Part 2 out of 5
Faith was kneeling by Miss Jennings now and had raised her head to her
lap. There was a quiver of the girl's eyelids. When the wine came at
last she was able to swallow it.
"This is dreadful!" said Mr. Denton, in a tone of genuine distress.
"Here, Mr. Gibson, do all you possibly can for that young woman, and for
Heaven's sake, try to keep this out of the newspapers."
"Can I help you, dear?" said the lady, going over to where Faith sat by
her friend, "or am I merely exhausting the air that the poor child
should be breathing? You were a brave girl to come to her rescue as you
did. If any trouble results from it, be sure and let me know it."
She dropped her card into Faith's lap, and left the place with Mr.
The doctor was just entering and there was no spare room. She had seen
at a glance that Faith could do all that was needed.
A few minutes later Miss Jennings opened her eyes. When she saw Faith
bending over her she smiled very happily.
"You are better, dear, aren't you?" whispered Faith, as she tried to
return the smile.
Miss Jennings shook her head gently. "I am satisfied," was her low
"But I want you to be happy, Mary," cried Faith, who saw death in the
poor girl's face. "Look up, dear; there is One who loves you. Can you
not believe it?"
"I trust it is so," said the dying girl, faintly, "I have not believed,
but I may have been mistaken."
"You were indeed, Mary, but you were not to blame! Poor child, yours
has been a sad lot, but there is happiness coming."
There were stifled sobs from many of the girls who were standing in
frightened groups about the room. The hush upon each lip spoke only too
plainly of death's presence.
"Poor Dick!" sighed Miss Jennings. "If it were not for Dick--"
Dick was the crippled brother who was her only charge.
"I will take him to live with me, Mary," whispered Faith, nobly. "My
mother will love him and so will I--but what is it, dear?"
Miss Jennings was trying to say something more. Her voice was so low
that only Faith could hear it.
"Will He forgive indifference, rebellion, distrust?"
"Though your sins are as scarlet, He shall wash them white, dear Mary.
As we forgive our enemies, so He will forgive us."
The dying girl raised her eyes. Strangely enough their gaze rested upon
the face of Mr. Denton.
He had come back to the scene only a moment before, and for perhaps the
first time in his life, pangs of remorse were seizing him.
"I--forgive--" murmured the poor girl, still gazing at Mr. Denton. Her
eyes closed slowly as she spoke.
With a fearful groan, Mr. Denton fled from the place.
The physician had done what he could, but his efforts were useless.
Another life had gone out at the very dawning of its day; crushed out by
the injustice and the greed of fellow-beings. Faith choked back her sobs
as well as she could, and looked on in amazement at what followed the
tragedy. An undertaker was called and placed in charge of the body, and
the utmost concern seemed to be felt about all the arrangements,
especially by Mr. Gibson, who had been put in charge of the matter by
Faith would not have understood such a sudden "change of heart" if she
had not been enlightened by one of the other women.
"They know it's bound to get into the papers," she whispered, "so they
are making a big bluff, you know. They don't really care about Miss
Faith put on her hat without waiting to hear more; Such hypocrisy as
this completely overcame her.
Miss Fairbanks was not consulted regarding her movements now, for the
young girl quite forgot the rules and regulations of the establishment.
As quick as she could she started to go up-town in search of the humble
rooms where she knew she would find the crippled boy whom she had taken
under her protection.
As she left the store a young man joined her. She gave a sharp glance at
his face. It was Mr. Watkins.
Involuntarily the young girl extended her hand, and in that sympathetic
clasp both knew that their love for the dead girl was mutual, and that
forever after between them would be the firmest friendship.
Mr. Watkins insisted upon accompanying Faith on her errand of mercy, and
as he seemed to need her tender consolation and sympathy, Faith was glad
to allow him to share her mission.
He had heard of his sweetheart's death only through the gossip of the
store, so Faith told him of Mary's calm resignation, and her belief that
she died happy in the faith of a true Christian.
The crippled boy, Dick, was a sweet little fellow of six years, and in
spite of the added expense, Mrs. Marvin was glad to have him with her.
He would give her something to think of, she said, in the long days to
come, when Faith would be away at business. She set about to comfort the
little fellow at once.
Faith was too disturbed to go back to the store that day, and as it was
to be closed the next day on account of the funeral of young Mr. Forbes,
she had time to think over the outlook for the future.
"I am sure Mr. Denton is not a bad man, mother," she said, as they sat
with Mr. Watkins in the little parlor. "His face showed the deepest
agony. I am sure he has a heart. Oh, if only I could reach it, perhaps
things would be different."
"But you say that lady, the Government Inspector, was with him at the
time. His distress may have been feigned," answered her mother,
"I don't think so, mother, for there were tears in his eyes. I think he
is merely neglectful. He leaves the consideration for employees entirely
to his partners."
"Many business men are that way," remarked her mother, after a minute.
"They are so concerned about their financial matters that they ignore
what is more sacred--their duty toward their fellow-beings. By the way,
I have just read of two more failures, one a shoe store and the other a
grocery store, and both because of the department store evil! How can
small dealers, with only a few hundred dollars behind them, expect to
compete with firms whose capitals reach the millions? They are only the
poor little fishes in the sea, while the department stores are sharks,
sharp-toothed monsters of destruction!"
"I have heard of one department store in Philadelphia, I think, where
the proprietor gave situations to a lot of men after he had bought them
out or completely ruined their business. That is better than nothing,"
said Mr. Watkins thoughtfully.
"It is the only recompense possible in such an unjust transaction."
"They do not think it unjust; they call it simply business,'" said Faith
bitterly. "The one who sells the most goods is considered the smartest.
It is a case where might makes right--the survival of the fittest."
"In other words," replied Mrs. Marvin, "a rich corporation justifies its
methods on the grounds that it has a right to transact business on a
scale corresponding to its pecuniary ability--there is no question of
morality involved. Every man for himself, and the devil take the
hindmost. Yet there are people who believe that there is no future
punishment for these malefactors."
"God will punish them according to His judgment, mother. It may be here
and it may be hereafter. We have nothing to do with their wrongdoing. We
must suffer and be brave--that is our duty and our mission."
"And do you see no injustice in that?" cried Mr. Watkins sharply.
"Was it right that poor Mary should be born to poverty and disease and
wear her young life out in agony, while so many of the wicked are
flourishing? Oh, I have tried not to question or even to think, but the
promise of salvation grows daily more dull in my ears. I doubt the mercy
of God and I cannot help it!"
A COMPLICATION OF TROUBLES.
Faith could think of no words then to comfort Mr. Watkins. His grief was
too poignant. She changed the subject.
When he left the house to go home, she put on her hat. There was
something she wished to say to him that she could not say before her
mother. There was an errand at the grocery that gave her an excuse, and
as the hour was not late, Faith welcomed the opportunity.
As soon as they were in the street she told him her experience with the
store detective and asked his advice in case she should be annoyed in
Before the words were fairly out of her mouth she wished she had not
spoken. There was confusion and shame upon her companion's face, and his
lips trembled strangely when he tried to answer her.
For a moment Faith could hardly believe her senses. She stared at him
stupidly, while her limbs trembled beneath her.
Instantly a suspicion darted through her brain. She remembered that he,
too, had been in the superintendent's office that evening, and that it
was possible, even probable, that he knew something about the money.
"Oh, Miss Marvin, this is dreadful!" he managed to say at last. "I did
not dream that they would settle upon you! I thought, that is, I hoped,
that they had dropped the matter!"
"Then you knew of it," said Faith, her voice sounding faint and far
"I knew it, yes," said Mr. Watkins. "In fact, I was sent by Mr. Forbes
to stop you, but you had gotten out of the building."
"Is it possible?"
Faith was coming back to her senses now.
"Tell me all you know of the matter, Mr. Watkins," she said, sternly,
"and tell me the exact truth. Don't attempt to hide anything!"
Mr. Watkins controlled himself and told her the whole story--how the
superintendent had suspected her of stealing the money and sent to have
her brought back at once and had been disappointed.
"An hour later," he continued, "he got a telegram from his wife. His son
was dying and he had to go home. Since then there had nothing been done
about the robbery."
Faith drew a long breath after the young man finished.
"So appearances are against me," she said, with a sigh. "I am at the
mercy of a rascal like that detective, Hardy."
Mr. Watkins said nothing, but he was as pale as death. When he tried to
comfort her the words nearly choked him.
Faith saw it and pitied him even while she wondered. A few moments later
she bade him a cordial "good-night." If there was any suspicion in her
heart it did not show in her manner.
She was walking slowly home from the grocery, plunged in the most
serious thought, when a well-dressed man of middle age appeared suddenly
"I beg pardon, miss," he said, raising his hat, "but I am a stranger in
this neighborhood and am looking for a certain number. If you live about
here perhaps you will kindly direct me."
"I will, with pleasure, sir. What number do you wish?" asked Faith.
As she spoke she paused directly in the glare of a gas lamp.
As the light fell on her face the stranger stopped abruptly.
"By Jove! What luck!" he cried, gayly. "The very angel I was thinking
"What do you mean, sir!" cried Faith, who was now thoroughly frightened.
"If you wish me to direct you, state the number that you seek at once! I
am not in the habit of being addressed by strangers!"
