Life at Laurel Town in Anglo Saxon Kansas by Kate Stephens



"A notable occasion" the newspapers of Laurel Town called the Honorable Robert Morrow's birthday party.

History was making, Kansas struggling for rights and looking toward stateship, when Mr. Morrow came from New Jersey. He served in the first Kansas senate and, "a man of high character and fine abilities," helped make Kansas a state; local papers said "a great state."

And now serene old age, an easing sense of triumph at having left the tragedies of action behind, of a peace forerunning the ultimate sleep, blessed him. This cool, clear evening in October men who had shared with him good and ill of fortune were assembling at his bidding, each enjoying, also, harvests of long-yeared intelligence and energy. For, in Laurel Town, what Pericles told his fellow citizens in Athens some twenty-three



or four hundred years ago held true; "To avow poverty with us is no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it." They came through the open doorway, these elderly men, and put their names, adding also their ages, in a guest-book at hand: W. S. McCurdy, eighty-eight; Wm. Yates, eighty-two; Forest Savage, seventy-nine; C. L. Edwards, seventy-six; C. A. Hanscom, seventy-four; O. E. Learnard, seventy-two; Ely Moore, seventy-three; George Banks, sixty-nine; George Grosvenor, seventy-five; R. G. Elliott, seventy-seven; Frank H. Snow, sixty-five; a complete list would be long. Colonel Learnard had been member of the first Territorial Council. Five of the guests were in Laurel Town the first winter Free-State men spent in Kansas.

After the dinner, which had not forgotten the nectar best loved by Pomona, Douglas County cider -- after the dinner, the company, retired to the spaciousness of the parlors, resting in easy chairs, called to your mind those gray-beards of one outstanding day that Homer sings, "hoary elders, done with war but good at counselling in assembly, sitting rejoicing like grass-hoppers on a tree down in the woods, and talking, but in a voice as slender as a lily." They had no repining, no lament at growing old, those old-young men -- a gracious pride, rather, that: they stored so many golden deeds in memory. And



their eagerness in reviving minutes" details of old-time joys, and now veiled sorrows, was heart-moving to see. To their vision every picture of their stirring early years stood suffused with its own brilliant colors. Recollections of later days might be dimming. But that past of theirs! -- robbed of every poignant pain they had felt in its moment, fear of defeat forgotten, hostilities overcome, rivalries of younger years given way to admiration for others' accomplishment; their past shone with refulgent glory. Involuntary impulse of Anglo-Saxons against display of sentiment alone kept them from what they might term "slopping over;" making the sentiment they voiced the sincerer.

"The old boys were young again," Laurel Town papers reported of the meeting. "Sharp wits undulled by age engaged in apt repartee . .. One incident recalled another, one story another! and laughter and song filled the hours."

"Eastern people and papers jest about Kansas," cried one white-head, "they say we are erratic, impulsive, even that we are insane. I'd rather be insane in Kansas than sane where there isn't an idea afloat but money-getting and money-spending. I take notice there are some things they don't say about Kansas. They don't say we haven't convictions. They don't say we don't act what we think. In those early days of Kansas we fought for human liberty, and to-day, and, I believe, for all days, we'll fight on the same line.



"My experience when I went down into Persimmon County is fair example of those booming old times. No state in the Union had had so phenomenal a growth. No wheat fields had yielded such harvests. No corn lands had ever run miles on miles together over a fat loam.

"Streams of wagons, caravan after caravan, came over the hills. Their folks would camp by a likely stream. Straightway a town was there. And before the nearby field of oats could turn its heads from green to yellow, the town would be a city.

"But its rival would spring up a few miles away. Then the politicians of the two settlements would battle to make their town the county seat.

"Soon the healthy young county-seat would want a railway. Not many days, and along would meander some promoter, like Isaac L. Monash. You've all heard of Isaac L. l knew him. Oh, he was not the only pebble on the beach in those times!

"Grip in hand Isaac stepped off the train, climbed into the bus for the Central House, and registered there. Then he called on the editor of the city's daily. Over in Wall Street Abraham and Emanuel Shekels were wanting to build a railroad. In his pocket Isaac had printed slips telling about Abraham, living in New York; and Emanuel, the younger, head of the London house, who had married an English wife and got himself a knighthood and was known as Sir Emanuel.



Isaac L. had come west representing the Shekelses, to find out a way for a new railroad -- a clean cut to Texas cattle-plains and the Rockies.

"Now, if the Shekelses and Isaac L. built that road it would be a road to brag about, an A. number one -- not the road alone, but all its rolling stock, its total management from the first furrow for its grading to its daily cannon-ball express. It would cross the Neosho and the Verdigris. It would travel the limitless lengths of the Arkansas. It would pierce the mountains of Colorado, bring the metal of the mines to our furnaces and farmers, and take back fruits of their labors to folks living on the whole of the Rockies.

"Did we people want that road? Isaac L. asked through the editor of the city daily.

"Want the road? Folks were mad for it. They could hardly wait for Isaac L. to tell them what to do.

"So, just like the orientals in books we read when we were kids, Isaac L. clapped his hands, so to speak, and a gang of husky Irish lads came over the hills lugging chain and transit. And every farm-owner in the neighborhood went about bidding for a chance to entertain those road-makers.

"By the way, the law broke on me then, for the first time, that it is the Jew who employs the Irish, not the Irish who employ the Jew. One day I asked a soncie woman why all their clannish hanging together.

" 'Sor,' she returned, true to the Irish instinct for



putting a question in answer, 'And haven't the pair of us the two oldest religions in the world? Is it asleep ye are?'

