NAL os iN :
â€˜GEO-H- CLEMENTS | ,
ene ea eer nn ton. Ny enmetees
â€œTHEY WAS FRIZ TO THE OARS, SO I HAD TO KEEP A-ROWIN?.â€â€ See page 88.
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS
ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS
WITH FORTY-THREE ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATIONS
ROSS TURNER anD GEORGE H. CLEMENTS
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
Che Riverside Press, Cambridge
By ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS anp
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
All rights reserved.
The Riverside Press, Cambridge :
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
â€œTHEY WAS FRIZ TO THE Oars, sO I HAD TO KEEP
A-ROWINâ€™â€? a tea neal - . . . Frontispiece
HEAvD-PIECE 3 : S 5 : Ã© . 5 een:
â€œOnrâ€™s EspectaL REEF IS POPULATEDâ€ i 6 : 3
Tart-Prece : Rae : : ee Hee agtee 6
â€œâ€œA Conspicuous FiguRE oN THE Cuirrâ€™s EDGE 2 Ã© 7
Inrrmat z i : 3 : : â€˜ cl tee cere
Henry SALT . 5 : : â€˜ 3 5 â€˜ : 10
â€œWirn a Micuty SHovEâ€ . : : : : 5 ee,
Inrriar .. : : 2 : g 3 B 6 - 13
FAaIRHARBOR COTTAGES . is : A s : . . 14
â€œ AGAINST THE Big Bowxpersâ€ . Fi ; : ; 15
â€œ ELLEN JANE AND THE WEEKLY WASHâ€ 2 , 17
InIrraL . z : 5 i ; : : a ; 4 20
SHELLS : : : is 3 3 z : : : . 22
Tue IRoninc-TaBlE ; tices : ; : | 24
Iva Loe Giron WARN 5 gg SY
â€˜â€œâ€œNow AND THEN THE Boy JOGGED THE CRADLE WITH HIS
Foorâ€ . : : : : = : ; 29
Tae Hrapitanp : 5 : . one : : 6 eal
Mrs. Satt AND RaFE . : : : ; 3 ; . 88
Inrrian 5 Ã©s F â€˜ a : 3 : 2 ei
v1 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
â€œFor THE SEA BROKE OVER â€™EMâ€
â€œSue MET THE FISHERMAN AND HIS CHILDRENâ€ .
â€œGive THE Winp TIMEâ€
â€˜Â¢PULL FOR THE SHORE, SAILOR â€
â€œTur Orner Bapy â€
A STREET IN FAIRHARBOR
â€œ Art Henryâ€™s MENDING WAS TEARFULLY AND EXQUISITELY
Â«A Lirrts FIGURE HIT HER, HURRYING BY UPON A LITTLE
INITIAL . : : : : . . ;
Tue Fuac ar Harr-Mastr
On THE GRAND Banks
TatL-PIEck Ã© ; .
Friis : 5 6 Q 5 . : 3 5 .
PAE LT RAE I SP NETO we
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
â€œIâ€™m tired seeinâ€™ a passel of
folks squealinâ€™ at a snail shell.â€
It happened that much the same view of the
case was occupying Miss Helen Ritter at the same
moment; the chief difference being that the sum-
mer boarderâ€™s view was not dependent upon ex-
pression, while that of the â€œnativeâ€ (as usual)
It was what is called a burning fog that day.
Miss Ritter was sitting on the cliff under a Japa-
nese umbrella. Twenty people were sitting under
Japanese umbrellas. Hers, she thanked Heaven,
was of ivory-color, plain and pale. No Turkey red
2 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
flaunted fiercely nor purple mandarin sprawled hys-
terically against indigo skies above her individual
head. There is a comfort in distinction, even if
it go no farther than a paper sunshade. Miss
Ritter enjoyed the added idiosyncrasy of sitting
under hers alone. She was often alone.
In July the seaside is agreeable; in September,
irresistible ; in October, intoxicating. In August,
one does not understand it: one comes up sud-
denly against its â€œother side,â€™ as against pecul-
jarities in the character of a friend known for
years, and unexpectedly putting the affection to a
In August the sun goes out, and the thick
weather comes in. The landlady is tired, and the
waitress slams the plate; the fog-bell tolls, and
the beach is sloppy; the fog-whistles screech, and
one may not go a-sailing ; the puddings and sauces
have grown familiar, and one has read too many
novels to stand another, and yet not enough to
force one back, for lifeâ€™s sake, on a â€œcourse of
solid reading.â€ In August oneâ€™s next neighbor is
sure it was a mistake not to spend the season at
the mountains. In August the babies on the same
corridor are sick. In August one has discovered
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 3
where the milk is kept, and frightful secrets of
the drainage are gossiped in ghastly whispers by
the guests, who complain of the dinners when the
young married lady who rowed by moonlight with
another fellow has left the place and a temporary
deficiency of scandal. In August oneâ€™s own par-
ticular beach is swarming and useless, oneâ€™s espe-
cial reef is populated and hideous, nay, oneâ€™s very
erevice in the rock is discovered and mortgaged
to the current flirtations, and all nature, which had
seemed to be oneâ€™s homestead, becomes oneâ€™s exile.
In August there are hops, and one wants to go
away. In August there are flies, and the new
4 |. THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
It is the new boarder who is overaudible about
the snail shells. Down there in the gorge, where
the purple trap glitters at half-tide in great vol-
canic veins that seem to pulsate yet through the
cliff with the fire imprisoned there â€” who knows
when ?â€” and where the beaded brown kelp deep-
ens to bronze, and then runs to tarnished gold mn
the wet, rich, pulpy recession of the ebb, the new
boarder aboundeth. So the snail â€” brown, green,
orange, lemon, gray, and white â€”the tiny shells,
mere flecks of color, moved sluggishly by their
cell of hidden consciousness and will, like certain
larger lives that beneath a mask of stagnation pal-
pitate. The snails, as I say, interest the new
boarder. He saunters down in groups, in clans,
in hordes, defiling through the trap gorge â€” dis-
proportionately feminine, sparsely but imstructively
masculine, and eternally infantile. He views the
attractions of the spot first enthusiastically, then
calmly, now indifferently, and drifts away at the
third stage of feeling, possibly an object of curios-
ity or envy, in his turn, to the snail, who has to
stay. The first day he screams (1 must be par-
doned if I use the generic masculine pronoun in
this connection) at the snails; the second day he
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. o
observes them without screaming; the third he
doesnâ€™t observe them at all. His number is in-
finite, and his place is never vacant. His lady
types wear wild roses in their belts, invariably
succeeded by daisies, and rigorously followed by
golden-rod. It is an endless procession of the
Alike, or, we may say, of the great North Amer-
Decidedly on the fortunate side of the average
is the element that is creeping into Fairharbor â€”
one should say stepping in, for that end -of averages
never creeps, to be sureâ€”the element not vocif-
erous over snails, and scantily given to floral dec-
oration ; an element represented, for instance, by
Miss Ritter, who, seeking Fairharbor for many a
summer because, among other reasons, it gave her
that closest kind of seclusion, isolation in a crowd
with which one has not historic social relations,
has sadly discovered of late that her dear, rough,
plain rocks and waves and boarding-houses are be-
coming semi-fashionable, with a threat even of clas-
sically abandoning the compound. Already Fair-
harbor has her hotel and her daily steamer, her
band and her â€œ distinguished visitors,â€ her mythical
company, organized to sweep up the huge solitudes
6 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
at five dollars a foot, roadway forty feet wide
thrown in, and wells if you can find any water in
them. Already she has her landaus and her toi-
lets, her French maids and her ladies who protect
the complexion. Already the faithful old stagers,
haughtily unconscious, are stared at for their thick
boots and beach dresses and gorgeous coats of tan,
and their way of sitting in the sand like crabs
after their vigorous baths, in which they do not
jump up and down, but swim sturdily, battling with
the sharp North shore waters, and not expected to
See page 9,
â€œA CONSPICUOUS FIGURE ON THE CLIFFâ€™S EDGE.â€™
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 9
ISS RITTER, a conspicuous
figure on the cliffs edge
above the lava gorge, might
be called an unconscious link
between Fairharbor past and
Fairharbor to be, ee
perhaps ae â€˜better points in both types of â€œ sum-
mer people,â€ luxuriously dissatisfied with them,
with herself, with the world, even just now with
Fairharbor. Jn her white flannel dress and white
hat, with the pale flame-colored tie at her throat,
and the reflection from the pale sunshade upon her,
she had a select, almost severe look, which was not
lessened by any depreciation of effect in motion
when she rose and walked. She had a stately walk,
and reminded one of a calla, as she turned her head
slowly and stood full to view, tall and serious.
There was no sunset that night; â€˜it was a dog-
day, damp and dead; the fog had thickened, and
was crawling in like fate; the bell tolled from the
light-house two miles away, and the east wind bore
the sound steadily in.
Already the boarder children, who agatsal on
gomg in the skiff, could not be seen an eighth
10 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
of a mile out at the islandâ€™s â€˜edge beyond the lava
gorge; and the fisherman, whose children knew
better, pushed them with a kiss from his knees as
he drew in his dory for the rescue, to comfort a
distracted parent (in a red parasol) and another
one (rumored to be a clergyman, but just now in
a bathing suit), whose inharmonious opinions but
harmonious anxiety were the excitement of the hour
upon the beach. The bathing suit had, unhappily
for him, allowed the children to go. The red par-
asol had always said they would be drowned.
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 11
â€œDonâ€™t ye fret,â€ said the fisherman, with a slow
grin. â€œThey stole my old punt, anâ€™ she leaks so
t â€œIl _keep â€™em busy bailinâ€™, and they canâ€™t get fur.
I'll fetch â€™em this time, but next time keep â€™em
to hum. Why, there ainâ€™t a dog in Fairharbor.â€™d
set out rowinâ€™ thick as this, â€™thout he hed to go
for a doctor or see to his trawls; heâ€™d know bet-
ter. But you land-lubbers never do know noth-
inâ€™; you donâ€™t know enough to know when fo be
skeered. â€” Hâ€™ are ye, Miss Ritter?â€ as she passed
him, suddenly gliding down the cliff, and up the
wet, uncordial beach.
â€œThat â€™s like you, Henry. ie tongue is bound
to take the edge off your good deeds somehow, like
plated silver, whereas you know, half the time, itâ€™s
the solid thing underneath. Now you â€˜ll scour the
ocean after those children, and do just as well as
if you had nâ€™t scolded about it.â€
â€œ Better â€” a sight better!â€ chuckled Henry.
