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Graeve, Oscar (ed.) / Delineator
Vol. 119, No. 1 (July, 1931)

[Continued articles and works],   pp. 38-44 PDF (4.7 MB)


Page 38

DELINEATOR
38
"Cut it out, ma," she advised almost heart-
lessly. "Bill's been dead for three years, an'
ya never took on so before! You got yer in-
surance, ain't yer?  An' it's more'n yer ever
had when Bill was alive. He was yeller, all
through. Took th' money yer made, wash-
in'. Took my bar-pin an' hocked it. bill
cheated at cards, an' drunk everythin' he
could lay hand to. Even if he was my only
brother, we're better off-"
For the first time in many years, there was
a belligerent expression on Mrs. Clancy's
face. L surprised Nellie. And the tone of
ker mother's voice when she spoke was quite
as surprising as her expression.
"If he's all that yer say he is," her mother
rasped, "why are they namin' anythin' after
him? Why-I ask yer?"
Almost hopelessly Nellie Clancy shrugged.
The set of her mouth showed bewilderment.
"I don't know," she answered, "why
they're doin' it. I don't knowl"
ALL day long, as she worked at her table in
the button factory, Nellie Clancy asked
herself the same question that her mother
had asked.
"Why'd they do it?" she wondered. "He
was such a-a nut."
But at the noon hour, when she had her
coffee and sandwich at a nearby lunch-room,
there was no question in her triumphant
voice.
"Did yer hear th' news," she asked each
newcomer, "about Bill, my brother? How
they've named th' Legion Post fer him?
Some feller, he was. Died fer his country!"
There were, of course, some dissenting
voices. Some of the girls at the button fac-
tory had known Bill Clancy. Known him all
too well! But, as proof, Nellie had the letter.
And she did not hesitate to show it.
"O' course," she told the scoffers, grandilo-
quently, "o' course Bill made his mistakes.
But-well, pa died when Bill was a lil' tyke.
An' with no father ter help in th' raisin' of
him, it isn't so queer that he didn't turn out
to be perfect!"
"Who," it was a gruff voice at her elbow,
"who is this guy that's perfect?"
Nellie Clancy flushed at the sound of the
voice.
"Oh, it's you, Barry," she faltered. And
then, "I was talkin' about Bill, my brother
that's dead in France. He's-they've named
th' American Legion Post fer him. Ain't it
grand that they have?"
The group in the lunch-room was silent,
even the ones who had questioned were si-
lent. For Barry Carson was the foreman of
a certain department in the button factory,
and he held many a job in his hand. And folk
had said, among themselves, that he was in-
terested in Nellie Clancy who worked at one
of the long tables over which he presided.
Folk said that he might even have considered
marrying her if she hadn't been one of the no
'count Clancys!
For a moment Barry stood frowning. And
then suddenly he laughed.
"Th' Post," he said, "must have been
hard up for a name."
Nellie Clancy was afraid of Barry Carson,
for more than one reason.    Not afraid
physically, not exactly. Rather mentally.
But something like a spark awoke suddenly in
her rather dull eyes. To the amazement of
the luncheon eaters, she rose leisuredly to her
feet and brushed the sandwich crumbs from
the shiny serge of her skirt.
"Well," she said slowly, as she moved
toward the door, "well, maybe he changed
after he got away from here. You wasn't in
France, yerself, Barry, so you can't be sure
what he was, or what he done. Th' letter
says he died-bravely!" The door swung
shut upon her rigid back.
Behind her, in the lunch-room, there was
silence for a moment. No one had ever before
heard Nellie Clancy talk back to Barry Car-
son, or to anyone. Valor was not a Clancy
characteristic.
And then, suddenly, low voices began to
whisper, in corners.
Nellie Clancy went home that night with
warm cheeks, and assurance in the tilt of her
head. She had not done so much work as
usual, that day, but she had spoken up, for
once in her life, to a boss! To a man who
was, almost, more than a boss! She had not
done much work, but she had been able to
brag, and truthfully, about her family. Al-
most, she forgot how Bill had been wont to
slump, snarling for food, into his chair at the
untidy kitchen table. Almost she forgot that
she was one of the Clancys ...
One of the Clancys . . . It had never
much troubled her, before, to be one of them!
Every town has its hopeless family-its
FIELD OF HONOR
Continued  from  page  9
family of failures. That Nellie was working
steadily in the button factory did not blot
out the fact that her mother was a wash-
woman, that her father had died in a saloon
fight, r -d that her brother had been the
town's most reprehensible character. When
Bill was drafted into the army, both Nellie
and her mother had shared, with the town, a
certain relief, but the relief had been dulled
by the thought of his return. For his return
meant renewed apprehension, stolen wages,
harder work and curses for payment. The
news of Bill's death had come as something
of a release. There would, perhaps, be a
sense of security. A Clancy could not hope
for more.
