THE MADNESS OF A MIDSUMMER NIGHT
Farr glanced again at the big clock in the First National block.
He had less than one hour to wait, according to the schedule Citizen Drew had promulgated in regard to the unvarying movements of the Honorable Archer Converse. As to how this first coup in the operations of that nascent organization, the Public-spirited Press Gang, was to be managed Farr had little idea at that moment.
He decided to devote that hour to devising a plan, deciding to attempt nothing until he saw the honorable gentleman march down the club steps. A club must be sanctuary—but the streets belonged to the people.
Therefore, Farr took a walk. He went back into that quarter of the city from which he had emerged during his stroll with Citizen Drew; he felt his courage deserting him in those more imposing surroundings of up-town; he went back to the purlieus of the poor, hoping for contact that might charge him afresh with determination. He realized that he needed all the dynamics of courage in the preposterous task he had set himself.
He knew he would find old Etienne sitting on the stoop of Mother Maillet’s house where the old man posted himself on pleasant summer evenings and whittled whirligigs for the crowding children—just as his peasant ancestors whittled the same sort of toys in old Normandy.
Mother Maillet’s house had a yard. It was narrow and dusty, because the feet of the children had worn away all the grass. Some of the palings were off the fence, and through the spaces the little folks came and went as they liked. It was not much of a yard to boast of, but there were few open spaces in that part of the city where the big land corporation hogged all the available feet of earth in order to stick the tenement-houses closely together. Therefore, because Mother Maillet was kind, the yard was a godsend so far as the little folks were concerned. The high fence kept children off the greensward where the canal flowed. Householders who had managed to save their yards down that way were, in most cases, fussy old people who were hanging on to the ancient cottage homes in spite of the city’s growth, and they shooed the children out of their yards where the flower-beds struggled under the coal-dust from the high chimneys.
But Mother Maillet did not mind because she had no flower-beds and because the palings were off and the youngsters made merry in her yard. She had two geraniums and a begonia and a rubber-plant on the window-sill in order to give the canary-bird a comfortable sense of arboreal surroundings; so why have homesick flowers out in a front yard where they must all the time keep begging the breeze to come and dust the grime off their petals? It should be understood that Mother Maillet had known what real flower-beds were when she was a girl in the Tadousac country.