"My dear child, don't get angry. I shall not harm you," said the man,
politely, "but you surprised me out of myself. I did not dream of
As Faith still stood staring at him he continued, speaking hurriedly,
and his manner became so chivalrous that the young girl soon accused
herself mentally of rudeness.
"You see, it is this way, miss. I was thinking of the sweetest little
girl in the whole big world, and when I saw your face you were so much
like her that to save my soul I could not help that exclamation. You
will pardon me, I am sure, for I meant no harm whatever! I am old enough
to be your father, so you see you have no reason to fear me."
"I spoke hastily," said Faith, slowly. "I had no wish to be rude, but
you must admit that I had cause to feel a little startled."
"You did, indeed, and I apologize humbly, but am I not right in thinking
that I have seen you somewhere before? Are you not employed in the
department store of Denton, Day & Co.?"
Faith looked at him in surprise.
"I have worked there two days," she began, a little hastily.
"And I have seen you twice," replied the stranger, promptly. "Your face
is a sweet one. I could not forget it."
The words were spoken so quietly that Faith could not resent them. She
was moving slowly toward her home now, feeling a little bit nervous.
"That is a dreadful life for a girl," went on the man, very quietly. "It
is agony for the poor things, both of mind and body!"
"You are right, sir," cried Faith, who had thought instantly of Miss
Jennings. "The shop girls' life is one continuous drudgery. She is the
slave of circumstances and the victim of conditions."
"I am surprised that so many enter the life. There are surely other
vocations. They choose the hardest one possible."
"But do they choose?" asked Faith, who had become interested in spite,
of herself. "Are they not driven this way or that, according to their
opportunities? In my case there was no choice. I had tried everything
else. Hard as it is, I am thankful for my present employment."
The man looked at her sharply. There was genuine sympathy in his face.
Almost involuntarily he broke out in violent sentences.
"You girls are to blame in great measure for all this, and where the
fault is not yours it lies with your parents! Instead of cultivating
your graces you bedraggle them with labor! Instead of marketing your
smiles you trade in blood and sinew! Every day in that store means a
year off of your life; every anxious moment means an inroad into your
rightful happiness! Why will you not see the folly of your ways? Why can
you not understand that it is a false morality which is killing you?
Why, if I were a girl"--his voice had dropped to the most persuasive
cadence--"I should value my beauty too highly to hide it behind a
counter, and my subsistence should be the boundless reward of affection,
rather than the niggardly recompense for wasted tissues! Of course, I
shock you, because you have done no thinking for yourself. A lot of
narrow souled ancestors have done thinking for you. They have brought
you here to let you shift for yourself, but woe to you if you offend one
of their petty notions of honor. See, child! I have money, I have
constant ease. Could you blame me for offering to share it with youth
As he breathed these words he gazed at Faith eagerly. The soul in the
man had vanished. He was dangerously in earnest.
The thrill that flowed through Faith's veins as he spoke was not of
fear, for, child that she was, she understood his meaning, and his words
stirred the deepest channels of her soul--she was more grieved than
shocked at the man's distorted reasoning.
"You are all wrong," she said, sadly. "You cannot understand! There are
some things more precious than gold to us, more precious even than
comfort or affection. Not for the world would I lose this 'something'
which I possess! It is the haven of my soul at the hour of every trial.
It is the one solace of my life in the desperate condition that I have
reached. You, a man of years, should not argue so wrongfully. It is
wicked to place temptations before the young and wretched."
She had regained her composure as she finished speaking, and a tinge of
righteous indignation made her voice vibrate strangely.
"Is it wrong to do good?" asked the man, a trifle sullenly. "Surely
comfort, ease, health are the best a man can offer. Nature did not
create you girls for a life of toil. You were made for love, for homage
and adoration. Yet when one offers you these you turn to your nameless
'something' and, like the martyrs of old, suffer torture and death
rather than accept what is your due. It is incomprehensible, truly!"
"Hush! Your words are an insult! I will not hear them. It is true that
my knowledge of the world is limited, but this much I know: the God of
righteousness has placed me here for a purpose, and that purpose is not
to play the coward in time of trouble or to prove traitor to the
highest, holiest instincts which permeate my being! Working girl I am
and may always be, but my lot is a queen's beside what you suggest! God
pity the poor women who have not the wisdom to see it."
She was standing before him now like a beautiful statue, one arm
uplifted to emphasize her utterances.
"My God! You are superb! Magnificent!" muttered the man involuntarily.
"I would give my life to be worthy of such a woman!"
Faith's arm dropped suddenly, and she drew away with a gasp. There was a
look in the man's face that frightened her for a moment.
"You have taught me a lesson," he said, almost hoarsely. "I thank you,
child, and I bid you good-evening."
"But the number," cried Faith, as he was turning away. "You wished me to
direct you to a certain number."
"Never mind it now. I can find it," was the answer.
He was walking swiftly away in the darkness of the street, when a figure
approached him from the opposite direction.
The two met directly under the gas lamp where Faith had been standing a
moment before, and as they met Faith heard a sharp exclamation.
Her sharp eyes recognized the newcomer at once. It was no other than Bob
Hardy, the store detective.
A HEAVENLY INSPECTOR.
When Faith Marvin reached home after her unpleasant interview with the
well-dressed stranger, she was in a state of nervousness that nearly
bordered upon hysterics. The fact that Bob Hardy was a witness to what
she had supposed was a mere accidental meeting gave her an instinctive
clue to the identity of the man, and her cheeks flushed with shame as
she connected him in her thoughts with that insulting proposition of the
She had tried to compose herself, as usual, before going into her
mother's presence, and succeeded so well that when they retired Mrs.
Marvin had no suspicion of the interview. Neither did Faith acquaint her
with the extraordinary suspicions against Mr. Watkins, which she now
felt ashamed to think she had harbored for a second.
She was much troubled in mind about the latter, for while she felt in
her heart that Mr. Watkins was innocent she could not help thinking that
he, too, was shielding a thief. She wondered if it was because he felt
the same on the subject as had his sweetheart, Miss Jennings. She said
her prayers quietly and felt more tranquil after. There was a balm in
religion for her trusting heart, which she begged with all her soul to
share with others.
It was during this hour that she thought of Mr. Forbes, whom she knew
was to bury his only son on the morrow. Suddenly the thought flitted
through her head that perhaps employees were somewhat to blame for not
expressing more sympathy for their employers in all serious matters.
"Perhaps they think us as heartless as we think them," she whispered to
herself; then the impulse came over her to write Mr. Forbes a letter.
She rose quietly, so as not to wake her mother, and penned him the note.
It came straight from her heart. She told him she was sorry for his
sorrow. Early the next morning she went out and mailed it. Little Dick
went with her, hobbling along on clumsy crutches. The child had fallen
in love with her at once, and, although he often cried for his sister,
Faith could always cheer him and change his tears to laughter.
Late in the afternoon she rode down to the undertaker's. She had not
become reconciled yet to parting with Miss Jennings.
As she reached the door two women were just leaving; they were Miss
Fairbanks, the buyer, and Maggie Brady. Faith was startled for a minute,
for she could not understand their interest. Neither one of them had
ever shown the faintest liking for the dead girl, but now she noticed
with surprise that they had both been crying. "Truly, every cloud has a
silver lining," she murmured to herself, "and who knows but what this is
the first glimpse of the lining! Oh, I do hope it will soon show itself
to poor Mr. Watkins."
The two women had passed her with a mere nod of the head. She opened the
door of the establishment and confronted Mr. Watkins.
"Oh, what is it?" she cried, involuntarily, as she saw his face. "Don't,
dear Mr. Watkins; don't take it so badly."
Mr. Watkins put his hand on her arm as she spoke. He was so faint and
weak that he seemed obliged to lean on something.
"I--I have explained that matter about the money," he whispered,
hoarsely. "Hardy will not annoy you any longer. The thief has been
He looked so wretched that the tears sprang to Faith's eyes.
"I am glad it is explained," she answered, hastily, "but you are ill,
Mr. Watkins. You should go home this minute."
"Home--home!" repeated Mr. Watkins in a vacant manner.
Then with a fearful groan of agony he collapsed completely. As he fell
to the floor several of the undertaker's clerks rushed forward and
lifted him up.
"Another victim of conditions, of greed and avarice," said a voice in
She turned quickly and recognized Miss Alma Dean, the woman inspector,
whose card she had in her pocket.
Without waiting for Faith to answer, the lady went on speaking. The men
were laying Mr. Watkins on a sofa not twenty feet away from the body of
his dead sweetheart.
"That poor fellow was a picture of health two years ago, before he
entered the employ of Denton, Day & Co. I know his mother well; she is a
lovely woman, and he has a younger brother who is also in that store,
and liable to follow in this poor chap's footsteps. I just came in to
look at that poor girl. I want to stamp her face indelibly upon my
memory. Thank fortune I am in a position to remedy some of the evils in
this world. As Government Inspector I can do considerable, but I must
learn the length and breadth of the evil before I am fit to attack it."
Faith listened breathlessly to every word. The proprietor of the place
was also listening, and as she finished, he nodded his head as though he
quite agreed with her.
Mr. Watkins was rapidly reviving under the kind care bestowed upon him,
but before he was fairly alive to his surroundings Miss Dean took
Faith's hand and led her out on to the sidewalk.
