Part 1 out of 3
This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks at the end of this file
for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making
an entire meal of them. D.W.]
A HAZARD OF NEW FORTUNES
By William Dean Howells
Superficially, the affairs of 'Every Other Week' settled into their
wonted form again, and for Fulkerson they seemed thoroughly reinstated.
But March had a feeling of impermanency from what had happened, mixed
with a fantastic sense of shame toward Lindau. He did not sympathize
with Lindau's opinions; he thought his remedy for existing evils as
wildly impracticable as Colonel Woodburn's. But while he thought this,
and while he could justly blame Fulkerson for Lindau's presence at
Dryfoos's dinner, which his zeal had brought about in spite of March's
protests, still he could not rid himself of the reproach of uncandor with
Lindau. He ought to have told him frankly about the ownership of the
magazine, and what manner of man the man was whose money he was taking.
But he said that he never could have imagined that he was serious in his
preposterous attitude in regard to a class of men who embody half the
prosperity of the country; and he had moments of revolt against his own
humiliation before Lindau, in which he found it monstrous that he should
return Dryfoos's money as if it had been the spoil of a robber. His wife
agreed with him in these moments, and said it was a great relief not to
have that tiresome old German coming about. They had to account for his
absence evasively to the children, whom they could not very well tell
that their father was living on money that Lindau disdained to take, even
though Lindau was wrong and their father was right. This heightened Mrs.
March's resentment toward both Lindau and Dryfoos, who between them had
placed her husband in a false position. If anything, she resented
Dryfoos's conduct more than Lindau's. He had never spoken to March about
the affair since Lindau had renounced his work, or added to the
apologetic messages he had sent by Fulkerson. So far as March knew,
Dryfoos had been left to suppose that Lindau had simply stopped for some
reason that did not personally affect him. They never spoke of him, and
March was too proud to ask either Fulkerson or Conrad whether the old man
knew that Lindau had returned his money. He avoided talking to Conrad,
from a feeling that if be did he should involuntarily lead him on to
speak of his differences with his father. Between himself and Fulkerson,
even, he was uneasily aware of a want of their old perfect friendliness.
Fulkerson had finally behaved with honor and courage; but his provisional
reluctance had given March the measure of Fulkerson's character in one
direction, and he could not ignore the fact that it was smaller than he
could have wished.
He could not make out whether Fulkerson shared his discomfort or not.
It certainly wore away, even with March, as time passed, and with
Fulkerson, in the bliss of his fortunate love, it was probably far more
transient, if it existed at all. He advanced into the winter as
radiantly as if to meet the spring, and he said that if there were any
pleasanter month of the year than November, it was December, especially
when the weather was good and wet and muddy most of the time, so that you
had to keep indoors a long while after you called anywhere.
Colonel Woodburn had the anxiety, in view of his daughter's engagement,
when she asked his consent to it, that such a dreamer must have in regard
to any reality that threatens to affect the course of his reveries. He
had not perhaps taken her marriage into account, except as a remote
contingency; and certainly Fulkerson was not the kind of son-in-law that
he had imagined in dealing with that abstraction. But because he had
nothing of the sort definitely in mind, he could not oppose the selection
of Fulkerson with success; he really knew nothing against him, and he
knew, many things in his favor; Fulkerson inspired him with the liking
that every one felt for him in a measure; he amused him, he cheered him;
and the colonel had been so much used to leaving action of all kinds to
his daughter that when he came to close quarters with the question of a
son-in-law he felt helpless to decide it, and he let her decide it, as if
it were still to be decided when it was submitted to him. She was
competent to treat it in all its phases: not merely those of personal
interest, but those of duty to the broken Southern past, sentimentally
dear to him, and practically absurd to her. No such South as he
remembered had ever existed to her knowledge, and no such civilization as
he imagined would ever exist, to her belief, anywhere. She took the
world as she found it, and made the best of it. She trusted in
Fulkerson; she had proved his magnanimity in a serious emergency; and in
small things she was willing fearlessly to chance it with him. She was
not a sentimentalist, and there was nothing fantastic in her
expectations; she was a girl of good sense and right mind, and she liked
the immediate practicality as well as the final honor of Fulkerson. She
did not idealize him, but in the highest effect she realized him; she did
him justice, and she would not have believed that she did him more than
justice if she had sometimes known him to do himself less.
Their engagement was a fact to which the Leighton household adjusted
itself almost as simply as the lovers themselves; Miss Woodburn told the
ladies at once, and it was not a thing that Fulkerson could keep from
March very long. He sent word of it to Mrs. March by her husband; and
his engagement perhaps did more than anything else to confirm the
confidence in him which had been shaken by his early behavior in the
Lindau episode, and not wholly restored by his tardy fidelity to March.
But now she felt that a man who wished to get married so obviously and
entirely for love was full of all kinds of the best instincts, and only
needed the guidance of a wife, to become very noble. She interested
herself intensely in balancing the respective merits of the engaged
couple, and after her call upon Miss Woodburn in her new character she
prided herself upon recognizing the worth of some strictly Southern
qualities in her, while maintaining the general average of New England
superiority. She could not reconcile herself to the Virginian custom
illustrated in her having been christened with the surname of Madison;
and she said that its pet form of Mad, which Fulkerson promptly invented,
only made it more ridiculous.
Fulkerson was slower in telling Beaton. He was afraid, somehow, of
Beaton's taking the matter in the cynical way; Miss Woodburn said she
would break off the engagement if Beaton was left to guess it or find it
out by accident, and then Fulkerson plucked up his courage. Beaton
received the news with gravity, and with a sort of melancholy meekness
that strongly moved Fulkerson's sympathy, and made him wish that Beaton
was engaged, too.
It made Beaton feel very old; it somehow left him behind and forgotten;
in a manner, it made him feel trifled with. Something of the
unfriendliness of fate seemed to overcast his resentment, and he allowed
the sadness of his conviction that he had not the means to marry on to
tinge his recognition of the fact that Alma Leighton would not have
wanted him to marry her if he had. He was now often in that martyr mood
in which he wished to help his father; not only to deny himself Chianti,
but to forego a fur-lined overcoat which he intended to get for the
winter, He postponed the moment of actual sacrifice as regarded the
Chianti, and he bought the overcoat in an anguish of self-reproach.
He wore it the first evening after he got it in going to call upon the
Leightons, and it seemed to him a piece of ghastly irony when Alma
complimented his picturesqueness in it and asked him to let her sketch
"Oh, you can sketch me," he said, with so much gloom that it made her
"If you think it's so serious, I'd rather not."
"No, no! Go ahead! How do you want me?"
Oh, fling yourself down on a chair in one of your attitudes of studied
negligence; and twist one corner of your mustache with affected absence
"And you think I'm always studied, always affected?"
"I didn't say so."
"I didn't ask you what you said."
"And I won't tell you what I think."
"Ah, I know what you think."
"What made you ask, then?" The girl laughed again with the satisfaction
of her sex in cornering a man.
Beaton made a show of not deigning to reply, and put himself in the pose
she suggested, frowning.
"Ah, that's it. But a little more animation--
"'As when a great thought strikes along the brain,
And flushes all the cheek.'"
She put her forehead down on the back of her hand and laughed again.
"You ought to be photographed. You look as if you were sitting for it."
Beaton said: "That's because I know I am being photographed, in one way.
I don't think you ought to call me affected. I never am so with you; I
know it wouldn't be of any use."
"Oh, Mr. Beaton, you flatter."
"No, I never flatter you."
"I meant you flattered yourself."
"Oh, I don't know. Imagine."
"I know what you mean. You think I can't be sincere with anybody."
"Oh no, I don't."
"What do you think?"
"That you can't--try." Alma gave another victorious laugh.
Miss Woodburn and Fulkerson would once have both feigned a great interest
in Alma's sketching Beaton, and made it the subject of talk, in which
they approached as nearly as possible the real interest of their lives.
Now they frankly remained away in the dining-room, which was very cozy
after the dinner had disappeared; the colonel sat with his lamp and paper
in the gallery beyond; Mrs. Leighton was about her housekeeping affairs,
in the content she always felt when Alma was with Beaton.
"They seem to be having a pretty good time in there," said Fulkerson,
detaching himself from his own absolute good time as well as he could.
"At least Alma does," said Miss Woodburn.
"Do you think she cares for him?"
"Quahte as moch as he desoves."
"What makes you all down on Beaton around here? He's not such a bad
"We awe not all doan on him. Mrs. Leighton isn't doan on him."
"Oh, I guess if it was the old lady, there wouldn't be much question
They both laughed, and Alma said, "They seem to be greatly amused with
something in there."
"Me, probably," said Beaton. "I seem to amuse everybody to-night."
"Don't you always?"
"I always amuse you, I'm afraid, Alma."
She looked at him as if she were going to snub him openly for using her
name; but apparently she decided to do it covertly. "You didn't at
first. I really used to believe you could be serious, once."
"Couldn't you believe it again? Now?"
"Not when you put on that wind-harp stop."
"Wetmore has been talking to you about me. He would sacrifice his best
friend to a phrase. He spends his time making them."
"He's made some very pretty ones about you."
"Like the one you just quoted?"
"No, not exactly. He admires you ever so much. He says" She stopped,
"He says you could be almost anything you wished, if you didn't wish to
"That sounds more like the school of Wetmore. That's what you say, Alma.
Well, if there were something you wished me to be, I could be it."
"We might adapt Kingsley: 'Be good, sweet man, and let who will be
clever.'" He could not help laughing. She went on: "I always thought
that was the most patronizing and exasperating thing ever addressed to a
human girl; and we've had to stand a good deal in our time. I should
like to have it applied to the other 'sect' a while. As if any girl that
was a girl would be good if she had the remotest chance of being clever."
"Then you wouldn't wish me to be good?" Beaton asked.
"Not if you were a girl."
"You want to shock me. Well, I suppose I deserve it. But if I were one-
tenth part as good as you are, Alma, I should have a lighter heart than I
have now. I know that I'm fickle, but I'm not false, as you think I am."
"Who said I thought you were false?"
"No one," said Beaton. "It isn't necessary, when you look it--live it."
"Oh, dear! I didn't know I devoted my whole time to the subject."
