xt7f4q7qp14q https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7f4q7qp14q/data/mets.xml Looms, George. 1922  books b92-225-31182911 English Doubleday, Page, : Garden City, New York : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Stubble  / by George Looms. text Stubble  / by George Looms. 1922 2002 true xt7f4q7qp14q section xt7f4q7qp14q 


 This page in the original text is blank.







                 COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY




                      First Edition



 This page in the original text is blank.



               PART I

              PART II


MYRTLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143

              PART III
BLOOMFIELD.. . . . . . . . . . . 249

 This page in the original text is blank.




 This page in the original text is blank.



                  CHAPTER I

       HE front gate screaked, a slow, timid, almost
       furtive sort of screak, and then banged sud-
       denly shut as though it (lespaire(I of further
concealment. Mary Louise gathered her sewing to
lher, rose to her feet, and looked out. It was raining.
Through the glass upper half of the door that opened
from the sitting room upon the side porch she could
see the swelling tendrils of the vines that crawled
about the trellis, heavy and beady with the gathering
moisture. It was one of those cold, drizzly, early
April rains that dares you by its seeming futility to
come forth and do weaponless battle and then sends
you back discomfited and drenched. A woman was
coming up the walk bent in a. huddle over a bundle
which she carried in her arms. Tiary Louise gazed
searchingly for a moment and then, as the figure
would have passed the door, on around to the rear of
the house, stepped out on the porch and called:
  "Zenie! Zenie! Come in this way. There's no-
body around there."


  Zenie raised her head in mute surprise and then
slowly obeyed. She shuffled across the porch, and
at the door, which Mary Louise held open for her,
paused and looked about her in indecision. She was
a buxom creature, of the type that the Negroes about
the station would call a "High Brown," Nit without
the poise and aplomb that conscious membership
in that class usually brings.
  " Mis' Susie in." she ventured, after a careful sur-
vey of the room had assured her that such was not
probable. And her care, relaxed for the moment,
allowed the corner of the shawl to fall from the bundle
in her arms, which forthwith set up a remote wailing,
feeble and muffled, though determined.
  Mary Louise raised a skeptic eyebrow at the dis-
credited Zenie.
  "Sshh!" dispassionately urged the latter, scorning
for once public regard and continuing to gaze about
the low-ceilinged room for the absent but much-
desired Miss Susie.
  Such callous indifference baffled Mary Louise, even
while it answered her innermost questionings, and
for the moment she was voiceless. "What in the
world- !" she said at length and hated herself
for the vulgar surprise in her tone.
  Zenie turned away from the inspection and, finding
herself and appendage the centre of interest, bridled
with a timid pleasure, and then poked a ruminative
finger into the swaddle of shawl and comforter.




  "Yas'm," she began in explanation. "Done
brung 'ini to show t' Mis' Susie. Didn' know von
wuz home." 11er manner had all the affable ease
of a conscious equal.
  Mary Louise rubbed her eyes. Time was bringing
changes; Zenie had once been humble. Her voice
rang with an accusing hardness. "I thought you'd
shuft the door on that worthless Zeke of yours."
  Zenie dlid not raise her head but continued the aim-
less poking in the l)undle, which strangely responded
to the treatment and was quiet again. "No'm. He
comes roun'. Eve' now an' then. Zeke's got a
cah!"  A momentary gleam from dark eyes lit like
coals into a sudden flare, and Mary Louise was con-
scious of a pride that was fierce and strong, even if
new. She felt suddenly strange, foreign, like an in-
  Their eyes met, and this time it was Mary Louise's
that fell. She felt embarrassed at the question that
arose in her. Of course Zeke was the father. Such
a question to the emrlancipated Zenie would be pater-
nally insulting. She countered skillfully:
  "What's-his name"
  Zenie shifted the bundle in her arms and then
reached over with her toe and thoughtfully pushed
the stove door.
  "Name Nausea," she replied softly, still regarding
the door which refused to shut entirely.
  "Name's what"




