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T^ T V




I I'i ,' '' '!




Author of "Blue Anchor Inn,"
"The Millionaire," etc.

Illustrated by Ralph L. Boyer




1914 BY

Merc Man




" ARE You IN LOVE ? " 124


Mere Man

Mere Man


MISS JANE HOWELL was conversing.
It is a pity to begin a perfectly well-
meaning story with a bit of tautology like that,
but it is unavoidable. Miss Howell was always
conversing. Talking, with her, was a condition,
a state of mind, a physical function, like the
beating of her heart or the circulation of her
blood. As a conversationalist, she was thor-
ough. Nothing was left to chance. She left
no yearning listener hanging helpless over an
abyss of doubt.

If she mentioned casually that her father had
once been postmaster in the little town of Judas
Iscariot, Arizona, she did not leave that bare,
barren fact to rest on the unsatisfied mind, for-



ever a thorn and a matter of uncertainty. Her
frank nature led her to tell why he was the
postmaster of that particular town, and what
he said on the day of his appointment, and
what his wife said and his brothers and his
sisters and his aunts and his cousin in Pennsyl-
vania. In the end the story she was telling
was a complete work of reference, and if prop-
erly edited and printed would have consisted
of about two lines of text per page and the re-
mainder of exhaustive foot-notes. The word
exhaustive is used advisedly.

Such conversation required concentration.
The chime of plates at Mrs. Prouty's boarding-
house, the manceuvers of the vegetable dishes
marching and countermarching and crisscross-
ing over the table, passed by nimble hands
grown used to such legerdemain, disturbed
Miss Howell not in the least. Her mind was
on the seriousness of her task. She was ob-
livious to such small things.

" Tea or milk, Miss Howell ? " demanded

Mrs. Prouty, wedging in the question at the



point of the former lady's remarks where there
should have been a comma.

" Coffee, please," Miss Howell replies, feeling
herself addressed, not pausing an instant. Her
story marches on.

" And no one," she said, " supposed they
would do it. People have talked about it, cer-
tainly, just as they have talked about breaking
windows and burning houses and pouring ink
in the letter boxes. Though what I can't un-
derstand is why the women don't get caught
doing such daring things as they do in Eng-
land. Some people say that is a proof of the
superior intelligence of women over "

" Now, Miss Howell," observed young Mr.
Derry, " you are talking woman's suffrage, I
know. Don't try to pretend you are not."

The lady laughed in the helpless way she
had when she felt she was being teased. But
the gulf between earnestness and frivolity was
one she could not leap across at so short notice.

" Of course I'm talking woman's suffrage,"

she exclaimed, stoutly. " What else should I



talk about to-day ? Why, a friend I met on
the street said there were three thousand
women outside the hall who couldn't get in.
You know this was the final day of the Equal
Suffrage Convention. Of course you read
about it in the papers. And what happened
this afternoon is going to revolutionize every-
thing. The action of the militants in England
doesn't compare with it in effectiveness. I
really think the women have solved the ques-
tion at last."

" I'm all impatience," cried Mr. Derry.
" What did they do ? Willy, urge the potatoes
this way, please."

"This friend of mine says who was there
right in the hall" she began, by way of reply
" that the principal speaker of the afternoon,
this Mrs. now what is her name ? I thought
I had it right on the tip of my tongue." She
waved her hand up and down helplessly.
"You know, the woman who helped in the
shirt-waist strike. It seems to me her name
began with B. Oh, pshaw 1 "



" Never mind the name," suggested Mrs.
Prouty, wisely. " We are all waiting to hear
your story."

" I almost had it then. It is a short name."

" Brown ? " suggested Mr. Derry, at random.

" No."

" Barker ? " offered some one.

Miss Howell smiled.

" Barker," she cried, elated at having run
this fact to earth. " Now let me see. Where
was I? Oh, yes. Well, this friend of mine
said that Mrs. Barker made a very impressive
speech. She is absolutely beautiful and wears
the most expensive clothes, and, when she talks,
every one goes wild. She had on a blue net
dress over crepe de chine with real lace at the
wrist and throat, and only one piece of jewelry,
an amethyst pin set in diamonds. She is the
one who advocates that all women in the
country refuse to marry until the men grant
them the ballot. She says that will bring
them to terms quicker than anything else.
And she proposes to tour the country from now



on getting as many women as possible to sign
the pledge of celibacy refusing absolutely to
marry any man."

