Part 4 out of 5
That was the substance of it all. There was much affectionate counsel
and loving sympathy mingled with all the inflexible orders of obedience,
but the sin must be faced and extirpated in presence of the enemy.
On the morrow Father Damon went back to his solitary rooms, to his
chapel, to the round of visitations, to his work with the poor, the
sinful, the hopeless. He did not seek her; he tried not to seem to avoid
her, or to seem to shun the streets where he was most likely to meet her,
and the neighborhoods she frequented. Perhaps he did avoid them a
little, and he despised himself for doing it. Almost involuntarily he
looked to the bench by the chapel door which she occasionally occupied at
vespers. She was never there, and he condemned himself for thinking that
she might be; but yet wherever he walked there was always the expectation
that he might encounter her. As the days went by and she did not appear,
his expectation became a kind of torture. Was she ill, perhaps? It
could not be that she had deserted her work.
And then he began to examine himself with a morbid introspection. Had
the hope that he should see her occasionally influenced him at all in his
obedience to Father Monies? Had he, in fact, a longing to be in the
streets where she had walked, among the scenes that had witnessed her
beautiful devotion? Had his willingness to take up this work again been
because it brought him nearer to her in spirit?
No, she could not be ill. He heard her spoken of, here and there, in his
calls and ministrations to the sick and dying. Evidently she was going
about her work as usual. Perhaps she was avoiding him. Or perhaps she
did not care, after all, and had lost her respect for him when he
discovered to her his weakness. And he had put himself on a plane so
high above her.
There was no conscious wavering in his purpose. But from much dwelling
upon the thought, from much effort rather to put it away, his desire only
to see her grew stronger day by day. He had no fear. He longed to test
himself. He was sure that he would be impassive, and be all the stronger
for the test. He was more devoted than ever in his Work. He was more
severe with himself, more charitable to others, and he could not doubt
that he was gaining a hold-yes, a real hold-upon the lives of many about
him. The attendance was better at the chapel; more of the penitent and
forlorn came to him for help. And how alone he was! My God, never even
to see her!
In fact, Ruth Leigh was avoiding him. It was partly from a womanly
reserve--called into expression in this form for the first time--and
partly from a wish to spare him pain. She had been under no illusion
from the first about the hopelessness of the attachment. She
comprehended his character so thoroughly that she knew that for him any
fall from his ideal would mean his ruin. He was one of the rare spirits
of faith astray in a skeptical age. For a time she had studied curiously
his efforts to adapt himself to his surroundings. One of these was
joining a Knights of Labor lodge. Another was his approach to the
ethical-culture movement of some of the leaders in the Neighborhood
Guild. Another was his interest in the philanthropic work of agnostics
like herself. She could see that he, burning with zeal to save the souls
of men, and believing that there was no hope for the world except in the
renunciation of the world, instinctively shrank from these contacts,
which, nevertheless, he sought in the spirit of a Jesuit missionary to a
It was possible for such a man to be for a time overmastered by human
passion; it was possible even that he might reason himself temporarily
into conduct that this natural passion seemed to justify; yet she never
doubted that there would follow an awakening from that state of mind as
from a horrible delusion. It was simply because Ruth Leigh was guided by
the exercise of reason, and had built up her scheme of life upon facts
that she believed she could demonstrate, that she saw so clearly their
relations, and felt that the faith, which was to her only a vagary of the
material brain, was to him an integral part of his life.
Love, to be sure, was as unexpected in her scheme of life as it was in
his; but there was on her part no reason why she should not yield to it.
There was every reason in her nature and in her theory why she should,
for, bounded as her vision of life was by this existence, love was the
highest conceivable good in life. It had been with a great shout of joy
that the consciousness had come to her that she loved and was loved.
Though she might never see him again, this supreme experience for man or
woman, this unsealing of the sacred fountain of life, would be for her an
enduring sweetness in her lonely and laborious pilgrimage. How strong
love is they best know to whom it is offered and denied.
And why, so far as she was concerned, should she deny it? An ordinary
woman probably would not. Love is reason enough. Why should artificial
conventions defeat it? Why should she sacrifice herself, if he were
willing to brave the opinion of the world for her sake? Was it any new
thing for good men to do this? But Ruth Leigh was not an ordinary woman.
Perhaps if her intellect had not been so long dominant over her heart it
would have been different. But the habit of being guided by reason was
second nature. She knew that not only his vow, but the habit of life
engendered by the vow, was an insuperable barrier. And besides, and this
was the touchstone of her conception of life and duty, she felt that if
he were to break his vow, though she might love him, her respect for him
would be impaired.
It was a singular phenomenon--very much remarked at the time--that the
women who did not in the least share Father Damon's spiritual faith, and
would have called themselves in contradistinction materialists, were
those who admired him most, were in a way his followers, loved to attend
his services, were inspired by his personality, and drawn to him in a
loving loyalty. The attraction to these very women was his
unworldliness, his separateness, his devotion to an ideal which in their
reason seemed a delusion. And no women would have been more sensitive
than they to his fall from his spiritual pinnacle.
It was easy with a little contrivance to avoid meeting him. She did not
go to the chapel or in its neighborhood when he was likely to be going to
or from service. She let others send for him when in her calls his
ministration was required, and she was careful not to linger where he was
likely to come. A little change in the time of her rounds was made
without neglecting her work, for that she would not do, and she trusted
that if accident threw him in her way, circumstances would make it
natural and not embarrassing. And yet his image was never long absent
from her thoughts; she wondered if he were dejected, if he were ill, if
he were lonely, and mostly there was for him a great pity in her heart, a
pity born, alas! of her own sense of loneliness.
How much she was repressing her own emotions she knew one evening when
she returned from her visits and found a letter in his handwriting. The
sight of it was a momentary rapture, and then the expectation of what it
might contain gave her a feeling of faintness. The letter was long. Its
coming needs a word of explanation.
Father Damon had begun to use the Margaret Fund. He found that its
judicious use was more perplexing than he had supposed. He needed
advice, the advice of those who had more knowledge than he had of the
merits of relief cases. And then there might be many sufferers whom he
in his limited field neglected. It occurred to him that Dr. Leigh would
be a most helpful co-almoner. No sooner did this idea come to him than
he was spurred to put it into effect. This common labor would be a sort
of bond between them, a bond of charity purified from all personal alloy.
He went at once to Mr. Henderson's office and told him his difficulties,
and about Dr. Leigh's work, and the opportunities she would have. Would
it not be possible for Dr. Leigh to draw from the fund on her own checks
independent of him? Mr. Henderson thought not. Dr. Leigh was no doubt a
good woman, but he didn't know much about woman visitors and that sort;
their sympathies were apt to run away with them, and he should prefer at
present to have the fund wholly under Father Damon's control. Some time,
he intimated, he might make more lasting provisions with trustees. It
would be better for Father Damon to give Dr. Leigh money as he saw she
The letter recited this at length; it had a check endorsed, and the
writer asked the doctor to be his almoner. He dwelt very much upon the
relief this would be to him, and the opportunity it would give her in
many emergencies, and the absolute confidence he had in her discretion,
as well as in her quick sympathy with the suffering about them. And also
it would be a great satisfaction to him to feel that he was associated
with her in such a work.
In its length, in its tone of kindliness, of personal confidence,
especially in its length, it was evident that the writing of it had been
a pleasure, if not a relief, to the sender. Ruth read it and reread it.
It was as if Father Damon were there speaking to her. She could hear the
tones of his voice. And the glance of love--that last overmastering
appeal and cry thrilled through her soul.
But in the letter there was no love; to any third person it would have
read like an ordinary friendly philanthropic request. And her reply,
accepting gratefully his trust, was almost formal, only the writer felt
that she was writing out of her heart.
The Roman poet Martial reckons among the elements of a happy life "an
income left, not earned by toil," and also "a wife discreet, yet blythe
and bright." Felicity in the possession of these, the epigrammatist
might have added, depends upon content in the one and full appreciation
of the other.
Jack Delancy returned from Washington more discontented than when he
went. His speculation hung fire in a most tantalizing way; more than
that, it had absorbed nearly all the "income not earned by toil," which
was at the hazard of operations he could neither control nor comprehend.
And besides, this little fortune had come to seem contemptibly
inadequate. In his associations of the past year his spendthrift habits
had increased, and he had been humiliated by his inability to keep pace
with the prodigality of those with whom he was most intimate. Miss
Tavish was an heiress in her own right, who never seemed to give a
thought to the cost of anything she desired; the Hendersons, for any
whim, drew upon a reservoir of unknown capacity; and even Mavick began to
talk as if he owned a flock of geese that laid golden eggs.
To be sure, it was pleasant coming home into an atmosphere of sincerity,
of worship--was it not? It was very flattering to his self-esteem. The
master had come! The house was in commotion. Edith flew to meet him,
hugged him, shook him, criticised his appearance, rallied him for a
recreant father. How well she looked-buoyant, full of vivacity, running
over with joy, asking a dozen questions before he could answer one,
testifying her delight, her affection, in a hundred ways. And the boy!
He was so eager to see his papa. He could converse now--that is, in his
way. And that prodigy, when Jack was dragged into his presence, and also
fell down with Edith and worshiped him in his crib, did actually smile,
and appear to know that this man belonged to him, was a part of his
"Do you know," said Edith, looking at the boy critically, "I think of
making Fletcher a present, if you approve."
"He'll want some place to go to in the summer. I want to buy that old
place where he was born and give it to him. Don't you think it would be
a good investment?"
"Yes, permanent," replied Jack, laughing at such a mite of a real-estate
"I know he would like it. And you don't object?"
"Not in the least. It's next to an ancestral feeling to be the father of
They were standing close to the crib, his arm resting lightly across her
shoulders. He drew her closer to him, and kissed her tenderly. "The
little chap has a golden-hearted mother. I don't know why he should not
have a Golden House."
Her eyes filled with sudden tears. She could not speak. But both arms
were clasped round his neck now. She was too happy for words. And the
baby, looking on with large eyes, seemed to find nothing unusual in the
proceeding. He was used to a great deal of this sort of nonsense
It was a happy evening. In truth, after the first surprise, Jack was
pleased with this contemplated purchase. It was something removed beyond
temptation. Edith's property was secure to her, and it was his honorable
purpose never to draw it into his risks. But he knew her generosity, and
he could not answer for himself if she should offer it, as he was sure
she would do, to save him from ruin.