Hopelessness! That was the keynote of
Nellie Clancy's whole life. The town's scorn
had not hardened her; had not made her, as
scorn sometimes does, into an aggressive per-
sonality. Rather, circumstances had beaten
her; had dulled both her sensibility and her
pride. Long before Bill's going she had
ceased to care that the home was dirty and
ill-kept; she was used, from childhood, to
slovenliness. She didn't care-much-that
nicer girls did not include her in their friend-
ships, their parties, their joyous plans. Why
should they, after all? She was a Clancy.
Nothing mattered very much, really, to
Nellie Clancy. Her first really definite emo-
tion had come into being on that evening
when she found Barry Carson, the foreman,
waiting at the gate when she left the factory.
He had walked home with her, and his bold
eyes had appraised her as they walked. She
had left him abruptly at the doorway of the
Clancy cottage. Vaguely she had hated the
thought of having him see the interior of that
cottage, of meeting her mother.
She had wondered even more vaguely-
when the walks home grew to be a daily oc-
currence-how it would all end.
Guessing was scarcely worth while. There
isn't much hope for real romance when a girl
can't invite a man
into her home. Real,
lasting romance.
And Nellie Clancy
knew-for your fac-
tory worker is so-
phisticated-how
long synthetic ro-
mance will endure.
"If he don't make
me," she told herself
drearily, "I'll lose
my job. And
where'll there be an-
other? If he does,
maybe I'll lose my
job, anyway. And
yet, he's-" Nellie's
eyes softened here-
"he's a swell looker.
An' I've never had another feller so much as
look at me."
Oh, it was a losing battle!
But, somehow, with a certain primitive,
virginal instinct, she had fought against the
town's opinion, and Barry's insistence, and
her own impulse. With a strange finesse she
had managed to hold off the inevitable.
And then had come the letter.
Nellie Clancy went home with the letter in
her pocket, that first night. With a mouth
oddly more firm; with a prouder, freer step.
She walked alone. Barry Carson had not
been waiting for her at the factory gate as
usual. She really hadn't expected him to be
there. It was strange that, though she
walked alone, there was something springy in
her usually dragging step, something alert
in her thrown back shoulders. She swung
down the disordered path to the cottage,
threw open the door with a cheery little call,
and stepped inside. And, once inside, stopped
short with amazement.
For the Clancy home had been swept and
dusted! Almost incredibly neat, it was, for
the Clancy home. Nellie ran an experi-
mental forefinger along the top of a chair;
looked at that finger with something like
alarm in her eyes.
"Ma," she called sharply, "ma! Is every-
thing all right?"
The kitchen door swung open and Mrs.
Clancy swayed, bulkily, into the room.
Nellie fell back, a step, before her. For the
woman's hair had been neatly combed, and
she wore a starched white apron over her
I
clean print dress.
Didja call me, Nellie?" she quavered, and
her daughter noticed that the bleary old eyes
were red.
"You been cryin', ma?" she questioned,
incredulously.
For a moment Mrs. Clancy's fat face
seemed to waver, like gelatin. And then it
dissolved into a mist of tears.
"Shure, I've been cryin'," she sobbed, "fer
my boy. Dead-and away from home. Aw,
God rest his soul!"
The incongruity of it all did not strike
Nellie so forcibly as it had in the morning.
She did not again mention the fact that Bill
had been equally dead for three years. She
herself had begun to know the glory of a per-
fect tribute; the blinding wonder of fearless-
ness. And now, in the transformed Clancy
home, she felt a sudden sense of sorrow.
"There, ma," she said, kindly, "don't you
take on so. It's hard, sure it's hard. But
Bill died doing his duty, and that's more'n
a lot ever did!"
Mrs. Clancy looked at her daughter, and
her gaze was blurred.
"Yes, yer right," she sniffled, at last.
To change the subject, perhaps, Nellie
spoke.
"You've got th' house real pretty, ma," she
said. "Real pretty. How'd you happen to
redd it up so swell?"
Mrs. Clancy's fat body seemed to stand
more erect. All at once her eyes were proud,
even through the tears.
"A hero's fambly," she told her daughter
simply, "can't live in a dump!"
A HERO'S family can't live in a dump!
And there are other things that a hero's
family cannot do. Certain things so intan-
gible that they cannot be explained or even
understood. In the days that followed, Nellie
Clancy, touched and softened and made
brave by a new sense of importance, dis-
covered this to be
the case. She real-
ized that there were
certain things that
M she couldn't do.
And, oddly enough,
certain other things
that she could!
She discovered
that she couldn't ac-
cept a mean sub-
stitute for love.
And she also dis-
covered that she
could give up a job
for the sake of her
convictions, and her
decency.
She discovered the
two things, simul-
taneously, when Barry Carson caught her
roughly in his arms, behind a pile of packing
cases, in the stock-room. Caught her roughly
and kissed her with an equal roughness.
Before the coming of a certain letter,
Nellie Clancy would have accepted that kiss
and its roughness with a sense of resignation.
