Part 4 out of 6
answered a gruff, "Nope!"
"What was it, Sam? Won't you tell me?"
"It would be snitchin'."
"Not to me, Sam. You know I belong to you all."
"But you've got new notions."
"Yes," admitted Michael, "I can't help that, but I don't go back on you, do
"No, you don't go back on we'uns, that's so. But you don't like we's
"Never mind. Tell me, Sam. I think I must know."
"He kep a gamein' den--"
"Oh, Sam!" Michael's voice was stricken, and his great athletic hand
gripped Sam's hard skinny one, and Sam in the darkness gripped back.
"I knowed you'd feel thet way," he mourned as if the fault were all in his
telling. "I wisht I hadn't 'a tole yer."
"Never mind, Sam, you couldn't help it, and I suppose I wouldn't have known
the difference myself if I hadn't gone away. We mustn't judge Buck harshly.
He'll see it the other way by and by."
Sam straightened perceptibly. There was something in this speech that put
him in the same class with Michael. He had never before had any qualms of
conscience concerning gambling, but now he found himself almost unawares
arrayed against it.
"I guess mebbe!" he said comfortingly, and then seeking to change the
subject. "Say, is dat guy in dere goin' along to de farm?"
"Why, dat ike you lef' in de room. Is he goin' down 'long when wees go?"
"Oh, Will French! No, Sam. He doesn't know anything about it yet. I may
tell him sometime, but he doesn't need that. He is studying to be a lawyer.
Perhaps some day if he gets interested he'll help do what I want for the
alley, and all the other alleys in the city; make better laws and see that
"Laws!" said Sam in a startled voice. "What laws!"
Laws were his natural enemies he thought.
"Laws for better tenement houses, more room and more windows, better air,
cleaner streets, room for grass and flowers, pure milk and meat, and less
crowding and dirt. Understand?"
It was the first time Michael had gone so deep into his plans with Sam, and
he longed now to have his comradeship in this hope too.
"Oh, sure!" said Sam much relieved that Michael had not mentioned laws
about gambling dens and pickpockets. Sam might be willing to reform his own
course in the brilliant wake of Michael but as yet he had not reached the
point where he cared to see vice and dishonesty swept off the globe.
They went slowly back to the white room to find Will French leading a
chorus of small urchins in the latest popular melody while they kept time
with an awkward shuffle of their ill-shod feet.
Sam growled: "Cut it out, kids, you scratch de floor," and Will French
subsided with apologies.
"I never thought of the floor, Endicott. Say, you ought to have a gymnasium
and a swimming pool here."
"I wish we had," he declared, "but I'd begin on a bath-room. We need that
first of all."
"Well, let's get one," said Will eagerly. "That wouldn't cost so much. We
could get some people to contribute a little. I know a man that has a big
plumbing establishment. He'd do a little something. I mean to tell him
about it. Is there any place it could be put?"
Sam followed them wondering, listening, interested, as they went out
into the hall to see the little dark hole which might with ingenuity be
converted into a bath-room, and while he leaned back against the door-jamb,
hands in his pockets, he studied the face of the newcomer.
"Guess dat guy's all right," he reassured Michael as he helped him turn the
lights out a little later, while Will waited on the doorstep whistling a
new tune to his admiring following. Will had caught "de kids."
"I say, Endicott," he said as they walked up the noisy midnight street and
turned into the avenue, "why don't you get Hester to go down there and sing
sometime? Sunday afternoon. She'd go. Ask her."
And that night was the beginning of outside help for Michael's mission.
Hester fell into the habit of going down Sunday afternoons, and soon she
had an eager following of sad-eyed women, and eager little children; and
Will French spent his leisure hours in hunting up tricks and games and
puzzles, for "the kids."
Meantime, the account he had given to Holt and Holt of the way Michael
spent his evenings, was not without fruit.
About a week after French's first visit to the alley, the senior Mr. Holt
paused beside Michael's desk one afternoon just before going out of the
office and laid a bit of paper in his hand.
"French tells me you're interested in work in the slums," he said in the
same tone he used to give Michael an order for his daily routine. "I'd
like to help a little if you can use that." He passed on out of the office
before Michael had fully comprehended what had been said. The young man
looked down at the paper and saw it was a check made out to himself for one
With a quick exclamation of gratitude he was on his feet and out into the
hall after his employer.
"That's all right, Endicott. I don't get as much time as I'd like to look
after the charities, and when I see a good thing I like to give it a boost.
Call on me if you need money for any special scheme. And I'll mention it to
some of my clients occasionally," said the old lawyer, well pleased with
He did, and right royally did the clients respond. Every little while a
ten-dollar bill or a five, and now and then a check for fifty would find
its way to Michael's desk; for Will French, thoroughly interested, kept
Holt and Holt well supplied with information concerning what was needed.
Before the winter was over Michael was able to put in the bath-room and had
bought a plow and a number of necessary farm implements, and secured the
services of a man who lived near Old Orchard to do some early plowing and
planting. He was able also to buy seeds and fertilizer, enough at least to
start his experiment; and toward spring, he took advantage of a holiday,
and with Sam and a carpenter went down to the farm and patched up the old
house to keep out the rain.
After that a few cots, some boxes for chairs and tables, some cheap
comfortables for cool nights, some dishes and cooking utensils from the
ten-cent store, and the place would be ready for his alley-colony when he
should dare to bring them down. A canvas cot and a wadded comfortable would
be luxury to any of them. The only question was, would they be contented
out of the city?
Michael had read many articles about the feasibility of taking the poor of
the cities into the country, and he knew that experience had shown they
were in most cases miserable to get back again. He believed in his heart
that this might be different if the conditions were made right. In the
first place they must have an environment full of new interest to supply
the place of the city's rush, and then they must have some great object
which they would be eager to attain. He felt, too, that they should be
prepared beforehand for their new life.
To this end he had been for six months spending two or three hours a week
with five or six young fellows Sam had tolled in. He had brought the
agricultural papers to the room, and made much of the illustrations. The
boys as a rule could not read, so he read to them, or rather translated
into their own slang-ful English. He told them what wonders had been
attained by farming in the right way. As these fellows had little notion
about farming in any way, or little knowledge of farm products save as
they came to them through the markets in their very worst forms, it became
necessary to bring cabbages and apples, and various other fruits and
vegetables for their inspection.
One night he brought three or four gnarled, little green-skinned, sour,
speckled apples, poorly flavored. He called attention to them very
carefully, and then because an apple was a treat, however poor it might be,
he asked them to notice the flavor as they ate. Then he produced three or
four magnificent specimens of apple-hood, crimson and yellow, with polished
skin and delicious flavor, and set them in a row on the table beside some
more of the little specked apples. They looked like a sunset beside a
ditch. The young men drew around the beautiful apples admiringly, feeling
of their shiny streaks as if they half thought them painted, and listening
to the story of their development from the little sour ugly specimens they
had just been eating. When it came to the cutting up of the perfect apples
every man of them took an intelligent pleasure in the delicious fruit.
Other nights, with the help of Will and Hester, Michael gave demonstrations
of potatoes, and other vegetables, with regular lessons on how to get the
best results with these particular products. Hester managed in some skilful
manner to serve a very tasty refreshment from roasted potatoes, cooked just
right, at the same time showing the difference in the quality between the
soggy potatoes full of dry rot, and those that were grown under the right
conditions. Occasionally a cup of coffee or some delicate sandwiches helped
out on a demonstration, of lettuce or celery or cold cabbage in the form
of slaw, and the light refreshments served with the agricultural lessons
became a most attractive feature of Michael's evenings. More and more young
fellows dropped in to listen to the lesson and enjoy the plentiful "eats"
as they called them. When they reached the lessons on peas and beans the
split pea soup and good rich bean soup were ably appreciated.
Not that all took the lessons with equal eagerness, but Michael began to
feel toward spring that his original five with Sam as their leader would
do comparatively intelligent work on the farm, the story of which had been
gradually told them from night to night, until they were quite eager to
know if they might be included in those who were to be pioneers in the
Will French faithfully reported the condition of the work, and more and
more friends and clients of the office would stop at Michael's desk and
chat with him for a moment about the work, and always leave something with
him to help it along. Michael's eyes shone and his heart beat high with
hopes in these days.
But there was still a further work for him to do before his crude
apprentices should be ready to be sent down into the wilds of nature.
So Michael began one evening to tell them of the beauty and the wonder
of the world. One night he used a cocoon as illustration and for three
evenings they all came with bated breath and watched the strange little
insignificant roll, almost doubting Michael's veracity, yet full of
curiosity, until one night it burst its bonds and floated up into the white
ceiling, its pale green, gorgeously marked wings working a spell upon their
hearts, that no years could ever make them quite forget. It was the miracle
of life and they had never seen it nor heard of it before.
Another night he brought a singing bird in a cage, and pictures of other
birds who were naturally wild. He began to teach them the ways of the birds
they would see in New Jersey, how to tell their songs apart, where to look
for their nests; all the queer little wonderful things that a bird lover
knows, and that Michael because of his long habits of roaming about the
woods knew by heart. The little bird in its cage stayed in the yellow and
white room, and strange to say thrived, becoming a joy and a wonder to
all visitors, and a marvel to those who lived in the court because of its
continuous volume of brilliant song, bursting from a heart that seemed to
be too full of happiness and must bubble over into music. The "kids" and
even the older fellows felt a proprietorship in it, and liked to come and
stand beneath the cage and call to it as it answered "peep" and peeked
between the gilded bars to watch them.
One night, with the help of Will French who had some wealthy friends,
Michael borrowed a large picture of a sunset, and spoke to them about the
sunlight and its effects on growing things, and the wonder of its departure
for the night.
By this time they would listen in awed silence to anything Michael said,
though the picture was perhaps one too many for most of them. Sam, however,
heard with approval, and afterwards went up reverently and laid his finger
on the crimson and the purple and the gold of the picture. Sam knew, and
understood, for he had seen the real thing. Then he turned to the others
"Say, fellers, it's aw-right. You wait till yer see one. Fine ez silk, an'
twicet as nateral."
One big dark fellow who had lately taken to coming to the gatherings,
turned scornfully away, and replied: "Aw shucks! I don't see nodding in
it!" but loyalty to Michael prevented others who might have secretly
favored this view from expressing it, and the big dark fellow found himself
in the minority.