  Zenie raised her eyes and smiled. It was a sudden
unmasking of a battery in a peaceful landscape.
"Nausea Zekiel Thompson," Zenie continued, gazing
down into the bundle with the simplicity of a great
  For a moment silence descended upon the room.
Mary Louise could not trust herself in the customary
amenities. She stepped over to Zenie and the
younger Thompson and peered into the bundle, con-
scions as she did so of a slowly opening door beyond
them. A tiny weazened face and two beady blink-
ing eyes were all she saw. Zenic was making a cu-
rious clucking noise.
  "Yas'm," Zenie went on, encouraged into an un-
wonted garrulity, " Mlist' Joe done give 'im that name.
Hit's from de Bible, ain't it"
  "Mister Joe"
  "Yas'm. Mist' Joe Hoopah." There was a
cheery ring to Zenie's voice that had been wont to
drag so dispiritedly. "I-Ie say hit come so unex-
peckedly an' all you kin do is make the bes' of it."
Her face was suddenly wreathed in an expansive
smile. "Mlist' Joe done hoorahin' us-Zeke an' me.
Zeke don' min'. Nossuh. He say de baby look lak
him." She held the bundle up and looked at it in
rapt contemplation.
  Mary Louise's lips shut in a tight line. She
turned away from the pair in distaste. But just
then a light step sounded and her feeling was di-



                    STUBBLE                    5
verted. Zenie did not hear the advent of another
character upon the scene so absorbed was she in
holding the centre of the stage. "Think hit's a
pritty name, don' you"
  Receiving no answer she raised her eves and beheld
Miss Susie, whose critical gaze enveloped her sternly.
Zenie dropped her eyes again.
  "So you've finally decided to show up again,
Zenie" Miss Susie clipped her words off short to
everyone. She was a wisp of a woman with little
hands as dry and yellow as parchment. 11er voice
had a quavering falsetto break in it and her laugh,
when there was occasion, was dry and withery and
short-lived like a piece of thistledown.
  Mary Louise was watching with interest. Zenie
struggled for a moment and then turned and faced
the inevitable. There was a growing decision in her
  "H'do, Mis' Susie! Yas'm. I 'cided I'd drop in
on you-all. Show him to his white folks."  She
looked at Miss Susie and smiled a, most uncertain
  And then for the first time was the import of the
visit brought fully to the visitee.
  "So," Miss Susie exploded, "'that's where you've
been. Out of town! HIumnih! You ought to be
ashamed of yourself."
  Zenie looked as though she would like to defend
herself, but it was useless.


  Miss Susie went on inexorably, "That worthless
Zibbie Tuttle has been tearing all my good linen and
lace to pieces for the past three weeks. And now I
suppose I'll have to put up with her for a few weeks
  "Yas'm," Zenie replied weakly.
  "However"-Miss Susie pronounced it as though
it were one syllable--"I suppose I can't help it.
What is it Boy or girl"
  "Boy," said Zenie, and with growing decision,
"but hit ain' him I come to see you-all about. No'in.
Thank you jes' as mucli. I jes' aim to tell you I ain'
take in no mo' wash. No'm. Zeke he don' want
me to take in no mo' wash. No'm."
  "Zeke!" Miss Susie's snort was very ladylike.
'Zeke!-and what has Zeke to do with what you
want to do"
  "We'se ma'ied, ain' we, Mis' Susie"
  This was irrefutable, but more so the changing
viewpoint. Zenie had tasted emancipation. Miss
Susie shrugged her shoulders and left the room with
short hurried steps.
  Zenie turned to Mary Louise. "I'm tiahed of the
ol' tub. 'Tain' no use my weahin' myself out fu
nuthin'. 'Sides, this heah boy a heap o' trubbel."
She shook her head doubtfully.
  Mary Louise disregarded the confidence. "D'you
say Mllister Joe-Mfister Joe Hooper--named your
baby How could lie Ile's not even home."