There was all the news to tell, the harmless gossip of daily life, which
Edith had a rare faculty of making dramatically entertaining, with her
insight and her feeling for comedy. There had been a musicale at the
Blunts'--oh, strictly amateur--and Edith ran to the piano and imitated
the singers and took off the players, until Jack declared that it beat
the Conventional Club out of sight. And she had been to a parlor mind-
cure lecture, and to a Theosophic conversation, and to a Reading Club for
the Cultivation of a Feeling for Nature through Poetry. It was all
immensely solemn and earnest. And Jack wondered that the managers did
not get hold of these things and put them on the stage. Nothing could
draw like them. Not burlesques, though, said Edith; not in the least.
If only these circles would perform in public as they did in private, how
they would draw!
And then Father Damon had been to consult her about his fund. He had
been ill, and would not stay, and seemed more severe and ascetic than
ever. She was sure something was wrong. For Dr. Leigh, whom she had
sought out several times, was reserved, and did not voluntarily speak of
Father Damon; she had heard that he was throwing himself with more than
his usual fervor into his work. There was plenty to talk about.
The purchase of the farm by the sea had better not be delayed; Jack might
have to go down and see the owner. Yes, he would make it his first
business in the morning. Perhaps it would be best to get some Long-
Islander to buy it for them.
By the time it was ten o'clock, Jack said he thought he would step down
to the Union a moment. Edith's countenance fell. There might be
letters, he explained, and he had a little matter of business; he
wouldn't be late.
It was very agreeable, home was, and Edith was charming. He could
distinctly feel that she was charming. But Jack was restless. He felt
the need of talking with somebody about what was on his mind. If only
with Major Fairfax. He would not consult the Major, but the latter was
in the way of picking up all sorts of gossip, both social and Street
And the Major was willing to unpack his budget. It was not very
reassuring, what he had to tell; in fact, it was somewhat depressing, the
general tightness and the panicky uncertainty, until, after a couple of
glasses of Scotch, the financial world began to open a little and seem
"The Hendersons are going to build," Jack said at length, after a remark
of the Major's about that famous operator.
"Build? What for? They've got a palace."
"Carmen says it's for an object-lesson. To show New York millionaires
how to adorn their city."
"It's like that little schemer. What does Henderson say?"
"He appears to be willing. I can't get the hang of Henderson. He
doesn't seem to care what his wife does. He's a cynical cuss. The other
night, at dinner, in Washington, when the thing was talked over, he said:
'My dear, I don't know why you shouldn't do that as well as anything.
Let's build a house of gold, as Nero did; we are in the Roman age.'
Carmen looked dubious for a moment, but she said, 'You know, Rodney, that
you always used to say that some time you would show New York what a
house ought to be in this climate.' 'Well, go on,' and he laughed.
'I suppose lightning will not strike that sooner than anything else.'"
"Seems to me," said the Major, reflectively, reaching out his hand for
the brown mug, "the way he gives that woman her head, and doesn't care
what she does, he must have a contempt for her."
"I wish somebody had that sort of contempt for me," said Jack, filling up
his glass also.
"But, I tell you," he continued, "Mrs. Henderson has caught on to the new
notions. Her idea is the union of all the arts. She has already got the
refusal of a square 'way up-town, on the rise opposite the Park, and has
been consulting architects about it. It is to be surrounded with the
building, with a garden in the interior, a tropical garden, under glass
in the winter. The facades are to be gorgeous and monumental. Artists
and sculptors are to decorate it, inside and out. Why shouldn't there be
color on the exterior, gold and painting, like the Fugger palaces in
Augsburg, only on a great scale? The artists don't see any reason why
there should not. It will make the city brilliant, that sort of thing,
in place of our monotonous stone lanes. And it's using her wealth for
the public benefit-the architects and artists all say that. Gad, I don't
know but the little woman is beginning to regard herself as a public
"She is that or nothing," echoed the Major, warmly.
"And do you know," continued Jack, confidentially, "I think she's got the
right idea. If I have any luck--of course I sha'n't do that--but if I
have any luck, I mean to build a house that's got some life in it--color,
old boy--something unique and stunning."
"So you will," cried the Major, enthusiastically, and, raising his glass,
"Here's to the house that Jack built!"
It was later than he thought it would be when he went home, but Jack was
attended all the way by a vision of a Golden House--all gold wouldn't be
too good, and he will build it, damme, for Edith and the boy.
The next morning not even the foundations of this structure were visible.
The master of the house came down to a late breakfast, out of sorts with
life, almost surly. Not even Edith's bright face and fresh toilet and
radiant welcome appealed to him. No one would have thought from her
appearance that she had waited for him last night hour after hour, and
had at last gone to bed with a heavy heart, and not to sleep-to toss, and
listen, and suffer a thousand tortures of suspense. How many tragedies
of this sort are there nightly in the metropolis, none the less tragic
because they are subjects of jest in the comic papers and on the stage!
What would be the condition of social life if women ceased to be anxious
in this regard, and let loose the reins in an easy-going indifference?
What, in fact, is the condition in those households where the wives do
not care? One can even perceive a tender sort of loyalty to women in the
ejaculation of that battered old veteran, the Major, "Thank God, there's
nobody sitting up for me!"
Jack was not consciously rude. He even asked about the baby. And he
sipped his coffee and glanced over the morning journal, and he referred
to the conversation of the night before, and said that he would look
after the purchase at once. If Edith had put on an aspect of injury, and
had intimated that she had hoped that his first evening at home might
have been devoted to her and the boy, there might have been a scene, for
Jack needed only an occasion to vent his discontent. And for the
chronicler of social life a scene is so much easier to deal with, an
outburst of temper and sharp language, of accusation and recrimination,
than the well-bred commonplace of an undefined estrangement.
And yet estrangement is almost too strong a word to use in Jack's case.
He would have been the first to resent it. But the truth was that Edith,
in the life he was leading, was a rebuke to him; her very purity and
unworldliness were out of accord with his associations, with his
ventures, with his dissipations in that smart and glittering circle where
he was more welcome the more he lowered his moral standards. Could he
help it if after the first hours of his return he felt the restraint of
his home, and that the life seemed a little flat? Almost unconsciously
to himself, his interests and his inclinations were elsewhere.
Edith, with the divination of a woman, felt this. Last night her love
alone seemed strong enough to hold him, to bring him back to the purposes
and the aspirations that only last summer had appeared to transform him.
Now he was slipping away again. How pitiful it is, this contest of a
woman who has only her own love, her own virtue, with the world and its
allurements and seductions, for the possession of her husband's heart!
How powerless she is against these subtle invitations, these unknown and
all-encompassing temptations! At times the whole drift of life, of the
easy morality of the time, is against her. The current is so strong that
no wonder she is often swept away in it. And what could an impartial
observer of things as they are say otherwise than that John Delancy was
leading the common life of his kind and his time, and that Edith was only
bringing trouble on herself by being out of sympathy with it?
He might not be in at luncheon, he said, when he was prepared to go down-
town. He seldom was. He called at his broker's. Still suspense. He
wrote to the Long Island farmer. At the Union he found a scented note
from Carmen. They had all returned from the capital. How rejoiced she
was to be at home! And she was dying to see him; no, not dying, but very
much living; and it was very important. She should expect him at the
usual hour. And could he guess what gown she would wear?
And Jack went. What hold had this woman on him? Undoubtedly she had
fascinations, but he knew--knew well enough by this time--that her
friendship was based wholly on calculation. And yet what a sympathetic
comrade she could be! How freely he could talk with her; there was no
subject she did not adapt herself to. No doubt it was this adaptability
that made her such a favorite. She did not demand too much virtue or
require too much conventionality. The hours he was with her he was
wholly at his ease. She made him satisfied with himself, and she didn't
disturb his conscience.
"I think," said Jack--he was holding both her hands with a swinging
motion--when she came forward to greet him, and looking at her
critically--"I think I like you better in New York than in Washington."
"That is because you see more of me here."
"Oh, I saw you enough in Washington."
"But that was my public manner. I have to live up to Mr. Henderson's
"And here you only have to live up to mine?"
"I can live for my friends," she replied, with an air of candor, giving a
very perceptible pressure with her little hands. "Isn't that enough?"
Jack kissed each little hand before he let it drop, and looked as if he
"And how does the house get on?"
"Famously. The lot is bought. Mr. Van Brunt was here all the morning.
It's going to be something Oriental, mediaeval, nineteenth-century,
gorgeous, and domestic. Van Brunt says he wants it to represent me."
"How?" inquired Jack; "all the four facades different?"
"With an interior unity--all the styles brought to express an individual
taste, don't you know. A different house from the four sides of
approach, and inside, home--that's the idea."
"It appears to me," said Jack, still bantering, "that it will look like
"That is just what it will not--that is, outside unity, and inside a
menagerie. This won't look gregarious. It is to have not more than
three stories, perhaps only two. And then exterior color, decoration,
"Not too much--not to give it a cheap gilded look. Oh, I asked him about
Nero's house. As I remember it, that was mostly caverns. Mr. Van Brunt
laughed, and said they were not going to excavate this house. The Roman
notion was barbarous grandeur. But in point of beauty and luxury, this
would be as much superior to Nero's house as the electric light is to a
"Not classic, then?"
"Why, all that's good in classic form, with the modern spirit. You ought
to hear Mr. Van Brunt talk. This country has never yet expressed itself
in domestic inhabitation."
"It's going to cost! What does Mr. Henderson say?"
"I think he rather likes it. He told Mr. Van Brunt to consult me and go
ahead with his plans. But he talks queerly. He said he thought he would
have money enough at least for the foundation. Do you think, Jack,"
asked Carmen, with a sudden change of manner, "that Mr. Henderson is
really the richest man in the United States?"
"Some people say so. Really, I don't know how any one can tell. If he
let go his hand from his affairs, I don't know what a panic would do."
Carmen looked thoughtful. "He said to me once that he wasn't afraid of
the Street any more. I told him this morning that I didn't want to begin
this if it was going to incommode him."
"What did he say?"
