|XLII.||Down-Town New York|
|XLIII.||A Birthday Evening|
|XLIV.||A Good Day|
If the American people had anglicized themselves as thoroughly into liking three-volume stories, as they have in other things, it would be a pleasure to trace the next ten years of Peter’s life; for his growing reputation makes this period a far easier matter to chronicle than the more obscure beginnings already recorded. If his own life did not supply enough material we could multiply our characters, as did Dickens, or journey sideways, into little essays, as did Thackeray. His life and his biographer’s pen might fail to give interest to such devices, but the plea is now for “realism,” which most writers take to mean microscopical examination of minutia. If the physical and psychical emotions of a heroine as she drinks a glass of water can properly be elaborated so as to fill two printed pages, Peter’s life could be extended endlessly. There were big cases, political fights, globe trottings, and new friends, all of which have unlimited potentialities for numerous chapters. But Americans are peculiar people, and do not buy a pound of sugar any the quicker because its bulk has been raised by a skilful admixture of moisture and sand. So it seems best partly to take the advice of the Bellman, in the “Hunting of the Snark,” to skip sundry years. In resuming, it is to find Peter at his desk, reading a letter. He has a very curious look on his face, due to the letter, the contents of which are as follows:
Dear old Chum—
Here is the wretched old sixpence, just as bad as ever—if not worse—come back after all these years.
And as of yore, the sixpence is in a dreadful pickle, and appeals to the old chum, who always used to pull him out of his scrapes, to do it once more. Please come and see me as quickly as possible, for every moment 185 is important. You see I feel sure that I do not appeal in vain. “ as the pyramids” ought to be your motto.
Helen and our dear little girl will be delighted to see you, as will
Peter opened a drawer and put the letter into it. Then he examined his diary calendar. After this he went to a door, and, opening it, said:
“I am going uptown for the afternoon. If Mr. Murtha comes, Mr. Ogden will see him.”
Peter went down and took a cab, giving the driver a number in Grammercy Park.
The footman hesitated on Peter’s inquiry. “Mr. D’Alloi is in, sir, but is having his afternoon nap, and we have orders he’s not to be disturbed.”
“Take him my card. He will see me.”
The footman showed Peter into the drawing-room, and disappeared. Peter heard low voices for a moment, then the curtains of the back room were quickly parted, and, with hands extended to meet him, Helen appeared.
“This is nice of you—and so unexpected!”
Peter took the hand, but said nothing. They sat down, and Mrs. D’Alloi continued:
“Watts is asleep, and I have given word that he is not to be disturbed. I want to see you for a moment myself. You have plenty of time?”
“That’s very nice. I don’t want you to be formal with us. Do say that you can stay to dinner?”
“I would, if I were not already engaged.”
“Then we’ll merely postpone it. It’s very good of you to come to see us. I’ve tried to get Watts to look you up, but he is so lazy! It’s just as well since you’ve found us out. Only you should have asked for both of us.”
“I came on business,” said Peter.
Mrs. D’Alloi laughed. “Watts is the poorest man in the world for that, but he’ll do anything he can to help you, I know. He has the warmest feeling for you.”
Peter gathered from this that Mrs. D’Alloi did not know of the “scrape,” whatever it was, and with a lawyer’s caution, he did not attempt to disabuse her of the impression that he had called about his own affairs.
“How you have changed!” Mrs. D’Alloi continued. 186 “If I had not known who it was from the card, I am not sure that I should have recognized you.”
It was just what Peter had been saying to himself of Mrs. D’Alloi. Was it her long ill-health, or was it the mere lapse of years, which had wrought such changes in her? Except for the eyes, everything had altered. The cheeks had lost their roundness and color; the hair had thinned noticeably; lines of years and pain had taken away the sweet expression that formerly had counted for so much; the pretty roundness of the figure was gone, and what charm it now had was due to the modiste’s skill. Peter felt puzzled. Was this the woman for whom he had so suffered? Was it this memory that had kept him, at thirty-eight, still a bachelor? Like many another man, he found that he had been loving an ideal—a creation of his own mind. He had, on a boyish fancy, built a dream of a woman with every beauty and attraction, and had been loving it for many years, to the exclusion of all other womankind. Now he saw the original of his dream, with the freshness and glamour gone, not merely from the dream, but from his own eyes. Peter had met many pretty girls, and many sweet ones since that week at the Pierces. He had gained a very different point of view of women from that callow time.
Peter was not blunderer enough to tell Mrs. D’Alloi that he too, saw a change. His years had brought tact, if they had not made him less straightforward. So he merely said, “You think so?”
“Ever so much. You’ve really grown slender, in spite of your broad shoulders—and your face is so—so different.”
There was no doubt about it. For his height and breadth of shoulder, Peter was now by no means heavy. His face, too, had undergone a great change. As the roundness had left it, the eyes and the forehead had both become more prominent features, and both were good. The square, firm jaw still remained, but the heaviness of the cheek and nose had melted into lines which gave only strength and character, and destroyed the dulness which people used to comment upon. The face would never be called handsome, in the sense that regular features are supposed to give beauty, but it was strong and speaking, with lines of thought and feeling.
“You know,” laughed Mrs. D’Alloi, “you have actually 187 become good-looking, and I never dreamed that was possible!”
“How long have you been here?”
“A month. We are staying with papa, till the house in Fifty-seventh Street can be put in order. It has been closed since Mrs. D’Alloi’s death. But don’t let’s talk houses. Tell me about yourself.”
“There is little to tell. I have worked at my profession, with success.”
“But I see your name in politics. And I’ve met many people in Europe who have said you were getting very famous.”
“I spend a good deal of time in politics. I cannot say whether I have made myself famous, or infamous. It seems to depend on which paper I read.”
“Yes, I saw a paper on the steamer, that——” Mrs. D’Alloi hesitated, remembering that it had charged Peter with about every known sin of which man is capable. Then she continued, “But I knew it was wrong.” Yet there was quite as much of question as of assertion in her remark. In truth, Mrs. D’Alloi was by no means sure that Peter was all that was desirable, for any charge made against a politician in this country has a peculiar vitality and persistence. She had been told that Peter was an open supporter of saloons, and that New York politics battened on all forms of vice. So a favorite son could hardly have retained the purity that women take as a standard of measurement. “Don’t you find ward politics very hard?” she asked, dropping an experimental plummet, to see what depths of iniquity there might be.
“I haven’t yet.”
“But that kind of politics must be very disagreeable to gentlemen. The men must have such dirty hands!”
“It’s not the dirty hands which make American politics disagreeable. It’s the dirty consciences.”
“Are—are politics so corrupt and immoral?”
“Politics are what the people make them.”
“I suppose your life has not been of a kind to make you very familiar with it all. Tell me what these long years have brought you?”
“Perfect happiness! Oh, Mr. Stirling—may I call you Peter?—thank you. Peter, I have the finest, noblest husband 188 that ever lived! He is everything that is good and kind!” Mrs. D’Alloi’s face lighted up with happiness and tenderness.
“And your children?”
“We have only one. The sweetest, loveliest child you can imagine.”
“Fie, fie, Rosebud,” cried a voice from the doorway. “You shouldn’t speak of yourself so, even if it is the truth. Leave that to me. How are you, Peter, old fellow? I’d apologize for keeping you waiting, but if you’ve had Helen, there’s no occasion. Isn’t it Boileau who said that: ‘The best thing about many a man is his wife’?”
Mrs. D’Alloi beamed, but said, “It isn’t so, Peter. He’s much better than I.”
Watts laughed. “You’ll have to excuse this, old man. Will happen sometimes, even in the properest of families, if one marries an angel.”
“There, you see,” said Mrs. D’Alloi. “He just spoils me, Peter.”
“And she thrives on it, doesn’t she, Peter?” said Watts. “Isn’t she prettier even than she was in the old days?”
Mrs. D’Alloi colored with pleasure, even while saying: “Now, Watts dear, I won’t swallow such palpable flattery. There’s one kiss for it—Peter won’t mind—and now I know you two want to talk old times, so I’ll leave you together. Good-bye, Peter—or rather au revoir—for you must be a regular visitor now. Watts, arrange with Peter to dine with us some day this week.”
Mrs. D’Alloi disappeared through the doorway. Peter’s pulse did not change a beat.
The moment she was gone, Watts held out his hand, saying: “Here, old man, let us shake hands again. It’s almost like going back to college days to see my old chum. Come to the snuggery, where we shan’t be interrupted.” They went through two rooms, to one 189 fitted up as a smoking-room and office. “It’s papa-in-law’s workshop. He can’t drop his work at the bank, so he brings it home and goes on here. Sit down. Here, take a cigar. Now, are you comfortable?”
“Maintenant, I suppose you want to know why I wrote you to come so quickly?”
“Well, the truth of it is, I’m in an awful mess. Yesterday I was so desperate I thought I should blow my brains out. I went round to the club to see if I couldn’t forget or drown my trouble, just as sick as a man could be. Fellows talking. First thing I heard was your name. ‘Just won a great case.’ of the best lawyers in New York.’ Thinks I to myself, ‘That’s a special Peter always was the fellow to pull me through my college scrapes. I’ll write him.’ Did it, and played billiards for the rest of the evening, secure in the belief that you would come to my help, just as you used to.”
“Tell me what it is?”
“Even that isn’t easy, chum. It’s a devilish hard thing to tell even to you.”
“Is it money trou——?”
“No, no!” Watts interrupted. “It isn’t that. The truth is I’ve a great deal more money than is good for me, and apparently always shall have. I wish it were only that!”
“How can I help you?” began Peter.
“I knew you would,” cried Watts, joyfully. “Just the same old reliable you always were. Here. Draw up nearer. That’s it. Now then, here goes. I shan’t mind if you are shocked at first. Be as hard on me as you like.”
“Well, to make a long story short, I’m entangled with a woman, and there’s the devil to pay. Now you’ll pull me through, old man, won’t you?”
“Don’t say that, Peter! You must help me. You’re my only hope.”
“I do not care to mix myself in such a business,” said Peter, very quietly. “I would rather know nothing about it.” Peter rose.190
“Don’t desert me,” cried Watts, springing to his feet, and putting his hand on Peter’s shoulder, so as to prevent his progress to the door. “Don’t. She’s going to expose me. Think of the disgrace! My God, Peter, think——”
“Take your hand off my shoulder.”
“But Peter, think——”
“The time to think was before—not now, Watts. I will not concern myself in this.”
“But, old man. I can’t face it. It will kill Helen!”
Peter had already thrown aside the arm, and had taken a step towards the doorway. He stopped and turned. “She does not know?”
“Not a suspicion. And nothing but absolute proof will make her believe it. She worships me. Oh, Peter, save her! Save Leonore—if you won’t save me!”
“Can they be saved?”
“That’s what I want to know. Here—sit down, please! I’ll tell you all about it.”
Peter hesitated a moment, and then sat down.
“It began in Paris twelve years ago. Such affairs have a way of beginning in Paris, old man. It’s in the atmosphere. She——”
“Stop. I will ask questions. There’s no good going over the whole story.” Peter tried to speak calmly, and to keep his voice and face from showing what he felt. He paused a moment, and then said: “She threatens to expose you. Why?”
“Well, after three years I tired of it, and tried to end it. Then she used it to blackmail me for ten years, till, in desperation, I came to America, to see if I couldn’t escape her.”
“And she followed you?”
“Yes. She was always tracking me in Europe, and making my life a hell on earth, and now she’s followed me here.”
“If it’s merely a question of money, I don’t see what you want of me.”
“She says she doesn’t want money now—but revenge. She’s perfectly furious over my coming off without telling her—always had an awful temper—and—well, you know an infuriated woman is capable of anything. The Spaniard was right who said it was easier to take care of a peck of fleas than one woman, eh, chum?”191
“So she threatens to tell your wife?”
“No. She says she’s going to summon me into court.”
“On what grounds?”
“That’s the worst part of it. You see, chum, there’s a child, and she says she’s going to apply for a proper support for it. Proper support! Heavens! The money I’ve paid her would support ten children. It’s only temper.”
Peter said, “Watts, Watts,” in a sad voice.
“Pretty bad, isn’t it? If it wasn’t for the child I could——”
Peter interrupted. “Has she any proofs of paternity besides——?”
Watts interrupted in turn. “Yes. Confound it! I was fool enough to write letters during my infatuation. Talleyrand was right when he said only fools and women wrote letters.”
“How could you?”
“That’s what I’ve asked myself a hundred times. Oh, I’m sorry enough. I’ve sworn never to put pen to paper again. Jamais!”
“I did not mean the letters. But your vow.”
“Your marriage vow.”
“Oh, yes. I know. But you know, chum, before you promise to love one woman for all time you should have seen them all.”
“And that display ten minutes ago was all mockery?”
“No, no! Really, Peter, I’m awfully fond of the little woman. Really I am. And you know Daudet says a man can love two women at the same time.”
“And if so, how about his honor?” Peter was trying to repress his emotion, but it would jerk out questions.
“Yes, I know. I’ve said that to myself over and over again. Why, look here.” Watts pulled a small revolver from his hip pocket. “This will show you how close to the desperation point I have come. I’ve carried that for two days, so that if worse comes to worse—well. Phut!— tout.”
Peter rose, speaking in a voice ringing with scorn. “You would escape your sin, to leave it with added disgrace for your wife and daughter to bear! Put up your 192 pistol, Watts D’Alloi. If I am to help you, I want to help a man—not a skulker. What do you want me to do?”
“That’s what I wish to know. What can I do?”
“You have offered her money?”
“Yes. I told her that——”
“Never mind details,” interrupted Peter. “Was it enough to put further offers out of the question?”
“Yes. She won’t hear of money. She wants revenge.”
“Give me her name and address.”
“Celestine ——” The rest was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Well?” said Watts.
The door was opened, and a footman entered. “If you please, Mr. D’Alloi, there’s a Frenchwoman at the door who wants to see you. She won’t give me her name, but says you’ll know who it is.”
“Say I won’t see her. That I’m busy.”
“She told me to say that if you were engaged, she’d see Mrs. D’Alloi.”
“My God!” said Watts, under his breath.
“Ask the woman to come in here,” said Peter, quietly, but in a way which made the man leave the room without waiting to see if Watts demurred.
A complete silence followed. Then came the rustle of skirts, and a woman entered the room. Peter, who stood aside, motioned to the footman to go, and closed the door himself, turning the key.
The woman came to the middle of the room. “So, Monsieur D’Alloi,” she said in French, speaking very low and distinctly, “you thought it best not to order your groom to turn me out, as you did that last day in Paris, when you supposed your flight to America left you free to do as you pleased? But you did not escape me. Here I am.”
Watts sat down in an easy-chair, and striking a match, lighted a cigarette. “That, Celestine,” he said in French, “is what in English we call a self-evident proposition.”
Celestine’s foot began to tap the floor. “You needn’t pretend you expected I would follow you. You thought you could drop me, like an old slipper.”
Watts blew a whiff of tobacco from his mouth. “It was a remark of Ricard’s, I believe, ‘that in woman, one should always expect the unexpected.’”193
“Mon Dieu!” shrieked Celestine. “If I—if I could kill you—you——”
She was interrupted by Peter’s bringing a chair to her and saying in French, “Will you not sit down, please?”
She turned in surprise, for she had been too wrought up to notice that Peter was in the room. She stared at him and then sat down.
“That’s right,” said Watts. “Take it easy. No occasion to get excited.”
“Ah!” screamed Celestine, springing to her feet, “your name shall be in all the papers. You shall——”
Peter again interrupted. “Madame, will you allow me to say something?” He spoke gently and deferentially.
Celestine looked at him again, saying rapidly: “Why should I listen to you? What are you to me? I don’t even know you. My mind’s made up. I tell you——” The woman was lashing herself into a fury, and Peter interrupted her again:
“Pardon me. We are strangers. If I ask anything of you for myself, I should expect a refusal. But I ask it for humanity, to which we all owe help. Only hear what I have to say. I do not claim it as a right, but as a favor.”
Celestine sat down. “I listen,” she said. She turned her chair from Watts and faced Peter, as he stood at the study table.
Peter paused a moment, and then said: “After what I have seen, I feel sure you wish only to revenge yourself on Mr. D’Alloi?”
“Now let me show you what you will do. For the last two days Mr. D’Alloi has carried a pistol in his pocket, and if you disgrace him he will probably shoot himself.”
“But where is your revenge? He will be beyond your reach, and you will only have a human life upon your conscience ever after.”
“I shall not grieve!”
“Nor is that all. In revenging yourself on him, you do one of the cruelest acts possible. A wife, who trusts and believes in him, will have her faith and love shattered. His daughter—a young girl, with all her life before her—must 194 ever after despise her father and blush at her name. Do not punish the weak and innocent for the sin of the guilty!” Peter spoke with an earnestness almost terrible. Tears came into his eyes as he made his appeal, and his two auditors both rose to their feet, under the impulse of his voice even more than of his words. So earnest was he, and so spell-bound were the others, that they failed to hear the door from the dining-room move, or notice the entrance of Mrs. D’Alloi, as Peter ended his plea.
A moment’s silence followed Peter’s outburst of feeling. Then the Frenchwoman cried:
“Truly, truly. But what will you do for me and my child? Haven’t we been ill-treated? Don’t you owe us help, too? Justice? Don’t we deserve tenderness and protection?”
“Yes,” said Peter. “But you wish revenge. Ask for justice, ask for help, and I will do what is within my power to aid you.”
“Watts,” cried Mrs. D’Alloi, coming forward, “of what child are you talking? Whose child? Who is this woman?”
Watts jumped as if he had been shot. Celestine even retreated before the terrible voice and face with which Mrs. D’Alloi asked her questions. A sad, weary look came into Peter’s eyes. No one answered Mrs. D’Alloi.
“Answer me,” she cried.
“My dear little woman. Don’t get excited. It’s all right.” Watts managed to say this much. But he did not look his last remark.
“Answer me, I say. Who is this woman? Speak!”
“It’s all right, really, it’s all right. Here. Peter will tell you it’s all right.”
“Peter,” cried Mrs. D’Alloi. “Of whose child were you speaking?”
Peter was still standing by the desk. He looked sad and broken, as he said:
“This is the mother, Mrs. D’Alloi.”
Peter raised his eyes to Helen’s, and looked at her. Then he said quietly:
“And Watts—will tell you that—I am its father.”195
The dramatic pause which followed Peter’s statement was first broken by Mrs. D’Alloi, who threw her arms about neck, and cried: “Oh! my husband. Forgive me, forgive me for the suspicion!”
Peter turned to Celestine. “Madame,” he said. “We are not wanted here.” He unlocked the door into the hall, and stood aside while she passed out, which she did quietly. Another moment found the two on the sidewalk. “I will walk with you to your hotel, if you will permit me?” Peter said to her.
“Certainly,” Celestine replied. Nothing more was said in the walk of ten blocks. When they reached the hotel entrance, Peter asked: “Can you see me for a few moments?”
“Yes. Come to my private parlor.” They took the elevator, and were but a moment in reaching that apartment.
Peter spoke the moment the door was closed. “Madame,” he said, “you saw that scene. Spare his wife and child? He is not worth your anger.”
“Ah, Ciel!” cried Celestine, emotionally. “Do you think so lowly of me, that you can imagine I would destroy your sacrifice? Your romantic, your dramatic, mon Dieu! your noble sacrifice? Non, non. Celestine Lacour could never do so. She will suffer cruelty, penury, insults, before she behaves so shamefully, so perfidiously.”
Peter did not entirely sympathize with the Frenchwoman’s admiration for the dramatic element, but he was too good a lawyer not to accept an admission, no matter upon what grounds. He held out his hand promptly. “Madame,” he said, “accept my thanks and admiration for your generous conduct.”
Celestine took it and shook it warmly.196
“Of course,” said Peter. “Mr. D’Alloi owes you an ample income.”
“Ah!” cried Celestine, shrugging her shoulders. “Do not talk of him—I leave it to you to make him do what is right.”
“And you will return to France?”
“Yes, yes. If you say so?” Celestine looked at Peter in a manner known only to the Latin races. Just then a side door was thrown open, and a boy of about twelve years of age dashed into the room, followed by a French poodle.
