenter would come, light the fire, and make cocoa. Then he would call Mr. Ward and me. Such a kind carpenter! But the work on the house progressed slowly.

One day Mr. Ward complained of a severe pain in his side, which the carpenter diagnosed as pneumonia. We heated irons and blistered him with mustard plasters. But he yearned for home, and caught a ride in a passing wagon in the very teeth of a coming storm. (He wrote me at once that except for the blisters, which were still painful, he was quite recovered. It was not pneumonia, but a bruised shoulder from the pruning shears.)

The storm began in earnest the night Mr. Ward left me; piercing splinters of ice came on the north wind. How glad I was that Bird’s barn was finished — all but the padlock for the door — and that one side was railed off to store corn I had bought from the carpenter.

By five o’clock that day it was quite dark. I carried in great loads of the green wood in an effort to keep myself from freezing, for the little cookstove was not constructed for heating an unfinished house. The kind carpenter, knowing that I could not keep warm, flung discretion to the north winds and said, ‘Wrap up and come on and go home with me.’ I admired his courage, for he lived with his mother, who was reported to be a superior woman with a very firm character and who disapproved of me thoroughly. So I gratefully declined, and builded myself a tepee with a blanket, a broom, and a bough before the oven door of the cookstove.

Alone! The long-invoked, the reluctant spirit of solitude descended. And I found her such an unexpectedly hilarious guest! While the furious wind shook the house and rattled the boards at the windows and doors where the sleet struck like bullets, I made myself coffee, I played gypsy airs on the violin, I danced, I sang. I recited all the sonnets I knew, and much of Walt Whitman. It grew colder and colder, and at last I climbed the ladder to my bed with a candle in a tin can for fear of fire, — the house was full of shavings, — a hot rock for fear of freezing, and my trusty pistol for fear of robbers.

II

In three days all was calm again, and work once more began on the house. I do not think that it was ever finished as to details. But one day the carpenter departed, saying that but for locks on the doors of the house and the barn all was complete. And well that it was, for that night there descended a storm such as I had never seen. Sleet, and snow, and ice, and a thermometer below zero. Bird had in some way hurt her leg, and each day I would sit in the doorway of her little stable and dress the wound. On the morning of the second day of the blizzard I sat on the doorsill of the barn, my back to the furious wind, when suddenly a terrific blast blew the door shut and the great log by which I kept it fastened fell against it securely — and there was I imprisoned with Bird, with the thermometer below zero! I tried frantically to pull away the boards before the corn at the side. I screamed aloud, though I knew that no one could hear me and that I should have long since perished of cold and starvation before anyone missed me. The shrieking, mocking wind shook the frail shed until I prayed that it might fall upon us.

At last I threw my arms about Bird’s neck, and she whinnied softly and nuzzled against me. ‘Now,’ I thought, ‘before I am too numb with cold, I must reach through the boards and pile corn before Bird.’ She would not overeat, I knew, and at least she might live until help came. As I reached for the corn, I saw there, hanging on the wall, the old Spanish bolo that Eugene and I had had in the studio. I had used it to cut the smut from the carpenter’s corn before I learned to rub the ear against the wall in the accepted way.

It seemed hours before I managed to pry the bolo through a crack in the door and push away the heavy log.

There was none to pity, so I did not weep, but made a great fire in the fireplace and read a chapter in the New Testament — Epictetus I found too cold for the occasion. But I succumbed to la grippe the next day, and was barely able to water Bird, dress her leg, and give her a hot mash of oatmeal. Then I fed the birds waiting patiently at the south door. The terror of the blizzard had forced them into meek companionship, and there were cardinals, dazzling against the snow, blue jays, their harsh impudence a little softened, pathetic little brown birds which I did not recognize, a pair of all too optimistic bluebirds, and even a few quail who often came to feed about the house. I was too ill to desire anything for myself, too ill to climb the ladder to my bed; so I lay before the fireplace on the cot, little caring whether I lived or died.

