The Mad Hatter of Hart Street

LESLIE GORDON BARNARD September 15 1921

The Mad Hatter of Hart Street

LESLIE GORDON BARNARD September 15 1921

The Mad Hatter of Hart Street

LESLIE GORDON BARNARD

HE SOLD hats for a living—good hats, too —but the heart of the man was elsewhere. Yet even his business paid tribute to the thing upon which his thoughts centred; every shape and style made its own contribution. There was the “Byron”, and the “Browning,” and the “Whitman”, and the “Keats”— to mention a few off hand—and a score at least of others. Passing down the narrow crookedness of Hart Street any day except Sunday—when the faded green blinds were religiously drawn that the sight of the offerings might not tempt one to think of worldly things like hats—you could see every variety of headgear known to modern man, each style ticketed with a neat hand-made sign. Ten minutes spent before that window came near to being a liberal education. The man, you see, was one of those strange beings who find everywhere poetry in life and life in poetry. Men called him the Mad Hatter of Hart Street.

He knew hats, too, otherwise he would not have dealt in them—for he was a whole-souled little man. He could tell you the latest thing in headgear as accurately as he could the last word in literature. He was as familiar with the heads of men as with the feet of verse, and could advise just what was fitting and right in hats as readily as he could discourse on such things as iambic pentameter, anapestic or trochaic feet; or ramble through a maze of couplets and quatrains and sonnets, not to mention ballads and rondels and triolets and whatnot inherited from the sweet singers of old France. It worried him almost as much if a customer left the store insisting upon an unsuitable hat as if he had detected a favorite poet taking too great liberties with the technique of verse.

So it was that many who would never have turned their feet or their cars down the narrowness of Hart Street, delighted to deal year after year with the Mad Hatter. They always went away laughing a little at the old man’s eccentricities and enthusiasms, but the laughter was of a sort that left the heart lighter and more tender toward all

f I 'HE Mad Hatter’s home was a good three miles away.

To reach the suburb in which stood his modest cottage with its sun-parlor and tree-shaded garden, others might take the radial, but not so the Mad Hatter. He walked both ways.

“My dear Josephine,” he would reply to the remonstrations of Mrs. Blakey, his cherubic little wife, “I vould not miss those walks for all the tram-lines in the mtry. Do I not come home every night and go down v morning in the best of company—the thoughts of eat of earth, with which my own dare modestly

'ear Gideon,” the little woman would protest, ate too unassuming. I’m perfectly sure your e just as great and much finer than those of ƒ and Mr. Cranwordle and the others.”

At which the Mad Hatter would sigh a little, and smile a little too. What use to again remind this dear old whitehaired companion of his life that the company of which he spoke came not from the neighboring cottages, nor yet— like Mr. Peverley—from the great houses up on the hill— but from the very shelves of his own little library, walking out from ancient-smelling tome or padded leather edition of modernity, as real personalities as any to be met with in flesh and blood. In the making of pumpkin pies, or other varieties in season, or performing any one of ninetynine varieties of housewifely duties Mrs. Blakey was without a peer; as a devoted wife she sanctified the long years of matrimonial union; but as a poetic soul-mate, Gideon had come, after a long struggle, to admit there was a void. If she were able even to distinguish between the poorest and the richest of his own effusions it would have helped—but to her they were all alike.

“Wonderful, my dear, wonderful!” she would murmur after each reading, “I don’t know how you do it. I’m sure I couldn’t do it.”

Once only in all the years, in a fit of bitterness induced by a scandalous attack on Shakesperean lore by Baconian enthusiasts, he had forgotten himself and muttered in response to her statement: ‘Tm dead sure you’re right.”

Afterwards he endured moments of deep penitence. It broke his record, built by diligent effort, for never speaking sharply to Josephine. Others, looking upon their connubial bliss, spoke of them as “the two cherubs.” They looked it. The hoar frost of age had nearly had its way with Josephine’s hair, extending, in the case of Gideon, to the queer, old-fashioned mutton-chop whiskers that adorned his round little face. Both maintained, without recourse to art, the pink and white complexions of childhood.

THE second Thursday of each month was the exception to Gideon’s rule. On that day of days he not only suffered the tramway company to convey him homewards, but took an early car. He was living in a rarified atmosphere. He would hasten upstairs to spend a painful but happy hour preparing himself laboriously for the evening’s event. There are some folk who are simply not born to wear the conventional garb of evening.

