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Murder in Any Degree by Owen Johnson

Part 4 out of 5

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started from his face as the sun above him hung out of the parched sky.
He began to talk to himself, to sing. Under his feet the sand sifted
like the soft protest of autumn leaves. He imagined himself back in the
forest, marking the rustle of leafy branches and the intermittent
dropping of acorns and twigs. All at once his legs refused to move. He
stood still, his gaze concentrated on the figure of Greenfield a long
moment, then his body crumpled under him and he sank without volition to
the ground.

Greenfield stopped, sat down, and waited. After half an hour he drew
himself to his feet, moved on, then stopped, returned, approached, and
listened to the crooning of the delirious man. Suddenly satisfied, he
flung both arms into the air in frenzied triumph, turned, staggered,
and reeled away, while back over the desert came the grotesque, hideous
refrain, in maddened victory:

"Yankee Doodle Dandy oh!
Yankee Doodle Dandy!"

Frawley watched him go, then with a sigh of relief turned his glance to
the black revolving form in the air--at least that remained to break the
horror of the solitude. Then he lost consciousness.

The beat of wings across his face aroused him with a start and a cry of
agony. The great bird of carrion, startled in its inspection, flew
clumsily off and settled fearlessly on the ground, blinking at him.

An immense revolt, a furious anger brought with it new strength. He rose
and rushed at the bird with clenched fist, cursing it as it lumbered
awkwardly away. Then he began desperately to struggle on, following the
tracks in the sand.

At the end of an hour specks appeared on the horizon. He looked at them
in his delirium and began to laugh uneasily.

"I must be out of my head," he said to himself seriously. "It's a
mirage. Well, I suppose it is the end. Who'll they put on the case now?
Keech, I suppose; yes, Keech; he's a good man. Of course it's a mirage."

As he continued to stumble forward, the dots assumed the shape of trees
and hills. He laughed contemptuously and began to remonstrate with
himself, repeating:

"It's a mirage, or I'm out of my head." He began to be worried, saying
over and over: "That's a bad sign, very bad. I mustn't lose control of
myself. I must stick to him--stick to him until he dies of old age.
Bucky Greenfield! Well, he won't get out of this either. If the
department could only know!"

The nearer he drew to life, the more indignant he became. He arrived
thus at the edge of trees and green things.

"Why don't they go?" he said angrily. "They ought to, now. Come, I think
I'm keeping my head remarkably well."

All at once a magnificent idea came to him--he would walk through the
mirage and end it. He advanced furiously against an imaginary tree,
struck his forehead, and toppled over insensible.

VII

Frawley returned to consciousness to find himself in the hut of a
half-breed Indian, who was forcing a soup of herbs between his lips.

Two days later he regained his strength sufficiently to reach a ranch
owned by Englishmen. Fitted out by them, he started at once to return to
El Paso; to take up the unending search anew.

In the late afternoon, tired and thirsty, he arrived at a shanty where
a handful of Mexican children were lolling in the cool of the wall. At
the sound of his approach a woman came running to the door, shrieking
for assistance in a Mexican gibberish. He ran hastily to the house, his
hand on his pistol. The woman, without stopping her chatter, huddled in
the doorway, pointing to the dim corner opposite. Frawley, following her
glance, saw the figure of a man stretched on a hasty bed of leaves. He
took a few quick steps and recognized Greenfield.

At the same moment the bundle shot to a sitting position, with a cry:

"Who's that?"

Frawley, with a quick motion, covered him with his revolver, crying:

"Hands up. It's me, Bucky, and I've got you now!"

"Frawley!"

"That's it, Bucky--Hands up!"

Greenfield, without obeying, stared at him wildly.

"God, it is Frawley!" he cried, and fell back in a heap.

Inspector Frawley, advancing a step, repeated his command with no
uncertain ring:

"Hands up! Quick!"

On the bed the distorted body contracted suddenly into a ball.

"Easy, Bub," Greenfield said between his teeth. "Easy; don't get
excited. I'm dying."

"You?"

Frawley approached cautiously, suspiciously.

"Fact. I'm cashin' in."

"What's the matter?"

"Bug. Plain bug--the desert did the rest."

"A what?"

"Tarantula bite--don't laugh, Bub."

Frawley, at his side, needed but a glance to see that it was true. He
ran his hand over Greenfield's belt and removed his pistol.

"Sorry," he said curtly, standing up.

"Quite keerect, Bub!"

"Can I do anything for you?"

"Nope."

Suddenly, without warning, Greenfield raised himself, glared at him,
stretched out his hands, and fell into a passionate fit of weeping.
Frawley's English reserve was outraged.

"What's the matter?" he said angrily. "You're not going to show the
white feather now, are you?"

With an oath Greenfield sat bolt upright, silent and flustered.

"D---- you, Bub--show some imagination," he said after a pause. "Do
you think I mind dying--me? That's a good one. It ain't that--no--it's
ending, ending like this. After all I've been through, to be put out of
business by a bug--an ornery little bug."

Then Frawley comprehended his mistake.

"I say, Bucky, I'll take that back," he said awkwardly.

"No imagination, no imagination," Greenfield muttered, sinking back.
"Why, man, if I'd chased you three times around the world and got you,
I'd fall on you and beat you to a pulp or--or I'd hug you like a
long-lost brother."

"I asked your pardon," said Frawley again.

"All right, Bub--all right," Greenfield answered with a short laugh.
Then after a pause he added seriously: "So you've come--well, I'm glad
it's over. Bub," he continued, raising himself excitedly on his elbow,
"here's something strange, only you won't understand it. Do you know,
the whole time I knew just where you were--I had a feeling somewhere in
the back of my neck. At first you were 'way off, over the horizon; then
you got to be a spot coming over the hill. Then I began to feel that
spot growin' bigger and bigger--after Rio Janeiro, crawling up, creeping
up. Gospel truth, I felt you sneaking up on my back. It got on my
nerves. I dreamed about it, and that morning on the trail when you was
just a speck on any old hoss--I knew! You--you don't understand such
things, Bub, do you?"

Frawley made an effort, failed, and answered helplessly:

"No, Bucky, no, I can't say I do understand."

"Why do you think I ran you into Rio Janeiro?" said Greenfield,
twisting on the leaves. "Into the cholery? What do you think made me lay
for this desert? Bub, you were on my back, clinging like a catamount. I
was bound to shake you off. I was desperate. It had to end one way or
t'other. That's why I stuck to you until I thought it was over with
you."

"Why didn't you make sure of it?" said Frawley with curiosity; "you
could have done for me there."

Greenfield looked at him hard and nodded.

"Keerect, Bub; quite so!"

"Why didn't you?"

"Why!" cried Greenfield angrily. "Ain't you ever had any imagination?
Did I want to shoot you down like a common ordinary pickpocket after
taking you three times around the world? That was no ending! God, what a
chase it was!"

"It was long, Bucky," Frawley admitted. "It was a good one!"

"Can't you understand anything?" Greenfield cried querulously. "Where's
anything bigger, more than what we've done? And to have it end like
this--to have a bug--a miserable, squashy bug beat you after all!"

For a long moment there was no sound, while Greenfield lay, twisting,
his head averted, buried in the leaves.

"It's not right, Bucky," said Frawley at last,
with an effort at sympathy. "It oughtn't to have ended this way."

"It was worth it!" Greenfield cried. "Three years! There ain't much dirt
we haven't kicked up! Asia, Africa--a regular Cook's tour through
Europe, North and South Ameriky. And what seas, Bub!" His voice
faltered. The drops of sweat stood thickly on his forehead; but he
pulled himself together gamely. "Do you remember the Sea of Japan with
its funny little toy junks? Man, we've beaten out Columbus, Jools Verne,
and the rest of them--hollow, Bub!"

"I say, what did you do it for?"

"You are a rum un," said Greenfield with a broken laugh. The words began
to come shorter and with effort. "Excitement, Bub! Deviltry and
cussedness!"

"How do you feel, Bucky?" asked Frawley.

"Half in hell already--stewing for my sins--but it's not that--it's--"

"What, Bucky?"

"That bug! Me, Bucky Greenfield--to go down and out on account of a
bug--a little squirmy bug! But I swear even he couldn't have done it if
the desert hadn't put me out of business first! No, by God! I'm not
downed so easy as that!"

Frawley, in a lame attempt to show his sympathy, went closer to the
dying man:

"I say, Bucky."

"Shout away."

"Wouldn't you like to go out, standing, on your feet--with your boots
on?"

