Part 3 out of 5
Kimbal by the hair. But here he picked her up in his arms, this time
with no word spoken, and carried her ashore. Some moments passed.
"Well," she said, laughing, "aren't you going to put me down?"
"Oh!" said he, terribly confused, "I forgot. I was just casting an eye
around for that horse. She's gone."
"Never mind--we'll walk."
"It'll be heavy going, wet as you are," said he.
"I'll soon be dry in this air," she said.
Saterlee managed to pull his boots on over his wet socks, and Mrs.
Kimbal, having given him his wet coat from her neck, stooped and wrung
as much water as she could from her clothes.
It was now nearly dark, but they found the road and went on.
"What time is it?" she asked.
"My watch was in my vest," said Saterlee.
"How far to Carcasonne House?"
"'Bout thirty miles."
She did not speak again for some time.
"Well," she said, a little hardness in her voice, "you'll hardly be in
time to steer your boy away from my girl."
"No," said he, "I won't. An' you'll hardly be in time to steer your
girl away from my boy."
"Oh," she said, "you misconceive me entirely, Mr. Saterlee. As far as
I'm concerned, my only regret _now_ is that I shan't be in time to dance
at the wedding."
"Ma'am?" he said, and there was something husky in his voice.
About midnight they saw a light, and, forsaking what they believed in
hopeful moments to be the road, they made for it across country. Across
open spaces of sand, into gullies and out of gullies, through stinging
patches of yucca and prickly pear, through breast-high chaparral,
meshed, knotted, and matted, like a clumsy weaving together of very
tough ropes, some with thorns, and all with sharp points and elbows.
They had long since dispensed with all conversation except what bore on
their situation. Earlier in the night the darkness and the stars had
wormed a story of divorce out of Mrs. Kimbal, and Saterlee had found
himself longing to have the man at hand and by the throat.
And she had prattled of her many failures on the stage and, latterly, of
her more successful ventures, and of a baby boy that she had had, and
how that while she was off playing "on the road" her husband had come
in drunk and had given the baby the wrong medicine. And it was about
then that she had left off conversing.
For in joy it is hard enough to find the way in the dark, while for
those in sorrow it is not often that it can be found at all.
The light proved to be a lantern upon the little porch of a ramshackle
shanty. An old man with immense horn-rimmed spectacles was reading by it
out of a tattered magazine. When the couple came close, the old man
looked up from his reading, and blessed his soul several times.
"It do beat the Dutch!" he exclaimed in whining nasal tones, "if here
ain't two more."
"Two more what?" said Saterlee.
"It's the floods, I reckon," whined the old man. "There's three on the
kitchen floor and there's two ladies in my bed. That's why I'm sittin'
up. There wa'n't no bed for a man in his own house. But I found this
here old copy of the _Medical Revoo_, 'n' I'm puttin' in the time with
"But," said Saterlee, "you must find some place for this lady to rest.
She is worn out with walking and hunger."
"Stop!" whined the old man, smiting his thigh, "if there ain't that
there mattress in the loft! And I clean forgot, and told the boys that I
hadn't nothin' better than a rug or two 'n the kitchen floor."
"A mattress!" exclaimed Saterlee. "Splendid! I guess you can sleep some
on anything near as good as a mattress. Can't you, ma'am?"
"Indeed I could!" she said. "But you have been through as much as I
have--more. I won't take it."
The old man's whine interrupted.
"Ain't you two married?" he said.
"Nop," said Saterlee shortly.
"Now ain't that ridiculous?" meditated the old man; "I thought you was
all along." His eyes brightened behind the spectacles. "It ain't for me
to interfere _in_ course," he said, "but hereabouts I'm a Justice of the
Peace." Neither spoke.
"I could rouse up the boys in the kitchen for witnesses," he insinuated.
Saterlee turned suddenly to Mrs. Kimbal, but his voice was very humble.
"Ma'am?" he suggested.
Mr. Holiday stepped upon the rear platform of his car, the Mishawaka,
exactly two seconds before the express, with a series of faint,
well-oiled jolts, began to crawl forward and issue from beneath the
glass roof of the Grand Central into the damp, pelting snow. Mr. Holiday
called the porter and told him for the good of his soul that fifty years
ago travelling had not been the easy matter that it was to-day. This off
his mind, he pulled an _Evening Post_ from his pocket and dismissed the
porter by beginning to read. He still wore his overcoat and high silk
hat. These he would not remove until time had proved that the
temperature of his car was properly regulated.
He became restless after a while and hurried to the forward compartment
of the Mishawaka to see if all his trunks had been put on. He counted
them over several times, and each time he came to the black trunk he
sniffed and wrinkled up his nose indignantly. The black trunk was filled
with the most ridiculous and expensive rubbish that he had ever been
called upon to purchase. When his married daughters and his wife had
learned, by "prying," that he was going to New York on business, they
had gathered about him with lists as long as his arm, and they had
badgered him and pestered him until he had flown into a passion and
snatched the lists and thrown them on the floor. But at that the ladies
had looked such indignant, heart-broken daggers at him that, very
ungraciously, it is true, and with language that made their
sensibilities hop like peas in a pan, he had felt obliged to relent. He
had gathered up the lists and stuffed them into his pocket, and had
turned away with one bitter and awful phrase.
"Waste not, want not!" he had said.
He now glared and sniffed at the black trunk, and called for the porter.
"Do you know what's in that trunk?" he said in a pettish, indignant
voice. "It's full of Christmas presents for my grandchildren. It's got
crocodiles in it and lions and Billy Possums and music-boxes and dolls
and yachts and steam-engines and spiders and monkeys and doll's
furniture and china. It cost me seven hundred and forty-two dollars and
nine cents to fill that trunk. Do you know where I wish it was?"
The porter did not know.
"I wish it was in Jericho!" said Mr. Holiday.
He fingered the brass knob of the door that led forward to the regular
coaches, turned it presently, and closed it behind him.
His progress through the train resembled that of a mongoose turned
loose in new quarters. Nothing escaped his prying scrutiny or love of
petty information. If he came to a smoking compartment, he would thrust
aside the curtain and peer in. If it contained not more than three
persons, he would then enter, seat himself, and proceed to ask them
personal questions. It was curious that people so seldom resented being
questioned by Mr. Holiday; perhaps his evident sincerity in seeking for
information accounted for this; perhaps the fact that he was famous, and
that nearly everybody in the country knew him by sight. Perhaps it is
impossible for a little gentleman of eighty, very smartly dressed, with
a carnation in his buttonhole, to be impertinent. And then he took such
immense and childish pleasure in the answers that he got, and sometimes
wrote them down in his note-book, with comments, as:
"Got into conversation with a lady with a flat face. She gave me her age
as forty-two. I should have said nearer sixty.
"Man of fifty tells me has had wart on nose for twenty-five years; has
had it removed by electrolysis twice, but it persists. Tell him that I
have never had a wart."
He asked people their ages, whence they came, where they were going;
what they did for a living; if they drank; if they smoked; if their
parents were alive; what their beefsteak cost them a pound; what kind of
underwear they wore; what church they attended; if they shaved
themselves; if married; if single; the number of their children; why
they did not have more children; how many trunks they had in the
baggage-car; whether they had seen to it that their trunks were put on
board, etc. Very young men sometimes gave him joking and sportive
answers; but it did not take him long to catch such drifts, and he
usually managed to crush their sponsors thoroughly. For he had the great
white dignity of years upon his head; and the dignity of two or three
hundred million dollars at his back.
During his peregrinations he came to a closed door which tempted him
strangely. It was probably the door of a private state-room; it might be
the door of a dust closet. He meditated, with his finger upon the knob.
"I'll just open it slowly," he thought, "and if I make a mistake I'll
say I thought it was a smoking compartment."
As the door opened a smell of roses came out. Huddled into the seat that
rides forward was a beautiful girl, very much dishevelled and weeping
bitterly, with her head upon one of those coarse white pillows which the
Pullman Company provides. Her roses lay upon the seat opposite. She was
so self-centred in her misery that she was not aware that the door had
been opened, a head thrust in and withdrawn, and the door closed. But
she was sure that a still, small voice had suddenly spoken in her mind,
and said: "Brace up." Presently she stopped crying, as became one who
had been made the subject of a manifestation, and began to put her hair
in order at the narrow mirror between the two windows. Meanwhile, though
Mr. Holiday was making himself scarce, as the saying is, he was consumed
with interest to know why the beautiful girl was weeping. _And he meant
to find out_.
But in the meantime another case provoked his interest. A handsome woman
of thirty-five occupied Section 7 in Car 6. She was dressed in
close-fitting black, with a touch of white at her throat and wrists.
Mr. Holiday had seen her from the extreme end of the car, and by the
time he was opposite to where she sat it became necessary for him to
have an answer to the questions that had presented themselves about her.
Without any awkward preliminaries, he bent over and said:
"I've been wondering, ma'am, if you are dressed in black for your father
or your husband."
She looked up, recognized the famous eccentric, and smiled.
"Won't you sit down, Mr. Holiday?" she said, and made room for him.
"I wear black," she said, when he had seated himself, "not because I am
in mourning for anybody, but because I think it's becoming to me. You
see, I have very light-colored hair."
"Does all that hair grow on your head?" Mr. Holiday asked, simply and
"Every bit of it," she said.
"I have a splendid head of hair, too," he commented. "But there's a
young man in the car back of this who'll be twenty-two years of age in
February, and he's got more dandruff than hair. Where are you going?"
"Is that your home?"
"No. I'm a bird of passage."
"What is your name?"
"I am Miss Hampton," she said, and she hoped that he might have heard of
her. But he hadn't. And she explained herself. "I'm to play at the
Euclid Theatre Christmas night."
"An actor?" he said.
"Well," she admitted, "some say so, and some won't hear of it."
"How much money do you earn?"
"Two hundred dollars a week."
Mr. Holiday wrote that in his note-book.
"I've got some little nieces and nephews in New York," she volunteered.