  "Yas'm. Yas'm, he is. lHe come in t' see Zeke
this mo'nin'. Mist' Joe lookin' mighty fine."
  Mary Louise felt a curious sinking feeling of being
shoved into a discard. And then Miss Susie came
hurrying back into the room. In her hand she
carried a small bundle of red flannel cloth freshly cut
from the bolt. Zenie eyed her uncertainly.
  "Here. H-Iere's something to keep out the cold
---next winter. And you oughtn't to bring it out
in such rainy weather."  She wvent to the door and
held it open in all finality. And Zenie, with much
secret and inner scorning for a ritual so antiquated
and a gift so obsolete, could do naught but depart.
Miss Susie had somehow managed to keep the ad-
vantage, and the two white women watched the
leparting figure shuffle down the walk, out through
the sagging, screaky gate. The clouds had broken
in the west, and a soft golden radiance suffnsed the
row of maples that lined the fence along the street.
and the swelling branches gleamed with prorise.
Over toward the east a patch of blue sky appeared,
and then the tip of a sickle inoon thrust itself through
and floated entire for a nioment on a tiny azure
lake. A little breeze came round the corner of the
p)orch fromn the sunset. It was as soft and warm as
an unspoken promise, and it flipped back skirt hems
and twisted hair tendrils most inoffensively.
  " Come, honey! " Aliss Susie said at length, wrench-
ing herself loose froi the charm. "It's getting late."




  Mary Louise stepped slowly off the porch on to the
spongy lawn that stretched out to a summerhouse
partly covered with the skeleton of last summer's
vines. "Just a minute, Aunt Susie," she answered,
without looking back. " I want to see how the
hydrangea is coming on."
  Miss Susie turned and closed the door behind her.
  Bloomfield had a quality of unchangeableness.
Even in the dead of winter you could tell with half
an eye how it would look bedecked in its summer
finery. Down the stretch of years, past many an
intervening milepost, it always stood clearly en-
visioned to its sons and daughters both natural and
adopted. There was about four hundred yards of
macadam street lined with oaks and maples as old
as or older than the meeting house of early Post-
lRevolutionary days which stood at the cross-roads
corner diagonally across from the glary white gaso-
lene station. Half-way down the street, in a cluster
of elms, stood the remnants of an ancient tavern,
whose front wall, flush with the sidewalk, showed
occasional bullet sears on the rough red brownstone
surface. Green outside shutters lay inertly back
from dull leaded panes which reflected metallically
the orange glow of the setting sun, and over the door,
which was squat and low and level with the pave-
ment, an ancient four-sided lantern, hung from a
bracket of rusty black iron, was gathering cobwebs
in disuse. All. this lay within Mary Louise's field




of vision from the summerhouse and yet she saw
it not. She was staring abstractedly at a wary
robin that had stopped to rest on a fence post, his
beak all frowzy with the debris from a recent drilling.
The McCallum house her father's-stood at the
other end of the row of maples on the same side of the
street as the meeting house and a hundred yards or
so distant. There was quite an expanse of greening
lawn in front an(l to the south, whereon stood the
summerhouse, and a tangle of rose bushes hid the
decaying board fence which marked the southern
boundary. Along the brick sidewalk stretched a
line of ageing wooden pickets and about midway in
their extent hung the wooden gate with the screak.
The house was frame, low and wide-stretching, with
an inviting verandah about a cavernous front door
that was dark and rarely open. People used the side
loor into the ell sitting room, and the brick walk
leading in a curved sweep to this doorway was free
from grass. A high wooden lattice separated the
front lawn from the backyard and sheds and stables,
andl about this lattice sprawled in luxuriant freedom
rose vines and honeysuckle, just now faintly budding
into life.
  Mary Louise stooped and punched a hole in the
soft earth with a little stick, unconsciously uprooting
a tender shoot thereby. A black beetle came
scurrying out of the decaying baseboard at this
disturbance and was summarily filliped off into the




greening wastes of lawn. Collecting herself, she
next inspected the branches of the plant near by and
finding sufficient promise of green, straightened up
and flung back an escaping wisp of hair. with a sigh.
  There was nothing particularly noticeable about
Mary Louise unless it might possibly be a certain
fine-drawnness. Tier eyes, which were brown, had a
sort of set focus on the immediate, and there were
some fine lines from the corners of her lips to her
nose. She was slim and straight, with small hands
and feet, and her arms, which were bare to the elbow,
might have been soft and round, were it not for a
sinuous tension that showed itself in little corded
creases right where a girl's arms should be softest and
roundest. And her hair had a way of coming down
at all times and in all weathers. It had never been
decided whether she were pretty or not. That was
something that had never mattered-to her, at least.
  As she threw back her head she was conscious of a
general escaping of hairpins and a loosening of hair.
With a frown she dropped her stick and turned her
attention from  horticulture to coiffure. A  low
whistle sounded from somewhere beyond the rose
vines, and as she turned, with her fingers in her hair
and elbows protrudhing, she saw a man come swinging
along the walk past the boundary fence, his eyes
sweeping the house from upstairs windows to side
  Mary Louise calmly proceeded with her toilette,




