Part 4 out of 4
seemed to be only one prominent feature in the landscape and that was a
vacant chair, he couldn't drag his mind away from Gwendolen and his hard
luck; consequently his distractions allowed deadly pauses to slip in
every now and then when it was his turn to say something, and of course
this disease spread to the rest of the conversation--wherefore, instead
of having a breezy sail in sunny waters, as anticipated, everybody was
bailing out and praying for land. What could the matter be? Tracy alone
could have told, the others couldn't even invent a theory.
Meanwhile they were having a similarly dismal time at the Thompson house;
in fact a twin experience. Gwendolen was ashamed of herself for allowing
her disappointment to so depress her spirits and make her so strangely
and profoundly miserable; but feeling ashamed of herself didn't improve
the matter any; it only seemed to aggravate the suffering. She explained
that she was not feeling very well, and everybody could see that this was
true; so she got sincere sympathy and commiseration; but that didn't help
the case. Nothing helps that kind of a case. It is best to just stand
off and let it fester. The moment the dinner was over the girl excused
herself, and she hurried home feeling unspeakably grateful to get away
from that house and that intolerable captivity and suffering.
Will he be gone? The thought arose in her brain, but took effect in her
heels. She slipped into the house, threw off her things and made
straight for the dining room. She stopped and listened. Her father's
voice--with no life in it; presently her mother's--no life in that;
a considerable vacancy, then a sterile remark from Washington Hawkins.
Another silence; then, not Tracy's but her father's voice again.
"He's gone," she said to herself despairingly, and listlessly opened the
door and stepped within.
"Why, my child," cried the mother, "how white you are! Are you--has
"White?" exclaimed Sellers. "It's gone like a flash; 'twasn't serious.
Already she's as red as the soul of a watermelon! Sit down, dear, sit
down--goodness knows you're welcome. Did you have a good time? We've
had great times here--immense. Why didn't Miss Belle come? Mr. Tracy is
not feeling well, and she'd have made him forget it."
She was content now; and out from her happy eyes there went a light that
told a secret to another pair of eyes there and got a secret in return.
In just that infinitely small fraction of a second those two great
confessions were made, received, and perfectly understood. All anxiety,
apprehension, uncertainty, vanished out of these young people's hearts
and left them filled with a great peace.
Sellers had had the most confident faith that with the new reinforcement
victory would be at this last moment snatched from the jaws of defeat,
but it was an error. The talk was as stubbornly disjointed as ever.
He was proud of Gwendolen, and liked to show her off, even against Miss
Belle Thompson, and here had been a great opportunity, and what had she
made of it? He felt a good deal put out. It vexed him to think that
this Englishman, with the traveling Briton's everlasting disposition to
generalize whole mountain ranges from single sample-grains of sand, would
jump to the conclusion that American girls were as dumb as himself--
generalizing the whole tribe from this single sample and she at her
poorest, there being nothing at that table to inspire her, give her a
start, keep her from going to sleep. He made up his mind that for the
honor of the country he would bring these two together again over the
social board before long. There would be a different result another
time, he judged. He said to himself, with a deep sense of injury,
"He'll put in his diary--they all keep diaries--he'll put in his diary
that she was miraculously uninteresting--dear, dear, but wasn't she!
I never saw the like--and yet looking as beautiful as Satan, too--and
couldn't seem to do anything but paw bread crumbs, and pick flowers to
pieces, and look fidgety. And it isn't any better here in the Hall of
Audience. I've had enough; I'll haul down my flag--the others may fight
it out if they want to."
He shook hands all around and went off to do some work which he said was
pressing. The idolaters were the width of the room apart; and apparently
unconscious of each other's presence. The distance got shortened a
little, now. Very soon the mother withdrew. The distance narrowed
again. Tracy stood before a chromo of some Ohio politician which had
been retouched and chain-mailed for a crusading Rossmore, and Gwendolen
was sitting on the sofa not far from his elbow artificially absorbed in
examining a photograph album that hadn't any photographs in it.
The "Senator" still lingered. He was sorry for the young people; it had
been a dull evening for them. In the goodness of his heart he tried to
make it pleasant for them now; tried to remove the ill impression
necessarily left by the general defeat; tried to be chatty, even tried to
be gay. But the responses were sickly, there was no starting any
enthusiasm; he would give it up and quit--it was a day specially picked
out and consecrated to failures.
But when Gwendolen rose up promptly and smiled a glad smile and said with
thankfulness and blessing, "Must you go?" it seemed cruel to desert, and
he sat down again.
He was about to begin a remark when--when he didn't. We have all been
there. He didn't know how he knew his concluding to stay longer had been
a mistake, he merely knew it; and knew it for dead certain, too. And so
he bade goodnight, and went mooning out, wondering what he could have
done that changed the atmosphere that way. As the door closed behind him
those two were standing side by side, looking at that door--looking at it
in a waiting, second-counting, but deeply grateful kind of way. And the
instant it closed they flung their arms about each other's necks, and
there, heart to heart and lip to lip--
"Oh, my God, she's kissing it!"
Nobody heard this remark, because Hawkins, who bred it, only thought it,
he didn't utter it. He had turned, the moment he had closed the door,
and had pushed it open a little, intending to re-enter and ask what ill-
advised thing he had done or said, and apologize for it. But he didn't
re-enter; he staggered off stunned, terrified, distressed.
Five minutes later he was sitting in his room, with his head bowed within
the circle of his arms, on the table--final attitude of grief and despair.
His tears were flowing fast, and now and then a sob broke upon the
stillness. Presently he said:
"I knew her when she was a little child and used to climb about my knees;
I love her as I love my own, and now--oh, poor thing, poor thing, I
cannot bear it!--she's gone and lost her heart to this mangy
materializee! Why didn't we see that that might happen? But how could
we? Nobody could; nobody could ever have dreamed of such a thing. You
couldn't expect a person would fall in love with a wax-work. And this
one doesn't even amount to that."
He went on grieving to himself, and now and then giving voice to his
"It's done, oh, it's done, and there's no help for it, no undoing the
miserable business. If I had the nerve, I would kill it. But that
wouldn't do any good. She loves it; she thinks it's genuine and
authentic. If she lost it she would grieve for it just as she would for
a real person. And who's to break it to the family! Not I--I'll die
first. Sellers is the best human being I ever knew and I wouldn't any
more think of--oh, dear, why it'll break his heart when he finds it out.
And Polly's too. This comes of meddling with such infernal matters!
But for this, the creature would still be roasting in Sheol where it
belongs. How is it that these people don't smell the brimstone?
Sometimes I can't come into the same room with him without nearly
After a while he broke out again:
"Well, there's one thing, sure. The materializing has got to stop right
where it is. If she's got to marry a spectre, let her marry a decent one
out of the Middle Ages, like this one--not a cowboy and a thief such as
this protoplasmic tadpole's going to turn into if Sellers keeps on
fussing at it. It costs five thousand dollars cash and shuts down on the
incorporated company to stop the works at this point, but Sally Sellers's
happiness is worth more than that."
He heard Sellers coming, and got himself to rights. Sellers took a seat,
"Well, I've got to confess I'm a good deal puzzled. It did certainly
eat, there's no getting around it. Not eat, exactly, either, but it
nibbled; nibbled in an appetiteless way, but still it nibbled; and that's
just a marvel. Now the question is, what does it do with those
nibblings? That's it--what does it do with them? My idea is that we
don't begin to know all there is to this stupendous discovery yet.
But time will show--time and science--give us a chance, and don't get
But he couldn't get Hawkins interested; couldn't make him talk to amount
to anything; couldn't drag him out of his depression. But at last he
took a turn that arrested Hawkins's attention.
"I'm coming to like him, Hawkins. He is a person of stupendous
character--absolutely gigantic. Under that placid exterior is concealed
the most dare-devil spirit that was ever put into a man--he's just a
Clive over again. Yes, I'm all admiration for him, on account of his
character, and liking naturally follows admiration, you know. I'm coming
to like him immensely. Do you know, I haven't the heart to degrade such
a character as that down to the burglar estate for money or for anything
else; and I've come to ask if you are willing to let the reward go, and
leave this poor fellow--"
"Where he is?"