"Don't you think it's hard to be a genuine aunt and to have to spend
Christmas alone in a strange place?"
"Not for two hundred dollars a week," said Mr. Holiday
unsympathetically. "You ought to thank your stars and garters."
Presently, after patting her on the back with two fingers, he rose,
bowed, and passed on down the aisle. On the right, in the end section,
was a very old couple, with snow-white hair, and a great deal of
old-fashioned luggage. Mr. Holiday greeted them cordially, and asked
their ages. The old gentleman was seventy-six and proud of it; the old
lady was seventy. Mr. Holiday informed them that he was eighty, but that
they were probably the next oldest people on the train. Anyway, he would
find out and let them know. They smiled good-naturedly, and the old lady
cuddled a little against the old gentleman, for it was cold in that car.
Mr. Holiday turned abruptly.
"I forgot to ask you where you are going?" he said.
They told him that they were going to spend Christmas with their
daughter and son-in-law and the new baby in Cleveland. It was a long
journey. But the season made them feel young and strong. Did Mr. Holiday
think there was any danger of being delayed by the snow? It was coming
down very fast. They could not remember ever to have been in a
sleeping-car when it was snowing so hard outside. Mr. Holiday said that
he would ask the conductor about the snow, and let them know.
In the smoking compartment of the next car forward sat a very young man,
all alone. He looked at once sulky and frightened. He wasn't smoking,
but was drumming on the window sill with his finger nails. He had a
gardenia in his button-hole, and was dressed evidently in his very best
suit--a handsome dark gray, over a malaga-grape-colored waistcoat. In
his necktie was a diamond horseshoe pin.
"Young man," said Mr. Holiday, seating himself, "what makes you look so
The young man started to say, "None of your business," but perceived in
time the eager face and snow-white hair of his questioner, and
"Why," he said tolerantly, "do I look as savage as all that?"
"It isn't money troubles," said Mr. Holiday, "or you would have pawned
that diamond pin."
"Wouldn't you be cross," said the young man, "if you had to look forward
to sitting up all night in a cold smoking compartment?"
"Can't you get a berth?"
"I had a drawing-room," said the young man, "but at the last minute I
had to give it up to a lady."
Mr. Holiday's eyes twinkled with benign interest. He had connected the
gardenia in the young man's coat with the roses of the girl who
"I know," he said, "drawing-room, Car 5. She was crying, but I told her
to brace up, and I guess she's stopped."
The young man jumped to his feet.
"Oh!" he said.
Mr. Holiday chuckled.
"I was right," he said. "I've been right seven times out of the ten for
twenty-five years. I've kept a record."
Upon an impulse the young man checked his headlong inclination to rush
to the girl who was weeping.
"If you are right as often as that," he said, "for God's sake tell me
what to do."
"Certainly," said Mr. Holiday, "and it won't cost you a cent. What's the
"_She_" said the young man with an accent, for there was but the one,
"came to the station to see me off. She gave me this." He touched the
gardenia gently. "I gave her some roses. Just as the train started to
pull out I dared her to come with me ... she came!"
"Tut--tut!" said Mr. Holiday.
"What are we to do?" cried the young man.
"Go back and sit with her," said Mr. Holiday, "and leave the door wide
open. I'm going through the train now to see who's on board; so don't
worry. Leave it all to me."
The last car forward before you came to the baggage-car and the express
car was a common day coach. It was draughty. It had been used as a
smoker in a period not so very remote. A dog must have passed an
uncomfortable night in it.
Near the rear door sat a man in a new derby hat and a new black coat.
Further forward on the same side three children had stuffed themselves
into one seat. The middle child, a well-grown girl of thirteen or
fourteen, seemed by her superior height to shelter the little tots at
her side. Only the blue imitation sailor caps of these appeared above
the top of the seat; and the top of each cap, including that worn by the
older girl, had a centrepiece of white about the size of a gentleman's
visiting card. Mr. Holiday promised himself the pleasure of
investigating these later. In the meanwhile his interest was excited by
the ears of the man in the new derby. They were not large, but they had
an appearance of sticking out further than was necessary; and Mr.
Holiday was about to ask their owner the reason why, when he noticed for
himself that it was because the owner's hair had been cut so very, very
short. Indeed, he had little gray eighth-inch bristles instead of hair.
Mr. Holiday wondered why. He seated himself behind the man, and leaned
forward. The man stirred uneasily.
"I should think you'd be afraid of catching cold in this draughty car
with your hair cut so short," said Mr. Holiday.
"I am," said the man tersely.
"Why did you let them cut it so short then?"
"Let them!" grunted the man, with ineffable scorn. "Let them! You'd have
"I would not," retorted Mr. Holiday crisply. "My wife cuts my hair for
me, just the way I tell her to."
The man turned a careworn, unhappy face.
"My wife used to cut mine," he said. "But then I--I got into the habit
of having it done for me.... Ever been to Ohio Penitentiary, mister? ...
That's the finest tonsorial parlor in America--anything from a shave to
the electric treatment."
"Ohio Penitentiary is a jail for felons," said Mr. Holiday severely.
"Quite so," said the man, "as I was telling you."
His voice had a plaintive, subdued note of defiance in it. It was that
of a person who is tired of lying and beating about the bush.
"When did you get out?" asked Mr. Holiday simply.
"Eight days ago," said the man, "and when I get good and sick of looking
for jobs and getting turned down--I guess I'll go back."
"First they make you work," said Mr. Holiday with a pleased chuckle,
"and then they won't let you work. That's the law. But you take my
advice--you fool 'em!"
"I never fooled anybody," said the man, and he ripped a holy name from
the depths of his downheartedness.
Mr. Holiday had extracted his note-book, and under cover of the
seat-back was preparing to take notes and make comments.
"What did you use to do for a living--before?" he asked.
"I was teller in a bank."
"And what happened?"
"Then," said the man, "the missus had twins, followed by typhoid fever."
His admissions came with hopeless frankness. "And I couldn't pay for all
that luxury. So I stole."
"What bank were you teller in?"
"The Painsville Bank--Painsville. I'm going to them now to--to see if
they won't let up. The wife says that's the thing to do--go right to the
boil of trouble and prick it."
"What did your wife do while you were away?" asked Mr. Holiday
"She did odd jobs, and brought the twins up healthy."
"I remember the Painsville business," said Mr. Holiday, "because I own
stock in that bank. You only took about two hundred dollars."
"That was all I needed," said the man. "It saved the missus and the
kids--so what's the odds?"
"But don't you intend to pay it back?"
"Not if the world won't let me earn any money. I tried for jobs all
to-day, and yesterday, and the day before. I told my story straight. The
missus wrote that was the thing to do. But I guess she's wrong for once.
What would you do if you were a banker and I came to you and said: 'I'm
just out of jail, where I went for stealing; but I mean to be honest.
Won't you give me work?'"
Mr. Holiday wondered what he would do. He was beginning to like the
"Do you know who I am?" he asked.
"Everybody knows you by sight, Mr. Holiday."
"Then you know," said the little old gentleman, "that I've sent plenty
of people to jail in my time--plenty of them."
"I've heard that said," said the man.
"But," said Mr. Holiday sharply, "nobody ever tells stories about the
wrongdoers I have forgiven. Your case never came to me. I believe I
would have shown mercy."
He closed his note-book and rose.
"Keep telling your story straight, my man, and _asking_ for work."
He paused, as if waiting a reply; but the man only grunted, and he
passed forward to the children. First he examined the visiting-card
effects on the tops of their hats, and noticed that these were paper
labels sewed down, and bearing the names and destinations of the little
passengers. Freddie, Alice, and Euphemia Caldwell, reading from left to
right, were consigned in the care of the conductor to Silas Caldwell,
Alice had her arms around Freddie and Euphemia, and her pretty head was
bent first to one and then to the other. Mr. Holiday seated himself
gently behind the trio, and listened for some time. He learned that
"mother" was in the hospital, and "father" had to be with her, and that
the children were going to "Uncle Silas" until sent for. And Uncle Silas
was a very "grouchy" man, and one must mind one's P's and Q's, and never
be naughty, or Uncle Silas would have the law of one. But she, Alice,
would take care of them.
"Going to spend Christmas with Uncle, are you?" piped Mr. Holiday
suddenly; "that's right!"
The little tots, very much interested and startled, faced about, but
Alice looked like a little reproving angel.
"Oh!" she said, climbing out of the seat, "I must speak with you
Mr. Holiday was actually surprised; but he went aside with the child,
where the tots could not hear.
Absolutely without consciousness of doing so, Alice patted and
rearranged the old gentleman's carnation, and talked to him in a gentle,
"I've done everything I could," she said, "to keep the idea of Christmas
away from them. They didn't know when it came until you spoke. But now
they know, and I don't know what I shall do ... our uncle," she
explained, "doesn't celebrate Christmas; he made father understand that
before he agreed to take us until mother got well. So father and I
agreed we'd keep putting Christmas off until mother was well and we were
all together again. But now they'll want their Christmas--and _I_ can't
give it to them."
"Well, well," said Mr. Holiday cheerfully. "I _have_ put my foot in it.
And I suppose Freddie and Euphemia will carry on and raise Cain when
they find there's no Santy Claus in Painsville?"
"Don't you fret, Alice," said Mr. Holiday. "When I get people in trouble
I get 'em out. Your Uncle Silas is a friend of mine--he has to be. I'm
going to send him a telegram." He smiled, and chucked her under the
chin. "I'm not much on Christmas myself," he said, "but an obligation's
an obligation." He shook hands with her, nodded in a friendly way to
the ex-convict, and passed out of the car on his return journey,
consulting his note-book as he went.
First he revisited the old couple, and told them that next to himself
they were in fact the oldest persons on the train, and that they need
not worry about the snow because he had asked the conductor about it,
and the conductor had said that it was all right. Then he started to
revisit Miss Hampton, but was turned from his purpose by a new face in
the car. The new face rose, thin and white, on a long thin neck from a
clerical collar, and its owner was busy with a pad and a pencil.