It must have been nine o’clock that night when there came a loud knock, and Hans entered, looking like a snow man. Without any words, he replenished the fire, drew my cot closer to the hearth, toasted biscuits, broiled a frozen rabbit he took from his pocket, and made a pot of steaming coffee. He set the table before me, but first gave me a tablet of medicine. I did not inquire about it — cheerfully I would have taken poison from him. At last I managed to say, ‘ Hans, how did you know that I was ill?’

‘I don’t know,’ he answered. ‘I know things like that sometimes.’

And in the years to come, though I could never explain it, he often did know things like that. All night at intervals he gave me the tablets, and the next day I was much better, and soon I was pruning the trees again. Sometimes I lost myself among them and wandered about for hours before I came upon my little dot of a house in the wilderness.

One happy day I discovered that through the tangle of broom sedge my feet had worn a path to Bird’s stable. I wept with delight, Like Ben Bolt’s Alice, for that path had set its seal of home upon my trackless wilderness. Faint, indeed, and walled by ghosts of weeds as high as my head — but a path! For even the trail worn smooth by patient, clumsy feet of cows stalking through the hot noon to the riverside, or the dim line marked by furry little feet that hop home to a burrow, touches the heart and quickens the imagination. Roads are tramped by any careless or unwilling feet, but a path is a chosen way, and in the wilderness often a way selected by small brains — half asleep, maybe — above melancholy or furtive eyes alive with hopes and fears.

I smiled to think that the first path at the orchard recorded footsteps that led along a way, not to comfort or to ambition, but to friendship. Perhaps even through loneliness and hardship my paths might lead to pleasantness and to peace.

Dreamer! That very night strange things began to happen. For hours a mysterious ticktack on the windowpane. Weird cries among the trees. Rifle shots in the orchard. A chorus of owls all hooting together. And once sheeted forms dancing about the house in the cold moonlight.

Hans told me it was the neighbor boys trying to frighten me away.

‘This country don’t like strangers,’ he said. ‘My brother promised to stay here with me, but he can’t stand it, and he is going back home. I worked six years in the harvest field to get the money to buy this forty, and now I’ll have to go and leave it. For I have heart spells from drinking cold water once when I was overhet in the field, and I don’t like to live alone.’

‘Do you really want to stay here, Hans?’ I asked.

‘Of course I don’t want to leave my property.’

‘Well, move over here with me. You can work your farm from here. Then neither of us will die alone.’

His brother left at once, and I went with Bird and the cart — Hans had no horse — and brought him over, bag and baggage.

Hans was, perhaps, twenty-eight years old, though he seemed older as the result of a life of hardship and privation. He prided himself on being ‘skretive,’ and would never tell his age. He worked so surely and so swiftly that other men whom I afterward employed would say, ‘You need not expect me to work like Hans. They kain’t nobody else do it.’

III

While Hans was surprisingly ignorant in many respects, he could read, and when the subject was sufficiently abstract he often amazed me by his wisdom. Many a night he read me to sleep when I was ill or troubled — though he refused to read anything but what he called ‘facts.’ So from my library of four books he would read but the New Testament, and in addition to that a paper which came to him and seemed to be about astronomy. One night before a great log fire he said, ‘We are going to have a mighty hard year.’

‘Of course,’ I answered.

‘Harder than you ever saw. It’ll be the greatest drought in twentyfive years.’

‘How do you know?’ I asked but for information; I did not question Hans’s powers of divination.

‘The stars tell it. I’ll read you about it in Hicks’ Word and Works’

Hicks was to Hans the greatest man of his time, or of all time. Once, he told me, he and a friend set out, each with a blanket rolled under his arm, on a pilgrimage to Hicks. I asked him if the visit proved disappointing.

