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Seven keys to baldpate


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Title:SevenKeystoBaldpate
Author:EarlDerrBiggers
ReleaseDate:January2,2010[EBook#30836]
[Lastupdated:June22,2011]
Language:English

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SEVENKEYSTOBALDPATE



BYEARLDERRBIGGERS
BuccaneerBooks
NEWYORK
Copyright©1913byTheBobbs-MerrillCompany
LibraryofCongressCatalogCardNumber:78-66864


CONTENTS
CHAPTERI"WEEPNOMORE,MYLADY"
CHAPTERIIENTERALOVELORNHABERDASHER
CHAPTERIIIBLONDESANDSUFFRAGETTES
CHAPTERIVAPROFESSIONALHERMITAPPEARS
CHAPTERVTHEMAYORCASTSASHADOWBEFORE
CHAPTERVIGHOSTSOFTHESUMMERCROWD
CHAPTERVIITHEMAYORBEGINSAVIGIL
CHAPTERVIIIMR.MAXTELLSATALEOFSUSPICION
CHAPTERIXMELODRAMAINTHESNOW
CHAPTERXTHECOLDGRAYDAWN
CHAPTERXIAFALSEHOODUNDERTHEPALMS
CHAPTERXIIWOEINNUMBERSEVEN
CHAPTERXIIITHEEXQUISITEMR.HAYDEN
CHAPTERXIVTHESIGNOFTHEOPENWINDOW
CHAPTERXVTABLETALK
CHAPTERXVIAMANFROMTHEDARK
CHAPTERXVIITHEPROFESSORSUMSUP
CHAPTERXVIIIAREDCARD
CHAPTERXIXEXEUNTOMNES,ASSHAKESPEAREHASIT
CHAPTERXXTHEADMIRAL'SGAME
CHAPTERXXITHEMAYORISWELCOMEDHOME
CHAPTERXXIITHEUSUALTHING


SEVENKEYSTOBALDPATE


CHAPTERI
"WEEPNOMORE,MYLADY"
Ayoungwomanwascryingbitterlyinthewaiting-roomoftherailwaystationat


UpperAsquewanFalls,NewYork.
Abeautifulyoungwoman?ThatisexactlywhatBillyMageewantedtoknowas,
closingthewaiting-roomdoorbehindhim,hestoodstaringjustinside.Werethe
features against which that frail bit of cambric was agonizingly pressed of a
pleasing contour? The girl's neatly tailored corduroy suit and her flippant but
charmingmillineryauguredwell.Shouldhestepgallantlyforwardandinquirein
sympathetictonesastothecauseofherwoe?Shouldhecarrychivalryevento
thelengthsofUpperAsquewanFalls?
No,Mr.Mageedecidedhewouldnot.Thetrainthathadjustroaredawayinto
theduskhadnotbroughthimfromtheregionofskyscrapersandderbyhatsfor
deeds of knight errantry up state. Anyhow, the girl's tears were none of his
business. A railway station was a natural place for grief—a field of many
partings,uponwhosefloorfelloftenintorrentsthetearsofthoseleftbehind.A
friend,mayhapalover,hadbeenwhiskedoffintothenightbytherelentlessfive
thirty-fourlocal.Whynotalover?Surelyaboutsuchadaintytrimfigureasthis
courtiershoveredasmothsaboutaflame.Uponatenderintimatesorrowitwas
nottheplaceofanunknownMageetointrude.Heputhishandgentlyuponthe
latchofthedoor.
Andyet—dimandheartlessandcoldwastheinteriorofthatwaiting-room.No
place, surely, for a gentleman to leave a lady sorrowful, particularly when the
lady was so alluring. Oh, beyond question, she was most alluring. Mr. Magee
stepped softly to the ticket window and made low-voiced inquiry of the man
inside.
"What'sshecryingabout?"heasked.
A thin sallow face, on the forehead of which a mop of ginger-colored hair lay
listlessly,waspressedagainstthebars.
"Thanks,"saidtheticketagent."Igetaskedthesameoldquestionssooften,one


likeyourssortofbreaksthemonotony.SorryIcan'thelpyou.She'sawoman,
and the Lord only knows why women cry. And sometimes I reckon even He
mustbealittlepuzzled.Now,mywife—"
"IthinkI'llaskher,"confidedMr.Mageeinahoarsewhisper.
"Oh, I wouldn't," advised the man behind the bars. "It's best to let 'em alone.
Theystopquickeriftheyain'tnoticed."
"Butshe'sintrouble,"arguedBillyMagee.
"Andso'llyoube,mostlikely,"respondedthecynic,"ifyouinterfere.No,siree!
Takemyadvice.ShootoldAsquewan'srapidsinabarrelifyouwantto,butkeep
awayfromcryingwomen."
TheheedlessBillyMagee,however,wasalreadymovingacrosstheunscrubbed
floorwithchivalrousintention.
The girl's trim shoulders no longer heaved so unhappily. Mr. Magee,
approaching, thought himself again in the college yard at dusk, with the great
elmssighingoverhead,andthefreshyoungvoicesofthegleeclubringingout
from the steps of a century-old building. What were the words they sang so
manytimes?
"Weepnomore,mylady,
Oh!weepnomoreto-day."
He regretted that he could not make use of them. They had always seemed to
him so sad and beautiful. But troubadours, he knew, went out of fashion long
beforerailwaystationscamein.Sohisremarktotheyoungwomanwasnotat
allmelodious:
"CanIdoanything?"
Aportionofthehandkerchiefwasremoved,andaneyewhich,Mr.Mageenoted,
wasofanadmirableblue,peepedoutathim.Tothegazeofevenasolitaryeye,
Mr.Magee'saspectwasdecidedlypleasing.YoungWilliams,whoposedatthe
clubasawit,hadoncesaidthatBillyMageecameasneartobeingamagazine
artist'sideaoftheproperheroofastoryasanymancould,andatthesametime
retain the respect and affection of his fellows. Mr. Magee thought he read
approval in the lone eye of blue. When the lady spoke, however, he hastily
revisedhisopinion.