And so the work went on. Spring was coming, and with it the end of Jim's
"term," and the beginning of Michael's experiment on the farm.
Meantime Michael was working hard at his law, and studying half the
night when he came back from the alley work. If he had not had an iron
constitution, and thirteen years behind him of healthy out-door life, with
plenty of sleep and exercise and good food, he could not have stood it. As
it was, the hard work was good for him, for it kept him from brooding over
himself, and his own hopeless love of the little girl who was far across
Some weeks after Christmas there had come a brief note from Starr, his name
written in her hand, the address in her father's.
"Dear Michael," it read,--
"I am just almost sure that I am indebted to you for the lovely little
sprig of holly that reached me on Christmas. I have tried and tried to
think who the sender might be, for you see I didn't know the writing, or
rather printing. But to-day it fell down from over the picture where I had
fastened, it on the wall, and I noticed what I had not seen before, 'A
Happy Christmas' in the very tiny little letters of the message cut or
scratched on the under side of the stem; and the letters reminded me of you
and the charming little surprises you used to send me long ago from Florida
when I was a little girl. Then all at once I was sure it was you who sent
the holly, and I am sitting right down to write and thank you for it. You
see I was very lonesome and homesick that Christmas morning, for most of
the girls in the school had gone home for Christmas, and mamma, who had
been intending to come and take me away to Paris for the holidays, had
written that she was not well and couldn't come after all, so I knew I
would have to be here all through the gay times by myself. I was feeling
quite doleful even with the presents that mamma sent me, until I opened the
little box and saw the dear little bright holly berries; that cheered me up
and made me think of home. I kept it on my desk all day so that the bright
berries would make me feel Christmassy, and just before dinner that night
what do you think happened? Why, my dear daddy came to surprise me, and we
took the loveliest trip together, to Venice and Florence and Rome. It was
beautiful! I wish you could have been along and seen everything. I know you
would have enjoyed it. I must not take the time to write about it because I
ought to be studying. This is a very pleasant place and a good school but I
would rather be at home, and I shall be glad when I am done and allowed to
come back to my own country.
"Thanking you ever so much for the pretty little Christmas reminder, for
you see I am sure you sent it, and wishing you a belated Happy New Year, I
"STARR DELEVAN ENDICOTT."
Michael read and re-read the letter, treasured the thoughts and visions
it brought him, pondered the question of whether he might answer it, and
decided that he had no right. Then he put it away with his own heartache,
plunging into his work with redoubled energy, and taking an antidote of so
many pages of Blackstone when his thoughts lingered on forbidden subjects.
So the winter fled away and spring came stealing on apace.
As Michael had no definite knowledge of either his exact age, or what month
his birthday came, there could be no day set for his coming of age. The
little information that could be gathered from his own memory of how many
summers and winters he had passed showed that he was approximately seven
years old at the time of the shooting affray. If that were correct it would
make him between nineteen and twenty at the time of his graduation.
On the first day of July following his first winter in New York Michael
received a brief letter from Mr. Endicott, containing a check for a
thousand dollars, with congratulations on his majority and a request that
he call at the office the next day.
Michael, eager, grateful, overwhelmed, was on hand to the minute appointed.
The wealthy business man, whose banking affairs had long since righted
themselves, turned from his multifarious duties, and rested his eyes upon
the young fellow, listening half-amused to his eager thanks.
The young man in truth was a sight to rest weary eyes.
The winter in New York had put new lines into his face and deepened the
wells of his blue eyes; they were the work of care and toil and suffering,
but--they had made a man's face out of a boy's fresh countenance. There was
power in the fine brow, strength in the firm, well-moulded chin, and both
kindliness and unselfishness in the lovely curves of his pleasant lips. The
city barber had been artist enough not to cut the glorious hair too short
while yet giving it the latest clean cut curve behind the ears and in the
neck. By instinct Michael's hands were well cared for. Endicott's tailor
had looked out for the rest.
"That's all right, son," Endicott cut Michael's sentence short. "I'm
pleased with the way you've been doing. Holt tells me he never had a more
promising student in his office. He says you're cut out for the law, and
you're going to be a success. But what's this they tell me about you
spending your evenings in the slums? I don't like the sound of that. Better
cut that out."
Michael began to tell in earnest protesting words of what he was trying to
do, but Endicott put up an impatient hand:
"That's all very well, son, I've no doubt they appreciate your help and all
that, and it's been very commendable in you to give your time, but now you
owe yourself something, and you owe the world something. You've got to turn
out a great lawyer and prove to the world that people from that district
are worth helping. That's the best way in the long run to help those
people. Give them into somebody else's hands now. You've done your part.
When you get to be a rich man you can give them something now and then if
you like, but it's time to cut out the work now. That sort of thing might
be very popular in a political leader, but you've got your way to make and
it's time you gave your evenings to culture, and to going out into society
somewhat. Here's a list of concerts and lectures for next winter. You ought
to go to them all. I'm sorry I didn't think of it this winter, but perhaps
it was as well not to go too deep at the start. However, you ought to waste
no more time. I've put your application in for season tickets for those
things on that list, and you'll receive tickets in due time. There's an art
exhibition or two where there are good things to be seen. You've got to see
and hear everything if you want to be a thoroughly educated man. I said
a word or two about you here and there, and I think you'll receive some
invitations worth accepting pretty soon. You'll need a dress suit, and I
had word sent to the tailor about it this morning when it occurred to me--"
"But," said Michael amazed and perturbed, "I do not belong in society.
People do not want one like me there. If they knew they would not ask me."
"Bosh! All bosh! Didn't I tell you to cut that out? People don't know and
you've no need to tell them. They think you are a distant relative of mine
if they think anything about it, and you're not to tell them you are not.
You owe it to me to keep still about it. If I guarantee you're all right
that ought to suit anybody."
"I couldn't go where people thought I was more than I was," said Michael,
head up, eyes shining, his firmest expression on his mouth, but intense
trouble in his eyes. It was hard to go against his benefactor.
"You got all those foolish notions from working down there in the slums.
You're got a false idea of yourself and a false notion of right and wrong.
It's high time you stopped going there. After you've been to a dance or two
and a few theatre suppers, and got acquainted with some nice girls who'll
invite you to their house-parties you'll forget you ever had anything to do
with the slums. I insist that you give that work up at once. Promise me you
will not go near the place again. Write them a letter--"
"I couldn't do that!" said Michael, his face expressive of anguish fighting
"Couldn't! Nonsense. There is no such word. I say I want you to do it.
Haven't I proved my right to make that request?"
"You have," said Michael, dropping his sorrowing eyes slowly, and taking
out the folded check from his pocket. "You have the right to ask it, but I
have no right to do what you ask. I have begun the work, and it would not
be right to stop it. Indeed, I couldn't. If you knew what it means to those
fellows--but I cannot keep this if you feel that way! I was going to use it
for the work--but now--"
Michael's pauses were eloquent. Endicott was deeply touched but he would
not show it. He was used to having his own way, and it irritated, while it
pleased him in a way, to have Michael so determined. As Michael stopped
talking he laid the check sadly on the desk.
"Nonsense!" said Endicott irritably, "this has nothing to do with the
check. That was your birthday present. Use it as you like. What I have
given I have given and I won't take back even if I have nothing more to do
with you from this time forth. I have no objection to your giving away as
much money as you can spare to benevolent institutions, but I say that I do
object to your wasting your time and your reputation in such low places.
It will injure you eventually, it can't help it. I want you to take your
evenings for society and for lectures and concerts--"
"I will go to the concerts and lectures gladly," said Michael gravely.
"I can see they will be fine for me, and I thank you very much for the
opportunity, but that will not hinder my work. It begins always rather late
in the evening, and there are other times--"
"You've no business to be staying out in places like that after the hour of
closing of decent places of amusement."
Michael refrained from saying that he had several times noticed society
ladies returning from balls and entertainments when he was on his way home.
"I simply can't have it if I'm to stand back of you."
"I'm, sorry," said Michael. "You won't ever know how sorry I am. It was so
good to know that I had somebody who cared a little for me. I shall miss it
very much. It has been almost like having a real father. Do you mean that
you will have to give up the--fatherliness?"
Endicott's voice shook with mingled emotions. It couldn't be that this
young upstart who professed to be so grateful and for whom he had done so
much would actually for the sake of a few wretched beings and a sentimental
feeling that he belonged in the slums and ought to do something for them,
run the risk of angering him effectually. It could not be!
"It means that I shall not do any of the things I had planned to do for
you, if you persist in refusing my most reasonable request. Listen, young
Michael noticed with keen pain that he had dropped the customary "son" from
his conversation, and it gave him a queer choky sensation of having been
cut off from the earth.
"I had planned"--the keen eyes searched the beautiful manly face before him
and the man's voice took on an insinuating tone; the tone he used when he
wished to buy up some political pull; the tone that never failed to buy his
man. Yet even as he spoke he felt an intuition that here was a man whom he
could not buy--
"I had planned to do a good many things for you. You will be through your
studies pretty soon and be ready to set up for yourself. Had you thought
ahead enough to know whether you would like a partnership in some old firm
or whether you want to set up for yourself?"
Michael's voice was grave and troubled but he answered at once:
"I would like to set up for myself, sir. There are things I must do, and I
do not know if a partner would feel as I do about them."
"Very well," said Endicott with satisfaction. He could not but be pleased
with the straightforward, decided way in which the boy was going ahead and
shaping his own life. It showed he had character. There was nothing Mr.
Endicott prized more than character--or what he called character: "Very
well, when you get ready to set up for yourself, and I don't think that
is going to be so many years off from what I hear, I will provide you an
office, fully furnished, in the most desirable quarter of the city, and
start you off as you ought to be started in order to win. I will introduce
you to some of my best friends, and put lucrative business in your way,
business with the great corporations that will bring you into immediate
prominence; then I will propose your name for membership in two or three
good clubs. Now those things I will do because I believe you have it in you
to make good; but you'll need the boosting. Every man in this city does.
Genius alone can't work you up to the top; but I can give you what you need
and I mean to do it, only I feel that you on your part ought to be willing
to comply with the conditions."