" Yes," said Mr. Derry, patiently, " and what
happened this afternoon ? "

"She started her crusade," cried Miss Howell,
" and three hundred Washington women signed
their names ! "

Mr. Derry held his head in his hands.

" What chance is there for me ? " he moaned.

A girl entered the room and drew out the
chair between the two speakers.

"What's the matter?" she asked, adjusting
the already faultless lace that hung below her

Miss Howell reached out her hand and laid it
on the girl's arm.

" I was telling them about the action of the
convention this afternoon."

The newcomer nodded.

" You know about it ? " cried the other,

" Yes, I was there."



A gentleman across the table who was called
the " Colonel " cleared his throat.

" Miss Carver," he said, addressing the new-
comer, " I have listened with great attention to
Miss Howell's statement as to the action of the
convention, and I want to ask you frankly, as a
woman of reason, what you think of such a
thing ? "

"Am I a woman of reason?" asked the girl.

" Of course you are," asserted the Colonel,

" And of infinite beauty," observed Mr. Derry,
industriously stirring his coffee.

The girl gazed at the back of the young
man's averted head. She laughed outright.

" That frivolous young man," said the
Colonel, " has unwittingly stumbled upon the
very line of argument I wish to pursue. I
maintain that those three hundred women who
refused to marry until women are allowed to
vote are three hundred women who could not
get married if they wanted to. A handsome,
bright young woman like you if you will



excuse an old man for saying so who could
have her choice of any one in the whole
United States, wouldn't have signed that

The color deepened on Miss Carver's face.

" In a moment, Colonel," she said, " I am
going to blush with confusion."

" The Colonel is right," asserted Derry ; " it's
just a lot of the old standbys who have been on
hand for the past forty years that agreed not to
get married. Of course they agreed. They
had to. The idea had been wished on them
years ago."

Miss Carver bent over her plate and smiled.

" I should like your frank and unbiased
opinion, Miss Carver," pursued the Colonel.
" I know you have said you favored woman's
suffrage. But do you honestly think that any
young, beautiful woman with a chance to get
married would have signed that paper ? "

" I'd like to hear your opinion on that too,"
exclaimed the young man beside her.

" Come now," cried the Colonel.


Miss Carver looked up, and her eyes shone

" I'm embarrassed at having to say this," she
observed, " but did you say I was ahem
young and beautiful and probably marriage-
able ? "

" I most certainly did," asseverated the

" Well," she said, " I signed the paper."


IN the third floor rear room of Mrs. Prouty's
boarding-house, which Deborah Carver oc-
cupied but which Miss Howell, abiding theoret-
ically in the room adjoining, used as an overflow
for herself, her clothes and her conversation, the
latter was making preparations to go out. If
Deborah Carver had intended to go out on that
mild September evening, she would simply
have put on her hat, taken her gloves and de-
parted. But not so Miss Howell. She had
spent half an hour already trying the effect of
several different waists upon herself, each change
of scene requiring a complete removal and
substitution of more of the beribboned and
belaced strata that lay underneath. She was
not really satisfied now, for the last shirt-waist
showed the mark of the iron in an obscure

place ; but there was no time to change again,



and seizing her white lisle gloves, she left the
room. Deborah, reading in a big comfortable
chair, smiled and wondered if she had really gone.
She returned almost immediately, completely out
of breath from running up the stairs, saying that
she had forgotten to put on suitable evening
shoes. And then, after she had returned once
more, because both the gloves she had were for
the right hand, and again for an umbrella, be-
cause the paper had said there might be rain
that night or the next day, she was finally

Deborah stretched out her arms lazily, and
throwing her book on the bed walked to the
window where she could look out over the vista
of other people's back yards, commanded ap-
parently by a myriad of other third floor back
windows, where she knew lived workers in the
hive like herself. But no face appeared any-
where. The still, hot night had driven them
all out to their separate diversions to the cool
joy of the open street cars, or to the hot, but
exciting interior of the stock company theatre,



or to the dance halls. It seemed as if she were
the only human looking out upon that hollow
square of houses. The air in her room was hot
and still. With the falling of the dusk, the ex-
citement of the day had left her, and in its place
hung about her a slight, intangible melancholy,
such as comes to any one who suddenly realizes
she is twenty-six.