Greenfield laughed, a contented laugh.

"What's the matter, pal?" said Frawley, pausing in surprise.

"You darned old Englishman," said Greenfield affectionately. "Say, Bub."

"Yes, Bucky."

"The dinkies are all right--but--but a Yank, a real Yank, would 'a' got
me in six months."

"All right, Bucky. Shall I raise you up?"

"H'ist away."

"Would you like the feeling of a gun in your hand again?" said Frawley,
raising him up.

This time Greenfield did not laugh, but his hand closed convulsively
over the butt, and he gave a savage sigh of delight. His limbs
contracted violently, his head bore heavily on the shoulder of Frawley,
who heard him whisper again:

"A bug--a little--"

Then he stopped and appeared to listen. Outside, the evening was soft
and stirring. Through the door the children appeared, tumbling over one
another, in grotesque attitudes.

Suddenly, as though in the breeze he had caught the sound of a step,
Greenfield jerked almost free of Frawley's arms, shuddered, and fell
back rigid. The pistol, flung into the air, twirled, pitched on the
floor, and remained quiet.

Frawley placed the body back on the bed of leaves, listened a moment,
and rose satisfied. He threw a blanket over the face, picked up the
revolver, searched a moment for his hat, and went out to arrange with
the Mexican for the night. In a moment he returned and took a seat in
the corner, and began carefully to jot down the details on a piece of
paper. Presently he paused and looked reflectively at the bed of leaves.

"It's been a good three years," he said reflectively. He considered a
moment, rapping the pencil against his teeth, and repeated: "A good
three years. I think when I get home I'll ask for a week or so to
stretch myself." Then he remembered with anxiety how Greenfield had
railed at his lack of imagination and pondered a moment seriously.
Suddenly, as though satisfied, he said with a nod of conviction:

"Well, now, we did jog about a bit!"

LARRY MOORE

I

The base-ball season had closed, and we were walking down Fifth avenue,
Larry Moore and I. We were discussing the final series for the
championship, and my friend was estimating his chances of again pitching
the Giants to the top, when a sudden jam on the avenue left us an
instant looking face to face at a woman and a child seated in a
luxurious victoria.

Larry Moore, who had hold of my arm, dropped it quickly and wavered in
his walk. The woman caught her breath and put her muff hastily to her
face; but the child saw us without surprise. All had passed within a
second, yet I retained a vivid impression of a woman of strange
attraction, elegant and indolent, with something in her face which left
me desirous of seeing it again, and of a pretty child who seemed a
little too serious for that happy age. Larry Moore forgot what he had
begun to say. He spoke no further word, and I, in glancing at his face,
comprehended that, incredible as it seemed, there was some bond between
the woman I had seen and this raw-boned, big-framed, and big-hearted
idol of the bleachers.

Without comment I followed Larry Moore, serving his mood as he
immediately left the avenue and went east. At first he went with excited
strides, then he slowed down to a profound and musing gait, then he
halted, laid his hand heavily on my shoulder, and said:

"Get into the car, Bob. Come up to the rooms."

I understood that he wished to speak to me of what had happened, and I
followed. We went thus, without another word exchanged, to his rooms,
and entered the little parlor hung with the trophies of his career,
which I looked at with some curiosity. On the mantel in the center I saw
at once a large photograph of the Hon. Joseph Gilday, a corporation
lawyer of whom we reporters told many hard things, a picture I did not
expect to find here among the photographs of the sporting celebrities
who had sent their regards to my friend of the diamond. In some
perplexity I approached and saw across the bottom written in large firm
letters: "I'm proud to know you, Larry Moore."

I smiled, for the tribute of the great man of the law seemed incongruous
here to me, who knew of old my simple-minded, simple-hearted friend
whom, the truth be told, I patronized perforce. Then I looked about more
carefully, and saw a dozen photographs of a woman, sometimes alone,
sometimes holding a pretty child, and the faces were the faces I had
seen in the victoria. I feigned not to have seen them; but Larry, who
had watched me, said:

"Look again, Bob; for that is the woman you saw in the carriage, and
that is the child."

So I took up a photograph and looked at it long. The face had something
more dangerous than beauty in it--the face of a Cleopatra with a look in
the deep restless eyes I did not fancy; but I did not tell that to Larry
Moore. Then I put it back in its place and turned and said gravely:

"Are you sure that you want to tell me, Larry Moore?"

"I do," he said. "Sit down."

He did not seek preliminaries, as I should have done, but began at once,
simply and directly--doubtless he was retelling the story more to
himself than to me.

"She was called Fanny Montrose," he said, "a slip of a girl, with
wonderful golden hair, and big black eyes that made me tremble, the day
I went into the factory at Bridgeport, the day I fell in love. 'I'm
Larry Moore; you may have heard of me,' I said, going straight up to her
when the whistle blew that night, 'and I'd like to walk home with you,
Fanny Montrose.'

"She drew back sort of quick, and I thought she'd been hearing tales of
me up in Fall River; so I said: 'I only meant to be polite. You may have
heard a lot of bad of me, and a lot of it's true, but you never heard
of Larry Moore's being disrespectful to a lady,' and I looked her in the
eye and said: 'Will you let me walk home with you, Fanny Montrose?'

"She swung on her foot a moment, and then she said: 'I will.'

"I heard a laugh go up at that, and turned round, with the bit in my
teeth; but it was only the women, and you can't touch them. Fanny
Montrose hurried on, and I saw she was upset by it, so I said humbly:
'You're not sorry now, are you?'

"'Oh, no,' she said.

"'Will you catch hold of my arm?' I asked her.

"She looked first in my face, and then she slipped in her hand so
prettily that it sent all the words from my tongue. 'You've just come to
Bridgeport, ain't you?' she said timidly.

"'I have,' I said, 'and I want you to know the truth. I came because I
had to get out of Fall River. I had a scrap--more than one of them.'

"'Did you lick your man?' she said, glancing at me.

"'I licked every one of them, and it was good and fair fighting--if I
was on a tear,' I said; 'but I'm ashamed of it now.'

"'You're Larry Moore, who pitched on the Fall Rivers last season?' she
said.

"'I am.'

"'You can pitch some!' she said with a nod.

"'When I'm straight I can.'

"'And why don't you go at it like a man then? You could get in the
Nationals,' she said.

"'I've never had anyone to work for--before,' I said.

"'We go down here; I'm staying at Keene's boarding-house,' she said at
that.

"I was afraid I'd been too forward; so I kept still until we came to the
door. Then I pulled off my hat and made her a bow and said: 'Will you
let me walk home with you steady, Fanny Montrose?'

"And she stopped on the door-step and looked at me without saying a
word, and I asked it again, putting out my hand, for I wanted to get
hold of hers. But she drew back and reached for the knob. So I said:

"'You needn't be frightened; for it's me that ought to be afraid.'

"'And what have you to be afraid of, you great big man?' she said,
stopping in wonder.

"'I'm afraid of your big black eyes, Fanny Montrose, 'I said, 'and I'm
afraid of your slip of a body that I could snap in my hands,' I said;
'for I'm going to fall in love with you, Fanny Montrose.'

"Which was a lie, for I was already. With that I ran off like a fool. I
ran off, but from that night I walked home with Fanny Montrose.

"For a month we kept company, and Bill Coogan and Dan Farrar and the
rest of them took my notice and kept off. The women laughed at me and
sneered at her; but I minded them not, for I knew the ways of the
factory, and besides there wasn't a man's voice in the lot--that I
heard.

"But one night as we were wandering back to Keene's boarding-house,
Fanny Montrose on my arm, Bill Coogan planted himself before us, and
called her something to her face that there was no getting around.

"I took her on a bit, weeping and shaking, and I said to her: 'Stand
here.'

"And I went back, and caught Bill Coogan by the throat and the belt, and
swung him around my head, and flung him against the lamp-post. And the
post broke off with a crash, and Coogan lay quiet, with nothing more to
say.

"I went back to Fanny Montrose, who had stopped her crying, and said,
shaking with anger at the dirty insult: 'Fanny Montrose, will you be my
wife? Will you marry me this night?'

"She pushed me away from her, and looked up into my face in a frightened
way and said: 'Do you mean to be your wife?'

"'I do,' I said, and then because I was afraid that she didn't trust in
me enough yet to marry me I said solemnly: 'Fanny Montrose, you need
have no fear. If I've been drunk and riotous, it's because I wanted to
be, and now that I've made up my mind to be straight, there isn't a
thing living that could turn me back again. Fanny Montrose, will you say
you'll be my wife?'

