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Daniel And Little Dan'l
THE Wise homestead dated back more than a century, yet it had nothing imposing about
it except its site. It was a simple, glaringly white cottage. There was a center front door
with two windows on each side; there was a low slant of roof, pierced by unpicturesque
dormers. On the left of the house was an ell, which had formerly been used as a
shoemaker's shop, but now served as a kitchen. In the low attic of the ell was stored the
shoemaker's bench, whereon David Wise's grandfather had sat for nearly eighty years of
working days; after him his eldest son, Daniel's father, had occupied the same hollow seat
of patient toil. Daniel had sat there for twenty-odd years, then had suddenly realized both
the lack of necessity and the lack of customers, since the great shoe-plant had been built
down in the village. Then Daniel had retired -- although he did not use that expression.
Daniel said to his friends and his niece Dora that he had "quit work." But he told himself,
without the least bitterness, that work had quit him.
After Daniel had retired, his one physiological peculiarity assumed enormous
proportions. It had always been with him, but steady work had held it, to a great extent, at
bay. Daniel was a moral coward before physical conditions. He was as one who suffers,
not so much from agony of the flesh as from agony of the mind induced thereby. Daniel
was a coward before one of the simplest, most inevitable happenings of earthly life. He
was a coward before summer heat. All winter he dreaded summer. Summer poisoned the
spring for him. Only during the autumn did he experience anything of peace. Summer
was then over, and between him and another summer stretched the blessed perspective of
winter. Then Daniel Wise drew a long breath and looked about him, and spelled out the
beauty of the earth in his simple primer of understanding. Daniel had in his garden behind
the house a prolific grape-vine. He ate the grapes, full of the savor of the dead summer,
with the gusto of a poet who can at last enjoy triumph over his enemy.
Possibly it was the vein of poetry in Daniel which made him a coward -- which made him
so vulnerable. During the autumn he reveled in the tints of the landscape which his
sitting-room windows commanded. There were many maples and oaks. Day by day the
roofs of the houses in the village became more evident, as the maples shed their crimson
and gold and purple rags of summer. The oaks remained, great shaggy masses of dark
gold and burning russet; later they took on soft hues, making clearer the blue firmament
between the boughs. Daniel watched the autumn trees with pure delight. "He will go to-
day," he said of a flaming maple after a night of frost which had crisped the white arches
of the grass in his dooryard. All day he sat and watched the maple cast its glory, and did
not bother much with his simple meals. The Wise house was erected on three terraces.
Always through the dry summer the grass was burned to an ugly negation of color. Later,
when rain came, the grass was a brilliant green, patched with rosy sorrel and golden stars
of arnica. Then later still came the diamond brilliance of the frost. So dry were the
terraces in summer-time that no flowers would flourish. When Daniel's mother had come
to the house as a bride she had planted under a window a blush-rose bush, but always the
blush-roses were few and covered with insects. It was not until the autumn, when it was
time for the flowers to die, that the sorrel blessing of waste lands flushed rosily and the