“Little villain!” cried Celestine. “How dare you approach without knocking? Go. Go. Quickly.”
“Pardon, Madame,” said the child. “I thought you still absent.”
“Is that the child?” asked Peter.
“Yes,” said Celestine.
“Does he know?”
“Nothing. I do not tell him even that I am his mother.”
“Then you are not prepared to give him a mother’s care and tenderness?”
“Never. I love him not. He is too like his father. And I cannot have it known that I am the mother of a child of twelve. It would not be believed, even.” Celestine took a look at herself in the tall mirror.
“Then I suppose you would like some arrangement about him?”
Peter stayed for nearly an hour with the woman. He stayed so long, that for one of the few times in his life he was late at a dinner engagement. But when he had left Celestine, every detail had been settled. Peter did not have an expression of pleasure on his face as he rode down-town, nor was he very good company at the dinner which he attended that evening.
The next day did not find him in any better mood. He went down-town, and called on an insurance company and talked for a while with the president. Then he called at a steamship office. After that he spent twenty minutes with the head of one of the large schools for boys in the city. Then he returned to his office.
“A Mr. D’Alloi is waiting for you in your private 197 office, sir,” he was told. “He said that he was an old friend and insisted on going in there.”
Peter passed into his office.
Watts cried: “My dear boy, how can I ever——”
He was holding out his hand, but Peter failed to take it, and interrupted him.
“I have arranged it all with Madame Lacour,” Peter said coldly. “She sails on La Bretagne on Thursday. You are to buy an annuity for three thousand dollars a year. In addition, you are to buy an annuity for the boy till he is twenty-five, of one thousand dollars a year, payable to me as his guardian. This will cost you between forty and fifty thousand dollars. I will notify you of the amount when the insurance company sends it to me. In return for your check, I shall send you the letters and other things you sent Madame Lacour, or burn them, as you direct. Except for this, the affair is ended. I need not detain you further.”
“Oh, I say, chum. Don’t take it this way,” cried Watts. “Do you think——?”
“I end it as suits me,” said Peter. “Good-day.”
“But, at least you must let me pay you a fee for your work?”
Peter turned on Watts quickly, but checked the movement and the words on his tongue. He only reiterated. “Good-day.”
“Well, if you will have it so,” Watts went to the door, but hesitated. “Just as you please. If, later, you change your mind, send me word. I shan’t cherish any feeling for this. I want to be friends.”
“Good-day,” said Peter. Watts passed out, closing the door.
Peter sat down at his desk, doing nothing, for nearly an hour. How long he would have sat will never be known, if his brown study had not been ended by Rivington’s entrance. “The Appeals have just handed down their decision in the Henley case. We win.”
“I thought we should,” said Peter mechanically.
“Why, Peter! What’s the matter with you? You look as seedy as——”
“As I feel,” said Peter. “I’m going to stop work and take a ride, to see if I can’t knock some of my dulness out of me.” Within an hour he was at the Riding Club.198
“Hello,” said the stable man. “Twice in one day? You’re not often here at this hour, sir. Which horse will you have?”
“Give me whichever has the most life in him.”
“It’s Mutineer has the devil in him always, sir. Though it’s not yourself need fear any horse. Only look out for the ice.”
Peter rode into the Park in ten minutes. He met Lispenard at the first turn.
“Hello! It’s not often you are here at this hour.” Lispenard reined his horse up alongside.
“No,” said Peter. “I’ve been through a very revolt—a very disagreeable experience, and I’ve come up here to get some fresh air. I don’t want to be sociable.”
“That’s right. Truthful as ever. But one word before we separate. Keppel has just received two proofs of Haden’s last job. He asks awful prices for them, but you ought to see them.”
“Thanks.” And the two friends separated as only true friends can separate.
Peter rode on, buried in his own thoughts. The park was rather empty, for dark comes on early in March, and dusk was already in the air. He shook himself presently, and set Mutineer at a sharp canter round the larger circle of the bridle path. But before they had half swung the circle, he was deep in thought again, and Mutineer was taking his own pace. Peter deserved to get a stumble and a broken neck or leg, but he didn’t. He was saved from it by an incident which never won any credit for its good results to Peter, however much credit it gained him.
Peter was so deeply engrossed in his own thoughts that he did not hear the clatter of a horse’s feet behind him, just as he struck the long stretch of the comparatively straight path along the Reservoir. But Mutineer did, and pricked up his ears. Mutineer could not talk articulately, but all true lovers of horses understand their language. Mutineer’s cogitations, transmuted into human speech, were something to this effect:
“Hello! What’s that horse trying to do? He can’t for a moment expect to pass me!”
But the next moment a roan mare actually did pass him, going at a swift gallop.
Mutineer laid his ears back. “The impudence!” he 199 said. “Does that little whiffet of a roan mare think she’s going to show me her heels? I’ll teach her!” It is a curious fact that both the men and horses who are most seldom passed by their kind, object to it most when it happens.
Peter suddenly came back to affairs earthly to find Mutineer just settling into a gait not permitted by Park regulations. He drew rein, and Mutineer, knowing that the fun was up, danced round the path in his bad temper.
“Really,” he said to himself, “if I wasn’t so fond of you, I’d give you and that mare, an awful lesson. Hello! not another? This is too much!”
The last remarks had relation to more clattering of hoofs. In a moment a groom was in view, going also at a gallop.
“Hout of the way,” cried the groom, to Peter, for Mutineer was waltzing round the path in a way that suggested “no thoroughfare.” “Hi’m after that runaway.”
Peter looked after the first horse, already a hundred feet away. He said nothing to groom nor horse, but Mutineer understood the sudden change in the reins, even before he felt that maddening prick of the spurs. There was a moment’s wild grinding of horse’s feet on the slippery road and then Mutineer had settled to his long, tremendous stride.
“Now, I’ll show you,” he remarked, “but if only he wouldn’t hold me so damned tight.” We must forgive Mutineer for swearing. He lived so much with the stablemen, that, gentleman though he was, evil communications could not be entirely resisted.
Peter was riding “cool.” He knew he could run the mare down, but he noticed that the woman, who formed the mount, was sitting straight, and he could tell from the position of her elbows that she was still pulling on her reins, if ineffectually. He thought it best therefore to let the mare wind herself before he forced himself up, lest he should only make the runaway horse the wilder. So after a hundred yards’ run, he drew Mutineer down to the mare’s pace, about thirty feet behind her.
They ran thus for another hundred yards. Then suddenly Peter saw the woman drop her reins, and catch at the saddle. His quick eye told him in a moment what had happened. The saddle-girth had broken, or the saddle was turning. He dug his spurs into Mutineer, so that the 200 horse, who had never had such treatment, thought that he had been touched by two branding irons. He gave a furious shake of his ears, and really showed the blood of his racing Kentucky forebears. In fifteen seconds the horse was running even with the mare.
Peter had intended merely to catch the reins of the run away, trusting to his strength to do what a woman’s could not. But when he came up alongside, he saw that the saddle had turned so far that the rider could not keep her seat ten seconds longer. So he dropped his reins, bent over, and putting his arms about the woman lifted her off the precarious seat, and put her in front of him. He held her there with one arm, and reached for his reins. But Mutineer had tossed them over his head.
“Mutineer!” said Peter, with an inflection of voice decidedly commanding.
“I covered a hundred yards to your seventy,” Mutineer told the roan mare. “On a mile track I could go round you twice, without getting out of breath. I could beat you now, even with double mount easily. But my Peter has dropped the reins and that puts me on my honor. Good-bye.” Mutineer checked his great racing stride, broke to a canter; dropped to a trot; altered that to a walk, and stopped.
Peter had been rather astonished at the weight he had lifted. Peter had never lifted a woman before. His chief experience in the weight of human-kind had been in wrestling matches at the armory, and only the largest and most muscular men in the regiment cared to try a bout with him. Of course Peter knew as a fact that women were lighter than men, but after bracing himself, much as he would have done to try the cross-buttock with two hundred pounds of bone and brawn, he marvelled much at the ease with which he transferred the rider. “She can’t weigh over eighty pounds,” he thought. Which was foolish, for the woman actually weighed one hundred and eighteen, as Peter afterwards learned.
The woman also surprised Peter in another way. Scarcely had she been placed in front of him, than she put her arms about his neck and buried her face in his shoulder. She was not crying, but she was drawing her breath in great gasps in a manner which scared Peter terribly. Peter had never had a woman cling to him in 201 that way, and frightened as he was, he made three very interesting discoveries:
1. That a man’s shoulder seems planned by nature as a resting place for a woman’s head.
2. That a man’s arm about a woman’s waist is a very pleasant position for the arm.
3. That a pair of woman’s arms round a man’s neck, with the clasped hands, even if gloved, just resting on the back of his neck, is very satisfying.
Peter could not see much of the woman. His arm told him that she was decidedly slender, and he could just catch sight of a small ear and a cheek, whose roundness proved the youth of the person. Otherwise he could only see a head of very pretty brown hair, the smooth dressing of which could not entirely conceal its longing to curl.
When Mutineer stopped, Peter did not quite know what to do. Of course it was his duty to hold the woman till she recovered herself. That was a plain duty—and pleasant. Peter said to himself that he really was sorry for her, and thought his sensations were merely the satisfaction of a father in aiding his daughter. We must forgive his foolishness, for Peter had never been a father, and so did not know the parental feeling.
It had taken Mutineer twenty seconds to come to a stand, and for ten seconds after, no change in the condition occurred. Then suddenly the woman stopped her gasps. Peter, who was looking down at her, saw the pale cheek redden. The next moment, the arms were taken from his neck and the woman was sitting up straight in front of him. He got a downward look at the face, and he thought it was the most charming he had ever seen.
The girl kept her eyes lowered, while she said firmly, though with traces of breathlessness and tremulo in her voice, “Please help me down.”
Peter was out of his saddle in a moment, and lifted the girl down. She staggered slightly on reaching the ground, so that Peter said: “You had better lean on me.”
“No,” said the girl, still looking down, “I will lean against the horse.” She rested against Mutineer, who looked around to see who was taking this insulting liberty with a Kentucky gentleman. Having looked at her he said: “You’re quite welcome, you pretty dear!” Peter thought he would like to be a horse, but then it occurred to him 202 that equines could not have had what he had just had, so he became reconciled to his lot.
The girl went on flushing, even after she was safely leaning against Mutineer. There was another ten seconds’ pause, and then she said, still with downcast eyes, “I was so frightened, that I did not know what I was doing.”
“You behaved very well,” said Peter, in the most comforting voice he could command. “You held your horse splendidly.”
“I wasn’t a bit frightened, till the saddle began to turn.” The girl still kept her eyes on the ground, and still blushed. She was undergoing almost the keenest mortification possible for a woman. She had for a moment been horrified by the thought that she had behaved in this way to a groom. But a stranger—a gentleman—was worse! She had not looked at Peter’s face, but his irreproachable riding-rig had been noticed. “If it had only been a policeman,” she thought. “What can I say to him?”
Peter saw the mortification without quite understanding it. He knew, however, it was his duty to ease it, and took the best way by giving her something else to think about.
“As soon as you feel able to walk, you had better take my arm. We can get a cab at the 72d Street entrance, probably. If you don’t feel able to walk, sit down on that stone, and I’ll bring a cab. It oughtn’t to take me ten minutes.”
“You are very good,” said the girl, raising her eyes, and taking a look at Peter’s face for the first time.
A thrill went through Peter.
The girl had slate-colored eyes!!
Something in Peter’s face seemed to reassure the girl, for though she looked down after the glance, she ceased leaning against the horse, and said, “I behaved very 203 foolishly, of course. Now I will do whatever you think best.”
Before Peter had recovered enough from his thrill to put what he thought into speech, a policeman came riding towards them, leading the roan mare. “Any harm done?” he called.
“None, fortunately. Where can we get a cab? Or can you bring one here?”
“I’m afraid there’ll be none nearer than Fifty-ninth Street. They leave the other entrances before it’s as dark as this.”
“Never mind the cab,” said the girl. “If you’ll help me to mount, I’ll ride home.”
“That’s the pluck!” said the policeman.
“Do you think you had ?” asked Peter.
“Yes. I’m not a bit afraid. If you’ll just tighten the girth.”
It seemed to Peter he had never encountered such a marvellously fascinating combination as was indicated by the clinging position of a minute ago and the erect one of the present moment. He tightened the girth with a pull that made the roan mare wonder if a steam-winch had hold of the end, and then had the pleasure of the little foot being placed in his hand for a moment, as he lifted the girl into the saddle.
“I shall ride with you,” he said, mounting instantly.
“Beg pardon,” said the policeman. “I must take your names. We are required to report all such things to headquarters.”
“Why, Williams, don’t you know me?” asked Peter.
Williams looked at Peter, now for the first time on a level with him. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Stirling. It was so dark, and you are so seldom here afternoons that I didn’t know you.”
“Tell the chief that this needn’t go on record, nor be given to the reporters.”
“Very well, Mr. Stirling.”
“I beg your pardon,” said the girl in a frank yet shy way, “but will you tell me your first name?”
Peter was rather astonished, but he said “Peter.”
“Oh!” cried the girl, looking Peter in the face. “I understand it now. I didn’t think I could behave so to a stranger! I must have felt it was you.” She was smiling 204 joyfully, and she did not drop her eyes from his. On the contrary she held out her hand to him.
Of course Peter took it. He did not stop to ask if it was right or wrong to hold a young girl’s hand. If it was wrong, it was certainly a very small one, judging from the size of the hand.
“I was so mortified! But if it’s you it’s all right.”
Peter thought this mood of the girl was both delightful and complimentary, but he failed to understand anything of it, except its general friendliness. His manner may have suggested this, for suddenly the girl said:
“But of course, you do not know who I am? How foolish of me! I am Leonore D’Alloi.”
It was Peter’s turn to gasp. “Not——?” he began and then stopped.
“Yes,” said the girl joyfully, as if Peter’s “not” had had something delightful in it.
“But—she’s a child.”
“I’ll be eighteen next week,” said Leonore, with all the readiness of that number of years to proclaim its age.
Peter concluded that he must accept the fact. Watts could have a child that old. Having reached this conclusion, he said, “I ought to have known you by your likeness to your mother.” Which was an unintentional lie. Her mother’s eyes she had, as well as the long lashes; and she had her mother’s pretty figure, though she was taller. But otherwise she was far more like Watts. Her curly hair, her curvy mouth, the dimple, and the contour of the face were his. Leonore D’Alloi was a far greater beauty than her mother had ever been. But to Peter, it was merely a renewal of his dream.
Just at this point the groom rode up. “Beg pardon, Miss D’Alloi,” he said, touching his cap. “My ’orse went down on a bit of hice.”
“You are not hurt, Belden?” said Miss D’Alloi.
Peter thought the anxious tone heavenly. He rather wished he had broken something himself.
“No. Nor the ’orse.”
“Then it’s all right. Mr. Stirling, we need not interrupt your ride. Belden will see me home.”
Belden see her home! Peter would see him do it! That was what Peter thought. He said, “I shall ride 205 with you, of course.” So they started their horses, the groom dropping behind.
“Do you want to try it again?” asked Mutineer of the roan.
“No,” said the mare. “You are too big and strong.”
Leonore was just saying: “I could hear the pound of a horse’s feet behind me, but I thought it was the groom, and knew he could never overtake Fly-away. So when I felt the saddle begin to slip, I thought I was—was going to be dragged—as I once saw a woman in England—Oh!—and then suddenly I saw a horse’s head, and then I felt some one take hold of me so firmly that I didn’t have to hold myself at all, and I knew I was safe. Oh, how nice it is to be big and strong!”
Peter thought so too.
So it is the world over. Peter and Mutineer felt happy and proud in their strength, and Leonore and Fly-away glorified them for it. Yet in spite of this, as Peter looked down at the curly head, from his own and Mutineer’s altitude, he felt no superiority, and knew that the slightest wish expressed by that small mouth, would be as strong with him as if a European army obeyed its commands.
“What a tremendous horse you have?” said Leonore.
“Isn’t he?” assented Peter. “He’s got a bad temper, I’m sorry to say, but I’m very fond of him. He was given me by my regiment, and was the choice of a very dear friend now dead.”
“Who was that?”
“No one you know. A Mr. Costell.”
“Oh, yes I do. I’ve heard all about him.”
“What do you know of Mr. Costell?”
“What Miss De Voe told me.”
“Miss De Voe?”
“Yes. We saw her both times in Europe. Once at Nice, and once in—in 1882—at Maggiore. The first time, I was only six, but she used to tell me stories about you and the little children in the angle. The last time she told me all she could remember about you. We used to drift about the lake moonlight nights, and talk about you.”
“What made that worth doing to you?”
“Oh, from the very beginning, that I can remember, papa was always talking about ‘dear old Peter’”—the 206 talker said the last three words in such a tone, and shot such a look up at Peter, half laughing and half timid, that in combination they nearly made Peter reel in his saddle—“and you seemed almost the only one of his friends he did speak of, so I became very curious about you as a little girl, and then Miss De Voe made me more interested, so that I began questioning Americans, because I was really anxious to learn things concerning you. Nearly every one did know something, so I found out a great deal about you.”
Peter was realizing for the first time in his life, how champagne made one feel.
“Tell me whom you found who knew anything about me?”
“Oh, nearly everybody knew something. That is, every one we’ve met in the last five years. Before that, there was Miss De Voe, and grandpapa, of course, when he came over in 1879——”
“But,” interrupted Peter, “I don’t think I had met him once before that time, except at the Shrubberies.”
“No, he hadn’t seen you. But he knew a lot about you, from Mr. Lapham and Mr. Avery, and some other men who had met you.”
“Miss Leroy, mamma’s bridesmaid, who spent two weeks at our villa near Florence, and Dr. Purple, your clergyman, who was in the same house with us at Ober-Ammergau, and—and—oh the best were Mr. and Mrs. Rivington. They were in Jersey, having their honeymoon. They told me more than all the rest put together.”
“I feel quite safe in their hands. Dorothy and I formed a mutual admiration society a good many years ago.”
“She and Mr. Rivington couldn’t say enough good of you.”
“You must make allowance for the fact that they were on their wedding journey, and probably saw everything rose-colored.”
“That was it. Dorothy told me about your giving Mr. Rivington a full partnership, in order that Mr. Ogden should give his consent.”
“Ray swore that he wouldn’t tell. And Dorothy has 207 always appeared ignorant. And yet she knew it on her wedding trip.”
“She couldn’t help it. She said she must tell some one, she was so happy. So she told mamma and me. She showed us your photograph. Papa and mamma said it was like you, but I don’t think it is.”
Again Leonore looked up at him. Leonore, when she glanced at a man, had the same frank, fearless gaze that her mother had of yore. But she did not look as often nor as long, and did not seem so wrapped up in the man’s remarks when she looked. We are afraid even at seventeen that Leonore had discovered that she had very fetching eyes, and did not intend to cheapen them, by showing them too much. During the whole of this dialogue, Peter had had only “come-and-go” glimpses of those eyes. He wanted to see more of them. He longed to lean over and turn the face up and really look down into them. Still, he could see the curly hair, and the little ear, and the round of the cheek, and the long lashes. For the moment Peter did not agree with Mr. Weller that “life isn’t all beer and skittles.”
“I’ve been so anxious to meet you. I’ve begged papa ever since we landed to take me to see you. And he’s promised me, over and over again, to do it, but something always interfered. You see, I felt very strange and—and queer, not knowing people of my own country, and I felt that I really knew you, and wouldn’t have to begin new as I do with other people. I do so dread next winter when I’m to go into society. I don’t know what I shall do. I’ll not know any one.”
“You’ll know me.”
“But you don’t go into society.”
“Oh, yes, I do. Sometimes, that is. I shall probably go more next winter. I’ve shut myself up too much.” This was a discovery of Peter’s made in the last ten seconds.
“How nice that will be! And will you promise to give me a great deal of attention?”
“You’ll probably want very little. I don’t dance.” Peter suddenly became conscious that Mr. Weller was right.
“But you can learn. Please. I do so love valsing.”