"Well, down there in Persimmon County, after the Irish boys had measured the land, people met to vote the bonds. How it happened I never could see. Strangely enough the township voting the biggest aid in bonds was found to offer the only available route for the road! County donations and perpetual exemption from taxes followed. Land-owners claimed the privilege of themselves giving the right of way.

"Then they turned out with their teams, and ploughs, and scrapers, and hired men, and put bed-making through, carrying on the grade more than a mile a day.

"Ah, those were jubilee times! Farmers with timber cut down their noble old trees and turned beams for bridges from the sawmills. Free-Soilers whose life had been a total self-denial, who had fought border-ruffians and even taken a turn with John Brown; and after the war was over had got as fat as sculpins on hopes deferred -- rugged old fellows who had conscientiously followed Socrates' advice to a disciple to 'borrow money of himself by diminishing his wants'-- hearts-of-oak, blessed with Anglo-Saxon sense of courtesy, blessed with their inborn, inexpugnable conviction of the worth and dignity of even the humblest, said 'Yes, sir,' to Isaac L.; and when they



went in-doors took off their hats to him. Think of it! Shades of our grandfathers and their Revolution! -- Isaac L. and his whole blamed outfit not more than a generation out of a meaching, Vilna ghetto, beggars ahorseback, and destitute of that idea of civil liberty, which was the very breath of our old warriors' nostrils; liberty for which their blood had upbuilt this country.

"So far Isaac L. had not paid a dollar for his board at the Central House. He was all things to all men, and he had the best the town afforded. He even hob-nobbed with the county-treasurer, and secured an advance in cash pending collection of taxes.

"Finally, one morning, the bonds came down, all printed at Topeka and signed by the proper officials. They were placed in an iron-bound safe which Ikey called a vault. Not a bond, according to conditions, should be surrendered to the railroad company, till the road was ready for the ties. Half the funds should then be advanced, and the rest the day the first train ran over the track.

"So our folks worked away at the grading and got it done to the banks of the Wahoo. Then Isaac L. received half the issue of the bonds. He solemnly executed a formal receipt; and started east for the iron.

"He never came back. Springs came back, and crimson stars of the prairie-verbena studded the raw embankment. Falls came back and dry September



winds swayed sunflowers over the rotting oak sleepers. "I used to feel kind o' sorry for the ilk of Isaac L. But after years of observation on this little pippin of ours, I conclude I am sorry for the other fellow. Tell the truth, I say, without prejudice and without fear.

"Our people were, and are imaginers, dreamers about an ideal, minds bent on the general end, selfish with the statebuilders' selfishness. Isaac L., on the other hand, had two almost unfailing characteristics of his blood; what Marx calls its commercialism--a shallow, puny, practicality, and rapaciousness always for his nubbin, unsocialized self; 'O my ducats! O my daughter!' never O other peoples' ducats! O other peoples' daughters!"

Tales less stern came forward as the evening wore on.

"You speak of the growth of churches in Laurel town within the last forty years," said one of the hoary boys, laughing. "Do you recall how a couple of students locked in a congregation? No? Never heard of it! Well!

"One Sunday night, early in a September, Ned Stephens and Frank Harris went strolling down Kentucky Street. The fall term of the university had not yet opened and buckled the lads down to work. That's the same as saying a little grinding hadn't taken the devil out of their summer-plethora hides. They were too good-natured to live; in the mood of over-fed,



under-exercised puppies, full of the pointless rage for action that, when four-footed, chews up rugs and gnaws off dictionary bindings.

"We're all of us puppies, I've been a-noticing these last seventy years; or more likely calves that God has tethered out in this orchard of the earth--not exactly orchard, either, for some of us are staked on bleak hill- sides, and others in warm sunny valleys. But whatever our fortune in this world, each of us sometime in life is apt to wind himself in his rope and splash himself in a puddle.

"Those two boys came near doing it that evening. It was a little after nine when, in their meanderings, they reached a Negro church; the very moment the parson was giving out the last hymn. Doors stood wide open, for the weather was hot as Tophet.

"The two students, or calves, stopped on the side- walk and peered inside. As they looked, they saw a large key in the outer side of the double-leaf doors; the only doors of the building, by the bye.

"With every soul in the church that moment intent on the singing, no one saw those doors swing to; nor heard the lock click; nor the drawing out of the key and the laying it on the outer sill.

"Satan having prompted the cubs so far, his majesty then led them to cross the street and seat themselves in the shadow of a hedge to see what would happen.



"The hymn was long, the singers' enjoyment of it intense, and their velvet voices went through every line and verse. Then the congregation turned to go.

"One brother, amazed to find the doors shut, grabbed the knob and turned it. Without result.

"Another, thinking the first incompetent, impatiently seized the handle and shook the door till hinges and lintels rattled.

" 'Strange dat dooh shet dis hot night!'

"Other worshippers crowded about and tried their strength.

" 'Open dat dooh!' they yelled.

"But no answer came.

"'sat dooh is shuh done locked!'

"Other efforts to force the opening brought the same judgment.

"'Gimme a chair, Elder Johnson,' cried one of the men after a few minutes of reflection, 'gimme a chair or two an I'll set em on de groun, an we can holp de ladies outer de windows.'

"No other plan seemed feasible, and the brethren fell to working out this one. Two or three climbed on the sills and jumped to the grass beneath. Inside others were soon busy boosting to window ledges, and passing down on the outer wall the giggling, squealing, 'indiginant,' sisters.

Meanwhile, across the street sat two young Satanites, peering through the branches of a hedge, holding



congested sides and rocking to and fro in soundless laughter.

"Before all the congregation emerged window-wise, however, one of the elders on outside duty had, by dint of striking matches and examining doorway, found the key, and the tag-end of the congregation passed out as usual."

"That Frank Harris you tell of," broke in a Laurel Town character, "isn't he the one who went over to London?"