making no sign. He caught sight of her, paused a
moment, and then vaulted stiffly over the picket
fence into the yard.
  "'Lo," he said.
  She had a hairpin in her mouth and returned the
greeting with a slight lifting of eyebrows. As her
head was lowered and her chill tucked in, this was a
sufficiently effective reply.
  "AMusta rained pretty hard here," he ventured,
as, noticing the damage that the damp grass was
doing to his trouser hems, he covered the remaining
distance between them in a series of violent hap-
hazard leaps.
  The hairpin rendered her response unintelligible.
  "How d'you find things" gaining her side, and a
bit more calmly.
  Mary Louise deliberately tucked in one last re-
calcitrant wisp and pinned it down, and then
turned to him. "Pretty well."  Her gaze was level
and critical.
  "Aunt Sue better"
  She nodded. Then she turned and slowly walked
within the inclosure of the sumnmerlhouse and sat
down. He followed her and stood framed in the
  "What's the gloom" he asked directly, after a
moment of silence.
  "Nothing," she said, a little too brightly.
  "Not interrupting anything, am I"




  Disregarding this: "What are you doing in Bloom-
field "
  He laughed. "Aren't sorry I came, are you This
is Saturday. Times have changed. Maybe you
don't know. Proletariat's riding high."
  "They're giving you the whole day now" in a
mildly dubious tone.
  He turned away. "No. But Uncle Buzz was in
a jam, and-well, I thought I'd better come." Ile
turned on her suddenly. "Keeping tab on me,
aren't you How'd you know"
  "I reckon I'd better, Joe." And then more
softly: "Think it's the best way to do Uncle
Buzz's been in deep water before." She rose to her
feet and walked slowly to the opposite entrance.
"How are things-at the works"
  He was silent a moment. "Same old place.
Take more'n a war to change 'em." He came and
stood beside her in the doorway. The sun was mak-
ing a last desperate attempt to lighten the general
gray of the sky with broad shafts of orange, and as
they watched, it settled slowly and then dipped be-
hind the dim blue of the distant hills. As at a signal,
a bird in a thicket somewhere over beyond them began
a long throaty warble. Another answered over to
the left. Faint, liquid trip-hammerings, they were,
upon brittle anvils.
  "It's a good thing some things don't change," she
said at length, in a low tone.




  "I reckon."
  They watched the glow fade from the sky, the
broad bands of orange receding swiftly westward,
while the cloud rim above the horizon cooled softly
into pink and coral and a sudden soft patter of rain
upon the dried vines and leaves above their heads
aroused them. Without a word, AMary Louise
slipped past him and ran for the house. He followed.
  On the side porch she turned and waited for him,
and he came and stood before her, hatless, in the rain.
"I'd better be getting back before it gets any worse
-see you ill the morning"
  "Let me get you an umbrella." She turned and
was about to enter the house.
  "No. Can't use 'em. Get hung up in the trees.
What time you want to start out Nine o'clock
See you at nine."
  "That's too early.  Make it ten.   I'm  busy.
Besides, it's Sunday."
  "Comnin' at nine," he called over his shoulder and
started for the gate.
  She watched his retreating figure as lie darted
along through the shadow, and then she slowly turneIl
and entered the sitting rooru. A dim yellow light
from a single oil lami) on the table over against the
right wall was feebly penetrating the deep shadows
in far corners. The low-ceiinged room seemed huge
and cavernous, with deep niches and crannies and
bulky, shadowy objects. AMiss Susie sait by the




table with her knitting, her face yellower than ever,
her hands feverishly restive. She raised her head as
Mary Louise closed the door, and the tiny lines,
accentuated by the lamplight, covered her face like
markings upon an ancient scroll.
  "'Why didn't he come in, honey"
  "I don't know, Aunt Susie. Ile was in a, hurry."
  "What's he doing in town Thought he'd gone
back to work in Louisville."
  "I don't know, Aunt Susie."
  Miss McCallum- picked up her knitting. She
sniffed. "No, I s'pose not."
  Mary Louise went over and kissed her aunt
lightly upon the forehead, and then disappeared
through a shadowy door back into shadowy depths.
Directly came a sound of clattering tinware and then
the faint echoes of a song, hummed, and slightly
nasal. A smile flickered across Miss Susie's lips as
she watched her fingers-the needles flitting swiftly
in and out.