"They will take him home--they are very kind people," said the lady,
sadly, "but now, dear, you and I are confronted with a problem. How are
we to prevent the repetition of this horror?"
As Miss Dean asked the question she did not really seem to expect an
answer from Faith; it was more like a spoken expression of thoughts that
were vexing her, made to one whom she knew was thoroughly sympathetic.
"This is the saddest demonstration of injustice that I have ever
witnessed," she went on, slowly, "yet I know it is mild in comparison
with others. It lacks the hideousness of exposure, so far as you see. We
only know that one more crime has been added to the list, yet the
details of that crime have been carefully spared us."
Faith knew that she referred to poor Mary's death, but she could find
no words with which to manifest the depth of her sorrow.
"The fear of the law is our only hope, I guess," went on Miss Dean.
"They must be forced to comply with certain regulations. Many of the
stores are doing so, under no compulsion whatever, but these people seem
deaf to everything but the jingle of their dollars."
"But the law cannot change their hearts," muttered Faith, at last, "so
the cure that it effects must of necessity be superficial. Oh, if only
the fear of the Lord could be instilled into their system. If they could
only be made to feel that to Him they are accountable!" She spoke with
enthusiasm, her eyes and cheeks brightening.
"You are a good ally," said Miss Dean, watching her, "but, my dear, the
day of miracles is ended."
"But with God all things are possible! It would be no miracle for Him! I
did not mean to infer that I or any human being could reach their
hearts, still our words and our prayers, are they not noble weapons?"
"I am not so sure," said the inspector, gravely. "I think, dear, I am
better fitted to experiment on a purely worldly basis. For instance, I
have already reported the condition of that cloak-room, the drainage,
ventilation and unsuitable location. Then I have mentioned the
inadequate fire appliances in the building as well as the long hours you
girls are obliged to stand and the short time which you are allowed for
luncheon. I think that several of these matters will be changed at once,
but there are others which will take longer or which may never be
"It will make them very angry, will it not, when they hear of your
report? And the alterations will be expensive, especially when it comes
to altering the cloak-room."
"Oh, well, we inspectors cannot worry over any personal feelings, my
dear. Our duty is to make right all wrong conditions. We are to look
after the health of people, not their money. The only question is how to
do this in the quickest possible manner."
Faith glanced at her sharply. She was a handsome woman. There was a
resolution in her face that commanded instant admiration.
"I am glad to have seen you to-day," Miss Dean said as they reached the
corner. "I find my sympathies are more and more enlisted through
acquaintance with you girls. Why, I feel that I would like your
employers to spend millions in making your labors a little lighter."
She smiled pleasantly as she spoke and offered Faith her hand.
"Good-by, dear," she said brightly, "there's a good time coming."
Faith watched her as she boarded a car--she was so ambitious, so full of
vigor and so nobly intentioned.
"If she were only an inspector sent from God, now," she whispered, then
a tremor shot over her frame at such a wonderful suggestion.
"Why should I not be an inspector sent from God," she murmured, "to seek
out the dark places and let in the light? If it is only a candle flame
it will help a little."
She turned abstractedly, almost dazed by her thoughts.
The next instant she was brought almost rudely to her senses. Some one
had called her by name. She turned and faced young Denton.
MR. FORBES TALKS ON RELIGION.
About two hours before the meeting of Faith and young Denton, Duncan
Forbes returned from burying his son, and sat down disconsolately in the
library of his handsome residence.
Although only the junior partner in the firm of Denton, Day & Co., still
his interest, together with his salary as superintendent of the
establishment, brought him in every year a princely income.
Then there were other investments of a varied nature, all of which had
proven more than ordinarily successful, yet now in his hour of sorrow he
could feel no atom of thankfulness, and every hour of his busy life
seemed to him to have been wasted.
As he sat staring at the fire he could hardly restrain his feelings, for
the words "God will punish you" were ringing in his ears even more
clearly now than when he first heard them.
He tried to go over the incidents of that morning when a poor applicant
in his office had wrought such havoc with his conscience.
He remembered the five hundred dollars of which he had been robbed, and
he also recalled vaguely the conversation he had with a woman inspector
in the store immediately after. Then came the message regarding his
son's condition, then the death chamber, the grave, and now--desolation.
The door opened softly and a servant entered. She bore a tray upon which
were laid a number of letters.
After she had gone Mr. Forbes rose and looked them over. He did so
listlessly. He had no heart for business.
The first three were business letters, referred to him by the firm with
a brief note, stating their importance as an apology for the intrusion.
The next two letters were letters of condolence from members of his
church. The last was a cheap envelope, neatly sealed and addressed
This last he turned over and over between his fingers. There was a vague
thought in his brain to which he could give neither shape nor utterance.
Could it be possible? He asked the question and then sneered in answer.
The thing was incredible, that he, Duncan Forbes, tyrant and
slave-driver, should be remembered by his victims, yet the envelope was
redolent of sympathetic surprises.
He tore it open finally and glanced at the words. For just a moment the
flame of appreciation sprang up within him.
The note was from Faith Marvin, the new packer whom he had employed. She
was "sorry for him," she said, "in this hour of his affliction."
He laid it down with a sigh that ended in a groan. His brow darkened as
he looked at it. He was aroused and puzzled. The door opened again and
his pastor entered. He came unannounced and in a shrinking manner.
Mr. Forbes turned toward him indifferently and held out his hand. He
realized that this call was obligatory. He had been paying for it
As the two men sat down the minister coughed a little, then he folded
his hands meekly--his host knew what was coming.
"I trust that you have become reconciled to this separation, dear
Brother Forbes," he began solemnly, "and that you can say in your heart
'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the
Duncan Forbes did not answer for the space of a minute, during which
time his pastor watched him furtively from under his eyebrows.
"My son was my all," he muttered finally. "It is for his sake alone that
I have lived and labored--that by the sweat of my brow I have
accumulated my fortune."
The minister sighed with unaffected sympathy.
"Yet God in His mercy has taken him from you. He who seeth the end from
the beginning knew what was best, dear brother, for your soul's
"But of what use is my life now?" questioned Mr. Forbes sharply. "I am a
broken reed with no ambition to lean upon. A man whose heart has been
plucked by its roots from my body. Is there anything in our religion
which can solace me, do you think? Is there a recompense for the
sufferings of a heartbroken father?"
"There is balm for every wound, Brother Forbes, if we seek it. Others
have suffered your loss and been able to find it."
Duncan Forbes sat back in his chair and stared straight before him. The
words had brought to his mind unpleasant visions.
In an instant he was back in his store again, where scores of
pale-faced, hollow-eyed youths and maidens were moving about. They all
had mothers and fathers or some one who loved them, yet, unlike his
Jack, they were weighed down by poverty, the millstone of disease was
about their necks, and he, Duncan Forbes, was relentlessly grinding the
very spirit out of their frail bodies.
He shuddered involuntarily and that brought him back to his senses.
"Religion! what is it?" he asked unpleasantly. "Has it any practical
value in the lives of mortals? I have been a church member for forty
years, paying my dues in accordance with the terms of that institution
and shirking none of its responsibilities. Now, at the hour of sorrow, I
find myself facing my grief alone; there is no power in the church that
can help me to bear it. What is religion, I say? Is it a mere mummery of
speech? I have been religious all my life; now I find nothing in it!"
"The fault is in you," said his caller, gravely.
Both men had risen and stood facing each other.
"You have been too occupied with other things, brother--too busy, you
might say, with worldly matters to search for the spirit that pervades
what you call 'mummery.' Surely in your love for Jack you appreciate
something of the love of Christ for man; in your dealings with men and
women you can realize His interest in humanity, and through your wealth
you have the power to reap a harvest of good, yet how have you improved
Mr. Forbes looked surprised, as well he might. They were the first words
of a personal application of belief that his ears had listened to since
he could remember.
"But religion has no part in worldly affairs," he said sullenly. "To be
born for heaven is to be lost for earth; surely we should take each
condition in the order that it comes--wealth, position first; prayer and
praise hereafter; earth for the body and heaven for the soul; goods and
chattels now, faith our stock in trade for the future. This is
practical, is it not? This is good, sound reasoning. You are a minister
of the Gospel, yet you can't deny it!"
"I can and do!" cried the minister bravely. "A belief that does not
shape the life of the believer is not religion! Faith that does not
light the path of the present is not the inspiration of Heaven! The
Spirit of Christ is an ever-present reagent, neutralizing every rancor
of human strife and blending all grief into harmonious concord. Every
human act should be weighed in the balance of a man's belief. If he
sacrifice divine faith to worldly ambition, he is in need of the
chastening rod, and God will surely punish him!"
"You do not preach that from your pulpit, Dr. Villard," he said slowly,
"and there is hardly a man in your congregation who does not need it."
Dr. Villard's thin face turned to a sickly pallor. It was a just
retribution. He accepted it meekly.
"We ministers are but human," he began, softly.
There was a rap on the door. It came as a welcome interruption.
When Mr. Forbes opened the door he saw his assistant, Mr. Watkins. The
young man's face was the color of a corpse, and his hollow eyes were red
"I must see you, if only for a minute, sir," he said hastily, then as he
caught sight of the visitor a flush spread over his features.
