Welcome to www.EllisParkerButler.Info SIGN-IN
Welcome to www.EllisParkerButler.Info, the best place on the Internet to find information about the life and work of Ellis Parker Butler, American humorist and author.

Reading Room

"Tears and Temperament" from Popular Magazine

by Ellis Parker Butler
text only format text only  printer friendly format printer friendly

from Popular Magazine
Tears and Temperament
by Ellis Parker Butler

For the first four years of her married life Mrs. Targrove was normal enough to cause Allyn Targrove little annoyance. She had her occasional periods of "weeps," when she shut herself in her room and shed tears as a fountain sheds water, but these were occasioned by such things as a gown that should have turned out well, but did not, or a cook who should have been a Daughter of Temperance, but was a maudlin patron of the products of the whisky trust, sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor and whetting a murderous butcher knife on the sole of her shoe. Little things like these upset young housekeepers, so Allyn would kiss his poor Anna, feel sorry for her, and pet her the more. She still loved Allyn with young love, and her selfish egotism had not reached full growth.

'Tears and Temperament' by Ellis Parker Butler

The pettings she got during those early years helped to spoil her, no doubt, and in her fifth married year she began to have "weeps" because of Allyn. He was -- and all honor to him for it! -- grave and sedate. He had the Targrove family history to live up to and the Targrove family millions to conserve in honor.

Many said he looked more like a professor than a businessman, but "that was stating it loosely, and the word was used because Allyn Targrove was the only old-family man of wealth in Riverbank. What he looked like was an old-family man of wealth. His theory of what his own life should be may be set down thus: "To live with honor; to avoid diminishing the luster of the Targrove name; to die highly respected." He was a thoughtful man who had never had occasion to think. In Riverbank, whatever we might think of other men, we thought noble things of Allyn Targrove. To use a golf term -- quite unknown in Riverbank then -- he never "pressed." He was far and away the most powerful man in Riverbank, employing more labor, paying more wages, sitting on more boards of directors than any other man, and owning more of the town's vitals, but he never used his power. He was an example of comely restraint, even when it came to charitable giving. His name was always well down toward the middle of the lists, as if to prove that, in all things, where a Targrove sat was the head of the table.

For these reasons of character Anna's "weeps" annoyed Allyn Targrove exceedingly. He felt they were not right. He never refused her the money for the best hat in Riverbank, nor, when she advanced in knowingness, the best hat in Chicago. He was calm when she wanted the best five hats in Chicago, and he let her have them. But when she wanted the twenty most expensive hats in Chicago, or -- having got them, and feeling a slight dissatisfaction with them -- jerked them from their twenty boxes and tore them to shreds with stifled shrieks of anger, he was apt to raise his eyebrows in surprise. Then she would throw herself on the bed, and weep and accuse him of wanton cruelty.

In a vague way he felt that the accusation was unjust. He never went quite as far as saying so, being a gentleman and a Targrove, but he would go so far as to say, "If I were you, Anna, dear, I would try to be calmer." Naturally enough, this made her furious. It would make any woman furious -- any woman like Anna Targrove. It would make any tears-and-temperament woman furious. Justly so.

Allyn Targrove bore the tears and temperament with stoic fortitude. After all, Anna was a Targrove. By marriage, of course, but there was an unwritten law: "Once a Targrove, and however a Targrove, always a Targrove." It is delightful to see these little, charming traits of the life of English nobility rooted in our raw soil. The trouble, however, must have been that Anna was by nature plebeian. She lacked the excellent aristocratic quality of circumambulation, that going around in circles to an eternally same beginning that alone makes aristocracy possible. She retained the democratic instinct for progress. With her one thing had to lead to another, and, although Allyn discharged Pat Hogan, who had been a boy on the Targrove place, and was now a young man there and knew every hair in the coats of the Targrove horses, Anna was not satisfied. She made Allyn have the Targrove oak cut down, and Allyn was forced, by the harmlessness of the oak, to conclude that the only reason she wanted the fine old tree felled was that he did not want it felled. But down it went.