"Writing a sermon?" asked Mr. Holiday.
The clergyman looked up and smiled.
"No, sir," he said. "I'm doing a sum in addition, and making heavy work
"I'll do it for you," said Mr. Holiday eagerly. He was a lightning
adder, and not in the least averse to showing off. The clergyman, still
smiling, yielded up the pad.
"I'm trying to make it come to two thousand dollars," he said, "and I
"That's because," said Mr. Holiday, returning the pad after one swift
glance up and down the columns, "it only comes to thirteen hundred and
twenty-five dollars. You had the answer correct."
"It's for repairs to the church," said the clergyman dismally. "The
contractor calls for two thousand; and I'm just about ready to give up."
"Well," said Mr. Holiday, "I'm going to get my dinner now, and maybe
later I can give you some idea how to raise the balance. I've raised a
good deal of money in my time." He chuckled.
"I know that, Mr. Holiday," said the clergyman, "and I should be glad of
any--suggestion that you might care to make."
Mr. Holiday seated himself facing Miss Hampton. She smiled, and nodded,
and laid aside the book she had been reading. Mr. Holiday's
"I'm going to turn you out of this section," he said.
"Why?" She smiled.
"Because there's a young friend of mine wants it," he said.
"Now, _really!_" said Miss Hampton, still smiling.
"You're going to carry your duds to the drawing-room, Car 5," he said.
Then, the twinkle in his eyes becoming exceedingly gossipy and sportive,
he told her about the young people who had eloped without exactly
meaning to. Miss Hampton was delighted.
She and Mr. Holiday hurried to the drawing-room in Car 5, of which the
door had been left wide open, according to Mr. Holiday's orders. The
young people looked very happy and unhappy all at once, and as soon as
Mr. Holiday had begun to state their situation to them without mincing,
they assumed a tremendous pair of blushes, which they were not able to
efface for a long time.
"And now," he finished, glaring at the uncomfortable young man, "you
bring your duds and put them in Miss Hampton's section. And then you
gather up Miss Hampton's duds and bring 'em in here." And he turned and
shook his finger at the girl. "Mind you," he said, "don't you ever run
away again without a chaperon. They don't grow on every bush."
Somehow, Mr. Holiday had overlooked the other drawing-room (B) in Car 5.
Now he came suddenly upon it, and peered in, for the door was ajar. But
he drew back with a sharp jerk as if he had seen a rattlesnake. All the
kindness went out of the old gentleman's face, and between anger and
hatred he turned white.
"Jolyff!" he muttered. And, all the elasticity gone from his gait, he
stumbled back to his own car, revolving and muttering unchristian
thoughts. For he and Jolyff had been meeting all their lives, it seemed,
in court and out; sometimes with the right on one side, sometimes on the
other. Each had cost the other a thousand wicked threats and a mint
Mr. Holiday's wanderings through the train had aroused all the kindlier
feelings in his nature. He was going home to his wife and family:
expensive and foolish as it seemed, he had the trunk full of toys for
the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, and he was glad of it. He
had put things right for two prepossessing young people who had made a
wrong start; he had been gallant to an actress; he had determined to
help the clergyman out with his repair fund; to find work for a convict,
and to see to it that three children should have a pleasant visit with
an uncle who was really crotchety, disagreeable, and mean.
But now he did not care about pleasant things any more. He could think
of nothing but Jolyff; of nothing but old sores that rankled; of great
deals that had gone wrong, through his enemy. And in that spirit he
picked at his Christmas Eve dinner, and went to bed.
It seemed to Mr. Holiday every time he woke, which was often, that the
train had just started to move, after standing still for a long time,
and that the porter had never before allowed his car to grow so cold. He
turned the current into the reading light at the head of his bed and
consulted his watch.
Two o'clock. He got to wondering at exactly what hour all those hundreds
of years ago Christ had been born. Had it been as cold as this in the
old barn? Whew!
No, Bethlehem was in the semi-tropics or thereabout, but the common car
in which the three children were passing the night was not. This thought
came to Mr. Holiday without invitation, and, like all unwelcome guests,
made a long stay. So persistent, indeed, was the thought, meeting his
mind at every turn and dogging its footsteps, that he forgot all about
Jolyff and all about everything else. Finally he rang for the porter,
but had no answer. He rang again and again. Then the train jolted slowly
to a standstill, and Mr. Holiday got up and dressed, and went forward
once more through the narrow aisles of thick curtains to the common car.
But the passengers in that car had amalgamated. Alice and the convict,
blue with cold, were in the same seat, and Alice was hugging Freddie,
who slept fitfully, to her breast, and the convict was hugging Euphemia,
who cried gently and softly like a cold and hungry kitten, to his. The
convict had taken off his overcoat and wrapped it as well as he could
about all the children.
Mr. Holiday tapped the convict on the shoulder. "Merry Christmas!" he
said cynically. The convict started and turned. "Bring these babies back
to my car," said Mr. Holiday, "and help me put 'em to bed." "That's a
good deed, Mr. Holiday," said the convict. He started to put on his
overcoat. The undressing and putting to bed had not waked Freddie.
Euphemia had stopped crying. And Alice, when the two men had helped her
with her dress, which buttoned down the back, had suddenly flung her
arms first around one and then around the other, and given each a kiss
The convict buttoned his coat and turned up his collar.
"Good-night, sir," he said, "and thank you."
Mr. Holiday waved the thanks aside and pointed to a door of shining
"There's a bed for you, too," he said gently.
The convict hesitated.
Then--it may have been owing to the sudden starting of the train--he
lurched against the door, and with a sound that was mighty like a sob
thrust it open and slammed it shut behind him.
Mr. Holiday smiled and went back to his own bed. This time he slept
At seven o'clock the porter called him, according to orders. The train
was standing still.
"Merry Christmas, Mistah Holiday, sah!" grinned the porter. "Seven
"Merry Christmas," said Mr. Holiday. "Why are we stopping?"
"We's snowed in," grinned the porter.
"Snowed in!" exclaimed Mr. Holiday. "Where?"
"'Tween Albany and Buffalo, sah. Dey ain't any name to de place. Dey
ain't any place."
"There are three children," said Mr. Holiday, "in the stateroom next to
this and a gentleman in the other stateroom. You call 'em in about an
hour and ask 'em what they'll take for breakfast. Bring me some coffee,
and ask the conductor how late we're going to be."
With his coffee Mr. Holiday learned that the train might be twenty-four
hours late in getting to Cleveland. The conductor supposed that ploughs
were at work along the track; but the blizzard was still raging.
That he would be separated from his wife on Christmas Day for the first
time in their married life did not amuse Mr. Holiday; and although too
much of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren bored him to
extinction, still he felt that any festive day on which they were not
all with him was a festive day gone very wrong indeed. But it was not as
a sop to his own feelings of disappointment that he decided to celebrate
Christmas in the train. It was a mixture of good-nature and, I am
afraid, of malice. He said to himself:
"I shall invite all the passengers to one-o'clock dinner and a Christmas
tree afterward with games and punch. I shall invite the conductor and
the brakeman; the porters shall come to serve dinner. I shall invite the
engineer and the fireman and the express-man. I shall invite everybody
The old gentleman sucked in his lips tightly and dwelt upon this
thought with satisfaction. Jolyff loved a party; Jolyff loved to drink
healths, and clap people on the back, and make little speeches, and
exert himself generally to amuse less gifted persons and make them feel
at home. And it was pleasant to think of him as sitting alone while a
fine celebration was banging and roaring in the very next car--a
celebration to which even an ex-convict had been invited.
First, Mr. Holiday summoned Miss Hampton and the girl who had run away
to be his aides-de-camp. They decided that the party was really for the
benefit of Freddie, Alice, and Euphemia, so these were packed off at
once to the common car to be as far as possible from the scene of
preparations. Then, with Mr. Holiday's porter, and his cook, and the
ex-convict as men of all work, commenced the task of ordering the car
for a crowd and decorating it, and improvising a Christmas tree. Miss
Hampton set to work with a wooden bucket, sugar, rum, brandy, eggs,
milk, and heaven knows what not, to brew a punch. Every now and then Mr.
Holiday appeared, to see how she was getting on, and to taste the
concoction, and to pay her pretty, old-fashioned compliments. The girl
who had run away was helping the porter to lay the table and trying to
write invitations to the passengers at the same time, Mr. Holiday having
furnished her from his note-book with all of their names. Now and then
there were hurried consultations as to what would be a suitable gift for
a given person. The "next oldest" people in the train were to receive a
pair of the silver candlesticks from the table. The train hands were to
receive money, and suddenly Mr. Holiday discovered that he had only a
few dollars in cash with him. He sought out the clergyman.
"Merry Christmas!" he said.
"Merry Christmas!" said the clergyman.
"Have you," said Mr. Holiday, "any of your rebuilding fund with you?"
"Why, yes," said the clergyman, smiling, "some two hundred dollars, and
I cannot deny that it is agony to me to carry about so large a sum."
Mr. Holiday simply held out his hand, palm up.
"Why--what--" began the clergyman in embarrassment.
"I will give you my check for that sum," said Mr. Holiday, "and
something over for your fund. I hope you will dine with me, in my car,
at one o'clock."
He hurried away with the two hundred dollars. It was his intention to
sample Miss Hampton's punch again; but he turned from this on a sudden
impulse and sought out the young man who had been run away with. With
this attractive person he talked very earnestly for half an hour, and
asked him an infinite number of questions; just the kind of questions
that he had asked the young men who had aspired to the hands of his own
daughters. And these must have been satisfactorily answered, because at
the end of the interview Mr. Holiday patted the young man on the back
and said that he would see him later.
Next he came face to face with Mr. Jolyff, and the two old gentlemen
stared at each other coldly, but without any sign of recognition.
Once--ever so many years ago--they had been intimate friends. Mr.