“My dear,” said Gideon, on the occasion of the second Thursday in March, “tonight will be a gala evening at the Club. Another member has been honored by the acceptance of his work to enrich the world’s art.”

Mrs. Blakey, struggling to lend aid with a refractory collar button, mumbled an inquiry.

“Ford Branson,” responded Gideon, wincing under the ministrations. “His new group of statuary has been secured by the Arts and Crafts Guild for the lobby of their new building. It is a triumph for Branson. As

his fellow-members we will pay tribute at the dinner tonight to his successful genius. That makes nineteen out of our twenty members who have been honored with success and so with a club dinner in recognition—leaving

“Oh!” said Josephine Blakey, working diligently to prevent the white tails, of the bow tie from making their presence embarrassingly apparent above the collar at the back, and speaking without thought. “And who is the

Gideon looked pained.

“My dear Josephine! Who but myself?”

“Oh,” said Josephine.

“You see,” said Gideon apologetically, “it’s hardly likely after all these years that I could do anything like that—anything I mean that would make me eligible for a dinner. Sometimes I wonder why they ever let me be a member of the Club. They’re all young and full of possibilities; I’m getting on, Josephine, getting on.”

“I’m sure they ought to be proud to have you. Besides when your book is published—”

“Ah,” said Gideon shaking his white head in mournful jocularity, “when it is! I’m afraid ‘The Triumph of Poetry in Life’ is likely to live simply in the handwriting of Gideon Blakey. Well, well, I’m old-fashioned, and the world is moving on. I’d better stick to hats. If I’d been born clever like Branson now—”

Mrs. Blakey interpolated quietly.

“It isn’t everything to be clever, dear—not but what you are.” She said after a moment. “Ellise was here today.”

Gideon’s face brightened. Long before the girl Ellise had ever heard of the name of Branson, she had been almost a daughter to the pair.

“I’m glad for her sake, Josephine, that Branson is getting along so well.”

“She didn’t even mention that.”

“She didn’t?”

MRS. BLAKEY shook her head. “Not a word. She left a note for you. Wait, I’ll run and fetch it. There, I guess you’ll do anyhow, only maybe I should have pressed your trousers for you. Get on your scarf and coat, and I’ll fetch it.”

In the dim light of the lower hallway whither he followed the woman, Gideon tore open the envelope. It held a note in the well-known handwriting of Ellise, and an enclosure.

“Dear Daddy Gideon—he read— “a friend of mine, Mr. Hepwaite, of Hepwaite and Johnston the publishers, was telling me the other day about a manuscript you submitted to him recently. He knows I know you. He thinks rather well of it, and seeing how delighted I was at that—as you may imagine— told me I might have the pleasure of sending you the news. I enclose his own note to you. Hundreds of

congratulations, dear Daddy Gideon, and kisses to match from

Your delighted

Ellise.”

Gideon knocked his best silk hat to the floor unnoticed. He was trembling so he could scarcely read the enclosure.

Mr. Hepwaite had read with interest the manuscript submitted, entitled “The Triumph of Poetry in Life.” While it was not entirely in their line, he was willing to handle it on a small royalty basis, which they might talk over at their leisure if Mr. Blakey would drop in at the office.

Mr. Hepwaite appended his congratulations and his signature.

“Gideon—it’s not

bad news. . . You’re white, Gideon. . Let me help you to a chair.... You mustn’t go—perhaps you’d better stay home.”

The Mad Hatter found voice with effort.

“Not go?” he choked. “Not go—tonight? Why, my dear, it’s the first time I’ve really had any right to go. I’m one of ’em now, Josephine, one with the rest. They’ll give me a dinner, and you’ll be invited as a guest of honor. Josephine, it seems hardly true, I’ve dreamed of it all these years—and it’s taken a lifetime to write the book.” He smiled into her eyes. “Just—pinch me—please, Josephine, will you?—to make sure.”

But the smile on Josephine’s face was a tremulous thing, and somehow matched the moisture of the eyes, through which a proud light shone that all the moisture could not dim.

“I think I’d —rather kiss you, dear,” she said. Her voice was very choked.

Gideon went out, sniffing the cold night air with fresh zest. In the steely blue heavens the stars twinkled with a new brightness for him, as though winking friendly at a kindred spirit. Gideon strode bravely on his way towards the hall where the Club dinners were held. What mattered it if his trousers were a trifle baggy at the knees, his bow tie inclining towards one ear, his hat rakishly askew? His spirit was soaring. In his humble, modest way, he had joined the company of the great.