"Yes--not bring him down to date."
"Oh, there's my hand; and my heart's in it, too!"
"I'll never forget you for this, Hawkins," said the old gentleman in a
voice which he found it hard to control. "You are making a great
sacrifice for me, and one which you can ill afford, but I'll never forget
your generosity, and if I live you shall not suffer for it, be sure of
Sally Sellers immediately and vividly realized that she was become a new
being; a being of a far higher and worthier sort than she had been such a
little while before; an earnest being, in place of a dreamer; and
supplied with a reason for her presence in the world, where merely a
wistful and troubled curiosity about it had existed before. So great and
so comprehensive was the change which had been wrought, that she seemed
to herself to be a real person who had lately been a shadow; a something
which had lately been a nothing; a purpose, which had lately been a
fancy; a finished temple, with the altar-fires lit and the voice of
worship ascending, where before had been but an architect's confusion of
arid working plans, unintelligible to the passing eye and prophesying
"Lady" Gwendolen! The pleasantness of that sound was all gone; it was an
offense to her ear now. She said:
"There--that sham belongs to the past; I will not be called by it any
"I may call you simply Gwendolen? You will allow me to drop the
formalities straightway and name you by your dear first name without
She was dethroning the pink and replacing it with a rosebud.
"There--that is better. I hate pinks--some pinks. Indeed yes, you are to
call me by my first name without additions--that is,--well, I don't mean
without additions entirely, but--"
It was as far as she could get. There was a pause; his intellect was
struggling to comprehend; presently it did manage to catch the idea in
time to save embarrassment all around, and he said gratefully--
"Dear Gwendolen! I may say that?"
"Yes--part of it. But--don't kiss me when I am talking, it makes me
forget what I was going to say. You can call me by part of that form,
but not the last part. Gwendolen is not my name."
"Not your name?" This in a tone of wonder and surprise.
The girl's soul was suddenly invaded by a creepy apprehension, a quite
definite sense of suspicion and alarm. She put his arms away from her,
looked him searchingly in the eye, and said:
"Answer me truly, on your honor. You are not seeking to marry me on
account of my rank?"
The shot almost knocked him through the wall, he was so little prepared
for it. There was something so finely grotesque about the question and
its parent suspicion, that he stopped to wonder and admire, and thus was
he saved from laughing. Then, without wasting precious time, he set
about the task of convincing her that he had been lured by herself alone,
and had fallen in love with her only, not her title and position; that he
loved her with all his heart, and could not love her more if she were a
duchess, or less if she were without home, name or family. She watched
his face wistfully, eagerly, hopefully, translating his words by its
expression; and when he had finished there was gladness in her heart--
a tumultuous gladness, indeed, though outwardly she was calm, tranquil,
even judicially austere. She prepared a surprise for him, now,
calculated to put a heavy strain upon those disinterested protestations
of his; and thus she delivered it, burning it away word by word as the
fuse burns down to a bombshell, and watching to see how far the explosion
would lift him:
"Listen--and do not doubt me, for I shall speak the exact truth. Howard
Tracy, I am no more an earl's child than you are!"
To her joy--and secret surprise, also--it never phased him. He was
ready, this time, and saw his chance. He cried out with enthusiasm,
"Thank heaven for that!" and gathered her to his arms.
To express her happiness was almost beyond her gift of speech.
"You make me the proudest girl in all the earth," she said, with her head
pillowed on his shoulder. "I thought it only natural that you should be
dazzled by the title--maybe even unconsciously, you being English--and
that you might be deceiving yourself in thinking you loved only me, and
find you didn't love me when the deception was swept away; so it makes me
proud that the revelation stands for nothing and that you do love just
me, only me--oh, prouder than any words can tell!"
"It is only you, sweetheart, I never gave one envying glance toward your
father's earldom. That is utterly true, dear Gwendolen."
"There--you mustn't call me that. I hate that false name. I told you it
wasn't mine. My name is Sally Sellers--or Sarah, if you like. From this
time I banish dreams, visions, imaginings, and will no more of them.
I am going to be myself--my genuine self, my honest self, my natural
self, clear and clean of sham and folly and fraud, and worthy of you.
There is no grain of social inequality between us; I, like you, am poor;
I, like you, am without position or distinction; you are a struggling
artist, I am that, too, in my humbler way. Our bread is honest bread, we
work for our living. Hand in hand we will walk hence to the grave,
helping each other in all ways, living for each other, being and
remaining one in heart and purpose, one in hope and aspiration,
inseparable to the end. And though our place is low, judged by the
world's eye, we will make it as high as the highest in the great
essentials of honest work for what we eat and wear, and conduct above
reproach. We live in a land, let us be thankful, where this is all-
sufficient, and no man is better than his neighbor by the grace of God,
but only by his own merit."
Tracy tried to break in, but she stopped him and kept the floor herself.
"I am not through yet. I am going to purge myself of the last vestiges
of artificiality and pretence, and then start fair on your own honest
level and be worthy mate to you thenceforth. My father honestly thinks
he is an earl. Well, leave him his dream, it pleases him and does no one
any harm: It was the dream of his ancestors before him. It has made
fools of the house of Sellers for generations, and it made something of a
fool of me, but took no deep root. I am done with it now, and for good.
Forty-eight hours ago I was privately proud of being the daughter of a
pinchbeck earl, and thought the proper mate for me must be a man of like
degree; but to-day--oh, how grateful I am for your love which has healed
my sick brain and restored my sanity!--I could make oath that no earl's
son in all the world--"
"Why, you look like a person in a panic. What is it? What is the
"Matter? Oh, nothing--nothing. I was only going to say"--but in his
flurry nothing occurred to him to say, for a moment; then by a lucky
inspiration he thought of something entirely sufficient for the occasion,
and brought it out with eloquent force: "Oh, how beautiful you are! You
take my breath away when you look like that."
It was well conceived, well timed, and cordially delivered--and it got
"Let me see. Where was I? Yes, my father's earldom is pure moonshine.
Look at those dreadful things on the wall. You have of course supposed
them to be portraits of his ancestors, earls of Rossmore. Well, they are
not. They are chromos of distinguished Americans--all moderns; but he
has carried them back a thousand years by re-labeling them. Andrew
Jackson there, is doing what he can to be the late American earl; and the
newest treasure in the collection is supposed to be the young English
heir--I mean the idiot with the crape; but in truth it's a shoemaker, and
not Lord Berkeley at all."
"Are you sure?"
"Why of course I am. He wouldn't look like that."
"Because his conduct in his last moments, when the fire was sweeping
around him shows that he was a man. It shows that he was a fine, high-
souled young creature."
Tracy was strongly moved by these compliments, and it seemed to him that
the girl's lovely lips took on anew loveliness when they were delivering
them. He said, softly:
"It is a pity he could not know what a gracious impression his behavior
was going to leave with the dearest and sweetest stranger in the
"Oh, I almost loved him! Why, I think of him every day. He is always
floating about in my mind."
Tracy felt that this was a little more than was necessary. He was
conscious of the sting of jealousy. He said:
"It is quite right to think of him--at least now and then--that is, at
intervals--in perhaps an admiring way--but it seems to me that--"
"Howard Tracy, are you jealous of that dead man?"
He was ashamed--and at the same time not ashamed. He was jealous--and at
the same time he was not jealous. In a sense the dead man was himself;
in that case compliments and affection lavished upon that corpse went
into his own till and were clear profit. But in another sense the dead
man was not himself; and in that case all compliments and affection
lavished there were wasted, and a sufficient basis for jealousy. A tiff
was the result of the dispute between the two. Then they made it up, and
were more loving than ever. As an affectionate clincher of the
reconciliation, Sally declared that she had now banished Lord Berkeley
from her mind; and added, "And in order to make sure that he shall never
make trouble between us again, I will teach myself to detest that name
and all that have ever borne it or ever shall bear it."
This inflicted another pang, and Tracy was minded to ask her to modify
that a little just on general principles, and as practice in not
overdoing a good thing--perhaps he might better leave things as they were
and not risk bringing on another tiff. He got away from that particular,
and sought less tender ground for conversation.
