Souls for Sale | Rupert Hughes | Published 1900 onward | Soundbook | English | 1/8



chapter one of souls for sale this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org Souls for sale by Rupert Hughes chapter 1 Los Angeles the sneering preacher cried as Jonah might've whinnied Nineveh and with equal scorn the Spanish missionaries may have called it the City of Angels but the moving pictures have changed its name to Los Diablos for it is the central factory of Satan and his minions the enemy of our homes the corruptor of our young men and women the school of crime unless it reforms and soon surely in God's good time the ocean will rise and swallow it though he was two thousand miles or more away as far away indeed as the banks of the Mississippi are from the Californian Shore the Reverend dr. Steadman was so convinced by his own prophetic ire that he would hardly have been surprised to read in the Monday morning's paper that a benevolent earthquake had taken his hint and shrugged the new Babylon off into the Pacific sea but of all follies next to in dining nations cursing cities is the vainest and Los Angeles lived on quite unaware that its crimes were being denounced in the far-off town of Calvary the Sun itself took two hours to make the trip and though it was black night outside the little Church in Calvary it was just sunset in Los Angeles there was scarlet fire along the ocean of oceans who's lazy waves stroke the coast with Lake like calm over the wide sprawled City was a smooth sky all of a banana yellow save for a stain of red grapes at the hem where this guy went down behind the seawall of the Santa Monica Mountains among the multitudinous gardens along the palm plumed avenues the Twilight loft the day seemed to be entangled in the jewel hung citruses the fig trees the papyrus clusters the hedges foaming with the surf of shasta daisies the spendthrift waste of year-long roses and the smother of vines rolling up white walls in contrary cascades and spilling a froth of flowers along the roofs of many colored tile to the north lay Hollywood the particular hades of the cinema phobes but curiously demure and innocent in the sunset from certain surfaces there and in Culver City the light was flashed back with hylia graphic brilliance from acres on acres of the glass walls and roofs of huge factories strange workshops where the enslaved Sun and the chained lightning wrote stories in photographs millions of miles of tiny pictures were taken at a rate of a thousand a minute tons of spooled romance went rolling all over the world so that the girl and boy who embraced before one camera were later observed by coolies in shantung by the Bishan of Egypt and the sundry peoples of Somaliland Chilkoot Jeddah and Alexandra Pole we're not wherever the Sun traveled and the moon rained they could watch this reeled minstrel see gleaming for the delight and indignation of mankind even when the Sun had left this capital of the new art some of the studios would glow on with a man-made day of their own but most of the factories were closing now since the toilers had begun 'but i'm z' in the morning and we're scattering homeward for rest or study or mischief los angeles the huge spinner was finishing another day of its traffic and virtue Vice laughter love and its other wares even dr. Steadman if he could have seen the realm he opted would have confessed that the devil had a certain grace as a gardener and that his minions were a handsome happy throng but dr. Stetten had never seen los angeles and had never seen a moving picture he knew that the world was going to wrack and ruin as usual and he laid the blame on the nearest novelty as usual his daughter had heard him lay the blame in previous years on other activities she wished he wouldn't but then she had not escaped blame herself and she was in a mortal dread now of a vast cloud of Oobleck we lowering above her an ominous with lightning as yet the congregation had found no grave fault with her accept a certain over fervor in the hymns her voice had a to manifest beauty an almost operatic seal as it floated from the loft of the volunteer choir some of whom would never have been drafted if they had not volunteered sundry longer faced members of the congregation felt that it was not quite respectable for a girl particularly a clergyman's daughter to put so much rapture into a church tune but youth exultant in a very frosty for life harried the old him like an eaglet struggling upward with the tortoise the words were all about a joy divine but the elders kept a measure inner ears hanging back with a funeral trudge to save the day from the young rebel that one voice shining above the others had especially tormented tonight the old parson across whose silvered head it went floating from the choir loft just to bath the pulpit for doctors deadened could not understand the seraphic innocence of his daughter's voice hearing was not believing he had known the singer too long and too well to be quite sure of the purity of her piety he loved her but with a troubled love he felt the vague disapproval of the congregation and agreed that there was a little immodesty in the poignancy of her ardour dr. Stetten he had the DD from a seminary that was more liberal with its degrees than with its dogmas had been impatient for the choir and the congregation to have done with their him and let him preach he was almost a shudder with a rapture of his own the rapture of denunciation of hatred for the ways of the world particularly the newest way of the world the most recent pleasure of the town his daughter glancing across the choir rail past the book she shared with Elwood farn abhi the second tenor looked down into her father's sparse gray poem which was turned into a cow by the central bald spot she looked almost into his mind and knew his impatience and she loved him with the troubled love her father and mother had named her remember after one of the Mayflower girls nearly 300 years after her father often wished that she had been like her to those Puritan maidens but that was because he did not know how like she was to them how much they too had terrified their parents with their love of finery and romantic experiment for it is only the styles and not the souls that change there had been loves as dire than as now and sermons as fierce and as futile as the one that dr. Stedman was so zealous to repeat with only the terms and not the spirit altered and many an ancient exquisite anguish that had fretted the yunxi pilgrims of 1621 renewed itself in the mellow heart of this pilgrim of 1921 the fuel was fresh but the fire was from everlasting to everlasting father's despaired of girls then as the fathers of now of the girls of now and as the fathers of 2221 will despair of the girls of 2221 the young and the old men of then and of now and of heretofore being but rearrangements of premi ville manhood waging in the eternal pattern the love wars which know no truce there are chronicles enough to prove that the same quota of the remembers and the praise gods of Plymouth and the other colony suffered the same bitter Beatitudes and frantic bewilderment as remember Stedman and Elwood far to be endured when their elbows touched in the choir loft of this Midwestern village miss deaden felt a sudden tremor in Farnum E's elbow then it was gone from hers she saw his thumbnail white and as it gripped the hymn book hard something in the words he chanted seemed to stab him with a sense of guilt he felted a terrible thing for her to stand before that congregation and cry aloud words of ecstasy over her redemption from sin their secret unknown and unconfessed was concealed by the very clamor of its publication and it troubled far to be miley to be gaining all the advantage of a lie by singing the truth then the hymn was over and everybody began to sit down solemnly the whole congregation closing up like a jackknife of many blades before the choir had emptied its lungs of the last long amen and sunk out of sight behind the curtain grayling the old parson was clutching the edges of his pulpit as he announced his text this was but a motto on the banner of a st. George charging upon the dragon that dispelled his flock tonight he charged the newest dragon a vast shapeless monster the 20th century's peculiar monster the moving picture this was the latest child of science that odious science that is always terrifying faith with its inventions its playing cards its printing presses novels higher criticisms evolutions anesthetics and archaeology's musical instruments of new and seductive Blair rollerskates bicycles automobiles hair ribbons hats corsets incomplete costumes and all the other tricks for destroying souls the worst of all because the latest of all was the moving picture though dr. Stetten had never seen a moving picture he had read what other preachers had said about them and every day or two he had to pass the advertisement stuck up along the billboards or in front of a gaudy theater that had previously been an almost preferable saloon he gazed ghast at the appalling posters with the revolting blazing of the new word sex their insolent questions about your wife your husband their frenzied scenes of embraces wrestling matches conventionalized rape defiance's innumerable revolvers daggers train wrecks automobile accidents slaughters plunging horses bach ik revels bathing suits gambling and drinking and smoking scenes everything and everybody desperately wicked or desperately good he forgot that anybody in town had ever gone wrong before the normal supply of delinquencies appeared to have sprung up suddenly as a result of these posters so tonight he launched upon a several rollin denunciation the stenographer who had tried to capture Savonarola's eloquence had to give up and right here I could not go on for tears there was no stenographer to record dr. Stanton's Thunderbolts if there had been it might have been startling to see how many of the same bolts he had hurled at other detestable activities that interested the townspeople and therefore alarmed their shepherds as each new fashion or public toy had come into vogue he had gone on it hammer and tongs he had never succeeded in doing more than scare off a few people who were scared to death anyway he had seen the crazes steel in like a tide rolling over him in his protests then ever way after he had ceased to fight yet still he fought and always would do as he always had done with equal stubbornness youth went about its ancient business and