"He was just going out. He looked at me a moment with that speculative
sort of look-no, it isn't cynical, as you say; I know it so well--and
then said: 'Oh, go ahead. I guess it will be all right. If anything
happens, you can turn it into a boardinghouse. It will be an excellent
sanitarium.' That was all. Anyway, it's something to do. Come, let's
go and see the place." And she started up and touched the bell for the
carriage. It was more than something to do. In those days before her
marriage, when her mother was living, and when they wandered about
Europe, dangerously near to the reputation of adventuresses, the girl had
her dream of chateaux and castles and splendor. Her chance did not come
in Europe, but, as she would have said, Providence is good to those who
The next day Jack went to Long Island, and the farm was bought, and the
deed brought to Edith, who, with much formality, presented it to the boy,
and that young gentleman showed his appreciation of it by trying to eat
it. It would have seemed a pretty incident to Jack, if he had not been
absorbed in more important things.
But he was very much absorbed, and apparently more idle than ever. As
the days went on, and the weeks, he was less and less at home, and in a
worse humor--that is, at home. Carmen did not find him ill-humored, nor
was there any change towards the fellows at the Union, except that it was
noticed that he had his cross days. There was nothing specially to
distinguish him from a dozen others, who led the same life of vacuity, of
mild dissipation, of enforced pleasure. A wager now and then on an
"event"; a fictitious interest in elections; lively partisanship in
society scandals: Not much else. The theatres were stale, and only
endurable on account of the little suppers afterwards; and really there
wasn't much in life except the women who made it agreeable.
Major Fairfax was not a model; there had not much survived out of his
checkered chances and experiences, except a certain instinct of being a
gentleman, sir; the close of his life was not exactly a desirable goal;
but even the Major shook his head over Jack.
The one fact in which men universally agree is that we come into the
world alone and we go out of the world alone; and although we travel in
company, make our pilgrimage to Canterbury or to Vanity Fair in a great
show of fellowship, and of bearing one another's burdens, we carry our
deepest troubles alone. When we think of it, it is an awful lonesomeness
in this animated and moving crowd. Each one either must or will carry
his own burden, which he commonly cannot, or by pride or shame will not,
ask help in carrying.
Henderson drew more and more apart from confidences, and was alone in
building up the colossal structure of his wealth. Father Damon was
carrying his renewed temptation alone, after all his brave confession and
attempt at renunciation. Ruth Leigh plodded along alone, with her secret
which was the joy and the despair of her life--the opening of a gate into
the paradise which she could never enter. Jack Delancy, the confiding,
open-hearted good fellow, had come to a stage in his journey where he
also was alone. Not even to Carmen could he confess the extent of his
embarrassments, nor even in her company, nor in the distraction of his
increasingly dissipated life, could he forget them. Not only had his
investments been all transferred to his speculations, but his home had
been mortgaged, and he did not dare tell Edith of the lowering cloud that
hung over it; and that his sole dependence was the confidence of the
Street, which any rumor might shatter, in that one of Henderson's schemes
to which he had committed himself. Edith, the one person who could have
comforted him, was the last person to whom he could have told this, for
he had the most elementary, and the common conception of what marriage
But Edith's lot was the most pitiful of all. She was not only alone, but
compelled to inaction. She saw the fair fabric of her life dissolving,
and neither by cries nor tears, by appeals nor protest, by show of anger
nor by show of suffering, could she hinder the dissolution. Strong in
herself and full of courage, day by day and week by week she felt her
powerlessness. Heaven knows what it cost her--what it costs all women in
like circumstances--to be always cheerful, never to show distrust. If
her love were not enough, if her attractions were not enough, there was
no human help to which she could appeal.
And what, pray, was there to appeal? There was no visible neglect, no
sufficient alienation for gossip to take hold of. If there was a little
talk about Jack's intimacy elsewhere, was there anything uncommon in
that? Affairs went on as usual. Was it reasonable to suppose that
society should notice that one woman's heart was full of foreboding,
heavy with a sense of loss and defeat, and with the ruin of two lives?
Could simple misery like this rise to the dignity of tragedy in a world
that has its share of tragedies, shocking and violent, but is on the
whole going on decorously and prosperously?
The season wore on. It was the latter part of May. Jack had taken Edith
and the boy down to the Long Island house, and had returned to the city
and was living at his club, feverishly waiting for some change in his
affairs. It was a sufficient explanation of his anxiety that money was
"tight," that failures were daily announced, and that there was a general
fear of worse times. It was fortunate for Jack and other speculators
that they could attribute their ill-luck to the general financial
condition. There were reasons enough for this condition. Some
attributed it to want of confidence, others to the tariff, others to the
action of this or that political party, others to over-production, others
to silver, others to the action of English capitalists in withdrawing.
their investments. It could all be accounted for without referring to
the fact that most of the individual sufferers, like Jack, owed more than
they could pay.
Henderson was much of the time absent--at the West and at the South.
His every move was watched, his least sayings were reported as
significant, and the Street was hopeful or depressed as he seemed to be
cheerful or unusually taciturn. Uncle Jerry was the calmest man in town,
and his observation that Henderson knew what he was about was reassuring.
His serenity was well founded. The fact was that he had been pulling in
and lowering canvas for months. Or, as he put it, he hadn't much hay
out. . . "It's never a good plan," said Uncle Jerry, "to put off raking
up till the shower begins."
It seems absurd to speak of the East Side in connection with the
financial situation. But that was where the pinch was felt, and felt
first. Work was slack, and that meant actual hunger for many families.
The monetary solidarity of the town is remarkable. No one flies a kite
in Wall Street that somebody in Rivington Street does not in consequence
have to go without his dinner. As Dr. Leigh went her daily rounds she
encountered painful evidence of the financial disturbance. Increased
number of cases for the doctor followed want of sufficient food and the
eating of cheap, unwholesome food. She was often obliged to draw upon
the Margaret Fund, and to invoke the aid of Father Damon when the
responsibility was too great for her. And Father Damon found that his
ministry was daily diverted from the cure of souls to the care of bodies.
Among all those who came to the mission as a place of refuge and rest,
and to whom the priest sought to offer the consolations of religion and
of his personal sympathy, there were few who did not have a tale of
suffering to tell that wrung his heart. Some of them were actually ill,
or had at home a sick husband or a sick daughter. And such cases had to
be reported to Dr. Leigh.
It became necessary, therefore, that these two, who had shunned each
other for months, should meet as often as they had done formerly. This
was very hard for both, for it meant only the renewal of heart-break,
regret, and despair. And yet it had been almost worse when they did not
see each other. They met; they talked of nothing but their work; they
tried to forget themselves in their devotion to humanity. But the human
heart will not be thus disposed of. It was impossible that some show of
personal interest, some tenderness, should not appear. They were walking
towards Fourth Avenue one evening--the priest could not resist the
impulse to accompany her a little way towards her home--after a day of
unusual labor and anxiety.
"You are working too hard," he said, gently; "you look fatigued."
"Oh no," she replied, looking up cheerfully; "I'm a regular machine.
I get run down, and then I wind up. I get tired, and then I get rested.
It isn't the work," she added, after a moment, "if only I could see any
good of it. It seems so hopeless."
"From your point of view, my dear doctor," he answered, but without any
shade of reproof in his tone. "But no good deed is lost. There is
nothing else in the world--nothing for me." The close of the sentence
seemed wholly accidental, and he stopped speaking as if he could not
trust himself to go on.
Ruth Leigh looked up quickly. "But, Father Damon, it is you who ought to
be rebuked for overwork. You are undertaking too much. You ought to go
off for a vacation, and go at once."
The father looked paler and thinner than usual, but his mouth was set in
firm lines, and he said: "It cannot be. My duty is here. And"--he
turned, and looked her full in the face--"I cannot go."
No need to explain that simple word. No need to interpret the swift
glance that their eyes exchanged--the eager, the pitiful glance. They
both knew. It was not the work. It was not the suffering of the world.
It was the pain in their own hearts, and the awful chasm that his holy
vows had put between them. They stood so only an instant. He was
trembling in the extort to master himself, and in a second she felt the
hot blood rising to her face. Her woman's wit was the first to break the
hopeless situation. She turned, and hailed a passing car. "I cannot
walk any farther. Good-night." And she was gone.
The priest stood as if a sudden blow had struck him, following the
retreating car till it was out of sight, and then turned homeward, dazed,
and with feeble steps. What was this that had come to him to so shake
his life? What devil was tempting him to break his vows and forsake his
faith? Should he fly from the city and from his work, or should he face
what seemed to him, in the light of his consecration, a monstrous
temptation, and try to conquer himself? He began to doubt his power to
do this. He had always believed that it was easy to conquer nature.
And now a little brown woman had taught him that he reckons ill who
leaves out the strongest human passion. And yet suppose he should break
his solemn vows and throw away his ideal, and marry Ruth Leigh, would he
ever be happy? Here was a mediaeval survival confronted by a nineteenth-
century skepticism. The situation was plainly insoluble. It was as
plainly so to the clear mind of the unselfish little woman without faith
as it was to him. Perhaps she could not have respected him if he had
yielded. Strangely enough, the attraction of the priest for her and for
other women who called themselves servants of humanity was in his
consecration, in his attitude of separation from the vanities and
passions of this world. They believed in him, though they did not share
his faith. To Ruth Leigh this experience of love was as unexpected as it
was to the priest. Perhaps because her life was lived on a less exalted
plane she could bear it with more equanimity. But who knows? The habit
of her life was endurance, the sturdy meeting of the duty of every day,
with at least only a calm regard of the future. And she would go on.
But who can measure the inner change in her life? She must certainly be
changed by this deep experience, and, terrible as it was, perhaps
ennobled by it. Is there not something supernatural in such a love
itself? It has a wonderful transforming power. It is certain that a new
light, a tender light, was cast upon her world. And who can say that
some time, in the waiting and working future, this new light might not
change life altogether for this faithful soul?
There was one person upon whom the tragedy of life thus far sat lightly.
Even her enemies, if she had any, would not deny that Carmen had an
admirable temperament. If she had been a Moslem, it might be predicted
that she would walk the wire 'El Serat' without a tremor. In these days
she was busy with the plans of her new house. The project suited her
ambition and her taste. The structure grew in her mind into barbaric
splendor, but a barbaric splendor refined, which reveled in the exquisite
adornment of the Alhambra itself. She was in daily conferences with her
architect and her artists, she constantly consulted Jack about it, and
Mavick whenever he was in town, and occasionally she awakened the
interest of Henderson himself, who put no check upon her proceedings,
although his mind was concerned with a vaster structure of his own.