"I suppose you disapprove wholly of aristocracies and nobilities, now
that you have renounced your title and your father's earldom."
"Real ones? Oh, dear no--but I've thrown aside our sham one for good."
This answer fell just at the right time and just in the right place, to
save the poor unstable young man from changing his political complexion
once more. He had been on the point of beginning to totter again, but
this prop shored him up and kept him from floundering back into democracy
and re-renouncing aristocracy. So he went home glad that he had asked
the fortunate question. The girl would accept a little thing like a
genuine earldom, she was merely prejudiced against the brummagem article.
Yes, he could have his girl and have his earldom, too: that question was
a fortunate stroke.
Sally went to bed happy, too; and remained happy, deliriously happy, for
nearly two hours; but at last, just as she was sinking into a contented
and luxurious unconsciousness, the shady devil who lives and lurks and
hides and watches inside of human beings and is always waiting for a
chance to do the proprietor a malicious damage, whispered to her soul and
said, "That question had a harmless look, but what was back of it?--what
was the secret motive of it?--what suggested it?"
The shady devil had knifed her, and could retire, now, and take a rest;
the wound would attend to business for him. And it did.
Why should Howard Tracy ask that question? If he was not trying to marry
her for the sake of her rank, what should suggest that question to him?
Didn't he plainly look gratified when she said her objections to
aristocracy had their limitations? Ah, he is after that earldom, that
gilded sham--it isn't poor me he wants.
So she argued, in anguish and tears. Then she argued the opposite
theory, but made a weak, poor business of it, and lost the case. She
kept the arguing up, one side and then the other, the rest of the night,
and at last fell asleep at dawn; fell in the fire at dawn, one may say;
for that kind of sleep resembles fire, and one comes out of it with his
brain baked and his physical forces fried out of him.
Tracy wrote his father before he sought his bed. He wrote a letter which
he believed would get better treatment than his cablegram received, for
it contained what ought to be welcome news; namely, that he had tried
equality and working for a living; had made a fight which he could find
no reason to be ashamed of, and in the matter of earning a living had
proved that he was able to do it; but that on the whole he had arrived at
the conclusion that he could not reform the world single-handed, and was
willing to retire from the conflict with the fair degree of honor which
he had gained, and was also willing to return home and resume his
position and be content with it and thankful for it for the future,
leaving further experiment of a missionary sort to other young people
needing the chastening and quelling persuasions of experience, the only
logic sure to convince a diseased imagination and restore it to rugged
health. Then he approached the subject of marriage with the daughter of
the American Claimant with a good deal of caution and much painstaking
art. He said praiseful and appreciative things about the girl, but
didn't dwell upon that detail or make it prominent. The thing which he
made prominent was the opportunity now so happily afforded, to reconcile
York and Lancaster, graft the warring roses upon one stem, and end
forever a crying injustice which had already lasted far too long. One
could infer that he had thought this thing all out and chosen this way of
making all things fair and right because it was sufficiently fair and
considerably wiser than the renunciation-scheme which he had brought with
him from England. One could infer that, but he didn't say it. In fact
the more he read his letter over, the more he got to inferring it
When the old earl received that letter, the first part of it filled him
with a grim and snarly satisfaction; but the rest of it brought a snort
or two out of him that could be translated differently. He wasted no ink
in this emergency, either in cablegrams or letters; he promptly took ship
for America to look into the matter himself. He had staunchly held his
grip all this long time, and given no sign of the hunger at his heart to
see his son; hoping for the cure of his insane dream, and resolute that
the process should go through all the necessary stages without assuaging
telegrams or other nonsense from home, and here was victory at last.
Victory, but stupidly marred by this idiotic marriage project. Yes, he
would step over and take a hand in this matter himself.
During the first ten days following the mailing of the letter Tracy's
spirits had no idle time; they were always climbing up into the clouds or
sliding down into the earth as deep as the law of gravitation reached.
He was intensely happy or intensely miserable by turns, according to Miss
Sally's moods. He never could tell when the mood was going to change,
and when it changed he couldn't tell what it was that had changed it.
Sometimes she was so in love with him that her love was tropical, torrid,
and she could find no language fervent enough for its expression; then
suddenly, and without warning or any apparent reason, the weather would
change, and the victim would find himself adrift among the icebergs and
feeling as lonesome and friendless as the north pole. It sometimes
seemed to him that a man might better be dead than exposed to these
devastating varieties of climate.
The case was simple. Sally wanted to believe that Tracy's preference was
disinterested; so she was always applying little tests of one sort or
another, hoping and expecting that they would bring out evidence which
would confirm or fortify her belief. Poor Tracy did not know that these
experiments were being made upon him, consequently he walked promptly
into all the traps the girl set for him. These traps consisted in
apparently casual references to social distinction, aristocratic title
and privilege, and such things. Often Tracy responded to these
references heedlessly and not much caring what he said provided it kept
the talk going and prolonged the seance. He didn't suspect that the girl
was watching his face and listening for his words as one who watches the
judge's face and listens for the words which will restore him to home and
friends and freedom or shut him away from the sun and human companionship
forever. He didn't suspect that his careless words were being weighed,
and so he often delivered sentence of death when it would have been just
as handy and all the same to him to pronounce acquittal. Daily he broke
the girl's heart, nightly he sent her to the rack for sleep. He couldn't
Some people would have put this and that together and perceived that the
weather never changed until one particular subject was introduced,
and that then it always changed. And they would have looked further,
and perceived that that subject was always introduced by the one party,
never the other. They would have argued, then, that this was done for a
purpose. If they could not find out what that purpose was in any simpler
or easier way, they would ask.
But Tracy was not deep enough or suspicious enough to think of these
things. He noticed only one particular; that the weather was always
sunny when a visit began. No matter how much it might cloud up later,
it always began with a clear sky. He couldn't explain this curious fact
to himself, he merely knew it to be a fact. The truth of the matter was,
that by the time Tracy had been out of Sally's sight six hours she was so
famishing for a sight of him that her doubts and suspicions were all
consumed away in the fire of that longing, and so always she came into
his presence as surprisingly radiant and joyous as she wasn't when she
went out of it.
In circumstances like these a growing portrait runs a good many risks.
The portrait of Sellers, by Tracy, was fighting along, day by day,
through this mixed weather, and daily adding to itself ineradicable signs
of the checkered life it was leading. It was the happiest portrait, in
spots, that was ever seen; but in other spots a damned soul looked out
from it; a soul that was suffering all the different kinds of distress
there are, from stomach ache to rabies. But Sellers liked it. He said it
was just himself all over--a portrait that sweated moods from every pore,
and no two moods alike. He said he had as many different kinds of
emotions in him as a jug.
It was a kind of a deadly work of art, maybe, but it was a starchy
picture for show; for it was life size, full length, and represented the
American earl in a peer's scarlet robe, with the three ermine bars
indicative of an earl's rank, and on the gray head an earl's coronet,
tilted just a wee bit to one side in a most gallus and winsome way. When
Sally's weather was sunny the portrait made Tracy chuckle, but when her
weather was overcast it disordered his mind and stopped the circulation
of his blood.
Late one night when the sweethearts had been having a flawless visit
together, Sally's interior devil began to work his specialty, and soon
the conversation was drifting toward the customary rock. Presently, in
the midst of Tracy's serene flow of talk, he felt a shudder which he knew
was not his shudder, but exterior to his breast although immediately
against it. After the shudder came sobs; Sally was crying.
"Oh, my darling, what have I done--what have I said? It has happened
again! What have I done to wound you?"
She disengaged herself from his arms and gave him a look of deep
"What have you done? I will tell you what you have done. You have
unwittingly revealed--oh, for the twentieth time, though I could not
believe it, would not believe it!--that it is not me you love, but that
foolish sham my father's imitation earldom; and you have broken my
"Oh, my child, what are you saying! I never dreamed of such a thing."
"Oh, Howard, Howard, the things you have uttered when you were forgetting
to guard your tongue, have betrayed you."