At The Tripleart Club—held in the cosily furnished and finely appointed private suite over Gregham’s well-known restaurant—the members were assembling.

CRANWORDLE, the artist, whose picture “Nymphs ,at Dawn” had captivated the critics at the Academy this year; Gooderham, the author, whose “Friends and Foes”, recently published, had made him a marked man; Peverley, who, ip an amateur way was a writer on economics and sociology, and whose financial ability was his real qualification for the office of president he held; Durwent, whose voice had been compared not unfavorably with McCormack’s; all these and others of the select company were already on hand. Branson had not yet appeared, except as a topic of conversation.

“Bet you five to one he don’t bring her.”

Cranwordle took up the challenge of Peverley at once. “Take you,” he said.

“Why shouldn’t he?” interposed Durwent, blowing smoke rings from the rare cigarette he allowed himself. “Branson’s so lost in his sculpture he hasn’t time to keep

tabs on his wife. Funny fellow Branson, straight as a string too, but cold as his own marbles.” “And nuts on art. He’d shoo half of us out of the club if he could, because he thinks we’re just dabblers. He’d give old Peverley a short shrift.” Peverley’s rather gross body shook in the silent laughter that never, even in its most hilarious moments, expressed itself in more than throaty chuck-

“Let him go to it,” said Peverley, secure in the power of the dollar sign. “He’s never forgiven me getting the Mad Hatter in.”

“Or the fact,” suggested Cranwordle, guilefully, “that you have to publish your own books.” Peverley grew red for a moment; he said: “Poor old Branson,

what a thorn in the flesh the Mad Hatter is. I can still see his face when I sprung my joke. You recall how it was: One vacancy

for membership and Branson with a name to submit, and a line of guff about the qualifications. Little sideswipes at me, you know. . We were having a game at the time. Branson’s luck was in—he’d been winning steadily. I said to him: ‘I’ll stake you my support for any candidate you name against your support for any candidate I name on the next turn of the cards.’ ‘Done’, says he, grinning. I won. ‘Who’s your man?’ says he. He looked deuced uncomfortable when he met my eye and my grin. ‘Gideon Blakey,’ I told him. ‘What!’ says he, ‘the Mad Hatter of Hart Street? That little freak!’ ‘The same’, I says. I had him. Branson’s a man of his word. He knew if we both put up Blakey’s name he was as good as in. I didn’t intend to force it—but I couldn’t spoil the joke. And in he came. And not a better soul in the club,” ended Peverley, glaring around over heavy rimmed glasses.

“Hullo, here he comes! Hullo, there, Blakey! Come over and join the gossip circle.”

GIDEON carefully tucked his best white and black scarf into the inner pocket of his overcoat and committed the whole and his hat to the tender mercies of the colored boy. He came forward, his cherubic face lit up in an expansive smile; his tie at a more grotesque angle than ever; his hands rubbing together in satisfaction.

“Well, well, how’s everybody? Mr. Peverley, Mr. Cranwordle—” He went around the circle with his recognition. “Well, what’s the latest word tonight?” As a matter of fact Gideon knew that the very latest of all late words was reposing inside his pocket. But modesty forbade that it should be exhibited.

“The latest word,” said Gooderham, who was inclined to be morose both in his manuscripts and his manners, “is scandal.”

“Dear me!” said the Mad Hatter.

“Divorce,” added Peverley, with his throaty chuckle, “lifting its hydra-headed self to threaten the sacred circles of the Tripleart Club.”

“Divorce? Dear me, dear me!” The word to Gideon was one to be breathed only in a whisper. He looked so genuinely distressed that Durwent hastened to explain: “Don’t let them string you, Blakey, it hasn’t come to divorce yet.”

“Hush,” warned Cranwordle. “Here comes Branson. And Mrs. Branson. I’ll trouble you for five dollars, Peverley.”

The little group broke up, going to welcome the guests of honor, to shower their congratulations. But the Mad Hatter just stood where he was, watching it all with smiling eyes. What a pair they made: Branson tall, clean-

cut, sufficiently aquiline to be distinguished, even if the high forehead had not ended in iron-gray hair that put the stamp of maturity upon his youth; Ellise, so erect of carriage that she seemed of more than medium height, fresh-complexioned, starry-eyed, hair the perfection of the dresser’s art, curling in dark wisps about ears and forehead in a way that set off the daintiness of the features. And just now, in the sparkle of enthusiasm over the welcome, so like the gay irresponsible little creature who had lived next door in bygone years, when the countryside offered its delights to youth and age alike, and both found common joy in it.