"I know I'm despicable. I could tell you something--the history of this
day, even--that would make you despise me." Beaton had in mind his
purchase of the overcoat, which Alma was getting in so effectively, with
the money he ought to have sent his father. "But," he went on, darkly,
with a sense that what he was that moment suffering for his selfishness
must somehow be a kind of atonement, which would finally leave him to the
guiltless enjoyment of the overcoat, "you wouldn't believe the depths of
baseness I could descend to."
"I would try," said Alma, rapidly shading the collar, "if you'd give me
Beaton had a sudden wish to pour out his remorse to her, but he was
afraid of her laughing at him. He said to himself that this was a very
wholesome fear, and that if he could always have her at hand he should
not make a fool of himself so often. A man conceives of such an office
as the very noblest for a woman; he worships her for it if he is
magnanimous. But Beaton was silent, and Alma put back her head for the
right distance on her sketch. "Mr. Fulkerson thinks you are the
sublimest of human beings for advising him to get Colonel Woodburn to
interview Mr. Dryfoos about Lindau. What have you ever done with your
"I haven't done anything with it. Nadel thought he would take hold of it
at one time, but he dropped it again. After all, I don't suppose it
could be popularized. Fulkerson wanted to offer it as a premium to
subscribers for 'Every Other Week,' but I sat down on that."
Alma could not feel the absurdity of this, and she merely said, "'Every
Other Week' seems to be going on just the same as ever."
"Yes, the trouble has all blown over, I believe. Fulkerson," said
Beaton, with a return to what they were saying, "has managed the whole
business very well. But he exaggerates the value of my advice."
"Very likely," Alma suggested, vaguely. "Or, no! Excuse me! He couldn't,
he couldn't!" She laughed delightedly at Beaton's foolish look of
He tried to recover his dignity in saying, "He's 'a very good fellow, and
he deserves his happiness."
"Oh, indeed!" said Alma, perversely. "Does any one deserve happiness?"
"I know I don't," sighed Beaton.
"You mean you don't get it."
"I certainly don't get it."
"Ah, but that isn't the reason."
"That's the secret of the universe," She bit in her lower lip, and looked
at him with eyes, of gleaming fun.
"Are you never serious?" he asked.
"With serious people always."
"I am serious; and you have the secret of my happiness--" He threw
himself impulsively forward in his chair.
"Oh, pose, pose!" she cried.
"I won't pose," he answered, "and you have got to listen to me. You
know I'm in love with you; and I know that once you cared for me. Can't
that time--won't it--come back again? Try to think so, Alma!"
"No," she said, briefly and seriously enough.
"But that seems impossible. What is it I've done what have you against
"Nothing. But that time is past. I couldn't recall it if I wished. Why
did you bring it up? You've broken your word. You know I wouldn't have
let you keep coming here if you hadn't promised never to refer to it."
"How could I help it? With that happiness near us--Fulkerson--"
"Oh, it's that? I might have known it!"
"No, it isn't that--it's something far deeper. But if it's nothing you
have against me, what is it, Alma, that keeps you from caring for me now
as you did then? I haven't changed."
"But I have. I shall never care for you again, Mr. Beaton; you might as
well understand it once for all. Don't think it's anything in yourself,
or that I think you unworthy of me. I'm not so self-satisfied as that;
I know very well that I'm not a perfect character, and that I've no claim
on perfection in anybody else. I think women who want that are fools;
they won't get it, and they don't deserve it. But I've learned a good.
deal more about myself than I knew in St. Barnaby, and a life of work, of
art, and of art alone that's what I've made up my mind to."
"A woman that's made up her mind to that has no heart to hinder her!"
"Would a man have that had done so?"
"But I don't believe you, Alma. You're merely laughing at me. And,
besides, with me you needn't give up art. We could work together. You
know how much I admire your talent. I believe I could help it--serve it;
I would be its willing slave, and yours, Heaven knows!"
"I don't want any slave--nor any slavery. I want to be free always. Now
do you see? I don't care for you, and I never could in the old way; but
I should have to care for some one more than I believe I ever shall to
give up my work. Shall we go on?" She looked at her sketch.
"No, we shall not go on," he said, gloomily, as he rose.
"I suppose you blame me," she said, rising too.
"Oh no! I blame no one--or only myself. I threw my chance away."
"I'm glad you see that; and I'm glad you did it. You don't believe me,
of course. Why do men think life can be only the one thing to women?
And if you come to the selfish view, who are the happy women? I'm sure
that if work doesn't fail me, health won't, and happiness won't."
"But you could work on with me--"
"Second fiddle. Do you suppose I shouldn't be woman enough to wish my
work always less and lower than yours? At least I've heart enough for
"You've heart enough for anything, Alma. I was a fool to say you
"I think the women who keep their hearts have an even chance, at least,
of having heart--"
"Ah, there's where you're wrong!"
"But mine isn't mine to give you, anyhow. And now I don't want you ever
to speak to me about this again."
"Oh, there's no danger!" he cried, bitterly. "I shall never willingly
see you again."
"That's as you like, Mr. Beaton. We've had to be very frank, but I don't
see why we shouldn't be friends. Still, we needn't, if you don't like."
"And I may come--I may come here--as--as usual?"
"Why, if you can consistently," she said, with a smile, and she held out
her hand to him.
He went home dazed, and feeling as if it were a bad joke that had been
put upon him. At least the affair went so deep that it estranged the
aspect of his familiar studio. Some of the things in it were not very
familiar; he had spent lately a great deal on rugs, on stuffs, on
Japanese bric-a-brac. When he saw these things in the shops he had felt
that he must have them; that they were necessary to him; and he was
partly in debt for them, still without having sent any of his earnings to
pay his father. As he looked at them now he liked to fancy something
weird and conscious in them as the silent witnesses of a broken life.
He felt about among some of the smaller objects on the mantel for his
pipe. Before he slept he was aware, in the luxury of his despair, of a
remote relief, an escape; and, after all, the understanding he had come
to with Alma was only the explicit formulation of terms long tacit
between them. Beaton would have been puzzled more than he knew if she
had taken him seriously. It was inevitable that he should declare
himself in love with her; but he was not disappointed at her rejection of
his love; perhaps not so much as he would have been at its acceptance,
though he tried to think otherwise, and to give himself airs of tragedy.
He did not really feel that the result was worse than what had gone
before, and it left him free.
But he did not go to the Leightons again for so long a time that Mrs.
Leighton asked Alma what had happened. Alma told her.
"And he won't come any more?" her mother sighed, with reserved censure.
"Oh, I think he will. He couldn't very well come the next night. But he
has the habit of coming, and with Mr. Beaton habit is everything--even
the habit of thinking he's in love with some one."
"Alma," said her mother, "I don't think it's very nice for a girl to let
a young man keep coming to see her after she's refused him."
"Why not, if it amuses him and doesn't hurt the girl?"
"But it does hurt her, Alma. It--it's indelicate. It isn't fair to him;
it gives him hopes."
"Well, mamma, it hasn't happened in the given case yet. If Mr. Beaton
comes again, I won't see him, and you can forbid him the house."
"If I could only feel sure, Alma," said her mother, taking up another
branch of the inquiry, "that you really knew your own mind, I should be
easier about it."
"Then you can rest perfectly quiet, mamma. I do know my own mind; and,
what's worse, I know Mr. Beaton's mind."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that he spoke to me the other night simply because Mr.
Fulkerson's engagement had broken him all up."
"What expressions!" Mrs. Leighton lamented.
"He let it out himself," Alma went on. "And you wouldn't have thought it
was very flattering yourself. When I'm made love to, after this,
I prefer to be made love to in an off-year, when there isn't another
engaged couple anywhere about."
"Did you tell him that, Alma?"
"Tell him that! What do you mean, mamma? I may be indelicate, but I'm
not quite so indelicate as that."
"I didn't mean you were indelicate, really, Alma, but I wanted to warn
you. I think Mr. Beaton was very much in earnest."
"Oh, so did he!"
"And you didn't?"
"Oh yes, for the time being. I suppose he's very much in earnest with
Miss Vance at times, and with Miss Dryfoos at others. Sometimes he's a
painter, and sometimes he's an architect, and sometimes he's a sculptor.
He has too many gifts--too many tastes."
"And if Miss Vance and Miss Dryfoos--"
"Oh, do say Sculpture and Architecture, mamma! It's getting so dreadfully
"Alma, you know that I only wish to get at your real feeling in the
"And you know that I don't want to let you--especially when I haven't got
any real feeling in the matter. But I should think--speaking in the
abstract entirely--that if either of those arts was ever going to be in
earnest about him, it would want his exclusive devotion for a week at
"I didn't know," said Mrs. Leighton, "that he was doing anything now at
the others. I thought he was entirely taken up with his work on 'Every
"Oh, he is! he is!"
"And you certainly can't say, my dear, that he hasn't been very kind--
very useful to you, in that matter."
"And so I ought to have said yes out of gratitude? Thank you, mamma! I
didn't know you held me so cheap."
"You know whether I hold you cheap or not, Alma. I don't want you to
cheapen yourself. I don't want you to trifle with any one. I want you
to be honest with yourself."
"Well, come now, mamma! Suppose you begin. I've been perfectly honest
with myself, and I've been honest with Mr. Beaton. I don't care for him,
and I've told him I didn't; so he may be supposed to know it. If he
comes here after this, he'll come as a plain, unostentatious friend of
the family, and it's for you to say whether he shall come in that
capacity or not. I hope you won't trifle with him, and let him get the
notion that he's coming on any other basis."
Mrs. Leighton felt the comfort of the critical attitude far too keenly to
abandon it for anything constructive. She only said, "You know very
well, Alma, that's a matter I can have nothing to do with."
"Then you leave him entirely to me?"
"I hope you will regard his right to candid and open treatment."
"He's had nothing but the most open and candid treatment from me, mamma.
It's you that wants to play fast and loose with him. And, to tell you
the truth, I believe he would like that a good deal better; I believe
that, if there's anything he hates, it's openness and candor."
Alma laughed, and put her arms round her mother, who could not help
laughing a little, too.
The winter did not renew for Christine and Mela the social opportunity
which the spring had offered. After the musicale at Mrs. Horn's, they
both made their party-call, as Mela said, in due season; but they did not
find Mrs. Horn at home, and neither she nor Miss Vance came to see them
after people returned to town in the fall. They tried to believe for a
time that Mrs. Horn had not got their cards; this pretence failed them,
and they fell back upon their pride, or rather Christine's pride. Mela
had little but her good-nature to avail her in any exigency, and if Mrs.
