|XLVI.||The Better Element|
|LI.||The Course of True Love|
|LII.||A Guardian Angel|
|LIX.||“Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May”|
The evening after this glorious day, Peter came in from his ride, but instead of going at once to his room, he passed down a little passage, and stood in a doorway. “Is everything going right, Jenifer?” he queried.
“The flowers came from Thorley’s?”
“And the candies and ices from Maillard?”
“And you’ve frappé the champagne?”
“Jenifer, don’t put quite so much onion juice as usual in the Queen Isabella dressing. Ladies don’t like it as much as men.”
“And you stood the Burgundy in the sun?”
“Yissah! Wha foh yo’ think I doan do as I do?”
Jenifer was combining into a stuffing bread crumbs, chopped broiled oysters, onions, and many other mysterious ingredients, and was becoming irritated at such evident doubt of his abilities.
Peter ought to have been satisfied, but he only looked worried. He glanced round the little closet that served as a kitchen, in search of possible sources for slips, but did not see them. All he was able to say was, “That broth smells very nice, Jenifer.”
“Yissah. Dar ain’t nuffin in dat sup buh a quart a thick cream, and de squeezin’s of a hunerd clams, sah. Dat sup will make de angels sorry dey died. Dey’ll just tink you’se dreful unkine not to offer dem a secon’ help. Buh doan yo’ do it, sah, foh when dey gits to dem prayhens, dey’ll be pow’ful glad yo’ didn’t.” To himself, Jenifer remarked: “Who he gwine hab dis day? He neber so 276 anxious befoh, not even when de Presidint an Guv’nor Pohter dey dun dine hyah.”
Peter went to his room and, after a due course of clubbing and tubbing, dressed himself with the utmost care. Truth compels the confession that he looked in his glass for some minutes. Not, however, apparently with much pleasure, for an anxious look came into his face, and he remarked aloud, as he turned away, “I don’t look so old, but I once heard Watts say that I should never take a prize for my looks, and he was right. I wonder if she cares for handsome men?”
Peter forgot his worry in the opening of a box in the dining-room and the taking out of the flowers. He placed the bunches at the different places, raising one of the bouquets of violets to his lips, before he laid it down. Then he took the cut flowers, and smilax, and spread them loosely in the centre of the little table, which otherwise had nothing on it, except the furnishings placed at each seat. After that he again kissed a bunch of violets. History doesn’t state whether it was the same bunch. Peter must have been very fond of flowers!
“Peter,” called a voice.
“Is that you, Le Grand? Go right into my room.”
“I’ve done that already. You see I feel at home. How are you?” he continued, as Peter joined him in the study.
“I thought I would run in early, so as to have a bit of you before the rest. Peter, here’s a letter from Muller. He’s got that ‘Descent’ in its first state, in the most brilliant condition. You had better get it, and trash your present impression. It has always looked cheap beside the rest.”
“Very well. Will you attend to it?”
Just then came the sound of voices and the rustle of draperies in the little hall.
“Hello! Ladies?” said Le Grand. “This is to be one of what Lispenard calls your ‘often, frequently, only once’ affairs, is it?”
“I’m afraid we are early,” said Mrs. D’Alloi. “We did not know how much time to allow.”
“No. Such old friends cannot come too soon.”
“And as it is, I’m really starved,” said another personage, shaking hands with Peter as if she had not seen him for a twelve-month instead of parting with him but two 277 hours before. “What an appetite riding in the Park does give one! Especially when afterwards you drive, and drive, and drive, over New York stones.”
“Ah,” cried Madame. “C’est très bien!”
“Isn’t it jolly?” responded Leonore.
“But it is not American. It is Parisian.”
“Oh, no, it isn’t! It’s all American. Isn’t it, Peter?”
But Peter was telling Jenifer to hasten the serving of dinner. So Leonore had to fight her country’s battles by herself.
“What’s all this to-day’s papers are saying, Peter?” asked Watts, as soon as they were seated.
“That’s rather a large subject even for a slow dinner.”
“I mean about the row in the Democratic organization over the nomination for governor?”
“The papers seem to know more about it than I do,” said Peter calmly.
Le Grand laughed. “Miss De Voe, Ogden, Rivington—all of us, have tried to get Peter, first and last, to talk politics, but not a fact do we get. They say it’s his ability to hold his tongue which made Costell trust him and push him, and that that was the reason he was chosen to fill Costell’s place.”
“I don’t fill his place,” said Peter. “No one can do that. I merely succeeded him. And Miss D’Alloi will tell you that the papers calling me ‘Taciturnity Junior’ is a libel. Am I not a talker, Miss D’Alloi?”
“I really can’t find out,” responded Leonore, with a puzzled look. “People say you are not.”
“I didn’t think you would fail me after the other night.”
“Ah,” said madame. “The quiet men are the great men. Look at the French.”
“Oh, madame!” exclaimed Leonore.
“You are joking,” cried Mrs. D’Alloi.
“That’s delicious,” laughed Watts.
“Whew,” said Le Grand, under his breath.
“Ah! Why do you cry out? Mr. Stirling, am I not right?” Madame appealed to the one face on which no amusement or skepticism was shown.
“I think it is rather dangerous to ascribe any particular trait to any nationality. It is usually misleading. But most men who think much, talk little, and the French have many thinkers.”278
“I always liked Von Moltke, just for it being said of him that he could be silent in seven languages,” said Le Grand.
“Yes,” said Leonore. “It’s so restful. We crossed on the steamer with a French Marquis who can speak six languages, and can’t say one thing worth listening to in any.”
Peter thought the soup all Jenifer had cracked it up to be.
“Peter,” said Leonore, turning to him, “Mr. Le Grand said that you never will talk politics with anybody. That doesn’t include me, of course?”
“No,” said Peter promptly.
“I thought it didn’t,” said Leonore, her eyes dancing with pleasure, however, at the reply. “We had Mr. Pell to lunch to-day and I spoke to him as to what you said about the bosses, and he told me that bosses could never be really good, unless the better element were allowed to vote, and not the saloon-keepers and roughs. I could see he was right, at once.”
“From his point of view. Or rather the view of his class.”
“Don’t you think so?”
“Broadly speaking, all persons of sound mind are entitled to vote on the men and the laws which are to govern them. Aside from this, every ounce of brain or experience you can add to the ballot, makes it more certain. Suppose you say that half the people are too ignorant to vote sensibly. Don’t you see that there is an even chance, at least, that they’ll vote rightly, and if the wrong half carries the election, it is because more intelligent people have voted wrongly, have not voted, or have not taken the trouble to try and show the people the right way, but have left them to the mercies of the demagogue. If we grant that every man who takes care of himself has some brain, and some experience, his vote is of some value, even if not a high one. Suppose we have an eagle, and a thousand pennies. Are we any better off by tossing away the coppers, because each is worth so little. That is why I have always advocated giving the franchise to women. If we can add ten million voters to an election, 279 we have added just so much knowledge to it, and made it just so much the harder to mislead or buy enough votes to change results.”
“You evidently believe,” said Watts, “in the saying, ‘Everybody knows more than anybody?’”
Peter had forgotten all about his company in his interest over—over the franchise. So he started slightly at this question, and looked up from—from his subject.
“Yes,” said Le Grand. “We’ve been listening and longing to ask questions. When we see such a fit of loquacity, we want to seize the opportunity.”
“No,” said Leonore, “I haven’t finished. Tell me. Can’t you make the men do what you want, so as to have them choose only the best men?”
“If I had the actual power I would not,” said Peter.
“Because I would not dare to become responsible for so much, and because a government of the ‘best’ men is not an American government.”
“That is the aristocratic idea. That the better element, so called, shall compel the masses to be good, whether they wish it or no. Just as one makes a child behave without regard to its own desires. With grown men, such a system only results in widening the distance between the classes and masses, making the latter more dependent and unthinking. Whereas, if we make every man vote he must think a little for himself, because different people advise him contrarily, and thus we bring him nearer to the more educated. He even educates himself by his own mistakes; for every bad man elected, and every bad law passed, make him suffer the results, and he can only blame himself. Of course we don’t get as good a government or laws, but then we have other offsetting advantages.”
“What are those?”
“We get men and laws which are the wish of the majority. Such are almost self-supporting and self-administering. It is not a mere combination of words, printing-ink, and white paper which makes a law. It is the popular sentiment back of it which enforces it, and unless a law is the wish of a majority of the people who are to be governed by it, it is either a dead letter, 280 or must be enforced by elaborate police systems, supported oftentimes with great armies. Even then it does not succeed, if the people choose to resist. Look at the attempt to govern Ireland by force, in the face of popular sentiment. Then, too, we get a stability almost unknown in governments which do not conform to the people. This country has altered its system of government less than any other great country in the last hundred years. And there is less socialistic legislation and propaganda here than anywhere else. That is, less discontent.”
“But, Peter, if the American people are as sensible as you think, how do you account for the kind of men who exercise control?” said Le Grand.
“By better men not trying.”
“But we have reform movements all the time, led by good men. Why aren’t these men elected?”
“Who are as absolutely inexperienced and blind as to the way to influence votes, as well can be. Look at it, as a contest, without regard to the merit of the cause. On one side we have bosses, who know and understand the men in their wards, have usually made themselves popular, are in politics for a living, have made it a life-study, and by dear experience have learned that they must surrender their own opinions in order to produce harmony and a solid vote. The reformer, on the contrary, is usually a man who has other occupations, and, if I may say so, has usually met with only partial success in them. By that I mean that the really successful merchant, or banker, or professional man cannot take time to work in politics, and so only the less successful try. Each reformer, too, is sure that he himself is right, and as his bread and butter is not in the issue, he quarrels to his heart’s content with his associates, so that they rarely can unite all their force. Most of the reform movements in this city have been attempted in a way that is simply laughable. What should we say if a hundred busy men were to get together to-morrow, and decide that they would open a great bank, to fight the clearing-house banks of New York? Yet this, in effect, is what the reformers have done over and over again in politics. They say to the men who have been kept in power for years by the people, ‘You are scoundrels. The people 281 who elected you are ignorant. We know how to do it better. Now we’ll turn you out.’ In short, they tell the majority they are fools, but ask their votes. The average reformer endorses thoroughly the theory ‘that every man is as good as another, and a little better.’ And he himself always is the better man. The people won’t stand that. The ‘holier than thou’ will defeat a man quicker in this country than will any rascality he may have done.”
“But don’t you think the reformer is right in principle?”
“In nine cases out of ten. But politics does not consist in being right. It’s in making other people think you are. Men don’t like to be told that they are ignorant and wrong, and this assumption is the basis of most of the so-called educational campaigns. To give impetus to a new movement takes immense experience, shrewdness, tact, and many other qualities. The people are obstructive—that is conservative—in most things, and need plenty of time.”
“Unless you tell them what they are to do,” laughed Watts. “Then they know quick enough.”
“Well, that has taken them fifteen years to learn. Don’t you see how absurd it is to suppose that the people are going to take the opinions of the better element offhand? At the end of a three months’ campaign? Men have come into my ward and spoken to empty halls; they’ve flooded it with campaign literature, which has served to light fires; their papers have argued, and nobody read them. But the ward knows me. There’s hardly a voter who doesn’t. They’ve tested me. Most of them like me. I’ve lived among them for years. I’ve gone on their summer excursions. I’ve talked with them all over the district. I have helped them in their troubles. I have said a kind word over their dead. I’m godfather to many. With others I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder when the bullets were flying. Why, the voters who were children when I first came here, with whom I to sit in the angle, are almost numerous enough now to carry an election as I advise. Do you suppose, because speakers, unknown to them, say I’m wrong, and because the three-cent papers, which they never see, abuse me, that they are going to turn from me unless I make them? That is the true secret of the failure of reformers. A logical argument is all right in a court of appeals, but when it comes 282 to swaying five thousand votes, give me five thousand loving hearts rather than five thousand logical reasons.”
“Yet you have carried reforms.”
“I have tried, but always in a practical way. That is, by not antagonizing the popular men in politics, but by becoming one of them and making them help me. I have gained political power by recognizing that I could only have my own way by making it suit the voters. You see there are a great many methods of doing about the same thing. And the boss who does the most things that the people want, can do the most things that the people don’t want. Every time I have surrendered my own wishes, and done about what the people desire, I have added to my power, and so have been able to do something that the people or politicians do not care about or did not like.”
“And as a result you are called all sorts of names.”
“Yes. The papers call me a boss. If the voters didn’t agree with me, they would call me a reformer.”
“But, Peter,” said Le Grand, “would you not like to see such a type of man as George William Curtis in office?”
“Mr. Curtis probably stood for the noblest political ideas this country has ever produced. But he held a beacon only to a small class. A man who writes from an easy-chair, will only sway easy-chair people. And easy-chair people never carried an election in this country, and never will. This country cannot have a government of the best. It will always be a government of the average. Mr. Curtis was only a leader to his own grade, just as Tim Sullivan is the leader of his. Mr. Curtis, in his editorials, spoke the feelings of one element in America. Sullivan, in Germania Hall, voices another. Each is representative, the one of five per cent. of New York; the other of ninety-five per cent. If the American people have decided one thing, it is that they will not be taken care of, nor coercively ruled, by their better element, or minorities.”
“Yet you will acknowledge that Curtis ought to rule, rather than Sullivan?”
“Not if our government is to be representative. I need not say that I wish such a type as Mr. Curtis was representative.”283
“I suppose if he had tried to be a boss he would have failed?”
“I think so. For it requires as unusual a combination of qualities to be a successful boss, as to be a successful merchant or banker. Yet one cannot tell. I myself have never been able to say what elements make a boss, except that he must be in sympathy with the men whom he tries to guide, and that he must be meeting them. Mr. Curtis had a broad, loving nature and sympathies, and if the people had discovered them, they would have liked him. But the reserve which comes with culture makes one largely conceal one’s true feelings. Super-refinement puts a man out of sympathy with much that is basic in humanity, and it needs a great love, or a great sacrifice of feeling, to condone it. It is hard work for what Watts calls a tough, and such a man, to understand and admire one another.”
“But don’t you think,” said Mrs. D’Alloi, “that the people of our class are better and finer?”
“The expression ‘noblesse oblige’ shows that,” said madame.
“My experience has led me to think otherwise,” said Peter. “Of course there is a difference of standards, of ideals, and of education, in people, and therefore there are differences in conduct. But for their knowledge of what is right and wrong, I do not think the so-called better classes, which should, in truth, be called the prosperous classes, live up to their own standards of right any more than do the poor.”
“Oh, I say, draw it mild. At least exclude the criminal classes,” cried Watts. “They know better.”
“We all know better. But we don’t live up to our knowledge. I crossed on one of the big Atlantic liners lately, with five hundred other saloon passengers. They were naturally people of intelligence, and presumably of easy circumstances. Yet at least half of those people were plotting to rob our government of money by contriving plans to avoid paying duties truly owed. To do this all of them had to break our laws, and in most cases had, in addition, to lie deliberately. Many of them were planning to accomplish this theft by the bribery of the custom-house inspectors, thus not merely making thieves of themselves, but bribing other men to do wrong. In 284 this city I can show you blocks so densely inhabited that they are election districts in themselves. Blocks in which twenty people live and sleep in a single room, year after year; where the birth of a little life into the world means that all must eat less and be less warm; where man and woman, old and young, must shiver in winter, and stifle in summer; where there is not room to bury the people who live in the block within the ground on which they dwell. But I cannot find you, in the poorest and vilest parts of this city, any block where the percentage of liars and thieves and bribe-givers is as large as was that among the first-class passengers of that floating palace. Each condition of society has its own misdoings, and I believe varies little in the percentage of wrong-doers to the whole.”
“To hear Peter talk you would think the whole of us ought to be sentenced to life terms,” laughed Watts. “I believe it’s only an attempt on his part to increase the practice of lawyers.”
“Do you really think people are so bad, Peter?” asked Leonore, sadly.
“No. I have not, ten times in my life, met a man whom I should now call bad. I have met men whom I thought so, but when I knew them better I found the good in them more than balancing the evil. Our mistake is in supposing that some men are ‘good’ and others ‘bad,’ and that a sharp line can be drawn between them. The truth is, that every man has both qualities in him and in very few does the evil overbalance the good. I marvel at the goodness I find in humanity, when I see the temptation and opportunity there is to do wrong.”
“Some men are really depraved, though,” said Mrs. D’Alloi.
“Yes,” said madame. “Think of those strikers!”
Peter felt a thrill of pleasure pass through him, but he did not show it “Let me tell you something in connection with that. A high light in place of a dark shadow. There was an attempt to convict some of the strikers, but it failed, for want of positive evidence. The moral proof, however, against a fellow named Connelly was so strong that there could be no doubt that he was guilty. Two years later that man started out in charge of a long express, up a seven-mile grade, where one of our railroads 285 crosses the Alleghanies. By the lay of the land every inch of that seven miles of track can be seen throughout its entire length, and when he had pulled half way up, he saw a section of a freight train coming down the grade at a tremendous speed. A coupling had broken, and this part of the train was without a man to put on the brakes. To go on was death. To stand still was the same. No speed which he could give his train by backing would enable it to escape those uncontrolled cars. He sent his fireman back to the first car, with orders to uncouple the engine. He whistled on brakes to his train, so that it should be held on the grade safely. And he, and the engine alone, went on up that grade, and met that flying mass of freight. He saved two hundred people’s lives. Yet that man, two years before, had tried to burn alive forty of his fellow-men. Was that man good or bad?”
“Really, chum, if you ask it as a conundrum, I give it up. But there are thoroughly and wholly good things in this world, and one of them is this stuffing. Would it be possible for a fellow to have a second help?”
Peter smiled. “Jenifer always makes the portions according to what is to follow, and I don’t believe he’ll think you had better. Jenifer, can Mr. D’Alloi have some more stuffing?”
“Yissah,” said Jenifer, grinning the true darkey grin, “if de gentmun sell his ap’tite foh a mess ob potash.”
“Never mind,” said Watts. “I’m not a dyspeptic, and so don’t need potash. But you might wrap the rest up in a piece of newspaper, and I’ll take it home.”
“Peter, you must have met a great many men in politics whom you knew to be dishonest?” said Mrs. D’Alloi.
“No. I have known few men whom I could call dishonest. But then I make a great distinction between the doer of a dishonest act and a dishonest man.”
“That is what the English call ‘a fine-spun’ distinction, I think,” said madame.
“I hope not. A dishonest man I hold to be one who works steadily and persistently with bad means and motives. But there are many men whose lives tell far more for good than for evil in the whole, yet who are not above doing wrong at moments or under certain circumstances. 286 This man will lie under given conditions or temptations. Another will bribe, if the inducement is strong enough. A third will merely trick. Almost every man has a weak spot somewhere. Yet why let this one weakness—a partial moral obliquity or imperfection—make us cast him aside as useless and evil. As soon say that man physically is spoiled, because he is near-sighted, lame or stupid. If we had our choice between a new, bright, keen tool, or a worn, dull one, of poor material, we should not hesitate which to use. But if we only have the latter, how foolish to refuse to employ it as we may, because we know there are in the world a few better ones.”
“Is not condoning a man’s sins, by failing to blame him, direct encouragement to them?” said Mrs. D’Alloi.
“One need not condone the sin. My rule has been, in politics, or elsewhere, to fight dishonesty wherever I found it. But I try to fight the act, not the man. And if I find the evil done beyond hope of correction, I do not antagonize the doer of it. More can be done by amity and forbearance than by embittering and alienating. Man is not bettered by being told that he is bad. I had an alderman in here three or four days ago who was up to mischief. I could have called him a scoundrel, without telling him untruth. But I didn’t. I told him what I thought was right, in a friendly way, and succeeded in straightening him out, so that he dropped his intention, yet went away my friend. If I had quarrelled with him, we should have parted company, he would have done the wrong, I should have fought him when election time came—and defeated him. But he, and probably fifty of his adherents in the ward would have become my bitter enemies, and opposed everything I tried in the future. If I quarrelled with enough such men, I should in time entirely lose my influence in the ward, or have it generally lessened. But by dealing as a friend with him, I actually prevented his doing what he intended, and we shall continue to work together. Of course a man can be so bad that this course is impossible, but they are as few in politics as they are elsewhere.”
“Taciturnity Stirling in his great circus feat of riding a whole ward at once,” said Watts.
“I don’t claim that I’m right,” said Peter. “I once 287 thought very differently. I started out very hotly as a reformer when I began life. But I have learned that humanity is not reformed with a club, and that if most people gave the energy they spend in reforming the world, or their friends, to reforming themselves, there would be no need of reformers.”
“The old English saying that ‘people who can’t mind their own business invariably mind some one’s else,’ seems applicable,” said Watts.
“But is it not very humiliating to you to have to be friends with such men?” said Mrs. D’Alloi.
“You know Mr. Drewitt?” asked Peter.
“Yes,” said all but madame.
“Do you take pleasure in knowing him?”
“Of course,” said Watts. “He’s very amusing and a regular parlor pet.”
“That is the reason I took him. For ten years that man was notoriously one of the worst influences in New York State politics. At Albany, in the interest of a great corporation, he was responsible for every job and bit of lobbying done in its behalf. I don’t mean to say that he really bribed men himself, for he had lieutenants for the actual dirty work, but every dollar spent passed through his hands, and he knew for what purpose it was used. At the end of that time, so well had he done his work, that he was made president of the corporation. Because of that position, and because he is clever, New York society swallowed him and has ever since delighted to fête him. I find it no harder to shake hands and associate with the men he bribed, than you do to shake hands and associate with the man who gave the bribe.”
“Even supposing the great breweries, and railroads, and other interests to be chiefly responsible for bribery, that makes it all the more necessary to elect men above the possibility of being bribed,” said Le Grand. “Why not do as they do in Parliament? Elect only men of such high character and wealth, that money has no temptation for them.”
“The rich man is no better than the poor man, except that in place of being bribed by other men’s money, he allows his own money to bribe him. Look at the course of the House of Lords on the corn-laws. The slave-holders’ course on secession. The millionaire silver senators’ 288 course on silver. The one was willing to make every poor man in England pay a half more for his bread than need be, in order that land might rent for higher prices. The slave-owner was willing to destroy his own country, rather than see justice done. The last are willing to force a great commercial panic, ruining hundreds and throwing thousands out of employment, if they can only get a few cents more per ounce for their silver. Were they voting honestly in the interest of their fellow-men? Or were their votes bribed?”
Mrs. D’Alloi rose, saying, “Peter. We came early and we must go early. I’m afraid we’ve disgraced ourselves both ways.”
Peter went down with them to their carriage. He said to Leonore in the descent, “I’m afraid the politics were rather dull to you. I lectured because I wanted to make some things clear to you.”
“Why?” questioned Leonore.
“Because, in the next few months you’ll see a great deal about bosses in the papers, and I don’t want you to think so badly of us as many do.”
“I shan’t think badly of you, Peter,” said Leonore, in the nicest tone.
“Thank you,” said Peter. “And if you see things said of me that trouble you, will you ask me about them?”
“Yes. But I thought you wouldn’t talk politics?”
“I will talk with you, because, you know, friends must tell each other everything.”
When Leonore had settled back in the carriage for the long drive, she cogitated: “Mr. Le Grand said that he and Miss De Voe, and Mr. Ogden had all tried to get Peter to talk about politics, but that he never would. Yet, he’s known them for years, and is great friends with them. It’s very puzzling!”
Probably Leonore was thinking of American politics.289
Leonore’s puzzle went on increasing in complexity, but there is a limit to all intricacy, and after a time Leonore began to get an inkling of the secret. She first noticed that Peter seemed to spend an undue amount of time with her. He not merely turned up in the Park daily, but they were constantly meeting elsewhere. Leonore went to a gallery. There was Peter! She went to a concert. Ditto, Peter! She visited the flower-show. So did Peter! She came out of church. Behold Peter! In each case with nothing better to do than to see her home. At first Leonore merely thought these meetings were coincidences, but their frequency soon ended this theory, and then Leonore noticed that Peter had a habit of questioning her about her plans beforehand, and of evidently shaping his accordingly.
Nor was this all. Peter seemed to be constantly trying to get her to spend time with him. Though the real summer was fast coming, he had another dinner. He had a box at the theatre. He borrowed a drag from Mr. Pell, and took them all up for a lunch at Mrs. Costell’s in Westchester. Then nothing would do but to have another drive, ending in a dinner at the Country Club.
Flowers, too, seemed as frequent as their meetings. Peter had always smiled inwardly at bribing a girl’s love with flowers and bon-bons, but he had now discovered that flowers are just the thing to send a girl, if you love her, and that there is no bribing about it. So none could be too beautiful and costly for his purse. Then Leonore wanted a dog—a mastiff. The legal practice of the great firm and the politics of the city nearly stopped till the finest of its kind had been obtained for her.
Another incriminating fact came to her through Dorothy.
“I had a great surprise to-day,” she told Leonore. “One that fills me with delight, and that will please you.”
“What is that?”290
“Peter asked me at dinner, if we weren’t to have Anneke’s house at Newport for the summer, and when I said ‘yes,’ he told me that if I would save a room for him, he would come down Friday nights and stay over Sunday, right through the summer. He has been a simply impossible man hitherto to entice into a visit. Ray and I felt like giving three cheers.”
“He seemed glad enough to be invited to visit Grey-Court,” thought Leonore.
But even without all this, Peter carried the answer to the puzzle about with him in his own person. Leonore could not but feel the difference in the way he treated, and talked, and looked at her, as compared to all about her. It is true he was no more demonstrative, than with others; his face held its quiet, passive look, and he spoke in much the usual, quiet, even tone of voice. Yet Leonore was at first dimly conscious, and later certain, that there was a shade of eagerness in his manner, a tenderness in his voice, and a look in his eye, when he was with her, that was there in the presence of no one else.
So Leonore ceased to puzzle over the problem at a given point, having found the answer. But the solving did not bring her much apparent pleasure.
“Oh, dear!” she remarked to herself. “I thought we were going to be such good friends! That we could tell each other everything. And now he’s gone and spoiled it. Probably, too, he’ll be bothering me later, and then he’ll be disappointed, and cross, and we shan’t be good friends any more. Oh, dear! Why do men have to behave so? Why can’t they just be friends?”
It is a question which many women have asked. The query indicates a degree of modesty which should make the average masculine blush at his own self-love. The best answer to the problem we can recommend to the average woman is a careful and long study of a mirror.
As a result of this cogitation Leonore decided that she would nip Peter’s troublesomeness in the bud, that she would put up a sign, “Trespassing forbidden;” by which he might take warning. Many women have done the same thing to would-be lovers, and have saved the lovers much trouble and needless expense. But Leonore, after planning out a dialogue in her room, rather messed it when she came to put it into actual public performance. 291 Few girls of eighteen are cool over a love-affair. And so it occurred thusly:
Leonore said to Peter one day, when he had dropped in for a cup of afternoon tea after his ride with her:
“If I ask you a question, I wonder if you will tell me what you think, without misunderstanding why I tell you something?”
“I will try.”
“Well,” said Leonore, “there is a very nice Englishman whom I knew in London, who has followed me over here, and is troubling me. He’s dreadfully poor, and papa says he thinks he is after my money. Do you think that can be so?”
So far the public performance could not have gone better if it had been rehearsed. But at this point, the whole programme went to pieces. Peter’s cup of tea fell to the floor with a crash, and he was leaning back in his chair, with a look of suffering on his face.
“Peter,” cried Leonore, “what is it?”
“Excuse me,” said Peter, rallying a little. “Ever since an operation on my eyes they sometimes misbehave themselves. It’s neuralgia of the optic nerve. Sometimes it pains me badly. Don’t mind me. It will be all right in a minute if I’m quiet.”
“Can’t I do anything?”
“No. I have an eye-wash which I used to carry with me, but it is so long since I have had a return of my trouble that I have stopped carrying it.”
“What causes it?”
“Usually a shock. It’s purely nervous.”
“But there was no shock now, was there?” said Leonore, feeling so guilty that she felt it necessary to pretend innocence.
Peter pulled himself together instantly and, leaning over, began deliberately to gather up the fragments of the cup. Then he laid the pieces on the tea-table and said: “I was dreadfully frightened when I felt the cup slipping. It was very stupid in me. Will you try to forgive me for breaking one of your pretty set?”
“That’s nothing,” said Leonore. To herself that young lady remarked, “Oh, dear! It’s much worse than I thought. I shan’t dare say it to him, after all.”
But she did, for Peter helped her, by going back to her 292 original question, saying bravely: “I don’t know enough about Mr. Max——the Englishman, to speak of him, but I think I would not suspect men of that, even if they are poor.”
“Because it would be much easier, to most men, to love you than to love your money.”
“You think so?”
“I’m so glad. I felt so worried over it. Not about this case, for I don’t care for him, a bit. But I wondered if I had to suspect every man who came near me.”
Peter’s eyes ceased to burn, and his second cup of tea, which a moment before was well-nigh choking him, suddenly became nectar for the gods.
Then at last Leonore made the remark towards which she had been working. At twenty-five Leonore would have been able to say it without so dangerous a preamble.
“I don’t want to be bothered by men, and wish they would let me alone,” she said. “I haven’t the slightest intention of marrying for at least five years, and shall say no to whomever asks me before then.”
Five years! Peter sipped his tea quietly, but with a hopeless feeling. He would like to claim that bit of womanhood as his own that moment, and she could talk of five years! It was the clearest possible indication to Peter that Leonore was heart-whole. “No one, who is in love,” he thought, “could possibly talk of five years, or five months even.” When Peter got back to his chambers that afternoon, he was as near being despairing as he had been since—since—a long time ago. Even the obvious fact, that, if Leonore was not in love with him, she was also not in love with any one else, did not cheer him. There is a flag in the navy known as the Blue-Peter. That evening, Peter could have supplied our whole marine, with considerable bunting to spare.
But even worse was in store for him on the morrow. When he joined Leonore in the Park that day, she proved to him that woman has as much absolute brutality as the lowest of prize-fighters. Women get the reputation of being less brutal, because of their dread of blood-letting. Yet when it comes to torturing the opposite sex in its feelings, they are brutes compared with their sufferers.293
“Do you know,” said Leonore, “that this is almost our last ride together?”
“Don’t jerk the reins needlessly, Peter,” said Mutineer, crossly.
“I hope not,” said Peter.
“We have changed our plans. Instead of going to Newport next week, I have at last persuaded papa to travel a little, so that I can see something of my own country, and not be so shamefully ignorant. We are going to Washington on Saturday, and from there to California, and then through the Yellowstone, and back by Niagara. We shan’t be in Newport till the middle of August.”
Peter did not die at once. He caught at a life-preserver of a most delightful description. “That will be a very enjoyable trip,” he said. “I should like to go myself.”
“There is no one I would rather have than you,” said Leonore, laying her little hand softly on the wound she had herself just made, in a way which women have. Then she stabbed again. “But we think it pleasanter to have it just a party of four.”
“How long shall you be in Washington?” asked Peter, catching wildly at a straw this time.
“For a week. Why?”