Down went the old oak because Anna, in her progress, had passed from the "weeps" to what Pat Hogan would have called "high strikes." It was reported in Riverbank that her hysterics were something awful, my dear! And so they were. Shrieks! Then she would tear her waist from her bosom and throw herself on the floor and kick the floor in a most un-Targrove style of frenzy. And she would shriek and kick until Allyn said, "You may have it, my dear; you may have it!" no matter what the thing was. Above all, a Targrove must avoid scandal.

Above all, this teary, temperamental lady dreaded scandal herself. She was, if I may say so, like a good old family musket. By nature she was an exploder. Had she not been a Targrove, she would have been a splendid town troublemaker, making scandal for herself. Being a Targrove, and having to explode, she exploded from the wrong end of the musket, and peppered Allyn full of the powder of distress.

By the time they were married twenty years she had Allyn well under control, and was making good use of the control. Pat Hogan said something quite near the truth when he said: "She's a she-divil, but I could turn her into an angel that would eat out of me hand." Pat would have listened to her one minute, and then he would have used one blow of his fist. Having felled her, he would, I am sorry to say, have kicked her. In the end she would have been a reasonable creature or a corpse. Understand, please, that I do not approve his method. I am merely mentioning it because after twenty years of "weeps" and "high strikes," it was Pat Hogan cured her.

Give me a German philosopher for dissecting the human -- what is the word I want? -- and putting it on wonderful but quite useless charts, but give me the Irishman for going direct to the vital root of a matter. It is to be considered, of course, that Pat Hogan retained some resentment from being discharged on a whim. Not that he was not all the better for having been discharged; if ever a man was driven to fame and fortune, Pat Hogan was -- and to fatness, too -- for by the time Anna Targrove was forty-five Pat was forty-three and a fat, outspoken, well-to-do general contractor, getting his full share of anything the city had to give in the way of contracts and "seeing" the right aldermen every time. He had a twinkle in his eye, and he was the honestest man in Riverbank, barring the grafting, which was admittedly a custom of the country. It was a pleasure to do business with Pat Hogan, either as an alderman, a day laborer, a fellow politician, or in mere business. His word was good. Of course he was a Democrat -- any Irishman not a Democrat being as rare as the great auk -- but he did not claim to control his party. He was just "wan iv thim." But he was a decidedly powerful "wan iv thim," and there was never a conference that Pat Hogan was not asked to.

The Greenbackers did not have to be reckoned with in elections because they were a withering shrub. The Democrats and the Republicans split things nicely, it being understood that the one should "have" the city and the other the county, and the two solid little rings understood each other and worked together like dovetailed edges. The big men of the Democrats -- Murphy, Flannahan, Pat Hogan, Dooling, and Carter -- would wink an eye when they spoke of those Republican rascals, Hentz, Buddmeyer, Wright, Lawyer Martin, and Val Pierce. They played the game of politics according to their lights, and were happy and well fed. It was a nice little family party.

When the cards of the game had been dealt ten times or so, with the ace of State senatorship falling to Hentz each time, it was conceded that Hentz was the political big light of the district. He was so accepted. Before each election there were violently partisan primaries; tickets were nominated on both sides, campaign money collected and partly spent on the elections, and the voters worked themselves into frenzies hardly less hysterical than Mrs. Targrove's.

Every one was always in doubt regarding the result of the election -- except the ten big men. Men sat up until after midnight to get the final returns, and -- oddly enough -- the Democrats always carried the town and the Republicans always carried the county, and Hentz went back to the State senate. Unless some Democratic candidate offended Murphy or Flannahan or Pat Hogan or Dooling or Carter. Then some Republican miraculously "ran ahead of his ticket." The same with the Republican candidates. The way to run a party is to run it.

By the time Anna Targrove was forty-five she had quite forgotten the existence of Pat Hogan, but it was Pat gave Allyn Targrove five full years of freedom from tears and temperament.

"Well, I don't see why I can't!" Anna Targrove said. "You couldn't -- not alone -- but if you ever showed the least willingness to please me in any way whatever you would be State senator and then governor and then real senator."

