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Dorothy Canfield
1879-1958

   

A Drop in the Bucket

by Dorothy Canfield



   
 

IF YOU HAVE READ, as most of us have, conventional New England dialect stories you do not need to be told about the central figure of this tale. Years ago, when I was young, she was the sole inhabitant of our Vermont village who came up to the expectations of our visiting city friends, on the lookout for Yankee characters. Italians used in those days, knowing what tourists wanted to see, always to take their foreign friends to see their one remaining bit of dilapidated Roman wall, or the windowless room which had been a mediaeval torture chamber, never to look at the new water-works, or the modern hospital. Just so, we always used to take visitors to Hillsboro to see Cousin Tryphena.

On the way to her tiny, three-roomed house, we had a set cicerone talk to give them; we told them that she lived without working and by unimaginable thrift kept up a social position on three hundred and forty-two dollars a year (this was a long time ago, remember), and that she had never been farther from home than to the next village. We suggested that they ask her--this always pleased her-about her one household treasure, the fine Sheraton sideboard, which had belonged to her great-grandfather, old Priest Perkins. And when, after an hour spent in the orderly, empty house full of somnolent, unprofitable respectability, we walked away, we knew that our friends from the city would exclaim, "How picturesque! Isn't she delicious!"

In our village nearly everyone owns his own roof. But next door to Cousin Tryphena's minute, white cottage is one of the few places for rent. A forlorn old brown shed of a place, it had stood idle for years, visibly tumbling to pieces. Then one day, years ago, a burly white-bearded tramp stopped, looked at it reflectively, laid down his stick and bundle and went to inquire at a neighbor's if the place were for rent. He paid a month in advance and moved in. In his bundle was a primitive outfit for cobbling shoes. He cut a large wooden boot out of an old board, painted it black with axle-grease and soot, hung it over the door as a sign, and settled down to stay.

We were all rather glad to have this dirty, but useful addition to our community, all except Cousin Tryphena, who was sure, for months afterward, that he would cut her throat some night and steal away her Sheraton sideboard. It was an open secret that Putnam, the antique furniture dealer in Troy, had offered her six hundred dollars for it. The other women of the village, however, not living alone as she did nor so near to the stranger, thought his long white beard looked reassuring, and noticed that he was kind to little children.

Although, from his name, as from his strong accent, it was evident that old Jombatiste belonged, by birth, to our French-Canadian colony, he never associated himself with that easy-going, devoutly Catholic, law-abiding, and let-well-enough-alone group of our citizens. He made no secret of being an out-and-out radical--a Socialist. This in the days when to be a Socialist was to be a Red.

The central article of Jombatiste's passionately held creed seemed to be that everything was exactly wrong, and that, while the Socialist party was not nearly sweeping enough in its ideas, it was, as yet, the best means for accomplishing the inevitable, righteous transformation of society. Accordingly, he worked incessantly, not only at his cobbling, but at any odd job he could find, went in rags, ate mainly crackers and milk, and sent every penny he could save to the Socialist Headquarters. We knew this not only through his own trumpeting about the pattern of his life, but because Phil Latimer, the postmaster, is cousin to all of us and often mentioned the old man's money-orders, so large that they must have represented almost all his earnings.

Yet he was never willing to join in any of our many local charitable and social welfare enterprises. It was evident that his ardent old heart was as tender as it was hot. But he wanted no palliatives, as he said "no ulcers hidden under clean poultices, when what they need is lancing and draining and healing." Yet he himself could not resist an occasional palliative. Nothing threw him into such bellowing fury as cruelty. He became the terror of all Hillsboro boys who trapped rabbits, and, indeed, by his whirlwind descents upon them, and his illegal destruction of their traps, he practically made that boyish pastime a thing of the past. The boys talked mightily about how they'd have the law on dirty old Jombatiste, but somehow nobody got around to try it.

The Hillsboro tradition is strongly for letting people alone s'long as they pay their taxes, even if they are very queer. And also Jombatiste had on tap a red-hot flow of vituperation, astonishingly polysyllabic for a man who had evidently had little book-learning. Perhaps it came, we sometimes thought, from his incessant reading of what seemed to Hillsboro rather incendiary literature.

He took two Socialist newspapers and nobody ever numbered how many inflammatory little magazines. From them he read aloud selections to anyone at hand. Of course we all soon acquired a technique of varied reasons for having to move on to other errands. This was not so easy for his next-door neighbor, who hardly ever left home. Cousin Tryphena seemed to him, probably, an audience sent by Providence.