“The President has been wanting to see me, and I thought I might run down next week.”
“Dear me,” thought Leonore. “How very persistent he is!”
“Where will you put up?” said Peter.
“We haven’t decided. Where shall you stay?” she had the brutality to ask.
“The President wants me with him, but I may go to a hotel. It leaves one so much freer.” Peter was a lawyer, and saw no need of committing himself. “If I am there when you are, I can perhaps help you enjoy yourself. I think I can get you a lunch at the White House, and, as I know most of the officials, I have an open sesame to some other nice things.” Poor Peter! He was trying to tempt Leonore to tolerate his company by offering attractions in connection therewith. A chromo with the pound of tea. And this from the man who had thought flowers and bonbons bribery!
“Why does the President want to see you?”294
“To talk politics.”
“About the governorship?”
“Yes. Though we don’t say so.”
“Is it true, Peter, that you can decide who it is to be, as the papers say?”
“No. I would give twenty-five thousand dollars to-day if I could name the Democratic nominee.”
“Would you mind my not telling you?”
“Yes. I want to know. And you are to tell me,” said her majesty, calmly.
“I will tell you, though it is a secret, if you will tell me a secret of yours which I want to know.”
“No,” said Leonore. “I don’t think that’s necessary. You are to tell me without making me promise anything.” Leonore might deprecate a man’s falling in love with her, but she had no objection to the power and perquisites it involved.
“Then I shan’t tell you,” said Peter, making a tremendous rally.
Leonore looked out from under her lashes to see just how much of Peter’s sudden firmness was real and how much pretence. Then she became unconscious of his presence.
Peter said something.
Peter said something else.
“Are you really so anxious to know?” he asked, surrendering without terms.
He had a glorious look at those glorious eyes. “Yes,” said the dearest of all mouths.
“The great panic,” said Peter, “has led to the formation of a so-called Labor party, and, from present indications, they are going to nominate a bad man. Now, there is a great attempt on foot to get the Democratic convention to endorse whomever the Labor party nominates.”
“Who will that be?”
“A Stephen Maguire.”
“And you don’t want him?”
“No. I have never crossed his path without finding him engaged in something discreditable. But he’s truckled 295 himself into a kind of popularity and power, and, having always been ‘a Democrat,’ he hopes to get the party to endorse him.”
“Can’t you order the convention not to do it?”
Peter smiled down into the eyes. “We don’t order men in this country with any success.”
“But can’t you prevent them?”
“I hope so. But it looks now as if I should have to do it in a way very disagreeable to myself.”
“This is a great secret, you understand?”
“Yes,” said Leonore, all interest and eagerness. “I can keep a secret splendidly.”
“You are sure?” asked Peter.
“So can I,” said Peter.
Leonore perfectly bristled with indignation. “I won’t be treated so,” she said. “Are you going to tell me?” She put on her severest manner.
“No,” said Peter.
“He is obstinate,” thought Leonore to herself. Then aloud she said: “Then I shan’t be friends any
“That is very nice,” said Peter, soberly.
“What?” said Leonore, looking at him in surprise.
“I have come to the conclusion,” said Peter, “that there is no use in our trying to be friends. So we had better give up at once. Don’t you think so?”
“What a pretty horse Miss Winthrop has?” said Leonore. And she never obtained an answer to her question, nor answered Peter’s.
After Peter’s return from Washington, there was a settled gloom about him positively appalling. He could not be wooed, on any plea, by his closest friends, to journey up-town into the social world. He failed entirely to avail himself of the room in the Newport villa, 296 though Dorothy wrote appealingly, and cited his own words to him. Even to his partners he became almost silent, except on law matters. Jenifer found that no delicacy, however rare or however well cooked and served, seemed to be noticed any more than if it was mess-pork. The only moments that this atmosphere seemed to yield at all was when Peter took a very miscellaneous collection of rubbish out of a little sachet, meant for handkerchiefs, which he now carried in his breast-pocket, and touched the various articles to his lips. Then for a time he would look a little less suicidal.
But it was astonishing the amount of work he did, the amount of reading he got through, the amount of politics he bossed, and the cigars he smoked, between the first of June, and the middle of August. The party-leaders had come to the conclusion that Peter did not intend to take a hand in this campaign, but, after his return from Washington, they decided otherwise. “The President must have asked him to interfere,” was their whispered conclusion, “but it’s too late now. It’s all cut and dried.”
Peter found, as this remark suggested, that his two months’ devotion to the dearest of eyes and sweetest of lips, had had serious results. As with Mutineer once, he had dropped his bridle, but there was no use in uttering, as he had then, the trisyllable which had reduced the horse to order. He had a very different kind of a creature with which to deal, than a Kentucky gentleman of lengthy lineage. A creature called sometimes a “tiger.” Yet curiously enough, the same firm voice, and the same firm manner, and a “mutineer,” though this time a man instead of a horse, was effective here. All New York knew that something had been done, and wanted to know what. There was not a newspaper in the city that would have refused to give five thousand dollars for an authentic stenographic report of what actually was said in a space of time not longer than three hours in all. Indeed, so intensely were people interested, that several papers felt called upon to fabricate and print most absurd versions of what did occur, all the accounts reaching conclusions as absolutely different as the press portraits of celebrities. From three of them it is a temptation to quote the display headlines or “scare-heads,” which ushered these reports to the world. The first read:297
“THE BOSSES AT WAR!”
“HOT WORDS AND LOOKS.”
“BUT THEY’LL CRAWL LATER.”
“There’s beauty in the bellow of the blast,
There’s grandeur in the growling of the gale;
But there’s eloquence-appalling, when Stirling is aroaring,
And the Tiger’s getting modest with his tail.”
That was a Republican account. The second was:
“MAGUIRE ON TOP!”
“The Old Man is Friendly. A Peace-making Dinner at the Manhattan Club. Friends in Council. Labor and Democracy Shoulder to Shoulder. A United Front to the Enemy.”
The third, printed in an insignificant little penny paper, never read and almost unknown by reading people, yet which had more city advertising than all the other papers put together, and a circulation to match the largest, announced:
“ONCE MORE AT THE BAT!”
“NO MORE NONSENSE.”
“HE PUTS MAGUIRE OUT ON THIRD BASE.”
“NOW PLAY BALL!”
And unintelligible as this latter sounds, it was near enough the truth to suggest inspiration. But there is no need to reprint the article that followed, for now it is possible, for the first time, to tell what actually occurred; and this contribution should alone permit this work to rank, as no doubt it is otherwise fully qualified to, in the dullest class of all books, that of the historical novel.
The facts are, that Peter alighted from a hansom one evening, in the middle of July, and went into the Manhattan Club. He exchanged greetings with a number of men in the halls, and with more who came in while he was reading the evening papers. A man came up to him while he still read, and said:
“Well, Stirling. Reading about your own iniquity?”
“No,” said Peter, rising and shaking hands. “I gave up reading about that ten years ago. Life is too short.”
“Pelton and Webber were checking their respectability in the coat-room, as I came up. I suppose they are in the café.”
Peter said nothing, but turned, and the two entered that room. Peter shook hands with three men who were there, and they all drew up round one of the little tables. A good many men who saw that group, nudged each other, and whispered remarks.
“A reporter from the Sun is in the strangers’ room, Mr. Stirling, and asks to see you,” said a servant.
“I cannot see him,” said Peter, quietly. “But say to him that I may possibly have something to tell him, about eleven o’clock.”
The four men at the table exchanged glances.
“I can’t imagine a newspaper getting an interview out of you, Stirling,” laughed one of them, a little nervously.
Peter smiled. “Very few of us are absolutely consistent. I can’t imagine any of you, for instance, making a political mistake, but perhaps you may some day.”
A pause of a curious kind came after this, which was only interrupted by the arrival of three more men. They all shook hands, and Peter rang a bell.
“What shall it be?” he asked.
There was a moment’s hesitation, and then one said. “Order for us. You’re host. Just what you like.”
Peter smiled. “Thomas,” he said, “bring us eight Apollinaris cocktails.”299
The men all laughed, and Thomas said, “Beg pardon, Mr. Stirling?” in a bewildered way. Thomas had served the club many years, but he had never heard of that cocktail.
“Well, Thomas,” said Peter, “if you don’t have that in stock, make it seven Blackthorns.”
Then presently eight men packed themselves into the elevator, and a moment later were sitting in one of the private dining-rooms. For an hour and a half they chatted over the meal, very much as if it were nothing more than a social dinner. But the moment the servant had passed the cigars and light, and had withdrawn, the chat suddenly ceased, and a silence came for a moment. Then a man said:
“It’s a pity it can’t please all, but the majority’s got to rule.”
“Yes,” promptly said another, “this is really a Maguire ratification meeting.”
“There’s nothing else to do,” affirmed a third.
But a fourth said: “Then what are we here for?”
No one seemed to find an answer. After a moment’s silence, the original speaker said:
“It’s the only way we can be sure of winning.”
“He gives us every pledge,” echoed the second.
“And we’ve agreed, anyways, so we are bound,” continued the first speaker.
Peter took his cigar out of his mouth. “Who are bound?” he asked, quietly.
“Why, the organization is—the party,” said Number Two, with a “deny-it-if-you-dare” in his voice.
“I don’t see how we can back out now, Stirling,” said Number One.
“Who wants to?” said another. “The Labor party promises to support us on our local nominations, and Maguire is not merely a Democrat, but he gives us every pledge.”
“There’s no good of talking of anything else anyhow,” said Number One, “for there will be a clean majority for Maguire in the convention.”
“And no other candidate can poll fifty votes on the first ballot,” said Number Two.
Then they all looked at Peter, and became silent. Peter puffed his cigar thoughtfully.300
“What do you say?” said Number One.
Peter merely shook his head.
“But I tell you it’s done,” cried one of the men, a little excitedly. “It’s too late to backslide! We want to please you, Stirling, but we can’t this time. We must do what’s right for the party.”
“I’m not letting my own feeling decide it,” said Peter. “I’m thinking of the party. For every vote the Labor people give Maguire, the support of that party will lose us a Democratic vote.”
“But we can’t win with a triangular fight. The Republicans will simply walk over the course.” If Peter had been a hot-headed reformer, he would have said: “Better that than that such a scoundrel shall win.” But Peter was a politician, and so saw no need of saying the unpleasantest thing that occurred to him, even if he felt it. Instead, he said: “The Labor party will get as many votes from the Republicans as from us, and, for every vote the Labor party takes from us, we shall get a Republican vote, if we put up the right kind of a man.”
“Nonsense,” cried Number One.
“How do you figure that?” asked another.
“In these panic times, the nomination of such a man as Maguire, with his truckling to the lowest passions and his socialistic speeches, will frighten conservative men enough to make them break party lines, and unite on the most certain candidate. That will be ours.”
“But why risk it, when, with Maguire, it’s certain?”
Peter wanted to say: “Maguire shall not be endorsed, and that ends it.” Instead, he said: “We can win with our own man, and don’t need to trade with or endorse the Labor party. We can elect Maguire by the aid of the worst votes in this city, or we can elect our own man by the aid of the best. The one weakens our party in the future; the other strengthens it.”
“You think that possible?” asked the man who had sought information as to what they “were here for.”
“Yes. The Labor party makes a stir, but it wouldn’t give us the oyster and be content with the shells if it really felt strong. See what it offers us. All the local and State ticket except six assemblymen, two senators, and a governor, tied hand and foot to us, whose proudest claim for years has been that he’s a Democrat.”301
“But all this leaves out of sight the fact that the thing’s done,” said Number One.
Peter puffed his cigar.
“Yes. It’s too late. The polls are closed,” said another.
Peter stopped puffing. “The convention hasn’t met,” he remarked, quietly.
That remark, however, seemed to have a sting in it, for Number Two cried:
“Come. We’ve decided. Now, put up or shut up. No more beating about the bush.”
Peter puffed his cigar.
“Tell us what you intend, Stirling,” said Number One. “We are committed beyond retreat. Come in with us, or stay outside the breastworks.”
“Perhaps,” said Peter, “since you’ve taken your own position, without consulting me, you will allow me the same privilege.”
“Go to—where you please,” said Number Six, crossly. Peter puffed his cigar.
“Well, what do you intend to do?” asked Number One.
Peter knocked the ash off his cigar. “You consider yourselves pledged to support Maguire?”
“Yes. We are pledged,” said four voices in unison.
“So am I,” said Peter.
“To oppose him,” said Peter.
“But I tell you the majority of the convention is for him,” said Number One. “Don’t you believe me?”
“Then what good will your opposition do?”
“It will defeat Maguire.”
“No power on earth can do that.”
Peter puffed his cigar.
“You can’t beat him in the convention, Stirling. The delegates pledged to him, and those we can give him elect him on the first ballot.”
“How about November fourth?” asked Peter.
Number One sprang to his feet. “You don’t mean?” he cried.
“Never!” said Number Three.
Peter puffed his cigar.302
“Come, Stirling, say what you intend!”
“I intend,” said Peter, “if the Democratic convention endorses Stephen Maguire, to speak against him in every ward of this city, and ask every man in it, whom I can influence, to vote for the Republican candidate.”
Dead silence reigned.
Peter puffed his cigar.
“You’ll go back on the party?” finally said one, in awe-struck tones.
“You’ll be a traitor?” cried another.
“I’d have believed anything but that you would be a dashed Mugwump!” groaned the third.
Peter puffed his cigar.
“Say you are fooling?” begged Number Seven.
“No,” said Peter. “Nor am I more a traitor to my party than you. You insist on supporting the Labor candidate and I shall support the Republican candidate. We are both breaking our party.”
“We’ll win,” said Number One.
Peter puffed his cigar.
“I’m not so sure,” said the gentleman of the previous questions. “How many votes can you hurt us, Stirling?”
“I don’t know.” Peter looked very contented.
“You can’t expect to beat us single?”
Peter smiled quietly. “I haven’t had time to see many men. But—I’m not single. Bohlmann says the brewers will back me, Hummel says he’ll be guided by me, and the President won’t interfere.”
“You might as well give up,” continued the previous questioner. “The Sixth is a sure thirty-five hundred to the bad, and between Stirling’s friends, and the Hummel crowd, and Bohlmann’s people, you’ll lose twenty-five thousand in the rest of the city, besides the Democrats you’ll frighten off by the Labor party. You can’t put it less than thirty-five thousand, to say nothing of the hole in the campaign fund.”
The beauty about a practical politician is that votes count for more than his own wishes. Number One said:
“Well, that’s ended. You’ve smashed our slate. What have you got in its place?”
“Porter?” suggested Peter.
“No,” said three voices.
“We can’t stand any more of him,” said Number One.303
“He’s an honest, square man,” said Peter.
“Can’t help that. One dose of a man who’s got as little gumption as he, is all we can stand. He may have education, but I’ll be hanged if he has intellect. Why don’t you ask us to choose a college professor, and have done with it.”
“Come, Stirling,” said the previous questioner, “the thing’s been messed so that we’ve got to go into convention with just the right man to rally the delegates. There’s only one man we can do it with, and you know it.”
Peter rose, and dropped his cigar-stump into the ash-receiver. “I don’t see anything else,” he said, gloomily. “Do any of you?”
A moment’s silence, and then Number One said: “No.”
“Well,” said Peter, “I’ll take the nomination if necessary, but keep it back for a time, till we see if something better can’t be hit upon.”
“No danger,” said Number One, holding out his hand, gleefully.
“There’s more ways of killing a pig than choking it with butter,” said Number Three, laughing and doing the same.
“It’s a pity Costell isn’t here,” added the previous questioner. “After not yielding to him, he’d never believe we had forced you to take it.”
And that was what actually took place at that very-much-talked-about dinner.
Peter went downstairs with a very serious look on his face. At the door, the keeper of it said: “There are six reporters in the strangers’ room, Mr. Stirling, who wish to see you.”
A man who had just come in said: “I’m sorry for you, Peter.”
Peter smiled quietly. “Tell them our wishes are not mutual.” Then he turned to the newcomer. “It’s all right,” he said, “so far as the party is concerned, Hummel. But I’m to foot the bill to do it.”
“The devil! You don’t mean——?”
Peter nodded his head.
“I’ll give twenty-five thousand to the fund,” said Hummel, gleefully. “See if I don’t.”304
“Excuse me, Mr. Stirling,” said a man who had just come in.
“Certainly,” said Peter promptly. “But I must ask the same favor of you, as I am going down town at once.” Peter had the brutality to pass out of the front door instantly, leaving the reporter with a disappointed look on his face.
“If he only would have said something?” groaned the reporter to himself. “Anything that could be spun into a column. He needn’t have told me what he didn’t care to tell, yet he could have helped me to pay my month’s rent as easily as could be.”
As for Peter, he fell into a long stride, and his face nearly equalled his stride in length. After he reached his quarters he sat and smoked, with the same serious look. He did not look cross. He did not have the gloom in his face which had been so fixed an expression for the last month. But he looked as a man might look who knew he had but a few hours to live, yet to whom death had no terror.
“I am giving up,” Peter thought, “everything that has been my true life till now. My profession, my friends, my chance to help others, my books, and my quiet. I shall be misunderstood, reviled and hated. Everything I do will be distorted for partisan purposes. Friends will misjudge. Enemies will become the more bitter. I give up fifty thousand dollars a year in order to become a slave, with toadies, trappers, lobbyists and favor-seekers as my daily quota of humanity. I even sacrifice the larger part of my power.”
So ran Peter’s thoughts, and they were the thoughts of a man who had not worked seventeen years in politics for nothing. He saw alienation of friends, income, peace, and independence, and the only return a mere title, which to him meant a loss, rather than a gain of power. Yet this was one of the dozen prizes thought the best worth striving for in our politics. Is it a wonder that our government and office-holding is left to the foreign element? That the native American should prefer any other work, rather than run the gauntlet of public opinion and press, with loss of income and peace, that he may hold some difficult office for a brief term?
But finally Peter rose. “Perhaps she’ll like it,” he said aloud, and presumably, since no woman is allowed a 305 voice in American politics, he was thinking of Miss Columbia. Then he looked at some photographs, a scrap of ribbon, a gold coin (Peter clearly was becoming a money worshipper), three letters, a card, a small piece of blotting-paper, a handkerchief (which Leonore and Peter had spent nearly ten minutes in trying to find one day), a glove, and some dried rose-leaves and violets. Yet this was the man who had grappled an angry tiger but two hours before and had brought it to lick his hand. He went to bed very happy.
But a month later he was far happier, for one morning towards the end of August, his mail brought him a letter from Watts, announcing that they had been four days installed in their Newport home, and that Peter would now be welcome any time. “I have purposely not filled Grey-Court this summer, so that you should have every chance. Between you and me and the post, I think there have been moments when mademoiselle missed ‘her friend’ far more than she confessed.”
“Dat’s stronory,” thought Jenifer. “He dun eat mo’ dis yar hot mo’nin’ dan he dun in two mumfs.”
Then Jenifer was sent out with a telegram, which merely said: “May I come to-day by Shore line limited? P. S.”
“When you get back, Jenifer,” said Peter, “you may pack my trunk and your own. We may start for Newport at two.” Evidently Peter did not intend to run any risks of missing the train, in case the answer should be favorable.
Peter passed into his office, and set to work to put the loose ends in such shape that nothing should go wrong during his absence. He had not worked long, when one of the boys told him that:
“Mr. Cassius Curlew wants to see you, Mr. Stirling.”
Peter stopped his writing, looking up quickly: “Did he say on what business?”306
“Ask him, please.” And Peter went on writing till the boy returned.
“He says it’s about the convention.”
“Tell him he must be more specific.”
The boy returned in a moment with a folded scrap of paper.
“He said that would tell you, Mr. Stirling.”
Peter unfolded the scrap, and read upon it: “A message from Maguire.”
“Show him in.” Peter touched a little knob on his desk on which was stamped “Chief Clerk.” A moment later a man opened a door. “Samuels,” said Peter, “I wish you would stay here for a moment. I want you to listen to what’s said.”
The next moment a man crossed the threshold of another door. “Good-morning, Mr. Stirling,” he said.
“Mr. Curlew,” said Peter, without rising and with a cold inclination of his head.
“I have a message for you, Mr. Stirling,” said the man, pulling a chair into a position that suited him, and sitting, “but it’s private.”
Peter said nothing, but began to write.
“Do you understand? I want a word with you private,” said the man after a pause.
“Mr. Samuels is my confidential clerk. You can speak with perfect freedom before him.” Peter spoke without raising his eyes from his writing.
“But I don’t want any one round. It’s just between you and me.”
“When I got your message,” said Peter, still writing, “I sent for Mr. Samuels. If you have anything to say, say it now. Otherwise leave it unsaid.”
“Well, then,” said the man, “your party’s been tricking us, and we won’t stand it.”
Peter wrote diligently.
“And we know who’s back of it. It was all pie down to that dinner of yours.”
“Is that Maguire’s message?” asked Peter, though with no cessation of his labors.
“Nop,” said the man. “That’s the introduction. Now, we know what it means. You needn’t deny it. You’re squinting at the governorship yourself. And you’ve made 307 the rest go back on Maguire, and work for you on the quiet. Oh, we know what’s going on.”
“Tell me when you begin on the message,” said Peter, still writing.
“Maguire’s sent me to you, to tell you to back water. To stop bucking.”
“Tell Mr. Maguire I have received his message.”
“Oh, that isn’t all, and don’t you forget it! Maguire’s in this for fur and feathers, and if you go before the convention as a candidate, we’ll fill the air with them.”
“Is that part of the message?” asked Peter.
“By that we mean that half an hour after you accept the nomination, we’ll have a force of detectives at work on your past life, and we’ll hunt down and expose every discreditable thing you’ve ever done.”
Peter rose, and the man did the same instantly, putting one of his hands on his hip-pocket. But even before he did it, Peter had begun speaking, in a quiet, self-contained voice: “That sounds so like Mr. Maguire, that I think we have the message at last. Go to him, and say that I have received his message. That I know him, and I know his methods. That I understand his hopes of driving me, as he has some, from his path, by threats of private scandal. That, judging others by himself, he believes no man’s life can bear probing. Tell him that he has misjudged for once. Tell him that he has himself decided me in my determination to accept the nomination. That rather than see him the nominee of the Democratic party, I will take it myself. Tell him to set on his blood hounds. They are welcome to all they can unearth in my life.”
Peter turned towards his door, intending to leave the room, for he was not quite sure that he could sustain this altitude, if he saw more of the man. But as his hand was on the knob, Curlew spoke again.
“One moment,” he called. “We’ve got something more to say to you. We have proof already.”
Peter turned, with an amused look on his face. “I was wondering,” he said, “if Maguire really expected to drive me with such vague threats.”
“No siree,” said Curlew with a self-assured manner, but at the same time putting Peter’s desk between the clerk and himself, so that his flank could not be turned. “We’ve 308 got some evidence that won’t be sweet reading for you, and we’re going to print it, if you take the nomination.”
“Tell Mr. Maguire he had better put his evidence in print at once. That I shall take the nomination.”
“And disgrace one of your best friends?” asked Curlew.
Peter started slightly, and looked sharply at the man.
“Ho, ho,” said Curlew. “That bites, eh? Well, it will bite worse before it’s through with.”
Peter stood silent for a moment, but his hands trembled slightly, and any one who understood anatomy could have recognized that every muscle in his body was at full tension But all he said was: “Well?”
“It’s about that trip of yours on the ‘Majestic.’”
Peter looked bewildered.
“We’ve got sworn affidavits of two stewards,” Curlew continued, “about yours and some one else’s goings on. I guess Mr. and Mrs. Rivington won’t thank you for having them printed.”
Instantly came a cry of fright, and the crack of a revolver, which brought Peter’s partners and the clerks crowding into the room. It was to find Curlew lying back on the desk, held there by Peter with one hand, while his other, clasping the heavy glass inkstand, was swung aloft. There was a look on Peter’s face that did not become it. An insurance company would not have considered Curlew’s life at that moment a fair risk.
But when Peter’s arm descended it did so gently, put the inkstand back on the desk, and taking a pocket-handkerchief wiped a splash of ink from the hand that had a moment before been throttling Curlew. That worthy struggled up from his back-breaking attitude and the few parts of his face not drenched with ink, were very white, while his hands trembled more than had Peter’s a moment before.
“Peter!” cried Ogden. “What is it?”
“I lost my temper for a moment,” said Peter.
“But who fired that shot?”
Peter turned to the clerks. “Leave the room,” he said, “all of you. And keep this to yourselves. I don’t think the other floors could have heard anything through the fire-proof brick, but if any one comes, refer them to me.” As the office cleared, Peter turned to his partners and said: “Mr. Curlew came here with a 309 message which he thought needed the protection of a revolver. He judged rightly, it seems.”
“Are you hit?”
“I felt something strike.” Peter put his hand to his side. He unbuttoned his coat and felt again. Then he pulled out a little sachet from his breast-pocket, and as he did so, a flattened bullet dropped to the floor. Peter looked into the sachet anxiously. The bullet had only gone through the lower corner of the four photographs and the glove! Peter laughed happily. “I had a gold coin in my pocket, and the bullet struck that. Who says that a luck-piece is nothing but a superstition?”
“But, Peter, shan’t we call the police?” demanded Ogden, still looking stunned.
Curlew moved towards the door.
“One moment,” said Peter, and Curlew stopped.
“Ray,” Peter continued, “I am faced with a terrible question. I want your
“A man is trying to force me to stand aside and permit a political wrong. To do this, he threatens to publish lying affidavits of worthless scoundrels, to prove a shameful intimacy between a married woman and me.”
“Bosh,” laughed Ray. “He can publish a thousand and no one would believe them of you.”
“He knows that. But he knows, too, that no matter how untrue, it would connect her name with a subject shameful to the purest woman that ever lived. He knows that the scavengers of gossip will repeat it, and gloat over it. That the filthy society papers will harp on it for years. That in the heat of a political contest, the partisans will be only too glad to believe it and repeat it. That no criminal prosecution, no court vindication, will ever quite kill the story as regards her. And so he hopes that, rather than entail this on a woman whom I love, and on her husband and family, I will refuse a nomination. I know of such a case in Massachusetts, where, rather than expose a woman to such a danger, the man withdrew. What should I do?”
“Do? Fight him. Tell him to do his worst.”
Peter put his hand on Ray’s shoulder.
“Even if—if—it is one dear to us both?”
“Yes. Do you remember your being called home in our Spanish trip, unexpectedly? You left me to bring Miss De Voe, and—Well. They’ve bribed, or forged affidavits of two of the stewards of the ‘Majestic.’”
Ray tried to spring forward towards Curlew. But Peter’s hand still rested on his shoulder, and held him back. “I started to kill him,” Peter said quietly, “but I remembered he was nothing but the miserable go-between.”
“My God, Peter! What can I say?”
“Ray! The stepping aside is nothing to me. It was an office which I was ready to take, but only as a sacrifice and a duty. It is to prevent wrong that I interfered. So do not think it means a loss to me to retire.”
“Peter, do what you intended to do. We must not compromise with wrong even for her sake.”
The two shook hands. “I do not think they will ever use it, Ray,” said Peter. “But I may be mistaken, and cannot involve you in the possibility, without your consent.”
“Of course they’ll use it,” cried Ogden. “Scoundrels who could think of such a thing, will use it without hesitation.”
“No,” said Peter. “A man who uses a coward’s weapons, is a coward at heart. We can prevent it, I think.” Then he turned to Curlew. “Tell Mr. Maguire about this interview. Tell him that I spared you, because you are not the principal. But tell him from me, that if a word is breathed against Mrs. Rivington, I swear that I’ll search for him till I find him, and when I find him I’ll kill him with as little compunction as I would a rattlesnake.” Peter turned and going to his dressing-room, washed away the ink from his hands.
Curlew shuffled out of the room, and, black as he was, went straight to the Labor headquarters and told his story.
“And he’ll do it too, Mr. Maguire,” he said “You should have seen his look as he said it, and as he stood over me. I feel it yet.”
“Do you think he means it?” said Ray to Ogden, when they were back in Ray’s room.
“I wouldn’t think so if I hadn’t seen his face as he stood over that skunk. But if ever a man looked murder he did at that moment. And quiet old Peter of all men!”
“We must talk to him. Do tell him that——”311
“Do you dare do it?”
“I don’t. Unless he speaks I shall——”
“Ray and Ogden,” said a quiet voice, “I wish you would write out what you have just seen and heard. It may be needed in the future.”
“Peter, let me speak,” cried Ray. “You mustn’t do what you said. Think of such an end to your life. No matter what that scoundrel does, don’t end your life on a gallows. It——”
Peter held up his hand. “You don’t know the American people, Ray. If Maguire uses that lying story, I can kill him, and there isn’t a jury in the country which, when the truth was told, wouldn’t acquit me. Maguire knows it, too. We have heard the last of that threat, I’m sure.”
Peter went back to his office. “I don’t wonder,” he thought, as he stood looking at the ink-stains on his desk and floor, “that people think politics nothing but trickery and scoundrelism. Yet such vile weapons and slanders would not be used if there were not people vile and mean enough at heart to let such things influence them. The fault is not in politics. It is in humanity.”
But just as Peter was about to continue this rather unsatisfactory train of thought, his eye caught sight of a flattened bullet lying on the floor. He picked it up, with a smile. “I knew she was my good luck,” he said. Then he took out the sachet again, and kissed the dented and bent coin. Then he examined the photographs. “Not even the dress is cut through,” he said gleefully, looking at the full length. “It couldn’t have hit in a better place.” When he came to the glove, however, he grieved a little over it. Even this ceased to trouble him the next moment, for a telegram was laid on his desk. It merely said, “Come by all means. W. C. D’A.” Yet that was enough to make Peter drop thoughts, work, and everything for a time. He sat at his desk, gazing at a 312 blank wall, and thinking of a pair of slate-colored eyes. But his expression bore no resemblance to the one formerly assumed when that particular practice had been habitual.
Nor was this expression the only difference in this day, to mark the change from Peter past to Peter present. For instead of manœuvring to make Watts sit on the back seat, when he was met by the trap late that afternoon, at Newport, he took possession of that seat in the coolest possible manner, leaving the one by the driver to Watts. Nor did Peter look away from the girl on that back seat. Quite the contrary. It did not seem to him that a thousand eyes would have been any too much. Peter’s three months of gloom vanished, and became merely a contrast to heighten his present joy. A sort of “shadow-box.”
He had had the nicest kind of welcome from his “friend.” If the manner had not been quite so absolutely frank as of yore, yet there was no doubt as to her pleasure in seeing Peter. “It’s very nice to see you again,” she had said while shaking hands. “I hoped you would come quickly.” Peter was too happy to say anything in reply. He merely took possession of that vacant seat, and rested his eyes in silence till Watts, after climbing into place, asked him how the journey to Newport had been.
“Lovelier than ever,” said Peter, abstractedly. “I didn’t think it was possible.”
“Eh?” said Watts, turning with surprise on his face.
But Leonore did not look surprised. She only looked the other way, and the corners of her mouth were curving upwards.
“The journey?” queried Watts.