"Things I have uttered when I was forgetting to guard my tongue? These
are hard words. When have I remembered to guard it? Never in one
instance. It has no office but to speak the truth. It needs no guarding
"Howard, I have noted your words and weighed them, when you were not
thinking of their significance--and they have told me more than you meant
"Do you mean to say you have answered the trust I had in you by using it
as an ambuscade from which you could set snares for my unsuspecting
tongue and be safe from detection while you did it? You have not done
this--surely you have not done this thing. Oh, one's enemy could not do
This was an aspect of the girl's conduct which she had not clearly
perceived before. Was it treachery? Had she abused a trust? The
thought crimsoned her cheeks with shame and remorse.
"Oh, forgive me," she said, "I did not know what I was doing. I have
been so tortured--you will forgive me, you must; I have suffered so much,
and I am so sorry and so humble; you do forgive me, don't you?--don't
turn away, don't refuse me; it is only my love that is at fault, and you
know I love you, love you with all my heart; I couldn't bear to--oh,
dear, dear, I am so miserable, and I sever meant any harm, and I didn't
see where this insanity was carrying me, and how it was wronging and
abusing the dearest heart in all the world to me--and--and--oh, take me
in your arms again, I have no other refuge, no other home and hope!"
There was reconciliation again--immediate, perfect, all-embracing--and
with it utter happiness. This would have been a good time to adjourn.
But no, now that the cloud-breeder was revealed at last; now that it was
manifest that all the sour weather had come from this girl's dread that
Tracy was lured by her rank and not herself, he resolved to lay that
ghost immediately and permanently by furnishing the best possible proof
that he couldn't have had back of him at any time the suspected motive.
So he said:
"Let me whisper a little secret in your ear--a secret which I have kept
shut up in my breast all this time. Your rank couldn't ever have been an
enticement. I am son and heir to an English earl!"
The girl stared at him--one, two, three moments, maybe a dozen--then her
"You?" she said, and moved away from him, still gazing at him in a kind
of blank amazement.
"Why--why, certainly I am. Why do you act like this? What have I done
"What have you done? You have certainly made a most strange statement.
You must see that yourself."
"Well," with a timid little laugh, "it may be a strange enough statement;
but of what consequence is that, if it is true?"
"If it is true. You are already retiring from it."
"Oh, not for a moment! You should not say that. I have not deserved it.
I have spoken the truth; why do you doubt it?"
Her reply was prompt.
"Simply because you didn't speak it earlier!"
"Oh!" It wasn't a groan, exactly, but it was an intelligible enough
expression of the fact that he saw the point and recognized that there
was reason in it.
"You have seemed to conceal nothing from me that I ought to know
concerning yourself, and you were not privileged to keep back such a
thing as this from me a moment after--after--well, after you had
determined to pay your court to me."
"Its true, it's true, I know it! But there were circumstances--in--
in the way--circumstances which--"
She waved the circumstances aside.
"Well, you see," he said, pleadingly, "you seemed so bent on our
traveling the proud path of honest labor and honorable poverty, that I
was terrified--that is, I was afraid--of--of--well, you know how you
"Yes, I know how I talked. And I also know that before the talk was
finished you inquired how I stood as regards aristocracies, and my answer
was calculated to relieve your fears."
He was silent a while. Then he said, in a discouraged way:
"I don't see any way out of it. It was a mistake. That is in truth all
it was, just a mistake. No harm was meant, no harm in the world.
I didn't see how it might some time look. It is my way. I don't seem to
The girl was almost disarmed, for a moment. Then she flared up again.
"An Earl's son! Do earls' sons go about working in lowly callings for
their bread and butter?"
"God knows they don't! I have wished they did."
"Do earls' sons sink their degree in a country like this, and come sober
and decent to sue for the hand of a born child of poverty when they can
go drunk, profane, and steeped in dishonorable debt and buy the pick and
choice of the millionaires' daughters of America? You an earl's son!
Show me the signs."
"I thank God I am not able--if those are the signs. But yet I am an
earl's son and heir. It is all I can say. I wish you would believe me,
but you will not. I know no way to persuade you."
She was about to soften again, but his closing remark made her bring her
foot down with smart vexation, and she cried out:
"Oh, you drive all patience out of me! Would you have one believe that
you haven't your proofs at hand, and yet are what you say you are?
You do not put your hand in your pocket now--for you have nothing there.
You make a claim like this, and then venture to travel without
credentials. These are simply incredibilities. Don't you see that,
He cast about in his mind for a defence of some kind or other--hesitated
a little, and then said, with difficulty and diffidence:
"I will tell you just the truth, foolish as it will seem to you--
to anybody, I suppose--but it is the truth. I had an ideal--call it
a dream, a folly, if you will--but I wanted to renounce the privileges
and unfair advantages enjoyed by the nobility and wrung from the nation
by force and fraud, and purge myself of my share of those crimes against
right and reason, by thenceforth comrading with the poor and humble on
equal terms, earning with my own hands the bread I ate, and rising by my
own merit if I rose at all."
The young girl scanned his face narrowly while he spoke; and there was
something about his simplicity of manner and statement which touched her
--touched her almost to the danger point; but she set her grip on the
yielding spirit and choked it to quiescence; it could not be wise to
surrender to compassion or any kind of sentiment, yet; she must ask one
or two more questions. Tracy was reading her face; and what he read
there lifted his drooping hopes a little.
"An earl's son to do that! Why, he were a man! A man to love!--oh,
more, a man to worship!"
"But he never lived! He is not born, he will not be born. The self-
abnegation that could do that--even in utter folly, and hopeless of
conveying benefit to any, beyond the mere example--could be mistaken for
greatness; why, it would be greatness in this cold age of sordid ideals!
A moment--wait--let me finish; I have one question more. Your father is
earl of what?"
"Rossmore--and I am Viscount Berkeley!"
The fat was in the fire again. The girl felt so outraged that it was
difficult for her to speak.
"How can you venture such a brazen thing! You know that he is dead,
and you know that I know it. Oh, to rob the living of name and honors
for a selfish and temporary advantage is crime enough, but to rob the
defenceless dead--why it is more than crime, it degrades crime!"
"Oh, listen to me--just a word--don't turn away like that. Don't go--
don't leave me, so--stay one moment. On my honor--"
"Oh, on your honor!"
"On my honor I am what I say! And I will prove it, and you will believe,
I know you will. I will bring you a message--a cablegram--"
"What will that prove?"
"What will it prove? What should it prove?"
"If you force me to say it--possibly the presence of a confederate
This was a hard blow, and staggered him. He said, dejectedly:
"It is true. I did not think of it. Oh, my God, I do not know any way
to do; I do everything wrong. You are going?--and you won't say even
good-night--or good-bye? Ah, we have not parted like this before."
"Oh, I want to run and--no, go, now." A pause--then she said, "You may
bring the message when it comes."
"Oh, may I? God bless you."
He was gone; and none too soon; her lips were already quivering, and now
she broke down. Through her sobbings her words broke from time to time.
"Oh, he is gone. I have lost him, I shall never see him any more. And
he didn't kiss me good-bye; never even offered to force a kiss from me,
and he knowing it was the very, very last, and I expecting he would, and
never dreaming he would treat me so after all we have been to each other.
Oh, oh, oh, oh, what shall I do, what shall I do! He is a dear, poor,
miserable, good-hearted, transparent liar and humbug, but oh, I do love
him so--!" After a little she broke into speech again. "How dear he is!
and I shall miss him so, I shall miss him so! Why won't he ever think to
forge a message and fetch it?--but no, he never will, he never thinks of
anything; he's so honest and simple it wouldn't ever occur to him.
Oh, what did possess him to think he could succeed as a fraud--and he
hasn't the first requisite except duplicity that I can see. Oh, dear,
I'll go to bed and give it all up. Oh, I wish I had told him to come and
tell me whenever he didn't get any telegram--and now it's all my own
fault if I never see him again. How my eyes must look!"
Next day, sure enough, the cablegram didn't come. This was an immense
disaster; for Tracy couldn't go into the presence without that ticket,
although it wasn't going to possess any value as evidence. But if the
failure of the cablegram on that first day may be called an immense
disaster, where is the dictionary that can turn out a phrase sizeable
enough to describe the tenth day's failure? Of course every day that the
cablegram didn't come made Tracy all of twenty-four hours' more ashamed
of himself than he was the day before, and made Sally fully twenty-four
hours more certain than ever that he not only hadn't any father anywhere,
but hadn't even a confederate--and so it followed that he was a double-
dyed humbug and couldn't be otherwise.