OLD Gideon was far from the present now—back in the past; sitting once more in some leafy arbour, upon an ancient stump, the girl lying upon the mossy bank beside, head uptilted in hands, while he read to her from the “Idylls of the King” or some favorite of both. He gave thanks that in these later years, while their ways had gone far apart, they were not too far for an occasional crossing of paths. To what maturity of womanhood she had grown—maturity of beauty; he wondered a little sometimes, if to maturity of character too. She had been such an impulsive little thing. He watched her now her arm linked in Branson’s—and nodded satisfaction.

Gooderham, standing by, spoke his thoughts in a low voice.

“Nothing to show for it on the surface.”

“To show what?” Gideon was recalled from his musings. f

“To show,” returned Gooderham morosely, tnat another couple will likely swell the alarming divorce statistics of the country before long. Well, they say he s as blind as a bat, so much immersed in his art his butterfly can flit where it likes.”

(Continued on page 43)

Continued from, page 19

Something cold and hard pressed tight upon Gideon’s heart.

He said, in a queer little voice: “You

don’t mean—her?”

“Sure. Ellise Branson. Who did you think? Say, I wish they would hurry dinner along.”

Dumbly, Gideon watched the author walk away. Then he sank down into the nearest chair. After a while quietness came upon all. Some time later the colored boy came to tell Gideon that dinner had been served in the other room, and they were waiting impatiently for him. He went in. He was glad he did not have to sit near nor face the Bransons. He ate mechanically. In his pocket the acceptance of “The Triumph of Poetry in Life.” lay, in forgotten seclusion.

It was not until the dinner was concluded and the triumph of her husband fitting-

ly signalized that Gideon had his moment with Ellise.

“My dear, I want to thank you for this.” Gideon drew the note with its enclosure from his pocket.

“Oh, Daddy, I’m so glad about it. And—listen—they’re going to give you a dinner next month. I spoke to Mr. Peverley about it, as President, and he promised me definitely. And won’t Mother Josephine be proud!”

Depression fell from Gideon. Ellise was so bubbling over that the forbodings of the earlier evening, the breath of scandal seemed remote to the point of vanishing, a ridiculous myth.

He said, though: “You haven’t been

to see me lately, Ellise. I want you to come soon.”

She nodded brightly: “I’ve been com-

ing ever so long, I’ll drop in at the store.” Branson came for her just then, bidding her get ready to leave, nodding stiffly to the Mad Hatter. The stiffness did not worry Gideon. His heart was aglow again. He could hardly wait to get home that Josephine might share his triumph. A dinner at the Tripleart Club in honor of Gideon Blakey, Esquire! Gideon rubbed his hands together in satisfaction. After all these' years.

He passed on to the door. A group of men stood talking. Branson was waiting for his wife. Peverley seemed to be arguing. Branson was protesting.

“Pooh!—what nonsense, Peverley. That’s carrying the joke too far. Bad enough we should have the little fellow in the Club, without making a farce of this Special Dinner idea. I shall resign if you do.”

The president said, quickly: “No,

you won’t, Branson. He’s a duly qualified member, and now that his book’s to be published he’s entitled to his dinner. More power to him 1 say.”

The Mad Hatter went on out into the starlight night. The glow in his heart was so all-pervasive a thing it never occurred to the little man to take in the significance of the words, much less to suppose they could be talking about him.

TN THE back of his tiny shop in Hart Street, the Mad Hatter had a bit of a retreat, cosily furnished. It held furniture upon which an antigüe dealer might well have cast envious eyes, and on the walls, rows of the immortals in sepia. To this retreat in rare moments of leisure one might come to seek refreshment and change from the difficult task of persuading customers to accept a mature judgment in hats. To it came, on a certain day not long after the dinner to Branson, Ellise herself.

She brought into it something of the vivacity and freshness of the out-of-doors, and captured the easy chair with a sigh of relief.

“What a rush life is, Daddy. I’ve been trying to get here for a long time.” “Once upon a time,” he chided her gently, “you used to come at least every week. Now it’s once in—months. I’ve missed you, child.”

A singular restraint came upon them both. He could not respond to the bubbling chatter that she indulged in, and so the stream of words died up. Gideon had heard things these last few days.