‘No,’ he replied; ‘a feller just could n’t be disappointed in Hicks! But he lives in a awful ignerant city. We asked a dozen people on the street where to find Hicks’ Word and Works before a one of them knowed we was talking about a paper at all. And they stole our blankets there. They was mighty fine blankets.’

While Hans had no opinion of cities, he said that once he lived in one for some months and took two baths a week and wore a clean collar every day. In answer to my questions he said that he was staying at a famous stammering school.

‘They cured you!’ I cried. ‘You do not stammer at all.’

‘ I never did stammer,’ he answered quietly. ‘I kind of stammered in my mind. I went to try it out for my brother. He stammered.’

‘And did they cure your brother?’

‘He wouldn’t go. He stammers awful yet. I worked three years to get the money to go try it out for him.’

And that is Hans.

It proved sometimes inconvenient for me that Hans had such a profound contempt for anything emanating from the mind of a woman. Once, a year later, I sent him to the telegraph station to prepay a message to a stranger. I wished this message to be terse and convincing.

When Hans returned he said uneasily, ‘I just put on a few words more. It did n’t cost any more.’

From long experience, my mind misgave me. ‘Hans,’ I cried, ‘what did you add to the message?’

‘Well, it was an important telegram, and it did n’t sound exactly polite. There’s a heap in being polite. Where I come from we always say something about the weather in a letter.’

‘Hans,’ I said sternly, ‘tell me at once what you added to the message.’

‘I just wrote on the end, “No snow here.’”

As far as any connection with my telegram was concerned he might have added, ‘Love to Mary.’

Soon, hidden about the house, I found small packages of food, wrapped or in boxes; thread, needles — any little article. Once I ventured to speak to Hans about them, and he told me that he could n’t help trying to save things, as he was haunted by the thought that he would starve to death or be without the necessities of life; it was ‘a grasshopper year’ when he was born, and his mother faced starvation. In after years, when Hans habitually helped himself secretly to the proceeds of the orchard, I remembered this. Indeed, when I came to keep a somewhat original set of books I always estimated a certain disappearing percentage; and once I asked Hans not to vary this, as it interfered with my bookkeeping. He agreed pleasantly to keep within bounds. Often this percentage was spent for orchard equipment, and often, too, in gifts for me which were amusing and touching — as Hans did not think that I dressed in a manner befitting my position.

No doubt this arrangement was scarcely ethical, but I am sure the fact did not occur to either of us — that is, until Hans fell under the spell of an evangelist some years later, when he told me he was ‘on the road to sanctification’ and suffered from a sense of guilt. During this unhappy time he read the Bible to me constantly; and it was in vain that I urged my own point of view, which was that the whole scheme seemed to be a plan for ridding the individual of a sense of sin, from ancient scapegoats down to the joyous young Son of Man, who pleaded with us to be happy and cast our burden where it naturally belonged — on the Creator. But Hans refused to see even the unalloyed joy of the Sermon on the Mount, and we experienced no respite from gloom until one day he told me that he had fallen from grace and guessed he was doomed to sin. Then, with the utmost relief, we settled down to normal again.

The spring this year was long in coming. We had no horses, no sprayers, very little money between us, and all we could do was to prune the trees. And to me there are few greater delights than on a mild, windless day to set about making a tree clean in the sight of God and man. Just below the ‘collar’ I would carefully saw off an interfering limb — it is always a serious question which to cut away — and immediately disinfect the wound with corrosive sublimate dissolved in turpentine. I did not try to balance the tree for fruit this year, as Mr. Ward had warned me against pruning too heavily, and only pruned for symmetry. At last I would scrape the trunk for ‘oyster-shell’ and stand in happy admiration before my happy tree.

Though Hans worked hard, he never made a pruner. In all my years at the orchard I found but two men who made successful pruners. It takes a real love for trees, and an imagination that divines the balance between growth and fruiting. So, while I pruned always, Plans took over the cooking — much to his satisfaction and to mine.