Horn or Miss Vance had come to call after a year of neglect, she would
have received them as amiably as if they had not lost a day in coming.
But Christine had drawn a line beyond which they would not have been
forgiven; and she had planned the words and the behavior with which she
would have punished them if they had appeared then. Neither sister
imagined herself in anywise inferior to them; but Christine was
suspicious, at least, and it was Mela who invented the hypothesis of the
lost cards. As nothing happened to prove or to disprove the fact, she
said, "I move we put Coonrod up to gittun' it out of Miss Vance, at some
of their meetun's."
"If you do," said Christine, "I'll kill you."
Christine, however, had the visits of Beaton to console her, and, if
these seemed to have no definite aim, she was willing to rest in the
pleasure they gave her vanity; but Mela had nothing. Sometimes she even
wished they were all back on the farm.
"It would be the best thing for both of you," said Mrs. Dryfoos, in
answer to such a burst of desperation. "I don't think New York is any
place for girls."
"Well, what I hate, mother," said Mela, "is, it don't seem to be any
place for young men, either." She found this so good when she had said
it that she laughed over it till Christine was angry.
"A body would think there had never been any joke before."
"I don't see as it's a joke," said Mrs. Dryfoos. "It's the plain truth."
"Oh, don't mind her, mother," said Mela. "She's put out because her old
Mr. Beaton ha'r't been round for a couple o' weeks. If you don't watch
out, that fellow 'll give you the slip yit, Christine, after all your
"Well, there ain't anybody to give you the slip, Mela," Christine clawed
"No; I ha'n't ever set my traps for anybody." This was what Mela said
for want of a better retort; but it was not quite true. When Kendricks
came with Beaton to call after her father's dinner, she used all her
cunning to ensnare him, and she had him to herself as long as Beaton
stayed; Dryfoos sent down word that he was not very well and had gone to
bed. The novelty of Mela had worn off for Kendricks, and she found him,
as she frankly told him, not half as entertaining as he was at Mrs.
Horn's; but she did her best with him as the only flirtable material
which had yet come to her hand. It would have been her ideal to have the
young men stay till past midnight, and her father come down-stairs in his
stocking-feet and tell them it was time to go. But they made a visit of
decorous brevity, and Kendricks did not come again. She met him
afterward, once, as she was crossing the pavement in Union Square to get
into her coupe, and made the most of him; but it was necessarily very
little, and so he passed out of her life without having left any trace in
her heart, though Mela had a heart that she would have put at the
disposition of almost any young man that wanted it. Kendricks himself,
Manhattan cockney as he was, with scarcely more out look into the average
American nature than if he had been kept a prisoner in New York society
all his days, perceived a property in her which forbade him as a man of
conscience to trifle with her; something earthly good and kind, if it was
simple and vulgar. In revising his impressions of her, it seemed to him
that she would come even to better literary effect if this were
recognized in her; and it made her sacred, in spite of her willingness to
fool and to be fooled, in her merely human quality. After all, he saw
that she wished honestly to love and to be loved, and the lures she threw
out to that end seemed to him pathetic rather than ridiculous; he could
not join Beaton in laughing at her; and he did not like Beaton's laughing
at the other girl, either. It seemed to Kendricks, with the code of
honor which he mostly kept to himself because he was a little ashamed to
find there were so few others like it, that if Beaton cared nothing for
the other girl--and Christine appeared simply detestable to Kendricks--
he had better keep away from her, and not give her the impression he was
in love with her. He rather fancied that this was the part of a
gentleman, and he could not have penetrated to that aesthetic and moral
complexity which formed the consciousness of a nature like Beaton's and
was chiefly a torment to itself; he could not have conceived of the
wayward impulses indulged at every moment in little things till the
straight highway was traversed and well-nigh lost under their tangle.
To do whatever one likes is finally to do nothing that one likes, even
though one continues to do what one will; but Kendricks, though a sage of
twenty-seven, was still too young to understand this.
Beaton scarcely understood it himself, perhaps because he was not yet
twenty-seven. He only knew that his will was somehow sick; that it spent
itself in caprices, and brought him no happiness from the fulfilment of
the most vehement wish. But he was aware that his wishes grew less and
less vehement; he began to have a fear that some time he might have none
at all. It seemed to him that if he could once do something that was
thoroughly distasteful to himself, he might make a beginning in the right
direction; but when he tried this on a small scale, it failed, and it
seemed stupid. Some sort of expiation was the thing he needed, he was
sure; but he could not think of anything in particular to expiate; a man
could not expiate his temperament, and his temperament was what Beaton
decided to be at fault. He perceived that it went deeper than even fate
would have gone; he could have fulfilled an evil destiny and had done
with it, however terrible. His trouble was that he could not escape from
himself; and, for the most part, he justified himself in refusing to try.
After he had come to that distinct understanding with Alma Leighton,
and experienced the relief it really gave him, he thought for a while
that if it had fallen out otherwise, and she had put him in charge of her
destiny, he might have been better able to manage his own. But as it
was, he could only drift, and let all other things take their course.
It was necessary that he should go to see her afterward, to show her that
he was equal to the event; but he did not go so often, and he went rather
oftener to the Dryfooses; it was not easy to see Margaret Vance, except
on the society terms. With much sneering and scorning, he fulfilled the
duties to Mrs. Horn without which he knew he should be dropped from her
list; but one might go to many of her Thursdays without getting many
words with her niece. Beaton hardly knew whether he wanted many; the
girl kept the charm of her innocent stylishness; but latterly she wanted
to talk more about social questions than about the psychical problems
that young people usually debate so personally. Son of the working-
people as he was, Beaton had never cared anything about such matters;
he did not know about them or wish to know; he was perhaps too near them.
Besides, there was an embarrassment, at least on her part, concerning the
Dryfooses. She was too high-minded to blame him for having tempted her
to her failure with them by his talk about them; but she was conscious of
avoiding them in her talk. She had decided not to renew the effort she
had made in the spring; because she could not do them good as fellow-
creatures needing food and warmth and work, and she would not try to
befriend them socially; she had a horror of any such futile
sentimentality. She would have liked to account to Beaton in this way
for a course which she suspected he must have heard their comments upon,
but she did not quite know how to do it; she could not be sure how much
or how little he cared for them. Some tentative approaches which she
made toward explanation were met with such eager disclaim of personal
interest that she knew less than before what to think; and she turned the
talk from the sisters to the brother, whom it seemed she still continued
to meet in their common work among the poor.
"He seems very different," she ventured.
"Oh, quite," said Beaton. "He's the kind of person that you might
suppose gave the Catholics a hint for the cloistral life; he's a
cloistered nature--the nature that atones and suffers for. But he's
awfully dull company, don't you think? I never can get anything out of
"He's very much in earnest."
"Remorselessly. We've got a profane and mundane creature there at the
office who runs us all, and it's shocking merely to see the contact of
the tyro natures. When Fulkerson gets to joking Dryfoos--he likes to put
his joke in the form of a pretence that Dryfoos is actuated by a selfish
motive, that he has an eye to office, and is working up a political
interest for himself on the East Side--it's something inexpressible."
"I should think so," said Miss Vance, with such lofty disapproval that
Beaton felt himself included in it for having merely told what caused it.
He could not help saying, in natural rebellion, "Well, the man of one
idea is always a little ridiculous."
"When his idea is right?" she demanded. "A right idea can't be
"Oh, I only said the man that held it was. He's flat; he has no relief,
She seemed unable to answer, and he perceived that he had silenced her to
his own, disadvantage. It appeared to Beaton that she was becoming a
little too exacting for comfort in her idealism. He put down the cup of
tea he had been tasting, and said, in his solemn staccato: "I must go.
Good-bye!" and got instantly away from her, with an effect he had of
having suddenly thought of something imperative.
He went up to Mrs. Horn for a moment's hail and farewell, and felt
himself subtly detained by her through fugitive passages of conversation
with half a dozen other people. He fancied that at crises of this
strange interview Mrs. Horn was about to become confidential with him,
and confidential, of all things, about her niece. She ended by not
having palpably been so. In fact, the concern in her mind would have
been difficult to impart to a young man, and after several experiments
Mrs. Horn found it impossible to say that she wished Margaret could
somehow be interested in lower things than those which occupied her.
She had watched with growing anxiety the girl's tendency to various kinds
of self-devotion. She had dark hours in which she even feared her entire
withdrawal from the world in a life of good works. Before now, girls had
entered the Protestant sisterhoods, which appeal so potently to the young
and generous imagination, and Margaret was of just the temperament to be
influenced by them. During the past summer she had been unhappy at her
separation from the cares that had engrossed her more and more as their
stay in the city drew to an end in the spring, and she had hurried her
aunt back to town earlier in the fall than she would have chosen to come.
Margaret had her correspondents among the working-women whom she
befriended. Mrs. Horn was at one time alarmed to find that Margaret was
actually promoting a strike of the button-hole workers. This, of course,
had its ludicrous side, in connection with a young lady in good society,
and a person of even so little humor as Mrs. Horn could not help seeing
it. At the same time, she could not help foreboding the worst from it;
she was afraid that Margaret's health would give way under the strain,
and that if she did not go into a sisterhood she would at least go into a
decline. She began the winter with all such counteractive measures as
she could employ. At an age when such things weary, she threw herself
into the pleasures of society with the hope of dragging Margaret after
her; and a sympathetic witness must have followed with compassion her
course from ball to ball, from reception to reception, from parlor-
reading to parlor-reading, from musicale to musicale, from play to play,
from opera to opera. She tasted, after she had practically renounced
them, the bitter and the insipid flavors of fashionable amusement, in the
hope that Margaret might find them sweet, and now at the end she had to
own to herself that she had failed. It was coming Lent again, and the
girl had only grown thinner and more serious with the diversions that did
not divert her from the baleful works of beneficence on which Mrs. Horn
felt that she was throwing her youth away. Margaret could have borne
either alone, but together they were wearing her out. She felt it a duty
to undergo the pleasures her aunt appointed for her, but she could not
forego the other duties in which she found her only pleasure.