But the letter had changed matters. And so
Nellie's hand, palm ominously flattened,
came crashing against Barry's face. It was
no coquettish little slap, that. Five red welts
showed against the brown of Barry's skin,
and blood ran from his surprised upper lip.
"You-!" said Barry, and he used a curt,
old Anglo-Saxon word. So curt that Nellie's
hand shot out again. Only the blow did not
arrive, this time, for Barry caught her wrist.
They stood there, staring at each other,
through a red mist. Behind the pile of pack-
ing cases in the stock-room of a button fac-
tory. Field of honor? Well, there are all
sorts of fields! It was Nellie who spoke first.
"I suppose," she said, "that I'm fired,
huh? Well, try and believe I care!"
"Try and get another job," Barry Carson
told her. "There ain't so many jobs in town
outside o' the fact'ry. For the likes of youl"
It was then, reversing the precedent of the
lean years, that Nellie made answer.
"There'll always," she said, and turned
abruptly on her heel, "be a job for a fighter.
For a Clancyl"
HIS is a war story. Written of a time when
the Armistice was well in the background.
It is the story of a girl's battle through the
no man's land of prejudice, across a barren
plain of doubt. And of the enemy trench
that she, at last, captured.
For when Nellie Clancy went home to the
regenerated cottage-the night when her
factory job, and its security, was a thing of
the past-she went home with resolution
burning high. And told her mother the
whole story. She couldn't have told her
mother the story, before. There had been a
mask of reticence between them. But now,
with utter vehemence and frankness, she
told it all. And her mother listened. And,
when the recital was over, spoke.
"If your brother was alive," said her
mother, "he'd show that Carson feller!"
Nellie was, at last, seeing quite clearly.
She knew just how her brother would have
showed Barry Carson. There would have
been a mutual drink from a flask. Perhaps a
bill, from Barry's pocket, would have found
its way into Bill's grimy palm. And then
Bill, furtively, would have sneaked home.
To tell his sister that she'd better be nice
to her boss! Nellie Clancy knew. But it
didn't lower her proud head, that knowledge.
"My brother ain't alive," she said, "but
we'll show Barry Carson ourselves."
It was that night that the girl took out the
little store of dollars, which she had been
saving for an outfit of spring clothes, and en-
rolled in business school.
It wasn't intelligence-for Nellie was not in
any way clever-it was an intentness of pur-
pose that made her learn so quickly!
The first job, as a stenographer in a dingy
office, might have been hard to get. For
Nellie was still in business school, and her
dress was shabby and her shoes were scuffed.
The other applicants possessed more knowl-
edge, and each one of them carried references.
And yet Nellie got the job.
"You kin pay me less than any of th'
others," she told the dim old lawyer who had
advertised. "And, gosh, but I'll work. I
won't care if th' hours aren't regular. I'll
sweep out th' office, too. You'll see!"
The lawyer surveyed her over his spec-
tacles.
"Why," he questioned, "do you want this
position so badly?"
Nellie Clancy did not have the right words.
Her vocabulary was limited to the most
common usage. She couldn't tell the man
that an office job was to her a symbol, a step
up, an almost sacred trust. Instead, she
blinked to keep back tears of eagerness (and
through fear and privation and hatred and
condescension, Nellie had never cried). In-
stead, she spoke a short sentence, only.
"It's m' chance!" said Nellie Clancy.
The lawyer stood suddenly on his feet.
"This office isn't a training school," he said
gruffly.
And then he rang for his office boy. "Tell
the others that I've hired Miss Clancy!"
THE office job-it paid little. The lawyer's
secretary had, indeed, to sweep the shabby
rooms and dust the ponderous law books, as
well as take the dull dictation of an elderly
man.
But the office job transformed Nellie
Clancy into Miss Clancy. And, after she had
held it for six months, it brought her, through
the medium of a small law suit, into touch
with the town's charity board.
It was a very small suit, which the lawyer
had taken, without fee, in the name of com-
munity spirit. But Nellie was the messenger
who carried the papers between her employer
and the chairwoman of the board. And the
chairwoman of the board was a lady of position
in the town. Nellie, more than once, in a not
too dim past, had delivered a basket of
laundry at the lady's back door. It was
strange to be delivering legal papers, instead,
at a front one.
It was a queer case, this one that the lawyer
was handling free. Queer to the lawyer and
to the head of the charity board. It had to
do with the business of dispossessing a cer-
tain family whose child was dying. It was
squalid and unreal to the ones who fought it.
But to Nellie Clancy it was a cross section of
life; life as she herself had lived it. As she
sat on the extreme edge of a petit point sofa,
waiting for the chairwoman to read through
the briefs, answering questions that the lady
asked, she met the situation in a casual way.
A way so casual, and so clear headec, that
the lady looked at her sharply.
"How does it happen," asked the lady,
"that you know so much about the ins and
outs of this business? It's all Greek to me."
Nellie Clancy was walking straight ahead,
in her advance across no man's land. She
did not give an inch.
"I know, Mrs. Bowman," (Turn to page 40)


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