"Yes,"shesaid,"youcandosomething.Youcangoaway—far,faraway."
Mr.Mageestiffened.ThuschivalryfaredinUpperAsquewanFallsintheyear
1911.
"Ibegyourpardon,"heremarked."Youseemedtobeintrouble,andIthoughtI
mightpossiblybeofsomeassistance."
Thegirlremovedtheentirehandkerchief.Theothereyeprovedtobethesame
admirableblue—abluehalf-waybetweentheshadeofhercorduroysuitandthat
ofthejacky'scostumeinthe"SeetheWorld—JointheNavy"posterthatserved
asbackgroundtoherwoe.
"Idon'tmeantoberude,"sheexplainedmoregently,"but—I'mcrying,yousee,
andagirlsimplycan'tlookattractivewhenshecries."
"If I had only been regularly introduced to you, and all that," responded Mr.
Magee, "I could make a very flattering reply." And a true one, he added to
himself. For even in the faint flickering light of the station he found ample
reason for rejoicing that the bit of cambric was no longer agonizingly pressed.
Asyethehadscarcelylookedawayfromhereyes,buthewasdimlyawarethat
up above wisps of golden hair peeped impudently from beneath a saucy black
hat.Hewouldlookatthosewispsshortly,hetoldhimself.Assoonashecould
lookawayfromtheeyes—whichwasnotjustyet.
"My grief," said the girl, "is utterly silly and—womanish. I think it would be
best to leave me alone with it. Thank you for your interest. And—would you
mindaskingthegentlemanwhoispressinghisfacesofeverishlyagainstthebars
tokindlyclosehiswindow?"
"Certainly,"repliedMr.Magee.Heturnedaway.Ashedidsohecollidedwitha
rather excessive lady. She gave the impression of solidity and bulk; her mouth
was hard and knowing. Mr. Magee felt that she wanted to vote, and that she
wouldsayasmuchfromtimetotime.Theladyhadaglitteringeye;sheputitto
itstime-honoreduseandfixedMr.Mageewithit.
"I was crying, mamma," the girl explained, "and this gentleman inquired if he
couldbeofanyservice."
Mamma!Mr.Mageewantedtoaddhistearstothoseofthegirl.Thisfrailand
lovelydamselindistressowningashermaternalparentaheavyunnecessary—
person!Theolderwomanalsohadyellowhair,butitwasthesortthatsuggests


the white enamel pallor of a drug store, with the soda-fountain fizzing and the
bottles of perfume ranged in an odorous row. Mamma! Thus rolled the world
along.
"Well,theyain'tnousegettin'allworkedupfornothing,"advisedtheunpleasant
parent.Mr.Mageewassurprisedthatinhertonetherewasnohostilitytohim—
thusbelyingherlooks."Mebbethegentlemancandirectustoagoodhotel,"she
added,witharatherstagysmile.
"I'mastrangerhere,too,"Mr.Mageereplied."I'llinterviewthemanoverthere
inthecage."
The gentleman referred to was not cheerful in his replies. There was, he said,
BaldpateInn.
"Oh,yes,BaldpateInn,"repeatedBillyMageewithinterest.
"Yes,that'saprettyswellplace,"saidtheticketagent."Butitain'topennow.It's
asummerresort.Thereain'tnoplaceopennowbuttheCommercialHouse.And
Iwouldn'trecommendnohumanbeingthere—especiallynoladywhowassad
beforesheeversawit."
Mr.Mageeexplainedtotheincongruousfamilypairwaitingonthebench.
"There'sonlyonehotel,"hesaid,"andI'mtoldit'snotexactlytheplaceforany
onewhoseoutlookonlifeisnotrosyatthemoment.I'msorry."
"It will do very well," answered the girl, "whatever it is." She smiled at Billy
Magee."MyoutlookonlifeinUpperAsquewanFalls,"shesaid,"growsrosier
everyminute.Wemustfindacab."
Shebegantogatheruphertraveling-bags,andMr.Mageehastenedtoassist.The
three went out on the station platform, upon which lay a thin carpet of
snowflakes. There the older woman, in a harsh rasping voice, found fault with
UpperAsquewanFalls,—itsgeography,itspublicspirit,itsbrandofweather.A
dejectedcabatthe endoftheplatformstoodmourningitslonelylot. In itMr.
Mageeplacedthelargeladyandthebags.Then,whilethedriverclimbedtohis
seat,hespokeintotheinvisibleearofthegirl.
"Youhaven'ttoldmewhyyoucried,"heremindedher.
She waved her hand toward the wayside village, the lamps of which shone