He ran splashing through the water over his huge
red leather boots, pushing the dory off with a
mighty shove. He moved the oars with a fisher-
manâ€™s superb leisure; his massive figure looked as
if it were etched for a moment on the mist, whose
color and the color. of his old oil-clothes blurred
12 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
together till there seemed to be only the outline
of a man. As boat and boatman grew dimmer to
the view, the ghostly rower turned and shot back
one parting word at the red parasol : â€”
â€œLook a-here! Jest you stop yowlinâ€™, wonâ€™t ye?
Youâ€™ll skeer them young â€™uns overboard. Ef you
want me to fetch em, lemme do it in peace.â€
With this, the fog, with whose terrible and mys-
terious swiftness no man may intermeddle, shut
â€œLike the curtain of death,â€™ Miss Ritter thought,
looking over her shoulder, when man and boat and
_ voice had vanished utterly. She was not given to
too much consideration of the lot of her fellow-
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 13
men, perhaps; her sympathies were well regulated,
but not acute. Although from Boston, she was not
a philanthropist by avocation; she took people as
they came, or wentâ€” good-naturedly enough, but
not uncomfortably ; she had a touch of the irre-
sponsibility belonging to professional artists; she
herself did not even paint tea-cups.
N_ Fairharbor, for instance, it
would have been easy to make
oneâ€™s self miserable. She meant
to treat her neighbors as a lady
should ; but why cultivate neu-
ralgia of the emotions over the
fate of the fleets? It was therefore hardly char-
acteristic, and struck her for the moment, in an
artistic sense, curiously, as part of the â€œ effectâ€ of
the whole wet, dull afternoon, that she should feel
almost moved by the every-day incident of Henry -
and the dory and the fog. He seemed to her
suddenly like a symbol of the piteous Fairharbor
life; as one puts an eagle, an arrow, a shield, or
whatever, upon the seal of a commonwealth or
upon a coin, so Fairharbor might take Henry; so
she gave up her vigorous young life that â€œ went
14 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
down to the sea in ships;â€ and so, ghosts before
their time, her doomed men trod her shores.
â€œT believe I must stop and see Ellen Salt about
some laces,â€ said Miss Ritter, uncertainly, to the
lady boarder, â€”with daisies and a mandarin par-
asol, now pulpy with the fog, and offering acute
temptation to stick oneâ€™s fingers between the ribs,
â€” the lady who joined her on the beach. It did
not matter about the laces, but it mattered to have
to talk to that stack of daisies just then. The la-
dyâ€™s leather belt was tight, and the flowers seemed
to gasp as if they had got into corsets.
This was the lady who always complained of the
breakfasts, and knew how often every gentleman
in the hotel came to see his wife. She was an
idle, pretty, silly thing ; abnormally, one might say
inhumanly, luxurious. She wore thirty thousand
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 15
dollarsâ€™ worth of diamonds, because it~ was under-
stood she was afraid to leave them in the hotel
rooms. She gave three dollars to the subscription
for the Fairharbor widows of two hundred men
drowned last year: she had acquired a theory that
one must not make paupers.
As Helen Ritter struck off alone through the
fog, down the lane, behind the wild-rose thicket,
under the willow-trees, and against the big bowl-
ders, to Mrs. Saltâ€™s little, old, unpainted cottage
â€”picturesquely gray, and proportionally damp
â€”she was thinking neither of the daisy and dia-
mond boarder nor of two hundred drowned fish-
16 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
ermen, nor even of Hllen Jane and the weekly
So far as her thoughts had organization rather
than pulp, and might have been nautically termed
more conscious than jelly-fish, she was thinking â€”
still in that same amusing, outside, artistic sense â€”
of herself; looking on, as she looked on at the
summer people and the fishermen, with an unim-
passioned, critical eye.
Too well we all know those mad or imspired
moments (generally ours on dull afternoons) when
we seem to catch up the whole of life at a handful,
and fling it from us utterly in a kind of scorn that
may be wholly noble or trivial, according to the
impulse of the motion or the direction of the aim.
She, Helen Ritter, of Beacon Street, Boston,
twenty-eight years old, an orphan, a Brahman (rich,
if one stopped to think of that), and a beauty,
_member of Trinity Church and the Brain Club,
subscriber to the Provident Association, and stock-
holder in the Athenzum, fond of her maid, her
relatives, her bric-a-brac, and her way, walking to
her washer-womanâ€™s through the fog, and suffering
one of these supreme moments, could have flung
her whole personality into Nirvana or the ocean by
Ly â€œPa Koy t
My LPy Ure
EEEUVAY toe? ee
nn eee â€”
y ud av ' Sra
â€œ sf pal i
â€œBLLEN JANE AND THE WEEKLY WASH.â€ See page 16,
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 19
one sweep of her white-clad arm that day, and felt
well rid of it. To be sure, nothing had happened:
That, perhaps, was the trouble ?
â€œT am a type,â€ said the young woman aloud.
â€œJT am nothing but a type; I have no â€˜use nor
name nor fameâ€™ under the skies, beyond standing
for the representative, like people that make the
groups in touristsâ€™ photographs. I may thank
Heaven if I donâ€™t do it imartistically, I suppose ;
and meanwhile pay my laundress. I wonder why
I keep on coming to Fairharbor ?â€
Why, indeed? Helen Ritter to Helen Ritter, in
the scorn of her heart and the depth of it, would
give no answer to that question, but hit it with her
fine, cool look as she would any other social in-
truder, and pass it by upon the other side. She
was young for life to have come to what she called
â€œYet the light of a whole life dies,
When love is done,â€
sang the musical boarder in the hotel parlor beyond
the rose thicket. The east wind bore the sound
over the bowlders, through the willow boughs, driv-
ing with the fog, as if both-had been ghosts from
the hidden sea.
20 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
HY cling to the old spot where the
light of life had once been kin-
dled and quenched? Why dog,
like a spirit unreleased, the haunts
of that blessed and accursed vital-
ity? No, no. She could not curse
it: no. Whom or what had she to curse? Fate,
perhaps, or accident, or a manâ€™s terrible dullness of
intellect before the nature of the woman he loves,
or her own doom, or her own â€œwayâ€ â€”that un-
lucky way which as often wrought her mischief
from being misunderstood as from being to blame,
but which was none the less likely to be to blame
Â«â€˜The mind has a thousand eyes,â€™â€™
sang the summer boarder with laboriously acceler-
ated emphasis, for the gentlemen had come in from
the beach, and were listening,
â€œThe mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one,
Yet the light of a whole life dies,
When love is done.â€
â€œ Well, there !â€ said Ellen Jane Salt, â€œdo come
in out of this thick weather. Fogâ€™s good for your
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. a1
flannel dress; bleach it out; but my! ainâ€™t you
sloppy? You got drabbled on the beach. Just
you step up agen my tubs and let me wash out
that hem oâ€™ yourâ€™n jest as you be. Ill stand you
up to the stove after, and dry you up a mite, too,
and iron you off, and you'll be slick as ever. Pity!
I did you up only last Saturday, you know â€”
There! Iâ€™m drove to death, but I canâ€™t stand
seeinâ€™ good washinâ€™ spoiled like that â€” and you,
too, punctual as you are with the price â€”so many
dozen, and so late in the season besides. No; the |
laces was nâ€™t extry, thank you. Iâ€™d be ashamed if
I couldnâ€™t do a bit of-valingcens for you. But
there! JI was up till two oâ€™clock this morninâ€™ iron-
inâ€™ Mrs. Hannibal P. Harrowstoneâ€™s fluted nighâ€™-
gownds (thread lace, every scrap). She had six.
Iâ€™m drove out of my wits, and RafÃ© had to have
one of his spells at three, poor little fellow! just
as Iâ€™d got a snooze in my close atop of the bed-
spread, for it was so hot with the heavy ironinâ€™ fire,
and us so near the cook-stove. There!â€
Ellen Jane Salt was a little woman, thin and
keen of outline; the kind. of woman sure to marry
a large man, and rule him roundly. She had very
bright blue eyes, sunken with want of sleep; and
22 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
the chiseling of care about her temples and her
mouth told that her first youth had passed in hand-
to-hand struggles with life, from which middle age
gave no prospect of releasing her. The line be-
tween her lips indicated that nature had given her
a sweet temper, which experience might push hard
now and then under stress of circumstances. She
had what it would be sufficient to call a busy voice,
pitched like the American feminine voice of her
class, but without a shrewish note; on the whole,
making allowance for the national key, what might
be called a motherly or wifely voice. She had the
curious, watching look common to the women of
Fairharbor, acquired from that observation of the
sea with which the summer boarder is unfamiliar.
A little anxious running down to the beach now,
or the wharf then, when the fog sets in; a little
more restless climbing of the cliff when the wind
rises; this peering for the dory before dawn, or
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 23
searching for the sail at dusk, or scanning the head-
land by moonlight, or asking the dead of night to
give the absent head-light to straining eyes, or beat-
ing about over the downs in the November gales
with the glass which trembles in the aching arm be-
fore the blank horizon â€” these things, we see, give
optical results which no social oculist has distinctly
classified. For the rest, Ellen Jane Salt wore a navy
â€œplue calico dress, well fitted (by herself) to a pleas-
ant figure, and tucked up over the hips under a
gray crash washing apron, on which she wiped her
steamed and dripping hands to give Miss Ritter
greeting. There was a strip of touristâ€™s ruffling in
the neck of the navy blue calico, and the house,
like the mistress, was as neat as a honey-comb.
One might almost say, without straming a point,
that there was a certain poetry in her avocation ; for
Ellen Jane Saltâ€™s old cottage seemed to the chance
visitor a kind of temple of cleanliness. The small
kitchen was sunny and sweet; and despite the dis-
proportion of the ironing-table and stove to the en-
vironment, the only litter seemed to be the signs of
the presence of children, which abounded. Then it
must be distinctly understood that Mrs. Salt had
a â€œparlor.â€ What New- Englander has not ?
24 _ THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
Whether his debts be paid or his soul saved we
need not stop to inquire; he will attend to that
presently ; meanwhile, a parlor or your life!
In Mrs. Saltâ€™s parlor was a carpet of a high-art
pattern under reduced conditions â€” olive green, to
be sure, playing at geometry with Indian red, and
sepia brown and black; it was an excellent car-
pet, and protected by a strip of oil-cloth nailed
across like a little plank walk for the children to
travel over to the bedroom beyond. There was a
new paper on the. walls of the parlor, very clean
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 25
and very gilt (olive green, of course), and the price
per roll such a trifle that a cod-fish could afford
it, as Mrs. Salt had often said; the paperer being
Ellen Jane herself, at midnight, after a dayâ€™s wash-
ing, when â€œheâ€ was asleep.