She talked of little else, until in her small world there grew up a vast
expectation of magnificence, of which hints appeared from time to time in
the newspapers, mysterious allusions to Roman luxury, to Nero and his
Golden House. Henderson read these paragraphs, as he read the paragraphs
about his own fortune, with a grim smile.
"Your house is getting a lot of free advertising," he said to Carmen one
evening after dinner in the library, throwing the newspaper on the table
as he spoke.
"They all seem to like the idea," replied Carmen. "Did you see what one
of the papers said about the use of wealth in adorning the city? That's
"I suppose," said Henderson, with a smile, "that you put that notion into
the reporter's head."
"But he thought he suggested it to me."
"Let's look over the last drawing." Henderson half rose from his chair
to pull the sheet towards him, but instantly sank back, and put his hand
to his heart. Carmen saw that he was very pale, and ran round to his
"What is it?"
"Nothing," he said, taking a long breath. "Just a stitch. Indigestion.
It must have been the coffee."
Carmen ran to the dining-room, and returned with a wineglass of brandy.
"There, take that."
He drank it. "Yes, that's better. I'm all right now." And he sat
still, slowly recovering color and control of himself.
"I'm going to send for the doctor."
"No, no; nonsense. It has all passed," and he stretched out his arms
and threw them back vigorously. "It was only a moment's faintness. It's
He rose from his chair and took a turn or two about the room. Yes, he
was quite himself, and he patted Carmen's head as he passed and took his
seat again. For a moment or two there was silence. Then he said, still
as if reflecting:
"Isn't it queer? In that moment of faintness all my life flashed through
"It has been a very successful life," Carmen said, by way of saying
"Yes, yes; but I wonder if it was worth while?"
"If I were a man, I should enjoy the power you have, the ability to do
what you will."
"I suppose I do. That is all there is. I like to conquer obstacles, and
I like to command. And money; I never did care for money in itself.
But there is a fascination in building up a great fortune. It is like
conducting a political or a military campaign. Now, I haven't much
interest in anything else."
As he spoke he looked round upon the crowded shelves of his library, and,
getting up, went to the corner where there was a shelf of rare editions
and took down a volume.
"Do you remember when I got this, Carmen? It was when I was a bachelor.
It was rare then. I saw it quoted the other day as worth twice the price
I gave for it."
He replaced it carefully, and walked along the shelves looking at the
"I used to read then. And you read still; you have time."
"Not those books," she replied, with a laugh. "Those belong to the last
"That is where I belong," he said, smiling also. "I don't think I have
read a book, not really read it, in ten years. This modern stuff that
pretends to give life is so much less exciting than my own daily
experience that I cannot get interested in it. Perhaps I could read
these calm old books."
"It is the newspapers that take your time," Carmen suggested.
"Yes, they pass the time when I am thinking. And they are full of
suggestions. I suppose they are as accurate about other things as about
me. I used to think I would make this library the choicest in the city.
It is good as far as it goes. Perhaps I will take it up some day--if I
live." And he turned away from the shelves and sat down. Carmen had
never seen him exactly in this humor and was almost subdued by it.
He began to talk again, philosophizing about life generally and his own
life. He seemed to like to recall his career, and finally said: "Uncle
Jerry is successful too, and he never did care for anything else--except
his family. There is a clerk in my office on five thousand a year who is
never without a book when he comes to the office and when I see him on
the train. He has a wife and a nice little family in Jersey. I ask him
sometimes about his reading. He is collecting a library, but not of rare
books; says he cannot afford that. I think he is successful too, or will
be if he never gets more than five thousand a year, and is content with
his books and his little daily life, coming and going to his family.
Ah, well! Everybody must live his life. I suppose there is some
explanation of it all."
"Has anything gone wrong?" asked Carmen, anxiously.
"No, not at all. Nothing to interfere with the house of gold." He spoke
quite gently and sincerely. "I don't know what set me into this
moralizing. Let's look at the plans."
The next day--it was the first of June--in consultation with the
architect, a project was broached that involved such an addition of cost
that Carmen hesitated. She declared that it was a question of ways and
means, and that she must consult the chairman. Accordingly she called
her carriage and drove down to Henderson's office.
It was a beautiful day, a little warm in the narrow streets of the lower
city, but when she had ascended by the elevator to the high story that
Henderson occupied in one of the big buildings that rise high enough to
give a view of New York Harbor, and looked from the broad windows upon
one of the most sparkling and animated scenes in the world, it seemed
to her appreciative eyes a day let down out of Paradise.
The clerks all knew Mrs. Henderson, and they rose and bowed as she
tripped along smiling towards her husband's rooms. It did not seem to be
a very busy day, and she found no one waiting in the anteroom, and passed
into the room of his private secretary.
"Is Mr. Henderson in?"
"Probably busy," replied the secretary, with a smile, "but he is alone.
No one has disturbed him for over half an hour."
"Then I will go in."
She tapped lightly at the door. There was no response. She turned the
knob softly and looked in, and then, glancing back at the secretary, with
a finger uplifted, "I think he is asleep," opened the door, stepped in,
and closed it carefully.
The large room was full of light, and through the half-dozen windows
burst upon her the enchanting scene of the Bay, Henderson sat at his
table, which was covered with neatly arranged legal documents, but bowed
over it, his head resting upon his arms.
"So, Rodney, this is the way, old boy, that you wear yourself out in
She spoke laughingly, but he did not stir, and she tiptoed along to
She touched his hand. It moved heavily away from her hand. The left
arm, released, dropped at his side.
She started back, her eyes round with terror, and screamed.
Instantly the secretary was at her side, and supported her, fainting, to
a seat. Other clerks rushed in at the alarm. Henderson was lifted from
his chair and laid upon a lounge. When the doctor who had been called
arrived, Carmen was in a heap by the low couch, one arm thrown across the
body, and her head buried in the cushion close to his.
The doctor instantly applied restoratives; he sent for an electric
battery; everything was done that science could suggest. But all was of
no avail. There was no sign of life. He must have been dead half an
hour, said the doctor. It was evidently heart-failure.
Before the doctor had pronounced his verdict there was a whisper in the
"Henderson is dead!"
"It is not possible," said one.
"I saw him only yesterday," said another.
"I was in his office this morning," said a third. "I never saw him
looking in better health."
The whisper was confirmed. There was no doubt of it. Henderson's
private secretary had admitted it. Yet it seemed incredible. No
provision had been made for it. Speculation had not discounted it.
A panic set in. No one knew what to do, for no one knew well the state
of Henderson's affairs. In the first thirty minutes there was a
tremendous drop in Henderson stocks. Then some of them rallied, but
before the partial recovery hundreds of men had been ruined. It was a
wild hour in the Exchange. Certain stocks were hopelessly smashed for
the time, and some combinations were destroyed; among them was one that
Uncle Jerry had kept out of; and Jack Delancy was hopelessly ruined.
The event was flashed over the wires of the continent; it was bulletined;
it was cried in the streets; it was the all-absorbing talk of the town.
Already, before the dead man was removed to his own house, people were
beginning to moralize about him and his career. Perhaps the truest thing
was said by the old broker in the board whose reputation for piety was
only equaled by his reputation of always having money to loan at
exorbitant rates in a time of distress. He said to a group of downcast
operators, "In the midst of life we are in death."
The place that Rodney Henderson occupied in the mind of the public was
shown by the attention the newspapers paid to his death. All the great
newspapers in all the cities of importance published long and minute
biographies of him, with pictorial illustrations, and day after day
characteristic anecdotes of his remarkable career. Nor was there, it is
believed, a newspaper in the United States, secular, religious, or
special, that did not comment upon his life. This was the more
remarkable in that he was not a public man in the common use of the word:
he had never interested himself in politics, or in public affairs,
municipal or State or national; he had devoted himself entirely to
building up his private fortune. If this is the duty of a citizen, he
had discharged it with singleness of purpose; but no other duty of the
citizen had he undertaken, if we except his private charities. And yet
no public man of his day excited more popular interest or was the subject
of more newspaper comment.
And these comments were nearly all respectful, and most of them kindly.
There was some justice in this, for Henderson had been doing what
everybody else was trying to do, usually without his good-fortune.
If he was more successful than others in trying to get rich, surely a
great deal of admiration was mingled with the envy of his career. To be
sure, some journals were very severe upon his methods, and some revived
the old stories of his unscrupulousness in transactions which had laid
him open to criminal prosecution, from the effects of which he was only
saved by uncommon adroitness and, some said, by legal technicalities.
His career also was denounced by some as wholly vicious in its effect
upon the youth of the republic, and as lowering the tone of public
morals. And yet it was remembered that he had been a frank, open-hearted
friend, kind to his family, and generous in contrast with some of his
close-fisted contemporaries. There was nothing mean about him; even his
rascalities, if you chose to call his transactions by that name, were on
a grand scale. To be sure, he would let nothing stand between him and
the consummation of his schemes--he was like Napoleon in that--but those
who knew him personally liked him. The building up of his colossal
fortune--which the newspapers were saying was the largest that had been
accumulated in one lifetime in America--had ruined thousands of people,
and carried disaster into many peaceful houses, and his sudden death had
been a cyclone of destruction for an hour. But it was hardly fair, one
journal pointed out, to hold Henderson responsible for his untimely
Even Jack Delancy, when the crushing news was brought him at the club,
where he sat talking with Major Fairfax, although he saw his own ruin in
a flash, said, "It wouldn't have happened if Henderson had lived."
"Not so soon," replied the Major, hesitatingly.
"Do you mean to say that Henderson and Mavick and Mrs. Henderson would
have thrown me over?"
"Why, no, not exactly; but a big machine grinds on regardless, and when
the crash comes everybody looks out for himself."
"I think I'll telegraph to Mavick."
"That wouldn't do any good now. He couldn't have stopped the panic.
I tell you what, you'd better go down to your brokers and see just how
And the two went down to Wall Street. It was after hours, but the
brokers' office was full of excitement. No one knew what was left from
the storm, nor what to expect. It was some time before Jack could get
speech with one of the young men of the firm.
"How is it?" he asked.
"It's been a ---- of a time."
"Oh, his estate is all right, so far as we know. He was well out of the
"And the Missouri?"