There was a deep silence in the room. Michael was struggling to master his
voice, but when he spoke it was husky with suppressed feeling:
"It is a great plan," he said. "It is just like you. I thank you, sir, for
the thought, with all my heart. It grieves me more than anything I ever had
to do to say no to you, but I cannot do as you ask. I cannot give up what
I am trying to do. I feel it would be wrong for me. I feel that it is
"Cannot! Humph! Cannot! You are like all the little upstart reformers,
filled with conceit of course. You think there is no one can do the work
but yourself! I will pay some one to do what you are doing! Will that
Michael slowly shook his head.
"No one could do it for pay," he said with conviction. "It must be done
from--perhaps it is love--I do not know. But anyway, no one was doing it,
and I must, for THEY ARE MY PEOPLE!"
As he said this the young man lifted his head with that angel-proud look of
his that defied a universe to set him from his purpose, and Endicott while
he secretly reveled in the boy's firmness and purpose, yet writhed that he
could not control this strength as he would.
"Your people! Bosh! You don't even know that! You may be the son of the
richest man in New York for all you know."
"The more shame mine, then, if he left me where you found me! Mr. Endicott,
have you ever been down in the alley where I used to live? Do you know the
conditions down there?"
"No, nor I don't want to go. And what's more I don't want you to go again.
Whatever you were or are, you ought to see that you are mine now. Why,
youngster, how do you know but you were kidnapped for a ransom, and the
game went awry? There are a thousand explanations of your unknown presence
there. You may have been lost--"
"Then have I not a debt to the people with whom I lived!"
"Oh, poppycock!" exclaimed the man angrily. "We'd better close the
conversation. You understand how I feel. If you think it over and change
your mind come back and tell me within the week. I sail Saturday for
Europe. I may not be back in three or four months. If you don't make
up your mind before I go you can write to me here at the office and my
secretary will forward it. You have disappointed me beyond anything I could
have dreamed. I am sure when you think it over you will see how wrong you
are and change your mind. Until then, good-bye!"
Michael arose dismissed, but he could not go that way.
"I shall not change my mind," he said sadly, "but it is terrible not to
have you understand. Won't you let me tell you all about it? Won't you let
"No, I don't want to hear any explanations. There is only one thing for me
to understand and that is that you think more of a set of vagabonds in an
alley than you do of my request!"
"No! That is not true!" said Michael. "I think more of you than of any
living man. I do not believe I could love you more if you were my own
father. I would give my life for you this minute--"
"There is an old word somewhere that says, 'To obey is better than
sacrifice.' Most people think they would rather be great heroes than do the
simple every-day things demanded of them. The test does not always prove
that they would--"
Michael's head went up almost haughtily, but there were great tears in his
eyes. Endicott dropped his own gaze from that sorrowful face. He knew his
words were false and cruel. He knew that Michael would not hesitate a
second to give his life. But the man could not bear to be withstood.
"If you feel that way I cannot take this!" Michael sadly, proudly held out
"As you please!" said Endicott curtly. "There's the waste-basket. Put it in
if you like. It isn't mine any longer. You may spend it as you please. My
conditions have nothing to do with what is past. If you do not prize my
gift to you by all means throw it away."
With a glance that would have broken Endicott's heart if he had not been
too stubborn to look up, Michael slowly folded the check and put it back
into his pocket.
"I do prize it," he said, "and I prize it because you gave it to me. It
meant and always will mean a great deal to me."
"There is one more thing perhaps I ought to tell you," hesitated Michael
"The farm. I am using it in my work for those people. Perhaps you will not
approve of that--"
"I have nothing further to do with the farm. You bought it, I believe. You
desired to pay for it when you were earning enough money to be able to do
so. That time has not yet come, therefore nothing further need be said. It
is your farm and you may use it as a pleasure park for pigs if you like. I
don't go back on my bargains. Good afternoon."
Endicott turned to the 'phone, took up the receiver and called up a number.
Michael saw that the conversation was ended. Slowly, with heavy step and
heavier heart, he went out of the office.
There were new lines of sadness on Michael's face that day, and when he
went down to the alley that evening his gentleness with all the little
"kids," and with the older ones, was so great that they looked at him more
than once with a new kind of awe and wonder. It was the gentleness of
sacrifice, of sacrifice for them, that was bringing with it the pain of
Old Sal who came over to "look in" that evening, as she put it, shook her
head as she stumped back to her rejuvenated room with its gaudy flowered
wall, bit of white curtain and pot of flowers in the window, all the work
of Michael and his follower Sam.
"I'm thinkin' he'll disuppeer one o' these days. Ye'll wake up an' he'll
be gahn. He's not of this worrld. He'll sprid his wings an' away. He's a
man-angel, thet's wot he is!"
Michael went home that night and wrote a letter to Mr. Endicott that would
have broken a heart of stone, telling his inmost thought; showing his love
and anguish in every sentence; and setting forth simply and unassumingly
the wonderful work he was doing in the alley.
But though he waited in anxiety day after day he received not a word of
reply. Endicott read the letter every word, and fairly gloated over the
boy's strength, but he was too stubborn to let it be known. Also he rather
enjoyed the test to which he was putting him.
Michael even watched the outgoing vessels on Saturday, looked up the
passenger lists, went down to the wharf and tried to see him before he
sailed, but for some reason was unable to get in touch with him.
Standing sadly on the wharf as the vessel sailed he caught sight of
Endicott, but though he was sure he had been seen he received no sign of
recognition, and he turned away sick at heart, and feeling as if he had for
conscience's sake stabbed one that loved him.
Those were trying days for Michael.
The weather had turned suddenly very warm. The office was sometimes
stifling. The daily routine got upon his nerves, he who had never before
known that he had nerves. There was always the aching thought that Starr
was gone from him--forever--and now he had by his own word cut loose from
her father--forever! His literal heart saw no hope in the future.
About that time, too, another sorrow fell upon him. He was glancing over
the paper one morning on his way to the office, and his eye fell on the
LONE TRAIN BANDIT HURT IN FIGHT AFTER GETTING LOOT
Captured by Conductor After He Had Rifled Mail Bags on Union Pacific
Topeka, Kan., July--. A daring bandit was captured last night a
he had robbed the mail car on Union Pacific train No. ---- which left
Kansas City for Denver at 10 o'clock.
The train known as the Denver Express, carrying heavy mail, was just
leaving Kansas City, when a man ran across the depot platform and
leaped into the mail car through the open door. The clerk in charge
faced the man, who aimed a revolver at him. He was commanded to bind
and gag his five associates, and obeyed. The robber then went through
all the registered pouches, stuffing the packages into his pockets.
Then he commanded the clerk to untie his comrades.
At Bonner Springs where the train made a brief stop the bandit ordered
the men to continue their work, so as not to attract the attention of
persons at the station. When Lawrence was reached the robber dropped
from the car and ran toward the rear of the train. The conductor
summoned two Lawrence policemen and all three followed. After a quick
race, and a struggle during which the bandit's arm was broken, he was
captured. It appears that the prisoner is an old offender, for whom the
police of New York have been searching in vain for the past ten months.
He is known in the lower districts of New York City as "Fighting Buck,"
and has a list of offenses against him too numerous to mention.
Michael did not know why his eye had been attracted to the item nor why he
had read the article through to the finish. It was not the kind of thing
he cared to read; yet of late all crime and criminals had held a sort of
sorrowful fascination for him. "It is what I might have done if I had
stayed in the alley," he would say to himself when he heard of some
terrible crime that had been committed.
But when he reached the end of the article and saw Buck's name his heart
seemed to stand still.
Buck! The one of all his old comrades whom he had loved the most, who had
loved him, and sacrificed for him; to whom he had written and sent money;
whose brain was brighter and whose heart bigger than any of the others; for
whom he had searched in vain, and found only to lose before he had seen
him; whom he had hoped yet to find and to save. Buck had done this, and was
caught in his guilt. And a government offense, too, robbing the mail bags!
It would mean long, hard service. It would mean many years before Michael
could help him to the right kind of life, even if ever.
He asked permission to leave the office that afternoon, and took the train
down to the farm where Sam had been staying for some weeks. He read the
article to him, hoping against hope that Sam would say there was some
mistake; would know somehow that Buck was safe. But Sam listened with
lowering countenance, and when the reading was finished he swore a great
oath, such as he had not uttered before in Michael's presence, and Michael
knew that the story must be true.
Nothing could be done now. The law must have its course, but Michael's
heart was heavy with the weight of what might have been if he could but
have found Buck sooner. The next day he secured permission to begin his
vacation at once, and in spite of great need of his presence at Old Orchard
he took the train for Kansas. He felt that he must see Buck at once.
All during that long dismal ride Michael's heart was beating over and over
with the story of his own life. "I might have done this thing. I would have
dared and thought it brave if I had not been taught better. I might be even
now in jail with a broken arm and a useless life: the story of my crime
might be bandied through the country in the newspapers if it had not been
for Mr. Endicott--and little Starr! And yet I have hurt his feelings and
alienated his great kindness by refusing his request. Was there no other
way? Was there no other way?" And always his conscience answered, "There
was no other way!"
Michael, armed with a letter from the senior Holt to a powerful member
of western municipal affairs, found entrance to Buck in his miserable
confinement quite possible. He dawned upon his one-time friend, out of the
darkness of the cell, as a veritable angel of light. Indeed, Buck, waking
from a feverish sleep on his hard little cot, moaning and cursing with the
pain his arm was giving him, started up and looked at him with awe and
horror! The light from the corridor caught the gold in Michael's hair and
made his halo perfect; and Buck thought for the moment that some new terror
had befallen him, and he was in the hands of the angel of death sent to
summon him to a final judgment for all his misdeeds.
But Michael met his old friend with tenderness, and a few phrases that had
been wont to express their childish loyalty; and Buck, weakened by the
fever and the pain, and more than all by his own defeat and capture, broke
down and wept, and Michael wept with him.
"It might have been me instead of you, Buck. If I had stayed behind, I'd
have done all those things. I see it clearly. I might have been lying here
and you out and free. Buck, if it could give you my chance in life, and
help you see it all as I do I'd gladly lie here and take your place."
"Mikky! Mikky!" cried Buck. "It's me own Mikky! You was allus willin' to
take de rubs! But, Mikky, ef you'd hed de trainin' you'd hev made de fine
robber! You'd hev been a peach an' no mistake!"