She said at last: “I’m afraid I must be

going.”

“Not—not until you tell me—everything, Ellise.”

“Everything?” Her voice was a little

“About the trouble between you and Ford.”

“There’s been no trouble.” Her voice held a touch of defiance.

“Is there—likely to be, Ellise?”

His gaze was on her steadily; there was nothing of censure in his face, nothing but the kindliest of lines.

“Not unless he choses to make it.” She shot the words out staccato-like in their suddenness. A slim, silk-clad ankle swung impatiently. “Ford makes me tired—positively. I’ve given him every chance. His precious art with a capital A, comes first every time—sometimes I wonder if I come even a poor second. If I were one of the cold figures in his studio I’d be of more interest to him. I’ve stood it all I’m going to, Daddy. He can live his life; I’ll live mine.”

Gideon felt and looked very helpless just then; he adjusted the orange tie that Josephine had given him last birthday, and which he suffered with pathetic patience lest she should be grieved in

spirit. He stammered at last: “But

people are talking—”

"Let ’em,” snapped Ellise, petulantly. “I don’t give a tinker’s dam whether they do or not.”

“Ellise!’’

“It’s true.”

“My dear girl—what language!”

His distress was very obvious. He took out a large white handkerchief and applied it to the moisture on his forehead. Ellise, watching, broke suddenly into laughter. She slipped over to him, and kissed him squarely on the mouth.

“There”, she said contritely, “I’m sorry, Daddy, I’ll take that back— even it it is true. I’m shocking more than you these days. I’m shocking myself sometimes.” She regarded him soberly. “Daddy,” she said at last, “do you remember the long talks we used to have together—in the old days? Perhaps because I was such a little imp you didn’t realize how much they meant to me— how much I felt the things you taught me. It wasn’t a matter of reason simply— it was the heart that said yes to them. It’s all different now. I go to church on Sundays just because it’s a habit—and feel a hypocrite all the time. Often the things I hear appeal to my reason—hut I don’t feel them. It’s the same way with books—you remember how we used to revel in all your favorites, and fee! as though the spirits of the great were hovering about to teach us the meaning. Somehow they don’t mean anything to me now—nothing except finespun theories and sentimental idealisms that are far removed from actual life. All that part of me is a void now—do you blame me for filling it as best I can?”

rWLD Gideon said nothing. He went over to the desk and drew out some papers, carefully tied together with red ribbon, and bearing the close, neat calligraphy that was distinctively his. It was % first copy of “The Triumph of Poetry in Life.” He thumbed it through, lovingly. At last he read—read in a very low, rich voice, a single paragraph.

“The greatest thoughts of understanding souls clothed in most suitable garb—this is true poetry; it speaks only to the best in man— deep calling unto deep. Your true poet is a seer, to whose mind vision lends wings, enabling him to rise above the choking mists of crass materialism. If we cannot follow even distantly the fault lies not with the poet’s flight, but with ourselves for being content to find our pleasures and cramp our souls in the miasmatic mists of grosser things.”

“You see,” said old Gideon gently, “it’s just like that. Sometimes we get our noses so close down to—to the mire— we can’t see the heavens above—Hullo.. yes, Jimmie?”

The lanky, red-haired assistant thrust the upper part of his body within the doorway.

“A guy out there to see you,” he said breathlessly.

“A guy!” said Gideon severely. “Have I not told you, Jimmie—?”

Jimmie’s lacklustre eyes betrayed nothing of remorse; he said decisively: “He

seems in a terrible hurry about something. He’s a tall guy with gray hair and he

Ellise sprang to her feet; her face had gone suddenly white. She gripped the old man’s arm.

“Daddy, it’s Ford. He—he mustn’t see me. I—I can’t face him, Daddy.”

The freckled face of Jimmie seemed to have gone all to mouth—a great cavernous affair, widely agape. Gideon obscured the vision by a firm closing of the door, and the low instructions: “Tell

him I’ll be there directly..” He turned to the girl.

“Now speak quickly, Ellise. Why can’t you face him?”

She said, fearfully: “He must have seen us, and followed. Why would he come here?”

“Us?”

“Mr. Hepwaite and me. We were lunching together.”

“Hepwaite—and you—Ellise, it hasn’t come to—that? Look me in the eyes, Ellise—so.”

“Daddy, don’t look at me that way.

