Long before the springtide is felt in the dull bosom
of the yokel does the city man know that the grass-
green goddess is upon her throne. He sits at his
breakfast eggs and toast, begirt by stone walls, opens
his morning paper and sees journalism leave vernal-
ism at the post.
For, whereas, spring's couriers were once the evi-
dence of our finer senses, now the Associated Press
does the trick.
The warble of the first robin in Hackensack, the
stirring of the maple sap in Bennington, the bud-
ding of the pussy willows along Main Street in Syra-
cuse, the first chirp of the bluebird, the swan song
of the Blue Point, the annual tornado in St. Louis,
the plaint of the peach pessimist from Pompton, N.
J., the regular visit of the tame wild goose with a
broken leg to the pond near Bilgewater Junction,
the base attempt of the Drug Trust to boost the
price of quinine foiled in the House by Congressman
Jinks, the first tall poplar struck by lightning and
the usual stunned picknickers who had taken refuge,
the first crack of the ice jam in the Allegheny River,
the finding of a violet in its mossy bed by
the correspondent at Round Corners - these are the
advance signs of the burgeoning season that are wired
into the wise city, while the farmer sees nothing but
winter upon his dreary fields.
But these be mere externals. The true harbinger
is the heart. When Strephon seeks his Chloe and
Mike his Maggie, then only is spring arrived and the
newspaper report of the five-foot rattler killed in
Squire Pettigrew's pasture confirmed.
Ere the first violet blew, Mr. Peters, Mr. Ragsdale
and Mr. Kidd sat together on a bench in Union
Square and conspired. Mr. Peters was the D'Artag-
nan of the loafers there. He was the dingiest, the
laziest, the sorriest brown blot against the green back-
ground of any bench in the park. But just then he
was the most important of the trio.
Mr. Peters had a wife. This had not heretofore
affected his standing with Ragsy and Kidd. But to-
day it invested him with a peculiar interest. His
friends, having escaped matrimony, had shown a
disposition to deride Mr. Peters for his venture on
that troubled sea. But at last they had been forced
to acknowledge that either he had been gifted with
a large foresight or that he was one of Fortune's
For, Mrs. Peters had a dollar. A whole dollar bill,
good and receivable by the Government for customs,
taxes and all public dues. How to get possession of
that dollar was the question up for discussion by the
three musty musketeers.
"How do you know it was a dollar?" asked Ragsy,
the immensity of the sum inclining him to scepticism.
"The coalman seen her have it," said Mr. Peters.
"She went out and done some washing yesterday.
And look what she give me for breakfast - the heel
of a loaf and a cup of coffee, and her with a dollar!"
"It's fierce," said Ragsy.
"Say we go up and punch 'er and stick a towel
in 'er mouth and cop the coin" suggested Kidd,
Viciously. "Y' ain't afraid of a woman, are you?"
"She might holler and have us pinched," demurred
Ragsy. "I don't believe in slugging no woman in a
houseful of people."
"Gent'men," said Mr. Peters, severely, through
his russet stubble, "remember that you are speaking
of my wife. A man who would lift his hand to a
lady except in the way of -- "
"Maguire," said Ragsy, pointedly, "has got his
bock beer sign out. If we had a dollar we could -- "
"Hush up!" said Mr. Peters, licking his lips.
"We got to get that case note somehow, boys. Ain't
what's a man's wife's his? Leave it to me. I'll go
over to the house and get it. Wait here for me."
"I've seen 'em give up quick, and tell you where
it's hid if you kick 'em in the ribs," said Kidd.
"No man would kick a woman," said Peters, vir-
tuously. "A little choking - just a touch on the
windpipe - that gets away with 'em - and no marks
left. Wait for me. I'll bring back that dollar, boys."
High up in a tenement-house between Second Ave-
nue and the river lived the Peterses in a back room
so gloomy that the landlord blushed to take the rent
for it. Mrs. Peters worked at sundry times, doing
odd jobs of scrubbing and washing. Mr. Peters had
a pure, unbroken record of five years without having
earned a penny. And yet they clung together, shar-
ing each other's hatred and misery, being creatures
of habit. Of habit, the power that keeps the earth
from flying to pieces; though there is some silly
theory of gravitation.
Mrs. Peters reposed her 200 pounds on the safer
of the two chairs and gazed stolidly out the one win-
dow at the brick wall opposite. Her eyes were red
and damp. The furniture could have been carried
away on a pushcart, but no pushcart man would have
removed it as a gift.
The door opened to admit Mr. Peters. His fox-
terrier eyes expressed a wish. His wife's diagnosis
located correctly the seat of it, but misread it hun-
ger instead of thirst.
"You'll get nothing more to eat till night," she
said, looking out of the window again. Take your
hound-dog's face out of the room."
Mr. Peters's eye calculated the distance between
them. By taking her by surprise it might be pos-
sible to spring upon her, overthrow her, and apply
the throttling tactics of which he had boasted to
his waiting comrades. True, it had been only a
boast; never yet had be dared to lay violent bands
upon her; but with the thoughts of the delicious, cool
bock or Culmbacher bracing his nerves, he was near
to upsetting his own theories of the treatment due by
a gentleman to a lady. But, with his loafer's love
for the more artistic and less strenuous way, he chose
diplomacy first, the high card in the game -- the as-
sumed attitude of success already attained.