"Somebody asked his race the other day, said he was a Hebrew," answered the well-read man. "He used, when a lad loitering through our streets, to remind me of what Dr. Johnson told about a man of his century; 'It was said by him that he owed his nativity to England, but by everybody else, that he was born in Ireland'."

"I'd like to know how Frank Harris came to cut a swath in London literary fields editor, and so on. I thought solidity a necessity over there."

"Oh, Frank's able," put in the well-read man.

"Everlasting highbrow! Can't you see a plain

American's point? I thought a man, to hold a post wielding power in literary matters in London, had to have stability, veracity, moral responsibility, ethical sense--what you call character. We're more fluid over here and slosh-abouts get more protracted hearing. But over there! Frank Harris interpreting this coun-



try to conservative Englishmen! Geewhilikins! What presence! He says he 'secured control' of a paper. That paper's name became a by-word, a synonym for hatred of America. No little ill-will sprang in England from its sordid misrepresentations of our people and our institutions."

"Oh, yes," returned the well-read man, an austere smile brightening his face, "but Frank's a child. Every Irishman of the exuberant sort is a child."

"Treat him as you treat a child, then. Don't spoil the child by sparing the rod." "Unabated Irishmen suffer from lack of sense of the golden mean," the well-read man went on. "Many we get here in America have been abated by ecclesiastical pressure. Frank Harris wasn't. Hybris got hold of him early in life. The old Greek hybris, insolent assumption, lawless disregard of the rights of others, knows no awe before the everlasting moralities."

"I don't know anything about your Greek, but I do know that wanting to appear cheek by jowl with riches and rank, chasing after the advertised, sneering at the retiring, with anarchists an anarchist, with socialists a socialist, hating order except to exploit it for his own furtherance, ever on the off-side; in short a natural-born incendiary, intoxicated with egotism--that's Frank Harris. With microscope and scalpel he dissects the by-sayings and by-doings of gifted people; then, after dislocating their speech and action,



sets himself before the reader as the "smart Alec' of the occasion."

"Portrayers of men of extraordinary accomplishments," put in the well-read man, "seem sometimes set on coloring their picture, be the cost to truth what it may. Airs of superiority and patronage their writings at times assume are nauseating; parvenu, too."

"Oh, Frank Harris is a whole heap of a rhetorical paddy," burst in the persistent old boy, "even if he does advertise himself like the dickens and do other Hebraic stunts. Over in England, when he tried to stand for Parliament, he must have claimed entry to the tryout on the ground that he was an Englishman; voted as an Englishman. Who knows but someday he'll declare he is an American! That would be the acme of brass! Well before now our government has spread wings of protection over refuse of Europe and got kicks in return for kindness.

"Why, the other day, down in Kansas City, I heard that little runt, Sol Einstein who made his pile in wheat-deals-- I heard little Sol snarl, 'I have no respect for your country, or your flag. I didn't want to come here.'

"Damn such a parasite! Who cares for his 'respect!' Not our blood that made this country what it is, and works all the time to make it better. These United States suit us real Americans pretty well, I notice, in spite of the vilifications of all the psychi-



cally-twisted immigrants who seek our advantages and repay our generosity by mud-slinging Einsteins and Frank Harrises."

"Right here I want to say, "interposed a bystander in the doorway, "and the more since disciples of his get all het up when you tell the truth about it, that Frank Harris's blood in an interesting point.

"One day, during a whirl of the glamorous reel he has danced nearly seventy years and calls his Life, Frank asked an acquaintance 'to refute Miss Stephens' statement that Frank Harris is of mixed Jewish and Irish blood.'

"The man sent a letter to a New York periodical saying Frank Harris 'wished his large following in America to know that he was born of a Welsh father and Welsh mother.'

"Now, if you tally Frank's chameleonic claims about his birth and adolescent life, his absurdities about his studies at the University of Kansas and other universities and his American citizenship, you can not fail to see the humor of this last assertion.

"In his teens Frank worked as hired man on a ranch of lush 'blue stem' among the Kansas Flint Hills. He had an older brother in Laurel Town. He left the ranch and joined his brother. Known as Jim Harris, he made his living by becoming a retail butcher and doing other thrifty jobs. If curious people spoke of his race, for there was a bit of the gnome in his appear-



ance, he would snarl in that wonderful voice of his, 'I am an Englishman.'

"When about twenty Frank matriculated in the college of the University of Kansas. A few months of fitful attendance and he slipped away forever from the devotion to ideas he found in Laurel Town. He went back to England, Willie, his brother, explained.

"And so he did, as all the world came later to know. But in our laurelled little city rumor said that he had started on his journey with money he got from selling books -- to which he had helped himself in the law library of our eminent citizen, John Hutchings. The way he did it was this -- Lawyer Hutchings befriended him and allowed Frank to sleep in his office.

"Making his way to the Atlantic coast, Frank stopped twice at least to ask aid from men whom he had met at the University of Kansas -- in Ohio to seek a pass from Ned Bancroft, whose uncle was president of a railway, and in Philadelphia to ask money for steamer passage to Europe from Professor Byron Caldwell Smith.

"A few years after these adventures, in 1878 that is, Frank sent from Germany a remarkable letter to the literary chief of mid-Victorian England, Thomas Carlyle. In this letter he declares himself an Irishman.

"When he settled in England, probably in the spring of 1883, he said he was an Englishman. English politicians must have taken him at his word, for



they allowed him to stand for election to the British Parliament. In this adventure, because of his reference from the hustings to Parnell and Kitty O'Shea, he lost, he told me long after.