"Then she put out her two hands to me and tumbled into my arms, all
limp."

II

Larry Moore rose and walked the length of the room. When he came back he
went to the wall and took down a photograph; but with what emotion I
could not say, for his back was to me. I glanced again at the odd
volatile beauty in the woman's face and wondered what was the word Bill
Coogan had said and what was his reason for saying it.

"From that day it was all luck for me," Larry Moore said, settling again
in the chair, where his face returned to the shadow. "She had a head on
her, that little woman. She pulled me up to where I am. I pitched that
season for the Bridgeports. You know the record, Bob, seven games lost
out of forty-three, and not so much my fault either. When they were for
signing me again, at big money too, the little woman said:

"'Don't you do it, Larry Moore; they're not your class. Just hold out a
bit.'

"You know, Bob, how I signed then with the Giants, and how they boosted
my salary at the end of that first year; but it was Fanny Montrose who
made the contracts every time. We had the child then, and I was happy.
The money came quick, and lots of it, and I put it in her lap and said:

"'Do what you want with it; only I want you to enjoy it like a lady.'

"Maybe I was wrong there--maybe I was. It was pride, I'll admit; but
there wasn't a lady came to the stands that looked finer than Fanny
Montrose, as I always used to call her. I got to be something of a
figure, as you know, and the little woman was always riding back and
forth to the games in some automobile, and more often with Paul Bargee.

"One afternoon Ed Nichols, who was catching me then, came up with a
serious face and said: 'Where's your lady to-day, Larry--and Paul
Bargee?' And by the way he said it I knew what he had in mind, and good
friend that he was of mine I liked to have throttled him. They told me
to pitch the game, and I did. I won it too. Then I ran home without
changing my clothes, the people staring at me, and ran up the stairs and
flung open the door and stopped and called: 'Fanny Montrose!'

"And I called again, and I called a third time, and only the child came
to answer me. Then I knew in my heart that Fanny Montrose had left me
and run off with Paul Bargee.

III

"I waited all that night without tasting food or moving, listening for
her step on the stairs. And in the morning the postman came without a
line or a word for me. I couldn't understand; for I had been a good
husband to her, and though I thought over everything that had happened
since we'd been married, I couldn't think of a thing that I'd done to
hurt her--for I wasn't thinking then of the millions of Paul Bargee.

"In the afternoon there came a dirty little lawyer shuffling in to see
me, with blinking little eyes behind his black-rimmed spectacles--a toad
of a man.

"'Who are you?' I said, 'and what are you doing here?'

"'I'm simply an attorney,' he said, cringing before my look--'Solomon
Scholl, on a very disagreeable duty,' he said.

"'Do you come from her?' I said, and I caught my breath.

"'I come from Mr. Paul Bargee,' he said, 'and I'd remind you, Mr. Moore,
that I come as an attorney on a disagreeable duty.'

"With that I drew back and looked at him in amazement, and said: 'What
has he got to say to me?'

"'My client,' he said, turning the words over with the tip of his
tongue, 'regrets exceedingly--'

"'Don't waste words!' I said angrily. 'What are you here for?'

"'My client,' he said, looking at me sidelong, 'empowers me to offer you
fifteen thousand dollars if you will promise to make no trouble in this
matter.'

"I sat down all in a heap; for I didn't know the ways of a gentleman
then, Bob, and covered my face with the horror I had of the humiliation
he had done me. The lawyer, he misunderstood it, for he crept up softly
and whispered in my ear:

"'That's what he offers--if you're fool enough to take it; but if you'll
stick to me, we can wring him to the tune of ten times that.'

"I got up and took him and kicked him out of the room, and kicked him
down the stairs, for he was a little man, and I wouldn't strike him.

"Then I came back and said to myself: 'If matters are so, I must get the
best advice I can.'

"And I knew that Joseph Gilday was the top of the lot. So I went to him,
and when I came in I stopped short, for I saw he looked perplexed, and I
said: 'I'm in trouble, sir, and my life depends on it, and other lives,
and I need the best of advice; so I've come to you. I'm Larry Moore of
the Giants; so you may know I can pay.' Then I sat down and told him the
story, every word as I've told you; and when I was all through, he said
quietly:

"'What are you thinking of doing, Mr. Moore?'

"'I think it would be better if she came back, sir,' I said, 'for her
and for the child. So I thought the best thing would be to write her a
letter and tell her so; for I think if you could write the right sort of
a letter she'd come back. And that's what I want you to show me how to
write,' I said.

"He took a sheet of paper and a pen, and looked at me steadily and said:
'What would you say to her?'

"So I drew my hands up under my chin and thought awhile and said: 'I
think I'd say something like this, sir:

"'"My dear wife--I've been trying to think all this while what has
driven you away, and I don't understand. I love you, Fanny Montrose, and
I want you to come back to me. And if you're afraid to come, I want to
tell you not a word will pass my lips on the subject; for I haven't
forgotten that it was you made a man of me; and much as I try, I cannot
hate you, Fanny Montrose."'

"He looked down and wrote for a minute, and then he handed me the paper
and said: 'Send that.'

"I looked, and saw it was what I had told him, and I said doubtfully:
'Do you think that is best?'

"'I do.'

"So I mailed the letter as he said, and three days after came one from a
lawyer, saying my wife could have no communication with me, and would I
send what I had to say to him.

"So I went down to Gilday and told him, and I said: 'We must think of
other things, sir, since she likes luxury and those things better; for
I'm beginning to think that's it--and there I'm a bit to blame, for I
did encourage her. Well, she'll have to marry him--that's all I can see
to it," I said, and sat very quiet.

"'He won't marry her,' he said in his quick way.

"I thought he meant because she was bound to me, so I said: 'Of course,
after the divorce.'

"'Are you going to get a divorce then from her?'

"'I've been thinking it over,' I said carefully, and I had, 'and I think
the best way would be for her to get it. That can be done, can't it?' I
said, 'because I've been thinking of the child, and I don't want her to
grow up with any stain on the good name of her mother,' I said.

"'Then you will give up the child?' he said.

"And I said: 'Yes.'

"'Will he marry her?' he said again.

"'For what else did he take her away?'

"'If I was you,' he said, looking at me hard, 'I'd make sure of
that--before.'

"That worried me a good deal, and I went out and walked around, and then
I went to the station and bought a ticket for Chicago, and I said to
myself: 'I'll go and see him'; for by that time I'd made up my mind what
I'd do.

"And when I got there the next morning, I went straight to his house,
and my heart sank, for it was a great place with a high iron railing all
around it and a footman at the door--and I began to understand why Fanny
Montrose had left me for him.

"I'd thought a long time about giving another name; but I said to
myself: 'No, I'll him a chance first to come down and face me like a
man,' so I said to the footman: 'Go tell Paul Bargee that Larry Moore
has come to see him.'

"Then I went down the hall and into the great parlor, all hung with
draperies, and I looked at myself in the mirrors and looked at the
chairs, and I didn't feel like sitting down, and presently the curtains
opened, and Paul Bargee stepped into the room. I looked at him once, and
then I looked at the floor, and my breath came hard. Then he stepped up
to me and stopped and said:

"'Well?'

"And though he had wronged me and wrecked my life, I couldn't help
admiring his grit; for the boy was no match for me, and he knew it too,
though he never flinched.

"'I've come from New York here to talk with you, Paul Bargee,' I said.

"'You've a right to.'

"'I have,' I said, 'and I want to have an understanding with you now, if
you have the time, sir,' I said, and looked at the ground again.

"He drew off, and hearing me speak so low he mistook me as others have
done before, and he looked at me hard and said: 'Well, how much?'

"My head went up, and I strode at him; but he never winced--if he had, I
think I'd have caught him then and there and served him as I did Bill
Coogan. But I stopped and said: 'That's the second mistake you've made,
Paul Bargee; the first was when you sent a dirty little lawyer to pay me
for taking my wife. And your lawyer came to me and told me to screw you
to the last cent. I kicked him out of my sight; and what have you to say
why I shouldn't do the same to you, Paul Bargee?'

"He looked white and hurt in his pride, and said: 'You're right; and I
beg your pardon, Mr. Moore.'

"'I don't want your pardon,' I said, 'and I won't sit down in your
house, and we won't discuss what has happened but what is to be. For
there's a great wrong you've done, and I've a right to say what you
shall do now, Paul Bargee.'

"He looked at me and said slowly: 'What is that?'