She kept up her music still because she could employ it at the meetings
for the entertainment, and, as she hoped, the elevation of her working-
women; but she neglected the other aesthetic interests which once
occupied her; and, at sight of Beaton talking with her, Mrs. Horn caught
at the hope that he might somehow be turned to account in reviving
Margaret's former interest in art. She asked him if Mr. Wetmore had his
classes that winter as usual; and she said she wished Margaret could be
induced to go again: Mr. Wetmore always said that she did not draw very
well, but that she had a great deal of feeling for it, and her work was
interesting. She asked, were the Leightons in town again; and she
murmured a regret that she had not been able to see anything of them,
without explaining why; she said she had a fancy that if Margaret knew
Miss Leighton, and what she was doing, it might stimulate her, perhaps.
She supposed Miss Leighton was still going on with her art? Beaton said,
Oh yes, he believed so.
But his manner did not encourage Mrs. Horn to pursue her aims in that
direction, and she said, with a sigh, she wished he still had a class;
she always fancied that Margaret got more good from his instruction than
from any one else's.
He said that she was very good; but there was really nobody who knew half
as much as Wetmore, or could make any one understand half as much.
Mrs. Horn was afraid, she said, that Mr. Wetmore's terrible sincerity
discouraged Margaret; he would not let her have any illusions about the
outcome of what she was doing; and did not Mr. Beaton think that some
illusion was necessary with young people? Of course, it was very nice of
Mr. Wetmore to be so honest, but it did not always seem to be the wisest
thing. She begged Mr. Beaton to try to think of some one who would be a
little less severe. Her tone assumed a deeper interest in the people who
were coming up and going away, and Beaton perceived that he was
He went away with vanity flattered by the sense of having been appealed
to concerning Margaret, and then he began to chafe at what she had said
of Wetmore's honesty, apropos of her wish that he still had a class
himself. Did she mean, confound her? that he was insincere, and would
let Miss Vance suppose she had more talent than she really had? The more
Beaton thought of this, the more furious he became, and the more he was
convinced that something like it had been unconsciously if not
consciously in her mind. He framed some keen retorts, to the general
effect that with the atmosphere of illusion preserved so completely at
home, Miss Vance hardly needed it in her art studies. Having just
determined never to go near Mrs. Horn's Thursdays again, he decided to go
once more, in order to plant this sting in her capacious but somewhat
callous bosom; and he planned how he would lead the talk up to the point
from which he should launch it.
In the mean time he felt the need of some present solace, such as only
unqualified worship could give him; a cruel wish to feel his power in
some direction where, even if it were resisted, it could not be overcome,
drove him on. That a woman who was to Beaton the embodiment of
artificiality should intimate, however innocently--the innocence made it
all the worse--that he was less honest than Wetmore, whom he knew to be
so much more honest, was something that must be retaliated somewhere
before his self-respect could be restored. It was only five o'clock, and
he went on up-town to the Dryfooses', though he had been there only the
night before last. He asked for the ladies, and Mrs. Mandel received
"The young ladies are down-town shopping," she said, "but I am very glad
of the opportunity of seeing you alone, Mr. Beaton. You know I lived
several years in Europe."
"Yes," said Beaton, wondering what that could have to do with her
pleasure in seeing him alone. "I believe so?" He involuntarily gave his
words the questioning inflection.
"You have lived abroad, too, and so you won't find what I am going to ask
so strange. Mr. Beaton, why do you come so much to this house?" Mrs.
Mandel bent forward with an aspect of ladylike interest and smiled.
Beaton frowned. "Why do I come so much?"
"Why do I--Excuse me, Mrs. Mandel, but will you allow me to ask why you
"Oh, certainly. There's no reason why I shouldn't say, for I wish you to
be very frank with me. I ask because there are two young ladies in this
house; and, in a certain way, I have to take the place of a mother to
them. I needn't explain why; you know all the people here, and you
understand. I have nothing to say about them, but I should not be
speaking to you now if they were not all rather helpless people. They do
not know the world they have come to live in here, and they cannot help
themselves or one another. But you do know it, Mr. Beaton, and I am sure
you know just how much or how little you mean by coming here. You are
either interested in one of these young girls or you are not. If you
are, I have nothing more to say. If you are not--" Mrs. Mandel continued
to smile, but the smile had grown more perfunctory, and it had an icy
Beaton looked at her with surprise that he gravely kept to himself. He
had always regarded her as a social nullity, with a kind of pity, to be
sure, as a civilized person living among such people as the Dryfooses,
but not without a humorous contempt; he had thought of her as Mandel, and
sometimes as Old Mandel, though she was not half a score of years his
senior, and was still well on the sunny side of forty. He reddened, and
then turned an angry pallor. "Excuse me again, Mrs. Mandel. Do you ask
this from the young ladies?"
"Certainly not," she said, with the best temper, and with something in
her tone that convicted Beaton of vulgarity, in putting his question of
her authority in the form of a sneer. "As I have suggested, they would
hardly know how to help themselves at all in such a matter. I have no
objection to saying that I ask it from the father of the young ladies.
Of course, in and for myself I should have no right to know anything
about your affairs. I assure you the duty of knowing isn't very
pleasant." The little tremor in her clear voice struck Beaton as
something rather nice.
"I can very well believe that, Mrs. Mandel," he said, with a dreamy
sadness in his own. He lifted his eyes and looked into hers. "If I told
you that I cared nothing about them in the way you intimate?"
"Then I should prefer to let you characterize your own conduct in
continuing to come here for the year past, as you have done, and tacitly
leading them on to infer differently." They both mechanically kept up
the fiction of plurality in speaking of Christine, but there was no doubt
in the mind of either which of the young ladies the other meant.
A good many thoughts went through Beaton's mind, and none of them were
flattering. He had not been unconscious that the part he had played
toward this girl was ignoble, and that it had grown meaner as the fancy
which her beauty had at first kindled in him had grown cooler. He was
aware that of late he had been amusing himself with her passion in a way
that was not less than cruel, not because he wished to do so, but because
he was listless and wished nothing. He rose in saying: "I might be a
little more lenient than you think, Mrs. Mandel; but I won't trouble you
with any palliating theory. I will not come any more."
He bowed, and Mrs. Mandel said, "Of course, it's only your action that I
am concerned with."
She seemed to him merely triumphant, and he could not conceive what it
had cost her to nerve herself up to her too easy victory. He left Mrs.
Mandel to a far harder lot than had fallen to him, and he went away
hating her as an enemy who had humiliated him at a moment when he
particularly needed exalting. It was really very simple for him to stop
going to see Christine Dryfoos, but it was not at all simple for Mrs.
Mandel to deal with the consequences of his not coming. He only thought
how lightly she had stopped him, and the poor woman whom he had left
trembling for what she had been obliged to do embodied for him the
conscience that accused him of unpleasant things.
"By heavens! this is piling it up," he said to himself through his set
teeth, realizing how it had happened right on top of that stupid insult
from Mrs. Horn. Now he should have to give up his place on 'Every Other
Week; he could not keep that, under the circumstances, even if some
pretence were not made to get rid of him; he must hurry and anticipate
any such pretence; he must see Fulkerson at once; he wondered where he
should find him at that hour. He thought, with bitterness so real that
it gave him a kind of tragical satisfaction, how certainly he could find
him a little later at Mrs. Leighton's; and Fulkerson's happiness became
an added injury.
The thing had, of course, come about just at the wrong time. There never
had been a time when Beaton needed money more, when he had spent what he
had and what he expected to have so recklessly. He was in debt to
Fulkerson personally and officially for advance payments of salary. The
thought of sending money home made him break into a scoffing laugh, which
he turned into a cough in order to deceive the passers. What sort of
face should he go with to Fulkerson and tell him that he renounced his
employment on 'Every Other Week;' and what should he do when he had
renounced it? Take pupils, perhaps; open a class? A lurid conception of
a class conducted on those principles of shameless flattery at which Mrs.
Horn had hinted--he believed now she had meant to insult him--presented
itself. Why should not he act upon the suggestion? He thought with
loathing for the whole race of women--dabblers in art. How easy the
thing would be: as easy as to turn back now and tell that old fool's girl
that he loved her, and rake in half his millions. Why should not he do
that? No one else cared for him; and at a year's end, probably, one
woman would be like another as far as the love was concerned, and
probably he should not be more tired if the woman were Christine Dryfoos
than if she were Margaret Vance. He kept Alma Leighton out of the
question, because at the bottom of his heart he believed that she must be
forever unlike every other woman to him.
The tide of his confused and aimless reverie had carried him far down-
town, he thought; but when he looked up from it to see where he was he
found himself on Sixth Avenue, only a little below Thirty-ninth Street,
very hot and blown; that idiotic fur overcoat was stifling. He could not
possibly walk down to Eleventh; he did not want to walk even to the
Elevated station at Thirty-fourth; he stopped at the corner to wait for a
surface-car, and fell again into his bitter fancies. After a while he
roused himself and looked up the track, but there was no car coming. He
found himself beside a policeman, who was lazily swinging his club by its
thong from his wrist.
"When do you suppose a car will be along?" he asked, rather in a general
sarcasm of the absence of the cars than in any special belief that the
policeman could tell him.
The policeman waited to discharge his tobacco-juice into the gutter.
"In about a week," he said, nonchalantly.
"What's the matter?" asked Beaton, wondering what the joke could be.
"Strike," said the policeman. His interest in Beaton's ignorance seemed
to overcome his contempt of it. "Knocked off everywhere this morning
except Third Avenue and one or two cross-town lines." He spat again and
kept his bulk at its incline over the gutter to glance at a group of men
on the corner below: They were neatly dressed, and looked like something
better than workingmen, and they had a holiday air of being in their best
"Some of the strikers?" asked Beaton.
The policeman nodded.
"Any trouble yet?"
"There won't be any trouble till we begin to move the cars," said the
Beaton felt a sudden turn of his rage toward the men whose action would
now force him to walk five blocks and mount the stairs of the Elevated
station. "If you'd take out eight or ten of those fellows," he said,
ferociously, "and set them up against a wall and shoot them, you'd save a
great deal of bother."
"I guess we sha'n't have to shoot much," said the policeman, still
swinging his locust. "Anyway, we shant begin it. If it comes to a
fight, though," he said, with a look at the men under the scooping rim of
his helmet, "we can drive the whole six thousand of 'em into the East
River without pullin' a trigger."
"Are there six thousand in it?"
"What do the infernal fools expect to live on?"
