Part 5 out of 6
go up, and the financial reporters--under the influence where not actually
in the pay of the Roebuck-Langdon clique--shouted that, "in spite of the
malicious attacks from the gambling element, the new securities are being
absorbed by the public at prices approximating their value." Then--But I
shall quote my investors' letter the following morning:
"At half-past nine yesterday--nine-twenty-eight, to be exact--President
Melville, of the National Industrial Bank, loaned six hundred thousand
dollars. He loaned it to Bill Van Nest, an ex-gambler and proprietor of
pool rooms, now silent partner in Hoe & Wittekind, brokers, on the New York
Stock Exchange, and also in Filbert & Jonas, curb brokers. He loaned it to
Van Nest without security.
"Van Nest used the money yesterday to push up the price of the new coal
securities by 'wash sales'--which means, by making false purchases and
sales of the stock in order to give the public the impression of eager
buying. Van Nest sold to himself and bought from himself 347,060 of the
352,681 shares traded in.
"Melville, in addition to being president of one of the largest banks in
the world, is a director in no less than seventy-three great industrial
enterprises, including railways, telegraph companies, _savings-banks and
life-insurance companies_. Bill Van Nest has done time in the Nevada
State Penitentiary for horse-stealing."
* * * * *
That was all. And it was enough--quite enough. I was a national figure,
as much so as if I had tried to assassinate the president. Indeed, I had
exploded a bomb under a greater than the president--under the chiefs of the
real government of the United States, the government that levied daily upon
every citizen, and that had state and national and the principal municipal
governments in its strong box.
I confess I was as much astounded at the effect of my bomb as old Melville
must have been. I felt that I had been obscure, as I looked at the
newspapers, with Matthew Blacklock appropriating almost the entire front
page of each. I was the isolated, the conspicuous figure, standing alone
upon the steps of the temple of Mammon, where mankind daily and devoutly
comes to offer worship.
Not that the newspapers praised me. I recall none that spoke well of me.
The nearest approach to praise was the "Blacklock squeals on the Wall
Street gang" in one of the sensational penny sheets that strengthen
the plutocracy by lying about it. Some of the papers insinuated that
I had gone mad; others that I had been bought up by a rival gang to
the Roebuck-Langdon clique; still others thought I was simply hunting
notoriety. All were inclined to accept as a sufficient denial of my
charges Melville's dignified refusal "to notice any attack from a quarter
As my electric whirled into Wall Street, I saw the crowd in front of the
Textile Building, a dozen policemen keeping it in order. I descended amid
cheers, and entered my offices through a mob struggling to shake hands with
me--and, in my ignorance of mob mind, I was delighted and inspired! Just
why a man who knows men, knows how wishy-washy they are as individuals,
should be influenced by a demonstration from a mass of them, is hard to
understand. But the fact is indisputable. They fooled me then; they could
fool me again, in spite of all I have been through. There probably wasn't
one in that mob for whose opinion I would have had the slightest respect
had he come to me alone; yet as I listened to those shallow cheers and
those worthless assurances of "the people are behind you, Blacklock," I
felt that I was a man with a mission!
Our main office was full, literally full, of newspaper men--reporters
from morning papers, from afternoon papers, from out-of-town and foreign
papers. I pushed through them, saying as I went: "My letter speaks for me,
gentlemen, and will continue to speak for me. I have nothing to say except
"But the public--" urged one.
"It doesn't interest me," said I, on my guard against the temptation to
cant. "I am a banker and investment broker. I am interested only in my
And I shut myself in, giving strict orders to Joe that there was to be no
talking about me or my campaign. "I don't purpose to let the newspapers
make us cheap and notorious," said I. "We must profit by the warning in
the fate of all the other fellows who have sprung into notice by attacking
The first news I got was that Bill Van Nest had disappeared. As soon as
the Stock Exchange opened, National Coal became the feature. But, instead
of "wash sales," Roebuck, Langdon and Melville were themselves, through
various brokers, buying the stocks in large quantities to keep the prices
up. My next letter was as brief as my first philippic:
"Bill Van Nest is at the Hotel Frankfort, Newark, under the name of Thomas
Lowry. He was in telephonic communication with President Melville, of the
National Industrial Bank, twice yesterday.
"The underwriters of the National Coal Company's new issues, frightened by
yesterday's exposure, have compelled Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Mowbray Langdon and
Mr. Melville themselves to buy. So, yesterday, those three gentlemen bought
with real money, with their own money, large quantities of stocks which are
worth less than half what they paid for them.
"They will continue to buy these stocks so long as the public holds aloof.
They dare not let the prices slump. They hope that this storm will blow
over, and that then the investing public will forget and will relieve them
of their load."
I had added: "But this storm won't blow over. It will become a cyclone." I
struck that out. "No prophecy," said I to myself. "Your rule, iron-clad,
must be--facts, always facts; only facts."
The gambling section of the public took my hint and rushed into the market;
the burden of protecting the underwriters was doubled, and more and more of
the hoarded loot was disgorged. That must have been a costly day--for, ten
minutes after the Stock Exchange closed, Roebuck sent for me.
"My compliments to him," said I to his messenger, "but I am too busy. I'll
be glad to see him here, however."
"You know he dares not come to you," said the messenger, Schilling,
president of the National Manufactured Food Company, sometimes called the
Poison Trust. "If he did, and it were to get out, there'd be a panic."
"Probably," replied I with a shrug. "That's no affair of mine. I'm not
responsible for the rotten conditions which these so-called financiers have
produced, and I shall not be disturbed by the crash which must come."
Schilling gave me a genuine look of mingled pity and admiration. "I suppose
you know what you're about," said he, "but I think you're making a
"Thanks, Ned," said I--he had been my head clerk a few years before, and I
had got him the chance with Roebuck which he had improved so well. "I'm
going to have some fun. Can't live but once."
"I know some people," said he significantly, "who would go to _any_
lengths to get an enemy out of the way." He had lived close enough to
Roebuck to peer into the black shadows of that satanic mind, and dimly to
see the dread shapes that lurked there.
"I'm the safest man on Manhattan Island for the present," said I.
"You remember Woodrow? I've always believed that he was murdered, and that
the pistol they found beside him was a 'plant.'"
"You'd kill me yourself, if you got the orders, wouldn't you?" said I
"Not personally," replied he in the same spirit, yet serious, too, at
bottom. "Inspector Bradlaugh was telling me, the other night, that there
were easily a thousand men in the slums of the East Side who could be hired
to kill a man for five hundred dollars."
I suppose Schilling, as the directing spirit of a corporation that
hid poison by the hogshead in low-priced foods of various kinds,
was responsible for hundreds of deaths annually, and for misery of
sickness beyond calculation among the poor of the tenements and cheap
boarding-houses. Yet a better husband, father and friend never lived. He,
personally, wouldn't have harmed a fly; but he was a wholesale poisoner for
Murder for dividends. Poison for dividends. Starve and freeze and maim for
dividends. Drive parents to suicide, and sons and daughters to crime and
prostitution--for dividends. Not fair competition, in which the stronger
and better would survive, but cheating and swindling, lying and pilfering
and bribing, so that the honest and the decent go down before the dishonest
and the depraved. And the custom of doing these things so "respectable,"
the applause for "success" so undiscriminating, and men so unthinking in
the rush of business activity, that criticism is regarded as a mixture of
envy and idealism. And it usually is, I must admit.
Schilling lingered. "I hope you won't blame me for lining up against you,
Matt," said he. "I don't want to, but I've got to."
"You know what'd become of me if I didn't."
"You might become an honest man and get self-respect," I suggested with
"That's all very well for you to say," was his laughing retort. "You've
made yourself tight and tidy for the blow. But I've a family, and a damned
expensive one, too. And if I didn't stand by this gang, they'd take
everything I've got away from me. No, Matt, each of us to his own game.
What _is_ your game, anyhow?"
"Fun--just fun. Playing the pipe to see the big fellows dance."
But he didn't believe it. And no one has believed it--not even my most
devoted followers. To this day Joe Ball more than half suspects that my
real objective was huge personal gain. That any rich man should do anything
except for the purpose of growing richer seems incredible. That any rich
man should retain or regain the sympathies and viewpoint of the class from
which he sprang, and should become a "traitor" to the class to which he
belongs, seems preposterous. I confess I don't fully understand my own
case. Who ever does?
My "daily letters" had now ceased to be advertisements, had become news,
sought by all the newspapers of this country and of the big cities in Great
Britain. I could have made a large saving by no longer paying my sixty-odd
regular papers for inserting them. But I was looking too far ahead to
blunder into that fatal mistake. Instead, I signed a year's contract
with each of my papers, they guaranteeing to print my advertisements, I
guaranteeing to protect them against loss on libel suits. I organized
a dummy news bureau, and through it got contracts with the telegraph
companies. Thus insured against the cutting of my communications with the
public, I was ready for the real campaign.
It began with my "History of the National Coal Company." I need not repeat
that famous history here. I need recall only the main points--how I proved
that the common stock was actually worth less than two dollars a share,
that the bonds were worth less than twenty-five dollars in the hundred,
that both stock and bonds were illegal; my detailed recital of the crimes
of Roebuck, Melville and Langdon in wrecking mining properties, in wrecking
coal railways, in ejecting American labor and substituting helots from
eastern Europe; how they had swindled and lied and bribed; how they had
twisted the books of the companies, how they were planning to unload the
mass of almost worthless securities at high prices, then to get from under
the market and let the bonds and stocks drop down to where they could buy
them in on terms that would yield them more than two hundred and fifty per
cent, on the actual capital invested. Less and dearer coal; lower wages and
more ignorant laborers; enormous profits absorbed without mercy into a few
On the day the seventh chapter of this history appeared, the telegraph
companies notified me that they would transmit no more of my matter. They
feared the consequences in libel suits, explained Moseby, general manager
of one of the companies.
"But I guarantee to protect you," said I. "I will give bond in any amount
"We can't take the risk, Mr. Blacklock," replied he. The twinkle in his eye
told me why, and also that he, like every one else in the country except
the clique, was in sympathy with me.
My lawyers found an honest judge, and I got an injunction that compelled
the companies to transmit under my contracts. I suspended the "History" for
one day, and sent out in place of it an account of this attempt to shut
me off from the public. "Hereafter," said I, in the last paragraph in my
letter, "I shall end each day's chapter with a forecast of what the next
day's chapter is to be. If for any reason it fails to appear, the public
will know that somebody has been coerced by Roebuck, Melville & Co."