"You have a dollar," he said, loftily, but signifi-
cantly in the tone that goes with the lighting of a
cigar - when the properties are at hand."
"I have," said Mrs. Peters, producing the bill
from her bosom and crackling it, teasingly.
"I am offered a position in a -- in a tea store,"
said Mr. Peters. "I am to begin work to-morrow.
But it will be necessary for me to buy a pair of --"
"You are a liar," said Mrs. Peters, reinterring
the note. "No tea store, nor no A B C store, nor
no junk shop would have you. I rubbed the skin off
both me hands washin' jumpers and overalls to make
that dollar. Do you think it come out of them suds
to buy the kind you put into you? Skiddoo! Get
your mind off of money."
Evidently the poses of Talleyrand were not worth
one hundred cents on that dollar. But diplomacy is
dexterous. The artistic temperament of Mr. Peters
lifted him by the straps of his congress gaiters and
set him on new ground. He called up a look of des-
perate melancholy to his eyes.
"Clara," he said, hollowly, "to struggle further
is useless. You have always misunderstood me.
Heaven knows I have striven with all my might to
keep my head above the waves of misfortune,
but - "
"Cut out the rainbow of hope and that stuff about
walkin' one by one through the narrow isles of
Spain," said Mrs. Peters, with a sigh. "I've heard
it so often. There's an ounce bottle of carbolic on the
shelf behind the empty coffee can. Drink hearty."
Mr. Peters reflected. What next! The old ex-
pedients had failed. The two musty musketeers were
awaiting him hard by the ruined chateau -- that is
to say, on a park bench with rickety cast-iron legs.
His honor was at stake. He had engaged to storm
the castle single-handed and bring back the treas-
ure that was to furnish them wassail and solace. And
all that stood between him and the coveted dollar
was his wife, once a little girl whom he could -- aha!
-- why not again? Once with soft words he could, as
they say, twist her around his little finger. Why not
again? Not for years had he tried it. Grim poverty
and mutual hatred had killed all that. But Ragsy
and Kidd were waiting for him to bring the dollar!
Mr. Peters took a surreptitiously keen look at his
wife. Her formless bulk overflowed the chair. She
kept her eyes fixed out the window in a strange kind
of trance. Her eyes showed that she had been re-
"I wonder," said Mr. Peters to himself, "if there'd
be anything in it."
The window was open upon its outlook of brick
walls and drab, barren back yards. Except for the
mildness of the air that entered it might have been
midwinter yet in the city that turns such a frown-
ing face to besieging spring. But spring doesn't
come with the thunder of cannon. She is a sapper
and a miner, and you must capitulate.
"I'll try it," said Mr. Peters to himself, making a
He went up to his wife and put his arm across
"Clara, darling," he said in tones that shouldn't
have fooled a baby seal, "why should we have hard
words? Ain't you my own tootsum wootsums?
"A black mark against you, Mr. Peters, in the sa-
red ledger of Cupid. Charges of attempted graft are
filed against you, and of forgery and utterance of
two of Love's holiest of appellations.
But the miracle of spring was wrought. Into the
back room over the back alley between the black
walls had crept the Harbinger. It was ridiculous,
and yet - Well, it is a rat trap, and you, madam
and sir and all of us, are in it.
Red and fat and crying like Niobe or Niagara,
Mrs. Peters threw her arms around her lord and
dissolved upon him. Mr. Peters would have striven
to extricate the dollar bill from its deposit vault,
but his arms were bound to his sides.
"Do you love me, James?" asked Mrs. Peters.
"Madly," said James, "but -- "
"You are ill! " exclaimed Mrs. Peters. "Why
are you so pale and tired looking?"
"I feel weak," said Mr. Peters. "I -- "
"Oh, wait; I know what it is. Wait, James. I'll
be back in a minutes''
With a parting bug that revived in Mr. Peters
recollections of the Terrible Turk, his wife hurried
out of the room and down the stairs.
Mr. Peters hitched his thumbs under his sus-
"All right," he confided to the ceiling. "I've got
her going. I hadn't any idea the old girl was soft
any more under the foolish rib. Well, sir; ain't I
the Claude Melnotte of the lower East Side? What?
It's a 100 to 1 shot that I get the dollar. I wonder
what she went out for. I guess she's gone to tell
Mrs. Muldoon on the second floor, that we're recon-
ciled. I'll remember this. Soft soap! And Ragsy
was talking about slugging her!
Mrs. Peters came back with a bottle of sarsapa-
"I'm glad I happened to have that dollar," she
said. "You're all run down, boney."
Mr. Peters had a tablespoonful of the stuff in-
serted into him. Then Mrs. Peters sat on his lap
"Call me tootsum wootsums again, James."
He sat still, held there by his materialized goddess
Spring had come.
On the bench in Union Square Mr. Ragsdale and
Mr. Kidd squirmed, tongue-parched, awaiting
D'Artagnan and his dollar.
"I wish I had choked her at first," said Mr. Peters