T     HEY drew rein on a hill which sloped gently
       away to the town a mile or so distant. Over
       to the right. in a cluster of trees gleamed the
white fences and buildings of the Bloornfield Fair
Grounds like a blob of paint squeezed on a dark
  Mary Louise turned in the saddle and took a long
thirsty look at the western sky. "I love these days
that are unplanned. They bring so much more when
there isn't any promise."
  Joe took off his hat and wiped his forehead, keep-
ing tight rein in the meantime with his other hand on
his roan saddler, who, scenting the home stretch, was
restless to be off. "After which original tribute to
my day, I hesitate to tell you that it has been a
hunch of mine for over a vear-ever since that first
spring in Texas. Made up my mind if ever I struck
God's country alive and in one piece, I'd treat
nlx-self to a great bath of this sort of stuff. TIn-
planned! Humph!"
  Mary Louise's tight little mouth relaxed but she
did not shift her gaze. "You forget. It was not
planned-by mew"   On rare occasions MNary Louise


could slip from her matter-of-fact self into coquetry
and back again before one realized. It was like the
play of a lightning shuttle, so quick that one rarely
caught the flash of the back stroke. Joe had erred
before. He was discreetly silent.
  "4I love it," Mary Louise went on, flinging back
her head, "every stick, every stone of it. That half
mile of turf down Blue Bottle Lane! I'd give ten
years of my life to gallop the rest of it through
country like that." And then, as though startled,
she bit her lip and was still.
  Joe smiled as he watched her narrowly. "A
woman's a mess o' contradictions. Whoa! You,
too," he called sharply to his mare. "Thought you
wanted to eat grass a little. Whoa!" H-Ie reined up
the tossing head with difficulty. And then to Mary
Louise, "You're a sort of self-inflicted exile, aren't
you "
  Mary Louise turned from her musing and gave him
a look of most effective scorn. "Put your hat on,"
she said coldly. "You talk better through it."
She was backing her mount out from the thicket
whence he had thrust his nose and was wheeling
him about to point him toward home. "1 suppose
you'd leave your job in Louisville and come back
here to live yourself-just; because you love(1 the
scenery! "
  "Not such a bad swap at that."  But she was
off and away. One rearing plunge and he was after




her. Down across the grassy sweep of turf they
fled, across a shallow ditch, past a stretch of wiliowv
thicket, around a jutting knob of rock, into an arching
avenue of trees. It was like dropping into a cool.
shadowy bowl, the first shoots and sproutings of
baby leaves from the branches casting a delicate
traceryof shadow on the golden-green shimmer of the
grass. Through an open gate tl-hey shot, he close he-
hind, out upon a hard metallic roadway of macadam.
Here Mary Louise reined in her horse and Joe in-
stantly drew up alongside.
  "It's lucky the street came along to help," lie
breathed. "Twenty yards more--
  "Mary Louise reached up a hand to her hair in a.
futile effort to stem the havoc there. A moment of
furious attempt to quiet the racing in her veins, and
then, quite calmly, "It's all as it should be. We've
got to look out for such things and take advantage of
them. There are no ifs and buts about being caught.
You didn't-that's all.''
  Joe opened his mouth to speak, stared at her a
nioment, and then turned away his eyes. They
trotted along in silence, the shadows deepening and
  1)irectly. "When does your tea room open"
  "To-morrow. I'll be fine and stiff to start it off."
B3oth question and answer had taken on a fine flavour
of impersonality. Quiet again, with only the clatter
of hoofs on the roadway. Directly they turned a