That afternoon--or, was it the next?--I happened to go home early. I have
never been able to keep alive anger against any one. My anger against Anita
had long ago died away, had been succeeded by regret and remorse that I
had let my nerves, or whatever the accursed cause was, whirl me into such
an outburst. Not that I regretted having rejected what I still felt was
insulting to me and degrading to her; simply that my manner should have
been different. There was no necessity or excuse for violence in showing
her that I would not, could not, accept from gratitude what only love
has the right to give. And I had long been casting about for some way
to apologize--not easy to do, when her distant manner toward me made
it difficult for me to find even the necessary commonplaces to "keep
up appearances" before the servants on the few occasions on which we
But, as I was saying, I came up from the office and stretched myself
on--the lounge in my private room adjoining the library. I had read myself
into a doze, when a servant brought me a card. I glanced at it as it lay
upon his extended tray. "Gerald Monson," I read aloud. "What does the
damned rascal want?" I asked.
The servant smiled. He knew as well as I how Monson, after I dismissed him
with a present of six months' pay, had given the newspapers the story--or,
rather, his version of the story--of my efforts to educate myself in the
"arts and graces of a gentleman."
"Mr. Monson says he wishes to see you particular, sir," said he.
"Well--I'll see him," said I. I despised him too much to dislike him, and I
thought he might possibly be in want. But that notion vanished the instant
I set eyes upon him. He was obviously at the very top of the wave. "Hello,
Monson," was my greeting, in it no reminder of his treachery.
"Howdy, Blacklock," said he. "I've come on a little errand for Mrs.
Langdon." Then, with that nasty grin of his: "You know, I'm looking after
things for her since the bust-up."
"No, I didn't--know," said I curtly, suppressing my instant curiosity.
"What does Mrs. Langdon want?"
"To see you--for just a few minutes--whenever it is convenient."
"If Mrs. Langdon has business with me, I'll see her at my office," said I.
She was one of the fashionables that had got herself into my black books by
her treatment of Anita since the break with the Ellerslys.
"She wishes to come to you here--this afternoon, if you are to be at home.
She asked me to say that her business is important--and very private."
I hesitated, but I could think of no good excuse for refusing. "I'll be
here an hour," said I. "Good day."
He gave me no time to change my mind.
Something--perhaps it was his curious expression as he took himself
off--made me begin to regret. The more I thought of the matter, the less I
thought of my having made any civil concession to a woman who had acted so
badly toward Anita and myself. He had not been gone a quarter of an hour
before I went to Anita in her sitting-room. Always, the instant I entered
the outer door of her part of our house, that powerful, intoxicating
fascination that she had for me began to take possession of my senses. It
was in every garment she wore. It seemed to linger in any place where she
had been, for a long time after she left it. She was at a small desk by the
window, was writing letters.
"May I interrupt?" said I. "Monson was here a few minutes ago--from Mrs.
Langdon. She wants to see me. I told him I would see her here. Then it
occurred to me that perhaps I had been too good-natured. What do you
I could not see her face, but only the back of her head, and the loose
coils of magnetic hair and the white nape of her graceful neck. As I began
to speak, she stopped writing, her pen suspended over the sheet of paper.
After I ended there was a long silence.
"I'll not see her," said I. "I don't quite understand why I yielded." And I
turned to go.
"Wait--please," came from her abruptly.
Another long silence. Then I: "If she comes here, I think the only person
who can properly receive her is you."
"No--you must see her," said Anita at last. And she turned round in her
chair until she was facing me. Her expression--I can not describe it. I can
only say that it gave me a sense of impending calamity.
"I'd rather not--much rather not," said I.
"I particularly wish you to see her," she replied, and she turned back to
her writing. I saw her pen poised as if she were about to begin; but she
did not begin--and I felt that she would not. With my mind shadowed with
vague dread, I left that mysterious stillness, and went back to the
It was not long before Mrs. Langdon was announced. There are some women
to whom a haggard look is becoming; she is one of them. She was much
thinner than when I last saw her; instead of her former restless, petulant,
suspicious expression, she now looked tragically sad. "May I trouble you to
close the door?" said she, when the servant had withdrawn.
I closed the door.
"I've come," she began, without seating herself, "to make you as unhappy, I
fear, as I am. I've hesitated long before coming. But I am desperate. The
one hope I have left is that you and I between us may be able to--to--that
you and I may be able to help each other."
"I suppose there are people," she went on, "who have never known what it
was to--really to care for some one else. They would despise me for
clinging to a man after he has shown me that--that his love has ceased."
"Pardon me, Mrs. Langdon," I interrupted. "You apparently think your
husband and I are intimate friends. Before you go any further, I must
disabuse you of that idea."
She looked at me in open astonishment. "You do not know why my husband has
"Until a few minutes ago, I did not know that he had left you," I said.
"And I do not wish to know why."
Her expression of astonishment changed to mockery. "Oh!" she sneered. "Your
wife has fooled you into thinking it a one-sided affair. Well, I tell you,
she is as much to blame as he--more. For he did love me when he married me;
did love me until she got him under her spell again."
I thought I understood. "You have been misled, Mrs. Langdon," said I
gently, pitying her as the victim of her insane jealousy. "You have--"
"Ask your wife," she interrupted angrily. "Hereafter, you can't pretend
ignorance. For I'll at least be revenged. She failed utterly to trap him
into marriage when she was a poor girl, and--"
"Before you go any further," said I coldly, "let me set you right. My wife
was at one time engaged to your husband's brother, but--"
"Tom?" she interrupted. And her laugh made me bite my lip. "So she told you
that! I don't see how she dared. Why, everybody knows that she and Mowbray
were engaged, and that he broke it off to marry me."
All in an instant everything that had been confused in my affairs at
home and down town became clear. I understood why I had been pursued
relentlessly in Wall Street; why I had been unable to make the least
impression on the barriers between Anita and myself. You will imagine that
some terrible emotion at once dominated me. But this is not a romance;
only the veracious chronicle of certain human beings. My first emotion
was--relief that it was not Tom Langdon. "I ought to have known she
couldn't care for _him_," said I to myself. I, contending with Tom
Langdon for a woman's love had always made me shrink. But Mowbray--that
was vastly different. My respect for myself and for Anita rose.
"No," said I to Mrs. Langdon, "my wife did not tell me, never spoke of it.
What I said to you was purely a guess of my own. I had no interest in the
matter--and haven't. I have absolute confidence in my wife. I feel ashamed
that you have provoked me into saying so." I opened the door.
"I am not going yet," said she angrily. "Yesterday morning Mowbray and she
were riding together in the Riverside Drive. Ask her groom."
"What of it?" said I. Then, as she did not rise, I rang the bell. When the
servant came, I said: "Please tell Mrs. Blacklock that Mrs. Langdon is in
the library--and that I am here, and gave you the message."
As soon as the servant was gone, she said: "No doubt she'll lie to you.
These women that steal other women's property are usually clever at fooling
their own silly husbands."
"I do not intend to ask her," I replied. "To ask her would be an insult."
She made no comment beyond a scornful toss of the head. We both had
our gaze fixed upon the door through which Anita would enter. When she
finally did appear, I, after one glance at her, turned--it must have been
triumphantly--upon her accuser. I had not doubted, but where is the faith
that is not the stronger for confirmation? And confirmation there was in
the very atmosphere round that stately, still figure. She looked calmly,
first at Mrs. Langdon, then at me.
"I sent for you," said I, "because I thought that you, rather than I,
should request Mrs. Langdon to leave your house."
At that Mrs. Langdon was on her feet, and blazing. "Fool!" she flared at
me. "Oh, the fools women make of men!" Then to Anita: "You--you--But no, I
must not permit you to drag me down to your level. Tell your husband--tell
him that you were riding with my husband in the Riverside Drive yesterday."
I stepped between her and Anita. "My wife will not answer you," said I. "I
hope, Madam, you will spare us the necessity of a painful scene. But leave
you must--at once."
She looked wildly round, clasped her hands, suddenly burst into tears.
If she had but known, she could have had her own way after that, without
any attempt from me to oppose her. For she was evidently unutterably
wretched--and no one knew better than I the sufferings of unreturned love.
But she had given me up; slowly, sobbing, she left the room, I opening the
door for her and closing it behind her.
"I almost broke down myself," said I to Anita. "Poor woman! How can you be
so calm? You women in your relations with each other are--a mystery."
"I have only contempt for a woman who tries to hold a man when he wishes
to go," said Anita, with quiet but energetic bitterness. "Besides"--she
hesitated an instant before going on--"Gladys deserves her fate. She
doesn't really care for him. She's only jealous of him. She never did love
"How do you know?" said I sharply, trying to persuade myself it was not an
ugly suspicion in me that lifted its head and shot out that question.
"Because he never loved her," she replied. "The feeling a woman has for
a man or a man for a woman, without any response, isn't love, isn't
worthy the name of love. It's a sort of baffled covetousness. Love means
generosity, not greediness." Then--"Why do you not ask me whether what she
said is true?"
The change in her tone with that last sentence, the strange, ominous note
in it, startled me,
"Because," replied I, "as I said to her, to ask my wife such a question
would be to insult her. If you were riding with him, it was an accident."
As if my rude repulse of her overtures and my keeping away from her ever
since would not have justified her in almost anything.
She flushed the dark red of shame, but her gaze held steady and unflinching
upon mine. "It was not altogether by accident," she said. And I think she
expected me to kill her.
When a man admits and respects a woman's rights where he is himself
concerned, he either is no longer interested in her or has begun to love
her so well that he can control the savage and selfish instincts of
passion. If Mowbray Langdon had been there, I might have killed them both;
but he was not there, and she, facing me without fear, was not the woman to
be suspected of the stealthy and traitorous.
"It was he that you meant when you warned me you cared for another man?"
said I, so quietly that I wondered at myself; wondered what had become of
the "Black Matt" who had used his fists almost as much as his brains in
fighting his way up.
"Yes," she said, her head down now.
A long pause.
"You wish to be free?" I asked, and my tone must have been gentle.
"I wish to free you," she replied slowly and deliberately.
There was a long silence. Then I said: "I must think it all out. I once
told you how I felt about these matters. I've greatly changed my mind since
our talk that night in the Willoughby; but my prejudices are still with me.
Perhaps you will not be surprised at that--you whose prejudices have cost
me so dear."
I thought she was going to speak. Instead she turned away, so that I could
no longer see her face.
"Our marriage was a miserable mistake," I went on, struggling to be just
and judicial, and to seem calm. "I admit it now. Fortunately, we are both
still young--you very young. Mistakes in youth are never fatal. But, Anita,
do not blunder out of one mistake into another. You are no longer a child,
as you were when I married you. You will be careful not to let judgments
formed of him long ago decide you for him as they decided you against me."
"I wish to be free," she said, each word coming with an effort, "as much
on your account as on my own." Then, and it seemed to me merely a truly
feminine attempt to shirk responsibility, she added, "I am glad my going
will be a relief to you."