True to his nature, Duncan Forbes scowled heavily for a moment. He
would have sent Mr. Watkins away if his guest had not prevented it.
"As you would be done by, Brother Forbes," he whispered quickly.
The next moment he was gone and Mr. Watkins had entered.
A PLAIN TRUTH FROM MR. WATKINS.
Duncan Forbes roused himself to hear his second visitor's errand. He
knew that it must be something important, yet he felt bored and
Business matters were far from his thoughts to-day, yet for forty years
they had consumed his entire attention.
Mr. Watkins seemed to be struggling for words--he looked pained and
embarrassed. He shifted his hat from one hand to the other, and his thin
face reddened and paled alternately.
For the first time in his life Duncan Forbes looked upon his assistant
as another man's son--the loved and loving child of another father. It
was a queer sensation; he could not get used to it; then came a memory
of Jack, and his emotion conquered for the moment.
"You are excited, Watkins; sit down," he said huskily. "Something else
has gone wrong at the store, I suppose. Well, let it go; it can wait
"No, sir, it can't wait!" blurted out Mr. Watkins. "If it could I should
not have come, knowing as I did of your dreadful sorrow!"
Again the thrill of surprise shook the man's every fibre. Another of his
victims had remembered that it was his day of grief, and the very tones
spoke of sympathy for his affliction.
"Well, then, what is it?" He spoke with some of his old sternness.
"Speak out, Watkins; you know my habits. I always expect promptness in
"But this is purely personal, sir!" answered Mr. Watkins, sadly. "I have
come to see you about that five hundred dollars that was taken from your
desk last Monday morning."
"What of it?" asked Mr. Forbes with much of his old interest returning.
He had been too long a slave to money to loose the bondage immediately.
Mr. Watkins was trembling now so that he could hardly speak. In his
weak condition of health the recent deluge of trouble was telling upon
"She took it, I suppose, that girl that I employed that morning," said
Mr. Forbes, trying to hurry matters. "Has anything been done? I told
Hardy to look after it."
He picked up Faith's letter again and glanced at it absently. When he
saw the name he dropped it as if it had stung him.
A great wave of color purpled his heavy face, and instantly he was the
same old tyrant, raging furiously at the creatures whom fate had made
"See here, Watkins! Here's her letter! Can you believe such deceit! She
not only cursed me that morning with her religious cant, but she stole
my money as well; now she mocks my sorrow with a letter like that--she
is 'sorry' for me! Do you hear, Watkins? She is 'sorry!'"
The great veins were standing out like cords upon his forehead, and he
began pacing the floor in a perfect frenzy of anger.
"Tell Hardy to arrest her and have her locked up at once! I'll make an
example of her before the whole store! The idea of her daring to write
me a letter!"
"But, Mr. Forbes, please listen!" cried Mr. Watkins at last. This
injustice to Faith had brought him to his senses. "It was not Miss
Marvin who stole the money! She is a good girl, sir, the best I ever
knew, and she is sorry for you, sir; if she wasn't she would not say
"But the money!" roared Mr. Forbes. "Who took the money? If it wasn't
the girl, why didn't you say so?"
"I couldn't, sir, at first, but I will say it now; but for pity's sake
be merciful, sir. The thief was my own poor brother!"
"What! the boy who tends door?" asked Mr. Forbes in great astonishment.
"Yes, sir; poor Sam took it! He stole it for our mother!"
Mr. Forbes stared at him some time before he spoke again.
"And the girl," he asked finally. "Has Hardy been following her?"
"He has indeed," said Mr. Watkins quickly, "but I dare not report his
actions; I have no proofs to offer. Hardy would doubtless deny all that
she could say of him, for a girl is helpless in the hands of a villain
"I have found him a good detective," said Mr. Forbes, slowly, "but if
you knew who took the money why didn't you tell him?"
"How could I, sir?"
Mr. Watkins had begun to tremble again.
"The knowledge of his sin is already killing my mother; if it becomes
public she will die. I was waiting for you to come back to business."
"Well, the boy must be punished!" said Mr, Forbes decidedly. "I cannot
be accountable for what may follow."
"Do you mean that you will arrest my brother?" cried Mr. Watkins, "when
you know that by doing so you will blast his character forever and drive
a poor woman to her grave who has never wronged you?"
"The boy should have thought of that," answered Mr. Forbes, grimly. "I
deal with my employees, not with their futures or their mothers."
"But if I return the money! See, I have a part of it here!"
Mr. Watkins almost cried with agony as he held out two hundred dollars.
Mr. Forbes took the money and counted it carefully.
"Let's see, Watkins, your salary is twelve dollars a week," he said
slowly. "If I deduct five dollars a week to cover the balance of this,
it will be just sixty weeks before I could get my money."
"If I could only find the rest," said Mr. Watkins, groaning; "but Sam
says he lost it, and I think he tells the truth. If he hadn't lost it he
would have given it all to mother."
Mr. Forbes was drumming lightly on a table by his side. It was evident
that two emotions were struggling within him.
"Here is the evening paper, sir," said a maid at the door.
Mr. Watkins moved automatically and handed it to his employer.
"Hey! What is this! A death at our store yesterday, Watkins?"
Mr. Forbes had caught sight of a headline half across the paper.
Mr. Watkins bowed; he could not speak. His employer opened the paper and
scanned it hastily.
"Ah! That's right! That's right! Gibson is a clever man! He makes the
thing sound right before the public! Denton, Day & Co. will pay for Miss
Jennings' funeral, yet they say there is no heart, soul nor conscience
in a big corporation!"
He almost laughed as he ran his eye down the columns of the paper, and
for a moment his manner became almost confidential.
"That's one of the tricks of our trade, Watkins," he said with a
chuckle. "We cater to the weaknesses and foibles of the public, and
there's nothing that appeals to them like a report of generosity. Of
course, they never stop to think that the poor creatures are much better
off dead than alive, and that they really have no hold on the sympathies
of others. It's a fad among rich people to weep over the poor! Some of
them will probably send flowers to the funeral of that woman, and think
themselves angels of light for doing it! I tell you, religion is a trade
mark in all lines of business, and I've decided in the last few days
that that's about all it's good for!"
He laid the paper down with a smile of satisfaction, then turned toward
Mr. Watkins to resume the former conversation.
But a look at the young man's face checked the words upon his lips. The
scorn in those hollow eyes burned even through his callous nature.
For a moment he saw himself much as his assistant saw him, a man whose
greed of gold never reached its limit, even though lives were sacrificed
in his service.
He could not speak although he tried to repeatedly, for the glare of his
assistant's eye transfixed him like a magnet.
With one hand upon the door, Mr. Watkins paused to answer:
"The papers don't know it all, Mr. Forbes," he whispered shrilly; "or,
if they do, they don't dare to tell what they know. If they did they
would add that it was the least you could do--to pay for her funeral
after your firm has killed her!"
FAITH'S TALK WITH YOUNG DENTON.
"Miss Marvin, I beg that you will excuse this intrusion," said James
Denton as he joined her on the street after her call at the
undertaker's, "but there is something I wish very particularly to say to
you; it is something regarding that poor girl, Miss Jennings."
He had raised his hat politely and stood regarding the young girl in a
most courteous manner. As Faith studied his face she could see that he
meant no disrespect, but was painfully in earnest.
"I shall be glad to hear anything that you have to say about poor Mary,"
she answered sadly, "for she was my very dear friend, although our
acquaintance was a brief one."
"Let us walk a little, Miss Marvin, please. I can talk better when I'm
walking. The fact is, I'm horribly upset, and I don't know why I should
Faith looked at him sharply. He had removed his hat again and was
passing his hand over his brow in a thoughtful manner.
She discovered in that glance that he was a remarkably handsome fellow,
for youth, even in its hour of sorrow, cannot help being attracted to
all that is gracious and beautiful.
His eyes would have been fine had their glance been a little more
steady, but he shifted his gaze constantly, like one who possesses an
"What I have to say is this," he began very bluntly. "I think the firm
should arrange to let all you girls attend the funeral of Miss Jennings,
and I don't exactly know how to go to work to get them to do it."
"Oh, what a lovely idea!" exclaimed Faith, impulsively, "and it is so
kind of you think of it, Mr. Denton," she added.
The young man blushed a little at her enthusiastic words, but went on
talking as calmly as possible.
"I've been doing a little thinking since Miss Jennings died; I don't
know why, for the death of a clerk doesn't usually affect me."
"Perhaps it was because it occurred in the store," suggested Faith,
gently. "You have probably not known the details of any other such sad
"That is doubtless it," said Mr. Denton promptly, "but another thing is
this: I knew Mr. Watkins before he went to work for my father. His folks
used to be rich, you know, and Fred was always a good fellow. He was in
love with the girl, and I can't help feeling sorry for him, though, as I
said before, I don't quite understand why I'm interested."
"Poor fellow! He needs all our sympathy," cried Faith. "He is lying at
the undertaker's now in a terrible condition!"
"Is that so!" exclaimed Mr. Denton. "Why, I met him not more than an
hour ago; he was just coming from Mr. Forbes, the superintendent. His
face was positively ghastly when I saw him. No doubt old Forbes had been
giving him the devil!"