Peter almost reeled again at the thought of waltzing 208 with Leonore. Was it possible life had such richness in it? Then he said with a bitter note in his voice very unusual to him:
“I’m afraid I’m too old to learn.”
“Not a bit,” said Leonore. “You don’t look any older than lots of men I’ve seen valsing. Young men I mean. And I’ve seen men seventy years old dancing in Europe.”
Whether Peter could have kept his seat much longer is to be questioned. But fortunately for him, the horses here came to a stop in front of a stable.
“Why,” said Leonore, “here we are already! What a short ride it has been.”
Peter thought so too, and groaned over the end of it. But then he suddenly remembered that Leonore was to be lifted from her horse. He became cold with the thought that she might jump before he could get to her, and he was off his horse, and by her side with the quickness of a military training. He put his hands up, and for a moment had—well, Peter could usually express himself but he could not put that moment into words. And it was not merely that Leonore had been in his arms for a moment, but that he had got a good look up into her eyes.
“I wish you would take my horse round to the Riding Club,” he told the groom. “I wish to see Miss D’Alloi home.”
“Thank you very much, but my maid is here in the brougham, so I need not trouble you. Good-bye, and thank you. Oh, thank you so much!” She stood very close to Peter, and looked up into his eyes with her own. “There’s no one I would rather have had save me.”
She stepped into the brougham, and Peter closed the door. He mounted his horse again, and straightening himself up, rode away.
“Hi thought,” remarked the groom to the stableman, “that ’e didn’t know ’ow to sit ’is ’orse, but ’e’s all right, arter all. ’E rides like ha ’orse guards capting, w’en ’e don’t ’ave a girl to bother ’im.”
Would that girl bother him?209
At first blush, judging from Peter’s behavior, the girl was not going to bother him. Peter left his horse at the stable, and taking a hansom, went to his club. There he spent a calm half hour over the evening papers. His dinner was eaten with equal coolness. Not till he had reached his study did he vary his ordinary daily routine. Then, instead of working or reading, he rolled a comfortable chair up to the fire, put on a fresh log or two, opened a new box of Bock’s, and lighting one, settled back in the chair. How many hours he sat and how many cigars he smoked are not recorded, lest the statement should make people skeptical of the narrative.
Of course Peter knew that life had not lost its troubles. He was not fooling himself as to what lay before him. He was not callous to the sufferings already endured. But he put them, past, and to come, from him for one evening, and sat smoking lazily with a dreamy look on his face. He had lately been studying the subject of Asiatic cholera, but he did not seem to be thinking of that. He had just been through what he called a “revolting experience,” but it is doubtful if he was thinking of that. Whatever his thoughts were, they put a very different look on his face than that which it used to wear while he studied blank walls.
When Peter sat down, rather later than usual at his office desk the next morning, he took a sheet of paper, and wrote, “Dear sir,” upon it. Then he tore it up. He took another and wrote, “My dear Mr. D’Alloi.” He tore that up. Another he began, “Dear Watts.” A moment later it was in the paper basket. “My dear friend,” served to bring a similar fate to the fourth. Then Peter rose and strolled about his office aimlessly. Finally he went out into a gallery running along the various rooms, and, opening a door, put his head in.210
“You hypocritical scoundrel,” he said. “You swore to me that you would never tell a living soul.”
“Well?” came a very guilty voice back.
“And Dorothy’s known all this time.”
“And you’ve both been as innocent as—as you were guilty.”
“Look here, Peter, I can’t make you understand, because you’ve—you’ve never been on a honeymoon. Really, old fellow, I was so happy over your generosity in giving me a full share, when I didn’t bring a tenth of the business, and so happy over Dorothy, that if I hadn’t told her, I should have simply—bust. She swore she’d never tell. And now she’s told you!”
“No, but she told some one else.”
“Then she’s broken her word. She——”
“The Pot called the Kettle black.”
“But to tell one’s own wife is different. I thought she could keep a secret.”
“How can you expect a person to keep a secret when you can’t keep it yourself?” Peter and Ray were both laughing.
Ray said to himself, “Peter has some awfully knotty point on hand, and is resting the brain tissue for a moment.” Ray had noticed, when Peter interrupted him during office hours, on matters not relating to business, that he had a big or complex question in hand.
Peter closed the door and went back to his room. Then he took a fifth sheet of paper, and wrote:
“Watts: A day’s thought has brought a change of feeling on my part. Neither can be the better for alienation or unkind thoughts. I regret already my attitude of yesterday. Let us cancel all that has happened since our college days, and put it aside as if it had never occurred.
Just as he had finished this, his door opened softly. Peter did not hear it, but took the letter up and read it slowly.
Peter did not jump at the Boo. He looked up very calmly, but the moment he looked up, jump he did. He 211 jumped so that he was shaking hands before the impetus was lost.
“This is the nicest kind of a surprise,” he said.
“Bother you, you phlegmatic old cow,” cried a merry voice. “Here we have spent ten minutes palavering your boy, in order to make him let us surprise you, and then when we spring it on you, you don’t budge. Wasn’t it shabby treatment, Dot?”
“You’ve disappointed us awfully, Mr. Stirling.”
Peter was shaking hands more deliberately with Leonore than he had with Watts. He had been rather clever in shaking hands with him first, so that he need not hurry himself over the second. So he had a very nice moment—all too short—while Leonore’s hand lay in his. He said, in order to prolong the moment, without making it too marked, “It will take something more frightful than you, Miss D’Alloi, to make me jump.” Then Peter was sorry he had said it, for Leonore dropped her eyes.
“Now, old man, give an account of yourself.” Watts was speaking jauntily, but not quite as easily as he usually did. “Here Leonore and I waited all last evening, and you never came. So she insisted that we come this morning.”
“I don’t understand?” Peter was looking at Leonore as if she had made the remark. Leonore was calmly examining Peter’s room.
“Why, even a stranger would have called last night to inquire about Dot’s health, after such an accident. But for you not to do it, was criminal. If you have aught to say why sentence should not now be passed on you, speak now or forever—no—that’s the wedding ceremony, isn’t it? Not criminal sentence—though, on second thought, there’s not much difference.”
“Did you expect me, Miss D’Alloi?”
Miss D’Alloi was looking at a shelf of law books with her back to Peter, and was pretending great interest in them. She did not turn, but said “Yes.”
“I wish I had known that,” said Peter, with the sincerest regret in his voice.
Miss D’Alloi’s interest in legal literature suddenly ceased. She turned and Peter had a momentary glimpse of those wonderful eyes. Either his words or tone had evidently pleased Miss D’Alloi. The corners of her mouth were 212 curving upwards. She made a deep courtesy to him and said: “You will be glad to know, Mr. Stirling, that Miss D’Alloi has suffered no serious shock from her runaway, and passed a good night. It seemed to Miss D’Alloi that the least return she could make for Mr. Stirling’s kindness, was to save him the trouble of coming to inquire about Miss D’Alloi’s health, and so leave Mr. Stirling more time to his grimy old law books.”
“There, sir, I hope you are properly crushed for your wrong-doing,” cried Watts.
“I’m not going to apologize for not coming,” said Peter, “for that is my loss; but I can say that I’m sorry.”
“That’s quite enough,” said Leonore. “I thought perhaps you didn’t want to be friends. And as I like to have such things right out, I made papa bring me down this morning so that I could see for myself.” She spoke with a frankness that seemed to Peter heavenly, even while he grew cold at the thought that she should for a moment question his desire to be friends.
“Of course you and Peter will be friends,” said Watts.
“But mamma told me last night—after we went upstairs, that she was sure Mr. Stirling would never call.”
“Never, Dot?” cried Watts.
“Yes. And when I asked her why, she wouldn’t tell me at first, but at last she said it was because he was so unsociable. I shan’t be friends with any one who won’t come to see me.” Leonore was apparently looking at the floor, but from under her lashes she was looking at something else.
Whatever Peter may have felt, he looked perfectly cool. Too cool, Leonore thought. “I’m not going to make any vows or protestations of friendship,” he said. “I won’t even pledge myself to come and see you, Miss D’Alloi. Remember, friendship comes from the word free. If we are to be friends, we must each leave the other to act freely.”
“Well,” said Leonore, “that is, I suppose, a polite way of saying that you don’t intend to come. Now I want to know why you won’t?”
“The reasons will take too long to explain to you now, so I’ll defer the telling till the first time I call on you.” Peter was smiling down at her.
Miss D’Alloi looked up at Peter, to see what meaning 213 his face gave his last remark. Then she held out her two hands. “Of course we are to be the best of friends,” she said. Peter got a really good look down into those eyes as they shook hands.
The moment this matter had been settled, Leonore’s manner changed. “So this is the office of the great Peter Stirling?” she said, with the nicest tone of interest in her voice, as it seemed to Peter.
“It doesn’t look it,” said Watts. “By George, with the business people say your firm does, you ought to do better than this. It’s worse even than our old Harvard quarters, and those were puritanical enough.”
“There is a method in its plainness. If you want style, go into Ogden’s and Rivington’s rooms.”
“Why do you have the plain office, Mr. Stirling?”
“I have a lot of plain people to deal with, and so I try to keep my room simple, to put them at their ease. I’ve never heard of my losing a client yet, because my room is as it is, while I should have frightened away some if I had gone in for the same magnificence as my partners.”
“But I say, chum, I should think that is the sort you would want to frighten away. There can’t be any money in their business?”
“We weren’t talking of money. We were talking of people. I am very glad to say, that with my success, there has been no change in my relations with my ward. They all come to me here, and feel perfectly at home, whether they come as clients, as co-workers, or merely as friends.”
“Ho, ho,” laughed Watts. “You wily old fox! See the four bare walls. The one shelf of law books. The one cheap cabinet of drawers. The four simple chairs, and the plain desk. Behold the great politician! The man of the people.”
Peter made no reply. But Leonore said to him, “I’m glad you help the poor people still, Mr. Stirling,” and gave Peter another glimpse of those eyes. Peter didn’t mind after that.
“Look here, Dot,” said Watts. “You mustn’t call chum Mr. Stirling. That won’t do. Call him—um—call him Uncle Peter.”
“I won’t,” said Leonore, delighting Peter thereby. “Let me see. What shall I call you?” she asked of Peter.214
“Honey,” laughed Watts.
“What shall I call you?” Miss D’Alloi put her head on one side, and looked at Peter out of the corners of her eyes.
“You must decide that, Miss D’Alloi.”
“I suppose I must. I—think—I—shall—call—you—Peter.” She spoke hesitatingly till she said his name, but that went very smoothly. Peter on the spot fell in love with the five letters as she pronounced them.
“Plain Peter?” inquired Watts.
“Now what will you call me?”
“Miss D’Alloi,” said Peter.
“Miss D’Alloi,” re-affirmed Peter.
“Then I will call you Mr. Stirling, Peter.”
“No, you won’t.”
“Because you said you’d call me Peter.”
“But not if you won’t——”
“You made no condition at the time of promise. Shall I show you the law?”
“No. And I shall not call you Peter, any more, Peter.”
“Then I shall prosecute you.”
“But I should win the case, for I should hire a friend of mine to defend me. A man named Peter.” Leonore sat down in Peter’s chair. “I’m going to write him at once about it.” She took one of his printed letter sheets and his pen, and, putting the tip of the holder to her lips (Peter has that pen still), thought for a moment. Then she wrote:
I am threatened with a prosecution. Will you defend me? Address your reply to “Dear Leonore.”
“Now” she said to Peter, “you must write me a letter in reply. Then you can have this note.” Leonore rose with the missive in her hand.
“I never answer letters till I’ve received them.” Peter took hold of the slender wrist, and possessed himself of the paper. Then he sat down at his desk and wrote on another sheet:
Dear Miss D’Alloi:
I will defend you faithfully and always.
“That isn’t what I said,” remarked Miss D’Alloi. “But I suppose it will have to do.”
“You forget one important thing.”
“What is that?”
“My retaining fee.”
“Oh, dear,” sighed Leonore. “My allowance is nearly gone. Don’t you ever do work for very, very poor people, for nothing?”
“Not if their poverty is pretence.”
“Oh, but mine isn’t. Really. See. Here is my purse. Look for yourself. That’s all I shall have till the first of the month.”
She gave Peter her purse. He was still sitting at his desk, and he very deliberately proceeded to empty the contents out on his blotter. He handled each article. There was a crisp ten-dollar bill, evidently the last of those given by the bank at the beginning of the month. There were two one-dollar bills. There was a fifty-cent piece, two quarters and a dime. A gold German twenty-mark piece, about eight inches of narrow crimson ribbon, and a glove button, completed the contents. Peter returned the American money and the glove button to the purse and handed it back to Miss D’Alloi.
“You’ve forgotten the ribbon and the gold piece,” said Leonore.
“You were never more mistaken in your life,” replied Peter, with anything but legal guardedness concerning improvable statements. He folded up the ribbon neatly and put it, with the coin, in his waistcoat pocket.
“Oh,” said Leonore, “I can’t let you have that. That’s my luck-piece.”
“Is it?” Peter expressed much surprise blended with satisfaction in his tone.
“Yes. You don’t want to take my good luck.”
“I will think it over, and write you a legal opinion later.”
“Please!” Miss D’Alloi pleaded.
“That is just what I have succeeded in doing—for myself.”
“But I want my luck-piece. I found it in a crack of the rocks crossing the Ghemi. And I must have the ribbon. I need it to match for a gown it goes with.” Miss D’Alloi put true anxiety into her voice, whatever she really felt.216
“I shall be glad to help you match it,” said Peter, “and any time you send me word, I will go shopping with you. As for your luck, I shall keep that for the present.”
“Now I know,” said Leonore crossly, “why lawyers have such a bad reputation. They are perfect thieves!” She looked at Peter with the corners of her mouth drawn down. He gazed at her with a very grave look on his face. They eyed each other steadily for a moment, and then the corners of Leonore’s mouth suddenly curled upwards. She tried hard for a moment to keep serious. Then she gave up and laughed. Then they both laughed.
Many people will only see an amusing side to the dialogue here so carefully recorded. If so, look back to the time when everything that he or she said was worth listening to. Or if there has never been a he or a she, imitate Peter, and wait. It is worth waiting for.
It is not to be supposed from this last reflection of ours, that Leonore was not heart-whole. Leonore had merely had a few true friends, owing to her roving life, and at seventeen a girl craves friends. When, therefore, the return to America was determined upon, she had at once decided that Peter and she would be the closest of friends. That she would tell him all her confidences, and take all her troubles to him. Miss De Voe and Dorothy had told her about Peter, and from their descriptions, as well as from her father’s reminiscences, Leonore had concluded that Peter was just the friend she had wanted for so long. That Leonore held her eyes down, and tried to charm yet tantalize her intended friend, was because Leonore could not help it, being only seventeen and a girl. If Leonore had felt anything but a friendly interest and liking, blended with much curiosity, in Peter, she never would have gone to see him in his office, and would never have talked and laughed so frankly with him.
As for Peter, he did not put his feelings into good 217 docketed shape. He did not attempt to label them at all. He had had a delicious half-hour yesterday. He had decided, the evening before, that he must see those slate-colored eyes again, if he had to go round the world in pursuit of them. How he should do it, he had not even thought out, till the next morning. He had understood very clearly that the owner of those slate-colored eyes was really an unknown quantity to him. He had understood, too, that the chances were very much against his caring to pursue those eyes after he knew them better. But he was adamant that he must see those eyes again, and prove for himself whether they were but an ignis fatuus, or the radiant stars that Providence had cast for the horoscope of Peter Stirling. He was studying those eyes, with their concomitants, at the present time. He was studying them very coolly, to judge from his appearance and conduct. Yet he was enjoying the study in a way that he had never enjoyed the study of somebody “On Torts.” Somebody “On Torts,” never looked like that. Somebody “On Torts,” never had luck-pieces, and silk ribbons. Somebody “On Torts,” never wrote letters and touched the end of pens to its lips. Somebody “On Torts,” never courtesied, nor looked out from under its eyelashes, nor called him Peter.
While this investigation had been progressing, Watts had looked at the shelf of law books, had looked out of the window, had whistled, and had yawned. Finally, in sheer ennui he had thrown open a door, and looked to see what lay beyond.
“Ha, ha!” he cried. “All is discovered. See! Here sits Peter Stirling, the ward politician, enthroned in Jeffersonian simplicity. But here, behind the arras, sits Peter Stirling, the counsellor of banks and railroads, in the midst of all the gorgeousness of the golden East.” Watts passed into the room beyond.
“What does he mean, Peter?”
“He has gone into my study. Would you like——”
He was interrupted by Watts calling, “Come in here, Dot, and see how the unsociable old hermit bestows himself.”
So Leonore and Peter followed Watts’s lead. The room into which they went was rather a curious one. It was at least twenty-five feet square, having four windows, two 218 looking out on Broadway, and two on the side street. It had one other door besides that by which they had entered. Here the ordinary quality ended. Except for the six openings already noted and a large fireplace, the walls were shelved from floor to ceiling (which was not a low one), with dusky oak shelving. The ceiling was panelled in dark oak, and the floor was covered with a smooth surface of the same wood. Yet though the shelves were filled with books, few could be seen, for on every upright of the shelving, were several frames of oak, hinged as one sees them in public galleries occasionally, and these frames contained etchings, engravings, and paintings. Some were folded back against the shelves. Others stood out at right angles to them, and showed that the frames were double ones, both sides containing something. Four easy-chairs, three less easy chairs, and a large table desk, likewise of dusky oak, were the sole other fittings of the room, if we except two large polar bear skins.
“Oh,” cried Leonore, looking about, “I’m so glad to see this. People have told me so much about your rooms. And no two of them ever agreed.”
“No,” said Peter. “It seems a continual bone of contention with my friends. They scold me because I shelved it to the ceiling, because I put it in one-colored wood, because I framed my pictures and engravings this way, and because I haven’t gone in for rugs, and bric-a-brac, and the usual furnishings. At times I have really wondered, from their determination to change things, whether it was for them to live in, or for my use?”
“It is unusual,” said Leonore, reluctantly, and evidently selecting a word that should not offend Peter.
“You ought to be hung for treating fine pictures so,” said Watts.
“I had to give them those broad flat mats, because the books gave no background.”
“It’s—it’s—” Leonore hesitated. “It’s not so startling, after a moment.”
“You see they had to hang this way, or go unhung. I hadn’t wall space for both pictures and books. And by giving a few frames a turn, occasionally, I can always have fresh pictures to look at.”219
“Look here, Dot, here’s a genuine Rembrandt’s ‘Three Crosses,’” called Watts. “I didn’t know, old man, that you were such a connoisseur.”
“I’m not,” said Peter. “I’m fond of such things, but I never should have had taste or time to gather these.”
“Then how did you get them?”
“A friend of mine—a man of exquisite taste—gathered them. He lost his money, and I bought them of him.”
“That was Mr. Le Grand?” asked Leonore, ceasing her study of the “Three Crosses.”
“Mrs. Rivington told me about it.”
“It must have been devilish hard for him to part with such a collection,” said Watts.
“He hasn’t really parted with them. He comes down here constantly, and has a good time over them. It was partly his scheme to arrange them this way.”
“And are the paintings his, too, Peter?”
Peter could have hugged her for the way she said Peter. “No,” he managed to remark. “I bought some of them, and Miss De Voe and Lispenard Ogden the others. People tell me I spoil them by the flat framing, and the plain, broad gold mats. But it doesn’t spoil them to me. I think the mixture of gold mats and white mats breaks the monotony. And the variation just neutralizes the monotone which the rest of the room has. But of course that is my personal equation.”
“Then this room is the real taste of the ‘plain man,’ eh?” inquired Watts.
“Really, papa, it is plain. Just as simple as can be.”
“Simple! Yes, sweet simplicity! Three-thousand-dollar-etching simplicity! Millet simplicity! Oh, yes. Peter’s a simple old dog.”
“No, but the woodwork and the furniture. Isn’t this an enticing chair? I must try it.” And Leonore almost dissolved from view in its depths. Peter has that chair still. He would probably knock the man down who offered to buy it.
It occurred to Peter that since Leonore was so extremely near the ground, and was leaning back so far, that she could hardly help but be looking up. So he went and stood in front of the fireplace, and looked down at 220 her. He pretended that his hands were cold. Watts perhaps was right. Peter was not as simple as people thought.