IV

One day two flashily dressed, shiftyeyed men called Hans outside for conversation at the woodpile. Presently he came in and announced that he was driving to Clintonville with the men, as he was trading his forty acres for a house and lot in town. In vain I urged him to wait and to consult someone; he answered that for a woman I had ‘a heap of culture, but no knowledge of business.’ So he became the possessor of a house and lot, mortgaged, with an insignificant equity and a flaw in the title, and situated in an impossible suburb. We both wept over it.

It rained constantly. I wrote melancholy verses and sent them to magazines — we had a rural mail box now. I was snowed under with returned poems. Plans had small opinion of them, as not being facts, but they were mine, and he preserved them; and one year when we barreled he put one in each barrel and said grimly, ‘I bet somebody reads ’em now, anyway.’ There was a sawmill near, and Hans worked there for a few days to get enough lumber to make what he called a set of ‘legless furniture’ for his attic. For, the gentlest of men, he piqued himself on ‘skretiveness and revenge.’ They were cardinal virtues and must be acquired. And as he had a horror of ‘any insect with legs,’ he meant to ‘ run a revenge on all nature by legless furniture.’

Now that Plans had lost his home I felt that it was inordinate selfishness to keep him with me. I told him that the orchard was a gamble and that I might not be able to pay him. He replied that he would make it pay, and that ever since his stay at the stammering school he had desired culture, — that is, in a measure, — and that as long as the culture held out he would stay, provided I would teach him. A friend sent me a grammar. But the grammar offended and fatigued Hans. He said openly that ‘good grammar’ in the spoken word lacked pith, and after a half hour’s study would plead for cards as a relaxation. I tried the ‘make believe the work is play’ system and said, ‘Now, Hans, as I deal, give me the principal parts of the verb “to deal.”’ After long deliberation Hans cried proudly, ‘I got it! “Shuffle, deal, play.”’

This was eminently practical; but many a night over the blazing logs we talked long of life, and the clairvoyant mysticism of Hans’s mind made me believe in inspiration. He loved beauty, and found a certain wood which would burn with little blue electric flames; and my table was always decorated with wild flowers he had gathered. But he must always work. So one day, foreseeing the time when we might keep chickens, — on the principle of the man who purchased a shirt button in the hope that he would sometime have a shirt, — Hans spent his last remaining cent for high woven wire and built a small chicken yard. When it was finished, he threw his axe with reckless pride over the fence, called me to behold it, and crowed loudly. I admired, and then went into the house, for it had begun to rain. Presently, in somewhat sullen accents, I heard my name. Hans had built himself in. His feathers fell as I gave him the axe to cut a gate.

At night before the fire we read until late, each at his own small table. Hans had made the tables of barrel tops, like great spools. They were insecure, and the mortality in lamp flues was frightful. Once Hans, having walked three miles and back in a cold rain for lamp flues, gazed in pride at his own table, stepped back and knocked mine over, then plunged in horror against his own. That night we read by firelight.

We never saw anyone but an occasional passer-by, and I wonder that we did not develop what the old prospectors called ‘cabin fever’ and rise and slay each other. Perhaps there was such a vast difference in the background of our lives that we were not close enough to get on each other’s nerves. But that does not imply that to this day I do not regard Hans as my closest friend.

V

Spring came. The two gaunt sycamores at the south door dressed their white arms in filmy green. Windflowers drifted to the doorstone, and violets bloomed amid the sad leaves heaped at the foot of the oaks. After a while a hundred acres of apple blossoms were sweet in the sun. Then early there settled over all the land the most terrible drought in a quarter of a century. Our precious garden died. Hans had crooned over every seed he had put to sleep in the moist earth. All grass withered, and dust settled deep over every living thing. The chickens of our neighbors died on the roost. Our apples shriveled on the trees, as if they were baked. The farmers hauled water from the deep pool in Pleasant Run in my wood. My own grief was lost in anxiety for these poor farmers, for Hans said there would be no crops.