“You mean Newport, don’t you?” said Leonore helpfully, when Peter said nothing. Leonore was looking out from under her lashes—at things in general, of course.
Peter said nothing. Peter was not going to lie about what he had meant, and Leonore liked him all the better for not using the deceiving loophole she had opened.
Watts said, “Oh, of course. It improves every year. But wasn’t the journey hot, old man?”
“I didn’t notice,” said Peter.
“Didn’t notice! And this one of the hottest days of the year.”313
“I had something else to think about,” explained Peter.
“Politics?” asked Watts.
“Oh, Peter,” said Leonore, “we’ve been so interested in all the talk. It was just as maddening as could be, how hard it was to get New York papers way out west. I’m awfully in the dark about some things. I’ve asked a lot of people here about it, but nobody seems to know anything. Or if they do, they laugh at me. I met Congressman Pell yesterday at the Tennis Tournament, and thought he would tell me all about it. But he was horrid! His whole manner said: ‘I can’t waste real talk on a girl.’ I told him I was a great friend of yours, and that you would tell me when you came, but he only laughed and said, he had no doubt you would, for you were famous for your indiscretion. I hate men who laugh at women the moment they try to talk as men do.”
“I think,” said Peter, “we’ll have to turn Pell down. A Congressman who laughs at one of my friends won’t do.”
“I really wish you would. That would teach him,” said Leonore, vindictively. “A man who laughs at women can’t be a good Congressman.”
“I tell you what we’ll do,” said Peter. “I don’t want to retire him, because—because I like his mother. But I will tell you something for you to tell him, that will astonish him very much, and make him want to know who told you, and so you can tease him endlessly.”
“Oh, Peter!” said Leonore. “You are the nicest man.”
“What’s that?” asked Watts.
“It’s a great secret,” said Peter. “I shall only tell it to Miss D’Alloi; so that if it leaks beyond Pell, I shall know whom to blame for it.”
“Goody!” cried Leonore, giving a little bounce for joy.
“Is it about that famous dinner?” inquired Watts.
“Peter, I’m so curious about that. Will you tell me what you did?”
“I ate a dinner,” said Peter smiling.
“Now don’t be like Mr. Pell,” said Leonore, reprovingly, “or I’ll take back what I just said.”
“Did you roar, and did the tiger put its tail between its legs?” asked Watts.
“That is the last thing our friends, the enemies, have found,” said Peter.314
“You will tell me about it, won’t you, Peter?” said Leonore, ingratiatingly.
“Have you a mount for me, Watts, for to-morrow? Mutineer comes by boat to-night, but won’t be here till noon.”
“Yes. I’ve one chap up to your weight, I think.”
“I don’t like dodgers,” said Leonore, the corners of her mouth drawn down.
“I was not dodging,” said Peter. “I only was asking a preliminary question. If you will get up, before breakfast, and ride with me, I will tell you everything that actually occurred at that dinner. You will be the only person, I think, who wasn’t there, who knows.” It was shameful and open bribery, but bosses are shameful and open in their doings, so Peter was only living up to his rôle.
The temptation was too strong to be resisted. Leonore said, “Of course I will,” and the corners of her mouth reversed their position. But she said to herself: “I shall have to snub you in something else to make up for it.” Peter was in for a bad quarter of an hour somewhere.
Leonore had decided just how she was going to treat Peter. To begin with, she intended to accentuate that “five years” in various ways. Then she would be very frank and friendly, just as long as he, too, would keep within those limits, but if Peter even verged on anything more, she intended to leave him to himself, just long enough to show him that such remarks as his “not caring to be friends,” brought instant and dire punishment. “And I shan’t let him speak,” Leonore decided, “no matter if he wants to. For if he does, I’ll have to say ‘no,’ and then he’ll go back to New York and sulk, and perhaps never come near me again, since he’s so obstinate, while I want to stay friends.” Many such campaigns have been planned by the party of the first part. But the trouble is that, usually, the party of the second part also has a plan, which entirely disconcerts the first. As the darkey remarked: “Yissah. My dog he wud a beat, if it hadn’t bin foh de udder dog.”
Peter found as much contrast in his evening, as compared with his morning, as there was in his own years. After dinner, Leonore said:
“I always play billiards with papa. Will you play too?”
“I don’t know how,” said Peter.315
“Then it’s time you learned. I’ll take you on my side, because papa always beats me. I’ll teach you.”
So there was the jolliest of hours spent in this way, all of them laughing at Peter’s shots, and at Leonore’s attempts to show him how. “Every woman ought to play billiards,” Peter thought, when it was ended. “It’s the most graceful sight I’ve seen in years.”
Leonore said, “You get the ideas very nicely, but you hit much too hard. You can’t hit a ball too softly. You pound it as if you were trying to smash it.”
“It’s something I really must learn,” said Peter, who had refused over and over again in the past.
“I’ll teach you, while you are here,” said Leonore.
Peter did not refuse this time.
Nor did he refuse another lesson. When they had drifted into the drawing-room, Leonore asked: “Have you been learning how to valse?”
Peter smiled at so good an American using so European a word, but said seriously, “No. I’ve been too busy.”
“That’s a shame,” said Leonore, “because there are to be two dances this week, and mamma has written to get you cards.”
“Is it very hard?” asked Peter.
“No,” said Leonore. “It’s as easy as breathing, and much nicer.”
“Couldn’t you teach me that, also?”
“Easily. Mamma, will you play a valse? Now see.” Leonore drew her skirts back with one hand, so as to show the little feet, and said: “one, two, three, so. One, two, three, so. Now do that.”
Peter had hoped that the way to learn dancing was to take the girl in one’s arms. But he recognized that this would follow. So he set to work manfully to imitate that dainty little glide. It seemed easy as she did it. But it was not so easy when he tried it.
“Oh, you clumsy,” said Leonore laughing. “See. One, two, three, so. One, two, three, so.”
Peter forgot to notice the step, in his admiration of the little feet and the pretty figure.
“Well,” said Leonore after a pause, “are you going to do that?”
So Peter tried again, and again, and again. Peter would have done it all night, with absolute contentment, 316 so long as Leonore, after every failure, would show him the right way in her own person.
Finally she said, “Now take my hands. No. Way apart, so that I can see your feet. Now. We’ll try it together. One, two, change. One, two, change.”
Peter thought this much better, and was ready to go on till strength failed. But after a time, Leonore said. “Now. We’ll try it the true way. Take my hand so and put your arm so. That’s the way. Only never hold a girl too close. We hate it. Yes. That’s it. Now, mamma. Again. One, two, three. One, two, three.”
This was heavenly, Peter thought, and could have wept over the shortness, as it seemed to him, of this part of the lesson.
But it ended, and Leonore said: “If you’ll practice that in your room, with a bolster, you’ll get on very fast.”
“I always make haste slowly,” said Peter, not taking to the bolster idea at all kindly. “Probably you can find time to-morrow for another lesson, and I’ll learn much quicker with you.”
“And will you give me some waltzes at the dances?”
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said Leonore. “You shall have the dances the other men don’t ask of me. But you don’t dance well enough, in case I can get a better partner. I love valsing too much to waste one with a poor dancer.”
A moment before Peter thought waltzing the most exquisite pleasure the world contained. But he suddenly changed his mind, and concluded it was odious.
“Nevertheless,” he decided, “I will learn how.”
Peter had his ride the next morning, and had a very interested listener to his account of that dinner. The listener, speaking from vast political knowledge, told him at the end, “You did just right. I thoroughly approve of you.”317
“That takes a great worry off my mind,” said Peter soberly. “I was afraid, since we were to be such friends, and you wanted my help in the whirligig this winter, that you might not like my possibly having to live in Albany.”
“Can’t you live in New York?” said Leonore, looking horrified.
“Then I don’t like it at all,” said Leonore. “It’s no good having friends if they don’t live near one.”
“That’s what I think,” said Peter. “I suppose I couldn’t tempt you to come and keep house for me?”
“Now I must snub him,” thought Leonore. “No,” she said, “It will be bad enough to do that five years from now, for the man I love.” She looked out from under her eyelashes to see if her blow had been fatal, and concluded from the glumness in Peter’s face, that she really had been too cruel. So she added: “But you may give me a ball, and we’ll all come up and stay a week with you.”
Peter relaxed a little, but he said dolefully, “I don’t know what I shall do. I shall be in such need of your advice in politics and housekeeping.”
“Well,” said Leonore, “if you really find that you can’t get on without help, we’ll make it two weeks. But you must get up toboggan parties, and other nice things.”
“I wonder what the papers will say,” thought Peter, “if a governor gives toboggan parties?”
After the late breakfast, Peter was taken down to see the tournament. He thought he would not mind it, since he was allowed to sit next Leonore. But he did. First he wished that she wouldn’t pay so much attention to the score. Then that the men who fluttered round her would have had the good taste to keep away. It enraged Peter to see how perfectly willing she was to talk and chat about things of which he knew nothing, and how more than willing the men were. And then she laughed at what they said!
“That’s fifteen-love, isn’t it?” Leonore asked him presently.
“He doesn’t look over fifteen,” actually growled Peter. “I don’t know whether he’s in love or not. I suppose he thinks he is. Boys fifteen years old always do.”
Leonore forgot the score, even, in her surprise. “Why,” she said, “you growl just like Bêtise (the mastiff). 318 Now I know what the papers mean when they say you roar.”
“Well,” said Peter, “it makes me cross to see a lot of boys doing nothing but hit a small ball, and a lot more looking at them and thinking that it’s worth doing.” Which was a misstatement. It was not that which made Peter mad.
“Haven’t you ever played tennis?”
“Never. I don’t even know how to score.”
“Dear me,” said Leonore. “You’re dreadfully illiterate.”
“I know it,” growled Peter, “I don’t belong here, and have no business to come. I’m a ward boss, and my place is in saloons. Don’t hesitate to say it.”
All this was very foolish, but it was real to Peter for the moment, and he looked straight ahead with lines on his face which Leonore had never seen before. He ought to have been ordered to go off by himself till he should be in better mood.
Instead Leonore turned from the tennis, and said: “Please don’t talk that way, Peter. You know I don’t think that.” Leonore had understood the misery which lay back of the growl. “Poor fellow,” she thought, “I must cheer him up.” So she stopped looking at the tennis. “See,” she said, “there are Miss Winthrop and Mr. Pell. Do take me over to them and let me spring my surprise. You talk to Miss Winthrop.”
“Why, Peter!” said Pell. “When did you come?”
“Last night. How do you do, Miss Winthrop?” Then for two minutes Peter talked, or rather listened, to that young lady, though sighing internally. Then, Laus Deo! up came the poor little chap, whom Peter had libelled in age and affections, only ten minutes before, and set Peter free. He turned to see how Leonore’s petard was progressing, to find her and Pell deep in tennis. But just as he was going to expose his ignorance on that game, Leonore said:
“Mr. Pell, what do you think of the political outlook?”
Pell sighed internally. “You can read it in the papers,” he said.
“No. I want your opinion. Especially about the great departure the Democratic Convention is going to make.”319
“You mean in endorsing Maguire?”
Leonore began to visibly swell in importance. “Of course not,” she said, contemptuously. “Every one knows that that was decided against at the Manhattan dinner. I mean the unusual resolution about the next senator.”
Pell ceased to sigh. “I don’t know what you mean?” he said.
“Not really?” said Leonore incredulously, her nose cocking a little more airily. “I thought of course you would know about it. I’m so surprised!”
Pell looked at her half quizzingly, and half questioningly. “What is the resolution?”
“Naming a candidate for the vacancy for the Senate.”
“Nonsense,” said Pell, laughing. “The convention has nothing to do with the senators. The Legislature elects them.” He thought, “Why can’t women, if they will talk politics, at least learn the A B C.”
“Yes,” said Leonore, “but this is a new idea. The Senate has behaved so badly, that the party leaders think it will be better to make it a more popular body by having the New York convention nominate a man, and then they intend to make the legislature elect him. If the other states will only follow New York’s lead, it may make the Senate respectable and open to public opinion.”
Pell sniffed obviously. “In what fool paper did you read that?”
“I didn’t read it,” said Leonore, her eyes dancing with delight. “The papers are always behind the times. But I didn’t think that you would be, since you are to be named in the resolution.”
Pell looked at her blankly. “What do you mean?”
“Didn’t you know that the Convention will pass a resolution, naming you for next senator?” said Leonore, with both wonder and pity in her face and voice.
“Who told you that?” said Pell, with an amount of interest blended with doubt that was a decided contrast to a moment ago.
“That’s telling,” said Leonore. “You know, Mr. Pell, that one mustn’t tell people who are outside the party councils everything.”
“I believe you are trying to stuff me,” said Pell. “If it is so, or anything like it, you wouldn’t know.”
“Oh,” said Leonore, tantalizingly, “I could tell you a 320 great deal more than that. But of course you don’t care to talk politics with a girl.”
Pell weakened. “Tell me who told you about it?”
“I think we must go home to lunch,” said Leonore, turning to Peter, who had enjoyed Leonore’s triumph almost as much as she had.
“Peter,” said Pell, “have you heard what Miss D’Alloi has been saying?”
“Part of it.”
“Where can she have picked it up?”
“I met Miss D’Alloi at a lunch at the White House, last June,” said Peter seriously, “and she, and the President, and I, talked politics. Politically, Miss D’Alloi is rather a knowing person. I hope you haven’t been saying anything indiscreet, Miss D’Alloi?”
“I’m afraid I have,” laughed Leonore, triumphantly adding, “but I won’t tell anything more.”
Pell looked after them as they went towards the carriage. “How extraordinary!” he said. “She couldn’t have it from Peter. He tells nothing. Where the deuce did she get it, and is it so?” Then he said: “Senator Van Brunt Pell,” with a roll on all the r’s. “That sounds well. I wonder if there’s anything in it?”
“I think,” said Leonore to Peter, triumphantly, “that he would like to have talked politics. But he’ll get nothing but torture from me if he tries.”
It began to dawn on Peter that Leonore did not, despite her frank manner, mean all she said. He turned to her, and asked:
“Are you really in earnest in saying that you’ll refuse every man who asks you to marry him within five years?”
Leonore’s triumph scattered to the four winds. “What an awfully impudent question,” she thought, “after my saying it so often. What shall I answer?” She looked Peter in the eye with severity. “I shan’t refuse,” she said, “because I shan’t even let him speak. If any man dares to attempt it, I’ll tell him frankly I don’t care to listen.”
“She really means it,” sighed Peter internally. “Why is it, that the best girls don’t care to marry?” Peter became very cross, and, what is worse, looked it.
Nor was Leonore much better. “There,” she said, “I 321 knew just how it would be. He’s getting sulky already. He isn’t nice any more. The best thing will be to let him speak, for then he’ll go back to New York, and won’t bother me.” The corners of her mouth drew away down, and life became very gray.
So “the best of friends” rode home from the Casino, without so much as looking at each other, much less speaking. Clearly Peter was right. There was no good in trying to be friends any longer.
Precedent or habit, however, was too strong to sustain this condition long. First Leonore had to be helped out of the carriage. This was rather pleasant, for she had to give Peter her hand, and so life became less unworth living to Peter. Then the footman at the door gave Peter two telegraphic envelopes of the bulkiest kind, and Leonore too began to take an interest in life again.
“What are they about?” she asked.
“The Convention. I came off so suddenly that some details were left unarranged.”
“Read them out loud,” she said calmly, as Peter broke the first open.
Peter smiled at her, and said: “If I do, will you give me another waltzing lesson after lunch?”
“Don’t bargain,” said Leonore, disapprovingly.
“Very well,” said Peter, putting the telegrams in his pocket, and turning towards the stairs.
Leonore let him go up to the first landing. But as soon as she became convinced that he was really going to his room, she said, “Peter.”
Peter turned and looked down at the pretty figure at the foot of the stairs. He came down again. When he had reached the bottom he said, “Well?”
Leonore was half angry, and half laughing. “You ought to want to read them to me,” she said, “since we are such friends.”
“I do,” said Peter. “And you ought to want to teach me to waltz, since we are such friends.”
“But I don’t like the spirit,” said Leonore.
Peter laughed. “Nor I,” he said. “Still, I’ll prove I’m the better, by reading them to you.”
“Now I will teach him,” said Leonore to herself.
Peter unfolded the many sheets. “This is very secret, of course,” he said.322
“Yes.” Leonore looked round the hall as if she was a conspirator. “Come to the window-seat upstairs,” she whispered, and led the way. When they had ensconced themselves there, and drawn the curtains, she said, “Now.”
“You had better sit nearer me,” said Peter, “so that I can whisper it.”
“No,” said Leonore. “No one can hear us.” She thought, “I’d snub you for that, if I wasn’t afraid you wouldn’t read it.”
“You understand that you are not to repeat this to any one.” Peter was smiling over something.
Leonore said, “Yes,” half crossly and half eagerly.
So Peter read:
“Use Hudson knowledge counties part not belief local twenty imbecility certified of yet till yesterday noon whose Malta could accurately it at seventeen. Potomac give throw Haymarket estimated Moselle thirty-three to into fortify through jurist arrived down right——”
“I won’t be treated so!” interrupted Leonore, indignantly.
“What do you mean,” said Peter, still smiling. “I’m reading it to you, as you asked.”
“No you are not. You are just making up.”
“No,” said Peter. “It’s all here.”
“Let me see it.” Leonore shifted her seat so as to overlook Peter.
“That’s only two pages,” said Peter, holding them so that Leonore had to sit very close to him to see. “There are eighteen more.”
Leonore looked at them. “Was it written by a lunatic?” she asked.
“No.” Peter looked at the end. “It’s from Green. Remember. You are not to repeat it to any one.”
“Luncheon is served, Miss D’Alloi,” said a footman.
“Bother luncheon,” thought Peter.
“Please tell me what it means?” said Leonore, rising.
“I can’t do that, till I get the key and decipher it.”
“Oh!” cried Leonore, clapping her hands in delight. “It’s a cipher. How tremendously interesting! We’ll go at it right after lunch and decipher it together, won’t we?”
“After the dancing lesson, you mean, don’t you?” suggested Peter.323
“How did you know I was going to do it?” asked Leonore.
“You told me.”
“Never! I didn’t say a word.”
“You looked several,” said Peter.
Leonore regarded him very seriously. “You are not ‘Peter Simple’ a bit,” she said. “I don’t like deep men.” She turned and went to her room. “I really must be careful,” she told the enviable sponge as it passed over her face, “he’s a man who needs very special treatment. I ought to send him right back to New York. But I do so want to know about the politics. No. I’ll keep friends till the campaign’s finished Then he’ll have to live in Albany, and that will make it all right. Let me see. He said the governor served three years. That isn’t five, but perhaps he’ll have become sensible before then.”
As for Peter, he actually whistled during his ablutions, which was something he had not done for many years. He could not quite say why, but it represented his mood better than did his earlier growl.
Peter had as glorious an afternoon as he had had a bad morning. First he danced a little. Then the two sat at the big desk in the deserted library and worked together over those very complex dispatches till they had them translated. Then they had to discuss their import. Finally they had to draft answers and translate them into cipher. All this with their heads very close together, and an utter forgetfulness on the part of a certain personage that snubbing rather than politics was her “plan of campaign.” But Leonore began to feel that she was a political power herself, and so forgot her other schemes. When they had the answering dispatches fairly transcribed, she looked up at Peter and said:
“I think we’ve done that very well,” in the most approving voice. “Do you think they’ll do as we tell them?”324
Peter looked down into that dearest of faces, gazing at him so frankly and with such interest, so very near his, and wondered what deed was noble or great enough to win a kiss from those lips. Several times that afternoon, it had seemed to him that he could not keep himself from leaning over and taking one. He even went so far now as to speculate on exactly what Leonore would do if he did. Fortunately his face was not given to expressing his thoughts. Leonore never dreamed how narrow an escape she had. “If only she wouldn’t be so friendly and confiding,” groaned Peter, even while absolutely happy in her mood. “I can’t do it, when she trusts me so.”
“Well,” said Leonore, “perhaps when you’ve done staring at me, you’ll answer my question.”
“I think they’ll do as we tell them,” smiled Peter. “But we’ll get word to-morrow about Dutchess and Steuben. Then we shall know better how the land lies, and can talk plainer.”
“Will there be more ciphers, to-morrow?”
“Yes.” To himself Peter said, “I must write Green and the rest to telegraph me every day.”
“Now we’ll have a cup of tea,” said Leonore. “I like politics.”
“Then you would like Albany,” said Peter, putting a chair for her by the little tea-table.
“I wouldn’t live in Albany for the whole world,” said Leonore, resuming her old self with horrible rapidity. But just then she burnt her finger with the match with which she was lighting the lamp, and her cruelty vanished in a wail. “Oh!” she cried. “How it hurts.”
“Let me see,” said Peter sympathetically.
The little hand was held up. “It does hurt,” said Leonore, who saw that there was a painful absence of all signs of injury, and feared Peter would laugh at such a burn after those he had suffered.
But Peter treated it very seriously. “I’m sure it does,” he said, taking possession of the hand. “And I know how it hurts.” He leaned over and kissed the little thumb. Then he didn’t care a scrap whether Leonore liked Albany or not.
“I won’t snub you this time,” said Leonore to herself, “because you didn’t laugh at me for it.”
Peter’s evening was not so happy. Leonore told him 325 as they rose from dinner that she was going to a dance. “We have permission to take you. Do you care to go?”
“Yes. If you’ll give me some dances.”
“I’ve told you once that I’ll only give you the ones not taken by better dancers. If you choose to stay round I’ll take you for those.”
“Do you ever have a dance over?” asked Peter, marvelling at such a possibility.
“I’ve only been to one dance. I didn’t have at that.”
“Well,” said Peter, growling a little, “I’ll go.”
“Oh,” said Leonore, calmly, “don’t put yourself out on my account.”
“I’m not,” growled Peter. “I’m doing it to please myself.” Then he laughed, so Leonore laughed too.
After a game of billiards they all went to the dance. As they entered the hall, Peter heard his name called in a peculiar voice behind. He turned and saw Dorothy.
Dorothy merely said, “Peter!” again. But Peter understood that explanations were in order. He made no attempt to dodge.
“Dorothy,” he said softly, giving a glance at Leonore, to see that she was out of hearing, “when you spent that summer with Miss De Voe, did Ray come down every week?”
“Would he have come if you had been travelling out west?”
“Oh, Peter,” cried Dorothy, below her breath, “I’m so glad it’s come at last!”
We hope our readers can grasp the continuity of Dorothy’s mental processes, for her verbal ones were rather inconsequent.
“She’s lovely,” continued the verbal process. “And I’m sure I can help you.”
“I need it,” groaned Peter. “She doesn’t care in the least for me, and I can’t get her to. And she says she isn’t going to marry for——”
“Nonsense!” interrupted Dorothy, contemptuously, and sailed into the ladies’ dressing-room.
Peter gazed after her. “I wonder what’s nonsense?” he thought.
Dorothy set about her self-imposed task with all the ardor for matchmaking, possessed by a perfectly happy 326 married woman. But Dorothy evidently intended that Leonore should not marry Peter, if one can judge from the tenor of her remarks to Leonore in the dressing-room. Peter liked Dorothy, and would probably not have believed her capable of treachery, but it is left to masculine mind to draw any other inference from the dialogue which took place between the two, as they prinked before a cheval glass.
“I’m so glad to have Peter here for this particular evening,” said Dorothy.
“Why?” asked Leonore, calmly, in the most uninterested of tones.
“Because Miss Biddle is to be here. For two years I’ve been trying to bring those two together, so that they might make a match of it. They are made for each other.”
Leonore tucked a rebellious curl in behind the drawn-back lock. Then she said, “What a pretty pin you have.”
“Isn’t it? Ray gave it to me,” said Dorothy, giving Leonore all the line she wanted.
“I’ve never met Miss Biddle,” said Leonore.
“She’s a great beauty, and rich. And then she has that nice Philadelphia manner. Peter can’t abide the young-girl manner. He hates giggling and talking girls. It’s funny too, because, though he doesn’t dance or talk, they like him. But Miss Biddle is an older girl, and can talk on subjects which please him. She is very much interested in politics and philanthropy.”
“I thought,” said Leonore, fluffing the lace on her gown, “that Peter never talked politics.”
“He doesn’t,” said Dorothy. “But she has studied political economy. He’s willing to talk abstract subjects. She’s just the girl for a statesman’s wife. Beauty, tact, very clever, and yet very discreet. I’m doubly glad they’ll meet here, for she has given up dancing, so she can entertain Peter, who would otherwise have a dull time of it.”
“If she wants to,” said Leonore.
“Oh,” said Dorothy, “I’m not a bit afraid about that. Peter’s the kind of man with whom every woman’s ready to fall in love. Why, my dear, he’s had chance after chance, if he had only cared to try. But, of course, he doesn’t care for such women as you and me, who can’t 327 enter into his thoughts or sympathize with his ambitions. To him we are nothing but dancing, dressing, prattling flutter-birds.” Then Dorothy put her head on one side, and seemed far more interested in the effect of her own frock than in Peter’s fate.
“He talks politics to me,” Leonore could not help saying. Leonore did not like Dorothy’s last speech.
“Oh, Peter’s such a gentleman that he always talks seriously even to us; but it’s only his politeness. I’ve seen him talk to girls like you, and he is delightfully courteous, and one would think he liked it. But, from little things Ray has told me, I know he looks down on society girls.”
“Are you ready, Leonore?” inquired Mrs. D’Alloi.
Leonore was very ready. Watts and Peter were ready also; had been ready during the whole of this dialogue. Watts was cross; Peter wasn’t. Peter would willingly have waited an hour longer, impatient only for the moment of meeting, not to get downstairs. That is the difference between a husband and a lover.
“Peter,” said Leonore, the moment they were on the stairs, “do you ever tell other girls political secrets?”
Dorothy was coming just behind, and she poked Peter in the back with her fan. Then, when Peter turned, she said with her lips as plainly as one can without speaking: “Say yes.”
Peter looked surprised. Then he turned to Leonore and said, “No. You are the only person, man or woman, with whom I like to talk politics.”
“Oh!” shrieked Dorothy to herself. “You great, big, foolish old stupid! Just as I had fixed it so nicely!” What Dorothy meant is quite inscrutable. Peter had told the truth.
But, after the greetings were over, Dorothy helped Peter greatly. She said to him, “Give me your arm, Peter. There is a girl here whom I want you to meet.”
“Peter’s going to dance this valse with me,” said Leonore. And Peter had two minutes of bliss, amateur though he was. Then Leonore said cruelly, “That’s enough; you do it very badly!”
When Peter had seated her by her mother, he said: “Excuse me for a moment. I want to speak to Dorothy.”
“I knew you would be philandering after the young 328 married women. Men of your age always do,” said Leonore, with an absolutely incomprehensible cruelty.
So Peter did not speak to Dorothy. He sat down by Leonore and talked, till a scoundrelly, wretched, villainous, dastardly, low-born, but very good-looking fellow carried off his treasure. Then he wended his way to Dorothy.
“Why did you tell me to say ‘yes’?” he asked.
Dorothy sighed. “I thought you couldn’t have understood me,” she said; “but you are even worse than I supposed. Never mind, it’s done now. Peter, will you do me a great favor?”
“I should like to,” said Peter.
“Miss Biddle, of Philadelphia, is here. She doesn’t know many of the men, and she doesn’t dance. Now, if I introduce you, won’t you try to make her have a good time?”
“Certainly,” said Peter, gloomily.
“And don’t go and desert her, just because another man comes up. It makes a girl think you are in a hurry to get away, and Miss Biddle is very sensitive. I know you don’t want to hurt her feelings.” All this had been said as they crossed the room. Then: “Miss Biddle, let me introduce Mr. Stirling.”
Peter sat down to his duty. “I mustn’t look at Leonore,” he thought, “or I shan’t be So he turned his face away from the room heroically. As for Dorothy, she walked away with a smile of contentment. “There, miss,” she remarked, “we’ll see if you can trample on dear old Peter!”
“Who’s that girl to whom Mr. Stirling is talking?” asked Leonore of her partner.
“Ah, that’s the rich Miss Biddle, of Philadelphia,” replied the scoundrel, in very gentleman-like accents for one of his class. “They say she’s never been able to find a man good enough for her, and so she’s keeping herself on ice till she dies, in hopes that she’ll find one in heaven. She’s a great catch.”
“She’s decidedly good-looking,” said Leonore.
“Think so? Some people do. I don’t. I don’t like blondes.”
When Leonore had progressed as far as her fourth partner, she asked: “What sort of a girl is that Miss Biddle?”
“She’s really stunning,” she was told. “Fellows are 329 all wild about her. But she has an awfully snubbing way.”
“Is she clever?”
“Is she? That’s the trouble. She won’t have anything to do with a man unless he’s clever. Look at her to-night! She got her big fish right off, and she’s driven away every man who’s come near her ever since. She’s the kind of a girl that, if she decides on anything, she does it.”
“Who’s her big fish?” said Leonore, as if she had not noticed.
“That big fellow, who is so awfully exclusive—Stirling. He doesn’t think any people good enough for him but the Pells, and Miss De Voe, and the Ogdens. What they can see in him I can’t imagine. I sat opposite him once at dinner, this spring, at the William Pells, and he only said three things in the whole meal. And he was sitting next that clever Miss Winthrop.”
After the fifth dance, Dorothy came up to Leonore. “It’s going beautifully,” she said; “do you see how Peter has turned his back to the room? And I heard a man say that Miss Biddle was freezing to every man who tried to interrupt them. I must arrange some affairs this week so that they shall have chances to see each other. You will help me?”
“I’m very much engaged for this week,” said Leonore.
“What a pity! Never mind; I’ll get Peter. Let me see. She rides beautifully. Did Peter bring his horses?”
“One,” said Leonore, with a suggestion of reluctance in stating the fact.
“I’ll go and arrange it at once,” said Dorothy, thinking that Peter might be getting desperate.
“Mamma,” said Leonore, “how old Mrs. Rivington has grown!”
“I haven’t noticed it, dear,” said her mother.
Dorothy went up to the pair and said: “Peter, won’t you show Miss Biddle the conservatories! You know,” she explained, “they are very beautiful.”
Peter rose dutifully, but with a very passive look on his face.
“And, Peter,” said Dorothy, dolefully, “will you take me in to supper? I haven’t found a man who’s had the grace to ask me.”330
“We’ll sit at the same table,” said Dorothy to Miss Biddle.
When Peter got into the carriage that evening he was very blue. “I had only one waltz,” he told himself, “and did not really see anything else of her the whole evening.”
“Is that Miss Biddle as clever as people say she is?” asked Mrs. D’Alloi.
“She is a very unusual woman,” said Peter. “I rarely have known a better informed one.” Peter’s tone of voice carried the inference that he hated unusual and informed women, and as this is the case with most men, his voice presumably reflected his true thoughts.
“I should say so,” said Watts. “At our little table she said the brightest things, and told the best stories. That’s a girl as is a girl. I tried to see her afterwards, but found that Peter was taking an Italian lesson of her.”