"An Englishman Frank Harris also called himself through his glorious years of editorship of representative English periodicals, The Fortnightly and The Saturday Review. There were Londoners, however, George Moore, for example, and men of the clubs, who said that in reality Frank was a Jew with a primate's physical strength and the gift of using dynamic English; who had had the unusual fate to be born in Ireland.

"Here in Laurel Town, Frank's brother, Willie Harris, although a member of the Baptist church so consistent that he sang in the choir, had racial traits of mind and the long, oriental, liquid eye and high color of Israel. In Laurel Town Willie Harris passed as an Irishman.

"Through a bitter wind and blinding snow Willie Harris one day drove out to our house. His errand had something to do with a legal paper. The afternoon hour of his coming the storm was at its height. He tied his horse to a granite post, pulled a blanket from the boot of the buggy, stretched it over the horse's length, tucked the flaps between the creature's body and the shills, and then, swinging his arms about his shoulders, came toward the house.



"Judge Stephens met him at the door and led him to a grate banked with glowing coal. 'Wont you take a steaming Irish drink?' he asked.

"The Temperance Party was then burgeoning in Kansas, and Willie Harris had been travelling through the state as a public exhorter the lurid 'moral suasion' pattern of John Bartholomew Gough.

"'Ah, Judge,' coughed Willie in answer, 'did ye ever see an Irishman refuse a dram?'

"Irish whiskey was brought flanked by a lemon, sugar, boiling water and the matchless Sally Lunn baked in our house. Willie thawed, what with the warming of the inner man and the coal fire; and the smile of his frost-stiff face became twice as hearty. Happier, too, for the men of the farm had taken his horse into the stone barn to wait till he should want to drive back to town.

"Frank Harris heard this story. I told it the afternoon I met him, and he and I were sitting in The New York Public Library calling back to earth the upright, downright good folks we had known in our youth at the University of Kansas.

"'Ah,' sneered Frank as I ended the tale, 'your story gives me more respect than I had for Willie. I thought such a saphead would refuse a whiskey drink.'

"In Laurel Town many tales were afloat about Willie. One told of an imaginary factory he owned over in Ireland. Those were the years, you recall, when



Queen Victoria had set a fashion that led to Paisley shawls. The vogue travelled even so far as Laurel Town. Willie went courting a charming girl. Soon he presented her with one of the esteemed Paisleys. And he answered her protest as to the munificence of the gift by telling her it was a mere bagatelle, that back in Ireland he owned a manufactory of such textiles. The lady's father intervened and the lady returned the shawl. Willie's visits ended.

"Another brother, Vernon Harris, well-set-up, of the creamy skin, auburn-hair type, apparently broken by excesses when he came to America, found a wife and otium cum dig. on a farm near Laurel Town. Vernon Harris also counted himself an Irishman.

"The father of these three venturesome sons, was a wordless man. Possibly ills of life had silenced Thomas Harris. His short, squat stature, his chest girth, his head covered by a skullcap (the yarmelkah of the Jews) you may see almost any day on the sidewalks of New Lots, or in any other Jewish part of New York City. Capped by the yarmelkah Thomas Harris is still pictured in the memory of Laurel Town neighbors.

"These truths about the blood of Frank Harris's father brought forth protests from devotees of the Frank Harris cult in New York. Their faces clouded when I said Frank's mother, Mary Vernon, was an Irish lass and his father a Hebrew. Some protested by



word of mouth; others sneaked jeers into publications. Although they claimed Frank Harris an avatar, a genius far surpassing any man of his time, although declaring themselves his disciples, they seemed to want his messiahship to confess another genesis.

"It was no felony for Thomas Harris to marry Mary Vernon. 'From fairest creatures we desire increase.' Irish women are known the world over for their beauty, vivacious wit and church-guarded chastity. The Jew is apt to be a man of taste.

"The religious life of Mary Vernon Harris and Thomas Harris lay, according to this son of theirs, with the Plymouth Brethren. In the communion of the Plymouth Brethren, Frank Harris told me, he had his only religious and ethical instruction. Phrases current among evangelical congregations he absorbed in his earliest years. Effective use of such phrases grew upon him in his later years, his books bear witness. "His father settled in Wales, after Frank's mother died. The London newspaper man, Frederic Carrel, Frank's one-time friend, in his novel, 'The Adventures of John Johns,' makes much of the father living in Wales. In Wales Frank's father died. This fact, perhaps, gave ground to Frank Harris's claim of Welsh extraction.

"Need of truth about Frank Harris will arise in the future. Truth buttresses what I say. Truth buttresses 'Lies and Libels of Frank Harris,' a book written



to defend two strong men whom, years after they died, Frank labored to defame. If I had shirked publication of my defense, I should have been guilty of moral cowardice. I was the only one on earth who knew exactly. I blurted unpleasant truths while Frank Harris could read and presumably understand. And I aimed to do the work so thoroughly that none would need to do it after me. References to Frank's blood I found necessary on pages five, and one hundred and ninety-five of the book.

"Upon publication of 'Lies and Libels of Frank Harris' Frank wrote his objections to the book to its publishers. It would not be in keeping with many cowardly actions of Frank's telluric passage, if he did not endeavor to kick up a dust to conceal the truth. He endured Lies and Libels only because the book talked about him,

"So fond of loud report, that not to miss Of being known (his last and utmost bliss) He rather would be known for what he is."

"Today Frank Harris has an active following, mainly of men and women of his own bloods. Such is our derided Anglo-Saxon self-obliteration, 'stupidity' Frank called it, such our dearth of self-announcing hero-stuff, such our simplicity." Not long ago an ardent member of the Frank Harris cult in New York, a young Irish-American, came to see me because I had shown the vanity of assertions of his idol. After



this disciple's protest he summed up in these words, 'Next after Jesus Christ, I place Frank Harris'."