"'You took my wife, and I gave her a chance to come back to me,' I said;
'but she loved you and what you can give better than me. But she's been
my wife, and I'm not going to see her go down into the gutter.'

"He started to speak; but I put up my hand and I said: 'I'm not here to
discuss with you, Paul Bargee. I've come to say what's going to be done;
for I have a child,' I said, 'and I don't intend that the mother of my
little girl should go down to the gutter. You've chosen to take my wife,
and she's chosen to stay with you. Now, you've got to marry her and
make her a good woman,' I said.

"Then Paul Bargee stood off, and I saw what was passing through his
mind. And I went up to him and laid my hand on his shoulder and said:
'You know what I mean, and you know what manner of man I am that talks
to you like this; for you're no coward,' I said; 'but you marry Fanny
Montrose within a week after she gets her freedom, or I am going to kill
you wherever you stand. And that's the choice you've got to make, Paul
Bargee,' I said.

"Then I stepped back and watched him, and as I did so I saw the curtains
move and knew that Fanny Montrose had heard me.

"'You're going to give her the divorce?' he said.

"'I am. I don't intend there shall be a stain on her name,' I said; 'for
I loved Fanny Montrose, and she's always the mother of my little girl.'

"Then he went to a chair and sat down and took his head in his hands,
and I went out.

IV

"I came back to New York, and went to Mr. Gilday.

"'Will he marry her?' he said at once.

"'He will marry her,' I said. 'As for her, I want you to say; for I'll
not write to her myself, since she wouldn't answer me. Say when she's
the wife of Paul Bargee I'll bring the child to her myself, and she's
to see me; for I have a word to say to her then,' I said, and I laid my
fist down on the table. 'Until then the child stays with me.'

"They've said hard things of Mr. Joseph Gilday, and I know it; but I
know all that he did for me. For he didn't turn it over to a clerk; but
he took hold himself and saw it through as I had said. And when the
divorce was given he called me down and told me that Fanny Montrose was
a free woman and no blame to her in the sight of the law.

"Then I said: 'It is well. Now write to Paul Bargee that his week has
begun. Until then I keep the child, law or no law.' Then I rose and
said: 'I thank you, Mr. Gilday. You've been very kind, and I'd like to
pay you what I owe you.'

"He sat there a moment and chewed on his mustache, and he said: 'You
don't owe me a cent.'

"'It wasn't charity I came to you for, and I can pay for what I get, Mr.
Gilday,' I said. 'Will you give me your regular bill?' I said.

"And he said at last: 'I will.'

"In the middle of the week Paul Bargee's mother came to me and went down
on her knees and begged for her son, and I said to her: 'Why should
there be one law for him and one law for the likes of me. He's taken my
wife; but he sha'n't put her to shame, ma'am, and he sha'n't cast a
cloud on the life of my child!'

"Then she stopped arguing, and caught my hands and cried: 'But you
won't kill him, you won't kill my son, if he don't?'

"'As sure as Saturday comes, ma'am, and he hasn't made Fanny Montrose a
good woman,' I said, 'I'm going to kill Paul Bargee wherever he stands.'

"And Friday morning Mr. Gilday called me down to his office and told me
that Paul Bargee had done as I said he should do. And I pressed his hand
and said nothing, and he let me sit awhile in his office.

"And after awhile I rose up and said: 'Then I must take the child to
her, as I promised, to-night.'

"He walked with me from the office and said: 'Go home to your little
girl. I'll see to the tickets, and will come for you at nine o'clock.'

"And at nine o'clock he came in his big carriage, and took me and the
child to the station and said: 'Telegraph me when you're leaving
to-morrow.'

"And I said: 'I will.'

"Then I went into the car with my little girl asleep in my arms and sat
down in the seat, and the porter came and said:

"'Can I make up your berths?'

"And I looked at the child and shook my head. So I held her all night
and she slept on my shoulder, while I looked from her out into the
darkness, and from the darkness back to her again. And the porter kept
passing and passing and staring at me and the child.

"And in the morning we went up to the great house and into the big
parlor, and Fanny Montrose came in, as I had said she should, very white
and not looking at me. And the child ran to her, and I watched Fanny
Montrose catch her up to her breast, and I sobbed. And she looked at me,
and saw it. So I said:

"'It's because now I know you love the child and that you'll be kind to
her.'

"Then she fell down before me and tried to take my hand. But I stepped
back and said:

"'I've made you an honest woman, Fanny Montrose, and now as long as I
live I'm going to see you do nothing to disgrace my child.'

"And I went out and took the train back. And Mr. Gilday was at the
station there waiting for me, and he took my arm, without a word, and
led me to his carriage and drove up without speaking. And when we got to
the house, he got out, and took off his hat and made me a bow and said:
'I'm proud to know you, Larry Moore.'"

MY WIFE'S WEDDING PRESENTS

I

I don't believe in wedding functions. I don't believe in honeymoons and
particularly I abominate the inhuman custom of giving wedding presents.
And this is why:

Clara was the fifth poor daughter of a rich man. I was respectably poor
but artistic. We had looked forward to marriage as a time when two
persons chose a home and garnished it with furnishings of their own
choice, happy in the daily contact with beautiful things. We had often
discussed our future home. We knew just the pictures that must hang on
the walls, the tone of the rugs that should lie on the floors, the style
of the furniture that should stand in the rooms, the pattern of the
silver that should adorn our table. Our ideas were clear and positive.

Unfortunately Clara had eight rich relatives who approved of me and I
had three maiden aunts, two of whom were in precarious health and must
not be financially offended.

I am rather an imperious man, with theories that a woman is happiest
when she finds a master; but when the details of the wedding came up for
decision I was astounded to find myself not only flouted but actually
forced to humiliating surrender. Since then I have learned that my own
case was not glaringly exceptional. At the time, however, I was
nonplused and rather disturbed in my dreams of the future. I had decided
on a house wedding with but the family and a few intimate friends to be
present at my happiness. After Clara had done me the honor to consult
me, several thousand cards were sent out for the ceremony at the church
and an addition was begun on the front veranda.

Clara herself led me to the library and analyzed the situation to me, in
the profoundest manner.

"You dear, old, impracticable goose," she said with the wisdom of just
twenty, "what do you know about such things? How much do you suppose it
will cost us to furnish a house the way we want?"

I said airily, "Oh, about five hundred dollars."

"Take out your pencil," said Clara scornfully, "and write."

When she finished her dictation, and I had added up the items with a
groan, I was dumbfounded. I said:

"Clara, do you think it is wise--do you think we have any right to get
married?"

"Of course we have."

"Then we must make up our minds to boarding."

"Nonsense! we shall have everything just as we planned it."

"But how?"

"Wedding presents," said Clara triumphantly, "now do you see why it must
be a church wedding?"

I began to see.

"But isn't it a bit mercenary?" I said feebly. "Does every one do it?"

"Every one. It is a sort of tax on the unmarried," said Clara with a
determined shake of her head. "Quite right that it should be, too."

"Then every one who receives an invitation is expected to contribute to
our future welfare?"

"An invitation to the house."

"Well, to the house--then?"

"Certainly."

"Ah, now, my dear, I begin to understand why the presents are always
shown."

For all answer Clara extended the sheet of paper on which we had made
our calculations.

I capitulated.

II

I pass over the wedding. In theory I have grown more and more opposed to
such exhibitions. A wedding is more pathetic than a funeral, and
nothing, perhaps, is more out of place than the jubilations of the
guests. When a man and a woman, as husband and wife, have lived together
five years, then the community should engage a band and serenade them,
but at the outset--however, I will not insist--I am doubtless cynically
inclined. I come to the moment when, having successfully weathered the
pitfalls of the honeymoon (there's another mistaken theory--but let that
pass) my wife and I found ourselves at last in our own home, in the
midst of our wedding presents. I say in the midst advisably. Clara sat
helplessly in the middle of the parlor rug and I glowered from the
fireplace.

"My dear Clara," I said, with just a touch of asperity, "you've had your
way about the wedding. Now you've got your wedding presents. What are
you going to do with them?"

"If people only wouldn't have things marked!" said Clara irrelevantly.

"But they always do," I replied. "Also I may venture to suggest that
your answer doesn't solve the difficulty."

"Don't be cross," said Clara.

"My dear," I replied with excellent good-humor, "I'm not. I'm only
amused--who wouldn't be?"

"Don't be horrid, George," said Clara.

"It _is_ deliciously humorous," I continued. "Quite the most humorous
thing I have ever known. I am not cross and I am not horrid; I have made
a profound discovery. I know now why so many American marriages are not
happy."