"Yes, it will be a relief," I confessed. "Our situation has become
intolerable." I had reached my limit of self-control. I put out my hand.
"Good-by," I said.
If she had wept, it might have modified my conviction that everything was
at an end between us. But she did not weep. "Can you ever forgive me?" she
"Let's not talk of forgiveness," said I, and I fear my voice and manner
were gruff, as I strove not to break down. "Let's try to forget." And I
touched her hand and hastened away.
When two human beings set out to misunderstand each other, how fast and far
they go! How shut-in we are from each other, with only halting means of
communication that break down under the slightest strain!
As I was leaving the house next morning, I gave Sanders this note for her:
"I have gone to live at the Downtown Hotel. When you have decided what
course to take, let me know. If my 'rights' ever had any substance, they
have starved away to such weak things that they collapse even as I try to
set them up. I hope your freedom will give you happiness, and me peace."
"You are ill, sir?" asked my old servant, my old friend, as he took the
"Stay with her, Sanders, as long as she wishes," said I, ignoring his
question. "Then come to me."
His look made me shake hands with him. As I did it, we both remembered the
last time we had shaken hands--when he had the roses for my home-coming
with my bride. It seemed to me I could smell those roses.
LANGDON COMES TO THE SURFACE
I shall not estimate the vast sums it cost the Roebuck-Langdon clique
to maintain the prices of National Coal, and so give plausibility to
the fiction that the public was buying eagerly. In the third week of my
campaign, Melville was so deeply involved that he had to let the two others
take the whole burden upon themselves.
In the fourth week, Langdon came to me.
The interval between his card and himself gave me a chance to recover from
my amazement. When he entered he found me busily writing. Though I had
nerved myself, it was several seconds before I ventured to look at him.
There he stood, probably as handsome, as fascinating as ever, certainly as
self-assured. But I could now, beneath that manner I had once envied, see
the puny soul, with its brassy glitter of the vanity of luxury and show.
I had been somewhat afraid of myself--afraid the sight of him would stir
up in me a tempest of jealousy and hate; as I looked, I realized that
I did not know my own nature. "She does not love this man," I thought.
"If she did or could, she would not be the woman I love. He deceived her
inexperience as he deceived mine."
"What can I do for you?" said I to him politely, much as if he were a
stranger making an untimely interruption.
My look had disconcerted him; my tone threw him into confusion. "You keep
out of the way, now that you've become famous," he began, with a halting
but heroic attempt at his customary easy superiority. "Are you living up in
Connecticut, too? Sam Ellersly tells me your wife is stopping there with
old Howard Forrester. Sam wants me to use my good offices in making it up
between you two and her family."
I was completely taken aback by this cool ignoring of the real situation
between him and me. Impudence or ignorance?--I could not decide. It seemed
impossible that Anita had not told him; yet it seemed impossible, too, that
he would come to me if she had told him. "Have you any _business_ with
me?" said I.
His eyelids twitched nervously, and he adjusted his lips several times
before he was able to say:
"You and your wife don't care to make it up with the Ellerslys? I fancied
so, and told Sam you'd simply think me meddlesome. The other matter is the
Travelers Club. I've smoothed things out there. I'm going to put you up and
rush you through."
"No, thanks," said I. It seemed incredible to me that I had ever cared
about that club and the things it represented, as I could remember I
undoubtedly did care. It was like looking at an outgrown toy and trying
to feel again the emotions it once excited.
"I assure you, Matt, there won't be the slightest difficulty." His manner
was that of a man playing the trump card in a desperate game--he feels it
can not lose, yet the stake is so big that he can not but be a little
"I do not care to join the Travelers Club," said I, rising. "I must ask you
to excuse me. I am exceedingly busy."
A flush appeared in his cheeks and deepened and spread until his whole body
must have been afire. He seated himself. "You know what I've come for," he
said sullenly, and humbly, too.
All his life he had been enthroned upon his wealth. Without realizing it,
he had claimed and had received deference solely because he was rich. He
had thought himself, in his own person, most superior; now, he found that
like a silly child he had been standing on a chair and crying: "See how
tall I am." And the airs, the cynicism, the graceful condescension, which
had been so becoming to him, were now as out of place as crown and robes on
a king taking a swimming lesson.
"What are your terms, Blacklock? Don't be too hard on an old friend," said
he, trying to carry off his frank plea for mercy with a smile.
I should have thought he would cut his throat and jump off the Battery wall
before he would get on his knees to any man for any reason. And he was
doing it for mere money--to try to save, not his fortune, but only an
imperiled part of it. "If Anita could see him now!" I thought.
To him I said, the more coldly because I did not wish to add to his
humiliation by showing him that I pitied him: "I can only repeat, Mr.
Langdon, you will have to excuse me. I have given you all the time I can
His eyes were shifting and his hands trembling as he said: "I will transfer
control of the Coal combine to you."
His tones, shameful as the offer they carried, made me ashamed for him.
For money--just for money! And I had thought him a man. If he had been a
self-deceiving hypocrite like Roebuck, or a frank believer in the right of
might, like Updegraff, I might possibly, in the circumstances, have tried
to release him from my net. But he had never for an instant deceived
himself as to the real nature of the enterprises he plotted, promoted and
profited by; he thought it "smart" to be bad, and he delighted in making
the most cynical epigrams on the black deeds of himself and his associates.
"Better sell out to Roebuck," I suggested. "I control all the Coal stock I
"I don't care to have anything further to do with Roebuck," Langdon
answered. "I've broken with him."
"When a man lies to me," said I, "he gives me the chance to see just how
much of a fool he thinks I am, and also the chance to see just how much of
a fool he is. I hesitate to think so poorly of you as your attempt to fool
me seems to compel."
But he was unconvinced. "I've found he intends to abandon the ship and
leave me to go down with it," he persisted. "He believes he can escape and
denounce me as the arch rascal who planned the combine, and can convince
people that I foozled him into it."
Ingenious; but I happened to know that it was false. "Pardon me, Mr.
Langdon," said I with stiff courtesy. "I repeat, I can do nothing for you.
Good morning." And I went at my work as if he were already gone.
Had I been vindictive, I would have led him on to humiliate himself more
deeply, if greater depths of humiliation there are than those to which
he voluntarily descended. But I wished to spare him; I let him see the
uselessness of his mission. He looked at me in silence--the look of hate
that can come only from a creature weak as well as wicked. I think it
was all his keen sense of humor could do to save him from a melodramatic
outbreak. He slipped into his habitual pose, rose and withdrew without
another word. All this fright and groveling and treachery for plunder, the
loss of which would not impair his fortune--plunder he had stolen with many
a jest and gibe at his helpless victims. Like most of our debonair dollar
chasers, he was a good sportsman only when the game was with him.
That afternoon he threw his Coal holdings on the market in great blocks.
His treachery took Roebuck completely by surprise--for Roebuck believed in
this fair-weather "gentleman," foul-weather coward, and neglected to allow
for that quicksand that is always under the foundation of the man who has
inherited, not earned, his wealth. But for the blundering credulity of
rascals, would honest men ever get their dues? Roebuck's brokers had bought
many thousands of Langdon's shares at the high artificial price before
Roebuck grasped the situation--that it was not my followers recklessly
gambling to break the prices, but Langdon unloading on his "pal." As soon
as he saw, he abruptly withdrew from the market. When the Stock Exchange
closed, National Coal securities were offered at prices ranging from eleven
for the bonds to two for the common and three for the preferred--offered,
and no takers.
"Well, you've done it," said Joe, coming with the news that Thornley, of
the Discount and Deposit Bank, had been appointed receiver.
"I've made a beginning," replied I. And the last sentence of my next
morning's "letter" was:
"To-morrow the first chapter of the History of the Industrial National
* * * * *
"I have felt for two years," said Roebuck to Schilling, who repeated it to
me soon afterward, "that Blacklock was about the most dangerous fellow in
the country. The first time I set eyes on him, I saw he was a born
iconoclast. And I've known for a year that some day he would use that
engine of publicity of his to cannonade the foundations of society."
"He knew me better than I knew myself," was my comment to Schilling. And I
meant it--for I had not finished the demolition of the Coal combine when I
began to realize that, whatever I might have thought of my own ambitions,
I could never have tamed myself or been tamed into a devotee of dollars
and of respectability. I simply had been keeping quiet until my tools were
sharp and fate spun my opportunity within reach. But I must, in fairness,
add, it was lucky for me that, when the hour struck, Roebuck was not twenty
years younger and one-twentieth as rich. It's a heavy enough handicap,
under the best of circumstances, to go to war burdened with years; add the
burden of a monster fortune, and it isn't in human nature to fight well.
Youth and a light knapsack!
But--to my fight on the big bank.
Until I opened fire, the public thought, in a general way, that a bank was
an institution like Thornley's Discount and Deposit National--a place for
the safe-keeping of money and for accommodating business men with loans to
be used in carrying on and extending legitimate and useful enterprises. And
there were many such banks. But the real object of the banking business,
as exploited by the big bandits who controlled it and all industry, was
to draw into a mass the money of the country that they might use it to
manipulate the markets, to wreck and reorganize industries and wreck them
again, to work off inflated bonds and stocks upon the public at inflated
prices, to fight among themselves for rights to despoil, making the people
pay the war budgets--in a word, to finance the thousand and one schemes
whereby they and their friends and relatives, who neither produce nor help
to produce, appropriate the bulk of all that is produced.
And before I finished with the National Industrial Bank, I had shown that
it and several similar institutions in the big cities throughout the
country were, in fact, so many dens to which rich and poor were lured for
spoliation. I then took up the Universal Life, as a type. I showed how
insuring was, with the companies controlled by the bandits, simply the
decoy; that the real object was the same as the real object of the big
bandit banks. When I had finished my series on the Universal Life I had
named and pilloried Roebuck, Langdon, Melville, Wainwright, Updegraff, Van
Steen, Epstein--the seven men of enormous wealth, leaders of the seven
cliques that had the political and industrial United States at their mercy,
and were plucking the people through an ever-increasing army of agents.
The agents kept some of the feathers--"The Seven" could afford to pay
liberally. But the bulk of the feather crop was passed on to "The Seven."
I shall answer in a paragraph the principal charges that were made against
me. They say I bribed employees on the telegraph companies, and so got
possession of incriminating telegrams that had been sent by "The Seven" in
the course of their worst campaigns. I admit the charge. They say I bribed
some of their confidential men to give me transcripts and photographs
of secret ledgers and reports. I admit the charge. They say I bought
translations of stenographic notes taken by eavesdroppers on certain
important secret meetings. I admit the charge. But what was the chief
element in my success in thus getting proofs of their crimes? Not the
bribery, but the hatred that all the servants of such men have for them. I
tempted no one to betray them. _Every item, of information I got was
offered to me_. And I shall add these facts:
First, in not a single case did they suspect and discharge the "guilty"
Second, I have to-day as good means of access to their secrets as I ever
had--and, if they discharged all who now serve them, I should be able soon
to reestablish my lines; men of their stripe can not hope to be served
Third, I had offers from all but three of "The Seven" to "peach" on the
others in return for immunity. There may be honor among some thieves, but
not among "respectable" thieves. Hypocrisy and honor will be found in the
same character when the sun shines at night--not before.
