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FREEMAN TILDE N
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
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HOW TREDICK GOT INTO
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
All rights reserved
BY THE MACJrflJIL AN*. fiOM^ANT
* "-. .- ;* .-; .
fcn<i ef*Atot>-ped. Publiahe d, jjjiii^.
To all those, in camp and field, on sea and land,
in the mines and factories, at the forge
To all those who toil with hand and brain,
And to those whose fate it is to " only stand
and wait "
Wearers of KHAKI all upon the flesh or
in the heart
IN Tredick there was a man who admitted that he
was a coward.
This is unusual. It is so unusual that you will im
mediately want to know where Tredick is. And so
I reply that Tredick lies between the seventieth and one
hundred and twenty-fifth degrees of longitude, West;
and that, in a general way, it is south of Canada and
north of Mexico. I will further state, to make iden
tification a little easier, that Tredick is represented on
the maps by a small round black dot ; that it has three
churches, twenty-odd stores, several flourishing in
dustries and a Carnegie Library; that the main street
is called Main Street, and the street that leads off Main
Street to the railroad station is called Railroad Street;
that the hotel is called the Commercial Hotel ; and that
there is a square, or a " common," in the business
center, with a granite shaft dedicated to the town s
men who fell during the Civil War.
But in case I have not been specific enough in this
indication, I might add that Tredick was settled some
hundreds of years ago by people who came to the
New World from England, Ireland, Scotland and
Wales; that these people forged, by blood and muscle,
a new freedom which they had several times to defend,
also with blood and muscle ; and that in the month of
March of the year 1917 these people were enjoying
peace a peace which their ancestors had fought as
the very devil to achieve.
So now you know where Tredick is. And if it
should happen that you live in Tredick, and you should
discover anything, in the narrative which follows, that
seems to reflect upon the integrity or character of
Tredick, I ask you to bear in mind that I, the writer,
likewise live in Tredick that your common is my
common, your church may be my church, the store
you trade at may very well be the store I trade at, and.
for all you know, I may be Tom Gilstar, the man who
admitted that he was a coward. Or I may be Sherry
Gilstar, his brother; or I may be Matt Pillicy, or
Deacon Bradshaw, or Henry Hobgood, or Sam Green-
berg, or Miss Prudence Perkins, or Professor Wen-
ham, or some one other of the two thousand persons
who live in what the editor of the Tredick Enterprise
calls, justly enough, " our beautiful town."
I aim first to take you back to town meeting day,
in March, 1917, when Tom Gilstar, the man who ad
mitted that he was a coward, was elected constable
of Tredick. You know as well as I do that the town
officers who were that day elected in the Town Hall,
had in fact been elected several evenings before in
the sitting room of Deacon Bradshaw, the last house
on the left hand side of Valley street, going North.
You know that the Deacon, and Wells Hardy, and
Harry Upton, and Fred Payne, made up their " slate,"
and carried it through without a yip from anybody
except Tobe Willis, the town drunkard, who voted
" No " on everything, just out of cussedness, and was
finally led home by a supporting committee of two.
But what perhaps you don t know, is a little con
versation that went on, at the Deacon s, concerning
the august position of Constable, and the fitness of the
Fred Payne asked, " What about Constable,
Deacon? Fiske says he won t take the job again.
He s too busy with other things."
The Deacon said, " I had Tom Gilstar in mind.
He d do."
" Gilstar ! " shouted two or three of the men at once.
" Are you joking, Deacon? "
" I don t joke," replied the Deacon, with severity.
" What s the matter with Tom Gilstar? "
" He hasn t got the sand of a jack rabbit," said
" Why, that big booby is afraid of his own shadow.
You know it yourself," somebody else said, addressing
" Tom isn t what you d call courageous, probably,"
replied Deacon Bradshaw. " But look at him. He s
a great big strapping fellow. He s as strong as an
ox. And he s as good a boy as ever lived. He s de
" I ll admit he s deserving. I like Tom, myself,"
said Wells Hardy, proprietor of the Tredick Cash Mar
ket. " But let s give him some other job, and have a
constable with nerve enough to tight, if it was neces
sary, to protect our lives and property."
Deacon Bradshaw permitted himself the gayety of
a somber smile. He gazed upon Wells Hardy with
the tolerant quizzicality of a parent toward the rash
enthusiasm of youth. " Wells," he said, " you know
as well as I do that nothing ever happens in Tredick.