"Surely not at this time!" cried Faith in dismay. "He could not be so
cruel--so utterly heartless!"
"Forbes has no heart; he is a machine!" said young Denton. "He is simply
a human octopus for pulling in money. Not that I object to money," he
added, with a laugh, "but I hate to see men make it through such inhuman
Faith was utterly astonished at the young man's words. She had been led
to believe that he was a thoroughly unscrupulous person, but here he was
expressing her own sentiments exactly.
In an instant the young man noticed her look of surprise.
"You are puzzled," he said quickly. "You thought I was nothing but a
brainless young scamp! No doubt you have heard my character from the
girls in your department!"
"Oh, no!" said Faith quickly. "I have not heard that, indeed! But you
will pardon me, Mr. Denton, I did think you were unprincipled, else why
should you come in the store and try to make fools of all the young
"Not all of them, only the prettiest!" laughed young Denton, gayly.
"Surely a man can flirt a little without doing any harm, and the girls
all like it--why shouldn't they, Miss Marvin?"
"But do you ever think what this flirting means?" persisted Faith, who
had lost all her timidity and was plunging into the subject in earnest.
"It means a good time and a lot of money spent," said the young fellow,
still laughing. "But why not spend it on the girls? Don't they help the
governor to make it?"
"Oh, Mr. Denton!" cried Faith, who was now thoroughly shocked. "Is it
possible that you are speaking now of your own father?"
"I certainly was," was the unabashed answer. "I did not mean to be
disrespectful; that is only a habit."
"A very bad habit," said Faith, reprovingly, "but to return to the
subject of poor Mary's funeral. Do you think if we asked for a day we
would get it? You know, the store is closed to-day; they might not like
to lose another."
"Of course, they wouldn't like it, but that don't make any difference,"
said young Denton, grandly. "What was Jack Forbes's funeral to you
clerks, anyway? The closing to-day was only a bluff--one of the bluffs
that all stores put up to keep the good opinion of the public. Now, this
affair is entirely different. This girl was one of you, and you ought to
be allowed to attend her funeral!"
"Have you spoken to your father?" asked Faith, after a minute.
"Not yet, but I'm going to. Now this is my plan: You get up a petition
and get the clerks to sign it and then you go yourself to old Forbes
to-morrow. He'll be worse than a brute if he dares to refuse you!
Meanwhile I'll see my father at home to-night. He's a little soft on me
yet, even if he is a hard-headed old sinner!"
"Oh, Mr. Denton, don't say such things!" cried Faith, "I will never talk
to you again if you persist in speaking so of your father!"
The young man threw back his head and had a hearty laugh.
"You're the most innocent little kitten I ever saw," he said softly;
"it's a deuced shame that you have to work for a living!"
Faith's eyes blazed angrily before he had hardly spoken the words.
"I am glad to be able to earn my living!" she said sternly; "it is ever
so much nobler than to be living on one's parents!"
The flush that mantled the young man's brow showed that her words had
struck home, but he tried to turn it off with a neatly put compliment.
"I'm a sad beggar, I know, Miss Marvin, but I'm going to reform! I never
wanted to be different until, well, until now--to be honest."
"You are not serious, Mr. Denton; I see laughter in your eyes," said
Faith, smiling. "But I will get up the petition at once, as you suggest,
and I shall pray that our appeal may not be in vain."
She had paused at a street corner and was extending her hand to say
good-by to the young man when a woman passed them and jostled Faith
It was Maggie Brady, the girl who loved Jim Denton. As she faced them
for a second both saw that her eyes gleamed dangerously. Without even
stopping she made a remark to Faith--the words were hissed between her
teeth with the venom of a serpent.
"You'll be sorry for this, you little hypocrite! I thought you were too
pious to be altogether healthy!"
Faith turned as pale as death as the woman strode on; James Denton was
smiling in a half-hearted manner.
"That is the result of your flirting," Faith managed to say at last.
"Oh, Mr. Denton, can't you see what you've done? You've made that woman
love you, and now she is going straight to destruction!"
THE PARTNERS DO A LITTLE TALKING.
Mr. Forbes was at his office in the store early the next morning after
his interview with Mr. Watkins. He would have been glad to stay away for
another day, but there were many details of the business that needed his
attention. Sam Watkins, his office boy, was not waiting for him as
usual, but Mr. Forbes was confident that he could find him when he
wanted him. He looked around for his assistant, but he was absent also.
This fact was more annoying, because it aroused his suspicions.
"Bolted!" he muttered with an angry frown. "Ten to one he's run away and
I'll never get my money."
Then he smiled a little, for he knew that Watkins had no funds with
which to make his escape, but even if he had there were many ways of
As he seated himself at his desk both of his partners entered, and there
were expressions of condolence offered in a punctilious manner.
"Sometimes I think that we fathers are all wrong," remarked Mr. Denton,
after the condolences were over. "We bind ourselves hand and foot in the
bondage of business, and all for what--our wives and children! If they
needed such a sacrifice we would not begrudge it, but the more they have
the more they want, until the head of the family is a mere automaton--a
machine to pamper useless folly."
This was a lengthy speech for the senior partner to make, as he was
naturally a reticent man, who allowed others to do the talking.
"You may be right," remarked Mr. Day pompously, "still, you must admit
that wealth brings advantages even to us who slave--we can drop business
cares and go abroad now and then--our time is our own beyond a certain
"I have never reached that figure," said Mr. Forbes, very dryly, "and
further, when I drop the reins the horses run wild, for be as careful as
you may in the choice of employees there is never one who will not take
advantage of your absence--the exceptions are so rare that they are
scarcely worth mentioning."
"Well, I for one am getting discouraged," said Mr. Denton. "There's that
boy of mine, Jim; how is he repaying my efforts?"
There was no answer to his question, but he did not expect one. After a
moment's silence he finished his observations.
"If that boy had a million he would spend it in a month, yet no one has
ever yet accused him of being vicious. I've set him up in business and
everything else--he's had money and an example, but with it all, what is
"Perhaps you are not strict enough," suggested Mr. Day, who was thanking
his stars at that moment that he had no children.
"It will take something besides discipline to make a man of Jim."
Mr. Denton sighed as if he was very unhappy.
"Oh, he'll marry and settle down some day," said Mr. Day, laughing.
"When he has a family to support he'll take life more seriously."
"I wish he had one," said Mr. Denton, speaking quickly, "but I hope
he'll marry a working girl and not a 'society lady.'"
Both of his partners looked up in unfeigned surprise, but it was evident
that the words had been said deliberately.
"There's a girl, a packer, down in the ribbon department. I've only seen
her once, but she's a perfect beauty. That's the kind of a girl that
would make a good wife; she's not afraid of work and she's honestly
Mr. Forbes and Mr. Day were almost gasping now, but Mr. Denton went
right on as though his words were not extraordinary.
"When that Miss Jennings died this girl held her in her arms. She's not
over seventeen, yet death did not even frighten her. In that poor girl's
last hour she was her only comfort, and if I ever saw an angel I saw
one at that moment."
Some one tapped on the door, but no one rose to open it. Mr. Denton
waited a moment and then went on with his subject.
"I don't remember how I happened to be in the basement that day. Oh,
yes, I do. Mr. Forbes was away, and Mr. Gibson sent for me. I was
waylaid on the first floor by one of those Government Inspectors; she
went with me to the cloak-room. I simply couldn't stop her! When I got
there that girl, Miss Jennings, was dying, and what do you think, with
her very last breath she looked me in the face, and said she 'forgave'
Mr. Day leaned forward with astonishment on his features.
Mr. Forbes half arose from his chair, and then fell back heavily.
Before he spoke again Mr. Denton began pacing the office floor. He was
becoming more and more disturbed as he continued his recital.
"They tell me that girl has been with us six years, and that she has
never lost a day except from sickness. She was a consumptive
always--inherited it from her mother--but in spite of it, she had to
work to support herself and a brother. She was getting ten dollars a
week at the time she died, yet the cashier tells me that her checks for
one hour alone have frequently amounted to twenty dollars. I tell you,
this bit of information has set me to thinking, and the outcome of my
thoughts is a simple question: 'Are we men or brutes?' That is what I
want to know, and as it concerns you two as well as me, I'm going to ask
you to answer it!"
There was the silence of death in the superintendent's office. Even Mr.
Denton stood perfectly still as he asked his question.
Suddenly Mr. Day raised his head with a little jerk. His cheeks became
inflated as he tried to assume his usual bearing.
"It is possible we have been a little thoughtless," he said sweetly,
"but our subordinates should attend to these matters; that is what they
are paid for."
Mr. Forbes wheeled around in his chair and faced the speaker.
"I have hired no subordinates on that basis," he said distinctly. "My
orders have been to get all the work possible out of a clerk, and when
they were incompetent or in any way useless, turn them out and get new
ones, and I believe that I have acted with the full consent of my
Mr. Day looked crestfallen for about a minute.
"Oh, if you put it that way, why, of course, Mr. Forbes. We could not
expect to sell our goods with a lot of dummies behind our counters."
"We've had worse than 'dummies,'" spoke up Mr. Denton. "We've had
skeletons and lunatics and almost corpses! Just go down and look at
them, men, women and children! There's not ten healthy human beings on
any floor in the building; yet they came to us, many of them, glowing
with health, like Miss Marvin."