In the parlor were a black hair-cloth sofa, a
centretable with a red cloth, a Bible, a copy of
â€œThe Youthâ€™s Companion,â€ an old â€œ Harper,â€ and
a patent-medicine almanac ; a chromo called â€œ In-
nocence Asleepâ€ (presented with a pound of green
tea, and since framed in gilt), and a framed pho-
tograph of RafÃ©; but when we come to RafÃ© â€”
Meanwhile, in the parlor there was also â€œan in-
strument.â€ Mrs. Salt had privately meant it to be
a piano; but Mr. Salt had a bad year haddocking,
and that overgrown ambition was silently set aside.
At any rate, it was an instrument. It did not mat-
ter whether one called it a melodeon or a cabinet
organ, or whatever ; the musical future of the Salt
family was thus assured. In a narrower personal
sense the instrument was intended for Emma Eliza,
who took music lessons in prosperous seasons, and
played â€”to RafÃ©. Emma Eliza was the oldest
daughter, and RafÃ© was the youngest son. Mrs.
Salt had six children â€”two babies. RafÃ© was a
26 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
_ â€œWasnâ€™t that Mrs. Hannibal P. Harrowstone
cominâ€™ up the beach alongside of you?â€ began
Mrs. Salt promptly. She ironed as she talked,
making small ceremony of Miss Ritter, who was
an old customer, and regarded quite as one of
the family. Mrs. Saltâ€™s irons thumped when she |
was tired or excited, though she would have you
understand she knew how to iron scientifically
and silently, and no fuss about it. To-night she
thumped a good deal.
â€œShe â€™s a good customer, Mrs. Hannibal P. Har-
rowstone. But there! When I count the yards
and yards on her petticoats â€” dollar a yard, every
mite of itâ€”and her nighâ€™-gownds solid [thump]
valingcens, you might say, and them. diâ€™monâ€™s
[thump], and beef-tea for RafÃ© goes so fast at
twenty-five cents a pound durinâ€™ his spells; and
there! [thump]. Why, Miss Ritter, I did up one
dress for that woman last week would haâ€™ paid our
rent for a whole year, by the Sassinfras Bitters
Almanac; and Biram so sharp on his rent, too,
luck or none; anâ€™ if a man makes eighty dollars
to his trip or eight cents, itâ€™s all the same to Biram
come rent-day. But there! thatâ€™s fishinâ€™. I ainâ€™t
complaininâ€™, and thanks to mercy I can stand at
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 27
the wash-tub day anâ€™ night for â€™em longâ€™s there â€™s
anything to wash. Six weeks ainâ€™t much, now, is
it? Pretty short season; and no more for a wo-
man to do in Fairharbor rest of the year than
there is for a clam. Weâ€™re like â€™em, I guess â€”
just stick in the sand and stay there. But there!
I ainâ€™t complaininâ€™ either ; and six children do want
a sight of things from Janooary to Janooary, as _
youâ€™d know, if youâ€™d ever had one; and RafÃ©â€ â€”
â€œRafÃ© looks pale, I thought,â€™ interposed Miss
Ritter, glancing into the â€œparlor,â€ where a little,
bent figure sat in a high, padded chair by the win-
The child had a delicate face, refined by suffer-
28 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
ing, and a singularly sweet mouth; he had long
blonde hair, which fell over his face as he stooped.
There were no other children visible, except the
baby, asleep in the crib or cradle at the little
crippleâ€™s feet. Now and then the boy jogged the
cradle with his foot, as he bent over his work or
â€œTt â€™s your scrap-book,â€ said Mrs. Salt, in a low
voice â€” â€œthat one you gave him with the chromos
and magazines when you come in June. You never
see such a sight of comfort as that child gets out
o them things â€”bless your soul for it! Itâ€™s the
prettiness that pleases him. The boarders give
him money sometimes, but he donâ€™t pay the same
attention to itâ€”it ainâ€™t that, you know. Thereâ€™s
a kind of prettiness about Raft â€”like the ladies
and gentlemen I do for. He ainâ€™t like a fisher-
man, RafÃ© ainâ€™t, and so sweet of his temper in all
his spells. Now last night never a word. His
father and me hate to see RafÃ© suffer.â€
â€œJ saw Henry on the beach just now,â€ observed
; Miss Ritter, backing up by the stove, as she was
bidden, to dry her white flannel dress hem after
Mrs. Saltâ€™s professional treatment thereof. The
young lady had quite dignity enough even . for
â€œNOW AND THEN THE BOY JOGGED THE CRADLE WITH HIS FOOT.â€ See page 28.
- THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 31
this awkward and exceedingly warm position, and
seemed to fill the little house with a kind of splen-
dor â€” distant, uncomprehending, accidental â€” like
that gift of the scrap-book. She thought too little
about them to know when she did the right thing
by poor people, until they told her. She did not
mistake her taste for her principles, though they
sometimes might. â€œI saw Henry,â€ said Miss Rit-
ter, in her affable tone, that the washer-woman did
not always distinguish from personal friendship.
â€œHe was going off in the dory after those Ben-
ine children that always get lost foggy days. I
thought he was pretty patient, though he had to
have his say about it. All the children were with
him, I believe â€” Tom and Sue and the bigger baby
and the rest.â€
â€œThere ainâ€™t any rest except Emma Eliza,â€ cor-
rected the mother. â€œSix is enough, gracious knows
32 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
â€”and sheâ€™s gone home with Mrs. Hannibal P.
Harrowstoneâ€™s wash, what there is ready of it.
Yes, thereâ€™s that about Henry Salt, I will say ;
he â€˜ll do anything, but heâ€™s got to have his say.
Him and me we have words sometimes. Iâ€™m al-
ways sorry for it afterward. I never mean to. He
says he donâ€™t mean to either.. But there! men-
folks is men-folks, not to say anything of women.
Nigh as I can make out, the Lord made men-folks
to be contrary; but sakes! if you love â€™em, whatâ€™s
the odds? Youâ€™ve only got a bigger chance to do
for em, and mother â€™em up. Theyâ€™re a kind of
boys, men are, and have to be mothered up some-
how by their women. They need pettinâ€™ and fus-
sinâ€™ and strokinâ€™ the right way, and hear jest how
they feel when theyâ€™re a mite sick, and fuss over
"em as if you sâ€™posed. they was dangerous, and not
to say nothinâ€™ when youâ€™re ten times worse your-
self â€”thatâ€™s men. I donâ€™t say I donâ€™t have my
tempers out myself â€” like an influenzy, got to come
â€” sometimes. But there! Iâ€™ve got a good hus-
band, dear. Nor there ainâ€™t a stiddier, nor soberer,
nor better, goes to the Banks from Fairharbor year
in, year out. Iâ€™m very fond of Henry. Weâ€™ve
had a happy life, me and Henry.â€
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 33
Miss Ritter looked about the fishermanâ€™s cottage ;
at the small rooms crowded with the signs of sur-
plus life and harassmg economies; at the sober,
sleeping baby, who seemed to have been born-in a
hard season, and bore the inheritance of poverty
and anxiety in the lines of his unconscious face ;
at the crippled boy stooping in the window against
the dull square of light made by the conflict of
the fog and dusk beyond ; at the nervous motions
of the tired woman at the ironing-table. Ellen
Jane Salt did not pass for a heroine, but she had
aches enough and ailments enough to have put
Miss Ritter or Mrs. Hannibal P. Harrowstone under
treatment from a fashionable physician for the rest
of her life. Any lady who felt as she did would
have gone to bed. â€˜ The fishermanâ€™s wife washed
and ironed; thus RafÃ© had beef-tea â€” and the in-
strument. Somehow even the instrument did not
make the fishermanâ€™s cottage seem an abode of lux-
ury. â€œI can always sell it,â€ Mrs. Salt said, when
approached by good sociologists on the subject of
this extravagance. â€œItâ€™s good property ; it keeps
the children to home evenings; and RafÃ© â€” why,
I got it for Rafe.â€ -
34 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
The washer-woman stood straight at her ironing-
table, and lifted her head as she followed Helen
Ritterâ€™s look about the cottage, on whose sparse
comforts the advancing dusk was setting heavily.
â€œYes,â€ she said, very gently, â€œHenry and me
have had a happy life â€”him a fisherman, me-a
washer-woman â€” six children â€” and RafÃ© â€” and
poor. Well, there! thereâ€™s been times poor donâ€™t
say itâ€”and hard. Itâ€™s been pretty hard. But
you see, my dear, me and Henry like each other.
I suppose that makes a difference.â€
â€œTt must make a difference,â€ repeated Miss Rit-
ter, drearily. She went abruptly into the darken-
ing parlor, kissed the crippled child upon the fore- -
head, said some little pleasant thing to him, and
came restlessly back. RafÃ© climbed down from his
high chair laboriously, took up his crutch, and fol-
lowed her. His mother was lighting the kerosene
lamp, and the poor place leaped suddenly into
color. RafÃ© pulled at the navy blue calico dress.
The washer-woman snatched off her wet crash
apron, and drew the little fellow â€” alas! never per-
haps to be too big a fellow for his motherâ€™s lap â€”
into her arms. The ironing-table and the clothes-
basket and a wash-tub of rinsing clothes closed into
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 35
the perspective of this plain picture; and Rafeâ€™s
â€˜erutch, where it had fallen in the foreground, re-
minded Miss Ritter somehow of the staff in the
little St. John scenes that we all know.
â€œThe Madonna â€” of the Tubs,â€ she murmured.
â€œ What, maâ€™am ?â€ asked RafÃ©.
â€œ There! there!â€ said the Madonna; â€œgo and
36 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
watch for father, RafÃ©.â€ She handed him his
crutch with her kiss â€”a half-savage kiss, like that
of some wild, thwarted maternal thing â€” and the
child limped eagerly away.
â€œHe must have found them Benzine children
by this time,â€ Mrs. Salt ran on, taking to her irons
again nervously. â€œ But, fact is, 1â€™m never easy In
my mind when Henry â€™s in thick weather, not even
off-shore. Itâ€™s hard bemg a woman in Fairharbor.
Our minister said, says he, when he firstâ€™ come to
town he noticed all the women-folks called it â€˜the
dreadful sea.â€™ I guess, come to think of it, we do
â€” Jest as youâ€™d say â€˜Monday morninâ€™â€™ or â€˜cold
weather,â€™ and never take notice of your words.
You see, Iâ€™m kind oâ€™ down to-night, tell the truth,
Miss Ritter. â€” Yes, RafÃ©, watch for papa, dear.