Once in a while Tobe Willis has to be put in the cooler.
Sometimes a tramp straggles through here. Occa
sionally, I m sorry to say, one of our folks evades the
dog-tax. What else is there ? "
"Then why have any constable?" ventured Wells
There must be a constable. We ve always had a
constable," was the reply which settled the matter.
" So I figure it out this way: Tom Gilslar is big and
strong. He looks, at least in size, like a regular tough
customer. You and I and the rest of the home folks
may know he s chicken-hearted but strangers don t
know it, and it s strangers he s to frighten, not us.
Tom will do well enough."
" I guess the deacon s right, as he most always is,"
said Fred Payne. " Write him down, deacon."
From the town hall, on election day, Deacon Brad-
shaw went straight to the home of Tom Gilstar. He
swung his gold-headed cane, and walked with the mien,
albeit a little wavering in the joints, of a man who had
helped make destiny, even the small corner of destiny
represented by Tredick. When he approached the
gate that opened into the Gilstar front yard, his sharp
gray eyes first appraised the house and its surround
ings. Then he looked up and down the street, as
should a cautious general, to make sure of his " ter
rain." Then, suddenly, he cocked his head on one side,
and stood listening. He could hear a phonograph,
playing within. A disdainful ghost-smile came on the
deacon s mouth. To the deacon all phonographs were
sentimental, and the deacon despised the sentimental.
Evidently, some one else despised the sentimental,
too. As Deacon Bradshaw entered the kitchen, with
out the formality of knocking, he heard a shrill, acid
voice say, in the sitting room : " Do stop that horrible
thing, Phoebe! I simply can t stand that tune. It s
-Silver Threads Among the Gol-l-ld," the
phonograph was about to repeat, lugubriously, when
" Phoebe" must have obligingly switched off the ma
chine, and it ended :
among the G-rrrrrrr ug!" and lapsed
A sweet, patient voice said, " Don t you like that
tune, Prudence ? "
" No, I don t. You know I don t," was the sharp
" I like it," went on the other voice, with that queer,
innocent stubbornness of the pure-in-heart.
"I agree with Prudence it s trashy nonsense!"
exclaimed the deacon, dramatically, with a double
knock on the half -open sitting room door. He en
tered, hat in hand.
Phoebe Gilstar, Tom Gilstar s mother, was sitting in
a rocking chair, at the side of the table whereon rested
the offending music machine. On the other side of the
table, with her hat on, and a few small parcels in
her hands, sat a young woman who, at the deacon s
entrance, flashed a glance at him, and then lowered
her eyes shyly. Queerly enough, the young woman
had the same delicate profile, with the same tenderly
sensitive mouth, as Mrs. Gilstar, though she was of
another family another race, indeed. She was the
daughter of Matt Pillicy, the French-Canadian who
kept the livery in Tredick. Her name was Antonia.
The other woman, Miss Prudence Perkins, stood in
the doorway that led upstairs. There were heavy cur
tains over this doorway, and evidently Miss Prudence
had just come down (perhaps to still the phonograph)
as the deacon entered.
Miss Perkins had none of the tenderness displayed
in her face, that characterized her sister, Mrs. Gil-
star. Her mouth was a straight line. Once in a
while her lips parted in something like a wireless
flash of humor, and her eyes, which saw through every
thing, and bored their gray way into your very inner
most reactions, when she looked at you, were not a
bit unkindly. But they were defensively edged, like
well-kept tools. Her tawny hair was untouched with
white, though she was older than Phoebe by two years.
And she frizzled it into chaste curlettes, upon her fore
head, in defiance of modern methods of coiffure.
Also, in contempt of Time, she scorned the black silk
and white lace of her sister, and indulged in a boister
ous light blue gown, with a touch of Indian-corn in it
here and there.
She was looking straight at Deacon Bradshaw, now ;
and that dignified individual, whose own eyes com
monly made the lightminded quail, perceptibly dropped
to the stature of an ordinary mortal.
" How d ye do," greeted the deacon, nodding to
Mrs. Gilstar and Miss Antonia. " How d ye do, Pru
Mrs. Gilstar had risen quickly, and her hand was
upon the deacon s hat, and her invitation was toward
a chair. Miss Antonia replied in a clear, modest voice.
But Miss Prudence Perkins answered crisply, " How-
dye do, Charles. I didn t hear you knock, outside."