Michael had found a soft spot in the warden's heart and succeeded in doing
a number of little things for Buck's comfort. He hunted up the chaplain and
secured a promise from him to teach Buck to read and write, and also to
read to him all letters that Buck received, until such a time as he should
be able to read them for himself. He sent a pot of roses with buds and full
bloom to perfume the dark cell, and he promised to write often; while Buck
on his part could only say over and over; "Oh, Mikky! Mikky! Ef we wos oney
kids agin! Oh, Mikky, I'll git out o' here yit an' find ye. Ye'll not be
ashamed o' me. Ef I oney hadn't a bungled de job. It were a bum job! Mikky!
A bum job!"
Michael saw that there was little use in talking to Buck about his sin.
Buck had nothing whatever to build upon in the line of morals. To be loyal
to his friends, and to do his "work" so that he would not get caught were
absolutely the only articles in his creed. To get ahead of the rich, to
take from them that which was theirs if he could, regardless of life or
consequences, that was virtue; the rich were enemies, and his daring code
of honor gave them the credit of equal courage with himself. They must
outwit him or lose. If they died it was "all in the day's work" and their
loss. When his turn came he would take his medicine calmly. But the trouble
with Buck now was that he had "bungled the job." It was a disgrace on his
profession. Things had been going against him lately, and he was "down on
Michael went back from the West feeling that the brief time allowed him
with Buck was all too short for what he wanted to do for him; yet he felt
that it had been worth the journey. Buck appreciated his sympathy, if he
did not have an adequate sense of his own sinfulness. Michael had talked
and pitied and tried to make Buck see, but Buck saw not, and Michael went
home to hope and write and try to educate Buck through sheer love. It was
all he saw to do.
It was about this time that Michael began to receive money in small sums,
anonymously, through the mail. "For your work" the first was labelled and
the remittances that followed had no inscriptions. They were not always
addressed in the same hand, and never did he know the writing. Sometimes
there would be a ten-dollar bill, sometimes a twenty, and often more,
and they came irregularly, enclosed in a thin, inner envelope of foreign
looking paper. Michael wondered sometimes if Starr could have sent them,
but that was impossible of course, for she knew nothing of his work,
and they were always postmarked New York. He discovered that such thin
foreign-looking envelopes could be had in New York, and after that he
abandoned all idea of trying to solve the mystery. It was probably some
queer, kind person who did not wish to be known. He accepted the help
gladly and broadened his plans for the farm accordingly.
Sam and his five friends had gone down early in the spring, bunking in the
old house, and enjoying the outing immensely. Under Sam's captaincy, and
the tutelage of an old farmer whom Michael had found, who could not work
much himself but could direct, the work had gone forward; Michael himself
coming down Saturdays, and such of the tail ends of the afternoons as he
could get. It is true that many mistakes were made through ignorance, and
more through stupidity. It is true that no less than five times the whole
gang went on a strike until Michael should return to settle some dispute
between the new scientific farming that he had taught them, and some old
superstition, or clumsy practice of the farmer's. But on the whole they did
tolerably good work.
The farm colony had been meantime increasing. Michael picked them up in
the alley; they came to him and asked to be taken on for a trial. They had
heard of the experiment through Sam, or one of the other boys who had come
back to the city for a day on some errand for the farm.
One glorious summer morning Michael took ten small eager newsboys down
to pick wild strawberries for the day, and they came back dirty, tired,
strawberry streaked, and happy, and loudly sang the praises of Old Orchard
as though it had been a Heaven. After that Michael had no trouble in
transplanting any one he wished to take with him.
He found a poor wretch who had lately moved with his family to one of the
crowded tenements in the alley. He was sodden in drink and going to
pieces fast. Michael sobered him down, found that he used to be a master
carpenter, and forthwith transplanted him to Old Orchard, family and all.
Under the hand of the skilled carpenter there sprang up immediately a
colony of tents and later small one-roomed shacks or bungalows. Michael
bought lumber and found apprentices to help, and the carpenter of the
colony repaired barns and outhouses, fences, or built shacks, whenever the
head of affairs saw fit to need another.
The only person in the whole alley whom Michael had invited in vain to the
farm was old Sally. She had steadily refused to leave her gaily papered
room, her curtained window and her geranium. It was a symbol of "ould
Ireland" to her, and she felt afraid of this new place of Michael's. It
seemed to her superstitious fancy like an immediate door to a Heaven, from
which she felt herself barred by her life. It assumed a kind of terror to
her thoughts. She was not ready to leave her little bit of life and take
chances even for Michael. And so old Sal sat on her doorstep and watched
the alley dwellers come and go, listening with interest to each new account
of the farm, but never willing to see for herself. Perhaps the secret of
her hesitation after all went deeper than superstition. She had received
private information that Old Orchard had no Rum Shop around the corner. Old
Sally could not run any risks, so she stayed at home.
But the carpenter's wife was glad to cook for the men when the busy days of
planting and weeding and harvesting came, and the colony grew and grew. Two
or three other men came down with their families, and helped the carpenter
to build them little houses, with a bit of garden back, and a bed of
flowers in front. They could see the distant sea from their tiny porches,
and the river wound its salty silver way on the other hand. It was a great
change from the alley. Not all could stand it, but most of them bore the
summer test well. It would be when winter set its white distance upon them,
chilled the flowers to slumber, and stopped the labor that the testing time
would come; and Michael was thinking about that.
He began hunting out helpers for his purposes.
He found a man skilled in agricultural arts and secured his services to
hold a regular school of agriculture during the winter for the men. He
found a poor student at Princeton who could run up on the train daily and
give simple lessons in reading and arithmetic. He impressed it upon Sam and
the other young men that unless they could read for themselves enough to
keep up with the new discoveries in the science other farmers would get
ahead of them and grow bigger potatoes and sweeter ears of corn than they
did. He kept up a continual sunny stream of eager converse with them about
what they were going to do, and how the place was going to grow, until they
felt as if they owned the earth and meant to show the world how well they
were running it. In short, he simply poured his own spirit of enthusiasm
into them, and made the whole hard summer of unaccustomed labor one great
game; and when the proceeds from their first simple crops came in from the
sale of such products as they did not need for their own use in the colony,
Michael carefully divided it among his various workmen and at his wish they
went in a body and each started a bank account at the little National Bank
of the town. It was a very little of course, absurdly little, but it made
the workers feel like millionaires, and word of the successes went back to
the city, and more and more the people were willing to come down, until by
fall there were thirty-eight men, women and children, all told, living on
Of course that made little appreciable difference in the population of the
alley, for as soon as one family moved out another was ready to move in,
and there was plenty of room for Michael's work to go on. Nevertheless,
there were thirty-eight souls on the way to a better knowledge of life,
with clean and wholesome surroundings and a chance to learn how to read and
how to work.
The carpenter was set to get ready more tiny houses for the next summer's
campaign, the tents were folded away, the spring wheat was all in; the fall
plowing and fertilizing completed and whatever else ought to be done to
a farm for its winter sleep; half a dozen cows were introduced into the
settlement and a roomy chicken house and run prepared. Sam set about
studying incubators, and teaching his helpers. Then when the cranberries
were picked the colony settled down to its study.
The Princeton student and the agricultural student grew deeply interested
in their motley school, and finally produced a young woman who came down
every afternoon for a consideration, and taught a kindergarten, to which
many of the prematurely grown-up mothers came also with great delight and
profit, and incidentally learned how to be better, cleaner, wiser mothers.
The young woman of her own accord added a cooking school for the women and
Once a week Michael brought down some one from New York to amuse these poor
childish people. And so the winter passed.
Once a wealthy friend of Mr. Holt asked to be taken down to see the place,
and after going the rounds of the farm and making himself quite friendly
roasting chestnuts around the great open fire in the "big house," as the
original cottage was called, returned to New York with many congratulations
for Michael. A few days afterward he mailed to Michael the deed of the
adjoining farm of one hundred acres, and Michael, radiant, wondering, began
to know that his dreams for his poor downtrodden people were coming true.
There would be room enough now for many a year to come for the people he
needed to bring down.
Of course this had not all been done without discouragements. Some of the
most hopeful of the colonists had proved unmanageable, or unwilling to
work; some had run away, or smuggled in some whiskey. There had been two
or three incipient rows, and more than double that number of disappointing
enterprises, but yet, the work was going on.
And still, there came no word from Mr. Endicott.
Michael was holding well with his employers, and they were beginning to
talk to him of a partnership with them when he was done, for he had far
outstripped French in his studies, and seemed to master everything he
touched with an eagerness that showed great intellectual appetite.
He still kept up his work in the little white room in the alley, evenings,
though he divided his labors somewhat with Will French, Miss Semple and
others who had heard of the work and had gradually offered their services.
It had almost become a little settlement or mission in itself. The one
room had become two and a bath; then the whole first floor with a small
gymnasium. French was the enthusiastic leader in this, and Hester Semple
had done many things for the little children and women. The next set of
colonists for Michael's farm were always being got ready and were spoken of
as "eligibles" by the workers.
Hester Semple had proved to be a most valuable assistant, ever ready with
suggestions, tireless and as enthusiastic as Michael himself. Night after
night the three toiled, and came home happily together. The association
with the two was very sweet to Michael, whose heart was famished for
friends and relations who "belonged," But it never occurred to Michael to
look on Miss Semple in any other light than friend and fellow worker.
Will French and Michael were coming home from the office one afternoon
together, and talking eagerly of the progress at the farm.
"When you get married, Endicott," said Will, "you must build a handsome
bungalow or something for your summer home, down there on that knoll just
overlooking the river where you can see the sea in the distance."
Michael grew sober at once.
"I don't expect ever to be married, Will," he said after a pause, with one
of his far-away looks, and his chin up, showing that what he had said was
an indisputable fact.
"The Dickens!" said Will stopping in his walk and holding up Michael. "She
hasn't refused you, has she?"
"Refused me? Who? What do you mean?" asked Michael looking puzzled.
"Why, Hester--Miss Semple. She hasn't turned you down, old chap?"
"Miss Semple! Why, Will, you never thought--you don't think she ever
"Well, I didn't know," said Will embarrassedly, "it looked pretty much like
it sometimes. There didn't seem much show for me. I've thought lately you
had it all settled and were engaged sure."
"Oh, Will," said Michael in that tone that showed his soul was moved to its
"I say, old chap!" said Will, "I'm fiercely sorry I've butted in to your
affairs. I never dreamed you'd feel like this. But seeing I have, would
you mind telling me if you'll give me a good send off with Hester? Sort of
'bless-you-my-son,' you know; and tell me you don't mind if I go ahead and
try my luck."