* * * * *
It was the sardonic humor of fate that Langdon, for all his desire to keep
out of my way, should have compelled me to center my fire upon him; that I,
who wished to spare him, if possible, should have been compelled to make of
him my first "awful example."
I had decided to concentrate upon Roebuck, because he was the richest and
most powerful of "The Seven." For, in my pictures of the three main phases
of "finance"--the industrial, the life-insurance and the banking--he, as
arch plotter in every kind of respectable skulduggery, was necessarily in
the foreground. My original intention was to demolish the Power Trust--or,
at least, to compel him to buy back all of its stock which he had worked
off on the public. I had collected many interesting facts about it, facts
typical of the conditions that "finance" has established in so many of our
For instance, I was prepared to show that the actual earnings of the Power
Trust were two and a half times what its reports to stock-holders alleged;
that the concealed profits were diverted into the pockets of Roebuck, his
sons, eleven other relatives and four of "The Seven," the lion's share
going, of course, to the lion. Like almost all the great industrial
enterprises, too strong for the law and too remote for the supervision
of their stock-holders, it gathered in enormous revenues to disburse
them chiefly in salaries and commissions and rake-offs on contracts to
favorites. I had proof that in one year it had "written off" twelve
millions of profit and loss, ten millions of which had found its way to
Roebuck's pocket. That pocket! That "treasury of the Lord"!
Dishonest? Roebuck and most of the other leaders of the various gangs,
comprising, with all their ramifications, the principal figures in
religious, philanthropic, fashionable society, did not for an instant
think their doings dishonest. They had no sense of trusteeship for this
money intrusted to them as captains of industry bankers, life-insurance
directors. They felt that it was theirs to do with as they pleased.
And they felt that their superiority in rank and in brains entitled them
to whatever remuneration they could assign to themselves without rousing
the wrath of a public too envious to admit the just claims of the "upper
classes." They convinced themselves that without them crops would cease
to grow, sellers and buyers would be unable to find their way to market,
barbarism would spread its rank and choking weeds over the whole garden of
civilization. And, so brainless is the parrot public, they have succeeded
in creating a very widespread conviction that their own high opinion of
their services is not too high, and that some dire calamity would come if
they were swept from between producer and consumer! True, thieves are found
only where there is property; but who but a chucklebrain would think the
thieves made the property?
Roebuck was the keystone of the arch that sustained the structure of
chicane. To dislodge him was the direct way to collapse it. I was about to
set to work when Langdon, feeling that he ought to have a large supply of
cash in the troublous times I was creating, increased the capital stock
of his already enormously overcapitalized Textile Trust and offered the
new issue to the public. As the Textile Trust was even better bulwarked,
politically, than the Power Trust, it was easily able to declare tempting
dividends out of its lootings. So the new stock could not be attacked in
the one way that would make the public instantly shun it--I could not
truthfully charge that it would not pay the promised dividends. Yet attack
I must--for that issue was, in effect, a bold challenge of my charges
against "The Seven." From all parts of the country inquiries poured in upon
me: "What do you think of the new Textile issue? Shall we invest? Is the
Textile Company sound?"
I had no choice. I must turn aside from Roebuck; I must first show that,
while Textile was, in a sense, sound just at that time, it had been
unsound, and would be unsound again as soon as Langdon had gathered in
a sufficient number of lambs to make a battue worth the while of a man
dealing in nothing less than seven figures. I proceeded to do so.
The market yielded slowly. Under my first day's attack Textile preferred
fell six points, Textile common three. While I was in the midst of
dictating my letter for the second day's attack, I suddenly came to a full
stop. I found across my way this thought: "Isn't it strange that Langdon,
after humbling himself to you, should make this bold challenge? It's a
"No more at present," said I, to my stenographer. "And don't write out what
I've already dictated."
I shut myself in and busied myself at the telephone. Half an hour after I
set my secret machinery in motion, a messenger brought me an envelop, the
address type-written. It contained a sheet of paper on which appeared, in
type-writing; these words, and nothing more:
"He is heavily short of Textiles."
It was indeed a trap. The new issue was a blind. He had challenged me to
attack his stock, and as soon as I did, he had begun secretly to sell it
for a fall. I worked at this new situation until midnight, trying to get
together the proofs. At that hour--for I could delay no longer, and my
proofs were not quite complete--I sent my newspapers two sentences:
"To-morrow I shall make a disclosure that will
send Textiles up. Do not sell Textiles!"
MRS. LANGDON MAKES A CALL
Next day Langdon's stocks wavered, going up a little, going down a little,
closing at practically the same figures at which they had opened. Then I
sprang my sensation--that Langdon and his particular clique, though they
controlled the Textile Trust, did not own so much as one-fiftieth of its
voting stock. True "captains of industry" that they were, they made their
profits not out of dividends, but out of side schemes that absorbed about
two-thirds of the earnings of the Trust, and out of gambling in its bonds
and stocks. I said in conclusion:
"The largest owner of the stock is Walter G. Edmunds, of Chicago--an honest
man. Send your voting proxies to him, and he can take the Textile Company
away from those now plundering it."
As the annual election of the Trust was only six weeks away, Langdon
and his clique were in a panic. They rushed into the market and bought
frantically, the public bidding against them. Langdon himself went to
Chicago to reason with Edmunds--that is, to try to find out at what figure
he could be bought. And so on, day after day, I faithfully reporting to
the public the main occurrences behind the scenes. The Langdon attempt to
regain control by purchases of stock failed. He and his allies made what
must have been to them appalling sacrifices; but even at the high prices
they offered, comparatively little of the stock appeared.
"I've caught them," said I to Joe--the first time, and the last, during
that campaign that I indulged in a boast.
"If Edmunds sticks to you," replied cautious Joe.
But Edmunds did not. I do not know at what price he sold himself. Probably
it was pitifully small; cupidity usually snatches the instant bait tickles
its nose. But I do know that my faith in human nature got its severest
"You are down this morning," said Thornley, when I looked in on him at his
bank. "I don't think I ever before saw you show that you were in low
"I've found out a man with whom I'd have trusted my life," said I.
"Sometimes I think all men are dishonest. I've tried to be an optimist like
you, and have told myself that most men must be honest or ninety-five per
cent. of the business couldn't be done on credit as it is."
Thornley smiled, like an old man at the enthusiasm of a youngster. "That
proves nothing as to honesty," said he. "It simply shows that men can
be counted on to do what it is to their plain interest to do. The truth
is--and a fine truth, too--most men wish and try to be honest. Give 'em a
chance to resist their own weaknesses. Don't trust them. Trust--that's the
making of false friends and the filling of jails."
"And palaces," I added.
"And palaces," assented he. "Every vast fortune is a monument to the
credulity of man. Instead of getting after these heavy-laden rascals,
Matthew, you'd better have turned your attention to the public that has
made rascals of them by leaving its property unguarded."
Fortunately, Edmunds had held out, or, rather, Langdon had delayed
approaching him, long enough for me to gain my main point. The uproar
over the Textile Trust had become so great that the national Department
of Commerce dared not refuse an investigation; and I straightway began to
spread out in my daily letters the facts of the Trust's enormous earnings
and of the shameful sources of those earnings. Thanks to Langdon's
political pull, the president appointed as investigator one of those
rascals who carefully build themselves good reputations to enable them to
charge higher prices for dirty work. But, with my facts before the people,
whitewash was impossible.
I was expecting emissaries from Langdon, for I knew he must now be actually
in straits. Even the Universal Life didn't dare lend him money; and was
trying to call in the millions it had loaned him. But I was astounded when
my private door opened and Mrs. Langdon ushered herself in.
"Don't blame your boy, Mr. Blacklock," cried she gaily, exasperatingly
confident that I was as delighted with her as she was with herself. "I told
him you were expecting me and didn't give him a chance to stop me."
I assumed she had come to give me wholly undeserved thanks for revenging
her upon her recreant husband. I tried to look civil and courteous, but I
felt that my face was darkening--her very presence forced forward things I
had been keeping in the far background of my mind, "How can I be of service
to you, Madam?" said I.
"I bring you good news," she replied--and I noted that she no longer looked
haggard and wretched, that her beauty was once more smiling with a certain
girlishness, like a young widow's when she finds her consolation. "Mowbray
and I have made it up," she explained.
I simply listened, probably looking as grim as I felt.
"I knew you would be interested," she went on. "Indeed, it means almost as
much to you as to me. It brings peace to _two_ families."
Still I did not relax.
"And so," she continued, a little uneasy, "I came to you immediately."
I continued to listen, as if I were waiting for her to finish and depart.
"If you want, I'll go to Anita." Natural feminine tact would have saved her
from this rawness; but, convinced that she was a "great lady" by the
flattery of servants and shopkeepers and sensational newspapers and social
climbers, she had discarded tact as worthy only of the lowly and of the
aspiring before they "arrive."
"You are too kind," said I. "Mrs. Blacklock and I feel competent to take
care of our own affairs."
"Please, Mr. Blacklock," she said, realizing that she had blundered, "don't
take my directness the wrong way. Life is too short for pose and pretense
about the few things that really matter. Why shouldn't we be frank with
"I trust you will excuse me," said I, moving toward the door--I had not
seated myself when she did. "I think I have made it clear that we have
nothing to discuss."
"You have the reputation of being generous and too big for hatred. That is
why I have come to you," said she, her expression confirming my suspicion
of the real and only reason for her visit. "Mowbray and I are completely
reconciled--_completely_, you understand. And I want you to be
generous, and not keep on with this attack. I am involved even more than
he. He has used up his fortune in defending mine. Now, you are simply
trying to ruin me--not him, but _me_. The president is a friend of
Mowbray's, and he'll call off this horrid investigation, and everything'll
be all right, if you'll only stop."
"Who sent you here?" I asked.
"I came of my own accord," she protested. Then, realizing from the sound of
her voice that she could not have convinced me with a tone so unconvincing,
she hedged with: "It was my own suggestion, really it was."
"Your husband permitted _you_ to come--and to _me_?"
"And you have accepted his overtures when you knew he made them only
because he needed your money?"
She hung her head. "I love him," she said simply. Then she looked straight
at me and I liked her expression. "A woman has no false pride when love is
at stake," she said. "We leave that to you men."
"Love!" I retorted, rather satirically, I imagine. "How much had your own
imperiled fortune to do with your being so forgiving?"