pastime girls snickered in church and exchanged sly oily ads with ogling boys women were the latest fashion the town afforded couples scouted and flirted during the very prayers and practice romance industriously on the way home and tonight the chief result of dr. Stanton's onslaught was the thought in the heart of his daughter in various others I should like to see Los Angeles when the choir was not singing openly and aboveboard it was usually busily whispering even Elwood Farnum B had to lean over tonight and whisper important News 2 remember he was not permitted to call at her house or to bow her home after the service singing beside her in the house of God that was different he told her now what he had just learned that the factory where he was employed would close down the following week Elwood had worked his way up until he had been made a foreman a few months before he was to have been promoted to superintendent soon his firm made the adding machine cleverly trademarked as the Calvary calculator or KKK but people had suddenly ceased to by adding machines the world's chief business was subtraction and cancellation the last of the un– canceled orders for the KKK would be finished in a few days mr. Sipe the bank president would not advance the money for further production even the contribution baskets that were passed up the aisles during the services felt the omen those who had flung in folded bills laid silver down quietly those who had tossed in silver dropped copper with stealth dr. Stedman could see the leanness of the baskets from his pulpit and it meant further privation for him to his daughter the news that Elwood would have no job in a week and would know no place to look for one had more than a commercial interest it was the alarm of fate she had loved Elwood since they were children had loved him all the more for his rags and the squalor of his home he was the son of the town's most eminent drunkard old falldown Farn abhi a man whose office had been any saloon he could stand up in then prohibition arrived and he had lacked headquarters but not PO tations an ingenuity and an assiduity that would have made him a great explorer or a great inventor kept him supplied at a time when there was no legal liquor at all and when what illegal liquor there was to be had was so expensive that even cheap moonshine whiskey cost more than dated champagne had cost before among the slipshod children of his doomed family Elwood had somehow managed to acquire ambition he had struggled up through a youth of woe to a manhood of shackled promise he had latterly supported his mother and a pack of brothers and sisters he had even been able to afford to go to the war had seen France and won the Guertin of a wound or two that made him glorious and remember stebbins eyes and a little more loveable than ever not because he won praise for a hero's little while but because his wounds added to the burdens that she longed to divide with him her father however had been unable to tolerate the thought of his daughter marrying the son of the town SOT dr. Steadman felt that he was proving his love his loving wisdom toward his daughter by forbidding her even to meet young Farnum II outside the choir loft he was sure that her love would wear out he did not know his daughter whoever did the great danger about the whole business of saving other people's souls seemed to be that life keeps mocking the noblest efforts with failure as it marks the most high-minded playwrights it is baffling to find that nothing is more effective in destroying certain souls than the attempt to save them such Souls must be like caged birds that go mad with fear when the kind least hand is thrust into the cage they dashed themselves against the bars and if they escape from the tenderest palm they flash away to the wild woods dr. Stetten was never more devoted than when he warned his girl to avoid young Farnum B when she refused his advice he forbade her to see the boy she felt that she obeyed a higher duty when she secretly disobeyed her father she met the young man secretly whenever she could steal away her mother had neither the courage to oppose this stealthy romance nor the courage to inform her husband of it the two lovers made an unwilling accomplice of her and she was assured that they would marry the moment Elwood could afford to add her pretty lips to the mouse he was already feeding the factory had promoted him twice in its heyday of high prices and the time had seemed near when they could afford to announce their approaching marriage and now the chance was gone and this meant to the girls are more than a mere deferment abliss she had been trained indeed to regard bliss as by no means a right of hers she had rather got the idea that bliss was pretty sure to be indecent sin marriage had been preached to her as a lofty duty a kind of higher ordeal her father would have abhorred the thought that even its rites gave any franchise to raptures unrestrained wedlock to him was a responsibility not a release from Peru Therese a solemnity not a carnival and now she was to be denied even that somber laborious suburb of paradise end of chapter 1 recording by Deanna Beauvais chapter 2 of souls for sale this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org Souls for sale by Rupert Hughes chapter 2 L would had expected that the bad news would shock her but he could not understand the look of ghastly terror she gave him he forgot it in his own bitter brooding and did not observe the deathly white that blanched her pallor yet he had noted that she was paler of late and had added that worry to his back-breaking load of worries the sunset crimson was gone from her cheeks and her cheeks were thinner than he had ever seen them before she coughed incessantly too and kept putting her hand to her chest as if had hurt her there her cough annoyed her father as he preached and made him forget some of his best points but his sermon annoyed her too he was putting himself on record with fatal hatred of sin and she wished he wouldn't a smile twitched her lips and dwelt there at the mockery life was heaping upon his oratory he was denouncing moving pictures as the source of all evil yet his daughter had never seen one yet again that had not saved her from a white-hot wave drove the wand come from her cheek and a Scarlet war ensued in her veins she was the daughter of Eve and of Adam and of all the Eve's and Adams since sin began but to hear her father talk it might have been a moving-picture machine instead of the serpent that tempted Eve to knowledge and started the eternal parade of wickedness to hear her father talk this little town of Calvary had been a pre satanic Eden before the Los Angeles and movies crawled in yet even this young woman could remember that he had preached almost this same sermon against a long series of other amusements he had never found the town anything but a morass of wickedness she felt a mad impulse to rise and cried down at him across the brass rail Papa don't for heaven's sake stop for the sheer sake of true truth she was tempted to protest against the folly of such a crusade it was bad enough in a newspaper it seemed peculiarly heinous that such bad logic and such reckless falsehood should be shouted from a pulpit but of course she made no sound except to cough the climax of her father's appeal was a jeremiad against the desecration of the Sabbath the town's too little picture houses had proved so much more popular than anything ever known before that they had ventured to slip in performances on Sunday nights without interference from the indolent police the theater managers had claimed that according to their Creed the true Sabbath did not fall on Sunday night but on Saturday of course they did not close on Saturday night either but then they said they could find nothing in Moses against movies this plea was resented as a heathenish impertinence by the Orthodox dr. Stetten called upon his congregation to make a stand against the Continental sabbath and to save the American home from the danger of the new invasion to dr. Stedman the American home was a glaring failure except when he used it as a contrast with foreign homes his daughter was so distraught by the sarcasm of reality that she felt at a sacred duty to rise proclaim her secret to every gaping listener there but of course she denied herself the relief of expression when her father completed his discourse with his tremendous Thunder against Los Angeles he sank into his tall chair the choir rose for the final hymn after that came the majestic benediction on the way home under the wasted magic of the rising moon remember did not walk as usual between her father and mother with a hand on the arm of each tonight she kept at her mother's left elbow and clung so tight to the fat warm arm that her mother whispered what's the matter honey nothing mama she faltered I'm just a little tired I guess her father felt a bit lonely insulated from his child by his wife and he had the orders after thirst for a drought of praise he mumbled how was the sermon ma'am they called her mem for short you haven't told me how you like the sermon oh it was fine she said perfectly fine it ought to do a lot of good too she added to herself but it won't then she felt a coughing so hard that her father and mother had to stop by a tree and wait for her to be able to go on the big old maple sheltered them like a vast umbrella a moment then their eyes were blinded by a great fierce light an automobile came straight toward them and ran up over the curbstone before it was brought to a stop by a driver who gasped oh dear what's the matter with this darn thing it was Molly Sipe daughter of the bank president learning to run her father's car since he had to discharge the chauffeur she had chosen Sunday night for practice in order to escape what little traffic troubled Calvary streets seeing that the steadman family had taken refuge behind the bowl of the tree she hailed them with her usual impudence of self raillery don't be afraid I'm trying to learn to back this fool car it's almost as big a fool as I am then she set the clutch in Reverse and stepped on the accelerator was such vigor that the car shot backward like a premature rocket and nearly destroyed the twin baby carriage in which young mrs. Clint's perro had taken her dual blessing to visit their grandmother but mem was coughing too violently to be thrilled by the unusual drama and her father was too deeply concerned in her distress to protest even