"Bottom dropped out; temporarily, anyway."
"And my account?"
"Wiped out, I am sorry to say. Might come up by-and-by, if you've got a
lot of money to put up, and wait."
"Then it's all up," said Jack, turning to the Major. He was very pale.
He knew now that his fortune was gone absolutely--house, everything.
Few words were exchanged as they made their way back to the club. And
here the Major did a most unusual thing for him. He ordered the drinks.
But he did this delicately, apologetically.
"I don't know as you care for anything, but Wall Street has made me
"I don't mind if I do," Jack replied.
And they sat down.
The conversation was not cheerful; it was mainly ejaculatory. After a
second glass, Jack said, "I don't suppose it would do any good, but I
should like to see Mavick." And then, showing the drift of his thoughts,
"I wonder what Carmen will do?"
"I should say that will depend upon the will," replied the Major.
"She is a good-hearted woman," and Jack's tone was one of inquiry.
"She hasn't any, Jack. Not the least bit of a heart. And I believe
Henderson found it out. I shall be surprised if his will doesn't show
that he knew it."
A servant came to the corner where they were sitting and handed Jack a
"What's this? Mavick? "He tore it open. "No; Edith." He read it with
something like a groan, and passed it over to the Major.
What he read was this: "Don't be cast down, Jack. The boy and I are
well. Come. Edith."
"That is splendid; that is just like her," cried the Major. "I'd be out
of this by the first train."
"It is no use," replied Jack gloomily. "I couldn't 'face Edith now.
I couldn't do it. I wonder how she knew?"
He called back the servant, and penned as reassuring a message as he
could, but said that it was impossible to leave town. She must not worry
about him. This despatched, they fell again into a talk about the
situation. After another glass Jack was firm in his resolution to stay
and watch things. It seemed not impossible that something might turn up.
On the third day after, both the Major and Jack attended the funeral at
the house. Carmen was not visible. The interment was private. The day
following, Jack left his card of condolence at the door; but one day
passed, and another and another, and no word of acknowledgment came from
the stricken widow. Jack said to himself that it was not natural to
expect it. But he did expect it, and without reason, for he should have
known that Carmen was not only overwhelmed with the sudden shock of her
calamity, but that she would necessarily be busy with affairs that even
grief would not permit her to neglect. Jack heard that Mavick had been
in the city, and that he went to the Henderson house, but he had not
called at the club, and the visit must have been a flying one.
A week passed, and Jack received no message from Carmen. His note
offering his services if she needed the services of any one had not been
Carmen was indeed occupied. It could not be otherwise. The state of
Henderson's affairs could not wait upon conventionalities. The day after
the funeral Mr. Henderson's private secretary came to the house, and had
a long interview with Mrs. Henderson. He explained to her that the
affairs should be immediately investigated, the will proved, and the
estate put into the hands of the executors. It would be best for Mrs.
Henderson herself to bring his keys down to the office, and to see the
opening of his desk and boxes. Meantime it would be well for her to see
if there were any papers of importance in the house; probably everything
was in the office safe.
The next morning Carmen nerved herself to the task. With his keys in
hand she went alone into the library and opened his writing-desk.
Everything was in perfect order; letters and papers filed and labeled,
and neatly arranged in drawers and pigeonholes. There lay his letter-
book as he had last used it, and there lay fresh memoranda of his
projects and engagements. She found in one of the drawers some letters
of her own, mostly notes, and most of them written before her marriage.
In another drawer were some bundles of letters, a little yellow with age,
endorsed with the name of "Margaret." She shut the drawer without
looking at them. She continued to draw papers from the pigeon-holes and
glance at them. Most of them related to closed transactions. At length
she drew out one that instantly fixed her attention. It was endorsed,
"Last Will and Testament." She looked first at the date at the end--it
was quite recent--and then leaned back in her chair and set herself
deliberately to read it.
The document was long and full of repetitions and technicalities, but the
purport of it was plain. As she read on she was at first astonished,
then she was excited to trembling, and felt herself pale and faint; but
when she had finished and fully comprehended it her pretty face was
distorted with rage. The great bulk of the property was not for her.
She sprang up and paced the floor. She came back and took up the
document with a motion of tearing it in pieces. No--it would be better
to burn it. Of course there must be another will deposited in the safe.
Henderson had told her so. It was drawn up shortly after their marriage.
It could not be worse for her than this. She lighted the gas-jet by the
fireplace, and held the paper in her hand. Then a thought struck her.
What if somebody knew of this will, and its execution could be proved!
She looked again at the end. It was signed and sealed. There were the
names of two witnesses. One was the name of their late butler, who had
been long in Henderson's service, and who had died less than a month ago.
The other name was Thomas Mavick. Evidently the will had been signed
recently, on some occasion when Mavick was in the house. And Henderson's
lawyer probably knew it also!
She folded the document carefully, put it back in the pigeon-hole, locked
the desk, and rang the bell for her carriage. She was ready when the
carriage came to the door, and told the coachman to drive to the office
of Mr. Sage in Nassau Street. Mr. Sage had been for many years
Henderson's most confidential lawyer.
He received Carmen in his private office, with the subdued respect due to
her grief and the sudden tragedy that had overtaken her. He was a man
well along in years, a small man, neat in his dress, a little formal and
precise in his manner, with a smoothly shaven face and gray eyes, keen,
but not unkindly in expression. He had the reputation, which he
deserved, for great ability and integrity. After the first salutations
and words of condolence were spoken, Carmen said, "I have come to consult
you, Mr. Sage, about my husband's affairs."
"I am quite at your service, madam."
"I wanted to see you before I went to the office with the keys of his
"Perhaps," said Mr. Sage, "I could spare you that trouble."
"Oh no; his secretary thought I had better come myself, if I could."
"Very well," said Mr. Sage.
Carmen hesitated a moment, and then said, in an inquiring tone,
"I suppose the first thing is the will. He told me long ago that his
will was made. I suppose it is in the safe. Didn't you draw it, Mr.
"Oh yes," the lawyer replied, leaning back in his chair, "I drew that;
a long time ago; shortly after your marriage. And about a year ago I
drew another one. Did he ever speak of that?"
"No," Carmen replied, with a steady voice, but trembling inwardly at her
"I wonder," continued Mr. Sage, "if it was ever executed? He took it,
and said he would think it over."
"Executed?" queried Carmen, looking up. "How do you mean, before a
"Oh, no; signed and witnessed. It is very simple. The law requires two
witnesses; the testator and the witnesses must declare that they sign in
the presence of each other. The witnesses prove the will, or, if they
are dead, their signatures can be proved. I was one of the witnesses of
the first will, and a clerk of Henderson's, who is still in his office,
was the other."
"The last one is probably in the safe if it was executed."
"Probably," the lawyer assented. "If not, you'd better look for it in
"Of course. Whether it exists or not, I want to carry out my husband's
intention," Carmen said, sweetly. "Have you any memorandum of it?"
"I think so, somewhere, but the leading provisions are in my mind. It
would astonish the public."
"Why?" asked Carmen.
"Well, the property was greater than any of us supposed, and--perhaps I
ought not to speak to you of this now, Mrs. Henderson."
"I think I have a right to know what my husband's last wishes were,"
Carmen answered, firmly.
"Well, he had a great scheme. The greater part of his property after the
large legacies--" The lawyer saw that Carmen looked pale, and he
hesitated a moment, and then said, in a cheery manner: "Oh, I assure you,
madam, that this will gave you a great fortune; all the establishment,
and a very great fortune. But the residue was in trust for the building
and endowment of an Industrial School on the East Side, with a great
library and a reading-room, all to be free. It was a great scheme, and
carefully worked out."
"I am so glad to know this," said Carmen. "Was there anything else?"
"Only some legacies." And Mr. Sage went on, trying to recall details
that his attentive listener already knew. There were legacies to some of
his relatives in New Hampshire, and there was a fund, quite a handsome
fund, for the poor of the city, called the "Margaret Fund." And there
was something also for a relative of the late Mrs. Henderson.
Carmen again expressed her desire to carry out her husband's wishes in
everything, and Mr. Sage was much impressed by her sweet manner. When
she had found out all that he knew or remembered of the new will, and
arose to go, Mr. Sage said he would accompany her to the office. And
Carmen gratefully accepted his escort, saying that she had wished to ask
him to go with her, but that she feared to take up so much of his time.
At the office the first will was found, but no other. The lawyer glanced
through it, and then handed it to Mrs. Henderson, with the remark, "It
leaves you, madam, pretty much everything of which he died possessed."
Carmen put it aside. She did not care to read it now. She would go home
and search for the other one.
"If no other is found," said Mr. Sage, in bidding her good-morning,"
this one ought to be proved tomorrow. I may tell you that you and Mr.
Hollowell are named as executors."
On her way home Carmen stopped at a telegraph station, and sent a message
to Mavick, in Washington, to take an afternoon train and come to New
When Carmen reached home she was in a serious but perfectly clear frame
of mind. The revelation in the last will of Henderson's change of mind
towards her was mortifying to a certain extent. It was true that his
fortune was much increased since the first will was made, and that it
justified his benevolent scheme. But he might have consulted her about
it. If she had argued the matter with her conscience, she would have
told her conscience that she would carry out this new plan in her own way
and time. She was master of the situation, and saw before her a future
of almost unlimited opportunity and splendor, except for one little
obstacle. That obstacle was Mr. Mavick. She believed that she
understood him thoroughly, but she could not take the next step until she
had seen him. It was true that no one except herself positively knew
that a second will now existed, but she did not know how much he might
choose to remember.
She was very impatient to see Mr. Mavick. She wandered about the house,
restless and feverish. Presently it occurred to her that it would be
best to take the will wholly into her own keeping. She unlocked the
desk, took it out with a trembling hand, but did not open it again.
It was not necessary. A first reading had burned every item of it into
her brain. It seemed to be a sort of living thing. She despised herself
for being so agitated, and for the furtive feeling that overcame her as
she glanced about to be sure that she was alone, and then she ran up
stairs to her room and locked the document in her own writing-desk.
What was that? Oh, it was only the door-bell. But who could it be?
Some one from the office, from her lawyer? She could see nobody. In two
minutes there was a rap at her door. It was only the servant with a
despatch. She took it and opened it without haste.