"The interest of their money, I suppose," said the officer, with a grin
of satisfaction in his irony. "It's got to run its course. Then they'll
come back with their heads tied up and their tails between their legs,
and plead to be taken on again."
"If I was a manager of the roads," said Beaton, thinking of how much he
was already inconvenienced by the strike, and obscurely connecting it as
one of the series with the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of Mrs.
Horn and Mrs. Mandel, "I would see them starve before I'd take them back
--every one of them."
"Well," said the policeman, impartially, as a man might whom the
companies allowed to ride free, but who had made friends with a good many
drivers and conductors in the course of his free riding, "I guess that's
what the roads would like to do if they could; but the men are too many
for them, and there ain't enough other men to take their places."
"No matter," said Beaton, severely. "They can bring in men from other
"Oh, they'll do that fast enough," said the policeman.
A man came out of the saloon on the corner where the strikers were
standing, noisy drunk, and they began, as they would have said, to have
some fun with him. The policeman left Beaton, and sauntered slowly down
toward the group as if in the natural course of an afternoon ramble. On
the other side of the street Beaton could see another officer sauntering
up from the block below. Looking up and down the avenue, so silent of
its horse-car bells, he saw a policeman at every corner. It was rather
The strike made a good deal of talk in it he office of 'Every Other Week'
that is, it made Fulkerson talk a good deal. He congratulated himself
that he was not personally incommoded by it, like some of the fellows who
lived uptown, and had not everything under one roof, as it were. He
enjoyed the excitement of it, and he kept the office boy running out to
buy the extras which the newsmen came crying through the street almost
every hour with a lamentable, unintelligible noise. He read not only the
latest intelligence of the strike, but the editorial comments on it,
which praised the firm attitude of both parties, and the admirable
measures taken by the police to preserve order. Fulkerson enjoyed the
interviews with the police captains and the leaders of the strike; he
equally enjoyed the attempts of the reporters to interview the road
managers, which were so graphically detailed, and with such a fine
feeling for the right use of scare-heads as to have almost the value of
direct expression from them, though it seemed that they had resolutely
refused to speak. He said, at second-hand from the papers, that if the
men behaved themselves and respected the rights of property, they would
have public sympathy with them every time; but just as soon as they began
to interfere with the roads' right to manage their own affairs in their
own way, they must be put down with an iron hand; the phrase "iron hand"
did Fulkerson almost as much good as if it had never been used before.
News began to come of fighting between the police and the strikers when
the roads tried to move their cars with men imported from Philadelphia,
and then Fulkerson rejoiced at the splendid courage of the police. At
the same time, he believed what the strikers said, and that the trouble
was not made by them, but by gangs of roughs acting without their
approval. In this juncture he was relieved by the arrival of the State
Board of Arbitration, which took up its quarters, with a great many
scare-heads, at one of the principal hotels, and invited the roads and
the strikers to lay the matter in dispute before them; he said that now
we should see the working of the greatest piece of social machinery in
modern times. But it appeared to work only in the alacrity of the
strikers to submit their grievance. The road; were as one road in
declaring that there was nothing to arbitrate, and that they were merely
asserting their right to manage their own affairs in their own way.
One of the presidents was reported to have told a member of the Board,
who personally summoned him, to get out and to go about his business.
Then, to Fulkerson's extreme disappointment, the august tribunal, acting
on behalf of the sovereign people in the interest of peace, declared
itself powerless, and got out, and would, no doubt, have gone about its
business if it had had any. Fulkerson did not know what to say, perhaps
because the extras did not; but March laughed at this result.
"It's a good deal like the military manoeuvre of the King of France and
his forty thousand men. I suppose somebody told him at the top of the
hill that there was nothing to arbitrate, and to get out and go about his
business, and that was the reason he marched down after he had marched up
with all that ceremony. What amuses me is to find that in an affair of
this kind the roads have rights and the strikers have rights, but the
public has no rights at all. The roads and the strikers are allowed to
fight out a private war in our midst as thoroughly and precisely a
private war as any we despise the Middle Ages for having tolerated--
as any street war in Florence or Verona--and to fight it out at our pains
and expense, and we stand by like sheep and wait till they get tired.
It's a funny attitude for a city of fifteen hundred thousand
"What would you do?" asked Fulkerson, a good deal daunted by this view of
"Do? Nothing. Hasn't the State Board of Arbitration declared itself
powerless? We have no hold upon the strikers; and we're so used to being
snubbed and disobliged by common carriers that we have forgotten our hold
on the roads and always allow them to manage their own affairs in their
own way, quite as if we had nothing to do with them and they owed us no
services in return for their privileges."
"That's a good deal so," said Fulkerson, disordering his hair. "Well,
it's nuts for the colonel nowadays. He says if he was boss of this town
he would seize the roads on behalf of the people, and man 'em with
policemen, and run 'em till the managers had come to terms with the
strikers; and he'd do that every time there was a strike."
"Doesn't that rather savor of the paternalism he condemned in Lindau?"
"I don't know. It savors of horse sense."
"You are pretty far gone, Fulkerson. I thought you were the most engaged
man I ever saw; but I guess you're more father-in-lawed. And before
you're married, too."
"Well, the colonel's a glorious old fellow, March. I wish he had the
power to do that thing, just for the fun of looking on while he waltzed
in. He's on the keen jump from morning till night, and he's up late and
early to see the row. I'm afraid he'll get shot at some of the fights;
he sees them all; I can't get any show at them: haven't seen a brickbat
shied or a club swung yet. Have you?"
"No, I find I can philosophize the situation about as well from the
papers, and that's what I really want to do, I suppose. Besides, I'm
solemnly pledged by Mrs. March not to go near any sort of crowd, under
penalty of having her bring the children and go with me. Her theory is
that we must all die together; the children haven't been at school since
the strike began. There's no precaution that Mrs. March hasn't used.
She watches me whenever I go out, and sees that I start straight for this
Fulkerson laughed and said: "Well, it's probably the only thing that's
saved your life. Have you seen anything of Beaton lately?"
"No. You don't mean to say he's killed!"
"Not if he knows it. But I don't know--What do you say, March? What's
the reason you couldn't get us up a paper on the strike?"
"I knew it would fetch round to 'Every Other Week,' somehow."
"No, but seriously. There 'll be plenty of news paper accounts. But you
could treat it in the historical spirit--like something that happened
several centuries ago; De Foe's Plague of London style. Heigh? What
made me think of it was Beaton. If I could get hold of him, you two
could go round together and take down its aesthetic aspects. It's a big
thing, March, this strike is. I tell you it's imposing to have a private
war, as you say, fought out this way, in the heart of New York, and New
York not minding, it a bit. See? Might take that view of it. With your
descriptions and Beaton's sketches--well, it would just be the greatest
card! Come! What do you say?"
"Will you undertake to make it right with Mrs. March if I'm killed and
she and the children are not killed with me?"
"Well, it would be difficult. I wonder how it would do to get Kendricks
to do the literary part?"
"I've no doubt he'd jump at the chance. I've yet to see the form of
literature that Kendricks wouldn't lay down his life for."
"Say!" March perceived that Fulkerson was about to vent another
inspiration, and smiled patiently. "Look here! What's the reason we
couldn't get one of the strikers to write it up for us?"
"Might have a symposium of strikers and presidents," March suggested.
"No; I'm in earnest. They say some of those fellows-especially the
foreigners--are educated men. I know one fellow--a Bohemian--that used
to edit a Bohemian newspaper here. He could write it out in his kind of
Dutch, and we could get Lindau to translate it."
"I guess not," said March, dryly.
"Why not? He'd do it for the cause, wouldn't he? Suppose you put it up
on him the next time you see him."
"I don't see Lindau any more," said March. He added, "I guess he's
renounced me along with Mr. Dryfoos's money."
"Pshaw! You don't mean he hasn't been round since?"
"He came for a while, but he's left off coming now. I don't feel
particularly gay about it," March said, with some resentment of
Fulkerson's grin. "He's left me in debt to him for lessons to the
Fulkerson laughed out. "Well, he is the greatest old fool! Who'd 'a'
thought he'd 'a' been in earnest with those 'brincibles' of his? But I
suppose there have to be just such cranks; it takes all kinds to make a
"There has to be one such crank, it seems," March partially assented.
"One's enough for me."
"I reckon this thing is nuts for Lindau, too," said Fulkerson. "Why, it
must act like a schooner of beer on him all the while, to see 'gabidal'
embarrassed like it is by this strike. It must make old Lindau feel like
he was back behind those barricades at Berlin. Well, he's a splendid old
fellow; pity he drinks, as I remarked once before."
When March left the office he did not go home so directly as he came,
perhaps because Mrs. March's eye was not on him. He was very curious
about some aspects of the strike, whose importance, as a great social
convulsion, he felt people did not recognize; and, with his temperance in
everything, he found its negative expressions as significant as its more
violent phases. He had promised his wife solemnly that he would keep
away from these, and he had a natural inclination to keep his promise;
he had no wish to be that peaceful spectator who always gets shot when
there is any firing on a mob. He interested himself in the apparent
indifference of the mighty city, which kept on about its business as
tranquilly as if the private war being fought out in its midst were a
vague rumor of Indian troubles on the frontier; and he realized how there
might once have been a street feud of forty years in Florence without
interfering materially with the industry and prosperity of the city.
On Broadway there was a silence where a jangle and clatter of horse-car
bells and hoofs had been, but it was not very noticeable; and on the
avenues, roofed by the elevated roads, this silence of the surface tracks
was not noticeable at all in the roar of the trains overhead. Some of
the cross-town cars were beginning to run again, with a policeman on the
rear of each; on the Third Avenge line, operated by non-union men, who
had not struck, there were two policemen beside the driver of every car,
and two beside the conductor, to protect them from the strikers. But
there were no strikers in sight, and on Second Avenue they stood quietly
about in groups on the corners. While March watched them at a safe
distance, a car laden with policemen came down the track, but none of the
strikers offered to molest it. In their simple Sunday best, March
thought them very quiet, decent-looking people, and he could well believe
that they had nothing to do with the riotous outbreaks in other parts of
the city. He could hardly believe that there were any such outbreaks; he
began more and more to think them mere newspaper exaggerations in the
absence of any disturbance, or the disposition to it, that he could see.