"My dear," said Allyn gently, but with cold fear in his heart, "I have never cared to go into politics --"

"No, you never cared! And that's all you care! What I want doesn't matter to you. Little you care what -- And I only ask you to -- Oh, I wish I had married a man! Oh, I wish I had my life to live over again! I'm so -- I'm so --"

She began to weep, wiping her eyes with her lace-edged handkerchief and crying "Oh!" suddenly as she put her hands to her temples and began walking the floor.

Allyn watched her sadly as she walked up and down, going through the working-up stages of her temperamental orgy, and she stopped before him, her words coming in torrents, until she grasped the waist of her dress and tore it to shreds and grasped the hair of her head and tore out handfuls, until she looked like a fury, and reached her climax by throwing herself face downward on the floor, screaming and beating the floor with the toes of her boots.

"Anna!" he said sternly.

Then she beat her forehead on the floor. She had never done that before, and it frightened him. The floor was carpeted, but she dug her nails into the carpet and pounded the floor with her head, shrieking all the while. Her head hit her hand, covered with a dozen glittering rings, and the blood ran from the cut. She stopped and glared insanely up at Allyn, her breath coming in great gasps and her whole body trembling. She was hideous -- too hideous to look upon -- and he turned his face away, hiding his eyes with his hands.

"Stop!" he cried. "Anna, stop! I'll do what you want!"

She collapsed, or seemed to, with her cheek to the carpet, with dry sobs and spasmodic tremblings, and he raised her and helped her to the bed.

"Oh, Allyn, if only when I want things --"

"Yes, yes, dear! I'll do what you want. I'll see Murphy tomorrow --"

"Today, Allyn."

"Yes, yes, dear! I'll see him today."

"Send Nettie to me," she said, smiling weakly. "My forehead -- is it very bad, Allyn? If only I could control myself! I am all nerves, Allyn. I don't know what I am doing when I act so. Something I can't control -- You are so good -- I -- send me Nettie, Allyn, please!"

It is one of the miracles of man that he bent over her and kissed her and begged her to take a long rest and a bromide. As soon as he was out of the room, she slipped from the bed and examined her face minutely in her mirror, feeling the small cut gently. She ran a forefinger across one eyebrow, which was a little dusty, and then viewed herself again at a somewhat greater distance from the mirror.

"A senator's wife," she smiled, and then found a silken dressing robe and drew it on and arranged herself comfortably on the bed to await Nettie's coming. It was quite the greatest battle she had won -- this forcing a Targrove into politics.

When Allyn Targrove found Murphy -- which he did by sending one of his clerks for him -- Murphy came to the Targrove office.

"Well, Mr. Targrove, and what can we do for ye?" he asked, taking a chair without being asked.

"Sit down, Murphy," said Allyn, as if to indicate that men did not usually sit in his presence without being asked to do so. "Murphy, I have been thinking over conditions in this town, county, and district, and I don't approve of all I see."

It was not Anna's husband speaking; it was the great man, the fine citizen the man of power.

"I'm with ye there, Mr. Targrove," said Murphy heartily, but with his small, piglike eyes viewing Allyn uneasily. "The way them Republicans are lootin' th' county treas'ry is outrageous. I'm --"

"Just so!" said Targrove. "One thing and another is far from sweet. Murphy, I have decided to go into politics. I mean to succeed Hentz as State senator."

"Do ye now!" said Murphy. For all the surprise he showed he might have been expecting this for years. "Well, ye'll make a good senator, Mr. Targrove. It will cost some money, but that'll not be bothering you, I'm thinkin'. Of course, it's as a Democrat you'll be running? Of course!"

He was thinking rapidly, for he did not like this idea. He knew Allyn Targrove ; all Riverbank knew Allyn Targrove. This man Targrove, if he went into politics -- if he went into anything -- would be big. He would be Big. He would be worse than Big, because he was so innocently Big. He was the sort of man who would expect to be Big because of his family record, his wealth, and his self. For a season he would be at sea on strange waters, of course, and things could be so managed that Hentz would beat him for the senatorship this year, but there would be another term and another term and still other terms. Once in politics, this soft-handed Targrove would be something to be dealt with, and it was an infernal nuisance when all the combinations were so nicely arranged and working so pleasantly.