“What do you mean?” asked Mrs. D’Alloi.
“I have a chap who breakfasts with me three times a week, to talk Italian, which I am trying to learn,” said Peter, “and Dorothy told Miss Biddle, so she offered to talk in it. She has a beautiful accent, and it was very good of her to offer, for I know very little as yet, and don’t think she could have enjoyed it.”
“What do you want with Italian?” asked Mrs. D’Alloi.
“To catch the Italian vote,” said Peter.
“Oh, you sly-boots,” said Watts. Then he turned. “What makes my Dot so silent?” he asked.
“Oh,” said Leonore in weary tones, “I’ve danced too much and I’m very, very tired.”
“Well,” said Watts, “see that you sleep late.”
“I shall be all right to-morrow,” said Leonore, “and I’m going to have an early horseback ride.”
“Peter and I will go too,” said Watts.
“I’m sorry,” said Peter. “I’m to ride with Dorothy and Miss Biddle.”
“Ha, ha,” said Watts. “More Italian lessons, eh?”
Two people looked very cross that evening when they got to their rooms.
Leonore sighed to her maid: “Oh, Marie, I am so tired! Don’t let me be disturbed till it’s nearly lunch.”
And Peter groaned to nobody in particular, “An evening 331 and a ride gone! I tried to make Dorothy understand. It’s too bad of her to be so dense.”
So clearly Dorothy was to blame. Yet the cause of all this trouble fell asleep peacefully, remarking to herself, just before she drifted into dreamland, “Every man in love ought to have a guardian, and I’ll be Peter’s.”
When Peter returned from his ride the next day, he found Leonore reading the papers in the big hall. She gave him a very frigid “good-morning,” yet instantly relaxed a little in telling him there was another long telegram for him on the mantel. She said nothing of his reading the despatch to her, but opened a new sheet of paper, and began to read its columns with much apparent interest. That particular page was devoted to the current prices of “Cotton;” “Coffee;” “Flour;” “Molasses;” “Beans;” “Butter;” “Hogs;” “Naval Stores;” “Ocean Freights,” and a large number of equally kindred and interesting subjects.
Peter took the telegram, but did not read it. Instead he looked down at all of his pretty “friend” not sedulously hidden by the paper. He recognized that his friend had a distinctly “not-at-home” look, but after a moment’s hesitation he remarked, “You don’t expect me to read this alone?”
“Because,” continued Peter, “it’s an answer to those we wrote and sent yesterday, and I shan’t dare reply it without your advice.”
Peter coolly put his hand on the paper and pushed it down till he could see Leonore’s face. When he had done that he found her fairly beaming. She tried to put on a serious look quickly, and looked up at him with it on.
But Peter said, “I caught you,” and laughed. Then 332 Leonore laughed. Then they filled in the space before lunch by translating and answering the telegram.
As soon as that meal was over, Peter said, “Now will you teach me waltzing again?”
“I’m not going to spend time teaching a man to dance, who doesn’t dance.”
“I was nearly wild to dance last night,” said Peter.
“Then why didn’t you?”
“Dorothy asked me to do something.”
“I don’t think much of men who let women control them.”
“I wanted to please Dorothy,” said Peter. “I was as well off talking to one girl as to another. Since you don’t like my dancing, I supposed you would hardly choose to dance again with me, or ropes wouldn’t have held me.”
“I can talk Italian too,” said Leonore, with no apparent connection.
“Will you talk it with me?” said Peter eagerly. “You see, there are a good many Italians in the district now, who, by their ignorance and their not speaking English, are getting into trouble all the time. I want to learn, so as to help them, without calling in an interpreter.” Peter was learning to put his requests on grounds other than his own wishes.
“Yes,” said Leonore, very sweetly, “and I’ll give you another lesson in dancing. How did you enjoy your ride?”
“I like Dorothy,” said Peter, “and I like Miss Biddle. But I didn’t get the ride I wanted.”
He got a very nice look from those slate-colored eyes.
They set a music-box going, and Peter’s instruction began. When it was over, Leonore said:
“You’ve improved wonderfully.”
“Well enough to dance with you?”
“Yes,” said Leonore. “I’ll take pity on you unless you’d rather talk to some other girl.”
Peter only smiled quietly.
“Peter,” said Leonore, later, as he was sipping his tea, “do you think I’m nothing but a foolish society flutterbird?”
“Do you want to know what I think of you?” asked Peter, eagerly.333
“No,” said Leonore hastily. “But do you think of me as nothing but a society girl?”
“Yes,” said Peter, truth speaking in voice and face.
The corners of Leonore’s mouth descended to a woeful degree.
“I think you are a society girl,” continued Peter, “because you are the nicest kind of society.”
Leonore fairly filled the room with her smile. Then she said, “Peter, will you do me a favor?”
“Will you tell Dorothy that I have helped you translate cipher telegrams and write the replies?”
Peter was rather astonished, but said, “Yes.”
But he did it very badly, Leonore thought, for meeting Dorothy the next day at a lawn party, after the mere greetings, he said:
“Dorothy, Miss D’Alloi has been helping me translate and write cipher telegrams.”
Dorothy looked startled at the announcement for a moment. Then she gave a glance at Leonore, who was standing by Peter, visibly holding herself in a very triumphant attitude. Then she burst out into the merriest of laughs, and kept laughing.
“What is it?” asked Peter.
“Such a joke,” gasped Dorothy, “but I can’t tell you.”
As for Leonore, her triumphant manner had fled, and her cheeks were very red. And when some one spoke to Dorothy, and took her attention, Leonore said to Peter very crossly:
“You are so clumsy! Of course I didn’t mean that way.”
Peter sighed internally. “I am stupid, I suppose,” he said to himself. “I tried to do just what she asked, but she’s displeased, and I suppose she won’t be nice for the rest of the day. If it was only law or politics! But women!”
But Leonore didn’t abuse him. She was very kind to him, despite her displeasure. “If Dorothy would only let me alone,” thought Peter, “I should have a glorious time. Why can’t she let me stay with her when she’s in such a nice mood. And why does she insist on my being attentive to her. I don’t care for her. It seems as if she was determined to break up my enjoyment, just as I get 334 her to myself.” Peter mixed his “hers” and “shes” too thoroughly in this sentence to make its import clear. His thoughts are merely reported verbatim, as the easiest way. It certainly indicates that, as with most troubles, there was a woman in it.
Peter said much this same thing to himself quite often during the following week, and always with a groan. Dorothy was continually putting her finger in. Yet it was in the main a happy time to Peter. His friend treated him very nicely for the most part, if very variably. Peter never knew in what mood he should find her. Sometimes he felt that Leonore considered him as the dirt under her little feet. Then again, she could not be too sweet to him. There was an evening—a dinner—at which he sat between Miss Biddle and Leonore, when, it seemed to Peter, Leonore said and looked such nice things, that the millennium had come. Yet the next morning, she told him that: “It was a very dull dinner. I talked to nobody but you.”
Fortunately for Peter, the D’Allois were almost as new an advent in Newport, so Leonore was not yet in the running. But by the time Peter’s first week had sped, he found that men were putting their fingers in, as well as Dorothy. Morning, noon, and night they gathered. Then lunches, teas, drives, yachts, and innumerable other affairs also plunged their fingers in. Peter did not yield to the superior numbers. He went wherever Leonore went. But the other men went also, and understood the ropes far better. He fought on, but a sickening feeling began to creep over him of impending failure. It was soon not merely how Leonore treated him; it was the impossibility of getting her to treat him at all. Even though he was in the same house, it seemed as if there was always some one else calling, or mealing, or taking tea, or playing tennis, or playing billiards, or merely dropping in. And then Leonore took fewer and fewer meals at home, and spent fewer and fewer hours there. One day Peter had to translate those despatches all by himself! When he had a cup of tea now, even with three or four men about, he considered himself lucky. He understood at last what Miss De Voe had meant when she had spoken of the difficulty of seeing enough of a popular girl either to love her or to tell her of it. They prayed for rain in church 335 on Sunday, on account of the drought, and Peter said “Amen” with fervor. Anything to end such fluttering.
At the end of two weeks, Peter said sadly that he must be going.
“Rubbish,” said Watts. “You are to stay for a month.”
“I hope you’ll stay,” said Mrs. D’Alloi.
Peter waited a moment for some one else to speak. Some one else didn’t.
“I think I must,” he said. “It isn’t a matter of my own wishes, but I’m needed in Syracuse.” Peter spoke as if Syracuse was the ultimate of human misery.
“Is it necessary for you to be there?” asked Leonore.
“Not absolutely, but I had better go.”
Later in the day Leonore said, “I’ve decided you are not to go to Syracuse. I shall want you here to explain what they do to me.”
And that cool, insulting speech filled Peter with happiness.
“I’ve decided to stay another week,” he told Mrs. D’Alloi.
Nor could all the appeals over the telegraph move him, though that day and the next the wires to Newport from New York and Syracuse were kept hot, the despatches came so continuously.
Two days after this decision, Peter and Leonore went to a cotillion. Leonore informed him that: “Mamma makes me leave after supper, because she doesn’t like me to stay late, so I miss the nice part.”
“How many waltzes are you going to give me?” asked Peter, with an eye to his one ball-room accomplishment.
“I’ll give you the first,” said Leonore, “and then if you’ll sit near me, I’ll give you a look every time I see a man coming whom I don’t like, and if you are quick and ask me first, I’ll give it to you.”
Peter became absolutely happy. “How glad I am,” he thought, “that I didn’t go to Syracuse! What a shame it is there are other dances than waltzes.”
But after Peter had had two waltzes, he overheard his aged friend of fifteen years say something to a girl that raised him many degrees in his mind. “That’s a very brainy fellow,” said Peter admiringly. “That never occurred to me!”
So he waited till he saw Leonore seated, and then 336 joined her. “Won’t you sit out this dance with me?” he asked.
Leonore looked surprised. “He’s getting very clever,” she thought, never dreaming that Peter’s cleverness, like so many other people’s nowadays, consisted in a pertinent use of quotations. Parrot cleverness, we might term it. Leonore listened to the air which the musicians were beginning, and finding it the Lancers, or dreariest of dances, she made Peter happy by assenting.
“Suppose we go out on the veranda,” said Peter, still quoting.
“Now of what are you going to talk?” said Leonore, when they were ensconced on a big wicker divan, in the soft half light of the Chinese lanterns.
“I want to tell you of something that seems to me about a hundred years ago,” said Peter. “But it concerns myself, and I don’t want to bore you.”
“Try, and if I don’t like it I’ll stop you,” said Leonore, opening up a line of retreat worthy of a German army.
“I don’t know what you’ll think about it,” said Peter, faltering a little. “I suppose I can hardly make you understand it, as it is to me. But I want you to know, because—well—it’s only fair.”
Leonore looked at Peter with a very tender look in her eyes. He could not see it, because Leonore sat so that her face was in shadow. But she could see his expression and when he hesitated, with that drawn look on his face, Leonore said softly:
Peter started. “Yes! You know?”
“Yes,” said Leonore gently. “And that was why I trusted you, without ever having met you, and why I wanted to be friends.”
Peter sighed a sigh of relief. “I’ve been so afraid of it,” he said. “She told you?”
“Yes. That is, Miss De Voe told me first of your having been disappointed, so I asked mamma if she knew the girl, and then mamma told me. I’m glad you spoke of it, for I’ve wanted to ask you something.”
“If that was why you wouldn’t call at first on us?”
“Then why did mamma say you wouldn’t call?” When 337 Peter made no reply, Leonore continued, “I knew—that is I felt, there was something wrong. What was it?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Yes,” said Leonore, very positively.
Peter hesitated. “She thought badly of me about something, till I apologized to her.”
“Now she invites me to Grey-Court.”
“Then it wasn’t anything?”
“She had misjudged me.”
“Now, tell me what it was.”
“Miss D’Alloi, I know you do not mean it,” said Peter, “but you are paining me greatly. There is nothing in my whole life so bitter to me as what you ask me to tell.”
“Oh, Peter,” said Leonore, “I beg your pardon. I was very thoughtless!”
“And you don’t think the worse of me, because I loved your mother, and because I can’t tell you?” said Peter, in a dangerous tone.
“No,” said Leonore, but she rose. “Now we’ll go back to the dancing.”
“One moment,” begged Peter.
But Leonore was already in the full light blazing from the room. “Are you coming?” she said.
“May I have this waltz?” said Peter, trying to get half a loaf.
“No,” said Leonore, “it’s promised to Mr. Rutgers.”
Just then mine host came up and said: “I congratulate you, Mr. Stirling.”
Peter wanted to kick him, but he didn’t.
“I congratulate you,” said another man.
“On what?” Peter saw no cause for congratulation, only for sorrow.
“Oh, Peter,” said Dorothy, sailing up at this junction, “how nice! And such a surprise!”
“Why, haven’t you heard?” said mine host.
“Oh,” cried Leonore, “is it about the Convention?”
“Yes,” said a man. “Manners is in from the club and tells us that a despatch says your name was sprung on the Convention at nine, and that you were chosen by acclamation without a single ballot being taken. Every one’s thunderstruck.”338
“Oh, no,” said a small voice, fairly bristling with importance, “I knew all about it.”
Every one laughed at this, except Dorothy. Dorothy had a suspicion that it was true. But she didn’t say so. She sniffed visibly, and said, “Nonsense. As if Peter would tell you secrets. Come, Peter, I want to take you over and let Miss Biddle congratulate you.”
“Peter has just asked me for this waltz,” said Leonore. “Oh, Mr. Rutgers, I’m so sorry. I’m going to dance this with Mr. Stirling.”
And then Peter felt he was to be congratulated.
“I shan’t marry him myself,” thought Leonore, “but I won’t have my friends married off right under my nose, and you can try all you want, Mrs. Rivington.”
So Peter’s guardianship was apparently bearing fruit. Yet man to this day holds woman to be the weaker vessel!
The next morning Peter found that his prayer for a rainy day had been answered, and came down to breakfast in the pleasantest of humors.
“See how joyful his future Excellency looks already,” said Watts, promptly recalling Peter to the serious part of life. And fortunately too, for from that moment, the time which he had hoped to have alone (if two ever can be alone), began to be pilfered from him. Hardly were they seated at breakfast when Pell dropped in to congratulate him, and from that moment, despite the rain, every friend in Newport seemed to feel it a bounden duty to do the same, and to stay the longer because of the rain. Peter wished he had set the time for the Convention two days earlier or two days later.
“I hope you won’t ask any of these people to luncheon,” Peter said in an aside to Mrs. D’Alloi.
“Why?” he was asked.
Peter looked puzzled, and finally said weakly, “I—I have a good deal to do.”
And then as proper punishment for his misdemeanor, 339 the footman announced Dorothy and Miss Biddle, Ray and Ogden. Dorothy sailed into the room with the announcement:
“We’ve all come to luncheon if we are asked.”
“Oh, Peter,” said Ray, when they were seated at the table. “Have you seen this morning’s ‘Voice of Labor?’ No? Good gracious, they’ve raked up that old verse in Watts’s class-song and print it as proof that you were a drunkard in your college days. Here it is. Set to music and headed ‘Saloon Pete.’”
“Look here, Ray, we must write to the ‘Voice’ and tell them the truth,” said Watts.
“Never write to the paper that tells the lie,” said Peter, laughing. “Always write to the one that doesn’t. Then it will go for the other paper. But I wouldn’t take the trouble in this case. The opposition would merely say that: ‘Of course Mr. Stirling’s intimate friends are bound to give such a construction to the song, and the attempt does them credit.’”
“But why don’t you deny it, Peter?” asked Leonore anxiously. “It’s awful to think of people saying you are a drunkard!”
“If I denied the untruths told of me I should have my hands full. Nobody believes such things, except the people who are ready to believe them. They wouldn’t believe otherwise, no matter what I said. If you think a man is a scoundrel, you are not going to believe his word.”
“But, Peter,” said Mrs. D’Alloi, “you ought to deny them for the future. After you and your friends are dead, people will go back to the newspapers, and see what they said about you, and then will misjudge you.”
“I am not afraid of that. I shall hardly be of enough account to figure in history, or if I become so, such attacks will not hurt me. Why, Washington was charged by the papers of his day, with being a murderer, a traitor, and a tyrant. And Lincoln was vilified to an extent which seems impossible now. The greater the man, the greater the abuse.”
“Why do the papers call you ‘Pete’?” asked Leonore, anxiously. “I rather like Peter, but Pete is dreadful!”
“To prove that I am unfit to be governor.”
“Are you serious?” asked Miss Biddle.340
“Yes. From their point of view, the dropping of the ‘r’ ought to convince voters that I am nothing but a tough and heeler.”
“But it won’t!” declared Leonore, speaking from vast experience.
“I don’t think it will. Though if they keep at it, and really convince the voters who can be convinced by such arguments, that I am what they call me, they’ll elect me.”
“How?” asked Mrs. D’Alloi.
“Because intelligent people are not led astray but outraged by such arguments, and ignorant people, who can be made to believe all that is said of me, by such means, will think I am just the man for whom they want to vote.”
“How is it possible that the papers can treat you so?” said Watts. “The editors know you?”
“Oh, yes. I have met nearly every man connected with the New York press.”
“They must know better?”
“Yes. But for partisan purposes they must say what they do.”
“Then they are deliberately lying to deceive the people?” asked Miss Biddle.
“It’s rather a puzzling matter in ethics,” said Peter. “I don’t think that the newspaper fraternity have any lower standard of morals, than men in other professions. In the main they stand for everything that is admirable, so long as it’s non-partisan, and some of the men who to-day are now writing me down, have aided me in the past more than I can say, and are at this moment my personal friends.”
“I cannot quite call it that. When the greatest and most honorable statesmen of Europe and America will lie and cheat each other to their utmost extent, under cover of the term ‘diplomacy,’ and get rewarded and praised by their respective countries for their knavery, provided it is successful, I think ‘dishonest’ is a strong word for a merely partisan press. Certain it is, that the partisan press would end to-morrow, but for the narrowness and meanness of readers.”
“Which they cause,” said Ogden.341
“Just as much,” said Peter, “as the saloon makes a drunkard, food causes hunger, and books make readers.”
“But, at least, you must acknowledge they’ve got you, when they say you are the saloon-keepers’ friend,” laughed Watts.
“Yes. I am that—but only for votes, you understand.”
“Mr. Stirling, why do you like saloons?” asked Miss Biddle.
“I don’t like saloons. My wish is to see the day come, when such a gross form of physical enjoyment as tippling shall cease entirely. But till that day comes, till humanity has taught itself and raised itself, I want to see fair play.”
“What do you mean?”
“The rich man can lay in a stock of wine, or go to a hotel or club, and get what he wants at any time and all times. It is not fair, because a man’s pockets are filled with nickels instead of eagles, that he shall not have the same right. For that reason, I have always spoken for the saloon, and even for Sunday openings. You know what I think myself of that day. You know what I think of wine. But if I claim the right to spend Sunday in my way and not to drink, I must concede an equal right to others to do as they please. If a man wants to drink at any time, what right have I to say he shall not?”
“But the poor man goes and makes a beast of himself,” said Watts.
“There is as much champagne drunkenness as whisky drunkenness, in proportion to the number of drinkers of each. But a man who drinks champagne, is sent home in a cab, and is put to bed, while the man who can’t afford that kind of drink, and is made mad by poisoned and doctored whisky, doctored and poisoned because of our heavy tax on it, must take his chance of arrest. That is the shameful thing about all our so-called temperance legislation. It’s based on an unfair interference with personal liberty, and always discriminates in favor of the man with money. If the rich man has his club, let the poor man have his saloon.”
“How much better, though,” said Mrs. D’Alloi, “to stop the sale of wine everywhere.”
“That is neither possible nor right. You can’t strengthen humanity by tying its hands. It must be left free to 342 become strong. I have thought much about the problem, and I see only one fair and practical means of bettering our present condition. But boss as the papers say I am, I am not strong enough to force it.”
“What is that, Peter?” asked Dorothy.
“So long as a man drinks in such a way as not to interfere with another person’s liberty we have no right to check him. But the moment he does, the public has a right to protect itself and his family, by restraining him, as it does thieves, or murderers, or wife-beaters. My idea is, that a license, something perhaps like our dog-license, shall be given to every one who applies for it. That before a man can have a drink, this license must be shown. Then if a man is before the police court a second time, for drunkenness, or if his family petition for it, his license shall be cancelled, and a heavy fine incurred by any one who gives or sells that man a drink thereafter.”
“Oh,” laughed Watts, “you are heavenly! Just imagine a host saying to his dinner-party, ‘Friends, before this wine is passed, will you please show me your drink licenses.’”
“You may laugh, Watts,” said Peter, “but such a request would have saved many a young fellow from ruin, and society from an occasional terrible occurrence which even my little social experience has shown me. And it would soon be so much a matter of course, that it would be no more than showing your ticket, to prove yourself entitled to a ride. It solves the problem of drunkenness. And that is all we can hope to do, till humanity is——” Then Peter, who had been looking at Leonore, smiled.
“Is what?” asked Leonore.
“The rest is in cipher,” said Peter, but if he had finished his sentence, it would have been, “half as perfect as you are.”
After this last relay of callers had departed, it began to pour so nobly that Peter became hopeful once more. He wandered about, making a room-to-room canvass, in search of happiness, and to his surprise saw happiness descending the broad stair incased in an English shooting-cap, and a mackintosh.
“You are not going out in such weather?” demanded Peter.343
“Yes. I’ve had no exercise to-day, and I’m going for a walk.”
“It’s pouring torrents,” expostulated Peter.
“I know it.”
“But you’ll get wet through.”
“I hope so. I like to walk in the rain.”
Peter put his hand on the front door-handle, to which this conversation had carried them. “You mustn’t go out,” he said.
“I’m going,” said Leonore, made all the more eager now that it was forbidden.
“Please don’t,” said Peter weakening.
“Let me pass,” said Leonore decisively.
“Does your father know?”
“Of course not.”
“Then you should ask him. It’s no weather for you to walk in.”
“I shan’t ask him.”
“Then I shall,” and Peter went hurriedly to the library.
“Watts,” he said, “it’s raining torrents and Leonore insists on going to walk. Please say she is not to go.”
“All right,” said Watts, not looking up from his book.
That was enough. Peter sped back to the hall. It was empty. He put his head into the two rooms. Empty. He looked out of the front door. There in the distance, was that prettiest of figures, distinguishable even when buried in a mackintosh. Peter caught up a cap from the hall rack, and set out in pursuit. Leonore was walking rapidly, but it did not take Peter many seconds to come up with her.
“Your father says you are not to go out.”
“I can’t help it, since I am out,” said Leonore, sensibly.
“But you should come back at once.”
“I don’t care to,” said Leonore.
“Aren’t you going to obey him?”
“He never would have cared if you hadn’t interfered. It’s your orders, not his. So I intend to have my walk.”
“You are to come back,” said Peter.
Leonore stopped and faced him. “This is getting interesting,” she thought. “We’ll see who can be the most obstinate.” Aloud she said, “Who says so?”
“And I say I shan’t.”344
Peter felt his helplessness. “Please come back.”
Leonore laughed internally. “I don’t choose to.”
“Then I shall have to make you.”
“How?” asked Leonore.
That was a conundrum, indeed. If it had been a knotty law point, Peter would have been less nonplussed by it.
Leonore felt her advantage, and used it shamefully. She knew that Peter was helpless, and she said, “How?” again, laughing at him.
Peter groped blindly. “I shall make you,” he said again, for lack of anything better.
“Perhaps,” said Leonore, helping him out, though with a most insulting laugh in her voice and face, “you will get a string and lead me?”
Peter looked the picture of helplessness.
“Or you might run over to the Goelets’, and borrow their baby’s perambulator,” continued that segment of the Spanish Inquisition. If ever an irritating, aggravating, crazing, exasperating, provoking, fretting, enraging, “I dare you,” was uttered, it was in Leonore’s manner as she said this.
Peter looked about hopelessly.
“Please hurry up and say how,” Leonore continued, “for I want to get down to the cliff walk. It’s very wet here on the grass. Perhaps you will carry me back? You evidently think me a baby in arms.” “He’s such fun to tease,” was her thought, “and you can say just what you please without being afraid of his doing anything ungentlemanly.” Many a woman dares to torture a man for just the same reason.
She was quite right as to Peter. He had recognized that he was powerless; that he could not use force. He looked the picture of utter indecision. But as Leonore spoke, a sudden change came over his face and figure. “Leonore had said it was wet on the grass! Leonore would wet her feet! Leonore would take cold! Leonore would have pneumonia! Leonore would die!” It was a shameful chain of argument for a light of the bar, logic unworthy of a school-boy. But it was fearfully real to Peter for the moment, and he said to himself: “I must do it, even if she never forgives me.” Then the indecision left his face, and he took a step forward.
Leonore caught her breath with a gasp. The “dare-you” 345 look, suddenly changed to a very frightened one, and turning, she sped across the lawn, at her utmost speed. She had read something in Peter’s face, and felt that she must fly, however ignominious such retreat might be.
Peter followed, but though he could have caught her in ten seconds, he did not. As on a former occasion, he thought: “I’ll let her get out of breath. Then she will not be so angry. At least she won’t be able to talk. How gracefully she runs!”
Presently, as soon as Leonore became convinced that Peter did not intend to catch her, she slowed down to a walk. Peter at once joined her.
“Now,” he said, “will you come back?”
Leonore was trying to conceal her panting. She was not going to acknowledge that she was out of breath since Peter wasn’t. So she made no reply.
“You are walking in the wrong direction,” said Peter, laying his hand on her arm. Then, since she made no reply, his hand encircled the arm, and he stopped. Leonore took two more steps. Then she too, curiously enough, halted.
“Stop holding me,” she said, not entirely without betraying her breathlessness.
“You are to come back,” said Peter.
He got an awful look from those eyes. They were perfectly blazing with indignation.
“Stop holding me,” she repeated.
It was a fearful moment to Peter. But he said, with an appeal in his voice, “You know I suffer in offending you. I did not believe that I could touch you without your consent. But your health is dearer to me than your anger is terrible. You must come home.”
So Leonore, realizing that helplessness in a man exists only by his own volition, turned, and began walking towards the now distant house. Peter at once released her arm, and walked beside her. Not a glimpse did he get of those dear eyes. Leonore was looking directly before her, and a grenadier could not have held himself straighter. If insulted dignity was to be acted in pantomime, the actor could have obtained some valuable points from that walk.
Peter walked along, feeling semi-criminal, yet semi-happy. He had saved Leonore from an early grave, and 346 that was worth while doing. Then, too, he could look at her, and that was worth while doing. The run had made Leonore’s cheeks blaze, as Peter’s touch had made her eyes. The rain had condensed in little diamonds on her stray curls, and on those long lashes. It seemed to Peter that he had never seen her lovelier. The longing to take her in his arms was so strong, that he almost wished she had refused to return. But then Peter knew that she was deeply offended, and that unless he could make his peace, he was out of favor for a day at least. That meant a very terrible thing to him. A whole day of neglect; a whole day with no glimpse of those eyes; a whole day without a smile from those lips!
Peter had too much sense to say anything at once. He did not speak till they were back in the hall. Leonore had planned to go straight to her room, but Peter was rather clever, since she preceded him, in getting to the foot of the staircase so rapidly that he was there first.
This secured him his moment for speech. He said simply: “Miss D’Alloi, I ask your forgiveness for offending you.”
Leonore had her choice of standing silent, of pushing Peter, or of speaking. If she had done the first, or the second, her position was absolutely impregnable. But a woman’s instinct is to seek defence or attack in words rather than actions. So she said: “You had no right, and you were very rude.” She did not look at Peter.
“It pained me far more than it could pain you.”
Leonore liked Peter’s tone of voice, but she saw that her position was weakening. She said, “Let me by, please.”
Peter with reluctance gave her just room to pass. He felt that he had not said half of what he wished, but he did not dare to offend again.
As it turned out, it was the best thing he could do, for the moment Leonore had passed him, she exclaimed, “Why! Your coat’s wringing wet.”
“That’s nothing,” said Peter, turning to the voice.
He found those big dark eyes at last looking at him, and looking at him without anger. Leonore had stopped on the step above him.
“That shows how foolish you were to go out in the rain,” said Leonore.347
“Yes,” said Peter, venturing on the smallest of smiles.
Leonore promptly explained the charge in Peter’s “yes.” “It’s very different,” he was told. “I put on tips and a mackintosh. You didn’t put on anything. And it was pouring torrents.”
“But I’m tough,” said Peter. “A wetting won’t hurt me.”
“So am I,” said Leonore. “I’ve tramped for hours in the Orkneys, and Sweden and Norway, when it was raining. But then I was dressed for it. Go and put on dry clothes at once.”
That was what Peter had intended to do, but he saw his advantage. “It isn’t worth while,” he said.
“I never heard of such obstinacy,” said Leonore. “I pity your wife, if you ever get one. She’ll have an awful time of it.”
Peter did not like that view at all. But he did not forego at once his hope of getting some compensation out of Leonore’s wish. So he said: “It’s too much trouble to change my clothes, but a cup of your tea may keep me from taking cold.” It was nearly five o’clock, and Peter was longing for that customary half-hour at the tea-table.
Leonore said in the kindness of her heart, “When you’ve changed your clothes, I’ll make you a cup.” Then she went upstairs. When she had reached the second floor, she turned, and leaning over the balustrade of the gallery, said, “Peter.”
“Yes,” said Peter, surveying her from below, and thinking how lovely she was.
Leonore was smiling saucily. She said in triumph: “I had my way. I did get my walk.” Then she went to her room, her head having a very victorious carriage.
Peter went to his room, smiling. “It’s a good lawyer,” he told his mirror, “who compromises just enough to make both sides think they’ve won.” Peter changed his clothes with the utmost despatch, and hurried downstairs to the tea-table. She was not there! Peter waited nearly five minutes quietly, with a patience almost colossal. Then he began to get restless. He wandered about the room for another two minutes. Then he became woe-begone. “I thought she had forgiven me,” he remarked.348
“What?” said the loveliest of visions from the door way. Most women would have told one that the beauty lay in the Parisian tea-gown. Peter knew better. Still, he was almost willing to forgive Leonore the delay caused by the donning of it, the result was so eminently satisfactory. “And it will take her as long to make tea as usual, anyway,” he thought.
“Hadn’t I better put some rum into it to-day?” he was asked, presently.
“You may put anything in it, except the sugar tongs,” said Peter, taking possession of that article.
“But then I can’t put any sugar in.”
“Fingers were made before forks,” suggested Peter. “You don’t want to give me anything bitter, do you?”
“You deserve it,” said Leonore, but she took the lumps in her fingers, and dropped them in the cup.
“I can’t wait five years!” thought Peter. “I can’t wait five months—weeks—days—hours—minutes—sec——”
Watts saved Peter from himself by coming in here. “Hello! Here you are. How cosy you look. I tried to find you both a few minutes ago, but thought you must have gone to walk after all. Here, Peter. Here’s a special delivery letter, for which I receipted a while ago. Give me a cup, Dot.”