He walked on to the East River
Avenues A, B, and C presented the same quiet aspect as Second Avenue;
groups of men stood on the corners, and now and then a police-laden car
was brought unmolested down the tracks before them; they looked at it and
talked together, and some laughed, but there was no trouble.
March got a cross-town car, and came back to the West Side. A policeman,
looking very sleepy and tired, lounged on the platform.
"I suppose you'll be glad when this cruel war is over," March suggested,
as he got in.
The officer gave him a surly glance and made him no answer.
His behavior, from a man born to the joking give and take of our life,
impressed March. It gave him a fine sense of the ferocity which he had
read of the French troops putting on toward the populace just before the
coup d'etat; he began to feel like the populace; but he struggled with
himself and regained his character of philosophical observer. In this
character he remained in the car and let it carry him by the corner where
he ought to have got out and gone home, and let it keep on with him to
one of the farthermost tracks westward, where so much of the fighting was
reported to have taken place. But everything on the way was as quiet as
on the East Side.
Suddenly the car stopped with so quick a turn of the brake that he was
half thrown from his seat, and the policeman jumped down from the
platform and ran forward.
Dryfoos sat at breakfast that morning with Mrs. Mandel as usual to pour
out his coffee. Conrad had gone down-town; the two girls lay abed much
later than their father breakfasted, and their mother had gradually grown
too feeble to come down till lunch. Suddenly Christine appeared at the
door. Her face was white to the edges of her lips, and her eyes were
"Look here, father! Have you been saying anything to Mr. Beaton?"
The old man looked up at her across his coffee-cup through his frowning
Mrs. Mandel dropped her eyes, and the spoon shook in her hand.
"Then what's the reason he don't come here any more?" demanded the girl;
and her glance darted from her father to Mrs. Mandel. "Oh, it's you, is
it? I'd like to know who told you to meddle in other people's business?"
"I did," said Dryfoos, savagely. "I told her to ask him what he wanted
here, and he said he didn't want anything, and he stopped coming. That's
all. I did it myself."
"Oh, you did, did you?" said the girl, scarcely less insolently than she
had spoken to Mrs. Mandel. "I should like to know what you did it for?
I'd like to know what made you think I wasn't able to take care of
myself. I just knew somebody had been meddling, but I didn't suppose it
was you. I can manage my own affairs in my own way, if you please, and
I'll thank you after this to leave me to myself in what don't concern
"Don't concern me? You impudent jade!" her father began.
Christine advanced from the doorway toward the table; she had her hands
closed upon what seemed trinkets, some of which glittered and dangled
from them. She said, "Will you go to him and tell him that this
meddlesome minx, here, had no business to say anything about me to him,
and you take it all back?"
"No!" shouted the old man. "And if--"
"That's all I want of you!" the girl shouted in her turn. "Here are your
presents." With both hands she flung the jewels-pins and rings and
earrings and bracelets--among the breakfast-dishes, from which some of
them sprang to the floor. She stood a moment to pull the intaglio ring
from the finger where Beaton put it a year ago, and dashed that at her
father's plate. Then she whirled out of the room, and they heard her
The old man made a start toward her, but he fell back in his chair before
she was gone, and, with a fierce, grinding movement of his jaws,
controlled himself. "Take-take those things up," he gasped to Mrs.
Mandel. He seemed unable to rise again from his chair; but when she
asked him if he were unwell, he said no, with an air of offence, and got
quickly to his feet. He mechanically picked up the intaglio ring from
the table while he stood there, and put it on his little finger; his hand
was not much bigger than Christine's. "How do you suppose she found it
out?" he asked, after a moment.
"She seems to have merely suspected it," said Mrs. Mandel, in a tremor,
and with the fright in her eyes which Christine's violence had brought
"Well, it don't make any difference. She had to know, somehow, and now
she knows." He started toward the door of the library, as if to go into
the hall, where his hat and coat hung.
"Mr. Dryfoos," palpitated Mrs. Mandel, "I can't remain here, after the
language your daughter has used to me--I can't let you leave me--I--I'm
afraid of her--"
"Lock yourself up, then," said the old man, rudely. He added, from the
hall before lie went out, "I reckon she'll quiet down now."
He took the Elevated road. The strike seemed a vary far-off thing,
though the paper he bought to look up the stockmarket was full of noisy
typography about yesterday's troubles on the surface lines. Among the
millions in Wall Street there was some joking and some swearing, but not
much thinking, about the six thousand men who had taken such chances in
their attempt to better their condition. Dryfoos heard nothing of the
strike in the lobby of the Stock Exchange, where he spent two or three
hours watching a favorite stock of his go up and go down under the
betting. By the time the Exchange closed it had risen eight points, and
on this and some other investments he was five thousand dollars richer
than he had been in the morning. But he had expected to be richer still,
and he was by no means satisfied with his luck. All through the
excitement of his winning and losing had played the dull, murderous rage
he felt toward they child who had defied him, and when the game was over
and he started home his rage mounted into a sort of frenzy; he would
teach her, he would break her. He walked a long way without thinking,
and then waited for a car. None came, and he hailed a passing coupe.
"What has got all the cars?" he demanded of the driver, who jumped down
from his box to open the door for him and get his direction.
"Been away?" asked the driver. "Hasn't been any car along for a week.
"Oh yes," said Dryfoos. He felt suddenly giddy, and he remained staring
at the driver after he had taken his seat.
The man asked, "Where to?"
Dryfoos could not think of his street or number, and he said, with
uncontrollable fury: "I told you once! Go up to West Eleventh, and drive
along slow on the south side; I'll show you the place."
He could not remember the number of 'Every Other Week' office, where he
suddenly decided to stop before he went home. He wished to see
Fulkerson, and ask him something about Beaton: whether he had been about
lately, and whether he had dropped any hint of what had happened
concerning Christine; Dryfoos believed that Fulkerson was in the fellow's
There was nobody but Conrad in the counting-room, whither Dryfoos
returned after glancing into Fulkerson's empty office. "Where's
Fulkerson?" he asked, sitting down with his hat on.
"He went out a few moments ago," said Conrad, glancing at the clock.
"I'm afraid he isn't coming back again today, if you wanted to see him."
Dryfoos twisted his head sidewise and upward to indicate March's room.
"That other fellow out, too?"
"He went just before Mr. Fulkerson," answered Conrad.
"Do you generally knock off here in the middle of the afternoon ?" asked
the old man.
"No," said Conrad, as patiently as if his father had not been there a
score of times and found the whole staff of Every Other leek at work
between four and five. "Mr. March, you know, always takes a good deal of
his work home with him, and I suppose Mr. Fulkerson went out so early
because there isn't much doing to-day. Perhaps it's the strike that
makes it dull."
"The strike-yes! It's a pretty piece of business to have everything
thrown out because a parcel of lazy hounds want a chance to lay off and
get drunk." Dryfoos seemed to think Conrad would make some answer to
this, but the young man's mild face merely saddened, and he said nothing.
"I've got a coupe out there now that I had to take because I couldn't get
a car. If I had my way I'd have a lot of those vagabonds hung. They're
waiting to get the city into a snarl, and then rob the houses--pack of
dirty, worthless whelps. They ought to call out the militia, and fire
into 'em. Clubbing is too good for them." Conrad was still silent, and
his father sneered, "But I reckon you don't think so."
"I think the strike is useless," said Conrad.
"Oh, you do, do you? Comin' to your senses a little. Gettin' tired
walkin' so much. I should like to know what your gentlemen over there on
the East Side think about the strike, anyway."
The young fellow dropped his eyes. "I am not authorized to speak for
"Oh, indeed! And perhaps you're not authorized to speak for yourself?"
"Father, you know we don't agree about these things. I'd rather not
"But I'm goin' to make you talk this time!" cried Dryfoos, striking the
arm of the chair he sat in with the side of his fist. A maddening
thought of Christine came over him. "As long as you eat my bread, you
have got to do as I say. I won't have my children telling me what I
shall do and sha'n't do, or take on airs of being holier than me. Now,
you just speak up! Do you think those loafers are right, or don't you?
Conrad apparently judged it best to speak. "I think they were very
foolish to strike--at this time, when the Elevated roads can do the
"Oh, at this time, heigh! And I suppose they think over there on the
East Side that it 'd been wise to strike before we got the Elevated."
Conrad again refused to answer, and his father roared, "What do you
"I think a strike is always bad business. It's war; but sometimes there
don't seem any other way for the workingmen to get justice. They say
that sometimes strikes do raise the wages, after a while."
"Those lazy devils were paid enough already," shrieked the old man.
"They got two dollars a day. How much do you think they ought to 'a'
Conrad hesitated, with a beseeching look at his father. But he decided
to answer. "The men say that with partial work, and fines, and other
things, they get sometimes a dollar, and sometimes ninety cents a day."
"They lie, and you know they lie," said his father, rising and coming
toward him. "And what do you think the upshot of it all will be, after
they've ruined business for another week, and made people hire hacks, and
stolen the money of honest men? How is it going to end?"
"They will have to give in."
"Oh, give in, heigh! And what will you say then, I should like to know?
How will you feel about it then? Speak!"
"I shall feel as I do now. I know you don't think that way, and I don't
blame you--or anybody. But if I have got to say how I shall feel, why, I
shall feel sorry they didn't succeed, for I believe they have a righteous
cause, though they go the wrong way to help themselves."
His father came close to him, his eyes blazing, his teeth set. "Do you
dare so say that to me?"
"Yes. I can't help it. I pity them; my whole heart is with those poor
"You impudent puppy!" shouted the old man. He lifted his hand and struck
his son in the face. Conrad caught his hand with his own left, and,
while the blood began to trickle from a wound that Christine's intaglio
ring had made in his temple, he looked at him with a kind of grieving
wonder, and said, "Father!"
The old man wrenched his fist away and ran out of the house. He
remembered his address now, and he gave it as he plunged into the coupe.
He trembled with his evil passion, and glared out of the windows at the
passers as he drove home; he only saw Conrad's mild, grieving, wondering
eyes, and the blood slowly trickling from the wound in his temple.
Conrad went to the neat-set bowl in Fulkerson's comfortable room and
washed the blood away, and kept bathing the wound with the cold water
till it stopped bleeding. The cut was not deep, and he thought he would
not put anything on it. After a while he locked up the office and
started out, be hardly knew where. But he walked on, in the direction he
had taken, till he found himself in Union Square, on the pavement in
front of Brentano's. It seemed to him that he heard some one calling
gently to him, "Mr. Dryfoos!"