wide sweeping curve and before them appeared a
wooden gateway set at the end of an avenue of elms,
at the other end of which showed, din and forbidding,
a house with columns and a green roof. Joe dis-
mounted and, unlatching the gate, turned and stood
grinning at her.
  "So you're really goin' to try it out" His voice
had the quality of sclf-questioning.
  It broke in on her musings and she seemed a bit
impatient. "Of course I'm going to try it out.
Only there isn't much try' to it. It's bound to make
a go."
  "Somne little difference between a merely com-
mercial proposition and a popular charity like the
Red Cross. There's no percentage in just guzzlin'
tea for fun unless ou 're doin' it to keep Americans
from starvin' or doughboys from itchin'. You know
what I believe" Ile turned on her suddenly.
"You're just scrapin' up an excuse to-to--"
I-He stammered, hesitated in indecision. "Tea!"
  "Don't be maudlin, Joe!" Her tone was very cold.
"If you must know, we need the money and-
Well, I guess I learned enough about tea and tea
rooms in the past ten or eleven months to know
whether one will pay or not-if it's properly run.
Got awfully hardboiled while you were in the army,
didn't you Come, open the gate."
  He was silent. Mary Louise usually could put him
in his place. But thus put in his place, Joe could




assume all the irritable stick-to-itiveness of a child.
"How about Miss Susie"
  Ile watched the Shot. For a moment it had
no seeming effect, and then Mary Louise, turning
loose all the pent-u) outpourings to inner question-
ings, in a fury of righteous self-justification: "You
needn't think I haven't thouglht about that. You
needn't think I'm shirking may duty in any way. If
you knew, you wouldn't ask such a question. Before
you left we were just on the ragged edge, and now-
well, sonielbody's got to do something to bring the
money in. The place don't make it."  Her voice
quieted down a little.  "'It hasn't been an easy
question to solve. Come, Joe! Open the gate."
  Ile watched her curiously. "But the servants
You've still got the servants, Matty, and Old Landv,
and that half-baked gorilla, Omar. Why not  -"
  "Yes, why not" She turned on him. "Why not
shut down the place, too, as well as disniiss all the
servants, and live in one of the old stone quarters
Why not   Why not let your heels run down if they
want to It's much easier."
  Quietly he pushed the gate open and stood waiting.
holding it for her. Something in his manner struck
her, and she reached out her hand from her seat in the
saddle and touched him lightly as her horse swerved
past. "There, I'in sorry, Joe. But you just hounded
me into it somehow. I didn't mean it's that way
with you. You know I didn't. You see what I




mean One ought to try. Ought to try everything
first, not just give up because everything doesn't seem
just right. I have thought about Aunt Susie, and it
breaks me all uip. But it can't be helped."  She
waited till he closed the gate and with a quick swing-
up into the saddle drew alongside. Slowly they
walked their horses up the avenue.
  "I s'pose you're right," he said at length. "Only
-only it has seemed to me that there's a lot of good
time wasted doing useless things. Would you rather
run a tea room than do anything else in the world"
  She looked at him but they were passing a bend in
the road, and the sun, having dipped behind a
jutting hill, no longer lighted up the dusky avenue,
and Joe's face was in semi-shadow. "I'd rather hold
on to what I've got than lose the tiniest portion of it,"
was all she said.
  Suddenly he threw back his head and laughed.
"If they could only see me now!"
  "They Who, they"
  His face sobered, but there was a momentary
twinkle about the eyes. "Who Oh, at the office."
And then, as dismissing the thought, "Uncle Buzz
know you're openin' the tea room"
   "'Then you ought to tell him. Give you a lot of
invaluable suggestions as to how to mix up little
'what-for-you's.' Get 'em comin' and goin'. Also,
Uncle Buzz's got a mintl bed that has parts."

2 0



  "There's some patronage we will be forced to do
without," Mary Louise replied primly. They were
nearing the house and as they approached, someone
in one of the front rooms struck a light and it could
be seen moving, the shadows dancing on the walls.
  "Don't overlook Uncle Buzz," said Joe with a
chuckle. "Don't overlook any diserinlinatin' taste.
You can't beat these horses of his."
  "No," agreed Mary Louise, "nor     " and then
checked herself.
  Thie roadway turned sharply to the left and finished
off in a circle, one arc of which touched the steps of an
open porch. These steps were sagging and decayed,
and the porch was swept by the gentle eddyings of
leaves of past summers that had sought refuge there
and had been undisturbed by the ruthless sweepings
of winds or brooms. There was a haunting odour of
pine and something else that was damp and old and
weary and forgotten, and a shrivelled wisteria vine
that clung with withered fingers to a trellis at the
house corner began to whisper at their approach. A
yellow bar of light shot for a moment across the porch
floor to their feet, then disappeared. It was the
lamp Mary Louise had seen farther down the drive-
way, and directly the side door opened and the mel-
low glow of it sent shadowy rings of light out toward
  "Joe! Joe!" called out an anxious voice. "Don't
make noise. Keelp 'way from the back." There