against Molly sights profanation of the holy evening besides she went to the Episcopalian Church and was doomed anyway dr. Stetten and his wife stared toward each other earnestly through the gloom and their hearts exchanged counsels without words or looks the rest of the way home dr. Steadman was not a preacher anxious about his daughter's soul but a father afraid for her life her health of body was outside the parish of a Doctor of Divinity that was the business of a doctor of reality tomorrow ma'am he said I want you to go see dr. brethren the very first thing ma'am shook her head and looked frightened she was afraid of doctors just now their information was a cult but her father insisted if you don't promise I'll go fetch him over myself tonight this seemed to alarm him and she gasped I promise I promise I don't want you to go out again good night mama good night papa that was a fine sermon tonight she did not linger for her usual tryst with Elwood but hurried to her room pausing on the stairs for a long bout with her cough her parents waited in an anguish of anxiety for her to finish it then they put out the lights and went up to bed throughout the night they heard her coughing a pitiful little noise like The Barking of a sick coyote they were on a rack of fear but their fear was not hers the cough to them was an ominous problem to her it might promise a solution end of chapter 2 recording by Deanna Beauvais chapter three of souls for sale this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org so for sale by Rupert Hughes chapter three next morning mem went about her household chores and said nothing of her promise when she was reminded of it she put off going until her mother threatened to go with her then she made haste to set out alone she walked around doctor breath Rick's blocked two or three times until she saw that no one was waiting she caught the doctor indeed just hurrying out to his buggy she asked him to turn back and talk to her and she made sure the door to his consulting room was closed she told him that her parents were afraid her cold was more than a cold as she coughed for him and endured his investigations and auscultation and the odd babyish 'no switch he laid his head on her breast and on her shoulder blades he asked her many questions and she grew so confused and apt in blushes that he asked her more suddenly he flung her a startled look gasped and stared into her eyes as if he would ransack her mind in the mere shifting of his eyelid muscles she could read amazement incredulity conviction anger and finally pity all he said was my child there could be no Solomon or conference than there's doctor breath Rick had attended mems mother when the girl was born he thought of her still as a child and now she dazed him and frightened him by her mists acknowledges and her fierce demands that he should help her out of her plight or help her out of the world he refused to do either and demanded that she meet her fate with heroism somehow he woke a new courage in the panic of her soul but she was convinced that her future must be one of degradation in obscurity she quoted him the old saw it doesn't matter what a man does but once a woman slips she is lost forever nonsense he cried and added damned in damnable nonsense it isn't true and never was the only ones who get lost are the ones who lose themselves don't run ma'am whatever you do don't run be sorry and said no more but don't run the public is like a cat it has the pounce instinct it can only jump on the mouse that runs cats don't mean to be cruel to mice they just can't help springing when the mouse tries to get away by-and-by they smell blood and then it's all over hold your head up and carry your cross and let him that is without sin cast the first stone you've heard your father say that often enough my father she moaned don't speak of my poor father what will he say what will the people think of him he'd never dare faced the congregation I must run away and hide I just must or kill myself I've got no right to destroy my father and my mother she's had so much sorrow and she's trusted me and he's been so good and he tried to take such care of me care who can take care of anybody else the doctor groaned with a crooked smile there's just one person who can take care of you now the man who this woke a pride of another sort in her heart she was of a type increasing swiftly in the world one of the few things called modern that are really modern the woman who asks no man to take him upon himself the whole burden of her food her clothes her thought her destiny or even her misdeeds she lived in a generation where the girl plans to earn her living as the boy had always planned she had come suddenly to believe that a wife should no more be supported by her husband than a husband by his wife her father loathed and dreaded what has always been called the modern woman he denounced her in the pulpit and at home for a time he had explained the wickedness of these modern days by the disgraceful discontent of certain women comparing them with the simple sweet home loving women of old-fashioned days and carefully omitting reference to the cruel lawless extravagant home destroying women who were just as old-fashioned and just as numerous in the days when he was young as he had known when he was young but forgot as he got old but after the women of his congregation had all become voters in spite of themselves and he could see no change in their appearance or their activities he dropped that denunciation and took up the moving picture as the new toy of his anxiety mem herself had felt no stirrings toward scholastic pursuits or toward a professional career as a doctor a lawyer or even as a trained nurse she wanted to earn money only for one reason that she might ease the burden of her husband Calver Lee had offered little encouragement however for a womanly career to take in washing sewing cook wait on the table wash dishes and make beds for other families to work in a store or one of the few factories these had made up the entire choice love married her heart too far 'no B the conditions of American society rendered it impossible for them to live together openly but quite possible for them to meet and spend long secret hours together deferment made their hearts sick and tormented their senses opportunity was incessant and opportunity is close kin to importunity they had no diversions no emotional escape valves of art theatre dance fiction where vicarious romance would divert the strain on their souls their very horror of sin magnified its temptations gave it an eternal flame and arc and gellick importance for them it was not merely a dishonorable disgusting proof of unchecked idealism it was the defiance of God a plunge like Lucifer's across the battlements of heaven into the deserved damnation of hell once there was no return forever perhaps the very tremendousness of the abyss carried them over the precipice when their lonely souls might have evaded a fall that looked less epic at any rate in spite of many wildly beautiful battles and many many victories over themselves and each other they lost a few battles and a few defeats were enough to annul many splendid victories and now mem was a hostage of shame without means of defense and it was her nature to blame herself for her estate and to defend her beloved enemy from any of the consequences of the war when dr. brethren suggested marriage as an easy salvation he revealed to her the peculiar heartlessness of her fate marriage meant to her that two people went to church in two carriages drove away consecrated in one and thenceforward lived in the same house that familiar exploit had been the one grand plan of Elwood's soul and hers but Elwood lived in the crowded Shack which his father still owned for lack of anybody to buy it the house was full of children and progressively the youngest brother always slept with Elwood it was hard enough for Elwood to keep the roof over their heads it was not to be thought of that remember should join that wretched crowd at the minister's house there was much neatness and peace but no more room than at Elwood's the progressively next to the youngest sister usually slept with mem it was unthinkable that Elwood should join that crowded arc for Elwood to leave his family and take a new house with mem would mean that he must abandon his mother and the other children to the mercy of falldown Farnum ease brutality and indifference that was to a dutiful youth like Elwood unthinkable so many things were unthinkable with these young souls but nature does not think nature wants nature strives to get and getting devours or not getting starves or shifts her approach mem might have figured out numberless ways of arranging a marriage with Elwood if she had been more intelligent or less confused but she was not brilliant of mine and she was subjected other Lea to the coercion of discipline she was like a flower grown in a pot on a shelf lacking strength to break it and go free she would stay small and pretty and obscure if something happened to break the pot and fling her on the open soil she would make a desperate effort for life and if the soul were fertile she might grow to amazing Heights and beauties if the soil were sterile she would simply die but she had nothing within her to fling her off the shelf so when dr. Brethren proposed marriage he proposed something unthinkable at present and now that Elwood's job was gone unthinkable as far forward as the girls easily baffled mine could think dr. breath Erick who knew so much about Calvary people did not happen to know that mem in Elwood had been meeting secretly so he did not take young far to be into consideration he was a little surprised when mem refused to tell him the name of the man he admired her wretchedly when he saw her trying to protect the fellow even from reproof he's no more to blame than I am and I have no right to ruin his life when dr. breath Erick called the man a scoundrel she grew fierce in his defense dr. breath Erick wasted no time on the expression of virtuous horror he was an almost total abstainer from the vise of blame when he found people sick or delirious or going insane he did not revile them for recklessness and catching cold or catching fever or taking in Devils for tenants he tried to restore them to comfort and the practice of life love was endemic and good fortune was more frequent than Good Conduct he felt no call to insult the victims of bad luck and love his answer to men's