These were hard days for Barrow and the art firm. All these had their
hands full, trying to comfort Tracy. Barrow's task was particularly
hard, because he was made a confidant in full, and therefore had to humor
Tracy's delusion that he had a father, and that the father was an earl,
and that he was going to send a cablegram. Barrow early gave up the idea
of trying to convince Tracy that he hadn't any father, because this had
such a bad effect on the patient, and worked up his temper to such an
alarming degree. He had tried, as an experiment, letting Tracy think he
had a father; the result was so good that he went further, with proper
caution, and tried letting him think his father was an earl; this wrought
so well, that he grew bold, and tried letting him think he had two
fathers, if he wanted to, but he didn't want to, so Barrow withdrew one
of them and substituted letting him think he was going to get a
cablegram--which Barrow judged he wouldn't, and was right; but Barrow
worked the cablegram daily for all it was worth, and it was the one thing
that kept Tracy alive; that was Barrow's opinion.
And these were bitter hard days for poor Sally, and mainly delivered up
to private crying. She kept her furniture pretty damp, and so caught
cold, and the dampness and the cold and the sorrow together undermined
her appetite, and she was a pitiful enough object, poor thing. Her state
was bad enough, as per statement of it above quoted; but all the forces
of nature and circumstance seemed conspiring to make it worse--and
succeeding. For instance, the morning after her dismissal of Tracy,
Hawkins and Sellers read in the associated press dispatches that a toy
puzzle called Pigs in the Clover, had come into sudden favor within the
past few weeks, and that from the Atlantic to the Pacific all the
populations of all the States had knocked off work to play with it,
and that the business of the country had now come to a standstill by
consequence; that judges, lawyers, burglars, parsons, thieves, merchants,
mechanics, murderers, women, children, babies--everybody, indeed, could
be seen from morning till midnight, absorbed in one deep project and
purpose, and only one--to pen those pigs, work out that puzzle
successfully; that all gayety, all cheerfulness had departed from the
nation, and in its place care, preoccupation and anxiety sat upon every
countenance, and all faces were drawn, distressed, and furrowed with the
signs of age and trouble, and marked with the still sadder signs of
mental decay and incipient madness; that factories were at work night and
day in eight cities, and yet to supply the demand for the puzzle was thus
far impossible. Hawkins was wild with joy, but Sellers was calm. Small
matters could not disturb his serenity. He said--
"That's just the way things go. A man invents a thing which could
revolutionize the arts, produce mountains of money, and bless the earth,
and who will bother with it or show any interest in it?--and so you are
just as poor as you were before. But you invent some worthless thing to
amuse yourself with, and would throw it away if let alone, and all of a
sudden the whole world makes a snatch for it and out crops a fortune.
Hunt up that Yankee and collect, Hawkins--half is yours, you know.
Leave me to potter at my lecture."
This was a temperance lecture. Sellers was head chief in the Temperance
camp, and had lectured, now and then in that interest, but had been
dissatisfied with his efforts; wherefore he was now about to try a new
plan. After much thought he had concluded that a main reason why his
lectures lacked fire or something, was, that they were too transparently
amateurish; that is to say, it was probably too plainly perceptible that
the lecturer was trying to tell people about the horrid effects of liquor
when he didn't really know anything about those effects except from
hearsay, since he had hardly ever tasted an intoxicant in his life.
His scheme, now, was to prepare himself to speak from bitter experience.
Hawkins was to stand by with the bottle, calculate the doses, watch the
effects, make notes of results, and otherwise assist in the preparation.
Time was short, for the ladies would be along about noon--that is to say,
the temperance organization called the Daughters of Siloam--and Sellers
must be ready to head the procession.
The time kept slipping along--Hawkins did not return--Sellers could not
venture to wait longer; so he attacked the bottle himself, and proceeded
to note the effects. Hawkins got back at last; took one comprehensive
glance at the lecturer, and went down and headed off the procession.
The ladies were grieved to hear that the champion had been taken suddenly
ill and violently so, but glad to hear that it was hoped he would be out
again in a few days.
As it turned out, the old gentleman didn't turn over or show any signs of
life worth speaking of for twenty-four hours. Then he asked after the
procession, and learned what had happened about it. He was sorry; said
he had been "fixed" for it. He remained abed several days, and his wife
and daughter took turns in sitting with him and ministering to his wants.
Often he patted Sally's head and tried to comfort her.
"Don't cry, my child, don't cry so; you know your old father did it by
mistake and didn't mean a bit of harm; you know he wouldn't intentionally
do anything to make you ashamed for the world; you know he was trying to
do good and only made the mistake through ignorance, not knowing the
right doses and Washington not there to help. Don't cry so, dear, it
breaks my old heart to see you, and think I've brought this humiliation
on you and you so dear to me and so good. I won't ever do it again,
indeed I won't; now be comforted, honey, that's a good child."
But when she wasn't on duty at the bedside the crying went on just the
same; then the mother would try to comfort her, and say:
"Don't cry, dear, he never meant any harm; it was all one of those
happens that you can't guard against when you are trying experiments,
that way. You see I don't cry. It's because I know him so well.
I could never look anybody in the face again if he had got into such an
amazing condition as that a-purpose; but bless you his intention was
pure and high, and that makes the act pure, though it was higher than was
necessary. We're not humiliated, dear, he did it under a noble impulse
and we don't need to be ashamed. There, don't cry any more, honey."
Thus, the old gentleman was useful to Sally, during several days, as an
explanation of her tearfulness. She felt thankful to him for the shelter
he was affording her, but often said to herself, "It's a shame to let him
see in my cryings a reproach--as if he could ever do anything that could
make me reproach him! But I can't confess; I've got to go on using him
for a pretext, he's the only one I've got in the world, and I do need one
As soon as Sellers was out again, and found that stacks of money had been
placed in bank for him and Hawkins by the Yankee, he said, "Now we'll
soon see who's the Claimant and who's the Authentic. I'll just go over
there and warm up that House of Lords." During the next few days he and
his wife were so busy with preparations for the voyage that Sally had all
the privacy she needed, and all the chance to cry that was good for her.
Then the old pair left for New York--and England.
Sally had also had a chance to do another thing. That was, to make up
her mind that life was not worth living upon the present terms. If she
must give up her impostor and die; doubtless she must submit; but might
she not lay her whole case before some disinterested person, first, and
see if there wasn't perhaps some saving way out of the matter? She
turned this idea over in her mind a good deal. In her first visit with
Hawkins after her parents were gone, the talk fell upon Tracy, and she
was impelled to set her case before the statesman and take his counsel.
So she poured out her heart, and he listened with painful solicitude.
She concluded, pleadingly, with--
"Don't tell me he is an impostor. I suppose he is, but doesn't it look
to you as if he isn't? You are cool, you know, and outside; and so,
maybe it can look to you as if he isn't one, when it can't to me.
Doesn't it look to you as if he isn't? Couldn't you--can't it look to
you that way--for--for my sake?"
The poor man was troubled, but he felt obliged to keep in the
neighborhood of the truth. He fought around the present detail a little
while, then gave it up and said he couldn't really see his way to
"No," he said, "the truth is, he's an impostor."
"That is, you--you feel a little certain, but not entirely--oh, not
entirely, Mr. Hawkins!"
"It's a pity to have to say it--I do hate to say it, but I don't think
anything about it, I know he's an impostor."
"Oh, now, Mr. Hawkins, you can't go that far. A body can't really know
it, you know. It isn't proved that he's not what he says he is."
Should he come out and make a clean breast of the whole wretched
business? Yes--at least the most of it--it ought to be done. So he set
his teeth and went at the matter with determination, but purposing to
spare the girl one pain--that of knowing that Tracy was a criminal.
"Now I am going to tell you a plain tale; one not pleasant for me to tell
or for you to hear, but we've got to stand it. I know all about that
fellow; and I know he is no earl's son."
The girl's eyes flashed, and she said:
"I don't care a snap for that--go on!"