It seemed to Peter that he had never had so much to see, all at once, in his life. There were the occasional glimpses of the eyes (for Leonore, in spite of her position, did manage to cover the larger part of them) not one of which must be missed. Then there was her mouth. That would have been very restful to the eye; if it hadn’t been for the distracting chin below it. Then there were the little feet, just sticking out from underneath the tailor-made gown, making Peter think of Herrick’s famous lines. Finally there were those two hands! Leonore was very deliberately taking off her gloves. Peter had not seen those hands ungloved yet, and waited almost breathlessly for the unveiling. He decided that he must watch and shake hands at parting before Leonore put those gloves on again.
“I say,” said Watts, “how did you ever manage to get such a place here?”
“I was a tenant for a good many years of the insurance company that owns the building, and when it came to rebuild, it had the architect fit this floor for me just as I wished it. So I put our law-offices in front and arranged my other rooms along the side street. Would you like to see them?” Peter asked this last question very obviously of Leonore.
So they passed through the other door, to a little square hall, lighted by a skylight, with a stairway going up to the roof.
“I took the upper floor, so as to get good air and the view of the city and the bay, which is very fine,” Peter said. “And I have a staircase to the roof, so that in good weather I can go up there.”
“I wondered what the great firm was doing up ten stories,” said Watts.
“Ogden and Rivington have been very good in yielding to my idiosyncracies. This is my mealing closet.”
It was a room nine feet square, panelled, ceiled and floored in mahogany, and the table and six chairs were made of the same material.
“So this is what the papers call the ‘Stirling political 221 incubator?’ It doesn’t look like a place for hatching dark plots,” said Watts.
“Sometimes I have a little dinner here. Never more than six, however, for it’s too small.”
“I say, Dot, doesn’t this have a jolly cosy feeling? Couldn’t one sit here blowy nights, with the candles lit, eating nuts and telling stories? It makes me think of the expression, ‘snug as a bug.’”
“Miss Leroy told me, Peter, what a reputation your dinners had, and how every one was anxious to be invited just once,” said Leonore.
“But not a second time, old man. You caught Dot’s inference, I hope? Once is quite enough.”
“Peter, will you invite me some day?”
“Would he?” Peter longed to tell her that the place and everything it contained, including its owner—Then Peter said to himself, “You really don’t know anything about her. Stop your foolishness.” Still Peter knew that—that foolishness was nice. He said, “People only care for my dinners because they are few and far between, and their being way down here in the city, after business hours, makes them something to talk about. Society wants badly something to talk about most of the time. Of course, my friends are invited.” Peter looked down at Leonore, and she understood, without his saying so, that she was to be a future guest.
“How do you manage about the prog, chum?”
“Mr. Le Grand had a man—a Maryland darky—whom he turned over to me. He looks after me generally, but his true forte is cooking. For oysters and fish and game I can’t find his equal. And, as I never attempt very elaborate dinners, he cooks and serves for a party of six in very good shape. We are not much in haste down here after six, because it’s so still and quiet. The hurry’s gone up-town to the social slaves. Suppose you stay and try his skill at lunch to-day? My partners generally are with me, and Jenifer always has something good for them.”
“By all means,” said Watts.
But Leonore said: “No. We mustn’t make a nuisance of ourselves the first time we come.” Peter and Watts tried to persuade her, but she was not persuadable. Leonore had no intention, no matter how good a time it meant, of lunching sola with four men.222
“I think we must be going,” she said.
“You mustn’t go without seeing the rest of my quarters,” said Peter, hoping to prolong the visit.
Leonore was complaisant to that extent. So they went into the pantry, and Leonore proceeded, apparently, to show her absolute ignorance of food matters under the pretext that she was displaying great housekeeping knowledge. She told Peter that he ought to keep his champagne on ice. “That champagne will spoil if it isn’t kept on ice.” She complained because some bottles of Burgundy had dust on them. “That’s not merely untidy,” she said, “but it’s bad for the wine. It ought to be stood on end, so that the sediment can settle.” She criticised the fact that a brace of canvas-backs were on ice. “All your game should be hung,” she said. She put her finger or her eyes into every drawer and cupboard, and found nothing to praise. She was absolutely grave over it, but before long Peter saw the joke and entered into it. It was wonderful how good some of the things that she touched tasted later.
Then they went into Peter’s sleeping-room. Leonore said it was very ordinary, but promptly found two things to interest her.
“Do you take care of your window flowers?”
“No. Mrs. Costell comes down to lunch with me once a week, and potters with them. She keeps all the windows full of flowers—perhaps you have noticed them in the other rooms, as well?”
“Yes. I liked them, but I didn’t think they could be yours. They grow too well for a man.”
“It seems as if Mrs. Costell had only to look at a plant, and it breaks out blossoming,” Peter replied.
“What a nice speech,” said Leonore.
“It’s on a nice subject,” Peter told her. “When you have that, it’s very easy to make a nice speech.”
“I want to meet Mrs. Costell. I’ve heard all about her.”
The second point of interest concerned the contents of what had evidently been planned as an umbrella-stand.
“Why do you have three swords?” she asked, taking the handsomest from its resting place.
“So that I can kill more people.”
“Why, Dot, you ought to know that an officer wants a service sword and a dress-sword.”223
“But these are all dress-swords. I’m afraid you are very proud of your majorship.”
Peter only smiled a reply down at her.
“Yes,” said Leonore, “I have found out your weakness at last. You like gold lace and fixings.”
Still Peter only smiled.
“This sword is presented to Captain Peter Stirling in recognition of his gallant conduct at Hornellsville, July 25 1877,” Leonore read on the scabbard “What did you do at Hornellsville?”
“But what did you do to get the sword?”
“I thought you knew all about me.”
“I don’t know this.”
Peter only smiled at her.
“Tell me. If you don’t, somebody else will. Please.”
“Why, Dot, these are all presentation swords.”
“Yes,” said Peter; “and so gorgeous that I don’t dare use them. I keep the swords I wear at the armory.”
“Are you going to tell me what you did to get them?”
“That one was given me by my company when I was made captain. That was subscribed for by some friends. The one you have was given me by a railroad.”
“For doing my duty.”
“Come, papa. We’ll go home.”
Peter surrendered. “There were some substitutes for strikers in freight cars that were fitted up with bunks. The strikers fastened the doors on them, and pushed them into a car-shed.”
“And what did you do?”
“We rolled the cars back.”
“I don’t think that was much. Nothing to give a sword for. Now, have you anything more to show us?”
“No. I have a spare room, and Jenifer has a kitchen and sleeping place beyond, but they are not worth showing.”
They went out into the little square hall, and so into the study. Leonore began unfolding her gloves.
“I’ve had a very nice time,” she said. “I think I 224 shall come again very often. I like down-town New York.” Leonore was making her first trip to it, so that she spoke from vast knowledge.
“I can’t tell you how pleasant it has been to me. It isn’t often that such sunshine gets in here,” said Peter.
“Then you do prefer sunshine to grimy old law books?” inquired Leonore, smiling demurely.
“Some sunshine,” said Peter, meaningly.
“Wherever there has been sunshine there ought to be lots of flowers. I have a good mind—yes, I will—leave you these violets.” Leonore took a little bunch that she had worn near her throat and put them and her hand in Peter’s. And she hadn’t put her glove on yet! Then she put her gloves on, and Peter shook hands. Then he remembered that he ought to see them to the elevator, so he took them out and shook hands again. After that he concluded it was his duty to see them to the carriage and he shook hands again.
Peter was not an experienced hand, but he was doing very well.
Just as Peter came back to his office, his lunch was announced.
“What makes you look so happy?” asked Ray.
“Being so,” said Peter, calmly.
“What a funny old chap he is?” Ray remarked to Ogden, as they went back to work. “He brought me his opinion, just after lunch, in the Hall-Seelye case. I suppose he had been grubbing all the morning over those awful figures, and a tougher or dryer job, you couldn’t make. Yet he came in to lunch looking as if he was walking on air.”
When Peter returned to his office, he would have preferred to stop work and think for a bit. He wanted to hold those violets, and smell them now and then. He wished to read that letter over again. He longed to have a look at that bit of ribbon and gold. But he resisted temptation. He said: “Peter Stirling, go to work.” 225 So all the treasures were put in a drawer of his study table, and Peter sat down at his office desk. First, after tearing up his note to Watts, he wrote another, as follows:
You can understand why I did not call last night, or bind myself as to the future. I shall hope to receive an invitation to call from Mrs. D’Alloi. How, I must leave to you; but you owe me this much, and it is the only payment I ask of you. Otherwise let us bury all that has occurred since our college days, forever.
Then he ground at the law till six, when he swung his clubs and dumb-bells for ten minutes; took a shower; dressed himself, and dined. Then he went into his study, and opened a drawer. Did he find therein a box of cigars, or a bunch of violets, gold-piece, ribbon and sheet of paper? One thing is certain. Peter passed another evening without reading or working. And two such idle evenings could not be shown in another week of his life for the last twenty years.
The next day Peter was considerably nearer earth. Not that he didn’t think those eyes just as lovely, and had he been thrown within their radius, he would probably have been as strongly influenced as ever. But he was not thrown within their influence, and so his strong nature and common sense reasserted themselves. He took his coffee, his early morning ride, and then his work, in their due order. After dinner, that evening, he only smoked one cigar. When he had done that, he remarked to himself—apropos of the cigars, presumably—“Peter, keep to your work. Don’t burn yourself again.” Then his face grew very firm, and he read a frivolous book entitled: “Neun atiologische und prophylactische Satze . . . . . . uber die Choleræpidemien in Ostindien,” till nearly one o’clock.
The following day was Sunday. Peter went to church, and in the afternoon rode out to Westchester to pass the evening there with Mrs. Costell. Peter thought his balance was quite recovered. Other men have said the same thing. The fact that they said so, proved that they were by no means sure of themselves.
This was shown very markedly on Monday in Peter’s case, for after lunch he did not work as steadily as he had done in the morning hours. He was restless. Twice 226 he pressed his lips, and started in to work very, very hard—and did it for a time. Then the restlessness would come on again. Presently he took to looking at his watch. Then he would snap it to, and go to work again, with a great determination in his face, only to look at the watch again before long. Finally he touched his bell.
“Jenifer,” he said, “I wish you would rub off my spurs, and clean up my riding trousers.”
“For lohd, sar, I done dat dis day yesserday.”
“Never mind, then,” said Peter. “Tell Curzon to ring me up a hansom.”
When Peter rode into the park he did not vacillate. He put his horse at a sharp canter, and started round the path. But he had not ridden far when he suddenly checked his horse, and reined him up with a couple of riders. “I’ve been looking for you,” he said frankly. Peter had not ceased to be straightforward.
“Hello! This is nice,” said Watts.
“Don’t you think it’s about time?” said Leonore. Leonore had her own opinion of what friendship consisted. She was not angry with Peter—not at all. But she did not look at him.
Peter had drawn his horse up to the side on which Leonore was riding. “That is just what I thought,” he said deliberately, “and that’s why I’m here now.”
“How long ago did that occur to you, please?” said Leonore, with dignity.
“About the time it occurred to me that you might ride here regularly afternoons.”
“Don’t you?” Leonore was mollifying.
“No. I like the early morning, when there are fewer people.”
“You unsociable old hermit,” exclaimed Watts.
“But now?” asked Leonore.
When Leonore said those two words Peter had not yet had a sight of those eyes. And he was getting desperately anxious to see them. So he replied: “Now I shall ride in the afternoons.”
He was rewarded by a look. The sweetest kind of a look. “Now, that is very nice, Peter,” said Leonore. “If we see each other every day in the Park, we can tell each other everything that we are doing or thinking about. So we will be very good friends for sure.” 227 Leonore spoke and looked as if this was the pleasantest of possibilities, and Peter was certain it was.
“I say, Peter,” said Watts. “What a tremendous dude we have come out. I wanted to joke you on it the first time I saw you, but this afternoon it’s positively appalling. I would have taken my Bible oath that it was the last thing old Peter would become. Just look at him, Dot. Doesn’t he fill you with ‘wonder, awe and praise?’”
Leonore looked at Peter a little shyly, but she said frankly:
“I’ve wondered about that, Peter. People told me you were a man absolutely without style.”
Peter smiled. “Do you remember what Friar Bacon’s brass head said?”
“Time is: Time was: Time will never be again?” asked Leonore.
“That fits my lack of style, I think.”
“Pell and Ogden, and the rest of them, have made you what I never could, dig at you as I would. So you’ve yielded to the demands of your toney friends?”
“Of course I tried to dress correctly for my up-town friends, when I was with them. But it was not they who made me careful, though they helped me to find a good tailor, when I decided that I must dress better.”
“Then it was the big law practice, eh? Must keep up appearances?”
“I fancy my dressing would no more affect my practice, than does the furnishing of my office.”
“Then who is she? Out with it, you sly dog.”
“Of course I shan’t tell you that.”
“Peter, will you tell me?” asked Leonore.
Peter smiled into the frank eyes. “Who she is?”
“No. Why you dress so nicely. Please?”
“You’ll laugh when I tell you it is my ward.”
“Oh, nonsense,” laughed Watts. “That’s too thin. Come off that roof. Unless you’re guardian of some bewitching girl?”
“Your ward, Peter?”
“Yes. I don’t know whether I can make you understand it. I didn’t at first. You see I became associated with the ward, in people’s minds, after I had been in politics for a few years. So I was sometimes put in 228 positions to a certain extent representative of it. I never thought much how I dressed, and it seems that sometimes at public meetings, and parades, and that sort of thing, I wasn’t dressed quite as well as the other men. So when the people of my ward, who were present, were asked to point me out to strangers, they were mortified about the way I looked. It seemed to reflect on the ward. The first inkling I had of it was after one of these parades, in which, without thinking, I had worn a soft hat. I was the only man who did not wear a silk one, and my ward felt very badly about it. So they made up a purse, and came to me to ask me to buy a new suit and silk hat and gloves. Of course that set me asking questions and though they didn’t want to hurt my feelings, I wormed enough out of them to learn how they felt. Since then I’ve spent a good deal of money on tailors, and dress very carefully.”
“Good for ‘de sixt’! Hurrah for the unwashed democracy, where one man’s as good as another! So a ‘Mick’ ward wants its great man to put on all the frills? I tell you, chum, we may talk about equality, but the lower classes can’t but admire and worship the tinsel and flummery of aristocracy.”
“You are mistaken. They may like to see brilliant sights. Soldiers, ball-rooms or the like, and who does not? Beauty is æsthetic, not aristocratic. But they judge people less by their dress or money than is usually supposed. Far less than the people up-town do. They wanted me to dress better, because it was appropriate. But let a man in the ward try to dress beyond his station, and he’d be jeered out of it, or the ward, if nothing worse happened.”
“Oh, of course they’d hoot at their own kind,” said Watts. “The hardest thing to forgive in this world is your equal’s success. But they wouldn’t say anything to one of us.”
“If you, or Pell, or Ogden should go into Blunkers’s place in my ward, this evening, dressed as you are, or better, you probably would be told to get out. I don’t believe you could get a drink. And you would stand a chance of pretty rough usage. Last week I went right from a dinner to Blunkers’s to say a word to him. I was in evening dress, newcastle, and crush hat—even a bunch 229 of lilies of the valley—yet every man there was willing to shake hands and have me sit down and stay. Blunkers couldn’t have been dressed so, because it didn’t belong to him. For the same reason, you would have no business in Blunkers’s place, because you don’t belong there. But the men know I dressed for a reason, and came to the saloon for a reason. I wasn’t putting on airs. I wasn’t intruding my wealth on them.”
“Look here, chum, will you take me into Blunkers’s place some night, and let me hear you powwow the ‘b’ys?’ I should like to see how you do it.”
“Yes,” Peter said deliberately, “if some night you’ll let me bring Blunkers up to watch one of your formal dinners. He would enjoy the sight, I’m sure.”
Leonore cocked her little nose up in the air, and laughed merrily.
“Oh, but that’s very different,” said Watts.
“It’s just as different as the two men with the toothache,” said Peter. “They both met at the dentist’s, who it seems had only time to pull one tooth. The question arose as to which it should be. ‘I’m so brave,’ said one, ‘that I can wait till to-morrow.’ ‘I’m such a coward,’ said the other, ‘that I don’t dare have it done to-day.’”
“Haven’t you ever taken people to those places, Peter?” asked Leonore.
“No. I’ve always refused. It’s a society fad now to have what are called ‘slumming parties,’ and of course I’ve been asked to help. It makes my blood tingle when I hear them talk over the ‘fun’ as they call it. They get detectives to protect them, and then go through the tenements—the homes of the poor—and pry into their privacy and poverty, just out of curiosity. Then they go home and over a chafing dish of lobster or terrapin, and champagne, they laugh at the funny things they saw. If the poor could get detectives, and look in on the luxury and comfort of the rich, they wouldn’t see much fun in it, and there’s less fun in a down-town tenement than there is in a Fifth Avenue palace. I heard a girl tell the other night about breaking in on a wake by chance. ‘Weren’t we lucky?’ she said. ‘It was so funny to see the poor people weeping and drinking whisky at the same time. Isn’t it heartless?’ Yet the dead—perhaps the bread-winner of the family, fallen in the struggle—perhaps the last 230 little comer, not strong enough to fight this earth’s battle—must have lain there in plain view of that girl. Who was the most heartless? The family and friends who had gathered over that body, according to their customs, or the party who looked in on them and laughed?” Peter had forgotten where he was, or to whom he was talking.
Leonore had listened breathlessly. But the moment he ceased speaking, she bowed her head and began to sob. Peter came down from his indignant tirade like a flash. “Miss D’Alloi,” he cried, “forgive me. I forgot. Don’t cry so.” Peter was pleading in an anxious voice. He felt as if he had committed murder.
“There, there, Dot. Don’t cry. It’s nothing to cry about.”
Miss D’Alloi was crying and endeavoring at the same time to solve the most intricate puzzle ever yet propounded by man or woman—that is, to find a woman’s pocket. She complicated things even more by trying to talk. “I—I—know I’m ver—ver—very fooooooolish,” she managed to get out, however much she failed in a similar result with her pocket-handkerchief.
“Since I caused the tears, you must let me stop them,” said Peter. He had produced his own handkerchief, and was made happy by seeing Leonore bury her face in it, and re-appear not quite so woe-begone.
“I—only—didn’t—know—you—could—talk—like—like that,” explained Leonore.
“Let this be a lesson for you,” said Watts. “Don’t come any more of your jury-pathos on my little girl.”
“Papa! You—I—Peter, I’m so glad you told me—I’ll never go to one.”
Watts laughed. “Now I know why you charm all the women whom I hear talking about you. I tell you, when you rear your head up like that, and your eyes blaze so, and you put that husk in your voice, I don’t wonder you fetch them. By George, you were really splendid to look at.”
That was the reason why Leonore had not cried till Peter had finished his speech. We don’t charge women with crying whenever they wish, but we are sure that they never cry when they have anything better to do.231
When the ride was ended, Leonore was sent home in the carriage, Watts saying he would go with Peter to his club. As soon as they were in the cab, he said:
“I wanted to see you about your letter.”
“Everything’s going as well as can be expected. Of course the little woman’s scandalized over your supposed iniquity, but I’m working the heavy sentimental ‘saved-our-little-girl’s-life’ business for all it’s worth. I had her crying last night on my shoulder over it, and no woman can do that and be obstinate long. She’ll come round before a great while.”
Peter winced. He almost felt like calling Watts off from the endeavor. But he thought of Leonore. He must see her—just to prove to himself that she was not for him, be it understood—and how could he see enough of her to do that—for Peter recognized that it would take a good deal of that charming face and figure and manner to pall on him—if he was excluded from her home? So he justified the continuance of the attempt by saying to himself: “She only excludes me because of something of which I am guiltless, and I’ve saved her from far greater suffering than my presence can ever give her. I have earned the privilege if ever man earned it.” Most people can prove to themselves what they wish to prove. The successful orator is always the man who imposes his frame of mind on his audience. We call it “saying what the people want said.” But many of the greatest speakers first suggest an idea to their listeners, and when they say it in plain English, a moment later, the audience say, mentally, “That’s just what we thought a moment ago,” and are convinced that the speaker is right.