Peter said, “Excuse me,” and, after a glance at the envelope, opened the letter with a sinking sensation. He read it quickly, and then reached over and rang the bell. When the footman came, Peter rose and said something in a low voice to him. Then he came back to his tea.
“Nothing wrong, I hope,” asked Watts.
“Yes. At least I am called back to New York,” said Peter gloomily.
“Bother,” said Watts. “When?”
“I shall leave by the night express.”
“Nonsense. If it was so important as that, they’d have wired you.”
“It isn’t a matter which could be telegraphed.”
“What is it, Peter?” said Leonore, putting her finger in.
So Leonore did not ask again. But when the tea was finished, and all had started upstairs, Leonore said, “Peter,” on the landing. When Peter stopped, she whispered, “Why are you going to New York?”349
“I can’t tell you,” said Peter.
“Yes, you can, now that papa isn’t here.”
“Yes. I know it’s politics, and you are to tell me.”
“It isn’t politics.”
“Then what is it?”
“You really want to know?”
“It’s something really confidential.”
Leonore gave Peter one look of insulted dignity, and went upstairs to her room. “He’s different,” she said. “He isn’t a bit afraid of displeasing me any more. I don’t know what to do with him.”
Peter found Jenifer waiting. “Only pack the grip,” he said. “I hope to come back in a few days.” But he looked very glum, and the glumness stuck to him even after he had dressed and had descended to dinner.
“I am leaving my traps,” he told Mrs. D’Alloi. “For I hope to be back next week.”
“Next week!” cried Watts. “What has been sprung on you that will take you that long?”
“It doesn’t depend on me, unfortunately,” said Peter, “or I wouldn’t go.”
When the carriage was announced later, Peter shook hands with Watts and Mrs. D’Alloi, and then held out his hand to Leonore. “Good-bye,” he said.
“Are you going to tell me why you are going?” said that young lady, with her hands behind her, in the prettiest of poses.
“Then I shan’t say good-bye.”
“I cannot tell you,” said Peter, quietly; “please say good-bye.”
That refusal caused Peter gloom all the way to the station. But if Leonore could have looked into the future she would have seen in her refusal the bitterest sorrow she had ever known.350
As soon as Peter was on the express he went into the smoking cabin of the sleeping-car, and lighting a cigar, took out a letter and read it over again. While he was still reading it, a voice exclaimed:
“Good! Here’s Peter. So you are in it too?” Ogden continued, as Ray and he took seats by Peter.
“I always did despise Anarchists and Nihilists,” sighed Ray, “since I was trapped into reading some of those maudlin Russian novels, with their eighth-century ideas grafted on nineteenth-century conditions. Baby brains stimulated with whisky.”
Ogden turned to Peter. “How serious is it likely to be, Colonel?”
“I haven’t any idea,” replied Peter. “The staff is of the opposite party now, and I only have a formal notification to hold my regiment in readiness. If it’s nothing but this Socialist and Anarchist talk, there is no real danger in it.”
“This country can never be in danger from discontent with our government, for it’s what the majority want it to be, or if not, it is made so at the next election. That is the beauty of a Democracy. The majority always supports the government. We fight our revolutions with ballots, not with bullets.”
“Yet Most says that blood must be shed.”
“I suppose,” said Peter, “that he has just reached the stage of intelligence which doctors had attained when they bled people to make them strong.”
“What can you do with such a fellow’s talk? You can’t argue with him,” said Ogden.
“Talk!” muttered Ray. “Don’t dignify it with that word. Gibberish!”
“No,” said Peter. “It’s too earnest to deserve that name. The man can’t express himself, but way down 351 underneath all the absurd talk of ‘natural monopolies,’ and of ‘the oppression of the money-power,’ there lies a germ of truth, without which none of their theories would have a corporal’s guard of honest believers. We have been working towards that truth in an unsystematic way for centuries, but we are a long way from it, and till we solve how to realize it, we shall have ineffectual discontent.”
“But that makes the whole thing only the more arrant nonsense,” grumbled Ray. “It’s foolish enough in all conscience sake, if they had a chance of success, but when they haven’t any, why the deuce do they want to drag us poor beggars back from Newport?”
“Why did Rome insist on burning while Nero fiddled?” queried Peter smiling. “We should hear nothing of socialism and anarchy if Newport and the like had no existence.”
“I believe at heart you’re a Socialist yourself,” cried Ray.
“No danger,” laughed Ogden; “his bank account is too large. No man with Peter’s money is ever a Socialist.”
“You forget,” said Ray, “that Peter is always an exception to the rule.”
“No,” said Peter. “I disagree with Socialists entirely both in aims and methods, but I sympathize with them, for I see the fearful problems which they think their theories will solve, and though I know how mistaken they are, I cannot blame them, when I see how seriously and honestly they believe in, and how unselfishly they work for, their ideas. Don’t blame the Socialists, for they are quite as conscientious as were the Abolitionists. Blame it to the lack of scientific education, which leaves these people to believe that theories containing a half truth are so wholly true that they mean the regeneration and salvation of society.”
“I suppose you are right,” sighed Ray, “for you’ve thought of it, and I haven’t. I don’t want to, either. I thank the Lord I’m not as serious as you, Graveyard. But if you want to air your theory, I’ll lend you my ears, for friendship’s sake. I don’t promise to remember.”
Peter puffed his cigar for a moment. “I sometimes conclude,” he said, “that the people who are most in need of education, are the college-bred men. They seem to 352 think they’ve done all the work and study of their life in their four years, and so can dissipate mentally ever after.” But Peter smiled as he said this and continued, more seriously: “Society and personal freedom are only possible in conjunction, when law or public opinion interferes to the degree of repressing all individual acts that interfere with the freedom of others; thus securing the greatest individual freedom to all. So far as physical force is concerned, we have pretty well realized this condition. Because a man is strong he can no longer take advantage of the weak. But strength is not limited to muscle. To protect the weak mind from the strong mind is an equal duty, and a far more difficult task. So far we have only partially succeeded. In this difficulty lies the whole problem. Socialism, so far as it attempts to repress individualism, and reduce mankind to an evenness opposed to all natural laws, is suicidal of the best in favor of mediocrity. But so far as it attempts to protect that mediocrity and weakness from the superior minds of the best, it is only in line with the laws which protect us from murder and robbery. You can’t expect men of the Most variety, however, to draw such distinctions.”
“I do wish they would settle it, without troubling me,” groaned Ray. “Lispenard’s right. A man’s a fool who votes, or serves on a jury, or joins a regiment. What’s the good of being a good citizen, when the other fellow won’t be? I’m sick of being good for nothing.”
“Have you just discovered that?” laughed Ogden. “You’re progressing.”
“No,” said Ray. “I am good for one thing. Like a good many other men I furnish the raw material on which the dearest of women may lavish her affection. Heigh-ho! I wish I was before the fire with her now. It’s rather rough to have visits to one’s wife cut short in this way.”
Peter rose. “I am going to get some sleep, for we don’t know what’s before us, and may not have much after to-night. But, Ray, there’s a harder thing than leaving one’s wife at such a time.”
“What’s that, Peter?” asked Ray, looking at Peter with surprise.
“To know that there is no one to whom your going or return really matters.” Peter passed out of the cabin.353
“By George!” said Ray, “if it wasn’t Peter, I’d have sworn there was salt water in his eyes.”
“Anneke has always insisted that he was lonely. I wonder if she’s right?” Ogden queried.
“If he is, why the deuce does he get off in those solitary quarters of his?”
“Ray,” said Ogden, “I have a sovereign contempt for a man who answers one question with another.”
Peter reached the city at six the next morning, and, despite the hour, began his work at once. He made a number of calls in the district, holding whispered dialogues with men; who, as soon as Peter was gone, hurried about and held similar conversations with other men; who promptly went and did the same to still others. While they were doing this, Peter drove uptown, and went into Dickel’s riding academy. As he passed through the office, a man came out.
“Ah, Mr. Stirling. Good-morning.”
“Good-morning, Mr. Byrnes,” said Peter. “How serious is it likely to be?”
“We can’t say yet. But the force has all it can do now to handle the Anarchists and unemployed, and if this strike takes place we shall need you.”
Peter passed into another room where were eight men.
“Good-morning, Colonel,” said one. “You are prompt.”
“What is the trouble?”
“The Central has decided to make a general reduction. They put it in force at noon to-day, and are so certain that the men will go out, that they’ve six hundred new hands ready somewhere to put right in.”
“Byrnes tells me he has all he can do.”
“Yes. We’ve obtained the governor’s consent to embody eight regiments. It isn’t only the strike that’s serious, but this parade of the unemployed to-morrow, and the meeting which the Anarchists have called in the City Hall. Byrnes reports a very ugly feeling, and buying of arms.”
“It’s rather rough on you, Stirling,” spoke up a man, “to have it come while you are a nominee.”
Peter smiled, and passed into the room beyond. “Good-morning, General Canfield,” he said. “I have taken the necessary steps to embody my regiment. Are there any further orders?”354
“If we need you, we shall put you at the Central Station,” the officer replied; “so, if you do not know the lay of the land, you had better familiarize yourself at once.”
“General Canfield,” said Peter, “my regiment has probably more sympathizers with the strikers than has any other in the city. It could not be put in a worse place.”
“Are you objecting to orders?” said the man, in a sharp decisive voice.
“No,” replied Peter. “I am stating a fact, in hopes that it may prevent trouble.”
The man and Peter looked each other in the eye.
“You have your orders,” said the man, but he didn’t look pleased or proud.
Peter turned and left the room, looking very grave. He took his cab and went to his quarters. He ate a hurried breakfast, and then went down into the streets. They seemed peaceably active as he walked through them. A small boy was calling an extra, but it was in reference to the arrival of a much-expected racing-yacht. There was nothing to show that a great business depression rested with crushing weight on the city, and especially on the poor; that anarchy was lifting its head, and from hungering for bread was coming to hunger for blood and blaze; that capital and labor were preparing to lock arms in a struggle which perhaps meant death and destruction.
The armory door was opened only wide enough to let a man squeeze through, and was guarded by a keeper. Peter passed in, however, without question, and heard a hum of voices which showed that if anarchy was gathering so too was order. Peter called his officers together, and gave a few orders. Then he turned and whispered for a moment with Dennis.
“They don’t put us there, sir!” exclaimed Dennis.
“Are they mad?”
“They’ve given us the worst job, not merely as a job, but especially for the regiment. Perhaps they won’t mind if things do go wrong.”
“What will people say of me on November fourth, if my regiment flunks on September thirtieth?”
“Arrah musha dillah!” cried Dennis. “An’ is that it?”355
“I’m afraid so. Will the men stand by me?”
“Oi’ll make them. Yez see,” shouted Dennis, “Oi’ll tell the b’ys they are tryin’ to put yez in a hole, an’ they’ll stan’ by yez, no matter what yez are told to do.”
As quickly as possible Peter put on his fatigue uniform. When he came out, it was to find that the rank and file had done the same, and were now standing in groups about the floor. A moment later they were lined up.
Peter stepped forward and said in a clear, ringing voice: “Before the roll is called I wish to say a word. We may receive orders any moment to take possession of the buildings and switches at the Central Station, to protect the property and operators of that road. This will be hard to some of you, who believe the strikers are right. But we have nothing to do with that. We have taken our oath to preserve order and law, and we are interested in having it done, far more than is the capitalist, for he can buy protection, whether laws are enforced or not, while the laboring man cannot. But if any man here is not prepared to support the State in its duty to protect the life and property of all, by an enforcement of the laws, I wish to know it now.”
Peter stood a moment waiting, and then said, “Thank you, men.”
The roll-call was made, and Peter sent off a line to headquarters, stating that his regiment, with only eighteen reported “missing” was mustered and ready for further orders. Then the regiment broke ranks, and waited.
Just as two o’clock struck a despatch was handed Peter. A moment later came the rap of the drum, and the men rose from the floor and fell in. A few sharp, quick words were passed from mouth to mouth. Guns rose to the shoulders with a click and a movement almost mechanical. The regiment swung from a long straight line into companies, the door rolled open, and without a sound, except the monotonous pound of the regular tread, the regiment passed into the street. At the corner they turned sharply, and marched up a side street, so narrow that the ranks had to break their lines to get within the curbs. So without sound of drum or music they passed through street after street. A regiment is thrilling when it parades to music: it is more so when it marches in silence.356
Presently it passed into a long tunnel, where the footfall echoed in a startling way. But as it neared the other end, a more startling sound could be heard. It was a low murmur, as of many voices, and of voices that were not pleasant. Peter’s wisdom in availing himself of the protection and secrecy of the tunnel as an approach became obvious.
A moment later, as the regiment debouched from the tunnel’s mouth, the scene broke upon them. A vast crowd filled Fourth Avenue and Forty-second Street. Filled even the cut of the entrance to the tunnel. An angry crowd, judging from the sounds.
A sharp order passed down the ranks, and the many broad lines melted into a long thin one again, even as the regiment went forward. It was greeted with yells, and bottles and bricks were hurled from above it, but the appearance of the regiment had taken the men too much by surprise for them to do more. The head entered the mob, and seemed to disappear. More and more of the regiment was swallowed up. Finally, except to those who could trace the bright glint of the rifle-barrels, it seemed to have been submerged. Then even the rifles disappeared. The regiment had passed through the crowd, and was within the station. Peter breathed a sigh of relief. To march up Fifth Avenue, with empty guns, in a parade, between ten thousand admiring spectators is one thing. To march between ten thousand angry strikers and their sympathizers, with ball cartridges in the rifles, is quite another. It is all the difference between smoking a cigar after dinner, and smoking one in a powder magazine.
The regiment’s task had only just begun, however. Peter had orders to clear the streets about the station. After a consultation with the police captain, the companies were told off, and filing out of the various doors, they began work. Peter had planned his debouchments so as to split the mob into sections, knowing that each fragment pushed back rendered the remainder less formidable. First a sally was made from the terminal station, and after two lines of troops had been thrown across Forty-second Street, the second was ordered to advance. Thus a great tongue of the mob, which stretched towards Third Avenue, was pressed back, almost to that street, and held there, without a quarter of the mob knowing that anything 357 was being done. Then a similar operation was repeated on Forty-third Street and Forty-fourth Street, and possession was taken of Madison Avenue. Another wedge was driven into the mob and a section pushed along Forty-second, nearly to Fifth Avenue. Then what was left of the mob was pushed back from the front of the building down Park Avenue. Again Peter breathed more freely.
“I think the worst is done,” he told his officers. “Fortunately the crowd did not expect us, and was not prepared to resist. If you can once split a mob, so that it has no centre, and can’t get together again, except by going round the block, you’ve taken the heart out of it.”
As he said this a soldier came up, and saluting, said: “Captain Moriarty orders me to inform you that a committee of the strikers ask to see you, Colonel.”
Peter followed the messenger. He found a couple of sentries marking a line. On one side of this line sat or reclined Company D. and eight policemen. On the other stood a group of a dozen men, and back of them, the crowd.
Peter passed the sentry line, and went up to the group. Three were the committee. The rest were the ubiquitous reporters. From the newspaper report of one of the latter we quote the rest:
“You wish to see me?” asked Colonel Stirling.
“Yes, Colonel,” said Chief Potter. “We are here to remonstrate with you.”
“We’ve done nothing yet,” said Doggett, “and till we had, the troops oughtn’t to have been called in.”
“And now people say that the scabs are to be given a regimental escort to the depot, and will go to work at eight.”
“We’ve been quiet till now,” growled a man in the crowd surlily, “but we won’t stand the militia protecting the scabs and rats.”
“Are you going to fight for the capitalist?” ask Kurfeldt, when Colonel Stirling stood silent.
“I am fighting no man’s battle, Kurfeldt,” replied Colonel Stirling. “I am obeying orders.”
The committee began to look anxious.
“You’re no friend of the poor man, and you needn’t pose any more,” shouted one of the crowd.
“Shut your mouth,” said Kurfeldt to the crowd. “Colonel Stirling,” he continued, “we 358 know you’re our friend. But you can’t stay so if you fight labor. Take your choice. Be the rich man’s servant, or our friend.”
“I know neither rich man nor poor man in this,” Colonel Stirling said. “I know only the law.”
“You’ll let the scabs go on?”
“I know no such class. If I find any man doing what the law allows him to do, I shall not interfere. But I shall preserve order.”
“Will you order your men to fire on us?”
“If you break the laws.”
“Do it at your peril,” cried Potter angrily. “For every shot your regiment fires, you’ll lose a thousand votes on election day.”
Colonel Stirling turned on him, his face blazing with scorn. “Votes,” he cried. “Do you think I would weigh votes at such a time? There is no sacrifice I would not make, rather than give the order that ends a human life; and you think that paper ballots can influence my action? Votes compared to men’s lives!”
“Oh,” cried Doggett, “don’t come the heavy nobility racket on us. We are here for business. Votes is votes, and you needn’t pretend you don’t think so.”
Colonel Stirling was silent for a moment. Then he said calmly: “I am here to do my duty, not to win votes. There are not votes enough in this country to make me do more or less.”
“Hear him talk,” jeered one of the crowd, “and he touting round the saloons to get votes.”
The crowd jeered and hissed unpleasantly.
“Come, Colonel,” said Kurfeldt, “we know you’re after votes this year, and know too much to drive them away. You ain’t goin’ to lose fifty thousand votes, helpin’ scabs to take the bread away from us, only to see you and your party licked.”
“No,” shouted a man in the crowd. “You don’t dare monkey with votes!”
Colonel Stirling turned and faced the crowd. “Do you want to know how much I care for votes,” he called, his head reared in the air.
“Speak up loud, sonny,” shouted a man far back in the mass, “we all want to hear.”
Colonel Stirling’s voice rang quite clear enough, “Votes be damned!” he said, and turning on his heel, strode back past the sentries. And the strikers knew the fate of their attempt to keep out the scabs. Colonel Stirling’s “damn” had damned the strike as well as the votes.
Dead silence fell on the committee and crowd. Even Company D. looked astounded. Finally, however, one of the committee said, “There’s no good wasting time here.” Then a reporter said to a confrère, “What a stunning headline that will make?” Then the Captain of Company D. got his mouth closed enough to exclaim, “Oi always thought he could swear if he tried hard. Begobs, b’ys, it’s proud av him we should be this day. Didn’t he swear strong an’ fine like? Howly hivens! it’s a delight to hear damn said like that.”
For some reason that “swear-word” pleased New York and the country generally, showing that even an oath has its purpose in this world, so long as it is properly used. Dean Swift said a lie “was too good to be lavished about.” So it is of profanity. The crowd understood Peter’s remark as they would have understood nothing else. They understood that besides those rifles and bayonets there was something else not to be trifled with. So in this case, it was not wasted.
And Mr. Bohlmann, Christian though he was, as he read his paper that evening cried, “Och! Dod Beder Stirling he always does say chust der righd ding!”
Of the further doings of that day it seems hardly necessary to write, for the papers recorded it with a fulness impossible here. The gathering crowds. The reinforcement of the militia. The clearing and holding of Forty-second Street to the river. The arrival of the three barge-loads of “scabs.” Their march through that street to the station safely, though at every cross street greeted with a storm of stones and other missiles. The struggle of the mob at the station to force back the troops so as to get at the “rats.” The impact of the “thin line” and that dense seething mass of enraged, crazed men. The yielding of the troops from mere pressure. The order to the second rank to fix bayonets. The pushing back of the crowd once more. The crack of a revolver. 360 Then the dozen shots fired almost simultaneously. The great surge of the mob forward. The quick order, and the rattle of guns, as they rose to the shoulder. Another order, and the sheet of flame. The great surge of the mob backwards. Then silence. Silence in the ranks. Silence in the mob. Silence in those who lay on the ground between the two.
Capital and Labor were disagreed as to a ten per cent. reduction of wages, and were trying to settle it. At first blush capital had the best of it. “Only a few strikers and militia-men killed,” was the apparent result of that struggle. The scabs were in safety inside the station, and trains were already making up, preparatory to a resumption of traffic. But capital did not go scot-free. “Firing in the streets of New York,” was the word sent out all over the world, and on every exchange in the country, stocks fell. Capital paid twenty-five million dollars that day, for those few ounces of lead. Such a method of settlement seems rather crude and costly, for the last decade of the nineteenth century.
Boys all over the city were quickly crying extras of the “Labor-party” organ, the first column of which was headed:
THE NOMINEE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
SHOOTS DOWN UNARMED MEN
This was supplemented by inflammatory broadsides. Men stood up on fences, lamp-posts, or barrels, wherever they could get an audience, and shrieked out invectives against police, troops, government, and property; and waved red flags. Orders went out to embody more regiments. Timid people retired indoors, and bolted their shutters. The streets became deserted, except where they were filled by groups of angry men listening to angrier speakers. It was not a calm night in New York.
Yet in reality, the condition was less serious, for representatives of Capital, Labor, and Government were in 361 consultation. Inside the station, in the Directors’ room of the railroad, its officials, a committee of the strikers, and an officer in fatigue uniform, with a face to match, were seated in great leather-covered chairs, around a large table. When they had first gathered, there had been dark brows, and every sentence had been like the blow of flint on steel. At one moment all but the officer had risen from their seats, and the meeting had seemed ended. But the officer had said something quietly, and once more they had seated themselves. Far into the night they sat, while mobs yelled, and sentries marched their beats. When the gathering ended, the scowls were gone. Civil partings were exchanged, and the committee and the officer passed out together.
“That Stirling is a gritty bull-dog for holding on, isn’t he?” said one of the railroad officials. “It’s a regular surrender for us.”
“Yes, but we couldn’t afford to be too obstinate with him, for he may be the next governor.”
One of the committee said to the officer as they passed into the street, “Well, we’ve given up everything to the road, to please you. I hope you’ll remember it when you’re governor and we want things done.”
“Gentlemen,” said Peter, “for every surrender of opinion you and the railroad officials have made to-night, I thank you. But you should have compromised twelve hours sooner.”
“So as you should not have had to make yourself unpopular?” asked Kurfeldt. “You needn’t be afraid. You’ve done your best for us. Now we’ll do our best for you.”
“I was not thinking of myself. I was thinking of the dead,” said Peter.
Peter sent a despatch to headquarters and went the rounds to see if all was as it should be. Then spreading his blanket in the passenger waiting-room, he fell asleep, not with a very happy look on the grave face.
But the morning-papers announced that the strike was ended by a compromise, and New York and the country breathed easier.
Peter did not get much sleep, for he was barely dreaming of—of a striker, who had destroyed his peace, by striking him in the heart with a pair of slate-colored eyes—when 362 a hand was placed on his shoulder. He was on his feet before the disturber of his dreams could speak.
“A despatch from headquarters,” said the man.
Peter broke it open. It said:
“Take possession of Printing-house Square, and await further orders.” In ten minutes the regiment was tramping through the dark, silent streets, on its way to the new position.
“I think we deserve a rest,” growled the Lieutenant-Colonel to Peter.
“We shan’t get it,” said Peter. “If there’s anything hard to be done, we shall have it.” Then he smiled. “You’ll have to have an understanding hereafter, before you make a man colonel, that he shan’t run for office.”
“What are we in for now?”
“I can’t say. To-day’s the time of the parade and meeting in City Hall Park.”
It was sunrise when the regiment drew up in the square facing the Park. It was a lovely morning, with no sign of trouble in sight, unless the bulletin boards of the newspapers, which were chiefly devoted to the doings about the Central Station, could be taken as such. Except for this, the regiment was the only indication that the universal peace had not come, and even this looked peaceful, as soon as it had settled down to hot coffee, bread and raw ham.
In the park, however, was a suggestive sight. For not merely were all the benches filled with sleeping men, but the steps of the City Hall, the grass, and even the hard asphalt pavement were besprinkled with a dirty, ragged, hungry-looking lot of men, unlike those usually seen in the streets of New York. When the regiment marched into the square, a few of the stragglers rose from their recumbent attitudes, and looked at it, without much love in their faces. As the regiment breakfasted, more and more rose from their hard beds to their harder lives. They moved about restlessly, as if waiting for something. Some gathered in little groups and listened to men who talked and shrieked far louder than was necessary in order that their listeners should hear. Some came to the edge of the street and cursed and vituperated the breakfasting regiment. Some sat on the ground and ate food which they produced from their pockets or from paper bundles. 363 It was not very tempting-looking food. Yet there were men in the crowd who looked longingly at it, and a few scuffles occurred in attempts to get some. That crowd represented the slag and scum of the boiling pot of nineteenth-century conditions. And as the flotsam on a river always centres at its eddies, so these had drifted, from the country, and from the slums, to the centre of the whirlpool of American life. Here they were waiting. Waiting for what? The future only would show. But each moment is a future, till it becomes the present.
While the regiment still breakfasted it became conscious of a monotonous sound, growing steadily in volume. Then came the tap of the drum, and the regiment rose from a half-eaten meal, and lined up as if on parade. Several of the members remarked crossly: “Why couldn’t they wait ten minutes?”
The next moment the head of another regiment swung from Chambers Street into the square. It was greeted by hisses and groans from the denizens of the park, but this lack of politeness was more than atoned for, by the order: “Present arms,” passed down the immovable line awaiting it. After a return salute the commanding officers advanced and once more saluted.
“In obedience to orders from headquarters, I have the honor to report my regiment to you, Colonel Stirling, and await your orders,” said the officer of the “visiting” regiment, evidently trying not to laugh.
“Let your men break ranks, and breakfast, Major Rivington,” said Peter. In two minutes dandy and mick were mingled, exchanging experiences, as they sliced meat off the same ham-bones and emptied the same cracker boxes. What was more, each was respecting and liking the other. One touch of danger is almost as efficacious as one touch of nature. It is not the differences in men which make ill-feeling or want of sympathy, it is differences in conditions.
In the mean time, Peter, Ray and Ogden had come together over their grub, much as if it was a legal rather than an illegal trouble to be dealt with.
“Where were you?” asked Peter.
“At the Sixty-third Street terminals,” said Ray. “We didn’t have any fun at all. As quiet as a cow. You always were lucky! Excuse me, Peter, I oughtn’t to have said it,” 364 Ray continued, seeing Peter’s face. “It’s this wretched American trick of joking at everything.”
Ogden, to change the subject, asked: “Did you really say ‘damn’?”
“But I thought you disapproved of cuss words.”
“I do. But the crowd wouldn’t believe that I was honest in my intention to protect the substitutes. They thought I was too much of a politician to dare to do it. So I swore, thinking they would understand that as they would not anything else. I hoped it might save actual firing. But they became so enraged that they didn’t care if we did shoot.”
Just then one of the crowd shrieked, “Down with the blood-suckers. On to freedom. Freedom of life, of property, of food, of water, of air, of land. Destroy the money power!”
“If we ever get to the freedom he wants,” said Ray, “we’ll utilize that chap for supplying free gas.”
“Splendid raw material for free soap,” said Ogden.
“He’s not the only one,” said Ray. “I haven’t had a wash in nine hours, and salt meats are beginning to pall.”
“There are plenty of fellows out there will eat it for you, Ray,” said Peter, “and plenty more who have not washed in weeks.”
“It’s their own fault.”
“Yes. But if you burn or cut yourself, through ignorance, that doesn’t make the pain any the less.”
“They don’t look like a crowd which could give us trouble.”
“They are just the kind who can. They are men lifted off their common sense, and therefore capable of thinking they can do anything, just as John Brown expected to conquer Virginia with forty men.”
“But there’s no danger of their getting the upper hand.”
“No. Yet I wish we had orders to clear the Park now, while there are comparatively few here, or else to go back to our armories, and let them have their meeting in peace. Our being here will only excite them.”
“Hear that,” said Ray, as the crowd gave a great roar as another regiment came up Park Place, across the Park and spread out so as to cover Broadway.
As they sat, New Yorkers began to rise and begin 365 business. But many seemed to have none, and drifted into the Park. Some idlers came from curiosity, but most seemed to have some purpose other than the mere spectacle. From six till ten they silted in imperceptibly from twenty streets. As fast as the crowd grew, regiments appeared, and taking up positions, lay at ease. There was something terrible about the quiet way in which both crowd and troops increased. The mercury was not high, but it promised to be a hot morning in New York. All the car lines took off their cars. Trucks disappeared from the streets. The exchanges and the banks closed their doors, and many hundred shops followed their example. New York almost came to a standstill as order and anarchy faced each other.
While these antagonistic forces still gathered, a man who had been yelling to his own coterie of listeners in that dense crowd, extracted himself, and limped towards Peter.
“Mr. Stirling,” he shouted, “come out from those murderers. I want to tell you something.”
Peter went forward. “What is it, Podds?” he asked.
Podds dropped his voice. “We’re out for blood to-day. But I don’t want yours, if you do murder my fellow-men. Get away from here, quick. Hide yourself before the people rise in their might.”
Peter smiled sadly. “How are Mrs. Podds and the children?” he asked kindly.
“What is a family at such a moment?” shrieked Podds. “The world is my family. I love the whole world, and I’m going to revolutionize it. I’m going to give every man his rights. The gutters shall reek with blood, and every plutocrat’s castle shall be levelled to the soil. But I’ll spare you, for though you are one of the classes, it’s your ignorance, not your disposition, that makes you one. Get away from here. Get away before it’s too late.”
Just then the sound of a horse’s feet was heard, and a staff officer came cantering from a side street into the Square. He saluted Peter and said, “Colonel Stirling, the governor has issued a proclamation forbidding the meeting and parade. General Canfield orders you to clear the Park, by pushing the mob towards Broadway. The regiments have been drawn in so as to leave a free passage down the side streets.”366
“Don’t try to move us a foot,” screamed Podds, “or there’ll be blood. We claim the right of free meeting and free speech.”
Even as he spoke, the two regiments formed, stiffened, fixed bayonets, and moved forward, as if they were machines rather than two thousand men.
“Brethren,” yelled Podds, “the foot of the tyrant is on us. Rise. Rise in your might.” Then Podds turned to find the rigid line of bayonets close upon him. He gave a spring, and grappled with Peter, throwing his arms about Peter’s neck. Peter caught him by the throat with his free arm.
“Don’t push me off,” shrieked Podds in his ear, “it’s coming,” and he clung with desperate energy to Peter.
Peter gave a twist with his arm. He felt the tight clasp relax, and the whole figure shudder. He braced his arm for a push, intending to send Podds flying across the street.
But suddenly there was a flash, as of lightning. Then a crash. Then the earth shook, cobble-stones, railroad tracks, anarchists, and soldiers, rose in the air, leaving a great chasm in crowd and street. Into that chasm a moment later, stones, rails, anarchists, and soldiers fell, leaving nothing but a thick cloud of overhanging dust. Underneath that great dun pall lay soldier and anarchist, side by side, at last at peace. The one died for his duty, the other died for his idea. The world was none the better, but went on unchanged.
The evening on which Peter had left Grey-Court, Leonore had been moved “for sundry reasons” to go to her piano and sing an English ballad entitled “Happiness.” She had sung it several times, and with gusto.
