On Monday morning, shortly after the McKee prolonged breakfast was over, a

small man of perhaps fifty, with iron-gray hair and a sparse goatee, made

his way along the Street. He moved with the air of one having a definite

destination but a by no means definite reception.

As he walked along he eyed with a professional glance the ailanthus and

maple trees which, with an occasional poplar, lined the Street. At the

door of Mrs. McKee's boarding-house he stopped. Owing to a slight change

in the grade of the street, the McKee house had no stoop, but one flat

doorstep. Thus it was possible to ring the doorbell from the pavement, and

this the stranger did. It gave him a curious appearance of being ready to


cut and run if things were unfavorable.

For a moment things were indeed unfavorable. Mrs. McKee herself opened the

door. She recognized him at once, but no smile met the nervous one that

formed itself on the stranger's face.

"Oh, it's you, is it?"

"It's me, Mrs. McKee."


He made a conciliatory effort.

"I was thinking, as I came along," he said, "that you and the neighbors had

better get after these here caterpillars. Look at them maples, now."

"If you want to see Tillie, she's busy."

"I only want to say how-d 'ye-do. I'm just on my way through town."

"I'll say it for you."

A certain doggedness took the place of his tentative smile.

"I'll say it to myself, I guess. I don't want any unpleasantness, but I've

come a good ways to see her and I'll hang around until I do."

Mrs. McKee knew herself routed, and retreated to the kitchen.

"You're wanted out front," she said.

"Who is it?"

"Never mind. Only, my advice to you is, don't be a fool."

Tillie went suddenly pale. The hands with which she tied a white apron

over her gingham one were shaking.

Her visitor had accepted the open door as permission to enter and was

standing in the hall.

He went rather white himself when he saw Tillie coming toward him down the

hall. He knew that for Tillie this visit would mean that he was free--and

he was not free. Sheer terror of his errand filled him.

"Well, here I am, Tillie."

"All dressed up and highly perfumed!" said poor Tillie, with the question

in her eyes. "You're quite a stranger, Mr. Schwitter."

"I was passing through, and I just thought I'd call around and tell you--My

God, Tillie, I'm glad to see you!"

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