greed for all the blame and all the punishment was a gentle reminder it's not a question my child of your rights or his it's a question of the rights of a certain future citizen ma'am wept and beat her clenched hands upon her brow and on the doctors desk he let her fight it out finding no consolation fit to offer he studied her as he studied many another wretch tossing on a bed of coals and crazed with pains of body and mind he saw how beautiful she was how thrilling and how thrilled with that fire which builds homes and burns them up DOL's romance and devastation he felt a little sympathy even for the unknown man and imagined how helpless the wretch might have been to resist that incandescent in which ma'am was as helpless as he since the flame cannot become ice by any power of its own the doctor reached out and clenched hands with men in the fiercer throes of her regret or laid a fatherly caress on her bowed head he must have told you he loved you he said but he does love me and I love him then why is he unwilling to marry you he's not there's nothing on earth he wants more than that but he can't he can't is he is he married to someone else MEMS lifted face was like a mask of horror dripping with tears but aghast at such infamy in every depth of shame there is a lower pit from which the soul recoils and finds a saving pride in its own superior height the doctor fell back before such insulting innocence he sought a hasty shield behind another question then what other obstacle can there be this is a free country you don't have to ask anybody's permission mem was so distraught that she gave the one true reason sobbing in the Gabel of her arms the calculator factory closes next week and his position will be gone young Farnham be a the doctor mused mem lifted her head again and her hands twitched as if to recapture the secret she had let slip but it was too late she had not even protected Elwood from exposure the doctor thought busily the word Farn abhi presented the complete picture of the family whose woes and poverty he had long known he felt encouraged after a first discouragement Elwood's a nice boy he said he'll do what's right I'll call him up right away duties more than skin-deep with him even as he took up the prehensile telephone ma'am snatched it from his hand he wants to do what's right but his first duty to his mother he's supporting his whole family they'll starve without his help and what's he going to do when the factory closes I don't know he can't marry me and I won't marry him and drag him down there's no dragging him down you'll make a wonderful wife and anybody ought to be proud to have you you'll be a great help in his career but how can we live together she cried frantically don't the main things the ceremony just you step out and get married people will say you're a couple of young fools but that's all they will say and they'll enjoy a bit of romance in this dead bird he evaded MEMS plating hands and called the factory MEMS embarrassment was overwhelming before the prospect of meeting in the presence of a witness the fellow victim of the tidal wave that had engulfed them both one Sabbath evening a fervor of religious zeal and music had exalted their emotions then and made their hearts easy prey to the moonlight that waylaid them as she slipped out to meet him after her father and mother had kissed her goodnight a wheedling cooing breeze had stolen through the vine wreath grotto of the porch and had whispered incantations over them their remorse had been fearful but it's very frenzy was a kind of madness that prepared their diseased Souls for further need of it for remorse like other bitter drugs establishes a habit mem writhed in a delirium of remorse now such poetry in the poem such hideous prose in the epilogue such honey them such poison she was wakened from her fierce reverie however by the doctors voice Elwood's out he's gone to the bank for the firm I left word for him to call me as soon as he comes in I've been thinking up a little plan like many another earnest soul doctor breath Erick was addicted to Pilate stories when he had wrestled in vain with some wolf of disease for some agonizing patient he would forsake the neverending mystery serial of pain and death and take up some volume of so-called trash like nearly everybody else in the country doctor breath Erick had tried his hand at the newest indoor sport the writing of stories for moving pictures a popular vice that had largely replaced the older custom of writing plays so now he improvised for MEMS future what a moving picture man would call a continuity this afternoon after the factory closes you and Elwood can meet and drive over to Mosby I know the town clerk over there he owes me a bill I'll telephone him to make out the licenses and have him all ready for you when you get there he can marry you or get a judge – or a parson you prefer a preacher I suppose well I can arrange that – I'll vouch for you both and he'll say the necessary words and give you a nice certificate and then you can telephone your father from Mosby and ask for his blessing he won't give it over the telephone but he will the next day when you two will drive back like a couple of prodigal 'he's your father will see you coming from afar and he'll run out and fall on your necks you can ask forgiveness and then you can explain about Elwood's job and how you'll have to live at home till he gets another heaven knows you earn your board and keep at home and they'll be mighty glad to have you there by and by Elwood we'll find a new job and you'll get rich and live happily ever after mem was almost smiling at the shabby heaven he threw on the screen of her imagination it was so much better than anything she had hoped then her old enemy the arch realist the sneering censor poverty slashed at the dream I don't believe Elwood could afford the money he'd have to pay the livery stable for the horse and buggy and there's the license fee and the ring and the preacher and the the hotel and I don't believe we could afford it I'll lend you all that the doctor insisted I'm one of those authors that has enough confidence in his story to back it himself you go ahead and get happiness and quit grieving and don't you dare to change my man use I'm one of those pernickety authors that believes actresses should act and let the authors off mem was laughing through her tears when the telephone rang the doctor's welcoming hello broke through a many wrinkled smile it froze to a grimace as mem watched hearing only a rattling inarticulate noise as from a mannequin inside the telephone the doctors pleated skin was slowly drawn into new folds until his face from being a cartoon of old hilarity became a withered mummy of dejection he kept saying yes yes yes and finally that's right bring him here he sat down the telephone as if it were a drained cup of Hemlock it wasn't Elwood mem said no yes well oh god what a bitter world this is mem caught eagerly at grief tell me what's happened what's happened to Elwood he's hurt he's killed and since she had seized the knife from his reluctant hand and driven it into her heart he left it there and said yes end of chapter 3 recording by Deanna Beauvais chapter 4 of souls for sale this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org soles for sale by rupert hues chapter 4 the doctor had not told the exact truth for once his lie was worse than the truth young Farnum II was not dead not yet but from what he had been told the doctor was sure that death was decreed as his mind so habited too fatal news struggled with this message it seemed better to leave mem in her despair than to raise her to a brief suspense he would make a fight for the young man's life as always he never gave up while there was any life to fight for then if by some strange good fortune he should redeem this youth from the grave it would be a glorious privilege to restore him to his sweetheart but if he should keep her hope alive then lose the war he must kill her twice it seemed as if he had struck her dead already for her clenched hands let each other go her arms fell outward like the wings of a shop bird her head fell on her breast and she was slipping to the floor when he caught her for the mercy of this swoon he was as nearly thankful as he could be for anything he got her up in his arms carried her to the door opened it with much fumbling and staggered up the stairs with her to the spare room calling to his wife get her undressed and keep her in bed till I come back don't let her talk don't mind what she says but keep her here till I tell you then he hurried downstairs to meet the crowd running to his gate in pursuit of an automobile he recognized it as the sight car its fenders were crumbled and stained and men got out of it removed with much trouble a long limp body and moved up the walk when a little later ma'am came suddenly back to the world she found mrs. brother ik bending over her she felt blankets about her and a pillow under her head her shoes and stockings her hat and her dress were gone and she was in a strange room getting accustomed to wallpaper and chairs and chromos was the first business before her soul could begin to orient itself then she recalled everything and began to cry out L would tell me about Elwood hush my dear was all mrs. breath Rick would say she said it very gently but when mem tried to leap from the bed the old woman was very strong and held her down coercing her with iron hands and a maddening reiteration of hush don't excite yourself the doctor says you must stay here hush now my dear MEMS rebellion was checked by the sound of a loud nasal voice coming up from below someone down stay was explaining something you see it was this away doc I was standing in front of parlons candy store right next the bank there when I heard some fellers laughing somebody hollered climb a lamppost everybody here comes Molly sight and I seen the big sight car comes scooting along Molly said afterward she allowed to shift from second speed to neutral and put on the foot brake but she got rattled by the crowd round the bank and slipped into hi and stepped on the gas and the car come booming over the sidewalk and mold right into the crowd people jumped every which way and one or two got knocked down but poor Elwood here he was just coming out of the bank and Molly was twist in the steering wheel so crazy he didn't know which side to jump and the car knocked him right through the big plate glass window you know and up against the steel bars just