22                STUBBLE
was a moment's silence and as Joe made no reply:
"Come in this way, why don't you Better way
come in."
  And then Mary Louise saw a hand shade the upper-
most part of the lamp. Then there was a pause, and
then a figure came across the porch, a short figure
casting grotesque shadows, a bit stiff, a bit unsteady,
like the rings of light that went out in circling waves
behind it. It was Uncle Buzz. He came and stood
on the topmost rotting step. He bowed. With one
hand holding the wavering lamp, the other bravely
cupped before his chest, he bowed.
  "Pardon," he said. "'N't know there were ladies."
  "Miss McCallum, Uncle Buzz," interposed Joe.
  "Honoured, 'm sure," Uncle Buzz responded with
another bow, lower if anything than the first, so that
the tip of his little goatee came within singeing dis-
tance of the lamp chimney, and he straightened back
with a start, only to stare about him again, vaguely
hurt. Collecting himself again, "Knew there was
reason shouldn't go 'roun' th' back. Le' Zeke take
horses. Zeke! Zeke!" he called in a falsetto
quaver. "Come in this way, madam," he added
with grave dignity, but curtailing the bow.
  For a moment Mary Louise was fascinated. Old
Mr. Bushrod Mosby she had known for years-a
veritable rustic macaroni, a piece of tinselled flotsam
floating on backwater. He had always called her
M'Lou; later occasionally Miss M'Lou. Now the


rhvthm of some ancient rout was stirring old memo-
ries, and the obligations of host sat pleasantly heavy
upon his befogged consciousness. He bowed again.
  "No, thank you," she summoned her resources.
"We'll be getting home. But we'll just leave the
horses here," she added a bit hurriedly, anxious to be
off. Echoes were sounding along a length of hall-
way and she was not desirous of the prospect of
seeing Mrs. Mosby-Aunt Loraine-who was apt to
prove a most discordant fly in the ointment of har-
mnonious hospitality. So she turned to go, but
turned too late. The door opened again and another,
figure appeared, a brisk figure, at which the dead
leaves of the porch bestirred themselves in vague, un-
easy rustlings. Uncle Buzz stepped meekly aside
and Mrs. Mosby--Aunt Loraine-joined the group,
giving him a momentary withering glance. She
was an inexorable woman, an inch taller than Uncle
Buzz, who stood five feet three, but she matched hiin
whimi for whim in her attire. Her hair looked black
in the graying light; in reality it was splotched and
streaked with a chestnut red, colour not so ill as
misapplied. Her dress rustled as she swept for-
ward anid there were numberless faint clickings and
clackings of chains and bangles about her. A high
boned collar with white rnching helped her hold her
head even more proudly straight, and the smile she
shot Mary Louise was heavily fraught with a sickly
sweet though rigorous propriety.




  " You must come in, my dear," she lisped.
"Such exhausting exercise! You wouldn't think of
going one step further without resting. Here"-
she reached out one hand toward Mary Louise,
testing the meanwhile the security of the upper
step with the tip of a shiny shoe-"the man will
attend to the horses."
  "Man! Yes," Uncle Buzz recollected with a
start. "Zeke! Zeke!" he began to shout again.
"Come here, suh!"
  " Bushrod! Be still!" hissed Mrs. Mosby.
  Almost was Mary Louise tempted to accept and
stay, he looked so helpless, in such terrific danger,
standing there blinking at them, his eyes vaguely
trying to focus, and so mildly blue. his head with
-the graying hair so closely cropped gave him an odd
appearance of boyishness, to which the smart little
bow tie added not a little. Ile was trim, dapper,
in spite of the fact that his standing collar was a
size or two too large; in spite, too, of the tiny, well-
trimmeld goatee. He looked like a faun in trouble.
With a shadow of distress crossing his fac