Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Charles Franks, Eric Eldred
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
and Other Stories
_The American Short Story Series_
Against His Judgment
St. George and the Dragon
The Romance of a Soul
An Exchange of Courtesies
Across the Way
George Colfax was in an outraged frame of mind, and properly so.
Politically speaking, George was what might be called, for lack of a
better term, a passive reformer. That is, he read religiously the New
York _Nation_, was totally opposed to the spoils system of party
rewards, and was ostensibly as right-minded a citizen as one would
expect to find in a Sabbath day's journey. He subscribed one dollar a
year to the civil-service reform journal, and invariably voted on
Election Day for the best men, cutting out in advance the names of the
candidates favored by the Law and Order League of his native city, and
carrying them to the polls in order to jog his memory. He could talk
knowingly, too, by the card, of the degeneracy of the public men of
the nation, and had at his finger-ends inside information as to the
manner in which President This or Congressman That had sacrificed the
ideals of a vigorous manhood to the brass idol known as a second term.
In fact, there was scarcely a prominent political personage in the
country for whom George had a good word in every-day conversation. And
when the talk was of municipal politics he shook his head with a
profundity of gloom which argued an utterly hopeless condition of
affairs--a sort of social bottomless pit.
And yet George was practically passive. He voted right, but, beyond
his yearly contribution of one dollar, he did nothing else but cavil
and deplore. He inveighed against the low standards of the masses, and
went on his way sadly, making all the money he could at his private
calling, and keeping his hands clean from the slime of the political
slough. He was a censor and a gentleman; a well-set-up, agreeable,
quick-witted fellow, whom his men companions liked, whom women termed
interesting. He was apt to impress the latter as earnest and at the
same time fascinating--an alluring combination to the sex which always
likes a moral frame for its fancies.
It was to a woman that George was unbosoming his distress on this
particular occasion, and, as has been already indicated, his
indignation and disgust were entirely justified. Her name was Miss
Mary Wellington, and she was the girl whom he wished with all his
heart to marry. It was no hasty conclusion on his part. He knew her,
as he might have said, like a book, from the first page to the last,
for he had met her constantly at dances and dinners ever since she
"came out" seven years before, and he was well aware that her physical
charms were supplemented by a sympathetic, lively, and independent
spirit. One mark of her independence--the least satisfactory to
him--was that she had refused him a week before; or, more accurately
speaking, the matter had been left in this way: she had rejected him
for the time being in order to think his offer over. Meanwhile he had
decided to go abroad for sixty days--a shrewd device on his part to
cause her to miss him--and here he was come to pay his adieus, but
bubbling over at the same time with what he called the latest piece of
disregard for public decency on the part of the free-born voter.
"Just think of it. The fellow impersonated one of his heelers, took
the civil-service examination in the heeler's name, and got the
position for him. He was spotted, tried before a jury who found him
guilty, and was sentenced to six months in jail. The day he was
discharged, an admiring crowd of his constituents escorted him from
prison with a brass band and tendered him a banquet. Yesterday he was
chosen an alderman by the ballots of the people of this city. A
self-convicted falsifier and cheat! A man who snaps his fingers in the
face of the laws of the country! Isn't that a commentary on the
workings of universal suffrage?" This was a caustic summing up on
George's part of the story he had already told Miss Wellington
piecemeal, and he looked at her as much as to ask if his dejection
were not amply justified.
"It's a humiliating performance certainly," she said. "I don't wonder
you are exercised about it. Are there no extenuating circumstances?"
Miss Wellington appeared duly shocked; yet, being a woman of an alert
and cheery disposition, she reached out instinctively for some
palliative before accepting the affair in all its stark offensiveness.
"None which count--none which should weigh for a moment with any one
with patriotic impulses," he answered. "The plea is that the people
down there--Jim Daly's constituents--have no sympathy with the
civil-service examination for public office, and so they think it was
rather smart of him than otherwise to get the better of the law. In
other words, that it's all right to break a law if one doesn't happen
to fancy it. A nation which nurses that point of view is certain to
come to grief."
Mary nodded gravely. "It's a dangerous creed--dangerous, and a little
specious, too. And can nothing be done about it? About Daly, I mean?"
"No. He's an alderman-elect, and the hero of his district. A
wide-awake, square-dealing young man with no vices, as I heard one of
his admirers declare. By the time I return from my trip to the
Mediterranean I expect they will be booming him for Congress."
Looking at the matter soberly, Mary Wellington perceived that Jim
Daly's performance was a disreputable piece of business, which merited
the censure of all decent citizens. Having reached this conclusion,
she dismissed George Colfax on his travels with a sense of
satisfaction that he viewed the affair with such abhorrence. For, much
as she liked George, her hesitation to become his wife and renounce
the bachelor-girl career to which, since her last birthday--her
twenty-fifth--she had felt herself committed, was a sort of
indefinable suspicion as to the real integrity of his standards. He
was an excellent talker, of course; his ideals of public life and
private ethics, as expressed in drawing-rooms, or during pleasant
dialogues when they were alone together, were exemplary. But every now
and then, while he discoursed picturesquely of the evils of the age
and the obligations of citizenship, it would occur to her to wonder
how consistent he would be in case his principles should happen to
clash with his predilections. How would he behave in a tight place? He
was a fashionable young man with the tastes of his class, and she
thought she had detected in him once or twice a touch of that
complacent egotism which is liable to make fish of one foible and
flesh of another, as the saying is, to suit convention. In short, were
his moral perceptions genuinely delicate?
However, she liked him so well that she was anxious to believe her
questionings groundless. Accordingly, his protestations of repugnance
at Jim Daly's conduct were reassuring. For though they were merely
words, his denunciation appeared heartfelt and to savor of clean and
nice appreciation of the distinction between truth and falsehood.
Indeed, she was half-inclined to call him back to tell him that she
had changed her mind and was ready to take him for better or for
worse. But she let him go, saying to herself that she could live
without him perfectly well for the next sixty days, and that the
voyage would do him good. Were she to become his wife, it would be
necessary to give up the Settlement work in which she had become
deeply interested as the result of her activities as a bachelor-girl.
She must be certain that he was all she believed him to be before she
admitted that she loved him and burned her philanthropical bridges.
Returning to her quarters in the heart of the city, Mary Wellington
became so absorbed in her work of bringing cheer and relief to the
ignorant and needy that she almost forgot George Colfax. Yet once in a
while it would occur to her that it would be very pleasant if he
should drop in for a cup of tea, and she would wonder what he was
doing. Did she, perchance, at the same time exert herself with an
ardor born of an acknowledged inkling that these might be the last
months of her service? However that may have been, she certainly was
very busy, and responded eagerly to every call upon her sympathy.
Among the cases of distress brought to her attention which interested
her most was that of two children whose mother had just died. Their
father was a drinking man--a reeling sot who had neglected his family
for years. His wife, proud in her destitution, had worked her fingers
to the bone to maintain a tenement-roof over the heads of their two
little boys and to send them neat and properly nourished to school.
This labor of love had been too much for her strength, and finally she
had fallen a victim to consumption. This was shortly after her
necessities had become known to the Settlement to which Mary
Wellington belonged. The dying mother besought her visitor to keep
watch over her boys, which Mary promised faithfully to do.
The waifs, Joe and Frank, were two bright-eyed youngsters of eleven
and nine. They stood so well in their classes at school that Mary
resolved that their attendance should not be interrupted during the
interval while a new home was being found for them. She accompanied
them to the school-house, on the morning after the funeral, in order
to explain the situation to their teacher and evince her personal
interest. Miss Burke was a pretty girl two or three years younger than
herself. She looked capable and attractive; a little coquettish, too,
for her smile was arch, and her pompadour had that fluffy fulness
which girls who like to be admired nowadays are too apt to affect. She
was just the sort of girl whom a man might fall desperately in love
with, and it occurred to Mary, as they conversed, that it was not
likely she would remain a public-school teacher long.
Miss Burke evidently knew the art of ingratiating herself with her
pupils. Joe and Frank smiled bashfully, but contentedly, under her
sympathetic, sunny welcome. The two young women exchanged a few words,
the sequel of which was that Mary Wellington accepted the invitation
to remain and observe how the youthful mind was inoculated with the
rudiments of knowledge by the honeyed processes of the modern school
system. While the teacher stepped to the blackboard to write some
examples before the bell should ring, Joe, the elder of the two
orphans, utilized the occasion to remark in a low voice intended for
"She's Jim Daly's mash."
Mary, who failed on the instant to grasp the meaning of this piece of
eloquent information, invited the urchin to repeat it, which he did
with the sly unction of one proud of his secret. Mary laughed to
herself. Some girls would have repressed the youthful gossip, but she
was human. Somehow, too, the name sounded familiar.
"Who's Jim Daly, Joe?"
"He's the boss of the Ninth Ward."
"The Daly who has just been elected alderman?"
Then Mary understood. "Really, Joe!" she said in the stage whisper
necessary to the situation.
"Maybe she's going to be married after Easter," the guileless prattler
continued, to make his confidence complete.
"Then you and Frank would lose her." This was the answer which rose to
Mary's lips, partly prompted, doubtless, by her own instinctive
aversion to the match.
The suggestion of another loss worked upon Joe's susceptible feelings.
Evidently he had not taken this side of the matter into consideration,
and he put up one of his hands to his eyes. Fortunately the bell for
the opening of the session broke in upon the conversation, and not
only diverted him, but relegated the whole subject to the background
for the time being. Nevertheless, the thought of it continued in
Mary's mind as she sat listening to the exercises. How could an
attractive girl like this take a fancy to such a trickster? It seemed
totally incompatible with the teacher's other qualities, for in her
attitude toward her pupils she appeared discerning and conscientious.
When the time came to go, Mary referred to her connection with the
Settlement work in the course of the few minutes' further conversation
which they had together. Miss Burke expressed so lively an interest in
this that it was agreed before they parted that the schoolmistress
should pay Mary a visit some day later in the week, with the twofold
object of taking tea with the two orphans and of being shown the
workings of the establishment.