"It can be arranged," said Murphy again musingly. "Oh, yes! And a splendid thing for the c'munity 'twill be to have a man like you, Mr. Targrove, takin' an int'rest in things. The campaign fund --"

"In all such matters I shall be liberal. I understand some things you may think I do not. Politics is a practical matter; I understand that."

"Curse ye, I'll bet ye do!" thought Murphy. Aloud he said: "I'm heartily glad ye are comin' into th' game," giving intentionally the impression that money did count for something, after all, with Murphy. "You'll want me to manage a bit for ye? Of course! I know well ye did not ask me here for nothin'. There are four we cannot do without -- Pat Hogan, Flannahan, Dooling, and Carter. They have th' party in their pockets, as ye might say. A conference, now? As if ye had said nothin' to me, ye understand."

"At my home," said Targrove promptly. "You could manage it for this evening?"

"I was thinkin' of the room back of Jerry Timm's saloon," said Murphy with a shade of reluctance. "We come together there most times."

"At my home," said Mr. Targrove firmly. "At eight-thirty? Thank you!"

He gave Murphy his hand. Murphy sought out Pat Hogan at once, and to him expressed his curseful opinion of Targrove. It was all up with the sweet way things had been going, he said with proper profanity, and --

"Don't fret! Do not fret ye, Murphy," urged Pat Hogan. "'Tis daylight 'til the sun goes down, as me ould mother was always sayin'."

"But, dang ye, he's big!" said Murphy. "May the grave gulp me if he's not big enough to be bigger than all of us and swallow us and do for us!"

"And he is all of that, too," agreed Pat Hogan.

"He is a mighty man," said Murphy.

"We are like children beside him," agreed Pat Hogan.

"They'll flock to him. They'll go mad over him. He'll flip us away like a grain of wheat from his thumb. Saint Tweed, of New Yorruk, what a boss he'll be!"

"Even worse than all that," agreed Pat Hogan.

"So what's to be done, Paddy?"

"Nawthin'!" said Pat Hogan. "Not a dang thing! Not a dang thing until I get me wits about me. Confer as he bids us."

"Me and you, Flannahan, Dooling, and Carter --"

"And not Carter!" said Pat Hogan. "I'll have no more to do with that man Carter. He's a liar, and ye know it. He's a cheat, and ye are aware of it. Five hundred dollars O'Rourke gave him to buy votes with last aldermanic election, and he spent no more than two hundred, th' thief! He's not worthy the name of honest citizen. I'll have no Carter!"

"Omit Carter," said Murphy soothingly.

"Then I will confer," said Pat Hogan.

And confer he did. The four big men of the Democratic party met at Mr. Targrove's gate and went in together. Anna Targrove was in a gown that had never suffered from tears and temperament, and she had -- knowing the political stomach -- set the dining room table with beer and sandwiches in plenty. She received the big men in the parlor, and led them into the library. She was beautiful and she was keyed high, because these were the men who would lead her to Des Moines and to Washington. She was effusive to Mr. Murphy, like a dear sister to Mr. Dooling, and like a first cousin to Mr. Flannahan. Pat Hogan, twenty years older than when he was last in the house, wandered around the room taking note of the changes. He paused before the revolving bookcase in the center of the room.

"This is a new jug ye've got here, ma'am," he said.

"Priceless!" breathed Anna Targrove, taking the vase from the top of the revolving case and turning it in her hand. "Peachblow, Mr. Hogan. The most prized of my possessions. I saw it at the exposition and loved it, but it was so very expensive Mr. Targrove let me have it most reluctantly."

"I'll bet ye clawed the floor and yelled like an Indian to get it!" Pat Hogan said to himself. "It's a pretty toy," he said to her carelessly. "I dare say ye strove hard t' keep yer husband out of the dirty pot of politics, ma'am."

"I urged him to do his part in the government of his State," she said sweetly, and Pat Hogan knew what that meant. "Yelped like a coyote, I'll warrant!" he said to himself.

The conference lasted two hours, Mrs. Targrove sitting in the library while the men sat at the table. It developed into a most serious affair.

"Well and good, then," said Murphy as he arose from the table. "We'll confer again this night week and arrange the preliminaries with ye, Mr. Targrove." And so it was about to be agreed when Pat Hogan interrupted.