I—I can’t stand it. I-—I was terribly foolish, that’s all. I met him at dances and he was so—kind and sympathetic—

and I let him take me out—and wrote him letters—”

“Letters?”

"Just silly letters. I told him about Ford and all that—and things. Oh, I can see now when it’s too late. You see he won’t give them back. He’s holding them over me so as I’ll do just what he wants. I had lunch with him to-day to try and get them. He just laughs. Ford must have seen us—IOh I can’t face him, Daddy—he’s so cold and austere and—”

A quick knock on the door sent the pallor to her face again.

"The guy says he must see you right away, Mr. Blakey. He’s in a hurry. Oh! here he is—”

A COLD, firm voice said: “You must

excuse my intrusion, but I have an appointment in my studio in half an hour. Why—hullo, Ellise! I thought you were at a bridge.”

“No, I’m here.” Her voice was very weak. Relief sometimes leaves one so. Gideon bridged an awkward moment. “Your wife may have told you that we used to make hay and poetry in the country together in bygone days. We like to revive old memories.” He added dryly. “The wife of such a busy man must find something to fill the moments that her husband cannot spare her.”

Ford Branson looked sharply at the Mad Hatter. The little man was smiling benevolently, disarmingly.

“I dropped in to see you about this Club affair, Mr. Blakey.” Branson’s brow was contracted. “You may have heard, doubtless have, of this proposed dinner. I don’t wish to be unkind but the thing is obviously preposterous. You —ah—understand, of course, the dinners are in honor of those who have achieved a real success in some sphere of art or literature or music.”

Gideon nodded silently.

“The papers have carried this week full accounts of the dinner given in my honor. The basis of the honor was the placing of what I may consider my masterpiece, the triumph of long years of effort.

I hope you will not think me too blunt if I say that I do not consider the publication of some commonplace little monograph on poetry, by a distinct amateur, to merit the same appreciation. I feel it very keenly as an insult to my own art.” Gideon’s blue eyes were on him steadily, unblinkingly. Ellise ventured to put her protest into words, but the old man silenced her with a gesture.

“I am sorry if you feel that way about it, Mr. Branson,” he said.

Branson went on: “I realize I am ask-

ing a great deal from you to withdraw, and refuse to accept this dinner. I am prepared to pay for the withdrawal. If you will mention the remuneration you feel would compensate—”

A sudden blaze lit the mild blue eyes of the Mad Hatter. He said nothing.

“Then if you cannot fix upon a price, here is my own idea of it—a cheque for $300, to your order.”

Gideon took the cheque and looked at it. Then, very deliberately, he tore it into little bits.

“Some day, Mr. Branson,” he said quietly, “when you have the advantage of as many years as I you may learn something of what Art really is—and that Art becomes debased when it becomes an idol and a thing apart from the throbbing life of the people. I refuse, Mr. Branson, to bow before your marble god.”

A tense silence held the little room for a moment. Then Branson laughed coldly.

“Let the farce go on then,” he said, “For that is all it is. I shall not attend. Besides, perhaps you don’t know that my wife, in using her influence to curry favor in your behalf with this man Hepwaite, has caused the gossips’ tongues to wag. I’ve poured ridicule on them because I knew there was nothing in the talk.” A little smile came to touch the wintry coldness of his face. “I know Ellise enough to trust her.”

The girl stood silently, biting her lip and wisping her suede gloves with nervous fingers.

“Come, my dear,” said Branson, I’ll take you home. You mustn’t look so distressed about this. You’re quite

Ellise went over to Gideon, taking his

“Good-bye, Daddy.” Her voice was a thing of numbed tonelessness.

“Courage!” counselled Gideon, in a low tone, and responded to her clasp with a quick pressure of his own chubby pinkand-white hand, with which the portents of age had scarce begun to have their way.

LJEPWAITE, senior partner and foun-*• *der of the publishing house of Hepwaite & Johnston, had the reprehensible habit of keeping seekers of admission to his office waiting on general principles and a hard bench. Hepwaite was a florid man, youngish, well-groomed, fairhaired, self-opinionated, possessing for many women an uncanny fascination and for most men little self-revealing mannerisms that created abhorrence. His business acumen ran rather to the selling end, and a sort of intuitive understanding of public demands; he depended for his knowledge of books—the insides of them, that is—upon the trenchant summaries of his staff of readers. He could discuss modern literature with great éclat until someone undertook to cross-question, when he always contrived to leave the witness stand.