At this subsequent interview, the two young women chatted briskly in a
cosey corner. Each found the other sympathetic, despite Mary's secret
prejudice; and it happened presently that Miss Burke, whose
countenance now and again had seemed a little pensive, as though she
had something on her mind, said after a pause:
"I'd like to ask your advice about something, Miss Wellington, if you
Mary thought she knew what was coming, surprising as it was to be
consulted. She smiled encouragingly.
"It's about a gentleman friend of mine," continued Miss Burke, with
rising color, "who wishes me to marry him. Perhaps you have heard of
him," she added with a suggestion of furtive pride. "His name is Jim
"I know all about him."
Miss Burke was evidently not prepared for such a sweeping answer. "You
know what he did, then?" she asserted after a moment's hesitation.
"He pretended to be some one else, and passed a civil-service
examination, wasn't it?"
"Yes. I can tell by your tone that you think it was disreputable. So
do I, Miss Wellington; though some of my friends say that it was Jim's
desire to help a friend which led him to do it. But he had to serve
his time in jail, didn't he?" She looked as though she were going to
cry. Then she said awkwardly: "What I wished to ask was whether you
would marry him if you were I."
Mary frowned. The responsibility was disconcerting. "Do you love him?"
she asked plumply.
"I did love him; I suppose I do still; yes, I do." She jerked out her
answers in quick succession. "But our engagement is broken."
"Because of this?"
"Because he has been in jail. None of my family has ever been in
jail." Miss Burke set in place the loose hairs of her pompadour with a
gesture of severe dignity as she spoke.
"And he knows, of course, that his dishonesty is the reason why you
feel that you cannot trust him?" inquired Mary, who, being a logical
person, regarded the last answer as not altogether categorical.
"It wasn't like stealing," said the girl, by way of resenting the
"It was dishonorable and untrue."
"The people down my way don't think much of the civil-service laws.
They call them frills, something to get round if you can. That's how
they excuse him." She spoke with nervous rapidity and a little warmth.
"But they are our country's laws just the same. And a good man--a
patriotic man--ought not to break them." Mary was conscious of voicing
George Colfax's sentiments as well as her own. The responsibility of
the burden imposed on her was trying, and she disliked her part of
mentor. Nevertheless, she felt that she must not abstain from stating
the vital point clearly; so she continued:
"Is not the real difficulty, my dear, that the man who could be false
in one thing might be false in another when the occasion arose?"
Miss Burke flushed at the words, and suddenly covered her face with
"That's it, of course. That's what haunts me. I could forgive him the
other--the having been in jail and all that; but it's the possibility
that he might do something worse after we were married--when it was
too late--which frightens me. 'False in one thing, false in
everything,' that's what the proverb is. Do you believe that is true,
Her unmasked conscience revealed clearly the distress caused by its
own sensitiveness; but she spoke beseechingly, as though to invite
comfort from her companion on the score of this adage.
"Tell me what sort of a man Mr. Daly is in other respects," said Mary.
"Oh, he's kind!" she answered with enthusiasm. "He has been a good son
and brother; he is always helping people, and has more friends than
any one in the district. I don't see why he cared for me," she added
with seeming irrelevance.
"It's a great point in his favor that he does care for you, my dear.
Is he steady at his work?"
"When he isn't too busy with politics. He says that he will give them
up, if I insist; but my doing so might prevent his being chosen to
Congress." There was again rueful pride in her plaint.
Mary sat silent for a moment. "He stands convicted of falsehood." She
seemed to be speaking to herself.
"Yes," gasped the girl, as her mentor paused to let the fell
substantive be weighed.
"That seems terrible to me. But you know him better than I do."
Miss Burke's face lighted at the qualification. Yet her quick
intelligence refused to be thus cajoled. "But what would you do in my
place? That's what I wish to know."
Mary winced. She perceived the proud delicacy of the challenge, and
recognized that she had condescendingly shirked the real inquiry.
"It is so hard to put oneself in another's place. The excuses you have
given for his conduct seem to me inadequate. That is, if a man gave
those reasons to me--I believe I could never trust him again." Mary
spoke with conviction, but she realized that she felt like a
"Thank you," said Miss Burke. "That's what I wished to know." She
looked at the floor for an instant. "Suppose you felt that you could
Mary smiled and reflected. "If I loved him enough for that, I dare say
I should forgive him."
"You really would?" Then Miss Burke perceived that in her elation she
had failed to observe the logical inconsistency which the counsel
contained. "I don't know that I understand exactly," she added.
Mary smiled again, then shook her head. "I doubt if I can make it any
plainer than that. I mean that--if I were you--I should have to feel
absolutely sure that I loved him; and even then--" She paused without
completing the ellipsis. "As to that, dear, no one can enlighten you
"Of course," said poor Miss Burke. Yet she was already beginning to
suspect that the sphinx-like utterance might contain both the kernel
of eternal feminine truth and the real answer to her own doubts.
Some two months later the _Meteoric_, one of the fast ocean
greyhounds, was approaching the port of New York. At sight of land the
cabin passengers, who had been killing time resignedly in one
another's society, became possessed with a rampant desire to leave the
vessel as soon as possible. When it was definitely announced that the
_Meteoric_ would reach her dock early enough in the afternoon to
enable them to have their baggage examined and get away before dark,
they gave vent to their pent-up spirits in mutual congratulations and
Among those on board thus chafing to escape from the limitations of an
ocean voyage was George Colfax, whose eagerness to land was enhanced
by the hope that his absence had made the heart of his lady-love
fonder. His travels had been restful and stimulating; but there is
nothing like one's own country, after all. So he reflected as, cigar
in mouth, he perused the newspapers which the pilot had brought, and
watched the coast-line gradually change to the familiar monuments of
Yet apparently there was a subconsciousness to his thought, for as he
folded his last newspaper and stretched himself with the languor of a
man no longer harried by lack of knowledge as to what has happened
during the last seven days, he muttered under his breath:
"Confound the customs anyway!"
A flutter of garments and a breezy voice brought him politely to his
"That's over with, thank Heaven!" The speaker was a charming woman
from Boston, whose society he had found engrossing during the
voyage--a woman of the polite world, voluble and well informed.
"I just signed and swore to the paper they gave me without reading
it," she added, with a gay shrug of her shoulders, as though she were
well content with this summary treatment of a distasteful matter.
"Have you made your declaration yet?" she asked indifferently.
"What I don't understand is why they should make you take oath to a
thing and then rummage through your trunks as though they didn't
"It's an outrage--an infernal outrage," said George. "Every time the
Government does it the spirit of American institutions is insulted."
"I haven't much with me this time, anyway; they can hardly expect that
a person will go to Europe for six months and not bring back more than
one hundred dollars' worth of things," continued Miss Golightly
artlessly. "One might almost as well stay at home. It isn't as if I
bought them to sell. They are my own ownty donty effects, and I've no
intention of paying the Government one cent on them if I can help it.
And they charge one for presents. Of course, I won't pay on presents I
have bought to give other people. That would simply make them cost so
"The whole thing is a wretched and humiliating farce," was George's
not altogether illuminating comment on this naive revelation of the
workings of the female mind. He spoke doggedly, and then hummed the
refrain of a song as though to keep up his courage.
"Well, I'll go and take my turn," he said, with the air of
aristocratic urbanity which made him a favorite in social circles.
Miss Golightly detained him to add: "If you find any better method, I
wish you'd let me know. It seemed the simplest way not to declare
anything, and to trust to luck."
So great was the bustle and confusion that George was not conscious of
the presence of his lively companion again until he heard her voice in
his ear two hours later on the pier or platform where the baggage from
the _Meteoric_ was being inspected.
"Well," she said under her breath, "I'm all through. They gave me a
jewel of a man. And you?"
"I've had no trouble." George spoke with nonchalance as if to imply
that he had expected none. Out of the corner of his eye he was
following the actions of the custom-house official allotted to him who
was chalking his examined trunks with the hieroglyphics which
signified that the Government had released its grip on them.
This done, George beckoned to an attendant porter, after which he
turned again to Miss Golightly.
"If you'll wait a moment until I see these things of mine safely in
the hands of the transfer express, I'll put you into your carriage and
take a fond farewell."
"You needn't hurry," was her answer.
"My friend, Miss Pilgrim, has declared thirty-four articles, and she
doesn't know in which of her eight trunks any of them are. She and the
citizen in glasses meted out to her, who insists on finding every one,
are now engaged in ransacking her entire wardrobe. I intend to keep at
a safe distance from the scene of worry. That's what comes of being
George and the inspector, preceded by the porter wheeling the
traveller's three trunks, hat-box, and small bags, set out for the
other end of the shed.
George returned ten minutes later; he stepped briskly and was beaming.
"Still waiting, I see," he said jocularly.
"And in your eyes I read the purple light of love, young man. I wish
you success." Her words were the rallying outcome of confidences on
shipboard after five days at sea.
George blushed, but looked pleased. "You may see her first," he said,
"for she is constantly at her cousin's, or was before she took up
"How much did you give him?" asked Miss Golightly.
The reversion to their previous topic was so abrupt and barefaced that
the lover stared for a moment, then tried not to appear confused.
"Oh, a mere trifle!" he said with offhand dignity.
"I gave mine twenty-five dollars," she whispered. "Wasn't that
"Abundant, I should say. But I am not well posted on such matters." It
was evident he wished to avoid the subject, and was also impatient to
get away, for he took out his watch. "If Miss Pilgrim is really likely
to be detained--" he began.
Miss Golightly rose to the occasion and dismissed him. "I understand,"
she exclaimed amiably. "Every minute is precious."
Nevertheless, it was not until two days later that he succeeded in
finding Mary Wellington at home. He called that evening, but was told
by the person in charge that she had taken a brief respite from work
and would not return for another twenty-four hours. On the second
occasion, as the first, he brought with him under his arm a good-sized
package, neatly done up.
"I am back again," he said, and he pressed her hand with unmistakable
Her greeting was friendly; not emotional like his, or unreserved; but
he flattered himself that she seemed very glad to see him. He
reflected: "I don't believe that it did my cause a particle of harm to
let her go without the constant visits she had grown accustomed to
He said aloud: "I came across this on the other side and took the
liberty of bringing it to you."