Conrad looked confusedly around, and the same voice said again, "Mr.
Dryfoos!" and he saw that it was a lady speaking to him from a coupe
beside the curbing, and then he saw that it was Miss Vance.
She smiled when, he gave signs of having discovered her, and came up to
the door of her carriage. "I am so glad to meet you. I have been
longing to talk to somebody; nobody seems to feel about it as I do. Oh,
isn't it horrible? Must they fail? I saw cars running on all the lines
as I came across; it made me sick at heart. Must those brave fellows
give in? And everybody seems to hate them so--I can't bear it." Her
face was estranged with excitement, and there were traces of tears on it.
"You must think me almost crazy to stop you in the street this way; but
when I caught sight of you I had to speak. I knew you would sympathize--
I knew you would feel as I do. Oh, how can anybody help honoring those
poor men for standing by one another as they do? They are risking all
they have in the world for the sake of justice! Oh, they are true heroes!
They are staking the bread of their wives and children on the dreadful
chance they've taken! But no one seems to understand it. No one seems to
see that they are willing to suffer more now that other poor men may
suffer less hereafter. And those wretched creatures that are coming in
to take their places--those traitors--"
"We can't blame them for wanting to earn a living, Miss Vance," said
"No, no! I don't blame them. Who am I, to do such a thing? It's we
--people like me, of my class--who make the poor betray one another.
But this dreadful fighting--this hideous paper is full of it!" She held
up an extra, crumpled with her nervous reading. "Can't something be done
to stop it? Don't you think that if some one went among them, and tried
to make them see how perfectly hopeless it was to resist the companies
and drive off the new men, he might do some good? I have wanted to go
and try; but I am a woman, and I mustn't! I shouldn't be afraid of the
strikers, but I'm afraid of what people would say!" Conrad kept pressing
his handkerchief to the cut in his temple, which he thought might be
bleeding, and now she noticed this. "Are you hurt, Mr. Dryfoos?
You look so pale."
"No, it's nothing--a little scratch I've got."
"Indeed, you look pale. Have you a carriage? How will you get home?
Will you get in here with me and let me drive you?"
"No, no," said Conrad, smiling at her excitement. "I'm perfectly well--"
"And you don't think I'm foolish and wicked for stopping you here and
talking in this way? But I know you feel as I do!"
"Yes, I feel as you do. You are right--right in every way--I mustn't
keep you--Good-bye." He stepped back to bow, but she put her beautiful
hand out of the window, and when he took it she wrung his hand hard.
"Thank you, thank you! You are good and you are just! But no one can do
anything. It's useless!"
The type of irreproachable coachman on the box whose respectability had
suffered through the strange behavior of his mistress in this interview
drove quickly off at her signal, and Conrad stood a moment looking after
the carriage. His heart was full of joy; it leaped; he thought it would
burst. As he turned to walk away it seemed to him as if he mounted upon
the air. The trust she had shown him, the praise she had given him, that
crush of the hand: he hoped nothing, he formed no idea from it, but it
all filled him with love that cast out the pain and shame he had been
suffering. He believed that he could never be unhappy any more; the
hardness that was in his mind toward his father went out of it; he saw
how sorely he had tried him; he grieved that he had done it, but the
means, the difference of his feeling about the cause of their quarrel,
he was solemnly glad of that since she shared it. He was only sorry for
his father. "Poor father!" he said under his breath as he went along.
He explained to her about his father in his reverie, and she pitied his
He was walking over toward the West Side, aimlessly at first, and then at
times with the longing to do something to save those mistaken men from
themselves forming itself into a purpose. Was not that what she meant
when she bewailed her woman's helplessness? She must have wished him to
try if he, being a man, could not do something; or if she did not, still
he would try, and if she heard of it she would recall what she had said
and would be glad he had understood her so. Thinking of her pleasure in
what he was going to do, he forgot almost what it was; but when he came
to a street-car track he remembered it, and looked up and down to see if
there were any turbulent gathering of men whom he might mingle with and
help to keep from violence. He saw none anywhere; and then suddenly, as
if at the same moment, for in his exalted mood all events had a dream-
like simultaneity, he stood at the corner of an avenue, and in the middle
of it, a little way off, was a street-car, and around the car a tumult of
shouting, cursing, struggling men. The driver was lashing his horses
forward, and a policeman was at their heads, with the conductor, pulling
them; stones, clubs, brickbats hailed upon the car, the horses, the men
trying to move them. The mob closed upon them in a body, and then a
patrol-wagon whirled up from the other side, and a squad of policemen
leaped out and began to club the rioters. Conrad could see how they
struck them under the rims of their hats; the blows on their skulls
sounded as if they had fallen on stone; the rioters ran in all
One of the officers rushed up toward the corner where Conrad stood, and
then he saw at his side a tall, old man, with a long, white beard, who
was calling out at the policemen: "Ah, yes! Glup the strikerss--gif it to
them! Why don't you co and glup the bresidents that insoalt your lawss,
and gick your Boart of Arpidration out-of-toors? Glup the strikerss--
they cot no friendts! They cot no money to pribe you, to dreat you!"
The officer lifted his club, and the old man threw his left arm up to
shield his head. Conrad recognized Zindau, and now he saw the empty
sleeve dangle in the air over the stump of his wrist. He heard a shot in
that turmoil beside the car, and something seemed to strike him in the
breast. He was going to say to the policeman: "Don't strike him! He's
an old soldier! You see he has no hand!" but he could not speak, he
could not move his tongue. The policeman stood there; he saw his face:
it was not bad, not cruel; it was like the face of a statue, fixed,
perdurable--a mere image of irresponsible and involuntary authority.
Then Conrad fell forward, pierced through the heart by that shot fired
from the car.
March heard the shot as he scrambled out of his car, and at the same
moment he saw Lindau drop under the club of the policeman, who left him
where he fell and joined the rest of the squad in pursuing the rioters.
The fighting round the car in the avenue ceased; the driver whipped his
horses into a gallop, and the place was left empty.
March would have liked to run; he thought how his wife had implored him
to keep away from the rioting; but he could not have left Lindau lying
there if he would. Something stronger than his will drew him to the
spot, and there he saw Conrad, dead beside the old man.
In the cares which Mrs. March shared with her husband that night she was
supported partly by principle, but mainly by the, potent excitement which
bewildered Conrad's family and took all reality from what had happened.
It was nearly midnight when the Marches left them and walked away toward
the Elevated station with Fulkerson. Everything had been done, by that
time, that could be done; and Fulkerson was not without that satisfaction
in the business-like despatch of all the details which attends each step
in such an affair and helps to make death tolerable even to the most
sorely stricken. We are creatures of the moment; we live from one little
space to another; and only one interest at a time fills these. Fulkerson
was cheerful when they got into the street, almost gay; and Mrs. March
experienced a rebound from her depression which she felt that she ought
not to have experienced. But she condoned the offence a little in
herself, because her husband remained so constant in his gravity; and,
pending the final accounting he must make her for having been where he
could be of so much use from the first instant of the calamity, she was
tenderly, gratefully proud of all the use he had been to Conrad's family,
and especially his miserable old father. To her mind, March was the
principal actor in the whole affair, and much more important in having
seen it than those who had suffered in it. In fact, he had suffered
"Well, well," said Fulkerson. "They'll get along now. We've done all we
could, and there's nothing left but for them to bear it. Of course it's
awful, but I guess it 'll come out all right. I mean," he added,
"they'll pull through now."
"I suppose," said March, "that nothing is put on us that we can't bear.
But I should think," he went on, musingly, "that when God sees what we
poor finite creatures can bear, hemmed round with this eternal darkness
of death, He must respect us."
"Basil!" said his wife. But in her heart she drew nearer to him for the
words she thought she ought to rebuke him for.
"Oh, I know," he said, "we school ourselves to despise human nature.
But God did not make us despicable, and I say, whatever end He meant us
for, He must have some such thrill of joy in our adequacy to fate as a
father feels when his son shows himself a man. When I think what we can
be if we must, I can't believe the least of us shall finally perish."
"Oh, I reckon the Almighty won't scoop any of us," said Fulkerson, with a
piety of his own.
"That poor boy's father!" sighed Mrs. March. "I can't get his face out
of my sight. He looked so much worse than death."
"Oh, death doesn't look bad," said March. "It's life that looks so in
its presence. Death is peace and pardon. I only wish poor old Lindau
was as well out of it as Conrad there."
"Ah, Lindau! He has done harm enough," said Mrs. March. "I hope he will
be careful after this."
March did not try to defend Lindau against her theory of the case, which
inexorably held him responsible for Conrad's death.
"Lindau's going to come out all right, I guess," said Fulkerson. "He was
first-rate when I saw him at the hospital to-night." He whispered in
March's ear, at a chance he got in mounting the station stairs: "I didn't
like to tell you there at the house, but I guess you'd better know. They
had to take Lindau's arm off near the shoulder. Smashed all to pieces by
In the house, vainly rich and foolishly unfit for them, the bereaved
family whom the Marches had just left lingered together, and tried to get
strength to part for the night. They were all spent with the fatigue
that comes from heaven to such misery as theirs, and they sat in a torpor
in which each waited for the other to move, to speak.
Christine moved, and Mela spoke. Christine rose and went out of the room
without saying a word, and they heard her going up-stairs. Then Mela
"I reckon the rest of us better be goun' too, father. Here, let's git
She put her arm round her mother, to lift her from her chair, but the old
man did not stir, and Mela called Mrs. Mandel from the next room.
Between them they raised her to her feet.
"Ain't there anybody agoin' to set up with it?" she asked, in her hoarse
pipe. "It appears like folks hain't got any feelin's in New York.
Woon't some o' the neighbors come and offer to set up, without waitin' to
"Oh, that's all right, mother. The men 'll attend to that. Don't you
bother any," Mela coaxed, and she kept her arm round her mother, with
"Why, Mely, child! I can't feel right to have it left to hirelin's so.
But there ain't anybody any more to see things done as they ought. If
Coonrod was on'y here--"
"Well, mother, you are pretty mixed!" said Mela, with a strong tendency
to break into her large guffaw. But she checked herself and said:
"I know just how you feel, though. It keeps acomun' and agoun'; and it's
so and it ain't so, all at once; that's the plague of it. Well, father!