"With Hentz and his gang of thieving black Republicans added unto us," he threw in.

"And what th' divil do we want --" Murphy began angrily.

"If we could persuade Hentz to retire on his laurels, mind ye, Murphy," said Pat Hogan, and Murphy caught his wink.

"Right!" he said, for he was astute. "We'll have the Big Five here with us. Tonight a week. Good night t' ye, senator!"

Mr. Targrove smiled.

"Thank you -- I hope so!" he said, and Anna went with them to the door.

"Now, what th' divil, Hogan --" Murphy began when they were outside and the door was closed.

"Like a lot of scared school children ye were!" said Hogan disdainfully. "Were ye frightened of th' plush portieres, or what? Murphy, 'twas as good as a dollar show t' see ye tryin' t' stick our yer little pinky' finger whilst ye was drinkin' th' beer. A swell lot of high-society gintlemin ye'll all be after ye have associated with th' aristocracy a bit more. Not wan of ye spat on th' carpet! A man would think ye had never learned barroom manners at all!"

"No nonsense!" ordered Murphy. "Shut up, Pat. 'Tis more serious even than I feared. He's a big, big man."

"He is so," grinned Hogan, "but th' biggest man in th' wurrld needs only a few more spades of earth to bury him. I'll be askin' Val Pierce -- the Republican hog! -- t' th' conference. You'll be attendin' to th' rest?"

It was so agreed. The news that Allyn Targrove was going into politics gave the Republican Five no less consternation than it had given the Democratic big men. They were all flabbergasted. They were lost, dethroned, done for, and they knew it.

Allyn Targrove was not exactly happy himself. He felt soiled, like a man who has journeyed three days and three nights on a soft coal railroad. But there was Anna! She had never been happier, never more affectionate, but the tears and temperament were just beneath the eager glitter of her eyes every moment, and she watched Allyn closely. She was ready, at the slightest step backward on his part, to beat her forehead against the uncarpeted floor of the upper hall.

"Oh, Mrs. Targrove! Politics is such a dirty business! I'm that sorry Mr. Targrove is going into it!" said Nettie, playing ignorance of the knowledge that Mrs. Targrove had wept and screamed her husband into it. "If you knew! They tell me such things!"

"Nonsense, Nettie!" said Anna. "With low men, yes! Mr. Targrove will not need to come in contact with the rough element, I'm sure,"

"The whole business is a rough element, ma'am," ventured Nettie, because Pat Hogan had told her to so venture. "Dirty, saloon-haunting, drinking fellows -- and you can't get on without them."

"Mr. Targrove will be able to, I think," said Anna. "He will raise the tone. I shall have a little to say, perhaps."

She meant she would have a great deal to say. As it turned out, she did not say a great deal, after all. The next conference began auspiciously. The beer was opened early, and the ten men around the table, including Mr. Targrove -- for Mr. Carter was not there -- bent their heads together and talked straight politics. Mr. Hentz, State senator for many terms, good-naturedly declined to refuse renomination, and smoked one of Mr. Targrove's good cigars. Both these things had been expected.

"At that, ye may beat us out this first election, Hentz," agreed Murphy.

"We will, Murphy said Val Pierce. He was a lank, wiry man. He had been sheriff of the county six times. He looked consumptive because of the high color whisky gave his cheek bones and because of the stoop in his shoulders. He was, in fact, muscle and wire, with lungs like an ox. He had an ugly scar over one eye, and was not now sheriff, having been temporarily dropped from the running because of a brawl for which he had not been indicted for murder only because he was one of the five big ones of the Republican party in Riverbank County. "You're dam' right we'll win," he reiterated.

"Hish! There's a lady in th' libr'y!" cautioned Pat Hogan.

"I did not put her there," said Val Pierce roughly. "Them that don't like my talk don't have to stay where they'll hear it. I say you're d -- -- d right we'll win, if that liar Carter don't go back on his word."

Pat Hogan arose and leaned his two fat fists on the table. He glared at Val Pierce, and his chin protruded like a weapon.

"And that ye'll take back!" he said with cold anger. "No man can call a man a liar when he is not here and I'm his friend, be you Pierce or the divil. Take it back!"