He was wrong. She was the worst possible audience for him. What she did not know about the world outside her kitchen, bedroom, living-room and front yard would have made a complete treatise on modern civilization. She never in her life had subscribed to a newspaper. At the time when she was acquiring her code, women didn't read newspapers. When once in a while she borrowed from a neighbor the weekly local sheet, it was solely to read the news-items from Greenford, where she had a second cousin. Sometimes a woman's magazine was loaned to her. But she looked only at the pictures and recipes. Like many another well-brought up complacent woman of her generation, who wrote a flowing Spencerian hand, spelled to perfection, and kept her house, her underwear and her hair immaculately clean, she was, as far as political or social realities went, as ignorant as any Digger Indian.

When therefore Jombatiste read loudly to her statements which seemed to him conclusive reasons for reaching for a bomb--as that ninety per cent of the money of this country is in the hands of two per cent of the population, Cousin Tryphena counted her tatting stitches and was glad that she no longer had to go to school and "do percentage" in arithmetic class, because she had never been able to make anything out of mathematics beyond the multiplication table. When he shouted that the franchise was a farce because the government was controlled by a Wall Street clique, she remained calm because she had never heard voting called the franchise and had no idea what he was talking about. When Jombatiste, choking with wrath over the iniquities of the profit system, shouted that any man who worked hard but could not earn enough for his family's health, had a right to shoot a millionaire's son on sight (or words to that effect) she did not believe a word he said. Here was something she had a real opinion about. She had never seen a millionaire or his son, but she knew from living for fifty-five years in Hillsboro what made people poor. It was shiftlessness. There was plenty of work to be had on the farms, on the railroad, in the stores, in the woods, at the brush-back factory, for any man who had the backbone to keep at it. If they would stop work in deer-week to go hunting, or go on a spree Election Day, or run away from a good job for a week to go fishing, she'd like to know what business they had blaming millionaires and their sons because they lost their jobs.

She did not expound these opinions to Jombatiste because, in the first place she thought him a dirty Canuck, and secondly because opinions were "just talk-talk-talk" to her, of no consequence to sensible people. The important matters were to make your starch clear and to pay your taxes in time to get the discount.

People who are mostly silent are often credited with more wisdom than they have. Cousin Tryphena unconsciously profited in the estimation of her neighbor by this fact. Old Jombatiste had thundered his per cents of the distribution of capital in relation to the population for many months before he discovered that he was on the wrong track.

He found this out one winter day when Cousin Tryphena was hanging out her washing. Waving his favorite magazine, he ran over to read aloud to her, following her up and down the clothes-line, as she shook out and pinned up the wet clothes. Occasionally for emphasis striking the paper with his horny, blackened, shoemaker's hand, he came to a climax with--

"And thus it is definitely proved-- any court of law would accept the evidence--that Senator Burlingame was in the pay of J. P. Darby, when he held up the Rouse Labor Bill in the Senate Committee. . . ." He stopped and glanced triumphantly at his old neighbor.

Cousin Tryphena was more than usually annoyed with him that day, for his lack of decent tact in following her about while she hung up garments associated in her mind with closed doors and lowered window-shades. As a matter of fact she left her wet nightgown in the bottom of the basket, sooner than flaunt it in the face of a strange man. Folding this together, tightly, and taking a clothes-pin out of her mouth, she asked, with whole-hearted indifference to his news, "Well what of it? Why shouldn't Senator what's-his-name pay anybody he wants to? It's his money, isn't it?"

She carried the basket back into the kitchen, and shut the door. Jombatiste stood there, stock-still, as if stunned. Then, coming to himself, he resolutely followed her in. Ignoring his presence, she began to put together her meager midday meal. To his urgent, almost imploring questioning, she returned brief answers, obviously truthful. "No." "I never heard of it." "I don't see that it's anybody's business if they do." "What of it?"

Leaning giddily over the abyss of her ignorance of political action, sociology and industrialism, the old Socialist dropped one exploring plummet after another into the depths of her mind, only to find nothing there. Silenced, for once, he went shakily back to his own house.

He was silenced for a long, long time. We began to think that he must be coming down with some sickness. He sewed on the harness he was mending, he tapped on the shoes he was half-soling, without lifting his shaggy white head. He did not even read. When he was not working he sat motionless in his chair, looking fixedly at nothing.