This was so wholly unexpected that it at once obstructed the narrative;
Hawkins was not even sure that he had heard aright. He said:
"I don't know that I quite understand. Do you mean to say that if he was
all right and proper otherwise you'd be indifferent about the earl part
of the business?"
"You'd be entirely satisfied with him and wouldn't care for his not being
an earl's son,--that being an earl's son wouldn't add any value to him?"
"Not the least value that I would care for. Why, Mr. Hawkins, I've
gotten over all that day-dreaming about earldoms and aristocracies and
all such nonsense and am become just a plain ordinary nobody and content
with it; and it is to him I owe my cure. And as to anything being able
to add a value to him, nothing can do that. He is the whole world to me,
just as he is; he comprehends all the values there are--then how can you
"She's pretty far gone." He said that to himself. He continued, still
to himself, "I must change my plan again; I can't seem to strike one that
will stand the requirements of this most variegated emergency five
minutes on a stretch. Without making this fellow a criminal, I believe
I will invent a name and a character for him calculated to disenchant
her. If it fails to do it, then I'll know that the next rightest thing
to do will be to help her to her fate, poor thing, not hinder her."
Then he said aloud:
"I want to be called Sally."
"I'm glad of it; I like it better, myself. Well, then, I'll tell you
about this man Snodgrass."
"Snodgrass! Is that his name?"
"Yes--Snodgrass. The other's his nom de plume."
"I know it is, but we can't help our names."
"And that is truly his real name--and not Howard Tracy?"
Hawkins answered, regretfully:
"Yes, it seems a pity."
The girl sampled the name musingly, once or twice--
"Snodgrass. Snodgrass. No, I could not endure that. I could not get
used to it. No, I should call him by his first name. What is his first
"His--er--his initials are S. M."
"His initials? I don't care anything about his initials. I can't call
him by his initials. What do they stand for?"
"Well, you see, his father was a physician, and he--he--well he was an
idolater of his profession, and he--well, he was a very eccentric man,
"What do they stand for! What are you shuffling about?"
"They--well they stand for Spinal Meningitis. His father being a phy--"
"I never heard such an infamous name! Nobody can ever call a person
that--a person they love. I wouldn't call an enemy by such a name.
It sounds like an epithet." After a moment, she added with a kind of
consternation, "Why, it would be my name! Letters would come with it
"Yes--Mrs. Spinal Meningitis Snodgrass."
"Don't repeat it--don't; I can't bear it. Was the father a lunatic?"
"No, that is not charged."
"I am glad of that, because that is transmissible. What do you think was
the matter with him, then?"
"Well, I don't really know. The family used to run a good deal to
idiots, and so, maybe--"
"Oh, there isn't any maybe about it. This one was an idiot."
"Well, yes--he could have been. He was suspected."
"Suspected!" said Sally, with irritation. "Would one suspect there was
going to be a dark time if he saw the constellations fall out of the sky?
But that is enough about the idiot, I don't take any interest in idiots;
tell me about the son."
Very well, then, this one was the eldest, but not the favorite. His
"Wait--give me a chance to realize that. It is perfectly stupefying.
Zylo--what did you call it?"
"I never heard such a name: It sounds like a disease. Is it a disease?"
"No, I don't think it's a disease. It's either Scriptural or--"
"Well, it's not Scriptural."
"Then it's anatomical. I knew it was one or the other. Yes, I remember,
now, it is anatomical. It's a ganglion--a nerve centre--it is what is
called the zylobalsamum process."
"Well, go on; and if you come to any more of them, omit the names; they
make one feel so uncomfortable."
"Very well, then. As I said, this one was not a favorite in the family,
and so he was neglected in every way, never sent to school, always
allowed to associate with the worst and coarsest characters, and so of
course he has grown up a rude, vulgar, ignorant, dissipated ruffian,
"He? It's no such thing! You ought to be more generous than to make
such a statement as that about a poor young stranger who--who--why, he is
the very opposite of that! He is considerate, courteous, obliging,
modest, gentle, refined, cultivated-oh, for shame! how can you say such
things about him?"
"I don't blame you, Sally--indeed I haven't a word of blame for you for
being blinded by--your affection--blinded to these minor defects which
are so manifest to others who--"
"Minor defects? Do you call these minor defects? What are murder and
"It is a difficult question to answer straight off--and of course
estimates of such things vary with environment. With us, out our way,
they would not necessarily attract as much attention as with you, yet
they are often regarded with disapproval--"
"Murder and arson are regarded with disapproval?"
"With disapproval. Who are those Puritans you are talking about?
But wait--how did you come to know so much about this family? Where did
you get all this hearsay evidence?"
"Sally, it isn't hearsay evidence. That is the serious part of it.
I knew that family--personally."
This was a surprise.
"You? You actually knew them?"
"Knew Zylo, as we used to call him, and knew his father, Dr. Snodgrass.
I didn't know your own Snodgrass, but have had glimpses of him from time
to time, and I heard about him all the time. He was the common talk, you
see, on account of his--"
"On account of his not being a house-burner or an assassin, I suppose.
That would have made him commonplace. Where did you know these people?"
"In Cherokee Strip."
"Oh, how preposterous! There are not enough people in Cherokee Strip to
give anybody a reputation, good or bad. There isn't a quorum. Why the
whole population consists of a couple of wagon loads of horse thieves."
Hawkins answered placidly--
"Our friend was one of those wagon loads."
Sally's eyes burned and her breath came quick and fast, but she kept a
fairly good grip on her anger and did not let it get the advantage of her
tongue. The statesman sat still and waited for developments. He was
content with his work. It was as handsome a piece of diplomatic art as
he had ever turned out, he thought; and now, let the girl make her own
choice. He judged she would let her spectre go; he hadn't a doubt of it
in fact; but anyway, let the choice be made, and he was ready to ratify
it and offer no further hindrance.
Meantime Sally had thought her case out and made up her mind. To the
major's disappointment the verdict was against him. Sally said:
"He has no friend but me, and I will not desert him now. I will not
marry him if his moral character is bad; but if he can prove that it
isn't, I will--and he shall have the chance. To me he seems utterly good
and dear; I've never seen anything about him that looked otherwise--
except, of course, his calling himself an earl's son. Maybe that is only
vanity, and no real harm, when you get to the bottom of it. I do not
believe he is any such person as you have painted him. I want to see
him. I want you to find him and send him to me. I will implore him to
be honest with me, and tell me the whole truth, and not be afraid."
"Very well; if that is your decision I will do it. But Sally, you know,
he's poor, and--"
"Oh, I don't care anything about that. That's neither here nor there.
Will you bring him to me?"
"I'll do it. When?--"
"Oh, dear, it's getting toward dark, now, and so you'll have to put it
off till morning. But you will find him in the morning, won't you?
"I'll have him here by daylight."
"Oh, now you're your own old self again--and lovelier than ever!"
"I couldn't ask fairer than that. Good-bye, dear."
Sally mused a moment alone, then said earnestly, "I love him in spite of
his name!" and went about her affairs with a light heart.
Hawkins went straight to the telegraph office and disburdened his
conscience. He said to himself, "She's not going to give this galvanized
cadaver up, that's plain. Wild horses can't pull her away from him.
I've done my share; it's for Sellers to take an innings, now." So he
sent this message to New York:
"Come back. Hire special train. She's going to marry the materializee."
Meantime a note came to Rossmore Towers to say that the Earl of Rossmore
had just arrived from England, and would do himself the pleasure of
calling in the evening. Sally said to herself, "It is a pity he didn't
stop in New York; but it's no matter; he can go up to-morrow and see my
father. He has come over here to tomahawk papa, very likely--or buy out
his claim. This thing would have excited me, a while back; but it has
only one interest for me now, and only one value. I can say to--to--
Spine, Spiny, Spinal--I don't like any form of that name!--I can say to
him to-morrow, 'Don't try to keep it up any more, or I shall have to tell
you whom I have been talking with last night, and then you will be
Tracy couldn't know he was to be invited for the morrow, or he might have
waited. As it was, he was too miserable to wait any longer; for his last
hope--a letter--had failed him. It was fully due to-day; it had not
come. Had his father really flung him away? It looked so. It was not
like his father, but it surely looked so. His father was a rather tough
nut, in truth, but had never been so with his son--still, this implacable
silence had a calamitous look. Anyway, Tracy would go to the Towers and
--then what? He didn't know; his head was tired out with thinking--
he wouldn't think about what he must do or say--let it all take care of
itself. So that he saw Sally once more, he would be satisfied, happen
what might; he wouldn't care.