inside and well the bars was all bent at that poor Elwood hadn't a chance Molly climbed out the car and fell over on the sidewalk leaving the wheels still going round I stepped on the running board and shut off the engine then I and some other fellers back the car out and whilst the others picked up Elwood and Molly I seen the motor was still gone good so we put Elwood in the car and we brought him over to you Molly's alright except for hysterics like but Elwood is there any hope for him nice boy to hard work and honest as the day he had to bank books in his hand one of them the firm's the other end was his own little savings account he always managed to save something out of nothing he held on to the book jim says till he could hardly get it out of his hand and it's all cut up with glass and covered with Reds so you could hardly tell how much he had in the bank nice boy – he made a hard fight to live didn't holler at all just kept gritting his teeth and mumbling something you couldn't make out what he said could you Jim Jim answer was not audible nor were MEMS protests audible she had been bred to expect little of life to make no demands for luxury and to surrender with a cheerful thy will be done what the Lord took away with perfect right since he had given it so now she made no fight no outcry she lay still her head throbbing with the words of Laurens hope in a song one of her girlfriends sang less than the dust beneath thy chariot wheel less than the rust that stains thy glorious sword less than the dust less than the dust mi it was the doctor who made the fight silently but bitterly fiercely and in vain the only noise was made by the Farnum B family when they arrived in a little mob they came up the street mrs. Farnham II from her tub her forums covered with dried suds her red hands snatching her apron hem to and fro she and the girls wailed aloud and in the room below mem could hear the young brothers crying but none of them wept so bitterly or so loudly as all fall down Farnum B who came staggering up the steps and floundered about the room freed by drunkenness of all restraints upon his remorse and his fear and nobody had better reason to reproach his lot than the poor old prey of the thirst fiends doomed to roll up the hill of remorse in his own hell a heavy stone of repentance that always broke loose at the top and rolled down again dragging him with it mem was been numbed with her sorrow it was a proper punishment upon her she was sure as she spread her arms out as on a crucifix thinking of herself as one of the thieves justly nailed to the tree next to that tree where the innocent one suffered dr. breath Rick had paused in his desperate battle to listen for sounds from the room above he had gone to the stairs to ask his wife how mam was he had been glad of the prostration of her grief but he was not deceived as to its sincerity mem was still calm when his business was done in the room below and he had turned the spoils of defeat over to his aide-de-camp The Undertaker dr. brother entered the bedroom and sent his wife about her business while he dropped his exhausted body into a chair and spurred his exhausted mind to further effort he took one of mems cold hands in his and petted it and chafed it shaking his head in wordless sympathy at least he didn't suffer he lied her whoa for lack of other expression made use of the smiling muscles as she said that's not true I heard well the doctor sighed his sufferings are over anyway he was a good boy and you're a good brave girl and now what are we going to do for you she spoke without excitement there's only one thing for me I can't live of course I was sorry I was so sick and I was afraid of my cough but now I see that God sent it to me is a blessing do you think it will carry me off soon the doctor shook his head this frightened her she gasped then it must be I must do it myself it's wicked I suppose but have you got anything that isn't too slow or disfiguring I don't mind the pain but I don't want to go to hell with an ugly face the doctor was so familiar with death that he was capable of an occasional irony that looked like flippancy to those who met them only rarely he was bitter and then mem could imagine when he sighed no that's not right it's the pretty faces that go to hell according to my understanding of it heaven is for the homely and the unattractive poor things they need some consolation don't choke for mercy's sake doctors she pleaded I couldn't live without Elwood I don't dare to I've no right to he cowed her hysteria with the sharp rain you've no right to your own life now it belongs to your father and your mother and to the life that has already begun suicide would be worse than cowardice and selfishness in your case my child it would be murder he was cruelly kind to her like a driver who flogs and stabs a sinking be stubborn out of the deep mire of death and up across the steep Craig's to the valley beyond MEMS very skinned shivered and seemed to rise in welts under his goat her heart struggled back to its task fiercely as it ate it beat with a fuller throb her soul brooded sombrely though well if it's my duty to live it's my duty to tell the truth I'll tell it to everybody poor Elwood shan't go into his grave without people knowing how I loved him he let her frenzy of devotion carry her up and down the room until she dropped into a chair exhausted then he took up the whip again my poor little child I've got to be terrible mean to you for your own sake you can't do what you want to do you said yourself that it would kill your father if he knew it would drive him from his pulpit and your mother would be crushed too you said and asked for port Elwood wouldn't it simply turned the village against his memory everybody thinks of him as a brave clean young martyr as he was but just imagine what would happen if they learned what we know no honey you've got to fight it out alone it's pitiful but you're going to be glad someday when you look back on it from happiness happiness she groaned the word would blossom despicable the possibility of it belittled her grief the doctor withdrew it I don't mean happiness but some big high peak of goodness your life is going to be lifted up because of this if you'll only meet it as you must tell me what to do don't make me think I've got too much to think about what's dead and gone then she sobbed and sobbed till her eyes were drained again of tears the doctor was as weary as she wearier for he had her burden to carry as well as his own he sought a little respite not for relief but for clear thinking it was hard to think when a broken heart bled and leaped before his eyes what you are to do is this while I try to figure out the best plan for the future you go along home and tell your father and mother that you were here when Elwood was brought here no just go home with me and I'll tell them I'll tell them the shock has prostrating you and that you mustn't be spoken to about it you must be kept quiet and when you cry you mustn't be questioned just let alone can't mama hold me in her arms the girl whimpered yes and you can tell her the whole story if you want to know no I can't I won't but I must have her arms around me I must have arms around me to hold my heart together end of chapter 4 recording by Deanna Beauvais chapter 5 of souls for sale this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org soles for sale by rupert hughes chapter 5 the doctor helped the little widowed mourner into his old buggy and she kept her face uplifted clear of tears through the streets and along the walk at home she broke only when she heard the doctors voice telling what the father and mother who received them on the porch of their little house had already heard from a passing gossip they stared amazed when mem darted up the stairs without speaking and they heard her crying in her room the doctor checked their pursuit and gave them as orders as if they were in rouille children when he had gone the mother stole up to mems bedside and gathered her baby to her breast it would have been almost sweet to weep there if only the truth could have been voiced by and by the old clergyman crept up the stairs and into the room and gave his clumsy sympathy but when he spoke of God's will and of the all wise all loving Providence mem had to bite her tongue to keep it from blasphemy from the savage delight of confounding the preacher with truths he could never have suspected he even went so far as to plead that he had done wisely in keeping them from seeing L would often err otherwise she might have wanted to marry him this threw the girl into hysterics she laughed so fiendishly then her mother drove her father from the room and finally slipped away herself knowing that solitude is the best medicine for that brief madness along with her soul mem grew afraid of herself she knew that she could not keep the truth choked back in her rebellious heart forever all night long she coughed and wept and fearing that the household kept anxious vigil felt one more remorse added to her pack next morning her father and her mother besought the doctor to come to see her but he answered send her to me when they told her she realized that he was afraid to talk to her in her own home and she found strength enough to rise from her bed and go to him when mem paused in his door until an onset of crying had passed he almost smiled she looked at him like a doomed animal and murmured as she dropped into a chair don't you suppose this cough will solve my problem and put an end to me before before he shook his head as he closed the door and went to his desk chair your cough will take a long time to cure or kill but it may come in very handy I've got it all thought out you can't stay in this town now I suppose most of the animals crawl away and hide at such a time so suppose you just vanish let your cough carry you off to say Arizona or California she was startled at this undreamed-of escape he went on I'll tell the necessary lies that's a large part of my practice and practice makes perfect you will go to some strange town and pose as a widow you will marry an imaginary man out there and let him die quietly then if you ever want to come home here you can come back as mrs. somebody or other this reminded her again that she had others to think of besides herself her dazed soul still trying to creep round the deep well of death bizzy's itself with the fantastic make-believe of the doctor but she protested how could I go anyplace and pretend to be a