We knew afterwards that what he had been doing was to think more intently about old Cousin Tryphena and her mind than anyone ever had before, or ever will again. Presently he gathered together again three or four of his badly printed little magazines and went again to visit his self-satisfied Yankee neighbor.

But he did not begin, this time, by saying solemnly "Wealth comes from labor alone." He had begun to think that Miss Tryphena did not know what "wealth" meant. Nor did he mention "industrial slavery." He laid his little magazines down on her elegantly proportioned Sheraton sideboard and settled himself in a chair. Cousin Tryphena reached for her tatting, her eyes glazed and her lips began to move as she silently counted her stitches.

Jombatiste read aloud what we would now call "case histories," about human suffering in a society which still talked about the dangers of pampering the poor. He read the story of a wage-earner in the city who left a widow and three young children. These tried to earn their livings by making artificial flowers at home. (This was long before the Socialistic measure of outlawing sweat-shops.) All of them, working together, could earn about half of what they needed to live. When the last dollar of the dead father's savings were gone, and there was talk (this was before the socially radical measure of Mother's Aid) of putting the children in an asylum, the mother drowned the three little ones and herself after them. Cousin Tryphena dropped her tatting, her country-bred mind reeling, "For the Lord's sake, why didn't her folk help her out?"

Jombatiste explained that her folks, if she had any, were in Poland. Striking one fist inside his palm, he cried out, "and this in a country that produces three times the food it consumes." For the first time, a statistical statement awoke an echo in Cousin Tryphena's atrophied brain.

Old Jombatiste read on, this time about a girl of seventeen, left by her parents' death in charge of a small brother. She too had tried to earn their living by handwork, but twelve hours a day had not brought in enough. Seeing her little brother grow white and strengthless from lack of food, she had, in desperation, taken to the streets and had almost at once vanished, engulfed by the maelstrom of organized vice. The little brother had been taken to an orphan asylum, where he had since twice tried to commit suicide.

Cousin Tryphena sat rigid, her tatting fallen to the floor, breathing hard. It is probably impossible for us to average moderns, calloused as we are by promiscuous reading, to conceive the effect made upon the blankness of her mind by this attack from the printed page. She not only did not dream (as we might) that these stories were perhaps not true, they seemed as real to her as though she had seen the people. There was not a particle of blood in her haggard face.

Jombatiste read on . . . the story of a decent, ambitious man, employed in a wretched shop, who contracted tuberculosis from the foul air and slowly died, dragging down with him to the depths of misery, a wife and two children. He was now dead, and his wife was living in a corner of a dark and damp basement, their only heat what fire the mother could make out of rubbish picked up on the streets.

Cousin Tryphena's horrified eyes fell on her well-blacked stove, sending out the aromatic breath of burning white birch sticks. She recoiled from it with a shudder.

Jombatiste read on, the story of the woman who, when her three sons died in an accident due to negligence on their employer's part . . . he read no more that day, for Cousin Tryphena put her gray head down on the center table and wept such tears as she had never known. Jombatiste rose softly and tiptoed out of the room.

The tap-tap-tap of his hammer rang loud and fast the rest of that day. He was exulting over having aroused a bourgeois from greasy complacency. He had made a convert. To his pennilessness, Cousin Tryphena's tiny assured income seemed a fortune. We know from what happened next, that he had a golden dream of persuading her to join him in his weekly contributions to the sacred funds!

Early the next morning, his neighbor came to his door, white, hollow-eyed, a sleepless night evidently back of her, and asked for the papers he had read from. Jombatiste gave them to her in a tactful silence. She put out a shaking hand for them, and went back through the snow to her own house.

By noon that day, everyone in the village had heard the startling news that Miss Tryphena had gone over to Graham's store, asked to use the long-distance telephone and had telephoned to Putnam, the antique man, to come and get her sideboard. Hanging up the receiver, she had passed Albert Graham, standing amazed back of his counter, with so distraught a look that even he had not ventured to ask her any questions. But he naturally mentioned the matter to everyone who happened to come into the store; and by noon every family in Hillsboro was discussing over its mid-day pie the wellknown queer streak which had sent several of Cousin Tryphena's ancestors to the asylum.