The next morning she read the political part of the papers. “I don’t see anything to have taken him back,” she said, “but I am really glad, for he was getting hard to manage. I couldn’t send him away, but now I hope 367 he’ll stay there.” Then Leonore fluttered all day, in the true Newport style, with no apparent thought of her “friend.”
But something at a dinner that evening interested her.
“I’m ashamed,” said the hostess, “of my shortage of men. Marlow was summoned back to New York last night, by business, quite unexpectedly, and Mr. Dupont telegraphed me this afternoon that he was detained there.”
“It’s curious,” said Dorothy. “Mr. Rivington and my brother came on Tuesday expecting to stay for a week, but they had special delivery letters yesterday, and both started for New York. They would not tell me what it was.”
“Mr. Stirling received a special delivery, too,” said Leonore, “and started at once. And he wouldn’t tell.”
“How extraordinary!” said the hostess. “There must be something very good at the roof-gardens.”
“It has something to do with headwears,” said Leonore, not hiding her light under a bushel.
“Headwear?” said a man.
“Yes,” said Leonore. “I only had a glimpse of the heading, but I saw N. G. S. N.
A sudden silence fell, no one laughing at the mistake.
“What’s the matter?” asked Leonore.
“We are wondering what will happen,” said the host, “if men go in for headwear too.”
“They do that already,” said a man, “but unlike women, they do it on the inside, not the outside of the head.”
But nobody laughed, and the dinner seemed to drag from that moment.
Leonore and Dorothy had come together, and as soon as they were in their carriage, Leonore said, “What a dull dinner it was?”
“Oh, Leonore,” cried Dorothy, “don’t talk about dinners. I’ve kept up till now, bu——” and Dorothy’s sentence melted into a sob.
“Is it home, Mrs. Rivington?” asked the tiger, sublimely unconscious, as a good servant should be, of this dialogue, and of his mistress’s tears.
“No, Portman, the Club,” sobbed Dorothy.
“Dorothy,” begged Leonore, “what is it?”
“Don’t you understand?” sobbed Dorothy. “All this 368 fearful anarchist talk and discontent? And my poor, poor darling! Oh, don’t talk to me.” Dorothy became inarticulate once more.
“How foolish married women are!” thought Leonore, even while putting her arm around Dorothy, and trying blindly to comfort her.
“Is it a message, Mrs. Rivington?” asked the man, opening the carriage-door.
“Ask for Mr. Melton, or Mr. Duer, and say Mrs. Rivington wishes to see one of them.” Dorothy dried her eyes, and braced up. Before Leonore had time to demand an explanation, Peter’s gentlemanly scoundrel was at the door.
“What is it, Mrs. Rivington?” he asked.
“Mr. Duer, is there any bad news from New York?”
“Yes. A great strike on the Central is on, and the troops have been called in to keep order.”
“Is that all the news?” asked Dorothy.
“Thank you,” said Dorothy. “Home, Portman.”
The two women were absolutely silent during the drive. But they kissed each other in parting, not with the peck which women so often give each other, but with a true kiss. And when Leonore, in crossing the porch, encountered the mastiff which Peter had given her, she stopped and kissed him too, very tenderly. What is more, she brought him inside, which was against the rules, and put him down before the fire. Then she told the footman to bring her the evening-papers, and sitting down on the rug by Bêtise, proceeded to search them, not now for the political outlook, but for the labor troubles. Leonore suddenly awoke to the fact that there were such things as commercial depressions and unemployed. She read it all with the utmost care. She read the outpourings of the Anarchists, in a combination of indignation, amazement and fear. “I never dreamed there could be such fearful wretches!” she said. There was one man—a fellow named Podds—whom the paper reported as shrieking in Union Square to a select audience:
“Rise! Wipe from the face of the earth the money power! Kill! Kill! Only by blood atonement can we lead the way to better things. To a universal brotherhood of love. Down with rich men! Down with their paid hirelings, the troops! Blow them in pieces!”
“Oh!” cried Leonore shuddering. “It’s fearful. I wish some one would blow you in pieces!” Thereby was she proving herself not unlike Podds. All humanity have something of the Anarchist in them. Then Leonore turned to the mastiff and told him some things. Of how bad the strikers were, and how terrible were the Anarchists. “Yes, dear,” she said, “I wish we had them here, and then you could treat them as they deserve, wouldn’t you, Bêtise? I’m so glad he has my luck-piece!”
A moment later her father and another man came into the hall from the street, compelling Leonore to assume a more proper attitude.
“Hello, Dot!” said Watts. “Still up? Vaughan and I are going to have a game of billiards. Won’t you score for us?”
“Yes,” said Leonore.
“Bad news from New York, isn’t it?” said Vaughan, nonchalantly, as he stood back after his first play.
Leonore saw her father make a grimace at Vaughan, which Vaughan did not see. She said, “What?”
“I missed,” said Watts. “Your turn, Will.”
“Tell me the news before you shoot?” said Leonore.
“The collision of the strikers and the troops.”
“Was any one hurt?” asked Leonore, calmly scoring two to her father’s credit.
“Yes. Eleven soldiers and twenty-two strikers.”
“What regiment was it?” asked Leonore.
“Colonel Stirling’s,” said Vaughan, making a brilliant massé. “Fortunately it’s a Mick regiment, so we needn’t worry over who was killed.”
Leonore thought to herself: “You are as bad every bit as Podds!” Aloud she said, “Did it say who were killed?”
“No. The dispatch only said fourteen dead.”
“That was a beautiful shot,” said Leonore. “You ought to run the game out with that position. I think, papa, that I’ll go to bed. I find I’m a little tired. Good-night, Mr. Vaughan.” Leonore went upstairs, slowly, deep in thought. She did not ring for her maid. On the contrary she lay down on her bed in her dinner-gown, to its everlasting detriment. “I know he isn’t hurt,” she said, “because I should feel it. But I wish the telegram had said.” She hardly believed herself, apparently, for 370 she buried her head in the pillow, and began to sob quietly. “If I only had said good-bye,” she moaned.
Early the next morning Watts found Leonore in the hall.
“How pale my Dot is!” he exclaimed.
“I didn’t sleep well,” said Leonore.
“Aren’t you going to ride with me?”
“No. I don’t feel like it this morning,” said Leonore.
As Watts left the hall, a servant entered it.
“I had to wait, Miss D’Alloi,” he said. “No papers are for sale till eight o’clock.”
Leonore took the newspaper silently and went to the library. Then she opened it and looked at the first column. She read it hurriedly.
“I knew he wasn’t hurt,” she said, “because I would have felt it, and because he had my luck piece.” Then she stepped out of one of the windows, called Bêtise to her, and putting her arms about his neck, kissed him.
When the New York papers came things were even better, for they recorded the end of the strike. Leonore even laughed over that big, big D. “I can’t imagine him getting so angry,” she said. “He must have a temper, after all.” She sang a little, as she fixed the flowers in the vases, and one of the songs was “Happiness.” Nor did she snub a man who hinted at afternoon tea, as she had a poor unfortunate who suggested tennis earlier in the day.
While they were sipping their tea, however, Watts came in from the club.
“Helen,” he said, going to the bay window farthest from the tea-table, “come here. I want to say something.”
They whispered for a moment, and then Mrs. D’Alloi came back to her tea.
“Won’t you have a cup, papa?” asked Leonore.
“Not to-day, dear,” said Watts, with an unusual tenderness in his voice.
Leonore was raising a spoon to her mouth, but suddenly her hand trembled a little. After a glance at her father and mother, she pushed her tea-cup into the centre of the table as if she had finished it, though it had just been poured. Then she turned and began to talk and laugh with the caller.371
But the moment the visitor was out of the room, Leonore said:
“What is it, papa?”
Watts was standing by the fire. He hesitated. Then he groaned. Then he went to the door. “Ask your mother,” he said, and went out of the room.
“Mamma?” said Leonore.
“Don’t excite yourself, dear,” said her mother. “I’ll tell you to-morrow.”
Leonore was on her feet. “No,” she said huskily, “tell me now.”
“Wait till we’ve had dinner.”
“Mamma,” cried Leonore, appealingly, “don’t you see that—that—that I suffer more by not knowing it? Tell me.”
“Oh, Leonore,” cried her mother, “don’t look that way. I’ll tell you; but don’t look that way!”
Mrs. D’Alloi put her arms about Leonore. “The Anarchists have exploded a bomb.”
“Yes?” said Leonore.
“And it killed a great many of the soldiers.”
“Thank you, mamma,” said Leonore. She unclasped her mother’s arms, and went towards the door.
“Leonore,” cried her mother, “stay here with me, dear.”
“I’d rather be alone,” said Leonore, quietly. She went upstairs to her room and sank down by an ottoman which stood in the middle of the floor. She sat silent and motionless, for over an hour, looking straight before her at nothing, as Peter had so often done. Is it harder to lose out of life the man or woman whom one loves, or to see him or her happy in the love of Is the hopelessness of the impossible less or greater than the hopelessness of the unattainable?
Finally Leonore rose, and touched her bell. When her maid came she said, “Get me my travelling dress.” Ten minutes later she came into the library, saying to Watts.
“Papa, I want you to take me to New York, by the first train.”
“Are you crazy, my darling?” cried Watts. “With riots and Anarchists all over the city.”372
“I must go to New York,” said Leonore. “If you won’t take me, I’ll go with madame.”
“Not for a moment——” began Watts.
“Papa,” cried Leonore, “don’t you see it’s killing me? I can’t bear it——” and Leonore stopped.
“Yes, Watts, we must,” said Mrs. D’Alloi.
Two hours later they were all three rolling towards New York. It was a five hours’ ride, but Leonore sat the whole distance without speaking, or showing any consciousness of her surroundings. For every turn of those wheels seemed to fall into a rhythmic repetition of: “If I had only said ‘good-bye.’”
The train was late in arriving, and Watts tried to induce Leonore to go to a hotel for the night. She only said “No. Take me to him,” but it was in a voice which Watts could not disregard. So after a few questions at the terminal, which produced no satisfactory information, Watts told the cabman to drive to the City Hall Park.
They did not reach it, however, for at the corner of Centre Street and Chambers, there came a cry of “halt,” and the cab had to stop.
“You can’t pass this line,” said the sentry. “You must go round by Broadway.”
“Why?” asked Watts.
“The street is impassable.”
Watts got out, and held a whispered dialogue with the sentry. This resulted in the summoning of the officer of the watch. In the mean time Leonore descended and joined them. Watts turned and said to her: “The sentry says he’s here.”
Presently an officer came up.
“An’ what do the likes av yez want at this time av night?” he inquired crossly. “Go away wid yez.”
“Oh, Captain Moriarty,” said Leonore, “won’t you let me see him? I’m Miss D’Alloi.”
“Shure,” said Dennis, “yez oughtn’t to be afther disturbin’ him. It’s two nights he’s had no sleep.”
Leonore suddenly put her hand on Dennis’s arm. “He’s not killed?” she whispered, as if she could not breathe, and the figure swayed a little.
“Divil a bit! They got it wrong entirely. It was that dirty spalpeen av a Podds.”373
“Are you sure?” said Leonore, pleadingly. “You are not deceiving me?”
“Begobs,” said Dennis, “do yez think Oi could stand here wid a dry eye if he was dead?”
Leonore put her head on Dennis’s shoulder, and began to sob softly. For a moment Dennis looked aghast at the results of his speech, but suddenly his face changed, “Shure,” he whispered, “we all love him just like that, an that’s why the Blessed Virgin saved him for us.”
Then Leonore, with tears in her eyes, said, “I felt it,” in the most joyful of voices. A voice that had a whole Te Deum in it.
“Won’t you let me see him?” she begged. “I won’t wake him, I promise you.”
“That yez shall,” said Dennis. “Will yez take my arm?” The four passed within the lines. “Step careful,” he continued. “There’s pavin’ stones, and rails, and plate-glass everywheres. It looks like there’d been a primary itself.”
All thought that was the best of jokes and laughed. They passed round a great chasm in the street and sidewalk. Then they came to long rows of bodies stretched on the grass, or rather what was left of the grass, in the Park. Leonore shuddered. “Are they all dead?” she whispered. “Dead! Shurely not. It’s the regiment sleepin’,” she was told. They passed between these rows for a little distance. “This is him,” said Dennis, “sleepin’ like a babby.” Dennis turned his back and began to describe the explosion to Mrs. D’Alloi and Watts.
There, half covered with a blanket, wrapped in a regulation great coat, his head pillowed on a roll of newspapers, lay Peter. Leonore knelt down on the ground beside him, regardless of the proprieties or the damp. She listened to hear if he was breathing, and when she found that he actually was, her face had on it a little thanksgiving proclamation of its own. Then with the prettiest of motherly manners, she softly pulled the blanket up and tucked it in about his arms. Then she looked to see if there was not something else to do. But there was nothing. So she made more. “The poor dear oughtn’t to sleep without something on his head. He’ll take cold.” She took her handkerchief and tried to fix it so that it should protect Peter’s head. She tried four different ways, 374 any one of which would have served; but each time she thought of a better way, and had to try once more. She probably would have thought of a fifth, if Peter had not suddenly opened his eyes.
“Oh!” said Leonore, “what a shame? I’ve waked you up. And just as I had fixed it right.”
Peter studied the situation calmly, without moving a muscle. He looked at the kneeling figure for some time. Then he looked up at the arc light a little distance away. Then he looked at the City Hall clock. Then his eyes came back to Leonore. “Peter,” he said finally, “this is getting to be a monomania. You must stop it.”
“What?” said Leonore, laughing at his manner as if it was intended as a joke.
Peter put out his hand and touched Leonore’s dress. Then he rose quickly to his feet. “What is the matter?” he asked.
“Hello,” cried Watts. “Have you come to? Well. Here we are, you see. All the way from Newport to see you in fragments, only to be disappointed. Shake!”
Peter said nothing for a moment. But after he had shaken hands, he said, “It’s very good of you to have thought of me.”
“Oh,” explained Leonore promptly, “I’m always anxious about my friends. Mamma will tell you I am.”
Peter turned to Leonore, who had retired behind her mother. “Such friends are worth having,” he said, with a strong emphasis on “friends.”
Then Leonore came out from behind her mother. “How nice he’s stupid,” she thought. “He is Peter Simple, after all.”
“Well,” said Watts, “your friends are nearly dying with hunger and want of sleep, so the best thing we can do, since we needn’t hunt for you in scraps, is to go to the nearest hotel. Where is that?”
“You’ll have to go uptown,” said Peter. “Nothing down here is open at this time.”
“I’m not sleepy,” said Leonore, “but I am so hungry!”
“Serves you right for eating no din——” Watts started to say, but Leonore interjected, in an unusually loud voice. “Can’t you get us something?”
“Nothing that will do for you, I’m afraid,” said Peter. 375 “I had Dennett send up one of his coffee-boilers so that the men should have hot coffee through the night, and there’s a sausage-roll man close to him who’s doing a big business. But they’ll hardly serve your purpose.”
“The very thing,” cried Watts. “What a lark!”
“I can eat anything,” said Leonore.
So they went over to the stands. Peter’s blanket was spread on the sidewalk, and three Newport swells, and the Democratic nominee for governor sat upon it, with their feet in the gutter, and drank half-bean coffee and ate hot sausage rolls, made all the hotter by the undue amount of mustard which the cook would put in. What is worse, they enjoyed it as much as if it was the finest of dinners. Would not society have been scandalized had it known of their doings?
How true it is that happiness is in a mood rather than in a moment. How eagerly we prepare for and pursue the fickle sprite, only to find our preparations and chase giving nothing but dullness, fatigue, and ennui. But then how often without exertion or warning, the sprite is upon us, and tinges the whole atmosphere. So it was at this moment, with two of the four. The coffee might have been all beans, and yet it would have been better than the best served in Viennese cafés. The rolls might have had even a more weepy amount of mustard, and yet the burning and the tears would only have been the more of a joke. The sun came up, as they ate, talked and laughed, touching everything about them with gold, but it might have poured torrents, and the two would have been as happy.
For Leonore was singing to herself: “He isn’t dead. He isn’t dead.”
And Peter was thinking: “She loves me. She must love me.”376
After the rolls and coffee had been finished, Peter walked with his friends to their cab. It had all been arranged that they were to go to Peter’s quarters, and get some sleep. These were less than eight blocks away, but the parting was very terrific! However, it had to be done, and so it was gone through with. Hard as it was, Peter had presence of mind enough to say, through the carriage window.
“You had better take my room, Miss D’Alloi, for the spare room is the largest. I give you the absolute freedom of it, minus the gold-box. Use anything you find.”
Then Peter went back to the chaotic street and the now breakfasting regiment, feeling that strikes, anarchists, and dynamite were only minor circumstances in life.
About noon Leonore came back to life, and succeeded in making a very bewitching toilet despite the absence of her maid. Whether she peeped into any drawers or other places, is left to feminine readers to decide. If she did, she certainly had ample authority from Peter.
This done she went into the study, and, after sticking her nose into some of the window flowers, she started to go to the bookshelves. As she walked her foot struck something which rang with a metallic sound, as it moved on the wood floor. The next moment, a man started out of a deep chair.
“Oh!” was all Leonore said.
“I hope I didn’t startle you. You must have kicked my sword.”
“I—I didn’t know you were here!” Leonore eyed the door leading to the hall, as if she were planning for a sudden flight.
“The regiment was relieved by another from Albany this morning. So I came up here for a little sleep.”
“What a shame that I should have kept you out of your room,” said Leonore, still eyeing the door. From 377 Leonore’s appearance, one would have supposed that she had purloined something of value from his quarters, and was meditating a sudden dash of escape with it.
“I don’t look at it in that light,” said Peter. “But since you’ve finished with the room for the moment, I’ll borrow the use temporarily. Strikers and anarchists care so little for soap and water themselves, that they show no consideration to other people for those articles.” Peter passed through the doorway towards which Leonore had glanced. Then Leonore’s anxious look left her, and she no longer looked at the door. One would almost have inferred that Leonore was afraid of Peter, but that is absurd, since they were such good friends, since Leonore had come all the way from Newport to see him, and since Leonore had decided that Peter must do as she pleased.
Yet, curiously enough, when Peter returned in about twenty minutes, the same look came into Leonore’s face.
“We shall have something to eat in ten minutes,” Peter said, “for I hear your father and mother moving.”
Leonore looked towards the door. She did not intend that Peter should see her do it, but he did.
“Now what shall we do or talk about?” he said. “You know I am host and mustn’t do anything my guests don’t wish.”
Peter said this in the most matter-of-fact way, but Leonore, after a look from under her eyelashes at him, stopped thinking about the door. She went over to one of the window-seats.
“Come and sit here by me,” she said, “and tell me everything about it.”
So Peter described “the war, and what they fought each other for,” as well as he was able, for, despite his intentions, his mind would wander as those eyes looked into his.
“I am glad that Podds was blown to pieces!” said Leonore.
“Don’t say that.”
“Because it’s one of those cases of a man of really good intentions, merely gone wrong. He was a horse-car driver, who got inflammatory rheumatism by the exposure, and was discharged. He suffered fearful pain, and saw his family suffer for bread. He grew bitter, 378 and took up with these wild theories, not having enough original brain force, or education, to see their folly. He believed firmly in them. So firmly, that when I tried to reason him out of them many years ago he came to despise me and ordered me out of his rooms. I had once done him a service, and felt angered at what I thought ungrateful conduct, so I made no attempt to keep up the friendliness. He knew yesterday that dynamite was in the hands of some of those men, and tried to warn me away. When I refused to go, he threw himself upon me, to protect me from the explosion. Nothing else saved my life.”
“Peter, will your regiment have to do anything more?”
“I don’t think so. The dynamite has caused a reaction and has driven off the soberer part of the mob. The pendulum, when it swings too far, always swings correspondingly far the other way. I must stay here for a couple of days, but then if I’m asked, I’ll go back to Newport.”
“Papa and mamma want you, I’m sure,” said Leonore, glancing at the door again, after an entire forgetfulness.
“Then I shall go,” said Peter, though longing to say something else.
Leonore looked at him and said in the frankest way: “And I want you too.” That was the way she paid Peter for his forbearance.
Then they all went up on the roof, where in one corner there were pots of flowers about a little table, over which was spread an awning. Over that table, too, Jenifer had spread himself. How good that breakfast was! What a glorious September day it was! How beautiful the view of the city and the bay was! It was all so thoroughly satisfactory, that the three nearly missed the “limited.” Of course Peter went to the station with them, and, short as was the time, he succeeded in obtaining for one of the party, “all the comic papers,” “the latest novel,” a small basket of fruit, and a bunch of flowers, not one of which, with the exception of the latter, the real object of these attentions wanted in the least.
Just here it is of value to record an interesting scientific discovery of Leonore’s, because women so rarely have made them. It was, that the distance from New York to 379 Newport is very much less than the distance from Newport to New York.
Curiously enough, two days later, his journey seemed to Peter the longest railroad ride he had ever taken. “His friend” did not meet him this time. His friend felt that her trip to New York must be offset before she could resume her proper self-respect. “He was very nice,” she had said, in monologue, “about putting the trip down to friendship. And he was very nice that morning in his study. But I think his very niceness is suspicious, and so I must be hard on him!” A woman’s reasoning is apt to seem defective, yet sometimes it solves problems not otherwise answerable.
Leonore found her “hard” policy harder than she thought for. She told Peter the first evening that she was going to a card-party. “I can’t take you,” she said.
“I shall be all the better for a long night’s sleep,” said Peter, calmly.
This was bad enough, but the next morning, as she was arranging the flowers, she remarked to some one who stood and watched her, “Miss Winthrop is engaged. How foolish of a girl in her first season! Before she’s had any fun, to settle down to dull married life.”
She had a rose in her hand, prepared to revive Peter with it, in case her speech was too much for one dose, but when she glanced at him, he was smiling happily.
“What is it?” asked Leonore, disapprovingly.
“I beg your pardon,” said Peter. “I wasn’t listening. Did you say Miss Winthrop was married?”
“What were you smiling over?” said Leonore, in the same voice.
“I was thinking of—of——.” Then Peter hesitated and laughed.
“Of what?” asked Leonore.
“You really mustn’t ask me,” laughed Peter.
“Of what were you thinking?”
“Of eyelashes,” confessed Peter.
“It’s terrible!” cogitated Leonore, “I can’t snub him any more, try as I may.”
In truth, Peter was not worrying any longer over what Leonore said or did to him. He was merely enjoying her companionship. He was at once absolutely happy, and absolutely miserable. Happy in his hope. Miserable in 380 its non-certainty. To make a paradox, he was confident that she loved him, yet he was not sure. A man will be absolutely confident that a certain horse will win a race, or he will be certain that a profit will accrue from a given business transaction. Yet, until the horse has won, or the profit is actually made, he is not assured. So it was with Peter. He thought that he had but to speak, yet dared not do it. The present was so certain, and the future might have such agonies. So for two days he merely followed Leonore about, enjoying her pretty ways and hardly heeding her snubs and petulance. He was very silent, and often abstracted, but his silence and abstraction brought no relief to Leonore, and only frightened her the more, for he hardly let her out of his sight, and the silent devotion and tenderness were so obvious that Leonore felt how absolutely absurd was her pretence of unconsciousness. In his very “Miss D’Alloi” now, there was a tone in his voice and a look in his face which really said the words: “My darling.” Leonore thought this was a mean trick, of apparently sustaining the conventions of society, while in reality outraging them horribly, but she was helpless to better his conduct. Twice unwittingly he even called her “Leonore” (as he had to himself for two months), thereby terribly disconcerting the owner of that name. She wanted to catch him up and snub him each time, but she was losing her courage. She knew that she was walking on a mine, and could not tell what chance word or deed of hers would bring an explosion. “And then what can I say to him?” she asked.
What she said was this:
Peter came downstairs the third evening of his stay “armed and equipped as the law directs” for a cotillion. In the large hallway, he found Leonore, likewise in gala dress, resting her hand on the tall mantel of the hall, and looking down at the fire. Peter stopped on the landing to enjoy that pose. He went over every detail with deliberation. But girl, gown, and things in general, were much too tempting to make this distant glimpse over lengthy. So he descended to get a closer view. The pose said nothing and Peter strolled to the fire, and did likewise. But if he did not speak he more than made up for his silence with his eyes.
Finally the pose said, “I suppose it’s time we started?” 381 “Some one’s got to speak,” the pose had decided. Evidently the pose felt uneasy under that silent gaze.
“It’s only a little past ten,” said Peter, who was quite satisfied with the status quo.
Then silence came again. After this had held for a few moments, the pose said: “Do say something!”
“Something,” said Peter. “Anything else I can do for you?”
“Unless you can be more entertaining, we might as well be sitting in the Purdies’ dressing-rooms, as standing here. Suppose we go to the library and sit with mamma and papa?” Clearly the pose felt nervous.
Peter did not like this idea. So he said: “I’ll try to amuse you. Let me tell you something very interesting to me. It’s my birthday to-morrow.”
“Oh!” said Leonore. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Then I would have had a gift for you.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
“Don’t you want me to give you something?”
“Yes.” Then Peter’s hands trembled, and he seemed to have hard work in adding, “I want you to give me a kiss.”
“Peter!” said Leonore, drawing back grieved and indignant. “I didn’t think you would speak to me so. Of all men!”
“You mustn’t think,” said Peter, “that I meant to pain you.”
“You have,” said Leonore, almost ready to cry.
“Because,” said Peter, “that isn’t what I meant.” Peter obviously struggled to find words to say what he did mean as he had never struggled over the knottiest of legal points, or the hardest of wrestling matches. “If I thought you were a girl who would kiss a man for the asking, I should not care for a kiss from you.” Peter strayed away from the fire uneasily. “But I know you are not.” Peter gazed wildly round, as if the furnishings of the hall might suggest the words for which he was blindly groping. But they didn’t, and after one or two half-begun sentences, he continued: “I haven’t watched you, and dreamed about you, and loved you, for all this time, without learning what you are.” Peter roamed about the great hall restlessly. “I know that your lips will never give what your heart doesn’t.” Then his face took 382 a despairing look, and he continued quite rapidly: “I ask without much hope. You are so lovely, while I—well I’m not a man women care for. I’ve tried to please you. Tried to please you so hard, that I may have deceived you. I probably am what women say of me. But if I’ve been otherwise with you it is because you are different from any other woman in the world.” Here the sudden flow of words ended, and Peter paced up and down, trying to find what to say. If any one had seen Peter as he paced, without his present environment, he would have thought him a man meditating suicide. Suddenly his voice and face became less wild, and he said tenderly: “There is no use in my telling you how I love you. You know it now, or will never learn it from anything I can say.” Peter strode back to the fire. “It is my love which asks for a kiss. And I want it for the love you will give with it, if you can give it.”
Leonore had apparently kept her eyes on the blazing logs during the whole of this monologue. But she must have seen something of Peter’s uneasy wanderings about the room, for she had said to herself: “Poor dear! He must be fearfully in earnest. I never knew him so restless. He prowls just like a wild animal.”
A moment’s silence came after Peter’s return to the fire. Then he said: “Will you give it to me, Miss D’Alloi?” But his voice in truth, made the words, “Give me what I ask, my darling.”
“Yes,” said Leonore softly. “On your birthday.” Then Leonore shrank back a little, as if afraid that her gift would be sought sooner. No young girl, however much she loves a man, is quite ready for that first kiss. A man’s lips upon her own are too contrary to her instinct and previous training to make them an unalloyed pleasure. The girl who is over-ready for her lover’s first kiss, has tasted the forbidden fruit already, or has waited over-long for it.
Peter saw the little shrinking and understood it. What was more, he heeded it as many men would not have done. Perhaps there was something selfish in his self-denial, for the purity and girlishness which it indicated were very dear to him, and he hated to lessen them by anything he did. He stood quietly by her, and merely said, “I needn’t tell you how happy I am!”383
Leonore looked up into Peter’s face. If Leonore had seen there any lack of desire to take her in his arms and kiss her, she would never have forgiven him. But since his face showed beyond doubt that he was longing to do it, Leonore loved him all the better for his repression of self, out of regard for her. She slipped her little hand into Peter’s confidingly, and said, “So am I.” It means a good deal when a girl does not wish to run away from her lover the moment after she has confessed her love.
So they stood for some time, Leonore looking down into the fire, and Peter looking down at Leonore.
Finally Peter said, “Will you do me a great favor?”
“No,” said Leonore, “I’ve done enough for one night. But you can tell me what it is.”
“Will you look up at me?”
“What for?” said Leonore, promptly looking up.
“I want to see your eyes,” said Peter.
“Why?” asked Leonore, promptly looking down again.
“Well,” said Peter, “I’ve been dreaming all my life about some eyes, and I want to see what my dream is like in reality.”
“That’s a very funny request,” said Leonore perversely. “You ought to have found out about them long ago. The idea of any one falling in love, without knowing about the eyes!”
“But you show your eyes so little,” said Peter. “I’ve never had a thoroughly satisfying look at them.”
“You look at them every time I look at you,” said Leonore. “Sometimes it was very embarrassing. Just supposing that I showed them to you now, and that you find they aren’t what you like?”
“I never waste time discussing impossibilities,” said Peter. “Are you going to let me see them?”
“How long will it take?”
“I can tell better after I’ve seen them,” said Peter, astutely.
“I don’t think I have time this evening,” said Leonore, still perversely, though smiling a look of contentment down into the fire.
Peter said nothing for a moment, wishing to give Leonore’s conscience a chance to begin to prick. Then he ended the silence by saying: “If I had anything that 384 would give you pleasure, I wouldn’t make you ask for it twice.”
“That’s—different,” said Leonore. “Still, I’ll—well, look at them,” and Leonore lifted her eyes to Peter’s half laughingly and half timidly.
Peter studied those eyes in silence—studied them till Leonore, who did not find that steady look altogether easy to bear, and yet was not willing to confess herself stared out of countenance, asked: “Do you like them?”
“Yes,” said Peter.
“Is that all you can say? Other people have said very complimentary things!” said Leonore, pretending to be grieved over the monosyllable, yet in reality delighting in its expressiveness as Peter said it.
“I think,” said Peter, “that before I can tell you what I think of your eyes, we shall have to invent some new words.”
Leonore looked down again into the fire, smiling a satisfied smile. Peter looked down at that down-turned head, also with a satisfied smile. Then there was another long silence. Incidentally it is to be noted that Peter still held the hand given him some time before. To use a poker term, Peter was standing “pat,” and wished no change. Once or twice the little hand had hinted that it had been held long enough, but Peter did not think so, and the hand had concluded that it was safest to let well alone. If it was too cruel it might rouse the sleeping lion which the owner of that hand knew to exist behind that firm, quiet face.
Presently Peter put his unoccupied hand in his breast pocket, and produced a small sachet. “I did something twice,” he said, “that I have felt very meanly about at times. Perhaps you’ll forgive me now?” He took from the sachet, a glove, and a small pocket-handkerchief, and without a word showed them to Leonore.