Holiday had never had any other friend of whom he had been so fond. He
tried now to recall what their first difference had been, and because he
could not he thought he must be growing infirm. And he began to think of
his approaching party with less pleasure. He had let himself in for a
good deal of bother, he thought.
But this time Miss Hampton made him take a whole teaspoonful of punch,
and told him what a dear he was, and what a good time everybody was
going to have, and that she would do anything in the world for him; she
would even recite "The Night Before Christmas" for his company, if he
asked her. And then they did a great deal of whispering, and finally Mr.
"But suppose they balk?"
"Nonsense," said Miss Hampton; "would you and I balk if we were in their
The pretty actress and the old gentleman laughed and bowed to each
other, and exchanged the most arch looks imaginable. And then Miss
"Good Lord--it's twelve-thirty."
Then there came to them a sudden dreadful smell of burning feathers.
They dashed into the observation end of the car and found the ex-convict
smothering an incipient conflagration of the Christmas tree, which was
made of dusters, with his hands.
The girl who had run away was despatching the porter with the last batch
of invitations. The ex-convict showed them his burned hands.
"You go and feel the champagne," said Mr. Holiday, "that'll cool'em."
Mr. Holiday himself went to fetch the children. In his pockets were the
envelopes containing money for the train hands, the envelope containing
a check for the two hundred dollars that he had borrowed from the
clergyman, and enough over to complete the rebuilding fund which the
clergyman had tried so hard to collect. And there was an envelope for
the ex-convict--not with money in it, but with an I.O.U.
"_I.O.U. A Good Job_," Mr. Holiday had written on a card and signed his
name. And he had taken out of his satchel and transferred to his
waistcoat pocket a pair of wonderful black pearls that he sometimes wore
at important dinners. And he was going to give one of these to Miss
Hampton and one to the girl who had run away. And then there were all
the wonderful toys and things for Alice, and Freddie, and Euphemia, and
he was going to present them with the black trunk, too, so that they
could take their gifts off the train when it eventually got to
Painsville. And Mr. Holiday had thought of everybody, and had prepared a
little speech to speak to his guests; and for two of his guests he had
arranged one of the greatest surprises that can be sprung on two guests;
and he ought to have been perfectly happy. But he wasn't.
When he passed the door of Mr. Jolyff's drawing-room he noted that it
was tightly closed. And it ought to have pleased him to see how his
enemy had taken his exclusion from the party to heart, and had shut
himself away from any sign or sound of it. But, although he smiled
cynically, he wasn't altogether pleased. And presently he made a wry
mouth, as if he were taking something unpleasant; and he began to hustle
Freddie and Euphemia so as to get away from that closed door as quickly
The girl who had run away was talking with Mr. Holiday when suddenly she
began to grow conscious and uncomfortable. She gave one swift look about
her, and saw that all the passengers, and all the train hands, and
porters, and the express-man were looking at her and smiling, and she
saw that they had ranged themselves against the sides of the car and
were making themselves as small as possible. Then she saw the young man
looking at her with a wonderful, nervous, radiant look. And then she saw
that the clergyman was standing all by himself, in a space that the
crowd had just managed to leave open for him, and that he had on his
surplice, and that he was marking a place in his prayer-book with one
finger. Then she understood.
Instinctively she caught Mr. Holiday's arm and clung to it, and Mr.
Holiday, smiling, patted her hand and began to draw her gently toward
the young man and the clergyman. It looked for a moment as if she were
going to hang back, and protest, and make a scene. But just when
everybody was beginning to fear the worst, and to look frightfully
nervous and uncomfortable, a wonderful and beautiful expression came
into her face, and her eyes lighted, and seemed to grow larger and
darker all at the same time. And if there were any present who had
regarded the impromptu wedding as something of a joke, these now had
their minds changed for them in the quickest kind of a jiffy. And if
there were any present who doubted of the beauty and dignity of love,
these had their minds changed for them, too. And they knew that they
were witnesses, not to a silly elopement, but to the great occasion in
the lives of two very young people who were absolutely sure of their
love for each other, and who would cherish each other in sickness and
peril, in good times and bad, in merry times and in heart-breaking
times, until death did them part.
And then suddenly, just when the clergyman was about to begin, just when
Miss Hampton had succeeded in righting herself from smothering a sob,
Mr. Holiday, whose face, had you but noticed it, had been growing longer
and longer, and drearier and drearier, gave a half-strangled cry:
Wholly oblivious to everything and everybody but what was in his mind at
the moment, he dropped the bride's hand as if it had been a red-hot
horseshoe and started to bolt from the car. But, strangely enough, the
old face that had grown so long and dreary was now wreathed in smiles,
and he was heard to mutter as he went:
"Just a minute, while I get Jolyff!"
* * * * *
Mr. Jolyff and Mr. Holiday lifted their glasses. And Mr. Holiday said,
so that all could hear:
"I drink to my old friends and to my new friends. And I drink to the
lesson of Christmas. For Christmas," said he, and he smiled in a
wonderful way, "teaches us that in all the world there is absolutely
nothing that we cannot forgive...."
The two very old gentlemen clinked their glasses together, and, looking
each other affectionately in the eyes, might have been heard to mutter,
somewhat brokenly, each the other's Christian name.
WHITE MUSCATS OF ALEXANDRIA
My wife, said the Pole, was a long time recovering from the birth of
our second child. She was a normal and healthy woman, but Nature has a
way in these matters of introducing the unnatural; science, too, mistook
the ABCs of the case for the XYZs; and our rooms were for many, many
weary weeks like a cage in which the bird has ceased to sing. I did what
I could. She was not without books, magazines, and delicacies; but I had
to attend to my business; so that time hung about her much like a
millstone, and she would say: "All's well with me, Michael, but I am
Our baby was put out to nurse and our older boy, Casimir, who was seven,
began, for lack of his mother's care, to come and go as he pleased. The
assurance and cheek of street boys began to develop in him. He startled
me by his knowledge and his na´vetÚ. But at the same time he was a
natural innocent--a little dreamer. In the matters of street life that
arise among children he had, as a rule, the worst of it. He was a born
believer of all that might be told him. Such children develop into
artists or ne'er-do-wells. It was too soon to worry about him. But I was
easiest in mind when I saw that he was fashioning anatomies with mud or
drawing with chalk upon the sidewalk. "Wait a little," I would say to my
wife, "and he will be old enough to go to school."
The happiest times were when it was dark and I had closed the store and
could sit by my wife's bed with Casimir on my knee. Then we would talk
over pleasant experiences, or I would tell them, who were both
American-born, stories of Poland, of fairies, and sieges; or hum for
them the tunes to which I had danced in my early youth. But oftenest my
wife and I talked, for the child's benefit, of the wonderful city in
whose slums we lived--upper central New York with its sables and its
palaces. During our courtship and honeymoon we had made many excursions
into those quarters of the city and the memory of them was dear. But if
I remembered well and with happiness, my wife remembered
photographically and with a kind of hectic eagerness in which, I fear,
may have been bedded the roots of dissatisfaction. Details of wealth and
luxury, and manners that had escaped me, even at the time, were as
facile to her as terms of endearment to a lover. "And, oh--do you
remember," she would say, "the ruby that the Fifth Avenue bride had at
her throat, and how for many, many blocks we thought we could still
hear the organ going? That was fun, Michael, wasn't it, when we stood in
front of Sherry's and counted how many real sables went in and how many
fakes, and noticed that the fake sables were as proudly carried as
One night she would not eat her supper. "Oh, Michael," she said, "I'm so
bored with the same old soup--soup--soup, and the same old
porridge--porridge--porridge, and I hate oranges, and apples, and please
don't spend any more money on silly, silly, silly me."
"But you must eat," I said. "What would you like? Think of something.
Think of something that tempts your appetite. You seem better
to-night--almost well. Your cheeks are like cherries and you keep
stirring restlessly as if you wanted to get up instead of lying
still--still like a woman that has been drowned, all but her great, dear
eyes.... Now, make some decision, and were it ambrosia I will get it for
you if it is to be had in the city.... Else what are savings-banks for,
and thrift, and a knowledge of furs?"
She answered me indirectly.
"Do you remember, Michael," she said, "the butcher shops uptown, the
groceries, and the fruit stores, where the commonest articles, the
chops, the preserved strawberries, the apples were perfect and
beautiful, like works of art? In one window there was a great olive
branch in a glass jar--do you remember? And in that fruit store near the
Grand Central--do you remember?--we stood in the damp snow and looked in
at great clean spaces flooded with white light--and there were baskets
of strawberries--right there in January--and wonderful golden and red
fruits that we did not know the names of, and many of the fruits peeped
out from the bright-green leaves among which they had actually grown--"
"I remember the two prize bunches of grapes," I said.
And my wife said:
"I was coming to those ... they must have been eighteen inches long,
every grape great and perfect. I remember you said that such grapes
looked immortal. It was impossible to believe they could ever rot--there
was a kind of joyous frostiness--we went in and asked a little man what
kind of grapes they were, and he answered like a phonograph, without
looking or showing politeness: 'Black Hamburgs and White Muscats of
Alexandria'--your old Sienkiewicz never said anything as beautiful as
that, 'White Muscats of Alexandria--'"
"Dear little heart," I said. "Childkin, is it the memory of those white
grapes that tempts your appetite?"
"Oh, Michael," she exclaimed, clasping her hands over those
disappointed breasts into which the milk had not come in sufficiency.
"Oh, Michael--they were two dollars and a half a pound--"
"Heart of my heart," I said, "Stag Eyes, it is now late, and there are
no such grapes to be had in our part of the city--only the tasteless
white grapes that are packed with sawdust into barrels--but in the
morning I will go uptown and you shall have your White Muscats of
She put her arms about my neck with a sudden spasm of fervor, and drew
my head, that was already gray, down to hers. I remember that in that
moment I thought not of passion but of old age, parting, and the grave.
