The Visioning by Susan Glaspell
As she looked back afterward upon that span of days, searching them, translating, Katie saw that the day of the golf and the dancing marked the farthest advance.
After that it was as if Ann, frightened at finding herself so far out in the open, shrank back into the shadows. But having gone a little way into the open she was not again the same girl of the shadows. Her response to life seeming thwarted, there came an incipient sullenness in her view of that life which she had reached over the bridge of make-believe.
It did not show itself at once, but afterward it seemed to Katie that the next day marked the beginning of Ann's retreat on the bridge of make-believe.
And she wondered whether the stray dog or the dangerous literature had most to do with that retreat.
Ann was pale and quiet the day after the dance, and it was not merely the languor of the girl who has fatigued herself in having a good time.
At luncheon Katie suddenly demanded: "Wayne, where do you get dangerous literature?"
"I don't know what form of danger you're courting, Katie. I have a valuable work on high explosives, and I have a couple of volumes of De Maupassant."
"Oh I weathered all that kind of danger long ago," said she airily. "I want the kind that is distressing editors of church papers. The man who edits this religious paper uncle sends me is a most unchristian gentleman. He devoted a whole page to talking about dangerous literature and then didn't tell you where to get it. Well, I'll try Walt Whitman. He's very popular in the West, I'm told, and as the West likes danger perhaps he's dangerous enough to begin on."
"And you feel, do you, Katie, that the need of your life just now is for danger?"
"Yes, dear brother. Danger I must have at any cost. What's the good living in a dangerous age if you don't get hold of any of the danger? This unchristian editor says that little do we realize what a dangerous age it is. And he says it's the literature that's making it so. Then find the literature. Only he--beast!--doesn't tell you where to."
Worth there requested the privilege of whispering in his Aunt Kate's ear. The ear being proffered, he poured into it: "I guess the man that mends the boats has got some dangerous literature, Aunt Kate."
"Tell him to endanger Aunt Kate," she whispered back.
"Do you suppose there is any way, Wayne," she began, after a moment of seeming to have a very good time all to herself, "of getting back the money we spent for my so-called education?"
"It would considerably enrich us," grimly observed Wayne.
"When doctors or lawyers don't do things right can't you sue them and get your money back? Why can't you do the same thing with educators? I'm going to enter suit against Miss Sisson. This unchristian editor says modern education is dangerous; but there was no danger in the course at Miss Sisson's. I want my money back."
"That you may invest it in dangerous literature?" laughed Wayne.
After he had gone Ann was standing at the window, looking down toward the river. Suddenly she turned passionately upon Katie. "If you had ever had anything to do with danger--you might not be so anxious to find it."
She was trembling, and seemed close to tears. Katie felt it no time to explain herself.
And when she spoke again the tears were in her voice. "I can't tell you--when I begin to talk about it--" The tears were in her eyes, too, then, and upon her cheeks. "You see--I can't--But, Katie--I want you to be safe. I want you to be safe. You don't know what it means--to be safe."
With that she passed swiftly from her room.
Katie sat brooding over it for some time. "If you've been in danger," she concluded, "you think it beautiful to be 'safe.' But if you've never been anything but 'safe'--" Her smile finished that.
But Katie was more in earnest than her manner of treating herself might indicate. To be safe seemed to mean being shielded from life. She had always been shielded from life. And now she was beginning to feel that that same shielding had kept her from knowledge of life, understanding of it. Katie was disturbingly conscious of a great deal going on around her that she knew nothing about. Ann wished her to be 'safe'; yet it was Ann who had brought a dissatisfaction with that very safety. It was Ann had stirred the vague feeling that perhaps the greatest danger of all was in being too safe.
Katie felt an acute humiliation in the idea that she might be living in a dangerous age and knowing nothing of the danger. She would rather brave it than be ignorant of it. Indeed braving it was just what she was keen for. But she could not brave it until she found it.
She would find it.
But the next afternoon she went over to the city with Ann and found nothing more dangerous than a forlorn little stray dog.
It was evident that he had never belonged to anybody. It was written all over his thin, squirming little yellow body that he was Nobody's dog--written just as plainly as the name of Somebody's dog would be written on a name-plate on a collar.
And it was written in his wistful little watery eyes, told by his unconquerable tail, that with all his dog's heart he yearned to be Somebody's dog.
So he thought he would try Miss Katherine Wayneworth Jones.
She had a number of errands to do, and he followed her from place to place.
She saw him first when she came out from the hair-dresser's. He seemed to have been waiting for her. His heart was too experienced in being broken for him to dance around her with barks of joy, but he stood a little way off and wigglingly tried to ingratiate himself, his eyes looking love, and the longing for love.
Impulsively Katie stooped down to him. "Poor little doggie, does he want a pat?"
He fairly crouched to the sidewalk in his thankfulness for the pat, his tail and eyes saying all they could.