sorrowfullythroughthesnow.
"UpperAsquewanFalls,"shesaid,"isn'titreasonenough?"
Billy Magee looked; saw a row of gloomy buildings that seemed to list as the
windblew,ablurredsign"LiquorsandCigars,"astreetthatstaggeredawayinto
thedarklikeamanwhohadlingeredtoolongattheemporiumbackofthesign.
"Areyoudoomedtostayherelong?"heasked.
"Comeon,Mary,"criedadeepvoicefromthecab."Getinandshutthedoor.I'm
freezing."
"Italldepends,"saidthegirl."Thankyouforbeingsokindand—goodnight."
The door closed with a muffled bang, the cab creaked wearily away, and Mr.
Mageeturnedbacktothedimwaiting-room.
"Well, what was she crying for?" inquired the ticket agent, when Mr. Magee
stoodagainathiscellwindow.
"Shedidn'tthinkmuchofyourtown,"respondedMagee;"sheintimatedthatit
madeherheavyofheart."
"H'm—it ain't much of a place," admitted the man, "though it ain't the general
rulewithvisitorstoburstintotearsatsightofit.Yes,UpperAsquewanisslow,
andnomistake.Itgetsonmynervessometimes.Nothingtodobutwork,work,
work, and then lay down and wait for to-morrow. I used to think maybe some
daythey'dtransfermedowntoHooperstown—there'smovingpicturesandsuch
goings-ondownthere.Buttherailroadnevernoticesyou—unlessyougowrong.
Yes,sir,sometimesIwanttoclearoutofthistownmyself."
"Anaturalwanderlust,"sympathizedMr.Magee."Yousaidsomethingjustnow
aboutBaldpateInn—"
"Yes,it'salittlemorelivelyinsummer,whenthat'sopen,"answeredtheagent;
"wegetalotofcomplaintsabouttrunksnotcoming,fromprettyswellpeople,
too.Itsortofcheersthings."HiseyeroamedwithinterestoverMr.Magee'sNew
Yorkattire."ButBaldpateInnisshutuptightnow.Thisisnothingbutanannex
toagraveyardinwinter.Youwasn'tthinkingofstoppingoffhere,wasyou?"
"Well—IwanttoseeamannamedElijahQuimby,"Mr.Mageereplied."Doyou
knowhim?"


"Of course," said the yearner for pastures new, "he's caretaker of the inn. His
houseisaboutamileout,ontheoldMillerRoadthatleadsupBaldpate.Come
outsideandI'lltellyouhowtogetthere."
The two men went out into the whirling snow, and the agent waved a hand
indefinitelyupatthenight.
"If it was clear," he said, "you could see Baldpate Mountain, over yonder,
lookingdownontheFalls,sortofkeepinganeyeonustomakesurewedon't
get reckless. And half-way up you'd see Baldpate Inn, black and peaceful and
winter-y.Justfollowthisstreettothethirdcorner,andturntoyourleft.Elijah
livesinalittlehousebackamongthetreesamileout—there'sagateyou'llsure
hearcreakingonanightlikethis."
Billy Magee thanked him, and gathering up his two bags, walked up "Main
Street." A dreary forbidding building at the first corner bore the sign
"CommercialHouse".Underthewhitegaslightintheofficewindowthreeborn
pessimistsslouchedlowinhotelchairs,gazingsourlyoutatthestorm.
"Weepnomore,mylady,
Oh!weepnomoreto-day,"
hummed Mr. Magee cynically under his breath, and glanced up at the solitary
up-stairswindowthatgleamedyellowinthenight.
At a corner on which stood a little shop that advertised "Groceries and
Provisions"hepaused.
"Let me see," he pondered. "The lights will be turned off, of course. Candles.
And a little something for the inner man, in case it's the closed season for
cooks."
Hewentinside,whereawearyoldwomanservedhim.
"What sort of candles?" she inquired, with the air of one who had an infinite
varietyinstock.Mr.MageerememberedthatChristmaswasnear.
"ForaChristmastree,"heexplained.Heaskedfortwohundred.
"I've only got forty," the woman said. "What's this tree for—the Orphans'
Home?"


Withtheaddedburdenofapackagecontaininghispurchasesinthetinystore,
Mr.Mageeemergedandcontinuedhisjourneythroughthestingingsnow.Upper
Asquewan Falls on its way home for supper flitted past him in the silvery
darkness.Hesawinthelightedwindowsofmanyofthehousesthegreenwreath
ofChristmascheer.Finallythehousesbecameinfrequent,andhestruckouton
an uneven road that wound upward. Once he heard a dog's faint bark. Then a
carriagelurchedbyhim,andastrongvoicecursedtheroughnessoftheroad.Mr.
Mageehalfsmiledtohimselfashestrodeon.
"DonQuixote,myboy,"hemuttered,"Iknowhowyoufeltwhenyoumovedon
thewindmills."
Itwasnotthewhirofwindmillsbutthecreakofagateinthestormthatbrought
Mr. Magee at last to a stop. He walked gladly up the path to Elijah Quimby's
door.
In answer to Billy Magee's gay knock, a man of about sixty years appeared.
Evidentlyhehadjustfinishedsupper;atthemomenthewasengagedinlighting
his pipe. He admitted Mr. Magee into the intimacy of the kitchen, and took a
numberofcalmjudiciouspuffsonthepipebeforespeakingtohisvisitor.Inthat
intervalthevisitorcheerilyseizedhishand,obliviousofthewarmburntmatch
that was in it. The match fell to the floor, whereupon the older man cast an
anxiousglanceatagray-hairedwomanwhostoodbesidethekitchenstove.
"My name's Magee," blithely explained that gentleman, dragging in his bags.
"Andyou'reElijahQuimby,ofcourse.Howareyou?Gladtoseeyou."Hisair
wasthatofonewhohadknownthisQuimbyintimately,inmanyoddcornersof
theworld.
Theoldermandidnotreply,butregardedMr.Mageewonderinglythroughwhite
puffs ofsmoke.Hisfacewas kindly,gentle,ineffectual;heseemed tolackthe
final"punch"thatsendmenoverthelinetosuccess;thiswasevidentintheway
hisnecktiehung,thewayhisthinhandsfluttered.
"Yes,"headmittedatlast."Yes,I'mQuimby."
Mr. Magee threw back his coat, and sprayed with snow Mrs. Quimby's
immaculatefloor.
"I'm Magee," he elucidated again, "William Hallowell Magee, the man Hal
Bentleywrotetoyouabout.Yougothisletter,didn'tyou?"