Leonore looked at them. “That’s the glove I lost at Mrs. Costell’s, isn’t it?” she asked gravely.
Peter nodded his head.
“And is that the handkerchief which disappeared in your rooms, at your second dinner?”
Peter nodded his head.
“And both times you helped me hunt for them?”
Peter nodded his head. He at last knew how prisoners felt when he was cross-examining them.385
“I knew you had them all the time,” said Leonore laughing. “It was dreadfully funny to see you pretend to hunt, when the guilty look on your own face was enough to show you had them. That’s why I was so determined to find them.”
Peter knew how prisoners felt when the jury says, “Not guilty.”
“But how did the holes come in them?” said Leonore. “Do you have mice in your room?” Leonore suddenly looked as worried as had Peter the moment before.
Peter put his hand in the sachet, and produced a bent coin. “Look at that,” he said.
“Why, it’s my luck-piece!” exclaimed Leonore. “And you’ve spoiled that too. What a careless boy!”
“No,” said Peter. “They are not spoiled to me. Do you know what cut these holes and bent this coin?”
“Yes. Your luck-piece stopped it, or I shouldn’t be here.”
“There,” said Leonore triumphantly, “I said you weren’t hurt, when the news of the shooting came, because I knew you had it. I was so glad you had taken it!”
“I am going to give it back to you by and by,” said Peter.
“I had rather that you should have it,” said Leonore. “I want you to have my luck.”
“I shall have it just the same even after I’ve given it to you,” said Peter.
“I’m going to have it made into a plain gold ring,” replied Peter, “and when I give it to you, I shall have all your luck.”
Then came a silence.
Finally Peter said, “Will you please tell me what you meant by talking about five years!”
“Oh! Really, Peter,” Leonore hastened to explain, in an anxious way, as if Peter had charged her with murder or some other heinous crime. “I did think so. I didn’t find it out till—till that night. Really! Won’t you believe me?”
Peter smiled. He could have believed anything.386
“Now,” he said, “I know at last what Anarchists are for.”
His ready acceptance of her statement made Leonore feel a slight prick of conscience. She said: “Well—Peter—I mean—that is—at least, I did sometimes think before then—that when I married, I’d marry you—but I didn’t think it would come so soon. Did you? I thought we’d wait. It would have been so much more sensible!”
“I’ve waited a long time,” said Peter.
“Poor dear!” said Leonore, putting her other hand over Peter’s, which held hers.
Peter enjoyed this exquisite pleasure in silence for a time, but the enjoyment was too great not to be expressed. So he said:
“I like your hands almost as much as your eyes.”
“That’s very nice,” said Leonore.
“And I like the way you say ‘dear,’” said Peter, “Don’t you want to say it again?”
“No, I hate people who say the same thing twice.”
Then there was a long pause.
“What poor things words are?” said Peter, at the end of it.
“I know just what you mean,” said Leonore.
Clearly they both meant what they said, for there came another absence of words. How long the absence would have continued is a debatable point. Much too soon a door opened.
“Hello!” said a voice. “Back already? What kind of an evening had you?”
“A very pleasant one,” said Peter, calmly, yet expressively.
“Let go my hand, Peter, please,” a voice whispered imploringly. “Oh, please! I can’t to-night. Oh, please!”
“Say ‘dear,’” whispered Peter, meanly.
“Please, dear,” said Leonore. Then Leonore went towards the stairs hurriedly.
“Not off already, Dot, surely?”
“Yes. I’m going to bed.”
“Come and have a cigar, Peter,” said Watts, walking towards the library.
“In a moment,” said Peter. He went to the foot of 387 the stairs and said, “Please, dear,” to the figure going up.
“Well?” said the figure.
Peter went up five steps. “Please,” he begged.
“No,” said the figure, “but there is my hand.”
So Peter turned the little soft palm uppermost and kissed it. Then he forgot the cigar and Watts. He went to his room, and thought of—of his birthday gift.
If Peter had roamed about the hall that evening, he was still more restless the next morning. He was down early, though for no apparent reason, and did nothing but pass from hall to room, and room to hall, spending most of his time in the latter, however.
How Leonore could have got from her room into the garden without Peter’s seeing her was a question which puzzled him not a little, when, by a chance glance out of a window, he saw that personage clipping roses off the bushes. He did not have time to spare, however, to reason out an explanation. He merely stopped roaming, and went out to—to the roses.
“Good-morning,” said Leonore pleasantly, though not looking at Peter, as she continued her clipping.
Peter did not say anything for a moment. Then he asked, “Is that all?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Leonore, innocently. “Besides, someone might be looking out of a window.”
Peter calmly took hold of the basket to help Leonore sustain its enormous weight. “Let me help you carry it,” he said.
“Very well,” said Leonore. “But there’s no occasion to carry my hand too. I’m not decrepit.”
“I hoped I was helping you,” said Peter.
“You are not. But you may carry the basket, since you want to hold something.”
“Very well,” said Peter meekly.
“Do you know,” said Leonore, as she snipped, and 388 dropped roses into the basket, “you are not as obstinate as people say you are.”
“Don’t deceive yourself on that score,” said Peter.
“Well! I mean you are not absolutely determined to have your own way.”
“I never give up my own views,” said Peter, “unless I can see more to be gained by so doing. To that extent I am not at all obstinate.”
“Suppose,” said Leonore, “that you go and cut the roses on those furthest bushes while I go in and arrange these?”
“Suppose,” said Peter calmly, and with an evident lack of enthusiasm.
“Well. Will you?”
“The motion to adjourn,” said Peter, “is never debatable.”
“Do you know,” said Leonore, “that you are beginning very badly?”
“That is what I have thought ever since I joined you.”
“Then why don’t you go away?”
“Why make bad, worse?”
“There,” said Leonore. “Your talking has made me cut my finger, almost.”
“Let me see,” said Peter, reaching out for her hand.
“I’m too busy,” said Leonore.
“Do you know,” said Peter, “that if you cut many more buds, you won’t have any more roses for a week. You’ve cut twice as many roses as you usually do.”
“Then I’ll go in and arrange them. I wish you would give Bêtise a run across the lawn.”
“I never run before breakfast,” said Peter. “Doctors say it’s very bad.”
So he followed her in. Leonore became tremendously occupied in arranging the flowers. Peter became tremendously occupied in watching her.
“You want to save one of those for me,” he said, presently.
“Take one,” said Leonore.
“My legal rule has been that I never take what I can get given me. You can’t do less than pin it in my button-hole, considering that it is my birthday.”389
“If I have a duty to do, I always get through with it at once,” said Leonore. She picked out a rose, arranged the leaves as only womankind can, and, turning to Peter, pinned it in his button-hole. But when she went to take her hands away, she found them held against the spot so firmly that she could feel the heart-beats underneath.
“Oh, please,” was all she said, appealingly, while Peter’s rose seemed to reflect some of its color on her cheeks.
“I don’t want you to give it to me if you don’t wish,” said Peter, simply. “But last night I sat up late thinking about it. All night I dreamed about it. When I waked up this morning, I was thinking about it. And I’ve thought about it ever since. I can wait, but I’ve waited so long!”
Then Leonore, with very red cheeks, and a very timid manner, held her lips up to Peter.
“Still,” Leonore said presently, when again arranging of the roses, “since you’ve waited so long, you needn’t have been so slow about it when you did get it.”
“I’m sorry I did it so badly,” said Peter, contritely. “I always was slow! Let me try again?”
“Then show me how?”
“Now who’s obstinate?” inquired Peter.
“You,” said Leonore, promptly. “And I don’t like it.”
“Oh, Leonore,” said Peter. “If you only knew how happy I am!”
Leonore forgot all about her charge of obstinacy. “So am I,” she said. “And I won’t be obstinate any more.”
“Was that better?” Peter asked, presently.
“No,” said Leonore. “That wouldn’t have been possible. But you do take so long! I shan’t be able to give you more than one a day. It takes so much time.”
“But then I shall have to be much slower about it.”
“Then I’ll only give you one every other day.”
“Then I shall be so much the longer.”
“Yes,” sighed Leonore. “You are obstinate, after all!”
So they went on till breakfast was announced. Perhaps it was foolish. But they were happy in their foolishness, if such it was. It is not profitable to write what they 390 said. It is idle to write of the week that followed. To all others what they said and did could only be the sayings and doings of two very intolerable people. But to them it was what can never be told in words—and to them we will leave it.
It was Leonore who put an end to this week. Each day that Peter lingered brought letter and telegraphic appeals to him from the party-leaders, over which Peter only laughed, and which he not infrequently failed even to answer. But Mr. Pell told Leonore something one day which made her say to Peter later:
“Is it true that you promised to speak in New York on the fifteenth?”
“Yes. But I wrote Green last night saying I shan’t.”
“And were you to have made a week of speeches through the State?”
“Yes. But I can’t spare the time.”
“Yes, you can. You must leave to-morrow and make them.”
“I can’t,” groaned Peter.
“Who says so?”
“I do. Please, Peter? I so want to see you win. I shall never forgive myself if I defeat you.”
“But a whole week,” groaned Peter.
“We shall break up here on the eighteenth, and of course you would have to leave a day sooner. So you’ll not be any better off.”
“Well,” sighed Peter, “If I do as you want, will you give me the seven I shall lose before I go.”
“Dear me, Peter,” sighed Leonore, “you oughtn’t to ask them, since it’s for your own sake. I can’t keep you contented. You do nothing but encroach.”
“I should get them if I was here,” said Peter. “And one a day is little enough! I think, if I oblige you by going away, I shouldn’t be made to suffer more than is necessary.”
“I’m going to call you Growley,” said Leonore, patting him on the cheek. Then she put her own against it. “Thank you, dear,” she said. “It’s just as hard for me.”
So Peter buckled on his armor and descended into the arena. Whether he spoke well or ill, we leave it to those 391 to say who care to turn back to the files of the papers of that campaign. Perhaps, however, it may be well to add that an entirely unbiassed person, after reading his opening speeches, delivered in the Cooper Union and the Metropolitan Opera House, in New York City, wrote him: “It is libel to call you Taciturnity. They are splendid! How I wish I could hear you—and see you, dear. I’m very lonely, and so are Bêtise and Tawney-eye. We do nothing but wander round the house all day, waiting for your letter, and the papers.” Three thousand people in the Brooklyn Rink were kept waiting for nearly ten minutes by Peter’s perusal of that letter. But when he had finished it, and had reached the Rink, he out-Stirlinged Stirling. A speaker nowadays speaks far more to the people absent than to the people present. Peter did this that evening. He spoke, it is true, to only one person that night, but it was the best speech of the campaign.
A week later, Peter rang the bell of the Fifty-seventh Street house. He was in riding costume, although he had not been riding.
“Mr. and Mrs. D’Alloi are at breakfast,” he was informed.
Peter rather hurriedly laid his hat and crop on the hall-table, and went through the hall, but his hurry suddenly came to an end, when a young lady, carrying her napkin, added herself to the vista. “I knew it must be you,” she said, offering her hand very properly—(on what grounds Leonore surmised that a ring at the door-bell at nine o’clock meant Peter, history does not state)—“I wondered if you knew enough to come to breakfast. Mamma sent me out to say that you are to come right in.”
Peter was rather longer over the handshake than convention demands, but he asked very politely, “How are your father and——?” But just then the footman closed a door behind him, and Peter’s interest in parents suddenly ceased.
“How could you be so late?” said some one presently. “I watched out of the window for nearly an hour.”
“My train was late. The time-table on that road is simply a satire!” said Peter. Yet it is the best managed road in the country, and this particular train was only seven minutes overdue.
“You have been to ride, though,” said Leonore.392
“No. I have an engagement to ride with a disagreeable girl after breakfast, so I dressed for it.”
“Suppose the disagreeable girl should break her engagement—or declare there never was one?”
“She won’t,” said Peter. “It may not have been put in the contract, but the common law settles it beyond question.”
Leonore laughed a happy laugh. Then she asked: “For whom are those violets?”
“I had to go to four places before I could get any at this season,” said Peter. “Ugly girls are just troublesome enough to have preferences. What will you give me for them?”
“Some of them,” said Leonore, and obtained the bunch. Who dares to say after that that women have no business ability nor shrewdness? It is true that she kissed the fraction returned before putting it in Peter’s button-hole, which raises the question which had the best of the bargain.
“I’m behind the curtain, so I can’t see anything,” said a voice from a doorway, “and therefore you needn’t jump; but I wish to inquire if you two want any breakfast?”
A few days later Peter again went up the steps of the Fifty-seventh Street house. This practice was becoming habitual with Peter; in fact, so habitual that his cabby had said to him this very day, “The old place, sir?” Where Peter got the time it is difficult to understand, considering that his law practice was said to be large, and his political occupations just at present not small. But that is immaterial. The simple fact that Peter went up the steps is the essential truth.
From the steps, he passed into a door; from the door he passed into a hall; from a hall he passed into a room; from a room he passed into a pair of arms.
“Thank the Lord, you’ve come,” Watts remarked. “Leonore has up and down refused to make the tea till you arrived.”
“I was at headquarters, and they would talk, talk, talk,” said Peter. “I get out of patience with them. One would think the destinies of the human race depended on this campaign!”
“So the Growley should have his tea,” said a vision, 393 now seated on the lounge at the tea-table. “Then Growley will feel better.”
“I’m doing that already,” said Growley, sitting down on the delightfully short lounge—now such a fashionable and deservedly popular drawing-room article. “May I tell you how you can make me absolutely contented?”
“I suppose that will mean some favor from me,” said Leonore. “I don’t like children who want to be bribed out of their bad temper. Nice little boys are never bad-tempered.”
“I was only bad-tempered,” whispered Peter, “because I was kept from being with you. That’s cause enough to make the best-tempered man in the universe murderous.”
“Well?” said Leonore, mollifying, “what is it this time?”
“I want you all to come down to my quarters this evening after dinner. I’ve received warning that I’m to be serenaded about nine o’clock, and I thought you would like to hear it.”
“What fun,” cried Leonore. “Of course we’ll go. Shall you speak?”
“No. We’ll sit in my window-seats merely, and listen.”
“How many will there be?”
“It depends on the paper you read. The ‘World’ will probably say ten thousand, the ‘Tribune’ three thousand, and the ‘Voice of Labor’ a handful.’ Oh! by the way, I brought you a ‘Voice’.” He handed Leonore a paper, which he took from his pocket.
Now this was simply shameful of him! Peter had found, whenever the papers really abused him, that Leonore was doubly tender to him, the more, if he pretended that the attacks and abuse pained him. So he brought her regularly now that organ of the Labor party which was most vituperative of him, and looked sad over it just as long as was possible, considering that Leonore was trying to comfort him.
“Oh, dear!” said Leonore. “That dreadful paper. I can’t bear to read it. Is it very bad to-day?”
“I haven’t read it,” said Peter, smiling. “I never read—” then Peter coughed, suddenly looked sad, and continued—“the parts that do not speak of me.” “That 394 isn’t a lie,” he told himself, “I don’t read them.” But he felt guilty. Clearly Peter was losing his old-time straightforwardness.
“After its saying that you had deceived your clients into settling those suits against Mr. Bohlmann, upon his promise to help you in politics, I don’t believe they can say anything worse,” said Leonore, putting two lumps of sugar (with her fingers) into a cup of tea. Then she stirred the tea, and tasted it. Then she touched the edge of the cup with her lips. “Is that right?” she asked, as she passed it to Peter.
“Absolutely,” said Peter, looking the picture of bliss. But then he remembered that this wasn’t his rôle, so he looked sad and said: “That hurt me, I confess. It is so unkind.”
“Poor dear,” whispered a voice. “You shall have an extra one to-day, and you shall take just as long as you want!”
Now, how could mortal man look grieved, even over an American newspaper, with that prospect in view? It is true that “one” is a very indefinite thing. Perhaps Leonore merely meant another cup of tea. Whatever she meant, Peter never learned, for, barely had he tasted his tea when the girl on the lounge beside him gave a cry. She rose, and as she did so, some of the tea-things fell to the floor with a crash.
“Leonore!” cried Peter. “What——”
“Peter!” cried Leonore. “Say it isn’t so?” It was terrible to see the suffering in her face and to hear the appeal in her voice.
“My darling,” cried the mother, “what is the matter?”
“It can’t be,” cried Leonore. “Mamma! Papa! Say it isn’t so?”
“What, my darling?” said Peter, supporting the swaying figure.
“This,” said Leonore, huskily, holding out the newspaper.
Mrs. D’Alloi snatched it. One glance she gave it. “Oh, my poor darling!” she cried. “I ought not to have allowed it. Peter! Peter! Was not the stain great enough, but you must make my poor child suffer for it?” She shoved Peter away, and clasped Leonore wildly in her arms.395
“Mamma!” cried Leonore. “Don’t talk so! Don’t! I know he didn’t! He couldn’t!”
Peter caught up the paper. There in big head-lines was:
SPEAK UP, STIRLING!
WHO IS THIS BOY?
DETECTIVE PELTER FINDS A WARD UNKNOWN
TO THE COURTS, AND EXPLANATIONS ARE
IN ORDER FROM
The rest of the article it is needless to quote. What it said was so worded as to convey everything vile by innuendo and inference, yet in truth saying nothing.
“Oh, my darling!” continued Mrs. D’Alloi. “You have a right to kill me for letting him come here after he had confessed it to me. But I—Oh, don’t tremble so. Oh, Watts! We have killed her.”
Peter held the paper for a moment. Then he handed it to Watts. He only said “Watts?” but it was a cry for help and mercy as terrible as Leonore’s had been the moment before.
“Of course, chum,” cried Watts. “Leonore, dear, it’s all right. You mustn’t mind. Peter’s a good man. Better than most of us. You mustn’t mind.”
“Don’t,” cried Leonore. “Let me speak. Mamma, did Peter tell you it was so?”
All were silent.
“Mamma! Say something? Papa! Peter! Will nobody speak?”
“Leonore,” said Peter, “do not doubt me. Trust me and I will——”
“Tell me,” cried Leonore interrupting, “was this why you didn’t come to see us? Oh! I see it all! This is what mamma knew. This is what pained you. And I thought it was your love for——!” Leonore screamed.
“My darling,” cried Peter wildly, “don’t look so. Don’t speak——”396
“Don’t touch me,” cried Leonore. “Don’t. Only go away.” Leonore threw herself upon the rug weeping. It was fearful the way those sobs shook her.
“It can’t be,” said Peter. “Watts! She is killing herself.”
But Watts had disappeared from the room.
“Only go away,” cried Leonore. “That’s all you can do now. There’s nothing to be done.”
Peter leaned over and picked up the prostrate figure, and laid it tenderly on the sofa. Then he kissed the edge of her skirt. “Yes. That’s all I can do,” he said quietly. “Good-bye, sweetheart. I’ll go away.” He looked about as if bewildered, then passed from the room to the hall, from the hall to the door, from the door to the steps. He went down them, staggering a little as if dizzy, and tried to walk towards the Avenue. Presently he ran into something. “Clumsy,” said a lady’s voice. “I beg your pardon,” said Peter mechanically. A moment later he ran into something again. “I beg your pardon,” said Peter, and two well-dressed girls laughed to see a bareheaded man apologize to a lamp-post. He walked on once more, but had not gone ten paces, when a hand was rested on his shoulder.
“Now then, my beauty,” said a voice. “You want to get a cab, or I shall have to run you in. Where do you want to go?”
“I beg your pardon,” said Peter.
“Come,” said the policeman shaking him, “where do you belong? My God! It’s Mr. Stirling. Why, sir. What’s the matter?”
“I think I’ve killed her,” said Peter.
“He’s awfully screwed,” ejaculated the policeman. “And him of all men! Nobody shall know.” He hailed a passing cab, and put Peter into it. Then he gave Peter’s office address, and also got in. He was fined the next day for being off his beat “without adequate reasons,” but he never told where he had been. When they reached the building, he helped Peter into the elevator. From there he helped him to his door. He rang the bell, but no answer came. It was past office-hours, and Jenifer having been told that Peter would dine up-town, had departed on his own leave of absence. The policeman had already gone through Peter’s pockets to get 397 money for cabby, and now he repeated the operation, taking possession of Peter’s keys. He opened the door and, putting him into a deep chair in the study, laid the purse and keys on Peter’s desk, writing on a scrap of paper with much difficulty: “mr. stirling $2.50 I took to pay the carriage. John Motty policeman 22 precinct,” he laid it beside the keys and purse. Then he went back to his beat.
And what was Peter doing all this time? Just what he now did. He tried to think, though each eye felt as if a red hot needle was burning in it. Presently he rose, and began to pace the floor, but he kept stumbling over the desk and chairs. As he stumbled he thought, sometimes to himself, sometimes aloud: “If I could only think! I can’t see. What was it Dr. Pilcere said about her eyes? Or was it my eyes? Did he give me some medicine? I can’t remember. And it wouldn’t help her. Why can’t I think? What is this pain in her head and eyes? Why does everything look so dark, except when those pains go through her head? They feel like flashes of lightning, and then I can see. Why can’t I think? Her eyes get in the way. He gave me something to put on them. But I can’t give it to her. She told me to go away. To stop this agony! How she suffers. It’s getting worse every moment. I can’t remember about the medicine. There it comes again. Now I know. It’s not lightning. It’s the petroleum! Be quick, boys. Can’t you hear my darling scream? It’s terrible. If I could only think. What was it the French doctor said to do, if it came back? No. We want to get some rails.” Peter dashed himself against a window. “Once more, men, together. Can’t you hear her scream? Break down the door!” Peter caught up and hurled a pot of flowers at the window, and the glass shattered and fell to the floor and street. “If I could see. But it’s all dark. Are those lights? No. It’s too late. I can’t save her from it.”
So he wandered physically and mentally. Wandered till sounds of martial music came up through the broken window. “Fall in,” cried Peter. “The Anarchists are after her. It’s dynamite, not lightning. Podds, let them hurt her. Save her. Oh! save her! Why can’t I get to her? Don’t try to hold me,” he cried, as he came in contact with a chair. He caught it up and hurled 398 it across the room, so that it crashed into the picture-frames, smashing chair and frames into fragments. “I can’t be the one to throw it,” he cried, in an agonized voice. “She’s all I have. For years I’ve been so lonely. Don’t. I can’t throw it. It kills me to see her suffer. It wouldn’t be so horrible if I hadn’t done it myself. If I didn’t love her so. But to blow her up myself. I can’t. Men, will you stand by me, and help me to save her?”
The band of music stopped. A moment’s silence fell and then up from the street, came the air of: “Marching through Georgia,” five thousand voices singing:
“Rally round our party, boys;
Rally to the blue,
And battle for our candidate,
So sterling and so true.
Fight for honest government, boys,
And down the vicious crew;
Voting for freedom and Stirling.
Hurrah, hurrah, for Stirling, brave and strong.
Hurrah, hurrah, for Stirling, never wrong.
And roll the voters up in line,
Two hundred thousand strong;
Voting for freedom and Stirling.
“I can’t fight so many. Two hundred thousand! I have no sword. I didn’t shoot them. No! I only gave the order. It hurt me, but I didn’t mean to hurt her. She’s all I have. Do you think I intended to kill her? No! No sacrifice would be too great. And you can talk to me of votes! Two hundred thousand votes! I did my best for her. I didn’t mean to hurt her. And I went to see the families. I went to see them all. If I only could think. But she is suffering too much. I can’t think as long as she lies on the rug, and trembles so. See the flashes of lightning pass through her head. Don’t bury your face in the rug. No wonder it’s all dark. Try to think, and then it will be all right.”
Up from the street came the air of: “There were three crows,” and the words:
“Steven Maguire has schemed to be elected November fourth,
Steven Maguire has schemed to be elected November fourth,
Steven Maguire has schemed and schemed,
But all his schemes will end in froth!
And the people will all shout, Hurrah, rah, rah, rah.
And the people will all shout, Hurrah, rah, rah, rah.399
For Peter Stirling elected will be upon November fourth,
For Peter Stirling elected will be upon November fourth,
For Peter Stirling elected will be
And Steven Maguire will be in broth,
And the people will all shout, Hurrah, rah, rah, rah,
And the people will all shout, Hurrah, rah, rah, rah.
“It’s Steven Maguire. He never could be honest. If I had him here!” Peter came in contact with a chair. “Who’s that? Ah! It’s you. You’ve killed her. Now!” And another chair went flying across the room with such force, that the door to the hall flew off its hinges, and fell with a crash. “I’ve killed screamed Peter. “I’ve—No, I’ve killed my darling. All I have in the world!”
And so he raved, and roamed, and stumbled, and fell; and rose, and roamed, and raved, and stumbled, and fell, while the great torchlight procession sang and cheered him from below.
He was wildly fighting his pain still when two persons, who, after ringing and ringing, had finally been let in by Jenifer’s key, stood where the door had been.
“My God,” cried one, in terror. “He’s crazy! Come away!”
But the other, without a word or sign of fear, went up to that wild-looking figure, and put her hand in his.
Peter stopped his crazed stride.
“I can’t think, I tell you. I can’t think as long as you lie there on the rug. And your eyes blaze so. They feel just like balls of fire.”
“Please sit down, Peter. Please? For my sake. Here. Here is the chair. Please sit down.”
Peter sank back in the chair. “I tell you I can’t think. They do nothing but burn. It’s the petroleum!” He started forward, but a slender arm arrested his attempt to rise, and he sank back again as if it had some power over him.
“Hyah, miss. Foh de lub ub heaben, put some ub dis yar on he eyes,” said Jenifer, who had appeared with a bottle, and was blubbering enough to supply a whole whaling fleet. “De doctor he done give dis yar foh de Aspic nerve.” Which is a dish that Jenifer must have invented himself, for it is not discoverable even on the fullest of menus.
Leonore knelt in front of Peter, and, drenching her 400 fingers with the wash, began rubbing it softly over his eyes. It has always been a problem whether it was the remedy or the ends of those fingers which took those lines of suffering out of Peter’s face and made him sit quietly in that chair. Those having little faith in medicines, and much faith in a woman’s hands, will opine the latter. Doctors will not.
Sufficeth it to say, after ten minutes of this treatment, during which Peter’s face had slowly changed, first to a look of rest, and then to one which denoted eagerness, doubt and anxiety, but not pain, that he finally put out his hands and took Leonore’s.
“You have come to me,” he said. “Has he told you?”
“Who? What?” asked Leonore.
“You still think I could?” cried Peter. “Then why are you here?” He opened his eyes wildly and would have risen, only Leonore was kneeling in front of the chair still.
“Don’t excite yourself, Peter,” begged Leonore. “We’ll not talk of that now. Not till you are better.”
“What are you here for?” cried Peter. “Why did you come——?”
“Oh, please, Peter, be quiet.”
“Tell me, I will have it.” Peter was exciting himself, more from Leonore’s look than by what she said.
“Oh, Peter. I made papa bring me—because—Oh! I wanted to ask you to do something. For my sake!”
“What is it?”
“I wanted to ask you,” sobbed Leonore, “to marry her. Then I shall always think you were what I—I—have been loving, and not——” Leonore laid her head down on his knee, and sobbed bitterly.
Peter raised Leonore in his arms, and laid the little head on his shoulder.
“Dear one,” he said, “do you love me?”
“Yes,” sobbed Leonore.
“And do you think I love you?”
“Now look into your heart. Could you tell me a lie?”
“Nor can I you. I am not the father of that boy, and I never wronged his mother.”401
“But you told——” sobbed Leonore.
“I lied to your mother, dear.”
“For what?” Leonore had lifted her head, and there was a look of hope in her eyes, as well as of doubt.
“Because it was better at that time than the truth. But Watts will tell you that I lied.”
“Yes, Dot. Dear old Peter speaks the truth.”
“But if you lied to her, why not to me?”
“I can’t lie to you, Leonore. I am telling you the truth. Won’t you believe me?”
“I do,” cried Leonore. “I know you speak the truth. It’s in your face and voice.” And the next moment her arms were about Peter’s neck, and her lips were on his.
Just then some one in the “torchlight” shouted: “What’s the matter wid Stirling?”
And a thousand voices joyfully yelled:
“He’s all right.”
And so was the crowd.
Mr. Pierce was preparing to talk. Usually Mr. Pierce was talking. Mr. Pierce had been talking already, but it had been to single listeners only, and for quite a time in the last three hours Mr. Pierce had been compelled to be silent. But at last Mr. Pierce believed his moment had come. Mr. Pierce thought he had an audience, and a plastic audience at that. And these three circumstances in combination made Mr. Pierce fairly bubbling with words. No longer would he have to waste his precious wit and wisdom, tête-à-tête, or on himself.
At first blush Mr. Pierce seemed right in his conjecture. Seated—in truth, collapsed, on chairs and lounges, in a disarranged and untidy-looking drawing-room, were nearly twenty very tired-looking people. The room looked as if there had just been a free fight there, and the people looked as if they had been the participants. But the multitude 402 of flowers and the gay dresses proved beyond question that something else had made the disorder of the room and had put that exhausted look upon the faces.
Experienced observers would have understood it at a glimpse. From the work and fatigues of this world, people had gathered for a little enjoyment of what we call society. It is true that both the room and its occupants did not indicate that there had been much recreation. But, then, one can lay it down as an axiom that the people who work for pleasure are the hardest-working people in the world; and, as it is that for which society labors, this scene is but another proof that they get very much fatigued over their pursuit of happiness and enjoyment, considering that they hunt for it in packs, and entirely exclude the most delicious intoxicant known—usually called oxygen—from their list of supplies from the caterer. Certainly this particular group did look exhausted far beyond the speech-making point. But this, too, was a deception. These limp-looking individuals had only remained in this drawing-room for the sole purpose of “talking it over,” and Mr. Pierce had no walk-over before him.
Mr. Pierce cleared his throat and remarked: “The development of marriage customs and ceremonies from primeval days is one of the most curious and——”
“What a lovely wedding it has been!” said Dorothy, heaving a sigh of fatigue and pleasure combined.
“Wasn’t it!” went up a chorus from the whole party, except Mr. Pierce, who looked eminently disgusted.
“As I was remarking——” began Mr. Pierce again.
“But the best part,” said Watts, who was lolling on one of the lounges, “was those ‘sixt’ ward presents. As Mr. Moriarty said: ‘Begobs, it’s hard it would be to find the equal av that tureen!’ He was right! Its equal for ugliness is inconceivable.”
“Yet the poor beggars spent eight hundred dollars on it,” sighed Lispenard, wearily.
“Relative to the subject——” said Mr. Pierce.
“And Leonore told me,” said a charmingly-dressed girl, “that she liked it better than any other present she had received.”
“Oh, she was more enthusiastic,” laughed Watts, “over all the ‘sixt’ ward and political presents than she was over what we gave her. We weren’t in it at all with 403 the Micks. She has come out as much a worshipper of hoi-polloi as Peter.”
“I don’t believe she cares a particle for them,” said our old friend, the gentlemanly scoundrel; “but she worships them because they worship him.”