"Something," she admitted. "You must remember I have children. I must think
of their future. I don't want them to be poor. I want them to have the
station they were born to." She went to one of the windows overlooking the
street. "Look here!" she said.
I stood beside her. The window was not far above the street level. Just
below us was a handsome victoria, coachman, harness, horses, all most
proper, a footman rigid at the step. A crowd had gathered round--in those
stirring days when I was the chief subject of conversation wherever men
were interested in money--and where are they not?--there was almost always
a crowd before my offices. In the carriage sat two children, a boy and a
girl, hardly more than babies. They were gorgeously overdressed, after
the vulgar fashion of aristocrats and apers of aristocracy. They sat
stiffly, like little scions of royalty, with that expression of complacent
superiority which one so often sees on the faces of the little children of
the very rich--and some not so little, too. The thronging loungers, most
of them either immigrant peasants from European caste countries or the
un-disinfected sons of peasants, were gaping in true New York "lower class"
awe; the children were literally swelling with delighted vanity. If they
had been pampered pet dogs, one would have laughed. As they were human
beings, it filled me with sadness and pity. What ignorance, what stupidity
to bring up children thus in democratic America--democratic to-day,
inevitably more democratic to-morrow! What a turning away from the light!
What a crime against the children!
"For their sake, Mr. Blacklock," she pleaded, her mother love wholly hiding
from her the features of the spectacle that for me shrieked like scarlet
against a white background.
"Your husband has deceived you about your fortune, Mrs. Langdon," I said
gently, for there is to me something pathetic in ignorance and I was not
blaming her for her folly and her crime against her children. "You can tell
him what I am about to say, or not, as you please. But my advice is that
you keep it to yourself. Even if the present situation develops as seems
probable, develops as Mr. Langdon fears, you will not be left without a
fortune--a very large fortune, most people would think. But Mr. Langdon
will have little or nothing--indeed, I think he is practically dependent
on you now."
"What I have is his," she said.
"That is generous," replied I, not especially impressed by a sentiment, the
very uttering of which raised a strong doubt of its truth. "But is it
prudent? You wish to keep him--securely. Don't tempt him by a generosity he
would only abuse."
She thought it over. "The idea of holding a man in that way is repellent to
me," said she, now obviously posing.
"If the man happens to be one that can be held in no other way," said I,
moving significantly toward the door, "one must overcome one's
repugnance--or be despoiled and abandoned."
"Thank you," she said, giving me her hand. "Thank you--more than I can
say." She had forgotten entirely that she came to plead for her husband.
"And I hope you will soon be as happy as I am." That last in New York's
funniest "great lady" style.
I bowed, and when there was the closed door between us, I laughed, not at
all pleasantly. "This New York!" I said aloud. "This New York that dabbles
its slime of sordidness and snobbishness on every flower in the garden of
human nature. New York that destroys pride and substitutes vanity for it.
New York with its petty, mischievous class-makers, the pattern for the
rich and the 'smarties' throughout the country. These 'cut-out' minds and
hearts, the best of them incapable of growth and calloused wherever the
scissors of conventionality have snipped."
I took from my pocket the picture of Anita I always carried. "Are
_you_ like that?" I demanded of it. And it seemed to answer: "Yes,--I
am." Did I tear the picture up? No. I kissed it as if it were the magnetic
reality. "I don't care what you are!" I cried. "I want you! I want you!"
"Fool!" you are saying. Precisely what I called myself. And you? Is it
the one you _ought_ to love that you give your heart to? Is it the
one that understands you and sympathizes with you? Or is it the one whose
presence gives you visions of paradise and whose absence blots out the
I loved her. Yet I will say this much for myself: I still would not have
taken her on any terms that did not make her really mine.
"MY RIGHT EYE OFFENDS ME"
Now that Updegraff is dead, I am free to tell of our relations.
My acquaintance with him was more casual than with any other of "The
Seven." From the outset of my career I made it a rule never to deal with
understrappers, always to get in touch with the man who had the final say.
Thus, as the years went by, I grew into intimacy with the great men of
finance where many with better natural facilities for knowing them remained
in an outer circle. But with Updegraff, interested only in enterprises west
of the Mississippi and keeping Denver as his legal residence and exploiting
himself as a Western man who hated Wall Street, I had a mere bowing
acquaintance. This was unimportant, however, as each knew the other well
by reputation. Our common intimacies made us intimates for all practical
Our connection was established soon after the development of my campaign
against the Textile Trust had shown that I was after a big bag of the
biggest game. We happened to have the same secret broker; and I suppose it
was in his crafty brain that the idea of bringing us together was born. Be
that as it may, he by gradual stages intimated to me that Updegraff would
convey me secrets of "The Seven" in exchange for a guarantee that I would
not attack his interests. I do not know what his motive in this treachery
was--probably a desire to curb the power of his associates in industrial
Each of "The Seven" hated and feared and suspected the other six with far
more than the ordinary and proverbial rich man's jealous dislike of other
rich men. There was not one of them that did not bear the ever-smarting
scars of vicious wounds, front and back, received from his fellows; there
was not one that did not cherish the hope of overthrowing the rule of Seven
and establishing the rule of One. At any rate, I accepted Updegraff's
proposition; henceforth, though he stopped speaking to me when we happened
to meet, as did all the other big bandits and most of their parasites and
procurers, he kept me informed of every act "The Seven" resolved upon.
Thus I knew all about their "gentlemen's agreement" to support the stock
market, and that they had made Tavistock their agent for resisting any and
all attempts to lower prices, and had given him practically unlimited funds
to draw upon as he needed. I had Tavistock sounded on every side, but found
no weak spot. There was no rascality he would not perpetrate for whoever
employed him; but to his employer he was as loyal as a woman to a bad
man. And for a time it looked as if "The Seven" had checkmated me. Those
outsiders who had invested heavily in the great enterprises through which
"The Seven" ruled were disposing of their holdings--cautiously, through
fear of breaking the market. Money would pile up in the banks--money paid
out by "The Seven" for their bonds and stocks, of which the people had
become deeply suspicious. Then these deposits would be withdrawn--and I
knew they were going into real estate investments, because news of booms
in real estate and in building was coming in from everywhere. But prices
on the Stock Exchange continued to advance.
"They are too strong for you," said Joe. "They will hold the market up
until the public loses faith in you. Then they will sell out at top-notch
prices as the people rush in to buy."
I might have wavered had I not been seeing Tavistock every day. He
continued to wear his devil-may-care air; but I observed that he was aging
swiftly--and I knew what that meant. Fighting all day to prevent breaks
in the crucial stocks; planning most of the night how to prevent breaks
the next day; watching the reserve resources of "The Seven" melt away.
Those reserves were vast; also, "The Seven" controlled the United States
Treasury, and were using its resources as their own; they were buying
securities that would be almost worthless if they lost, but if they
won, would be rebought by the public at the old swindling prices, when
"confidence" was restored. But there was I, cannonading incessantly from my
impregnable position; as fast as they repaired breaches in their walls, my
big guns of publicity tore new breaches. No wonder Tavistock had thinner
hair and wrinkles and a drawn look about the eyes, nose and mouth.
With the battle thus raging all along the line, on the one side "The Seven"
and their armies of money and mercenaries and impressed slaves, on the
other side the public, I in command, you will say that my yearning for
distraction must have been gratified. If the road from his cell were long
enough, the condemned man would be fretting less about the gallows than
about the tight shoe that was making him limp and wince at every step.
Besides, in human affairs it is the personal, always the personal. I soon
got used to the crowds, to the big head-lines in the newspapers, to the
routine of cannonade and reply.
But the old thorn, pressing persistently--I could not get used to that. In
the midst of the adulation, of the blares upon the trumpets of fame that
saluted my waking and were wafted to me as I fell asleep at night--in the
midst of all the turmoil, I was often in a great and brooding silence,
longing for her, now with the imperious energy of passion, and now with
the sad ache of love. What was she doing? What was she thinking? Now that
Langdon had again played her false for the old price, with what eyes was
she looking into the future?
Alva, settled in a West Side apartment not far from the ancestral white
elephant, telephoned, asking me to come. I went, because she could and
would give me news of Anita. But as I entered her little drawing-room,
I said: "It was curiosity that brought me. I wished to see how you were
"Isn't it nice and small?" cried she. "Billy and I haven't the slightest
difficulty in finding each other--as people so often have in the big
houses." And it was Billy this and Billy that, and what Billy said and
thought and felt--and before they were married, she had called him William,
and had declared "Billy" to be the most offensive combination of letters
that ever fell from human lips.
"I needn't ask if _you_ are happy," said I presently, with a dismal
failure at looking cheerful. "I can't stay but a moment," I added, and if I
had obeyed my feelings, I'd have risen up and taken myself and my pain away
from surroundings as hateful to me as a summer sunrise in a death-chamber.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, in some confusion. "Then excuse me." And she hastened
from the room.
I thought she had gone to order, or perhaps to bring, the tea. The long
minutes dragged away until ten had passed. Hearing a rustling in the hall,
I rose, intending to take leave the instant she appeared. The rustling
stopped just outside. I waited a few seconds, cried, "Well, I'm off. Next
time I want to be alone, I'll know where to come," and advanced to the
door. It was not Alva hesitating there; it was Anita.
"I beg your pardon," said I coldly.
If there had been room to pass I should have gone. What devil possessed
me? Certainly in all our relations I had found her direct and frank, if
anything, too frank. Doubtless it was the influence of my associations down
town, where for so many months I had been dealing with the "short-card"
crowd of high finance, who would hardly play the game straight even when
that was the easy way to win. My long, steady stretch in that stealthy and
sinuous company had put me in the state of mind in which it is impossible
to credit any human being with a motive that is decent or an action that is
not a dead-fall. Thus the obvious transformation in her made no impression
on me. Her haughtiness, her coldness, were gone, and with them had gone
all that had been least like her natural self, most like the repellent
conventional pattern to which her mother and her associates had molded her.
But I was saying to myself: "A trap! Langdon has gone back to his wife. She
turns to me." And I loved her and hated her. "Never," thought I, "has she
shown so poor an opinion of me as now."
"My uncle told me day before yesterday that it was not he but you," she
said, lifting her eyes to mine. It is inconceivable to me now that I could
have misread their honest story; yet I did.
"I had no idea your uncle's notion of honor was also eccentric," said I,
with a satirical smile that made the blood rush to her face.
"That is unjust to him," she replied earnestly.
"He says he made you no promise of secrecy. And he confessed to me only
because he wished to convince me that he had good reason for his high
opinion of you."
"Really!" said I ironically. "And no doubt he found you open wide to
conviction--_now_." This a subtlety to let her know that I understood
why she was seeking me.