"Are they worse than at other stores?" asked Mr. Day, sullenly.
"I don't know," was the answer; "but that doesn't matter."
"They get their pay regularly," said Mr. Forbes. "Further, we do not
solicit their services, nor compel them to stay with us."
"No; we merely take advantage of their wretched conditions to secure
their services cheap," said Mr. Denton bitterly; "then instead of
bettering their lot we grind them lower and lower, until at last they
die either forgiving or cursing us."
There was another silence more oppressive than the first; then Mr. Day
rose slowly and started to leave the office.
"We are exciting ourselves foolishly, I think," he said loftily;
"neither you nor I, my partners, can hope to remedy the conditions of
He closed the door softly, and was free from the unpleasant atmosphere
of the office.
As he did so, a young girl stepped out of the elevator and walked
directly to the door which he had just closed behind him. He turned and
looked at her--she was as a saint. Almost instinctively it came to him
what his partner had said, that she was "not afraid of work and was
"Pshaw! What nonsense!" he muttered. "Think of our patterning after a
saint! It is strange how death will upset some men, but they'll get over
it when they hear the money jingling!"
He opened the door to his private office just as a boy came upstairs
with a message from Mr. Gibson.
"Mr. Watkins was taken to the hospital last night," it read; "are we
expected to do anything? There's a reporter from the _Herald_."
"I'll send down the answer in a moment," he said to the boy, "or, wait;
tell Mr. Gibson to say that we are looking into the case, and if our
employee is found to be deserving he will be cared for by the firm. The
reporter can call again if he wishes anything further."
With the note in his hand he went back to the superintendent's office.
FAITH BECOMES AN OBJECT OF JEALOUSY.
As Mr. Day opened the office door with the message in his hand, he
hesitated for a moment, in something like bewilderment.
Faith Marvin was standing before his partners with a paper in her hand,
and just as he entered she was speaking eagerly. "We would be so
thankful if you would do this, gentlemen--even for half a day, if you
cannot spare a whole one. You see, poor Miss Jennings has no family,
only a crippled brother, so we clerks are really her brothers and
sisters. She was a dear, good girl; so patient and resigned. If we could
lay her in the grave ourselves it would be a sweet and solemn pleasure."
She turned from one of the men to the other with her appealing glance,
even including Mr. Day as he stood irresolute upon the threshold.
Mr. Forbes was the first to recover his voice. The girl's appearance and
the petition had made them both dumb for a minute.
"It can't be done, Miss Marvin," he said, curtly. "It would be
establishing a precedent; isn't it so, Mr. Denton?"
"But surely, Mr. Forbes, such a precedent would do no harm!" cried Faith
quickly. "Poor Mary is the first clerk who has died in the store, you
know. It isn't at all likely that there will be any others."
Mr. Forbes stared at her curiously. He was not exactly angry. As she
stood supplicatingly before him, she was radiantly beautiful.
"Why not have it in the evening?" suggested Mr. Denton. He had found his
voice at last, and came to the superintendent's rescue.
"The girls are so tired at night," said Faith, sighing. "I thought of
that--but it did not seem advisable."
"We might arrange for a few of you to be away on that day. Surely, you
were not all Miss Jennings' friends; there is no excuse for the whole
store going into mourning."
Mr. Forbes spoke decidedly and with a little of his old crustiness. The
spell of the girl's magnetism was beginning to leave him.
"That would mean extra work for the clerks who remained," was Faith's
desperate answer, "and poor Mary would be the first to object to that.
Their duties are hard enough now. Oh, no, sir; I am sure that would not
be thought of for a minute. If there is work to be done, we will all
stay and do it, but if you only would relieve us for a few hours, we
would be deeply grateful."
"It wouldn't do at all, Mr. Forbes!"
Mr. Day spoke, if anything, more pompously than ever. "Pardon me, but we
have lost one day this week. We can't afford another."
"That settles it," said the superintendent, wheeling around in his
chair. "You will please return to your duties, Miss Marvin; we cannot
allow your petition."
Faith walked slowly from the office with the tears springing to her
eyes. Before she reached the ribbon counter a floor walker stepped up to
her. She had never seen him before, but recognized him at once as the
Mr. Gunning whom she had heard the girls say belonged in that
department, but was away just then upon a short vacation.
"You have been gone more than fifteen minutes, No. 411," he said,
sharply. "Hurry over to your counter; Miss Fairbanks wishes to see you."
Faith looked at him timidly. He was a silly looking young man who wore a
flaming red necktie and curled the ends of his mustache.
"Another tyrant," thought Faith, but she only bowed respectfully.
Already in her short term of service she was getting used to tyrants.
"I am going to put you in Miss Jennings' place for a day or two," was
the buyer's greeting. "I am short of girls, so you will have to do. Miss
Jones will tell you what you don't know about the stock, and I hope
you'll be very careful in your measurement of the ribbon."
"I will do my best," said Faith, very sadly. She was soon standing
behind the counter, a full-fledged saleswoman. For some reason there had
been nothing said about the half day that she had lost, but Faith knew
only too well that she would be heavily fined for her absence. Still, it
was better than being discharged. She accepted the alternative
If Bob Hardy was in the store he kept out of the ribbon department, for
Faith looked around for him nervously several times, and was greatly
relieved when she did not see him.
Once she overheard two cash girls talking about the robbery in the
office, and as they mentioned the name of Watkins she paused
involuntarily and listened.
"They say he's got brain fever," said one of the girls. "Well, I'd think
he'd be crazy with all that's happened."
"It must be awful," said the other girl. "Why, his brother was only a
kid, and, to think, he stole five hundred dollars!"
Faith almost gasped for breath at this information.
She tried to speak to the girl, but her lips and tongue seemed palsied.
She understood now what poor Mr. Watkins had suffered, and to think she
had distrusted him--even for one brief second!
Several times during the forenoon she saw Maggie Brady watching her, and
the hatred in her eyes was too plain for Faith not to see and understand
Her first thought was to see Maggie and explain her conversation with
James Denton, but she thought better of it later, and decided to keep
silent. Miss Fairbanks was plainly upset and nervous. She scolded the
girls constantly, and seemed irritated beyond measure. Whether Mr.
Gunning's presence was responsible for this nervousness Faith could not
tell, but it was plain that the two were on bad terms with each other.
On the other hand, Mr. Gunning had many friends in the department. Miss
Jones smiled at him frequently, as did several of the others.
Faith was standing erect behind her counter when a sharp-looking woman
came up. She began asking to see ribbons of various widths and colors.
Faith tried to wait upon her as rapidly as possible, but as she was not
familiar with the stock, she got sadly muddled.
"How long have you been here?" asked the woman suddenly.
"Only about two hours at this counter," said Faith, sadly. "I am very
sorry, but I am afraid I have not waited on you properly."
"Do you mean that you are a new girl altogether?" asked the woman.
Faith glanced up innocently, and saw both Miss Fairbanks and the
floorwalker scowling at her.
As quick as their eyes met Miss Fairbanks made a signal. It was as plain
as day. Faith was to answer no questions.
The woman was looking at her with her shrewd, sharp eyes.
"Well, why don't you answer?" she asked, half smilingly.
"I was a packer for two days," said Faith very softly. She could see no
reason why she should not answer the question.
As the woman moved away from the counter every eye in the department
followed her, and Faith noticed how alert all the girls were to wait
As soon as she disappeared Miss Fairbanks rushed up to Faith.
"What did she ask you?" she questioned breathlessly; "and what did you
Faith repeated the conversation in open-eyed wonder. When she had
finished Miss Fairbanks breathed a sigh of relief, but her face was
still clouded. "I guess they won't blame me for putting in a green
girl," she said slowly. "Anyway, there was no one else. I'm awfully
short-handed as it is."
"We ain't to blame if they don't give us help enough," remarked Mr.
Gunning, savagely. "This firm is too stingy to keep a full force of
clerks. Still, if one of them is sick or dies, there's always a row
"Well, if she feels like it, she'll report, and that will mean
trouble," said Miss Fairbanks, sighing; "but perhaps she won't. There
are some good-hearted ones among them."
"Who was she?" asked Faith as soon as she got the opportunity.
"Only one of Denton, Day & Co.'s spies," was the answer. "They are
better known in the business as 'Private Shoppers.'"
Faith looked aghast at this information.
"Didn't you ever hear of them before?" asked Miss Jones, coming up.
"Why, every store has them; they are a part of the system."
"Do explain!" cried Faith; "I am still in the dark. Do you mean that
that woman was a regular detective?"
"Oh, Lord, no; she wasn't a detective at all! She's a spy, I tell you,
the genuine article! Her principal work is to trot around in other
stores and learn all she can about their 'specials' and prices, and get
all the information possible in order to keep her employers posted on
what their rivals are doing, and besides that she is expected to prowl
around this store at irregular intervals, and we are not supposed to
know that she isn't a legitimate customer. She asks questions and pumps
and finds out all we know; then she makes us take down all our goods and
put them all back, just to see if we are in the habit of keeping our
tempers. Oh, she can make life miserable for us if she chooses! A bit of
indifference on our part, and up a report goes, straight to the
superintendent, and we get bally-hoo from the buyer shortly after! I
tell you, we've got to be saints to keep our jobs in this place, but
once in awhile, when we get the chance we let out on some safe
party--that's the way we square ourselves. We can't always be angels."