Mary undid the parcel, disclosing a beautiful bit of jade; not too
costly a gift for a friend to accept, yet really a defiance of the
convention which forbids marriageable maidens to receive from their
male admirers presents less perishable than flowers or sweetmeats.
"It is lovely, and it was very kind of you to remember me."
"Remember you? You were in my thoughts day and night."
She smiled to dispel the tension. "I shall enjoy hearing about your
travels. A friend of yours has told me something of them."
"Ah! Miss Golightly. You have seen her, then, at your cousin's? A
companionable woman; and she knows her Europe. Yes, we compared notes
regarding our travels."
He colored slightly, but only at the remembrance of having confided to
this comparative stranger his bosom's secret under the spell of an
"You brought home other things, I dare say?" Mary asked after a pause,
glancing up at him.
"Oh, yes!" The trend of the question was not clear to him, but he was
impelled to add: "For one thing, I ordered clothes enough to last me
three years at least. I bought gloves galore for myself and for my
sister. As I belong to the working class, and there is no knowing how
soon I may be able to get away again, I laid in a stock of everything
which I needed, or which took my fancy. Men's things as well as
women's are so much cheaper over there if one knows where to go."
"With the duties?"
The words, gently spoken, were like a bolt from the blue. George
betrayed his distaste for the inquiry only by a sudden gravity. "Yes,
with the duties." He hastened to add: "But enough of myself and my
travels. They were merely to pass the time." He bent forward from his
chair and interrogated her meaningly with his glance.
"But I am interested in duties."
He frowned at her insistence.
"Miss Golightly," continued Mary, "explained to us yesterday how she
got all her things through the custom-house by giving the inspector
twenty-five dollars. She gloried in it and in the fact that, though
her trunks were full of new dresses, she made oath that she had
He suspected now her trend, yet he was not certain that he was
included in its scope. But he felt her eyes resting on him
"Did she?" he exclaimed, with an effort at airy lightness which seemed
to afford the only hope of escape.
"How did you manage?"
"I?" He spoke after a moment's pause with the calm of one who slightly
resents an invasion of his privacy.
"Did you pay the duties on your things?"
George realized now that he was face to face with a question which, as
lawyers say, required that the answer should be either "yes" or "no."
Still, he made one more attempt to avert the crucial inquiry.
"Does this really interest you?"
"Immensely. My whole future may be influenced by it."
"I see." There was no room left for doubt as to her meaning. Nor did
he choose to lie. "No, I paid no duties."
"I feared as much."
There was a painful silence. George rose, and walking to the
mantel-piece, looked down at the hearth and tapped the ironwork with
his foot. He would fain have made the best of what he ruefully
recognized to be a shabby situation by treating it jocosely; but her
grave, grieved demeanor forbade. Yet he ventured to remark:
"Why do you take this so seriously?"
"I expected better things of you."
He felt of his mustache and essayed extenuation. "It was--er--unworthy
of me, of course; foolish--pig-headed--tricky, I suppose. I got mad.
I'd nothing to sell, and the declaration is a farce when they examine
after it. So I left them to find what they chose. I'm terribly sorry,
for you seem to hate it so. But it's an idiotic and impertinent law,
"In other words, you think it all right to break a law if you don't
happen to fancy it."
George started visibly and colored. He recognized the aphorism as his,
but for the moment did not recall the occasion of its use. He chose to
evade it by an attempt at banter. "You can't make a tragedy, my dear
girl, out of the failure to pay duties on a few things bought for
one's personal use, and not for sale. Why, nearly every woman in the
world smuggles when she gets the chance--on her clothes and finery.
You must know that. Your sex as a class doesn't regard it as
disreputable in the least. At the worst, it is a peccadillo, not a
crime. The law was passed to enable our native tailors to shear the
Mary ignored the plausible indictment against the unscrupulousness of
her sex. "Can such an argument weigh for a moment with any one with
Again the parrot-like reminder caused him to wince, and this time he
recognized the application.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, with sorry yet protesting confusion.
"It's the inconsistency," she answered without flinching, perceiving
that he understood.
George flushed to the roots of his hair. "You compare me with
that--er--blatherskite?" he asked, conscious as he spoke that her
logic was irrefutable. Yet his self-respect cried out to try to save
"Why not? The civil-service law seemed a frill to Jim Daly; the
customs law an impertinence to you."
He looked down at the hearth again. There was an air of finality in
her words which was disconcerting.
"I've been an ass," he ejaculated. "I'll give the things up; pay the
duties; go to prison, if you like. The punishment is fine or
imprisonment." He intended to be sincere in his offer of
self-humiliation, though his speech savored of extravagance.
Mary shrugged her shoulders. "If you did, I dare say a bevy of society
women would tender you a banquet when you were released from jail."
He bit his lip and stared at her. "You are taking this seriously with
He crossed the room and, bending beside her, sought to take her hand.
"Do you mean that but for this--? Mary, are you going to let a little
thing like this separate us?"
He had captured her fingers, but they lay limp and unresponsive in
"It is not a little thing; from my standpoint it is everything."
"But you will give me another chance?"
"You have had your chance. That was it. I was trying to find out
whether I loved you, and now I know that I do not. I could never marry
a man I could not--er--trust."
"Trust?" I swear to you that I am worthy of trust."
She smiled sadly and drew away her hand. "Maybe. But I shall never
know, you see, because I do not love you."
Her feminine inversion of logic increased his dismay. "I shall never
give up," he exclaimed, rising and buttoning his coat. "When you think
this over you will realize that you have exaggerated what I did."
She shook her head. His obduracy made no impression on her, for she
was free from doubts.
"We will be friends, if you like; but we can never be anything
An inspiration seized him. "What would the girl whom Jim Daly loves,
if there is one, say? She has never given him up, I wager."
Mary blushed at his unconscious divination. "I do not know," she said.
"But you are one person, Jim Daly is another. You have had every
advantage; he is a--er--blatherskite. Yet you condescend to put
yourself on a par with him, and condone the offence on the ground that
your little world winks at it. Remember
"'Spirits are not finely touched
But to fine issues.'
How shall society progress, unless my sex insists on at least that
patent of nobility in the men who woo us? I am reading you a lecture,
but you insisted on it."
George stood for a moment silent. "You are right, I suppose." He
lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he turned and left the
As he passed out, Mary heard the voices of the orphans, Joe and Frank,
in the entry. The former in greeting her held out a letter which had
just been delivered by the postman.
"You've come back, Miss Wellington," cried the little boy rapturously.
"Yes, Joe dear."
Mechanically she opened the envelope. As she read the contents she
smiled faintly and nodded her head as much as to say that the news was
"But _noblesse oblige_," she murmured to herself proudly, not
realizing that she had spoken aloud.
"What did you say, Miss Wellington?"
Mary recalled her musing wits. "I've something interesting to tell
you, boys. Miss Burke is going to be married to Jim Daly. That is bad
for you, dears, but partly to make up for it, I wish to let you know
that there is no danger of my leaving you any more."
AGAINST HIS JUDGMENT
Three days had passed, and the excitement in the neighborhood was
nearly at an end. The apothecary's shop at the corner into which John
Baker's body and the living four-year-old child had been carried
together immediately after the catastrophe had lost most of its
interest for the curious, although the noses of a few idlers were
still pressed against the large pane in apparent search of something
beyond the brilliant colored bottles or the soda-water fountains. Now
that the funeral was over, the womenkind, whose windows commanded a
view of the house where the dead man had been lying, had taken their
heads in and resumed their sweeping and washing, and knots of their
husbands and fathers no longer stood in gaping conclave close to the
very doorsill, rehearsing again and again the details of the
distressing incident. Even the little child who had been so
miraculously saved from the jaws of death, although still decked in
the dirty finery which its mother deemed appropriate to its having
suddenly become a public character, had ceased to be the recipient of
the dimes of the tender-hearted. Such is the capriciousness of the
human temperament at times of emotional excitement, the plan of a
subscription for the victim's family had not been mooted until what
was to its parents a small fortune had been bestowed on the rescued
child; but the scale of justice had gradually righted itself.
Contributions were now pouring in, especially since it was reported
that the mayor and several other well-known persons had headed the
list with fifty dollars each; and there was reason to believe that a
lump sum of from fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars would be
collected for the benefit of the widow and seven children before
public generosity was exhausted.
Local interest was on the wane; but, thanks to the telegraph and the
press, the facts were being disseminated through the country, and
every leading newspaper in the land was chronicling, with more or less
prominence according to the character of its readers, the item that
John Baker, the gate-keeper at a railroad crossing in a Pennsylvania
city, had snatched a toddling child from the pathway of a swiftly
moving locomotive and been crushed to death.
A few days later a dinner-company of eight was gathered at a country
house several hundred miles distant from the scene of the calamity.
The host and hostess were people of wealth and leisure, who enjoyed
inviting congenial parties from their social acquaintance in the
neighboring city to share with them for two or three days at a time
the charms of nature. The dinner was appetizing, the wine good, and
conversation turned lightly from one subject to another.
They had talked on a variety of topics: of tarpon fishing in Florida;
of amateur photography, in which the hostess was proficient, and of
gardens; of the latest novels and some current inelegancies of speech.
Some one spoke of the growing habit of feeing employes to do their
duty. Another referred to certain breaches of trust by bank officers
and treasurers, which occurring within a short time of one another had
startled the community. This last subject begot a somewhat doleful
train of commentary and gave the lugubrious their cue. Complaints were
made of our easygoing standards of morality, and our disposition not
to be severe on anybody; of the decay of ideal considerations and the
lack of enthusiasm for all but money-spinning.
"The gist is here," reiterated one of the speakers: "we insist on
tangible proof of everything, of being able to see and feel it--to get
our dollar's worth, in short. We weigh and measure and scrutinize, and
discard as fusty and outworn, conduct and guides to conduct that do
not promise six per cent per annum in full sight."