widow when Papa and Mama would send all the letters to me as Miss Dedan the doctor was ready for her he would order mem to be sent to the Far West immediately and to live meagerly in the desert somewhere because her father was poor being a parson and had loved her too unwisely well to teach her a trade once she was safely started mem was to ride home that she had met on the train some old flame of earlier years and here his hostile audience interrupted him life was slow in Calvary and mem could hardly imagine such a swift succession of events as dr. breath Erick was so glibly planning for her at any other time to hear of going to California or anywhere would have been an epic 'el adventure but paradise was no longer within her rights she had earned Sheol or some dire penance so well that it was ridiculous to propose romance and romance in the Eden of palm trees and orange flowers she revolted too from the pretense of having had another lover before L would but I never had any flames the author was impatient at finding Pegasus held down to this tame hitching post of a life he said you've been away somewhere haven't you not much nor far she sighed I was in Carthage once at-at Mabel's well you must have left a lot of broken hearts there she sighed again as she shook her head she was sadly glad to confess that no broken hearts had marked her path Aunt Mabel was sick and I had to nurse her that's how I got to go the only man I met brought in the groceries in the mail but you've got to have another sweetheart honey your folks don't know that you never met anybody in Carthage so we'll make one up but they'd ask Aunt Mabel and she say there was no such man there then we'll make him a traveling man that you met you went to church didn't you oh yes well then one day he occupied the pew with you and sang out of your book and walked home with you and uh um you had forgotten all about him until he recalled himself to you on the train and he was so respectful that you couldn't snub him and by a strange coincidence he was getting off at wherever you're going to get off at mem was at her Apple Blossom time she was frosted a little with grief but still white and fragrant frail and lovable difficult to leave upon the bow he saw the tremor on her lips the little Zephyrs of hopeless amorous yearning that lifted her bosom the soft with fingers that intertwined with one another for lack of stronger hands to clasp he said you've got to forget yourself and your sorrow and your truthfulness for the sake of your mother and father because just tell me what to do not why but what you must save me and them I want to die but it would be too easy too selfish too cowardly give me something to live for and I'll do my best only don't argue don't argue that's the way to talk he said take my prescriptions as I give them to you and we'll save everybody from destruction but if you won't let me tell you why you must ask no questions I order you to go west and to find an imaginary husband there his name shall be let me see what should we call him wait a minute he reached back to an overcrowded revolving bookcase and took out the first volume his hands encountered it was a history of medicine and he was fond of it because it was also a history of the vanity of human science in its eternal war with death and of the bitter hostility that greeted every benefactor he rejected Galen Harvey Jenner and came finally upon the name of dr. Woodville who went to the defense of Jenner in the Great War for vaccination and helped to make the hideous ravages of smallpox as rare now as they were common in his time brother ik liked this name of Woodville he had sent patients to Tucson which he pronounced toxin and also to Yuma which had a wild and romantic sound at each of these towns he planned that mem should remain a week or two in her own name in her letters home she was to say much of this mr. Woodville and his devotion then s doctor breath ryx excited mental spinnerets poured out the web she was to write that mr. Woodville was called farther west and could not bear to leave her pleaded with her so earnestly to become his wife and go with him that her heart had told her to accept him she was to describe a hasty marriage and request that her letters thereafter be addressed to her as mrs. Woodville after a brief honeymoon she could eliminate dr. Woodville in some way to be decided at leisure it would be risky he said to let mr. Woodville live too long mem had no experience of the dramatic limbo but she began to play the critic and point out the difficulties and the spots where the action would break down suppose I met somebody at Yuma or Thaksin who knew me and rode home suppose some accident kept me there what if I felt ill and couldn't get away and money if I married mr. Woodville my father would stop sending me any and then I'd starve to death the doctor frowned his fancy had carried him skipping lis over the high spots of the landscape and now she had tripped him and cast him headlong but he would not give her up he pointed out the attractive features of his scheme the travel the new landscapes the new faces and souls the glorious adventures the possibility of meeting a real mr. Woodville who would replace the homemade product while he tried to sell the merchandise of his fancy MEMS own imagination was riotous she was young star for life for other horizons death and disgrace were more untimely than her heart realized in its grief the very perils of the enterprise made it a little interesting but chiefly she found it acceptable because it was odious and difficult and a sad rifice for others sakes and so at last she consented to play the part as best she could mem rose to go she was in haste to begin her career but she gasped and sank into her chair with a deathly dread her first audience must be her father and mother and she was paralyzed with stage fright sick dizzy with confusion in the abrupt collapse of memory doctor breath Rick put his arm about her lifted her to his breast and upheld her like a tower of strength quoting the words Walt Whitman used to the wounded soldier lean on me by god I will not let you die mem was not stirred by the doctors promises of happiness and life but only by the persuasion that she would be really proving her love for her parents by deceiving them dr. breath Rick offered to take the brunt of her first clash with her desperate future I'll go home with you again and fix it all up with your Papa and Mama they'll take it kind of hard likely losing you right away and they'll worry over your health and your going away alone but we've got to do the best we can for their sweet sakes if you stayed here you'd break your own heart and theirs and die in the bargain my way saves your life and their pride all they'll suffer will be losing the sight of you but that's part of the job of being a parent and part of the job of being a doctor is giving people a lot of pain to save them from a lot more and scaring them for their own good so come along honey as they sat out upon the short ride to the clergyman's home the doctor felt as if he were advancing to a duel with an ancient adversary he did not believe in dr. Stanton's creeds they were cruel legends in his opinion he pictured preachers as men who slander the beauties of this world in order to glorify a false heaven of their own concoction who would make this world a joyless barren hell in order to save its citizens from an imaginary nightmare of ancient ignorant who minimized the hideous cruel tease of this life and solved its Agony's with words he could not understand or love the God they preached he did not believe their God to be the true God his heart was full of love and of aspiration and of mystic bafflement and longings but he was utterly convinced that whatever God might be he was not this man-made God who inspired dr. Stetten with such hatred of his world and its ways he advanced to the contest therefore with the lust of conflict he felt himself a kind of Sir Gawain with a lady on the pillion riding into a dark forest to conquer the giant ogre who denied her her realm but when he reached the castle he founded a humble cottage the ogre was an undernourished ol parson afraid of this world and the next but most afraid of his beloved daughter's health and at the ogre side on the drawbridge the Ogas was a frightened mother wringing wrinkled hands with terror seeing mem returning with the doctor they had come out on the porch in trembling anxiety they were already so abased of hope that when the doctor told them that mem would be alright if she could get away to California right away they felt as if he had lifted them from the dust he was not so much taking their ulam from them as saving her to them they were fawning ly grateful to him zealous for any sacrifice to benefit their child the doctor despised himself for a contemptible slanderer because of the mere thoughts that had passed through his mind on his way to the duel as for mem she was crucified with remorse if her parents had only been harsh with her or stingy with the money she would require if they had only mentioned the difficulties or celebrated their sacrifice as a duty she could have found some straw to cling to as she drowned in self contempt but their terror and their tenderness were all for her and her love for them gushed like hot blood until it seemed an inconceivable treachery to conceal from them the truth it was well that dr. brethren came with her and stood by to check her out cry for her heart was fair early bursting with the centrifugal explosive power of a compressed secret doctor breath Erick kept her under the ward of his Stern eyes until he had frightened the parents just enough and reassured them just enough to make sure that they would let them go and go alone he gained a little acrid stimulant from dr. Stebbins dread of seeing his innocent daughter leave the shelter of her home and go out into the dangerous world the doctor knew too well from a doctor's long experience how far the beautiful ideal of the home is from the actual usual household he knew too well that many a home keeps in more dreadful evils than it keeps out but he could not say these things he had a home of his own and a family of his own and he revered the dream and the ideal and so the continuity began to move at first it followed the doctor's manuscript with remarkable smoothness then life the ruthless Philistine manager took a hand in it and twisted and turned it until its author would never recognized it it carried the