* * * * *
But she would not eat the grapes in my presence. There was to be an
orgy, she said, a bacchanalian affair--she was going to place the grapes
where she could look at them, and look at them until she could stand the
sight no more, when she would fall on them like a wolf on the fold and
devour them. She talked morbidly of the grapes--almost neurotically.
But, though her fancies did not please my sense of fitness, I only
laughed at her, or smiled--for she had been ill a long time.
"But, at least, eat one now," I said, "so that I may see you enjoy it."
"Not even one," she said. "The bunch must be perfect for me to look at
until--until I can resist no more. Hang them there, on the foot of the
bed by the crook of the stem--is it strong enough to hold them? and
then--aren't you going to be very late to your business? And, Michael, I
feel better--I do. I shouldn't wonder if you found me up and dressed
when you come back."
In your telling American phrase, "there was nothing doing" in my
business that morning. It was one of those peaceful, sunny days in
January, not cold and no wind stirring. The cheap furs displayed in the
window of my shop attracted no attention from the young women of the
neighborhood. The young are shallow-minded, especially the women. If a
warm day falls in winter they do not stop to think that the next may be
cold. Only hats interest them all the year round, and men.
So I got out one of my Cicero books and, placing my chair in a pool of
sunshine in the front of the shop, I began to read, for the hundredth
time, his comfortable generalities upon old age. But it seemed to me,
for the first time, that he was all wrong--that old age is only
dreadful, only a shade better than death itself. And this, I suppose,
was because I, myself, during those long months of my wife's illness,
had turned the corner. The sudden passions of youth had retreated like
dragons into their dens. It took more, now, than the worse end of a
bargain or the touch of my wife's lips to bring them flaming forth. On
our wedding day we had been of an age. Now, after nine years, my heart
had changed from a lover's into a father's, while she remained, as it
were, a bride. There remained to me, perhaps, many useful years of
business, of managing and of saving--enjoyable years. But life--life as
I count life--I had lived out. One moment must pass as the next. There
could be no more halting--no more moments of bliss so exquisite as to
resemble pain. I had reached that point in life when it is the sun alone
that matters, and no more the moon.
A shadow fell upon my pool of sunshine and, looking up, I perceived a
handsome, flashy young man of the clever, almost Satanic type that is so
common below Fourteenth Street; and he stood looking cynically over the
cheap furs in my window and working his thin jaws. Then I saw him take,
with his right hand, from a bunch that he carried in his left, a great
white grape and thrust it into his mouth. They were my grapes, those
which I had gone uptown to fetch for my wife. By the fact that there
were none such to be had in our neighborhood I might have known them.
But the sure proof was a peculiar crook in the stem which I had noticed
when I had hung them for my wife at the foot of her bed.
I rose and went quietly out of the shop.
"Happy to show you anything," I said, smiling.
"Don't need anything in the fur line to-day," said he; "much obliged."
"What fine grapes those are," I commented.
"Um," said he, "they call 'em white muskets of Alexander"; and he
"Where are such to be had?" I asked.
"Well," he said, "I got these just round the corner; but _you'd_ have to
visit some uptown fruit emporium and pay the price."
"So you bought the last bunch?"
"Bought nothin'," he said, and he smiled in a knowing and leering way.
"They were given to me," he said, "by a married woman. I happened to
drop in and she happened to have sent her husband uptown to fetch these
grapes for her because she's playing sick and works him in more ways
than one--but she said the grapes sickened her conscience, and she made
me take 'em away."
"So she has a conscience?" I said.
"They all have," said the young man. "Have one?"
I took one of the grapes with a hand that shook, and ate it, and felt
the red blood in my veins turn into acid.
There happened to be a man in the neighborhood who had been nibbling
after my business for some time. I went to him now and made him a cheap
sale for cash. This I deposited with my savings, keeping out a hundred
dollars for myself, and put the whole in trust for my wife and children.
Then I went away and, after many hardships, established myself in a new
place. And, as is often the case with men who have nothing whatsoever to
live for and who are sad, I prospered. God was ever presenting me with
opportunities and the better ends of bargains.
When fifteen years had passed I returned once more to New York. I had
reached a time of life when the possibility of death must be as steadily
reckoned with as the processes of digestion. And I wished, before I lay
down in the narrow house, to revisit the scenes of my former happiness.
I took the same furnished lodging to which we had gone after our
wedding. I lay all night, but did not sleep, in our nuptial bed. Alone,
but rather in reverence and revery than sadness, I made all those little
excursions upon which we had been so happy during the days of our
honey-moon. I made a point of feeding the animals in the park, of dining
at Claremont--I even stood for a long time before the fruit shop that is
near the Grand Central. But I was too old to feel much. So it seemed.
One day I sat on the steps of the lodging-house in the sun. I had been
for a long walk and I was very tired, very sick of my mortal coil, very
sure that I did not care if the end were to be sleep or life
everlasting. Then came, slowly around the corner of the shabby street
and toward me, a hansom cab. Its occupant, an alert, very young, eager
man, kept glancing here and there as if he were looking for something or
some one; for the old East Side street had still its old look, as if all
the inhabitants of its houses had rushed out to watch an eclipse of the
sun or the approach of a procession--and were patiently and idly
awaiting the event.
The children, and even many of the older people, mocked at the young man
in the hansom and flung him good-natured insults. But he knew the
language of the East Side and returned better than he received. My old
heart warmed a little to his young, brightly colored face, his quick,
flashing eyes, and his ready repartees. And it seemed to me a pity that,
like all the pleasant moments I had known, he, too, must pass and
But his great eyes flashed suddenly upon my face and rested; then he
signalled to the driver to stop and, springing out, a big sketch-book
under his arm, came toward me with long, frank strides.
"I know it's cheeky as the devil," he began in a quick, cheerful voice,
while he had yet some distance to come, "but I can't help it. I've been
looking for you for weeks, and--"
"What is it that I can do for you?" I asked pleasantly.
"You can give me your head." He said it with an appealing and delighted
smile. "I'm a sort of artist--" he explained.
"Show me," I said, and held out my hands for the sketch-book.
"Nothing but notes in it," he said, but I looked, not swiftly, through
all the pages and--for we Poles have an instinct in such matters--saw
that the work was good.
"Do you wish to draw me, _Master?_" I said.
He perceived that I meant the term, and he looked troubled and pleased.
"Will you sit for me?" he asked. "I will--"
But I shook my head to keep him from mentioning money.
"Very cheerfully," I said. "It is easy for the old to sit--especially
when, by the mere act of sitting, it is possible for them to become
immortal. I have a room two flights up--where you will not be
"Splendid!" he said. "You are splendid! Everything's splendid!"
When he had placed me as he wished, I asked him why my head suited him
more than another's.
"How do I know?" he said. "Instinct--you seem a cheerful man and yet I
have never seen a head and face that stood so clearly for--for--please
take me as I am, I don't ever mean to offend--steadiness in sorrow.... I
am planning a picture in which there is to be an ol--a man of your age
who looks as--as late October would look if it had a face...."
Then he began to sketch me, and, as he worked, he chattered about this
"Funny thing," he said, "I had a knife when I started and it's
"Things have that habit," I said.
"Yes," said he, "things and people, and often people disappear as
suddenly and completely as things--chin quarter of an inch lower--just
so--thank you forever--"
"And what experience have you had with people disappearing?" I asked.
"And you so young and masterful."
"I?" he said. "Why, a very near and dear experience. When I was quite a
little boy my own father went to his place of business and was never
heard of again from that day to this. But he must have done it on
purpose, because it was found that he had put all his affairs into the
most regular and explicit order--"
I felt a little shiver, as if I had taken cold.
"And, do you know," here the young man dawdled with his pencil and
presently ceased working for the moment, "I've always felt as if I had
had a hand in it--though I was only seven. I'd done something so naughty
and wrong that I looked forward all day to my father's home-coming as a
sinner looks forward to going to hell. My father had never punished me.
But he would this time, I knew--and I was terribly afraid and--sometimes
I have thought that, perhaps, I prayed to God that my father might never
come home. I'm not sure I prayed that--but I have a sneaking suspicion
that I did. Anyway, he never came, and, Great Grief! what a time there
was. My mother nearly went insane--"
"What had you done?" I asked, forcing a smile, "to merit such terrible
The young man blushed.
"Why," he said, "my mother had been quite sick for a long time, and, to
tempt her appetite, my father had journeyed 'way uptown and at vast
expense bought her a bunch of wonderful white hot-house grapes. I
remember she wouldn't eat them at first--just wanted to look at
them--and my father hung them for her over the foot of the bed. Well,
soon after he'd gone to business she fell asleep, leaving the grapes
untouched. They tempted me, and I fell. I wanted to show off, I suppose,
before my young friends in the street--there was a girl, Minnie
Hopflekoppf, I think her name was, who'd passed me up for an Italian
butcher's son. I wanted to show _her_. I'm sure I didn't mean to eat the
things. I'm sure I meant to return with them and hang them back at the
foot of the bed."
"Please go on," I managed to say. "This is such a very human page--I'm
really excited to know what happened."
"Well, one of those flashy Bowery dudes came loafing along and said:
'Hi, Johnny, let's have a look at the grapes,' I let him take them, in
my pride and innocence, and he wouldn't give them back. He only laughed
and began to eat them before my eyes. I begged for them, and wept, and
told him how my mother was sick and my father had gone 'way uptown to
get the grapes for her because there were none such to be had in our
neighborhood. And, please, he must give them back because they were
White Muscats of Alexandria, very precious, and my father would kill me.
But the young man only laughed until I began to make a real uproar. Then
he said sharply to shut up, called me a young thief, and said if I said
another word he'd turn me over to the police. Then he flung me a
fifty-cent piece and went away, munching the grapes. And," the young man
finished, "the fifty-cent piece was lead."
Then he looked up from his sketch and, seeing the expression of my
face, gave a little cry of delight.
"Great Grief, man!" he cried, "stay as you are--only hold that
expression for two minutes!"