When the card of Gideon Blakey was sent in to him, he put it aside out of sheer habit, and continued to be immersed in pleasant speculation of a social nature. The thing was unfortunate— Gideon, the most patient of little men, began to find his mild blue eyes undergoing a change in favor of the blaze that sometimes drove the mildness from them. He could see through the glass partition, and the longer he looked—and waited— the madder did he become. _ When finally a boy came to summon him he was a very Mad Hatter indeed. Josephine would scarcely have recognized her husband.

For all that he bowed courteously.

Said Mr. Hepwaite, suavely: “Ah— Mr. Blakey?—oh, yes, about that little book of yours. Glad to meet you, Mr. Blakey.”

Gideon went to the point at once.

“It’s not about the book I came, Mr. Hepwaite. It’s about some—letters you have.”

Mr. Hepwaite’s two long, fair eyebrows raised themselves higher.

“Letters?”

“From a girl, Mr. Hepwaite—a young woman to whom you, as a gentleman, owe the return of this unfortunate correspondence.”

Mr. Hepwaite said easily, with no shade of concern: “She—sent you to me about

“No. Mr. Hepwaite, I came—”

“Indeed. And what business pray—”

GIDEON leaned forward: “Just this.

Mr. Hepwaite. Years ago when— when Ellise was a child, Josephine—that’s my wife, you know—and I had a little girl of our own. They were very much alike, Mr. Hepwaite, so alike folks used to take them for twins. Our little one died; do you wonder that we came in time to look upon the little neighbor of ours almost as our own? She even called —calls me still—Daddy.”

Gideon blew his nose vigorously. Hepwaite whistled tunelessly, staring out the ■window.

“You’ll understand, then, her confidences to me, and my coming—”

Hepwaite turned sharply. “That kind of stuff, Mr. Blakey, doesn’t go with me. It’s what we call sickly sentimentality. I’m only having a bit of fun out of the girl—she didn’t hesitate to take my money or let me spend it on her—it’s only fair she should pay for it. I must have value. It’s harmless enough—Branson is a blind fool.”

“As a gentleman, Mr. Hepwaite, I ask you to do the honorable thing. Mrs. Branson is worrying herself sick about this. Let me take the letters to her.”

A little twist curled the corner of Hepwaite’s mouth.

“You seem to forget, Blakey, that you’re mixed up in this, too. Part of the price I paid for her friendship, to put it crudely, was to take up this manuscript of yours. How about that, eh?”

A sudden trembling shook the form of the little hatter. The blaze in his eyes was a significant thing. He said, forcing the words out: “I’ll trouble you for

that manuscript back. Mr. Hepwaite.” “You—you mean that?”

“I do.”

“I’ll just call your bluff on that.” Hepwaite summoned a boy. “Tell Mr.

Gresham to let me have that Blakey manuscript.”

BfcVery tenderly, when it came, Gideon took the precious manuscript, folding it so that it would tuck inside his pocket.

“It was just a favor to her,” said the publisher coldly, “and would not have got by on its merits. Folk don’t want that kind of bunk nowadays. Good after-

Gideon said dazedly: “About those

letters?”

“Nothing doing.”

“You’re —a—despicable—cad ” The words were out almost before Gideon recognized them as his own. The taunting look in the eyes of the man opposite struck fire from his. He moved forward threateningly. “If I were a younger man I’d—By Jove, I think I will—”

The thing was done so quickly, that no one was more surprised than Gideon himself. Hepwaite staggered back with a livid mark just under his right eye. The rest was a confused nightmare—and then —the awakening.

FOR the first time in a long and varied life Gideon Blakey found himself in the toils of the law, with the charge against him of common “assault and battery.”

It took the influence of several friends, and the fact that, undue publicity would attach to Hepwaite as well if he pressed the charge, to straighten the matter out so that the affair would not reach courthouse publicity. Josephine, after the first terrible shock had been survived, proved a staunch mate to sail the stormy seas. Gideon, the sense of failure upon him, and the disgrace of the affair biting into his sensitive being, shunned his fellowmen. Josephine had no word of reproach; nothing but the tastiest of meals, and the most understanding of companionship. Her good cheer never failed, unless it was the time Ellise dropped over the day after the affair and forced the full story from her lips and saw the rejected manuscript lying on the table in Gideon’s study and went over and kissed it reverently.

FOR the first time in three years the Mad Hatter found no pleasure in the second Thursday of the month. Indeed he announced, quite positively, to Josephine that he would not, under any circumstances, go.