He hardly knew how he got to the Towers, or when. He knew and cared for
only one thing--he was alone with Sally. She was kind, she was gentle,
there was moisture in her eyes, and a yearning something in her face and
manner which she could not wholly hide--but she kept her distance. They
talked. Bye and bye she said--watching his downcast countenance out of
the corner of her eye--
"It's so lonesome--with papa and mamma gone. I try to read, but I can't
seem to get interested in any book. I try the newspapers, but they do
put such rubbish in them. You take up a paper and start to read
something you thinks interesting, and it goes on and on and on about how
somebody--well, Dr. Snodgrass, for instance--"
Not a movement from Tracy, not the quiver of a muscle. Sally was amazed
--what command of himself he must have! Being disconcerted, she paused
so long that Tracy presently looked up wearily and said:
"Oh, I thought you were not listening. Yes, it goes on and on about this
Doctor Snodgrass, till you are so tired, and then about his younger son--
the favorite son--Zylobalsamum Snodgrass--"
Not a sign from Tracy, whose head was drooping again. What supernatural
self-possession! Sally fixed her eye on him and began again, resolved to
blast him out of his serenity this time if she knew how to apply the
dynamite that is concealed in certain forms of words when those words are
properly loaded with unexpected meanings.
"And next it goes on and on and on about the eldest son--not the
favorite, this one--and how he is neglected in his poor barren boyhood,
and allowed to grow up unschooled, ignorant, coarse, vulgar, the comrade
of the community's scum, and become in his completed manhood a rude,
profane, dissipated ruffian--"
That head still drooped! Sally rose, moved softly and solemnly a step or
two, and stood before Tracy--his head came slowly up, his meek eyes met
her intense ones--then she finished with deep impressiveness--
"--named Spinal Meningitis Snodgrass!"
Tracy merely exhibited signs of increased fatigue. The girl was outraged
by this iron indifference and callousness, and cried out--
"What are you made of?"
"Haven't you any sensitiveness? Don't these things touch any poor
remnant of delicate feeling in you?"
"N--no," he said wonderingly, "they don't seem to. Why should they?"
"O, dear me, how can you look so innocent, and foolish, and good, and
empty, and gentle, and all that, right in the hearing of such things as
those! Look me in the eye--straight in the eye. There, now then, answer
me without a flinch. Isn't Doctor Snodgrass your father, and isn't
Zylobalsamum your brother," [here Hawkins was about to enter the room,
but changed his mind upon hearing these words, and elected for a walk
down town, and so glided swiftly away], "and isn't your name Spinal
Meningitis, and isn't your father a doctor and an idiot, like all the
family for generations, and doesn't he name all his children after
poisons and pestilences and abnormal anatomical eccentricities of the
human body? Answer me, some way or somehow--and quick. Why do you sit
there looking like an envelope without any address on it and see me going
mad before your face with suspense!"
"Oh, I wish I could do--do--I wish I could do something, anything that
would give you peace again and make you happy; but I know of nothing--
I know of no way. I have never heard of these awful people before."
"What? Say it again!"
"I have never--never in my life till now."
"Oh, you do look so honest when you say that! It must be true--surely
you couldn't look that way, you wouldn't look that way if it were not
"I couldn't and wouldn't. It is true. Oh, let us end this suffering--
take me back into your heart and confidence--"
"Wait--one more thing. Tell me you told that falsehood out of mere
vanity and are sorry for it; that you're not expecting to ever wear the
coronet of an earl--"
"Truly I am cured--cured this very day--I am not expecting it!"
"O, now you are mine! I've got you back in the beauty and glory of your
unsmirched poverty and your honorable obscurity, and nobody shall ever
take you from me again but the grave! And if--"
"De earl of Rossmore, fum Englan'!"
"My father!" The young man released the girl and hung his head.
The old gentleman stood surveying the couple--the one with a strongly
complimentary right eye, the other with a mixed expression done with the
left. This is difficult, and not often resorted to. Presently his face
relaxed into a kind of constructive gentleness, and he said to his son:
"Don't you think you could embrace me, too?"
The young man did it with alacrity. "Then you are the son of an earl,
after all," said Sally, reproachfully.
"Then I won't have you!"
"O, but you know--"
"No, I will not. You've told me another fib."
"She's right. Go away and leave us. I want to talk with her."
Berkeley was obliged to go. But he did not go far. He remained on the
premises. At midnight the conference between the old gentleman and the
young girl was still going blithely on, but it presently drew to a close,
and the former said:
"I came all the way over here to inspect you, my dear, with the general
idea of breaking off this match if there were two fools of you, but as
there's only one, you can have him if you'll take him."
"Indeed I will, then! May I kiss you?"
"You may. Thank you. Now you shall have that privilege whenever you are
Meantime Hawkins had long ago returned and slipped up into the
laboratory. He was rather disconcerted to find his late invention,
Snodgrass, there. The news was told him that the English Rossmore was
--"and I'm his son, Viscount Berkeley, not Howard Tracy any more."
Hawkins was aghast. He said:
"Good gracious, then you're dead!"
"Yes you are--we've got your ashes."
"Hang those ashes, I'm tired of them; I'll give them to my father."
Slowly and painfully the statesman worked the truth into his head that
this was really a flesh and blood young man, and not the insubstantial
resurrection he and Sellers had so long supposed him to be. Then he said
"I'm so glad; so glad on Sally's account, poor thing. We took you for a
departed materialized bank thief from Tahlequah. This will be a heavy
blow to Sellers." Then he explained the whole matter to Berkeley, who
"Well, the Claimant must manage to stand the blow, severe as it is.
But he'll get over the disappointment."
"Who--the colonel? He'll get over it the minute he invents a new miracle
to take its place. And he's already at it by this time. But look here--
what do you suppose became of the man you've been representing all this
"I don't know. I saved his clothes--it was all I could do. I am afraid
he lost his life."
"Well, you must have found twenty or thirty thousand dollars in those
clothes, in money or certificates of deposit."
"No, I found only five hundred and a trifle. I borrowed the trifle and
banked the five hundred."
"What'll we do about it?"
"Return it to the owner."
"It's easy said, but not easy to manage. Let's leave it alone till we
get Sellers's advice. And that reminds me. I've got to run and meet
Sellers and explain who you are not and who you are, or he'll come
thundering in here to stop his daughter from marrying a phantom. But--
suppose your father came over here to break off the match?"
"Well, isn't he down stairs getting acquainted with Sally? That's all
So Hawkins departed to meet and prepare the Sellerses.
Rossmore Towers saw great times and late hours during the succeeding
week. The two earls were such opposites in nature that they fraternized
at once. Sellers said privately that Rossmore was the most extraordinary
character he had ever met--a man just made out of the condensed milk of
human kindness, yet with the ability to totally hide the fact from any
but the most practised character-reader; a man whose whole being was
sweetness, patience and charity, yet with a cunning so profound, an
ability so marvelous in the acting of a double part, that many a person
of considerable intelligence might live with him for centuries and never
suspect the presence in him of these characteristics.
Finally there was a quiet wedding at the Towers, instead of a big one at
the British embassy, with the militia and the fire brigades and the
temperance organizations on hand in torchlight procession, as at first
proposed by one of the earls. The art-firm and Barrow were present at
the wedding, and the tinner and Puss had been invited, but the tinner was
ill and Puss was nursing him--for they were engaged.
The Sellerses were to go to England with their new allies for a brief
visit, but when it was time to take the train from Washington,
the colonel was missing.
Hawkins was going as far as New York with the party, and said he would
explain the matter on the road.
The explanation was in a letter left by the colonel in Hawkins's hands.