He Il be disappointed if he doesnâ€™t see Rafe first.
â€”I would nâ€™t tell the child just yet. You see, his
fatherâ€™s got to go to the Banks. Rafe hates to
have his father go to the Banks. He worries. We
thought weâ€™d get alongâ€”for me and RafÃ© do
worry soâ€”but Henryâ€™s had an awful poor season
off-shore. He thinks heâ€™s got to go. He ainâ€™t
made but twenty-two dollars and sixty-three cents
this summer. Itâ€™s safer off-shore, take it all, though
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 37
itâ€™s bad enough, Miss Ritter, fix it as you will, It
was off-shore his boat keeled over, eight years ago
the 23d of September, not more â€™n two miles off
the light â€”him and Job Ely and Peter Salt and
William X. Salt went down in a squall, and Iâ€™d
been nervous all day; so when it struck I got the
glass, and took Emma Eliza â€”for she was little
then, but my oldest born, and all I had to speak
to that would understand â€”and me and Emma
Eliza we walked over the downs, and over the
downs, blowed about agen the wind, with the glass,
and stood watchinâ€™; and, my gracious God, Miss
Ritter, I saw that there boat go down before my
/\ . was an old story, told to how many
neighbors and â€œ summer people â€
| how many times! but at this point
\ the fishermanâ€™s wife gasped and
| = ' blanched. She had never been able
to finish it; each time she thought
she should. She took up her flat-irons hastily, for
scalding tears were dropping on Mrs. Hannibal P.
Harrowstoneâ€™s fluted. skirt.
â€œ He hâ€™isted on to the keel, her bottom upmost,â€
38 LHE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
she said, in a lower voice, â€œand they all hâ€™isted on
and held, and a lumber schooner from Maine come
along full canvas, but it took an eternal punish-
ment, lookinâ€™ through the glass, to get her swung
to and dory off. But they was saved â€”him and
Job Ely and Peter Salt and William X. Salt â€” and
him ; but they looked like flies before my eyes, for
the sea broke over â€™em, and they kepâ€™ a-slippinâ€™,
and so me and Emma Eliza put down the glass and
come home and set down; and Emma Eliza made
me a cup of teaâ€”for I was that gone, and her
80 little to do for me. And there we set, for we
could nâ€™t do nothinâ€™ till he come home at five min-
utes past nine o'clock, bustinâ€™ open the doorâ€”so!
â€” drippinâ€™ wet, and pale as his own corpse, and I
says, â€˜Henry! Henry!â€™ and he says, â€˜ Nelly Jane!â€™
and we says no more, for someways we could nâ€™t do.
it. But Emma Eliza cried â€”for she used to bel-
low, that child did, when she was little â€” enough
to wake last yearâ€™s mackerel catch, and then she
made her fatherâ€™s tea, for I was that gone; and
you see, Miss Ritter, it was next month RafÃ© was
born, and he was born, my dear â€” as he is.â€
â€œ Marm, I donâ€™t see my faâ€”ther,â€ interrupted
RafÃ©, in his gentle, drawling voice, from the open
â€œFOR THE SEA BROKE OVER Â°EM.â€ See page 88.
2 SS =
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 41
& And so, as I says,â€ proceeded Mrs. Salt, more
briskly, â€œ fishinâ€™ is fishinâ€™, off-shore or no. But I
have nâ€™t no confidence in the Grand Banks. I wish
my husband hadnâ€™t got to go this fall. I ainâ€™t
any time to be nervous, but there â€™s always time to
see things. You know, you see him s0, before
your eyes, all sorts of ways, when heâ€™s that far
from you â€” fogs, or a gale, or a saoall â€” drowninâ€™
mostly, and callinâ€™ after you, if youre his wife and
have always done for him. Even a headache he d
run to you about. And to stand here ironinâ€™, a
thousand miles away, and him maybeâ€ â€”
â€œ Marm,â€ ales Rafe, â€œI see my faâ€”ther! I
see my faâ€”ther ! â€™
â€œWell, there!â€ cried Ellen Jane Salt, putting
down her irons tremendously. She Dinshed like a
girl, and bustled about, â€œ picking upâ€ here and
there, and hurrying to fry the cod for supper. She
almost forgot her young lady customer, who was
glad just then to slip away.
On the way down the lane she met the fisherman
and his children hurrying home; but in the dusk
they passed with a pleasant, neighborly nod. Miss
Ritter was sad, and Henry Salt was hungry ; so she
with her kindly â€œ Well, Henry!â€ and he with his
42 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
civil â€œH arâ€™ yer, Miss Ritter?â€ went their ways.
It so happened from one trifling cause and another
â€”she was called to Boston earlier than usual, and
what notâ€”that this was the last time she spoke
to the good fellow that season, as she afterward
She turned in the dark lane, and watched the
group scrambling home in their happy-go-lucky
fashion â€” Henry rode the bigger baby (he was
known in the Salt family as â€œthe other baby 32)
pickback all the way; Sue and Tommy trudged
and toddled, snatching at his oil - clothes, which
were wet, and slipped from their little round red
Henry Salt sang, as he carried â€œthe other baby,â€
a snatch of a sailorâ€™s song Miss Ritter had never
heard before â€” Â°
â€œGive the wind time
To blow the man down.â€
Past the rose thicket, by the great bowlder, dim
in the dark and the now drenching fog, man and
children, pushing merrily home, made one con-
fused group, like a centaur or a torso to the
The cottage door was wide open. What a splen-
â€œSHE MET THE FISHERMAN AND HIS CHILDREN.â€
See page 41,
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 45
dor of light leaped out! Was it only that kero-
sene lamp upon the ironing-table? How it beat
back the crawling fog, which made as if it would
enter first and was denied.
â€œGive the wind time,â€
rang the fishermanâ€™s happy bass.
lites eae ca
From outside, through the door one could see
clearly. and far. All the little house seemed to
lean out to draw them in; the sweet, tidy, homely
things grew gilded and glorious, and had a look as
if they stirred; even the instrument could be seen
deep in the parlor, with the reduced high-art paper.
In the doorway, once again, the Madonna of the
Tubs had found that fine, unconscious attitude â€”
half stooping to take RafÃ©, who had stood too long
upon his little crutch. He put up his hand and .
stroked her cheek. s
46 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
â€œOh, marm, Iâ€™ve got my faâ€”ther ! â€
â€œGive the wind time
To blow the man down,â€
sang Henry Salt. Laughing, he snatched and
kissed the childâ€”the mother too, perhaps. Down
there in the dark wet lane Miss Ritter could not
see, or her eyes failed her somehow.
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. AT
For a moment the group stood in the open door
in a kind of glory. Then Emma Eliza came in,
and putting down her empty clothes-basket, and
going straight to the instrument, began â€”it seemed
that RafÃ© askedâ€”to play. A waltz, perhaps?
A minstrel melody? Some polka learned of the
_music-teacher? A merry ditty flung at fate and
dashed at life and death, between whose equal
mysteries these poor souls wrenched their brave
and scanty happiness? My musical friend â€” no.
Emma Eliza sang a hymn. She sang that venera-
ble Sunday-school jingle known as â€œPull for the
RafÃ© joined in it sweetly, leaning on his crutch.
His mother sang it shrilly while she fried the cod.
Henry Salt sang it merrily while he hung his oil-
clothes on the nail behind the door. Sue and
Tommy and the other baby sang it anyhow; and
the baby in the crib waked up and stretched his
arms out to the instrument.
â€œPull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore !
Heed not the rolling waves, but bend to the oar!
â€˜Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore!â€
Then the door shut suddenly; the Madonna was
blotted from sight; blackness replaced the sweet
48 =. THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
and homely halo; only the voices of the fisher-
people, expressing what they knew of happiness in
the sombre, sacred words that held the terror and
the danger of the sea, echoed faintly down the
dark and now deserted lane.
â€œTf this were a story in need of a heroine,â€ said
Helen Ritter as she turned, â€œ it is a vacant position
which I should not be asked to fill. And yet Iâ€™d
be my washer-woman to beâ€ â€”
â€œGive the wind time
To blow for the shore,â€
rang out the gruff bass voice that wind and weather
had roughened in shouting â€œShip ahoy!â€ For
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. . 49
Henry had musically forgotten himself, as will be
seen, and Emma Eliza, at the instrument, came to
a severe halt to set him straight.
ERHAPS if it had not been for Wil-
liam X. Salt it would never have hap-
Tennyson, I think, or it might
well be, has sketched a sea-port town in one line
which runs : â€” a
â€œ And almost all the village had one name.â€
The fishing town of Fairharbor was generously fur-
nished with the appropriate name of Salt. There
were great Salts and small Salts, rich and poor
. Salts, drunk and sober Salts, Salts making money
in the counting-rooms and Salts earning it upon the
- wharves, Salts in the fish firms and Salts before the
mast â€” Abraham L. Salt, for instance, who owned
the schooner (herself Abby E. Salt by name), and
William X. Salt and Peter Salt and Henry Salt,
who sailed in her to the Grand Banks, after the
golden-rod and the summer people were gone, when
50 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
there were no Japanese umbrellas, and nobody
screamed at the snails, when there was no washing
by the dozen to be had, and only now and then a
letter from Miss Ritter â€”in November, just before
Thanksgiving, when the weather had turned cold
and the wind blew from the north.
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 51
son for the unpleasant in ourselves in
causes outside of ourselves, and yet,
in spite of this calm, proverbial phi-
losophy, it is probably true that if it
: had not been for William X. Salt it
would never have happened. At least Ellen Jane
said so, and will say so to her dyimg day. For
from whatever cause â€” divine, diabolie, or human
â€”whether because William X. Salt treated Henry,
or because Henry allowed William X. to treat him,
or because Heaven permitted or hell decreed â€” the
truth remains that Henry and Ellen Jane Salt, like
many another wedded pair loving less than they,
_ like many another loving even more than they,
quarrelled ; but the worst of it was that they quar-
relled the night that Henry set sail in the Abby
E. Salt, with William X. and Peter and Job Ely
and the other fellows â€” ten in all â€” for the Grand
Banks of Newfoundland.
William X. Salt had given him the whiskey, for,
as I say, it was turning cold, and the wind blew
bitterly from the north, and the men had worked
till they were fretted and chilled, getting their traps
2 _THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
and trawls aboard. Now Henry was a sober man,
for the most part, and meant to keep so; or his
wife meant to keep him so, which is much the same
thing ; and I should libel him were I to say that
he came home to supper drunk. He was not drunk.