"Very well, Dobson; no answer. I expect Mr. Mavick on business at ten.
I am at home to no one else."
At ten o'clock Mr. Mavick came, and was shown into the library, where
Carmen awaited him.
"It was very good of you to come," she said, as she advanced to meet him
and gave him her hand in the natural subdued manner that the
circumstances called for.
"I took the first train after I received your despatch."
"I am sorry to inconvenience you so," she said, after they were seated,
"but you know so much of Mr. Henderson's affairs that your advice will be
needed. His will is to be proved tomorrow."
"Yes?" said Mavick.
"I went to see--Mr. Sage today, and he went with me to the office. The
will was in the safe. I did not read it, but Mr. Sage said that it left
everything to me except a few legacies."
"He said it should be proved tomorrow, unless a later will turned up."
"Was there a later will?"
"That is what he did not know. He had drawn a new will about a year ago,
but he doubted if it had ever been executed. Mr. Henderson was
considering it. He thought he had a memorandum of it somewhere, but he
remembered the principal features of it."
"Was it a great change from the first?" Mavick asked.
"Yes, considerable. In fact, the greater part of his property, as far as
I could make out, was to go to endow a vast training-school, library, and
reading-room on the East Side. Of course that would be a fine thing."
"Of course," said Mavick. "And no such will has been found?"
"I've looked everywhere," replied Carmen, simply; "all over the house.
It should be in that desk if anywhere. We can look again, but I feel
pretty sure there is no such document there."
She took in her hand the bunch of keys that lay on the table, as if she
were about to rise and unlock the desk. Then she hesitated, and looked
Mavick full in the face.
"Do you think, Mr. Mavick, that will was ever executed?"
For a moment they looked steadily at each other, and then he said,
deliberately, their eyes squarely meeting, "I do not think it was."
And in a moment he added, "He never said anything to me about such a
disposition of his property."
Two things were evident to Carmen from this reply. He saw her interests
as she saw them, and it was pretty certain that the contents of the will
were not made known to him when he witnessed it. She experienced an
immense feeling of relief as she arose and unlocked the desk. They sat
down before it together, and went over its contents. Mavick made a note
of the fresh business memoranda that might be of service next day, since
Mrs. Henderson had requested him to attend the proving of the will, and
to continue for the present the business relations with her that he had
held with Mr. Henderson.
It was late when he left the house, but he took with him a note to Mr.
Sage to drop into the box for morning delivery. The note said that she
had searched the house, that no second will existed there, and that she
had telegraphed to Mr. Mavick, who had much knowledge of Mr. Henderson's
affairs, to meet him in the morning. And she read the note to Mavick
before she sealed it.
Before the note could have been dropped into the box, Carmen was in her
room, and the note was literally true. No second will existed.
The will was proved, and on the second day its contents were in all the
newspapers. But with it went a very exciting story. This was the rumor
of another will, and of Henderson's vast scheme of benevolence. Mr. Sage
had been interviewed and Carmen had been interviewed. The memorandum
(which was only rough and not wholly legible notes) had been found and
sent to Carmen. There was no concealment about it. She gave the
reporters all the details, and to every one she said that it was her
intention to carry out her husband's wishes, so far as they could be
ascertained from this memorandum, when his affairs had been settled.
The thirst of the reporters for information amused even Carmen, who had
seen much of this industrious tribe. One of them, to whom she had
partially explained the situation, ended by asking her, "Are you going to
contest the will?"
"Contest the will?" cried Carmen. "There is nothing to contest."
"I didn't know," said the young man, whose usual occupation was reporting
sports, and who had a dim idea that every big will must be contested.
Necessarily the affair made a great deal of talk. The newspapers
discussed it for days, and turned over the scheme in every light, the
most saying that it was a noble gift to the city that had been intended,
while only one or two doubted if charity institutions of this sort really
helped the poor. Regret, of course, was expressed that the second will
had never been executed, but with this regret was the confidence that the
widow would carry out, eventually, Henderson's plans.
This revelation modified the opinion in regard to Henderson. He came to
be regarded as a public benefactor, and his faithful wife shared the
credit of his noble intention.
Waiting for something to turn up, Jack found a weary business. He had
written to Mavick after the newspaper report that that government officer
had been in the city on Henderson's affairs, and had received a very
civil and unsatisfactory reply. In the note Mavick had asked him to come
to Washington and spend a little time, if he had nothing better on hand,
as his guest. Perhaps no offense was intended, but the reply enraged
Jack. There was in the tone of the letter and in the manner of the
invitation a note of patronage that was unendurable.
"Confound the fellow's impudence!" said Jack to himself; and he did not
answer the invitation.
Personally his situation was desperate enough, but he was not inclined to
face it. In a sort of stupor he let the law take its course. There was
nothing left of his fortune, and his creditors were in possession of his
house and all it contained. "Do not try to keep anything back that
legally belongs to them," Edith had written when he informed her of this
last humiliation. Of course decency was observed. Jack's and Edith's
wardrobes, and some pieces of ancestral furniture that he pointed out as
belonging to his wife, were removed before the auction flag was hung out.
When this was over he still temporized. Edith's affectionate entreaties
to him to leave the dreadful city and come home were evaded on one plea
or another. He had wild schemes of going off West or South--
of disappearing. Perhaps he would have luck somewhere. He couldn't ask
aid or seek occupation of his friends, but some place where he was not
known he felt that he might do something to regain his position, get some
situation, or make some money--lots of men had done it in a new country
and reinstate himself in Edith's opinion.
But he did not go, and days and weeks went by in irresolution. No word
came from Carmen, and this humiliated Jack more than anything else--not
the loss of her friendship, but the remembrance that he had ever danced
attendance on her and trusted her. He was getting a good many wholesome
lessons in these days.
One afternoon he called upon Miss Tavish. There was no change in her.
She received him with her usual gay cordiality, and with no affectation.
"I didn't know what had become of you," she said.
"I've been busy," he replied, with a faint attempt at a smile.
"Yes, I know. It's been an awful time, what with Henderson's death and
everything else. Almost everybody has been hit. But," and she looked at
him cheerfully, "they will come up again; up and down; it is always so.
Why, even I got a little twist in that panic." The girl was doing what
she could in her way to cheer him up.
"I think of going off somewhere to seek my fortune," said Jack, with a
"Oh, I hope not; your friends wouldn't like that. There is no place like
New York, I'm sure." And there was a real note of friendliness and
encouragement in her tone. "Only," and she gave him another bright
smile, "I think of running away from it myself, for a time. It's a
secret yet. Carmen wants me to go abroad with her."
"I have not seen Mrs. Henderson since her husband's death. How is she?"
"Oh, she bears up wonderfully. But then she has so much to do, poor
thing. And then the letters she gets, the begging letters. You've no
idea. I don't wonder she wants to go abroad. Don't stay away so long
again," she said as Jack rose to go. "And, oh, can't you come in to
dinner tomorrow night--just Carmen--I think I can persuade her--and
"I'm sorry that I have an engagement," Jack answered.
"Well, some other time. Only soon."
This call did Jack temporarily a world of good. It helped his self-
esteem. But it was only temporary. The black fact stared him in the
face every morning that he was ruined. And it came over him gradually
that he was a useless member of society. He never had done anything; he
was not trained or fitted to do anything. And this was impressed upon
him in the occasional attempts he made to get employment. He avoided as
much as possible contact with those who knew him. Shame prevented him
from applying to them for occupation, and besides he very well knew that
to those who knew him his idle career was no recommendation. Yet he
formed a habit of going down-town every day and looking for work. His
appearance commanded civility, but everywhere he met with refusal, and he
began to feel like a well-bred tramp. There had been in his mind before
no excuse for tramps. He could see now how they were made.
It was not that he lacked capacity. He knew a great deal, in an
amateurish way, about pictures, books, bric-a-brac, and about society.
Why shouldn't he write? He visited the Loan Exhibition, and wrote a
careful criticism on the pictures and sent it to a well-known journal.
It was returned with thanks: the journal had its own art critic. He
prepared other articles about curious books, and one about porcelain and
pottery. They were all returned, except one which gave the history of a
rare bit of majolica, which had been picked up forty cents and then sold
for five hundred dollars, and was now owned by a collector who had paid
four thousand dollars for it. For that the newspaper sent him five
dollars. That was not encouraging, and his next effort for the same
journal was returned. Either he hadn't the newspaper knack, or the
competition was too great.
He had ceased going to his club. It was too painful to meet his
acquaintances in his altered circumstances, and it was too expensive.
It even annoyed him to meet Major Fairfax. That philosopher had not
changed towards him any more than Miss Tavish had, but it was a
melancholy business to talk of his affairs, and to listen to the repeated
advice to go down to the country to Edith, and wait for some good
opening. That was just what he could not do. His whole frivolous life
he began now to see as she must have seen it. And it seemed to him that
he could only retain a remnant of his self-respect by doing something
that would reinstate him in her opinion.
"Very well," said the Major, at the close of the last of their talks at
the club; "what are you going to do?"
"I'm going into some business," said Jack, stiffly.
"Have you spoken to any of your friends?"
"No. It's no use," he said, bitterly; "they are all like me, or they
"And hasn't your wife some relations who are in business?"
"The last people I should apply to. No. I'm going to look around.
Major, do you happen to know a cheap lodging-house that is respectable?"
"I don't know any that is not respectable," the Major replied, in a huffy
"I beg your pardon," said Jack. "I want to reduce expenses."
The Major did know of a place in the neighborhood where he lived.
He gave Jack the address, and thereafter the club and his usual resorts
knew him no more.
As the days went by and nothing happened to break the monotony of his
waiting and his fruitless search, he became despondent. Day after day he
tramped about the city, among the business portions, and often on the
East Side, to see misery worse than his own. He had saved out of the
wreck his ample wardrobe, his watch, and some jewelry, and upon these he
raised money for his cheap lodgings and his cheap food. He grew careless
of his personal appearance. Every morning he rose and went about the
city, always with less hope, and every night he returned to his lodging,
but not always sober.
One day he read the announcement that Mrs. Rodney Henderson and Miss
Tavish had sailed for Europe. That ended that chapter. What exactly he
had expected he could not say. Help from Carmen? Certainly not. But
there had never been a sign from her, nor any word from Mavick lately.