I did not reach her house that afternoon till nearly four; and I was almost the last to arrive. Cousin Tryphena was silent, her usually pale face deeply flushed, surrounded by a group of expostulating neighbors. They began, all talking at once, to tell me what had happened. . . . "Trypheny's crazy . . . she'd ought to have a guardeen . . . that Canuck shoemaker has addled her brains . . . there ought to be a law against that kind of newspaper he takes . . . Trypheny is actin' like her great-aunt Lucilly . . ."

I appealed to Cousin Tryphena. "What's the trouble?" I asked her.

"There ain't any trouble's I know of," she answered, in a hoarse unsteady voice. "I just happened to hear about a widow-woman, down in the city, who's bringin' up her two children in the corner of a basement where the green mold stands out on the wall, and I'm goin' down to fetch her an' the children up here to live with me . . . them an' a little orphan boy that don't like the 'sylum where they've put him--"

Somebody broke in on her, "Why, Trypheny, you old simpleton, that's four people! Where you goin' to put 'em in this little tuckedup place?"

Cousin Tryphena answered pointedly, "Your own grandmother, Rebecca Mason, brought up a family of seven in a house no bigger than this, and no cellar either."

"But how . . ." another voice exclaimed, "are you goin' to get enough for 'em to eat? You ain't got but barely enough for yourself!"

Cousin Tryphena's flush paled, "I'm a good sewer, I could make money sewing . . . I could do washings for city-folks, summertimes. I could take care of their children and wash their dishes. They pay real good." Her set mouth told what a price she paid for this voluntary abandonment of her social standing. She turned on us, hotly, "You all act as though I was doin' it to amuse myself. I don't want to! When I think of my things I've kept so nice always, I'm wild . . . but how can I help it, now I know about 'em! I didn't sleep a wink last night. I saw those three children and one of them a baby, fighting the water and their mother a-holdin' on 'em down, and then jumpin' in herself--Why, I give enough milk to the cat to keep a baby . . . what else can I do?"

We all were touched by her defenselessness against this first vision of life, the vision which had been spared her so long, only to burst upon her like a forest-fire. It was as though she had awakened after half a century of ignorant sleep.

"Dear Cousin Tryphena," I said admiring my own gentleness and patience, "you haven't, you see, had a very wide experience of modern industrial or urban conditions. There are certainly some phases of this matter which you don't take into consideration." Then I brought out just as you would, probably, the traditional, reason. able arguments we use to dull the knife-thrust of self-questioning-how little any one person could do, and anyhow that it was very likely that the editor of that newspaper had invented, or at least greatly exaggerated those stories, and that she would find on investigation that there was no such poor family.

"I don't see how that lets me out of trying to find out if there is," said Cousin Tryphena, in a low tone.

"Well, at least," I told her "don't be in such a hurry about it! Take time to think it over. Wait till--"

"Wait!" cried Cousin Tryphena, her voice like a trumpet, "Why, another one may be jumpin' in the river this minute! If I'd ha' had the money, I'd ha' gone on the noon train!"

At this point, two men from Putnam's antique shop came to carry away the Sheraton sideboard. Cousin Tryphena bore herself like a self-contained martyr at the stake. She watched with dry eyes, the departure of her one certificate to gentle birth. She received with a casual gesture the crisp bills of a denomination most of us had never seen before.

"You won't need all that money just to go down to the city once," I remonstrated.

She turned her anguished eyes to me. "They'll likely be needing clothes and things," she explained with dignity.

I gave up.

It was time for us to go home to prepare our several suppers and we went our different ways, shaking our heads over Tryphena's queerness. I stopped a moment before the cobbler's open door, watched him briskly sewing a broken halter and telling a story to some children. When he finished, I said with as much acerbity as I could get into my voice, "Well, Jombatiste, I hope you're satisfied with what you've done to poor old Miss Tryphena . . . spoiling her life for her!"

"Such a life, Madame," said Jombatiste, "ought to be spoiled. The sooner the better."

"She's going to start for the city tomorrow," I said. I supposed of course that he had heard the news.

Jombatiste looked up quickly, very much surprised. "For what goes she to the city?"

"Why . . . she's gone daft over those bogie-stories of yours . . . she's looked the list over and picked out the survivors, the widow of the man who died of tuberculosis, and so on, and she's going to bring them back here to share her luxurious life."

