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Lewis - Nature, Inc

10 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST October 2, 1915 ,17 E, ENC. Leg 0.61 11D011C1611* LevTio ILLUSTRATED BY CLARENCE F. UNDERWOOD In His Wake Was a Girl Like a Little Silver Image, With Bobbed Hair of Shining lIsh•Blond THIS is not the history of the bland Professor Tonson, but of a man who became flamboyantly ridiculous and then became human, and along the way learned something of love, the intensive culture of the string bean, and Mystic Powers; and in the end discovered that if he was not afraid of being completely unreasonable he could make life glorious. Professor Tonson was not a professor of anything or at anywhere, but he made a specialty of knowing everything. His prize subjects were Hindu metaphysics, and the food value of the humble but earnest peanut, and the most expeditious methods of extracting fortunes from elderly ladies of high moral tendencies. He looked a good deal like an English major with a white horseshoe mustache and a weakness for mixing drinks. Whereas Mr. William Packard, of the Cape Realty Development Company, knew nothing at all about dietetics or theosophy—though he was one hundred per cent efficient at the methods for getting elderly ladies' fortunes back into circulation. Mr. Packard was built like Mr. Jess Willard, the distinguished autobiographer and physical culturist, and wore his five-dollar hat at an impertinent angle on his mighty and baldish head. He had symptoms of tobacco heart, coffee heart, motor heart, cocktail heart, poker heart and musical-comedy heart. He kept six different physicians expectant of his becoming violently ill with six or more ailments, though he always felt well after ten A. M. He met the professor when the latter pussy-footed into Packard's real-estate office with a preposterous offer for two hundred acres on Cape Cod for the establishment of an enlarged plant of the Nature and Guidance Colony — Inc. The professor teetered and Packard pounded on the desk, and the scene looked stormily tragic; and then they quite amiably agreed on a price and went out to lunch together. The professor took a Black and White Lunch—he called it that; the waiter called it a crime—consisting of asparagus without dressing, ripe olives, and a modicum of Bar-le-Due—he called it a modicum. Packard took a beefsteak and kidney pudding, a baked potato, plum pudding, two pots of coffee and a cigar. The professor gently, stickily tried to persuade Packard that he ought to give up meat, tobacco, coffee, and most of the other things for which that well-to-do bachelor lived. "Yes," said Packard; "but, canning all that back-to- Nature dope, what plans have you got for the erection of your buildings? I'm president of the Barnstable County Construction Company; I've put up most of the hotels and really classy houses that have gone up on the Cape in the last five years; and I'll make you an attractive proposition." The professor took the attractive proposition; and five months later Packard motored up to Nauset Harbor to examine progress on the buildings of the Nature and Guidance Colony. Though he made most of his money out of Cape Cod, Packard knew it only by motor car. He had never met a native who said " 'Twa'n't !" and he had the simplehearted rule of staying only at hotels whose rates were six dollars a day or more. He did not know a sand dune from a Swampscott dory, unless he saw one in a blueprint. He regarded the shellbacks and the kindly summerites, together, as one vast bog of cranberries, which he plucked, but with which he did not associate. Consequently he was bored when he entered a tract of barren uplands, the grass dried to wheat-gray and mulberry color, beyond which was a steel-blue inlet and a barricade of gray dunes. His car staggered on a sandy road and he beheld a line of cottages like bathhouses, without even a board walk and a shower bath in front of them. Professor Tonson met him with bouncing enthusiasms. Every time he said " Wonnnnnderful !" or "L111-Lovely !" it sounded like a hand drawn over the bottom of a whisk broom. The professor, who had worn a frock coat and a white waistcoat in the city, was neatly clad in a straight linen robe like the old-fashioned nightgowns that respectable gentlemen who parted their whiskers used to wear. He also had sandals and carried a book about the size of a tombstone. But Packard paid small attention to him, because in the professor's wake was a girl of twenty-four or twentyfive, like a little silver image, with bobbed hair of shining ash-blond. She wore a garment like a gunny sack; but she had the grace of a girlhood ivory-skinned, eternal. The raising of Packard's hat was a study in sprightly graciousness. It was a perfect thing, like Matty's pitching or a Futurist cut-out puzzle by Matisse. He skipped from the car and was introduced to the professor's lieutenant, Miss Beulah Atkinson. While the professor returned to his class in Upstirrings Toward the Infinite, which had already begun in the half-finished Tabernacle—a wooden Greek temple of the First National Bank order of architecture—Packard was conducted about the grounds by Miss Beulah. Packard slid, in his nine-dollar tan oxfords, down the baking side of a dune; he