Mr. Quimby removed his pipe and forgot to close the aperture as he stared in
amazement.
"Goodlord!"hecried,"youdon'tmean—you'vereallycome."
"Whatbetterproofcouldyouask,"saidMr.Mageeflippantly,"thanmypresence
here?"
"Why,"stammeredMr.Quimby,"we—wethoughtitwasallajoke."
"Hal Bentley has his humorous moments," agreed Mr. Magee, "but it isn't his
habittoflinghisjestsintoUpperAsquewanFalls."
"And—andyou'rereallygoingto—"Mr.Quimbycouldgetnofurther.
"Yes,"saidMr.Mageebrightly,slippingintoarocking-chair."Yes,I'mgoingto
spendthenextfewmonthsatBaldpateInn."
Mrs.Quimby,whoseemedtohavesettledintoastoutlittlemoundofawoman
throughstandingtoolonginthewarmpresenceofherstove,cameforwardand
inspectedMr.Magee.
"Ofallthings,"shemurmured.
"It'sclosed,"expostulatedMr.Quimby;"theinnisclosed,youngfellow."
"Iknowit'sclosed,"smiledMagee."That'stheveryreasonI'mgoingtohonorit
withmypresence.I'msorrytotakeyououtonanightlikethis,butI'llhaveto
ask you to lead me up to Baldpate. I believe those were Hal Bentley's
instructions—intheletter."
Mr. Quimby towered above Mr. Magee, a shirt-sleeved statue of honest
Americanmanhood.Hescowled.
"Excuseaplainquestion,youngman,"hesaid,"butwhatareyouhidingfrom?"
Mrs.Quimby,intheneighborhoodofthestove,pausedtohearthereply.Billy
Mageelaughed.
"I'm not hiding," he said. "Didn't Bentley explain? Well, I'll try to, though I'm
notsureyou'llunderstand.Sitdown,Mr.Quimby.Youarenot,Itakeit,thesort
ofmantofollowcloselythelightandfrivolousliteratureoftheday."
"What'sthat?"inquiredMr.Quimby.


"Youdon'tread,"continuedMr.Magee,"thesortofnovelsthataresoldbythe
poundinthedepartmentstores.Now,ifyouhadadaughter—afluffydaughter
inseparable from a hammock in the summer—she could help me explain. You
see—Iwritethosenovels.Wildthrillingtalesforthetiredbusinessman'stired
wife—shots in the night, chases after fortunes, Cupid busy with his arrows all
overtheplace!It'sgoodfun,andIliketodoit.There'smoneyinit."
"Isthere?"askedMr.Quimbywithashowofinterest.
"Considerable," replied Mr. Magee. "But now and then I get a longing to do
somethingthatwillmakethecriticssitup—therealthing,youknow.Theother
dayIpickedupanewspaperandfoundmylatestbrain-childadvertisedas'the
best fall novel Magee ever wrote'. It got on my nerves—I felt like a literary
dressmaker,andIcouldseemypubliclayingdownmyfallnovelandsighingfor
my early spring styles in fiction. I remembered that once upon a time a critic
advisedmetogoawayfortenyearstosomequietspot,andthink.Idecidedto
doit.BaldpateInnisthequietspot."
"You don't mean," gasped Mr. Quimby, "that you're going to stay there ten
years?"
"Blessyou,no,"saidMr.Magee."Criticsexaggerate.Twomonthswilldo.They
say I am a cheap melodramatic ranter. They say I don't go deep. They say my
thinkingprocessisascream.I'mafraidthey'reright.Now,I'mgoingtogoupto
BaldpateInn,andthink.I'mgoingtogetawayfrommelodrama.I'mgoingtodo
anovelsofineandliterarythatHenryCabotLodgewillcometomewithtears
inhiseyesandaskmetojoinhisbunchofself-madeImmortals.I'mgoingtodo
all this up there at the inn—sitting on the mountain and looking down on this
littleoldworldasJovelookeddownfromOlympus."
"Idon'tknowwhoyoumean,"objectedMr.Quimby.
"Hewasagod—thegodofthefruit-standmen,"explainedMagee."Pictureme,
if you can, depressed by the overwhelming success of my latest brain-child.
PicturememeetingHalBentleyinaForty-fourthStreetclubandaskinghimfor
thelocationofthelonesomestspotonearth.Halthoughtaminute.'I'vegotit',he
said, 'the lonesomest spot that's happened to date is a summer resort in midwinter.ItmakesCrusoe'sislandlooklikeConeyonawarmSundayafternoonin
comparison.'Thetalkflowedon,alongwithotherthings.Haltoldmehisfather
ownedBaldpateInn,andthatyouwereanoldfriendofhiswhowouldbehappy
fortheentirewinteroverthechancetoservehim.Hehappenedtohaveakeyto