Deacon Bradshaw hadn t knocked, outside. Miss
Perkins knew he hadn t. The deacon showed two red
spots just above his white beard, and hastened to say,
" I ve got news for you. Phcebe, your son Tom is
" Constable ! " Mrs. Gilstar breathed it out in gen
Yes. Town meeting is just over. I came over
because I thought you d like to know from the
proper source. I er may say I had something to
do with his getting the place. Tom is a good boy.
The place is a good place. A sinecure, you might say.
The salary is six hundred dollars a year, and some fees,
too. He s lucky."
Tom s mother was plainly dazed. She stared at the
deacon as though the news had frightened her. Fi
nally she gasped. "It it s kind of you, Charles.
Does Tom of course he knows about it ? "
" I don t know. I dare say he does, by this time.
He didn t know in advance. My policy, you know,
isn t to advertise what we mean to do. Where is
" I think he s at the express office, helping out."
The white-haired woman hesitated, timidly. " Would
you mind, Charles, if I should run over there to
tell him and bring him over here? "
" Good idea," said Mr. Bradshaw. " Bring him
" I ll go with you," said Miss Pillicy, rising.
" No I d rather not, dear," replied Tom s mother.
" I d almost rather you know be alone."
The deacon smiled another mirthless smile. This,
in his estimation, was more sentimentality.
" Well, anyway, I ll have to be going home," said
the young woman.
" Stay a while, Antonia," came from Prudence, in
that voice of hers which was probably intended to be a
request, but sounded like a command.
When Mrs. Gilstar had tied her black bonnet under
her chin, and gone, there was long silence. Deacon
Bradshaw tapped his cane on the floor and cleared his
throat. Miss Perkins was looking at him. The dea
con knew it. And there they sat the two shrewdest
business men in Tredick the two richest individuals
in the county the two persons who for thirty years
had been rivals in the matter of acquiring mortgages,
gilt-edged bonds, parcels of land, and bankbooks.
Two capable business men they were and the woman
was the abler of the two and they both knew it.
Both wholly honest, as they construed honesty and they
construed it pretty justly; both unbending and unfor
giving in the face of sharp practice or injustice: both
uncannily clever in scenting a bargain and driving it
they were different in this : that the woman was the
abler of the two, and knew it, and it served to make her
generous, where the deacon was parsimonious. She
had been known to forget a mortgage-note ; the deacon
And there they sat.
Miss Perkins said, "What s the reason, Charles?"
"Reason?" The deacon tried to look innocent.
" Yes, the reason. You have a reason for every
thing. Tom isn t a fellow you d pick for constable,
naturally. You don t care anything about Phoebe."
" It s for the good of the town, Prudence. Tom
will make a good constable. He s big and strong, and
the very sight of him would frighten evildoers. And
I like Tom. Tom is a good boy. He s a comfort to
" What else? " \vas the pitiless pursuit of truth.
" Why er " The deacon squirmed. Then he
blurted out, " 1 thought you d appreciate it, Prudence."
He glanced anxiously at Antonia as he spoke, and was
relieved to note that she was not paying attention or
seemed not to be. Miss Perkins acknowledged the
compliment without warmth, by nodding her head.
" How d you know the boy wanted to be con
" W r hy, of course he will."
" I don t know as he will. However, he ll speak
for himself. Here they come now ! "
The sitting room door opened, and mother and son
entered, hand in hand. Just before she dropped his
hand, Mrs. Gilstar gave it a little squeeze.
Tom Gilstar filled the doorway. His broad shoul
ders, his height, some six feet and an inch, his trained
figure, almost like that of a professional athlete, ful
filled the deacon s estimate of him. He wore a pair
of blue overalls, and his hands were stained with the
oil barrels he had been handling, but his face was
pleasant to look at. He had the same sensitive nose
and mouth, and the same shy blue-gray eyes, as his
mother. He stood there awkwardly, after greeting
" Tom, I congratulate you," said the deacon, with
great pride, extending his hand.
" I m sure I thank you, deacon," replied the young
fellow. " But I m afraid I don t that is I
can t take the place."
" Why not, sir ? " barked the deacon.
" Because I m not fitted for it."
" Nonsense ! That s just why we got you the place.
You re the very one for it." The deacon turned to
Antonia Pillicy, and in a tone that intimated that he
was especially honoring her by asking her opinion,
added, "Don t you think so, Antonia?"