When one is ten, twenty-six seems like a ripe
old age ; when one is fifteen it seems like a point
when one's destination in life will have been
decided on, when the ship will have left port
under full steam with the course plotted on the
chart. If one is to be married, it will have been
done by then. If she is to succeed in some fine
pursuit that is to enrich the world, the indica-
tion of that success will have begun to appear.
But, for Deborah, twenty-six had come and
passed, and neither of these things had hap-
pened. Her ship still lay at the dock.

She turned away from the window, where the
clatter of dishes and the odor of kitchen rose

from below. She wondered if moving the trap-



door in the ceiling of the room would afford an
outlet for the heated, heavy air that surrounded
her. She attempted to dislodge it with a cur-
tain pole, and this proving ineffectual, she de-
corously closed the door and presently the
bureau was surprised to find a pair of white
shod feet resting where the pincushion ought
to have been. From this point of vantage she
was able to reach the wooden trap and slide it
back from its position. Above, all was dark
and exuded the heat of a bake-oven. But the
spirit of adventure was upon her.

Of course, no dignified, aged woman of
twenty-six should have done it. It was an
anachronism. It was the thing she would have
done twelve years ago and been spanked as
a result for being a tomboy, no doubt. She
smiled as she thought of it. At least there was
no one to spank her now. She caught hold of
the sides of the opening and her strong young
arms drew her up into the cavern. What must
Mrs. Prouty have thought had she appeared

then and seen the two feet of an angel, clad in



pumps and silk stockings, disappearing heaven-
ward from the third floor back room just like
Mr. Forbes Robertson in the play !

But no Mrs. Prouty or other deputy Nemesis
appeared. It was dusty in the regions above,
and not very beneficial to white summer clothes.
But a short ladder led upward, at the top of
which was another trap, fastened with a rusty
hook. And when that was finally forced open,
there was the moon shining in the sky.

She stepped out on the pebbly roof. It was
an enchanted garden she stood in. Two long
lines of brick parapet bounded her in, like
parterres of closely trimmed hedge. The heads
of the sidewalk trees protruded above it and
sometimes lapped over, their leaves rustling in
a pastoral whisper. The moon shone pleas-
antly in the sky above. In the distance the
search-light from a hotel roof-garden rested on
the obelisk of the Monument. Turning to the
other side she saw far off the great dome of the
Capitol a silver thimble in the moonlight.

She might have been some pre-Renaissance



Roman duchess leaning on the white marble
balustrade of her formal garden.

All this suggested a metaphor to her. She
had once been asked to make a street corner
speech in favor of woman suffrage, and she had
refused, partly because she had no very con-
vincing public argument and partly because, as
she had said laughing, she "was not man
enough." She thought now if she ever had to
make that speech, she might compare her
room, stuffy, hot, and shut-in to the condition
of the voteless woman and her emergence out
into the free, pure air with the glory of the soft
night about her to the bursting forth of woman
from her cell and chains of bondage she
smiled as she thought of those well-worn
phrases into freedom and power and her
rightful prerogative.

Of course she could make a speech if she
wanted to. The suffrage held out no apparent
advantages to her personally. She had no
selfish interest in it. Its appeal was an ethical

one that roused her enthusiasm. The propa-



ganda was an uplifting effort for the whole
body of women. She could not help compar-
ing it to great movements like the Reformation
and the Renaissance and when she put her
determined shoulder to the wheel, she felt that
she was revolving it in a way to make history
to accomplish something lasting and worth
while. It seemed as if this were a new Re-
naissance an awakening of woman a burst-
ing forth out of mediaeval darkness into light.