"With all my heart, Will. I never thought of it, but I believe it would be
great for you both. You seem sort of made for each other."
"It's awfully good of you to say so," said Will, "but I'm afraid Hester
doesn't think so. She's all taken up with you."
"Not at all!" said Michael eagerly. "Not in the least. I've never noticed
it. I'm sure she likes you best."
And it was so from that night that Michael almost always had some excuse
for staying later at the room, or for going somewhere else for a little
while so that he would have to leave them half way home; and Hester and
Will from that time forth walked together more and more. Thus Michael took
his lonely way, cut off from even this friendly group.
And the summer and the winter made the second year of the colony at Old
Then, the following spring Starr Endicott and her mother came home and
things began to happen.
Starr was eighteen when she returned, and very beautiful. Society was made
at once aware of her presence.
Michael, whose heart was ever on the alert to know of her, and to find out
where Mr. Endicott was, saw the first notice in the paper.
Three times had Endicott crossed the water to visit his wife and daughter
during their stay abroad, and every time Michael had known and anxiously
awaited some sign of his return. He had read the society columns now for
two years solely for the purpose of seeing whether anything would be said
about the Endicott family, and he was growing wondrously wise in the ways
of the society world.
Also, he had come to know society a little in another way.
Shortly after his last interview with Endicott Miss Emily Holt, daughter of
the senior member of the firm of Holt and Holt, had invited Michael to dine
with her father and herself; and following this had come an invitation to a
house party at the Holts' country seat. This came in the busy season of the
farm work; but Michael, anxious to please his employers, took a couple of
days off and went. And he certainly enjoyed the good times to the full. He
had opportunity to renew his tennis in which he had been a master hand, and
to row and ride, in both of which he excelled. Also, he met a number of
pleasant people who accepted him for the splendid fellow he looked to be
and asked not who he was. Men of his looks and bearing came not in their
way every day and Michael was good company wherever he went.
However, when it came to the evenings, Michael was at a loss. He could not
dance nor talk small talk. He was too intensely in earnest for society's
ways, and they did not understand. He could talk about the books he had
read, and the things he had thought, but they were great thoughts and not
at all good form for a frivolous company to dwell upon. One did not want a
problem in economics or a deep philosophical question thrust upon one at a
dance. Michael became a delightful but difficult proposition for the girls
present, each one undertaking to teach him how to talk in society, but each
in turn making a miserable failure. At last Emily Holt herself set out to
give him gentle hints on light conversation and found herself deep in a
discussion of Wordsworth's poems about which she knew absolutely nothing,
and in which Michael's weary soul had been steeping itself lately.
Miss Holt retired in laughing defeat, at last, and advised her protégé to
take a course of modern novels. Michael, always serious, took her at her
word, and with grave earnestness proceeded to do so; but his course ended
after two or three weeks. He found them far from his taste, the most of
them too vividly portraying the sins of his alley in a setting of high
life. Michael had enough of that sort of thing in real life, and felt
he could not stand the strain of modern fiction, so turned back to his
Wordsworth again and found soothing and mental stimulus.
But there followed other invitations, some of which he accepted and some
of which he declined. Still, the handsome, independent young Adonis was
in great demand in spite of his peculiar habit of always being in earnest
about everything. Perhaps they liked him and ran after him but the more
because of his inaccessibility, and the fact that he was really doing
something in the world. For it began to be whispered about among those who
knew--and perhaps Emily Holt was the originator--that Michael was going
to be something brilliant in the world of worth-while-things one of these
The tickets that Endicott promised him had arrived in due time, and anxious
to please his benefactor, even in his alienation, Michael faithfully
attended concerts and lectures, and enjoyed them to the full, borrowing
from his hours of sleep to make up what he had thus spent, rather than from
his work or his study. And thus he grew in knowledge of the arts, and in
love of all things great, whether music, or pictures, or great minds.
Matters stood thus when Starr appeared on the scene.
The young girl made her début that winter, and the papers were full of
her pictures and the entertainments given in her honor. She was dined and
danced and recepted day after day and night after night, and no débutante
had ever received higher praise of the critics for beauty, grace, and charm
Michael read them all, carefully cut out and preserved a few pleasant
things that were written about her, looked at the pictures, and turned from
the pomp and pride of her triumph to the little snapshot of herself on
horseback in the Park with her groom, which she had sent to him when she
was a little girl. That was his, and his alone, but these others belonged
to the world, the world in which he had no part.
For from all this gaiety of society Michael now held aloof. Invitations
he received, not a few, for he was growing more popular every day, but he
declined them all. A fine sense of honor kept him from going anywhere that
Starr was sure to be. He had a right, of course, and it would have been
pleasant in a way to have her see that he was welcome in her world; but
always there was before his mental vision the memory of her mother's biting
words as she put him down from the glorified presence of her world, into an
existence of shame and sin and sorrow. He felt that Starr was so far above
him that he must not hurt her by coming too near. And so, in deference to
the vow that he had taken when the knowledge of his unworthiness had first
been presented to him, he stayed away.
Starr, as she heard more and more of his conquests in her world, wondered
and was piqued that he came not near her. And one day meeting him by chance
on Fifth Avenue, she greeted him graciously and invited him to call.
Michael thanked her with his quiet manner, while his heart was in a tumult
over her beauty, and her dimpled smiles that blossomed out in the old
childish ways, only still more beautifully, it seemed to him. He went in
the strength of that smile many days: but he did not go to call upon her.
The days passed into weeks and months, and still he did not appear, and
Starr, hearing more of his growing inaccessibility, determined to show the
others that she could draw him out of his shell. She humbled her Endicott
pride and wrote him a charming little note asking him to call on one of the
"afternoons" when she and her mother held court. But Michael, though he
treasured the note, wrote a graceful, but decided refusal.
This angered the young woman, exceedingly, and she decided to cut him out
of her good graces entirely. And indeed the whirl of gaiety in which
she was involved scarcely gave her time for remembering old friends. In
occasional odd moments when she thought of him at all, it was with a vague
kind of disappointment, that he too, with all the other things of her
childhood, had turned out to be not what she had thought.
But she met him face to face one bright Sunday afternoon as she walked on
the avenue with one of the many courtiers who eagerly attended her every
step. He was a slender, handsome young fellow, with dark eyes and hair and
reckless mouth. There were jaded lines already around his youthful eyes and
lips. His name was Stuyvesant Carter. Michael recognized him at once. His
picture had been in the papers but the week before as leader with Starr of
the cotillion. His presence with her in the bright sunny afternoon was to
Michael like a great cloud of trouble looming out of a perfect day. He
looked and looked again, his expressive eyes searching the man before him
to the depths, and then going to the other face, beautiful, innocent,
Michael was walking with Hester Semple.
Now Hester, in her broadcloth tailored suit, and big black hat with plumes,
was a pretty sight, and she looked quite distinguished walking beside
Michael, whose garments seemed somehow always to set him off as if they had
been especially designed for him; and after whom many eyes were turned as
he passed by.
Had it been but the moment later, or even three minutes before, Will French
would have been with them and Michael would have been obviously a third
member of the party, for he was most careful in these days to let them both
know that he considered they belonged together. But Will had stopped a
moment to speak to a business acquaintance, and Hester and Michael were
walking slowly ahead until he should rejoin them.
"Look!" said Hester excitedly. "Isn't that the pretty Miss Endicott whose
picture is in the papers so much? I'm sure it must be, though she's ten
times prettier than any of her pictures."
But Michael needed not his attention called. He was already looking with
all his soul in his eyes.
As they came opposite he lifted his hat with, such marked, deference to
Starr that young Stuyvesant Carter turned and looked at him insolently,
with a careless motion of his own hand toward his hat. But Starr, with
brilliant cheeks, and eyes that looked straight at Michael, continued her
conversation with her companion and never so much as by the flicker of an
eyelash recognized her former friend.
It was but an instant in the passing, and Hester was so taken up with
looking at the beauty of the idol of society that she never noticed
Michael's lifted hat until they were passed. Then Will French joined them
"Gee whiz, but she's a peach, isn't she?" he breathed as he took his place
beside Hester, and Michael dropped behind, "but I suppose it'll all rub
off. They say most of those swells aren't real."
"I think she's real!" declared Hester. "Her eyes are sweet and her smile
is charming. The color on her cheeks wasn't put on like paint. I just love
her. I believe I'd like to know her. She certainly is beautiful, and she
doesn't look a bit spoiled. Did you ever see such eyes?"
"They aren't half as nice as a pair of gray ones I know," said Will looking
meaningfully at them as they were lifted smiling to his.
"Will, you mustn't say such things--on the street--anyway--and Michael
just behind--Why, where is Michael? See! He has dropped away behind and
is walking slowly. Will, does Michael know Miss Endicott? I never thought
before about their names being the same. But he lifted his hat to her--and
she simply stared blankly at him as if she had never seen him before."
"The little snob!" said Will indignantly. "I told you they were all
artificial. I believe they are some kind of relation or other. Come to
think of it I believe old Endicott introduced Michael into our office.
Maybe she hasn't seen him in a long time and has forgotten him."
"No one who had once known Michael could ever forget him," said Hester with
"No, I suppose that's so," sighed Will, looking at her a trifle wistfully.
After the incident of this meeting Michael kept more and more aloof from
even small entrances into society; and more and more he gave his time to
study and to work among the poor.
So the winter passed in a round of gaieties, transplanted for a few weeks
to Palm Beach, then back again to New York, then to Tuxedo for the summer,
and Michael knew of it all, yet had no part any more in it, for now she had
cut him out of her life herself, and he might not even cherish her bright
smiles and words of the past. She did not wish to know him. It was right,
it was just; it was best; but it was agony!
Michael's fresh color grew white that year, and he looked more like the
man-angel than ever as he came and went in the alley; old Sally from her
doorstep, drawing nearer and nearer to her own end, saw it first, and
called daily attention to the spirit-look of Michael as he passed.
One evening early in spring, Michael was starting home weary and unusually
discouraged. Sam had gone down to the farm with Jim to get ready for the
spring work, and find out just how things were going and what was needed
from the city. Jim was developing into a tolerably dependable fellow save
for his hot temper, and Michael missed them from, the alley work, for the
rooms were crowded now every night. True Hester and Will were faithful, but
they were so much taken up with one another in these days that he did not
like to trouble them with unusual cases, and he had no one with whom to
counsel. Several things had been going awry and he was sad.