"I used to know Frank's brother, Willie, put in another Kansas Worthy. "Folks nicknamed him Wahoo so's not to get him mixed up with our gentle- man citizen, United States Senator W. A. Harris.

"You remember the times Wahoo used to go round giving temperance talks? Beautiful speaker! Married a yellow-haired girl, as pretty as you could find in three counties. She lived in Ohio just across the street from the McKinleys and knew 'em well. Mighty fine wife she made Wahoo.

"Ah, them were the days! To go to the schoolhouse down in the hollow by Lone Star, and hear Wahoo Harris talk of the evils of drink! And then see a sweet-faced girl home in the star-light, and perhaps after you'd got to her house, to get an invitation from her mam and dad to come in and have some election cake and new-made cider! By gum! How I do hone for them days! What's your cabarets! What's your movies runnin emptyins! What's your Russian ballet to such folks and such times! What's your chef's doodledays to such victuals!

"Wahoo Harris was a plain paddy from the ould sod, and when he'd gnawed through his emerald chrysalis he made an up-and-comin American citizen. Handsome chap, too, high color in his cheeks and the liquid, appealing eye Jews in tuberculosis have. God



rest his soul! His brother Jim is a whole heap of a rhetorical paddy, too, and afire with Jew blood. Jim is believed by certain fatuous young folks, as happened to Aretino long ago, to be a great man on his own say-so."

"Oh, what does it signify anyway?" called one of the company crabbedly, knocking ashes off his cigar and cocking his eye at a chandelier, "If men do halloo your name, and crowd to listen to your speech! What does it all amount to?

"Does it mean that you are more fitted to teach than another whom they don't applaud? No. Many are the ill-fitted fools I've seen run after here in Kansas, just because the fool advertised himself, blew his own horn, pushed on with subterfuges, while men better equipped were passed by and forgotten. Of all this humbug-loving world this Kansas of ours is the greatest for chasing after blatant mouthers and persistent posers; after a hero not worth a hill of beans; some fellow who moles along always intent on his own advantage, till the nothing that has always been in him finally oozes out.

"But supposing you have an idea, end supposing you are a better word-carpenter than the next fellow, more competent to set forth our current interests, is it worth the effort? Isn't it better to chew the cud of contemplation with one's cows in cloisters of the country?

'The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter,--and the Bird is on the Wing.'



"Nerve-ache! You know how it pierces your body; down your spinal cord and to your very finger-tips! Staring, sleepless nights! Anxious days! And all for what? Our Kaw over there goes on carrying down its mud. Waters of the Great Salt Lake are just as heavy with sodium. Why all this fuss and strutting? Telescopes show us suns without end; and microscopes declare that trees grow on our finger-nails.

"Why all this strutting, I say;

'The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
'The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.'

"Better be like the robins. No dyspepsia for them; no palsy; no heart-disease. Life with them is joy; they do what they want to do, whether in clear aether above, or fertile fields below."

"Your naming robins," smilingly broke in our naturalist, Professor Snow, "brings up a story I know, and since it is antidotal to the philosophy of this pessimist here," nodding at the last speaker, "I'll tell you of a robin, We're talking to-night about Kansas folks, Laurel Town folks, and if robins aren't folks, who is?

"Did you ever think what a democrat the Robin is? Have you noticed how he walks the earth? What solidity and security of gait! What serenity! What dignity from sense of membership in a community where the snob does not exist! The word classes is in minds and mouths only of those so unfortunate as



to be underbred! -- where no other social order than his own supervenes! Self-contentment gives him a breast projection that would put to blush a chesty West Pointer marching down Broadway.

"The Robin, too, has a big capacity for tending to his own business; seeing it successfully through, and not minding other people's. He grubs his living from Mother Earth. To be a good provider and look well after the ways of his household, he is up and off early in the morning. In this he is a true son of American soil, a thorough democrat.

"When twilight settles over the land you see him still hustling, for, after the habit of Americans, he likes a sustaining supper. His children grow like Kansas weeds, and his wife is as competent a mother and house-wife as her husband is in his providing.

"As for his voice a whole folk-song lies in his warble. If you think I'm overestimating call to mind how, in early springtime, your spirit rises when his first note starts upon your ear; how your heart lightens when his melody waves along a May air laden with the scent of apple-blossoms. Not only it is as if you heard songs your mother sang as you lay in your cradle; its echoes seem to trail further back and rouse subconscious, race memories.

"Then Robins have another American characteristic. Last spring, over by Green Hall, I saw a lusty member of the tribe walking sedately on the grass.



Suddenly eagerness struck him. His eye fastened on a bit of tissue paper about four by six inches. He ran to it, picked it in his beak, and rose to the overhanging tree.

"Toward the end of the long pliant bough on which he lighted was a small crotch, and in it he began packing the tissue. Gentle winds blew against him, and he had worked but a couple of minutes when a whirl of air caught the paper and bore it away.

"For a second only, however. Down he darted, and, about ten feet below his building site, caught the floating piece, took it back, and again began packing in his foundation.

"Not long and another gust caught the sheet, that part he could not grasp formed a sail for the wind to seize, and a second time bore it still farther before he nipped it in his bill. Again he rose to the crotch and began hammering it down.

"A third time the wind played thief. A fourth, the bird trying to pack the paper, some mischievous harpy snatching it from under his beak and bearing it off.

"Class-time neared, and I had to go. I thought of Robert Bruce and his spider. With draughty winds I feared for Mr. Robin's house-raising.

"A few days after I went round to see what headway so good an American had made, and if by chance Mrs. Robin had had her infare.



"In a notch of the limb lay a nest; and from one side gleamed smutty tissue-paper. Mrs. Robin's cap glanced in the sunlight; and the dame herself seemed brooding and drowsing in peace.

"Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That can not be done, and you'll do it,'

I said to myself. Do as Mr. Robin did.

"We talk about an emblem of our country the Robin at our door! A thrush migrant; as our people are. Yet of supremely social instinct our people. Loving his own peculiar, self-built home as our people do; but wanting that home by the abode and groupings of men.',

"I know a story of another bird of supremely social instinct," called another of the company, "It concerns some of our town-folks, too."

"Tell it," invited the assembly.

"My story is about the little stone house below the university. Nowadays winds blow through that house's shattered windows. Yet there a lady once met a bird--a big, brilliant-plumed, gawky, Shanghai rooster; eager, impudent, earth-scratching, always searching something to put in his maw, and totally devoid of reverence for people of distinction.

"The lady, a dignified spinster, almost six feet in height, broad-shouldered, doing all she did in what Saint Hannah Oliver has described as 'the grand manner' -- a lady the very epitome of mid-Victorian pro-



priety and formalism. In after times she held the chair of French in the university, an institution not founded on the day of her encounter with the Shanghai.

"Fifty years or so ago Dr. Charles Robinson lived in the little stone house. Perhaps he built it. Who knows?

"Anyhow, at that time, and, as you may easily discover, summer-time, the formal, mid-Victorian spinster, doing everything in her matchless manner, this lady was the guest of her friend, Mrs. Robinson.

"The two dames lived each day under somewhat pioneering conditions who did not in Kansas in the eighteen fifties? Such a little stone house was a cramped affair to those used to the acreage and sweep of a New England dwelling. But there was all-out-doors -- who can deny the breadth of out-of-doors in Kansas? So the two New England ladies thought of out-of-doors when within-doors seemed a trifle narrow.

"To these two intimates, and the little stone house, Dr. Robinson brought home, one day for mid-day dinner, a friend passing through town. And quite forehandedly he brought a beefsteak. Those days distances to butchers were long, and meat not easy to come by. Then, why shouldn't the mayor of Laurel Town and coming governor of the democratic state of Kansas bring home his own steak, in his own right hand, if he wanted to?



"According to plan and division of household duties the two ladies had hit upon, dinner-getting that day was to fall to the tall, mid-Victorian dame. Then, of course, the cooking of the steak would be hers also.

"Now right here you get at the reason why I said I could tell a tale about a bird.

"The lady, beginning her task, laid the steak on the table by the open window; near the window-sill that comes almost on a level with the sloping ground, as you may easily see the next time you go by and peer into the dilapidated little stone house.

"Next the lady turned to get coals ready for the broiling. For a time she gave all her attention to the fire. Then, when she had it nicely coaled, she reached for the steak in time to see Mr. Shanghai on a dead run up the hill, holding his head far above its usual height in order to save himself from turning heels over head in making off with the meat.

"Parbleu! What would a lady, somewhat slow in movement, but blessed with the New England conscience what would such a lady, in such an extremity, do? Dinner would be lost without the steak. Those were hungry men.

"The lady would give chase. Being from New England she would not call for help. She would rely on her own breathing and running ability. Precisely this Miss Elizabeth Leonard did.



"The fowl went up the hill. The lady after him. Then a vacillating mind led him down the hill. The lady followed. But before he had arrived quite at the bottom, he thought he would again ascend.

The lady pursued his divagations. Till finally, in his own heart possibly feeling he was the one at fault, Mr. Shanghai dropped the steak.

"When the lady got back to the table and the fire, there was still a bed of blazing coals, and, after sousing the meat in water, she spread it on a gridiron, and at last set it hot, juicy and redolent, before the hungry; flanking it with ivory cobs obtruding milky kernels, potatoes taken that morning from between blankets of grey earth; and other goodies such as women in Kansas do set forth.

"'And they did eat their meat,' just as in older times when Luke, workfellow of Paul, told of others leading a simple life, yet a life carrying a message to the world 'did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.'

"But the story of her encounter with the rooster the lady did not relate till the dinner was over."

"While Professor Snow was talking of his simon-pure American," broke in the smiling-faced insurance-men, "and our old Tory Squire here," laying his hand on the arm of the pessimist, "telling of his clear aether, I could not help thinking of how I met Bud



Hightower. But Bud didn't live in Laurel Town, and so he's probably taboo here to-night. Mighty little of Kansas in Bud. He lived just across the line in Missouri."

"Before you strike in on Missouri," faltered one of the elder of the guard, "let's have a real Kansas song. Let's have the 'Corn Song,' a good old sing for all corn-raising folks."

"Say," chortled the well-read man, his native austerity melting into a laughing eye, "you remind me of a little story about Napoleon. 'They don't speak well of my Arc de Triomphe,' he complained one day. 'There are two persons I have heard praise it,' answered Antoine Daru, 'your majesty and its architect'."

"Well, now, old top, busy as a bee and about as touchy! You can't say the 'Corn Song' hasn't Kansas color. You can't say it doesn't bring a Kansas cornfield of a dewy June morning before your eyes. To your ears, too, the click of a young darkey's hoe as he sings among the whispering blades. "You can't say 'Corn Song' wouldn't sound good after those war songs we've been singing, heartening as their memories are. I'm not a doddering old fuss-budget, and don't you forget it.

"Start the 'Corn Song,' James Horton; wont you? You're leader of this glee club. And you basses come on."

click on the following page numbers for the words and musical score for "The Corn Song:" 145, 146, 147, 148, and 149.



"Now for Bud Hightower," chorused the company sinking back in relaxation after their singing, "We want Bud Hightower. Fetching name!"

"I've seen Missourians who shut car-windows when the train neared Kansas," quavered one of the cronies. "They said they 'didn't want any air from the damned Yankees to get in.' Was Bud that sort?"