"Why, George?"

"Wedding presents," I said savagely, "exactly that, my dear. This being
forced to live years of married life surrounded by things you don't
want, you never will want, and which you've got to live with or lose
your friends."

"Oh, George!" said Clara, gazing around helplessly, "it is terrible,
isn't it?"

"Look at that rug you are sitting on," I said, glaring at a six by ten
modern French importation. "Cauliflowers contending with unicorns,
surrounded by a border of green roses and orange violets--expensive! And
until the lamp explodes or the pipes burst we have got to go on and on
and on living over that, and why?--because dear Isabel will be here once
a week!"

"I thought Isabel would have better taste," said Clara.

"She has--Isabel has perfect taste, depend upon it," I said, "she did it
on purpose!"

"George!"

"Exactly that. Have you noticed that married people give the most
impossible presents? It is revenge, my dear. Society has preyed upon
them. They will prey upon society. Wait until we get a chance!"

"It is awful!" said Clara.

"Let us continue. We have five French rugs; no two could live together.
Five rooms desecrated. Our drawing-room is Art Nouveau, furnished by
your Uncle James, who is strong and healthy and may live twenty years.
I particularly abominate Art Nouveau furniture."

"So do I."

"Our dining-room is distinctly Grand Rapids."

"Now, George!"

"It is."

"Well, it was your Aunt Susan."

"It was, but who suggested it? I pass over the bedrooms. I will simply
say that they are nightmares. Expensive nightmares! I come to the
lamps--how many have we?"

"Fourteen."

"Fourteen atrocities, imitation Louis Seize, bogus Oriental, feathered,
laced and tasseled. So much for useful presents. Now for decoration. We
have three Sistine Madonnas (my particular abomination). Two, thank
heaven, we can inflict on the next victims, one we have got to live with
and why?--so that each of our three intimate friends will believe it his
own. We have water colors and etchings which we don't want, and a
photograph copy of every picture that every one sees in every one's
house. Some original friend has even sent us a life-size, marble
reproduction of the Venus de Milo. These things will be our artistic
home. Then there are vases--"

"Now you are losing your temper."

"On the contrary, I'm reserving it. I shan't characterize the
bric-a-brac, that was to be expected."

"Don't!"

"At least that is not marked. I come at last to the silver. Give me the
list."

Clara sighed and extended it.

"Four solid silver terrapin dishes."

"Marked."

"Marked--Terrapin--ha! ha! Two massive, expensive, solid silver
champagne coolers."

"Marked."

"Marked, my dear--for each end of the table when we give our beefsteak
dinners. Almond dishes."

"Don't!"

"Forty-two individual, solid or filigree almond dishes; forty-two,
Clara."

"Marked."

"Right again, dear. One dozen bonbon dishes, five nouveau riche sugar
shakers (we never use them), three muffineers--in heaven's name, what's
that? Solid silver bread dishes, solid silver candlesticks by the dozen,
solid silver vegetable dishes, and we expect one servant and an
intermittent laundress to do the cooking, washing, make the beds and
clean the house besides."

"All marked," said Clara dolefully.

"Every one, my dear. Then the china and the plates, we can't even eat
out of the plates we want or drink from the glasses we wish; everything
in this house, from top to bottom has been picked out and inflicted upon
us against our wants and in defiance of our own taste and we--we have
got to go on living with them and trying not to quarrel!"

"You have forgotten the worst of all," said Clara.

"No, my darling, I have not forgotten it. I have thought of nothing
else, but I wanted you to mention it."

"The flat silver, George."

"The flat silver, my darling. Twelve dozen, solid silver and teaset to
match, bought without consulting us, by your two rich bachelor uncles in
collusion. We wanted Queen Anne or Louis Seize, simple, dignified,
something to live with and grow fond of, and what did we get?"

"Oh, dear, they might have asked me!"

"But they don't, they never do, that is the theory of wedding presents,
my dear. We got Pond Lily pattern, repousse until it scratches your
fingers. Pond Lily pattern, my dear, which I loathe, detest, and
abominate!"

"I too, George."

"And that, my dear, we shall never get rid of; we not only must adopt
and assume the responsibility, but must pass it down to our children and
our children's children."

"Oh, George, it is terrible--terrible! What are we going to do?"

"My darling Clara, we are going to put a piece of bric-a-brac a day on
the newel post, buy a litter of puppies to chew up the rugs, select a
butter-fingered, china-breaking waitress, pay storage on the silver and
try occasionally to set fire to the furniture."

"But the flat silver, George, what of that?"

"Oh, the flat silver," I said gloomily, "each one has his cross to bear,
that shall be ours."

III

We were, as has been suggested, a relatively rich couple. That's a pun!
At the end of five years a relative on either side left us a graceful
reminder. The problem of living became merely one of degree. At the end
of this period we had made considerable progress in the building up of a
home which should be in fact and desire entirely ours. That is, we had
been extensively fortunate in the preservation of our wedding presents.
Our twenty-second housemaid broke a bottle of ink over the parlor rug,
her twenty-one predecessors (whom I had particularly selected) had
already made the most gratifying progress among the bric-a-brac, two
intelligent Airdale puppies had chewed satisfactory holes in the Art
Nouveau furniture, even the Sistine Madonna had wrenched loose from its
supports and considerately annihilated the jewel-studded Oriental lamp
in the general smashup.

Our little home began at last to really reflect something of the
artistic taste on which I pride myself. There remained at length only
the flat silver and a few thousand dollars' worth of solid silver
receptacles for which we had now paid four hundred dollars storage. But
these remained, secure, fixed beyond the assaults of the imagination.

One morning at the breakfast table I laid down my cup with a crash.

Clara gave an exclamation of alarm.

"George dear, what is it?"

For all reply I seized a handful of the Pond Lily pattern silver and
gazed at it with a savage joy.

"George, George, what has happened?"

"My dear, I have an idea--a wonderful idea."

"What idea?"

"We will spend the summer in Lone Tree, New Jersey."

Clara screamed.

"Are you in your senses, George?"

"Never more so."

"But it's broiling hot!"

"Hotter than that."

"It is simply deluged with mosquitoes."

"There _are_ several mosquitoes there."

"It's a hole in the ground!"

"It certainly is."

"And the only people we know there are the Jimmy Lakes, whom I detest."

"I can't bear them."

"And, George, there are _burglars_!"

"Yes, my dear," I said triumphantly, "heaven be praised there _are_
burglars!"

Clara looked at me. She is very quick.

"You are thinking of the silver."

"Of all the silver."

"But, George, can we afford it?"

"Afford what?"

"To have the silver stolen."

"Supposing there was a burglar insurance, as a reward."

The next moment Clara was laughing in my arms.

"Oh, George, you are a wonderful, brilliant man: how did you ever think
of it?"

"I just put my mind to it," I said loftily.

IV

We went to Lone Tree, New Jersey. We went there early to meet the
migratory spring burglar. We released from storage two chests and three
barrels of solid silver wedding presents, took out a burglar insurance
for three thousand dollars and proceeded to decorate the dining-room and
parlor.

"It looks rather--rather nouveau riche," said Clara, surveying the
result.

"My dear, say the word--it is vulgar. But what of that? We have come
here for a purpose and we will not be balked. Our object is to offer
every facility to the gentlemen who will relieve us of our silver.
Nothing concealed, nothing screwed to the floor."

"I think," said Clara, "that the champagne coolers are unnecessary."

The solid silver champagne coolers adorned either side of the fireplace.

"As receptacles for potted ferns they are, it is true, not quite in the
best of taste," I admitted. "We might leave them in the hall for
umbrellas and canes. But then they might be overlooked, and we must take
no chances on a careless burglar."

Clara sat down and began to laugh, which I confess was quite the natural
thing to do. Solid silver bread dishes holding sweet peas, individual
almond dishes filled with matches, silver baskets for cigars and
cigarettes crowded the room, with silver candlesticks sprouting from
every ledge and table. The dining-room was worse--but then solid silver
terrapin dishes and muffineers, not to mention the two dozen almond
dishes left over from the parlor, are not at all appropriate
decorations.

"I'm sure the burglars will never come," said Clara, woman fashion.

"If there's anything will keep them away," I said, a little provoked,
"it's just that attitude of mind."

"Well, at any rate, I do hope they'll be quick about it, so we can
leave this dreadful place."

"They'll never come if you're going to watch them," I said angrily.

We had quite a little quarrel on that point.