The house was unbearable. I moved my bed to the orchard, and Hans moved to the yard. We put the cookstove under a tree, protected by a great umbrella. After wild greens we had no summer food. Supplies and money ran low. Coffee, tea, and cocoa were luxuries denied, and Hans brought sassafras from the woods. He drank water in preference; no black Aunt Becky had trained him to habits of sassafras tea in the spring; but I renewed childish memories with its fragrance. One stifling day I cooked the last of the macaroni which Hans so liked, and, as I opened the kettle to serve it, from within the umbrella above fell a great ball of granddaddy longlegs squarely into the kettle. Desperately I seized a spoon, but their legs went everywhere, and to this day I suffer in my mind as to whether I should have told Hans — especially as his concern that I could not eat was so touching.

Suddenly, on the first of September, came the rains. Too late for crops; but the apparently baked apples swelled astonishingly, and began to color beautifully. We were to have a crop! And rather a clean crop, as the dry heat had discouraged pests and fungus.

All winter I had read government bulletins, and I felt that I was competent to detect and to demolish any pest in the orchard; but, alas, we had no equipment. We managed to get an orchard paper, and after much discussion decided that this was to be ‘a barreling year,’ and that we should therefore sell ‘on track’ — that is, take carloads of apples to various large towns and sell them by the bushel from the freight-car door. Assiduously I studied how best to pack them.

The neighbors were there for the picking and sorting. For these poor men and women must live, and they had raised little if anything on their farms. I employed all who asked for work — men, women, and children. The women were placed at the packing tables, though many of them picked. The children gathered the fallen apples, which we sold at once at a good price to miners and to peddlers.

This year we had packing tables, and picking bags over barrel hoops, that the apples might not be bruised or the trees injured. And now no more of lazy summer days beneath the trees. No more of song and story with the whispering broom sedge. Hans and I were up before the dawn, and often working at midnight measuring apples for a sale the next day. No smoking in the orchard. No throwing about of the apples in ‘sunburnt mirth.’ No cessation of labor. We were capitalists out for profit. Much to Hans’s disgust, I paid by the hour — for the trees were so unevenly loaded that it seemed the only fair way. Worse still, I paid five cents more an hour than was customary. Hans assured me that he knew laborers — that the workers would but consider me ‘easy,’ and would not be grateful. Perhaps he was right; but what had gratitude to do with the question? Besides, I never could endure gratitude given or taken. And I felt guilty enough in driving about the orchard and keeping these tired women and children bent over my apples.

We had no sheds, so we made three grades and piled them separately in long narrow piles, covered with the ubiquitous broom sedge.

One day I sold my first carload in the orchard. It was a thrilling experience, though it was but eight hundred bushels of hand-picked seconds to a commission house a hundred miles away. I was to accompany the car and receive my money upon delivery of the fruit. How beautiful that car looked at the village railway, and how carefully we packed it! As the car was started I received a telegram saying that the friend I had visited in the winter was dying. I set out to her at once, sending a night letter explaining the situation to the commission house. Upon my return from her new-made grave I found a telegram from the commission house reporting that the apples had arrived in such bad condition that they would pay the freight only. With a weary heart I went at once to the town. Arriving unexpectedly, I found my apples selling at a good price. With the assistance of a lawyer, I proved my case. But I have never sold to a commission house since. It is highly probable that I got the only frog in the pond; but I conceived such a horror of frogs that I never went near a pond again.

I hurried home to Hans, who worked so faithfully, but who was always struck with paralysis under responsibility. We packed a full carload of our best apples, and, leaving a neighbor and his wife whom I knew I could trust at the orchard, we billed the car to a town of five thousand, eighty miles away. The apples were very fine, and we ‘handled them like eggs.’ Indeed, that fall I said, ‘Don’t bruise them,’ so often that one of the women workers who brought her child with her told me that his first words were ’Don’t booz ’em.’ I had learned not to place straw under the apples, as straw draws dampness, and to have a railed-off place in the centre of the car for convenience in selling; and we provided ourselves with sacks and balls of twine, a broom, a lantern, and bedding for Hans, who insisted that he sleep in the car.

