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that odious animal, with his crystal and ivory manger.
"All this to explain why I went finally in search of the kitchen gardens, longing for the sight of a row of honest cabbages,
and found there a real human being who had a tale to tell. No, not a kitchen-maid with a tearful romance. Romance is either dark or bright, and you know I'm interested in half-tones. No, this was a
young lady who 'd had enough of Henrietta's housewarming, and I found her sitting in the shade of a smoke-bush, at the foot of the vegetable garden, as still as any image. Presently she looked up at me from under one of those enormous hats that let the sun splash through the brim and spatter the face with light. I had seen her before somewhere, and I made a remark about the view as I tried to place her. She was pretty enough and youngish; I could n't tell how young. Between twenty-five and thirty-eight women look about the same nowadays. She had the usual slim figure, smooth face, and tired eyes, a familiar type in the East; but there was about her something different, an expression wistful and puzzled, tired, and at the same time eager. She looked tired not because of having had too much of everything, but of never having had at all the things she wanted and did n't know how to look for. Then I realized that she was saying: 'You used to know me when I was little. I was Jessica Tatum.' And I remembered a quiet, rather colorless little girl of ten. Perhaps she had seemed mousy only because of the violent conditions that surrounded her; no child's personality makes itself heard in the din of slamming doors and tearful recriminations.
"I had known the parents well, handsome, hot-tempered, spoiled young creatures who quarreled violently. I think they even threw things at times; but they were so charming that people did n't mind. Of course it could n't have lasted forever, but they both died when Jessica was a child. They had left each other several times, and once they had come to me with tears and vociferous complaints. I did what I could; of course it was n't possible to bring about a lasting peace. I don't think they wanted it really. To some natures trouble acts as a stimulant, and, just as drunkards react only to enormous quantities of alcohol, so such people live in an atmosphere that would kill any ordinary mortal.
"After they died somebody, I'd forgotten whom, took the child and brought
her up and out. Then she had married. I remembered vaguely that it was the sort of marriage about which people added some word of explanation, and I had forgotten, if I ever knew it, her husband's name and why they had granted him a distinctly qualified approval.
"All this came back to me in an instant. as I sat down beside her on the grass, and I said:
""Of course, of course; only your
hair was much lighter in those days, and where are your freckles? Well, what has life done to you, and what, my dear, have you done with life in all these years?'
"She hesitated and looked at me SO thoughtfully that I felt the way you do when you say 'How are you?' to an acquaintance and he begins to tell you how he is. I thought she was going to bore me with names and dates, but after a long pause she brought out:
. "I don't know. I've never thought about life at all before last week, and now everything seems different. I don't know what to do.'
"I looked at her sharply. I cannot endure the person who makes a morbid study of her inhibitions. But Jessica did n't apparently consider herself a 'case,' and she was honestly troubled.
"I asked her if she 'd rather be alone. She shook her head at that, and said plaintively:
"I don't seem to have happy things inside me to keep me company when I'm by myself. It never makes me lonely to watch a crowd of people having a good time, but it makes me awfully desolate to see one person going off by himself with a contented, turned-in look. You had that look when you came down here a minute ago.'
"She was very appealing as she sat there under the rosy, umber cloud of the smoke-bush, hugging her knees and looking up at me anxiously. One saw that her distress was not immediate; I thought it seemed sufficiently remote to make it safe to stay and talk without having presently to jump up and minister in some way to her comfort or happiness. And I
said encouragingly, as if she were still a child:
"Well, well, we 'll have a good talk; you must give me an account of yourself.' She shook her head again.
"You won't be interested if we talk.
I have n't got any theories about things. I bore people; they expect me either to agree or contradict. They don't much care which. I have n't got any ideas about how society should be put in order or what is wrong. I'm not even sure, as
they all seem to be, that the world is all wrong.' Then she repeated, 'I 've never thought about life at all before last week.'