The month of June passed and still we remained in possession of our
wedding silver. Clara was openly discouraged and if I still clung to my
faith, at the bottom I was anxious and impatient. When July passed
unfruitfully even our sense of humor was seriously endangered.

"They will never come," said Clara firmly.

"My dear," I replied, "the last time they came in July. All the more
reason that they should change to August."

"They will never come," said Clara a second time.

"Let's bait the hook," I said, trying to turn the subject into a
facetious vein. "We might strew a dozen or so of those individual dishes
down the path to the road."

"They'll never come," said Clara obstinately.

And yet they came.

On the second of August, about two o'clock in the morning I was awakened
out of a deep sleep by the voice of my wife crying:

"George, here's a burglar!"

I thought the joke obvious and ill-timed and sleepily said so.

"But, George dear, he's here--in the room!"

There was something in my wife's voice, a note of ringing exultation,
that brought me bolt upright in bed.

"Put up your hands--quick!" said a staccato voice.

It was true, there at the end of the bed, flashing the conventional
bull's-eye lantern, stood at last a real burglar.

"Put 'em up!"

My hands went heavenward in thanksgiving and gratitude.

"Make a move, you candy dude, or shout for help," continued the voice,
shoving into the light the muzzle of a Colt's revolver, "and this for
you's!"

The slighting allusion I took to the credit of the pink and white
pajamas I wore--but nothing at that moment could have ruffled my
feelings. I was bubbling over with happiness. I wanted to jump up and
hug him in my arms. I listened. Downstairs could be heard the sound of
feet and an occasional metallic ring.

"Oh, George, isn't it too wonderful--wonderful for words!" said Clara,
hysterical with joy.

"I can't believe it," I cried.

"Shut up!" said the voice behind the lantern.

"My dear friend," I said conciliatingly, "there's not the slightest need
of your keeping your finger on that wabbling, cold thing. My feelings
towards you are only the tenderest and the most grateful."

"Huh!"

"The feelings of a brother! My only fear is that you may overlook one or
two articles that I admit are not conveniently exposed."

The bull's-eye turned upon me with a sudden jerk.

"Well, I'll be damned!"

"We have waited for you long and patiently. We thought you would never
come. In fact, we had sort of lost faith in you. I'm sorry. I apologize.
In a way I don't deserve this--I really don't."

"Bughouse!" came from the foot of the bed, in a suppressed mutter. "Out
and out bughouse!"

"Quite wrong," I said cheerily. "I never was in better health. You are
surprised, you don't understand. It's not necessary you should. It would
rob the situation of its humor if you should. All I ask of you is to
take everything, don't make a slip, get it all."

"Oh, do, please, please do!" said Clara earnestly.

The silence at the foot of the bed had the force of an exclamation.

"Above all," I continued anxiously, "don't forget the pots. They stand
on either side of the fireplace, filled with ferns. They are not pewter.
They are solid silver champagne coolers. They are worth--they are
worth--"

"Two hundred apiece," said Clara instantly.

"And don't overlook the muffineers, the terrapin dishes and the
candlesticks. We should be very much obliged--very grateful if you
could find room for them."

Often since I have thought of that burglar and what must have been his
sensations. At the time I was too engrossed with my own feelings. Never
have I enjoyed a situation more. It is true I noticed as I proceeded our
burglar began to edge away towards the door, keeping the lantern
steadily on my face.

"And one favor more," I added, "there are several flocks of individual
silver almond dishes roosting downstairs--"

"Forty-two," said Clara, "twenty-four in the dining-room and eighteen in
the parlor."

"Forty-two is the number; as a last favor please find room for them; if
you don't want them drop them in a river or bury them somewhere. We
really would appreciate it. It's our last chance."

"All right," said the burglar in an altered tone. "Don't you worry now,
we'll attend to that."

"Remember there are forty-two--if you would count them."

"That's all right--just you rest easy," said the burglar soothingly.
"I'll see they all get in."

"Really, if I could be of any assistance downstairs," I said anxiously,
"I might really help."

"Oh, don't you worry, Bub, my pals are real careful muts," said the
burglar nervously. "Now just keep calm. We'll get 'em all."

It suddenly burst upon me that he took me for a lunatic. I buried my
head in the covers and rocked back and forth between tears and laughter.

"Hi! what the ----'s going on up there?" cried a voice from downstairs.

"It's all right--all right, Bill," said our burglar hoarsely, "very
affable party up here. Say, hurry it up a bit down there, will you?"

All at once it struck me that if I really frightened him too much they
might decamp without making a clean sweep. I sobered at once.

"I'm not crazy," I said.

"Sure you're not," said the burglar conciliatingly.

"But I assure you--"

"That's all right."

"I'm perfectly sane."

"Sane as a house!"

"There's nothing to be afraid of."

"Course there isn't. Hi, Bill, won't you hurry up there!"

"I'll explain--"

"Don't you mind that."

"This is the way it is--"

"That's all right, we know all about it."

"You do--"

"Sure, we got your letter."

"What letter?"

"Your telegram then."

"See here, I'm not crazy--"

"You bet you're not," said the burglar, edging towards the door and
changing the key.

"Hold up!" I cried in alarm, "don't be a fool. What I want is for you to
get everything--everything, do you hear?"

"All right, I'll just go down and speak to him."

"Hold up--"

"I'll tell him."

"Wait," I cried, jumping out of bed in my desire to retain him.

At that moment a whistle came from below and with an exclamation of
relief our burglar slammed the door and locked it. We heard him go down
three steps at a time and rush out of the house.

"Now you've scared them away," said Clara, "with your idiotic humor."

I felt contrite and alarmed.

"How could I help it?" I said angrily, preparing to climb out on the
roof of the porch. "I tried to tell him."

With which I scrambled out on the roof, made my way to the next room and
entering, released Clara. At the top of the steps we stood clinging
together.

"Suppose they left it all behind," said Clara.

"Or even some!"

"Oh, George, I know it--I know it!"

"Don't be unreasonable--let's go down." Holding a candle aloft we
descended. The lower floor was stripped of silver--not even an
individual almond dish or a muffineer remained. We fell wildly,
hilariously into each other's arms and began to dance. I don't know
exactly what it was, but it wasn't a minute.

Suddenly Clara stopped.

"George!"

"Oh, Lord, what is it?"

"Supposin'."

"Well--well?"

"Supposin' they've dropped some of it in the path."

We rushed out and searched the path, nothing there. We searched the
road--one individual almond dish had fallen. I took it and hammered it
beyond recognition and flung it into the pond. It was criminal, but I
did it.

And then we went into the house and danced some more. We were happy.

Of course we raised an alarm--after sufficient time to carefully dress,
and fill the lantern with oil. Other houses too had been robbed before
we had been visited, but as they were occupied by old inhabitants, the
occupants had nonchalantly gone to sleep again after surrendering their
small change. Our exploit was quite the sensation. With great difficulty
we assumed the proper public attitude of shock and despair. The
following day I wrote full particulars to the Insurance Company, with a
demand for the indemnity.

"You'll never get the full amount," said Clara.

"Why not?"

"You never do. They'll send a man to ask disagreeable questions and to
beat us down."

"Let him come."

"You'll see."

Just one week after the event, I opened an official envelope, extracted
a check, gazed at it with a superior smile and tendered it to Clara by
the tips of my fingers.

"Three thousand dollars!" cried Clara, without contrition, "three
thousand dollars--oh, George!"

There it was--three thousand dollars, without a shred of doubt.
Womanlike, all Clara had to say was:

"Well, was I right about the wedding presents?"

Which remark I had not foreseen.

We shut up house and went to town next day and began the rounds of the
jewelers. In four days we had expended four-fifths of our money--but
with what results! Everything we had longed for, planned for, dreamed of
was ours and everything harmonized.

Two weeks later as, ensconced in our city house, we moved enraptured
about our new-found home, gazing at the reincarnation of our silver, a
telegram was put in my hand.

"What is it?" said Clara from the dining-room, where she was fondling
our chaste Queen Anne teaset.

"It's a telegram," I said, puzzled.

"Open it, then!"

I tore the envelope, it was from the Insurance Company.

"Our detectives have arrested the burglars. You will be overjoyed to
hear that we have recovered your silver in toto!"

THE SURPRISES OF THE LOTTERY

I

The Comte de Bonzag, on the ruined esplanade of his Chateau de
Keragouil, frowned into the distant crepuscle of haystack and multiplied
hedge, crumpling in his nervous hands two annoying slips of paper. The
rugged body had not one more pound of flesh than was absolutely
necessary to hold together the long, pointed bones. The bronzed,
haphazard face was dominated by a stiff comb of orange-tawny hair, which
faithfully reproduced the gaunt unloveliness of generations of Bonzags.
But there lurked in the rapid advance of the nose and the abrupt,
obstinate eyes a certain staring defiance which effectively limited the
field of comment.