“Well,” sighed Lispenard, “that’s the way things go in life. There’s that fellow gets worshipped by every one, from the Irish saloon-keeper up to Leonore. While look at me! I’m a clever, sweet-tempered, friendly sort of a chap, but nobody worships me. There isn’t any one who gives a second thought for yours truly. I seem good for nothing, except being best man to much luckier chaps. While look at Peter! He’s won the love of a lovely girl, who worships him to a degree simply inconceivable. I never saw such idealization.”
“Then you haven’t been watching Peter,” said Mrs. D’Alloi, who, as a mother, had no intention of having it supposed that Leonore was not more loved than loving.
“Taking modern marriage as a basis——” said Mr. Pierce.
“Oh,” laughed Dorothy, “there’s no doubt they are a pair, and I’m very proud of it, because I did it.”
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” crowed Ray.
“I did,” said Dorothy, “and my own husband is not the one to cast reflection on my statement.”
“He’s the only one who dares,” said Ogden.
“Well, I did. Leonore would never have cared for such a silent, serious man if I hadn’t shown her that other women did, and——”
“Nonsense,” laughed Ogden. “It was Podds did it. Dynamite is famous for the uncertainty of the direction in which it will expend its force, and in this case it blew in a circle, and carried Leonore’s heart clear from Newport to Peter.”
“Or, to put it scientifically,” said Lispenard, “along the line of least resistance.”
“It seems to me that Peter was the one who did it,” said Le Grand. “But of course, as a bachelor, I can’t expect my opinion to be accepted.”
“No,” said Dorothy. “He nearly spoiled it by cheapening himself. No girl will think a man is worth much who lets her tramp on him.”
“Still,” said Lispenard, “few girls can resist the flattery 404 of being treated by a man as if she is the only woman worth considering in the world, and Peter did that to an extent which was simply disgraceful. It was laughable to see the old hermit become social the moment she appeared, and to see how his eyes and attention followed her. And his learning to dance! That showed how things were.”
“He began long before any of you dreamed,” said Mrs. D’Alloi. “Didn’t he, Watts?”
“Undoubtedly,” laughed Watts. “And so did she. I really think Leonore did quite as much in her way, as Peter did. I never saw her treat any one quite as she behaved to Peter from the very first. I remember her coming in after her runaway, wild with over him, and saying to me ‘Oh, I’m so happy. I’ve got a new friend, and we are going to be such friends always!’”
“That raises the same question,” laughed Ogden, “that the Irishman did about the street-fight, when he asked ‘Who throwed that last brick first?’”
“Really, if it didn’t seem too absurd,” said Watts, “I should say they began it the moment they met.”
“I don’t think that at all absurd,” said a gray-haired, refined looking woman who was the least collapsed of the group, or was perhaps so well bred as to conceal her feelings. “I myself think it began before they even met. Leonore was half in love with Peter when she was in Europe, and Peter, though he knew nothing of her, was the kind of a man who imagines an ideal and loves that. She happened to be his ideal.”
“Really, Miss De Voe,” said Mr. Pierce, “you must have misjudged him. Though Peter is now my grandson, I am still able to know what he is. He is not at all the kind of man who allows himself to be controlled by an ideal.”
“I do not feel that I have ever known Peter. He does not let people perceive what is underneath,” said Miss De Voe. “But of one thing I am sure. Nearly everything he does is done from sentiment. At heart he is an idealist.”
“Oh!” cried several.
“That is a most singular statement,” said Mr. Pierce. “There is not a man I know who has less of the sentimental and ideal in him. An idealist is a man of dreams 405 and romance. Peter is far too sensible a fellow to be that. There is nothing heroic or romantic in him.”
“Nonsense, Paternus,” said Watts. “You don’t know anything about the old chap. You’ve only seen him as a cool clever lawyer. If your old definition of romance is right: that it is ‘Love, and the battle between good and evil,’ Peter has had more true romance than all the rest of us put together.”
“No,” said Mr. Pierce. “You have merely seen Peter in love, and so you all think he is romantic. He isn’t. He is a cool man, who never acts without weighing his actions, and therein has lain the secret of his success. He calmly marks out his line of life, and, regardless of everything else, pursues it. He disregards everything not to his purpose, and utilizes everything that serves. I predicted great success for him many years ago when he was fresh from college, simply from a study of his mental characteristics and I have proved myself a prophet. He has never made a slip, legally, politically, or socially. To use a yachting expression, he has ‘made everything draw.’ An idealist, or a man of romance and fire and impulse could never succeed as he has done. It is his entire lack of feeling which has led to his success. Indeed——”
“I can’t agree with you,” interrupted Dorothy, sitting up from her collapse as if galvanized into life and speech by Mr. Pierce’s monologue. “You don’t understand Peter. He is a man of great feeling. Think of that speech of his about those children! Think of his conduct to his mother as long as she lived! Think of the goodness and kindness he showed to the poor! Why, Ray says he has refused case after case for want of time in recent years, while doing work for people in his ward which was worth nothing. If——”
“They were worth votes,” interjected Mr. Pierce.
“Look at his buying the Costell place in Westchester when Mr. Costell died so poor, and giving it to Mrs. Costell,” continued Dorothy, warming with her subject. “Look at his going to those strikers’ families, and arranging to help them. Were those things done for votes? If I could only tell you of something he once did for me, you would not say that he was a man without feeling.”
“I have no doubt,” said Mr. Pierce blandly, “that he 406 did many things which, on their face, seemed admirable and to indicate feeling. But if carefully examined, they would be found to have been advantageous to him. Any service he could have done to Mrs. Rivington surely did not harm him. His purchase of Costell’s place pleased the political friends of the dead leader. His aiding the strikers’ families placated the men, and gained him praise from the press. I dislike greatly to oppose this rose-colored view of Peter, but, from my own knowledge of the man, I must. He is without feeling, and necessarily makes no mistakes, nor is he led off from his own ambitions by sentiment of any kind. When we had that meeting with the strikers, he sat there, while all New York was seething, with mobs and dead just outside the walls, as cool and impassive as a machine. He was simply determined that we should compromise, because his own interests demanded it, and he carried his point merely because he was the one cool man at that meeting. If he had had feeling he could not have been cool. That one incident shows the key-note of his success.”
“And I say his strong sympathies and feeling were the key-note,” reiterated Dorothy.
“I think,” said Pell, “that Peter’s great success lay in his ability to make friends. It was simply marvellous. I’ve seen it, over and over again, both in politics and society. He never seemed to excite envy or bitterness. He had a way of doing things which made people like him. Every one he meets trusts him. Yet nobody understands him. So he interests people, without exciting hostility. I’ve heard person after person say that he was an uninteresting, ordinary man, and yet nobody ever seemed to forget him. Every one of us feels, I am sure, that, as Miss De Voe says, he had within something he never showed people. I have never been able to see why he did or did not do hundreds of things. Yet it always turned out that what he did was right. He makes me think of the Frenchwoman who said to her sister, ‘I don’t know why it is, sister, but I never meet any one who’s always right but myself.’”
“You have hit it,” said Ogden Ogden, “and I can prove that you have by Peter’s own explanation of his success. I spoke to him once of a rather curious line of argument, as it seemed to me, which he was taking 407 in a case, and he said: ‘Ogden, I take that course because it is the way Judge Potter’s mind acts. If you want to convince yourself, take the arguments which do that best, but when you have to deal with judges or juries, take the lines which fit their capacities. People talk about my unusual success in winning cases. It’s simply because I am not certain that my way and my argument are the only way and the only argument. I’ve studied the judges closely, so that I know what lines to take, and I always notice what seems to interest the jury most, in each case. But, more important than this study, is the fact that I can comprehend about how the average man will look at a certain thing. You see I am the son of plain people. Then I am meeting all grades of mankind, and hearing what they say, and getting their points of view. I have never sat in a closet out of touch with the world and decided what is right for others, and then spent time trying to prove it to them. In other words, I have succeeded, because I am merely the normal or average man, and therefore am understood by normal or average people, or by majorities, to put it in another way.’”
“But Mr. Stirling isn’t a commonplace man,” said another of the charmingly dressed girls. “He is very silent, and what he says isn’t at all clever, but he’s very unusual and interesting.”
“Nevertheless,” said Ogden, “I believe he was right. He has a way of knowing what the majority of people think or feel about things. And that is the secret of his success, and not his possession or lack of feeling.”
“You none of you have got at the true secret of Peter’s success,” said Ray. “It was his wonderful capacity for work. To a lazy beggar like myself it is marvellous. I’ve known that man to work from nine in the morning till one at night, merely stopping for meals.”
“Yet he did not seem an ambitious man,” said Le Grand. “He cared nothing for social success, he never has accepted office till now, and he has refused over and over again law work which meant big money.”
“No,” said Ray. “Peter worked hard in law and politics. Yet he didn’t want office or money. He could more than once have been a judge, and Costell wanted him governor six years ago. He took the nomination this year against his own wishes. He cared as little for 408 money or reputation in law, as he cared for society, and would compromise cases which would have added greatly to his reputation if he had let them go to trial. He might have been worth double what he is to-day, if he had merely invested his money, instead of letting it lie in savings banks or trust companies. I’ve spoken about it repeatedly to him, but he only said that he wasn’t going to spend time taking care of money, for money ceased to be valuable when it had to be taken care of; its sole use to him being to have it take care of him. I think he worked for the sake of working.”
“That explains Peter, certainly. His one wish was to help others,” said Miss De Voe. “He had no desire for reputation or money, and so did not care to increase either.”
“And mark my words,” said Lispenard. “From this day, he’ll set no limit to his endeavors to obtain both.”
“He can’t work harder than he has to get political power,” said an usher. “Think of how anxious he must have been to get it, when he would spend so much time in the slums and saloons! He couldn’t have liked the men he met there.”
“I’ve taken him to task about that, and told him he had no business to waste his time so,” said Ogden; “but he said that he was not taking care of other people’s money or trying to build up a great business, and that if he chose to curtail his practice, so as to have some time to work in politics, it was a matter of personal judgment.”
“I once asked Peter,” said Miss De Voe, “how he could bear, with his tastes and feelings, to go into saloons, and spend so much time with politicians, and with the low, uneducated people of his district. He said, ‘That is my way of trying to do good, and it is made enjoyable to me by helping men over rough spots, or by preventing political wrong. I have taken the world and humanity as it is, and have done what I could, without stopping to criticise or weep over shortcomings and sins. I admire men who stand for noble impossibilities. But I have given my own life to the doing of small possibilities. I don’t say the way is the best. But it is my way, for I am a worker, not a preacher. And just because I have been willing to do things as the world is willing to have them done, power and success have come to me to do more.’ 409 I believe it was because Peter had no wish for worldly success, that it came to him.”
“You are all wrong,” groaned Lispenard. “I love Peter as much as I love my own kin, with due apology to those of it who are present, but I must say that his whole career has been the worst case of sheer, downright luck of which I ever saw or heard.”
“Luck!” exclaimed Dorothy.
“Yes, luck!” said Lispenard. “Look at it. He starts in like all the rest of us. And Miss Luck calls him in to look at a sick kitten die. Very ordinary occurrence that! Health-board report several hundred every week. But Miss Luck knew what she was about and called him in to just the right kind of a kitten to make a big speech about. Thereupon he makes it, blackguarding and wiping the floor up with a millionaire brewer. Does the brewer wait for his turn to get even with him? Not a bit. Miss Luck takes a hand in and the brewer falls on Peter’s breast-bone, and loves him ever afterwards. My cousin writes him, and he snubs her. Does she annihilate him as she would have other men? No. Miss Luck has arranged all that, and they become the best of friends.”
“Lispenard—” Miss De Voe started to interrupt indignantly, but Lispenard continued, “Hold on till I finish. One at a time. Well. Miss Luck gets him chosen to a convention by a fluke and Peter votes against Costell’s wishes. What happens? Costell promptly takes him up and pushes him for all he’s worth. He snubs society, and society concludes that a man who is more snubby and exclusive than itself must be a man to cultivate. He refuses to talk, and every one promptly says: ‘How interesting he is!’ He gets in the way of a dynamite bomb. Does it kill him? Certainly not. Miss Luck has put an old fool there, to protect him. He swears a bad word. Does it shock respectable people? No! Every one breathes easier, and likes him the better. He enrages and shoots the strikers. Does he lose votes? Not one. Miss Luck arranges that the directors shall yield things which they had sworn not to yield; and the strikers are reconciled and print a card in praise of him. He runs for office. Do the other parties make a good fight of it? No. They promptly nominate a scoundrelly demagogue and a nonentity who thinks votes are won by going about 410 in shirtsleeves. So he is elected by the biggest plurality the State has ever given. Has Miss Luck done enough? No. She at once sets every one predicting that he’ll get the presidential nomination two years from now, if he cares for it. Be it friend or enemy, intentional or unintentional, every one with whom he comes in contact gives him a boost. While look at me! There isn’t a soul who ever gave me help. It’s been pure, fire-with-your-eyes-shut luck.”
“Was this morning luck too?” asked a bridesmaid.
“Absolutely,” sighed Lispenard. “And what luck! I always said that Peter would never marry, because he would insist on taking women seriously, and because at heart he was afraid of them to a woeful degree, and showed it in such a way, as simply to make women think he didn’t like them individually. But Miss Luck wouldn’t allow that. Oh, no! Miss Luck isn’t content even that Peter shall take his chance of getting a wife, with the rest of us. She’s not going to have any accidents for him. So she takes the loveliest of girls and trots her all over Europe, so that she shan’t have friends, or even know men well. She arranges too, that the young girl shall have her head filled with Peter by a lot of admiring women, who are determined to make him into a sad, unfortunate hero, instead of the successful man he is. A regular conspiracy to delude a young girl. Then before the girl has seen anything of the world, she trots her over here. Does she introduce them at a dance, so that Peter shall be awkward and silent? Not she! She puts him where he looks his best—on a horse. She starts the thing off romantically, so that he begins on the most intimate footing, before another man has left his pasteboard. So he’s way ahead of the pack when they open cry. Is that enough? No! At the critical moment he is called to the aid of his country. Gets lauded for his pluck. Gets blown up. Gets everything to make a young girl worship him. Pure luck! It doesn’t matter what Peter says or does. Miss Luck always arranges that it turn up the winning card.”
“There is no luck in it,” cried Mr. Pierce. “It was all due to his foresight and shrewdness. He plans things beforehand, and merely presses the button. Why, look at his marriage alone? Does he fall in love early in life, 411 and hamper himself with a Miss Nobody? Not he! He waits till he has achieved a position where he can pick from the best, and then he does exactly that, if you’ll pardon a doating grandfather’s saying it.”
“Well,” said Watts, “we have all known Peter long enough to have found out what he is, yet there seems to be a slight divergence of opinion. Are we fools, or is Peter a gay deceiver?”
“He is the most outspoken man I ever knew,” said Miss De Voe.
“But he tells nothing,” said an usher.
“Yes. He is absolutely silent,” said a bridesmaid.
“Except when he’s speechifying,” said Ray.
“And Leonore says he talks and jokes a great deal,” said Watts.
“I never knew any one who is deceiving herself so about a man,” said Dorothy. “It’s terrible. What do you think she had the face to say to me to-day?”
“She was speaking of their plans after returning from the wedding journey, and she said: ‘I am going to have Peter keep up his bachelor quarters.’ ‘Does he say he’ll do it?’ I asked. ‘I haven’t spoken to him,’ she replied, ‘but of course he will.’ I said: ‘Leonore, all women think they rule their husbands, but they don’t in reality, and Peter will be less ruled than any man I know.’ Then what do you think she said?”
“Don’t keep us in suspense.”
“She said: ‘None of you ever understood Peter. But I do.’ Think of it! From that little chit, who’s known Peter half the number of months that I’ve known him years!”
“I don’t know,” sighed Lispenard. “I’m not prepared to say it isn’t so. Indeed, after seeing Peter, who never seemed able to understand women till this one appeared on the scene, develop into a regulation lover, I am quite prepared to believe that every one knows more than I do. At the same time, I can’t afford to risk my reputation for discrimination and insight over such a simple thing as Peter’s character. You’ve all tried to say what Peter is. Now I’ll tell you in two words and you’ll all find you are right, and you’ll all find you are wrong.”
“You are as bad as Leonore,” cried Dorothy.412
“Well,” said Watts, “we are all listening. What is Peter?”
“He is an extreme type of a man far from uncommon in this country, yet who has never been understood by foreigners, and by few Americans.”
“Peter is a practical idealist.”
And how well had that “talk-it-over” group at the end of Peter’s wedding-day grasped his character? How clearly do we ever gain an insight into the feelings and motives which induce conduct even in those whom we best know and love? Each had found something in Peter that no other had discovered. We speak of rose-colored glasses, and Shakespeare wrote, “All things are yellow to a jaundiced eye.” When we take a bit of blue glass, and place it with yellow, it becomes green. When we put it with red, it becomes purple. Yet blue it is all the time. Is not each person responsible for the tint he seems to produce in others? Can we ever learn that the thing is blue, and that the green or purple aspect is only the tinge which we ourselves help to give? Can we ever learn that we love and are loved entirely as we give ourselves colors which may harmonize with those about us? That love, wins love; kindness, kindness; hate, hate. That just such elements as we give to the individual, the individual gives back to us? That the sides we show are the sides seen by the world. There were people who could truly believe that Peter was a ward boss; a frequenter of saloons; a drunkard; a liar; a swearer; a murderer, in intention, if not in act; a profligate; and a compromiser of many of his own strongest principles. Yet there were people who could say other things of him.
But more important than the opinion of Peter’s friends, and of the world, was the opinion of Peter’s wife. Was she right in her theory that she was the only one who understood him? Or had she, as he had once done, 413 reared an ideal, and given that ideal the love which she supposed she was giving Peter? It is always a problem in love to say whether we love people most for the qualities they actually possess, or for those with which our own love endows them. Here was a young girl, inexperienced in world and men, joyfully sinking her own life in that of a man whom, but a few months before, had been only a matter of hearsay to her. Yet she had apparently taken him, as women will, for better, for worse, till death, as trustfully as if he and men generally were as knowable as A B C, instead of as unknown as the algebraic X. Only once had she faltered in her trust of him, and then but for a moment. How far had her love, and the sight of Peter’s misery, led her blindly to renew that trust? And would it hold? She had seen how little people thought of that scurrilous article, and how the decent papers had passed it over without a word. But she had also seen the scandal harped upon by partisans and noted that Peter failed to vindicate himself publicly, or vouchsafe an explanation to her. Had she taken Peter with trust or doubt, knowledge or blindness?
Perhaps a conversation between the two, a week later, will answer these questions. It occurred on the deck of a vessel. Yet this parting glimpse of Peter is very different from that which introduced him. The vessel is not drifting helplessly, but its great screw is whirling it towards the island of Martinique, as if itself anxious to reach that fairy land of fairy lands. Though the middle of November, the soft warmth of the tropics is in the air. Nor are the sea and sky now leaden. The first is turned into liquid gold by the phosphorescence, and the full moon silvers everything else. Neither is Peter pacing the deck with lines of pain and endurance on his face. He is up in the bow, where the vessel’s forefoot throws up the white foam in silver drops in the moonlight. And he does not look miserable. Anything but that. He is sitting on an anchor stock, with his back comfortably braced against the rail. Another person is not far distant. What that person sits upon and leans against is immaterial to the narrative.
“Why don’t you smoke?” asked that person.
“I’m too happy,” said Peter, in a voice evidencing the truth of his words.414
“Will you if I bite off the end?” asked Eve, Jr., placing temptation most temptingly.
“I like the idea exceedingly,” said Peter. “But my right arm is so very pleasantly placed that it objects to moving.”
“Don’t move it. I know where they are. I even know about the matches.” And Peter sat calmly while his pockets were picked. He even seemed to enjoy the sensation of that small hand rummaging in his waistcoat pockets. “You see, dear, that I am learning your ways,” Leonore continued, in a tone of voice which suggested that that was the chief end of woman. Perhaps it is. The Westminster catechism only tells us the chief end of man.
“There. Now are you really happy?”
“I don’t know anybody more so.”
“Then, dear, I want to talk with you.”
“The wish is reciprocal. But what have we been doing for six days?”
“We’ve been telling each other everything, just as we ought. But now I want to ask two favors, dear.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary. Just tell me what they are.”
“Yes. These favors are. Though I know you’ll say ‘yes.’”
“First. I want you always to keep your rooms just as they are?”
“Dear-heart, after our six weeks’ trip, we must be in Albany for three years, and when we come back to New York, we’ll have a house of course.”
“Yes. But I want you to keep the rooms just as they are, because I love them. I don’t think I shall ever feel the same for any other place. It will be very convenient to have them whenever we want to run down from Albany. And of course you must keep up with the ward.”
“But you don’t suppose, after we are back in New-York, that I’ll stay down there, with you uptown?”
“Oh, no! Of course not. Peter! How absurd you are! But I shall go down very often. Sometimes we’ll give little dinners to real friends. And sometimes, when we want to get away from people, we’ll dine by ourselves 415 and spend the night there. Then whenever you want to be at the saloons or primaries we’ll dine together there and I’ll wait for you. And then I think I’ll go down sometimes, when I’m shopping, and lunch with you. I’ll promise not to bother you. You shall go back to your work, and I’ll amuse myself with your flowers, and books, till you are ready to go uptown. Then we’ll ride together.”
“Lispenard frightened me the other day, but you frighten me worse.”
“He said you would be a much lovelier woman at thirty than you are now.”
“And that frightened you?” laughed Leonore.
“Terribly. If you are that I shall have to give up law and politics entirely, so as to see enough of you.”
“But what has that to do with my lunching with you?”
“Do you think I could work at law with you in the next room?”
“Don’t you want me? I thought it was such a nice plan.”
“It is. If your other favor is like that I shan’t know what to say. I shall merely long for you to ask favors.”
“This is very different. Will you try to understand me?”
“I shan’t misunderstand you, at all events.” Which was a crazy speech for any man to make any woman.
“Then, dear, I want to speak of that terrible time—only for a moment, dear. You mustn’t think I don’t believe what you said. I do! I do! Every word of it, and to prove it to you I shall never speak of it again. But when I’ve shown you that I trust you entirely, some stormy evening, when we’ve had the nicest little dinner together at your rooms, and I’ve given you some coffee, and bitten your cigar for you, I shall put you down before the fire, and sit down in your lap, as I am doing now, and put my arms about your neck so, and put my cheek so. And then I want you, without my asking to tell me why you told mamma that lie, and all about it.”
“Dear-heart,” said Peter, “I cannot tell. I promised.”
“Oh, but that didn’t include your wife, dear, of course. Besides, Peter, friends should tell each other everything. And we are the best of friends, aren’t we?”416
“And if I don’t tell my dearest friend?”
“I shall never speak of it, Peter, but I know sometimes when I am by myself I shall cry over it. Not because I doubt you, dear, but because you won’t give me your confidence.”
“Do you know, Dear-heart, that I can’t bear the thought of your doing that!”
“Of course not, dear. That’s the reason I tell you. I knew you couldn’t bear it.”
“How did you know?”
“Because I understand you, dear. I know just what you are. I’m the only person who does.”
“Tell me what I am.”
“I think, dear, that something once came into your life that made you very miserable, and took away all your hope and ambition. So, instead of trying to make a great position or fortune, you tried to do good to others. You found that you could do the most good among the poor people, so you worked among them. Then you found that you needed money, so you worked hard to get that. Then you found that you could help most by working in politics, so you did that. And you have tried to gain power so as to increase your power for good. I know you haven’t liked a great deal you have had to do. I know that you much prefer to sit before your study fire and read than sit in saloons. I know that you would rather keep away from tricky people than to ask or take their help. But you have sacrificed your own feelings and principles because you felt that they were not to be considered if you could help others. And, because people have laughed at you or misunderstood, you have become silent and unsocial, except as you have believed your mixing with the world to be necessary to accomplish good.”
“What a little idealist we are!”
“Well, dear, that isn’t all the little idealist has found out. She knows something else. She knows that all his life her ideal has been waiting and longing for some one who did understand him, so that he can tell her all his hopes and feelings, and that at last he has found her, and she will try to make up for all the misery and sacrifice he has endured. She knows, too, that he wants to tell her everything. You mustn’t think, dear, that it was only 417 prying which made me ask you so many questions. I—I really wasn’t curious except to see if you would answer, for I felt that you didn’t tell other people your real thoughts and feelings, and so, whenever you told me, it was really getting you to say that you loved me. You wanted me to know what you really are. And that was why I knew that you told me the truth that night. And that is the reason why I know that some day you will tell me about that lie.”
Peter, whatever he might think, did not deny the correctness of Leonore’s theories concerning his motives in the past or his conduct in the future. He kissed the soft cheek so near him, tenderly, and said:
“I like your thoughts about me, dear one.”
“Of course you do,” said Leonore. “You said once that when you had a fine subject it was always easy to make a fine speech. It’s true, too, of thoughts, dear.”
In the course of this final section, you will realize that the novel’s title is itself a spoiler.
It must be said that Jenifer’s “dialect” in this chapter offers a welcome break from the recurring Irish of the previous three-quarters of the novel.
[It may be a typo, or it may be a hint that Jenifer isn’t absolutely certain what frappé means, though he remains confident he has done everything he is supposed to do.]
“Yissah! Wha foh yo’ think I doan do as I gin’ly do?”
text has ginl’y
with whom I used to sit in the angle
text has use to
George William Curtis
[1824–1892. The fact that they talk about him in the past tense implies that the dramatic date is now 1892 or later. But it can’t be much later, since the novel came out in 1894.]
if de gentmun want ’t sell his ap’tite foh a mess ob potash
“Then I shan’t be friends any more?”
[Unlike “What a pretty horse Miss Winthrop has?” a few lines further down, our author can’t justify the question mark by his usual “utterance beginning in ‘What’ or ‘Why’” rule.]
avail himself of the room in the Rivingtons’ Newport villa
text has Rivington’s
There’s beauty in the bellow of the blast
[Oh, nice one. It’s Katisha’s duet with Ko-Ko in The Mikado:
There is beauty in the bellow of the blast,
There is grandeur in the growling of the gale,
There is eloquent out-pouring
When the lion is a-roaring,
And the tiger is a-lashing of his tail! ]
“How about November fourth?” asked Peter.
[Did the author pick this date out of a hat, or did he intentionally choose one that would not fit? At the time of this novel, the governor of New York served a three-year term. November 4th was not a Tuesday in any of the years 1879, 1882, and so on through 1894.]
Why don’t you ask us to choose a college professor, and have done with it.
[My goodness, what a prescient suggestion.]
After you’re not yielding to him
[It seems as if it ought to be “your not yielding” (i.e. your failure to yield). This is not a mistake you saw very often in 1894.]
I want your advice?”
I . . . cannot involve you in the possibility, without your consent
[Inquiring minds want to know: Are they planning to ask Mrs Rivington’s consent, or does she not matter so long as her husband approves?]
The convention has nothing to do with the senators. The Legislature elects them.
[The 17th Amendment, providing for direct election of senators, was proposed in 1912 and ratified in 1913.]
“Oh!” cried Leonore, clapping her hands in delight. “It’s a cipher.
[Close, Leonore, but no cigar. A cipher is a letter-for-letter substitution; the telegrams are in code.]
“or I shan’t be attentive.”
close quote missing
of standing silent, of pushing passed Peter, or of speaking
text unchanged: error for “past”
We know that The Honorable Peter Stirling was first published in 1894—but when, exactly? The current chapter’s labor issues sound a lot like the Pullman strike of May-July 1894, centered in Chicago.
Fun fact: In the U.S., the Labor Day holiday was created at this time, during the (second) presidency of none other than Grover Cleveland.
“Arrah musha dillah!” cried Dennis.
[Cursory research indicates that “ara” by itself means that what follows isn’t especially important, while “ara musha” is an expression of affection. But what does he mean by “dillah”? The overall effect of the utterance is that Dennis is so strongly moved, a simple “— — —” will not adequately express his feelings.]
Madison Avenue . . . Park Avenue
[If they had numbers, Park Avenue would be Fourth Avenue (midway between Third and Fifth), and Madison would be, well, Fourth and a Half (midway between Park and Fifth). It is flattering of the author to assume we know this.]
Capital and Labor were disagreed as to a ten per cent. reduction of wages
[I wonder which side was in favor, and which was opposed? In the real-life Pullman strike, the reduction was not ten but twenty-five per cent.]
“I only had a glimpse of the heading, but I saw ‘Headwears N. G. S. N. Y.’”
[Punctuation as printed: “I only had a glimpse of the heading, but I saw “Headwears N. G. S. N. Y.”]
Leonore even laughed over that big, big D.
[Just in case there remained any doubt that the author is a Gilbert and Sullivan fan.]
Is it harder to lose . . . or to see him or her happy in the love of another.
punctuation unchanged: error for question mark?
[If the typesetter had not used up all his question marks on those “What!” and “Why!” exclamations, he would have had one left for this bona fide question.]
there’s a sausage-roll man close to him
[Two years later, the author was no doubt tickled to hear “You must eat the sausage roll, the sausage roll” in The Grand Duke.]
“the war, and what they fought each other for”
[Southey, “The Battle of Blenheim”. This is not the first time I have found it quoted—without attribution, meaning that the reader is expected to recognize it—in a late-19th-century work.]
I had once done him a service
[Way back in Chapter XXIX. (I’d forgotten all about it too.)]
It’s my birthday to-morrow.
[It is tactful of Leonore not to ask how old he will be, since the answer can only be “more than twice your age”.]
“The motion to adjourn,” said Peter, “is never debatable.”
[Fun fact: Robert’s Rules of Order was first published in February 1876. It is named for its original author, General Henry Martyn Robert (1837–1923), U.S.A. After his death, the work was taken over by his daughter-in-law Sarah Corbin Robert (1886–1972).]
Podds, Don’t let them hurt her.
Voting for freedom and Stirling.
[It seems as if there ought to be a close quote, both here and at the end of the second song, but I left it as printed.]
“I’ve killed him,” screamed Peter.
comma after “him” invisible
[Query: How do I know it’s a comma and not some other punctuation such as an exclamation mark? Answer: Spacing.]
wild with enthusiasm over him
text has enthusiam
When we had that meeting with the strikers
[Who you calling “we”, white man? If Mr. Pierce has had anything to do with Peter—other than being the father of Helen (Mrs. Watts D’Alloi) and hence grandfather of Leonore—our author has kept awfully quiet about it.]
“I think . . . that Peter’s great success lay in his ability to make friends.”
[I wish the people in this chapter would not keep talking about Peter in the past tense. It makes it seem as if we are at a wake rather than a wedding reception.]
he is elected by the biggest plurality the State has ever given
[It is a good thing Lispenard tells us so, since the author in his own words didn’t think it worth mentioning.]
predicting that he’ll get the presidential nomination two years from now
[For those who wish to pursue the analogy: Grover Cleveland was elected Governor of New York in 1882, and President (the first time) two years later.]
a man whom, but a few months before, had been only a matter of hearsay to her
[Ouch. You mean “who”, Paul, not “whom”.]