VI

Never in my life have I been more frightened than when in a strange town we paid our freight one morning and watched the agent unseal our car. For there was certainly an inimical atmosphere about this place that I felt we had done nothing to merit. Why, we were bringing a carload of wholesome food to this town, and the natural thing would have been to receive us with open arms! Far from that. The night before, we had distributed handbills inviting country grocers and farmers to come the next day for their winter apples, and two men had followed us and torn down the handbills. Before dawn we had put up some more of them, and there were many wagons evidently waiting.

As Hans pushed open the great doors and my apples appeared in all their scarlet and gold, a man in the assembled crowd advanced and, pointing to the star on his coat, said, ‘Before you sell one apple, miss, you will pay me thirty dollars.’

A small sum, but to us it was ruinous; and besides, I had raised these apples. So, speechless, I shook my head as vigorously as I could.

‘All right,’ said the marshal, ‘I’ll read you this, and then if you don’t pay I’ll have to take you to the calaboose.’

Poor Hans was trembling with horror, and whispered, ‘Let’s close the car. If he takes you to the calaboose you’ll never be a lady any more!'

The marshal read to the gathering crowd something which I did not understand, but which no doubt was appropriate to the occasion. When he had finished an old man with a beard stepped to the car door and said, ‘I’ll take a dime’s wuth o’ thim apples. Stick to it, miss. If you raised ’em he can’t make you pay.’ I sold him, you may believe, a liberal ‘dime’s wuth,’ and others began to buy. The marshal turned on his heel and cried, ‘I told them grocerymen I could n’t bluff that red-headed woman!’ Hans had borne all in silence, but at this he called the marshal a fool. (And indeed it is not red enough for character — just reddish.)

The next day we were swamped with buyers. I had foolishly counted on watching from afar, but I found I must assist, and I hired two men also. One of these men told me that he was a direct descendant of Betty Washington, that he had influence in the town and knew everyone. The other was a youth who told me he was a ‘chicken picker.’ Hans, who was from Kansas and class-conscious, disliked Betty Washington’s descendant, and I heard him announcing wonderful and exotic fruit from a limb on my own family tree. But the other man said, ‘I ain’t nothing but a chicken picker, and I have to quit that ever’ once in a while when the mites get too bad, but I can sack as many apples as if my daddy was Roosevelt.’ At that instant the car was switched without warning, and we all fell into the bin regardless of precedence. Thus was violence avoided.

There was a realtor’s sale, and Hans went with a wagon to sell to the crowd, but was ordered away. The chicken picker and I took the wagon to a side street and sold at such a price that I was ashamed to look the pleasant purchasers in the face.

In three days, without demurrage, we had sold a maximum carload of apples, and none at less than one dollar and thirty cents the bushel. How happily we boarded the train with a check for our small fortune — to pack the next car at the orchard.

There is no denying that it had been a terrible experience to us both. At the hotel, on my last night after selling out, I looked in the mirror aghast, and sent out for a box of the best beauty cream. As I applied it I read myself a lecture on the evils of pride and vanity. I reminded myself that I had sometimes played for an audience when I was no less in the public eye than at the door of a freight car, and that I was now distributing — rather against the will of some of the inhabitants, to be sure — good food for this town. But still, in a cowardly way I hoped that with the next car Hans might manage alone and I look on from afar. Alas, poor Hans! After our experiences with the next car it was certain that I ‘never could be a lady any more.’

But gradually, after the next car, I think that we both ceased to cherish the old standard of loaf-giver.

(Mrs. Risley’s concluding chapter will be ‘The Serpent in the Orchard’)