kicked his way through long beach grass and thick cranberry patches; but he was oblivious of his martyrdom. He had had a shock that turned all his briskness into exalted humbleness, for Miss Beulah's light-swimming eyes were raised to the clouds with worshiping exaltation; her low voice was intense with the happiness of the Colony's finding a place where they could be free and "real." Her hands, smooth-finished as enamel, touched his arm to herald the sea vista of silver-and-blue water, edged with gold-green downs. He finally got it through his head that this girl, whom he took very seriously, actually believed in the Colony, which he had despised. As suddenly as though the touch of her fingers were a charm, he found the Colony—peanuts and linen gowns and all—a highly important and interesting discovery. He had been quizzing her about the small meanness of the colonists' cottages and the grandeur of the professor's new home; he had cynically learned that the Colony members gave one-tenth of their fortunes to the Colony. But now he stopped, threw back his head, expanded his huge chest, and drew in all the exhilaration of the sea breeze, while he volunteered: "Well, it really is a beautiful place here—by golly ! I'm more used to Washington Street; but there is some- thing "Something won-derfull" " Yuh ! Wonderful! Sea and landscape Say, is there any good fishing here?" "I really don't know; but " Miss Beulah flung out both her arms. Her baggy sleeves fell away and her arms shone bare and exquisite. " We are fishing for human souls!" she cried. "Don't you know the city transforms people into machines—into machines for digesting meat and doing silly, useless work? We want to make them free." Packard trembled "Y-yes!" like an awed small boy. He wanted to kiss her hand. His regular rule for handling women customers—" Kid every chicken you meet" -- seemed unutterably sordid in her presence. He stammered and drew in a full breath again. "Don't you feel tired and useless first thing in the morning?" she demanded. "Why, yes; don't you?" "Never !" "Wish you'd show me the trick." " Nature has shown you the trick. It has given us the sea and the air and the nourishing vegetables." "I wish it'd given me you to show me how." "Perhaps it has." "Would you show me the trick if I stayed down here?" She flushed. Uneasily: "Why — why, if I could. But it's—it's Professor Tonson who shows us all." "Oh ! Him! I'd rather have your version." "I'm only a silly child, compared with him. It's he who has the Guidance, in Revelations that tell us what the Colony shall do—the Natural Food, and all." "Yes," said Packard meekly—two hundred and six pounds of meekness that moved its feet carefully and tried to look like a gentle lover of Natural Food who preferred a lunch of Brussels sprouts to roast beef any day. They sat on a dune looking to sea. Sometimes she was a very mature person who awed him by scraps of knowledge about metaphysics. Sometimes she was an eager girl who whispered "Look ! Oh, look !" when a plover ran along the shore. The wind blew her grotesque garment into delicate lines and her bobbed hair fluttered constantly. She cried: "Have you a bathing suit? No? Wouldn't you like a swim? It would give me an excuse! I'll get the professor to lend you one." She herself changed to a coquettish garment of silk with a flounced skirt and a quite un-Natural bow of coral-hued satin. She led him plunging out into the surf, her white shoulder muscles flowing like ripples on an inland stream. As they breasted a breaker together he suddenly—and apropos of everything—knew that he was in love with her. And that love stood the test of her taking him to the professor's last class for the day—a class in the Hydraulics of Natural Food—and to the Colony supper, an original combination of old string beans and new corn mush. An hour afterward, as he sat down to an English mutton chop and other things not included in Natural Food, at the Santequisset Inn, he kept shaking his head and muttering: "Well, I'll be darned !" And when his calm was so shaken that he was diverted from his fascinated interest in food and expectant of being darned during meals, then he was stirred indeed. Mr. Packard, broker and constructor, builder of castles in Spain, in the air, on sand and on tidal flats, had ideals. They were mostly filed away under "I" in back files . covered with dust; but the thought of Beulah, his vision of the flame of life as it flickered in her eyes, represented to him those ideals. He saw her as a victim of the professor's Revelations; but, for the first time in his years of selling shacks to people who wanted to get near to the primitive, he was willihg to admit that there really might be something interesting in the life of barren shores—and more barren suppers. More and more the decorative ladies who had cheered his city bachelor life seemed shoddy beside Beulah, after that day. He motored to the Colony once a week or oftener. The life there came to seem almost reasonable. He even felt satisfaction when the Colony membership grew to thirty—thirty lean gentlemen and agitated old ladies—and he did not protest so very violently when the professor broke Beulah's heart by making her change her


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