Strictly speaking, he was not sober. In point of
fact, he was what may be charitably called sensitive
to liquor, owing to some passing familiarity of the
nervous system with its effects in early youth ; and
it took little enough to make it clear that he had
better have taken none at all. As a rule, Henry
recognized this physiological fact. That November
night he was cold and tired and â€œ down,â€ and Wil-
liam X., who was sober sometimes, but so seldom
that, by the law of chances, that could hardly have
been one of the times, was moved to treat at the
wrong moment or in the wrong way; and if Henry
had taken a little less â€” or even a little more, and
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 03
come home to his wife drunk, it might not have
happened, we must admit, for he was jolly and
silly when he was drunk; but he got only so far
as the cross stage, and cross he wasâ€” it need not
be denied â€” to Ellen Jane.
What was it all about? What is it ever all
about when two who love each other dearer than
any great thing on earth, fall sharp asunder because
of some little one â€” too little to find? The pity
of love is that it is given to small creatures: let us
not forget that itself is great.
Perhaps it was the door that slammed ; perhaps
it was the coffee that did not settle; it may be
that the baby cried, or the chowder burned their
tongues, or somebody upset the milk pitcher, or the
lamp smoked, or the ironing fire was burning coal
too fast, or the barberry sauce (brought out to
honor the occasion) had not enough molasses in it,
or the griddle-cakes did not come fast enough, or
there was a draught somewhere â€” who could say ?
Neither of these married lovers, perhaps, after it
was all over. Less than any one of these almost
invisible causes has broken hearts and homes be-
fore, and will, world without end, till lovers learn
the infinite preciousness of love, and human speech
is guarded like human chastity.
54 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
â€”N short, then and there, on the
night, on the hour of their sep-
aration, Henry and Ellen Jane
2s- Salt â€œcame to words.â€
eae She had been erying all day,
poor woman, because he had to
- go. ale dreaded a November voyage intelligently
and insanely. Rafe had cried too, but he hid in
the parlor to do it. The children were all sober
except the baby and the other baby. The house
was illuminated â€”there were two kerosene lamps
and the lantern. -All Henryâ€™s mending was tear-
fully and exquisitely done. There had been fresh
doughnuts fried, and a squash pie (extravagantly)
made to please him. Emma Eliza, at the instru-
ment, played the â€œSweet By-and-by.â€ Her mother
was dressed in her best calico â€”a new one never
at the wash-tub, one of those chocolate patterns with
strong-minded flowers that women fancy, Heaven
and the designers know why. Her hair was brushed
and her collar fresh, and she had looked as pretty
as a pink, poor thing, dashing away the tears when
he came in; ready for all the little feminine arts
that make men cheerful at the cost of womenâ€™s
nerve and courage.
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 55
Then it happened â€” whatever it was â€”and the
glow went out of her face as the gloom gathered
on his, and that sweet look about her mouth settled
away, and the smouldering fire burned up slowly
from a great depth in her sunken, tired blue eyes ;
and with a breaking heart she blamed him; and
with a barbarous tongue he admired her ; and their
words ran as high as their nerves were strained ;
56 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
and because they loved each other dearly every
harsh word they said scorched them like coals of
white fire, on which one pours more to cover up
the blaze; and because they were man and wife,
and more to each other than all the world besides,
they said each to each, bitterly dashing out blind
words, what neither would have said to friend or
neighbor for very shameâ€™s sake; and so it came
about that on this night they were in high temper,
than which none had been really sharper, perhaps,
in all their wedded lives.
â€œThere is something always wrong about this
house, curse it!â€ cried the man whom William X.
Salt had treated.
â€œThere â€™s nothing wrong in this house but him
thatâ€™s setting sail from it,â€ cried the woman whom
the man had scolded.
They were flashing words â€” up and out and over
â€”and, had it fared differently with them, at an-
other time a sob and a kiss would have met above
the ashes of the sorry scene, and there would have
been an end, and peace to it.
But the Abby E. Salt weighed anchor at eight
oâ€™clock. It was quarter past seven when Henry
pushed back from the half-eaten supper and took
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 57
up his old hat to go. He had over a mile to walk,
and a ferry to catch, and what not to do; he was
already late. There was no time to let Ae sweet
waters of repentance come to the flood. He bade
the children good-by sullenly, kissed RafÃ©, and,
after an instantâ€™s hesitation, pushed open the door.
He said he must hunt up Job Ely, and so saying,
and saying no more than this, he went out of the
house. He did not look at his wife.
Her pretty, weary face had flushed a dangerous
scarlet during the scene which had passed. Now
it turned a dreadful white. She stood quite still.
She seemed to have no more moral power to move
after the man than an unsought girl or a woman
repulsed. Her whole feminime nature was quiver-
ing pitifully. When a man is rough with a woman
he forgets that he hurts two creatures â€”the hu-
man and the womanâ€”and that he hurts the second
more than it can hurt himself by just so much as
the essence of the feminine nature is a fact super-
imposed upon the human. But as the mystery of
this knowledge is one that princes and philosophers
have not yet commanded, who should expect it of
the fisherman Henry Salt ?
The children during this unhappy scene had
58 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
stood silent. To their fatherâ€™s quickness of temper
they were used ; he scolded one minute and kissed
the next; but the usual had become the unexpected,
and a kind of moral embarrassment filled the- cot-
tage. The baby and the other baby began to ery ;
Emma Eliza, whether from some rudimentary idea
of calling her fatherâ€™s attention, or from some
daughterly delicacy which led her to get herself
out of the way, sat down at the instrument and
vigorously played â€œPull for the Shoreâ€ on the
wrong key; RafÃ© got upon his crutch and hobbled
to the door ; the wife alone stood quite still.
The wind was rising fiercely from the north, as
has been said, and bursting in at the open door,
caught it and clutched it to and fro, closing but
not latching, and noisily playing with it, as if with
a shaken mood that could not fix itself. For the
instant, the master of the house seemed to be shut
out, and seemed possibly to one outside to have
been slammed out by hands within.
â€œLet me by, RafÃ©; let me by this minute!â€ The
wife made one bound, and down the wooden steps,
where she stood bewildered. No one was to be
seen. It was deadly dark, and the wind raved with
a volume of sound which seemed to the Fairharbor
N A LITTLE CRUTCH.â€
HURRYING BY UPO:
See page 61.
â€œA LITTLE FIGURE HIT HER,
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 61
woman, born and nourished of the blast, to be
something intelligent and infernal pitted against
her. She flung her shrill voice out into it: â€œHenry!
Henry! come back and say good-by to me. Iâ€™m
sorry. Henry! Henry! Henry! Iâ€™m sorry! Iâ€™m
But only the awful throat of the gale made an-
swer. She ran a little way, straining her ears, her
eyes, her voice, beating her breast in a kind of
frenzy, calling passionately, plaintively, then pas-
sionately again; and so, despairing, for she made
no headway against the roar of the November norâ€™-
wester, staggered, turned, and stopped.
At this moment, scrambling through the dark, a
_ little figure hit her, hurrying by upon a little crutch.
â€œTm goinâ€™ to catch my faâ€”ther,â€ said Rafe.
He pushed on beyond her, his bright hair blown
straight like a helmet or visor of gold from his
forehead, calling as he went, slipping, daring, tum-
bling on the sharp rocks, and up again. Down
there in the dark, midway of the road she saw a
little fellow stop to gather strength and throw the
whole force of his sweet young voice like a chal-
lenge to the gale : â€”
â€œ Faâ€”ther! marmâ€™s sorry! (Donâ€™t you cry,
62 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
marm. I think heâ€™ll answer.) Faâ€”ther! faâ€”ther!
marm says sheâ€™s sorry! Marm is sorry, faâ€”ther!
(Just keep still, marm. Iâ€™m sure heâ€™ll answer.)
Faâ€”ruur! MARM 1s sorry !â€
The crippled child hurled the whole of his little
soul and body into that last ery, and then she saw
him turn and limp, more slowly, back. He came
up to her gently where she stood sobbing in the
dark and wind ; and as if he had been the parent,
one might say, and she the child, he patted her
upon the hand.
â€œT told you Iâ€™d catch him, marmâ€” dear marm,â€
She shook her head incredulously, convulsive
with her tears, turning drearily to go back. She ~
hardly noticed RafÃ© in that minute. The wife was
older than the mother in her; if stronger, who
should say her nay ?
â€œBut I caught my faâ€”ther,â€ persisted RafÃ©.
â€œ He says, says he â€ â€”
â€œ RafÃ©, he could nâ€™t, dear.â€
â€œâ€œ Marm, he hollered, â€˜So be I.â€™ â€
â€œDid your father say that, honest, RafÃ© ?â€
She lifted her head piteously, pleadingly, before
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 63
â€œT think he did,â€ said RafÃ©, conscientiously. â€œI
says, â€˜Faâ€”ther, marmâ€™s sorryâ€™; and he says, â€˜So
â€œTf he says, â€˜So be I,â€™ God bless you, RafÃ© !
motherâ€™s sonny boy.â€ ,
But with that she began to sob afresh, half with
hope and half with misery. The child, whose
sympathies were made old and fine by suffering,
watched her soberly.
â€œT think he did,â€ said RafÃ©, stoutly. â€œJZ think
my faâ€”ther hollered, â€˜So be I.â€™â€
He lifted the truthful face of an angel in a halo
to the poor Madonna in the glimmer of the open
door. His yellow hair shone like an aureole about
his ardent little face. He would have given his
scrap-book just then to say, â€œI know he did.â€
But RafÃ© never lied. The other children supposed
it was because he was a cripple.
64 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
T was in just eleven days
that they brought her the
news. Abraham L. Salt
asked Biram to tell her,
and Biram sent a woman
neighbor. The north-
wester had blown grandly, as any one might know,
straight for the Banks, and blown the Abby E. Salt
thither in a smart voyage of four days and a half.
After the steady blow the weather thickened, and
that which has happened to Fairharbor fishermen,
and will happen again, God help them! till the
way of the wind and wave is tamed to human an-
guish, happened then and there to Henry Salt.
The Zephaniah Salt, a fine three-masted schooner,
about returning from the fishing-grounds, carried
the word to the telegraph at Boston, and the tel-
egraph to Abraham L. Salt, as was said; he to
Biram, Biram to the woman neighbor, the woman,
praying Godâ€™s pity, to her.