The girl s big dark eyes had been fixed on Tom Gil-
star s face. Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap ;
she bent forward slightly in an attitude of nervous ex
pectancy. As the deacon addressed her, she looked
down quickly and replied, "I I think it s for Tom to
"I don t want you to think I m not grateful, Mr.
Bradshaw," said the big fellow, slowly. " I appreci
ate your interest. But I - I never could shoot any
body. I don t want to fight with anybody, even."
" Shoot anybody ! " snorted the deacon, exasperated.
" Who asked you to shoot anybody? Did Fiske ever
shoot anybody, the ten years he was constable ? Don t
be a fool. Nothing ever happens in Tredick. You ll
walk around nights and try the doors of the stores, to
see they re locked, and meet the up-train to see that no
boozers get off, and that sort of thing. You ll carry
a pistol, as a matter of course. But the chances are
you ll never use it, in a lifetime. You re not afraid to
carry one, I suppose? " The deacon became scornful.
" People who don t have them, don t use them," was
the unexpected reply.
Deacon Bradshaw was not inclined to argue. He
threw back his head and issued a manifesto. "If you
don t take it, Tom, I wash my hands of you, that s all.
It s the chance of a lifetime."
Mrs. Gilstar put out one hand toward her son, and
said, timidly, " You d better consider it, Tom. You
know the deacon knows about such things."
Prudence Perkins said, " Tom, either you want it,
or you don t want it. There s no law that compels
you to take a job you don t want. And I don t know
just what difference it makes, Charles, whether you
wash your hands of Tom, or whether you wash your
hands at all. Our family can take care of itself."
The deacon backed water in a hurry. " Pshaw,
Prudence, you know what I meant," he said.
Prudence ignored the apology. She was still shoot
ing toward Tom. " I will say, Tom," she went on,
" I d like to see a little more of the man in you. I
don t think being constable is much of a job. But it s
better than being a coward."
" Prudence ! " came from Mrs. Gilstar. " You
don t mean that."
" I didn t say he was a coward," was the deft re
joinder. " I say being constable is better than being
a coward. I tell you flatly, though, Phoebe, there are
a lot of people in Tredick who think what you thought
Mrs. Gilstar looked up at the picture over the man
telpiece. It was that of a youth in Union blue, of Civil
War time. " Tom s father enlisted when he was fif
teen," she said, with glistening eyes.
Antonia said nothing. Her eyes were upon Tom
Gilstar s face, and her red lips seemed dry and tight.
Tom Gilstar rubbed the back of his hand across his
forehead, which was wet with perspiration. His de
cent, attractive face was red ; his eyes with their queer,
wondering, wistful expression, looked straight ahead
to the opposite wall.
" Could I let you know the first thing in the morning,
deacon ? " Tom said, finally.
" Well, yes. But I take it for granted it ll be all
right," was the reply. The deacon fetched his own
hat from the sewing machine top. At the doorway he
turned to Prudence. " Alice wanted me to ask you to
come to supper to-night," he said.
" Not to-night. To-morrow night, perhaps," said
the spinster, decidedly.
" I ve got to go back to the express office for a
while," said Tom. So he and Antonia went out to
They walked along silently for a time. Then the
girl put her hand softly into the man s, and let it lie
there. They stopped under a big elm. Tom," she
said, very soberly and gently, "I told you, last
week, I d think over what you asked. I ve been
thinking it over so much. Tom, I m afraid it
can t be. That I can t. I m so sorry, Tom. I m
very fond of you. But I mustn t."
The big fellow looked at her dejectedly. " Tony,"
he murmured, hoarsely, " don t say that. Don t give
me any answer at all now. Or," he choked out,
"if it was somebody else "
" No, Tom. Nobody else. Truly, not that."
" You don t care enough for me, then," he offered.
" I care more for you than for any one else in the
world, Tom. I have reason to. I shall never forget,
Tom, how, when I was a little girl, and first came to
school here and couldn t speak English very well
and they called me Frenchy how your sister Doro
thy came to me and made friends, and helped me with
my studies. I didn t know then, but I know now, be
cause she told me afterwards, that it was you that
asked her to. Oh, Tom, there are a good many things
I am grateful for. I shall always, always, care much
for you. But this to be your wife I don t dare."