"What have you to say to John Baker?" said the host, breaking the
pause which followed these remarks. "I take for granted that you are
all familiar with his story: the newspapers have been full of it.
There was a man who did not stop to measure or scrutinize."
A murmur of approbation followed, which was interrupted by Mrs. Caspar
Green, a stout and rather languid lady, inquiring to whom he referred.
"You know I never read the newspapers," she added, with a decidedly
superior air, putting up her eye-glass.
"Except the deaths and marriages," exclaimed her husband, a lynx-eyed
little stockbroker, who was perpetually poking what he called fun at
his more ponderous half.
"Well, this was a death: so there was no excuse for her not seeing
it," said Henry Lawford, the host. "No, seriously, Mrs. Green, it was
a splendid instance of personal heroism: a gate-keeper at a railway
crossing in Pennsylvania, perceiving a child of four on the track just
in front of the fast express, rushed forward and managed to snatch up
the little creature and threw it to one side before--poor fellow!--he
was struck and killed. There was no suggestion of counting upon six
per cent there, was there?"
"Unless in another sphere," interjected Caspar Green.
"Don't be sacrilegious, Caspar," pleaded his wife, though she added
her mite to the ripple of laughter that greeted the sally.
"It was superb!--superb!" exclaimed Miss Ann Newbury, a young woman
not far from thirty, with a long neck and a high-bred, pale,
intellectual face. "He is one of the men who make us proud of being
men and women." She spoke with sententious earnestness and looked
across the table appealingly at George Gorham.
"He left seven children, I believe?" said he, with precision.
"Yes, seven, Mr. Gorham--the eldest eleven," answered Mrs. Lawford,
who was herself the mother of five. "Poor little things!"
"I think he made a great mistake," remarked George, laconically.
For an instant there was complete silence. The company was evidently
making sure that it had understood his speech correctly. Then Miss
Newbury gave a gasp, and Henry Lawford, with a certain stern dignity
that he knew how to assume, said----
"A mistake? How so, pray?"
"In doing what he did--sacrificing his life to save the child."
"Why, Mr. Gorham!" exclaimed the hostess, while everybody turned
toward him. He was a young man between thirty and thirty-five, a
lawyer beginning to be well thought of in his profession, with a
thoughtful, pleasant expression and a vigorous physique.
"It seems to me," he continued, slowly, seeking his words, "if John
Baker had stopped to think, he would have acted differently. To be
sure, he saved the life of an innocent child; but, on the other hand,
he robbed of their sole means of support seven other no less innocent
children and their mother. He was a brave man, I agree; but I, for
one, should have admired him more if he had stopped to think."
"And let the child be killed?" exclaimed Mr. Carter, the gentleman who
had deplored so earnestly the decay of ideal considerations. He was a
young mill-treasurer, with aristocratic tendencies, and a strong
interest in church affairs.
"Yes, if need be. It was in danger through no fault of his. Its
natural guardians had neglected it."
"What a frightful view to take!" murmured Mrs. Green; and, although
she was very well acquainted with George Gorham's physiognomy, she
examined him disapprovingly through her glass, as if there must be
something compromising about it which had hitherto escaped detection.
"Well, I don't agree with you at all," said the host, emphatically.
"Nor I," said Mr. Carter.
"Nor I, Mr. Gorham," said Mrs. Lawford, plaintively conveying the
impression that if a woman so ready as she to accept new points of
view abandoned him there could be no chance of his being right.
"No, you're all wrong, my dear fellow," said Caspar Green. "Such ideas
may go down among your long-haired artistic and literary friends at
the Argonaut Club, but you can't expect civilized Christians to accept
them. Why, man, it's monstrous--monstrous, by Jove!--to depreciate
that noble fellow's action--a man we all ought to be proud of, as Miss
Newbury says. If we don't encourage such people, how can we expect
them to be willing to risk their lives?" Thereupon the little broker,
as a relief to his outraged feelings, emptied his champagne-glass at a
draught and scowled irascibly. His jesting equanimity was rarely
disturbed; consequently, everybody felt the importance of his
"I'm sorry to be so completely in the minority," said Gorham, "but
that's the way the matter strikes me. I don't think you quite catch my
point, though, Caspar," he added, glancing at Mr. Green. At a less
heated moment the company, with the possible exception of Mrs. Green,
might have tacitly agreed that this was extremely probable; but now
Miss Newbury, who had hitherto refrained from comment, in order to
digest the problem thoroughly before speaking, came to the broker's
"It seems to me, Mr. Gorham," she said, "that your proposition is a
very plain one: you claim simply that John Baker had better not have
saved the child if, in order to do so, it was necessary to lose his
"Precisely," exclaimed Mr. Green, in a tone of some contempt.
"Was not Mr. Gorham's meaning that, though it required very great
courage to do what Baker did, a man who stopped to think of his own
wife and children would have shown even greater courage?" asked Miss
Emily Vincent. She was the youngest of the party, a beautiful girl, of
fine presence, with a round face, dark eyes, and brilliant
pink-and-white coloring. She had been invited to stay by the Lawfords
because George Gorham was attentive to her; or, more properly
speaking, George Gorham had been asked because he was attentive to
"Thank you, Miss Vincent: you have expressed my meaning perfectly,"
said Gorham; and his face gladdened. He was dead in love with her, and
this was the first civil word, so to speak, she had said to him during
"Do you agree with him?" inquired Miss Newbury, with intellectual
"And do you agree with Mr. Gorham?" asked Mrs. Lawford, at the same
All eyes were turned on Emily Vincent, and she let hers fall. She felt
that she would give worlds not to have spoken. Why had she spoken?
"I understand what he means; but I don't believe a man in John Baker's
place could help himself," she said quietly.
"Of course he couldn't!" cried Mrs. Lawford. "There, Mr. Gorham, you
have lost your champion. What have you to say now?" A murmur of
approval went round the table.
"I appreciate my loss, but I fear I have nothing to add to what has
been said already," he replied, with smiling firmness. "Although in a
pitiful minority, I shall have to stand or fall by that."
"Ah, but when it came to action we know that under all circumstances
Mr. Gorham would be his father's son!" said Mrs. Lawford, with less
than her usual tact, though she intended to be very ingratiating.
Gorham's father, who was conspicuous for gallantry, had been killed in
the Civil War.
Gorham bowed a little stiffly, feeling that there was nothing for him
to say. There was a pause, which showed that the topic was getting
threadbare. This prompted the host to call his wife's attention to the
fact that one of the candles was flaring. So the current of
conversation was turned, and the subject was not alluded to again,
thereby anticipating Mr. Carter, who, having caught Miss Newbury's
eye, was about to philosophize further on the same lines.
During the twelve months following his visit at the Lawfords' the
attentions of George Gorham to Emily Vincent became noticeable. He had
loved her for three years in secret; but the consciousness that he was
not able to support a wife had hindered him from devoting himself to
her. He knew that she, or rather her father, had considerable
property; but Gorham was not willing to take this into consideration;
he would never offer himself until his own income was sufficient for
both their needs. But, on the other hand, his ideas of a sufficient
income were not extravagant. He looked forward to building a
comfortable little house in the suburbs in the midst of an acre or two
of garden and lawn, so that his neighbors' windows need not overlook
his domesticity. He would have a horse and buggy wherewith to drive
his wife through the country on summer afternoons, and later, if his
bank-account warranted it, a saddle-horse for Emily and one for
himself. He would keep open house in the sense of encouraging his
friends to visit him; and, that they might like to come, he would have
a thoroughly good plain cook--thereby eschewing French kickashaws--and
his library should contain the best new books, and etchings and
sketches luring to the eye, done by men who were rising, rather than
men who had risen. There should be no formality; his guests should do
what they pleased, and wear what they pleased, and, above all, they
should become intimate with his wife, instead of merely tolerating her
after the manner of the bachelor friends of so many other men.
Thus he had been in the habit of depicting to himself the future, and
at last, by dint of undeviating attention to his business, he had got
to the point where he could afford to realize his project if his
lady-love were willing. His practice was increasing steadily, and he
had laid by a few thousand dollars to meet any unexpected emergency.
His life was insured for fifty thousand dollars, and the policies were
now ten years old. He had every reason to expect that in course of
time as the older lawyers died off he would either succeed to the
lucrative conduct of large suits or be made a judge of one of the
higher tribunals. In this manner his ambition would be amply
satisfied. His aim was to progress slowly but solidly, without splurge
or notoriety, so that every one might regard him as a man of sound
dispassionate judgment, and solid, keen understanding. His especial
antipathy was for so-called cranks--people who went off at half-cock,
who thought nothing out, but were governed by the impulse of the
moment, shilly-shally and controlled by sentimentality.
It was with hope and yet with his heart in his mouth that he set out
one afternoon determined to ask Emily Vincent to become his wife. She
lived in the suburbs, within fifteen minutes by the train, or an
hour's walk from town. Gorham took the cars. It was a beautiful day,
almost the counterpart of that which they had passed together at the
Lawfords' just a year before. As he sat in the train he analyzed the
situation once more for the hundredth time, taking care not to give
himself the advantage of any ambiguous symptoms. Certainly she was not
indifferent to him; she accepted his attentions without demur, and
seemed interested in his interests. But was that love? Was it any more
than esteem or cordial liking, which would turn to pity at the first
hint of affection on his part? But surely she could not plead
ignorance of his intentions; she must long ere this have realized that
he was seriously attentive to her. Still, girls were strange
creatures. He could not help feeling nervous, because so very much was
involved for him in the result. Should she refuse him, he would be and
remain for a long time excessively unhappy. He obliged himself to
regard this alternative, and his heart sank before the possibility.
Not that the idea of dying or doing anything desperate presented
itself to him. Such extravagance would have seemed out of keeping with
respect either for her or for himself. Doubtless he might recover some
day, but the interim would be terribly hard to endure. Rejection meant
a dark, dreary bachelorhood; success, the crowning of his dearest
He found his sweetheart at home, and she came down to greet him with
roses that he had sent her in her bosom. It was not easy for him to do
or say anything extravagant, and Emily Vincent, while she might have
pardoned unseemly effusiveness to his exceeding love for her, was well
content with the deeply earnest though unriotous expression of his
passion. When finally he had folded her in his arms she felt that the
greatest happiness existence can give was hers, and he knew himself to
be an utterly blissful lover. He had won the prize for which he had
striven with a pertinacity like Jacob's, and life looked very roseate.