Murphy opened his mouth in amazement.

"I'll take nothing back!" said Val Pierce, "Carter is a liar, and born and bred a liar --"

The beer bottle Pat Hogan threw missed Val Pierce by an inch, and went thumping and bumping into the library beyond, spilling beer on the rugs and floor, but the miss did not matter much, for Pat Hogan threw himself across the table and grasped Val Pierce by the throat and struggled across the table, upsetting bottles and scattering them to the floor. Then Pierce shook him loose, but Pat Hogan's fat fist reached out and caught the Republican on the cheek, and they clinched, and, swearing and yowling, struggled and slipped and fell into the library.

The eight men shouted at them, but they broke apart and beat each other brutally with cruel, unpracticed fists. The blood ran from Pat Hogan's nose and infuriated him. He was like a mad bull, charging his enemy and mauling him and being mauled in turn. Mrs. Targrove screamed. She retreated out of the men's way, and they fell over her chair and leaped up and fought again, biting and kicking. She backed against the wall, her hands over her ears. She was frightened -- frightened for the first time in her selfish little life. She had reason to be frightened, for there was murder in the way the two men fought, and Val Pierce had already killed his man in a similar brawl.

It was a strange, hideous thing to have happened in a quiet, aristocratic home on Willow Avenue, most of all in the home of a Targrove. The eight men shouted and swore, and tried to pull the two crazed fighters apart, and then swayed against the glazed bookcases here and there, sending the glass clattering in pieces to the floor. A barroom brawl!

"Push me ag'inst it!" grunted Pat Hogan in Val Pierce's ear as he pretended to bite his jugular vein. "Now!"

For the revolving bookcase and the peachblow vase were the climax of the fight, as arranged with Val Pierce by Pat Hogan.

Mrs. Targrove's eyes grew black with horror as she saw them sway toward the revolving case, and Allyn Targrove's eyes flashed anger. He uttered an oath -- a genuine barroom oath -- and jumped forward. Pat Hogan, his arm around Val Pierce's neck, glanced backward to make sure he would crash into the revolving case, and saw Allyn Targrove coming. His eyes glowed with the light of inspiration, such inspiration as comes seldom to mortal man, such inspiration as poets feel when penning an immortal line, and he cast Val Pierce from him and lowered his head and charged at Allyn Targrove as a bull charges, catching him full in the belt with his hard head and sending him reeling against the revolving case, which tottered, swayed, sent the peachblow vase reeling to the floor and destruction, and then, as if it, too, was in the conspiracy, fell forward upon Allyn Targrove, of the old-family Targroves, and quenched him temporarily. He went out with an oath.

The battle paused while they raised the case and lifted Allyn Targrove, candidate for State-senatorship honors and clean politician, and placed him on a couch, and still Anna Targrove stood against the wall, big-eyed and horror-stricken. She was too frightened to move, too frightened to breathe.

For five years thereafter she was too frightened at what her tears and temperament had brought about, and too fearful of the imminent danger of news of the desecration that had threatened the Targrove home and name, to so much as ask Allyn Targrove for a paper of pins except in proper wifely meekness. The only thing she asked was, when he opened his eyes on the couch, that he would leave politics alone forever.

"Ye done yer part well, Val," said Pat Hogan as the nine swung open the door of Jerry's saloon, "except ye forgot t' draw a knife on me like I tould ye. For an amachoor performance 'twas not so bad. Th' quarrel was well planned an' based on reasonable grounds, for there's nawthin' an Irishman resints like an attack on an absint fri'nd, and --"

He paused at the door to Jerry's back room and turned.

"Come away from here," he said disgustedly. "We'll go acrost t' Mike's place."

"What's wrong?" asked Murphy.

"I'll not come in yonder," said Pat Hogan. "That liar and crook of a Carter is there."



Saturday, October 07 at 1:21:12am USA Central
This web site is Copyright © 2006 by the ANDMORE Companies. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Images for viewing only. All copyrights remain with the holder. No covers or publications for sale.
www.EllisParkerButler.Info is a research project of the ANDMORE Companies, Houston TX USA.