"No," she answered, lowering her eyes. "I knew--better than he."
For an instant this, spoken in a voice I had long given up hope of ever
hearing from her, staggered my cynical conviction. But-- "Possibly she
thinks she is sincere," reasoned my head with my heart; "even the sincerest
women, brought up as was she, always have the calculator underneath; they
deny it, they don't know it often, but there it is; with them, calculation
is as involuntary and automatic as their pulse." So, I said to her,
mockingly: "Doubtless your opinion of me has been improving steadily ever
since you heard that Mrs. Langdon had recovered her husband."
She winced, as if I had struck her. "Oh!" she murmured. If she had been
the ordinary woman, who in every crisis with man instinctively resorts to
weakness' strongest weakness, tears, I might have a different story to
tell. But she fought back the tears in which her eyes were swimming and
gathered herself together. "That is brutal," she said, with not a touch of
haughtiness, but not humbly, either. "But I deserve it."
"There was a time," I went on, swept in a swift current of cold rage,
"there was a time when I would have taken you on almost any terms. A man
never makes a complete fool of himself about a woman but once in his life,
they say. I have done my stretch--and it is over."
She sighed wearily. "Langdon came to see me soon after I left your house,
and went to my uncle," she said. "I will tell you what happened."
"I do not wish to hear," replied I, adding pointedly, "I have been waiting
ever since you left for news of your plans."
She grew white, and my heart smote me. She came into the room and seated
herself. "Won't you stop, please, for a moment longer?" she said. "I hope
that, at, least, we can part without bitterness. I understand now that
everything is over between us. A woman's vanity makes her belief that a man
cares for her die hard. I am convinced now--I assure you, I am. I shall
trouble you no more about the past. But I have the right to ask you to hear
me when I say that Langdon came, and that I myself sent him away; sent him
back to his wife."
"Touching self-sacrifice," said I ironically.
"No," she replied. "I can not claim any credit. I sent him away only
because you and Alva had taught me how to judge him better. I do not
despise him as do you; I know too well what has made him what he is. But
I had to send him away."
My comment was an incredulous look and shrug. "I must be going," I said.
"You do not believe me?" she asked.
"In my place, would you believe?" replied I. "You say I have taught you.
Well, you have taught me, too--for instance, that the years you've spent on
your knees in the musty temple of conventionality before false gods have
made you--fit only for the Langdon sort of thing. You can't learn how to
stand erect, and your eyes can not bear the light."
"I am sorry," she said slowly, hesitatingly, "that your faith in me died
just when I might, perhaps, have justified it. Ours has been a pitiful
series of misunderstandings."
"A trap! A trap!" I was warning myself. "You've been a fool long enough,
Blacklock." And aloud I said: "Well, Anita, the series is ended now.
There's no longer any occasion for our lying or posing to each other.
Any arrangements your uncle's lawyers suggest will be made."
I was bowing, to leave without shaking hands with her. But she would not
have it so. "Please!" she said, stretching out her long, slender arm and
offering me her hand.
What a devil possessed me that day! With every atom of me longing for her,
I yet was able to take her hand and say, with a smile, that was, I doubt
not, as mocking as my tone: "By all means let us be friends. And I trust
you will not think me discourteous if I say that I shall feel safer in our
friendship when we are both on neutral ground."
As I was turning away, her look, my own heart, made me turn again. I caught
her by the shoulders. I gazed into her eyes. "If I could only trust you,
could only believe you!" I cried.
"You cared for me when I wasn't worth it," she said. "Now that I am more
like what you once imagined me, you do not care."
Up between us rose Langdon's face--cynical, mocking, contemptuous. "Your
heart is _his_! You told me so! Don't _lie_ to me!" I exclaimed.
And before she could reply, I was gone.
Out from under the spell of her presence, back among the tricksters and
assassins, the traps and ambushes of Wall Street, I believed again;
believed firmly the promptings of the devil that possessed me. "She would
have given you a brief fool's paradise," said that devil. "Then what
a hideous awakening!" And I cursed the day when New York's insidious
snobbishness had tempted my vanity into starting me on that degrading chase
"If she does not move to free herself soon," said I to myself, "I will put
my own lawyer to work. My right eye offends me. I will pluck it out."
"The Seven" made their fatal move on treacherous Updegraff's treacherous
advice, I suspect. But they would not have adopted his suggestion had
it not been so exactly congenial to their own temper of arrogance and
tyranny and contempt for the people who meekly, year after year, presented
themselves for the shearing with fatuous bleats of enthusiasm.
"The Seven," of course, controlled directly, or indirectly, all but a
few of the newspapers with which I had advertising contracts. They also
controlled the main sources through which the press was supplied with
news--and often and well they had used this control, and surprisingly
cautious had they been not so to abuse it that the editors and the public
would become suspicious. When my war was at its height, when I was
beginning to congratulate myself that the huge magazines of "The Seven"
were empty almost to the point at which they must sue for peace on my own
terms, all in four days forty-three of my sixty-seven newspapers--and they
the most important--notified me that they would no longer carry out their
contracts to publish my daily letter. They gave as their reason, not the
real one, fear of "The Seven," but fear that I would involve them in
ruinous libel suits. I who had _legal_ proof for every statement I
made; I who was always careful to understate! Next, one press association
after another ceased to send out my letter as news, though they had been
doing so regularly for months. The public had grown tired of the
"sensation," they said.
I countered with a telegram to one or more newspapers in every city and
large town in the United States:
"'The Seven' are trying to cut the wires between the truth and the public.
If you wish my daily letter, telegraph me direct and I will send it at my
The response should have warned "The Seven." But it did not. Under their
orders the telegraph companies refused to transmit the letter. I got an
injunction. It was obeyed in typical, corrupt corporation fashion--they
sent my matter, but so garbled that it was unintelligible. I appealed to
the courts. In vain.
To me, it was clear as sun in cloudless noonday sky that there could be but
one result of this insolent and despotic denial of my rights and the rights
of the people, this public confession of the truth of my charges. I turned
everything salable or mortgageable into cash, locked the cash up in my
private vaults, and waited for the cataclysm.
Thursday--Friday--Saturday. Apparently all was tranquil; apparently the
people accepted the Wall Street theory that I was an "exploded sensation."
"The Seven" began to preen themselves; the strain upon them to maintain
prices, if no less than for three months past, was not notably greater; the
crisis would pass, I and my exposures would be forgotten, the routine of
reaping the harvests and leaving only the gleanings for the sowers would
soon be placidly resumed.
Sunday. Roebuck, taken ill as he was passing the basket in the church of
which he was the shining light, died at midnight--a beautiful, peaceful
death, they say, with his daughter reading the Bible aloud, and his lips
moving in prayer. Some hold that, had he lived, the tranquillity would have
continued; but this is the view of those who can not realize that the tide
of affairs is no more controlled by the "great men" than is the river led
down to the sea by its surface flotsam, by which we measure the speed and
direction of its current. Under that terrific tension, which to the shallow
seemed a calm, something had to give way. If the dam had not yielded where
Roebuck stood guard, it must have yielded somewhere else, or might have
gone all in one grand crash.
Monday. You know the story of the artist and his Statue of Grief--how
he molded the features a hundred times, always failing, always getting
an anti-climax, until at last in despair he gave up the impossible and
finished the statue with a veil over the face. I have tried again and again
to assemble words that would give some not too inadequate impression of
that tremendous week in which, with a succession of explosions, each like
the crack of doom, the financial structure that housed eighty millions of
people burst, collapsed, was engulfed. I can not. I must leave it to your
memory or your imagination.
For years the financial leaders, crazed by the excess of power which the
people had in ignorance and over-confidence and slovenly good-nature
permitted them to acquire, had been tearing out the honest foundations on
which alone so vast a structure can hope to rest solid and secure. They
had been substituting rotten beams painted to look like stone and iron.
The crash had to come; the sooner, the better--when a thing is wrong, each
day's delay compounds the cost of righting it. So, with all the horrors of
"Wild Week" in mind, all its physical and mental suffering, all its ruin
and rioting and bloodshed, I still can insist that I am justly proud of my
share in bringing it about. The blame and the shame are wholly upon those
who made "Wild Week" necessary and inevitable.
In catastrophes, the cry is "Each for himself!" But in a cataclysm, the
obvious wise selfishness is generosity, and the cry is, "Stand together,
for, singly, we perish." This was a cataclysm. No one could save himself,
except the few who, taking my often-urged advice and following my example,
had entered the ark of ready money. Farmer and artisan and professional man
and laborer owed merchant; merchant owed banker; banker owed depositor. No
one could pay because no one could get what was due him or could realize
upon his property. The endless chain of credit that binds together the
whole of modern society had snapped in a thousand places. It must be
repaired, instantly and securely. But how--and by whom?
I issued a clear statement of the situation; I showed in minute detail how
the people standing together under the leadership of the honest men of
property could easily force the big bandits to consent to an honest, just,
rock-founded, iron-built reconstruction. My statement appeared in all the
morning papers throughout the land. Turn back to it; read it. You will say
that I was right. Well--
Toward two o'clock Inspector Crawford came into my private office, escorted
by Joe. I saw in Joe's seamed, green-gray face that some new danger had
arisen. "You've got to get out of this," said he. "The mob in front of our
place fills the three streets. It's made up of crowds turned away from the
I remembered the sullen faces and the hisses as I entered the office that
morning earlier than usual. My windows were closed to keep out the street
noises; but now that my mind was up from the work in which I had been
absorbed, I could hear the sounds of many voices, even through the thick
"We've got two hundred policemen here," said the inspector. "Five hundred
more are on the way. But--really, Mr. Blacklock, unless we can get you
away, there'll be serious trouble. Those damn newspapers! Every one of them
denounced you this morning, and the people are in a fury against you."
I went toward the door.
"Hold on, Matt!" cried Joe, springing at me and seizing me, "Where are you
"To tell them what I think of them," replied I, sweeping him aside. For my
blood was up, and I was enraged against the poor cowardly fools.
"For God's sake don't show yourself!" he begged. "If you don't care for
your own life, think of the rest of us. We've fixed a route through
buildings and under streets up to Broadway. Your electric is waiting for
"It won't do," I said. "I'll face 'em--it's the only way."
I went to the window, and was about to throw up one of the sunblinds for
a look at them; Crawford stopped me. "They'll stone the building and then
storm it," said he. "You must go at once, by the route we've arranged."
"Even if you tell them I'm gone, they won't believe it," replied I.
"We can look out for that," said Joe, eager to save me, and caring nothing
about consequences to himself. But I had unsettled the inspector.
"Send for my electric to come down here," said I. "I'll go out alone and
get in it and drive away."
"That'll never do!" cried Joe.
But the inspector said: "You're right, Mr. Blacklock. It's a bare chance.