Jombatiste bounded into the air, scattering his tools and the children, rushing past me out of the house, across the trampled snow of his side yard toward Cousin Tryphena's. As he ran, he did what I have never seen anyone do, out of a book; he tore at his bushy hair and scattered handfuls in the air. It seemed to me that a madness had struck our dull little village. I ran after him to protect Cousin Tryphena.

He battered at her door. She opened it and he burst out at her, "How dare you take what I tell you and use it to betray your fellowman! How do you dar stand there, mealy-mouthed, and face me, when you are planning cowardly to make yourself feel better by-what would you think of a mother who covered up a skin disease her child had and hid it from the doctor because it did not look pretty? What else are you planning to do, you with your plan to put court-plaster over one pustule in ten million? Don't you see the patient will die if he isn't healed. Oh, idiot, idiot--!" he beat his hands on the door-jambs, ". . . if you had the money of forty millionaires, you couldn't do anything yourself. We must all--how many people do you think to help . . . two, three . . . maybe four! But there are hundreds of others . . . why, I could read you a thousand stories of worse--"

Cousin Tryphena's limit had been reached. She advanced upon the intruder with a face as flaming as his own. . . . "Jombatiste Ramotte, if you ever dare to read me another such story, I'll go right out and jump in the Necronsett River!"

The mania of earlier generations of her family looked out horridly from her eyes.

Goose-flesh contracted the skin on my arms. I was scared. Even Jombatiste's blood was chilled. He stood silent.

Cousin Tryphena slammed the door in his face so that all the house-walls shook.

He turned to me, his mouth slackly open in bewilderment. "Did you hear . . . what sort of logic do you call--"

"Jombatiste," I counseled him, "stop talking about logic--for heavens' sake, logic! And leave Miss Tryphena alone."

It was the very next morning, on the six-thirty train that Cousin Tryphena started her crack-brained plan. Looking out sleepily, I saw her trudging past our house in the bleak gray of our mountain dawn, the inadequate little, yellow flame of her old-fashioned lantern like a glowworm at her side.

A week passed before we heard from her. We had begun really to fear that while she was among strangers, her unsettled mind might have taken some new fancy which would be the end of her.

That week Jombatiste shut the door to his house. The children reported that he would not let them in, and that they could see him through the window stitching away in silence, muttering to himself.

Eight days after Cousin Tryphena had gone away, I had a telegram from her, "Please build fires in both my stoves tomorrow afternoon. Key under kitchen window shutter."

Dark comes early in the mountains in mid-winter and so, although I daresay there was not a house in the village where people did not look out after the late evening train came up, none of us saw anything but our usual December blackness. At least, I told myself, Cousin Tryphena had taken her absurd old lantern and gone forth through that darkness.

The next morning I set off for the other end of the street. Cousin Tryphena saw me coming and opened the door. She did not smile, and she was still pale, but I saw that she had regained her self-control. "Come right in," she said, in rather a tense voice, and, as I entered she added, in our old rustic phrase for introduction, "Make you 'quainted with my friend, Mrs. Lindstrom. She's come up from the city to stay with me. And this is her little boy, Sigurd, and this is the baby."

I shook hands with a tall, thin, stoop-shouldered woman, in a new, ready-made dress that did not fit. Her abundant yellow hair was drawn back from a pale, sad face. She was holding a very clean baby, asleep, its long golden lashes lying on cheeks as white and sunken as her own. Over the baby she gave me a timid glance, shrinking from my eyes. A sturdily built boy of about six lay on the floor, playing with the cat. He looked at me shyly, hanging down his head.

Cousin Tryphena was evidently afraid that I would not take her cue, for she went on hastily, "Mrs. Lindstrom has been real sick and kind o' worried over the baby, so's she's feeling kind of nervous. I tell her Hillsboro air is thought very good for nerves. Lots of city folks come here in summer time, just for that. Don't you think Sigurd is a real big boy for only six and a half? He knows his letters too! He's goin' to school as soon as we get settled down. I want you should bring over those alphabet blocks that your Peggy doesn't use any more--"

The other woman began to cry, clinging to my old cousin's hand and holding it against her cheek as she sobbed.

Cousin Tryphena patted her hair awkwardly, but kept on talking, looking at me sternly as though defying me to show, by look or word, that there was anything unusual in the situation. "I see it snowed some while I was away," she said. We fell at once, she and I, into talking about the incidents of her trip on the train. Matt Bowen's boy was brakeman, now, she informed me.