The news was broken to her family that evening, and received
delightedly, though without the surprise which the lovers expected.
They were left alone for a little while before the hour of parting,
and in the sweet kisses given and taken Gorham redeemed himself in his
mistress's estimation for any lack of folly he had been guilty of when
he had asked her to be his wife. There was riot now in his eyes and in
his embraces, revealing that he had needed only to be sure of her
encouragement to become as ridiculous as she could desire. He stood
disclosed to himself in a new light; and when he had kissed her once
more for the last time he went tripping down the lawn radiantly happy,
turning now and again to throw back with his fingers a message from
his lips to the one being in all the world for him, who stood on the
threshold, adding poetry and grace to the beautiful June evening.
When out of sight of the house, Gorham sped fleetly along the road. He
intended to walk to town, for he felt like glorying in his happiness
under the full moon which was shedding her silver light from a clear
heaven. The air was not oppressive, and it was scented with the
perfume of the lilacs and apple-blossoms, so that Gorham was fain
every now and then to draw a deep breath in order to inhale their
fragrance. There was no dust, and nature looked spruce and trig,
without a taint of the frowziness which is observable in the foliage a
Gorham took very little notice of the details; his eyes were busy
rather with mind-problems than with the particular beauties of the
night; yet his rapt gaze swept the brilliant heavens as though he felt
their lustre to be in harmony with the radiance in his own soul. He
was imagining the future--his hearth forever blessed by her sweet
presence, their mutual joys and sorrows sweetened and alleviated
through being shared. His efforts to live worthily would be fortified
by her example and counsel. How the pleasures of walking and riding
and reading and travelling--of everything in life--would be a
hundredfold enhanced by being able to interchange impressions with
each other! He pictured to himself the cosey evenings they would pass
at home when the day's work was done, and the jolly trips they would
take together when vacation-time arrived. How he would watch over her,
and how he would guard her and tend her and comfort her if misfortune
came or ill health assailed her! There would be little ones, perhaps,
to claim their joint devotion, and bid him redouble his energies; he
smiled at the thought of baby fingers about his neck, and there arose
to his mind's eye a sweet vision of Emily sitting, pale but
triumphant, rocking her new-born child upon her breast.
He walked swiftly on the wings of transport. It was almost as light as
day, yet he met but few travellers along the country road. An
occasional vehicle passed him, breaking the silvery stillness with its
rumble which subsided at last into the distance. A pair of whispering
lovers, arm in arm, who slunk into the shadow as he came abreast of
them, won from him a glance of sympathy. Just after he had left them
behind the shrill whistle of a locomotive jarring upon the silence
seemed to bring him a message from the woman he adored. Had he not
preferred to walk, this was the train he would have taken, and it must
have stopped not many hundred yards from her door. As he listened to
it thundering past almost parallel to him in the cut below he breathed
a prayer of blessing on her rest.
A little beyond this point the road curved and ran at a gradual
incline so as to cross the railroad track at grade about half a mile
farther on. This stretch was lined on each side by horse-chestnut
trees set near to one another, the spreading foliage of which darkened
the gravelled foot-path, so that Gorham, who was enjoying the
moonlight, preferred to keep in the middle of the road, which, by way
of contrast, gleamed almost like a river. He was pursuing his way with
elastic steps, when of a sudden his attention was arrested about a
hundred and fifty yards from the crossing by something lying at the
foot of one of the trees on the right-hand side. At a second glance he
saw that it was a woman's figure. Probably she was asleep: but she
might be ill or injured. It was a lonely spot, so it occurred to him
that it was proper for him to investigate. Accordingly, he stepped to
her side and bent over her. From her calico dress, which was her only
covering, she evidently belonged to the laboring class. She was a
large, coarse-looking woman, and was lying, in what appeared to Gorham
to be drunken slumber, on her bonnet, the draggled strings of which
caught his eye. He hesitated a moment, and then shook her by the arm.
She groaned boozily, but after he had shaken her again two or three
times she rolled over and raised herself on her elbow, rubbing her
eyes and staring at him glassily.
"Are you hurt, woman?" he asked.
She made a guttural response which might have meant anything, but she
proved that she was uninjured by getting on her feet. She stared at
her disturber bewilderedly, then, perceiving her bonnet, stooped to
pick it up, and stood for a moment trying sleepily to poke it into
shape and readjust its tawdry plumage. But all of a sudden she gave a
start and began looking around her with recovered energy. She missed
something, evidently. Gorham followed the direction of her gaze as it
shifted, and as his glance met the line of the road he perceived a
little figure standing in the middle of the railway crossing. It was a
child--her child, without doubt--and as he said so to himself the roar
of an approaching train, coupled with the sound of the whistle, made
him start with horror. The late express from town was due. Gorham
remembered that there was a considerable curve in the railroad at this
point. The woman had not perceived the situation--she was too far in
the shade--but Gorham from where he stood commanded a clear view of
Without an instant's hesitation, he sprang forward and ran at full
speed. His first thought was that the train was very near. He ran with
all his might and main, his eyes fixed on the little white figure, and
shouting to warn it of its danger. Suddenly there flashed before his
mind with vividness the remembrance of John Baker, and he recalled his
argument at the Lawfords'. But he did not abate his speed. The child
had plumped itself down on one of the sleepers, and was apparently
playing with some pebbles. It was on the farther track, and, startled
by his cries and by the clang of the approaching train, looked up at
him. He saw a pale, besmeared little countenance; he heard behind him
the agonizing screams of the mother, who had realized her baby's
peril; in his ears rang the shrill warning of the engineer as the
engine rounded the curve. Would he be in time?
As he reached the edge of the tracks, thought of Emily and a terrible
consciousness of the sorrow she would feel if anything were to happen
to him compressed his heart. But he did not falter. He was aware of
the jangle of a fiercely rung bell, the hiss of steam, and a blinding
glare; he could feel on his cheek the breath of the iron monster. With
set teeth he threw himself forward, stooped, and reached out over the
rail: in another instant he had tossed the child from the pathway of
danger, and he himself had been mangled to death by the powerful
ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON
Paul Harrington, the reporter, shifted his eagle glance from one
feature to another of the obsequies with the comprehensive yet swift
perception of an artist. An experience of three years on the staff had
made him an expert on ceremonies, and, captious as he could be when
the occasion merited his scorn, his predilection was for praise, as he
was an optimist by instinct. This time he could praise unreservedly,
and he was impatient to transfer to the pages of his note-book his
seething impressions of the solemn beauty and simplicity of the last
rites in the painful tragedy. In the rustic church into which he had
wormed his way he had already found time to scribble a brief paragraph
to the effect that the melancholy event had "shrouded the picturesque
little town of Carver in gloom," and now as he stood on the greensward
near, though not too near, he hastily jotted down the points of
interest with keen anticipation of working out some telling
description on the way home.
Out from the little church where the families of the pair of lovers
had worshipped in summer time for a generation, the two coffins, piled
high with flowers (Harrington knew them reportorially as caskets),
were borne by the band of pall-bearers, stalwart young intimate
friends, and lifted by the same hands tenderly into the hearse. The
long blackness of their frock-coats and the sable accompaniment of
their silk hats, gloves, and ties appealed to the observant faculties
of Harrington as in harmony both with the high social position of the
parties and the peculiar sadness of the occasion. That a young man and
woman, on the eve of matrimony, and with everything to live for,
should be hurled into eternity (a Harringtonian figure of speech) by a
railroad train at a rustic crossing, while driving, was certainly an
affair heartrending enough to invite every habiliment of woe. As he
thus reasoned Harrington became aware that one of the stalwart young
men was looking at him with an expression which seemed to ask only too
plainly, "What the devil are you doing here?"
As a newspaper man of some years' standing Harrington was hardened.
Such an expression of countenance was an almost daily experience and
slipped off the armor of his self-respecting hardihood like water off
the traditional duck's back. When people looked at him like this he
simply took refuge in his consciousness of the necessities of the case
and the honesty of his own artistic purpose. The press must be served
faithfully and indefatigably--boldly, moreover, and at times
officiously, in order to attain legitimate results; yet he flattered
himself that no one could ever say of him that he had "butted in"
where others of his craft would have paused, or was lacking in
reportorial delicacy. Was he not simply doing his professional duty
for hire, like any respectable lawyer or doctor or architect, in order
to support his family? Were he to trouble his head because impetuous
people frowned, his wife, Amelia, and infant son, Tesla, would be the
sufferers--a thought which was a constant stimulus to enterprise. His
"job" required "cheek" perhaps, but nine people out of ten were not
sensible enough to realize that he was a modern necessity, and to ask
themselves, "Is this man doing his work creditably?" There was the
essence of the situation for Harrington, and from the world's lack of
nice perception he had made for himself a grievance which rendered him
indifferent to ill-considered scowls.
But, however indifferent his attitude, nothing ever escaped
Harrington, and he noticed that the young man whose eyes met his with
the expression of annoyance was well set up and manly in appearance--a
"dude," in Harrington's parlance, but a pleasant-looking dude, with an
open and rather strong countenance. Such was Harrington's deduction,
in spite of the obvious hostility to himself, and in confirmation of
this view he had the satisfaction of perceiving the tension of the
young man's face relax, as though he had come to the conclusion, on
second thoughts, that interference was, on the whole, not worth while.
"He realizes," said the reporter to himself approvingly, "that there's
no sense in being peevish. A swell funeral must be written up like any
other society function."