"I've got a lot to learn," said Faith with a sigh, "but I shall always
be civil and attentive to my customers, so I don't think I shall have
much to fear from that particular direction." At just that moment a
messenger boy came along the aisle. He had come from outside, and was
looking for some one.
"Who is it? What do you want?" asked Mr. Gunning, going forward.
"Miss Faith Marvin," said the boy, loudly. "I have a package for her."
Faith looked up in surprise, as she heard the words. She signed the
boy's ticket automatically, and accepted the package.
As she did so, a card dropped from under the cord with which it was
Maggie Brady, who was watching her closely, sprang forward and snatched
it up in an instant. As she laid it on the counter she fairly trembled
She had read the words which were written on the card.
They were simply: "To Miss Marvin, with the compliments of Jas. T.
FAITH GETS ACQUAINTED WITH THE THIEF.
It was impossible for any one to see Maggie Brady's face without reading
in it how much she hated the girl who she thought had stolen her lover
from her. Miss Fairbanks turned on her heel and walked away laughing,
while several of the clerks began jeering Maggie quietly.
"You are not the only pebble on the beach; did you think you were, Mag?
There are others, you see! Why, you're not one, two, three in Jim
Denton's good graces!"
"Off with the old and on with the new! There's no one proves the truth
of that proverb oftener than a certain young man I could mention!
However, Maggie, don't throw up the sponge! You've got the first claim
on Jim Denton--why don't you let him know it?"
Faith listened to these words in utter amazement. She was distressed
beyond measure that this unfortunate thing should have happened.
She was glad enough when a number of customers came in. She was
beginning to dread these occasional lulls in business. Maggie Brady had
not said a word in reply to any of the taunts, but her face had paled
until the two spots of rouge on her cheeks gave her a ghastly look that
was positively shocking.
Faith felt so sorry for the girl that she did not know what to do, but
there was no time to waste in thinking, for she was being addressed by a
"My dear, can you tell me where that young lady is--Number 89, I think,
they called her. She waited on me so nicely the other day that I would
like to see her again if there is no objection."
Before she had finished speaking Faith had recognized her. It was the
kind old lady whom Miss Jennings had dragged behind the counter during
the excitement about the fire. She had said at that time that she would
not forget her.
Faith's ready tears had already sprung into her eyes, but she managed to
tell the good woman what had happened.
When she finished speaking the lady looked terribly grieved. She could
not speak for a moment--she was so shocked and indignant.
"That settles my shopping in this place any more," she said finally. "I
will not trade in a store where my sister women are so badly treated."
Faith saw her opportunity, so she hurriedly told her about the petition,
and how the house that had closed its doors because a son of the junior
partner died would not spare half a day to let its employees attend the
funeral of a comrade.
"What a shame!" said the lady, carefully lowering her voice. "What a
pity that the public should not know of all these things. I am sure it
would result in their losing many customers."
"If there was only some way to make them more considerate," said Faith
sadly, "and I am sure there is--I am praying for them daily."
"Dear, dear, you don't say!" said the lady, a little surprised. "Why, it
is strange that I did not think of that before, for I am accustomed to
going to the Lord with everything!"
"Oh, I am so glad to hear that!" cried Faith impetuously. "Then you will
help me to pray for the firm that employs me! It may be that God will
touch their hearts. We must do our best and then be patient."
"You are a brave young girl and a wise one," said the lady. "Many who
are much older than you have not learned that lesson."
The customers were beginning to push and crowd about the counter, so the
old lady went away to allow Faith to wait upon them. As she left the
department, Mr. Gunning bowed to her politely.
"One of our best customers," he remarked to Miss Fairbanks as he passed
At luncheon time there was none of the usual laughter in the
cloak-room. The girls were all thinking of Miss Jennings and talked
almost in whispers. In a very few minutes Faith saw a young woman come
in. It was the girl who had stolen the piece of jewelry on the day of
the fire and for whom Miss Jennings had pleaded so successfully.
When Faith saw her she felt a thrill to the very tips of her fingers. It
was a thrill of thankfulness that she had not denied the dead girl's
request to show mercy to the poor sinner who had been so wronged by her
As soon as she could she walked over and stood by the girl. She was a
sallow brunette but her features were regular and delicate.
"Do you mind my talking to you a little?" Faith asked softly. "You see,
I know almost no one in the store except Miss Jennings, and now that she
is gone I am very lonely."
"Why, no, I don't mind your talking to me, why should I? I guess it
ain't necessary to wait for an introduction. Got anything in particular
you want to say to me?"
The girl's answer was prompt, but not at all unpleasant.
"Oh, no; that is, not now," said Faith very quickly. "I just want to get
acquainted. You know I could see you plainly when I was a packer and,
well, I liked your looks and that's about all there is to it."
While she was speaking, Faith was conscious of a change in the girl's
face. She was evidently trying to read her to see if there was anything
behind this desire for an acquaintance.
Faith tried to smile brightly as she looked into her eyes. She knew that
she must win this girl's friendship if she wished to help her.
"Let's sit down here," said the young woman shortly. "I like this
corner; it's lighter than the others."
They both sat down and opened their baskets, and while they hurriedly
swallowed their luncheon, they talked a little.
"My name is Faith Marvin and I have Miss Jennings' place at present at
the ribbon counter. I wrote that petition that you signed this morning.
Isn't it too bad that the firm will not grant us that sacred privilege
of accompanying our dead friend to her last resting place?"
Faith had introduced herself as well as she could, and now waited for
her companion to follow her example.
"My name is Lou Willis and I hate funerals," said the girl. "I can't see
why in the world you ever wrote that petition."
The words startled Faith; they were so sharp and unfeeling.
"Why--you signed the petition," she said after a minute.
"Oh, of course I signed it, but can't you see why, you ninny? If we get
a day off I'll go somewhere on a lark! You don't catch this chicken
attending any funerals."
Faith was so shocked this time that she could not speak, but the girl
rattled on without apparently noticing it.
"I'm not one of your milk and water Sunday school girls! If I ever get
religious at all I'll join the Salvation Army! Do you know that's a
great scheme, that Salvation Army? You get six dollars a week and your
husband picked out for you. Really, that's a great inducement, Marvin,
when you come to think of it! I'd never be able to pick out a husband
myself. I'm what they call too--too--oh--you know--fickle!"
Faith forgot to eat, she was so astonished. This was a type of woman
that she had never dreamed of. Was she joking or serious? Faith could
not decide. As she sat pondering and staring, her companion went on
"That Maggie Brady has it in for you, they tell me--but say, for
goodness sake, how did you manage to cut her out with Jim Denton? Why,
he's been sweet on Mag for at least three months, and that's a long time
for Jim. I really began to think he was serious."
She paused to take a mouthful of bread and butter, so Faith attempted to
speak. The words came slowly, for she was a little uncertain how to say
them. "I am sorry if Miss Brady does not like me, I am sure. But you are
wrong, Miss Willis. I have not 'cut her out' with Mr. Denton. On the
contrary, I have never spoken to the young man but once, and that was
yesterday, when he suggested that I write that petition."
"But he sent you a package to-day," said the girl, staring. "He must be
badly smitten to be sending presents in such a hurry."
"It was only a box of candy," said Faith, hastily. "I gave it to one of
the cash girls. I don't understand what made him send it."
"You must be silly if you don't," said the girl, laughing harshly.
At just that instant Maggie Brady passed close by them, and Miss Willis
seeing her, raised her voice a little.
"Why, he is in love with you, of course," she said, with one eye on
Maggie. "If he wasn't he wouldn't be sending you boxes of candy."
"Hush!" cried Faith. "You are cruel! How could you, Miss Willis!"
For answer the girl broke into peals of laughter.
"Oh, I just love Mag Brady--that's why I said it I Can't you see for
yourself how much I love her?"
ANOTHER TALK WITH JAMES DENTON.
Poor Faith was driven to desperation now. Here was a situation far
beyond her wisdom.
That the girl was a petty thief amounted to almost nothing beside her
viciousness and animosity toward her fellow beings.
Faith was sorely puzzled over what to say, and while she was trying to
collect her scattered wits Miss Willis poured out a little more of her
"If there's a girl in this place I hate it's Mag Brady," she said
candidly, "and she knows it, you bet! I haven't tried to conceal it! I'm
different from Mag, I hit straight out from the shoulder! She's a sneak
and a coward; she'll wait till it's dark before she fights you! You see
you haven't been out in the world long enough to read people yet, but I
have, I'm a regular veteran in the army of evil."
She laughed loudly as she finished, as though her words were highly
amusing. To be experienced in the ways of evil seemed to her to be the
highest possible recommendation.
"I hope I shall never know any more about sin than I do now," said Faith
soberly, "but really, I seem to be learning more and more every day."
"It won't hurt you," responded her companion patronizingly. "You've got
to hold your own, you know; if you don't you go to the bottom. The world
is full of sharks and so is this store. The sooner you find it out the
better it will be for you."
Faith saw that the girl was growing serious now. What she said was
intended to be for Faith's good; whether it was good advice or not, it
was the best she had to offer.
