A Poor Wise Man
Late that afternoon Joe Wilkinson and Dan came slowly up the street, toward the
Boyd house. The light of battle was still in Dan's eyes, his clothes were torn and
his collar missing, and he walked with the fine swagger of the conqueror.
"Y'ask me," he said, "and I'll tell the world this thing's done for. It was just as well
to let them give it a try, and find out it won't work."
Joe said nothing. He was white and very tired, and a little sick.
"If you don't mind I'll go in your place and wash up," he remarked, as they neared
the house. "I'll scare the kids to death if they see me like this."
Edith was in the parlor. She had sat there almost all day, in an agony of fear. At
four o'clock the smallest Wilkinson had hammered at the front door, and on being
admitted had made a shameless demand.
"Bed and thugar," she had said, looking up with an ingratiating smile.
"You little beggar!"
"Bed and thugar."
Edith had got the bread and sugar, and, having lured the baby into the parlor,
had held her while she ate, receiving now and then an exceedingly sticky kiss in
payment. After a little the child's head began to droop, and Edith drew the small
head down onto her breast. She sat there, rocking gently, while the chair slowly
traveled, according to its wont, about the room.
The child brought her comfort. She began to understand those grave rocking
figures in the hospital ward, women who sat, with eyes that seemed to look into
distant places, with a child's head on their breasts.
After all, that was life for a woman. Love was only a part of the scheme of life, a
means to an end. And that end was the child.
For the first time she wished that her child had lived.
She felt no bitterness now, and no anger. He was dead. It was hard to think of
him as dead, who had been so vitally alive. She was sorry he had had to die, but
death was like love and children, it was a part of some general scheme of things.