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CHAPTER XVI
THE SHOWER

A BLAZE of sunlight, a yellow gleam of dusty road, a brown expanse of parched and dying lawns, of drooping leaves, a dry filing of crickets in the hayfields, and a bank of purple-black clouds rising rapidly in the west.

Beneath the currant bushes, now crimson with fruit, the fowls with drooping wings and with wide-opened mouths, pant with the heat. Not a bird-song is heard; only a faint and distant coo­ing from the pigeon-loft makes the stillness more marked. All nature seems prostrated by the heat of early afternoon. In the distance the faint rattle of the mowing machines sounds hot and dry.

On the main business street the sun blazes with an oven-like heat. Under the shade of the withered elms and faded maples stand the store horses, with drooping heads, stamping impa­tiently at the flies. An occasional heavy cart rumbles by, the driver lolling with throat bare and shirt sleeves rolled to his shoulders. The street is dry, dusty, panting and lifeless.

Suddenly a faint and prolonged roll of thunder is heard, dying away gradually. Then the silence is profound, for every cricket has ceased its filing. Then a quick flash, so indistinct that it is well-nigh invisible and seems but a quick vibration of the atmosphere.

A long wait, and again a profound rumble punc­tuated with deep and resounding thumps, like a cannon ball rolled down the attic-stairs, slowly dies away; yet the sun blazes fiercely and the leaves of the trees hang pulseless, the birds are silent, and the air dense and motionless.

Again a flash, and this time a vivid one, and after a shorter interval a thunderous roll of mus­ketry. Suddenly it grows dark, a greenish, glim­mering, purplish light, then a brilliant jagged flash tears across the blackness, followed by a wrenching, rattling peal of thunder, but not a drop of rain falls.

Then with a roar and a cloud of dust the wind is upon us. The trees bend and writhe and lash the air like giant snakes. There is a blinding, vivid flash, a rattling roar of thunder, and then the rain comes. First, in huge spats that splash in the dust with large irregular blotches; then a driving torrent that fills the gutters 'to raging streams, makes foaming sprays of the conduc­tors, and lays the grass as flat as if a scythe had passed over it.

The darkness has increased until the sudden flashes of lightning seem doubly blinding, the rain comes down in slanting arrows, with a rush­ing, hissing roar that almost drowns the thunder. The sewer-holes are swirling whirlpools choked with leaves, twigs, and litter of every sort.

And now a deluge of humanity, caught in the rain which has come so suddenly, passes through the square and seeks shelter from the downpour in every direction. It is interesting to note the different types. It is possible to study human nature and anatomy, and to blend instruction and amusement in this view from our office-windows.

Here comes a fat woman, with puffy ankles bulging from flat, soft shiny shoes with an elastic V-shaped gore in the sides. She wears whity-gray stockings of generous size, and toes in. She is evidently a person of some determination, as she elbows her way to the shelter of the nearest awn­ing. She is rosy, well-dressed, and evidently prosperous, but I am glad I'm not a fat woman with bulging ankles in whity-gray stockings.

Three barefooted boys come next, laughing, tussling, pushing, and playing tricks on one an­other. The rain splashes on their bare heads and drenches them, but they seek no shelter, but shout, laugh, and splash through the swirling torrents, like ducks.

Then comes a thin-legged, gaunt man with loose trousers, too short, and frock-coat, too long. Why should a thin-legged, gaunt man wear loose trousers and why, of all things, a frock-coat? The water drips from his hat-brim as he strides powerfully for shelter. The wind blows his wet trousers against his shanks, disclosing the ex­treme attenuation of his figure, astonishing to the beholder.

Look! here comes a ponderous individual car­rying an umbrella. He walks easily, his chest protrudes, he appears conscious, perhaps a trifle over-conscious, of his vast superiority to climatic conditions. He would not run from a shower, not he. The rain pours and the procession of passers-by scurry in every direction. Ordinary everyday people may grow excited over such trivial matters as a wetting, but he has cultivated the true spirit of dignity and repose. He takes things as they come, and rises superior to his surroundings.

See, as he passes the Town Hall a gust of wind from the north strikes him. His umbrella drives sou'-sou'-east. He clings to it with desperation. A fatal mistake, for it goes inside-out like a boy doing a handspring. His imitation panama fol­lows; his hair, growing from the sides and care­fully brought up and pasted over his cranium to hide his baldness, is blown from its moorings and flutters fringe-like from a dome like a shiny new-laid egg.



He clings to it with desperation

From a calm, peaceful, well-balanced philos­opher, he becomes a raging, gibbering maniac. He rushes after the fleeing hat and bounding umbrella. Can he overtake them? The wind is a sixty-mile-an-hour gale, in gusts. He cannot do better than twenty. Away he goes and is soon out of sight. None too soon, however, for although the picture is exhilarating, his language is calcu­lated to chill the blood, and his wild, furious gestures, his frenzied, rolling eyes, are disquiet­ing to the sensitive.

As he disappears, a supple, slight, graceful young lady comes tripping along. Here is some­thing worth while. Dorothy Dodds in tan and tan hose. She holds her dress a trifle high, but I can forgive a good deal in that line. See! she comes to a deep puddle. Well! really! that was a little — never mind, it was necessary, and she did it very gracefully, and I would not have missed it for anything.

She is followed by a well-groomed young man who is so interested in the contemplation of her many charms that he walks off the sidewalk into about a foot of muddy water. Serves him right, too!

Now comes an old scrub-woman with faded brown shawl closely wrapped about her bent shoulders, a little black hat dingy with age and depressed over one eye, and rubbers through the holes of which the water squshes as she plods along. Rain or shine, it is all one to her provided she gets work enough and it is warm enough. She has long ceased to care for such things. And yet she once was a fun-loving, laughing, trim-built young girl. But that must have been long years ago. Poor old thing!

The rain still falls. The streets and square are deserted. The thunder rolls at intervals, but the shower is passing. A gleam of sunshine strikes through a rift in the clouds and turns the falling drops to gold. From without comes the sweet homely song of the chipping sparrow.


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