There evidently was nothing. He had been thrown over. Carmen evidently
had no more use for him. She had other plans. The thought that he had
been used and duped was almost more bitter than his loss.
In after-days Jack looked back upon this time with a feeling akin to
thankfulness for Carmen's utter heartlessness in regard to his affairs.
He trembled to think what might have happened to him if she had sent for
him and consulted him and drawn him again into the fatal embrace of her
schemes and her fascinations. Now he was simply enraged when he thought
of her, and irritated with himself.
These were dark days, days to which he looked back with a shudder.
He wrote to Edith frequently--a brief note. He was straightening out his
affairs; he was busy. But he did not give her his address, and he only
got her letters when the Major forwarded them from the club, which was
irregularly. A stranger, who met him at his lodgings or elsewhere, would
have said that he was an idle and rather dissipated-looking man. He was
idle, except in his feeble efforts to get work; he was worn and
discouraged, but he was not doing anything very bad. In his way of
looking at it, he was carrying out his notion of honor. He was only
breaking a woman's heart.
He was conscious of little except his own misfortunes and misery. He did
not yet apprehend his own selfishness nor her nobility. He did not yet
comprehend the unselfishness of a good woman's love.
On the East Side one day, as he was sauntering along Grand Street, he
encountered Dr. Leigh, his wife's friend, whom he had seen once at his
house. She did not at first recognize him until he stopped and spoke his
"Oh," she said, with surprise at seeing him, and at his appearance,
"I didn't expect to see you here. I thought everybody had gone from the
city. Perhaps you are going to the Neighborhood Guild?"
"No," and Jack forced a little laugh, "I'm not so good as that. I'm kept
in town on business. I strolled over here to see how the other side of
"It doesn't improve. It is one of the worst summers I ever saw. Since
Mr. Henderson's death--"
"What difference did Henderson's death make over here?"
"Why, he had deposited a little fund for Father Damon to draw on, and the
day after his death the bank returned a small check with the notice that
there was no deposit to draw on. It had been such a help in
extraordinary cases. Perhaps you saw some allusion to it in the
"Wasn't it the Margaret Fund?"
"Yes. Father Damon dropped a note to Mrs. Henderson explaining about it.
No reply came."
"As he might have expected." Dr. Leigh looked up quickly as if for an
explanation, but Jack ignored the query, and went on. "And Father Damon,
is he as active as ever?"
"He has gone."
"What, left the city, quit his work? And the mission?"
"I don't suppose he will ever quit his work while he lives, but he is
much broken down. The mission chapel is not closed, but a poor woman
told me that it seemed so."
"And he will not return? Mrs. Delancy will be so sorry."
"I think not. He is in retreat now, and I heard that he might go to
Baltimore. I thought of your wife. She was so interested in his work.
Is she well this summer?"
"Yes, thank you," said Jack, and they parted. But as she went on her way
his altered appearance struck her anew, and she wondered what had
This meeting with Mr. Delancy recalled most forcibly Edith, her interest
in the East Side work, her sympathy with Father Damon and the mission,
the first flush of those days of enthusiasm. When Father Damon began his
work the ladies used to come in their carriages to the little chapel with
flowers and money and hearts full of sympathy with the devoted priest.
Alone of all these Edith had been faithful in her visits, always, when
she was in town. And now the whole glittering show of charity had
vanished for the time, and Father Damon--The little doctor stopped,
consulted a memorandum in her hand-bag, looked up at the tenement-house
she was passing, and then began to climb its rickety stairway.
Yes, Father Damon had gone, and Ruth Leigh simply went on with her work
as before. Perhaps in all the city that summer there was no other person
whose daily life was so little changed as hers. Others were driven away
by the heat, by temporary weariness, by the need of a vacation and change
of scene. Some charities and some clubs and schools were temporarily
suspended; other charities, befitting the name, were more active, the
very young children were most looked after, and the Good Samaritans of
the Fresh-Air Funds went about everywhere full of this new enthusiasm of
humanity. But the occupation of Ruth Leigh remained always the same,
in a faithful pertinacity that nothing could wholly discourage, in a
routine that no projects could kindle into much enthusiasm. Day after
day she went about among the sick and the poor, relieving and counseling
individuals, and tiring herself out in that personal service, and more
and more conscious, when she had time, at night, for instance, to think,
of the monstrous injustice somewhere, and at times in a mood of fierce
revolt against the social order that made all this misery possible and
Yet a great change had come into her life--the greatest that can come to
any man or woman in the natural order. She loved and she was loved.
An ideal light had been cast upon her commonplace existence, the depths
of her own nature had been revealed to herself. In this illuminating
light she walked about in the misery of this world. This love must be
denied, this longing of the heart for companionship could never be
gratified, yet after all it was a sweet self-sacrifice, and the love
itself brought its own consolation. She had not to think of herself as
weak, and neither was her lover's image dimmed to her by any surrender of
his own principle or his own ideal. She saw him, as she had first seen
him, a person consecrated and set apart, however much she might disagree
with his supernatural vagaries--set apart to the service of humanity.
She had bitter thoughts sometimes of the world, and bitter thoughts of
the false system that controlled his conduct, but never of him.
It was unavoidable that she should recall her last interview with him,
and that the image of his noble, spiritual face should be ever distinct
in her mind. And there was even a certain comfort in this recollection.
Father Damon had indeed striven, under the counsel of his own courage and
of Brother Monies, to conquer himself on the field of his temptation.
But with his frail physique it was asking too much. This at last was so
evident that the good brother advised him, and the advice was in the
nature of a command in his order, to retire for a while, and then take up
his work in a fresh field.
When this was determined on, his desire was nearly irresistible to see
Ruth Leigh; he thought it would be cowardly to disappear and not say
good-by. Indeed, it was necessary to see her and explain the stoppage of
help from the Margaret Fund. The check that he had drawn, which was
returned, had been for one of Dr. Leigh's cases. With his failure to
elicit any response from Mrs. Henderson, the hope, raised by the
newspaper comments on the unexecuted will, that the fund would be renewed
In the interview which Father Damon sought with Dr. Leigh at the Women's
Hospital all this was explained, and ways and means were discussed for
"I wanted to talk this over with you," said Father Damon, "because I am
going away to take a rest."
"You need it, Father Damon," was Ruth's answer, in a professional manner.
"And--and," he continued, with some hesitation, "probably I shall not
return to this mission."
"Perhaps that will be best," she said, simply, but looking up at him now,
with a face full of tender sympathy.
"I am sure of it," he replied, turning away from her gaze. "The fact is,
doctor, I am a little hipped--overworked, and all that. I shall pull
myself together with a little rest. But I wanted to tell you how much I
appreciate your work, and--and what a comfort you have been to me in my
poor labors. I used to hope that some time you would see this world in
relation to the other, and--"
"Yes, I know," she interrupted, hastily, "I cannot think as you do,
but--" And she could not go on for a great lump in her throat.
Involuntarily she rose from her seat. The interview was too trying.
Father Damon rose also. There was a moment's painful silence as they
looked in each other's faces. Neither could trust the voice for speech.
He took her hand and pressed it, and said "God bless you!" and went out,
closing the door softly.
A moment after he opened it again and stood on the threshold. She was in
her chair, her head bowed upon her arms on the table. As he spoke she
looked up, and she never forgot the expression of his face.
"I want to say, Ruth"--he had never before called her by her first name,
and his accent thrilled her--"that I shall pray for you as I pray for
myself, and though I may never see you again in this world, the greatest
happiness that can come to me in this life will be to hear that you have
learned to say Our Father which art in heaven."
As she looked he was gone, and his last words remained a refrain in her
mind that evening and afterwards--"Our Father which art in heaven"--
a refrain recurring again and again in all her life, inseparable from the
memory of the man she loved.
Along the Long Island coast lay the haze of early autumn. It was the
time of lassitude. In the season of ripening and decay Nature seemed to
have lost her spring, and lay in a sort of delicious languor. Sea and
shore were in a kind of truce, and the ocean south wind brought cool
refreshment but no incentive.
From the sea the old brown farmhouse seemed a snug haven of refuge; from
the inland road it appeared, with its spreading, sloping roofs, like an
ancient sea-craft come ashore, which had been covered in and then
embowered by kindly Nature with foliage. In those days its golden-brown
color was in harmony with the ripening orchards and gardens.
Surely, if anywhere in the world, peace was here. But to its owner this
very peace and quietness was becoming intolerable. The waiting days were
so long, the sleepless nights of uncertainty were so weary. When her
work was done, and Edith sat with a book or some sewing under the arbor
where the grape clusters hung, growing dark and transparent, and the boy
played about near her, she had a view of the blue sea, and about her were
the twitter of birds and the hum of the cicada. The very beauty made her
heart ache. Seaward there was nothing--nothing but the leaping little
waves and the sky. From the land side help might come at any hour, and
at every roll of wheels along the road her heart beat faster and hope
sprang up anew. But day after day nothing came.
Perhaps there is no greater bravery than this sort of waiting, doing the
daily duty and waiting. Endurance is woman's bravery, and Edith was
enduring, with an almost broken but still with a courageous heart. It
was all so strange. Was it simply shame that kept him away, or had he
ceased to love her? If the latter, there was no help for her. She had
begged him to come, she had offered to leave the boy with her cousin
companion and go to him. Perhaps it was pride only. In one of his short
letters he had said, "Thank God, your little fortune is untouched."
If it were pride only, how could she overcome it? Of this she thought
night and day. She thought, and she was restless, feverish, and growing
thin in her abiding anxiety.
It was true that her own fortune was safe and in her control. But with
the usual instinct of women who know they have an income not likely to be
ever increased, she began to be economical. She thought not of herself;
but of the boy. It was the boy's fortune now. She began to look sharply
after expenses; she reduced her household; she took upon herself the care
of the boy, and other household duties. This was all well for her, for
it occupied her time, and to some extent diverted her thoughts.
So the summer passed--a summer of anxiety, longing, and dull pain for
Edith. The time came when the uncertainty of it could no longer be
endured. If Jack had deserted her, even if he should die, she could
order her life and try to adjust her heavy burden. But this uncertainty
was quite beyond her power to sustain.
She made up her mind that she would go to the city and seek him. It was
what he had written that she must not on any account do, but nothing that
could happen to her there could be so bad as this suspense. Perhaps she
could bring him back. If he refused, and was angry at her interference,
that even would be something definite. And then she had carefully
thought out another plan. It might fail, but some action had now become
for her a necessity.