You may take 'em by surprise. Again, some fellow may yell and throw a stone
and--" He did not need to finish.
Joe looked wildly at me. "You mustn't do it, Matt!" he exclaimed. "You'll
precipitate a riot, Crawford, if you permit this."
But the inspector was telephoning for my electric. Then he went into the
adjoining room, where he commanded a view of the entrance. Silence between
Joe and me until he returned.
"The electric is coming down the street," said he.
I rose. "Good," said I. "I'm ready."
"Wait until the other police get here," advised Crawford.
"If the mob is in the temper you describe," said I, "the less that's done
to irritate it the better. I must go out as if I hadn't a suspicion of
The inspector eyed me with an expression that was highly flattering to my
"I'll go with you," said Joe, starting up from his stupor.
"No," I replied. "You and the other fellows can take the underground route,
if it's necessary."
"It won't be necessary," put in the inspector. "As soon as I'm rid of you
and have my additional force, I'll clear the streets." He went to the door.
"Wait, Mr. Blacklock, until I've had time to get out to my men."
Perhaps ten seconds after he disappeared, I, without further words, put on
my hat, lit a cigar, shook Joe's wet, trembling hand, left in it my private
keys and the memorandum of the combination of my private vault. Then I
I had always had a ravenous appetite for excitement, and I had been in
many a tight place; but for the first time there seemed to me to be an
equilibrium between my internal energy and the outside situation. As I
stepped from my street door and glanced about me, I had no feeling of
danger. The whole situation seemed so simple. There stood the electric,
just across the narrow stretch of sidewalk; there were the two hundred
police, under Crawford's orders, scattered everywhere through the crowd,
and good-naturedly jostling and pushing to create distraction. Without
haste, I got into my machine. I calmly met the gaze of those thousands,
quiet as so many barrels of gunpowder before the explosion. The chauffeur
turned the machine.
"Go slow," I called to him. "You might hurt somebody."
But he had his orders from the inspector. He suddenly darted ahead at full
speed. The mob scattered in every direction, and we were in Broadway, bound
up town full-tilt, before I or the mob realized what he was about.
I called to him to slow down. He paid not the slightest attention. I leaned
from the window and looked up at him. It was not my chauffeur; it was a man
who had the unmistakable but indescribable marks of the plain-clothes
"Where are you going?" I shouted.
"You'll find out when we arrive," he shouted back, grinning.
I settled myself and waited--what else was there to do? Soon I guessed we
were headed for the pier off which my yacht was anchored. As we dashed on
to it, I saw that it was filled with police, both in uniform and in plain
clothes. I descended. A detective sergeant stepped up to me. "We are here
to help you to your yacht," he explained. "You wouldn't be safe anywhere in
New York--no more would the place that harbored you."
He had both common sense and force on his side. I got into the launch. Four
detective sergeants accompanied me and went aboard with me. "Go ahead,"
said one of them to my captain. He looked at me for orders.
"We are in the hands of our guests," said I. "Let them have their way."
We steamed down the bay and out to sea.
* * * * *
From Maine to Texas the cry rose and swelled:
"Blacklock is responsible! What does it matter whether he lied or told the
truth? See the results of his crusade! He ought to be pilloried! He ought
to be killed! He is the enemy of the human race. He has almost plunged
the whole civilized world into bankruptcy and civil war." And they turned
eagerly to the very autocrats who had been oppressing them. "You have the
genius for finance and industry. Save us!"
If you did not know, you could guess how those patriots with the "genius
for finance and industry" responded. When they had done, when their program
was in effect, Langdon, Melville and Updegraff were the three richest men
in the country, and as powerful as Octavius, Antony and Lepidus after
Philippi. They had saddled upon the reorganized finance and industry of the
nation heavier taxes than ever, and a vaster and more expensive and more
luxurious army of their parasites.
The people had risen for financial and industrial freedom; they had paid
its fearful price; then, in senseless panic and terror, they flung it away.
I have read that one of the inscriptions on Apollo's temple at Delphi was,
"Man, the fool of the farce." Truly, the gods must have created us for
their amusement; and when Olympus palls, they ring up the curtain on some
such screaming comedy as was that. It "makes the fancy chuckle, while the
heart doth ache."
"BLACK MATT'S" TRIUMPH
My enemies caused it to be widely believed that "Wild Week" was my
deliberate contrivance for the sole purpose of enriching myself. Thus they
got me a reputation for almost superhuman daring, for satanic astuteness at
cold-blooded calculation. I do not deserve the admiration and respect that
my success-worshiping fellow countrymen lay at my feet. True, I did greatly
enrich myself; but _not until the Monday after Wild Week_.
Not until I had pondered on men and events with the assistance of the
newspapers my detective protectors and jailers permitted to be brought
aboard--not until the last hope of turning Wild Week to the immediate
public advantage had sputtered out like a lost man's last match, did I
think of benefiting myself, of seizing the opportunity to strengthen myself
for the future. On Monday morning, I said to Sergeant Mulholland: "I want
to go ashore at once and send some telegrams."
The sergeant is one of the detective bureau's "dress-suit men." He is by
nature phlegmatic and cynical. His experience has put over that a veneer
of weary politeness. We had become great friends during our enforced
inseparable companionship. For Joe, who looked on me somewhat as a mother
looks on a brilliant but erratic son, had, as I soon discovered, elaborated
a wonderful program for me. It included a watch on me day and night, lest,
through rage or despondency, I should try to do violence to myself. A fine
character, that Joe! But, to return, Mulholland answered my request for
shore-leave with a soothing smile. "Can't do it, Mr. Blacklock," he said.
"Our orders are positive. But when we put in at New London and send ashore
for further instructions, and for the papers, you can send in your
"As you please," said I. And I gave him a cipher telegram to Joe--an order
to invest my store of cash, which meant practically my whole fortune, in
the gilt-edged securities that were to be had for cash at a small fraction
of their value.
This on the Monday after Wild Week, please note. I would have helped the
people to deliver themselves from the bondage of the bandits. They would
not have it. I would even have sacrificed my all in trying to save them in
spite of themselves. But what is one sane man against a stampeded multitude
of maniacs? For confirmation of my disinterestedness, I point to all those
weeks and months during which I waged costly warfare on "The Seven," who
would gladly have given me more than I now have, could I have been bribed
to desist. But, when I was compelled to admit that I had overestimated my
fellow men, that the people wear the yoke because they have not yet become
intelligent and competent enough to be free, then and not until then did I
abandon the hopeless struggle.
And I did not go over to the bandits; I simply resumed my own neglected
personal affairs and made Wild Week at least a personal triumph.
There is nothing of the spectacular in my make-up. I have no belief in
the value of martyrs and martyrdom. Causes are not won--and in my humble
opinion never have been won--in the graveyards. Alive and afoot and armed,
and true to my cause, I am the dreaded menace to systematic and respectable
robbery. What possible good could have come of mobs killing me and the
bandits dividing my estate?
But why should I seek to justify myself? I care not a rap for the opinion
of my fellow men. They sought my life when they should have been hailing me
as a deliverer; now, they look up to me because they falsely believe me
guilty of an infamy.
My guards expected to be recalled on Tuesday. But Melville heard what
Crawford had done about me, and straightway used his influence to have me
detained until the new grip of the old gang was secure. Saturday afternoon
we put in at Newport for the daily communication with the shore. When the
launch returned, Mulholland brought the papers to me, lounging aft in a
mass of cushions under the awning. "We are going ashore," said he. "The
order has come."
I had a sudden sense of loneliness. "I'll take you down to New York," said
I. "I prefer to land my guests where I shipped them."
As we steamed slowly westward I read the papers. The country was rapidly
readjusting itself, was returning to the conditions before the upheaval.
The "financiers"--the same old gang, except for a few of the weaker
brethren ruined and a few strong outsiders, who had slipped in during the
confusion--were employing all the old, familiar devices for deceiving and
robbing the people. The upset milking-stool was righted, and the milker was
seated again and busy, the good old cow standing without so much as shake
of horn or switch of tail. "Mulholland," said I, "what do you think of this
business of living?"
"I'll tell you, Mr. Blacklock," said he. "I used to fuss and fret a good
deal about it. But I don't any more. I've got a house up in the Bronx,
and a bit of land round it. And there's Mrs. Mulholland and four little
Mulhollands and me--that's my country and my party and my religion. The
rest is off my beat, and I don't give a damn for it. I don't care which
fakir gets to be president, or which swindler gets to be rich. Everything
works out somehow, and the best any man can do is to mind his own
"Mulholland--Mrs. Mulholland--four little Mulhollands," said I
reflectively. "That's about as much as one man could attend to properly.
And--you are 'on the level,' aren't you?"
"Some say honesty's the best policy," replied he. "Some say it isn't. I
don't know, and I don't care, whether it is or it isn't. It's _my_
policy. And we six seem to have got along on it so far."
I sent my "guests" ashore the next morning.
"No, I'll stay aboard," said I to Mulholland, as he stood aside for me to
precede him down the gangway from the launch. I went into the watch-pocket
of my trousers and drew out the folded two one-thousand-dollar bills I
always carried--it was a habit formed in my youthful, gambling days. I
handed him one of the bills. He hesitated.
"For the four little Mulhollands," I urged.
He put it in his pocket. I watched him and his men depart with a heavy
heart. I felt alone, horribly alone, without a tie or an interest. Some of
the morning papers spoke respectfully of me as one of the strong men who
had ridden the flood and had been landed by it on the heights of wealth
and power. Admiration and envy lurked even in sneers at my "unscrupulous
plotting." Since I had wealth, plenty of wealth, I did not need character.
Of what use was character in such a world except as a commodity to exchange
"Any orders, sir?" interrupted my captain.
I looked round that vast and vivid scene of sea and land activities. I
looked along the city's titanic sky-line--the mighty fortresses of trade
and commerce piercing the heavens and flinging to the wind their black
banners of defiance. I felt that I was under the walls of hell itself.
"To get away from this," replied I to the waiting captain. "Go back down
the Sound--to Dawn Hill."
Yes, I would go to the peaceful, soothing country, to my dogs and horses
and those faithful servants bound to me by our common love for the same
animals. "Men to cross swords with, to amuse oneself with," I mused; "but
dogs and horses to live with." I pictured myself at the kennels--the joyful
uproar the instant instinct warned the dogs of my coming; how they would
leap and bark and tremble in a very ecstasy of delight as I stood among
them; how jealous all the others would be, as I selected one to caress.
"Send her ahead as fast as she'll go," I called to the captain.