She did not say it as she meant to. Who of us
does hard things as we thought we should? She
walked straight into the cottage, and stood still in
the middle of the floor, and began to cry. The first
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 65
she knew she had caught the little crippled child
and put him into his motherâ€™s arms, and said, â€”
â€œ RafÃ©, tell your poor marm that your fatherâ€™s
drownded â€” for I canâ€™t.â€
â€œ At the Grand Banks, on the morning of No-
vember â€”, Henry Salt and Job Ely, of Fairharbor,
dory mates, set out from the schooner Abby E. Salt
to look after their trawls, and were lost in the fog.
Every effort was made in vain to find the unfor-â€”
tunate men. No hope is any longer felt of their
safety. The bodies have not been recovered. Salt
leaves a wife and six children. Ely was unmarried.
The Abby E. Salt belongs to the well-known firm
of Abraham L. Salt & Co., of Fairharbor.â€
ISS RITTER, idly nibbling at
her â€œDaily Advertiserâ€ be-
fore her open cannel fire one
bleak December morning,
chanced upon the paragraph,
which she re-read and pon-
dered long. Ellen Jane had sent no word out of
her misery, poor thing! A letter achieved is an
affliction to the unlearned, and she had enough to
bear without adding that.
66 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
â€œTâ€™d rather do a dayâ€™s washing any time than
write a letter,â€ she used to say. Besides, after all,
what would the â€œboarder ladyâ€ care? When it
came to the point of bereavement, remorse, widow-
hood, hunger, cold, and despair, the summer patron
seemed as far from the Fairharbor winter as her _
paper parasol or her â€œ valingcens.â€ Henry Salt
had gone the way of his calling, like other men ;
he had become one of the one or two hundred
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 67
Fairharbor fishermen over whose fate a comfortable
dry-shod world heaves a sigh once a year when the
winter gales blow so hard as to shake the posts
of the firm, warm house a little, or even to puff
the lace above the sleeping babyâ€™s crib in the cur-
tained, fire-lit room. His wife, like other women,
was a â€œ Fairharbor widow,â€ and like other women
must bend her to her fate.
She bowed to it in those first weeks in a stupe-
faction that resembled moral catalepsy. A reserve
such as restrains the hand that writes this pageâ€”a
page like a bridge over a chasm down which one
cannot look, yet over which one must cross per-
force â€” solemnly enwrapped the fishermanâ€™s widow
â€˜in that space between the night when the woman
neighbor put the crippled child into his motherâ€™s
arms, and the advance of the holidays, which come
â€” God help us!â€” straight into the ruined as once
into the blessed homes.
And so to Fairharbor as to Beacon Street, to
Ellen Salt as to Helen Ritter, or you or me, the
sacred time which enhances all happiness and all
anguish came gently or cruelly, but surely, on;
and it was the day before Christmas, and going to
68 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
â€”N the sad cottage: behind the leaf-
: less rose thicket and under the
al ice-clad bowlders they were all.
Oe at home early that afternoon :
SAX) - the mother from her dreary at-
tempt and failure to find another
neighbor to â€œwashâ€ on Monday morning; Emma
Eliza from the net factory, where she wove seines
and hammocks (when the factory was running) at
regular wages, ranging from four dollars a week
to none; Tommy and Sue from the district school,
where one must have â€œan education,â€ even if no
father and no dinner. RafÃ© took care of the baby
and the other baby, and was, so to speak, profes-
sionally at home. Besides, RafÃ© himself (indeed,
I might say RafÃ© in particular) was about to be-
come the support of the family. As luck would
have itâ€” or as God willed it â€” a group of marine
artists had discovered Fairharbor that year, and
were wintering, by the mercies of Providence and
the landlady, in the closed hotel, hard at work;
among them one, a portrait and genre painter, guest
of the little company for a week or so, had seen
RafÃ© at a window one day, and, presto! the childâ€™s
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 69 .
face â€” a cherub strayed from Paradise into misfor-
tune, the fellows said â€” shall go to the exhibition.
RafÃ© was earning what occurred to him as an
enormous salary as a model by the hour; he failed
to see why Sue had no rubbers or Tommy no coat,
or why the kitchen fire burned so cold, or there
was no meat for dinner, in view of his monetary
receipts. He had often told his mother that he
would support her, and begged her not to cry. It
did not strike him that he had never seen her ery
since his father died.
As Christmas Eve drew on, they were all well in
the house. Emma Eliza drew the curtains fast, for
the hard and bitter air must melt into snow from
very force of resistance to its fate, now any mo-
ment, and the house was cold. RafÃ© asked her to
leave one of the kitchen curtams up a little; he
had a fancy for looking out on dark nights; he
used to stand so, sometimes crooning and singing
to himself, his bright hair pressed against the win-
dow-pane, and his thin hands up against his tem-
ples. Before his father died, RafÃ© sang â€œ Pull for
the Shoreâ€ a great deal, standing by that window
looking out; sometimes Emma Eliza would catch
it up upon the instrument and join. But he did
not sing it any more.
70 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
The outside door did not latch â€”the one that
slammed poor Henry out on that last night; it
never latched very well; there was no man to fix
it now; a carpenter could not be afforded; the
women and children had tinkered away at the fast-
ening, in their blundering fashion, with blinding
tears. Such are the cruel small ways in which the
poor are reminded of their bereavements at every
crevice of their lives. RafÃ© had pushed up the
wash-bench finally against the door to keep it in
Mrs. Salt looked about the little group, trying
duteously to smile. She had on a (dyed) black
dress ; she looked sixty years old; she was what
one might be tempted to call almost infernally
changed ; an indescribable expression had got hold
of her face ; she seemed like a dead person up and
dressed. There was something no less than dread-
ful in the mechanical gentleness and reserve which
had settled down upon this emotional, voluble crea-
ture. No accident betrayed her into any accelera-
tion of the voice; the crossest baby never raised
a ruffle in her accent ; she had such a monotonous
sweetness and bruised patience as seemed like a
â€œparalysis of common human nature. Her children
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 71
could not remember to have had even a rebuke
from her since that night when the woman neigh-
bor came in. They had deserved it twenty times.
â€œâ€˜ Children,â€ she said, dully and gently, â€œI have
n't any presents for you this Christmas. Itâ€™s the
first one, I guess. I canâ€™t help it, you know, my
dears. We are very poor to-night. But Ill build
you a big, hot fire â€” itâ€™s all I can do. We'll keep
Christmas Eve by keeping warm, if we can. The
stove donâ€™t work, somehow ; the lining needs fix-
ing; it needsa man.â€ She hesitated, looking piti-
fully about the room, at each little sober face.
â€œWon't that do? Wonâ€™t that be better than no
Christmas at all? I thought mebbe it would. Itâ€™s
all motherâ€™s got for you. She could nâ€™t do any
better. She wanted to. He always set so much
by Christmas. Heâ€ â€”
The broken door blew in and slammed against
the wash-bench loudly. RafÃ© went to shut it; but
it resisted the little fellowâ€™s strength â€” fell inward
heavily, and with it a huge object thrust itself, or
was thrust, along the floor noisily enough.
â€œItâ€™s the expressman!â€ cried RafÃ©. â€œItâ€™s Tan
and Saltâ€™s express cart, for ws, marm !â€
Now the Salt family had never had an express
72 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
package in all their lives. So intense was the ex-
citement for the moment that it was almost impos-
sible to remember that oneâ€™s father was drowned.
They gathered like bees about the box, which the
driver lifted in for them compassionately ; even
stopping to help Emma Eliza start the cover.
â€œSeeinâ€™ yeâ€™re only women-folksâ€” of a Christ-
mas Eve. And never in my life did I see a woman
could open a wooden box. Guess yeâ€™d have to set
on it all night if I didnâ€™t â€” and no man else to do
for yeâ€ â€”
But Tan and Saltâ€™s express checked himself, and
departed hastily from the loosened cover and un-
finished sentence, letting in a whirl of the now fall-
ing snow as he closed the rattling door. He wished,
with all his soul, he had time to fix that latch.
Now in that box â€” what mystery! what marvel!
_ Emma Eliza thought it was like a â€œ Seasideâ€ novel.
RafÃ© had read fairy tales, and he considered it
probable that it was the work of what he called
â€œa gen,â€ that flannels and shoes, and a second-
hand overcoat, and mittens, and a black blanket
shawl, should land on the floor, with flour and cof- |
fee and crackers, and a package of tea and sugar,
and rubbers for Sue, and a turkey for Christmas
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 73
dinner, and under allâ€”stockings! There were six:
pairs of stockings â€” brown, red, blue, green, gray,
and white, each one filled to the knee with Santa
Claus knew what â€”trifles to the giver, ecstasy to
the child â€” all the way down from Emma Eliza to
the baby, and the other baby. Ah, well, such
things do happen, thank the blessed Christmas
spirit, in the homes of the brave and self-helping .
_ poor; they do not perhaps often happen so grace-
fully, we might say so artistically.
â€œSo pretty,â€ cried RafÃ© â€” â€œso pretty in her.â€
For when the romance of the expressman was fol-
lowed by the immensity of a smart Fairharbor hack
rolling under the leafless willows to the very door,
and RafÃ©, pulling back the wash-bench again, let
in, with a shower of bright snow, Miss Helen Rit-
ter, standing tall and splendid in her furs of silver-
seal, it seemed quite what was to be expected ; and
not one of the poor souls knew, which was the best
of it, that the young lady had never done such a
. thing before in all her life. She had done it now in
her own â€œ wayâ€ â€” that whimsical, obstinate, lavish
way that sometimes was so wrong and sometimes so
right, but this time so sweet and true. Was it her
heart that told her how? For her head was pain-
74 â€˜THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
- fully uneducated in sociology. She had not a par-
ticle of traiing as a visitor to the poor. She had
not a theory as to their elevation. She had never
been interested in books concerning their manage-
ment. She was simply acquainted with her washer-
woman, and had approached her as she would any
other acquaintance, according to the circumstances
of the case. It was a brave, self-helpful family ;
she knew them; not a drop of pauper blood rolled
in the veins of their sturdy bodies. Ghastly poverty
had got them; worse was before them; but if any
desolate woman and her babes, thrust into their fate,
could breast it and not go under, these were they.
As a human being to human beings, Helen Ritter
had come; she knew no more, nor thought beyond.
She had felt moved to treat them as she would wish
to be treated in their places, and she did as she was
-moved ; that was all. If she made no blunder, it
was certainly owing to the. rightness of her in-
stinct, not to the wisdom of her views.
But who stopped to think of views or instincts
in the astounded cottage that Christmas Eve? Not
Miss Ritter, stooping, flushed and brilliant, drawn
down by childrenâ€™s fingers to her knees upon the
â€˜kitchen floor among the Christmas litter. Not Rafe,
ON THE GRAND BANKS,
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 77
-who put up his pale face and kissed her, saying not
a word. Not Emma Eliza, who meant to ask her
to play a Christmas carol on the instrument, think-
ing that would be polite. (The instrument, by the
way, was drearily seeking a purchaser, poor thing.)