theplace—thekeytothebigfrontdoor,Iguess,fromtheweightofit—andhe
gaveittome.Healsowroteyoutolookafterme.SohereIam."
Mr.Quimbyranhisfingersthroughhiswhitehair.
"Here I am," repeated Billy Magee, "fleeing from the great glitter known as
Broadwaytodoalittlerationalthinkinginthesolitudes.It'sgettinglate,andI
suggestthatwestartforBaldpateInnatonce."
"Thisain'texactly—regular,"Mr.Quimbyprotested."No,itain'twhatyoumight
callafrequentoccurrence.I'mgladtodoanythingIcanforyoungMr.Bentley,
but I can't help wondering what his father will say. And there's a lot of things
youhaven'ttookintoconsideration."
"There certainly is, young man," remarked Mrs. Quimby, bustling forward.
"Howareyougoingtokeepwarminthatbigbarnofaplace?"
"The suites on the second floor," said Mr. Magee, "are, I hear, equipped with
fireplaces.Mr.Quimbywillkeepmesuppliedwithfuelfromtheforestprimeval,
forwhichservicehewillreceivetwentydollarsaweek."
"Andlight?"askedMrs.Quimby.
"For the present, candles. I have forty in that package. Later, perhaps you can
findmeanoillamp.Oh,everythingwillbeprovidedfor."
"Well,"remarkedMr.Quimby,lookinginadazedfashionathiswife,"Ireckon
I'llhavetotalkitoverwithma."
Thetworetiredtothenextroom,andMr.Mageefixedhiseyesona"GodBless
OurHome"mottowhileheawaitedtheirreturn.Presentlytheyreappeared.
"Was you thinking of eating?" inquired Mrs. Quimby sarcastically, "while you
stayedupthere?"
"Icertainlywas,"smiledMr.Magee."ForthemostpartIwillpreparemyown
mealsfromcansand—er—jars—andsuchpagansources.Butnowandthenyou,
Mrs.Quimby,aregoingtosendmesomethingcookedasnootherwomaninthe
countycancookit.Icanseeitinyoureyes.InmypoorwayIshalltrytorepay
you."
HecontinuedtosmileintoMrs.Quimby'sbroadcheerfulface.Mr.Mageehad
thetypeofsmilethatmovesmentopartwithtenuntilSaturday,andwomento


closetheireyesanddreamofSirLauncelot.Mrs.Quimbycouldnotlongresist.
Shesmiledback.WhereuponBillyMageesprangtohisfeet.
"It'sallfixed,"hecried."We'llgetonsplendidly.Andnow—forBaldpateInn."
"Notjustyet,"saidMrs.Quimby."Iain'tonetoletanybodygouptoBaldpate
Innunfed.I'sposewe'resorto'responsibleforyou,whileyou'reuphere.You
justsetrightdownandI'llhaveyoursupperhotandsmokingonthetableinno
time."
Mr.Mageeenteredintonodisputeonthispoint,andforhalfanhourhewasthe
pleased recipient of advice, philosophy, and food. When he had assured Mrs.
Quimbythathehadeatenenoughtolasthimtheentiretwomonthsheintended
spending at the inn, Mr. Quimby came in, attired in a huge "before the war"
ulster,andcarryingalightedlantern.
"Soyou'regoingtositupthereandwritethings,"hecommented."Well,Ireckon
you'llbelefttoyourself,allright."
"Ihopeso,"respondedMr.Magee."IwanttobesolonesomeI'llsobmyselfto
sleep every night. It's the only road to immortality. Good-by, Mrs. Quimby. In
myfortressonthemountainIshallexpectanoccasionalculinarymessagefrom
you."Hetookherplumphand;thismotherlylittlewomanseemedthelastlink
bindinghimtotheworldofreality.
"Good-by,"smiledMrs.Quimby."Becarefulofmatches."
Mr.Quimbyledthewaywiththelantern,andpresentlytheysteppedoutupon
the road. The storm had ceased, but it was still very dark. Far below, in the
valley,twinkledthelightsofUpperAsquewanFalls.
"Bytheway,Quimby,"remarkedMr.Magee,"isthereagirlinyourtownwho
hasblueeyes,lighthair,andthegeneralairofaqueenoutshopping?"
"Light hair," repeated Quimby. "There's Sally Perry. She teaches in the
MethodistSunday-school."
"No,"saidMr.Magee."Mydescriptionwaspoor,I'mafraid.ThisoneIreferto,
when she weeps, gives the general effect of mist on the sea at dawn. The
Methodistsdonotmonopolizeher."
"Ireadbooks,andIreadnewspapers,"saidMr.Quimby,"butalotofyourtalkI


don'tunderstand."
"The critics," replied Billy Magee, "could explain. My stuff is only for lowbrows.Leadon,Mr.Quimby."
Mr. Quimby stood for a moment in dazed silence. Then he turned, and the
yellowofhislanternfellonthedazzlingsnowahead.Togetherthetwoclimbed
BaldpateMountain.