At his back, the riddled silhouette of ragged towers and crumbling roof
reflected against the gentle skies something of the windy raiment of its
owner. It was a Gascon chateau, arrogant and threadbare, which had never
cried out at a wound, nor suffered the indignity of a patch. About it
and through it, hundreds of swallows, its natural inheritors, crossed
and recrossed in their vacillating flight.

Out of the obscurity of the green pastures that melted away into the
near woods, the voice of a woman suddenly rose in a tender laugh.

The Comte de Bonzag sat bolt upright, dislodging from his lap a black
spaniel, who tumbled on a matronly hound, whose startled yelp of
indignation caused the esplanade to vibrate with dogs, that, scurrying
from every cranny, assembled in an expectant circle, and waited with
hungry tongues the intentions of their master.

The Comte, listening attentively, perceived near the stable his entire
domestic staff reclining happily on the arm of Andoche, the
Sapeur-Pompier, the hero of a dozen fires.

"No, there are no longer any servants!" he exclaimed, with a bitterness
that caused a stir in the pack; then angrily he shouted with all his
forces: "Francine! Hey, there, Francine! Come here at once!"

The indisputable fact was that Francine had asked for her wages. Such a
demand, indelicate in its simplest form, had been further aggravated by
a respectful but clear ultimatum. It was pay, or do the cooking, and if
the first was impossible, the second was both impossible and
distasteful.

The enemy duly arrived, dimpled and plump, an honest thirty-five, a
solid widow, who stopped at the top of the stairs with the distant
respect which the Comte de Bonzag inspired even in his creditors.

"Francine, I have thought much," said the Comte, with a conciliatory
look. "You were a little exaggerated, but you were in your rights."

"Ah, Monsieur le Comte, six months is long when one has a child who must
be--"

"We will not refer again to our disagreement," the Comte said,
interrupting her sternly. "I have simply called you to hear what action
I have decided on."

"Oh, yes, M'sieur; thank you, M'sieur le Comte."

"Unluckily," said Bonzag, frowning, "I am forced to make a great
sacrifice. In a month I could probably have paid all--I have a great
uncle at Valle-Temple who is exceedingly ill. But--however, we will hold
that for the future. I owe you, my good Francine, wages for six
months--sixty francs, representing your service with me. I am going to
give you on account, at once, twenty francs, or rather something
immeasurably more valuable than that sum." He drew out the two slips of
paper, and regarded them with affection and regret. "Here are two
tickets for the Grand Lottery of France, which will be drawn this month,
ten francs a ticket. I had to go to Chantreuil to get them; number
77,707 and number 200,013. Take them--they are yours."

"But, M'sieur le Comte," said Francine, looking stupidly at the tickets
she had passively received. "It's--it's good round pieces of silver I
need."

"Francine," cried de Bonzag, in amazed indignation, "do you realize
that I probably have given you a fortune--and that I am absolving you of
all division of it with me!"

"But, M'sieur--"

"That there are one hundred and forty-five numbers that will draw
prizes."

"Yes, M'sieur le Comte; but--"

"That there is a prize of one quarter of a million, one third of a
million--"

"All the same--"

"That the second prize is for one-half a million, and the first prize
for one round million francs."

"M'sieur says?" said Francine, whose eyes began to open.

"One hundred and forty-five chances, and the lowest is for a hundred
francs. You think that isn't a sacrifice, eh?"

"Well, Monsieur le Comte," Francine said at last with a sigh, "I'll take
them for twenty francs. It's not good round silver, and there's my
little girl--"

"Enough!" exclaimed de Bonzag, dismissing her with an angry gesture. "I
am making you an heiress, and you have no gratitude! Leave me--and send
hither Andoche."

He watched the bulky figure waddle off, sunk back in his chair, and
repeated with profound dejection; "No gratitude! There, it's done: this
time certainly I have thrown away a quarter of a million at the
lowest!"

Presently Andoche, the Sapeur-Pompier, the brass helmet under his arm,
appeared at the top of the steps, smiling and thirsty, with covetous
eyes fastened on the broken table, at the carafe containing curacoa that
was white and "Triple-Sec."

"Ah, it's you, Andoche," said the Comte, finally, drawn from his
abstraction by a succession of rapid bows. He took two full-hearted
sighs, pushed the carafe slightly in the direction of the
Sapeur-Pompier, and added: "Sit down, my good Andoche. I have need to be
a little gay. Suppose we talk of Paris."

It was the cue for Andoche to slip gratefully into a chair, possess the
carafe and prepare to listen.

II

At the proper age of thirty-one, the Comte de Bonzag fell heir to the
enormous sum of fifteen thousand francs from an uncle who had made the
fortune in trade. With no more delay than it took the great Emperor to
fling an army across the Alps, he descended on Paris, resolved to
repulse all advances which Louis Napoleon might make, and to lend the
splendor of his name and the weight of his fortune only to the Cercle
Royale. Two weeks devoted to this loyal end strengthened the Bourbon
lines perceptibly, but resulted in a shrinkage of four thousand francs
in his own. Next remembering that the aristocracy had always been the
patron of the arts, he determined to make a rapid examination of the
_coulisses_ of the opera and the regions of the ballet. A six-days'
reconnaissance discovered not the slightest signs of disaffection; but
the thoroughness of his inquiries was such that the completion of his
mission found him with just one thousand francs in pocket. Being not
only a Loyalist and a patron of the arts, but a statesman and a
philosopher, he turned his efforts toward the Quartier Latin, to the
great minds who would one day take up the guidance of a more enlightened
France. There he made the discovery that one amused himself more than at
the Cercle Royale, and spent considerably less than in the arts, and
that at one hundred francs a week he aroused an enthusiasm for the
Bourbons which almost attained the proportions of a riot.

The three months over, he retired to his estate at Keragouil, having
profoundly stirred all classes of society, given new life to the cause
of His Majesty, and regretting only, as a true gentleman, the frightful
devastation he had left in the hearts of the ladies.

Unfortunately, these brilliant services to Parisian society and his king
had left him without any society of his own, forced to the consideration
of the difficult problem of how to keep his pipe lighted, his cellar
full, and his maid-of-all-work in a state of hopeful expectation, on
nothing a year.

Nothing daunted, he attacked this problem of the family bankruptcy with
the vigor and the daring of a D'Artagnan. Each year he collected
laboriously twenty francs, and invested them in two tickets for the
Great Lottery, valiantly resolved, like a Gascon, to carry off both
first and second prizes, but satisfied as a philosopher if he could
figure among the honorable mentions. Despite the fact that one hundred
and forty-five prizes were advertised each year, in nineteen attempts he
had not even had the pleasure of seeing his name in print. This result,
far from discouraging him, only inflamed his confidence. For he had
dipped into mathematics, and consoled himself by the reflection that,
according to the law of probabilities, each year he became the more
irresistible.

Lately, however, one obstacle had arisen to the successful carrying out
of this system of finance. He employed one servant, a maid-of-all-work,
who was engaged for the day, with permission to take from the garden
what she needed, to adorn herself from the rose-bushes, to share the
output of La Belle Etoile, the cow, and to receive a salary of ten
francs a month. The difficulty invariably arose over the interpretation
of this last clause. For the Comte was not regular in his payments,
unless it could be said that he was regular in not paying at all.

So it invariably occurred that the maid-of-all-work from a state of
unrest gradually passed into open rebellion, especially when the garden
was not productive and the roses ceased to bloom. When the ultimatum was
served, the Comte consulted his resources and found them invariably to
consist of two tickets of the Lottery of France, cash value twenty
francs, but, according to the laws of probability, increasingly capable
of returning one million, five hundred thousand francs. On one side was
the glory of the ancient name, and the possibility of another descent on
Paris; opposed was the brutal question of soup and ragout. The man
prevailed, and the maid-of-all-work grudgingly accepted the conditions
of truce. Then the news of the drawing arrived and the domestic staff
departed.

This comedy, annually repeated, was annually played on the same lines.
Only each year the period intervening between the surrender of the
tickets and the announcement of the lottery brought an increasing agony.
Each time as the Comte saw the precious slips finally depart in the
hands of the maid-of-all-work, he was convinced that at last the laws of
probability must fructify. Each year he found a new meaning in the
cabalistic mysteries of numbers. The eighteenth attempt, multiplied by
three, gave fifty-four, his age. Success was inevitable: nineteen, a
number indivisible and chaste above all others, seemed specially
designated. In a word, the Comte suffered during these periods as only a
gambler of the fourth generation is able to suffer.