While he thus soliloquized, the nearest relatives of the deceased
victims issued from the church, seeking the carriages in waiting for
them. Among those who came next was a handsome, spirited-looking girl
of twenty-five, who, though not of the family group, was a sincere
mourner. As she stepped forward with the elasticity of youth, glad of
the fresh air on her tear-stained cheeks, it happened that she also
observed the presence of the reporter, and she paused, plainly
appalled. Her nostrils quivered with horrified distress, and she
turned her head as though seeking some one. It proved to be the young
man who had misjudged Harrington a few moments before. At least, he
sprang to her side with an agility which suggested that his eyes had
been following her every movement, thereby prompting Harrington, who
was ever on the alert for a touch of romance amid the prose of
every-day business, to remark shrewdly:
"That's plain as the nose on your face; he's her 'steady.'"
He realized at the same time that he was being pointed out in no
flattering terms by the young lady in question, who cast a single
haughty glance in his direction by way of identification. He saw her
eyes flash, and, though the brief dialogue which ensued was
necessarily inarticulate to him, it was plain that she was laying her
outraged feelings at the feet of her admirer, with a command for
something summary and substantial by way of relief.
At any rate, Harrington jumped at once to this conclusion, for he
murmured: "She's telling him I'm the scum of the earth, and that it's
up to him to get rid of me." He added, sententiously: "She'll find, I
guess, that this is about the most difficult billet a fair lady ever
intrusted to a gallant knight." Whereupon, inspired by his metaphor,
he proceeded to hum under his breath, by way of outlet to his amused
sensibilities, the dulcet refrain which runs:
In days of old, when knights were bold
And barons held their sway,
A warrior bold, with spurs of gold.
Sang merrily his lay,
Sang merrily his lay:
"My love is young and fair,
My love hath golden hair,
And eyes so blue and heart so true
That none with her compare.
So what care I, though death be nigh?
I'll live for love or die!
So what care I, though death be nigh,
I'll live for love or die!"
What was going to happen? How would Sir Knight set to work to slay or
expel the obnoxious dragon? Harrington felt mildly curious despite his
sardonic emotions, and while he took mental note of what was taking
place around him he contrived to keep an eye on his censors. He had
observed that the young man's face while she talked to him had worn a
worried expression, as though he were already meditating whether the
situation was not hopeless unless he had recourse to personal
violence; but, having put his Dulcinea into her carriage, he appeared
to be in no haste to begin hostilities. Indeed, without further ado,
or even a glance in Harrington's direction, he took his place in the
line of mourners which was moving toward the neighboring cemetery.
Harrington was for a moment divided in his own mind between the claims
of reportorial delicacy and proper self-respect. It had been his
intention to absent himself from the services at the grave, out of
consideration for the immediate family. It occurred to him now that it
was almost his duty to show himself there, in order not to avoid a
meeting. But the finer instinct prevailed. Why allow what was, after
all, nothing save ignorant disapproval to alter his arrangements? He
had just time to walk leisurely to the station without overheating
himself, and delay would oblige him to take a later train, as there
was no vehicle at his disposal.
Consequently, after his brief hesitation, he followed a high-road at
right angles to that taken by the funeral procession, and gave himself
up to the beguilement of his own thoughts. They were concerned with
the preparation of his special article, and he indulged in the
reflection that if it were read by the couple who had looked at him
askance they would be put to shame by its accuracy and good taste.
Before Harrington had finished three-quarters of the distance which
lay between the church and his destination, the carriages of those
returning from the cemetery began to pass him. When the dust raised by
their wheels had subsided he looked for an undisturbed landscape
during the remainder of his walk, and had just given rein again to
contemplation when a sound which revealed unmistakably the approach of
an automobile caused him to turn his head. A touring car of large
dimensions and occupied by two persons was approaching at a moderate
rate of speed, which the driver, who was obviously the owner, reduced
to a minimum as he ran alongside him.
"May I give you a lift?" asked a strong, friendly voice.
Before the question was put Harrington had recognized in the speaker
the young man whose mission it had become, according to his shrewd
guess, to call him to account for his presence at the funeral. He had
exchanged his silk hat for a cap, and drawn on a white dust-coat over
his other sable garments, but his identity was unmistakable. Viewing
him close at hand Harrington perceived that he had large, clear eyes,
a smooth-shaven, humorous, determined mouth, and full ruddy cheeks,
the immobility of which suggested the habit of deliberation.
Physically and temperamentally he appeared to be the antipodes of the
reporter, who was thin, nervous, and wiry, with quick, snappy ways and
electric mental processes. It occurred to him now at once that the
offer concealed a trap, and he recalled, knowingly, the warning
contained in the classical adage concerning Greeks who bear gifts.
But, on the other hand, what had he to fear or to apologize for?
Besides, there was his boy Tesla to consider. How delighted the little
fellow, who already doted on electricity, would be to hear that his
father had ridden in a huge touring car! He would be glad, too, of the
experience himself, in order to compare the sensation with that of
travelling in the little puffing machines with which he was tolerably
familiar. Therefore he answered civilly, yet without enthusiasm:
"I don't mind if you do, as far as the station."
At his words the chauffeur at a sign made place for him, and he
stepped in beside his pseudo-enemy, who, as he turned on the power,
met Harrington's limitation as to distance with the remark:
"I'm going all the way to New York, if you care to go with me."
Harrington was tempted again. Apart from the peculiar circumstances of
the case he would like nothing better. Then, why not? What had he or
his self-respect to dread from a trip with this accommodating dude? He
would hardly sandbag him, and were he--Harrington grinned inwardly at
the cunning thought--intending to have the machine break down in an
inaccessible spot, and leave him stranded, what difference would it
make? His article was too late already for the evening papers, and he
would take excellent care to see that nothing should interfere with
its appearance the following morning, for at a pinch he was within
walking distance of the city. The thought of such an attempt to muzzle
the liberty of the press was rather an incentive than otherwise, for
it savored of real adventure and indicated that a moral issue was
While he thus reflected he appeared not to have heard the observation.
Meanwhile the automobile was running swiftly and smoothly, as though
its owner were not averse to have his guest perceive what a superb
machine it was.
"What make?" asked the reporter, wishing to show himself affable, yet
a man of the world. He had come to the conclusion that if the
invitation were repeated he would accept it.
His companion told him, and as though he divined that the inquiry had
been intended to convey admiration, added, "She's going now only at
about half her speed."
Harrington grinned inwardly again. "Springes to catch woodcock!" he
said to himself, quoting Shakespeare, then went on to reflect in his
own vernacular: "The chap is trying to bribe me, confound him! Well,
here goes!" Thereupon he said aloud, for they were approaching the
station: "If you really would like my company on the way to town I'd
be glad to see how fast she can go." As he spoke he drew out his watch
and added with suppressed humorous intention: "I suppose you'll
guarantee to get me there in a couple of hours or so?"
"If we don't break down or are not arrested." The voice was gay and
without a touch of sinister suggestion.
"Here's a deep one, maybe," thought Harrington.
Already the kidnapper--if he were one--was steering the car into a
country way which diverged at a sharp curve from that in which they
had been travelling. It was a smooth, level stretch, running at first
almost parallel with the railroad, and in another moment they were
spinning along at a hair-lifting rate of speed, yet with so little
friction that the reporter's enthusiasm betrayed itself in a grunt of
satisfaction, though he was reflecting that his companion knew the way
and did not intend to allow him to change his mind. But Harrington was
quite content with the situation, and gave himself up unreservedly to
the pleasant thrill of skimming along the surface of the earth at such
a pace that the summer breeze buffeted his face so that his eyes
watered. There was nothing in sight but a clear, straight road flanked
by hedges and ditches, save the railroad bed, along which after a
while the train came whizzing. A pretty race ensued until it crossed
their path at almost a right angle.
"Now he thinks he has me," thought Harrington.
It almost seemed so, for in another moment he of the humorous,
determined mouth diminished the power, and after they were on the
other side of the railroad track he proceeded at a much less strenuous
pace and opened conversation.
"You're a reporter, I judge?"
Harrington, who was enjoying himself, would have preferred to avoid
business for a little longer and to talk as one gentleman to another
on a pleasure trip. So, in response to this direct challenge, he
answered with dry dignity:
"Yes. I have the honor of representing the Associated Press."
"One of the great institutions of the country."
This was reasonable--so reasonable, indeed, that Harrington pondered
it to detect some sophistry.
"It must be in many respects an interesting calling."
"Yes, sir; a man has to keep pretty well up to date."
"Married or single, if I may be so bold?"
"I have a wife and a son nine years old."
"That is as it should be. Lucky dog!"
Harrington laughed in approval of the sentiment. "Then I must assume
that you are a bachelor, Mr. ---- ?"
"Dryden. Walter Dryden is my name. Yes, that's the trouble."
"She won't have you?" hazarded the reporter, wishing to be social in
"Mrs. Harrington would not the first time I asked her."
"I have offered myself to her six separate times, and she has thus far
Harrington paused a moment. The temptation to reveal his own
astuteness, and at the same time enhance the personal flavor which the
dialogue had acquired, was not to be resisted. "May I venture to ask
if she is the lady with whom you exchanged a few words this forenoon
at the door of the church?"
The young man turned his glance from the road toward his questioner by
way of tribute to such acumen. "I see that nothing escapes your
"It is my business to notice everything and to draw my own
conclusions," said the reporter modestly.
"They are shrewdly correct in this case. Would you be surprised,"
continued Dryden in a confidential tone, "if I were to inform you that
I believe it lies in your power to procure me a home and happiness?"
Harrington chuckled in his secret soul. He would dissemble. "How could
that possibly be?"
"I don't mind telling you that the last time I offered myself the
young lady appeared a trifle less obdurate. She shook her head, but I
thought I observed signs of wavering--faint, yet appreciable. If now I
could only put her under an obligation and thus convince her of my
effectiveness, I am confident I could win her."
"Your effectiveness?" queried Harrington, to whom the interview was
becoming more psychologically interesting every moment.
"Yes, she considers me an unpractical person--not serious, you know. I
know what you consider me," he added with startling divergence--"a
Harrington found this searchlight on his own previous thought
disconcerting. "Well, aren't you one?" he essayed boldly.