frightened waif of village disaster to cosmic Heights unimaginable to unheard-of experiences where in this familiar experience of hers served as a schooling and an inspiration her degradation became her salvation her practice of lies taught her eternal truths her father when he learned of this wished that she had died in her cradle but millions of people blessed her where she walked and smiled and by a miracle an equaled in the chronicle of any previous generation she walked and smiled and carried bomb and spikenard all about the world without wings yet with unwearying feet she appeared in a hundred places at once by a diabolic telepathy in a multiplication that made of one shy frightened girl a shining multitude and at times each of her was of an elephantine enos at times of Titanic's eyes but all of her was always of more than human sympathy and spoke a language that men of every nation understood end of chapter 5 recording by Deanna Beauvais chapter 6 of Sol's for sale this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org Souls for sale by Rupert Hughes chapter 6 that clergyman's home was really a theatre if there had been a cameraman to follow the various members about it would have been with the moving picture people call a location the reverend dr. Stetten abhorred theaters or moving pictures and all forms of dramatic fiction except his own sermons yet everybody in the house was playing a part with benevolent purposes of course but then benevolence is one of the motives of nearly all acting to divert someone from his own de-stresses by exploiting imaginary Joy's or sorrows vicarious atonement and all forms of vicarious activity are the actuated spirit of the vast industry of honorable artistic pretense that has flourished since the world was all the world's a stage as somebody has said and everybody is always acting if certain people charge money for acting that means no more than the fact that most preachers charge money for preaching and doctors for doctoring the acting in the stead in home was of the most amateurish quality but then the audience was as amateurish as the playing and collaborated audiences must if plays are to prosper the girl's role was the most difficult imaginable she had to repress a hideous secret conceal a frantic remorse rein in a wild grief and conduct it as a gentle regret she hated herself and her enforced hypocrisy romance had sickened in her like a syrup that bribes the palate and fills the stomach with nausea her secret was a vomit and no easier or pleasanter to con trol her soul was so elevate that her very throat retched nausea was part of her condition too and would have tormented her if she had been the formal widow of Elwood instead of what Brander Matthews once phrased as the unwedded mother of his unborn child she had been trained from childhood to believe herself a sinner lost in Adams fall and to search her heart for things to repent she believed in an actual hell and her terrors of the infertile griddles were as vivid as those that poor little seven-year-old Marjorie Fleming wrote down in her babyish diary she had great native gifts of self punishment a habit older than Christianity and found in all nations did not the Greeks and Latins have a comedy the self tormentor mem was worthy of its long title she was hate autumn or o menos nothing made her more eager to get her gone from her hometown than her fear that at almost any moment she would reach the end of her history anism fling off the mask and tell the venomous truth it was not merely a question of having to lie or to evade discovery mem had to dramatize herself to foresee situations and to force herself to be another self to mimic sincerity and simplicity she was in the trite situation familiar in the theatre and in the poems and stories about the theater where the brokenhearted murmur must conceal from the audience a personal grief it would have been easier if mem had merely to play the clown for hilarity could be carried off hysterically but her role was one of half-tones grays and mild regrets many people knew that she was fond of elwood many girls and boys called to see her or dragged her to the telephone to offer consolation and satisfy curiosity to them she must express a proper sorrow as a cordial friend without letting them treat her as too deeply involved this was bitter work and she felt it a treachery to her dead lover to her mother she play the same character her mother may have guessed that the tragedy was deeper than the revelation but the poor old soul had had so much gloom in her life that she did not demand more than she got dr. Steadman lived in such clouds that he had almost forgotten his refusal to let l would call on mem he knew that she had been at the doctor's office when Elwood was brought there and the shock of this explained what confusion he recognized in MEMS manner he was acting too but his acting was the constant show of cheerfulness he went about smiling laughing talking of MEMS swift recovery in the Golden West he said that they would all be glad to get rid of her for a spell but his heart was a black ache of despair and fear of that death which he spoke of in the pulpit as a mere doorway to eternal bliss his smiling muscles rebelled when he was alone and he paced his study like a frightened child beating his hands together and whispering to his father to spare him this unbearable punishment a hurricane struck the little town of Calvary on the day of Elwood's funeral when mem expressed a wish to sing with the choir at the service over there late fellow singer both mother and father forbade her to think of it her mother cried a girl who's got to be shipped out west has got no right to go out in weather like this mem felt it a crowning betrayal of Elwood to London be carried out to a poppers grave in such merciless rain her heart urged her to dash through the streets burst into the church and proclaimed to the world how she adored the boy but she had to protect her father and mother from such selfish self-sacrifice in such ruthless atonement so she stayed at home and stared through the streaming windows she saw her poor old father set out to preach the funeral sermon he had that valor of the priests which leads them to risk death in order to defeat death to endure all hardships lest the poorest soul go out of the world without a formal concha dr. Stetten clutched his old overcoat about him and plunged into rain that hatched the air in long slanting lines he had not reached the gate when his umbrella went upward into a black calyx he leaned it against the fence and pushed on then his hat blew off and scre old from pool to pool he ran after it his hair a flutter his bald spot spattering back the rain mist Edden was not missed at the church for there was nobody there to miss her the whole choir saved its voice by staying away only the Farnum B family went dripping up the aisle and back the hearse and two hacks mol past the window where mam watched on the boxes the driver sat the shabbiest men on earth at best but now peculiarly sorted as they slumped in their wet overcoats disgusted and dejected their hats blown over their faces their whips aggravating the misery but not the speed of the sodden eggs that might have wished at their own funeral mem had to leave the window her impulse was to run out and follow the miserable cordage to tear wet flowers from the gardens and strew the road with them to fill the grave with them and shelter elwood from the pelting rain it was a funeral like that in which Mozart's body was lost and like his widow mem had to mourn at home it was her meek fear of being dramatic and conspicuous that saved her from the temptation to publish her concern but she stumbled up to her room and let her grief have sway she smothered her sobs as best she could in the old comforter of her bed but the other children heard her and asked questions her mother kept them away from her and did not go near herself feeling that this was one of the times when sympathy gives most comfort by absence when her eyes were faint with exhaustion and could squeeze no more tears when her throat could not jerk out another sob her soul lay becalmed in honor in addition then she heard a hack drive up to the gate and heard her father's hurried rush for the porch the old man was chilled through by his graveside prayer but forgetful of himself in the exultation of his office and all a babble of pity for his client mem heard her mother scolding him out of his wet clothes into dry but he kept up his chatter it isn't always easy to find nice things to say at funerals but there was everything fine to be said over that poor boy a good hard-working lad that slave for his mother and went to church regular and why I don't suppose he ever had an evil thought mem sank into a chair by her window the rain whipped the panes and the wind rattled them in the chipped putty that held them to the casement the last few days had kept her thoughts so busy that she had neglected her house why real little she was shocked to see that a spider had spread a web from the shutter to the vine the gale had torn the web to shreds and was threatening to rip it loose the spider sopping and pearled with rain was having a desperate battle to keep from being swept away he clung and caught new holds as the Sailor clutches the shrouds in a tempest the girl felt a kinship with the poor bhisti her soul and her body were like spider and web and a great storm menaced them both her flesh seemed but a frail network that spasms of sobbing or of coughing threatened to tear to pieces her soul was a loathsome arachnid spinning traps for flies and storms of remorse and grief threatened to dislodge it and send it down the wind of eternity but still her body clung to life and her soul to her body she began to long to be shut of the town however and the doll play house where she enacted over and over the same dull drama to the same dull audience her father and mother drove her almost mad by their devoted gentleness hitherto they had both been strict and a little tiresome with moral lessons and rebukes making goodness a dull staple suspiciously over advertised in creating a rebellion by discipline but after the doctor's first visit they heaped almost intolerable coals of fire upon her head with their devoted faith in her if they had any doubts of her future it was only of the wicked people outside the fold who would attack and beguile their you lamb they never suspected her of even the capacity for sin though she felt that