CHAPTERII
ENTERALOVELORNHABERDASHER
Baldpate Inn did not stand tiptoe on the misty mountain-top. Instead it clung
withgrimdeterminationtothesideofBaldpate,abouthalf-wayup,muchasa
city man clings to the running board of an open street-car. This was the
comparisonMr.Mageemade,andevenashemadeitheknewthatatmospheric
conditionsrendereditquestionable.Foranopenstreet-carsuggestssummerand
the ball park; Baldpate Inn, as it shouldered darkly into Mr. Magee's ken,
suggestedwinteratitsmostwintry.
About the great black shape that was the inn, like arms, stretched broad
verandas.Mr.Mageeremarkeduponthemtohiscompanion.
"Those porches and balconies and things," he said, "will come in handy in
coolingthefeveredbrowofgenius."
"There ain't much fever in this locality," the practical Quimby assured him,
"especiallynotinwinter."
Silenced,Mr.MageefollowedthelanternofQuimbyoverthesnowtothebroad
steps, and up to the great front door. There Magee produced from beneath his
coat an impressive key. Mr. Quimby made as though to assist, but was waved
aside.
"Thisisaceremony,"Mr.Mageetoldhim,"somedaySundaynewspaperstories
will be written about it. Baldpate Inn opening its doors to the great American
novel!"
Heplacedthekeyinthelock,turnedit,andthedoorswungopen.Thecoldest
blastofairMr.Mageehadevenencounteredsweptoutfromthedarkinterior.He
shuddered, and wrapped his coat closer. He seemed to see the white trail from
DawsonCity,thesleddogsstragglingonwiththedwindlingprovisions,thefat
Eskimoguidebeggingforgum-dropsbyhisside.
"Whew,"hecried,"we'vediscoveredanotherPole!"
"It'sstaleair,"remarkedQuimby.


"You mean the Polar atmosphere," replied Magee. "Yes, it is pretty stale. Jack
LondonandDoctorCookhaveworkedittodeath."
"Imean,"saidQuimby,"thisairhasbeeninherealonetoolong.It'sasstaleas
lastweek'snewspaper.Wecouldn'theatitwithamillionfires.We'llhavetolet
insomewarmairfromoutsidefirst."
"Warmair—humph,"remarkedMr.Magee."Well,liveandlearn."
The twostood togetherin agreatbareroom.The rugshadbeenremoved,and
suchfurnitureasremainedhadhuddledtogether,asifforwarmth,inthecenter
of the floor. When they stepped forward, the sound of their shoes on the hard
woodseemedtheboomthatshouldwakethedead.
"Thisisthehoteloffice,"explainedMr.Quimby.
Attheleftofthedoorwastheclerk'sdesk;behinditloomedagreatsafe,anda
seriesofpigeon-holesforthemailoftheguests.Oppositethefrontdoor,awide
stairwayledtoalandinghalf-wayup,wherethestairsweredivorcedandwent
to the right and left in search of the floor above. Mr. Magee surveyed the
stairwaycritically.
"A great place," he remarked, "to show off the talents of your dressmaker, eh,
Quimby?Can'tyoujustseethestunninggownscomingdownthatstairinstate,
andtheyoungmenbelowhereagitatedintheirbosoms?"
"No,Ican't,"saidMr.Quimbyfrankly.
"I can't either, to tell the truth," laughed Billy Magee. He turned up his collar.
"It's like picturing a summer girl sitting on an iceberg and swinging her openworkhosieryovertheedge.Idon'tsupposeit'snecessarytoregister.I'llgoright
upandselectmyapartments."
ItwasuponasuiteofroomsthatborethenumbersevenontheirdoorthatMr.
Magee'schoicefell.Alargeparlorwithafireplacethatafewblazinglogswould
cheer,abedroomwhosebedwasdestituteofallsavemattressandsprings,anda
bathroom, comprised his kingdom. Here, too, all the furniture was piled in the
center of the rooms. After Quimby had opened the windows, he began
straighteningthefurnitureabout.
Mr. Magee inspected his apartment. The windows were all of the low French
variety,andopenedoutuponabroadsnow-coveredbalconywhichwasinreality


the roof of the first floor veranda. On this balcony Magee stood a moment,
watchingthetreesonBaldpatewavetheirblackarmsinthewind,andthelights
ofUpperAsquewanFallswinkknowinglyupathim.Thenhecameinside,and
hisinvestigationsbroughthim,presentlytothetubinthebathroom.
"Fine," he cried, "a cold plunge in the morning before the daily struggle for
immortalitybegins."
Heturnedthespigot.Nothinghappened.
"I reckon," drawled Mr. Quimby from the bedroom, "you'll carry your cold
plungeupfromthewellbackoftheinnbeforeyouplungeintoit.Thewater's
turnedoff.Wecan'ttakechanceswithbustedpipes."
"Ofcourse,"repliedMageelessblithely.Hisardorwassomewhatdampened—a
paradox—bythefailureofthespigottogushfortharesponse."There'snothing
I'denjoymorethancarryingeightpailsofwaterup-stairseverymorningtoget
upanappetitefor—what?Oh,well,theLordwillprovide.Ifweproposetoheat
upthegreatAmericanoutdoors,Quimby,Ithinkit'stimewehadafire."
Mr.Quimbywentoutwithoutcomment,andleftMageetolighthisfirstcandle
inthedark.Foratimeheoccupiedhimselfwithlightingafewoftheforty,and
distributing them about the room. Soon Quimby came back with kindling and
logs, and subsequently a noisy fire roared in the grate. Again Quimby retired,
andreturnedwithagenerousarmfulofbedding,whichhethrewuponthebrass
bed in the inner room. Then he slowly closed and locked the windows, after
which he came and looked down with good-natured contempt at Mr. Magee,
whosatinachairbeforethefire.
"Iwouldn'twanderroundnone,"headvised."Youmightfalldownsomething—
orsomething.Ibeenlivingintheseparts,offandon,forsixtyyearsandmore,
and nothing like this ever came under my observation before. Howsomever, I
guessit'sallrightifMr.Bentleysaysso.I'llcomeupinthemorningandseeyou
downtothetrain."
"Whattrain?"inquiredMr.Magee.
"YourtrainbacktoNewYorkCity,"repliedMr.Quimby."Don'ttrytostartback
inthenight.Thereain'tnotraintillmorning."
"Ah,Quimby,"laughedMr.Magee,"youtauntme.YouthinkIwon'tstickitout.
ButI'llshowyou.Itellyou,I'mhungryforsolitude."


