A Poor Wise Man HTML version
All through her teens Lily had wondered about the mystery concerning her Aunt
Elinor. There was an oil portrait of her in the library, and one of the first things
she had been taught was not to speak of it.
Now and then, at intervals of years, Aunt Elinor came back. Her mother and
father would look worried, and Aunt Elinor herself would stay in her rooms, and
seldom appeared at meals. Never at dinner. As a child Lily used to think she had
two Aunt Elinors, one the young girl in the gilt frame, and the other the quiet, soft-
voiced person who slipped around the upper corridors like a ghost.
But she was not to speak of either of them to her grandfather.
Lily was not born in the house on lower East Avenue.
In the late eighties Anthony built himself a home, not on the farm, but in a new
residence portion of the city. The old common, grazing ground of family cows,
dump and general eye-sore, had become a park by that time, still only a
potentially beautiful thing, with the trees that were to be its later glory only thin
young shoots, and on the streets that faced it the wealthy of the city built their
homes, brick houses of square solidity, flush with brick pavements, which were
carefully reddened on Saturday mornings. Beyond the pavements were cobble-
stoned streets. Anthony Cardew was the first man in the city to have a rubber-
tired carriage. The story of Anthony Cardew's new home is the story of Elinor's
tragedy. Nor did it stop there. It carried on to the third generation, to Lily Cardew,
and in the end it involved the city itself. Because of the ruin of one small home all
homes were threatened. One small house, and one undying hatred.
Yet the matter was small in itself. An Irishman named Doyle owned the site
Anthony coveted. After years of struggle his small grocery had begun to put him
on his feet, and now the new development of the neighborhood added to his
prosperity. He was a dried-up, sentimental little man, with two loves, his wife's
memory and his wife's garden, which he still tended religiously between
customers; and one ambition, his son. With the change from common to park,
and the improvement in the neighborhood, he began to flourish, and he, too, like
Anthony, dreamed a dream. He would make his son a gentleman, and he would
get a shop assistant and a horse and wagon. Poverty was still his lot, but there
were good times coming. He saved carefully, and sent Jim Doyle away to
He would not sell to Anthony. When he said he could not sell his wife's garden,
Anthony's agents reported him either mad or deeply scheming. They kept after