Peter remained silent, and Watts continued: “We get into our own house to-morrow, and give Leonore a 232 birthday dinner Tuesday week as a combined house-warming and celebration. Save that day, for I’m determined you shall be asked. Only the invitation may come a little late. You won’t mind that?”
“No. But don’t send me too many of these formal things. I keep out of them as much as I can. I’m not a society man and probably won’t fit in with your friends.”
“I should know you were not de societé by that single speech. If there’s one thing easy to talk to, or fit in with, it’s a society man or woman. It’s their business to be chatty and pleasant, and they would be polite and entertaining to a kangaroo, if they found one next them at dinner. That’s what society is for. We are the yolk of the egg, which holds and blends all the discordant, untrained elements. The oil, vinegar, salt, and mustard. We don’t add much flavor to life, but people wouldn’t mix without us.”
“I know,” said Peter, “if you want to talk petty personalities and trivialities, that it’s easy enough to get through endless hours of time. But I have other things to do.”
“Exactly. But we have a purpose, too. You mustn’t think society is all frivolity. It’s one of the hardest working professions.”
“And the most brainless.”
“No. Don’t you see, that society is like any other kind of work, and that the people who will centre their whole life on it must be the leaders of it? To you, the spending hours over a new entrée, or over a cotillion figure, seems rubbish, but it’s the exact equivalent of your spending hours over who shall be nominated for a certain office. Because you are willing to do that, you are one of the “big four.” Because we are willing to do our task, we differentiate into the “four hundred.” You mustn’t think society doesn’t grind up brain-tissue. But we use so much in running it, that we don’t have enough for other subjects, and so you think we are stupid. I remember a woman once saying she didn’t like conversazioni, ‘because they are really brain-parties, and there is never enough to go round, and give a second help.’ Any way, how can you expect society to talk anything but society, when men like yourself stay away from it.”233
“I don’t ask you to talk anything else. But let me keep out of it.”
“‘He’s not the man for Galway’,” hummed Watts. “He prefers talking to ‘heelers,’ and ‘b’ys’ and ‘toughs,’ and other clever, intellectual men.”
“I like to talk to any one who is working with a purpose in life.”
“I say, Peter, what do those fellows really say of us?”
“I can best describe it by something Miss De Voe once said. We were at a dinner together, where there was a Chicago man who became irritated at one or two bits of ignorance displayed by some of the other guests over the size and prominence of his abiding place. Finally he said: ‘Why, look here, you people are so ignorant of my city, that you don’t even know how to pronounce its name.’ He turned to Miss De Voe and said, ‘We say Chicawgo. Now, how do you pronounce it in New York?’ Miss De Voe put on that quiet, crushing manner she has when a man displeases her, and said, ‘We never pronounce it in New York.’”
“Good for our Dutch-Huguenot stock! I tell you, Peter, blood does tell.”
“It wasn’t a speech I should care to make, because it did no good, and could only mortify. But it does describe the position of the lower wards of New York towards society. I’ve been working in them for nearly sixteen years, and I’ve never even heard the subject mentioned.”
“But I thought the anarchists and socialists were always taking a whack at us?”
“They cry out against over-rich men—not against society. Don’t confuse the constituents with the compound. Citric acid is a deadly poison, but weakened down with water and sugar, it is only lemonade. They growl at the poison, not at the water and sugar. Before there can be hate, there must be strength.”
The next day Peter turned up in the park about four, and had a ride—with Watts. The day after that, he was there a little earlier, and had a ride—with the groom. The day following he had another ride—with the groom. Peter thought they were very wonderful rides. Some one told him a great many interesting things. About some one’s European life, some one’s thoughts, some 234 one’s hopes, and some one’s feelings. Some one really wanted a friend to pour it all out to, and Peter listened well, and encouraged well.
“He doesn’t laugh at me, as papa does,” some one told herself, “and so it’s much easier to tell him. And he shows that he really is interested. Oh, I always said he and I should be good friends, and we are going to be.”
This put some one in a very nice frame of mind, and Peter thought he had never met such a wonderful combination of frankness, of confidence, and yet of a certain girlish shyness and timidity. Some one would tell him something, and then appeal to him, if he didn’t think that was so? Peter generally thought it was. Some one did not drop her little touch of coquetry, for that was ingrain, as it is in most pretty girls. But it was the most harmless kind of coquetry imaginable. Some one was not thinking at all of winning men’s hearts. That might come later. At present all she wanted was that they should think her pretty, and delightful, so that—that they should want to be friends.
When Peter joined Watts and Leonore, however, on the fourth day, there was a noticeable change in Leonore’s manner to him. He did not get any welcome except a formal “Good-afternoon,” and for ten minutes Watts and he had to sustain the conversation by firing remarks at each other past a very silent intermediary. Peter had no idea what was wrong, but when he found that she did not mollify at the end of that time, he said to her:
“What is the matter?”
“Matter with what?” asked Leonore, calmly.
“I shan’t take that for an answer. Remember, we have sworn to be friends.”
“Friends come to see each other.”
Peter felt relieved, and smiled. “They do,” he said, “when they can.”
“No, they don’t, sometimes,” said Leonore severely. Then she unbent a little. “Why haven’t you been to see us? You’ve had a full week.”
“Yes,” said Peter, “I have had a very full week.”
“Are you going to call on us, Mr. Stirling?”
“To whom are you talking?”235
“My name’s Peter.”
“That depends. Are you going to call on us?”
“That is my hope and wish.”
Leonore unbent a little more. “If you are,” she said, “I wish you would do it soon, because mamma said to-day she thought of asking you to my birthday dinner next Tuesday, but I said you oughtn’t to be asked till you had called.”
“Did you know that bribery is unlawful?”
“Are you going to call?”
“Of course I am.”
“That’s better. When?”
“What evening are you to be at home?”
“To-morrow,” said Leonore, beginning to curl up the corners of her mouth.
“Well,” said Peter, “I wish you had said this evening, because that’s nearer, but to-morrow isn’t so far away.”
“That’s right. Now we’ll be friends again.”
“I hope so.”
“Are you willing to be good friends—not make believe, or half friends, but—real friends?”
“Don’t you think friends should tell each other everything?”
“Yes.” Peter was quite willing, even anxious, that Leonore should tell him everything.
“You are quite sure?”
“Then,” said Leonore, “tell me about the way you got that sword.”
Watts laughed. “She’s been asking every one she’s met about that. Do tell her, just for my sake.”
“I’ve told you already.”
“Not the way I want it. I know you didn’t try to make it interesting. Some of the people remembered there was something very fine, but I haven’t found anybody yet who could really tell it to me. Please tell about it nicely, Peter.” Leonore was looking at Peter with the most pleading of looks.
“It was during the great railroad strike. The Erie had brought some men up from New York to fill the strikers’ places. The new hands were lodged in freight 236 cars, when off work, for it wasn’t safe for them to pass outside the guard lines of soldiers. Some of the strikers applied for work, and were re-instated. They only did it to get inside our lines. At night, when the substitutes in the cars were fast asleep, tired out with the double work they had done, the strikers locked the car-doors. They pulled the two cars into a shed full of freight, broke open a petroleum tank, and with it wet the cars and some others loaded with jute. They set fire to the cars and barricaded the shed doors. Of course we didn’t know till the flames burst through the roof of the shed, when by the light, one of the superintendents found the bunk cars gone. The fire-department was useless, for the strikers two days before, had cut all the hose. So we were ordered up to get the cars out. Some strikers had concealed themselves in buildings where they could overlook the shed, and while we were working at the door, they kept firing on us. We were in the light of the blazing shed, and they were in the dark, which gave them a big advantage over us, and we couldn’t spare the time to attend to them. We tore up some rails and with them smashed in the door. The men in the cars were screaming, so we knew which to take, and fortunately they were the nearest to the door. We took our muskets—for the frames of the cars were blazing, and the metal part too hot to touch—and fixing bayonets, drove them into the woodwork and so pushed the cars out. When we were outside, we used the rails again, to smash an opening in the ends of the cars which were burning the least. We got the men out unharmed, but pretty badly frightened.”
“And were you not hurt?”
“We had eight wounded and a good many badly burned.”
“I had my share of the burn.”
“I wish you would tell me what you did—not what the others did.”
Peter would have told her anything while she looked like that at him.
“I was in command at that point. I merely directed things, except taking up the rails. I happened to know how to get a rail up quickly, without waiting to unscrew the bolts. I had read it, years before, in a book on railroad 237 construction. I didn’t think that paragraph would ever help me to save forty lives—for five minutes’ delay would have been fatal. The inside of the shed was one sheet of flame. After we broke the door down, I only stood and superintended the moving of the cars. The men did the real work.”
“But you said the inside of the shed was a sheet of flame.”
“Yes. The railroad had to give us all fresh uniforms. So we made new toggery out of that night’s work. I’ve heard people say militia are no good. If they could have stood by me that night, and seen my company working over those blazing cars, in that mass of burning freight, with the roof liable to fall any minute, and the strikers firing every time a man showed himself, I think they would have altered their opinion.”
“Oh,” said Leonore, her eyes flashing with enthusiasm. “How splendid it is to be a man, and be able to do real things! I wish I had known about it in Europe.”
“Because the officers were always laughing about our army. I used to get perfectly wild at them, but I couldn’t say anything in reply. If I could only have told them about that.”
“Hear the little Frenchwoman talk,” said Watts.
“I’m not French.”
“Yes you are, Dot.”
“I’m all American. I haven’t a feeling that isn’t all American. Doesn’t that make me an American, Peter, no matter where I was born?”
“I think you are an American under the law.”
“Am I really?” said Leonore, incredulously.
“Yes. You were born of American parents, and you will be living in this country when you become of age. That constitutes nationality.”
“Oh, how lovely! I knew I was an American, really, but papa was always teasing me and saying I was a foreigner. I hate foreigners.”
“Confound you, chum, you’ve spoiled one of my best jokes! It’s been such fun to see Dot bristle when I teased her. She’s the hottest little patriot that ever lived.”
“I think Miss D’Alloi’s nationality is akin to that of a case of which I once heard,” said Peter, smiling. “A 238 man was bragging about the number of famous men who were born in his native town. He mentioned a well-known personage, among others, and one of his auditors said: ‘I didn’t know he was born there.’ ‘Oh, yes, he was,’ replied the man. ‘He was born there, but during the temporary absence of his parents!’”
“Peter, how much does a written opinion cost?” asked Leonore, eagerly.
“It has a range about equal to the woman’s statement that a certain object was as long as a piece of string.”
“But your opinions?”
“I have given an opinion for nothing. The other day I gave one to a syndicate, and charged eight thousand dollars.”
“Oh, dear!” said Leonore. “I wonder if I can afford to get your opinion on my being an American? I should like to frame it and hang it in my room. Would it be expensive?”
“It is usual with lawyers,” said Peter gravely, “to find out how much a client has, and then make the bill for a little less. How much do you have?”
“I really haven’t any now. I shall have two hundred dollars on the first. But then I owe some bills.”
“You forget your grandmamma’s money, Dot.”
“Oh! Of course. I shall be rich, Peter. I come into the income of my property on Tuesday. I forget how much it is, but I’m sure I can afford to have an opinion.”
“Why, Dot, we must get those papers out, and you must find some one to put the trust in legal shape, and take care of it for you,” said Watts.
“I suppose,” said Leonore to Peter, “if you have one lawyer to do all your work, that he does each thing cheaper, doesn’t he?”
“Yes. Because he divides what his client has, on several jobs, instead of on one,” Peter told her.
“Then I think I’ll have you do it all. We’ll come down and see you about it. But write out that opinion at once, so that I can prove that I’m an American.”
“Very well. But there’s a safer way, even, of making sure that you’re an American.”
“What is that?” said Leonore, eagerly.
“Marry one,” said Peter.
“Oh, yes,” said Leonore. “I’ve always intended to do that, but not for a great many years.”239
Peter dressed himself the next evening with particular care, even for him. As Peter dressed, he was rather down on life. He had been kept from his ride that afternoon by taking evidence in a referee case. “I really needed the exercise badly,” he said. He had tried to work his dissatisfaction off on his clubs and dumb-bells, but whatever they had done for his blood and tissue, they had not eased his frame of mind. Dinner made him a little pleasanter, for few men can remain cross over a proper meal. Still, he did not look happy, when, on rising from his coffee, he glanced at his watch and found that it was but ten minutes past eight.
He vacillated for a moment, and then getting into his outside trappings, he went out and turned eastward, down the first side street. He walked four blocks, and then threw open the swing door of a brilliantly lighted place, stepping at once into a blaze of light and warmth which was most attractive after the keen March wind blowing outside.
He nodded to the three barkeepers. “Is Dennis inside?” he asked.
“Yes, Misther Stirling. The regulars are all there.”
Peter passed through the room, and went into another without knocking. In it were some twenty men, sitting for the most part in attitudes denoting ease. Two, at a small table in the corner, were playing dominoes. Three others, in another corner, were amusing themselves with “High, Low, Jack.” Two were reading papers. The rest were collected round the centre table, most of them smoking. Some beer mugs and tumblers were standing about, but not more than a third of the twenty were drinking anything. The moment Peter entered, one of the men jumped to his feet.
“B’ys,” he cried, “here’s Misther Stirling. Begobs, 240 sir, it’s fine to see yez. It’s very scarce yez been lately.” He had shaken hands, and then put a chair in place for Peter.
The cards, papers, and dominoes had been abandoned the moment Dennis announced Peter’s advent, and when Peter had finished shaking the hands held out to him, and had seated himself, the men were all gathered round the big table.
Peter laid his hat on the table, threw back his Newcastle and lit a cigar. “I’ve been very short of time, Dennis. But I had my choice this evening before going up-town, of smoking a cigar in my own quarters, or here. So I came over to talk with you all about Denton.”
“An’ what’s he been doin’?” inquired Dennis.
“I saw him to-day about the Hummel franchise that comes up in the Board next Tuesday. He won’t vote for it, he says. I told him I thought it was in the interest of the city to multiply means of transit, and asked him why he refused. He replied that he thought the Hummel gang had been offering money, and that he would vote against bribers.”
“He didn’t have the face to say that?” shouted one of the listeners.
“Oi never!” said Dennis. “An’ he workin’ night an’ day to get the Board to vote the rival road.”
“I don’t think there’s much doubt that money is being spent by both sides,” said Peter. “I fear no bill could ever pass without it. But the Hummel crowd are really responsible people, who offer the city a good percentage. The other men are merely trying to get the franchise, to sell it out at a profit to Hummel. I don’t like the methods of either, but there’s a road needed, and there’ll be a road voted, so it’s simply a choice between the two. I shouldn’t mind if Denton voted against both schemes, but to say he’ll vote against Hummel for that reason, and yet vote for the other franchise shows that he’s not square. I didn’t say so to him, because I wanted to talk it over with the ward a little first to see if they stood with me.”
“That we do, sir,” said Dennis, with a sureness which was cool, if nothing more. Fortunately for the boldness of the speaker, no one dissented, and two or three couples nodded heads or pipes at each other.241
Peter looked at his watch. “Then I can put the screws on him safely, you think?”
“Yes,” cried several.
Peter rose. “Dennis, will you see Blunkers and Driscoll this evening, or some time to-morrow, and ask if they think so too? And if they don’t, tell them to drop in on me, when they have leisure.”
“Begobs, sir, Oi’ll see them inside av ten minutes. An’ if they don’t agree wid us, shure, Oi’ll make them.”
“Thank you. Good-night.”
“Good-night, Mr. Stirling,” came a chorus, and Peter passed into the street by the much maligned side-door.
Dennis turned to the group with his face shining with enthusiasm. “Did yez see him, b’ys? There was style for yez. Isn’t he somethin’ for the ward to be proud av?”
Peter turned to Broadway, and fell into a long rapid stride. In spite of the cold he threw open his coat, and carried his outer covering on his arm. Peter had no intention of going into an up-town drawing-room with any suggestion of “sixt” ward tobacco. So he walked till he reached Madison Square, when, after a glance at his watch, he jumped into a cab.
It was a quarter-past nine when the footman opened the door of the Fifty-seventh Street house, in reply to Peter’s ring. Yet he was told that, “The ladies are still at dinner.”
Peter turned and went down the stoop. He walked to the Avenue, and stopped at a house not far off.
“Is Mrs. Pell at home?” he asked, and procured entrance for both his pasteboard and himself.
“Welcome, little stranger,” was his greeting. “And it is so nice that you came this evening. Here is Van, on from Washington for two days.”
“I was going to look you up, and see what ‘we, the people’ were talking about, so that I could enlighten our legislators when I go back,” said a man of forty.
“I wrote Pope a long letter to-day, which I asked him to show you,” said Peter. “Things are in a bad shape, and getting worse.”
“But, Peter,” queried the woman, “if you are the leader, why do you let them get so?”
“So as to remain the leader,” said Peter, smiling quietly.242
“Now that’s what comes of ward politics,” cried Mrs. Pell. “You are beginning to make Irish bulls.”
“No,” replied Peter, “I am serious, and because people don’t understand what I mean, they don’t understand American politics.”
“But you say in effect that the way you retain your leadership, is by not leading. That’s absurd!”
“No. Contradiction though it may seem the way to lose authority, is to exercise it too much. Christ enunciated the great truth of democratic government, when he said, ‘He that would be the greatest among you, shall be the servant of all.’”
“I hope you won’t carry your theory so far as to let them nominate Maguire?” said Mr. Pell, anxiously.
“Now, please don’t begin on politics,” said the woman. “Here is Van, whom I haven’t seen for nine weeks, and here is Peter, whom I haven’t seen for time out of mind, and just as I think I have a red-letter evening before me, you begin your everlasting politics.”
“I merely stopped in to shake hands,” said Peter. “I have a call to make elsewhere, and can stay but twenty minutes. For that time we choose you speaker, and you can make us do as it pleases you.”
Twenty minutes later Peter passed into the D’Alloi drawing-room. He shook Mrs. D’Alloi’s hand steadily, which was more than she did with his. Then he was made happy for a moment, with that of Leonore. Then he was introduced to a Madame Mellerie, whom he placed at once as the half-governess, half-companion, who had charge of Leonore’s education; a Mr. Maxwell, and a Marquis de somebody. They were both good-looking young fellows; and greeted Peter in a friendly way. But Peter did not like them.
He liked them less when Mrs. D’Alloi told him to sit in a given place, and then put Madame Mellerie down by him. Peter had not called to see Madame Mellerie. But he made a virtue of necessity, and he was too instinctively courteous not to treat the Frenchwoman with the same touch of deference his manner towards women always had. After they had been chatting for a little on French literature, it occurred to Peter that her opinion of him might have some influence with Leonore, so he decided that he would try and please her. But this thought 243 turned his mind to Leonore, and speaking of her to her governess, he at once became so interested in the facts she began to pour out to him, that he forgot entirely about his diplomatic scheme.
This arrangement continued half an hour, when a dislocation of the statu quo was made by the departure of Mr. Maxwell. When the exit was completed, Mrs. D’Alloi turned to place her puppets properly again. But she found a decided bar to her intentions. Peter had formed his own conclusions as to why he had been set to entertain Madame Mellerie, not merely from the fact itself, but from the manner in which it had been done, and most of all, from the way Mrs. D’Alloi had managed to stand between Leonore and himself, as if protecting the former, till she had been able to force her arrangements. So with the first stir Peter had risen, and when the little bustle had ceased he was already standing by Leonore, talking to her. Mrs. D’Alloi did not look happy, but for the moment she was helpless.
Peter had had to skirt the group to get to Leonore, and so had stood behind her during the farewells. She apparently had not noticed his advent, but the moment she had done the daughter-of-the-house duty, she turned to him, and said: “I wondered if you would go away without seeing me. I was so afraid you were one of the men who just say, ‘How d’ye do’ and ‘Good-bye,’ and think they’ve paid a call.”
“I called to see you to-night, and I should not have gone till I had seen you. I’m rather a persistent man in some things.”