Then she saw that he was following her. "Don't come with me, doggie," she said; "please don't. You must go home. You'll get lost."
But in her heart Katie knew he would not get lost, for to be so unfortunate as to be lost presupposed being so fortunate as to have a home. And she knew that he was of the homeless. But because that was so terrible a thing to face, between him and her she kept up that pretense of a home.
When she came out from the confectioner's he was waiting for her again, a little braver this time, until Katie mildly stamped her foot and told him to "Go back!"
At the third place she expostulated with him. "Please, doggie, you're making me feel so badly. Won't you run along and play?"
The hypocrisy of that left a lump in her throat as she turned from him.
When she found him waiting again she said nothing at all, but began talking to Ann about some flowers in a window across the street.
Ann had seemed to dislike the dog. She would step away when Katie stopped to speak to him and be looking intently at something else, as if trying not to know that there were such things as homeless dogs.
Watts was waiting for them with the station wagon when they had finished their shopping. After they had gone a little way Katie, in the manner of one doing what she was forced to do, turned around.
He was coming after them. He had not yet fallen to the ranks of those human and other living creatures too drugged in wretchedness to make a fight for happiness. Nor was he finding it a sympathetic world in which to fight for happiness. At that very moment a man crossing the street was giving him a kick. He yelped and crouched away for an instant, but his eyes told that the real hurt was in the thought of losing sight of the carriage that held Katie Jones. As he dodged in and out, crouching always before the possible kick, she could read all too clearly how harassed he was with that fear.
They were approaching the bridge. The guard on the bridge would foil that quest. He would not permit a forlorn little yellow dog to seek happiness by following members of an officer's family across the Government bridge. Probably in the name of law and order he would kick him, as the other man had done; the dog's bleared little eyes, eyes through which the love longing must look, would cast one last look after the unattainable, and then, another hope gone, another promise unrealized, he would return miserably back to his loveless world, but always--
"Watts," said Katie sharply, "stop a moment, please. I want to get something."
Ann was sitting very straight, looking with great absorption up the river when Katie got back in the carriage with her dog. Her face was pale, and, it seemed to Katie, hard. She moved as far away from the dog as she could--her mouth set.
He sat just where Katie put him on the floor, trembling, and looking up at her with those asking eyes.
When they were almost home Ann spoke. "You can't take in all the homeless dogs of the world, Katie."
"I don't know that that's any reason for not taking in this one," replied Katie shortly.
"I hate to have you make yourself feel badly," Ann said tremulously.
"Why shouldn't I let myself feel badly?" demanded Katie roughly. "In a world of homeless dogs, why shouldn't I feel badly?"
They made a great deal of fun of Katie's dog. They named him "Pet." Captain Prescott wanted to know if she meant to exhibit him at a bench show and mention various points he was sure would excite attention.
"What I hate, Katie," said Wayne, "is the way he cringes. None of that cringing about Queen."
"And why not?" she demanded hotly. "Because Queen was never kicked. Because Queen was never chased down alleys by boys with rocks and tin cans. Because Queen never asked for a pat and got a cuff. Nor did Queen's mother. Queen hasn't a drop of kicked blood in her. This sorry little dog comes from a long line of the kicked and the cuffed. And then you blame him for cringing. I'm ashamed of you, Wayne!"
He was about to make laughing retort, but Katie's cheeks were so red, her eyes so bright, that he refrained and turned to Ann with: "Katie was always great for taking in all kinds of superfluous things."
"Yes," said Ann, "I know."
"And she always takes her outcasts so very seriously."
"Yes," agreed Ann.
"The trouble is, she can't hope to make them over."
"No," admitted Ann, "she can't do that."
"And then she breaks her heart over their forlorn condition."
"Yes," said Ann.
"These wretched things exist in the world, but Katie only makes her own life wretched in trying to do anything about them. She can't reach far enough to count, so why make herself unhappy?"
"Katie doesn't look at it that way," replied Ann, and turned away.
After the others had gone Katie committed her new dog to Worth. "Honey, will you play with him sometimes? I know he's not as nice to play with as the puppies, but maybe that's because nobody ever did play with him. The things that aren't nice about him aren't his fault, Worthie, so we mustn't be hard on him for them, must we? The reason he's so queer acting is just because he never had anybody to love him."
Worth was so impressed that he not only accepted the dog himself but volunteered to say a good word for him to Watts.
But a little later he brought back word that Watts said the newcomer was an ornery cur--that he was born an ornery cur--that he was meant to be an ornery cur, and never would be anything but an ornery cur.
"Watts is what you might call a conservative," said Katie.
And not being sure how a conservative member of the United States Army would treat a canine child of the alley, Katie went herself to the stable that night to see that the newcomer was fed and made to feel at home.
He did not appear to be feeling at all at home. He was crouching in his comfortable corner just as dejectedly as he would crouch in the most miserable alley his native city afforded.