At present the number twenty appeared to him to have properties no
other number had possessed, especially in the reappearance of the zero,
a figure which peculiarly attracted him by its symmetry. His despair was
consequently unlimited.

Ordinarily the news of the lottery arrived by an inspector of roads, who
passed through Keragouil a week or so after the announcement in the
press; for the Comte, having surrendered his ticket, was only troubled
lest he had won.

This time, to the upsetting of all history, an Englishman on a bicycle
trip brought him a newspaper, an article almost unknown to Keragouil,
where the shriek of the locomotive had yet to penetrate.

The Comte de Bonzag, opening the paper with the accustomed sinking of
the heart, was startled by the staring headlines:

RESULTS OF THE LOTTERY

A glance at the winners of the first and second prizes reassured him. He
drew a breath of satisfaction, saying gratefully; "Ah, what luck! God be
praised! I'll never do that again!"

Then, remembering with only an idle curiosity the one hundred and
forty-three mediocre prizes on the list, he returned to the perusal.
Suddenly the print swam before his eyes, and the great esplanade seemed
to rise. Number 77,707 had won the fourth prize of one hundred thousand
francs; number 200,013, a prize of ten thousand francs.

III

The emotion which overwhelmed Napoleon at Waterloo as he beheld his
triumphant squadrons go down into the sunken road was not a whit more
complete than the despair of the Comte de Bonzag when he realized that
the one hundred and ten thousand francs which the laws of probability
had finally produced was now the property of Francine, the cook.

One hundred and ten thousand francs! It was colossal! Five generations
of Bonzags had never touched as much as that. One hundred and ten
thousand francs meant the rehabilitation of the ancient name, the
restoration of the Chateau de Keragouil, half the year at Paris, in the
Cercle Royale, in the regions of art, and among the great minds that
were still young in the Quartier--and all that was in the possession of
a plump Gascony peasant, whose ideas of comfort and pleasure were
satisfied by one hundred and twenty francs a year.

"What am I going to do?" he cried, rising in an outburst of anger. Then
he sat down in despair. There was nothing to do. The fact was obvious
that Francine was an heiress, possessed of the greatest fortune in the
memory of Keragouil. There was nothing to do, or rather, there was
manifestly but one way open, and the Comte resolved on the spot to take
it. He must have back the lottery tickets, though it meant a Comtesse de
Bonzag.

Fortunately for him, Francine knew nothing of the arrival of the paper.
Though it was necessary to make haste, there was still time for a
compatriot of D'Artagnan. There was, of course, Andoche, the
Sapeur-Pompier; but a Bonzag who had had three months' experience with
the feminine heart of Paris was not the man to trouble himself over a
Sapeur-Pompier. That evening, in the dim dining-room, when Francine
arrived with the steaming soup, the Comte, who had waited with a spoon
in his fist and a napkin knotted to his neck, plunged valiantly to the
issue.

"Ah, what a good smell!" he said, elevating his nose. "Francine, you are
the queen of cooks."

"Oh, M'sieur le Comte," Francine stammered, stopping in amazement. "Oh,
M'sieur le Comte, thanks."

"Don't thank me; it is I who am grateful."

"Oh, M'sieur!"

"Yes, yes, yes! Francine--"

"What is it, M'sieur le Comte?"

"To-night you may set another cover--opposite me."

"Set another cover?"

"Exactly."

Francine, more and more astonished, proceeded to place on the table a
plate, a knife and a fork.

"M'sieur le Cure is coming?" she said, drawing up a chair.

"No, Francine."

"Not M'sieur le Cure? Who, then?"

"It is for you, Francine. Sit down."

"I? I, M'sieur le Comte?"

"Sit down. I wish it."

Francine took three steps backward and so as to command the exit,
stopped and stared at her master, with mingled amazement and distrust.

"My dear Francine," continued the Comte, "I am tired of eating alone. It
is bad for the digestion. And I am bored. I have need of society. So sit
down."

"M'sieur orders it?"

"I ask it as a favor, Francine."

Francine, with open eyes, advanced doubtfully, seating herself nicely on
the chair, more astonished than complimented, and more alarmed than
pleased.

"Ah, that is nicer!" said the Comte, with an approving nod. "How have I
endured it all these years! Francine, you may help yourself to the
wine."

The astonished maid-of-all-work, who had swallowed a spoon of soup with
great discomfort, sprang up, all in a tremble, stammering with defiant
virtue:

"M'sieur le Comte does not forget that I am an honest woman!"

"No, my dear Francine; I am certain of it. So sit down in peace. I will
tell you the situation."

Francine hesitated, then, reassured by the devotion he gave to his soup,
settled once more in her chair.

"Francine, I have made up my mind to one thing," said the Comte, filling
his glass with such energy that a red circle appeared on the cloth.
"This life I lead is all wrong. A man is a sociable being. He needs
society. Isolation sends him back to the brute."

"Oh, yes, M'sieur le Comte," said Francine, who understood nothing.

"So I am resolved to marry."

"M'sieur will marry!" cried Francine, who spilled half her soup with the
shock.

"Perfectly. It is for that I have asked you to keep me company."

"M'sieur--you--M'sieur wants to marry me!"

"Parbleu!"

"M'sieur--M'sieur wants to marry me!"

"I ask you formally to be my wife."

"I?"

"M'sieur wants--wants me to be Comtesse de Bonzag?"

"Immediately."

"Oh!"

Springing up, Francine stood a moment gazing at him in frightened
alarm; then, with a cry, she vanished heavily through the door.

"She has gone to Andoche," said the Comte, angrily to himself. "She
loves him!"

In great perturbation he left the room promenading on the esplanade, in
the midst of his hounds, talking uneasily to himself.

"_Peste_, I put it to her a little too suddenly! It was a blunder. If
she loves that Sapeur-Pompier, eh? A Sapeur-Pompier, to rival a Comte de
Bonzag--faugh!"

Suddenly, below in the moonlight, he beheld Andoche tearing himself from
the embrace of Francine, and, not to be seen, he returned nervously to
the dining-room.

Shortly after, the maid-of-all-work returned, calm, but with telltale
eyes.

"Well, Francine, did I frighten you?" said the Comte, genially.

"Oh, yes, M'sieur le Comte--"

"Well, what do you want to say?"

"M'sieur was in real earnest?"

"Never more so."

"M'sieur really wants to make me the Comtesse de Bonzag?"

"_Dame!_ I tell you my intentions are honorable."

"M'sieur will let me ask him one question?"

"A dozen even."

"M'sieur remembers that I am a widow--"

"With one child, yes."

"M'sieur, pardon me; I have been thinking much, and I have been thinking
of my little girl. What would M'sieur want me to do?"

The Comte reflected, and said generously: "I do not adopt her; but, if
you like, she shall live here."

"Then, M'sieur," said Francine, dropping on her knees, "I thank M'sieur
very much. M'sieur is too kind, too good--"

"So, it is decided then," said the Comte, rising joyfully.

"Oh, yes, M'sieur."

"Then we shall go to-morrow," said the Comte. "It is my manner; I like
to do things instantly. Stand up, I beg you, Madame."

"To-morrow, M'sieur?"

"Yes, Madame. Have you any objections?"

"Oh, no, M'sieur le Comte; on the contrary," said Francine, blushing
with pleasure at the twice-repeated "Madame." Then she added carefully:
"M'sieur is quite right; it would be better. People talk so."

IV

The return of the married couple was the sensation of Keragouil, for the
Comte de Bonzag, after the fashion of his ancestors, had placed his
bride behind him on the broad back of Quatre Diables, who proceeded
with unaltered equanimity. Along the journey the peasants, who held the
Comte in loyal terror, greeted the procession with a respectful silence,
congregating in the road to stare and chatter only when the amiable
Quatre Diables had disappeared in the distance.

Disdaining to notice the commotion he produced, the Comte headed
straight for the courtyard, where Quatre Diables, recognizing the foot
block, dropped his head and began to crop the grass. The new Comtesse,
fatigued by the novel position, started gratefully to descend by the
most natural way, that is, by slipping easily over the rear anatomy of
the good-natured Quatre Diables. But the Comte, feeling the commotion
behind, stopped her with a word, and, flinging his left leg over the

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