As the _Albatross_ steamed into the little harbor, I saw Mowbray
Langdon's _Indolence_ at anchor. I glanced toward Steuben Point--where
his cousins, the Vivians, lived--and thought I recognized his launch at
their pier. We saluted the _Indolence_; the _Indolence_ saluted
us. My launch was piped away and took me ashore. I strolled along the path
that wound round the base of the hill toward the kennels. At the crossing
of the path down from the house, I paused and lingered on the glimpse
of one of the corner towers of the great showy palace. I was muttering
something--I listened to myself. It was: "Mulholland, Mrs. Mulholland and
the four little Mulhollands." And I felt like laughing aloud, such a joke
was it that I should be envying a policeman his potato patch and his fat
wife and his four brats, and that he should be in a position to pity me.
You may be imagining that, through all, Anita had been dominating my mind.
That is the way it is in the romances; but not in life. No doubt there are
men who brood upon the impossible, and moon and maunder away their lives
over the grave of a dead love; no doubt there are people who will say that,
because I did not shoot Langdon or her, or myself, or fly to a desert or
pose in the crowded places of the world as the last scene of a tragedy,
I therefore cared little about her. I offer them this suggestion: A man
strong enough to give a love worth a woman's while is strong enough to live
on without her when he finds he may not live with her.
As I stood there that summer day, looking toward the crest of the hill,
at the mocking mausoleum of my dead dream, I realized what the incessant
battle of the Street had meant to me. "There is peace for me only in the
storm," said I. "But, thank God, there is peace for me somewhere."
Through the foliage I had glimpses of some one coming slowly down the
zigzag path. Presently, at one of the turnings half-way up the hill,
appeared Mowbray Langdon. "What is he doing here," thought I, scarcely able
to believe my eyes. "Here of all places!" And then I forgot the strangeness
of his being at Dawn Hill in the strangeness of his expression. For it was
apparent, even at the distance which separated us, that he was suffering
from some great and recent blow. He looked old and haggard; he walked like
a man who neither knows nor cares where he is going.
He had not seen me, and my impulse was to avoid him by continuing on toward
the kennels. I had no especial feeling against him; I had not lost Anita
because she cared for him or he for her, but because she did not care for
me--simply that to meet would be awkward, disagreeable for us both. At the
slight noise of my movement to go on, he halted, glanced round eagerly,
as if he hoped the sound had been made by some one he wished to see. His
glance fell on me. He stopped short, was for an instant disconcerted; then
his face lighted up with devilish joy. "You!" he cried. "Just the man!" And
he descended more rapidly.
At first I could make nothing of this remark. But as he drew nearer and
nearer, and his ugly mood became more and more apparent, I felt that he was
looking forward to provoking me into giving him a distraction from whatever
was tormenting him. I waited. A few minutes and we were face to face, I
outwardly calm, but my anger slowly lighting up as he deliberately applied
to it the torch of his insolent eyes. He was wearing his old familiar
air of cynical assurance. Evidently, with his recovered fortune, he had
recovered his conviction of his great superiority to the rest of the human
race--the child had climbed back on the chair that made it tall and had
forgotten its tumble. And I was wondering again that I, so short a time
before, had been crude enough to be fascinated and fooled by those tawdry
posings and pretenses. For the man, as I now saw him, was obviously shallow
and vain, a slave to those poor "man-of-the-world" passions--ostentation
and cynicism and skill at vices old as mankind and tedious as a treadmill,
the commonplace routine of the idle and foolish and purposeless. A clever,
handsome fellow, but the more pitiful that he was by nature above the uses
to which he prostituted himself.
He fought hard to keep his eyes steadily on mine; but they would waver and
shift. Not, however, before I had found deep down in them the beginnings
of fear. "You see, you were mistaken," said I. "You have nothing to say to
me--or I to you."
He knew I had looked straight to the bottom of his real self, and had seen
the coward that is in every man who has been bred to appearances only. Up
rose his vanity, the coward's substitute for courage.
"You think I am afraid of you?" he sneered, bluffing and blustering like
the school bully.
"I don't in the least care whether you are or not," replied I. "What are
you doing here, anyhow?"
It was as if I had thrown off the cover of a furnace. "I came to get the
woman I love," he cried. "You stole her from me! You tricked me! But, by
God, Blacklock, I'll never pause until I get her back and punish you!"
He was brave enough now, drunk with the fumes from his brave words. "All
my life," he raged arrogantly on, "I've had whatever I wanted. I've let
nothing interfere--nothing and nobody. I've been too forbearing with
you--first, because I knew she could never care for you, and, then, because
I rather admired your pluck and impudence. I like to see fellows kick their
way up among us from the common people."
I put my hand on his shoulder. No doubt the fiend that rose within me, as
from the dead, looked at him from my eyes. He has great physical strength,
but he winced under that weight and grip, and across his face flitted the
terror that must come to any man at first sense of being in the angry
clutch of one stronger than he. I slowly released him--I had tested and
realized my physical superiority; to use it would be cheap and cowardly.
"You can't provoke me to descend to your level," said I, with the easy
philosophy of him who clearly has the better of the argument.
He was shaking from head to foot, not with terror, but with impotent rage.
How much we owe to accident! The mere accident of my physical superiority
had put him at hopeless disadvantage; had made him feel inferior to me as
no victory of mental or moral superiority could possibly have done. And I
myself felt a greater contempt for him than the discovery of his treachery
and his shallowness had together inspired.
"I shan't indulge in flapdoodle," I went on. "I'll be frank. A year ago, if
any man had faced me with a claim upon a woman who was married to me, I'd
probably have dealt with him as your vanity and what you call 'honor' would
force you to try to deal with a similar situation. But I live to learn, and
I'm, fortunately, not afraid to follow a new light. There is the vanity of
so-called honor; there as also the demand of justice--of fair play. As I
have told her, so I now tell you--she is free to go. But I shall say one
thing to you that I did not say to her. If you do not deal fairly with her,
I shall see to it that there are ten thorns to every rose in that bed of
roses on which you lie. You are contemptible in many ways--perhaps that's
why women like you. But there must be some good in you, or possibilities of
good, or you could not have won and kept her love."
He was staring at me with a dazed expression. I rather expected him to show
some of that amused contempt with which men of his sort always receive a
new idea that is beyond the range of their narrow, conventional minds. For
I did not expect him to understand why I was not only willing, but even
eager, to relinquish a woman whom I could hold only by asserting a property
right in her. And I do not think he did understand me, though his manner
changed to a sort of grudging respect. He was, I believe, about to make
some impulsive, generous speech, when we heard the quick strokes of
iron-shod hoofs on the path from the kennels and the stables--is there
any sound more arresting? Past us at a gallop swept a horse, on his
back--Anita. She was not in riding-habit; the wind fluttered the sleeves of
her blouse, blew her uncovered hair this way and that about her beautiful
face. She sped on toward the landing, though I fancied she had seen us.
Anita at Dawn Hill--Langdon, in a furious temper, descending from the house
toward the landing--Anita presently, riding like mad--"to overtake him,"
thought I. And I read confirmation in his triumphant eyes. In another
mood, I suppose my fury would have been beyond my power to restrain it.
Just then--the day grew dark for me, and I wanted to hide away somewhere.
Heart-sick, I was ashamed for her, hated myself for having blundered into
She reappeared at the turn round which she had vanished. I now tooted that
she was riding without saddle or bridle, with only a halter round the
horse's neck--then she had seen us, had stopped and come back as soon as
she could. She dropped from the horse, looked swiftly at me, at him, at me
again, with intense anxiety.
"I saw your yacht in the harbor only a moment ago," she said to me. She was
almost panting. "I feared you might meet him. So I came."
"As you see, he is quite--intact," said I. "I must ask that you and he
leave the place at once." And I went rapidly along the path toward the
An exclamation from Langdon forced me to turn in spite of myself. He was
half-kneeling, was holding her in his arms. At that sight, the savage in
me shook himself free. I dashed toward them with I knew not what curses
bursting from me. Langdon, intent upon her, did not realize until I sent
him reeling backward to the earth and snatched her up. Her white face, her
closed eyes, her limp form made my fury instantly collapse. In my confusion
I thought that she was dead. I laid her gently on the grass and supported
her head, so small, so gloriously crowned, the face so still and sweet and
white, like the stainless entrance to a stainless shrine. How that horrible
fear changed my whole way of looking at her, at him, at her and him, at
Her eyelids were quivering--her eyes were opening--her bosom was rising and
falling slowly as she drew long, uncertain breaths. She shuddered, sat up,
started up. "Go! go!" she cried. "Bring him back! Bring him back! Bring
There she recognized me. "Oh," she said, and gave a great sigh of relief.
She leaned against a tree and looked at Langdon. "You are still here? Then
Langdon gazed sullenly at the ground. "I can't," he answered. "I don't
believe it. Besides--he has given you to me. Let us go. Let me take you to
the Vivians." He threw out his arms in a wild, passionate gesture; he was
utterly unlike himself. His emotion burst through and shattered pose and
cynicism and hard crust of selfishness like the exploding powder bursting
the shell. "I can't give you up, Anita!" he exclaimed in a tone of utter
desperation. "I can't! I can't!"
But her gaze was all this time steadily on me, as if she feared I would go,
should she look away. "I will tell you myself," she said rapidly, to me.
"We--uncle Howard and I--read in the papers how they had all turned against
you, and he brought me over here. He has been telegraphing for you. This
morning he went to town to search for you. About an hour ago Langdon came.
I refused to see him, as I have ever since the time I told you about at
Alva's. He persisted, until at last I had the servant request him to leave
"But _now_ there's no longer any reason for your staying, Anita," he
pleaded. "He has said you are free. Why stay when _you_ would really
no more be here than if you were to go, leaving one of your empty dresses?"
She had not for an instant taken her gaze from me; and so strange were her
eyes, so compelling, that I seemed unable to move or speak.
But now she released me to blaze upon him--and never shall I forget any
detail of her face or voice as she said to him: "That is false, Mowbray
Langdon. I told you the truth when I told you I loved him!"
So violent was her emotion that she had to pause for self-control. And I?
I was overwhelmed, dazed, stunned. When she went on, she was looking at
neither of us. "Yes, I loved him, almost from the first--from the day he
came to the box at the races. I was ashamed, poor creature that my parents
had made me! I was ashamed of it. And I tried to hate him, and thought I
did. And when he showed me that he no longer cared, my pride goaded me into
the folly of trying to listen to you. But I loved him more than ever. And
as you and he stand here, I am ashamed again--ashamed that I was ever so
blind and ignorant and prejudiced as to compare him with"--she looked at
Langdon--"with you. Do you believe me now--now that I humble myself before
him here in your presence?"
I should have had no heart at all if I had not felt pity for him. His face
was gray, and on it were those signs of age that strong emotion brings to
the surface after forty. "You could have convinced me in no other way," he
replied, after a silence, and in a voice I should not have recognized.
Silence again. Presently he raised his head, and with something of his old