When I came away, half an hour later, Cousin Tryphena put a shawl over her head and came down the front walk with me. I was affected, almost to the tears I would not dare to shed, by the sudden ending of the old woman's barren loneliness. I saw her as the Happy Fool of old folk-lore, the character who, through his very lack of worldly wisdom, attains without effort all that self-seeking people try for in vain. The happy outcome of her adventure filled me with a cheerful wonder at the ways of Providence. "Why Cousin Tryphena, it's like something in a story book! You're going to enjoy having those people. The woman is as nice as she can be, and her her little boy's as smart as a whip."

Cousin Tryphena's manner was still odd and tense. She sighed and said, "I don't sleep much better nights now I've done it!" Then facing me, "I hadn't ought to have brought them up here! I just did it to please myself! Once I saw 'em . . . I wanted 'em!"

This seemed to me the wildest possible display of the instinct for self-condemnation. I was really vexed with her.

But when I began to tell her so, she stopped me with a look and gesture Dante might have had, "You ain't seen what I've seen."

"Was it really as bad as that paper said?" I asked.

"Child, it was nothing like what the paper said . . . it was so much worse!"

I was half-frightened by her expression. She went on "I was five days looking for her . . . they'd moved from the address the paper give. And, in those five days, I saw so many others . . . so many others. . ." She put one lean old hand before her eyes.

The exclamation which next burst from her made me ashamed of the cheerfulness of my notion that her adventure had been picturesque. "Jombatiste is right!" she cried fiercely, "Everything is wrong! Everything is wrong! If there's anything I can do, I'd ought to do it to help them as want to smash up what kills folks, and start over again, to try to have things decent. What good does it do for me to bring up here just these three out of all I saw . . . ?"

Her voice broke into self-excusing quavers, "but honestly when I saw them . . . the baby's so thin . . . and little Sigurd is so cunning . . . he took to me right away. This morning he wouldn't pick up his new rubbers off the floor for his mother, but, when I asked him, he did, right off. You ought to have seen what he had on, rags . . . such dirt . . . 'Twarn't her fault! She's . . . why she's like anybody . . . like a person's cousin they never happened to see before . . . why, they were all folks!" she cried out.

"You didn't find the little boy that had been sent to--?" I asked.

"He was dead before I got to the asylum," she answered.

"Oh . . . !" I said, "Had he . . . ?"

"I don't know whether he had or not. I didn't ask. I didn't want to know. I know too much now!"

She looked up fixedly at the mountain line, high and keen against the winter sky, "Jombatiste is right," she said unsparingly, "I hadn't ought to be enjoying them . . . their father ought to be alive and with them. He was willing to work all he could, and yet he . . . here I've lived for fifty-five years and never airned my salt a single day. What was I livin' on? The stuff these folks ought to ha' had to eat . . . them and the Lord only knows how many more besides! Jombatiste is right . . . what I'm doin' now is only a drop in the bucket!"

A child's wail came from the house . . . "That's Sigurd . . . I knew that cat would scratch him!" she told me as though the skies were falling, and ran stiffly back. I went back too and watched her bind up with awkward old fingers the little scratched hand, watched the frightened boy sob himself quiet on her old knees that had never before known a child's weight, saw the expression in her eyes as she looked down at the sleeping baby and gazed about the untidy room, which had always been so orderly and so empty.

She lifted the little boy up so that his tousled yellow hair rested against her bosom. He put an arm around her neck and she flushed with pleasure; but, although she held him close to her, there was in her eyes an austerity which forbade sentimentalizing.

"But, Cousin Tryphena," I urged, "it is a drop in the bucket, you know, and that's something!"

She looked down at the child on her knee, she laid her wrinkled cheek against his bright hair, she told me with self-accusing harshness, "'Tain't right for me to be here alive enjoying that dead man's little boy."

That was long, long ago. Mrs. Lindstrom died of consumption; but the two children were soon strong and hearty, not to be distinguished from their Yankee playmates at school. They grew up sound as nuts, devotedly attached to their Aunt Tryphena, ruling her as despotically as though she were their mother.

And so we lived along, like a symbol of the great world, bewildered Cousin Tryphena toiling lovingly for her adopted children, the memory of her descent into hell darkening her eyes; Jombatiste clothing his old body in rags and his soul in flaming indignation as he battered hopefully at the ramparts of entrenched unrighteousness . . . and the rest of us doing nothing at all.

 
           

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Last updated:
July 10 , 2008
   
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