She was willing to devote her life, now passed
the mark where she should have picked out her
sphere of usefulness, to such a deserving cause ;
to march to the crusades, carrying a spear that
should help in the beginning of a new era for
woman. Her enthusiasm and her conscience,
stung by what her body had not accomplished,
drove her on. Following the dictates of the
latter, with the fortitude of Spartan women, she
had offered up the thing most dear to her, and
taken a vow of celibacy. She, Deborah Carver,
had doomed herself to be an old maid for a



She laughed and looked over the parapet
into the lighted room of a wing below her
where a dark-haired young man, in his third
floor room, bent over his desk. That young
man, whoever he might be, and every other
man, henceforth had no interest for her. She
might lean over the parapet as she did now,
and look at him, like Moses viewing the prom-
ised land, but she must not endeavor to possess
him. He seemed to be a nice person. She
was interested in the slim fingers which held
the papers he read. His room was furnished
more luxuriously than most third floor rooms.
The flat-topped desk in the middle of the room
where he sat was of mahogany. A brass drop
light with a garnet shade sat on the desk. The
rug caught the light like a real oriental rug,
and the pictures and hangings on the walls
spoke of a height of ease and comfort to which
the average boarding house did not aspire.
She gazed at the Promised Land with much
interest, speculating idly as to what he might
be doing, until presently the Promised Land



rose, slapped his hat on his head and turned
out the light. She was alone then on her
broad white roof with the moon and the stars.

She had always felt that one day she should
be married. Her instincts and emotions all led
her that way. Her life in her school brought
her always in contact with children, whom she
understood and guarded and sympathized with
by virtue of some instinct within her. She had
the hovering wings of a mother. Yet she had
seen no man whom she would marry.

She often found herself being terribly excited
over Bobby Mitchell for five minutes at a
time. But then she realized he was pursuing
her and saw love and devotion in his eyes and
immediately became bored. She liked his
automobile, for that made her go fast and pro-
vided her with excitement. But the man who
was to possess her must control her with an
iron hand. He must be a man to whom, when
she was tired of struggling to arrange her life,
she could turn over the reins and let him drive.

Whereas she controlled Bobby Mitchell and



he was merely typical of them all with more
ease than Bobby controlled the big car which
responded immediately to his touch on the

She heard the newsboys on the street below
crying an extra paper, and when she descended
from her roof she purchased one. It contained
a list of the women who had signed the celibacy
pact. There was her own name near the top.
She snipped it out with her scissors and impaled
it upon her pincushion.

" Lest we forget," she said, smiling, and un-
did the fastening at her throat.



nice, hot sun caressed the street until
the weary asphalt sank under your feet.
Deborah walked along in the narrow shade of
the buildings, aimlessly gazing into their show
windows. Her work over for the day there re-
mained no place to go but her room at Mrs.
Prouty's a place which she religiously avoided
when it was not absolutely necessary for her to
go there. People, when their work is over, like
to go home and find comfort and cheer in sur-
roundings that are familiar to them. But if
you have to climb two flights of stairs to get to
your home, and it is only twelve feet by fifteen
when you arrive, and has the same dejected
appearance that it had when you left, it holds
out few inducements. Deborah did not go

Filled with notions of clothes for the fall, she

slipped with easy nonchalance into an ornate



shop and wandered about until she found long
glass cases in which were expensive gowns
" creations," they called them in that store
fashioned out of bewilderingly soft and costly
fabrics which were draped and turned and
tortured into the very newest designs. It
was an education to any one who in a few
weeks would have to make her own fall
dresses both of them. She looked these over
carefully and made copious mental notes. But
one of the duchesses of the place, observing the
desecration of the hallowed spot where stood
only those with money in their purses who came
to purchase, bore down upon her with haughty

" Did you wish to see something ? " she said,

Deborah looked clear through the disdain.
She smiled pleasantly.

" That smoke-colored one does it hook up
the back ? "

" I don't know. Were you looking for an

evening dress ? "



The other laughed a soft, low laugh.

" Not I," she said, turning to the girl. " But
wouldn't you like to have one like that made of
challis ? The material wouldn't cost more than
three dollars."