He was silent. They could hear the beating of their
hearts, so close together. Then she threw all her
thoughts into one poignant low cry :
" Tom, why do you let them call you a coward ?
Why do you let them? "
The man winced. " Perhaps they are right," he
" No ! " she cried at him. " It is not so, Tom. I
know better. I know."
He shook his head. " It is something," he said.
" I hate fighting. This horrible war, in Europe, Tony
- it almost drives me mad, when I think of it. The
idea of righting of killing blood sometimes I
can t get to sleep for hours at night."
" And you think, Tom, you are the only one who lies
awake thinking of it ! " replied the girl. " Don t you
suppose millions of people feel the same way? "
That s the reason you can t marry me, then?"
he asked, quickly.
" That reason ? I don t know exactly what reason
you mean. That you don t fight and quarrel and take
chances like other young fellows? No; not that.
There s something fine, very gentle, in you, Tom, that
I love. Anybody would love it, too. But I would
want you to fight for me, Tom if we were mar
ried, and there was ever any need, I think most girls
feel like that. I suppose it s terribly foolish of me to
say it and yet, is it so foolish, when we see what is
happening in France and Belgium? that if the time
ever came and we had a little home you would
fight yes, you could kill, if it were necessary to
" But, Tony, there won t be any such time. It s
foolish to consider it seriously," Tom said.
" It may be. But I can t feel any other way, now.
I don t think you are a coward, Tom. I think, maybe,
if the time came, you could be morally brave I think
that s what they call it enduring sorrow, and all
that. But I m afraid."
" Afraid to trust yourself to me? " he added.
" Just that - Oh, Tom," she said, " even when I
say this to yon, I ache in here. I want to be
happy. I want you to be happy. But I have told
you what was right I should say."
He raised his eyes to her after a while, and asked,
softly, " Do you think I should take this job as con
stable, Tony ? "
" Yes. Because something may happen to
make me think differently. It s no work for you,
Tom, I know that. You ought to have left Tredick
long ago. There s nothing here for you. They look
upon you as a boy. You are brighter than most any
body you have a fine, clear mind, in business my
father says so but there s nothing here for you.
Why have you stayed here so long, Tom?"
" I didn t want to go away and leave my mother
alone," was the unsuspecting reply.
The girl sighed. She put a hand on his arm.
" Good night, Tom. I shall always think of you.
Maybe some day, it will all be changed."
As they went in opposite directions, the big fellow
turned once to look at her. She was already out of
" I wonder if I am a coward? " he said, aloud.
He answered, " I guess I am."
I 4 KHAKI
Meanwhile, in his home, Deacon Bradshaw was
walking up and down his sitting room, congratulating
himself, in the presence of an audience of one his
daughter Alice on the events of the day. His
" slate " had gone through without a hitch. And it
never occurred to the excellent deacon that he had done
the town anything but a high service, even in giving it
a constable who admitted that he was a coward.
TOM GILSTAR asked himself whether he were a cow
ard ; and out of a certain rugged honesty of heart, he
answered that he probably was. Unfortunately for
Tom s peace of mind, there was nobody standing by,
to explain to him that he was a pacifist. I don t know
that it would have made Tom entirely happy, if this
had been pointed out to him. Antonia had said that
Tom had a good mind, and it was so ; and it is about
as hard to wring pleasure out of being a pacifist, as it
would be to congratulate yourself on being the hole of
a doughnut, or a window from which the lights of
glass have been poked out.
The fact is, Tredick was far more satisfied with Tom
than was Tom with himself; and this brings us to the
truth about Tredick. Tredick was a pacifist town.
When the Great War broke out, in August, 1914,
Tredick went through the usual emotions of surprise,
excitement and wonder. There was talk of " brave
little Belgium," there was marvel at the precision of
the German military machine, there was a certain curi
osity as to how soon Paris would fall, and the show
would be over.
As to where the right lay, Tredick had no definite
notion. There were hazy feelings of antagonism, one
way or another. The Revolutionary War, while not
exactly a live issue in Tredick, has still left a bit of
suspicion which lingered into the twentieth century.
There had been a German bakery in Tredick some
years before, and the proprietor had left some hun
dreds of dollars in unpaid bills behind him ; and this
served to quicken the revulsion against the Teutons,
1 6 KHAKI
particularly with those who had been creditors. There
was a shadowy consciousness that somehow, some
where, the United States had fallen into an honorable
debt to France, and had never quite settled up. But