Ain't you goun' to come?"
"I'm goin' to stay, Mela," said the old man, gently, without moving.
"Get your mother to bed, that's a good girl."
"You goin' to set up with him, Jacob?" asked the old woman.
"Yes, 'Liz'beth, I'll set up. You go to bed."
"Well, I will, Jacob. And I believe it 'll do you good to set up.
I wished I could set up with you; but I don't seem to have the stren'th
I did when the twins died. I must git my sleep, so's to--I don't like
very well to have you broke of your rest, Jacob, but there don't appear
to be anybody else. You wouldn't have to do it if Coonrod was here.
There I go ag'in! Mercy! mercy!"
"Well, do come along, then, mother," said Mela; and she got her out of
the room, with Mrs. Mandel's help, and up the stairs.
From the top the old woman called down, "You tell Coonrod--" She stopped,
and he heard her groan out, "My Lord! my Lord!"
He sat, one silence in the dining-room, where they had all lingered
together, and in the library beyond the hireling watcher sat, another
silence. The time passed, but neither moved, and the last noise in the
house ceased, so that they heard each other breathe, and the vague,
remote rumor of the city invaded the inner stillness. It grew louder
toward morning, and then Dryfoos knew from the watcher's deeper breathing
that he had fallen into a doze.
He crept by him to the drawing-room, where his son was; the place was
full of the awful sweetness of the flowers that Fulkerson had brought,
and that lay above the pulseless breast. The old man turned up a burner
in the chandelier, and stood looking on the majestic serenity of the dead
He could not move when he saw his wife coming down the stairway in the
hall. She was in her long, white flannel bed gown, and the candle she
carried shook with her nervous tremor. He thought she might be walking
in her sleep, but she said, quite simply, "I woke up, and I couldn't git
to sleep ag'in without comin' to have a look." She stood beside their
dead son with him. "well, he's beautiful, Jacob. He was the prettiest
baby! And he was always good, Coonrod was; I'll say that for him.
I don't believe he ever give me a minute's care in his whole life.
I reckon I liked him about the best of all the children; but I don't know
as I ever done much to show it. But you was always good to him, Jacob;
you always done the best for him, ever since he was a little feller.
I used to be afraid you'd spoil him sometimes in them days; but I guess
you're glad now for every time you didn't cross him. I don't suppose
since the twins died you ever hit him a lick." She stooped and peered
closer at the face. "Why, Jacob, what's that there by his pore eye?"
Dryfoos saw it, too, the wound that he had feared to look for, and that
now seemed to redden on his sight. He broke into a low, wavering cry,
like a child's in despair, like an animal's in terror, like a soul's in
the anguish of remorse.
The evening after the funeral, while the Marches sat together talking it
over, and making approaches, through its shadow, to the question of their
own future, which it involved, they were startled by the twitter of the
electric bell at their apartment door. It was really not so late as the
children's having gone to bed made it seem; but at nine o'clock it was
too late for any probable visitor except Fulkerson. It might be he, and
March was glad to postpone the impending question to his curiosity
concerning the immediate business Fulkerson might have with him. He went
himself to the door, and confronted there a lady deeply veiled in black
and attended by a very decorous serving-woman.
"Are you alone, Mr. March--you and Mrs. March ?" asked the lady, behind
her veil; and, as he hesitated, she said: "You don't know me! Miss
Vance"; and she threw back her veil, showing her face wan and agitated in
the dark folds. "I am very anxious to see you--to speak with you both.
May I come in?"
"Why, certainly, Miss Vance," he answered, still too much stupefied by
her presence to realize it.
She promptly entered, and saying, with a glance at the hall chair by the
door, "My maid can sit here?" followed him to the room where he had left
Mrs. March showed herself more capable of coping with the fact. She
welcomed Miss Vance with the liking they both felt for the girl, and with
the sympathy which her troubled face inspired.
"I won't tire you with excuses for coming, Mrs. March," she said, "for it
was the only thing left for me to do; and I come at my aunt's
suggestion." She added this as if it would help to account for her more
on the conventional plane, and she had the instinctive good taste to
address herself throughout to Mrs. March as much as possible, though what
she had to say was mainly for March. "I don't know how to begin--I don't
know how to speak of this terrible affair. But you know what I mean.
I feel as if I had lived a whole lifetime since it happened. I don't
want you to pity me for it," she said, forestalling a politeness from
Mrs. March. "I'm the last one to be thought of, and you mustn't mind me
if I try to make you. I came to find out all of the truth that I can,
and when I know just what that is I shall know what to do. I have read
the inquest; it's all burned into my brain. But I don't care for that--
for myself: you must let me say such things without minding me. I know
that your husband--that Mr. March was there; I read his testimony; and I
wished to ask him--to ask him--" She stopped and looked distractedly
about. "But what folly! He must have said everything he knew--he had
to." Her eves wandered to him from his wife, on whom she had kept them
with instinctive tact.
"I said everything--yes," he replied. "But if you would like to know--"
"Perhaps I had better tell you something first. I had just parted with
him--it couldn't have been more than half an hour--in front of
Brentano's; he must have gone straight to his death. We were talking,
and I--I said, Why didn't some one go among the strikers and plead with
them to be peaceable, and keep them from attacking the new men. I knew
that he felt as I did about the strikers: that he was their friend. Did
you see--do you know anything that makes you think he had been trying to
"I am sorry," March began, "I didn't see him at all till--till I saw him
"My husband was there purely by accident," Mrs. March put in. "I had
begged and entreated him not to go near the striking anywhere. And he
had just got out of the car, and saw the policeman strike that wretched
Lindau--he's been such an anxiety to me ever since we have had anything
to do with him here; my husband knew him when he was a boy in the West.
Mr. March came home from it all perfectly prostrated; it made us all
sick! Nothing so horrible ever came into our lives before. I assure you
it was the most shocking experience."
Miss Vance listened to her with that look of patience which those who
have seen much of the real suffering of the world--the daily portion of
the poor--have for the nervous woes of comfortable people. March hung
his head; he knew it would be useless to protest that his share of the
calamity was, by comparison, infinitesimally small.
After she had heard Mrs. March to the end even of her repetitions, Miss
Vance said, as if it were a mere matter of course that she should have
looked the affair up, "Yes, I have seen Mr. Lindau at the hospital--"
"My husband goes every day to see him," Mrs. March interrupted, to give.
a final touch to the conception of March's magnanimity throughout.
"The poor man seems to have been in the wrong at the time," said Miss
"I could almost say he had earned the right to be wrong. He's a man of
the most generous instincts, and a high ideal of justice, of equity--too
high to be considered by a policeman with a club in his hand," said
March, with a bold defiance of his wife's different opinion of Lindau.
"It's the policeman's business, I suppose, to club the ideal when he
finds it inciting a riot."
"Oh, I don't blame Mr. Lindau; I don't blame the policeman; he was as
much a mere instrument as his club was. I am only trying to find out how
much I am to blame myself. I had no thought of Mr. Dryfoos's going
there--of his attempting to talk with the strikers and keep them quiet;
I was only thinking, as women do, of what I should try to do if I were a
"But perhaps he understood me to ask him to go--perhaps my words sent him
to his death."
She had a sort of calm in her courage to know the worst truth as to her
responsibility that forbade any wish to flatter her out of it. "I'm
afraid," said March, "that is what can never be known now." After a
moment he added: "But why should you wish to know? If he went there as a
peacemaker, he died in a good cause, in such a way as he would wish to
die, I believe."
"Yes," said the girl; "I have thought of that. But death is awful; we
must not think patiently, forgivingly of sending any one to their death
in the best cause."--"I fancy life was an awful thing to Conrad Dryfoos,"
March replied. "He was thwarted and disappointed, without even pleasing
the ambition that thwarted and disappointed him. That poor old man, his
father, warped him from his simple, lifelong wish to be a minister, and
was trying to make a business man of him. If it will be any consolation
to you to know it, Miss Vance, I can assure you that he was very unhappy,
and I don't see how he could ever have been happy here."
"It won't," said the girl, steadily. "If people are born into this
world, it's because they were meant to live in it. It isn't a question
of being happy here; no one is happy, in that old, selfish way, or can
be; but he could have been of great use."
"Perhaps he was of use in dying. Who knows? He may have been trying to
"Oh, Lindau wasn't worth it!" cried Mrs. March.
Miss Vance looked at her as if she did not quite understand. Then she
turned to March. "He might have been unhappy, as we all are; but I know
that his life here would have had a higher happiness than we wish for or
aim for." The tears began to run silently down her cheeks.
"He looked strangely happy that day when he left me. He had hurt himself
somehow, and his face was bleeding from a scratch; he kept his
handkerchief up; he was pale, but such a light came into his face when he
shook hands--ah, I know he went to try and do what I said!" They were
all silent, while she dried her eyes and then put her handkerchief back
into the pocket from which she had suddenly pulled it, with a series of
vivid, young-ladyish gestures, which struck March by their incongruity
with the occasion of their talk, and yet by their harmony with the rest
of her elegance. "I am sorry, Miss Vance," he began, "that I can't
really tell you anything more--"
"You are very kind," she said, controlling herself and rising quickly.
"I thank you--thank you both very much." She turned to Mrs. March and
shook hands with her and then with him. "I might have known--I did know
that there wasn't anything more for you to tell. But at least I've found
out from you that there was nothing, and now I can begin to bear what I
must. How are those poor creatures--his mother and father, his sisters?
Some day, I hope, I shall be ashamed to have postponed them to the
thought of myself; but I can't pretend to be yet. I could not come to
the funeral; I wanted to."
She addressed her question to Mrs. March, who answered: "I can
understand. But they were pleased with the flowers you sent; people are,
at such times, and they haven't many friends."
"Would you go to see them?" asked the girl. "Would you tell them what
I've told you?"
Mrs. March looked at her husband.
"I don't see what good it would do. They wouldn't understand. But if it
would relieve you--"
"I'll wait till it isn't a question of self-relief," said the girl.
She left them to long debate of the event. At the end Mrs. March said,
"She is a strange being; such a mixture of the society girl and the
Her husband answered: "She's the potentiality of several kinds of
fanatic. She's very unhappy, and I don't see how she's to be happier
about that poor fellow. I shouldn't be surprised if she did inspire him
to attempt something of that kind."
"Well, you got out of it very well, Basil. I admired the way you