Early one morning--it was in September-she prepared for a journey to the
city. This little trip, which thousands of people made daily, took on
for her the air of an adventure. She had been immured so long that it
seemed a great undertaking. And when she bade good-by to the boy for the
day she hugged him and kissed him again and again, as if it were to be an
eternal farewell. To her cousin were given the most explicit directions
for his care, and after she had started for the train she returned to
give further injunctions. So she told herself, but it was really for one
more look at the boy.
But on the whole there was a certain exhilaration in the preparation and
the going, and her spirits rose as they had not done in months before.
Arrived in the city, she drove at once to the club Jack most frequented.
"He is not in," the porter said; "indeed, Mr. Delancy has not been here
"Is Major Fairfax in?" Edith asked.
Major Fairfax was in, and he came out immediately to her carriage.
From him she learned Jack's address, and drove to his lodging-house.
The Major was more than civil; he was disposed to be sympathetic, but he
had the tact to see that Mrs. Delancy did not wish to be questioned, nor
"Is Mr. Delancy at home?" she asked the small boy who ran the elevator.
"And he did not say where he was going?"
"Is he not sometimes at home in the daytime?"
"And what time does he usually come home in the evening?"
"Don't know. After I've gone, I guess."
Edith hesitated whether she should leave a card or a note, but she
decided not to do either, and ordered the cabman to take her to Pearl
Street, to the house of Fletcher & Co.
Mr. Fletcher, the senior partner, was her cousin, the son of her father's
elder brother, and a man now past sixty years. Circumstances had carried
the families apart socially since the death of her father and his
brother, but they were on the most friendly terms, and the ties of blood
were not in any way weakened. Indeed, although Edith had seen Gilbert
Fletcher only a few times since her marriage, she felt that she could go
to him any time if she were in trouble, with the certainty of sympathy
and help. He had the reputation of the old-fashioned New York merchants,
to whom her father belonged, for integrity and conservatism.
It was to him that she went now. The great shop, or wholesale warehouse
rather, into which she entered from the narrow and cart-encumbered
street, showed her at once the nature of the business of Fletcher & Co.
It was something in the twine and cordage way. There were everywhere
great coils of ropes and bales of twine, and the dark rooms had a tarry
smell. Mr. Fletcher was in his office, a little space partitioned off
in the rear, with half a dozen clerks working by gaslight, and a little
sanctum where the senior partner was commonly found at his desk.
Mr. Fletcher was a little, round-headed man, with a shrewd face, vigorous
and cheerful, thoroughly a man of business, never speculating, and who
had been slowly gaining wealth by careful industry and cautious extension
of his trade. Certain hours of the day--from ten to three--he gave to
his business. It was a habit, and it was a habit that he enjoyed. He
had now come back, as he told Edith, from a little holiday at the sea,
where his family were, to get into shape for the fall trade.
Edith was closeted with him for a full hour. When she came out her eyes
were brighter and her step more elastic. At sundown she reached home,
almost in high spirits. And when she snatched up the boy and hugged him,
she whispered in his ear, "Baby, we have done it, and we shall see."
One night when Jack returned from his now almost aimless tramping about
the city he found a letter on his table. It seemed from the printing on
the envelope to be a business letter; and business, in the condition he
was in--and it was the condition in which he usually came home--did not
interest him. He was about to toss the letter aside, when the name of
Fletcher caught his eye, and he opened it.
It was a brief note, written on an office memorandum, which simply asked
Mr. Delancy to call at the office as soon as it was convenient, as the
writer wished to talk with him on a matter of business, and it was signed
"Why don't he say what his business is?" said Jack, throwing the letter
down impatiently. "I am not going to be hauled over the coals by any of
the Fletchers." And he tumbled into bed in an injured and yet
independent frame of mind.
But the next morning he reread the formal little letter in a new light.
To be sure, it was from Edith's cousin. He knew him very well; he was
not a person to go out of his way to interfere with anybody, and more
than likely it was in relation to Edith's affairs that he was asked to
call. That thought put a new aspect on the matter. Of course if it
concerned her interests he ought to go. He dressed with unusual care for
him in these days, breakfasted at the cheap restaurant which he
frequented, and before noon was in the Fletcher warehouse in Pearl
He had never been there before, and he was somewhat curious to see what
sort of a place it was where Gilbert carried on the string business,
as he used to call it when speaking to Edith of her cousin's occupation.
It was a much more dingy and smelly place than he expected, but the carts
about the doors, and the bustle of loading and unloading, of workmen
hauling and pulling, and of clerks calling out names and numbers to be
registered and checked, gave him the impression that it was not a dull
Mr. Fletcher received him in the little dim back office with a cordial
shake of the hand, gave him a chair, and reseated himself, pushing back
the papers in front of him with the air of a very busy man who was
dropping for a moment one thing in order to give his mind promptly to
"Our fall trade is just starting up," he said, "and it keeps us all
"Yes," said Jack. "I could drop in any other time--"
"No, no," interrupted Mr. Fletcher; "it is just because I am busy that I
wanted to see you. Are you engaged in anything?"
"Nothing in particular," replied Jack, hesitating. "I'd thought of going
into some business." And then, after a pause: "It's no use to mince
matters. You know--everybody knows, I suppose--that I got hit in that
"So did lots of others," replied Mr. Fletcher, cheerfully. "Yes, I know
about it. And I'm not sure but it was a lucky thing for me." He spoke
still more cheerfully, and Jack looked at him inquiringly.
"Are you open to an offer?"
"I'm open to almost anything," Jack answered, with a puzzled look.
"Well," and Mr. Fletcher settled back in his chair, "I can give you the
situation in five minutes. I've been in this business over thirty years
--yes; over thirty-five years. It has grown, little by little, until
it's a pretty big business. I've a partner, a first-rate man--he is in
Europe now--who attends to most of the buying. And the business keeps
spreading out, and needs more care. I'm not as young as I was I shall be
sixty-four in October--and I can't work right along as I used to. I find
that I come later and go away earlier. It isn't the 'work exactly, but
the oversight, the details; and the fact is that I want somebody near me
whom I can trust, whether I'm here or whether I'm away. I've got good,
honest, faithful clerks--if there was one I did not trust, I wouldn't
have him about. But do you know, Jack," it was the first time in the
interview that he had used this name--"there is something in blood."
"Yes," Jack assented.
"Well, I want a confidential clerk. That's it."
"Me?" he asked. He was thinking rapidly while Mr. Fletcher had been
speaking; something like a revolution was taking place in his mind, and
when he asked this, the suggestion took on a humorous aspect--a humorous
view of anything had not occurred to him in months.
"You are just the man."
"I can be confidential," Jack rejoined, with the old smile on his face
that had been long a stranger to it, "but I don't know that I can be a
Mr. Fletcher was good enough to laugh at this pleasantry.
"That's all right. It isn't much of a position. We can make the salary
twenty-five hundred dollars for a starter. Will you try it?"
Jack got up and went to the area window, and looked out a moment upon the
boxes in the dim court. Then he came back and stood by Mr. Fletcher, and
put his hand on the desk.
"Yes, I'll try."
"Good. When will you begin?"
"That's good. No time like now. Wait a bit, and I'll show you about the
place before we go to lunch. You'll get hold of the ropes directly."
This was Mr. Fletcher's veteran joke.
At three o'clock Mr. Fletcher closed his desk. It was time to take his
train. "Tomorrow, then," he said, "we will begin in earnest."
"What are the business hours here?" asked Jack.
"Oh, I am usually here from ten to three, but the business hours are from
nine till the business is done. By-the-way, why not run out with me and
spend the night, and we can talk the thing over?"
There was no reason why he should not go, and he went. And that was the
way John Corlear Delancy was initiated in the string business in the old
house of Fletcher & Co.
Few battles are decisive, and perhaps least of all those that are won by
a sudden charge or an accident, and not as the result of long-maturing
causes. Doubtless the direction of a character or a career is often
turned by a sudden act of the will or a momentary impotence of the will.
But the battle is not over then, nor without long and arduous fighting,
often a dreary, dragging struggle without the excitement of novelty.
It was comparatively easy for Jack Delancy in Mr. Fletcher's office to
face about suddenly and say yes to the proposal made him. There was on
him the pressure of necessity, of his own better nature acting under a
sense of his wife's approval; and besides, there was a novelty that
attracted him in trying something absolutely new to his habits.
But it was one thing to begin, and another, with a man of his
temperament, to continue. To have regular hours, to attend to the
details of a traffic that was to the last degree prosaic, in short, to
settle down to hard work, was a very different thing from the "business"
about which Jack and his fellows at the club used to talk so much, and to
fancy they were engaged in. When the news came to the Union that Delancy
had gone into the house of Fletcher & Co. as a clerk, there was a general
smile, and a languid curiosity expressed as to how long he would stick to
In the first day or two Jack was sustained not only by the original
impulse, but by a real instinct in learning about business ways and
details that were new to him. To talk about the business and about the
markets, to hear plans unfolded for extension and for taking advantage of
fluctuations in prices, was all very well; but the drudgery of details--
copying, comparing invoices, and settling into the routine of a clerk's
life, even the life of a confidential clerk--was contrary to the habits
of his whole life. It was not to be expected that these habits would be
overcome without a long struggle and many back-slidings.
The little matter of being at his office desk at nine o'clock in the
morning began to seem a hardship after the first three or four days.
For Mr. Fletcher not to walk into his shop on the stroke of ten would
have been such a reversal of his habits as to cause him as much annoyance
as it caused Jack to be bound to a fixed hour. It was only the
difference in training. But that is saying everything.
Besides, while the details of his work, the more he got settled in them,
were not to his taste, he was daily mortified to find himself ignorant of
matters which the stupidest clerk in the office seemed to know by
instinct. This acted, however, as a sort of stimulus, and touched his
pride. He determined that he would not be humiliated in this way, and
during office hours he worked as diligently as Mr. Fletcher could have
desired. He had pledged himself to the trial, and he summoned all his
intelligence to back his effort.
And it is true that the satisfaction of having a situation, of doing
something, the relief to the previous daily anxiety and almost despair,
raised his spirits. It was only when he thought of the public opinion of
his little world, of some other occupation more befitting his education,