But I have held it from that day to this.
WITHOUT A LAWYER
However bright the court's light may have appeared to the court, the
place in which it was shining smelt damnably of oil. It was three
o'clock in the afternoon, but already the Alaskan night had descended.
The court sat in a barn, warmed from without by the heavily drifted snow
and from within by the tiny flames of lanterns and the breathing of men,
horses, and cows. Here and there in the outskirts of the circle of light
could be seen the long face of a horse or the horned head of a cow.
There was a steady sound of munching. The scene was not unlike many
paintings of the stable in Bethlehem on the night of the Nativity. And
here, too, justice was being born in a dark age. There had been too many
sudden deaths, too many jumped claims, too much drinking, too much
shooting, too many strong men, too few weak men, until finally--for
time, during the long winter, hung upon the neck like a millstone--the
gorges of the more decent had risen. Hence the judge, hence the jury,
hence the prisoner, dragged from his outlying cabin on a charge of
murder. As there were no lawyers in the community, the prisoner held
his own brief. Though not a Frenchman, he had been sarcastically
nicknamed, because of his small size and shrinking expression,
The judge rapped for order upon the head of a flour-barrel behind which
he sat. "Lou Garou," he said, "you are accused of having shot down Ruddy
Boyd in cold blood, after having called him to the door of his cabin for
that purpose on the twenty-ninth of last month. Guilty or not guilty?"
"Sure," said Lou Garou timidly, and nodding his head. "I shot him."
"Why?" asked the judge.
For answer Lou Garou shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the chief
witness, a woman who had wound her head in a dark veil so that her face
could not be seen. "Make her take that veil off," said he in a shrill
voice, "and you'll see why I shot him."
The woman rose without embarrassment and removed her veil. But, unless
in the prisoner's eyes, she was not beautiful.
"Thank you, madam," said the judge, after an embarrassed pause. "Ahem!"
And he addressed the prisoner. "Your answer has its romantic value, Lou
Garou, but the court is unable to attach to it any ethical significance
whatsoever. Did you shoot Ruddy Boyd because of this lady's appearance
in general, or because of her left eye in particular, which I note has
been blackened as if by a blow?"
"Oh, I did that," said Lou Garou na´vely.
"Sit down!" thundered the judge. The foreman of the jury, a South
Carolinian by birth, had risen, revolver in hand, with the evident
intention of executing the prisoner on the spot. "You have sworn to
abide by the finding of the court," continued the judge angrily. "If you
don't put up that gun I'll blow your damned head off."
The juror, who was not without a sense of the ridiculous, smiled and sat
"You have pleaded guilty," resumed the judge sternly, "to the charge of
murder. You have given a reason. You have either said too much or too
little. If you are unable further to justify your cold-blooded and
intemperate act, you shall hang."
"What do you want me to say?" whined Lou Garou.
"I want you to tell the court," said the judge, "why you shot Ruddy
Boyd. If it is possible for you to justify that act I want you to do it.
The court, representing, as it does, the justice of the land, has a
leaning, a bias, toward mercy. Stand up and tell us your story from the
The prisoner once more indicated the woman. "About then," he said, "I
had nothin' but Jenny--and twenty dollars gold that I had loaned to
Ruddy Boyd. Hans"--he pointed to a stout German sitting on the
Carolinian's left--"wouldn't give me any more credit at the store." He
whined and sniffled. "I'm not blaming you one mite, Hans," he said, "but
I had to have flour and bacon, and all I had was twenty dollars gold
that Ruddy owed me. So I says, 'Jenny, I'll step over to Ruddy's shack
and ask him for that money.' She says, 'Think you'd better?' and I says,
'Sure.' So she puts me up a snack of lunch, and I takes my rifle and
starts. Ruddy was in his ditch (having shovelled out the snow), and I
says, 'Ruddy, how about that twenty?' You all know what a nice hearty
way Ruddy had with him--outside. He slaps his thigh, and laughs, and
looks astonished, and then he says: 'My Gawd, Lou, if I hadn't clean
forgot! Now ain't that funny?' So I laughs, too, and says, 'It do seem
kind of funny, and how about it?' 'Now, Lou,' says he, 'you've come on
me sudden, and caught me awkward. I ain't got a dime's worth of change.
But tell you what: I'll give you a check.'
"I says, 'On what bank?'
"He says, 'Oh, Hans over at the store--_he_ knows me--'"
All eyes were turned on the German. Lou Garou continued:
"Ruddy says: 'Hans dassen't not cash it. He's scared of me, the
pot-bellied old fool."
The stout German blinked behind his horn spectacles. He feared neither
God nor man, but he was very patient. He made no remark.
"'If Hans won't,' says Ruddy, 'Stewart sure will!'"
The foreman of the jury rose like a spring slowly uncoiling. He looked
like a snake ready to strike. "May I inquire," he drawled, "what reason
the late lamented gave for supposing that I would honor his
Lou Garou sniffled with embarrassment and looked appealingly at the
"Tell him," ordered the latter.
"Mind, then," said Lou Garou, "it was him said it, not me."
"What was said?" glinted the foreman.
"Something," said Lou Garou in a small still voice like that which is
said to appertain to conscience, "something about him having give you a
terrible lickin' once, that you'd never got over. He says, 'If Stewart
won't cash it, tell him I'll step over and kick the stuffin' out
The juror on the left end of the front row stood up.
"Did he say anything about me?" he asked.
"Nothin' particular, Jimmy," said Lou Garou. "He only said somethin'
general, like 'them bally-washed hawgs over to the Central Store,' I
think it was."
"The court," said the judge stiffly, "knows the deceased to have been a
worthless braggart. Proceed with your story."
"Long and short of it was," said Lou Garou, "we arranged that Ruddy
himself was to get the check cashed and bring me the money the next
Thursday. He swears on his honor he won't keep me waitin' no longer. So
I steps off and eats my lunch, and goes home and tells Jenny how it was.
"'Hope you get it,' says she. 'I know _him._'
"It so happened," continued Lou Garou, "Thursday come, and no Ruddy. No
Ruddy, Friday. Saturday I see the weather was bankin' up black for snow,
so I says: 'Jenny, it's credit or bust. I'll step up to the store and
talk to Hans.' So Jenny puts me up a snack of lunch, and I goes to see
Hans. Hans," said Lou Garou, addressing that juror directly, "did I or
didn't I come to see you that Saturday?"
"Did you or didn't you let me have some flour and bacon on tick?"
"I did nod," said Hans.
Lou Garou turned once more to the judge. "So I goes home," he said, "and
finds my chairs broke, and my table upside down, and the dishes broke,
and Jenny gone."
There was a mild sensation in the court.
"I casts about for signs, and pretty soon I finds a wisp of red hair,
roots an' all, I says, 'Ruddy's hair,' I says. 'He's bin and gone.'
"So I takes my gun and starts for Ruddy's, over the mountain. It's hours
shorter than by the valley, for them that has good legs.
"I was goin' down the other side of the mountain when it seems to me I
hears voices. I bears to the left, and looks down the mountain, and
yonder I sees a man and a woman on the valley path to Ruddy's. The man
he wants the woman to go on. The woman she wants to go back. I can hear
their voices loud and mad, but not their words. Pretty soon Ruddy he
takes Jenny by the arm and twists it--very slow--tighter and tighter.
She sinks to the ground. He goes on twistin'. Pretty soon she indicates
that she has enough. He helps her up with a kick, and they goes on."
The foreman of the jury rose. "Your honor," he said, "it is an obvious
case of _raptae puellae_. In my opinion the prisoner was more than
justified in shooting the man Ruddy Boyd like a dog."
"Sit down," said the judge.
Lou Garou, somewhat excited by painful recollections, went on in a
stronger voice. "I puts up my hind sight to three hundred yards and
draws a bead on Ruddy, between the shoulders. Then I lowers my piece and
uncocks her. 'Stop a bit,' I says. 'How about that twenty?'
It's gettin' dark, and I follows them to Ruddy's. I hides my gun in a
bush and knocks on the door. Ruddy comes out showin' his big teeth and
laughin.' He closes the door behind him.
'Come for that twenty, Lou?' says he.
'Sure,' says I.
He thinks a minute, then he laughs and turns and flings open the door.
'Come in,' he says.
I goes in.
'Hallo!' says he, like he was awful surprised. 'Here's a friend of
yours, Lou. Well, I never!'
I sees Jenny sittin' in a corner, tied hand and foot. I says, 'Hallo,
Jenny'; she says, 'Hallo, Lou.' Then I turns to Ruddy. 'How about that
twenty?' I says.
'Well, I'm damned!' he says. 'All he thinks about is his twenty. Well,
here you are.'
He goes down into his pocket and fetches up a slug, and I pockets it.
'There,' says he; 'you've got yours, and I've got mine.'
I don't find nothin' much to say, so I says, 'Well, good-night all, I'll
Then Jenny speaks up. 'Ain't you goin' to do nothin'?' she says.
"'Why, Jenny,' says I 'what can _I_ do?'
"'All right for you,' she says. 'Turn me loose, Ruddy; no need to keep
me tied after that.'
"So I says 'Good-night' again and goes. Ruddy comes to the door and
watches me. I looks back once and waves my hand, but he don't make no
sign. I says to myself, 'I can see him because of the light at his back,
but he can't see me.' So I makes for my gun, finds her, turns, and
there's Ruddy still standin' at the door lookin' after me into the dark.
It was a pot shot. Then I goes back, and steps over Ruddy into the shack
and unties Jenny.
"'Lou,' she says, 'I thought I knowed you inside out. But you fooled
"By reason of the late hour we stops that night in Ruddy's shack, and
The prisoner, after shuffling his feet uncertainly, sat down.
"Madam," said the judge, "may I ask you to rise?"
The woman stood up; not unhandsome in a hard, bold way, except for her
"Madam," said the judge, "is what the prisoner has told us, in so far as
it concerns you, true?"