"That'sallright,"Mr.Quimbyresponded,"youcan'tmakethreesquaremealsa
dayoffsolitude."
"I'mdesperate,"saidMagee."HenryCabotLodgemustcometome,Isay,with
tearsinhiseyes.Everseethesenatorthatway?No?Itisn'tgoingtobeaneasy
job.Imustputitover.Imustgodeepintotheheartsofmen,uphere,andwrite
whatIfind.Nomoreshotsinthenight.Justtheadventureofsoulandsoul.Do
yousee?Bytheway,here'stwentydollars,yourfirstweek'spayascaretakerof
aNewYorkQuixote."
"What'sthat?"askedQuimby.
"Quixote,"explainedMr.Magee,"wasaSpanishladwhowasalittleconfused
in his mind, and went about the country putting up at summer resorts in midwinter."
"I'dexpectitofaSpaniard,"Quimbysaid."Becarefulofthatfire.I'llbeupin
the morning." He stowed away the bill Mr. Magee had given him. "I guess
nothingwillinterferewithyourlonesomeness.Leastways,Ihopeitwon't.Good
night."
Mr.Mageebadethemangoodnight,andlistenedtothethumpofhisboots,and
theclosingofthegreatfrontdoor.Fromhiswindowshewatchedthecaretaker
movedowntheroadwithoutlookingback,todisappearatlastinthewhitenight.
Throwingoffhisgreatcoat,Mr.Mageenoisilyattackedthefire.Theblazeflared
red on his strong humorous mouth, in his smiling eyes. Next, in the flickering
half-lightofsuiteseven,hedistributedthecontentsofhistraveling-bagsabout.
Onthetableheplacedanumberofnewmagazinesandafewbooks.
ThenMr.Mageesatdowninthebigleatherchairbeforethefire,andcaughthis
breath.Herehewasatlast.ThewildplanheandHalBentleyhadcookedupin
that Forty-fourth Street club had actually come to be. "Seclusion," Magee had
cried. "Bermuda," Bentley had suggested. "A mixture of sea, hotel clerks, and
honeymooners!"theseekerforsolitudehadsneered."Somewinterplacedown
South,"—from Bentley. "And a flirtation lurking in every corner!"—from
Magee."Acountrytownwhereyoudon'tknowanyone.""Theeasiestplacein
the world to get acquainted. I must be alone, man! Alone!" "Baldpate Inn,"
Bentley had cried in his idiom. "Why, Billy—Baldpate Inn at Christmas—it
mustbeoldJohnH.Seclusionhimself."


Yes, here he was. And here was the solitude he had come to find. Mr. Magee
looked nervously about, and the smile died out of his gray eyes. For the first
time misgivings smote him. Might one not have too much of a good thing? A
silencelikethatofthetombhaddescended.Herecalledstoriesofmenwhowent
madfromloneliness.Whatplacelonelierthanthis?Thewindhowledalongthe
balcony. It rattled the windows. Outside his door lay a great black cave—in
summergaywithmenandmaids—nowlikeCrusoe'sislandbeforetheoldman
landed.
"Alone,alone,all,allalone,"quotedMr.Magee."IfIcan'tthinkhereitwillbe
because I'm not equipped with the apparatus. I will. I'll show the gloomy old
critics!Iwonderwhat'sdoinginNewYork?"
NewYork!Mr.Mageelookedathiswatch.Eighto'clock.Thegreatstreetwas
ablaze. The crowds were parading from the restaurants to the theaters. The
electricsignswerepastingluridlegendsonalongsufferingsky;thetaxiswere
spraying throats with gasoline; the traffic cop at Broadway and Forty-second
Streetwasmadlyearninghispay.Mr.Mageegotupandwalkedthefloor.New
York!
Probably the telephone in his rooms was jangling, vainly calling forth to sport
withAmaryllisintheshadeoftherubbertreesBillyMagee—BillyMageewho
sataloneinthesilenceonBaldpateMountain.Fewknewofhisdeparture.This
wasthenightofthatstupidattemptattheatricalsatthePlaza;stupidinitselfbut
gay,almostgiddy,sinceHelenFaulknerwastobethere.Thiswasthenightof
thedinnertoCareyattheclub.Thiswasthenight—ofmanydivertingthings.
Mr.Mageepickedupamagazine.Hewonderedhowtheyread,intheolddays,
bycandlelight.Hewonderediftheywouldhavefoundhisownstoriesworththe
strainontheeyes.Andhealsowonderedifabsolutesolitudewasquitethething
necessarytothecompositionofthenovelthatshouldforeversilencethosewho
sneeredathisability.
Absolute solitude! Only the crackle of the fire, the roar of the wind, and the
ticking of his watch bore him company. He strode to the window and looked
down at the few dim lights that proclaimed the existence of Upper Asquewan
Falls.Somewhere,downthere,wastheCommercialHouse.Somewherethegirl
whohadweptsobitterlyinthatgloomylittlewaiting-room.Shewasonlythree
milesaway,andthethoughtcheeredMr.Magee.Afterall,hewasnotonadesert
island.