“Yes,” said Leonore, bobbing her head in a very knowing manner, “Miss De Voe told me.”
“Mr. Stirling,” said Mrs. D’Alloi, “can’t you tell us the meaning of the Latin motto on this seal?” Mrs. D’Alloi held a letter towards him, but did not stir from her position across the room.
Peter understood the device. He was to be drawn off, and made to sit by Mrs. D’Alloi, not because she wanted to see him, but because she did not want him to talk to Leonore. Peter had no intention of being dragooned. So he said: “Madame Mellerie has been telling me what a good Latin scholar Miss D’Alloi is. I certainly shan’t display my ignorance, till she has looked at it.” Then 244 he carried the envelope over to Leonore, and in handing it to her, moved a chair for her, not neglecting one for himself. Mrs. D’Alloi looked discouraged, the more when Peter and Leonore put their heads close together to examine the envelope.
“‘In bonam partem,’” read Leonore. “That’s easy, mamma. It’s—why, she isn’t listening!”
“You can tell her later. I have something to talk to you about.”
“What is that?”
“Your dinner in my quarters. Whom would you like to have there?”
“Will you really give me a dinner?”
“And let me have just whom I want?”
“Oh, lovely! Let me see. Mamma and papa, of course.”
“That’s four. Now you can have two more.”
“Peter. Would you mind—I mean—” Leonore hesitated a moment and then said in an apologetic tone—“Would you like to invite madame? I’ve been telling her about your rooms—and you—and I think it would please her so.”
“That makes five,” said Peter.
“Oh, goody!” said Leonore, “I mean,” she said, correcting herself, “that that is very kind of you.”
“And now the sixth?”
“That must be a man of course,” said Leonore, wrinkling up her forehead in the intensity of puzzlement. “And I know so few men.” She looked out into space, and Peter had a moment’s fear lest she should see the marquis, and name him. “There’s one friend of yours I’m very anxious to meet. I wonder if you would be willing to ask him?”
“Who is that?”
“No, I can’t ask him. I don’t want to cheapen him by making a show of him.”
“Oh! I haven’t that feeling about him. I——”
“I think you would understand him and see the fine qualities. But do you think others would?” Peter mentioned no names, but Leonore understood.245
“No,” she said. “You are quite right.”
“You shall meet him someday,” said Peter, “if you wish, but when we can have only people who won’t embarrass or laugh at him.”
“Really, I don’t know whom to select.”
“Perhaps you would like to meet Le Grand?”
“Very much. He is just the man.”
“Then we’ll consider that settled. Are you free for the ninth?”
“Yes. I’m not going out this spring, and mamma and papa haven’t really begun yet, and it’s so late in the season that I’m sure we are free.”
“Then I will ice the canvas-backs and champagne and dust off the Burgundy for that day, if your mamma accedes.”
“Peter, I wanted to ask you the other day about that. I thought you didn’t drink wine.”
“I don’t. But I give my friends a glass, when they are good enough to come to me. I live my own life, to please myself, but for that very reason, I want others to live their lives to please themselves. Trying to live other people’s lives for them, is a pretty dog-in-the-manger business.”
Just then Mrs. D’Alloi joined them. “Were you able to translate it?” she asked, sitting down by them.
“Yes, indeed,” said Leonore. “It means ‘Towards the right side,’ or as a motto it might be translated, ‘For the right side.’”
Mrs. D’Alloi had clearly, to use a western expression, come determined to “settle down and grow up with the country.” So Peter broached the subject of the dinner, and when she hesitated, Leonore called Watts into the group. He threw the casting ballot in favor of the dinner, and so it was agreed upon. Peter was asked to come to Leonore’s birthday festival, “If you don’t mind such short notice,” and he didn’t mind, apparently. Then the conversation wandered at will till Peter rose. In doing so, he turned to Leonore, and said:
“I looked the question of nationality up to-day, and found I was right. I’ve written out a legal opinion in my best hand, and will deliver it to you, on receiving my fee.”
“How much is that?” said Leonore, eagerly.
“That you come and get it.”246
Peter had not been working long the next morning when he was told that “The Honorable Terence Denton wishes to see you.” “Very well,” he said, and that worthy was ushered in.
“Good-morning, Denton. I’m glad to see you. I was going down to the Hall to-day to say something, but you’ve saved me the trouble.”
“I know you was. So I thought I’d get ahead of you,” said Denton, with a surly tone and manner.
“Sit down,” said Peter. Peter had learned that, with a certain class of individuals, a distance and a seat have a very dampening effect on anger. It is curious, man’s instinctive desire to stand up to and be near the object for which anger is felt.
“You’ve been talking against me in the ward, and makin’ them down on me.”
“No, I didn’t talk against you. I’ve spoken with some of the people about the way you think of voting on the franchises.”
“Yes. I wasn’t round, but a friend heard Dennis and Blunkers a-going over it last night. And it’s you did it.”
“Yes. But you know me well enough to be sure, after my talk with you yesterday, that I wouldn’t stop there.”
“So you try to set the pack on me.”
“No. I try to see how the ward wants its alderman to vote on the franchises.”
“Look a-here. What are you so set on the Hummel crowd for?”
“Is it because Hummel’s a big contractor and gives you lots of law business?”
“No,” said Peter, smiling. “And you don’t think it is, either.”
“Has they offered you some stock cheap?”247
“Come, come, Denton. You know the tu quoque won’t do here.”
Denton shifted in his seat uneasily, not knowing what reply to make. Those two little Latin words had such unlimited powers of concealment in them. He did not know whether tu quoque meant something about votes, an insulting charge, or merely a reply, and feared to make himself ridiculous by his response to them. He was not the first man who has been hampered and floored by his own ignorance. He concluded he must make an entire change of subject to be safe. So he said, “I ain’t goin’ to be no boss’s puppy dog.”
“No,” said Peter, finding it difficult not to smile, “you are not that kind of a man.”
“I takes my orders from no one.”
“Denton, no one wants you to vote by order. We elected you alderman to do what was best for the ward and city, as it seems to you. You are responsible for your votes to us, and no other man can be. I don’t care who orders you or advises you; in the end, you must vote yourself, and you yourself will be held to account by us.”
“Yes. But if I don’t vote as you wants, you’ll sour the boys on me.”
“I shall tell them what I think. You can do the same. It’s a fair game between us.”
“No, it ain’t. You’re rich and you can talk more.”
“You know my money has nothing to do with it. You know I don’t try to deceive the men in talking to them. If they trust what I tell them, it’s because it’s reasonable, and because I haven’t tricked them before.”
“Well, are you goin’ to drive me out?”
“I hope not. I think you’ve made a good alderman, Denton, and you’ll find I’ve said so.”
“If you vote for that franchise, I shall certainly tell the ward that I think you’ve done wrong. Then the ward will do as they please.”
“As you please, you mean.”
“No. You’ve been long enough in politics to know that unless I can make the ward think as I do, I couldn’t do anything. What would you care for my opinion, if you didn’t know that the votes are back of it?”
Just then the door swung open, and Dennis came in. 248 “Tim said yez was alone wid Denton, sir, so Oi came right in. It’s a good-mornin’, sir. How are yez, Terence?”
“You are just the man I want, Dennis. Tell Denton how the ward feels about the franchises.”
“Shure. It’s one man they is. An’ if Denton will step down to my place this night, he’ll find out how they think.”
“They never would have felt so, if Mister Stirling hadn’t talked to them. Not one in twenty knew the question was up.”
“That’s because they are most of them too hard working to keep track of all the things. Come, Denton; I don’t attempt to say how you shall vote. I only tell you how it seems to me. Go round the ward, and talk with others. Then you can tell whether I can give you trouble in the future or not. I don’t want to fight you. We’ve been good friends in the past, and we can do more by pulling in double harness than by kicking. I don’t know a man I would rather see at the Hall.” Peter held out his hand, and Denton took it.
“All right, Mister Stirling. I’ll do my best to stay friends,” he said, and went out.
Peter turned and smiled at Dennis. “They can’t find out that it’s not I, but the ward. So every time there’s trouble they lay it against me, and it’s hard to keep them friendly. And I hate quarrels and surliness.”
“It’s yezself can do it, though. Shure, Denton was in a great state av mind this mornin’, they was tellin’ me, but he’s all right now, an’ will vote right, or my name isn’t Dennis Moriarty.”
“Yes. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’ll vote square on Tuesday.”
Just then Tim brought in the cards of Watts and Leonore, and strangely enough, Peter said they were to be shown in at once. In they came, and after the greetings, Peter said:
“Miss D’Alloi, this is my dear friend, Dennis Moriarty. Dennis, Miss D’Alloi has wanted to know you because she’s heard of your being such a friend to me.”
“Shure,” said Dennis, taking the little hand so eagerly offered him, “Oi’m thinkin’ we’re both lucky to be in the thoughts at all, at all, av such a sweet young lady.”
“Oh, Mr. Moriarty, you’ve kissed the blarney stone.”249
“Begobs,” responded Dennis, “it needs no blarney stone to say that. It’s afther sayin’ itself.”
“Peter, have you that opinion?”
“Yes.” Peter handed her out a beautifully written sheet of script, all in due form, and given an appearance of vast learning, by red ink marginal references to such solid works as “Wheaton,” “Story,” and “Cranch’s” and “Wallace’s” reports. Peter had taken it practically from a “Digest,” but many apparently learned opinions come from the same source. And the whole was given value by the last two lines, which read, “Respectfully submitted, Peter Stirling.” Peter’s name had value at the bottom of a legal opinion, or a check, if nowhere else.
“Look, Mr. Moriarty,” cried Leonore, too full of happiness over this decision of her nationality not to wish for some one with whom to share it, “I’ve always thought I was French—though I didn’t feel so a bit—and now Mr. Stirling has made me an American, and I’m so happy. I hate foreigners.”
Watts laughed. “Why, Dot. You, mustn’t say that to Mr. Moriarty. He’s a foreigner himself.”
“Oh, I forgot. I didn’t think that——” Poor Leonore stopped there, horrified at what she had said.
“No,” said Peter, “Dennis is not a foreigner. He’s one of the most ardent Americans I know. As far as my experience goes, to make one of Dennis’s bulls, the hottest American we have to-day, is the Irish-American.”
“Oh, come,” said Watts. “You know every Irishman pins his loyalty to the ‘owld counthry.’”
“Shure,” said Dennis, “an’ if they do, what then? Sometimes a man finds a full-grown woman, fine, an’ sweet, an’ strong, an’ helpful to him, an’ he comes to love her big like. But does that make him forget his old weak mother, who’s had a hard life av it, yet has done her best by him? Begobs! If he forgot her, he wouldn’t be the man to make a good husband. Oi don’t say Oi’m a good American, for its small Oi feel besides Misther Stirling. But Oi love her, an’ if she ever wants the arm, or the blood, or the life, av Dennis Moriarty, she’s only got to say so.”
“Well,” said Watts, “this is very interesting, both as a point of view and as oratory; but it isn’t business. Peter, we came down this morning to take whatever legal 250 steps are necessary to put Dot in possession of her grandmother’s money, of which I have been trustee. Here is a lot of papers about it. I suppose everything is there relating to it.”
“Papa seemed to think it would be very wise to ask you to take care of it, and pay me the income. I can’t have the principal till I’m twenty-five.”
“You must tie it up some way, Peter, or Dot will make ducks and drakes of it. She has about as much idea of the value of money as she has of the value of foreigners. When we had our villa at Florence, she supported the entire pauper population of the city.”
Peter had declined heretofore the care of trust funds. But it struck him that this was really a chance—from a business standpoint, entirely! It is true, the amount was only ninety-two thousand, and, as a trust company would handle that sum of money for four hundred and odd dollars, he was bound to do the same; and this would certainly not pay him for his time. “Sometimes, however,” said Peter to himself, “these trusteeships have very handsome pickings aside from the half per cent.” Peter did not say that the “pickings,” as they framed themselves in his mind, were sundry calls on him at his office, and a justifiable reason at all times for calling on Leonore; to say nothing of letters and other unearned increment. So Peter was not obstinate this time. “It’s such a simple matter that I can have the papers drawn while you wait, if you’ve half an hour to spare.” Peter did this, thinking it would keep them longer, but later it occurred to him it would have been better to find some other reason, and leave the papers, because then Leonore would have had to come again soon. Peter was not quite as cool and far-seeing as he was normally.
He regretted his error the more when they all took his suggestion that they go into his study. Peter rang for his head clerk, and explained what was needed with great rapidity, and then left the latter and went into the study.
“I wonder what he’s in such a hurry for?” said the clerk, retiring with the papers.
When Peter entered the library he found Leonore and Watts reposing in chairs, and Dennis standing in front of them, speaking. This was what Dennis was saying:
“‘Schatter, boys, an’ find me a sledge.’ Shure, we 251 thought it was demented he was, but he was the only cool man, an’ orders were orders. Dooley, he found one, an’ then the captain went to the rails an’ gave it a swing, an’ struck the bolts crosswise like, so that the heads flew off, like they was shootin’ stars. Then he struck the rails sideways, so as to loosen them from the ties. Then says he: ‘Half a dozen av yez take off yez belts an’ strap these rails together!’ Even then we didn’t understand, but we did it. All this time the dirty spal—Oi ask yez pardon, miss—all this time the strikers were pluggin’ at us, an’ bullets flyin’ like fun. ‘Drop your muskets,’ says the captain, when we had done; ‘fall in along those rails. Pick them up, and double-quick for the shed door,’ says he, just as if he was on parade. Then we saw what he was afther, and double-quick we went. Begobs, that door went down as if it was paper. He was the first in. ‘Stand back,’ says he, ‘till Oi see what’s needed.’ Yez should have seen him walk into that sheet av flame, an’ stand theer, quiet-like, thinkin’, an’ it so hot that we at the door were coverin’ our faces to save them from scorchin’. Then he says: ‘Get your muskets!’ We went, an’ Moike says to me: ‘It’s no good. No man can touch them cars. He’s goin’ to attind to the strikers.’ But not he. He came out, an’ he says: ‘B’ys, it’s hot in there, but, if you don’t mind a bit av a burn, we can get the poor fellows out. Will yez try?’ ‘Yes!’ we shouted. So he explained how we could push cars widout touchin’ them. ‘Fall in,’ says he. ‘Fix bayonets. First file to the right av the cars, second rank to the left. Forward, march!’ An’ we went into that hell, an’ rolled them cars out just as if we was marchin’ down Broadway, wid flags, an’ music, an’ women clappin’ hands.”
“But weren’t you dreadfully burnt?”
“Oh, miss, yez should have seen us! We was blacker thin the divil himsilf. Hardly one av us but didn’t have the hair burnt off the part his cap didn’t cover; an’, as for eyelashes, an’ mustaches, an’ blisters, no one thought av them the next day. Shure, the whole company was in bed, except them as couldn’t lie easy.”
“And Mr. Stirling?”
“Shure, don’t yez know about him?”
“Why, he was dreadful burnt, an’ the doctors thought 252 it would be blind he’d be; but he went to Paris, an’ they did somethin’ to him there that saved him. Oh, miss, the boys were nearly crazy wid fear av losin’ him. They’d rather be afther losin’ the regimental cat.”
Peter had been tempted to interrupt two or three times, but it was so absorbing to watch Leonore’s face, and its changing expression, as, unconscious of his presence, she listened to Dennis, that Peter had not the heart to do it. But now Watts spoke up.
“Do you hear that, Peter? There’s value for you! You’re better than the cat.”
So the scenes were shifted, and they all sat and chatted till Dennis left. Then the necessary papers were brought in and looked over at Peter’s study-table, and Miss D’Alloi took another of his pens. Peter hoped she’d stop and think a little, again, but she didn’t. Just as she had begun an L she hesitated, however.
“Why,” she said, “this paper calls me ‘Leonore D’Alloi, spinster!’ I’m not going to sign that.”
“That is merely the legal term,” Peter explained. Leonore pouted for some time over it, but finally signed. “I shan’t be a spinster, anyway, even if the paper does say so,” she said.
Peter agreed with her.
“See what a great blot I’ve made on your clean blotter,” said Leonore, who had rested the pen-point there. “I’m very sorry.” Then she wrote on the blotter, “Leonore D’Alloi. Her very untidy mark.” “That was what Madame Mellerie always made me write on my exercises.”
Then they said “Good-bye.” “I like down-town New York better and better,” said Leonore.
So did Peter.
Peter went into Ray’s office on Monday. “I want your advice,” he said. “I’m going to a birthday dinner to-morrow. A girl for whom I’m trustee. Now, how handsome a present may I send her?”
“H’m. How well do you know her?”253
“We are good friends.”
“Just about what you please, I should say, if you know her well, and make money out of her?”
“That is, jewelry?”
“Thanks.” Peter turned.
“Who is she, Peter? I thought you never did anything so small as that. Nothing, or four figures, has always seemed your rule?”
“This had extenuating circumstances,” smiled Peter.
So when Peter shook hands, the next evening, with the very swagger young lady who stood beside her mother, receiving, he was told:
“It’s perfectly lovely! Look.” And the little wrist was held up to him. “And so were the flowers. I couldn’t carry a tenth of them, so I decided to only take papa’s. But I put yours up in my room, and shall keep them there.” Then Peter had to give place to another, just as he had decided that he would have one of the flowers from the bunch she was carrying, or——he left the awful consequences of failure blank.
Peter stood for a moment unconscious of the other people, looking at the pretty rounded figure in the dainty evening dress of French open-work embroidery. “I didn’t think she could be lovelier than she was in her street and riding dresses but she is made for evening dress,” was his thought. He knew this observation wasn’t right, however, so he glanced round the room, and then walked up to a couple.
“There, I told Mr. Beekman that I was trying to magnetize you, and though your back was turned, you came to me at once.”
“Er—really, quite wonderful, you know,” said Mr. Beekman. “I positively sharn’t dare to be left alone with you, Miss De Voe.”
“You needn’t fear me. I shall never try to magnetize you, Mr. Beekman,” said Miss De Voe. “I was so pleased,” she continued, turning to Peter, “to see you take that deliberate survey of the room, and then come over here.”
Peter smiled. “I go out so little now, that I have turned selfish. I don’t go to entertain people. I go to be entertained. Tell me what you have been doing?”254
But as Peter spoke, there was a little stir, and Peter had to say “excuse me.” He crossed the room, and said, “I am to have the pleasure, Mrs. Grinnell,” and a moment later the two were walking towards the dining-room. Miss De Voe gave her arm to Beekman calmly, but her eyes followed Peter. They both could have made a better arrangement. Most dinner guests can.
It was a large dinner, and so was served in the ball-room. The sixty people gathered were divided into little groups, and seated at small tables holding six or eight. Peter knew all but one at his table, to the extent of having had previous meetings. They were all fashionables, and the talk took the usual literary-artistic-musical turn customary with that set. “Men, not principles” is the way society words the old cry, or perhaps “personalities, not generalities” is a better form. So Peter ate his dinner quietly, the conversation being general enough not to force him to do more than respond, when appealed to. He was, it is true, appealed to frequently. Peter had the reputation, as many quiet men have, of being brainy. Furthermore he knew the right kind of people, was known to enjoy a large income, was an eligible bachelor, and was “interesting and unusual.” So society no longer rolled its Juggernaut over him regardlessly, as of yore. A man who was close friends with half a dozen exclusives of the exclusives, was a man not to be disregarded, simply because he didn’t talk. Society people applied much the same test as did the little “angle” children, only in place of “he’s frinds wid der perlice,” they substituted “he’s very intimate with Miss De Voe, and the Ogdens and the Pells.”
Peter had dimly hoped that he would find himself seated at Leonore’s table— had too much self depreciation to think for a moment that he would take her in—but hers was a young table, he saw, and he would not have minded so much if it hadn’t been for that Marquis. Peter began to have a very low opinion of foreigners. Then he remembered that Leonore had the same prejudice, so he became more reconciled to the fact that the Marquis was sitting next her. And when Leonore sent him a look and a smile, and held up the wrist, so as to show the pearl bracelet, Peter suddenly thought what a delicious rissole he was eating.