"Every word of it."
"The man Ruddy Boyd used violence to make you go with him?"
"He twisted my arm and cramped my little finger till I couldn't bear
"You are, I take it, the prisoner's wife?"
The color mounted slowly into the woman's cheeks. She hesitated, choked
upon her words. The prisoner sprang to his feet.
"Your honor," he cried, "in a question of life or death like this Jenny
and me we speaks the truth, and nothin' but the truth. She's _not_ my
wife. But I'm goin' to marry her, and make an honest woman of her--at
the foot of the gallows, if you decide that way. No, sir; she was Ruddy
There was a dead silence, broken by the sounds of the horses and cows
munching their fodder. The foreman of the jury uncoiled slowly.
"Your honor," he drawled, "I can find it in my heart to pass over the
exact married status of the lady, but I cannot find it in my heart to
pass over without explanation the black eye which the prisoner confesses
to have given her."
Lou Garou turned upon the foreman like a rat at bay. "That night in the
shack," he cried, "I dreams that Ruddy comes to life. Jenny she hears me
moanin' in my sleep, and she sits up and bends over to see what's the
matter. I think it's Ruddy bendin' over to choke me, and I hits out!"
"That's true, every word of it!" cried the woman. "He hit me in his
sleep. And when he found out what he'd done he cried over me, and he
kissed the place and made it well!" Her voice broke and ran off into
The jury acquitted the prisoner without leaving their seats. One by one
they shook hands with him, and with the woman.
"I propose," said the foreman, "that by a unanimous vote we change this
court-house into a house of worship. It will not be a legal marriage
precisely, but it will answer until we can get hold of a minister after
the spring break up."
The motion was carried.
The last man to congratulate the happy pair was the German Hans.
"Wheneffer," he said, "you need a parrel of flour or something, you
comes to me py my store."
THE MONITOR AND THE "MERRIMAC"
THE STORY OF A PANIC
Two long-faced young men and one old man with a long face sat upon the
veranda of the Country Club of Westchester, and looked, now into the
depths of pewter mugs containing mint and ice among other things, and
now across Pelham Bay to the narrow pass of water between Fort Schuyler
and Willets Point. Through this pass the evening fleet of Sound steamers
had already torn with freight and passengers for New Haven, Newport,
Fall River, and Portland; and had already disappeared behind City Island
Point, and in such close order that it had looked as if the _Peck_,
which led, had been towing the others. The first waves from the
paddle-wheels of the great ships had crossed the three miles of
intervening bay, and were slapping at the base of the seawall that
supported the country club pigeon grounds and lawn-tennis terraces, when
another vessel came slowly and haughtily into view from between the
forts. She was as black as the king of England's brougham, and as smart;
her two masts and her great single funnel were stepped with the most
insolent rake imaginable. Here and there where the light of the setting
sun smote upon polished brass she shone as with pools of fire.
"There she is," said Powers. He had been sitting in his shirt sleeves,
but now he rose and put on his coat as if the sight of the huge and
proud yacht had chilled him. Brett, with a petulant slap, killed a
swollen mosquito against his black silk ankle bone. The old man,
Callender, put his hand to his forehead as if trying to remember
something; and the yacht, steaming slower and slower, and yet, as it
seemed, with more and more grandeur and pride of place--as if she knew
that she gave to the whole bayscape, and the pale Long Island shore
against which she moved in strong relief, an irrefutable note of
dignity--presently stopped and anchored, midway between the forts and
City Island Point; then she began to swing with the tide, until she
faced New York City, from which she had just come.
Callender took his hand from his forehead. He had remembered.
"Young gentlemen," he said, "that yacht of Merriman's has been reminding
me every afternoon for a month of something, and I've just thought what.
You remember one day the _Merrimac_ came down the James, very slowly,
and sunk the _Cumberland_, and damaged and frightened the Union fleet
into fits, just the way Merriman has been going down to Wall Street
every morning and frightening us into fits? Well, instead of finishing
the work then and there, she suddenly quit and steamed off up the river
in the same insolent, don't-give-a-hoot way that Merriman comes up from
Wall Street every afternoon. Of course, when the _Merrimac_ came down to
finish destroying the fleet the next day, the _Monitor_ had arrived
during the night and gave her fits, and they called the whole thing off.
Anyhow, it's that going-home-to-sleep-on-it expression of the
_Merrimac's_ that I've been seeing in the _Sappho_."
"You were on the _Monitor_, weren't you?" asked Powers cheerfully.
The old man did not answer, but he was quite willing that Powers and
Brett, and the whole world for that matter, should think that he had
been. Powers and Brett, though in no cheerful mood, exchanged winks.
"I don't see why history shouldn't repeat itself," said Powers.
"You don't!" said Brett. "Why, because there isn't any _Monitor_ waiting
for Merriman off Wall Street."
"And just like the Civil War," said Callender, "this trouble in the
street is a rich man's quarrel and a poor man's war. Just because old
Merriman is gunning for Waters, you, and I, and the rest of us are about
to go up the spout."
Callender was a jaunty old man, tall, of commanding presence and smart
clothes. His white mustache was the epitome of close-cropped neatness.
When he lost money at poker his brown eyes held exactly the same twinkle
as when he won, and it was current among the young men that he had
played greatly in his day--great games for great stakes. Sometimes he
had made heavy winnings, sometimes he had faced ruin; sometimes his
family went to Newport for the summer and entertained; sometimes they
went to a hotel somewhere in some mountains or other, where they didn't
even have a parlor to themselves. But this summer they were living on in
the town house, keeping just enough rooms open, and a few servants who
had weathered former panics, and who were willing to eat dry bread in
bad times for the sake of the plentiful golden butter that they knew was
to be expected when the country believed in its own prosperity and
future. Just now the country believed that it was going to the dogs. And
Mr. Merriman, the banker, had chosen the opportunity to go gunning for
Mr. Waters, the railroad man. The quarrel between the great men was
personal; and so because of a couple of nasty tempers people were being
ruined daily, honest stocks were selling far below their intrinsic
value, United States Steel had been obliged to cut wages, there was a
strike on in the Pennsylvania coal fields, and the Callenders, as I have
said, were not even going to the cheapest mountain top for the summer.
Brett alone was glad of this, because it meant that little Miss
Callender would occasionally come out to the country club for a game of
tennis and a swim, and, although she had refused to marry him on twenty
distinct occasions, he was not a young man to be easily put from his
purpose. Nor did little Miss Callender propose to be relinquished by him
just yet; and she threw into each refusal just the proper amount of
gentleness and startled-fawn expression to insure another proposal
within a month.
Brett, looking upon Callender as his probable father-in-law, turned to
the old gentleman and said, with guileful innocence:
"Isn't there anything you can do, sir, to hold Merriman off? Powers and
I are in the market a little, but our customers are in heavy, and the
way things are going we've got to break whether we like it or not."
Ordinarily Callender would have pretended that he could have checkmated
Merriman if he had wanted to--for in some things he was a child, and it
humored him to pretend, and to intimate, and to look wise; but on the
present occasion, and much to Powers's and Brett's consternation, he
began to speak to them gravely, and confidentially, and a little
pitifully. They had never before seen him other than jaunty and
debonair, whether his family were at Newport or in the mountains.
"It's all very well for you boys," he said; "you have youth and
resiliency on your side. No matter what happens to you now, in money or
in love, you can come again. But we old fellows, buying and selling with
one foot in the grave, with families accustomed to luxury dependent on
us"--he paused and tugged at his neatly ordered necktie as if to free
his throat for the passage of more air--"some of us old fellows," he
said, "if we go now can never come again--never."
He rose abruptly and walked into the house without a word more; but
Brett, after hesitating a moment, followed him. Mr. Callender had
stopped in front of the "Delinquent List." Seeing Brett at his elbow, he
pointed with a well-groomed finger to his own name at the beginning
of the C's.
"If I died to-night," he said, neither gravely nor jocosely, but as if
rather interested to know whether he would or would not, "the club would
have a hard time to collect that sixteen dollars."
"Are you serious, sir?" Brett asked.
"If to-morrow is a repetition of to-day," said Mr. Callender, "you will
see the name of Callender & Co. in the evening papers." His lips
trembled slightly under his close-cropped mustache.
"Then," said Brett, "this is a good opportunity to ask you, sir, if you
have any objection to me as a candidate for your youngest daughter."
Mr. Callender raised his eyebrows. So small a thing as contemplated
matrimony did not disturb him under the circumstances.
"My boy," he said, "I take it you are in earnest. I don't object to you.
I am sure nobody does."
"Oh, yes," said Brett; "_she_ does."
He had succeeded in making Mr. Callender laugh.
"But," Brett went on, "I'd like your permission to go on trying."
"You have it," said her father. "Will you and Powers dine with me?"
"No," said Brett. "Speaking as candidate to be your son-in-law, you
cannot afford to give us dinner; and in the same way I cannot afford to
buy dinner for you and Powers. So Powers will have to be host and pay
for everything. I shall explain it to him.... But look here, sir, are
you really up against it?"
To Brett's consternation, Callender suddenly buried his face in his
hands and groaned aloud.
"Don't," said Brett; "some one's coming."
Callender recovered his usual poise with a great effort. But no one
"As far as my wishes go, sir," said Brett, "I'm your son. You never had
a son, did you? If you had a son, and if he were young and resilient,
you'd talk to him and explain to him, and in that way, perhaps, you'd
get to see things so clearly in your own mind that you'd be able to
think a way out. Why don't you talk to me as if I were your son? You see
I want to be so very much, and that's half the battle."
Callender often joked about his affairs, but he never talked about them.
Now, however, he looked for a moment keenly into the young man's frank
and intelligent face, hesitated, and then, with a grave and courtly bow,
he waved his hand toward two deep chairs that stood in the corner of the
room half facing each other, as if they themselves were engaged in
Twenty minutes later Callender went upstairs to dress for dinner, but
Brett rejoined Powers on the piazza. He sat down without looking at
Powers or speaking to him, and his eyes, crossing the darkening bay,
rested once more on the lordly silhouette of the _Sappho_. In the
failing light she had lost something of her emphatic outline, and was
beginning to melt, as it were, into the shore.