Hester and Will were ahead walking slowly as usual. Michael locked the door
with a sigh and turned to follow them, when he saw in the heavy shadows
on the other side of the court two figures steal from one of the openings
between the houses and move along toward the end of the alley. Something in
their demeanor made Michael watch them instinctively. As they neared the
end of the alley toward the street they paused a moment and one of the
figures stole back lingeringly. He thought he recognized her as a girl
cursed with more than the usual amount of beauty. She disappeared into the
darkness of the tenement, but the other after looking back a moment kept on
toward the street. Michael quickened his steps and came to the corner at
about the same time, crossing over as the other man passed the light and
looking full in his face.
To his surprise he saw that the man was Stuyvesant Carter!
With an exclamation of disgust and horror Michael stepped full in the
pathway of the man and blocked, his further passage.
"What are you doing here?" He asked in tones that would have made a brave
Stuyvesant Carter glared at the vision that had suddenly stopped his way,
drew his hat down over his evil eyes and snarled: "Get out of my way or
you'll be sorry! I'm probably doing the same thing that you're doing here!"
"Probably not!" said Michael with meaning tone. "You know you can mean no
good to a girl like that one you were just with. Come down here again at
your peril! And if I hear of you're having anything to do with that girl
I'll take means to have the whole thing made public."
"Indeed!" said young Carter insolently. "Is she your girl? I think not! And
who are you anyway?"
"You'll find out if you come down here again!" said Michael his fingers
fairly aching to grip the gentlemanly villain before him. "Now get out of
here at once or you may not be able to walk out."
"I'll get out when I like!" sneered the other, nevertheless backing rapidly
away through the opening given him. When he had reached a safe distance, he
added, tantalizingly: "And I'll come back when I like, too."
"Very well, I shall be ready for you, Mr. Carter!"
Michael's tones were clear and distinct and could be heard two blocks away
in the comparative stillness of the city night. At sound of his real name
spoken fearlessly in such environment, the leader of society slid away into
the night as if he had suddenly been erased from the perspective; nor did
sound of footsteps linger from his going.
"Who was dat guy?"
It was a small voice that spoke at Michael's elbow. Hester and Will were
far down the street in the other direction and had forgotten Michael.
Michael turned and saw one of his smallest "kids" crouching in the shadow
"Why, Tony, are you here yet? You ought to have been asleep long ago."
"Was dat de ike wot comes to see Lizzie?"
"See here, Tony, what do you know about this?"
Whereupon Tony proceeded, to unfold a tale that made Michael's heart sick.
"Lizzie, she's got swell sence she went away to work to a res'trant at de
sheeshole. She ain't leavin' her ma hev her wages, an' she wears fierce
does, like de swells!" finished Tony solemnly as if these things were the
worst of all that he had told.
So Michael sent Tony to his rest and went home with a heavy heart, to wake
and think through the night long what he should do to save Starr, his
bright beautiful Starr, from the clutches of this human vampire.
When morning dawned Michael knew what he was going to do. He had decided to
go to Mr. Endicott and tell him the whole story. Starr's father could and
would protect her better than he could.
As early as he could get away from the office he hurried to carry out his
purpose, but on arriving at Mr. Endicott's office he was told that the
gentleman had sailed for Austria and would be absent some weeks, even
months, perhaps, if his business did not mature as rapidly as he hoped.
Michael asked for the address, but when he reached his desk again and tried
to frame a letter that would convey the truth convincingly to the absent
father, who could not read it for more than a week at least, and would
then be thousands of miles away from the scene of action, he gave it up as
useless. Something more effectual must be done and done quickly.
In the first place he must have facts. He could not do anything until he
knew beyond a shadow of doubt that what he feared was true absolutely. If
he could have told Mr. Endicott all would have been different; he was a man
and could do his own investigating if he saw fit. Michael might have left
the matter in his hands. But he could not tell him.
If there was some other male member of the family to whom he could go with
the warning, he must be very sure of his ground before he spoke. If there
were no such man friend or relative of the family he must do something
else--what? He shrank from thinking.
And so with the sources open to a keen lawyer, he went to work to ferret
out the life and doings of Stuyvesant Carter; and it is needless to say
that he unearthed a lot of information that was so sickening in its nature
that he felt almost helpless before it. It was appalling--and the more so
because of the rank and station of the man. If he had been brought up in
the slums one might have expected--but this!
The second day, Michael, haggard and worn with the responsibility, started
out to find that useful male relative of the Endicott family. There seemed
to be no such person. The third morning he came to the office determined
to tell the whole story to Mr. Holt, senior, and ask his advice and aid in
protecting Starr; but to his dismay he found that Mr. Holt, senior, had
been taken seriously ill with heart trouble, and it might be weeks before
he was able to return to the office.
Deeply grieved and utterly baffled, the young man tried to think what to do
next. The junior Mr. Holt had never encouraged confidences, and would not
be likely to help in this matter. He must do something himself.
And now Michael faced two alternatives.
There were only two people to whom the story could be told, and they were
Starr herself, and her mother!
Tell Starr all he knew he could not. To tell her anything of this story
would be gall and wormwood! To have to drop a hint that would blacken
another man's character would place him in a most awkward position. To
think of doing it was like tearing out his heart for her to trample upon.
Yet on the other hand Michael would far rather go into battle and face a
thousand bristling cannon mouths than meet the mother on her own ground and
tell her what he had to tell, while her steel-cold eyes looked him through
and through or burned him with scorn and unbelief. He had an instinctive
feeling that he should fail if he went to her.
At last he wrote a note to Starr:
"Dear Miss Endicott:
"Can you let me have a brief interview at your convenience and just as soon
as possible? I have a favor to ask of you which I most earnestly hope you
will be willing to grant.
He sent the note off with fear and trembling. Every word had been carefully
considered and yet it haunted him continually that he might have written
differently. Would she grant the interview? If she did not what then should
The next day he received a ceremonious little note on creamy paper crested
with a silver star monogramed in blue:
"Miss Endicott will receive Mr. Endicott to-morrow morning at eleven."
A shiver ran through him as he read, and consigned the elegant
communication to his waste-basket. It was not from his Starr. It was from
a stranger. And yet, the subtle perfume that stole forth from the envelope
reminded him of her. On second thought he drew it forth again and put it in
his pocket. After all she had granted the interview, and this bit of paper
was a part of her daily life; it had come from her, she had written it, and
sent it to him. It was therefore precious.
Starr had been more than usually thoughtful when she read Michael's note.
It pleased her that at last she had brought him to her feet, though not for
the world would she let him know it. Doubtless he wished her influence for
some position or other that he would have asked her father instead if he
had been at home. Starr knew nothing of the alienation between her father
and Michael. But Michael should pay for his request, in humility at least.
Therefore she sent her cool little stab of ceremony to call him to her.
But Michael did not look in the least humiliated as he entered the
luxurious library where Starr had chosen to receive him. His manner was
grave and assured, and he made no sign of the tumult it gave him to see her
thus in her own home once more where all her womanliness and charm were but
enhanced by the luxury about her.
He came forward to greet her just as if she had not cut him dead the very
last time they met; and Starr as she regarded him was struck with wonder
over the exalted beauty of manhood that was his unique dower.
"Thank you for letting me come," he said simply. "I will not intrude long
upon your time--"
Starr had a strange sensation of fear lest he was going to slip away from
her again before she was willing.
"Oh, that is all right," she said graciously; "won't you sit down. I am
always glad to do a favor for a friend of my childhood."
It was a sentence she had rehearsed many times in her mind, and it was
meant to convey reproach and indifference in the extreme, but somehow
as she fluttered into a great leather chair she felt that her voice was
trembling and she had miserably failed in what she had meant to do. She
felt strangely ashamed of her attitude, with those two dear soulful eyes
looking straight at her. It reminded her of the way he had looked when he
told her in the Florida chapel long ago that nobody but herself had ever
kissed him--and she had kissed him then. Suppose he should be going to ask
her to do it again! The thought made her cheeks rosy, and her society air
deserted her entirely. But of course he would not do that. It was a crazy
thought. What was the matter with her anyway, and why did she feel so
unnerved? Then Michael spoke.
"May I ask if you know a man by the name of Stuyvesant Carter?"
Starr looked startled, and then stiffened slightly.
"I do!" she answered graciously. "He is one of my intimate friends. Is
there anything he can do for you that you would like my intercession?"
Starr smiled graciously. She thought she understood the reason for
Michael's call now, and she was pleased to think how easily she could grant
his request. The idea of introducing the two was stimulating. She was
pondering what a handsome pair of men they were, and so different from each
But Michael's clear voice startled her again out of her complacence.
"Thank God there is not!" he said, and his tone had that in it that made
Starr sit up and put on all her dignity.
"Indeed!" she said with asperity, her eyes flashing.
"Pardon me, Miss Endicott," Michael said sadly. "You do not understand my
feeling, of course!"
"I certainly do not." All Starr's icicle sentences were inherited from her
"And I cannot well explain," he went on sadly. "I must ask you to take it
on trust. The favor I have come to ask is this, that you will not have
anything further to do with that young man until your father's return. I
know this may seem very strange to you, but believe me if you understood
you would not hesitate to do what I have asked."
Michael held her with his look and with his earnest tones. For a moment she
could not speak from sheer astonishment at his audacity. Then she froze him
with a look copied from her mother's haughty manner.
"And what reason can you possibly give for such an extraordinary request?"
she asked at last, when his look compelled an answer.
"I cannot give you a reason," he said gravely. "You must trust me that this
is best. Your father will explain to you when he comes."
Another pause and then Starr haughtily asked:
"And you really think that I would grant such a ridiculous request which
in itself implies a lack of trust in the character of one of my warmest
"I most earnestly hope that you will," answered Michael.
In spite of her hauteur she could not but be impressed by Michael's manner.
His grave tones and serious eyes told hear heart that here was something
out of the ordinary, at least she gave Michael credit for thinking there
"I certainly shall not do anything of the kind without a good reason for
it." Starr's tone was determined and cold.
"And I can give you no reason beyond telling you that he is not such a man
as a friend of yours should be."
"What do you mean?"