And yet—he was alone, intensely, almost painfully, alone. Alone in a vast
moaninghousethatmustbehisonlyhomeuntilhecouldgobacktothegaycity
with his masterpiece. What a masterpiece! As though with a surgeon's knife it
wouldlaybaretheheartsofmen.Notricksofplot,no—
Mr.Mageepaused.Forsharplyinthesilencethebellofhisroomtelephonerang
out.
Hestoodforamomentgazinginwonder,hisheartbeatingswiftly,hiseyesupon
theinstrumentonthewall.Itwasahousephone;heknewthatitcouldonlybe
rung from the switchboard in the hall below. "I'm going mad already," he
remarked,andtookdownthereceiver.
Abluroftalk,anelectricmuttering,aclick,andallwasstill.
Mr.Mageeopenedthedoorandsteppedoutintotheshadows.Heheardavoice
below. Noiselessly he crept to the landing, and gazed down into the office. A
young man sat at the telephone switchboard; Mr. Magee could see in the dim
light of a solitary candle that he was a person of rather hilarious raiment. The
candle stood on the top of the safe, and the door of the latter swung open.
Sinkingdownonthestepsinthedark,Mr.Mageewaited.
"Hello,"theyoungmanwassaying,"howdoyouworkthisthing,anyhow?I've
tried every peg but the right one. Hello—hello! I want long distance—Reuton.
2876West—Mr.AndyRutter.Willyougethimforme,sister?"
Another wait—a long one—ensued. The candle sputtered. The young man
fidgetedinhischair.Atlasthespokeagain:
"Hello!Andy?Isthatyou,Andy?What'sthegoodword?Asquietasthetomb
ofNapoleon.ShallIcloseupshop?Sure.Whatnext?Oh,seehere,Andy,I'ddie
uphere.Didyoueverhitaplacelikethisinwinter?Ican't—I—oh,well,ifhe
saysso.Yes.Icoulddothat.Butnolonger.Icouldn'tstanditlong.Tellhimthat.
Tellhimeverything'sO.K.Yes.Allright.Well,goodnight,Andy."
He turned away from the switchboard, and as he did so Mr. Magee walked
calmly down the stairs toward him. With a cry the young man ran to the safe,
threwapackageinside,andswungshutthedoor.Heturnedtheknobofthesafe
severaltimes;thenhefacedMr.Magee.Thelattersawsomethingglitterinhis
hand.
"Goodevening,"remarkedMr.Mageepleasantly.


"Whatareyoudoinghere?"criedtheyouthwildly.
"I live here," Mr. Magee assured him. "Won't you come up to my room—it's
rightattheheadofthestairs.Ihaveafire,youknow."
Backintotheyoungman'sleanhawk-likefacecrepttheassurancethatbelonged
withthegayattirehewore.Hedroppedtherevolverintohispocket,andsmiled
asneeringsmile.
"You gave me a turn," he said. "Of course you live here. Are any of the other
guestsabout?Andwhowonthetennismatchto-day?"
"You are facetious." Mr. Magee smiled too. "So much the better. A lively
companionistheverysortIshouldhaveorderedto-night.Comeup-stairs."
The young man looked suspiciously about, his thin nose seemingly scenting
plots.Henodded,andpickedupthecandle."Allright,"hesaid."ButI'llhaveto
ask you to go first. You know the way." His right hand sought the pocket into
whichtherevolverhadfallen.
"Youhonormypooranddraftyhouse,"saidMr.Magee."Thisway."
He mounted the stairs. After him followed the youth of flashy habiliments,
lookingfearfullyabouthimashewent.Heseemedsurprisedthattheycameto
Magee'sroomwithoutincident.Inside,Mr.Mageedrewupaneasychairbefore
thefire,andofferedhisguestacigar.
"Youmustbecold,"hesaid."Sithere.'Abadnight,stranger'astheyremarkin
stories."
"You've said it," replied the young man, accepting the cigar. "Thanks." He
walkedtothedoorleadingintothehallandopeneditaboutafoot."I'mafraid,"
he explained jocosely, "we'll get to talking, and miss the breakfast bell." He
droppedintothechair,andlightedhiscigaratacandleend."Say,younevercan
tell,canyou?ClimbingupoldBaldpateIthoughttomyself,thathotelcertainly
makestheSaharaDesertlooklikeacozycorner.Andhereyouare,assnugand
comfortableandathomeasifyouwereinaHarlemflat.Younevercantell.And
whatnow?Thestoryofmylife?"
"You might relate," Mr. Magee told him, "that portion of it that has led you
trespassingonagentlemanseekingseclusionatBaldpateInn."


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