Not Sue, nor Tommy, nor the baby, nor the other
baby, pulling off the veil which had shielded the
feathers of their visitorâ€™s dainty bonnet from the
snow. Not Mrs. Salt, who came up to take her fur-
lined cloak with a soft, â€œYoull be too warm, my
dear,â€ and so showing all the stately, luxurious out-
lines of the finest figure she had ever â€œ done up,â€™
in that sweet and humble attitude, kneeling on the
kitchen floor. Not Mrs. Salt, stealing away by her-
self, silent, still, and changed, and strange â€” she
had scarcely spoken. What ailed her? What
would she? Where was she? Helen Ritter, unin-
troduced to mortal sorrow, hesitated before the be-
reavement of her washer-woman, but summoned
heart at last, and followed, slipping from the chil-
Ellen Jane Salt was in her chilly parlor, crouched
alone ; she had got into a corner bent over some-
thing, and when Miss Ritter came up she was half
shocked to see that it was the black blanket shawl.
78 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
â€œT didnâ€™t know what ever I was to do for
mourninâ€™ for him!â€ The woman looked up, break-
ing out thus sharply. â€œYouve no idea how they
talk about us Fairharbor widows, we so poor, they
say, and takinâ€™ charity to spend it on our black â€”
and reason, maybe; but ask â€™em if itâ€™s human
natur to break your heart and mourn your dead
in colors. Ask â€™em if beinâ€™ poor puts out human
natur. Miss Ritter, I had nâ€™t nothinâ€™ to mourn for
Henry in but this one old dress I dyed before my
money went to Biram for the rent, and my cloak
was a tan-color season before last, and trimmed with
bugle trimminâ€™, and my shawl was a striped shawl,
with red betwixt, you know. And us without our
coal in, me going mourninâ€™ for my husband half
black, half colors, like a widow that was half glad
and half sorryâ€” enough of â€™em be â€” my dear, it
hurt me. And to think you should think of that,
and send me of a Christmas Eveâ€” Oh, my dear, -
I have nâ€™t cried before, but itâ€™s the understandinâ€™
me that breaks me up. Oh, donâ€™t notice me, donâ€™t
mind me. I have nâ€™t cried since he was drowned ;
I have nâ€™t darst. Oh, donâ€™t you touch me â€” oh
yes, you may. How soft your arms are! Oh, no-
body has held me since heâ€” Oh, my God! my
God! my God! Iâ€™ve got to ery.â€ :
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 79
â€œCome here,â€ said Helen Ritter, sobbing too â€”
â€œcome here and let me hold you, and tell me all
â€œHow can I tell you?â€ moaned the woman.
â€œOh, it is such a dreadful thing to tell! Oh, my
dear, it isnâ€™t his dying ; it isnâ€™t that Henry is
dead. Tf that was all, 1â€™d be a blessed woman â€”
me a widow, and them fatherless, and so poor â€”
Tâ€™d be a blessed woman; and God be thanked to |
mercy this living night if it was only that my hus-
band had died! Oh, how should you know? You
never was married ; you never had a husband; you
never quarreled with the man you loved.â€
â€œ Hush! hush! hush!â€ Involuntarily the lady
thrust her hand upon the other womanâ€™s mouth ;
then drew it off and patted her silently, stroking
her hair and shoulders with exquisite loving mo-
tions, as women do to women of their own sort
when sorrow is upon them.
â€œWe quarreled,â€ cried Ellen Jane Salt, throw-
ing out her arms, and letting them drop heavily at
her side â€” â€œwe quarreled, Miss Ritter, that very
last night, that very last minute, him and me â€” us
â€˜that loved each other, man and wife, for seventeen
years, and him going to his death from out that
80 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
door. â€˜Oh,â€™ he says, â€˜thereâ€™s always something
wrong about this house!â€™ and he cursed it ; but he
didnâ€™t mean it, poor fellow; he never meant It ;
for they must have treated him to the wharves to
make him say a thing like thatâ€”you know they
must ; and I says, â€˜ There â€™s nothing wrong in this
house but him thatâ€™s setting sail from it.â€™ My
God! my God! my God! I says those words to
him at the very last ; and heâ€ â€”
â€œMarm, I todd him you was sorry.â€ Rafe pulled
her by the dyed black sleeve. The little fellowâ€™s
face worked pathetically. He did not know before
that he could not bear it to see his mother cry.
â€œT think, I believe, Iâ€™m pretty sure,â€ said RafÃ©,
â€œthat my faâ€”ther told me, â€˜ So be I.â€™â€
Helen Ritter drew the child into her free arm,
and so held him, sick at heart, for in that supreme
moment the widowed wife seemed to have gone
deaf and blind; she did not notice even Raf.
â€œWhatâ€™s death,â€ cried Ellen Jane, lifting her
wan face to heaven, and sinking with a sickening,
writhing motion to her knees, â€” â€œ what â€™s death, if
that was all, to man and wife that love each other ?
Iâ€™ve been cold since Henry died, and Iâ€™ve gone
hungry â€” donâ€™t let on to the children, for they
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 81
donâ€™t know â€” and Iâ€™d be cold and hungry ; and if
I was to starve, whatâ€™s that? And if I mourned
and cried for him, us partinâ€™ kind, why, what is
that? Itâ€™s the words between us ! â€” oh, itâ€™s the
_ words between us! JI dream â€™em in my dreams, I
hear â€™em in the wind, I hear â€™em at the instrument
when the children sing â€” itâ€™s the words between
us! Him that courted me and wedded me, the
babyâ€™s father â€” and we loved each other, and we
come to words that last, last minute, him going to
his death! My God! my God! my God!â€
â€œâ€˜ Miss Ritter, dear, what am I sayinâ€™? Send the
children off. Crying, Raf@? Donâ€™t, dear. There!
motherâ€™s sonny boy; come here. Donâ€™t, RafÃ©,
- donâ€™t. Yes, Ill come and see the Christmas stock-
ings. Let me bea minute. Go, Miss Ritter, with
â€™em, if you ll be so good. Kiss me, RafÃ©. Moth-
er Il come presently, my son. Let me be a minute,
won't you, by myself.â€
They went and left her, as they were bidden,
every one. Somebody shut the door of the chilly
parlor, not quite to, and so shielded her in for a
little, yet did not shut her off alone; they could
not bear to.
Helen Ritter gathered the children about her,
82 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
among the presents and playthings, but it was hard.
Christmas had gone out of the fatherless house.
It was not easy for sorrow to play at Christmas Eve.
RafÃ© tried to entertain the lady. He told her he
was going to support the family. He told her how
he sat as model to the gentleman who painted up
at the hotel, and Miss Ritter asked about the pic
tures, and a little about the painter, but not so
much, and so they chatted quietly.
â€œReady, mother?â€ called RafÃ©, at the half-shut
â€œ Presently, my son.â€
â€œ Coming, mother ?â€ begged Emma Eliza.
â€œâ€˜Tuminâ€™, mummer ?â€ called the other baby.
â€œTn a minute, yes, my dears.â€
â€œ Mother, Miss Ritter says she â€™s found somebody
to buy the instrument. Mother, Miss Ritter says
she wants an instrument. She says she'll give a
hundred and twenty-five dollars for it. She says
she wants an instrument very much. Coming,
â€œYes, my child.â€
Just as she came out among them, quiet again,
and gentle with her strange, dull gentleness, and
stood so, a little apart from them, looking on, RafÃ©
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 83
got up and went to his window, where the curtain
hung half drawn (half-mast, they called it), and
looked out. It was snowing fiercely. The lights
of the near hotel showed through the white drift.
Emma Eliza would walk over with Miss Ritter when
she had to go. Miss Ritter said she liked a little
snow. How heavy was the calling of the sea! It
was like the chords of a majestic, mighty organ
built into the walls of the world.
The children chattered about the aerint and
pointed out their rooms yonder, specks of light in -
the dark hotel. Miss Ritter paid little attention
to the artists. She was watching Mrs. Salt â€” and
~ What ailed Rafe ?
The child had been standing with his face pressed
against the window where the curtain hung at half-
mast ; his yellow hair fallmg forward looked like a
little crown. As he stood he began to croon and
hum below his breath.
â€œ He hasnâ€™t sung that one before since fatherâ€
â€” whispered Emma Eliza, but stopped, sobbing.
Rafe was humming â€œ Pull for the Shore.â€
But what ailed Rafe? He drew away from the
window; the boy had turned quite pale ; and yet
84 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
it could not be said that his transparent, delicate
face showed fear. He went up slowly to his
mother, and pulled her black dress.
â€œMarm, I see my faâ€”ther.â€
He pointed to the window, against which the
storm pelted fast and furious.
â€œTâ€™ve frightened you, RafÃ©,â€ said the mother,
quietly. She had her great good sense. No one
should allow her children to be afraid of their
father as if he were a vulgar ghost. She patted
Rafe, kissed him, and said, â€œ RafÃ© must nâ€™t say -
â€œâ€œMarm,â€ persisted the boy, â€œI saw my faâ€”
â€œTtâ€™s the snow, RafÃ©, you see; itâ€™s so white â€”
like him. RafÃ© must not talk like silly people.
Dead folks canâ€™t be seen by little boys. There!
There â€™s that old latch again, RafÃ©. How it acts!
Go and fix it, dear.â€
Like a child RafÃ© obeyed, but like a spirit he
pondered, for RafÃ© had his dual life like the rest
of us. Was it vulgar to see ghosts? Clearly it
was necessary to push the wash-bench against the
door; and though he looked like a spirit, he pushed
like a boy. With his knee upon the bench, with
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 85
his hand upon the latchâ€” But this was the mo-
ment when the childâ€™s shrill ery sounded and re-
sounded through the house : â€”
â€œ Oh, marm, Iâ€™ve got my faâ€”ther !â€
And, corpse or ghost or man, Henry Salt pushed
in the door, hurled over the wash-bench, brushed
aside Miss Ritter, strode over the children, and
hearing, seeing, knowing nothing else, if alive or
dead, whether in earth or heaven, he took his wife,
in her black dress, into his arms.
2 OR the most part, as we all
know, such things are
dreamed of. In Fairharbor
they happen. The material
of novelists and poets and playwrights, elsewhere
woven of air or webbed of fancy to appease the
burning human desire for â€œa good endingâ€ to
a smart fiction, becomes in Fairharbor, now and
then, by Godâ€™s ingenious will, the startling fact.