As the dinner waned, one of the footmen brought him a 255 card, on which Watts had written: “They want me to say a few words of welcome and of Dot. Will you respond?” Peter read the note and then wrote below it: “Dear Miss D’Alloi: You see the above. May I pay you a compliment? Only one? Or will it embarrass you?” When the card came back a new line said: “Dear Peter: I am not afraid of your compliment, and am very curious to hear it.” Peter said, “Tell Mr. D’Alloi that I will with pleasure.” Then he tucked the card in his pocket. That card was not going to be wasted.
So presently the glasses were filled up, even Peter saying, “You may give me a glass,” and Watts was on his feet. He gave “our friends” a pleasant welcome, and after apologizing for their absence, said that at least, “like the little wife in the children’s play, ‘We too have not been idle,’ for we bring you a new friend and introduce her to you to-night.”
Then Peter rose, and told the host: “Your friends have been grieved at your long withdrawal from them, as the happy faces and welcome we tender you this evening, show. We feared that the fascination of European art, with its beauty and ease and finish, had come to overweigh the love of American nature, despite its life and strength and freshness; that we had lost you for all time. But to-night we can hardly regret even this long interlude, if to that circumstance we owe the happiest and most charming combination of American nature and European art—Miss D’Alloi.”
Then there was applause, and a drinking of Miss D’Alloi’s health, and the ladies passed out of the room—to enjoy themselves, be it understood, leaving the men in the gloomy, quarrelsome frame of mind it always does.
Peter apparently became much abstracted over his cigar, but the abstraction was not perhaps very deep, for he was on his feet the moment Watts rose, and was the first to cross the hall into the drawing-room. He took a quick glance round the room, and then crossed to a sofa. Dorothy and—and some one else were sitting on it.
“Speaking of angels,” said Dorothy.
“I wasn’t speaking of you,” said Peter. “Only thinking.”
“There,” said Leonore. “Now if Mrs. Grinnell had only heard that.”256
Peter looked a question, so Leonore continued:
“We were talking about you. I don’t understand you. You are so different from what I had been told to think you. Every one said you were very silent and very uncomplimentary, and never joked, but you are not a bit as they said, and I thought you had probably changed, just as you had about the clothes. But Mrs. Grinnell says she never heard you make a joke or a compliment in her life, and that at the Knickerbocker they call you ‘Peter, the silent’ You are a great puzzle.”
Dorothy laughed. “Here we four women—Mrs. Grinnell, and Mrs. Winthrop and Leonore and myself—have been quarrelling over you, and each insisting you are something different. I believe you are not a bit firm and stable, as people say you are, but a perfect chameleon, changing your tint according to the color of the tree you are on. Leonore was the worst, though! She says that you talk and joke a great deal. We could have stood anything but that!”
“I am sorry my conversation and humor are held in such low estimation.”
“There,” said Leonore. “See. Didn’t I tell you he joked? And, Peter, do you dislike women?”
“Unquestionably,” said Peter.
“Please tell me. I told them of your speech about the sunshine, and Mrs. Winthrop says that she knows you didn’t mean it. That you are a woman-hater and despise all women, and like to get off by yourself.”
“That’s the reason I joined you and Dorothy,” said Peter.
“Do you hate women?” persisted Leonore.
“A man is not bound to incriminate himself,” replied Peter, smiling.
“Then that’s the reason why you don’t like society, and why you are so untalkative to women. I don’t like men who think badly of women. Now, I want to know why you don’t like them?”
“Supposing,” said Peter, “you were asked to sit down to a game of whist, without knowing anything of the game. Do you think you could like it?”
“No. Of course not!”
“Well, that is my situation toward women. They have never liked me, nor treated me as they do other 257 men. And so, when I am put with a small-talk woman, I feel all at sea, and, try as I may, I can’t please her. They are never friendly with me as they are with other men.”
“Rubbish!” said Dorothy. “It’s what you do, not what she does, that makes the trouble. You look at a woman with those grave eyes and that stern jaw of yours, and we all feel that we are fools on the spot, and really become so. I never stopped being afraid of you till I found out that in reality you were afraid of me. You know you are. You are afraid of all women.”
“He isn’t a bit afraid of women,” affirmed Leonore.
Just then Mr. Beekman came up. “Er—Mrs. Rivington. You know this is—er—a sort of house-warming, and they tell me we are to go over the house, don’t you know, if we wish. May I harve the pleasure?”
Dorothy conferred the boon. Peter looked down at Leonore with a laugh in his eyes. “Er—Miss D’Alloi,” he said, with the broadest of accents, “you know this,—er—is a sort of a house-warming and——” He only imitated so far and then they both laughed.
Leonore rose. “With pleasure. I only wish Mrs. Grinnell had heard you. I didn’t know you could mimic?”
“I oughtn’t. It’s a small business. But I am so happy that I couldn’t resist the temptation.”
Leonore asked, “What makes you so happy?”
“My new friend,” said Peter.
Leonore went on up the stairs without saying anything. At the top, however, she said, enthusiastically: “You do say the nicest things! What room would you like to see first?”
“Yours,” said Peter.
So they went into the little bedroom, and boudoir, and looked over them. Of course Peter found a tremendous number of things of interest. There were her pictures, most of them her own purchases in Europe; and her books and what she thought of them; and her thousand little knick-knacks of one kind and another. Peter wasn’t at all in a hurry to see the rest of the house.
“These are the photographs of my real friends,” said Leonore, “except yours. I want you to give me one to complete my rack.”258
“I haven’t had a photograph taken in eight years, and am afraid I have none left.”
“Then you must sit.”
“Very well. But it must be an exchange.” Peter almost trembled at his boldness, and at the thought of a possible granting.
“Do you want mine?”
“I have dozens,” said Leonore, going over to her desk, and pulling open a drawer. “I’m very fond of being taken. You may have your choice.”
“That’s very difficult,” said Peter, looking at the different varieties. “Each has something the rest haven’t. You don’t want to be generous, and let me have these four?”
“Oh, you greedy!” said Leonore, laughing. “Yes, if you’ll do something I’m going to ask you.”
Peter pocketed the four. “That is a bargain,” he said, with a brashness simply disgraceful in a good business man. “Now, what is it?”
“Miss De Voe told me long ago about your savings-bank fund for helping the poor people. Now that I have come into my money, I want to do what she does. Give a thousand dollars a year to it—and then you are to tell me just what you do with it.”
“Of course I’m bound to take it, if you insist. But it won’t do any good. Even Miss De Voe has stopped giving now, and I haven’t added anything to it for over five years.”
“Why is that?”
“You see, I began by loaning the fund to people who were in trouble, or who could be boosted a little by help, and for three or four years, I found the money went pretty fast. But by that time people began to pay it back, with interest often, and there has hardly been a case when it hasn’t been repaid. So what with Miss De Voe’s contributions, and the return of the money, I really have more than I can properly use already. There’s only about eight thousand loaned at present, and nearly five thousand in bank.”
“I’m so sorry!” said Leonore. “But couldn’t you give some of the money, so that it wouldn’t come back?”
“That does more harm than good. It’s like giving 259 opium to kill temporary pain. It stops the pain for the moment, but only to weaken the system so as to make the person less able to bear pain in the future. That’s the trouble with most of our charity. It weakens quite as much as it helps.”
“I have thought about this for five years as something I should do. I’m so grieved.” And Leonore looked her words.
Peter could not stand that look. “I’ve been thinking of sending a thousand dollars of the fund, that I didn’t think there was much chance of using, to a Fresh Air fund and the Day Nursery. If you wish I’ll send two thousand instead and then take your thousand? Then I can use that for whatever I have a chance.”
“That will do nicely. But I thought you didn’t think regular charities did much good?”
“Some don’t. But it’s different with children. They don’t feel the stigma and are not humiliated or made indolent by help. We can’t do too much to help them. The future of this country depends on its poor children. If they are to do right, they must be saved from ill-health, and ignorance, and vice; and the first step is to give them good food and air, so that they shall have strong little bodies. A sound man, physically, may not be a strong man in other ways, but he stands a much better chance.”
“Oh, it’s very interesting,” said Leonore. “Tell me some more about the poor people.”
“What shall I tell you?” said Peter.
“How to help them.”
“I’ll speak about something I have had in mind for a long time, trying to find some way to do it. I think the finest opportunity for benevolence, not already attempted, would be a company to lend money to the poor, just as I have attempted, on a small scale, in my ward. You see there are thousands of perfectly honest people who are living on day wages, and many of them can lay up little or no money. Then comes sickness, or loss of employment, or a fire which burns up all their furniture and clothes, or some other mischance, and they can turn only to pawnbrokers and usurers, with their fearful charges; or charity, with its shame. Then there are hundreds of people whom a loan of a little money would 260 help wonderfully. This boy can get a place if he had a respectable suit of clothes. Another can obtain work by learning a trade, but can’t live while he learns it. A woman can support herself if she can buy a sewing-machine, but hasn’t the money to buy it. Another can get a job at something, but is required to make a deposit to the value of the goods intrusted to her. Now, if all these people could go to some company, and tell their story, and get their notes discounted, according to their reputation, just as the merchant does at his bank, don’t you see what a help it would be?”
“How much would it take, Peter?”
“One cannot say, because, till it is tested, there would be no way of knowing how much would be asked for. But a hundred thousand dollars would do to start with.”
“Why, that’s only a hundred people giving a thousand each,” cried Leonore eagerly. “Peter, I’ll give a thousand, and I’ll make mamma and papa give a thousand, and I’ll speak to my friends and——”
“Money isn’t the difficult part,” said Peter, longing to a fearful degree to take Leonore in his arms. “If it were only money, I could do it myself—or if I did not choose to do it alone, Miss De Voe and Pell would help me.”
“What is it, then?”
“It’s finding the right man to run such a company. I can’t give the time, for I can do more good in other directions. It needs a good business man, yet one who must have many other qualities which rarely go with a business training. He must understand the poor, because he must look into every case, to see if it is a safe risk—or rather if the past life of the applicant indicates that he is entitled to help. Now if your grandfather, who is such an able banker, were to go into my ward, and ask about the standing of a man in it, he wouldn’t get any real information. But if I ask, every one will tell me what he thinks. The man in control of such a bank must be able to draw out the truth. Unless the management was just what it ought to be, it would be bankrupt in a few months, or else would not lend to one quarter of the people who deserve help. Yet from my own experience, I know, that money can be loaned to these people, so that the legal interest more than pays for the occasional 261 loss, and that most of these losses are due to inability, more than to dishonesty.”
“I wish we could go on talking,” sighed “But the people are beginning to go downstairs. I suppose I must go, so as to say good-bye. I only wish I could help you in charity.”
“You have given me a great charity this evening,” said Peter.
“You mean the photographs,” smiled Leonore.
“You have shown me the warmest and most loving of hearts,” said Peter, “and that is the best charity in the world.”
On the way down they met Lispenard coming up. “I’ve just said good-night to your mother. I would have spoken to you while we were in your room, but you were so engrossed that Miss Winthrop and I thought we had better not interrupt.”
“I didn’t see you,” said Leonore.
“Indeed!” said Lispenard, with immense wonderment. “I can’t believe that. You know you were cutting us.” Then he turned to Peter. “You old scamp, you,” he whispered, “you are worse than the Standard Oil.”
“I sent for you some time ago, Leonore,” said her mother, disapprovingly. “The guests have been going and you were not here.”
“I’m sorry, mamma. I was showing Peter the house.”
“Good-night,” said that individual. “I dread formal dinners usually, but this one has been the pleasantest of my life.”
“That’s very nice. And thank you, Peter, for the bracelet, and the flowers, and the compliment. They were all lovely. Would you like a rose?”
Would he? He said nothing, but he looked enough to get it.
“Can’t we put you down?” said a man at the door. “It’s not so far from Washington Square to your place, that your company won’t repay us.”
“Thank you,” said Peter, “but I have a hansom here.”
Yet Peter did not ride. He dismissed cabby, and walked down the Avenue. Peter was not going to compress 262 his happiness inside a carriage that evening. He needed the whole atmosphere to contain it.
As he strode along he said:
“It isn’t her beauty and grace alone”—(It never is with a man, oh, no!)—“but her truth and frankness and friendliness. And then she doesn’t care for money, and she isn’t eaten up with ambition. She is absolutely untouched by the world yet. Then she is natural, yet reserved, with other men. She’s not husband-hunting, like so many of them. And she’s loving, not merely of those about her, but of everything.”
Musicians will take a simple theme and on it build unlimited variations. This was what Peter proceeded to do. From Fifty-seventh Street to Peter’s rooms was a matter of four miles. Peter had not half finished his thematic treatment of Leonore when he reached his quarters. He sat down before his fire, however, and went on, not with hope of exhausting all possible variations, but merely for his own pleasure.
Finally, however, he rose and put photographs, rose, and card away.
“I’ve not allowed myself to yield to it,” he said (which was a whopper) “till I was sure she was what I could always love. Now I shall do my best to make her love me.”
The next day it was raining torrents, but despite this, and to the utter neglect of his law business, Peter drove up-town immediately after lunch, to the house in Fifty-seventh Street. He asked for Watts, but while he was waiting for the return of the servant, he heard a light footstep, and turning, he found Leonore fussing over some flowers. At the same moment she became conscious of his presence.
“Good-day,” said Peter.
“It isn’t a good day at all,” said Leonore, in a disconsolate voice, holding out her hand nevertheless.
“It’s a horrid day, and I’m in disgrace.”
“For misbehaving last night. Both mamma and madame say I did very wrong. I never thought I couldn’t be real friends with you.” The little lips were trembling slightly.
Peter felt a great temptation to say something strong. “Why can’t the women let such an innocent child alone?” he thought to himself. Aloud he said, “If any wrong was done, which I don’t think, it was my fault. Can I do anything?”
“I don’t believe so,” said Leonore, with a slight unsteadiness in her voice. “They say that men will always monopolize a girl if she will allow it, and that a really well-mannered one won’t permit it for a moment.”
Peter longed to take her in his arms and lay the little downcast head against his shoulder, but he had to be content with saying: “I am so sorry they blame you. If I could only save you from it.” He evidently said it in a comforting voice, for the head was raised a trifle.
“You see,” said Leonore, “I’ve always been very particular with men, but with you it seemed different. Yet they both say I stayed too long upstairs, and were dreadfully shocked about the photographs. They said I ought to treat you like other men. Don’t you think you are different?”
Yes. Peter thought he was very different.
“Mr. D’Alloi will see you in the library,” announced the footman at this point.
Peter turned to go, but in leaving he said: “Is there any pleasure or service I can do, to make up for the trouble I’ve caused you?”
Leonore put her head on one side, and looked a little less grief-stricken. “May I save that up?” she asked.
A moment later Peter was shaking hands with Watts.
“This is nice of you. Quite like old times. Will you smoke?”
“No. But please yourself. I’ve something to talk about.”
“Watts, I want to try and win the love of your little girl.”264
“Dear old man,” cried Watts, “there isn’t any one in God’s earth whom I would rather see her choose, or to whom I would sooner trust her.”
“Thank you, Watts,” said Peter, gratefully. “Watts is weak, but he is a good fellow,” was his mental remark. Peter entirely forgot his opinion of two weeks ago. It is marvellous what a change a different point of view makes in most people.
“But if I give you my little Dot, you must promise me one thing.”
“What is that?”
“That you will never tell her? Ah! Peter, if you knew how I love the little woman, and how she loves me. From no other man can she learn what will alter that love. Don’t make my consent bring us both suffering?”
“Watts, I give my word she shall never know the truth from me.”
“God bless you, Peter. True as ever. Then that is settled. You shall have a clear field and every chance.”
“I fear not. There’s something more. Mrs. D’Alloi won’t pardon that incident—nor do I blame her. I can’t force my presence here if she does not give her consent. It would be too cruel, even if I could hope to succeed in spite of her. I want to see her this morning. You can tell better than I whether you had best speak to her first, or whether I shall tell her.”
“H’m. That is a corker, isn’t it? Don’t you think you had better let things drift?”
“No. I’m not going to try and win a girl’s love behind the mother’s back. Remember, Watts, the mother is the only one to whom a girl can go at such a time. We mustn’t try to take advantage of either.”
“Well, I’ll speak to her, and do my best. Then I’ll send her to you. Help yourself to the tobacco if you get tired of waiting tout seul.”
Watts went upstairs and knocked at a door. “Yes,” said a voice. Watts put his head in. “Is my Rosebud so busy that she can’t spare her lover a few moments?”
“Watts, you know I live for you.”
Watts dropped down on the lounge. “Come here, then, like a loving little wife, and let me say my little say.”
No woman nearing forty can resist a little tenderness 265 in her husband, and Mrs. D’Alloi snuggled up to Watts in the pleasantest frame of mind. Watts leaned over and kissed her cheek. Then Mrs. D’Alloi snuggled some more.
“Now, I want to talk with you seriously, dear,” he said. “Who do you think is downstairs?”
“Dear old Peter. And what do you think he’s come for!”
“He wants our consent, dear, to pay his addresses to Leonore.”
“Oh, Watts!” Mrs. D’Alloi ceased to snuggle, and turned a horrified face to her husband.
“I’ve thought she attracted him, but he’s such an impassive, cool old chap, that I wasn’t sure.”
“That’s what I’ve been so afraid of. I’ve worried so over it.”
“You dear, foolish little woman. What was there to worry over?”
“Watts! You won’t give your consent?”
“Of course we will. Why, what more do you want? Money, reputation, brains, health.” (That was the order in which Peter’s advantages ranged themselves in Watts’s mind). “I don’t see what more you can ask, short of a title, and titles not only never have all those qualities combined, but they are really getting decidedly nouveau richey and not respectable enough for a Huguenot family, who’ve lived two hundred and fifty years in New York. What a greedy mamma she is for her little girl.”
“Oh, Watts! But think!”
“It’s hard work, dear, with your eyes to look at. But I will, if you’ll tell me what to think about.”
“My husband! You cannot have forgotten? Oh, no! It is too horrible for you to have forgotten that day.”
“You heavenly little Puritan! So you are going to refuse Peter as a son-in-law, because he—ah—he’s not a Catholic monk. Why, Rosebud, if you are going to apply that rule to all Dot’s lovers, you had better post a sign: ‘Wanted, a husband. P. S. No man need apply.’”266
“Watts! Don’t talk so.”
“Dear little woman. I’m only trying to show you that we can’t do better than trust our little girl to Peter.”
“With that stain! Oh, Watts, give him our pure, innocent, spotless child!”
“Oh, well. If you want a spotless wedding, let her marry the Church. She’ll never find one elsewhere, my darling.”
“Watts! How can you talk so? And with yourself as an example. Oh, husband! I want our child—our only child—to marry a man as noble and true as her father. Surely there must be others like you?”
“Yes. I think there are a great many men as good as I, Rosebud! But I’m no better than I should be, and it’s nothing but your love that makes you think I am.”
“I won’t hear you say such things of yourself. You know you are the best and purest man that ever lived. You know you are.”
“If there’s any good in me, it’s because I married you.”
“Watts, you couldn’t be bad if you tried.” And Mrs. D’Alloi put her arms round Watts’s neck and kissed him.
Watts fondled her for a moment in true lover’s fashion. Then he said, “Dear little wife, a pure woman can never quite know what this world is. I love Dot next to you, and would not give her to a man whom I believe would not be true to her, or make her happy. I know every circumstance of Peter’s connection with that woman, and he is as blameless as man ever was. Such as it was, it was ended years ago, and can never give him more trouble. He is a strong man, and will be true to Dot. She might get a man who would make her life one long torture. She may be won by a man who only cares for her money, and will not even give her the husks of love. But Peter loves her, and has outgrown his mistakes. And don’t forget that but for him we might now have nothing but some horribly mangled remains to remember of our little darling. Dear, I love Dot twenty times more than I love Peter. For her sake, and yours, I am trying to do my best for her.”
So presently Mrs. D’Alloi came into the library, where Peter sat. She held out her hand to him, but Peter said:
“Let me say something first. Mrs. D’Alloi, I would 267 not have had that occurrence happen in your home or presence if I had been able to prevent it. It grieves me more than I can tell you. I am not a roué. In spite of appearances I have lived a clean life. I shall never live any other in the future. I—I love Leonore. Love her very dearly. And if you will give her to me, should I win her, I pledge you my word that I will give her the love, and tenderness, and truth which she deserves. Now, will you give me your hand?”