it was she who had seduced her sacred lover and not he her at times her parents treated her with that unquestioning approval we grant only to the newly dead and the unmerited homage was harder to endure than unearned blame since it had a belittling influence where the other would have aroused self esteem she was no longer at home at home she had to draw on a mask the moment she came in when she went to the doctor's office she encountered truth and the Frank facing of it she could be herself a normal young animal who had done a natural thing unluckily and had lost none of her rights to life wealth or the pursuit of happiness when she stepped off the Brethren porch she was a very allegory of defiant youth when she stepped on her own porch she became immediately a Magdalene bowed with a shame she dared not even ask forgiveness for it was particularly hard to act apart all day long and every day since she had never been an actress before if her audience of two had had more familiarity with the art she might not have succeeded in duping both so completely but they never dreamed of the truth deceiving them was so easy that she despised herself especially she loked herself for taking their poultry savings they had foreseen the cruel days that lie ahead of superannuated preachers and had somehow managed to put away a little hoard against the inevitable famine though this meant that even their prosperity was always just this side of papadum but they lavished their tiny wealth upon their scapegrace daughter and never imagined that the real cause for her spendthrift voyage was to save herself and them from the catastrophe of a public scandal money is always the most emotional of human concerns though it is the least celebrated in romance again and again mem revolted at the outrage of robbing her own parents of their one shield against old age she went again and again to dr. brethren and demanded that he release her from her promises not to tell the truth and not to kill herself but he compelled her to his will and she was too glad for a will replace her own panic to resist him for a necessary stimulant he prophesied that somehow in that land of gold she was seeking she would find such wealth that she could repay her parents their loan with usury with wealth perhaps who knew in these times he said it's the girls who were running away from home to find their fortunes and lots of them are finding him your dear old full of a father is always preaching about the good old days when women were respected and respectable when parents were revered and took care of their children as my boy says where does he get that stuff he knows better why does he have to lie about it so piously why don't they use some plain horse sense some truth with a little tea in the pulpit once in a while and not so much truth with a capital T in the good old days the best parents used to whip their children nearly to death the poor ones bound them out as apprentices into child slavery chained him to factories for 14 hours a day they had no child labor laws no societies for prevention of cruelty to children no children's court no Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts and the wickedness was frightful and as for the grown-up girls most of them had no education and no chance for ambition if they went wrong they could go to a convent or slink around the back streets or go out and walk the streets at night the drunkenness and debauchery and disease were hideous even the Sabbath braking and skepticism were universal but still they call them the good old days and they dare to praise them above these glorious days when women are for the first time free and men were never free either till now four men had the responsibility of women's souls on their own and my god what a burden it was and how they boggled it this is really the year one now at last a girl like you can look life in the face and if she makes a mistake she can make her life worthwhile and not fall into the mewling puling parasite and disease germ of the good old-fashioned woman you ought to thank God for letting you live now and you've got to show him how much you prize the golden opportunity it's just sunup this is the dawn of the day when man and women are equal and children have a clean sky overhead I was reading the other day a list a mile long of self-made women who had begun poor and finished rich some of them made their wealth out of candy and some of them in Wall Street some of them in all sorts of arts paintings novels plays music acting you might go into the movies for instance and make more money than coal old Johnny it's scandalous what some of those little tikes are earning I tell you ma'am if you've got any spunk you'll make yourself a millionairess all this suffering is education all this acting you're doing may show you the way to glory go west young woman and go up in the world I've never been anywhere or seen anything I've never even seen a movie said ma'am well as the feller said who was asked if he could play the violin he didn't know he'd never tried when you get a safe distance from any danger of giving your paw apoplexy sneaked into a movie and see if you see anything you can't do looks like to me you might cut quite a swath there probably you'd have to learn to ride a horse throw a lasso and dance but fallen off trains and being spilled off cliffs in automobiles on to take much talent and it can't be very risky since I see the same young ladies run in the same gauntlets and coming up and smile in the next picture there's a serial at the palace once a week that shows one wide-eyed lassie who is absolutely bulletproof they can't drown that girl burn her freeze her or poison her she laughs at gravity bounces off roofs and cliffs and Bob's up serenely from below her throat simply can't be throttled she can take care of herself anywheres why I seen her overpower nearly a hundred bandits so far and she looks fresher than ever if I was you I'd take a whack at it do they have movies and tuckson I think likely I hear they've got him on both poles north and south ma'am imbibed mysterious tonics at the doctor's office and always came away buoyed up with the feeling that her tragedy was unimportant commonplace and sure to have a happy finish but the moment she reached home she entered a domain where everything was solemn where jokes were never heard except pathetic old witticisms more important in intention than in amusement they began to irritate her to wear her raw and exacerbate her tenderest feelings she was beginning to be ruined by the very influences that should have sweetened her soul and at last one day quite unexpectedly when she was under no apparent tension at all when her father had gone to visit a sick parishioner and her mother was quietly at work upon MEMS traveling clothes the girl reached the end of her resources perhaps it was a noble revolt against interminable deceit perhaps it was a selfish impulse to fling off a little of her back-breaking burden of silence perhaps it was a mad desire to make someone else a partner in her lies perhaps it was the unendurable hum of her mother's sewing machine whatever it was that moved her she rose quietly put down her needlework went into mrs. deadens room closed the door took her mother's hands from the cloth they were guiding and said in a quiet tone mama I want to tell you something I'd rather break your heart than deceive you any longer why honey what's the matter why ma'am dear what on earth is it sit down and tell your mother of course you can't break this tough old heart of mine what is it baby she whispered it so softly that her breath was hardly syllable her mother caught lest the words than the hiss and rustle of her ah and the wild language of her trapped eyes mama I'm I'm going to have to have a baby the shock was its own ether mrs. Stedman whispered back cowering you you my baby you a baby mem nodded and nodded till her knees were on the floor and her brow in her mother's lap old hands kept gropingly about her cheeks she felt the drip drip of tears falling into her hair each tear a separate pearl from a crown of pride then the Shivering hands at her cheeks lifted her face and she stared up as much amazed as her mother and whose downward stare there was no horror or reproach only compassion and infinite fear and her mother fumbled at the dreadful question but who who Elwood the hands up holding her head dropped limp the eyes above her were dry blank and ghastly the mine behind them baffled beyond effort then they grew human again with a sudden throb of tears upon tears and her mother groaned with double pity poor baby poor ma'am poor little thing grandmother's acquire a witch-like knowledge of life they know the things that may not be published they see the cruel wickedness of the world overwhelming their own beloved ones and an awful wisdom is theirs they know something of the mockery of punishment and they are usually derided by the less experienced for their lacks ideas of the miserable bungling called justice MEMS confession was an Annunciation of grandmother hood to mrs. Stedman she was so stunned that she expressed no horror at the abyss of horror yawning before her feet to instincts prevailed while her reason was in a stupor love of her husband love of her child the decision was easy and she made no difficulty of the gross two seats involved her husband must be protected in his illusions and protected from the necessity of wreaking his high moral principles on his own child his child must be protected from the mur soulless world and the immediate wrath of the village she said little she caressed much she confirmed dr. breath Rick's prescription and joined the conspiracy administering secret comfort to the girl and to the father the nearer the day of MEMS departure the slower dragged the hours between but at last she was standing on the back platform of a train bound for the vast southwest she was throwing tears Brent kisses to her father and mother as they blurred into the distance they watched the train dwindling like a telescope drawn into itself as so many parents have watched so many trains and ships and carriages vanish into space with the beloved of their hearts and bodies they turned back to their lives as if they had closed the door upon themselves but mem as she returned to her place in the car felt as if a portcullis had lifted before her was all outdoors end of chapter 6 recording by Deanna Beauvais

Michael Martin

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