"While I was wondering whether I should urge her to tell me what had changed the complexion of her universe, she blurted out, as if she feared her courage might fail:
"I wish I could tell you about it. If I told my husband, he 'd think me crazy; if I told any of my friends, they'd run around asking, “Oh, have you heard about Jessica's electrician?" They'd make a joke or a scandal out of it. May I tell you?' And then as I nodded, 'How funny that I should tell you here!'
"You mean it 's comic to be driven to kitchen-middens to talk?'
"Oh, not only that, but, you see, this thing happened in the kitchen-in my kitchen the other night, and now I'm telling you about it in a vegetable garden!' We smiled at each other then, and I assumed the attentive immobility of your true lis
"She told her tale without the slightest affectation. No interpolations or explanations or opinions of her own; I always prefer to supply that sort of thing in my telling. Anything that impressed her she repeated as she had heard it, word for word. It was n't, of course, the sort of story that would have satisfied a jury; not explicit or detailed enough, and not especially coherent. It was just real; an accurate report would have left one quite cold. That's the difference between reality and actuality. There's nothing, you 'll admit, so ludicrously stationary as a snap-shot of a person running or walking. That foot thrust forward in the act of taking a step seems turned to stone. Have n't you noticed it? In order to give a sense of real motion the literal image of a moving being won't do. It's the same way with a tale.
"I got the core of the whole thing from her telling then, but I built it out a bit later after a walk about the little park and a talk with an old telescope-man in Fourteenth Street, a strange old chap with a face as round as a moon and roughly
pitted, like the moon's surface in a photograph.
"I'll give you the tale, if you like, just as I have it now in my head.
"Jessica and her husband had been out walking in the park with their two chows. It was a June evening, about ten o'clock. They had left their door ajar, as they often did in warm weather, and Jessica had run in ahead to telephone. All the servants had gone to bed but one maid, who was dozing in the pantry. Jessica called to her that she would close the doors, and sent her off to bed. Now, the telephone on that floor was in a corner between the dining-room and the basement stairway, very dark and inconvenient, the 'phone on a high shelf, no chair, and close to it, so close that one was always knocking things off it, stood a clothes-tree bulgy with mackintoshes and sweaters and rough Every household, unless it 's dominated by a domestic-efficiency expert, has some such corner. One says, I really must get at this and do so and so,' but one does n't.
"The wire was busy, and as Jessica waited, she tried to push the clothes-tree farther into the corner. It would n't budge, though she pushed with all her might, and then a voice, very low and very anxious, came from behind it, 'Please don't be frightened!'
"Well, she was frightened, and she stepped back quickly, knocking the telephone off the shelf. It struck her hand as it fell, and she must have uttered a cry, for the voice went on in an urgent whis
You could see Broadway blazing off to the west, and she 'd stare at the lights'"
of the earth, sounded the faint, insistent, impersonal query of the telephone operator: 'Number, please! Number, please! Number, please!' Then her husband came in with the dogs,-the poor things. had been named Pell and Mell,- and one of them-Mell it was-came scampering through the hall. Jessica caught her by the collar and said sharply: 'Down, Mell! Quiet! It's all right!'
"Do you know chows? They 're vigorous, amiable, well-behaved animals, not too sensitive or imaginative, and not at all suspicious, and they 're so well balanced they 're not always making a bid for approbation like most dogs. This one sniffed about for a minute, whined interroga
tively, and then squatted close to the wall, waiting for developments. She knew something was wrong, but she took her mistress's word for it that she would not be held responsible.
"Well, there Jessica crouched in the corner holding the dog by the collar. Then came her husband's sleepy voice, 'Coming, Jess?' and she found herself replying carelessly:
"I'll be up later. Don't wait. I've not got my number; then I must go down and find something for Mell. Poor Mell! you shall have a bone in a minute!' and she waited with a shaking heart until she heard a door close on an upper floor. She realized that she should have fled