“Indeed you will,” retorted Josephine with a decision singular for her. “What will they all think if you don’t turn up? Call you a coward perhaps—who knows? Besides I have to go out tonight myself and I’ll not have you sitting moping about the house eating your heart out.”

Gideon went. It seemed that he had exhausted so much of his defiant spirit that none was left to sustain him. In the past two weeks he had been known to let several customers go from the Hart Street store with quite ridiculously inappropriate head-gear.

He walked three times round the block rather than be early. He wanted to just slip into his place at the last moment. When he arrived he was glad to find from the colored boy in the check room that the dinner was just starting. He slipped unobtrusively in. The room echoed to a shout when he entered, and two stout pairs of arms gathered him and carried him bodily to a chair. He found himself seated on the right of the chairman’s seat, and Branson was in the chair. Beyond Branson was Josephine, supremely happy if only her best clothes and manners could have permitted it; beyond her ; again Ellise, fresh and smiling—and with j now no shadow in her eyes.

Branson called for order. \

“It is customary,” he said, “to post! pone the speechmaking to the end. Peri haps this time we may reverse the custom, | otherwise we may spoil some appetites, i You may be surprised to see me in the I chair on this occasion. We come to do honor to one of our most unassuming : members tonight. Most of you have ! heard snatches at least of the story of our ; friend Blakey’s experiences in the past two weeks. It is not my intention to rehash them except to say that, without | a word to a soul, he deliberately crushed j out the ambition of a lifetime -threw j overboard the crowning event of years | of study and work—by withdrawing his | book, “The Triumph of Poetry in Life” ; from its chance of publication. Why did he do it? Some of you may have

{ guessed; it is a private and personal reason—only two or three can really estimate and appreciate it—it is a thing beyond my words. To him, perhaps, the sacrifice may have seemed useless—except as a sacrifice to honor can never be quite that—but to the two most concerned it has brought a mutual confession and understanding that, 1 think, could never have come if ioving sacrifice had not shown and paved the way. I want you to rise and drink with me to-night a toast to our guest, Gideon Blakey.”

THEY drank solemnly, upturning the glasses at the end. Gideon sat as one in a maze. They sang lustily: “For

he’s a jolly good fellow”, until the rafters rang, and throats grew choked and useless not merely because they were forced to such a pitch.

When they sat down. Gideon rose slowly. His cherubic face had gone as white as his old-fashioned side-whiskers. He could hardly find voice.

He said at last: “I wish I could—

thank you—gentlemen. I am afraid I don’t deserve it. Someday, perhaps— before the end of the journey—I may write something that’s worthy of getting into print. It’s a little hard to start afresh, but tonight you’re making me feel young again.” He stopped; no further words would come.

Branson rose once more. Strange how that cold, hard voice had tuned itself to a new and vibrant pitch.

“Friend Blakey,” he said, “a little over two weeks ago I paid you what I realize now was a terrible insult, and without even scant justification. Now to add to this I have taken a very great liberty. I have ventured, through the good offices of Mrs. Blakey and my wife, to secure your manuscript from your

house. I have shown it to competent critics. They are as one in their commendation of it. More than that, it is now almost ready to go to press—we have been working overtime, you see. Just that we might have a souvenir of this event tonight, proofs have been pulled and made up into this little morocco-covered volume, in which you will also find the names of all your fellowmembers inscribed. Allow me, sir, on behalf of this club, to present you with the first copy from the press of your published work.”

They cheered again while Gideon took the book—a thing beautifully bound In brown and gold—and opened it.

“I have ventured,” Branson went on, “to have printed on a fly-leaf a verse from one of your favorite poets, Mr. Blakey. If no one else understands the significance of it, perhaps you and I will and one other.” For the fraction of a second his glance went to Ellise. “You will recognize Browning’s lines f cm ‘Pippa Passes’.”

Through a tender mist Gideon read theinscription.

“To our friend the Mad Hatter (Daddy Gideon);

“Shall to produce form out of unshaped stuff

Be Art—and, further, to evoke a soul-

From form be nothing?’

Gratefully

F.B. and E.B.”

If you should chance to run across a copy of “The Triumph of Poetry in Life” by Gideon Blakey, having read this, you will perhaps understand what may seem at first a rather strange inscription. In. two editions no copy has been issued without it in clear-faced type upon the flyleaf.