Dryden pondered a moment. "I suppose so. I don't wear reversible cuffs
and I am disgustingly rich. I've shot tigers in India, lived in the
Latin quarter, owned a steam yacht, climbed San Juan Hill--but I have
not found a permanent niche. There are not places enough to go round
for men with millions, and she calls me a rolling stone. Come, now,
I'll swap places with you. You shall own this motor and--and I'll
write the press notice on the Ward-Upton funeral."
Harrington stiffened instinctively. He did not believe that the
amazing, splendid offer was genuine. But had he felt complete faith
that the young man beside him was in earnest, he would have been proof
against the lure of even a touring car, for he had been touched at his
most sensitive point. His artistic capacity was assailed, and his was
just the nature to take proper umbrage at the imputation. More; over,
though this was a minor consideration, he resented slightly the
allusion to reversible cuffs. Hence the answer sprang to his lips:
"Can you not trust me to write the notice, Mr. Dryden?"
"She would like me to write it."
"Ah, I see! Was that what she whispered to you this morning?"
Dryden hesitated. "Certainly words to that effect. Let me ask you in
turn, can you not trust me? If so, the automobile is yours and----"
Harrington laughed coldly. "I'm sorry not to oblige you, Mr. Dryden.
If you understood my point of view you would see that what you propose
is out of the question. I was commissioned to write up the Ward-Upton
obsequies, and I alone must do so."
As he spoke they were passing at a lively gait through the
picturesquely shaded main street of a small country town and were
almost abreast of the only tavern of the place, which wore the
appearance of having been recently remodelled and repainted to meet
the demands of modern road travel.
"Your point of view? What is your point of view?"
Before Harrington had time to begin to put into speech the statement
of his principles there was a sudden loud explosion beneath them like
the discharge of a huge pistol, and the machine came abruptly to a
stop. So unexpected and startling was the shock that the reporter
sprang from the car and in his nervous annoyance at once vented the
hasty conclusion at which he arrived in the words: "I see; this is a
trap, and you are a modern highwayman whose stunt will make good
Sunday reading in cold print." He wore a sarcastic smile, and his
sharp eyes gleamed like a ferret's.
Dryden regarded him humorously with his steady gaze. "Gently there;
it's only a tire gone. Do you suspect me of trying to trifle with the
sacred liberties of the press?"
"I certainly did, sir. It looks very much like it."
"Then you agree that I chose a very inappropriate place for my
purpose. 'The Old Homestead' there is furnished with a telephone, a
livery-stable, and all the modern protections against highway robbery.
Besides, there is a cold chicken and a bottle of choice claret in the
basket with which to supplement the larder of our host of the inn. We
will take luncheon while my chauffeur is placing us on an even keel
again, and no time will be lost. You will even have ten minutes in
which to put pen to paper while the table is being laid."
Harrington as a nervous man was no less promptly generous in his
impulses when convinced of error than he was quick to scent out a
hostile plot. "I beg your pardon, Mr. Dryden. I see I was mistaken."
He thrust out a lean hand by way of amity. "Can't I help?"
"Oh, no, thank you. My man will attend to everything."
"You see I got the idea to begin with and then the explosion following
so close upon your offer----"
"Quite so," exclaimed Dryden. "A suspicious coincidence, I admit." He
shook the proffered fingers without a shadow of resentment. "I dare
say my dust-coat and goggles give me quite the highwayman effect," he
"They sort of got on my nerves, I guess." Under the spell of his
generous impulse various bits of local color flattering to his
companion began to suggest themselves to Harrington for his article,
and he added: "I'll take advantage of that suggestion of yours and get
to work until luncheon is ready."
Some fifteen minutes later they were seated opposite to each other at
an appetizing meal. As Dryden finished his first glass of claret, he
"Did you know Richard Upton?"
"The man who was killed? Not personally. But I have read about him in
the society papers."
"Ah!" There was a deep melancholy in the intonation which caused the
reporter to look at his companion a little sharply. For a moment
Dryden stirred in his chair as though about to make some comment, and
twisted the morsel of bread at his fingers' ends into a small pellet.
But he poured out another glass of claret for each of them and said:
"He was the salt of the earth."
"Tell me about him. I should be glad to know. I might----"
"There's so little to tell--it was principally charm. He was one of
the most unostentatious, unselfish, high-minded, consistent men I ever
knew. Completely a gentleman in the finest sense of that overworked
"That's very interesting. I should be glad----"
Dryden shook his head. "You didn't know him well enough. It was like
the delicacy of the rose--finger it and it falls to pieces. No offence
to you, of course. I doubt my own ability to do him justice, well as I
knew him. But you put a stopper on that--and you were right. My kind
regards," he said, draining his second glass of claret. "The laborer
is worthy of his hire, the artist must not be interfered with. It was
an impertinence of me to ask to do your work."
Harrington's eyes gleamed. "It's pleasant to be appreciated--to have
one's point of view comprehended. It isn't pleasant to butt in where
you're not wanted, but there's something bigger than that involved,
"Quite so; it was a cruel bribe; and many men in your shoes would not
have been proof against it."
"And you were in dead earnest, too, though for a moment I couldn't
believe it. But the point is--and that's what I mean--that the
public--gentlemen like you and ladies like the handsome one who looked
daggers at me this morning--don't realize that the world is bound to
have the news on its breakfast-table and supper-table, and that when a
man is in the business and knows his business and is trying to do the
decent thing and the acceptable artistic thing, too, if I do say it,
he is entitled to be taken seriously and--and trusted. There are
incompetent men--rascals even--in my calling. What I contend is that
you'd no right to assume that I wouldn't do the inevitable thing
decently merely because you saw me there. For, if you only knew it, I
was saying to myself at that very moment that for a funeral it was the
most tastefully handled I ever attended."
"It is the inevitable thing; that's just it. My manners were bad to
begin to with, and later--" Dryden leaned forward with his elbows on
the table and his head between his hands, scanning his eager
"Don't mention it. You see, it was a matter of pride with me. And now
it's up to me to state that if there's anything in particular you'd
like me to mention about the deceased gentleman or lady----"
Dryden sighed at the reminder, "One of the loveliest and most
pure-hearted of women."
"That shall go down," said the reporter, mistaking the apostrophe for
an answer, and he drew a note-book from his side pocket.
Dryden raised his hand by way of protest. "I was merely thinking
aloud. No, we must trust you."
Harrington bowed. He hesitated, then by way of noticing the plural
allusion in the speech added: "It was your young lady's look which
wounded me the most. And she said something. I don't suppose you'd
care to tell me what she said? It wasn't flattering, I'm sure of that,
but it was on the tip of her tongue. I admit I'm mildly curious as to
what it was."
Dryden reflected a moment. "You've written your article?" he asked,
indicating the note-book.
"It's all mapped out in my mind, and I've finished the introduction."
"I won't ask to see it because we trust you. But I'll make a compact
with you." Dryden held out a cigar to his adversary and proceeded to
light one for himself. "Supposing what the lady said referred to
something which you have written there, would you agree to cut it
Harrington looked gravely knowing. "You think you can tell what I have
written?" he asked, tapping his note-book.
Dryden took a puff. "Very possibly not. I am merely supposing. But in
case the substance of her criticism--for she did criticise--should
prove to be almost word for word identical with something in your
handwriting--would you agree?"
Harrington shrugged his shoulders. "Against the automobile as a stake,
if it proves not to be?" he inquired by way of expressing his
"Let it be rather against another luncheon with you as agreeable as
"Done. I will write her exact language here on this piece of paper and
then we will exchange copy."
Harrington sat pleasantly amused, yet puzzled, while Dryden wrote and
folded the paper. Then he proffered his note-book with nervous
alacrity. "Read aloud until you come to the place," he said jauntily.
Dryden scanned for a moment the memoranda, then looked up. "It is all
here at the beginning, just as she prophesied," he said, with a
promptness which was almost radiant, and he read as follows: "The dual
funeral of Miss Josephine Ward, the leading society girl, and Richard
Upton, the well-known club man, took place this morning at--" He
paused and said: "Read now what you have there."
Harrington flushed, then scowled, but from perplexity. He was seeking
enlightenment before he proceeded further, so he unfolded the paper
with a deliberation unusual to him, which afforded time to Dryden to
remark with clear precision:
"Those were her very words."
Harrington read aloud: "'Look at that man; he is taking notes. Oh, he
will describe them in his newspaper as a leading society girl and a
well-known club man, and they will turn in their graves. If you love
me, stop it.'"
There was a brief pause. The reporter pondered, visibly chagrined and
disappointed. The silence was broken by Dryden. "Do you not
understand?" he inquired.
"Frankly, I do not altogether. I--I thought they'd like it."
"Of course you did, my dear fellow; there's the ghastly humor of it;
the dire tragedy, rather." As he spoke he struck his closed hand
gently but firmly on the table, and regarded the reporter with the
compressed lips of one who is about to vent a long pent-up grievance.
"He was in four clubs; I looked him up," Harrington still protested in
"And they seemed to you his chief title to distinction? You thought
they did him honor? He would have writhed in his grave, as Miss
Mayberry said. Like it? When the cheap jack or the social climber
dies, he may like it, but not the gentleman or lady. Leading society
girl? Why, every shop-girl who commits suicide is immortalized in the
daily press as 'a leading society girl,' and every deceased Tom, Dick,
or Harry has become a 'well-known club man.' It has added a new terror
to death. Thank God, my friends will be spared!"
Harrington felt of his chin. "You object to the promiscuity of it, so
to speak. It's because everybody is included?"
"No, man, to the fundamental indignity of it. To the baseness of the
metal which the press glories in using for a social crown."
Harrington drew himself up a little. "If the press does it, it's
because most people like it and regard it as a tribute."
"Ah! But my friends do not. You spoke just now of your point of view.
This is ours. Think it over, Mr. Harrington, and you will realize that
there is something in it." He sat back in his chair with the air of a
man who has pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat and is well
Harrington meditated a moment. "However that be, one thing is
certain--it has got to come out. It will come out. You may rest
assured of that, Mr. Dryden." So saying he reached for his note-book
and proceeded to run a pencil through the abnoxious paragraph.