"Please do not ask me. Please trust me and give me your promise. At least
wait until I can write to your father."
Starr rose with a look of her father's stubbornness now in her pretty face.
"I wish to be told," she demanded angrily.
"You would not wish to be told if you knew," he answered.
She stood looking at him steadily for a full moment, then with a graceful
toss of her lovely head, she said haughtily:
"I must decline to accede to your request, Mr. Endicott. You will excuse
me, I have a luncheon engagement now."
She stood aside for him to go out the door, but as he rose with pleading
still in his eyes, he said:
"You will write to your father and tell him what I have said? You will wait
until you hear from him?"
"It is impossible, Mr. Endicott." Starr's tone was freezing now, and he
could see that she was very angry. "Mr. Carter is my friend!" she flung at
him as he passed her and went out into the hall.
Another night of anguish brought Michael face to face with the necessity
for an interview with Starr's mother.
Taking his cue from the hour Starr had set for his call, he went a little
before eleven o'clock and sent up the card of the firm with his own name
written below; for he had very serious doubts of obtaining an interview at
all if the lady thought he might be there on his own business.
It is doubtful whether Mrs. Endicott recognized the former "Mikky"
under the title written below his most respectable law firm's name. Any
representative of Holt and Holt was to be recognized of course. She came
down within a half hour, quite graciously with lorgnette in her hand, until
she had reached the centre of the reception room where he had been put
to await her. Then Michael arose, almost from the same spot where she had
addressed him nearly four years before, the halo of the morning shining
through the high window on his hair, and with a start and stiffening of her
whole form she recognized him.
"Oh, it is _you_!" There was that in her tone that argued ill for Michael's
mission, but with grave and gentle bearing he began:
"Madam, I beg your pardon for the intrusion. I would not have come if there
had been any other way. I tried to find Mr. Endicott but was told he had
"You needn't waste your time, and mine. I shall do nothing for you. As I
told you before, if I remember, I think far too much already has been done
for you and I never felt that you had the slightest claim upon our bounty.
I must refuse to hear any hard luck stories."
Michael's face was a study. Indignation, shame and pity struggled with a
sudden sense of the ridiculousness of the situation.
What he did was to laugh, a rich, clear, musical laugh that stopped the
lady's tirade better than he could have done it in any other way.
"Well! Really! Have you come to insult me?" she said angrily. "I will call
a servant," and she stepped curtly toward the bell.
"Madam, I beg your pardon," said Michael quickly, grave at once. "I
intended no insult and I have come to ask no favor of you. I came because
of a serious matter, perhaps a grave danger to your home, which I thought
you should be made acquainted with."
"Indeed! Well, make haste," said Mrs. Endicott, half mollified. "My time is
valuable. Has some one been planning to rob the house?"
Michael looked straight in her face and told her briefly a few facts,
delicately worded, forcefully put, which would have convinced the heart of
any true mother that the man before her had none but pure motives.
Not so this mother. The more Michael talked the stiffer, haughtier, more
hateful, grew her stare; and when he paused, thinking not to utterly
overwhelm her with his facts, she remarked, superciliously:
"How could you possibly know all these things, unless you had been in the
same places where you claim Mr. Carter has been? But, oh, of course I
forgot! Your former home was there, and so of course you must have many
friends among--ah--_those people_!" She drew her mental skirts away from
contaminating contact as she spoke the last two words, and punctuated them
with a contemptuous look through the lorgnette.
"But, my dear fellow," she went on adopting the most outrageously
patronizing manner, "you should never trust those people. Of course you
don't understand that, having been away from them so many years among
respectable folks, but they really do not know what the truth is. I doubt
very much whether there is a grain of foundation for all that you have been
"Madam, I have taken pains to look into the matter and I know that
every word which I have been telling you is true. Two of the meet noted
detectives of the city have been making an investigation. I would not have
ventured to come if I had not had indisputable facts to give you."
Mrs. Endicott arose still holding the lorgnette to her eyes, though she
showed that the interview was drawing to a close:
"Then young man," she said, "it will be necessary for me to tell you that
the things you have been saying are not considered proper to speak of
before ladies in respectable society. I remember of course your low origin
and lack of breeding and forgive what otherwise I should consider an
insult. Furthermore, let me tell you, that it is not considered honorable
to investigate a gentleman's private life too closely. All young men sow
their wild oats of course, and are probably none the worse for it. In fact,
if a man has not seen life he really is not worth much. It is his own
affair, and no business of yours. I must ask you to refrain from saying
anything of this matter to anyone. Understand? Not a word of it! My husband
would be deeply outraged to know that a young friend of his daughter's, a
man of refinement and position, had been the object of scandal by one who
should honor anyone whom he honors. I really cannot spare any more time
"But madam! You certainly do not mean that you will not investigate this
matter for yourself? You would not let your daughter accept such a man as
The lorgnette came into play again but its stare was quite ineffectual
upon Michael's white earnest face. His deep eyes lit with horror at this
monstrous woman who seemed devoid of mother-love.
"The time has come for you to stop. It is none of your business what I
mean. You have done what you thought was your duty by telling me, now put
the matter entirely out of your mind. Desist at once!"
With a final stare she swept out of the room and up the broad staircase and
Michael, watching her until she was out of sight, went out of the house
with bowed head and burdened heart. Went out to write a letter to Starr's
father, a letter which would certainly have performed its mission as his
other efforts had failed; but which because of a sudden and unexpected
change of address just missed him at every stopping place, as it travelled
its silent unfruitful way about the world after him, never getting anywhere
until too late.
Starr was very angry with Michael when he left her. There was perhaps more
hurt pride and pique in her anger than she would have cared to own. He had
failed to succumb to her charms, he had not seemed to notice her as other
men did; he had even lost the look of admiration he used to wear when they
were boy and girl. He had refused utterly to tell her what she had a great
curiosity to know.
She had been sure, was sure yet, that if Michael would tell her what he
had against Stuyvesant Carter she could explain it satisfactorily. Her
flattered little head was almost turned at this time with the adoration she
had received. She thought she knew almost everything that Stuyvesant Carter
had ever done. He was a fluent talker and had spent many hours detailing
to her incidents and anecdotes of his eventful career. He had raced a good
deal and still had several expensive racing cars. There wasn't anything
very dreadful about that except, of course, it was dangerous. He used to
gamble a great deal but he had promised her he would never do it any more
because she thought it unrefined. Of course it wasn't as though he hadn't
plenty of money; and her mother had told her that all young men did those
things. No, not her father of course, for he had been unusual, but times
were different nowadays. Young men were expected to be a little wild. It
was the influence of college life and a progressive age she supposed. It
didn't do any harm. They always settled down and made good husbands after
they were married. Michael of course did not understand these things. He
had spent a great many years in Florida with a dear old professor and a lot
of good little boys. Michael was unacquainted with the ways of the world.
Thus she reasoned, yet nevertheless Michael's warning troubled her and
finally she decided to go to the best source of information and ask the
young man himself.
Accordingly three days after Michael's visit when he dropped in to ask if
she would go to the opera that evening with him instead of something else
they had planned to do together, she laughingly questioned him.
"What in the world can you ever have done, Mr. Carter, that should make you
unfit company for me?"
She asked the question lightly yet her eyes watched his face most closely
as she waited for the answer.
The blood rolled in dark waves over his handsome face and his brows grew
dark with anger which half hid the start of almost fear with which he
"What do you mean, Starr?" He looked at her keenly and could not tell if
she were in earnest or not.
"Just that," she mocked half gravely. "Tell me what you have been doing
that should make you unfit company for me? Some one has been trying to
make me promise to have nothing to do with you, and I want to know what it
"Who has been doing that?" There were dangerous lights in the dark eyes,
lights that showed the brutality of the coward and the evildoer.
"Oh, a man!" said Starr provokingly; "but if you look like that I shan't
tell you anything more about it, I don't like you now. You look as if you
could eat me. You make me think there must be something in it all."
Quick to take the warning the young man brought his face under control and
broke into a hoarse artificial laugh. A sudden vision of understanding had
come to him and a fear was in his heart. There was nothing like being bold
and taking the bull by the horns.
"I'll wager I can explain the riddle for you," he said airily. "I lost my
way the other evening coming home late. You see there had been some mistake
and my car didn't come to the club for me. I started on foot, leaving word
for it to overtake me--" He lied as he went along. He had had a short
lifetime of practice and did it quite naturally and easily, "and I was
thinking about you and how soon I dared ask you a certain question, when
all at once I noticed that things seemed sort of unfamiliar. I turned to
go back but couldn't for the life of me tell which way I had turned at the
last corner--you see what a dangerous influence you have over me--and
I wandered on and on, getting deeper and deeper into things. It wasn't
exactly a savory neighborhood and I wanted to get out as soon as possible
for I suspected that it wasn't even very safe down there alone at that hour
of the night. I was hesitating under a street light close to a dark alley,
trying to decide which would be the quickest way out, and meditating what I
should do to find a policeman, when suddenly there loomed up beside me in
the dark out of the depths of the alley a great tall brute of a fellow with
the strangest looking yellow hair and a body that looked as if he could
play football with the universe if he liked, and charged me with having
come down there to visit his girl.
"Well, of course the situation wasn't very pleasant. I tried to explain
that I was lost; that I had never been down in that quarter of the city
before and didn't even know his girl. But he would listen to nothing. He
began to threaten me. Then I took out my card and handed it to him, most
unwisely of course, but then I am wholly unused to such situations, and I
explained to him just who I was and that of course I wouldn't want to come
to see _his_ girl, even if I would be so mean, and all that. But do you
believe me, that fellow wouldn't take a word of it. He threw the card on
the sidewalk, ground his heel into it, and used all sorts of evil language
that I can't repeat, and finally after I thought he was going to put me in
the ditch and pummel me he let me go, shouting after me that if I ever came
near his girl again he would publish it in the newspapers. Then of course
I understood what a foolish thing I had done in giving him my card. But it
was too late. I told him as politely as I knew how that if he would show me
the way to get home I would never trouble him again, and he finally let me
Starr's eyes were all this time quizzically searching his face. "Was the
man intoxicated?" she asked.
"Oh, I presume so, more or less. They all are down there, though he was not
of the slums himself I should say. He was rather well dressed, and probably
angry that I had discovered him in such haunts."
"When did this happen?"
"About a week ago."
"Why didn't you tell me about it before?"