Brett and Powers were partners. Powers was the floor member of the firm
and Brett ran the office. But they were partners in more ways than the
one, and had been ever since they could remember. As little boys they
had owned things in common without dispute. At St. Marks Powers had
pitched for the nine, and Brett had caught. In their senior year at New
Haven they had played these positions to advantage, both against Harvard
and Princeton. After graduation they had given a year to going around
the world. In Bengal they had shot a tiger, each giving it a mortal
wound. In Siam they had won the doubles championship at lawn tennis.
When one rode on the water wagon the other sat beside him, and vice
versa. Powers's family loved Brett almost as much as they loved Powers,
and if Brett had had a family it would probably have felt about Powers
in the same way.
As far as volume of business and legitimate commissions went, their firm
was a success. It could execute orders with precision, despatch, and
honesty. It could keep its mouth shut. But it had not yet learned to
keep out of the market on its own account. Regularly as a clock ticks
its profits were wiped out in speculation. The young men believed in the
future of the country, and wanted to get rich quick, not because they
were greedy, but because that desire is part of the average American's
nature and equipment. Gradually, however, they were "getting wise," as
the saying is. And they had taken a solemn oath and shaken hands upon
it, that if ever they got out of their present difficulties they would
never again tempt the goddess of fortune.
"Old man's in bad, I guess," said Powers.
"I shouldn't wonder," said Brett, and was ashamed to feel that he must
not be more frank with his partner. "We're all in bad."
"The _Cumberland_ has been sunk," said Powers, "and the rest of us are
aground and helpless, waiting for the _Merrimac_ to come down the river
in the morning." He shook his fist at the distant _Sappho_. "Why," he
said, "even if we knew what he knows it's too late to do anything,
unless _he_ does it. And he won't. He won't quit firing until Waters
"I've a good notion," said Brett, "to get out my pigeon gun, take the
club launch, board the _Sappho_ about midnight, hold the gun to old
Merriman's head, and make him promise to save the country; or else make
him put to sea, and keep him there. If he were kidnapped and couldn't
unload any more securities, the market would pull up by itself." The
young men chuckled, for the idea amused them in spite of their troubles.
By a common impulse they turned and looked at the club's thirty-foot
naphtha launch at anchor off the club's dock; and by a common impulse
they both pointed at her, and both exclaimed:
Then, of course, they were very careful not to say anything more until
they had crooked together the little fingers of their right hands, and
in silence registered a wish each. Then each spoke the name of a famous
poet, and the spell was ended.
"What did you wish?" said Brett idly.
Powers could be very courtly and old fashioned.
"My dear boy," he said, "I fancy that I wished for you just what you
wished for yourself."
Before this they had never spoken about her to each other.
"I didn't know that you knew," said Brett. "Thanks."
They shook hands. Then Brett broke into his gay, happy laugh.
"That," said he, "is why you have to pay for dinner for Mr. Callender
"Are we to dine?" asked Powers, "before attacking the _Merrimac_?"
"Always," assented Brett, "and we are to dress first."
The two young men rose and went into the house, Powers resting his hand
affectionately on Brett's further shoulder. It was so that they had come
off the field after striking out Harvard's last chance to score.
At dinner Mr. Callender, as became his age and experience, told the
young men many clean and amusing stories. Though the clouds were thick
about his head he had recovered his poise and his twinkling eye of the
good loser. Let his night be sleepless, let the morrow crush him, but
let his young friends remember that he had gone to his execution calm,
courteous, and amusing, his mustache trimmed, his face close-shaved, his
nails clean and polished. They had often, he knew, laughed at him for
his pretensions, and his affectation of mysterious knowledge, and all
his little vanities and superiorities, but they would remember him for
the very real nerve and courage that he was showing, and knew that he
was showing. The old gentleman took pleasure in thinking that although
he was about to fail in affairs, he was not going to fail in character.
He even began to make vague plans for trying again, and when, after a
long dinner, they pushed back their chairs and rose from the table,
there was a youthful resiliency in the voice with which he challenged
Powers to a game of piquet.
"That seems to leave me out," said Brett.
"Well," said Mr. Callender, with snapping eyes, "can you play well
enough to be an interesting opponent, or can't you?"
"No, I can't," said Brett. "And anyway, I'm going out in the launch to
talk things over with Merriman." He shrugged his shoulders in a superior
way, and they laughed; but when they had left him for the card-room he
walked out on the veranda and stood looking through the darkness at the
_Sappho's_ distant lights, and he might have been heard muttering, as if
from the depths of very deep thought:
At first Brett did not head the launch straight for the _Sappho_. He was
not sure in his own mind whether he intended to visit her, or just to
have a near-by look at her and then return to the club. He had ordered
the launch on an impulse which he could not explain to himself. If she
had been got ready for him promptly he might not have cared at the last
minute to go out in her at all. But there had been a long delay in
finding the engineer, and this had provoked him and made him very sure
that he wanted to use the launch very much. And it hadn't smoothed his
temper to learn that the engineer had been found in the kitchen eating a
Virginia ham in company with the kitchen maid.
But the warmth and salt freshness that came into his face, and the
softness and great number of the stars soon pacified him. If she were
only with him, he thought, if her father were only not on the brink of
ruin, how pleasant the world would be. He pretended that she was with
him, just at his shoulder, where he could not see her, but there just
the same, and that he was steering the launch straight for the ends of
the world. He pretended that for such a voyage the launch would not need
an engineer. He wondered if under the circumstances it would be safe to
steer with only one hand.
But the launch ran suddenly into an oyster stake that went rasping aft
along her side, and at the same moment the searchlight from Fort
Schuyler beamed with dazzling playfulness in his face, and then having
half blinded him wheeled heavenward, a narrow cornucopia of light that
petered out just short of the stars. He watched the searchlight. He
wondered how many pairs of lovers it had discovered along the shores of
Pelham Bay, how many mint-juleps it had seen drunk on the veranda of the
country club, how many kisses it had interrupted; and whether it would
rather pry into people's private affairs or look for torpedo-boats and
night attacks in time of war. But most of all he wondered why it spent
so much of its light on space, sweeping the heavens like a fiery broom
with indefatigable zeal. There were no lovers or torpedo-boats up there.
Even the birds were in bed, and the Wright brothers were known to be
Once more the searchlight smote him full in the face and then, as if
making a pointed gesture, swept from him, and for a long second
illuminated the black hull and the yellow spars of the _Sappho_. Then,
as if its earthly business were over, the shaft of light, lengthening
and lengthening as it rose above intervening obstacles, the bay, the
Stepping Stone light, the Long Island shore, turned slowly upward until
it pointed at the zenith. Then it went out.
"That," thought Brett, "was almost a hint. First it stirred me up; then
it pointed at the _Sappho_; then it indicated that there is One above,
and then it went out."
He headed the launch straight for the _Sappho_, and began to wonder what
one had to do to get aboard of a magnate's yacht at night. He turned to
"Gryce," he said, "what do you know about yachts?"
"What about 'em?" Gryce answered sulkily. He was still thinking of the
kitchen-maid and the unfinished ham, or else of the ham and the
unfinished kitchen maid, I am not sure which.
"What about 'em?" Brett echoed. "Do they take up their gangways at
"Unless some one's expected," said Gryce.
"Do they have a watchman?"
"One forward and one aft on big yachts."
"Making two," said Brett. "But aren't there usually two gangways--one
for the crew and one for the owner's guests?"
"Crew's gangway is to starboard," Gryce vouchsafed.
Brett wondered if there was anything else that he ought to know. Then,
in picturing himself as running the launch alongside the _Sappho_, and
hoping that he would not bump her, a question presented itself.
"If I were going to visit the _Sappho_," he asked, "would I approach the
gangway from the stern or from the bow?"
"I don't know," said Gryce.
"Do you mean," said Brett, "that you don't know which is the correct
thing to do, or that you think I can't steer?"
"I mean," said Gryce, "that I know it's one or the other, but I don't
"In that case," said Brett, "we will approach from the rear. That is
always the better part of valor. But if the gangway has been taken up
for the night I don't know what I shall do."
"The gangway was down when the light was on her," said Gryce. "I seen
And that it was still down Brett could presently see for himself. He
doubted his ability to make a neat landing, but they seemed to be
expecting him, for a sailor ran down to the gangway landing armed with
a long boat-hook, and made the matter easy for him. When he had reached
the _Sappho's_ deck an officer came forward in the darkness, and said:
"This way, sir, if you please."
"There's magic about," thought Brett, and he accompanied the officer
"Mr. Merriman," said the latter, "told us to expect you half an hour ago
in a motor-boat. Did you have a breakdown?"
"No," said Brett, and he added mentally, "but I'm liable to."
They descended a companionway; the officer opened a sliding door of some
rich wood, and Brett stepped into the highly lighted main saloon of
In one corner of the room, with his back turned, the famous Mr. Merriman
sat at an upright piano, lugubriously drumming. Brett had often heard of
the great man's secret vice, and now the sight of him hard at it made
him, in spite of the very real trepidation under which he was laboring,
feel good-natured all over--the Colossus of finance was so earnest at
his music, so painstaking and interested in placing his thick, clumsy
fingers, and so frankly delighted with the effect of his performance
upon his own ear. It seemed to Brett homely and pleasant, the thought
that one of the most important people of eighty millions should find
his pleasure in an art for which he had neither gift nor training.
Mr. Merriman finished his piece with a badly fumbled chord, and turned
from the piano with something like the show of reluctance with which a
man turns from a girl who has refused him. That Mr. Merriman did not
start or change expression on seeing a stranger in the very heart of his
privacy was also in keeping with his reputed character. It was also like
him to look steadily at the young man for quite a long while before