"You have won your bet and--and the young lady, too, Sir Knight, I
trust. You seem to have found your niche." Which goes to prove that
the reporter was a magnanimous fellow at heart.
Dryden forbore to commit himself as to the condition of his hopes as
he thanked his late adversary for this expression of good-will. Ten
minutes later they were sitting in the rehabilitated motor-car and
speeding rapidly toward New York. When they reached the city Dryden
insisted on leaving the reporter at his doorsteps, a courtesy which
went straight to Harrington's heart, for, as he expected would be the
case, his wife and son Tesla were looking out of the window at the
moment of his arrival and saw him dash up to the curbstone. His sturdy
urchin ran out forthwith to inspect the mysteries of the huge machine.
As it vanished down the street Harrington put an arm round Tesla and
went to meet the wife of his bosom.
"Who is your new friend, Paul?" she asked.
It rose to Harrington's lips to say--an hour before he would have said
confidently--"a well-known club man"; but he swallowed the phrase
before it was uttered and answered thoughtfully:
"It was one of the funeral guests, who gave me a lift in his motor,
and has taught me a thing or two about modern journalism on the way
up. I got stung."
"I thought you knew everything there is to know about that," remarked
Mrs. Harrington with the fidelity of a true spouse.
To this her husband at the moment made no response. When, six months
later, however, he received an invitation to the wedding of Walter
Dryden and Miss Florence Mayberry, he remarked in her presence, as he
sharpened his pencil for the occasion: "Those swells have trusted me
to write it up after all."
THE ROMANCE OF A SOUL
When Marion Willis became a schoolmistress in the Glendale public
school at twenty-two she regarded her employment as a transient
occupation, to be terminated presently by marriage. She possessed an
imaginative temperament, and one of her favorite and most satisfying
habits was to evoke from the realm of the future a proper hero,
shining with zeal and virtue like Sir Galahad, in whose arms she would
picture herself living happily ever after a sweet courtship,
punctuated by due maidenly hesitation. This fondness for letting her
fancy run riot and evolve visions splendid with happenings for her own
advancement and gladness was not confined to matrimonial day-dreams.
On the morning when she entered the school-house door for the first
time the eyes of her mind saw the curtain which veils the years
divide, and she beheld herself a famous educator, still young, but
long since graduated from primary teaching. She forgot the vision of
her Sir Galahad there. Nor were the circumstances of her several
day-dreams necessarily consistent in other respects. It sufficed for
her spiritual exaltation that they should be merely a fairy-like
manifestation in her own favor. But though she loved to give her
imagination rein, the fairy-like quality of these visions was patent
to Miss Willis, for she possessed a quiet sense of humor as a sort of
east-wind supplementary to the sentimental and poetic properties of
her nature. She had a way of poking fun at herself, which, when
exercised, sent the elfin figures scattering with a celerity
suggestive of the departure of her own pupils at the tinkle of the
bell for dismissal. Then she was left alone with her humor and her New
England conscience, that stern adjuster of real values and enemy of
spiritual dissipation. This same conscience was a vigilant monitor in
the matter of her school-teaching, despite Miss Willis's reasonable
hope that Sir Galahad would claim her soon. The hope would have been
reasonable in the case of any one of her sex, for every woman is said
to be given at least one opportunity to become a wife; but in the case
of Miss Willis nature had been more than commonly bounteous. She was
not a beauty, but she was sweet and fresh-looking, with clear, honest
eyes, and a cheery, gracious manner such as is apt to captivate
discerning men. She was one of those wholesome spirits, earnest and
refined, yet prone to laughter, which do not remain long unmated in
the ordinary course of human experience. But her conscience did not
permit her to dwell on this advantage to the detriment of her
Miss Willis lived at home with her mother. They owned their small
house. The other expenses were defrayed from the daughter's salary;
hence strict economy was obligatory, and the expenditure of every
five-dollar bill was a matter of moment. Miss Willis's father had died
when she was a baby. The meagre sum of money which he left had
sufficed to keep his widow and only child from want until Marion's
majority. All had been spent except the house; but, as Miss Willis now
proudly reflected, she had become a breadwinner, and her mother's
declining years were shielded from poverty. They would be able to
manage famously until Sir Galahad arrived, and when he came one of the
joys of her surrender would be that her mother's old age would be
brightened by a few luxuries.
Glendale, as its name denotes, had been a rustic village. When Miss
Willis was engaged (to teach school, not to be married) it was a
thriving, bustling, overgrown, manufacturing town already yearning to
become a city. By the end of another five years Glendale had realized
its ambition, and Miss Willis was still a teacher in its crowded
grammar-school. How the years creep, yet how they fly, when one is
busy with regular, routine employment! The days are such a repetition
of each other that they sometimes seem very long, but when one pauses
and looks back one starts at the accumulation of departed time, and
deplores the swiftness of the seasons.
Five years had but slightly dimmed the freshness of Miss Willis's
charms. She was as comely as ever. She was a trifle stouter, a trifle
less girlish in manner, and only a trifle--what shall we call
it?--wilted in appearance. The close atmosphere of a school-room is
not conducive to rosiness of complexion; and the constant strain of
guiding over forty immature minds in the paths of knowledge will weigh
upon the flesh, though the soul be patient and the heart light. Miss
Willis's class comprised the children whose average age was twelve to
thirteen--those who had been in the school three years. There were
both boys and girls, and they remained with her a year. She had begun
with the youngest children, but promotion had presently established
her in this position.
Forty immature minds--minds just groping on the threshold of life--to
be watched, shaped, and helped for ten months, and their individual
needs treated with sympathy and patience. For ten months--the school
term,--then to be exchanged for a new batch, and so from year to year.
Glendale's manufacturing population included several nationalities, so
that the little army of scholars which sat under Miss Willis's eye
included Poles, Italians, negroes, and now and then a youthful
Chinaman, as well as the sons and daughters of the merchant, the
tailor, the butcher, and baker, and other citizens whose title as
Americans was of older date. It was not easy to keep the atmosphere of
such a school-room wholesome, for the apparel of the poorest children,
though often well darned, was not always clean, and the ventilating
apparatus represented a political job. But it was Miss Willis's pride
that she knew the identity of every one of her boys and girls, and
carried it by force of love and will written on her brain as well as
on the desk-tablets which she kept as a safeguard against possible
lapses of memory. She loved her classes, and it was a grief to her at
first to be obliged to pass them on at the end of the school year. But
habit reconciles us to the inevitable, and she presently learned to
steel her heart against a too sensitive point of view in this respect,
and to supplement the bleeding ties thus rudely severed with a fresh
set without crying her eyes out. Yet though faithful teachers are thus
schooled to forget, they rarely do, and Miss Willis found herself
keeping track, in her mind's eye, of her little favorites--some of
them youthful reprobates--in their progress up the ladder of knowledge
and out into the world.
But what of Sir Galahad? He had dallied, but about this time--the
sixth year of her life as a teacher--he appeared. Not as she had
imagined him--a lover of great personal distinction, amazing talents,
compelling virtues, and large estates; yet, nevertheless, a
presentable being in trousers, whose devotion touched her maidenly
heart until it reciprocated the passion which his lips expressed. He
was a young bookkeeper in a banker's office, with a taste for literary
matters and a respectable gift for private theatricals. A small social
club was the medium by which they became intimate. Sir Galahad was
refined in appearance and bearing, a trifle too delicate for perfect
manliness, yet, as Miss Willis's mother justly observed, a gentle soul
to live with. He had a taste for poetry, and a sentimental vein which
manifested itself in verses of a Wordsworthian simplicity descriptive
of his lady-love's charms. No wonder Marion fell in love with him, and
renounced, without even a sigh of regret, her vision of a husband with
lordly means. Sir Galahad had only his small means, which were not
enough for a matrimonial venture. They would wait in the hope that
some opportunity for preferment would present itself. So for three
years--years when she was in the heyday of her comeliness--they
attended the social club as an engaged couple, and fed their mutual
passion on the poets and occasional chaste embraces. Marion felt sure
that something would happen before long to redeem the situation and
establish her Sir Galahad in the seat to which his merit entitled him.
Her favorite vision was of some providential catastrophe, even an
epidemic or wholesale maiming, by which the partners of the
banking-house and all in authority over her lover should be
temporarily incapacitated, and the entire burden of the business be
thrown on his shoulders long enough to demonstrate his true worth. As
a sequel she beheld him promptly admitted to partnership and herself
The course of events did not respect her vision. After they had been
engaged nearly four years Sir Galahad came to the conclusion one day
that the only hope of establishing himself in business on his own
account was (to repeat his own metaphor) to seize the bull by the
horns and go West. Marion bravely and enthusiastically seconded his
resolution, and fired his spirit by her own prophecy as to his rapid
success. Western real estate for Eastern investors was the line of
business to which Sir Galahad decided to fasten his hopes. He set
forth upon his crusade protesting that within a twelvemonth he would
win a home for Marion and her mother in the fashionable quarter of St.
Paul, Minn., and carrying in his valise a toilet-case tastefully
embroidered by his sweetheart, in a corner of which were emblazoned
two hearts beating as one.
Marion returned to her scholars more than ever convinced that her
employment was but a transient occupation. What followed was this: Sir
Galahad put out his sign as a broker in Western real estate for
Eastern investors, and fifteen months slipped away before he earned
more than his bare living expenses. He had carried with him his poetic
tastes and his gift for private theatricals. The first of these he
exercised in his fond letters home; the second he employed for the
entertainment of the social club in St. Paul, to which he presently
obtained admittance. By the end of the second year he was doing better
financially, but his letters to Marion had become less frequent and
less frank in regard to his own circumstances and doings. There came a
letter at last from Sir Galahad--a letter of eight pages of soul
stress and sorrow, as he would have called it, and of disingenuous
wriggling, as the world would call it--in which he explained as
delicately as was possible under the circumstances that his love for
Miss Willis had become the love of a brother for a sister, and that he
was engaged to be married to Miss Virginia Crumb, the only daughter of
Hon. Cephas I. Crumb, owner and treasurer of the Astarte Metal Works,