Where the Souls of Men are Calling

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
Language: English
Published: 1 week ago
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Hillsdale is "somewhere in the United States of America"—but there are hundreds of Hillsdales!

This particular Hillsdale is no less, no more, than the others. It contains the usual center of business activity clustering about a rather modern hotel. One of its livery stables has been remodelled into a moving-picture house, the other into a garage; one of its newspapers has become a daily, the other still holds to a Friday issue. In its outlying districts will be found hitching racks before the stores. Altogether, Hillsdale might be said to be "on the fence," with one leg toward progressiveness, the other still lingering in the past.

Its residences have not grown beyond the rambling, mellow kind, that drowse in poetic languor amidst flowering vines and trees. These trees, that also line the streets, meeting in cathedral arches overhead, might be stately elms of New England, poplars of the middle-west, or live-oaks of the south; for it must be strictly borne in mind that Hillsdale is "somewhere in the United States."

One mild day in early April, 1917, in the side yard of a corner house well away from traffic noises, two trim little women, Miss Sallie and Miss Veemie Tumpson, were delicately uncovering their tulip beds when Colonel Hampton, passing on his way down town, stopped and raised his hat. An imperceptible agitation rustled their conventional exteriors, since it was an occasion of pleasure when Colonel Hampton paused at anyone's fence. They noticed, however, that his usual geniality was lacking; that the kindly seams in his face were set into lines of sternness.

"Well, m'em," he thundered, "their damned outrages continue!"

Miss Sallie gasped and stared at him, while her more timid sister was too much taken aback to move. In the forty-odd years of their acquaintance with this agreeable product of the mid-Victorian era, this was the first time they had heard an oath pass his lips—without an immediate apology; and the apology had not been forthcoming.

"Yes, m'em," he cried, striking the ferrule of his cane on the sidewalk, "their damned outrages continue!"

"Why, Colonel," Miss Veemie faltered, "whatever can have happened?" She was a trifle deaf, but she had no difficulty whatever in understanding the irate gentleman before her.

"Colonel Hampton," Miss Sallie, as was her habit, took the offensive, "what do you mean, sir!"

"Mean enough, and happened enough!" The cane again added emphasis. "Those German vipers have torpedoed another of our ships! The de-humanized outcasts, the blood-crazed toads, have wantonly destroyed more American lives! I tell you, m'em, our President is getting damned tired of it, and we'll have war as certain as your tulips are sure to be the fairest in our proud city, m'em!"

The cheeks of the little ladies flushed at this dull prophecy, but for quite a minute the three remained silent.

"Mercy, I hope not," Miss Veemie sighed at last—meaning the war, of course. "It's terrible!"

"And peace can be terrible," the Colonel thundered. "A country that buys peace at the price of dishonor is no better than a frump who sells her soul for gewgaws and furbalows! When posterity shall read of how the diseased mind of a single lunatic has stabbed history's richest pages with a sword of murder, rapacity and lust, it will turn a lip of contempt toward every nation that stood upon a vacuous neutrality. To hell with neutrality, when a madman stalks abroad!"

Miss Veemie now felt that she had been silenced for the rest of time, and Miss Sallie's delicate hands, incongruously housed in heavy garden gloves, became expressive of horrified amazement.

"What?" he demanded, looking more than ever furious....