He came, thankfully but cringingly, out to see Katie. "Doggie," said she, "don't be so apologetic. I don't like the apologetic temperament. You were born into this world. You have a right to live in it. Why don't you assert your right?"
His answer was to look around for the possible tin can.
Watts had approached. "Begging your pardon, Miss Jones, but he's the ungrateful kind. There's no use trying to do anything for that kind. He's deservin' no better than he gets. He snapped at one of our own pups to-night."
"I suppose so," said Kate. "I suppose when you spend your life asking for pats and getting kicks you do get suspicious and learn to snap. It seems too bad that little dogs that want to be loved should have to learn to snarl. You see, Watts, he's had a hard life. He's wandered up and down a world where nobody wanted him. He's spent his days trying now this one, now that. 'Maybe they'll take me,' he thinks; his poor little heart warms at the thought that maybe they will. He opens it up anew every day--opens it for a new wound. And now that he's found somebody to say the kind word he's still expecting the surly one. His life's shut him out from life--even though he wants it. It seems to me rather sad, Watts."
Watts was surveying him dubiously. "That kind is deserving what they get. They couldn't have been no other way. And beggin' your pardon, Miss Jones, but it's not us that's responsible for his life."
"Isn't it?" said Katie. "I wonder."
Watts not responding to the suggestion of the complexity of responsibility, she sought the personal. "As a favor to me, Watts, will you be good to the little dog?"
"As a favor to you, Miss Jones," said Watts, making it clear that for his part--
"Watts," she asked, "how long have you been in the service?"
"'Twill be five years in December, Miss Jones."
"Re-enlistment must mean that you like it."
"I've no complaint to offer, Miss Jones. Of course there are sometimes a few little things--"
"Why did you enter the army, Watts?"
"A man has to make a living some way, Miss Jones."
Katie was thinking that she had not asked for an apology.
"And yet I presume you could make more in some other way. Working in these shops, for instance."
"There's nothin' sure about them," said Watts.
"The army's certain. And I like things to move on decent and orderly like. For one that's willing to recognize his betters, the service is a good place, Miss Jones."
"But I suppose there are some not willing to recognize their betters," ventured Kate.
"There's all too many such," said Watts. "All too many nowadays thinks they're just as good as them that's above them."
"But you never feel that way, so you are contented and like the service, Watts?"
"Yes, Miss. It suits me well enough, Miss Jones. I'm not one to think I can make over the world. There's a fellow workin' up here at the point I sometimes have some conversation with. I was up there to-night at sundown--me and the little boy. Now there's a man, Miss, that don't know his place. He's a trouble-maker. He said to me tonight--"
But as Watts was there joined by a fellow-soldier Katie said: "Thank you for looking out for the poor little dog, Watts," and turned reluctantly to the house.
She would like to have remained; she would like to have talked with the other soldier and found out why he entered the service and what he thought of it. She was possessed of a great desire to ask people questions, find out why they had done what they did and what they thought about things other people were doing. Her mind was sending out little shoots in all directions and those little shoots were begging for food and drink.
She wished she might have a long talk with the "trouble-maker." She would like to talk about dogs who had lived in alleys and dogs that had been reared in kennels, about soldiers who were willing to recognize their betters and soldiers who thought they were as good as some above them. She would like to talk about Watts. Watts was the son of an old English servant. It was in Watts' blood to "recognize his betters." Was that why he could be moved to no sense of responsibility about stray dogs? Was that why he was a good man for the service and had no ambitions as civilian?
And Ann--she would like to talk to the boat-mending trouble-maker about Ann: Why Ann, whom one would expect to find sympathetic with the homeless, should be so hard and so queer about forlorn little stray dogs. Oh the world was just full of things that Katie Jones wanted to talk about that night!
When she reached the house she found that she had just received a package by special messenger. She tore off the outer wrapper and on the inner was written in red ink: "Danger." Murmuring some inane thing about its being her shoes, she ran with the package to her room. For a young woman who had all her life received packages of all kinds she was inordinately excited.
It held three books. One of them was about women who worked. There were pictures of girls working in factories and in different places. One was something about evolution, and one was on socialism. And there was a pamphlet about the United States Army, and another pamphlet about religion.
She looked for a name in the books, but found none. The fly-leaves had been torn out.
She was not sorry; she was just as glad to go on thinking of her trouble-maker as the man who mended the boats. There was something freeing about keeping him impersonal.
But in the book about women she found an envelope addressed: "To one looking for trouble."
This was what was type-written on the single sheet it contained:
"Here are a couple of books warranted to disturb one's peace of mind. They are marked danger as both warning and commendation. It is absolutely guaranteed that one will not be so pleased with the world--and with one's self--after reading them. There is more--both books and danger--where they came from."
It was signed: "One who loves to lead adventurous souls into dangerous paths."
It was two o'clock when Katie turned off her light that night.