“He is speaking the truth,” thought Mrs. D’Alloi, as Peter spoke. She held out her hand. “I will trust her to you if she chooses you.”
Half an hour later, Peter went back to the , to find Leonore reposing in an exceedingly undignified position before the fire on a big tiger-skin, and stroking a Persian cat, who, in delight at this enviable treatment, purred and dug its claws into the rug. Peter stood for a time watching the pretty tableau, wishing he was a cat.
“Yes, Tawney-eye,” said Leonore, in heartrending tones, “it isn’t a good day at all.”
“I’m going to quarrel with you on that,” said Peter. “It’s a glorious day.”
Leonore rose from the skin. “Tawney-eye and I don’t think so.”
“But you will. In the first place I’ve explained about the monopoly and the photographs to your mamma, and she says she did not understand it, and that no one is to blame. Secondly, she says I’m to stay to dinner and am to monopolize you till then. Thirdly, she says we may be just as good friends as we please. Fourthly, she has asked me to come and stay for a week at Grey-Court this summer. Now, what kind of a day is it?”
“Simply glorious! Isn’t it, Tawney-eye?” And the young lady again forgot her “papas, proprieties, potatoes, prunes and prisms,” and dropping down on the rug, buried her face in the cat’s long silky hair. Then she reappeared long enough to say:
“You are such a comforting person! I’m so glad you were born.”268
After this statement, so satisfying to both, Leonore recovered her dignity enough to rise, and say, “Now, I want to pay you for your niceness. What do you wish to do?”
“Suppose we do what pleases you.”
“No. I want to please you.”
“That is the way to please me,” said Peter emphatically.
Just then a clock struck four. “I know,” said Leonore. “Come to the tea-table, and we’ll have afternoon tea together. It’s the day of all others for afternoon tea.”
“I just said it was a glorious day.”
“Oh, yes. It’s a nice day. But it’s dark and cold and rainy all the same.”
“But that makes it all the better. We shan’t be interrupted.”
“Do you know,” said Leonore, “that Miss De Voe told me once that you were a man who found good in everything, and I see what she meant.”
“I can’t hold a candle to Dennis. He says ‘a foine day’ so that you feel that it really is. I never saw him in my life, when it wasn’t ‘a foine day.’ I tell him he carries his sunshine round in his heart.”
“You are so different,” said Leonore, “from what every one said. I never knew a man pay such nice compliments. That’s the seventh I’ve heard you make.”
“You know I’m a politician, and want to become popular.”
“Oh, Peter! Will you let me ask you something?”
“Anything,” said Peter, rashly, though speaking the absolute truth. Peter just then was willing to promise anything. Perhaps it was the warm cup of tea; perhaps it was the blazing logs; perhaps it was the shade of the lamp, which cast such a pleasant rosy tint over everything; perhaps it was the comfortable chair; perhaps it 269 was that charming face; perhaps it was what Mr. Mantalini called the “demd total.”
“You see,” said Leonore, shaking her head in a puzzled way, “I’ve begun to read the papers—the political part, I mean—and there are so many things I don’t understand which I want to ask you to explain.”
“That is very nice,” said Peter, “because there are a great many things of which I want to tell you.”
“Goody!” said Leonore, forgetting again she was now bound to conduct herself as befit a society girl. “And you’ll not laugh at me if I ask foolish questions?”
“Then what do the papers mean by calling you a boss?”
“That I am supposed to have sufficient political power to dictate to a certain extent.”
“But don’t they speak of a boss as something not nice?” asked Leonore, a little timidly, as if afraid of hurting Peter’s feelings.
“Usually it is used as a stigma,” said Peter, smiling. “At least by the kind of papers you probably read.”
“But you are not a bad boss, are you?” said Leonore, very earnestly.
“Some of the papers say so.”
“That’s what surprised me. Of course I knew they were wrong, but are bosses bad, and are you a boss?”
“You are asking me one of the biggest questions in American politics. I probably can’t answer it, but I’ll try to show you why I can’t. Are there not friends whose advice or wish would influence you?”
“Yes. Like you,” said Leonore, giving Peter a glimpse of her eyes.
“Really,” thought Peter, “if she does that often, I can’t talk abstract politics.” Then he rallied and said: “Well, that is the condition of men as well, and it is that condition, which creates the so-called boss. In every community there are men who influence more or less the rest. It may be that one can only influence half a dozen other intimates. Another may exert power over fifty. A third may sway a thousand. One may do it by mere physical superiority. Another by a friendly manner. A third by being better informed. A fourth by a deception or bribery. A fifth by honesty. Each has something that dominates 270 the weaker men about him. Take my ward. Burton is a prize-fighter, and physically a splendid man. So he has his little court. Driscoll is a humorist, and can talk, and he has his admirers. Sloftky is popular with the Jews, because he is of their race. Burrows is a policeman, who is liked by the whole ward, because of his kindness and good-nature. So I could go on telling you of men who are a little more marked than the rest, who have power to influence the opinions of men about them, and therefore have power to influence votes. That is the first step in the ladder.”
“But isn’t Mr. Moriarty one?”
“He comes in the next grade. Each of the men I have mentioned can usually affect an average of twenty-five votes. But now we get to another rung of the ladder. Here we have Dennis, and such men as Blunkers, Denton, Kennedy, Schlurger and others. They not merely have their own set of followers, but they have more or less power to dominate the little bosses of whom I have already spoken. Take Dennis for instance. He has fifty adherents who stick to him absolutely, two hundred and fifty who listen to him with interest, and a dozen of the smaller bosses, who pass his opinions to their followers. So he can thus have some effect on about five hundred votes. Of course it takes more force and popularity to do this and in this way we have a better grade of men.”
“Yes. I like Mr. Moriarty, and can understand why others do. He is so ugly, and so honest, and so jolly. He’s lovely.”
“Then we get another grade. Usually men of a good deal of brain force, though not of necessity well educated. They influence all below them by being better informed, and by being more far-seeing. Such men as Gallagher and Dummer. They, too, are usually in politics for a living, and so can take the trouble to work for ends for which the men with other work have no time. They don’t need the great personal popularity of those I have just mentioned, but they need far more skill and brain. Now you can see, that these last, in order to carry out their intentions, must meet and try to arrange to pull together, for otherwise they can do nothing. Naturally, in a dozen or twenty men, there will be grades, and very often a single man will be able to dominate them all, just as the 271 smaller bosses dominate the smaller men. And this man the papers call a boss of a ward. Then when these various ward bosses endeavor to unite for general purposes, the strongest man will sway them, and he is boss of the city.”
“And that is what you are?”
“Yes. By that I mean that nothing is attempted in the ward or city without consultation with me. But of course I am more dependent on the voters than they are on me, for if they choose to do differently from what I advise, they have the power, while I am helpless.”
“You mean the smaller bosses?”
“Not so much them as the actual voters. A few times I have shot right over the heads of the bosses and appealed directly to the voters.”
“Then you can make them do what you want?”
“Within limits, yes. As I told you, I am absolutely dependent on the voters. If they should defeat what I want three times running, every one would laugh at me, and my power would be gone. So you see that a boss is only a boss so long as he can influence votes.”
“But they haven’t defeated you?”
“No, not yet.”
“But if the voters took their opinions from the other bosses how did you do anything?”
“There comes in the problem of practical politics. The question of who can affect the voters most. Take my own ward. Suppose that I want something done so much that I insist. And suppose that some of the other leaders are equally determined that it shan’t be done. The ward splits on the question and each faction tries to gain control in the primary. When I have had to interfere, I go right down among the voters and tell them why and what I want to do. Then the men I have had to antagonize do the same, and the voters decide between us. It then is a question as to which side can win the majority of the voters. Because I have been very successful in this, I am the so-called boss. That is, I can make the voters feel that I am right.”
“For many reasons. First, I have always tried to tell the voters the truth, and never have been afraid to acknowledge I was wrong, when I found I had made a mistake, 272 so people trust what I say. Then, unlike most of the leaders in politics, I am not trying to get myself office or profit, and so the men feel that I am disinterested. Then I try to be friendly with the whole ward, so that if I have to do what they don’t like, their personal feeling for me will do what my arguments never could. With these simple, strong-feeling, and unreasoning folk, one can get ten times the influence by a warm hand-shake and word that one can by a logical argument. We are so used to believing what we read, if it seems reasonable, that it is hard for us to understand that men who spell out editorials with difficulty, and who have not been trained to reason from facts, are not swayed by what to us seems an obvious argument. But, on the contrary, if a man they trust, puts it in plain language to them, they see it at once. I might write a careful editorial, and ask my ward to read it, and unless they knew I wrote it, they probably wouldn’t be convinced in the least. But let me go into the saloons, and tell the men just the same thing, and there isn’t a man who wouldn’t be influenced by it.”
“You are so popular in the ward?” asked Leonore.
“I think so. I find kind words and welcome everywhere. But then I have tried very hard to be popular. I have endeavored to make a friend of every man in it with whom one could be friendly, because I wished to be as powerful as possible, so that the men would side with me whenever I put my foot down on something wrong.”
“Do you ever tell the ward how they are to vote?”
“I tell them my views. But never how to vote. Once I came very near it, though.”
“How was that?”
“I was laid up for eight months by my eyes, part of the time in Paris. The primary in the meantime had put up a pretty poor man for an office. A fellow who had been sentenced for murder, but had been pardoned by political influence. When I was able to take a hand, I felt that I could do better by interfering, so I came out for the Republican candidate, who was a really fine fellow. I tried to see and talk to every man in the ward, and on election day I asked a good many men, as a personal favor, to vote for the Republican, and my friends asked others. Even Dennis Moriarty worked and voted for what he calls a ‘dirty Republican,’ though he said 273 ‘he never thought he’d soil his hands wid one av their ballots.’ That is the nearest I ever came to telling them how to vote.”
“And did they do as you asked?”
“The only Republican the ward has chosen since 1862 was elected in that year. It was a great surprise to every one—even to myself—for the ward is Democratic by about four thousand majority. But I couldn’t do that sort of thing often, for the men wouldn’t stand it. In other words, I can only do what I want myself, by doing enough else that the men wish. That is, the more I can do to please the men, the more they yield their opinions to mine.”
“Then the bosses really can’t do what they want?”
“No. Or at least not for long. That is a newspaper fallacy. A relic of the old idea that great things are done by one-man power. If you will go over the men who are said to control—the bosses, as they are called—in this city, you will find that they all have worked their way into influence slowly, and have been many years kept in power, though they could be turned out in a single fight. Yet this power is obtained only by the wish of a majority, for the day they lose the consent of a majority of the voters that day their power ends. We are really more dependent than the representatives, for they are elected for a certain time, while our tenure can be ended at any moment. Why am I a power in my ward? Because I am supposed to represent a given number of votes, which are influenced by my opinions. It would be perfectly immaterial to my importance how I influenced those votes, so long as I could control them. But because I can influence them, the other leaders don’t dare to antagonize me, and so I can have my way up to a certain point. And because I can control the ward I have made it a great power in city politics.”
“How did you do that?”
“By keeping down the factional feeling. You see there are always more men struggling for power or office, than can have it, and so there cannot but be bad blood between the contestants. For instance, when I first became interested in politics, Moriarty and Blunkers were quite as anxious to down each other as to down the Republicans. Now they are sworn friends, made so in 274 this case, by mere personal liking for me. Some have been quieted in this way. Others by being held in check. Still others by different means. Each man has to be studied and understood, and the particular course taken which seems best in his particular case. But I succeeded even with some who were pretty bitter antagonists at first, and from being one of the most uncertain wards in the city, the sixth has been known at headquarters for the last five years as ‘old reliability’ from the big majority it always polls. So at headquarters I am looked up to and consulted. Now do you understand why and what a boss is?”
“Yes, Peter. Except why bosses are bad.”
“Don’t you see that it depends on what kind of men they are, and what kind of voters are back of them. A good man, with honest votes back of him, is a good boss, and vice versa.”
“Then I know you are a good boss. It’s a great pity that all the bosses can’t be good?”
“I have not found them so bad. They are quite as honest, unselfish, and reasonable as the average of mankind. Now and then there is a bad man, as there is likely to be anywhere. But in my whole political career, I have never known a man who could control a thousand votes for five years, who was not a better man, all in all, than the voters whom he influenced. More one cannot expect. The people are not quick, but they find out a knave or a demagogue if you give them time.”
“It’s the old saying: ‘you can fool all of the people, some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time,’” laughed a voice.
Peter took his eyes off Leonore’s face, where they had been resting restfully, and glanced up. Watts had entered the room.
“Go on,” said Watts. “Don’t let me interrupt your political disquisitions; I have only come in for a cup of tea.”
“Miss D’Alloi and I were merely discussing ” said Peter. “Miss D’Alloi, when women get the ballot, as I hope they will, I trust you will be a good boss, for I am sure you will influence a great many votes.”
“Oh!” said Leonore, laughing, “I shan’t be a boss at 275 all. You’ll be my boss, I think, and I’ll always vote for you.”
Peter thought the day even more glorious than he had before.
“Changeless as the pyramids” ought to be your motto.
hyphen in “Change-/less” invisible at line break
what charm it now had was due to the modiste’s skill
[Since we are probably now in the 1880s, this is a hair-raising thought.]
you have actually become good-looking, and I never dreamed that was possible!
[The years have evidently not brought tact to Helen.]
‘Just won a great case.’ ‘One of the best lawyers in New York.’
open quote before “One of” missing
[Or, in the alternative, remove the close-quote after “case”. But it seems to be two separate utterances.]
Thinks I to myself, ‘That’s a special providence.
text has providence.’ with superfluous close quote
[I can’t help but feel that these two single-quote errors, on consecutive lines, have something to do with each other.]
text has Voila
[I did say, a few chapters back, that if accents were entirely missing I would supply them.]
“And Watts—will tell you that—I am its father.”
[This, presumably, is why Peter Stirling is said to be based on Grover Cleveland. In one version of the illegitimate-child story, the father could have been any one of a group of friends, and Cleveland magnanimously took the fall because he happened to be the only bachelor in the group. There exist versions of the story that are significantly different.
And then: Partway through his first term as President, the 49-year-old Cleveland married a friend’s not-quite-22-year-old daughter, much to the surprise of people who thought he had been courting her widowed mother—including, by some accounts, the mother herself. As a result, Frances Cleveland shows up on trivia lists as the country’s youngest-ever First Lady.
But that is neither here nor there.]
who threw her arms about Watts’s neck
text has Watt’s
The girl had slate-colored eyes!!
[So long as her name doesn’t turn out to be Renesmee, we’re still good.]
“Do you think you had better?” asked Peter.
text has bettter
“I’ll be eighteen next week,” said Leonore
[In Chapter IX, shortly after Peter’s graduation from Harvard—and the marriage of Leonore’s parents—his age was given as twenty. A few chapters back, we were told that he is now thirty-eight. The author seems to have misplaced at least a year.]
“My ’orse went down on a bit of hice.”
[Inquiring minds want to know: How did an American, long domiciled in the south of France, happen to pick up a Cockney groom?]
Wasn’t it shabby treatment, Dot?
[Did “Dot” as a nickname for “Dorothy” simply not exist in 1894? It took me another half-page to grasp that the visitors do not include Mrs. Rivington.]
friendship comes from the word free
[For “comes from”, read “comes from the same Indo-European root as”. (Confession: I did not know this, and looked it up for the purpose of pointing out decisively that Peter is talking through his hat. Oops.)]
close quote missing
“Now I know,” said Leonore crossly, “why lawyers have such a bad reputation. They are perfect thieves!”
[She’s got a point, since Peter has literally and factually stolen her property. File under: Protagonist-Centered Morality.]
“You ought to be hung for treating fine pictures so,” said Watts.
[You know better, Watts. The pictures ought to be hung. Peter ought to be hanged.]
a room nine feet square . . . table and six chairs
[Business with the nearest bit of graph paper confirms that you cannot fit a table for six, whether round or rectangular, in a room nine feet square. Even a table for four would be decidedly cozy. And that’s before you introduce the circulating servant.]
Mr. Le Grand had a man—a Maryland darky—whom he turned over to me. . . . The hurry’s gone up-town to the social slaves.
[I do wish he had not put the words “Maryland darky” and “slaves” into the same paragraph.]
Leonore had no intention . . . of lunching sola with four men.
[Oh, come on, Leonore. One of the four is your father.]
his gallant conduct at Hornellsville, July 25 1877
[Hornellsville in northwestern New York, about equidistant from Buffalo and Rochester, was never an especially large or important town. But it was the junction of three lines of the Erie Railway. As such, it figured in the Great Railroad Strike of July 1877. In real life, the militia regiment sent in by the governor came from Brooklyn.]
substitutes for strikers
[Peter, I believe the word you’re groping for is “scabs”.]
Otherwise let us bury all that has occurred since our college days, forever.
[Peter’s previous letter to Watts, written in Chapter XXXVII, ended with almost identical words. Was he so frazzled by Leonore’s visit that he forgot to send it—or did the author forget he wrote it?]
Neun atiologische und prophylactische Satze . . . . . . uber die Choleræpidemien in Ostindien
[Printed as shown. I wasn’t going to list the errors, but it turns out this is a real book: Neun ätiologische und prophylaktische Sätze aus den amtlichen Berichten über die Choleraepidemieen in Ostindien und in den Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika by Dr. Max von Pettenkofer. It came out in 1877, the very year we have just been talking about in connection with the railroad strike. Like most German academic works, it was printed in Antiqua rather than Fraktur, so Peter would have had no trouble reading it—especially since it weighs in at just 48 pages, making the title almost as long as the book itself.]
to solve the most intricate puzzle ever yet propounded by man or woman—that is, to find a woman’s pocket
[File under: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.]
“Yes you are, Dot.”
[No she isn’t, Watts. In France as in most of Europe, citizenship is determined by parentage, not birthplace.]
“Marry one,” said Peter.
[Citizenship by marriage was the law from 1855 (for immigrant women) or 1907 (for all women) until the Married Women’s Act or Cable Act of 1922. Today, the best you can hope for is automatic immigrant status, with the possibility of naturalization after only three years instead of the normal five—and nobody loses citizenship by marrying a non-citizen. Unlike the earlier laws, the current version applies symmetrically to both men and women.]
a dislocation of the statu quo was made
[Humph. I really don’t see why status here needs to be ablative; the whole point is that we are not “in statu quo”.]
I’ve always thought I was French—though I didn’t feel so a bit
[As noted above, she would never have been French in any case.]
I hate foreigners.
[Yes, so you told us earlier. This repeated assertion pretty well wipes out any chance that I will feel for Leonore as the author evidently intends me to feel—whether you take it as a reflection of her morals or of her intelligence. She redeems herself in later chapters, though.]
this paper calls me ‘Leonore D’Alloi, spinster!’ I’m not going to sign that.
[The confusion between “spinster” (a woman, of any age, who has never been married) and “old maid” goes back a long way.]
seated at Leonore’s table—He had too much self depreciation
text unchanged: expected lower-case “he”
Here we four women . . . have been quarrelling over you, and each insisting you are something different.
[A reference to the blind men and the elephant would fit nicely here.]
“I wish we could go on talking,” sighed Leonore.
text has sighed Leonore.” with superfluous close quote
Peter went back to the drawing-room
text has drawing. / room at line break
It’s a nice day. But it’s dark and cold and rainy all the same.
[“Isn’t it a lovely day / To be caught in the rain?” —Fred Astaire in Top Hat.]
He says it’s ‘a foine day’
text has its
It’s a great pity that all the bosses can’t be good?”
[I wish I could shift the question mark to the previous paragraph’s “Don’t you see”, where it really would be appropriate.]
. . . but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time
[At the time Peter Stirling was written, these words had not yet become associated with Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln attribution only dates back to 1886, while the saying seems to have originated in France, way back in 1684.]
“Miss D’Alloi and I were merely discussing bosses,’”
[It is possible he meant to say ‘bosses’ in quotes.]