The sea had given up her dead. One month
reckoned of the solemn number, Henry Salt, like
86 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
fishermen before him and fishermen, please God, to
come after him, tossed by the vagaries of the sea
and her toilers, had breasted his way to life and
He was a man of sparse words, except when in
liquor or in temper, and he took but few, slowly
spoken, and with the feint of carelessness or stolid-
ity used by men of his kind to mask the rare and
so confusing emotions of a lifetime, to tell his short,
true tale: â€” ely ae
â€œWe was lost in the fog and drove by the
weather, and we was picked up six days to sea by
a trader bound to Liverpool. Thatâ€™s all. Her
name was the Rose of the Westâ€”derned silly
name for a merchantan. She took me anâ€™ kepâ€™
me â€”for my dory mate was frozen, and him she
heaved overboard â€” till she hailed the Van Deusen-
cock, of New York city, homeward bound. And
thatâ€™s about all. The Van Deusencock she took
me, and she got in at midnight, so I took the train
to Boston, for Iâ€™d lost the boat â€” sheâ€™d â€™a ben
cheaper. Have you got a piece of squash pie in
the house? Iâ€™m hungry. Iâ€™m glad to get home.â€
The fisherman paused with a final air, and if left
to himself it is doubtful if he would have added
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 87
another word to his story from that day to this.
Men of the sea are not so fond as traditionally be-
lieved of detailing their thrilling escapes. They
suffer too much, and it is comfortable to forget.
â€œ Well â€”yes,â€ reluctantly, â€œI said my dory mate
was froze. I didnâ€™t say who he was. Iâ€™ve no ob-
jections, as I know of; only I hate to think of him.
Job Ely was my dory mate. Yes. We was to-
gether to see to our trawls, and we drifted off in
the fog â€” you could â€™a cut it with a dull bread-
knife! â€” and we couldnâ€™t find our way back to
the Abby E. Salt; and thatâ€™s all. I hate to think
on â€™t, because he died first.
â€œThere was a bite of ship-bread and water we
had aboard the dory agin accident â€” I like to have
something â€”so they kepâ€™ me. But it was almighty
cold. Donâ€™t you remember the spell oâ€™ weather come
along about Thanksgiving? Well, Job Ely froze.
He froze to death. So I had to do the rowinâ€™.
But I kepâ€™ him, for I reckoned his motherâ€™d like
to hev the body. I thought Iâ€™d make shore along
some oâ€™ them desarted beaches. So I kepâ€™ him, but
I covered his face, and I could nâ€™t make shore, and
it was God Aâ€™mighty cold. I rowed for six days
â€”nigh to seven. I like to died â€” Nelly Jane,
88 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
donâ€™t take on so! Donâ€™t, my girl! Set in my
lap awhile â€” never mind the children. Why, how
you do shake and tremble! Why, look a-here! I
pip Nr po rr. Iâ€™m a livinâ€™ man. Iâ€™ve got you
in these here arms. Bless the girl! Emma Eliza,
what ails your marm? Has she took on this way
all this whileâ€” for me? How peakÃ©d she looks,
sand pale and sallerâ€” kind oâ€™ starved! There,
Nelly Jane! Give me a mite oâ€™ suthinâ€™ for her,
canâ€™t you? She dooz look starved. Donâ€™t want
nothinâ€™ but a kiss? Hereâ€™s twenty of em! Who
ever heard of a woman beinâ€™ starved for kisses ?
Why, what a girl you be! Why, this is like court-
mâ€™â€” old married folk like us. Why, sho! I
donâ€™t know but itâ€™s wuth a manâ€™s dyinâ€™ and cominâ€™
to life to court his own widder â€” this way.
â€œ Well, yes, I did get pretty cold. Fact is, I
froze my hands â€” froze â€™em stiff. Fortâ€™nate they
friz to the oars, so I kepâ€™ a-rowinâ€™. Time agin I
give out, and like to lay down alongside poor Job
and give it up; but then they was friz to the oars,
so I had to keep a-rowinâ€™. Curâ€™ous thing, now.
One night, that last night before I sighted the Rose
of the West, I was nigh about gone. You canâ€™t
think how sick I was oâ€™ the sight oâ€™ Job â€”he
- THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 89
looked so. But I couldnâ€™t bear to heave him over.
Well, that night â€”I tell you the Sunday morninâ€™
truth â€”I heerd RafÃ© singinâ€™ and Emma Eliza play-
inâ€™ to him on the instrument, and I heerd RafÃ©
sing : â€” ;
â€˜Pull for the shore, faâ€”ther.â€™
I heerd him plain as judgment, with the girl jâ€™ininâ€™
in the chorus. But I heerd RafÃ© quite plain and
Â¢ Pull for the shore, faâ€”ther, pull for the shore !â€™
Curâ€™ous, waâ€™nâ€™t it? Howâ€™d that hymn-tune know
her chart, navigatinâ€™ all them waters alter me?
Say? LIheerd her. She need nâ€™t tell me. T heerd
my little son singinâ€™ to his father â€”meâ€™s good as
a dead man â€”and by the livinâ€™ God I up anâ€™
â€œ What did you say, Rafe? Idonâ€™t know. My
hands was froze. Canâ€™t say what I can do for a
livinâ€™ with â€™em till Iâ€™ve tried. Have to stay ashore,
maybe. I hainâ€™t got so far as that. I donâ€™t mind
my hands, soâ€™s Iâ€™ve got my folks.
â€œ What did I holler back the night I went away?
I donâ€™ knowâ€™s I know. You mean the night me
and your marm had words? I hadnâ€™t oughter had
â€™em. I thought onâ€™tasight. I hoped sheâ€™d for-
90 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
get â€™em. I kinder thought she would. â€˜So be I??
I donâ€™t remember sayinâ€™ â€˜ So be I.â€™ I misremember,
Rafe. Guess it must â€™a ben â€”yes, yes â€”sure
enough. Sho! Yes, yes. I was a-callinâ€™ to poor
Job â€” him ahead of me, for I was late â€”TI says,
â€˜Job Ely! Job Ely!â€ says I.â€
â€œT never says I knew you says so, faâ€”ther. I
says, I think, I believe he said, â€˜So be I.â€™ I
wanted to say I knew you says so, faâ€”ther.â€â€™
â€œTâ€™d oughter, RafÃ©. But Iâ€™m afraid I did nâ€™t.â€.
â€œ Haâ€”ther, did you hear me sayâ€ â€” But RafÃ©
stopped. He could not ask his father, â€œ Did you
hear me say, â€˜Marm says sheâ€™s sorryâ€™?â€ The fine
instinct of the fishermanâ€™s child was equal to that
emergency. Rafe did not ask the question, and
â€œHaâ€”ther,â€ once again. Rafe came up and
leaned against the big wooden rocking-chair wherein
the two sat â€œcourtingâ€ â€”the massive, puzzled,
tender man, the little woman, laughing and crying
in her widowâ€™s dress. â€œ Faâ€”ther, what did you
think about, when you thought youâ€™d be froze and
drownded â€” all that time?â€
â€œMy son,â€ said Henry Salt, after a long silence,
which nobody, not even the baby, or the other
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 91
baby, seemed to care or dare to break â€” â€œmy son,
I thought about your poor mother. I see that
latch wants a screw,â€ added the fisherman, in his
leisurely, matter-of-fact voice. â€œI guess Iâ€™ll fix it
after youve warmed the pie up, Ellen Jane.â€
But Emma Eliza, whether from such excess of
earthly blessedness as to lead her to fear that oneâ€™s
heavenly prospects might be slighted, or whether
from some vague sense of saying her prayers, or
whether solely out of respect for the instrument,
will never be known, danced madly to that melo-
dious member of the family, and wailed out the
general ecstasy in the lugubrious strains of â€œThe
. B.: I never thought of its being you.â€
Helen Ritter, confronted in the entry of
the big empty summer hotel by that timely artist
whose need of models had made RafÃ© the proud
support of a fatherless family, dashed out these
92 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
words too impetuously to be recalled. â€œYou! and
here again!â€ She was dazzling with snow and
color. She would have drawn herself to her full
height splendidly, but his was higher. In that
gloomy place, by the light of the lonely and smoky
kerosene lamp swinging from the cold ceiling, it
seemed indeed as if he outvied her in splendor.
As she looked up, it was as if his mere physical
presence would break her heart and grind it to
powder â€” it was so long since she had seen him.
Their eyes clashed, retreated, advanced, united,
and held gloriously. They defied each other, they
adored. each other, taunted and blessed, challenged
and yielded, blamed and forgave, wounded and wor-
shiped, as only a few men and women may in all
the world, and love the better for it. The story
of years was told without a word; the secret of
anguish was said in silence; the torrent of joy
poured past dumb lips, and there by the winter sea,
on a Christmas Eve, in the dismal hotel entry, by
the light of the smoky kerosene, two souls without
speech or language met, perhaps for the first time
in all their lives.
â€œT saw you through the window over there,â€ he
stammered, rapturously. â€œOh, I saw you holding
THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS. 93
the woman in your arms, and the child came up
and kissed you. Why, I heard you sob. I was
mean enough to listen. And I said, â€˜ Why, sheâ€™s
a tender woman. She never could have meant â€”
She would forgive.â€™ We misunderstood each other
somehow, Helen. For Loveâ€™s sake give me the
right to find out how.â€
â€œQh,â€ said Helen Ritter, lifting her arms with
a gentle and beautiful motion that might well have
set a calmer man beside himself, â€œshe told me I had
never quarreled with the â€”man I â€” loved.â€
When they moved to shut the hotel door â€” for
the snow was drifting in â€”and so stood for a mo-
ment between the storm without and the shelter
within, RafÃ© and Emma Eliza at the instrument
were singingâ€™ shrilly,
â€œGive the wind time
To blow the man home!â€
It seemed that Henry Salt had picked up another
94 THE MADONNA OF THE TUBS.
verse to this long-suffering song upon the voyage,
for, past the bowlders, over the thickets, under the
willows, through the snow, borne, not drowned, by
the pean of the organ of the sea, thus roundly on
the gale his bass trolled forth : â€”
â€œGive your life time
To blow the heart home !â€
â€œJT want to sing it too,â€ said Helen Ritter. He
to whom her lightest wish was dearest law drew
her furs about her, and led her out into the storm ;.
where, standing hand in hand, unseen, unheard,
they joined their voices to the fisher-peopleâ€™s, and
sang the wise, sweet words.
eee See mee TREE TTT
teeta tenia aoe ib ; oh Sy
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