The insurance-man smiled the query to silence, and began:

"I met him on the road, in a park nature made and civilization had not yet reduced to utility and corn. Eye-measuring room for me to pass, and slowing his team, he called 'Howdy!'

"I had just pedaled up a hill and was not averse to stopping.

"'Ain't you that there inshoorance-man what was down to Burning Bush t'morrer a week?'

"He sat on a board laid across his wagon-box. An old, white sombrero, turned up in front and sagging behind, formed a nimbus about his head. Blue hickory shirt and butternut-jean trousers covered his raw-boned body.

"Six days before I was in Burning Bush, I answered; I didn't know whether I was the insurance-man he meant.

"'Wall, ain't you ther feller what writ some life inshoorance fur Tom Linn thar at the bank?'




" 'Wall, stranger,' he continued, putting his worn plough shoes on the upright board, leaning towards them and shutting his body like a jackknife, 'I've bin er wanting ter see you-all ever sence that day. Ther fact is I was settin on er box, er whittlin and er dreamin just outside ther window from Tom's desk, when you wuz er preachin ter him want to say right hyer that yer done it powerful strong, too; an what you-all wuz er sayin hez set me ter thinkin right smart!'

"'Now I live down hyer in Buck Crick erbout four mile, an it's this erway. We-uns has got er forty acre patch that ain't so powerful bad, ceptin one corner what's a bit rocky. Er piecin uv it out with twenty what we rent from Squire Haldeman, me and Sabiny manages ter git ernough corn bread and long sweetnin fer ther young ones.

"How many? yer say

"'Wall," in lower voice, 'ther ain't but two now. Ther dipthery took ther twin babies last winter's a year ago, and ther oldest boy he got drownded in ther crick last summer'--and then the blue faded out of the goodman's eyes and a misty whiteness overspread them.

"'Yes, stranger, it were tolable hard on ther woman but I reckon ther Lord knows best; least-wise that 's what ther preacher wuz er tellin us.

"'Yes, we've got er boy and gal left, and they're powerful good children, too. I'm pretty pears myself;



but mam, she's been ailin and er punying considerable, and it's been er worrying uv me heaps. Sence ther children were took she don't seem ter have no ambition, not anything that erway. She ain't complainin none; ain't doctorin none; jest kind er pinin. I lowed I'd send her back ter her mother's in Callaway soon's corn's laid by, ter see ef 'twont help her out.

"'But that ain't altogether what's er worryin uv me. It's this: me er workin ther place, and what I kin tend besides, and er coin odd jobs when I kin git em, we ain't layin by much. An that ther boy uv ours is goin to be "rowed up soon, if we raise him, an I've lowed as how he'll have ter go ter school right smart, fur he's a'goin ter have an edication, even ef his dad ain't got none.

"'Now, stranger, suppose I should be tuk off! Why, after I heerd you-all er talkie ter Tom t'other day, I went to bed that night and got ter thinker erbout this hyer dyin, and I couldn't sleep no more'n a rabbit. An ever sence it's been er worryin uv me, an I jest made up my mind I'd hunt you-uns up and see what you could do fer me.

" 'We're middlin poor, an I don't know ef we can pay out all ther money it'll take, but I jest 'lowed what er rich man needs bad, er poor man needs a powerful sight worse. When craps is good, and cattle and hogs is high, we do tolable well, specially when mam has luck with the butter and aigs and turkeys.



" 'What might be yer charges fur er thousand dollars inshoorance?

" 'Wall, I were thirty-nine month before last.

"'Most forty dollars er year! That's a heap uv money. Why, ef I should take that much er year and buy calves, I'd soon have er thousand dollars.

"Ef I didn't die, and the calves didn't die, and ef I kep er coin uv it, yer say. Wall, yes, ther air chances, I reckon.

" 'What's that? Ef I live twenty years I'll git my money back anyhow, or won't have more to pay? "'Stranger, I'll tell yer what I want ter do. I want ter talk this hyer over with Sabiny and see what she says. And I'd like ter know whar I kin find yer termorrer.'

"I told him he'd better close the deal then and there.

"'No, stranger,' he said, 'I wont do er thing till I see mam. It wouldn't be right. She wouldn't spend all that money without askin uv me, and tain't right fur me ter do it unbeknownst ter her. She helps ter earn this hyer money, an I'll have to see her.'

"I answered I should be in Burning Bush tomorrow, and on my way back would stop at his house to learn their decision.

"As I rode away I could not help wondering why the Lord had seemingly put so many hearts in the wrong place. Here was one that should have worn



ermine, and over it was nothing but a Missouri cotton shirt.

"Next day, with the sun still three hours high, I rounded the divide that looked into Sabiny's vale. Century-old oaks capped the hills and stood down to fields green with corn and yellow with ripening wheat. To the right, through the wood-pasture, nestled the couple's domicile. I got off my wheel and walked.

"But no sooner had I turned the corner of the hog-lot than out rushed a pack of hounds and coon dogs, reinforced by the two canines that had flopped under Bud's wagon when it came to a standstill the day before.

"Eyes gleamed, and hair turned the wrong way, and it looked as if the brutes were to have a lunch at their own counter the door flew open and out came Madam, humble in her shame that a stranger should receive such a welcome at the house of a born Missourian.

"She wielded her broom vigorously, and talked as emphatically as she struck out. The curs smothered their growls and fled for refuge, one under an ash-barrel, another round the corner of the meat-house, a third peered over chicken-coops and others from behind the currant bushes.

"I was saved. To confront Sabiny! 'Holy smoke,' I thought, 'is this the she those honest eyes look upon with such affection!' Hair thin and lustreless, black



and nervous beads of eyes, complexion in hue like a pumpkin, topping a lank, stoop-shouldered figure close to six feet in height. You would not call Sabina beautiful. "I thanked the lady for her defense, adding that dogs seldom attacked me and I wondered why theirs did.