"Hello!" cried Miss Willis suddenly. "Do my eyes deceive me, or is that
really a plumber that I see over in that corner?"
She raised her voice so that every one heard her, and a clerk in the
opposite corner made haste to answer her:
"That's what it is all right, Lou, a real, live plumber! The Board of
Health has come to its senses at last, and, thanks to that Government
Inspector, we are going to have some 'modern improvements.'"
"I hope we'll have basins enough to go around," cried another voice,
"and perhaps there'll be an occasional glimpse of a really clean towel."
"Oh, you mustn't expect too much," answered the plumber, laughing. "I
only got orders to do a little puttering. It's just a bluff they are
chucking; it won't cost them much if nothin'."
"Which means that you can't get rich all at once!" cried Miss Willis,
grinning. "Well, I'm sorry you can't squeeze a fairly good sum out of
our nice, generous employers."
Faith went back to her counter, feeling sad at heart. She was beginning
to question the wisdom of her mercy toward Miss Willis.
"I don't believe that anything would ever change her heart," she
whispered to herself, and then a great wave of shame swept over her as
she felt that she had questioned the power of the Almighty.
She stepped behind the counter just in time to see Miss Fairbanks
changing the prices on a lot of special ribbons, but before she could
ask any questions Miss Jones came up to her.
"There's a milliner in this block who is selling those same ribbons for
fifty cents a yard," she said, "and of course, Denton, Day & Co. are not
going to stand that; they are going to undercut her in everything until
they break up her business. You see, if we sell them for thirty-nine
cents, she'll have to come down, which will mean that she'll lose a
whole lot of money."
"But won't Denton, Day & Co. be losing money, too?" asked Faith. She was
a little too green to quite see the logic of this action.
"Not a cent," was the somewhat surprising answer. "You see, they buy in
such large quantities that they get it cheaper than she does; but even
if they didn't, they could still make it up on some other goods, while
she, poor soul, has no way of squaring her losses."
Faith's eyes opened wide as she listened to this explanation.
"That is exactly what they did with my father," she said slowly. "They
undercut his prices so that he could not sell his books, then when his
bills came due he could not pay them. Oh, the thing is perfectly
horrible, Miss Jones! That poor, poor milliner! Oh, how I pity her!"
Miss Jones had listened with considerable surprise. It was the first she
had heard of Faith's personal grievance against the company.
Things moved along quietly after that, and Faith was kept very busy, but
through the whole afternoon she was thinking of that ribbon. Every time
a roll of it was sold a weight seemed added to her burdens. When she was
obliged to sell it herself she felt that she was personally perpetrating
a wrong on the milliner.
It was a terrible day, taken altogether, for so much misery and anxiety
were crowded into it that she felt ten years older when the gong sounded
"Can you tell me what hospital Mr. Watkins was taken to, dear?" she
asked of one of the little cash girls whom she had heard talking in the
"Don't know," said the child. "I didn't hear. But he's pretty near dead,
I guess, and his brother is a thief. He--"
"Hush, child!" cried Faith, quickly. "Don't talk about that, please! It
can't do any good, and--and perhaps some one has been mistaken! It's
better to say nothing! until one knows for sure. Poor Mr. Watkins! He is
indeed in sore trouble!"
"Mr. Watkins is resting very comfortably, Miss Marvin," said a voice
just behind her. She turned around quickly and confronted young Denton.
"Oh, have you seen him?" asked Faith, in genuine delight.
"I just dropped in at the office; they wouldn't let me see him," was
the answer; "but I learned that there was a chance for him--he was what
they call 'comfortable.'"
"I am glad to hear that," said Faith, moving slowly away. They had been
standing at the head of the stairs which led down to the cloak-room, and
she expected every minute that Maggie Brady would see them.
"Don't go just yet, Miss Marvin," urged Mr. Denton, hastily. "I've just
arranged about that funeral; it is to be to-morrow evening."
"Where?" asked Faith softly.
"At the undertaker's," was the answer. "He has a private room for just
such purposes. He will bury her the next morning."
"That will be better than I thought," said Faith, very slowly. "I will
tell all the girls I know and ask them to tell the others."
"Here's the programme or whatever you choose to call it," said Mr.
Denton, sneering a little. "The firm got ahead of us this time, Miss
He held out an evening paper as he spoke so that Faith could see it.
With a cry of horror the young girl read the headline. It was a regular
"scare head," reaching across two full columns: "Denton, Day & Co.'s
Generosity to an Employee!" "A Poor Girl's Funeral That Will Cost the
Firm a Large Sum of Money!"
"How's that for hypocrisy?" asked the young man, still sneering. "I say,
Miss Marvin, how would you like to be the child of such a father?"
For the first time in her life Faith could not rebuke disrespect. In
spite of herself she could not help sympathizing with the sentiments of
the young fellow.
"Oh, it is terrible!" she whispered in a heart-broken voice. "Poor Miss
Jennings would rather have been buried in 'Potter's Field,' I really
believe, than under such conditions!"
"Well, I'm mighty disgusted," said young Denton, bitterly, "although I'm
sure I don't know what's got into me to care about it!"
"I guess you never knew just how you felt before," said Faith sweetly.
"Sometimes it takes a shock of some kind to bring us to our senses."
"Well, I'm shocked all right," said young Denton, quickly. "Why, when
dad told me about that dying girl saying so distinctly that she forgave
him, it went through me like a knife! Cut me up worse, I believe, than
it did the Governor!"
"Did it really disturb your father?" asked Faith, very eagerly.
"I should say it did!" remarked Mr. Denton, soberly. "Why, the man can't
eat nor sleep! I believe her spirit is haunting him!"
A CHANGE IN MR. DENTON.
"Well, Hardy what have you found out about the Watkins family? Something
satisfactory, I hope!"
Mr. Forbes spoke to the detective with unusual good nature.
But Hardy closed the office door and advanced to the desk where the
superintendent was sitting.
"On the contrary, sir; I have found things very unsatisfactory," was his
answer. "Watkins is in the hospital, half dead from brain fever, his
mother is a feeble old woman without a penny, and as for that young
scamp who stole your money, he's among the missing--he's vamoosed
"Well, why don't you find him?" asked Mr. Forbes, a little less
pleasantly. "That's what I told you to do! Didn't you understand my
"I haven't had time to find him," muttered the detective, sullenly.
"He's been spirited away. I think he's out of the city."
"So you see no way of getting back that three hundred dollars. Well,
there's got to be a way! We can't afford to lose it!"
"Lose what?" asked Mr. Denton, coming in just then.
Mr. Forbes hastily repeated the detective's information.
"You say the mother is penniless and young Watkins critically ill? Well,
I should think that was trouble enough for one family," said Mr. Denton
slowly. "Mr. Forbes, it is my wish that you should stop right here! I
wish you to drop the matter of the money completely."
Mr. Forbes wheeled around in his chair and stared at his partner.
"I mean it," said Mr, Denton, "and, what is more, I command it! As
senior partner of this firm I expect my orders to be respected!"
Mr. Forbes made a heroic effort at self-control. When he could trust
his voice he attempted to answer.
"Perhaps you have forgotten, Mr. Denton, that we are drawing on our
funds very heavily this week. There are those alterations in the
basement to satisfy the Board of Health and two hundred dollars for that
Miss Jennings' funeral. Neither of these expenses would have been
incurred if I had not been absent so much of late; but is it wise, do
you think, to add to these the three hundred that Sam Watkins robbed us
Mr. Denton seemed to ignore the last half of the sentence. His mind was
dwelling upon the other things mentioned.
"What I have not forgotten, Mr. Forbes, is this," he said, quietly:
"That funeral that you speak of has given us one of the biggest free
'ads.' that this firm has ever enjoyed. Why, the space it occupies in
one paper alone is worth at least a thousand dollars! And, so far as the
alterations are concerned--well, I have just ordered them stopped. I'm
going to close up that room to employees altogether!"
If the sky had fallen Mr. Forbes could not have been any more surprised.
Even the hardened detective almost gasped in astonishment.
"But you have no right to do this," growled Mr. Forbes. "You should
consult your partners in such matters, Mr. Denton."
Mr. Denton smiled grimly at the angry man's words.
"You are partners, nominally, yes," he said slowly, "but I hardly think
it would pay either you or Mr. Day to oppose me."
His words were very true, as Mr. Forbes well knew. Both he and Mr. Day
were deeply indebted to their senior partner. He "owned them body and
soul," as many persons would express it.
"I have been doing a lot of thinking in the past two days, Mr. Forbes,"
went on Mr. Denton, "but as you would hardly appreciate my sentiments, I
will keep my thoughts to myself a little longer. Here, Hardy, you are
excused from the Watkins affair! Go back to your duties in the store,
and see that you are very careful not to annoy any innocent persons."
Bob Hardy made his way out of the office almost in a daze. He had been
in the service of the store ever since it was opened, but such
instructions as these meant a brand-new departure.
"I wonder what the deuce has got into him, anyway," he muttered. "He
talks like a man that's got struck with religion!"
As he walked slowly down the stairs to the first floor of the building
he met a brother detective, who stared at him curiously.
"What's the matter, Hardy? Look's if you'd had a shock! Been havin' a
set-to with old Forbes, I'll bet a dollar!"