"Oh I didn't want to distress you, and besides, I've had my mind too full
of other things. Starr, darling, you must have seen all these weeks how
much I love you, and how I have only been waiting the proper opportunity to
ask you to be my wife--"
Starr was in a measure prepared for this proposal. Her mother had
instructed her that the alliance was one wholly within the pale of wisdom;
and her own fancy was quite taken up with this handsome new admirer who
flattered her hourly and showered attentions upon her until she felt quite
content with herself the world and him. There was a spice of daring about
Starr that liked what she thought was the wildness and gaiety of young
Carter, and she had quite made up her mind to accept him.
One week later the society papers announced the engagement, and the
world of gaiety was all in a flutter, over the many functions that were
immediately set agoing in their honor.
Michael, at his desk in the busy office, read, and bowed his head in
anguish. Starr, his bright beautiful Starr, to be sacrificed to a beast
like that! Would that he might once more save her to life and happiness!
For the next few days Michael went about in a state that almost bordered
on the frantic. His white face looked drawn, and his great eyes burned in
their clear setting like live coals. People turned to look after him on the
street and exclaimed: "Why, look at that man!" and yet he seemed more like
an avenging angel dropped down for some terrible errand than like a plain
Mr. Holt noticed it and spoke to him about it.
"You ought to drop work and take a good vacation, Endicott," he said
kindly. "You're in bad shape. You'll break down and be ill. If I were in
your place I'd cancel the rent of that office and not try to start out for
yourself until fall. It'll pay you in the end. You're taking things too
But Michael smiled and shook his head. He was to open his own office the
following week. It was all ready, with its simple furnishings, in marked
contrast to the rooms that would have been his if he had acceded to his
benefactor's request. But Michael had lost interest in office and work
alike, and the room seemed now to him only a refuge from the eyes of men
where he might hide with his great sorrow and try to study out some way to
save Starr. Surely, surely, her father would do something when he received
his letter! It was long past, time for an answer to have come. But then
there was the hope that he was already doing something, though he was
unwilling to afford Michael the satisfaction of knowing it.
He gave much thought to a possible cablegram, that he might send, that
would tell the story to the father while telling nothing to the world, but
abandoned the idea again and again.
Sam came up from the farm and saw Michael's face and was worried.
"Say, pard, wot yer bin doin' t'yersef? Better come down t' th' farm an'
git a bit o' fresh air."
The only two people who did not notice the change in Michael's appearance
were Hester and Will. They were too much engrossed in each other by this
time to notice even Michael.
They had fallen into the habit of leaving the rooms in the alley earlier
than Michael and going home by themselves.
They left him thus one night about three weeks after Starr's engagement had
been announced. Michael stayed in the room for an hour after all the others
had gone. He was expecting Sam to return. Sam had been up from the farm
several times lately and this time without any apparent reason he had
lingered in the city. He had not been to the room that night save for ten
minutes early in the evening when he had mumbled something about a little
business, and said he would be back before Michael left.
Michael sat for a long time, his elbow on the table, his head in his hands,
trying to think. A way had occurred to him which might or might not do
something to prevent Starr from throwing away her happiness. The morning
paper had hinted that plans for a speedy wedding were on foot. It was
rumored that Miss Endicott was to be married as soon as her father reached
home. Michael was desperate. He feared that now the father would arrive too
late for him to get speech with him. He had begun to know that it was hard
to convince people of the evil of those they had chosen as friends. It
would take time.
There was a way. He might have the whole story published in the papers. A
public scandal would doubtless delay if not altogether put a stop to this
alliance; but a public scandal that touched Mr. Carter would now also touch
and bring into publicity the girl whose life was almost linked with his.
Not until the very last resort would Michael bring about that publicity.
That such a move on his part would beget him the eternal enmity of the
entire Endicott family he did not doubt, but that factor figured not at all
in Michael's calculations. He was not working for himself in this affair.
Nothing that ever happened could make things right for him, he felt, and
what was his life, or good name even, beside Starr's happiness?
Wearily, at last, his problem unsolved, he got up and turned out the
lights. As he was locking the door his attention was arrested by two
figures standing between himself and the street light at the end of the
alley. It was a man and a woman, and the woman seemed to be clinging to the
man and pleading with him.
Such sights were not uncommon in the alley; some poor woman often thus
appealed to all that used to be good in the man she married, to make him
stay away from the saloon, or to give her a little of his money to buy food
for the children.
More than once in such instances Michael had been able successfully to add
his influence to the wife's and get the man to go quietly home.
He put the key hastily in his pocket and hurried toward the two.
"You shan't! You shan't! You shan't never go back to her!" he heard the
woman cry fiercely. "You promised me--"
"Shut up, will you? I don't care what I promised--" said the man in a
guarded voice that Michael felt sure he had heard before.
"I shan't shut up! I'll holler ef you go, so the police'll come. You've got
a right to stay with me. You shan't do me no wrong ner you shan't go back
to that stuck-up piece. You're mine, I say, and you promised--!"
With a curse the man struck her a cruel blow across the mouth, and tried to
tear her clinging hands away from his coat, but they only clung the more
Michael sprang to the woman's side like a panther.
"Look out!" he said in clear tones. "You can't strike a woman!" His voice
was low and calm, and sounded as it used to sound on the ball field when he
was giving directions to his team at some crisis in the game.
"Who says I can't?" snarled the man, and now Michael was sure he knew the
voice. Then the wretch struck the woman between her eyes and she fell
heavily to the ground.
Like a flash Michael's great arm went out and felled the man, and in the
same breath, from the shadows behind there sprang out the slender, wiry
figure of Sam and flung itself upon the man on the ground who with angry
imprecations was trying to struggle to his feet. His hand had gone to an
inner pocket, as he fell and in a moment more there was a flash of light
and Michael felt a bullet whiz by his ear. Nothing but the swerving of the
straggling figures had saved it from going through his brain. It occurred
to Michael in that instant that that was what had been intended. The
conviction that the man had also recognized him gave strength to his arm
as he wrenched the revolver from the hand of the would-be assassin. Nobody
knew better than Michael how easy it would be to plead "self-defense" if
the fellow got into any trouble. A man in young Carter's position with
wealth and friends galore need not fear to wipe an unknown fellow out of
existence; a fellow whose friends with few exceptions were toughs and jail
birds and ex-criminals of all sorts.
It was just as he gave Carter's wrist the twist that sent the revolver
clattering to the ground beside the unconscious woman that Michael heard
the hurried footsteps of the officer of the law accompanied by a curious
motley crowd who had heard the pistol shot and come to see what new
excitement life offered for their delectation. He suddenly realized how bad
matters would look for Sam if he should be found in the embrace of one of
Society's pets who would all too surely have a tale to tell that would
clear himself regardless of others. Michael had no care for himself. The
police all about that quarter knew him well, and were acquainted with his
work. They looked upon him with almost more respect than they gave the
priests and deaconesses who went about their errands of mercy; for
Michael's spirit-look of being more than man, and the stories that were
attached to his name in the alley filled them with a worshipful awe. There
was little likelihood of trouble for Michael with any of the officers he
knew. But Sam was another proposition. His life had not all been strictly
virtuous in the past, and of late he had been away in New Jersey so much
that he was little known, and would be at once suspected of having been the
cause of the trouble. Besides, the woman lay unconscious at their feet!
With a mighty effort Michael now reached forth and plucked Sam, struggling
fiercely, from the arms of his antagonist and put him behind him in the
doorway, standing firmly in front. Carter thus released, sprawled for
an instant in the road, then taking advantage of the momentary release
struggled to his feet and fled in the opposite direction from that in which
the officers were approaching.
"Let me go! I must get him!" muttered Sam pushing fiercely to get by
"No, Sam, stay where you are and keep quiet. You'll gain nothing by running
after him. You'll only get into trouble yourself."
"I don't care!" said Sam frantically, "I don't care what happens to me.
I'll kill him. He stole my girl!"
But Michael stood before him like a wail of adamant in the strength that
was his for the extremity.
"Yes, Sam, my poor fellow. I know," said Michael gently, sadly. "I know,
Sam. He stole mine too!"
Sam subsided as if he had been struck, a low awful curse upon his lips, his
face pale and baleful.
"You, too?" The yearning tenderness went to Michael's heart like sweet
salve, even in the stress of the moment. They were brothers in sorrow, and
their brotherhood saved Sam from committing a crime.
Then the police and crowd swept up breathless.
"What does all this mean?" panted a policeman touching his cap respectfully
to Michael. "Some one been shooting?"
He stooped and peered into the white face of the still unconscious woman,
and then looked suspiciously toward Sam who was standing sullenly behind
"He's all right," smiled Michael throwing an arm across Sam's shoulder, "He
only came in to help me when he saw I was having a hard time of it. The
fellow made off in that direction." Michael pointed after Carter whose form
had disappeared in the darkness.
"Any of the gang?" asked the officer as he hurried away.
"No!" said Michael. "He doesn't belong here!"
One officer hurried away accompanied by a crowd, the other stayed to look
after the woman. He touched the woman with his foot as he might have tapped
a dying dog to see if there was still life there. A low growl like a fierce
animal came from Sam's closed lips.
Michael put a warning hand upon, his arm.
"Steady, Sam, steady!" he murmured, and went himself and lifted the poor
pretty head of the girl from its stony pillow.
"I think you'd better send for the ambulance," he said to the officer.
"She's had a heavy blow on her head. I arrived just in time to see the
beginning of the trouble--"
"Ain't she dead?" said the officer indifferently. "Best get her into her
house. Don't reckon they want to mess up the hospital with such cattle as
Michael caught the fierce gleam in Sam's eyes. A second more would have
seen the officer lying beside the girl in the road and a double tragedy to
the record of that night; for Sam was crouched and moving stealthily like a
cat toward the officer's back, a look of almost insane fury upon his small
thin face. It was Michael's steady voice that recalled him to sanity once
more, just as many a time in the midst of a game he had put self-control
and courage into the hearts of his team.
"Sam, could you come here and hold her head a minute, while I try to get
some water? Yes, officer, I think she is living, and she should be got to
the hospital as soon as possible. Please give the call at once."
The officer sauntered off to do his bidding. Michael and Sam began working
over the unconscious girl, and the crowd stood idly round waiting until the
ambulance rattled up. They watched with awe as the form of the woman was