"'It's jest Bud's way o keepin them hounds,' she answered. 'He will hunt coons and foxes, and them hounds has to be kep up till they git so oncivilized they purty nigh worries the life out uv me.'

"I enquired for the goodman.

"'I reckon you'll find him down to the branch fixin o the water gap,' she answered, and asked as I walked away, 'Air you that inshoorance-man what Bud were a-tellin about?'

"'Yes,' I said and braced myself for an onslaught.

"'For goodness' sake! Now, why didn't you tell me? Wait till I git a cheer, and you set down here in the gallery while I call Bud.'

"In the yard stood a tall pole, topped by a bell swinging in an iron frame. From the lever arm of the frame hung a rope which she grasped and pulled till the bell rang.

"The log-house was typical -- separate rooms about ten feet apart set in a grove of honey-locusts. One roof covered both rooms and the passage between them; then, without change of pitch, reaching down



to a row of posts, sheltered a porch or gallery. The shingles had been hand-riven and shaven, logs and posts of the house squared by a broad axe, and floors of rooms and gallery made of oak puncheons.

"A great iron kettle in which Sabina tried out lard at hog-killing time lay bottom-side up against the house-logs, in one corner of the gallery. Not far off, on a peg, hung her side-saddle and riding skirt. Spinning-wheel and sewing-machine stood inside near a window.

"And everywhere pecked chickens, old chickens, young chickens of all degrees of familiarity. Sabiny with a swish of her broom drove the intruders away. Then bringing another chair she sat down beside me.

"'Bud was a-tellin about that inshoorance of yours,' she began, 'but we ain't come to no conclusions about it. You see, if Bud should die, and you-all should come yere and bring that money, I'd sort o feel as if I were takin it for Bud -- I were a sellin him, in fact kind o like it wuz blood-money.'

''I've bin tryin to think it's right,' she continued, 'but I declare to goodness it's powerful hard to get it straight in my mind. I reckon as how the fault's mine, though, for some of our best preachers of the Word are insurin, and I allow they've done got at the right of it.'

"We sat facing the west. A bunch of glossy green water-oaks cut off the sun's rays. As Sabina spoke a



catbird flew into the nearest tree and stood in questioning mien, cocking at us first one eye and then the other. In his bill he was carrying a wriggling fishworm for his offspring. I spoke of the bird to Sabina.

"'Yes,' she answered, 'Bud sets a heap o' store by them thrushes. Nestin with us five years now, seems like they wuz part o the family.'

"Here was my text. 'Mrs. Hightower,' I said 'that poor bird is doing all it can, is exercising all the intelligence its Creator gave it, when it feeds and guards its little ones till they can use their wings. If it dies, and its nestlings come to want, still it has done well because the Lord granted it no ability to extend protection longer than its life.

"'But suppose this father-bird were endowed, together with all the rest of his kind, with intelligence enough to band with other father-catbirds and agree that if death befell him, the others would care for his little ones till they could care for themselves. Then, if he persisted in exposing his young ones to cold, hunger and death, when he could help them merely by helping save others when occasion required, he would seem a neglectful, mean catbird, wouldn't he?'

"I went on. Sabina's eyes looked further and further beyond the water-oaks, grew bigger and bigger, more and more moist, until tears gathered and slowly worked down her sun-browned cheeks.

"Just at that moment Bud called out 'Howdy!'



"'Wall, Mr. Inshoorance Man,' he continued, 'I jest 'lowed as how yer couldn't git time ter light hyer ter see us poor folks. But I'm glad yer come and hope yer's got Sabiny ter listen ter reason; fer she says she don't want no inshoorance on me.'

"'May be I were wrong,' answered his wife slowly, 'and if Bud kin keep up the payments, it might be a good thing for the children.'

"This led to description of policies, in which Sabina evinced brisk interest.

"Hardly was I done when she asked, 'Why don't you-all write inshoorance for women-folks, too?'

"We do in favor of their children.

"'Then I reckon we can settle this yere question mighty easy. Bud kin take out a policy, if I kin have one. For he shaint do more for the children than I do; and I kin pay for mine out o the chicken and aig money.'

"From some hiding-place between the logs Sabina produced coin for the premiums, and we closed the business at once.

"Only after I had partaken of her supper of 'smothered chicken,' had met the two children and promised to join Bud in a fox or coon hunt when frosts next came, was I able to get away to Kansas City."*

The insurance-man ended his story.

*Not in "the ordinary 'Pike County~s dialect" to which Mark Twain bears witness in "Huckleberry Finn," but in one of its Missouri varieties this story has been written and spelled, as Bud and Sabiny spoke, by N. J. S.



Robert Morrow's birthday party was drawing to its close. Still, each of the company must drink a couple of glasses of fruity punch, and all must join in singing "Auld Lang Syne" before they made final wishes of health and added years to their host.

At last, after putting on top-coats in the hall, and lighting fresh "face-warmers," the guests set forth, still rallying one another.

Yet do not suppose they went in the limping gait commonly attributed to oldsters. Rather each one might have vied with Mr. A. P. Clark, who ran down the steps, and on the walk in front of the house in the full moonlight where everybody could see cut a pigeon-wing merely to prove that, although eighty-four, he was the youngest of the party. In such wise the Honorable Robert Morrow celebrated his four-score birthday. And if this slight record bears no conviction that the occasion was beautiful and human, it is because, after all, the story we love is vain and inadequate when compared to life itself -- because, if one may reach so high, it is better to be Achilles, or high-helmeted Hector, than a commemorator, even such as Father Homer.

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