Deborah was thoroughly interested in her
scheme. The salesgirl's face lit up for a mo-
ment at the idea. That small second of warmth
volatilized her aloofness and it floated off into
thin air. After that it was impossible to climb
back into the strategic position she had occupied

" I think I'll do it for myself," she said. She
looked about her guardedly. " Would you like
to see the dress ? "

" Of course I should like to see it."

The dress, rustling with tissue paper, came
down from its place, and the two alert vivisec-
tionists noted its anatomy and physiology. In
the course of this the sales duchess, recognizing
a certain unmistakable humanity in Deborah,
was divulging the fact that it was only two
weeks before the such and such dance, for which



she must have a dress. And, never doubting her
companion's interest in the matter, she spoke of
men with a sparkle in her eyes of one in the
midst of the game. When Deborah caught
that look of enthusiasm, accustomed and
hardened as she was to the confidences of chance
people, a lump of lead seemed to drop, uninvited
and unexpected, into her heart. For that was
the enthusiasm that was now denied to her.
Her interest in the dresses soon waned.
Presently she gathered up her bag and gloves
and, thanking the girl, went out into the street

The lump of lead was still in the same place.
She decided to walk to the headquarters of the
Equal Suffrage Association and leave it there if
possible. Mrs. Dobson, secretary of the associa-
tion and chairman of a thousand committees
and sub-committees, bounced up from her desk
and embraced her when she entered. Deborah
adjusted her hat and attire.

" Sit down," cried Mrs. Dobson.

Mrs. Dobson herself never sat down. Some-


times she perched for an instant on the edge
of her swivel chair. But most of the time she
was darting about like the squirrels in the park.

" My dear, I am so glad you are with us,"
she said, running her nimble fingers over a
card-catalogue drawer and pulling out a card.

" I think it's my duty I think it is every
one's duty to help in every way possible,"
Deborah replied, stoutly.

Mrs. Dobson pounced on the fountain pen
that lay on her desk.

" It's the example that counts," she exclaimed,
adding some notation on her card. " It's the
example of noble self-sacrifice. That's the
spirit that is going to win."

She held her pen in her mouth and ran through
another card index, descending upon the proper
card and tattooing it with more hieroglyphics
which only she could read.

" What's that card index for ? " demanded the

" Congressional. We have all the congress-
men written up, showing just where they stand



on the question." She pulled out a card.
" There is the man to beware of," she com-
mented. " He is our most astute foe."

" John Marshall Lea."

" The same," she repeated, tartly. " Remem-
ber that name as of the Black Douglas. He
has done more to block legislation favorable to
us than any five other men in the House. He
is the man who is going to oppose most bitterly
the bill for an equal suffrage amendment in the
House of Representatives when we bring the
question before a committee of the House in
November. If I can beat him I shall consider
that I have gone a long way toward winning
the whole fight."

"Very well, Mother Dobson." The girl
laughed. " Do you realize you've wasted a
whole minute of your precious time standing

" Bless me, so I have." She looked at the
clock and took the receiver off the hook of her
telephone. " Don't go. I can talk to you and
telephone at the same time."



" I believe you could," observed Deborah.

" Remember," cried Mrs. Dobson, " we are
going to ask you to make some speeches for us

A chill crept gently over Deborah. She saw
herself standing on a soap-box, rising to ad-
dress a roaring, turbulent, out-of-doors crowd.
Could she bring herself to do it ? She thought
she would infinitely prefer to stand in front of
the Capitol in a pillory. Her impulse was to
tell Mrs. Dobson so and warn that lady not to
count upon her. But she did nothing of the
sort. She sat with her hands calmly folded
before her, telling herself that all great move-
ments must be accomplished by a series of
sacrifices, and that she would not be the one to
refuse when her turn came. And all she said
was, " Very well, Mrs. Dobson," quite calmly
and pleasantly.

She did not leave all her low spirits behind
her as she had hoped. And when dusk fell
again, she was once more sitting in her room
full of the realization that she was twenty-six



and trying to forget the idea by reading a
funny story. But who can forget so far-reach-

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