In it he promised to join Mrs. Sellers later, in England, and then went
on to say:
The truth is, my dear Hawkins, a mighty idea has been born to me within
the hour, and I must not even stop to say goodbye to my dear ones.
A man's highest duty takes precedence of all minor ones, and must be
attended to with his best promptness and energy, at whatsoever cost to
his affections or his convenience. And first of all a man's duties is
his duty to his own honor--he must keep that spotless. Mine is
threatened. When I was feeling sure of my imminent future solidity,
I forwarded to the Czar of Russia--perhaps prematurely--an offer for the
purchase of Siberia, naming a vast sum. Since then an episode has warned
me that the method by which I was expecting to acquire this money--
materialization upon a scale of limitless magnitude--is marred by a taint
of temporary uncertainty. His imperial majesty may accept my offer at
any moment. If this should occur now, I should find myself painfully
embarrassed, in fact financially inadequate. I could not take Siberia.
This would become known, and my credit would suffer.
Recently my private hours have been dark indeed, but the sun shines main,
now; I see my way; I shall be able to meet my obligation, and without
having to ask an extension of the stipulated time, I think. This grand
new idea of mine--the sublimest I have ever conceived, will save me
whole, I am sure. I am leaving for San Francisco this moment, to test
it, by the help of the great Lick telescope. Like all of my more notable
discoveries and inventions, it is based upon hard, practical scientific
laws; all other bases are unsound and hence untrustworthy. In brief,
then, I have conceived the stupendous idea of reorganizing the climates
of the earth according to the desire of the populations interested.
That is to say, I will furnish climates to order, for cash or negotiable
paper, taking the old climates in part payment, of course, at a fair
discount, where they are in condition to be repaired at small cost and
let out for hire to poor and remote communities not able to afford a good
climate and not caring for an expensive one for mere display. My studies
have convinced me that the regulation of climates and the breeding of new
varieties at will from the old stock is a feasible thing. Indeed I am
convinced that it has been done before; done in prehistoric times by now
forgotten and unrecorded civilizations. Everywhere I find hoary
evidences of artificial manipulation of climates in bygone times. Take
the glacial period. Was that produced by accident? Not at all; it was
done for money. I have a thousand proofs of it, and will some day reveal
I will confide to you an outline of my idea. It is to utilize the spots
on the sun--get control of them, you understand, and apply the stupendous
energies which they wield to beneficent purposes in the reorganizing of
our climates. At present they merely make trouble and do harm in the
evoking of cyclones and other kinds of electric storms; but once under
humane and intelligent control this will cease and they will become a
boon to man.
I have my plan all mapped out, whereby I hope and expect to acquire
complete and perfect control of the sun-spots, also details of the method
whereby I shall employ the same commercially; but I will not venture to
go into particulars before the patents shall have been issued. I shall
hope and expect to sell shop-rights to the minor countries at a
reasonable figure and supply a good business article of climate to the
great empires at special rates, together with fancy brands for
coronations, battles and other great and particular occasions. There are
billions of money in this enterprise, no expensive plant is required, and
I shall begin to realize in a few days--in a few weeks at furthest.
I shall stand ready to pay cash for Siberia the moment it is delivered,
and thus save my honor and my credit. I am confident of this.
I would like you to provide a proper outfit and start north as soon as I
telegraph you, be it night or be it day. I wish you to take up all the
country stretching away from the north pole on all sides for many degrees
south, and buy Greenland and Iceland at the best figure you can get now
while they are cheap. It is my intention to move one of the tropics up
there and transfer the frigid zone to the equator. I will have the
entire Arctic Circle in the market as a summer resort next year, and will
use the surplusage of the old climate, over and above what can be
utilized on the equator, to reduce the temperature of opposition resorts.
But I have said enough to give you an idea of the prodigious nature of my
scheme and the feasible and enormously profitable character of it.
I shall join all you happy people in England as soon as I shall have sold
out some of my principal climates and arranged with the Czar about
Meantime, watch for a sign from me. Eight days from now, we shall be
wide asunder; for I shall be on the border of the Pacific, and you far
out on the Atlantic, approaching England. That day, if I am alive and my
sublime discovery is proved and established, I will send you greeting,
and my messenger shall deliver it where you are, in the solitudes of the
sea; for I will waft a vast sun-spot across the disk like drifting smoke,
and you will know it for my love-sign, and will say "Mulberry Sellers
throws us a kiss across the universe."
WEATHER FOR USE IN THIS BOOK.
Selected from the Best Authorities.
A brief though violent thunderstorm which had raged over the city was
passing away; but still, though the rain had ceased more than an hour
before, wild piles of dark and coppery clouds, in which a fierce and
rayless glow was laboring, gigantically overhung the grotesque and
huddled vista of dwarf houses, while in the distance, sheeting high over
the low, misty confusion of gables and chimneys, spread a pall of dead,
leprous blue, suffused with blotches of dull, glistening yellow, and with
black plague-spots of vapor floating and faint lightnings crinkling on
its surface. Thunder, still muttering in the close and sultry air, kept
the scared dwellers in the street within, behind their closed shutters;
and all deserted, cowed, dejected, squalid, like poor, stupid, top-heavy
things that had felt the wrath of the summer tempest, stood the drenched
structures on either side of the narrow and crooked way, ghastly and
picturesque, under the giant canopy. Rain dripped wretchedly in slow
drops of melancholy sound from their projecting eaves upon the broken
flagging, lay there in pools or trickled into the swollen drains, where
the fallen torrent sullenly gurgled on its way to the river.
"The Brazen Android."-W. D. O'Connor.
The fiery mid-March sun a moment hung
Above the bleak Judean wilderness;
Then darkness swept upon us, and 't was night.
"Easter-Eve at Kerak-Moab."--Clinton Scollard.
The quick-coming winter twilight was already at hand. Snow was again
falling, sifting delicately down, incidentally as it were.
"Felicia." Fanny N. D. Murfree.
Merciful heavens! The whole west, from right to left, blazes up with a
fierce light, and next instant the earth reels and quivers with the awful
shock of ten thousand batteries of artillery. It is the signal for the
Fury to spring--for a thousand demons to scream and shriek--for
innumerable serpents of fire to writhe and light up the blackness.
Now the rain falls--now the wind is let loose with a terrible shriek--now
the lightning is so constant that the eyes burn, and the thunder-claps
merge into an awful roar, as did the 800 cannon at Gettysburg. Crash!
Crash! Crash! It is the cottonwood trees falling to earth. Shriek!
Shriek! Shriek! It is the Demon racing along the plain and uprooting
even the blades of grass. Shock! Shock! Shock! It is the Fury
flinging his fiery bolts into the bosom of the earth.--
"The Demon and the Fury." M. Quad.
Away up the gorge all diurnal fancies trooped into the wide liberties of
endless luminous vistas of azure sunlit mountains beneath the shining
azure heavens. The sky, looking down in deep blue placidities, only here
and there smote the water to azure emulations of its tint.--
"In the Stranger's Country." Charles Egbert Craddock.
There was every indication of a dust-storm, though the sun still shone
brilliantly. The hot wind had become wild and rampant. It was whipping
up the sandy coating of the plain in every direction. High in the air
were seen whirling spires and cones of sand--a curious effect against the
deep-blue sky. Below, puffs of sand were breaking out of the plain in
every direction, as though the plain were alive with invisible horsemen.
These sandy cloudlets were instantly dissipated by the wind; it was the
larger clouds that were lifted whole into the air, and the larger clouds
of sand were becoming more and more the rule.
Alfred's eye, quickly scanning the horizon, descried the roof of the
boundary-rider's hut still gleaming in the sunlight. He remembered the
hut well. It could not be farther than four miles, if as much as that,
from this point of the track. He also knew these dust-storms of old;
Bindarra was notorious for them: Without thinking twice, Alfred put
spurs to his horse and headed for the hut. Before he had ridden half the
distance the detached clouds of sand banded together in one dense
whirlwind, and it was only owing to his horse's instinct that he did not
ride wide of the hut altogether; for during the last half-mile he never
saw the hut, until its outline loomed suddenly over his horse's ears; and
by then the sun was invisible.--
"A Bride from the Bush."
It rained forty days and forty nights.--Genesis.